Contented Reader

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The Parasol Protectorate

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Gail Carriger

Orbit Books

I know that it seems like teaching middle school for a large, urban school district is a utopian dream job, and that people like me would never get stressed or anxious or overwhelmed.  And yes, it is usually exactly the sort of fantasy that you might see on… wait.  Does anyone ever make movies about my job?  It’s always high schools that are the subject of inspiring movies.  Middle school children are not glamorous.  Or edgy.  Or, to be honest, photogenic.  Poor little awkward souls.

So every once in a while- not often, mind you, not more than once or twice or at most three times in a really bad year- I allow myself to take a sick day even though (please don’t be too shocked) I am not really sick at all.  No, not even a little bit.

I took one such day, a little while ago.  I woke up with waves of despair washing over me, and decided that I would rather go see Wreck-it Ralph and eat a hot dog and have a nice, gratuitously long wander through the Barnes and Noble than go to work.

There, you’re shocked, aren’t you?  I knew you would be.  No other teacher has ever done such a thing.  I’m probably a terrible person, and the fact that I feel no guilt whatsoever just lends credence to the assumption that I have no moral sense at all and am probably a psychopath.

I was a little short of funds, but still I had the idea in mind that I just might splurge my last $40 on the new two-book collection of Ursula LeGuin short fiction that just came out.  Because I’ll read just about anything Small Beer puts in front of me.  I trust Gavin Grant more than I trust my own father.

On my meander through the bookstore, however, I came upon a box set of the Parasol Protectorate novels, and bought that instead.  Call it a mad, random whim.  I’m allowed to have mad, random whims, even if I am an occasionally less than fully gruntled public school teacher.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly reading and enjoying these five paperbacks.  I had a lot of fun reading them, too.  My favorite thing, I think, is that the author seems to have had just as much fun writing them.  There’s a lot of joy in these books. They’re funny.  Not quite the Jane Austen level of wit promised by the covers, but then, there’s a lot more naked werewolves than I’ve ever noticed in Austen, so it’s fine.  They’re plenty funny enough for me.

I can’t help feeling like Carriger made a big long list of everything she loves, and then put it all into this series.  Which for a less skilled writer would make for a deeply irritating book, and I speak as a woman who has often been irritated by urban fantasy novels.

  • werewolves
  • vampires
  • mummies
  • sex
  • tea
  • pesto
  • queen victoria
  • dirigibles
  • gay best friend
  • whimsy
  • absurd hats
  • a nefarious secret society
  • the sign of the octopus
  • the importance of good accessories

  • mechanical zombie porcupines?  sure, why the hell not?  put ’em in!

It all makes for a really good time, especially because the humor is funny, the sex is sexy, and the suspense is suspenseful.  I ordered the LeGuin books with my next paycheck, and they’re presumably winging their way toward me even as I blog, but in the meantime, I think I was in need of a nice uncomplicated good time, and for that, I made totally the right choice.

Maybe the next time I need a day off, I’ll just make a pot of tea, wrap myself in a warm blanket, and re-read several of these.



Written by Contented Reader

December 18, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Posted in Reviews


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