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text 2018-04-26 14:57
TBR Thursday
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon
The Magic of Recluce - L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Stations of the Tide - Michael Swanwick
A Curious Beginning - Deanna Raybourn
A Plague of Giants - Kevin Hearne
Robots vs. Fairies - John Scalzi,Jonathan Maberry,Catherynne M. Valente,Jeffrey Ford,William Ewart Gladstone,Annalee Newitz,Lavie Tidhar,Ken Liu,Madeline Ashby,Mary Robinette Kowal,Seanan McGuire,Dominik Parisien,Linda Howard,Maria Dahvana Headley,Jim C. Hines,Alyssa Wong,Lil
Small Favor - Jim Butcher

It is Thursday, isn't it?  Today is my final day in my old office.  The movers do their magic tomorrow, IT does theirs on Saturday, and theoretically I unpack in the new office on Monday.  I haven't slept well for weeks and I think I'm getting an eye infection.  Blah!

 

I haven't had as much time for reading lately--spring has finally arrived in Calgary and my friends are emerging from hibernation and wanting to go do things.  I have more coffee, brunch and theatre dates than I can shake a stick at for the month of May.

 

Actually, I go this evening to see Lady Windermere's Fan.  On May's agenda:  Julius Caesar, The Secret Garden, and Much Ado About Nothing.  I shall be cultured by month's end.

 

I'm also longing to get out birding and I need to go visit an 87 year old aunt who is in hospital in my home town.  There's lots to do.

 

Happy reading, everyone!

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text 2018-04-19 15:22
TBR Thursday
The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
The Warded Man - Peter V. Brett
Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon
The Magic of Recluce - L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Stations of the Tide - Michael Swanwick

I'm currently reading Smilla's Sense of Snow and The Good Women of China.  Once I've finished them, it's time to move on to these books.

 

My real life book club meets soon, and our May choice is The Lie Tree.  This is our year of reading exclusively young-adult literature and this book was highly recommended to me.

 

I've got three books for my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project:  Dragonfly in Amber, The Magic of Recluce, and Stations of the Tide.  There's a hold on Dragonfly and the other two are interlibrary loans, so they can't be renewed. 

 

I'm also reading with an eye to my August conference.  Peter Brett will be a guest of honour and I'm going to read his The Warded Man to get an idea of what his work is about.

 

Years ago, for RL Book club, I read Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees.  Now I intend to see what The Poisonwood Bible is like.

 

Saturday I'm headed to an art show where one of my friends is exhibiting and Sunday I'm doing brunch & a movie with another friend.  The movie is a filming of a Shakespearean production, Timon of Athens, a play that I have never seen performed. 

 

Happy reading, friends!

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review 2018-03-18 20:11
An epic-story, which will make you reconsider what you thought you knew about angels, demons, and everything in between.
The Fall of Lilith (Fantasy Angels Series) 1 - Vashti Quiroz-Vega

I have seen this book described as “epic” and I agree, not only for its length (it is two books in one) but also for its topic. It does talk about all things in Heaven and Earth, near enough, from the creation of the angels and the battle of good and evil to the fall of the angels and their revenge plans once on Earth (that don’t bode well for humanity).

The author’s writing style in this book is reminiscent of the Bible, although the story is told from quite a different point of view, and it deviates from the narrative most Christians are familiar with (I am intrigued to know how the story will resonate with readers not familiar with the Christian tradition, although the world building is detailed enough for anybody to be able to follow the events). I am not a bit Fantasy reader, mostly because I am not that fond of lengthy descriptions (I admire authors who do it well), although this story has the added interest of providing a major variation on a story many of us are familiar with. As typical of the genre, there is plenty of telling (in fact, all the characters are storytellers, and we get to hear the angels’ voices often, narrating their own adventures, or even fictional ones, like a fascinating story Lilith narrates in book 1), and beautiful descriptions of Floraison, the part of Heaven inhabited by the angels, of the angels, and also of the creation of Earth, and of Earth itself in book 2. We follow the story in a chronological order, from the time when the angels are quite young, growing up and learning about their powers (this part reminded me of YA books set up in special schools for young people with special abilities, and also of parts of The Hunger Games, when the characters had to train for the battle ahead), through to the battle between good and evil and their fall to Earth. Although the story is narrated in the third person, we follow the points of views of a variety of angels, mainly Lilith, the main character, but also most of the others at some point.

These angels reminded me of the Greek gods. They are not the celestial beings many of us imagine, but more human than human. They have their personalities, their peculiar characters, their flaws, their desires, and they are far from goodie-goodie-two-shoes. Even the good angels have faults… (Oh Gabriel…). We get to know Lilith’s cunning and devious nature better than that of others (she is rebellious, proud, has a superiority complex, and does not seem to feel true affection for anybody, even her supposed friends), but we see that Lucifer is proud and is not a good looser from early on (when he is following the rules), and some of the other angels are weak, easily manipulated, and only worried about their own well-being and interests. The God of this story does not tolerate rebellion or deceit, and he severely punishes his children for their misdeeds. The author excels at writing the punishments and tortures the angels are subject to, and these parts of the book are not for the faint-hearted. I know she writes horror too, and this is quite evident in her penchant for devising monstrous characters and pretty cruel and sadistic tortures.

As is often the case, the bad characters are more interesting than the good ones (that we mostly lose sight of in book 2, apart from some brief appearances). I would not say any of the characters are very sympathetic. Lilith is put to the test and punished for being what she is (and considering angels are given free-will, that seems quite cruel), but she displays psychopathic traits from the beginning and it is difficult to blame her nasty personality on her experiences. She is strong and determined, but she abandons her friends, is manipulative, and goes to extremes that make her exceedingly unlikeable. I have no problem with having a truly horrible character as the main voice of a book, although I missed something that helped me connect with her (there are moments when she hints at a weakness or hurt, but I did not feel they were particularly convincing. Perhaps a sense of humour, no matter how dark, would have helped, but other than some instances of silly behaviour very early on, there are moments of wonder but not many laughs). Gadreel is perhaps the easiest character to empathise with, and she grows and develops during book 2 (to begin with she is constantly complaining and moaning, but she gets more confident, although she is not traditionally good either). Satan does horrible things, especially to Lilith (who is not blameless by a long stretch, not that such abuse could be ever justified in real life), but he is an interesting character and quite loyal to his friends. And he also does much of what he does out of love, however misguided. I don’t know what that says about me, but I really like Dracul, Satan and Lilith’s child. He is described as quite an ugly thing, but I find him cute. There you have it.

For me, book 2 is more dynamic and moves faster than book 1. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the adventures of the fallen angels on Earth allow us to read about their first impressions of the world as it would appear to somebody who had never been here, a totally brand new place. Such estrangement and sense of wonder are fascinating and the writing captures it well. The fact that the fallen angels find themselves in a hostile environment and have to learn to work together to survive adds to the interest. Of course, Lilith has her own plans, and she makes sure she convinces others to follow.

The character of Lilith reminded me of the typical figure of the femme fatale in film noir (or the spider woman, or… well, I’m sure you can think of many epithets such females have received over the years), who is powerful but her power consists in manipulating and deceiving males, convincing them that they are in charge, while she pulls the invisible strings. I do admire such characters, especially when the circumstances are dire and that seems to be the only option to get ahead. There is always a difficult balance to maintain between creating a strong negative female character that can hold her own and ensuring it does not reinforce the usual story tropes that blame women for all of world’s ills from the beginning of times.

This book made me wonder once more about the well-known narrative (and let me tell you, there are some twists that will keep readers on their toes) of events, which amounts to a civil war in Heaven, where there is no reconciliation and no possible redress or forgiveness for those who rebelled against the established order and lost. I also had to wonder about the rules imposed in Floraison and what seems to be a bias against LGBT (sex is bad, but same-sex sex is worse and is more severely punished), which has always been an issue that has caused much religious debate.

This book is a tour-de-force that I’d recommend to readers who love to be challenged by narratives that push the limits of well-known stories and make us rethink and reconsider the stories we have been told. And one for those who love strong and wicked female characters. And baby demons…

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review 2018-02-09 15:11
The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version - Pheme Perkins,Carol A. Newsom,Marc Zvi Brettler,Michael D. Coogan,Anonymous

Imagine if the NASB had gotten this treatment. The best one volume study Bible I've encountered, and one of the best period outside of the Anchor Bible. Copious notes, a clear and attractive layout, a great translation, deep scholarship. Wonderful, just wonderful.

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review 2018-01-14 02:50
Audio Book Review: EverRealm
EverRealm (Level Dead Book 1) - Jake Bib... EverRealm (Level Dead Book 1) - Jake Bible

*I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

The human world has ended. Humans and animals are now the undead and own the world. Steve is one of nine who have created virtual worlds that join at the place they call Center. They plan to live in their own Domains for eternity, as long as the main power keeps going. But, when they arrive at the Center there are two of the nine missing. Trying to help his friend, then warn others, Henry brings the nightmare of the real world to them when he thought he could filter the infection out while transitioning to where they were to be safe. Now they need to find the infected that's loose in their worlds...somewhere...

When I go into an audiobook knowing Jeff's the narrator, I have high expectations. I look for different voices and personalities to come to life. And I get them. I love listening to Jeff voice all the characters differently. It's entertaining for me in listening along with makes it easy to differentiate everyone. When a voice actor puts this much effort into a piece, it shows and makes the book along with his work shine. Sometimes the small things make the book all the better, like overlaying several voices at one time when all speak. Jeff does that, and it's totally cool. He really makes me feel as though it's a show and live.

Let me talk about the world creation. I wasn't sure how it was all going to relate at the beginning. Jake gives us the ground work as to why and how this is done, though it's quick to not slow the pacing of the story. I followed it all easily and found it interesting to see it come together when I get into the Center with Steve and others. And what we learn through the book in how the worlds are connected.

Undead, gaming worlds of different structure... action has to happen! Cool combo!

Steve's relationships with each of the characters grows more as they fight together to save the worlds they've created for themselves. And we get to know his friends as we go. I like the humor Steve's written with. And felt bad for him because when he tried to make a joke or state anything he was wrong in his doing in EverRealm it Always seeming to cause problems.

Speaking of problems... wow, do things really get messed up here in EverRealm. With the undead and with what Steve and friends do. It's crazy! But it all works together and somehow works out in the end. For me, the story felt smooth in flow with these problems. It all fit the world, characters, and situations.

Another cool creation for the LitRPG world in books. I really like that they are leaving the "real" world behind for virtual ones, and the reason behind it all. This gives the solid reason for coming to the gaming worlds in my mind. We get the explanations of how it's done, but it's not over science-y to lose us. It's just what it is.

I will say this is a game RPG setting, but I don't feel like I'm in a "game". The RPG setting is actually to be their homes. That makes the world real and important to them. What they do here has an impact and they try to live knowing that. Also, we aren't always grasping for our tool bar to see supplies and stats. Steve does do it, but it's not a constant thing.

I'm really enjoying the LitRPG books I've been getting lately. Jeff's voice acting is fun and fits the worlds and characters so well. And the stories are alive and feel more than just a "gaming" atmosphere. Well done with this one Jake!

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