Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review - Gail Carriger's Heartless

Heartless, The Parasol Protectorate Book 4 by Gail Carriger
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: June 28th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
After the to-do with the Templars, Alexia is back with her husband in the land of connubial bliss. She has even reached an entente with the vampires so that they'll stop trying to kill her and her unborn child. The plus side of the arrangement is that she gets to see a lot more of Lord Akeldama, the downside is that technically she's living in his second best closet while claiming to be residing next door. Which does get a mite complicated when her sister shows up and demands to stay with them. Apparently Alexia's family can't take their daughter being a suffragette... even if the other one is eight months pregnant by a werewolf and living with vampires they must maintain their middle class standards. Exceptions cannot be allowed. But Alexia can't have her sister residing with a pack of werewolves while she's snoozing next door! She must also maintain propriety.

On top of these minor inconveniences, the wolves aren't liking living in town and then there's poor Biffy. Biffy isn't taking to his new life of being a wolf. He lacks control, which can only be restrained by the touch of Alexia. Between the tea, the witty repartee and the ashamed Biffy, there is something afoot in London. The ghosts have started threatening the Queen. Or warning of a threat... the ghosts aren't really being very specific about the threat or where the threat originates from or if there's some evil invention involved even. Wouldn't it be nice to get a simply worded warning with no vagaries and no zombie porcupines thank you very much. But even if all these problems are resolved before the birth, what exactly is being born? The Vampires and the Templars where both scared, and that can't be a good sign.

I have had much too and fro with my friends about this book. Some are all happy, others are dissatisfied. Personally, I'm of the camp where I was personally satisfied, with one caveat, but I am willing to see why there are those who where dissatisfied. There really wasn't much action or plot to this story. It was more a comedy of manners with more dirigibles than ever before. There was a lot of witty banter, a lot of Lord Akeldama (which was seriously lacking in the previous volumes), not enough of the Madame Lefoux I know and love and a poor Biffy. Which I personally think was enough. But the ghosts and their dire warnings seemed to hint about some big conspiracy, some huge world altering emergency, and there plot seemed to just fade like the vabors they resemble. There was follow through, and what they did warn of did occur, but by the time it came it fell flat. If something is set up so wonderfully and has the feeling of a good Victorian mystery in the vein of Wilkie Collins, please don't let that urgency fade. This for me was a small aside, something I could live with because I was so engrossed in the book. Let's get to my problem though...

I will not say why, how or who but I will say what. The Octomaton. This creation just about jumped the shark for me. Picture a Victorian Man in stripy swimsuit and a mechanical shark instead of The Foz please. It was too over the top. A giant metal octopus killing machine of steel and fire set to destroy vampires. Ok, cool idea, kind of, it's just there was another loony who had the same idea... and yes, I'm talking about Dr. Arliss Loveless in the misguided reboot of Wild Wild West, I apologize in advance for getting the Will Smith song in your head, it just can't be avoided.

So, yeah, in his evilness with the mutton chops and spidery goatee, I will admit, I find Kenneth Branagh kind of sexy, the same way I do Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane in The Hunger Games. That's my issue. The book's issue is that the Octomaton is his freakin' spider death machine. There is no other way to view it. This tacky kitsch movie kept intruding onto my lovely little world of the Parasol Protectorate. I cannot forgive this bizarre breach of a world I love. Yes it's not EXACTLY the same, but it's not EXACTLY different either.

This Octomaton destroyed the climax of the book and if it wasn't for my enjoyment up until then and a sweet denouement, then I might be one of my friends saying that this series is over for me. I won't say that. I love this series, and Wild Wild West intrusion and all, I'll keep on loving it. Plus, the hint of what Alexia's baby is... tantalizing in the extreme. Timeless can't come soon enough for me.

Moste Importante Steampunkery:
Ironically, because of my dislike of it, the Octomaton was the most steampunk gadget in this book. Ah, the double standards. But it was mechanical, and did shoot fire and did have the feeling of a cyberman in Victorian London, but for all that, it was moste importante steampunkery.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review - Gail Carriger's Blameless

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Book 3) by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: August 31st, 2010
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
Challenge: Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Alexia Maccon has left her husband due to his stupidity. Sadly this means she has ended up back in the "loving" bosom of her family. She has been fired from the Shadow Council and has a very problematic infant inconvenience, but at least her family throws her out, so things are looking a bit brighter. If only she had someplace to go and didn't have mechanical ladybugs attacking her. There are so many unanswered questions, the most obvious being, how could this happen, followed by, who can give me answers. The Vampires seem the logical ones for knowing the secrets of the Soulless, but seeing as it's probably them trying to kill her, best not to ask. Her one counselor to turn to in regard to all things, cravats to conspiracies, Lord Akeldama, is MIA. Alexia calls on those still close to her who trust she is not an unfaithful wife, but one wronged by lack of knowledge. Madame Lefoux, a milliner to be reckoned with, Tunstall, an ex-werewolf groupy, aka Claviger, and now famous actor, Floote, a butler through thick and thin, and her husband's Beta, Professor Lyall. Leave it to the logical werewolf to believe her and not drown his spirits in formaldehyde...

A plan is formed. To Italy and the Templars they will go. Of course they are pursued by night by Vampires and by day by drones. They seek refuge with Madam LeFoux's inventor friends, one is quite helpful, the other, Mr. Lange-Wilsdorf, a scientist with a murky past, is a bit over excited to study "the female specimen." He soon throws them out onto the mercy of the world once learning of Alexia's condition. The barely make it to the "safety" of Italy. The Templars are a strange bunch, viewing Alexia as a taint on the world, a necessary evil. She is the perfect weapon in their fight against the supernatural, yet she is all that they abhor. If she could just find some answers it will all be worth it so that she can crow her innocence at her husband, Conall. She just hopes that the Templars don't figure out her real reason for visiting, who knows what their reaction would be to a pregnant Soulless. But if worse comes to worst, at least coming to Italy made her discover the most wonderful thing she has ever encountered, pesto!

Let me preface this with, I love the Parasol Protectorate and all things Alexia, but this was not my favorite book in the series so far. It seemed to lack a certain spark that the other two contained. Perhaps it's that Alexia was more contemplative and lacked a pragmatism that she previously possessed. Better a doer than a dweller anyday. The pregnancy has changed her. She's so focused on proving herself right that in order to come to an explanation as to how that happened things get a little too into the technical mumbo jumbo that bog down most Steampunk books and have until now been gratefully minimal. The thing that was a barrier to overcome in reading the first book was the steampunky technology of the day, which you were used to by book two, but now there's all this new stuff being thrown at you and it gets confusing.

 It felt like the technology was a crutch to the wonderful back story and mythology of the Soulless. Aether this and that, when I feel it could have been simpler. Plus the lack of Akeldama, while key to the denouement, made this book lack his sheer wonderful presence. Also the separation of Conall and Alexia made their verbal sparring rather hard. Plus, in the end, we didn't really learn that much. We know what might be, but not what is. So more than anything, this felt like a bridge book and now I need the next book desperately. That could be, in the end, why I feel dissatisfied. There's so much I want to know NOW, that having to wait, having to have patience to learn the back story of Floote, more on the Soulless breeding program, more on what their child could be, is excruciating. Maybe I'm greedy, but I want more answers, less techno fluff.

