The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 14+ hours
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The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, narrated by Simon Vance, was our November book club selection and is a steampunk alternate history set in 1855 in England.  Vance is a wonderful narrator as always, so there were no issues in that regard.  The novel seeks to explore the political and societal implications of when Charles Babbage succeeds in building an analytical computer, the Difference Engine, creating a barely recognizable world in which technological advancements are ubiquitous and enabling Britain to become more powerful and the United States to become more fragmented than unified.  However, as the water and the air become more polluted, the wealthy are able to flee outside of London, while the laborers are stuck in the city with the soot and pollution.  The anger this engenders, causes the laborers to become revolutionaries, rising up and calling for anarchy.

Intelligence agencies, difference engines (computers) and secrecy abound in this topsy-turvy world, but on audio, some of the intricacies are lost.  A lot of the narration is spent on describing clothes, surroundings, some of the machines, and mundane actions, like opening containers and whether people are wearing gloves.

Among the minutiae, a mystery about computer punch cards emerges, and everyone seems to want them.  Paleontologist Mallory is the only interesting character, but his segment in the plot ends and the final third of the novel plods along once again.  At least he lasted longer than the other interesting character, Sybil Gerard.  While some believe the cards can be used to place bets and win big, it is clear that’s a red herring.  The tug-of-war between the luddites and the ruling class that espouses the benefits of technology and advancement is often lost in the narration, which takes on several iterations — the only clue that the narrator is an outside observer.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, narrated by Simon Vance, is convoluted  and mysterious to its own detriment.  Overall, while readers may enjoy Vance as a narrator, this book might get a better reception in print.  However, this particular novel also has a number of confusing plot lines that intersect haphazardly, almost as if the writers were trying to confuse the reader.  Unfortunately, at some point readers may give up caring about uncovering it.  This is an overly stylized novel aimed at a sliver of readers, with a very masculine tone and vaunted scientific jargon and theories.

What the Book Club Thought:

We all agreed that the plot didn’t take up much of the book, and that the mystery reveal at the end was kind of a let down, especially given all that had happened to obtain the punch cards.  Some of the characters were disliked, the choice of a paleontologist was an odd one for some, and a few of us skimmed or did not finish the book.  Those of us who did finish the book thought that it had been more of a world-building exercise.  Moreover, some of the things that happened in the background are things that some of us would have rather had in the main parts of the story.  Overall, none of us really cared for any of the characters too much and thought that the book was wordy at best.

About the Authors:

William Ford Gibson is an American-Canadian speculative fiction novelist and essayist who has been called the “noir prophet” of the cyberpunk subgenre.

Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author who is best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology. This work helped to define the cyberpunk genre.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is a dark tale of supernatural forces, love, sacrifice, and transformation.  Blue Sargent cannot “see” like her mother and aunts can, but she can help them in their work.  She’s lived a cloistered life under the dark cloud of a premonition that her kiss would lead to the death of her true love, whom she has yet to meet.  The Raven Boys are considered the bad boys of the town, and Blue is expected to steer clear of them, but with all things forbidden, destiny cannot be avoided.

Gansey, Noah, Adam, and Ronan have been thrust together by a mission, but this mission has long-term consequences for them all, and Blue and her family.  Blue struggles to understand these boys and their role in the supernatural happenings that have happened in their town.  Her presence among the boys increases the tension between them, as Gansey represents privelege — a privilege that Adam resents.  Ronan is the wild card who never follows rules, and Noah is the sounding board, the quiet observer, whose secret is only going to break them emotionally.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is thrilling opening book to this series.  While readers are introduced to a surreal and strange world, it quickly becomes addictive.  The Raven Boys are mostly sympathetic, but they also have dark edges, and Blue is likely in for a long ride with them — one that will be dangerous.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.  All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-la

Mailbox Monday #350

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Knights of the Third Millennium by Allan A. Arel, which I received from my aunt and it is written by her cousin.

The six knights serve a secret order of the Catholic Church know as the Knights of the Third Millennium. They work in secret because the world for the most part is completely unaware of the evil that roams the night. Evil such as vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches and demons of various kind. They spend their nights hunting evil, and their days when not sleeping are spent in the company of each other and whatever local prostitutes happen to be around. They drink, party, gamble, and continuously pick on each other, which makes them like most of us, very human; or sinners if you will. These men will go to their deaths to rid evil of this world, so to them having a good time is usually a bit more extreme then most people live, but at the same time understandable. After all if you might die tomorrow wouldn’t you want to have as much pleasure as you possibly could tonight? While after a werewolf the knights find themselves smack dab in the middle of a town designated to be the place where hell comes to earth. Now they aren’t just chasing a werewolf but they’re having to deal with all kinds of evil creatures as well as an ancient evil sorcerer. They get help from a most unlikely wizard, who has the power of God working through him all coming to a climatic and surprising end.

