My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Maybe a 3.5 read and not bad for a freebie. The ending and some other characterization for the protagonist sunk this a bit.
Cassandra Sato is Japanese-American born and raised in Hawai'i and wants to leave teaching for academic administration with being college president as her goal. To that end she's taken a job in Nebraska in student-based admin. She's dealing with homesickness and the racism of being the only Asian face in an extreme White area of the country. She has Meg, a friend I think was also from Hawai'i (this is one of the blah points for me, how do they know each other, how did they end up at the same university because let me tell you as an academic that is not easy) and naturally has to have a love triangle of male interests because we just have to (eye roll) in Andy Summers, campus cop and Fisher, one of the men who works under her.
Cassandra is left in charge as her boss goes on a trip to Chinese to stump for student exchanges, just in time to have Austin Price, a deaf student die outside the science building he worked at (Meg is an ASL interpreter as is our author). I liked seeing the ASL inclusion in this story. As it turns out Austin is working with a grad student who is looking at an enzyme that might fight cancer and has a huge grant from it (and yes it is a big deal) and they also are getting locally sourced beef who've been treated with this enzyme as a way of getting it in the diet (which seems premature to me)
Naturally Cassandra has to get involved in solving the crime while trying to protect both students and the grant funding/food contract and fighting the racism/sexism that is in her face.
While I liked Cassandra for the most part she does a few things that make me insane, like constantly bashing social media because in her job she pretty much HAS to use it (seriously we have faculty development all the time with that in mind) so her being disdainful should be a career impediment. She is always in heels (because she's short? because that's how they do it in Hawai'i?) I have no idea but she wore them to the farm and we get another woman falling down is funny crap again (Please stop this is NOT funny). She gets mad at a student and chews him out in Hawai'i creole in a move (as much as a lot of us would love to do) is far more likely to get her fired than anything she worried about getting her fired.
But it was the ending that really bothered me. One the villain, whom she knew, a chapter before she suddenly didn't know. Even more foolish is after one of the multiple break ins at her place she doesn't call the police. She doesn't call the campus police (and Andy who likes her but she doesn't seem to feel the same) . She calls the other dude in the triangle (who she might like) and I wanted to throw the book across the room. It's when characters are TSTL that I really get angry.
Will I read more? I have a short story freebie so I'll read that. The rest of the series is debatable.
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Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the reviewers of this (who liked it less than me) said this was as if the UPS man was trying to solve a mystery and that's when I realized I've read way too many cozy mysteries as that idea didn't seem weird to me at all. And there is some truth in it. In this steampunk fantasy world, the city of Ondinium (a light weight metal of great worth) functions by a very strict caste system with the exalted at the top. Taya is an icarus (a named that bothered me as it's the only truly Earth/Greek Myth word in the book). The icarii wear metal wings and ondinium (and are small jockey-sized people) and fly around the city as messengers. They're one of the few who can go to all levels of the city and the castes.
Taya wants to be in the diplomat corps and visit other countries. What she gets is an accidental chance to be a hero when the wireferry (I'm thinking something like a furnicular train or gondola aerial tramways) is bombed and she saves Veira and her son from falling to their deaths, both of whom are exalted (believed to be reborn as the more pure human souls, closest to getting to go on to heaven/nirvana/whatever). In doing so, Veira befriends her and through her Taya meets Exalted brothers, Alister (now part of their ruling political system) and Cristof.
Cristof has thrown off the strictures of being Exalted (always being masked, wearing heavy garments to slow their movements to prove they don't NEED to go fast, do work etc) and all his wealth to work as a clockwright. he enjoys the work. Alister is a programer for the Great Engine (the thing that runs the town, how, we're never really told).
Naturally because of the romance subplot the brothers both want Taya's attention, the charming handsome Alister and the crabby, sarcastic Cristof (and this will go just as you imagine it would). All three of them are caught up in the terrorism gripping the city and Taya and Cristof especially are trying to get to the bottom of it (especially since the latter works with the lictors, the police caste).
I thought it was engaging and I liked the characters including the villain. I was less impressed with the two punishments favored in this place (death penalty or blinding/exile) and caste systems in general give me hives. You can almost sympathize with the idea of getting rid of the system (part of the point of the terrorists) until you realize that the villain's big plan is immigration control/blaming them for everything and eugenics (especially in today's atmosphere).
The support cast was interesting too. While this is a complete story in and of itself I know there are two more in the series so I'll be curious to see them.
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