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review 2017-10-21 18:31
Artemis
Artemis - Andy Weir

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

I loved “The Martian”, so of course I was bound to request this one. To be fair, I didn’t enjoy it as much, but it was still a good, fun read in several ways.

I found the characters in general likeable enough, in definite ‘shades of grey. The ‘heroes’ of this story are seldom all white, and go about their business with good intentions and shady ways. The businessman who moved to the moon to help his ailing daughter, but is a crook on the side. The economist who almost single-handedly set a whole country as the only entry point to the Moon, and won’t shy away from closing eyes on criminal deals as long as they help keeping Artemis afloat. The city’s policeman (Artemis has something like 2,000 inhabitants, minus the tourists, so Rudy does the job) who’s keeping order by breaking a few arms at times if he deems it’ll be a better punishment than prison. And, of course, Jazz Bashara herself, porter by day, smuggler by night, of sorts, running her little operation with no one the wiser.

(Granted, not everyone is a complete a-hole here, Jazz’s father for instance is a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t want anything to do with his daughter’s shady side; on the other hand, Jazz clearly has him to thank for her own ethical side, the one that makes her never renege on a deal, and puts her in the (trustworthy criminal’ category, so to speak.)

The story itself starts in a fairly typical way for heist stories: Jazz needs money, her criminal activities aren’t bringing in as much as she needs, nor quickly enough, so when a dangerous but particularly juicy deal comes her way, she shoves her qualms in her pocket and accepts it. Only it turns out she’s bitten more than she could chew, and finds herself embroiled in an almost conspiracy, forcing her to gather all her wits, resources and allies in order to find a way out. All in all, the kind of story I like to read: maybe not the most original, but with high potential for action, fun, quirky characters, and, well, capers.

There isn’t as much technical detailing in this novel as there was in “The Martian”, so it’s definitely not hard to follow. The whole caper(s) resting on scientific knowledge and using the moon’s gravity and peculiar sides to work within the plan, that was really interesting for me. Maybe the welding-related descriptions were a little too long at times, though; at least, I didn’t care as much about those as I did about other scientific explanations.

I liked the overall diversity in Artemis. This small city has, from A to Z, a multicultural side that I think worked well, and didn’t rest on the usual ‘Western world colonises space’ (Kenya and its space company holds the entry door to the moon, Artemis’s administrator is a Kenyan woman, the policeman is Canadian, Jazz and her father are from Saudi Arabia, many of Jazz’s contacts are Vietnamese or Slavic, etc.).

I wasn’t totally on board with the way Jazz told the story, though. The wit didn’t work as well here as it did in “The Martian”, mostly, I’d say, because there’s too much of a dichotomy between Jazz’s ‘voice’ and her age: sometime in the middle of the story, we learn she’s 26, but from her tone, attitude, expressions and way of being, I would’ve thought her late teens/20, and not older. There -is- an immature side to her character, so in itself it’s not like her voice doesn’t fit at all, yet it didn’t feel ‘right’ either.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. Disregard the author’s previous best-seller, take this story as it comes, and enjoy the heist parts, the assembling of Jazz’s motley crew, the description of Artemis, and the outings on the Moon in an EVA suit that can spring a leak just any time due to the characters attempting bold moves and daring rescues.

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review 2017-10-14 23:48
Book Review of Ros by Dee DeTarsio
Ros - Dee DeTarsio

 

An out-of-this-world love story . . .

 

Ros is a supernatural encounter with a female from our cosmos: E.T. meets Starman. With the clock ticking, Micki tries to save Ros, who only has a few days left to find her way back home. The bonds of this most unlikely friendship are tested on the run, as they realize that love truly does transcend time and space.

 

Review 3*

 

This book has been sitting on my Kindle for quite a while. I bought it when I first bought my Kindle way back in 2012 and it was on free promotion at the time. I was originally intrigued with the blurb because I love a good space romance. Unfortunately, due to my long reading list, it has taken me longer than I anticipated to get to read it.

 

Micki Cramer is a character I must admit I didn't connect with at first. I initially found her rather annoying. However, as the story progressed I came to like her a little more. She is a divorced mother of two who unexpectedly has a close encounter of the third kind when an alien spaceship crashes close to her house. As she tries to help the alien, Ros, get back home, she finds herself running from the US Navy and facing a dangerous cult who will stop at nothing to capture the stranded alien. Will she succeed in helping her new friend?

