Monthly Archives: June 2016

Retro Review: The Opposite of Life (2007)

Narrelle M Harris

Pulp Fiction Press (2007)

ISBN: 9780975112922

There are a lot of supernatural dark fantasies about at the moment, so for Pulp Fiction Press to take a chance on a relatively unknown author in this genre, they must believe the story is something special. In this case, it’s a pleasant surprise to find they were not far off the mark. In The Opposite of Life, Harris has taken quite a different turn in the paranormal field. Continue reading

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New Review: Poison or Protect (2016)

Gail Carriger

Self-published

ISBN: 978-1-944751-04-3

I have been a fan of Gail Carriger’s work since the very first of her Parasol Protectorate series (Soulless) and have read each and every one of her works as they have come out. I backed the audiobook Kickstarter, I’ve read her first forays into self-publishing, and have evangelised her words and worlds to anyone who would listen, hopefully creating a few converts along the way. I’m not quite sure why her work has appealed to me so much, but I daresay it’s a combination of glorious characters (with a particularly female-focus), great steampunk aesthetic, cracking stories and of course, fabulous frocks. I’ve enjoyed every single work I’ve read to date, and Poison or Protect, the first of Carriger’s new self-published Delightfully Deadly standalone novellas, is no exception.

Poison or Protect is set between the end of the Finishing School trilogy and the beginning of the Parasol Protectorate books. Our heroine (and she certainly is that – not only is Preshea the protagonist, but this book squarely identifies as a romance, harkening back somewhat to Soulless, where it all began in feel) was a side character in the Finishing School series, and not a very pleasant one at that. Here, Lady Preshea is all grown up, four times a widow and with a reputation for murder, although naturally, it would be gauche to actually discuss such things in polite company. Employed in a dual mission at a country house party, Preshea is thrown into the company of the rather irresistible Captain Gavin Ruthven, who seems both charming and immune to the rumours that surround her. Has Preshea met her match, and can she overcome years of scandal and her deadly training to allow herself chance at something else?

This was a absolutely cracker of a story – Preshea, who wasn’t at all endearing in the Finishing School books, is a mature and self-assured character whose unfolding backstory makes her both sympathetic and frightening. Gavin is absolutely adorable and everything a romance hero SHOULD be (rather than what we too often get…) – their sweet and snarky courtship was perfectly done, and a delight to read. I don’t know how much crossover of characters Carriger has planned with this novella series, but I do hope we will get to see this pair again, as well as some of the secondary characters who rounded out the piece in sometimes unexpected ways.

In many ways, Poison or Protect is a perfect entry point into Carriger’s world – the reader gets a quick lowdown on the supernatural elements, some nice touches of steampunkishness, and just enough established characters to draw in a new reader, but not too much of anything that a newbie will feel overwhelmed. Rather, they are gently and charmingly introduced, and, naturally, left wanting more. From here, one could happily drop backwards to Finishing School or leap forward to Parasol Protectorate, without spoiling either in any way. Having read all the other books first, I also recommend it as a lovely taster for the seasoned reader – it really is that cleverly done.

A highly engaging and vastly entertaining book – can’t wait for the next one!

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Retro Review: The Parasol Protectorate

Gail Carriger

Books 1, 2 and 3, The Parasol Protectorate

Soulless

Orbit (2009)

Changeless

Orbit (2010)

Blameless

Orbit (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-316-07415-5

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

I was first exposed to what’s become known as The Parasol Protectorate series (the books are subtitled as being “Alexia Tarabotti novels”) a number of months ago, via a great video showing the creation of the cover of Blameless. This did the rounds on the ‘net showing how cover design comes together in a very cool way. I watched it a few times, thinking how clever it was, but that the book itself didn’t look like my sort of thing. HOW WRONG I WAS! When Tansy and Alex started raving about the books, I knew I had to try them. Then I received a review copy of Blameless and that decided it – Soulless and Changeless became my only Aussiecon 4 prescribed purchases, and when I finally got the chance to read them, it was to the exclusion of all else. Continue reading

