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Soulless – Review

soullessCurrently on Loan from the Library:

The Long War by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Bad Religion by: Ross Douthat

Other Books I’m Reading:

Don’t Kiss with your Mouth Full by: Henry P. Mahone

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson

Directive 51 by: John Barnes

Soulless by: Gail Carriger

I admit it. I’m a pretty opinionated person. It is not often that I don’t know exactly how to review a book. Usually I can point to the thing I liked, the things that worked, the parts that were a total disaster. I’m not actually sure I can do any of that with Gail Carriger’s book Soulless. But I’m going to try.

I came across Soulless because of my husband. He was reading an article about new genre twists and asked me if I’d ever heard of Gail Carriger. I hadn’t. How embarrassing. So I popped her book on my to read list, and proceeded to try and get my hands on a copy. It does not exist in my local library lending system. I hadn’t been able to find it at any local books store. It took months, and I finally broke down and bought my copy from an Amazon.com dealer for one cent plus shipping.

Leaving aside the fact that I generally mock the whole, the Undead fall in love genera (sorry Joss) almost as much as I mock the Jesus is my boyfriend genera, there are problems with this book. Stilted dialogue, both internal and external. Scenes I’m not certain make sense. Stock characters that are trotted in because the author needs a place holder. Plenty of romance novel type scenes of corporeal exuberance. Choppy plot. Hit and miss descriptions of people and places. In short, it is not what I look for in a Steampunk novel. Or any novel really.

And yet. And yet.

It’s as if Gail Carriger sat down and did exactly what they tell you to do in writing classes. Write what you like. I think she had a ball writing this. It’s funny, and quirky. Sure it’s a bit silly in places, but it’s fun. And wait for it…….. I enjoyed it.

Obviously I will have to research her work further. Purely for scientific reasons you understand.

Favorite Scene: Queen Victoria randomly shows up.

Favorite Scene to Mock: Let’s have sex on the dungeon floor before the madmen kill us.

Favorite Quote: “These are my monocular cross-magnification lenses with spectra-modifier attachment, and they are invaluable. I will thank you not to mock them so openly.”

Enjoyability: I’m going four and a half stars on this. Definitely a guilty pleasure read.

Where to read this book: Alone. On your e-reader. Possibly in the dark.

Further reading: Started Directive 51. It’s a good day to be me.

The Long Earth – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Six Wives of Henry VIII  by: Alison Weir

The War of the Roses by: Alison Weir

Genghis by: Conn Iggulden

NanJing Requiem by: Ha Jin

Other Books I’m Reading:

Anathem: by Neal Stephenson

The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter turns out to be one of those books that is long on set up and short on almost everything else.  It’s a great set up too.  A random scientist figures out how to make a box that will come to be known as a Stepper. He publishes the plans for the Stepper on the internet and naturally, a bunch of kids put one together.  The Stepper allows you to step from the earth you are on to one directly east, or directly west across the meta-verse.   How many other earths are there?  How many steps do you want to take?  How broad.  How expansive.   You could do almost anything with a set up like that.  But they don’t.

Instead the rest of the book is a bunch of ready made set pieces.  You know the one about how the possibly sentient super computer meets you in a surprising way, and wants your help?  Yup, that one is in there.  Or how about the one where you dip you toe in the water, and almost get eaten by a surprising creature?   Yup, that one is in there too.   So are, guys beating on each other until they are friends, finding  a fellow castaway,  discovering the city you didn’t know existed, and barely escaping death at the hands of a native life form.    They even threw in the rebellion against you computer scene.   Just for good measure.

As the computer and his human explore the other earths we find that most of the animals on them look like horses, elephants or pigs.  Also we find they are able to directly reference every major science fiction franchise of the last fifty years except Doctor Who.  The Doctor should not be put out by their failure to drop his name.  It’s actually an honor.  If we must reference everybody else, how good is our book really gentleman?

