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Something Strange and Deadly Read Along Week 2 October 17, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in Book talk, Read Along.
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It’s Week 2 of the Something Strange and Deadly Read Along! I’m on time with my questions this week!

1. On page 101, Eleanor is reading Elijah’s letter where he mentions the mysterious Gas Ring and how once they see their errors, “Father will be most proud” – Eleanor corrects the tense by saying he would have been proud, not will be and that Elijah never got used to referring to their father in the past tense once he passed away. What do you make of this “mistake”? Is there more to this mistake than Eleanor realizes or was it just an innocent oversight?

I’m not sure what to make of this. At first I thought that “Oh wow! This could be big!” I thought maybe the necromancer was actually Eleanor and Elijah’s father. Except he was a supplier by trade. I’m not sure that makes him into a necromancer. I guess I’ll have to read on before I find out whether or not that has any real significance.

2. We first hear about the grimoires in this section which Jie explains are books of black magic. What roles do you think these books will play in the story? Since Elijah has clearly involved with grimoires, do you think it’s for the side of good or the side of evil?

The grimoires seemed to be a big clue to something. I’m just not sure what. I just feel like I need a little more information before I can really figure out what their deal is.

Elijah probably started studying grimoires with the best of intentions but he might have ended up with a hot mess on his hands. In other words, he might have knowledge that lands on this side of evil. That might be what got him into trouble.

3. We start to question a lot of Clarence’s actions at motives in this section of chapters. Do you think he has it in for the Spirit-Hunters? Why does Daniel warn Eleanor against him, and what business does he have with Peger?

Clarence is obviously no friend to the Spirit-Hunters. I honestly have no idea why Daniel warned Eleanor away from Clarence. I do think that Clarence is using Peger to monitor the Spirit-Hunters activities and whereabouts though.

4. Eleanor and Jie discuss the roles and limited freedoms of women, especially regarding clothes and “proper behavior”. We know that Jie has been disguising herself as a boy so she will not have to abide by the silly rules that women are supposed to follow. When asked, Eleanor says that she has no choice but to obey, and Jie tells her “You always have a choice” (p166). We’ve come along way since Eleanor’s time in the nineteenth century, but do you think certain “rules” like these still exist? Women and men are equal in today’s Western societies, but are there any “norms” that women are still restricted from that men have full freedom to pursue?

I don’t think women and men are equal in today’s society. I think that there’s still a prevalent prejudice that women ultimately want children and marriage over a career and/or a single life. Women have the freedom to pursue a career and a single life, but the expectation to have children and to get married is still there.

4. Chapter 14 ends with quite the cliffhanger! What do you think this spirit is all about? Do you think it’s connected to the Dead at all or is this a separate entity? Why is it specifically connected with Eleanor?

I think it might be a separte entity that isn’t connected to the dead. Maybe it’s her father or maybe it’s Elijah. I’m not sure. There are so many ways this could go. This is why this is such a good book. The mystery is so good!

Those are my answers to this week’s questions! See you here next week!

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Review – Incarnation October 16, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Steampunk.
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Title: Incarnation

Author: Emma Cornwall

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication Date: September 18, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1439190357

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

In the steampunk world of Victorian London, a beautiful vampire seeks out the author of Dracula–to set the record straight . . . If one is to believe Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire tale, Lucy Weston is Dracula’s most wanton creation, a sexual creature of the night who preys on innocent boys. But the real-life Lucy is nothing like her fictional counterpart—and she demands to know why the Victorian author deliberately lied. With Stoker’s reluctant help, she’s determined to track down the very fiend who transformed her—from the sensual underworld where humans vie to become vampires, to a hidden cell beneath a temple to madness, and finally into the glittering Crystal Palace where death reigns supreme.

Haunted by fragmentary memories of her lost life and love, Lucy must battle her thirst for blood as she struggles to stop a catastrophic war that will doom vampires and humans alike. Ultimately, she must make a choice that illuminates for her—and for us—what it means to be human.

Review:

Lucy Weston awakes in the earth with a stake in her chest. All she can remember is a strange man luring her from her window one night. From there she discovers Bram Stoker has written about her plight in a grossly exaggerated tale. She goes on a quest to not only find out why Stoker has written such lies, but also to find out what he knows about the truth.

