Wednesday, October 15, 2014

REVIEW: The Dark Victorian: Risen (Volume 1) by Elizabeth Watasin

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

A rogue re-animationist is causing mayhem in the streets of 1880's London, reanimating the dead to all sorts of deadly, nefarious deeds. But the Crown has their own weapon to fight back. The Secret Commission, an arsenal of supernatural beings, has been established exactly to help fight such crime. Artifice "Art", a very recently reanimated Quaker, and her partner Jim Dastard, a talking skull, have a job to do if they're to stop the string of recent murders plaguing the city.

Having only been recently reanimated, and remembering nothing of her former life by design, Art's journey of self-discovery is endearing, warming me to her character even more. For we as the reader get to discover and learn more about her as she does herself. And her partner Jim, a reanimated skull with no other living organs or parts and fueled by fire and smoke, is chock full of witty remarks and simply darling as well.

I truly enjoyed this supernatural romp through the streets of Victorian London. The author tells a lively, animated story, full of mystery and intrigue, and the characters of Art and Jim are simply awesome! The world building puts you right in the middle of the action, the author's descriptions giving just the right amount without bogging things down... a perfect balance. I very much look forward to reading the following titles in this entertaining series.

Many thanks to the author and NetGalley for providing a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

REVIEW: Carniepunk by Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, Allison Pang, Kelly Gay, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Meding, Jackie Kessler, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Hillary Jacques, Nicole D. Peeler

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

All the stories in this anthology revolve around the carnival and/or circus life, a subject I really enjoy. Didn't y'all want to run away and join the circus when you were younger... or is that just me? ;)

I reviewed this book on a story by story basis, and most of these stories were really good. I was also introduced to several "new to me" authors whose books and series I've since added to my TBR or wish list.

Painted Love by Rob Thurman - 6 stars
This story about a man, who's really a monster underneath, is purposely misleading, deceiving the reader into believing something that isn't so, just as Bart wears his false face to the rest of the world. I thought Doodle's endless narratives could drone on a bit too long at times, but overall the story was thought provoking and had me rereading it again after I'd finished.

The Three Lives of Lydia by Delilah S. Dawson - 6 stars
Parts of it were cool, other parts, not so much. I enjoyed the carnival scenes, but the reality of the situation was pretty depressing.

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street by Kevin Hearne - 8 stars
This was a fantastic short story, part of the Iron Druid Chronicles taking place after the 4th book in that series. The writing really drew me in, snarky yet action-packed. It can definitely stand on it's own outside of the rest of the series, but I enjoyed it so much that I immediately hunted down the Iron Druid Chronicles and added that series to my TBR list.

The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry - 1 star
Sorry but I didn't like this one at all. A transvestite junkie in a post-apocalyptic world of zombies. No thanks!

The Werewife by Jaye Wells - 6 stars
A riveting tale that teaches the lesson to be careful what you wish for... particularly while in the vicinity of the carnival freak show.

The Cold Girl by Rachel Caine - 7 stars
This was a fast-paced young adult story, and it held my interest throughout. Though I didn't like seeing Kiley as a victim, it at least depicted life honestly, albeit brutally, as to how cruel some people can be.

A Duet with Darkness by Allison Pang - 3 stars
I didn't really get this one at all, and the end was too obscure and made absolutely no sense to me. All the characters were unlikeable as well. Not a great introduction to this author for me.

Recession of the Divine by Hillary Jacques - 6 stars
The Greek goddess Mnemosyne taken on a human form and enslaved as a fortune teller at the local carnival. An interesting read.

Parlor Tricks by Jennifer Estep - 7 stars
An exciting short story that takes place in the world of the Elemental Assassin series. I got a bit of a feel for the main character Gin and think I'll check out the full series of which these characters are a part.

Freak House by Kelly Meding - 8 stars
Really liked this one, so much so that I'd like to check out more of this author's work. The title of this story states that it's a Strays Short Story, though I don't see that that's the name of any of her existing series, so I don't know if these characters are part of any of her other books or not. I hope so however, as I really liked the characters of Shiloh and Julius and would love to learn more about them.

The Inside Man by Nicole D. Peeler - 7 stars
This was a pretty decent read, and also part of an existing series, Jane True. I'm not sure if I loved it enough to seek out more books by this author or not, but I will definitely be checking goodreads to see what the Jane True series is about and find out what others thought of them.

