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Jun. 13th, 2013

Best Novels 2013

So, once again I'm voting for the Hugo Awards, Science Fiction and Fantasy's major awards. Sure, it costs money, but I get all kinds of free ebooks and magazines and comic PDFs (sadly not free movies and TV shows).

So I figure I'd blog about what I read. Especially since this year I'd actually read four of five novels up for best novel before they were nominated.

What people liked in 2012, my take )

Mar. 16th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 025: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

I find Nnedi Okorafor an interesting author. She writes these amazing, creative children's/YA stories like Zarah the Windseeker and Akata Witch, and also writes amazing adult books that are in no way for children. (Seriously, while I loved Who Fears Death, it got dark enough at times that I doubt I'd be able to reread it.)

Anyway, so I finally got a copy of Akata Witch, which has been described as the Nigerian Harry Potter.  )

Feb. 21st, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 024: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

So, I think I reviewed the previous book, Shades of Milk and Honey and I picked up this one and (IIRC) liked it much better. Basically, Kowal's world is set in the Regency period (when George III (the King George of the American Revolution) was considered too mentally ill to run a country, so his son (also named George) was Prince Regent) -- but illusion magic (glamour) is a thing. Kowal talks a lot about the perils of writing 'history with magic' for this series: that the more magic you introduce into our world, the more questions arise about why history remains roughly the same. Kowal limits glamour both through physical rules (it's effects of light and sound, and has to be anchored by the ground, and the glamourist usually has to be right there to manipulate it; they can leave a work and even run it on a loop, but complex patterns are usually done by tricks, and it takes a lot of energy and concentration), but also by social rules: glamour is considered a 'feminine' art: while there are male glamourists who make a living by taking commissions from the rich, a well-taught woman is expected to manage her home's glamours as part of the decor. Even uses in war (which are mentioned in this novel) are more akin to an engineering corps than 'sorcerers throwing fireballs'.

I don't think I can talk much about this book without spoiling the last )

Feb. 12th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 023: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

So, I picked this one up from [personal profile] anke who was getting rid of some books. The Eyre Affair takes place in an alternate late 20th century England where, among other things, people are obsessed with classics of literature and art. Most people have an opinion on things like who authored Shakespeare's plays, and it's enough that people can break into fist fights or political movements. The main character's hometown has a long-running community production of Richard III structured more like the showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show than any play I've seen. It's actually a bit like... well, a lot of Japanese action series where everyone knows a certain card game, or incorporates martial arts into their normal job, or has a job involving cute and trainable pet monsters.

There's also things like low-grade magic )

Jan. 9th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 019: The Fall of Kings, by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

The nice thing about Christmas is new books and time to read them. The Fall of Kings is a book set in Ellen Kishner's Riverside series. Thankfully it was set decades after Swordspoint, the first book, because I only vaguely remembered the events of that one. (I remembered I liked it, and I found out that my used copy doesn't have the short stories that the reprint has... perhaps I should fix this.)

I remember hearing about <em>Swordspoint</em> on a podcast (the SF Squeecast, I think), that noted that for a book published in 1987, it did two interesting things. )

Dec. 16th, 2012

Pokémon Conquest

So I beat the main storyline for Pokémon Conquest, a turn based strategy game that is a fusion of Pokémon and Nobunaga's Ambition (a strategy game series set during the Sengoku period* of Japan). So you have figures (rather loosely) based on famous Japanese people using Pokémon battles to conquer the various kingdom of Ransei. The main character is your typical Pokémon protagonist, in that sie is young and generally meant to be the player. Sie is the Warlord of the normal-type** kingdom of Aurora, and hir first day involves fending off an invasion from the fire-type kingdom of Ignis, with the help of a strange Warrior, Oichi. She tells you two things during the first half of the main storyline: that there's a legend that whoever unites Ransei under one banner will meet the legendary Pokémon who created the world, and that Nobunaga, a Warlord in the east, is trying it and Oichi is afraid he'll do something rash (read: stupid) once he does.

It is Pokemon; of course there's seventeen regions and each one has a theme around a Pokemon type. A bit like playing Gold/Silver, where you had 16 Gyms in total, so all but one type got a gym (and that type at least had an Elite Four member). Pokémon Conquest has a bit more of a logical reason for type specialization, though. Many Warriors can only use certain types of Pokémon, or can reach higher levels with their favorite type. Also the terrain in each kingdom tends to suit a certain type well -- for instance, Ignis's battlefield has lots of lava that Fire Pokémon can wade in (and flying or hovering Pokémon can glide over), but other kinds of Pokémon have to go around.

I like the terrain aspects and the ability to have to plan strategically (in addition to Pokémon types, some Pokémon are melee attackers and some are ranged). I do wish the Pokémon got more than one move (or even a choice of which move to learn), letting you play more with dual-types. I mean, since I just beat Fire Emblem, the analogy comes with that -- many of the promoted classes could use multiple types of weapons, and nearly all weapons had a version that had a different range (or were specialized to take down certain kinds of enemies). So usually, for instance, I had Caeda, a Pegasus Knight, carrying a javelin to go with her Wing Spear, since it let her work as a short-ranged fighter and not just in melee (good, since Pegasus Knights are pretty fragile).

So I'll probably play all the new missions I unlocked as well. And complete my Pokédex/Warrior-dex. Especially since the main storyline only took me 12-14 hours.

