The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41, Tiffany Aching #5)

0062429981-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Endings are sad no matter if it happens suddenly or you know it’s been coming for some time, but all good things come to an end. The Shepherd’s Crown is the final book of Tiffany Aching journey into mature witch as well as the 41st and last Discworld book by Terry Pratchett. Not only was this the last book, finished before Pratchett’s death, but saw the biggest development in the series ever—warning spoilers below.

While Tiffany Aching continues work as the Chalk’s witch both see and Jeannie the kelda feel something is about to happen, which it does with the death of Granny Weatherwax in Lancre that sets off a chain of events. Granny leaves everything, including her steading, to Tiffany thus making her be seen as “first among equals” amongst witches. But the death of Granny results in a weakened barrier between the Disc and Fairyland as many elves seeing the Queen as scared and cautious after her defeat by Tiffany years before and it only grows when they learn goblins have been accepted in human society and that iron—railways—now rule the land. The Queen is usurped by Lord Peaseblossom who begins raiding into Lancre and the Chalk, which adds to Tiffany’s burden of covering two steadings in to locales that becomes a bit easier when a Geoffrey leaves his noble family and travels to Lancre to become a witch and turns out to have some talent—for a man. Gathering together witch allies, the Feegles, elderly men looking for a fight, and the deposed Queen to battle an invasion, Tiffany uses the power in the Chalk to defeat Peaseblossom—who killed the Queen in battle—then summon the King of the Elves—who kills the usurper for killing his wife—to prevent them from ever returning. Afterwards Tiffany knowing no witch can replace Granny give the Lancre steading to Geoffrey then builds herself a hut from the bones of her own grandmother’s hut to have an official residence of her own.

Pratchett did not complete this book as he would have liked to as Neil Gaiman stated in a later interview and the clues were there for a more emotional ending and closure for fans, but this unfortunate missed opportunity does not detract seriously from the book. On the whole, the plot and character developments were nearly perfect with the only except of Mrs. Earwig who felt like she had more to be developed but that Pratchett hadn’t had enough time to provide it.

The Shepherd’s Crown is a book of endings for numerous reasons and because of that some people do not want to read it, especially those who have been fans longer than I have. However eventually I hope those people will eventually read Terry Pratchett’s last Discworld book and see that even right up to his own meeting with Death that he strove to create something that made you think and show your emotions.

Discworld

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

LawsonLet’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes you want to forget very embarrassing things that happen in your life and a few of those times you’ll ask your friends to pretend it didn’t happen, now think about that being the majority of your life. Jenny Lawson, aka “The Bloggess”, recounts her life from childhood through school, romance, marriage, and motherhood in her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir.

Lawson starts off the book by throwing the reader into the deep end of her humor and really doesn’t let them resurface until after finishing the book. Beginning with her childhood in Wall, Texas, Lawson goes through her quirky life from one embarrassing moment to another especially since her own father was a quirky taxidermist whose business was in the backyard AND that was before she even started school. Misadventures in high school—mainly dealing with a cow—and college follow, and it is in the latter where she meets her husband in which the most hilarious moments of her life begin. And through her marriage with Victor, the birth of their daughter, and move out into Texas countryside the misadventures only continue with predictably hilarious, yet embarrassing results.

It’s hard to really evaluate a humorous memoir, except grading it on the content of its own humor. Honestly, given how much I looked forward to reading this book each day and the fact I had to stop reading out of either laughing or just being embarrassed at the author’s own embarrassing situations means it succeeded. Yet on top of that is Lawson’s faux notes from her editor(s) just add to the overall experience of the book. And the added bonus chapter of the paperback of notes from her promotional tour is a cherry on top of everything.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is a hilarious memoir of a woman who owns up to her embarrassing moments, cherishes them, and knows they made her who she is. Though this wasn’t the first book by Jenny Lawson that I’ve read, yet now I can see why it became a bestseller and has led to a few more books by Lawson.

Furiously Happy

Raising Steam (Discworld #40, Moist von Lipwig #3)

0804169209-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once it had been a dream, it had been nearly realized before being abandoned, and many lost their lives looking to harness it until one young man succeeded. Raising Steam is the penultimate book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, as Moist von Lipwig helps along the technological marvel of locomotion created by Dick Simnel that is monetarily supported by Harry King and pushed by Lord Vetinari early on especially to reach Uberwald which becomes imperative as the Dwarfs verge on civil war.

Young Dick Simnel saw his father killed while trying to control steam, but after years of reading and later technological tinkering he succeeded in creating a locomotive engine and a means to use it on rails. Dick then heads to Ankh-Morpork and the wealthy Harry King to get support, which the latter is happy to do. Soon train fever hits Ankh-Morpork and Lord Vetinari calls on Moist von Lipwig to utilize the invention to the betterment of the city, in no uncertain terms. Like always Moist’s mind begins seeing the possibilities in the new technology and begins helping Dick and Harry come up and implement ideas, but soon Vetinari begins pressing Moist to get things moving faster. All the while, dwarf society is splitting between fundamentalist and pragmatists resulting in attacks on such technological marvels as the clacks and the new railway. Then after the fundamentalists launch a coup when the Low King is at summit, it is only with the railway that the “King” is able to return to put down the coup and change dwarf society.

