**spoiler alert** I wanted, badly, to enjoy this book so much more than I did.
The idea is delicious -- a Steampunk London, Victoria kept alive by Mad**spoiler alert** I wanted, badly, to enjoy this book so much more than I did.
The idea is delicious -- a Steampunk London, Victoria kept alive by Mad Science!, a zombie plague sweeping through the underbelly of the city. An agent of the crown with a dark side and a patriotic heart. His dauntless and beautiful assistant. A serial murderer loose in the city. Airships overhead. Automatons clanking through the streets.
And yet it failed to work. At all.
The book is billed as a "Newberry and Hobbes Investigation" but Miss Hobbes is barely a sketch. She does very little and we get almost nothing of her personality (other than the fact that she's swooooooony over Sir Maurice) or her background. The most interesting thing we learn is that she has a sister who can tell the future and is locked in an asylum. The last chapter is, I think, supposed to shed some mysterious light on Miss Hobbes and make us rethink all that's come before, but since she was essentially just arm candy to Sir Maurice, I didn't really give a hoot about the big revelation.
(I almost think that the police chief, Bainbridge, was supposed to be the buddy/foil in the book. But some editor said, "Mostly women read Steampunk. Please add a strong female character who can save Sir Maurice's life." And so some of Bainbridge's exploits were cut, Miss Hobbes was shoehorned in, made to Save Our Hero's Life, and given a ret-con epilogue so that the author could consider her more in the next book.)
Sir Maurice is allegedly an opium eater, but it also seems tacked on to the story after the fact. Something that the author did to Make Maurice Interesting. Mostly he's a perfect specimen of manhood, and a fairly dull one at that. The author has an adolescent man crush on the character, I think. Maurice is always pushing through the pain, fiercely fighting off baddies regardless of the fact that he should be in hospital. He's handsome AND dashing AND rich AND immune to the plague AND a practitioner of the Dark Arts AND a brilliant scholar AND a brilliant fighter AND and and and....
The plot is mangled and laid with red herrings that make no sense, have no bearing on the story, and are wrapped up verbally in a few paragraphs. (The secretary's missing brother is utterly irrelevant, gets only about 10 paragraphs total in the story, and offers no thematic reason to be there. The Dutch cousin is similarly non-sequtorial.)
The best part of the book is the plague. There are zombies ravaging London's underbelly (called "revenants," not zombies) and it seems to be a very casual aside. I loved that! The idea that Victorian London wouldn't really pay any attention to a zombie plague .... fantastic!
Now if only the rest of the book had lived up to that one clever idea....more
The BEST part about this book is great -- Merry, having become an avatar of the Goddess, rescues soldiers from a fire fight. T**spoiler alert** Argh!
The BEST part about this book is great -- Merry, having become an avatar of the Goddess, rescues soldiers from a fire fight. They were the soldiers she healed in an earlier book and they are literally praying to her, so she comes to them in her dream using the Black Coach and answers their prayers. They are literally wearing talismans to her (a nail) around their necks!
Since one of the two rules of the Fey being in the US is "they may not be worshiped as Gods," I figured this was going to be the thrust of the book. Hey! The Goddess is manifesting as Merry and now people are worshiping her/Her and there will be earthly consequences! Cool!
Instead, we get a lot of bunk about a serial murderer who is killing the demi-fey. It's dull and pointless and I don't even remember how she solves it, but it's not through solid detective work. Sigh.
And there's too much sex.
But I'm hopeful that she's building to the worship as a God/get kicked out of the US plot in the next book. So I'll continue to get it out of the library instead of abandoning the whole series the way I've given up on Anita....more
There is a small but growing sub-genre of books into which this one fits quite neatly. It is, to the best of my knowledge, purely an American male pheThere is a small but growing sub-genre of books into which this one fits quite neatly. It is, to the best of my knowledge, purely an American male phenomenon, but if you've found something else, please let me know.
