Thematic Recs: Time Travel

The other day I put up a new window at Oxfam – the theme? Doctor Who! So naturally I’ve been thinking about time travel ever since~ 😉 Not being a huge sci-fi fan (at least where reading is concerned), there are obviously a lot of famous time travel books that I just haven’t read, but there are still a fair few that I’d recommend, even to non-sci-fi-fans like me. 😀

Alison Uttley//A Traveller in Time1) A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley. One of my favourite books as a child, this story follows a young girl called Penelope who goes to visit some relatives in the countryside, in a house where her ancestors were once household servants to the Babingtons. And while she’s there, she somehow finds herself slipping back and forth between her present and the 1580s, in the lead-up to the Babington Plot – a scheme to put Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne of England.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban2) Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. Harry returns to Hogwarts for his third year, but the Wizarding World is rife with rumours of Sirius Black – a supporter of Voldemort who has recently escaped from the magical prison, Azkaban, and who is thought to be coming after Harry! To say how would be a huge spoiler for what is probably my favourite Harry Potter book, but time travel plays a big part in this instalment in the series.

Diana Gabaldon//Outlander3) The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. A series of adult novels that follow a World War II combat nurse called Claire, who, on her second honeymoon in Scotland, finds herself flung back in time to the eighteenth century, where she falls in love with Jamie – a Highland warrior. The series begins with Cross Stitch (simply called Outlander in the U.S.), and is an epic-scale time travel adventure/romance – though I should warn you that there are a few pretty explicit sex scenes in the book, so it’s not one for the kids~! 😉

Ursula K. Le Guin//A Fisherman of the Inland Sea4) Another Story, OR A Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. Le Guin. A short story set in Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle, which deals with perceived time travel as a side-effect of inter-planetary travel: Time passes differently for those on the spaceship than it does for everyone else, so at the end of each voyage, the timeline has become slightly out-of-sync (Wikipedia explains this better in the Hainish Cycle article). This story was originally published as part of Le Guin’s anthology, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, but it can also be found in The Time Traveller’s Almanac – a massive compilation of time travel short stories that any fan of the genre should definitely try to get hold of. 🙂

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T5W: Debut Novels

This week’s theme for Top 5 Wednesday is debut novels, which required a bit of research – whether an author has written anything before isn’t something I usually check when I read a book. 😛 But nevertheless, I think I’ve managed to come up with a pretty good list!

Sally Green//Half Bad5) Half Bad by Sally Green

I love Sally Green’s writing, and the world that she’s created in this series. Half Bad isn’t quite as good as Half Wild, but it definitely got the series off to a really great, action-packed start. 😀

Marissa Meyer//Cinder4) Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is another book that I only read quite recently (most of the books on this list are, it seems…), but I was hooked right from the start. The world of the Lunar Chronicles is just so creative and original!

Diana Gabaldon//Outlander3) Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

Not only is this series incredible, but I also got to attend a talk by Diana Gabaldon recently, where she talked about how she started writing the Outlander books, and it was a fascinating story. For a first novel, Cross Stitch is really impressive – so much work must have gone into it!

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone2) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is an obvious choice, since it created an international phenomenon in addition to being amazing. 😛 I can’t believe how many publishers rejected the manuscript! (They’re probably all kicking themselves now~ 😉 )

Isabel Greenberg//The Encyclopedia of Early Earth1) The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

And the number 1 spot goes to Isabel Greenberg, who writes & draws graphic novels with a folklore feel to them. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is the only book she’s had published so far (she’s written a few others, but they’re self-published), and it’s wonderful! I’m definitely excited to read more of her work~ ❤

[Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey, and to find out more or join in, please check out the Goodreads group.]

Back from the Oxford Literary Festival!

I was in Oxford this weekend, in order to attend a few of the Oxford Literary Festival events! I’ve never actually been to a literature festival before (or any kind of festival on my own), so I was a bit nervous that I would get bored between events, but I was excited as well, because the events themselves looked really fun. And they were! The four events I attended (on Sunday and Monday) were:

1) A talk by Diana Gabaldon about her Outlander series – how she came up with the idea (apparently it was inspired by an episode of Doctor Who!), how it ended up getting published, and how it ended up being turned into a TV series. I actually almost missed this talk, since I was all set to arrive on Sunday morning, a short while before it was going to start, and then (quite horrifically), I realised that I’d booked my bus ticket for the wrong day, & there were no busses that would be arriving in Oxford earlier than a few minutes before the talk was due to finish! 😮 (But I made it, thankfully, with help from a speedy taxi driver and my dad, who looked up the train timetables for me…)

2) A brief talk by Robert Eaglestone about contemporary fiction and what the term really means, which was only fifteen minutes long, but was rather more theory-heavy than I was expecting… I ended up skipping the Q&A session at the end, since I wasn’t all that interested, & in any case, I needed to queue for my next event, which was…

3) A celebration of the Harry Potter series, which was a really entertaining (and interactive!) talk for children about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books and films.