 

The blurb is slightly misleading. I thought I would be reading a space romance. However, the story is more about friendship than romantic love. Having said that, I really enjoyed watching the sisromance (can't call it bromance) grow between the two main characters. Ros's character comes across a little one dimensional in my opinion. I think this is because the author may have struggled to imagine what an alien is like, while trying not to make her too human. There is an ET type feel to the story, with action and adventure thrown in along with some quirky characters. I actually loved Micki's ex mother-in-law, Rhoda. She's an eccentric character with the beginnings of Alzheimer's, but she's as sharp as a tack when she wants to be. There are also a few other interesting characters, like Captain James Kerk of the U.S. Navy, and Stanley Brower, Micki's neighbour.

 

I must admit that although the story was interesting, I found it easy to put it down and read something else and then come back to it. I'm not sure if this was down to the author's writing style or if it was my mood at the time of reading. There are some scenes that had me laughing, but I think the author was trying too hard to use wit and it fell flat at times, especially where there was a need to ratchet up the feeling of suspense for some of them instead. Having said that, I especially loved the scene where they steal Stanley's RV and find him in it. Then there's the one... Nope, you may just have to read it to find out more. I did find myself becoming rather emotional near the end and even shed a tear or two. The ending was slightly unexpected, but it left me feeling satisfied.

 

Dee DeTarsio has written an intriguing story. Her writing style is not particularly fast paced, but it kept me turning the pages. The flow of the story was pretty good, but some scenes could have been shortened for more impact. Would I read more of her books in the future? Perhaps. I am not ruling it out completely. I need to reduce my reading list first.

 

Due to some profane language, I do not recommend this book to younger readers. However, I recommend this book if you love chick-lit or science fiction genres. - Lynn Worton

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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 2017-09-23 19:17
A great caper story, with fun characters, not too deep, but with plenty of technical and scientific information to keep your brain going
Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I read Weir’s The Martian shortly after its publication (I discovered it through NetGalley. Many thanks again), before it became a movie, and loved it. Although I regularly recommend books to people I know, this must be one of the recent books I’ve recommended to more people. (In case you want to check my review, I published it on Lit World Interviews and you can check it here). Because of that, when I saw the ARC of the author’s new book was available on NetGalley, I requested it. A few days later I also received an e-mail from the publishers (well, their PR company) offering me a copy as I’d reviewed The Martian. Good minds think alike and all that. I read the book a while before its publication but I don’t expect there would be major changes with the final version.

So, how is the book? Well, I loved it. There aren’t that many books that make me laugh out loud, but this one did. Is it as good as The Martian? That’s a difficult question to answer. It is not as unique. It is very different, although in many ways it’s quite similar too. I suspect if you didn’t like The Martian you will probably not like this one either. The story is a first-person narration from the point of view of a young woman, Jazz Bashara. She lives in Artemis, the first city in the Moon, and has lived there since she was six years old (children are not allowed in the Moon until they are a certain age, although that had increased by the time of the story, so she’s probably one of the few people who has been there almost from birth, as most are immigrants from Earth). Nationality is a bit of an interesting concept in this novel (people are from wherever place on Earth they come from, but once in Artemis, they are in a Kenyan colony… I won’t explain the details, but the story of how that came to pass ends up being quite important to the plot), as are laws, work, money, economy, food… Based on that, Jazz is from Saudi Arabia, although she impersonates women from other nationalities through the book (even in the Moon, otherness unifies people, it seems). Like its predecessor, the story is full of technical details of how things work (or not) and how different they are from Earth. Jazz is a quirky character, foul-mouthed at times, strangely conversant with American pop culture, including TV series, music, etc., extremely intelligent, and like Mark in the first novel, somebody who does not express her emotions easily (she even admits that at some point in the novel). She also has a fantastic sense of humour, is witty, self-deprecating at times, one of the boys, and does not tolerate fools gladly. She is a petty criminal and will do anything to get money (and she’s very specific about the amount she requires), although we learn what she needs the money for later on (and yes, it does humanize her character). Her schemes for getting rich quick end up getting her into real trouble (she acknowledges she made some very bad decisions as a teenager, and things haven’t changed that much, whatever she might think) and eventually she realises that there are things we cannot do alone. Although she does commit crimes, she has a code of conduct, does not condone or commit violence (unless she has to defend herself), and she can be generous to a fault at times. On the other hand, she is stubborn, petulant, anti-authority, confrontational, and impulsive.

