Book Review: In a Fix by Linda Grimes

  • Sep. 24th, 2013 at 9:22 AM
This review is going to be extremely unfair because I read In a Fix shortly after reading and reviewing Seanan McGuire’s Midnight Blue-Light Special.
The premise of In a Fix is that there are people called “aura adaptors” who have the ability to “borrow auras” from other people and somehow acquire their physiological characteristics. How something presumably non-physical can affect someone’s physical appearance is not adequately explained. The author hand-waves any explanation by having the heroine scoff at the idea of molecular-level shapeshifting, then a few chapters later has the heroine acquire the physical characteristics--including size--of a small child so that she can escape a pair of handcuffs. (No, I am not sure how that works.) 
Our heroine uses her ability to impersonate people to “facilitate” certain meetings that her client does not want to or cannot make in person.

Read this review on Rena's Hub of Random on WordPress.

The Papal Stakes is mostly about various attempts to rescue Frank Stone and his wife. It is also about pope Urban trying to decide whether he wants to accept the help of the USE. In addition, we have a great deal of debate on whether or not Grantville is part of some vast plot conceived by Satan. (The debate is not very interesting or exciting however.)

There is also a great deal of fan service, and several of the formerly strong female characters seem to lose about twenty I.Q. points each during the course of the story.

Read this at Rena's Hub of Random on WordPress.

Review - Black Ships by Jo Graham

  • Apr. 26th, 2011 at 1:26 PM
Black Ships is the first in Jo Graham's Numinous World series. It's a historical fantasy: a retelling of the Aeneid from the point of view of the Sibyl who guides Aeneas into the Underworld. If you like mythological retellings and history with a fantastical flavour, you may well enjoy this book.

Read more here!


A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for LoversA Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've purchased this book twice and read it many times. It makes me sad to give it away, but I can't keep carrying it around the world.

This is a story about love, but it's also a story about culture clash, and language, and misunderstandings. The cover copy tells me it's a comedy, but I mostly found it sad, and it left me longing.

The story itself is about Zhuang Xiao Qiao (she calls herself Z), who begins by arriving in London for a year-long study abroad program to learn English. She's very quickly overwhelmed by information and the confusion of live in the UK after growing up in rural China - I suspect the humour is supposed to come out of the culture clash, and her confusion of words. After feeling increasingly lonely and isolated, she meets a man who, through a misunderstanding, she ends up living with and falling in love. The rest of the book is detailing out their complicated relationship, with the clashes between Western and Eastern ideas, and Z's increasing self-awareness and maturity.

I think part of why I like this book so much is because of the narrative of being a stranger in a strange land. Certain I haven't experienced anything like the confusion that Z does in the book, but that feeling of being in a place where everything is backwards and upside down, and people do things that leave you completely confused, and even time itself seems to run differently, is something I can completely understand. I think the author manages to capture that quite well.

I also find Z herself a very interesting character, and I enjoy seeing London, Whales, and then parts of Europe, through her experiences.

The writing style, I think, could take a bit to get used to. The novel is written through Z's point of view, and part of that is that her English is very poor at the beginning, and improves throughout as she learns new words. As well, her lover is never named - he is just "you" throughout, but not in a way that reads as though the reader is who she's addressing. It's like you're reading Z's diary, in a way, the diary she addressed to her lover.

There is a sex scene later on in the book that would probably be labelled "dubious consent", but it's not written in a way that's exploitive. It's also very quick - I think it lasts less than a paragraph.

As I said, I hate to let this book go, and I have a sneaking suspicion I'll come across it again sometime and end up buying it for a third time. It's satisfying to read when one is feeling at loose ends about identity and where one belongs in the world, and I don't think those feelings are going to go away.

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Reviews en masse!