As someone mentioned in the comments on another post, the Percy Blakeney of this book is not anything like his namesake the Scarlett Pimpernel.  Also, he’s deeply under utilized.  Exploring how an Englishman is pulled out of World War Two France, and sheltered by a life for he thinks are Russians on a different earth for most of the rest of his life could have been interesting.  Sadly Percy appears at the beginning, reappears for no real reason about halfway through, and then is gone again.

After two hundred pages or so, a couple things do happen.  They resolve themselves in a sort of climax, which is in no way surprising, or heartbreaking, or full of the destructive potential the reader is lead to believe will be present.  Then when someone finally does blow something up, it’s trite, and seriously not at all tragic.

I could go into more.  But I won’t.  In the end I still love Terry.  But I’m going back to Discworld where interesting and surprising things actually happen sometimes.  As for Baxter, well I still see no reason to include him in my library.

Enjoyability: One star.  I’m sorry Terry.  Really, really sorry.

Where to read this book: Well, I guess anywhere, but only for medical reason.  Like insomnia.

Further reading: Right now I’m reading Genghis.  Which suites my slightly stabby mood.

1356 – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The St. Zita Society by: Ruth Rendell

The War of the Roses  by: Alison Weir

Other Books I’m Reading:

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson (And the giant clock still continues to tick.)

I always like a good MacGuffin.  They make me smile inside.  1356 by Bernard Cornwell presents us with another fine MacGuffin.  Which is appropriate as the book is the follow up to his Grail Quest Series.  Which also had a fine MacGuffin in the form of the Holy Grail.

In 1356 we are treated to a chase across France after the Sword of St. Peter.  The sword, one of many things that Joseph of Arimathea seems to have dumped in England, is supposedly the sword that Jesus stopped St. Peter from using on the night Jesus was arrested.  As such it is either holy, or cursed.  Maybe both.  Throw in a priest with a bird that blinds people, a cardinal that wants to be Pope, some Scotts,  an English Prince, several armies of varying size, a French King,  a virgin knight, and a countess who is seriously not a virgin.  Now there is an adventure.

Sir Thomas of Hookton, returning hero of the Grail Quest series is ordered by his English liege Lord to find the sword.  Thomas who seems to be living happily in France as a war lord for hire, is not thrilled but can’t seem to escape involvement.  A constant theme in poor old Tom’s life.

I did not review the books in the Grail Quest series when I read them.  I didn’t hate them. I didn’t love them.  I assumed the subject matter was the problem.  Grail lore is just not my thing.  I hope some day they find dozens of first century clay cups in Glastonbury.  It would do my heart good.  However, 1356 leaves me with the meh as well.  It is not bad.  It is not great.  I enjoyed reading the book.  It was nice to have some follow up on Thomas. I probably would never read it again.  I can think of other books by the same author that I’d much rather reread.

There are of course the usual number of bloody battle scenes and rape victims everywhere.

I think the interesting part of this for me is what Cornwell is going to do next with this series.  If he does anything at all.  Both the Sword and the Grail have been disposed of by Sir Thomas in fairly lackadaisical ways.  It is entirely possible one or both could be resurrected.  Not entirely unlike another far more famous MacGuffin, the Ark of the Covenant.  Government facilities being what they are.

Enjoyability:  I give it four stars.  Not the best ever.  But good.

Where to read this book:  I probably should have taken this one the coffee shop.

Further reading:  Probably The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett.  I’m fascinated.  There is a character in it named Percy Blakeney.  Two points for anyone who can tell me without looking it up, what other Percy Blakeney I’m thinking of.

Unnatural Habits – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

1356 by: Bernard Cornwell (Yay!)

The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The St. Zita Society by: Ruth Rendell

 

Other Books I’m Reading:

Anathem: by Neal Stephenson (Yes.  Still.  I’m enjoying it.  Yet, as books go, it is on the tome side of the line.)

