Tag Archives: fantasy

New in SF/F: Sisters, Storms, and Song

Everything’s coming up sci-fi and fantasy on my reading list these days. Whenever I get frustrated with the world as it is, it cheers me up to spend time in the company of authors dedicated to imagining the world as it could be…or, arguably, should be.

Here are a few of the many fantastic–in multiple senses of the word–reads I’ve picked up from the Library this week.

Sisters of the RevolutionAnn and Jeff VanderMeer, eds.

The VanderMeers have a long track record of publishing excellent SF/F anthologies, and Sisters is no exception. This crowdfunded collection describes itself as Sisters of the Revolution. Click on image to reserve a library copy.“feminist speculative fiction,” and as such will appeal to anyone who enjoyed Octavia’s Brood or The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women. You might also want to try these stories on for size if you’re not sure about sci-fi, but are definitely interested in race, class, gender, motherhood, or any of feminism’s other concerns, and want to see how the genre handles them.

The collection is a healthy mix of material from the 1970s/80s and today, and includes work by Nnedi Okorafor, Angela Carter, Hiromi Goto, and James Tiptree Jr. (a/k/a Alice B. Sheldon). At least one reviewer has described the collection’s older stories as “cringe-worthy” in terms of expressing outdated attitudes. While keeping that in mind, it’s also possible to read the stories critically, with an eye to where women’s SF/F has been, and where it’s going. Available in print only (which is kind of ironic, but that’s the future for you).

Loosed Upon the World, John Joseph Adams, ed.

With a title drawn from W.B. Yeats’s famous poem “The Second Coming,” you know this anthology is going to be literally earthshaking. Adams delivers a a solid collection in the Loosed Upon the Worldrelatively new subgenre of climate fiction (Cli-fi, for short) featuring tales of environmental woe from Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, and other contemporary luminaries. Though the premise behind the stories is pretty clear-cut–we broke the planet and now we must pay–the variety in the execution makes this collection seem like a bouquet of poisoned flowers: gorgeous, but deadly.

Cli-fi makes no bones about having an agenda, and the stories in this volume–published by Simon & Schuster’s SAGA imprint–point the finger at excessive consumerism, ignorance, and flawed public policy (among other things) as the reason for environmental catastrophe. Long on cautionary tale and short on solutions, this is a great read for passionate environmentalists, their skeptical opponents, and anyone who enjoys a good disaster flick.  I’d suggest pacing yourself, though: you’re reading fiction here, not watching the news. At least, not yet.

Last Song Before Night, Ilana C. Myer

Lin is an incredibly gifted musician in a world where women are forbidden to sing or play. Once upon a time she had another name, but she fled her family and her fate to follow her musical destiny. Once upon a far more distant time, Lin’s world was filled with magic, and musicians and poets could work wonders far beyond simply entertaining the masses. A terrible plague, unleashed by the quest for dark magic, put an end to all that. But now somebody’s trying to work dark magic again, which means Lin must venture to the Last Song Before Night - click URL to order from libraryOtherworld to bring back their ancient musical powers and save their culture…if she can.

Myer delivers high fantasy at its best, creating a world in which artistic skill and political savvy are equally valued (and having both certainly doesn’t hurt). Lin is a dauntless heroine who is willing to suffer an awful lot for a world that doesn’t appreciate her properly in the first place, if only because dark magic loosed upon the world would be an even more unpleasant alternative. Lin isn’t even sure the object of her quest, a legendary silver branch, actually exists; all she has is her teacher’s word. That’s still enough to send her and some of her fellow poets (think “frenemies”)off to seek it. It’s sort of like the Orpheus myth in reverse, except Eurydice might be a myth. While we’re gender-swapping things, don’t think the menfolk won’t learn a lesson or two about denying women their musical, magical birthright. Good stuff for folks who like their fantasy fiction with both melody and conscience.

It’s hard to keep up with the really avid SF/F fans and their serious reading addictions, but I’ll never stop trying. Where are my genre warriors and social justice mages? Sound off in the comments section if you’ve read any of these books, plan to read them, or have other suggestions you think the rest of the blog audience would enjoy.

