Triumph – Friday Fictioneers

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Triumph

Word count: 100

I am old.  I am weak.

Leathery wings rush past me; claws tangle my hair and pull my skirts. The smell of death and rot bring me to my knees.  The demons came at night. Soon my family, friends, and neighbors were dead. But they left me, the old woman. So they could torment me more.

But I have a secret.  I know how to bind them.

And I have.

And come morning, the sun will burn them to oblivion.

I am old.  But I am not as weak as they think I am.  And soon I will be alone.

Friday Fictioneers:  a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Photo Credit: ©Dawn Q. Landau

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I Am Number Four – Pittacus Lore

Aliens

Super powers

Lame-o love story

I must admit, I enjoyed this book.  I’ve called books gateway drugs in a previous post.  And this book falls into that category.  It was delightful to read.  Granted, throughout the book I criticized it: poor choices…poor dialogue…poor love story.  Did all of those flaws stop me from reading the book?  No.  Did they slow me down?  No.

Will I stand on the rooftops and proclaim this the best book I’ve read in the past week?  Heck no.  But did it keep me entertained?  Yes, yes it did.  Is it currently introducing young teens to the sci fi genre?  Yes, yes it is.  Will those teens go on to read other books?  Hopefully, oh hopefully.

So, do I recommend this book?  I’m going to be a little ambiguous about this.  I think that if you are able to read books without getting caught up in flaws (as long as they’re not tooooo big) and you want some light hearted reading for a couple hours, this could be an option.  Then again, I could recommend some much better easy reads that you will probably enjoy more.  So maybe, read it if you want.  Like it for what it is: a simple story with a simple (albeit predictable) plot line.

I am Number Four – Pittacus Lore

Spoiler alert:  The best part of this book was the dog.  I’m not even kidding.  But as you know, in books, dogs die.  Not. In. This. Book.  Finally a book where the dog lives.

The Magicians – Lev Grossman

Other worlds

Magic school

Slightly offputting

So I just finished The Magicians.  It sounded very intriguing, comparisons to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but also compared to Narnia.  This was a story where the magical world you enter might not be as welcoming and heartwarming as Narnia was.  So I was intrigued, and excited to read it.

My first complaint about this book is virtually the same complaint I made about the Amulet of Samarkand.  I didn’t like the characters.  Any of them.  They were mopey, unsatisfied, undriven, and full of self pity.  All right, so there may have been one character with a little more drive and a little more reader sympathy, but she was peripheral for a good chunk of the book and it wasn’t until the very end that she became multi-faceted enough to really be interesting.

My second complaint is about how similar Fillory was to Narnia.  But it was twisted and dirty.  And while I think this darker version was very well done, it made me question some of the simple and good views I have a Narnia.  I selfishly didn’t like this because I loved Narnia, I especially love Narnia on a very simple and shallow level, yes I know it is virtually one long biblical allegory.  But Narnia, a tale about four kids and a witch and magic lion…that story I love, and I hate that for even a little while this book has made me look for dark, twisty corners in Narnia.

Personally, I won’t recommend this book to fellow readers.  If you want a magical world, go read about Narnia, or Oz, or Hogwarts.  This book left a sour taste in my mouth and I would have rather spent that time reading (or rereading) some other book, some better book.  Or sleeping, I like sleeping and I don’t do enough of it 🙂

The Magicians – Lev Grossman

The Amulet of Samarkand – Jonathan Stroud

dark

powerful

little twerp

Before reading this book I had heard so many good things.  People (both reviewers and friends) raved.  So I was very I excited when I finally got to read this book.

The story is told through the eyes of Bartimaeus, a demon who was been enslaved, captured, in forced servitude, to a young magician.  He’s very pompous and prone to bragging about his power and prior accomplishments.  This is done through footnotes which I never fully got used to, I found them jarring to the flow and frequently unnecessary.

Nathaniel is the young wizard who has captured Bartimaeus.  He, like Bartimaeus, thinks rather highly of himself.  Yet most of his accomplishments seem to stem from luck (and Bartimaeus), rather than skill.  And he happens to be a brat.

You might have already picked up on this, but I didn’t enjoy the book.  I think that if either Bartimaeus or Nathaniel had in some way been even the slightest bit likeable, I would have enjoyed the book.  But they weren’t.  I never rooted for them.  I didn’t care about them.  Because I didn’t care about them, I didn’t care about the story.

However, reading other reviews, it appears I am in the minority.  If you find yourself enjoying books with less redeeming main characters, give it a whirl.  However, if you don’t like it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oh, and there was a very intriguing underlying plot, which no doubt will become more evident in the rest of the trilogy.  And even though I am curious about this plot line, I can’t bring myself to read any more about these characters.  So if anyone has read the whole thing maybe you could give me a brief spoiler.  Or maybe not.  I don’t have a burning desire to know.

Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier

A head’s up, up front, this series started as a trilogy but it has been extended and is now 6 books.

