Re-Read: Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts

Later this year, I am really looking forward to returning to the magical ‘Harry Potter’ world with the release of the new film Fantastic Beasts; starring the wonderful Eddie Redmayne. In preparation I thought I would re-read Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, aka J K Rowling.

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them was originally published in 2001 to raise money for Comic Relief and was written by Rowling under the pseudonym of Newt Scamander; a fictitious adventurer and author from the wizarding world. It isn’t a story but in fact a textbook – that Harry and his friends use in their lessons at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – which is full of magical creatures like mermaids, pixies, dragons, centaurs and many more; where they live; and how dangerous they are! A particularly amusing touch is that Rowling has included Harry’s and Ron’s annotations to the book, which includes: many cheeky comments about Hagrid’s love of dangerous beasts and their own experiences with some of the creatures named.

I first read this as a young teenager when it came out, with its companion Quidditch Through the Ages, right in the middle of the Harry Potter phenomenon – sadly that was quite a long time ago now! Before this re-read, I had only vague memories of this being an amusing read but, if I’m honest, I was struggling to see how it could be made into a film. On re-reading this super slim book in record quick time I discovered it was a lot funnier than I remembered and it has so many interesting (fantasy) facts. I can also now see that there are a lot of ways the film makers could go with this book – the fictitious author, Newt Scamander, must have had so many thrilling adventures researching all the wonderful creatures he writes about.

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them was a quick and fun read for me, and I now can’t wait for the film even more! Before it comes out perhaps I can squeeze in a quick re-read of its companion, Quidditch Through the Ages, too. Good read.

Have you read this? Are you looking forward to the release of the new film?

Once Upon a Time X – #9

The Classics Club: The Story of the Amulet

The Story of the Amulet

After enjoying the two previous books, Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet, in June I returned and completed Edith Nesbit’s charming Psammead series with The Story of the Amulet.

The siblings: Robert, Anthea, Cyril and Jane find themselves at a loose end again after being left in London under the care of their old nurse. Their father is away due to the war and their mother has gone away for her health, taking their baby brother ‘the lamb’ with her. Out one day, trying to amuse themselves, the four older children surprisingly stumble upon their old friend ‘It’ (a sand fairy) in a pet shop! They rescue him but he is not their only magical discovery, they also come across a broken ancient amulet which has the power to take them on many adventures in the past.

It was lovely catching up with and sharing some more adventures with Robert, Anthea, Cyril and Jane; but sadly no ‘Lamb’. The four older children are inquisitive, clever, argumentative and can sometimes be rather naughty; which can make them slightly less likeable, than the Railway Children, but equally realistic and amusing to read about. I was a little sad not to be able to catch up with ‘the lamb’, as he was such a sweetie in the last book, but we did have the old nurse and the professor upstairs to get to know. I particularly enjoyed how the professor joins them for one adventure and thinks it’s all a wonderful dream!

As in the previous books, I really enjoyed the children’s quaint and eccentric adventures which this time arose from their wishes to help them find the complete amulet. I travelled with them to Ancient Egypt where they met a suspicious priest, to Babylon where they sing for the queen and the mythological Atlantis before the cataclysmic wave; the latter of which causes much distress to the cantankerous old ‘It’ who hates water. What was nicer about these adventures was they had a purpose: to retrieve the complete amulet with which the children hoped to be able to wish their parents and baby brother safely back to them.

The Story of the Amulet was another charming, magical children’s classic and a fitting end to the Psammead series. I’m almost a little sad that I’ve finished the series, however there are still other novels to discover by Edith Nesbit. Good read.

Have you read this? What other Nesbit novels would you recommend?

The Classics Club – 44/50
Once Upon a Time X – #8
The Women’s Classic Literature Event – #6

New Read: The Gospel of Loki

The Gospel of Loki

I was so excited when I received a copy of The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris; as I’d heard good things about the author. Sadly though this book languished on my Kindle until last month the Once Upon a Time X event inspired me to put it on my summer TBR pile.

In Harris’ first adult’s fantasy novel we are taken back into ancient Norse Mythology. To a time of gods, ice giants and demons. We see the rise of the All-Father, Odin; his recruitment of the powerful and beautiful to become gods beside him; the golden years of Asgard; to the ultimate betrayal and bloody fall during the Ragnarök. This is those old Norse tales with a twist though…as Harris retells this history from the point-of-view of Loki, the trickster god. Loki tell us he is a seriously misunderstood character and he is taking this opportunity to tell us the true version of events and set the record straight.

