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review 2021-01-04 04:16
Review: Dread Nation
Dread Nation - Justina Ireland,Bahni Turpin

To start, I have no idea what I was thinking when I decided I HAD to read this. I shall quantify this by saying, as someone who has lived her intire life dealing with the reality of slaver, racism, and mysoginy, I despise dealing with it in my fantasy world. I actively avoide books and movies that are racially charged or heavy with the sexism. Sometimes you can't avoid it, and sometime and book/movie is so effing fantastic that I can give it a pass. Dread Nation is going on the list. But make no mistake, the racism really grated on me.  Also, it was in first person perspective, which I normally loathe; this was not bad.

 

With that being said, this was an amazing story, and what drew it to me was zombies, combined with historical fiction, and black people in the forefront. The characters were fun and likeable, even when they were unliekable. The world building was amazing and the writing was incredible!

 

We follow Jane McKeene a half black/white girl who is a student at Miss Preston's School for Negro Girls (I think that's what it was called.) Basically when the dead decided to get up and walk during the battle of Gettysburg The Civil War "ended" and the war vs the Dead began. The North still "won" and blacks were given freedom, but not really. They, along with indigenous tribes were swooped and placed in combat schools where they taught them how to be on the frontlines in the battle against the dead, as well as beat their culture and "savageness" out of them so that they can better serve their white betters. Sigh, I'm letting the bitterness bleed into the review.

 

Anyway Jane gets thrust into crazy adventures and all around bad situations with her nemisise Kathrine Devaraux, who is also of mixed race, but a goody-goofy know-it-all, which irks Jane to no end. There are devious plots, secret "utopia" towns, crazy scientists with vaccines and terrible experiments. There is also the dead, which the characters refer to as shamblers. There's a lot of death, allies, betrayals and grudging friendships.

 

I've heard the narrator before and they were amazing. They captured the voices and brought the world to life.

 

Just read/listen to it; it was great!

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review 2020-08-31 05:52
From novelty to ubiquity
Cycling in Victorian Ireland - Brian Griffin

Given its ubiquity today, it can be difficult to appreciate how revolutionary the bicycle was when it was developed in the 19th century. In an era when most people were dependent upon walking to get to where they were going, the bicycle gave people greater individual mobility than had even been possible without a horse. Thanks to its low cost and the empowerment it offered, it took less than a generation for bicycles to go from a faddish novelty to a mode of transportation commonplace on the streets of cities throughout the Western world.

 

The introduction of the bicycle took place at a time when mass media covered new developments in almost obsessive detail. Brian Griffin drew upon this abundant record to delineate the early history of cycling in Ireland from the introduction of the first velocipede to the widespread adoption of the safety bicycle. It's an impressively detailed work that identifies by name the first bicyclists, traces the establishment of clubs and some of their key members, and describes society's evolving reaction to bicycles as their riders carved out a place for themselves on the roads and in daily life. This he sees not just in their employment by the hobbyist and the well-to-do, but their use by constables, civil servants, and priests in the performance of their daily duties. As Griffin makes clear, by the end of the century the bicycle enjoyed a prominent place in both practical activities and in the recreational life of the Irish.

 

Griffin's meticulous coverage of the bicycle's emergence in Ireland is a great strength of the book, as he captures within these details how people came to terms with the new technology of personal transport. He leavens this with humorous stories and a generous supply of details that capture the sometimes freakish novelty and occasional frustration with which people reacted to the bicycle. Yet Griffin rarely strays beyond the specifics to consider more generally the impact of cycling upon Ireland, such as in how it affected social mores or people's sense of time and space. It's an unfortunate gap in what is otherwise an interesting and even amusing study of the emergence of cycling in 19th century Ireland, one that should be read by anyone with a passing interest in either the subject or the era.

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review 2020-08-20 19:28
'Deathless Divide - Dread Nation #2' by Justina Ireland
Deathless Divide - Justina Ireland

In 'Dread Nation', Justina Ireland introduced us to an alternative America where the Civil War was interrupted by the rise of undead ‘Shamblers' and to Jane and Katherine, the top students in 'Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls'. In the violent conclusion to the first book, the two women are separated and Katherine believes Jane is dead. 

