Browsing Tag

other people’s books

Book Log

Book review: La Rivière des morts, by Esther Rochon

La Rivière des mortsLa Rivière des morts by Esther Rochon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s tough for me to review this novel properly. My French isn’t good enough yet to have truly understood the majority of what I read here–and it didn’t help either that certain aspects of Mme. Rochon’s style here made it difficult for me to follow the action.

One, I did at least figure out that the book’s divided into a section involving protagonist Laura Fraser as a young girl, and a section involving her as an older woman (post-menopausal? Again, my French isn’t that solid yet, so I wasn’t able to nail that down for sure). It baffled me that the book changed tenses between these two sections, from first person in the earlier part to third in the latter. That was a baffling decision, one beyond my meager French to properly understand; it may well have made much more sense to Quebecois SF/F readers, I don’t know.

Two, in both sections, there was a certain distinct detachment to the action. In the first part, Laura tells the reader a lot of her history, along the lines of “this happened to me” and “I felt such-and-such a way”, with very little of what was going on actually played out directly. The same held true in the second part, although at least there, there were a few more scenes of direct interaction between Laura and other characters, notably Valtar and Sirwala. This made it a lot harder for me to feel engaged by any of the characters.

Three, instead of getting much in the way of action and character dialogue played out directly, we get a lot of lengthy paragraphs of Laura being introspective about assorted things that trouble her as a girl (mostly “the French speakers think I’m weird because I have an English name, and the English speakers think I’m weird because I speak with a French accent, and I HATE ALL OF THEM and I’m going to go dream about being a spider now”), and later, assorted things that trouble her as an adult. Later, when she does actually have direct interaction with other characters (mostly Valtar), each paragraph of dialogue is likewise very long. On the one hand, I regret that my French was not up to the task of following much of this, because I’m certain I’d have engaged with Laura as a character much more if I could actually understand most of what the text was saying. On the other hand, even as an Anglophone reader who’s barely able to dip her toes into Quebecois SF/F so far, I kept feeling like the lengthy, expository nature of the dialogue was forced. I’d be really curious to know if it reads that way to Quebecois readers as well, or if this is just a matter of my being a beginner at French.

So far, the one other Quebecois SF/F novel I’ve successfully read was significantly different stylistically, and targeted for younger readers as well–so it was much easier for me to follow. This one, I’ll straight-up admit, was a hard slog. So for now I’m going to have to give it two stars. But I’ll want to try it again later, as my French improves, and see whether my reading experience is different.

View all my reviews

Boosting the Signal, Carina Press

Boosting the Signal: Lonely Shore, by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen

Earlier this spring I featured fellow Carina authors Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen, with their debut SF novel Chaos Station. Book 2 of that series, Lonely Shore, is now available from Carina, and so Jenn and Kelly return to follow up on the tale of Felix and Zander with a peek at another character–Zander’s brother, who is very motivated to track down his sibling and find out what’s happened to him! Check it out.

web-page-separator

Lonely Shore

Still Searching

Brennan Anatolius signed the holographic invoice and with a few key swipes sent it back to his assistant for routing to the appropriate department before closing his wallet’s interface. Darkness settled around him like an old, worn blanket. The emulated sunset beyond his office’s windows had come and gone God knew how long ago—he’d noted it, in the vague way you’d notice the air circulators switching off on their usual cycle. Nothing to worry about.

Leaning back in his chair, he rubbed the bridge of his nose. He should go home. His wife, Roz, was waiting for him and she’d been damned patient these last few weeks. She knew how hard it had been to almost catch up to his youngest brother on Chloris Station, only to have Zander avoid him so completely it couldn’t be an accident. But what, really, had he expected?

After falling into the black hole of Allied Earth Forces covert ops, Zed had stopped carrying a wallet. Any messages sent to his official, AEF-sanctioned account had gone unanswered. Then there’d been the viral holo of Zed and his team saving a bunch of civilians against orders—followed closely by the end of the war. Brennan had been sure that Zed would contact his family then. But he hadn’t. Six months had crawled by without any contact—until Zed’s override code had been used on their family-controlled station, Chloris.