–Leigh Anne

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Omens, Visions, Deceptions

About a year and a half ago I picked up Omens, A Cainsville Novel by Kelley Armstrong and totally fell in love with the bookcovercharacters and the paranormal mystery plot. Olivia Taylor-Jones is a department store heiress with everything going for her; she is beautiful, intelligent and caring. Her fiancé is a brilliant attorney who is getting ready to run for office. In a short while Olivia will turn 25 and come into the inheritance left to her by her father.

Then, without warning, everything falls apart. Liv is suddenly thrust into the media spotlight when a story is leaked claiming that she is adopted and names her birth parents as infamous occult serial killers. To Liv’s horror her mother confirms the rumors before jetting off to Europe to evade the press and her fiancé abandons her as a form of damage control for his political campaign.

Looking for shelter Liv finds herself pulled to a small, remote suburb called Cainsville, a safe haven where she can hide while she sorts out the mess that has become her life. Soon enough she realizes that Cainsville is not all that is seems and Liv finds her self pulled deeper into the mystery of her birth-parents’ crimes while realizing that the omens she has seen all her life are real and not just part of a vivid imagination. An uncertain friendship with her birth-mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, gives Liv the impetus to embark on solving the mystery of her identity.

What I really enjoyed about Omens was the mystery of Cainsville: Who is Olivia and how does she fit into the puzzle? Why does she see things that other people don’t? Who is Gabriel Walsh? Why is he helping Liv even though her birth-mother is no longer his client? Most importantly, are her parents all that they seem or is there something extraordinary laying beneath the surface?

1When I finished Omens I immediately went back to page one and re-read it, and that is not something I do often. The interactions between the characters left you wanting more and the questions behind Cainsville and the inhabitants were entertaining and other-worldly. So when Visions, the second Cainsville novel, came out last year, I was thrilled. But as I read I became wary; Armstrong was taking the series in an all too familiar direction. She introduced Ricky, a “Sons of Anarchy” cast off and un-surprisingly Liv found herself in the middle of a love-triangle. We find some of the answers to our paranormal questions but the mystery of Cainsville promptly took a back seat to the blossoming romance between the characters and the (terrible, absolutely terrible) age old question: Who gets the girl?

Optimistically, because Visions ended with many unfinished plotlines, I (naively) assumed that book three would bring everything to a close while getting back to the intriguing mystery that made Cainsville enjoyable in the first place… I don’t think you need to read omens or have second vision to see where this is going…

Deceptions came out this August and the story of Cainsville is now entirely focused on the love triangle with Liv at the gggcenter. The titles really could be how I feel about the books: There were omens of what was to come, visions of the love triangle and finally the deception has been uncovered. Now before you get out the pitch forks (I know Armstrong is a popular author in the genre) the books are still well done, and the plot makes sense, but Armstrong’s focus is no longer about unmasking the truth of Cainsville. Even the questions surrounding Liv’s birth parents (while driving the plot) are secondary to the relationships between Liv, Gabriel and Ricky.

I will read the rest of the Cainsville novels, and maybe if I had stumbled on them after they were all released I would be more forgiving, but waiting a year in-between books that don’t answer any questions but are instead an epic “will she / won’t she” is frustrating to say the least. The last thing I wanted to do is get interested in a series that has the potential to turn into a paranormal version of Stephanie Plum, or even a more serious Sookie Stackhouse-esque love-triangle.  But no matter how much I may want to fight it, Armstrong’s writing has kept me interested and I do care about what happens to Liv and the inhabitants of Cainsville.

What do you think? Have you read the Cainsville novels? Do you agree with my frustrations over where the plot has gone or do you think the love-triangle has made the book?

-Natalie

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Action, Adventure, Monsters! or Some Comics I Want to Read

Since mid-December, I’ve been neck-deep in the process of buying a house and then renovating it. This has severely cut into my comic book reading time.

To keep me from going insane with all the (hopefully) good books I’m missing, I’ve compiled a want-to-read list.

Fables Volume 20: Camelot by Bill Willingham and various wonderful artists
fablesFables starts out with showing how fairy tale characters have adapted to life in present-day New York City, but has morphed into something much deeper and more epic over the ten-plus years of its run. The past few volumes have been beautifully devastating, so I’m both excited and scared to find out what happens next.

Fatale Volume 5 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
fatale5I’ll read anything by Ed Brubaker. He does crime noir so well, it’s like he invented it. This particular series mixes the femme fatale and horror genres to create a dark, twisted mystery.

