Today I’m visiting author Intisar Khanani’s blog and talking about women who write Science-Fiction and the gender challenges they face in this genre.
Stop on by and check it out:
Title & Author: The King’s Man (Welsh Blades Book One), Elizabeth Kingston
Genre & Publication Date: Historical Romance, June 20, 2015
Book Description: “Ranulf Ombrier’s fame throughout 13th century England for his skill at swordplay is rivaled only by his notoriety as King Edward I’s favorite killer. Ranulf’s actions have gained him lands, title, and a lasting reputation as a hired butcher. But after years of doing his king’s bidding, he begins to fear for his mortal soul and follows his conscience away from Edward, all the way to the wilds of Wales.
Gwenllian of Ruardean, Welsh daughter of a powerful Marcher lord, has every reason to leave Ranulf for dead when one of her men nearly kills him. As a girl she was married by proxy to a man Ranulf murdered, only to become a widow before she ever met her groom. In the years since, she has shunned the life of a lady, instead studying warfare and combat at her mother’s behest. But she has also studied healing and this, with her sense of duty to knightly virtues, leads her to tend to Ranulf’s wounds.
Saving her enemy’s life comes with consequences, and Gwenllian and Ranulf are soon caught up in dangerous intrigue. Forced together by political machinations, they discover a kinship of spirit and a surprising, intense desire. But even hard-won love cannot thrive when loyalties are divided and the winds of rebellion sweep the land.”
First Line: Wales 1280: When he first woke, he thought he must be roasting in the fires of Hell.
My Take: Every once in a while I pick up a book in historical fiction rather than speculative. I’ve only ever done one review of this genre on the blog. It’s a little odd since I’m a big Masterpiece Theater fan and just loved Downton Abbey (For anyone in withdrawal since the show ended, there’s another awesome series called Larkrise To Candleford that was made some time back. Equally amazing). My point is, it takes an especially good book to push me off my usual reading habit of imaginary worlds and space exploration. The King’s Man is one of those.
Initially I just grabbed the sample chapter, intrigued by the blurb. Pretty much after the first paragraph I knew my life was about to come to a standstill:
When he first woke, he thought he must be roasting in the fires of Hell. Later he would know if was a raging fever that burned him, and she would tell him it was delirium that caused insensate visions. These were practical and unromantic explanations that were true enough. But earthly truths would never be as real as hellfire, and angels, and the moment he put the tattered remains of his soul into her hands.
I mean, yeah. I didn’t stand a chance. The writing throughout the whole thing is just exquisite. I kept running into whole sections where I’d be like, “Oh wow. Hang on, I’ve got to reread that a few more times just for the love of words.” Yet, it never became heavy handed, the writing deliberately holding off on those more epic phrases until just the right moment. Then, while you’re curled around your Kindle, when you’re utterly rapt with the scene at hand, it releases that poetic style. Let me tell you, it hangs on to your thoughts well after you’re done reading it, like sillage from an open perfume bottle.
The plot itself is also solid. This is set during the reign of the ruthless King Edward I, otherwise known as Longshanks (some of you might remember his portrayal best from Braveheart). On the one side you have Ranulf, the King’s assassin, on the other you have Gwenllian, a Welsh noblewoman of a people long at odds with the King Edward’s rule. With murmurs of rebellion in the air, it sets a series of events in motion that neither one of them ever anticipated. Awesome historical and monarchical intrigue set against a very personal story of two people who find they are both enemies and allies at the same time.
The Magical: Loved Gwenllian! Such a great character with confidence and leadership ability, strong and steadfast, but also grappling with self-doubt and a wish for belonging. I also really loved Ranulf though. He’s as strong as Gwenllian, a strategic mind and cunning, but dealing with terrible self-loathing—adrift, never feeling at home in his home. Their trust grew slowly and in such a beautiful and believable way.
The Mundane: …I can’t think of anything, people! *sits down and checks pulse*
Summary of Thoughts: An amazing tale set in medieval Wales with three-dimensional characters, including the supporting cast. I enjoyed this one so much! Gwenllian and Ranulf felt like real people. They loved but they also argued, they made mistakes, they said stupid things and regretted them–just like a non-fictional relationship! I think that’s what I liked most. Currently it’s $4.99 for the Kindle on Amazon. I definitely recommend it (in case the gushing didn’t tip you off). Cool historical stuff, sword fights, a haunted past, and two people trying to learn what it means to love someone.
Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here
Want to know more about this author’s work? Explore her website here
With “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” out in theaters right now earning wheelbarrows full of cash for its producers this movie review about a low-budget Sci-Fi film that 99 out of 100 people have likely never heard of might strike you as odd…BUT IT WAS AMAZING! Thus, I feel duty bound to spread the word.
Here’s the summary:
On the night of an astronomical anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events. Part cerebral sci-fi and part relationship drama, COHERENCE is a tightly focused, intimately shot film whose tension intensely ratchets up as its numerous complex mysteries unfold.
I’m not sure how I feel about putting the words “tension intensely” next to each other, but intense is definitely an apt description for this film. You’ll recognize its small cast of actors but might not be sure from where. The guy who played “Xander” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and another woman who was a frequent side character on the TV series “Highlander” are the only ones I really knew. It doesn’t matter though. All of them did a fantastic job.
As the summary said, the movie starts out with a dinner party at a friend’s house. There’s some relationship drama going on as someone thought it would be a great idea to invite over the ex-girlfriend of the main character’s boyfriend. Naturally the ex sashays in fashionably late wearing a slinky red dress. So they get you on the protagonist’s side pretty quickly because, ugh, you just want to smack her and the dopey eyes she makes at the other girl’s boyfriend. Reminds me of this little hussy named Jasmine who had a thing for my husband (then boyfriend) and sat on his lap while I was right there in the room. We were even holding hands at the time. Since this was in Holland I pondered introducing her to the way Americans handle a situation like that. My guy took care of it though, setting her promptly off of him and telling her to get lost. Ah, satisfaction–Um, but let’s get back to the movie review:
The night of the dinner party coincides with a comet passing the Earth. It’s affecting phone signals and internet. Then the lights go out in the entire neighborhood…except for one house two blocks down. They decide to head over there and find out what’s going on/maybe use their phone, but what they find only leads to more questions and an out-of-this-world scenario of mind-bending Sci-Fi awesomeness that keeps your jaw dropping all the way through to the end. Incredibly memorable and amazingly done. Just goes to show that you don’t need millions and millions of dollars to make something spectacular.
Here’s the preview. It doesn’t do the film justice and makes it seem like a big Maury-Povich-style shouting match and semi-horror but that’s not how it was. I think they had to go for that feeling to drive interest because they can’t tell you too much without giving things away. Trust me, this one had a lot of thought put into it. I still plan to see the big Sci-Fi blockbuster but I’m so happy I found this gem.
Title & Author: Fallen Empire series books 2-8: Honor’s Flight, Starseers, Relic of Sorrows, Cleon Moon, Arkadian Skies, Perilous Hunt, End Game, Lindsay Buroker
Genre & Publication Date: Science-Fiction, May – November 2016
Book Description: (From Book Two: Honor’s Flight) “After spending four years fighting for the Alliance, fighter pilot Alisa Marchenko only wants one thing: to reunite with her young daughter. But this involves a journey to her former home world, which has become the last imperial stronghold. Since the imperials have a lot of reasons to loathe members of the Alliance right now, just getting down to the planet will be a challenge, and it doesn’t help that her passengers are stirring up trouble of their own…
Even if Alisa is able to land, she may find that more questions await her than answers, and that her late husband kept a startling secret from her, one that could change her life forever.”
First Line: (From Honor’s Flight) Alisa Marchenko, Captain of the Star Nomad, the only Nebula Rambler 880 in the galaxy that hadn’t been scrapped decades earlier, fiddled with the flight stick as the planet Perun grew larger on the view screen.
My Take: These books were provided to me by the author for review.
A while back I reviewed the first book of this series, Star Nomad, which became part of an 8 book series with a spin-off novella on the side and another spin-off series called “Sky Full of Stars”. First, let us pause for a moment and recognize the word count powerhouse that is Lindsay Buroker. Between May and November of 2016 she published eight FULL novels. *blinks* Now that is just impressive. I assume she has to replace her keyboard often because of scorch marks. Wow.
