beccastareyes: Image of woman reading.  Text: hopeless bookworm (bookworm)
So, once again I'm voting for the Hugo Awards, Science Fiction and Fantasy's major awards. Sure, it costs money, but I get all kinds of free ebooks and magazines and comic PDFs (sadly not free movies and TV shows).

So I figure I'd blog about what I read. Especially since this year I'd actually read four of five novels up for best novel before they were nominated.

What people liked in 2012, my take )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
I find Nnedi Okorafor an interesting author. She writes these amazing, creative children's/YA stories like Zarah the Windseeker and Akata Witch, and also writes amazing adult books that are in no way for children. (Seriously, while I loved Who Fears Death, it got dark enough at times that I doubt I'd be able to reread it.)

Anyway, so I finally got a copy of Akata Witch, which has been described as the Nigerian Harry Potter.  )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
So, I think I reviewed the previous book, Shades of Milk and Honey and I picked up this one and (IIRC) liked it much better. Basically, Kowal's world is set in the Regency period (when George III (the King George of the American Revolution) was considered too mentally ill to run a country, so his son (also named George) was Prince Regent) -- but illusion magic (glamour) is a thing. Kowal talks a lot about the perils of writing 'history with magic' for this series: that the more magic you introduce into our world, the more questions arise about why history remains roughly the same. Kowal limits glamour both through physical rules (it's effects of light and sound, and has to be anchored by the ground, and the glamourist usually has to be right there to manipulate it; they can leave a work and even run it on a loop, but complex patterns are usually done by tricks, and it takes a lot of energy and concentration), but also by social rules: glamour is considered a 'feminine' art: while there are male glamourists who make a living by taking commissions from the rich, a well-taught woman is expected to manage her home's glamours as part of the decor. Even uses in war (which are mentioned in this novel) are more akin to an engineering corps than 'sorcerers throwing fireballs'.

I don't think I can talk much about this book without spoiling the last )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
So, I picked this one up from [personal profile] anke who was getting rid of some books. The Eyre Affair takes place in an alternate late 20th century England where, among other things, people are obsessed with classics of literature and art. Most people have an opinion on things like who authored Shakespeare's plays, and it's enough that people can break into fist fights or political movements. The main character's hometown has a long-running community production of Richard III structured more like the showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show than any play I've seen. It's actually a bit like... well, a lot of Japanese action series where everyone knows a certain card game, or incorporates martial arts into their normal job, or has a job involving cute and trainable pet monsters.

There's also things like low-grade magic )
beccastareyes: (have a nice sol!)
The nice thing about Christmas is new books and time to read them. The Fall of Kings is a book set in Ellen Kishner's Riverside series. Thankfully it was set decades after Swordspoint, the first book, because I only vaguely remembered the events of that one. (I remembered I liked it, and I found out that my used copy doesn't have the short stories that the reprint has... perhaps I should fix this.)

I remember hearing about <em>Swordspoint</em> on a podcast (the SF Squeecast, I think), that noted that for a book published in 1987, it did two interesting things. )
beccastareyes: Image of woman saluting. Text: let's go! (let's go!)
So I beat the main storyline for Pokémon Conquest, a turn based strategy game that is a fusion of Pokémon and Nobunaga's Ambition (a strategy game series set during the Sengoku period* of Japan). So you have figures (rather loosely) based on famous Japanese people using Pokémon battles to conquer the various kingdom of Ransei. The main character is your typical Pokémon protagonist, in that sie is young and generally meant to be the player. Sie is the Warlord of the normal-type** kingdom of Aurora, and hir first day involves fending off an invasion from the fire-type kingdom of Ignis, with the help of a strange Warrior, Oichi. She tells you two things during the first half of the main storyline: that there's a legend that whoever unites Ransei under one banner will meet the legendary Pokémon who created the world, and that Nobunaga, a Warlord in the east, is trying it and Oichi is afraid he'll do something rash (read: stupid) once he does.

