Airport Magic


He sits down next to me, instantly making me feel uncomfortable, wondering how this one is going to oddball out on me. Because, really, they always do. First, it’s “hey there, pretty lady, whatcha reading?” which, honestly? If you’re starting up a conversation with someone, maybe someone who’s engrossed with a book isn’t your best bet. Also? You might want a different opener.

Anyway, after the rather lacking opening, the one-sided “conversation” normally goes to some kind of diatribe – about The System, about children, about how ducks aren’t doing their civic duty as they used to. Oh, sure, you laugh about that one, but when a three hundred pound of solid, unwashed muscle starts ranting at you because you’re feeding ducks and “playing in to their lazy game,” then try laughing about it.

And, that’s how conversations with strangers normally go for me. I stopped going to bars years ago, when I realized the only kind of guy I’d meet was far more likely to make me get a restraining order in six months instead of having them meet the family. And, those were the “sane” ones.

So, forgive me if I made a snap judgment about this old guy who just happened to decide to sit next to me in an otherwise empty sitting area. I can’t even blame being next to a wall charger, as this guy didn’t look like the type to even know what an MP3 player was. Maybe I was just type-casting, but I just couldn’t see beaten up military BDUs as tech cheque. And, honestly, I didn’t really care – I just wanted to spend my insane layover reading the new graphic novel I’d downloaded in peace. Sadly, it didn’t look like I’d be getting my wish.

“Hey, there, pretty lady,” he started. I stifled a sigh and closed my eyes. There was no reason to be rude, after all. “Seems like you could use a spell.” My face wrinkled up. Things didn’t usually get weird quite this quickly.

“A… A spell?” I parroted back. Maybe, I had heard him wrong.

“Sure, a spell. A story. Seems to me like they’re the same thing, if neither are provable. Here, I’ll give you the first one for free.” He took a breath and started looking around the airport, while I wondered what he’d do if I just got up and moved. From the sound of it, this guy was going to start charging me for him wasting my time with stories I didn’t care about. What a deal. But, I was tired after spending three hours in this rainy city, and listening to some old guy natter on at least beat back the boredom. And, he was talking again.

“See that tall guy over there? The red head who’s sitting with the girl who’s really too pretty to waste her time on an ugly spider like him?” I hid a smile – I had watched the couple sit down, and I had to admit, he had reminded me of a Daddy Long Legs spider. But, calling him ugly was a bit over much. He wasn’t really that unattractive, just rumpled, as if uncomfortable in his skin and clothes.

“So, then, that couple are thinking about getting married. She’s insisting that she gets to meet his blood first, though. Not a good move, for her.”

I gave a small snort and said, “usually isn’t a good idea to meet the family. Or to get married, to think of it.” The man just shook his head.

“Nah. Ain’t like that at all. See, he doesn’t have the kind of trouble that you or I do. See, spidery tall boy like that? He’s a faerie. All those tall’uns are. And with his looks, he could only be true unseelie royalty.” At that, I actually looked at the man. Sure, the conversation had started off weird, but to start talking about faeries to a grown woman? I vaguely wondered how soon security would be walking around. The man must have read my face, because he smiled as if he could. Some people can express Shakespearean monologues with an expression, and this man was one of them. “I said it’s a spell. What’s a spell without magic, eh?” I had to smile back, and give a nod of concession. He continued.

“So, then, this boy’s going to take his mortal love to meet his doting mama and papa, and them unseelie don’t care none about us mortals. They’re just as likely to turn her into something to hunt and hurt as say ‘how-do.’ Poor girl.”

“I don’t think it’ll go down like that,” I heard myself say. The man raised an eyebrow, obviously refuting my assertion. “It’s magic, right? Well, in the stories, she’ll be turned into something… A dove, maybe – she looks like a small bird. Anyway, so, they turn her into a dove, but he’s her prince, right? So, he’ll recognize her and save her. Because that’s what your prince does – they save you.” Even if it’s just from yourself, I thought.

“Sounds like you’d know,” the man said quietly. He waited for a moment, but that wasn’t a story I talked about, even to a strange old man in the lonely wee hours at an airport I was starting to feel was abandoned. Instead of me saying anything, he nodded his head in the direction of a janitor.

