Friday, October 2, 2015

[Book Review] Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong

Led Astray : The Best of Kelley Armstrong (Powell's Books)

I came into this anthology as a fan of Armstrong's Otherworld stories, but with little familiarity with her other work.  After reading this collection, I'm really not sure why I haven't read more of her work, particularly her other paranormal/dark fantasy books.

Really, why the hell haven't I?

*Glaces at current pile of library books*

*Checks ILL holds*


Well, time to fix my lack regardless of how many books I'm in the middle of reading.

Led Astray doesn't limit itself to one canonical universe, but spreads across the different worlds that Armstrong has created and introduces several others.  An engaging dark fantasy collection for both fans and new readers of Kelley Armstrong's work.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Tachyon Publications via NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

[Book Review] An Ancient Peace

An Ancient Peace / Tanya Huff

In An Ancient Peace, Tanya Huff kicks off a new military SF series.  Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr may no longer be officially serving, but that doesn't stop her and her team from being pulled in for special operations.  Especially ones where plausible deniability is preferred.  And when grave-goods of a once all-powerful Elder race start appearing on the black market, the powers that be worry that someone may be looking for world-destroying weapons, and if this comes to light that humanity may be the one to take the fall.  But who's really moving the pieces around this intergalactic game board?  Can Torin prevent a war?

We have aliens, interstellar politics, personal vendettas, sex, and violence.

Slow to build, as our team goes on a wild goose hunt for some treasure hunting grave robbers threatening to precipitate an intergalactic incident.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

When We Were Blog Tour

When We Were / Alexandra Diaz

They promised they would be friends forever...

No one messes with Whitney Blaire or her friends, which is why she can’t help but let it slip that someone spotted Tara’s boyfriend making out with one of the guy cheerleaders.

Even after spending hours training for her marathon, down-to-earth Tara can't outrun the rumors about the boyfriend she thought was perfect.

Pinkie, the rock and "Big Sister" of their inseparable group, just wants things to stay exactly the way they are...

...but that's not possible when new-girl Riley arrives in school and changes everything.

Suddenly Tara starts to feel things she's never felt before—for anyone—while Whitney Blaire tries to convince her that this new girl is Trouble. Meanwhile, Pinkie’s world begins to crumble as she begins to suspect that the friends she depends on are not the girls she thought she knew.

Can friendship survive when all the rules are broken? 

When We Were is a story about teenage relationships, love, and misunderstandings (so much misunderstanding).  Tara's dream relationship with Brent crumbles after she can't get a rumor about his infidelity with another boy out of her head, and her friends can't decide if she's better off with out him or shouldn't let him go.  Whitney Blaire has a seemingly perfect life, successful wealthy parents and great looks. but she's closer to their cleaning lady than she is to her mother.  And Pinkie is learning to grow into a young woman under the shadow of her mother's death, and learning that people aren't always what they seem

When Riley shows up she doesn't get off on the right foot with Whitney Blaire, who thinks Riley is out to steal Tara's boyfriend Brent.  But it isn't Brent that Riley has her eye on, Tara learns that Brent hasn't been exactly honest with her, and misunderstandings multiply.

When We Were develops over the course of several months, switching between the view points of Tara, Whitney Blaire, and Pinkie.  The misunderstandings and personal demons are believable, though it seemed odd how limited in spread rumors seemed to go, and in the modern days of tampons and women being expect to actually do things on their own the whole "bleeding virgin" thing is almost a pet peeve.  I appreciate that Tara's realization that she's attracted to Riley takes time, growing organically as something out the rightness of friendly intimacy rather than a rapid blooming.  Before Riley, Tara has considered herself strictly heterosexual, but she comes to realize that perhaps for her attraction is more about the person and less about the gender.  An easy read with good character growth, both as individuals and in relation to others.

Alexandra Diaz grew up bilingual in Puerto Rico and various U.S. states. Thanks to an over-active imagination, she's always loved creating stories and "what-if" scenarios. She got her MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University in Bath, England and is the author of five young adult and middle grade novels. When she is not writing, she gets paid to walk dogs, teach creative writing, web edit, and parade in costume on stilts; sadly, other things she enjoys—traveling, eating ice cream, and circus aerials—don't pay. Yet.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Paper Lantern Lit via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Link Smorgasbord, September 2015

Black Lives Matter Inspired This Chilling Fantasy Novel
N. K. Jemisin was interviewed for the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast, and Wired ran an article on it.  Sadly, I have a feeling that the title of this article means a lot of people will discredit it, please don't, please read it.  She is a fantastic author, and she's not making up her experiences or talking about something that could happen.

EFF Asks Court on Behalf of Libraries and Booksellers to Recognize Readers’ Right to Be Free of NSA’s Online Surveillance
It's really hard to cut out tracking and surveillance of third parties with any sort of online library service.

Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters
Ok, so this one should have been in my August collection, but I was slacking.

Dudes, Did You See the Library They’ve Got Here?
A fun read from McSweeney's.

Academics are being hoodwinked into writing books nobody can buy

How Much Money do Libraries Spend on e-Books?
As of Sept 2015.  The prices are looking on average better than they were several years ago, but it's still pretty rough.

Someone’s Made Audiobooks Out Of ‘80s Film Novelizations
And it's everything you could have hoped for.

This Is Millennials’ Most Embarrassing Secret
To some of this this isn't exactly a surprise - stop assuming digital literacy.  Ability to execute a set series of functions does not require comprehension, and doing so hurts everyone.

Raspberry Pi now has a $60 7-inch touchscreen display
It's kind of adorable.

Xbox One Launch Woes Were Preventable, Next Console Likely Digital Download Only
And digital download only for games means we can't lend them.  :/

We Need the Right to Repair Our Gadgets
I'm a huge proponent of right to repair anything, it just makes sense on so many levels to be able to repair and to re-purpose.

