Book Review: Department 19

Jun
28
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Department 19 Department 19 by
Series: Department 19 #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: , ,
Pages: 540
Source:
Goodreads

Jamie Carpenter's life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein's monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

My Review:

Yet another debut novel. Officially my twelfth, so YAY I completed the Debut Author Challenge, though of course I will continue to read debuts as they present themselves to me.

The best way to describe Department 19 is a combination of James Bond and Dracula. At the age of 14 Jamie Carpenter watches as his father is gunned down for terrorism. 2 years later he discovers just what kind of group his father was in, and it wasn’t terrorists! Jamie soon meets Frankenstein (yes The Frankenstein) and the descendants of several famous characters from the original Vampire story, Dracula. The mix was so interesting  – the mixture of spy thriller and paranormal makes for an action novel that can appeal to all.


Just one disclaimer: this novel is extremely violent and gory. More than once I found myself gagging and passing over several paragraphs. So, if you have an easily turned stomach, this is NOT the book for you, no matter how good it sounds. Sorry.





Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset

May
24
4 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
The Girl in the Steel Corset The Girl in the Steel Corset by
Series: Steampunk Chronicles #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 473
Source:
Goodreads

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one...except the "thing" inside her...
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a fullgrown man with one punch....
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin’s investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on—even if it seems no one believes her.

My Review:

As those of you who have been around here for a while may know, I’m kind of obsessed with steampunk anything right now. Something about this genre really speaks to me, for some reason. But Kady Cross’s Girl in the Steel Corset has outstripped many others for me. This book was truly Amazing with a capital “A”! There are so many wonderful things about this book that I hardly know where to start raving! (You’ll have to excuse me gushing all over myself. It really was that good.)

One of the many amazing things about this book was how wonderful all the characters were. I really, honestly had very strong pictures of them in my mind, and even started a dream cast, from very early on in the book. For example, especially towards the end, Sam and Emily reminded me very strongly of Marshall and Lily from How I Met Your Mother based on how they were described physically. But the best part was, even though I could picture them so vividly, was how original these characters were. They felt like real people to me, people that I desperately want to meet someday.

I also loved the way Cross brought in so many other works. There was the obvious Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reference, but there were flavours throughout the book of other relevant stories. It is clear that Cross reads across many genres and knows how to incorporate elements she loves into the stories she writes.

There are so many more wonderful things I could say about the novel, but I’m starting to risk spoilers, and you wouldn’t want that. The book is so much more satisfying when you go into it knowing next to nothing! I am so excited about this book. I can guarantee I will treasure it for a very long time!





Book Review: The Iron Thorn

Apr
16
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
The Iron Thorn The Iron Thorn by
Series: Iron Codex #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 492
Source:
Goodreads

In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.

My Review:

First things first, I would love to meet Caitlin Kittridge someday. The mind that can think up all the complicated rules of this society and keep them straight must be one heck of an organized mind! In fact, the intricacy of the story and the setting is one of the things I really loved about this book! The world is amazing and I would love to learn more about it.


Unfortunately (and I really mean that) I was going into this book with a severe case of burnout. I’d been working really hard on this creative project aka recital, and I couldn’t allow myself enough breaks, and by the end of it, anything creative, right on down to reading, sounded very un-fun to me. The worst bit was, I didn’t even realize it until I was halfway through the book and found myself slogging along! I think if I’d been in a different mood, and not in the situation I was in, I would have loved this book, but as it was, this book took much longer and was harder to understand than it should have been for me.


That said, I would definitely recommend it! I loved the dynamic between Aoife and Dean (anyone know what Aoife means, btw? Or even how to say it? That bugged me a tiny bit.) I never saw the twists coming, and I enjoyed the intricacy of the setting. Just be warned that you must be in the mood for this book before you pick it up, because it’s complicated and will take some work to understand.





Book Review: Agatha H and the Airship City

Mar
18
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review

Agatha H and the Airship City Agatha H and the Airship City by ,
Series: Girl Genius Novels #1
Published by in 2011
Genres:
Pages: 264
Source:
Goodreads

Adventure! Romance! Mad Science!

The Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare. It has been eighteen years since the Heterodyne Boys, benevolent adventurers and inventors, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Today, Europe is ruled by the Sparks, dynasties of mad scientists ruling over—and terrorizing—the hapless population with their bizarre inventions and unchecked power, while the downtrodden dream of the Hetrodynes’ return.

