[sticky entry] Sticky: Welcome!

Sep. 9th, 2013 08:05 pm
calissa: (Default)
Hi there!

This post is for those people I've just met and/or those who want to get to know me. I enjoy making friends and getting to know people, so I encourage you to introduce yourself if you haven't already.

Family )


Interests and organisations )

I do have some health troubles, mostly to do with my upper body, arms and hands. Sometimes managing the pain can be a challenge and can limit the amount of time I can write and spend on the computer.

I also like to get to know people. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask. :D

Last updated on 15 August 2016.
calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links, Earl Grey Editing, loose leaf tea, Daintree chai, Daintree, Daintree tea, tea, The Tea Chest

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Daintree Chai, the signature blend of The Tea Chest. It contains star anise (among other ingredients) which gives it a strong aniseed flavour.

Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Aurora Decima, Amanda Bridgeman, science fiction, sci-fi, space opera, Earl Grey Editing, book review, books and tea, tea and books

Published: Self-published in November 2016
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Aurora #6
Genres: Science fiction, space opera, military sci-fi
Source: Author
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~  Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This review contains spoilers for previous books.

The tenth year war is coming . . .

Carrie Welles has survived more attacks than she can count, but each one has made her stronger. She refuses to be a victim anymore. While her nemesis, Sharley, continues to be a threat, she works with Harris and the Aurora team to protect the future, vowing to raise her children and fight as the soldier-mother she was destined to be.

Saul Harris has had visions of the Zeta ships hitting Earth years before they’re due, but has no proof to warn the UNF. Scraping together a small contingent of Alpha units, he prepares for the onslaught as best he can. He embraces his gift and ‘connection’ with Welles and they dig further into his ancestry, only to have more haunting truths come to light.

As the invasion approaches, the new Aurora team members must find their place in the crew, while old team members reunite. They must band together with the Originals and their fellow Space and Earth Duty troops if they are to defend Earth against this attack.

But is it too little too late? Have Harris and Carrie done enough to protect their future? As they fight for survival against the Zetas in a battle that stretches across the UNF Space Zone, they soon realise the price of their freedom might be higher than they were expecting to pay.

I read the first five books of the Aurora series in quick succession, so Aurora: Decima is the first book in the series I’ve had to wait for. Even though it has been a little over a year, the author managed to draw me back into the world without too much trouble. However, as the sixth book in the series, I wouldn’t recommend it for new readers–too much has happened by this point. Even as a returning reader, there were a few points at which I wished for a cast list.

Having said that, I rather enjoyed the dynamism of the cast and particularly enjoyed the addition of a few new characters. Carrie’s home, the Fortress, is run by an AI called Archie. There were a few moments when Archie displayed quite the sense of humour and its personality remains distinct throughout the book. New crew member Tikaani also displayed a sense of humour. However, while it was nice to see another woman on board the Aurora (and a Inuit woman to boot), she seemed mostly a place-filler and we never really got to know her beyond the superficial.

There was some nice development of existing characters. Carrie and Captain Harris have matured nicely, turning their arrogance into confidence. Lieutenant Gold also makes a return and plays a key role in the story.

The structure has improved on previous books. The beginning remains a little slow to get going. While the prologue recapped some useful information, the similarities in character motivation between the prologue and the first chapter gave a feeling of redundancy. There were also a few times in the early parts of the books where the story felt like it was treading water–particularly concerning the relationship between Carrie and McKinley, and between Captain Harris and his son. However, that quickly improved. Dividing the story into parts gave a smoother feeling to the time jumps (which were significant in places). Previous books in the series have had a bit of a drawn-out ending, which I was also pleased to see Decima avoided. The tension really ratchets up in the second half and I found the finale nicely paced.

While the structure was tighter, I found the prose still a bit clunky in places. The uses of the terms Alpha and Jumbo were a bit excessive, beating the reader over the head with the fact that most of the characters are no longer human rather than trusting the reader to keep in mind the differences between the humans and the super-soldiers.

The story continues to be very heteronormative (with one very minor exception) and gender binary. However, within that it does some interesting things with the themes of bodily autonomy and reproductive rights. I appreciated the way it gender-flipped one of the prominent themes of the series and began to examine it from a new angle. I very much hope to see more of this in the next book.

