Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Book Review: Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

Pros: has a degree of historical accuracy, interestingly flawed characters, horrifying monsters

Cons: uses slurs, some disturbing scenes

The black death rages across France as demons test God’s concern for the earth. A disgraced knight saves a young girl from his companions and, against his will, agrees to accompany her to Paris and Avignon. He quickly realizes there’s something special about her, but is she a saint or a witch?

The book is set in a historical place and time that was clearly well researched (with some good acknowledgements in the back). The author weaves in some horrifying monsters and clearly inaccurate fantasy elements that fit the medieval mindset.

The are rich descriptions of setting that allow you to vividly picture the action. Given some of the monsters this isn’t always a positive.

Thomas is a great character. He’s flawed in several ways but grows as he travels with the girl.

One main side character is gay and they encounter Jews a time or two. Be aware that several slurs are used in the text when discussing these groups that fit the time and place, but may be distressing to read. There's also the threat of sexual violence several times.

It’s a brutal look at the middle ages with some horror elements added regarding Biblically accurate angels and demons. It’s a difficult read at times, so not for everyone.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

TV Review: W: Two Worlds Apart

Pros: fun romance, interesting characters, great concept

Cons: some disturbing content (suicide, torture)

Oh Yeon-joo is pulled into her father’s bestselling comic book series, “W”, and saves the hero, Kang Cheol’s life. Pulled between the two worlds, she falls in love with Kang and tries to shift the comic from being an action adventure to a romance story.

This is a Korean drama that aired in 2016, starring Lee Jong-Suk and Han Hyo-joo. IMDb listing.

Hard to find in North America as it’s no longer on Netflix here, I was lucky to find it in Europe on my recent trip to France.

The story is fun and quirky, with rules that get explained as the characters slowly figure out what’s happening. There are a few moments in the first two episodes where I felt embarrassed for Oh Yeon-joo, but the tense cliffhanger endings kept me watching. There are some heavy emotional moments and times when the story took a turn I wasn’t expecting.

The romance between the protagonists progressed at a good pace, though there was one moment where it seemed Kang had an unrealistic mood swing in Oh’s direction.

The special effects of going between worlds were really well done.

The show deals with free will, as the story begins with Kang just becoming aware that something is strange with his life. Learning he’s a comic book character, created to tell an entertaining story, creates turmoil in his life.

My only complaint with the show is that the writers (and characters who can effect reality in the comic book world) keep doing the same actions: providing a weapon and a getaway car. It seems that as they realized the potential of their ‘magic’, they could have done more interesting things to evade and outsmart the bad guys. Also, the English subtitles translated the web comic as 'cartoon', which I found inaccurate and distracting.

While it’s predominately a romance, this won’t be for everyone as the series also involves suicide and scenes of torture.

(Unfortunately this trailer I found for the show does not have English subtitles, but gives you an idea of the style & content of the show.)

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Video: Lo Pan Style

 Here's a double blast from the past. Wekejay did a parody video of PSY's "Gangnam Style" using Lo Pan from John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China. It is awesome! It's not a new video, though I only stumbled across it recently. James Hong, the actor that played Lo Pan in the film, even makes a cameo. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

Book Review: The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

Pros: fascinating period, clever interweaving of magic into history, interesting characters and events

Cons:

After finding their murdered governess’s book of magic, archduchesses Maria Carolina (Charlotte) and Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette) start teaching themselves spells. They hope this forbidden skill will help them in their upcoming political marriages to King Ferdinand I of Naples and the Dauphin of France respectively. One joins forces with a magical society that wants to control the use of magic, while the other is forced to hide her skill and work with rogues. Dreaming of how they’ll change the world for the better, politics, magic, and the whims of fate propel the sisters into the arms of revolution and a world very different from what they’d hoped to create.

Carefully following the events of history from 1767 to 1798, the author weaves magic into the story, using it to often explain natural disasters, political upheaval, and personal triumphs and defeats in the womens’ lives.

Magic requires 5 sacrifices, including a personal treasure, a memory, and an emotion (the love of a pet, for example). These sacrifices slowly leach the life and vivacity from the girls and the other practitioners around them. Magic itself varies between simple frivolous spells and truly dangerous spells.

It’s sad seeing how circumstances gradually change the sisters’ relationship with each other. Each one tries to do the best for their country, their family, and themselves, but that ultimately causes discord between them.

The author is kinder to Marie Antoinette and her actions and motivations than history has been. I didn’t know much about Naples or Charlotte’s reign, so I found her part of the story utterly fascinating. It’s clear the author did a lot of research on the people and time.

If you like alternate history and fantasy, this is an enjoyable read.

Friday, 4 November 2022

Shout-Out: Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt

Service at the Red Rooster Inn isn’t what you’d call "good," or even "adequate." Darin would be the first to say so, and he owns the place. Evie isn’t much of a barmaid; Kat’s home-brewed ale seems to grow less palatable with each new batch; and Seraphina’s service at the bar leaves much to be desired. As for the bouncer, Big Tom, well, everyone learns right quick to stay on his good side. 

They may be bad at running an inn, but they’re the best team of con artists in the Old Queendom. When a prospective client approaches Darin with a high-paying job, he knows he should refuse. But the job is boosting a shipment of priceless imperial dream wine, the most coveted and expensive drink in the world. And, thanks to a stretch of bad luck, he's in deep to The Dame, who oversees criminal enterprises in this part of the Queendom.

If they fail, they’re as good as dead, but if they succeed… well, it’s enough money to get square with the Dame and make all of their dreams come true. Plus, it's an option for Darin to stick it to the empress, who he has good reason to despise.

Then again, there’s a very good reason no one has ever stolen imperial dream wine...

Monday, 31 October 2022

Books Received in October 2022

Happy Halloween to those who celebrate it!

This month I was privileged to receive a book from Tor.com.

Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire - This is book 8 in McGuire's Wayward Children series and is set to publish on January 10th, 2023 (though publication dates have moved a lot the past year, so...). I've really enjoyed this series. I suspect most of us have dreamed at times of being able to leave this world for one that suits us better. This tells the stories of those who return. Several can be read as standalones, including this one, if the thought of reading 8 volumes is daunting. They're also novellas, so they're easier to whip through.

A young girl discovers an infinite variety of worlds in this standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series from Seanan McGuire, Lost in the Moment and Found.


Welcome to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go.

If you ever lost a sock, you’ll find it here.
If you ever wondered about favorite toy from childhood... it’s probably sitting on a shelf in the back.

And the headphones that you swore this time you’d keep safe? You guessed it….

Antoinette has lost her father. Metaphorically. He’s not in the shop, and she’ll never see him again. But when Antsy finds herself lost (literally, this time), she discovers that however many doors open for her, leaving the Shop for good might not be as simple as it sounds.

And stepping through those doors exacts a price.



Tuesday, 25 October 2022

Book Review: Becoming Crone by Lydia M. Hawke

Pros: interesting older protagonist, fun magical creatures

Cons:

After a year of difficult changes, Claire is gifted a pendent for her 60th birthday that unlocks the gate of a witches hut and even more difficult changes.

This is book 1 of the Crone Wars. It’s unusual to find a female protagonist post-menopause, so reading about Claire’s life was kind of a treat and kind of an uncomfortable look at what’s coming for me. She’s an interesting protagonist who took pains to not rock the boat and now finds the boat has sailed without her. What do you do when your life gets upended at her age? Look for a new purpose.

The use of magick is limited as Claire’s being introduced to that part of the world. The creatures she faces were fun takes on myth. Especially the gnomes.

The book moves quickly and has a satisfying arc.

If you like urban fantasy and want something a little different, this is a good read.