Along the way she comes across Marco di Orsini, a Protector who is sworn to protect humans from vampires. They become allies as the hunt for the vampire who incarnated Lucy takes on new meaning. Lucy also stumbles across Lady Blanche and Felix, fellow vampires. One of whom becomes her ally, the other becomes her enemy.

I instantly took to Lucy. She regretted her departure from her human life, but she didn’t let that stop her from accomplishing her goals. She was resilient and she had strength of character. Seemingly overnight she finds herself a vampire thirsting for blood and she adapted well. She did what she needed to do to survive even though there was no one there to show her how to survive in her new life.

Marco was another strong character and the romantic interest in this book. He was not without a certain mystery. Who was he really? How did his interests as a Protector coincide with Lucy’s? All these things ran through my head as I read on.

Lady Blanche was a consummate vampire. She truly had the sense of a creature who had lived for centuries. She also had more of Machiavellian mind. Felix was much more sympathetic and human. You could instantly tell which one to trust and which one not to.

I could never quite get a handle on Mordred, the vampire who incarnated Lucy. He was a complete mystery to me. Was he sympathetic to the human plight or was he impervious to human feeling after centuries of having seen their petty struggles? I was very conflicted as to which Mordred to believe in.

In the beginning of the book I found the prose a little cumbersome but I soon fell into rhythm with it and began enjoying it. The pace of the book kept up throughout the book. There’s enough happening to keep you engaged yet it’s not so much that you find yourself overloaded.

The London Lucy lives in is filled with Watchers on Teslaways and floating dirigibles. There are monstrous foundries where men slave their lives away. There are even more inventions then that. More then I can name, all adding to the wonderful steam punk feel of the novel. I truly enjoyed that facet of the book.

On the whole I enjoyed this novel tremendously. It was a fun adventure with a great romance. I loved Lucy and I hope there will be more books with her in the future.

Something Strange and Deadly Read Along – Week 1 October 14, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in Book talk, Read Along.
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It’s time for the first week of questions for the read along. I’m actually late for it. I’ll try to be more timely next week!

Week 1 Questions:

Character impressions: Clarence
What are your first impressions of Clarence? Does he seem like a trustworthy person, or is he hiding ulterior motives behind good looks?

I think he’s too polished for me. I don’t trust him at all. It also seems like he’s trying too hard to charm Eleanor. He’s obviously hiding something and I don’t think it’s something good. I can never trust a character that’s all charm and good looks.

Character impressions: Eleanor Fitt
What are your first impressions of Eleanor? It seems like her mother always wants to put her family’s reputation above all else. How do you think Eleanor feels about this?

I thought Eleanor was very brave and resourceful. She withstood the Dead attack very well, but I don’t like the way she sways under her mother’s thumb. I wish she’d stand up to her mother a bit more. I think she feels that she needs to carry the weight of the family’s reputation and the family’s fortune on her shoulders. That’s too much responsibility for one girl.

Character impressions: Daniel
Daniel is quite brash with Eleanor when they first meet in the Spirit-Hunter’s lab. Do you see potential for a friendship? For a romance?

Daniel is everything Eleanor isn’t. He’s lower class and he’s uncultured. The way the two clashed made me think that they were bound for an opposites attract type of relationship. I can just see the set up for that.

1. Mrs. Fitt decides to hold a seance as a last minute fill-in for the party’s entertainment. How would you feel about this if you were a guest at the party? Do you think that’s wise with the Dead running around?

I thought she was crazy! With all that psychic energy running around? To hold a seance? Maybe she thought that nothing would happen but it was extremely foolish and I would have stopped her. I would have literally shook some sense into that silly woman. All she could think of was impressing her guests and she had no thought to the consequences.

2. Eleanor lives with only her mother and the live-in help since her father passed away and her brother is in New York and possibly taken by the Dead. I feel like the absent family member – especially a parent – is a theme I see a lot in YA novels. Why do you think that is? What aspect does this add to the story?

I think divorce is common these days and I think that authors try to address that in books these days. I think authors try to help young adults not only relate to the characters their portraying in their books, but also to cope with their situations.

3. We first see the steampunk feel when Eleanor wanders into the Centennial Exhibition to find the Spirit-Hunters. What do you think of machines and science fighting the zombies and paranormal?

I love machines and science joining the fight! I think it adds a new dimension to a story. I think we’ve seen it in other stories with vampires and werewolves, but I don’t remember it with zombies.