A Chance in Hell by Jackie Kessler - 7 stars
I enjoyed this one, and liked Jezebel's character. I guess this is part of the author's Hell on Earth series, the first 2 books of which I have somewhere in my TBR boxes in the garage. I may just have to pull them out to add them to my more current TBR pile after this short but enticing short story.

Hell's Menagerie by Kelly Gay - 5 stars
The story itself was alright, though I didn't care for the author's writing style all that much. The action scenes, which should've been fast-paced and exciting, were instead bogged down with excessive detail. For this reason, even the actions scenes seemed to just sort of creep along with the rest of the book.

Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea by Seanan McGuire - 7 stars
Mermaids are magical! Though this story wasn't nearly as dark or action packed as the others, the author's writing style really drew me in. The quality of that writing, combined with mermaids and carnies, will definitely have me seeking out additional works from this author.

Friday, October 10, 2014

REVIEW: Quite Contrary by Richard Roberts

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Mary is lost in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, continually jumping between various fairy tales and myths to escape the Wolf who's trying to kill her... and so the story goes.

I almost didn't finish this, had pretty much decided to give up after five chapters in. Mary was quite contrary alright, so much so that I couldn't care less what happened to her. I started to wish she'd just die already so the story would be over! Her bad attitude was just plain rude, vulgar, nasty, and mean. And it was hard to believe she was only twelve years old based on her thought process!

However, after reading several Goodreads reviews that mentioned Mary's change in attitude, and the dawning realization that a change was taking place, I decided to plod on. It was around the 1/2 way point that I started to enjoy this story a bit more. Mary's tough exterior began to soften and crack in places, and as she opened up her emotions to her companions—a rat and a wooden doll—the reader starts to learn a bit more about what makes her tick, and why she's so nasty.

The final chapter was a bit of a letdown. It tried to summarize the entire story, making it Mary's own instead of that of Little Red Riding Hood, but it left out a lot of detail, and also changed some parts along the way. I guess the author's reasoning for including it was that Mary was retelling her own story, but I still thought it was too simplistic.

Overall, the last part of the book redeemed itself for the first half, thus bringing my rating up slightly from the original 1 star I was going to give it.

Monday, October 06, 2014

REVIEW: Splintered by A. G. Howard

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Hearing the thoughts of plants and insects can be a bit unsettling for Alyssa Gardner, especially if it means she may eventually follow in the crazed footsteps of her matrilineal relations. In a desperate attempt to rid her family of their curse, Alyssa decides to take things into her own hands and travel down the rabbit hole, her dear friend Jeb by her side. A wildly psychedelic trip to Wonderland, with the darkly enchanting netherling Morpheus as their guide, pits Alyssa against a series of challenges designed to right the wrongs committed by her great-great-great grandmother Alice Liddell when she'd visited Wonderland so long ago. But Alyssa also finds her loyalties torn between the stoic and dreamy Jeb and the deliciously magic and mysterious Morpheus.

I thought the story started off a bit slow. It had trouble holding my interest until around the 4th chapter when things started to pick up. But once the real ties to Wonderland started to materialize, even before Alyssa ventured down, is when it got good. The characters were all written quite well, the descriptions of Wonderland and its various creatures and netherlings fantastic, throwing you right into the middle of the brilliant yet frightening world opening up around you. At times, when the romantic aspect between the characters would start to take center stage, I felt my interest waning a bit. But that's probably just me since I don't like romances. Other readers may thoroughly enjoy Alyssa's tangled feelings for Morpheus versus her guilty feelings for Jeb. Fortunately for me, there was so much more going on here that the romance didn't bother me all that much. Overall, I thought it was an interesting read and I plan to read the other books in the series sometime soon.

Friday, October 03, 2014

REVIEW: Waistcoats & Weaponry: Finishing School Book the Third by Gail Carriger

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Sophronia and her friends are off on another adventure, this time in an attempt to return Sidheag to Scotland to reunite with the broken werewolf pack her grandfather left behind. But along the way, they uncover a sinister plot that forces Sophronia to decide where her loyalties lie.

Another action-packed read in the young adult Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, this third book was just as riveting as the first two. Though there's a bit of a love triangle starting to go on now—a plot device I'm not particularly fond of—it hasn't really been over done here, not to the point where it's driving the plot by any means. That said, I'm really curious to see the direction the relationships with both Felix and Soap take after this book, especially with Soap's new station in life.

