Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ball like a hedgehog and keep on rolling

Oh dear, I haven't left my chair in way too long. Buying all five books in one set equals a very debilitating weekend of my curled in a comfy chair wrapped in blankets dreaming of tea and parasols and hedgehogs.

Changless by Gail Carriger

The beauty of stumbling on an author later in their career means you get to benefit from reading through a series continuously. You are able to enjoy the uninterrupted glory of a good story steaming right along with its plots and motivations. It can also mean that sometimes you take note of large continuity flaws if you have detail OCD like myself. So far I have been very pleased with the seamless tour through Gail Carriger's steampunk England. I continue on with my mind engaged in her intellectual wit, bursting into laughter at random and shocking the masses the around me.

I try to approach sequels as an unattached reader. This levels my hopes from being disappointed if the author had one stroke of genius and ran out (or was rushed to the presses by an antsy publisher). I find this approach also typically enamors me more when the book soars over my crippled expectations. Changeless managed to pull off soaring through the heights of aether in a very fashionable and respectable dirigible.

The introduction of new clans and packs and sundry other dubious characters of questionable nature was stepping up the game. Perhaps in my heart I am just smitten with a savage lifestyle despite my equal awe of etiquette. Who doesn't love a castle despite its abundance or lack of buttresses? The change of scenery while continuing on the same vein of storytelling was excellently streamlined (and proved the title doubly well named). I was able to hear all the fabulous accents in my mind making a cacophony of glee for such vivid imagery.

New characters dancing with doubts of their motivation and involvement added layers to the perceptible wit of the first installation. This sequel managed to keep the charm of the first while growing and developing my need to read more. I did not see the ghostly ending until I was at the end, which I find impressive of any author pulling one over on me. 

Here's to continuing floating!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Continue on the steampunk train

Lady of Devices got me back into the steampunk world and reminded me of Gail Carriger. I read her first novel Soulless on a whim at the library back when I was an avid card holder and relished the smell of spine glue and musty paper. I since moved and have not found the motivation to head out to my "local" (which is ridiculously inconvenient to get to and miles away) library. I live on Amazon these days.

After going back to check on my first foray into the steampunk genre, I noticed all books in the series were now being sold in one boxed package. I am a huge sucker of buying an entire series in these beautiful boxed sets. One, it eliminates my need to keep bookends (which I do not like for some reason) on my bookshelf. Two, it fulfills my OCD to have every book in a series with matching size, print, artwork style, etc. Since it has been two years since reading Soulless, I decided to just restart the series. (I will admit here that I began reading the second book but felt hopelessly lost after two paragraphs.) So I am at the dilemma of counting Soulless as one of my 75. The deciding factor: I couldn't remember any of the plot or some of the characters. That feels like a new read to me, so it goes on the list of 75.


Soulless by Gail Carriger

I did manage to remember some details from the first reading, but enough were missing to create an excellent reading experience a second time. I own an adorable hedgehog and many hedgehog shaped accessories, which was completely justified for its cuteness here. 

While initially leery of the paranormal dynamic (I am pulled by the immortal philosophical dilemma, but frightened of the "modern" twist from the Hollywood glamour aspect of Twilight), Gail Carriger handled the immortals of her story with a fascinating take. The idea of a preternatural to balance the excess soul is refreshing. I didn't cling to it initially, but Miss Tarabotti made the concept grow on me like a revolting Hisselpenny hat becoming fashionable.

My sense of humor runs to the extreme end of dry (very suitable for a British lady of distinction) and must have some intellectual stimulation. Gail Carriger's wit conforms perfectly to what I find worthy of tears from laughing. Many times sitting in my "book nook" I guffawed to myself and disturbed the entire household with the random timing and force of exhilaration. I feel the strong urge to sit in that nook with a good cup of tea and reminisce about my brief time living in the United Kingdom. It is very heartwarming, and before I know it, I have eliminated several hours of my life. I highly recommend the Parasol Protectorate to any with a mind that actually functions outside of Hollywood. 

Here's to the entire series!

