Michelle’s Review: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby


Michelle’s Review: Wonder Show by Hannah BarnabyWonder Show by Hannah Rodgers Barnaby
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2012
Genres: 20th Century, Action & Adventure, Circus, Family, General, Girls & Women, Historical, JUVENILE FICTION, Love & Romance, Orphans & Foster Homes, Performing Arts, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 274
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.

I was in the mood for a fantasical circus story when I picked up Wonder Show. I wasn’t disappointed.

Wonder Show has the kind of cover that definitely attracted me to it. Add to it the fun synopsis, and it is definitely a book that screams to be read when you’re looking for some quirky storytelling. I was feeling nostalgic over reading The Night Circus…it’s not terribly similar but I would recommend it for those looking for something at least a little related.

In short, it is a very artfully written story with the kind of aesthetic that would be matched well with some Edward Gorey drawings (my favorite!). It’s a story that you can easily read in one sitting. At the same time, I think it’s appropriate for all audiences, even perhaps some younger middle grade ones. It’s dark without being overwhelmingly dark. It’s a Tim Burton-esque story if that makes sense (and if I can be allowed to make yet another reference).

I’m not doing a very good job in writing this review (I haven’t been the best at putting my thoughts into written words lately, particularly in review-form). But I promise I loved it and this has earned its spot on my bookshelf.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Christina’s Review: The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Published by Alfred A. Knopf on 2005
Genres: Historical, Holocaust, Young Adult
Pages: 552
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.


By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.
So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time

I am still trying to figure out exactly why The Book Thief was such a big hit and had so much hype surrounding it…

Was it because “Death” was the narrator?

Or because the book was about a girl surviving in Nazi Germany?

Was it because of the hope developed for the longevity of each character?

Or because the book was about a “book thief” and appealed to many readers who related their love for books?

Did the movie help push this hype?

I do not mean to be critical of the book… it was a good book. But I would not place this story on my “top” list.

For those who have not read the book or watched the movie (I’ve only read the book) – the story is about a young girl (aka the book thief aka Liesel) who discovers the power of words as she learns to read with her foster father (Papa) in the basement of their house in Nazi Germany. The book provoked many emotions: fear, hope, love… The author introduced a range of characters who all played a role in Liesel’s love for reading and stealing: Papa and Mama (Liesel’s foster parents), the Mayor’s wife (a silent agent), Rudy (the mischievous boy-next-door), and Max (the Jewish hide-away).

While I did connect with the character of Papa, I found it hard to become emotionally attached to the other characters in the story (including Liesel). I’m not sure if this is because I felt the book dragged out at times, or if it was because the character development in general could have used more support. Having the story narrated by Death was a unique aspect to the book, however, I found Death’s voice was lost at times. It felt as though the author would get so into the story, the narrator was drowned out and then all of a sudden remembered and thrown back in. I understand it was probably hard to keep up with the constant voice and perspective of Death… maybe this was another aspect of the book that kept me from connecting with the characters (or maybe because having a narrator like Death causes me to anticipate the worst and, therefore, not want to connect with a character who may meet Death sooner than later).

A couple of questions I had and would love others’ insights:

  1. Why did Liesel’s mother leave her with foster parents? At one point in the book the author noted Liesel had the “wrong color eyes” to be living in Nazi Germany at the time, but this never came back into play in the book… was this meant to infer her mother was Jewish?
  2. Was there any significance to Death noting the color of the skies whenever a soul passed? While this helped the reader identify Death as the narrator, I found it distracting from the story since I could not identify a purpose for the color references…

Overall, I found the book to be an easy read (one that I could pick up or put down whenever, which made it ideal for my metro commute). The author was clear in his writing style, and again, I loved the unique approach to the narrator of the story. The concept of a girl stealing books was well thought out and carried on throughout the book (although she could have stolen at least one or two more books to be worthy of the name “book thief”). The book, however, was not a quick read and did take me some time to finish. I would recommend this book for those interested in historical fiction or looking for a book club read. However, I was not sold on the hype and “must read list” others have placed this book in.

