Posts

Showing posts from 2016

[Book Review] The Emperor's Soul

The Emperor's Soul / Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul is a novella about a thief and a Forger, her last operation betrayed, now awaiting execution for her crimes.  Then instead she is offered the challenge of a lifetime, re-Forge the Emperor's soul, re-imbuing cognizant life into the damaged vessel of the Emperor's body.  A challenge beyond most Masters, even with the proper time and equipment, Shai must complete her project in an impossible amount of time and figure out how to escape before her use to those otherwise in power comes to an end.

I went into reading this with no knowledge or familiarity with Sanderson's Elantris.  I obtained a copy several years ago through an ebook bundle (either via Humble Bundle or StoryBundle), but never got around to reading it.  I was finally prompted to read it when a friend recommended it as a book club pick, so I slotted it in as a short end of year read.  I'm going to assume that were I familiar with the larger world …

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 6

Image
The arrival of the Rohirrim does change the tide of battle, but in more ways then simply changing the numbers the army besieging Gondor faces.  Things get a little metaphysical here.  "The darkness was breaking too soon, before the date that his Master had set for it."  Read that again, think about what it might imply that the darkness was breaking "too soon" before the planned date.

Villains don't necessarily think of themselves as evil or opposing good.  Opposing the status quo or the reigning power,yes, but that doesn't mean they're trying to make the world a worse place.  Sauron is the Opposition, but much of what fostered this rebellion was resentment and frustration.  The orcs themselves were born out of an attempt to re-create the elves.  Some of the armies flocking to Sauron's banner are doing so out of feelings of alienation and isolation.

For all that this chapter is prose, it reads like a battle lay as Theoden leads his Rohirrim into bat…

[Book Review] The Snow Queen

Image
The Snow Queen / Joan D. Vinge

The Snow Queen reinvents the well-known fairy tale into a far flung future, combing elements of science fiction and fantasy together into a textured space opera.

For nearly 150 years Winter has ruled over the planet of Tiamat, a world in a solar system with two suns which revolve around a black hole.  During Winter the planet is accessible to interstellar travel via a black hole gate, but during Summer the system's orbit isolates Tiamat from other planets and the Hegemony that rules them.  As the last years of Winter wane, the Winter Queen sets plans in motions to retain the throne and power through the transition, even at the expense of genocide.

I discovered The Snow Queen through Women in Science Fiction, with Vinge as one of the many incredible female SF authors who's been unfortunately forgotten.  It's a 1981 Hugo Winner with a whole lot going on in it.  I put in as the November Virtual Speculation pick based on that stumbled upon review …

Coming up for the new year: Romance Bingo

Image
Not sure how many of these I will hit since it's genre rooted, but I do read a fair amount of romance (or close enough to romance) mixed into my regular reading.  Also, Jan is my month off from Virtual Speculation.  Romance Bingo 2017 is run by Obsidian Blue and Moonlight Murder over on Booklikes.

Regardless of how much I complete, I'm loving the categories.


Now to decide if I should hold off on a few books for 10 days!

[Book Review] The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 4: Rising Action

Image
The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 4: Rising Action / Kieron Gillen, Matthew Wilson, Jamie McKelvie

When I reviewed the Book One hardcover edition (volumes 1-3) I commented that "After the Persephone incident I'm not sure where the story will go, who the story will gravitate around the most.  And there is so much more to tell in this story."

Well... let's just say there was more than shown in the aforementioned "Persephone incident."

Everything has gone to chaos.

Laura, or at least Persephone, is still alive.

Baphomet is being framed for a rash of highly visible death and destruction among civillians and dieties, and Anenke is playing her own game, steering events to a specific fate while feeding her own version of events to those under her influence.

I previously said of the series that:
The Wicked + The Divine is a vibrant and engaging rock and roll journey through dreams, aspirations, lust, murder, and celebrity. Whether you believe they are gods or not, whe…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 5

A short post for a short chapter.

Prolonged rides into battle are no fun, and for Merry it is perhaps harder than for most.  Those that know who he is know of his affiliation with the King, which sets him apart.  Those that don't are likely to overlook him if they notice him at best, and his best-friend is besieged in a city. 

