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review 2017-05-29 21:15
Upside Down
Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling - John Hornor Jacobs,Maurice Broaddus,Rati Mehrotra,Nisi Shawl,Valya Dudycz Lupescu,Elsa Sjunneson-Henry,Michelle Muenzler,Michael R. Underwood,Jaym Gates,Monica Valentinelli

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

3.5/4 stars; I liked quite a few of these short stories, none of them made me roll my eyes, and to be fair, the essays at the end of the book were also quite interesting.

My favourites:

* “Single, Singularity”: While it doesn’t really invert the trope it’s based on, I’m a sucker for AI stories, and this one was both thrilling, and chilling in its ending.

* “Seeking Truth”: The ‘blind psychic’ trope, subverted in that here, the blind person is extremely skilled at reading other people, no need for special powers for that.

* “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place?”: A mix of Sesame Stree-like TV shows and jaded ex-super soldiers trying to go home. Very nostalgic, perhaps a wee bit long, but a good read nonetheless.

* “Chosen”: A comic twist on ‘the Chosen’, with jabs at tropes like the gun-toting weapons maniac, the Buffy-like teenager fighting demons, and pedantic occultist scholar. This one was really fun.

* “The White Dragon”: A different take on the ‘yellow peril’, in a 1920s San Francisco (also, I liked revisiting that city in such a light, now that I’ve finally been able to actually travel there).

* “Her Curse, How Gently It Comes Undone”: The Witch and the Damsel In Distress, poised against each other, each with their wiles and strengths, and with the story playing on the trope of men rescuing the Damsel... only they’re not the right people to do the job.

* “Burning Bright”: I really liked the main character here, just the right mix of slightly hinged and yet fairly grounded at the same time.

* “Santa CIS (Episode 1: No Saint)”: This story plays well on both the Santa Claus/Christmas and ‘old soldier goes back to war’ tropes.

* “The First Blood of Poppy Dupree”: At first I thought this would be about werewolves, and it turned out it was something else, which I liked.

* “Until There is Only Hunger”: A strong story, with a definite end-of-the-world feeling, dwindling hope mixed with growing despair, and characters trying to find whatever comfort they can, although this rings more and more hollow. Bonus point for characters not being typical cis/hetero/white.

* “Drafty as a Chain Mail Bikini”: I suspected where this one was going, but I liked it, and it made me laugh.

* “The Tangled Web”: Love at first sight and romance woes... but not among humans, which lent a different dimension to this story.

The essays: definitely read those. They deal with the Hero’s Journey, its limitations, the Heroine’s Journey, its limitations as well, and push further, when it comes to trans and gay/lesbian heroes, which is really needed. Because let’s be honest: it’s already difficult to find a good story where a woman is not reduced to accomplishment = family/motherhood/taking care of others, but it’s even worse when you’re non-binary.

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review 2017-05-29 18:38
New York 2140
New York 2140 - Kim Stanley Robinson

New York in the early 2140s, some 125 years in the future, is in some ways the same as it always has been - the crowds and the crime and Central Park and the street urchins and the folks trying to make a fast buck (legally or illegally), the immensely rich few bumping up against great masses of much poorer people, and the illegal immigrants and the squatters and the undocumented and the refugees, but much is changed, too. 

 

For one thing, the sea level is now 50 feet higher.  The ultra-rich have fled to the highest points of the island, where the world's most expensive real estate has been built, while everything below 30th St. is permanently at least partially under water.  The people, however, have refused to leave, and have turned lower Manhattan into "Super Venice."  They have turned skyscrapers into co-ops, with sky tunnels linking them, and all the former streets are now canals full of vaporettos, gondolas, water taxis, and private boats ranging in size from the tiniest zodiac or kayak to deluxe speedboats and salvage tugs.

 

This novel is the story told by selected inhabitants of one of those co-ops - the one in the old Met Life building - from the super to the hackers living in tents on the farm level to the hot-shot young financier.  From the police detective to the undocumented teenagers living in a zodiac in the boathouse, and the immigration lawyer and the animal rights activist/video star/pilot of the airship Assisted Migration, as well.

 

It's told in about as many narrative styles as there are narrators, from the theatrical to the police procedural.  (In many ways the narration reminded me of that of his Mars series, of which I am a fan.)  Normally I take a deep breath at a novel with as many narrators as this one attempts, but Robinson's a good writer (he's won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award), and in my opinion he pulls it off. 

 

It's not a flawless novel, but I couldn't stop reading it. 

 

P.S.  I wanted to put my emoticon at "giddy," but alas, that was not an option.

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review 2017-05-29 18:14
He Said/She Said/Erin Kelly
He Said/She Said - Erin Kelly

In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.

But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.

The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person?

15 years later, Kit and Laura married are living under new names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.

From Erin Kelly, queen of the killer twist, He Said/She Said is a gripping tale of the lies we tell to save ourselves, the truths we cannot admit, and how far we will go to make others believe our side of the story.

 

I've got to say, this book did not play out at all the way I expected it too. Nonetheless, it had an intriguing plot.

 

And it was the plot that carried this book. I found it really hard to get into the story and to care about the characters. While I eventually became intrigued by the court case, I never really related to the characters at all. I couldn't understand their decisions and I struggled to see things from their perspective. The book mainly centres around a rape case.

 

Kit and Laura's love was very sweet but very intense. I appreciated it for the perspective it brought; however, they were incredibly judgemental and I found it hard to really care for them. I didn't comprehend the complete and utter terror they had, their fear to the point of crippling anxiety, even after the ultimate reveal. This could have worked with more setup or perhaps if I'd suspended my disbelief more, but while some incidents did happen, I expected a lot more horrible things to have occurred to have completely altered the way they lived their lives.

 

The final twist itself was pretty great, almost enough to carry the entire book, but the ending itself was incredibly strange and not really what I expected from those characters.

The most accurate portrayal in this book seemed to be of the rape case itself. I was intrigued by how all of the players were set up and by the ultimate results, which dealt with a very real world topic.

 

Ultimately, though this book didn't quite draw me in, plot was great and the twist was surprising, and I recommend this to those who enjoy thrillers.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-05-29 13:16
Fortune Like the Moon by Alys Clare
Fortune like the Moon - Alys Clare

Richard I is worried about the fallout from his mother’s decision to release all the prisoners to commemorate the start of his reign when a nun is found brutally murdered, so he sends Josse d’Acquin to investigate at Hawkenlye.

 

I quite liked this mystery, there were several clever reversals, and it was the Abbess Helewise who solved the murder! Don’t worry, that’s only a very mild spoiler. I won’t tell you who actually did it. I wasn’t sure about some of the historical details that the story relied on and I could have done without the very last chapter (it provided a resolution that I could have done without), so I’m going with 3.5 stars despite dithering about 4. I do plan on looking into the next one in the series, however.

 

I read this for booklikes-opoly square Frontierland 1 “Read a book with a title that starts with any letter in FRONTIER”.  At 256 pages, this nets me another $3 for my bank, bringing my balance to $98!

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review 2017-05-29 04:08
Skios - Michael Frayn
Skios - Michael Frayn

  

Wow! I can't think when I last read a farce, let alone enjoyed one. Probably it was Noises Off. It's difficult to maintain the suspension of disbelief in a text; in a play or film the pace of the action doesn't give one time to consider just how silly, how contrived, how unnatural the whole exercise is. And because Frayn is very skilled, he keeps one from dwelling on how absurd it is, while never forgetting for an instant just how absurd it is.

I don't think I actually laughed out loud, but I loved every silly minute of it.

Library copy

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