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review 2017-06-21 01:50
Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant/Rivers of London #5) (Audiobook)
Foxglove Summer: PC Peter Grant, Book 5 - Ben Aaronovitch,Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Looks like this series finally got its act together! The case/mystery here was comprehensive and engaging, and the rural setting was a nice change up from the regular London beat. Also, Peter's temporary partner Dominic is a hoot! I love him and really wish he could stick around, but I'm not counting on it. 

 

Peter gets asked to help out on a case of two missing girls in case there's something supernaturally hinky about it, and of course there is. In addition to Dominic, we get the return of Beverly - who I honestly couldn't remember why she left, whoops - and she's great. 

 

Peter's also still dealing with Leslie's betrayal from the previous book, which gets no closer to being resolved. She's still with whatshisname and whatever she's doing, she knows there's no redemption for her. :( I'm theorizing she's undercover, but that's just because I like her character and don't want her permanently on the outs of the group. 

 

The pacing here was not quite as sedate in previous books, and actually manages to get up to a brisk jog in certain places, which for this series is practically a gallop. :D It kept me engaged, at least, which I can't necessarily say for previous books. 

 

Kobna is one of the few male narrators who manages to do decent female voices, and now he's doing a pretty good job at children's voices too. That's true versatility there. 

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review 2017-02-14 04:47
Voyager (Outlander #3) (Audiobook)
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.

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 2016-06-24 03:06
American Pie with Gods
American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition: Full Cast Production (Audio) - Neil Gaiman,Daniel Oreskes,Dennis Boutsikaris,Ron McLarty

The church I grew up in has this thing they do, where they claim to be the only ones who worship God the Right Way, and all other ways are bogus. Which never made any sense to me, not when I was an impressionable youth and not now. Why couldn't those who worship Allah be just as right? Or maybe the ancient Egyptians had the right of it, and everyone ever since has been wrong. Or maybe everyone was right, and all these gods exist, but they're fighting for dominance through their human subjects.

 

Reading - or in this case listening to - this book was like Neil Gaiman reached in my head and plucked out those ideas and gave them life - while on a road trip through America. You've got the greasy food, the kitschy dive bars, the Largest (fill in the blank) in the World tourist traps, the small towns and the big cities and the wide open roads in one beat-up P.O.S. car after another. Including a Winnebago! It's illegal to take extended road trips in America unless you're in a Winnebago. This is the truth. I promise. (It's the oil companies' fault. They lobbied Congress into passing this law after fuel economy cars became so popular. ... Okay, maybe not, but I'm sure Sam Black Crow believes this.) 

 

This book starts out slow, and for the first 75% of it I had no fracking clue what was going on - and my computer just decided to autocorrect "fricking" to "fracking" and I just learned that "frack" is a real word and not just something made up for BSG, which is incidentally the only thing I know about that show. And cylons? But anyway, I had no clue what was going on for the first 3/4s of this book but that hardly mattered. This is about the journey, about discovery, and eventually you arrive at the plot and it all blows your mind and everything makes sense. That's good story-telling. This is also very much a character-driven story as we slowly get to see what makes Shadow tick, and meet all these strange and wonderful side characters along the way. One of my favorite things are the "coming to America" vignettes, as we see how various different people have come here over the years, for various reasons and in various methods. 

 

This is the full-cast production of the tenth anniversary, and it's brilliant. All the voice actors do amazing jobs, especially the sole woman who has to do all the female voices and ends up doing more voices than anyone else because of it. This was engaging and memorizing and all the characters came to life while I was listening, and Gaiman's darkly poetic prose is done justice by the main narrator as well. Gaiman even narrates a couple of the vignettes early on, which is always a treat to hear his voice.

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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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