Archive for January, 2016

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult fantasy novel, the first in a duology, marketed as a treasure hunt through time.  It focusses on the characters of Etta, a young 21st century woman and Nicholas, a black man from the 1700s, both of whom have the genetic ability to travel through passages in time and space.  They embark on a journey through time to locate the astrolabe, the series McGuffin, in order to prevent its falling into the hands of the Ironwoods giving them power to change history.

What I liked

The time travel system.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.  It was very well thought out and the rules and limitations were well explained.  Often in fantasy it’s the limitations on magical powers that make them most interesting and generate the most interesting stories.  At the risk of spoiling the novel I won’t say too much more, but this aspect was very well done.

The character development.  Writing believable and consistent characters is one of Bracken’s strengths.  I could easily believe the characters actions and reactions based on what they’d already experienced.  

The social commentary. Having two characters whose race or gender has historically deprived them of power and placing them in situations where that is emphasised was inspired.  It leads to some scenes that are both funny and poignant.  

The writing and the pacing.  This was excellent – the story kept moving along at a brisk pace with the tension managed expertly.  It’s amazing what a deadline can do for plot pacing!  Of course, I hadn’t expected anything less from the writer of The Darkest Minds series.

What I didn’t like

The romance.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the relationship between Etta and Nicholas.  What irritated me though was the fact that they allowed it to overshadow everything else.  They were on a very tight deadline and yet they still took a lot of time out to enjoy each other’s company.  Focus, people!

Bland characters.  I will say I enjoyed the situations in which the characters found themselves more than the characters themselves.  Yes, they did have a few moments of awesome, and yes, their character development was realistic, but I wasn’t particularly engaged by them.  

All in all I really enjoyed this book and gave it four out of five stars.  I look forward to Wayfarer, the conclusion of the story.

As an aside, if you enjoyed Passenger, I would strongly recommend you check out Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red trilogy. This explores a very similar premise of time travel, but the heroine is much more fun and sassy than Etta.

four-stars

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

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Today I thought I’d tell you about my top three fictional relationships.  While I do not consider myself a hard core shipper, there are a few pairings in which I am super invested, and here they are.

The Doctor and River Song (BBC, Doctor Who)

Perhaps I should provide some background here for those readers unfamiliar with the BBC series.  The Doctor is a space and time travelling alien from the planet Gallifrey who has a special fondness for Earth and who is frequently called upon to use his smarts and trusty sonic screwdriver to save the world.  As a Time Lord, he has the unique trait that, when he is severely injured, his body regenerates, giving a whole new look and personality to the character.  River Song is a slightly-more-than-human time traveller whose timeline collides on a regular basis with that of The Doctor.

Showrunner Russell T Davies, who introduced River to the show, has said that his inspiration for the character was Audrey Niffinegger’s novel The Time Traveler’s Wife in which a time traveller’s relationship with his wife is complicated by his meeting her at different points in her life.  The first time we – and The Doctor – meet River is shortly before her death when it’s clear she has already enjoyed a long and event filled relationship with The Doctor, one of which The Doctor is unaware.  Her devastation that her Doctor doesn’t know her is beautifully and poignantly played by Alex Kingston.

Throughout the following series, we learn more about River and her relationship with our favourite Gallifreyan.  Not only is their relationship complicated by jumping in and out of each other’s timelines – their first action upon meeting is to compare diaries to pinpoint where they are in their timelines – but also The Doctor’s changing personality due to his regenerations.  

Why I love this relationship.  In spite of the time travel and fantasy elements, there is a lot of human in this relationship, particularly the fear that a loved one will no longer be able to remember you or share in the memories of events you’ve experienced together.  That is the aspect of the relationship that touched me the most.  I’ll be perfectly honest here and say that much of my investment in this relationship comes from Alex Kingston’s performance as River.  it has to be said, she has some very cheesy lines: “I live for the days when I see him, but I know that every time that I do he’ll be one step further away. The day is coming when I’ll look into that man’s eyes, my Doctor, and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.”  Kingston delivers those lines with such truth you can’t help but feel for her character.

Fitz and The Fool (Robin Hobb, Realm of the Elderlings)

Again, perhaps some background might be necessary here.  Fitz is the protagonist of Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies.  These are typical epic fantasy novels in which  the Fool prophesies a dire end for the Six Duchies unless he and Fitz can work together to prevent it.  Their adventures together creates a very strong bond between them, and it is a joy to watch their friendship develop.  

What makes this relationship very different in epic fantasy is the Fool’s gender fluidity.  At some points in the narrative he (I’ll use the male pronoun just for convenience) presents as male, at other points, he is female.  Throughout the series the Fool is extremely careful and adept at avoiding situations which may reveal his physical gender – he avoids bathing in public and refuses medical attention.  There are moments where Fitz could ascertain the truth of the situation but out of respect for his friend he refuses.  At this point I wonder if the Fool’s physical gender will ever be revealed – and more to the point, what difference it would actually make.

His gender has absolutely no bearing on the Fool’s love for Fitz; as far as he is concerned, Fitz is the centre of his world, his other half.  Fitz, on the other hand, views things differently.  For him a physical relationship is an integral part of a pair bond, something he struggles to accept with the Fool, given that he views him as male.  The Fool’s comment on that is very astute;  “You are confusing plumbing and love again.” I believe though that Fitz is lying to himself about the depth of his love for the Fool.  This central conflict between the pair has yet to be resolved – there is one more book to come in the Fitz and the Fool series – and I am so impatient to see how Hobb has the pair overcome this hurdle.  