At Transylvania Polygnostic University, a pretty, young student named Agatha Clay seems to have nothing but bad luck. Incapable of building anything that actually works, but dedicated to her studies, Agatha seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown by the ruthless tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Agatha finds herself a prisoner aboard his massive airship Castle Wulfenbach—and it begins to look like she might carry a spark of Mad Science after all.

My Review:

For those of you who don’t know, this book is a novelisation of the webcomic Girl Genius. I was introduced to Girl Genius about a month ago, and I have been hooked ever since. I got caught up by the end of the week (neglecting some possibly important other work) and I have been frustrated at the webcomic format ever since – mostly because I can’t get the rest of the story fast enough! So, when I found out there was a book, I was very excited! I wanted more of Agatha’s story, and here was the chance to get it.


Well, no, not so much. The book, it turns out, is simply a novelisation of the first three volumes of the Girl Genius Comics (they’re on volume 9 now). It did add some interesting back-story in a few places, and I loved the fact that it allowed us to see inside the characters’ heads a little more. But it was just the same story in a different format, which was slightly disappointing. On the other hand, it was a good story in the first place, so not much can go wrong, once you get past my (completely wrong) expectations.


In the end, I would recommend this book to anyone who has trouble with or is unsure about webcomic format. The comic is brilliant, and if you can handle it, start there, and read the book only if you’re an extreme geek (like me!) 


Oh, and can I just put in my vote for a movie of Girl Genius? I think we need more Steampunk films out there, and Girl Genius would lend itself so well to that format – I already have half cast it in my head. Film producers, call me!


If I can just have a few more seconds of your time, would you please go visit my last post, Missing: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOOK? I am trying to find the title and/or author of a book I loved in high school and I need your help!





Book Review: The Iron Witch

Mar
15
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
The Iron Witch The Iron Witch by
Series: Iron Witch #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 299
Source:
Goodreads

Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

My Review:

This is another one that has received rather mixed reviews. I have to say, I loved it! I love the mixture of science (alchemy) and fae, and I love the fairy tale element too! Besides the fact that I loved the feel of the book – I’m a huge fan of paperbacks, and so the fact that it is a paperback, with such a gorgeous cover design was amazing – I love the fact that it’s small. The recent trend in YA fiction has been tomes of 400-500 pages, which are nice, but every once in a while, it’s good to have something that I know I can finish in a day.  And I love the fact that even though it is a short, fast read she packed a full story in there, somehow.

Usually when I write a review, I try very hard not to take into account what others say, beyond perhaps acknowledging that I am reviewing something that others have a different opinion on. But in this case, I feel the need to defend the book. Many of the reviews I’ve read have pointed to the lack of explanation as their reason for disliking the book. I will admit, there are places where she could have given us more information. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I like it when the author doesn’t tell me everything because a) it gives me a chance to try and work it out for myself and b) it gives me something to look forward to in the next book. One can love something without knowing very much about it. Take for example Xan. Xan is one of my favorite guys in literature, right up there on my fictional Guilt Free Five. Granted, he has temporary placement there, because when I got to the end of the novel, I realized I know next to nothing about him. He’s still awesome, but I want to know more about him, and I sincerely hope (and I’m probably right) that we’ll find out more about him in the next book.

My point is give this book a chance. It tells a wonderful story that leaves you with at least a little mystery at the end – and who couldn’t do with a little more mystery in their lives?





Book Review: Behemoth

Mar
05
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Behemoth Behemoth by
Series: Leviathan #2
Published by in 2010
Genres: ,
Pages: 481
Source:
Goodreads

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.
Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.

My Review:

I love steampunk (I think I’ve read enough now that I can officially say that). Steampunk isn’t just fantasy, at least to me – it’s a way of learning history. Yeah, ok, some of the bits are changed, and there are fantastic beasts and amazing machines, but part of what makes a good steampunk is how very close the author gets to the “real thing,” at least in everything they haven’t specified they’re changing. Now I’ll admit, I enjoy history, at least the bits with interesting stories, but I’m really more of an ancient history buff. More recent than, say, King Arthur and I start to lose interest. Unless, that is, a really amazing author can make it interesting.

Westerfeld definitely makes my list of authors who can make me interested in time periods I didn’t much care about before. I always found World War I particularly boring, because I’m not much one for wars – especially as we were mostly taught about the politics involved and not much about the interesting stuff that makes for good stories! Add in some beasties and Clankers though, and I can’t put it down. I want to know more about this world where Deryn and Alek live. I want to know how the beasties work, and I want to help take care of them. I want to see the gorgeous Clankers I imagine in Istanbul. And I want Dr. Barlow’s dresses! (Not to mention a Perspicacious Loris of my own! They sound so cute!)

