Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: December 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

December 2014

Last month I read a total of thirteen books: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King, In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little, Moriarty (New Sherlock Holmes #2) by Anthony Horowitz, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, Seraphina (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman, Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis, The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan, Revival by Stephen King, The Slow Regard Of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix and Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard.

My standout books for the month were definitely Revival by Stephen King, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I have a review of Revival coming up so I won’t talk about it now, but Seraphina caught me totally by surprise. I also really loved Amy Poehler’s Yes Please – I have so much love and respect for her. It was also fantastic to finally start The Dark Tower series by Stephen King!

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. The challenge is now over, and I earned a total of ninety-four points for my team! There is now a DC vs. Marvel Challenge for 2015.
  • I read 135 books towards my Goodreads goal, and managed to complete it – my goal was 120!

 

Currently reading:

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

How was December for you?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #17: Mythology in Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: mythology in fantasy.

It’s no secret that I love mythology. I just find it absolutely fascinating, no matter the culture. One of my focuses at university was ancient Greek religion, and I also wrote my dissertation on the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis. So today I want to share some fantasy books that are based on or inspired by mythology. Some are set in their respective countries, others are more modern takes, and some invent their own mythology! I also plan on doing a post on various mythological creatures that appear in fantasy in the future.

I found LOADS of books based on Greek mythology, as well as Arthurian legend, but it was quite tricky finding ones based on Egyptian mythology, as most books based on Egypt were ‘historical’ fiction. I say ‘historical’ because the ancient sources and evidence from Ancient Egypt are a lot less concrete than say, the Tudor period.

I also found barely any books based on Roman mythology that weren’t, once again, historical fiction (this time without the speech marks, Romans wrote a lot more down!) – lots of Roman mysteries out there! – but I think that’s because Greek and Roman mythology are very closely entwined. The Romans took a lot of their myths and legends from the Greeks, albeit with different names – and when people talk about the gods they tend to use the Greek names. For example, Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon but he would be the son of Neptune if we were talking about it in terms of Roman mythology. So for this reason, I’ve grouped them together.

Greek & Roman Mythology:

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell Ilium by Dan Simmons King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Heroes of Olympus series and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan tell a modern day story of teenagers who discover they are demi-gods. The first focuses on the Roman gods, and the second Greek – implying that the pantheons are totally separate. I absolutely love Rick Riordan’s books, they’re just so much fun and are PERFECT for fans of mythology. David Gemmell’s Troy series is as it sounds – an account of the Trojan War, told from multiple viewpoints. I’ve had the trilogy for years and still haven’t gotten round to reading it… Ilium is the first book in a duology by Dan Simmons, a sci-fi/fantasy account of the Trojan War set on Mars. I loved Simmons’ Hyperion series, and The Iliad is one of my favourite classics, so I need to hurry up and read this one. King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe is the tale of Odysseus before the Trojan War – I read this one a few years ago and really enjoyed it. And oh, The Song of Achilles, you beautiful, beautiful book. Madeline Miller has written a haunting love story from the point of view of Patroclus, a Greek prince. Read it and cry.

Egyptian Mythology:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove

Yep, Rick Riordan has not only written about Greek and Roman mythology, but Egyptian too. His Kane Chronicles tell the story of two siblings with an archaeologist father, who discover that the Egyptian gods are real – and are pretty angry. I haven’t read this series but going on Riordan’s other writing, I really need to. Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White is a book that I spotted on another blog a while ago and promptly forgot about until researching books for this post. It follows a girl who is the human daughter of Isis and Osiris – and the cover is just gorgeous. The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove is another interesting sounding book – it works on the premise that all gods are real – or rather were, until the Egyptian pantheon defeated them all. They now have control over the Earth.

Arthurian Legend:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

A true Arthurian epic, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon is told through the eyes of several women in Arthur’s court. There are actually seven books to the series, the last three finished by a different author, and the first book alone clocks in at just over one thousand pages. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell takes a slightly different take on the familiar story, told after Arthur has been banished from his own kingdom, and Merlin has disappeared. And finally, Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper is, unlike the other two books, a children’s tale about siblings who discover clues to finding the Holy Grail. I remember reading this when I was younger, but unfortunately I don’t remember a lot about it!

