Fera Jones is a champion boxer known for her knockout punches. When she starts fighting and beating men, the attention of the world falls on her in soFera Jones is a champion boxer known for her knockout punches. When she starts fighting and beating men, the attention of the world falls on her in some uncomfortable ways. Why she fights seems like a simple matter--because she can, because she's good at it, and because the money helps her and her ill father--but over the course of the story, what becomes most important is that how she looks into the past--her past--helps her discover what kind of future she wants to fight for.
For such a short story, there's some lucid, remarkable world-building. A lot of the gender politics--which comprise the most obvious and most boring aspects of the story--came across as laughably old-fashioned (this story was first published in 2000). Like, the "feminist studies" department at Smith College that runs illegal genetic experiments, and the FemLeague political party that's the third largest party in the country and whose head is a denim overalls-wearing man-hating stereotype. I LOLed quite a bit over stuff like that, unfortunately. Given that more people today are more familiar with the complexity and fluidity of gender, and how this is becoming a greater and greater focus of feminist movements (I say this optimistically, I know), the gender politics in this story were a throwback to second-wave feminism fears and stereotypes instead of a glimpse into the future. The economic and class aspects, however, were the most interesting to me and, I thought, the most pertinent to today's real world. Namely: there's a perpetual underclass, some literally living underground, and matters aren't helped by the legalized drug Pulse.
Pulse is a "gene drug [that] altered the structure of the pleasure centers of the brain, temporarily allowing consciousness some measure of control over dreams. With just the right amount a pulsar, as the users called themselves, could create a complex fantasy, build a whole world and live in it for what seemed like days, weeks." Pulsars tend to check out of real life, unable to hold down real jobs, preferring their dream worlds to their daily lives. Additionally, "it turned out that after four or five uses, the brain collapsed in on itself without regular ingestion of the drug. It was an addiction from which death was the only withdrawal." While wealthy Pulsars can afford private health insurance coverage and can keep acquiring the drug as necessary, the poor aren't as lucky and tend to suffer and die when they're broke and unable to source more drugs, and all Pulsars die sooner rather than later, due to long-term effects on their brains. Fera's father is one of these Pulsars, and through the course of the story is undergoing experimental treatments to try to cure him. Fera's relationship with him and the motivation he provides her--and the insight he can provide into the life of her long-lost mother--was the most compelling part of the story to me.
My favorite passage was when Fera asks her boyfriend Pell--who is one of the impoverished Backgrounders and who becomes her trainer during the story--if he loves her:
"We don't use that word underground."
"What do you say then?"
"I look for you, I see you, I won't turn away."
"That's a lotta words to say the same thing."
"It's not the same thing. Not at all. 'I love you' means 'I need you.' The way I say it means that you can count on me. The way I say it is strong."
The story ends with a glimpse of resisting ownership, asserting independence without ignoring interdependence, and I thought this conversation about love was the starting kernel of that theme....more
I have five stars worth of affection for this book (oh gosh, the math puns!), but there wasn't enough depth in these few pages for me to feel very emoI have five stars worth of affection for this book (oh gosh, the math puns!), but there wasn't enough depth in these few pages for me to feel very emotionally engaged; everything moved too swiftly, too superficially....more
My other favorite read in my recent Delphine Dryden binge. I loved the sweetness and the easiness (and also the ballet!) in this one, though there wasMy other favorite read in my recent Delphine Dryden binge. I loved the sweetness and the easiness (and also the ballet!) in this one, though there wasn't enough space to really develop the relationship, unfortunately....more
Kinda ridiculous at times, even for a Tamara Morgan romance--and I say that lovingly--and the hero's dickishness seemed too magically cured (I didn'tKinda ridiculous at times, even for a Tamara Morgan romance--and I say that lovingly--and the hero's dickishness seemed too magically cured (I didn't mind the dickishness itself, really), but I loved the heroine, and if you don't mind some serious meanness and bickering between protagonists, it was a good enough read....more
Chick lit set among Karachi journalists. Light and very contemporary and an enjoyably buoyant voice, but very much flimsy-but-fun chick lit. You'll neChick lit set among Karachi journalists. Light and very contemporary and an enjoyably buoyant voice, but very much flimsy-but-fun chick lit. You'll need to like the chatty and often irreverent tone to like this book. Also, it's nice to know that no matter what the cultural context is, NEVER EVER trust that handsome and successful-in-the-same-field man who flattered you into sleeping with him....more
At times, reading Nobody Is Ever Missing made me want to hide because it felt like it was exposing all my raw nerve endings and secret psychological fAt times, reading Nobody Is Ever Missing made me want to hide because it felt like it was exposing all my raw nerve endings and secret psychological fucked-up-ness, but ultimately, the book didn't really hold up (for me) as a novel, even if I did love the voice and style. It was interesting to read so soon after Dept. of Speculation, because they're doing similar work in some ways, but NIEM is definitely more distressing and more overgrown, more wild. I liked it, but it didn't completely work....more
Strong lead characters and an interesting plot that involved medical ethics and blackmail and maybe being an accessory to a crime. I don't think the pStrong lead characters and an interesting plot that involved medical ethics and blackmail and maybe being an accessory to a crime. I don't think the plot wrapped up completely, and there just felt like a good handful of loose ends. I was also very irritated that "illegals" was used as a synonym (by the protagonists and by an antagonist) for undocumented immigrant workers and that "Hispanics" was often conflated with the latter. I did really like the characters, though; their realizations about themselves felt believable, and their conflict with one another was interesting and often resolved in unexpected ways.
