Monday, January 30, 2012

The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross

Title: The Strange Case of Finley Jayne
Author: Kady Cross
Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
Pages: 78 (Kindle edition)
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Strange Case of Finley Jayne was a fun, quick read that I enjoyed more than The Girl in the Steel Corset. Although this novelette is a prequel to TGitSC, Finley seemed more comfortable with her duel natures and as such I found her more fun as a heroine. Strange Case also benefits from less of a focus on romantic entanglements and by extension the Victorian ettiquette of the time.

In other words, the aspects of TGitSC that prevented me from giving it four stars, weren't an issue in this novelette.

On the heels of being fired for striking an overbearing governess, Finley is hired by Lady Morton as a companion to her daughter Phoebe. From the beginning, Kady Cross metes out clues that the job isn't as simple as it appears and the story moves quickly to a satisfying - if predictable - conclusion. The predictability is not a detriment to the story, at least not to me. Putting clues together while reading a mystery is often the best part.

I enjoyed seeing the Morton's world through Finley's eyes, especially because they not only embraced her uniqueness, it was the reason Lady Morton sought her out. Phoebe and Lady Morton are great characters and friends to Finley. I also enjoyed seeing more of Finley's mother and stepfather, Silas. There are a handful of mentions of Griffin, the Duke of Greythorne, which was fun wink at what we as readers know comes 'after' the events in this story.

After reading TGitSC, I was marginally disappointed and on the fence regarding Kady Cross's Steampunk Chronicles miniseries, but after reading The Strange Case of Finley Jayne my interest has been restored.

The Girl in the Steel Corset Review

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Young Adult Giveaway Hop!

The wonderful bloggers I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Down The Rabbit Hole have combined forces to host a Young Adult Giveaway Hop! There's tons of blogs participating and I'm excited to be one of them.

In honor of the upcoming release of Daisy Whitney's The Rivals, book two in The Mockingbirds series, I am giving away an ARC copy of the book that started it all - The Mockingbirds!

Goodreads description:

Some schools have honor codes.Others have handbooks. Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

To enter, reply to this post with your total entries.

+1 - Follow this blog.

+1 - Follow Daisy Whitney's blog.

+1 - Share this giveaway via Twitter or Facebook and supply link in reply.

I attempted to create a form for this giveaway, but was unable to due to the fact that I'm only semi-computer literate about the whole idea. LOL

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Title: Cleopatra: A Life
Author: Stacy Schiff
Publisher: Little Brown & Co.
Pages: 368
Rating: 4/5 Stars

I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but I'd heard so many interesting things about Cleopatra: A Life that I decided I had to give it a shot. I'm quite glad I did.

To the victor go the spoils...and also the scribes who write the history. I've been aware for a long time that history is subjective and the myth of Cleopatra VII clearly illustrates that. Most of what is known about her life is written from the perspective of a patriarchal Roman society that feared the intelligent, independent woman and thus painted her as the beautiful, seductive, devious creature she's known as today.

Stacy Schiff does a remarkable job in sifting through the known record, not just on Cleopatra's life, but also on the culture and people of the era in which she lived. The result is perhaps less romantic than Shakespeare's version of events, but no less dynamic or enthralling.

If you're looking for 'truth', Cleopatra: A Life may frustrate you. The truth about the last Queen of Egypt has been lost to the centuries and buried beneath the sensationalized accounts of her exploits - often written by those who were hostile toward her. What you will get is a carefully weighed narrative that deconstructs the patriarchal viewpoint of Cicero, Plutarch, Dio, etc. in order to present a more balanced and realistic picture of a woman born to be a queen.

Schiff champions Cleopatra with common sense and an amazing understanding of the era in which she lived, often at the amusing (at least to me) expense of her detractors. To some, the bias may be annoying, but in my opinion, after two-thousand years of being annointed the 'wickedest woman in the world' I'd say it's about time someone championed her. Schiff's Cleopatra is a strong-willed, well-educated, ambitious and enthralling woman who's greatest skill is not her feminine wiles, but her ability to read people and manipulate them to serve her agenda. She is a consummate politician...which is why it makes perfect sense that the Roman society that defeated her has had to reduce her to little more than a whore.