One last note on the book’s genres: definitely historical fiction; young adult; and a great book club selection. We read this for our November Virginia Wine and Book Club pick… some good conversations developed and questions left unanswered for the pondering.

Be sure to check out Michelle’s previous review on The Book Thief (much different than mine!) and tell us what you think!

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


Michelle’s Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Published by Usborne Publishing on 2014-01-01
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
three-stars
Anna has everything figured out - she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere... Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including Etienne, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he’s taken – and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-missed end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?

During many blogger events, both online and in person, it became abundantly clear to me that the fans of this series are many and passionate. In fact, if the bloggers online hadn’t been as polite and nice during the 2014 Book Blogger Love-a-thon, I would have felt completely on the outside for not having read this book.

I was introduced to this book by attending a local author event that just so happened to feature Stephanie Perkins as well as three other authors. I was drawn to the event by one of those other three, but the crowd had completely taken me aback. As it turned out during the autograph session, the line for Stephanie was insane, snaking through the shelves of the independent bookstore. Isla and the Happily Ever After had not yet been released (or I believe the set release date set) and still the fans of this series could barely contain themselves! I grabbed the paperback version of Anna and got it signed.

I say all this because it is not a book that I would have picked up without all the hype. I have become a lot more educated on my own taste in books. I know what books have a higher chance of hitting a home run for me than others. Typically, contemporary (young adult) romance is not one of those. But I have been surprised before and am always up to expanding my bookish horizons.

And this is where I now say that I liked it. It was cute and fun. However, it did not leave me gasping for more, or moving me to go pick up Lola and the Boy Next Door or Isla. I appreciate this book for what it is; a well-written and quirky romance told in first person in a fun setting. I brought this book with me on vacation, and had I had more time to read on that particular vacation it would have made the perfect poolside read.

I won’t go into the plot. You either already know it or can read the professional one created. In many ways, there was no suspense for me. The title, the buzz, the synopsis all give away any type of surprise that there might be. For some, it didn’t matter because the build-up was enough for them. For me, it made the book just a three-star read for me. Regardless, I can foresee myself recommending this book to those that are looking for something in particular. It has such a proven reputation and if you’re looking for a nice, simple romance, then this would definitely be like finding your favorite movie in an old cinema.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Michelle’s Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2014-05-13
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
five-stars
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I spoiled this book for myself before I had ever decided to read it.

In June everyone was raving about this book. It seemed like everyone was reading it, book bloggers, vloggers, and critics alike! I had heard about it through some online article about books to read this summer and had nominated it for my book club to read. I hadn’t actually expected to ever get around to reading it. I’m not exactly the fastest or the trendiest reader. So when it was selected as our book club’s August book, I was both happy and a little disappointed.

Because I had watched all the spoiler sections of people’s vlogs about this book. I had spoiled that big twist that everyone alluded to.

But here’s the thing: it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all. Perhaps I liked the book for different reasons than those who were in the dark; it was like rereading a thriller and being able to connect the dots that were previously invisible to you. But it was still so much fun. It was definitely one of my favorite reads so far this year.

  • Why was it so good?
  • It was artistic. There was poetry in its prose that was not overdone but instead helped to create a certain mood.
  • It was a thriller without being too heavy. It was the kind of book you would bring to the beach and end up forgetting to go into the water and still feel relaxed.
  • The setting was so real. It made me long to go to that island and have my own summer adventures (minus family drama, please!).
  • The narrator of the audiobook was absolutely amazing and a perfect fit for the book. I had listened to other books she has narrated before and liked her then too but she definitely did this book justice to the point where I feel like my experience of the book was greatened by listening to it instead of reading it.

This was the book that inspires so much discussion and analysis, with no one being truly right or wrong about it. And I think I’ll enjoy discussing it for some time to come.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr


Michelle’s Review: Ink Exchange by Melissa MarrInk Exchange by Melissa Marr
Published by Harper Collins on 2008-04-29
Genres: Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
two-stars
Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance among the Faery Courts has altered, and Irial, ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow. Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of faeries or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life. The tattoo does bring changes—not the kind Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that are more than symbolic. Those changes will bind Leslie and Irial together, drawing Leslie deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils. . . .

