Don’t piss off a Feminist writer

26114478Kameron Hurley is an interesting person. I’ve read a couple of her novels, and found them interesting, if not completely to my tastes, but her blog is even more engrossing. She is an out and proud feminist, and her blog reflects a lot of those views. She is a favorite target of the ultra right-wing blogger Vox Day, and I really don’t recommend taking a look at his blog if you have blood pressure issues. She also writes a periodic Commentary essay for Locus Magazine, alternating with Cory Doctorow.

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of her blog posts, as well as guest posts written for other websites. the book divides it into sections about her life, the craft of writing, and fandom. The reprints are mixed with new essays written for this volume

One of the best known of these postsĀ is ‘We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative‘, which can still be read online. Reading this essay will give you a pretty good feel for the book as a whole. It also explains the cover (she uses Llamas as a metaphor for women in fiction).

I bought this in paper, but listened to it as an audiobook from the library. The narrator was in danger of coming across as a little shrill in places, but she does a good job. Listening to a couple essays a day on my commute home was a great way to consume this book.

James Patterson BookShots

James Patterson is a writer I am very conflicted on. I read — and enjoyed — a number of his early Alex Cross books (before they were even turned into movies), but over time, I lost interest in him, mainly when he went to becoming an industry instead of a person. The majority of his books these days are written by other authors with some input from him. After all, how else can one man be approaching 200 books with his name on them (unless, of course, your name is Isaac Asimov)

Last year he came up with BookShots, yet another go at novella publishing. Novellas have been printed in the past, and with ebooks there’s been a resurgence of novellas. I did find the press a little over the top, like it was some new concept, printing short novels that are faster paced and shorter. The only difference from similar lines that have been published in Britain and Australia is that they are being billed as for readers with little free time instead of books for reluctant readers. Oh, and those other stories didn’t plaster a single author’s name all over them.

So, recently I read/listened to four books in this line. What did I think of them?

29852424Zoo 2 is sequel to a very bad novel, of course called Zoo. I read the first book, thinking that the concept sounded interesting, only to want to throw the book at the wall (I didn’t, since it was a library book), mainly due to the portrayal of the female character. It also ended on a ‘the world as we know it is over’ note.

So, when the sequel came out, I was reluctant, but decided what the heck, it’s short, and it’s a different writer. Unfortunately, the problems with the first book were just amplified in the seconds. I made it through the book, but only just, and the ending implied that there will be a Zoo 3 someday.

Strangely, the television show based on the first book is actually quite enjoyable. They took the concept, and went in a completely different direction, which is good thing.

29858367Then we have Killer Chef, a murder mystery set in New Orleans. The detective is a cop who moonlights as a food truck chef. Or maybe it’s the other way around, since it always seems like he’s leaving the food truck he runs with his ex-wife to go to a crime scene, this time being a series of murders at high end restaurants. There’s only one scene in the entire story where he is at the police station. Doesn’t the man have to do any paperwork?

Between that, and the fact that he sleeps with two different women during the investigation (both of whom are part of the case), I was inclined to toss the book. Plus, while he identifies how the poison got to the restaurants, he never does figure out how the poison is delivered to the right diners and only them. It’s a fatal flaw in the book as a mystery.

31423215Then we have Taking the Titanic, an historical caper novel set on the Titanic. Two thieves team up, getting on the ill-fated Titanic in first class in order to hustle their fellow passengers, while accidentally falling in love (of course). There are secrets that come up to bite them, and I’m not sure I believed the ending. I also wasn’t crazy about any of the characters, including the child in danger. In the end, it was better written than Killer Chef, but less enjoyable.

31345269The last book I listened to (hey, the audiobooks are available from my library, and they are all only 2-3 hours) is The Royals, a novella set in the book line of Private, about a high-end detective agency. The scandal-causing member of the extended royal family in England is kidnapped, and her death is threatened as a ruining of one of the Queen’s official appearances. The members of Private are hired to rescue her quickly. Some elements of the story were obvious, but at least one plot twist managed to surprise me. I may actually have to try some of the full-length novels in this series.

So, if I was going to rank these four on my enjoyment of the stories, it would be:

  1. The Royals
  2. Killer Chef
  3. Taking the Titanic
  4. Zoo 2

Will I try any of the other Bookshots available? Maybe, if I get the urge. A number of the other audiobook versions are available from my library, and as I said, at 2-3 hours (less if you listen at 1.5x speed)

Librarians are always Bad-Ass

25814351The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is a great title for a book. Fiction or Non-Fiction, it’s great. When I first heard the title before it came out last year, I was intrigued. When I heard the summary, I was sold. It took a few months to hit the top of my to-read pile, but here we are.

Looking at reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, it seems a lot of people are complaining ‘I don’t want all this history, I want the bad-ass librarians!’ But the question is, can you understand how bad-ass they are if you don’t know the history?

This book covers four broad areas

1) Abdel Kader Haidara being seduced into the work of collecting the books of Mali that are hidden away (based mainly on the colonial era) into a central location where they can be properly conserved, studied and referenced. Considering the experience of people opening up trunks kept carefully locked, only to find that insects have made a meal of the precious hand-written manuscripts (yes, I know that phrase was redundant), it’s clear that it was a task well worth taking on.

2) The history of Mali and Timbuktu in particular to explain why the region is home to so many historically significant books.

3) The rise of Islamic Extremists in the region and how they seized control of much of Mali.

4) And finally, Haidara and other librarians recognizing the great danger to their treasures, going to great lengths to smuggle them out of the extremist-controlled areas, and the continuing danger from the environment as they wait for the right time to return the books to the many libraries of Timbuktu (things are still a little too fraught to do so yet, and the conditions the books are currently stored in are not kind to such fragile books).

I consumed this book as an audiobook, and I have to admit, the narrator did a fantastic job with names that must have been difficult to read out loud without stumbling. Instead, they rolled off his tongue completely naturally. It was a very pleasant way to spend my commute.