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review 2018-05-05 03:56
Raising Steam (Discworld #40, Moist von Lipwig #3)
Raising Steam (Discworld) - Terry Pratchett

Once it had been a dream, it had been nearly realized before being abandoned, and many lost their lives looking to harness it until one young man succeeded.  Raising Steam is the penultimate book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, as Moist von Lipwig helps along the technological marvel of locomotion created by Dick Simnel that is monetarily supported by Harry King and pushed by Lord Vetinari early on especially to reach Uberwald which becomes imperative as the Dwarfs verge on civil war.

 

Young Dick Simnel saw his father killed while trying to control steam, but after years of reading and later technological tinkering he succeeded in creating a locomotive engine and a means to use it on rails.  Dick then heads to Ankh-Morpork and the wealthy Harry King to get support, which the latter is happy to do.  Soon train fever hits Ankh-Morpork and Lord Vetinari calls on Moist von Lipwig to utilize the invention to the betterment of the city, in no uncertain terms.  Like always Moist’s mind begins seeing the possibilities in the new technology and begins helping Dick and Harry come up and implement ideas, but soon Vetinari begins pressing Moist to get things moving faster.  All the while, dwarf society is splitting between fundamentalist and pragmatists resulting in attacks on such technological marvels as the clacks and the new railway.  Then after the fundamentalists launch a coup when the Low King is at summit, it is only with the railway that the “King” is able to return to put down the coup and change dwarf society.

 

While I enjoyed the character of Moist in his previous two books, this book was not really a Moist von Lipwig book though he was the main point-of-view.  In fact this book very much needed the reader to know the events that happened Thud! and Snuff, which were both Watch driven books especially as Sam Vimes featured heavily in the latter part of the book.  The story was not bad, but the twists and turns were predictable and some random scenes were in fact plain random as they never played in the overall plot of the book.  There was a hint of Pratchett attempting to make a commentary on religious fundamentalism with the acts of terror, but because of political climate of the time he wrote he watered it down a lot.  However, the biggest drawback is that the humor was lacking especially as Pratchett included every person or group that have been featured prominently in the series, save the Witches, almost as if he wanted to show them on last time just in case.

 

Raising Steam is not the worst Discworld book—Eric—and it is close to being one of the best.  Honestly, the story is fine, but seems to take longer than necessary.  In previous books the reader could forgive this fact because of the great humor, but as stated before that is lacking.  This book is for long time Pratchett fans and anyone interested in getting into Discworld is encouraged to find an book in the first three-quarters of the series to read first and work their way to this one.

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review 2018-03-28 06:31
A passionate history of Britain’s railways
Fire and Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain - Christian Wolmar

Few inventions did more to change life in Britain than the railways.  Since the establishment of the first steam-powered lines in the early 19th century, they demolished locality, lowered the cost of goods, and made cheap travel a reality for millions of Britons.  Yet as Christian Wolmar shows, this transformation was hardly a smooth one, shaped first by numerous growing pains and then the vagaries of government policy.  This history, and its role in shaping Britain’s railway system today, is the subject of his book, which describes both how the railways changed Britain and how Britons, in turn changed the railways.

 

Wolmar’s scope is a broad one, ranging back to the early gravity- and horse-drawn routes of the 17th century.  Yet it is not until steam engines are introduced that the railways emerge as a prominent mode of transportation.  While initially envisioned primarily as a means of moving freight, Wolmar notes that railways soon found transporting passengers to be their most lucrative source of revenue.  Soon railways sprang up throughout Britain, and by the start of the twentieth century lines reached nearly every corner of the island.  Yet dominance bred complacency, and the railways were slow to respond to the challenge posed by the emergence of road haulage in the early twentieth century.  Hobbled by under-investment during the two world wars and handicapped by successive (and sometimes conflicting) government mandates, Britain’s railway network was in decline by the second half of the twentieth century. Yet for all of these problems Wolmar is optimistic about the future of railways, arguing that despite continued dithering over investment in its infrastructure, technological innovation promises to deliver improvements in performance that can ensure the survival of railways for another century.

 

A journalist and self-styled "transport commentator", Wolmar’s passion for his subject shines through on every page.  He writes in a light and readable style that conveys well his extensive knowledge of Britain’s railways without burdening his readers with minutiae.  This combination makes his book a superb starting point for anyone seeking to learn more about Britain’s railways and the country’s long, oftentimes troubled, yet always fascinating relationship with them.

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review 2018-03-25 05:56
Honestly, Ben (Openly Straight #2) (Audiobook)
Honestly Ben - Bill Konigsberg

I liked so much about this book. I liked Ben in the first book and was happy to get his POV and get to know him more intimately. He's an introvert, and has a lot of hang ups because of his fun sucker dad who is king of repression. This book really focuses on why Ben feels the need to please everyone and why he's got so many issues speaking up and taking a stand for what he believes in - or even just figuring out what those beliefs are. So all of that was good, and while some things were left open ended, it didn't feel like a cliffhanger.