As far as I am concerned, Fitz and the Fool is endgame.  Hobb all but confirmed it when Jinna the hedge witch reads Fitz’s palm and says “By your left hand, I’d say you had a sweet and true love in your short life. A love that ended only in your death. Yet here in your right hand, I see a love that wends its way in and out of all your many years. That faithful heart has been absent for a time, but is soon to return to you again.”  The very next chapter it’s not his previous love, Molly, who returns to Fitz’s life but the Fool.

Why I love this relationship.  The depth of the connection between Fitz and the Fool is so movingly written.  Both would happily give up their lives and/or happiness to ensure the other’s wellbeing.  I am so invested in the relationship and am keen to see how it develops.

Tessa Gray, Jem Carstairs and Will Herondale (Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices)

Generally I am not fond of love triangles, especially in young adult fiction.  All too often, it’s very clear from the beginning which couple the author intends as endgame (did anyone seriously expect Bella to end up with Jacob?)  and the third party serves as little more than a temporary roadblock on the way to true happiness.  Bleugh.  I’ve read that scenario far too often now for it to be remotely interesting.

The love triangle between Tessa, Jem and Will in The Infernal Devices is different.  The triangle is perfectly balanced in that both Jem and Will are written as valid partners for Tessa.  Clare does not make it clear which couple is endgame.  Jem and Will also have a very strong pre-existing bond and they love and respect each other as brothers.  Both are willing to sacrifice their lives and happiness so that the other may be happy.  I was genuinely upset that one of them had to step aside, and I couldn’t decide which Tessa should choose.

Why I love this relationship(s).  That ending.  Wow.  The way Clare resolved this triangle was just so beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. She clearly did her work well to evoke such a reaction in me.

So there you have it, my top three fictional relationships. What they all have in common is that the love between the pairs is selfless – they would all give up their lives in a heartbeat to ensure their partner’s happiness – and that they all have interesting obstacles to overcome.  Let me know about your favourite fictional relationships in the comments!

My top three fictional relationships was originally published on Canadian eReader

My last entry talked about my favourite books of 2015, so now it’s time to talk about my most anticipated books of 2016.

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenPassenger is the latest book by Alexandra Bracken.  it is the start of a new YA series and is billed as a YA treasure hunt through time.  I really loved Bracken’s Darkest Minds series, so this sounds like a real winner to me.  The publisher has released a sampler, which I encourage you to check out.  Passenger is officially released in just a few days on January 5th 2016.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra ClareThis is the first book in a new series by Mortal Instruments writer Cassandra Clare.  It is set in the same world of the Shadowhunters but the action takes place in Los Angeles.  At first, I’d been a little sceptical of the setting; the older cities of London and New York seemed a more natural fit for vampires and demons than sunny Los Angeles.  However, the last book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Heavenly Fire, functioned as much as a setup for this new series, introducing characters, locations and possible plotlines in the new series, and I am 100% convinced now.  I will certainly be devouring Lady Midnight when it is released on March 8th 2016.

Yellow Brick War by Danielle PaigeYellow Brick War is the third and final book in the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige.  This series is set in the world of L Frank Baum’s Oz in which Dorothy has turned wicked.  While I loved the world and protagonist – Amy Gumm – is wonderfully kick ass, yet real and flawed – but I was unhappy with the pacing of the first book.  The second book, The Wicked Will Rise, fixed these issues and had such a fantastic cliffhanger ending that I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Yellow Brick War is released on March 15th 2016.

Paper and Fire by Rachel CainePaper and Fire is the second in Rachel Caine’s Great Library series. I was originally drawn to Ink and Bone because of the world – a world in which the Great Library of Alexandria survives and exercises complete control over all published work.  Our protagonist discovers a way to break the Library’s control and ends up in danger.  With this book I came for the concept and stayed for the characters.  They are both engaging and intriguing and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Paper and Fire is released on July 5th.

The next book in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, The Thorn of Emberlain is scheduled to be released on July 21st 2016.  At least that’s what Amazon tells me.  I’m not certain how official that date is – it has been put back several times.  In any case, this is one book I am very much looking forward to.  I love the characters, the world and the writing is so sharp and witty.  I look forward to what the future holds for Locke.

The final book I’d like to mention is Heartless by Marissa Meyer.  This is a new series set in the world of Alice in Wonderland in the same way that the Lunar Chronicles were a retelling of traditional fairytales.  Other than the brief synopsis, not much has been revealed about this book.  I look forward to picking it up on November 8th 2016.

One book that I am not holding my breath anticipating in 2016 is George R.R. Martin’s continuation of The Song of Ice and Fire, The Winds of Winter.  In a recent blog post, Martin confirmed what most of us had expected: Winds of Winter will not be published before the upcoming sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.  While disappointing, this is not surprising.  However, the tone of Martin’s post suggests that he still has a lot of work to do, and that he cannot say when it will be completed.  I’ll be interested to see how that affects viewing of the series.  Personally, I’m going to watch it and treat it like any other book adaptation – I’ll enjoy watching David and Dan’s interpretation and then read the original whenever Martin publishes it.  I do have more faith in Martin’s handling of the characters though.

Reading through my preorders and my most anticipated list, I see that the vast majority of them are YA fantasy type books.  One of my goals for 2016 should be to expand my reading genres.  That may be tricky – there are just so many good YA books coming out and so little time to read.  I do have some historical fiction, some Outlander and some biographies to read.  I also see that all of them are by authors with whom I’m already familiar.  That is probably also something to work on in 2016.  Because not yet published books don’t have Kindle previews, I’m a little more reluctant to commit my money to an unknown.  

This year I have set my GoodReads reading challenge to 80 books.  I feel that should be doable, even if I do listen to more audiobooks.

One very exciting thing I’m really looking forward to this year is attending BEA in Chicago!  This will be my first visit to the book expo and I’m so excited at the opportunity to spend time with people who are as passionate about books as I am.  I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Most anticipated reads of 2016 and other news was originally published on Canadian eReader