Book Review: Paladin of Souls ☆☆☆☆

paladinofsouls1stedIf you haven’t read The Curse of Chalion this review will contain small spoilers for that book, but not for Paladin of Souls.

Before you read Paladin of Souls I highly recommend you read The Curse of Chalion. You don’t have to, but Chalion does a lot of heavy lifting for the religion, and world that the books are set in. There are also characters, and events referenced in Paladin from Chalion. You don’t have to if you’d rather not however as Paladin will cover, in less detail, what you need to know from Chalion.

Paladin of Souls begins three years after The Curse of Chalion ends, and follows a woman named Ista. Like in Cazaril in Chalion, Ista is a grown adult. At 40 years old she has been a wife, the queen, a mother, god-touched, a widow, and is now the mother of a queen. Unlike Cazaril however Ista has no idea who she truly is. She has been defined by each of these roles in turn, but never been free to discover who she is outside of these roles.

She has also spent most of her adult life under a curse, deemed mad, and so confined and cared for by loved ones. Now that this curse has been released she wants to escape the gilded cage that her life has been, and discover herself. She embarks on a quest to do just that, but quickly becomes evolved in events well beyond her control. What she finds during these events is more than she bargained for!

My first instinct is to say that Paladin is not as epic as Chalion was, but that isn’t really true, or fair. Without giving spoilers I can say that there are forces at play in Paladin which are far more dangerous to the kingdom than anything in the first book. It just doesn’t always feel that way at times because we so stay closely zoomed in on Ista herself who doesn’t actually move around much during this story. As a result it feels like there is less going on even when that isn’t the case.

Staying so tightly focused on Ista does make this feel more personal than Chalion. We get to know Ista very well. Which is pretty awesome because she is an amazing character. I just love how Bujold writes her protagonists. She gives them a depth and complexity that is hard to find. They are intelligent, self-aware, flawed, but also filled with strength. I’ll stop myself there because I could go on, and on, and on about her characters!

As mentioned earlier we see less of the world, but we do get to discover new places which weren’t in Chalion. Also, we see a lot more magic in Paladin than in Chalion. More of the gods as well. Well, maybe about the same, but there is more interaction from the gods anyway.

There are two romances going on in this book. One revolves around some minor characters which quite I enjoyed, and I thought it was done very well. I was less appreciative of the romance for Ista. Don’t get me wrong I liked the match, but it happened quite suddenly. I would have preferred it had been given more time to develop, or that it had ended so that we knew they would end up together later once they had had said time.

It was a small thing however, and I loved Paladin of Souls every bit as much as I loved The Curse of Chalion. I look forward to reading the last book in the series, The Hallowed Hunt, when I get a chance.

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Movies That Encourage Reading?

So like all parents my fiance, and I are always trying to encourage the love of reading in our little girl (3 years old). We read to her each day, take her to the library and bookstores, buy her books as presents/rewards, she sees our love of reading etc. And she does enjoy being read to so it’s working!

We also want to add more movies to her ever expanding collection which themselves encourage reading. One more thing can’t hurt right! Off the top of our head we have only come up with: Matilda, The Pagemaster, Beauty and the Beast, and The Neverending Story. We own each of these, but i’m sure there are more. We’re drawing a blank however. Any suggestions?

Book Review: Kushiel’s Dart ☆☆☆☆

kushieldartI’m having trouble deciding how to best begin my review of Kushiel’s Dart.. I’ll start with the world which is modeled after a mesh of medieval European cultures. Terre D’Ange is home to D’Angelines who are the descendants of fallen angels.These angels were cast down by God, and wandered the world looking for a home eventually settling in what would become Terre D’Ange. This history, and their shared angelic bloodlines form the basis of their religion which is a large part of their identity.

At the core of their religion is the phrase – love as thou wilt. One particular angel prostituted herself during the period of their wandering for the good of the angelic group. Now in this world prostitution is not just legal but a holy, sanctioned vocation.

Those who dedicate themselves to this angel form the Night Court. There are many houses which make up the Night Court each focusing on a different interpretation, or aspect of her service. That’s a crude description, but I tried to keep this as brief as possible. The world and religion of Kushiel’s Dart are both done very well. They have a depth, and complexity to which I have likely done a disservice, but hopefully I got the gist of it across.