 
 
 

Ms. Marvel Volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson

msmarvel1When Marvel announced the new Ms. Marvel would be a shape-shifting Iranian immigrant Muslim lady, and that it would be written by a real live Muslim woman, I was psyched. Sales for this have been going steady, so I’m thinking it’s going to be even more awesome than the concept alone implies. I suggest following author G. Willow Wilson on Twitter–she posts interesting tweets about religion, social justice, and of course, comics.

Rat Queens Volume 1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and various artists
ratqueensLike a Dungeons and Dragons quest, only with ladies kicking butt. Need I say more?

 
 
 

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

-Kelly

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The First Great YA Fantasy Book of 2015

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly BlackA new year means new books! The genre of books that is my favorite is YA, particularly fantasy. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of YA fantasy books coming out this year that have the potential to be good. Well, I’ve found the first great YA fantasy book of 2015. The book is called The Darkest Part of the Forest and it’s by Holly Black.

The book centers on brother and sister, Ben and Hazel Evans, who live in a small town called Fairfold.  Fairfold is unlike any other town because humans and faeries co-exist there. Ben and Hazel always had a dream to save the sleeping prince, Severin, from his glass coffin that is kept in the woods. One day, people discover that the coffin is empty and that Severin is not only awake, but gone. It becomes Hazel and Ben’s mission to find the prince. Many other problems arise to ruin their mission.

There were some things about this book that I really enjoyed. One was the fact that Black set this book during modern times. She could’ve set it back 200 years ago but she didn’t. There were a lot of unconventional ideas that Black used in this book that I really enjoyed. For one she had Severin, the prince, in love with Ben and not Hazel. It would’ve been predictable to have the prince in love with Hazel and then that would’ve created the stereotypical love triangle that we encounter in a ton of YA books. It would’ve been a love triangle because Ben’s best friend, Jack, was in love with Hazel. This option was also unconventional because in a lot of fairy tale princes are in love with a woman so they can marry a princess.

Second, I liked that Hazel was the knight instead of Ben. Even though Hazel had her issues, she still ended up being a strong female character. She had her emotional breakdown, but this was good because it proved that she could show emotion instead of making her into the stereotypical stoic female character incapable of expressing herself emotionally and can only kick butt. Third, I like that Jack wasn’t human, yet Hazel still loved him. She didn’t think of him as a faerie until she saw him in his element with his people. Although, at times she was afraid of him, she still loved him in spite of everything.

I like the writing style of this book. It had the right amount of description and I was able to get a good idea of each character’s personality. This was the first book of Holly Black’s that I have read, and I was impressed. The book was at some points dark, but at the same time there was an element of comedy that I liked. Ms. Black’s book features complex, fully fleshed out characters. As their stories play out, they each find their own happy ending. The Darkest Part Of The Forest will serve as a great introduction to this brand of YA lit, and will also likely please adult fantasy fans as well.

–Kayla

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

2015 Reading Resolutions: Onward and Upward!

With another year of books under our belts, it’s time to look ahead. To bring the blogging year to a close, some Eleventh Stackers have chosen to share their reading resolutions for 2015. There’s nowhere to go, but up, and our team has aimed high — check it out!

Jess

Every time someone asks for a mystery recommendation, I cringe. Despite my love for serialized crime shows (Criminal Minds, Veronica Mars, Murder She Wrote…), I just have a hard time with the genre in book form. 2015 is the year I step up my game and have some titles in my back pocket for the next time I’m put on the spot. I have Anthony Hororwitz’s Moriarty on my list (I read The House of Silk last year for our Tuesday book club, and liked his take on Sherlock). And a regular patron suggested the Ian Rutledge series, by Charles Todd. Readers, if you have any must-reads, maybe some non-historicals that are maybe a bit John Grisham-y, please send ’em my way.

suzy

Unfinished business.

Unfinished business.

I’m going to finish some books in 2015. This year, for whatever reason, I’d get almost to the end of a book and stop reading it. It didn’t matter whether I liked the book or not: I just stopped. I don’t know if this is a sign of mental illness or a newly shortened attention span. Here is a sampling of the books I started, thoroughly enjoyed, and never finished. Feel free to tell me the endings.

