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WOSFF: Women of Science Fiction and Fantasy

What is Science Fiction and Fantasy?

I thought that this was pretty self explanatory. After talking with a friend, I realized that it may not be. So I thought that I would take the time to discuss what I considered to be science fiction and fantasy. Even with these two parent categories, there are a lot of sub-genres that fall under them.

Science Fiction:  I consider science fiction to be anything that is science related. Specifically, anything to do with the hard sciences biology, chemistry, physics, and anything that has to do with space and such.

Fantasy: This is really the category that causes such confusion. I consider fantasy to be anything that deals with things that are not realistic, depending on the intent. I include stories that include werewolves, vampires, ghosts and other magical beings as long as the intent is not to scare the reader. The supernatural and paranormal beings are usually found in Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance.

I am not an expert about the definitions of science and fantasy, so if its not as specific as you would like, I apologize. These are just the broad definitions that I use when categorizing works.  Some works bleed between genres and that’s okay, as long as the main story falls into one of these two categories, the reviews will be posted on this blog.

Always Shine

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Ash  by Malinda Lo

September 1, 2009 – Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Purpose: #offmybookshelf, #Thereadingquest, 100 Best Science Fiction/Fantasy by Women

3 stars 

Goodreads Summary: Cinderella retold
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief

My Thoughts: When I first started reading Ash, I was reading it in chunks.   I found that I enjoyed it while I was reading, but I didn’t find it compelling enough to just pick up for the enjoyment of it.  So it was taking so long that I just gave up and DNF’d it. I was halfway through it, but I just didn’t care about it. I was okay with moving on. And then The Reading Quest came along.  If you want to know more about it, check out my post about it here.

One of the side quest challenges was to give a book a second chance. I picked Ash for this, I really wanted to like this book. I had read a short story by Malinda Lo and really liked her writing. My problem with Ash was not with the writing. This time, I read it straight through, instead of in chunks. Guys! I really enjoyed the rest of this story. I liked Ash, it was a lot more enjoyable

Again, I was irritated with the stepsisters and stepmother. Lo did a great job of making them unlikable. But. I liked the fact that she gave Ash a quiet and unexpected ally in the house. The addition of the fae and the king’s huntress lifts the story into something – more. It was nice.

Lo did a good job of staying close to well known fairy tale while at the same time making it her own. I wanted a little more from the ending. The buildup between who Ash was going to fall in love with and who she was ultimately going to chose was thrumming throughout the story. But the way it all resolved was a little too simple, a little to easy for the bargain struck.

A side note: I really want a retelling of the original Cinderella tale and not the Disney-fied version. So, if you all know of any please leave your recommendations in the comments.

As for Ash, I did eventually enjoy this story. But it is like most fairytales, best read straight through.

 

Always Shine!

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Girl of Fire and Thorns #1

September 20, 2011 – Greenwillow

Purpose: Review, Kindle Clean Up Project

Source: Netgalley, Publisher

5 stars

I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Goodreads Summary:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. 

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do

My Thoughts:

Elisa is the second daughter of the king. She loves food and has no interest in courtly affairs. Except she is also the bearer of the godstone, a jewel embedded in her belly since her naming day. At sixteen she is mysteriously and quickly married off to Alejandro, the king of a country that is nothing like her own.  This is the beginning of her story and of a journey that will take her to the lands of her enemy and into the path of people that will come to matter to her deeply.  The country is on the brink of war, the king and Elisa’s husband appears unable to act, unable to make a decision. Soon Elisa is thrown into a destiny that will cause her to dig deeper than she’s ever had to before and become a person that people depend on to become a hero.

I really wish that I had read this when I originally received it for review. I thoroughly, and unexpectedly, love this story. Though other people can see a strength in her, she slowly realizes that she is stronger than she ever thought that she could be.

One of the main reasons that I love this book is that Elisa is not your typical princess. She is fat, loves food and is not afraid to say so. She is very much aware of her flaws, but she doesn’t let that keep her from doing what she believes needs to be done. While everyone else is sure that they are doing god’s will, she is honest about not knowing what that is for her and for her band of friends. She overcomes her fear and impossible situations by seeking out the truth and history of the godstones.

When she is kidnapped by people who are only trying to save themselves, she does something extraordinary. She forgives them and joins their cause. It isn’t because she feels sorry or that she suffers from Stockholm syndrome or anything like that. She does so because she believes that it’s the right thing to do. Again,and again Elisa is put in positions that are dangerous and well out of her comfort. And each time when it would be so much easier to give up and surrender, she leans on her faith and stands up to the obstacle.  This story is peppered with characters who are impressively strong, passionate and more than capable.  I could go on and on about how amazing this book is, and I would still not do it justice. If you are looking for a story that has a more realistic character pulling you through, a story with a nice blend of mystery and adventure, I cannot recommend this one enough. I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

Always Shine!

