Tuesday 28 December 2021

Books Received in December 2021

 Many thanks to Orbit for an advanced copy of:

The City of Dusk by Tara Sim - This just sounds amazing.  Out March 22nd.

This dark epic fantasy follows the heirs of four noble houses—each gifted with a divine power—as they form a tenuous alliance to keep their kingdom from descending into a realm-shattering war.

The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light—will sacrifice everything to save the city.

But their defiance will cost them dearly.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Book Review: Drawn on the Way by Sarah Nisbett

Art like many topics is subjective, and so learning how to do art will be different for everyone. I was hoping the author’s more relaxed ‘no rules’ version of learning to draw would work for me in ways that some other learn how to draw guides have not. Unfortunately, while I liked some of the principles the author professed, her style of learning did not work for me either.

I greatly appreciated the section on starting something new, that you need to ignore negative thoughts in order to simply create. The act of making art should bring joy, regardless of what the end result looks like.

I also thought the idea of starting an image with the ‘hook’ (the thing that first catches your eye) and then using that element as the scale for the rest of the image was a good technique and she explains several other clever tricks for making things look more realistic.

But the practical aspects of the book didn’t mesh with my style of drawing. I don’t like the limits imposed by some exercises used, like trying to draw an image without looking at your paper. While I can understand the point of the exercise is to make you focus on the subject and not get hung up on the end result, for me these exercises are more frustrating then helpful as I’m left with a bunch of lines that don’t look anything like the subject.

The chapters are short with only a few paragraphs explaining each lesson and in a few cases I felt that I still didn’t quite understand how to do what was being asked. Especially in one of the early lessons about interrogating the subject when determining what to draw. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of asking a still life subject ‘what happens next’?

Everyone learns differently so the fact that this book didn’t quite work for me shouldn’t discourage you from checking it out.

Friday 17 December 2021

Shout-Out: Nucleation by Kimberly Unger

In this riveting debut science-fiction technothriller, a top-notch VR pilot encounters a disaster during the highest profile space-faring project of her career. Now she must unearth a critical truth: was her discovery due to a betrayal, a business rival, or a threat to humanity itself?

We are live, we are live, we are live. . .

Helen Vectorvich just botched first contact. And she did it in both virtual reality and outer space.

Only the most elite Far Reaches deep-space pilots get to run waldos: robots controlled from thousands of lightyears away via neural integration and quantum entanglement. Helen and her navigator were heading the construction of a wormhole gate that would connect Earth to the stars . . . until a routine system check turned deadly.

As nasty rumors swarm around her, and overeager junior pilots jockey to take her place, Helen makes a startling discovery: microscopic alien life is devouring their corporate equipment. Is the Scale just mindless, extra-terrestrial bacteria? Or is it working—and killing—with a purpose?

While Helen struggles to get back into the pilot’s chair, and to communicate with the Scale, someone—or something—is trying to sabotage the Far Reaches project once and for all. They’ll have to get through Helen first.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Book Review: The Crusades: A History of Armed Pilgrimage and Holy War by Geoffrey Hindley

Pros: excellent overview, covers all the crusades, good supplementary material

Cons: superficial coverage can leave gaps in knowledge

This is a short but comprehensive record of the crusades, from what led up to the calling of the first crusade, to how modern nations have looked back on them. In addition to dealing with each crusade and what happened between them, the book also has an excellent chronology, a few maps, and appendices of the various popes and secular rulers of some of the principle nations involved. There are 14 chapters, with an additional introduction explaining what the crusades were and an epilogue. While there are scant details of each crusade, the author is careful to note the various horrors each side perpetuated and how each side was impacted by the crusades (so you get some idea of how Jews, heretics, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, etc. reacted. The one group that got very little input were the Eastern European pagans, who are mentioned in later chapters but there isn’t much information about how they reacted to the crusades beyond what battles they were involved in).

There isn’t much detail for each crusade, the length of the book necessarily forcing the author to cover each one briefly, but the author does an excellent job of covering the basics and more. In some cases it’s easy to skip over some of the more horrible aspects, as they could get a single line - like the fact that some crusaders resorted to cannibalism to survive the first crusade. Having said that, I was impressed by how much information was crammed in. The book provides an excellent overview of the crusades as a whole after which you can easily pick up a book on a specific crusade/period to get more in depth information, knowing the broad strokes of the movement.

If you’re interested in the crusades and want a book that covers it all, this is a good one.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Book Review: The History of Tarot Art: Demystifying the Art and Arcana, Deck by Deck by Holly Adams Easley and Esther Joy Archer

Pros: lots of illustrations, sticks to verifiable history, engaging

Cons: images of a few discussed cards not included

Note: I received a review copy of the ebook from Netgalley and therefore cannot comment on the removable Sola-Busca tarot cards or fold-out tarot timeline that the physical book comes with.

The History of Tarot Art takes you on a journey of the most influential tarot decks. After a short introduction there are 12 chapters on specific tarot decks, followed by a chapter that showcases several contemporary decks. Then there’s a quick epilogue and an appendix where the authors explain how to do a tarot reading and provide 2 spreads for beginners.

Each chapter talks about the history of that deck, who the artist was and why the deck was created. In a few cases other artworks by the artist are included so you can see their general style. The artists also explain the wider influence of the decks and offer a few suggestions of other decks you might like if that style of art speaks to you.

In the introduction the authors make it clear that they are only including verifiable history, no ‘fakelore’. I really appreciated the amount of research that went into this book and how ideas about tarot developed from playing cards to cards for divination purposes.

There are a lot of illustrations in the book, mostly specific tarot cards from the decks discussed and recommended. In a few places the authors spoke about specific cards that did not show up in the book, which was unfortunate. There were also a few places where the formatting of the book meant the authors spoke about one specific card, like the sun card, and a different deck’s sun card appeared on that page, which was a bit confusing.

It’s fascinating to see how styles changed over time and how various artists created their own decks to address the fact that the current decks didn’t speak to them or show them as practitioners (so feminist and more inclusive decks that made the esoteric content more accessible).

On the whole this is a fantastic book if you’re interested in the art and history of tarot cards.