4) And lastly, a lecture by Julia Churchill (a literary agent) about how to get children’s books published, which was both incredibly interesting and entertaining, and also full of helpful advice for aspiring authors. This was the only talk that I ended up taking notes on (and I ended up taking a kind of ridiculous amount of them), and I really enjoyed it.

I also bought quite a few new books, but you’ll be seeing them in my next book haul, so until then! 😉

The Oxford Literary Festival is still ongoing (it lasts until Sunday 29th March), and you can find information on all the different events (and book tickets, if you’re interested) at oxfordliteraryfestival.org.

October Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween! (Or not. I know it’s not Halloween anymore, but it was technically still Halloween when I started writing this…) This month has been a little slumpy, reading-wise (mostly because there were a couple of books that I was putting off, even though I knew I had to read them…), so I’ve only got eight nine (!) books to show to you, but there are definitely some good ones in there…

William Golding//Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies by William Golding. Slow at the start, but it picked up after the first couple of chapters. I was surprised by how much I liked this one (but perhaps I shouldn’t have been, since my expectations were pretty low after reading the beginning). It was somewhat similar in feel to I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill, a book that I read (and loved) when I was in school… Very chilling.4 stars

Diana Gabaldon//Dragonfly in AmberDragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. The second Outlander book! The first part of the story lent a slightly bittersweet undertone to the rest of it, but it was really wonderful to see Jamie and Claire’s relationship develop further. The plot was very engaging and the characters were wonderful, and there was lots of Jacobite drama, which I enjoyed immensely. There was also a slight cliffhanger at the end, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next book soon.4 stars

Skye Jordan//RebelRebel by Skye Jordan. The first half dragged a bit, but it picked up towards the middle. Unfortunately I didn’t really manage to connect with either of the main characters, which I think is the most important thing when reading a pure romance novel. Not exactly bad, just kind of disappointing (especially since I was so pleasantly surprised by the first book in the series)…2 stars

Rick Riordan//Blood of OlympusAmy Ewing//The JewelAt this point in the month, the Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon came ’round, and the two books I managed to finish for that were The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan and The Jewel by Amy Ewing. I’ve already written separate mini-reviews of both of these, so if you’d like to know what I thought of them, then click on the images to the left!5 stars4 stars

Holly Black & Cassandra Clare//The Iron TrialThe Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. The synopsis reminded me a little of the Harry Potter series, but the tone was very different – it actually reminded me more of the Percy Jackson books (Call and Percy had somewhat similar voices). I loved both the story and the characters (and I desperately want my own Havoc!). I’m really excited for the next book, even though it’ll be almost a whole year before it’s released… 😦5 stars

James Dashner//The Kill OrderThe Kill Order by James Dashner. This was the second book (the first being Lord of the Flies) that I’d been putting off reading. It was kind of interesting at times, but ultimately unsatisfying. Once again, too many questions were posed and too few questions were answered, and it had surprisingly little to do with the main trilogy. There was very little character development, and the only characters I felt that I got to know were Mark and Alec… Trina, although it seemed from the blurb that she was going to be a main character, really did very little in the book, and was absent for a large part of it. Also, I assumed that the epilogue would wrap up Deedee’s storyline, but instead it jumped back to Thomas… so what happened to Deedee? Are we supposed to already know from the main trilogy? ‘Cause I don’t remember her showing up in any of the other books… :/2 stars

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork AngelClockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. This was a great pick-me-up after reading The Kill Order… I was kind of expecting to enjoy it, since I liked The Iron Trial so much, but I ended up liking it even more than I thought I would. I really liked the romance developing between Tessa and Will, and Jem was such a sweet character (he’s definitely my favourite)! The plot was great – I didn’t see that twist coming at all! – and I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

5 stars

Jon Klassen//This is Not My HatThis is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. I picked up this book randomly at Waterstones, & though I didn’t buy it (it was tempting!), I did manage to read through the whole thing there… It’s very short (mostly pictures), but it’s the funniest book I’ve read in ages, and it’s also adorable. 😀5 stars

September Wrap-Up

This September I read 13 books, which isn’t quite as ridiculous as my August total, but still a surprising amount. Most of these I really liked, too, so without further ado…

Prudence Shen//Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking this book – I expected it to be fun, but it also felt really nostalgic (mainly for this old robot-fighting TV show that I used to be obsessed with). The second half had a very different feeling from the first half, though: It goes from high-school drama to robot war very quickly. There’s overarching emotional things going on with the main character, too, which added a lot to the story, & I really love Faith Erin Hicks’ (the illustrator) art style!

