NetGalley Review: A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway

Study in SilksA Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway
Read: August 24 – September 6, 2013
NetGalley Selection.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group/Del Ray for granting me this review copy via NetGalley!

Publication Date: September 24, 2013
ISBN: 9780345537188
Price: $7.99 USD
Format: Mass Market Paperback

Goodreads Book Blurb: Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London’s high society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.
In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?
But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

My Opinion: I adored this book! It was shades of Soulless by Gail Carriger all over again. But without the paranormal aspect. Evelina is a plucky heroine, though at times she wasn’t entirely likeable.

One thing Holloway got very right in A Study In Silks is the world building. The London ruled by Steam Barons is very interesting, and the magic was quite unique. That alone was enough to leave me salivating for book two (which won’t be out until October!).

I felt like Evelina could have been someone other than Sherlock Holmes’ niece, and that that little piece of frippery was added as an eye-catcher. It worked for me, but in the grand scheme of things, Mr. Holmes plays such a minimal part that it is the literary equivalent of name dropping.

One thing that really didn’t sit well with me was the romantic aspects. I didn’t believe them from either side. They came across as very plot-devicey.

Unfortunately, this was one of those books that I liked so much I am having trouble articulating my opinions…

Bottom Line: A thoroughly enjoyable steampunk/paranormal blend that could have gone lighter on the romance. I urge you to check it out!


NetGalley Review: Dead Letter Office by Kira Snyder

Dead Letter OfficeDead Letter Office by Kira Snyder
Read: August 18 – August 20, 2013
NetGalley Selection

Many thanks to Coliloquy for sending me a review copy of this book via NetGalley!

Published: January 11, 2012
ISBN: 9781937804022
Price: $4.99 USD
Format: E-book

Goodreads Book Blurb: When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, addressed to her.

The paranormal repercussions continue when Celia learns that Luc is the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.

With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder—and the mystery of the letter—using both magical and forensic clues.

This is an Active Fiction title
“Active fiction” is a new type of e-reading experience that allows the reader and the author to interact with each other and the text in new and different ways.

My Opinion: What really piqued my interest about this book was the “active fiction” label. What is this so-called “active fiction”? It sounded really interesting and cutting-edge. Yeah. “Active fiction”? Choose your own adventure. I have nothing against choose your own adventure books, I used to love them as a kid. But it is not a new concept, and I felt really cheated. Not to mention that the way I chose, there were only (I think) three choices to make. So the whole “active fiction” thing fell really flat for me.

The rest of the book was alright, but not stellar. Case in point: I never felt like I wanted to go back and see what I was “missing” with the choices I didn’t make while choosing my adventure. I didn’t read all the choices, as my copy was running out of time.

I am not a fan of love triangles, and Dead Letter Office has one. There were other stereotypes. The father killed in Afghanistan was kind of pointless, from a reader standpoint. The popular girl versus the weird witch was very cliché. While none of it was exceptionally badly written, it was still there, and that was bad enough.

I read this book a while ago, and nothing really stuck with me to today when I am writing the review.

Bottom Line: A mediocre middle-grade choose your own adventure book riddled with cliché.

NetGalley Review: The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

The Bones of ParisThe Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King
Read: July 28 – July 30, 2013
NetGalley selection.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell for sending me this advance review copy via NetGalley!

Release Date: September 10, 2013
Price: $26.00 USD (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345531766

Goodreads Book Blurb: Paris, France: September 1929. For Harris Stuyvesant, the assignment is a private investigator’s dream—he’s getting paid to troll the cafés and bars of Montparnasse, looking for a pretty young woman. The American agent has a healthy appreciation for la vie de bohème, despite having worked for years at the U.S. Bureau of Investigation. The missing person in question is Philippa Crosby, a twenty-two year old from Boston who has been living in Paris, modeling and acting. Her family became alarmed when she stopped all communications, and Stuyvesant agreed to track her down. He wholly expects to find her in the arms of some up-and-coming artist, perhaps experimenting with the decadent lifestyle that is suddenly available on every rue and boulevard.
As Stuyvesant follows Philippa’s trail through the expatriate community of artists and writers, he finds that she is known to many of its famous—and infamous—inhabitants, from Shakespeare and Company’s Sylvia Beach to Ernest Hemingway to the Surrealist photographer Man Ray. But when the evidence leads Stuyvesant to the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre, his investigation takes a sharp, disturbing turn. At the Grand-Guignol, murder, insanity, and sexual perversion are all staged to shocking, brutal effect: depravity as art, savage human nature on stage.
Soon it becomes clear that one missing girl is a drop in the bucket. Here, amid the glittering lights of the cabarets, hides a monster whose artistic coup de grâce is to be rendered in blood. And Stuyvesant will have to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer . . . sifting through The Bones of Paris.

My Opinion: I loved King’s first installment in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. So when this came across my NetGalley dash, I had to have it. I was really disappointed when I found out right before diving in that it was the second book in a series.

Normally that would be it for me, I would not have read it. But I did something I never do. I read the second book first. I feel like there were some things that I missed out on from the first book, as the characters weren’t showing as much growth as I would like. I would hope that would be a product of this being a second book, and being a fan of King’s I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The Bones of Paris was a really enjoyable read for me. There was so much misdirection that I found myself going in circles with the “whodunnit” aspect of the story. Nothing was predictable, which was great. And oh man, can King write some creepy things.

One thing I didn’t like about The Bones of Paris was that I felt at times it was “Look! Famous people! Art! Things!” and all the name-dropping (for lack of a better term) was a little much. I think it would have been more effective if there had been one or two big names central to the story and then maybe one in the background, instead of the plethora there was.