Monday, January 28, 2013

To make up for my sloth-like ways

Two reviews in one day. Amazing! I am attempting to make up for my hibernation. After my renewed vigor from Tammy Blackwell, I was pursuing the recommendation section on my Amazon page and found way too many excellent choices. I am a bit of a sucker for printed author who offers the digital copy free as introduction to the series.

Tangent (ok, really it is a rant) here: I am aggressively opposed to digital copies costing more than the printed work. Publishing houses of the large scale variety are gouging the avid bookworm. Best sellers and large "brand name" authors should not receive double the standard paperback price. $15 for your book just because it made some hit list is ludicrous. When the paperback version cost $8, then the digital copy should cost $4. Digital storage is not an expensive endeavor to upkeep. I would love to see the competitors to the major houses thrive and an economy of price arrive to the world of literature.


Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina

Prior to the creation of the steampunk genre (and somewhat forced by my days as an English undergrad), I was a fan of Victorian literature, history, and fantasy. Alternative history is an interesting genre but can be a rather double-edged sword. It pollutes the pool of very limited fact about the past when you take into account that recorded documents in history are kept by the victor of the time and may not be accurate representations of the world lived anyway. Science may be fact, but it comes heavily influenced by the ideology of the scientists that create it. I have issues with said pollution and find the creation of steampunk a smashing solution!

Lady of Devices was a pleasant addition to my favorites of the genre. It was heavily Victorian and scientific without getting in its own way. Some authors overdo the "punk" aspect of the steam inventions and create a world of stretched-too-thin imagination. Shelley Adina was able to draw me into her story from the first paragraph. It is always about a great opening. While I refuse to leave a book unread, I become even more attached to novels that hook me from the starting gate. Everything was very plausible with the story. I felt that with the proper ingenuity I could be my own Lady of Devices.

I was highly satisfied with the English wit of Claire's gang of misfits. The gang themselves were actually the biggest pleasure from the read. They were a group of characters that felt refreshingly new. The story did not seem as if it had been told numerous times before compared to many others colliding in the market. No matter who you are, there is always something to learn. Each of Shelly Adina's characters embodies that sense of creation and determination.

I am glad I tried out this author based on an excellent plot summary and being a sucker for a free price tag. 

Here's to purchasing the rest of the series (excellent use of promotion)!

Queen Procrastinator strikes again

I am terrible with journals, blogs, diaries, etc. Anything that requires I record my thoughts just doesn't happen smoothlly. My mom says I go into my "ozone" and don't surface again for hours. This may be the leading cause, it may just be my laziness to type. Ironic when you were an English undergrad and had a paper a week to churn out. That is when Queen Procrastinator was born and she lives on to this day. 

Fate Succumbs by Tammy Blackwell

After the tedious labor behind reading a Wheel of Time novel, I decided for a quick palate cleanser. I was humbly surprised by the offering of Tammy Blackwell's Timber Wolves series. I started the first novel on a free Kindle give away (which has become one of my favorite marketing concepts from Amazon as it introduces me to wonderful authors I may have skipped over even at $3 a novel).

Tangent here: I really was against the Kindle and the digital age for the longest time. I still hold to the belief it has hurt the literary field in an irrevocable way. People are able to self-publish now and place crap novels out on the Internet for money. Some do not have a proper respect for grammar (possibly even storytelling in certain cases), and they do not deserve to receive anything for their lazy attitude towards publishing. It is a travesty to read cocktail napkins that have never hit the desk of a trained editor. It hurts. I am always, and will forever be, leery of self-published authors that do not list an editor on their copyright page. I do believe that there are "diamonds in the rough" attempting to make their way and have a true passion for the written word so I will keep giving them a chance, but I feel mugged by the hacks ruining it for the talented.

OK, back to the review: After reading Destiny Binds early in 2012, I was happily impressed by the story for its light young adult story without being vapid. I bought the next book in the series immediately. I was impatient to wait a year for Fate Succumbs, but it was definitely worth the wait. As an excellent end to the series, the story did not fully complete itself. After some research, I did find that the characters are not "finished" and Tammy plans to create more novels that involve the main characters in a back seat plot. Had I not done this research, however, I may not have been as satisfied with the ending. 