Brennan slouched into his chair, a posture he’d never allow himself during business hours. He had to be calm, in control, a CEO worthy of his father’s legacy. Part of him knew that worrying about Zed wasn’t helping his health—the doctor had suggested his recent bout of insomnia was due to stress. Brennan figured it just gave him extra time to track down his brother.

He pushed forward and pulled out his wallet again. All right. The last lead he’d gotten was about a week ago, when the Chaos had passed through the gate near Mars. He tried not to think about how close Zed had been to their family’s home station of Alpha—Anatolius Industries’ oldest and most luxurious station, in orbit around Earth. Brennan had already established that the Chaos hadn’t docked on Hemera Station at the Hub—the central location where all the galactic gates led—but it wouldn’t hurt to check again.

In the back of his mind, he knew his search was fruitless. The only reason he’d found a trace of Zed before was that Zed had been desperate to get aboard Chloris to help an old friend. His little brother had skills. If he wanted to stay hidden—and clearly he did—Brennan wasn’t going to find him.

Still, he had to try.

When his wallet chirped with an incoming call, Brennan almost let it go to mail. Until he saw the name accompanying it. He scrambled for his wallet, fingers shaking.

“Zed? Zed? Please don’t have hung up!”

web-page-separator

Buy the Book: Amazon | Amazon UK | Nook | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play | Carina Press

Follow the Authors On: Official Site | Jenn’s Twitter | Jenn’s Facebook | Kelly’s Twitter | Kelly’s Facebook

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Oubliette, by E.M. Prazeman

The first piece for Today’s Boosting the Signal doubleheader comes from fellow NIWA member E.M. Prazeman! She’s the author of the Lord Jester’s Legacy trilogy, and having laid personal eyes on her covers, I can report that they got a LOT of attention at Norwescon this past April. I’m looking forward to checking out her work, although from what I’m seeing in this piece, one will clearly want to tread lightly around her bad guys. She’s going to let you into the head of one of them now.

web-page-separator

Oubliette

E.M. Prazeman writes secondary world fantasies with strong historical leanings. Current works include The Lord Jester’s Legacy Trilogy (Masks, Confidante, and Innocence & Silence) and a short story which will appear in an upcoming anthology that will go on sale in November. Current works in progress are The Poisoned Past (Oubliette, Penumbra and A Dark Radiance), sequel series to The Lord Jester’s Legacy, and The Kilhellion, a sword and sorcery fantasy. The Poisoned Past will go on sale this summer. Oubliette looks good for an early June release! Now, please let me introduce to you a certain person from Oubliette whom you would not want to meet under any circumstances. If he succeeds, you’ll all get to see him again in Penumbra.

***

I’m a villain. I like it, and I’m good at it. I wouldn’t have become one, if people weren’t slow, stupid liars. Are you afraid? I don’t care if you are. Not anymore. I used to like fear, and blubbering, and people pissing themselves. I’m not sure what happened. For a while I thought I got bored with it, but honestly … don’t you look for a way to escape when I’m talking to you. I thought you weren’t as idiotic as the others, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with you. That’s a compliment, and a gift. You’re exceptional. Too bad for you, hmm?

Anyway. Years ago when I raped a man, something went wrong. He liked it, in a way. He killed himself later, but that wasn’t what changed me. I’m pissed that he changed me, by the way. He and his wife. I can’t stop thinking about that look in his eyes. Release. A strange joy behind his fear, as if I’d set him free. He wanted to die then. I didn’t want to kill him. Fuck, I wanted more from him. I wanted to make him mine forever.

I find it curious that both people I harmed who liked it were men. I should have enjoyed it better, I think, if they were women, but a hole is a hole when it all comes down to it, don’t you agree? No? It’s all right if you disagree. I don’t mind. Truly. As if I would care what people think of me.