Now, if you’ve read my review of the first book, you’ll know I was kind of lukewarm about it. I love Buroker’s writing style, her humor, her quirky characters, and in this case, her “universe building” but book one just didn’t grab my Sci-Fi heart as much as I’d hoped. Still, I thought I’d give it more time to do so and I continued the series. My attention definitely held throughout each book and I was interested to know how things would end but…I have to admit that I remained rather meh feeling about the main thrust of the story. Okay, okay, this sounds really contradictory–to feel ‘so-so’ about a series while at the same time reading the whole thing. I agree, it is. How to put this into words…Let’s try this: As I tapped the final page on the last book I didn’t lean back in post-book languor thinking, “That.Was.Awesome.” It didn’t hang around in my thoughts. I didn’t flip through previous books to reread favorite passages just to experience it again. I didn’t bemoan the fact that it was over.
The author says this is like her tremendously popular “The Emperor’s Edge” series but set in space (by the way, if you haven’t, GO READ THAT SERIES. Book One is FREE). I could see hints at the ways she tried to replicate that feeling but it felt like a lesser version of it. The main character, Alisa, is trying to reunite with her daughter after waking up in a medical ward to find out the war was over and her home, systems away from where her craft went down, had been destroyed. Her daughter survived. Her husband didn’t. One would think she’d let nothing come between her and getting to her daughter. Yet, it felt like this was just the setup for the adventures rather than the incredible emotional upheaval it would actually be. She was continually distracted from her mission to find her daughter by other things going on. Sort of, “Well, okay, I’ll take care of this issue with these people and then be back on my way.” She didn’t have the soul searing neeeeed that a mother ought to have to get to her child. I think this is where it went awry for me. How could she let her focus slide to anything else? Impossible. It affected my enjoyment of things because I constantly thought, “How is xyz more important to you right now???”
The Magical: This is a complex universe and the series visits plenty of different systems and planets. The history is really well thought out and the characters all have unique voices.
The Mundane: I really, really admire the author for her dedication to the craft and her utterly amazing ability to get an entire series out within seven months. However, I also think there was some plot stretching going on and I’m not entirely convinced it actually needed to be eight books.
Summary of Thoughts: Now, there are hoards of people who disagree with my opinion on this so please check out the Amazon link below to see reviews for more input–Honestly, people loved this so much I’m a little afraid they’ll be picketing my house if they read this review. It’s possible I’m the odd duck (and not for the first time in my life). So I’m giving this series a three star rating with the added note that Sci-Fi fans should give it a try for themselves. In fact, book one is only $0.99 (also on Kindle Unlimited) so why not, right?
Interestingly, I began the spin off series “A Sky Full of Stars” and am really liking that one. A coming-of-age in space? Yes, please! But that’s for another review;)
Many thanks to author Lindsay Buroker for providing copies of the books to review!
Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here
Want to know more about the author and her work? Explore her website here
Happy Earth Day, fellow humans!
This weekend only pick up a FREE copy of Syzygy: Transient Phenomena, the first book in J. K. Ullrich’s action-packed Sci-Fi/Cli-Fi series. I’ve read every installment and it’s seriously awesome! Find more of my gushing in the complete book review here. Or just pick up your copy on Amazon right now!
Ash was never supposed to visit Earth. After a genetic engineering catastrophe wiped out civilization, the survivors—inhabitants of a lunar mining colony—planned to rebuild on Mars. That was before a group of rebels seceded to the dark side of the moon, taking critical materials with them. Now conscripted teenagers scavenge the ruined third planet for species to use in terraforming. At fifteen, Ash is the best diver in a generation. But when tragedy strikes, he vows to end his colony’s dependence on its old homeworld at any cost.
Skye has never set foot on Earth. It’s not even visible from the moon’s far side, although the exiles’ mystic leader promises they will return home someday. Skye has discovered something that could realize this long-awaited dream, but she’s an outcast among outcasts, and no one will listen to her plan. To save her people, she might have to betray them.
Worlds collide when Ash and Skye meet, blurring the boundaries between enemies and allies, deception and truth. Their choices could preserve a future for humanity…or finally drive it to extinction.
