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review 2017-09-23 01:09
Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef by Cassandra Khaw
Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef (Gods and Monsters) - Cassandra Khaw

Series: Gods & Monsters #1

 

This was interesting because it was different, but I didn't end up enjoying the investigation portion all that much. It started off fairly strong, with Rupert talking about his "day" job as a chef to ghouls but the investigation seemed to mostly consist of Rupert doing magic spells to talk to people while they tried to kill him.

 

Despite his ghost tattoos, Rupert's a pretty average (albeit destined for hell unless he cleans up his karma by essentially doing community service) guy and so it was weird that he was drawing all this attention by incredibly powerful supernatural beings. He was terribly outclassed and it just seemed a bit...much?

 

I may read the sequel but I won't be rushing out to do so. This was only a novella, so maybe there just wasn't enough room for a satisfactory exploration of the world.

 

I read this for the "Diverse Voices" square for the Halloween Bingo but it could also be used for "Murder Most Foul", "Supernatural", "Monsters" (dragons, ghouls, undead-baby monsters), "Genre: Horror" (pretty gruesome), "Terrifying Women", "Amateur Sleuth", and "Ghost" squares. I might have missed some.

 

My cover:

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review 2017-09-22 23:06
Darkover Landfall
Darkover Landfall - Marion Zimmer Bradley

Erf. I've started re-reading this series, because I remember how much I loved it when I was a teenager... but damn, I didn't remember this one was so bad. (Or is it because I sometimes used to like shite as a teenager, and that was part of it?)

The story in itself is not uninteresting, all the more since it's THE origins book in the Darkover series, but the relationships... especially the way women are viewed and treated... Wow. That was one special level of bad.

I can sort of accept a patriarchal society, women being treated as wombs, etc. in the more 'medieval-like' novels of the series, because 1) it fits a certain conception of 'dark ages obscurantism', as cliché as that may be, and 2) as far as I remember, in those books, it was often presented as something that isn't so good: while it does remain infuriating, it's part of the conflict underlying those narratives.

Here, though, in a group of engineers, colonists, space crew, scientists, where men and women have similar levels of skills, with gender equality laws on Earth? Nope. Doesn't sit with me. Especially not as soon as pregnancies enter the picture, and give yet another reason for males (and some women!) to be patronising, chalk every reaction to 'she's pregnant', veer towards gaslighting at times (because obviously, the guys in the story know better than Judy Lovat who's the father of her child), and go spouting crap about how not wanting children is some sort of mental illness. Camilla's arc was particularly painful, because, yes, she is being reduced to a walking womb, what's with the doctor even threatening to sedate her during her pregnancy (actually, it does happen once), like some kind of stupid, ignorant being who needs to be locked for her own good. Empowering much, right?

So basically, you get accidentally pregnant (not through any fault of hers—ghost wind was to blame, same for her partner), while you thought your contraceptive was doing its job, you don't want to have a child, but you're denied an abortion. OK. Not cool. In the context of colonists stranded on a hostile planet, that poses an interesting conundrum (= it's obvious that either they need to spawn as much as possible, or they'll die in one or two generations). However, was it really necessary to lay it in such rude and demeaning ways? The Battlestar Galactica reboot has a similar subplot, but the episode about it was at least treated with much more gravitas and moral ambiguity.

It is also important to note that, no, Camilla didn't sign up for this, so treating her as a spoiled kid throwing a tantrum was inappropriate. Putting it back into context: she's an engineer and programmer, she signed up to be part of the ship's crew during the trip, not to be a colonist meant to help populate a new planet. And even in the event of staying on that colony, it would've been in a society where she would've had a few years to make the decision.

(spoiler show)



I have no idea if anyone considers this book as a 'feminist' work, but if you do, please stop. This is not feminist, it's patriarchy at its worst: insidious.

[To be fair, I didn't remember this book as being the best in the series either, nor my favourite at all, so I'm still going to try rereading 2-3 others.]

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review 2017-09-22 22:30
The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea
The Jersey Devil - Hunter Shea

The Jersey Devil, as you may have guessed, is a creature feature. It was fun and bloody, which are the top things I'm looking for in a book of this nature.

 

I thought it was a little too long, and a little far fetched, (but then again, most creature features are over the top.)

 

It was an entertaining and light read which was perfect for my mood.

