9.01.2014

September's Book Pick ~ Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey


September's book pick, for those of you participating in the read along, is Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey. This is a reread for me, but a welcome one.


Originally published in 1990, this is the second book in Lackey's short lived but much beloved Diana Treagarthe Investigates series. (There's wild rumors as to why she gave up on this series ~ buy me a drink sometime and I'll tell you about them.) I'm not a huge fan of the first installment, and I think Children of the Night stands well enough alone, so that's why I chose it.


Perhaps more importantly, Children of the Night introduces us to AndrĂ©. I thought you all might enjoy reading not only my first encounter with urban fantasy but also the origin (in Gail's psyche) of the sexy vampire archetype. I think Lackey does it better than anyone else and to this day I love AndrĂ© with an undying devotion. 

This is going to be interesting for me, I've never read this book with my critic/writer hat on.


Cogent information:
  • There are three books in this series: (Burning Water, Children of the Night, and Jinx High).
  • There's some suggestion Diana's world might jive with some of Lackey's other urban fantasies (like the elves in LA series), but no concrete evidence. 
  • There are three Diana shorts as well, if you really like the character. "Arcanum 101" is in Trio of Sorcery and features Diana in college. Two (written before the books) can be found in Werehunter: "Satanic, Versus" in which Diana attends Romance Writers's Halloween costume party (also featuring Robert Harrison from Lackey's role-playing game Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic) and "Nightside," the first Diana story which grew to become Children of the Night.

Don't want to read this book? I'll probubly also be reading the follow up to last month's Clockwork Heart, Clockwork Lies as well as rereading Diana.


{What is Gail's Book Group reading for September? Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey}


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1866-1868  The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
The Barn Looks Like It’s Wearing an Invisibility Cloak

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Colonels of Industry


PROJECT ROUND UP  
Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First:   Releases March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! Working copy edits.
Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last.   Finished first draft. Out with Beta readers. Release date November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order.



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
Waistcoats & Weaponry (Coming November 4, 2014)
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
@TheTwinsRead  on Twitter "Nicole's Nails inspired by @gailcarriger 's Etiquette and Espionage"


Quote of the Day:
"Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don't eat has been proved to be indispensable for life.  But I go marching on."
~ George Bernard Shaw


Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.

8.29.2014

Book Review: Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti


This month we read Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti. I hope you enjoyed it, Gentle Reader. I've been trying to choose books for the group that range in type, but touch on my own work in some way. This was our first steampunk venture. Because I was away most of this month, I couldn't participate in the discussion as much as I would like, for which I apologize. I should be more present for the next two books.

Via Dru's website

I liked Clockwork Heart very much. This book is an example of my favorite type of steampunk to read ~ not so much alternate history as entirely alternate world. Because I do so much research into the Victorian Era myself, and because I'm obsessed with certain aspects (fashion, food, medical science) I'm prone to getting annoyed if an alt-history author makes mistakes that touch on my expertise. (I realize I make mistakes myself, and readers forgive me, I'm just not that good of a person when the situation is reversed. What can I say? We all house within us some latent hypocrisy.) With alternate world steampunk I don't have to worry about this and I find myself more forgiving as a reader and thus better absorbed into the story.

Steampunk also, for me, often has a technobabble issue. By technobabble I mean when the author gets obsessed with their steampunk technology, and constantly describes inventions in the way that some epic fantasy novelists describe magical systems. Some readers love this kind of comprehensive immersion, I am not one of those readers. So Dru's breezy handling of her psyudo-science is something I appreciated. I'm not worried about actually trying to understand ondium, and I'm happy to accept it as written and watch Taya fly. 

"Gates pierced the walls at regular intervals, but each portal was guarded by stern-faced lictors whose job was to prevent the indiscriminate mixing of castes. Only icarii like Taya..."

Which brings me to the caste system. I always like reading books that have a strong class order in play. (Although I don't like it in a post-apocalyptic or future dystopian setting, I find it stretches my belief too much as the actual future, yet not at all when it's a fantasy setting. Another example of my hypocrisy?)

“But you don’t want to be outcaste, do you?”
Face twisting in rage, Cristof turned and slammed a hand down on the table. “My brother and my caste are none of your business, Icarus!”
Taya flinched, then slid off the chair and dropped to one knee, pressing her palm against her forehead. “I’m sorry, Exalted,” she said, furious at herself. How could she have forgotten her manners around an exalted, even an exalted in exile? Some future diplomat!
“Stand up.” Cristof’s voice was tight.
She glanced at him. His face was pale with anger. She bowed again, feeling sick. “I’m sorry, Exalted,” she repeated.
“Dammit, Icarus, stand up!”
 
