KEEPING IT REAL

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There's some neat elf magic stuff, which I also approved of. There's a deus ex machina dragon at the very end, and you know how I adore dragons regardless of their deus ex machina status. So why do I only give this book two stars? At all. It's either too rocky to dig, the clay is too unstable, or the water table is too high. Unfortunately, this is the very first sentence in the book, and immediately set my eyes a-narrowing. It's definitely a minor detail, and as a Texan I am perhaps picky about Texas-related details as previously noted. However, this is the kind of detail that I would expect an editor to pick up on—and it's only the first in a series of should-have-been-edited errors of the factual, stylistic, and continuity variety.

Don't Skimp on the Logic Aspect of Worldbuilding I was definitely fascinated by the elves' realm which I'll describe a bit more later , but was pretty confused about the human one. Because if there's one thing humans are good at, it's unifying efficiently and without conflict. Also odd is this: So demons and elves have both been intimately aware of the existence of extradimensional regions, and both called this type of reality the Aetherstream—but upon meeting the humans, they both adopted the human phrase for it: Interstitial, or I-space.

Even though humans weren't aware of I-space until the demons showed them that it existed. Don't Think Readers Won't Notice the Story's Illogical Premise A premise is a fairly important aspect of a story, being, you know, what the story is built upon.

An illogical premise makes for an illogical story. And boy does this story have some premise problems. A year couple of years? Things went, shall we say, badly. Now, I love her cyborgness, and I'll describe that in more detail in a little while. Why is this a problem? That's right. Lila is terrified of elves as a result of the whole tortured-nigh-unto-death experience.

Oh, and deeply prejudiced against them, might I add. I don't remember if it was explained why Lila is the operative chosen for this mission, though this tidbit does come up during a mild argument between Lila and Zal about whether or not he should do what she tells him to: So not only is she terrified of elves, she doesn't even have to be on this mission because there are plenty of others who would happily accept it.

Keeping It Real

Now, I'm not a psychologist, but it seems a tad bit unlikely that Lila would work through such deep-rooted psychological issues within, say, fifteen minutes. As a reader, I'd want to see this sort of emotional progress take, oh, the majority of the book, at least. But as the synopsis suggests, the romance is more important than any realistic character development or arc, and almost as soon as Lila is over her fear of elves, she's telling herself not to be so attracted to Zal. Oh, and since I mentioned psychologists: there is one on staff for the National Security Agency, a Dr. This poor woman quite desperately wants Lila to open up about being tortured and the transition from human to cyborg, but apparently Lila has other ideas.

Let me restate that to accurately express my astonishment: Lila was tortured to the brink of death while on a mission in the elves' realm Alfheim , and saved only by being transformed into a cyborg. She's essentially a one-woman army now. She's been physically rehabilitated and sent back out into the field, working as a lone operative on solo missions.

The latest of which is to be the personal bodyguard of an elf. And the Agency never once made her sit down and talk with a psychologist. Only after Lila has begun her mission to protect Zal does this happen: You read that correctly. She was just patched up to be flippant about it and sent back out in the field.

Specifically, into a mission working for an elf. I just. I can't. What kind of Agency is this? How could thorough psychological rehabilitation not be included in Lila's post-operative treatment? Katie, I'm despairing over here. I'll repeat that for emphasis: she leaves her charge alone. To stock up on weapons and supplies. After being on the job for less than a day. This is their top operative, really?

Also, she doesn't actually get backup. During the time Lila spends as Zal's bodyguard, her skills are tested three times. She basically fails the first two, and definitely fails the third. She fights two small assailants presumably an assassination attempt and gets poisoned and then knocked out. She fights two adult assailants and is so badly outmatched that she goes into Battle Standard mode which is awesome! She faces off with two adult assailants, and although she holds her own much better this time, Zal is still kidnapped.

After the first time, surely someone—Lila or her superiors—should have thought, "You know, maybe having a single bodyguard on this mission isn't enough. Maybe two would be better. But if the story requires Lila to a be an elite operative with the National Security Agency, and b suck at her job, I want to know why she is elite if she sucks as much as she does.

This would've been a great time for her fear of elves to make itself known, for example—except, of course, that would accentuate how dumb the premise is. Also, she's able to shut down her fear responses through the use of her Artificial-Intelligence-self, which is cool. This isn't the explanation for how she got over her fear of elves so quickly, alas. It's obviously necessary to have a flawed protagonist, one who makes mistakes and messes things up. No one enjoys reading about the bad ass who is so good at killing that she doesn't so much as break a sweat , because there's no tension or stakes involved when she's obviously going to win every battle.