It's the genre I describe as "Mid-Life Crisis Obsession Non-Fiction." A man, always middle class, white, and well-educated, but bored and dulled by his safe corporate life, decides to embrace something wild and daring and dangerous. Then he writes about how he did it, often about how you can do it, too. There is almost always some sort of an attempt at making it a spiritual journey,
Prime examples are "Heat", "No Impact Man" (okay, a blog/movie not a book...), and "Emergency." One might argue that "Fight Club" qualifies, though I've never actually slogged through that book. And now, "Absinthe and Flamethrowers."
I was torn about my rating. Part of the book is fantastic -- a useful and handy guide on how to make gunpowder and solid rocket fuel. There are instructions, too, for an actual flame thrower. There is a listing of places to buy hard-to-find items (which I plan to use for my sausage making, if nothing else). Clear, well-written, laced with just enough humour. A good read for those of us who love a Mythbusters marathon.
And then there's the rest of the book.
He spends a long and dull chapter in the front of the book talking about how risk taking defines our humanity, our selves, our lives! How you are a better person if you take risks! How modern life stifles our risk taking! How he broke out from his dull job at the phone company! Blah, blah, blah. I skimmed the first bit of that chapter and skipped the rest, thinking that this guy should just run naked into the woods and bang on a drum.
And, for someone who believes risk taking is so vital, he spends a LOT of his ink describing common-sense safety precautions for all of his "artfully dangerous projects." It's likely that he had to do that because of lawyers, but it's still a steady undercurrent of caution that undermines his central thesis of RISK=LIVING!
And the rest of the book -- the bits that aren't gunpowder or smoke bombs or whatnot -- strikes a sort of sour note with me. He enumerates a list of "artfully dangerous activities" that you may or may not want to indulge in. I'm all for living "on the edge," but his idea of what a dangerous man might do is a bit ... adolescent. Imagine what a suburban 14-year-old geek boy might think that James Bond does and you've got a good idea of his list: eating fugu, learning to crack a whip, smoking a European cigarette, drinking absinthe (which, he's at pains to explain, isn't nearly as dangerous as you think it is!), and driving fast. Even eating hot chili peppers makes his list, which becomes fairly pedestrian once it's out of the realm of explosives.
The most interesting thing that doesn't involve explosives is his very glancing section of bartitsu, the martial art practiced by Sherlock Holmes. It's not useful, but he has endnotes that point the interested Holmes fan towards more information.
And I have got to applaud his citations, lists, and excellent references. Ironically, his solid research is the best part of the book. What's more, it's useful for those of us who want the learn to make gunpowder, but don't see doing so as a life-affirming way to reassert our manhood. ...more
**spoiler alert** The vast majority of Western Literature falls into what I like to think of as "the Guy Shit" mold. This is stuff that is all about h**spoiler alert** The vast majority of Western Literature falls into what I like to think of as "the Guy Shit" mold. This is stuff that is all about having a Y chromosome and that we mere women can only read about and watch, but never truly comprehend.
There are a couple of categories: the coming-of-age story (usually told with a heavy dollop of father-is-perfect/awful angst), the male-bonding story, the man-against-the-world story, the man-against-himself story, and, of course, the man-against-nature. There is almost always a question of HONOR, all caps, and What It Means To Be A Man.
(I have a theory, if you'll allow a digression, that the Quest for Manhood is such a big deal because men don't have a physical moment when they know they've crossed the threshold. Women get their periods. It's not the only threshold, but I will point out that no female coming-of-age story ever concerns itself with "what it means to be a Woman." )
Now, as I said, Guy Shit is a common theme is Western Literature (said in a pompous tone). For the most part, that style of literature has fallen out of favor of late, supplanted by the naval-gazing whiny bullshit crap of John Updike and other mid-20th-century writers. Mr. Parker is one of the few remaining practitioners of the purely Guy Shit novel and he's been doing it for a long time.
I love Mr. Parker's books (except the Sonny Randall ones, which fail because she is not A Guy and Mr. Parker excels at understanding Guys but sucks at understanding women.) It's a fascinating glimpse into the Guy World and they are fun, fast, and furious in a way that Vin Diesel never could be. If, while reading one of his books, the Guy Shit gets a little deep or thick, well, they are really fast books so I don't ever get overloaded.
