Monk, Devon: Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom) (2008)

Devon Monk has written the Allie Beckstrom series. Allie Beckstrom is one of many strong urban fantasy women. What she has that makes her different from everyone else is Devon Monk. Devon Monk is an excellent urban fantasy author. Her writing is delightful and the entertainment value of the books is high. Humor, action, magic and some romance are all ingredients of this series. I see that the series is recommended for ages 18 and up, but am not really certain why. Maybe I’m too Norwegian???

Allie lives in a Portland where magic has become something anyone can use. But magic extracts a price – memory loss, pain or sickness. If you do not want to pay the price, there are actually people who are willing to do so – for a sum.

Allie’s father is Daniel Beckstrom, the inventor of the rods that attract magic, drawing it away from buildings and into wells beneath the city. He and she do not get along, partly due to her choice of career. You see, Allie is a Hound, someone who hunts magic abusers through smell.

In Magic in the Bone Allie has to hunt for someone who is using blood-magic. All the evidence is pointing right to her father as thee perpetrator. This throws Allie into a world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Devon Monk does an excellent job of introducing the reader to Allie’s universe. This is high quality entertainment.

UN: Women A World Report Part II

UN Women logo
UN Women’s logo

Sometimes a gem just drops into your lap. Our library had a book sale and I bought a bag of books for 50NOK. Inside I found this collection of essays from 1986. In connection with the end of UN’s 1975-1985 this status report was created. In it we find women who meet other cultures and report on what they see. This book was sponsored and compiled by New Internationalist, a cooperative specializing in social justice and world development issues. In addition to publishing its own magazine, it collaborates with the UN and other organizations to produce a wide range of press, television, and educational materials.

The essayists are:

Toril Brekke of Norway meets Kenyan women whose husbands have travelled to the cities to find work.

Angela Davis of the US travels to Egypt where virginity is of prime importance.

Anita Desai travels from India to Norway to investigate gender roles.

Buchi Emecheta of Nigeria travels to the United States to investigate the impact of the education boom on sex roles

Marilyn French of the US investigates the difference between middle-class and poor Indian women.

Germaine Greer of Australia meets the women of Cuba, women who are considered both active comrades and sex-objects.

Elena Poniatowska of Mexico investigates the effects of the sexual revolution on the women of Adelaide, Australia.

Nawal El Saadawi of Egypt meets women involved in political activities seeking to change the definition of family and society.

Manny Shirazi of Iran investigates the impact Soviet socialism has had on the female relatives she meets.

Jill Tweedy of England meets the first generation of literate women in Indonesia

Boyne, John: The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas (2006)

The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas is a book that all children ought to read, preferably in company with an adult so they can understand the topic better. The Holocaust has been described and fictionalized time and time again. However, there are some topics that can never be delved into enough.

This novel is about 9-year-old Bruno, a German boy who has no idea of the times he is living in. He just realises that times are changing, and not in a manner that he prefers. Then his father, the handsome Commandant, is commanded to go to a dreadful place with his family. Bruno is struggling to understand why Out-With has a fenced-in area where there are many people walking around in striped pyjamas. On his side of the fence people are dressed in uniform or regular clothing.

One day, while exploring along the fence, Bruno meets a friend – Shmuel. He is thinner than Bruno but that is the only difference Bruno can see. Bruno understands enough that he keeps the friendship secret, but has no understanding of what is going on.

The ending was perfect and the last words of the author were: “Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.” Sadly humans have not learned and we and them thinking continues.


Winner of the:

  • Irish Book Award Children’s Book of the Year
  • Irish Book Award People’s Choice Book of the Year
  • Bisto Book of the Year
  • Que Leer Award Best International Novel of the Year (Spain)
  • Orange Prize Readers Group Book of the Year

Nominated for the:

  • British Book Award
  • Border’s New Voices Award
  • Ottaker’s Children’s Book Prize
  • Paolo Ungari Literary Award (Italy)
  • Irish Book Award – Irish Novel of the Year Award
  • Leeds Book Award
  • North-East Book Award
  • Berkshire Book Award
  • Sheffield Book Award
  • Lancashire Book Award
  • Prix Farniente (Belgium)
  • Flemish Young Readers Award
  • Independent Booksellers Book of the Year
  • Deutschen Jugend Literatur Preis (Germany)

2008 filmadaptation by Mark Herman

The movie has won several awards

Goyer, David S. & Cassutt, Michael: Heaven’s Shadow (2011)

Heaven's Shadow (Heaven's Shadow, #1)So! What do you think the various world-leaders would do if a Near Earth Object (NEO) appeared in the sky? Heaven’s Shadow is about that. Not surprisingly, the appearance sparks a contest between the US and the rest of the world to get to the object first. Two space ships are sent to investigate and they discover more than they had bargained for. The NEO turns out to be alien and not necessarily friendly.

Paranoia, curiosity and courage are all displayed along with pretty natural, yet often unwise reactions. Our perspective is from the NASA spaceship’s crews – their actions and reactions.

This novel is a fun read. The way people act in it seems pretty realistic. The whole alien NEO thing not so much. But that’s what SciFi is, likely and unlikely thoughts about the future. What is likely is that at some point in the future an NEO could come close enough for us to visit. That’s what makes it so fun to read. Knowing part of the story could possibly happen given a certain set of circumstances.

Fenn, Jaine: Principles of Angels (2009)

Principles of Angels is Jaine Fenn’s first novel. It’s supposed to be set 7000 years into the future on the uninhabitable world of Vellern. People live either Topside or Undertow, where Topside is the more attractive part of their world. Here the world is ruled by democracy by murder (you get to vote on whether to kill a representative). The assassins are called Angels.

Taro lives with his Angel aunt who is murdered. This throws him even deeper into the Undertow and we get to see his struggles to survive and his search for his aunt’s killer. I think “Principles” could probably be called a mystery. On Taro’s search, Taro is confronted with his own fears and prejudices.

I liked “Principles”. It is a well-written novel with prose that flows from one line to another. It is violent, but I’m guessing people who live in this world’s Undertows would recognise the fears and difficult choices you have to make. If Fenn continues like she has, then her authorship is going to a fun one to follow.

Jacka, Benedict: Fated (2012)

Fated” is the first book in the Alex Versus universe. In many ways it is similar to “The Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden is even mentioned by Alex Versus in one of the first chapters. Alex is a pre-cog. In his case, he is able to foresee the future with enough time to possibly do something about it. By seeing various outcomes, he gets to choose action or inaction in order to influence things. This is an ability that many people want to utilise.

As an urban fantasy, “Fated” is pretty average. I consider Butcher the better storyteller, but Jacka managed to hold my attention. Not every author manages to do that. But for me, it was missing that little something that makes entertainment extra entertaining.


Translations:

  • Swedish: Ödesbunden; Transl: Hanna Williamsson; Fenix, 2012

Aaron, Rachel: The Legend of Eli Monpress (2012)

Eli Monpress – bounty, paid dead or alive,
20,000 Council Gold Standard Weights.
Wanted on 157 counts of grand larceny against a noble person,
3 counts of fraud,
1 charge of counterfeiting
and treason against the Rector Spiritualis

“The Legend of Eli Monpress” is an omnibus containing the books “The Spirit Thief“, “The Spirit Rebellion” and “The Spirit Eater“. They are, of course, about Eli Monpress, a charming thief whose only goal is to get his bounty as high as possible. The reason reveals itself. During his adventures he has his mates Nico (a demon carrier) and Joseph Liechten (the greatest swordsman ever).

In order to get his bounty higher and higher Eli steals stuff. Not necessarily things that will bring him a lot of money, but things that are “without price” – like King Heinrich.

Elis main opponent is Miranda, the spiritualist, who ends up helping him in order to serve the greater cause.

The magic used in these books is based on forcing or cooperating spirits (wind, water, earth, trees, etc.).

These are fun novels. Eli is a charming character and well-written. The interplay between and those he meets on his way is described in a manner that draws me as a reader in and makes me want to know more about the characters.


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