"Sirens" as a theme offers a broad spectrum of literal possibility, from the avian monsters of Greek mythology to the sleek temptresses of the sea. Bu"Sirens" as a theme offers a broad spectrum of literal possibility, from the avian monsters of Greek mythology to the sleek temptresses of the sea. But the writers of this anthology offer an even broader range of interpretations. One of my personal favorites is "Nautilus," by VF LeSann, a delicious tale of AI and a tantalizing call in deep space. Though far removed from the original concept of sirens, it feels right in this varied collection.
I also need to shout out to "Moth to an Old Flame," only only because of the London Blitz setting but because of the delightful premise of a siren in love with a deaf man.
Rhonda Parrish always does a nice job of assembling widely varied but complementary short stories and this anthology is no different. This collection is definitely worth a look if you like to read classic mythology in alternate settings, urban, historical, or speculative, or retellings of the same.
I received an ARC to review but this does not influence my review....more
There's some debate on the exact definition of the sci-fi genre, but if we subscribe to the version which suggests that SF answers a scientific "whatThere's some debate on the exact definition of the sci-fi genre, but if we subscribe to the version which suggests that SF answers a scientific "what if?" with characters' acting out responses, then LOCK IN is a spot-on success.
I really enjoyed this. It's a gentle and empathetic view of disability while also being a sound romp chasing down a baddie. Characters are interesting and believable, and the enormous science/tech never broke my suspension of disbelief. Recommended!...more
Note: this review is only for the titular short story, which apparently is not listed alone on Goodreads.
Like many, I read this story in conjunction wNote: this review is only for the titular short story, which apparently is not listed alone on Goodreads.
Like many, I read this story in conjunction with the indie film "Sweet Land." I have to say that the two are quite different, and it's hard to compare them. (Minor spoilers ahead.) The film's frame story didn't really work for me, as I found it hard to tell whether we were supposed to be sympathizing with the grandson Lars or surviving Inge, and then it seemed the problem would be Lars' decision whether to sell the farm (and the film's conclusion seems to underscore that as a primary question). The burial at the end does not conclude any part of the beginning. However, the period story of Inge's coming to America and her and Olaf's struggle to marry is very good, and it is the bulk of the film.
The short story deals primarily with Olaf's frustrated desire to bury his dead wife on their farm, as she wanted, despite recent health laws which prohibit it. This has a much more satisfying answer than the film's frame question of the farm's fate. However, the story of Inge's coming and marriage is much briefer and sparser.
On its own, without the film, "A Gravestone Made of Wheat" is an interesting story, sad and sweet. ...more
First off, this really should be a 4.5 star rating, and I'd give that if I could.
One thing Susan Spann does well — and I can’t believe how fashionablyFirst off, this really should be a 4.5 star rating, and I'd give that if I could.
One thing Susan Spann does well — and I can’t believe how fashionably correct this is going to sound, but it’s true — is to write marginalized characters who act powerfully. In Claws of the Cat it was a woman taking a man’s role in society; in Blade of the Samurai it’s a boy on the cusp of genpuku (ceremonial coming of age). Neither is an adult male in this hierarchal patriarchy, yet both are active and interesting characters. I’m taking notes.
The half-star ding came from two minor points. One involved an error I felt was out-of-character, which I expected to be explained later but which turned out indeed to be merely an error. I shouldn’t complain — we’re all human, nobody’s perfect, and even the baddest of asses will make occasional mistakes, but I just expected it to be something else.
The other was an additional reveal at the end, external to the murder mystery. I felt it was a bit of a cheating reveal, but I should note in fairness that I’m picky about such things and it might not bother other readers. You can make your own call. (And if someone points out to me that it was totally forecast and I just missed the clues as I read in stolen minutes during a busy week, then I will happily retract my grump.)
The mystery itself though is delightfully labyrinthine, full of authentic history and messy complications. Like its predecessor, it’s very accessible even for those who aren’t Japanese history buffs*. It’s a lean, quick read. And I am certainly looking forward to the third in the series, Flask of the Drunken Master.
*Particularly alert or particularly nerdy readers might notice Hiro’s explanation that -dono is an address for equal rank, and less polite than -san, is a contradiction of the dialogue in my Kitsune Tales. That’s because Spann and I are writing hundreds of years apart, and language changes with time. (Also, I cheated by including -san at all, since it probably didn’t appear as a shortening of -sama until 1600 or so. But as it’s what most readers expect, I went ahead and used it.)...more
So at first, this is a tale of a princess doing her duty to her kingdom, marrying to seal an alliance and end a war. It's not her choice, and it scareSo at first, this is a tale of a princess doing her duty to her kingdom, marrying to seal an alliance and end a war. It's not her choice, and it scares her, but she's determined to see it through.
