Thursday 26 November 2020

Shout-Out: Curling Vines & Crimson Trades by Kellie Doherty

In this queer adult fantasy novel, rare goods trader Orenda just wants to live a simple life, but when her wife gets kidnapped, she has to complete some nearly impossible tasks and trades in order to get her back. The problem is, her friend also has a list, and her final job is to kill Orenda.

This is book 2 of a 5 book series and releases November 30th. Book 1, Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, is available now.

Friday 20 November 2020

Shout-Out: Half Life by Lillian Clark

There aren't enough hours in the day for Lucille--perfectionist, overachiever--to do everything she has to do, and there certainly aren't enough hours to hang out with friends, fall in love, get in trouble--all the teenage things she knows she should want to be doing instead of preparing for a flawless future. So when she sees an ad for Life2: Do more. Be more, she's intrigued.

The company is looking for beta testers to enroll in an experimental clone program, and in the aftermath of a series of disappointments, Lucille is feeling reckless enough to jump in. At first, it's perfect: her clone, Lucy, is exactly what she needed to make her life manageable and have time for a social life. But it doesn't take long for Lucy to become more Lucy and less Lucille, and Lucille is forced to stop looking at Lucy as a reflection and start seeing her as a window--a glimpse at someone else living her own life, but better. Lucy does what she really wants to, not what she thinks she should want to, and Lucille is left wondering how much she was even a part of the perfect life she'd constructed for herself. Lucille wanted Lucy to help her relationships with everyone else, but how can she do that without first rectifying her relationship with herself?

Wednesday 18 November 2020

History Book Review: The Book of Sainte Foy Translated by Pamela Sheingorn

This is a translation of the various works associated with Sainte Foy (Sancta Fidis/Saint Faith) written in the 11th & 12th centuries for the Monastery of St Foy at Conques, in the Rouergue region of Southern France. These consist of the Passion of St Foy, four books of miracles performed by St Foy plus some miracles that appear in singular manuscripts but not in others, the Translation of Sainte Foy (ie, the movement of her body/bones from Agen where she was martyred to Conques), and the Song of Sainte Foy (translated by Robert L. A. Clark).

The introduction, while short, gives a historical overview of the foundation of Conques and why they needed a saint’s body as well as the politics and social conditions during which these works were written. It helps the reader put the stories into the proper context. Especially important here is the distinction that early Christian theologians made “…between the veneration that the saints deserved as channels through which God’s grace could flow to humankind and the adoration reserved for God alone…” (p. 3). Without understanding that miracles were believed to be performed by God’s power through the saints, the miracles performed by St Foy look like idol worship, similar to what the Roman pagans practiced.

The translations are all in clear, readable English. There are profuse notes regarding translation and content that are worth referring to often. The stories are varied and quite entertaining. The author of the first two books of stories is an erudite cleric who occasionally devolves into diatribes about how people should have more belief in the stories he’s telling.

While some of the miracles seem to have physical explanations (the translator points some of these out) others do not, and must be taken on faith (pun intended). So much of religion is based on believing without proof, and books like these must have given comfort to those with disabilities and illnesses that they too were deserving of a cure.

The book uses a lot more classical (ie pagan) allusions than I expected. After reading this I read Writing Faith by Kathleen Ashley and Pamela Sheingorn, which goes into great detail what we can discern about the authorship and writings of the miracle stories. They point out that classical allusions were a way of proving one’s erudition. They also point out that the stories follow many tropes and cannot therefore be taken at face value as being informative of life at the time.

It’s an interesting work.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Book Review: The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark

Pros: interesting worldbuilding, fast paced, great evil entity

Cons: somewhat cliche detective pair

Agents Hamed and Onsi from the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, are sent to investigate a haunting at the Ministry of Transportation. But budget concerns make dealing with the entity harder than expected.

The book is set in an alternate 1910s Egypt during suffragette protests. I liked how the fight for women’s ability to vote was tied into the rest of the story. Though it’s a novella, there’s a wealth of detail making Cairo come alive. I loved the diversity of the city, its people, food, and clothing. I loved the included - historically accurate - references to ancient and medieval documents regarding the paranormal.

The evil entity they’re dealing with wasn’t one I’ve heard of so I found it interesting - and creepy.

I found Hamed a boring protagonist. He’s not quite the stereotypical detective with a new recruit, but he’s close. I found the female characters significantly more engaging and would have liked seeing more of them and their points of view.

It’s an engaging and entertaining story that had me looking for other stories and books by Clark, including the story alluded to regarding Fatma’s assignment at the end of this one.