Moste Importante Steampunkery:
A tie between the awesome mechanical ladybugs and the ornithopter. Seeing as ornithopter's technically exist, even as far back as drawings by Da Vinci, and seem to be a fun side project for inventors, I think the ladybugs will win. Also, I do see my contrary nature in choosing dirigibles in Gail's earlier book Soulless, because dirigibles exist as well... but there's a romanticism to dirigibles that ornithopters just don't have. So back to the lady bugs. They are homicidal whereas the ornithopter is just a means of transport... yet the ladybugs will appear before series end in a more begnin incarnation. "They where clockwork, or some variety of windup mechanical. And they were beetles - larger, shiny red beetles with black spots and multifaceted crystal eyes, boasting nasty-looking syringes that poked upward in place of antennae." See, that easily beats ornithopter. Beetles it is.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review - Louise Rennison's A Midsomer Tights Dream

A Midsummer Tights Dream by Louise Rennison
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 26th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Tallulah is back on her way north! She was able to secure a position at the "elite" acting school Dother Hall, despite her obvious lack of talent and the hatred of one of the teachers. Yet her mother still thinks she's too young to be living at the boarding school and therefore makes Lulah extend her stay with the Dobbinses. At least this means she's closer to her young mate Ruby, and Ruby's sexy older brother Alex, even if he's off at school, he has to visit sometime... doesn't he? Also, staying with the Dobbinses has the benefit of heat, running water, plumbing. The school has taken a bit of a downturn, economically speaking, they owe more than a little in taxes and might just lose the hall, unless a miracle happens.

Yet, the crisis of the school and their production of A Midsummer Nights Dream, in the middle of December, is not really on Tallulah's mind as much as it should be. Instead she is weighing the merits of boys. Alex, so Mr. Darcy, so much in Liverpool. Charlie, who kissed her and then wanted to be just friends because he has a girl back home. Then there's Cain. The bad boy. The Heathcliff of the town. He's bad, everyone knows he is. He licked a hail stone off Tallulah's face. He LICKED HER! That's not even on the snogging scale... that's just, weird and gross... yet when Cain does take a fancy to her mouth, she doesn't know what to make of her conflicting feelings. The shame of the detestable Cain, the fact that the local girls would beat her up if they knew, the fact that she might have liked it. Still... if they don't save the school, it's not like any of this will matter, because it will disappear as quickly as a dream from waking.

Ug. I had hopes that this book would become something more than the first volume in this new series. I was hoping for, I don't know, some sort of scope. Some expansion. Instead it felt even more contracted and small and plotless than the first volume. We got a girl and her angst about three boys, a band concert and a hurried production of A Midsummer Nights Dream... that does not a book make. Also, the idea of doing such a summery play in winter, it did not work, unless the book had ironically been titled, like A Midwinter Tights Nightmare... I felt like this is a book Rennison has written before, especially now that all the girls are referring to themselves as the Ace Gang... oh wait, I mean Tree Girls, which, when you're reading fast looks like three girls and then you start wondering why there are more than three of them. See, it's just a downward spiral that has made me not look forward to the next book at all.

I also feel a little as if I'm loosing my mind... was Tallulah Irish in the last book? I have no recollection of this being the case, but Irish she is. Also, while I find the Northern accents funny, why doesn't Tallulah have an accent too if she's Irish? Also I can't decide if the parodying of the accents was funny or kind of mean. And in what world does a girl with a severe lisp get talent scouted to Hollywood? And what was with all the Lesbian jokes? They seemed crude. Also, Richard III had a hump, not Richard II, you think she'd get that right in a book about acting and Shakespeare! Overall it was just a forgettable book in a forgettable series written by an author that had once shown promise but is now obviously stuck in a rut. Such a shame, her books used to be my fun little escape and now reading them feels like a chore.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Misdomer Tights Dream by Louise Rennison
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 26th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Performing Arts college, here I come again! Hold on to your tights!! Because I'm holding on to mine, I can tell you.

Tallulah Casey is back and ready to Irish-comedy-dance her way through another term at Dother Hall, but now that she's been officially admitted to the performing arts program, that won't cut it anymore. Especially if she's going to help raise enough money to keep the school from closing at the end of the year.

There are also some . . . distractions to worry about: The boys of Woolfe Academy are lingering about. And they are still boys, so they are still confusing.

Will Tallulah be able to test out her new snogging skills and ace her performance in this term's project, A Midsummer Night's Dream? Only time and more Irish comedy dancing will tell.

Louise Rennison returns with her trademark sidesplitting humor, sending Tallulah and her mates on another riotously spectacular (mis)adventure."

I have been a fan of Louise Rennison's since the beginning. While I didn't enjoy the first book in this series as much as the Angus Thongs ones, I do enjoy a nice lark on a moor.

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
Published by: Random House
Publication Date: June 26th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This new trilogy will capture the hearts of readers who adore Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series. Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she's never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone, when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in "the golden hills of the west" (California). Along the way she meets Jack a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company—there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there's also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate."

I have been so wanting to read this book since the RT Convention back in April where I hoped and prayed they'd have early copies, but alas, they didn't.

Shada by Douglas Adams and Gareth Roberts
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: June 26th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the unique mind of Douglas Adams, legendary author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, comes Shada, a Doctor Who story scripted for the television series Doctor Who, but never produced--and now, transformed into an original novel...

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
Imagine how dangerous a LOT of knowledge is...

The Doctor's old friend and fellow Time Lord Professor Chronotis has retired to Cambridge University, where among the other doddering old professors nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. He took with him a few little souvenirs--harmless things really. But among them, carelessly, he took The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Even more carelessly, he has loaned this immensely powerful book to clueless graduate student Chris Parsons, who intends to use it to impress girls. The Worshipful and Ancient Law is among the most dangerous artifacts in the universe; it cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands."

The hands of the sinister Time Lord Skagra are unquestionably the wrongest ones possible. Skagra is a sadist and an egomaniac, bent on universal domination. Having misguessed the state of fashion on Earth, he also wears terrible platform shoes. He is on his way to Cambridge. He wants the book. And he wants the Doctor..."

WHY!?!?! Really, seriously, will someone answer me why? Ok, so we only got part of the episode filmed, which they reconstructed and released on VHS... but more importantly, this became Adams' Dirk Gently series! So why are we going backwards? This doesn't need to be complete, Adams himself did it with Dirk. Just stop it ok.

Tempest's Fury by TNicole Peeler
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: June 26th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Jane's not happy. She's been packed off to England to fight in a war when she'd much rather be snogging Anyan. Unfortunately, Jane's enemies have been busy stirring up some major trouble -- the kind that attracts a lot of attention. In other words, they're not making it easy for Jane to get any alone time with the barghest, or to indulge in her penchant for stinky cheese.

Praying she can pull of a Joan of Arc without the whole martyrdom thing, Jane must lead Alfar and halflings alike in a desperate battle to combat an ancient evil. Catapulted into the role of Most Unlikely Hero Ever, Jane also has to fight her own insecurities as well as the doubts of those who don't think she can live up to her new role as Champion.

Along the way, Jane learns that some heroes are born. Some are made. And some are bribed with promises of food and sex."

