Tag Archives: Books

Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist

Another month, another book in the Steampunk Challenge.

And this puts me in a strange place. I just mentioned a few days ago that I don’t like giving reviews that are less than positive because any book that I dislike, others will love, and I kind of hate to dissuade anyone from reading a book that they might have been interested in otherwise. And yet I’m in this challenge which involves at the very least, writing a few words about the books I read.

And in this case, I can’t rave about it.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist has received its share of raves, mind you. A lot of people LOVE this book.  I listened to it as an audiobook and I never wanted to bail on it, it was intriguing, interesting, the world-building was strong, and I can see why it was well-received.

However.

Dahlquist needed a bit of assistance in plotting. He’s a playwright and this was his first novel. I got a bit tired of the lather/rinse/repeat nature of the story with his three main characters constantly getting captured, witnessing horrifying things, and then escaping.  Again.  And again.  And again.  His three main characters are an odd and intriguing trio–a heroine who wants to find out why her fiance has written her a strange and unexpected “Dear Jane” letter and thus begins an investigation into dark, dangerous places.  An assassin who dwells in such places.  And a very proper gentleman whose sense of duty draws him into dark, dangerous places.  Sounds like a good start, doesn’t it?

So please don’t listen to me. Go read it for yourself. This immense chunk of Victorian steampunk has a lot to sink your teeth into and the odds are great that you’ll be one of the ones who love it.

Earlier steampunk challenge reviews.

Sidebar: This is the second book I’ve read that was inspired by a dream where I thought the author could have done a much better job finding a way to incorporate that dream into fiction.  And a gazillion people didn’t agree with me on the first one, either.

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Filed under Audible, Audiobooks, Fiction & Literary, Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Challenge

Leviathan and Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld

Okay, about that steampunk challenge.

One steampunk book a month for a year.  Twelve steampunk reads.

I’m on my third in October.  I could space them out and list/review one a month, but that makes me itch.  I am just going to mention them as I read them, and don’t expect any real reviews from me because that’s too much like work.

Also, the first three have all been audiobooks that I downloaded from audible (if you sign up, tell them dallaspooks sent ya) and so what I will actually be discussing is a different experience than reading.

First, Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, and its sequel, Behemoth. These are YA (Young Adult) novels that have been getting fabulous word of mouth and I finally broke down and decided to read them listen to them. And I’m so glad I did. Set on the brink of World War I, Leviathan begins the night that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated in Sarajevo, with their 15-year-old son being rousted out of bed and hustled away from the palace by a sinister pair of men–and straight into action-packed adventure which continues into its sequel. I don’t know how long the series is projected to be, but there are clearly more coming.

In the meantime in England a 15-year-old Scottish girl is pretending to be a boy so she can be an airman with the British Air Service, as her brother is and her father was before her. Again–straight into action-packed adventure.

In this revisioning of World War I the nations are the same and on the same teams, but many of the details are different.  The world building is superb. The German side are “Clankers” whose war machines are fantastical and mechanical. The English side are “Darwinists” who have created strange new creatures (or “beasties,” as Deryn calls them) to go to war.

Scott Westerfeld’s world is amazing. The action is almost nonstop but always inventive and fresh. The characterizations are rich. At the end of each book are author notes that describe what aspects of the books are true history and where Westerfeld got creative, and I was as fascinated by the real history as I was the books themselves. It was gratifying to see that some of the more interesting twists were historic facts that he’d woven sp deftly into his stories it was impossible for me to know what was real and what was new.

Alan Cumming as narrator is phenomenal. He reads with breathless energy, gives the characters appropriate and wonderful accents that enhance their personalities and backgrounds, and made me want to listen nonstop.  At a time when I was highly distracted by a lot of real life issues, these books were always compelling and easy to fall into.

I highly recommend them as audiobooks or to read. I may actually end up buying these books because the art looks pretty darned cool.

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Filed under Audible, Audiobooks, Books, Fiction & Literary, History, Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Challenge, Young Adult

A steampunk challenge!

October 2010 – October 2011, one steampunk book a month, read and discuss! Sound like fun?  Let’s do it!

Click the “steampunk challenge” button in my sidebar for more info, or go here.

As for the Typically British Reading Challenge (also in the sidebar)–I knocked that one out of the park but need to update it with details.

So… next up to bat?

Steampunk!

Source of image here.

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Filed under Books, Reading, Steampunk, Steampunk Challenge, Typically British Reading Challenge 2010

Blameless Rule-breaking

So. As I said two weeks ago, I broke my own rule and I bought a book without reading the free sample first.

Now, the review of Blameless, by Gail Carriger.

The first thing you might note is that it took me 14 days to finish reading the book. You might think, since I was so excited about reading it, that this is significant. You might be right.

The first book in the series was great fun, as was the second. These books are lighthearted Victorian steampunk with vampires and werewolves (and Templars), oh my!  When in the opening sequence of the first book, Soulless, our heroine is forced to kill a vampire not because he tried to bite her, but because he didn’t introduce himself properly first? Well, Victorian fun is about to cut loose. These books are published by Orbit, a science fiction/fantasy publisher.  They are not romances. But the relationship between the headstrong, unmarriageable spinster Alexia Tarabotti and the surly, Scottish werewolf Lord Maccon is such a huge part of the books’ appeal. It is charming and cantankerous and pulled in a lot of readers who were at least as interested in the romance as the steampunk fun.

