An Audience with the Sidewalk Saviour by K. Alexander

In my humble opinion, K. Alexander is one of the finest writers in Atheneum’s vast index. To tell the truth, when I was picking and choosing my all time faves I had another of her stories (Deus ex machina) in my mind. Unfortunately, the author took it off the site.

Fortunately, more recent An Audience with the Sidewalk Saviour is just as good.

If I had to pick one single thing about this author’s stories to praise above all, it would be Alexander’s talent for unexpected, a high praise indeed in the field of romance (which is too often a synonym for cliche). Writing classes can teach you a lot; consistent writing can polish your style; a good editor will do marvels for the flow. But this, this ability to surprise, is almost as rare a gift as the one India Waits possesses.

Also, Alexander has an eye for detail: the settings are impressively real, be it a cut-throat atmosphere of a TV studio or misery of an African mission hospital.

Her dialogues (particularly bantering between two main characters) are a joy to read. They are sharp and witty, her observations often pithy.

An Audience with the Sidewalk Saviour is an original story in both meanings of the word. As in – not a fan fiction story but, also, a really original plot. The hero is reluctant, the motives unclear, the consequences life-threatening. Also, (Thank you, K. Alexander!) the love story is as far away from the concept of soul mates as you can be, and it’s most definitely not a love at the first sight. These two very strong headed, complicated women love each other despite themselves; they are wonderfully and completely unsuitable for each other (like a tsunami just waiting to happen).

I love Alexander’s characters. All of them, even the ones who appear in a paragraph or two are fleshed out. There’s no cardboard silhouette in sight.

This story is many things – a love story, a social commentary, a drama, but most of all, it’s a character study. Throughout the whole novel we are peeling off the layers of India Waits – a beautiful, awkward, freakish, heroic, faulty and very contemporary heroine. And every time you think you understand her reasons, the picture tilts.

All in all, an amazing novel, much recommended. I’m looking forward for more from this writer.

Small favors by Chilly_flame (aka Harriet)

The not-so-tiny-anymore fan fiction universe of Devil Wears Prada is blessed by – proportionally speaking – an unbelievable number of exceptional writers. They deliver often, they deliver a lot and when they do – oh, boy. It’s fan fiction at its best – all grown up, smart, and literate.

Chilly_flame (to her many SVU fans also known as Harriet) is one of DWP’s beacons of light.

In Small Favors, Andrea, now a promising Mirror reporter, is reacquainted with her ex-boss Miranda Priestly. Against all odds, they become friends. There is attraction, there is tension, there is heartbreak and, finally, there is a love story of epic proportions (No, really. This jewel was written for Ralst’s epic proportions challenge).

There is, of course, a delicious offering of angst, but as Chilly reassuringly states on her LJ page: My characters shall have, after a little trouble, all that they desire.
Small favors is tightly structured story, with beautifully developed leads. Actually, the whole cast is handled masterfully, including the twins. I really appreciate Chilly_flame’s way with words. Never over the top, her style is rather ascetic than baroque. It works remarkably well: the mark of a good writer is knowing when to step back. I love the way she evades the clichéd phrases, turns them on their head, and brings the long lost luster to overused metaphors.

Ahm, not to forget, she writes erotica really, really well. When you think about it, with all the clothes and sensuality, DWP is a huge erotica opportunity. We are not talking underwear here, it’s lingerie! And garters. And cleavages! And silk! And lace! Believe me, Chilly_flame uses her opportunities well 🙂

And the best part? There are two more epic parts to this universe plus two shorter interludes. Bon appetit!

Campus by Anik LaChev

Anik LaChev took her time with this story, that’s for sure. Seven years, to be exact.

Well, I shouldn’t complain – I’m one of those lucky souls who stumbled upon this somewhere around chapter IX (there are thirteen, in all) so it was only (?!) two or three years of waiting for me.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve reread Campus. At least four of those times it was unavoidable – if I wanted to follow a newly arrived chapter a year later I had to brush up my memories.

The fact I didn’t give up on it, plus the fact I reread it at least five or six times more simply for the pleasure of it should be a clue enough: Campus was definitely worth waiting for.

There are quite a few well chosen and well prepared ingredients that make this story a perfect meal. First of all, the somewhat exotic, academic setting in the ex-Eastern Germany city of Leipzig. Then, of course, as the main course – our characters, one of whom is the double hit on the perennial fantasies (the beautiful, accomplished professor who is also the boss); the other the Uberish version of Seven of Nine (nuff said).
As a side dish, the many vivid, beautifully crafted supporting roles that are simply crawling out of the pages.

Is this Uber? The author is certainly not running away from it (even the somewhat clumsy title illustration pictures Janeway and 7 of 9). Still, I can not but wish that author pushed herself just a little bit more and turned away from the ready-mades. The story she wove, the many other original characters she’d created certainly deserve that. Oh, what the hell – to tell the truth, if it weren’t for that silly illustration and her disclaimers I wouldn’t even look for Janeway and Seven of Nine in Lil and Johanna.

Of course, Campus is a love story first and foremost. But, I have always admired the fiction which managed to teach me something without preaching or being overbearing on the issues that matter to the author.

Learning about the intricate ways of the academia, the city of Leipzig, some aspects of the classical music, or Italian and Hungarian cooking has been almost as satisfying as the searing hot love story she delivers.

I love finding authors like this one – where I can snuggle comfortably in a story, trust the author to deliver me safely to the end of the trip while teaching me about the landscape on the way.

Anik LaChev certainly knows how to weave a story. As her other stories prove, she is the Master of Angst. Perhaps one or two hand-wringing situations felt a bit forced or unnecessary, but overall Campus is a joy to read.

One of my top five stories of all time…×600/noframe/campus01.htm

Nice Girls Don’t by Telanu (aka Somniesperus)

This reviewer is just as clueless in questions of fashion as Andrea Sachs. And still… this story makes me want to learn all about it.

Or, let’s put it this way – Somniesperus is the reason the movie The Devil Wears Prada is worth seeing (well, her and Meryl Streep, of course). Telanu aka Somniesperus has written many more stories in this universe but if you haven’t checked the fandom yet, this story would be a perfect way in.

The general premise, in short: Miranda Priestly is all powerful dictator/editor of the fashion magazine Runway. Andrea Sachs is her newly hired, fashion-wise clueless assistant.

The Nice Girls Don’t is an AU in the usual sense that the storyline departs from the movie to make the subtext the main-text. It’s a Miranda/Andy love story, of course. It’s also a poignant study of human character. It’s mature writing at its finest (and no, I do not mean it like that!): the characters are wonderfully flawed. They are weak, and they are strong; they are mean, and they are nice; they are hopeless, they are powerful, they are cruel, and in the end, so very engaging. The writing is seamless, perfectly executed. Never pathetic, never over the top. Somniesperus does not take the easy way out, her stories are about facing the fears and the consequences. No formulas here, no worn out phrases or used up metaphors.

Not to get too metaphysical about it – the story is, of course, hot as hell.

Is it our love for power games and strong women (and a distinct lack of those in hit movies)? Is it the archetypal teacher fantasy? In any case, Miranda Priestly in hands of this writer seems far more dangerous than Xena the Conqueror. And twice as hot 🙂

For one, she doesn’t even raise her voice and all her minions tremble in their fancy Manolo Blahniks…