Cover Impressions: The cover is beautiful, even if it isn't exactly unique. Far too many YA novels are simply shoving a pretty young girl into a stunn...moreCover Impressions: The cover is beautiful, even if it isn't exactly unique. Far too many YA novels are simply shoving a pretty young girl into a stunning dress and expecting the masses to jump on board. Unfortunately, as readers, we are suckers for this. The pose is pretty common and I am simply thankful to the cover art gods that she doesn't have a tattoo across her back. It also displays one of my pet peeves: elements that have NOTHING to do with the book: here it is the odd finger contraption and locket. In fact, now that I think about it, the dress is "off" as well. I would have much preferred if they had featured the dress that Finley received from Jack.
The Gist: Finley Jayne is different. When she is threatened the "other" Finley takes over. This side of her has a fierce temper and the strength to back it up. When an altercation sends her running, Finley finds herself with a new group of allies and in the midst of an investigation against "the Machinist"; a madman bent on wreaking by commandeering the city's automatons
Review: This was my first foray into the world of Steampunk and I am finding it difficult to determine how much of my dislike came from the book itself and how much came from the genre. (As a side note - if someone can recommend a better Steampunk novel, please do so. I really don't want to give up on the genre because of one sub-par book). While reading, I kept questioning which came first: the story or the wardrobe and machine ideas. It seemed that Kady Cross had written this novel simply so that she could describe pretty dresses and odd machines. Unfortunately, she did not do either particularly well. The whole world seemed a bit too .... convenient. Why set your book during the 1800's, if each time they encounter an obstacle, you are going to provide your characters with bastardized versions of modern electronics? Even these machines weren't creative, the "hand torches" (flashlights) and "pocket telegraph" (texting feature on a cell phone) left me rolling my eyes each time they were mentioned.
Cross' characters were also flat and unappealing. They seemed to have little personality beyond the bland stereotype (pretty girl, rich gentleman, smart chick, tough guy, bad boy and cowboy - Yes, I said COWBOY to borrow from my teenage years - gag me with a spoon). Emily had unrealized potential and left me wishing that she had been the main character instead of Finley. Speaking of Finley, it seemed like she was playing at little girl lost. Her cries for friendship felt weak and insincere and her moments of self-doubt and guilt were completely un-realistic. As for the gentlemen, if you threw them all into a giant melting pot and threw in a dash of Johnny Depp and a pinch of Ryan Reynolds (remember that scene in Blade where he was being tortured and you could just see a tattoo...well, it has nothing to do with this book but it was a great scene wasn't it?) mix those guys all together and you MIGHT come out with one interesting character. The villain was laughable and seemed to have just escaped from the Mystery Machine yelling "and I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"
The plot was pretty predictable. I had figured out all of the plot twists long before any of the main characters. The writing annoyed me with repetitiveness. I could have started a drinking game with the number of times I read "Corset" or "Cravat" or Emily's hair was described as "Ropey". Note to author: Either a) use a thesaurus or b) STOP CONCENTRATING ON THE DAMN CLOTHES AND GET ON WITH THE STORY! The "romance" in this book was nearly non existant and would have been better described as a bro-mance between Griffin and Sam.
But why, you ask with baited breath, did you give it a 2? Why not a 1? Firstly, a 1 is reserved for the most vile, vomit-enducing pieces of tripe and this wasn't quite there (mostly because I liked Emily and hold out hope that in the next book she will get more page time). Secondly, without having read any other Steampunk, I am not entirely sure whether or not some of my issues stem from the book or the genre and reserve the right to re-evaluate at a later date.
Age: Grades 7-9 Gender: Girls, very few boys would pick up a book with this type of cover. Sex: None Violence: Attempted assault, violence between humans and between humans and machine, lots of blood. Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Discussion of the use of opium, one scene of adults and minors drinking alcohol.
Cover Impressions: The cover does an excellent job of expressing the dark and foreboding mood of this novel. I am a fan of the oppressive fog and the...moreCover Impressions: The cover does an excellent job of expressing the dark and foreboding mood of this novel. I am a fan of the oppressive fog and the red highlights that provide a sense of mystery. The title font is PERFECT, antique-looking but clearly legible.
