Saturday, 31 May 2008

Waifs & Strays by Charles De Lint

Mythic fiction is at its best in this anthology of stories of memorable heroines, rooted not in a secondary world but in an urban environment. The author introduces each selection, providing insight and interesting biographical information. The subject of two stories is a 16-year-old vampire named Apples who receives "the Gift" from a stranger during a Bryan Adams concert. She hopes to "turn" her sister Cassie when she is older, if she agrees, so they can live together forever. Poking fun at the television version of a teenage vampire, the heroine offers a more pragmatic view of her lot in life as she avenges evil doings in her neighborhood. In the section "Bordertown," where magic and reality coexist, an elf named Manda saves the life of a Harley-riding black man who is the neighborhood peacekeeper in a city rife with prejudice and violence. Elements of Robin Hood, Merlin, Native American mythology, and Celtic music weave through each story. Some of the heroines are humans who briefly tiptoe into a magical realm or are skeptical about its existence. De Lint's characters are often lonely and intelligent misfits whose self-discovery triumphs over plot. Described as "urban fantasy," these stories represent a hybrid genre for readers who only want one arm through the door into another world.

My View

Another fantastic collection from Charles De Lint, this collction is about teenagers and possibly more Young Adult focussed. I loved the first three stories being about Merlin, Vampires and fairies.

There was a really good cross section of characters here and the last couple of storis I found nost as good as the first but, another really good mixed assortment of stories.

My favourite story of the bunch was 'Sisters' about 2 sisters called Cassie and Apple one of whom is a vampire, and whether or not she should 'turn' her sister.

Loved this so another definite one to read from CDL, can this guy do no wrong?

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Dreams Underfoot by Charles De Lint

This short story collections features 19 short stories from CDL's Newford. There is a real mixture of stories here sort of like a chocolate assortment box in a book! Lots of different and very interesting characters and many of them featuring the very likeable Jilly Coppercorn.

I love how he makes fairy tales and folklore into a modern setting and that is so prevelent here and although this is a short story collection per se the stories somehow interlink ino to each other, all being based in Newford as well.

Some say the characters are unrealistic but, for me if the characters are real and more like people in our everyday lives would it really make for such interesting reading? I think not. I love CDL's characters they are so different, some quirky mostly likeable.

I find myself with each book saying if you haven't read De Lint before then read this and I would say it about this one too - I think his short story collections are the best way to get a feel for the type of characters he creates.

If you ever want to get away from your day to day life dive into one of CDL's books they are real escapism.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Heir to the Shadows (The Black Jewels Trilogy) By Anne Bishop

Book Two - Heir To The Shadows
Synopsis Anne Bishop plunged into dark fantasy with her first book, Daughter of the Blood. She described a world where Blood Witches have always ruled, drawing males to their courts through seductive power. An ambitious High Priestess destroys more powerful females before maturity and has enslaved the strongest males, weakening magic and corrupting natural bonds between men and women. Sexual violence permeates Terreille. Jaenelle, born to be Queen, is vulnerable until adulthood. Though guarded by male Warlord Princes, Jaenelle is violated. Daemon, her destined Consort, rescues her but is convinced he attacked her and goes mad.
In Heir to the Shadows, Jaenelle's vampiric, adoptive father, Saetan, and her foster-family of demons shelter her. To restore her memory and emotional balance, they move to Kaeleer, where Jaenelle befriends the kindred--animals with magical and communicative powers--and gathers a circle of young Queens. She also heals Lucivar, Daemon's half-brother, who offers a brother's love and a warrior's fealty. As she recovers strength and memory, Jaenelle resolves to restore Daemon and cleanse Terreille.

Bishop subverts readers' expectations; the "darkest" powers reside in virtuous characters, demons and vampires are kindly, and Jaenelle's adolescence is more comically normal than horrific. Her vibrant characters and descriptions will keep readers hooked, anxiously awaiting what promises to be a riveting conclusion.

My View
Another great instalment of this brilliant trilogy of the three books I think this was my least favourite not that it was bad in any way it certainly wasn't and I'm not sure why I preferred it least of the three, maybe because Daughter of the Blood was such a hard act to follow but, anyway ...

This must of course be read after Daughter of the Blood or else you may get a little confused. We see Jaenelle growing up lot here and definitely see her character advancing and because of the suffering she has endured she has of course, changed quite a bit.

