Entering the 21st Century

It’s taken me this long, but I have finally succumbed and gotten an e-reader.

I had been looking at them for some time now but had never really decided on purchasing one. I can’t be alone in thinking there is just something about a book that it’s digital counterpart just cannot possess. However since there are some titles that I wouldn’t mind reading that are only available in e-reader format (I’m looking at YOU Leo King! *laughs*) I knew the time would come eventually.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to spend a dime. You see, several years ago my younger sister purchased a brand new Nook color for her daughter, my niece. Said niece never really used the Nook and it has been sitting in a bag complete with charger and cover ever since. When I voiced my thoughts about getting an e-reader, sister said “I think I still have –‘s.” and it turns out she did. With her blessing I did a factory reset and have been spending the afternoon slowly making it mine.

This lovely Nook will never replace a real paper book, but it will help open a few doors to more titles to explore

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Last week saw the release of a trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s newest movie “Crimson Peak”. Since then I have found myself once more in a gothic novel type of mood. So, dear reader, for at least the next few reviews, that will be what the reviewed novels have in common. Some will be classic literature, like this week, and others will be more modern.

Northanger Abby by Jane Austen was one of the first novels she wrote but was one of the last released being published after her death in 1817. It is one of her first forays in to the more “realistic” style of writing she used, telling a story of the ordinary when books of the extraordinary abounded.

Northanger Abbey tells the story of young Catherine Morland. During a trip to Bath with friends of her family, she meets several new friends including Henry Tilney and his younger sister Eleanor. The three young people get along very well and when Eleanor invites Catherine back to her home at Northanger, Catherine is excited. An avid reader of the gothic novels of the day, Catherine is thrilled at the idea of visiting an actual gothic abbey.

Disappointment soon follows though as the abbey is nothing like what is described in the books Catherine loves. The abbey holds no deep dark secrets, neither does the Tilney siblings nor does their father. What then is a girl to do?

What can I say about a Jane Austen novel that hasn’t been said already? Whole papers have been written on her works, everything she has ever written has already been taken apart word by word. I am not nearly as eloquent as any of those other authors.

What I will say is I enjoyed Northanger Abbey. It is a satire that pokes fun without being insulting. Having had to read it many many moons ago in high school, I didn’t enjoy it even though at that time the heroine and I were the same age. As I have gotten older though I have found a new love for her works.

Those who love Jane Austen’s works will most likely have read this novel already. If you have, or if you haven’t, it is definitely worth a read.

Finn Fancy Necromancy (Book 1 of the Arcana Familia) by Randy Henderson

Twenty five years ago, 15 year old Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of using dark necromancy. His sentence was to spend the time in the Other Realm in a shapeless form as the Fey of that world used his memories for their entertainment. His time is up now though and upon his return to the mortal world he learns that someone – or something – is trying to frame him again and send him back, this time forever.

Finn only has a few days to find out who wants him back in the Other Realm so badly and to try and prove his innocence in the crime. The Arcane Enforcers won’t be easy to convince though as he’s already been found guilty once before.

Though the premise of Finn Fancy Necromancy sounds somewhat dour, the book itself is really very lighthearted. Right from the first page we are immersed in an fantastic world where magic is real and the whole world doesn’t know about it. It’s almost akin to Harry Potter, a reference that is actually made in the book.

Because he was sentenced to the Other Realm in the 1980’s, Finn’s mind and memories stop there. His friends and family as well as the world around him have changed in those twenty-five years, but Finn himself has not. The people closest to him are different now, grown up – some for the better and some for not. The struggle for Finn to try and piece together a life when your family is so different now was almost heart-breaking at some points.

Part of the charm of this book I think is the numerous 80’s references threaded throughout the story. It reminded me of my own childhood in those halcyon days. With his mind and personality stuck in that time frame, Finn makes references and uses slang that was popular in that time. It’s amusing to both the characters in the book and to the reader.

The book answers as many questions as it poses, leaving it open to a sequel or two. As it is credited as a Book 1 of a series, this is hopefully a certainty.

