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And yet another DNF

GRC

 

The mysteries of UdolphoLately it seems I pick up quite a lot of books that turn out to be a DNF. I tried so hard to read (and like) “The mysteries of Udolpho” which is a book I have been wanting to read for a long time, actually ever since reading “Northanger Abbey”. The Gothic Reading Challenge was the perfect opportunity to finally tackle it.

According to Goodreads I started reading that book on June 26. You want to know how far I got? To page 48!

I was willing, I compared covers, I told you the book beginning, Udolpho turned up on my monthly reading lists – to no avail.  That book is so long winded, it defies description. Admittedly, at 880 pages I didn’t expect it to go medias in res, but the descriptions of scenery bored the hell out of me, and I didn’t want to read through 200 pages of them before the gothic “horror” would start. If it ever started I don’t know. 

I think it’s time to say good bye to it and just face the fact that the mysteries of Udolpho will remain a mystery to me.

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Steampunk haiku contest

steampunk_haiku_contest 

It is October and the Steampunk challenges is coming to a close. Would you like to take on another Steampunk related creative challenge?

Enter the Steampunk haiku contest!  The winner will receive a gorgeous lapel pin created by Kristi from Northwyke Creations, a print copy of “The art of Steampunk” by Art Donovan from Fox Chapel Publishing and a Steampunk book of his/her choice.

For all the info about the contest please go to the Steampunk haiku contest page.

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Joseph Goebbels by Curt Riess

Blurb:

Well, it is a biography of Joseph Goebbels, what else can you say?


In a nutshell:

I liked it:  x Yes       No

For people who are: interested in history, the Third Reich, National Socialism, WWII


My thoughts: 

To my disgrace I have to confess that I knew next to nothing about Joseph Goebbels, except for that he was in charge of the Nazi propaganda. I don’t remember how I even came across this book but when I decided to read about WWII for the One, Two, Theme challenge I added it to my list.

I got a German edition from 1950 (the book was published first in 1949), it is also available in various English editions. Curt Riess is a German-born journalist who emigrated 1933 to the US and worked as a war correspondent for the US Army. He published this biography in 1948 after researching documents he found in post-war Germany and interviewing relatives, friends and employees of Goebbels.

I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, but it did keep me reading on and on. I finished it within a week, but read other things in between, as the whole story is rather hard to digest. The war itself is only mentioned “in passing” as Goebbels himself had rather little to do with the operational, military side of things. Also the known atrocities are only talked about on a few occasions, like for example when he was asked whether it was true that concentration camps existed and he – “after checking back” – answered that there was no such thing.

I would think that all the material Riess used must be fairly unspoilt and fresh as it was collected directly from remains of the propaganda ministry or from people who knew Goebbels personally and rather well.

There are a lot of quotes from Goebbels writings that show a glimpse into what he was really thinking and how he managed to be such a convincing devil’s advocate even in cases where he personally did not believe in what he was preaching.

If you are only slightly interested in the Third Reich and in one of its key figures, this is a must read.

Product info and buy link :

Title Joseph Goebbels
Author Curt Riess
Publisher Ballantine Books
ISBN ASIN: B0007EQ3Y6
Buy link Buy Joseph Goebbels: A biography

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

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The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan

art_of_steampunkBlurb:

“Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement”

The Art of Steampunk seeks to celebrate the world of Steampunk: a world filled with beauty and innovation.  A world in which steam power and technology intertwine to create machines that are not only functional and practical, but unique and striking. 

Art Donovan is the owner of Donovan Design, a handmade lighting company with clients like Tiffany & Co, Bennetti Luxury Yachts, and Four Seasons Resorts. He also specializes in Steampunk-inspired lighting and artwork, and runs a blog devoted to the subculture at http://artdonovan.typepad.com/blog/ He’s also a regular contributor on The Steampunk Home blog, and was the curator of the Steampunk Exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science at The University of Oxford.


In a nutshell:

I liked it:  x Yes       No

For people who like: Steampunk, design, art,


My thoughts: 

When I saw this book at Netgalley it caught my eye right away. I have been a regular visitor of The Steampunk Home for quite some time now  and just love to look at all those gorgeous designs. Also, a book about Steampunk art, instead of fiction, is a good addition to my books for the Steampunk Challenge.

This book is a feast for the eyes.

First we learn about the Steampunk exhibition (of which Art Donovan was the curator) at the Museum of the History of Science  at the University of Oxford, which is followed by an introduction to Steampunk. Already at this point some gorgeous designs are shown.

