52 Books 2014: Week 16

I read these two short ebooks a few weeks ago, but never reviewed them. It felt wrong to review a novelette as a book, so I didn’t. And then I realized that there were two of them, so I could review them together. So here you go — joint reviews for the two recent short entries in Kady Cross’s Steampunk Chronicles.

The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy (The Steampunk Chronicles #2.5)
Kady Cross
(YA, steampunk, historical fantasy)

It must be said, first off, that Jack Dandy was never one of my favorite characters. But, given his own entry in the series, I like him a lot better. This story really fleshes him out and gives more depth to his personality. I think that’s a lot of why I didn’t like him much before: he seemed shallow in comparison with the other characters, perhaps because he’s a secondary character and not a main character.

In addition to seeing more depth to Dandy and some of how he conducts business (since he doesn’t show that side of himself to Finley), it was nice to see someone get to him. It was great seeing how affected he was by the girl who was the “dark discovery” in question.

Is this something you can read without reading the rest of the series first? Possibly, but I really don’t recommend it. At the VERY least, you’ll want to have read the first book in the series in order to figure out who Jack Dandy is. But I would suggest reading it either just before or just after THE GIRL WITH THE IRON TOUCH. I read it just after, because that’s when I found out about it. But I think it would work well as a lead-in to the book instead of serving merely as additional information about it (as it was for me).

The Wild Adventure of Jasper Renn (The Steampunk Chronicles #3.5)
Kady Cross
(YA, steampunk, historical fantasy)

Jasper Renn has always been a character who amused me, partly because it seemed that he was merely toying with Sam when he’d flirt with Emily. (That is essentially confirmed in this story.) And watching him play with fire was something I enjoyed. He had a much bigger part in the second book in the series, though, THE GIRL IN THE CLOCKWORK COLLAR. I didn’t like him as much in that book, or in book 3. He was less fun-loving in those two books, due to the events in book 2. But in this story, he gets some of that fun back.

THE WILD ADVENTURE takes place at the same time as THE GIRL WITH THE IRON TOUCH, but it focuses on Jasper instead of the main group. As with Dandy, Jasper is a secondary character, but he’s always seemed more fleshed out to me. And this story only enhances his character and reinforces the things I like about him. This is almost more of a stand-alone story than Jack Dandy’s. The events in this story aren’t influenced by a lot of the main novels’ events, though it does include spoilers for all three books. It doesn’t depend on you to already know those events, though.

I also enjoyed getting to know more about Cat. She’s also a fun character, though up to now there was very little we knew about her. I hope we get to see more – a lot more. I want her to be the focus of a main-series book, and not just the .5 ebooks between the novels.

So both of these novelettes are great additions to the series, and would make great ebook purchases. They’re only $1.99 on Amazon, too, so it’s not a huge investment for the entertainment value. I’m very glad I picked them up.

52 Books 2014: Week 7

Oops, I forgot to actually put up a book review last week. I read a book and was thinking about the review, but I guess that’s as far as I got. (I also didn’t get my ROW post up. It was one of those weeks.) So now it’s delayed, but here’s the review anyway.

The Girl with the Iron Touch (The Steampunk Chronicles #3)
Kady Cross
(YA steampunk, historical fantasy)

This is the third book in a series, and it’s one of those series that I HIGHLY recommend starting at book one. It’s not the type that I think can easily be picked up part-way through. Not that the author does a poor job of summarizing past events, but because there’s so much more detail that you miss out when you get a summary. And in this series, those details can be very important to character development.

I also think it’s a series well worth picking up. I highly enjoy the characters and the plotline alike. The world is nicely developed too, with a good combination of realism and fantasy. It seems that the steampunk elements all have a purpose, and that purpose is more than “to look cool”. (I have some friends who complain about steampunk things whose only purpose is to look cool… I need to make sure they are aware of this series.)

This particular book does suffer one aspect of multi-book-series-syndrome: although it does resolve itself up at the end, there are still many things that are left unanswered and it’s painfully obvious that there will be at least one more book. The good thing, though, is it isn’t left on a cliffhanger. So while it’s something that I make note of, it isn’t anything that I ding the book (or series) for.

This series has a core group of characters, and each book in this series focuses more on one of the girls than the rest of the group. (You can tell which one by the title.) The girl focused on in this particular book, Emily, is probably the one I connect with the most. She’s the most “normal,” relying mostly on her brains to get her along instead of any special powers. (Granted, all of the main characters in this series have their normal abilities enhanced a bit by what is essentially magic, but the others seem to have more enhancements than Emily.) It’s really nice to see how she handles the situation she ends up in, because up to now she’s been mostly a background character. It’s also great to see more details about each character’s relationship with her.

