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review 2019-03-17 05:03
Thoughts: Leviathan
Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld,Alan Cumming

Leviathan

by Scott Westerfeld
audio book narrated by Alan Cumming
Book 1 of Leviathan

 

 

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run.  His own people have turned on him.  His title is worthless.  All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service.  She's a brilliant airman.  But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way… taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.



I wish I could say that this book was a wonderfully amazing read... but the truth is, it didn't really quite pick up until about midway through.  It's an intriguing world that Westerfeld has introduced us to, this alternate reality in Europe at the cusp of World War I.  In this alternate reality, rather than the Central Powers and the Allied Powers, we have the Clankers and the Darwinists, respectively.  The same countries make up these two fictional groups as the real life ones they are based on.  Westerfeld's new twist in this steampunk fantasy, however, is to give the new technologies an interesting spin.

The Darwinists are so called because of their advanced sciences in DNA experimentation with animals, somehow being able to fabricate beasts into fighting machines during wartime.  The Clankers, in contrast, have built "diesel-driven iron machines" as their weapons of war--mechanized walkers that kept giving me images of a less sleek, more clanky version of Gundam fighters of anime fame.  Obviously they are not the same thing, as the one walker we get introduced to is a gigantic mechanism housing pilots, engineers, guns... much like a walking battleship or something.

Meanwhile, the truth is, it certainly took me a bit of progression into the story before I realized that the British side of the war were using fabricated animals as weapons and transport... and were called Darwinists.  After the introduction of the Leviathan airship, I should have figured that out, but for some strange reason, it didn't click.

The Leviathan's body was made from the life threads of a whale, but a hundred other species were tangled into its design, countless creatures fitting together like the gears of a stopwatch.  Flocks of fabricated birds swarmed around it--scouts, fighters, and predators to gather food.  Deryn saw message lizards and other beasties scampering across its skin.


It certainly made more sense as to why Deryn continuously referred to the flying machine she was piloting as "Beastie."  And also why she spoke to the Huxley (which I later learned was some sort of jellyfish-like flying contraption) the way that she did.  On the other hand, the Clanker side of technology made a bit more sense, even if the story line following Prince Aleksander was a bit lackluster in comparison to Deryn's side of the narrative.

I'm guessing either it was my lack of imagination, or the fact that I only really passively paid attention as the book was narrated to me.  Then I discovered that the print book itself actually has illustrations, and the Leviathan airship does, indeed, have the likeness of a whale.  It's pretty cool, and now I'm contemplating at least getting the rest of the Kindle books to go with my audio book experience so I can at least look at pictures...

But nevertheless, once everything started making sense, I started enjoying myself a little bit more.

I'm also guessing that I had found it easy for my mind to wander because aside from Deryn and Aleksander (and maybe Count Volgar and Dr. Barlow), none of the other characters particularly stood out as significant.  In which case, I cared little for the other midshipmen who traveled in the Leviathan with Deryn, so while her interactions seemed fun, none of it really struck a cord with me until Dr. Barlow started getting more book time.  Meanwhile, Alek's interactions with Klopp and Volgar were somewhat lackluster as well, even though you kind of get more book time with the three of them together, which should have increased their significance greatly.  I just wanted to get back to Deryn's story whenever Alek's narration swung around.

Upon the ultimate meeting between Deryn and Alek that we'd been expecting since the beginning, the story finally started picking up.  I'm almost sure that this had a lot to do with the fact that a lot of the side characters were delegated to the background and didn't really come to life for me.  I can count on one hand the number of characters I recall that really meant anything to me at all as a contribution to this book's story.

Nonetheless, Leviathan slowly grew to be a rather creative world.  I'm not as familiar with the timeline and events of World War I as I probably should be outside of a lot of superficial tidbit information.  I'm considering re-educating myself just to see if I can pinpoint where fact and fiction in these books connect and diverge...  That's just a thought though.

