Want Books: The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now.

I have no idea how this book managed to miss my radar. This is another case of “I can’t believe I didn’t hear about this book until someone else told me” book. Am I just so out of the loop with this or am I really not a fan? Pfft. Anyway, thanks to Aaron for the heads up!

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper FfordeThe Song of the Quarkbeast: A Last Dragonslayer Novel by Jasper Fforde
Hodder & Stoughton, Released November 8, 2011

As the background Wizidrical Power slowly builds after the Big Magic, King Snodd IV of Hereford realises the man who controls Magic controls almost anything.

But one person stands between him and his plans for power and riches: Jennifer Strange, sixteen-year-old acting manager of Kazam.

It may involve a trip on a magic carpet at the speed of sound to the Troll Wall, it may involve a second Quarkbeast sniffing around town. It might also involve the mysterious Transient Moose, and a powerless sorceress named Once Magnificent Boo. But one thing is certain: Jennifer Strange and her faithful assistant Tiger Prawns will not relinquish the noble powers of magic to big business and commerce without a fight.

Okay, I knew Jasper Fforde would be releasing another Dragonslayer novel this year, but it just totally slipped my mind. This just sounds so absolutely crazy and fantastic, just like all Jasper Fforde novels are. :) I cannot wait to get my hands on this.

Of course, since Christmas is coming, I should really hold back and hope someone gets this for me. *hint hint* That is, if I don’t cave and get this for myself when I get to 50k in NaNoWriMo. :D Hmmm.

On another note! Mr. Fforde posted this on his website last month:

Fforde News Flash
12th Oct 2011

++ News on the latest book. Despite assurances that I was working on a ‘Super-Secret-Standalone’ book to be published in Spring 2012, it now looks set to be TN7: Dark Reading Matter. This is due to the lack of time available to work on a new book, and properly develop the new characters, settings and tone.

TN7 will be in draft form by December 2011, probably for publication in May 2012. DS-3, The Return of Shandar is still slated to be written in the first six months of 2012, with publication in November 2012. My standalone will thus be pushed back to being written in the latter part of 2012, with publication in 2013.

This two book a year thing can be quite frustrating, especially with a new baby and the house being rebuilt, but we should be back on track soon. ++

Looks like 2012 will be another Fforde year, yes? :)

One of Our Thursdays is Missing

One of our Thursdays is MissingOne of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next # 6
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Number of pages: 416
My copy: trade paperback, bought from National Bookstore

It is a time of unrest in the BookWorld.

Only the diplomatic skills of ace literary detective Thursday Next can avert a devastating genre war. But a week before the peace talks, Thursday vanishes. Has she simply returned home to the RealWorld or is this something more sinister?

All is not yet lost. Living at the quiet end of speculative fiction is the written Thursday Next, eager to prove herself worthy of her illustrious namesake.

The fictional Thursday is soon hot on the trail of her factual alter-ego, and quickly stumbles upon a plot so fiendish that it threatens the very BookWorld itself.

* * *

I was planning to put off reading Jasper Fforde’s latest Thursday Next book until I found the time to reread the first five books. It’s been years since I last read any of them, so I thought I’d appreciate reading this latest one better if I read the first ones again. Never mind that there are five of them and it would take significant time off my real TBR. But then I got sick a few weeks before I had to fly to Europe, which got me worried about all kinds of things especially because of that trip to Europe. I needed a book to get my mind off the possibilities that my 48-hour on/off fever could mean, so I finally decided to unearth TN #6 out of the TBR pile. If there was an ultimate escape novel, I figured Thursday Next should be one.

Some spoilers for the first five books — be warned!

So the last time Thursday Next was in the Book World, she ended up looking for a replacement for her character in her series because the original fictional Thursday Next was too violent to be her. One of Our Thursdays is Missing is told from this new fictional Thursday’s point of view — a gentler, bohemian character who never tries to make waves even if it means being the boring Thursday Next that no one likes. But when she gets called by the Jurisfiction to investigate a crashed TransGenre Taxi. Fictional Thursday Next finds herself in the middle of a mystery that gets her involved in all sorts of fictional drama, and a robot butler to boot. With the real Thursday Next missing, it’s up to fictional Thursday Next to save the day.

