anthimeria: Mask of feathers (Feather Face)
[personal profile] anthimeria
Phenomenal.  Go read it.

The Diviners is the story of Evie, who can read objects, but prefers to be a flapper, escaping to her uncle's place in New York, New York.  It's 1926, and Evie is thoroughly modern.  It's the story of Memphis, a numbers runner in Harlem who dreams of being a poet.  It's the story of Theta, whose name isn't Theta, who lives with her brother who isn't her brother, who is--now, at least--one of the Ziegfeld Girls.  It's the story of Naughty John, who does his work with his apron on . . .

The Diviners is built around Evie, but it is many stories.  Libba Bray does everything I tend not to like in fiction--there are many points of view, though Evie's is primary, she spends some time describing and anthropomorphizing landscapes and elements, she flips around in whoever's point of view is most useful, and she digresses into character back stories that don't all become relevant in this book.  I also don't like big books and this one is long, clocking in at nearly six hundred pages of decently-sized hardback.  With all of that in mind, I loved this book.  Everything, every word, has its purpose, and in a book this long, that's saying something.  Every point of view shift is worth it, every digression interesting, every nuance telling.

Even better is the historical setting.  The Diviners isn't just set in the 20s, it lives and breathes the 20s--down to the slang, the tech, the culture, the language, the scars of one world war and the setting-up of the next.  A lot of historical fiction--especially speculative historical fiction--tends to be merely flavored with its era.  The Diviners is brilliantly 20s, and could not have been set in another era and told such a story.

For all that The Diviners is being marketed as YA, it's a chilling, incredible urban fantasy that I would urge anyone who enjoys the genre to check out.  For all that the construction of the book hits all the things I tend not to like (and yet I loved it, note), the premise is everything I love: YA with a spunky girl protagonist!  Historical spec fic!  Urban fantasy!  Serial killer mystery!  Diverse characters!  Thoughtfulness about society!  All wrapped up in speakeasies and paranormal abilities.

The Diviners is also that rare first book in a series that stands on its own, but is clearly sowing the seeds for a series.  I hope that many of the digressions I spoke of above, which came to little more than character pieces in this book, will bear fruit in the next.  I loved this book and I want more, so if anything I've mentioned here strikes your fancy, hop on the trolly, old girl, and cough up some dough!  Or, y'know, hit the library, if dough is hard to come by.
ysabetwordsmith: (Rose-Bay)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Nominations are currently OPEN for the 2013 Rose & Bay Awards. This award recognizes excellence in crowdfunded material.

Art: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith Nominate art! (0 nominees)
Fiction: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith Nominate fiction! (4 nominees)
Poetry: [personal profile] kajones_writing Nominate poetry! (2 nominees)
Webcomic: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith Nominate webcomics! (5 nominees)
Other Project: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith Nominate other projects! (0 nominees)
Patron: [personal profile] kajones_writing Nominate patrons! (4 nominees)

Eligibility period: January 1, 2012-December 31, 2012
Nomination period: January 1, 2013-January 31, 2013
Voting period: February 1, 2013-February 28, 2013

One of the awesome things about the crowdfunding business model is that it breaks the stranglehold of mainstream publishing. This encourages people to publish material on topics they love for niche markets that mainstream editors would never accept. Publishing is a popular category on the crowdfunding hubs like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. What crowdfunded fantasy did you enjoy last year?  Which creators thought outside the box and released something more original than pure unicorns or evil dragons?  Nominate them in the relevant category.  Did you know folks who helped support those projects with donations? Nominate them as patrons!

Please drop by to nominate your favorite crowdfunded projects from 2013. Post about the award in any relevant venue to help alert more people.
ed_rex: (Default)
[personal profile] ed_rex

Return to Middle Earth: The Hobbit

Believe it or not, Peter Jackson's latest film is only indirectly responsible for my decision to re-read The Hobbit (again). The proximal cause was Tor.com's (no-doubt entirely commercial) decision to ask the redoubtable Kate Nepveu to lead a weekly, chapter-by-chapter "re-read" of the novel in conjunction with the release of the first (of three!) movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 300 page children's story.

My intention had been to follow along at Nepveu's chapter-a-week pace and, perhaps, to contribute to the ongoing conversation she was (and is!) sure to inspire, but Tolkien's deceptively simple prose and thematically complex fairy story swept me away (as it has a number of times before). I finished the book in a couple of days.

The short version is that The Hobbit remains a delightful adventure story and fairy tale, even if it is the work of a writer who has yet to reach the full extent of his creative powers.