Firstly, Nicole Peeler was so nice when I met her at the RT Convention back in April. Secondly, England, need I say more?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sartorial Sundays

When I set out to create my first Steampunk outfit there where a few things that had to be taken into consideration. Firstly, this was going to be my first foray into Steampunk in a convention setting, and what if I didn't like it? What if I outlaid a huge amount of money to get this fabulous costume and then had a cruddy time (this was proven totally false, best convention ever in fact.) Secondly, what do you do at a convention mostly? Sit. Or stand. Uncomfortably. I was not about to compound the lack of comfort by having an already uncomfortable costume. I've been to my share of cons, and they can try your patience in the most comfortable of clothes, add a corset and it's time for the torture. Lastly, budget. I didn't have much money at that time last year having spent it on things I needed more, ie, a new digital camera and a wacom tablet... so, there's $1000 outlay on things I needed... trust me, I needed a new digital camera, the wacom, well, not so much, but I adore it and used it on almost every assignment last fall. So back to the whole budget. The outfit had to be affordable, but also versatile, meaning, I could wear these clothes for other non-Steampunk related events. Multitasking with clothes, if you will.

At this time I hadn't really read up on all the subsets: Street Urchin, Tinker, Explorer or Aesthete, thank you Steampunk Bible! What I noticed clearly was two trends, more functional work-a-day clothes (Street Urchin, Tinker and Explorer) and more tradiational Victorian (Aesthete). Within the functional clothes there where a lot of explorer costumes. Instantly I felt drawn to that! I have always dreamed of being an explorer like Amelia Peabody Emerson, yes, I know she's fictional! I wanted to climb pyramids and dig up artifacts, I wanted to be an explorer! Yet an explorer with pants. I'm not much of a girly girl and don't own a number of skirts, so I wanted to wear pants.

I started by searching all over the internet, also, a big thanks to Pinterest, which I'm addicted to and which is so handy for keeping my visuals in one place. I stumbled on this image.

The golden age of aviation, which in style has much to recommend itself and has some crossovers with explorers, they are kind of the explorers of the skys. I really was drawn to the light pants, the short bomber jacket, the adorable gloves and the goggles. It also reminded me of Diane Holmes of Torchwood, and if that doesn't scream Steampunk, I don't know what show does.

I found this more recent bomber jacket, and it was totally the style I was hoping to find. Initially I was in favor of the lighter color, but as you'll see soon enough, I was won over by the darker hue. Also, this is just a very nice functional jacket.

Here was really the whole look that inspired me. If you look at it in a deconstructed manner, it's boots, gloves, pants, jackets, t-shirt, all the rest is just fun accessories. The accessories are the only thing that couldn't be worn everyday. That is, unless you felt like it.

Here was the same basic idea but leaning even further towards Steampunk. I liked it, but mainly the belt, gloves and goggles. The front is a little too fluffy for me.

This "inspiration board" I found perfectly captures the feel I was going  for. Now lets see if I could source all the requisite materials and items to make the costume I wanted... you'll just have to stop by next Sunday to see!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review - Gail Carriger's Changeless

Changeless, The Parasol Protectorate Book 2 by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: March 30th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Marital bliss can't last long when a surly regiment of werewolves shows up on your doorstep, your husband disappears to the wilds of Scotland and a bizarre plague of humanization strikes London, making werewolves and vampires alike mortal, and shuffling off the ghosties. But Alexia would not be Alexia if she didn't set right to figuring out what's up. After stopping off at a milliner's, always a trying experience with Ivy in tow, Alexia makes the acquaintance of Madame Lefoux, a dashing haberdasher prone to wearing male attire, who happens to be a great inventor on the side. In fact, she's invented the parasol to beat all other parasols, making this umbrella indispensable to Alexia. After an explosive attack while leaving Madame Lefoux's establishment, and rumors that the humanization proceeded her husband to Scotland, Alexia decides that the safety of the supernaturals, as well as her husband, are at stake and to Scotland she must go. Of course, if she must go by dirigible, her long held wish, well then she must. She didn't count on the entourage of a love sick claviger, an engaged Ivy, one of her sisters and Madame Lefoux.

Attempted poisonings and dangerous dirigible daring do lead to a welcome return to Terra Firma. Alexia so hoped she was built for air travel, but perhaps air travel wasn't built with her in mind. But if Alexia thought the troubles before where anything to the troubles to come she was mistaken. Her husbands old pack are not all that welcoming, and they seem to have collected a lot of Egyptian antiquities on their way home for being stationed in India. But if it's the last thing she does Alexia will get to the bottom of everything, little knowing of the shock in store.

Gail Carriger has outdone herself in creating a rollicking good read, with a tighter more thrilling mystery and even more memorable characters than in her first book, Soulless. From creating a proto telegraph telephone to dirigibles riding on aether, she has not bogged down her book with too much unintelligible speculative steampunk gadgetry. She has made an accessible world that you never want to leave and makes the wait for Blameless excruciating. Plus, delving deeper into the mysteries of what exactly a preternatural is, and unearthing Egyptian myths, sheer perfection. There's nothing I love more than Egypt, and while, throwing Egypt in delights me, I find it truly satisfying when it works so well with the plot and advances the narrative. Egypt for Egypt is all well and good, Egypt for a purpose, all the better. If there was one complaint I could make, aside from the cliffhanger, there is not enough Lord Akeldama! But I can't in good conscious make this complaint with the arrival of Madame Lefoux. She is so mysterious and kind of glamorous, and her openly defining the stereotypes of the day is just wonderful. Plus, her flirting with Alexia is just hilarious. Alexia should be a little more world wise with the lifestyle of Madame Lefoux, seeing as she has read her father's rather scandalous journals. But then again, Alexia's naivete makes it even funnier. I hope Madame Lefoux continues to play an important part in the story.

Moste Importante Steampunkery:
Aethographors. Wireless communications devices that transmits messages via aether waves and require little glass tubes and receiving and sending chambers. Much like an upscale version of a telegraph machine combined with early email. Lord Akeldama is one of the first people Alexia knows to have one. A true gossip must progress with the times and the technology available.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review - Gail Carriger's Soulless

Soulless: The Parasol Protectorate Book 1 by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: September 29th, 2009
Format: Paperback, 382 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

It is the reign of Queen Victoria and the British Empire is vast and ever expanding, thanks in part to the Werewolves and Vampires. The supernatural are acknowledged the world over, but only England has truly accepted them into their daylight world and even into Victoria's government. They even have their own watchdog agency, BUR, the Bureau of Unnatural Registry. This revelation has resulted in technology exploding in the industrial era to harness the power of steam and create a veritable Wellsian world. Now Alexia Tarabotti enters into our story. Alexia deftly straddles these two worlds, not supernatural and not fully human, she is preternatural, soulless, and can cancel out supernatural powers. Preternatural's being used for centuries, particularly by the Templars, to hunt and kill supernaturals. But these are not Alexia's concerns...she's more worried about finding a nice cup of tea and a little something to eat...if a party says that there is to be food, food there should be! What else is a spinster who tragically takes after her dead Italian father in looks and is extremely outspoken to do at parties specifically designed to marry off her two step sisters? But her peace, and the treacle tart, are destroyed by a surprisingly ignorant vampire. She prevailes with her trusty parasol and BUR, in particular, Alpha Lord Maccon and Beta Professor Lyall, arrive on the scene to tidy up the loose ends.

