Chimes at Midnight (October Daye #7) by Seanan McGuire, readalong week 3

chimesToday is the third week of a four week readalong of Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire.    How I’m loving this series and it feels as though each book just keeps adding more depth to the world created by McGuire.  Feel free to join us.  A Goodreads page is set up here or simply jump in with the comments.  Also, be aware that spoilers will be lurking below so be careful!

This week Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow is providing the questions so lets get a budge on:

1. “We took titles as a warning. ‘Stay away. Here there be monsters.'”

This week we learn the Luidaeg’s original name, and also that she really does, perhaps, have her sneaky ways of answering some of Toby’s unasked questions – or starting to, anyway. What speculations are you drawing from what we learn in Toby’s blood-vision? Given this teaser, what questions might you ask the Luidaeg if you were in Toby’s shoes.

Personally, if I was in Toby’s shoes I’d be gobbling those frozen blood pills down like they were candy in search of questions – which would probably be very unwise.  I’m getting from these flashbacks, and how ingenious of the Luidaeg by the way to come up with that, that Toby’s mum was very much trying to protect Toby – I don’t know if I’ve picked everything up but clearly Armandine is very powerful and clearly sometimes being so powerful is a risky business – why else would the other firstborn have the titles and ‘stay away. Here there be Monsters’ thing going on.  But, we had a different hint in this section – I think I would be asking just exactly who my father was if I was Toby – we know that one king already tried to hide his family to save them – what if Toby’s father wasn’t human.  Toby could be very powerful and maybe a potential threat to others – maybe in danger.  I don’t know, I’m jumping around all over the place but I’m beginning to wonder if Toby really is a changeling.

2. “I know a lot about being royal.”

Surprise! So the truth about Quentin’s background is out, and I’ve got to know: did you suspect this at all or did it in fact surprise you? Any predictions for the young squire-prince going forward from here?

I was completely surprised.  I’ve been making a lot of surprises about Toby but I really didn’t follow the breadcrumbs with Quentin and I was gobsmacked.  At least I didn’t have a pie in the face!  I really don’t know – will he be required to complete his time as a squire?  I can’t see how that would work really.  It feels like Toby has already started to change towards him and although she has always been a little bit protective I think she will feel differently towards him.  I don’t think it will affect their friendship – just maybe the way she feels about the whole situation or how comfortable she is ordering him around.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Toby changes the way the acts around people depending on their status, I just think that knowing him to be a prince now will just change things.  You can’t ‘unknow’ it can you?  Perhaps Quentin could help Arden to become accustomed to her new role?  I definitely think that he would be a champion for Toby in the future which can’t be a bad thing – he’s seen how she works and how fair she is so…

3. “You protect your family by making the world a better place for them to live. Not by running away.”

Toby’s got some hard truths for Arden, and well she should know about them… Do you think Arden will stand by her choice here? And what do you think of October Daye looking set up to have the ear of the next Queen in the Mists?

Yes, for once I can see that maybe Toby won’t be hated by the Queen in the Mists – of course Arden will be a relatively innocent Queen – in terms of what she doesn’t know, she’s led a very innocent life in terms of the fae after all – I think she will need somebody like Toby, who tells her things the way they really are and doesn’t bow and scrape or curry favour or seek power.  In terms of Toby – having the ear of the Queen probably won’t make a difference – she’s not really seeking power or titles is she?

4. There’s plenty more to chew on in these chapters, but what parts stand out the most for you, and why?

So much in these chapters.  Where to start.  This book is so good.  I pretty much know that things are going to get so much worse before they get better or maybe that’s my pessimism sneaking in.  I want to know more about Quentin for a start.  Tybalt and Toby – very revealing that Toby finally has found her place – no more floundering around for her – she’s chosen where she wants to be and that might come with sadness over what she’s leaving behind but she is ready to move forward.  May – I think she might be getting ready to leave Toby and set up with Jazz but I could be wrong.  She’s always ready to step in and I think she’ll always be there for Toby but the scene where she was leaving with Toby to go to Muir and she was looking back at the house worrying about Jazz, well, I couldn’t help thinking that the two of them are becoming very serious and ready to move on together.  I loved reading about the Cu Sidhe – dog fae!  Especially winding down the window on Danny’s cab – why do dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows – which basically means a blast of cold air in the face – but yet they hate it if you blow in their face!  What is that.  Why?  And the Luidaeg – I can’t help thinking that everything could be improved by her appearance.  So tetchy and grumpy and pushing people around – but underneath it all – yeah, she’s still a grumpy puss, but she has heart.

