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[personal profile] renay
cover of Unspoken cover of Untold cover of Unmade


I flew through The Lynburn Legacy in two weeks. I can hear everyone going, "that word, I don't think it means what you think it means, Renay" right now, but all the other things in my life, two weeks for a trilogy is a big deal. Considering I start trilogies and never finish them (how long has Bitterblue been on my shelf? Don't ask. Mostly because I couldn't tell you, it's been that long.) "flew" absolutely works in this context. I was surprised that this series worked for me so well given my preferences about love triangles (i.e. short walk, long pier) and my capacity to handle literary heartbreak. But I— liked it a lot? I was really entertained!
  • sassy teenagers
  • broody love interests! with different flavors of brood!
  • interesting parental relationships
  • badass team of ladies!
  • girls being friends!
  • kissing!
  • telepathy!
  • the complications of mind-reading powers!

I found this so delightful.

The premise of Unspoken, the first book in the trilogy, is that Kami Glass, who lives with her family in Sorry-in-the-Vale, hears a boy in her head. She's had Jared in her head her whole life, and he's had her in his. They know each other intimately and they're always there for each other, just a thought away. Meanwhile, Kami's world is expanding because the mysterious Lynburns, who the whole town speaks of in awe, have returned to Sorry-in-the-Vale after years away, and she and her school newspaper are in the perfect position to break the story. BUT SUDDENLY, Jared's not just a voice in her head anymore. no explicit spoilers, just a lot of complaining about rural university education and my ongoing misunderstanding of genre. )

This series was really fun. I suppose this means I should reread and then finish the series that The Demon's Lexicon started, like a responsible series reader. Oh, and apparently Sarah Rees Brennan has another book coming out next year that sounds excellent, Tell the Wind and Fire.

(Yes, I am going to read Bitterblue this year, friends. PUT THOSE PITCHFORKS DOWN. I'M DOING IT I SWEAR.)
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[personal profile] helloladies
American version of The Shattering   Australian version of The Shattering


Seventeen-year-old Keri likes to plan for every possibility. She knows what to do if you break an arm, or get caught in an earthquake or fire. But she wasn’t prepared for her brother’s suicide, and his death has left her shattered with grief. When her childhood friend Janna tells her it was murder, not suicide, Keri wants to believe her. After all, Janna’s brother died under similar circumstances years ago, and Janna insists a visiting tourist, Sione, who also lost a brother to apparent suicide that year, has helped her find some answers.

As the three dig deeper, disturbing facts begin to pile up: one boy killed every year; all older brothers; all had spent New Year’s Eve in the idyllic town of Summerton. But when their search for the serial killer takes an unexpected turn, suspicion is cast on those they trust the most.

As secrets shatter around them, can they save the next victim? Or will they become victims themselves? (source)


Spoilers.

Jodie: I remember you were a huge fan of Healey's first novel Guardian of the Dead. Do you want to start off by talking about how the experience of reading The Shattering compared to reading Guardian of the Dead? Did you enjoy it as much and if so, why? And what were your favourite elements of The Shattering?

Renay: I loved that novel! It's been some time since I read it, but I really loved the main character and the rich world building of that story. Coming away from The Shattering, though, I do think I prefer The Guardian of the Dead, although this book was fun, too. That's because this book was harder for me, because of the POV switches — first person to third — that I have a lot of trouble with while I'm reading. I get bumped out of the story, and it doesn't help I'm not wild about first person narration so the constant back and forth was really jarring. The Shattering suffered a little because of that, and it took me 70 or so pages to really get into it. Plus, I'm unsure about the pacing. But before we dig into all that, my favorite element was the renewal of friendship between Keri and Janna and watching Sione gain confidence in himself. The friendship elements here were really strong! Healey does great friendship. What about you? Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
In a time without a Black Widow movie on the horizon, two fans in turmoil cried out for a heroine. She was Xena, a mighty female protagonist forged in the fires of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The action, the camp, the queer subtext. Her adventures will rock their worlds.


Clare & Renay's Adventures in: Xena


Xena: Episode 101, "Sins of the Past"


Clare: As I've mentioned, I did not watch Xena: The Warrior Princess growing up, what with being raised by Anglophile French wolves. I did give the pilot a shot a few years ago in college, but I found Gabrielle so annoying that I couldn't make it into the second episode. Luckily, that changed this time around!

Renay: The most I knew about this show is that two of my friends were in love with it and wrote lots of self-insert fic about it, and later, I would discover, lots of Xena/Gabrielle fic that was SUPER GAY but they were always like "no! they're just friends!" even though by that time I was already pretty deep into slash fic and going "wow, this is SO GAY, guys!" I never watched the show because a) I didn't have the right channels and b) I was really bad at serialized shows. I'm better now because of DVD boxsets and Netflix/other streaming, because as all the shows I'm watching now are proving, I'm still REALLY BAD at serialized shows. Waiting is THE WORST. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
I've been driving everyone around me up the wall with my complicated reactions to City of Stairs, a fantasy novel that dropped last September. I'm still a little angry about it, but less so now that I have some distance from my immediate reaction of "NO!!!", followed by ugly crying, followed by fuming for hours. When I meet a story that's so wonderful, and I love all the characters, the adventure is fun, the setting is fascinating, and there's a rich sense of history to the world, I want it to be perfect so I can recommend it without reservation. This is another good example of what happens when a book you love just hauls off and socks you in the jaw. Not maliciously, but as we all know, we don't read stories in a vacuum!

City of Stairs is doing so many things right that I'm crushed over the fact that I came away from the book so conflicted. I went through this with God's War by Kameron Hurley, too, where I had to leave the book alone for awhile because I was just so utterly disappointed that everything I loved also existed with one story element that made me so unhappy. Everything we love is problematic, the saying goes, so what's the right balance? What do we do with otherwise excellent books that repeat troubling patterns? Because obviously burning them in a pile while crying bitterly isn't cost effective or a good way to not smell like dead, burned books. Also, you just burned all those other parts you loved. Crap.

cover and blurb )

Shara Thivani, who comes to Bulikov with her secretary, Sigrud, to investigate the murder of historian Efrem Pangyui, is so wonderful. I loved her immediately after her first scene with her Aunt Vinya, a politician of note in Shara's home country of Saypur. She's intelligent and clever, but a little bit arrogant and condescending, too. In a scene very early on she talks about jingoism and is rather holier-than-thou about it, which is fascinating as the story that follows dismantles her self-satisfaction over being better than the people who engage in the sort of overt patriotism versus her own, more shadowy version. She's compassionate and kind, but she has important things to learn about the policies she's been enforcing, and it's a treat to go along with her as she unravels the mystery of what's happening in Bulikov and on the Continent itself. Her companion, Sigrud, is interesting on an interpersonal level because how are these people, of all the people in the world, partners? But he's also delightful — he got some of the best action sequences. There's multiple professional and personal relationships here between women like Mulaghesh and Vinya, as well, which is so wonderful. The top Saypuri leaders we get to know are all women, which was extremely satisfying. If they cut each other down or challenged each other, it wasn't because they were women, it was because they were politicians.

But to me the heart of the novel is about history — both personal and national — and how history can shape so much of what we do and who we are, and what the consequences are if we learn new things about history and misuse that information. What kind of people do we become when we learn new truths or have what we think we knew challenged? We often have a choice, and that choice has far-reaching consequences much longer and more influential than we can see. What's more important: the truth or our egos? People or power?

City of Stairs is lively in its writing, canny with its revelations, and boasts a crunchy critique about colonialism that unfolds until the very end, all wrapped up in an intriguing spy narrative package. Even in dark moments there is hope, friendship, love, and compassion. I enjoyed it so much. A summary:

PEOPLE IN POWER: Shara, don't do it.
SHARA: I did it.

and

SHARA: Vohannes, no.
VOHANNES: Vohannes YES.

and

BAD GUYS: *terrible actions*
SIGRUD: *silent decision to beat some guys down*
SHARA: Oh, not again...

But I have some caveats. Although, when don't I? 10,000 points to the person who can name the last book I didn't have caveats over. Character spoilers beyond this point. )

Special Thanks!


To Sunil ([twitter.com profile] ghostwritingcow) for assuring me I wasn't a jerk, and providing excellent edits. ♥

Other Reviews )
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[personal profile] renay
cover of Stranger


Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, "the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. "Las Anclas" now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble. (source)


Friends, I am conflicted about this book.

(Now I'm wondering how many of my book posts start like that. Probably a ton.) Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
cover of a Finely Woven Thread


You've seen Black Widow as an Avenger and even an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. But on her own time she searches for atonement for her past as a KGB assassin — in ways of which those teams just wouldn't approve. The Black Widow goes undercover in Russia, but from its cold streets, the Hand of God reaches out to crush her...and it is as merciless as its name implies. Outmatched by the brute force of a powerful new villain, Natasha faces her deadliest test, and discovers a deadly plot unfolding that spans the entire globe. (source)


My introduction to Natasha was in Iron Man 2, where her relationship with Pepper was one of the few redeeming things about that outing beyond Tony and J.A.R.V.I.S. snarking one another. She also got to a) use part of Tony's suit, and b) stab Tony in the neck, which was really good for me.

