Book Review: Everland by Wendy Spinale

Everland by Wendy Spinale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/B015QMBYD8

I received Everland in the May Steampunk Owlcrate. I decided I wanted the box because of the advertised Infernal Devices inclusion in the box. I was extremely excited to discover the book was a steampunk version of Peter Pan, as (if you read my reviews you already know) I’ve been reading a lot of Peter Pan retells lately.

What I Loved: This wasn’t so much a retelling of Peter Pan as it was a reimaging. All of our favorite characters, and their personalities were present and accounted for. I really enjoyed that about this book – it was it’s own story throughout the entire book, but it was also very much Peter Pan!

In some of the retellings I’ve read lately, Peter is cast as the bad guy while Hook is really our hero – in this book the characters are put back into their rightful places, and Pete was perfect and made me fall in love with the kid Peter Pan was, but also with the teenager and guardian he was in this rendition. He was playful and sarcastic yet he bore the weight of burden but not without its scars.

It was awesome that this was steampunked. I’ve read a few steampunk books, but I think I like this one the best so far. And Pete’s tattoo…I really would love to see that for real. However the best steampunk element was most certainly Belle’s wings!

Not So Much: Truthfully, Hook was completely unstable in this book, but I was sort of confounded by this character. At times I felt like he wasn’t really such a bad person, other times he was the worst. I kind of felt like the two sides didn’t come together very well, but perhaps that is as it should be when someone isn’t quite right in the head.

I also would have loved to have had an Epilogue of this book. It was pretty well wrapped up, but not completely…..aaaaand as I was typing this I looked it up, and it appears that this is a series. Now I’m really wondering where this is going to go…..

The Verdict:
This is my favorite Peter Pan Retelling so far. I loved it. I loved the setting, and the characters. I do want more and am very intrigued to know how this is going to be as a series. Hopefully it does not disappoint.

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Book Review: Illusionarium – Heather Dixon

Title: Illusionarium

Author: Heather Dixon
Genre: YA – Fantasy, Steampunk

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

My Review:
Just before my 2016 “shut down” on buying any new books due to the 2016 TBR Reading Challenge, I received one of those Goodreads emails that includes new books which are specifically picked out for you due to what you’ve read in the past. Those emails are evil, and probably half my problem. Anyhow, Illusionarium was on that email. It was there because I have read and loved Heather Dixon’s writing in the past, so of course I NEED to know when she releases a new book, right?

I don’t always fall for those emails. But I’m a sucker for great covers, and let me tell you – I don’t know who Heather Dixon is working with on her covers, but they are both simply amazing. And truth be told – if this cover wasn’t so perfect, I wouldn’t have been buying this book on December 31, 2015, right before I was suppose to be cutting myself off from new purchases so that I could make a dent in the 450+ books already on my kindle/nook/whatever reading app.

What I Loved: This book takes imagination. I took LOADS of imagination to write (I wish I had half this imagination!) and it takes imagination to read – thankfully I’m good at that part! About halfway through reading Illusionarium, I stopped and read a few reviews on Goodreads, and I found a mixed response. But I think the biggest problem with the book is that it is weirdness on top of weirdness – and if you weren’t following from the beginning, you are probably going to have a problem continuing to follow…. I didn’t. I think that the setting (an AIR CITY!!), the illusions, the schism (ß you must read to understand) – everything was so interesting and perfect. If this book were a movie, it would no doubt be directed by Tim Burton. I imagine all kinds of bright colors, but also that gothic darkness that Burton is known for as well.

The illusions (this isn’t really a spoiler, right – given the title?!) were another element that I was so in love with. They weren’t illusions as in, you just imagine it and there you were. You had to create them, as in, understand the science behind what you were making before it became real. It was cool that Jonathan was smart, and shy and not your typical main character at all…but because of this, he was awesome at these illusions, despite his self confidence issue.

I loved the steampunk feel about the book, but also how it wasn’t driven by it’s ‘steampunkiness.’ There wasn’t the constant mention of gadget and devices, and it wasn’t overly Victorian in theme either. It was just kind of there, just another layer.

Okay – I’ve talked about the world and around the theme of the book – but I also really liked the story. It was layered with twists and turns, a few of them I was able to guess as the story progressed, a couple I didn’t guess until closer to the end, and some that took me by surprise. I like that. I like being surprised just as much as I like being able to foretell a story based on the foreshadowing. I think that is one of the things that keeps me engaged while reading, trying to figure out what’s going to happen because of the hints that authors throw out there.