I liked the set up in Dru's world of rigid castes, masks, and lack of social mobility. I don't need it explained to me and I appreciate her language nods to Latin for the exulted caste ("I am Viera Octavus, Taya Icarus, and I am in your debt.") and to other languages for the surrounding cultures (“I am Lieutenant Janos Amcathra.” ... A Demican name.) although some of the other names then confused me  ~ Why Cristof? Suddenly we're Germanic? Is that a foreshadow? A hint as to heritage?

"The Lady granted you an exalted rebirth for a reason, and it would be a sin to treat it lightly."


But what about the book?


At first I was confused by the romance thread and then by the ostensible mystery. I kept trying to make this book a classic romance (which it patently isn't, as the romance doesn't drive the plot). Then, once I figured out it wasn't a romance, I thought it had a noir detective foundation. But that wasn't right either, because Taya's investigation was too predictable and she's the wrong protag for that kind of story. About half way through, I decided I was doing Dru a disservice by trying to box the narrative into anything but steampunk, and then I just enjoyed it.

“My dress isn’t exactly fastened,” Taya admitted. “It was sewn on.”
Cristof choked in mid-swallow and set his glass down.


What didn't work for me: 


Side characters. 
For some reason I never got a feel for any of them, and they never really resonated with me. Perhaps they didn't have enough screen time? Perhaps they started out as more and got combined in a rewrite so that they were muddled? I'm not quite sure.

The death toll. 
I found it really hard to accept that after so many deaths Cristof would be as stable as he was without also being a psychopath. When one of the key deaths turned out to be faked, I wasn't surprised, and I stopped believing in some of the other deaths as well at that point which made them less impactful.

What I liked: 


The world building and use of the messenger archetype. 
I'm a huge fan of the concept of the Icarii, sliding between caste because they can literally fly between the highs and the lows of society. However, it doesn't really feel like an ode to Icarus. (Or is it? Is Taya overly proud and flying too high? Will the series expose more of this character flaw?) Instead, Clockwork Heart feels like an ode to Hermes. Oh boy do I love a nod to the messenger archetype. Like Iris, or Charon, or Anubis, Taya represents a figure who transitions between high and low, life and death, past and future. Messengers (like Shakespeare's fools) are often those with the most freedom to understand the function of a social system because they are both members of it and outside observers. Taya can be an entirely liminal/fringe character by virtue of her job. She exists on the threshold of the very society she inhabits and supports, and brings a unique point of view to that society as a result.

"Icarii stand outside the traditional caste hierarchy. The next time an exalted shouts at you, stay on your feet and answer him like an equal."

(Oh yeah, I just put my academic hat on. It's big and ostentatious and decorated in eagle feathers. I'll take it off now.)

The spark between Cristof and Taya. 
I thought they had great chemistry and I do love me a grumpy man.

“It’s beautiful. This shade of grey matches your eyes.”
Across the table, Cristof made a strangled noise and sat back down. 


It wasn't too surprising that Taya found herself with a partner who also exists in transition space. In a way the only partner Taya could end up with had to be fringe like her: a fallen godling, he who has left mount Olympus, Demeter style, to wander among the common folk. (Boy, I'm really reaching for those Greek myths in this particular review, sorry about that. Blame an overabundance of classics classes in university.)

"Some critical part of her pointed out that it was ridiculous to kneel in the dirt kissing an ungracious, ill-tempered outcaste, but the uncertain, eager way his fingers touched her cheeks and the back of her neck made her heart ache."

I think it's a brilliant idea to transition these two characters into diplomacy. Taya has already been trained in many of the skills she needs including empathy and objectivity. And what else are she and Cristof good for? Already liminal within their own culture and too perceptive of its flaws, they best serve it by becoming interpreters between their world and others. They are the only ones even capable of understanding a non-caste system. I look forward to seeing what happens to them in future books.

{Next up is Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey. I know this is the second in her Diana Tragarde Investigation series but it is, I think, much better than the first. It stands well alone.}


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
Haruo Nakajima and Momoko Kôchi on the set of Godzilla (Gojira), 1954 (via This Is Not Porn)

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
whitelight_livingroom

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Getting into Public School, or Scary Entrance Examinations from the 1880s

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
"The title of "Professor" does not really belong to all men who teach any thing, or to every man that exhibits a show—or to mesmerists, and spiritual knockers. Do not give it to them."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book
by Eliza Leslie (1864)


PROJECT ROUND UP  
Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First:   Releases March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! Working copy edits.
Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last.   Finished first draft. Out with Beta readers. Release date November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order.