Rejected Library Displays
I fail to see how any of these are bad ideas.  Not only that, my director agrees.  Stay tuned.

First Library to Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Effort Stops After DHS Email
Gah, but in better news they put the TOR relay back up!
Despite Law Enforcement Concerns, Lebanon Board Will Reactivate Privacy Network Tor at Kilton Library

Important Win for Fair Use in ‘Dancing Baby’ Lawsuit
This case has been going on for some time at this point, I remember it being brought up while I was in library school.  A family uploaded a 30 second video (with atrocious audio quality) of their baby dancing to Prince.  The audio is low enough quality that it's hard to even identify the song, but then music by Prince on private videos gets the audio muted, so they're serious about anything resembling infringement.  In this case the EFF sued Universal for the DMCA takedown... and holy crap they won.
Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that copyright holders like Universal must consider fair use before trying to remove content from the Internet. It also rejected Universal’s claim that a victim of takedown abuse cannot vindicate her rights if she cannot show actual monetary loss.
Oyster Is Shutting Down Operations
And a whole bunch of their executive staff is going to Google.

The Art of the Blurb (or, Step Away from The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Max Gladstone)
I would love to see some of his rejected blurbs appear on a book cover.  That being said, I Gladstone does have this fantastic quote from Elizabeth Bear on one of his:
"I'm having Max Gladstone killed. He's too good already to be allowed to live. If this is early work, the rest of us are out of a job." -- Elizabeth Bear, author of The Eternal Sky trilogy"

All the 'Happy Birthday' song copyright claims are invalid, federal judge rules
Well now

Monday, September 28, 2015

[Book Review] Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas / Troy Little (Powell's Books)

The lurid insanity of Thompson's tale of a five-day long, drug fueled bender is utterly suited to the visual medium.

Excellently executed graphic novel, highly recommend to fans of Hunter S. Thompson, or of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Possibly a good introduction vector, or possibly too much all at once, but let's face it, with Thompson you're getting all or nothing.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Diamond Book Distributors via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

[Book Review] Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown / Zen Cho (Powell's Books)

This is a book about the triumph of difficult women, and I mean that in the absolutely best way possible.

Zacharias Wythe is a most reluctant and unwelcome Sorcerer Royal, dealing with the politics of the power hungry and those who simply think him incompetent of any sort of intelligence or civilization simply due to the color of his skin.  Unfortunately, politics and power grabs among sorcerers seems to involve attempts against the life of the Sorcerer Royal, which are most inconvenient, especially considering the various rather delicate situations Mr. Wythe is attempting to handle.

Then into all of this comes the inconveniently magical Prunella Gentleman, no matter that women simply do not practice magic, even untrained she has the power in her blood to put most of England's sorcerers to shame.  Add in some international politics, warmongering, faerie in-laws, and various disregards of social convention, and things accelerate dangerously until they can be taken quite firmly and unexpectedly in hand.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Hobbit : An Expected Journey - Chapter 5

"When Bilbo opened his eyes, he wondered if he had; for it was just as dark with them shut.  No one was anywhere near him.  Just imagine his fright!  He could hear nothing, see nothing, and he could feel nothing except the very stone of the floor."
So starts perhaps one of the most pivotal and remembered chapters in The Hobbit.  In the dark, with no clue about what is going on.  Here we see Bilbo succeed on his own first time in the face of certain danger, facing mortal threat with little more than his wits (though the glowing blade helps).

Bilbo with Sting in the dark

Tolkien does give us hints of things to come, most notable about finding of the ring as a "turning point in his career, but he did not know it."  But for all of that, he invites us into Bilbo's journey as fellow travelers.  The writing is evocative of memory and feeling, with Bilbo feeling hopeful, hopeless, and inspired to bravery by the little things.  Not only that, but the text is full of things like "But you must remember..." and "I should not have liked to have been in Mr. Baggins' place..." drawing us in with familiarity to the recollection of the action.

Bilbo and Gollum face off
Gollum is that unseen monster in the dark, one that hunts unseen on unaware prey.  He could be the monster in the closet or under the bed.  He is definitely horrible, with a human-like intellect and no qualms about discussing his next dinner in front of his intended (and still living) meal.  However, at the same time Gollum is incredibly frail, a creature of the dark that shaped him, but also lonely and perhaps easily defeated.  Perhaps importantly, Bilbo defeats Gollumn not with violence but with wit and words.  This is definitely not a book without violence, not with the trolls and goblins so far, and not with the wargs and battles ahead, but it is definitely a story in which we see the titular character outwit challenges rather than attack them.  Bilbo starts out less successful at this such as with the trolls, and the fact that here he honestly gives his full name indicates some further needed growth, but as the challenges grow so does his wit.

Bilbo is not the only protagonist to benefit from trickery, I spoke about Gandalf as a trickster back in Chapter 2.  The wizard also eschews violent conversation when he can manipulate it otherwise, while the dwarfs do not let violence deter them from their chosen path.

As for Peter Jackson's adaptation of this scene, it was near perfect.  The whole chapter is done so richly.  I almost feel bad complaining about the brevity of the riddle game with the excellent representation of the chapter, but then there's so much unnecessary extra bits added to Jackson's films that could have been pruned back a few minutes to allow us a few extra riddles.  Bilbo finds himself at the bottom of a chasm with something mauling the struggling goblin, filling in that Gollum feeds on goblins when he has the chance.  Martin shines throughout the whole movie as Bilbo, but here without the distraction of a swarm of dwarfs we really get to enjoy his performance, and Andy Serkis' performance embodies Gollum, providing the motion capture and the voice.