In which I have thoughts about steampunk as a genre.

I love Steampunk. There is something very appealing about the steampunk aesthetic that combines modern technology with very Victorian sensibilities. I like that the books have a historical feel without quite being historical but also fantasy elements without quite being that either.

You can browse my “steampunk” tag to see all of the related reviews and posts (there are some book lists and Linktastic! posts as well). Yesterday I reviewed Etiquette & Espionage which is my most recent steampunk read.

Keeping in mind my deep and abiding love for the genre in general and the Leviathan series in particular, I’ve noticed something.

Steampunk books usually involve an English setting and in order to get in the right head-space, the narrative also involves a certain tone–you know, an English/Victorian tone. (It sounds made up but, trust me, if you read enough steampunk books you will see it.)

The problem I’ve noticed is that in adoption that tone and talking about those things that are inherent to steampunk (the clothes, the manners, the steam-powered inventions) it feels like a lot of steampunk books also become somehow flippant. Not that the writing is low quality or that anything about the book is cut-rate. It just feels, sometimes, like because the book is genre fiction (sub-genre fiction really since steampunk is so specific) that it isn’t allowed to take itself seriously. Instead of a deadpan (as it were) presentation of events we get a tongue-in-cheek kind of story.

Then I consider the fact that I didn’t notice that flippancy in Leviathan or its sequels. Which brings to mind other gender issues. Does Leviathan come across as more serious because it’s written by a male author? Does it come off that way because of a male protagonist? Does the focus on a military airship necessarily preclude elements that might create a flippant tone in other novels?

I don’t really have any answers here but it’s just something I noticed and wanted to talk about.

Do you ever think books don’t have permission to take themselves seriously? Does it matter? Is this all in my head?

Let’s talk it out in the comments!

Is all of this just in my head?

Etiquette & Espionage: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail CarrigerFourteen-year-old Sophronia is used to her mother’s disapproval and punishments. Even the idle threats of being sent to live with vampires hold little sway when Sophronia is faced with a situation in which she can attempt something daring instead of being painfully, boringly proper.

What Sophronia could not have guessed is that Mumsy would take matters further by sending Sophronia to a finishing school. Nor could she have anticipated exactly what that will mean when the initial pronouncement is handed down.

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is unlike any finishing school Sophronia could have fathomed. While she can’t be completely sure, Sophronia is fairly certain Mumsy didn’t have this kind of finishing in mind when she sent Sophronia away.

But then who is Sophronia to argue when there are friends to be made with fledgling evil geniuses, inventors with whom to collaborate and all manners of conspiracies to investigate. Manners and dress will certainly be in the curriculum. But so will diversion and deceit in Etiquette & Espionage (2013) by Gail Carriger.

Find it on Bookshop.

Etiquette & Espionage is the first in Carriger’s YA Finishing School series. It is set in the same world as her bestselling Parasol Protectorate series for adults.*

Carriger has already mastered the skills required to write a supernatural, steampunk, historical fantasy. Her alternate history with elements of steampunk and fantasy tropes blend together exceptionally well with the Austen-like tone of her narration.

The world is well-realized and fascinating although often under explained. It’s impossible to say for sure but it seems likely some shorthand was used in world building (or at least world explaining) since so much groundwork has been laid in the earlier Parasol Protectorate books.

With virtually zero romantic entanglements and numerous high-action sequences Etiquette & Espionage is ideal for readers of any age. The story handles several topics (race and class divisions, friendship, wealth and status) very well adding a nice dimension to the plot. At the same time, unfortunately, the pacing often feels off with an immense amount of  setup in the first half of the novel only to lead to a plot resolution that feels rushed in the final pages.

Etiquette & Espionage is a fine start to a series with a cast of characters that are appealing in every sense even if their world might take a bit too long to come fully into focus.

*Etiquette & Espionage functions as a standalone but readers of both series will likely recognize characters in common.

Possible Pairings: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare, Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke Cohen, The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman,  My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows; A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, The Invention of Sophie Carter by Samantha Hastings, A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Owned Authors

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

Top Ten Most Owned Authors: This is pretty timely because Kayla posted something similar recently and I was getting ready to put something together myself.

