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review 2018-08-07 09:48
Unholy Land - Lavie Tidhar
Unholy Land - Lavie Tidhar

Not really sure where to begin with my review for Unholy Land, which I picked up as an uncorrected proof on Netgalley - as a result, knowing little about the book and also missing the fact it was labelled as 'literary fiction' (a category which really does very little for me), I wondered if the things that didn't quite mesh together right at the beginning were just errors on the part of the author, only to discover later they were probably stylistic choices. 

 

Anyway, on to the plot. Initially, Unholy Land is alternate history - in this case, a history where instead of settling in Israel, Jews fleeing from Europe settled an area of central Africa and made for themselves a land called Palestina. For anyone who knows something of the current situation in the Middle East, there's something a little ironic about the fact that, as a result, the Jewish community in this scenario call themselves Palestinians. Anyway, our main character is a writer of pulp detective stories called Lior who is returning to Palestina after living in Germany, having recently suffered a terrible loss. 

 

However, as we discover throughout the book, there is more going on here than initially meets the eye and Lior himself begins to have trouble sorting out his own memories from what everyone else seems to think has happened. Landing in Palestina, where the inhabitants are busy building a massive wall to secure their ownership of the land, Lior finds himself involved in the murder of an old friend and that's just the beginning of the difficulties he faces.The spaces between the different realities are wearing thin. 

 

This isn't the easiest novel to read and half the time I'm pretty sure I had little idea exactly what was going on, not helped by the number of points of view that get used along the way. I was also a little thrown by how autobiographical it is - having read some of the author's comments before the story itself, I could see where his experience was cropping up as Lior's, though it's quite possible given the nature of the story that this was again a deliberate choice. It's just a little too much work to keep track of what's going on and I'm left feeling glad that I picked this up where and how I did, as it's not something I'll want to read again. 

 

 

I received this book as an uncorrected proof from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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review 2018-07-16 03:12
A Meeting at Corvallis
A Meeting at Corvallis - S.M. Stirling

I am done with this series.  

 

A Meeting at Corvallis, the third book in first Emberverse trilogy, unfortunately didn't return to the magic of the 1st in this series.  Too much battle info-dumping, not enough people behaving believably.

 

That said, I did cry

 

at the death of Mike Havel

(spoiler show)

 

 

But I'm just done.  If I want the minutia of military campaigns and what people ate, I'll go read some L.E. Modesitt Jr. At least his villains aren't such caricatures. 

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review 2018-06-12 20:10
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

It's that time of year again, when I'm reading my way through the Hugo nominations in preparation for voting, and this is one of the books that is up for Best Novella even though I'm not completely convinced that it actually fits the bill as either SF or Fantasy. The most you can say about River of Teeth is that it's alternate history, of which more shortly, though it still hits more genre buttons than some things that have been nominated in recent years...

 

Anyway, onto the plot - the basic premise is that, back in the mid-1800's, there was a plan to import hippos to the US which understandably failed to come to anything. In River of Teeth, that plan went full steam ahead and there was also work done to dam up part of the Mississippi when some of those hippos escaped and went feral. In case you weren't aware, hippos are very aggressive and dangerous animals and definitely not something you want to be messing with, though here they also serve a major role as replacements for horses in a part of the world that is significantly swampy. 

 

Anyway, our story starts with our protagonist getting commissioned to 'deal with' the feral hippos and to do so he comes up with an ambitious plan, involving the need to recruit himself a group of miscreants and blow stuff up. Naturally, since this is essentially a western, there's a suitably oily villain who is a) responsible for crushing our protagonists' dreams previously and b) has a devious scheme of his own. Hijinks ensue. 

 

River of Teeth is entertaining enough, with well-drawn characters that made me keep turning the page, but I'm not sure it entertained me enough to either vote for it in the Hugos or continue to read further in this series (since there's at least one sequel, Taste of Marrow). 