I don’t usually pick up a book based on the cover art.  However, the light and breezy cover art on this book, juxtaposed with the title “Unnatural Habits” was just too much to resist.  As it happens I’m thrilled that I didn’t resist.

Our hero, one Phryne Fisher, is a 1920’s Australian adventuress.  She is a lovely, intelligent, and audacious sleuth, with a cadre of quirky friends, contacts, and family.  When pregnant girls start to disappear from the care of the Magdalene Laundry, and a reporter investigating the disappearances goes missing as well, Phryne get involved.

This book did not really keep me guessing about the ultimate answer to the mystery of the missing reporter.  I got that about half way through. Still there are two other mysteries in this book, and Phryne solves those too.  In the end, the lack of suspense didn’t matter much to me.  The charters are vivid and interesting.  The plot moves along at a steady clip.  There are some red herrings, but mostly it’s a book about following clues, and hunches to their ultimate end.  Which makes it a refreshing read.

I am stunned to find that I’ve never heard of the author Kerry Greenwood before.  Kerry apparently has more than 40 novels to her name.  This book is the nineteenth in the Phryne Fisher series.   I shall clearly have to do some more research and reading.  Yes, that’s right.  The sound you hear is my must read pile getting higher and higher.  I feel critical mass may be near.

There are no actual scenes of corporeal exuberance in this book.  Although it is made very clear that Phryne has a Chinese lover.  He only shows up once, and does not derail the action of the book.  I always appreciate it when a writer feels they have enough material, that we don’t have to pause for the porn break in the middle of the adventure.

I also appreciated the light handed but clear handling of social issues in this book.  It’s not preachy, but the social concerns of the time are very present.  Naturally Phryne has her views, and she is not shy about expressing them.

All in all a well crafted book.

Enjoyability:   Five stars.  

 

Where to read this book:  Anywhere.   It’s got a great non-lurid cover.  

 

Further reading:  Okay, we all know that I started the Cornwell as soon as I got it home from the Library.  

When the reviewer doesn’t feel like reviewing.

The Christmas knitting is basically done.  Which is to say that it was done, but then I added a couple of projects.  Why?  Because I love to knit, and they are projects for people I know will appreciate them.  Plus a little stash busting is  a good for the soul.  So actually, a win win for me.

I have been reading too.  But to be honest, none of it has been anything I wanted to review in depth.

I started Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie.  I didn’t finish it.  I know it’s been well reviewed.  I know they’ve done NPR interviews etc. etc. etc.  Sorry.  I’ve read about Catherine before.  I don’t necessarily consider her that Great.  Plus, I’m a Midwesterner.  So anytime I read about Holsteins, I’m not thinking about German nobles.   The first 150 pages left me with a serious case of the who-really-cares-anyhows.

I started and finished The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory.   Historically Margret Beaufort Tudor Stafford Stanley is reckoned to be a hard and difficult woman who was set on recapturing the English throne for her son.  We know she was successful as her son Henry VII founded the Tudor line with Elizabeth York as his bride.   Turns out the fictional internal thoughts of this woman are either a very good read, or a very trying one.  I found them trying.  377 pages of inveighing against the Yorks and arguing with at least one perfectly good husband.  Bah.

I brought home The Sisters by Nancy Jensen mostly as a joke.  Bill told me to see if there was anything on the new books shelf that would interest him.  I brought him fraught chick fic.  It was funny at the time.  Then I ended up reading it for reasons passing understanding.  It’s not bad.  She doesn’t go for the obvious ending, which I appreciate.  I don’t know that it’s inspired me to keep an eye open for any of her other work.  Still, it wasn’t a total waste of two or three days.

I’ve moved on to Snuff  by Terry Pratchett.   I confess I have a soft spot for anything Discworld.  Terry just makes me laugh.  I can always use the levity.  After all, how serious can life be when you are riding through the cosmos on the back of four elephants balanced on a turtle?

Also, how do we like the new blog theme?  I decided it was time to try looking like a grown up.  I’m sure it will pass.

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