Loki, the Light-Bringer and trickster god, describes himself as the misunderstood, elusive, handsome and modest hero of this tale. Whilst we might know Loki best for his notorious reputation for trickery, deception and cruel pranks. I can agree Loki is most definitely elusive and sometimes misunderstood and mistreated too, however he is far from modest or particularly heroic either. Our narrator is in fact vain, deceitful, selfish and his notorious reputation is well-deserved. He wasn’t a nice protagonist to read about but his point-of-view is fascinating and often very amusing too – whether you believe his version is up to you. Personally I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him!

This is the first novel I have read by Joanne M Harris. While I have been tempted by a few of her novels, I was particularly interested in this one because of my childhood love of Norse Mythology. I can’t claim to be an expert on this mythology however as I read this fond memories of stories and the different Gods and monsters came flooding back to me. Then on top of that, you have the inspired choice to pick the unlikely protagonist of Loki. I was really impressed with how Harris made Loki into a well-rounded and believable character. And whether or not you like him or believe a word he says, there really is always two sides to every story.

The Gospel of Loki was an interesting and refreshing twist on the ancient Norse Mythology, which was a pleasure to read and surpassed my high expectations. Now, I am seriously interested in reading more of Joanne Harris’ novels. Great read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? What Joanne Harris’ novels would you recommend?

10 Books of Summer – 1/10
Once Upon a Time X – #7

New Read: Witches Abroad

Witches Abroad

At the end of last year, I started to work my way through, from the beginning, books from the epic Discworld series by Terry Pratchett; which between my father and I we own. Next up was Witches Abroad the twelfth published Discworld novel.

In Witches Abroad we return to the kingdom of Lancre in Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld – there we re-join the local witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and young Magrat. Peace reigns over the land again but things are to be turned upside down for the witches when Magrat inherits the wand and role of Fairy Godmother. Romantic and idealistic Magrat immediately sets out for a land far, far away (Genua) to help her new fairy god-daughter, and ignoring her protestations Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg insist on coming along too.

The witches are my favourite set of Discworld characters, so far; particularly Granny Weatherwax. Granny is a weather worn, practical and stubborn old woman, although Nanny Ogg and young Magrat are as equally endearing and hilarious. During their long journey the witches have some disastrous adventures, accidental successes, humongous rows and strangely discover many old fairy tales are playing out in the lives of real people. This gives them a whole host of magically characters to meet: an annoying Little Red Ride Hood, a confused and tortured wolf, a sleeping princess, two odd step-sisters and a super creepy Prince Charming – someone has seriously messed with the order of the world and they must be stopped!

Terry Pratchett is a well loved author of mine and I was very sad at his passing last year – to me the best way to do him tribute is to continue to read and share my thoughts on all his wonderfully fun books. Witches Abroad is the eighth Discworld novel I have read, but the twelfth published. Although before I haven’t read them in any particular order, I am now trying to read the oldest to the newest books I own. However I don’t believe this is a series you necessarily have to read in order. The stories often follow various different characters – in this case this is the 2nd witches book and I was so excited to read more about them that I skipped Pyramids, which I will have to go back too.

Witches Abroad is another hilarious and fun Discworld adventure, inter-fused with fairy tales and the voodoo culture of the Deep South of America. Great read.

Have you read this? Who are your favourite set of Discworld characters?

Once Upon a Time X – #6

Challenge: Once Upon a Time X (The End)

Once Upon a Time X

Fellow bookworms as it is the 21st June 2016 this means The Once Upon a Time X event, hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings, has sadly come to an end… however they did all live happily ever after! (Do you like what I did there?!). From this event’s broad categories of  Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, this is what I read:

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life

An interesting, gripping and  satisfying ending to the All Souls trilogy; the bestselling paranormal romance. I am not a huge romance fan but I have loved how full of history, magic and art these books are.

**


Broken Banners by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Broken Banners

 Another engaging and highly readable, fantasy novella from the Echo of the Ascended  series which continued the adventures of Elinor, the King’s Reaper.

**


The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit

The Phoenix and the Carpet

Children’s fantasy classic filled with more magical adventures with 5 siblings (who we first meet in Five Children and It), a phoenix and a flying carpet.

**


Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Best Left in the Shadows

The first novella in this intriguing, crime noir thread to the Echo of the Ascended fantasy series, which I just sped through!

***


The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

The Water Babies

Another children’s classic fantasy and moral tale which follows the little orphan Tom as he is magically transformed. I enjoyed but didn’t love it – I do wonder if I’d have enjoyed it more or less as a child.

*


Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad

The second hilarious and fun Discworld adventure to feature the witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and young Magrat (my favourite set of Discworld characters, so far).

***


The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris

***

The Story of the Amulet by Edith Nesbit

**

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by J K Rowling

**

My full thoughts on these last three books are still to be posted.