Our heroine is Phedre, who as a young girl is sold by her parents to the Night Court who in turn later sells her to a nobleman. In his house she will learn become a courtesan spy. Things will of course go sideways for our heroine as they always do. Phedre’s story is full of political intrigue, battles, wars, love, friendship, betrayal, and sex.

The story itself is good, and there were a lot of things I enjoyed about it. There is a romance which was okay, and thankfully not overly sexual. Given her profession it would have felt less genuine to me if it had been all instant attraction, and hot sex.

I loved the relationship with her childhood friend. You get to see this friendship as it begins when they are children, and as they get older it remains true while changing with them. I actually enjoyed this more than the romance. You did a noble thing buddy, and I’m hoping this isn’t how your story ends! I definitely want to see him again as the series progresses. I’m not sure if I will though.

There is a great villainess in this story. She is easily one of my favorite villains even if she doesn’t much story time. I loved the relationship between her and our heroine. I expect they/she will get much more in the next two books. I mean how could she not!?

There are also parts of the book where the passage of time is both sudden and great. The author does a good job of showing how our character grows, and changes as a result. Or how the world itself has changed. Often an author writes 10 years later.. except nothing meaningful seems to have changed. Thankfully this wasn’t that.

Arguably most notable thing about Kushiel’s Dart is that there is a lot of sex in this story. There is no getting around that, and yes I’m including it in the things I liked best about the book. Terre D’Ange is a very hedonistic, sexual world.

In addition to being a courtesan Phedre is also an anguissette which is basically a masochist. Pain and humiliation give her great, if often involuntary, pleasure. Most of the many sex scenes will include some degree of bdsm.

That said these scenes never felt like a gimmick, or simply a prepubescent’s fantasy. They were descriptive, but not vulgar. Often they were sensual, and even arousing. Not to make this post awkward, but if these kinds of things make you uncomfortable you’ve been warned.

I don’t want to make it sound like this is an erotica, and the story is just there to frame the  sex. It isn’t. The world and religion are very complex. There is a lot of really good political intrigue going on. You have a great story with battles, nations going to war, and even some magic.

Here’s the thing though.. even with all that it was the sex that made this book great to me. Take that away, and I give this 3 stars. With the sex I give easily give it 4. I debated giving it 5 stars, but I as I wasn’t sure I settled on 4. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

There was one thing I had to flat out ignore. So she is trained as a courtesan spy. Cool. Except literally everyone knows this. Allies, friends, enemies, people who know people that have talked to other people – everyone. Somehow they still manage to let important information be discussed around her, or they simply tell her themselves. I mean, really? That’s a small thing however.

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Book Review: Redshirts ☆☆☆

redshirtsSo I’ve seen this book floating around the SF/F community for years now, but I wasn’t quite sure about it. Don’t get me wrong I like Star Trek, and have laughed at many redshirt jokes over the years, but can you really make a compelling novel about said jokes? I wasn’t sure, and have passed on this book many times as a result. I finally picked it up at my library this week after reading a blurb by Patrick Rothfuss saying it was the funniest book he’d ever read, ever. So of course I had I’d give it a try!

For whatever reason the humor just wasn’t the LOL hilarity that I was led to believe it would be. That’s twice now Rothfuss! (The other time being a blurb he did about The Last Unicorn which when I read I didn’t really enjoy much.) I mean I could see the jokes, and having watched many the different iterations of Star Trek I could even appreciate them, but they just didn’t make me laugh. Maybe I was too focused on the characters themselves to appreciate the fourth wallish humor. Or maybe I was just Mr. Grumpy Pants at the time. Who knows.

The story itself was okay, but a bit shallow. There just isn’t much there to sink your teeth in. Given that it is a book basically built on a long running joke I kind of counted on that. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised, but no biggie.

It was also a short book. It weighs in at 320 pages, but the actual story is more like 200 pages. After that it cuts away from our Redshirts, never to return, and does a separate thing altogether. Basically there are three short stories which close some threads introduced at the end of the actual story. Each of these stories is written in a different POV style – first, second, and third. That part was cool, but again it wasn’t really part of our Redshirt adventure.

