Category Archives: Fantasy

Harry Potter for grown-ups…

treeSomething of a cult favourite, Ben Aaronovitch writes some of the BEST crime with wizards in that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. My German pen-pal described them as ‘Harry Potter for grown-ups’.

“Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour. Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about. He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week . . .”

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Elena

Cats, librarians – it’s like this author has already met us…

trussBy the bestselling author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Cat Out of Hell, a nail-biting tale of good versus evil involving one man, his dog and a group of 18th-century amateur scientific pioneers who just happen to be cats.

When you are an inoffensive retired librarian with bitter personal experience of Evil Talking Cats, do you rescue a kitten from the cold on a December night? Do you follow up news items about cats digging in graveyards? Do you inquire into long-ago cats who voyaged around the world with Captain Cook? Well, yes. If you are Alec Charlesworth that is precisely what you do – with unexpected and terrifying consequences …

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Discover The Ornatrix…

9780715650974Flavia was born with a birthmark covering her face, in the shape of a bird in flight. Ashamed of her mark, her mother has concealed Flavia’s face behind a veil all her young life. But on the night before her younger sister’s wedding, she meets Ghostanza, a courtesan turned widow, whose white lead-painted face entrances Flavia, and whose beauty and cruelty are unmatched.
Flavia becomes her ornatrix, her hairdresser and personal maid. But as white lead paint rots the flesh below it, so Perugia and the convent of Saint Giuliana is rotten below the shimmer of wealth and privilege.
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A creepy book with a very beautiful cover…

sladeTurn down Slade Alley – narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you’re looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn’t quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies. A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. This unnerving, taut and intricately-woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and reaches its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe’en this year. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a ‘guest’ is summoned to Slade House. But why have they been chosen, by whom and for what purpose?

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Half a A King by Jo Abercrombie

kingI adored this book and raced through the rest of the trilogy as soon as I finished this one (I even went out to buy myself book 3 in hardback as an early Christmas present, instead of waiting a week for the library reservation!). It’s a wonderful fantasy series aimed at young adults (but certainly one to be enjoyed by adults too). The characters are well rounded and they grow through the stories, maturing and changing as they discover more about the world and themselves. Warriors become disenchanted with war, princesses develop steeliness and young lovers discover the bitterness of disappointment.

I was initially a bit unsure, because of certain, shall we say, ‘parallels’ with George R R Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones series – but don’t let that put you off. These similarities (and they feel rather substantial) are very quickly left behind as the books grow into something very much their own.

Although book one is dominated by a central male character, female characters are very well done and much more to the forefront in subsequent books – this was a real treat.

If you’re recommending them to teen readers, it’s worth  noting that the violence in these books is much more restrained than in George R R Martin’s books, and that the young character’s first sexual experiences are superbly treated.

If you enjoy reading fantasy, be sure to pick these up, they are marvellous.

Elena

Borrow it here.

New out in paperback: The Gospel of Loki

lokiFeast your eyes on that glorious cover! Joanne Harris, author of many other books besides Chocolat, treats us to a retelling of Norse myths from the viewpoint of Loki.

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With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods, who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take revenge. While Loki is planning the downfall of Asgard and the humiliation of his tormentors, greater powers are conspiring against the gods and a battle is brewing that will change the fate of the worlds.

The Sin-Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

sinAn engaging and original Young Adult fantasy, the first in a new trilogy. The mythology of the invented world is unlike anything I have read before & the central character is appealing. Worth  a read for fans of young adult fantasy.

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favour of a doomed love?

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The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers

A modern fairytale, this is a captivating read which transports you to another world… or maybe our world in another time. The references to flooded cities, drowned lands and that the ‘Bankers’ and their love of money were blamed for the flooding makes me wonder…

A debut novel,  skillfully written. It never over-explains and allows the reader space to discover the world in their own time. Entrancing.

The sea has flooded the earth. North lives on a circus boat, floating between the scattered islands that remain. She dances with her beloved bear, while the rest of the crew trade dazzling and death-defying feats for food from the islanders. However, North has a secret that could capsize her life with the circus.

Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean, with only the birds and the fish for company. As penance for a terrible mistake, she works as a gracekeeper, tending the graves of those who die at sea. What drove her from home is also what pulls her towards North. When a storm creates a chance meeting between the two girls, their worlds change. A modern fairytale

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First rider’s call by Kristen Britain

first riderKarigan may have heard the First Rider’s call, but she’s not about to let it take over her life … … or at least that’s what she thinks. She swore to complete a dying man’s mission – to deliver a sealed letter to King Zachary. Now that task, more dangerous than she could have imagined, is complete and her work is done, Karigan wants to leave the dangerous world of tainted magic and ancient magicians behind her and return home. Exhausted in both body and spirit, she plans to return to her quiet life and her father’s business. But it proves no match for the Rider’s call; ghostly hoofbeats sounding in her mind, visions of the freedom of the open road, all calling her back to the king’s service as a Green Rider. Karigan resists it, but when she wakes up to find herself – in her nightdress – on horseback and halfway across the country, her destiny is clear: she is a Green Rider.

I read and hugely enjoyed book one in the series and I was pleased to find that book 2 is just as good- possibly even better, as it develops Karigan’s character and the world the series is set in. It leaves behind the slightly over-strong reliance on Tolkein which was my main reservation about book one and seems to find its feet a bit more. Better still, it does it without losing the readability and entertaining tone of book one.

Recommended for young adults and older ones who enjoy a big, fat easy-to-read fantasy.

Elena

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My favourite reads of 2014

Oh what a year it has been! I’m a great fan of fiction and here’s a round-up of the best of 2014.