To some extent the Wild Men remind me of the elves.  The have not the imbued light that burns away the dark, nor the long lives, but they share a desire to exist in the woods separate from the wider world of men.  They give aid, but almost reluctantly, even though the outcome of this war could mean their end.

While riding an entire army to another country takes time, this chapter is particularly short, and is basically non-existent in the film.  Chapter 5 takes us to the point where Chapter 4 ended, with the Rohirrim coming to the aid of Gondor, bringing two of the split story arcs generally back together.  Jackson goes largely counter to Tolkien's …

[Book Review] I Love You Subject to the Following Terms and Conditions

Image
I Love You Subject to the Following Terms and Conditions (Contract Killers #1) / Erin Lyon
In a world where marriage doesn’t exist—only seven-year contracts—you don’t marry, you sign. You don’t divorce, you breach. And sometimes, you just expire.Kate is struggling to find her footing. She gave up a career she hated to pursue the law, and now she’s buried in debt and unemployed. At least she’s signed to an amazing guy—hot, sweet, and committed.Enter the contract killer, the man who pursues only signed women. No commitment, no hassle, all the fun. But Kate has enough fun on her plate… until her partner doesn’t re-up their contract.After an epic but well-deserved meltdown, Kate gets practical. She accepts a job with her uncle’s law firm, practicing signing law—the one type of law she swore she’d never do. And the contract killer? Now that Kate is single, she’s no longer his type, but he still wants to be friends. Yeah, that’ll work. Kate may be heartbroken, but she’s not impervious to thi…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 4

Image
What the last chapter foreshadowed, this chapter brings to the door.  Literally in one case.

With the movies in mind, it's easy to forget earlier observations that Merry and Pippin are actually quite observant of the world around them.  Not that I don't love Dominick and Billy in those roles, but they are shown on screen as more immature characters that grow into adults as the story goes.  The growth happens here in the book too... but they start as inquisitive and relatively world-aware (for hobbits) and grow into something else.  For all that he is new to the environment, Pippin's intuitive reading and awareness of the situation is incredibly well tuned.

This also makes one of the few times we see Gandalf overtly use magic.  Very little of the magic we see in Middle Earth is overt, rather it tends to be an aspect of innate or imbued nature.  The elves by and large are not 'magical' but rather in Middle Earth creatures of Good and Light bear that as a force in its…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 3

Image
"Now all roads were running together to the East to met the coming of war and the onset of the Shadow."

I don't know about you, but for some reason that opening sentence hits me as incredibly strong.  This is what everything before now has come to.  To me this chapter is about the scale of war, the mass of lives it touches, the gestalt it takes to confront it, and the loneliness of facing it.  We're not even at battle and the scale is overwhelming.

Theoden tells Merry that no matter now stout his heart, there is not a place for him to ride into battle with the Rohirrim.  But I think Tolkien also throughout this book means to say that battle is no place for anyone.  It is something that must be met, but is not an occasion for joy or celebration but of duty and protection.


In the film this chapter is mixed in within the previous chapter almost as a footnote, the muster ongoing when Elrond shows up to point Aragorn at a different path. 

Of course I know the nature of De…

Happy Crying

I went into work today to find an email that included the following:

I am in the process of planning a Diversity Summit, hopefully for next April. My first undertaking is to put together a task force to help plan the summit. I really enjoyed your presentation at NELA.

I was wondering if you would like to be on the task force? When I recovered enough to do more than make incoherent noises, I obviously accepted.  Then I basically spent the day at work trying not to happy cry.

I was recently asked how I got into disability representation as a focused area of interest.  The short answer, personal battles with mental health aside, is my mom.  I think I've talked about this a little bit before on my blog.  Honestly, I'll probably talk about this in the future again as well.

My mom suffered from bi-lateral neuritis and carpal tunnel in both arms, with a very severe flare up when I was little.  Actual timing is fuzzy due to my very young age, but I can remember a before and an afte…

[Book Review] The Masked City

Image
The Masked City (The Invisible Library #2) / Genevieve Cogman

Previously Reviewed:The Invisible Library
The Masked City starts up on the heels of the events in The Invisible Library.  Irene and Kai have their hands full with magical and political shenanigans that an alternate London infected with elves can throw at them.  Add in the complications of dragon families (Kai) and other duties that pull in different directions, things get messy quite quickly for this Librarian and her apprentice.  This story continues in the same narrative style and flow as it's predecessor, merging wit, magic, and fantastic contraptions all together.
Advance Reader Copy courtesy of Roc (Penguin RandomHouse) in exchange for an honest review; changes may exist between galley and the final edition.

