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Been sort of slow around here lately. Toby ended up with a terrific cold from the party we went to a week ago, so has been croaking around the house. (He also went down to Austin on Saturday to game, before he realized it was a cold and not just allergies, so is now feeling terribly guilty about infecting anyone down there.)

I also recently finished Zen Cho's Spirits Abroad,Read more... )

Spirits Abroad was good enough that I had the problem of trying to figure out what to read after it, because anything not as good would seem terrible in comparison. I ended up with Sarah Monette's The Bone Key,Read more... )

I'd also read Mercedes Lackey's most recent, Closer to Home: Book One of Herald Spy.Read more... )

And last night we finally sat down and watched the first episode of Constantine. Verdict: Read more... )

And one last media review. Toby and I went to see John Wick on Friday night. Verdict: Read more... )

And that is all the media I have been consuming recently, aside from the usual steady stream of House Hunters International, Face Off, and Project Runway (which, BTW, is getting suckier and suckier by the minute).
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I'm not sure why I originally downloaded the sample of To Play the Lady by Naomi Lane to my Kindle. I must have either run across a mention elsewhere or found it during one of my periodic trawls through the Customers Also Bought section of some page, sent the sample to myself, and then promptly forgot about it. Either way, I'm glad I did. Send it to myself, not forgot about it.

It's a self-published YA fantasy novel I found reminiscent of Mercedes Lackey* and Tamora Pierce. 12-year-old tomboy Jenna Mallory, half Salaran and half-Rahtani, has been accepted to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen while her brother has gone for knight training. Jenna (of course) gets sucked into palace intrigue and discovers that she has unusual, and unusually strong, magical talents.
Read more... )
Amazon: To Play the Lady (Sevalian Chronicles) ($2.99 Kindle, $13.99 dead-tree, part of the Kindle Lending Library)

* Well, the bits of Lackey I like, not (most of) the bits I rail against.
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The Bedlam Detective: A Novel by Stephen Gallagher.

Victorian mystery: Sebastian Becker is an ex-Pinkerton who moved with his family (wife, sister-in-law, son) back to England after quitting Pinkertonning. He works for the British government investigating claims of lunacy in wealthy landowners who may not be capable of managing their own affairs. During the course of one of his investigations he encounters the murder of two young girls, which fit into a pattern of attacks and disappearances over years in their village. The wealthy landowner in question claims fantastic beasts attacked them, and Becker seeks the truth.

Verdict: okay until (spoiler: rot13) Orpxre'f jvsr trgf sevqtrq sbe ab ernfba bgure guna gb tvir uvz zber znacnva. Znacnva juvpu svaqf n erfbyhgvba gbb dhvpxyl: juvyr vg'f zbaguf va gur punenpgre'f yvsr, vg'f nobhg 20% bs gur obbx va gur ernqre'f grezf, fb vg frrzf nyzbfg vafgnagnarbhf gung ur jbexf vg bhg. Not sure why the author thought it was necessary: Becker's past, in which he witnessed an execution-style killing of an innocent man and didn't say anything because he didn't want to break cover, offered plenty of manpain for the character to angst over. He didn't need more.

I liked the portrayal of his son, who in modern terms would be somewhere on the autism spectrum: unable to function very well when it comes to normal social niceties, but with great powers of focus on the things that catch his interest. So his parents worry that he won't be able to work, and aren't really sure what's going on with him, and love him as best they can.
telophase: (Gorilla - exasperated)
Welp, we went and saw Prometheus.

Read more... )


Jun. 9th, 2012 07:29 pm
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Down in Austin right now. Toby's playing his RPGs and I'm over at the house of friends amusing myself while he's over there. I came down with him this time as we spent Friday night in Wimberley visiting family.

Anyway, I took the opportunity to take myself to the Alamo Drafthouse to see Snow White and the Huntsman. I really had the urge to live-tweet it, except that the AD will TOSS YOU OUT ON YOUR EAR if you're doing that. Alas, for the movie sort of called for it.

There were many cool bits in it, but it never really jelled for me into a coherent whole. Chris Hemsworth really does the scruffy looker well, doesn't he?