"Chasing the Bear" is a slim little novella, a "young Spenser novel" says the subtitle. But it manages to cram every single one of the Guy Shit tropes into 224 pages and they are stacked so deep and so wide that I felt like I would put down the book and find I'd sprouted chest hair and the ability to throw a right hook (when morally and philosophically appropriate).
It's not just about Spenser's coming of age, it's a primer on How to Be a Man! With Greatest Hits from Guy Shit thrown in as a bonus: There's saving the girl from the big bad monster, surviving amidst the ravages of nature, rescuing the weaker (possibly gay) minority, having an internal moral compass when everyone else is wrong, standing up to the older bully, understanding what Daddy has been teaching me, knowing when to walk away from a fight, knowing how to fight, and why you need a friend to stand at your back.
I don't say this to disparage the book. I liked the book. I think that you could do a lot worse as a model of Manhood than Spenser and his paragon fathers and uncles. (Occasionally you wonder if Mr. Parker has ever heard of the Telemachus Complex.) But there ought to be a warning label on this book: Warning: Here be High-Level Guy Shit. ...more
**spoiler alert** Regency isn't my favorite period, generally, despite having the requisite female-English-major affection for Jane Austen. (You can o**spoiler alert** Regency isn't my favorite period, generally, despite having the requisite female-English-major affection for Jane Austen. (You can opt out, if you want, but I used those points to opt out of all of American Lit., so I had to like Ms. Austen.) But Jenna is usually a good judge of what I'll like and she pressed this book into my hands.
So I read it. And I loved it!
Despite it's appearance, it's not a romance. There's some sex and some affection, but it's mostly a mystery. Not a really complex mystery, but the period atmosphere is worth the price of admission alone.
Unlike most Regency novels, this one is neither all sweetness and light nor does it wallow in the "dark underbelly" of Regency England. Yes, there are prostitutes and bad men, but they seem like part of the scenery rather than the sordid destination that we're reading this book just so we can glimpse them and tsk-tsk.
Our main character is a cashiered soldier with a little too much tragic back story (a secret scandal with your best friend/mentor/commander over matters of love and honor OR a missing wife and daughter OR an ex-lower who has coincidentally returned, OR a tendency to crippling bouts of "melancholia." Not all four, please.) He has, of course, a popular and wealthy patron, because you can't get around needing money and influence in the period. But since we spend at least some of the novel wondering if the mentor is the murderer (at least I did), he's not a deus ex machina.
The crime itself seems painfully relevant, with recent revelations of a girl kept prisoner for 18 years in Florida.
This is one of the best new mystery series I've started in a long time. I look forward to begging the rest off of Jenna.
**spoiler alert** I'm still reading this book, but I bought it for the first story and I'm going to review that story.
Ley Line Drifter: Jenks, PI to**spoiler alert** I'm still reading this book, but I bought it for the first story and I'm going to review that story.
Ley Line Drifter: Jenks, PI to the Pixies! I've always found Jenks and the Pixie/Fairy culture to be the most fascinating aspect of the Hollows world that Harrison has constructed. She's clearly thought a lot about her alternate history and I just wish she would write more like this and less about the sexual politics of vampires. (This book is NOT for anyone who isn't thoroughly conversant with the world.)
As a glimpse into Jenks's private life, into the social structures and mores of the pixies, it was good. As a thread of the larger tapestry of the Hollows, it was very good. As a short story, it was... well, unresolved. Not in a bad way -- Jenks dealt nicely with the immediate threat, and we had some more of Bis, who I am fascinated by -- but the bad guy got away.
I wish there had been a little more back story filled in about the nymphs/dryads. I was groping a little, trying to get all the nuances, though that could be because I was tired. But I really can't say I was forewarned -- this is an author who didn't explain why vampires were out until about half way through her book.