Full Series Review:  Heralds of Valdemar By Mercedes Lackey

Book 1: Arrows of the Queen     Book 2: Arrow’s Flight   Book 3: Arrow’s Fall

*This trilogy can be found collected together in an omnibus titled Queen’s Own. (The Featured Image)

This is the first trilogy in the Valdemar world. This trilogy follows Talia who begins her adventure in the borderlands with Holderkin family. She isn’t happy dreaming of Herald adventures that she’s only read about. She has suffered abuse from the hands of her older brother and the first wife. The only path for her future is to either marry or to join the area’s convent. On the day that the Holderkin wives tell her that they’ve decided that she was going to marry Talia runs away. This is how the companion, Rolan, finds her.

Talia has been chosen by Rolan, but she doesn’t know this. She believes that Rolan has lost his herald and needs to get back to the Collegium, so she takes him. When she gets there, she begins to understand that her life is forever changed. Talia was chosen to be Queen’s Own, not just because what becomes obvious to everyone, but also because of her latent powers that Rolan sensed within her.  Her history of abuse has better prepared her for the challenges and horrors that she faces as Queen’s Own than anything else ever could.

This was the first Lackey book that I’ve read, but I think that this is a great place to start. Talia’s story begins in The Arrows of the Queen, continues in Arrow’s Flight and concludes in Arrow’s Fall. I loved each book, and if you have seen the review/mini-review you know that I rated each 5 stars. Surprisingly, at least to me, Arrow’s Fall, was my favorite.

Each book covers a different aspect of Talia’s journey from training to her coming into the full authority and power of the Queen’s Own.  You also learn more about the history of the heralds and the magic of the companions as you read along.  Though all of the secrets are not revealed, you are satisfied.  Even the characters are unaware of all of the secrets and magic of the companions. Each book is written with care and detail.

While this trilogy may be Talia’s, you read from other perspectives. You learn about Talia not just from being inside her head but also from her interactions with the other characters. It was so easy to fall into this world. A big part of that is because of book two, Arrow’s Flight.  Talia’s internship takes her out of the Collegium, away from what’s happening at court. This allows us to get a bigger sense of the world and people of Valdemar. The real people. She travels to the Northern borderlands and interacts with all manner of people. This allows for a wider view of the world, something we wouldn’t have gotten if we only followed Talia at the Collegium.

This is the beginning of the Valdemar works, and I am assuming that this would be Lackey’s first published works. I am going to say that this is not her strongest work, and that makes me excited to continue reading her works. I loved this trilogy, but I didn’t like everything that happened. Sex is super casual. I understand that it is extremely rare for heralds to make permanent bonds, I get it. But the sex is too casual (almost reckless) to me.  Also the fake love triangle that comes about in book 3 is simply annoying. Taking the triangle out would mean that the whole book would have to be rewritten. But still. . . If you read the entire trilogy you’ll understand what I mean by fake love triangle.

There are a lot of things that Lackey does really well. Her treatment of sexuality falls into this category. Minus the casualness, sex is always treated with respect and consent. The one case where sex is not given with consent, it is dealt with justly. Also, characters’ sexuality was not done to be a talking point. The characters were diverse, mainly (or only) because the Valdemar world was diverse and the characters reflect that.

While fantasy always require a certain amount of suspension of belief, Lackey creates a world that is authentic and easy to visualize, as well as characters that compels you to care enough to get to know them.

Always Shine!

Review: Binti

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti #1

Tor – September 22, 2015

Purpose: received second book for review, diverse read

Source: Library

4 stars

This was super short, only 90 pages. But it packs quite a punch. This is about so much more than a girl going off to university. Binti has left everything and everyone she knows because she is the first of her people to be invited to attend Oomza Uni. It’s not as smooth a trip as she thought it would be. In the end, Binti is forever changed. She is irrevocably changed in ways that may prevent her from ever going home. Her identity is being altered and she has to be redefine/rediscover who she is. I do have to admit that I think that this is a story that I would probably enjoy a bit more in one long story instead of 3 short novellas.

 

Always Shine!

Paranormal Romance: Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts

Paranormal Romance: Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts

The Guardians #1

November 3, 2015 – Berkley Books

Source: Borrowed from a friend

4 Stars

A long time ago, 3 goddesses of the moon created 3 stars (one of fire, one of ice and one of water) as a gift for the new queen. An enemy, a dark god wanted the stars for herself and her own power. To protect the world, the stars fell separately and out of the dark god’s reach.  Today 6 strangers are called together to find and protect the three fallen stars.

