Monday, January 13, 2014

YAck Attack: Etquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

[This was our December 2013 YAck. Shoot us for being late in putting it up. We all have lives.]

Published January 1, 2013
Little, Brown and Company

Add it: Goodreads

From Goodreads:
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.
Donna: Let me preface this by saying I'm just coming off a book that used hyperbole to describe EVERYTHING (that in and of itself is NOT hyperbole because it's TRUE) and I was over it by, at most, halfway through the book but I kept reading so I'm truly overcooked on HYPERBOLE. EE makes me want to kick a puppy. I can't handle MORE FUCKING HYPERBOLE. And in that fluffy language. With those RIDICULOUS names. And the mode lodge of THINGS going on. And their ridiculousness. I'm not even 100 pages in and my eyes scan the pages but I'm not even reading anything anymore. This book is not doing it for me so hard it's like being hit by a bowling ball.

Donna: And for the love of everything that is FUCKING HOLY can authors writing about schools, boarding or otherwise, NOT USE THE SAME FRAMEWORK FOR EVERY BOOK THAT'S WRITTEN EVER? We already have the outcast plucked from obscurity and entered into a super secret spy school (which reminds me of Gallagher Girls but without the obscurity but whatever) who already made a heroic feat because it totally (doesn't) makes sense and all but that just really pissed off the resident mean girl who now hates her guts and OMG OLDER MEAN GIRL WAS JUST DROPPED BACK GRADES TO BE IN THE SAME CLASS AS THE PROTAG ***TENSION*** And let's not forget she's privy to super secret things and she hasn't even been there for an hour. I can't . . . I . . . can't . . .

Nicole: What was the other book that used hyperbole for everything? (I am aware that this is not the point of these comments, but I'm genuinely curious.)

I feel like EE is SUPPOSED to use all the archetypes -- I feel like with all the ridiculousness it's more poking fun at it than actually fully embracing it.

Donna: Lost Covenant. It was a sad moment when I realized that's all that was fueling the plot because next to nothing had happened by the middle of the book (and not much more by the end of it and then it just left all the good stuff hanging out there). I don't get parody at all out of EE. Judging by some of the lower star ratings for the book I may still enjoy Soulless but EE . . . bleh. If this is supposed to be mocking whatever it's supposed to be mocking then it's gone a bit too far. From what I've read of Soulless the balance GC struck between the absurd and the more serious was impeccable and it was more about story and character than 'let's drown in the readers in superfluous old timey words that appear to be cloaking something.' EE is just not hitting the mark and I can't help but think that this should really be more of a middle grade book but YA had the bigger crowd so let's wedge it there. It FEELS more middle grade and had it been marketed as such I'd be far more forgiving of a lot of this but it's supposed to be YA and I think the writing is very confused as to who it's writing for at this point.

Nicole: Ouch, it was Lost Covenant? *looks at book waiting to read, sighs* I don't want one of my favorite fantasy series to be terrible.

And I think I enjoy GC's humour too much to mind how EE handles things. I agree that it could definitely fit more into the MG category if they made Sophronia a little younger.

Donna: It really was sad. I didn't want it to go that way but LC read much like a second book should read. It was an aside story that bridged her gap from Davillon and it was just really fluffed up. On EE, I wouldn't be surprised if Sophie (as that's what I'll call her now) was aged up from an original version. Her attitude and mannerisms and stunted maturity all speak to a younger protag.

Donna: I re-read the blurb for Soulless and I just added the book to my want list. I did own it at one point and I gave it away but the tone of the blurb is perfect. It has that try wit and humor about but it it's not in your face. EE had points against it from the start for being set in a boarding school but it just reminded me so much (plot-wise) of the Gallagher Girls but with petticoats that I can't shake it and it's just so overreaching that I can't help but scoff.

Nicole: Oh, Soulless is absolutely fantastic - totally up your alley, I think. I probably would have liked EE less if I didn't love GC so much - and I've only read one GG book, and not many other boarding school books, so I wasn't too bothered by it.

Angie: I'll throw in a plug for Soulless. Much fun.

Melissa: Thank you, Donna, for more than eloquently putting into words what I found to be HIGHLY ANNOYING about this book. I was prepared to be the only nay-sayer (I hated it so much, I bailed after 50 or so pages), but it's nice to not be the only one.

