Thursday, July 19, 2012

Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances

Ya'll I was so excited to find this title because I was seriously jonesing for some more really good steampunk after The Girl in the Steel Corset!  Unfortunately, this did not satisfy my craving.  Despite the word "steampunk" being in the title, that element seemed very optional in most of the stories - some were almost pure fantasy, historical, or supernatural with a robot or two thrown in.  Don't get me wrong - I liked most of the stories but they weren't really steampunk.  One was about a set of conjoined twins, one of which was in love with a guy who turns out to be a vampire; one set in the 1960s and was about aliens and racism; and one was set during WW2.  However, one of the more steampunk-esque ones is set in Deadwood, South Dakota, so holla!

Plus I think they used the same model from the original cover art for Specials by Scott Westerfeld, gave her a tan, turned her face sideways, and superimposed some gears over it all.  This type of not being original with cover art always bugs me. 

All ranting aside, the stories are interesting but if you're looking for steampunk here, keep moving.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Alexandrine Paradis has known both hunger and plenty.  As a performer she dreams of being on the great stages of Paris, and when she is offered a place in Louis the XVI's house to be a companion to the crown prince she feels her luck is finally changing.  Then a pesky thing called the French Revolution happens and ruins everything.

Andi Alpers is broken.  Reeling from her little brother's death, living with a half-sane mother, and furious with her absent father, she'd rather disappear in music most days. On a forced trip to Paris with her father (sucks huh?), Andi discovers Alexandrine's diary and is sucked into her world - literally.

I think Jennifer Donnelly might be of French descent because there was a definitely feeling of "maybe one day we'll get to the point" with this story for me.  Or maybe it was just poor descriptions of the the plot that had me annoyed because I kept asking myself when this Certain Thing about the story was going to happen and it didn't happen until way into the second half of the book.  By which time I kinda didn't care any more.  Oh and there was the fact that Paris was rarely painted as a place I would want to go - between the bitter cold of winter break during the Andi parts and the stinky excrement, sweat, and rivers of blood-filled descriptions of Alexandrine's parts, Paris has never seemed less appealing.  I was happy to finish the book and thankful to move on to lighter fare.

Goose Girl

Princess Andori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree, while no stranger to tragedy, has lived a pampered life.  The princess also has something of a secret - she has a connection to animals, particularly birds, which allows her to communicate with them.  Even though her "gift" has been discouraged by her mother, it is a great comfort to her as she finds speaking with people difficult.

When Ani is sent to marry the prince of the neighboring kingdom or Bayern, she is betrayed by her lady-in-waiting and several of her guards during the journey.  Running for her life, she stumbles upon a forest family who takes her in.  While they are kind, Ani know she cannot stay with them but must try to reach the capital city in hopes of finding an ally.  Early discouragements nearly undo her, but she takes a position helping to care for the king's geese.  As Ani makes friends in this new place, she begins to form a plan to reclaim her destiny.  

Shannon Hale writes such sweet stories.  They are lyrical and leaving a lasting sigh of light satisfaction on the reader's soul.  Sometimes I became frustrated with Ani and her lack of backbone, but in the end I can't imagine her story being told any other way.  Even though Ani is is sixteen this is a fantastic book for tween and younger teen girls. 


While waiting in the Bangkok airport for a flight to Vietnam with her parents, Gemma is stolen.  While Gemma hasn't necessarily been thrilled with her parents' role in her life - they're rather absent and pushy, but she's well, a teenager - she never wanted to be kidnapped and taken to the remote Australian Outback.  The story is Gemma's remembered story written as a letter to her kidnapper, Ty, which you know from both the front flap and the verb tense.  Ty has been planning the kidnapping for years, carefully watching Gemma at her London home and building the small compound of buildings that he takes her to in the Outback.

Wow - what a premise for a book, huh?  I wanted so badly for this book to be awesome, but I was not impressed.  Gemma's halfhearted attempts to escape only come across as frustrating, instead of heart-pounding.  Having not been kidnapped myself, but having watched & read the news stories of high profile kidnapping cases in recent years, I'll go out on a limb here and say that Gemma's story is probably close to a realistic situation.  But good gracious, it makes for a very boring YA book.  Nothing happens, ever.  The story goes absolutely nowhere.  Most of the book is taken up with endless descriptions of how hot Gemma is and her being in a haze because she can't be bothered to eat anything so she can build up her strength, stay mentally alert, and foil all of Ty's plans to keep her there. Then suddenly it's over.

So yeah, not going to recommend this as a must-have in your collection. Sorry Lucy Christopher!  I'm not trying to hate on you so please try again with another book!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever

 Jeff Kinney wrote the book, but this review is an interview with Sam Slocum (my co-worker's son) - a soon-to-be 8th grader.  I received a free copy of the book from the publisher (thanks Abrams, Harry N., Inc.)  I've never read the other books, and I thought it would be fun to have someone else read the book and get their take on it.  Sam agreed and then some time went by when life happened, but the other day Sam asked his mom, "Does that lady still want to interview me about this book?"  Which of course, I did so Sam gave up some summer vacation time, came over to the office this afternoon, sat on the big yoga ball I sometimes use as a desk chair, and let me ask him some questions.  For the sake of flow, I have omitted the extra prompting questions I sometimes asked.

So without further ado, I present to you Sam Slocum's take on Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever in his own words (I typed them as he talked). 

Give me a quick summary in your own words.
There’s this kid named Greg and how Christmas goes in his house and how winter goes in his house.

Do you relate to Greg at all?
No, but he is funny.  He’ll do stupid things and then get caught.  In this one he was shoveling driveways, and couldn’t keep up.  He’d do one side and then by the time he finished the second side the first side would be covered again, so he used water to wash it off and then the guy slipped and fell so then he had to get the ice off with just shovel. 

What are some of the things you like about the book?
How it’s not just constant reading, like how there’s comics in it.  It’s not all serious.  

Was there a part of the book you didn’t like?

Who is your favorite character and why?
I like his friend, Rowley.  His parents are overprotective, so he’s kind of a baby even though he’s in middle school.  

Would you lend the book to any friends?
All my friends have read it.

Have you read all the other Wimpy Kid books and are you going to read the next one?
Yeah, I read them all in a month.  Yeah probably.  (Especially if I give it to him) 

Anything else that you want to tell me about the book?
It's just like the other ones but I like the style.

Thanks Sam!  I promise I won't inflict this torture on you ever again!

Monday, July 2, 2012


High school freshman and best friends Amanda and Lena are already planning their soccer season together - suffering through on the junior varsity squad until some of the seniors graduate.  Having played soccer together for years they are a great duo, despite Amanda battling Sever's disease (where your bones grow faster than your muscles and tendons).  Yet, both of them still dream about making varsity as freshman (who doesn't?), but when Lena actually does, leaving Amanda behind on JV, their friendship starts to unravel. Lena makes new friends, leaving Amanda even more alone but determined to not be a total loser - on and off the soccer field.

Brendan Halpin has a fun and breezy style of writing.  This is a quick, enjoyable book and Halpin does a decent job of getting teen girls right.  About the soccer...I couldn't say, having never played and only watched a few matches in college because I was dating a soccer player at the time.  Having read more books than I've watched soccer matches, I do think this could be a great read for female reluctant readers.