I tagged this as "read in audiobook only," although in fact it was read to me by a friend. This book reminded me why, once again, Lloyd Alexander is oI tagged this as "read in audiobook only," although in fact it was read to me by a friend. This book reminded me why, once again, Lloyd Alexander is one of the best. It also made me really want to re-read the Prydain Chronicles. ...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!**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 Marlene 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....more
I really thought I would like this book more. I love meta-fictional, quasi-steampunkish victoriana. I love vampires. I love books that include referenI really thought I would like this book more. I love meta-fictional, quasi-steampunkish victoriana. I love vampires. I love books that include references to beloved or obscure literature. Why didn't I love this book?
Structurally, it was a mess. The pacing was ridiculous, with a promising opening, a plodding midsection, and a catastrophically brief finale that came out of nowhere and rushed back into nowhere. The tone was bizarrely variable and inconsistent. And the ending. Seriously, wtf was going on with the ending? I had such a difficult time believing that the Victorians would have put up with an incursion of vampires integrating into society, but I was willing to attempt to suspend my disbelief--until the ending, for which only an acronym can serve to express my feelings.
This book could have been brilliant. Instead, it left me really unsatisfied. Maybe if Newman had made an attempt to keep the murderer mysterious, instead of revealing him on the first page, he could have sustained a bit more tension in the narrative. As the book is, I can't help but be really disappointed by such a poor execution of such a really interesting concept. I'll give it three stars because I seriously enjoyed the way the author worked in various literary characters, but it's really only a two-star read. ...more
Should I post a spoiler warning for a novel that came out in 1864? Possibly. Ok. Very mild spoilers lurk below.
I don't think "Uncle Silas" is as succeShould I post a spoiler warning for a novel that came out in 1864? Possibly. Ok. Very mild spoilers lurk below.
I don't think "Uncle Silas" is as successful as "The Woman in White," in part because I found Maud's naivete and passivity frustrating, at times.
That said, I think Le Fanu is a brilliant writer of villains--the complexity and psychological realism of Madame de la Rougierre, Silas, and even Dudley's portrayals is enthralling to a modern reader. It was terrifying to read (hear, since I "read" this in audiobook form, provided by Librivox.org) the micro-aggressions, manipulations, and abuses perpetrated on Maud--especially as the actions of the villains and the poor girl's self-doubts and minimizations felt entirely realistic to me.
However, the plot felt extremely obvious, and there were many times throughout the novel when I just wanted to shake the protagonist and tell her to run away, d***it. One of the times when reading a work many years after it was produced does the novel itself a disservice, I think.
Still, "Uncle Silas" serves up enough psychological realism and tension that, in spite of a frustrating and somewhat useless protagonist, and a plot made over-familiar unto trope-itude, it manages to be quite the thriller. ...more
Wow, this book is terribly written. The author has some interesting ideas, but the writing keeps getting in the way. I couldn't finish this book, it wWow, this book is terribly written. The author has some interesting ideas, but the writing keeps getting in the way. I couldn't finish this book, it was so bad....more
This is an immensely challenging book to read, not just in terms of subject matter; Ford does not hold the reader's hand at all. There were moments whThis is an immensely challenging book to read, not just in terms of subject matter; Ford does not hold the reader's hand at all. There were moments when I really struggled to follow what occured, the intrigues are so complicated, and I often had difficulty connecting the episodes to the greater plot. I'm sure sure if this is because I'm dense, or a failure of the writer's craft, or even of the editor's. (I understand the original manuscript was about three times longer than the current novel. I rather wish I could read the longer MS, to see if some of the difficult bits were more fully explained.)
All that said: this book is brilliant. It is the best alternate history I've read, immensely interesting and epic, intricate, genre-sprawling, inventive and compelling. The characters are complex, flawed, beautifully drawn and dreadfully human (even the vampires.) And Ford's treatment of Richard III is fascinating, especially if you're most familiar with him as the scheming hunchback of Shakespeare's drama.
Most interesting of all to me, however, was Ford's premise that Julian the Apostate succeeded in suppressing Christianity, resulting in a pluralistic, pagan Europe. Jeshites (worshippers of Jesus) do appear, but they are a minor (and somewhat creepy) cult. An entirely different culture arises; Arthur takes on an almost religious significance; Constantinople is never destroyed and becomes the heart of an aggressive empire whose ambitions underly every conflict, looming, magnificent and maleficent....more
I was pretty convinced this book would not be my cuppa, when a friend handed it to me and insisted I read it. I generally stick to fantasy and some scI was pretty convinced this book would not be my cuppa, when a 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 paeans 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....more
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 veFor 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. ...more
**spoiler alert** If you love Victorian fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.P. Lovecraft, you will love this story. It's a brilliant mashup of Doyl**spoiler alert** If you love Victorian fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.P. Lovecraft, you will love this story. It's a brilliant mashup of Doyle's famous detective and Lovecraft's elder gods, in which HRM Queen Victorian and the royal family has been replaced by Lovecraft's eternal horrors. The most delightful thing about the story is how perfectly Gaiman matches Doyle's tone and style. What would Holmes' London be like with a multi-tentacled, madness inducing Queen? Read Gaiman's work to find out....more