The problem is when the character's mistakes and limitations should receive a certain type of response say, from her superiors but don't. If an operative is struggling with her mission, her superiors would send assistance. So there's another logic flaw for you: her superiors are idiots who clearly don't know how to run their Agency. Cyborgs As I mentioned, I'm into cyborgs. Pretty seriously.

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Like, everything about cyborgs fascinates me. I think it started young watching Star Trek was a family affair when I was growing up, and man those Borg were scary , but didn't really become an obsession until I read Donna Haraway's A Cyborg Manifesto halfway through my master's program. That one article changed the whole course of my master's degree, and has greatly impacted both what I look for in a book and what I write, myself. But suffice to say that I'm thrilled with Lila's cyborgness. She looks pretty neat: Do I wish it had been more carefully and thoroughly explored? But there are some acceptable nods toward the issues inherent in cyborgness, and I appreciated those.

Such as, of course, her sense of self: I've already referenced two of my favorite things about Lila's cyborg self: her Artificial Intelligence aka AI-self and Battle Standard mode. Her AI-self is almost exactly what it sounds like: a secondary "brain" that can control her body, overrule her emotions, and is pretty constantly connected to the National Security Agency's, uh, internal servers, as well as the Internet and stuff.

It's not intelligent in the sense that she has conversations with it, though. Her control over it is pretty thorough, and it allows her to do some neat stuff. Surgery, for example: The only complication with her AI-self so far is that its Battle Standard mode is a tad bit Battle Standard is that super hardcore mode she can turn on when she's in a really bad spot, and I love both the AI-self and the glitchy Battle Standard, and all the cool things Lila can do with her cyborg body.

Interesting Elf-Related Concepts Elves have kind of been done to death across all media, but a I still love them, and b I get quite excited when I come across a new or not-often-seen twist on the traditional elf. Keeping It Real offered some of that! First is the andalune , which is something like an elf's In the elves' realm, however, it extends further than just a short distance from the elf's body, actually becoming one with the energy field of nature. The andalune does a great job of providing some additional explanation for why the elves are so nature-centric; they are literally connected to and dependent on nature at every level of their being.

This is neat, particularly when so many elvish societies out there are nature-loving because that's just what elves are. The other neat thing is the Game—a sort of trap that ensnares an elf and a human or two elves, or an elf and a demon The wild magic loves secrets, and seeing them manifest in the real world—so if an elf and a human are at odds, and one or both has desires that they are denying, wild magic is likely to initiate a Game to see that those desires are forced into the open.

Of course, there's a science-fictiony sort of explanation offered: Needless to say, Lila and Zal almost immediately get sucked into a Game revolving around it's assumed Lila's repressed attraction to Zal. Each Game has a Victory condition in their case, the loser begs the winner to end the Game—and by "end the Game" I do mean "sate the loser's lust" and a Forfeit punishment here, the one who forfeits will never be able to love anyone but the winner. Honestly, I think this is super neat. Humans are generally acknowledged as the predetermined losers, because elves and demons are such more more adept at them.

Games between faeries and powerful human businessmen almost led to an economic collapse on earth, and everyone knows that if you commit a homicide as a result of a Game, you can easily get that charge downgraded to manslaughter. Yes, the Game is an excuse to up the sexual tension between Lila and Zal, but I love the concept of the Game for its own sake.

A Reversal of Stereotypical Gender Roles You are of course shocked to hear that I'm keenly interested in gender issues identity, representation, roles, etc. Not terribly surprising, I guess, since this story is about a female protecting a male, but it goes beyond that basic premise.

First, there are the physical differences. Lila and Zal are the same height unless Lila artificially alters her height by manipulating her cyborg legs , but where Lila is all metal and muscle, Zal is willowy grace, big eyes, and long hair. Not surprising, I guess, because he's an elf, and the stereotypical elf male these days is super androgynous—but nonetheless, I enjoyed it. Zal's personality is cocky and playful, which leads him to tease and test the businesslike Lila when they first meet.

Her first official duty as his bodyguard is to transport him from his home to his recording studio, and she has her fancy motorcycle all ready to go for just that. Naturally, this becomes an opportunity for him to try to push her buttons: Lizzy would've loved all the motorcycle stuff. I'll give Keeping It Real a solid two stars for effort. But it did have its neat points including one in particular that I didn't mention because I want there to be at least one good surprise in there if you read it yourself.