4. What do you think really happened to Elijah? Do you think he was captured by the Dead, or are there more secrets hidden behind his disappearance?

I do think there is more to the mystery then there appears to the naked eye. I have a sneaking suspicion that Clarence has something to do with it one way or another but we’ll have to see how that plays out. I’m eager to see if my hunch rings true th0ugh!

That’s it for this week’s read along questions! I hope you enjoyed it. Next week we’ll be reading Chapters 8-14 (through page 178). I hope to see on Wednesday (Oct 17th.)!

Review – Stormdancer October 5, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult.
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Title: Stormdancer

Author: Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Publish Date: September 18, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1250001405

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Review:

This was a strong debut novel from Jay Kristoff and I loved it! I loved the Asian influence that reeked of Japan. I loved the complex world building. I loved the rich culture he infused throughout the book. I also loved the elaborate technological inventions he inserted in the book here and there.

What I really loved or rather, who I really loved was Buruu, the thunder tiger. He was magnificent! Buruu had a strong primal voice in the book as a main character. His bond with Yukiko was something I was particularly jealous of.

I did like Yukiko though. Yukiko was someone you felt for because her father became such a wastrel. She had to grow up before her time. Yet at the same time she cried out to be just a sixteen-year-old. She was capable and she could really fight well.

The shogun was the best villain. He was maniacal and evil. I truly felt hatred for him and his careless callous ways. The Lotus Guild was even worse. The way they were polluting the land and in turn, killing the people and the animals? Atrocious.

Even the finale of this book was strong. It left me feeling satisfied as far as knowing everything there was to know. The only problem I had was the the book had to end. I was left with a book hangover and with nothing more to read of Buruu and Yukiko’s adventures.

Review – The Unnaturalists August 31, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Steampunk.
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Title: The Unnaturalists

Author: Tiffany Trent

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date: August 14, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1442422063

Available at: Amazon KindleBarnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.

Review:

The Unnaturalists is a steampunk novel contains so much more then magical creatures. With the Unnaturals there are wielders of magic, like a witch and Architects as they’re called. They added an extra dose of excitement to the story. There was also one particularly violent scene. It took me by surprise because I didn’t expect to find it it in a young adult book, but maybe I’m being over-sensitive.

I liked Vespa for the most part. She had an eagerness about her that was very refreshing. My problem with her was her unshaking confidence in people that became rather naive truth be told. For a scientific mind, you would think she’d look at the cold hard facts and discern what was in front of her rather then what was in her heart. Instead she was swayed by emotion rather then by logic.

Syrus was resourceful and resilient. He had a way about him that never ceased to give up in despite the odds. I really liked him. He’d fight and fight, no matter what. He was pretty good at it too!

I also really liked Pedant Lumin. He always managed to keep his cool and be in the right place at the right time. Lumin was all at once the dashing hero and the resourceful sidekick. The intriguing mix of roles kept me interested and I was entranced by his character the most.

One of the things I enjoyed most was their religion. Trent made science itself a religion. Scientists became patron saints. Darwin and Newton became patron saints. It was also a goddess based religion. I have to admit I’m pretty partial to goddess based religions.

Basically, the Unnaturals are being used for a hideous purpose and it’s up to the three to stop it. I was interested enough in the plot to keep reading. It was fresh enough for me to be intrigued even if it’s been recycled in one form or another. I feel like Vespa could have stood to become more fully developed to have let the story become fuller. Although the book fell on more of the supporting cast to pull it through as far as likability, it’s still a strong one. As far as likability goes, that could be a matter of preference.

Review – Asher's Invention August 8, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 3 stars, Romance, Steampunk.
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Title: Asher’s Invention

Author: Coleen Kwan

Publisher: Carina Press

Publication Date: June 25, 2012

ASIN: B007M8S2FS

Available at: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Summary:

Minerva Lambkin’s father has been kidnapped. Now she’s forced to return to Asher Quigley, the man who broke off their engagement five years ago. Without his help her father is as good as dead.

Asher agrees to help Minerva, but can they see beyond their conflict of their troubled past to solve the problems of the present?

Review:

Asher’s Invention is a steampunk romance with a lot of action, but the romance seemed a bit forced at times. I got tired of the way the two of them kept pulling apart and pushing forward in a heave of emotions.  The constant repetition on the theme made it tiresome.

Minerva was very independent and spunky. She surprised me in the end. In fact she surprised me more then once. Minerva was a very passionate and forthright woman. I really enjoyed reading about her.

Asher was equally passionate. Unfortunately he came off rather indecisive and tentative whenever he became confused by his emotions. He was still a brilliant man, I just couldn’t connect with him.

The villain was disappointing. He came off rather vaudeville, cardboard, and comical. I really wish there had been more to him. The whole scene of the big reveal was a bit anti-climatic.

This story still has a lot going for it. The action is swift, the romance is still tender at the end, and the heroine is admirable. Not bad for a 76 page read!

* A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Review – Asher’s Invention August 8, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 3 stars, Romance, Steampunk.
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Title: Asher’s Invention

Author: Coleen Kwan

Publisher: Carina Press

Publication Date: June 25, 2012

ASIN: B007M8S2FS

Available at: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Summary:

Minerva Lambkin’s father has been kidnapped. Now she’s forced to return to Asher Quigley, the man who broke off their engagement five years ago. Without his help her father is as good as dead.

Asher agrees to help Minerva, but can they see beyond their conflict of their troubled past to solve the problems of the present?

Review:

Asher’s Invention is a steampunk romance with a lot of action, but the romance seemed a bit forced at times. I got tired of the way the two of them kept pulling apart and pushing forward in a heave of emotions.  The constant repetition on the theme made it tiresome.

Minerva was very independent and spunky. She surprised me in the end. In fact she surprised me more then once. Minerva was a very passionate and forthright woman. I really enjoyed reading about her.

Asher was equally passionate. Unfortunately he came off rather indecisive and tentative whenever he became confused by his emotions. He was still a brilliant man, I just couldn’t connect with him.

The villain was disappointing. He came off rather vaudeville, cardboard, and comical. I really wish there had been more to him. The whole scene of the big reveal was a bit anti-climatic.

This story still has a lot going for it. The action is swift, the romance is still tender at the end, and the heroine is admirable. Not bad for a 76 page read!

* A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Review – Molly’s Soap Parlor May 29, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 3.5 stars, Steampunk.
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Title: Molly’s Soap Parlor

Author: Stacey James

Genre: Steampunk

Publisher: Stacey James

Publish Date: March 18, 2012

Available at: Amazon

From Amazon:

Steam and soap powder rule in 1895 Whiskey Falls!

Spunky twenty one year old tinkering laundress, Molly Watkins, can clean more than just sap and coal stains out of overalls; she can clean house with anyone that sets an unwelcomed foot on her new establishment- Molly’s Soap Parlor. That would include scoundrels, thugs, and pirates.

But Molly has no time for twittering- not even with a handsome wilderness scout named Arrow. His elusive ways annoy her, yet together they create a chemistry that Molly cannot account for.

Meanwhile, Molly’s latest contraptions land her in a world of hurt. Gadgets, torpedoes and a modified Henry rifle quickly become a feisty laundress’ best friend in Whiskey Falls in the winter time.

Having narrowly escaped the foothills of North Dakota without her dog sled team, Molly made her way east to Whiskey Falls in order to enter her new contraption, a cycle fly rod, in an annual ice fishing derby. The rod is only one of Molly’s latest inventions. But not everyone is rooting for the independent Molly Watkins…

It turns out there is more than just soap brewing in Molly’s peculiar steam-powered laundry contraption.

Review:

For an 83 page novella, this story packs a lot of punch.  A lot happens in a short amount of time. It’s fun and fast-paced. The characters are lively and colorful. The contraptions are intriguing and are an integral part of the story.

The romance is sweet and heart-warming if somewhat predictable. Arrow was also a bit predictable and formulaic. Molly’s responses were just as predictable. I still enjoyed them though.

I thought it was strange for Molly to respond to Arrow with a “no worries”. There were other spots of dialogue I had a hard time getting a feel for.

I thought it was rather corny that her soap powder was so sought after. If you put aside that fact, it was an entertaining read. While I’m not quite certain this quite fits in the Steampunk genre as it takes place in the Wild West and this certainly is no literary gem, I”ll still look for the next in the series.

