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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Melanie's Week in Review - June 28, 2015

Melanie's Week in Review - June 28, 2015

Hello and welcome to summer London style. It was been gorgeous weather the last few days and going to be super sunny and hot, hot, hot next week. I can hardly wait as lucky me is off work for 6 whole weeks on gardening leave. Hip, hip, hooray. Well not to rub it in, of course. The downer is I will have less time to read. Well enough of the weather what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - June 28, 2015
I had pre-ordered Trailer Park Fae which is the first in Lilith Saintcrow's new series Gallow and Ragged a few months ago. Amazon UK delayed its release and I had almost forgotten about it when all of a sudden it was on my Kindle. I liked the sound of the down on his luck, former favourite of the Queen of Summer Jeremiah Gallow and what happens when he meets Robin Ragged who looks surprisingly like his dead wife. I was expecting this to be modern day urban fantasy considering it's title and the plot largely set in a trailer park. I was prepared to forgive maybe a bit of fantasy to be thrown in when Gallow and Ragged enters Summer's court. What I wasn't expecting  was writing so verbose that in parts it was almost intelligible on the first read through. I realise that Saintcrow was aiming for authenticity when dealing with the pureblood fae of fairy tales but I think this was at the expense of actually understanding what was going on. I found myself having to re-read parts more than once to ensure I captured what Saintcrow was really trying to say. In the end I found a bit tedious. Here is an example. 
They would not be half so pretty had they once were when a mayfly mortal's brief blossoming and enchanted the eye and hand.
 Of course, I know what this means but paragraph after paragraph of this type of verse was unexpected and in the end made the book a bit more effort to get through than I had hoped. Gallow and Ragged are interesting enough but both cornered the market on feeling sorry for themselves. Although I started to feel sorry for them by the end as they barely got to eat or change clothes for almost 300 pages. Saintcrow does leave us with quite a delightful twist at the end with a big juicy double cross but overall I only just liked Trailer Park Fae but didn't love it.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 28, 2015
Second book on my list to read was Scardown (Wetwired / Jenny Casey 2) by Elizabeth Bear. You might remember I read book 1 Hammered a few weeks ago. In this instalment Jenny spends most of her time on The Montreal  - an alien spaceship the Canadian army has found and trying to fly with the help of the nanites and the AI Richard. The story flows rather seamlessly between earth (mainly Toronto) and the spaceship and between the political machinations of the Canadian president Riel and the morally corrupt Alberta Holmes and Fred Valens. Jenny is still finding her way in the romance department with her life long friend and love interest Gabe who is also romancing the scientist Elspeth. I thought this was quite odd as Gabe seemed committed to Jenny and Jenny didn't seem like the type of share. I think, however, the near annihilation of the earth at the hands of the Chinese government that may have put romance into perspective for this love triangle. Razorface is also back and looking for Jenny in Toronto. He is almost half the man he used to be. No longer the crimelord in charge of the underbelly of a whole city. Razorface is looking for revenge and has his sights on Alberta Holmes - the woman that killed his wife and his friend at the end of book 1.

Scardown doesn't really get going until the latter quarter of the book and then, boy it gets really exciting. So exciting in fact that I was reading it on the train and watched my station sail past when I finally remembered to look up from a particularly good bit. Bear doesn't protect her lead characters, and I think that Jenny is the only one that doesn't face getting killed off. A very sad ending for several good characters in this series so far. I enjoyed this book more than the last but I still wish Bear would spend less time allowing her characters to meander around the plot. It should be really engaging for 75% of the plot not just 25% of it.

Well that is all for me this week. I shall endeavour to get out in the sunshine and finish some books I have been meaning to read for ages now. Until next week Happy Reading!

A new feature for the Week in Review - book information!

Trailer Park Fae
Gallow and Ragged 1
Orbit, June 23, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - June 28, 2015
New York Times bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow returns to dark fantasy with a new series where the faery world inhabits diners, dive bars and trailer parks.

Jeremiah Gallow is just another construction worker, and that's the way he likes it. He's left his past behind, but some things cannot be erased. Like the tattoos on his arms that transform into a weapon, or that he was once closer to the Queen of Summer than any half-human should be. Now the half-sidhe all in Summer once feared is dragged back into the world of enchantment, danger, and fickle fae - by a woman who looks uncannily like his dead wife. Her name is Robin, and her secrets are more than enough to get them both killed. A plague has come, the fullborn-fae are dying, and the dark answer to Summer's Court is breaking loose.

