Changeless (#2) by Gail Carriger

Published: 1st April 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orbit
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

  The delightful Alexia is back, now married and now in charge of an entire wolf pack. I was glad to see Carriger hasn’t lost any of her charm and wit in her writing as this story is just as fabulous as the first.

The relationship between Alexia and Connall moves past the frustrated acquaintances and into frustrated newlyweds which feels natural and fitting. I love how both Alexia and Connall can love each other but be infuriated by one another, more so Connall than Alexia, though now that she is living with the pack there are a few more things to frustrate her. This story also brings to light some more of Carriger’s werewolf mythology and we see more intricately how the pack operates. We are introduced to new names and faces but the familiar faces remain and the pack becomes an extension of the main characters.

I loved the mystery Carriger has presented because it’s a fascinating exploration of how this society operates and how much the supernatural citizens contribute and rely on the existing structures. The mystery is only one of many things revealed and unravelled in this book. We gain a better understanding of Alexia’s preternatural abilities and a better look at Lord Maccon’s own supernatural and family history. I liked the pace Carriger has taken for this story because it is a decent time frame and also one that is chaotic, dangerous and filled with the wit and humour, not to mention the incredible inventions and contraptions, I’ve come to love and expect from her. One thing she does well is have multiple plots running that raise their head at various times as the need occurs. It also plays into the natural feeling of the story and the realism, if one can call it that, of this world. It is believable and the pacing and events reflect that.

There is an excellent hook at the end which raises all the questions and sparks a lot of intrigue, Carriger knows how to get you leaping into the next book. Even though I fell deeply in love with this series from the start, the more I learn and is uncovered as I read the more I adore it. I am fascinated by Carriger’s creativity, but more so I love how complicated yet simple and well-functioning this society is. This alternate reality, steam punk world sounds marvellous and it is a joy to read about a new interpretation of the werewolves/vampire myth as well as a new history of our own time.

You can purchase Changless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Soulless (#1) by Gail Carriger

Published: 1st October 2009(print)/26 September 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orbit/Hachette Audio
Pages: 357/10 hrs and 48 mins
Narrator: Emily Gray
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
★   ★   ★    ★  ★ – 5 Stars

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?

I have so much love for this book, this world, this series, and Alexia herself. The story introduces us to preternatural woman Alexia Tarabotti. She has no soul which is information she can’t really share with anyone and when she touches someone who is of a supernatural persuasion she cancels out their abilities. This comes in handy when you live in a society with vampires and werewolves. I love her. She is sarcastic, she is polite and proper to the point of hilarity, and being soulless she certainly brings a lot of fun and frustration to those around her.

Soulless is our first introduction to Alexia and it is a fantastic introduction. It is also a brilliant way to introduce us to this Victorian world where vampires and werewolves exist in everyday society and are just as respectable as the next person. Please, please, please I beg you do not let the fact that there are vampires and werewolves in this deter you. It is not your Twilight, Anne Rice, or Vampire Academy vampires, or really any other vampire you’d be thinking of I promise you. This book and series has been described as a cross between Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse and I wholeheartedly agree. It is a steampunk, Victorian era, alternate reality where everything is the same, Victoria is Queen but instead there are werewolves and vampires which have been assimilated into society. There are rules, societal etiquette to consider, and they are highly civilised and these supernatural creatures are accepted into society no problem and society has evolved around them to accommodate.

The tone of the blurb is a great indication of the tone of the book. One thing I adored was Carriger’s use of language. It’s not so fanciful that it is hard to understand but her use of language is elegant, with wonderful humour without making it seem silly. There are dirigibles and glassicals and all many wonderful Victorian era inventions, phrases, customs, but there is a fantastic steampunk/paranormal/mystery part as well. This is the ideal way to introduce the world and society protocols because things have gone slightly haywire and in trying to work out the mystery behind it, you get told the history and standards of the modern world these characters live in.

The pure joy of this is not even these supernatural creatures, it is Carriger’s storytelling ability and her way with words and dialogue. There is mystery and danger and Alexia’s prowess at weaving through the chaos in her upper class manner is wonderful. The issue of societal rules and manners are half the fun as even as these dangerous and dastardly things happen social niceties must be observed. The absolute best way to experience this I my opinion is as an audio. I adored how Gray annunciates and it is quite fantastic to hear all the fancy words and the accents and inflections she uses are divine. If audios aren’t your thing though, the book is fantastic on its own because the story is captivating and the language and the dialogue Carriger uses only enhances this great narrative which is as delightful and hilarious as high society is allowed to be.

You can purchase Soulless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Emmie and the Tudor King (#1) by Natalie Murray

Published: 11th June 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Literary Crush Publishing
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult Historical
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

One moment, Emmie is writing her high school history paper; the next, she’s sitting with a gorgeous 16th century king who vacillates from kissing her to ordering her execution.

Able to travel back to her own time, but intensely drawn to King Nick and the mysterious death of his sister, Emmie finds herself solving the murder of a young princess and unravelling court secrets while trying to keep her head on her shoulders, literally.

With everything to lose, Emmie finds herself facing her biggest battle of all: How to cheat the path of history and keep her irresistible king, or lose him—and her heart—forever.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

The premise of an alternative Tudor history drew me straight into this book. What if Queen Elizabeth 1 had children, and what if one of those became King? This is the story Murray has so skilfully created.

