Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: The Emperor's Blades


17910124Title: The Emperor's Blades
Author: Brian Staveley
Genre: Fantasy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.
His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.
Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to an empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

One of the reasons I get annoyed when I read a bunch of fantasy novels in a row is that they often end up being loosely the same story over and over again. There is some sort of hero and some sort of deep dark evil and magical friends and foes that help the hero conquer all as s/he undergoes some sort of cathartic self-discovering journey. But this? This is definitely not one of those books.

The Emperor's blades is interesting in that it tracks the lives of three siblings in the wake of their father's death. Their father happens to be the emperor, and each of the three are scattered across different corners of the empire, and living completely different lives. It's almost like reading three different fantasy novels: one where the hero joins an order of monks and must discover something within in order to overcome external challenges, one where young men and women are trained to be assassins but must face rivalry and betrayal, and one where a woman must maneuver through political scheming to uncover the truth of what happened to her father.

Each of the characters was compelling in their own right. I wish I'd gotten to see more of Adare's POV and her dealing with politics, but I didn't feel like there was a lack of female characters in this book. There were a lot of badass and intelligent women training alongside Valyn to become Kettral; my problem was not that the women weren't present but that they were sometimes only there as eye-candy for the men (ahem Kaden and Valyn) or for the development the male characters.
I am mainly upset about the fact that Lin had to die in order to help Valyn grow...that whole awesome female character turned into a cheap way to help the men along . Hopefully that changes in book 2.


I do enjoy familiar elements in stories, and this definitely takes familiar elements of fantasy stories but puts them together in unexpected ways. I am very fond of stories that features siblings and friends front and center instead of romances, so I am excited to see what happens when these three siblings come together. As of the end of this book, it seems like the siblings may not be on the same sides of the many conflicts going on; I'm excited to see how this plays out.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Gentleman Bastards (Re)Readalong: Official Kickoff



The Gentleman Bastards Rereadalong begins in just a few days! I'm posting the official schedule (and giveaway!) so that you can all get ready to start reading on June 1st. Fantasy fans, people who love a good con story, people who have never heard of this series, people who already know and love Jean and Locke...all of you are welcome to join in the fun! I'M SO EXCITED!




Anywaaaaaaaays, in case you missed the first post in which I discussed my Gentleman Bastards obsession and the reason for the readalong, the fourth book in the series will be coming out this September. This readalong is to make sure the first three books are fresh in everyone's minds when they pick up Thorn of Emberlain!

But what if I didn't already buy Thorn of Emberlain?

First of all, shame on you. Second of all, I'm here to help!

 I'll be giving away one pre-order of Thorn of Emberlain through Book Depository, and anyone can join as long as TBD ships to your country. 


My goal is to get discussion going and have people talk to each other about the books, so the more you comment on things, the more chances you have at winning the giveaway. Just fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the page! Giveaway ends Friday, August 22, midnight PST. That way I can announce the winner before the end of the readalong.

Logistics

If you're tweeting as you (re)read, use the hashtag #SSJeanLocke or send your tweets to @spidersilksnow and I'll spread the love!

If you are blogging about the readalong and have your own posts, be sure to link back to this post. Leave your links in the comments or tweet them with the hashtag above and I'll be sure to stop by.

If you only want to read the first book with us or if you ever get bogged down with LIFE, no pressure! This is supposed to be fun, so don't feel like you need to commit to the full three months. I'd love to have you, of course, but I understand that keeping to a schedule for this long can be tough. On that note, feel free to read ahead as well, but make sure not to spoil anything on each week's update post.

Schedule

The general goal is one book a month for June, July, and August. That way everyone can also keep up with their busy reading schedules. Some books are a lot heftier than others, but I don't think you'll ever have to read more than 200 pages in a week.


The Lies of Locke Lamora (book 1)
June 1 – June 7
Prologue, Book I (Chapters 1-3)
June 8 –  June 14
Book II (Chapters 4-8)
June 15 – June 21
Book III, Chapters 9-13
June 22 – June 28
Finish Book III, Epilogue
Red Seas Under Red Skies (Book 2)
June 29 – July 5
Prologue, Chapters 1-4
July 6 – July 12
Reminiscence, finish book I
July 13 – July 19
Chapters 8-12
July 20 – July 26
Chapters 13-16, Epilogue
Republic of Thieves (Book 3)
July 27 – August 2
Prologue, Chapters 1-2 (and the interludes following)
August 3 – August 9
Chapters 3-5
August 10 – August 16
Interlude after Ch5, finish Part II
August 17 – August 23
Chapters 8-9 (and the interludes following)
August 24 – August 30
Finish Part III, Epilogue

Things to look forward to:



  • Theories and connections across different books (for those of you who aren't rereading, don't worry, I'll always mark spoilers)
  • Fan art and other cool things
  • Fun Quizzes (Which Gentleman Bastard are you?)
  • Anything else I can come up with...