I might consider reading the next in the series, Selling Out, but it'd be low on my to-read list.

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Love, Liam This is probably not a book for die-hard fantasy or sci fi fans, but it's amusing and entertaining enough for the rest of us, and if you enjoy the sort of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' episode which concentrates on relationships or holodeck fun, you'll probably enjoy this.

Outwardly fantasy, featuring elves, demons, faeries and elementals, with a series title which hints at sci fi Quantum Gravity and a cyborg for a heroine, I was a bit puzzled by the lack of science in this book, and I'm at This is probably not a book for die-hard fantasy or sci fi fans, but it's amusing and entertaining enough for the rest of us, and if you enjoy the sort of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' episode which concentrates on relationships or holodeck fun, you'll probably enjoy this.

Outwardly fantasy, featuring elves, demons, faeries and elementals, with a series title which hints at sci fi Quantum Gravity and a cyborg for a heroine, I was a bit puzzled by the lack of science in this book, and I'm at a loss to explain the title. I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to enjoy 'Keeping It Real', billed on the back cover as "full of sex and elves and motorbikes". Nevertheless, it really was an extremely enjoyable tale with sexual tension between the main characters, a journey of discovery into the unfamiliar world of the elves with the promise of more to come in the other books in the series.

Taking away the fantasy background, this story is about trying to break down barriers between races, breaking cultural taboos and proving that mixing races will not lead to the breakdown of society. Our heroine, Lila is prejudiced against elves, mostly because one did a pretty good job of trying to kill her. What's more, he is consorting with demons strangely reminiscent of heavy metal fans , faeries and elementals. Lila has a big chip on her shoulder about elves but is drawn into a magical Game with Zal, ensnared by wild magic; they share an irresistible chemistry.

As the plot thickens and everyone is under suspicion of threatening Zal, the couple finds itself being pursued by members of the elf secret service, one of whom turns out to be Dar, the elf who nearly destroyed Lila. As in the best fantasy, a magical journey ensues with many dangers along the way with twists and turns, surprises and revelations and mutual suspicion between the characters. Nobody can be trusted to tell the whole truth. It turns out that Zal is not the only elf attracted to Lila, against all the odds.

There is action in the lake which couldn't help but remind me of the scene in the lake in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Justina Robson has fun mentioning various cultural references, some of them exceptionally British, so they might be lost on other nationalities; this doesn't detract from the plot but does mean you could miss some of the humour.

Sometimes that goes a little awry. I wonder how deliberate that was. Attitudes are very inflexible. They are disgusted by it. A full name has a deep magic allowing one elf to control another; elves guard their full names jealously and try to keep them out of their enemies' hands. This is a very feminine take on fantasy, so if you are looking for Bladerunner-style hard-edged sci fi, this isn't the book for you.

If you like your elves sexy, your heroines intelligent and strong and don't mind some magic in the mix, I'd recommend 'Keeping It Real' whatever that means. Also recommended for fans of Jasper Fforde's 'Thursday Next' series. Dec 30, Karissa rated it really liked it.

This is the first book in the Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson. So far there are four books in the series with a 5th being planned for future release. I wasn't able to find the number of books actually contracted for this series. Anyway, I really liked it. It is a great first book in the series and I want to learn a lot more about both the world and the characters. A quantum bomb exploded in ripping a hole in reality and revealing five other realities; an elven realm, an elemental re This is the first book in the Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson.

A quantum bomb exploded in ripping a hole in reality and revealing five other realities; an elven realm, an elemental realm, a demon realm, the realm of death, and Otopia Used to be known as Earth. Zal is an elf that has abandoned his homeland and become half demon; he then entered Otopia and started performing as a rock star. The elven community wants him dead and Lila Black is the one assigned to guard him. Lila is not quite human. She got into a horrible accident and the only way to save her life was for her to agree to be part of an experiment.

Now she is part AI, part cyborg, and part human. Initially she thinks that she is guarding a rock star This was a very creative book. I loved the five realms with a possible sixth somewhere they were awesome. We really only get to visit Otopia and the Elven realm, Alfheim, in a lot of depth and I am eager to visit the other realms.

The characters are very engaging. All of them have their heroic points and their flaws. Lila and Zal both struggle with being different in a world where things are more bizarre than ever before. The dialogue was witty and funny most of the time; Lila in general is a kick butt character always ready with a quick jibe and tease. The plot is complex and densely packed. There is a ton of action and Robson does a very good job writing the action scenes.