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review 2018-06-05 19:12
The Hanged Man / P.N. Elrod
The Hanged Man - P.N. Elrod

On a freezing Christmas Eve in 1879, a forensic psychic reader is summoned from her Baker Street lodgings to the scene of a questionable death. Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury (named after her godmother, the current Queen of England) is adamant that the death in question is a magically compromised murder and not a suicide, as the police had assumed, after the shocking revelation contained by the body in question, Alex must put her personal loss aside to uncover the deeper issues at stake, before more bodies turn up.

Turning to some choice allies—the handsome, prescient Lieutenant Brooks, the brilliant, enigmatic Lord Desmond, and her rapscallion cousin James—Alex will have to marshal all of her magical and mental acumen to save Queen and Country from a shadowy threat. Our singular heroine is caught up in this rousing gaslamp adventure of cloaked assassins, meddlesome family, and dark magic.

 

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

Recommended for fans of the Victorian lady detective form of fantasy.

I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the steampunk subgenre, although I seem to be warming up to that category as I read more of it. This novel is one of those best suited to my particular tastes in fantasy.

I chose it partly because of the series title, Her Majesty’s Psychic Service. It is definitely a mystery with a dollop of romance—I’d been hoping for something spy related, from that series title. But there was enough intrigue that I’m still counting it towards my Summer of Spies.


I loved the family complications that the heroine, Alex Pendlebury, coped with throughout the story and the workplace machinations that also had to be factored into her calculations. Operating on the theory that forgiveness is easier to get than permission, Alex shows a lot of initiative on the investigation, aided by the sometimes-prescient always-handsome Lieutenant Brooks.

As Patricia Briggs wrote in her blurb for the book, there is “Murder, mayhem and tea.” If you like alternate-history Victorian adventure with witty banter and paranormal talents, this is the book for you. Now I am just crossing my fingers that Ms. Elrod will be publishing another volume in the series eventually.

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review 2018-05-23 03:46
Rich detailed setting and memorable characters
Amberlough - Lara Elena Donnelly

This was the type of book that when I finished it, I had to lie back down and just stare at the ceiling. It was mind blowing. There are layers of intrigue and you don’t watch it unfold, in fact it’s the opposite, you watch it form and develop as the story progresses.

 

The setting in this one is one of a lot of political instability. It’s explained in the earlier parts of the book. It’s a bit difficult to follow (notes may help some readers) perhaps a character list would help in this case to keep everything straight. A glossary would have helped as well as the characters have their own slang - most of it straight forward but it would help nevertheless. That being said despite these little shortcomings, the world is rich and detailed. Amberlough is decadent and has remnants of Weimar Berlin. Now I did say previously it’s hard to follow because of the slang, but it’s precisely because of this slang that makes the world more detailed and fun to read.

 

The pace of the plot is slow and steady as it sets up the stage for what would follow after. It is essentially, a spy novel, so it quickly leads to a lot of double dealing, moments of backstabbing and betrayal. There are only three characters that you really need to focus on as the supporting ones just add to the flavor of the novel. Of the three that are central to the plot, one must love Aristide.

 

With a name like Aristide Makicosta you know he’s going to be a character to remember. He’s flamboyant, street smart and clever. Despite the world burning around him he always manages to do everything in style. It’s hard not to fall for his charms and so you would understand Cyril’s love for him.  I still don’t know what to think about Cyril. He was doing the job and had to. It came at a great cost but he had no choice and he had to think for himself (although I know there seems to be a lot of hate for him).

 

I love Cordelia. She’s got sass, she’s just as street smart and a survivor. Her character development is on point in this book. Yes she may be just a ‘dancer’ but she soon develops into someone with a cause to defend the city she loves. Despite the horrors she goes through in the latter half of the novel, she doesn’t let it break her. It’s admirable and she’s likable not only because of her catchy personality but also because of her unstoppable strength.

 

That ENDING THOUGH. I felt my eyes grow wide each time I turned the pages throughout the last third of the novel. This was why I had to sit back and just absorb everything I’ve read when I finished this one. It was that good.

 

Greatly recommended if you like intrigue, a decadent setting, and memorable characters. I absolutely enjoyed this book.

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