five for friday

Five For Friday: Favourite Books

Recently, I was asked you to provide my one favourite author and one favourite book. Now, as a voracious reader, I found that very difficult to do.

I stood next to my bookshelf at home and looked and looked, but favourites are really not easy to identify – there have been so many books that I’ve loved over the years! My tastes have also changed during that time – I used to read almost all high fantasy but this past year I’ve read some brilliant young adult  and sci-fi that I probably wouldn’t have bothered with ten years ago.

I do have a favourites shelf on Goodreads where I collect my recent reads but I’ve made a bit of an attempt to list, if not my absolute favourites, the books that I would happily re-read at any time.

Five Favourite Books

hobbit_movie1. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

As (probably) the earliest fantasy book I remember reading, Tolkien’s works have to take pride of place here. The enormous and detailed world, the arduous quest, the epic battles were all amazing well before the movie amazed us further and made me want to visit New Zealand. Despite being written over sixty years ago (over eighty for The Hobbit!), LotR is still an enjoyable story of adventure.

In fact, I think LotR might be due for a re-read quite soon.

 

secretgarden2. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

As a child I remember reading this book over and over – I remember being enthralled by the idea of a walled garden locked away that was full of strange secrets. I’m been a fan of walled gardens and great old houses to this day! One day, when I build my own grand design, there may well be high walls with secret doors in them.

Incidentally you can download the ebook of The Secret Garden for free at Project Gutenberg, along with thousands of other royalty-free books.

Harry Potter 13. Harry Potter series, JK Rowling

I discovered Harry Potter rather late – I suspect it was because the early books weren’t promoted that much in Australia (or at least, not enough for me to get involved).  When book 6 (Half-Blood Prince) was released in 2005, I was living in England and it was all over the place there. I devoured them all then and was so, so sad when I finished reading The Deathly Hallows!

I loved the films too – I thought they added an extra dimension to the stories and to be honest, I was in love with Hogwarts before I saw the films, but after, even more so.

 

Ship of Destiny4. Liveship Traders series, Robin Hobb

The Liveship Traders series is set in the same world as Hobb’s Assassin series, but the two stories are mostly unrelated (in fact, I think it took me a couple of books to realise they were even set in the same world). Liveships are built from wizardwood, a strange substance that allows the ship’s figurehead to come alive and become a sentient being. Living ships, pirates, bickering traders, love and betrayal, dragons and sea serpents, it’s all here. I loved this series, even though Robin Hobb writes heartbreaking and terrifying stories.

Another for the re-read pile!

 

Obernewtyn5. Obernewtyn Chronicles, Isobelle Carmody

Obernewtyn is one of those series that never seem to finish – the original book was published in 1987 and the seventh and final is due out later this year! I think it’ll be another of those series that we can’t bear to get to the end of. We’ve watched Elspeth grow from a young girl troubled by her strange abilities in an unforgiving world, to a young, determined woman setting off on her quest to save the world. How will it all end? I can’t wait to find out.

 

I have way more favourite reads than just these five, though. Special mentions go to any books by Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey, Tad Williams and any of the books on my Top 10 of 2012 list!

What’s your favourite book? Can you easily say? 

Five For Friday: Goals for Bloggiesta

 

 

Bloggiesta starts today! Here’s a chance for us to catch up with those things that we’ve been meaning to do around the blog for ages, but haven’t had the chance. The Bloggiesta event is hosted by Suey and Danielle.

I’m going to be away for some of this weekend but I’ll have a bit of time for bloggy stuff, so here are my goals. I’ve tried to pick things that are unlikely to take me a lot of time, although I do find that once you get stuck into bloggy stuff, it’s hard to know when you’re “done”!

Five Goals for Bloggiesta

1. Sort out my tags

Tags are used to find reviews or posts for quite specific subjects. My tags are getting a little unwieldy – I need to do a bit of a stocktake and organise them a little to make it easier for people (myself included) to find what they’re looking for around the site.

2. Cross-post my reviews to Amazon

I’ve got a bit behind with posting to Amazon so I need to try to sort those out.

3. Check out the Mini-Challenges

The last Bloggiesta I took part in had some very informative mini-challenges up – I learned about SEO, got some spiffy new plugins and (hopefully) ended up with a better-looking blog at the end of it! I’m quite looking forward to seeing what interesting things there are to learn this time.

4. A tidy or reorganisation of Goodreads

My to-read shelf is up to 380 books. At the rate I’m currently reading, that’s almost four years worth of reading. A cull may or may not be in order 😛

5. New graphics for various things around the blog

If I have time, I’d love a new graphic for Clock Rewinders. There are a couple of other places where things could do with a bit of sprucing up, too.

Are you taking part in Bloggiesta this time? Link me your goals and I’ll drop by to see what you’re up to!

Five For Friday: Escapism

Why do we read, write and watch Fantasy and Sci-fi fiction?