I liked Stacy Schiff's writing style very much and if she happens to write about another figure or historical era that I'm interested in, I will definitely read it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Booking Through Thursday - Do You Skip?

Found this at The Once and Future Librarian and thought I'd like to play, too. Even though it's almost Friday.

Do you ever skip ahead in a book? If so, do you feel bad about it?

I never skip, but if I did I know I'd feel bad about it. I don't even skim the 'boring' parts. I'd like to say that I have more respect for the author and the blood, sweat and tears they poor into each carefully chosen word, but the truth is I'm just a little OCD. I won't feel like I really "read" the book if there's any part that I didn't consume with the utmost care and attention.

Which is why I often end up rereading portions of books because my busy minds starts to wander.

So, how about you? Any cheaters out there? ;p

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on...

Goodreads Description:

The sky is dark with wings. . . .

In RAPTURE, the highly anticipated fourth and final novel in the FALLEN series, Luce and Daniel are together . . . but for how long? Can history be rewritten? Or are some punishments eternal?

Why I want it:

Take a look at the cover. I swear, Lauren Kate's novels have cornered the market on 'Covers That Make Me WANT'. The book could be about fishing in Maine or geography and if it looked like the book above - with the barren landscape, stormy grey sky, brunette in a white dress with the dark hair all fluttering in the breeze - I'd be all over it.

Plus, it doesn't hurt that I've read the first book of the series (actually, I bought it for a friend as a Christmas gift based SOLELY on the cover) and fully intend on reading the rest. I love tales of star-crossed lovers in pretty much any form.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

Title: From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace
Pages: 321
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

By book 8 of The Southern Vampire series, I enjoyed the world of Bon Temps so much that I really didn't care about the plot. I just liked being at Merlotte's, hanging out with Sam, matching wits with Eric, turning up my nose at Bill, snickering along with Pam, wishing death on Arlene and the FotS freaks, and wondering what kind of trouble Amelia, Jason, Holly and all the rest are going to drag me into next.

And by me, of course, I mean Sookie.

When I started the series, I wasn't a huge fan of Sookie, but now that she's been immersed in the supernatural world long enough to feel old hat about it, I really enjoy her. From Dead to Worse actually addresses the question of whether or not Sookie would change things if she could and go back to the time where she didn't know vamps existed - let alone shifters, fairies, demons and the like. Much to my relief and without quivocating, Sookie said she would not. Despite the nearly constant threats to her life, Sookie no longer feels like a freak because of her telepathy and that is more important to her than anything else.

I appreciate that because I really didn't want to read book after book of a heroine bemoaning her lot in life.

In terms of story, From Dead to Worse felt like filler. Entertaining, enjoyable filler, but filler nonetheless. We learned about the interspecies politics of the Vamps, Weres and Hotshot Werepanthers. A new packmaster takes over in Shreveport, a new vampire becomes king of Louisiana and Sookie, of course, was right in the middle of it. Sam was also pretty heavily involved which I like because I've always liked Sam.

Sookie also meets more of her family - her great great grandfather as well as her...second cousin? Her cousin Hadley's son Hunter, who is a very cool little kid.

Ms. Harris ties up a significant number of loose ends in this book and I'm hoping puts them to bed permanently. I like that details spill over from one book to the other, but Bob the Cat eventually needed to go back to being Bob the Man.

On the Sookie Romance Front, Bill continued to annoy and Eric continued to be awesome. I LOVE the bond between Sookie and Eric, not just because I enjoy them together best, but because it's amusing to read how much it annoys Sookie at times. She doesn't have a problem being bonded to Eric, she just hates that the bond manipulates her emotions. So amusing.

