logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: the-bechdel-test
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-09-25 18:12
Sourdough / Robin Sloan
Sourdough: A Novel - Robin Sloan

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

 

I picked up this novel because I absolutely loved the author’s last offering, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. I won’t say that this book is completely different, because there are a few similarities, but don’t be expecting a clone of Penumbra if you choose to read it.

Lois Clary is a charming main character—a software engineer at a demanding company in San Francisco, she comes to realize that she needs more in her life than code and liquid meals. The beginning of this realization (the starter, if you will) is a bond with two brothers in her neighbourhood who run a food service out of their apartment—sour dough bread and spicy soup. When they run into visa problems, they move on, leaving their sourdough culture with Lois, their Number One Eater.

Anyone who has baked bread realizes that it takes skill. Lois leaps in with dedication and is soon getting more satisfaction from her bread baking than from her coding. Bread is indeed her ticket to real life and Sourdough follows her as she “rises” to meet new challenges. It made me wish that I could still eat gluten without consequences—instead I was driven to the kitchen to make gluten-free toast!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-27 22:43
Nice Girls Don't Live Forever / Molly Harper
Nice Girls Don't Live Forever - Molly Harper

Another fun Friday night spent with Jane Jameson. I’m glad I left a few months between #2 and this installment—Jane is best enjoyed in small doses. Especially as this book tips the scales much further towards paranormal romance than to regular urban fantasy.

I do love the sass and the snark that Molly Harper channels for Jane. And Jane needs them desperately in book 3 as she deals with relationship issues, both her vampire sire/boyfriend, Gabriel and her sister. Not to mention that her best friend Zeb & his werewolf bride are expecting twins and expecting Jane to keep all the crazy relatives out of the delivery room.

I appreciated that instead of one constant melt-down about the Gabriel situation, Jane decides to get on with her life. She concentrates on her business and its promotion—with the hilarious side effect of becoming embroiled in the local Chamber of Commerce (which seems to be populated with only women named Courtney). I also loved that her friendship with Dick Cheney progresses—Dick takes her out for an evening of drinking, not-talking, and fighting, just the cure for a heartache. The Dick & Jane schtick works well.

Also loving the fact that Jane has Jolene and Andrea as BFFs and that each of them have personalities & motivations of their own within the novel. Yes, the boys still loom large, but Jane definitely has some women friends to lean on. Yay!

4 sassy stars!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-10-22 21:13
The Woman in White / Wilkie Collins
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

'In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop... There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white'

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

 

Very Victorian. When I start to read books of this vintage, I have to remember to slow myself down and get ready to appreciate a story told in a different way from today’s literature. One of my earliest literature loves was H. Rider Haggard’s She, giving me an early appreciation of the Victorian novel which I can tap into when starting new works. The story is approached more slowly and circuitously.

I can certainly see why The Woman in White is considered a classic. Collins builds an intriguing mystery and a wonderful cast of characters. What a wonderful villain Count Fosco is! With his white mice, canaries, and cockatoo in tow!

The tale gives me great sympathy for the gentlewomen of the time—the course of one’s life determined so strongly by the choice of marriage partner. Once chosen, there was no escape and a woman was expected to stick by her husband, no matter how dreadful. Cheeringly, Laura’s lawyers seemed to be very protective of her, but one can consider how much they were protecting the woman versus the fortune.

And anyone who doesn’t like how their boss is treating them should attend to the life of a servant in this novel—where one can be yelled at, belittled, ignored, mistreated, even physically punished, all at a whim. [Just as an aside, do you suppose this is where the unfortunate tendency of some people to abuse staff at restaurants and retail stores comes from? People treating them like the unfortunate servants of the past?]

Definitely a worthwhile read if you are interested in the evolution of the mystery genre. Get a glass of wine, settle in for a leisurely evening or three, and prepare to make your way slowly through the evidence.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-10-06 03:13
Sick Reading: Ilona Andrews
Burn for Me - Ilona Andrews
Magic Bites - Ilona Andrews

I got super sick last week and read a half dozen trashy and less trashy PNR/UF books to salve my soul. Also, I managed to tear through all of the Mercy Thompson books, so I'm a little at loose ends as far as light reading goes. I hit a lot of different series to try them out, and next up is Ilona Andrews.

 

Turns out, Ilona Andrews a husband and wife writing team, which is fascinating, because they do an amazing fucking job. I started with Burn for Me, because it was on my ereader for some reason (see, a theme!) Burn for Me is the start of a new series, different from the Kate Daniels series that put them on the map. In this world, people who took a serum to activate magical talents a hundred years ago have been intermarrying to shore up the money and power amongst themselves. They are basically unaccountable to anyone, for anything. You know, like our world, but slightly more metaphorical. The main girl is a PI, who is called in to take the fall for a son of wealth and power gone rogue. 

