Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mysterious howling

This book is possibly the most quotable book I've read in a very long time. I still have mixed feelings about its actual kid appeal, but I know it is a book my mom would quite enjoy.

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #1) The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Miss Penelope Lumley has just graduated from Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Girls. Her first position as a governess turns out to be quite the strange one. She's brought to Ashton Place and told to watch over and train the three children that the lord of the manor, Lord Fredrick, found in the woods. Lord Fredrick gives them ridiculous names and no one really expects Miss Penelope to be able to teach them anything. Of course, Miss Penelope Lumley is armed with wit, common sense, a love of learning and teaching, and the many sensible sayings of Agatha Swanburne, founder of the Swanburne school. The three children, Beowulf, Cassiopeia, and Alexander have some strange hard to break tendencies such as chasing squirrels and howling. This is probably due to their unusual upbringing by wolves. But in the end, the children prove their humanity and do abundant credit to Miss Penelope Lumley's governessing skills.

The book is written very much in the time period and vein of "The Secret Garden" or "The Little Princess" but is much more tongue-in-cheek and witty than either of those classic reads. It is very obviously also the first of a series, as the Mysterious Howling is never actually explained and really only comes in towards the end of the book anyway. This book didn't get the full amount of stars mainly for some plotting issues, but it isn't a book that is really so much about plot. It is episodic in nature, and each episode shows a little more about the characters and their relationships and loyalties to each other. The book is also, perhaps, just perhaps, a little to cheeky and impressed with itself. By which I mean, adults, especially those that loved the aforementioned Victorian girl stories will love this book and be in on the joke(s). But will it appeal so mightily to its intended audience? Though quite likely it could be one of those books you loved as a kid for one reason, and then, upon rereading as an adult, find entirely new reasons to love.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Naked--in death.

Do you read Unshelved? I bet you have at least looked at it once or twice. It is,after all, the library webcomic. Well, sometimes they feature book reviews and sometimes those book reviews tell you a blurb about the plot, why they picked the book up, why they finished it, and who they'd give it to. I like that style and thought I'd give it a try myownself. (Though of course my ownself is more longwinded and not quite as nice as those Unshelved guys.) Anyway, Here it goes.

Naked in Death (In Death, #1) Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A right-wing senator's prostitute grand-daughter has been killed, a lot of heavy hitters are sticking their noses into the case, and more people are dying. The pressure is really on Eve Dallas, but she doesn't have much in the way of backup or she's falling heart first into bed with one of the prime suspects.

Why I picked up this book:

The Romance genre study through ARRT put J.D. Robb on the list of authors for Romantic Suspense subgenre. I get a lot of requests for this series at mpow so I thought I'd check into it and see what I thought.

Why I finished listening: This Romance passes the Bechdel test! Eve has a friend named Mavis, and they talk about things other than DUDES!
The romance in this book was almost completely incidental to me. I kind of wanted both Roarke and Eve to stop with the contrived tension already, we get it. Also, I felt like the whole "I don't know why I like you" thing from both of them was ridiculous. You articulate repeatedly what it is you like about the other character and then expect me to feel tension about your relationship? No.

Despite that, I liked both their characters and wanted them to get together. And, the fast-moving plot rife with suspense kept my interest. The futuristic setting oddly out-dated already (laser weapons and flying cars, yes, okay, The Future,; electronic memos, seperate electronic communicators, databooks, etc., and all data stored on "discs" not so much The Future.)

Two notes about this book which may or may not be spoilers:
1) The book is really political. I would not say feminist though the the undertones are there, but the way rape and prostitution are handled undermine any feminist leanings. Still, it is pretty left-leaning, mostly in a good way.
2)This one is pretty spoilery.****
I actually laughed out loud when the villian did the classic blunder of telling his supposed last victim (Eve) about his crimes. He actually says that he wants to gloat to her! I just pictured Dr. Evil telling Austin Powers all about his plans as Austin works on escaping. I cannot believe anyone outside of a superhero comic seriously used this plot device.
The reader, Susan Ericksen, was MOST EXCELLENT. Sometimes that's quite hard to find. Also, the production values were high, and many times that is not the case. I really enjoyed following Eve through Ericksen's narration, and was rooting for her to get her killer and her man.

Who I'd give it to: I can see why this series appeals to so many people (though in my conservative neck-of-the-library woods I'm a little surprised that such an anti-conservative book is so popular.) There's sex, mystery, suspense, action, violence, flying cars, some humor, and more sex. So, basically give it to anyone who likes any of those things in their books.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

I'd been waiting breathlessly (well, not breathlessly, but with some level of intensity comparable to physical reaction) for the tech services department to finish processing this book every since Josh Berk started promoting it on Twitter. I can report that it was worth the wait. First, there are just not enough books with this kind of male character. I know that you are about to tell me that most male characters in ya lit are kind of geeky--ya lit loves to loathe the popular crowd-- but that isn't what I mean. Will is the kind of character with a strong voice and a strong sense of self, despite a lot of strikes against him from the start. It is refreshing to read. Also, I love a good mystery. Will and Dev are my new favorite crime-fighting duo.