Robson's writing style is pretty straight-forward, there is not a lot of flowery language here or over-description, the writing style fits the story well so it all works out. There were some small problems with the book. The whole world actually five worlds are a lot to throw at a reader all at once; it can get a little bit confusing. I thought this was handled okay. Also most of the book is written from Lila's viewpoint, then suddenly in the second half some chapters are from Zal's point of view. This was a bit odd; although it worked okay, it took me a few moments to figure out what was going on.

The last problem was that a lot hinges on The Game that Lila and Zan are bound up in. I never really understood what a Game was or how it got initiated; I understand it happens through Wild Magic but I though that aspect of the plot could have been clarified better. Other than the above, I thought the complicated world and plot was handled pretty well. The characterization, world-building, and action scenes were fantastic. I am really, really looking forward to reading more books in this series. I stumbled upon this series in a special display at a bookstore and I am wondering why this series isn't getting better coverage.

It is a good series. People who have described it as Dragonlance meets Star Trek are right on. I can't wait to see what the next book holds. Jun 23, Jai rated it it was amazing. The basic premise is that Lila Black, a special agent with a body that is mostly machine, has been tasked to protect the lead singer of The No Shows - an elf named Zal. Zal is unusual amongst his kind and has made a strange choice to be "slumming" down on Earth. Someone from Alfheim, who disapproves of Zal's lifestyle is sending him death threats. Half of the book takes place on Earth and the other on Alfheim, but I don't think I can even begin to start describing it.

It was so much fun to read! How do I explain why!? First of all - this was not done in a fluffy silly way - when I tried to explain it to someone: "There were elves, and one of them is a rock star-", I got a face. It's not like that at all. The characters are compelling. Lila is a woman who has guns popping out of her body and rides a black motorbike, but she's very confused about how she feels about elves - they almost killed her and that's what made her this way. She has difficulties with accepting what she looks like now.

Bride Hacks

And Zal is a bit of a mystery at first, an elf who has chosen to defy his people and "go native" in another world, exiled because of his choices. His character is rather complex and undefinable. There were a couple of other very interesting characters I wish I could get into but I can't without giving away big chunks of plot.

Speaking of the the plot, it unlike anything else I've read, unpredicable, full of action and thrills. There are a lot of pop culture references and jokes other reviews say many funny LoTR references, which totally went past me, I haven't read those books since I was 14 , but you don't need to get them to enjoy the story. The only thing I'd complain about is that there were times in the story where, especially dealing with elves, I felt like they understood something about what was going on that I did not why did they do that now?

Maybe this lends itself to the whole clash of cultures between human and elf, or maybe I just need to reread those parts. I felt like Robson was an intellectual writing something fun instead of something with a serious agenda. And I'm glad, because I loved it. This was a keeper! When I read the blurb for this book I couldn't decide if it was a futuristic, an urban fantasy, a Sci-Fi, or just a straight out fantasy.

I just knew that I wanted to read it. After I started it, I found out that it's pretty much a mix of all of the above. Just like Lila is a mesh between human and machine. After the Quantum Bomb, the world changed forever. Even the name changed, Earth is now known as Otopia. But more importantly, the fabric between the dimensions was torn, opening up the way to When I read the blurb for this book I couldn't decide if it was a futuristic, an urban fantasy, a Sci-Fi, or just a straight out fantasy.

But more importantly, the fabric between the dimensions was torn, opening up the way to five other realities. Humans can live alongside creatures from other realms. Demons, elves, elementals, and all types of faery live amongst us in a world now deep in magic and technology. Lila Black is a woman, but she's also a machine with an AI. After a mission that almost killed her a few years back, her body was fused with carbon and metal alloy to become an efficient machine with enough weapons to have something handy for any situation.

When she takes the job of guarding an elf who happens to be the lead singer of a very popular band, the story seems very grounded in a recognisable world. But when someone attempts to kill and in fact take Zal from this realm and into Alfheim, she has no choice but to put her trust in the elf responsible for her 'upgraded' physical condition. The one who almost destroyed her. Wrapped in a futuristic package is a fantastical tale with places and concepts that will stretch the boundaries of your imagination.

I enjoyed the seemingly simplicity of Lila, and how the further you get into the story, the more complicated and real she becomes. Things are certainly not what they seem with any of the elves she is forced to depend on, or work with along the way to saving Zal. Keeping It Real is an action-packed book that'll keep you guessing at every turn.