The Runaway Santa: A Christmas Adventure Story by Anne Margaret Lewis, illustrated by Aaron Zenz for review from Sky Pony Press.

Once there was a jolly Santa who wanted to leave the North Pole on a worldwide vacation! He decides he wants to visit Mount Rushmore and see the stone faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Then he’ll ski the silky slopes of the Swiss Alps. And after that, he’ll ride an elephant in South Africa on a safari. Santa is eager for a new adventure, but Mrs. Claus isn’t so sure he’s ready just yet. Before he takes off, she’s going to make sure he’s got his rock climbing gear. And his skis, and his hat. He must be ready!

It isn’t long before Santa realizes that maybe his adventure would be more fun with a friend. Mrs. Claus is clearly an expert adventurer herself, and so the two take off together on a runaway adventure. They have a little time before Christmas, after all, and everybody needs a break sometimes!

The Night Before Christmas: A Brick Story by Clement C Moore, illustrated by Amanda Brack for review from Sky Pony Press.

Spread the Christmas cheer with this whimsical retelling of Clement C. Moore’s cherished poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” This new edition of the classic features the text of Moore’s original poem, illustrated with beautifully detailed LEGO brick scenes and characters.

See the colorful stockings hung by the chimney in the fanciful brick house, and look on at the visions of dancing brick sugarplums. Turn the pages to reveal Saint Nicholas with his bundle of toys and his eight trusty reindeer, and watch as he magically slides down the chimney to bring presents to the good little girls and boys before shouting, “Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!” This treasured Christmas poem in brick will quickly become the highlight of your holiday storybooks and a great new tradition for the whole family!

Tough Cookie by Kate Louise, illustrated by Grace Sandford for review from Sky Pony Press.

When this gingerbread man was baked, someone forgot to put in the ginger. He’s made of eggs and cinnamon and flour and butter and sugar, but he’s missing a key ingredient! Without ginger, the gingerbread man feels like he’s not really a gingerbread man at all! He can’t be sold in the bakery, so he lives at the back of the store. And there he causes all kinds of trouble.

The Five-Minute Brain Workout for Kids: 365 Amazing Fabulous and Fun Word Puzzles by Kim Chamberlain, illustrated by Jon Chamberlain for review from Sky Pony Press.

Our brains are an amazing organ! And just like our bodies, our brain functions best when it’s put to work. So get ready to give your brain a full workout each day with The Five-Minute Brain Workout for Kids! Inside, you’ll find 365 word puzzles and games to keep your mind active and in great shape! Have fun with your family and friends as you learn about acronyms, anagrams, definitions, parts of speech, rhyming words, syllables, word structure, and more with these fun puzzles. From Alphabet Teasers and Mini Word Sudoku puzzles, to Speed Words and Word Store games, even doing one puzzle a day will help you to learn new words, spell better, problem solve with ease, and have better concentration.

What did you receive?

332nd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 332nd Virtual Poetry Circle! Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful. Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her […]

Happy Birthday, Cupcake! by Terry Border

Source: I’d Rather Be at the Beach Hardcover, 32 pgs. I am an Amazon Affiliate Happy Birthday, Cupcake! by Terry Border, which is for ages 5-8 and which my daughter received from Vicki, is a cute little picture book.  Kids have cupcakes for their own birthday parties, but what kind of birthday party would a […]

Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North

Source: Meryton Press ebook, 300 pgs. I am an Amazon Affiliate Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North, set in post-WWII America, touches upon the Deep South’s continued segregation, and the desire to maintain the old ways where women are concerned even though they stepped up in may cases to fill men’s jobs when they were away […]

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Source: TLC Book Tours Paperback, 368 pgs. I am an Amazon Affiliate Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman is a fanciful collection of short stories in a variety of forms, including those that use letters, poetry, and stories within stories. In the introduction, Gaiman explains what he means by trigger warnings and […]

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library Audiobook, 9 CDs I am an Amazon Affiliate Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Jenna Lamia and David Ledoux, is the second book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  Grace and Sam have courted disaster in the previous volume and have been reunited here, but Isabelle continues to seek out danger — […]