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review 2017-02-14 04:47
Voyager
Voyager - Davina Porter,Diana Gabaldon

Oh, Voyager. You get so many things right, but that one little thing...

 

I've said numerous times over this "reread" while I've listened to the audiobooks for the first time that one of the things Gabaldon does best is write fully realized characters, even third-tier characters, and she certainly continues to do that here. Her attention to detail, her descriptions, the way she lets the characters pop out of the page give them all life. It's really amazing.

 

And then there's Mr. Willoughby, or make that Yi Tien Cho, a Chinese refugee stowaway who landed in Scotland and was taken in by Jamie. First, I need to acknowledge that none of these characters are perfect. Even Claire, who comes from the more contemporary 1940s-1960s, has her prejudices and she doesn't even come close to how close-minded and insular everyone else is once we get back to the 1700s. So Cho's pure hatred of the white men isn't what bothers me. No, it's that he's a walking stereotype of all the worst things you can imagine about the Chinese. Even when I was reading this for the first time in my relatively clueless late-teens, Cho made me uncomfortable. Now, I was gritting my teeth nearly every time he was on the page. It was grating. There was not one redeeming trait to him, and to make it worse, he's the only Chinese character in either of these series - in fact, the only Asian character, which makes his representation even more troubling. So I'm glad he's only in this book and none of the others. And all because Gabaldon needed a way for Jamie, with his severe seasickness, to survive the crossing of the Atlantic. Because all Chinese know acupuncture, don't you know. *sigh*

 

But onto the good things, mostly John Grey. <3 I decided to experiment with this listen and do something I've been planning to do for years, and that's read Voyager and the Lord John Grey books in chronological order. While I don't think I'll ever do that again, it was still a fun way to experience the stories and get in John's adventures alongside Claire's and Jamie's. I just love John and I hope Gabaldon plans to write more of his adventures, especially since I'm not planning to read any more Outlander books. Voyager will even be the last one that I reread since I didn't really enjoy the others that came after this.

Though I may just have to reread William falling into the privy in the next book some day. That scene is golden. Willie is just a prat and totally deserving of that fate. :D

(spoiler show)

The cast for those have just gotten too huge, the focus has moved away too much from Claire and Jamie, and they just refuse to end. Plus, all the rape. What is Gabaldon's obsession with rape? And while there's no on-page in this book for a change, we still have to hear about

poor Young Ian's recount of his rape by Gellie Duncan.

(spoiler show)

 

Other good things: the reunion between Claire and Jamie was great, and getting to see the Murrays again, even if just briefly, was fun. Fergus is all grown up and not yet a lazy drunk. Spending so much time on the Atlantic crossing could've been dull as hell, but Gabaldon keeps the tension up wonderfully with several adventures - though I do have to say this is the point where all these characters randomly running into each other gets a bit eye roll inducing. It's one thing when they're all confined to Great Britain because that's a tiny little island (sorry, my British friends, but it is), but when they're shipwrecking onto random islands and whatnot, I think it's okay to have them run into people they don't know in any capacity. 

 

And I do have to say, I prefer my Loa to come in the form of a hamburger-shaped drive-thru speaker than I do a creepy possessed mentally unstable white woman. Because problematic ableist tropes aside, who doesn't want their drive-thru speaker to also give them cryptic messages about the future?

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review 2016-06-14 03:37
The Tale of Yin by Joyce Chng
The Tale of Yin - Joyce Chng The Tale of Yin - Joyce Chng

Loved the stories. 

I actually enjoyed this book a lot, but I wish the style had been more descriptive. I felt like it could have had some more texture that way, but that didn't take away from the meat of the stories. The stories themselves were beautiful and interesting. 
Despite the sparse descriptions, the author put in a lot of great world-building into it. The world was beautiful and interesting. I could read a lot more stories set in this world, if she were to write them. As it is, this book is comprised of two novellas that had previously been published separately as a series. The novellas are Of Oysters, Pearls and Magic and The Path of Kindness. The first novella has two "books" and is set up in an interesting way. There are "waves" and "branches" instead of chapters. There is also an appendix that consists of a few short stories, a commentary, definitions, and a full explanation of how the world works. It's pretty well thought out and I loved the addition of those bits. Again, I just wish some more of the detail of that section had made its way into the stories themselves. 

