Category Archives: Fantasy

House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski was a strange book. A very strange book. It’s been on my list, so I checked the library and it was out. Placed a hold, and two weeks later it came it. While waiting, I read another book by MZD, so I was expecting something strange. And it fulfilled my expectations.

I can’t find the cover blurb because of the massive cult following this book has, and I don’t feel like typing it in.

Let me try to explain what this book is about.

Will Navidson, Karen Green, and their two children buy and move into a house in Virginia. Because Will is a world-renown photojournalist, he’s been away a lot, but has agreed to settle down. In fact, he’s going to film their settling down. These films are eventually compiled into The Navidson Record, a documentary about the house. More on that later. Then, this guy named Zampano begins to write a book examining the meaning of the documentary and the quality of the shots and the relationships of the characters, etc. Zampano is never in the actual book, just the book he was writing about the movie. Then this other guy named Johnny Truant ends up with the (unfinished) manuscript and starts compiling it. To quote TvTropes, “It’s a book about a book about a film about a house that is a labyrinth.”

The actual physical copy of the book that you or I read is composed of Zampano’s book with copious amounts of footnotes. Many of those footnotes are Johnny’s comments and eventually, his journal. Also interspersed, but still officially part of Zampano’s manuscript, are transcripts of parts of the movie. Half or more of the books Zampano references don’t exist. Another large chunk of footnotes is devoted to translating all the bits of French, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, I don’t even know what else, that is throughout the text.

Later in the book, the shape of the text begins to reflect what the words are describing. Dripping across the page. Being mirrored. Sideways. Struckout. Upside down. The word ‘house‘ is always blue and often sub-scripted just a bit.

The quote earlier mentioned a labyrinth. I’m going to go back and try to tell the story of The Navidson Record first to explain that. Will and Karen buy a house. A while later, they take the kids to go visit grandma. When they return, there’s a sort of closet-like space between the master bedroom and the kids’ room where before there had only been a wall. Additionally, and far more importantly, there is now a door in the middle of the living room wall that opens onto a cold (nearly freezing temperatures), dark hallway to nowhere. The two windows on either side of the door open onto the back yard and it is indeed possible to walk out one window and in the other, crossing where the dark hallway SHOULD be. But it’s not. Then, Will measures the house. And it’s 1/4 inch bigger on the inside than on the outside. Repeatedly. This definitely made me think of the Tardis from Doctor Who, but I haven’t seen that comment anywhere else. The rest of the movie documents, though wall mounted cameras, hand-held cameras, and voice recorders, the 6 ‘expeditions’ into that hallway as well as the reactions of those involved. To not give anything away, I’m going to stop there.

So, we have Johnny writing about his life and a book by Zampano that was written about a movie by Navidson about a house. And that doesn’t even bring the appendixes into it! There are 3? but they’re mostly incomplete. And there’s an index. That’s also incomplete. Or completely wrong in several cases.

My reaction? I’ve seen places where it took people a long time to read it because of the page number (709). But that’s garbage, because a good many pages have less words than this paragraph.

I read it in a day. Of course, I was at the doctor’s office all day, waiting for 90 minutes at a time, 5 times.

I really liked it. My favorite character was Tom Navidson, Will’s twin brother. Zampano discussed the Jacob and Esau story and which Navidson brother was which. I’d have to say Tom was Esau because Jacob/Will was the deceiver, and Esau got the raw end of the deal. I also really liked the character of Johnny Truant. He’s on all kinds of drugs and drinks all the time and parties out the wazoo (That word was in the dictionary!), but he’s also simply a product of his upbringing. And he’s unexpectedly educated.  Some letters from his mother who’s in an asylum show that he got into some nice private schools on scholarship. Despite his random drug-induced hallucinations, he’s able to make intelligent literary references. Made me happy.

I don’t see how it’s a love story at all, though. Horror, definitely. Coming of age, possibly. But not love.

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Johnny and the Bomb

The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy by Terry Pratchett consists of three books: Only You Can Save Mankind, which I’ve never read; Johnny and the Dead, which I enjoyed; and Johnny and the Bomb, which almost made my head hurt.

“Twelve-year-old Johnny Maxwell has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This has never been more true than when he finds himself in his hometown on May 21, 1941, over forty years before his birth!