When I started this blog, if you would have told me that I would do a review of a Nora Roberts book here, and not my other blog, I would have laughed at you. While love is at the heart of this story, there is so much more going on here. There’s the three moon goddesses, the dark goddess, the seer, the witch and four other characters with their own secrets and stories to tell. While this may not be the best fantasy story out there, it was still pretty good. Since this is the first book, it sets up the next two books in the trilogy. But it is loaded with mystery, love and adventure. Roberts, being the master storyteller that she is, weaves together a tale that quickens the heart from a fast burning romance while at the same time keeping you on the edge of your seat. With just the right amount of prophecy and action, the story remains engaging. Another thing to mention would be the treatment of the fantastical elements. They are treated casually, making them not only common but also believable. I really enjoyed this story.

 

Always Shine!

 

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Heralds of Valdemar #1

DAW Books – March 3, 1987

Purpose:  100 must read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels by Female Authors

Source: My Bookshelf

5 stars

So far, I have not been impressed with the books that have appeared on this list. In fact, I told my friend who is reading along with me that if I didn’t like this book, I was ready to just forget about the list.  But, I loved this book. For so many reasons. Talia, the main character, was very likeable. This was a young girl who was wise beyond her years. Other characters make a comment about this, but it is apparent with the writing. Next would be the relationships in the story. There’s familial, friendship and romantic relationships. Some are destroyed as they should be. Some move from friendship to romantic but reverts to friendship, without all the angst and drama. The romantic relationships range from lifelong to unrequited or in secret. Again, without all the angst and drama.

I loved watching Talia slowly come into her own at the Collegium, into her gifts as well as her role as the Queen’s Own. This book was a foundation book, giving the history if the Collegium as well as the history of companions. But it wasn’t boring, and it wasn’t full of info dumps. There were enough mini-adventures and mystery to move the story along, so you’re not just left with the history. Talia comes to the Collegium at a time where conspiracies and a covert rebellion is brewing. I was lost in the story and enjoyed the writing so much.

One other thing that I really enjoyed seeing in this story was the way women were treated and depicted. Women are valued and treated as equals. Valdemar is ruled by a queen. The queen has the same requirements to rule as the king. This was a sore spot for the king who turned Queen Selenay  into a widow and who was at the heart of the rebellion. Heralds and Heralds-in-training are both male and female. They all go through the same rigorous mental and physical education. In fact, the previous Queen’s Own role that Talia steps into was filled by Talamir-  a man. I am interested to see if this equality continues throughout the rest of the series.

This was an enjoyable read, and I can definitely see how Lackey made it onto the list. She is an author that I will continue to read throughout the year. I am looking forward to catching up on her backlist.

[Finished 1/02]

Always Shine!

 

Review: Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

Tor Books – February 28, 2017

Purpose: Review

Source: Publisher

 I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

5 Stars

Ethan Makkai has grown up in Los Angeles with an overprotective almost smothering mother, a group of bullies that pay too much attention to him and the annoying ability to see ghosts. He only has one person that he considers a friend- and even that proves to be questionable. The day he sneaks out for a little bit of freedom changes him and sets in motion a set of events that forever alters him.

This was one of my most anticipated books for this year, so I was really looking forward to reading this. I was not disappointed. Lewis does an excellent job with her worldbuilding. Because Ethan is new to Tara, we are introduced to his homeland at a nice steady pace. It’s not so overwhelming where the information is just dumped on you all at once. But, it’s also not so slow that you feel lost and so far from the rest of the characters. It is balanced between discovery and revelation.  Lewis provides enough details and imagery that helps Tara and the people of Tara to come alive.

The characters are well-developed, each with their own distinct personality and voice. Ethan sets out on a reckless and uncertain journey in an attempt to rescue his mother. Along the way he discovers that everything that he thought he knew about himself and his mother turns out to be a lie.

His daughter and the general’s daughter go along with him on the journey. As each gets to know each other, they also get to know themselves better. Each one has come into their powers and destiny along the way. The villain in this story, Sawney Bean, makes for a terrifying opponent. While we get to see him fleshed out, there still seems to be something missing.  It took me a while to name it, but I got it. In the end we still don’t what his internal motivation is unless it turns out to be something as simple as the desire for power. What has corrupted Bean’s soul?

This has a little of everything; mystery, action, sword fights, self discovery. This is a hero’s journey, and the hero constantly fights against all odds. There is also the sweet budding of a romance. I am so glad that the romance stayed in the innocent stasge—especially since there appears that a second book is coming.

Always Shine!

 

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