Tough Traveling: The Heist/The Con

Today is Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, exploring favourite fantastical tropes. This week is: HEISTS/CONS

Smash and grabs are not always the best way to illicitly acquire objects in fantasy land. Sometimes these things take planning, a loyal crew, and a little bit of luck. But a good crew can always get the job done.

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What I’m Doing Wednesday (May 27, 2015)

I actually did stuff this week!

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and I am really loving it so far.  I’m hoping to finally get up a review of Station Eleven this week as well.

Started (another) Inquisition play through, this time on nightmare and with friendly-fire on… In Your Heart Shall Burn was an unmitigated disaster on the first couple of attempts, but it could be going a lot worse!

I watched the second season of the worst/best show on television, Hannibal. It’s actually been two years since I saw the first season because it took me that long to emotionally recover enough to start another one. Season 2 was pretty much what I expected based on season 1: beautiful, disgusting, thought-provoking, absurd, horrifying, intelligent, and soul-crushing… it’s a show that evokes strong and conflicting emotions.  I have a lot of feelings about this season, particularly as an adaptation of the Thomas Harris books – but that’s too long to be included here, so I’ll just offer a few thoughts that stand out to me after finishing the show:

  • How. How. HOW is this show on network television??? (I said this to myself at least five times every episode)
  • I’m still processing, but that season finale might be the most beautiful, tragic, and utterly fucked up hour of television I have ever seen.
  • I just typed “is your social” into google and the top suggestion is “Is your social worker in that horse” which must be very confusing for people who have really normal questions about things like social insurance numbers or social security checks. Thank you, Hannibal.
  • You hear often, and rightly so, how great the acting, directing,  and cinematography in on this show… but not enough is said about the audio design. In general, the sound and music was brilliant. My favourite might be the Mason Verger scenes in episode 12: that morbidly comedic music is is the stuff of terrifying circus nightmares. It’s freaking me out just thinking about it.

Season 3 starts in 1 week. I’m not at all sure I’m ready.

Book Review: Feed (Mira Grant)

Review: Feed by Mira Grant
Post-apocalyptic / #1 of 3, Newsflesh Trilogy

“This is the truth: We are a nation accustomed to being afraid… Fear justifies everything. Fear makes it okay to have surrendered freedom after freedom, until our every move is tracked and recorded in a dozen databases the average man will never have access to. Fear creates, defines, and shapes our world, and without it, most of us would have no idea what to do with ourselves. Our ancestors dreamed of a world without boundaries, while we dream new boundaries to put around our homes, our children, and ourselves. We limit our potential day after day in the name of a safety that we refuse to ever achieve. We took a world that was huge with possibility, and we made it as small as we could.”

Feed is the story of Georgia and Shaun Mason, a brother and sister team of bloggers who have lived all of their lives in the zombie apocalypse. They get their big break when they are assigned to report on the American presidential campaign, but in reporting the campaign they uncover a conspiracy that threatens all of their lives.  The setting of is atypical of a zombie novel in that humanity has adapted its technology and culture in order to (semi-successfully) manage the zombie outbreak. For example, people use a variety of security and field testing procedures to try and prevent the spread of zombification, and only those with the proper permits are allowed into unregulated danger zones.

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Book Review: Cold Magic (Kate Elliott)

Review: Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
Fantasy – #1 out of 3, Spiritwalker Trilogy

“A drowned land stretched beneath the waves: a forest of trees, a road paved of fitted stone; and a round enclosure, its walls built of white stone shimmering within the deep and pierced by four massive gates hewn of ivory, pearl, jade, and bone. The curling ribbons rippling along its contours were not currents of tidal water but banners sewn of silver and gold.

So does the spirit world enchant the unwary and lead them onto its perilous paths.”