Norse Mythology:

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson Ice Land by Betsu Tobin

Joanne Harris’ The Gospel of Loki is a wonderful retelling of Norse legend, from the point of view of the trickster god Loki. With his tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, he recounts many familiar tales of Scandinavian mythology. The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson follows not Loki, nor any of the other gods, but a human man named Scafloc who must make deals with the ice giants in order to save himself, others and the gods. Now I have to admit when looking for books to fit into with Norse mythology, I was immediately drawn to Ice Land by Betsy Tobin by its gorgeous cover. It’s an epic quest to save the land sort of story, infused with Icelandic history and mythology.

Other:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman The Alchemyst by Michael Scott Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene

By ‘other’, I mean completely made-up mythology for the sake of literature, not based on one particular pantheon. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one such example. I want to read this one so badly, Gaiman’s writing is just outstanding and it comes very highly recommended! Whilst the life of Nicholas Flamel is not one of mythology, there are many rumours of his being a legendary alchemist that many stories, including The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. I got this book as a freebie from BristolCon last year, and it has a pretty high Goodreads rating. Unfortunately the author’s name always reminds me of The Office and makes me giggle… And finally, Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene is a new release from Hodder (who ever so kindly sent me a copy!), and features a story of gods reborn as humans. I’m so excited to read this one, so I’m hoping to do so before I go off to university.

Do you have any recommendations for fantasy based on mythology? Do you have a particular favourite branch of mythology or legend? There are so many more books I could have listed, but I just didn’t have enough time!

Thoughts

Thoughts #21: Teen Fiction and Young Adult Fiction

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Recently, whilst organising my Goodreads shelves, I noticed I had both shelves for ‘teen’ and ‘young adult’. I was tempted to merge the two, but actually upon looking at the books in question I realised I do actually distinguish between them. I wondered if anyone else did this, or whether a lot of people lump all books for teens into young adult.

By ‘teen’ I don’t mean middle grade OR young adult, but in fact somewhere in between. Here’s how I distinguish between the two:

‘Teen’ fiction:

  • Generally for a younger audience than young adult fiction, perhaps ages 11-14 so just a little older than middle grade (which to me is 9-12, so there is some overlap).
  • I see it as a transition from middle grade books, but not quite reaching the content of young adult fiction.
  • It’s often focused on lighter elements, for example friendships, first crushes, shopping etc!
  • Tends to be more realistic or contemporary.
  • I’ve noticed that it’s more often gender specific.

Examples of ‘teen’ fiction:
Dancing in my Nuddy-pants by Louise Rennison The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Anne Brashares

Young Adult fiction

  • In my eyes these books are aimed at 15 year olds and upwards. Yes, even adults.
  • Contain ‘heavier’ issues such as relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, family problems, abuse etc.
  • It’s moved on from first crushes to first kisses and first loves.
  • Less of a gender focus.
  • Spans all sorts of genres: contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal etc.
  • Generally a lot more emotional, typically a darker feel.
  • That’s not to say that all YA books are full of these sorts of issues. I just feel that they’re much more likely to address them.

Examples of young adult fiction:
Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Do you tend to split up teen fiction and young adult fiction, or do you see them as one and the same?

Museum of Literary Wonders

Museum of Literary Wonders #3

Museum of Literary Wonders

Hello, and welcome back to the Museum of Literary Wonders! Are you ready for another part of the tour? Perhaps some of you have just joined us for the first time today, in that case let me explain. I am Rinn, the curator and your tour guide for today. The museum holds many wonderful objects from many different worlds and universes, preserved in this museum because of their importance – perhaps they hold a lot of meaning, perhaps they’re important plot points or maybe just because they’re pretty… For whatever reason, they have been carefully stored in the museum collection so that generation after generation can learn about them. Today we’re going to head into the Young Adult exhibit!


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This Mockingjay pin was apparently the symbol of rebellion in a land called Panem. Supposedly, the citizens of Panem had to take part in a horrific event called ‘The Hunger Games’ every year, where young people from each of Panem’s districts would have to fight to the death. Their history books have recorded that one year, a young girl by the name of Katniss Everdeen managed to beat the system, and become a figurehead of a rebellion that changed Panem forever. The Mockingjay was her ‘symbol’, and apparently this was the very same Mockingjay pin that she wore!

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Image source


This glass slipper was discovered in New Beijing. As far as we can tell, it belonged to a cyborg by the name of Cinder – who also happened to be the best mechanic in all of New Beijing. Research into this artefact is still ongoing!

