Tag Archives: Steampunk

Steampunk fairy tale

7 Sep

Yesterday, I taught my kids how to speed-date books.

I set tubs from my classroom library on each table and gave them 4 minutes to find title to add to their “To read” lists. The best comment I overheard was ” These books are way better than in elementary school!”

One table had tubs of “Dystopian” and “Steampunk” books. For most sixth graders, these are new genres. One book in the “Steampunk” tub was Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell.  I picked up at Powells this summer, on a SALE table.

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Author’s 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. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. The timing may be perfect: there’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

I recently discovered that Betsy Cornwell has written a sequel, Venturess, that came out in August. I have it on hold at the library.

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Author’s Summary: Nicolette’s Cinderella story is over, and she’s finally living her own fairy tale happy ending. She’s a successful inventor now, free of her horrible stepfamily, and content in her loving friendship with Caro, a palace servant, and Fin, the prince of Esting.

Then she receives a message from her long-lost housekeeper, now a revolutionary, begging her to bring the prince to Faerie for a diplomatic meeting. Nicolette fears a trap, but decides that the chance to end the bloody war waged by their kingdom is worth the risk.

Together with Fin and Caro, she ventures across the monster-filled ocean to the lush continent she’s always dreamed of visiting. There, mechanical armies and dark magic await as they uncover devastating secrets about the past and fight for a real, lasting happily-ever-after for two troubled countries – and for themselves.

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Calling all thinking girls

14 Aug

My brother in law’s friend one described someone (Debbie Gibson?)  as “the thinking girl’s Tiffany”. The phrase has stuck with me through the decades. It recently popped back into mind with David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars.

This is such a fun book, full of the adventure and the chaste romance you would expect of a Regency novel, but it is set on Mars. Thinking girls just want to have fun, too!

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Publisher’s Summary:Since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, he proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.

Now, one century later, a plantation in a flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.

However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of theDiana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company, where she meets a mysterious captain who is intrigued by her knack with clockwork creations. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars.

Arabella of Mars, the debut novel by Hugo-winning author David D. Levine offers adventure, romance, political intrigue, and Napoleon in space!

It reminded me of a lot of books and series I like. It has the “dress up as a boy and go on an adventure during the Napoleonic wars” adventure of the Jackie Farber seriesIt has adventure in space like Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. It is an alternative history like Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. And, it is by a local Portland author.  Although I started y talking about thinking girls enjoying this book, I can think of a number of boys in last year’s class that would enjoy reading Arabella of Mars. 

This might be one of my favorite  reads of the summer and I think it would be highly appropriate for the kids I teach. It might be one of my first book talks of the year.

 

 

 

Custard and Parasols

27 Jul

Instead of spending Monday night glued to my radio listening to the speeches at the Democratic Convention, I went to Powells to meet Gail Carriger.

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She is the author of the Finishing School series I finished in April.She was in town promoting her newest novel, Imprudence, the sequel to Prudence, and the second book in the Custard Protocol series.

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Unlike many author presentations, Carriger gave a very brief presentation, covering topics she is asked about a lot. She spent most of the time answering questions of the packed house. Through the wide range of questions, we got to know Gail Carriger’s sense of humor, writing routine and plans for the future.

I’ve been reading her series out-of-order. I started with the Finishing School series, the began The Custard Protocol.  Now, I have her first series, The Parasol Protectorate,  in my queue.  Each of these series is unique unto itself, but they are all set in the Steampunk world she created and there are some characters that overlap. I loved how Carriger explained that each of these repeating characters seem to be a little different in each series because are shown as perceived by protagonist of the series. I was impressed and that helped explain why the Lord Akeldama of Prudence is so different from the Lord Akeldama of The Finishing School.

Of course, I took my moment to get my books signed and chat for a few moments with Gail.

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When I got home, I learned I had missed some fabulous DNC speeches, but I didn’t mind. I could watch them online. I had enjoyed a marvelous evening and had a new book to read.

The end of the line

6 Apr

And so, I have come to the end of an era. I just finished listening to the last audiobook in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School  series. Melancholy sigh.

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Yes, the steampunk adventures of Miss Sophronia  Temminnick are over. I will admit that the dramatic finale is most satisfying. All four books were narrated by read by Moira Quirk and her performance was equally as engaging as Katherine Kellgren’s narration of the Jacky Farber series, which I adored. In both cases, I listened to all the books on audiobook because their narration was so spectacular I felt that my silent reading of the books would pale in comparison.

Publisher’s 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.

Fortunately, Ms Carriger has more books of a similar ilk and I have already placed Soulless

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the first book in the Parasol Protectorate  series on hold. I opted again for the audiobook. Although not narrated by Ms Quick, I have read that the narrator of this series, Emily Grey, is worthy of the task. We shall see.

“Espionage, Sophronia had learned, was tough on petticoats.”

26 Nov

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I finished Waistcoats & Weaponry earlier this week. It is the third book in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School  series and the best one yet. I laughed out loud many time because the language is so sharp and witty.

“We are on the side of curiosity and evenhandedness. Once we know what’s really going on, then we choose.”

“That’s a very murky position,” objected Felix.

“So’s the weather. But this is England, we must learn to live with uncertainty.”

In one of my favorite  passages from early in the book, Sophronia is asked about the qualities she seeks in a young man. She has high standards and mentally lists things like understanding, intelligence and sensitivity. What she said out loud was “I want a man who stays out of my way.” Brilliant!

Goodreads Summary: 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 stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what–or who–they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.

If you like historical fiction, but have never read any Steampunk, this would be a great series to pick up.

Etiquette & Espionage & Ennui

13 Jun

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I really want to like this book. It has a lot of features I usually enjoy in books: it takes place in a historical time period, there are strong female characters, there’s a boarding school and adventure.I love the Steampunk setting and the concept of flywaymen. But those feel like parts of the problem, too. It might be that it is the end of the year and I’m just flat out tired, but this book feels like it is trying too hard to be clever. It has received a lot of positive press but I’ve been struggling to read it. If I loved it, or even just liked it, I’d have finished it days ago. But I just don;t feel drawn to the characters and I’m not that interested in finding out what happens to them. I think I might put it aside and come back to it later in the summer, rather than forcing myself to finish now.  A little space and a new perspective might be what we both need.

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