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review 2018-05-25 22:00
"An Argumentation Of Historians - The Chronicles of St Mary's #9" by Jodi Taylor
 An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary's - Jodi Taylor,Zara Ramm

 

 

So the last St. Mary's book, "And The Rest Is History"mangled my emotions with great skill, putting me through much more angst than any allegedly light story about time-travelling historians has a right to. In her introduction to "An Argumentation Of Historians", Jodi Taylor says that her publishers asked if she could make this volume a little less depressing.  I think she managed that, but only just.

 

When Max says towards the start of the book:

"It had been a bad year but it was over now. I could look forward to the future"

I'm sure not a single reader will believe her.

There are lots of good things in this chronicle of St. Mary's. I was immediately back at home watching St. Mary's muddle through with stout hearts, awful luck and a reckless excess of pluck. We started off at a joust with Henry VIII and at the burning of Persepolis with Alexander the Great. It was all good stuff.

 

When it turned out that Clive Roland was back as the big bad and I became less pleased. This is a man with all of Time to choose from who still chooses to spend his energies plotting revenge on Max. He's apparently clever enough to avoid the might of the Time Police yet too dumb to kill Max on sight. I've had enough of that. I'd like a new bad guy. or at least the slow, painful and definitively final excoriation of this one. I found myself saying: "New balls, please!"

 

Then Jodi Taylor did it again. Just as I'd grown dissatisfied, Max ends up, lost, alone and with no hope of rescue in England in 1399 and we are treated to an engaging story of her efforts to make a life for herself there. This part of the book, which seemed like half of it, is wonderfully done.

 

The plot twist at the end holds up and explains a lot of the action but I didn't find it as satisfying as the 1399 section.

 

This was a good St. Mary's episode with some evocative pieces and it moves the story arc along but I'll be happier if/when we get a different big bad on the scene (although I'd be happy to applaud clever and violent revenge in the meantime.

 

 

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text 2018-05-23 14:50
Reading progress update: I've read 40%. -Clive Roland - AGAIN? New balls please
 An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary's - Jodi Taylor,Zara Ramm

I'm loving being back in St. Mary's and watching them muddle through with stout hearts, awful luck and a reckless excess of pluck. This time we're at a joust with Henry VIII and at the burning of Persepolis with Alexander the Great. It's all good stuff.

 

Except...

 

Clive Ronan is back as the big bad. This is a man with all of Time to choose from who still chooses to spend his energies plotting revenge on Max. He's apparently clever enough to avoid the might of the Time Police yet too dumb to kill Max on sight.

 

Enough.

 

Time for a new bad guy.

 

Or at least the slow, painful and definitively final excoriation of this one.

 

New balls, please.

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review 2018-05-22 18:24
Robots Vs. Fairies
Robots vs. Fairies - Sarah Gailey,Lila Bowen,Alyssa Wong,Jim C. Hines,Maria Dahvana Headley,Linda Howard,Seanan McGuire,Mary Robinette Kowal,Madeline Ashby,Ken Liu,Lavie Tidhar,Annalee Newitz,William Ewart Gladstone,Jeffrey Ford,Catherynne M. Valente,Jonathan Maberry,John Sca

Rampaging robots! Tricksy fairies! Facing off for the first time in an epic genre death match!

People love pitting two awesome things against each other. Robots vs. Fairies is an anthology that pitches genre against genre, science fiction against fantasy, through an epic battle of two icons.

On one side, robots continue to be the classic sci-fi phenomenon in literature and media, from Asimov to WALL-E, from Philip K. Dick to Terminator. On the other, fairies are the beloved icons and unquestionable rulers of fantastic fiction, from Tinkerbell to Tam Lin, from True Blood to Once Upon a Time. Both have proven to be infinitely fun, flexible, and challenging. But when you pit them against each other, which side will triumph as the greatest genre symbol of all time?

 

A perfect coffee break book for those who appreciate either robots or fairy tales. I could read 1, sometimes 2, short stories per break.

My particular favourites were Build Me a Wonderland by Seanan McGuire, Murmured Under the Moon by Tim Pratt, and A Fall Counts Anywhere by Catherynne M Valente.

I’m a McGuire fan girl, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed her story. It reminded me of her last novel of the Incryptid series, featuring an amusement park as it does. Ms. McGuire seems to be a fan of these facilities and so writes about them enthusiastically. She also writes the October Daye series, so is firmly on Team Fairy, although the story also features some robotic elements.

I will definitely be looking for more work by Tim Pratt! He has combined two of my favourite things, libraries and the Fae. I really, really liked this story.

Catherynne Valente’s offering was great, in that it utilized both robots and fairies, involved in a WWE type competition, complete with a combat ring and loud commentators! Her names for the robot contestants were excellent and she had me smiling all the way through the story.

I enjoyed all the stories to one degree or another, but those 3 were my highlights. I like robots just fine, but count me on Team Fairy all the way! I love those treacherous, dangerous, beautiful beings.