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
Waistcoats & Weaponry (Coming November 4, 2014)
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
via @meghancnyc on Twitter, @strandbookstore Staff Pick!

Quote of the Day:
“The day you act charming, I’ll know something is wrong.”
“Good.”
~ Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.

8.27.2014

What I got up to in the UK + What happened while I was away


Hello my darling Gentle Reader! I'm back from the land of tea and crumpets.

Teacup Flower Display in Nottingham

I'm so sorry to have been so long away from this blog. I took the grand and fateful step of Traveling Without My Computer. Which basically meant I couldn't do any blog posts and had to relax once I hit Devon. Instead I got sick in Devon. Just a head cold, the direct result of traveling with someone who snores (and shall remain nameless to protect the guilty).

Wait, how can snoring make a girl sick?

Well, it's not all that interesting, but I'm one of those annoying people who sleeps. A lot. 8 hours or more a night. If I don't sleep, I pretty much instantly get ill. And eating too much sugar doesn't help. But there are so many yummy custards in the UK.


Unassuming but delicious.

Speaking of which, I made the acquaintance of a Portuguese Custard Tart, new to the train stations and confectioners of England since I last visited. BEST THING EVER. So simple. So yummy. Just a super flaky crust, possibly filo, filled with a thick vanilla custard, possibly semolina. (Kind of like Galaktoboureko without the syrup or Bougatsa without the cinnamon ~ just so we're clear these are my two favorite deserts of all time.)

But I am getting ahead of myself, as I tend to do with custard.


What I got up to in the UK


First thing to happen after I landed was 9 Worlds. I had a smashing time and highly recommend this convention. I thought the programming tracks were beautifully coordinated and the panels were fascinating as well as being thoughtfully filled with amusing talking heads from all walks of life. The energy was young and vibrant. It reminded me, in the very best way, of my first conventions back in the 90s when I was a cos-playing fangirl with no professional cares. 9 Worlds is Geek Fest-taculor, so be ready for ultra-fandom with all the Dr. Who-scarf-bedecked Jayne-hatted huddled-cigarette-dangling-emo-Goths cross-playing candy-colored-hair mustachioed-steampunk goodness. I understand this may be a bit much for some, but my general feeling was... hooray!

With Anne of Pornokitsch

After that I trucked up to Nottingham where I had a wonderful event at the local Waterstones. I admit to liking signings and Q&As better than most other authors do. I find them the best way to meet my more devoted readers. 40 people was a real turn out on a Tuesday evening. (Thank you all for coming.) Many traveled great distances to see me, and most I knew in some capacity over social media already. It was a genuine pleasure to put faces and physicality onto tweets and user icons. The store put on a lovely little spread of nibbles and (of course) tea. Such fun.

With some very well dressed Gentle Readers.

I spent the rest of the week in Derbyshire. I've not had an opportunity to visit the Peak District before (despite the fact that I lived in Notts for several years). Some of my best friends in the whole world still live in the area, so spending time with them, in a real house rather than a hotel, hiking stone circles and talking archaeology was a much needed respite.

Stone Circle!

Then it was back to London for WorldCon.

WE WON!

OK OK, Patrick won but I had to stand up in front of a massive crowd and give a speech and then lug his rocket ship around for the evening (hand-to-head, woe is me), but it felt like I won too. To be fair, other people won as well.

Thanks Hello, Tailor!

However, I'm getting ahead of myself.

World Con was a great time. Different from 9 Worlds because of the size (biggest one ever, at about 10,000 people), location, lack of a centralized bar, and various other reasons (some of which are discussed in this interesting article.)

via Liz de Jager ‏(@LizUK on Twitter) WorldCon Humour in YA panel
@gailcarriger @FrancesHardinge @JodyLynnNye Jack Campbell @Suzanne_McLeod

Friday, during the day, I had panels. My time at this con was evenly split between YA, steampunk, and general authorial tracks. I'm afraid the panels somewhat run together in my head. I do remember the first one was Decontextualizing Steampunk moderated by the lovely Ann Vandermeer. Here's an audience member's report. Friday night was spent in the company of old friends and NASA peeps (I know, I fraternize with non-authors) so that I never did find the parties.

via Paul Weimer ‏(@PrinceJvstin on Twitter)
Gloom at @loncon3 with @msagara @KateElliottSFF @gailcarriger and @PatrickRothfuss