  1. Gabrielle Zevin (a million Books): I actually have no idea how many but it’s multiple copies of everything because my interview with Gabrielle is in the paperbacks of Birthright books 1 and 2.
  2. Carolyn MacCullough (more than five): I have everything MacCullough has written except for Falling Through Darkness. Also I have several copies of her galley of Always a Witch because I’m quoted on the cover.
  3. Maggie Stiefvater (9 books): Thanks to BEA, judicious purchases and generous gifts from Nicole, I currently own everything Stiefvater has published. Given how much I love her books, this will likely continue and eventually pose a terrible problem for me and my shelves.
  4. Victoria Schwab (4 books): Everything Victoria has written except her middle grades and a number that is sure to only climb from here.
  5. Robin LaFevers (7 books): These are arcs so maybe they don’t count? But I have LaFevers’ entire Nathaniel Fludd series to date as well as her His Fair Assassin books.
  6. Garth Nix (5 books): For those of you keeping count that is everything Nix has written about the Old Kingdom to date. (OMG Clariel was so good. Someone else read it so we can talk!)
  7. Elizabeth Eulberg (5 books): I am in the dangerous habit of buying everything Eulberg writes which should probably stop for my shelves’ sake.
  8. Melina Marchetta (5 books): I haven’t read past Finnikin but I have her entire Lumatere Chronicles as well as Saving Francesca and the Piper’s Son which are two of my favorite books of all time. I sometimes regret not buying her other two books when I had the chance to get them signed but I’ll live.
  9. Sarah Beth Durst (4 books): Maybe four? I don’t know. I have Enchanted Ivy, Drink Slay Love, The Lost, Chasing Power and I think there might be another one floating around. (This is what happens when your bookshelves have no discernible organization.)
  10. Sarah Rees Brennan (5 books): This includes Sarah’s Demon series and Unspoken and Untold. Obviously it will increase when her next book comes out because duh.
  11. Maureen Johnson (4 books): This was higher until I decided I was so mad about The Madness Underneath that I decided I would not buy the rest of the series nor keep The Name of the Star. I still have the first two Scarlett books and The Last Little Blue Envelope.


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

Week in Review: July 27


This week on the blog you can check out:

This week I finished getting together items for my Summer Box Swap package that I need to mail. I also finalized my blog birthday giveaway packs and am getting some features ready to roll out after the big birthday :)

At work I suggested some new ideas for shelving in the YA space and the two of us have been power weeding the non-fiction. While it’s great to get a lot of gnarly books off the shelves it’s also sad to see some of the dated materials that slipped through previous weeding attempts. But whatever. The main takeaway is we are rockstars.

I also feel like I might be getting sick again and might I say it’s possibly the worst time for that to happen. I have a rattling/congested cough going and a sore throat which I think wants to become a cold. I’m drinking a big glass of orange juice every morning and taking zicam lozenges to hopefully knock this out and fast.

I’ve been reading a lot of mediocre books but I did some serious damage with my July Reading Challenge so there is that.





Conversion: A (Rapid Fire) Review

Conversion by Katherine Howe (2014) find it on Bookshop

Conversion by Katherine HoweThis book had a lot going for it. The cast of characters is diverse. The story is set in both present-day Danvers and the Salem village when the witch panic starts. The narrator is reading The Crucible. (Which the book mentions isn’t really about Salem but the 1950s.) On top of that, I really enjoyed Howe’s debut The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and was incredibly excited to hear she was writing a YA novel.

Sadly, this one wasn’t for me. While it had all the right pieces, none of them came together quite right. Colleen and her friends never quite sounded like authentic teens. The plot never felt quite as urgent and compelling as it should. The writing did not come across as strong as it did in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Furthermore, this book felt stilted as if you knew the author was new to writing teen voices.

The story is still exciting and interesting but it was, sadly, not a good fit for me. Readers with an interest in the area will enjoy the evocative settings and readers with a fondness for Salem-themed stories will still find a lot to enjoy here.

Possible Pairings: The Fever by Megan Abbott, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman, The Crucible by Arthur Miller (or the play or the movie), The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare


The Book of Blood and Shadow: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“I should probably start with the blood.

. . .

“But beginning with that night, with the blood, means that Chris will never be anything more than a corpse, bleeding out all over his mother’s travertine marble, Adriane nothing but a dead-eyed head case, rocking and moaning, her clothes soaked in his blood, her face paper white with that slash of red razored into her cheek. If I started there Max would be nothing but a void.”

