Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (Book Review)

Earth Girl (Earth Girl #1)Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: ya, sci-fi, futuristic, my-dystopia-utopia, post-apocalyptic, bad-dialogue, mary-sue-and-gary-stu

The year is 2789. Our heroine, Jarra, is a throwback, one of the small percentage of people with a genetic anomaly that renders her physically incapable of using portals to move among the planets. If she tries it, she’ll die, kind of like me and penicillin. Jarra sets out to prove a point, that “apes” and “neans” like herself are as human as everyone else; they’re just stuck on Earth, that’s all, abandoned by their parents as a source of shame, which makes Earth a dumping ground of sorts, like Australia was for the British. She enrolls in an off-planet university with a first-year history program conducted on Earth and makes up an acceptable background, with the intention of revealing her true self to the hateful “exos” only after she bests them all.

My opinion is mixed. There were things I really liked and things I didn’t like.


1. Mary Sue alert! Another reviewer wrote that Jarra is one of Mary Sue-iest Mary Sues she’s ever read, and that nails it. It was like Ayla of the Earth’s Children series jumped forward in time from pre-historic Eurasia to futuristic sci-fi. Jarra knows everything, and I mean everything. She frequently takes over class lectures because she knows more than the teacher does. Ugh.

2. Dialogue. Most of it is unrealistic, used as infodumps, so it’s usually Jarra telling everything to everyone by way of exposition. The characters didn’t interact with each other so much as they listened while Jarra showed off.

3. The giggling. I was at 59% when I was just over reading “I giggled.” After that I wanted to slap Jarra upside the head every time she giggled. I dislike giggling, word and deed.


The world itself. It is imaginative, a blend of futuristic utopia via other developed planets and the Earth itself being rather a dystopia. I was left wanting more, though–what system of government do they have? What happened that made everyone evacuate Earth? What research has been done about the Handicapped who cannot portal? It’s hinted at that it’s genetic, but I would expect a futuristic society where people can regrow limbs to know more about it.

My biggest beef in this regard was the single sentence about scientific proof of creationism. How do you take something as ginormous as scientific evidence of the existence of God (or whatever) and leave it as a throwaway? (Update: For a sci-fi novel that is centered around proof of intelligent design, check out Robert J. Sawyer’s Calculating God. I loved it.)


1. Not a complete Mary Sue. I didn’t hear one word about Jarra’s extraordinary beauty or exotic accent. I have no clue what she looks like, and I appreciate that.

2. The archaeology. The ruins of New York City as a massive dig site was fun, with impact suits and hover sleds and hover belts and lasers used to clear rubble and find stasis boxes (think time capsules) buried by evacuees on their way out.

3. The science. Solar arrays scattered around the universe, planet development, the perils of solar storms, portable dome shelters, various sci-fi-ish gadgets including cell phones (“hand terminals” in the Expanse series or “communicators” from Star Trek, referred to here as “lookups”) all make their appearances.

3. The overall story. It’s a new take on bigotry and overcoming prejudice, with a nice moral. There are no physical beauty standards and sexuality is circumspect, so with the overall YA slant I recommend it for teen readers.

A decent read, overall.

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All That Remains (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Torrey stands panting, thrilled and appalled at her own rage. That vase. Exquisitely beautiful, exquisitely expensive, a symbol of the blending of their hearts and their lives.

Such a beautiful part of their wedding, as they’d each poured in sands from beloved places–hers pink and red from French Polynesia and Hawaii, his gray and black from Alaska and Costa Rica–blended to become one, forever.


All that’s gone now. Love gone, marriage gone, vase hurled to the fireplace tiles. No maid anymore, either, to clean it up.

Fine. She prefers the shards, twinkling at her in the afternoon sun.

Photo: VetoNogueira

Every week at the Ranch, head buckaroo Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less),  write a story about shards. You can write about the pieces, the item they once were, or who picks them up and why. Go where the prompt leads.”

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (Book Review)

Red Sparrow (Red Sparrow Trilogy #1)Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How-dumb-I-was-as-a-kid story: As a kid, I always had the impression that the entire world, or maybe only particular places in it, used to be black and white, before we had color film. Those were the pictures I saw over and over, in biographies and textbooks and my grandmother’s boxes and albums of photos. Nobody had blue eyes or red hair, no matter how they were described in the text. And even after I caught on, that women in the 1930’s really didn’t wear black lipstick, some places remained colorless in my mind’s eye. How could Auschwitz or the Dust Bowl be anything but shades of gray? All the Kodachrome in creation can’t do a thing with a black and white world.