I read Wicked Lovely years ago. It was another book that I liked enough. But when I was discovering a new used book store, perusing the young adult section, the spine of this book and its title caught my eye. I didn’t really know that Wicked Lovely was a series, and didn’t know that Ink Exchange was part of it. I knew the author was the same but didn’t quite put it all together. But I was surprised to see that the book was signed by Melissa Marr. That was cool! So I bought it, despite previously having no intention of continuing with the series.

It was the book that had been sitting on my TBR the longest this summer so I finally got around to it. Unfortunately, because of how long it had been since I had read about Aislinn and the Summer Court, I could barely remember what had happened before the events in Ink Exchange. And this book definitely just jumped right into it.

To say I was confused through most of the book is putting it lightly. I understood Leslie well enough and her motivations, but I was confused about the larger plot. I mean, I think I get it, but I’m not sure. It was not easy to follow and I don’t know how much of it is because of things that were included in the first book or was simply not explained right in this book. I do wonder about the success of a book if someone picking it up cannot follow it without having read the book before it. Isn’t that how most series are discovered (or at least used to be discovered as we would wander the shelves of the library or bookstore)?

There were some standout characters (okay, well Niall) but it wasn’t enough to save the book for me. It was okay, but it wasn’t a fun read for me. Too much confusion and teen angst.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Solstice by P.J. Hoover


Michelle’s Review: Solstice by P.J. HooverSolstice by P.J. Hoover
Published by Macmillan on 2013-06-18
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy & Magic, Greek & Roman, Legends, Myths, Fables, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 381
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-stars
Piper’s world is dying. Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles which threaten to destroy the Earth. Amid this Global Heating Crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom. Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth—her very identity…. An imaginative melding of mythology and dystopia, Solstice is the first YA novel by talented newcomer P. J. Hoover.

I’m very conflicted over Solstice. It was like it was two different books to me, one that I didn’t like and the other that I was more interested in. All together, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

It was the first half that didn’t make the cut for me. Earth is grappling with the effects of global warming. More and more people are losing their lives every day as the temperatures rise to more than dangerous levels and new storms become stronger. The description of that world entices me into the story. But unfortunately the execution was a little lackluster.

Piper is in high school with a very over-protective mother. She lives in a little oasis of a greenhouse while the outside world has to be misted with cooling gel and and watches the temperature rise and obeys the subsequent warnings. I grew weary of the amount I was told that Piper’s mother was over-protective. Now, by the middle to the end part of the book, I completely understand just how protective she was. But in the beginning, it became a little eye-roll worthy.

By page 56, there was a love triangle, which I really wasn’t a fan of either. Again, by the end, it comes into clearer focus why that has come to be. However, I imagine that for a reader more inclined to not finish a book than me, it would make a persuasive argument to put the book down before you get to the redeeming part.

The end of the book left me much more happy, but also wishing that the entire book had been that way. The big reveal was fun and I really enjoyed the ending. It’s just very unfortunate that the rest of the book wasn’t that way for me.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Christina’s Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2014-05-13
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
A New York Times Bestseller.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.


We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I jumped ahead on August’s VA Wine and Book Club pick and read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I started it on a Thursday, and finished it the next day. It was a quick and easy read, and entertaining as well. Reading the book description, I was a little skeptical to begin, however, I found myself at the pool looking for a light read, and this book ended up being the perfect fit. (Actually, I may have spent a little too much time at the pool after getting drawn-in through the book)

We Were Liars followed the summers Cady Sinclair and her beautiful and wealthy family spent together on a private island. What family could be more perfect than the Sinclair’s? They emulated the pristine and got through things without showing the hardships or emotions. The “Liars” of the family included Cady, her two cousins, and friend Gat who spent the summers together each year. Their relationship with each other as family close in age was relatable for me with my cousins. They were friends whose story was conflicted by an accident that fogged Cady’s memory and was carried out in her story throughout the book. What happened during her fifteenth summer? What changed her beautiful, flawless life?

