4 star review

Review – Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manner and Mutiny

This is the 4th and final book in Carriger’s Finishing School Series. So this is in a way a prequel series to the Parasol Protectorate, as timeline wise it is earlier in the same world, just as The Parasol Protectorate is a prequel to the The Custard Protocol series. And if you haven’t read either of those, you can absolutely start with this series even though Parasol Protectorate came out first. Just not with this book. This series needs to be read in order to make sense. But it is a fun, and mannerly steampunk world that I enjoy very much.

So since this is the series finale, let me introduce how the series starts:

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

See? Adorable. I had to have it. And subsequent books deal with Sophronia growing up, as a lady who finishes…everything. I think I was on to something previously when I posited that New Adult really only works well for me when it isn’t contemporary. Plus, the covers are simply gorgeous. But now we are in Sophronia’s final adventure.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster—in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test? Find out in this highly anticipated and thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

And I’ll admit to having some trepidation over how everything would be wrapped up. But I was soon sucked back into this world where espionage is the rule, disguises are de rigueur, etiquette is cutting (both figuratively and literally) and where plot-pets are delightfully mechanical.

It is oh so bittersweet to find everything finished. There isn’t much I can relate regarding the plot, besides the the aforementioned general description about the genre mashup and the book blurb, without spoiling either this book or previous ones in the series.

So I guess I’ll focus on Sophronia, a lady I enjoy tremendously. She’s intrepid, resourceful, and smart. It has been a delight following her adventures in this madcap steam punk world. I can’t say how much I enjoyed this final adventure focusing on her, and her growth, rather than so much on her feelings for boys. Don’t get me wrong, we get a satisfactory happily ever after, but that wasn’t what this book was about.

I wish I could find more steam punk or gas lamp stories like these, Meljean Brook‘s, or Cindy Spencer Pape‘s. So I highly recommend this series for lovers of those genres, whether they like new adult fiction or not. I also recommend it for those who enjoy new adult, so long as they don’t strenuously object to steamp punk/gas lamp. And if you are a new adult fan who wants to dip their toes in steam punk, this is probably the place to start. It is also an appropriate selection for teens, there isn’t a thing a parent would object to, that would simply be unmannerly.

And as an aside, one of the things that fascinates me is how very much I now want to go back and reread The Parasol Protectorate and look for all the tiny little linkages. That series is completely unneeded for this series, nor is this one needed for P.P., but for people who are interested in both, the little connections are just so fascinating. It is excellent world building in my opinion.

Manners and Mutiny (Finishing School, #4)
4 star review

Review – Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape

Ether Elephants

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

This is the 8th and final book in Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles. I got into this series after reading Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas. It was so refreshing and different that I had to find more like it. Somehow in that mindset I missed the “different” aspect of it. Needless to say, I read some abysmal steam-punk, some mediocre stuff, and then I found Gaslight/Gaslamp and this little gem of a series. The series presents a unique spin on Gaslight with the inclusion of a Knights of the Round Table mythology, vampires, werewolves, fey, and steam punk elements. It sounds overly busy, but it isn’t, it is just a wonderfully engaging world and the different aspects are very well blended.

The first book in the series, Steam & Sorcery, sets up the world building and the main characters for further books. It may not have hit the peaks that The Iron Seas did, for me, but it was pretty awesome and so I devoured what was available and have kept up with it since. And THIS is the book that I have been waiting for since the beginning. There have been some hints and then some stumbling blocks along the way, but man have I been longing for this book. This is NOT, in my opinion, a stand-alone, and I strongly encourage reading the series in order.

Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian have loved each other most of their lives—but sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.

Their chance at happiness was ruined by Tom’s hasty marriage to someone else. Heartbroken, Nell left home, finding a new life as a teacher at a school for the blind. But when one of her supernaturally gifted students, Charlie, is kidnapped, Tom reappears and her worlds collide.

Tom claims he hasn’t seen his wife since the day of their marriage…yet he fears the missing student could be his son.

The deeper they dig, the more Tom and Nell discover: a deadly alchemist, more missing gifted children and long-suppressed feelings neither of them is ready for. A race on airship across England and India may lead them to answers—including a second chance at love—but only if all of British Society isn’t destroyed first.

Fair warning, this is not a comfortable book. There are children in jeopardy, and Nell and Tom had my stomach in knots and my heart in my throat. But that is the mark of a good storyteller, when you empathize with the characters so much they suck you into their emotions, when the pain and the worry is real, and the outcome feels uncertain. Fortunately, this is romance, and I trust Cindy Spencer Pape to give a reliable happy ending (unlike other authors I could mention,) but in the midst of the story it was so easy to see where it could all go wrong,

Tom was a bit of a tough nut. He did some stupid things in his youth, and rather than trying to resolve things, he basically buried his head in the sand and gave up. And I think that is what hurt Nell the most. Nell on the other hand, despite the heartbreak, she grew into herself and found her agency, learning to value herself and demand respect. Tom took a little longer to get the picture, but I respect that Nell kept to her path and didn’t allow him to sway her. I think you can tell I really liked Nell, and once Tom got his head out of it, I really liked him too.

