Review – Curtsies and Conspiracies

Cover of Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail CarrigerCurtsies and Conspiracies, Gail Carriger

Like the first book, this YA book set in the world of the Parasol Protectorate is a fun romp with slightly less sex talk than the Parasol Protectorate books. It still has a bit of romance, but it’s mostly banter in keeping with the age of the girls, with a touch of teenage confusion and angst as regards having feelings for anyone. They’re not books with great depth: the perfect description is a ‘romp’, as many people have said before me.

It annoys me that people complain about Sophronia being a ‘Mary Sue’, when a boy doing excellently at school in the same way wouldn’t be questioned. This is what she’s good at, with the help of her friends, and without them and some helpful coincidences, she wouldn’t be so good at what she does. Nor is she gracefully immune to everything the other girls say or think — she can be hurt by them, and do them injustices.

So yes, it’s a little piece of fluffy wish fulfilment. And it’s fun, and positive about female characters who can stand up for themselves and take care of themselves.

Rating: 3/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is “beach books”. Which is not something I really do, so instead I shall pick the kinds of books I like to relax with. Whether that looks like your beach reads or not, I don’t know!

  1. Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal. Or anything in that series, but the first one is the lightest and closest to Austen and the like.
  2. This Rough Magic, Mary Stewart. Or any of her mysteries — they have an amazing sense of place, it’s like going on holiday without leaving home.
  3. The Rose Garden, Susanna Kearsley. Another one with a great sense of place, this one in Cornwell. It’s not all happy, but the romance is sweet and it has a happy ending.
  4. The Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer. I have a huge soft spot for these romances. I loved Sophy in particular, though I’m also a fan of…
  5. The Talisman Ring, Georgette Heyer. Which is more of a mystery/adventure than some of the primarily society type ones.
  6. Magic Bites, Ilona Andrews. Light and compulsively readable.
  7. Have His Carcase, Dorothy L. Sayers. Okay, I think you need the background of previous books, but I love the first line and the rest doesn’t disappoint: “The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people seem to think, repose upon a manly bosom. Much more efficacious are honest work, physical activity, and the sudden acquisition of wealth.”
  8. Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers. For Harriet Vane in the prime spot, with her final answer to Lord Peter’s proposals at the end of the book… Plus, tons of smart women in academia.
  9. Jhereg, Steven Brust. It’s a fun first book of the series, it raced past me, and it’s really easy to read.
  10. Soulless, Gail Carriger. Fluffy fun with werewolves.

I don’t think that’d be a bad selection for the beach, right?

Review – Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Finally rereading the first two books so that I can finally get round to the third one without getting confused. Or that’s the plan, anyway. I wasn’t as wowed by this on a second reading, somehow; little things niggled at me more than they did when I first read it. Not so much plot things, just bits of description or interaction that didn’t quite ring true; things that seemed a little over the top. But it’s still an enchanting world, and a really quick read; it just skims past effortlessly, lovely images, little bits of worldbuilding, a lovely physicality of the love/attraction between Karou and Akiva.

Sometimes, I think it tries just a little too hard to be whimsical or affecting or magical. And then sometimes it works really well.

There’s a really cool array of characters, here. Humans and chimaera and angels of all different motivations and beliefs; loving relationships you can really believe in (particularly Issa and Karou, and Karou and Brimstone), with conflicts you can also believe in. There isn’t really any manufactured misunderstanding here, or silly drama; Akiva and Karou’s differences are real and deep, as are the differences between their peoples. There is a bit of black/white good/bad thinking when it comes to the angels/chimaera (I don’t think there is really a way to sympathise with what we know the angels have done), but there are also moral ambiguities. (Do you support the chimaera’s destruction of valuable archives? Their resurrections? Their magic, based on using pain?)

I’m looking forward to finishing the series, in any case; there is a lot here to enjoy.

Rating: 4/5

Review – The Splendour Falls

Cover of The Splendour Falls by Susanna KearsleyThe Splendour Falls, Susanna Kearsley

Looking at the reviews for this book, I had to laugh at how many people compared Kearsley’s work to Mary Stewart’s. Including myself, I’m afraid, which leaves me wondering if Kearsley embraces that or is rather sick of it by now. But truly, some of the plot things here are right up Stewart’s street, too: the moment where the villain kisses the heroine, that charged moment between them. Except that there’s something more subtle here: the villain isn’t purely villainous, but motivated by love as well. There seems something genuine in his attraction to the heroine, his interest in her.

And Kearsley is much harder on my heart. As with Season of Storms, I found myself falling for a character who didn’t make it to the end of the book. Kearsley did a great job with character, much more so than Stewart: I can believe in what happens between the protagonists, I adore a lot of the characters, and all of them have an inner life. There is something dreamlike about the whole book, with these moments of clarity where you really get to know characters and see what makes them tick, even less significant ones.

The plot itself is a bit convoluted, and I could perhaps have done without the drama of Hans and Isabelle’s story, the convenient way everything comes back together at just the right time… but then, it was exactly what I expected from the genre, and worked out with sympathetic characters and a sense of place, it doesn’t come off too badly.

Rating: 3/5

Review – Glamour in Glass

Cover of Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette KowalGlamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal

When I read Shades of Milk and Honey, I wasn’t that impressed — even when I reread it. But I quite liked Glamour in Glass. Probably partly out of sheer bloodymindedness; I looked at some reviews and oh how they whined about Jane’s attitude to pregnancy in this book. And I thought, wait: that’s actually interesting. Yes, let’s address how dangerous pregnancy could be at that time. Let’s address how “confinement” literally imprisoned women. Yes! Let’s discuss the aftermath of the Austen and Heyer novels and their neat marriages: the babies, the risks to the women, how those women were limited.

Someone called it anti-pregnancy, and I don’t think it’s that. It just turns to something that went unspoken in that period, and scrutinises it a little, and articulates a fear and dread of the constraints pregnancy placed upon women (shown even more clearly in this world because a woman can’t work any glamour while pregnant). It’s still a fairly light read, despite that theme; I read it in an hour and a half, so if you’re a fan of the first book, don’t think that it’s suddenly changed entirely in style and subject.

This is less frothy than the first book, seriously examining the relationship between Vincent and Jane, their equality and finding a balance between them. I anticipated the political plot ahead of time (perhaps because I’m fresh from Voyage of the Basilisk); it feels a bit rushed, honestly, particularly toward the end, but I appreciated seeing Jane and Vincent facing down these issues, and his growing regard for and trust in her.

Rating: 4/5

Stacking the Shelves

I’ve really behaved myself this week, aside from one trip to the library — and that to pick up hard copies of books I mostly have somewhere as ebooks anyway. (Normally I am super pro-ereader, but for some reason I really can’t focus on reading on mine at the moment.) The Detection Club books are the only ones I didn’t already have somewhere — I had The Supernatural Enhancements as an ARC.

Borrowed

Cover of Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor Cover of Fire by Kristin Cashore Cover of The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

Cover of Ask A Policeman by the Detective Club Cover of The Anatomy of Murder by the Detective Club Cover of The Favourite by Mathew Lyons

I didn’t even seem to have any comics this week! I’m quite impressed with my ability not to wildly one-click everything, considering my mother and my GP separately told me they think I’m going to have to have a charming operation, sigh. Trust me to have gallstones even without a gallbladder.

What’s everyone else been up to? Any joyful trips to the library for you?

Review – The Door into Fire

Cover of The Door into Fire by Diane DuaneThe Door into Fire, Diane Duane
Review from July 27th, 2013

I can’t believe how long this has been lingering on my to read pile. I’ve had Diane Duane recced to me so many times, and I have a ton of her books. I guess I was partly saving it so I had something awesome to look forward to, part afraid it wouldn’t be awesome.

Well, it didn’t bowl me over. I do love the characters, that they have their flaws and get things wrong and love and struggle and share. I love the fact that they’re openly pansexual and polyamorous as a society, and that’s done realistically too — they still have those moments where someone will go with another person to hurt their main partner, someone will be overly possessive… I loved that relationships like that between Herewiss and Lorn weren’t romanticised, that they could and did hurt one another — and then made up.

There were things that felt less than original, a bit derivative: the whole pseudo-medieval setting, of course, and the Mother-Maiden-Crone thing. I come across that a lot in Arthuriana, and while I appreciate the power and rightness of the imagery, I’m not usually fond of it. But then on the other hand there’s this world’s creation myth, and the place of love within that creation, which somewhat redeems that to my mind.

At times it was too navel-gazing on Herewiss’ part, at times it was a bit info dumpy — but I read it all in one go, and had a horrible lump in my throat at the end of the story, so I don’t think I could give it less than four stars. Now to make sure I get round to the other two books…

Rating: 4/5