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review 2017-10-11 10:53
"Strange Magic - Essex Witches #1" by Syd Moore -odd but fun
Strange Magic - Syd Moore

In "Strange Magic" Rosie Strange inherits the Essex Witch Museum from her estranged grandfather and finds herself pulled into skullduggery involving violent occult practitioners, a race against time to save a young boy's life and a gruesome treasure hunt.

 

This is a light, fast, often funny read that draws much of its humor and most of its originality from the fact that Rosie Strange is an Essex Girl from generations of Essex Girls.

 

Essex Girls were invented in the UK in the 1980s, a decade when much humor on television was thinly disguised misogyny and racism presented with an "only joking, luv" passive aggressive veneer. The basic premise was that Essex girls were dumb, blonde, working class and promiscuous and therefore deserved to be treated with disdain and abuse in the name of wholesome fun. This stereotype and even some of the alleged jokes survive to the present day.

 

Syd Moore gives Rosie the working class background and estuary accent of the Essex girl. She also makes her smart, independent, irreverent, stubborn, curious,  sexually confident and brave. It becomes clear that Rosie is an archetype of generations of strong women from Essex and that those women explain the disproportionately large number of witches murdered in Essex during the various purges.

 

"Strange Magic" is gentle fun, easy on the ear but with a grit beneath the surface that lifts it into something distinctive.

 

I recommend the audiobook version because accents are an important part of the characterization. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear an example.

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/340842100" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

 

In the interview below, Syd Moore talks about the Essex Girl stereotype, its impact and how it got her started on writing this series.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM-v0KhYa8Y?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

 

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review 2017-10-10 16:04
Why did Marvel do this?
Old Man Logan (2016-) #19 - Jeff Lemire,Filipe Andrade,Andrea Sorrentino

Usually they're good about filling in the holes if you haven't read the series, which seems like a good marketing strategy since they give these away for free with the digital uploads of your regular comic purchases.   This time, I had no idea what happened: Wolverine specifically mentions an incident with Jean Grey going into his head that kicks all this off, and I have no fragging idea what happened. 


Overall, it didn't impact the heavily emotional and emotive story about Wolverine wanting to go back to the future he came from, to save the baby he didn't mean to abandon, but did when he left.   The whole 'we won't help you to preserve the timeline' by all the magicians is both understandable and heartbreaking, especially since many of these are friends, many of whom he's worked with before.   

 

Not sure I'll continue with this storyline, but it was a fun, free read.   The problem is Marvel does enough stuff that I like that I have to weed out some excellent stories for the ones that strike me more, that fill an emotional or mental need I have. 

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review 2017-10-06 12:19
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde ★★★☆☆
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson

The storytelling style, where everything is revealed through one character telling another about past events or explaining after the fact in a letter, turns an interesting concept into a tedious story to read. I suppose the meaning of what happened with the creation of Mr. Hyde and his subsequent acts could be read a lot of different ways, but I was mostly struck by how

Jekyll originally created him in order to rid himself of the last vestiges of (evil? decadence? personal indulgence? uncontrolled emotional expression?) that he was unable to suppress through sheer willpower, but found so much pleasure in the unrestrained expression of those very things in the person of Mr. Hyde that he eventually ceded control of both personalities.

(spoiler show)

 

I started this on audio, via Audible freebie with a very good performance by Scott Brick, but finished on ebook via public library on Libby, because the verbose writing style and retrospective storytelling style just didn’t work well on audio. My attention kept wandering to the baseball game, and I didn’t even care about either team that was playing.

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review 2017-09-11 21:24
STRANGE WEATHER ARC Review
Strange Weather: Four Short Novels - Joe Hill

Read for "Modern Masters of Horror:"

 

I was two people when reading this collection of short novels. I read the first two stories ('Snapshot' and 'Loaded') mere days before my best friend took her own life. I read the latter two entries ('Aloft' and 'Rain') after. Naturally, my mind was elsewhere when reading the final two stories — but they were good. Very good. Especially 'Aloft'. I'm terrified of heights, so that one got to me. 

After The Fireman, my faith in Joe Hill had been shaken a bit . . . But my faith is reaffirmed! These are four excellent, scary stories. Highly recommended. Would love to give a more in-depth review, but I am medicated and just want to sleep. 

Snapshot - 4 
Loaded - 5
Aloft - 4.5
Rain - 5 

Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.

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review 2017-09-11 03:19
Review: Stranger in a Strange Land
Stranger in a Strange Land (Remembering Tomorrow) - Robert A. Heinlein

This was my first time reading anything by Heinlein.  I really enjoyed the first half, and I was pleasantly surprised by how readable and entertaining it was, but I disliked the second half quite a bit.

 

The main premise is that there is life on Mars, and humanity has only just begun to travel there.  As a result of the first trip, a baby is born on Mars, his parents die, and he is raised by Martians.  When the book begins, Mike, the baby in question, is now an adult and he has just traveled back to Earth to meet his race.

 

I thought the first part was great.  It was a bit dated in some of its attitudes and beliefs, but the story was interesting and I really liked how Heinlein built up this alien culture which looks at things so differently from humans, to the point that some things simply can’t be translated in terms humans can understand and vice versa.  The characters were relatively interesting and likeable.  Even Jubal was likeable at first.  I had the impression, without knowing anything about Heinlein’s personality or beliefs, that Jubal was Heinlein’s voice in this book, representing the ideal older man and expressing the ideas that Heinlein wanted to convey to his readers.

 

The second half devolved into mysticism, orgies, and, worst of all, monologues, and I didn’t care for the ending.  But my biggest complaint was with the monologues.  They weren’t terribly long, but they were frequent.  The author, usually through Jubal, seemed to have a lot of opinions on religion, philosophy, families, and cultural taboos that he wanted to express.  My problem really wasn’t with the opinions themselves.  I agreed with some and disagreed with others.  I was horrified by a few and amused by others.  It’s just that they were presented in a manner that felt too preachy, and that pulled me out of the story.  And at that point, the story itself became less interesting and everything felt like a vehicle to deliver the monologues.

 

I have a couple of Heinlein’s other books on my reading list, and I’ve seen them compared more favorably to this one, so I intend to cycle back around and give him another try eventually.  When he was just telling me a story and not trying to preach at me, I enjoyed his writing style.  On the sites where I can give half stars, I’m rating this as 2.5.  On Goodreads, I decided to round up to 3 based on the first half and parts of the second half.

 

Next Book

In the Night Garden, the first book of The Orphan’s Tales by Catherynne Valente, another new-to-me author.

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