This is one of those books its so hard to write a review if someone reading it (this review that is) hasn't read it (and if you haven't you so must!). It truly is dark fantasy at its best, if anyone knows of any fantasy similar to this plase tell me as I have never read anything else close!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Daughter of the Blood (The Black Jewels Trilogy) by Anne Bishop

Book One Daughter of the Blood
Anne Bishop's debut novel, Daughter of the Blood, is like black coffee--strong, dark, and hard on delicate stomachs. Within the Blood (a race of magic-users), women rule and men serve, but tradition has been corrupted so that women enslave men, who seek to destroy their oppressors. Female children are violated before they can reach maturity; men are tortured and forced to satisfy witches' sexual appetites.
Bishop's child heroine, Jaenelle, is destined to rule the Blood, if she can reach adulthood. Her power is hidden; her family believes her mad. Saetan, High Lord of Hell and most powerful of the Blood males, becomes Jaenelle's surrogate father and teacher. He cannot protect her outside Hell, where he rules. She refuses to leave Terreille, risking herself to protect or heal other victims of violence. Can Daemon, Saetan's estranged son, keep her safe from the machinations of the evil High Priestess? Or will he lose his battle to control his destructive urges and endanger her?

My View
This is just about the third time I have read this book, actually the entire series. This really stands out as one of my favourite fantasy books - EVER! That could change of course as I haven't read every fantasy book there is but, it rea;lly would have to be some gem to beat this.

Anne Bishop has really createda totally intricate world - Jaenelle is our heroine and I was totally mesmerised by her she is a totally innoent girl yet her destiny is to be the most powerful witch. And of course, Daemon I cannot believe anyone would not b mesmerised these two.

Saetan is the Lord High of Hell and that sounds way more scary than he really is because of how we have come to associate hell I guess, Saetan is Jaenelle's adopted father and Daemon is Saetan's son. Once you read this book you will be hunting down the rest if you don't have them already.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Thanks For The Memories by Cecelia Aherne

Lose yourself in the magical new novel from Cecelia Ahern - the No.1 bestselling author of PS, I Love You How can you know someone you've never met? Joyce Conway remembers things she shouldn't. She knows about tiny cobbled streets in Paris, which she has never visited. And every night she dreams about an unknown little girl with blonde hair. When she leaves hospital after a terrible accident, with her life and her marriage in pieces, Joyce moves back in with her elderly father. All the while, a strong sense of deja vu is overwhelming her and she can't figure out why! Justin Hitchcock is divorced, lonely and restless. He arrives in Dublin to give a lecture on art and meets attractive doctor Sarah, who persuades him to donate blood. It's the first thing to come straight from his heart in a long time. When Justin receives a basket of muffins with a note simply saying thank you,he is sure someone is playing a trick on him. But then a series of gifts begin to arrive. Intrigued and disturbed, Justin is determined to find out who is sending them. What he discovers will change his life forever.

My View
As with all Cecelia's books this was a nice, easy cosy read buttttt ....

I found this a bit of a slog to read not as in it was hard to read I just didn't find it as enchanting as her other books. There are some really funny parts - when Joyce takes her dad to London and on his very first plane journey - and it was a nice storyline but, personally I didn't find the characters interesting enough and TBH was not really bothered what happened to them one way or the other!

As with all CA's books she touches on sensitive subjects - in this case miscarriage - in a really delicate way and Joyce IS a nice character don't get me wrong and I did feel for her in all the not so good things that happened to her but, in all honesty I was kind of glad when I got to the end.

Going by the other reviews it seems I may be alone but, this just did not hit the spot - perhaps I should stick to Fantasy!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1: Charmed Life/The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne-Jones

Charmed Life

The adventure begins in a strange and not-quite contemporary England that is still peppered with paddle steamers, horse-drawn carriages and girls wearing petticoats. Orphans Eric Chant (nicknamed Cat) and his sister Gwendolen, a gifted witch, are whisked away to live in a castle with Chrestromanci, a much-revered man of magic, wealth and mysterious ways. Their new life is full of the surreal and unexpected, and there are several crazy new rules to master--not least by Gwendolen who must learn to channel her astonishing powers for good instead of mischief as she forever seems determined to do!

