Soulless - Gail Carriger
1:38 AM | Author: Lissar

A lady always brings a parasol in case of emergencies.

Vampires. Creatures of the night, stalking-- wait a minute, haven't we been through this before? Oh. Right. Yes it's another book about vampires, werewolves, ghosts and the people who kill them. Or at least, one person. One particular woman with the powers to disarm these creatures of their very supernaturality. Powers which she only uses for good! Right? Right? Oh no, in fact she doesn't really use them much at all, or cares.

Here's the skinny:

In a alternate Victorian era rife with supernatural beings and weird science there is a woman. She is a bit different from others, though most people would think that the difference comes from the dark skin and large nose that she received from her Italian father. They would be partially right. Her strangeness was taken from her father, but the difference is not on the outside, but within her. She was born without a soul. This makes her the opposite of vampires, werewolves and the like, who are said to have an overabundance of soul. The technical term for her kind is "preternatural", though the vampires call her "soul-sucker". If she even touches one of their kind, the supernatural kind, she can drain them of their powers and make them mortal. But these are powers that she only rarely uses, though her kind have in the past been the natural enemy of the supernatural, she hasn't the inclination. The story starts with an attack on her by a strange rogue vampire, entangling her in a story of science and love.

What I liked:

Setting: I will admit a predilection towards steampunk novels, and really anything set in the Victorian era. At first I was worried that the steampunk setting would only be a backdrop, but the story soon becomes one of strange Victorian science which I enjoyed very much.

Witty: The writing is often very funny, with amusing turns of phrases that had me in stitches. Though the book often takes serious turns, it never manages to take itself too seriously, which is for me a plus.

Interesting Characters: I absolutely loved the characters. Our main character, Alexia, is sarcastic and always speaks her mind, but is also intelligent and thoughtful. She was "put on the shelf" early in life, and has resolutely remained a spinster for all of her twenty-six years. The hero (of sorts) is a werewolf. He is the Alpha wolf of the London pack, and is head of the bureau that polices supernatural creatures. I loved the interaction between these two and can't wait to see more in future books.

What I didn't like:

Obvious Romance Is Obvious: I felt that the romance between the hero and heroine could have been worked in more subtly. In the beginning there is no real indication that they have know each other or been on familiar terms for as long as they apparently (by the end) have. While I realize that both characters are rather blunt and so subtly would be beyond them, I never felt convinced that the heroine was convinced that she hated the hero (which is what she continued to claim for most of the book.) I also felt that the romance took over at inappropriate times, when I would have felt better being told more information about the rest of the plot.

The bottom line:

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The setting, characters, and writing will keep me coming back for more from this author. The romance was a bit over done though, and I hope that it doesn't take over future books as much as it did this one. If it hadn't been for that, I would have rated it higher. But unfortunately can only give this one:

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Eight out of ten apples.
Palimpsest - Catherynne M. Valente
8:06 PM | Author: Lissar

The traffic in Palimpsest can get a little backed up.

I'll tell you a little secret: I love cities. Yes, this is coming from me, a confirmed tree-hugger, hiking-lover, bohemian. But not, I must point out, real cities. I love visiting fictional cities, ones that have strange things and people that can't even compare to the most outlandish cities in the real world. In my journeys, I have been under London, over London, and between London. I've been to castles in the air, houses under hills, and beneath the waves of the ocean. But even after all the places I've seen, I've never been quite anywhere like the city of Palimpsest.

Here's the skinny:

There is a city by the name of Palimpsest. It's actually location is probably nowhere, but it could just as well be everywhere. You can't get there, but you could get there, and if you do get you it will mark you forever. There is only one way to Palimpsest, as a disease. To be more specific, a sexually transmitted disease. You can only get there by sleeping with people who've been there before. The disease marks your body, as a map of the city. Not the whole city, only part. That is your part of the city. Though it's your part, you will most likely never get there. You can only go to the part of the city that is marked on your partner, and you will go there when you dream. The city is like a dream, though it is very real to it's denizens. Four strangers in different parts of the world come to Palimpsest, how will the city change their lives...?

What I liked:

Unique: It is a sexually transmitted city that lives through peoples skin. Though I've been to hundreds of mysterious dream cities before, this particular method of transportation is unusual enough that I took notice.

Beautiful Prose: The writing is absolutely beautiful. Lyrical and clear, every image was vivid in my mind. I would love to paint the whole book, in a series of a hundred paintings, to capture every image that she set down.

Familiar Places: The book takes place both in Palimpsest and in various places in the real world. The end of the book in particular is set in one of my most favorite places in the world, Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Not to mention the detailed talk of trains, particular Japanese trains, which makes me miss Japan very much...

Interesting Characters: Both main and secondary characters were very interesting, though given that there are four main characters we didn't get quite as much of each character as I might have liked. Still, each character was unique and fleshed out as much as possible. Though I can't say I loved each character, I was intrigued by each character, and wanted to know more.

What I didn't like:

Where Are We Going: The unfortunate thing about the book was that for at least 4/5ths of the book it lacked a sense of purpose. We would see scenes of each characters, but aside from the city there was no real thread pulling us through. The scenes alone are beautiful, but I would have liked to see what eventual end we were heading towards a bit earlier in the book. Everything sort of abruptly pulled together in the end, it would have felt better if it had been worked in more gradually.

