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Showing posts from January, 2015

[Book Review] Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey

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Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey / Lori Perkins (ed) (Powell's Books)

I don't like Fifty Shades of Grey (and yes, I have read the entire series).  But then, if you've been reading my reviews, you'll find that I take issue with a lot of romance and erotic novels.  I'm picky about writing style, quality of editing, and the pervasiveness of certain troupes and abusive behavior (note, I am not talking about BDSM as abusive behavior), all of which stand out to me as issues with Fifty Shades of Grey.

The contributors of Fifty Writerson Fifty Shades of Grey vary widely in their backgrounds and reactions to the book.  Authors, editors, doctors, educators, lawyers and more have shared their thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey.  Some loved it, some hated it, but more importantly, they're taking the time to discuss their side, and the different opinions with their evidence are placed side by side for you to read.  Perhaps even more interestingly, the authors in many ca…

[Book Review] Dead Heat

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Dead Heat (Alpha and Omega #4) / Patricia Briggs (Powell's Books)

Dead Heat builds upon the world laid out in earlier Alpha and Omega novels, with some from the Mercy Thompson series.

Anna and Charles are doing something for themselves for once, in this case, Charles takes Anna to Arizona on a horse shopping expedition and to meet a long time friend.  But a malicious fae attack threatens the family they are visiting, a family that happens to belong to the local pack's Alpha.

The Alpha and Omega books are more within the realm of romance than those about Mercy Thompson.  While I enjoy a good steamy read, that's never been what drew me to Briggs' writing.  To me, Dead Heat felt more like a Mercy Thompson novel, and I like that.  I also enjoy the personal growth Anna has made over the series, and getting to see her be sassy to dominant werewolves who have no idea how to handle her.  Charles and Anna definitely are still exploring their relationship, their bond, and what it…

[Book Review] Gibbon's Decline and Fall

Gibbon's Decline and Fall / Sheri S. Tepper

I first read Gibbon's Decline and Fall in my early teens.  I had never read anything like it before, it.  It starts out reading like a contemporary novel, but slowly slips into the otherworldly.  The story is unapologetically feminist, environmentalist, and philosophical.  It asks questions of the reader.  I was enthralled with Tepper's writing and went on to rip through her body of work.  She has become one of my favorite authors, and I re-read her work, including Gibbon's Decline and Fall, regularly.  I could have chosen any of a number of Tepper's books for Virtual Speculation, others that would have more solidly resounded as Science Fiction or Fantasy, but I went with this one.

Discussion Fodder.
Gibbon's Decline and Fall starts in 1959 and ends in a then 'near future' (the year 2000, now 15 years past).  What do you think about the changes (or lack of changes) in race and gender relations exhibited in the …

Speculative Fiction : The Year in Review (Arisia 2015)

The first panel I sat on at Arisia was Speculative Fiction : The Year in Review with Morgan Crooks and Gillian Daniels (mod).

I went into this panel knowing there was no way I'd touch on even half the books I made note of in preparation.  Just listing off titles does not make for a very interesting panel, and does not make for any sort of organic conversation on a topic.  Of course, this being a blog post and not an organic discussion, there will be lists of books.

Our discussion ranged from favorite new title from the past year (a surprisingly difficult question to answer), Utopia vs Dystopia in Speculative Fiction, YA vs Adult, issues with diversity, and what makes for good Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Taking part in the panel made for a fantastic time, and I hope to take part again next year.  A few honorable mentions were made, bringing up books published beyond 2014, in particular the works of Elizabeth Bear and titles published by Angry Robot.  Actually, Elizabeth Bear cam…

[Book Review] A Highlander's Passion

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A Highlander's Passion / Vonnie Davis

This is a love story of a Scottish bear and a witch.

The heart of the story is of two childhood friends (Bryce and Kenzie) coming together as soul mates, while they learn to put harsh elements of their past behind them and move forward into a new life.  Throw in an evil (as in signed his soul to the devil for unlimited power) father who needs his offspring's blood (all of it) for a ritual, lots of kilt-wearing dominant men (who happen to turn into bears), a sweet yet spoiled rotten child, and the randiest bunch of adults you'll find outside an orgy, and that about sums up the book.