5 stars

Faith Erin Hicks//Friends with BoysFriends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. The story was interesting (it follows a home-schooled girl who’s switching to a normal school for the first time, & there’s also a ghost involved), but the main selling point for me was (the art, and also) the characters, especially Lucy, who is adorable.4 stars

Malorie Blackman//Boys Don't CryBoys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman. A very emotional story, especially in the second half & excellently written (as Malorie Blackman’s books always are). My favourite character was Dante’s brother Adam, but I felt like there was simultaneously too much of him & not enough. I would’ve preferred to have learnt about his problems from Dante’s perspective, rather than having a dual-POV, as most of Adam’s chapters seemed way too short. There’s a sequel/companion (I’m not sure which) out as well, called Heart Break Girl, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere…3 stars

Brian Selznick//The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Beautifully written & drawn, and the constant switching between pictures & words makes nice contrast, without being too jarring. I especially loved the way Professor Alcofrisbas was incorporated at the end (something not mentioned in the movie), explaining the reference to Hugo’s “invention” in the book’s title. Minor characters (i.e. the station master, other shopkeepers, etc.) weren’t quite as sympathetic as in the movie, as we don’t see so much of them.4 stars

Sally Green//Half BadHalf Bad by Sally Green. I don’t have too much to say about this one, since I’ve already written a full review, but I really loved the whole story, & I’d definitely recommend it. 🙂 4 stars

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope. A nice, unpretentious love story which re-tells the tale of Beauty & the Beast. I really enjoyed it, but I thought the ending was a little rushed, & would’ve preferred it if Rhianne had seen Theran’s cursed-form at least once before breaking the curse. The side-characters were also sadly under-developed, but that’s actually pretty understandably, since the whole premise of the story is that the two main characters are pretty much in isolation the whole time.3 stars

Christine Pope//Ashes of RosesAshes of Roses by Christine Pope. A Cinderella re-telling this time! I loved the characterisation & how the romance developed, and the dual POV was a surprise after Dragon Rose, but I liked reading from Torric’s perspective, too. Plot-wise, there weren’t too many surprises, but waiting for the penny to drop on Ashara’s disguise was somewhat suspenseful, & the conclusion was very satisfying.4 stars

Christine Pope//One Thousand NightsOne Thousand Nights by Christine Pope. This one was pretty fun, but not so good as Ashes of Roses or Dragon Rose. I enjoyed seeing more of the Latter Kingdoms world, but liked Lyarris & Besh much less then previous couples in the series. Some threads of the plotline (like Besh’s daughter) could have been developed further, & it was overall plot-lite (which isn’t always necessarily a problem in romance fiction, but I found Lyarris’ constant whining about Besh not wanting to sleep with her kind of annoying). It probably would also have benefitted from a dual-perspective, as I never really felt that I got to know Besh very well. Also, the Scheherazade aspects were only present in a couple of chapters of the book, & completely not essential to the storyline. Definitely my least-favourite in the series so far.2 stars

Christine Pope//Binding SpellBinding Spell by Christine Pope. In contrast, this was probably my favourite in the series! Lark was a great, interesting heroine, though I wish she’d been a little slower to accept her fate. Kadar was a lot of fun, too, and probably the most realistic of the love interests so far. Their relationship development was very believable, too. I’m not sure which fairytale this is based on, though, or even if it is a re-telling, despite the fact that the other books in this series all seem to be…4 stars

Pale Roses by Michael Moorcock (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). I’m not too sure what to say about this one. A bizarre story, with characters I didn’t like much… Werther (the main character) reminded me a little of Winston from 1984, though I’m not entirely sure why. It took a long time to finish, but I’m glad I’ve finally read it & can move on to the next story in the collection.1 star

Intisar Khanani//ThornThorn by Intisar Khanani. Well-written, with an interesting storyline – my first experience with the Goose Girl fairytale, so I don’t know how faithful it is to the original, but it definitely had a magical quality to it. I loved how Alyrra struggled between her desires and her duties, and how she finally found the courage to stand up for what she believed in. Kestrin was interesting, too, but less developed. Unfortunately, the combination of first-person & Alyrra’s pseudonym also meant that I continually forgot what her real name was… :/4 stars

Shannon Hale//The Goose GirlThe Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Another Goose Girl re-telling (obviously), but much lighter in tone than Thorn. Ani was also far more “princess-y” than Alyrra was (understandably, since Ani had actually been treated like a princess, where Alyrra was scorned by her family). It was beautifully-written, & the side characters were better-developed in this one (with the exception of Selia, whose character & motivations were much less clear than Valka’s). I also found myself liking Geric & Ani’s romance a lot, even though it only played a small part in the story & the twist at the end was a little predictable (as fairytale “twists” often are!). I’m not entirely sure which version I liked better, but they were definitely both worth reading! 🙂4 stars

Diana Gabaldon//OutlanderCross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon (known simply as Outlander in the US). It read surprisingly easily, for an 800+ word book. I actually picked it up because I was enjoying the TV series so much, but I ended up liking the book even more. There’s less of Frank, of course (since it’s written in first person, from Claire’s perspective), which makes it less conflicting for the reader, and the TV series seems to have more fleshed-out side characters & settings, but at the expense of Claire & Jamie’s romance (the book focuses much more on their interactions). I like where the plot seems to be going, & am looking forward to seeing Bonnie Prince Charlie in book 2!4 stars