Beautiful Prose: Yes I did just put this in both sections. While the prose is very lovely, and I enjoyed it quite a lot, I would have liked to have a few more straight forward parts to lend some weight to the dreamy lightness of the rest. Without something more concrete, I felt like I was just floating through a dream sometimes, which while I understand that this was the point, sometimes it's good to have something a little more down to earth to give everything else more meaning.

The bottom line:

This isn't a book a would recommend to everyone. Though I enjoyed it very much, I think it takes a select kind of personality to enjoy this book. If you like dreamy metaphorical imagery then this book might be for you, but if not I would stay away. It was unfortunate about the parts that I mentioned that I didn't like. If the book had more purpose I would have easily given it a 10/10. As it is, I will have to give it:

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Eight out of ten apples.
Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
12:27 AM | Author: Lissar
Dead Until Dark

Sucking so you don't have to!

Vampires. Creatures that hide in the night, stalking just behind us in the shadows, waiting for that perfect moment to drag you away and feed off your blood to sustain their dead rotten flesh. How romantic. Well that's what millions of teenage girls (as well as adult women) would have you believe. Now I will be the first to admit that I went through my own vampire loving stage at the tender age of sixteen, which is why I keep getting drawn back into reading these books or "paranormal romance" as they tend to be called. But I have yet to find anything worthwhile in any of them. Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark, the novel that was the basis for the popular TV show True Blood, is no different.

Here's the skinny:

Vampires no longer have to live in hiding, fearing a stake or that their next meal might have over done it on garlic bread for dinner that night. A new invention (created by the Japanese, of course), synthetic blood (available in all types), is on the market. Now vampires no longer have to worry about going over to borrow a cup of blood from their neighbors as a midnight snack. Humans, vampires, harmony? Not so much. Of course there are always mistakes, and "things" happen. Vampires are around, but not exactly accepted. Doubly so for a small town in northern Louisiana, where a psychic waitress works at a bar hoping to one day see a vampire. One day, she gets her wish in Bill (yes Bill) the new vampire in town. She finds it curious that she can't hear his thoughts at all, when the thoughts of everyone else in town are near to crowding out her own. A lucky chance leaves him in her debt, while strange things start happening around town...

(spoilers beyond this point)

What I liked:

Unique: Okay, I'll give it that. While Anne Rice's vampires did flutter around Louisiana, I've never read about any vampires that were truly Southern. Though sometimes their Southern references got a bit ridiculous, at least the concept started out interesting.

The Cover: Yes, it was the cover that dragged me to the book in the first place. It is very nicely done. Abstract in the way of children's book illustrations. I love the choice of colors and the overall smoothness of the design.

What I didn't like:

Everybody Hates Me: Yes the main character is that kind of character. Because of her psychic powers everyone feels uneasy around her, and aside from her grandmother and her cat there is no one who is truly her friend. They all refuse to believe in her powers, and choose to think of her as crazy instead. So she leads a rather empty life, until she meets Bill that is.

Everybody Dies: Aside from the murders occurring around town to acquaintances of the main characters, they author saw fit to get rid of the only two creatures alive that really care for her, her grandmother and cat. I guess they were in the way of her becoming entirely dependent on Bill.

Let's Play With Paper Dolls: At first I was relieved that the main character didn't annoy me as much as some characters I could name. But I quickly realized it's because she doesn't have much of a personality at all. Aside from her powers, her job, and the death of her parents early on in her life there isn't really much to her. Bill too was sadly two-dimensional, for being a vampire who has lived some hundred plus years, he doesn't really seem to have done much with all that time. A little more detailing of the characters would have gone a long way to improving this book.

(spoiler end)

The bottom line:

It's not a read I would recommend to anyone. The book had decent parts but they were spread few and far between. The unfortunately thing is that while the first half of the book I would give a 4/10 (since I found myself enjoying it a bit), the latter half becomes dismally unbearable and I can't give it anymore than a 2/10. Leading me to decide the score at:

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Three out of ten apples.

Erhmm... let's see here...

What this blog is:

This is a blog for review of books or any other media that might take my fancy. I will admit to a heavy fantasy or other speculative fiction leaning, but that doesn't mean it will be the only thing I review. I may from time to time review video games or music, but books will be the mainstay.

What this blog isn't:

This isn't my regular journal so I won't put you through any of the boring details of my life unless it is in some way relevant to the book and my reading of it.

My review system:

I generally review books on a scale between 1 and 10. Unlike many reviewers I've seen, books that get at least 5/10 are books I consider worth a read. I almost never give books 9s or 10s, as those scores are reserved for the best of the best. I jokingly refer to my system as "The Twilight Scale", since the Twilight series is the only book series I've read that I would give a solid 1/10 to. I figure if a book is in any way better than Twilight, it will probably be at least a 2/10. I mean in no way disrespect to the series, it's author, or it's fans. Let's just say it really wasn't my cup of tea.


Yes, all illustrations on the reviews are done by me. I was originally going to do just straight reviews, but then I thought it would be better to bring my own personal touch to them.