Overall, Aurora: Decima makes an excellent addition to the series and well worth the read.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact, Alison Goodman, A Tangle of Gold, Jaclyn Moriarty, Book of Lies, Teri Terry, The Bone Queen, Alison Croggon, Allegiance, Confused, Wanda Wiltshire, TBR, books and tea, tea and books, Earl Grey Editing

November has been… an interesting month. I got off to a roaring start but eye strain slowed me down significantly and I continue to be slow to recover. So I’m pleased that I still managed to finish a reasonable number of books.

As expected, my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks stats continue to slip. My goal for the challenge was to make sure 60% of the books I read this year come from Mt TBR. I finished October at 45% and November puts me at 44%. With all the Aurealis reading I have to get through, it’s unlikely to improve before the year ends.

Books with an asterisk on the list below were part of my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks effort.

Mt TBR Status ) Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Önline )

What have you read this month?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

The Bone Knife, Intisar Khanani, The Theft of Sunlight, books and tea, tea and books, Earl Grey Editing

Published: October 2012 by Purple Monkey Press
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: The Theft of Sunlight #0.5
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Smashwords
Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books
Available:  Amazon ~ Barnes & NobleKobo ~ Smashwords ~ Free across all platforms

Rae knows how to look out for family. Born with a deformed foot, she feigns indifference to the pity and insults that come her way. Wary of all things beautiful, Rae instantly distrusts their latest visitor: an appallingly attractive faerie. Further, his presence imperils the secret her sister guards. But when the local townspeople show up demanding his blood, Rae must find a way to protect both her sister’s secret and their guest. Even if that means risking herself.

I love Intisar’s work and The Bone Knife has done nothing to change my mind. It was the perfect short read while I was dealing with eye strain and Aurealis judging.

Rae was a great character, particularly because she was a bit unusual. It’s not often the staid oldest sister gets to be the focus of a story. More often it’s the magical middle sister or the impulsive youngest. Rae is pragmatic–even a little dour at times–and I loved that about her.

I also enjoyed her relationship with her family. There’s clearly a lot of love between them. Nevertheless, Rae remains aware of the way they treat her differently and their love makes their pity harder to bear in some ways. Rae’s family are also conscious of this and their guilt leaks out onto the page.

The Bone Knife is short, barely scraping into the category of novelette. The story is tightly written and manages to deal with a number of powerful themes. As with much of Intisar’s work, it deals primarily with fear and with being an outsider: of being female in a patriarchal society, of being a foreigner in a xenophobic world, and of being disabled in a world geared for the able-bodied. In this regard, the story reminded me a lot of another of Intisar’s work: Thorn. So it seems fitting that the two are set in the same world, though I was unaware of it at the time of reading (and doesn’t really come up in the story).

While Rae bears the brunt of judgement from others, she is not beyond being judgemental herself. When the faerie Stonemane arrives at her family’s ranch, her behaviour towards him is dictated solely by the negative stereotypes she has heard about his kind. I felt this served to humanise her while also highlighting how being marginalised in certain ways doesn’t necessarily mean one is above marginalising others.

Despite the connection to Thorn, this story stands on its own. However, there were some significant loose ends which I anticipate will be tied up in the forthcoming series.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

Strain

Nov. 21st, 2016 08:00 am
calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

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Apparently there’s such a thing as too much reading.

Last week I had some trouble with my eyesight. Both the doctor and the optometrist agreed it was eye strain. I had to drastically reduce the amount of time I spent reading and using the computer. As a consequence, there will be no posts this week.

At this stage, blogging should resume as normal next week. However, my recovery has been slow and I may need some extra time. I’ll be sure to let you know if that turns out to be the case.

In the meantime, I’m keeping myself entertained by listening to the archives of the Reading the End podcast. The Demographically-Similar Jennys are utterly charming and make podcasting seem like a lot of fun. They review books across a range of genres (though tending towards the literary), play games and discuss their thoughts on common tropes. I highly recommend them.