Fans of contemporary science fiction classics like Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” will enjoy “Transient Phenomena”, the first installment of the “Syzygy” novella series.
Read Ullrich’s thoughtful post about Earth Day and learn more about her work at her website here
Have a great weekend everyone and don’t forget to hug a tree or roll around in the grass today! This old planet could use a little love.
Title & Author: The Nightfall Chronicles (Court of Nightfall – Book One, House of Ravens – Book Two, Night of Nyx – Book 2.5), Karpov Kinrade
Genre & Publication Date: Court of Nightfall – December 14, 2014, House of Ravens – March 31, 2015, Night of Nyx – October 1, 2015, YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Dystopian
Book Description: From Book One: “You think you know what is right and what is wrong? Then tell me if this man should die. He is my enemy. He is to be my end.
He is the one I love.
I have spent my life in shades of grey. I have died and returned to a world of color. I have fought an Angel and lived. I have kissed the Prince of Ravens. I have faced the Lord of Night and made him kneel. I was accepted into the Four Orders, and I created the fifth. I freed the Shadow of Rome. I sat upon the Twilight Throne.
The man asks for my surrender. He asks for peace. He is too late. The girl he knew is gone, and death is in her place. I am Nightfall, and this is my story. You think you know it?
First Line: (From Book One) Some say my story began when my parents were murdered. It did not.
My Take: It’s clear why this series is such a bestseller. Lots of action, a likable protagonist, awesome worldbuilding, interesting side characters, twisty plot, and of course, the supernatural. Looks like Amazon doesn’t have it categorized as Young Adult but it definitely reads like one, particularly with an eighteen year-old MC and a story told in first-person, present tense. (On a side note, is there a rule somewhere that says all YA needs to be first-person, present tense? Honestly I’m dying for a nice third-person, past tense. Lately when I open a book and see an “I” in the first paragraph it feels like I’m on my tenth consecutive day of eating chicken. Sweet Jesus, I would kill for a nice smoked salmon smothered in third-person pronouns.)
As per the usual for a series reviews, most of this will be related to book one with non-spoiler comments about the series as a whole.
Following a short intro preface, the story starts off with Scarlett Night (nice name btw) as a child. Normally this irks me as I’m impatient to get to the “grown-up” version since I know that’s where the story really gets going, but the early chapters of this childhood were really engaging and important to the plot. This is because the MC has such a compelling voice, but partly too because we get some great worldbuilding revealed and an incident that impacts much of what happens later in her life. Plus, it’s nice when a character has a best friend from childhood (Jax) and you actually get to see some of their time together as kids. That really grounded me in their relationship for later chapters.
In this world, there had been a war between mankind and the nephilim (For those who don’t know, nephilim refers to the offspring of the sons of God who mingled with the daughters of man – half angel folk, in other words). The nephilim were defeated but humans known as Zeniths began to appear. These are people who have powers and are considered the scum of society if they test “positive” for that DNA. This here adds our dystopian element and paves the way for some terrible acts committed by the government against this group.
So, adult Scarlett has been color blind all her life. This is disability that I just haven’t seen in fiction before so I really liked seeing the representation and how the authors worked in description without color. Definitely well done on that point. As you read in the first line, Scarlett finds out there’s a lot more going on that her parents never told you about but she only begins to find out about it when they’re murdered in front of her. She nearly dies herself and then wakes up…”changed”. Turns out the nephilim aren’t as eradicated as we thought.
Now, I feel it my responsibility to point out the following as far as the nephilim because they aren’t what you’d expect. It’s a small spoiler though so continue at your own risk.
As the story went along and I learned more about the nephilim of this world there came a point when I had to stop, close my eyes, and say quietly, “These are not nephilim. They are winged vampires.” Which, I gotta say, I felt a touch misled. Call them winged vampires if you must but not nephilim. Once I reordered my brain I was able to let it go and continue on though. The winged vampires are not like regular vampires so they are distinct, for which I was thankful, but I wonder if some felt misled on that score.
Aside from a couple of minor things, this series definitely grabs your attention and holds on to it. Good, strong, courageous protag facing immense challenges as she tries to juggle two very different versions of herself and her life. Awesome side characters you can’t help but love and be intrigued by. In a word: Riveting.