The Gist: Araby Worth spends her nights chasing oblivion in the Debauchery District. She seeks solace from the world outside, a world of death, disease and fear. The plague that decimated the city left her family elevated in society but shattered and haunted. When a night of revelry brings Araby to the attention of Will, the well-meaning older brother and Elliot, the reckless leader of a rebellion, she must shake off her stupor and finally decide if there are people in this world worth fighting for.
Review: Bethany Griffin is one brave lady. It takes guts to take on a master like Edgar Allen Poe. I love using Poe in my grade 7, 8 and 9 English classes, especially around Halloween. The kids enjoy the foreboding tone and dark imagery. Griffin manages to elicit the same ominous feel and sense of decrepit grandeur in her book. There is a beautiful dichotomy between the peasants ravaged by plague and the sheer opulence of Araby's lifestyle.
As a character, Araby is beautifully flawed. In the beginning, we see an empty, thoughtless shell of a girl. One that is guilt-ridden and bent on wasting away slowly and painfully. She is unable to recognize love and caring in those around her. Araby is easily led into betraying her father and endangering the entire city. It is as if she were waiting for someone to ask her to do something, anything, to tilt the precarious balance that the city has reached. As the story progresses, Araby begins to drop some of her carefully constructed walls and we get the merest glimpse into the strong and selfless individual that she might become.
For most of this novel, the action creeps along with a few tense moments here and there, much like the city, seething slowly but steadily until it erupts into a cacophony of violence that last until the final pages. There are some dull moments in the middle but if you persist and push through, you will be rewarded.
Teaching/Parental Notes: Age: 15 and up Gender: Female Sex: None Violence: Murders, Riots, Beatings, Swordplay, Gunplay. Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Underage drinking, Use of needle drugs(less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is very eye-catching and I love the color of the dress and...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is very eye-catching and I love the color of the dress and the intricacy of the clockwork collar. I am particularly glad that it was featured as it played such an important role in the novel. I also enjoy the ambiguity of the expression on the model's face. It is difficult to tell just what she is thinking and feeling.
The Gist: Having defeated The Machinist, Finley Jayne and her newfound friends have barely a moment to celebrate before Jasper is handcuffed and whisked off back to America to face a murder charge. The team follows him and are thrown into midst of the New York criminal underbelly while Jasper attempts to save himself and the mysterious girl that he left behind.
Review: This novel felt much more comfortable than it's predecessor. The characters seem to have worked out some of their issues and we are allowed to experience much more action and adventure rather than melancholy and introspection (though Griffin is still far too moody for my liking). In setting the novel in New York, Cross allowed for the development of Griffin and Finley's relationship without the interference of Griffin's station as Duke or Jack Dandy's advances. Finley also shows a great deal of growth in the acceptance of her abilities and, it is my hope, by the next novel she may have stopped whining about her attraction to the dark side all together.
Having established much of the world building in the previous novel, the writing in this one flows much more easily. We are not bombarded by the introduction of machine after machine and those that are described are much more original and, usually, play an integral part in the plot. Cross still shows a weakness for describing clothing and often seems to invent excuses to get Finley and Emily into elaborate dresses. The major flaw in her writing is the repetitiveness. We are constantly reminded that Finley has a dark side, that she enjoys the danger and that they are all worried that the "Jekyll" part of her personality may be becoming dominant. She also has a tendency to repeat descriptive words and phrases (snap like a chicken bone, tear like tissue paper, etc). What made this novel receive 3 stars (as opposed to The Girl in the Steel Corset, which I gave 2 stars) is that the story is interesting enough and the plot fast-paced enough, to overlook this idiosyncrasies.
Age: Age 12 and up Gender: Female Sex: None Violence: Fighting, Gun-fighting. Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: None(less)
Cover Impressions: I love everything about this cover. The wallpaper background contrasts beautifully with the black starkness of the dress. The ruffles and buttons on the dress keep my eye moving and I appreciate that the stance removes it from the typical "girl in a pretty dress" category. The font works very well and doesn't mar the cover image.