It’s so difficult to say anything else without spoiling either book. The second book was a logical extension of the first, wrapping up some loose ends and creating some others, but without feeling forced, or on the other hand, feeling like filler until the final installment. (Not that I want the next to be the last – I realized as I was typing that, that I was assuming this would only be a trilogy. Honestly, I hope it goes on for much longer, because I will be very sad when it’s over! I might beg if I had to!)

And now back to reading! I’m officially on Spring Break now, and I’m so excited to decimate my TBR pile!





Book Review: Across the Universe

Feb
16
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Across the Universe Across the Universe by
Series: Across the Univers #1
Published by in 2011
Genres:
Pages: 398
Source:
Goodreads

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My Review:

One of the main things that impressed me with this novel is the originality of the setting. Many people in science fiction have played with the idea of cryogenic freezing to get to a new planet that is several centuries of travel away, but most only mention that it happened. They don’t tend to go into detail of how it works and what happens. They almost never talk about what happens on the ship while the majority of its occupants are frozen. Revis builds a whole society in this gap, one that is necessary and extremely interesting in the conundrums it creates.

When I first started reading this one, I spent the majority of the time thinking of Doctor Who (and I wonder if she took any inspiration from the show, though I doubt it, as it was probably finished way before the most recent series started). Between a main character with long red hair called Amy and the cryo floor (which will always have a fog at ground level for me) it almost could have been a Doctor Who remake (without the Doctor, of course, which helped when I had to force myself to stop thinking in those terms).

Once I got past the Doctor Who similarities, though, it was a very enjoyable read. The book is part mystery, which adds another fun layer to the story. The thing I really enjoy about mysteries is trying to figure out who did it before the book tells you. I will say, I had “who” figured out by about halfway through, but I had to keep reading, because I had no idea about motive. Plus, the mystery was not the only storyline in the book, and there were other interesting things that deserved my attention!

Even having figured out the “whodunit” part of the book early on, there were some very good twists in the story right at the end that I didn’t see coming. They were the of the sort that I said afterwards “Why the heck didn’t I see that one coming?!” which is, of course, the best kind. I was glad to find that I could still be on the same side after the twist though – sometimes twists make me go “I hated you, but now I feel really awful for it,” and that can be good in some novels, but in this one I really didn’t want to feel sorry for Eldest. He is just too much of a jerk!

 

**SPOILER**

 


My only complaint (and it’s not really a complaint at all) is that the ending seemed to happen really fast. Elder tells Amy the truth, and then she’s mad for all of two pages, and then the story is over. I know if it were me, I would stay mad way longer than that! No matter what his intentions were, he screwed up her life MAJORLY. He can be sorry all he likes, but sorry won’t change that. It seems really weird that she’s only mad at him for a few seconds. On the other hand, I can understand why she did it – it’s not a really relevant plot point, and it happens after the main climax of the book, so it could have the potential of making the book seem to go on forever.  I think if it were me (and what do I know about writing? She’s published, not me) I would have shown that time passed in some way – just a short line that said something like “One week later” or something like that. But that’s just me.

 

**END SPOILER**


Overall assessment? A really fun read, with a fresh take on the Science Fiction quest, and a little bit of every genre for whatever strikes your fancy! Go read it!

 

 





Book Review: Leviathan

Jan
25
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Leviathan Leviathan by
Series: Leviathan #1
Published by , in 2009
Genres: ,
Pages: 440
Source:
Goodreads

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

My Review:

One of the things I love about Scott Westerfeld’s writing is the way he gets into the heads of his characters. He gets everything right down to the slang. Though some might argue that it makes it harder to understand his stories, I feel that in the end it makes the characters more lovable. I will admit it took me a while to get into the story, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I carried the book with me everywhere and I’m pretty sure I made some people around me mad, because the slightest few minutes of nothing to do and I would pull out the book to read a few pages.


One thing I will say on the other side, the world was really complicated for a “real world” scenario. I personally was intrigued – I wanted to fly on Deryn’s Leviathan, and learn how to drive Alek’s Walker. But I think it would be really helpful to have a sort of guide book to the world. I want to know about all of the Darwinist’s beasts (I want a message lizard!) and I would like to read (or possibly even write) an encyclopaedia of all the beasts and machines involved. Then again, I’m fascinated by those kind of things, and some people may find that a bit off-putting.


I am so glad I decided to buy this instead of a book I’ve already read, and I am so excited to read the next one!





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