E. Lockhart did a seamless job with the story-line of her book. Her writing style was unique…wistful, metaphoric, and captivating. She covered so much detail and kept the book moving fast, however, she left so much to question and keep the reader thinking at the same time. The first few chapters took me some time to get into the story and adjust to her writing style, however, once I did I found the book irresistible and wanted to reach the end to learn who the liars were and what could have happened to Cady.

As other reviews have mentioned, it is difficult to go into details with this book without the risk of saying too much. Therefore, I will keep this review short and sweet. I recommend this book as a light read. It was the perfect pool-side escape, and should be an interesting book club discussion. When I reached the end, I felt my jaw hanging open with suspense, anticipation, confusion and excitement. This is definitely one of those books I will have to re-read again to further understand the significance of the events and details captured by the author.

Enjoy this read, and let yourself escape into the world of the Sinclair’s!

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: The One by Kiera Cass


Michelle’s Review: The One by Kiera CassThe One by Kiera Cass
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-05-06
Genres: Dystopian, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Royalty, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
The highly anticipated third book in Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series, The One will captivate readers who love dystopian YA fiction and fairy tales. The One is perfect for the fans who have followed America's whirlwind romance since it began—and a swoon-worthy read for teens who have devoured Veronica Roth's Divergent, Ally Condie's Matched, or Lauren Oliver's Delirium.The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of Illéa, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen—and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

I spent the time after finishing this book lying awake writing a blog post in my mind about it. Now that it is the morning after, my emotions have stabilized, but my thoughts have remained the same. I would say that I really enjoyed this book, but I think in some ways it was the suspense fooling me a little. I did like it, but I’m not sure if it was a truly magical experience for me.

So really, this is between a 3 star (I liked it) and a four star (I really liked it): a 3.5.

I’ve been very honest in my reviews for The Selection and The Elite about how I believe these books (I think) were only ever meant to be fun and enjoyable reads. Light, kind of shallow, and still suspenseful.

I could, in fact, quote from my review of The Elite and have it completely apply to my feelings about The One:

I kept reading this book to see if America would make a decision. And each chapter added a new revelation about either the history of Illea or some new event that made me want to immediately know the outcome. I was increasingly frustrated by America’s indecisiveness and lack of a spine…it seemed like any decision was open to be immediately changed by a single event. I am still not sure I really understand the presence of the dystopian elements. The rebel attacks, the increasing tension between the castes…I kept feeling like either more attention needs to be paid to that side of things or just leave it. The series is at its core a romance story. While that plot seems less ‘important’ than a government struggle, time and again the focus is brought back to the romance. The dystopian parts of the story are definitely political at their core, or so I felt.

The things that differed with The One:

  • The dystopian elements were hashed out more, but still almost superfluous to the main plot. In some ways, it felt like it was just there to explain the type of society that would have The Selection. I wish that there had been more depth to that part of the story if it was going to be there.
  • America actually makes decisions! Though, no one could ever exactly call her ‘decisive’. ‘Impulsive’ definitely. Though perhaps as she moves out of her teenage years, she’d mature into more of a decisive woman.

All that said, I still enjoyed the story. I stayed up late to finish it and was either shouting at America or giggling throughout it. I did grow increasingly frustrated this time around with the characters’ immaturity but I think that’s more because this is -perhaps- a younger, young adult. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who does not have a tolerance or enjoy young adult, but for those looking for a fun summer read, this fits that billet!