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Riptide

Riptide is the sword previously belonging to the demi-god and son of Poseidon, Percy Jackson. Previously owned by Hercules, Riptide was forged thousands of years ago from Celestial Bronze, and it has been passed down through the years to various gods and demi-gods. It can be disguised as a normal object, for example a pen, but we have succeeded in dispelling the ‘Mist’ (that covers the eyes of mere mortals as opposed to mighty gods!) around this particular artefact, so you can view it in its full glory. You can see that it is engraved with a trident, a symbol of Poseidon. Its original name was ‘Anaklusmos’.

Are there any questions about today’s tour? What exhibits would you like to see next?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #3: Fantasy Sub-Genres

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: sub-genres of fantasy.

I did mean to post this one last week, but as I have proven in the past couple of weeks, I’m really good at double-booking myself and actually posted my Spooky Songs playlist for Horror October instead.

Fantasy isn’t all just witches and wizards. There are many different types of fantasy, for all different kinds of people. I’ve tried to sort them into sub-genres but some cross over into other genres, and you’re more than welcome to debate with me about it!

High or epic fantasy

e.g. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett

High or epic fantasy typically takes place in a completely different world from our own, and the author has often created new languages, a new religion and a whole new completely different way of life for the characters. Different races are often present, as well as monsters, e.g. hobbits in Tolkien’s work, or dragons in George R.R. Martin’s work.

Contemporary & urban fantasy

e.g. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Contemporary and urban fantasy tend to be set in our own world, but with added fantastical elements – the most popular example is probably Harry Potter. The books are set in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s, but there is another side to our own world within the books. As with Percy Jackson, where the Olympian gods are real and ancient places are connected to modern day landmarks in the USA. Urban fantasy often includes more paranormal elements, such as vampires and werewolves.

Science fiction fantasy

e.g. John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson

Science fantasy is typically fiction that is a bit of a mix of the science fiction and fantasy genres. It often gives ‘realism’ (in a sense) to things that could not really happen in our world, through sense. It is sometimes used to describe post-apocalyptic fiction.

Mythology based fantasy

e.g. The Dragon Queen by Alice Borchardt, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Helen of Troy by Margaret George, Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythology based fantasy is pretty much as it sounds – fantasy novels based on myths and legends. Some books stick to the legends, whereas others play off of the well-known stories. Common stories covered by these sorts of books are the legends of King Arthur, and the Trojan War – as both are possible historical fact, but there is no definite proof.

Historical fantasy

e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn, Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell and The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Again, just as it sounds, historical fantasy is fantasy based on real historical periods, with a twist. Often elements such as magic are added to the story, or the world that the story is based in is clearly our own with some differences. Popular periods of history are the Viking age or feudal Japan, as well as Victorian England.

Dark fantasy

e.g. The Gunslinger by Stephen King, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks, Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Dark fantasy can be interpreted in a couple of ways. It can be used to describe fantasy novels where the main characters are anti-heroes or have questionable morals, such as Jorg in Prince of Thorns. He is part of a group of thieves and bandits, who rape and pillage others. It has also been used to describe horror fantasy, for example Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Of course, there are so many different sub-genres, some books fit into several – there are lots of different ways of looking at it! Are there any books that you would define as a definite genre? What do you think about the way I have categorised these examples?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #1: Common Themes in Fantasy Fiction

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my new feature, made to replace Why You Should Read This Book. It will be posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: common themes in fantasy fiction.

1. Royalty

In many fantasy worlds, there is a monarchical system, or the story often involves bringing back the rightful heir to the throne (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). Or, as in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, there are many rival houses fighting for the throne, each with their own aims and ways of life. Or in books such as Prince of Thorns, the story is told from the point of view of a member of the royal family – but Jorg is perhaps not your typical monarch! Like King Joffrey Baratheon, many royals are not best suited to ruling the people – it often seems to me that in fantasy fiction, rulers go either way. They are either evil and hated, or wonderful and kind. And you know, sometimes they just deserve to be slapped.

e.g: The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Broken Empire, Graceling Realm

GO TYRION!!