Ms. Carriger has crafted a wildly imaginative steampunk world that continues to dazzle with it's charm and strong characters. I realize it'll be awhile before another book in this series is released, so I've decided to check out her Parasol Protectorate series to tide me over. :)

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

REVIEW: Curtsies & Conspiracies: Finishing School Book the Second by Gail Carriger

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Sophronia is enjoying her time at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy. In addition to learning a proper curtsy, she's also learned how to wield a letter opener to deathly effect. In this second book of the Finishing School series, the school is on the move—a trip to London to witness the very first transcontinental dirigible expedition, with possibly more to it than meets the eye. With Monique's coming out ball on the agenda, the recently botched kidnapping attempt on Dimity, and untoward advances from Viscount Mersey, Sophronia's certainly got her hands full if she's to make it through the school year.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, just as much as the first, if not more so. Ms. Carriger has build a wonderfully detailed steampunk world, abounding with dinghies, airships, gadgets, and mechanicals. Full of action and adventure, this book draws the reader in and doesn't let go. One thing I noted is that these books can easily stand alone if necessary. When a significant event would occur, one that relates to or depends on something that occurred in the previous book, the author neatly summarizes the event to bring the reader up to speed. So though you may have missed out on the excitement of said event the first time around, there's enough information given so a new reader is up to speed on current events, even if they haven't gotten to know the characters quite as well yet.

As I said in my review of Etiquette & Espionage, I love Sophronia's audacious character, and think all the major characters in this book are very well drawn. I'm very much looking forward to Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third book in the series, due to be released in November, but which I luckily have an advance readers copy of waiting right here. :)

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 26, 2014

REVIEW: Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School Book the First by Gail Carriger

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

When mischievous young Sophronia Temminnick is sent off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, she immediately envisions the worst—for she would much rather be climbing and dismantling mechanicals than learning how to be a lady. But coupled with the fine arts of social etiquette, dress, and dance, the girls are also trained in espionage, diversion and intelligence gathering. Insofar as Sophronia had expected to abhor the boarding school, housed in an air dinghy hovering over Dartmoor, she instead finds that she's quite enjoying her time there, thriving in an environment that seems to cater to her shenanigans. Danger ensues as Sophronia commissions some of her new friends in tracking down a mysterious prototype, and meets an odd assortment of gentlemen, flywaymen, and Picklemen along the way.

This was a fantastic read! I quite enjoyed the romp through this fantastical 19th century world, of dirigibles and air dinghies. The writing style was fairly fast paced, slowing down at times when extra description was needed, but otherwise moved along pretty quickly. There were elements of the supernatural as well, though they definitely didn't dominate the story. I loved Sophronia's character, her determination and fearlessness were inspiring. And the little mechanimal Bumbersnoot... awesome!

I've already started on Curtsies & Conspiracies, the second book in the series.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 22, 2014

REVIEW: The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Revelation Dyer is descended from a long matriarchal line of New England witches, each with their own curious power. Revelation's power is that she can vanish into thin air, making her talent as a stage magician quite legendary. When her husband, famed magician Jeremy Maskelyne and the other half of her act, is killed in a freak accident—which turns out to be not quite an accident after all—Reve's life starts to fall apart. On the prompting of her grandmother, whom she fondly calls Nan, she does the only thing she can think of: gathers up her three daughters and returns home, to the small town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts, an area where her ancestral magic runs strong. The little ghost town, residing on the edge of Hawley Forest, and next to it's larger Hawley neighbor, has quite a bit of controversy surrounding it, and it's own rich set of historical legends the locals are reticent to even talk about. But if Reve is to defeat the elusive enemy that's haunting her, she's going to need all the help she can get.

Wow, what an amazing, spectacular, spellbinding story! It gripped me from the moment I picked it up, and though I was excited to hear that there will be more Revelation stories to come, I'm sad I'll have to wait for them. Chrysler Szarlan has got some mad skills with world building and character development, a startling fact considering this is her debut novel. I found myself lost in the story for hours on end, difficult to put down.

This story was both haunting and magical, drawing the reader in with it's flowing prose and vivid descriptions. If I had to give any criticism at all, I'd say it's only that Reve frustrated me at times, with her reluctance to believe what was right in front of her, especially coming from a magical family as she did. I liked that the story took place primarily in Western Massachusetts as well as Las Vegas, both areas I'm familiar with, as I love feeling that connection with place that a story can evoke. I'm definitely looking forward to more!

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Ballantine Books for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.