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Retro Review: Hellebore and Rue (2011)

Edited by Joselle Vanderhooft and Catherine Lundoff

Lethe Press (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-59021-377-3

The tagline of this anthology reads, “Tales of queer women and magic” – it is a book filled with stories of witches and women of power, set in worlds mundane, fantastical and future, where the central characters just happen to be lesbians. A fascinating idea, and a well executed one. I enjoyed all the stories within its pages, almost without exception, something that rarely happens with an anthology. Continue reading

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Grace and Frankie – on growing old and growing up

I mainlined 26 episodes of Grace and Frankie on the weekend. That’s the whole of seasons 1 and 2, in one big gulp. Don’t judge me, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds – the episodes are only 25-30 minutes each, so heck, it could have been way worse, right?

I’m pretty sure I heard about this show via Galactic Suburbia first, a while back, but I was immersed in all the wondrous array of superhero, SF and fantasy shows that we’ve been deluged with in recent years and it passed me by. When I caught up on everything though, and was poking around online to see if anything looked interesting, Netflix cleverly threw if up in the “new releases” section and I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m so very glad I did!

The basic premise for Grace and Frankie is that after 40 years of marriage, Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) – two women who have been thrown together for decades but really can’t stand each other – are dumped by their husbands (Sol – Sam Waterston – and Robert – Martin Sheen). Their 70+ year old husbands, law partners who have been having an affair for the past twenty years, have finally bit the bullet and tell their wives, now that same sex marriage is legal, because they want to get married. Naturally, Grace and Frankie are devastated (although for quite different reasons), and then the show really begins.

Obviously there is a lot for Grace and Frankie to unpack, and we see their respective processes unfold as they work through the weeks and months that follow. We also meet Grace’s two daughters and Frankie’s two sons, and see the character journeys of all these people along the way.

I love that we get loads of older actors with fabulous roles, and although I could stand to see more diverse portrayals of people of colour, differently abled people, people who aren’t remarkably fit and attractive, and even other representations of gender and sexuality (in this world it seems everyone is cis and either straight or male homosexual – where are the rest of the QUILTBAG?), the fact that this show is without a doubt firmly focussed on women means it hits a lot of buttons for me. There might be two four male stars we see on screen regularly, but we live inside the world of Grace and Frankie, and to a lesser extent Grace’s daughters, especially Brianna (June Diane Raphael), who I particularly love.

If you had any doubt that this show is made for the female gaze, the frank and open discussion of women’s issues will set you straight (all puns unintended there!). The running storyline of the “yam lube”, plot pieces like being “invisible” as older women in a shop, discussions of the career vs motherhood and the conflict between the two showcased in Grace’s daughters, dozens of little things scattered through the show that continually hat tip the female viewer; it’s surprising how much that meant to me.

Perhaps the best thing about Grace and Frankie though is that it is a show about older women which reminds us that just because we grow older doesn’t mean we stop being ourselves. Frankie is an unrepentant pot-smoking hippie chick artist who speaks her mind and overflows with love. Grace is a determined, hard-drinking, headstrong woman who built a flourishing business from scratch and worked her whole life for it. They are very different representations of womanhood (and oh, isn’t that in itself marvellous to have) and just because they are now in their 70s and can’t unfold from a sitting position with the same poise and effortlessness they once did (yes, this is definitely a thing the show does!), it doesn’t stop either of them from being the same forceful and fascinating personalities they have always been. If I am half the woman they are at 70, I’ll die happy. And I totally want Frankie’s hair…

In tone, Grace and Frankie sits for me between Modern Family and Gilmore Girls. It’s a little over-the-top to be a serious drama, and nowhere near slapstick enough to be a full comedy, but is both hilarious and tear-jerking by turns, and this is pulled off thanks to the gorgeous performances of the actors involved, some great storylines, and mostly fabulous dialogue throughout. In short (after the long), I completely enjoyed watching this, and will be looking out for the next season. Thank you Netflix – you rock.

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