**spoiler alert** I...kinda wish I liked this book more? I mean, it seems to have all the things I like. Steampunk! Feminist! Cross-dressing Lesbians!...more**spoiler alert** I...kinda wish I liked this book more? I mean, it seems to have all the things I like. Steampunk! Feminist! Cross-dressing Lesbians! with! Vampires! and! Werewolves! Why isn't this more awesome?
But between the incredibly awkward, poorly-constructed prose, the repetitive dialogue, the predictable and barely interesting plot, the Alexia-is-supposedly-so-smart-but-can't-remember-vital-clues-because-the-plot-is-DRAMATIC!-THINGS!-MUST!-HAPPEN!, the fights between our romantic leads that are poorly cribbed from every Hepburn/Tracy film, and the fact that Alexia has this stupid friend that she constantly belittles and doesn't like (but who is supposedly her bestest bestie and OMG I am tiiiired of authors writing dumb women who are dumb for stereotypical reasons because it starts to look like you need your feminist card revoked at that point), and the ending, the omgwtfbbq ending that comes out of nowhere and is completely out of character WHAT?! Um. And is all: READ MY SEEEEEEEEEEQUEL!! READ IT!
Between all of those things I have lost track of my sentence. Gah.
I don't read a ton of romance-themed series, but structurally this felt a lot like an episode of popcorn tv: characters do things because plot (complete with plot-related selective memory), not because the plot arises naturally out of their actions, and the ending must be big and as dramatic as possible to get you to tune in next week. I will sometimes give tv a pass (I'm looking at you, Buffy) for this, because it's a short medium that has to accomplish a lot in 45 minutes or so. I'm less inclined to give books a pass, especially books as long as Changeless. It was just so clumsy! *sigh*
Also, maybe it's just a sign that I'm in the mindset of Steampunk after Amal El-Mohtar's essay on steampunk, but the unexamined imperialism in this book bugged me. Steampunk has a tendency to glorify Victorian England and, as such, its tendency to treat non-white peoples and cultures as prizes to be captured and manipulated. The discussions around Egypt and India made me wince.
On a final note, I also think this series fails at the GBLT, so far. I get that your gay characters are super competent! They are also big, fat stereotypes! The mincing gay fashionista with his cringe-worthy italics, the Marelene Dietrich lesbian with her top-hat and sultry smile--I complained about this in the first book, and I'm still complaining. These are gay stereotypes for the straight set: exotic, titillating, they can make you feel progressive because you're friends with them your heroine is friends with them but still allow you to smile at them, just a little, behind your hand because haha! gays are so funny with their ways! We love them, but they still aren't like us.
Also: do not tease me with your clumsy Ho Yay. Do not get my hopes up. It is so rare to see a well-written lesbian character that even a poorly-written one with ham-fisted budding bisexual awakenings from the POV character slathered over every interaction will actually get my hopes up. (Seriously? She had to strip her naked for the plot?! Ludicrous.) Don't. Do. That. It sucks. Depictions of actual, healthy lesbian relationships are rare enough that teasing some slash into a straight, married character's life is almost insulting.
All those complaints aside, if you are looking for something fluffy and fairly brainless, with plenty of lesbian teasing and even more straight sex, to pass the hours: here's your book! Not everything has to be cerebral and intellectually challenging. Even if it's not exactly my cuppa, I can see why people enjoy these.(less)
I enjoyed this book, once I got into the rhythm of it, but it was curiously reminiscent of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Aside of the obvious alternative...moreI enjoyed this book, once I got into the rhythm of it, but it was curiously reminiscent of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Aside of the obvious alternative London/subculture setting, the tribalism, scruffiness, and even several characters seemed informed by (if not derived from) Gaiman's book. That said, it's a different enough work in tone and substance to be a good read in its own right; and the final twist was surprising, darkly comic and (SPOILER ALERT) really appealed to my atheistic tendencies (END SPOILER).(less)
This book knocked my socks off. It is, in my opinion, one of the more perfect novels I've read. Structure, pacing, characterization, and plot are all...moreThis book knocked my socks off. It is, in my opinion, one of the more perfect novels I've read. Structure, pacing, characterization, and plot are all superbly crafted. Hildy is now one of my favorite literary characters; and Varley manages to be one of the funniest and most philosophically thoughtful writers I've encountered. (less)
**spoiler alert** My feelings about this book are deeply, deeply mixed. I think it's an excellent vampire-themed sexual horror collection, but I don't...more**spoiler alert** My feelings about this book are deeply, deeply mixed. I think it's an excellent vampire-themed sexual horror collection, but I don't think the majority of the stories are remotely erotic. Just because something has sexual content, doesn't mean it's sexy. I have a hard time imagining anyone finding the majority of these stories very erotic. I mean, what is erotic about a ten year-old boy watching is prostitute mother have sex with a john through a crack in the door, and then seeing him such her emotional capacity away and turn her into a catatonic? I suppose there must be someone who finds that idea sexy, but I don't know that I'd want to be writing for them.
