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: A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon

A Thousand Perfect ThingsA Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon
Read: August 11 – August 18, 2013
NetGalley selection.

Many thanks to Premier Digital Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book via NetGalley!

Goodreads Book Blurb: In this epic new work, the award-winning Kenyon creates an alternate 19th century with two warring continents on an alternate earth: the scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India). Emboldened by her grandfather’s final whispered secret of a magical lotus, Tori Harding, a young Victorian woman and aspiring botanist, must journey to Bharata, with its magics, intrigues and ghosts, to claim her fate. There she will face a choice between two suitors and two irreconcilable realms. 

In a magic-infused world of silver tigers, demon birds and enduring gods, as a great native mutiny sweeps up the continent, Tori will find the thing she most desires, less perfect than she had hoped and stranger than she could have dreamed.

My Opinion: Where do I even start with this book? Well, let’s go with the beginning. Everything in Anglica was really cool. I followed it, and I enjoyed it. I like steampunk alternate settings. And the bridge was a really neat idea, though I got tangled in imagining our world as it is. No bridge would connect England and India in our world, as there are continents in between. But apparently not in this world.

This was the second book I read recently that made me wonder about constructed patriarchies. This one, being alternate history, probably had a little less wiggle room, but it still had some. And why is it that every time a woman wants to be her own woman she has to not want to get married? I am married, and I am still my own woman!

However, feminism is one of the lesser things that Kenyon tackles in A Thousand Perfect Things. Once the characters find themselves in Bharata, we are confronted with the heavy subject matter of cultural appropriation, which is rampant in today’s society. While I feel like this book was a decent staging ground for the battle, I found it bogged down the prose at times.

To be completely honest, most of what happened in Bharata was completely confusing to me. I think it got to a point where it was just… silly almost. By the end of the book I was skimming.

Tori was likeable enough in that she knew what she wanted, but I really hated her club foot. It was a crutch, both to make her imperfect and to give her something that needed healing. As someone with disabilities, I found this very unnerving.

Kenyon has a gift for description, and the scenery of A Thousand Perfect Things came alive for me… but that was pretty much it.

Bottom Line: I was lost after the characters left Anglica, and Kenyon began speaking of cultural appropriation and religion. It was too much for me, and bogged down the story.

Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Read: May 1 – May 4, 2012
Other Information: Library book, paperback, 416 pages, book club/personal read

Book Blurb: In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just below it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenage boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

My Opinion: This book. It almost defies description. Steampunk zombie extravaganza? OK! Count me in! And that is what kept me going through the whole thing. The promise of a really interesting story.

Unfortunately, the story fell flat. It had so much promise, and by the end of the book I just felt so deflated and cheated. Not to mention that nothing really happens for the first couple hundred pages anyways. It is cleverly written to disguise that fact, but really… nothing is happening. A lot of walking around Seattle and meeting new people. But barring a few glaring exceptions, nothing really integral to the story.

The characters were likeable enough. I really enjoyed that Briar was tough, and not prone to swooning over anyone with muscles. Zeke, for all his mother fussed, seemed like an average fifteen year old. We don’t really see his resourcefulness kick in, and she talks about how grown up he is while he is calling her “Momma”.

I made some predictions about the book. Only one of them was right. And it wasn’t even a really interesting one.

The writing style made it really hard for me to get into this book. I found it to be very choppy and inconsistent. For example, I don’t have any issues with graphic gore… but in all the encounters with the rotters, Priest didn’t choose to describe fending them off in gory detail until the end. She trended towards the typical Steampunk writing style, but even that was inconsistent. I also found that a lot of times the book lacked excitement to keep pulling me forward. The timing is very confusing and hard to follow, especially near the end.

The Bottom Line: A promising story that didn’t deliver. I am not sure how it will work as a series, especially with the way Priest chose to end the book. I am not against reading the rest of the books, but I am not rushing out to grab them either.

My Rating: 2 stars (It was only OK)