“‘Course, she might argue with you. See, she thought she needed saving, and she had a Prince too. But, he just up and left her one day. Her and two little’uns. No note, no nothing. Just gone. So, she works here, during the lost hours, and she doesn’t even know what she did.”

“No,” I shook my head, adamantly. “That’s not what happened at all. Well, he did disappear, but that’s only because one of your unseelie stole him away. Airports are magic nexus to the land of Faerie, after all, and the unseelie Queen saw how devoted to his wife he was, and watched him. Being a pilot, she saw him a lot. And, while she watched, she grew jealous. So, she stole him away. But, he’s still devoted to his wife, even while she wonders what happened to him. And, the Queen is considering returning him to her, because even the unseelie have to respect the kind of love they have.”

Again, and again, we went back and forth, discussing one person after another, until the sun rose, and I asked him if he wanted something to eat – my treat. He just smiled and shook his head, and nodded out the windows. “Looks like you don’t have time to eat, girl. Your plane’s docking now.” I looked up at the terminal in surprise, but he was right. The long awaited plane was here. I looked back at the man, but he was gone.

The man – I never did get his name – was right. He’d given me a spell after all.

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His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik


Rating: 4 paws

One quote from the book that I particularly cared for: “I should rather have you than a heap of gold, even if it were very comfortable to sleep on.”

Summary of the book in one sentence: Capt. Will Laurence unexpectedly becomes the partner of a particularly intelligent dragon, and the training of both of them into the strange new world of the dragon corp.
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First paw consists of the writing style this is the technical aspect of the book. I’ll admit, it took me a bit of an adjustment period to get used to Novik’s writing style. While it isn’t as lyrical/poetical as some that I’ve come across, she’s certainly the kind who’s painting a word picture instead of being succinct and “just” telling a story, and I really have to be in the mood for that kind of thing. However, once I got in to her style, I found myself spell-bound and really enjoyed myself. The entire story seemed to flow, and nothing rocked me out of the world that she created. The writing was beautifully crafted.

The second paw is “emotional connection” – basically, was I *interested* in what I was reading? I have to be honest, I don’t normally go for historical fiction. Had a friend of mine not suggested that I read this, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. So, I wasn’t expecting to have quite as much connection that I did have to it. However, I was drawn in to this world, and made to care about even the tertiary characters. It was definitely the kind of world that I want to spend many many more hours in. And, fortunately, I can.

Third paw is plot – akin to writing style, but purely about The Story. While I probably would have liked it more, had I a firmer grasp on what actually happened in the Napoleonic wars/period, it’s really not necessary for the audience. Novik manages to create a world and story that makes sense without knowing what historically happened, and makes that world come alive. While I don’t remember being thrown by any of the plot twists (okay, so, I don’t remember any plot twists at all,) I do remember that I was never bored with the book.

The last paw is “Other Stuff,” which is pretty much anything that doesn’t go into another category but is still note-worthy. Historical fiction that has DRAGONS in it. Do I really have to say anything else? Yes? Okay, how about: Historical fiction that has dragons as a realistic part of history and is a series of awesome books.

Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy


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Rating: 3 paws

One quote from the book that I particularly cared for: “I’m not a goddamned faith healer! I don’t talk to God! I’m a mechanic and her goddamned engine was broken!”

Summary of the book in one sentence: Wherein “Scully” (Joanne) is forced to the realization that “there are more things on earth,” that magic is real, and that she has her own dose of power.
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First paw consists of the writing style – basically, this is the technical aspect of the book. Now, I haven’t visited this book In Awhile, but from my notes while reading it, I didn’t note any glaring irritations, and that’s something that I’ve always noted down. In fact, from my notes, all I seemed to be doing was squeeing over the story, which tells me that I was quite satisfied with the writing. So, while I probably would have given this a neon glowing paw, had I been writing the review right after reading this, all I’m just giving credit for this category.

The second paw is “emotional connection” – basically, was I *interested* in what I was reading? I remember after reading this, I immediately went to Audible and bought the next three books in the series, because I enjoyed it so much. That distinctly sticks out. I loved the characters, the plot held my interest, everything in this seemed unique. I appreciated that there was a strong female character who wasn’t a complete bitch, too. So, even years later, I can say with authority that this book deserves this paw.