Then follows a “Steampunk 101” by G. D. Falksen where he answers some very basic questions every Steampunk newbie will ask, for example, “Where does the punk come in” or “What about goggles”.

The next 17 chapters are each dedicated to one specific artist. At the beginning each one is introduced and then his or her designs are displayed. Now this is where the eye candy starts. I just couldn’t stop looking at those gorgeous looking items. I was going to mention some of the most remarkable items but I realized I couldn’t pick any because they all are so wonderful to look at. Just to give you an idea, there is a  laptop, jewellery, sculptures, a cover for cell phones, a clockwork heart, the list could go on and on.

I am considering myself to be a Steampunk newbie and this book is a very good introduction to Steampunk design. Even though you might not be particularly interested in Steampunk as a literary genre or life style, the designs are so beautiful that I can’t imagine anybody would not enjoy looking at them and subsequently want to know more about Steampunk in general.

Product info and buy link :

Title The Art of Steampunk
Author Art Donovan
Publisher Fox Chapel Publishing
ISBN 978-1565235731
Buy link Buy The Art of Steampunk

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Like Clockwork by Bonnie Dee

like_clockwork_coverBlurb:

Victoria’s work with automatons has gained her renown and changed the face of London. But her concern that the clockworks are taking too many jobs away from humans, creating social unrest, is ignored. Given the ugly mood of the underclass, she fears more outbreaks of violence similar to the murder spree of the notorious Southwark Slasher.

Dash, unemployed thanks to the clockworks, has pledged fealty to The Brotherhood, a group determined to bring about the downfall of the automatons by any means necessary. His plan to kidnap Victoria goes awry when the unorthodox scientist pledges her assistance to their cause.

Despite their opposite social classes, a bond grows between them, and Victoria begins to feel emotions she never expected for the passionate Dash. But when the Slasher strikes close to home, Dash and Victoria realize that the boundaries of polite society are far from the only threat to their happiness…

My thoughts: 

If you are a regular reader of my blog you might know that I like Bonnie Dee a lot. When I saw “Like Clockwork” available at Netgalley I requested it quickly for two reasons.  Well, it’s by Bonnie Dee and it has a Steampunk theme.

As it turned out the story is a mixture of Steampunk, romance and mystery with a definite Jack the Ripper flavour (here called “Southwark Slasher”). After the first few pages I got the impression that the society in the story is somewhat like the ancient Romans, lazy, decadent and letting the automatons do all the work. However, the social problems that might come from a flooding of slaves (here: automatons) were solved by trying to get rid of all the poor that were driven out of work.

Victoria is another one of those down to earth heroines with very unconventional ways. Being kidnapped by Dash didn’t make her bat an eyelid; the necessary attraction to him did the rest to make this a very pleasant read. She was ready to acknowledge her feelings, something I always like in a woman, and act on them accordingly. Actually she was the driving force, which is quite unusual.

The automaton problem was not resolved in the story. I could complain about this, but the story was almost too short as it was, I could hardly expect to see such a complex social problem solved. At least the Slasher was brought to justice, well, sort of anyway. Call me slow, but I had no idea about who it was, even though in retrospect the prologue already should have given me a clue.

The Steampunk angle was quite nice, but apart from the ubiquitous dirigible in the sky and, of course, the automatons themselves, there was not much difference to a historical romance. It seems “clockwork” is THE Steampunk word. I don’t know how many Steampunk titles are out there with “clockwork” in the title, but somehow I get the feeling that that word is being seriously overused.

For lovers of short romance this is definitely worth a try.

You might also be interested in reading this:

What turned me on to robots by Bonnie Dee at Steamed!

Title Like Clockwork
Author Bonnie Dee
Publisher Carina Press
ISBN 9781426890963
Buy link Buy Like Clockwork
Article

Essays in love by Alain de Botton

essaysinlove_cover

Blurb:

"Essays in Love" will appeal to anyone who has ever been in a relationship or confused about love. The book charts the progress of a love affair from the first kiss to argument and reconciliation, from intimacy and tenderness to the onset of anxiety and heartbreak. The work’s genius lies in the way it minutely analyses emotions we’ve all felt before but have perhaps never understood so well: it includes a chapter on the anxieties of when and how to say ‘I love you’ and another on the challenges of disagreeing with someone else’s taste in shoes.While gripping the reader with the talent of a great novelist, de Botton brings a philosopher’s sensibility to his analyses of the emotions of love, resulting in a genre-breaking book that is at once touching and thought-provoking.