Aussie author Rowena Cory Daniells wrote a brilliant guest post over on Fantasy & SciFi Lovin’ this week that discussed this very question.

The article not only delves into why we might need some escapism from our daily lives, but also introduced me to Tolkien’s idea of “Eucatastrophe“, which struck a chord with me. Eucatastrophe is described by Tolkien as:

…the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce).

He kind of hit the nail on the head there, didn’t he? That wonderful feeling you get, just as the quest is complete, as the young lovers kiss, as the beautiful view of a city or landscape is revealed – that is why we love fantasy. It’s magic.

After we have grown up enough that we dismiss magic or true romance as not existing, there is still a little child (or teenager) inside us that wishes that wasn’t the case.

I believe that those of us who read, write and watch fantasy stories do so because we know magic probably isn’t real, but what if it is?

Here are five ways to keep that magical feeling alive:

Five Methods of Fantasy Escapism

1. Books

C’mon, did you really think I could write a list like this without mentioning books? Speculative fiction gives us the ability to visit other worlds, experience fantastic possibilities in our own world, or to dream about what the technology of the future may allow us to achieve (or a combination of those!).

From A Wrinkle in Time to the very latest releases such as Throne of Glass or Stormdancer, books have been helping us to escape for a very long time now and there’s no stopping the imaginations of authors!

2. Film

Rowena Cory Daniells mentions in her article that the top 50 grossing films have all been “fantastical in nature”. It seems we love a film to show us other worlds and magical stories. I’d lay bets that most of those films are adaptations of books, but it’s great to see a fantasy world brought to life, isn’t it?

Some (but not all) of my favourite films to escape into over the years include Star Wars, The Fifth Element, The Matrix, The Princess Bride, pretty much all Disney cartoon fairy-tales, Stargate, Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, X-Men and other comic-adaptations… the list goes on.

Honourable mentions must go to two films I saw in 3D around the same time, and completely loved – Avatar and How To Train Your Dragon. I think it was the flying scenes that really got me, plus the gorgeous Nagrand floating mountains scenery in Avatar.

3. TV Series

There have been fantastical TV series for almost as long as there have been televisions! I will admit to being a huge Red Dwarf fan during my high school years. I devoured Firefly for the first time last year and have re-watched it since, and I’m currently working my way through the many series of Stargate. We loooove to watch Game of Thrones, and have also been enjoying Once Upon a Time. It seems to be a bit more Sci-fi than Fantasy with TV for me though.

4. Computer Games

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for almost much 6 years now (gosh…), and it’s not all just hacking baddies to bits. The scenery, the music, the Lore involved with the game is so detailed that it really does draw you into the story at times.

It’s not just WoW, of course – most fantasy-style games these days have a detailed story and artwork behind them. Games such as the Elder Scrolls (Skyrim, especially) are so beautiful to explore that I just keep wandering off and losing track of the quest I’m on. Mr Ang was playing one of the Assassin’s Creed games recently on Playstation and I had to sit there and watch because I wanted to know what was going to happen next in the story.

5. Music

Music might not usually be connected with fantasy but I do think it’s one of the most important ways creators of fantasy (authors, film-makers, game designers) can share emotion or a sense of another place with others.

Last weekend I was extremely excited (possibly even nerd-gasmic) to see the Queensland Symphony Orchestra playing the soundtrack of The Fellowship of the Ring while the movie played behind them. It was brilliant! I found most of the time I focused on the movie and occasionally remembered that the orchestra was playing below it, but I spent some time marvelling at how much drama the music adds to the story or giggling at how many people laughed at the “One does not simply…” part!

I’ve got a decent collection of movie and game soundtracks that help me to disappear to far-away places in my mind. My favourites include Empire Strikes Back, How to Train Your Dragon, Lord of the Rings, Wrath of the Lich King, Skyrim and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (I know, I know, but the music is really good :P)

 

So! If you made it this far, I salute you! Tell me all about your fantasy escape methods, I’d love to hear about them!

Five For Friday: Recommended Authors

This Five For Friday is part of the Discover Australian Fantasy feature, running all July on The Oaken Bookcase. Please visit the Aussie Fantasy page to see the other reviews and articles and also to enter the giveaway!

I’m very pleased to welcome Shannon from Giraffe Days to share five things with us today! Shannon is an expat Aussie currently living in Canada.

Five Fantastic Fantasy Authors

Thank you, Angelya, for inviting me to participate in Discover Australian Fantasy month! Australia has, and continues to, produce some of the most original and talented writers of fantasy I’ve come across. Here are five authors I highly recommend for you to try:

Isobelle Carmody

She wrote her first book, Obernewtyn, at 14 and had it published when she was working in journalism. She comes from a large family and used to tell her younger siblings stories she’d make up on the spot. I once “met” her when she came to my rural high school in Tasmania to run a workshop with us grade 10 students – even though she was my favourite author then (and still is today), I was too shy to approach her. It’s like having your religious leader appear in front of you! I’m not sure I’d fare better today, either. Anyway, I love all her books, with my favourites being the Obernewtyn series, the Legendsong trilogy, Scatterlings, Alyzon Whitestarr and Green Monkey Dreams. She writes children’s fantasy books as well, though her work isn’t restricted to one age group. With her background in philosophy, her stories are original and thought-provoking. She divides her time between her home on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, and Europe (oh what a life!).

