25. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Mystery, Steam-punk, Tracy · Tags:

Grandville Bête Noire by Bryan Talbot, read by Tracy, on 08/24/2014

The baffling murder of a famed Parisian artist in his locked and guarded studio takes the tenacious Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard and his faithful adjunct, Detective Sargent Ratzi, into the cut-throat Grandville art scene to track the mysterious assassin. As the body count mounts and events spiral out of control, the investigation points to Toad Hall, where a cabal of industrialists and fat cats plot the overthrow of the French State . . . by use of steam-driven automaton soldiers A Victorian anthropomorphic thriller, Grandville Bete Noire signals the welcome return of master storyteller and graphic-novel pioneer Bryan Talbot to his Eisner and Hugo award nominated steampunk detective series.

25. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Mystery, Steam-punk, Tracy · Tags:

Grandville Mon Amour by Bryan Talbot, read by Tracy, on 08/23/2014

Convicted psychotic killer and extremist fanatic Edward “Mad Dog” Mastock violently escapes the guillotine’s blade in the Tower of London to once again terrorize the Socialist Republic of Britain. But dogging Mastock’s bloody footsteps is his longtime adversary and nemesis, Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock, at odds with Scotland Yard and intent on bringing Mastock’s horrific murder spree to an end, once and for all. Aided by his friend and colleague Detective Roderick Ratzi, LeBrock follows the trail of carnage to Paris, otherwise known as Grandville, the largest city in a world dominated by the French Empire that is the prime target of Mastock’s sadistic terrorism. Can LeBrock capture the Mad Dog before he can mete out his final vengeance, or will LeBrock’s own quest for redemption be dragged to ground by the demons of his past?

25. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Mystery, Steam-punk, Tracy · Tags:

Grandville by Bryan Talbot, read by Tracy, on 08/22/2014

Two hundred years ago, Britain lost the Napoleonic War and fell under the thumb of French domination. Gaining independence after decades of civil disobedience and anarchist bombings, the Socialist Republic of Britain is now a small, unimportant backwater connected by a railway bridge, steam-powered dirigible, and mutual suspicion to France. When a British diplomat’s murder is made to look like suicide, ferocious Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard stalks a ruthless murder squad through the heart of a Belle Epoque Paris, the center of the greatest empire in a world of steam-driven hansom cabs, automatons, and flying machines. LeBrock’s relentless quest can lead only to death, truth… or war.

16. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Steam-punk, Teen Books · Tags:

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress , read by Angie, on 08/16/2014

Three female assistants in 1900 London come together over a rash of murders and burglaries. Cora is the assistant of Lord White, a prominent member of the House of Commons and an inventor. Nellie is the assistant of The Great Raheem, a premiere magician and illusionist. Michiko is the assistant of Sir Callum Fielding-Shaw, a self-defense instructor who thinks he knows more than he does. They first meet at a gala where they all perform and then again on a foggy London street at the scene of a murder. They keep meeting again and again and finally join forces to investigate the murders and strange happenings around town. 

This was a really fun book to read. I thought the steampunk atmosphere was subtle yet fit right into the story that was being told. I liked that the historical period was present but not overwhelming as well. It made it easier to focus on the outstanding characters. Cora, Nellie and Michiko were fabulously written and a lot of fun to read. They each had their own voices and motivations which came clearly through on the page. I did think the mystery got just a bit wonky, but it all worked out in the end. 

08. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steam-punk

The League of Seven by Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 08/08/2014

The League of Seven is an alternative history steampunk adventure. It is 1875 and the world is much different from the one we are familiar with. The east coast of America is the United Nations: seven tribes united together (six of the Indians and the last Yankees). The old world of Europe has been lost to darkness. Everything runs on steam mainly because lektricity wakes the monsters. That’s right there are monsters imprisoned in the earth. The Septemberist Society keeps the knowledge alive even though most people just think of history as myths and legends. It seems the mangleborn feed of lektricity and every thousand years or so they break out of their prisons and destroy the world. It is up to the League of Seven to imprison them again. The League is always made up of seven heroes: a tinker, a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strong man, and a hero. 