Filled with suspense and danger, the unpredictability of a King’s temper and a lawless world, there is a lot to grab your interest. The risks Emmie takes in befriending the King and his court is paramount, but seeing these names and faces as real people and not just words in a history book have emotional effects.

Emmie isn’t presented as a history fanatic who knew every person and event that she encounters, a choice which I appreciated. The common knowledge exists of these figures but there is also the 21st Century advantage of the internet which plays a role in learning more of these characters.

The secrets and surprises revealed in this are amazing and your brain works overtime trying to solve not only the main mystery, but all the other little mysteries as well. I loved that it’s a story nestled in the real Tudor history but is still a story so new and unique on its own. One book in and I am already curious to find out the ongoing effects of this insertion into history, about the future lines and events affected as a result.

It was interesting because while history and the future shouldn’t be changed because what has happened has happened, with this being an alternate history already I almost rooted for history and the future to change because it felt like it didn’t matter as much.

The dark side of historical amusements means there’s such things as bear baiting, cock fights, and public executions that happen with this story, but there is a romantic approach to the era as well which Murray brings out. Something which is no small feat given it’s a bit hard to fathom with the lack of hygiene and proper medicine, foul streets and other Tudor issues. But this is also a world being viewed through the eyes of the court and not the common citizen.

Murray captures the Tudor 16th century clothing and lifestyle without it becoming heavy with content. I understood the mood and the dangers without Murray needing to flood it with references, and the language balances between modern and Tudor. While you can argue Emmie words and language may see her as more out of place and strange, Murray works with this well and Emmie does well to manage, 16th century English not completely foreign to our own language. Though I did feel like Murray lessens the old English a bit as the story goes on.

I am excited to dive into book two because Murray leaves us with an exciting conclusion and after all the excitement that has come before I am keen to return to both these worlds and see where Murray’s imagination will take us next.

You can purchase Emmie and the Tudor King via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Little Puggle’s Song by Vikki Conley

Published: 1st September 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
New Frontier Press
Illustrator: Helene Magisson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Puggle the echidna has just one wish: to sing. But every time he tries to make a sound, nothing comes out.

Can Puggle find his voice in time to join the bush choir?

This is a beautiful story and it is the perfect length that it makes you emotionally invested in this event and magical story. Puggle desperately wants to sing in the bush choir but as Puggle is well aware, echidnas have no song.

Conley introduces us to a host of wonderful native birds and wildlife, a great selection other than the standard Australian animals that are depicted in these types of books. There are Willy Wagtails, Cassowaries, and Blue Wrens, but there are also the iconic kangaroos, cockatoos, and koalas.

Through the story you learn about the different noises and sounds the animals make but Conley keeps it within the narrative. It never becomes comical or mean, the animals are honest and sympathetic about Puggle having no sound but there isn’t much they can do about it. I love Conley’s gentle approach that is filled with heart and is the perfect balance between engaging, sweet, and educational.

Magisson’s illustrations are incredible and so sweet. I love her realistic depictions of the Australian animals but there is also a magical element as well. The colours are bright and detailed, showing off the variety of animals and bushland surroundings. Some pages were filled with gorgeous colours and beautiful scenes, the small details are delightful as well with other animal expressions just some of the evidence where Maggison has gone that little extra mile.

Another thing I loved is that Conley doesn’t change who Puggle is, he is still able to wish and hope and Conley ends it on a beautiful note which is a nice surprise to the reader. I truly loved this book and both times I have read it I became emotional and swept up in this dear little echidna’s story. A true gem of a book that everyone should read.

You can purchase Little Puggle’s Song via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: After the First Death by Robert Cormier

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 3 December 1998Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

On the outskirts of a small American town, a bus-load of young children is being held hostage. The hijackers are a cold and ruthless group, opposed to the secret government agency Inner Delta.

At the centre of the battle are three teenagers. Miro is the terrorist with no past and no emotions. Kate is the bus driver, caught up in the nightmare, and Ben is the General’s son who must act as a go-between. 

Death may be the only escape.

I found this book in our school library when I was 13 or 14 years old so it would have been 2002 or 2003. I was amazed that this kind of thing could be written in a book. I loved the characters and their story and how they got there. Cormier brought them to life so easily, you understood who they were with only a few words.

I also loved how Cormier didn’t shy away from anything but at the same wrote without being too detailed about what was going on. It was a perfect balance of a sensitive topic alongside very restrained graphic content. I don’t know whether my views have changed after all these years, I may have to reread it and see if it was as simple as all that but it would be a welcome read.

I remember recommending this book to everyone at the time and it was something that stuck with me for years afterwards. There are key scenes which have never left me and it is an amazing story about courage and fear and things you can’t change no matter what. There were no apologies of what was being written and it was realistic but also suitably held back for the intended audience.

What was interesting too was the points of view offered. Not often do we see the inner workings of those who terrorise and have control in these nasty situations, even more so to get their backstories of how and why they do the horrible things they do, but Cormier does, and he does it well. You don’t get sympathetic exactly but it does open your mind. You also get the perspective of those in those situations, as well as those seemingly powerless on the outside. It was a fascinating triangle of seeing the same event from different viewpoints.

It is not for everyone, as I said very touchy topic matter and it isn’t the most innocent story around the children involved, but it still a fantastic read and one that stays with you.

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