Which means I have read …

9 books

Woo hoo! That is definitely the most I have ever completed, in any year I have taken part, in this event; beating last year’s record of 6 books. I have also really enjoyed my reading too. While I am sad to see the end of this wonderful event, I do have Carl V’s equally wonderful R.I.P event to look forward too in the Autumn.

Did you take part in this event? Are you looking forward to the R.I.P XI event?

The Classics Club: The Water Babies

The Water Babies

So far this year I have really been enjoying working my way through the children’s classics on my Classic Club list. In May, I continued this with The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley; a story I vaguely knew from a film I watched as a child.

Poor, little orphan Tom has been forced to work hard as a chimney sweep, by the villainous Grimes, all his short life. One day, on a job at a local manor house little Tom is wrongly accused of theft and chased mercilessly across the countryside. Exhausted and disheartened Tom falls asleep in a small, cooling stream where he magically transforms into a water baby. In his new form Tom sets off on a long and arduous adventure seeking redemption and his heart’s desire; along the way he is helped by the fierce Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid, the motherly Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby and many magical sea creatures.

As you can imagine this book has a whole host of colourful, if a little two-dimensional, characters however the only one we really get to know is our flawed protagonist, Tom. While Tom has changed outwardly, from a dirty, over-worked boy to a new, clean water baby, he still needs to change inwardly. He is taught many a lesson by Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid and  Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby for not helping, for stealing and teasing other animals. These lessons help to express to the reader the author’s moral teachings, but I also felt they made Tom a more believable and relatable character.

This is the first book I’ve read by the Reverend Charles Kingsley and while I had vague memories of watching a film as a child, this book didn’t resemble my memories much at all. After Tom’s magically transformation Kingsley takes the reader on a long, meandering, surreal journey beneath the waves – with each adventure teaching Tom and the reader a lesson on behaviour, love, faith and forgiveness. I found some of the adventures charming whilst others were a little too surreal for my liking, however I so enjoyed the rhythmic flow of the book I was happy to continue reading. My only real pet-peeve was Kingsley’s insistence on addressing the reader as a boy! As an adult woman while it was annoying I could get past it – I do fear what a little girl reading this book would think though (perhaps that it is not a book for them?).

The Water Babies is a classic children’s moral tale which I enjoyed but I didn’t love – I do wonder if I’d have enjoyed it more or less as a child. After finishing this, I continued my children’s classic reading with The Story of the Amulet by Edith Nesbit. Okay read.

Have you read this? What did you think of it?

The Classics Club – 43/50
Once Upon a Time X – #5

New Read: Best Left in the Shadows

Best Left in the Shadows

After having read A Reaper of Stone and Broken Banners by Mark Gelineau and Joe King, which I really enjoyed, I decided I had to read more! So I returned to the kingdom of Aedaron with Best Left in the Shadows, that is the 1st novella in the crime noir thread to this epic series.

Magistrate Inspector Daxton Ellis is brought down into Lowside, the poor and dangerous underworld of the city, looking for answers. A girl has been beaten and murdered, this wouldn’t normally raise much attention in Lowside – it is a regular occurrence in fact – but this is no ordinary girl. She is a true blood girl from Highside, a daughter of wealthy and powerful parents and a direct descendant of the First Ascended. Magistrate Dax is charged with bringing those responsible to justice quietly and discreetly. To do this he is forced to call upon the streetwise Lowsider and former flame Alys for help.

I loved the love/hate, tension filled but also playful chemistry between Dax and Alys; it helped to lighten this dark, crime tale for me. Dax and Alys originally met and dated during their time training in the academy, when they were young, naïve and idealistic. All grown up, they’ve come to believe that a true blood guy and a Lowside gal can never be. Although secretly I think Dax is still pretty idealistic but he is also acutely aware of his station and responsibilities. Alys on the other hand is a free, kick-ass spirit who has learnt how to play and survive in this dangerous world – a world that Dax can’t break into without her help.

This is the 3rd novella I have read by the new dynamic duo, Mark Gelineau and Joe King, and it is perhaps my favourite so far too. I love how Gelineau and King say they came together to write the Echo of the Ascended series in homage to all the classic, epic fantasy tales and great heroes of their childhood. In this crime noir thread to this epic series, it was exciting to see a different, darker and seedier side to the kingdom of Aedaron; set in the Lowside of the city rather than, in the previous books, out in the large, isolated march lands. I really am impressed by the character description and fantastic world building Gelineau and King have managed to achieve in these novellas.

Best Left in the Shadows was an intriguing fantasy/crime noir adventure which I just sped through! I can’t wait to continue reading this series with Civil Blood. Great read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Echo of the Ascended novellas?

Once Upon a Time X – #4