I think it was Aaron who mentioned the perfect word to describe the Thursday Next series: it’s so meta. The first five Thursday Next books are pretty much meta-fiction – fiction about fiction. It’s what makes all the books so much fun to read especially for book-lovers, because we’re basically reading about books that we may or may not have read. And just as when you think that Jasper Fforde has no way to impress longtime fans of the series, he does something completely surprising and makes it work. If the first five books were meta-fiction, the sixth book is meta-Thursday Next. Meta-meta-fiction – that’s what this is. Kind of hard to wrap my mind around it, but it still works. One of Our Thursdays is Missing has all elements of a Fforde novel: seemingly random characters, odd accidents, mystery, murder, all wrapped in a fun, seemingly absurd package. Jasper Fforde is a genius, I tell you. :)

This book cheered me up so much while I was sick, especially after reading lines like these:

The Snooze button was reserved only for dire emergencies. Once utilised, a reverse throughput capacitor on the ImaginoTransference engines would cause the reader instantaneous yawning, drowsiness and then sleep…To discourage misuse, every time the button was pressed one or more kittens were put to death somewhere in the Book World. (p. 26-27)

I fell asleep several times while I was reading this. I wonder who was hitting the Snooze button.

Harry Potter was seriously pissed off that he’d have to spend the rest of his life looking like Daniel Radcliffe. (p. 75)

Hee hee!

“The Great Gatsby drives taxis in his spare time?”

“No, his younger and less handsome or less intelligent brother — the Mediocre Gatsby.” (p. 273)

I was a bit afraid that it would be hard to get back into the series again especially since it’s been so long since I read the first five books, but given that this book is narrated by the fictional Thursday Next, I didn’t have such a hard time. I don’t recommend starting the series with this book, though, but there is no need to reread the other books to make sense of this one.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing probably isn’t as witty as the first four books (best one for me is still Something Rotten), but it’s a good and fun addition to an already awesome series. :) The question is: will there be a next Thursday Next book? I sure hope so! :)


Other reviews:

Filipino Friday: ReaderCon Intro

Filipino Friday

It’s not Friday here anymore, but you know that thing where the day is not over until you’ve slept? Yeah, I’m doing that here.

It’s been a crazy couple of days that’s why it’s kind of quiet in the blog, and it will be quiet again soon because I’ll be off to a trip for the next two weeks! I’m breaking the blog silence to join the first Filipino Friday meme in preparation for the first Filipino Reader’s Conference that will be happening next month (more to that in a future post, hopefully this weekend :D).

So, hi! I’m Tina. I’ve been reading since I was a kid and I’d like to believe that my dad’s reading time with me was what made me a reader. I remember the times he’d read this Pepito the Catfish to me when I was younger, and there was this other book that he used to read to me in the province when we were staying there. Anyway, the first time I truly wanted to start collecting and reading books was when a classmate in Grade 3 brought some Sweet Valley Kids books in school. Ever since then, the bookstore has always been my favorite place to go to when I go out.

I wish I could say I read any genre, but I’m really very biased towards YA, especially contemporary. I’ve learned to love fantasy last year, and right now I’m working on getting to know more sci-fi and classics. My favorite a.k.a auto-buy authors are Sarah Dessen, John Green, Frank E. Peretti, Ilona Andrews, Melina Marchetta, Mira Grant, Camy Tang, Patrick Ness, Stephen Emond, and Mina V. Esguerra to name a few. :) I’m pretty sure I missed someone there — there’s just too many good books by good authors out there.

Comfort reads include anything swoony or funny, preferably both — best examples are The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen and Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra. I like my books with enough swoon. ;) I also tend to like books with zombies and just recently, superheroes.