I will say I was surprised by how abruptly Sookie ended things with Quinn. I don't blame her for deciding to do so, she just arrived at her conclusion SO much faster than I expected her to. I would have thought, considering the circumstances, she would have given him more of a chance. I suppose being so immersed in the world of the supes has toughened her up a bit.

This review is a bit all over the place and that's because the book is a bit all over the place. I'm not trying to hold back on spoilers, but if I were to be more detailed I'd have to basically recount the entire story and that's not my usual method of review. Suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next one. In fact, I almost picked it up and started it right away. There is something infectious about Sookie's world and no matter how hard I tried to avoid being charmed by them, I have been.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reading Goal for 2012

In 2010 I read a rather pathetic 24 books, so for 2011 I set my book reading goal at 48 in an attempt to double my showing.

With a grand total of 29 books read, I failed.

But, in the spirit of insanity, I have once again doubled my total from last year to set my goal for 2012 at 58 books.

I could have gone for a nice, round 60, but I figured my odds aren't all that great, so I'd be better off aiming low.

I'm off to an excellent start, however. I finished my first book of 2012 today!

I'm going to enjoy goodreads telling me I'm 2% ahead immensely. I don't expect to ever see it again. ;p

Have you set your reading goal for 2012?

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

Title: The Girl in the Steel Corset
Author: Kady Cross
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 473
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

The Girl in the Steel Corset was my first foray into the world of steampunk. I haven’t the slightest idea if it’s a good representation of the genre or not, so bear that in mind.

I enjoyed Ms. Cross’s world. I’ve been anxious to explore steampunk because the idea of a world in which the industrial revolution was fueled by steam, rather than coal fascinates me. I love the clothes, the culture, the technology…did I mention the clothes?

I very much enjoyed Finley. Coming on the heels of the last book I read where I really couldn’t tolerate the heroine by the end, I especially enjoyed Finley. Ms. Cross struck a perfect balance between Finley's fascination and fear of her darker self without going overboard in either direction.

All of Ms. Cross’s characters were enjoyable, although I never warmed to Cordelia. I know Griffin was able to appreciate the fact that his aunt only had his best interests at heart, but I’ve never warmed to the idea that acting out of concern for others gives one license to be horrible without recompense.

Speaking of Griffin, he ended up being a very capable, natural leader and romantic interest for Finley. While I enjoyed Jack and Finley's potential more than Griffin and Finley, I found both matches believable.

The Girl In The Steel Corset seemed to take a lot of cues from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in that there’s an element of the fantastic in both the characters abilities as well as the technology. Finley was a well-balanced version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, capable of amazing strength and fighting ability, Emily was able to talk to machines, Sam was inordinately strong and half automaton, Jasper had superspeed and Griffin was able to contact and bend the Aether to his whim. Cordelia was also a particularly skilled telepath - a talent that she used rather brazenly considering her class.

As far as technology was concerned, I found myself thinking “oh, that’s convenient” more than I would have liked. Personal telegraph devices, – basically cellphones – tiny ear pieces that amplify sound, and hand torches run by “power cells” made things just a little bit too easy for my taste. I would have either liked to learn more about how those things worked – many with the help of the amazing Organites that enhanced the characters special talents – or preferred the author to cut down on the number of ways she “modernized” the world.

Although, I had no problem with the velocycles. Must be my love of all things fast.

Getting used to the etiquette of Victorian England was a challenge at times because I wanted the characters to be a little harder, a little dirtier and a little more realistic. The good guys are so good, so noble and I prefer my characters to operate in the grey.

I supposed that’s why I enjoyed Jack Dandy so much.

I would have also liked the stakes to be a bit higher. I finished the book thinking that it read a bit young, although that might be the point. I don’t know what reading level it is.

All in all, The Girl in the Steel Corset passes my most important test in that I enjoyed it and am intrigued enough to read another of Ms. Cross’s novels – especially if she returns to these characters and this world.