Fast pace and furiously funny at times it reminded me of the early Harry Dresden novels or the Discworld series. Absolutely charming, I cannot wait to see more in this series.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Stories of a dystopian future have abounded in fiction for years. From The Time Machine to The Hunger Games, authors have created versions of the future. Some may be more bleak than others but all remain basically the same; humanity has somehow changed and it’s not always for the better.

Divergent by Veronica Roth is no different. The first book of the series by the same name, it is a look in to a future where your faction is your family.

We are introduced to Beatrice Prior, our title character, just before her Choosing Day. It is on this day where young adults choose their future path – they can choose to stay with the faction they were born in to or they can choose to join another. Joining another faction means severing ties with family and friends but for some the choice is worth the sacrifice. For Beatrice the choice is difficult as there are several different paths she can choose. When she does make her choice she sets in to motion events that change not only her but eventually the world around her.

For Beatrice, her choices cause her to change. Originally, she chafes at the structured routine in the faction she was born to. She wishes for more but has been taught to be selfless and the conflict is difficult. When she does join her new faction she finds the new found freedom both thrilling and terrifying. There are still rules but they are far different from what she is accustomed to. Watching her change and grow over the course of the few weeks of the stories’ timeline is an interesting transformation.

Personally, I really enjoyed Divergent. As a whole, the plot reminds me a good deal of The Hunger Games; a young woman making difficult choices and taking a path that many would not be brave enough to walk down, daring to stand up for what she thinks is right. The conflict between choosing what is best for one’s self and what is best for the whole and the eventual outcome.

There are two more books in the Divergent series, and in time I will be reading those as well. For fans of the whole dystopian future, or for those who like a good female protagonist, give this one a try. Like I said, it reminded me of The Hunger Games and I absolutely devoured those books. Perhaps, dear Reader, you will too.

New story from a great author

There are times when knowing an author – or in this case being related to one – can have its’ perks.

Like when knowing they are working on a new story.

Leo King, the author, is my cousin. He already has several books available on Amazon such as The Bourbon Street Ripper.¬†But now, I hear he is working on a new story. This one is not to be part of his ‘Sins of the Father’ series but is to stand alone and to potentially be part of a brand new series. I am told it is to be a dark fantasy, reminiscent of “Babes in Toyland” but with a more sinister twist.

Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

Leo! Get Writing!

The Mechanical: Book 1 of the Alchemy Wars by Ian Tregillis

Every so often an invention comes along that changes the world. It revolutionizes it’s particular field and nothing is quite the same afterward. One example – and one that is important to the story – is the pendulum clock. Invented in 1656 by Christiaan Huygens, is was a breakthrough in timekeeping, allowing accuracy unheard of in its day.

The Mechanical takes place in a world where the pendulum clock wasn’t Huygens only great invention. Along side the clocks, he also created a clockwork man called a Clakker. Imbued with a mixture of alchemy and science, these mechanical men and women are considered the perfect tool. They are able to fill any role – soldier or servant. They are tireless and obedient and they allow the Dutch to become a world power. Yet what the Dutch do not know – or perhaps deny knowing – is that the Clakkers are thinking and feeling beings and that they desire their freedom.

Our story takes place in 1926, but it is a very different age. The Dutch have built a grand world on the backs of their metal men conquering much of the known world. The French have been defeated and now live in exile in what know as Nova Scotia, Canada. Though the French have a better understanding of chemicals, scientific discovery and spies among the Dutch, and even with a shaky cease-fire between the two powers, the French know it is only a matter of time before they fall to the Clakkers. However the French believe they have found a way to not only defeat the French but to free the Clakkers.

There are three separate narratives creating this story, each showing a different view of this world. At first they seem separate and only as the book goes on do we see how entwined they truly are. I won’t go too much in to it though because to say too much will spoil the plot. And believe me dear reader, discovering how everything fits together is half the enjoyment of this book.

What also makes this book enjoyable is how it makes you think. Not only does it make you question how we define what¬†means to be a human but also what it means to truly be free. It also asks that question ‘what is a soul?’ – it is something that can be measured or even manufactured? Questions that have been asked for millenia are posed again but without being preachy or sad but inquisitive.

To sum up, this book is EXCELLENT. With fabulous writing set in a fascinating well-built world, characters that are interesting and diverse and a truly original plot, this is a very good read. I am definitely looking forward to the second (and third? and more?) book in this series.