ARC Review: “The Vanishing Throne” by Elizabeth May

Wow, what a trippy experience. I filmed this review back in February, and I haven’t even watched it since then. I am very, very enthusiastic about this book. Like a lot. How cute of past Gretchen. Anyways! Let’s just get started. In case you missed my long and storied history with this series, here’s my videos on the first book, The Falconer:

Thanks to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for this eARC!

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Worth It Wednesday: “Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

StormdancerTitle: Stormdancer

Author: Jay Kristoff

Goodreads Description: A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Why it’s worth it: If you know a thing about me, than it is probably already clear why this book made my Top 10 Series I NEED to Finish. For one thing, just look at it. I got an ARC of this book, originally, but I would gladly spend money to own a copy of this cover. LOOK AT IT.

Alright, listen.I admit that my original ARC review was extremely confused. I gave it four stars, but I spent a lot of times talking about the negatives. I don’t know why–I can almost sense that something else was happening to my emotional state why I was reading it. Trust me, that original emphasis does not hold up on subsequent readings.

Jay Kristoff is a fabulous writer. Just. His writing is beautiful and wonderful and of a caliber not often appreciated enough in young adult writing.I would read a menu or instruction manual written by him and it would be amazing.

Also, his world. This is one of the most amazing worlds I’ve ever encountered. Does it lean into some of my personal biases, i.e. Japanese inspiration and THUNDER TIGERS? You bet it does. Does that mean anything less than IT IS AMAZING? Absolutely not.

Oh yeah, by the way: THUNDER TIGER. Though I love Yukiko as a character, strong and fierce as she is, my heart forever belongs to the thunder tiger. His voice was so hilariously amazing that it made me legitimately sad that I did not have a friend like him. Okay, so no one really has a thunder-tiger but still.

So the beginning of this book is a little slow and the romance aspect is convoluted to say the least. IT IS WORTH IT. If you don’t believe me, just know that Taylor from Bibliomancy for Beginners also read and loved this series and we rarely agree on ANYTHING. It’s that good.

Read it if you’re looking for: fantastic writing, strong female characters, Japanese inspired mythology, steampunk, strong world building, action, adventure, THUNDER-TIGERS

Re-Review: “The Falconer” by Elizabeth May

The Falconer (American)The Falconer (Falconer #1) by Elizabeth May

Goodreads | Amazon

Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Three and a half stars

A long, long time ago (okay, back in 2014), Bibliomancy for Beginners did a hangout on Elizabeth May’s The Falconer. To say that Michaela–and especially Taylor–didn’t like it would be an understatement. I remember enjoying it, even if I didn’t love-love it. But, once the camera started going and we all started chatting, something about what I had loved got lost. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a HILARIOUS hangout and you should totally watch it. But almost two years later I have realized something important: I don’t think I was fair.

Continue reading

Worth It Wednesdays: “Clockwork Angel” by Cassandra Clare

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

clockwork angelTitle: Clockwork Angel

Author: Cassandra Clare

Goodreads Description: In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

Why it’s worth it: First off, Cassandra Clare is a wonderfully amazing author. I am incapable of letting people ask “What should I read next?” without screaming HAVE YOU READ CASSANDRA CLARE? That said, most people are familiar with her The Mortal Instruments series, which I also love a lot. However, I honestly think that this series is more strongly written than the TMI books–and also is a tighter, more thoroughly planned trilogy.

The Infernal Devices series has all the elements that I love in the first series, while being set in a more Steampunk setting. The characters are a bit more complex and the plot line deals with more issues than just magic/action/thrills. That said, they read REALLY fast and are good for plenty of heart-pounding and emotions and laughter.

ALSO THE ROMANCE. I have never been more on the fence with who I wanted the main character to pick in a love triangle. Yes, love triangle. BUT A GOOD ONE. Cassandra Clare basically only wrote this love triangle because Holly Black told her that no one could ever write a good love triangle. Clare succeeded big time.

…just talking about them now makes me wish they were here at school with me so I could read them again and again and again.