Also I never had noted the need to create a love triangle in Snow White. Hmmmm.
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Redshirts, by John Scalzi: Fun read. It sort-of went where I expected it to, but it was a fun ride getting there, so I wasn't disappointed. And the Three Codas at the end -- basically, three additional short stories that move on from the events of the novel -- take the time to explore the philosophical and emotional aspects of the story that the story itself didn't get to do (because they would have been out of place and from the wrong characters' P.O.V.)

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And also: Name of the Wind - FINISHED. Review: Enh. Readable, but not captivating. I'll probably pick up the sequel when I'm next in the mood for big fat fantasy, but I'm not feeling the urge to immediately read it. It helped that I knew Kvothe was a Gary Stu of Stus going in, otherwise it would probably have put me off.

In the fiction queue: Scalzi's Redshirts, Van Name's Slanted Jack*, and Burgis' Renegade Magic.

* A milSF series about man and his sentient tank. I read the first one some time ago and liked it in that popcorn-reading sort of way. Tried SJ once and wandered off a short way in, but there's a couple more later in the series that sound more interesting so I'm going to give SJ another try first.
telophase: (goku - reading)
After waking up at 4:17 AM and not getting back to sleep again due to gut rumbling and brain whirring, I finally crashed at...12:30? 1:30? I don't know; I didn't check. Awake again at 5:30 PM. I could have slept longer, but I'd just wake up again at some wee hour of the morning whether I needed to or not so I'm trying to stay awake until closer to a reasonable bedtime.

The good part is that I got two books and a short story read! I've only been meaning to sit down and read actual books instead of the intartubes or something else since November. :/ But they were all good!

At any rate:

1. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. (Generic Western European-inspired fantasy)

Celie is the youngest daughter of a king who reigns from a constantly-shifting castle, which is always adding rooms or taking them away. She has a special connection to it. When her parents and oldest brother are missing, feared dead, she and her remaining brother and sister have to fight palace intrigue with the aid of the castle, which has its own ideas about who is and is not king.
Read more... )

2. Pig, Crane, Fox (Lóng City) Short story in ebook format by Beth Bernobich. (East Asian-inspired fantasy)

I've had the sample for the book mentioned below lurking on my Kindle for quite some time, but couldn't bring myself to buy the full book because although there was no mention of a prequel, the book read as if there were a whole story that had happened previously to it, and I really hate the feeling that I've missed the first book in a series. Well, there was a reason for that: this short story was the story that happened previously to it. I bought it, read it, then immediately bought the novel.
Read more... )

3. Fox and Phoenix by Beth Bernobich (East Asian-inspired fantasy)

One year after the events of the short story, Kai's gang is drifting apart in the aftermath of the events. Court intrigue has resulted in the king's falling deathly ill. Nobody can contact his daughter, and so the king of the ghost dragons, which has deep ties to the monarchy, sends Kai packing off to the neighboring Empire to go fetch her.
Read more... )

Anyway, my power supply is on its last legs. We replaced it, but the replacement turned out to have a fault, so it got shipped back today and the old one put back in until the next one shows up. I don't want to overstress the current one too much, so I'll be scarce online from anything other than my iPhone or Toby's iPad until it gets here and gets installed. If you want to talk about the above books, or recommend me ones that you think I'd like, I'll be checking comments via phone. :)
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Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is a high-budget kick flick based on the legendary figure of Judge Dee (original Chinese historical and fictionalized person, Western popularization). Toby and I went to see it Saturday night.

In short: pretty good kick flick harmed by a crappy translation in the subtitles. It didn't help that the subtitles were very quick on the screen -- I read pretty damn fast, so subtitles usually don't bother me and I usually prefer subtitled versions, but the visuals were so gorgeous that I wanted to spend time looking at them and didn't get much of a chance to if I wanted to follow the plot. Toby reads more slowly than I do, and was sleepy, so kept losing track of what was going on. But he agrees it was visually lush.