The next day dawns surprisingly normal, till out on a walk with her best friend, and fashion victim, Ivy Hisselpenny, Alexia is invited to the hive of the Vampire Queen, Countess Nadasdy. From there everything goes pear shaped and it's up to Alexia to sort it out, despite Lord Maccon's interference, in more ways then one, some of them surprisingly intimate. There are disappearing rogue vampires and werewolves, and not even her trusty go to gossip, the vampire dandy Lord Akeldama, knows what to make of it. With the full moon fast approaching will Alexia be able to keep her overly large nose out of this supernatural business? Or will she storm into the fray, trusty parasol (made to her specifications) in hand And will she get the man even though she has been a resigned spinster since the age of 15?

Soulless is the author Gail Carriger's first published work. I have to say I'm surprised and impressed. Surprised in that it is such a well written polished piece with great Victorian vernacular and lots of wit. Plus as an aside, I only found maybe two typos, it's unheard of for a book to be that well copy edited! But what impressed me was the author's world building. The England of dirigibles and dandys is wonderful. I found the science and the history she created to be easy to understand, despite it's complexities, and I can't wait till the next book to re-immerse myself in this world...too bad I have to wait till March! The interaction of science with the supernatural was also so well done and logical, you never once felt that she was trying to force one or the other on a preexisting history of the British Empire, but was explaining the oddities of the British Empire itself with the world she created. If only Prince Albert were still alive...I can picture him with Professor Lyall, both equipped with Glassicals and studying the latest scientific aspects of chloroform while waiting to give a presentation to The Royal Society.

Overall the book was able to work on many levels, one of which was to overcome typical romance genre stereotypes. I don't think I'll ever really like Ivy Hisselpenny, she is too wide-eyed innocent best friend who Alexia will endeavor to find a good match for in subsequent books. Also the throwing together of the heroine with the gruff hero so early in the novel was surprising to me, usually they wait till the very last moment. But Carriger made this work in the end with not the least bit of diluted suspense and the conclusion made me wish I hand Changeless right away to dive into to read of Maccon and Alxia's further adventures. Alexia herself is so wonderfully abrasive and forthright and knowledgeable with such a love of food you can't help embracing her instantly. Who cares that she's the typical spinster stereotype, because when you get down to it, there is nothing stereotypical about her. She is a woman who takes after Victoria herself, not those insipid heroines always needing a man to save them.

But now I must get to my favorite character, Lord Akeldama. He's a dandy to be sure, and a rogue vampire due to a mysterious disagreement over waistcoats, but he's so much more. He's a complex little spy who loves Alexia because she makes him feel human. But his spy network is really where it's at. His trusty Drones, led by Biffy. These dandy's are everywhere and hear everything, but at the same time are so stereotypical and a product of their time that they are a part of the scenery. They are perfectly calculated by Akeldama to be his eyes and ears lending him the appearance of omniscience. Also lets not forget they are great little helpers, in every sense of the word. Do to their cackling dandy herd mentality and the name of Drones and knowing that the author is a fan of P.G. Wodehouse, I can't help myself envisioning a whole different take on the Drones Club. This one would be more stylish, with lots more purple silk and more overt Wildean overtones. I would pay to read about that...really I would. Perhaps in an upcoming sequel by Gail Carriger...

Moste Importante Steampunkery:
Dirigibles as transport! Dirigibles seem to be the go to manner of travel in the world of Steampunk, but in Alexia's world not only are they transport which she longs to experience, but they have created a fashion trend. Clothes for  floating about in the sky, properly weighed so your skirts don't go whoosh. We can't have any hint of scandal or impropriety, heaven forfend you see a lady's knee.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: June 19th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The possibilities are endless. (Just be careful what you wish for. . . .)

1916: The Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong and the wind in the leaves. Where have the mud, blood, and blasted landscape of no-man's-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive—some say mad, others allege dangerous—scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson find a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and . . . a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever.

The first novel in an exciting new collaboration between Discworld creator Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth transports readers to the ends of the earth—and far beyond. All it takes is a single step. . . . "

Well, I've been impatienly waiting for this book for over a year, mainly because I adore Terry Pratchett, but also because it's set in my home town! Also, now that I read the discription... Percy Blakeney? Is there some Scarlet Pimpernel in this too!?!

The Girl Below by Bianca Zander
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 19th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Suki Piper is a stranger in her hometown. . . .

After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won't let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy—an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up—convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier. But the more involved she becomes with Peggy's dysfunctional family, including Peggy's wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time—to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, when something happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter. . . .

A breathtaking whirlwind of mystery, transgression, and self-discovery, Bianca Zander's The Girl Below is a haunting tale of secrets, human frailty, and dark memory that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new literary talent. "

Something just draws me to this book... past secrets maybe? Also, I do love books that take place in the past and present, without being time travel.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sartorial Sundays

"Steampunk is not a whim, girl, it's a way of life. It is a vast wardrobe commitment!" Those words from this past season of The Guild could not be truer. This past November when I went to my first Steampunk convention, I knew I would have to bring it, sartorially speaking. I at least knew that much of the genre and didn't show up in a t-shirt and jeans, or some half-assed, ill conceived costume, because I knew that that wouldn't fly. Just google Steapmunk and you will see what I mean about the fashion commitment people bring to this genre. I knew what Steampunk expected of me and I knew that I needed to deliver. Personally, I relished the idea! I really have a williness and tendancy to dress up for any occasion. I am the girl who, come December, will be dusting off my cloak and applying my elf ears for The Hobbit. I did it for the past three Lord of the Rings movies, and I will do it again! I dressed up for the Harry Potter book releases, and I'm not saying, just a house scarf, I'm saying, I made myself a full school uniform! Prefect badge and all!

My first Steampunk convention was just the natural progression of my love of dressing up and my crafty nature. As in crafts, knitting, sewing, not in the evil villian sense... though, now that you mention it... ok, let's just say I can be both, but this is only applying to the hands on work at this stage with needles and threads. Each Sunday for the duration of Steampunk Summer, I am going to recount how I came to my first Steampunk costume of choice and how I sourced or made everything, following which I will go into my new costume, or perhaps costumes for this years convention, we'll see how much time I have between now and Novemeber... I will be graduating school in December, so everything needs to be done sooner rather than later. I would also love for you to share your stories about Steampunk costumes and how you went about making them, so lets get the discussion going! Sartorial Sundays are now open for business!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Steampunk Giveaway

As you know, a theme month, or months as the case is, wouldn't be complete without a giveaway! Yet, the giveaway must be very appropriate... hence, this giveaway. Everyone needs a book to live by, a bible is such a thing. Of course, I'm not trying to be sacred or profane, but chose the lesser meaning of bible, which is any book, reference work, periodical, etc., accepted as authoritative, informative, or reliable. This is the definitive authority on Steampunk, which is what this summer is about! So enter away... also, the more people who enter to win, the more books I will add to the pot... as you can see, there is definitely more now!

Prizes (the person whose name is drawn first gets first choice, etc, etc.):

*The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer
*The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen  by Alan Moore, illustrated by Kevin O'Neill
*The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Book 1: Phoenix Rising Signed and Inscribed to you, by the authors, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris!
*The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Book 2: The Janus Affair Signed and Inscribed to you, by the authors, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris!

