Tag Archives: steampunk

ARC Review – The Ghost Rebellion (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #5) by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

26814043Title: The Ghost Rebellion (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #5)

Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: The chase is on! After rescuing Queen Victoria from the clutches of the Maestro, Agents Eliza D Braun and Wellington Books are in hot pursuit of Dr Henry Jekyll. While he continues his experiments on the aristocracy of Europe, he leaves a trail of chaos and despair in his wake. However when Eliza and Wellington run him to ground in India, they are forced to come face to face with ghosts from the past, and the realities of empire.

Meanwhile Ministry agents Brandon Hill and Bruce Campbell travel deep into Russia hunting down a rare ingredient to save Queen Victoria’s life. Amid the cold they uncover a threat from the revitalized House of Usher that comes directly from their new Chairman.

All in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences will find their allegiances in question, and their mettle tested as a new dastardly era of international intrigue dawns.

Huge thank you to the author for this ARC! This is no way effects my review.

Sam’s Review:

I have read every book in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrencesseries, and have loved each one for different reasons. It’s hard not to love Books and Braun, as their steamy chemistry and kick butt attitudes always make for fun dialogue and crazy adventures.

The Ghost Rebellion is a great instalment to the series, and one chock full of mystery and adventure. I was completely invested in the mystery behind the Ghost Rebellion, and I found a lot of the Interludes this time to be quite gripping. It took me a bit to realize some of the connection this time around, but there was certainly a lot more “aha” moments this time around. A lot of the new characters were really interesting, though some of them, particularly O’Neill, were quite frusrating (and rightfully so).

I completely flew through this installment. There is just so much action, and even the politics in this novel were just facisnating to read about. I found myself captivated by the way in which Hill and Campbell handled certain situations, as well as how they dealt with some of the cultural issues as well (the situation with the Russian… oh boy). I actually liked their plotline a lot. Plus, so happy this didn’t end on a cliffhanger! Because the last few have driven me crazy because of that!

But the dialogue was on point, the comedy was still golden, and I am always happy to fall back into this universe. There’s always so much adventure, and the sexual tension! (Well, that isn’t sexual tension so much anymore) is still wonderfully steamy. While this isn’t my favourite installment of the series, I’ll definitely still be recommending it to my fantasy readers at the library.

ARC Review – These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

23688792Title: These Vicious Masks

Author:  Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Swoon Reads for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I heard the pitch for These Vicious Masks, it just sounded too ridiculous to be true. Jane Austen meets X-Men? What kind of crack is that? While I went into this with rather low expectations, I can’t get over how much fun this book was on a whole.

First off, let me talk to you about how awesome and badass the heroines, Evelyn and Rose. Despite all their hardships, these two women really know how to stand up for themselves and show how strong and capable they are. I also loved how they respond to their abilities, how they try to rationalize the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes with them. The writers did a fantastic job making them characters that you can not only root for, but who are actually fun and engaging to read about.

I admit, I’m not a big romance person, but I even found the romance in this novel pretty good. It didn’t over power the way I was worried it would, considering a lot of young adult romance novels are very cliché in its approach to romance. A lot of the time I generally don’t like the romance itself or the characters, but here I found it worked very well.

In a lot of ways the book does a great job of taking the reader by the hand and whisking them into this weird pseudo-Western, steampunkish novel. The world building is great, it’s vivid, and then there’s the ending. Lord, that ending is really good. If I have any complaints about this book, it’s that sometimes I found the writing hard to get into, so it felt like a rollercoaster for me writing wise, moving up and down in terms of my enjoyment. While I liked the characters, the story had its moments for me where it dragged in spots.

Overall, These Vicious Masks reads like delicious ridiculous candy. Sometimes you just want a book that grabs at your attention and does it in a way that is just plain fun. This book is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy supernatural abilities and kick ass heroines.

ARC Review – Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger

24539011Title: Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4)

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London…but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!


Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

It pains me to see that this series is over. Gail Carriger is one of my favourite authors and she always writes these unforgettable, crazy bunch of characters who get under your skin and stay a part of you. That’s how I felt about Sophronia and her friends.

Once more, I think of all four books and this one made me laugh the hardest at times. While it didn’t feature much of my favourite character (Sidheag), the focus on Agatha, who has been quite the allure this whole series, was fantastic. I loved how Carriger wrapped up the mystery of her character in particular, and I’m always happy to see when there’s more to a grumpy character.

This was also probably the most intense and action oriented of the four novels, and with good reason when you hit the ending. Unlike the other three books, the majority of the action in this book is far more serious than comedic (though that isn’t entirely true). There’s so much humour in these characters, and I love the wit and cheekiness of them. It’s hard to let them go.

