Tag Archives: Australian

Lotus Blue

Author: Cat Sparks

My rating: 5 of 5

Many years ago, wars decimated the planet, unleashing bio-engineered weaponized plants and mecha supersoldiers–half human, half machine–on the world. Now, the only ones who truly remember what the world once was are the few still functional Templars, their bodies sustained by the tech inside left over from the wars. Meanwhile, vast sections of the remaining population hole up in underground cities, waiting for the world to recover. And on the sand roads above, a determined few face the fading world and strive for survival, the tech of the past incomprehensibly altered to the stuff of myths. But the world is changing–Angels fall from the sky, travelers arrive from the hidden underground cities, and somewhere beyond the Obsidian Sea an ancient consciousness awakes.

I hugely enjoyed Lotus Blue, right from the start. This may not make sense, since they’re really not particularly alike, but the flavor of this story reminds me a lot of Firefly (a favorite of mine). The author’s descriptions are evocative, and the worldbuilding is sublime. I love the way she looks at modern (and futuristic) tech through the eyes of a people who have long forgotten what it actually is; the combination of advanced technology and primitive culture is quite intriguing. I love how the world slowly blossoms before the reader, displayed through the eyes of a variety of characters, each with different backgrounds, understandings, and motivations. The multiple points of view are fascinating, and the characters are all interesting in their own ways. The story itself weaves multiple individual stories into one big interconnected plot, and does so remarkably well. I honestly had no complaints about this book; it was very enjoyable and is one I would highly recommend–an excellent work of post-apocalyptic speculative fiction.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

What the Mind Forgets (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: Revhead

FanFiction ID: 12459300

Status: Complete (33 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience/21+ for significant slash & trigger warnings for rape/non-con/heavy whump

Spoiler Alert: may contain spoilers through season 11/AU after this point

Sometimes, it seems like the Winchesters just can’t catch a break. After only four months of wedded bliss, Dean goes missing, leaving a frantic Cas and Sam behind searching for him, with no success. Seven months later, Dean turns up on the side of a road, half-dead and with no memory–not of who he is, of hunting, or even of the people who mean the most to him. Heartbroken, but determined to do what’s best for Dean, Cas agrees to stay away from him and allow him the chance at a normal life, one not filled with monsters and a broken past laden with regrets. But what Sam and Cas don’t realize is that the one thing Dean doesn’t need right now is to be left alone.

I have to admit, I’ve been rather hesitant to review this story. Because really, it’s extremely intense and graphic at points, and yeah, there’s a lot of sex. But at the same time, What the Mind Forgets was an extremely well-written story, one that was thoughtful and moving and captured the characters well. So here’s the review, but read the story only with that in mind. Also do know that, as the author points out, there is a valid happy-ending stop point at chapter 22, so if you stop there, you have a few loose ends, but you miss the worst of the ick and violence–although there’s still a lot of sex up to that point. This is primarily a slow-burn romance story about two guys who are married, after all. Which is a really interesting starting point, in my mind, starting AU at the end of season 11 and instead of the whole BMOL and having Mary back, giving us a fully-human Castiel and a bit of downtime for him and Dean to have some happiness together. It’s sweet, and it makes the ache of Dean’s amnesia that much more intense. Now normally I hate the amnesia trope, because that’s usually exactly what it is–an overused and poorly handled plot device that messes with an otherwise decent story. Not so here; the author highlights all the emotional and psychological issues of Dean’s amnesia both from his perspective and from Cas’s in a well-thought-out manner. The loss, the confusion, the pain of seeing someone you know only they’re not really the same person at all inside. It’s heartbreaking. But it’s also really sweet, seeing a new relationship developing between Dean and Cas, seeing Dean trying so hard, seeing the gradual transformation in Castiel. I really loved that–enough to make it well worth the reading in spite of the above warnings, and I’m looking forward to reading more of this author’s work.

