08. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books · Tags:

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress, 440 pages, read by Courtney, on 12/29/2012

Meet Cora: an inventor’s apprentice. Highly skilled and an exceptional problem-solver. Loves explosions and gadgets.
Meet Nellie: a magician’s assistant. Capable of hiding anywhere, even in plain sight (especially in plain sight). Talented with sleight-of-hand and an excellent performer.
Meet Michiko: the assistant to a self-defense teacher (who, in spite of his bluster, is not nearly as brilliant as he suspects). One of the few girls accepted into training as a samurai. A genius with weaponry. Doesn’t quite understand these crazy Brits, but these other two girls seem worth knowing.
When a series of mysterious deaths unfolds in London, three women find themselves drawn together. In a man’s world, they have difficulty being taken seriously (in spite of their obvious skills and talents). When they realize that the whole of London may be threatened, they join forces to to save the day.
The Friday Society is a fun, stylish romp through an alternate turn-of-the-century London. The girls each bring something unique to the table. The mystery at hand gets a bit convoluted at times, but characters never disappoint. I particularly love Michiko. She doesn’t speak much English, so her perspective is that of a distinct outsider, but her assessment of situations is spot-on. The repartee is always witty (even if more modern than it probably should be) and the girl-power vibe is palpable through and through. The mystery may be solved by the end of the book, but it’s clear that the adventures of these three ladies are nowhere near complete.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha, 427 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/20/2012

Our story opens with Carver Young getting kicked out of his orphanage (along with anyone else over the age of 13, due to new legislation). Carver has always dreamed of two things: finding his father and becoming a detective. After writing a letter to then-police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, he is given the chance to work alongside the top-secret Pinkerton Agency and believes his dreams have come true. He’s been trying to find the clues to his past and only one appears to exist: a letter written to the orphanage from his father. What Carver doesn’t know (and the reader does, so no spoilage here) is that this particular letter has the exact same handwriting that appears on letters sent to the London police during the infamous Ripper murders. And a murderer has begun killing wealthy ladies around New York. The city is in an uproar and everyone is determined to be the first to track down the vicious killer. Carver just wants to find his father. With the Pinkerton’s resources backing him up, Carver goes forth to find his long lost father although he begins to suspect that this man may not be someone he wants to know.
Fast paced and whip-smart, this is a fantastic treatment of the Ripper legend. After all, the Ripper was never caught or identified, so why not have him move to America to begin anew? The setting is stylish and detailed with a host of colorful historical characters, fascinating gadgets and clever dialogue. This one is a winner, right up until the final twist.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge, 492 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/14/2012

Aoife (pronounced like “Eva” only with an “f” instead of a “v”, in case you were wondering)is positive that she is going to go mad when she reaches the age of 16. Her mother did and continues to languish in one of Lovecraft’s many sanatoriums. Her brother did as well. Right before he came at Aoife with a knife. To be mad is to be considered contagious. The “necrovirus” has been spreading insanity for so long that the local government is obsessed with keeping it (and any heresy, meaning anything that is not rational and therefore connected) as far away as it can. One day, Aoife gets a message from her missing brother, telling her to head for their father’s house in Arkham. Aoife feels that her estranged father might have the answer to preventing madness so she grabs her friend Cal and breaks out of Lovecraft in pursuit of her family’s secrets. Along the way, they pick up a guide named Dean who decides to stick it out with them until the end. The house in Arkham contains a library which opens the doors to more than Aoife ever thought possible.
There is so much going on in this book and so many themes, it can be hard to wrap one’s head around at times. Aoife’s world is brutal and mechanical; arts, magic and philosophy are strictly forbidden. It’s also set sometime in the mid-twentieth century (much later than I had originally suspected), but the societal attitudes seem even more didactic. The world doesn’t always make sense, particularly the necrovirus. It’s not just that though, things start to get really weird around the time Aoife and co. make it to Arkham. As it turns out, everything prohibited as fanciful “heresy” is dangerous reality. An ambitious book that combines alternate history, totalitarian governments, steampunk aesthetics, fairy curses, multiple “worlds”, and lots of strange creatures that can don human form with mixed results. The pace lags at times and the plot is slightly convoluted, but there’s sure to be an audience for this one.

06. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books · Tags:

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, 319 pages, read by Angie, on 08/05/2012

Araby lives in a world filled with disease and despair, forced to wear a mask covering her face so she won’t catch the plague. She is cold and frozen from the death of her twin brother Finn years before. She spends her nights with her friend April at the Debauchery Club trying to find oblivion. It is at the Debauchery Club that she meets Will, the handsome club attendant taking care of his younger brother and sister, and Elliot, April’s reckless revolutionary brother. Elliot convinces her to join the resistance against his uncle, the ruler of the city, Prince Prospero. Araby must come to terms with her father’s role in the plague and her own desires.