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 2

Image
The Fellowship and the narrative at this point is well and truly shattered.  Frodo, Samwise, and the Ring are within Mordor, Boromir slain, and Gandalf and Peregrin to Gondor, Aragron seeking the Paths of the Dead with Gimli and Legolas, and Meriadoc entering the service of Thoden.  Each living group still works towards the same ultimate goal, but their actions and efforts are connected with shepherding different forces and strands of the story.  With what foggy memories I have of the last time I read this book, I believe further fracturing will continue.  This may however be the rawest separation.  Merry and Pippin nearly never are seen without the other.  The Merry and Pippin who will meet again will not be the same, and will have changed without the other.  Now each is without the other and facing drastically different decisions and personal growth, though in interestingly parallel paths.

Personally, I always feel a company of Rangers showing up signals some sort of excitement and …

[Book Review] Dark Orbit

Dark Orbit / Carolyn Ives Gilman

I'd managed to both hear a lot about Dark Orbit and yet retain nearly nothing about it going in.  It seemed like it would be a good Virtual Speculation pick, so I threw it on the list for October.

On the surface Dark Orbit is a SpecFic re-imagining of Country of the Blind (with less xenophobia).  Saraswati Callicot spends her life leaping across decades as she explores new worlds reachable only through FTL travel.  When she's sent on a new mission to secretly keep an eye on Thora Lassiter and the trouble that may seek her out, she expects little issue.  But the world they visit defies expectation or experience, and presents dangers that could never be anticipated.

In many ways this is a book about perception.  How our perceptions shape everything we encounter, and how others perceptions shape us.  For all that the story involves both a murder and a missing persons investigation as well as natural disaster, the narrative tends towards the cerebr…

[Book Review] How to Train Your Highlander

Image
How to Train Your Highlander (Broadswords and Ballrooms #3) / Christy English

She’s the Hellion of Hyde Park… A foolproof plan to avoid marriage: 1. Always carry at least three blades. 2. Ride circles around any man. 3. Never get caught in a handsome duke’s arms. Wild Highlander Mary Elizabeth Waters is living on borrowed time. She’s managed to dodge the marriage banns up to now, but even Englishmen can only be put off for so long…and there’s one in particular who has her in his sights. Harold Percy, Duke of Northumberland, is enchanted by the beautiful hellion who outrides every man on his estate and dances Scottish reels while the ton looks on in horror. The more he sees Mary, the more he knows he has to have her, tradition and good sense be damned. But what’s a powerful man to do when the Highland spitfire of his dreams has no desire to be tamed... In most ways this is your standard fiesty-lady historical romance, and if that's your itch to scratch I heartily recommend it.

I te…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 1

Image
Two-thirds of our way through Lord of the Rings now.  If you're a little fuzzy about what we've read on our journey so far make sure to stop and read through the Preface to get back up to speed.  Hopefully with life settling down for me again I'll be able to stay on top of the schedule again.

However, for now we'll have to leave Sam and Frodo and go back to the other members of the Fellowship.  In particular, we're back with Pippin and Gandalf, as they ride to Minas Tirith.

This is our first visitation of Minas Tirith and of Gondor, and Tolkien gives us both its splendor and it's ruin.  Architecturally, the city still stands glorious, but it has diminished over the years as the population diminishes and age takes its toll.  To me the strongest signifier of Gondor's decline is the tree.

Denethor is a man deep within his grief and constrained by his pride.  There is a madness underlying his speech and action, born from many sources but perhaps triggered by th…

Lord of the Rings : The Towering Read - Book 4, Chapter 10

Image
My summary of this chapter: Samwise is the goddamn hero of this book, and honestly, a better friend and protector than Frodo ever is.  They may be friends, but the dynamic favors Frodo strongly, perhaps due to lingering status as Sam's master/employer.  Frodo inherited the Ring, but he's never really been all that full of the Tookishness that pulled his uncle through all sorts of adventures.

