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review 2018-11-15 03:29
The Golem and the Jinni (Audiobook)
The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel - Helene Wecker,George Guidall

They say there are no new stories and only seven basic plots, and that is certainly true. Trying to find new ways to retell stories and spin those plots has been the tasks of authors and storytellers since the moment right after the very first story was ever told, and every once in a rare while an author comes along who can bring something truly fresh to the scene. This is such a book. 

 

It's been a long time since I've been this impressed by a book. Maybe it helps that I'm not especially familiar with golems or jinnis, though the mythology used here is on point with what I do know of them. The magic comes in putting these mystical creatures in turn-of-the century Big Apple and putting them both in positions that require them to examine and test their very natures. The supporting cast is equally as fascinating, from Ice Cream Selah, Maryam Faddoul, Arbeely, Rabbi Meyer and Michael Levy, to name a few. They're all trying to figure out life, figure out their place in it - even when they think they know what that place should be - and watching as the author weaves their various storylines together like the Fates at their loom. 

 

This was enrapturing, made even more so because I couldn't figure out where the story was going or how it would all be resolved. For every thread I managed to tie together, there were several others that I couldn't see how they connected. And I really didn't want to. I was happy to just sit back and allow the story to unfold in its own time, and it didn't disappoint.

 

The narrator, George Guidall, does a wonderful job capturing the many characters and bringing their cultures and neighborhoods to life. 

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review 2018-11-12 21:18
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2)
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy - Mackenzi Lee

While I enjoyed The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, I found it uneven in the way it handled both the historical and fantasy aspects of the story. It felt like neither one really got their fair share of the story, and both suffered as a result. So I was hesitant to give this one a try and probably would've passed it up if one of my groups hadn't chosen it for the book of the month.

 

This was a little slow to start, and Felicity drove me up the wall at first with her selfishness and single-mindedness. Ambition is all well and good, but when it comes hand in hand with stepping over anyone who gets in your way, I can't really back that person up. Thankfully, Felicity does a lot of growing up over the course of the book and it was fun to watch. 

 

I also really appreciated that this book examined all aspects of feminism and femininity, and didn't just focus on the "women can do men's work" aspect of it, because what is men's work anyway? It's a ludicrous concept. But so often in literature and media, girls or women who exhibit more "manly" traits - being good at fighting/killing, being aggressive, etc - are applauded, while women who are traditionally feminine are not. Just look at the different receptions that Arya and Sansa Stark get. This book shows that there's more than one way for women to be independent, strong and self-assured. With Felicity, Johanna and Sim, we get three such women as they go out into the world and figure out how to make their own way in it. It does get a little head-bashy at times, but this is still such an important message that girls need to learn and hear (there's no wrong way to be a woman), that I didn't mind it too much when it got a little preachy.

 

Also, Felicity is ace/aro and I identified so much with her on that aspect of herself. Because really, kissing? Ew. In addition to her is Sim, an African Muslim lesbian/bisexual (we don't really know; it doesn't really matter), and some cameos by Monty and Percy, so there's lots of LGBT+ rep in this book. 

 

I'm confused about who the girl in the cover is supposed to be though. Felicity has red hair, Sim is black, and Johanna doesn't come in until about a third of the way through, though the hair color's a match. But the story is told from Felicity's POV. *shrugs* It's a cool cover. :D

 

I thought the historical aspects were much better handled here than in the first book, and were given much better detail and attention. The fantasy elements too were better handled and integrated into the story, though it takes awhile for them to show up. 

I was still bemused about some of it though, in particular that Johanna doesn't bat an eye at learning that dragons are real. It makes sense for Felicity to take it in stride, given the previous book, but Johanna didn't know magic and alchemy and such were real until that moment. How about some doubt, at least? "I'll believe it when I see it" maybe. Something.

(spoiler show)

Johanna and Felicity both display some uncomfortable (but appropriate for the time) colonialist attitudes at points that I wanted to shake them for. 