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE, just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter, you just get more entries if you prove you love me by following.
2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s).
3. Giveaway ends Sunday, September 30th at 11:59PM CST 
4. How to enter:

Answer me this: What is your favorite Steampunk book?
5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:
  • +1 for answering the question above
  • +2 for becoming a follower
  • +10 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @eliza_lefebvre), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link! There's a handy code on the side for your sidebars!
  • +25 if you comment on any of the posts this summer, with something other than "I hope I win" or a variation thereof.
Good luck to all, may the odds be ever in your favor. Yeah... it's that kind of day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Steampunk Summer

Most of my life I have been surrounded by Steampunk, though in ignorance. Partly because it was before the term came into being in the late eighties and partly because I was like Clara in The Guild and just referred to it as "the clocky windy stuff." I spent the Sundays of my childhood at my grandparents watching The Wild Wild West, though I will admit that my attention waned after the opening credits ended and I was more worried about how scary Doctor Who was and what lurked in the quarry out back that my grandfather insisted I go play in after watching some horrid creature emerge out of just such a quarry on Doctor Who. Yet I was left with Artemus Gordon who was the first truly Steampunk scientist out there, still cool years later in the lame movie reboot with Will Smith, Kevin Kline still brought it. Even in the eighties cartoon BraveStarr, I was aware on some level of the aesthetics this genre has: anachronistic technology that was futuristic visions of the Victorians where steam power rules. The future that never was. A nostalgia for an age that never existed. A world where dirigibles still reined the skies and weren't a thing of the past, referred more in history books as a folly, due to the explosion of the Hindenburg, not as a luxurious mode of transport.

Even as I aged I never really thought that there was an umbrella, or should I say parasol, that encompassed all these elements. I watched movies like Sleepy Hollow and never questioned Johnny Depp's magnificent headgear other than to think how awesome it was. I read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and revelled in the alternate world but thought no more of it. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a decent comic, a crappy movie, which I saw twice for no apparent reason other than the world it created. I enjoyed what I liked but never sought it out. I read and watched more and more books and shows and movies that incorporated elements of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, horror, and speculative fiction that are all part of Steampunk, yet it went no further.

Then I started this blog. Then I found Gail Carriger. When I first saw the cover for Soulless it seemed to unify all these past ideas and feelings. All this knowledge of things I have loved where really just part of something bigger. Something called Steampunk. Going into Borders and picking up that copy of Soulless was the first step on a slippery slope. Now I can't get enough Steampunk. I actively search it out versus passively waiting for it to appear in front of me. I go to conventions and gatherings, I dress up, I'm trying to work my courage up to try a corset. I have embraced this world, and, I have to say, it embraced me. I have never met such wonderful, polite and nice people as I have since I fully discovered Steampunk.

My discovery seems to have come at the same time as others. Steampunk is, dare I say it, almost mainstream. It's everywhere from cartoons on Nickolodeaon, to blockbuster movies. Even the London National's production of Frankenstein had very overt Steampunk elements. The genre has blossomed into something I don't think anyone could have guessed. So, in honor of this genre, I have decided to devote the steamiest months of the year to the genre relying on steam. Please join me in raising a cup of tea, fine bone china with just the right amount of milk and sugar, to Steampunk! Throughout the summer there will be reviews, author interviews, giveaways, sartorial discussions and more Steampunk than you can shake your monocle at! Gail Carriger, George Mann, Cherie Priest, Lord Bobbins, Paul Magrs, Philipa Ballantine and more will be here to discuss this genre that has captured the imagination and the mainstream.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you'd be interested in participating in Steampunk Summer in a more active role!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Conspiracy of Friends by Alexander McCall Smith
Published by: Pantheon
Publication Date: June 12th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"It’s back to Corduroy Mansions—the slightly dilapidated but well-lived-in mansion block in London’s hip Pimlico neighborhood—for the third installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s latest beloved series.

It seems the universe itself is conspiring against the residents of Corduroy Mansions, as they all find themselves struggling with their nearest and dearest. Oedipus Snark’s mother, Berthea, is still at work on her scathing biography of her son—the only loathsome Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament; literary agents Rupert Porter and Barbara Ragg are still battling each other for first crack at the manuscript of Autobiography of a Yeti; fine arts graduate Caroline Jarvis is busy exploring the blurry line between friendship and romance; and William French is still worrying that his son, Eddie, may never leave home, even though Eddie’s got a new wealthy girlfriend. But uppermost in everyone’s mind is William’s faithful terrier, Freddie de la Hay—without a doubt the only dog clever enough to have been recruited by MI6—who has disappeared while on a mystery tour around the Suffolk countryside. Will Freddie find his way back to Pimlico? Is Corduroy Mansions starting to crumble?

Readers will be captivated once again by McCall Smith’s genius for storytelling, his insight into his beautifully crafted characters and his eye for the quirky details of modern life."

Back to Corduroy Mansions we go! How can this man have so many well written books in a year? Seriously! How does he do it!?!

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: June 12th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors--or suitors of any kind--in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There's only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency--Patrice Kindl's first novel in a decade--is like literary champagne!"

First off, I so want to add an 'e' to the end of the authors name. Second, booking it as for fans of I Capture the Castle, SOLD! Hope it lives up to those lofty expectations they've set.

Rapute by Lauren Kate
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: June 12th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"RAPTURE, the fourth & final FALLEN novel, is the Lauren Kate book the world has been waiting for.

The sky is dark with wings. . . .
Like sand through an hourglass, time is running out for Luce and Daniel. To stop Lucifer from erasing the past, they must find the place where the angels fell to earth.
Dark forces are after them, and Daniel doesn’t know if he can do this—live only to lose Luce again and again. Yet together they face an epic battle that will end with lifeless bodies . . . and angel dust. Great sacrifices are made. Hearts are destroyed.
And suddenly Luce knows what must happen. For she was meant to be with someone other than Daniel. The curse they’ve borne has always and only been about her—and the love she cast aside. The choice she makes now is the only one that truly matters. In the fight for Luce, who will win?

The astonishing conclusion to the FALLEN series. Heaven can’t wait any longer."

Endings of series are bittersweet, but better to end wanting more than overstay your welcome!

The Taken by Vicki Pettersson
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: June 12th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Griffin Shaw used to be a PI, but that was back when gumshoes hoofed the streets . . . and he was still alive. Fifty years later, he's an angel, but that doesn't make him a saint. One small mistake has altered fate, and now he's been dumped back onto the mortal mudflat to collect another soul—Katherine "Kit" Craig, a journalist whose latest investigation is about to get her clipped.

Bucking heavenly orders, Grif refuses to let the sable-haired siren come to harm. Besides, protecting her offers a chance to solve the mystery of his own unsolved murder—and dole out some overdue payback for the death of his beloved wife, Evie.

Joining forces, Kit and Grif's search for answers leads beyond the blinding lights of the Strip into the dark heart of an evil conspiracy. But a ruthless killer determined to destroy them isn't Grif's biggest threat. His growing attraction to Kit could cost them both their lives, along with the answer to the haunting question of his long afterlife . . ."

I have been interested in this book since I read the blurb... and now that my friend John at Murder by the Book also recommended it, I am sold.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Bibliophilic Spree

So, it came to my attention, that I might have missed counting three of last month's books... ok, so it was actually only two... apparently I REALLY can't count. so, here I go.