Personally, this book is not for me.  I found the writing style undeveloped, and I'm still not sure how I feel about the writing of (non-thought and non-spoken) expository text in an accent.  By and large none of the characters really stood out as individuals to me.  Maybe this is because the focus of the story is a witch, but I expected the whole "…

[Book Review] Bound by Bliss

Bound by Bliss / Lavinia Kent

Previously reviewed in this series:
Mastering the MarquessRevealing Ruby The Lady Bliss Danser (sister of Geoffrey, Marquess of Swanston from Mastering the Marquess) has a bit of a reputation.  More specifically she's a sneeze away accidentally entangling herself into some scandal or another at any point, and if she did, well, she is a Danser.  When it comes down to it, Bliss finds the notion of marriage rather appalling (if not downright boring).  Why would she want some man who thinks he can tell her what to do when she has the means to live modestly on her own and maybe even travel?  Her brother puts a wrench into her plans, she has the option of marrying her childhood infatuation, Stephan Perth, Earl of Duldon, at the end of the summer, or finding her own fiancee before then.  Bliss is undeniably drawn to Stephen, but the man broke her heart before and now keeps threatening to punish her.

Stephen Perth desires Lady Bliss more than any woman he know…

[Book Review] Upgraded

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Upgraded / Neil Clarke (ed) (Powell's Books)
Better . . . Stronger . . . Faster . . . The doctors rebuilt Hugo Award-winning editor Neil Clarke and made him a cyborg. Now he has assembled this anthology of twenty-six original cyborg stories by Greg Egan, Madeline Ashby, Elizabeth Bear, Peter Watts, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, Yoon Ha Lee, and more! Neil Clarke is the editor-in-chief and publisher of Clarkesworld Magazine. His work at Clarkesworld has resulted in countless hours of enjoyment, three Hugo Awards for Best Semiprozine and three World Fantasy Award nominations. He’s also a current and three-time Hugo Nominee for Best Editor (Short Form). Upgraded is a phenomenal collection of speculative fiction.  The stories range from investigative mystery to post-apocalyptic, self-discovery to exploration of humanity.  Authors create cyborgs in unique ways and applications.  Characters possess cybernetic parts and enhancements for self-gain, for overcoming disability, for peace, for wa…

[Book Review] Waistcoats & Weaponry

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Waistcoats & Weaponry / Gail Carriger (Powell's Books)

(Mis)adventure surrounds Sophronia, a girl with a sharp mind and strong determination.  Of course, a lady (in training) does have appearances to maintain, which is exactly what she is learning from Mademoiselle Geraldine's finishing school.  After all, what intelligencer wants to broadcast their skills and intentions to their targets?  Of course, perhaps the students aren't meant to have quite so many adventures before they graduate.  But when Sophronia and her friends stowaway on a train to help their classmate Sidheag return to her family's werewolf pack they had no idea they were stumbling into a plot that threatens to throw London into chaos.

I came into Waistcoats & Weaponry without having read the preceding two books from the Finishing School series, however I am familiar with the world setting through Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.  I recommend some familiarity with the setting if f…

Arisia 2015

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This past weekend my other half and I made our way out to Arisia.  This makes the second year that we've gone together, and ended up far more organized than last year in terms of actually figuring out things we'd like to do if time allows.  I love going to conventions, but attendance is costly, not just admission but in terms of food, sleeping space, parking, and travel.  We manage Arisia by working in exchange for crash space in a shared room, food, and admission.

In this case, I spent a good bit of time reading picture books to small children.  I'm not crazy about kids, but reading books to them is something I can do all day.  It's an entertaining experience, you start out reading a book to one child, and before you know it you have 10 kids trying to sit on your lap and handing you more books.  I also ended up being 'adopted' by some of the kids who weren't so happy about being in daycare, I guess being willing to sit quietly with them (with or without pi…

Link Smorgasbord, December 2014

Big Idea: Ebook Technology & Reader Privacy Are Compatible
As the title indicates, about ebooks and privacy.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks
Tumblr (and main content portal) for a campaign attempting to address the issue of limited diversity in children's books.  Their mission statement:
We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.

In order to accomplish our mission, we reach out to individuals…

Virtual Speculation 2015 Picks

So, year one of Virtual Speculation wasn't a resounding success, but at the very least I introduced a number of fantastic books to friends who by and large enjoyed the titles they had the time to read.  I also re-read a bunch of books I really like and used the opportunity to generate discussion prompts for books that largely don't have them.  For various reasons, speculative fiction titles often don't get the book club treatment, and there's some amazing titles out there.

The first year's picks can be found here.