Ross

In 2010 I started Stephen King’s It. “Started” being the key word here.  That book is thick, yo.  Maybe 2015 will be the year I finish it.  Or maybe I’ll focus on the classics that I missed out on for one reason or the other, like Animal Farm or Moby-Dick.  Maybe I’ll go back to the books of my childhood, like the Narnia books. Or, since I just started re-watching Gilmore Girls, maybe I’ll focus on a Rory Gilmore reading list.

Irene

I’ve never had much use for audio-books, but I recently discovered how much I like listening to them on long runs. So my reading resolution for 2015 is actually more of a listening resolution: to delve into the library’s collection of super-portable Playaways. I just started listening to Runner.

Scott

I plan to read some more Anne Sexton. I am also slowly re-reading all of the Song Of Ice And Fire novels using the eCLP format.

Leigh Anne

I like to play along with formal reading challenges, to make sure that I regularly step out of my favorite genres and formats to try a little bit of everything. Luckily the magical internet is filled with such opportunities, most of which I find via A Novel Challenge, a terrific blog that collects news and info about different reading games. Of course, I always load up on way too many challenges, and rarely finish any of them…but I sure do have a great time trying!

Here are some challenges I’ll be signing up for in 2015:

The Bookish 2015 TBR Reading Challenge. I have two bookcases at home filled with books I own that I haven’t read yet (I blame the Library, both for being so excellent and for fueling my book-buying habit). It’s getting a little bit out of hand, so I’ve decided to dive into those TBR shelves and decide whether to keep or regift what I’ve got.

It's not bragging if it's true.

It’s not bragging if it’s true.

Janet Ursel’s We Read Diverse Books Challenge. It’s no secret that the publishing  industry is still predominantly white, which means there are a lot of stories out there untold or overlooked. This bothers me both professionally and personally, so I’m on a constant mission to make sure my own reading and reviewing is as inclusive as possible. This challenge was inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign of 2014.

The 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge. Ebooks are an important part of the reading landscape these days, and I really should be looking at more of them (Overdrive READ is my friend right now, until I finally decide which tablet I want). Ebooks are also sometimes challenging for me because of my vision impairments, but I’m hoping Consumer Reports , a little web sleuthing, and input from other users (maybe you?) will help me pick out the tablet with the best accessibility features. Thanks in advance!

The 2015 Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge. This one’s kind of a cheat, as I adore comics of all kinds. The problem is, I rarely make time to read them, mostly out of guilt because they’re so much fun and there are many other Terribly Serious Things I should be reading dontcha know. However, this means I missed a lot of good stuff in 2014, so I’ve decided to ditch the guilt and spend 2015 savoring the fine art of comics. Woohoo!

Four challenges is do-able, right?  I’ll report back regularly in upcoming blog posts.

Melissa F.

Browsing the historical fiction section

Browsing the historical fiction section

I’ve become a little too comfortable insofar as my reading habits go. On one hand, I don’t see any problem with this, since reading is something I do for fun and entertainment. Still, there’s something to be said for expanding one’s knowledge and horizons.

In 2015, I’m planning to do more of my reading from the World Fiction and Historical Fiction sections on the First Floor of CLP-Main. I’m not setting an actual numerical goal for this resolution, just challenging myself to read more from these areas (which I admittedly tend to overlook while perusing the new fiction, nonfiction, and short stories).  Your suggestions are most welcome.

And there you have it! Do you have any reading recommendations or advice for the Eleventh Stackers? Do you set yourself reading goals or just let the books fall where they may? Share the wisdom, leave a comment!

15 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sharp Short Stories

Short story collections are a great way to get to know an author, and reading them is a win-win situation: if you enjoy the tales, you can see what else s/he’s written; if you don’t care for them, you haven’t wasted a lot of precious reading time. Short story collections are also a treat for people who already love an author, and are pining away for her/his next novel.

There have been a number of really solid short story collections released this year. Here are three that pair nicely with the cold, dark winter ahead of us.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Mantel. Quiet people leading Mantelquiet lives that suddenly take turns for the uncomfortable, supernatural, or just plain deadly are the meat and potatoes of this collection. They’re all outstanding, but my favorites were “Harley Street,” which, up to the very end, pretends to be one kind of story and then suddenly turns into another; “The Heart Fails Without Warning,” which reads like an homage to Kate Chopin‘s “The Story of an Hour”; and “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher,” which plays fast and loose with English history. Available in print, audio book, eBook, and eAudio.