There were typos in the text which drove me a little nuts, but not so much that it would keep me from recommending this series. 

The inclusion of a central character that is non-binary gendered in the last story was good, particularly because the first one had dealt so beautifully with other LGBT issues. In fact, the easy going way of having triads, couples and apart people gives me hope for a better way to see ourselves in the future. For things like this, the book was so exquisitely feminist that it almost hurt sometimes. It's not that the book dealt with LGBT issues, but that it made them non-issues. These parts of the identity of the characters were not dwelt upon as if they were the biggest and main part of them. They were given whole human identities with many interests and opinions. They were not reduced to their orientation. They simply were. Our non-binary character didn't get the exact same treatment but sar's (pronoun used for this character in the book and even identified as the preferred pronoun by the character sarself) gender is presented as a new concept on the island and still readily accepted by other characters. Except when Kindness was mad at sar. Then she got a little crappy about it, which I thought was crappy but human. Again, though, sar was rarely reduced to only gender and given other characteristics so that sar had full humanity. At least, that's how I felt about it. Maybe someone trans or non-binary would have a different opinion on how that character was treated. I'd love to hear their take on it, actually. 

I appreciated that there was still some lingering gender roles, for no better reason than that even when gender roles change evolve, it seems likely that people will gravitate toward categorizing each other and all of our talents.  

Overall, the story was great, the feminism was amazing, and the texture was lacking. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, especially if they like new worlds and feminist ideals. I'd also recommend it to any feminist who enjoys a little sci-fi. 

 

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review 2016-05-19 19:10
Review: The Fiend Queen
The Fiend Queen - Barbara Ann Wright

Within the walls of her palace, Princess Katya’s best friend lies at her feet, close to death. Her pyradisté is overwhelmed by some mysterious power, and her former lady-in-waiting has stabbed her in the back. Wounded and nearly alone, Katya must find a way to sabotage the magic of her Fiendish uncle Roland, or those who fight for the capitol will be overwhelmed by hypnotized guards and Fiend-filled corpses.

Starbride’s pain is nearly overwhelming. The agony inside her only lessens when she satisfies a strange new desire to hurt those around her. She may hold the key to banishing Fiendish power from Farraday, but only by using it herself. Together, Katya and Starbride must make a final desperate push to take back the kingdom, but even if they survive, can the strength of their love keep them from madness? After all, fighting evil with evil has its consequences.

 

 

This book gets the third star mainly because I still like the series as a whole (and the characters have grown on me) and because I really hate the main trope that is used here but don't think that it's a bad trope generally. There are probably people who enjoy reading about it. But I don't. Really. Not at all.

I'm talking about corrupted by power/demonic possession. Yeah, that thing that is neither really and both a bit. I'm all over corrupted by power, especially, when, like in this book it's connected with questions like How evil do you have to become to fight evil? How far can you go before you just fuck up things differently than the previous bad guy? 

I'm less fond of possession but can still cope with it but the combination of both always feels like a cop-out to me. You see: it wasn't really her doing the bad things! The demon made her do it. Sort of. Mostly.

Additionally, the POV chapters of a corrupted-possessed person are just very tedious reading. In the middle, there are several chapters that are mostly the same: her friends try to reach her, she begins to have doubts, the demon interferes and plays on her insecurities, she believes him, back to square one. (The playing on the insecurities-bit was something I actually quite enjoyed since it gave her better reasons for listening to the demon than 'wants power and revenge') After a few times that got very boring.

 

The end managed to tie up some ends very neatly and leave others too open for the final book in a series. I don't need to know everything about all the characters at the end but I'd like to have an idea of where they're going.