It is Pokemon; of course there's seventeen regions and each one has a theme around a Pokemon type. A bit like playing Gold/Silver, where you had 16 Gyms in total, so all but one type got a gym (and that type at least had an Elite Four member). Pokémon Conquest has a bit more of a logical reason for type specialization, though. Many Warriors can only use certain types of Pokémon, or can reach higher levels with their favorite type. Also the terrain in each kingdom tends to suit a certain type well -- for instance, Ignis's battlefield has lots of lava that Fire Pokémon can wade in (and flying or hovering Pokémon can glide over), but other kinds of Pokémon have to go around.

I like the terrain aspects and the ability to have to plan strategically (in addition to Pokémon types, some Pokémon are melee attackers and some are ranged). I do wish the Pokémon got more than one move (or even a choice of which move to learn), letting you play more with dual-types. I mean, since I just beat Fire Emblem, the analogy comes with that -- many of the promoted classes could use multiple types of weapons, and nearly all weapons had a version that had a different range (or were specialized to take down certain kinds of enemies). So usually, for instance, I had Caeda, a Pegasus Knight, carrying a javelin to go with her Wing Spear, since it let her work as a short-ranged fighter and not just in melee (good, since Pegasus Knights are pretty fragile).

So I'll probably play all the new missions I unlocked as well. And complete my Pokédex/Warrior-dex. Especially since the main storyline only took me 12-14 hours.

* I'm trying to think of an analogous period in US history that gets as much media retellings as the Sengoku seems to in Japan... maybe WWII or the Civil War? WWII retellings don't seem to focus on the famous people, though, but more on the 'let's defeat the Nazis!' The Civil War might be a better analogy.
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I'll blog more later, but have a book for now.

I read most of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet as a teenager, before the modern YA trend got started. And, well, she writes a good blog and is sort of local to me, and I have several friends who are fans of her. And, honestly, once I got past my teenaged years, I got a lot less insecure about reading 'kids books'.

So, I picked up her other world of books, the Magic Circle ones, which follow four orphaned youngsters from different backgrounds who end up having a semi-rare sort of magic for a certain craft or set of things. )
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So, Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht was a difficult novel for me for about the same reason Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okaofor was; I don't mind reading things that are set in a darker era (real or fictitious), but afterward, I want the literary equivalent of something sweet and fluffy. A bit like drinking black tea with pastries.

Anyway, Of Blood and Honey is set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.  )
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Because two trans-Atlantic flights and a week's worth of dinners and breakfasts in restaurant alone* gives one a lot of time to read.

I read the books so you don't have to! )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
I am so behind on these. I've been doing a lot of reading. And, yeah, you all probably want more updates than book reviews. But, anyway...

So, this is a pretty standard Nightside book. For those who don't know the series, the Nightside is a hidden city reachable through London, where if Simon Greene can come up with it, it can and will exist there, probably buying services that would be illegal anywhere else. Greene is very good in somehow combining noir sensibilities, where everything is gray and shady, with a world where everything can be true and things are a bit over the top. Somehow it works.

Anyway, this book was kind of meh for me.  )
beccastareyes: Image of woman reading.  Text: hopeless bookworm (bookworm)
So, this is a Firefly/Serenity comic. About Book. That answers all the mysteries of his backstory. And... well, that's it. Seriously, it's like Joss Whedon, reflecting that he'll never get to give us all the details about Book's Mysterious Past, decided to just write them down in one book.

The basic structure of the book is we see Book on Haven, the planet he ends up on on the movie (and, god help me, I'm trying not to spoil that for all of you who aren't Firefly fans, even if it feels like Everyone Knows all the spoilers), and reflecting on his life. )
beccastareyes: Image of woman (Sheska) with UFO, text: The Truth is out there.  Way out there (way out there)
This book hits a few loves with me. First off, the narration structure. The book is based around the legend of Prester John, a medieval European legend of a priest-king who ruled over a land of legend off somewhere in the east. In 1699, a group, lead by a Brother Hiob, sets out to find traces of his kingdom, and come across a hamlet with a strange woman, who tells them that Prester John is gone, and shows them to a tree with books for fruit, and tells the head of the expedition he can pick three. The narrative is interwoven from those three books and Hiob's comments as he fights the decay of the books -- which, being fruit, don't last long once picked -- to record them and send them back to Europe.

The three interwoven narratives are John's own accounts of his travels, a memoir of Hagia, one of the locals who eventually ends up as John's queen, and a book of stories, which do a lot to explain how the country of Pentexore came into being and fill in the history that Hagia knows and John never asks about.  )
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So, my overall reaction? Meh.

Some of that was probably due to 'book was something different than I wanted'. )

If no one wants this, it's going to my PaperbackSwap page.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Here's something interesting for me. Michelle Sagara-West has three series set in the same world -- the Hunter duology, the Sun Sword series, and the House War series, which is ongoing. I just finished the third (and newest) book in the House War series, House Name.

So, some background.  )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
So, at first you think this is a standard 'It's a Wonderful Life'-style plot. It's Christmas and Haruhi is being her domineering self, putting Mikuru in a sexy Santa dress and telling everyone they are having a secret party on Christmas Eve. Kyon goes to bed on 17 December, completely normal... and wakes up on the 18th to realize that suddenly Haruhi and Itsuki have never attended North High, both Yuki and Mikuru are normal high schoolers, as is Ryoko Asahina, who incidentally is sitting in Haruhi's desk.

Though it's not really that plot -- the second half features 'setting right what was wrong' based on whatever clues the original Yuki could leave in the club room and heading back to a time where he can find allies, before the timeline diverges. Kyon hardly questions his realization that he is happier in the original world, and even the idea of hanging with the now-human SOS Brigade members on weekends isn't appealing. Kyon never made the wish that he'd never met Haruhi here, and it turns out the reason he's immune is never really explained -- while the SOS Brigade members all needed a past retcon to be normal, and Haruhi needed to be separated from Kyon, even Kyon's classmates didn't remember things. (Nor is how the instigator got the power to re-write the last year.)

The ending was a bit of a twist for me, at least, and it was a good read, though.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum

This is the second book in a series, but I was able to read it despite not having refreshed my knowledge of the first book. In the first book, The Drowning City, we meet Isyllt Iskaldur, a necromancer in service to her country's crown, while she's on foreign assignment. The Bone Palace takes place two and a half years later, when Isyllt is called in by the capital city's guard to investigate a dead prostitute... who somehow had gotten a hold of one of the dead queen's ring, which should be buried with her. Considering that the king -- away with the army -- will go apeshit when he finds out someone's been looting his wife's tomb, the guard wisely ask for help finding out what's going on and Taking Care of It.

Of course, things are never that simple, are they?  )
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(I need a gaming icon, besides my default.)

So, I finally preordered my copy of the Dresden Files RPG Sourcebook. Or books, since it ended up coming out as two, rather hefty, books. (Seriously, I probably got about the same size as my D&D 4th edition boxset -- and I might have to throw in my Eberron or FR Players' Guide -- and costs more.) The books themselves aren't out yet, but pre-orders get a special preview PDF that contains all of the content (minus a special story by Jim Butcher, and probably editing/ stuff that's still being worked on). (Evil Hat, the company that does this, normally offers a deal where if you buy their books in print, you get the PDF for free, which I appreciate.)

Probably should cut this )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Okay, so I just reviewed Ōoku, but noted the virology bothered me. Yes, I know the Redface Pox was just a plot contrivance to get a population in Japan that was 80% female. And I'm willing to accept that a disease can selectively kill men. But some other things bothered me.

I totally blame my Math Models in Biology course for this )

Music choice was intentional.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
So, manga reviews.

Hero Tales, volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa
Read more... )

Mushishi, volumes 5-7 by Yuki Urushibara
Read more... )

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, volume 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga
Read more... )


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