The Invisible Library
Adult / October 19, 2017

Invisible Library #1. Author: Genevieve Cogman. Summary: Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently… Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I maintain that The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson proves that a book can actually live up to and beyond an epic premise. Well, The Invisible Library proves that a book can have a spectacular premise – the premise of that fascinating, thoughtful, epic-and-yet-amusing book you’re always wishing you could…

Manners & Mutiny
Young Adult / September 6, 2017

Finishing School #4. Author: Gail Carriger. Summary: If one must flirt…flirt with danger. 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. My Thoughts: The mysteriously shady picklemen and their (probably) nefarious plans have finally coagulated into a real, substantial threat. One that, given the goofy nature of the books, seems surprisingly real for the steampunk setting: mass control of mechanicals. Given society’s wide-spread reliance, they could create complete havoc in a matter of hours. Sophronia rises to the challenge with commendable selflessness and an A-level grasp on her intelligencer lessons, creating a satisfyingly climatic final book. So the main plot: good. The side-romance-plot: errrr…….

Waistcoats & Weaponry
Young Adult / September 4, 2017

Finishing School #3. Author: Gail Carriger. Summary: Class is back in session…. Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style–with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey hijack a suspiciously empty train to return their chum Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. But when Sophronia discovers they are being trailed by a dirigible of Picklemen and flywaymen, she unearths a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos. With her friends in mortal danger, Sophronia must sacrifice what she holds most dear–her freedom. (Published summary) My Thoughts: A slightly different setting here than the previous books – rather than lessons and plots at school, most of the book takes place over a single (stolen) train ride. With Sophronia trapped in close quarters with both Felix and Soap, she’s finally forced to confront her feelings and figure out what’s going on here. About time, too; I think she’s enjoying the attention and care offered by both boys, while avoiding any real commitment. The seduction class (…

Curtsies & Conspiracies
Young Adult / September 3, 2017

Finishing School #2. Author: Gail Carriger. Summary: Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests? Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won’t Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot–and survive the London Season with a full dance card. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Whoo-boy, everything’s revving up. Rather more flirting, a good bit more paranormal involvement, new mechanical-inventions; let’s just throw in more of everything! I do think Sophronia needs…

The Rithmatist
Young Adult / August 28, 2017

The Rithmatist #1. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing―kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery―one that will change Rithmatics―and their world―forever. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Great fun. How often do we get a magic-school story where the main character is one of the “muggles”? And this unusualness leads to an awesome partnership, our two main characters combining their strengths to work together. More, the magic system itself is quite unique. Magic circles have, of course, been around for a while; and we’ve seen moving drawings before. But combining them into a two-d magic system based…

Etiquette & Espionage
Young Adult / August 19, 2017

Finishing School #1. Author: Gail Carriger. Summary: 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 the 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. My Thoughts: Total fluff, but really fun. The perfect thing for some really light back-to-school reading to get back into studying mode. In this paranormal steampunk setting young Victorian ladies are going to a floating finishing school to learn proper etiquette, from…

Mechanica
Young Adult / January 13, 2017

Mechanica #1. Author: Betsy Cornwell. Summary: Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: So. Steampunk-Cinderella. Apparently a bunch of people had problems with slow pacing, but I don’t have problems with that usually, so it was fine. I loved Mechanica: her independence, her determination, her strength. I loved (parts of) the ending, and its message. Cinderella taking care of herself, and choosing her own fate? Oh, yes. But… it did fall a little flat. We have so much interesting build-up with the fae, and the possible war,…

Leviathan
Young Adult / July 14, 2016

The Leviathan Trilogy #1. Author: Scott Westerfeld. Summary: An alternate-world retelling of the beginning of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans rely on steam-driven iron machines known as Clankers. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weapons. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most powerful beast in the British fleet. My Thoughts: I enjoyed it. It’s a little slower-paced than some, but this wasn’t a problem for me. The atmosphere is clean steampunk. Both protagonists are interesting – one a midshipman on the Leviathan, a position she’s dreamed off; the other a nobleman’s son, who doesn’t quite understand the powerful forces around him, but he’s climbing rapidly out of childish innocence of the war. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: No colloquially recognized language – scattered instances of made up words recognizable as counterparts, e.g. clank, diddle, sparks. Violence: A number of airplanes are shredded by fletchetts, a flock of bats is killed by a plane, there is a sword fight and one of the fighters is killed.  

Foundling
Young Adult / July 8, 2016

Monster Blood Tattoo #1. Author: D. M. Cornish. Summary: Set in the world of the Half-Continent—a land of tri-corner hats and flintlock pistols—the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy is a world of predatory monsters, chemical potions and surgically altered people. Foundling begins the journey of Rossamund, a boy with a girl’s name, who is just about to begin a dangerous life in the service of the Emperor. What starts as a simple journey is threatened by encounters with monsters—and people, who may be worse. Learning who to trust and who to fear is neither easy nor without its perils, and Rossamund must choose his path carefully. (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Bully beats up younger boy. Giant is killed by woman. Man is killed by small monsters, woman nearly killed but ends by killing most of them. Boy is kidnapped and tied up.