Disclaimer: I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway.
This was a fun little book. It put feminist and LGBT twists on the sword and sorcery genre...moreDisclaimer: I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway.
This was a fun little book. It put feminist and LGBT twists on the sword and sorcery genre -- a genre that I love, but which often ignores women and queer people altogether. While there is certainly better lesbian speculative fiction out there, this book was refreshing nonetheless.
The stories in this book were not perfect. The stories are all set in the same world, but after reading about the world for 176 pages, I had learned very little about it. There are kings, queens, elves, dwarves, and orcs; orcs enjoy their alcohol with different spices than people do; the world is home to a nascent, intolerant religion... This is all the author ever tells us about her world!
The character's language was somewhat jarring for me; characters speak using contemporary slang one minute and are back into fantasy-speak the next. Overall, the book could have used stronger editing -- there were some distracting grammar and word choice errors.
The author took her time to develop characters, which was somewhat disconcerting given each story's short length. The shorter pieces would end just as I started to get to know their characters. The longer stories, however, gave me a chance to get close to some of the characters. I thought the author's characterization skills were at their peak during the gender-bending excitement of "The Road Not Taken."
The author's plots are original and interesting. Her stories touch on issues such as bigotry and domestic abuse with courage and grace. Overall, it is just a pleasant experience to read fantasy that is free of gross heterosexist tropes. There are better feminist fantasy books out there, but I was glad that I got a chance to read Creatures of Grace.(less)
Okay, I started this book knowing that I wasn't going to like it. I've never been a big fan of celebrity gossip, and I am almost completely disinteres...moreOkay, I started this book knowing that I wasn't going to like it. I've never been a big fan of celebrity gossip, and I am almost completely disinterested in fashion. However, I wound up disliking the book for completely different reasons.
The book bills itself as the story of three women who are unexpectedly drawn together, and develop a friendship that helps them as they are flung into one crazy scenario after another. That sounds okay, right? Too bad the plot winds up working more like this: 1) We are introduced to Penelope and Lipstick. 2) Lipstick moves into Penelope's apartment. Lipstick takes pity on Penelope's wardrobe. 3) There is a robot named Dana who also lives in the apartment building. Unfortunately, Dana is not a very sophisticated robot, so she doesn't have any personality, or many more than a dozen lines in the entire book. 4) Without any transition at all, Penelope and Lipstick are friends! Yay! They even get robot Dana to say a few lines, although they're not particularly interesting ones. 5) Ummm... the end!
The plot wasn't particularly well handled, but the dialog is worse. The wittiest it gets is when an elderly woman mis-hears Penelope's name (har har har), and most of it is just downright boring.
Meanwhile, the fashion pieces were not so prominent that it detracted from the book for me. And yes, Froelich fills her book with hundreds of little celebrity gossip tidbits, but as a celebrity gossip columnist, she does know how to make these interesting and amusing. I can't imagine myself ever reading anything else that Paula Froelich writes, but if you're looking for a quick read filled with gossip and you have a high tolerance for poorly written dialog, this book just might work for you.(less)
This book served as both an excellent refresher course on U.S. History, and as an introduction to perspectives that I had not known about previously....moreThis book served as both an excellent refresher course on U.S. History, and as an introduction to perspectives that I had not known about previously. The editors of this book have done a lovely job assembling meaningful selections from a wide range of non-U.S. textbooks. The viewpoints offered by the Caribbean textbooks, the Filipino textbook's treatment of the Philippine–American War, and the sophisticated discussion of the Atlantic Slave Trade found in the Nigerian textbooks were particularly revealing.
I do wish that military history played a less defining role in the selections found within this book. Starting with the Spanish American war, the book hardly touches topics apart form battles, conflicts, and military strategy. It would have been lovely to see more about reconstruction (mentioned in passing), women's suffrage (not mentioned at all), and immigration (nothing about immigration issues post-1850, as far as I've noticed; granted, I haven't finished the book yet). It would have been interesting to know how these issues are studied elsewhere, and if they are honestly not to be found in any grade school textbooks outside the U.S., it would have certainly been interesting to read a note about what topics the editors couldn't find. However, the book as a whole was splendidly researched, well put-together, and the editors' short commentaries were always insightful.(less)
Less an encyclopedia, and more a wonderful collection of hundreds of historic train pictures, accompanied by text segments that form a comprehensive h...moreLess an encyclopedia, and more a wonderful collection of hundreds of historic train pictures, accompanied by text segments that form a comprehensive history of railroads. The images include carefully selected photos, drawings, cartoons, and plans, many of which are in color. The text, written by one of Britain's most famous railway writers, has a delightfully pretentious tone, though it is somewhat overdrawn -- Ellis begins the book by invoking the prophet Isaiah as an early proponent of railroads. Though presented in manageable chunks, the immaculately researched text also assumes a relatively sophisticated understanding of how trains work. Then again, who reads this for the articles, anyway?(less)
This book was fantastically well-researched, and clearly showed the powerful connection the author felt with the railroad men who found themselves str...moreThis book was fantastically well-researched, and clearly showed the powerful connection the author felt with the railroad men who found themselves stranded on Stevens Pass in 1910. The book was clearly the author's life work, and while I often found it a little rough around the edges, this roughness rarely detracts from the book's emotional power.
It did take a little while for me to get acclimated to the railroad culture depicted in the book, and the inclusion of a few photographs would have been remarkably helpful in setting the backdrop and introducing the book's rotary snowplows. Gary Krist includes fabulous photos in his non-fiction account of the Wellington Disaster, The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche, and Burwash's earlier work (Cascade Division, The Great Adventure: The Railroad Legacy of Stevens Pass) shows that he is skilled at documenting railroads photographically. The book's scope was generally quite limited: Burwash set out to tell the stories of the "Railroad Men" and nothing more. Their stories -- particularly those of Bobby Meath, James H. O'Neill, Basil Sherlock -- are compellingly told. However, the passengers on the stranded trains are left as mere stereotypes, and the two women in the book -- Althea Sherlock and Lillian Harrington -- only make an appearance in the last few chapters. Burwash's approach also barely mentions the railroad administration's attempts to distance itself from the disaster.
Additionally, the spelling mistakes were somewhat bothersome and occassionally confusing. However, despite these gripes, it is well worth a reading by railroad enthusiasts, Washingtonians, and anyone interested in labor history.(less)