Third paw is plot – akin to writing style, but purely about The Story. I remember thinking that this story was really unique, and, at the time, it was, to me. It was the first time I’d read something like this, and thus, it kept me enthralled. I loved the characters, and how everyone had a distinct voice. I’ve since read many other urban fantasy novels with strong female leads, and I have to say that, while the main premise is like other books, this is still a book that’s unique in it’s field. It’s enjoyable, the characters are human but enjoyable, and the story itself is actually pretty unique. It’s not that twisty, plot-wise, but even for that, I’d still say the plot is strongly and enjoyably written. So, another paw earned.

The last paw is “Other Stuff,” which is pretty much anything that doesn’t go into another category but is still note-worthy. Again, it’s been years since I read this one, so there isn’t much that I can put here. I do note that I gave this a five-star rating on Goodreads, and I do remember instantly buying the next three books in the series after reading this. However, the thing that really sticks out at me about this book is the memory of thinking that she spent far too much time on the subject of the twins, and that was slightly grating, as it didn’t do anything to strengthen the book. So, because a negative memory is what stuck out the story, I’m not actually going to give this paw. Even if that means there’s a discrepancy between my rating here and my Goodreads stars.

Year Zero by Rob Reid


Rating: 4 paws

One quote from the book that I particularly cared for: “More like ‘involuntary assisted suicide.'”

Summary of the book in one sentence: What happens when aliens decide humanity has the best possible music and bankrupts the universe because of copywrite laws.
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First paw consists of the writing style – basically, this is the technical aspect of the book. This book is going for two genres: sci-fi and humor. The humor is coming off every page, but even then, he doesn’t get slapstick or gimmicky, which I very much approve of. He also doesn’t have puerile fart jokes or other gross “humor.” He does have some very topical and date specific jokes in it, so the humor might not be as relevant in ten years, but that isn’t the majority of the humor, so I won’t hold that against him. As for the sci-fi, it’s about *aliens* and has alien technology in it. You don’t get much more sci-fi. But wait! Where some sci-fi humorists overlook trying to do what more serious sci-fi writers do and explain their technology, HE ACTUALLY DOES explain some. I was actually really impressed with that. He very much met this category.

The second paw is “emotional connection” – basically, was I *interested* in what I was reading? I don’t think there was one instant of reading this that I *wasn’t* interested in what he was writing. I loved the characters, I was engaged in the plot, I enjoyed his word choices. The connection was strong for this one.

Third paw is plot – akin to writing style, but purely about The Story. In a lot of sci-fi stories, you get deus ex machina solutions, which can get quite irritating after reading the umpteenth novel with such. Reid apparently shares my frustration with that cliche of writing, as every possible DEM solution the characters try, it either fizzles before working or actually makes the situation worse. While it could be argued that the ending was a big DEM solution, *I* was entertained enough by it that I found it satisfying even knowing that it was one. While I can’t say that I found the plot to be at all twisty, and the characters didn’t really have much development, it was still a satisfying story. This isn’t a strong paw, but he does have it.

The last paw is “Other Stuff,” which is pretty much anything that doesn’t go into another category but is still note-worthy. I have a confession to make: when I read Douglas Adams, I don’t end up laughing out loud very often. I find his books delightfully funny, but not bursting-a-gut laughing funny. It’s the same with Monty Python. Or with Ernst Cline’s Ready Player One. All of these are great fun, but none really get me rolling over laughing. It’s the same with this book. Reid is funny and often witty (which are vastly different things, in case you didn’t know,) but he didn’t inspire any great guffaws of laughter from me. And, you know what? That’s okay. He was going for humor, and he achieved it. So, for those critics wondering how this book could possibly be compared to Douglas Adams? Have you READ The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul? This is very much in that vein of humor. Having said that, I give this paw to the book, purely for reminding me of one of my favorite authors, while still being completely unique and having it’s own voice.

In Session: Dr. Morgan Snow with Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher & Barry Eisler’s John Rain by M. J. Rose


Rating: 3 paws

One quote from the book that I particularly cared for: “My whole life is a wrong decision. One more one way or the other there is a statistical rounding error.”