Two of the best books I’ve read this year: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. And just because it’s unusual, I think it’s worth a mention that I thought Unearthly by Cynthia Hand is one of those paranormal books that went against the norm. And because they’re from favorite authors, I also thought Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer and Mira Grant’s Deadline are full of awesome. :)

If this post sounds just a teensy bit loopy, I apologize. I’m actually really sleepy right now. :P So, hi! :)

Armchair BEA 2011: Best Reads (So Far)

Armchair BEAHappy second day of Armchair BEA! :) It was fun blog hopping through the intro posts yesterday, and I’m not yet done checking them out. Talk about busy!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to prepare a giveaway today, so instead, I’ll be writing about some of my best reads in 2011. Not all of them were published in 2011, though — some of these books here have been in TBR pile since God-knows-when. It feels nice when you pick a book there and you come out loving it in the end, right? :)

Here are five of my best reads in 2011:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroAh this is one of those books that I never thought I’d enjoy reading, but was totally, absolutely blown away when I was done. I loved how simple and haunting it was, and how it leaves you with lingering thoughts on the characters life and how it all ended. The movie was also just as good (and depressing!), but go for the book first. If you haven’t read this one, I suggest you put it in one of your books.

Never Let Me Go is one book that truly did not let me go (no pun intended). It reeled me in with its simplicity and refused to let me move on long after I finished with the last page.

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca LeeI’ve had this book since forever, but it kind of slipped under my TBR pile until I unearthed it late last year. Since Tosca Lee is coming up with a new book this year (with Ted Dekker!) and another one next year, I figured it’s about time to read this. Oh, and it was such a beautiful adventure. Havah is definitely one book that spoke to my heart.

I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she “…will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope.” (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story.

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia HandI rarely read YA paranormal romance because honestly, I’ve gotten tired of the genre. If it wasn’t for the good reviews of blogger friends who also don’t read much paranormal romance, I would never have picked this up. Unearthly had a good set of characters, solid mythology and a healthy romance, and the story’s very engaging, too. :)

If you’re planning to pick up a paranormal romance novel soon, or if you want something to surprise you, then definitely get this book. Take it from someone who’s given up on paranormal romance — this is one of the good ones. ;)

The Last DragonSlayer by Jasper Fforde
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper FfordeJasper Fforde has been one of my favorite, favorite writers of all time. When news came out that he was coming out with a YA book, I was thrilled. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of this as soon as Fully Booked had it, and this book seriously saved me from a slump. If you love Fforde, you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re new to Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer is the best book to get your feet wet. :) Quark! :3

This book had everything I loved about Jasper Fforde. The best thing about his novels is how real they are even in their impossibility. Fforde writes in such a deadpan manner that you just can’t help but believe what he writes no matter how outrageous they all seem to be.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina MarchettaI love contemporary YA, but I’ve surprisingly never read any Marchetta. My first Marchetta was actually Saving Francesca, and I loved it. But when I read Jellicoe Road, I was blown away. This is one book that you’d want to reread immediately after finishing it. This book made me love the contemporary YA genre more, and it made Melina Marchetta my auto-buy authors.

While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn’t really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do…reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again.

I’ve learned that I’ve become a bit more critical with my book reviewing this time around. Back when I first started my blog, I used to give five-star ratings for many books and I was hesitant to give lower ratings even if I didn’t really like the book. But after some time, I’ve become…I don’t know how you call it, braver? Have you experienced that, too?

These are just five of the best books I’ve read in 2011. I have a separate shelf in my Goodreads account so I can keep track of them and list-making is easier by the end of the year. :) And even if I can’t be physically present in BEA this year, I know I’ll still be able to get copies of the books they’ll be featuring there some day, and I look forward to reading more good books this year. :)

The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper FfordeThe Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Dragonslayer # 1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Number of pages: 281
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in the magic release form B1-7g. But somewhere, somehow, the magic started draining away.

Jennifer Strange runs Kazam!, an employment agency for state-registered magicians, soothsayers and sorceresses. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper and quicker than a spell. Why trust a cold and drafty magic carpet when jetliners offer a comfy seat and an in-flight movie? And now potions are eligible for VAT…

But then the visions start. The Last Dragon is going to be killed by a Dragonslayer at 12.00 on Sunday. The death will unleash untold devastation on the UnUnited Kingdom, setting principality against dukedom and property developer against homesteader. And all the signs are pointing to Jennifer Strange, and saying”Big Magic is coming!”