Jennifer Fallon

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her so far, which isn’t nearly enough! I started with her Second Sons Trilogy, which is deceptively simple in style but clever in plotting. It’s a highly politicised story, as is her Wolfblade Trilogy, the sequel to the Demon Child Trilogy (all six books are called the Hythrun Chronicles in the U.S.). Her new work is the Tide Lords Trilogy, which I haven’t started to yet but I know that when I do, I’ll be in for a treat. Her Wolfblade trilogy in particular is sophisticated political fantasy, with a strong female lead who, even though I read it so long ago, still has a presence inside me, like she left a lasting impression as a solid person. She grew up in Melbourne, has lived in Canberra and the Northern Territory, and now lives in New Zealand.

Rowena Cory Daniells

I loved her T’En trilogy, which is a fantasy-romance blend, which she published under the name Cory Daniells; and I’ve have started her King Rolen’s Kin trilogy which I’m also loving. She’s also written The Outcast Chronicles, due out this year, and is working on a sequel trilogy to KRK called King Byren’s Kin. I love her work not least because it’s so well written and full of exciting adventure, gripping plots and strong characters, but also because of her romance touch. In the T’En trilogy, romance was a key part of the plot, while in KRK it’s not a strong feature, so far, mostly serving to help flesh out the characters. But for me, a touch of (well written) romance can bring a book alive. She currently lives in Brisbane.

Kate Forsyth

While I’ve only read one trilogy by Kate Forsyth – Rhiannon’s Ride – it was so awesome it was an easy decision to include her in this short list. I would have read more of her books by now but I moved countries and I’ve yet to find her books here. 🙁 But if you’re a fan of Maria V Snyder, Jennifer Fallon, Tamora Pierce, Trudi Canavan, Karen Miller, Rowena Cory Daniells, Juliet Marillier or Lynn Flewelling, I think you’d enjoy Rhiannon’s Ride. It has one of my favourite fantasy heroines, some sweet romance, betrayal, magic and adventure – the best ingredients! I very much want to read her newest book, Bitter Greens, a retelling of “Rapunzel”. She lives in Sydney by the sea.

Ian Irvine

I am way behind on Irvine’s books, mostly due to geography (sadly they don’t seem to be readily available in North America 🙁 ), but I was reading his first quartet while I was still at uni in Australia, The View From the Mirror, and would really like to finish it someday. Instead of an elemental kind of magic, the story featured a kind of constructionist magic: the magicians created strange objects that worked as magic. That’s how I remember it anyway! It was different. His world-building is exceptional, and the characters original. You can read about the books, and his other series, here. Irvine is a marine biologist who lives in NSW.

 

– Shannon, Giraffe Days

Five For Friday: Get Excited For Stormdancer

 This Discover Australian Fantasy Five For Friday is brought to you by the amazing Rebecca of Reading Wishes. Make sure to come back tomorrow for an interview with the man himself, Jay Kristoff!

5 reasons to get excited for Stormdancer!

1. La Blurb

I’m not a huge fantasy reader, the one’s I’ve read so far haven’t exactly won me over but this one sounds incredible! *rereads blurb*

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

2. Jay Kristoff, author

Jay is AWESOME. Not only does he take the time to connect with his readers but he’s so nice and thoughtful. The dude is epic. Oh and he’s hilarious and his personality is freaking
fantastic. Plus, he’s male! *throws confetti* We need more males in the YA biz, YO. If you need more reasons to love the guy, read this!

US Cover

3. Cover Love

The cover(s) for Stormdancer are fierce! Whilst both covers are amazing, I love the US one the most. I mean, can you blame me?! Totally badass! 😀

4. Deadly Combo

Not only is Stormdancer billed as ‘a dystopian Japanese-inspired Steampunk fantasy’ but it’s also an Aussie title! You know what to expect then, right? BRILLIANCE.

5. Riveting Reviews

So far the reviews that are circulating the blogosphere are brimming with awesomeness and positivity! If you need more convincing…

“Stormdancer lived up to the hype AND THEN SOME.” – Brodie @ Eleusinian Mysteries

“Something I like very very very much is that THERE IS NO CLIFFHANGER! It is a well-rounded individual book that so happens to have two books to follow continuing Yukiko and Buruu’s legacy.” – Braiden @ Book Probe

“Stormdancer is a novel filled with vivid detail and dazzling descriptions.” – Claire @ Claire Reads

Excited yet? I bet you are! After writing this post I’m sold all over again! Get ready world because here comes Stormdancer!

– Rebecca, Reading Wishes

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