The action, the etiquette, the zaniness! There’s just so much this series embodies, and I thought that Carriger did a great job bringing this world to a close. While I’m sad it’s all over, I’m excited to see where things go with this universe now that Prudence is an adult. While I’m having a hard time letting these characters go, I won’t forget the mayhem they caused, and the joy they gave me as a reader.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1) by Gail Carriger

23562480Title:  Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances — names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

Huge thank you to Orbit and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I probably should have read this sooner given my fangirl status for Gail Carriger. Sadly, life got in the way and this just didn’t happen as early as I wanted it too. However, given the status of this book for some many years, boy was I finally glad to read it!

Prudence was totally worth waiting for, given all the hiccups before its release. It’s as sassy as the Parasol Protectorate series, but still has it’s own distinctive voice and sense of humour. I loved Rue and her companions, particularly Percy who just had me in stitches for large chunks of the story. Carriger has this amazing ability to write chemistry between her characters, and I feel like in this book the level of success she has is huge.

Furthermore there were cameos of old favourites from Parasol Protectorate, which really just made me grin from ear to ear. Plus since Prudence takes place in the same universe as many of Carriger’s other novels, it just makes everything feel so familiar and comfortable.

For me, I get a sense of comfort when reading a Gail Carriger novel. I know exactly what I am getting: humour, quirk, romance, a grand adventure with some prim and proper attached, and I’m such happy to have those things. This book isn’t without flaw, as it does feel a little samey to the main series, but I didn’t care because I found myself laughing along to Rue and crew’s antics. The comedy was just very spot on in this novel, and sometimes you wanted a book that doesn’t try to hard, and it’s only goal is to make you have a good laugh.

ARC Review – The Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

23292456Title: The Diamond Conspiracy

Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately.

But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself…

Huge thank you to Ace and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Do you know what I love about The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series? I love that it has yet to disappoint me (and the day that happens I will feel a lot of sadness). There’s insanity! Humour! Romance! And some nutjobby characters who continue to entertain.

In this latest instalment we finally learn more about Welly’s and it’s quite the doozy. It’s great to finally see him drop down his guard and let the reader and Eliza in. I mean seriously, their romance is so adorkable, and I love when they get into heated conversations because both are so stubborn and awkward that it makes you laugh. Eliza continues to amuse me in every book, and she always gives the reader lines to chuckle over.

The characters introduced in The Diamond Conspiracy are pretty darn fun as well. There’s also mecha, face punching, and just plain awesome from this volume. Admittedly, even if the series ever goes downhill — I’ll probably still be reading it.

After a crummy week of tests and being sick, Books and Braun really know how to be the perfect pick me up.

ARC Review – The Ruby Airship by Sharon Gosling

cover52176-mediumTitle: The Ruby Airship

Author: Sharon Gosling

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: In this sequel to The Diamond Thief, trapeze-artist Rémy has left the circus and her life as a thief, but she doubts that detective Thaddeus Rec will ever truly trust her. Feeling torn between her new life and her old, Rémy decides to return to France and her old circus with Yannick, an old friend who unexpectedly appears.

Meanwhile, Thaddeus is sure that Yannick is up to no good. He’s determined to find them and win Rémy back, even if he must risk a journey by airship to do so.

Huge thank you to Switch Press and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I love a good steampunk story, but unfortunately, I was a bit lost in this one. Admittedly, it was my own fault — I didn’t realize this was a sequel, and requested it any ways. I figured I’d be able to read it on its own, and while that was somewhat true, I still found myself a bit lost in terms of what was already known about the characters.

Having a sense of being lost, it’s not fun. I had a hard time connecting to all the characters in this story, perhaps its because their relationships were mostly defined in the previous book, or it could be I just could make a solid connecting because I felt like I was missing something. It’s hard to say, but I found myself struggling to care about what had been happening to the characters in this story.

The other issue: a lot of the time I was bored reading this. It would have moments where it would peak and be engaging, but then it would move back into being a lot of exposition, then peak in the action factor, and then back into slugging through exposition. I suppose I’m a reader who needs a bit more consistency, but the pacing really didn’t work for me. The writing is good, don’t get me wrong, but it failed to keep me wanting to read more than a few chapters at a time.

I did finish the book and I thought the ending was all right considering the events that have taken place in this book. I don’t know if would go back and read the first book, I just feel like there’s better steampunk out there. That being said, I do think there’s an audience for The Ruby Airship, because it’s not a bad book by any means, it just wasn’t for me.

ARC Review – Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

17449519Title: Waistcoats & Weaponry

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: 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.

Huge thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I think of all of the Finishing School novels, this one might easily be my favourite. It was crazy, cracked out and just plain fun from start to finish. Furthermore every character in this series got some great development, so it was nice to have a bit more about Sophronia and her gang of nut cases.

