[Book Review] Conceptually intriguing, casually terrible

Eyre Affair.jpgBook Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

So many things to dislike, so little time to talk about them all.

(Spoilers ahead. All the spoilers, because idgaf.)

I rarely try books more than once, so I should have trusted my gut when I got stuck a couple chapter in – not once but twice. But this week, I got the audiobook, because I really wanted to get through this book about a murder mystery in an alternative history fantasy world of time travel and literature. Lesson learned, because this book was terrible.

I grit my teeth through the prose style and weird perspective shifts. I was willing to suffer through the self-indulgent literary babble and fangirling, because, okay, literature is as religion in this world, and as a book lover, I totally get it. I even powered through the weird inconsistencies: Okay, this universe has casual time travel, and yet the biggest mystery in Fforde’s world is the identity of the true author of Shakespeare’s plays? And Thursday is the first person ever to ask a time traveler to check? Fine, whatever. Continue reading

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[Book Review] Florida on fire, plus ghosts

Book Review: Brimstone by Cherie Priest

Brimstone

This author has been on my canary radar ever since I first came across the happy chatter surrounding her debut novel Boneshaker – and let’s not forget that gorgeous steampunk cover. So when I saw her latest, Brimstone, I had to have it. That the blurb promised a character with a tortured past was just icing on the cake.

The blurb:

“In the trenches of Europe during the Great War, Tomas Cordero operated a weapon more devastating than any gun: a flame projector that doused the enemy in liquid fire. Having left the battlefield a shattered man, he comes home to find yet more tragedy–for in his absence, his wife has died of the flu. Haunted by memories of the woman he loved and the atrocities he perpetrated, Tomas dreams of fire and finds himself setting match to flame when awake. Alice Dartle is a talented clairvoyant living among others who share her gifts in the community of Cassadaga, Florida. She too dreams of fire, knowing her nightmares are connected to the shell-shocked war veteran and widower.” Continue reading

Love, ghosts, and traitors in WWI London

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Ghost Talkers

Yep. It’s historic fantasy, a genre I don’t often read, but after a couple weeks of agony and watching the publication date of this new release creep up on me (and past), I broke down and went for it.

Man, am I glad I did.

The Plot:

London. World War I. Ginger Stuyvesant is an American heiress and a powerful medium serving in the British Spirit Corps, a secret, spiritualist force in the military tasked with hearing the field reports of dead soldiers and passing along military intelligence. Continue reading

[Book Review] Magic and intrigue in Victorian Londinium.

I have been wanting to read more by Lilith Saintcrow ever since I blazed through her Urban Fantasy series about necromancer Dante Valentine – quick, fun reads full of over-the-top romantic angst and creative world-building of the best sort. So when I saw Saintcrow had a historical fantasy, I was intrigued.

The Red Plague Affair (Bannon & Clare, #2)Sorceress Emma Bannon has a mission to defend Queen and country and to stop an evil doctor with a gaseous weapon of war that has to be contained before it can cause all sorts of deadly mischief. It’s up to Bannon and her friend Archibald Clare to save Londinium before it’s too late.

My first problem with the book is at least 70% my fault – the book I grabbed is second in the Bannon & Clare series. But I’ve started plenty of stories mid-series and loved them, so I decided to march on, power through a crazy action opening and all the names, and then see what happens. And that’s when I realized it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Written as alternative history where magic, Victorian sensibilities, and clockwork-technology exists side by side, it has all the ingredients for success. There are gryphons and clockwork horses, and an exciting system of magic. And then there’s the writing:

“And Clare was congenitally unable to cease pursuing trouble of the most exotic sort. He was not engaged in a life that would permit much rest, and the wear and tear on his physicality was marked.” (page 12)

“A rolling sonorous roil, the entire house suddenly alive with rushing crackles, its population of indentured servants so used to the feel of tremendous sorcery running through its halls they hardly paused in their appointed duties.” Page 13)

“She had the dubious honour of addressing a Spaniard, moustachioed and of small stature to inspire a touch of ridicule of pity, his right arm twisted behind him in an exceedingly brutal fashion by a silent and immaculate Mikal, who twisted his lean face and spat at her.” (page 15)

Continue reading

[Small Chirp] When Worlds Get in the Way

The world of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy is mind-bogglingly original. It recasts World War I as a battle between nations wielding steampunk warmachines and living beasts. The two protagonists, Alek, the on-the-run heir to an empire, and Deryn, a girl disguised as a male solider and the strongest female hero this side of Holly Short, have a will-they-won’t-they relationship of Austenian proportions.

When I first read the books, I couldn’t stop extolling the vibrancy of the world that Westerfeld had created. Every person who stood still long enough got an earful of the dashing adventures aboard the living airship, the Leviathan, and the delightfully infuriating manner in which Westerfeld strings along Deryn’s secret life as Alek hovers ever closer to the truth. Just look at the trailer! How could you not want to dive into the book?

My mother got the biggest dose of my Leviathan mania during daily phone calls. And at the time I was devouring the books, we were also in the midst of selecting new books for our book club — and it was Mom who suggested that I throw Leviathan into the ring. And I laughed at her until I realized she was serious, that she’d been drawn into the stories by my never-ending praise. Continue reading

[Book Review] Recreating the world, one story at a time

Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear

My quest to read something by Elizabeth Bear started a little over a year ago, and it’s been riddled with false starts. First, I ended up grabbing Trading in Danger (by Elizabeth Moon). Then Dust was nowhere to be found. Then I got All the Windwracked Stars (isn’t that a stunning cover?) but couldn’t find the time to read it. Seeing Shoggoth’s in Bloom up for grab was serendipity, and I went into this collection to get a sense of what Elizabeth Bear can do – in small, bite-size pieces.

I got that, and more. This collection brings together 19 short stories by Elizabeth Bear, including two Hugo winners, “Tideline” and “Shoggoths in Bloom,” plus one never-before-published piece original to the collection, “The Death of Terrestrial Radio.” With one exception, the stories average around a few-to-twenty pages and cover a truly mind-boggling range of genres and styles. We get an urban fantasy with a ritual gone wrong, historic fiction written through letters between John Adams’ wife and Thomas Jefferson about running for office during a time of suffrage, a lovely elegy in prose about a dragons and a museum curator, a folktale about a blacksmith’s commission, and a story about the slow death of the fishing industry. Each story is powerful, heart-rending, and memorable in its own way. Continue reading

Advance Book Review: Dead Reckoning, a steampunk zombie western

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Publication Date: June 05, 2012

What do you get when you mix a western, a zombie infestation, and a dash of steampunk? A whole lot of YA fun.

Jett Gallatin is a sharpshooter and gambler traveling across the wild west–he is also a lie, a name made up and used by a young woman searching for a brother who disappeared at the end of the Civil War. White Fox is an army scout, investigating the reason why thriving towns are becoming ghost towns overnight, all their people disappeared without a trace. And Honoria Gibbons is an unconventional young woman riding a gears-and-steam machine across the prairie, out to prove that science can explain any phenomena.

But when a zombie horde marches across their paths and force them to band together to survive, even Jett’s tenacity, White Fox’s experience, and Gibbons’ mythbuster approach to life might not be enough to get them through the night. Continue reading