Books

Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

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Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

Charlie N. Holmberg – author of The Paper Magician series – is working with a new type of magic in her latest book Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet (due out June 28). Instead of paper or metal or glass, the magician in this book works with food.

Maire is a magical baker who can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities. She can give someone a sense of love with a slice of cake, or a downtrodden worker new strength with a sugar cookie. She can even make baked goods do things they were never intended to do, like, say, making gingerbread strong enough to be used to build a house. Sounds like the makings for a whimsical, fun book, right?

Wrong.

Maire’s fanciful magic powers are just the backdrop for a book that’s almost relentlessly dark in places. The reader is quickly thrown into a story of Maire attempts to survive being kidnapped by marauders and sold to a lunatic, all while trying to recover her forgotten past. It’s also a story of love (lost and found), and little tidbits about what type of cake works the best for each kind of magic. The book is an intriguing mix of the cute and the dire, and none of my initial guesses about Maire’s origin ended up being right.

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Review: Just Over The Horizon – The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear

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Review: Just Over The Horizon – The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear

I’ve been meaning to read more of Greg Bear’s short stories, especially after reading Blood Music (my review can be found here), a groundbreaking novel that was originally based on one of his earlier stories. Fortunately his short-story collection Just Over the Horizon caught my eye right when I was looking for something to read over my vacation. This collection is volume one of what I hope will be several more books, and it features some of Bear’s earlier works from the 1970’s and 80’s, when he was already showing a dazzling skill at taking a concept that’s very tricky to understand, explaining it in a way that a non-scientist can at least start to understand, and then wrapping a story around it.

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Review: Crimson Peak Movie Novelization

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Review: Crimson Peak Movie Novelization

A long weekend is a good chance to finally catch up on some books I’ve been meaning to read for a while: Dante’s Inferno, another Allison Weir history book on the Tudors, maybe even a re-read of Edith Hamilton’s classic book from the 1940’s on Greek Mythology.

Or I could pour myself a glass of wine and read a movie novelization. That would probably be an even better idea.

It’s been over two years since I last read one of these (see my review here) and I talked then about how writers of novelizations have to walk a fine line between slavishly writing down every bit of dialog, or changing things so much that the story no longer resembles the movie. Nancy Holder (author of the Wicked series and many many TV and movie tie-ins) manages to walk this line with ease with Crimson Peak. Keeping in mind that I loved the film and am hypersensitive to any changes, I still think this is one of the best novelizations I’ve read.

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Review: Moth and Spark

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Review: Moth and Spark

Anne Leonard’s debut novel isn’t just a fantasy epic, it’s a story of discovery. The main characters, Corin and Tam, discover their place in their kingdoms, their hidden talents, and a blossoming and impossible love for each other, while at the same time the reader discovers the author’s intricate world and its magic, all acting as the backdrop to a tale of plots, betrayals, marauding armies, and hidden agendas.

And also there are dragons.

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Review: Marvel’s Captain America – Civil War Prelude

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Review: Marvel’s Captain America – Civil War Prelude

The new Captain America movie is doing really well, and I’ll most likely go to see it in a week or so, once the initial crush dies down a little. While I wait, I decided to check out Marvel’s new graphic novel Captain America – Civil War Prelude, collecting all four issues of the Civil War Prequel comics, plus the first issue of the 2006 Marvel Civil War storyline that inspired the movie.

If you’re a diehard fan of Captain America and Iron Man and/or you’re a completist who’s dedicated to having everything Marvel’s released for those two characters then this is a graphic novel for you. Everyone else? You’re better off just seeing the movies again.

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Review: High-Rise

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Review: High-Rise

Without knowing it, he had constructed a gigantic vertical zoo, its hundreds of cages stacked above each other. All the events of the past few months made sense if one realized that these brilliant and exotic creatures had learned to open the doors.

High-Rise, the latest movie by director Ben Wheatley (you remember Wheatley; he directed the Doctor Who episodes “Deep Breath” and “Into the Dalek”) is scheduled for limited release this Friday. Of course I’m going to go see it (Tom Hiddleston, natch), so I was trying to decide if I should read the book it’s based on before or after seeing the movie. I tend to prefer whichever version of a story I experience first, and I have a bad habit of pointing out all the ways the movie is different from the book. Might be better to wait.

Then I found out the book’s author, J.G. Ballard, wrote the short story Chronopolis, which remains one of the best stories I’ve ever read. SO, off to the bookstore I went.

Ballard’s 1975 novel High-Rise is both more and less grounded in reality than Chronopolis. It has a similar theme (how technology “improves” everyone’s life to the point where humanity’s only purpose is to serve the technology), but High-Rise takes things much further. The book focuses on how modern comforts separate humans from each other, stripping away our ability to see anyone else as human. And then we see what’s left when those comforts are taken away.

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Review: Ninefox Gambit

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Review: Ninefox Gambit

Captain Kel Cheris of the Hexarchate may have won a battle, but she’s been officially disgraced for using forbidden strategies to do it. Ordinarily this would mean execution – or worse – but she’s been given a chance to redeem herself. Heretics have captured The Fortress of Scattered Needles, and to recover it Cheris will be using the most dangerous weapon available: the famous tactician Shuos Jedao.

In his entire military career Jedeo never lost a battle, including his last one where he slaughtered thousands of civilians, the enemy army, his own army, and everyone aboard his ship. It’s been four hundred years since he finished off each of his command crew with a bullet to the head, and the Hexarchate is still no closer to understanding why.

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Review: Doctor Who – The Shakespeare Notebooks

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Review: Doctor Who – The Shakespeare Notebooks

“…The Shakespeare Notebooks is an astonishing document that offers a unique insight into the mind of one of history’s most respected and admired figures. And also, of course, William Shakespeare.”

Tomorrow marks 400 years since William Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil. In that time his reputation has grown from a somewhat well-known playwright to the most famous writer in the English language. I’m sure fans of Shakespeare have dreamed of traveling to early seventeenth century Stratford-upon-Avon and meeting the great playwright at least once; imagine how often a centuries-old Time Lord with access to his own TARDIS could make the trip.

Newly discovered “The Shakespeare Notebooks” is a comprehensive collection of journal entries, rough drafts, additional characters, annotated scripts, and many other snippets from the Bard’s personal writing which will give you an idea of just how much of an influence that a mysterious “Doctor” had on his life.

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Review: Bone Swans

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Review: Bone Swans

The beautiful cover art for C.S.E. Cooney’s 2015 book Bone Swans was what first caught my eye. The fact that it’s a short-story collection meant I’d definitely get around to reading it sooner or later, but seeing that at least two of the stories were retold fairy tales sealed the deal; a 99-cent sale for an e-copy of the book was overkill, but much appreciated.

I’m really glad I picked this one up; I’ve never ready any of Cooney’s work before, but she’s automatically on my favorites list now. Her style is equal parts folksy, flamboyant, romantic, lyrical, filled with atmospheric paragraphs you fall into. The characters are just smart-aleck enough to make me root for them, and each of the five stories here is a jewel.

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Review – Court of the Dead: The Chronicle of the Underworld

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Review – Court of the Dead: The Chronicle of the Underworld

This dark, sprawling realm is rife with unimaginable creatures, feral beauties and dazzling temptations the likes of which you have never seen.
Luckily, you have a guidebook…

I got lucky with this review: I wanted to take a look at the upcoming Court of the Dead: The Chronicle of the Underworld just because I liked the cover and the description, and because I thought it was one of those large, hardback art books you see like Dragonology or Egyptology: big on pictures and small on story, but very pretty to look at.

I was a little off the mark with the Dragonology comparison.

I had no idea this was the story behind the elaborate displays I’ve seen at the Sideshow Collectibles booth at San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon, with the otherworldly figures and prints. I love the Death’s Siren piece and the Shepherd of Souls print, and I’ve always meant to find out what they were all about, but kept forgetting.

So this is a sign from somewhere that it’s time to read up on it. That’s disturbing and awesome at the same time.

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