"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Ten Just Added

This week's theme is: Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List. These are my picks for the Tuesday Top Ten, as invented by The Broke and Bookish.

Amazon recc'd 1&2

The Black by Paul E Cooley.

 Chronology from Curiosity Quills Press...appears to be a book of scifi/fantasy short stories from an Indie-house, but I figure it's a good way to find a new favorite author.

3, 4, 5 are Upcoming Releases

 Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs.
 Himmelstrand by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Waiting for the English translation.

 The Map of Chaos by Felix J Palma. English translation.

6 & 7 recc'd by Friends

 The Lost City of Z by David Grann.

 Station Eleven by Emily St John

8, 9, & 10 Goodreads recc'd

 Ashfall by Mike Mullin
 Stray Souls by Kate Griffin.
 City of Stair by Robert Jackson Bennett

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Quotable Thursday

I was in the mood to read a classic, so this week's quote comes from Frankenstein; Or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley.

"The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him and was acquainted with their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew little more. He had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery."

  Quotable Thursday originally brought to you by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

"'Destiny’ is the state of perfect mechanical causation in which everything is the consequence of everything else. If choice is an illusion, what’s life? Consciousness without volition." 

Joe Spork has walked the straight and narrow his whole life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, working as a clockwork repairman. He's been trying to hide from the legacy left to him by his father, Matthew, who lived his life at the head of organized crime; Joe doesn't want to be his father's son. But when a friend brings in a strange mechanical book for Joe to repair, strangers start taking an interest in the horologist. And when that mechanical book triggers a hive of mechanical bees to take flight, someone frames Joe for terrorism, making him flee from the life he's lived to the life he tried to hide from.

Ever hear the expression "show, don't tell," with regards to writing? This book was fabulous, in that respect. Nick Harkaway doesn't shy away from flowery prose, large words, or long winded descriptions... and I loved every verbose sentence of it. He took a steampunk/fantasy story set in modern-day and and wrote it with the elegance one would expect to find in a storyline set in Victorian England. I could close my eyes and watch the story unfold in my mind's eye, and that was wonderful break from the modern mindset of "just get to the point already..." This was a story meant to be savored slowly, and you'll love it, if you're into that sort of thing.

Joe Spork, is our main character, but he's hardly the only one worth mentioning. His elderly client, Edie Banister and her blind dog Bastion are mysteriously connected to his story--Edie lived a colorful life as a secret agent, and the dog was a gift from her mad scientist lover, Frankie Fossoyeur. Frankie Fossoyeur, inventor of the machine to end all wars as commission by a blood thirsty dictator Shem Shem Tsien who is obsessed with becoming God. Speaking of bloodthirsty, there's also a fair amount of the deranged and dedicated, cops and cultists, who want to capture Joe and make him tell everthing he knows, even though he knows nothing... Which is what his lawyers, oversexxed Polly and criminally clever Mercer, tell him to say when confronted by agents of the law. And who could forget, Harriet Spork, Joe's mom: mobwife turned nun...

This plotline's got a little bit of everything. Mystery and humor, action and romance, espionage and torture; a serial killer here and an anarchist there...but beware sci-fi fans: though labelled steampunk, this is so light on science fiction I feel more comfortable calling it fantasy. It's an adventure and it's full of flawed characters...two things I desire most in a story right after superb spelling and grammar. And every flawed character, the good and the bad, is being lead to an epic battle for the universe, between old-timey gangsters, religious zealots, and automata minions.

This is one of those stories I enjoyed from the first sentence to the last, I hated having to put it down, couldn't wait to pick it back up. If you're like me at all, if you're the type of reader who wants to escape into a beautifully imagined adventure with a touch of magic and crazy characters galore(complete with strong females): this is the book to read.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Quotable Thursday

Reading Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker. So far I'm loving it.

"Metal like soft cotton, not linked but threaded; warming in his hand: Woven Gold.

The trick is whispered from time to time in kasbahs and jewellers' shops and conventions and gatherings and markets, almost revealing itself and then vanishing so thoroughly that many consider it a fiction."

Although it does raise the question: Is a story Steampunk if it takes place in Modern day instead of Victorian era?

Quotable Thursday originally brought to you by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Charles Nancy is an unlucky sort of fellow; he prefers to be called Charles or Charlie but everyone calls him Fat Charlie, whether he likes it or not because that was the name his father gave him. With a wedding on the horizon, Rosie thinks it's time for Fat Charlie to start mending those old embarassing bridges, and invite his family to the wedding. Unable to say no, Charlie reaches out to Mrs Higgler, a family friend who might know how to contact his old man... But he's too late. Mr Nancy is dead and Mrs Higgler's got news for Charlie. His father wasn't just a trickster, he was trickster God and Charlie has a long lost brother who communicates through spiders...

This book started out laugh out loud funny. I loved the glimpse into what an ancient God's idea of parenting would be, and those parenting skills then topped by the peculiar circumstances of death. And its a nice mirror of reality; it sometimes seems like parents' job to embarrass their children until death do they part. And when Spider, Charlie's brother shows up, you know right away the story is heating up. Spider appears to be cut from the same cloth as his father: he's flamboyant, flirty, manipulative... He's a bit of a dick. You can't help but laugh because you know this isn't going to go well for Charlie who just wants to cling to normalcy. He loves to hate his job, working for Grahame Coate--a criminal mastermind who loves speaking in cliches. He loves to love his girlfriend and he loves to hate her mother.

But then the story starts to take a regrettably dark turn. After a night of drinking, Charlie wakes up with a strange woman, Daisy and finds out that Spider's decided to impersonate Charlie and steal his bride to be...which takes Spider from the path of womanizer to rapist. Failure to say no isn't the same thing as consent. Spider A) uses his power to convince Rosie that he's Charlie, and B) proceeds to supernaturally seduce the virgin who wanted to wait until marriage. Did Neil Gaiman think that would be funny? I just found it disturbing. How is that any different than getting a woman drunk or spiking her drink? She's being manipulated into doing something she wouldn't normally do; he took control away from her with a lie and a supernatural Mickey.

The word misogyny comes to mind. And once I start seeing it I can't stop. At first glance, Anansi is just a horny old man. Spider's just a dick, let's face it, we all know one. But Charlie is normal right? Except when Charlie finds out what Spider has done his reaction is to feel A) betrayed by Spider, and B) jealous that his brother got there first. He never once stops to consider how Rosie has just been violated, even if she doesn't know it. Even Grahame Coates is in on the action, fantasizing about buying sex and imagining having sex with the client he's stealing money from. Again and again, women are portrayed as possessions, to be owned and, when inconvenient, conquered. The female characters are broken down into two categories: tools, to be used or vicious, vengeful hags. Daisy and Maeve, while strong, clever voices are not exempt from the stereotyping: when they cease to be useful they're transitioned to revenge seekers. Rosie, never earns the title of vicious, vengeful hag because even once she realizes she's been violated, it's okay because she loves Spider. Apparently, it's better to be a toy than an actual person.

While it was tough to redirect my attention from outrage back to the now all unlikeabe cast of characters, I did so...Charlie seeks help from a world where the old Gods and Goddesses reside; most everyone hates him and refuse to help throw his brother out. Except one Goddess who decides to trade, whose motoves were a mystery never unraveled, except to say if help didn't come from somewhere, the story would stop moving. So the angry Bird Woman decides to torment both brothers while the paranoid Mr Coates eventually becomes possessed by Tiger, Anansi's archnemesis, reducing the story line to an unbelievable hodgepodge of fantasy, coincidence, and mystery combined... all heading toward okay ending at a lovely vacation spot.

And by the end, Spider has repented, learned to care about Rosie's feelings even though if she gets boring he'll be forced to leave her. And Charlie has finally found himself; who he is, what he can do, what he's passionate about...He's also not alone because he spur of the moment decided to marry the next woman in line, because what the hell, they're all interchangeable, right?

While the story wasn't anywhere near the quality I've come to expect from Neil Gaiman, I'm generously giving it 3 stars because it did get an emotional response from me, even if it may not have been the emotional response he wanted.

Rating: 3/5