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Original Essays | August 18, 2014

Ian Leslie: IMG Empathic Curiosity



Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed... Continue »
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nrlymrtl has commented on (189) products.

Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin
Deadly Curiosities

nrlymrtl, June 14, 2014

This was a fast-paced urban fantasy with a twist: antiques. So, lots of history was tossed into the mix, and I loved it. Indeed, I had a hard time putting this book down. It was easy to get into, easy to connect with the characters, and plenty of fun to watch them battle supernatural beasties, a demon, and a determined mad man. I thoroughly enjoyed how the tale pulled in historical aspects of the local area and smoothly blended them with made up ‘facts’ for the sake of the plot. There’s an old Navy yard that becomes a focal point for the mystery of the story, complete with a history of shady business deals, slavery, and pirates.

Cassidy herself is well-rounded, having both strengths and weaknesses, concerns and confidence. She and the other main characters have to deal with getting injured, protecting each other’s backs, and eating regularly. There are few superhumans among this crew, and even Sorren (the vampire) has limitations. I enjoyed that Sorren was just another character �" not some evil, icky bad guy, nor some romanticized love interest. Then we have Teag, and to some lesser extent, his partner Anthony. Teag was in the thick of things for most of the story, and Anthony put in a few appearances, trying hard to accept what Teag does for a living. I can definitely see these two being featured more heavily in future additions of the series. Lucinda, a local voudoun witch (or practitioner) calls upon the Loas for her brand of magic, offering the crew another layer of defense. And of course, her presence made it simple to pull in a few more bits of history.

As the story moves forward, a few more characters are brought in, so by the end you have a sizable list. But it was done very well, pacing the entrance of the characters throughout the book so I didn’t feel that I was ever overloaded with new characters, scrambling to keep them straight. My one little complaint is the final fight scene: I was pretty darn sure that some of the good guys had taken out one of the bad guys, only to have the bad guy rise two pages later to continue wreaking havoc. I reread the section 3 times and didn’t feel there was a clear transition. Perhaps the author wanted the reader to be surprised…..but the good guys didn’t seem surprised. Anyway, that is a very small criticism and it won’t keep me from reading further works by this author.
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Unlikely by Frances Pauli
Unlikely

nrlymrtl, June 8, 2014

This story was rich and magical. Frances Pauli created a world with its own lingo, a rich atmosphere that I sank into. I loved riding around in Satina’s head, figuring out her world and the mess she stepped into in Westwood. There’s history and lost knowledge to be considered, different cultures and peoples, and the broken down disarray that allows the gangs to rule. And of course, there are the other magical denizens keeping a low profile in Westwood.

Enter the imp Skinner, Marten. Is he a bit of a mischief maker? A little chaotic good? At first Satina isn’t sure. Marten runs a little store in Westwood and the bullying gangs aren’t above wrecking the place and roughing up Martin to force Satina into helping them with their plans for total local domination. Marten was an intriguing character since I was not sure where he stood at the beginning. Of course, I became quite fond of him by the end. And one gang, lead by Zane, became more of a pain in the ass than the others. While Zane threatens Marten’s health to get Satina to help him, he also lets Satina know that more of her is desired.

My favorite aspect of this story was the pockets, magical bubbles closed off from the real world unless you have the magic and can enter them. In these pockets, many of the remaining magical folks (faeries and such) choose to live. These pockets range in size from small grassy knolls perfect for a lovers’ tryst to small villages (where the magic folk can romp and play). Satina uses the pockets to travel safely, often setting up camp in one at night (provided she can find one). We learn a little about the magical denizens of these pockets, how they have chosen to shut out the real world and humanity. And because of this, much of humanity has forgotten how magic works.

All in all, a very good start to a fantasy series. There’s been great set up of Satina’s world, with plenty more left to discover.
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The Traitor's Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America by Allison Pataki
The Traitor's Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America

nrlymrtl, June 8, 2014

Ah, the 1770s of the American colonies was a lively time. Well, for the well to do. There were balls at least every month, and small dance parties with card gambling nearly every night. Peggy revels in being chased after by most of the men. She also enjoys making snide remarks about the other ladies’ dresses. Truly, she is a pretty shallow thing. As the tide shifts for the city of Philadelphia, Benedict woos Peggy, and eventually gets to marry her. She is half his age and it shows. He promises her the moon, and when he can’t deliver, she pouts. Pouting turns to sulking, which turns to frigidness, and eventually to scheming.

Allison Pataki does a great job of showing the very logical route from dancing to traitor activities. Peggy wants all the fun, the fancy clothes, the attention, and none of the mess. Benedict has already been serving his country for decades, having taken crippling wounds and depleted his own funds keeping his men fed. The American government has yet to repay Benedict and that ways heavy on him.