Hope to see you all next week.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Hinata hugs)

Reading for comfort and defiance, Den of Wolves, Juliet Marillier, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers, The Wayfarers, Blackthorn and Grim, books and tea, tea and books, Earl Grey Editing

The US election left many of my friends feeling frightened and angry. It left me worried for their safety and livelihoods. At first, I felt helpless all the way over here in Australia. But I’m a big believer in the power of small things. So I started tweeting book recommendations. Since it seemed to help a few other people, I thought I’d recap the lists here. I’ve also included a few additional resources.

Reading for Comfort )

 

Reading for Defiance )

And if you have any of your own recommendations, please share them!

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Blazing Dawn, Becca Lusher, books and tea, tea and books, dragons, Earl Grey Editing

Published: Self-published in August 2016
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Dragonlands #1
Genres: Fantasy, romance
Source: Author
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & NobleKobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The author is a friend. I have done my best to give an unbiased review.

Nera has been fascinated by dragons all her life. Now, as a Rift Rider Lieutenant, her chance to see them up close has come. The appointment to spend five years as an escort to the human ambassador seems like the ultimate honour and gift, but the dragons she studied in training don’t come anywhere close to the reality awaiting her inside the Dragonlands.

Elder Khennik kin Blazeborn Clan Sunlord has no interest in humans. Thanks to the Cloud Curse that their kind brought down upon the Overworld, Khennik’s kin are close to losing their ancestral desert homelands forever. When he’s assigned as a delegate to the humans upon their arrival, he can’t believe his bad luck. Unlike some dragons, he has no wish for more power or responsibility, but he can’t seem to avoid collecting them. From his desperate kin to his nervous aide, right along to the useless humans, Khennik dreams of the day when he can return to his desert home.

Regardless of personal dreams and opinions, both humans and dragons are about to learn that they often have more in common than they might think or wish. And when trouble descends, the true friends you can count on have little to do with species – and everything to do with spirit.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve been enjoying Becca’s online serial Wingborn. After all, who doesn’t love Regency-inspired fantasy complete with giant eagles? Blazing Dawn is set in the same world, albeit at least a hundred years in the past. Dragons still roam the Overworld and women are still very much a part of the Rift Riders.

In fact, the women seem to outnumber the men in this particular contingent of the Rift Riders and there are a plethora of other female characters. One of the things that I enjoyed about the book was the way it opened with female friendship. Nera and Anhardyne are opposites in both looks and personality, but are nevertheless firm friends. So I was a little disappointed to see their friendship take a backseat to the action and romance.

But only a little disappointed. The romantic relationships run the gamut of pairings, with m/f, m/m and f/f all present–though it should be stated the m/f relationships tended to be the ones in the spotlight. However, it was the m/m relationship that I enjoyed the most and led to much squeeing over their adorableness. There was also a genderqueer dragon, which surprised and delighted me.

Nera and Khennik are both great characters. Nera is a shy introvert who has only recently made lieutenant. She prefers to let her friends have the spotlight. But get her doing what she loves–namely flying, acrobatics, movement and any combination of the three–and she shines. She’s a character who values duty and loyalty. So it’s no wonder the overly dour Khennik ends up being drawn to her. Now that the Cloud Curse has swallowed up his one joy in life, all that Khennik has left is his duty to his people and his determination to halt the curse. It’s no wonder he starts off as such a grumpy fellow. Watching him soften after a run-in with Nera was a treat.

The Overworld looks a little different in Blazing Dawn than it does in Wingborn. Not only are dragons still present, but their presence makes other things possible, such as airships. I enjoyed these changes and the way they build up the history of the world. This was reinforced by Khennik’s preoccupation with the Cloud Curse, a feature of the world which doesn’t get explored much in Wingborn.

Around the halfway mark, the story shifts its focus significantly in a way that didn’t entirely work for me. Until then, the focus had been very much on the romance and the relationship more generally between the humans and the dragons. The dragons stole the limelight in the second half. While it was interesting to see the humans realise their powerlessness in comparison, it wasn’t in keeping with the themes of equality and cooperation that had been present up until that point. I also found the change a little jarring, as the villain didn’t feel properly integrated with the rest of the story. One scene in particular got surprisingly dark.

