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review 2017-08-08 20:13
Boundary Problems / Greg Bechtel
Boundary Problems - Greg Bechtel

In his confident debut, Greg Bechtel offers ten magnetically charged stories about the impossible-turned-possible — secrets, paranoia, sex, conspiracies, and magic — as he effortlessly shatters the boundaries between speculative and literary fiction.

Boundary Problems vibrates on the edge of meaning, as carjackers, accidental gunrunners, and small-town cabbies struggle to wring meaning from the strange events that overtake them. Bechtel’s worlds of mystery and magic constantly challenge his characters’ pursuit of logical explanations. These compelling tales blur lines and push boundaries — into the surreal, into the playful, into the irresistible energy of uncertainty.

 

I must be finally getting over my summer cold (its been kicking my butt for about a month now), because I felt the lure of reading something better and more complex than the fluff that I’ve been filling my summer with to date. This book has been sitting on my shelves for almost a year and the time had arrived—I picked it up with anticipation.

What a perfectly titled collection of short stories! All of them poke at boundaries of some sort—between physics and magic, mental health/illness, male/female, reality/illusion, self/others, past/present/future. How accurate is anyone’s assessment of the world? We each view it through our own lenses. The characters are ordinary people, made extraordinary by the author’s attention to their existence.

The writing is beautiful. The stories are a pleasure to read, but I hesitate to say that I fully understand them. They don’t spill their secrets too easily and I can see where I will likely read them again, more slowly and with more attention. Though each stands on its own, they also support one another, each providing a window into their creator’s imagination. The varied topics reveal an unexpected mix of experience and knowledge.

I will definitely be interested to see what Mr. Bechtel publishes next.

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review 2017-08-03 05:46
Podcast #62 is up!
The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology) - Eric H. Ash

My sixty-second podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Eric Ash about his history of the draining of The Fens in eastern England in the 17th century (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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review 2017-07-26 18:50
Wildfire / Ilona Andrews
Wildfire - Ilona Andrews

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…

Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.

As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

 

Well, I slurped that down in one evening flat! And it was delightful. I will no doubt read it again, savouring it more slowly.

All the signs point to the Hidden Legacy series consisting of only 3 books. But there are so many things that just call out for more volumes! Leon finally has found his magic and started to use it. Arabella and Catalina have been required to use their talents too. I need to know more about all of them.

Plus, the big conspiracy theory that has been behind all three novels hasn’t been fully explored yet. Sure, the conspirators sustain a lot of damage during the course of Wildfire, but we still don’t know who the criminal mastermind is.

The whole “becoming a House” process has just begun, and there are bound to me challenges. I want to know what those issues are! And how do Nevada & family cope with Evil Grandma?
Not to mention that I just enjoy Nevada’s family and would be interested in whatever crazy things they were doing. And although Nevada and Connor may seem like a done deal, those two will always have challenges and I want to witness those.

Please, Ilona & Gordon, tell me there will be more books in the Hidden Legacy world!!!

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review 2017-07-24 20:00
Broken Homes / Ben Aaronovitch
Broken Homes - Ben Aaronovitch

This installment meanders a bit, as it juggles multiple story lines, plus lessons in architecture. Thomas "Oh was that your Tiger tank?" Nightingale gets to show why he's the teacher and Peter & Lesley are the apprentices. I particularly enjoyed Toby's increased role in this book, being Peter's magic detector (the yap-o-metre) and camouflage (a man with a dog is virtually invisible, apparently).

Peter has matured since the first book. Lesley gives him a hard time, needling him about why he and Beverly Brook aren't sleeping together yet. In the first couple of books, Peter would have jumped in first and thought things through later, but he has learned to think with his big head and is suitably cautious. After all, if your relationship with a goddess goes pear-shaped, you know who is going to suffer most (and it won't be Beverly).

I'm still enjoying the effortless multicultural and inclusive cast of characters, however don't imagine that I have no criticism! I'm not wild about the Faceless Man as an antagonist (although I did enjoy Peter's reference to his lab as the Strip Club of Dr. Moreau). But, having read to the end of this volume, how can I doubt that I will read the next to see the next event in the drama?

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url 2017-07-22 19:10
Arguing History #2: Did the Protestant Reformation have to happen?

My second Arguing History podcast is up! In it, I host historians Peter Marshall and Alec Ryrie in a discussion of the question, "Did the Protestant Reformation have to happen?" Enjoy!

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