Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Okay, let's clear up some myths about vampires. First of all, you won't see me using the V-word much. In the Night Watch we prefer the term parasite-positives, or peeps, for short.
The main thing to remember is that there's no magic involved. No flying. No transforming into rats or bats either... [blurb]

I made some mistakes with vampire and urban fantasy type books lately as my reviews will tell. I remain hopeful of finding some GOOD ones. I know they're out there but there's a lot that's not to my taste obscuring the great reads. I made a rather different mistake here. That was to start reading late at night. I thought I'd read a chapter or two then get some sleep.

Here I found a very different vampire novel and a very well researched book. I particularly love books that have great research at the centre - other examples are The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. They gain a great deal of strength from their research and I love to gain knowledge while enjoying a fantastic story. The depth and integration of research into Peeps is brilliant. I think this is what kept me reading past so many just-one-more-chapter deadlines.

Like The HistorianPeeps suffers from a weak ending. The fantastic research and resulting species and world-building appears to be the point, but whilst most of the story worked well certain aspects of the ending felt contrived - they were just there so that things could be brought neatly to a close to create a story rather than a fascinating study. Also like The Historian I can forgive Peeps because I loved the rest of the book so much.

Peeps won't be for everyone. There's a crash-course in parasitology and epidemiology strewn throughout - pretty much every second chapter is mostly factual research. It's well written and concise to keep the reader's attention. It is, however, probably not for those who are very squeamish.

On the other hand, if you like urban fantasy, less starry-eyed-and-too-perfect vampires and a well researched story I'd definitely recommend this book. It's a few years old now but not too hard to find.

There's a second novel, The Last Days, that connects to this one though according to the summary I have read does not focus on the same characters. I'll be looking forward to reading this one soon and seeing what it has to add.

Scott Westerfeld was an author I'd noticed enjoying some popularity a while ago - but as I find popularity and quality don't necessarily have a whole lot to do with each other in the book world I'd not been in any particular hurry to read his work. I believe I've found a new author to explore the works of here!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Time for a sale?

I'm trying out using a coupon code on the Triple Threat Librarian Etsy Store - the code is XMASRUSH and today (17th Dec 2012) and tomorrow (As per Adelaide's timezones) that code will get you 15% off everything in the store. If you're in Australia everything will make it to the post office on Wednesday which is in time to be delivered for Christmas with Australia Post's regular delivery times.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

He wouldn't smile for the camera

The Christmas tree is up! And Christmas shopping is almost finished - there's always that one person who offers a challenge. Thankfully the family Secret Santa means that Christmas Shopping happens on a far lesser scale than it once did.

I'm afraid I have no crafts (unless the eyes count) or book reviews to offer you today. The silly season is being just that and the table I generally craft on is off being polished in time for Christmas. It's been a while coming but it's a beautiful old table and with a bit of TLC it will be just wonderful.

Also, 1500 pageviews might not be a big number, but it's a milestone all the same!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Cards on Etsy

These are just a couple of the cards I've listed on my Etsy store -

I've substantially reduced the prices from those I was charging at the Christmas fair and other placements. If you're in Australia and order by the 18th they will get to you in time - if not some of them would be great for any occasion! I'll be listing some more general-purpose cards after Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2013 Photo Project

On my older personal blog I completed a photographic 365 challenge - which blew out to a bit over 500 before I gave it away. I had lost interest and it had become a chore. For some time I had no interest in taking on another such project.

Recently I've been thinking it'd be nice to have another photographic project - but something a bit more directed and not quite as demanding.

So next year I'm going to take on a new project - but instead of once a day I'll be looking at once a week. I want to compile my own photographic alphabet inspired by urban alphabets and natural alphabets looking at my own surroundings. I want to look for shapes that already exist, not create my own. They might be permanent or temporary arrangements but never deliberately arranged for the purposes of the project.

Although I had been thinking about this for a while I decided while out on a walk this evening. Once I did I started seeing possibilities everywhere - I'm looking forward to this!

I'll start posting on weekends in the new year. This should take me halfway through the year - when I get nearer to the middle of the year I'll work out where to go from there.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review - Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

I want to love steampunk novels. I really do. The style is fabulous and so much fun. But the books I have attempted to read so far have mostly failed to impress. A few I've put down and not found the strength to pick back up. This one was at least quite good, but I've still not found a steampunk book to love here.

I picked this book up in a second hand bookshop in Darwin so I'd have something to read at Yalara and on the Ghan. It was the first line of the blurb that got my attention - I'm a sucker for fantasy books with librarians...

'Evil is most assuredly afoot—and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade . . . and a librarian.'

The dialogue was a lot of fun, there were gadgets aplenty and some very good storytelling in places. The degree of action most certainly did not disappoint. Plenty of the characters were a lot of fun too. It had a lot of fantastic things going for it. And yet I still haven't found that steampunk series to love.

The heroine, Eliza Braun, is possibly the biggest issue. The strong man, brainy woman trope has been taken and gender switched. To me that's not turning a trope on its head. It's becoming almost commonplace. It's a trope in itself. The degree of flamboyant feisty violence in full public view is fun but it just doesn't fly in the Victorian setting, fantasy or no. She'd be quite over the top even in modern settings.

In a related problem, some of the devices feel like twenty-first century technology with gears glued on. Not all - some of the devices were great. But enough that it felt like a problem. Modern solutions to the problems - just with more brass.

Also, an Australian called Bruce who speaks even more Ocker than Crocodile Dundee? From an Australian perspective I found this character jarring. He was at least a well fleshed out character, as were most. I found a couple of other issues, but... too spoilery.

None of these problems were abandon-the-book or throw-against-the-wall bad but they did hold a good book back from being an excellent one. I'm undecided as to whether or not I'll read the next book in the series. With so many books I plan to read I'm not sure I have time to spend on a series that's less than excellent. However, if you're a lover of steampunk books this one is worth a read.

If anyone wants to make steampunk reading suggestions, fire away! It might take me a while to get to them but I might just find that amazing author.