This book is based on Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, which I have not read. But that did not diminish my enjoyment of this story at all. In fact, I might have to go back and read Poe’s version and compare. I loved the world created by Griffin. It is dark and dreary, filled with tattered clothes and steam carriages. Araby is an interesting narrator and a great heroine for our story. She has to balance her grief and guilt over her brother’s death, her parents’ apathy and her own desires. I like that the love triangle wasn’t a trite, messy thing (I HATE love triangles). This one worked because of the political messiness of the story. I do wish we would have gotten more information on Prince Prospero and Malcontent, but I foresee that coming up in the sequel. This is a fun book with lots of dystopian, steampunk angst.

I received a copy of this from the publisher at PLA 2012.

15. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, 473 pages, read by Angie, on 04/15/2012

Oh how I wanted to love this book. I thought the premise was pretty interesting. A young serving girl, Finley, fights the dual sides of her personality, one dark/one light. The dark side helps her survive difficult situations. She takes refuge with a young duke, Griffin, who also has otherworldly powers. He has a band of companions who are also gifted. Sam has supernatural strength, Emily is super smart and talks to machines, Jasper is super fast. The story takes place in Victorian England, but not our England. This is Cross’s steampunk version with automatons, velocycles (motorcycles), modern surgery, digital cameras, showers and all kinds of other modern conveniences. Our gang sets out to fight the evil Machinist whose dastardly plot isn’t revealed until the final chapters but clever readers will figure out very quickly.

Being a supernatural teen novel of course there not one but two love triangles…both of which are underdeveloped and not very necessary. I really don’t get the need for love triangles and in this book in particular they are completely unnecessary. The love interests themselves are so underdeveloped to be unbelievable. But that isn’t even the worst offense of the book.

I like steampunk. I can’t say I have read a whole lot of it, but what I have read I generally enjoy. Really well done steampunk integrates itself into the normal history of the world and becomes part of it. This book reads more like a future world forced into Victorian England. At points you pretty much forget that it is set in Victorian times and almost believe that you are in the future or at least modern times. Cross didn’t do a good job of integrating her modern tech into the historical era. It doesn’t fit; it isn’t part of the world; and you can’t make me believe it. There are instances that are just thrust in there for no reason…really a digital photo…seriously! In a world where everyone is riding horses and using carriages doesn’t it seem odd that our group would use motorcycles? Also, no one acts like people from the Victorian era. Their mannerism are all wrong; they are too modern and familiar for that era. But that isn’t the worst offense.

No the worst offense was the plot. I am sorry to say that it just fell flat. It had potential but just didn’t pan out. First, it was overly long which means there was way too much filler and exposition and not enough action. There was way too much tell and not enough show. There was also a lot of points brought up that were either not explored, dropped, or not sufficiently explained…the fact that Finley is the daughter of Jekyll and Hyde, the orgnanites, the aether, the work that is done for the queen, etc. Jack Dandy was an intriguing character who as far as I could see served no purpose but to be part of a love triangle. The villain was so obvious that I had it figured out as soon as we met him, yet the characters were too dense to see him or his plot. The characters themselves didn’t have a lot of density; they were very one dimensional. I could go on and on.

There is much better steampunk out there. Skip this one and find something else. I suggest Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series.

Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher, but obviously was not paid to review it.


30. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare , 476 pages, read by Angie, on 01/29/2012

I have to admit that I have not read Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. I am not sure if that would have had an affect on my opinion of this book or not. Not sure I want to read it after reading this one. I don’t think there is anything really wrong with this book per say; it just wasn’t that great. I found it really boring in places and struggled to finish it. I didn’t connect with the characters and really couldn’t care less about them. The story was interesting, but the plot was kind of obvious (maybe not to the characters but certainly to the reader).

This book is set in Victorian England and definitely has a very steampunk vibe to it, which I enjoy. However, the main character of Tessa is so Victorian that it is kind of difficult to like her. For the majority of the book she is more concerned with what is proper (like whether she can call someone by their first name) than what is going on around her. And one of the shadowhunters Jessamine doesn’t want to be what she is she just wants to go to parties and be a part of society. It may seem silly (and it is), but taken as a whole and in the quantity presented in the book and really does make it a little hard to stomach at times for the modern reader. The male characters aren’t that much better. Will is snarky and nasty and not in the “I’m mean on the outside and nice on the inside” kind of way. It doesn’t really appear that he has a nice inside to hide. Jem also has a dark secret past but he is atleast likeable if maybe too nice to contrast Will’s darkness. They all seem fairly one dimensional as characters so it is hard to like them or root for them.

The plot isn’t bad, but this is definitely set up as a series so not all your questions are answered in this book and not all plot points are resolved. Since this is the opening of the series there seems to be a lot of filler in the nearly 500 pages and the book does drag a bit in the middle. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t exciting parts because there was. I just wish it was more consistent.