On a side note, at the end of the book, Scott Westerfeld himself gives an afterward about some of the differences between his fictional fantasy version versus the real events in history.  It was an interesting bit of knowledge that continues to spark my interest.

I'm also not as familiar with steampunk fantasy novels, as they've never been the type of books I've picked up in the past.  So this is a rather new experience for me as well.

On a final note, this book, I think was made a bit more enjoyable via Alan Cumming's narration, though I'm not opposed to admitting that it would have been less confusing had I maybe read it as a print book, illustrations and all.  This will teach me to pay more attention to the narrator in the next two books, I guess.  Though, for future reference for anyone else, maybe this book was meant to be read as a print novel instead of listened to as an audio book.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/03/thoughts-leviathan.html
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text 2019-03-16 15:20
BookLikes Snakes and Ladders | Dice Roll #7 & #8... and a SNAKE!

Well, it took slightly longer than I'd anticipated to finish reading Slightly Shady, but I'm still making good progress, I think.  Real life socializing DOES tend to put a dent in the reading life, but it's well worth it to see old friends again and enjoy a night of just hanging out.

 

 

 

BookLikes Snakes and Ladders



My next roll snagged me an 11, taking me to Square 57: 'Was published more than 50 years ago', and the only book I could think of immediately was the one sitting on my physical shelf right now, The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I'd been wanting to read anyway... but then I was going through my other lists and found that apparently, one of the books I'd been hoarding will fit right in!

 


Mary Stewart's Thunder on the Right was published in 1957.  So if I did my math right, that was 62 years ago, and so the book fits.  I'm inserting this one and moving onto my next dice roll.

 


Moving forward 8 spaces... I end up on Square 65: 'Snake - go back to 52.'  But that's okay.  It wasn't a long snake and I had gained a roll by inserting a previously hoarded read book.  I'm still making great progress.

Meanwhile, Square 52 says: 'Has a tree or flower on the cover.'

I went through a bunch of my Kindle books that are also historical fiction and found a couple that wold work.  So, in order to knock out two reading challenge prompts, I'm choosing to read The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin.  I've been meaning to get back to this series after reading the first book, so this is a wonderful opportunity, even it wasn't a book I'd thought to include in my Reading Assignment selections.

So off we go!

 

 

Currently Reading

 

 

 

Books Read Pending Square Selection

 

 

 

My Progress


Dates for each dice roll corresponds with respective update post.
Book titles link to reviews if written.
Completed books' covers (read and used for squares) following table.

 

Date Dice Roll Square/Prompt Book Title / Author Fits Square?
02/20
na
1.  Author is a woman Sweet Release by Pamela Clare Yes
02/22 (#1)
(2 + 4)
6
7.  Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D. Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare Yes
02/24 (#2)
(2 + 3)
5
12.  Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z. SEAL for Her Protection by Paige Tyler Yes
02/27 (#3)
(2 + 4)
6
18.  Set in a school Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger Yes
03/09 (#4)
(4 + 5)
9
27.  Set during WWI or WWII Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld Yes
03/12 (#5)
(5 + 6)
11
38.  Newest release by a favorite author Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz Yes
03/12 (#6) (3 + 5)
8
46.  A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick Yes
03/16 (#7)
(5 + 6)
11
57.  Was published more than 50 years ago Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart Yes
03/16 (#8)
(4 + 4)
8
65. Snake - go back to 52 n/a n/a
03/16
snake
52.  Has a tree or flower on the cover The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin Yes
TBA
TBA
     
TBA
TBA
     

 

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/03/booklikes-snakes-and-ladders-dice-roll_16.html
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text 2019-03-14 17:07
Reading Update for Furry Logic | Chapter 3
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Liz Kalaugher,Matin Durrani

Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life

by Matin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher


Chapter 3: Fluids: When Things Get Stickier

Chapter 3 of Furry Logic started off pretty strong, but I think I lost my way around the aerodynamics section of the fluids topic.  Not that it all wasn't very interesting, but I found myself more drawn to talk of the pond skaters walking on water, and the dwarf seahorses hunting copepods.  The latter half of the chapter found the debate on the bumblebee's impossible flying capabilities to be amusing, as well.

While still kind of tacky in some aspects, I think the humor is starting to grow on me, as I chuckled a few times on two or three different occasions, even as I rolled my eyes.  I particularly found the study of how quickly certain animals emptied their bladder quite fun, as it truly does "make people laugh, and then make them think."  I surely would have never thought that calculating how quickly animals urinate could be so thought-provoking.  Though as the book states, an animal in the wild needs to do the deed quickly as it's a rather vulnerable position, and the last thing it wants is to get jumped while relieving itself.

The transition in this chapter from liquid to gas, and from one animal to another, was a bit easier to follow than the transitions in the previous chapters, though it didn't escape my notice that it somehow still felt like two different topics.  Nonetheless, this was quite an enjoyable chapter and I really learned a lot of new things.

Finally, I leave you all with two things I found that tickled me in this chapter.

This quote, because it made me snort:

Flap your hand about underwater at the swimming pool and you'll feel the water push back.  Flap your hand in the air in the changing room and all you'll feel is disapproval.



And these photos, because, well Bumbledore...

 

 

... another old term for bees and noisy insects, the dumbledore, gave its name to the music-loving headmaster in a series of books about a schoolboy wizard...


Is that right...?

 



Obviously my take away from this book may be a little juvenile different from everyone else...

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/03/reading-update-for-furry-logic-chapter-3.html
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review 2019-03-13 05:48
Thoughts: Etiquette & Espionage
Etiquette & Espionage - Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage

by Gail Carriger
Book 1 of Finishing School

 

 

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly.  It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time.  Welcome to Finishing School.


Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother.  Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy.  Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady.  So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped.  At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish... everything.  Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course.  Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.



This was an absurdly fun read with a lovely, humorous narration, as well as an interestingly created steampunk world!  I would totally count this towards my Reading Assignment challenge as well, except that I started reading it in February.  Darn...

I don't read a whole lot of steampunk, if only because I've never really had much exposure to them, but after this book, I might find myself exploring the genre more often.  Or at least, I know I'll be reading more from this particular series, and maybe even from this author.  I understand that Finishing School actually takes place in a world that Carriger created in another series, so I may pick up those books as well.

But meanwhile, I'm finding that Etiquette & Espionage stands out very well on it's own!

Sophronia wanted to say something about the prototype, but she knew when she was being dismissed.  She bobbed a curtsy.  "Thank you, my lady."

Lady Linette winced.  "Miss Temminneck, arrange after-hours lessons with Professor Braithwope, do.  We really must work on that curtsy of yours, dear."

"But I have advanced eyelash fluttering to practice, and a mathematics problem concerning how to order strychnine and a lamb dinner on a limited budget, and three chapters on court etiquette to read, and my handkerchief to starch, and the quadrille to memorize!"

"No one said learning etiquette and espionage would be easy, my dear."


While extremely entertaining as a whole, the book had started off a little slow, but that was to be expected considering all the introductions to the world, the finishing school, and to Sophronia, that needed to be made.  The first half of the book involved a lot of set-up, but fortunately, we even have a tiny mystery going on in the background, and some rather over-the-top comedic antics by almost all of our characters.

I had been expecting a darker setting, with the lessons on dealing death, and fighting vampires and werewolves, but the book kept to it's more comedic, nonsensical tone.  Supposing that this book is geared more towards a middle grade age, that makes a lot of sense, though I had expected a more mature voice until I remembered that Sophronia and friends are only around thirteen or fourteen years old.

And, my, what characters!  A little deliberate in execution, and somewhat more juvenile than I'd expected, as I mentioned, but I absolutely loved all the strange little quirks each character had.  I was only disappointed that some of the side characters weren't fleshed out just a little bit more, or that Sophronia's attempts at using the skills she's learned were less than graceful, to be frank.