As far as the mystery goes, it was satisfyingly twisty. There was a good bit of sleuthing to be done, and this gave our two main protagonists the chance to really see how they’ve grown, without the blinders of their youthful relationship. But the mystery wasn’t a McGuffin either, it was well thought out and worked for itself AND to further the relationships and emotional connections, rather than just the latter. It kept me engaged so the whole story didn’t feel like over emotional navel gazing. Who says romance can’t also have a real plot, a real story? Not me, that is for sure. There was a bit of wish fulfillment in one element of the story, but I only noticed that retrospectively. And it was such a delightfully happy thing, that I simply could begrudge it.

In the end I believed in this couple’s happily ever after and trusted they had the grit to work through anything together. It was a very satisfying happily ever after.

I’m still hoping the author comes back to this world and we get Jamie and Piers’ stories, but in the meantime, this was a satisfying conclusion to the series and in no way feels as though the reader has been abandoned in series. 4 stars and I look forward to what Cindy Spencer Pape might come up with next.

Ether & Elephants (Gaslight Chronicles, #8)

3.5 star review

Review – Lightning Wolves by David Lee Summers

Lightening Wolves

I received a copy of this book from the author, via Amazon, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. Additionally, I do not “know” the author, nor do I have any type of personal relationship with him.

This book started off promisingly enough, with a dream about the war. No, not the civil war, a war between the United States and Russia in an alternate history where steam rules and fantastical engineering feats are accomplished, and where a shadowy entity known as The Legion runs amuck in society, politics and war. It turns out this is actually the second story in the series, but overall I’d say the author does a fair job of updating the reader on events so that this can be read as a stand-alone.

However, can and should are two very different things. And right after checking in with the main protagonists we start cutting away to other characters who are obviously and pointedly the main protagonists of the first book. I’ll admit, it took me out of the story a bit and I struggled to care a whit for them. Maybe I am a bit too ADHD, but I have trouble focusing on more than  a small handful of unknown characters at a time.

But, back to the two I consider the main characters in this book. One is Larissa Crimson, a bounty hunter and war hero living under an assumed name. She should have been right up my alley, a wild west feminist interested in science and engineering, Yes, that should have been my catnip. What got in the way of that, is before I even got to know her as she is, we started getting dreams of her childhood. The other is Professor Maravilla. He’s a steam punk mad scientist and a naturalist with a penchant for talking to himself, and he too is living under an assumed name And then a little later we are introduced to the third main character, Sergeant Michael Harris. He’s the one who ties the characters from the previous story back into the current one.

As for the story itself, the first part seems like a McGuffin. The professor and Larissa are searching for the answer to a camel carrying a skeleton which is spooking people off from an area. The mystery is eventually solved, but initially the only purpose I could see for it was to give the professor and Larissa a reason to be difficult to find. It turns out that isn’t the case, it was a lesson characters needed to learn. There were several other plot lines that all eventually converged. There was excitement and drama, and of course fantastical steam punk elements.

So I suppose this all makes it sound as though I didn’t like it, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. There was much of it I enjoyed tremendously, it is just those parts are hard to explain without getting into spoiler territory. Legion is absolutely fascinating, and by the end of the book I did come to care about the characters. While a few elements could stand to be tightened up, it was, all in all, a very entertaining book that kept me engage for the afternoon I read it. 3.5 stars

Lightning Wolves

4 star review

Review – Prudence

By Gail Carriger

This is a spin off from The Parasol Protectorate Series. You could probably read this without having read that series, but why would you want to? It’s got steam punk and gaslight elements with all sorts of supernatural creatures, and manners, it is quite the most mannerly steam punk series to date. Plus, if you don’t read the Parasol Protectorate and maybe the Finishing School series first, I may just spoil them for you. Alexia Tarabotti, being soulless, had to come up with some way to behave in polite society, and manners worked nicely enough. Her daughter on the other hand is an entirely different sort of creature.

“Frankly, all I learnt is that I must give up bloomers. Perhaps a short silk underskirt would work better? It’s the tail, you see, it rips the seams.”

Rue (and she definitely still hasn’t forgiven her mother for naming her Prudence), grew up to be just as spunky, and funny, and slightly spoiled as I had expected her to. How could she not, having been raised by the most fashionable Rove vampire, the Alpha werewolf, and a soulless mother – yes there were politics involved in that decision, but you are going to have to read the Parasol Protectorate to get that cleared up. Primrose, on the other hand, grew up to be no where near the flibbertigibbet her mother was. And Quesnel grew up to be quite a rake, though that’s hardly a surprise as he is after all, French.