25) Saint Peter's Fair by Ellis Peters - Because these editions of the Cadfael books are so cool, and cheap. Bought at Half Price Books.

26) Leper of St. Giles by Ellis Peters - Ditto. Bought at Half Price Books.

Now onto the purchases of May...

1) The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons - Beacuse I'm in severe Downton Abbey withdrawl and was recommended this as part of my cure... even if it's a temporary cure. Bought at Frugal Muse.

2) A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle - Beautiful new Roddy Doyle book that I've been waiting to buy, I've been a fan of his since The Commitments. So happy I found it cheap too. Bought at Frugal Muse.

3) The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - I featured this on one of my Tuesday Tommorrow posts and then I found a new copy at Frugal Muse! Bought at Frugal Muse.

4) The Book of Lost Fragrances: A Novel of Suspense by MJ Rose - The Atria Bus Tour, aka, put four mystery authors on a bus and drive them around the country, came to a bookstore near my house. Sadly I had class... but at least I was able to pick up this book signed... Bought at Book for Murder.

5)* Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris - New Sookie! I was good and told myself that this was my reward for finishing the semester. Of course, I devoured it in a day because of the wait. Loved it! Can't wait for the final volume next year. Bought at Murder by the Book.

*Means it's already been read

6) Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal - A hardcover, because I already own the paperback... I had to get a hardcover because a) she was signing at Murder by the Book and b) I adore this series and need to have hardcovers of them, I know some of you feel the same way! Bought at Murder by the Book.

7-9) The Last Tycoon, Tender is the Night and Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald - The final volumes in the goregous deco set released by Penguin. They came all the way from England to be in my library! Bought from Amazon UK.

10)* Introducing Aunt Dimity by Nancy Atherton - Nancy Atherton was coming for a signing and I was thinking of going, so I picked up this little omnibus with the first two volumes of the series. Didn't make it to the signing (yes, sometimes I DO chose sleep over books) but enjoyed the second story very much, the first, not so much. Bought at

11) The Reincarnationist by MJ Rose - Ditto above, only add on, and this is my book club selection for next month... or this month, because this is posting in June, duh. Bought at Booked for Murder.

12) A Mourning Wedding by Carola Dunn - I finally broke and hunted down the last of the Daisy Dalrymple books on ebay... so hard to find! Why do books go out of print. Bought on ebay.

13) A Hero for Wondla by Tony DeTerlizzi - Because a) totally needed the new book and b) signing at Murder by the Book so signed copy, score! Bought at Murder by the Book.

14) The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport - No one should give me vouchers for Amazon... because there's only one thing I'll buy... well, ok, occasionally a DVD, but almost always books. This was again a Downton paliative. Bought at

15) Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk - This looked like a fun Urban Fantasy series that is endorsed by Patricia Briggs, whom I adore. Also set in Portland, a place I very much want to visit. Bought at

16) Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn - Almost there! Almost all Daisy books! Bought on ebay.

17) The Case of the Murdered Muckraker by Carola Dunn - So close, I can taste it! Bought on ebay.

18) Die Laughing by Carola Dunn - YES! Final one in and done! Now time for some reading! Bought on ebay.

19) Teeth: Vampire Tales edited by Terry Windling - Because who could pass up a collection with stories by Neil Gaiman and Melissa Marr? Espcially when it's on sale! Bought at Frugal Muse.

20) Dandy Giliver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder by Catriona McPherson - Downton plaiative. Bought at Frugal Muse.

21) Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe - I have been wanting this book for years but have never found a good copy. Enter Frugal Muse and the Memorial Day sale. Bought at Frugal Muse.

22) The Janus Affair by Pip Ballandtine and Tee Morris - For Steampunk Summer... more info coming soon. Bought at Barnes and Noble.

23) Rogue Angel: Magic Lantern by Alex Archer - Ok, so I usually don't buy books that are like 30 some books into a series I haven't read... but this one looked so good and I didn't want to read the other 30... at least not yet. Bought at Barnes and Noble.

24) Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander - Because shifters and a new Urban Fantasy book are guilty summer pleasures. Bought at Barnes and Noble.

25) Aunt Dimity's Good Deed by Nancy Atherton - Because it's the third book, and after the first two I'm not sure if I'll stay or desert Aunt Dimity... but it was signed stock, so cool. Bought at Barnes and Noble.

Note on the bookstores: - because sometimes, more often that not, your local Barnes and Noble didn't stock that ONE book you where looking for, and having prime means everything shows up so fast!

Barnes and Noble - the last big chain in the Midwest that everyone knows and loves or loathes accordingly.

Booked for Murder - Not to be confused with Murder by the Book in Houston. They're a local store that specializes in murder mysteries. It has changed hands many many times since it's opened, but I really like the current owner, she really knows her stuff!

Ebay - because sometimes you break down in trying to find that last book in that out-of-print series and all used bookstores have come up empty, so you turn to Ebay in your desperation.

Frugal Muse - local Madison, Wisconsin chain with two stores in town which sells both old and new books at wonderful prices (at a really steep discount for new books too) and is easily my favorite bookstore.

Half Price Books - chain store of used books where you can often get amazing deals, but whose prices are not quite half off anymore since they decided to raise their prices in a bad economy.

Murder by the Book - the best bookstore in the world! They're in Houston, Texas and have tons of amazing events and for every book you buy they'll let you send in three books to get signed. Love you all!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jubilee Highlights

So, I have heard there are some who complained that the BBC's coverage of the Jubilee events wasn't as great or awe inspiring as the event deserved. Personally, I loved every second of it. Sure, some of the reporters where insipid twits, but they didn't take away from the grandeur and majesty of the occasion. The ships on the Thames lived up to the inspiration of the painting by Canaletto. You can interact with a picture on CNN's website that not only shows the changes over time but the atmosphere that the event captured... if only they could of had that golden radiance of sun, but it is real England... not idealized painted England. Shame on you Canaletto for giving us unrealistic weather expectations. At least it was nice for the concert!

I also learned many interesting facts, which you will probably think odd, but I found fascinating, because, you do need some filler for almost five hours of boats.

Of Rivers:The Thames used to be wider and shallower, which makes sense with urban sprawl and the creation of bigger ships. This occurred in 1858 after the big stink, which led to the instillation of sewage pipes.

Of Boats:
The Queen loved her ship the Britannia, where everyone used hand signals instead of shouting orders. Whether this was to give the Queen a sense of calm or was a way to employ mute sailors, they didn't elaborate. The Spirit of Chartwell was astonishing. It looked like a floating opera box with a full garden! The little cover for the Queen was gilded and the columns had a faux Bernini air to them. Also, Anne still seems to not be forgiven for the whole, my dog killed my mom's dog incident.. notice she was on a crappy boat all by herself, she didn't even get to hang with the Middletons! The boat that captured the grandeur more than any other and looked like it was straight out of the painting by Canaletto was the Gloriana... which if anyone wanted to get me as a birthday present... I'd be happy to accept it. The main thing I lept thinking was, dear lord, those people must have really sore backs, mainly I was thinking this, I'm sure, because I threw out my back last week and am still recovering. Ouchy.