Be afraid, for Unwinter is riding...

Wetwired (Jenny Casey) 2
Gollancz, April 30, 2015
eBook, 402 pages
(UK eBook)

Melanie's Week in Review - June 28, 2015
The year is 2062, and after years on the run, Jenny Casey is back in the Canadian armed forces. Those who were once her enemies are now her allies, and at fifty, she's been handpicked for the most important mission of her life - a mission for which her artificially reconstructed body is perfectly suited. With the earth capable of sustaining life for just another century, Jenny - as pilot of the starship Montreal - must discover brave new worlds. And with time running out, she must succeed where others have failed.

Now Jenny is caught in a desperate battle where old resentments become bitter betrayals and justice takes the cruelest forms of vengeance. With the help of a brilliant AI, an ex-crime lord, and the man she loves, Jenny may just get her chance to save the world. If it doesn't come to an end first . . .

Jenny Casey 2
Spectra, June 28, 2005
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - June 28, 2015
The year is 2062, and after years on the run, Jenny Casey is back in the Canadian armed forces. Those who were once her enemies are now her allies, and at fifty, she’s been handpicked for the most important mission of her life–a mission for which her artificially reconstructed body is perfectly suited. With the earth capable of sustaining life for just another century, Jenny–as pilot of the starship Montreal–must discover brave new worlds. And with time running out, she must succeed where others have failed.

Now Jenny is caught in a desperate battle where old resentments become bitter betrayals and justice takes the cruelest forms of vengeance. With the help of a brilliant AI, an ex—crime lord, and the man she loves, Jenny may just get her chance to save the world. If it doesn’t come to an end first…

Melanie's Week in Review - June 7, 2015

Melanie's Week in Review - June 7, 2015

Wowser! Its been a 3 whole weeks since I regaled you with reviews of all the books I had read. Have you missed me?  I certainly hope so for I have missed you and writing this. I apologise for the lack of WIR but I have been on holiday, mainly visiting my elderly mother which didn't leave a lot of time for either reading or writing reviews. I am back now and I have a couple of great books to tell you about.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 7, 2015
I started my holiday with the final book in Susan Ee's Penryn and the End of Days series. I absolutely loved book 1  - Angelfall which introduced us to the plucky teenager Penryn, her disturbed mother and disabled sister. She was doing everything she could to survive following the angel apocalypse. She is joined by one of the enemy  - an angel named Rafe who has lost his wings. I didn't however, enjoy book 2 - World After as much as I felt Penryn spent more time swooning over Rafe than she did trying to save her family. Book 3 is the end of the trilogy which finds Penryn a leader in the revolution against the tyranny of the angels. Part of her journey involves uncovering Rafe's past and she isn't sure whether or not he is as innocent as those snowy white wings have led led her to believe. I thought this final instalment was an improvement on the previous novel however, neither has lived up to the gripping excitement and overall 'coolness' of book 1 - Angelfall. I think that Ee would have had a much more powerful story had she not resorted to the happy ever ending.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 7, 2015
I then discovered that the latest in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones had been published - Eighth Grave After Dark. The story starts several months after the end of book 7 with Charley and Reyes now living in an abandoned convent so that she can escape the hellhounds that are baying for her blood. Charley has more than just the birth of her baby to celebrate but the marriage of her best friend Cookie and her uncle Ubie. Nothing is ever straight forward for Charley as the ghost of an murdered nun needs her help to solve her murder, there is the issue of the hell hounds to resolve, Reyes hasn't slept in months and oh yeah, she is about to give birth to a prophecy. All in a days work.

I have enjoyed this series but I did find that this instalment really dragged until almost the ending. Apart from the dead nun plot line it could have read like one of those filler shows on TV composed of flashbacks. However, things started to get very exciting towards the end and Jones leaves us with a corker of a ending. I can hardly wait until book 9!

Melanie's Week in Review - June 7, 2015
Another instalment out this week was Red Angel which is the fourth in Helen Harper's Bo Blackman's series. Bo has become somewhat of a celebrity following the events at the ending of book 3. With the help of the daemon X Bo's rise to stardom turns meteoric much to her disdain. Her popularity with the press makes it very difficult to investigate the missing persons case of Tobias Renfrew - the billionaire daemon who went missing in the 60's. The investigation is secondary and you could even say tertiary to the real storyline which is Bo's relationship with her maker the enigmatic vampire Michael and the ever increasingly blurred line between her humanity and the monster within.

I liked this instalment. Harper keeps it gritty with Bo's descent into her dark side through the events that unfold during her investigation of the missing person's case. This is a very quick read as are all of Harper's books. I wouldn't say it is the best writing ever but still entertaining. Love, love, love the cover!

Melanie's Week in Review - June 7, 2015The final book I am going to tell you about switches from urban fantasy to science fiction with Elizabeth Bear's Jenny Casey series, specifically book 1  - Hammered. This is very much the story of the former Canadian soldier Jenny Casey who is one of the first human cyborgs. She had been enjoying relative anonymity until the army comes calling again and she finds herself just another cog in the race into space. Jenny is lured back to Canada with a tale that her implants are failing and without more pioneering surgery she will soon die. The stick to this carrot is that Jenny has to help the government get the first spaceship up and running. While the story is about Jenny we are also introduced to Razorface her enhanced friend and gang kingpin who along with a former cop and an assassin try to solve a murder and to find a way to help Jenny. The story also include POVs from other minor characters but the 'action' is focused on what is happening to Jenny and to Razorface.

I enjoyed this book and thought that Bear was brave having her protagonist be a 50 year old female who is covered in scars and is almost more machine than human. I also found the pacing consistent all the way through with a good mix of action and back-story. I did, however, find some of the wording a bit odd and I felt in parts that it had been translated into English (and not the parts where the characters were speaking French either!). Overall, a good read and I have already bought book 2.

That is it for me for this week. I hope you have had a good week in reading.  I have some crackers of books lined up for next week so until then Happy Reading.

Review: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory
Author:  Elizabeth Bear
Publisher: Tor Books, February 3, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  $25.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765375247 (print)
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

Review: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

Brandon's Thoughts

Did you know that estimates of black cowboys in the frontier period range from 5,000 to 9,000? At the high estimate this would be 1 in 4. I am glad to see an author who mixes such fantastical elements as fighting juggernaut sewing machines, mad scientist taxes, and mind control machines with very real issues of the roles of women, blacks, and immigrant populations in a period of history that is often glorified and whitewashed.

Karen Memery (aka Memory) is a farm bred girl who has her heart set on owning a horse ranch - a dream that was cut short with the death of her father. Now she continues to dream while she socks away some money from ‘stargazing’. As a soiled dove, i.e., sex worker, for Madame Damnable Sewing Circle, Karen joins a cast of irascible characters in the pursuit of justice for friends and to catch a killer before he murders again.

There are a lot of things to love about this story. I loved some of the quirks that you don’t usually see in other steampunk westerns: the mad scientist tax and the suggestion that science is far progressed with radium watches already evident in the late 1800’s. I love that we see a black U.S. Marshall and his Comanche posseman, but I also like that Bear takes time to explore the underlying racisms in a very subtle way by introducing historical facts into the narrative and by questioning assumptions by all the characters about each other’s capabilities. Bear's also added in some interesting notes about sanitation and medicine of the day. I love that Miss Francina is a strong sensible trans representation that fit in well with some of the other steadier and more mature ‘seamstresses’ in Madame Damnable’s sewing house.

Were all the multi-cultural elements perfect? When are they ever? I don’t claim to be an expert in anything other than myself. For me, there were some moments that toed the line, but never crossed over. I’m willing to bow to those more experienced and knowledgeable in these realms than I. There were a host of cursory or more developed themes that nodded at the overlapping historical issues and popular characters including the serial killer patterned after Jack the Ripper. For me, the Jack the Ripper character was tied so intrinsically from the start with the feud with Peter Bantle that it didn’t lend the horror and terror that it inspired in Whitechapel in 1888. That isn’t to say it was distracting from the story, but a subplot like that could easily have been its own book.

While the attempt to write in period can be jarring at times, the problem I usually run into with it is inconsistency in treatment throughout the book, but Bear does a great job of keeping the writing and pacing consistent.

Steampunk inspired stories for me are like Lovecraftian horror is for other people. I feel like there is a lot of it out there and, for me, not much of it is very creative or enjoyable. A lot of times even when I enjoy something done in steampunk it isn’t enough with all the other options out there to keep me coming back, but I’d read another dozen books set in Bear’s alternate Rapid City.

Excerpt from An Apprentice to Elves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear and GiveawayMelanie's Week in Review - June 28, 2015Melanie's Week in Review - June 7, 2015Review: Karen Memory by Elizabeth BearGuest Blog by Elizabeth Bear - February 10, 2015

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