That’s how well and bleakly Moscow was written in this book–despite knowing it has blue skies and green trees and people who are blonde and wear clothing in various colors, I was visualizing nothing but black and white. Once the action shifted to Helsinki or Rome or Athens I easily visualized bright flowers, sparkling blue seas, colorful buildings. Meanwhile, back in Moscow–black and white. Stark.

I was scrolling through my library’s “available now” board and checked this out on a whim, not being a real spy novel aficionado, and was pleasantly surprised. It pulled me right in to a world in which people eat betrayal for breakfast and didn’t let up. Twist and turns and double-crosses and triple-crosses and there might even have been a quadruple-cross in there, and lots of tradecraft and spy acronyms and “wet work” and intrigue and dodging surveillance in doorways and parking garages. I’ll most likely read the sequels.

Fun fact: Two books in a row (this and the very next one I read, World War Z) both had the new-to-me word spetsnaz in it. Coincidence, with Russia so front and center in our news lately? I don’t want to be paranoid.

Now for a small rant. I wonder if anyone feels as I do about this.

The rant isn’t about the book, it’s about the cover of the book, and that’s not even about this specific book. They all do it–if a movie has been made of the book, they start printing covers with a promo from the movie on it, usually a still of two impossibly beautiful and perfectly dressed people kissing in a storybook perfect setting (see: movie cover of The Notebook, which I detested. The cover and the book, I mean; I wouldn’t be caught dead watching the movie).

I can’t stand movie tie-in covers. I won’t buy a book with a movie promo cover on it, and I have the temerity to be annoyed by movie promo covers on the library books I have the good fortune to be able to read for free. When that happens I keep the cover hidden from casual view because heaven forbid anyone think I’m reading the book because of the movie, especially since I deliberately avoid the movie if I really enjoy a book because I don’t want to be pissed off. (And I understand it’s because of differences in storytelling styles from page to screen, and time constraints, yes, I get it. But I steadfastly maintain that 99.99999% of the time, the movie never measures up to the book.) Quite often the original cover art is something envisioned or approved, if not created, by the author and ties in to theme or message of the book, which adds to the overall experience, for me. Some movie star’s face–no.

When I review on Goodreads so I can blog it here, I always select the original cover no matter what edition I actually read. The original cover art for Red Sparrow was pretty meh, so I left my Goodreads selection as the movie one, to illustrate my point. And Jennifer Lawrence is beautiful, no doubt, hell, I could probably be gay for J Law, but that doesn’t mean I want her face on the cover of the book I’m reading that is not about her.

For this one, especially given that Putin features as a baddie in the book, Maria Butina on the cover might have been appropriate. ~wink wink~

Anyway, don’t judge this book by any of its covers. It’s a good read.

Bookshelves: spy-vs-spy, mother-russia, thriller

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Destiny’s Destiny (Six Sentence Stories Flash Fiction)

“You are my destiny…” he sang, giving a cheesy grin for flourish.

“Knock it off with the cornball, I’m not your destiny and you know it,” she snapped back.

“But you’re my love, my darling, my fiancée, my betrothed, right?”


“And your name is Destiny, right?”

“I swear to God, Mom, why couldn’t you have named me Madison or Courtney or Britnee like all the normal trendy mothers did,” she grumbled.

Photo: asy819

Every week, Denise at Girlie on the Edge hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. The rules are simple: Write a story, any genre, in exactly six sentences. This week’s cue was DESTINY. More fun sixes from other writers are at the link. Come join us; it’s a blast!

True Grit by Charles Portis (Book Review)

True GritTrue Grit by Charles Portis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fifty-seven out of five stars for True Grit.

Bookshelves: the-shit, wild-wild-west, western, coming-of-age, americana, action-with-a-body-count, adventure, love-the-cover, comfort-favorites, classic

Unless you’ve lived under a rock your whole life, you already know the story – young girl in 1870’s America hires tough old U.S. marshal to hunt down her father’s killer. But even if you’ve seen either or both of the movies, the book is worth reading simply for that joy only a bibliophage can know–that of a master wordsmith practicing his craft.

Mattie Ross is one of the best characters I have ever read. She jumps off the page at you, fully alive and telling an action-packed story in her unique, full-throated voice. I started the book on a Monday evening, settling in with it for my bedtime reading, and finished it on Tuesday night, after a (mostly) full night’s sleep and a full workday. Mattie pulled me headlong after her. Rooster Cogburn is merely a co-star.