This is the first book in the Heartwarming line (apparently Harlequin's new-ish clean-and-sweet-but-not-necessarily-inspie line) that I've read; the type of plot and scope reminded me of a SuperRomance, but the physical attraction between the protagonists was minimally mentioned and the language was super squeaky clean (and the dialogue too often hokey) and there were a handful of references to praying. So: wholesome but with a more electric and edgy plot than one might expect from such a sweet line....more
Draws a bit too heavily from the murder of Meredith Kercher / the trial of Amanda Knox for my taste , and I wasn't thrilled by the ending, but I lovedDraws a bit too heavily from the murder of Meredith Kercher / the trial of Amanda Knox for my taste , and I wasn't thrilled by the ending, but I loved the time-shifting structure of the book. Haas did a fantastic job tugging the narrative back and forth between scenes of heady, decadent teenage rebellion and the oppressive frustration of being caught in a predatory media storm and an unjust legal system....more
I really loved this at times (grief and unexpected sisterhood and falling into family was ALL GOOD, and the final reconciliation between Shannon and MI really loved this at times (grief and unexpected sisterhood and falling into family was ALL GOOD, and the final reconciliation between Shannon and Murphy was SO GOOD), but there's a weird passage about the American civil war and slavery that was unnecessary and souring. Set after the characters sing a song about James Connolly, American Shannon comments:
"It's an odd culture that writes lovely songs about an execution."
"We don't forget our heroes," Maggie said with a snap in her voice. "Isn't it true that in your country they have tourist attractions on fields of battle? Your Gettysburg and such?"
Shannon eyed Maggie coolly, nodded. "Touché."
"And most of us like to pretend we'd have fought for the South," Gray put in.
"For slavery." Maggie sneered. "We know more about slavery than you could begin to imagine."
"Not for slavery." Pleased a debate was in the offing, Gray shifted toward her. "For a way of life."
So all these characters are white, Maggie is Irish, Shannon and Gray are both Americans, and they're all in Ireland in the mid '90s. The action and dialogue move away at this point, and there's no narrative approval of Gray's opinions, but their inclusion made my jaw drop and threw me out of the story. I was irritated both by Gray's racist envisioning of the Civil War and by how a white Irishwoman making a living as an artist is presuming to have personal knowledge about slavery (though, yes, I'm glad she pushed back against Gray). Yes, I know that plenty of Americans do spend a lot of time frolicking in revisionistland about the civil war, but it's racist and unnecessary. (And, c'mon, wouldn't bringing up "John Brown's Body"/"Battle Hymn of the Republic" be a more appropriate comparison? It's about a decaying body after a martyr's been executed, I think it sounds lovely, and it's anti-racist, pro-freedom!)
The inclusion of these comments is just the gazillionth-and-one reminder of just how white (and/or racist) the romance audience is assumed to be, where one of the protagonists--he's the hero of the previous book--can say that most Americans like fantasizing about fighting in favor of slavery and justify it as "a way of life." FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK THAT....more
The structure was sometimes frustrating, switching between the story of Jang's escape and intricate explanations of North Korean politics at inopportuThe structure was sometimes frustrating, switching between the story of Jang's escape and intricate explanations of North Korean politics at inopportune times, but overall, it was a very interesting look at someone who, despite being wildly privileged within the Kim Jong-il regime, defected in search of freedom.
I thought the insight into propagandizing (as part of his work, Jang took on the identity of a South Korean poet to write favorably of North Korea) and the development of an artist under a tyrannical regime was engaging. The inside information on the Kim Jong-il regime was fascinating, and some of the framework (namely, the true nature of the transition of power between the Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il) was new to me.
I still think Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea is the go-to overview book for those interested in reading about North Korea, but this book, if less well-written, is a strong resource about specifics. Just ignore that he ends the book with a wearily misogynistic "In North Korea, I lived under a tyrannical despot I called dear leader, now I live in South Korea under a tyrannical despot I call my wife lol" joke. Seriously....more
I loved Livy and Vic, and I loved the humor and the way violence wasn't gendered. But omg, I thought I could do the same thing I more-or-less-successfI loved Livy and Vic, and I loved the humor and the way violence wasn't gendered. But omg, I thought I could do the same thing I more-or-less-successfully did with the G.A. Aiken dragon series: pick up the most recent book and not be totally lost. I was wrong. There was a lot of space dedicated to previous characters in ways that didn't necessarily push arc-y plot forward--the way it was with the dragon series--and I didn't have it in me to remember names, species, mates, packs, who got along with who, etc., when it didn't always have anything to do with the main plot and was simply for comical purposes or character fun....more
Great voice and great characters, as per usual with Charlotte Stein, but I didn't quite buy the mix of wildly romantic fantasy with the serious issuesGreat voice and great characters, as per usual with Charlotte Stein, but I didn't quite buy the mix of wildly romantic fantasy with the serious issues that could have benefited from expansion and more of a practical treatment....more
Hmm. This started off as a wonderfully weird story about a shy and sometimes-LITERALLY-invisible seven-year-old girl juggling a strong ego with a tremHmm. This started off as a wonderfully weird story about a shy and sometimes-LITERALLY-invisible seven-year-old girl juggling a strong ego with a tremendous fear of the world, and it all felt like something Aimee Bender would write, and I loved it. And then it got terribly banal and did banal stuff about gender and plot resolution and how prettiness is the best thing of all. I guess I was hoping for something subversively strange all the way through, not something that ended up so banal....more