Overall it was okay. Redshirts was pretty much what I expected when I first started hearing about the book, but not what I had hoped it might be. Definitely worth a read if you are a Star Trek fan, and who knows you might enjoy it far more than I did.

My Rating: ☆☆☆

P.S. In related fandom news.. Who else is excited about Star Trek: Discovery?!

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane ☆☆☆☆☆

oceanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane may be my absolute favorite Gaiman. I could probably say, and no doubt have said, that Neverwhere, and American Gods are as well, and mean(t) it for each. Likely whichever I’ve read last is my favorite, which for now is The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s only 178 pages, but that is because it is the distilled essence of amazing storytelling. I have read books with hundreds of more pages that have failed to pack half as much punch as this small novel.

It is the story of a man remembering the forgotten pieces of his childhood after returning to his hometown for a funeral. We never learn whose funeral, but it isn’t important. In fact we never learn the name of the man/boy, but that doesn’t matter either. It is a story of magic and wonder, fear, courage, and sacrifice, and of friendship and family. This story is filled with many dark moments, but you never feel a loss of hope. It is a story that is beautiful in its sadness leaving you in a state of contemplative melancholy. It has for me both times I’ve read it at least.

I don’t want to describe the plot because of spoilers, but I would love to learn more about the Hempstock ladies (and men!). Or the old country even. As I stated in my review of The Ice Dragon, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a story that, to me at least, is less about the story itself, and more about how it makes me feel. I would describe it to you, but I’m not sure I fully understand it myself.

Others could do a better job of it I’m sure. Perhaps after further rereads I’ll be able to do it justice. And I will definitely be rereading this again as it is easily one of my favorite books. I appreciated it even more this reread than I did the first time.

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Book Review: The Ice Dragon ☆☆☆☆

2229227This was the short story I was hoping for when I read the Game of Thrones story in the Rogues anthology edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois. That story was so entirely disappointing that I gave it only 1 star, but The Ice Dragon is its polar opposite. This met my expectations and then some.

The story reminded me of Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Well, the stories are nothing alike really, and there isn’t nearly the same depth to The Ice Dragon which is to be expected as it is far shorter. It was also intended to be a children’s book if Goodreads is to be believed, but apart from having illustrations I don’t see it. For me it was simply a fantasy short story.

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous by the way. Luis Royo did an amazing job! I loved the style, and even that they were done all in blue. It really added to the wintry, ice dragon theme. Well, the inside cover illustrations aren’t blue, but, yeah.

I digress. Back to the story itself.. I’d go into the plot, but honestly this story wasn’t so much about the plot, or a concept, or even the dragons. It was about the way it made me feel. Which is why I draw comparisons to The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is a story of childhood innocence, and both had a kind of beautiful sadness about them.

In conclusion I will simply say that I greatly enjoyed this story. I will certainly be rereading it. For now I intend to go back and reread The Ocean at the End of the Lane before reading anything else.

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Book Review: Playing Nice with God’s Bowling Ball ☆☆☆

nk-jemisinI found another short story by N. K. Jemisin on tor.com, and wanted to do a quick review of it. This one is part detective, part science fiction. It features a boy named Jeffy who can do some pretty amazing things, and is currently being investigated for the disappearance of his friend.

As yet I haven’t been able to really get into detective novels. I need to read more to be sure if that holds for the entire genre. I do have a few on my tbr including Mr. Holmes, but let’s be honest my tbr is becoming something of a black hole. Anyways saying all that it really isn’t a surprise that I did not enjoy Playing Nice with God’s Bowling Ball as much as I did The City Born Great.

It is a good short story, and was a quick, easy read. I don’t think I’ll revisit it however. I would love to read more about Jeffy after he has grown into a man, and mastered his knowledge (ability?). There could be a lot of SF awesomeness in there.

Full link to this story:

http://www.tor.com/2014/06/30/playing-nice-with-gods-bowling-ball/

My Rating: ☆☆☆