Posts Tagged ‘magic’

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I only really discovered Neil Gaiman’s books last year but I’ve been catching up since. I probably would have overlooked Coraline except that the film is coming out soon (it’s already out in the UK) and I like to read the book first.

Coraline has just moved into a new flat with her parents. An only child, she gets lonely when she feels her parents are ignoring her and finds little entertainment with the eccentric actresses from downstairs, or the man with the mouse circus from upstairs. One day she finds a door that appears not to go anywhere, but in fact leads to a much larger-than-life replica of her home, and her Other Mother really wants her to stay…

I got the impression at the beginning of the book that it took a while to get into the swing of it; it was quite abrupt initially. It didn’t take long to start flowing much more smoothly though. It’s not violent or gory but it is creepy and, just when it seems to have wrapped up nicely, it gets even creepier. I’d have been terrified as a child (though I was a particularly wussy child), and was slightly freaked out as an adult to be honest (so nothing much changed really).

This is a great book for older children, you’d probably have to be either¬† big Neil Gaiman fan or a fan of children’s books to get on with it as an adult, unlike The Graveyard Book which I think is aimed at slightly older children and is less of a change of style for adults. As a fan of both Gaiman and well written children’s books, however, I recommend it. Unless you’re on your own in an otherwise dark house, in which case I’d wait until morning.

Advertisements

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Another LibraryThing recommendation and one that worked very well for me, perfect for cosy snuggled up with a blanket reading.

The Waverleys have lived in Bascom for generations and there’s always been something a little bit magical about them and, especially, their garden. Sidney left as soon as she could while older sister Claire stayed and now runs a successful catering business, popular because of the special ingredients she uses from her garden. When Sidney is forced to return everything is stirred up – Claire has to learn to open up and accept a bit of chaos in her usually ordered life, and Sidney has to accept who she is.

It’s very similar to Practical magic in a lot of ways but no less enjoyable for that. You find yourself drawn to this family and their magic which isn’t overdone, it’s very subtle and fits well with the book which is really about the Waverleys and their lives rather than the magic. It was a quick read but I loved it. Recommended.

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

This is the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, a series about Nathaniel,a young magician’s apprentice, and the djinni (Bartimaeus) he summons, initially for a spot of personal vengeance and then, in the way of these things, to try to sort things out when he ends up way out of his depth.

This book will definitely appeal to Harry Potter fans but has a very different tone; darker and with more humour. The point of view switches between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, and the djinni’s chapters definitely stand out. He’s self-serving, sarcastic and the footnotes cracked me up. His chapters reminded me a lot of the Discworld books. Nathaniel’s chapters aren’t narrated by him but do move the story along and are often where the action is. There’s magic, demons, really bad guys and a huge adventure.

Recommended, especially if you need a giggle.

Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe is another young adult book and again is about a teenage girl who can see faeries. I suspect the recommendations for this and Wicked Lovely probably came from the same place.

Sixteen year-old Kaye has spent her life moving from town to town with her mother’s band. When her mother is attached by her boyfriend they return to Kaye’s childhood home to live with her grandmother, a place were Kaye used to see faeries. She finds herself drawn back into their world and, as with Wicked Lovely, we see that the faerie world isn’t all (or even mostly) sweetness and light.

Though there are obvious similarities with Wicked Lovely the tone is quite different, and Kaye’s story is very different from Aislinn’s. Many elements of Kaye’s real life are as seedy as the faerie world, it’s quite gritty in comparison to Aislinn’s and I’m clearly become very shockable in my old age as I was surprised to read of a sixteen year-old smoking (quite why I don’t know, apparently you really do forget what being a teenager is actually like. This is probably a good thing). She is drawn to the faerie world rather than resisting, being a more willing participant in her adventures, although she does get more than she bargained for.

For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Wicked Lovely – I warmed to the characters in the latter a lot more and felt like I knew them better by the end of it. However it’s still a very good book – I enjoyed it a lot and will be seeking out the sequel.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Again this was one of those “if you liked x, you may also like” type recommendations, I can’t remember where it came from but was probably based on some of the urban fantasy stuff I’ve been reading.

This is another book I really enjoyed. I was immediately drawn in by the blurb (well, that’s what it’s for, but this particularly grabbed me) describing the three rules Aislinn, our heroine, has been taught to live by:

Rule 3: Never stare at invisible faeries.

Rule 2: Never speak to invisible faeries.

Rule 1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

Aislinn has always been able to see faeries but has carefully built up the ability to pretend she can’t, because she knows how dangerous they are. Unfortunately she does unwittingly attract the attention of Keenan, the Summer King, and once she does there’s no going back really.

The faeries in this world aren’t the happy fluffy tree dwelling type at all and that’s one thing I really liked about the book. Aislinn is great, her relationship with Seth is really well described and you do end up rooting for them. The faerie world is great, creepy but in a way that makes you want to learn more about it.

The book is young adult fiction and there are a couple of places – but only very minor points, where that shows. Towards the beginning the exact track that Aislinn chooses is mentioned which jarred a bit, it’s a really minor thing and I’m not sure why it stood out so much but it did. Aislinn’s concerns about her virginity stuck out too, although again I’m not sure why, probably because I’m much older! But they’re realistic concerns for a girl of her age. However I wouldn’t let the fact that it’s a YA book put you off – it’s really well written, a good story and gets pretty dark in places. I was initially surprised at the age recommendation on the back (13+) but I ended up thinking even 13 might be a little bit young (it’s a long time since I was 13 though).