The Magical: Really enjoyed Scarlet’s personality. She had that nice mix of strength without annoying snark, empathy without being wishy-washy, and self-sacrifice without being a door mat. She’s a girl I really enjoyed reading about, despite the first-person present-tense;)
The Mundane: Over the course of the series we meet three different guys who fall in love with Scarlett and who she has feelings for as well (sometimes not right away but the seed of attraction is hinted at.) Love triangles bug me a bit in any genre but when the men start lining up it just gets to me. Now I will say that when Scarlett is with someone her thoughts are not straying towards the others. She’s loyal and because of this, it wasn’t a problem.
Summary of Thoughts: Books one and two are Scarlett’s story. Book 2.5 is more of a novella with another character and depicts his point of view during the events of book two. As this is one of those super intriguing side characters, I definitely enjoyed hearing his inner thoughts and views of what went on. Book three is actually from another character’s perspective which I haven’t read yet but plan to. All are available exclusively on Amazon (and Kindle Unlimited). I highly recommend these first installments. Imaginative and engaging, they’re full of action and intrigue. You won’t be disappointed.
Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here
Want to more about the authors and their work? Explore their website here
Last week I went with my eight year old niece to see the uber hyped live action remake of Beauty and the Beast.
My opinion? Definitely recommended.
First: It’s clear this movie was made by people who loved the original Disney cartoon. If they read this I would tell them thank you so much for not taking annoying liberties with the story to make it into something new. They understood that nobody wanted new, they wanted a live action version of the original. This they absolutely delivered. In fact, have a look at the trailer alongside the 1991 version:
Awesome, right?? Made with love, I tell you.
Now, they did adjust a few things since we’re dealing with actors and not drawn characters (although, obviously there was CGI) but the changes were great. Wow, were there some serious wigs going on in this thing. They were so over the top — wink wink at French history — that you couldn’t help but enjoy it. At least I couldn’t.
Second: The makers chose their cast well. I loved Emma Watson as Belle, but hands down Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou stole the show for me. You could just tell they enjoyed the hell out of their roles. Considering Luke Evans played the noble and courageous Bard in The Hobbit, it impressed me how he easily switched into the petty and gorgeous Gaston for this one. Well, maybe the gorgeous part wasn’t all that hard for him because, damn.
Third: I worried that Beast wouldn’t have the compelling look as he did in the Disney version, those features of his that could be ferocious at one moment and tender the next, but this too was well done. He looked perfect. Now, the human version at the end played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens put me off totally. He just didn’t…do it for me. Something didn’t quite fit there and he seemed wrong next to Belle. Could be because he does better with the brooding frown than the expression of transcendent joy required at the end. I wonder if they chose him because he was so well known from Downton Abbey but I feel like an unknown might’ve worked better.
So, in all, it was a lot of fun. There were a couple of plot parts that were a bit thin but still it was well executed. The Disney version will forever be the true version for me, of course, but live-action or not, Belle is one of those special characters that grabbed my heart as a little girl. As an adult her song, “There Must Be Something More Than This Provincial Life” takes on a new meaning to me.
Haha, sorry, had to share that one.
But seriously, these days it seems like the message to girls is that instead of being true to themselves, they should worry about their appearance and whether the good-looking boy thinks they’re worthy of attention. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with a girl wanting to look nice, so long as she’s doing it for herself and her own power, that she doesn’t change who she is on the inside in order to fit who someone else is. Because there’s plenty of examples of that, like the movies that show being true to yourself requires a total makeover, complete with sassy hair flipping, high heels, and a thigh high split in their dress (*cough* Elsa *cough* Sandy Olsson *cough*).
Belle contradicts this model. She refuses to be pinned down by the expectations of society that say a woman’s job is to find a man, that she can’t take care of herself and shouldn’t participate in things that require thought and action. Belle wants more for herself, even if that means people think her strange and mock her. It’s a lonely path but a brave one that we can’t help but admire her for.
This is a story that warns of the emptiness of vanity and selfishness, a romance based on the beauty within, on kindred spirits and mutual understanding.
Tale as old as time? I really hope so.