Reviews

Review: Changing Planes

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Review: Changing Planes

The book I’d picked to review this week is taking a lot longer to read than planned. And the one-two punch of gloomy weather and the complete inability of anyone in North Carolina to deal with winter storms (anyone including me) (and storms in this case meaning even the rumor of ice) has meant a lot of days stuck inside. I’ll need to switch over to come comfort-food reading if I’m going to keep my sanity. Another short-story collection? Don’t mind if I do.

There are a lot of ways to travel to another plane of existence, from magic or demonic pacts, to the TARDIS and the Bifrost. The method that Ursula Le Guin created for Changing Planes has to be the most unusual; it’s super fast (you can take an entire vacation in another dimension and come back to this one a few seconds after you left), elegantly simple, and available to just about anyone. All you have to do is relax into the apocalyptic boredom that comes from waiting though yet another delayed connector flight at the airport and boom, you’re in another world with a whole new civilization and a brand new set of rules.

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Review – Wildalone

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Review – Wildalone

According to the blurb on the cover, Krassi Zourkova’s Wildalone has everything I’m looking for in a romance novel: magic, music, angst, and lots of sex. A young woman travels to America and Princeton, tries to solve a mystery, ends up in a whirlwind romance with a handsome, mysterious fellow, and is tempted by his equally handsome and mysterious brother. I figured it’d be a fun read, nothing too serious, just lots of fantasy and passion.

I was wrong. It’s a ridiculously infuriating book.

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Review: The Secret Books of Paradys I and II

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Review: The Secret Books of Paradys I and II

I have to admit that I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, or any of the sequels, or the Twilight books that apparently inspired E.L. James to write the Fifty Shades fanfiction series in the first place. Not taking a stand against them or anything, they’re just not my thing. There’s been a lot of  backlash against the series and the “unhealthy” relationship between the main characters, but it’s been hard for me to judge the books because, approve or disapprove of them, it’s obvious that they make millions of people happy. Every one of us has something we like in spite of (or maybe because of) it being a little off the beaten track. For me, that something would be Tanith Lee’s stories.

Lee’s Secret Books of Paradys series are all set in the Gothic, alternate-world version of Paris: Paradys. The Secret Books of Paradys I and II collects together The Book of the Damned (three short stories), and The Book of the Beast (short novel). The stories jump backwards and forwards in time, sometimes containing the same elements or history, but mostly they’re only linked by similar themes and the setting of the city itself. Since it’s Tanith Lee, the stories are all decadent, violent, lush, dark, and unfortunately in this case, a little hard to understand.

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Review: Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea

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Review: Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea

I picked up this one thinking that it was going to be one of those adapted-classics-with-a-twist, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Android Karenina.

It isn’t.

In 1958, the submarine Plongeur had just begun its maiden voyage when the ballast tanks, steering, and engine all experienced catastrophic failure at the same time. The vessel and its entire crew sank and kept on sinking, past the point where the pressure should have crushed the submarine, past the point where it should have hit the ocean floor, continuing on its unstoppable dive while the depth gauge insisted they’d gone thousands of miles deeper than the diameter of the planet.

Adam Roberts’s Twenty Trillion Leagues Under The Sea by Adam Roberts is a sci-fi disaster adventure and a horror story with touches of Lovecraft. Other than the title and the setting it has next to nothing to do with Jules Verne, until suddenly it does, and then the madness of the crew and a decades old story and conflicting political alliances all meet in an impossible setting created by a godlike being who is either trying to destroy Earth or conquer it. And the ending is equal parts hypothetical science and poetry, so I’m still not quite sure what the heck it was all about.

The book is hard to describe, is what I’m saying. “Weird” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

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Movie Issues: 50 Shades of Grey

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Movie Issues: 50 Shades of Grey

Guest Writer: Sara Winchester

There have been few book series that have risen to a worldwide phenomenon since the Twilight series, so it’s appropriate that its successor also started its life trying to be part of the Twilight obsession.