For a young adult offering, it has as many unexpected twists and turns that can be anticipated when the main audience has extensive ADD in a media driven world. I also didn't feel taxed reading yet another set of immortal stories. There was the very clear message about how life really works, even if you are special.

The story moves along at a brisk pace, and I was entertained through the entire novel. It was a very refreshing read after paragraphs of description (sometimes needless) from Robert Jordan. Tammy Blackwell truly cleansed my reading mind and put me back in an ecstatic state to reach my goal of 75 books this year. I even added her short story novella collection of prequel points-of-view to engross myself further into the Timber Wolves realm.

Here's to a completely new genre!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Back tracking a little

I'll have to back track a little to cover the books I finished in the first two weeks before deciding to start keeping a record of what I read. I count this in my list of 75, but it is a little bit of a cheat. I was already halfway through the book at the New Year. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series consists of pretty hefty reading so even though I was halfway through the story, it was like reading a full book post New Year anyway.


Lord of Chaos - Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time book 5)

It has taken me some time to actually delve into the series. I first attempted to read Eye of the World back in high school and failed miserably after stumbling over so many names with their very odd spellings (plus I had the attention span of a gnat). After taking a linguistics class in college, I decided to give it another go. 

All but the last three novels are already in publication at this point, so I won't have to dedicate a lot of time to rereading. Plus, by the time I manage to make it through each tome already in print the rest of the series should be available. The final settling point is Brandon Sanderson (a true favorite of mine) is going to be finishing the series after Mr. Jordan's passing. 

When I read a series, I become slightly obsessed and must pay attention to all the little details that make the vast picture and build the intricate worlds authors create. I am a huge stickler for continuity and truly like being deeply involved in the finer points of a series. I hope this provides satisfaction to those who have put so much of themselves and their time into creating these universes. 

Wheel of Time is no exception to my neuroses. There is plenty to dive in with the universe being spread through so many characters. However, the series has yet to truly capture me the way some others have. The manuscripts are very long and cover material from so many different strands I feel lost many times with all the details I try to remember. Matching the various timelines can sometimes be difficult with the switch in narration very rarely hinting at the events in terms of a calendar. It seems like substantial time is passing in one person's life, just to be teleported back to the beginning when we go to another perspective. The endless abomination of summer does not help determine a timeline. The wheel seems to have taken a whole new meaning in this installation, and I was only left feeling dizzy from spinning in circles.

In an attempt to find the silver lining, I love the development of each character and feel closer to understanding each as an individual the further I delve into the series. There are layers to each individual that would be lost if Robert Jordan attempted to rush through the plot, and I am truly hoping it is excellent use of foreshadowing of stories to come.

I realize this series is beloved by many out there and will continue to read to the end because it is a classic that has defined the fantasy genre, but I will now provide blasphemy by saying I forced this book. Even for a volume this lengthy, I read rather quickly but Lord of Chaos just took forever (in feeling and actual days reading). Some of the earlier novels were not as hard to get through, but this one felt like I was a one woman ox team plowing through solidified clay. 

Here is a brief interlude in another genre!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Here is to beginnings

I do not believe in New Year's resolutions. 

Everyone fails at them, or forgets what they chose by February. Every day of every year you should be moving towards a goal that makes your life better, which in turn betters the world around you. I strongly try to be that better spirit that impacts the people in my life in a chain reaction of kindness and tolerance. To be a stronger person and more resilient role model, I do understand that we need to do things for ourselves that just focus on our core every now and again.

So here is my mock resolution to myself this year:

I will read 75 books. Seems simple enough; it isn't even two books a week. Well I gave myself the same goal last year and didn't even make it to 50. There are more influences in my life that keep me from my fondest past time that I must find how to juggle better this year. I got married last year and found an entire month go by without a single book in my hands. With the advent of www.goodreads.com, I have developed a substantial list of "to read" material across the spectrum of current novels and classic literature. My small goal of 75 will not bring me close to denting this ever expanding monster, but I hope to increase the yearly goal as life settles around me (and I, hopefully, find my stride in multi-tasking).

In order to keep myself on track and perhaps provide amusement to the masses, I will be posting reviews of the books I read to keep a motivation for my goal. 

Here is to beating last year's goal!