There is a cast of secondary characters that are interesting in their own right, although we don’t get to know them in depth and most are types we can connect easily with as they are very recognisable. (Psychology and complexity of characters is not the main attribute of the book).  Most of Jazz’s friends are male (so are some of her enemies), and we have a geeky-inventor type who is clumsy with women (although based on the information we are given, Jazz is not great with men either), a gay friend who stole her boyfriend, a bartender always after creating cheap versions of spirits, a rich tycoon determined to get into business on the Moon, no matter what methods he has to use, and her father, a devoted Muslim who is both proud of his daughter and appalled by her in equal measure.

The plot is a caper/heist story, that has nothing to envy Ocean’s Eleven although it has the added complication of having to adapt to conditions on the Moon. Although there is a fair amount of technical explanation, I didn’t find it boring or complicated (and yes, sometimes you can guess what’s going to go wrong before it happens), although when I checked the reviews, some people felt that it slowed the story down. For me, the story flows well and it is quick-paced, although there are slower moments and others when we are running against the clock. As I’m not an expert on the subject of life on the Moon, I can’t comment on how accurate some of the situations are. Yes, there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief, more than in The Martian because here we have many characters and many more things that can go wrong (the character does not  fight against nature and her own mistakes here. She also has human adversaries to contend with), but we should not forget that it is a work of fiction. Some of the reviews say there are better and more realistic novels about the Moon. As I’m not a big reader on the subject, I can’t comment, although I can easily believe that.

The other main criticism of the novel is Jazz’s character. Quite a few reviewers comment that she is not a credible woman, and her language, her behaviour, and her mannerisms are not those of a real woman. I mentioned before that she is ‘one of the boys’ or ‘one of the lads’. She seems to have mostly male friends, although she does deal with men and women in the book, not making much of a distinction between them. For me, Jazz’s character is consistent in with that of a woman who has grown up among men (she was brought up by her father and her mother is not around), who feels more comfortable with them, and who goes out of her way to fit in and not call attention to her gender by her behaviour and/ or speech. She is also somebody who has not been encouraged to be openly demonstrative or to share her feelings, and although she is our narrator, she does not talk a lot about herself (something that was also a characteristic of the Martian, where we did not learn much about Mark himself). In Artemis, apart from the first person narration, there are fragments that share e-mails between Jazz and a pen (e-mail) friend from Earth. Those interim chapters help us learn a bit more (however fragmented) about Jazz’s background; they also give us a sense of how things are on Earth, and, although it is not evident at the beginning, fill us into some of the information the narration has not provided us. Although she is not the most typical female character I’ve ever read, she is a fun woman and it’s very easy to root for her (even if sometimes you want to slap her). She does act very young at times, and hers is a strange mixture of street-wise and at times naïve that some readers will find endearing although it might irritate others. The book’s other female characters are as hard and business-like as the men, and often the most powerful and intelligent characters in the book are female (the ruler of Aramis and the owner of the Aluminium Company are both females, one from Kenia and one a Latino woman). Both seem to be formidable, although nobody is pure as snow in this novel and everybody has some skeletons in their closets. Although gender politics per se are not discussed (Jazz notes physical differences between her and other characters as is relevant to the plot, and makes the odd comment about her own appearance) one gets the sense that in Artemis people are accepted as they are and they are more concerned about what they can bring to the community than about their gender or ethnicity.

I agree with some of the comments about the dominance of references to American culture and even the language used is sometimes full of American colloquialisms. There is no clear explanation given for that, other than to assume that media and the Internet are still mostly full of content produced in the US, but even mentions of news and feeds about other countries are not elaborated upon.

I highlighted a lot of the book, but I don’t want to test your patience, and as it was an ARC copy, it is possible that there might be some minor changes, so I’d advise you to check a sample of the book to see if you like the tone of the narration. Here are a few examples:

If my neighborhood were wine, connoisseurs would describe it as “shitty, with overtones of failure and poor life decisions.”

My cart is a pain in the ass to control, but it’s good at carrying heavy things. So I decided it was male.

(Only Americans wear Hawaiian shirts on the moon.)

I left without further comment. I didn’t want to spend any more time inside the mind of an economist. It was dark and disturbing.

In summary, a great caper story, with fun characters, not too deep, but with plenty of technical and scientific information to keep your brain going. I’d recommend reading a sample of the novel, because, once again, you’ll either click with the style of the narration and the characters, or you won’t. I did and laughed all the way to the end of the book. And, if you’ve not read The Martian… well, what are you waiting for?

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review 2017-09-18 18:49
A Key to Every Door by dreamlittleyo, rivers_bend
A Key to Every Door - dreamlittleyo,rivers_bend
A well written short told from Dean's pov. Dean is freaked out when Sam admits his desire for his brother.
Source: archiveofourown.org/works/190461
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