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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2) everything they know about Romance novels is 40 years out of date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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review 2017-03-17 19:25
Book 9/100: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Carry On - Rainbow Rowell

This book took a little while to get going for me -- at first it felt as if Rowell was clearly out of her element writing fantasy -- and as someone who reads a lot of fantasy, I couldn't help but notice the shortcomings in worldbuilding, and just how LONG it seemed to take to set everything up; the story was about 1/3 of the way in before the plot really got going. Everything else was just showing us what it was like to be a student at Rowell's version of a magical school.

However, this book can really be read on two different levels: as a fantasy story in its own right, or as commentary on the world of Harry Potter.

It's passable as a story in its own right, but as commentary on the Harry Potter franchise, it is brilliant.

The parallels and nods to J.K. Rowling's worlds are obvious -- after all, the book started as an obvious stand-in for Harry Potter and Potter fan culture in its original incarnation in [book:Fangirl|16068905]. It's in the departures from Rowling's world that Rowell really drives her points home. Her version of a magical wizarding school is far more culturally and ethnically diverse than Rowling's, and it includes gay characters who don't have to wait for the whole series to be completed before being "outed" (::coughcough:: Dumbledore being gay after the fact was a copout ::cough cough::). It is, of course, much edgier than Rowling's world, with plenty of swearing and some making out, although certain aspects of it were strangely chaste. (Like, why did we never know the extent of Simon's and Agnes's sexual relationship even though they had been together for three years? Am I the only one who wondered about this?) It also examines the whole idea of the "chosen one" mythos and especially takes a jab at the somewhat creepy/inappropriate/irresponsible relationship between Dumbledore and Harry that is glossed over as perfectly healthy, warm, and admirable in Rowling's book. By contrast, the Mage (Dumbledore's stand-in), is an ethically ambiguous character, ultimately more dark than light, but for a long time Simon sees him through an adoring child's eyes much the way Harry sees Dumbledore. The difference is that Simon's perception of the Mage matures; Harry's never does.

It's somewhat strange to come in reading the "last book" in a series when the earlier books in the series do not actually exist. I couldn't help but notice how much more of an impact this story probably would have had on me if I had been following these characters' lives for years rather than being dropped into their world in the final act. I'm not sure I would have wanted to commit to seven books of this, anyway, but it's definitely a worthwhile read. It's got that Rowell "relationship magic" if that's what you go in for, but it's also a smart, incisive critique of what is arguably the most influential children's series of our lifetimes.

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