Monday, 20 June 2016

Book Review: Timeless by Gail Carriger

Hi readers,

Today, I'm reviewing the fifth and final book in The Parasol Protectorate series. I'm please to say it didn't disappoint! The plot of this one feels very different to the others, which is great because it feels fresh. Alexia and her family have been summoned to Egypt to meet the queen vampire there because she is interested in meeting Alexia's daughter Prudence. In order to get there under some reasoning and disguise to protect themselves, Alexia arranges her best friend, Ivy's acting group to preform their new play for the queen.

Of course, the trip goes with many funny hitches and that is something I really enjoyed about all the books is that the humor in them is light and very 'Victorian' styled as it were. To make things even harder Ivy had twins and so there's three babies to also deal with, though there has been a move forward in time and Prudence is about two years old. And as we know from the end of the last book, Prudence is no normal child! And she does spent time as both a werewolf and vampire baby in this story, which I think is so cute.

When the group finally arrive in Egypt it is wonderfully described and I do like the change of setting from London because it gives the reader a feel of a greater world. Also, the Victorians were very interested in Egypt, so having this as a setting is realistic for the time period, even if it is an alternative history.

The rest of the plot is that the Queen meets Prudence and it seems she wants more from the toddler then it first appears. Alexia starts to solve the curse-breaker plague that seems to have been spreading across Egypt and finds that her father was involved in it's growth. It seems no surprise there though because that has been a running theme throughout the series. However, to me it doesn't seem to become stale and I think uncovering her father's past is important for Alexia to discover who she is.

The mystery is of course solved when they arrive at a temple and find that someone has been collecting the bodies of the soulless and using their still lingering powers to create the plague. Which then brings back in Alexia's father and the vampire queen, because as it turns out the queen wants to die. Now though, the queen can use Prudence's powers to pass on, which she does and this leading into the other reason why Ivy is needed. I'm not going to spoil it though!

There is one heart retching moment close to the end, which works as part of the climax of the novel. And I don't really want to spoil that either, but I'm just so glad that actually it didn't happen! I was a bit shocked that the writer decided to do that, but I get it was all part of heightening the drama to the max. It also gives a good turning point to the story, which is needed to push things forward.

Finally, the ending of the book is really good and everything feels tied up at the end. I actually feel sad that it has ended now, but in away I'm glad that it's not going to drag on and the quality of the writing falling as I have seen in other series. Though I do feel I am going to miss reading Alexia's adventures.

So how do the characters far up in this final book? I love Prudence! she is such a good character and I like her development, even though she is a toddler, due to her being a supernatural she progresses quickly and it turns out at the end that actually she doesn't like her name. Which is so cute. I do feel that she is a good a character and does fit in well with the other characters.

Alexia and Conall's characters do show further signs of progression, including when Conall finds out that Alexia has been keeping a secret from him and they have an argument. I liked how they fixed things like a married couple and were able to move on. I do love the relationship between them because it is so strong and they seem perfectly matched.

Once again, the other characters do have all their parts to play and I do like the feeling of them actually trying to up stage the main characters, especially Ivy. Though, I'm not 100% with 'the butler did it' cliche, but I do understand it and it does work, but I I guess I didn't slot all the pieces into place quick enough to work it out before it happened. Beside from that though, I'm still happy with the other characters.

Overall, I'm happy with this last book. I really enjoyed reading the series and am sad to see it now finished. I liked the changing in settings and meeting some new characters. I would so recommend this series to people who like supernatural romance stories and also people who are interested in steampunk. This to me is a great first introduction to the genre because it uses it lightly. The main characters are very likable and easy to understand, which means you can deeply connect with them.
Happily, it looks like the story isn't actually ending here! I found out there is more just in a different form!

The first is that a Manga trilogy of the first three books was made and I of course ordered these when I found out and I'm going to review them next week or the week after because I need to do a life update post. I might do them as one review, because I believe there's nothing new about the plot and characters and it's just a Manga retelling of the first three books. Have to see.

The second is that there is a sequel to The Parasol Protectorate called The Custard Protocol, which follows Alexia's daughter. I really like this idea and can't wait to started reading them. The first book is out now and the second should be out soon. 