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin WassermanNora Kane never expected her independent study as a research assistant would lead to romance or murder much less a centuries-old conspiracy that started in 16th Century Prague.

And yet, after just a few months translating the letters of Elizabeth Weston, Nora finds herself in the middle of a nightmare tied to a mysteriously indecipherable book called the Voynich Manuscript and the forces who want to unravel its secrets in The Book of Blood and Shadow (2012) by Robin Wasserman.

The Book of Blood and Shadow is a thoroughly-researched blend of thriller and mystery that imagines what secrets the real Voynich Manuscript might hold. This story is dense with details of Prague’s history as well as morsels of truth about the real historical figures who feature in this work of fiction.

Although often long-winded with its extensive detail, this book is always extremely clever. The plotting is surprising and aptly executed even when it veers into the very, very unlikely.

Wasserman also does interesting things with characterization. Readers know early on exactly how bloody this story will be even though the inciting incident from the first page is not fully addressed until about one hundred pages into the story. Throughout the novel there is a push and pull dynamic between what is presented as fact and what is left to the imagination. (Is Max guilty? Is he unhinged or is it just being told that Max is unhinged that makes the difference?)

Sadly, not all books are for every reader either. The Book of Blood and Shadow brought up some particularly specific and personal bad memories that made it very difficult to finish. I also discovered, in reading page after page about it, that I have almost zero interest in Prague or its history. These were obstacles.

The bigger obstable, however, was Nora herself. Despite all of the things Wasserman does extremely well, Nora remains a very one-dimensional character. We see her through a few specific lenses (friend, girlfriend, researcher, daughter) but none of those pieces coalesce into a larger picture. Even as the narrator of the book, Nora’s story often felt more like a frame for the smaller story found in Elizabeth Weston’s letters.

While this book has a good story and raises a lot of interesting questions, it is very thin on closure. The treatment of Adriane is also problematic not just as the only other (not-centuries-dead) female character but also as Nora’s friend. No level of cleverness can distract from the problems surrounding Adriane’s character arc.

Recommended for readers who enjoy a surprising mystery and want to watch all of the puzzle pieces come together. Less recommended for readers with only a minimal interest in Prague. Not at all recommended for readers who might ask themselves what it means when the minority characters in a book are either murdered or complicit by the end of the story.

You can find more information about The Book of Blood and Shadows and the real stuff featured therein on Robin Wasserman’s website:

Possible Pairings: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, The Diviners by Libba Bray, Breaker by Kat Ellis, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga,  Tamar by Mal Peet, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island:

In truth, there is actually only one correct answer to this question. That answer is MacGyver.

Who else but everyone’s favorite 1980s TV Star would get you off that island with a raft made of your hair ties, some tic tacs and a few palm fronds? That’s right. No one else.

That said, if you insist on not traveling with Macgyver, these book characters would be my top picks to survive (and get off) a deserted island:

  1. Katniss from The Hunger Games: Since the entire series is basically about Katniss surviving things, I’m pretty sure she’d be a good deserted island buddy. She would help you find food and build a shelter and you know she wouldn’t rest until you both made it off the island. (Note: if the island has a giant cornucopia, disregard all of that information and run. You’re on your own. I’m sorry.)
  2. Katsa from Graceling: With her very useful Grace, Katsa is skilled in all sorts of things from fighting to surviving in the woods. Katsa is also fiercely loyal, so once you’re on her good side you’re really golden.
  3. Anyone from The Outlaws of Sherwood: Oh how I rue the fact that I gave away my copy of this book. That said, if you’re looking for people who can survive anywhere, Robin Hood and his Merry Men are probably a good pick.
  4. Eugenides from The Thief OR Sophos from A Conspiracy of Kings: While his skills aren’t always obvious, Eugenides is pretty clever and more than likely to survive in any situation. Much like Eugenides, you wouldn’t think Sophos would be much in the way of surviving, well, anything. But Sophos is smart and overcomes all sorts of difficulties in his book (the latest in the much-loved Queen’s Thief series) so I’d trust him on a deserted island!
  5. Pell from The Bride’s Farewell: Pell leaves her home (in 1850s England) to escape an arranged marriage and choose her own life. Along the way she runs into lots of trouble but she never once waivers and what’s more, she makes it.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

Week in Review: July 20


This week on the blog you can check out:

Blind is an exciting review because it’s an adaptation of my first review published in School Library Journal by the way :)

This has been a really long week. I didn’t sleep well. It was hot. And I was just really not happy and at sixes and sevens all week. I’m feeling better as I write this up (on Friday) but I’m hoping for better things next week.