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver


Christina’s Review: Delirium by Lauren OliverDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on 2012-02-06
Genres: Dystopian, Emotions & Feelings, General, Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didnt understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love and the government demands that all citizens recieve the cure upon turning eightteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she will be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predicable and happy. But with ninety- five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: she falls in love.
jokers3

Delirium was another book club book selected for June’s read based off popular vote. This book sounded more interesting than I thought it was. As I first started reading the book, I loved how it started. The book read quick and sparked my interest from the first few chapters. However, as I continued through Delirium, the book began to read tediously. It felt like the same content being repeated with little progression. The theme became old and the book felt longer than the start. This book is definitely meant for the young adult audience, however, I felt the basic concept behind the book was one that was tiresomely overdone.

The book sets place in a world where love is a disease that has a cure. Readings are designed to illuminate the terrible side effects this “disease” can have on individuals. People fear love and look forward to the disease, just like the main character of Delirium, Lena. Lena was counting down the days until she was cured from this disease, that was until she met a boy that captivated her emotions… The story goes on following through the encounters Lena has with this boy as she gets closer to receiving the cure. She has a best friend brought into the mix, whom she fights on and off with and carries on with. These two characters are relatable for many teenagers going through high school and preparing for college. As the book continues, Lena is faced with the struggle of what is real and what individuals are brainwashed to think is real. The question persists throughout the book, “What will Lena do when the time comes for her to receive her cure?”

My problem with the book was that it read like every other teenage heart-throb book. The subject is getting old… will love conquer all? One of the members of our book club mentioned she felt the characters were hard to connect with in the book… that their personality didn’t really shine through. After thinking about that, I agreed with what she said. The characters weren’t predictable in the sense that you really got to know them. They were predictable because they followed the persona of other characters in the same genre of books. This teenage first love fate is starting to get old and is not realistic… Delirium read like other books and movies of similar topic. I was hoping for something new, but this book did not finish meeting my expectations it started to produce.

Overall, I did not HATE this book. I give it three starts out of five because it was still written well. While the subject is old, unrealistic, and over-played, the author’s style is unique and well-composed. This would make a good beach or casual read if one had time to spare.

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant


Michelle’s Review: Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin GrantSteampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by gavin grant, kelly link
Published by Candlewick Press on 2011
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Science & Technology, Short Stories, Steampunk, Young Adult
Pages: 420
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-stars
In the first major YA steampunk anthology, fourteen top storytellers push the genre's mix of sci-fi, fantasy, history, and adventure in fascinating new directions. Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre's established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.

fromthestash

From the Stash is just my way to denote when something is from before I had the blog. I have been reviewing books since January 2010 so I’d like to showcase some of that past work. This was originally reviewed in January 2012.

Brand new library book with the smell intact (don’t judge!), the anthology was my first formal introduction with the steampunk genre. And while these stories sought to be different from the cliches of the genre (which I have yet to encounter due to my beginner level with it), I have learned some things about it.

My thoughts about the genre as presented by the anthology: what sets steampunk apart from science fiction or fantasy, magical realism or alternate historical fiction? I suppose steam punk is a melding of all these genres into a broader, or perhaps more narrow category, but it doesn’t pass the test for me. I feel like the genre, and by that I mean the authors, are trying to hard to fit their stories into a particular label that at this moment is a very popular one and therefore sensational. I will continue to read the occasional steampunk novel, but I fear I cannot wholeheartedly support this movement, this literary niche without either further research or a change of heart.

That said, the anthology was a pleasant read. Each story was in fact different, and yet flowed into each other, with themes from the previous story leading into the next. Some standouts: The Last Ride of the Glory Girls – a wild west female coming-of-age story; Everything Amiable and Obliging – Holly Black is a best-selling author for a reason as this story about love and robots was riveting; Seven Days Beset by Demons – one of the two graphic stories in the anthology, I loved the art and the simplicity of the story; Hand in Glove – almost a crime noire set in California with an odd culprit; and The Summer People – which while I will argue that this was definitely more fantasy/magical realism than steampunk, was an interesting story set in Appalachia with entities that might be known as fairies.

There were other good stories in the anthology, but some felt more forced than others. Overall, I looked forward to seeing what the next story had in store and I would recommend it to anyone, whether they are mechanized veterans of the genre or interlopers into the strange world of steampunk.

pj - michelle