For this year I pulled out a few titles that I read pre-publication review copies of over the course of 2014, and a only a few titles that I had otherwise read prior to now.  I branched out in the selection of titles this year and almost half of them I have never read.  This will be interesting, the first year was based on the the idea that I had so many books that I wanted to share with friends, this year has a bit more exploration.  There are also signi…

[Book Review] Dragon Knight's Medallion

Dragon Knight's Medallion / Mary Morgan

Stephen MacKay and his brothers were once revered Dragon Knights, until the machinations of an evil druid result in the death of the MacKay sister's death, at the hands of her brothers.  Stripped of their relics and cast from favor by the fae, the MacKay brothers are wandering in despair, trying to fill this hole in their very being.  Stephen has tried to find solace from his guilt and rage in the church, donning the habit of a monk.  He knows not of his brother Duncan's redemption, and is plagued by visions of death that bring him disabling pain.

Aileen Kerrigan is no stranger to magic, but there are some things, including time travel, that she believes are pure fantasy.  So when her father reveals a discovery unearthed in a Scottish castle, tied in with the revelation of a vision of Aileen's destiny had by her mother years ago, she is torn between feelings of betrayal and concern for her father's sanity.  Then she stumb…

[Book Review] A Most Improper Proposal

A Most Improper Proposal / Molly Ann Wishlade

Miss Isabella Adams is a part of fashionable society on sufferance, but even the patronage of Lady Watson isn't enough to keep whispers of scandalous rumor at bay.  After her affianced sampled her favors then broke the engagement to marry a woman of his parent's choosing, and the subsequent assumptions of men "courting" her, Isabella has had more than enough of the opposite sex.  At least until James Crawford crashes into her life.  James is intrigues by his aunt's companion, and how at odds she seemed to the rumors society's ladies are all to happy to share with him.  However, as intrigued as he is, James has his own ghosts of the past that haunt him, with both responsibilities and fears to face.  Can their attraction break them away from their past?

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

This book is flagged as Romance/Erotica, so going in I expected some hot and heavy action.  In reality, there wasn't any overwhelmingly more in …

[Book Review] Just in Time for a Highlander

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Just in Time for a Highlander / Gwyn Cready (Powell's Books)

The closest Duncan MacHarg has ever come to battle is the reenactments he immerses himself into, spending his days working in finance.  Abigail Kerr however, is well acquainted with battle, as she fights to retain leadership of her clan and to maintain its independence from the British.  A useless, cocksure dandy from the 21st century is not what she has in mind when she dreams of a man to serve as her strong arm.  But the magic that summoned Duncan won't be satisfied until he fulfills his service to her, even if it means she must teach him to hold his own amongst life-long warriors and even if it means he must give up everything he comes to care about.

This is a good read for people who like Outlander, but are itching for something a bit sexier and less cerebral.  You have your time travel, your red-heads, your kilts, and the struggles to fit into a drastically different time period.  There's a good bit of sass …

[Book Review] He, She and It

He, She and It / Marge Piercy

Shira Shipman has worked hard to build her life within the corporate-run society she lives.  But when the multi she works for awards custody of her son to her ex-husband everything falls apart and she returns home to the town she grew up in with her grandmother, a gifted programmer, to work for a friend of the family on a secret project.  As Shira fights to regain her son and to rebuild her life she explores what it means to be human, and what we use to define ourselves.

He, She and It was the November pick for the Virtual Speculation Bookclub.  The book mixes a futuristic story with fable to explore a multitude of themes including environmentalism, gender, and identity.  This is actually the second "golem" story of the year, not a deliberate choice, but one that also matches up well with some of the other trends of this year's picks exploring identity and trans/post human existence.

Discussion Fodder:
Did Shira's actions actually hurt Jos…

[Book Review] Dragons at Crumbling Castle

Dragons at Crumbling Castle / Terry Pratchett

I know Terry Pratchett from his Discworld series and  his work with Neil Gaiman in American Gods.  I love his wit and satire, and while I have not read much of his work for younger audiences, his Discworld books are often delegated to YA due to their lack of explicit sex or violence, as well as  probably due to their tendency to seem frivolous.

If you are familiar with Pratchett's writing, Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a delightful collection of short stories that is exactly what you'd expect of children's tales written by Pratchett.

For those not familiar with Prachett's work, Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a collection of whimsical tales that may have a thin layer of satire of the world we live in.  The stories contain a touch of the absurd, similar to the work of Roald Dahl, only with less cruelty by the antagonists.

Overall, a highly enjoyable read.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist…