The Two of Hearts by Patricia Loofbourrow

(Part 7 of the Red Dog Conspiracy)

The Two of Hearts by Patricia Loofbourrow

The story starts out at a run. It picks up from where Part 6 ends and amps the tension immediately with an attempt on Jacqui’s life. This style is very much a return to the earlier books. There’s a mystery that touches a little too close, intrigue including the revelation of something I’ve suspected for some time, and Jacqui considering her relationships through new perspectives.

Speaking of characters, the series connections showed more clearly here as Jacqui crossed paths with people from other books, especially those where she wasn’t the lead. It strengthens the sense of building to something bigger than Jacqui and yet explicitly bound to her. And if you’ve been following my reviews on the series, it sure looks like the steam generators and the city’s design is in the middle of everything.

This book is not a standalone, and certain events relate closely to what happened in the previous book. I had to shake clear some cobwebs, but the clues are there to remind the attentive reader. Jacqui faces some of her biases she’s been blind to, which only makes me like her more, and yet don’t think she puts aside all her false beliefs. She gains some unexpected answers that throw her whole sense of self in question while she’s not the only character to experience growth when it hadn’t seemed possible. I quite enjoyed the maturation of characters in this book.

Many of Jacqui’s major growth moments involve her connections with others. She still assumes everything happens to torment her but seems surprised when other characters find the same link. Personally, I think it’s a little of both–a bigger picture we can’t see and playing Jacqui like the card she is rather than the one she believes herself to be.

The seeding of events works well, and I had fun building the pieces of the puzzle. The reader’s attention is drawn to things for which the book often provides plausible explanations, but I still had lingering doubts. I found myself growing suspicious of many a mention, probably too many. I’m not sure where everything that happened in this book is headed, if anywhere, but I’m certainly eager to find out.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the author in hopes of a review.

Note: I know I’ve been absent for a while. My father has always been supportive of my creative enterprises and inspired me to become a storyteller long before I could write. His absence weighs on me, but he would want me to keep working on everything. I do plan to get back to where things were. For the time being, though, I have great books to review (including this one) and waiting to be read. I may post more reviews than before, and these may appear where other topics did for a bit. I hope you stick with me and find some Tales to Tide You Over.

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A Pause

Real life has taken its toll in this moment and I will not be able to keep up my posting schedule. I will be back (and may post haphazardly before then), so don’t take this lull as a deafening silence that will never end.

Hug your loved ones, whether humanoid or other, and remember to treasure each day as it comes to you.

A cat lounging on the sofa.
Who says I need to stand on two legs to be a couch potato?

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 250: Traditional Foods

This short video offers a glimpse of the food enjoyed by indigenous Zapotecs in pre-colonial Mexico thanks to the efforts of world-famous chef Abigail Mendoza. She keeps Zapotec traditions and philosophies alive in her restaurant, which her sisters also staff.

The chef does everything using traditional manual techniques dating from thousands of years ago. The restaurant is a celebration of the Zapotec culture and helps preserve these techniques when cultural education has neglected them.

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5 Interesting Links for 04-09-2021

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Surrealism (Art)

Russian digital artist Andrew Ferez brings to life surreal and fantastical worlds on his Wacom tablet. The link from My Modern Met offers more information about him and his techniques, but provides broader examples. Click the “Show More Pictures” button at the bottom twice to see all those included. (Via @steampunktendencies)

Protection (Batteries)

There are several techniques that can help extend the life of your device batteries. This article talks about a few of them. Always check the specifications for your specific device, though, as it may be designed differently.

Technique (Editing)

It’s possible to adopt the methods suggested by Marie Kondo, a popular decluttering expert, when assessing your writing. Her approach is all about keeping only what brings you joy, and the same applies to writing, with the focus not on you but on your readers. The article lays out specific editing targets similar to how she tackles an overflowing closet.

Fabric (History)

This is a fascinating article about a delicate ancient fabric that shook the world round with its translucency. The process to make Dhaka muslin is still in use, but British colonialism in Bangladesh wiped the muslin out of existence. This fabric came not just from a technique but also a specific plant and a coordination of efforts between villages and generations that is hard to imagine in modern times.