Of Bridges:
Richard E Grant, that most wonderful of actors, I can't really decide which movie of his is my favorite... Gosford Park, Jack and Sarah, Dracula, but perhaps I'll go with dream Justin from Ab Fab, was on the Westminster bridge to recite some poetry. He was all Union Jacked up... he should have borrowed something from Ginger Spice, he was in Spice World after all. Millennium Bridge was the "arts and crafts" bridge where twenty artists where making dubious art on doors and ipads, which didn't fair well when the weather took a turn for the worse. One of them was striving to be like Turner. No sir, it was nothing like Turner. How did they pick these people? I really want to know. The only one that looked halfway decent was the one that got destroyed by the rain. Also, did anyone ever realize how turquoise Tower Bridge is? I know they must have repainted it for the occasion, but still, that's really really turquoise.

Of Barrowman:
Captain Jack and bell ringers yes! Though, by the end he might be totally deaf because of that floating bell fry.

Of Ben Fogle:
Ok, so they keep making a big deal out of this guy. I'm an Anglophile and I had to look him up... so, basically, Ryan Seacrest and Bear Grylls in one.

Of Celebrities:
And today, playing the role of John Gielgud, is Lord Sterling, who initiated the building of the Gloriana. But seriously, he looks like John Gielgud.

Of Dogs:
Dutch barge dogs are the cutest! And Gigi is the cutest Keeshond on the waters.

Of Flags:
If you are going to do a semaphore tribute, please have someone who knows what they're saying, because otherwise, it's lame. "Look, they're waving flags, no one knows what it says." Also, I kept thinking of the Monty Python sketch of Wuthering Heights in Semaphore Code, and laughing to myself.

Of Happy Queens:
How the Queens face lit up at the National Theatre's tribute to her with War Horse. I don't think I've ever seen her smile more. The Queen does love her horsies. Want to make her unhappy? Wear beige, she doesn't like it at all.

Of Sharks:
How cool was Jim's story, the old Navy man, about being blown off the ship and using a dead shark as a life preserver and then living to tell the tale and be here for the Jubilee!?! You don't get more awesome than that! That is a blockbuster movie in the making.

Of Weddings:
The Queen was invited to a wedding and she went! Personally, this just amazes me and is so special. I can't see sending an invite out here in the states to the Governor, let alone the President, and not just getting a response, be getting them showing up for 5 minutes!

Of Music:
Robbie, Tom Jones and Madness brought down the house. Oh, and of course, Rob Brydon and Peter Kay where fabulous hosts for the concert... if only Rob, Tom and Robbie had performed together! Islands in the stream... Though the back to back performances of 'Delilah' and 'Mack the Knife' gave a bit of a murderous bent to the middle of the show. Madness also had a rough start... ie, don't let Chaz sing. But the special effects on the side of the palace, astonishing!

Of Fireworks:
Have you ever seen the like at the end of the concert? I thought that palace was on fire!

As for the ceremony in St. Paul's... there's only so many hours in a day and I am trying to see how long I can make this Jubilee last... so far, the flotilla alone was three days!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review - Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Published by: Crown
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 419 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Amy Dunne has disappeared and her husband Nick is the prime suspect. Their supposed perfect marriage wasn't all that it appeared. Through Amy's diary we learn that she was the perfect wife and lover and Nick, Nick was dark and sometimes dangerous. She worried for her safety and the safety of their unborn child. Her disappearance makes national headlines because not only is she a beautiful, perfect wife, but her parents based the successful Amazing Amy books on that life, and now Amazing Amy is Missing! But the manhunt that starts on the couple's wedding anniversary is just what Amy wanted. She isn't missing or dead, she knows exactly what she's doing and how Nick is going to pay for every slight he's ever done her.  

Me and run away bestsellers have never mixed. Yet have I ever learned my lesson? No. I keep thinking, this one will be different, this won't be like the joke that was The Da Vinci Code wherein being a Whovian and taking art history made the answers all too obvious. Or even having two brain cells to rub together made it glaringly evident. Oh no, I go ever onward hoping it will be different. And this is how I ended up reading Gone Girl. I vaguely remember my mom enjoying it, and well, it was there on the shelf, so I thought, hey, I do want to see the movie because well, Neil Patrick Harris and Rosamund Pike, so let's give it a try. What works as a two and a half hour movie doesn't work as a book. At all. Seriously, I am baffled as to why anyone would highly rate this book. Proving once again I'm contrary to all trends.

Firstly we are stuck with two unreliable narrators. I mean, just because something works for some authors and is, if executed properly, a nice narrative device, doesn't mean that doubling it makes it doubly good. If you are going to use unreliable narrators, try something unique and fresh, don't use the trope in the most boring way conceivable. And what's the most boring way? Making it a he said she said back and forth that doesn't progress the story but mires it in bitchy people omitting key evidence. I understand that Flynn probably did this on purpose so that we couldn't see what was coming, but, well, using this device to time her revelations so that between the two narrators we could try to figure out the truth, it seemed too contrived. Reveals should come naturally to the story, not be rigorously plotted out so that at page whatever we get this clue and fifty pages later we get another clue. I don't want to see the mechanics of your work, I want to be taken away by your writing.

And the truth of Gone Girl is I could never be taken away by the writing because the characters are so horrid and unlikable. In all seriousness, the ONLY reason this book got two stars is because I hated the characters so much that they deserved each other and the hell they had made. I felt it was a just ending. But again, here's an author who for some reason didn't realize that either your characters had to be likable or evil enough to be a fascinating antihero. Let's take Nick. He's boring. He's a pretty boy whose life is ruled by his dick. Why should we like him at all? There's no reason, sign off on Nick. Now Amy, why should we like Amy? Because the image she projects of herself is insipid and the true psychopath within, well, she's a bitch too. A controlling bitch. They deserve each other and that's an end to that.

Because Amy and Nick are so unlikable you don't give a flying fuck what happens to them. I mean seriously, they could have both died, they could have both been imprisoned, they could have been ignited in a pyre for national television. If you don't have someone you can root for then there's no reason to read a book. Seriously. I don't even know what to write anymore about this book because I just don't get it. It's not that original, it has unlikable characters, and it's not suspenseful in the least and for some reason everyone loves it!?! I think I have to cut this review short. How can I tear apart a book with so little to latch onto. There was no meat to this story so there's nothing I can chew on to discuss. Just no. This book wasn't for me. The end.

Book Review - John Scalzi's Redshirts

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
Published by: Tor
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Five disparate young officers have been assigned to the Universal Union's Capital Ship Intrepid. Very quickly they realize this ship isn't like other ships. Everyone seems really busy all the time and capable of the most amazing disappearing feats whenever certain of the officers appear. Also, everyone is really jumpy about "away missions." Looking into it, the newbies erstwhile ringleader, Ensign Andrew Dahl, soon discovers that the "away missions" seem to have a very high mortality rate. Someone ALWAYS dies. Depending on which officer is with them, it might be quite a few someones. In the last five years the death rate has grown staggeringly high on the Intrepid versus other ships in the Dub U. The deaths though aren't the only weird thing. During moments of drama or high action, people's personalities change and they do some of the stupidest things, therefore ending up dead. Convinced that there is some reason for this, Dahl and his gang stumble upon something that could explain everything... but you also have to be batshit crazy to think it plausible.

