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review 2017-05-08 17:53
The Lotterys Plus One - Emma Donoghue, Caroline Hadilaksono  
The Lotterys Plus One - Emma Donoghue,Caroline Hadilaksono

A failure, sadly, not epic. Here's the set up: an enormous, unconventional family living in Toronto epitomizes all the lefty, hippy, green, etc. positions you can imagine, just exactly as if someone had said, hmm, "what's the super liberal family of today?" and proceeded to include every idea that came to mind, starting with Angelina and Brad's kids but with one lesbian and one gay couple co-parenting. Everyone represents some different combination of mixed races/ethnicities. There are an array of disabilities. The kids are homeschooled, each pursuing their own interests. The family home is as green as possible, the food is organic, they have no car, they dumpster-dive like pros. Although they are wealthy due to a lucky lottery win, they do not indulge in traditional status-symbols, and the kids don't get a lot of stuff, especially plastic stuff, to play with, and have no money of their own except from outside jobs. Also, they didn't buy the ticket. You've got the idea. You can see the pitch meeting in your mind's eye. That's the set-up, now here's the drama: one of the four biological grandfathers, previously never introduced to the children because of a vast array of bigoted and hateful attitudes, has developed Alzheimer's. Can the generous, tolerant, loving family find it in them to accept this angry old codger and truly welcome him? Of course they can. And you've guessed that he in turn develops a warm relationship with all of them. Bullshit. Put aside the simplistic, non-combative, hardly ever actually hurtful portrayal of Alzheimer's. The author has made one member of the family into a token exclusively for a plot point, and that nagged at me from the get go. Nine-year-old Sumac is our point of view character. Both of her birth parents were accountants, so I think we're meant to assume she's Asperger-y. Sumac introduces the rest of the family early on, pointing out whatever characteristic it is that the grandfather will mock or abuse at some point. So, Brian is four, and was born Briar, and a year ago he changed his name, and he never wants to be referred to as a girl, although apparently he's never said he is a boy. Sumac will now use female pronouns for the rest of the book, just to be sure the reader knows that Brian used to be Briar and doesn't for a moment forget that Brian, who keeps his head shaved so as not to be mistaken for a girl, is *really* a girl. When the grandfather sees the child naked for the first time, of course he yells that it's a girl! I'm not any sort of paragon of enlightenment. I get things wrong all the time. If I am any good as a human though, I try to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. But seriously? Even I know that the first rule of consideration for other humans is to acknowledge and respect how they choose to present themselves. External genitalia and lack of clear declarations aside, if a child chooses not to be a girl you don't refer to him with feminine pronouns. If Brian wants anyone to know that he used to be Briar that is his information to reveal or not. Emma Donoghue knows this, I imagine. And yet, she created a character and deliberately mistreated that character through half the novel, just so we could feel smugger than the grandfather. Library copy

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review 2017-04-27 20:43
Hold Me (Cyclone) (Volume 2) - Courtney Milan 
Hold Me (Cyclone) (Volume 2) - Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is a hell of an overachiever. She isn't content to write charming romances in which, as in Austen, the primary barriers to love are the uncontrolled aspects of multifaceted personalities. Milan also strives to remind the reader of how many different kinds of love there are, and that loving thy neighbor is hard, but worthwhile. She is Dickensian in her examination of class, but so much broader in scope. But also fun. They flirt with math. How adorably geeky and STEMy is that?

If they weren't so much fun, I might be tempted to call them uplifting. They are, often, deeply moving, because her characters have sometimes horrible, albeit too believable, backstories. Her happy endings are hard-earned.

personal copy.

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review 2017-04-12 19:10
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan  
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan

Lots of people avoid Romance as a genre because
1) they don't care about women in ballgowns
2) everything they know about Romance novels is 40 years out of date
3) they assume Romance is a genre for lonely women with too many cats
4) they buy into the idea that a genre by and about women must be inferior
5) they have no idea where to start.

Let me address those concerns.
1) The ballgown on the cover is just to let you know that this is an Historical Romance, an it is available; no actual ball gowns are worn during the story
2) Although there are still stories being written about nurses falling for doctors and innocent young girls being married off to blackguards, those are by no means the most popular themes these days. This book, for instance, is first wave feminism in all its activist glory
3) And I suppose you believe that the average gamer these days is a teenage boy in his parent's basement* killing something in a first person shooter
4) Honestly I can't imagine that anyone professes this belief, even if they have it
5) Courtney Milan, but also Jezebel.com has been covering the topic with lots of good suggestions

This book is pure enjoyment, but it's the end of the series, so if this really is your first Romance in a while (or ever), go check out The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister short 0.5)at Amazon for 99 cents. Selling shorter interstitial works in the series between novels is a genius move, by the way. You don't have to read the series strictly in order, they aren't that closely tied, but they do share some characters.

Personal copy

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review 2017-04-12 18:23
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi  
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

Interesting and so much fun. I'm going to love this series. This is a different universe for Scalzi: the planets are mostly not habitable on their surfaces, The universe isn't full of fascinating intelligent species, although there are a fair number of humans scattered about. Two of the main protagonists are women, both of them clever as hell, one also profane as hell. Her language, her incredible, individual, hand-crafted bespoke foul language is one othe the lightest and best ongoing jokes.

The story is concerned with a colonized universe, a new emperox of same, a clever mathematician, a clever foe, political machinations, and much of it slower than slugs because of the time constraints on communication.But even though the timeline is lengthy, the books never flags. It zips on, only filling in small amounts of the gaps.Oh, the depths of those plots!

It reminds me a bit of some of the Foundation books, except with a lot more humor. It more closely resembles Scott Westerfeld's novels of his Succession empire.

Scalzi does a great job of keeping the story grounded, while also maintaining his sense of humor.

Supremely enjoyable.
Library copy

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review 2017-04-11 18:29
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi 
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

Interesting and so much fun. I'm going to love this series. This is a different universe for Scalzi: the planets are mostly not habitable on their surfaces, The universe isn't full of fascinating intelligent species, although there are a fair number of humans scattered about. Two of the main protagonists are women, both of them clever as hell, one also profane as hell. Her language, her incredible, individual, hand-crafted bespoke foul language is one othe the lightest and best ongoing jokes.

 

The story is concerned with a colonized universe, a new emperox of same, a clever mathematician, a clever foe, political machinations, and much of it slower than slugs because of the time constraints on communication.But even though the timeline is lengthy, the books never flags. It zips on, only filling in small amounts of the gaps.Oh, the depths of those plots!

 

It reminds me a bit of some of the Foundation books, except with a lot more humor. It more closely resembles Scott Westerfeld's novels of his Succession empire.

 

Scalzi does a great job of keeping the story grounded, while also maintaining his sense of humor.

 

Supremely enjoyable.

Library copy

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