Anyways, if you were looking for a gateway into Cassandra Clare’s world, LOOK NO FURTHER. There is definitely some debate on how best to read the series (since they interlock in weird ways, given the order in which they were published), but starting here will show you all the best that Clare has to offer, which will get you through some of the not as strong showings in TMI.

Read it if you’re looking for: steampunk, magic, fantasy, kickass heroines, romance, good love triangles, action, adventure, humor

ARC Review: “The Dark Unwinding” by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Goodreads | Amazon

A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!
When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.
Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.
As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

3 1/2 stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Scholastics for this ARC! You can get a copy for yourself September 1st, 2012.

Never before have I read an ARC and needed to insert a disclaimer into the review.

I need to do so now.

This is not a knock against the fantastic folks who allowed me and others to read an ARC of this book. This is more of why there is such a caution about reviewing ARCs. ARCs are never edited as they will be when they are released. However, The Dark Unwinding’s Kindle ARC version was one of the hardest ARCs I’ve ever tried to read. It lacked capital letters, formatting and a lot of punctuation. The reason I’m telling you this is so that you will PLEASE take my review with a grain of salt when I talk about places of confusion while reading the ARC. It is entirely possible they will not exist in the finished version.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the STORY!

This book intrigued me right from the get-go, and the world did not disappoint. I’ve really never read much steampunk, so I soaked in each and every description about Uncle Tully’s creations. The description in this book, whether it be for the inventions or just the setting, was really fantastic, and I could always see each scene right in my head. What I really liked was that there wasn’t too much emphasis placed on the “fantastical” elements of the book. Sometimes, people writing in fantasy, scifi, etc, have a tendency to hit the reader over the head with how new and exciting their setting is, but Cameron just let it roll like it was an everyday thing that needed only the slightest explanation. Infodumping was never a problem here.

The characterization of this book was interesting. I never really connected with the main character of Katharine, and in fact for a majority of the first part of the book never even liked her. I don’t think you were actually supposed to, so you could see the change in her attitude later on, but I never think that’s a wise choice to start off with. We should always be able to at least understand the main character straight off. Some of the other minor characters were eh, but my favorites were Uncle Tully and Davy, the mute little boy with a rabbit and many secrets. Despite being two of the most intriguing characters, they weren’t particularly given much screen time until the end.

The plot of the story was really where I had my problems. Again, I don’t know if it’s because I was struggling with just reading the words on the page or what, but I was in a state of “WHAT is going ON?” for most of the book. Sure, conversations and everything I could follow and I got the general gist, but some of the segways in between scenes were very abrupt and gave the reader no idea they were about to change. The best example is when the story shot from a normal paragraph to an event wherein Katharine may or may not be losing her own mind. Every time this happened, there was no warning and no preamble. All of the sudden she’s just dangling off the chapel roof or something. The almost supernatural hallucinations she was having were excellently written, yes, but every time they occurred I got jarred.

The ending is really where it all got convoluted. Characters and actions started making little sense, honestly. Personally, I thought the romance between Lane and Katharine was nonexistent until it abruptly appeared at the end. (That is actually a highlight for me, but this may not be for you.) The character of Mrs. Jefferies, Lane’s aunt and the cook, especially befuddled me, because her character kept morphing between someone who seemed truly evil and someone who seemed truly nice. I guess this was part of the suspense of the book, but–again–everything was happening far too abruptly to read smoothly and make sense. I’m all for mysteries, but like every other plot they should flow and never jar the reader out of the story.

A couple more really big elements were added at the end that I think should have been mentioned earlier, but perhaps that’s just my preference. The ending action was certainly–and literally–explosive, which was again wonderfully written. After all the twists and turns with the characters, I found the eventually ending rather expected, but overall I was very pleased. Goodreads doesn’t suggest that there is a second book, but there HAS to be. Right? RIGHT? I mean, that wasn’t a cliffhanger by any means but there is certainly more stuff to go down.

I truly hope there is a next book, and I really want to get my hands on a finished copy of this book. When the editing gets cleaned up, I think this book is going to read a lot smoother and be a fantastic ride for you guys.  The writing is great, the characters are interesting and the plot really does wring you around. If you like steampunk and you like mysteries, I really recommend you pick this one up.