Archive for April, 2017

Jane, Ulimited.jpg

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight exciting upcoming titles.

Kristin Cashore’s award-winning Graceling realm YA High Fantasies were a staple of my high school reading. Cashore is know for her strong female heroines and attention to detail. She finishes a book only every few years–her last was in 2012, Bitterblue, an award-winning companion to her other Graceling realm novels–and they’re always works of art.

I can’t wait to read Jane, Ulimited! It’s being called a “five genre novel” (you can also check out an excerpt in this article) which is intriguing to say the least…It sounds utterly unlike her Graceling novels.

Goodreads Summary

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price. Jane, Unlimited is ya sci-fi authored by Kristin Cashore and expected to be published September 19th 2017 by Kathy Dawson Books.

CollapsingEmpire-US-UK

The Collapsing Empire is the first in a new space opera series from well-known sci-fi genius John Scalzi, and I’m happy to say that it was a totally fun “first Scalzi” for me!

Thoughts :

By the time I got to sit down with The Collapsing Empire, I’d read enough reviews to understand the main points of the worldbuilding—but even if I hadn’t, Scalzi manages a certain breezy, entertaining way of explaining the impossible. He thunks readers into the middle of a mutiny and interrupts it with the even more drastic problem that the rest of the universe will have to face during the novel: the collapse of the only known method of space travel. The mutinous crew has to deal with the issue right then, or die.

Blamo! Sufficient explanation for the next several chapters without any painful info dumps.

That easy understanding is important, since the really absorbing puzzle of the book turns out to be tracking character agendas that will involve all this delicious worldbuilding.

Here’s a quick summary of said worldbuilding:

Space-age humanity has discovered a unique means of travel across huge stretches of the universe: the Flow. The Flow is an extra-dimensional field that transports spacecraft across distances that would otherwise be impossible, without fast-than-light space travel; naturally, humanity took advantage, using the Flow to build up an empire known as “The Interdependency”—interdependent because each settlement along the flow relies on each other’s resources to survive. But what happens to the Interdependency when the Flow begins to collapse, isolating each individual and dependent member of the body from each other?

That’s the question Scalzi’s cast is determined to answer. Several of the power players aim to profit from the misfortune and others just want to save lives. The major players all come from rich noble houses, overseen by a powerful “emperox.” (Yes, with the rise of the Interdependency came also the return of a caste system, and we learn later about its origins. It’s pretty disturbing. [Highlight to view SPOILER: Monopolies corrupted the government who anesthetized the common man with bunk religion and accepted the proceeds of $ and power without a blink. These elements seem a common enough in sci-fi backstories, which is understandable. Big companies, big government and organized religion all hold a lot of control over the common man, so when they get in bed, bad things happen…]) We meet the faces of three of these houses: the emperox of the universe from the most powerful House of Wu; the shipping queen of the entrepreneurial House of Lagos; and the three power-grabbing siblings of competitive House of Nohamapetan.

We enter the story just prior to the death of the current emperox—and just following the death of that emperox’s heir. This unfortunate double-dip of death leaves Cardenia, the emperox’s unprepared second child, in charge of the universe. Cardenia’s scenes largely consist of info dumps which, though humorous and easily digestible, usually left me eager to get back to the other two houses.

In contrast, Lady Kiva Lagos kept me in fits of mirth throughout the book; this mercantile heroine always manages to swing a profit despite House Nohamapetan’s threats to her product. I thoroughly enjoyed her clever machinations during this first power drama of the Flow’s collapse.

House Nohamapetan’s representatives—three siblings of differing personalities, but one overarching goal of enriching and empowering their house—prove no less enterprising. I almost found myself respecting these proactive backstabbers. Almost. There’s so competent, they even keep lady Kiva on her toes.

All of the female characters, excepting slightly the emperox, do seem to have shades of the exact same personality, which is slightly uninteresting. (One character quirk that most reviewers mention is Lady Kiva’s singular and somewhat repetitive talent for transposing the f-bomb to every purpose. Complimenting someone by saying “She’s smart as ****” or telling her mother “I ****ing love you” are some of the less clever examples of said habit Lol.) But every character has strong motivations that keep things moving along quite nicely, and their motivations clearly mark them out from one another.