 

 

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American Elsewhere by R J Bennett

Just finished reading American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett.  I’ve been longing, nay gagging, to read this book for quite some time, partly because I’ve really enjoyed all this author’s other books and also I read a stellar review over at Little Red Reviewer.  What can I say – other than it doesn’t disappoint.

In usual Bennett fashion the book seems to defy any particular genre.  Is it sci-fi?  Yes, in some respects.  Is it horror? Definitely in certain places.  Is it spooky and paranormal? The first half of the book definitely fits into that, well, actually, so does the second half!.  Is it quirky and are there tentacles aplenty…I couldn’t possibly say, or at least if I told you I’d have to kill you – so think on!

Where to begin with this review!   The book opens with a funeral and a will reading.  Mona’s father having passed away has bequeathed upon her his worldly goods.  No real sorrow here as there seems to have been little love lost between the two.  Mona seems to be there for one purpose only – to get her hands upon her late father’s red sports car – that is until she discovers that there’s a house also involved in the will.  A house that appears to have belonged to her mother and is situated in a place called Wink!  An opportunity to maybe finally discover more about the mother she lost at such an early age and in such strange circumstances that the details have been indelibly imprinted upon her mind.

And so Mona sets off to lay claim to her property.  Of course this isn’t as easy as it at first appears.  The town of Wink seems to be unheard of.  It doesn’t show on any maps, nobody can give you meaningful directions, you basically have more chance of happening upon Brigadoon.  Remember that horror movie, I think it was called Children of the Corn (but I could be making that up) where once you’ve driven into the village, no matter which road you take to exit it leads you straight back?  Well, this is the exact opposite.  Wink seems to exist in a bubble. That being said Mona somehow manages to find a way in – making a rather dramatic entrance in her flashy red car as she interrupts a rather sombre funeral that practically all the town seems to be attending.

Wink is a strange place.  Picture postcard perfect and yet goose bump forming with its quiet streets and creepy inhabitants.  You could be forgiven for thinking Mona has entered the land of Stepford and yet this isn’t all about perfect partners in flowery pinafores making preserves.  Things in Wink are not quite as they seem.  The facades are perfect but inside the walls a different story unfolds.  And, people don’t go out at night. There seems to be an unspoken agreement that its best to stay indoors!  In trying to uncover more background about her mother Mona begins to reveal the weirdness that is Wink.  Sometimes out of the corner of her eye things look different than they first seemed and after forming a tentative friendship with a couple of the more eccentric locals cracks begin to appear in the outer veneer.  Is it wise to dig too deeply and has Mona’s arrival in the small town of Wink become the catalyst for a string of events that everyone will come to regret.  Like I’m going to answer that!

The problem with reviewing this book is that it would be so easy to spoil the reveal and I really don’t want to do that so I’m basically not going to elaborate on the plot at all.  On to other points

This is a big book with plenty of detail and information and yet it doesn’t feel slow.  There’s this delicious creepiness that draws you in until you realise that you’ve read what effectively is the first half of the novel and what then turns into the fundamental turning point for the whole story.

In terms of characters.  Lets just say they’re an eclectic bunch – not only the inhabitants of the town (and the outer boundaries of the town) but the owner and employees of a rather sleazy bar called the Roadhouse (situated just out of the town boundaries) – rather a den of iniquity with drugs, fighting, prostitution and a sinister and bizarre partnership between the owner and an unknown man who supplies the drugs that make the place a magnet for certain types.  Of course he doesn’t supply these drugs out of the goodness of his little old heart and the services he requires in exchange are odd at best and nightmare inducing at worst (plus – there’s a particular scene which leads to the discovery of where these drugs actually originate and it’s pretty revolting to say the least – I think it would be enough to make anybody think twice!)

Plus, there are even odder characters that live in the forests on the outskirt of Wink – giant characters that seem to inhabit strange places and one particular character that dwells in a cave filled with tiny rabbit skulls – be very afraid of this particular person!

Then we have Mona – she’s really quite cool.  Got a whole bunch of attitude and I confess a bit of a potty mouth but it fits in with her persona and doesn’t feel gratuitous.  Mona never really settled down and a series of sad events in her past seem to have turned her into a bit of a hard case loner.  She certainly isn’t a shrinking violet and doesn’t need rescuing – she can damn well look after herself thank you very much.  I wouldn’t say I love Mona but she is a good character to read and the whole turning into a ‘green beret’ type kick ass in the forest was great readingl.

In terms of criticism I think the only point I would make is that I didn’t feel any particular attachment for any of the characters.  I didn’t dislike them and I was crazy intrigued to know what was going on but I didn’t have that strange reader/character bond that you sometimes seem to feel for these imaginary people.  That confessed it certainly didn’t stop me from feeling gripped and I wonder if it’s the author’s intention that you feel this way towards the characters – they’re all a little odd after all.