While I enjoyed the character of Moist in his previous two books, this book was not really a Moist von Lipwig book though he was the main point-of-view. In fact this book very much needed the reader to know the events that happened Thud! and Snuff, which were both Watch driven books especially as Sam Vimes featured heavily in the latter part of the book. The story was not bad, but the twists and turns were predictable and some random scenes were in fact plain random as they never played in the overall plot of the book. There was a hint of Pratchett attempting to make a commentary on religious fundamentalism with the acts of terror, but because of political climate of the time he wrote he watered it down a lot. However, the biggest drawback is that the humor was lacking especially as Pratchett included every person or group that have been featured prominently in the series, save the Witches, almost as if he wanted to show them on last time just in case.

Raising Steam is not the worst Discworld book—Eric—and it is close to being one of the best. Honestly, the story is fine, but seems to take longer than necessary. In previous books the reader could forgive this fact because of the great humor, but as stated before that is lacking. This book is for long time Pratchett fans and anyone interested in getting into Discworld is encouraged to find an book in the first three-quarters of the series to read first and work their way to this one.

Discworld

Snuff (Discworld #39, Watch #8)

SnuffSnuff by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sam Vimes lives for being a copper, but Lady Sybil demands that he take a vacation and thus city-born and bred Vimes heads out into the countryside away from the action. Snuff is the 39th book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series as well the eighth and final book of feature the Watch of Ankh-Morpork. Yet even on vacation Sam Vimes cannot help finding crime taking place and then the fun begins.

Strong-armed to a vacation to his wife’s family estate, Sam Vimes begins walking around the country-side and interacting with the locals who don’t know what to think of Lady Sybil’s husband. Besides the common man, Vimes interacts with some of his “gentlemen” neighbors including Lord Rust who reminds him that his jurisdiction is only in Ankh-Morpork. His suspicions raised, Vimes is then clumsily framed for murder and is detained by the local constable, Feeney Upshot. Taking the young man under his wing, Vimes begins investigating the case especially when he finds out that the blood used was from a butchered goblin girl, a fact that makes Vimes want to find who is responsible. As the case progresses, Vimes and Upshot find evidence of goblin snatching and the smuggling of tobacco and troll narcotics then to the killer of the goblin girl who is guarding a new shipment of goblins. Vimes and Upshot race and catch up with a river boat then battle the lowlife smugglers for control of the boat during a vicious storm. Ending up in Quirm, Vimes leads the local police on a chase to a smuggler ship and find the man he was framed of killing alive and well then later catches the goblin girl’s killer when he tries to kill Young Sam. Vimes returns to Ankh-Morpork to discover the fallout from his investigation and then realize that he actually wants to go on vacation back to the country to relax.

Beginning this book, I didn’t know what to expect especially after the last Watch book, Thud! However, my unease was quickly forgotten as Pratchett kept the narration of the book almost entirely—at least 95%—from Vimes’ point-of-view which help keep the book focused unlike the previously mentioned book. The now six-year old Young Sam was a nice addition to the overall story as it not only added to overall enjoyment of the book, but also added to the solid foundation of Vimes’ fatherhood. The only thing that could be a complaint was that Pratchett sometimes wrote some sections twice as long as they should have been, which while not becoming tedious were after a while making me dart ahead to see when they would be wrapped up.

Snuff is a fun investigative romp around the countryside and down the river. It is a very quality send off for Sam Vimes in the Discworld series and if you’re a fan of this particular series of books by Pratchett and haven’t read it, I encourage you to.

Discworld

I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38, Tiffany Aching #4)

Aching4I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Anti-witch feelings are on the rise and rumors of old women being burned are in the air, unfortunately for Tiffany Aching she’s finding the Chalk getting infected and it could be her fault. I Shall Wear Midnight is the 38th book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and the fourth to feature the young witch Tiffany Aching, who is finding out that being a witch-in-training and being on her own are two different things entirely especially when the Cunning Man is after her.

Now 16 years old, Tiffany is now the witch of the Chalk doing everything that needs to be done from tending the Baron to looking after newest of babes. Then things seem to start to go wrong from a father assaulting his daughter to the old Baron dying in front of Tiffany and the nurse accusing her of killing him. Events transpire that Tiffany attempts to persevere through but she senses something is up, especially on her way to Ankh-Morpork when she meets a “man” that the Feegles fall through. Thanks to the Feegles, Tiffany spends a night in jail but learns witches all around are feeling pressure. Upon her return to the Chalk, Roland attempts to take out the Feegle’s mound and later has Tiffany detained but the young witch realizes that Roland’s fiancé is hiding a secret—she’s using magic—and confronts her getting the spell broken. As things return to normal in the Chalk, Tiffany must gear up to face the Cunning Man, a ghost of a witch hunter who’s hatred is infectious, even while attending a funeral and preparing for the new Baron’s wedding as senior witches gather and watch.