Overall :

I really enjoyed The Collapsing Empire. Despite missing the character connections that would make it more meaningful to a character-driven reader like me, I love the political games and the unique setting and I’m totally game for book II. I can’t wait to see how the conflict plays out!

Recommended To :

Although I’m less familiar with sci-fi as some reviewers, I can confidently say that The Collapsing Empire is a rare example of extremely fast-paced and entertaining sci-fi, so I highly recommend it to readers looking for that sort of ride.

 

Characters: 2.5/5
Plot: 4.5/5
Setting: 4.5/5
Writing: 4/5

****4/5 STARS

The Collapsing Empire is adult sci-fi authored by John Scalzi and published March 21st 2017 by Tor Books. 336 pages. The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.

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I just loooooove these covers!

Publisher Description of Series

A self-assured warrior stumbles into a game of Go that turns fatal. An ambitious lord leaves his nephew for dead and seizes his lands. A stubborn father forces his son to give up his wife to his older brother. A powerful priest meddles in the succession to the Lotus Throne. A woman of the Old People seeks five fathers for her five children, who will go on to found the Spider Tribe and direct the fate of the country.

As destiny weaves its tapestry in Lian Hearn’s Tale of Shikanoko series, an emotionally rich and compelling drama plays out against a background of wild forests, elegant castles, hidden temples, and savage battlefields in Lord of the Darkwood.

About :

Lord of the Darkwood, the third installment of the four-part medieval Japanese fantasy serial The Tale of Shikanoko, covers an enormous amount of time considering its small size of 220 pages: over a decade. As the older power-players of the empire die out, a younger and equally-ambitious set of players matures and takes over. This book covers that shift and the shape of the book reflects it: unlike the previous two installments, the ending does not hinge on a monumental choice by our eponymous hero; in fact, Shikanoko hardly appears at all, compared to his near-constant presence in the first two. I enjoyed this shift from the older to the younger characters; the flat male characters in authority during installments I & II interested me less than the younger crowd does.

Spoilers For Books I-II in the next 2 paragraphs!

In the first two books, Hina lived as a neglected stepdaughter who was then captured and raised by her father’s mortal enemy in another town. All these years, she admired the Deer’s Child (Shikanoko) from afar. But the death of the Autumn Princess at the end of book II leaves Hina in charge of Shika’s infant son—and she only twelve years old herself. In book III, she hides among the courtesans of Lake Kasumi’s pleasure boats and works for them as she comes of age and watches Shika’s son grow up. Along the way, she meets the true emperor for the first time.

Meanwhile, in the Darkwood, Shika’s Spider Tribe sons grow in emotional maturity and demonic magic. Like Hina, they learn of love and lust; but unlike the powerless Hina, each of the sons finds his own place in the power hierarchy of the family, and the most powerful among them shape the empire far beyond the Darkwood, inheriting the power structure left by the deaths during of the first two books. Ultimately, they aim to spin a trap for Shikanoko, the father who sent them away at the end of book II, as he hides in the Darkwood, unaware and still lost in grief for the death of his beloved Autumn Princess, now over a decade before.

Overall :

Even though Lord of the Darkwood feels very much like an installment (instead of a novel), I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the previous two. The younger characters present a wide array of hopeful heroines and terrifying monsters, and their journeys more than make for an interesting story. With Hearn’s characteristically spare, but perfect prose, she has drawn an even more immersive and adult fantasy world than her famed Tales of the Otori series.

****4/5 STARS

Lord of the Darkwood is adult fantasy written by Lian Hearn and was published August 9th 2016 by Fsg Originals. Paperback, 224 pages. Thank you to Lian Hearn, FSG Originals and Netgalley for my review copy! The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight exciting upcoming titles.

I can’t resist a book with a title like that! There’s at least one other cool literary-inspired speculative release coming out in 2017 and this English major can’t wait to try them both out! The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter sounds particularly appealing, since I just picked up The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for my bed time reading…

Goodreads Description

Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is adult speculative fiction written by Theodora Goss and expected to be published June 20th 2017 by Saga Press.