My thoughts: 

This is the second book I read for my “relationships topic” for the One, Two, Theme Challenge. I have been ogling some of Alain de Botton’s books for quite a while and finally decided to start with this one, as it was his debut novel. It certainly won’t be my last.

I absolutely loved his style here. Basically it is the story of a romance from the very beginning to the end and a bit further on, so that the reader knows that the cycle (at least for the male narrator) started all over again. And a cycle it is. The story is divided into chapters, like for example, “Romantic Fatalism”, talking about that the chance meeting of the soon to be lovers is actually fate, “The Subtext of Seduction”, talking about how to seduce the beloved properly and the thoughts behind it, “Contractions”, here black clouds are showing up on the horizon, and “The Jesus Complex” where eventually the one who was left behind comes to the conclusion everything is the other person’s fault. Every chapter describes one or more specific, often mundane, situations and then reflects upon them with the help of numerous philosophers. Really everybody will recognize him- or herself in those scenes, or, if not in a specific situation, at least in the general thoughts that are lying behind it.

I read some reviews on amazon saying that the romance was incredibly predictable and therefore the book was highly unoriginal. I disagree. The book was original simply BECAUSE the romance was so ordinary and predictable. The whole point of the book is to show how every romance takes its course in a predetermined way and the reason our romance here is so predictable is that everyone has experienced exactly that before.

I was not too enthusiastic about both the male and the female character. Probably I sympathize more with Chloe, however, because the man turns out to be a total jerk right after their first night together. She cooks a wonderful breakfast for him and he insists on having a certain jam, a flavour she hasn’t got. He acts so stupidly that I would have kicked him out right away, but Chloe puts up with his crap – amazingly what love can do to you. The narrator himself, who can’t explain his own behaviour at the time, later comes up with a reason for it which is not completely unfeasible.

This is what I liked about the book. Every little detail and nuance is looked at from all sorts of perspectives and talked about. I found it very insightful. I also liked the language, I don’t think there was one sentence I found boring or too much.

A nice little touch – if somewhat trite – was the fact that the beginning and the end of the romance not only take place on a plane, but also that the exact same sentence describes the landing of the plane and  the disembarking of the passengers. The circle is closed.

If you want to know more about ordinary relationships, how they work and about their dynamics, this is a must read.

Disclaimer: If you are a romantic and want to stay that way, better not touch this book. It takes a relationship apart and scrutinizes it minutely. The result is 100% realism with no room for romantic idealization. 

Judith has mentioned she didn’t like this book too much. If you would like to read what she had to say you can go the the comments of this blog post where she copied her Shelfari review.

 

Title Essays in love
Author Alain de Botton
Publisher Picador
ISBN 978-0330440783
Buy link Buy Essays in Love
Article

He’s just not that into you by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

Blurb:

For ages women have come together over coffee, cocktails, or late-night phone chats to analyze the puzzling behavior of men. He’s afraid to get hurt again. Maybe he doesn’t want to ruin the friendship. Maybe he’s intimidated by me. He just got out of a relationship.

Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo are here to say that — despite good intentions — you’re wasting your time. Men are not complicated, although they’d like you to think they are. And there are no mixed messages.

The truth may be He’s just not that into you.

Unfortunately guys are too terrified to ever directly tell a woman, "You’re not the one." But their actions absolutely show how they feel.

He’s Just Not That Into You — based on a popular episode of Sex and the City — educates otherwise smart women on how to tell when a guy just doesn’t like them enough, so they can stop wasting time making excuses for a dead-end relationship.

Reexamining familiar scenarios and classic mindsets that keep us in unsatisfying relationships, Behrendt and Tuccillo’s wise and wry understanding of the sexes spares women hours of waiting by the phone, obsessing over the details with sympathetic girlfriends, and hoping his mixed messages really mean "I’m in love with you and want to be with you."

He’s Just Not That Into You is provocative, hilarious, and, above all, intoxicatingly liberating. It deserves a place on every woman’s night table. It knows you’re a beautiful, smart, funny woman who deserves better. The next time you feel the need to start "figuring him out," consider the glorious thought that maybe He’s just not that into you. And then set yourself loose to go find the one who is.

My thoughts: 

This is the first book I read for my “relationships topic” for the One, Two, Theme Challenge. I don’t know exactly what I expected other than an entertaining read, but I was disappointed. Yes, it was an entertaining read, but other than that reading it is as enlightening as reading no book about relationships at all.

The book takes various situations, e.g. he doesn’t call when he said he would, he puts you down in front of others, he doesn’t want to marry you…., and evaluates them. The result of that evaluation is invariably the same, “he’s just not that into you”. Greg Behrendt’s world is black and white. If the man doesn’t do what he said he would and/or doesn’t do what you expect him to, dump the loser!