Friday Reads ~ The Girl in the Clockwork Collar

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar (The Steampunk Chronicles #2)
Kady Cross
(historical fantasy, steampunk, light/YA romance)

This second book in the series follows immediately after the first, plot-wise. The major plot point dropped right at the end of The Girl in the Steel Corset – Jasper Renn being dragged off to America to stand trial for murder – is the central point behind this book. The main quartet from the first book (Finley, Griffin, Emily, and Sam) all travel to New York to locate Jasper and figure out if he is, in fact, guilty of the murder he’s been arrested for.

Over the course of their investigations, the four get into more trouble. Naturally. Most of that trouble is focused either on Finley or Griffin, which also makes sense as they seem to be the lead couple in the series.

Speaking of them as a couple – there is a little more progress on that front in this novel, too. At the very least, they both seem to have come to some decisions as to what they want out of it. Though, when you come down to it, there is no real competition for Finley’s attention in this book the way there was in the first one. It will be interesting to see the relationship develop once Jack Dandy is back in the picture.

In some respects I like this book more than the first in the series. The main four characters are all working together (mostly) in this one, rather than being at odds the way they were in the first. The relationships between them are developing, and I don’t mean just the romantic relationships. Parts of the plot are a bit more far-fetched, though, and the first book did have the charm of being the first in this particular world. In any case, I’m really looking forward to getting the third book when it comes out so I can see what comes next.

Friday Reads: Girl in the Steel Corset

The Girl in the Steel Corset (The Steampunk Chronicles #1)
Kady Cross
(historical fantasy, steampunk, light/YA romance)

This fabulous series is published as a young adult series, but is just as enjoyable to an adult (as long as you don’t mind reading about teenage characters, but given that this is set in an alternate Victorian England, teens are very nearly adults in a way they aren’t in modern society). The Girl in the Steel Corset is the first novel in the series, but there is also an ebook prequel available: The Strange Case of Finley Jayne. (Amazon & Barnes & Noble links). I read the prequel first, because I downloaded it when it was a free sample. (It’s no longer free, but the charge for it on either site I linked to is minimal, and worth the entertainment value.) I don’t think you would need to read the prequel in order to understand and enjoy this first novel in the series, however.

The basic premise is that a group of Victorian era teenagers have somehow ended up with these special powers, and find themselves investigating crimes committed by automatons which are acting against their programming. Because, oh yeah, this is most definitely a steampunk world. There are fantastical machines, some of which will sound very like steam-powered versions of things we have now, and some of which are advanced even beyond our technology. (Robot servants? Not in our households… yet!)

I loved the way everything was developed: the plot, the characters, the world, and all. Lovely. Fabulous. And oh so much fun. My one really noticeable issue was how attached Dandy was to Finley even though we don’t see a whole lot of the reason why, but I could pass that off as mostly due to her personality when he met her. It does make me wonder if he will continue to be as attracted to her as the series continues and she tries to develop her control. If his feelings don’t waver and we don’t get an explanation for it, I will complain then. For now, it’s a minor issue for me, though it has the possibility to turn into something bigger.

If you want to read a stand-alone book, consider waiting until the whole series has been released before picking this up. While it is a book you can read without having read the prequel, and while the plot of the first novel is  resolved in the book, there are still lots of things that are left open for the next book, or even later in the series. I’m glad that book two is out already, yet I suspect I’d be happier if I could buy the whole set at once, right now, and read them all back to back. Still, it’s a great book and the start to what’s shaping up to be a great series, so I do recommend reading it.

FO… Wednesday?

Okay, so I’m putting up a knitting post on Wednesday that ISN’T a WIP post. Sorry. I’ll do the WIP post (most likely) on Friday, where I normally would have put this post. Just to change things up a bit.

There’s actually quite a good reason why I’m doing an FO post instead of a WIP post today. (Side note, I know the correct grammar would be “an WIP”, but it sounds weird. Besides, most people probably would think I was wrong for doing it right.) This reason I mention is because I’ve put most of my recent knitting time into finishing these:

Finished Sky Pirates 1

The Last of the Sky Pirates!

I have spoken before about my issues with the way the pattern was written, so I’ll not go into that again. Instead, let me just say that these are a FUN finished item. I am really looking forward to wearing them.

(For those who are curious and unaware, the little guy at the back is a Pocket Dragon. This particular one is called “Fantastic Flying Fluffballs,” and I thought it was particularly appropriate.)

Finished Sky Pirates 2

I did make one mod to the pattern. Instead of using the M1 increases as written, I used yarn overs. If there was supposed to be a hole in the finished fabric, I knit the YO normally. If there was not supposed to be a hole, I knit through the back loop. Simple. And much easier to remember which one I needed to do at which time. It also left – IMO – a more consistently sized hole. The holes go on the gusset on the back side of the hand, like so:

Sky Pirates close

Now, this isn’t technically a mod, but the pattern suggests sewing up the flap after you finish knitting it and sewing on the buttons. Personally, I do not want to knit a pair of mitts with a WORKING BUTTON FLAP just to SEW IT UP. So. My buttons are still practical (aka working) buttons. No sewing it up for me, if I can help it!