Giveaway!

And that's a wrap! I will see you all in a few days!


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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: The Water Knife


17928887Title: The Water Knife
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Science fiction, dystopia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
WATER IS POWER

The American Southwest has been decimated by drought. Nevada and Arizona skirmish over dwindling shares of the Colorado River, while California watches, deciding if it should just take the whole river all for itself. Into the fray steps Las Vegas water knife Angel Velasquez. Detective, assassin, and spy, Angel “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and its boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert and that anyone who challenges her is left in the gutted-suburban dust.
When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel is sent to investigate. With a wallet full of identities and a tricked-out Tesla, Angel arrows south, hunting for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive. There, Angel encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist, who knows far more about Phoenix’s water secrets than she admits, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant, who dreams of escaping north to those places where water still falls from the sky.
As bodies begin to pile up and bullets start flying, the three find themselves pawns in a game far bigger, more corrupt, and dirtier than any of them could have imagined. With Phoenix teetering on the verge of collapse and time running out for Angel, Lucy, and Maria, their only hope for survival rests in one another’s hands.  But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.

So intense and gritty but terrifyingly plausible.

Like all of Bacigalupi's novels, The Water Knife takes an environmental issue that we don't think too much about and then examines what would happen if that issue was the reason the world ended. In this case, it's a scarcity of water. California walls itself off (as a Californian, YES that's exactly what we would do) and the neighboring states fight for rights to use rivers and other water sources. The fighting ranges from bureaucrats making underhand deals to assassins sent out to kill people for political advantage to dying, thirsty people on the streets fighting tooth and nail for a drop of water. The great thing is that you get to see the conflict from all angles, and everyone believes they're on the right side.

When I say this book is gritty and intense, I mean it. I thought I'd read bad torture scenes in grimdark fantasy novels, but they've got nothing on this book. I was physically sick and had to stop reading for a bit, which hasn't ever happened before. This book is not for the faint of heart!

Although the story is about water scarcity, it is extremely character-centric. You get to know everyone, from a journalist on the field to a mercenary to a young girl who doesn't realize just how important she is. In the end, you know not all of them can have happy endings because they are all on different sides of the conflict, but you still want to root for them anyway. I really appreciated how Bacigalupi focused on each character as a person and a human being instead of just as pawns or as their role in the water conflict.

In short, highly recommended if you're in the mood for something dark but eye-opening.

*A free eARC was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review*

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Monday, May 25, 2015

The Supremely Fabulous Fantasy Subgenre Flowchart


Way back during Sci-Fi November, I made a flowchart of Science fiction subgenres so that everyone could find the sub-genre that they liked the most. The idea was that people could find recommendations in genres they didn't normally read, and maybe find a new favorite series or subgenre.

It was way more popular than I imagined it would be, and a lot of you readers asked for a fantasy flowchart.

Well, 6 months later, here it is!

Again, some subgenres I made up and some are standard. I have read/watched most of these, but there are a few I haven't because I'm not familiar with every subgenre of fantasy. If you would like more suggestions in any of these genres, feel free to ask! I obviously couldn't fit all my suggestions on this tiny flowchart :)

Fantasy Subgenre Flowchart



You can always find the Sci-fi and Fantasy subgenre flowcharts by clicking on the SF/F Subgenre Flowcharts tab at the top of the page.


Did you find a new subgenre to try? Any recommendations that I missed?


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: Outlander

Outlander (Outlander #1)Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Fantasy, historical fiction, adult

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life . . . and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire . . . and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I'm very late to this bandwagon, but better late than never! I really enjoy fantasy novels and historical fiction, and since this is a little bit of both, it was right up my alley. I honestly didn't need much convincing to pick up this book; it was more the fact that I had to wait for months to get my hands on a library copy (why is it that books become so much more popular once there are shows and movies about them? Rhetorical question. I know why, but that doesn't make it less annoying!).

I honestly knew nothing about this book going into it other than the fact that Claire gets transported back in time and that everyone I know was fangirling over Jaime on the show. I was half expecting this to be a thinly-veiled romance novel given all the fangirling, but thankfully there was a lot more to the story than just a love story. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate love stories, it's just that I think there is a lot more to life than romance and I prefer not to read books that have nothing more than that.

Claire a remarkably strong-willed woman who was not about to follow historical stereotypes about what she could or couldn't do, and I loved that about her. She is often impulsive and a little foolish, but she is so brave and resourceful and not afraid of expressing herself. It was really refreshing after reading a lot of male-gaze fantasy novels to see a woman who was portrayed as someone with agency, especially one who was respected and loved for her skills and sharp tongue rather than her beautiful body.

Jaime, though...I have some problems with him. Yes, it was a different time, and yes, he was brought up in a more savage environment than we 21st century readers are used to. I'm not even referring to that scene. I'm referring to the multiple times when he would try and get Claire into bed and then she would say "No. You're hurting me" and he'd say something like, "Well, I know that you like it when it hurts so I'm just going to keep going anyway!" (I'm supposed to root for this guy??). Maybe I'm being hypersensitive, but this is exactly the sort of thing that perpetuates rape culture and I'm just not okay with that.

Other than that, though, Jaime was a sweet guy and my favorite part of the book was when we saw his relationship with his sister. The Frasiers are a hot-tempered and quick-tongued bunch, and their brother-sister shouting match sounds exactly like something me and my little brother would do (albeit about far more mundane things haha).

I was not expecting to see so much historical detail and political maneuvering in this book, and that was really cool. I know next to nothing about 18th century Scottish/English politics, and it was really interesting to learn about that time in history. I thought the author did a fantastic job of bringing the time period alive in terms of language, the way characters acted, and just little things like the differences in medicine Claire notices and the witch-hunting paranoia.

I definitely enjoyed this book, but this series is so huge I don't know if I will ever finish it! I'll definitely give the second book a shot though.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 54 - Book to Movie/TV adaptations



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Movie/TV show adaptations of books I've read

Sometimes movies and TV shows do a great job of portraying the spirit of the books they're based on, and sometimes they really don't. Here are a few adaptations I loved and some that I felt were lacking.

Great Adaptations

1. The Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay
     

Stunning visuals, pitch-perfect portrayal of the characters, and just enough new changes to keep the movies fresh.

2. Harry Potter


The movies captured the spirit of the books so well, and again, all the actors did an amazing job of portraying the beloved book characters. Some movies did better than others, but I'm generally really happy with these!

3. The Book Thief   
I was really nervous about watching this because The Book Thief is one of my favorites. I shouldn't have been worried, because this movie captured the mood and the beauty of the book so well. The actors who played Leisel and Rudy looked exactly like I'd imagined them in my head!

4. Sherlock
   
This series takes all the little details that made the books so clever and interesting and spins them into the modern age. The cinematography is beautiful, and I love how they revamped this classic for the modern age!

5. The Princess Bride

I still find the book a lot funnier, but I really liked this classic adaptation of a beloved book. It's just as poignant, eccentric, and vivid as the book.
6. V for Vendetta
  
This one is adapted from a graphic novel, and the movie is one of my favorites ever! A few scenes really evoked the feeling of a comic book without making it over-the-top. The movie was just as dark and intriguing as the graphic novel.

7. The Prestige
One of my favorite movies, hands down. This is one of the few cases where I'll say I liked the movie far more than the book. The movie was breathtaking, and the book was just puzzling and tiresome.

Not-Great Adaptations

1. Eragon
I don't remember anything about this movie other than the fact that pre-teen me was very upset with it. So upset that I apparently blocked it from my memory haha

2. Ender's Game
Okay, it's not absolutely terrible, but I felt like it didn't do the book justice.

3. Ella Enchanted
This movie was such a trainwreck! A random evil uncle was added to the movie and a lot of fun things from the books were taken out...I think childhood me actually stomped off in a huff when it was over.
(I sense an E theme here...hmmm)
4. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
 
Don't even get me started on the 2.5 hour pointless fight scene that was this movie...

Adaptations I want to see but haven't gotten to yet:


1. Outlander
2. Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant
3. Game of Thrones, maybe...
4. Gone Girl

Agree? Disagree completely? Any other adaptations I should try?

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