He doesn’t call on Monday, like he said, but on Tuesday? What a jerk! Dump him! He doesn’t want to marry you even though he knows how important it is for you to get married? You know now what to do.

Admittedly, there are some situations where the dumping is appropriate, but in others a readiness for compromise would help a bit. Also, your own feelings towards the jerk seem of no importance. You might be crazily in love with the guy who’s just not that into you. Doesn’t matter, get rid of him anyway.

The basic statement of the book “Better to be alone than to be with someone that makes you unhappy” might be sane and sound, but I am not sure that 100% of the women out there would agree with that. Liz Tuccillo, the co-writer of this book and the girl voice likes Greg’s wisdom and lives by it. Strangely enough, even though he assures the female reader continuously that she is a. hot stuff (how he knows this is beyond me, not all of us are hot stuff) and b. a better man is somewhere out there waiting for her, Liz is still single at 40 something and looking.

I’m ambivalent about this. Some advice is good, makes sense and should be followed, but that is advice that your mother would give you, too. The writing style is entertaining and every woman recognizes herself in the stories. However, a few more shades of grey would have done a great deal to make this book more helpful all in all.

Title He’s just not that into you
Author Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo
Publisher Simon & Schuster
ISBN 978-1416948674
Buy link Buy He’s Just Not That Into You
Article

One, Two, Theme challenge 2011

One, Two, Theme challenge

For the One, Two, Theme Challenge 2011 I have finally decided on my three topics. I went through my TBR pile and built my themes around it to make sure I get some books read that have been sitting on my shelf for quite some time.

My three themes are Wicca, WWII and Relationships.

Now, what books to choose?

 

1. Wicca

I went to a site Poppy Red recommended (Witchvox.com) and found out that one of the books I already owned is one of the most popular ones as well. Lucky!

I plan on reading:

  • The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
  • The Real Witches Handbook by Kate West (already have that one as well)

I might add

  • Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham that Angelique suggested.

That leaves me with one fiction book I still need. Does anyone have any recommendations?

  • After a look around and from recommendations I might read "The Forest House" by MZB.  

 

2. WWII

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  • Joseph Goebbels by Kurt Riess. This is a biography that came out in 1950. Kurt Riess was working for the US Army at the time; he searched archives and spoke to people who worked for Goebbels etc. right after the war.

 

3. Relationships

  • He’s just not that into you by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
  • Essays in Love by Alain de Botton
  • Important artifacts and personal property from the collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris including books, street fashion, and jewelry by Leanne Shapton

    This book – as non-fiction as it sounds – is a fictional auction catalogue that portrays the rise and fall of a four-year-relationship.

I think this is going to be a fun challenge for the next year.

 

 

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I was a bit too fast

GRC

I thought I was done with my reading challenge planning for 2011, but, as always, something else came up. At Poppy’s blog I saw that she joined the Gothic Reading Challenge. The lowest level “A little Madness” is just the right thing for me. You are only required to read one book and that suits me just fine.

I have two books on my TBR list. Depending on which one I can get my hands on cheaper I will either read “The Castle of Otranto” or “The Mysteries of Udolpho”. Not sure I will be able to stomach more than one. I am somewhat wimpy when it comes to suspense.

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Challenges for 2011

I was thinking about what challenges to join in 2011. Not too many since I am not very good at sticking to things.

Apart from my own Steampunk Challenge I am considering the One, Two Theme Challenge. It sounds like a fun idea to explore certain topics, I just have to come with a few that I WANT to explore. One of them will definitely be Wicca. I already have a few books at home about it, but never really got into them. The other topics I still need to think about.

Is anybody else joining this challenge? If so, what topics are you choosing?

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Soulless by Gail Carriger

imageBlurb:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

My thoughts: 

This is the first book I read for my Steampunk challenge. Everybody talks about the Parasol Protectorate series, of which this is the first book with Changeless and Blameless to follow. Two more sequels, Heartless and Timeless, will be released in the next two years.

Since this is the first steampunk book I have ever read (except a m/m novella which I don’t count here) I have no idea how to rate it as far as the steampunk factor is concerned. It is set in an alternative Victorian London; werewolves, vampires, ghosts and other supernatural beings have come out years before and are now an official, if not 100% popular, part of society. The plot revolves around mysterious appearances and disappearances of supernatural beings and it is up to Alexia and Lord Maccon to detect what is going on (if only by accident and with the help of a few delectable dandies).