The book is told through the eyes of Peggy’s maid, Clara Bell. This was a great way to see all the main characters, both their good and bad sides. Peggy is obviously a selfish brat, but she does have a few moments where she treats Clara with true affection. We see that Benedict had true reservations about betraying his country. It made for a fascinating read. The revolutionary war affected everyone, from the poor to the rich. The servants of those rich would go to great lengths to stay employed; after all, if they lost their position, they also lost their home, being kicked to the street.

In the end, I found myself hoping that Benedict would be able to extricate himself not only from his traitorous dilemma but also from Peggy. Clara was the true hero of this tale and by twist and turn, I cheered her on. This was an excellent read and I truly had a hard time putting it down.
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Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables Novel) by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables Novel)

nrlymrtl, June 8, 2014

Somehow, I missed this series in its entirety (never read it, never watched the many version of it, no plays, etc.) growing up. But I know by now the fine work the folks at Post Hypnotic Press do. So I gave it a try. And I was charmed. In fact, if I was ever a cleaned mouthed, less jaded person, I think I may have been much like Anne. I can be distracted by beetles, I have a tendency to be blunt, and I love the realm of fantasy. Anne is a little heavier on the romance in her likes, but I am sure she and I could be friends.

While it is obvious that the book is set in the early 1900s, with the ‘proper’ roles of women (like women don’t have the legal right to vote), church is a mandatory weekly occurrence, and there was one remark about letting strangers in the house that could be construed as racist (against Italians, which seemed odd to me), these few negatives are balanced out by Anne’s huge imagination, and the trouble she gets into. This novel spans several years of Anne’s life, so there are plenty of humorous events to enjoy. Anne hates her red hair, and attempts to dye it black. But it comes out this muddled green. So, they have to shave it off. Haha! I found this pretty humorous, and part of it was because of the location and times. In today’s day, green hair, or a bald head isn’t so unusual. But for 1909 Canada, well…I expect it was the talk of the village for at least a week.

Besides the humor, there are also scenes of more seriousness that give this tale a weight that many children’s’ books lack. Anne was an orphan and spent time in several homes before coming to the Cuthberts. Most often, she was set right to work taking care of the children and hence wasn’t allowed to be a child herself, to go to school, or attend social events. On one house, she had to contend with an alcoholic. While much of Anne’s life before the Cuthberts was merely alluded to, there was enough there to let the life experienced reader fill in the gaps.

All in all, I enjoyed this book more than I expected. I found it a good mix of magical innocence of growing up in the countryside and remembered hardship of starting off an orphan. Anne’s lasting friendships with the people of Avonlea were also quite touching.
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Dragon Stones by Kristian Alva
Dragon Stones

nrlymrtl, June 8, 2014

I was hooked on this book from the beginning. It starts with a dark scene �" the Emperor’s men have been out searching and destroying dragon nests and they have just found one. While not overly graphic, the point comes across loud and clear with the killing of newly hatched dragons. I definitely like my fantasy to have a little bit of a darker side, a more serious side, as this shows there are real consequences for the characters to consider. Then we moved to Elias and his grandma. She was a strong, guiding force in his life and such an integral character before Elias set off on his adventure. Through her, we have just enough background to be very curious about many things: her own past, Elias’s parents, dragon riders and dragons in general, etc. I definitely wanted more and the author delivered.

Pretty soon, Elias comes across the dwarf Thorin (and I think Thorin is actually a half-breed dwarf-halfling, but I could have that wrong). And yes, is Thorin a nod to Tolkien’s work? Thorin and Elias become quick friends, mostly because Thorin has recently fallen out of a tree and needs some healing and Elias obliges. They adventure off together, dodging the Emperor’s men and necromancers, meeting more dwarves, ever heading for safety. The necromancer we meet was freaky scarey and the voice the narrator gave her was quite fitting and a little frightening.

The adventure scenes are speckled with scenes of another kingdom �" the last hold out from Vosper’s tyrannical reign. Dragons, their riders, and magic users are welcomed and safe there (or at least not actively hunted by the government). We meet some of the dragon riders, the dragons, and the king. There is an interesting scene involving star fruit (a personal favorite of mine). And in the second half of the book we meet a dragon and her rider who were once imprisoned and tortured by Vosper and his minions. Wow! I don’t know if they are the good guys, good guys gone a little insane, or potentially a chaotic bad element off on their own. I am fascinated by these two and really, really look forward to learning more about them in the next installment.

This was a great start to a fantasy series. While suitable for most (if not all) audiences, it has enough gravity to strongly appeal to most adult readers. The characters have depth and history, the world building is just enough to give scope and interest without bogging down the story. The narration was excellent.
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