Rebecca A. (qitten) - Reviews

1 to 8 of 8
Bless Me, Ultima
Bless Me, Ultima
Author: Rudolfo Anaya
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 122
Review Date: 12/17/2009


Bildungsroman is an unappealing sounding, ponderously German way to call a coming-of-age novel... a coming-of-age novel, wherein the primary focus of the story is the protagonist's growth from child to adult, a change that is usually awkward and painful and difficult as growing up often is.

This remains one of my favorite coming-of-age stories because of the juxtaposition of worlds. Antonio himself is the junction of all that has come before him.

His father's people are vaqueros, cowboys. His mother's people are sedentary farmers, not wanderers of the empty plain. His mother is quite piously Roman Catholic (and wishes for her fourth son to become a man of learning and a priest). His father is rather piously pragmatic. They live in a "hick town," as his brothers (back from WWII) observe--a southern California settlement at odds with and largely unknown to the broader world.

Into this comes Ultima, an elderly curandera (part shaman, part mystic healer) who comes to live with the family. Through her intervention and the conflict with the family of brujos (witches and evil-doers), Antonio becomes aware of the "pagan" world, for want of a better word. He experiences mystical dreams, meets a pagan god who has gone fishin', and aids Ultima in lifting a curse. We would call this story magical realism, but the chicano culture from which the story springs has been grounded in this sort of natural mysticism. He also sees deaths (more than a child of 7-8 might be expected to), witnesses evil, and watches the lines blur between good and evil and those that use whatever powers or skills are available to them.

It is a powerful, compact little tale that asks the hard questions, and as Antonio finds out, answers aren't so easy to come by.


Blue Moon Rising (Forest Kingdom, Bk 1)
Blue Moon Rising (Forest Kingdom, Bk 1)
Author: Simon R. Green
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.7/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 3/24/2008
Helpful Score: 1


Take typical constituents of High Fantasy. You know, dragons, princes and princesses, unicorns, An Ancient Kingdom Besieged By Evil, demons, magic, magic swords, warlocks... You get the idea. Fold in a cast of real characters, some of them fully aware of the world they're living in and all the irony inherent. Add three dashes each of humor, honest-to-goodness court politics, and well-done adventure, and you get Blue Moon Rising.

It is just plain good fun.


The Blue Sword (Damar, Bk 1)
The Blue Sword (Damar, Bk 1)
Author: Robin McKinley
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 1/16/2008
Helpful Score: 1


McKinley's two Damar books are what I like to call comfort books: a good story, generally uplifting, and perfect for a long evening, a warm blanket, and a cup of hot cocoa.

McKinley's writing style is elegant and vivid, and the story melds all the right elements: adventure, heroism, magic, romance that isn't the focal point of the story, and just enough culture, background, and miscellaneous odds and ends to draw a reader into the world. And if you're like me and appreciate that sort of thing, it has a *strong* *female* lead (like Cordelia in Buljold's Vorkosigan series, or Delenn from Babylon 5 *before* her love for Sheridan becomes the focal point of the character).


From Sand Creek: Rising in This Heart Which Is Our America (Sun Tracks)
Review Date: 12/17/2009


There is quite a lot here tying the massacre of Native Americans (at the site that is this book's namesake and in general) to more contemporary instances of American attempts at imperialism and the atrocities that happened there (Vietnam). Seeing self as a victim vs. moving beyond that victimization. The commonality of people "on the ground" before those spouting The Message corrupts that sameness. Manifest Destiny. Cultural dissonance.

I suppose if this feels a little redundant in the sense that I've seen or come across all these messages before already in contemporary writing from other Native American / indigenous folk, I also had to stop look at the publication date. This book is nearly thirty years old. It's like watching a classic movie after seeing all of the more recent movies that borrowed what were, when the classic first came out, totally new and original ideas.

All encapsulated in sparse poetry with short prose introductions (that frequently explain, in fewer words, what is going on in the poem in question).

The rating has nothing to do with the significance of this collection but more to do with the fact that I personally don't enjoy sparse poetry. 'Never say in five words what you can take six paragraphs to incoherently address' is my motto.