Alexia is a preternatural, the only one known in fact, who can neutralize supernatural powers merely through touch. I found this an interesting twist. In no paranormal story I have read so far did I come across anybody who could negate the supernatural at all, let alone this easily. Her interactions with her paramour-to-be were delightful. Both thoroughly dislike each other – or so they think – and that made for some very agreeable banter.

The other main characters are all fleshed out and, if not likeable, at least believable. The typical werewolf – vampire differences are in place. The vampires are refined to foppish, the werewolves down-to-earth to rough and boisterous. I absolutely loved Lord Akeldama and his drones. I hope I will see more of them in the future.

One thing I could have done without were the descriptions of the experiments in the club. I hate that sort of thing and I would have known that those scientists were rather crazy, fanatical and dangerous without reading all that. So I skipped some of it, even though I am sure I missed out on some great machinery ideas that way.

The idea to lock Alexia into the cell with the biggest werewolf gave a chance to throw in a lovely scene between her and Lord Maccon. Strange how people in love are inclined to kiss and pet even in the worst circumstances. But then, I suppose they were locked in and could only wait. So what better pastime than to make out?

I very much enjoyed reading Soulless and will definitely continue with that series. If you like the paranormal, romance (not too explicit), an element of humour and a lot of entertainment, get it!

On Gail Carriger’s website you will find a page about Alexia’s London, along with sketches of characters and outfits, deleted scenes and more. A nice addition to the reading experience.

Title Soulless
Author Gail Carriger
Publisher Orbit Books
ISBN 978-0316056632
Buy link Buy Soulless

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

WANT TO KNOW WHAT OTHERS THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK? HAVE A LOOK AT:

Heather at Books and Quilts 

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The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacob

The Monkey's Paw coverShort blurb:

The story is based on the famous "setup" in which three wishes are granted. In the story, the paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessor three wishes, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate.

 

My thoughts:

I decided to re-read this very short story for the “Short Story peril” option of the RIP challenge.

There is not much to be said about this story without giving anything away, since it is only ten pages long. It shows the reader very clearly what the saying “Be careful what you wish for” means and that everybody who wishes for things does it at his own peril.

The time frame is about a week and in that one week pretty dreadful things happen to Mr. and Mrs. White and their son. Just shows you that you can never be too careful when expressing a wish. I found it quite interesting to hear that the old fakir who put the spell on the monkey’s paw did so to show “that those who interfered with it [i.e. fate] did so to their sorrow”. Unfortunately it seems that for most people that knowledge comes too late. They don’t listen to sound advice but need to know at first hand – and suffer the consequences as a result.

If you would like to read this story and haven’t got it, it is available as a free e-book at Project Gutenberg as well as a free audio book.

The Monkey’s Paw free e-book

The Monkey’s Paw free audio book

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Kicking off the Steampunk Challenge

steam Even though some of us have started reading and reviewing already today is the official start of the year long steampunk challenge. If you haven’t taken a look at the reviews posted on the reviews page you should do so. I am sure we will all get lots of ideas about what to read next from them.

My first two books have still not turned up, so I will have to be patient. What is your first book to read? Are you going to start with an anthology or is it going to be a chunkster right away?

If you need reading recommendations please have a look at the recommendations page. I will continuously add books to the list, so check back from time to time.

Want to know who else is participating? Go to the participants’ page. I have listed everybody with a link to their blog or website (if there is one). 

Thanks to everybody for participating. I am sure it’s going to be a fun reading year.

image by timobalk at sxc.hu

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Steampunk challenge update

Wow, I am totally overwhelmed by the response to the challenge. I’m still working on the list of participants, but will post it asap. So far 27 people have signed up and a lot of steampunk lovers have given us tons of recommendations.

There are even a few reviews up already even though the challenge hasn’t even begun officially. Isn’t that great? Make sure you go and see what some of us have already read. Seems everybody is quite enthusiastic about it and eager to start. So am I. I ordered two books which should arrive shortly (and broke the book buying ban in the process).

I am going to start with something light and fluffy (according to some), “Soulless” and then will have a look at the “Steampunk” anthology to get a little overview of what is out there.

What are you all going to start with?

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New Steampunk challenge

You might have read that I started to become interested in Steampunk. I want to explore the genre and find out what is out there. So while tweeting the other day the thought came up to organize a Steampunk challenge. And here it is.

If you are interested in Steampunk and would like to join my Steampunk challenge, please go to my Steampunk challenge page and sign up there.