The third link is that Carriger has written another series of books called Finishing School of which there is four books. I read that this isn't a pre-sequel to the other two series but does speak of events and characters that appear. They are on my wish list and I'd love to get them but I have too many others books on my to-read shelf and even more listed first on my wish list. Hopefully, I'll get around to them though.    

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Monday, 13 June 2016

Book Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger

Hi readers, 

Today it's the turn of the 4th Parasol Protectorate book; Heartless. The plot of this one does follow on, though there is a bit of a time gap of a few months. A now heavily pregnant Alexia has decided to have her unborn child adopted by her vampire friend Lord Akeldama as a hope to stop the vampires from killing her and the baby as they believe the child to be a threat to them. Of course, Alexia then ends up moving next door the Lord Akeldama, but secretly living in his second best closet, so she can help bring up the baby. 

For the moment though, she has to deal with a threat from a ghost about the Queen being killed and that is the main plot of the book. The twist about the Queens is nice and I think it took me awhile to figure it out. What's also nice that we get cut scenes to the ghost thinking and talking. Of course, the name of the ghost is hidden up till the end, but if you close read the book, it's easy to pick up. I know some readers can find cut scenes likes these jarring, but they fitted in well enough for me. I guess because the plot does cut to a number of different people anyway. 

I did think it was a little too much for eight month pregnant Alexia to deal with though and I get that the author is going for high drama, but I just felt given the historic time setting that Alexia should have really been aware of of how dangerous chasing after the supernatural and hell-bent inventors can be for a mother and unborn child. The only time we see Alexia resting is when she twists her ankle chasing a burglary and even then she's out of bed too soon! For me it just felt like it was pushing the reality lines too much. 

I still enjoyed how fast pace this one was though and it was good that the story was centered on mother's and children, since Madame Lefoux has to save her kidnapped son from the vampire queen and of course the only way she feels she can do that is to build a mechanical octomaton to battle the vampires who stole him. Of course, she does get her son back in away as she now has to go and live with the vampires in order to do so. 

And Alexia has her baby, though it does arrive early! She has a daughter, who does as Alexia has researched turn out to be a skin stealer, which means the baby can take a supernatural's power. So, she becomes a baby vampire at the end of the book. I think that's so cute and I can just imagine some of the trouble she might course in the next book now. 

The development of the characters is still good, though it feels to have slowed down for me. I like how the second characters are used well to support Alexia and I don't feel they are just in the background. They all have their own parts to play in the story and the whole group of characters works well together. It's nice they come together to solve all the issues too and at the end of the book everything is tied up. 

I think I would have liked to see more steampunk elements coming in, but that really is a secondary genre as the main one is really supernatural romance. And this book actually focus a bit more on married and family life, which is slightly different from the other three books in that everything is being set up for the baby coming, but also that Alexia has to revised Lord Maccon's past to find out what really happened for him to become the leader of the werewolf pack. The knowledge she finds out is does keep a secret, but I get a feeling that isn't going to last long.  

I was a bit sad at the end when the werewolves had to move out of their home though and into London center, due to Alexia's too fast thinking, but this does show the progress on the characters and I get all the werewolves need to be in one place and not split between two as they end up becoming. Also, this could be a plot element in the next book.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and it ended on a high with a supernatural baby being born. The plot and characters were as good as the other books too. I'm looking forward finishing the fifth and final book off now, but also a little sad too because I've grown attached to the characters. Hopefully, it'll have a good ending. Till Next Monday.   

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Monday, 6 June 2016

Book Review: Blameless by Gail Carriger

Hi readers, 

Today, I'm reviewing the third Alexia Tarabotti/The Parasol Protectorate book. If you've not read the first two in this series review, it might be useful to you to do so. The opening of this book sees Alexia moved back in with her mum, step-dad and step-sisters, who don't know about her secret and the true reason her husband, Lord Maccon, has kicked her out after their return from Scotland. However, a newspaper announces it and Alexia is dismissed from her former home. She has also lost her job with the Queen too. 