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review 2016-05-14 17:07
Review: A Kingdom Lost
A Kingdom Lost - Barbara Ann Wright

Princess Katya Nar Umbriel has little left to lose. Her uncle Roland took her home, scattered her family, and forced her to abandon Starbride, her dearest love. Slim hopes and righteous anger carry Katya into Starbride's homeland to raise an army and take back all that was stolen from her.

Starbride never dreamed she’d lead a pack of foreign rebels against a Fiendish usurper. She holds the capital city out of love, denying any rumor of Katya’s death. As the two strive toward each other, Roland dogs their every step, loosing Fiend-filled corpses on Katya’s army and hypnotizing the capital’s citizens into hunting Starbride down. If they ever meet again, it’ll be over his dead body.

 

When it comes to the things I enjoyed in this book I can just repeat what I already said about the first two in the series: I love the characters, I love the dynamics between Katya and Starbride, and the dynamics between them and the side-characters in general. Also taking about character dynamics and relationships: I love how there are characters that are good guys but that don't (always) get along that well with the main characters. They're not arrogant jerks who have to be endured because they are very good at what they do. They just have very different ideas from the others and so they're sometimes difficult to be around. Though in the case of Redtrue and the other adsnazi I quickly got tired and exhausted of their views. Towards the end, I found it easier to see their point of view but I still would have wished for less stubbornness on their part. I'm not saying I expected any of them to agree completely with Katya but someone showing some doubts would have been nice. Instead, everybody held to their opinion without moving an inch.


Another thing I enjoyed: while the book can't be considered a 'clean read' it's not because of any extremely explicit sex scenes but because it's a society that's not ashamed of sex and talks openly about it (and loves dirty jokes so much, something they share with me). I'm not a big fan of explicit sex scenes. Even if I love the author's writing style there's a high chance I'll just skim over the sex scenes. But a good dirty joke? Give it to me! Lots of them? Even better!

 

Like in the second book, the plot took a lot of surprising turns and I went 'WHAT?' more than once. And while I found the 'mirroring' of storylines a bit odd (Katya and Starbride were apart and dealing with very different things but yet seemed to have success and misfortune always happening at the same time) I didn't have the problem with it being a bit too fast-paced, as with the last book.

 

So: perfect book, five stars? Alas, no. And the ending is to blame for that. I don't mind cliffhanger endings but there should at least be a momentary conclusion with the big questions still left open. There was no conclusion of anything. It just stopped. Literally mid-battle. There wasn't even a solution to anything in sight and that is rather frustrating.

(And now I have to read the next book soon...)

 

ARC received from NetGalley

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review 2016-03-28 10:23
Review: Winter Kill
Winter Kill - Josh Lanyon

Clever and ambitious, Special Agent Adam Darling (yeah, he's heard all the jokes before) was on the fast track to promotion and success until his mishandling of a high profile operation left one person dead and Adam "On the Beach." Now he's got a new partner, a new case, and a new chance to resurrect his career, hunting a legendary serial killer known as The Crow in a remote mountain resort in Oregon.

Deputy Sheriff Robert Haskell may seem laid-back, but he's a tough and efficient cop -- and he's none too thrilled to see feebs on his turf -- even when one of the agents is smart, handsome, and probably gay. But a butchered body in a Native American museum is out of his small town department's league. For that matter, icy, uptight Adam Darling is out of Rob's league, but that doesn't mean Rob won't take his best shot.

 

 

This was...neat. Perhaps a bit too neat and I keep coming across more and more Lanyon-books where I think "This story would have needed more pages."

The mystery was very good, at least for the first half. It had enough twists and turns to keep me reading till after midnight because "OH I did not see that coming and now I need to know what happens next." Towards the end, it lost a bit of steam and things wrapped up a bit too neat and too quickly. Suddenly everything just happened and the case was solved.

The romance was...lacking. I did enjoy that it had alternating POVs instead of just one like in most of her books and also that it was a difference from the writer + soldier/cop formula Lanyon uses a lot. But it wrapped up...well too neatly. I would have had fewer problems with it, if it had been a definite start of a series with a Happy for now ending and in fact, expected it right until the epilog, in which all problems are solved by the power of tru luv. As I said: too neat.

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