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Archive for April, 2011

Book Review: Soul Hunt by Margaret Ronald (Series, #3)

Blue-looking woman smelling the air.Summary:
Native Bostonian Evie Scolan is an adept bicycle courier and has her first real relationship in a while.  Of course, her life isn’t quite that simple.  First, she’s The Hound with an uncannily adept sense of smell that helps her find things.  Plus her boyfriend is a werewolf.  Then there’s the whole try to keep the magical Undercurrent in Boston under control so her beloved city doesn’t fall apart thing.  Not to mention the death sentence given to her by yet another sector of the Undercurrent giving her only until Midwinter to pull everything together.  Plus the Sox are sucking this season.

Review:
Yet again, I accidentally picked up a book that is partway through a series.  I’ve noticed this is a lot easier to do when it’s an ebook than a print book, because the print book tends to have a giant “3” or something on the binding, whereas the ebook gives you zero clue that this is part of a series.  Work on that, publishers.  Due to this fact, I spent the solid first half of the book trying to figure out what the heck was going on in Evie’s world.  Unlike paranormal romance that tends to offer up a quick recap of the important details, it would appear that urban fantasy isn’t so keen on that.  Well, that and Ronald’s world she has created is incredibly complex and hard to understand fully part-way into a series.

That aside, however, how is it for an urban fantasy novel?  Well, the fantasy element is strong and intensely connected to elements of urban living from good and bad neighborhoods to trolley tracks to old, abandoned buildings, to secret tunnels and ghosts.  This has it all if you’re after some seriously steeped fantasy.

Further, as a Bostonian myself, I can tell you that Ronald gets the local slang and layout of the neighborhoods right.  Personally, I think she’s a bit heavy-handed with the Red Sox love demonstrated by Evie.  I don’t really think Evie would be thinking about the Sox season sucking when she’s currently facing death, but maybe I’m just not enough of a fanatic myself.  Hah.

I think, perhaps, that why I couldn’t get into this partway through the way I could other series I started in the middle is that I don’t like Evie, and the mythos of the Undercurrent is way more confusing than it should be.  I can’t think of very much that’s appealing or redeeming about Evie as a character, which is problematic when she’s the heroine.  Similarly, she’s not beautifully broken or anything.  She reads as just…..average.  The fact that this is the case when she also has this weird supernatural nose is saying something.  Make Evie evil! Make Evie kick-ass! Just don’t make her so dull that I have zero doubt that I wouldn’t give her a second glance if I happened to see her on the streets of Boston.

Similarly, the mythos of the Undercurrent seems to change to suit the author’s needs.  Maybe I was missing plot twists from missing the earlier books, but it all just seems so much more complex than it needs to be.  Plus, what exactly makes Evie repeatedly go up against demigods when her only supernatural talent is the nose thing?  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  That and the whole part dog thing is just….ew.

I came into this wanting to love it, as I do with any book set in my home of Boston.  The fact is though, too much turned me off from it.  It is a fairly well-written urban fantasy, though, and a nice change from the typical southern setting we see.  I’d recommend it to urban fantasy fans looking for a change of scenery who don’t mind a rather ordinary heroine who’s basically part dog.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Previous Books in Series:
Spiral Hunt
Wild Hunt

Friday Fun! (What’s Important to Me)

April 15, 2011 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking the last few months about what really matters to me.  I guess you’d say what values I hold dear.  I didn’t just stick with the ones I was raised with.  I’ve done a lot of research and soul-searching to figure out what’s important to me.  That’s what makes me stick so strongly to my guns on things I truly believe in.  The more time that has passed since I’ve gotten back on my feet from the awfulness that was winter, the more I realize that what it all boils down to, for me, is that I haven’t lost hope in the world.  I have hope that we can change the world.  I have hope we can make it a better place.  I have hope we can fix the trajectories of previous generations’ bad decisions.  I have hope that the cycles of violence, grief, and pain can stop.  We only have to want it.  I firmly believe that Gandhi was right when he said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  That is at the core of my belief system.  I don’t have faith in a god or spirits to fix things.  I don’t have faith in government to fix things.  But I do have faith in myself.  I have faith that I can change for the better.  The cycles of violence and pain stop with me.  That basic philosophy extends out into everything else I do, from my firm belief in vegetarianism (that is gradually moving toward veganism) to my commitment to someday adopt at least one child.  And I just can’t be around negative people anymore.  I can’t be close to people who are willing to just give up.  Humanity didn’t struggle and evolve so much to just quit evolving.  It’s just that maybe the next step of evolution has more to do with our minds and our behaviors than how our bodies work.

Namaste, yo.

Book Review: The Group by Mary McCarthy

April 14, 2011 2 comments

Black and white picture of a group of women.Summary:
A collection of women graduate from Vassar in the 1930s.  Their friendship is known collectively as “The Group,” and their distinctive Vassar education has given them a distinctly liberal view on the world.  How this changes with time as they repeatedly encounter societal expectations and relationship problems are told through a series of vignettes that focus in on moments in their lives over the seven years after graduation.

Review:
I am so glad that Nymeth’s review made me add this to my wishlist.  This piece of historical fiction told entirely through women’s lives looks at women’s issues in an oft-ignored time period–1930s America.  Particular issues that impact these women’s lives and dreams include birth control, gender norms, violence against women, and social justice.

Moving smoothly through the seven years but changing perspectives by spending a chapter or two on each woman in turn, we get a glimpse of their lives.  For instance, early in the book we see Kay’s life in detail, but later we only catch glimpses of it through her friends’ eyes.  This lends a greater sense of depth and mystery to these women’s lives.  What happened to change them?  How drastic of an impact did certain events have on their lives?  Are they truly happy now?  Much like real life, the reader can only speculate based on the limited information she has.

The style of looking at women’s issues in history through the lives of multiple women lends a depth to the story that would not be there if it was told in the traditional manner of focusing in on one single woman.  The, essentially, cluster-fuck of circumstances, expectations, and personality that come together to create the different lives they end up leading is endlessly fascinating to study and ponder.

This book humanizes women’s issues in the 1930s and brings them to light in an engrossing manner.  I highly recommend this book to anyone with a love of historic fiction or an interest in women’s issues.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Book Review: Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe and Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning by Jeffrey Hollender

Images of a clean home and trees.Summary:
An introduction to the green concept of natural cleaning, this book gives an overview of why chemical cleaners are bad for people and the environment.  Summaries of the scientific evidence are followed by introductory advice on all-natural cleaning and keeping your home as unpolluted as possible.

Review:
Although the concept of cleaners polluting the home seems at first glance like a non-issue, the scientific evidence presented in this book clearly demonstrates that it is an issue.  For example:

“Ordinary household products such as cleansers, cosmetics, and paints are now the Los Angeles region’s second-leading source of air pollution, after auto tailpipe emissions, air quality officials say.” Location 182

Ok, but we don’t want to live in dirty squalor, right?  The book goes on to clearly point out various natural, safe cleaners that work just as well as regular cleaners, although perhaps requiring a bit more elbow grease.

Although at first I was concerned that the fact that the book was written by the founder of the Seventh Generation cleaning company would lead it to bias or to essentially be an ad for their products, neither was the case.  Where products are listed, natural cleaning competitors are included.  Further, instructions are given on cleaning your house with products as cheap as vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

Be cautioned, though, that this is definitely an introductory book.  It reads more as a pamphlet to get you headed in the right direction than as a change your entire life guide.  As such, I recommend it to those who’ve never considered the benefits of cleaning with natural products before.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Stop the War on Women

April 8, 2011 2 comments

That’s it.  I’ve had enough.  It’s bad enough that I’ve lived my whole life, half of which has been lived in the 21st fucking century, with outdated, outmoded, misogynistic mores, norms, laws, and principles in action.  That’s bad enough.  But on top of that, instead of seeing that improve with my lifetime, it’s sliding back down the fucking hill!

Our foremothers (yes, foreMOTHERS) didn’t fight the fight for the vote, the right to be recognized as an individual outside of our fathers, brothers, and husbands, the right to make our own choices for ourselves, the right to an education, the right to our own bodies, just to see it slip back away out of our grasps in the 21st century.  Worse, not only are they slowly chipping away at our rights, but gradually the respect we used to garner is slipping away.  It’s disgusting. It’s despicable.  I’m tired of it.  It needs to stop.

It’s bad enough that we are constantly barraged with what we *should* wear and what our hair *should* look like and whether or not we *should* wear makeup and what type of body is the *most* womanly and whether or not to eat a fucking salad on the first date.  What happened to our right as Americans to be ourselves and pursue our own fucking happiness?!  If I want a salad, I’ll have a salad.  If I want a whole chocolate bar, I’ll eat the goddammed whole chocolate bar.  If I want to bench press weights, I will, and I shouldn’t have to worry about being considered not womanly or being “accused” of being a lesbian (like that would be a *bad* thing?!).  I should be able to just be myself and let people appreciate me for me.

I am not a bad member of this country!  I pay my taxes.  I pay attention to what’s going on around me.  I do my best to be a positive element of society.  And what?  I’m bad because I’ve used Planned Parenthood in my day?  I’m bad because I plan ahead because, brothers, we’ve all seen your track record for sticking around and being a fucking man about life if a woman does get pregnant and decides to keep the baby.