AtwoodStone MattressMargaret Atwood. Atwood can do terrible just as nicely as Mantel can. However, her terrible tends to have spots of sweetness, melancholy, or other gentler emotions mixed in as well. This tone is set with the fantastical “Alphinland,” which is then followed by two stories that occur in the same universe to the same characters, forming a lovely little world I would’ve liked to see more of. Other highlights include “The Freeze-Dried Groom” (not a metaphor) and “Torching the Dusties,” in which an elderly woman with Charles Bonnet syndrome must flee an attack on her assisted living facility (uncomfortably plausible) with the help of a fellow resident. Available in print, eBook, eAudio, and Playaway.

Spoiled Brats, Simon Rich. Rich sticks it to the clueless and the entitled with this richwickedly funny collection of tales, narrated mostly by characters who have no idea how clueless and entitled they are. Rich doesn’t let himself off the hook, either: two of the stories feature a character named Simon Rich who is unpleasant as all get out (one of those tales, “Animals,” is narrated by a classroom’s pet hamster). Other highlights include “Gifted,” which satirizes privileged, pushy parenting, and “Elf on the Shelf” (’tis the season, after all). Available in print only.

Dark fiction for dark nights, in easy-to-read bites!  Are you a fan of the short story form? Who are your favorite authors? Read any good collections lately?

–Leigh Anne

 

 

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Song Of Ice And Fire Read-Alikes

Over the past holiday weekend I enjoyed unexpected access to HBO on-demand, and managed to watch the first three episodes of Game Of Thrones season four.  Needless to say, I was instantly reminded not only how much I love this show, but also the epic George R. R. Martin series that spawned it.  I feel like re-reading the whole series, but I also feel like it might be more productive to seek out something new to fill the void until Mr. Martin gets that sixth book out to us.

While I have recommended it before here in this space, I want to plug our Novelist database again. A lot of the titles I am going to mention below came from a Game Of Thrones read-alike search on Novelist. While I am not searching for carbon copies of Mr. Martin’s epic, I would like to at least match the tone of his series–gritty fantasy or even historical fiction with plenty of compelling characters.

Name-of-the-Wind_cover The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  The first book of the Kingkiller Chronicles, descriptions indicate this book possesses the necessary grittiness of Martin’s work, but with a good deal more magic. It also utilizes different point-of-view characters to tell the story, much like Mr. Martin does in his books. Mr. Rothfuss and this series has been recommended to me before, so that encourages me as well. Also encouraging is that the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear is also out and in our collection. The next installment, The Slow Regard Of Silent Things, seems to be due in October of this year, so if I do really enjoy it, I’ve picked a good time to start reading.

Iron-King_cover  The Iron King by Maurice Druon.  Brought to us from France by the same outfit who publishes Mr. Martin’s books, it’s no coincidence why the cover of this historical novel has a similar livery to the Song Of Ice And Fire series. Mr. Druon’s epic tale of the rule of the Iron King, Philip the Fair of France served as Martin’s inspiration for Game Of Thrones. A cast of flawed and fascinating characters populates this epic tale of ambition, violence and revenge.

Legions-of-Fire_cover Legions Of Fire by David Drake.  I have long been a fan of Mr. Drake’s sci-fi writing, but I have only read his shorter fantasy fiction, so this one would be a first for me. Set in a fantastic analog of the Roman Empire, Legions is the first book in a quartet of novels in the author’s Books Of The Elements series. Out Of The Waters marks the second title in the series, and the fact CLP also has it on the shelves makes this one another enticing option on my list!

Desert-of-Souls_cover The Desert Of Souls by Howard A. Jones.  Part of another series, this book could prove a good example of the sort of serendipitous meandering that results when using Novelist.  I found this title after plowing through a few of the database’s sidebars of suggested titles. Set in 8th century Baghdad, this quasi-historical novel contains some interesting fantastic elements, and is followed up by The Bones Of The Old Ones.

A few minutes poking around in Novelist gave me quite a few options to plan my next few weeks and months of reading!

I would also be much obliged for other title suggestions. Thanks!

–Scott

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized