The Feats of Strength are an integral part of our annual Smugglivus Tradition. In previous years, the Feats of Strength were a challenge in which we dared each other to read a book that we knew was so far beyond the other’s comfort zone as to put it in another galaxy altogether. This year, we changed the rules: we each get to read and review 7 books (including one Old School Wednesdays, one What She Said book and now one Joint) and with the following TWIST: each review can contain no more than 50 words. For people like us whose reviews are generally written with no less than 800 words and often with more than 1000, this is a true Feat of Strength!
Today it is Thea’s turn! Wish us luck.
WHAT SHE SAID:. Ana’s original review HERE.
Author: Octavia Cade
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Masque Books
Publication date: January 2014
Ebook: 82 pages
In a world where experience is currency, Rosemary is the owner of a very special library—a library of memory, where scented coins transfer personal experience from one individual to another. When she trades away the sole memory of her grandmother’s final concerto, family opposition, in the form of her daughter Ruth, forces Rosemary to go on a quest to try and recover the lost coin. Yet having to trade away her own memories to get it back, how much of Rosemary will survive the exchange?
50-word Review: A unique novella in which memories are transferrable currency, and a woman goes on a desperate sort of quest to recover a lost coin at great personal cost. Memory and identity collide in this beautiful, thought-provoking story (it’s like an elegant, grown-up version of The Neverending Story 2 movie).
Rating: 8 – Excellent
OLD SCHOOL WEDNESDAYS:
Title: The Ice Dragon
Author: George R.R. Martin
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Publisher: Tor Teen (New Edition)
Publication date: First published in 1980
Hardcover: 121 pages
The Ice Dragon is an enchanting tale of courage and sacrifice for young readers and adults by the wildly popular author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin. Lavish illustrations by acclaimed artist Luis Royo enrich this captivating and heartwarming story of a young girl and her dragon.
In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.
Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara’s home. And only a winter child—and the ice dragon who loved her—could save her world from utter destruction.
50-word Review: Gorgeously illustrated middle grade fable about a girl born with “winter in her”, and her impossible bond with an ice dragon. This tale (set in ASoIaF) is a very different take from usually verbose GRRM – it’s a sad, powerful story about family, love, and growing up. I loved it deeply.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Author: Andrea K. Höst
Publisher: Self published
Publication date: November 2010
Paperback: 240 pages
Time stole victory.
Medair an Rynstar returned too late to drive back the Ibisian invasion. Centuries too late.
When friend and enemy have become the same thing, what use are the weapons Medair planned to use to protect her Empire? There is no magic, no artefact, no enchanted trinket which can undo the past.
But no matter how Medair wishes to hide from the consequences of her failure, there are those who will not allow her the luxury of denying the present. Her war is already lost, but she carries weapons which could change the course of new battles.
With the skirmishes of war beginning, and hunters in near pursuit, it is her conscience Medair cannot escape. Whose side should she be on? What is she really running from?
50-word Review: I love fantasy novels about failed quests – such is Medair’s premise. Awaking 500 years too late to save her beloved Empire, Medair struggles with guilt and anger as she learns to accept her new world, and her place within it. Andrea K Host does not disappoint; Medair is another stunner.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Director: Luis Lopez & Clay Tweel
3D printing is changing the world. PRINT THE LEGEND follows the people racing to bring this hot new technology to your home, documenting the “Macintosh Moment” of this revolution and exploring what it takes to achieve the American Dream.
50-word Review: Fascinating (if somewhat disheartening) documentary about 3D printing, the applications of which are staggering – think custom clothes, prosthetics or even organs. This film follows 4 major players as 3D technology is primed to explode (its “macintosh moment”), showing the ills of megacapitalismdouchery, production woes, IP litigation, and arrogant sensationalism. Recommended.
Rating: 7 – Fascinating, Very Good
Author: Soman Chainani
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, YA
Publication date: May 2013
Hardcover: 488 pages
The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.
This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.
But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.
50-word Review: OHMYGODILOVETHISBOOK. Beautiful Sophie and hermit Agatha are taken from their village to study at the schools for Good (beautiful princesses/princes) and Evil (hideous witches/villains) – but they are, seemingly, sent to the wrong respective schools. This is a powerful yarn about friendship & the true meaning of “Good” and “Evil”. LOVE.
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfection
THE LITERARY FICTION:
Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Literary Fiction
Publisher: Knopf (US) / Picador (UK)
Publication date: September 2014
Hardcover: 333 pages (US)
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of “King Lear.” Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from “Star Trek: ” “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, “Station Eleven” tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
50-word Review: Straddling literary and genre fiction, Station Eleven is a Cloud Atlas/Lost-esque interwoven tale of characters before, during and after the apocalypse. After the Georgia Flu pandemic only 0.01% of the population – and forgotten artifacts – remain. A gorgeously narrated book about the power of memory, inevitability, and hope.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Author: Art by Takeshi Obata, Original Story by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Storyboards by Ryosuke Takeuchi, Illustrations by Yoshitoshi Abe
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Viz Media
Publication date: June 2014
Paperback: 431 pages
The world is in a war against an alien race called “Mimics,” who have taken over most of the world with a mission to eliminate the human race. Keiji Kiriya is a new recruit in the United Defense Force, which is battling against these “Mimics.” On his first day of deployment, Keiji and his unit encounter “Mimics” and are all killed… Or was it all a dream? For some inexplicable reason, after every time he dies, he is resurrected and returned back to the day before the battle. Why does this happen to Keiji and how can he escape from this never ending cycle?
50-word Review: Manga adaptation of the novel that inspired the film Edge of Tomorrow – and it’s bloody brilliant. Different than the movie, featuring a younger protagonist, I loved the deeper backstory the manga gives for mimics and protagonists (especially Rita). The ending is VERY different, should be discussed – but I liked it.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
Another amazing year of feats of strength – I loved every single book (and movie) I picked up! I cannot believe that I dragged my feed so long on The School for Good and Evil – you best believe I will be reading book 2 very soon, and devoting many, many more words to this very clever series. I loved The Silence of Medair, and cannot wait for the next book – Andrea K Host never fails to astound. And while it might be slightly cheating to review an author we have published, Octavia Cade’s skill with words never ceases to amaze me – same goes for the brilliant Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (which I simply had to expound upon at kirkus). George R.R. Martin’s middle grade tale is dark and fitting – also the new package from Tor is freaking gorgeous and worth the investment if you are a collector. All You Need is Kill must be discussed in greater length with Ana, but even though the ending is different and I had a fierce gut-check reaction to it (I prefer the movie’s way out), I still liked it.
All in all, a fantastic year, and some fantastic reads. Bring it on, 2015!