Fantasy (Short Fiction)

Walk into a world not so much different from our own, but where fantastic elements cross over to mundane concerns. This is a powerful story about expectation, obligation, and responsibility. Enjoy.

Trainee, Seeds Among the Stars, Book 2, Twitter Sharable
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The Rising Tide by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Rising Tide by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Rising Tide has a large cast, and since most appeared first in The Stark Divide, I wished I’d read Book One more recently in the beginning. The feeling didn’t last, though, because there’s enough context to ground me, even with years lapsing between the books in their world time. Teens had grown up to start their adult lives, for example, while others grew old. I’m not mentioning names only because there are too many key ones.

While I soon reconnected with main characters in the first book, I thought the seeding of side characters who had bigger roles to play in Book Two is well done. A known character thinks about a side character from before, and when that character shows up in real-time, I have the background to place them.

And speaking of seeding, I figured out several big plot things based on the seeding but needed confirmation to be sure. I like that since it means the foundation is there and events don’t happen out of context. I also wasn’t always right about what would happen as some apparent seeds ended up going in different directions than I’d expected.

Detailed descriptions of mundane, if out of our ordinary, tasks build up the mood and sense of place in the book. This pastoral feel emphasizes the contradictions of life within a generation ship run by sophisticated AIs. Those born inside will have no real understanding of their world beyond the curved walls of Forever.

The book has overarching events, personal ones, and interim arcs to keep the story moving. The beginning already starts at a fast pace on these levels as one character is dumped, another is attacked, and so forth. Many of the situations are sticky or tense, but the thread that runs through the entire book was the first to scare me.

The relationship threads are a powerful aspect. Connections develop where none is suspected or believed possible while strong relationships endure despite challenges. This is as good a place as any to mention the breadth of both characters and relationships. The characters come from many backgrounds, genetic, geographic, and economic, while the relationships span the LGBTQ spectrum, asexual, and straight, with both good and bad examples of many. We also see familial ties born of blood or circumstance.

Nor are the characters idealized. Whether it’s mistakes made in the past or during the book, even the heroes are far from perfect, making connecting with them easier. The antagonist has clear motivations. His reasons swing close enough to the line of understandable to be uncomfortable, but his methods do not.

One of the important arcs is that of societal acceptance and treatment of difference. A small portion of the population can interact with the world mind directly. We know this from the first book, but it becomes more important after the first section of The Rising Tide. We see how those aware of this difference react in a variety of ways. The struggle to balance between recognizing the risks behind these abilities and yet not condemning those with them regardless of behavior is clear. I appreciated the discussions where characters think through their responses and what’s behind their reactions.

The first section reads as a complete story. There’s more to tell in the world and in the ramifications, but it has a solid conclusion. That’s not true of the second and third parts. Once I started the second, I had a hard time putting the book down to do necessary things. The book does a good job of blending big challenges with smaller crises to keep the momentum going while setting up the next big thing.

The way this society functions isn’t laid out like a map. Instead, we have a few people chatting here or something happening there to illustrate the myriad of elements necessary to make Forever viable. It made me aware on a deeper level of the spread of consequences when things broke down. I had bought into the story so deeply that I noticed many small world details, questioning them only to have the answer appear a few paragraphs later.

The same is true for the people. It’s the moments between the action as much as when they’re under stress where we learn about the characters through their interactions, even those reflecting poorly on the leads.

The story sucked me in. I didn’t want to stop reading. While there are pastoral moments throughout, the story builds momentum until it’s a rushing crisis by the end. The scope is simultaneously the size of their world, with monumental challenges and sacrifices, and personal ones. We see relationships come into being and grow that are as diverse as the cast, and reconnect to relationships and people we met in Book One. This doesn’t read as a middle book. It’s a complete story on its own while sharing the characters and world of The Stark Divide. That said, while a satisfying ending is a good thing, I’m glad a third book and possibly more exist. I want to check in on these folks again to see how things are going.

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