As I sit typing this review I am wearing a Star Trek V: The Final Frontier T-Shirt, vintage from 1989, not a silly reprint. To my left is a Doctor Who poster, David Tennant if you please, as well as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer clock, which I made myself, and a wall display of Harry Potter wands, Dumbledore's Army, if you must know. Sitting over my left speaker and glaring at me, oddly in a non menacing manner, is Mr. Flibble. To my right there is geekery galore, framed Firefly comics signed by Alan Tudyk and John Cassiday, Daleks and Cylon raiders, a teeny tiny Starbug, Buffy maquettes and even a mini Sheldon Cooper. Why am I telling you all this? Well, in case you didn't know, this would very clearly demonstrate that I am a geek. Not the casual kind either, the going to conventions, waiting hours in line, spending way too much money on memorabilia kind. So, now that I have secured your knowledge of my geekiness... let's talk Redshirts...

This book was written with me in mind. Unless you are familiar with the idea of what a redshirt is, there is little chance you would pick up this book. A redshirt was always the newbie, the character you never knew who beamed down to the planet on Star Trek with Kirk and all the rest and very quickly died in order to show the gravity or danger of the situation. This word has become so ubiquitous in geek culture that in the card game Munchkin, you can have a redshirt minion who will sacrifice themselves so that you will survive a battle. It's a joke my kind get, and it's funny. Redshirts and death are one. The most memorable scene in any movie, in my mind, perfectly encapsulating the fate of a redshirt is Sam Rockwell's breakdown in Galaxy Quest.

What I think my problem with the book was, with movies like Galaxy Quest and shows like Red Dwarf and Hyperdrive and all the rest, if you are likely to pick up Redshirts you are likely to have seen all these other shows and movies based on the same joke. Because, while this book starts out promising, and quickly starts handling the meta issues of the fact that somehow the Intrepid is either a tv show or a tv show is imposing itself on their timeline forcing untold carnage and dramatic scenes before cutting away to a commercial break, it very quickly gets to the point where I was thinking of all the other people who had done this better. Because this is parody sci-fi.

The gold standard in my mind of parody sci-fi is Red Dwarf. This show was not only consistently funny (I'm ignoring the existence of season eight) but, with it's return in 2009 with "Back to Earth," it willingly embraced the meta of comedy shows today, the strongest contender in this category being Community, which started the same year. Yet the meta in Redshirts was written in such a way as to not tax your brain and almost seemed dumbed down. In other words, you could pound out this book in a few hours and it will probably leave no lasting impression. The main turning point for me was when our little gang of rebels with targets on their backs headed back to "modern day" Earth... at this point it's basically "Back to Earth" but without any connection to the characters. It's as if Scalzi  jumped off a cliff and just started ripping everyone off. For the audience this book is targeting, we have watched all the same shows, we know meta, and this book became insufferable and infuriating.

Though, while at this point I didn't think I could want to smack Scalzi more for his lack of originality, he succeeded with the codas to a whole new level of annoyance. Three codas, three POVs, three styles of writing... gaw, how pretentious are you to actually write the second coda in a very unsuccessful attempt at second person narration? Also the first coda, I'm guessing that's you thinly veiled as the "shows" author who comes across as a pretentious prick, and then with the third coda, you rip out my heart and gleefully dance on it. Guess what Scalzi? I'm going to tell everyone I know to just skip this book and watch Red Dwarf... same thing really, only one's actually well written, and it's not by you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans
Published by: Gallery
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"At twenty-two, Eleanor Bee is sure about three things: she wants to move to London and become a literary superstar; she wants to be able to afford to buy a coffee and croissant every morning; and after seeing what divorce did to her parents—especially her mum—she doesn’t believe in happy endings.

Elle moves to London. She gets a job at Bluebird Books, a charmingly old-fashioned publisher. She falls out of bars, wears too-short skirts, makes lots of mistakes, and feels like she’s learning nothing and everything at the same time. And then, out of the blue, she falls in love, and that’s when she realizes just how much growing up she has to do.

Ten years on, Elle lives in New York, and you could say she has found success; certainly her life has changed in ways she could never have predicted. But no matter where you go and how much you try to run away, the past has a funny way of catching up with you. . . ."

I have been a fan of Harriet Evans since I read A Hopeless Romantic... since than I'm always hopefully waiting for the next book!

Accidentally Dead, Again by Dakota Cassidy
Published by: Berkley Trade
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"He was just looking for a night of fun.

After a wild work-sponsored Halloween party, entomologist Sam McLean wakes up with a spotty memory—and a pointy set of fangs. Sam’s one-night stand wasn’t just dressed as a vampire; she had the bite to match. Somehow, Sam's unconscious body ends up at the OOPS office, where paranormal crisis counselors Nina, Marty and Wanda give him the down-low on accidentally becoming a creature of the night.

What he got was an eternity of trouble.

Dealing with a newbie like Sam is no easy task, but things get even more crazy when Phoebe Reynolds—a woman who claims to be Nina’s sister—storms into the office and causes a catfight that ends when Phoebe is accidently bitten by Sam’s recently formed fangs. Now, the OOPS girls have two fledgling vamps on their hands, and their powers—and the attraction building between them—are unlike anything they’ve seen before…"

Another entry in Cassidy's fun paranormal series.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jubilee Book Recommendations

So, now that you've caught up a bit on your pre-Jubilee viewing... what to read in those few spare hours between the onslaught of Jubilee celebrations being broadcast on television? Again, Anglophile that I am, here are a few fun suggestions.

"The Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett
First off, this is a totally quick novella, so easy to fit in during the Jubilee celebrations. Also, it's all about the Queen! Alan Bennett has written this sweet story about what would happen if the Queen one day wandered into a bookmobile and felt obliged to check out a book, and then became so in love with reading that it worked it's way into every aspect of her life. Not only does it celebrate reading but, even though it's fictional, it gives you a feeling that you are privileged enough to be given some insight into the Queen. My full review from a few years ago can be found here.

"Baby Cakes" by Armistead Maupin
Barbary Lane goes Burberry. This is easily my favorite book in the "Tales of the City" series. What I love about it is that this story is about all things San Franciscan becoming all things Royal. Between February 26th and March 6th, 1983, the Queen did a royal visit of the west coast of the United States. Maupin wrote the first four books of the series serialized in regular installments in the San Francisco Chronicle, this being the fourth. Therefore the books usually had an immediacy to what was going on at the time. What was going on in 1983 was Royal fever! The character of Mary Ann, as a reporter, follows the daily happenings of the "Royal Watch." Always wearing ever increasing ludicrous hats, or fascinators as we now call them, while at the same time having a to-do with a member of the Queen's entourage. While this is going on in the United States, my favorite character, Michael Mouse Tolliver is over in jolly old England connecting with a long lost friend. A must read for Anglophiles!

"The Queen and I" by Sue Townsend
This book, written by the author most known for her Adrian Mole series, imagines a Britain where a newly elected Republican Party decides that the entire Royal Family must learn to live like other Britons, lower-class Britons on a hideous housing estate in a provincial city. Written as a farce with the Queen's corgi running wild with mongrels, the Queen herself buckles down sturdily, mindful of stiff-upper-lip duty. Written before the death of Diana and Margaret, it's a humorous look at the Royal family coping in trying times.

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