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review 2015-11-28 00:00
Un/Common Ground
Un/Common Ground - Arielle Pierce

This was so hard to read...

Jamal is a young man, a guest student in the US, having his first taste of freedom. Because he is a Muslim, gay, and is already afraid of going back home East, where he will either conform and marry a girl, or come out and not only loose his family, but probably also his life.

But for as long as he's in the US, he really likes to at least pretend to be free for a second. And when he meets Matt, really meets him, it all gets intense very fast. It tender, tentative and heart-breaking. Especially because it gets you thinking about all the repercussions the opression of the LGBTQ community all over the world really has. The problem of safe sex and testing is one of them, and one that a lot of people (me included) sometimes completely forget about. We focus on the violence, the mortal danger, the torture. What we tend to forget is the everyday life and what that kind of oppression really means. It doesn't matter how educated you are, how far away from home you are, how different your current freedom is from the rest of your life - it always stays with you. And you will always see repercussions for your acrtions everywhere. And I loved how the author managed to show it without saying it.

I enjoyed this story very much. Matt might not have been my most favorite person in the world. I found his empathy and understanding to be lacking. A lot. Seriously, how selfish and ignorant can you be? Never heard of persecution because of one's sexuality? Never heard about gay witch hunts or honor killings? Maaaaan. Really. But on the other hand - and it's hard for me to swallow - I can understand that his experiences with oppression are really non-existent. So who am I to judge so harshly? But I couldn't help but be annoyed with him.

Jamal was the gem of this story for me. His POV, his thoughts, his fears really stayed with me and made me think about him and people in similar situation for quite some time. Really good.

The writing wasn't as smooth as I'd have liked, but it wasn't bad. I did love the set-up and how it all turned out. The ending was perfect, and fit the tentative and unsure tone of the story perfectly. A HEA would have been ridicolous under the circumstances and if you're honest, then I'm not sure if there even was a possible soution for Jamal's drama. But I'd still love to read more about these two.

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review 2015-02-09 17:41
Tokyo Clash: Japanese Pop Culture - Ralf Bahren

Full of wonderful photographs. I can honestly say that I will never be bored by looking illustrations about Japan. Visually speaking, this book is beautiful. The hardcover is of a great quality, the size of it; the nice pictures... Textually speaking, it was weak.. very weak. Besides, each page is divided in 3 languages: English, German and Japanese, so there is barely any information.

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review 2013-12-07 21:44
Family by M.C.A. Hogarth
Family - M.C.A. Hogarth

After reading several Jahir and Vasiht'h short stories and vignettes, I was happy to see that this was novella-length – I seem to like Hogarth's longer works more.

Jahir and Vasiht'h have now been working together for 10 years or so. Their partnership is a comfortable one, but, because of the Veil and Eldritch xenophobia, there are lots of things Jahir has never been able to tell Vasiht'h. In Family, this changes. One of Jahir's cousins is getting married, and Jahir's mother specifically asked that Vasiht'h come with him as a guest. Aliens are not welcome on the Eldritch homeworld, but Jahir figures his mother has her reasons, so he and Vasiht'h set off to attend the wedding.

Like Vasiht'h, I was excited at the thought of finally getting to see the Eldritch homeworld. All I knew for sure was that it would be technologically backward – no showers, horses used for transportation, no medical technology to speak of. I figured that meant it'd be some kind of pseudo-Middle Ages Europe.

Life in the Galare manor was much like I expected it to be. There were a few mentions here and there of servants, although I never got to learn as much about them as I would have liked. The real surprises came when Vasiht'h visited a town near the manor. It was...worse that I expected. While this new information certainly put Jahir's desperation to leave his homeworld and learn something that might help his people in a new, starker light, my suspension of disbelief was strained. I honestly don't understand how Eldritch civilization has survived for as long as it has, and I'm still not sure I can wrap my brain around what an Eldritch commoner's life must be like.

The primary reason I picked Family up was because of Jahir and Vasiht'h and, in that area, I was rewarded. Their relationship in Mindtouch was, for the most part, amazingly smooth and easy. The events in this novella put more strain on their relationship than I've seen in any other work they've been in.

First, there were Vasiht'h feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment around most of the other Eldritch. He didn't know how to act, he didn't know what they were saying unless he was near enough to Jahir to make use of their mindline, he was under-dressed compared to them, and his very existence was looked down upon. Second, Jahir himself made Vasiht'h feel awkward. He was painfully aware of Jahir's wealth and status, in a way he'd never been before. Third, there was a lot going on that Jahir hadn't given Vasiht'h any warning about, and Vasiht'h being there made some of it worse. And fourth, there were repeated reminders that Jahir would likely outlive Vasiht'h by hundreds of years. Vasiht'h was forced to think about their partnership in the long term and how he wanted things to go past the point of his own death.

Some of this was stuff that had occurred to Vasiht'h before, but that he hadn't sat down and really thought about, and some of it came as a shock. In any case, all of it kept Vasiht'h unsteady, and Jahir couldn't do much to help him and comfort him, because he was busy being an Eldritch noble about to attend a wedding scattered with political eggshells. They spent more time separated than I expected, although it did make the “you and me, we're still okay” moments even sweeter.

While it was nice to recognize bits and pieces of other Jahir and Vasiht'h works in this one, it was also distracting. My brain kept looking for inconsistencies and continuity errors. The most jarring moment was when it was revealed that Sediryl, Jahir's cousin, probably played a part in Jahir's decision to leave his homeworld, because of his intense, secret, and forbidden feelings for her. She was passionate, fierce, and fun to read about, but Jahir's reaction to her inspired vague continuity unease in me. I remembered Jahir desperately wanting to get away from his homeworld's stagnation, but that was it. I did a quick keyword search of Mindtouch and found several mentions of Sediryl that I had forgotten, but none of the depth of emotion I would have expected the name to conjure up in Jahir, considering his reaction to her in this novella. I'm not sure if this is some kind of character continuity issue or not – I'd have to reread Mindtouch to be sure – but it bugged me.

Although I felt it had some issues, I still really liked Family. It had several of the elements I've come to love in Hogarth's works: fascinating details about alien cultures, characters I care about, and great conversations.


Rating Note: I struggled with choosing a rating for this. I wanted to give it 4 stars, because it was so nice to see Jahir and Vasiht'h having to deal with their own relationship, personal, and family issues again. At the same time, 3.5 stars seemed more appropriate for the overall story. I decided to give the characters more weight and give it 4 stars. Booklikes and LibraryThing's half stars are making me greedy - now I'm beginning to want quarter stars.


(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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