Kate Elliott describes Cold Magic as an “Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency novel with airships, Phoenician spies, and the intelligent descendents of troödons”, and I really don’t think I can top that fabulous description. Cold Magic is set in an alternate version of Europe that has been colonized by the Mali Empire and the Celts, and seems to be in the throes of both an ice age and the Industrial Revolution. Protagonist Catherine Hassi Barahel leads a pretty comfortable, middle class life, going to school and gossiping with her cousin about boys… until (there’s always an ‘until’, right?) she ends up the victim of a contract signed by her family and is handed over to Andevai, a dangerous, powerful cold mage. She is immersed in the highly political power struggles of the mages, and begins to discover that she has a unique affinity for the spirit world.

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Tough Traveling: The Weasel

Today is Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, exploring favourite fantastical tropes. This week is THE WEASEL:

Weasels are usually very useful, obtaining information from unlikely sources and the like. For that matter they may be fun to be around. But can they ever really be trusted? Usually about as far as they can be thrown, but one never knows.

I have the terrible feeling this week like I’m forgetting so many obvious examples.  I will look forward to reading everyone else’s and seeing what I missed, because I couldn’t come up with much in the way of literary examples of this trope!

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What I’m Doing Wednesday (May 13, 2015)

Ok, a confession. I can’t think of anything interesting I’ve done this week.  It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I’m realizing now that  I should probably have kept some extra stuff in the pipeline to prepare for busier times like this.  But I’m hoping to be back to business as usual, with reviews coming, in the next couple of days (hopefully I’ll be able to throw something together for Tough Traveling tomorrow!)… and I’m living and learning in regards to this whole blogging business.

Sorry for being boring this week – here, have some music in lieu of an real post, since what I’m actually doing this Wednesday is learning this beautiful beast of a piece!

What I’m Doing Wednesday (May 6, 2015)

Whoa! Is it Wednesday already? I have to confess that with the nice weather finally having arrived in Canada (unless you’re in Alberta, where it snowed today…. sorry guys) I have been craving outside time, and consequently done a lot less blog-related leisure activities.

I’ve been reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Recently finished and with reviews to come soon (hopefully) are Cold Magic by Kate Elliott and Feed by Mira Grant.

I did catch up on the first episode of Game of Thrones. A bit slow, right? And where was my promised Dorne?! But on the other hand I would 100% watch a show that was just Varys and Tyrion interacting with each other. They are both fantastic.

More outside time also includes quality time with my favourite fitness app, Zombies, Run! and the love of my life Sam Yao. I would describe it as a game/radio drama where you run from the zombies in real life. I am hoping that this is the year where my running schedule finally catches up with the episodes being released… I would only have to go for 49 runs before season 4 is released on May 14!  …That’s totally reasonable, right?

Book Review: Alif the Unseen (G. Willow Wilson)

Review: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
Urban fantasy – Standalone

“I was afraid you’d turn into one of those literary types who say books can change the world when they’re feeling good about themselves and it’s only a book when anybody challenges them… You can speak casually about burning the Alf Yeom for the same reason you’d be horrified if I suggested burning the Satanic Verses—because you have reactions, not convictions.”

A young hacker, going by the nickname Alif, finds himself the target of an authoritarian government when he creates a highly desirable and dangerous computer program, able to identify people via keystroke patterns. The political and the technological collide with the spiritual and fantastical when Alif is given an ancient book of tales (the Alf Yeom) told by the jinn, creatures out of Arabian mythology who turn out to be not so mythological.  It transpires that the Alf Yeom contains a key of some kind, and it is up to Alif and his allies to try and keep both the Alf Yeom and his program out of the wrong hands.

G. Willow Wilson is best known right now for being the writer behind the new and very popular comic series featuring Kamala Khan, a young American Muslim woman, taking up the mantle of superhero Ms. Marvel. I am not much of a comics reader, but having heard such good stuff about Wilson, I still very much wanted to read her writing. Picking up her debut novel seemed the perfect way to do this, and for some extra motivation it was also the book of the month for March at the Mary Sue Regulars Book Club.

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