Review of the Mad Hatters and March Hares Anthology

I won a copy of Mad Hatters and March Hares through Goodreads.

Description:
From master anthologist Ellen Datlow comes an all-original of weird tales inspired by the strangeness of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

Between the hallucinogenic, weird, imaginative wordplay and the brilliant mathematical puzzles and social satire, Alice has been read, enjoyed, and savored by every generation since its publication. Datlow asked eighteen of the most brilliant and acclaimed writers working today to dream up stories inspired by all the strange events and surreal characters found in Wonderland.

Featuring stories and poems from Seanan McGuire, Jane Yolen, Catherynne M. Valente, Delia Sherman, Genevieve Valentine, Priya Sharma, Stephen Graham Jones, Richard Bowes, Jeffrey Ford, Angela Slatter, Andy Duncan, C.S.E. Cooney, Matthew Kressel, Kris Dikeman, Jane Yolen, Kaaron Warren, Ysbeau Wilce, and Katherine Vaz.

Review:
I think it took me a decade to listen to all of these stories. Like most anthologies, I liked some of them quite a lot and others not so much. Some seemed to just take the excuse of being about wonderland to dash non-sense on a page and call it ‘artistic.’ The narrators did a lovely job though. I thought the male narrator (Summerer) was the better of the two.

Review of The Armored Saint (The Sacred Throne #1), by Myke Cole

I borrowed a copy of The Armored Saint, by Myke Cole, from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.

Review:
If I think about the fantasy YA storyline that I feel like I’ve read the most often, it would be the one where some teen, who is just a little smarter, or kinder, or more talented, or outspoken than everyone else somehow inadvertently challenges the overbearing authority of the land and then, in a desperate attempt to rescue the people they love, save the world. I swear I’ve read this story a hundred times and we find the exact same one here. So, this is not breaking new ground. But it does at least manage to place it all in an interesting world and the writing is good.

My problem was mostly that almost every horrible thing that happened in the book happened because Heloise did something objectively stupid. Yes, they lived under a cruel regime. But that regime would have never noticed Heloise or her family if she hadn’t REPEATEDLY done stupid things to draw their attention. She seemed to have no impulse control at all and people died for it. But she still got to be the hero in the end. Meh.

Lastly, I appreciate how loving and involved fathers were with their daughters, but I was left wondering why mothers and women in general were so left out (as usual). This is just one more fantasy world in which women only exist quietly in the background. This is always especially galling when the main character is a girl.

Review of Trial by Desire, by Courtney Milan

I won a copy of Courtney Milan‘s Trial by Desire through Goodreads.

Description:
SHE CANNOT FORGET THE FIRE HE IGNITED …

In the three years since her husband left her, Lady Kate Carhart has managed to forge a fulfilling life for herself. But when Ned Carhart unexpectedly returns, she finds her tranquility uprooted — and her deepest secrets threatened. Though she has no intention of falling for Ned’s charms, Kate can no longer deny the desire that still burns in her heart.

OR THE PROMISE OF HIS LOVE …

Ned is determined to regain his wife’s trust by using unbridled seduction. But just as Kate surrenders to Ned’s passion, her carefully guarded past threatens to destroy her. Now Kate must place her faith in the only man she’s ever loved, and the only one who has ever betrayed her …

Review:
OK, I won’t say this is a bad book. I know Milan is quite popular. I’ve even read and enjoyed some of her books. But the simple fact of the matter is that I DID NOT LIKE THIS BOOK. That’s the truth of it.

I found Ned horribly selfish, from start to finish. Yes, I understood that he was young and fighting demons, that he regretted having left and was trying to make amends. My problem was that he returned just as selfish as he left. I didn’t find his fear a good enough excuse for the fact that he allowed his own wants to overshadow Kate’s openly expressed desires, over and over again, hurting her repeatedly.

Further, I didn’t understand why she continued to trust and love him. And that after the simple fact that after a 3 year absence (in a three month marriage), I wouldn’t have been inclined to forgive him in the first place, let alone over and over again.

Then, there was the domestic violence aspect. Milan spouts all the right words about it not being a woman’s fault, etc. But then she sculpted a heroine who laughed in the face of an abusive man. Yes, he was going to hurt her regardless, so why give him her fear. But it totally glossed over the fact that he very well could have killed her and purposefully antagonizing him isn’t admirable. Placation isn’t weakness if it keeps you alive. And of course the abused woman eventually stands tall and confronts her abuser. While I understand how this was supposed to be a triumph, if you really look at the inverse of it, regardless of what Milan espoused in the narrative, it all suggests that women who don’t laugh in the face of their abuser or stand tall because they’re so strong must in fact be weak. I was offended by the whole storyline.