Only, readers of STORMSINGER might recall that the prince to whom she's betrothed isn't exactly the princess-marrying kind. He prefers men. But he has a royal duty to see through, as well.
Add to this some political treachery from those who would profit by continued war, an assassin seeking to protect her autistic little brother, and and a front-row seat to the developing romance of an infamous lady privateer, and you have an idea of the places this could go.
So it's a bit odd to write a review because yes, my story is in this anthology. So let's just agree that I like my own story, sure, but I would have rSo it's a bit odd to write a review because yes, my story is in this anthology. So let's just agree that I like my own story, sure, but I would have rated and reviewed the book even without it because, you know, fae.
There are a LOT of different takes on the fairy concept here, from Celtic to cyber, and whether you like traditional or innovative tales, there's probably something here for you. Settings range from the American Civil War to interstellar space to the dark woods of mythology to urban streets, and endings are happy and endings are... not happy. Overall, it's a great collection of modern takes on the fairy tale....more
Okay, I really liked most of this. Fun mythology, interesting characters. The tale of a 2,000+ year old druid protecting a magical sword during a clasOkay, I really liked most of this. Fun mythology, interesting characters. The tale of a 2,000+ year old druid protecting a magical sword during a clash of the gods is pretty fun, and I really enjoyed the vampire lawyer and other inclusions. Plot turns which stretched my credulity (the widow's helpfulness at a key legal moment) were made up for by sheer storytelling chutzpah and fun (the hound Oberon's enthusiastic observations).
That said, there were two big problems which really interfered with my enjoyment of the book. The first is the unfortunately ubiquitous portrayal of werewolves with a hyper-strict dominance hierarchy, just like real wolves. Except that real wolves don't have such a hierarchy, and as the term "alpha wolf" has been scientifically outmoded for DECADES, there's really no excuse for writers to still be creating totem-pole pack structure for werewolves "like real wolves". If you want to include a super-strict hierarchy, fine, but just don't pretend it's the natural structure of a wolf pack. Animal behavior is my day job, and I find it jarring when books get this so wrong, kind of like reading about objects falling sideways because it's just like gravity. (Also, adult wolves generally don't bark. That's a puppy/domesticated thing, so it makes your scary wolves considerably less scary....)
The other big downer for me is a slight spoiler, so I'm going to leave a space....
Still here? Okay, here it is.
At the end of the book, when our hero triumphs, suddenly a goddess starts pawing over him and demanding sex. Seriously. It's so blatant I thought it was going to be a lampshade of the awful hero-wins-fight-and-so-wins-sex trope, but nope, it's played for serious. This is out of nowhere (as when the Morrigan went sexy before only to demonstrate his susceptibility to a prurient method of attack, not because she was actually interested in bedding him).
And not only that, but our hero also acquires a harem of bitches in heat so his DOG can also win hero sex. Yep, sex is the ultimate and obligate reward for a man who does well, even if he has to buy it from those non-speaking dogs who might not even be willing participants. (Because if we're going to give a dog a moral conscience, dreams and goals, and a voice, we can't then freely abuse other dogs, right?) Felt a little cheap.
Aside from those two issues, however, I enjoyed the story and would continue the series, unless the next book is just all about Atticus getting metaphorical tail and Oberon getting literal tail....more
I met the author at a conference and asked what her book was about.
"Well, a doctor discovers that she has the power to walk through dreams after a patI met the author at a conference and asked what her book was about.
"Well, a doctor discovers that she has the power to walk through dreams after a patient spontaneously combusts in her ER, and she learns about--"
"Stop," I said. "You had me at spontaneous combustion."
This is a tricky plot to place, probably technically an urban fantasy but a lot more fantasy than urban. I'd probably give BETWEEN a 4.5 if I could; I kept wanting to come back to it (good!) but got a bit confused in trying to work out all that was going on (how and why?). Our heroine has a probably-realistic confusion and reluctance at the beginning, but she dragged her feet too much at the end for my personal taste. Also, I like a sharp sense of time and action in my fantasy, while this had a more dreamy feel -- which is wholly appropriate for the story, so that's nothing but my own preference surfacing.