We will all link to our reviews or other related Steampunk blog posts, so we can all discover this interesting genre together. Your reading recommendations are more than welcome!

If you would like to grab the Steampunk button for your blog, just copy and paste the code below the button in the left sidebar.

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2 challenges finished

image

For the read ‘n’ review challenge that started in January I had projected 60 books. Well, I’m finished already.

The same with the m-m romance challenge. I have read 31 books, so I’m done with that one as well. I will continue to read, obviously, but won’t continue updating the challenges.

Right in time the RIP V challenge has started and then there is the book buying ban that is a challenge in itself. No rest for the wicked…

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Unconventional by TC Blue

Blurb:

When Trent agrees to move to Los Angeles with Lucas, he knows things aren’t going to be easy. Between a lawsuit, Lucas’ closeted status, difficulty finding work, and a few other things, ‘not easy’ turns out to be an understatement.
Lucas can’t regret bringing his lover to L.A., but he also can’t live openly with Trent the way he wants to. When an unexpected film role makes Lucas even more high-profile than he already was and an unknown enemy steps in to complicate things even further, Lucas has some hard choices to make. Trent’s happiness, and Lucas’, depend upon making the right ones.

My thoughts: 

Trent and Lucas are living together now, but keep up the appearance that Lucas is merely helping out Trent who is down on his luck. Trent is not altogether happy with this situation but knows that Lucas will never come out of the closet. However, something unexpected happens and things change considerably.

It seems that some people were unhappy about the novel format for the conclusion of this series, since the two prequels were novellas and much shorter. I liked the longer format though. There were several issues to resolve, the lawsuit against Trent, the nature of Trent’s and Lucas’ future relationship and others that only turned up in "Unconventional". A shorter format would not have been long enough to give a satisfactory conclusion.

I still think that the two guys were too sex-focused. More often than not they turned to sex instead of talking first. Yes, eventually they came around to the talking but all in all the physical side of their relationship was a major plot point. I know it often is, but with all those problems that arose I would have liked them to talk them trough a little more. Another point that I still don’t get (but this is maybe only me being blue-eyed to the extreme) is why Lucas was so afraid to come out. Would the career of the actor in a syndicated show be ruined if the public found out he was gay? Why would the public care? Am I too naive to think that for a fan of a show the sexual orientation of the star is irrelevant? It would be to me.

All those little nagging things aside I enjoyed reading Trent’s and Lucas’ story a lot. They were both likeable characters and complemented each other perfectly. Another great character is the "other woman". I am one of those readers who strongly dislike women in the story. I can accept a colleague who shows up once in a while and minds her own business, but as soon as the woman is a best friend, confidante, partner or whatever I lose interest quickly. TC Blue, however, managed to portray Katie in such a way that I not only tolerated her, but actually liked her. She is funny, understanding, down to earth and has her own plans that work well with Lucas’ at the time.

If you like hot men and a solid plot with more than one strand you should go and read this series (I recommend you read the books in the proper order, you won’t enjoy them as much otherwise).

 

Title Unconventional
Author TC Blue
Publisher Torquere Books
ISBN 978-1-61040-25-1
Buy link Buy “Unconventional”
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RIP V challenge

ripv200

Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting another RIP challenge this year. RIP stands for Readers Imbibing Peril and includes reading the following:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

ripvperil3

The challenge comes at the right time for me. I am planning to read a psychological thriller in October. It is Laura Lippman’s “I’ll know you anywhere”. So not my genre, so this challenge is going to be a REAL challenge this time. Since ONE scary book is enough for me I signed up for the one-book-option, called  “Peril the Third”.

 

ripvperilshort

There is also a “Short Story Peril” option which I went for as well. I am planning to re-read “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs, a story that will give everybody the chills.

So my short reading list for the RIP challenge 2010 looks like this:

  • “I’d know you anywhere” by Laura Lippman
  • “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs

I’m a real scaredy cat, so wish me luck!

Article

Annie and the Ripper by Tim Champlin

Annie-Ripper-Front Blurb:

1888, Whitechapel. Jack the Ripper terrorizes prostitutes and baffles Scotland Yard; 1888, London. Annie Oakley thrills audiences of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with her expert marksmanship. The Ripper may have picked the wrong target in this fascinating retelling of the well-known case of Jack the Ripper… with a Western twist! A mentally unbalanced killer who slashes throats and eviscerates his victims is stalking the Whitechapel district of London’s East End. Whitechapel, with its odors of unlimed outhouses, cabbage, cigars, coal smoke and fish; Whitechapel, with its boarding houses and casual wards, its impoverished working people, its prostitutes. Full moon, dense fog, shrill whistles from Bobbies on the beat; Hansom cabs, horses’ hooves clopping along wet cobblestones. The chills up your back as you look over your shoulder into the dark for the crazy Ripper with the long, sharp knife. This blend of fact and fiction will keep you turning the pages long after bedtime as the story unfolds in gaslit, Victorian London.