Note: You can find What the Mind Forgets at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12459300/1/What-the-Mind-Forgets.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media Review

Tender Morsels

Author: Margo Lanagantender morsels

My rating: 3.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience/Contains rape & incest

Ever since her mother’s death, Liga has lived in abuse and isolation, first from her father and later from the young men in her village. In a moment of desperation, Liga decides to end her own life and that of her baby daughter–only to have a most mysterious being interfere and offer her another way out: an exchange of her life in the real world for a safe life in her own personal “heaven.” And so, for many years, Liga and her two daughters live safely in peace . . . but the real world won’t be kept out forever, nor will strong-willed girls be kept in.

If you’ve read anything by Margo Lanagan, you won’t be surprised when I say that Tender Morsels was dark and unsettling. I think if you leave a book of hers undisturbed, you’ve read it wrong. Tender Morsels takes several story elements from the classic fairy tale, “Snow White and Rose Red,” and transforms them into a dark but hopeful tale. It wrestles with the harms women can and do receive from men–and with bringing that fact into balance with the wonderful, healthy relationships that are also possible. It deals with the concept of escapism and the fact that life is meant to be lived fully–the hurts, yes, but also the glorious joys and loves that it can bring. I think Lanagan’s handling of these concepts was well done; meaningful, conflicted, and thought-provoking to be sure. I also appreciated that she dealt with some very difficult topics without cheapening them by making them erotic or overly detailed, while still maintaining the painful emotional impact of them. Honestly, I probably should rate this book a 5 of 5, but it just didn’t work that well for me in some regards. I can’t even say why exactly . . . the plot was too loose and all over the place, perhaps? I’m not sure who the actual protagonist even is? I can’t even say how I really feel about the ending? Whatever the case, Tender Morsels was an excellently written story, just not one of my personal favorites.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Explorer: The Hidden Doors

Editor: Kazu Kibuishiexplorer the hidden doors

My rating: 4 of 5

The great thing about doors–and perhaps the scary thing, too–is that you never quite know what might be behind them. Just look what Lucy found when she opened the wardrobe doors to play hide-and-seek! In this collection of graphic shorts, we find (and open) doors in closets and in tombs–even in the mind itself!

I have loved Kibuishi’s Amulet books, so I was very curious to see what sort of collection he would pull together. And I must say, I very much enjoyed this collection. There’s a lot of variety, but the “hidden door” theme ties the stories together nicely. There are funny stories, and thought-provoking stories, and wonder-filled stories–and maybe they’re all a little bit of all of those. In any case, they share a beauty, charm, and warmth that is quite delightful, one that can be appreciated by everyone from grade-school kids to adults. Definitely recommended–especially for those who would like to try out the writing styles of different graphic novelists.

Contributors: Kazu Kibuishi, Jen Breach, Jason Caffoe, Steve Hamaker, Faith Erin Hicks, Douglas Holgate, Johane Matte, Jen Wang, Mary Cagle, Denver Jackson, & Noreen Rana

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review

Unforgotten

Author/Illustrator: Tohby RiddleUnforgotten

My rating: 4.5 of 5

This is the story of winged, magical beings who quietly come to our world, mostly unnoticed and unappreciated. It is the story of one who became lost, alone and uncared for. And it is the story of a small group of individuals who were different, who noticed, and who determined that this amazing being would not be forgotten.

Unforgotten is really an remarkable book. I hesitate to call it a graphic novel, although that is what it is marketed as. It’s really more of an illustrated poem almost. There’s no particular meter or rhyme, so it’s not traditional poetry. But the sparse, carefully chosen words and the way it’s written in three sections with the first and third parts echoing each other makes it seem poetic . . . although I didn’t actually realize this until I saw the page in the back where the entire text of the book is printed out together. When you’re reading it, it’s dispersed in tiny pieces amidst the artwork so you hardly notice you’re reading at all. And the artwork is really something amazing in itself. It’s this incredibly complex and surprising collage of photographs and drawings, all jumbled together in a way that should be discordant, but that actually works quite effectively. Especially since the “angels” are placed as this simple, white drawing in the middle of all the crazy photographs, making this center of calm and quiet in the midst of it all. Also, I think it’s great that this is such an ageless book–it’s written such that children and adults alike can enjoy it, and I couldn’t really even say which audience it was written for. I would definitely recommend Unforgotten for readers of all sorts and all ages.

On a side note, it was weird for me to read Unforgotten at the time that I did. It’s been too recently that I watched “Blink” and “The Time of Angels”/”Flesh and Stone” . . . so the whole angels coming to earth without, initially, a clear explanation of what they’re doing there, was actually a bit eerie for me. I read the whole first section with a sense of foreboding! It was only the second time around, when I’d established that these angels are benevolent beings, that I was able to enjoy Unforgotten as it was meant to be read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Eric

Author/Illustrator: Shaun Tan

Eric came as an exchange student. He was . . . different, hard to understand sometimes. Probably because the place he came from was really different, but it was hard to tell. No one really knew whether he even enjoyed his time as an exchange student–not until they saw what he left behind in his room!

I admire and enjoy Shaun Tan’s writing so much! It’s endlessly original, insightful, whimsical, and fun–all words that describe Eric perfectly. This is a delightful illustrated short story. (I was truly surprised but also thrilled by how tiny it is when I got my copy in the mail–only about 5-6 inches tall) The exchange student in question is enigmatic in the best sort of way: odd, curious, paying attention to things we would never give heed to. He even chooses to sleep in the cupboard rather than a normal bedroom! The words of the story are simple but rich in a way that would make this a great read-aloud book for kids (but also a fun tale for older readers–it’s really not “childish” at all). It’s the illustrations that make the story complete though . . . it’s like, the words themselves have a meaning, but add in the pictures, and the words take on entirely new and vivid meanings. Truly brilliant. I especially love the use of contrasting grey-tones versus color to make the ending stand out. Because of the skill with which it’s created and charm it evokes, I would highly recommend Eric to readers young and old.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

Author: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Eddie Campbell

Long ago in Scotland, a man of child-like stature hires Calum MacInnes to lead him to a secret cave on the Misty Isle. It is said that this cave is filled with more gold than you can carry, but that gold’s protected by an ancient curse. Calum MacInnes should know, for he went to that cave himself once when he was much younger–went and came back with enough gold to buy himself a good life . . . and with an emptiness inside that could never be filled. As the two journey to the island together, their thoughts are both filled with secrets, darkness, regrets, and schemes they can never reveal to the other–at least not as long as the other is alive.

If you’ve read this blog for long at all, you know I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing. Having said that, while I was reading The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, I was honestly wondering if this particular book was just a miss–I really wan’t feeling it at all. But by the time I’d pushed through the first third of the story, things began changing quite a bit as the underlying motivations and interlacing background stories were laid bare. Because these aren’t simply two men who are randomly using each other; they have a dark, tragic connection in their past, one that is closely tied to the revenge one seeks on the other without his ken. This is a dark, psychologically involved, emotionally taxing story–but one that is rewarding in a brutal sort of way to those who push through to the end. Particularly notable about this book is Eddie Campbell’s art–it’s truly a hodgepodge of paintings, photographs, and even comics. It’s unusual, unsettling, but highly effective in this context. I certainly don’t think The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains is for everyone–maybe not even for all Neil Gaiman fans–but if you enjoy unusual, dark short novels and have some patience for a slower start, you might want to check this novelette out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Lost & Found

Authors: Shaun Tan & John Marsden

Illustrator: Shaun Tan

Somewhere, a girl struggles through her own dark reality, a world depressed and distorted until it’s nearly unrecognizable–will she recognize the gleam of hope that follows her through the day? Somewhere else, a boy finds a . . . well, a thing . . . on the beach. He and the thing have fun playing together until he realizes that it’s hopelessly lost–and he has to figure out what to do with it! Elsewhere again, a group of docile natives find themselves overrun by dominating rabbits, first a few, then an overwhelming flood that is an irrevocable tide.

I admire Shaun Tan’s work greatly–he has the combination of boldness, discernment, and art to be able to pull off things that would look and sound absurd if other people wrote/drew them. Lost & Found is a collection of three of his earlier short stories–“The Red Tree,” “The Lost Thing,” and “The Rabbits” (which was written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan)–all of which were originally published individually. I really like them in this collection though; with the way they’re illustrated, they seem to just flow into each other quite naturally. Thematically, they provide an interesting look into his earlier work in all of its odd, groundbreaking strangeness. I love that he uses such earthshatteringly unfamiliar material to bring into sharp focus things that are in many ways quite mundane. Do brace yourself when reading these stories–I think there’s a fairly strong initial negative reaction to “The Red Tree,” and “The Rabbits” is certainly thought-provoking and maybe a bit disturbing. But I truly think there’s a deeper positive buried under the negative which is honestly worth the time to reach. I would recommend Lost & Found to readers of all ages who are willing to look deeper and change their perspective.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Sabriel

Author: Garth Nix

Sabriel has spent most of her childhood safe on the south side of the Wall at boarding school in Ancelstierre. Meanwhile her father, Abhorsen, faced the dangers of the Old Kingdom, the world to the north of the Wall that operates according to an older, darker set of rules. Occasionally, he would come to visit her and train her in the ways of their family–doing the opposite of necromancers and sending the Dead back into Death where they belong. Sabriel’s life changes in an instant, when a messenger from her father brings his sword and magical bells to her, letting her know he is trapped in Death and it is up to her to take up his work–and save him if possible.

Sabriel is an affirmed classic of the fantasy genre and for good reason. In it, Garth Nix crafts an intricate and exciting high fantasy full of secrets, surprises, hidden identities, daring fights, unexpected heroes, and a rich, unusual variety of magic. All of this is set in a world that effortlessly combines necromancy and automobiles, telephones and walking Dead, talking cats and aircraft–an alternate-reality version of England that captures the imagination. Yet for all the glamour of the fights and the excitement of the adventure, Sabriel is also a dark tale, imbued with the chill of death–both the pain of losing the living and the wrongness of the Dead returned. Bringing a rich humanity to the story is an array of complex, intriguing characters, most notably Sabriel herself with her blend of solemnity and uncertainty as she goes through the change from an Ancelstierran schoolgirl to one of the most powerful mages of her time. I would highly recommend Sabriel to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Geektastic

Editors: Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci

Contributing Authors & Illustrators: M. T. Anderson, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Cecil Castellucci, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Hope Larson, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Tracy Lynn, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Greg Leitich Smith, Scott Westerfeld, Lisa Yee, & Sara Zarr

Admit it: you’ve always wanted to know what that super-cute, smart-talking avatar online is actually like in real life–would you actually consider meeting up to see? Or have you ever come back from a convention with a new boyfriend you can’t ever admit to your clan? Had a huge argument about whether a favorite character is actually chaotic good or chaotic neutral? Or maybe you’re the type who finds your truest self in the secret identity you’ve built for LARPing. Hey, maybe you’re the poor cheerleader who’s trying to figure out what all this geeky weirdness is all about. Whatever.

Geektastic. I was drawn by the title, and the pixellated superhero avatar on the spine cinched the deal. And I was absolutely not disappointed by this collection of eccentric short stories that feature, well, the more unusually passionate side of life. Or something. I admit to being something of a geek (well, maybe more than something . . . ), and I’m assuming most of my readers are (or why on earth are you reading my blog?!)–and for a geeky audience, this collection is perfect. Regardless of what sort of geek you are (and let’s face it, there are a million variations), there’s likely something here for you . . . and maybe something to help you understand other varieties of geeks a little better as well. If you are the non-geeky cheerleader . . . you might do better to ask your local population for the crash course, if only because this book is a pretty big plunge all at once. But really, Geektastic is an amazing collection by great authors about some super-fun topics (just do be warned of sex, alcohol, etc.)–definitely recommended!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review