That said, it also a very strange book, that strays very far indeed from a typical heroic path in favour of wandering the fields of moral complexity and (relatively) complex characterizations. The protagonists are far from perfect and even the villains show surprising signs of humanity.

A lovely book to read aloud to a child, there is every chance that you will have to read it twice, since you'll likely treat yourself to the whole thing before you sit down for Chapter Two with said youngster.

The long version lives on my site. (As usual, there are spoilers.)

_______

 

ed_rex: (Default)
[personal profile] ed_rex
Drawing on myths from Jamaica to Russia, on folk tales of Coyote and Brer Rabbit, and maybe from sources as disparate as Chuck Jones, J.R.R. Tolkien and Mervyn Peake (not to mention Lewis Carroll), Nalo Hopkinson's "Young Adult" debut is as singular a creation as it has been my pleasure to read in a very long time.

All at once a surreal adventure, a subtle exploration of privilege in caste-ridden society and a daring push against the walls of narrative fiction itself, The Chaos has no villain and its (black, Canadian) heroine never wields a blade nor fires a gun.

Though questions of race and identify form organic parts of how the novel's characters view and interact with the world (none of the book's major characters is white), race is not what the book is about. Hopkinson is telling a story, she is not preaching.

Narrated by probably the most fully-realized teenager I have come across in fiction, The Chaos is always surprising, a thoroughly unconventional page-turner you owe it to yourself to read — to pass on to any literate young person you know.

For my full review, click, "When I cried, the tears were black."

 

ed_rex: (Default)
[personal profile] ed_rex

The girls, the monster and the Artifact!

More than a year ago I reviewed the first half of what I thought then was a "gentle" children's adventure, Stargazer, by Ottawa indie cartoonist Von Allan. I bought the concluding sequel back in December if memory serves, but circumstances didn't see me get to it until now.

A black and white comic book featuring three pre-pubescent girls in the role of unlikely heroines, Stargazer features a Magic Doorway in the tradition of Alice's rabbit-hole and Narnia's wardrobe (and the Starship Enterprise's warp drive, for that matter).

But what seemed a "gentle adventure" in its first half, proves to be a considerably more spicy brew in its second. What seemed to be turning into an exercise of that hoary old "And then she woke up!" cliché becomes something very different — and very memorable — by the time the story is over.

A little rough-hewn, Stargazer nevertheless has considerable virtues. This story of friendship and loss just might be a gateway drug to comics for that young boy or (especially) girl in your life — but keep a kleenex handy. My full review lives on my site, ed-rex.com/reviews/books/stargazer_volume_two.

anthimeria: Astro City superheroine Flying Fox (Flying Fox)
[personal profile] anthimeria

Through means cunning and clever, I have laid hands on an advance copy of Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire. The official release date is March 6th, also known as next Tuesday.

 

I had a lot of fun with this book. I love the variety of cryptids, I love that Verity reacts to everything surprising with violence, I love the many, many questions (and terrifying suspicions) the book leaves us with at the end, and like everyone else, I love the Aeslin Mice. HAIL THE NEW SERIES!


Cryptid, noun: Any creature whose existence has not yet been proven by science.  See also "monster."

Cryptozoologist, noun: Any person who thinks hunting for cryptids is a good idea.  See also "idiot."

ed_rex: (Default)
[personal profile] ed_rex
Cover to Well of Sorrows, by Benjamin TateWell Of Sorrows
I hate coming down hard on books by relatively unknown writers; given my 'druthers, I'd much prefer to pass over them in silence. At the same time, if a writer goes to the trouble of sending me a review copy (even an electronic copy), it seems disrespectful to ignore it.

So I've struggled with this review, and not only because I have been "friends" with the author (or rather, with his pseudonym) on Livejournal for a while, but because it became clear in the reading that Benjamin Tate's heart is very much in the right place.

Well of Sorrows tries hard to play with, and even to reverse, many of epic fantasy's tired tropes. The protagonist is more peace-maker than warrior, and in plays of scenes of glorious battle we are given the blood and the shit and the brutality of hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately, good intentions alone don't make for good art. Well of Sorrows suffers from shallow characterization, structural confusion and world-building that is not remotely convincing. Click here for my full review (hardly any spoilers).

ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
 The July Poetry Fishbowl is now open in my LiveJournal. Come give me prompts about low fantasy. I'll be writing poetry all day.
krait: Ilisidi riding her mecheita (Foreigner - mecheita)
[personal profile] krait
I and a couple of friends are planning to read and discuss C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner together over on my journal - we're still working out details, but the basic plan is to read a certain number of chapters per week, then comment via a "discussion post" for discussing each week's reading.

I bring it up here because I was curious whether anyone knows of a comm for things like this (group reading / read-togethers / readalongs / does anyone know if there's a name?); I was thinking of creating one, aimed at both sci-fi and fantasy readers, where those interested could post "testing interest levels" sorts of posts to find co-readers, links to any group-read they've organised in their journal, or place their "discussion posts" if they don't want to host such a thing on their personal journal...

Would anyone be interested? A number of people on my flist back on LJ would periodically do something like this, so I know other people enjoy readalongs, and thought it might be neat to collate all the relevant details in a comm, so if you couldn't quite remember where you made that post about [something you read with a group], you could find it again! :D

(Naturally, if anyone here is a sci-fi reader and would like to join the Foreigner readalong, you're very welcome! There are some more details in my most recent DW posts.)
boundbooks: Zhang Ziyi (stars: pale blue lights)
[personal profile] boundbooks
From the SFWA website's announcement:

"The 2011 Nebula Award Winners are:

Winning Novel: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Spectra)

Also Nominated:
The Native Star by M.K. Hobson (Spectra)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit UK; Orbit US)
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Echo by Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)

The rest of the winners. )

Poll #7043 My Thoughts on the Nebulas
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 9

Your Feelings on This Year's Nebulas: Pick As Many As Apply

Awesome, I loved all of the winners!
1 (11.1%)

Horrible, who was voting and can we dispose of them?
1 (11.1%)

Hm. I liked some!
4 (44.4%)

Hm. Some were okay.
0 (0.0%)

Hm. I didn't hate any.
0 (0.0%)

Nebulas. What are those?
1 (11.1%)

Meh, I spent the weekend checking for True Blood's starting date.
0 (0.0%)

I like ticky boxes.
6 (66.7%)

Bring on the 2012 Nebulas already
2 (22.2%)

I'm holding out for the Hugos.
2 (22.2%)



Further thoughts and options? Did someone get robbed? Did someone finally get recognized? Did your favorite book win (or lose)?

2010

Dec. 31st, 2010 11:00 pm
pippin: (Default)
[personal profile] pippin
So what were your favourite books from 2010? Your least favourite?

Are there any 2011 releases you're looking forward to?
heidicvlach: (Default)
[personal profile] heidicvlach
This post on mermaid variations got me thinking about dragon variations. The concept of a dragon is such universal imagination fuel, I'm sure there are more directions to worldbuild in.

The most common dragons are the serpentine/naga kind, and the dinosaur-like, bat-winged kind. Quetzalcoatl might be considered a feathered dragon, and I've seen artists drawing feathered dragons like six-limbed Archaeopteryx. General Earth consensus seems to be that dragons are markedly reptilian -- but feathered dragons do tie in well with the evolution of theropod dinosaurs into birds.

Has anyone found other interpretations of dragons? Insect-like dragons, maybe? I've seen a few designs of small dragons with insect wings, usually either a "dragon-fly" pun or a sort of dragon faerie. Are there mammalian dragons with more bat-like qualities than just the wings? Amphibious dragons like giant newts? Do sandworms count as worm-like wyrms? I'm wondering just how far the definition of "dragon" can stretch.
pale_moonlite: (Default)
[personal profile] pale_moonlite
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Pan Books, 2000. 867 pages.

Synopsis:

New Crobuzon is a giant metropolis that is inhabited by a variety of sentient species such as humans, khepri (insect women), cactacae (cactus people), garuda (bird people) and many more. It's a grim place, ruled by a corrupt government that enforces its power with the help of a brutal militia. Its technology is characterized by a mix of steampunk machinery and thaumaturgy (magic).

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is a rogue scientist renowned for his unorthodox research methods. When he isn't staying at his workplace, he's living with Lin, a khepri artist. Not entirely comfortable with being in an inter-racial relationship, he keeps her (mostly) a secret. Yagharek, a garuda from the desert whose wings have been cut off as a punishment, comes to New Crobuzon to engage Isaac's services, hoping that Isaac can help him to regain the power of flight. Isaac starts his research and eventually, all hell breaks loose.

My thoughts:

I had difficulties to summarize the plot and I still don't think I did it justice. The universe of Perdido Street Station is as complex as it's unusual and bizarre. I was immediately gripped by Miéville's powerful descriptions. The first one-third of the novel is entirely dedicated to world building and character development, and that's the part I loved best.