When Lord Akeldama gives Rue a new dirigible and a mission for new tea in India, a precipitous leave taking due to a fashion emergency leaves our intrepid heroines in the lurch as far as information. Rue is well on her way in espionage, like her mother, though she doesn’t precisely know that. Rue and Primrose have mad cap adventures, intrigue, and disasters. And they discover the world isn’t quite what they were led to believe, and that with adventure comes responsibility.

That sounds rather staid, but frankly, this book is charming, and for the most part so is Rue. It is sort of like the film The Avengers, except charming instead of irritating. Rue and Prim put on these ridiculous characters, for the most part, knowing they are being ridiculous but not caring so long as it obtains their ends. Overall, I really enjoyed this story, and I think the travel angle was an excellent choices so the reader could learn about Rue as an adult instead of merely being bogged down by characters from the previous series. But, I’ll admit, I am definitely looking forward to the next book when Rue will be back in the heart of London. There was also a touch of a romantic element, but nothing that detracts from the story.

4 stars

4 star review

Review-The Kraken King Serial Novel

The Kraken King
by Meljean Brook

This is book 4 in Brook’s Iron Seas Series, and the thing to know about this is that it was written in serial format, but the parts are all out now. Eventually it will all be bound into one book, but the parts are all available. I’ll admit, I waited to read it because I can’t handle serial novels, but the premise is clever, particularly considering who the heroine is. There are 8 parts, as follow:

The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster

The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm

The Kraken King and the Fox’s Den

The Kraken King and the Inevitable Abduction

The Kraken King and the Iron Heart

The Kraken King and the Crumbling Walls

The Kraken King and the Empress’s Eyes

The Kraken King and the Greatest Adventure

Zenobia Fox has been a character I have had my heart set on since the very beginning. We have had glimpses of her since the beginning with more information dribbled through the series. For The Kraken King Zenobia has decided to set out on her own (albeit rather tame) adventure. As might be expected, things don’t stay tame for very long, which is how she ends up in the clutches of Ariq, the Kraken King.

Because this is a serial, each of the 8 sections definitely have their own beginning, middle and ends, which makes it difficult for me to synopsis. So, I’ll just go with my thoughts and impressions. While I read it straight through, I can see how this would not be as irritating as I have found many serials to be, there aren’t any major hang ups at the end of each section, and each section flows rather neatly to the next. It’s a conundrum how she managed it, but it was nicely done. I love the covers, they are so gorgeous, the titles of each section are extremely clever and cute (but i wish there was some way to have that on the cover). And I adore both Zenobia and Ariq. Most of the plot resolves around the Big Misunderstandings, which normally I hate that trope, but it works well here, they each have legitimate reasons to keep their mouth shut, and with a lack of information of course there are misunderstandings. It works because it wasn’t just that they didn’t communicate, but that they couldn’t always communicate. Even so, their romance was lovely to read and you really got a good sense of these two characters and how their lives might mesh in the future. It was also a very interesting look into Brook’s alternate history, which I find fascinating.

4 stars for a solid Iron Seas Adventure, and while I can’t say this has changed my mind about serials, it may have made me just a teensy bit more open minded about them.

3 star review

Prudence and the Professor

Prudence and the Professor
by Sibelle Stone

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Prudence Worthington is a business minded war widow who intends to make enough money to open her own business school and get completely out from under the thumb of her horrid in-laws. Professor Gerritt Rhinehart is a crazed inventor who eschews the paperwork side of his business in favor of working on his fantastical creations and supporting and developing the entire town. The whole thing is set in a steampunk version of Wyoming in the 1800’s during the civil war.

There are mysteries surrounding who wants Garritt’s inventions and who wants Prudence out of town and it wasn’t immediately clear who the villain or villains were. It is a fun and amusing story, and the characters can be quite hilarious, particularly Alma. And I wasn’t bothered by the supposed character transplant as the story went along, because to me that was sort of the point, neither one of them were really the character they tried to present to the world, so it made sense they would try to show their true selves to one another. The thing that did bother me was that the steam punk elements seemed to be more of a plot device or a sop to enter a less crowded sub-genre than an integral part of the world building, as there was really very little mention of curiosities being used in everyday life, and the ones mentioned were sketchily rendered to the reader. Additionally, the addition of the paranormal element three quarters of the way into the book was a bit startling. It will be interesting to see how that might play out in future books.

Overall I enjoyed this book, and the adjective that first comes to mind is “rollicking”, it just didn’t blow me away like Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series, but then few books are likely to reach that level so it probably isn’t a fair comparison. And, while I should have known from the blurb, this was really more historical romance than steam punk.