  • May. 8th, 2009 at 6:08 PM
In the past however long (and I'm afraid I'm forgetting some here), I've read:

Mad Kestrel (I actually read the majority of this a bit ago then had to go back and reread it because I'd been interrupted.)
Blood Lite: An Anthology of Humorous Horror Stories
The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine
Mean Streets
The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle
Tales Before Tolkien (I'm rereading this because fantasy from the 1800s is always worth a second read.)

So, Mad Kestrel. Written by [profile] madkestrel! I actually had a lot of fun with this book even as I was trying to figure the main character, Kestrel, out better when it came to her motivations. She made some choices that utterly baffle me and I wish I'd had a little more of a window into her head. Or maybe more of a consistent window because we do get really great glimpses of her sometimes. I love the tension she has with McAvery. I love that this book is really light and funny and fun - but it has very serious elements, too. I mean, it doesn't sugar coat the realities (like hanging) of being a pirate but it doesn't deny these pirates joy at life, either. And I love that. All in all, I'm looking forward to the next book.

Blood Lite, on the other hand, was a waste of my money. The Butcher story was pretty great - very consistent with the other Dresden Files, especially when it comes to tone. But everything else? BAH. I mean, seriously. I actively felt angry every time I'd finish a story because I had just wasted ten or fifteen minutes reading a shitty story. Gimmicks, gimmicks, gimmicks, followed by cruelty disguised as humor. For example! There was an Elvis the Vampire story. It was cute. But gimmicky. I was never for a second not aware that I was reading a story written because Oh! What If Elvis Were A Vampire? went over really well in creative writing class. There was also one, the title of which I have blocked out, about Smokey the Bear. And it was a piece of shit. Like, this would have been DEMOLISHED in my creative writing workshops. I don't generally sit around and ask, "How the hell did this get published?" but HOW THE HELL DID THAT GET PUBLISHED? Like, cut for spoiler ) NICE. ARGH. Suffice to say, I seriously hate this story. And it just doesn't get any better. There are a few stories I haven't read because I am so overwhelmingly grossed out by the bad writing every time I pick it up.

The Billionaire's Vinegar is fascinating. It's a bit dry (I will NOT make a wine joke, I will not make a wine joke), as a lot of this academic/journalist history style books tend to be in an effort to present TRUFAX. But overall, it was a very good read. I think you have to be into this sort of thing to really enjoy it, though. Like, I dig wine, I dig the history of unique objects, I dig cultural trends (like the outrageous rise of wine for the sake of collecting rather than drinking during the 80s), and so this book is perfect for me. If you aren't so much into it, you might just find it dull.

Mean Streets is a tidy little collection. I enjoyed all of the stories in it. Obvy, as demonstrated by Blood Lite, I'm willing to buy a collection for one story by an author I like, but I really liked this whole book. Noir, it's what's for dinner.

Welcome to the Jungle is a hardcover graphic novel set prior to the first Dresden novel. Murphy is in it, and it is, as ever, a non-stop sort of ride. Butcher has a very effective formula for the momentum of his stories and it works really nicely in graphic novels, too. The art is bright and slick. The story is not too complicated but fits the space well.

Backup is also by Jim Butcher, with art by Mike Mignola. Mike Mignola is AMAZING. There isn't a lot of art, so I don't think this counts as a graphic novel so much as a novella with sparse illustration. The illustrations are fantastic. I'm biased, though, because I love Mignola's style. The story here is actually really nicely different from most of the Dresden fare - because this is Thomas telling the story and Thomas, even in the midst of the action, has an interesting core of stillness that really suits his vampiric nature. I think this is the most rich and layered of the ancillary Dresden Files material.

Tales Before Tolkien is not QUITE that - the requirement is just that the story have been published before The Hobbit came out. But still. It's good stuff, but, again, it is... taste dependent. If you don't like 19th century literature, you are probably going to not like this. It's wordy and dense and very old-school. I love it. It's fun to wallow in it.

I just started The Name of the Wind and I'm really enjoying it. Hopefully, I'll finish it on the plane tomorrow!