Anyway, since then, for the most part, I kept my work simple. I interrogated, mainly using my wits and their lack thereof. I tortured people sometimes if I thought they’d respond in the way that normal, rational people do when they’re in pain, but that seemed risky to me. I should have trusted my instincts. Because that boy.

That boy.

I can still hear his exquisite voice calling my name softly down the dungeon hall. Cock. His mouth cupped the word like he wanted to take me in. A Trace. A lover’s whisper. Cock, a trace. Cockatrice.

Oh for pity’s sake you didn’t know who I was? Am? Whatever. It’s so obvious to anyone who’s paying attention. They called me Cock in school. I deserved it, earned it, both for the good and the wicked reasons, though they tried to humiliate me and make fun of it. And then, when I graduated, I took the name Trace. Cock. Trace. I have no idea why no one makes the connection between Trace the Master Jester and Cockatrice, the dreaded highwayman. It’s not even that clever. What can I say? I was young and I think part of me wanted to give the people who hunted me a little help because I didn’t feel hunted. I wanted to play the fox to their hounds and I wanted them to get close because that is about as thrilling as you can imagine. But they never got close to catching me, no matter how many sacred guards they sent after me. Now I’m employed rather than a free agent. I work alongside sacred guards every day. My employer would protect me if I was accused, but the pathetic nut rubbers that try to play mavson these days still haven’t caught on.

The boy, you ask? None other than the infamous regicide, that dreaded and feared little boy, Lord Jester Lark. Have you seen him? He’s as short and slight as they describe, with his angelic little innocent face. You’d never dream he was dangerous at all, especially when he’s not wearing his jester’s mask. I made the mistake of hurting him. And oooohhh, how he yielded to me, gave in to the pain. How he took strength from his endurance. I wanted to whip him bloody and then force myself upon him.

I’ve gotten quite carried away. Hand me that drink.

Thank you.

He got away and I want him back. I don’t want you. But I need you. Not like I need him. I need your skills. Track him for me. They say he ran off into the woods. That’s rather like saying he sailed away across the wide ocean, isn’t it? But you’re going to find him for me. It shouldn’t take you long. I know where he began, and I think I know where he’s going. We need to intercept him. And when you find him for me, I’ll be so preoccupied with my prize you’ll be able to slip away from me. I won’t care. I’ll happily let you go. Here. I’ll even pay you in advance.

Ha! You’ve never seen five sol together in one palm? Well now you have, in your own hand, my friend. I might give you another five if you find him.

But. If you don’t find him, I’ll have to take my money back and try to satisfy myself with you. For this boy does inspire a strange lust in me, and the closer I get to him, the stronger my lust becomes. Now, don’t you worry about him. He’ll be far more interested in me than you. He might be strong enough to kill me, which will be a great relief to the living world. But I’m betting he won’t hurt me. I’m betting that he felt the same thrill I did when I gripped his hair so hard that some tore free from his scalp, when I forced him against that cold, hard stone.

A shame we were so rudely interrupted.

Compared to him, you’re not at all interesting. But if you’re all I’ve got, I will use you. So go get him for me. And make it quick. I’m more patient than I was as a youth, but that does not make me a patient man.

web-page-separator

Buy the Book: Oubliette is not yet released, but follow the author for news on when it becomes available!

Follow the Author On: Official Site | Facebook | Goodreads

Book Log

Book review: Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I continued my sweep of reviews of the Hugo nominees for Best Novel–and in particular, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, I had to go back and get caught up on Ancillary Justice. And wow, am I glad I did. I’m very late to the game on this book, but I can see why it won ALL THE THINGS last year. Much has been said already about what Leckie pulls off with this novel, not only with the gender-agnostic society occupied by the main characters, but also with the dual plotline involving our protagonist, Breq. But I do have some thoughts on both.