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review 2018-11-03 03:14
Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (Audiobook)
Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln - NOT A BOOK

Forgive me, Lincoln, for I have sinned. I attempted to listen to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and it was so bad. To atone, I have listened to this wonderful lecture series by Lincoln historian Allen C. Guezlo to learn actual real things about your life. ... I don't know how to close out a confession properly, so I'll just say, dude, you rocked.

 

This is a twelve-part lecture series, each lecture around 35 minutes, that details the life of Abraham Lincoln from his birth in Kentucky to his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. He was a truly fascinating man, who loved his country, believed in moral rights and human rights, and always tried to live within the law. Guezlo presents his lectures in clear and concise detail and while he clearly has great admiration for President Lincoln, he is impartial and gives the facts as they are.

 

This is a great summary of the life and achievements of a remarkable man.

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review 2018-10-30 01:29
The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister #2)
The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan

This is easily my favorite to date. Jane, Emily and Free are forces to reckon with, and Oliver learns how to stand up for himself, and Anjan was a surprising delight of a character. I think it'll be hard to top this one. :D

 

I don't recall if we've met Jane Fairfield before now, but from the instant she appears on page, she commands your full attention. She's a plus-size woman with a plus-size dowry, and she's lacking many of the social graces that refined women are expected to have. She's got terrible taste in clothes, and she speaks her mind in the most refreshing way possible. Well, refreshing for the reader. The poor subjects of her attentions will hardly find it so refreshing. But she's one of those people you find it hard to hate - unless you're asshole, like Bradenton. She does some of it by design, since she's actively trying to not get married and knows the best way to put off any man is tell him exactly what you think of him. And it works.

 

Until she meets Oliver. I was instantly intrigued with Oliver and his parents when I read The Duchess War, and have been trying to figure out who would make a good match for him since. Jane fits the bill, but not in the way youI would have expected. So far, Ms. Milan has been doing a fantastic job of finding love interests who challenge each other in the ways they most need to be challenged, and she doesn't have to resort to tired old tropes to do (or finds wonderful ways of poking fun at that tropes when she does use them). Oliver had it hard at Eton and Cambridge, the bastard and unrecognized son of a duke, and he learned how to compromise parts of himself in order to fit in, whereas Jane goes out of her way to stand out. Watching them circle around each other, and learning to trust in each other, was pure delightful. Ms. Milan even had me worried this might end on a cliffhanger. (It doesn't.)

 

Then there's Jane's sister Emily, who suffers from seizures, and their idiotic uncle Titus who really does think he's doing the best he can for her but ye gads this is why women need to be able to direct their own lives, y'all! Emily meets Anjan, an Indian immigrant who is studying law and struggling to fit in with a society that looks down on him just for the color of his skin. I thought the racism that he encounters was delicately handled, and it's shown that even those who are well-meaning can still be insensitive. They're more of a subplot here, but Ms. Milan makes takes scene they have together shine and milks them for everything she can.

 

On top of all this, but linked intricately to everything these characters are struggling with and learning, is Oliver's sister Free, who is determined to get into Cambridge despite her sex, and who is as resourceful as she is willful. 

 

However, add on Sebastian and Violet and this did start to feel a little overstuffed in the back half. I'm guessing Sebastian's book will be next, but setting it up here didn't really do this story much justice and detracted from the central themes. It did serve a purpose for the Jane/Oliver storyline though.

 

And now I have to nitpick: Jane is not slim. The cover model is. And she's once again dressed like she's going to prom. I'm sure the publisher was picking stock photos from a catalogue rather than paying the money for their own photo shoots, but they couldn't find one plus-sized model? Not one? Really? That's depressing.

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review 2018-10-30 00:41
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Audiobook) (DNF @ 57%)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Audio) - Seth Grahame-Smith,Scott Holst

I'm throwing in the towel. I can't take this anymore. I wanted something stupid funny for Halloween. Unfortunately, this is taking itself way too seriously to be funny, and I'm losing too many brain cells trying to find something to appreciate.

 

And the idea that "as long as slavery exists, so will vampires" as if one has anything to do with the other is ludicrous. 

 

And the narrator doesn't even sound like Lincoln! (Otherwise, he does the best he can with what he's given.)

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