Alexia goes to stay with her vampire friend Lord Akeldama, but finds he has gone missing. Having no choices left she decides to gather her butler, Madam Lefoux who is becoming a close friend and Tunstell who is a former connection to the werewolf pack but has left since his marriage to Ivy, Alexia's best friend. They decided to leave for Italy in the hope to uncover more about Alexia's unexpected pregnancy and to try and prove that Lord Maccon is the father. 

The other plot in this novel is that the vampires are trying to kill Alexia due to the fear of what her baby is. This carries on from the second book and as I'm now finding out it is also continued in the four book. I do like the second plots that appear in this series of books because it gives the story more depth without over complicated things and the second plot lines fit in well with the first.  

The rest of the primary plot sees Alexia and company finding out more about the pregnancy and ending up meeting the Templars, who had been brought up in the other books but not seen till now. this very religious group who stand strongly against the supernatural turn out to have the information Alexia and she discovers that her unborn child is a skin/soul stealer and possible has the power to take different supernatural forms. They are so rare that her baby is the second one and the vampires fear the child due to the power it'll have. 

At the end, there's a great escape moment and Alexia meets up with everyone including Lord Maccon who has finally come to his sense about the unborn baby being his. I liked the happy ending and felt this showed a good relationship between Alexia and her husband. The main plot and second plot were also good and though I did like the second book better, I read through this one quick because I wanted to find out about the baby. 

The new characters in this book are; Madam Lefoux's friend who she went to school with and is a clock maker.  A German scientist who is a member of the Brass Octopus group, but turns out not to follow their codes and his fascination with the pregnancy gets to him and the Italy Templars, who take Alexei captive because they are also worried about the powers her child might have, but her interested in her own too. I was happy with this new characters again, because they all brought a fresh insight into the knowledge of being soulless and the pregnancy. The fact that they were out for their own goals and the last two were the villains was a good switch up. 

The pace and dialogue were fine again and everything felt well written and gripping. It will be interested to find out what's going to happen in the fourth book now! 

Overall, I'm still enjoying the series and the characters. 

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Monday, 30 May 2016

Book Review: Changeless by Gail Carriger

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)

Hi readers, 

I know this post should have been up last Monday but I wasn't feeling well. So, now I'm a week behind in my reviews of this series, however I'm ahead in reading, which is good news because I've been researching what other novels Gail Carriger has written and I'm going to write about that when I review the last book. 

This book continues from book one: Soulless. I'd so recommended reading that review first because I don't plan to go into vast details about characters etc. The plot of Changeless is that Lord Maccon takes off to Scotland as a strange effected starts happening in London; the immortal suddenly become mortal. Alexia of course becomes involved in it and ends up setting off to Scotland to follow the strange effect and her husband. There she learns of her husband's last surviving relative from a long ago marriage. She also solves the mystery of the strange effect, which turns out to be an Egyptian mummy and leads into learning more about the soulless state. The twist at the end is also very good, though there are hints throughout the book about this that readers will pick up on, but I'm not going to spoil it here. However, in book 3 I shall have to write about it because it's an important plot point.  

I did enjoy the plot of this one as we get to learn more about Lord Maccon's past and werewolves. The change of setting to Scotland was also refreshing and new characters are introduced too, which all adds to giving a freshness to the second book. The pace felt just as fast as the first one with things going wrong quickly throughout and a mystery to be solved. The second plot line involves things happening behind Alexia and her life seem to be in danger. This to does get resolved, but I feel there is more to it. And of course having now read the 3rd book I know this sort of carries over.

The new characters that get introduced are really good. The first is Madame Lefoux who is a French scientist that dresses as a gentleman. I enjoyed her character and the fact that she likes men's clothing. She also has a connection to Alexia French maid, who actually isn't all she seems.... I love Madame Lefoux creations and underground lab. The second character that I want to talk up as Lord Maccon's great a few times granddaughter. She has been made leader of his old pack, even though she's not a werewolf and badly wants to become one. She is interesting because of her attitude towards things and the fact like nearly all female characters in this series she is going against the Victorian ideals of gentle women.

Like the first book I love the use of different dialogue and the Scottish accents. They are much more broad this time and it took my brain a few seconds to figure out the words. But it was easier enough to understand. It just makes the characters and settings more real.