The setting is really very well portrayed and the town easy to envisage.  Shrouded in mystery – why is this town here, how come nobody ever leaves.  What strangeness exists in the woods and who is the guy with the long rabbit like ears (or could they be horns)!

On top of this – there’s this whole scene where one of the more unusual characters uses a scene from a Gene Kelly film – I loved that scene.  Sorry, I know it’s a bit of a teaser to write this in this way but there’s nothing else for it!

Plus – who’d have thought sibling rivalry could be so drastic.

Anyway, that’s all I’m going to not say about it!  Consider yourself teased and go check it out for yourselves.  If you want to read about a mysteriously creepy little town and the whys and wherefores of the strange inhabitants who live there then pick up American Elsewhere.

Other novels by RJ Bennett – all really good: The Troupe/Mr Shivers/The Company Man.

The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov

Posted On 14 January 2012

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Just finished reading the Positronic Man.  I’m currently reading the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov as part of a read-along hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings and I’m really enjoying the experience, plus I’ve finished the first book in the series and enjoyed it much more than I expected to.  Positronic Man however is a different thing altogether – I loved this book, a lot.  I’m not trying to say that I’m now hooked to sci-fi because I’ve not really read enough to be convinced but this is a brilliant story, really thought provoking and extremely touching.

Positronic Man tells the story of a robot, serial number NNDR 113.  This is a series of robots that are being tested for roll out across the planet and Gerald Martin, a highly respected and influential member of the Legislature has undertaken to take one (along with varous other robots) by way of experiment to see how they cope and try to overcome the negativity that most people bear towards robots.  At the start we are given a brief history, the year is 2007 – and you just basically have to imagine it’s further into the future, the human population is in decline due to smaller sized families and the fact that some people are moving out to live on the moon.  Due to the dwindling population it has been necessary to introduce more robots in order to carry out everyday tasks but in spite of the need people are still cautious and suspicious.

So, Gerald Martin brings home his NDR and introduces him into the family where the youngest member of the family (little miss) names him Andrew and from there onwards we see Andrew become increasingly important to the family.

To be honest, it’s difficult to go into too much detail without giving away much of the plot.  Basically as you read along you watch Andrew change, very slowly, at first just in small awarenesses – things that have changed in himself such as feelings which he believes he experiences even though you would think this impossible for a robot.  And, slowly but surely, these small changes lead to other feelings.  You watch as he undergoes personal struggles to become free and then later to bring about legislation to protect himself.  He also undergoes massive changes to himself physically to the point where he looks human.  You can’t help reading along and wondering why?  Why is Andrew doing all these things.  Basically he wants acceptance.  He’s lived in a family and been accepted by them.  He’s worked and gained both fame and fortune.  He has a brilliant mind and has helped humanity – but he isn’t human.

I liked the way that Andrew succeeded in making changes almost in time with each new generation of the Martin family – who would always rally to his side and support him without reservation.  Progress is slow though – it’s like each new generation can only accept so much change at any one given time before they become weary of Andrew’s pursuit of his goal.  Yet, the Martin’s do really care about Andrew – in fact they love him and have accepted him as a member of his family. They fight for his causes, even if they don’t agree with them – because they allow him to chose his own path.  They visit him and make him a part of their new families and they try to protect him against outside prejudices.

You can’t help liking Andrew, although there was a point where I wondered whether his changes might make him too human.  He developed a short temper and the ability to manipulate and lie!  But I still liked him – it was just as though the longer he lived he adapted and took on the ability to become cynical – he even became bored.

It’s odd as well in that Andrew’s story is almost told in isolation – you have a few people surrounding him at any given time but that’s about the limit and the setting is similarly small scale and relatively normal – there are no dramatic sweeping descriptions of how the world has changed.  You know it’s changed.  Firstly there are robots, secondly people are living on the moon and space travel is commonplace and thirdly Asimov does introduce a few snippets here and there such as travel, dress sense, etc. But I think the  fact that there isn’t too much detail is better because it allows you to focus on Andrew’s story.  Asimov does go into quite a bit of detail about Andrew and his ‘workings’ but it’s not overwhelmingly ‘techy’ and easy to understand.

Anyway, I’m not going to go too much farther.  I really enjoyed it and was totally immersed in Andrew’s world.  On top of that there are all sort of thought provoking ideas not to mention quite a lot of ideas that I think have contributed to other books and on top of that a really good and emotional ending.

This is a great book.  I really can’t recommend it enough.

Rating A+