Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Posted by Simcha 7:05 PM, under | 6 comments

Alexia Tarabotti is a 26 year old spinster with a featherbrained mother, a dead Italian father and no soul. When Alexia finds herself attending yet another tiresome ball, she retires to the library to enjoy some refreshments, only to be rudely attacked by a vampire. Luckily for Alexia, her lack of soul neutralizes the vampire, vanishing his fangs and giving her the opportunity to eliminate her foe with a wooden hatpin.

Unfortunately, the perennially disapproving Lord Maccon arrives on the scene ( he’s never forgiven her for the hedgehog incident), and Alexia has some explaining to do. Who was the poorly behaved and badly dressed vampire? Where did he come from and what caused him to attack Alexia? And it’s not only the werewolves who need some answers, because the vampire queen soon requests an audience from Alexia as well.

As Alexia attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding her attack at the ball, she repeatedly finds herself coming head-to-head with Lord Maccon, not an entirely unpleasant experience. And the Earl suddenly can’t seem to stop himself from thinking about the irritating and headstrong Ms. Tarabotti, who always seems to be in the center of every commotion. It doesn’t help that Lord Maccon’s protective instincts have been particularly strong lately as it becomes apparent that someone is trying to kidnap Alexi, but Alexi herself refuses to be protected.

I had recently decided that I've had enough of vampire and werewolf themed books, most of which seem to just recycle the same ideas as every other previously published book in the genre. I didn’t have much expectations for Soulless and ended up pleasantly surprised with how much I actually enjoyed this book.

To begin with, the book takes place in Victorian London and is told in a style similar to that of a historical romance, which immediately grabbed my interest (historical romances are my secret and guilty pleasure). And then the ideas that Carriger introduces, of the soul and it’s influence on ones ability to become paranormal, are unique and intriguing. As someone who does not possess a soul, Alexia is able to neutralize any paranormal creature, turning them into a regular human for the amount of time that she in physical contact with them. I thought this was a really interesting concept.

In addition, Carriger assumes that had vampires been in existence in Victorian times, then the technology would have been much more advanced. And so Soulless includes inventions such as steam powered airships and floating carriages, lending the book some exotic steampunk flavor.

There were also some really wonderful characters here. I loved Alexia; a strong and intelligent woman who is not afraid of being herself, which is often reflected by her opinionated ideas, healthy appetite and bravery in defending herself against adversaries with her trusty parasol. Alexia’s friend Ivy is another great character, with her penchant for wearing ridiculous hats and her understanding with Alexi to agree to disagree. Their humorous banter was particularly enjoyable.

    “Ivy, my dear,” said Miss Tarabotti as her friend bustled up, “how marvelous of you to find time to walk at such short notice! What a hideous bonnet. I do hope you did not pay too much for it.”

    “Alexia! How perfectly horrid of you to criticize my hat. Why should I not be able to walk this morning? You know I never have anything better to do on Thursdays. Thursdays are so tiresome, don't you find?” replied Miss Hisselpenny."

Unfortunately I thought that Lord Maccon’s character seemed a little flat and generic, lacking the depth and originality of the other characters. I was also a little confused as to what exactly the soul is, in Soulless. Is the soul just a measure of a person’s ability to become immortal or is it more similar to a soul, as we understand it? For someone without a soul, an ailment that sounds rather shocking, Alexia appeared to be no different then other humans, aside from her unusual boldness. This lack of a clear explanation bothered me.

And one final criticism that I had is that some of the more “adult” scenes between Alexia and Lord Maccon seemed to take place at strangely inappropriate times which made them rather unbelievable. I can’t say more without giving away too much of the plot but while reading one such scene I was thinking to myself in irritation “come on, is that really what you are thinking about at a time like this?”

Otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed Soulless as a delightful, lighthearted read and I highly recommend it to readers of both fantasy and romance who are looking for some bookish fun.

For some Soulless fun, visit Gail Carriger's website where she talks about her books and about different aspects of steampunk, of which she seems to have a particular interest.

And at the publisher's website for Soulless you can dress up a Victorian doll in period clothing, which is actually quite challenging. It's amazine how many layers they had to wear back then.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ever wonder if a Wookie is kosher?

Posted by Simcha 5:01 PM, under | 3 comments

I just received The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, and I'm having a lot of fun going through it. I had seen this book mentioned on SF Signal and I was immediately intrigued, since I myself keep kosher. So I wrote to the publisher, Tachyon Publications, to request a copy for review. I never heard back from them and so it was a delightful surprise to find the book in the mailbox today (don't you love when that happens?).

So far I have only perused the book but I've already learned that Pollo Maligno, the evil cannibalistic chicken of Columbia origins, would be considered kosher, though a lot of fruit and wine should
be added while braising, to mask the taste of evil (evil, according to Duff Goldman, tastes kind of like the skin inside a walnut shell). See recipe below:

There is also a delicious looking recipe for Grilled Mongolian Death Worm Mali, though unfortunately this creature has been deemed not kosher (sadly, the best ones never are). But Wookies apparently are kosher, and if you can find one, they make a good stew that goes nicely with a sharp Cabernet.

Hmm..all this talk of cooking is making me hungry.

If you would like me to check up on the kosher status of any particular imaginary animal, I would be happy to do so. And I can also pass along any cooking tips that might be included.
And I'll be providing a full review of The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals once I complete the book

It's Tuesday...Where Are You

Posted by Simcha 4:36 PM, under | 2 comments

It's Tuesday...Where are You?
Hosted by An Adventure in Reading

I'm in Spain, in 1954, and searching with Daniel for the story behind the mysterious author of the book The Shadow of the Wind. Daniel had discovered
The Shadow of the Wind when he was just 11, and ever since, he has been curious about the book's author, Julian Carax. But Daniel's interest in the book and it's author has drawn the attention of a frightening, faceless stranger who for some unknown reason is hunting down every book written by Carax, in order to burn them.

Daniel has just met with a childhood friend of Carax's and made some surprising discoveries. He is also trying to figure out what to do about his growing attraction to his best friend's sister, a scenario that seems strangely similar to that of Julian Carax's, and which might have led to the disappearance of the girl Carax once loved.

I'm reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Monthly Book Giveaway

Posted by Simcha 4:16 PM, under | No comments

Enter to win the book of your choice from our online bookstore, by recommending a book that you have enjoyed.

Just fill in this form with the title and author of the book, and a comment about why you enjoyed it, and you will be entered into the drawing. With each recommendation you provide, you will receive one entry. At the end of each month we will randomly select one winner who can choose for themselves any one book from the bookstore.

Visit our Reader's Recommendations page to see what books other visitors have recommended

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Contest Winners Announced

Posted by Simcha 1:18 PM, under | 3 comments

Congratulations to the winners of my recent book giveaway:

Bryce Lee
Ramona Lazar
Esther Shchory

All of the winners of have been contacted by email and your books are on the way.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest. I really enjoyed seeing the different books that you all would have chosen, had you won. It was an interesting mix of new releases and some older classics. I also loved hearing from all you scifi and fantasy fans in Israel.

And if you didn't win this time, don't give up. I will soon be having another book giveaway, so keep an eye on my blog for upcoming details.


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