The Cover Made Me Read It: Dogwood Sprocket by Bokerah Brumley

It’s been a while since I’ve read steampunk. The historical aspect of the genre usually keeps me away. But when I saw Dogwood Sprocket’s pretty cover, I couldn’t say no.

The Story I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Just look at the shiny silvery stuff. Just look at that top hat.

The Plot:

It’s the year 2287, and Grace York makes a living hand-crafting clever mechanical collectibles in an age of fast flying cars and soaring skyscrapers. Her life is interrupted when she is sucked through a mysterious portal created by Hugh Hawthorne, a clever inventor from a different time and a different, parallel universe. As Grace tries to adjust to the new, mechanical, steam-powered world, she finds herself falling for Hugh, a man who might be lying about whether he can get Grace home again.


Some stories make me angry. Some make me want to call all my friends to rave in delight. And some – the hardest to talk about – land somewhere in the lukewarm middle. This is that kind of story. Dogwood Sprocket is like curling up with a mug of tea on a comfy. It’s pleasant, cozy and sweet. It doesn’t thrill, but neither does it disappoint. It’s nice.

It’s a neat mix of time travel and romance. The first sparkle of romantic connection is instantaneous when the characters meet, but Grace and Hugh slowly and tentatively build their rapport over the full course of the story.

Luckily for Grace, her futurist career as a toy-maker and artisan is probably the only job whose skills transferred perfectly and immediately to a steampunk world. Grace’s independence is a lovely foil for Hugh’s cautious courtship as they navigate tricky issues like Victorian Era dress codes, a formal outing, how to get Grace home again…and what to do once she gets there.

Oh, and there’s a cute cat.

All and all, the short story is a nicely-crafted ode to the steampunk genre.

Canary verdict:

(A pleasant read.)

I received a free copy of the story for review.

More steampunk? Check out the following:

The Cover Made Me Read It: Miserere by Teresa Frohock

The Cover Made Me Read It: Miserere by Teresa Frohock

When it comes to gorgeous covers, I am helpless to resist. Here’s a book I picked up based off on cover art alone. Blurb? Story? Psh.

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Miserere by Teresa FrohockYeah.

The Plot: In a purgatory-style world that exists as a war zone between our world and Hell, demons walk the lands and the prayer has power. When exiled exorcist and ex-holy knight Lucian Negru refuses to help his sister’s takeover plot to release demons upon the lands, she imprisons and cripples him.

Lucian escapes and uses his powers to open a Hell Gate to save the soul of an innocent, breaking the conditions his exile. That sets him on a collision course with Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned to die in Hell years ago and who is tasked on finding Lucian and bringing him to justice. At the same time, his power-hungry sister will stop at nothing to have him broken and back at her side.

Impressions:  Pleasantly surprised! Torment, angst, and redemption? Oh yes. This book hit just the spot. What makes this even better is that though we have uber-tormented and scarred characters, they also come with a healthy dose of matureness, self-aware in a lot of decisions they make. It’s a really nice change of pace. A super sweet story steeped in violence and darkness.

The initial premise reminds me of The Curse of Chalion lite. The minuses? Predictability and a simple plotline that I didn’t really mind. I’ve been starved for an easy fantasy+romance combo read, and this delivered.

The Verdict:  

(If there were a sequel, I’d read it!)

Have you had covers that put books on your read shelf?

[ Series Review ] A catpaw birthmark doesn’t have to mean she’s a shapeshifter, honest.

Series Review: Darkness Rising by Kelley Armstrong

Last week, I posted a review of Armstrong’s The Darkest Powers series covering book 1-3. The Darkness Rising trilogy makes up the next three YA books in the same world, following sixteen-year-old Maya living in a small medical-research community on Vancouver Island. In a town of some hundred people, strangers stand out, so when a journalist shows up asking about a tragic death a year ago, Maya takes notice. And she begins to ask her own questions.

The Gathering:

The mountain lions are acting up, Maya’s best friend is hiding something, a stranger is snooping around town, and a Maya is haunted by a memory of a friend’s  drowning that might just have been murder. Oh and there’s a cute bad boy in school who suddenly develops a sudden and inexplicable attraction to Maya that she doesn’t believe and doesn’t trust.

I actually read this series first, before realizing that it connected indirectly (and eventually directly) to The Darkest Powers. Still, it is a comfortable standalone, and it helps that even if you don’t have the backstory from The Darkest Powers and don’t recognize some of the references, you’ll still know that something isn’t quite right in this peaceful little town. And of course, even the most oblivious reader will zero in on the fact that Maya has a birthmark in the shape of a cat’s pawprint. Because, you know, that’s never significant.  Continue reading

[Small Chirp] I no longer consider Artemis Fowl 7 a crime against humanity

But it’s still really, really bad.

This article will be full of all sorts of spoilers. Beware!

A friend of mine and I are just about the biggest Artemis Fowl fans out there. With each new installment, we giddily gobble up the book at lightening speed, vowing to not discuss it until both have closed the back cover. The agreement worked well for the first six books about the evil boy genius and his feisty fairy sidekicks. But about halfway through book seven, Atlantis Complex, I received a text from her that simply read, “WTF is wrong with this book?”

