Friday, June 29, 2012

Singled out : how singles are stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored, and still live happily ever after by Bella DePaulo

Herewith, my un-review of this book. More a stream-of-consciousness-ramble of what the book made me think…

I’m single. I’m happy. I don’t want to be in a relationship. I don’t want to share a house with another person – in any way, shape or form. I don’t want children of my own.

There you go. My cards on the table before I get into discussing the book.

First up – it is thought-provoking. Seriously. Yeah, I know that gets said a lot in reviews (I say it a lot). But I do mean it. Have I ever been discriminated against, because I’m single? Has there been inherent ‘singlism’ in anything said to me?

Do I fit any of the myths about singles? Or, do the myths fit me?

Am I really content and happy with my life, or am I just fooling myself? Am I really just miserable, and faking it, so well I can’t tell the truth? Am I worried about being lonely for the rest of my life?

So, I asked myself these – and more – questions while I read through. I pondered the implications. I searched my soul.

And, you know what, I’m going live happily ever after. I may be alone, but I’m not lonely. I do not, and will not, have a partner and children. But, I have great family and friends. I have connections and people in my life that matter. And I matter to them. People will notice if I don’t turn up somewhere – I won’t be one of those stories, where single, lonely woman is found days/weeks/months/years later dead, eaten by her cat. People will mourn my death, and absence in their lives.

Anyway, for other singles out there – read this. Reaffirm your beliefs in yourself and your feelings. Don’t feel pressured to become coupled, if that’s not what you want. Do not give in to the tyranny of ‘matrimania’ that society inculcates. Be strong. And be yourself.

There really isn’t anything out there like this… a lot of titles that purport to be about being single, and happy – are really matrimania manuals in disguise. Beware!

The best I can do (apologies to Brilla, for breaking to rules) is offer a link to the author’s website, which has other things to read… 

~ Thalia.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Trafficked by Kim Purcell

Hannah lives in Moldova with her elderly grandmother, an orphan after her mother and father died in a cafe explosion.  It is not an easy life, and Hannah has to work hard at the market to help keep a roof over their head, but she is loved and knows the value of hard work.  Her one real regret, is that she had to drop out of school to work, and she feels the distance growing between her and the friends she had to leave behind.  Her best friend Katya shares her hopes and dreams, but when Hannah is offered the chance to travel to America and become a nanny, Katya suddenly seems less supportive and warns Hannah not to go - advice that Hannah really should have listened to.

Her life in America is not what Hannah expected - she works long hours every day, and worst of all, they call her Elena because that is the name on the fake passport her agent used to get her into the States.  Hannah was promised $400 a week and the chance to learn English, but what she got was an abusive mother who is jealous of Hannah, long working days, no chances to leave the house, and being told she has to pay back the money it cost to bring her over at the measly rate of $100 a week.  Hannah is a slave to the family that brought her over, and the only thing that keeps her going is knowing that the father knows something about her beloved uncle, and he may know about her parents too.

I knew that Trafficked would not be an easy book to read when I picked it up, because the subject matter of the book is not an easy one - a teenage girl trafficked into slavery in America.  In some ways though, I have to confess that I was a little disappointed that the story line was not a little more gritty, that there was not more trauma for Hannah.  That may sound a little cold, or a little hard to swallow, but in a lot of ways what Hannah went through was relatively easy - she worked long hours, she had to put up with being called names, and she had some unwanted attention from the father, but it was in many ways a kind of best case scenario for a girl like Hannah in real life. 

The author obviously wanted to make a point about slavery and how wrong it is, but the book just seems to miss some of the best opportunities to be a little grittier, to really make you feel Hannah's loss.  It was a great read but left me just a little bit wanting.  If you are after a real life read then Trafficked may be the book for you - just bear in mind that Hannah and her story happens every day and every year all around the world, and that Hannah's story is one of the pleasant ones.

If you like this book then try:
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Beneath a meth moon by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, June 18, 2012

Home from the sea by Mercedes Lackey

Mari Prothero lives by the sea in a little cottage she shares with her da, it is a simple life and the only one she has ever known.  Their lives are unremarkable, except for her fathers unbelievable luck on the sea and the little creatures that Mari sees when she is near water.  The reason for the luck is explained when Mari reaches her birthday and her father tells her that an ancient pact binds their family to the Selch - that each generation of Prothero take a Selch for their spouse with one of the resulting children staying with the Prothero family, and the other returning with their Selch parent to the sea.  It is a hard bargain for Mari to keep, but to keep her father safe she makes a bargain with the chieftain of the Selch clan, but it is a bargain that still bears a terrible cost.  To make matters worse a new constable has come to their village, and he is determined to find malcontents and misfits, and because of where they live and the tragic loss of Mari's mother, the constable soon sets his sights on Mari and her father.

Home from the sea is the latest in the Elemental Masters series from Mercedes Lackey, and one of the things I love about this series is that it takes fairy tales and traditional tales and reworks them and brings them into a more modern time, twisting elemental magic around the main characters.  It sounds like it should be complicated or difficult to follow, but I really enjoy the echoes of the originals that come through in Lackey's updated version of the stories, and from talking to other readers they enjoy the same thing.  While most of the series has been easy to place (Sleepy Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella) some have not been so easy, and Mari's story is one that I can't place - but that didn't stop me from enjoying the story.

While this series is not for everyone, particularly Unnatural issue, this is an engrossing story that became something of a guilty pleasure while I was supposed to be doing other things.  The story builds and builds and just when you think you know what is going to happen there is a twist or a turn that keeps you reading until the satisfying conclusion.  Another great read from a modern fantasy master.  If you enjoy this series then you may also enjoy the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series.

If you like this book then try:
  • The Fire rose by Mercedes Lackey
  • The serpent's shadow by Mercedes Lackey
  • Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey
  • Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
  • Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Rose daughter by Robin McKinley
  • Spindle's end by Robin McKinley
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The surrender of Miss Fairbourne by Madeline Hunter

I was intrigued by the premise of this one: a middle class woman trying to run her family's business, in the absence of male family members; and her romance with an earl.
Being well-verse in the rules of historical romances, I know (well, we all do) that said woman will, at the very least, end up proposed to by said earl. Such pairings are rare in historical romancelandia, you must admit. It's usually of equal standing or, at the least, aristocrat / gentry. And, she's not a pretty, somewhat brainless debutante - but an older woman (well, mid-20s, which is older in this world) with opinions she's not afraid to articulate.
That's one of the great things about modern authors of historical romance - they're not afraid to shake conventions up a little (or a lot). This one is set during the Napoleonic War period (the wider-Regency period), which tends to have marriages between social equals. (Novels set slightly later might have an untitled, but rich, American heiress.)
Emma Fairbourne's character is well-drawn, with all the stresses, distress, fear and despair her situation places her in. Southwaite's actions are also understandable. Nothing really comes out of left-field, and their relationship develops in believable ways. That said, their emotions are shown more through action, rather than internalised monologue.
A couple of quibbles, though:
It was a bit surprising when Emma suddenly called him Darius. On page 291, she is using Southwaite, on page 304 it's Darius - with little private interaction between them in the intervening pages. In historical romancelandia, much is usually made of the change to personal names, rather than titles.
Then there's a continuity error (at least, I'm pretty sure there's one). On the night of the big auction, on page 211, Emma is described as wearing a dusty lavender dress. On page 234, Southwaite internally mentions the dove gray of the dress she had worn to the auction. Nit-picking, I know, but it did jolt me out off the reading, and to flicking back through to verify my suspicions, as my head says 'hold on, I thought she was wearing lavender?'
But, I will be waiting for the others in the series. What is the story of Lydia, Southwaite's sister? What is Cassandra's full history? Does Kendale become human? Preferrably with the help of the mysterious Marielle. I'd guessed that the other pairings would be Ambury and Cassandra, and Kendale and Marielle. I would also like more on Lydia.
Now, my first supposition is borne out by the pre-release info on The conquest of Lady Cassandra - yes, Ambury and Cassandra.

Books I thought of, while reading this one:
  • A civil contract by Georgette Heyer. Same period. Some societal mis-match. Plain-spoken female 'cit', with far less polish than Miss Fairbourne - and physical appeal. But, this is a marriage of convenience.
  • The toll-gate by Georgette Heyer. Same period. Some skullduggery with a female trying to protect her family.
  • The river knows by Amanda Quick. Working woman and titled hero.
~ Reviewed by Thalia.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sweet venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Gretchen walks a knifes edge between the world everyone knows, and the world where the monsters and creatures of mythology can appear in downtown San Francisco.  Her life has been pretty frantic for the past four years, ever since she ran away from home and Ursula found her.  Finding Ursula was one of the best things that happened to Gretchen, Ursula proved that the monsters were real and gave Gretchen a place to live and train, a chance at a (slightly) normal life.  But things have been changing in the past few weeks, the monsters are more numerous than they have been in the past, and they are really messing with Gretchen's ability to stay awake and focused at school with all her late night hunts - and she hasn't seen Ursula in a few days which makes her more than a little worried.

Grace has moved from small town USA to San Francisco, and while the chance to attend an elite school is too good to miss, she has somehow found herself on the wrong side of one of the schools mean girls.  Her brother has also made friends with Milo, a boy who sets Grace's heart fluttering every time he's around, a distraction that comes in handy when Grace finds out that she wasn't imagining things when she thought she saw a minotaur in a restaurant.  When Grace crosses paths with Gretchen she discovers that they are descendants of Medusa, guardians of their world who must protect people from the monsters - and then she finds out that they are not twins, they are triplets - and there is a powerful destiny waiting for them.  When they find their sister things don't go as planned, which is a shame really, as both sides of a war know that they exist, and their lives are in danger.

Sweet venom looked like it could be a fun read, taking mythology as we know it and turning it on its head.  I thought initially that it was a stand alone book as there was nothing to indicate that it is part of a series, but by the time I was most of the way through it became clear that it was the beginning of a series (according to Amazon it will be a trilogy).  The pace seemed a little off for a stand alone, but it was just right for setting the scene for the start of a trilogy, and as each of the chapters is "voiced" by one of the sisters it allows for some great storytelling as you can learn along with one sister what is happening, without the character "remembering" some random facts or depending on too much back story.

There is a great blend of action, drama, and fantasy in Sweet venom, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the sequel Sweet shadows which is due for release towards the end of 2012.  The characters of Gretchen, Grace, and Greer are very different and is plausible given different personalities and the fact that each of the girls was raised in a different home - each of them also comes with their own character flaws that make them that much more genuine.  A great read.

If you like this book then try:
  • Goddess boot camp by Tera Lynn Childs
  • Firelight by Sophie Jordan
  • The goddess test by Aimee Carter
  • Sweet evil by Wendy Higgins
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • Legacies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor
  • Oh. My. Gods by Tera Lynn Childs

Reviewed by Brilla