Archie Dent’s parents are members of the Septemberist Society and have been brainwashed by manglespawn as have all the other members of the society. Instead of working to prevent the rise of the mangleborn they are working to free one of them. It is up to Archie and his two new friends Fergus and Hachi to stop the mangleborn and save his parents. Archie believes they are the new League of Seven. Fergus is the tinker, Hachi is the warrior and Archie thinks he is the hero but he doesn’t feel very heroic. Their quest takes them from the swamps of Florida to the streets of New Rome to the ruins of Atlantis under Niagara Falls and back again. They are fleeing from Thomas Edison, who is mad with the power of lektricity, and his evil tik tok ninja (think robot). They are helped along the way by Archie’s tik tok Mr. Rivet, Tesla (who is a Septemberist and quite mad) and a variety of other fun characters. 

This was a great start to this trilogy. The world building is very comprehensive and wonderful. The steampunk is really well done with airships and aether guns and mechanical men and pneumatic tubes. I also thought the alternative history stuff was very well thought out. I love the thought of all these great societies rising and falling because of the mangleborn (Atlantis, Rome, Cahokia, etc.) We don’t learn why Europe has gone dark or who the other Seven are, but those things will probably get covered in the next books. The heroes defeated one mangleborn but there are lots more out there and they are going to need help. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

14. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steam-punk, Teen Books

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, read by Angie, on 07/13/2014

Sophronia is being sent to finishing school. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to be exact. Sophronia would rather be figuring out how things work than learning how to curtsey, but her mother has other ideas. Her mother would be appalled at what she is actually learning at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s. Not only does Sophronia learn how to curtsey and act appropriately in social situations she also learns how to poison someone and the fine art of gathering intelligence. Her other skills come in handy when she and her friends must figure out what has happened to a communications prototype that is wanted by a lot of nefarious characters. 

I like this Victorian steampunk world a lot. I have read Souless, the first in Carriger’s adult series, but didn’t really remember it a lot. This series is set in that same world. The school is a giant balloon that floats across the moors. There are vampire and werewolf teachers. And there are flying skypirates who attack the school. I found the whole thing fun and ridiculous and really enjoyable. There is just enough steampunk, just enough historical fiction, just enough zaniness to make this a really fun read. 

05. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steam-punk

Uncrashable Dakota by Andy Marino, read by Angie, on 06/01/2014

Uncrashable Dakota is an alternate history/steampunk middle grade adventure novel. During the Civil War, Samuel Dakota discovered the power of flight. Seems a certain kind of beetle really likes whiskey soaked sap. You feed it to them and they can fly. Put the beetles in a ship and the ship flies. This discovery ended the Civil War years early, started the flight industry in the 1860s and allowed Lincoln to live to be an old man. Fast forward to 1912 and Dakota Aeronautics is getting ready to launch its biggest ship ever, the Dakota. On board is the elite of society as well as the general public. The Dakota family, consisting of Hollis and his mom and her new husband and his son Rob, are ready to set sail with the ship. During the voyage the ship is hijacked and Hollis, Rob and their friend Delia have to save the day.

This was a pretty hefty book with a lot going on. Not only do we have the hijacking story, but there is also a lot of backstory for when Samuel Dakota invented flight. I thought it was pretty inventive to have beetles be the mode of flight, especially ones who like to eat whiskey sap. There was definitely a Titanic vibe to this story (giant ship, best of its kind, supposedly unsinkable/uncrashable, disaster). I do with the book would have been just a tad shorter or better edited. I think a lot of the story of the kids running around the ship could have been condensed. That being said I also wish the ending would have been expanded a bit. You have 300 pages of the hijacking and just a couple pages of the crash and its aftermath. I also thought the story of Rob and his father kind of went off the rails a bit and its ending was just about the worst thing in the book. I think the book had potential and it was an enjoyable read, but the ending was too rushed with too many loose ends for my tastes. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Steam-punk, Tammy

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer, read by Tammy, on 05/11/2014

scarletContinues the story of Cinder and introduces the reader to Scarlet and Wolf. But is he a Big Bad Wolf or a hero in the making? How is Scarlet’s grandmother involved with the Luna princess and who kidnapped Grandma? Can’t wait to read the third book in the series!

 

05. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction, Steam-punk

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson, read by Angie, on 05/04/2014

Piper is a scrapper in a scrap town on the fringes of society. Scrappers pick through the bits that come into their world from the meteor showers. These meteor showers deposit things from other worlds. Piper works to fix the things up and make them work again. One day she chases a friend into the dangerous meteor shower and discovers a destroyed caravan with a girl inside. She brings the injured girl back home with her. Soon Piper and Anna are running for their lives as they are chased by a mysterious man who claims to be Anna’s father. Anna has no memories. The only thing she has a is a dragonfly tattoo which marks her has protected by the king of the Dragonfly territory. Anna and Piper make their escape onto the 401, a train headed to the Dragonfly capital. Along the way they become friends with the 401′s crew: Jeyne, Trimble and Gee. There is danger, adventure and new insights into who exactly Anna is. 