The first book of this series is Daughter of the Forest.  This story is based on The Wild Swans folk tale.  I actually reviewed a version of this tale a while ago, you can find that review here.  It’s a beautiful story about a witch who enchants six brothers, turning them into swans.  Their younger sister has the power to turn them back into humans, but the sacrifices she must make are monumental.

In Marillier’s telling the story is expanded upon.  It’s set in ancient Ireland, where druids still have power and where Celts and Brits seem to ceaselessly battle for lands.

I have absolutely no complaints about this book.  Or this series (what I’ve read, I confess I’ve only read the first four books).

I love that magic permeates the land and the background but that it’s human determination, will, and strength that helps the good prevail.

I love that it’s filled with powerful women, both good and evil.  Especially the first book.  In a setting that is clearly patriarchal it is the women who are the greatest heroes and the biggest villains.  This continues in the rest of the books, but not quite to the extent of the first book.

I love that I’ve read the first three books three times and still can’t complain about the plot, the characters, or the settings.  I’m not saying there aren’t flaws, there very well could be flaws, but I’m so captured by the story that I honestly can’t remember a single flaw.

I think a huge strength of this series is that each book can stand alone.  They are all set in the same family, but the lead character is in a different generation.  So there are references to the previous books’ characters, but making the books jump forward a generation really gave Marillier the freedom to completely change the personality, weaknesses, and strengths of the main characters.  The audience still gets to read about those they fell in love with in the prior books, but we are given an opportunity to meet a slew of new characters.

These books are easy to read, they pulled me in, and two days later I emerged ready to pick up the next book in the series.

I highly recommend these books to fantasy readers.  I would caution younger readers, there is violence, there is also a rape in the first book.  Marillier, however, does a good job leaving the reader horrified by what happened without getting too gruesome or too explicit.

On a Roll: Louise Cooper’s Indigo Series; a review

Believe it or not, but while I wasn’t posting on here, I have been recreationally reading.  Probably more than I should have.  I should have been studying, but when I get overwhelmed I look to escape, and I’m sorry to say but my Medical-Surgical Nursing textbook does not provide the kind of escape I like.  So instead I read lots (and lots) of other books.

Those other books include the Indigo series by Louise Cooper.

This is longer series, coming in at eight books.  But unlike most fantasy books, they aren’t 1000 plus pages, closer to maybe 300 or 400, very doable.

Let’s start with a con, if you can call it a con.  The first book scared the bejesus out of me.  Seriously, I didn’t sleep that night.  Without giving too much away (I hope), I think the reason it was so scary was because the demon has a vulnerability…at least that’s what you think at first…but no, not really, not vulnerable, just scary.  So the first con is also a pro, it’s scary and it pulled me right in, I had to keep reading.

Indigo Series – Louise Cooper

In the first book Indigo releases seven demons.  The next seven books are about her vanquishing those demons.  What’s really great about these books is with each book the demons become more internal, they still have physical bodies, but conquering them requires Indigo to conquer a flaw within herself.

Yes, there are disappointments during the series.  I think the series starts as a fairly typical fantasy series, but as it progresses and morphs into a more internal battlefield it can (at times) let a reader down.  Especially if the reader want it to continue down the same action-packed, fantasy-filled road they’re used to.  However, I thought the change from outward to inward was gradual and natural.  So even though I wanted some of the normal fantasy plotlines, I could appreciate the books with slower plotlines because (in my opinion) it was the truest direction the story could have gone.

Another awesome thing about this series, the two main characters are female. Not only are the two main characters female, but a lot of the peripheral characters are female (whoop, whoop!)  They are strong, dynamic, flawed, and powerful characters.  And (did I already mention this?) they are female.  Bam.

As an aside: I love reading about strong female characters.  In fact, I’ll post a quick review about another series that really highlights women (!).  And with one daughter, whom I’m hoping is an avid reader, I’m looking for more books with strong girls and women.  Any recommendations?  Anyone?  Hello?  Bueller?…Bueller?

SweetPea + husband + me

I decided to use the  mention of my daughter as a good excuse to post a picture of her.  We’re already training her for hikes this summer.  Yep, yep!

I recently reblogged a post on world building.  Here’s some more insight in writing about a magical world.

Annie Cardi

At Writers Digest, Steven Harper Piziks talks about how to write paranormal/fantasy novels. One big difference between fantasy and other kinds of fiction obviously boils down to the magical elements. Piziks says:

“The need to explain the magic [is] the biggest challenge, really. It’s so easy to use big expository lumps, but that bores the reader. “

I can definitely see this as one of the hardest parts of fantasy writing. You want to make sure your reader understands what makes this world/these characters magical, but you don’t want to bore them with an infodump. If your character is living in a magical world, wouldn’t he/she not really call attention to a lot of the magical elements? It would be like a character in a contemporary novel explaining in length what a television is or how a garage door opener works. (Although I bet Arthur Weasley would find that…

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