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Showing posts from November, 2016

[Book Review] The Masked City

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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