 

'Deathless Divide' carries straight on from 'Dread Nation' but with a significant change in format. Dread Nation' was told entirely from Jane's point of view. In 'Deathless Divide' the storytelling alternates between first-person accounts from Jane and Katherine. Some indication of the contrasting world views of the two women, Jane's chapters start with a quote from Shakespeare and Katherine's chapters start with a quote from the Bible. 

 

The new format has two advantages, we can follow two converging storylines and so cover a lot more territory and we get to know a lot more about Katherine.

 

What I liked most about 'Deathless Divide' is that, despite encountering zombie hordes, seeing an alternative San Francisco, getting an insight into the lives of a bounty hunter and following a long-running story arc on the mad scientist who is responsible for so much of the carnage, the book remained focused on the personalities of the two women and the relationship between them.

 

We learn that, although Katherine, who is just as deadly as Jane, she is more anxious, more introspective and more aware of the big picture. Katherine can pass for white, an ability she had to use in the previous book. In this book, she finally admits the strain that placed on her and how little she wants to pretend to be someone she is not. 

 

We also see Jane, driven by a need to kill the mad scientist, start to lose her humanity. Jane's descent into being a predator is captured with empathy but without compromise.

 

Both women have had to grow up fast since their days at Miss Preston's and have come to realise that they and their world have changed in ways that make the futures they thought they would have irrelevant and unobtainable. The way they help each other to find a future and to compensate for their weaknesses and overcome their fear and anger is at the heart of the story.

 

I liked that the brutality, greed, fear and racism that drives the America Jane and Katherine are trying to survive in remained plausible and all-pervasive. It seemed to me that the Shamblers sometime felt like a manifestation of all the hate and pain or perhaps a punishment for sin depending on whether you take Jane's Shakespearian or Katherine's Bible-based view.

 

One of the strengths of the book is Justina Ireland's prose. Let me give you some examples:

 

In her alternate timeline, the dynamic of the American Dream remains unchanged. True, in this world, the Chinese dominate San Francisco but, as she has one of her characters explain, everything else is the same 

‘Don’t let San Francisco fool you. It might seem pretty, but it’s been built on the same volatile mixture of greed and exclusion as the rest of this country. Now, it’s a powder keg just waiting for a spark.'

Then there are Jane's reflections on the conflicts and ironies of her own black-but-could-pass identity, for example:

‘The school had been built in the manner of a plantation house, and while such a design caused the other girls to suck their teeth and shake their heads, it made me feel something that few places have made me feel: safe...

...I do realize that there is a fine bit of irony in the architecture of oppression granting me a measure of peace, but keep in mind I was not always the woman awoken to the dynamics of power I became during my tenure at Miss Preston’s.’

Katherine is very much aware that she can't change who she is. At one point she says:

‘The thing that stuck with me from Miss Preston’s little speech was the idea that we were embarking on a new life. But the problem about starting a new life is you bring your old self with you.’

Then, later, when she's thinking about her own lack of attraction to men or women, she observes:

I have come to believe that it just is not in my being to feel such a powerful longing for a person, not physically nor romantically. I am sure that there are lots of reasons why, and folks most likely would try to blame my upbringing, which I would say is wholly incorrect. I am the way God has made me, and I shall not question the wisdom of my Creator.

We also get some great insights into Jane's decline. In the first book, she was irrepressible and proud of her achievements. In this book, as her life devolves to that of a vengeance-driven killing machine she feels the pain of it. She says to herself: 

It’s like someone took out all the things that made me Jane—all the good parts, and the bad—leaving nothing but rusty razor blades in their place.

And later:

Maybe this is what despair feels like, a slow descent into an infinite abyss.

'Deathless Divide' was a sequel that didn't let me down, The story kept its momentum and its emotional charge, making me care about the characters and keeping me needing to know what would happen next. The ending was satisfying, credible and left me just a little hope that there might be a third book

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review 2020-07-07 22:30
Review ~ Awesome!
Castle Walk - Melissa Bowersock

4.5

 

Book source ~ Kindle Unlimited

 

When the owners of the Castle Fitzpatrick in Ireland call Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud to come investigate some ghosts in the castle, Sam and Lacey are surprised. They had no idea that anyone had heard of their paranormal investigation business outside the western US. Lacey is even more surprised by the castle name. Is this a connection to her own family tree? She’s about to find out because they accept the offer and away they go.