 

You can get your copy here:The Jersey Devil

 

Recommended! 

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review 2017-09-22 20:47
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death) - Nnedi Okorafor

This short, futuristic novel is essentially a power/revenge fantasy focused on the exploitation of people of African descent, especially in medical research. (Calling it a power fantasy isn’t necessarily a criticism; much of sci-fi and fantasy consists of power fantasies for white male nerds, so it seems only fair for others to get a cut of the action.) Despite a compelling start and socially relevant themes, however, this one flopped for me.

Phoenix lives in a future America in which powerful corporations perform medical experimentation on people, mostly black, who live locked up in mysterious Towers. She knows nothing else and is content until something awful happens to her best friend and love interest, at which point she starts to rebel and discovers the powers with which she was endowed. This is a prequel to a post-apocalyptic fantasy tale and has a frame story, so it’s no secret that somewhere along the way the world as we know it is destroyed, and most readers will guess how; nevertheless, this is your warning that this review will contain SPOILERS.

Okorafor sets the stage well, with an oppressive dystopian setting and a young protagonist struggling to make sense of it and survive. The first third of the book makes for compelling reading, with a fast-paced story full of danger set in a believable world. But as in the companion book, Who Fears Death, the protagonist becomes too powerful, leaching the story of dramatic tension. Once Phoenix learns that she can fly for days on end, die and regenerate as many times as necessary, and move through time and space in an instant and apparently without limit, the story no longer presents obstacles that really challenge her. She attacks one of the Towers alone and without planning and succeeds, so the long stretch toward the end spent preparing to attack another with a group seems unnecessary and anticlimactic (though from a narrative perspective, it allows some down time and for Phoenix to bond more with other characters).

The end also proved unsatisfying. Phoenix suddenly decides the world is irredeemable and that the goddess Ani – who, mind you, does not appear in the book – wants her to destroy it. This decision made little sense to me: after all, her lover is alive and needs rescuing, and while she did just discover that several powerful and corrupt men have used the Towers’ research to extend their lives indefinitely, there’s nothing stopping her from hunting them down individually. The connection to the writing of the Great Book and the world of Who Fears Death also seems strained, though I enjoyed the chapters of the frame story as an independent short story.

Meanwhile, the characterization is fairly simplistic; reviewers who have interpreted this as intentional due to Phoenix’s chronological age may well be correct, but I have my doubts, as the book portrays Phoenix as an adult woman in her intellectual capacity and ability to form relationships. Likewise, the writing style is simple and sometimes staccato, which suits the dystopian setting fine. The world has texture and is a conceivable outgrowth of our world, an important but often-overlooked element of a good dystopia. On the other hand, some details seem under-researched: the bizarre chapter in which, despite the secrecy in which these projects are shrouded, the only records of ongoing medical experiments turn out to be catalogued and housed in hard copy in the Library of Congress (which apparently will switch to Dewey Decimal in the future?) available for browsing by anyone with ID, has been thoroughly dissected in other reviews.

Overall, while this book has some interesting ideas, their execution proved to be a letdown. Not having thought much of Who Fears Death either, I’m ready to conclude that Okorafor’s work is not for me.

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review 2017-09-22 18:33
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson

"The house was vile. . . Hill House is vile, it is diseased, get away from here at once."

I’m stingy with my stars and gave out five of them to Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It had it all; quirky characters, creepy goings-on and dreadful deeds and I was expecting similarly great things from this classic.

Perhaps my expectations were too high or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood because I found this one slower than cold molasses with slightly over-the-top characters whose plight never grabbed me. It took me well over a week to finish this skinny little book. I know I’m slow but that’s ridiculous even for me. I’d pick it up, read a few pages and fall asleep. Once I even dropped the edge of this cursed book on my face as I nodded off and woke up with a welt on my chin. At least my husband, the NON reader I might add, had a great laugh. And still I plundered on. . . 

In the end, I never did connect with the story and it wasn’t able to infect me with insidious dread. I can’t quite pinpoint what went wrong besides the fact that there was too little spooky and too much yapping for me. What with all of the talking these people did, I never did learn much about them. The descriptions of the house were divine, however, and I would love to live there.
 

 

I read this for Bingo. I'm all off track and have to figure out where I'm going to place it when I get my act back together. I don't even know what's been called at this point. Is there a master post of bingo calls somewhere?

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