And, yeah, it's more of an upper middle grade book. But, since Carriger's fans are all adults, they thought they could market it as a teen.

Sya:  Crap. I haven't started it yet. I'm not feeling motivated.

Heidi: I actually made it through the whole thing quite quickly considering I was listening to the audio. I didn't hate it, but I didn't really enjoy it a lot either. Let me preface this comment by pointing out that I have been on a Regency/Victorian lit kick for the past couple of months...I have read or reread 4 Lady Julia Grey books, a Pink Carnation book, a Jane Austen book, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, All Men of Genius, and Cat Valente's Fairyland series, which despite taking place much later is very much written in a Victorian style (I also purchased Soulless on audio which I still hope to listen to soon).

All of this left me utterly unimpressed with EE. I'm just not really sure what she was trying to DO with this book. If she was trying to poke fun at conventions of the time, I feel like she assumes a non-understanding of those very conventions by her readers to begin with. It's like she's trying to take advantage of her young readers. I didn't at all see the point of the ridiculous names. I realize you're trying to have fun but it's not 'fun' to not be taken seriously as a writer (honestly, I doubt this book would have been picked up if it were a debut and not from a well established author). I realize hyperbole is a tool of the time they're writing in, and I actually really enjoy the humor that can be drawn from that, but other books I've read recently just do it so much better. In fact, the one this most closely compares to in my mind is Maryrose Wood's Incorrigible Children series in which the protagonist is actually 15 years old, but the tone works so much better there because she aimed it at the proper (MG) audience.

Donna: Curmudgeons unite!

Nicole: I agree with all of this and still love the book. YOU PEOPLE, MAKING ME OPEN-MINDED AND STUFF.

Laura: I was going to read this one but it wasn't at the library. I'm really glad now that I didn't waste the money. BUT HERE'S WHAT'S the fifty pages that you've managed to choke down....IS THERE A ROLE FOR THE KING?

Next month let's read something that everyone loves...for like Christmas togetherness and all. Maybe something with drug use and murder in it.

Nicole: He could easily be the werewolf that scampers around once a month naked and wears an adorably floppy hat. (Richard is my headcanon Lord Maccon from the Parasol Protectorate series, so really, he's already in this universe.)

Melissa: I ADORE the Incorribles series. It's one of those cases where an intrusive narrator (and hyperbole and just HUMOR) work really well for me. And I agree: she knew her audience and hit the target.

Oh yeah: the names suck. Just thought I'd second Donna on that one.

Angie: I began picturing RA as Lord Maccon the moment I started Soulless. And it was good.

Heidi: YES Melissa about Incorrigibles. The intrusive narrator is so perfect because she recognizes that she's writing to an audience who wouldn't know things about that time period, but infuses language that the reader will relate to. I love it. I was disappointed that it felt like GC wrote to a modern audience without any sort of acknowledgement/explanation of that sort.

Things like with the cross-dressing 9 year old girl. Wouldn't it seem much more remarkable if the readers were made aware of the true dangers involved in such a thing? It comes across as 'oh silly Sephronia never thought of putting on trousers!' rather than daring and potentially hazardous to the girl doing it.

Sya: OK, my copy has arrived at the library and I tried to read a little bit in my break and it's really terrible. Do I have to continue? DO I?

Nicole: Of course not, dumbo. One should NEVER read anything they don't enjoy. (Am I really the only one that found it hilarious? Like I don't think this is meant to be taken seriously at all. Which was JUST what I needed while I was reading it.)
December 9, 2013 at 11:21am · Unlike · 1

Sya: I just found the style annoying and the writing over the top and clunky. I don't think it's my kind of book anyway and I picked it up with super low expectations are reading the comments here.

Donna: I quit this book. I don't have the stomach for it. Literally. It got flushed down the toilet Saturday night.

Steph: I'm out. I have no idea how but the writing manages to come across as both clunky and overly floral at the same time. I was almost half way through and there seems to be very little going on other than farting about in big skirts and bad guys firing garlic mash at an airship (a la poor man's bugsy malone). Very much in agreement that a younger audience may have been more impressed. The most likable character is by far the mechanical dog.


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