Keep traveling and answer us us time permits. A good argument for not doing social networking like twitter is the time it takes to follow. Writing your blog twice a week is a large task of love already. I am still weighing the pros and cons. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip. With my bad knees I will probably not be able to be so adventurous, but I plan to make lots of money to help younger people do the hard work of making the world happier and safer.

Plus, get creative. On self promotion. I did not know you could click on the commenters name and be taken to their website. One of my senior moments I was wondering how to contact some of them for more info. So, hey everybody, what do you think I should do first?

Hey Chris, Thanks for your post and thanks for your site. But you have some great content. Most of what I find is all about getting people to spend money on something that tells them how to get others to spend money. Thanks for giving me permission to fire Google adsense, and for giving a much different view on how to make this thing work.

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I think you do a fantastic job with AONC! Not everyone takes the time to respond to all their emails and welcome everyone when they subscribe. And that is in addition to inspiring content. Keep it up and ignore the vampires! Chris, I appreciate the honesty in letting your readers know what you are up to and I can completely relate to being without hot showers and internet for days and how you are trying to keep everyone involved — old and new readers alike.

When I was a new reader, I added a relevant link to a post on our website in a comment. You reformatted the comment in a better manner and sent me a personal email letting me know that I could use html in the comments section. You also advised me to get an avatar so that more people might click on the link in my profile. I really appreciated that personal touch — thank you. Thanks Chris. I traveled to Haiti for 15 years and lived there for 4 years as an Internatinal Aid Worker.

The Dominican republic is a paradise compared to Haiti. Even though the DR is a tourist attraction, it is one of the pporest countries in the americas. For anyone who is pissed off, no one is forcing them to read your blog. Hey Chris, continued blessings in your journeys. Appreciate you keeping it real. Just DO it people!

Keeping It Real and Relevant: Building Authentic Relationships in Your Diverse Classroom

Stop sitting around commiserating yourself on your hard life. Argh, it makes me mad! Thanks SO much for posting text as well as video Chris. So many people are embaracing video as the new, interactive thing. Thanks for this article. I would enjoy your observations and conversations about real issues confronted by countries that are struggling. In fact, I realize your massive commitment to staying in touch with so many people, but I wanted to know more about where you were, and what you where finding out.

I guess I wish social networking comments would not distract us from opportunities to inform and enrich other watchers who are just simply fascinated with what you find out on your journeys.


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I want to know more about the world out there. Just wanted to say I really appreciate your blog and the amount of time you spend interacting with your readers. I very much value travel and gratitude and other people. This is in stark contrast to the homebound, preoccupied xenophobe I was not all that long ago, and it was nothing but the positive ideas of other people that helped me grow out of that.

I usually put my crazy title, so was overjoyed to find you do not consider that blatant self-promotion. Am getting up to speed with twit land myself. Giving is the way to go! It being connection in a fast-paced world. And, you know, with that trust fund of yours I would think you could have snuck in some showers for the aid workers while you were surrpetiously using that wi-fi you snuck into Haiti.

Chris, I love reading your blog because you live an interesting and unconventional life — which would not be the case if your life was spent sitting glued to your computer all day so you could respond instantly to everyone. Keep living! That you can live a life worth writing about, AND make the time to write so well about it, is impressive. As for that trust fund question, I can relate to it. Your site is a constant source of useful and reliable information, so keep doing what your doing! Good luck in your travels. You inspire armies of people, incl.

Why, even the Creator Her- or Himself is constantly being criticized for failing to create the perfect world with perfect people and perfect bloggers. Relational jujitsu also works well in any case, better than resistance. I had a couple of Ansel Adams prints on the wall at home.

A famously critical person visited part of a family gathering. By one look she could tell the prints, wrongly framed, hung at wrong heights and distances. How tragic for your daughter. You got fired for being a stupid whore! We love it, too. Want to see your photo in the comments? Visit Gravatar. May 4, Aximilation says:. Was gonna go try the new place on Travelers Corner but it is too hot to have Clanci out so I fixed me and Mike a small supper of grilled breaded tenderloin. Taters and beans with sourdough garlic bread. Come out and join us at the Westmoreland Freedom Fest Jump to.

Sections of this page. Accessibility Help. Email or Phone Password Forgot account? Sign Up. Join Group settings More. Cathy Ann is feeling angry.