Reviews

Review: The Moon and the Sun

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Review: The Moon and the Sun

This book came up in an list of “Books To Read This Year Before The Movie Comes Out”. Vonda McIntyre already has high marks from me for her Star Wars novel “The Crystal Star” (which I really enjoyed) and her novelization of the movie “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” (which, don’t laugh, is one of the few books I’ve read that was so heartbreaking it make me cry). So to have a chance to read a fantasy novel with an upcoming movie that won’t be the start of another trilogy? I’m sold.

Father Yves de la Croix arrives at King Louis XIV Chateau in Versailles bearing gifts for his monarch: two sea creatures, and the promise of immortality. It will be Yves’s job to dissect the dead male creature he tried and failed to bring back alive. Yves’s sister, just released from a miserable five years in a convent, is assigned to care for and train the female specimen until it can be served up in a banquet once it’s been harvested of whatever it is that can give the king eternal life. It’s a hard enough for Marie-Josephe to bond with the gargoyle-like mermaid, but it becomes that much harder to do her job when she slowly realizes that the monster – which she’s teaching to leap for visitors and eat from her hand and eventually be eaten itself – is intelligent, and just wants to return to her family in the ocean.

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Review: Doctor Who, The Eleventh Doctor – After Life

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Review: Doctor Who, The Eleventh Doctor – After Life

We already knew that the Doctor kept himself busy in the two hundred or so years he spent wandering after he dropped off Amy and Rory from their honeymoon. Quite a lot of stories can fit inside that time. Coming out later this month, the first volume of Titan Comics’ Doctor Who, The  Eleventh Doctor collects together the first five issues of these stories, featuring the Eleventh Doctor and his newest companion, Alice.

Life has become cold and dreary for Alice Obiefune after the death of her beloved mother. The forty-something library assistant can’t seem to drag herself out of a fog of grief, and things just get worse when she loses her job to cutbacks and her comfy apartment is scheduled for demolition to make way for a block of luxury flats. Everything is quite grey…until in a burst of obviously Oz-inspired technicolor she’s confronted by huge rainbow-colored alien dog being chased by a madman with a blue box.

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Movie Issues: Cinderella

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Movie Issues: Cinderella

Disney has made a career of taking fairy tales from around the world and turning them into giant buckets of money. Well, get ready Disney fans because they are about to do it once more with the release of their live-action film, Cinderella. Directed by Kenneth Branagh and based on the 1950 animated masterpiece, Disney’s Cinderella. Which, of course, is based on the many versions of the story that have been told since 1634. Each version of the story changes for every new generation it touches, and like so many other versions of this classic story, this new adaptation will go down as being just as beautiful as its animated predecessor.

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Review – The Just City

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Review – The Just City

The Just City, by Jo Walton, is such an odd little book, I had a hard time making my mind up about it. It’s fantasy with a smidge of sci-fi and a lot of Greek Mythology, so it has a lot to appeal to me. But the story wandered around so much it was a little disconcerting at times.

In the end I decided I liked it. The writing is very straightforward and easy to read, but the concepts behind it are extremely intellectual. It gives you characters you understand, even if you dislike some of them, and a plot that makes sense, while at the same time introducing you to Plato and a concept that’s fascinated scholars for over two thousand years.

I liked the story, and I felt smarter after reading it. Frustrated sometimes, but smarter.

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Review: The Book of Strange New Things

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Review: The Book of Strange New Things

The last book of Michel Faber’s that I read was his Victorian-era novel that people either enjoyed or wanted to kill with fire. I fell into the “enjoyed” category, so I was surprised and delighted to discover that late last year Faber released an actual science-fiction novel. Although since we’re talking about a Michel Faber novel here, the science-fiction genre is just the jumping off point to something a lot more complicated.

You wouldn’t think that a multinational company would spend a lot of money to send a priest to another planet, but that’s exactly what USCI did when they hired Peter Leigh to be a missionary to the natives of Oasis, a planet several galaxies away from Earth.

Expecting to run into all kinds of problems while trying to spread the Word of God to another species, Peter instead finds friendly natives who have demanded a Christian priest, who have all re-named themselves as “Jesus Lovers” (Jesus Lover One, Jesus Lover Five, Jesus Lover Seventy-two), and who’s only desire is to have Peter teach them all about the Bible, or as they refer to it, “The Book of Strange New Things”. No missionary has ever had an easier time evangelizing to a new race, much less a whole new species, and Peter would be a lot more comfortable if he could stop wondering about USCI’s motivations, or about his oddly placid coworkers, or why no one seems to know what happened to the Oasan’s previous priest.

Meanwhile, the letters from Peter’s wife grow more and more desperate as the Earth is suddenly hit with floods, erupting volcanoes, massive storms, and what looks like the collapse of civilization as the human race slowly loses its mind. And Peter is helpless to do anything about it other than to offer Christian words of wisdom as Bea’s life turns into a literal hell.

The Book of Strange New Things is about as different as you can get from his previous book, The Crimson Petal and the White. And unfortunately I think it’s going to tick people off for the exact same reasons.

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Movie Issues: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Movie Issues: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has arrived, once again directed by John Madden and written by Ol Parker. We travel back to India where we join our returning cast of British old timers seeking enlightenment in their golden years: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, and Dev Patel are joined by newcomers Richard Gere and David Strathairn. It’s more of the same heart and fun from the first movie, continuing with another journey with this great cast.

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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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