My View

Loved this! It has been said if you love Harry Potter then you will love this, the most ardent HP fans may not agree but, it has to be said this was written long before HP was even thought of! However, this was brilliant Gwendolen is brilliant I loved reading about her and her brother Cat - if you love anything magical giove this a try you may be pleasantly surprised.

The Lives of Christopher Chant
Christopher Chant is a dreamer, a boy who returns home each night with strange gifts from his nocturnal travels and leaves sand in his bed as proof. He's happy to play cricket and wander the world in secret--so having nine lives and being the next "Chrestomanci" is not part of his plans for the future. It's only when an evil smuggler known as The Wraith threatens his existence that the young Christopher truly takes hold of his destiny. He must try to halt his loss of lives and defeat evil before times runs out.

The childhood of Chrestomanci. Everything in this book happens at least twenty-five years before the story told in Charmed Life! Discovering that he has nine lives and is destined to be the next 'Chrestomanci' is not part of Christopher's plans for the future: he'd much rather play cricket and wander around his secret dream worlds. But he soon finds that destiny is difficult to avoid, and that having more than the usual number of lives is pretty inconvenient - especially when you lose them as easily as he does! Then an evil smuggler, known only as The Wraith, threatens the ways of the worlds and forces Christopher to take action!

My View
I loved this even more than Charmed Life this is set before Charmed Life and Christopher Chant is a fantastic character, a very powerful magician who also has nine lives! However, Christopher (much like Gwendolen) is unable to perform even the most simple of spells. Christopher starts having strange dreams, where he is crawling through this strange land, covered in rocks and fog.

Not wanting to give too much away its a really fascinating magical world Diana has created, of course primarily aimed at the YA market but, I am sure more lets say mature adults will enjoy it too! A good fun easy to read novel.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Bitterbynde Trilogy - Book Three - The Battle of Evernight by Cecilia Dart-Thornton

In the strong conclusion to her Bitterbynde trilogy (The Ill-Made Mute; The Lady of the Sorrows), set in the Irish-tinged land of Erith, Dart-Thornton beguiles with poetic, songlike prose that at times lapses into verbosity and odd neologisms. "It was the second of Duileagmis, the Leafmonth, viminal last month of Spring." Viminal? Rohain, now named Tahquil-Ashalind, and her companions, Caitri and Viviana, set out for the Gate of Oblivion's Kiss, where they hope to discover a way to set aright what has been wrong for a thousand years. In their travels, the three young maids encounter a variety of wights, both seelie (good) and unseelie (bad, very bad and truly nasty), each falling prey to some harrowing wight-inflicted ailment. Rohain/Tahquil also seeks to free her true love, Thorn, aka King Angavar of the Faˆran, who's trapped in Erith. Heart heavy and duty torn, she feels that her quest to reach the Gate outweighs her need to find Thorn. Those who esteem the Irish and Scottish myths of faerie folk will be delighted by the magic folklore and tales within tales that fill the book. Those looking for straightforward fantasy adventure, however, may be disappointed.

My View
I won't rave on about Cecilia's artistic writing as if you read my previous 2 reviews you will probably know that I find her fantastic and needless to say it continues here. Now I have finished the trilogy its quite sad and I rally hope that one day she returns to write about this world she created.

Again Imrhien/Rohain has a name change seems confusing on the outset but, it isn't at all and you soon get drawn into the story. The ending however, could be disappointing but, hopefully it is set up for a return to Erith (a much nicer place than the Erith in Kent I might add - LOL!) The main character I liked a lot, which always helps I find.

Apparently her next series is set in the same world with different characters so look forward to reading that. The final book was possibly the weakest of the three but, by no means a weak book at all, The Ill Made Mute really stood out for me and is one of my all time favourite fantasy books of all time. Wanting to pick up the books at every spare moment I had is always a good sign that these are fantastic books.

I would say this is not a series for every fantasy fan as it is possibly a little out of the norm and some may read them and not be as enthusiastic as me.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

The Bitterbynde Trilogy - Book Two - The Lady of the Sorrows by Cecilia Dart-Thornton

Healed of her scars and given back her voice, the former mute known as Imrhien now carries an important message to the King-Emperor of Caermelor. Disguised as a noble to gain admission to court society, Imrhien finds that the emperor has embarked on a war against a hostile army of unseelie creatures (malevolent fairies) bent on the destruction of humankind. Her eventual meeting with the emperor proves both surprising and bittersweet, for as she finds her heart's desire, Imrhien also discovers that she is the target of the unseelie hordes. The sequel to The Ill-Made Mute continues the adventures of a resourceful heroine as she makes her way through a world filled with magic and treachery.