Minion (Vampire Huntress, Bk 1)
Minion (Vampire Huntress, Bk 1)
Author: L. A. Banks
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 82
Review Date: 1/16/2008
Helpful Score: 12


This particular book... kinda sucks. And I don't say that lightly.

Apart from the fact that the writing itself is unexceptional, apart from the fact that all the characters are flat and unsympathetic (in that I just don't care about any of them -- I don't even have a handle on who some of them are), not only does it almost immediately hit the "Vamp book, so there must be lots of sex, and if not sex, several pointless descriptions of masturbation! And hey, some graphic sexual violence just for kicks!" ...

My greatest complaint about this book is the simple fact that nothing happens. Really. There's one spontaneous difficult-to-follow and never ending fight scene near the beginning of the story, and that's basically all the action (and plot) you can expect. It's a talky-talky-talky-talky book with the extra added benefit of painfully dull dialog.

I wanted to like this book. It's written in a setting I'm unfamiliar with, and proposes a few interesting novelties that I haven't come across before in this genre, but it just doesn't do anything useful with either of those things.

I own the second book. I'll probably read it just for kicks, but I'm not holding my breath.


On Basilisk Station  (Honor Harrington, Bk 1)
On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, Bk 1)
Author: David Weber
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 51
Review Date: 1/16/2008
Helpful Score: 6


For those who need the heads-up, this is very hard science fiction. So hard that the frequent and lengthy science, technology, and weapon-related asides made my eyes glaze over a bit. Necessarily as the first novel in a fairly long series, this does provide a lot of background, fundamental universe structure, and a firm grounding in How Things Work here, and this Weber managed commendably well.

The story itself is a gradual, somewhat grinding buildup to the final ship battle (which, oh man, it's *epic* and well worth the wait), and it almost always feels slightly disconnected from what's going down "on the ground." While at times frustrating, this *works* for the story, as it's told from command central.

I thought, at first, that it lacked much of the interpersonal relations that make characters interesting (apart from a secondary character's ongoing inner conflict) until I caught myself going "duh". The military demands professionalism, not tete-a-tetes, and so much of the character interaction remains very true to what one should expect in that atmosphere. Honor is an undeniably strong and driven female lead, something relatively unusual in hard science fiction, though I admit that I'm still waiting for actual flaws to balance out the character.

If this first novel is anything to go by, the series looks as if it should be quite promising.


Tropic of Orange
Tropic of Orange
Author: Karen Tei Yamashita
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 12/17/2009


OK. So. Look.

This is one of those books that I should, according to all my usual thyme and reason, enjoy. It possesses just enough magical realism to meet my needs (because I read primarily for escapism), engaging character voices, and initially presents itself as if I'm going to need to pick out the meaning and undercurrents and themes -- the whats, whys, and wherefores of what's going on -- as if it's *meaty*. I enjoy disjointed story lines (because jigsaw puzzles are my friends) and unreliable narrators and weirdness.

What I *require* is very simple--I can't stand to be preached at. Yamashita? She kinda preaches. She is as subtle as a tommy gun. Arcangel, one of the characters narrating his part of the story, spells it out in blunt poetry that I don't even have to try to tease apart. That's boring.

I adore some of the imagery, I'm confused by some of the minor plot lines (baby parts? what? so?), and the ending doesn't quite deliver the punch that I think she means for it to. Which is kind of a shame.

But the whole apocalyptic overtones meant I spent some time brushing up on apocalypses in general, and that's never a bad thing.

We're all gonna die!


The Walls of Air (Darwath, Bk 2)
The Walls of Air (Darwath, Bk 2)
Author: Barbara Hambly
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 59
Review Date: 3/28/2009
Helpful Score: 2


This is the second book in a trilogy with all that usually entails -- its primary use is a bridge, I suspect. There is a great deal of traveling from one location to another, lots of studying and exploring and question-answering, with occasional instances of action. So in that respect, it is fairly standard.

But it's written by Barbara Hambly, and she continues to provide writing that is exceptional in its readability hand-in-hand with characters (and a world) that are complex and easy to love.

A very satisfying mid-80s fantasy, and I look forward to the conclusion of the series.


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