There is slightly more steampunk elements this time and I enjoyed the traveling on dirigible scenes and the messaging machine. Was again the steampunk was light and in the background, meaning that characters could be more focused on. I do hope that the steampunk will grow stronger throughout the next three books, but I wouldn't mind if it did remain in the background.   

Overall, this is a good second book and I still find the characters enjoyable. The change of setting and the additional new characters as well as the two plots helps make it feel fresher.

Next week: the 3rd book Blameless.

Thanks for reading. 

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Monday, 16 May 2016

Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Hi readers,

Today, I'm kicking off a review of a series of books called The Parasol Protectorate subtitled; An Alexia Tarabotti Novel, with the first book; Soulless. I have reviewed series of books before on this blog, namely the Black Dagger Brotherhood, which is still ongoing and actually I'm not sure I've reviewed them all come to think of it!

But it's been awhile since I last read a series all in one go. I think this is because I have this habit of wanting to have all the books and being able to read them one after another. I think my brain finds it easier and I don't have to keep the memory of character, settings and plot details in my head for months or years as I wait for the next book/s to be published. Does anyone else do this too?

Anyway, I'm not sure how I found out about this novel, but I did read it close to the time it was published or within two years. I did enjoy it the first time I read it then upon finding out it was a series I had to collect the others. However, I just never got a round to reading them afterwards. Well, the time has come and I've started now and hopefully, got something of a time table to read them all in and review them!

The Parasol Protectorate novels are set in an alternative Victorian history where the supernatural has come to the surface and been mostly accepted. Alongside, this is is a bit of Steampunk and I say this because it features mostly in the background and in Soulless appears very little. Which is why if you are someone who's into the supernatural genre and wants to get into Steampunk then this series would be a good start. Or if you find Steampunk a little hard to get into for whatever reason and/or you are looking for a new Steampunk book to read then it's really worth a go.

The narrative is in third person and follows the heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, who is described as a half Italian spinster who has no soul, on a mission to find out where the lone vampires and werewolves have disappeared to. I really like Alexia, she is a great female character who doesn't seem to let the Victorian suppression of women get to her. She stands out above the rest and is seemingly happy with the fact she's been 'shelved' and won't ever marry. This gives her liberties which she wouldn't have otherwise, but it also leads into the situation she ends up in at the start of the novel.

Having sneaked off from a ball to have tea in the library, she is attacked by a vampire and accidentally kills him. She is saved by a werewolf, Lord Maccon, who then helps to cover the situation up. It turns out her mother, step-sisters and step-dad don't know she is soulless. In fact not even her best friend, Ivy, who has a very poor but funny choice in hats knows about it. Alexia then ends up helping to investigate why she was attacked as Lord Maccon is part of a BUR - Bureau of Unnatural Registry and it's part of his job. This all leads to the discover of a group of scientists who are experimenting on the supernatural.

There is a second plot line sees Alexia and Lord Maccon falling in love. I was a little worried that this would draw too much away from the main story, but it actually works well. They have a kinda cliched friendship were they don't seem to get on, but they actually enjoy annoying each other. Their interested and love for each other slowly comes though and I loved the scandalized (well, it would have been in the 1800's) scene were they are caught kissing by Alexia's family and have an argument about getting married. Which of course then does happen!    

The plot is really well written, funny in many places and serious in others. I love the revealing of the mystery behind what is going on and it just keeps you reading on. The setting works really well too. It does feel like Victorian London and the description of all the places just lets you imagine this alternative history highly. The description of character and clothes is very well done too. I love all the dresses Alexia wears and every time Ivy shows up in a new hat which is often so ugly the other characters' reactions are just priceless.

Speaking of, the other characters are really good. They all seem to be written as if they were the main character and their dialogues work well. Lord Maccon is Scottish though he tries to sound more London, but I love how it comes through in small doses. His background is kinda kept in the dark, but I think this might appear in one of the other novels. The other characters also seem set up for more, but their development is good anyway.

The ending actually makes Soulless feel like a stand alone book. I was thinking there'd be a cliffhanger or lead into book two, but the ending is kind of closed. I actually like that as it makes me feel more satisfied about finishing it.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. I'd so recommend it to everyone, even if you are not big or the supernatural, or steampunk or history or romance as there feels to be something for everyone in this novel and even if you dislike all those genres the characters and plot are just really good.