However, I generally found Blazing Dawn to generally be a light, fun read with plenty of Lusher’s trademark banter. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Earl Grey Editing, Loose-leaf Links, loose-leaf tea, flavoured black tea, Cafe latte, Adore Tea

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Café Latte from Adore Tea. This is one of my new favourite teas, with a strong caramel flavour. It has also been very popular with guests!

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers, Wayfarers, science fiction, sci-fi

Published: October 2016 by Hodder & Stoughton
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Wayfarers #2
Genres: Science fiction
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This review contains spoilers for previous books.

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

I hadn’t read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet when I picked up this review copy of A Closed and Common Orbit, though I’d heard a lot about it. Although the blurb claimed A Closed and Common Orbit was a stand-alone sequel, I’m pretty particular about spoilers. I side-eyed the statement, then went and borrowed a copy of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet from the library. I promptly devoured it, shoved it into the arms of my sci-fi-newbie sweetheart, then dove into this sequel.

It was equally as awesome but in a different way.

I will admit it does stand alone very well. It takes two minor characters from the previous book and tells their stories. The premise of A Closed and Common Orbit involves a spoiler for The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, so if you care about that sort of thing I’d highly recommend starting with the first book (actually, I’d recommend that anyway). I also feel the major alien species involved in this universe get a clearer and more gradual introduction in the first book. However, by and large, it works as a starting point.

Lovelace used to be The Wayfarer‘s AI. At the end of the previous book, her memory is damaged and she has to be rebooted. She wakes up with no recollection of who she once was. To mitigate the grief of the crew, a visiting mechanic, Pepper, invites Lovelace to inhabit an artificial body she has on hand. The two then return to the planet where Pepper has made a life.

A Closed and Common Orbit offers a number of contrasts to the previous book. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet followed an ensemble cast on their journey through space. While it dealt to some extent with identity, the focus was more on cultural differences and how they play out on both the macro and micro scales. A Closed and Common Orbit is a much more intimate book. The cast is smaller, the majority of the action takes place on the surface of two planets, and the focus is on personal identity.

AIs in humanoid bodies are banned, placing great pressure on Lovelace to pass as human or risk destruction. One of the first things she needs to do is choose a name. The significance of names to identity is reinforced by the story’s structure. Each chapter is headed up with the name of the focus character. When Lovelace decides her name is Sindra, the narrative respects this and refers to her by that name rather than continuing to call her by the old one. In this way, the story models good behaviour.

Passing as human is no easy thing for Sindra. There are similarities here to Breq from Ancillary Justice: both have difficulty getting used to being in a singular body and keep reaching for connections that are no longer there. However, Breq was somewhat used to being in a humanoid body through her ancillaries, whereas the experience is completely alien to Sindra. Her difficulties were well thought out and I felt they were portrayed in a convincing way.

While there are a number of differences between the Wayfarer books, there are also a number of similarities. The multiple close third-person perspectives are supplemented by fictional documents, though to a lesser extent than the previous book. There are also paragraphs where characters offer philosophical views. While I found these interesting, they didn’t sit quite as comfortably with me as in the first book, perhaps because their repeated use began to give a sense of it being more of an intrusion from the author than arising naturally from the character.

The books also share a theme of found family. Indeed, the theme is stronger in A Closed and Common Orbit as we watch Pepper effectively raise Sindra while we simultaneously read Pepper’s story of being raised by AIs. And the diversity that helped make The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet such an awesome book continues. This manifested in ways big and small. I particularly appreciated Blue’s stutter and the way an explanation was neither offered nor necessary.

Overall, A Closed and Common Orbit was just as excellent as its predecessor, albeit in a different way. I’ll certainly be buying my own copy of both books.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

 

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Oh boy. October was a pretty good month for reading. It also involved a flood of acquisitions: some Aurealis entries, some gifts, some acquisitions from Conflux, some loans and some just because I had to have them. So usual story (well, except for the gifts), just slightly higher numbers.

My #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks stats continue to slip. My goal for the challenge was to make sure 60% of the books I read this year come from Mt TBR. I finished September at 48%. October takes me down to 45%. With all the Aurealis reading I have to get through, it’s unlikely to improve before the year ends.

The positive news is that I managed to hit my Goodreads Challenge target of 90 books and I look set to hit my personal goal of 100 books before the year ends.

Books with an asterisk on the list below were part of my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks effort.