And then the buttons.

Sky Pirates Buttons

Love them! They really complete the steampunk feel the pattern is supposed to invoke.

And now for the specs: (My Ravelry page)

PATTERN: The Last of the Sky Pirates (Ravelry)
DESIGNER: Maggie Fangmann
YARN: Knit Picks Stroll in Sprinkle Heather
NEEDLES: US3
MODS: See above (increase type, working button band)
START/END DATES: 12/15/11 – 1/30/12

More Frustration

First of all, I had been planning a different title, but seeing that I tried posting this from WordPress Mobile and couldn’t log on, I’ve been a little annoyed. Even more annoyed given that the “help suggestions” they have apply only to the self hosted WP folk, and not those of us using WP free. (This is not to say I feel we deserve the same benefits given to those who put down money. But if something is advertised as available to all WP users, it darn well should be.) And to cap off the annoyance, WP recently updated their mobile (iPhone) app, the same one now giving me password error notifications, in which they did the brilliant thing of deleting the way you could actually GET TO YOUR PASSWORD. Not that the password would have remained STORED there, or anything. I don’t even get the dubiously annoying privilege of entering my password every time I want to do something on WP Mobile anymore.

At any rate, I’ll end this rant now with the apology that the blog is getting posted approximately half a day later than it would have been, had the app been working. I hope you had a more productive Monday than I feel like I’ve had.

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It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my writing on here. I’m not going to talk about it a lot today either, mostly because I have a case of the Mondays, but I will talk about it.

For one thing, blog writing. It’s so much harder for me to schedule Monday posts than any other day. I think this is because I don’t want too much time to elapse between the schedule date and the post date, and I haven’t found/made writing time on the weekends much these days. Too many other things are going on; I don’t have the desire to write on weekends.

(Side note: if life continues the way it is now, I don’t think I will be doing NaNo this year. On the other hand, if I can get in a routine before October that I think I can manage to maintain through November, this could be an awesome year for NaNo. We’ll see.)

As to the writing itself, I am in a weird place for me. I don’t feel like writing novels. I want to write shorter things. I have a few plans for things that sound fun. I’ve even gotten about halfway through a short story with the words flowing nearly of their own accord.

This is really odd. I don’t normally like writing short stories.

And yet, that’s what’s appealing at the moment. Of the many things I’ve learned about myself, one of the biggest things writing-wise that I have learned is that I need to write what is calling to me. Forcing myself to write something I don’t want to spend time on doesn’t work. It’s pulling teeth to get the words on paper, and then I scrap the whole thing in the editing process because you can tell I wasn’t happy about writing it. So it’s just tons of wasted time.

I’m not under contract for anything, so I can do this. And while I can spend the time writing what I want instead of what someone is paying me to do (oh please oh please) I am going to do just that. Because right now, writing is supposed to be fun, not work. Or at least, writing is supposed to be the job I WANT to do, rather than the job I HAVE to do in order to put food on the table.

So for now? The steampunk novel will wait, and the short stories (and maybe a novella) will get worked on. Other than the subject matter, the biggest difference is that I’ve written in one week more actual story words on the short than I managed in a whole month on the novel.

Book Review: Lady Doctor Wyre

I received Lady Doctor Wyre as an e-book review copy from the author. However, this is one that was on my :to buy” list — only the fact that it isn’t yet released has prevented me from buying it.

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At its heart, Lady Doctor Wyre is a steampunk story. However, this is a steampunk set not in an alternate past, but an alternate future. (Sort-of.) It takes the history of our world, and transfers it to a matriarchal universe where countries are planets and all of history’s famous men have become famous women. It’s quite amusing to read about Madame President instead of Mister President, and how ships — space ships, naturally — are called “he”. Joely’s all about the details.

Even though I would class Lady Doctor Wyre as a steampunk, it’s not your traditional steampunk. Many of the traditional elements are present, while many others are morphed into something more futuristic. This world mixes silk stockings with space ships, corsets with nanobots. The strict Society rules found in many steampunk novels are in effect, but they are entirely presided over by women, both in the political and social realms.

Lady Doctor Wyre is also a romance. Not in the “every other scene is sex” style, but in the sense that it is a character-driven, emotion-driven story with themes of love and loss. Now, if you are at all familiar with Joely’s writing style, you will not be surprised to hear that there is sex in the story. Pretty darn near the beginning of it, in fact. But you will also not be surprised to hear that it is all quite believable and enjoyably written. I didn’t spend a moment rolling my eyes in disbelief about any part of the story — sex scene or otherwise. As with every story she has crafted that I have read, Joely blends fantasy with reality in a completely believable and utterly enjoyable fashion.

I look forward to March 29th, and being able to congratulate Joely Sue Burkhart on another successful release date. Won’t you join me?

Oh — and if you want to read a sample of her “Jane Austen Space Opera” (as she calls this series), be sure to check out today’s Friday Snippet on her blog for a bit of the free read prequel.