Book Review: The Shining Girls (Lauren Beukes)

Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Science Fiction/Thriller – Standalone Novel

After I enjoyed Zoo City, I put The Shining Girls on hold at my local library. It’s the story of a time-traveling serial killer hunting down the titular girls, each of whom ‘shine’ to him. It is also the story of his only survivor Kirby Mazrachi, who searches for her attacker and starts to uncover anachronistic details about him that lead her down strange and dark paths.

Let’s immediately start with a trigger warning for violence against women, including trans women, in the book, and discussion of violence against women in this review.

Continue reading Book Review: The Shining Girls (Lauren Beukes)

Thoughts on Across the Nightingale Floor (Lian Hearn)

Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn
Fantasy – Tales of the Otori #1

When young Takeo’s peaceful village is massacred, he is rescued by a mysterious stranger. From this stranger, he learns that his father was an assassin of great skill, and Takeo too possesses his preternatural combat skills.

I was attracted to the book’s feudal Japanese setting, and had heard great things about it. Sadly, aside from my one-sentence sum up, I can’t speak much further about the plot; this book is the first one since I began this project that I did not finish.

Continue reading Thoughts on Across the Nightingale Floor (Lian Hearn)

Links for Nerdy Procrastinators, March 27

It’s Friday! Would you like to spend some time being a nerd on the internet instead of doing whatever else you should probably be doing?  If so, here are some links I enjoyed this week!

 

Book Review: The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin)

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Science Fiction – Hainish Cycle #4 (but a perfect standalone read)

“I certainly wasn’t happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can’t earn, and can’t keep, and often don’t even recognize at the time; I mean joy.”

I thought that instead of writing a review here, I might just say “Ursula K. Le Guin is the best,” followed by a hundred exclamation marks. It’s still pretty tempting but I am going to try to put some of my excitement into actual logical sentences.

Your two-sentence plot synopsis: Genly Ai travels to icy Gethen, a planet whose inhabitants are neither male nor female, to try and obtain their membership in an intergalactic political collective. With his mission in danger of failing, Ai is forced to rely on his only Gethenian ally, Estraven, to guide him through the dangers of both Gethen’s politics and its brutal, unending winter.

Continue reading Book Review: The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin)

Tough Traveling: Beloved Mounts

Just today I came across this great feature Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, which explores favourite tropes of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Such a great idea! I’ve thrown down a couple of my favourite fantastical steeds off the top of my head for this week, and I’m hoping to start joining in the fun on a regular basis.

Bill the Pony, The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien)

When I think of fantasy mounts, the first ones that come to mind are those of Tolkien, primarily Shadowfax and the beautiful horses of Rohan. But then I remembered Bill the Pony, faithful steed of Samwise Gamgee and truly the most beloved of mounts. Seriously, is there a more heartbreaking moment than Sam saying goodbye to Bill outside of Moria? I don’t think so. Bill the Pony: ultimate badass, tenth member of the Fellowship of the Ring, and true hero of The Lord of the Rings. 

Drogon, A Dance with Dragons (George R. R. Martin)

So this is a fairly liberal interpretation of ‘mount’, since Daenerys rides him only once, very briefly. BUT it was so epic that it definitely deserves an entry on this list. I know I can’t be the only one hoping that if/when Dany finally gets to Westeros (probably 10 books from now) Drogon and Dany will have become a fantastic dragon-riding team raining death and destruction down on everyone.

The Bog Unicorn, Dragon Age Inquisition

I remember when it was announced that Dragon Age Inquisition would feature mounts. I was so excited! And then that one of preorder bonuses would be a mount that was…. a unicorn! What?! There are unicorns in the world of Dragon Age?! And I imagined myself riding around Thedas on a gleaming, sparkling unicorn, daisies sprouting under her hooves, adoring townspeople cheering us as we went about righting wrongs and destroying evil.

And then I saw the Bog Unicorn:

bog unicorn

That’s right, this “unicorn” is a rotting undead horse corpse with an old rusted sword driven through its head.

Best unicorn ever.

Book Review: Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo)

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Fantasy/Young Adult – Book #1 in The Grisha Trilogy

Bardugo’s trilogy, set in a fantasy world inspired by Czarist Russia, ended up on my to-read list after I began searching for fantasy outside of the typical Western European medieval setting. It begins, as many fantasy stories do, with a disadvantaged orphan who displays a unique magical talent that vaults her out of downtrodden obscurity. She is taken to train under the wing of the Darkling, Bardugo’s answer to Rasputin and the leader of an elite group of magic users called the Grisha.

Continue reading Book Review: Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo)

What am I Doing Wednesday (2)

This is a regular feature about what books you can expect to be reviewed in the near future as well as any TV, films, or video games I’ve seen/played throughout the week.

Reading
–   A great week for reading – I checked some heavy hitters off of the TBR list with Wild Seed, Alif the Unseen, and The Left Hand of Darkness, plus the unexpected addition of Fairest by Gail Carson Levine for some lighter material.
–   After months on the waitlist, I also picked up Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie from the library. Given my rapidly increasing backlog of books to review, though, it might be a while before I get to it. And also because:

Playing
–   BioWare totally pulled a Beyoncé and unexpectedly dropped Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC this week, which I will be playing the heck out of that for the foreseeable future. Nothing eats up all your free time like the awesomeness of a BioWare game!

Watching
–   Still Person of Interest, and I’m only a couple of episodes behind now. I ship Root and Shaw like nobody’s business. They would be the most amazing beautiful and slightly sociopathic couple ever to grace television with their presence.
–   Plus they have the most appropriate ship name ever, Shoot:

shoot

Love these ladies.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books from Childhood I’d Like to Revisit

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Dealing with Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede. Cimorene, the princess who fenced and conjugated Latin verbs and cooked cherries jubilee for dragons, was absolutely my hero as a child.
  2. The Story Box, Monica Hughes. This was an early childhood read for me and so I remember very, very little about this book… but I do recall how much I loved and identified with the protagonist, a girl who loved stories and had the same name as me (Jennifer).
  3. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer. I read this book so many times that I could actually recite the first chapter from memory for the longest time. “Ho Chi Minh city in the summer. Sweltering by anyone’s standards…”
  4. Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery. What young girl didn’t idolize Anne Shirley? It think that the romantic picture of maritime Canada these books painted for me in my formative years is part of why I decided to move there when I was 18 – so they actually had a pretty profound impact on my life.
  5. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster. I remember a talking dodecahedron and a lot of other delightfully whimsical things.
  6. The Black Cauldron, Lloyd Alexander. Will Fflewddur Fflam’s snapping harp strings still be as utterly hilarious as I thought they were back then?
  7. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle. This book really, really begs a reread, given how wonderful Meg Murry is and how little I was when I read it.
  8. A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett. Childhood Jenn wept great tears of over the plight of kind, imaginative, and generous Sara Crewe.  I have never reread it as an adult, though, partly because I have a deep-seated fear that I will discover that it’s actually a bit racist and/or classist.
  9. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I devoured every one of these books.
  10. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman. My recollections of His Dark Materials are coloured by the fact I didn’t like the introduction of a new male protagonist when I loved Lyra so much… and I was super annoyed by their eventual romance. I was, like, twelve. I didn’t want to read about that crap. But I think it deserves a second chance from older-and-wiser Jenn… I remember how thrilled I was when I first started the books to be reading a fantasy novel about someone just like me (a little girl).

And regarding a conspicuous absence: Harry Potter is not on this list, because this is about books from childhood you’d like to revisit…. and realistically I can’t revisit Harry Potter because I haven’t stopped reading it for the last 17 years.

What childhood books would you like to revisit?

Diversity on the Shelf Challenge 2015

I’m still getting a handle on this book blogging world, but one of the things I’m seeing a lot of is the reading challenge. Obviously, I am already completing a significant challenge of my own this year by reading female authors… but in addition to that, I’m taking a look at some other goals I’d like to set myself in my reading. Which leads me to my first ever official book-blogging challenge: Diversity on the Shelf, hosted by My Little Pocketbooks.

My Little Pocketbooks

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Book Review: The Tamir Triad (Lynn Flewelling)

Review: The Tamir Triad (The Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, The Oracle Queen) by Lynn Flewelling
Fantasy – Trilogy

At the behest of an Oracle, the nation of Skala has been ruled by a line of warrior queens for centuries—until an usurper steals his younger sister’s throne, and outbreaks of war, disease, and famine begin plaguing the country. As the new king solidifies his power, women in the royal line start dying off under mysterious circumstances. So when the king’s sister gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl, their parents enlist the help of magic to switch their bodies. In the process, they sacrifice their infant son so that their daughter might live to take back the throne and set things right. Continue reading Book Review: The Tamir Triad (Lynn Flewelling)