 

WWW Wednesday #6

Posted: April 12, 2017 in WWW Wednesday
Tags: ,

Background

WWW Wednesday is a weekly MEME hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The three W’s are as follows:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

And I’m adding my own section to this list:

What have you recently reviewed?

Click the book titles for more information about each!

 

Recently Reviewed

 

Recently Finished

 

Currently Reading

  • Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (audiobook, reread)
    • As soon as I finished The Thief, I put a hold on the audio of book II and got it a few days later. I’m loving it much more, this time around; the twisty foreshadowing is much more apparent than it was when I was a younger reader.
    • Ever since enjoying McKinley’s The Blue Sword last year (5 STARS! You can check out my review right here!), I’ve been eager to read this “sort of prequel.” I’m loving it even more than The Blue Sword, amazingly!
  • The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) by John Scalzi
    • I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I heard of it, as John Scalzi has been on my tbr for a long time. I won it in a giveaway from the terrific spec fic blog, Book, Bones & Buffy. (Thank you so much! :D) So far, it’s just as hilarious and compelling as I’d hoped it would be.

 

TBR Next

  • Shadow’s Edge (Night Angel #2) by Brent Weeks

    • I completely loved The Way of Shadows last year and I’m finally getting a chance to read more of Kylar Stern’s story, thanks to my newfangled “2017 tbr” Goodreads shelf.
  • Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence #3) by Max Gladstone

    • The first two Craft Sequence books ranked among my favorite books of 2016, so it’s high time to enjoy book three.
  • Arslan by M.J. Engh

    • Open Road Integrated Media has distinguished itself by republishing digital versions of older works, and I’ve enjoyed a few of them in the past. This 1970s dystopian sci-fi has a big reputation, so I’m excited to dig in during the next few weeks.

 

And that’s all for this roundup! Have you read or heard of any of these? What have you been reading lately? Link up to my post if you’ve done a roundup recently so I can see! 🙂

Bloodbound

“The devout belief that the world is explainable is both a terrible vulnerability and a stout shield. Evil prefers it when people don’t believe.”

About :

Mercy Thompson knows a thing or two about “the unexplainable.” For instance, she can shapeshift into a coyote, much like the werewolves she knows, except without suffering their transitional pains; the title of her true nature was lost with the death of her father, so her supernatural friends deem her simply—and incorrectly—a “Skinwalker…of the Southwest Indian tribes.”

But even Mercy gets shaken up when a sorcerer appears on her home turf, bespelling and threatening her vampire friend Stephan and his coven. Werewolves and vampires start working together to hunt him down, and all of her supernatural friends—especially her werewolf “gentlemen callers,” Adam and Samuel—warn her to stay out of the dangerous sorcerer’s way.

But even her besties can’t convince Mercy to stay benched while they put themselves in danger. Blood Bound is adult urban fantasy/paranormal romance authored by Patricia Briggs and published January 30th 2007 by Ace. Mass Market Paperback, 292 pages. The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.

Thoughts :

It’s been a few weeks since I listened to this audiobook, so get ready for a short and sweet review! Overall, I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed book I. The mystery—“Where is the sorcerer? And where is he hiding all of Mercy’s menfolk?!”—actually held my attention better than the mystery in book I, despite the two plots’ similarities. (The plot of book I is also, “Where did the bad guy hide Adam and his daughter?”) The clues are more exciting and fun to decode, many of them involving ghosts (one of my favorite Urban Fantasy elements). We also get more familiar with both the wereworld and vampire politics. The worldbuilding just keeps getting better and better!

My only real complaint is that I wish Mercy would wear more clothes on the book covers! J/k, but in all seriousness, I do feel lukewarm about one element in the series so far: the men (all of them, even, strangely, Mercy’s gay friend?) spend a lot more time jockeying for Mercy’s attention in book II than they did even in book I. Mercy seriously needs a few chick friends, considering how much the male wolves annoy her when they get territorial. She does seem to make one sort-of friend in Honey, so I’m hoping we get more girl time in book III.