This week I finished Clariel by Garth Nix, read Damaged by Amy Reed and started 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. I have no bought any books besides my preorder of Isla and the Happily Ever After and I hope to continue with the not buying through August at least. I’m still getting books for review consideration and for my committee so I simply have NO EXCUSE to buy books. (My friend from work Nikki also is moving to California for a super awesome opportunity as a YA Librarian so I even got some books from her before she left!)

Nicole and I are hanging out on Sunday (for the first time since BEA! *gasp*) and we will be making matches for the Summer Box Swap so everyone who signed up will be getting their match soon. (I’ve been hoarding books I don’t even need so I have fun things to give whoever is my match!)

I’m trying to plan my blog birthday giveaway right now. Also want to start up Miss Print’s Re-Prints. Then I had an idea for Clariel. So Clariel is a prequel to the Old Kingdom series. And the more distance I have, the more I love it. The ending is seriously heartbreaking but it is so well done.

In getting ready to review Clariel I also realized I no longer like the review I have for Sabriel and I never reviewed the other books in the series. SO I’m thinking of taking October and making all of my Chick Lit Wednesday Reviews center around the Old Kingdom books. Since Clariel is a prequel and publishes October 14, I figured I’d start with Clariel in the second week of October and then move through the other three books (Sabriel–I don’t want to just erase my old review so I figured I’d just publish a whole new one, Lirael and Abhorsen–with Abhorsen being reviewed November 5) and then run a regular/non-Wednesday review of Across the Wall. Anyway. I think this is a great idea. What do YOU all think?




Linktastic! July 18, 2014 Edition: Infographics, Feminism and Puns!

Many links today!

A Creature of Moonlight: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca HahnThe villagers have been talking of the woods all summer. More than usual. Farther from the woods than usual.

It’s one thing, now and then, for a stray bit of the woods to encroach. A well lost here, a path obstructed. Such things are to be expected.

This summer is different. The entirety of the woods seems to be moving in leaps and bounds, creeping closer than they have in years.

Marni knows the woods are dangerous place–a place of magic and wonder that often draws girls to it only to swallow them whole. Still, time and again, she finds herself sneaking there–away from Gramps, away from the prying eyes of the villagers who buy their flowers, away from the life that was snatched from her the day her mother was killed.

Marni has always walked a narrow path between the life the was stolen and the life she has with her Gramps. But now, with the woods moving closer and promises being made, Marni will have to decide where she will stand in A Creature of Moonlight (2014) by Rebecca Hahn.

A Creature of Moonlight is Hahn’s first novel.

Hahn masterfully weaves a world here where magic is as beautiful as it is dangerous–a world populated with calculating lords and kings as well as dragons and Phoenixes. Marni is a fascinating narrator, one who views both the humans and the woods with a healthy sense of skepticism. She is a strong heroine with a strong sense of self and an even stronger desire to secure her freedom.

She also has a very strange twang to her entire narration that is more reminiscent of a novel set in the Depression Era west (or just the West) than it is to this bit of higher fantasy. Marni reckons about many things and is none too afraid to say so neither. Her voice is often extremely jarring as readers are drawn repeatedly out of the story to ponder the choice of words on the page.

The story is typical coming of age fare as Marni learns more about both sides of her “family” such as they are and, over the course of the novel, comes into her own in various ways.

A Creature of Moonlight is decidedly short on peripheral characters, making the time spent in Marni’s head often claustrophobic as so much of the story centers on her inner conflicts. While her observations of the woods and at court are often entertaining and razor sharp, Marni’s motivations are never as clear as they should be.

While it is refreshing and modern to see Marni repeatedly turn down marriage proposals, the logic behind her deep conviction to not marry is murky at best–particularly given the specific set of obligations that will come with a life at court (which Marni adopts at one point in the plot).

Though often unsatisfying, A Creature of Moonlight remains a solid debut from an author to watch.

Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Glass Casket by Templeman McCormick, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel