Book Review: Romancing the Inventor, Gail Carriger

Posted November 1, 2016 By Abigail Goben

This book was reviewed from an Advanced Reading Copy that I received. This review will have spoilers.


Carriger returns with another one of her romantic short stories, taking readers familiar with and new to her world on a side path and finding a happy ending along the way.

Romancing the Inventor is set later in the Parasol Protectorate series and brings a love story for the complicated Madame Lefoux, the French inventor. Though not the first lesbian romance to which Carriger has introduced, this is the first time it has been the focus of the story.

The tale is from the perspective of Imogene, a country maid who takes a job at the hive both for much needed wages as well as a goal of perhaps finding others who like herself share a same sex interest. Carriger does carefully frames the challenges a village woman with little power in the Victorian era might have had in finding a lover of her own preference.

Once at the hive, Imogene comes across Genevieve Lefoux and over a number of months their flirtations grow to something far deeper. Class differences are noted by Imogene, who feels overwhelmed at how far apart they are socially and there is a nod to the above/below stairs divide that may appeal to fans of Downton Abbey.

Several aspects worked quite well in this book. Despite the brevity of the story, time passed. This was not a three week romance one often finds in shorter stories, nor was there an unreasonable number of years going by. Instead a few weeks passed here and there, long enough for the heroines to actually get to know each other–not just fall madly into bed.

Imogene was an active heroine. There were aspects that were out of her control and the resplendent Lady Maccon charges in to save the day at one particularly frightening moment but overall, Imogene does her best to hold her own and act on her interests. At the beginning she displayed a combination of heroine worship and puppy love that could have made her unbearably sweet but Carriger develops the character to be more active and complex and therefore more suitable counterpart to Lefoux.

While I’m not much of one for reading sex scenes, the ones in this story were much better than what was in the last story. It was sweeter and consensual desire and affection was apparent. While Genevieve was resisting, it was out of emotional self-protection.

There were a few minor quibbles. Imogene’s family is mentioned several times at the beginning but then dropped rather cavalierly about 60% of the way through the book. Considering she is a primary source of income for them and a potential driving force for her work, this was a loose end flapping.

I also found it a litle odd that in a family with many children and a large amount of poverty, Imogene was only just going to work at age 28? Alexia was odd at 26 being a dedicated spinster in Soulless, it seemed almost impossible that a country girl would be unemployed, unmarried, not in the church, etc by two years older.  Sexual violence is present in the book–though more as threat than activity, and I didn’t care for Imogene later seeming to partially excuse it.

A final delightful aspect was seeing Major Channing a somewhat warmer light. One has the suspicion that Carriger has a romance planned for him and perhaps the relevation of a lost love as well. He was kind to Imogene and their interactions were heartfelt and comfortable.

Carriger is more confident in this second romance offering and returns with ease to Alexia’s world, which will bring longtime readers along easily. Newer readers will notice the allusions to other characters and stories but these do not distract overall.

Overall, this is a charming addition to the canon.


Open Access Tenure: Hurdle In Sight…

Posted October 24, 2016 By Abigail Goben

Thursday is the last Library vote on my tenure dossier. It’s my final College vote where my tenured Library colleagues will recommend to my Dean whether or not my package goes forward to campus in January. They’ve been deliberating all fall, so hopefully it will be a fast meeting? I don’t know when exactly I’ll get the results, probably within a week or two.

My external reviewer letters were back in September* and the fall has seen myriad rounds of edits and not a little process frustration squeezed into the usual chaos that is Fall Semester. Teaching, new students, new research, new projects–and proofreading my papers another time, one more time, tweaking a date here when something comes out, moving two more book chapters from the accepted column to the published column.

At the moment I feel very abstracted from the process. My “final” dossier went to the library a week and a half ago and since then I’ve been through a conference, a personal trip, and a B1G Homecoming Weekend (minus the actual football game itself). I know the vote is coming but it still feels far away. That will probably change Thursday morning.

I am putting together my 6Y-Public-Dossier for those who are following along and I’ll have that up for download after I hear about the vote.

In the interim, I’m not writing enough…but what academic ever is?

*I wish I could read those. Could they strip out the names?


A Decade.

Posted August 31, 2016 By Abigail Goben

I’m late writing this post. I kept waiting for the summer to slow down so I could write with my head clear. That never happened and my students have been back for several weeks, so fall is formally underway.

My blog turned 10 in July. Looking back, it’s fascinating to see how much has changed over the past ten years and how I’ve transitioned between careers. Medical publishing to mostly freelance work to public libraries to academic libraries and presently I’m in my final year of the tenure-track process at my current place, one way or another.

I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to and that comes for a number of reasons: there’s other social media for short quick thoughts; I still haven’t gotten good at drafting things on the train on the way to or from work regularly; writing time is much rarer and if I’m not working on the long research project to do list I feel guilty. I have so much writing that I want to do…

There are a number of pieces also sitting in draft because I need to reread them, go through them once more before I throw them out to the world. But I do still find a lot of value in having this space for myself and my voice. The blog has given me a lot of opportunity to connect with other librarians and academic colleagues.

I don’t know whether it will last me another ten years though at present I don’t see why not. WordPress is still humming along; LisHost is still an excellent host. I can see this outlasting many of the social media sites that I use–it’s a more controllable platform and I get to decide on the comments, which helps. But who knows what ten years will bring–if I’ll still be a librarian in the same sense, if I’ll still want to write this way.

Hopefully, in the next 10 years, my most popular post won’t still be about why Playaways break so often and hopefully a decade-from-now-Abigail will still like my hedgehog identity. It’s distinct, at least.

On to the next decade…


Book Review: Poison and Protect, Gail Carriger

Posted June 22, 2016 By Abigail Goben
I was invited by the author to review this novella and received an electronic preprint version for the review.
Carriger returns to writing for an audience of adults in the decade or so before Soulless.  For those familiar with her other works, this feels much closer to the Alexia novels than her more recent teen pieces and it’s a comfortable but intriguing return to a well known place.
There are spoilers in this review, if you would not like to be spoiled, please come back another day
In this transition between time periods of her other works, Carriger draws forward a character from the Finishing School novels, Preshea, who is now a fully trained and highly capable assasain. Sent on assignment to a house party in the North, Preshea encounters a Scottish Captain who might get in the way of her assignment and might mean more to her than a target or an irritant.
My first impression of Preshea was that I could see her getting along with Conall, the werewolf from the Soulless books, although undoubtedly he would take issue with her being female. She is presented as chilly and exacting, the type slightly feared at parties by women who mistrust her and men who are easily impressed by her beauty and thrilled at the idea of being around someone dangerous.
Carriger makes an unusual choice in having a more “broken” female character rather than the traditional cold and aloof male characters common in most romances. It’s well done and I appreciated the change in choice. Preshea is aware of her effect on people and has chosen to cultivate it, recognizing that it makes her lonely but uninterested in currying favor.
While the story is intended to be a stand alone, Carriger  — probably rightly– assumes familiarity with her universe. She does not waste time explaining how vampires and werewolves interact, vampire tethers, ghost naming conventions, etc. This will not be an issue for familiar readers but might cause some confusion for someone coming new to the series.
Plot spoilers really start here
Preshea’s assignment is unusually not to serve as an assasin but instead as a romantic disrupter for one couple and, under cover of that, as a bodyguard for another character. Gavin is in a similar bodyguarding position, albeit from a differnet quarter, and along as the friend of a lovelorn jackanapes. One feature that was disappointing  was the abandonment of the attempts on the guarded character’s life after one rather paltry attempt halfway through the book. I kept waiting for a second attempt and it was brushed off as “into the future” which I saw as a missed opportunity for more romantic interplay.
The sexual tension between the leads was nicely done and the sex scenes had an interesting take to them. I tend to read an author’s first round of sex scenes and then skim through the rest, most authors writing more traditional romance don’t tend to put any big revelation of secrets in scenes readers might skim.
There are two interesting side plots– the lovers that Gavin is there to support and Preshea to break up and another pair of young ladies who have their own special connection. The search for scandal as the first pair finally realize they are not the best matched seemed unnecessary– wouldn’t young girls at a house party be up late giggling in each others’ rooms?
A few other familiar characters pop up. Everyone’s favorite vampire returns and I find I must have missed something, being two or three books behind in the Finishing School, as I don’t remember anyone talking about the apprenticeship work mentioned here. Carriger repeats one of the verbal ticks Akeldama has from Soulless in is enteractions with Alexia –not using names– but it feels strained in his conversations with Preshea and, had I not already known Akeldama’s habits and behaviors as head of a spy network, it would have seemed odd and would likely have ruined later books for me. I loved his ridiculousness in Soulless and that is missing here.
Overall it was a nice short trip back to Carriger’s world and I recommend it for Alexia fans. If you are introducing new readers to her work, I would continue to suggest Soulless  as the gateway, however, for best world building.

June is for Handoff

Posted June 20, 2016 By Abigail Goben

June is for handoff and that’s what we like to do….
(Cookies, however are more satisfying)

A few things are coming off of my current whiteboard of doom at work. While there is a lot of new stuff on the way to fill it up, it’s been nice to see things wrap up this month.

  • ACRL Research Data Management Road Show Curriculum Development
    • I’ve not talked about this a whole lot but it’s taken up a fair amount of spring. I was delighted to get the contract to develop a Road Show with Megan Sapp Nelson of Purdue. We’ve spent weekly meetings working through exercises, imagining what we can get through in a single day, hashing things out with a fantastic volunteer group of Small(er) Libraries representatives. The curriculum has gone to ACRL for review and Megan and I get a few moments to focus on other things before we take it out for a test drive that I suspect is coming in July/August.
  • External Reviewer Packet for my Tenure Bid
    • Today, I sent my external reviewer packet to my paperwork person and she will send it out to whoever it is that will read it. My interdisciplinary and research statements are fixed and done. This comes, of course, after massive rewrites and an emergency trip to see Madame Mentor.
  • Copyright Paper
    • I’ve been collaborating with the Anthropologist this spring on a Dentistry/Copyright paper. We received word just over a week ago that the paper had been accepted! This was excellent timing as it meant the final manuscript could be included in my external packet.
  • Epidemiology Paper
    • Alllllmost there. I’m working with a dental public health/epidemiology/policy team on this one. We got comments back from the reviewers and the last three weeks has been a little bit of editing  and a lot of chat as we try to work through what they said. I wrangled the paper out of the misery that is RefWorks Beta and over to Zotero and that’s made my life exponentially better. Zotero 4ever. One more co-author has some wrangling to do while I’m at ALA and that’s due back to the editors on July 1. Cross your fingers for acceptance.
  • Search Committee
    • I spent the spring serving on a search committee for Dentistry. We’re looking for a new Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. It’s been a very different process from what I am used to in libraries.
  • LITA Education Committee
    • After four very long years, I will be rotating off of the committee at Annual. My Vice-Chair has already started to step in and take over, which has been fantastic. He has a lot plans for next year and a new VP who knows the history and will have his back. It’s been a hell of a ride and at some point when the bandaid rip off is less raw, I need to write about it more.

That’s the pile that is going away and other than some minor threads to tie up, not coming back. The Anthropologist and I are working on another paper, I’ll probably see the Epi paper at least one more time, the Vice Chair and I will have some hand off conversations. But overall…done. As each piece has been sent off, there has been a little more room to breathe.

Immediately, of course, filled by other things where I am dreadfully behind.

I’m still me.