Mt TBR Status ) Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )

What have you read this month?

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea

Published: August 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton
Format reviewed: Paperback, 420 pages
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Genres: Fantasy, YA, Urban fantasy, Paranormal romance
Source: Dymocks
Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books
Available: Publisher (print) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

When I first read Holly Black’s Modern Fairy Tales series, I adored it. Daughter of Smoke and Bone pushes a lot of the same buttons and reminded me particularly of Valiant. Both are set in a modern world that coexists with a realm of magic. Both involve a young woman who runs errands for a monster. And both are about stepping into one’s power.

The story starts out in Prague, as Karou attends an art class. We gradually learn that Karou is not the ordinary girl she appears to be (even accounting for her blue hair). The drawn-out introduction of Karou’s double life served to emphasise the mystery she presents to her friends and classmates, but was somewhat irritating because it largely relied on keeping the reader in the dark.

This irritation was somewhat mitigated by the author’s ability to create atmosphere. Her depiction of Prague is evocative, with some lovely turns of phrase. This wonderful scene-setting continues throughout the novel; as Karou hops around the world (and between them), each place feels unique while also being edged with (or entirely of) magic. The world may be ours, but there is the sense of a place where the mythic is possible. A place where angels and monsters exist.

While the characters of Karou and Brimstone put me in mind of Val and Ravus from Valiant, the nature of their relationship is quite different. Ravus and Brimstone are both monstrous in appearance and taciturn in temperament, but Brimstone is not a love interest and instead plays a fatherly role to Karou. His affection for her leaks out, despite his gruffness, even as his overbearing manner provides Karou something to rebel against. Karou’s early pettiness comes into sharp relief against Brimstone’s sombreness and this only increases as the reader learns more of Brimstone’s story.

This is not to say there’s no love interest. The focus is initially on the relationship between Brimstone and Karou, but moves away to concentrate on the romance. There is conflict between these relationships from the beginning and though it dies down while the romantic relationship is explored, it’s always an underlying current. This conflict rushes back to the surface as the book winds to a close.

The romantic relationship is not going to be for everyone’s taste. It may be argued that it’s a bit insta-love, though I found that wonderful evocation of atmosphere made it work. I felt it depicted longing and attraction well without descending into the mawkishness  which plagues some YA. While physical attraction is conveyed, it’s played down in favour of emotional connection.

I’m rather sorry I left Daughter of Smoke and Bone on Mt TBR for so long and will be definitely tracking down the next book in the series.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, Tassie Devil Tea, The Art of Tea

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Tassie Devil Tea from The Art of Tea. This mix of Australian, Indian and Sri Lankan teas is surprisingly light, making it a good afternoon tea. It is also a tea with a good cause: 50c from the sale of each packet goes directly to the Bonorong Wildlife Hospital.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon badge

Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon took place on Sunday, Australian time. For those who have somehow managed to miss my incessant posting about it, the event is basically a chance for book geeks across the world to get together and read as much as possible. It is also held in honour of its founder, a book blogger who went by the name Dewey, who passed away several years ago. I participated in my very first read-a-thon in April 2011 and haven’t looked back since.

Cut for length )

I finished with two books read and one DNF knocked off Mt TBR. Not as much progress as I’d like, but nevertheless I’m satisfied.

Before I sign off, there’s one more important thing I need to do.

The winner is…

The winner of the Books and Beverages mini challenge is Jerrika H! I’ve contacted Jerrika regarding her prize.

Thank you again to everyone who participated.

Also, a big thank-you to Andi of Estella’s Revenge and Heather of Capricious Reader for all the hard work they put into organising and running the event. Truly, these ladies are amazing. Wrangling thousands of readers is a huge task. Yet, Andi and Heather kept everything going smoothly.

The next read-a-thon will be taking place on 29-30 April 2016. Don’t forget to mark it on your calendar. It has a great sense of community that keeps me coming back. I do hope you’ll join us next April.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, A Promise of Fire, Amanda Bouchet, books and tea

Published: August 2016 by Piatkus
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #1
Genres: Epic fantasy, romance
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Kingmaker. Soothsayer. Warrior. Mage. Kingdoms would rise and fall for her . . . if she is ever found

In the icy North, where magic is might, an all-powerful elite ruthlessly guided by a glacial Queen have grown to dominate the world. Now rebellion is stirring in the rough, magic-poor South, where for the first time in memory a warlord has succeeded in uniting the tribal nations.