Summary of the book in one sentence: “What a sex therapist discusses with professional assassins/spies in a therapy session.”
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So, I honestly had no idea what this book was to be about, and I really only got it because Audible was offering it for cheap and I enjoy the novels the different spy-characters are in. I had no previous experience with M.J. Rose’s works, and I had no idea what I was getting in to. It was an interesting experience.

First paw consists of the writing style – basically, this is the technical aspect of the book. A short story anthology is a bit difficult to judge on technical merit, at least, it is for me. The writing is just too short for a real sample. But, Rose does well in this area, even in the brief moments that we’re with her in the stories, and, while it’s not stunning writing, there aren’t any glaring, irritating mishaps that she takes, either. She earns this paw on the pure basis that I can’t *not* give it to her.

The second paw is “emotional connection” – basically, was I *interested* in what I was reading? Even in these brief forays into the different scenes, Rose *did* make me interested. I Wanted More. I think that that’s probably one of the signs of a GOOD short story – I’m left wishing these were actual novels, so I can revel in the emotional connection with the story. Rose more than earns this paw.

Third paw is plot – akin to writing style, but purely about The Story. I think my biggest complaint about this book comes with this topic. In any short story, suspension of disbelief is probably more important than ever, to Make Things Make Sense. Even so, the first story has be really questioning the ethics of this doctor and makes me highly uncomfortable. The other stories don’t have this problem *quite* as badly, but then, the other stories don’t really have much *plot.* They’re far more akin to vignettes than anything else. They also didn’t contain much *suspense,* which is what I thought they would, considering the characters involved. It was pretty much just dialogue. So, while I enjoyed the various stories and the writing, and so on, I really can’t give this paw.

The last paw is “Other Stuff,” which is pretty much anything that doesn’t go into another category but is still note-worthy. So, let me gush about the narrators. I *adore* Scott Brick’s voice and I think he really should read erotica. I’d buy that RIGHT up. And, I enjoy Dick Hill’s voice, for a totally different aesthetic value. Hearing their voices in this made it more enjoyable. So, if you’re looking for something purely on the audiophile level, I’d say go with this. The performances were great. Obviously, this is a free paw for this book.

Redshirts


Just finished Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas John Scalzi. Now, normally, my reviews don’t consist of summaries of what the story was about, as my reviews are opinions of the book and if I think you should read it, and don’t really (in my opinion) need to have summaries you could easily find elsewhere. But, as a dear friend pointed out, it can be annoying to have to click on other links just to find more complete information. So, here’s a brief summary about what the book is about: “Query: What happens when Star Trek-esque characters wearing a red shirt find out that they ARE, in fact, Redshirts.” I said it would be brief. As such, it is VERY incomplete, the ending gets a LOT more existential, and I suggest you find a better summary of the book elsewhere. Possibly, by clicking on a link.

As most, if not all, Scalzi books, I found the plot absolutely spell binding. Which was a really good thing, as the writing was very much not. Seriously, Scalzi is one of those authors who needs to find a thesaurus. The repetition of the word “said” almost made me stop reading the book. Which would have been a shame, as, like I said, the plot was fan-fucking-tastic. Writing might have gotten a “C” in any college Creative Writing course, but the plot might have made a professor “grade kindly.” There was definite character development, which is almost unheard of, in a Scalzi character. Except, possibly, with the Old Man’s War saga.

The only problem I had (aside from the thesaurus issue) with this book was the ending. Or series of endings. The whole Codex part of the title made sense at the end of the book, but honestly, I almost wish he hadn’t put those series of endings in. Yes, it wrapped up story lines that otherwise wouldn’t have been wrapped up, but as they were tangential arcs, I’m not entirely convinced they were important for the story. Unless it was a statement that reached back to the existential issues the book was talking about. In which case, thank you Scalzi for not hitting us over the head with the point, but I think a little more clarity that that’s what you were doing would have been nice. I rarely do this with books but, I would suggest that, if you were to read this, stop at the end of the first ending. Because, while the rest is not likely to hurt your eyes to read, it’s certainly not going to leave you with any Lasting Impressions, if you’re anything like me. And, if you’re NOT anything like me, then this entire review is sort of meaningless anyway.

I would recommend it to other Scalzi fans, but I certainly wouldn’t want this to be anyone’s intro to him. Due to the repetition and ending(s,) I would have to say that this is a two out of four paw book.