I’m sorry to have to say it, but Stachniak has failed to capture lightning in a bottle on this second outing to the courts of the Tsars. I read and re...moreI’m sorry to have to say it, but Stachniak has failed to capture lightning in a bottle on this second outing to the courts of the Tsars. I read and reviewed The Winter Palace rating it three stars out of five .
Empress, in contrast, is a slow, difficult read. Instead of having the point of view of an outsider, Stachniak chooses to write in the voice of Catherine herself, but somehow makes a woman known universally for her passions dull and dry. The first eighty pages or so simply speed-recap the events of The Winter Palace from Catherine’s point of view, but without giving us any new insights into events. Although it could be argued that in Elizabeth of Russia’s court, Catherine was mostly a non-entity anyway, this long introduction of event makes for hard reading to those who are already familiar with them.
In short, I found Empress of the Night to be so slow that i was unable to finish it. I did push through into material post-Winter Palace, but I found no relief from the dry text. The personal charm and intrigue of the earlier work is missing here, and the work suffers mightily for it.(less)
Full disclosure moment. I’m a fan. I’ve loved Ms Armstrong’s “Women Of the Other-world” series to the point where when my lent-out copy of “Dime Store...moreFull disclosure moment. I’m a fan. I’ve loved Ms Armstrong’s “Women Of the Other-world” series to the point where when my lent-out copy of “Dime Store Magic” went missing I not only insisted on replacing it, but replacing it in the same binding as the rest of my set. However her YA series did not keep my attention, nor have I tried her “Nadia Stafford” line of modern mysteries. So make of that what you will.
This time our very prolific author plunges into a high fantasy setting, while retaining the light, easy voice that keeps her work so accessible. It’s an open and airy story centered around a pair of twin girls who guard their village- and entire nation-from the Forest Of The Damned.
I feel that Armstrong has returned to form with this piece, and am definitely looking forward to the next in the series. But while I enjoyed this first step very much, I will reserve judgement slightly until the next volume appears. If it continues at this level of quality, surely she’ll have another bestselling series to her credit.(less)
Expiration Day is another fun little YA read on a post-apocalyptic theme, with a different an...moreExpiration Day by William Campbell Powell
3 out of 5 stars
Expiration Day is another fun little YA read on a post-apocalyptic theme, with a different angle.
This time the setting isn't the main struggle of our protagonist, who happens to be one of the few live human girls left on the planet. She's real, unlike the hundreds of android children created to soothe the populace's need to parent.
Except she isnt.
Powell again asks the question central to so many Golden Age science-fiction masterworks... "what is human?" Is it self awareness? Creativity? The ability to think, feel, the primal urge to reproduce? All of these things or none? It's a question we have been asking for a long time, and probably will continue to ask for some time. Along the way we take a few pokes at racism, class-ism, tech-dependency, young sexuality and even bullying and the "Mean Girls" society of modern school atmospheres. Almost the full spectrum of the modern youth experience is touched on here, creating an overall world that (one hopes) mirrors the world teens and pre-adolescents inhabit enough to make the overall theme seem relevant.
The story is engaging and not too unrealistic, and the diary-style presentation will be familiar to most young readers at this point. Overall, I'd recommend Expiration Day to most young sci-fi readers who may not be prepared yet for the masters of this theme- Issac Asimov and Phillip K. Dick.
Sous chef is a quick, witty read which does exactly what it says on the tin. Gibney takes you through a day in the life, as a Sous Chef* in a smallish...moreSous chef is a quick, witty read which does exactly what it says on the tin. Gibney takes you through a day in the life, as a Sous Chef* in a smallish high cuisine establishment somewhere in NYC’s lower Manhattan area. Opening in the morning. Checking the deliveries and stock. Pissing off the Chef De Cuisine. Repeating “Oui, Chef” a million times and meaning it every single time. Getting smashingly drunk after a service that comes within a hair of crashing the kitchen. Gibney gives us a glimpse of what life is like behind the swinging doors in a witty first-person narrative that makes for surprisingly compelling reading.
Be forewarned however. The language used is rough, although realistic from what I understand… and unsurprisingly so in what is generally acknowledged as being one of the last holdouts of boy’s locker room culture. You’ll also find passages of Spanish, and swearing in that language too. Also realistic since it’s rumored that three quarters of NY’s kitchen staff personnel are from the same town in Mexico. The drama is dialed down a bit from other books of the sort, and I believe that is mostly because in this kind of work you do tend to get used to the crazy, and it just rolls off your back. Sure lots of people are shocked by Chef Ramsay swearing and snapping terse orders, but in this small subculture, that’s what it is, and how it has been, for a long time. Those ways are changing as the profession becomes more “professional” in behavior, but cultural shifts take time.
Overall, “Sous Chef” succeeds in what it does, which is capturing a snapshot of a way of life that is being transformed by the spotlight of celebrity, and it just works.
*For those unfamiliar with the terminology, the Sous Chef is basically second in command in the kitchen, under the Chef De Cuisine or executive chef, who is generally either the guy who’s name is above the door, or the guy hand picked by the guy who’s name is above the door.(less)
From Anna Brashares (who brought us The Traveling Pants) we have a new YA novel, typically c...morePre-Release Review – Expected Publication Date: Apr 8 2014
From Anna Brashares (who brought us The Traveling Pants) we have a new YA novel, typically centered around a young female protagonist. Also typically, theres a romantic element, and a post-apocalyptic note.
These really are getting tiresomely common.
Still, Brashares has the skills. So onward we go. It’s not the most original plot-line, but it’s one that is as likely as not to be fresh to the adolescent readers this novel is targeted at. Time travel and the GrandFather Paradox can be so badly mishandled, but again, the author pulls it off well.
The only thing I can really hold against it is that it’s fairly short and that well, this IS a really old riff and nothing new seems to be added to the mix. There’s nothing wrong with vamping on a classic, but with this simplistic a tale, I can only class “The Here And Now” as a mediocre read that will probably be best enjoyed by existing fans of the author’s work. (less)
Yes, it’s been a while hasnt it? Ive been occupied with other things. But here we are again.
Static is not the sort of thing I’d usually pick up, simpl...moreYes, it’s been a while hasnt it? Ive been occupied with other things. But here we are again.
Static is not the sort of thing I’d usually pick up, simply based on the fact that Ms.Witt generally writes in the male on male romance/erotica genre. Kind of sad that assessment, because it does leave one missing out on some good writers occasionally. And besides, romances are that dirty little secret hidden away in the bedroom bookcase at my place, and although I haven’t really read them in more than a decade, I still have a fondness for them.This one however is a little different than most. Static starts us off with an inventive premise. Humanity has developed a new gender type. No longer binary, we now have Shifters… who periodically switch between genders, both mentally and physically. Within this premise Witt gives us a framework in which to explore attitudes about sexuality and gender that most will find nonthreatening. Clearly laid out in examples we have homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, and the difference between those distinctions and gender. The writing here is as good as any I’ve ever seen in Romance, which is intended to appeal to a much broader audience than the literary genre- so the language is kept blissfully simple, while remaining as evocative as novels get. Believable dialog and realistic situations keep it from floating off into the realm of the fairy-tale… so often the downfall of the romance writer.
The only thing I could wish for about Static is that the author had left out the graphic sex scene. Not for myself, but because if it had not been included this would have been a wonderful way to help teens understand alternate sexuality and gender issues. Sadly, too many parents would completely freak out over the idea of their teens reading a novel with such graphic (if hot) sexual encounters. Once can only hope this makes it far enough into the mainstream that it becomes one of those tattered paperbacks we all passed around and hid from our parents back in the days. it’ll do a lot more good than harm.