An accidental time traveler, Johnny knows his history. He knows England is at war, and he knows that on this day German bombs will fall on the town. It happened. It’s history. And as Johnny and his friends quickly discover, tampering with history can have unpredictable–and drastic–effects on the future.

But letting history take its course means letting people die. What if Johnny warns someone and changes history? What will happen to the future? If Johnny uses his knowledge to save innocent lives by being in the right place at the right time, is he doing the right thing?

Mixing nail-biting suspense with outrageous humor, Terry Pratchett explores a classic time-travel paradox in Johnny Maxwell’s third adventure.”

This isn’t one of the Discworld novels, so I wasn’t as much of a fan of it as usual with Terry Pratchett’s books but it was still good. I enjoyed the characters. It was strange because they seemed younger than I expected. I guess that I don’t read many books with 13-16 year-olds as the main characters. It was strange because it’s more English than most of his other books, but still accessible to us lowly Americans.

The time travel portion of the book bothered me. Not the actual time travel, but the discussion of consequences and effects and methods. It wasn’t technical or anything, but any discussion of time travel gets into the complicated region. It requires thinking about things sideways.

Because it involved life or death situations, Johnny and the Bomb was a lot more serious than his other books, and even than the other Johnny Maxwell books. Ending gasp factor is a 3/10 because it’s not suspenseful at all, and isn’t supposed to be.

245 pages.

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The Wayfarer Redemption

The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass is one of my favorite books. I originally picked it up to read it because of the author’s name. It’s rare to see ‘Sarah’ spelled ‘Sara’. It is the first book of a six-book series, or the first of a three book series that is followed by another three book series, depending on whether you are from America or Australia. Douglass is Australian. In Australia, the book is actually called something different, BattleAxe, I believe.

“A millennia-old prophecy was given when the Forbidden Ones were driven from Achar. And now, the Acharites witness its manifestation: Achar is under attack by an evil lord from the North, Gorgreal-his ice demons strike from the sky and kill hundreds of brave warriors in the blink of an eye.

All Acharites believe the end is near.

One young woman, Faraday, betrothed of Duke Borneheld, learns that all she has been told about her people’s history is untrue. While fleeing to safety from the dangerous land, Faraday rides with Axis, legendary leader of the Axe-Wielders and hated half-brother of Borneheld-and a man Faraday secretly loves although it would be death to admit it.

This grand and heroic story tells the tale of one woman’s plight to learn the truth of her people and change their hearts and their minds forever. She fights against oppressive forces to share this reality and will not desist until everyone knows. . . . . The truth of the Star Gate”

Does that sound like Faraday is the main character? I’ve read the book twice, a long time ago and yesterday, and she never seems the main character. Maybe it’s because I just so prefer Axis.

Basically, there’s this Prophecy. The StarMan will be born at some point and he will be the half-brother of Gorgreal who will be half Avar and half Icarii. Those are the names of the two races of Forbidden. Gorgreal will seek to destroy the world, in typical evil villain fashion (he had a bad upbringing) while the StarMan tries to stop him. The only problem is, no one knows who the StarMan is.

The reader finds this out as Axis, BattleAxe of the Axe-Wielders, does. The Axe-Wielders are the military arm of the big religious body of the country. He travels around part of the country in the beginning of the book discovering the prophecy and with him travels Faraday. Faraday is betrothed to Axis’s half-brother Borneheld (they shared a mother who died birthing Axis). The brothers hate each other, understandable. Then, Faraday ends up with a role in the prophecy! Then, this other girl named Azhure gets involved unwillingly, but she isn’t part of the prophecy, I don’t think.

I’m trying not to give things away, but it’s difficult.

There are basically three story lines happening at once: Axis’s quest north to help Borneheld not die; Faraday’s task of not letting Borneheld kill Axis; and Azhure’s journey to figure out what the heck is going on.

I recommend this book because, though it gets bad reviews sometimes, it’s entertaining and original. People complain because some names are taken from classical myths. Well, names have to come from somewhere. You definitely have to read the second and third because the story doesn’t end at all. It was nice to read it because I’d forgotten all the plot twists, but the bits I did remember apparently happened in the second book.

The gasp factor would be around a 6/10 because of events shortly before the end. Actually, I mentioned how it shows several people’s story lines, at one point near the end, each group throws a torch in the air at the same time. It was cool to read and notice that.

Madalyn has this book now, and I hope she’ll review it. Then we can have a different perspective on the plot. 433 pages.

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Terrier

This book is a usual girl-power book by Tamora Pierce, but I loved it! My favorite series is the Wild Magic Series, but this one is very excellent as well (they all are, I mean, it’s Tamora Pierce). It is the first series, chronologically, but if you read the Alanna books (Song of the Lioness, technically) first, some stuff is ironically funny. (Like, you find out the origin of the Court of the Rouge name and such). I loved it! Yay!

“Sixteen-year-old Beka Cooper lives far removed from knights, palaces, and the nobility. Her world revolves around thieves, beggars, taverns, and the lowest of the low. She’s a trainee for the Provost’s Guard (Dogs, as they’re called, which makes Beka a Puppy); a rookie cop assigned to police the city’s worst slum.

Beka has always wanted to be a Dog, but she has one problem – she’s shy. Painfully shy. Not the best way to make a first impression or command the respect of the public. But she also has talent, and a strange kind of magic that allows her to hear the voices of the dead – and they have plenty to say. Soon she hears whispers of two vicious sets of crimes and Puppy or no, once Beka gets a case in her teeth, she doesn’t let go.”

This book is in the form of Beka’s diary, and the first entry is her first day in training. Since the guards are “Dogs,” all the trainees are called “Puppies.” I think it’s cute. She’s paired with Clara “Clary” Goodwin, and Matthis “Mattes” Tunstall. Neither of them really want a Puppy, but they take her and go. Her education in the process of keeping the peace is really fun to read, even going back several times to read it again. Sometimes the whole diary thing doesn’t go well, but this is really good and easy to read. I love the first person, and since it’s a diary, we hear everything about Beka’s day like we were there with her.

Beka’s siblings are all trying to rise up in the world, and they all look down on her for choosing to become a Dog. Kind of sad, actually. Who protects them when their on the streets? Certainly not stablehands, messengers, maids, or seamstresses, that’s for sure. Her family doing that to her ALMOST made me cry. I have siblings, and I can’t image all of them looking at me like I was dirt like that! The way the whole story just works together is really good. I thought there might be some boring parts in the middle, because how interesting can a Puppy’s life be, even with murders? It was so good, though! There was a wonderful mix of training, murder solving, friend having, and the barest (and I mean barest) dash of romance. Excellent!

Now, I love feminist empowerment books, so this was great! Beka is George’s (from the Song of the Lioness series) ancestor from 200 years ago. Kind of funny how Beka, a very loyal Provost Dog, would end up eventually begetting an excellent thief and the country’s spymaster… Anyway! Beka is an amazing character, and I love her sooooooo much! But you know how all characters have to have flaws of they’re just annoying? Beka’s only flaw (that I thought worth noting) was kind of obviously her flaw. Shyness, obviously, you can tell by the synopsis. That’s my one beef.

In the book, Beka is only vain about one thing: her gorgeous, long, red hair. I love that, because I’m also kind of vain about my hair. I used to wish it was red, and then I realized how stupid I would look with red hair (I’m too tan for it).

On to my favorite part of books: romance! This novel is SORELY lacking in romance, though there is some. Rosto, a skilled rouge from Scanra, comes down to take over the Court of the Rouge! The current king is old and not doing his job and he’s a jerk! Rosto is tall, muscular, pale (he IS from Scanra), has beautiful dark eyes, and white blond hair. Gorgeous, right? Well, Beka can’t get over the fact that he’s a criminal. Yes, that would indeed interfere with her work, but to sacrifice love for your job? I think not! Then again, she does love the Lord Provost, so I guess it’s kinda the same thing… (Loves him in a way that a child loves her father, by the way. Nothing funny.)

Still, Rosto is my favorite character besides Pounce! (Pounce is a black, purple eyed cat that befriends Beka in her childhood and follows her everywhere. And she can speak telepathically. Can we say goddess-possessed cat? Song of the Lioness anyone?) He’s funny, and the Love Interest, so of course I love him! Any author worth her salt can make me fall in love with their male lead. (I’m kind of a Hopeless Romantic. We need an Anonymous club for us…) Anyway! Beka is great and all, but she is kind of annoying sometimes about Rosto and Pounce.

End really didn’t have a Gasp Factor. A 0/10. Maybe a 1/10 because of a certain event I will not disclose. It really ended, though there was room open for another book. Which did happen, by the way! Bloodhound came out in 2009, and the third book (supposedly the last one), Mastiff, comes out this year! Yay! More Rosto, please!

Page Count: 592 (Long, but interesting all the way through.)

Until next time,

Madalyn

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Abandon

Abandon by Meg Cabot was an excellent book! I loved it so much! I sing my praises to Meg Cabot! She has written so many books, and all of the ones I’ve read have been phenomenal. (I’ll do her 1-800-Where-Are-You and Mediator series’ eventually…)

In Abandon, best-selling author Meg Cabot offers up a darkly romantic modern retelling that is almost straight out of Greek mythology. Pierce Oliviera died when she was 15, but she fought her way out of a dreary Underworld ruled by a seductively handsome older boy named John. Nobody believed Pierce when she told them what she had seen, and everyone–including her parents–thought she needed therapy.

Now in the small town of Isla Huesos, Pierce and her mother are getting a fresh new start. Making friends with her classmates proves difficult for Pierce because of her family name and the rumors about Pierce that followed her to the island. And although it has been two years since she last saw John, he keeps appearing before her. Afraid that he wants to take her back with him to the Underworld, Pierce tries to deny herself of the one thing she wants most: his love.

That was the synopsis! I adored this book! My favorite character is the main character. Pierce is smart, clever, and spunky, but she’s so real. It felt like I could walk down the street and maybe meet a normal girl like her. I picked up this book at random because the story sounded interesting (a sort of re-telling of Persephone?) and the cover was really pretty (the picture I have is good, but get it and follow the bumblebee flying dots around the book! It’s so cool!)

I’m not going to SPOIL anything for you, but I will say a few things. John is an awesome LI (Love Interest. Oh yeah, I have lingo), and Pierce is just the girl to balance him out. When she feels like he’s being too overprotective, she will absolutely tell him everything he’s doing wrong and how to fix it (which she does. Quite emphatically. All I’m saying!). When she feels like he’s being unreasonable, she goes right on and tells him. One thing I love about Pierce: she WILL speak her mind, and be wary to those who try and keep her from doing so!

Gasp Rating (on the ending): 7/10 (then again, ask my friends and they’ll tell you I say all movies are “the best movie ever”… Which may be true, but I like a lot of movies!)

I will definitely be keeping my stalker radar on Meg Cabot for the next book in this awesome trilogy!

Hardcover: 320 pages

Go to http://www.megcabot.com for more info!

Until next review,

Madalyn

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Tortall and Other Lands

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce is a collection of 11 short stories by Tamora Pierce. I’ll do it story by story.

First: Student of Ostriches. This story was about a girl in a male dominated society, (big surprise, it’s Tamora Pierce-girl power, and all that) who ends up about to be trained at a martial arts master. It’s a style called Shang, and each practitioner is known as the animal that their fighting is styled after. The main character of this story learns to fight by watching ostriches, so I assume she’ll be the Shang Ostrich. One of my favorite characters in some of the other Tortall books is the Shang Dragon, Liam. But he wasn’t in this story.

2. Elder Brother. In one of the Daine books, I don’t remember which, Numair turns an enemy into a tree. He remarks that, now somewhere on the otherside of the world, a tree has become a man. This, due to many requests on her website, is the story of that tree/man. He ends up being named Qiom. He was planted in a country where women and girls are expected to stay veiled all the time. He meets this young boy who is actually nice to him, and they have stuff happen to them. Poor Qiom is so helpless as a man.

The Hidden Girl. A different view of ‘Elder Brother’, this story is from the PoV of a girl in the town that Qiom and the boy, Fadal, go to. She and her father travel around and teach the other half of the religion that respects women. Obviously, the priests don’t let that half be widely known.

4. Nawat is one of the longer stories, I think. At the end of Trickster’s Queen, Aly is pregnant. In ‘Nawat’, Aly has her baby. Then another. Then another. Triplets! And they were only expecting one? Can’t you tell? Anyway, Nawat has issues because the crows of the city flock are deciding that he and his war band are becoming too human to remain crows and might kick them out of the flock. This really disturbs him because the word for ‘crow’ in Crow isn’t singular, it implies a flock. The problem partly came when one of his crows had a child with a human that had a disability. In the flock’s mindset, a messed up nestling needs to be dropped out of the nest and killed before it has a chance to grow up and eat more food and cause problems. Nawat is worried one of his kids will be messed up and he’d have to kill it. He’s worried about what Aly would do to him. And, then of course, one is, but it turns out well.

Fifth, The Dragon’s Tale. This is about Daine’s dragon, Kitten. Kit can’t speak yet because she’s so young, so she’s really bored on a tour of Carthage. She finds this girl hiding from the town and her child. Kit wants to help the girl because she wants to be helpful, and then magic and giant dragon and confusion. Some parts of this story definitely came out of nowhere, at least to me. It really was strange.

6. Lost. Ohh, I liked this one. It had darkings in it, which are my absolute favorite Tortall things.There’s a girl in a male dominated society, mostly, and she’s a math genius. But her father is oppressive. But with the help of some darkings, she succeeds.

Seventh. Time of Proving. This one was interesting. Basically, Youngish girl is out on her own for a year and when she returns to her desert people, she’ll be a full woman. Her name is Arimu! Name I remember for once! At some random point in the year, she meets this random guy who’s utterly useless and she helps him survive. And  then, ends up going with him for a bit. This one wasn’t Tortall universe, I’m pretty sure.

8. Plain Magic. Don’t remember what this one is about. The bit on the back of the books says ‘What happens when you lose a lethal lottery?’ I remember now. Small village. Traveling gypsy-type magic woman comes and does random small magic, but people, except this one girl don’t notice. She notices because she’s also vaguely magical. Then, Dragon! And the (male) priest says the only way to get rid of it is to sacrifice a young girl. Obviously, that one girl draws the short stick. But the magic lady rescues her, Yay! The magic in that story is very similar to the magic done by the witches in Terry Prachett’s Discworld books.

(Got distracted looking to see if Ysandra’s father in Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey had the same name as  Lady Embeth’s deceased husband in The Wayfareer Redemption/BattleAxe by Sara Douglass. I think so.)

9. Mimic. Ri ends up with this strange little lizard thing that she’s nursing back to health, but it ends up being a dragon type thing! Confusing bits included the random pact with the birds and her grandfather.

Tenth: Huntress. Oh this one was strange. There’s a girl who’s never had any friends because her mom is big into Goddess worship (why did I feel the need to capitalize that?). And then, she changes schools and runs track and gets into the ‘in’ crowd. But they’re not what you expect. Outside of school, she starts hearing about criminals dying on the streets, and she’s confused. But then, the popular track team members invite her to join in. They are meeting in Central Park, finding criminals, and chasing them down to kill them. The main character resists, because she finds the game morally wrong (Yay for her) but then, she becomes the prey. Then it’s like a giant game of tag among people who really know how to run, with deadly results. And finally, she prays to the Goddess for help. Quite bloody.

Finally, Testing is the only non-fantasy story in the collection. It pulls from Pierce’s own experience being a housemother and follows some girls as they test the limits of the new housemother they get. Reminded me of the beginning parts of The Sound of Music.

369 pages.

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Eric

Eric is Terry Pratchett’s version of Faust, which I’ve never read. I think it has something to do with making a deal with the devil, or at least is on that track. It once again involves Rincewind, the inept wizard, but this time, (since he was not currently in the human plane of existence at the end of the previous book) he has been summoned like a demon by this scrawny kid named Eric who orders him to grant three wishes. Much to Rincewind’s astonishment, snapping his fingers actually does something and he, Eric, and the Luggage end op traveling from literally the beginning of time, through the Trojan War, into a lost Amazonian civilization, and finally into Hell, in search of eternal life, the most beautiful girl in the world, and worship and riches. Hell needs and gets a makeover courtesy of Rincewind’s accidental meddling.

Conan the (aged) barbarian also features as he attempts to ‘get the girl’ and maintain his reputation. For all his age, he seems to have both of those under control. The Luggage is still my favorite character though.

In the end, and Terry Pratchett makes a special point of this, every one is happy. How nice. 197 pages.

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