 

I rarely actually laugh while reading, because I have a black black heart, but I did here, multiple times. Andrews is clever and funny, and utilizes a vocabulary typically unseen in urban fantasy. Burn for Me is definitely more on the urban fantasy end, so the growly love interest person isn't anywhere near the most important character, more's the better. The PI has a complex, loving, and exasperating family who are in the business with her, and they get in the way and help out in equal measure.

 

I'm also fairly confident that Burn for Me pretty much smashes the Bechdel test, which is also notable for a lot of paranormal romance (or actually just regular romance.) So, the Bechdel test is this thing where you ask if 1) there are two women with names and 2) if they talk to each other 3) about anything other than a man. There's a lot of problems with how the Bechdel test gets used, not the least of which is that of course failing the test is not an indicator of either poor quality or anti-feminist writing. I think its main utility is in broad genre statistics: how often does a particular set of writings tell the stories of women that do not hinge on the men in their lives?

 

PNR fails this test a lot, a lot, partially for the very obvious and understandable reason that mainstream romance by its very definition deals with romantic relationships mostly between heterosexual couples. (Of course there's M/M romance, but that has its own issues I'm not getting into right now.) So of course ladies talk to dudes, and when they talk to their lady friends, they talk about dudes. So far so good.

 

But really, PNR often takes this one step further, where there is often only one female character in dozens of guys (which you can see in everything from Mercy Thompson to the Black Dagger Brotherhood). If there is another female character, she's slagged as a slut or something, in opposition to the shiny, shiny perfection of the heroine. So it was just lovely to see a family unit of mostly women enacting real relationships that didn't necessarily have anything to do with the love interest. They had money problems and argued about who got the car and who was going to set the table. About how they were going to do their jobs. Just, my heart swells. 

 

Next I hit Magic Bites, which has to be one of Andrews's first novels (weirdly, a theme in my reading recently: start with later stuff and work back.) Not as accomplished as Burn for Me in terms of prose style, but still a damn fine novel, with an absolutely dynamite world to play around in. Kate Daniels lives in an alternate present where magic is swinging back into dominance, and the ascendance of either tech or magic happens randomly and without warning. The vacillation toward magic in the last 15 whatever years means that skyscrapers are falling down, and all of our magical technology is going dark. It's technically a mid-apocalyptic world, which O, baby. 

 

Kate is something between a PI and a bounty hunter, magically inclined. A father figure from her childhood, who works for the magical Order keeping magical shit in check, turns up dead, and she drives into a crumbling Atlanta to find his killer. It's one of those stories where she keeps getting the shit kicked out of her and running down blind alleys, but her general competence and grit gets her through. Something like magic noir. Reader, I enjoyed it greatly. I'm definitely gulping down the rest of this. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2016-09-13 15:02
The Dinosaur Knights / Victor Milan
The Dinosaur Knights - Victor Milán

Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often cruel world. There are humans on Paradise but dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden, and of war. Armored knights ride dinosaurs to battle legions of war-trained Triceratops and their upstart peasant crews.

Karyl Bogomirsky is one such knight who has chosen to rally those who seek a way from the path of war and madness. The fact that the Empire has announced a religious crusade against this peaceful kingdom, the people who just wish to live in peace anathema, and they all are to be converted or destroyed doesn't help him one bit.

Things really turn to mud when the dreaded Grey Angels, fabled ancient weapons of the Gods who created Paradise in the first place come on the scene after almost a millennia. Everyone thought that they were fables used to scare children. They are very much real.

And they have come to rid the world of sin...including all the humans who manifest those vices.

 

I enjoyed the first volume, The Dinosaur Lords, but the second volume The Dinosaur Knights is better. The world is already established, the reader knows the main characters, and the action is already underway. The dinosaurs continue to be awesome and the “rules” of their behaviour in Paradise (our non-Earth setting) are refined a bit. Now it is clear to me why the Tyrannosaurs don’t run amok. What is less clear (and may be fodder for future installments) is who exactly the Creators are and what their aims may be.

There are an awful lot of gritty battle scenes in both books, which generally are not my thing. However, to counter-act that, we have Imperial Princess Melodía joining the rebels and learning to be something besides an imperial princess. This book continues to honour the Bechdel test, as Melodía discovers unexpected female friends along the way. My only reservation is that these amigas seem to be very expendable and Milan eliminates them almost as quickly as he introduces them and never gently. There are fewer sex scenes, which is a blessing, as I don’t care for Milan’s execution of them.

I think the trick to enjoying these books is to go into them with an open mind. Probably it helps for me that I have never read any of George R.R. Martin’s books, to which Milan’s books are compared, most notably on the dust jacket. Milan shares Martin’s willingness to dispose of characters, and a certain gritty, somewhat medieval-like setting. Empty yourself of any other expectations before entering the world of Paradise, and you will be free to enjoy what Milan is offering.

There are a certain number of editing errors which bugged me along the way (‘our’ instead of ‘your’ and similar little glitches that would require re-reading of sentences to figure out what was meant). But over all, these small snafus didn’t ruin the reading experience.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?