A lot of the folks on Goodreads seem to be interested in "Reckoning" by Ms. Frost. It was okay... a standard vampire detective story, nothing interesting in the characters or plot or world. Not bad writing, but I get the feeling that she assumed I'd read the other books (and loved the characters).
I couldn't even get past page two of the Pettersson story and the Drake story is slow going so far, another standard vampire detective story. If the Marr story is at all interesting, I'll update this review.
This was a gift and one I've been meaning to get to for a while. Then it got lost then I had a kid.... then I saw the preview with Kate Beckinsdale anThis was a gift and one I've been meaning to get to for a while. Then it got lost then I had a kid.... then I saw the preview with Kate Beckinsdale and decided it was time to read it before it got mangled in my head by the sexed-up Hollywood version.
First, it's great fun. A tight taut little mystery with a light fizz of sexual tension between Lily and Carrie. It wasn't a great work, or groundbreaking (which seems to be the word most often associate with it) but it was fun, fine, and fast. The female characters are fantastic and strong and the fact that they are women is integral to the story without being A STORY ABOUT STRONG WOMEN.
I'm not a big fan of the art, but I rarely read graphic novels for the art -- I'm a heretic, I know, but I like the stories, the characters, and the dialog. Which is not to say that the art was bad -- Mr. Lieber did a fine just. I just don't happen to like the style.
The movie seems to be a colossal deviation from the book, so I won't even bother. Not that I get to movies very often these days....
**spoiler alert** I'm a little conflicted on how to rate this book.
The plot is a little odd. There's the Night Hawk, a peeper-turned-home invader, an**spoiler alert** I'm a little conflicted on how to rate this book.
The plot is a little odd. There's the Night Hawk, a peeper-turned-home invader, and the junior high principal who looks at students' underwear. The Night Hawk plot is really just a real-world psychological excercise for Jesse to come to an understanding of his relationship with Jenn. It's a little trite in places and Parker's disdain for all intellectual types comes through in his profile of the Swingers. (Not that I'm pro swinging. I'm sure his profile is accurate -- just a little facile and snide.) He falls back on that oldest of serial-offender tropes -- the letter to the chief of police. For the most part, Parker is a better author than this, no matter how well drawn the plot is.
And don't get me wrong. As ever, the writing is taut, the dialog short and snappy. I missed having a little more physicality -- there was one tense scene at the end, but I wanted a little more of the Parker-style brawls.
The panty-peeking principal is based on a real-life incident but Parker's misogyny comes through in his too-pat explanation of why it happened. (Oooh, her husband is a philandering ass... she needs attention!) Still, his and Jesse's outrage at the violation was genuine and powerful.
And I'm thrilled that Jesse manages, at the end, to ditch the evil and soul-sucking Jenn. I've had problems enjoying this series because of Jesse's weird and unhealthy attachment to Jenn and I'm hopeful that he will move on to more Spenser-like emotional growth now that he's ditched her. I'm also hopeful that now that Sunny has taken up her place as his g.f. (maybe), that Parker will stop writing the Sunny Randall series. Parker's particular brand of misogyny/sexism works great in his tough-guy books but when he tries to write as a woman, it becomes hard to stomach.
All that said, I'm looking forward to the next Jesse book, because I really think that it's going to move strongly and freely. ...more
**spoiler alert** I feel like, by not enjoying this book more, I'm eating at McDonald's and complaining about the lack of good steak. And I can, usual**spoiler alert** I feel like, by not enjoying this book more, I'm eating at McDonald's and complaining about the lack of good steak. And I can, usually, relax into a series, deciding to take it for face value. The problem with this one is that Ms. Claire insists on thinking that the book is steak. Or at least a a steakhouse burger.
I find the main characters -- Clary and Jace -- to be stupid. Too stupid. They do things for irrational "reasons" and I'm not so far removed from adolescence that I don't remember at least trying to justify my idiocies to myself. When the Inquisitor -- who hates Jace with a firey and wholly irrational passion and lost her grandson about 17 years ago -- suddenly recognizes a scar on his arm, declares in a melodramatic gasp of the worst sort, "After all this time!" and then dies to save Jace's life, he still doesn't realize that he's her long-lost grandson. (And that his incestuous love for his sister is not at all incestuous.)
