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review 2017-10-06 02:18
Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin - My Thoughts
Gunpowder Alchemy (The Gunpowder Chronicles) - Jeannie Lin

This book had been unavailable for a good while (rights reverting to author etc...) but at last it's been republished by the author.  And it's good!  Worth the wait.  :)  I'm pretty sure I was guided to this by something one of my fave authors, KJ Charles said on Twitter, so thank you KJ!

What we have is ... I guess it's best termed as a steampunk adventure, set in the mid-1800's in the midst of The Opium War, with a lovely undercurrent of romance. 

Soling is the heroine and while she's young - 18 years old - she's not annoyingly young.  The daughter of a brilliant engineer executed by the emperor when she was but a child, she's had a hard and hardscrabble life over the past eight years.  She takes care of her opium-addicted mother and her younger brother and is a very smart cookie in her own right.  She heads from her small village into the city to sell the last keepsake she has of her beloved father to feed her family and the adventure begins. 

She meets a bunch of different people from her and her father's past. Men that worked with her father.  The man she was once betrothed to.  The Crown Prince too.  And not only are there the devil English foreigners, there's an army of rebels to contend with.  And through it all, she refuses to panic, refuses to give in to her fears, refuses to give up on getting back to her family and getting them to safety.  The girl has gumption, dammit! *LOL*   And she has flaws as well which makes her likable and not obnoxious.

And there is some romance.  There's a spark between Soling and one of her father's protegés as well as tons of chemistry between her and he one-time betrothed.  In fact, there's a scene between the two of them where he's measuring her foot for a mechanical boot type thing that is SO damned sexy while being so simple.  AMAZING!

I had one small problem while reading and that was that in my epub copy, Chapter 29 ended up as being Chapter 31.  So things that were referenced in the following two chapters I hadn't read yet!  Most annoying, but shit happens. 

Anyway... great book!  VERY enjoyable and I will be looking forward to the next part of Soling's adventure!

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review 2017-09-09 02:12
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear - My Thoughts
Karen Memory - Elizabeth Bear

I really enjoyed this book!  I'm a fan of Elizabeth Bear's, even thought sometimes I think her writing is too smart for me to actually get.  *LOL*  I had been looking forward to reading Karen Memory since it was published and finally, it went on sale and I could afford the ebook.  All I knew about it was that Elizabeth wrote it, it was steampunk, the heroine was lesbian, and all the buzz was really good. 

But when I started it.... OMG, my stomach sank because there were two things that are generally a 'no way José' type of thing for me.  The character speaking in dialect, hell, the whole narrative in dialect when it comes to that because it's a 1st person POV and the heroine being young, like YA/NA young.  This did not bode well. 

But you know what?  I soon forgot that the heroine was of tender years, so to speak.  Yeah, she was young, but she wasn't that annoying young that so many of the YA/NA characters I have read are.  And the dialect?  Well, I can see how it might be problematic for some - the should haves and could haves and would haves were all should of, could of and would of, which would normally drive me absolutely apeshit, but oddly enough, it didn't bother me.  Shocking, I know.  (Had she thrown in a verse in place of versus, I may have felt differently.  *LOL*)  But the character of Karen had come alive very quickly and this is how she talked and it was okay.  :)

What we have here, is the tale of Karen Memery (that's the actual spelling of her name), and what happens when a badly injured girl comes begging sanctuary at the door to the bordello where Karen works, setting in motion adventures and mysteries.  The action is exciting and seldom lets up.  The characters are all terrific - the girls and staff of the bordello, the lawmen, the villains.  Even the animals!  *LOL* 

Karen Memory is one of those books where I wish I could write decent reviews to do it justice.  Suffice it to say that it's a rollicking adventure with a diverse and fascinating cast and a real sense of humour and fun

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review 2017-07-12 02:53
The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan - My Thoughts
The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria) - Anthony Ryan

The Draconis Memoria - Book 1

I loved this book!  Yes, it seemed to take a while for me to read, I have no idea why, but I absolutely loved it.  :)

The Waking Fire is a wonderful mix of dragon fantasy, steampunk, military and adventure and some magic thrown in for good measure.  Sounds like quite the jumble, but it works spectacularly well, IMO. 

The three main characters, whose POVs we follow throughout the book, are very different - a small-time street criminal, a lady spy and and upright, honourable Navy man - but they all have one thing in common that I'm not sure I can describe well enough.  But it's got to do with conscience, honour, selflessness (this is a maybe)... I don't know bit they all have this 'it' factor.  And they're all likable while having recognisable flaws, which I find very, very important. 

The world that Ryan has created is familiar yet different.  There is some incredible world-building here and it's fascinating - even though there were a few parts when I found the descriptive passages a tad tedious.  That's probably what kept this from a 5 star read for me. 

A word about the dragons.  They're different from most of the dragons we read about in fantasy and I feel like we've only scratched the surface in this book one of the series.  I don't know how many books it's projected to be, but let me tell you, I can't wait to get my hands on the second book when it gets down to a reasonable price!  Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year.  :)

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review 2016-08-22 16:48
The Mystery of Spring-Heeled Jack: From Victorian Legend to Steampunk Hero - John Matthews
Disclaimer: ARC courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Spring –Heeled Jack is enjoying something of resurgence, in part thanks to the rise of Steampunk. And if anyone was made for Steampunk, it is Spring-Heeled Jack. If you don’t know, Jack was one of those mysteries that were never solved, but does get over-shadowed by Jack the Ripper. Jack made his first appearance in 1837; he had fire and could jump very high. He was busy in London, but eventually branched out.

John Matthews traces the history of Spring-Heeled Jack in this book. He doesn’t attempt really to solve the mystery, more to enlighten the reader about the origins of the story as well as its use in current fiction.

In discussing the origins of Jack, Matthews quotes at great length from firsthand accounts and newspaper reports. He also makes links to other famous stalkers, such as the London Monster and Jack the Ripper. The use of the firsthand accounts allows the reader to form an opinion or an idea before Matthews presents more information.

Matthews links the folk character to Robin Hood and the Green Man. While I am not sure I entirely agree, it does give one food for thought and a compelling argument is presented. There is also a connection to the Punch and Judy shows which is even stronger.

The weakest part of the book was the part dealing with the modern Steampunk era. Too much of this section is devoted to a very an overly detailed summery of a radio program that sounds interesting, but why should I listen to it know when I know what is going to happen. I also found it strange that Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia was not mentioned.

Still, a very in depth look at a legend, and a much needed look at that.
 
 

 

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review 2016-07-10 14:26
stupid Norway Nobel Prize people
Nation - Terry Pratchett

2016 Re-read for Sci Fi/Fantasy book club.

Seriously, does anyone else want to kick the Nobel Prize committee for not giving Pratchett the award? I wish this novel had been around when I was a kid.

older review

Philip Pullman is known, perhaps infamously, for His Dark Materials trilogy, which has been attacked because of Pullman's atheist beliefs as well as the endorsement of atheism that book represents. Pullman isn't the only writer to have been attacked due to his view on religion, and I doubt that he will be the last one. Of course, he will undoubtedly be attacked this year because of his new book about Jesus and his buddy Christ.

I find it strange that there was barely a peep about the books until the movie came out.

The problem, as I see it, with such "fame" as Pullman receives is that people get hot and bothered either condemning the work or, justly, defending the work. So hot and bothered that books like Nation get overlooked. In many ways, this is good, for no one is trying to ban the book. In other ways, it is bad, for the book doesn't get the fame it deserves.

Terry Pratchett is a humanist writer of fantasy fiction. He wouldn't call his work literature, but many of his later novels either is literature or rests on literature's mutable border. I've been a huge fan of Pratchett since Wyrd Sisters made me laugh during a very tough time in my life (Thanks Mom, for giving the book to me).

Nation is the best thing that Pratchett has ever written.
Nation is Literature.

I'm not sure if Nation was inspired by the Tsunami in Asia and/or Pratchett receiving his medical news. In truth, I don't really care. I do know, for Pratchett himself has said it, that Nation demanded to be told, and he stopped other projects to write it.

Supposedly a children's book, Nation tells the story of Mau who loses his whole Nation, his whole tribe, when a tsunami hits his island home. Eventually, Mau discovers Daphne, a "ghost" girl who was washed up by the same wave. What then follows is part Robinson Crusoe, told from Friday's point of view; part Swiss Family Robinson; part Island of the Blue Dolphins, and part religious and philosophical debate.

Pratchett's novels work because each of his characters is like the reader or like someone the reader knows. His characters are human and contain one or more aspects of everyone. Even Pratchett's most heroic or inhuman characters such as Carrot, Rincewind, or Death, have human traits that effect how they act (remember, Death really likes cats). Here, in this book, Pratchett presents multiple answers to the questions, "Why do bad things happen to good people if there is a just god?" and "How do you feel afterwards?"

Both Mau and Daphne have tragically lost family. Both of their reactions are human, yet different from each other. Both question the idea of god (or in the case of Mau, gods) and faith. Both arrive at different answers. More importantly, Pratchett doesn't preach, he doesn't persuade. He just wants the reader to think, the conclusion is left up to the reader. This makes the book totally honest, for there is no clear cut answer to the first question.

Besides engaging the idea of the god debate, Pratchett touches on another part of creation - where do stories come from? Are stories more than just religion? Is religion more than story? This comes as no surprise to the reader who has read the last two Science of Discworld books.

Despite the tragic and bittersweet events of the story, Pratchett's trademark humor, including footnotes, is present in full force. Like his characters, Pratchett's humor works because it contains an element of human truth. As the following exchange shows:

"Don't look back!"
"Why not?"
"Because I just did! Run faster!"

The tale of Mau and Daphne is an adventure tale of two teens surviving the aftermath of a natural disaster. They most rebuild. They must outwit cold blooded killers and hungry cannibal as well as the odd Grandfather Bird and tree climbing octopus. It is a thrillingly story that closely, honestly, and fairly examines faith, science and all in between.


Older Review
When Nation came out, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't a Discworld novel.

Then I read it.

It's the best thing that Pratchett has ever written.

The one thing about Terry Pratchett, as Lawrence Watt-Evans pointed out, is that the only real difference between his adult books and his children books are the age of his protagonists. There is no reason why an adult shouldn't treat this as a book.

It's a book everyone should read.

I suppose if Pratchett had the reputation or high profile of Philip Pullman or J. K. Rowling, then there would be a huge cry of how this book should be snatched from the hands of impressable children before they learn how to think for themselves. Maybe there is already such an outcry, but I haven't heard anything.

Nation reminds me a bit of Island of the Blue Dolphins, with much more thrown in. Pratchett addresses the big questions of whether or not there is a god, and if there is a god, why do bad things happen? Bad things happen in this book, right from the start. Pratchett deserves credit for not sugarcoating what happens, but for also dealing with the deathes in a way that does not alienate or upset readers (okay, upset them too much).

What Pratchett presents for the reader is a book about what extactly faith and life are. When one reads Pullman, it is quite easy to figure out where Pullman stands in regards to religion. It is not easy to figure out where Pratchett stands. One character has lost his faith, but may or may not be talking to the gods. Other characters have faith. Neither character is seen as stupid or evil because of a belief or lack of belief. In many ways, Nation is a more mature novel about faith than Pratchett's earlier tolerance novelSmall Gods.

This a powerful book, and I hope it continues to fly under the radar of those people who think children shouldn't read books that make you think.

Everyone should read this book.

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