Re: the gender-agnosticism of the Radch, this didn’t strike me as quite the Revelation(TM) as it might have done if I hadn’t read Samuel Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. But I have, and so the notion of people referring to one another as “she” no matter what their actual physical gender wasn’t particularly startling to me. I did appreciate how the worldbuilding allowed that even if the Radchaai’s language was gender-agnostic, the people themselves still had physical gender; the author has herself described that the Radchaai are after all humans, so yes, they do still have actual physical gender. This is supported in the text, when non-Radchaai react to gender cues that Breq has to work to actually parse.

That said, I’m of two minds about it. Half of me certainly delighted in being able to read a story wherein, if I so chose, I could imagine every single character as female. The other half of me wishes that Leckie would have gone further and used truly neutral pronouns–while at the same time, with my writer hat on, I can understand how that might have made her book harder to digest for the vast majority of readers. We do, after all, live in a still predominantly two-gender society, and furthermore, one which still considers “male” the dominant gender. There are factions of SF readers who have trouble admitting that women can star in SF novels–never mind write them. Heads already explode at trying to handle that. Asking them to handle people who don’t fit so easily into a gender binary is probably asking too much. (Though yeah, I’d like to see it happen anyway.)

And, re: the dual nature of the plotline in this book: yes, we’ve got a non-linear plot here, but one which has a coherent structure nonetheless, jumping back and forth between “present” time and a point twenty years prior. Once you get into the rhythm of it, you can follow along pretty clearly, even without obvious markers in chapter headers or anything of that nature. I appreciated that the book expected me to be clever enough to keep up.

But all of the above pertains to worldbuilding and plot structure. What about our protagonist? I loved Breq/One Esk Nineteen/Justice of Toren, and the entire notion of her being one segment of an entire ship’s consciousness. The book does a wonderful job at portraying what that multiplicity is like, even as it throws strong implications at you about the horrifying practices that make ancillaries for Swords and Mercies and Justices in the first place. But Breq in general is an awesome character, both as a ship and as the now-sole ex-ancillary bent on killing the Lord of the Radch. Breq’s body may be human (and there are hints that that body’s original personality might be recoverable), but her consciousness is not. Yet there are little quirks and nuances throughout Justice of Toren’s portrayal that tell you that the Ship has had literal centuries of time to absorb personality traits from all of its ancillaries. And to be sure, I’m particularly partial to how Justice of Toren liked to sing. Often with multiple mouths at once.

I do have to admit that despite the gender-agnosticism of Radchaai society, I kept looking for cues as to the genders of characters–notably, Seivarden, but others as well. I caught myself doing it, and in fact tried to force myself not to once I realized what I was doing, because I think that was part of the book’s overall point. Though in Seivarden’s case, gender cues are in fact explicitly called out early on, and it’s obvious that Seivarden is in fact male. (And now, writing about that character, I find myself actively torn between saying ‘her’ and saying ‘him’ because HA YES I see you what did there, Leckie.)

Plot-wise, I found the whole thing very focused, honed to crystalline clarity, with the dual plots ultimately leading to an intriguing and explosive resolution. Breq’s grudging caring for Seivarden is an excellent counterpoint to the drama that unfolds on Shis’urna, and Justice of Toren’s eventual destruction, with One Esk Nineteen as the only survivor. Overall, it was a distinct pleasure to read, particularly as preparation for going straight into Ancillary Sword. Five stars.

(Editing to add: and OH YES, I totally forgot to mention: in the Ancillary Justice Movie In My Brain, Breq is totally played by Summer Glau.)

View all my reviews

Books

Clearing out the Inbox again book roundup

Picked up from Kobo:

Long Black Curl

Long Black Curl

  • Long Black Curl, by Alex Bledsoe. Urban fantasy, book 3 of his Tufa series. Y’all may remember that I adored The Hum and the Shiver, and so when I found out book 3 of this series is coming out, I had to leap on the pre-order-y goodness.
  • “The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt”, also by Alex Bledsoe. Short story set in the Tufa universe, followup to books 1 and 2 of the series. This was posted to tor.com but I went ahead and paid 99 cents for it to get it as a download on general principles.
  • Of Noble Family, by Mary Robinette Kowal. Book 5 of her Glamourist series, which I have quite admired. I’ll be sorry to see this one winding up!
  • Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie. SF, book 2 of her Ancillary series, which I immediately snapped up after finally reading Ancillary Justice.