The Gist: When Sophronia is unceremoniously shipped off to finishing school by her exasperated parents she pictures days of manners, curtsying and proper dinner etiquette. And that is what she gets - some of the time. She soon discovers that the school is much more than she expected and perhaps more than her parents had bargained for. Sophronia learns the art of being a spy as well as being a lady and finds herself at the center of a mystery involving a missing prototype and several bands of dangerous thugs hell-bent on find it.
Etiquette & Espionage holds the distinction of being one of the few books that I have ever stopped and re-started again. When I started reading E&E, I seemed to be surrounded by mediocre books. Having read some of the rave review, I was a little concerned that my feelings toward this novel were being colored by the whole MEH-Ness of my reading life at the time. As such, I put it down, read something else and then came back. Upon returning, I did find it much easier to get into the story and I was a little less annoyed by some of the issues with world-building.
DISCLAIMER: I am generally not a steampunk fan. There, I said it. I have not had a great deal of luck with steampunk books in the past and I am beginning to think that I just don't see what so many other people see. That being said, this was probably the highest rated of my forays into steampunk - so that's something. E&E merges steampunk with mythological creatures and, oddly enough, the strange elements shouldn't quite work together, but they do.
I did find the whole school setting a bit dry. There seemed to be a great deal of telling me about what the ladies were learning in the classes instead of allowing me to see for myself. I was also surprised, by the end of the book, at how much time had passed. It seemed like events unfolded rather quickly, but the end of the book was the end of the year so perhaps things were moving more slowly than I thought.
The writing and narration style takes a little getting used to. I found myself annoyed on occasion by the manner in which the characters spoke. But, by the end, I had gotten used to it and could see some of its charm. Of course, my major irritation came in the form of the names. Mrs Barnaclegoos, Lord Dingleproops, The Great Chutney- you have got to be kidding me. The only character who had a "normal" name was Agatha and she was meant to be the most boring and timid! This made it difficult to keep the characters straight in my head and, when a new character was introduced, I often found myself stopping to mutter "COME ON?!"
I didn't find any of the characters particularly loathesome, but then I didn't find them particularly endearing either. They floated in the land of the unforgettable. Even Sophronia wasn't that remarkable and I was left searching for any distinguishing on which to throw my love - but none arose.
I did find the novel much more enjoyable once I re-started at about 3/4 through. This last section was more exciting and fast paced. I have Curtsies & Conspiracies on my TBR pile and am really hoping that my slow start was just that, and that I will get to see some more character development in the second installment.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: None Violence: Knifeplay, Gunplay Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: Oh so pretty. I love that this is not quite the typical pretty girl in a pretty dress cover. For one, the dress fits quite well within the world of the book and shows no skin. The knife adds interest but, at least in the image, appears to be
The Gist: Sophronia is entering her second year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality - which is actually Mademoiselle Geraldine's training school for young spies. The girls are excited to learn of an upcoming trip to London, but Sophronia believes that there must be some mysterious reason that the school would come out of hiding and she puts her lessons to good use in trying to get to the bottom of the nefarious plot.
Review: I am still not sure how I feel about this book. I certainly enjoyed it more that Etiquette & Espionage, however, I am still not sure I actually LIKED it.
My major issues from the previous book remained:
1) the names - the unpronounceable, ridiculous and annoying names! I simply cannot get past this point and I feel it was completely unnecessary. I couldn't help picturing the author throwing our random scrabble tiles in order to create some of these characters - an image that was constantly distracting me from the plot. 2) The lack of character development. Sophronia continues to be self centered and singularly focused - to the detriment of those around her. Her friends continue to be mere plot movers and are not able to stand on their own. They have interesting facets, but we never get to explore them. 3) The steampunk - I know, I know, that is what a lot of people love about this series but, I just can't seem to wrap my head around it. To be honest, this may not be a failing within the book itself, since I just can't seem to find a steampunk book that I enjoy. I always end up thoroughly confused by the nonsensical explanations of technology and bored by the info-dumping.
This is, however, the book for anyone that enjoys steampunk and is looking for non-stop action. I was almost breathless watching Sophronia run from one task to another. There are werewolves, vampires, kidnappings and high flying theatrics. The world building is extremely detailed and the blend of paranormal elements adds an interesting twist.
I think I am bowing out on this particular series. It would take a pretty spectacular synopsis to lure me back in next time - we shall see.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Knifeplay, Gunplay Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)