There also appear to be a few loose ends here and there with a few of the side tangents.

And still, I had tons of fun reading this book and will certainly be moving onto the next book.  I'd just love to see more from the side characters such as Vieve, Soap, Pillover, and even Professor Braithwope.  I imagine we'll expand more on Sophronia's friendships as the series progresses?  Because that would be so very excellent.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/03/thoughts-etiquette-espionage.html
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text 2019-03-12 07:24
BookLikes Snakes and Ladders | Dice Roll #5 & #6

Well, lookie at that!  Looks like I finished listening to the rest of Leviathan in record time after all!  A little bit of multi-tasking, a little bit of being completely and utterly lazy while I played some mobile games and passively listened to an audio book...  It also helped that the book itself picked up quite a bit after that midway point.

And now here I am, onto the next dice roll, and moving up in the Snakes and Ladders world!

Fortunately, my newest square means that I'm safe from a snake for the next roll, at least, even though I also won't hit a ladder.

I've also increased the size of Dino Baby's marker, since I felt it was a good idea.

 

 

 

BookLikes Snakes and Ladders



My next dice roll got me an 11, so I happily missed another snake head and landed on Square 38: 'Newest release by a favorite author.'  In which case, I'm doing a happy dance, because I just finished reading Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz less than a day ago!

 


Am I lucky or what?  Untouchable is definitely JAK's newest release this year, with one of her other books (written as Amanda Quick) not slated to release until May 2019.  It must be kismet or something, because I'd just gotten this book via library loan after waiting on a hold for some time, and told myself to get it read first, both because I wanted to get back to focusing on other books, and because I needed a slight break from historical novels.

With my continued devouring of Jayne Ann Krentz, my mission to read all of JAK's booklist, as ready I usually am to pick up another one of her books, I think it's safe to say that she's one of my favorite authors.

And so I got to roll a second time and got an 8, taking me from Square 38 to Square 46: 'A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years.'  Well, technically, this could be just about any book I've read, or am reading, or might have already read, since my TBR has been a mountain high for a very long time now.

 


Unfortunately, no immediate third roll for me, because the other books I've hoarded for future use during this game have only recently been added to my TBR.

Even though I've been reading Pamela Clare's contemporary work for years now, I never actually found myself drawn to her historical romances until just last year when I decided to add more historical fiction to my reading list.  And Thunder on the Right had been picked up quite randomly about two month ago at the library.

So... I'm choosing to use Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick, which I'd just started reading, and which will count because I've had almost all of Amanda Quick's books on my TBR since the first book I read of hers back in 2016.  Slightly Shady was no exception.

And because it's an Amanda Quick book, the next roll will probably come around pretty quickly.  =D

And now excuse me as I finally roll into bed, way past my bed time.  I need to learn to have a better sense of respect for sleep, but I just got too excited to finish this post.  So here it is.

 

 

Currently Reading

 

 

 

Books Hoarded Read For Future Square Use

 

 

 

My Progress


Dates for each dice roll corresponds with respective update post.
Book titles link to reviews if written.
Completed books' covers (read and used for squares) following table.

 

Date Dice Roll Square/Prompt Book Title / Author Fits Square?
02/20
na
1.  Author is a woman Sweet Release by Pamela Clare Yes
02/22 (#1)
(2 + 4)
6
7.  Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D. Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare Yes
02/24 (#2)
(2 + 3)
5
12.  Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z. SEAL for Her Protection by Paige Tyler Yes
02/27 (#3)
(2 + 4)
6
18.  Set in a school Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger Yes
03/09 (#4)
(4 + 5)
9
27.  Set during WWI or WWII Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld Yes
03/12 (#5)
(5 + 6)
9
38.  Newest release by a favorite author Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz Yes
03/12 (#6) (3 + 5)
8
46.  A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick Yes
TBA
TBA
     
TBA
TBA
     
TBA
TBA
     

 

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/03/booklikes-snakes-and-ladders-dice-roll.html
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