Happy reading,

Alison

Stephen leather – Last NightLastnight

I’m such a fan of these Jack Nightingale books, and this is the fifth, and they just keep getting better and better. A killer is murdering Goths with relish – skinning and butchering them. The cops aren’t getting anywhere so Jack Nightingale’s nemesis, Superintendent Chalmers, asks him for help. Nightingale discovers that the murdered Goths had one thing in common: a tattoo connected to the secretive Satanic child-sacrificing cult called the Order of Nine Angles. As Nightingale closes in on the killers, the tables are turned and he finds himself in the firing line, along with his friends and family. The Order will stop at nothing to protect their secrets and Nightingale realises that there is nothing he can do to protect himself. Nor can he run, for the Order has connections across the world. It leaves him with only one way to stop the carnage – and that’s to take his own life .

Romain Puertolas – The extraordinary journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an IKEA wardrobe Fakir

This is such a madcap tale that’s perfect for fans of Jonas Jonasson’s the hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared though with a little less history and a lot more humour.  One day a fakir leaves his small village in India and lands in Paris. A professional con artist, the fakir is on a pilgrimage to IKEA, where he intends to obtain an object he covets above all others: a brand new bed of nails. But when a swindled cab driver seeks his murderous revenge, the fakir accidentally embarks on a European tour, fatefully beginning in the wardrobe of the iconic Swedish retailer.

Veronica Roth – Divergent

Yep, another trilogy for teenagers that appeals just as well to adults! For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead. Divergent is followed by Insurgent then Allegiant

Robert Galbraith – The cuckoo’s callingcuckoo

In case there’s someone out there who doesn’t already know this…Robert Galbraith is none other than J K Rowling writing her first crime novel, and our crime book club loved it! When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case. Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger.

 

The one plus one by Jojo Moyesone

I’m not sure I’ve recovered from the wonderful Me Before You, but this is once again a delightful mix of laughter and tears.

Suppose your life sucks. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your stepson is being bullied and your daughter has a once in a lifetime opportunity – that you can’t afford to pay for. So imagine you found and kept some money that didn’t belong to you, knowing it would pay for your daughter’s happiness. But how do you cope with the shame? Especially when the man you’ve lied to decides to help you out in your hour of need. Jo is in hell – Ed has saved her family – but is their happiness worth a lifetime’s soul-searching?

RubberBelinda Bauer – Rubbernecker

This is the first novel of Bauer’s that I’ve read and I’ll definitely be reading more!

Patrick has been on the outside all his life. Thoughtful, but different, and infuriating even to his own mother, his life changes when he follows an obsession with death to study anatomy at university. When he uncovers a crime that everybody else was too close to see, he proves finally that he has been right all along: nothing is exactly as it seems, and that there have been many more lies closer to home.

 

Michel Faber – the book of strange new thingsstrange

This is such a bizarre story – completely unexpected! Part sci-fi/fantasy, part love story.

Peter Leigh is a missionary called to go on the journey of a lifetime. Leaving behind his beloved wife, Bea, he boards a flight for a remote and unfamiliar land, a place where the locals are hungry for the teachings of the Bible – his ‘book of strange new things’. It is a quest that will challenge Peter’s beliefs, his understanding of the limits of the human body and, most of all, his love for Bea.

circleDave Eggers – The Circle

Ooh this is so clever! Who knows? It might just happen one day!

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.

Carl Hiassen – Bad Monkeybad

This is the perfect book for crime fiction lovers who are a bit fed up with the usual police procedurals.

When a severed arm is discovered by a couple on honeymoon in the Florida Keys, former police detective – now reluctant restaurant inspector – Andrew Yancy senses that something doesn’t add up. Determined to get his badge back, he undertakes an unofficial investigation of his own. Andrew’s search for the truth takes him to the Bahamas, where a local man, with the help of a very bad monkey (who allegedly worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) is doing everything in his power to prevent a developer from building a new tourist resort on the island, with deadly consequences.

lonelyDenis Theriault – The peculiar life of a lonely postman

Bilodo lives a solitary daily life, routinely completing his post round every day and returning to his empty Montreal apartment. But he has found a way to break the cycle – Bilodo has taken to stealing people’s mail, steaming open the envelopes and reading the letters inside. And so it is he comes across Segolene’s letters. She is corresponding with Gaston, a master poet, and their letters are each composed of only three lines. They are writing each other haikus. The simplicity and elegance of their poems move Bilado and he begins to fall in love with her. But one day, out on his round, he witnesses a terrible and tragic accident. Just as Gaston is walking up to the post-box to mail his next haiku to Segolene, he is hit by a car and dies on the side of the road. And so Bilodo makes an extraordinary decision – he will impersonate Gaston and continue to write to Segolene under this guise. But how long can the deception continue for?

Terry Hayes – I am Pilgrimpilgrim

A first novel and the best crime thriller of the year for me!

Can you commit the perfect crime? Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book. What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

issyCarys Bray – A song for Issy Bradley

Another first novel and very different from my last choice. This tells the tale of a British Mormon family who are coming to terms with the loss of a child. It is just truly heart-breaking but at the same time a wonderful read!

This is the story of what happens when Issy Bradley dies. It is the story of Ian – husband, father, maths teacher and Mormon bishop – and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife Claire’s lonely wait for a sign from God and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with what’s happened. It is the story of the agony and hope of Zippy Bradley’s first love. The story of Alma Bradley’s cynicism and reluctant bravery. And it is the story of seven-year-old Jacob. His faith is bigger than a mustard seed, probably bigger than a toffee bonbon and he’s planning to use it to mend his broken family with a miracle.

 

 

 

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