Thursday, December 27, 2012

Victory of Eagles

Victory of Eagles (Temeraire, #5)Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Redemption is out of the question for Temeraire and Laurence on the heels of their treason, and now they are separated - the dragon at a breeding ground, and his disgraced captain on a prison ship. Temeraire is not one to sit and wait quietly: his ideas about dragon rights may help turn the tide when Napoleon comes to invade England (with the help of the crafty white dragon Tien) - if those ideas don't get Laurence executed first.

This book deepens the Temeraire/Laurence relationship; Temeraire begins to throw his considerable weight around while Laurence suffers ostracism, shame, and imprisonment. I love the dragon revolutionary plotline for Temeraire, since for the first time he is forced to test his own intelligence and leadership without Laurence's advice.

Laurence is still hide-bound by his ideals of honor and loyalty, though his actions in Empire of Ivory have frayed his self-image and brought him further from his old Naval self than even joining the Aerial Corps did. He is forced to confront the fact that his only remaining use is to manipulate Temeraire for the benefit of the British government - a job his conscience will not allow him to do.

P.S. How great is Iskierka? I love her bloodthirsty, anarchic nature, which never fails to ruffle Temeraire's frill and brings out his petty side, disrupting his attempts to live up to his noble lineage as a Chinese Celestial (and exposing how young and inexperienced he really is, in spite of his power). She's a great foil, and a fun character.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Throne of Jade

Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2)Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dragon Temeraire and his human captain Laurence find their friendship tested when the Chinese demand the dragon's return to his ancestral land.

Laurence, only just having become comfortable in the Aerial Corps, must face a new challenge to his ideas about duty when he is ordered to return Temeraire to China. As in the first book, he is offered bribes and threats to pry him away from his dragon's side. In China his eyes are opened to the deficiencies of England - where dragons are treated like horses in spite of their intelligence, and feared by the general population - and Laurence begins to wonder if it would be in Temeraire's best interest to accept his fate in China after all.

Temeraire likewise is tempted by the superior status he holds among the Chinese: he is treated as a member of the Imperial family instead of as a soldier. The seductive appeals to his vanity may succeed in driving a wedge between him and his beloved captain.

Novik continues to entertain with her ingenious and detailed world, and this is a worthy sequel that elaborates on themes from the first book. Fans of the warfare aspects of His Majesty's Dragon may be disappointed by the lack of air battles, but I found the cultural clashes equally fascinating.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Possibly the most twisted anti-love story I have ever read. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick's beautiful wife Amy goes missing - and in the weeks that follow it becomes clear that no one is telling the whole truth. I'll leave it at that because it would be a shame to ruin such a terrifying, wickedly sinister book.

If you enjoyed Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series (particularly In the Woods), Gone Girl is the perfect follow-up.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Introducing Temeraire

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, #1)His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When English captain William Laurence captures an egg from a French ship, his duty is clear: he must tame the dragon inside to help fight Napoleon—even if it means leaving behind everything he knows. His choice to become the companion to Temeraire—an extraordinary dragon of a species unknown in England—will call upon all of his loyalty, courage, and experience.

This is an alternate history set in the Napoleonic era, when all of Europe was threatened by French military might. The major details are the same, with one small change—every country has an Air Corps made up of specially bred fighting dragons captained by human riders. Laurence and Temeraire’s unusual friendship is the linchpin of this series and Novik’s brilliantly imagined world.

Anyone who is a fan of Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series will recognize the era depicted here (Laurence owes a lot of his personality to his predecessor, Aubrey), and fans of Anne McCaffrey's Pern books will appreciate Novik's detailed and thoughtful take on human/dragon relationships. (Enjoy Christopher Paolini's Eragon? The Temeraire books are vastly superior.)

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm   Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anyone who suffered through Tess of the D'Urbervilles in lit class will appreciate this parody of doom and gloom farm novels. Flora Poste descends upon her relations, the Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm, and coolly begins setting their backward lives to rights - from the sultry Seth to the traumatized matriarch Aunt Ada Doom, who many years before saw something nasty in the woodshed.

If you enjoyed The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer you will see the parallels between Flora and Sophy, two young women who have an unerring knack for rearranging other's lives with pleasing results. Also, I hope I'm not the only one amused by the parallel sayings of the Starkadders of Cold Comfort and the Starks of Winterfell: because there's always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort!

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Zone One

Zone OneZone One by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mark Spitz was once a perpetual B student who now spends his time sweeping New York office buildings to elimate the living dead.

This book is literary enough to appeal to Whitehead's other readers, and a good enough zombie story to bring in genre readers.

Whitehead pays his respects to the classics while adapting his zombies to suit his own purposes: there are "skels" ("skeletons") which are your ordinary hungry dead, and the poignant "stragglers," a subset of the zombie population that inhabits a state of eerie contemplation, catatonic and harmless.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Georgette Heyer

The Grand SophyThe Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have these four things to say about my new favorite author, Georgette Heyer:

  1. If you love Jane Austen, say yes to Heyer. The Grand Sophy is a good place to start.
  2. Heyer is not an Austen clone. Heyer's books are witty, light-hearted, and romantic, but they reflect a more modern sensibility and writing style. (Also, there are detailed descriptions of great clothes that somehow got left out of Austen.)
  3. Thank you, wonderful heroines! Heyer's heroines are charming, intelligent, and strong-willed. They are not humbled, tamed, or required to be anything other than themselves to find their perfect match, either. Thank goodness!
  4. There are SO MANY Heyer novels! She was a prolific writer, so once you're addicted, you can enjoy them for many years to come.

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