My favorite character was Lin. The story of her upbringing by a religiously zealot mother and her struggles with the norms of khepri society make her a fascinating, multi-layered personality. It's a pity to see her disappear midway through the novel. Miéville has lost the chance to create a truly exciting female protagonist here. I would have liked to like Derkhan, political activist, lesbian and close friend of Lin and Isaac, but as soon as the action/adventure plot starts, she's reduced to a mere sidekick.

The weak point of the novel is indeed the action/adventure part. As soon as the problem is developed, everything becomes predictable and there's even some sort of deus ex machina involved. I was glad for the unexpected twist in the ending. It was a bit annoying at first, but it definitely kept me thinking.

Perdido Street Station may have its weaknesses, but overall it's a captivating read. I'm looking forward to the next novel in this universe.
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
[personal profile] lea_hazel
Royalty and nobility are one of the most common conceits of epic fantasy. Almost every fantasy novel takes place in a world comprised of a series of kingdoms, or similarly structured alternatives. Epic plotlines usually follow the royalty or at least high nobility of one or more of these kingdoms. This applies doubly when the protagonist is a commoner; gaining access to the higher echelons of society is part of their reward.

When I tried to think about fantasy novels (excluding contemporary, and even those have their vampire kings and fairy queens) that defy this convention, I thought first of A Wizard of Earthsea. I may be misremembering, since I read it in translation years ago, but I don't recall Ged or any of the other major characters being noble. A few other books came to mind, where characters sometimes deal with nobility but don't wind up discovered as the long-lost heirs to something, or receiving a noble title, or anything.

I can't think of many fantasies that don't take place in a royal hierarchy, though. For some people, the crowns and swords and other medieval trappings are a major part of fantasy's charm, but it's still a pretty diverse genre. Do people think non-monarchic systems are too much of a divergence for fantasy, or does it just not occur to them that there are other options? Like the title says: If dragons -- then monarchy?
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
[personal profile] holyschist
I've been reading more speculative fiction online lately, particularly at Strange Horizons and Fantasy Magazine. Both have some really stunning work.

Recently I read Alaya Dawn Johnson's amazing Aztec-based fantasy story A Song to Greet the Sun (warning: potentially very triggery stuff, abuse and murder) and Alice Sola Kim's Beautiful White Bodies, which made it on the Tiptree honor list for 2009. I also loved Willow Fagan's my mother, the ghost.

Do you have favorite non-subscription online fiction magazines or stories? A favorite SFF author who has links to some of their work online? Please share!

(x-posted to [community profile] science_fiction and my personal journal)
pippin: (Default)
[personal profile] pippin
Do you listen to fantasy music? Most of the fantasy music I know is metal-based: Luca Turilli and Rhapsody (who sang with Christopher Lee), Blind Guardian (who did an album based on Tolkien's The Silmarillion).

Do you have a favourite fantasy song/album? Are there any big non-metal fantasist bands?
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
[personal profile] holyschist
I've been trying to review every book I read since January 2009 (am still behind on the end of 2009 and this February), so here are reviews of some of the fantasy books I've read so far this year. Links go to ful reviews.

Urban fantasy, Discworld, and fairytales )
pippin: (Default)
[personal profile] pippin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin.

I'm not really sure how this book, in its current form, got published. A couple of intriguing ideas shouldn't make lazy writing okay. Very disappointing. Hopefully it's just a severe case of debut-novel-itis and her next books will be more strongly constructed!

contains spoilers )
valtyr: (Infinity)
[personal profile] valtyr
These two novels are the first two by Kristin Cashore. They're young adult fantasy, and while Fire is set in the same world as Graceling, they only have a slight connection - they're set in neighbouring countries that don't really interact, and only share one character. (These reviews do not contain plot spoilers, but have some information about the world-building, so if you like to come to novels completely cold, don't click the cut!)

Reviews within )

Anyway, I really enjoyed both these book, I am eagerly awaiting the third, and I totally recommend them, for adults or young adults. (Fire does have a fair bit of discussion of rape, but there's nothing explicit and no rape is committed within the timeframe of the book.)
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
[personal profile] lea_hazel
What are you reading right now?

What upcoming books are you looking forward to, and when do you plan on getting/reading them?

I'll start )

ETA: I forgot to ask: Does anyone know of a community for mystery/detective books on DW? I searched the interests and checked the comm promotions, but couldn't find anything.
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