Do you know what there’s an epidemic problem of in this country?  It isn’t women being immoral.  It’s men refusing to GROW THE FUCK UP and behave like adults!  What is so fucking terrifying about treating women like equals?  What is so fucking terrifying about letting us have our nature-given right over our own fucking reproduction system?   Is it a fact that a 24 year old woman in Boston has more balls than you do?  Because I can tell you, I’ve stood up for my rights to fuckers like you many many times over the course of my life, and that takes a lot more balls than to tromp on people who are just trying to keep their natural-born rights.  Are you really that much of a pussy that I have more balls than you do?  Let us have our rights!  Better yet, get beside us and *fight* for them!  That’s what a real grown-up man would do.

Donate to Planned Parenthood

Donate to NARAL

 

Friday Fun! (Netflix)

April 8, 2011 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  Sorry for the slow week on the blog.  Normally if I’m caught up in a few longer books at a time, I’d grace your presence with movie reviews, but *shocker* I haven’t really been watching anything lately.  In fact, I’m watching tv and movies so infrequently that I’m having this mental debate about whether or not to suspend my Netflix subscription.  There once was a time when I only very rarely watched a movie, and generally I would do so in the theater or borrow a dvd from a friend.  I think I’m shifting back to that persona.  There’s just so much else to do!  Even playing a videogame is preferable, because, let’s be honest, with my xbox I can either play an active kinect game or play on live with friends.

I’ve become so much more active now that I’m getting back to who I really am that honestly by the time I get home, I would rather spend a couple of hours making myself an amazing dinner or make something quick then snuggle up in bed with a book and my cat.  I know that might sound pathetic, but I don’t even get home until late most nights due to plans with friends or going to the gym or heck, just wanting to be outside.  I like it that I get home and am exhausted.  I like feeling at the end of the day like I’ve done something with myself.  I like that it doesn’t take me hours and hours to fall asleep.

So what’s the point of having Netflix?  I like watching instantly, but honestly, most of the time I watch things on hulu or mtv.  I’ve had the same disc from Netflix since the beginning of February.  The more I think about it, the more it seems like an unnecessary expense.  Yet whenever I go to suspend it I think *wait*, but what if there’s a movie or a documentary or a tv show I really want to see and Netflix is my only choice?  What then?!

I think I’m at a stand-still of indecision for the moment. 😛

Book Review: Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor (Series, #1)

April 6, 2011 4 comments

Faerie on a crow.Summary:
Magpie Windwitch has spent most of her life traveling the world with her parents fighting to save the faerie magic and rid the world of demons and devils mannies accidentally loose from their bottle prisons.  Now chasing after a surprisingly powerful demon has brought her and her crew of crow guardians back to her birthplace of Dreamdark, a faerie land no mannie can enter.  Here she encounters more members of her generation of faeries, including Poppy who can speak to plants and Talon who possesses an extraordinary knitting talent.  Soon Magpie will discover not only secrets about the world, but about herself as well.

Review:
I’ve been working at reading from the bottom of my print TBR pile, and I really do wish I could remember what led me to pick up this book.  Faeries and fantasy are generally not my thing, but clearly something caught my eye about this story, and rightly so, for I found myself swept into the tale and really quite enjoying it.

Taylor has created a fun heroine with all the usual traits of a chosen one in fantasy.  Blessed by those more powerful, something special about her, has a few flaws such as a strong will, yadda yadda.  One thing that really sticks out though is that she’s a girl.  The chosen champion is a girl, and so was the most famous prior champion.  Nice to see that difference!  Plus, seeing a guy fall for a girl because she’s exciting, adventurous, and strong-willed is always fun to see depicted for a change.  I truly enjoyed Magpie and Talon, and to me they are the ones who held the story together.

The faerie world is richly imagined without crossing over into being overly romanticized or sexualized like so many faerie stories are wont to do currently.  The entire setting reminds me of the books about the adventures of animals in the woods that we humans just can’t see that I used to so enjoy reading as a child.  It’s just that in this case in addition to the animals, there are faeries.

The author was inspired by her own drawings, and they pepper throughout the book.  They are truly beautiful drawings, and I found myself stopping reading entirely just to get lost in them.  Don’t read this one on the tiny screen of an iPod.

The mystery itself is logical within the setting, although it honestly seemed a bit trite and commonplace among fantasy.  I was hoping for something a bit more unique.  Must every fantasy story be about saving the whole world?  Additionally, there were a few side-plots that seemed totally unnecessary, particularly once all was revealed at the end of the book.

On the other hand, the more progressive aspects of the story-telling excuse these short-comings in my mind.  Taylor gently expresses a necessary respect for all living creatures, as well as non-gendered expectations and inter-racial relationships.  I confidently recommend this to those seeking a fantasy story for middle-grade or YA readers with these positive elements.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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