Over the years I’d seen bits and pieces of the John Wayne movie but never watched it in full — the bits I caught here and there seemed hammy and overacted to me, and I wasn’t interested. More recently I did watch the redo with Jeff Bridges, more because I like Jeff Bridges than for any other reason (when they were both younger, my first husband looked so much like Bridges he’d occasionally be asked for his autograph), and I really enjoyed it, especially watching Hailee Steinfeld flat-out own every scene she was in. After reading the book I figured I’d better watch the Duke’s movie so I’d be fully informed on the matter. The Bridges version is much truer to the book, and was a better job in my opinion. The Coen brothers made it clear that their version was not a remake, but was a new interpretation of the book it was based on, and I think it did the book much more justice.

I had this book in my possession only by chance. I bought it in 2010 for my husband (a huge John Wayne fan) to read while recuperating from open-heart surgery and was disappointed when he never even cracked it. I’m rather surprised I even packed it to move to another state, when I was already having to winnow my book collection down and leave so many behind. I was finally motivated to read it after Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby (the first Spenser novel written by somebody else after Parker’s death, and that’s a whole rant I’ll spare you) disappointed me so, but I didn’t fail to notice the mini-homage to True Grit tucked inside it. So Lullaby was good for something besides convincing me once and for all to never read another not-written-by-Parker Parker book again.

But I digress. I’ve found a new comfort book. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

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Looking Back (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

“Only whores pierce their ears and gad themselves up like that,” Daddy had said. Daddy had said lots of things and done worse, which had a bit to do with her running off at sixteen.

And which had a lot to do with why almost the first thing she’d done, alone and free, was pierce her ears.

And which had everything to do with why the first earrings she’d bought were the biggest, brassiest, whoriest pair of hoops she could find.

She feels eyes boring into back, but when she looks behind her in the mirror, she’s alone. Smiling.

Photo: C_Scott

Every week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction linkup. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a character who looks back. It can be a metaphorical reflection or a glance in the rear-view mirror. Who is looking back, and why? Go where the prompt leads.”

This week’s flash is partly in honor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who bucked what I hope will be uncountable conventions at her Congressional swearing-in with bold red lipstick and big bold hoops. You go girl! And it’s in honor of every woman who wears what she wants, when she wants. You go too, girl!

Missoula by Jon Krakauer (Book Review)

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College TownMissoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is slimy, horrific, and enraging. It absolutely needed to be written, and it absolutely needs to be read.

It’s easy to listen to the numbers on rape and other sexual assaults and think, “Well, that just happens to other people.” Until you look around you, the next time you’re in your classroom, or your office, or at your book club or your yoga class, or your family reunion, and wonder which of the women you’re with are the ones? Are there 20 women there? Which 4 or 5 are the ones who have been raped? Funny, none of them look like victims. Of those women, 2 or 3 were, statistically, raped by someone they knew and probably trusted–is he here? That nice-looking guy tending the grill, maybe, or the class calculus whiz, or the new salesbro down the hall? Huh. They don’t look like rapists.

Which is what makes them look exactly like victims and rapists.

In the early 2010’s Missoula gained a reputation as the Rape Capital of America, and while Krakauer examines Missoula specifically, he takes care to point out that based on national averages, Missoula’s rape statistics are actually slightly lower than the national average. Still, Missoula, as a college town and home of their adored Griz football team, serves as a microcosm against the vast macrocosm: An examination of not only rape, but social attitudes about rape, rape victims, and the culture of the athlete or all-around-great-guy that lends protection to rapists and vilification of their victims.

This book follows the brutalization of several women and the further humiliations they suffered at the hands of those they could have expected to believe them and have their backs: the cops, the prosecutors, the juries of their peers, their friends and families. It is gritty and graphic. Definite trigger warnings here.

One of the saddest and biggest points Krakauer makes is that rape is the only crime in which the victim’s veracity and motives are continually questioned and her (or his) story routinely not believed. When you apply this standard to any other crime, you see how ludicrous it is. If you report your car stolen, are you repeatedly hounded at: Did you let the thief know you didn’t want him to take your car? Are you sure you told him “no?” Did you try to fight him off? What about the mugging victim: Why didn’t you scream, fight him off? Oh, you were in shock while it was happening? You were afraid he’d hurt you worse, maybe even kill you? Of course, we understand. Nobody ever says, “If you didn’t want to be mugged, you shouldn’t have worn your diamond wedding ring.” It’s appalling.

Rape victims are given no such understanding or compassion.

I especially appreciated the author’s ruminations at the end of the book, where he noted that until he stumbled across it while researching for a different book, he had no idea what American rape culture was. Then he took the time to ask the women around him, and was stunned at what he learned. Thank you, Jon Krakauer, for being one of the good guys who takes the time and applies the critical thinking necessary to actually get it.

Bookshelves: journalistic, social-commentary, in-the-news, current-social-issues, women, misogyny-rules, true-crime, non-fiction, sleep-with-the-light-on, trigger-warning, thank-you-for-getting-it-right

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