Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Fantasy/Young Adult – #1 Howl Series
“‘What do you mean by having this great ugly castle rushing about the hills and frightening everyone in Market Chipping to death?’
Howl shrugged. ‘What an outspoken old woman you are! I’ve reached that stage in my career when I need to impress everyone with my power and wickedness. I can’t have the King thinking well of me. And last year I offended someone very powerful and I need to keep out of their way.’”
As the eldest of three daughters, Sophie has resigned herself to an unadventurous life taking over her parents’ hat shop in the town of Market Chipping. Then one day, she somehow incurs the wrath of the evil Witch of the Wastes, who punishes her by turning her into an old woman. Taking this unexpected turn of events well in stride, Sophie decides to seek help at the home of the powerful and narcissistic Wizard Howl, well known for both his mysterious moving castle and his apparent penchant for stealing (and possibly eating) the hearts of young girls.
Continue reading Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Fantasy/Mythology – Standalone
“Hadn’t I been faithful? Hadn’t I waited, and waited, and waited, despite the temptation – almost the compulsion – to do otherwise? And what did I amount to, once the official version gained ground? An edifying legend. A stick used to beat other women with. Why couldn’t they be as considerate, as trustworthy, as all-suffering as I had been?”
I want to start this review by noting that Librarything.com suggested this book is often tagged ‘children’s stories’. THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S STORY! Seriously! Who is giving this to children to read?! Do you want to scar your children for life???
Now that we have that out of the way… The Penelopiad is the story of Homer’s epic the Odyssey, retold from the point of view of his doting wife, Penelope. After the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus’ travels home are constantly waylaid. As he spends years adventuring around the Mediterranean, at home Penelope waits for him, hearing tales of his heroics and fending off increasingly insistent suitors who hope to acquire Odysseus’ land and wealth.
Continue reading Book Review: The Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Review: Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
Young Adult/Post-Apocalyptic – Putnam Juvenile – Standalone
Hurricane Katrina was only the beginning for New Orleans in this alternate future, where the city has been struck by a string of hurricanes. The storms culminate in the devastating Hurricane Jesus, which brings with it a bloodborn virus – the Delta Fever – presumed to have wiped out all life in the city.
In reality, though, survivors carry on, divided into tribes by their blood types. The O types do not suffer the effects of Delta Fever as the others do, and consequently are the target of hunts and raids by the other tribes, who are in constant need of fresh infusions to stay alive. It’s sort of like a futuristic vampire story, with blood stolen through needles and IVs instead of fangs, and set in lush, swampy, post-apocalyptic former New Orleans – now just called Orleans. Continue reading Book Review: Orleans (Sherri L. Smith)
Review: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Fantasy/Thriller – Angry Robot (US/UK) – Standalone Novel
Set in Johannesburg, Zoo City is a fast-paced novel with a new take on the idea of a spirit animal or a familiar. These animal companions appear spontaneously, and the ‘animalled’ they pair themselves with are stigmatized, living in slums and struggling to find work. For the humans who suddenly gain these familiars, their appearance is also associated with the inexplicable manifestation of a magical power of some kind. Protagonist Zinzi December’s power is an ability to find lost objects, and it is this skill that launches her, and her sloth companion, on the missing-person investigation that is the premise of Zoo City.
Continue reading Book Review: Zoo City (Lauren Beukes)