There's some left unexplained -- why was Flynne hypothermic? how are the "dream" personalities connected to the "real" ones, and are they responsible for one another? was the [spoiler] real or not? -- but a sequel or two coming, so maybe all will be explained.
But it has dragons and magic and dreams and spontaneous combustion, so worth a look....more
"Whenever that particularly disconcerting [romantic] desire hit her, she went looking for a Strid ship to attack. Blowing things up always made her fe"Whenever that particularly disconcerting [romantic] desire hit her, she went looking for a Strid ship to attack. Blowing things up always made her feel better."
And that's when I decided I would enjoy reading about Captain Arama Dzornaea.
This novelette manages to weave several stories together as Arama, a stormwitch, a young prince, and a singer wrestle individually and together with their conflicting longings. There are hints of a much greater world than we see, which I expect will be explored further in other books.
(As a writer, I have to say that I was particularly impressed with the fact that this was an 8-Hour Challenge book. Like a piece of Kinnet's sea glass, this is rough and yet polished.)
Definitely worth the buck I paid! Recommended....more
Let me start by saying that paranormal romance isn't my usual thing, but I'm not as biased as I pretend to be about myThis is an odd review to write.
Let me start by saying that paranormal romance isn't my usual thing, but I'm not as biased as I pretend to be about my genres. :) Once started, I really liked the mythology of this world -- humans call and bind sylphs of various elements or types to serve as familiars (or slaves). The greatest and most powerful must be summoned and bound with a virgin sacrifice, but what the humans don't know is that these sylphs are coming for the women, not their sacrifice, and they hate the men who murder the girls and enslave the sylphs. The sylphs' hive structure, seeking and dependent upon a queen, is a really nice adaptation which makes for a believable ethology for their world.
But it makes for a really awkward romance. Our story begins when Solie, intended as a sacrifice, doesn't die properly and instead accidentally binds the sylph to herself. Heyou (a misheard "hey, you" in a cute oops of a screw-up) is blissfully happy, bound to serve a new hive queen. And here's where it starts to get sticky.
If I, as a female reader, picked up a book in which the male protagonist magically bound to him a female slave who could be manipulated at will to his preferred appearance and who wanted absolutely nothing more in life than to cling to him and pleasure him sexually, I would be hugely offended. While it's interesting to see the sexism reversed here, I am still offended. If Heyou were only a hive drone, incapable of independent thought, this might be less weird, but in a sentient character presented as a love interest, it's downright disturbing. That's not my idealized relationship.
The story has potential. It looks like it's intended to continue, and we do have some interesting characters to work with. But by the end we have four male sylphs bound to Solie, and I can't help but think I'd be happier if they had a bit more say in the matter.
Maybe in the next book Heyou will reject his hive conditioning, work toward some goals of his own, evaluate his relationship with Solie, and then choose to approach her as an equal on a basis of love, not magical obligation, and I would be okay with that. But I'm worried that's not where we're going.
Three stars: nice world, held my interest (except for one rough patch in the middle), and innovative take on magical familiars, but lost points for joyful sex slaves....more
A fun concept -- told entirely in correspondence from Granny Gopper's catalog, we get to see a bit of backstory and new, hmm, sidestory to the traditiA fun concept -- told entirely in correspondence from Granny Gopper's catalog, we get to see a bit of backstory and new, hmm, sidestory to the traditional tale of Rumpelstilskin. I debated between four and five stars, but in the end I bump it to five for the imaginative catalog items and the desperate hope that I might somehow one day receive a Multi-Pack of Cleaning Elves....more
I won this in a Twitter contest from the 501st, and it was a great prize!
Lots of good visuals in this little book of comic vignettes, from Vader forceI won this in a Twitter contest from the 501st, and it was a great prize!
Lots of good visuals in this little book of comic vignettes, from Vader force-tickling his giggling son to little background throwaways like the box of "C3POs" breakfast cereal and a chibi Lando visiting the zoo. There are also plot-related spins, like Darth Vader applying a sticky bandage to a boo-boo on Luke's right hand, and nods to Star Wars fandom such as, "Did you push Greedo first?"
Overall, it's a fun little book, and it'd make a great gift for a Star Wars fan grown to be a parent....more
Perfectly readable potboiler, typical of the author's work (archeology, language barriers, a couple of handsome young men) but enjoyable. At least I aPerfectly readable potboiler, typical of the author's work (archeology, language barriers, a couple of handsome young men) but enjoyable. At least I always learn something historically interesting from her!...more