Without Sam, this story would be much shorter and with a darker end for our friends.  Starting in The Fellowship of the Ring, I commented that Sam was the true heir of Bilbo... and I think this chapter really encapsulates that.  Among other things, we have parallels between Bilbo vs Smaug and Sam vs Shelob with actual references to the difference between her and a dragon.  Sam, not Frodo with his noble and elvish air, is the hobbit to surprise others with his courage, dedication, and even wits.  Of course, Sam, like Bilbo, is also the one to wish he was at home by the fire with a good meal…

Lord of the Rings : The Towering Read - Book 4, Chapter 9

Image
Spiders.  Not a fan here, and clearly neither was Tolkien.  This isn't the first time we've come across giant hobbit-eating spiders in Middle Earth, and not the first time the Ring bearer has encountered one.  Shelob... is something more than just a large spider however.  "She that walked in darkness had heard the Elves cry that cry far back in the deeps of time, and she had not heeded it, and it did not daunt her now."  She is ancient and intelligent in her own right, bearing power and rational thought when faced with a threat, and not exactly a spider depending on how you read "an evil thing in spider-form."

Out of all the passages intended to evoke unease, this chapter probably tops it not only for me but for many readers.  The writing is evocative in setting and pulls on a unease many people feel in regards to spiders.



I'm not sure what I think about the addition in the film of Gollum framing Samwise for the loss of the rest of the food.  It does i…

Lord of the Rings : The Towering Read - Book 4, Chapter 8

Image
In the shadow of Cirith Ungol there is no question that we are completely within enemy territory.  The Ring reminds us of it's true allegiance and we witness a large host ride forth, led by the Witch-King of Angmar.  Frodo retains enough self-awareness and will to refrain from putting on the ring, but I find following passage quite telling.
"He knew that the Ring would only betray him, and that he not, even if he put it on, the power to face the Morgul-king - not yet."
NOT YET.  About that...

For not the last time, the vial of elven starlight proves to hold some virtue that drives away Sauron's shadow.  It's one of those things that we're given without full context here, but fits logic expanded on in other texts by Tolkien.  For now, we have to be satisfied that there is something about elvish nature itself that is anthema against Sauron's darkness.


To me the exchange between Sam and Frodo as they discuss how their adventure will be remembered as fanciful…

[Book Review] Unmasking Miss Appleby

Image
Unmasking Miss Appleby (Baleful Godmother #1) / Emily Larkin

On her 25th birthday, Charlotte Appleby receives a most unusual gift from the Faerie godmother she never knew she had: the ability to change shape.  Penniless and orphaned, she sets off for London to make her fortune as a man. But a position as secretary to Lord Cosgrove proves unexpectedly challenging. Someone is trying to destroy Cosgrove and his life is increasingly in jeopardy.  As Charlotte plunges into London’s backstreets and brothels at Cosgrove’s side, hunting his persecutor, she finds herself fighting for her life—and falling in love…
Likely unsurprising confession here: I'm a sucker for all manner of gender-swap stories.  So when I went looking for something light and fun to read, this definitely looked to fit the bill... and it delivered.

I have some quibbles with it.  I'm so fed up with the bleeding virgin plot gimmick... and the ways it is executed here are particularly ridiculous (in one case it involve…

Lord of the Rings : The Towering Read - Book 4, Chapter 7

Faramir sends our fair hobbits back on their path, gifted with provisions and +2 walking staves.  I can't help but remain suspicious of Gollum and the noted "he seemed better pleased with himself," but then I have read this before and know what he's leading them into.  The leave taking here to some extend mirrors the entering of Lothloiren, but bleaker and more barren as befits the closer proximity to the darkness.  Upon entering the woods the party all donned blindfolds, even those exempted, and on meeting the Lady Galadriel received guidance/prophesy and gifts.  From Faramir they receive gifts, warning, and the hobbits down blindfolds even when released from that requirement.

In Gollum's defense, he does commit to shepherding Frodo and Samwise.  That he is shepherding them to a death of his choosing is almost a moot point... after all isn't that what shepherds do in the long run?  He no longer possesses the awareness or the empathy to understand how hobbit …

[Blog Tour] An Import of Intrigue

Image
An Import of Intrigue (Maradaine Constabulary #2) / Marshall Ryan Maresca

Previously reviewed: A Murder of Mages (Maradaine Constabulary #1)