Stuck in the middle is Cat – circus performer and soothsayer – safely hidden behind heavy make-up, bright colours and the harmless illusion of the circus. Until someone suspects she’s more than she seems . . .

Captured by the Southern warlord Griffin, Cat’s careful camouflage is wearing thin. For how long can – or should – she conceal the true extent of her power? Faced with dragons, homicidal mages, rival Gods and the traitorous longings of her own heart, she must decide: is it time to claim her destiny and fight?

I didn’t really get along with A Promise of Fire. On the surface, it had a lot of elements I love–a good balance of fantasy and romance, interesting use of mythology–but these were outweighed by the things I found troublesome.

The opening didn’t make a good case. It was clunky and heavy on description, rushing to introduce characters, most of whom play very little part in the remainder of the story. Fortunately, the style evened out after that first heady rush.

The thing that really bothered me was the relationship between Cat and Griffin. Cat is a Kingmaker, a being that appears once every 250 years whose magical abilities guarantee the rule of whoever they support or holds them captive. How exactly this works is never quite clear; while Cat has quite a few magical abilities, all of them seem to have come to her for other reasons. Griffin is a warlord who has recently overthrown the corrupt, magic-using rulers of the kingdom and installed his sister in their place. Lacking magic himself (other than an immunity to harmful magic), he takes Cat captive to ensure his sister’s peaceful rule and keeps Cat tied close to him at all times as they make their journey back to the palace.

There’s an inconsistency in Griffin’s treatment of Cat that smacked of gaslighting to me. Cat is understandably outraged and upset over her loss of freedom. While Griffin treats her fairly–making sure she has access to everything she wants and even paying her as if she were another member of his bodyguard–his attitude (and the attitude of his bodyguards) towards her desire for freedom is that she’s being unreasonable. Nor does he free her from her physical confines until she swears a magically-binding vow not to escape. However sweet he is towards the people he cares about, and however admirable his goal, without her agency Cat’s attraction to Griffin comes across as something more akin to Stockholm Syndrome.

This lack of agency even extends to their sex life. Although she’s definitely attracted to Griffin, Cat has some (understandable) concerns about pregnancy. So at first she backs out of having sex, until a god throws a tantrum, causing her to change her mind. This kind of pressure undermines any sense of agency on Cat’s part.

What makes all of this even more disappointing was that the other relationships in the book are handled quite well. The dynamic between Griffin’s bodyguards and Cat is laid-back and fun, as they grow to become close friends. They tease each other mercilessly but are always there when it counts. The jealousy this causes Griffin is also handled very well and I actually enjoyed this aspect quite a lot. I also enjoyed the genuine affection between Griffin and his family.

As I mentioned before, I appreciated the balance of fantasy and romance, though it may be too heavily weighted towards the latter for some readers. The focus is primarily on the relationship between Cat and Griffin, with the epic fantasy plot coming in second. There are also some explicit sex scenes which may not be to everyone’s taste.

Overall, I found the book disappointing in its waste of potential.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

deweys-challenge-scale

Welcome Read-a-thoners and regular readers! We’re deep into Dewey’s 24-hour read-a-thon, with Hour 17 just about to get underway. It tends to get a bit quiet around this time of day… because it’s not day for participants in most other time zones. It’s the time where we’re all reaching for some additional caffeine or sugar. By now, I’ve probably consumed enough tea to fill the Tasman Sea and will need more if I hope to power through until the end.

The Task

It’s probably obvious that books and tea are obsessions of mine. So, tell me: What are you reading at the moment and what beverage do you have on hand? If you have a favourite tea, I’d love to hear it! Just leave a comment below. Extra kudos to anyone keen to link me to a photo.

The Prize

A book from BookDepository.com worth US$15 or less. This is giveaway is open to international participants.

Australian readers may opt instead for a bundle of gently used SFF books, if they wish.

The winner will be announced and contacted once the event wraps up!