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review 2018-05-18 18:04
The Bloodsworn / Erin Lindsey
Bloodsworn - Erin Lindsey

As the war between Alden and Oridia draws to its conclusion, the fates of both kingdoms rest on the actions of a select group of individuals—and, of course, the unbreakable bonds of blood...
 
Unbeknownst to most of Alden, King Erik, in thrall to a cruel bloodbinder, is locked away in his own palace, plotting revenge. To save her king, Lady Alix must journey behind enemy lines to destroy the bloodbinder. But her quest will demand sacrifices that may be more than she can bear.
 
Meanwhile, as the Warlord of Oridia tightens his grip on Alden, the men Alix loves face equally deadly tasks: her husband, Liam, must run a country at war while her brother, Rig, fights a losing battle on the front lines. If any one of them fails, Alden could be lost—and, even if they succeed, their efforts may be too late to save everyone Alix holds dear...

 

I liked this book just a little less than the first book. And as I sat down to write this review, I realized why. I’ve accidentally read book 3 before book 2. Oops! That would explain all the references to events in the past that I was unfamiliar with. I enjoyed the book anyway (and I’ll read book two when it becomes available at the library), but that explains why I sometimes felt like I was in the fog.

The main reason that I would remove half a star from my rating is the amount of agonizing that Lady Alix, Prince Liam and King Erik do during the course of the novel. All three of them flagellate themselves over decisions they’ve made. Now, most people regret some actions from their past, but don’t most of us also realize that there’s no use dwelling on our mistakes and move on? Do what you can to right the situation and move forward.

I think perhaps this is the author’s way to prove to her readers that these are “good people.” Evil people are sure they are doing the right thing, good people are forever questioning their own motives.

Nevertheless, fantasy is my happy place and I have to appreciate that a woman with a sword saves the day as often as any of the men do. The author will be at a conference that I’m attending this summer and I’ll be most interested to hear what she has to say on any number of topics.

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review 2018-05-18 15:39
"Odd &True" by Cat Winters
Odd & True - Cat Winters

"Odd & True" was a pleasant surprise: a tale of two sisters that blends historical fiction about women in America at the start of the twentieth century, the hunting of supernatural monsters in the wild woods of New Jersey and an exploration of how the stories we tell ourselves and each other shape who we become.

 

It is a peculiar book that resists categorisation, insisting on creating its own unique place on my mental bookshelf. For me, it's mainly a book about how women empower themselves and each other and how belief is, in itself, a form of magic.

 

Most of the action of the book is set in 1909 and revolves around two teenage sisters, Odette (Od) and Trudchen (Tru) who are on a mission to hunt the Jersey Devil.

 

Od and Tru are not the Winchester brothers in early twentieth-century dresses and the story is not primarily about the hunting of a monster, although it is about the creation of heroines.

 

The story is told from three perspectives in parallel. These tellings interact with one another in a way that makes truth something complex, agile and hard to fix in a single voice.

 

We hear from Tru, the younger sister who polio has left with a withered leg and constant pain, remembering her unquestioning belief in the stories her older sister told her of how the women in her family were fierce protectors who used magic to hunt monsters and her struggle to see this belief as anything other than a lie told to bolster the spirits of a crippled girl when her sister leaves home and sends back less than credible stories of her current life in a circus.

 

We get to read Od's account of her childhood and the traumas in it that she used stories and will-power and intimacy to try and shelter her sister from and then we learn of the things that nearly destroyed her in the two years she was away from home.

 

The third perspective is the present-day (1908) story of Od reuniting with Tru and taking her on a monster hunt.

 

This is not a light-weight tale. It's full of ugliness, pain and despair. None of it is exploitative but all of it is credible. It makes clear all the ways in which woman are vulnerable and how little support they have, except from each other.

 

It is also a tale of magic, not in the "clap your hands if you believe in fairies" kind of magic but the sort that you have to make for yourself by belief and courage and love.

There's a lot in the book about people who have lost their magic, or at least their hope. Od tries to explain this to Tru by saying

"Life has a way of knocking the whimsy out of people, Tru."

Yet as Od re-unites with Tru and starts to build up her courage again, she reaches a decision about the central choice the book asks readers to consider:

"I'd decided I'd rather be foolish than ordinary. I'd rather risk chasing monsters that might not exist, searching for a child I'm not meant to find, than to believe we're nothing more than mundane characters, steeped in ordinary lives."

By the end of the book, I could see that embracing the possibility of magic in our lives, of being and doing something more than the accommodating the inevitable and enduring the unacceptable is the first step to making ourselves magical. Magic is not used as a Get Out Of Jail Free card here. You can't just click the heels of your ruby slippers together to make everything alright but, with work and courage and love you can become something better than who you're being told to be even if you can't become the Princess you dreamed of being when you were a child.

 

This is my first Cat Winters book but it won't be my last. I like the way she makes me think and I love the way her characters see the reality of the world but don't let themselves be entirely determined by its expectations and constraints. 

 

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