Friday, October 17, 2014

Freedom by Ilima Todd

Remake (Freedom #1)
by Ilima Todd
My rating:         Dystopian
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

With her remake date closing in, Nine must decide who she wants to be. Male or female? Tall or short? Before moving on from their childhood homes to live in the wider world of Freedom, the batchers must chose looks, names, and trades. But the only thing Nine knows for sure is that she wants to lose the freckles and red hair that have always marked her out from the others in her batch.

On their way to the remake facility, though, a plane crash dumps her into the ocean, and she washes up on a beach where people live quite differently. And without the drugs that have been suppressing her hormones pre-remake, she begins to mature into the woman she was born to be.

A post-overpopulation dystopia, Remake is in many ways quite typical of the genre: our young heroine grows up in relative isolation, unaware of any alternatives to her controlled community, until circumstances force her to consider her place in the world. There's an overbearing, totalitarian regime, and a shadowy rebel group in the background. There's even a hint of a love triangle between the men from her old and new lives.

I liked Nine, although her agony of indecision felt quite overdone in the first few pages. With the exception of her best friend Theron, the others in her batch are either cartoon villains or glossed over with barely a comment, so it's only after the crash that she really has a chance to meet some characters with personalities of their own, which further highlights the difference between the two communities.

Overall, a quick read which ends on something of a cliff-hanger setting up the next book in the series.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: The Temporary Bride

The Temporary Bride
The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec
My rating:         Nonfiction Memoi
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

Reading rather like a romance novel, The Temporary Bride takes us with Jennifer to Iran. She goes to learn about food, but along the way, she falls in love with Vahid, a young man who absolutely cannot marry her. At least, not according to his family. And nothing in his upbringing prepares him to fight back, even when Jennifer's visa is about to expire.

Iranian law and custom, however, has a fairly substantial loophole: with a temporary marriage contract, a couple can be together without any long-term commitment. This concept absolutely stunned me. From a few hours to days, weeks, or years, the only requirement is to find an Imam who's willing to marry you, and for the man to pay the woman for her time (yes, really). It's hard to imagine such a conservative, religious environment coming up with such a scheme.

Since this isn't romantic fiction, of course, there's no guarantee of a happy ending, and I won't spoil the book for future readers by sharing how the story ends. Suffice it to say that this is a fascinating glimpse into Iranian culture and cuisine, as well as a compelling human story.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Jazz Age Mysteries by Ellen Mansoor Collier

Flappers, Flasks
Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play (Jazz Age Mysteries #1)
My rating:         Mystery
Source: Publisher (direct)

Jasmine Cross is a young journalist in 1920s Galveston, hoping to make a name for herself as a reporter, although the sexist attitudes of her colleagues threaten to consign her to working on fluffy pieces for the society pages. So when she accidentally finds herself mixed up in a gangland murder - and pursued by a charming federal Prohibition agent - she's delighted to suddenly have the opportunity to get involved in a real story. Aided by the paper's photographer (and her good friend) Nathan, Jazz must uncover the truth if she's going to get her half-brother released from jail.

Jazz is an excellent heroine; she's far from a natural at handling dead bodies, but in the interests of her fledgling career she's willing to force herself to face up to the criminal underworld. She's also fiercely loyal to her friends, and unwilling to compromise on her personal ethics.

I loved the colourful Prohibition-era backdrop, with its booze-running gangs and dodgy officials. It took me a little while to get the hang of the 20s slang, but that's more about me than the book (it was usually obvious what words meant from context). An easy, enjoyable read that introduced a fascinating world.

Bathing Beauties
Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets (Jazz Age Mysteries #2)
My rating:         Mystery
Source: Publisher (direct)

Bathing Beauties, the second Jasmine Cross mystery, sees young journalist Jazz tasked with writing about Galveston's annual beauty pageant. To begin with she's unimpressed by the assignment (and the pageant), but when a couple of female corpses are discovered, she spots the opportunity for a proper scoop that the city would prefer to keep hidden. And as she gets to know the bathing beauties on a more personal level, she begins to understand their motivations, and to see them as people rather than as mere bodies on display.

The first two novels in this series are fairly independent, and the only spoiler for Flappers found in these pages is that there was a successful resolution to the case - which can hardly be considered a surprise in what is basically a cozy mystery novel. Although there is a small amount of character and relationship development, I think it would be fine to read them out of order.

I really like Jazz, she's a great character and determined to make the most of things, although she has to put up with a lot in her sexist, old-fashioned (well, it is set in the roaring 20s!) working environment. I'll confess I was a little less enamoured of Agent Burton, who provides the romantic interest, in this novel. After the first book I was keen to see James and Jazz's relationship progress, but he says some things to her in this book which reveal a bit of sexist prejudice beneath the surface, and he'll have to work extra hard for her affections if I'm to forgive him.

Overall, these are perfect light-reading material for mystery fans - an intriguing historical setting, great characters, and plenty of plot to keep you turning the pages.

Gold diggers, gamblers and guns
Gold Diggers, Gamblers and Guns  (Jazz Age Mysteries #3)
My rating:         Mystery
Source: Publisher (direct)

Gold Diggers is the third mystery novel starring the wonderful Jasmine Cross, an aspiring journalist with a knack for finding herself involved in the cases she wants to report on. Despite her bosses' insistence on giving her society events to cover, Jazz is drawn to the darker side of Galveston life, and insists on turning up at the scene of every crime.

This time she arrives at the scene of a shooting, only to find evidence that her boyfriend (and local prohibition agent) is being framed. Her clumsy attempts at hiding the evidence only make things look worse, and when the local law enforcement take an interest, she's determined to find the real solution in time to get him off the hook. Meanwhile, her brother is becoming steadily more embroiled in dangerous gang business.

Jazz is one of my favourite amateur sleuths, and she's on top form here, steadily pursuing her professional ambitions while her relationship with Agent Burton is put through the wringer. Compelling cozy reading.