Tag Archives: library book

Strange Practice

Book Vivian ShawReview of Strange Practice (Dr. Greta Helsing, #1), by Vivian Shaw

I borrowed a copy of Strange Practice, by Vivian Shaw, from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.

This was one of those books I generally enjoyed, then say back and thought about and decided I had a problem with it. I’ll start with what I enjoyed. I thought the vampire mythos was interesting, as was the idea of a supernatural doctor (that’s a doctor to the supernatural, she’s not herself supernatural). There was quite a lot of humor and the writing is pretty good. All in all, enjoyable.

But…BUT it’s just so classically and problematically male. It’s a Greta Helsing novel, granted, but why is she essentially the only female? The gang was comprised of Greta, two vampires, a demon and a research fellow. There just isn’t any reason at least one of those couldn’t be a woman. But no, Greta is surrounded by, taken care of by and takes advice from only men. At least one of which (the one she’s attracted to) thinks it’s not really appropriate for a woman to be a doctor. She’s constantly wishing for her father and his advice, her mother wholly absent. (I can’t remember if it even said how she, presumably, died.) Even the villain’s henchmen are all male. Why do authors (especially female authors) keep leaving women out of their worlds? Here, I noticed it and as the book went on it just got more and more noticeable and more and more irritating. Because the series may be named after Greta, but it’s a book about the men around Greta. Bah! Forget that.

Book Review of The Twilight Pariah, by Jeffrey Ford

I borrowed a copy of Jeffrey Ford‘s The Twilight Pariah from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
All Maggie, Russell, and Henry wanted out of their last college vacation was to get drunk and play archaeologist in an old house in the woods outside of town. When they excavate the mansion’s outhouse they find way more than they bargained for: a sealed bottle filled with a red liquid, along with the bizarre skeleton of a horned child

Disturbing the skeleton throws each of their lives into a living hell. They feel followed wherever they go, their homes are ransacked by unknown intruders, and people they care about are brutally, horribly dismembered. The three friends awakened something, a creature that will stop at nothing to retrieve its child.

Not bad, but I wouldn’t say it covers any new ground or anything. I appreciated that, even with the narrator being male, the leader of the gang is obviously the women. Similarly, the inclusion of an incidentally gay man (and his boyfriend) with no need to include a homophobic encounter was nice. The writing was easily readable and the editing was good. But I finished the story with a shrug, rather than a shiver.

Book Review of The Stone in the Skull (Lotus Kingdoms #1,) by Elizabeth Bear

I borrowed a copy of Elizabeth Bear‘s The Stone in the Skull from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
The Gage is a brass automaton created by a wizard of Messaline around the core of a human being. His wizard is long dead, and he works as a mercenary. He is carrying a message from a the most powerful sorcerer of Messaline to the Rajni of the Lotus Kingdom. With him is The Dead Man, a bitter survivor of the body guard of the deposed Uthman Caliphate, protecting the message and the Gage. They are friends, of a peculiar sort.

They are walking into a dynastic war between the rulers of the shattered bits of a once great Empire.

It took me a really long time to get into this and then, once I did, it ended on a cliffhanger. So, my overall experience was a bit meh. Apparently this is a followup to a previous trilogy; something I didn’t know when I started it and might have contributed to my feeling disconnected from it for so long.

Having said all that, and having had an overall less than compelling experience with the book in general, I have to admit that the writing is beautiful, the world seems like it’s probably interesting, and I liked the characters a lot. Bear is still and amazing writer.