50 Shades of Grey, a nationwide bestseller, started its life as a Twilight fan-fiction. If you are familiar with that universe it has some pretty easy to spot Twilight-esque tropes: shy, plain, ordinary girl Anna who becomes the subject of desire and obsession for the darkly intense Christian Grey. What begins as a seemingly thrilling game of girl-meets-rich-mysterious-bachelor-in-odd-twist-of-fate turns rather dark early on in the film.rs_634x1005-141114095132-10644711_665591963557478_6990185292071945908_n

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Movie Issues: Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Movie Issues: Kingsman: The Secret Service

With Kingsman: The Secret Service, director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class) again proves that he is one of the best directors of the last decade. Taking the graphic novel, The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, and turning it into one hell of a “balls-to-the-walls” action flick that, from start to finish, is just awesome.kingsman-the-secret-service-taron-egerton-colin-firth Read On

Movie Issues: Jupiter Ascending

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Movie Issues: Jupiter Ascending

Well, the Wachowskis are at it again. Their latest attempt at another science fiction odyssey is called Jupiter Ascending. They appear to still be riding on the coattails of their only hit, 1999’s The Matrix. Since then it feels like, about every three or four years, they come out of the shadows and try to recreate that one success and majorly fail at each turn. Ex: The other Matrix films, Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas. Each of those had its issues. Money-wise, critical flops, and even the audiences weren’t there in some cases. Well it’s sad to say that they have stayed true to form and once again made another mess of a movie.1401886372_jupiter-ascending-467 Read On

Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea

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Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea

I’ve decided that, as a fan of the steampunk genre, it’s a shame and a crime that I haven’t read more Jules Verne. As a fan of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, not reading the original tale of Captain Nemo is just unacceptable.

A classic science fiction story along the lines of Journey To The Center of the Earth, Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea tells the story of three castaways – Professor Pierre Aronnax, his manservant Conseil, and the whaling shipman Ned Land – as they’re swept up in the travels of the mysterious Captain Nemo in his submersible, the Nautilus. It works as a character study, as an adventure story, and as a treasure for anyone who’s even a little bit curious about the sea and everything it contains (or at least everything that Victorian scientists thought it might contain.)

And of course the Nautilus is a straight-out steampunk fantasy. It’s a submarine. With a library. How can you not love that?

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Song of the Sea Review: A Journey to the World of Old

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Song of the Sea Review: A Journey to the World of Old

The ocean is never still and neither is life. As I get older in my lifetime I’m beginning to accept that change is going to be a constant in this world. The world of animation is currently going through a changing of the guards, as fabled director Hayo Miyazaki retires. Those are some rather large shoes to fill, and my hope has always been that someone would step up and bring forth a groundbreaking animated feature. There have been some decent attempts, but no studio has come closer than Cartoon Saloon.

They made a splash with their first animated feature, The Secret of Kells, a film whose trailer alone had me rushing out to purchase a Blu-ray copy. Well, Cartoon Saloon’s second feature, Song of the Sea, is officially hitting theaters with a limited release while also being nominated for best Animated Feature in the 2015 Oscars. I had the opportunity to sit down and watch a screening of the movie. So how does it compare to The Secret of Kells? Is Cartoon Saloon the next Studio Ghibli?

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Review: Agatha H and the Airship City

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Review: Agatha H and the Airship City

Phil and Kaja Foglio’s gaslamp fantasy series Girl Genius is set in a world of automatons and dirigibles, tyrants and heroes, and stories of the famous adventurers, The Heterodyne Boys. It’s a world where a small portion of the population are Sparks, geniuses born with the ability to invent death rays and revenants and robots capable of leveling cities, but usually without the common sense to determine when building something like that is a fantastically bad idea. 

Into all this comes Agatha Clay, a bumbling college student with a lot of big ideas, and a track record of creating things that either fall to pieces or explode. Sometimes both. Nothing she makes ever works, at least until the day the locket she’s been told to never take off is stolen. Suddenly Agatha finds herself a hostage aboard a tyrant’s city-sized dirigible, Castle Wulfenbach, surrounded by the brightest and maddest of the Empire, and building actual working inventions in her sleep. And all that’s before she finds out that she is somehow the long-lost heir to the Heterodyne Family.

The ongoing Girl Genius comic series first started in 2001, and has since won the Hugo Award three times for Best Graphic Story; it most likely would have kept on winning if the Foglios hadn’t withdrawn the series from the competition so they could give other artists a chance. In 2011 the Foglios released the first of the novelized versions of the ongoing story, Agatha H and the Airship City. The book retells the story from the graphic novel, with some interesting additions that can give readers a little more back story about the characters and world that the original version may have missed.

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