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Will Halpin decides to opt out of the political issues at his deaf school and go mainstream. At the mainstream school he will have to use his lipreading skills to get by, but he doesn't mind because his ability allows him to drop some eaves on other people's conversations. In the first week he finds himself in love with the most popular girl in school, but on the bottom run of the social ladder. By the second week a mysterious death of a student (in the very coal mine where one of Will's long lost relatives died) sparks an intensive investigation by Will and his only new friend at the school--the social pariah Devon.

The book is funny (Will's written observations of the silent world around him are hilarious, but when he combines with Devon it just gets better and better) and smart; it plays with narrative. The first week sets everything up for us so when the the book turns into a mystery in the second part it's not jarring. The pieces of the mystery come together quickly, but in a way that make sense for the characters. Putting the book down once you've picked it up is the hardest thing about reading it.

Though the main characters make a lot of references to the Hardy Boys, this is NOT a wholesome Hardy Boys read. There is an edge of the sharp reality of being a real american teenager underneath the cartoony cover that gives the book gravity.

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Friday, April 2, 2010


I keep wanting to spell Gail C A R R I G E R with an N, as C A R R I N G E R. Evidently I'm not the only one. At my ARRT Romance Genre study meeting today the discussion leader spelled it with an N as well. I did not correct her; I had one of those momentary memory lapses and couldn't convince myself which way was correct. Anyway. This book is a mixing of my last two reviews, one paranormal romance and the other steampunk. In fact I think this book crosses every genre and has something for everyone. I think it should be required reading or something. Also, hot cover appeal. I enjoyed judging this book by its cover and not being disappointed at all.

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1) Soulless by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This book is everything one could want in a Victorian steampunk paranormal Romance. Oddly enough--you won't realize until you read it--you'll love a book encompassing all these genres with the added benefit of a funny/sassy female hero w/out a soul (not as much of a hinderance or moral indicator as you might think) and a surly powerful shapeshifting Duke. The Duke and Alexia dance around their attraction with some verbal sparring that will make your head turn round.

Also, I love that this book is most certainly steampunk but the word "airship" was not bandied about like it was going out of style. For some reason it seems most steampunk books feel like they have to through those airships in right away and keep throwing them in so we remember that this is a steampunk book! No, the world building is much too sophisticated and wonderful.

The plot is sufficiently complicated and twisty, the society suffocating and dry (except Alexia's best friend who is also a girl and who she talks to about Things Other Than Boys--thus this book passes the Bechdel test!) The world building (as I mentioned)is fantastic, the suspense is tightly strung, the paranormal bits are seamlessly woven into the story and the Victorian age.

My only star-stealing gripe: for all her awesomeness Alexia can't take a compliment about her appearance. There is a reason behind this glaring fault, but it does grow thin after awhile. You know that girl who always self-depricates when you try to compliment her and you just want to shake that girl and tell her to say thank you and shut up? Sigh, that's Alexia. Also, her family is just so atrocious. They remind me of the Featheringtons in Julia Quinn's Bridgertons' series, but so much worse. Mostly I just think the compliment thing was overused a bit before resolution, is all. A bit Mary Sue-ish, if you will. Otherwise, Soulless is a very promising beginning to a unique series.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010


A very steampunk April Fools' Day to you! Actually I wonder what steampunk AFD jokes would look like? Glue in the parasol? Black greasepaint on the edges of goggles to make those racoon rings? Explosives in the coal that makes the steam that powers the punk? Airship shennanigans?
Anyway, the book isn't perfect, but the world it is set in just might be. It makes me waint to don my best petticoat and set sail on an aeroship of adventure!
Leviathan (Leviathan, #1) Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alek is the somewhat spoiled son of the Archduke Ferdinand and his commoner wife Sophie. He has to go on the run when they are killed. Dylan is the daughter and sister of airmen and wants to be an airman too despite the inconvenient fact of being a girl. With the help of her brother she studies both how to be a boy and how to be an airman. She used to love going up in the air with her dad, before he died, and she wants to spend the rest of her life with the feeling of being so high up above everything else. She becomes Deryn, a midshipman on the giant Darwinist airship "Leviathan" after an adventure. When the book starts the tensions are tight between the Clankers and the Darwinists. The Clankers build giant metal machines, but the Darwinist create their technology using the "lifethreads" of various animals. On a ship as large as the Leviathan the Darwinist technology creates an entire ecosystem of things like messenger lizards, hydrogen sniffing dogs, hydrogen producing bacteria and even glow worms.

We switch from Alek's point of view to Deryn's regularly through the plot to see the build-up to the Darwinist/Clanker war from both sides. The two are destined to meet but it is hard to tell when that will happen. The cast of characters is rich, including both the crew and passengers of the Leviathan as well as Alek's loyal crew traveling in a 2-legged Clanker war-machine called a Stormwalker. Everything is very richly drawn and even in some places beautifully illustrated. Westerfeld's world building is impeccable. My only wish is that he'd ratcheted up the tension and urgency throughout the book. Even during battle and chase scenes I was never really worried about the fates of the main characters or any of the "mysteries" aboard the ship. This didn't detract as much as you might think and a few times the characters managed to surprise me with their courses of action. I'm eagerly awaiting the next two books in this trilogy.

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