My View
As with the previous novel The Ill Made Mute the stunning writing is ever present here with descriptions of scenery, clothing etc its som easy to have a picture in your mind of these novels with the descriptive writing. I think its possibly these descriptions that some find quite laborious but, I think it only adds to the book. Yes if these descriptions were not there it would probably only be half as long but, IMO it would be far less interesting.

The main character again is Imhrien but, she takes on a new name here as Rohain I won't tekll you why as it could ruin it for you. This book again is full of lots of lore, legend & myth and if you loved Lord of the Rings I am sure you will love this of course, it is not in the same league as LOTR but, I am sure you will love the Faeren who are the next best elves (IMO) to those in LOTR.

Another totally fantastic book from Cecilia, I almost don't want to read the last book as I don't want this woprld Cecilia has created to end.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Bitterbynde Trilogy - Book One - The Ill Made Mute by Cecilia Dart-Thornton

A landmark publication in the world of Fantasy writing In a world where creatures of legend haunt the lands of men, and to be caught outside after dark means almost certain death, the inhabitants of Isse Tower are amazed when a mute, starving foundling is discovered outside their gates. With no recollection of her name or past, the girl soon realizes that her only hope of happiness lies in distant Caermalor, where a wise woman might be able to restore her memories. To get there, Imrhien must survive a wilderness of endless danger. Lost and pursued by unhuman wights, Imrhien is saved by Thorn, a mysterious, handsome ranger who becomes her protector-and the object of her hopeless love. But unknown to them, a dark force summons the Unseelie, and malignant hordes amass in the night.

My View
I have to start by saying aaaaaaaaah! This IMHO is fantasy at its best, I have read this before but, for some reason never got round to reading the other two in the trilogy so a perfect excuse for a re-read. If you have read any of the reviews of this book on Amazon I think this book is a perfect example of trying it yourself and making up your own mind. Yes it is long in parts and some may find it quite drawn out by Cecilia is such a word weaver I personally didn't find it drawn out at all.

There isn't a huge plot the book is essentially about a facially scarred mute who begins a journey to find someone to heal her and the book is mostly Imrhien's journey to find this healer.

Cecilia has created a truly magical world and she is one of my favourite authors (and I've only read this book, I guess that tells how much I love this!) so if after reading the reviews you thought to give this a miss please don't its easy to overlook this as a laboriously long read with not a huge plot within its pages but, you will be missing out on a beautifully written book!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

The Dreaming Place by Charles De Lint

A compelling fantasy that combines elements of Native American and Celtic mythology to create a fluid and unexpected otherworld, open to all with the ability to enter and traverse it. Teenaged cousins Nina and Ashley have shared a bedroom since Ash's mother's death three years earlier. Ash is often sullen, uncooperative, and in trouble, and the two are usually at odds. Then a series of disturbing nightmares in which Nina finds herself awkwardly inhabiting the bodies of various animals leaves her shaken and convinced that Ash is somehow responsible. What Nina doesn't know is that Ash has stumbled into the dreaming place--the spirit world--and may be the only one who can rescue her from the hungry manitou spirit who is causing her visions. Surprising combinations of formal and informal language from both spirit and human characters help to link the worlds, making the spirit world more accessible while readers' own becomes more mysterious. The satisfying conclusion hints at more otherworldly adventures to come. While Nina is a rather bland character, Ash and her colorful friends and adversaries, and icons such as the strange tarot cards that foretell her journey and the pomegranate that is pivotal in her quest, come alive through the text.

My View

This was a very sort novel (128 pages) from CDL and was one of his earlier efforts and was perhaps not as good as his later books but, still has that brilliant CDL signature about it. Although it does switch from being quitea slog to very fast. I found Nina to be the better of the characters in tha she was nmore interesting Ashley was a little less interesting!

I did find there was not much background and I think didn't find out enough of the characters but, then this was aimed at a teen audience but, the Tarot scenes I found particularly interesting and well written.

So probably not one to read if your new to Charles De Lint but, definitely do if your a fan its just not in the league of his others.