Friday, September 30, 2011

[AG:] Books books books... and geeky future plans.

Greetings, programs!

So, here's the thing about us Lady Nerds.... we love to read. We both really really REALLY love to read. The only difference is that I read a little bit faster than AM does. I'm not bragging, it's just true. Well, I tend to read faster than most people. I tend to stockpile a bunch of books and basically wait for the right moment to just devour them all in one sitting. Well, several sittings. One sitting per book. Anyway. Some leftover books from my last frenzy are standouts that require some blog-time. So I'd like to take a few minutes to blurb about some fabulous reads I've hit on in recent months.


1. "Kraken" by China MiĆ©ville.  I picked this up several months back because the cover is sexy. There are two things that will get me to read your book: a great title, and a great cover. A great cover can make up for a so-so title or vice versa, but not always. "Kraken" has a fine title and a sexy cover. And the author is British. Like, hayyyyy. So I nabbed it and devoured it over a few days. It reads like a lovechild between Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" and what I can only assume is H.P. Lovecraft. The London that MiĆ©ville presents is gritty and lush with the mysterious and arcane living among the mundane, who barely notice anything around them. The protagonist is a museum curator whose museum's prize specimen -- a huge dead squid -- gets stolen. That's right: stolen. Impossible you say? NOT IN LONDON, Y'ALL. Billy, the hero, gets sucked into a mysterious underworld of London full of cults which worship the squids as deities (cephalogods if you will) and finds out that there is much more surrounding his specimen than just scientific discoveries. Talkin' about ancient prophecies and shit. And all sorts of magic like all over the place, okay? A phenomenal cast of characters and an addictive narrative, "Kraken" is an excellent specimen of the weird and deliciously wild.

2. "Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel" by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
Somehow -- and I really don't recall how -- I noticed one day a while back that somebody named Tee Morris was following me on Twitter, so I followed him back. I noticed him mentioning someone named Pip a lot, so I followed her too, just for good measure. Figured out pretty quick that they were writers, which I thought, obviously, was cool, since I also write and their chosen genre (steampunk) is also of high interest to me. Luckily, the novel they co-wrote was released in May and I picked it up to see how good it would be. BOY. DID I EVER GET A SHOCK. This book is so brilliantly written (by two people no less! do you know how hard it is to write something with someone else on the same wavelength!?) and so full of humor and cleverness that I could scarcely sit still the whole time I was reading it. I squirmed with delight, I laughed aloud, I smirked, I gasped, I bit my lip in terror or in tension. The protagonists are Agent Eliza D. Braun (New Zealander by birth, explosives enthusiast by habit) and Wellington Thornhill Books, Esq. (archivist, homebody, and actually rather a good chap all around), two individuals in the employ of Her Majesty Queen Victoria's Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, which documents the strange and mysterious throughout the Empire. Braun is paired with Books as punishment for breaking a few rules, and the two of them end up leaving the Archives to track down some unsolved mysteries from Braun's past, much to the chagrin of the Ministry. The cases they crack, however, crack open something even larger -- much larger than either of them bargained for. Did I mention there will be a sequel? It's going to be delicious. Tee and Pip are two of the LOVELIEST people you could ever hope to meet by accident on the internet, and their work with "Phoenix Rising" is awe-inspiring and riotously good fun. (Also, if you check out the Ministry's website, you might notice their ongoing project Tales from the Archives podcasts... and you might notice that yours truly is listed as a Ministry agent and has a little role in one of the podcasts... ahem...)

3. "Geist" and its followup, "Spectyr" by Phillipa Ballantine. So, obviously, after reading and falling in love with the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, I had to check out Pip's other work. It's a series called "Books of the Order" and the first is called "Geist," the second being "Spectyr," and the other two books not yet released. Have I mentioned how much I hate/love being involved with a series while it's still in first production? I am so impatient when it comes to finding out what happens next. But anyway. So. "Geist" to me is more reminiscent of when I played the XBox game "Fable II": it's high(er) fantasy than your regular stuff, but it has a very complex and detailed world of its own, that doesn't quite fall into the usual notions of dragons and knights and all that. The heroine, Sorcha Faris, is a Deacon of the Order, a religious(ish) construct of men and women who pledge themselves to certain arts of magic that are meant to protect the realms from the geists, shades, spectyrs, spirits, and demonic forces that slip into this world from the Otherside, which is basically a land of the dead. There are Active Deacons, like Sorcha, who are all about brute force and combat, using their gauntlets and powerful runes to trap and fight geists, and there are Sensitives like her partner, Merrick Chambers, who in "Geist" replaces Sorcha's husband Kolya when he is injured in a skirmish. Sorcha is used to losing partners due to injury or weakness, but since her marriage has kind of crumbled, she's glad to have an excuse to leave town for a while with her new partner to kick some geist butt; she'd rather fight something than talk about feelings. Throw into the mix one Raed Rossin (Pretender to the throne, pirate captain, and bearer of a curse which transforms him into a giant, terrifying lion-like geistlord) and instead of a vacation, Sorcha's got a serious detour to crazytown. The detail in these books is phenomenal, and just when you think you've got a handle on something, something goes terribly wrong and you're shocked into reading another nine chapters before doing something productive with your life. They're absolutely fantastic reads!

4. "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern. LOOK I KNOW I ALREADY WROTE ABOUT THIS BUT I HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT IT AGAIN BECAUSE I'VE READ IT THREE TIMES NOW AND IT'S STILL FREAKING AMAZING. If you haven't read it, you need to get on dat shit because it's beautiful. Totally and utterly beautiful. I'm totally one of those people where if there's too much hype I'll shy away from it for a while (coughTheHungerGamestrilogycoughcough) but this is one case where I believe the hype was deserved. So deserved. This book is a fine, delicately crafted, spun-sugar dessert of a dream of a story, and I'm totally in love with it. So just deal with it.

5. "Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti" by Genevieve Valentine. So, I read this back in June, way before "The Night Circus" had even started promotional stuff, which makes me wonder if there's a subconscious circus-thing-happening. In any case, "Mechanique" is such a fascinating ride. At first glance, it's a jumble of vignettes about a circus that's made of half-people, half-machines and travels about the outskirts of society, barely making a living. The mysterious goings-on within the circus are beautiful and terrifying, and just when you think the truth of the whole plot will be revealed, a second plot comes into play and throws the balance of the circus completely out of sync -- and lives may be the cost. Disorienting, fascinating, and lovely all at once, "Mechanique" is a chilling, memorable story which breaks boundaries of genre and expectation alike.

So there's five(ish) books for you to check out from yer local library (or Amazon or B&N, etc.) at your leisure. I'm currently reading a few more, which I'll blurb about here by and by. I wanted to also give a heads up that AM and I will be attending the Official Star Trek Convention tomorrow (happy 45th anniversary, Trekkies!) and even though celebrity sightings at cons are old hat to Miss Alex, I'm personally hoping for a chance to throw myself at John De Lancie (squee!).

Other upcoming brouhahas include the fifth annual Whoniverse Photoshoot somewhere in Chicago in October... we were flattered to be invited along for the fun. Current plans include to revive our Nine (AM) and Ten (moi) costumes from Halloween '10, and possibly some other fun... I may or may not have an itchin' to dress up like Idris from Neil Gaiman's episode "The Doctor's Wife" and I know for a fact AM wants to be Donna Noble/Catherine Tate when she grows up.... In November, we have our Big Event of the Year, that is, TeslaCon II in Madison, WI.... we are VERY VERY VERY excited for this and costumes are already being cobbled together. We're also trying to make plans to attend ChicagoTARDIS which is also in November, and which I also *JUST* discovered that ALEX KINGSTON (River Song) is going to frickin' be there..... SO OBVIOUSLY WE ARE GOING.

Anyway. That's all I've got for the moment. See y'all on Twitter!


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