 

What I didn't like as much was Ben going GFY for Rafe. I can't even really say that this improves on the GFY trope since there is extensive talk about bisexuality, but Ben is very adamant about not being bi, which would be fine if that was all that was going on here. People are free to pick their own labels. But Rafe makes jokes several times about bi just being a transition phase to gay. Even though he says at one point that he doesn't really believe that, he still mentions it again several times, and Ben's understanding of bisexuality is rather lacking as well since it doesn't address those who would fall under the twos or fives under the Kinsey scale. So yeah, still not good bi representation, and Rafe came across as kind of a jerk when he couldn't give Ben the space and time he needed to figure things out on his own.

 

I can't speak one way or another if Toby being gender fluid was handled well or not. It's not a concept I understand much at all, and I can't say that this helped educate me in any way. I guess I don't see how wearing makeup and skirts can make a male character female. Because I never wear makeup or skirts, but I'm still a woman. I don't do anything particularly feminine at all but that doesn't make me not female. So gender fluidity doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, sorry. I understand wanting to buck gender *roles* but I don't think that's quite what gender fluidity is about, but perhaps I'm wrong. I admit complete ignorance about this concept, but I'm more than open to learning or trying to learn. I did try looking for reviews on GR, hoping to find some written by gender fluid reviewers talking about that aspect, but I didn't find much of anything.

 

Oh, and there's a throwaway line by someone else saying they think Albie is ace. That's not ace representation, sorry. Zero points for that.

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review 2018-03-08 03:54
Boy Meets Boy (Audiobook)
Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan

Why would anyone eat a lentil burger? What is wrong with you people? That is taking vegetarianism way too far!

 

 

But that disturbing moment aside, this was a fun listen. I liked the full cast production, they went into audio play territory, with sound effects, songs and all that jazz. The cast was great, though I was confused at times when Noah or Paul were talking. Not sure why they'd pick two guys who sound so much alike for those roles.

 

This was pretty much Teen Melodrama and Teen Angst, but peppered with enough humor to make the melodrama and angst more palatable (unlike lentils). I have a feeling that if I'd read this instead of listened to it, though, I wouldn't have liked it near as much.

 

It was a little too much "ultra liberal paradise" to be believable but I just started thinking of it as a fantasy/AU after awhile. (Cheerleading squad that rides choppers? Who's paying for that?) I also wanted to smack Paul on several occasions, especially when he's complaining about having no one to talk about his problems. I mean, I know he's a teen but dude, your parents??? That's kind of what they're there for.

 

I liked Noah and Paul and Tony and even Kevin after awhile. I wanted to like Joanie more but her character does this thing and since the story just sort of ends without resolving said things, I'm kind of left waffling on her. Infinite Darlene was a hoot, a real scene stealer.

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review 2018-03-03 22:05
Whistling in the Dark (Audiobook)
Whistling in the Dark - Tamara Allen

This is true Tamara Allen sweetness here: a quiet little story full of hope in a bleak time.

 

Sutton and Jack are WWI veterans trying to figure out how to get back into civilian life after the war. Jack runs an emporium which is struggling because of the economic times. He's also suffering from PTSD, unable to sleep most nights. Sutton suffered a hand injury that has prevented him from getting back to playing the piano, and he's running out of ways to make it on his own in NYC.

 

I really liked the way Ms. Allen took her time with this story and building up these characters and their relationship, so that while this is another one-month romance, it didn't feel rushed at all, and it actually felt like a lot more time had passed. She really pays attention to the details, like the "treatments" for PTSD and the "health advice" for influenza, and makes sure the characters feel like they're from the time period. Normally, when this many side characters are tolerable of Jack and Sutton's relationship, I'd bemoan "gay okay" revisionist history in M/M, but Ms. Allen never loses sight of the consequences, not just of the general public but of the law as well, if the wrong people find out or decide to spread the word. Plus, it's New York, where almost anything goes. There's also a variety of different ways that the characters react to it when they find out, so they're not exactly 100% on the Rainbow Train even when their responses are mostly positive.

 

I also liked that Sutton wasn't the wide-eyed country boy, and that Jack wasn't the "corrupting" influence his friends teased him as being. Though they'd both served in the army, they didn't come out of it tough-as-nails warriors like you see so much of in contemporary stories. You can see the weariness on them both, and Jack especially had a hard time forgetting the things he saw or the people who died so he could do his work. They were tired of fighting and eager to put it behind them.

 

The narrator, Meral Mathews, has a nice old-timey quality to his voice that suits the story. I do wish he'd made more of a distinction between the various voices, but I was still always able to keep track of who was speaking and which POV we were in.

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