K.M. Carroll's Malevolent (2015)

9k="I met Mal the day he tried to kill my boyfriend."

And with that, Malevolent begins.

The 'I' is Libby. She's a high school senior, but not a very active one. Stricken with 'Valley Fever', she's virtually bedridden: even on the good days, she's worried about ranging too far - her mysterious ailment could strike at any time. 

Malevolent opens on one of those good days. She's feeling fairly strong, plus, the beekeepers are in town. Libby's family has an almond farm. The annual visit of the beekeepers and their pollinating bug-friends is not only important to the farm's success, but it is also a lot of fun to watch.

This year is especially fun, as there's an enigmatic stranger in the mix. This newcomer works with unnatural speed, and has a connection with his bees that seems almost magical. His strength, speed and pallor all combine to make Libby think - jokingly - that this newcomer, Mal, is a vampire. (awkward cough)

 

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Alessandra Clarke's Rider's Revenge (2015)

Rider's RevengeAnd we're off! I'm participating in this year's SPFBO - a competition that pits 300(!) self-published fantasy novels against one another in search of ULTIMATE GLORY. This site is one of the 10 sites reviewing and judging the books.

My task is to sift through 30 of the entries. I've already cut 24 of the 30 (details on those books here). This week, I'll be reviewing my final six, using a version of our DGLA criteria. Only one will go on the final round!

<cue dramatic intro music>

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K'lrsa is a Rider of the White Horse Tribe. She's young, but her skills on horseback and in combat - as well as her dauntless courage - have made her a fully fledged warrior of her tribe. Her father, the leader of the tribe, is immensely proud, even as her mother wishes she would settle down.

There are minor dramas, certainly - an overly-ardent admirer, disconcerting rumours involving trade routes - but K'lrsa loves her home and her family, even as she seeks further opportunities to prove herself... and all of this is swept away when disaster strikes.

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Nerd is the New Black: Spider-Gwen

Spidergwen_by_tayeedwards-d8qi983(Artwork by Taye Edwards)

If you're even sort of comics-adjacent these days you've probably heard of Spider-Gwen. At the very least you've seen something Spider-Gwen and gone, I don't know what that is, but it's awesome. Spider-Gwen has reinvigorated the comics market in an amazing way. Like Deadpool before her, anytime she's on a cover the comic sells out.

But Spider-Gwen doesn't just look cool, she is cool. In an alternate timeline, Gwen Stacey (you know, the way more awesome girlfriend than Mary Jane? The best part of The Amazing Spider-Man? The character who died horribly to give Peter Parker feels?) gets bitten by a radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker and develops spider powers. And then she is EVEN MORE AWESOME.

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The Manhattan Projects; or, ‘These Ain’t Your Momma’s Physicists’

Manhattan_projects_4The Manhattan Project was a now legendary U.S. military programme responsible for the creation of the atom bomb, operating between 1939 and 1946. The scientists that worked for the project have become legendary figures in their own right; Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi to name just a few. Regardless of the moral implications of what came out of it, the Manhattan Project was an undeniably impressive feat of science and a major step forward in the human understanding of physics.

Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra and Jordie Bellaire take this incredible human achievement and add in murder, cults, corruption, sex, drugs and the most kick-ass Albert Einstein you’re ever like to see. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Manhattan Projects.

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Friday Five: 5 Favourite Books of the Half Year

Sunlight PilgrimsSix month check-in! It has been a blissful productive year for reading, so I'm - of course - cheating this list with a lot of subcategories.

The only rule is that I've excluded rereads (which knocks out things like Neuromancer and Modesty Blaise, which, as we all know, are two of the bestest books ever).

Five Favourite 2016 Books So Far

Jenni Fagan's The Sunlight Pilgrims 

Glorious. Life and love and coming of age in a rural Scottish trailer park. While the world quietly dies. A lyrical book about apocalypses of all sizes and how people can be fragile - and strong - in so many different ways. (Tangent! Literally no one else agrees that the exquisite, brilliant, soul-shattering The Panopticon was SF. The setting of The Sunlight Pilgrims will definitely put an end to that. But, in the quest to annoy genre border-sentries of all shapes and sizes, I'm going to argue that TSP is Young Adult. Yes, that's wholly to do with one of the protagonists, Stella, being a kid, but,... it works. This is (or could be) 'issue YA', and Stella, who is mid-transition, is an inspiring, infuriating, inescapably charming character who steals the book.)

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One Comic Makes Its Own Laws With Punisher #1

The_Punisher_1

Hot off a guest appearance in Daredevil season 2 on Netflix, and last seen in comics at the start of Secret Wars killing all the supervillains as the world ended... It's The Punisher's turn to be relaunched! A new number one and a new creative team - well, new-ish - as one of them is a very old hand at depicting the terminal adventures of Frank Castle.

Amongst many other subjects, we also discuss: who to root for if you can't root for the protagonist; heroes that kill; how best to use a character like The Punisher in a universe of heroes who don't kill; whether and how this issue works for us, and Bex's fondness for violence. With an unexpected special guest mention of Frank Miller?

This show rated explicit for one use of Bex's favourite word. You know the one...

Readers of Gor: Tarnsman of Gor

GOR - Boris Vallejo

In which Silvia Moreno-Garcia of Ka-Na-Da and Molly Tanzer of Ko-Lo-Ra-Do discuss Silvia's re-read and Molly's first read of John Norman's famous (notorious?) Tarnsman of Gor. 

Tarnsman_of_gor_vallejo_coverSilvia: Tal, Molly Tanzer of Ko-lo-ra-doh. I guess before we get into this review of both the first Gor book and the first Gor movie, I’d like to ask how you discovered these things even existed.

Molly: Tal, Silvia Moreno-Garcia of Ka-Na-Da. May your tarn never get lice.

I actually heard about Gor from John C. Wright, that now-notorious Puppy-supporter and extreme moral panic-monger of the SFF community. In a rant about the SyFy channel’s pledge to be more inclusive by having more GLBT characters on their shows, Wright mentioned Gor derisively:

“I am hoping, of course, that future shows will also portray sadomasochism and bondage in a positive light---we are all looking forward to FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO GOR, I hope.”

Well, given Wright’s own (possibly former? Who can say) interest in S&M, or at least spanking teenage girls, I had to google Gor - if it was so extreme as to offend him, what could it be? I remember thinking it actually seemed strange I’d never heard of the series if it was so saucy. But the back cover copy of the first one didn’t seem particularly salacious (or LGBT-friendly?), so I sort of forgot about it, because it wasn’t a rabbit hole I felt like going down that day. Years later I learned they were famous for being about sexy slave girls or something, and became intrigued.

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