Saturday I had more panels during the day, including a game of Gloom in front of an audience ~ a first for me. I lost badly but then again I usually do, I'm not a very competitive person (unless it's a game I always win anyway). That evening I finally managed to track the crew down. Hello, crew. There's various drunken evidence about the net of our shenanigans.

via Myke Cole on Twitter
@MykeCole @sexoskeleton @laurenalexg @gailcarriger

Sunday I had a Kaffeklutch (my favorite), a signing, and then the Hugos. Patrick's category was Fancast and since he couldn't make it he asked if I could pick it up for him if he won. As you well know, Gentle Reader, this is the category for which I'm a genuine fan girl. I LOVE podcasts. The competition was amazingly strong. I honestly didn't think I would actually have to go up there. Not that SF Signal didn't deserve to win, just that there were so many awesome podcasts in this category. When they called Patrick's name, I might have squeaked loudly in surprise. Adam Christopher can attest to this, I was clutching his hand at the time. I gave a runny-nosed and very nervous speech (regretted not wearing a fake beard so I actually looked like Patrick), mispronounced several names - to my instant Twitter shame - and stumbled off the stage. I trotted about clutching Patrick's rocket all evening and feeling very superstar-ish. My brush with fame! Thanks for choosing me, Patrick. 

Adam Christopher's ‏(@ghostfinder on Twitter) Obligatory Hugo selfie with @gailcarriger and @mightymur.

After WorldCon I escaped to Devon (which brings us back to the snore-born too-much-sugar Gail-is-an-idiot illness). It was lovely to tramp around my old haunts. (I went to uni in Notts, but spent large chunk of my childhood in south Devon). I took plenty of photos of Sophronia's moors but I'm saving most of them for a different post. Also I read a ton, I'll blog about the books soon as well.

Haytor, Dartmoor

I posted lots of other pictures to my Tumblr feed and some on Twitter. I'll try to get them up in my Flikr gallery if possible. Since Yahoo's blocked out Google, it may take me a bit. Over on Retro Rack I'll be gabbing about a bunch of my outfits and such, but here's a preview of my favorite...


While I was away


Copy edits for Prudence came in. So those are next on my docket. We are still on schedule for the March release. You'll like Rue a lot, I think. (Speaking of edits this podcast episode is spot on: Writing Excuses 9.35: What to do when you disagree with your editor.)

There was a 6.1 earthquake here in NorCal, it was nowhere near my home (even if I had been in it). The Popster grumbled about wine barrels tipping over (he oversees a vineyard near the epicenter) and a friend said all the rum fell of her top shelf, so for my peeps the disaster seems mainly alcohol related.

I am still in #AmazonJail. That's why you can't pre-order my up coming books and shipping is delayed on everything else. Pretty much everyone else is already talking about it, there is nothing I can add to the discussion, or do to change the situation. All I can say is: thank you those everyone who is switching venues to support me. And, I am so sorry to all of of my loyal readers who are caught in the middle. Trust me, I'm as frustrated and saddened as you are. However, I have a little scheme going with B&N that I hope will make things a bit better. More on that to come next month.

Other then that, I hope you are enjoying this month's read along. It came up in panel discussion at both conventions, not once but several times. And not only me, but others also mentioned Clockwork Heart. I was asked what steampunk gadget I would like to try, and I said Taya's wings. I mean, who doesn't want to fly?

And now I am back to self medicating with Thai food, smoothies, and copious amounts of tea.

Treacle Tart
P.S. Yes I ate a piece of treacle tart in Devon. Yes it was just as horrible as I remember. Bakewell Pud, on the other hand, is lovely.

{What is Gail's Book Group reading for August? Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti. Next month is Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey}


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
Derbyshire Costume Museum

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Vintage-style Pet Trailers.

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
The Difference between Afternoon Tea, High Tea, Cream Tea and Elevenses.

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
"Another is the ridiculous way of omitting the possessive S in words ending with that letter; for instance, "Sims' Hotel" instead of "Sims's Hotel"—"Jenkins' Bakery" for "Jenkins's Bakery." Would any one, in talking, say they had stayed at Sims' Hotel, or that they bought their bread at Jenkins' Bakery. This is ungrammatical, as it obliterates the possessive case, and is therefore indefinite; and moreover, it looks and sounds awkwardly."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book
by Eliza Leslie (1864)

PROJECT ROUND UP  
Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First:   Releases March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! Next up: copy edits.
Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last.   Finished first draft. Out with Beta readers. Release date November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order.



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
Waistcoats & Weaponry (Coming November 4, 2014)
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 250): A Conversation With Chuck Wendig and Gail Carriger Live From The Pikes Peak Writers Conference

Quote of the Day:
via Twitters

Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.