The Last Dragonslayer is fizzing with all the creativity and genius Jasper Fforde’s fans delight in, and will appeal as much to the young at heart as to the younger readers for whom it is written.

* * *

If you know me really well or if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’d know that I tend to gravitate towards contemporary fiction books. It’s not that I don’t like speculative fiction (I do, very much), but I just prefer reading about real life and the real world because it feels easier to understand than a world full of impossibilities.

However, I make an exception for some authors, and Jasper Fforde is one of them. Before I even got to know John Green, Jasper Fforde is the first author that can do no wrong in my book. I fell in love with his world in 2006 when I read Something Rotten (yes, I read the fourth Thursday Next book first. Gasp!) even if it’s the most outrageous world I have ever read. I searched for all his books after that and declared him my favorite, making me read more because of all his literary references. He’s one of those authors whose books I know I can get lost in easily whenever I need something to escape without the additional mental strain of having to figure out their world every now and then.

So it’s really no question that when he released his first YA book, I would be there to get it and gobble it up. You think?

The Last Dragonslayer stars Jennifer Strange, a fifteen (almost sixteen) orphan who manages the Kazam!, a magical agency that provides jobs for magicians and sorcerers. Magic has been on a steady decline for years now, and there were less and less jobs for them to use magic. They have gone down to use magic to bring down cats from trees and fix household items like replacing a bathroom faucet with magic just to keep Kazam up and running. Still Jennifer tries to make do, and for someone who’s mature for her age, she does it very well. Up until she hears a premonition about the last dragon dying. Dragons are fierce creatures that are said to eat humans and destroy homes but was contained by the Dragonpact years ago by the Mighty Shandar. Jennifer had no big concerns about the dragon dying until the wizards under her care started experiencing surges in power, but it became more of a problem when the premonition says that the dragon will die in the hands of a dragon slayer, and Jennifer is involved. What’s a foundling like Jennifer to do now?

This book had everything I loved about Jasper Fforde. The best thing about his novels is how real they are even in their impossibility. Fforde writes in such a deadpan manner that you just can’t help but believe what he writes no matter how outrageous they all seem to be. It takes a while to fully get into the world, but once you’ve accepted the world his characters move in, you’re in for a very, very fun ride. Fforde knows his worlds, and it’s amazing because The Last Dragonslayer‘s world is different from his other works — is there no end to this guy’s imagination?

In addition to the solid world building, the characters are also very real and wacky, with very fun names to boot! Jennifer Strange is a lovely narrator, akin to Thursday Next but with less of the adult jadedness. The villains were annoying all the way to the end, but that doesn’t mean they were less hilarious. :P Even the dragon (of course the dragon talks in Fforde’s world!) stands on his own, and if there was anything I would wish for this novel, it was more of the dragon.

If you’ve been a longtime fan of Jasper Fforde, you will not be disappointed by his YA venture, and I bet like me, you’d be clamoring for more! If you’re new to Jasper Fforde and his adult novels intimidate you (which you really shouldn’t be because they’re awesome), The Last Dragonslayer is a good book to get your feet wet. :)

Oh, and one more wish, if I may. I want my own Quarkbeast. :P One of Jennifer’s loyal sidekicks, a Quarkbeast is described as:

Often described as one tenth Labrador, six tents velociraptor and three tenths kitchen food blender, the Quarkbeast’s razor sharp fangs and hideously frightening demeanour mask a quieter side that rarely, if ever, eats cats.

I don’t know why, but whenever the Quarkbeast is mentioned in the novel, I remember Hyperbole and a Half‘s ALOT.

Does anyone else get the same impression?

More fun information on all things Strange in Jasper Fforde’s website. :) I’m not sure if this is a standalone novel or if it would become a series, but I definitely wouldn’t mind if this becomes a series. More YA, Fforde! :)

Quark! :3


Other reviews:
Bart’s Bookshelf
Mad Bibliophile
Stories in My Pocket