On the plus side, I’m getting some serious vibes between Mercy and Adam, which is awesome because…well, Adam is pretty hot 😀

Overall :

I’m really enjoying this world, so I’m definitely going to keep reading. It’s nice, light entertainment. And, okay, I’m curious about who Mercy picks!

Recommended To :

If you like book I, chances are you’ll like book II. Mostly, you might want to hang around because I hear the series keeps getting better!

3.5/5 STARS

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“He sleeps beneath the lake,
The dragon child,
But he will wake
And spread his wings again,
When the deer’s child comes.”

Sounds so peaceful, right? Pastoral, almost.

But the Tale of Shikanoko is a bloody game of thrones inspired by medieval Japan and told in riveting, heartbreaking fashion.

About :

If you haven’t read book I or at least my review of book I, my recap of the plot won’t make much sense because there’s sooo much going in this series. Lian Hearn’s spare style allows for constant action, and the politics of the large cast is fairly complex, so if I try to recap every important plot line, my entire review will be one long recap and you won’t need to read the book anymore!

But here’s the short version of volumes 1-2:

An impostor prince sits on the Lotus throne and the Heavens take out their vengeance on all as the true emperor hides his identity from his scheming enemies. Shikanoko, The Deer’s Child of the prophecy, retreats to the magician Shisoku to mend his broken deer mask, following a humbling magical defeat by the Prince Abbot. While there, his heart softens toward a dangerous new threat, the five Spider Tribe demon children birthed by the Lady Tora. But despite the chaos all around him, all Shikanoko can think about is the true child emperor and his guardian, the lovely Autumn Princess…Autumn Princess, Dragon Child is an adult fantasy written by Lian Hearn and published June 7th 2016 by FSG Originals. Paperback, 288 pages.

Thoughts :

“The Tale of Shikanoko” series contains four volumes, but it’s really one long story published in four installments. FSG Originals published all four in quick succession in 2016. I read the first installment back in August 2016, so I worried about keeping track of the large cast after so many months; but with a little patience and piecing together, I was able to pick up the story again. I do, however, recommend reading them all within a shorter space of time than I did.

As in volume one, the main form of currency in volume two is power. Although the women vary in motivation and personality, the men all ruthlessly take power to protect themselves and their own families and tend to blend together to some degree. (I felt the same way about the genders in Across the Nightingale Floor, Tales of the Otori #1; but my antipathy toward the bland male characters in that earlier book was much stronger. I do find the characters in The Tale of Shikanoko much more interesting, as a whole, as well as finding the larger plot and style much improved.) But Hearn has a way of changing my mind about seemingly-irredeemable primary and secondary characters. I always end up caring about them by the end.

Shikanoko’s character develops in particularly interesting ways. His defeat at the end of book one broke him, and during the course of book two, he starts to grow from used child to adult warrior/sorcerer. His new humility proves to be a strength, by the end of this volume. His character development is one of my favorite things about the story.

Each volume ends with a monumental choice by Shikanoko—usually a combination of glorious victory and terrible mistake—and each time this poignant victory/defeat has made me eager to to pick up the next installment (although I didn’t get the chance to do that after volume one). Many readers have concluded that combining Shika’s story into one large volume would have made more sense, since the four small volumes (all well under 300 pgs, extremely short for adult fantasy) have very little in the way of self-contained plots. But regardless of this publishing model, the story is just as compelling in one or four volumes.

Overall :

So far The Tale of Shikanoko series is very dark and very adult, nothing like what I remember from Across the Nightingale Floor. I’m completely hooked!

Plot: 3.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Worldbuilding: 4/5

****4/5 STARS

Recommended To :

If you enjoy literary fantasy and Asian settings (specifically feudal Japan, in this case), I highly recommend this series. Not recommended to readers wanting fast, action-oriented or “magic-systems” fantasy; though the spare, impactful style never wastes a word, the tale’s emphasis on character and political machinations leaves little room for action or humor. And although magic exists and influences the story in interesting ways, it remains completely mysterious to readers, used for atmospheric and structural elements.

The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors. Thank you so much to Lian Hearn, FSG Originals and Netgalley for my free review copy! I loved it.