Building upon the previous three books to feature Tiffany, Pratchett continued the character’s growth by showing her face the everyday humdrum of the profession as the witch not a trainee, especially when something vicious shows up. Unlike previous books, the Feegles are more important minor characters than major secondary ones which focuses the book on Tiffany alone with her dealing with everything and everyone. Tiffany’s interactions with Carrot and Angua in Ankh-Morpork and the reappearance of Eskarina Smith, whose time traveling ability comes in handy in “assisting” Tiffany, just added to the quality of the book and connected various subseries together than just the same world.

I Shall Wear Midnight is a delightful return to the Disc and a somewhat return to form for Pratchett with a solid story that does not meander like some of the previous books of the series. Although a first time reader might want to get one of the earlier Aching books to understand some of what’s going on, any long-time fan will love this book.

Discworld

Unseen Academicals (Discworld #37, Rincewind #8)

Unseen AcademicalsUnseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The wizards of the Unseen University love their food, alcohol, and tradition which Lord Vetinari exploits to ensure that the chaotic football matches taking place get under control. Unseen Academicals is Terry Pratchett’s 37th Discworld book and the last focusing on Rincewind and the wizards of the Unseen University, even though it seemed that they were of secondary concern throughout the book.

The wizards at the Unseen University find out that their budget is tied to a trust fund that only pays out if they play at least one football match a year, after realizing this means a change of diet they decide to play a game of football. This pleases Lord Vetinari who then asks the wizards to organize the sport so it can be taken from the street. But this changing of the game has an effect on the rest of the city, especially four workers inside the University whose lives and identities turned out to be tied to the success of the new version of football.

Although the wizards do have their share of point-of-views, Rincewind hardly appears in the book as well as The Librarian but the focus on Ponder Stibbons somewhat made up for it, they turned out not to be the focus of the book. In fact the most important character was Mister Nutt, an orc, who was “civilized” and was sent to Ankh-Morpork to change the minds of people about orcs. Yet Nutt was pushed into the background several times for his friends Trevor Likely, Glenda, and Juliet who had their own story arcs. All-in-all there was a lot of narratives that created the story, but it all felt unfocused especially when it came to the satire that felt more like painting the numbers than what Pratchett had previously done.

While enjoyable, Unseen Academicals is unfortunately all over the place with the narrative focus and set in and around the Unseen University the wizards took a back seat. Overall the book was good, but it just didn’t grab me and it didn’t make me laugh like previous books.

Discworld

Making Money (Discworld #36, Industrial #5)

Making MoneyMaking Money by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The financial sector of Ankh-Morpork is dire trouble and Lord Vetinari looks to his Postmaster General to solve the problem, however he doesn’t want the opportunity but somethings are out of his hands. Making Money is Terry Pratchett’s 36th Discworld novel and the second to follow the conman-turned-civil servant Moist von Lipwig who is beginning to pine for thrills and suddenly finds himself in the midst of them.

With the Post Office running as smoothly as possible and facing plain paperwork every day, Moist von Lipwig is looking for thrills and excitement in a variety of ways including scaling the outside of the Post Office and breaking into his own office. Lord Vetinari attempts to sell Moist on taking over the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork and the Royal Mint, but Moist is satisfied with his life. However Bank chairwoman Topsy Lavish changes her will to make Moist guardian of her dog, Mr. Fusspot, to whom she leaves her controlling interest in the Bank to. Suddenly Moist is taking care of a dog and running the Bank and Mint much to his annoyance and that of the Lavish family and Mr. Bent, the head cashier. Moist begins thinking about changes to the banking system but then is inundated with numerous challenges first from Mr. Bent, the Lavishes including one that wants to become Lord Vetinari (not Patrician just Vetinari), a former partner blackmailing him about his conman past, missing gold from the bank vault, and finally his fiancée arranging for an army of golems to arrive in Ankh-Morpork. Soon Moist past is exposed, though no one cares, after saving the city from the golems as well as using them to base his new paper currency and is still alive at the end of the book which is the least he wants out of each day.

Moist is one of the most original characters that Pratchett has come up with and like Going Postal, I enjoyed following his story. However, like the previous mentioned book this one is not up to the quality that Pratchett is known for. While Moist, Vetinari, and Adora Belle Dearheart were well written, the overall plot and the numerous subplots just seemed to meander. Pratchett attempted to avoid Moist doing exactly what he did in Going Postal by having him deal with other challenges, but they were a mishmash of ideas that didn’t seem to come together and pages were wasted with the Cosmo Lavish subplot that took up pages without really accomplishing anything.

Honestly, it was hard to rate Making Money because while I enjoyed reading Moist’s point-of-view, the overall plot of the book was just serviceable as it twist and turned based on the questionable subplots intertwined with it. If you are a first time Discworld reader, don’t read this book until you’ve sampled some of Pratchett’s other better quality writing. If you are a veteran Discworld reader then focusing on enjoying the point-of-view of Moist even though the book’s quality is just okay.

Discworld