--
* I'm trying to think of an analogous period in US history that gets as much media retellings as the Sengoku seems to in Japan... maybe WWII or the Civil War? WWII retellings don't seem to focus on the famous people, though, but more on the 'let's defeat the Nazis!' The Civil War might be a better analogy.

Aug. 23rd, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 015: Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce

I'll blog more later, but have a book for now.

I read most of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet as a teenager, before the modern YA trend got started. And, well, she writes a good blog and is sort of local to me, and I have several friends who are fans of her. And, honestly, once I got past my teenaged years, I got a lot less insecure about reading 'kids books'.

So, I picked up her other world of books, the Magic Circle ones, which follow four orphaned youngsters from different backgrounds who end up having a semi-rare sort of magic for a certain craft or set of things. )

Jun. 10th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 010: Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

So, Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht was a difficult novel for me for about the same reason Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okaofor was; I don't mind reading things that are set in a darker era (real or fictitious), but afterward, I want the literary equivalent of something sweet and fluffy. A bit like drinking black tea with pastries.

Anyway, Of Blood and Honey is set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.  )

Jan. 6th, 2010

Book Review: Dead to Me, by Anton Strout

I really didn't like this book. I don't know if it was my taste or it was just bad, but I was skimming just to get through the darn thing so I wouldn't have to carry it on the plane with me -- I should have just left it in Florida in hopes my step-mother would enjoy it more, but I figured I could hock it online for something better*.

Simon is a psychometrist who joined the local Paranormal Investigations Division because it beat being a small time con-man. )
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Sep. 3rd, 2009

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel (Toby Daye, #1) Rosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel by Seanan McGuire


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For a book that managed to hit a rough spot with me on the first page, I liked Rosemary and Rue.Read more... )
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Aug. 30th, 2009

Book Review: A Spell for the Revolution by C C Finley

A Spell for the Revolution (Traitor to the Crown, Book 2) A Spell for the Revolution by C.C. Finlay


My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A Spell for the Revolution is the second book in a series of American-Revolutionary-War historical fantasy. The series premise is that the witch hunts of Salem actually did target some people with special abilities, who were forced underground. Nearly a hundred years later, witches still persist in secret. The protagonist, Proctor Brown, is a young man trying to balance his service in the local militia (which is rapidly heading towards armed rebellion against the British troops) and his engagement to a local merchant's daughter (who isn't too thrilled by the thought of armed rebellion). He's also able to see the future, something his mother helps to hide. Anyway, and there will be spoilers for the first book here...

Review for Book 2 Contains Spoilers for Book 1 )

View all my reviews >>
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Aug. 27th, 2009

Book Review: Death from the Skies! by Phil Plait

I'm behind on my book reviews -- I've read a lot (including an ARC of Elizabeth Bear's new book), but haven't blogged about it. So here we go.

Death from the Skies! by Phil Plait )

Oct. 20th, 2008

Interesting Science Book: "Autism's False Prophets"

"They laughed at Copernicus. They laughed at the Wright brothers. Yes, well, they also laughed at the Marx Brothers. Being laughed at does not mean you are right." -- Michael Shermer

Over the weekend, I read "Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure" by Dr. James Offit. The book starts by a bit of history about autism before delving into the meat of the matter -- how the idea that vaccines caused autism got started, the arguments for and against, and the story of what happened. Spoilers: usually what happened is along what happened when it was assumed that the thiomersal (a compound containing mercury, and used to keep bacteria from growing in vaccines) caused autism -- read, when it's actually looked into, there's no evidence at all for it, but that doesn't seem to stop people. All names have been changed, since I am lazy.

Thiomersal, a Play in One Scene )

Yeah, don't read this if you are prone to getting angry about doctors telling parents that they need to do things like subject their kids to mercury-removing drugs, gluten-free diets, testosterone suppression, and hyperbaric oxygen chambers, because some or all of these (expensive and/or sometimes risky) things will cure their kids. Add in that the author, who does work on vaccines and even invented a vaccine for rotavirus, gets death threats for daring to suggest that parents should vaccinate.

Besides the nitty details, the last couple of chapters are on how science is portrayed in the press, and are a good primer for all my lay scientist friends in 'how to avoid the fact the media is sometimes full of garbage regarding science', and about how we really like the tale of Galileo going up against the Church or the little lawyer fighting Big Whoever in the name of the sick kids. We like mavericks and revolutionaries, to the point where everyone with contentious science seems to think of him or herself as Copernicus or the Wright Brothers. No one wants to admit they are Gene Ray.

Jul. 18th, 2008

Avatar Episodes

So, when I was a middle schooler, I was a big Star Trek Deep Space Nine fan. And, well, one thing lead to another, and the series had to introduce a character, Ezri Dax, in the final season. So, the series writers had to concentrate on finishing up all the story arcs, and fleshing out Ezri's personality. It was... less than ideal.

Cut for great justice! And also spoilers )

I'll try to catch Ember Island Players in the morning. I'm playing D&D during the finale, but I have to rely on iTunes anyway (no cable) -- with luck, the finale will be in my inbox Sunday morning. If not... I shall have to resort to alternate methods. Arr.

Jul. 10th, 2008

A Review and Fanfiction Thoughts

Slayers Revolution, ep. 2 )

Read more... )

Jul. 4th, 2008

Hooray for Instant Gratification!

So, I just watched the first episode of Slayers Revolution. I also downloaded the first two scanlated chapters of the manga. Here are my thoughts.

It's Independence Day! Let's celebrate by Blowing Stuff Up! Lina, you first! )