At the time, I couldn’t really put the issue into words, I just knew something was just disgustingly wrong with the text. A year later, upon relistening to the audiobook in preparation for the upcoming conclusion to the series, I finally get it. It’s a simple matter of growing pains. Continue reading

Series Review: Outcast Season series by Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine is a master of building nonstop suspense, fun characters who love fast cars (and classy motorcycles), and fast-paced action. The Outcast Season series follows Cassiel, an immortal djinn, after she is stripped of her powers and sent to Earth to live as a human.  This Urban Fantasy is part spin-off, part continuation of the Weather Warden universe. It can be read as a very entertaining standalone, but it’s better with a couple of the Weather Warden books already under the belt. But if you’ve read up on that series (at least a couple books in) and haven’t given this one a try, here’s what you’ve been missing:

Undone (Outcast Season #1) by Rachel Caine

Cassiel is powerful, immortal, and she has existed for millennia.  But when she refuses a direct order from the oldest among her kind, he breaks her connection to her power and reshapes her into human form. Forced to exist as a mortal but still needing power to stay alive, Cassiel must live among (and drain the power of) Wardens–humans who wield magic.

She ends up with Earth Warden Manny Rocha–in return for helping him on his missions, she gets access to his power, even as she struggles to understand the (frustrating and inconvenient) emotions and weaknesses of her new human body. But when something threatens Rocha’s family, Cassiel’s forced to decide what she is and whose side she’s on.

This is, in a way, a fallen angel story, and that was one of the reasons it took me so long to get to the series (oh me of little faith!). It’s a rare thing to see an author pull off a believable immortal–especially one as old as Cassiel, and with a first person point of view, no less. But I shouldn’t have worried; Cassiel’s voice convinced me. Continue reading

[ Advance Review ] Not your usual Cinder(ella)

Meg’s Advance Review of Cinder by Marissa Meyer

(Book One of the Lunar Chronicles)

Cinder is just about as schizophrenic as a book can get. As the story opens, the beginning reads like a checklist, making sure each Cinderella plot-point is whacked hard: Terrible stepmother? Check. Pumpkin-like car? Check. Not only that, each let’s-explain-the-world info-dump makes the foreshadowing so obvious it’s almost laughable.

And then, the magical halfway point happens, and the book veers from sort-of-silly-and-predictable romance and takes a hard right into thriller territory. Good thriller territory. From that point on, it is an absolute race to find the resolution on the final page.

(There isn’t one, by the way. This is this first in a quartet of books, and Marissa Meyer leaves a nice callback of a cliffhanger for the reader to stew on.)

I would wager a guess that the one aspect that holds Cinder back the most is its prime selling point: the plot is billed as a retelling of the classic Cinderella story set in a futuristic Beijing. The futuristic Bejing part is fun. Cinder, the main character, is a cyborg, which, in this universe, means she’s the scum of the Earth. But hey, at least she’s above the scum of the Moon, a now colonized planetoid. The setting is far enough in the future that Lunars have evolved special powers of mind-manipulation. Suffice it to say, everyone on Earth pretty much hates them.

The Cinderella part of the plot is completely unnecessary, however, especially as it’s ditched by the halfway point and only picked up again (very well, actually) near the very end. The book would have been much stronger had it compeltely left out the Cinderella bits and just let it be about a cyborg falling in love with a prince. Cinder was a case of doing a re-telling halfway rather than diving in whole hog. It makes the whole over-arching tone of the first half feel sloppy.

But even with my issues with the first 150 pages, I had no problems picking up the book and reading on. Meyer has a lovely narrative style and she’s created an intriguing character in Cinder. There were moments when the romance storyline could have taken a nosedive into Twilight territory, but she always reigned in it, giving us a heroine who is smart, funny, brave and more than a little awkward in a way that is positively endearing.

I also enjoyed the way the male lead was written. Prince Kai is poised to take over the ruling regime and instead of the current trend of down-with-government stories, Meyer presents us with a leader who is committed to do what is best for his people, to create a government that is determined to eradicate the threat of  plagues (a real illness and then the plague that is the Lunar Queen).  It was positively refreshing to read about a non-corrupt leader.

I have come all this way without talking about plot. To be honest, it’s a little difficult to be concise enough to not blow all the twists out of the water. A close reader will have figured out pretty much all (but one) out by the first 100 pages anyway, so let’s give it a shot: On the same day that the prince visits Cinder’s mechanics kiosk, her (not evil) stepsister falls victim to a plague that has no cure. When Cinder is enlisted (against her will) into the cyborg draft for plague experiments, she discovers that she is immune. But the immunity means she is still in grave danger, just not from the plague.

By the end of the book I was sorely disappointed that there was no sequel simply waiting for me. The final page sets up a Book 2 that is sure to further develop an already complex world—and to take us far, far away from any Cinderella pretense. Both of those things should make for a winner. So even though the beginning knocked this book down to a three-canary rating, I whole-hearted recommend Cinder to anyone who enjoys a good YA (or sci-fi/cyborg) read. Just be prepared to start pining for more as soon as you reach the back cover.

Cinder will hit bookstores January 3, 2012.


Related Reads:

[ Small Chirp ] Has Riordan worked himself into a corner?

Warning: This article will contain major spoilers for The Lost Hero.

At midnight on Monday, I will get the email alert I’ve been waiting for all year: the PDF of The Son of Neptune will be ready to download to my nook. I expect the squeal of joy I make at the alert will be well into the octaves that only dogs can hear. It’s not just the fact that Percy Jackson is back. The book should answer a burning question I’ve had ever since finishing The Lost Hero: Does Rick Riordan actually expect that he’ll be able to pull this plotline off?

In The Lost Hero, the first book of the sequel series to the wildly popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, we were introduced to Jason, a teenage demigod whose memories had been stolen. He find himself at Camp Half-Blood, the safe haven for the children of the Greek gods. He makes friends, defends the camp, fully integrates himself into the culture before he learns the truth about his birth.

He is not the son of a Greek god.

He is the son of a Roman god. Continue reading