Don't get me wrong--I think that story was one of the most powerful in the collection. But I can't see it as smut. These stories deal with rape, coercion, incest, child molestation, sadism and violence. These are not themes I like to get into during my, ahem, private time. A couple of the stories were genuinely triggery. But nearly all of them were excellently written and quite effective horror stories.
I think the "erotica" tag may just have to do with the publishing industries' tendency to relegate anything with sex to the romance/erotica corner. It feels like such a misnomer to me. Then again, what do I know? I mean, Rule 34 exists for a reason.(less)
I was pretty convinced this book would not be my cuppa, when I friend handed it to me and insisted I read it. I generally stick to fantasy and some sc...moreI was pretty convinced this book would not be my cuppa, when I friend handed it to me and insisted I read it. I generally stick to fantasy and some sci-fi. Historical, realistic fiction rarely does it for me, and romantic stuff usually makes my eye twitch unbecomingly.
On the other hand, delightful, female-driven paens to the joy of reading are right up my alley. I've rarely been so pleased to be wrong about a book. I was expecting something a bit twee, but Guernsey is a book of real human depth, and how suffering can be alleviated by companionship and a shared love of literature. It's sweet, without being saccharine, and the heroine is endearingly funny and independent without veering into the dangerous territory of "plucky." I fell in love with Juliet.
If you love reading, chances are you will love this book. Epistolary novels can be difficult (for me), but I think Barrows does a really good job of establishing character through writing style, making it easy to follow who's who (in spite of all the names starting with "s") once you get into the swing of things. In short: read this book. It's lovely, short and definitely worth diving into.(less)
For the most part, this collection is pretty good. The stories are interesting, although, oddly enough, they often feel the same. Many of them have ve...moreFor the most part, this collection is pretty good. The stories are interesting, although, oddly enough, they often feel the same. Many of them have very similar elements: feminist, trouser-wearing woman engineer (or assassin, or fighter) meets girl is really the hallmark of this collection. I don't think there were any stories about lesbians in established relationships, which was oddly disappointing. So much of the GLBTQ media out there focuses on young love and first experiences--a narrative that gets tired if it's the only one out there. And a couple of the stories seemed unfinished or incomplete, ending abruptly as if they were excerpts from earlier works or the authors were unsure how to conclude.
That said, I still really, really enjoyed Steam-Powered. Having an entire book of woman-centered stories is one thing; an entire book of woman-centered stories full of badass, intelligent lady-loving ladies is another ball of awesome! And this book avoids the trap that a lot of steampunk falls into: it may love that Victorian era, but it doesn't shy away from the ugly side of Imperialism. A lot of the characters are women of color, and quite a few stories are set in locations outside of the USA and Great Britain. Nearly all of the stories had intriguing world-building and interesting characters. And the pleasure of reading about lesbian leading ladies in one of my favorite genres really makes this book worth picking up. (less)
Familiar with N,K Jemisin's short stories through Escape Pod and its sister podcasts, when I found this book at the thrift store I was delighted to pi...moreFamiliar with N,K Jemisin's short stories through Escape Pod and its sister podcasts, when I found this book at the thrift store I was delighted to pick it up. I found it difficult to get into at first, but once it got going the story and world-building were quite engrossing. Yeine is a fascinating character, and I'm quite curious where the triology will go from here. I only had one problem with this (mostly) satisfactory book, but it's a spoiler, so if you want the book to remain a mystery, turn back here.
Everyone who wishes to be unspoiled gone? Excellent.
I am so very, very, very, very, very tired of the "woman falls in love with sexy, sexy, dangerous, dangerous supernatural figure who warns her that doing it will make him kill her." Honestly: WHO IN THE REAL WORLD FINDS THAT SEXY?!?!?! AUGH. God DAMMIT, why can't I have a strong, female protagonist who is a warrior and extremely intelligent, who actually has the sense god gave a rabbit when it comes to dallying with self-professed predators who have already killed several (in Nahadoth's case, possibly thousands of) lovers? Seriously, if I wanted to read a crappy, in-love-with-danger romance I'd be spending my time with Charlaine Harris. Maybe I'm dense, or maybe I was just really hoping that she wouldn't go there, but I seriously didn't want to see the Yeine/Naha thing coming. And the ridiculous sex descriptions! OMFG. SO DONE. I would be SO FSCKING DONE with these books if they weren't fascinating, and given the literally divine ending I want to know what happens next. ARGH SO FRUSTRATING. (less)