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review 2018-11-15 03:29
The Golem and the Jinni (Audiobook)
The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel - Helene Wecker,George Guidall

They say there are no new stories and only seven basic plots, and that is certainly true. Trying to find new ways to retell stories and spin those plots has been the tasks of authors and storytellers since the moment right after the very first story was ever told, and every once in a rare while an author comes along who can bring something truly fresh to the scene. This is such a book. 

 

It's been a long time since I've been this impressed by a book. Maybe it helps that I'm not especially familiar with golems or jinnis, though the mythology used here is on point with what I do know of them. The magic comes in putting these mystical creatures in turn-of-the century Big Apple and putting them both in positions that require them to examine and test their very natures. The supporting cast is equally as fascinating, from Ice Cream Selah, Maryam Faddoul, Arbeely, Rabbi Meyer and Michael Levy, to name a few. They're all trying to figure out life, figure out their place in it - even when they think they know what that place should be - and watching as the author weaves their various storylines together like the Fates at their loom. 

 

This was enrapturing, made even more so because I couldn't figure out where the story was going or how it would all be resolved. For every thread I managed to tie together, there were several others that I couldn't see how they connected. And I really didn't want to. I was happy to just sit back and allow the story to unfold in its own time, and it didn't disappoint.

 

The narrator, George Guidall, does a wonderful job capturing the many characters and bringing their cultures and neighborhoods to life. 

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review 2018-11-12 21:18
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2)
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy - Mackenzi Lee

While I enjoyed The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, I found it uneven in the way it handled both the historical and fantasy aspects of the story. It felt like neither one really got their fair share of the story, and both suffered as a result. So I was hesitant to give this one a try and probably would've passed it up if one of my groups hadn't chosen it for the book of the month.

 

This was a little slow to start, and Felicity drove me up the wall at first with her selfishness and single-mindedness. Ambition is all well and good, but when it comes hand in hand with stepping over anyone who gets in your way, I can't really back that person up. Thankfully, Felicity does a lot of growing up over the course of the book and it was fun to watch. 

 

I also really appreciated that this book examined all aspects of feminism and femininity, and didn't just focus on the "women can do men's work" aspect of it, because what is men's work anyway? It's a ludicrous concept. But so often in literature and media, girls or women who exhibit more "manly" traits - being good at fighting/killing, being aggressive, etc - are applauded, while women who are traditionally feminine are not. Just look at the different receptions that Arya and Sansa Stark get. This book shows that there's more than one way for women to be independent, strong and self-assured. With Felicity, Johanna and Sim, we get three such women as they go out into the world and figure out how to make their own way in it. It does get a little head-bashy at times, but this is still such an important message that girls need to learn and hear (there's no wrong way to be a woman), that I didn't mind it too much when it got a little preachy.

 

Also, Felicity is ace/aro and I identified so much with her on that aspect of herself. Because really, kissing? Ew. In addition to her is Sim, an African Muslim lesbian/bisexual (we don't really know; it doesn't really matter), and some cameos by Monty and Percy, so there's lots of LGBT+ rep in this book. 

 

I'm confused about who the girl in the cover is supposed to be though. Felicity has red hair, Sim is black, and Johanna doesn't come in until about a third of the way through, though the hair color's a match. But the story is told from Felicity's POV. *shrugs* It's a cool cover. :D

 

I thought the historical aspects were much better handled here than in the first book, and were given much better detail and attention. The fantasy elements too were better handled and integrated into the story, though it takes awhile for them to show up. 

I was still bemused about some of it though, in particular that Johanna doesn't bat an eye at learning that dragons are real. It makes sense for Felicity to take it in stride, given the previous book, but Johanna didn't know magic and alchemy and such were real until that moment. How about some doubt, at least? "I'll believe it when I see it" maybe. Something.

(spoiler show)

Johanna and Felicity both display some uncomfortable (but appropriate for the time) colonialist attitudes at points that I wanted to shake them for. 

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review 2018-11-12 19:52
The Return of the Water Spirit by Pepetela
The Return of the Water Spirit - Pepetela

This is a brief novella that takes aim at the hypocrisy and arrogance of Angola’s ruling classes. The political situation is symbolized by a couple: Carmina, a communist youth leader who later embraces exploitative capitalism when political winds shift; and her husband João, a well-meaning but ineffective man who retreats into computer games as the capital city of Luanda crumbles around him – quite literally, as buildings mysteriously collapse, leaving their occupants unharmed.

Knowing nothing about the country going in, I found this a fairly engaging read, and the story is well-translated, but it would likely work better for readers familiar with recent Angolan history. Magical realist and absurdist elements – like the dispossessed protesting by going nude in public – obscure the actual history, leaving the foreign reader wondering what really happened. And while it is difficult to separate the personal from the political in such a short and pointed story, there is this recurring notion that all is right in the home when the husband takes the reins and publicly chastises his wife; I wasn’t sure how much Pepetela finds Carmina’s ruling the roost objectionable simply because she’s a woman, and how much because this specific woman is morally bankrupt.

Nevertheless, this is an interesting book from which I did learn a bit about Angola, and at 100 pages it’s a very quick read.

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review 2018-11-12 17:22
Review: “The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton

 

~ 5 STARS ~

 

 

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review 2018-11-09 18:30
AGENT TO THE STARS by John Scalzi, narrated by Wil Wheaton
Agent to the Stars - John Scalzi

 

I don't want to give away anything about this story away-I think everyone should go into it as blindly as I did.

 

I thought this book was hilarious and fun, while also providing a little social commentary regarding the civil rights movement and the Holocaust, among other things.

 

I listened to the audio and Wil Wheaton nailed this one down tight. My only issue was the "he saids, she saids." They started to stand out for me towards the end-by that I mean they were irritating. "He said" doesn't need to be stated at the end of every sentence-and sometimes it felt like that's exactly what was happening. For this I subtracted half of one star.

 

Other than that one picky thing, (which probably would only bother me, I'm weird like that), I have no criticisms of this book at all. It was funny and creative and rather light on the science, which was fine by me.

 

Highly recommended to those who prefer their science fiction light, with big chunks of humor on the side!

 

*I bought this audiobook with my hard earned cash and this opinion is my own.*

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