Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Video: Building a Medieval Castle

This video by Great Big Story looks at the Guédelon castle construction project - to build a medieval castle using period tools and techniques.

It's a remarkable achievement.  I just wish it had easier public transit so as to be more accessible...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Book Review: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Pros: great premise, interesting characters, mostly set in Hawaii, creative use of mythologies

Cons: drags a bit

Nix has lived her 16 years on the Temptation, sailing to any map - real or imagined - using her father’s special navigation abilities.  Slate is looking for a map that will allow them to travel back to the time just before the death of Nix’s mother. But Nix is afraid that saving her mother will un-write her own life. 

The characters are all somewhat conflicted in their desires. This makes them feel like real people, with their own hopes and fears, clashing with others.  I loved that the characters were all from different backgrounds too.  Nix is half Chines and half American, Kashmir is from a Persian map, etc. 

Hawaii before the American takeover is a fascinating setting, and I was impressed at how closely the author kept to the history of the period (as relayed in the author’s note).  it was also wonderful learning about some Hawaiian myths.  

The use of mythology was pretty clever.  I loved the premise of the book and how belief is the most important factor in how the ‘magic’ works.

I did find that the book dragged a bit.  When they first land in Hawaii it took a while for things to get going.

This is a fun book, with a unique perspective. 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Shout-Out: Steeplejack by A. J. Hartley

Thoughtfully imaginative and action-packed, Steeplejack is New York Times bestselling A. J. Hartley's YA debut set in a 19th-century South African fantasy world.

Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga lives repairing the chimneys, towers, and spires of the city of Bar-Selehm. Dramatically different communities live and work alongside each other. The white Feldish command the nation's higher echelons of society. The native Mahweni are divided between city life and the savannah. And then there's Ang, part of the Lani community who immigrated over generations ago as servants and now mostly live in poverty on Bar-Selehm's edges.

When Ang is supposed to meet her new apprentice Berrit, she finds him dead. That same night, the Beacon, an invaluable historical icon, is stolen. The Beacon's theft commands the headlines, yet no one seems to care about Berrit's murder-except for Josiah Willinghouse, an enigmatic young politician. When he offers her a job investigating his death, she plunges headlong into new and unexpected dangers.

Meanwhile, crowds gather in protests over the city's mounting troubles. Rumors surrounding the Beacon's theft grow. More suspicious deaths occur. With no one to help Ang except Josiah's haughty younger sister, a savvy newspaper girl, and a kindhearted herder, Ang must rely on her intellect and strength to resolve the mysterious link between Berrit and the missing Beacon before the city descends into chaos.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Shout-Out: The Shadowed Path by Gail Martin

These are the untold tales of Jonmarc Vahanian, hero of Gail Z. Martin’s best-selling Chronicles of the Necromancer series.
Jonmarc Vahanian was just a blacksmith’s son in a small fishing village before raiders killed his family. Wounded and left for dead in the attack, Jonmarc tries to rebuild his life. But when a dangerous bargain with a shadowy stranger goes wrong, Jonmarc finds himself on the run, with nothing ahead but vengeance, and nothing behind him but blood.
Soldier. Fight slave. Smuggler. Warrior. Brigand lord. If you’ve met Jonmarc Vahanian in the Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle books, you don’t really know him until you walk in his footsteps. This is the first segment of his journey.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Book Review: Transgalactic by James Gunn

Pros: interesting new aliens, excellent world-building, utopic Earth

Cons: frustrating, somewhat boring, limited plot

Having gone through the transcendental machine, Riley and Asha find themselves separated, on far flung worlds. They must use their new skills to get back to Federation space and find each other.

This is very much a middle book, working specifically to get the two protagonists from one place to another. Along the way they each meet an important figure from their past - which was the most interesting part of the book, as those scenes touched on the events of the first book and brought one of the mysteries of that book forward.

The world-building is top notch, with several new alien races introduced.  Gunn’s aliens are all unique, and have histories as well as cultures.  Similarly, he extrapolates a future for Earth that encompasses AI protection, a future that has a lot of utopic qualities (though, naturally, not everyone is happy with the status quo).

Having said that, I personally found this book fairly boring. While the aliens Riley and Asha encounter are interesting, the first third of the book felt like it had no relevance to the rest of the story.  I also found the ending anti-climactic and confusing.

There’s a 2 page afterward that narrates some fascinating events that sound like they would have made for a very interesting novel, which I’m hoping play a big part in the next book.

There’s enough of interest here for me to at least check out the third book, as I am curious to learn what comes next. But I’m hoping it’s got more plot and less wandering than this book.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Shout-Out: Stranger King by Nadia Hutton

They came. They conquered. We few survived.

Lena Greenwood is known as a "Daywalker", a select type of mercenary who has adapted to working in the deadly radiation of post-war British Columbia, Canada. When her city is invaded by the Mokai, a hostile alien race, she and her company escape into the Canadian Rockies. Her last hope is to survive the harsh realities of a shattered world while the rest of humanity is culled or enslaved.

Thegn, a Mokai priest and a representative of the inter-species council who sanctions the Mokai, is captured and held hostage by a still free group of humans hiding in the Canadian Rockies. It is his task to document and study the human species who he believes is sentient and worth protecting. When his interactions with the humans bring to light similarities Thegn must face the reality that to save those he learns to love he may have to go against everything he once believed.

Stranger King is a story of love and conquest, of the patterns that emerge through the passions of love and war. It is the story of survival.