Review – Molly's Soap Parlor May 29, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 3.5 stars, Steampunk.
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2 comments

Title: Molly’s Soap Parlor

Author: Stacey James

Genre: Steampunk

Publisher: Stacey James

Publish Date: March 18, 2012

Available at: Amazon

From Amazon:

Steam and soap powder rule in 1895 Whiskey Falls!

Spunky twenty one year old tinkering laundress, Molly Watkins, can clean more than just sap and coal stains out of overalls; she can clean house with anyone that sets an unwelcomed foot on her new establishment- Molly’s Soap Parlor. That would include scoundrels, thugs, and pirates.

But Molly has no time for twittering- not even with a handsome wilderness scout named Arrow. His elusive ways annoy her, yet together they create a chemistry that Molly cannot account for.

Meanwhile, Molly’s latest contraptions land her in a world of hurt. Gadgets, torpedoes and a modified Henry rifle quickly become a feisty laundress’ best friend in Whiskey Falls in the winter time.

Having narrowly escaped the foothills of North Dakota without her dog sled team, Molly made her way east to Whiskey Falls in order to enter her new contraption, a cycle fly rod, in an annual ice fishing derby. The rod is only one of Molly’s latest inventions. But not everyone is rooting for the independent Molly Watkins…

It turns out there is more than just soap brewing in Molly’s peculiar steam-powered laundry contraption.

Review:

For an 83 page novella, this story packs a lot of punch.  A lot happens in a short amount of time. It’s fun and fast-paced. The characters are lively and colorful. The contraptions are intriguing and are an integral part of the story.

The romance is sweet and heart-warming if somewhat predictable. Arrow was also a bit predictable and formulaic. Molly’s responses were just as predictable. I still enjoyed them though.

I thought it was strange for Molly to respond to Arrow with a “no worries”. There were other spots of dialogue I had a hard time getting a feel for.

I thought it was rather corny that her soap powder was so sought after. If you put aside that fact, it was an entertaining read. While I’m not quite certain this quite fits in the Steampunk genre as it takes place in the Wild West and this certainly is no literary gem, I”ll still look for the next in the series.

Review – The Whitechapel Gambit May 27, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4.5 stars, Steampunk.
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Title: The Whitechapel Gambit

Author: Marcin Wrona

Genre: Steampunk

Publisher: Marcin Wrona

Publish date: April 24, 2012

Available at: Amazon 

From Amazon:

When the Haversham sun grinds to a halt before dawn, Daniel (or David) Squeak expects that he and his fellow sunwell workers are in for an awful day. What he doesn’t expect is that a furious foreman will be the very least of his problems. One gear turns another, and Squeak finds himself injured, sacked from the only work he’s ever known, and afraid for his very life.

The mysterious Sir Nicholas offers Squeak a way out of his predicament, but this knight is no saint. As Sir Nicholas slides around the pawns and bishops of a decades-old plot, it’s Squeak who finds himself in motion: from sunwell to manor, from soot-stained Haversham to wealthy Rawlish, and even to the deadly jungles of the surface.

Workhouse lads are resourceful. Everybody knows that. But the bloody alleys of Haversham are not nearly as dangerous as the glittering avenues of King’s Court.

Review:

I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.

This Steampunk adventure was true to its genre. It didn’t just have token automatons inserted into the plot as background. They were an integral part of the story. That’s one of the things I found so delightful about this story.

Another thing I found so wonderful about this story was the alternating viewpoints of young Squeak to older Sir Daniel, who are one and the same. You can see his growth and progression from a workhouse lad to a young man of quality. Through it all he remains loyal to those he loves and to those he holds in esteem.

The whole cast of characters were colorful and full of life. From his childhood friend, Bing to Sir Nicholas, his mentor. They were all vividly portrayed. Even the Robins, who served as police in their society, were a blast of fresh air.

The action in the story was non-stop. It was one tumble down a winding path down another. That was a definite page-turner to say the least.

Another page-turner was the way the society and the world in which they lived in worked. I would say the world building wasn’t as polished as it could have been but you definitely got the feeling of a grimy, soot-stained underworld teeming with life.

I would have liked there to have been more attention paid to the upper surface tribes, but I still got  a sense of who they were and what they were about. I still got enough of an understanding so that I wasn’t totally left unsatisfied.

When I was done with the book, I was left a bit bereft at the thought that this might just be a stand-alone. I would have loved to continue on with the adventures of Squeak and his companions!