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A stalk with drying grass seeds sits in the foreground with a golden hill and blue mountains in the background. (Summer)
My yearly reminder informs me it's time for me to put together my Christmas card list. If you'd like to be included, please let me know! Comments will be screened to protect contact details (or you can contact me via email or DM).
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon badge

Mt TBR hit 300 books last week. That’s far and away the highest it has ever been and it’s freaking me out a little. Fortunately, my very favourite reading challenge is on this weekend.

Dewey’s read-a-thon runs twice a year–in April and October. It runs for 24 hours, but participation for the full length is optional. Which is a good thing, because this round will be kicking off at 11 PM on Saturday 22 October for the east coast of Australia. As usual, I plan to be asleep by then, but will be up early to cram as much reading as possible into my waking hours.

It will be interesting to see just how much reading I’ll accomplish. In addition to reading, I also plan to do some cheering and will be hosting a mini-challenge for the first time (eeek!). Plus I have a friend coming over for a read-in. I’ve always done read-a-thons solo, so I’ll be interested to see how this changes the experience.

Of course, a read-a-thon requires books! I find myself reluctant to commit to a particular list this time, but here’s a few things I’m thinking about tackling:

Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon, readathon, Dewey's, Nevernight, Jay Kristoff, Waer, Meg Caddy, Black, Fleur Ferris, books and tea, tea and books

Surprising no one, there’s a ton of Australian YA speculative fiction involved.

If you need to tame your own Mt TBR or are looking to connect with a great community of book bloggers, it’s not too late to join! You can sign up, follow on Twitter, join the Goodreads group or any combination of the three. If you’ve already signed up, I’d love to hear about what you’ll be reading.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Den of Wolves, Juliet Marillier, Blackthorn and Grim, fantasy, historical fantasy, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea

Published:

 October 2016 by PanMacmillan Australia
Format reviewed: Trade paperback, 418 pages
Series: Blackthorn and Grim #3
Genres: Historical fantasy
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies…

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone…

Den of Wolves was one of my most anticipated books of 2016. It didn’t let me down, though it also didn’t go quite where I expected.

The book is slightly less discrete than its predecessors. While there is a self-contained mystery, the resolution of Blackthorn’s story (and, to a lesser extent, Grim’s) forms an important plot thread. Key parts of Den of Wolves are set in the same locations as Dreamer’s Pool and involve some of the same characters.  I would therefore not recommend that new readers start here.

The stylistic choices of the previous books carry over. Chapters alternate between key characters; Blackthorn and Grim’s chapters are told in first person, while chapters focusing on other characters use a close third-person perspective. Each voice is distinct and deftly handled, with some lovely turns of phrase.

Violence against women has always been a key theme of the series. Den of Wolves augments this by focusing on male privilege. Men occupy positions of power and frequently make decisions concerning the female characters without any kind of consultation. In some cases women are carted around like furniture and forced to leave homes they’ve known all their lives. Marillier makes very evident the frustration, powerlessness and fear this engenders in the female characters. I particularly appreciated that it’s not just the “evil” male characters that act this way. On the contrary, some of them have good intentions but seem to have no grasp of the effect their authoritarian approach has on the women around them. They assume they know best and expect everyone around them to obey.

I had a few thoughts on the ending that is impossible to discuss without spoilers. To put it as vaguely as possible: although the ending was foreshadowed and I appreciate what it was doing, I was a tiny bit disappointed. It negated a portrayal that, to my mind, was even rarer and more valuable.

Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed the book and the series remains a favourite.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Macro of a jonquil (Spring)
20161009_103431

Last weekend, Sahaquiel and I made it out to Floriade, the local flower festival. It was much later in the season than we usually go. Perhaps for this reason--or maybe all the wet weather we've had--the displays were even more spectacular this year and turned on quite a show.

Photos ahoy! Um, there are kind of a lot... )

I think next year we will go later again and see what it's like.
calissa: (Calissa)

Conflux 12, Red Fire Monkey, Shauna O'Meara, Canberra, speculative fiction, convention

Conflux 12 took place from Friday 30 September until Monday 3 October. As is always the case, there was a lot of good programming to see, so I had to split my report into two parts. You can read the first part here.

Panels, GoH interviews, books and book launches )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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