And, picked up in print as a reward for supporting her latest Kickstarter:

  • Citadel of the Sky, by Chrysoula Tsavelas. On general principles of Soula being awesome.

Which puts me at 20 for the year. Running pretty thin for my usual book-buying habits, if I’m only up to 20 titles purchased, and here it is mid-May already. But that’s okay. I’ve been working on actually, y’know, reading stuff in my backlog. Which I feel I need to do more of!

Boosting the Signal

Announcing “Boosting the Signal”

I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to do something similar to how John Scalzi does his Big Idea column over on the Whatever, and how Mary Robinette Kowal does My Favorite Bit. I know quite a few authors at this point, many of whom need all the help they can get to get the word out about their books. And well hey, I’ve got a blog. So I’m going to start inviting folks to come borrow my blog every so often to, in fact, boost their signals.

What I’ll be putting into these posts:

  • Author name
  • The title and genre of their book
  • Links to where it can be bought
  • Cover art

And most importantly, here’s where the Boosting the Signal part comes in.

One of the characters in these books will have a goal. Protagonist, antagonist, hero, villain, I don’t care which–if the author has done their job, this character is going to want something. And their only path to achieving that goal is for people to come check out the book. So in the voice of this character, my guests will be telling you what that goal is.

Right now this semi-regular feature will be invitation-only, as I want to first give precedence to folks I know from several of the indie, hybrid, and self-pub circles I’m a part of. I’ll be pinging a few folks in particular to gauge interest. The rest of you, you can expect this to feature several of my fellow Carina authors, current work by the other folks who used to write for Drollerie Press, as well as possible folks from NIWA (the Northwest Independent Writers Association) and other self-pub or small-press folks I know.

I’ll be running these on Fridays when I have ’em. Hopefully this’ll be fun, for me to post and for y’all to read!

Other People's Books

Boosting the signal for Stronger than Blood, by Genevieve Griffin

Stronger than Blood

Stronger than Blood

A local writer friend of mine has just released her very first novel, the YA urban fantasy Stronger than Blood! I beta-read an early draft of this, and am proud to see it finally getting out into the world. Here’s what I said about it on Goodreads and Amazon:

(Disclaimer: the writer of this book is a friend of mine, and I beta-read this before its release! These remarks are based on my beta-read of the novel.)

Stronger Than Blood does a deft job of avoiding tropes I give the side-eye to in both YA and urban fantasy. It involves high school students, yet it avoids a lot of the angst I’ve seen in other titles I’ve sampled. And it’s urban fantasy with werewolves–but I found the heroine, B, refreshingly atypical. She’s not only not a stereotypical badass, her transformations cause her active, major health problems, and this is one of the neatest explorations of what exactly monthly shapeshifting can do to a body that I’ve had the pleasure to read.

And what does our heroine, B, have to deal with? Discovering that she is not in fact the only werewolf in the world, and that furthermore, the pack she discovers is not plagued with her health issues. But her initial quest to find out whether these other weres can teach her how to not only endure her transformations, but to get her strength back as well, is only the first layer of a nicely complicated little plot. B’s got to maneuver dangerous pack dynamics if she wants to survive not only her own changes, but her new place in a world that contains others like her.

So yeah, go pick this one up. And tell Genevieve I sent you, won’t you?

To which I’ll basically add here that if you like YA, and if you like werewolves, and if you’ve got a Kindle or any of the various Kindle apps, give this ‘un a read! You can find it for sale on Amazon right over here.

And you can follow Genevieve on Twitter here or on tumblr right over here!