My thoughts: 

Who does not like Jack the Ripper stories? When I saw that this book was available I picked it up. The description of Whitechapel in the blurb evoked a picture right away, so I was really looking forward to reading this book.

The story

At first it seemed to be more or less a re-telling of the Ripper case, while Annie Oakley hardly made any appearance, except as the star of the Wild West Show. I was wondering when she would eventually come into play. Since I enjoy reading the original story, though, I didn’t miss her much. The atmosphere was described in such a way that I could picture the area, the people and everything surrounding that mysterious case very well.

When Annie finally got involved in the hunt for the Ripper I found it a nice twist.  I just couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to find out whether they would trap the killer or not – and I wanted to know NOW.

Story vs. facts

Tim Champlin took some liberties with the story, some of which brought the people to life, like for example Abberline’s sudden desire to go and work out at the Police’s Athletic Club, others I found unnecessary.

For example, Walter Sickert was no suspect of the police at the time of the investigation, as far as I know, but was mentioned as such in the book. According to the police he was always around when the killings happened but in reality he was in France at the time of four of the murders.

The police at the time believed that the “Dear Boss” letter that coined the term “Jack the Ripper” was written by a journalist named Tom Bulling, and that it was not written by the killer, as they did here. However, those details, even though not quite correct, didn’t mar the story as it was.

The ending

Up to the end I was spellbound and couldn’t stop. However, I was disappointed with the ending which was an anticlimax if I ever read one. I will talk about this below. If you don’t want spoilers, please don’t read what I’m saying below the spoiler alert!

If you like historical mysteries, Jack the Ripper stories in general and foggy London, read “Annie and the Ripper”!

 

 

OK, the ending was anticlimatic, to say the least.

Not only was the killer somebody who had never been mentioned in the story before, something that I find highly unsatisfying, there was also an angle to his motives that was extremely boring.

Why the killer had to have supernatural strength at the end during the chase I didn’t understand. He could have just run away and fallen into the Thames without running and climbing for miles on end. Then the “possession” angle would have been unnecessary. To give Jack the Ripper a demonic touch, I don’t know, I just didn’t like it.

Also, I find religious motives very bland and obvious. Whether it is a crazed priest who kills whores because they act against the will of God or whether it is a Satanist who sacrifices humans makes no difference to me, religion is just too simple.

Alright, nobody knows who the Ripper was and it is very possible that it was someone who never turned up in the investigation. But if Tim Champlin wanted to show that and give us a name we hadn’t come across before, why didn’t he use Montague Druitt? That man actually did exist, drowned in the Thames and after his death there were no more murders, which is – among other reasons -why he WAS suspected to be the Ripper later on. At least that solution would have been a true possibility, as opposed to the one with the guy who really nobody has ever heard of before.

The ending was not what I would have expected and it disappointed me quite a bit.

 

Title Annie and the Ripper
Author Tim Champlin
Publisher Pill Hill Press
ISBN 978-1617060373
Buy link Buy Annie and the Ripper
Article

The Lion of Kent by Aleksandr Voinov & Kate Cotoner

Blurb:

lionofkentSquire William Raven has only one goal-to finally receive his spurs and become a knight. When his lord, Sir Robert de Cantilou, returns from a five-year crusade in the Holy Land, William wants nothing more than to impress him.

After Sir Robert’s return, noble guests arrive from France, bringing intrigue to the castle. William is oblivious to the politics, as he’s distracted by nightly visits from a faceless lover-a man who pleasures him in the dark and then leaves-a man he soon discovers is none other than his master, Sir Robert.

But William can’t ignore the scheming around him when he overhears a plot to murder Robert. He becomes intent on saving his lord and lover from those who would see him killed…

My thoughts: 

I am a sucker for Lord and Squire stories, so when I saw The Lion of Kent by Aleksandr Voinov & Kate Cotoner available on Netgalley I picked it up right away.

Of the three stories I read so far by Aleksandr and a co-author I liked this one best. I liked the historical setting, not to mention the two protagonists. William, a wild boy who wants to earn his spurs, and Robert, who recognizes himself as a young man in William. I found William as someone always reacting before thinking unless he forces himself to calm down and count to three very realistic. Robert as the older was the more reasonable and composed one, but still passionate and loving. The two men were absolutely great together.