Gail Carriger’s writing continues to delight in this instalment, and for those who are huge Parasol Protectorate fans, this book has so many references it’s pretty fabulous. I admit, reading this book on the bus ride home and giggling in public — yeah, that happened pretty often. It’s just great to see some of the references being made to her other series and the interaction between those characters and the ones of Finishing School is just done with such ease.

Can I also say how much I loved Bumbersnoot in this book? Oh my goodness, Bumbersnoot.

This series just has such a fun tone overall, and despite this one being a lot darker in atmosphere compared to the previous two, I feel like there’s still so much to offer fans of this series and of Parasol Protectorate. Carriger also makes the supernatural elements and the political conflicts amongst the paranormals to be very complex, but not so complex that the novel is over saturated by it. There’s just a great balance between the political, the character conflicts, the humour and the supernatural and I adored it from start to finish.

This means, however, that the wait for Manners and Mutiny is going to be insanely painful. I need it now. Like, right now. Please?

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Investor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer

18058211Title: The Investor’s Secret

Author: Andrea Cremer

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: In this world, sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth, they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape  or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empire’s Machineworks.

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

This is my first foray into Andrea Cremer’s work and it was an interesting experience.The Investor’s Secret has a great premise, but considering it’s supposed to be an alternative history, I wanted a bit more for that side of this story. The book took me a good while to get into, as it starts out great, fizzles, and then picks up its pace again. Steampunk novels usually suck me right into their world, but this cast of characters I had a hard time rooting for.

I think the story is pretty fun for the most part, but it drags in spots making it a challenging to devour. There’s a great positive attitude and strength within the ensemble cast, and one that gets surprisingly infectious during some of the action sequences. I don’t know if I can say I loved the characters, truthfully, because I found they started to blur (other than Charlotte). Another thing I kinda wished is that this book had been written in first and not third because most of the story really is about Charlotte and it would have been nice to be in her mind for some of the more critical moments in the story.

This is a tough book to review because I see the appeal and in the end I just “liked” it. I struggled with parts of it, I never was a book I wanted to instantly keep reading and I was able to put it aside with ease. That said there is aspects to like about this book and if Cremer is turning this in a series, parts of me are curious as to where it will go. I just wish the writing had felt more compelling to make me want to devour the book as soon as I started it.

ARC Review – Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

18332010Title:  Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times
Author:  Emma Trevayne
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack.

Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes. Or it did, before it was broken. Before it was killed.

But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for this advance reader copy.

When it comes to Middle Grade fiction, I have a strong love for the ones that incorporate parallel universes or cities for the sake of providing strong character growth. Emma Trevayne’s Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times falls perfectly into my favourite type of middle grade novel, as she uses an alternate London (Londinium) to provide the backdrop and growth for her protagonist, Jack, a young boy who simply wants people to accept him for who he is.

This novel is very easy to gravitate towards. It has the right amount of action, two strong antagonist (if you can call Lorcan an antagonist, he’s a tricky fellow to pin-point), and a main character who is easily likable and you understand his decisions. Jack’s behaviour is so idealistic and innocent, but when he is forced to face reality, he learns his harsh lessons and attempts to grow from them rather than throw a fit. He’s lucky too, he gets a clockwork dragon as a companion, which I am horrifically jealous of!

There’s a lot to love about this alternate London that Trevayne has crafted. It’s a vibrant and vivid world, so it’s easy to imagine. Middle Grade often can have this problem that if the world isn’t easy to imagine or participate in, it can be difficult to keep interest, and I feel like Trevayne just makes everything feel so effortless — she knows her audience and creates an engaging world, one that is insanely active and easy to just fall into. When we follow Jack, we aren’t just seeing the world through his eyes, and when we are, it’s truly a joyous experience.

I really adored all the characters in this story. Beth made me smile because although she is a character who has had a lot of suffering, she doesn’t let it destroy her. I LOVED Lorcan, even if a few times I wanted to punch him in his book balls for hurting Jack. His motivations were fabulous, a bit cheeky, and he was easy to engage with. I especially loved how subservient he was to The Lady. I could go on and on about these characters, but then I’d be spoiling the novel.

This is my first book by Emma Trevayne, and it definitely will not be my last. While I’m disappointed my digital ARC did not have the illustrations, I can only image how perfect they probably are when coupled with the story. It’s a shame this novel isn’t releasing until May of next year, because it’s hands down one of the best Middle Grade adventure novels I’ve read in awhile, and it’s a book I know I’ll be buying for everyone. Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times asks for so little of its reader, but packs such a meaty punch in its storytelling, that it’ll be perfect for even the pickest reader.

Seriously, pre-order this book now. You will not be disappointed.

River’s Review: 

Coming Soon.