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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Review: The Masked Songbird

The Masked Songbird (Scottish Songbird, #1) - Emmie Mears

Things I like in Urban Fantasy:


* super hero origin stories - check.

* heroines who have a real, for tax purposes job - check.

* unsatisfying sex - check.

* heroines who make geeky references in a way that celebrates those interests - check.

* interesting, powerful women who aren't the lead or evil - so . . . close, maybe next time.

* heroines who like to eat -CHECK

* under no circumstances does a heroine claim to have low self esteem due to:

  - her gigantic breasts

  - her flawless skin

  - her tall stature

  - other features generally coded as desirable  - check, check, check, AND CHECK!


Wow. I did not know what to expect from this Harlequin E book. I'm not even sure it is a romance novel - does Harlequin do other things? Maybe this is a different publisher named after the Batman villain. Turns out, the marketing should include both "Devil Wears Prada meets Spiderman" and "delightful levels of blood and gore." Oh, my, but I did like this book a lot. 


Like every employed woman in every chick lit book ever, Gwen (NOT Gwennie) has a mountain of debt and a job that barely pays enough to keep up with her bills and a boyfriend who's kind of a self absorbed asshole. Her boss is yet another distillation of the worst things anyone can think of Anna Wintour, but this time as the director of a financial firm in Edinburgh. However, instead of a series of bad luck incidents leading to a new lover and a fresh look at life, Gwen gets super powers and finds herself embroiled in the most cutthroat of politics surrounding the upcoming referendum for Scottish Independence. And while she occasionally expresses dislike of her brown hair, she isn't even constantly down on herself for her looks.


I swear on my purple leather Fluegvogs, I did not make that summary up. It's a real book. One that you could read. 


Layered into the mayhem is an understated examination of the shrinking middle class. Accountancy being the field that (at least here in the States) has the largest gender wage gap. So much of the circumstances Gwen finds herself in at the start of this book are things that should be impossible for a college educated person in a first world nation. (Though, honestly, this book couldn't possibly be set in 'Merica or nothing about medical care would make sense. Either in terms of costs or in terms of - well, not to drop too much of a spoiler, but having been to the ER while female, I found one of the plot twists completely unbelievable. Never mind the super powers - some things are too far flights of fantasy for me to accept.) 


Instead of a rapey love triangle where two dudes try to poses her, a new potential suitor totally respects her boundaries and supports her decisions. And she's physically stronger than both of them. Instead of frenemies, she forms genuine bonds with her roommate and a nurse at the hospital she keeps landing up in. 


No, really, I am talking about an actual book.


I liked it very much.


Next, please.