I’ll probably be picking the sequel up over the weekend, and am now following the author on Twitter, so definitely hooked!

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Philips

This book is about the Greek gods who are still around, and living in London, but are growing increasingly weak, and what happens when two perfectly ordinary mortals manage to change things for them.

I immediately liked the premise of this book and wasn’t disappointed when I read it. It’s a fairly light, fluffy read, and Neil Gaiman covers a similar topic in a much meatier way in American Gods. Having said that I don’t think this novel was meant to be similar and I enjoyed it for what it was, plus I’m much more familiar with the mythology surrounding these gods than I was with those Gaiman wrote about so I got more of a kick out some of the jokes and references.

The gods are painted well I think – they’re very spoiled and childish in some ways, as most of us probably would be if we’d had to share the same house with the same people for thousands of years. The love story is very chick-lit, but I’m quite partial to that. The book is fun and enjoyable, great weekend reading when your week has been as busy as mine was!

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

I’m running out of Sookie Stackhouse books so have been looking for a similar series for a bit of light reading, and this came up on Amazon’s recommendations.

Rachel Morgan works for Inderland Security, Inderlanders being the supernatural beings that live alongside humans (vampires, witches,werewolves etc) and always have, but humans haven’t known for that long and are a bit twitchy about it. One day she quits, but it’s not the kind of organisation you can quite and they soon have their people after her. So Rachel is starting up her own company, trying to avoid the assassins and working on a scheme to pay off her IS contract. She’s a busy lady.

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse series, I think because Sookie is basically an ordinary girl in an ordinary small town. This book focussed very much on the Inderland community. That said it was a good, enjoyably read. The characters are likeable, Rachel kicks ass (obviously) but there are a number of interesting supporting characters. The story moves along nicely, and I particularly like some of the little touches that demonstrate how different Rachel’s world is (she wears amulets for pain relief, and at one point is given Aspirin which she’s a bit suspicious of…) I’ll be looking out for the rest of the series.

Conjugal Rites by Paul Magrs

I’ve been waiting for this to come out in paperback for ages, and I rushed out to buy it at the first available opportunity, which was yesterday, and finished it today. It was definitely worth it.

Conjugal Rites is the third in a series of books starring Brenda and Effie, two formidable old ladies who live in Whitby and find themselves drawn into solving mysteries, usually involving supernatural goings on. Throughout the books you learn more about Brenda’s mysterious past along with the mysteries, and get to watch Brenda and Effie’s friendships develop, and there’s a lot of humour alongside the supernatural stuff.

The three books are very different. The first does have a story running through it, but each chapter is also a mystery in its own right. I often describe it as being structured a little like the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. It sounds disjointed but actually works very well to introduce Brenda, drop some hints about her and prove that Whitby really does attract some odd things. Books 2 and 3 revolve much more about one central story, with 2 delving much more into Brenda’s history and 3 more on her future.

This book has been my favourite with 2, although very good, probably the weakest in the series. There is the return of some familiar love-to-hate characters, some old friends and one long-awaited appearance. I can’t go into too much detail without giving a lot away but it’s a brilliant adventure and Whitby is the perfect setting, with Brenda (especially) and Effie being some of my favourite characted ever. I can’t wait for the next one (but I’ll have to).

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

This was actually the first full book I read this year but for some reason I missed posting about it…

I haven’t actually seen the film, but the title and the cover appealed to me, plus I’m reading more about magic these days. I’ve read a synopsis of the film and I think they’ve made it much happier and fluffier than the book, though I’ll have to watch it to judge that properly.

The book is about two sisters, Sally and Gillian, who grow up living with their witch aunts following the death of their parents. The book covers their late childhood and adult lives as they decide they need to get away from their childhood home – they’re extremely close at the start of the book but differences develop as their lives go in separate directions, until they’re forced together again by various events.

I really enjoyed this and will be looking out for more of Alice Hoffman’s books. For the most part the supernatural takes a back seat – it’s very much woven into the background of the story but never takes over for the sake of it. There are actually some fairly dark themes, and the writing is very clever in that it lulls you into this safe, secure trance and then you suddenly realise something horrible has happened.

There’s a happy ending, which I liked because I’m a sucker for those, but it didn’t feel contrived. For all their flaws you do find yourself liking the sisters and, later, Sally’s daughters and you do come out of it feeling like the world is a slightly¬† more magical place – pretty much what I want from a book really.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Technically this is cheating slightly, because I started it in 2008, but I finished it this year so it’s going in the blog…

I’ve been toying with reading this for a while – the cover grabbed me (and I’m terrible for judging books by their covers) but the blurb didn’t. Gradually I heard more and more good things about it, and fairy tales are a growing interest of mine, so I picked it up.

It tells the story of a young boy, David, who is twelve when his mother days. His father remarries and they move to live with his new wife, who then has a baby. It starts with an account of David’s feelings – resentment towards his stepmother and brother, and feeling like he’s losing his dad, until one day he finds another world by crawling through a hole in the brickwork in his back garden. From then on it tells the story of his journey through this land and the various characters he meets along the way in his quest to get back home.

I really enjoyed this and would definitely recommend it. There are some scary characters, parts of the story that have you on the edge of your seat, retellings of various fairy tales and some of my favourite characters (in particular the knight Roland, and the Seven Dwarfs are fantastic). I’m still dipping into some of the authors notes, in which many of the original fairy tales are reproduced.

It seems that this isn’t the authors usual genre, he tends to write thrillers which I’m not so interested in, so whether I’ll look him up again remains to be seen. However this is definitely worth a read.