Thanks for reading and next week I'll review book 2!          

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Monday, 9 May 2016

Book Review: Heaven by Christoph Marzi

Hi Readers,

I finished this book the night before I went to London, so about two weeks ago now. I brought at the same time as Angelfall and it was another recommended by my best friend when we saw it in the book shop. I wanted to read it because it seemed an interesting fast read. However, I didn't like it as much as Angelfall. 

So this novel is about two teenagers who meet on the roof tops of London and the girl, called Heaven, which is actually her nickname, has had her heart stolen, but somehow she has survived and been able to run away. David, the young man, decides to help her find her heart and the person who stole it. I really liked this idea and at first I thought it was like a modern and different retelling of Snow White. You know, like what had happened if the hunters man had cut out Snow White's heart and she had lived? No. Turns out this story is based around a 'lost' fairy tale; The Fallen Fairy's Heart which the plot states the Earl of Rochester wrote.

Which in itself is pretty interesting and a good plot device, but it didn't help me like this story any better. Anyway, the two main characters do cross paths with the 'murderers' and find out that they are stealing hearts to give to someone. I won't spoil the ending, but it wasn't what I wanted and it felt very weak compared to the rest of the book, even though the ending is happy enough.

The characters get to visit my favorite and still most wanted place to go Highgate Cemetery. The description of the place was well done and also the horror feelings came through. That was my favorite part of the book really.

I'm not going to say that my problems and the overall problems with the book are because it's a young adult novel as that's unfair. I just think the writing style and some of the plot is to blame. I got really into this book and even after I found out the story was based on this 'lost' fairy tale and the idea that fairies are a part of the sky, but then soon after that it just got a bit dull for me, even with the twist about Heaven's parents and other people being murdered, I'm just not sure what is was, but maybe it dragged a little too much. Also, it doesn't help there's a very unrealistic scene at the end of the book. I get the author was going for the dramatic final, but a fight on the London Eye -that's the big Ferris wheel in London, if you didn't know- just didn't do it for me.  

The development of Heaven and David was very good and their falling in love was done nicely in the background. They both grew on me and I liked learning more about them. The villain characters interested me enough with their mystery, but the actual villain, we never got to spend enough time with and even though we learned his story and why he was after Heaven's heart, I thought more could have been done with him. I liked the ghost character who appears as well, Heaven's butler and the owner of the bookshop. In fact, it did seem like the background characters had been given enough attention to make them feel like they were more then just there support the main characters.

The narrative style started to bug me after awhile because a lot of places and street names are brought up. I guess that's useful in a way if you have been to London because you know where these places are. If you haven't been either you are aware of them or you have to guess. I just felt like being told where the characters were all the time bogged down the story. I loved the descriptions of London from the rooftops, though I did find myself humming the chimney sweep song from Mary Poppins  a few times! Doesn't help there's a quote from the song on the dedication page either. But it's very fitting.

The pace was a mix of fast and slow really, but that didn't give me too much trouble because it seemed to be well balanced. There some okay twists in the story too and you do get a mystery feel from the narrative. There is a lot of reference to other books and stories, mainly Dickens. I get this because he was well known for writing about London and the parts people didn't want to see. I think though the author has just assumed you have read Dickens' novels and there for you'll be able to picture/understand the use of Dickens' characters' names and references. The narrative is told in third person, so that we can get a switch between characters at important moments, though I do wonder if it had been better in first person from the point of view of David.

The dialogue of the characters felt real enough, but I think there might have been too much swearing for me. Which is odd to say in a young adult book and coming from me as well, but sometimes it just felt over used and I dislike that. Other then that though, there was nothing special about it.  So, no needed to fear not being able to understand a London cockney accent!

Overall, I want to say I did like this book. I liked the ideas behind it and the mystery too. The problems was, it just didn't grip me all the way through like it should have done. I didn't get the wanting to put it down urge, I just wanted to finish it, but that seemed to take a lot longer then it should have done. I'd recommended this book to teenagers interested in this kind of thing, but if you wanted a fantasy style story set in London I'd say go read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, to this day that story is still with me. (And I just found out I never did a review of it, that needs changing!)

Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week for a new book review.

Ps. if you've got the time please check out my other blog;

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Monday, 2 May 2016

Life Update: Adventures In London!

Hi readers,

I survived London! It was super busy everywhere, but I didn't get lost, which for me is a big bonus. I was so scared that I was going to get lost, because it was the first time I was alone during the day. My mum had invited me to join her for a four day break away, but she was actually working, so during the day I was alone and off on my own adventures. I think it helped that I planned all the places I wanted to go and printed out maps. Also, I went on a tour bus for two days!

So from the beginning, We got an evening train from Manchester to London which was just over two hours. We then took the underground to Black Friars and walked to the first Premiere Inn hotel. The room was small but nice. In the morning, after breakfast, packing and going to my mum's teaching venue. Then I went to the nearest tour bus stop which was next to St. Paul's. I then went around the center of London for three hours. I did take some photos, but they didn't turn out that great. Anyway here are some;

I saw some of the tower of London, which I did want to visit, but it was expensive to get in! 

I went over the London bridge and the river Thames. 

I saw the London Eye which I went on last time.

And I also saw Big Ben again. 

I then went to St Paul's Cathedral. I really wish you could take photos inside, because it's just amazing. I love the crypt too. I also wish I could've spent more time there too. I did go to the top and I took some photos of the London city view, but then I caught in a snow storm and a thunder storm! I was cold and wet by the time I got back inside. I had a cup of tea in the crypt and feeling better and with he weather sunny again, I walked up and down Fleet Street window shopping. 

St Paul's

And a view from the top.

I had to meet my mum at 4pm, because we were staying in a different hotel for the rest of the stay. It was still a Premiere Inn, but it was in Holborn, which was really nice. We had a walk around then went for tea in the hotel which was good then we went to bed because my mum had an early start in the morning and I was very tried. 

In the morning, I found out I could get the same tour bus company from Holborn. However it did a different route and because I'd planned to do some museums, it didn't go where I wanted to. I did wait almost an hour for it though! The traffic in London is really bad and you spend most of your time not moving in it. Over an hour later, I made it to the St Paul's bus stop again and switched bus routes on to the one from yesterday because it went past the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  

It took me over three hours to reach the stop. It was all down to traffic and the tour bus driver having to have a break and switch out with another driver. Also, my last bus home was at 4pm -4:30pm and I would need two again! At was already around 12pm too. I did the V&A museum first because I knew I'd want more time in the National History. It was a huge place with lots of different things to see, but it just didn't keep my interested up. Maybe it's because I knew there was something better next door! 

Animals and dinos are much more my thing and really enjoy the National History museum. It was super packed though and my feet were killing me. I wish I could've spent more time here too. I got some okay photos, but most of the time people were in the way or the glass just caused issues.

 A really cute bat

My favorite dino

I decided not to get the buses back but to try the Underground. It worried me that I was going to get lost and I'm a nervous of escalators, plus it was the first time I'd been on one alone. However and even though it was the start of rush hour, it wasn't too bad. I was able to figure out where I needed to go and usefully, the train only went one way from the station I was at and it went to the Holborn station. Also, it took only like twenty minutes for me to get back! So, I decided in the future to use the Underground next time I go.

This is the Underground outside the Tower of London. It's not the one I gotten on, but the only photo I had. 

The next day, I went to the British Museum. This was my third visit, but they had lots of new stuff and other stuff I don't remember. I had lots of fun, even though it was busy. I did mean to go to two more which where on the London Uni campus, but I was feeling too tried and my feet hurt too much. Instead, I went to a small park and chilled out till it was time to met up with my mum and catch the train home. It felt like a shorter trip, but I was super tried when I got home. I went to bed almost straight away. 

Here are the photos from the British Museum; 

Overall, London was really good. I enjoyed it and the tour bus was very useful. Though, the Underground - once you get use to it- is better. The museums are very good, but do take a lot of time! Plus, there's lots of people everywhere all the time. I was surprised at all the green areas though and there are so many little parks you can go to, though it's still hard to escape the noise of the city. I'd love to go back and explore some of the more different areas.