One other thing for me was timeline. At times, it seemed like weeks had passed and it had only been a day. This was slightly confusing for me, as a reader.

Bottom Line: If you have ever read one of Laurie R. King’s other books and enjoyed it, I am willing to bet you will enjoy this one, too. If you haven’t read anything by Laurie R. Kingwhat are you waiting for?? Though, I would recommend checking out Touchstone before reading this one. Just for continuity’s sake. You have a few days before The Bones of Paris hits shelves.

Review: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Beekeeper's ApprenticeThe Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laure R. King
Read: May 20 – May 26, 2013
Personal read.

Goodreads Book Blurb: Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes’ pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger. But when an elusive villain enters the picture, their partnership is put to a real test.

My Opinion: I have never read any of the original Sherlock Holmes books. I think I should, though. I really enjoyed The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

The prose and the tone are both delightfully English, as in the country… not the language. There is so much dry wit and humor to the exchanges that at times I found myself chuckling, if not outright laughing out loud.

I really found the relationship between Holmes and Russel to be very organic and natural. It was something that I really appreciated. There was no awkwardness and proclamations of love, just a really great teacher/student relationship. And Mary very much is a student. While she is smart and independent of her own accord, she also doesn’t know everything. She stumbles, and that is part of what makes her a believable character.

King has done a good job with worldbuilding, but one minor thing irks me. Either the level of mystery in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice went over my head, or the reader is meant to just be along for the ride. In other mystery books, you generally get a chance to at least try to figure it out before the end. There was no such chance here.

Bottom Line: A delightfully English book with great characters that unfortunately doesn’t include you in the mystery solving. Sherlock is a bit of a jerk that way, I guess.

Review: Glory in Death by J.D. Robb

Glory in DeathGlory in Death by J.D. Robb (In Death #2)
Read: April 29 – May 1, 2013
Personal read.

Goodreads Book Blurb: It is 2058, New York City. In a world where technology can reveal the darkest of secrets, there’s only one place to hide a crime of passion-in the heart.

Even in the mid-twenty-first century, during a time when genetic testing usually weeds out any violent hereditary traits before they can take over, murder still happens. The first victim is found lying on a sidewalk in the rain. The second is murdered in her own apartment building. Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas has no problem finding connections between the two crimes. Both victims were beautiful and highly successful women. Their glamorous lives and loves were the talk of the city. And their intimate relations with men of great power and wealth provide Eve with a long list of suspects.

My Opinion: This second installment in the crime procedural/romance is even better than the first. Robb/Roberts has gotten her feet under her, and she is running.

I found the characters were much more accessible this time around when I dipped into the world of Eve Dallas. They are still developing, which is fantastic, but they were also so much more present. And of course, this book introduces one of my favorite characters.

I didn’t see who the killer was right away, but I did get it before the reveal, which I liked.

Once again, the sex scenes in Glory in Death are overdone, but I kind of expected that. It doesn’t really add much to the story to know exactly how the characters are boinking each other, but I don’t feel like it took anything away, either.

The futuristic setting is almost an afterthought in this book, but since it just seems to be getting better, I am eager to see how Robb/Roberts tackles it in upcoming books.

Bottom Line: Another great romp through crime and sex. What more could you ask for?

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Read: April 28 – April 29, 2013
Personal read.

Goodreads Book Blurb: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

My Opinion: This is one of the most twisted books I have read in a long time. I enjoyed it. I wanted to read it because it got so much buzz, so I waited patiently for the 100+ person waiting list to whittle down from my local library. And then I read it. And it messed with me.

At first, something wasn’t sitting well with me, and I didn’t like Gone Girl that much. Then the author throws a twist into the mix, and it is suddenly a completely different book. I started enjoying it a lot more.

The writing is really good, both technically and stylistically. The author understands her characters and the first person narrative puts the reader right in their minds. And it isn’t always a nice place to be.

I really want to talk about this book in all its twisted entirety, but I don’t want to spoil it. Because reading it for the first time without any knowledge of what I was getting was part of how awesome it was. I will say that a lot of reviews I have read either come down on the side of really liking it or really hating it. There is a lack of middle ground.

The reason I wasn’t completely and totally in love with Gone Girl was that at times it tread on the side of misandry, which is not something I am on board with. A lot of people confuse feminism and misandry, and without getting too long-winded, they are not the same thing. I am not even confident as to which direction Gillian Flynn was going for. Did she want it to be misandry, or was she aiming for feminism and overshot?

Bottom Line: A superbly dark and twisted book. You will either love it or hate it, and you may do both at once.

Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Read: April 1 – 3, 2013
Personal read.

Book Blurb: The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

My Opinion: I flipped back and forth between really liking and really disliking this book. I finally settled on really liking it.

Why did I want to dislike it? Product placement. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is rife with it. Especially references to Google and Amazon. I was getting really tired of reading about Google-this and Google-that. Not that I have any problems with Google itself, but there was so much mention of it… I doubt it was entirely necessary.

The other reason I wanted to dislike it was the prose. It was technically fine, but stylistically very basic and lacking in elegance.

I also found myself lacking a connection to Clay, though I loved a lot of the secondary characters, so I think that was more a fluke of trying too hard.

Why did I decide to really like it? The story. I found it to be really unique, and I was drawn in to find out what was going on. There were moments of humor in the prose, and the ending fit. That is so important in books these days, that the ending fits.

I also liked the simplicity of the prose, when tying it in to the story. Would Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore have benefited from a more stylistic prose? I feel it would have. But with the length of the book and the style of the story, it also worked in its own way.

Bottom Line:  A quick read, and if you can look past the love letter to Google, an enjoyable one.