Carriger was the victim of some bad promotions because at the time the second book, Changeless, was released, Amazon was already promoting Blameless and making it available as a pre-order–with a summary that revealed the huge cliffhanger ending of book two.  There were many readers who decided they would not read Changeless until they had Blameless in hand, because they didn’t want to have to wait months for the sequel. I assume it was Orbit’s summary that was used, and I can imagine how frustrating it was to Carriger to put disclaimers on her blog in every single post, warning potential readers not to read the summary of book three unless they wanted to be spoiled.  However, she has had phenomenal sales so hopefully it hasn’t hurt too much.

I, for one, loved the cliffhanger, and (as has been noted) eagerly awaited its resolution.

Which brings us to Blameless.  I hate spoilers.  This is one spoiler that I would have appreciated. I might have been better prepared to enjoy the book had I been forewarned.

What I am about to say has been mentioned in every review I’ve read because it’s impossible to review the book without mentioning it, but if you hate spoilers, skip the next paragraph.  And if you want to know more than I’m willing to say, go find other reviews.

SPOILER:

Alexia and Lord Maccon are kept apart throughout the entirety of Blameless.  At least half of the charm of the first two books is missing.  And if the relationship between them (and how they are going to deal with the “cliffhanter-inconvenience”) is what has left you Breathless for this book, you, like me, are going to be disappointed.  That said, the book is filled with twists, turns, steampunky goodness, and Professor Lyall.  It has much to offer.  But in this case I think I would have been better served if I had known going in that the irascible duo were not going to be together in this book, because that is why it took me so long to read it.

SPOILER OVER

That said, it does have some wonderful twists and turns, including one near the end that has introduced an entirely new twist to spice up the next book in the series.  I’m glad I bought it, glad I read it, and will read the next and the next. But I agree with reviewers who had problems with the aforementioned spoiler, and a certain resolution at the very end of this book.

If I were someone who gave stars for reviews, Blameless would get fewer stars than Soulless and Changeless.  But it would still get a decently-high rating.

Edited to add:  I’m glad to report that I recently saw a review where the reader liked Blameless better than Changeless, so see?  Mileage definitely varies!

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Filed under Books, Reading, Steampunk

I broke my own rule.

My Kindle rule, that I never buy a book any more unless I have downloaded the free sample and read it, and want to keep reading that very minute.  It has allowed me to save lots of money by indulging my desire to impulse buy (by snagging many, many free samples) without A) spending money and B) having mountains of TBR books around me.

Until now.

I read Soulless and loved it. I then read Changeless and OMG wanted the next book now this very minute now.

I pre-ordered.

Blameless was on my Kindle when I woke up this morning.

Now this very minute now is finally here.

Will I regret breaking my rule?

Will it be as wonderful as I want it to be?

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, watch this again:

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Filed under amazon, Book Covers, Books, Kindle, Reading, Steampunk

Save the Cat, anyone?

So, I have written about Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need before.


And I have probably mentioned Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told, as well, since I believe you need both these books to approach plot and structure the Snyder way, and frankly, this is the best approach I have ever found. [YMMV, etc.] (I don’t know how I missed Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into … and Out of, and why it’s already out of print, or at least not available from Amazon, but at least it’s shipped by Amazon so I can use my Amazon Prime, erm, I digress. Ahem. But if you have that book, let me know what it’s about and what you think, though I’m probably about to order it. And isn’t it amazing how the last book you’ll ever need on screenwriting still was followed by more books? Is anybody surprised? But, if the third is anything like the first, it’s well worth the money and I am wondering if there will be any more, since Blake Snyder is no longer with us, may he R.I.P.)

I’m curious about those of you who also have used STC. I’m really curious how many of you were beginning writers and how many brought a certain amount of knowledge of story with you as you began reading the book. I’m curious about your experiences with STC, successful and unsuccessful.

I’m considering using it more heavily in my writing classes, and want to get a bigger picture of how people respond to it.

For my own part, even though I already understood 3-act structure and had published five novels and won a couple of screenwriting competitions before I picked up STC, the scene cards, sceneboard and genre breakdowns from STC gave me a set of tools that opened up plotting to me in a way that for the first time truly helped me do it. Not understand it on a broad, general level. But actually take my own ideas and arrange them, and understand how they should fit together to achieve what I wanted.

Perhaps I also bring a lot of confidence to the process and I know when to ignore something and when to use something, when words in a book are helping me get closer to my vision and when they aren’t.

Think that’s it?

Tell me. Let’s talk about saving that darned cat.

BTW, if you’re doing nanowrimo this November? This might be a good time to whip out STC and start plotting that novel. It would be an excellent way to map it out in detail so you can dive in and start writing.

4 Comments

Filed under Index Cards, Movies, nanowrimo, Novels, Publishing, Save the Cat, Screenwriting, Storyboard, Writers, Writing

Another small digression.

What Wild EcstasyWhat Wild Ecstasy by Patricia Burroughs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wrote it. The adaptation I wrote was awarded a $30,000 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting (presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). I hope I can be forgiven for giving it five stars, understanding that ymmv! (Obviously the story had a lot more going for it than the bodice-ripper that the cover presents.)

View all my reviews >>

I may someday figure out how to scan it in and convert it and make it available as an e-book.  Unfortunately right now I haven’t the time or patience for it.

It’s so funny, I expected this book cover to be all desert-toned and dusty, and instead it was pink.

Pink? OMG, what on earth?  (Of course this was the 80s and pink and blue were the hottest color combo around, so it was hard to complain. Too much.)  And then I opened it–my first published book, oh my god, my baby… and reread the opening of the first chapter, first sentence of second paragraph:

Within minutes the peaks of the rugged mountains to the west appeared, bathed in pink and orange and magenta, honored by the sun’s first rays.

I’m just lucky they didn’t toss in orange.

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Filed under Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Books, Goodreads, Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Romance, Writers, Writing