The Natasha we meet in the MCU, though, is by circumstance, often only hinted at because she's not the main character. Her development in The Avengers was pretty good, but in Captain America: The Winter Soldier it was amazing, and it was The Winter Soldier that solidified my desperate need to know more about her and her past. Seeing as how Marvel is determined to crush my dreams of Natasha ever getting her own film under their heel before diving into the vault of money à la Scrooge McDuck, I decided it was time for me to head to the comics.

Sidenote: has someone made that animated gif yet, with Scrooge McDuck's head replaced with the Marvel logo? I need gif making skills. PRETEND IT WAS HERE. Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
If you like ~forbidden romance~, ghosts, spaceships, epic fantasy space opera, wildly different types of characters and cultures with complicated motivations and plans, the intense politics of war spliced together with the politics of parenthood and freedom of choice, you may, indeed, love Saga. Saga is an award winning, ongoing comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It's beloved for good reasons, and Renay and Ana were quickly won over by the art, the story, and the amazing characters.

And also, of course, the cats.


cover of Saga


When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. (source)

Text and image spoilers through volume three.

Ana: So… shall we start by talking about Hazel? :D Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay


In August I read Jaran, because friends, I have a burning desire to jam the entirety of Kate Elliott's backlist in my eyes. I can't yet move forward into the warm embrace of her new world building, because the current publishing landscape is a barren, Kate-less land until 2015, at which point it's going to be like finding at least five or six oases in a row (okay, or three, she's only publishing three things. Only in my wildest dreams would five Kate Elliott books drop in the same year).

The point is that she's publishing a lot in 2015 so this is the perfect time to engage in some backlist adventures and catch up, if, like me, you were cruelly blocked from knowing she existed before her Spiritwalker trilogy caught your attention.

I loved that trilogy (you could read it if you haven't! here is the review that may convince you!) even though I don't consider fantasy my home genre like I do science fiction. In reality I should have read Jaran the first time I saw it mentioned on The Book Smugglers.

I loved it, friends. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
cover and metadata )

I have a serious thing for companion animals stories. I still love His Dark Materials (and all associated AU fanfic), Zoo City was amazing, and Temeraire meets the qualifications even if I tend to prefer the non-fantasy animal side of things most of the time. This book should have been right up my alley! Bioengineered humans and animals connected via mental link! A pleasure planet created before a war tore apart an entire space-faring civilization. A planet that's lost to history! The technology that made the planet so palatable to people who wanted to challenge themselves by experiencing "serious" wilderness adventures destroyed! Until someone finds it.

I should have loved this book. Disappointed. :( Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
We're excited to present a guest post about Final Fantasy X-2 from long time friend, [personal profile] owlmoose! Read on to find out why Final Fantasy X-2 is an awesome game experience and why you should definitely check out the new Final Fantasy X/X-2 remaster!


The following is a discussion of the videogame Final Fantasy X-2 from a feminist perspective, revised from a post I wrote on my journal in February 2011. Although I've attempted to make it accessible to general audiences, it does contain spoilers for FFX-2 as well as Final Fantasy X, and assumes a passing familiarity with both games and the Final Fantasy franchise in general.

Rikku, Yuna, and Paine


Final Fantasy is a videogame series published by Square Enix (formerly Squaresoft), one of the titans of the Japanese role-playing (JRPG) genre. As of this writing, there are fourteen main numbered installments, many of which have sequels and spinoffs. However, the main titles are not connected to each other in any way, save a few similarities in theme and naming conventions. Each main title is set in a completely different world, with new stories and new characters, and stands alone from the others. Final Fantasy X (FFX), the tenth main title, was first released to much fanfare in 2001. Although not universally beloved (get any two Final Fantasy fans in a room, and they will have different and often directly opposed opinions on which game is the best and which the worst), it was well received by both fans and critics overall, and it remains popular enough that it was remastered for the PlayStation 3 in 2013. It also inspired something that no other Final Fantasy game had, up to that point: a direct sequel. That sequel, Final Fantasy X-2 (FFX-2), was released in 2003, to a decidedly more mixed reaction. Read more... )

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