 

Nice! I like how this one weaves Lacey’s family history into it. I’ve seen Sam’s family on the reservation, so it’s only fair to get some info on Lacey. And it’s a doozy! The ghosts are heart breaking though. I like the side characters and hope to see them again in another book. All-in-all a fast intriguing read.

Source: imavoraciousreader.blogspot.com/2020/06/castle-walk.html
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review 2020-07-02 18:23
'Dread Nation' by Justina Ireland - highly recommended.
Dread Nation - Justina Ireland

The cover of 'Dread Nation', by Justina Ireland was almost enough to make me buy the book without knowing anything else about it. It's a cover that's proud of itself. A cover that shows grace and threatens violence. A cover that says, 'You don't know me yet, but you should'.

 

Still, everyone knows you can't judge a book by its cover. You judge it by reading its first page. If the author can't get themselves together to deliver a hook on the first page, how likely is it that the rest of the book is going to be worth your time? So this is what made me by the book:

 

A PROLOGUE IN WHICH I AM BORN AND SOMEONE TRIES TO MURDER ME

 

The day I came squealing and squalling into the world was the first time someone tried to kill me. I guess it should have been obvious to everyone right then that I wasn’t going to have a normal life. 

It was the midwife that tried to do me in. Truth be told, it wasn’t really her fault. What else is a good Christian woman going to do when a Negro comes flying out from between the legs of the richest white woman in Haller County, Kentucky?

I love the tone of this and its immediacy. This is a writer with a voice and the voice belongs to an irrepressible negro girl called Jane McKeene, who I was already rooting for by the end of the first page.

 

Oh, and there are zombies. Not just any zombies. Civil War zombies. In Ireland's alternative history, the Civil War was brought to an end when the dead started to rise as 'shamblers' feeding on and infecting their comrades. Both sides in the Civil War recognised the need to stop fighting each other and start fighting the dead.

 

And where does our Jane fit in? The story starts with Jane being almost ready to graduate from 'Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls', after which she expects to find work as an Attendant assigned to defend a rich white woman from shamblers and inappropriate male attentions.

 

Justina Ireland explains at the end of the book that the Combat Schools were inspired by the 1860s concept of the 'American Indian Boarding Schools', which forcibly removed Native American children from their home and sent them to be 'civilised' in boarding schools that were designed to destroy their cultural identity by cutting off their hair, taking their clothes away from, forbidding them to speak anything but English and denying them contact with their families. In Ireland's alternate timeline, Congress passes the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, funding the creation of Combat Schools where negro and native children would be taken by force to be trained to stand between their white employers and the invading undead.

 

'Dread Nation' manages to be a lot of fun while avoiding being light-weight fluff. Jane is a remarkable creation: intelligent, resilient, brave and holding back a mountain of rage. The story is exciting and fresh. It would make great television.

 

The book moves along at a clip, with smooth, effortless world-building delivered as part of a tight plot where current actions are set in context by old letters between Jane and her mother. I found myself wanting to turn the pages to see what would happen next but most of all I wanted to learn more about the irrepressible Jane.

 

The book is full of dry, angry humour, most of it directed at the dangerous stupidity of bigotted white men too convinced of their own superiority to protect themselves from threats. Racism is front and centre, driving the actions of men disappointed by the inconclusive end to the Civil War.

 

I found that, by the second half of the book, I was deeply engaged with Jane and her companions. Hers is a life filled with pain, mitigated by very little hope and motivated by rage and a refusal to submit or give up.

 

'Dread Nation' is great entertainment. It's also a great way of showing the way racism and slavery twist the world out of shape, making the racist and slavers more monstrous than the shambling undead.

 

I strongly recommend this book to you. I was so impressed by Justina Ireland's writing that I immediately got a copy of the second book 'Deathless Divide' which carries on the action.

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