The plot was solid and believable with some good side characters. Even though Stephen was a real jerk I liked him, well, as much as you can like a drunken priest who is droning on even though the only creature who listens is his dog.

The story was great from start to finish, there are not even minor things I’d like to have seen done differently. Only I would have liked it to be longer than it was. However, it seems this was not all. I read on Aleksandr’s website that two more novellas about William are planned which reconciles me a bit.

If you like a medieval setting, this is a must read.

Read more about The Lion of Kent and an excerpt at Aleksandr’s website.

EDIT (09/02/2010)

On the Carina Press blog there are a couple of posts with background info on the Lion of Kent. If you would like to know more, go to:

Finding the story in history 

Aiming for a sense of place 

Title The Lion of Kent
Author Aleksandr Voinov & Kate Cotoner
Publisher Carina Press
ISBN 9781426890512
Buy link Buy The Lion of Kent (on sale 08/30)
Article

Conventional Education by TC Blue

Blurb:

When good friends and sometime-lovers-of-convenience meet again at a convention, sparks fly, but between Trent’s new job working for Neverwhere Games and Lucas’ co-star shocking the world, things get complicated.

Months later, during another convention, Trent and Lucas are faced with betrayal and manipulation from an unexpected source. Can they find a way to make things work or will their whole relationship suffer from an unexpected Conventional Education?

My thoughts: 

Slowly, but very slowly, Lucas’ and Trent’s “affair” turns into more, even if only in the minds of both men. They are still only meeting irregularly at conventions and – even though it is mentioned that they actually TALK about things on the phone – once they meet it’s clothes off immediately. I have to admit that I am eagerly waiting for the two guys to finally establish that there is more to their relationship than banging each other’s brains out.

A few more characters are introduced in person in this second instalment and they added some much needed distraction. Rory and Matthew, as well as Richard and Terrence are good side characters who are probably playing a bigger part in the third story. I’m looking forward to that.

The act of betrayal mentioned in the blurb will carry on into “Unconventional” as well and I am already curious to see how this will turn out.

All in all I regard this in between novella as a transitional story that continues what began in “Conventional Wisdom” and slowly leads to the conclusion to the story in the last novel. I wouldn’t read either of those books as a stand alone.

 

Title Conventional Education
Author TC Blue
Publisher Torquere Books
ISBN 978-1-60370-866-1
Buy link Buy Conventional Education
Article

Per Ardua by Jessie Blackwood

Blurb:

Addicted to the soaring skies, brash high-flier Arthur Edward “Jack” Ratigan returns to Britain to fly bombers when his birth country goes to war against Germany in World War II. It also means a return to his ancestral home of Pren Redyn House in Wales—and risking his career and freedom if it comes to light that he is homosexual.
The drama and peril of combat will create profound changes in Jack both during and after the war, as will the influence of Ifan Griffith, the young butler at Pren Redyn and the one person who seems immune to the Ratigan charm. The sky has always been Jack’s true love, but when he faces a future of never flying again, he’ll discover he’s already found a surprising new home for his heart—with Ifan.

My thoughts: 

When I saw the title of Jessie Blackwood’s book I was immediately drawn to it. It promised not only difficulties to overcome but also a perfect ending. What else could you possibly ask for? The fact that is is set during and after the end of WWII made it even more interesting for me. And I was not disappointed.

The story jumps back and forth between now and Ifan’s and Jack’s pasts. Basically we follow the two men from a very early age on, Ifan is a young boy and Jack a teenager. One thing I would have liked to read a little more about is the reason why Ifan felt that strong dislike towards Jack. It was explained, but I never got a concrete example of what Jack actually said or did to deserve it. That made it hard for me to picture him as the boy respectively the man he was supposed to be.

The relationship between the two men goes through more or less all stages, master and servant, companions, friends and eventually lovers. That was nicely done, even though I never got rid of the nagging feeling that their being lovers – or rather their falling in love with each other – was the result of the situation. Not that this is a bad thing, very often a certain situation decides the birth of a relationship, but in this case I am wondering whether Ifan and Jack would have come together if Jack hadn’t been in the situation he was. Or whether he would have fallen in love with another caretaker as well. I don’t know.

Those doubts, however, didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the story as it was. There were a lot of good side characters like Gordon or Bronwen to add to the overall good feel of the book and the title kept its promise. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

 

Title Per Ardua
Author Jessie Blackwood
Publisher Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 9781615815432
Buy link Buy “Per Ardua”