2. A ‘Chosen One’

Often, our once normal seeming main character finds out that they are destined to do something. Just look at Harry Potter. It feels like a bit of an overused concept – the idea that this one person is the only one who can bring peace to the world – but it works. Peter V. Brett has a interesting spin on this with his Demon Cycle series, where the Deliverer could either be Arlen or Jardir. This sort of plotline often involves a prophecy of some kind, predicting the events that the hero(ine) has to undertake.

e.g: Harry Potter, Eleven, Percy Jackson and the Olympians

3. A ‘Dark Lord’

And with the Chosen One comes the Dark Lord! The evil foe that our Chosen One has to overcome, and many series actually just use the title ‘Dark Lord’ (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter). In many books the Dark Lord seems to do little himself, and frequently uses minions or messengers (Nazgul, Dementors, Death Eaters) to do his bidding.

e.g: Harry PotterThe Lord of the Rings, The Echorium Sequence, Mistborn

4. An epic quest

Many times in fantasy novels, our heroes have to save the world – and they’re the only ones who can do it. Whether it’s destroying a magical object or an enemy force, it’s normally a long and arduous process with many trying events.

e.g: The Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time

5. Elves and dwarves

Although fantasy novels tend to cover many different races, elves and dwarves seem to be the most common. And, as in Tolkien’s work, rivalry between the two is common. Of course, the two mythological races have been part of folk tales for many centuries – but it was Tolkien that gave elves their taller form that is frequently seen in fantasy today. In The Lord of the Rings elves are a proud and majestic race, in stark comparison to their down-trodden counterparts in the Dragon Age series, where elves are enslaved.

e.g: Anything by Tolkien, Dark Legacy of ShannaraDragon Age

You tell them, Gimli.

6. Dragons

Tough old beasts, dragons. Sometimes they’re not too bad. But other times… you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Smaug. I really see them as the ‘ultimate’ fantasy beast, there’s something about them that is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. They often appear majestic, the fantasy equivalent of the lion. Often king of the mountain, rather than of the jungle though… 

e.g: The Hobbit, Dragonriders of Pern, A Wizard of Earthsea, Eragon, The Neverending StoryA Song of Ice and Fire

7. A question of loyalty

With our Chosen One and his epic quest, comes the trusty companions. But sometimes they’re not so trustworthy. Whilst it is not always the fault of the character – for example, Boromir turning against Frodo at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring/beginning of The Two Towers because of the influence of the Ring – there are many sudden betrayals and shocking twists when it comes to friendships.

e.g: The Lord of the RingsPercy Jackson and the OlympiansThe Demon Cycle

8. Knights

Brave knights in shining armour, swooping down to save the damsel in distress… yeah, not always a feature in fantasy. Often you’ll find that the knights aren’t quite as brave or honourable as they should be. A Song of Ice and Fire is full of Sers, and many of them are not at all deserving of such a title – but it’s the kind of place where you don’t rise up the food chain by being nice. Plus there are many fantasy novels based around Arthurian legend, which of course feature knights, and play upon the familiar figures in their own way.

e.g: A Song of Ice and Fire, The Mists of Avalon, The Pendragon Legacy

9. Assassins & thieves

I always find something fascinating with this particular type of person. In video games I tend to play the sneaky assassin type classes (my newest Skyrim character is a heartless assassin and a thief). There has to be someone for the knights to protect the common people from! But then there are stories like Graceling where the main character does not want to do these things, but has no other choice.

e.g: Throne of Glass, Graceling, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Assassin’s Apprentice, The Princess Bride

10. Magic

And of course – magic! A very, very common theme in fantasy, it works in so many different ways. In Harry Potter, it’s a case of waving your wand and saying the right words. In The Name of the Wind, magic, or ‘sympathy’, requires some sort of sacrifice. Magic in The Demon Cycle series is dark and involves demon remains – whereas the Abhorsen trilogy covers necromancy. And sometimes magic just doesn’t feel like the right word for the kinds of skills characters have; it feels too juvenile.

e.g: Harry Potter, The Name of the Wind, The Demon Cycle, The Black Magician trilogy, Abhorsen trilogy 

If you want to join in with this week’s Fantasy Friday, feel free to leave your link in the comments!

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #22

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.
 

From the library

  • Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island by Mike Tucker – I love this show, in case you hadn’t noticed. Any time I spot a new Doctor Who book in the library, I grab it. This is a Ten/Rose one, but I’d like to read some Ten/Donna or Eleven/Amy!
  • The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan – I’ve already read and reviewed this one! You can read my review here.
  • The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman – the font on the spine drew me in, somehow… I barely even read the blurb before adding it to my pile, but it’s had some decent reviews from my Goodreads friends.
  • Binu and the Great Wall by Su Tong – if you hadn’t already guessed from my review of The Son of Neptune, I love mythology. I don’t know much about Chinese myths, so I thought it would be interesting to pick up this retelling of one.
 

What new books do you have to read this week?