This was a fun steampunk story for middle grades. I really enjoyed learning about Piper and Anna’s backgrounds and abilities. I think kids will really enjoy the adventure of this story; however, it is a bit on the long side which might turn off some readers. I think my complaint is that it started out one way and ended up another. I was fascinated by the meteor showers and the debris from other worlds at the beginning of this book. However, that pretty much got dropped once they boarded the train. I think I would have liked for the two parts to tie together a little bit more. I still really enjoyed reading it though and the ending does leave the story open for further adventures.

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Steam-punk, Tammy, Teen Books · Tags:

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles 1) by Marissa Meyer, read by Tammy, on 02/09/2014

This was an enjoyable steam-punk retelling of Cinderella. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic who can’t remember her life before the accident that claimed her parents and made it medically necessary to replace her leg and other parts with machinery. She was adopted but her new guardian dies before he is able to bring her home to his wife and daughters and tell them why he has adopted a cyborg child. She works to make money for her stepmother and keep their household afloat though they treat her like a servant.

A plague is running rampant throughout their country and attacking young and old, rich and poor alike. Her favorite sister becomes ill days before a ball is planned. She tries to encourage her sister by telling her how she met the prince when he brought an automaton to her shop for repair and how he invited her to the ball. She promises to get the prince to dance with her sister if she will just get better and be able to go to the ball.

The prince has troubles of his own. His father is gravely ill with the plague. The ruler of Mars is on her way with an entourage to discuss peace talks that all his advisers believe is a prelude to war. Of course, the prince could marry the queen of Mars and make her his Empress ensuring peace but would that really be the best thing for both planets?

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Short Stories, Steam-punk, Teen Books

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by Kelly Link , read by Courtney, on 01/10/2012

A wee bit hit or miss as far as the quality of the stories goes, but overall a fun collection. Particular favorites of mine are the tales by Libba Bray, Cory Doctorow and Kelly Link. Extremely varied, both thematically and in setting, the steampunk element is represented in its broadest definition.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Steam-punk

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff, read by Courtney, on 12/07/2013

12-year-old Mila has a knack for noticing the things that others do not. This particular talent will come in handy as a series of events play out. She and her father had been planning to visit her father’s old friend in the United States for quite some time, but recently this friend has gone missing and no one has any idea what has happened to him. Mila and her father decide to make the trip overseas anyway. If her father’s friend, Matthew, isn’t back by the time they show up, they can spend some of their vacation trying to track him down. As soon as Mila and her father arrive at the home owned by Matthew and his wife, Mila notices quickly that this is not a happy house. The wife, Suzanne, appears stressed out but not overly upset. Their baby, Gabriel, has no idea that anything is wrong and charms everyone who comes in contact with him. The family dog, Honey, appears adrift with her master missing. Mila has a lot of theories, but the pieces have yet to fall into place. It will take some time, but she’s fairly confident that she and her father can track down his best friend. When the search takes them further into upstate New York, Mila finds more than she bargained for.
This is a novel about families, friendship and love. But it’s not a sappy novel at all. There is pain; there is humor; there is hope. Mila is one of those characters who is a very different person by the time the book is over, and while she’s not initially the easiest character to understand, she becomes a person that most of us can identify with on some level. I’m consistently impressed with the variety of Meg Rosoff’s work and this is just one more excellent novel in an already illustrious YA career.

22. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Steam-punk, Teen Books

Soulless: The Manga, vol. 1 by Gail Carriger, illustrated by Rem, read by Courtney, on 11/06/2013

I can’t help but think that this manga is really more for established fans than those new to the Soulless series. I haven’t read any of the series, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up the manga-style adaptations. I was not terribly impressed. In fact, I was kind of annoyed at the whole experience.
The story is lacking in detail and world-building, but that’s probably the result of it being an adaptation. The artwork is merely OK; it uses a lot of manga tropes, which, in an American comic, feels off somehow. I’m honestly getting very tired of popular series being turned into “manga”. Particularly annoying to me in this particular volume is the depiction of the female characters. The ridiculously large breasts and plunging necklines come across as entirely superfluous.
I wanted to like this series; I really did, but ultimately it just fell flat.

01. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Noelle, Steam-punk, Teen Books

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, read by Noelle, on 10/31/2013

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

31. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Steam-punk, Tammy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate # 1) by Gail Carriger, read by Tammy, on 07/04/2013

Alexia is different from the rest of her family. She’s a spinsterPrint whose father is both Italian and dead. Her mother has remarried and her step-sisters and step-father all tolerate her but think she’s odd. But they have no idea that she has no soul and can render supernatural beings powerless with a touch.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently. At one of the biggest social events of the year, she is attacked by a vampire which breaks all standards of social etiquette but Alexia accidentally kills the vampire defending herself. Then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, Scottish, and leader of a werewolf clan) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing?

 

27. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Steam-punk, Teen Books

The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry, read by Leslie, on 06/17/2013

The Peculiars

Eighteen-year-old Lena Mattacascar sets out for Scree, a weird place inhabited by Peculiars, seeking the father who left when she was young, but on the way she meets young librarian Jimson Quiggley and handsome marshall Thomas Saltre, who complicate her plans.

If you like steampunk you’ll probably enjoy this story, it’s got those unusual characters we come to expect and it’s setting is historical but in another land not in our reality.  Lena journeys for Scree to find out whether or not she is really a Peculiar by finding her father.  It was enjoyable enough to read, but I’m not quite sure I enjoyed parts of the book that seemed to lurch through the telling.

26. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Steam-punk, Tammy, Teen Books

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, read by Tammy, on 06/15/2013

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is horrified to learn that her mother has decided to send her to finishing school. She knows she is a great trial to her mother and older sisters but she’s just not interested in learning manners and behaving ladylike. She’d much rather climb a tree or dismantle a clock. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady and hopefully make great progress before her sister’s coming out party. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes this school is not your ordinary finishing school and not quite what her mother had in mind. etiquette and espionageAt Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn defense, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her new friends are in for quite an education.

Crossovers-2 coverThe two volumes of “Crossovers” are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with each other and real people throughout history.  The premise of the book was inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s:  a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England, in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by.  Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (Tarzan), and many more.  Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he explored the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters.  Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by Win Scott Eckert and others to become the “Crossover Universe.”  Mr. Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe. Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future.  (Mr. Spock himself claimed Sherlock Holmes as an ancestor of his!)  There are 2000 entries in this chronology and 300 illustrations. Reading these two books is fun and will send you scurrying to find many of the stories and books that are referenced.

 

Crossovers-1 cover

The two volumes of this book are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with real people throughout history.  The premise of this book is inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s:  a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by.  Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (aka Tarzan), and many more.  Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he detailed the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters.  Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by others into the Crossover Universe.  Win Scott Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe.  Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future.  Reading these two books is a fun and highly addictive experience!

 

22. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Steam-punk, Teen Books

The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent , read by Angie, on 10/16/2012

The Unnaturalists is an unusual book. It is a mix of fantasy, magic, history and steampunk. It is set in New London where 600 years ago the people where sucked through a portal into this new world. Along with the people, buildings from various periods of time were also sucked through. The world they landed in had many creatures who the people called unnaturals. They hunt the unnaturals and use them to fuel their world.

Vespa Nyx is the daughter of the head of the Museum in New London. She wants nothing more than to work in the Museum and become a Pedant but there are no female Pedants in New London. Syrus is a Tinker who lives with his clan in Tinkerville, a collection of old train cars. He has the gift of being able to understand the unnaturals when no one else can. Pedant Hal Lumin is a mysterious character who seems to always come to the aid of Vespa and Nix. We then learn that Vespa is a witch, probably the last witch and Hal and the Architects, a heretic group who practices magic, want her to help heal the world. Vespa, Hal and Syrus struggle to figure out what is going on with the captured unnaturals and tinkers in the refineries that power the city. What they discover shakes them to the core and makes them realize how evil their world really is. Of course there is one who wants to destroy everything and he needs Vespa to do it.

The concept of this book was awesome; I loved the idea of combining steampunk and fantasy and magic. I actually really liked the characters of Vespa and Syrus; they were well fleshed out and had a lot of dimension. However, the world building really suffered in this book. It was a fascinating world but it seemed like there were a lot of things unexplained or just plain improbable. I wish Trent had spent a little more time building a logical world in addition to all the time she spent on her story.