The movie is set during the Tang Dynasty, as Empress Wu (historical person), who's been ruling the empire as regent for 8 years, is preparing for her official coronation. Officials are starting to be killed in a mysterious way where they burn up from inside, and nobody can solve the mystery. So she releases Dee (Westernized to "Detective" Dee, presumably because us Westerners would get confused as to why a judge/minister/court official is investigating mysteries) from the prison where he'd been sentenced to hard labor for 8 years for opposing her and leading a revolutionary faction. He sets to work, accompanies by the Empress' right-hand woman and bodyguard Jing'er, and Dongling (I'm using the subtitles' transliteration of the names), whose exact position I managed to completely miss, but who is also a well-trained fighter. As is Dee, which allows for a lot of fights.

Anyway, it drags a bit about the 3/4 mark, when we found ourselves sort of wishing for the fights to stop and the plot to get on with it. It also technically passes the Bechdel test thanks to a conversation between Wu and Jing'er early on, where we learn how much Wu trusts Jing'er and how loyal Jing'er is.

Jing'er is also, for the first 3/4 of the movie, a fantastic character who I really liked, but her characterization falls apart near the end. Until then, she's great and I love that when she hares off after an opponent Dee's reaction is "She knows where to meet us," and he continues doing what he's doing.

When Dongling first appeared on the scene, I thought "Uh-oh!" as the character is an albino, (albinos seem to be portrayed as evil more often than not in fiction), and wasn't much comforted when he was shown to be unnecessarily cruel in his first scenes.* But without revealing too much about the plot, I can say that I thought he ended up as my favorite character by the end. I also liked how Empress Wu is portrayed as a very ambitious woman who is willing to sacrifice everything for power, but without the usual detritus that surrounds portrayals of powerful women and turns them into ball-busting bitches. She is not a nice person by any means, but her primary concern is holding power and she subordinates everything to that and uses any means necessary except seduction.

I also liked the worldbuilding of this fantastical version of the Tang capital, with the ruins of the previous city underneath the current one hosting an underworld, the Phantom Bazaar. It is also, if you accept the premise that Taoist practices/beliefs like acupuncture are science in the world of this movie, a low-magic (or no-magic) world.

Lots of wire-fu, of course. (Sammo Hung was the action director.) There is also ridiculously over-the-top assassination attempts and people try to solve problems by throwing lots of expendable soldiers at them.

There is also, much to my surprise, stag-fu. You'll just have to watch it for yourself.

* He does wear a rather fetching bonnet. And dresses all in black, thus becoming the equivalent of the silver-haired character who dresses in black in Japanese anime.


Aug. 17th, 2011 02:35 pm
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Ashfall, by Mike Mullin. ARC read through NetGalley.

So I've been saying for years that the disaster novel I want to read is the one where the Yellowstone supervolcano blows. When this YA novel about a teenager living through it came across NetGalley, I figured: why not?

Alex is 15 and at home alone when the Yellowstone supervolcano blows, his family visiting relatives 140 miles away. He sets out on a trek to find them, meeting Darla, another teenager, along the way.

Well, hm. This isn't the disaster novel I wanted to read. This is DOOM piled upon DOOM piled upon DOOM with a wee little thread of hope. I'm not arguing that DOOM DOOM DOOM hope isn't realistic in the case of a supervolcano; it's that it turns out that what I really want to read is a classic disaster novel about Yellowstone blowing, with several POVs telling the story, most likely one of them either the President or someone close to him or her and another one probably a near-alcoholic news reporter dealing with the dregs of a troubled marriage, and another one a vulcanologist who's been blowing the alarms for years that everyone thinks is just crying wolf. You know, that sort of disaster novel.*

As a teen, however, I might have been all over Ashfall, with its apocalyptic dystopia and the theme of teens maturing in the face of disaster (and bonus martial arts), but it's not a book that speaks to me now.

If you've got an older teen who's into apocalypses or a younger teen who's into them who can handle some fairly direct violence (it's a apocalypse: people die and people kill, in not-pretty ways), hand them a copy. If you've got issues with responsibly-handled teen sex in a world where teenagers have to be adults, then it may not be the book for you.

* The one that Mother of Storms could have been without the creepy stuff, which luckily I don't remember.

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