The Inquisitor herself is deliberately obtuse and painfully trite.
Clary, having been warned repeatedly about the pitfalls of the Fey court, of course, falls for simple trick. And then everyone manages to get out of it far too easily.
And really, does anyone NOT know that Alex is gay? Really? And making out with Magnus? And isn't Magnus a little creepy -- 300 years old and making out with a 17 year old? (LOVE Magnus, though. He's awesome and angry and fabulous.)
I found Simon's sudden affection for the werewolf girl (Maia?) to be wholly without any contextual support. One minutes he's finally getting his lifelong dream of making out with his best friend and the next, he's willing to walk away from it because he spent a few tense hours with this girl? I feel like they are going to wind up together simply because she's the only other female of the right age in the book. Never mind his sudden and miraculous immunity to sunlight. (Or his implausible conversion to vampire in the first place. I feel like something was edited out in this plot line.)
It's all very facile and if she wasn't trying -- very hard -- to portray an ancient and complex society, etc. etc. I wouldn't mind. It could be fun. But she keeps trying too hard -- the constant references to the Angel Raziel, for instance.
(Never mind the racial implications of the fact that all the Hunters are white, mostly blonde, and that the only person of color is a biracial werewolf with an abusive brother and abusive ex-boyfriend. If these Hunters have been around, keeping the demons at bay since humans first walked the Earth, why aren't there any African hunters? Why isn't the big magical city in Africa? Or Asia? Or anywhere but friggin' Europe? Where did the "Mortal Instruments" come from and why do they all look like anime versions of Italian Renaissance paintings?)
As I said, I feel like I'm kicking a puppy for not being a good horse. If you just take these at face value -- slightly trashy teen goth updates of Harry Potter, intended for bored suburban American 14 year old girls who think that they are different (a tribe that I claimed membership to!) -- then it's a fine ride. And, in honor of my all-black-wearing, Goethe-quoting, jazz-listening, long-haired inner 14 year old, I'm going to finish reading the series.
**spoiler alert** I picked this book up on a whim. I was browsing the huge shelves of fantasy YA books with a mite touch of bitterness remembering how**spoiler alert** I picked this book up on a whim. I was browsing the huge shelves of fantasy YA books with a mite touch of bitterness remembering how very ghetto-ized SF and Fantasy was back when I was a YA myself. This seemed like a good exemplar of the field and I hadn't heard anything -- pro or con -- to give me any preconceived notions.
I don't know how this holds up to the rest of the books in the genre, but it wasn't bad. It's fun, and well written, if deeply deeply derivative.
It's a goth-NYC cross between Star Wars and Harry Potter. Despite having a female protagonist, the person at the center of the story seems to be a (literally) golden boy with major father issues who looks good in tight jeans and wields a sword as sharp as his tongue.
That he turns out to be our main character's love interest and then (surprise) sister, should come as no shock to anyone familiar with these things. (Can you say Leia & Morgan le Fey?)
As in SW and HP, our main character has been kept in willful ignorance of her true birthright, is suddenly thrust into a wide world she doesn't understand, entangled in politics that happened a generation before. There's an unexpected betrayal, a secret institute, magic swords and mirrors, even a carriage that flies! There's a charismatic bad guy who leads an evil circle within the good guy secret society and has now come back from the dead. Etc. etc. etc.
The writing is nice and clear, though, and Clary, our main character is a nice balance of ballsy and realistically scared our of her mind. She's a little too clueless about some things -- really, she had no idea that Simon was in love with her? Really? -- but she thinks and cares.
I do wish we'd managed a big epic drama without having a father-son relationship in the center, but I guess that's too much to ask. The Hero of Thousand Faces tends to take over any story he's in. Clary is strong enough to hold the story on her own, I think, without hiding behind her big, sexy, angsty brother.
I liked it well enough that I'll read the other two. But I think I'll get 'em from the library....more