Not So Much: Soo I LOVED the story, and the story line. And I even really liked the characters, so this little bit is nothing but a drop in the book. I really wish that the romantic aspect of the book would have been a little bit more there. I like a little bit of romance, you know? It wasn’t the purpose of the book, but I don’t think a little bit more would have taken away from it either. It was done well, but I just I don’t know…it left me wanting.

The Verdict:     

The only reason I’m not giving this 5-Hearts is because while I really did enjoy this book quite a bit, I’ve read it. I’m done. I don’t have a pull to re-read this one immediately. I’m trying to save 5-Hearts for those books that call to me in that way. This book was clean (even from cussing) and would be great for young teens who read more mature books for sure! And, because they are simply beautiful, I plan on adding this AND Entwined to my hardback book collection. (This is not cheating..I’m not buying any NEW books in 2016!!!)
  

BOOK REVIEW: Clockwork Prince – Cassandra Clare

GENRE: Young Adult – Fantasy/Steampunk/Romance
FORM: eBook
SERIES: The Infernal Devices – Book 2

SYNOPSIS: The London Institute is under harsh evaluation after having harbored a spy, and eliminated a vampire clan that had been falsely accused (despite breaking the law regardless). Questions are being raised of whether Charlotte and Henry are really cut out for this kind of responsibility. They are given a chance to prove themselves and ensure their spot at the institute though. They have two weeks to find the one who calls himself The Magister; Axel Mortmain.

REVIEW: After a years’ worth of anticipation – I could hardly wait to get my hand on the next installment of The Infernal Devices. I will admit though, after reading subtle hints or blanket statements from both Cassandra Clare (via Twitter/Facebook – I don’t know her personally obviously) and other blogs/fans/etc., I was also sort of dreading this book – mostly because…and if you read my blog regularly, this will not come as a shock to you…there was a true blue love triangle in this series. ARRrrg! I fell hard and fast for Will Herondale in Clockwork Angel. His wit, love of books, and secrets were intriguing to me. (And I’m a bit like Magnus Bane – I really like black hair/blue eyes, what’s more attractive?) Don’t get me wrong, I like Jem….in a nice, sidekick/bestfriend/guy who will always be there sort of way, just not as a love interest.

That being said; I both absolutely loved and really hated Clockwork Prince. (“Hate” is not indicating how GOOD this book was, it was excellent!) I cannot, will not diverge on all the reasons I hated the book. I will just say that there IS a love triangle, and while Tessa does get hot and heavy…ITS WITH THE WRONG GUY!!!!!! Not that Will didn’t get his fair share of play time as well, but still. Another reason I do not like love triangles: someone will always get hurt. Badly. Usually more than one someone. I love Tessa, she is funny and wonderfully nice. It’s that “nice” that is getting her into trouble though. This all would never would have started if that nice, ‘I don’t want anyone to get hurt/be hurt by me’ attitude didn’t present itself. Granted, she had her fair share of hurt, by Will none-the-less, I just think it was always obvious that he was lying. It was obvious something more was at play with him. Patience is a virtue.

And I will be patient. For another year. Waiting on Clockwork Princess. When I’m almost positive the world will right itself once again. 😉

Okay, so why did I love this book? Well let’s see. First of all, we get to see and learn more about Will. I find this funny because I remember reading someone say that this was “Jem’s book,” and I can see where that might partially be true, but we don’t learn much more about Jem that we didn’t already know. Will and his past was a larger part of this book.

Clockwork Prince was the “inbetween” novel, the middle one in a series that gets you from Point A to Point B. It is also the novel that in most series you get the most insight and historical details on most if not all of the characters and the situation at hand. While sometimes it can make a book seem long depending on the author, I tend to like these middle books because I like knowing why people are the way they are and why they act the way they do. Cassandra Clare does an awesome job of doing this while at the same time keeping the storyline moving forward. Progress is made in finding out the how’s and why’s of the automatons and the Magister, but not much. Just enough to keep the story engaging, the real movement in this book is between characters.

A quick rundown of some of that movement: We learn more about Axel Mortmain, and why he might hate Shadowhunters so much. Charlotte and Henry are also front and forward a lot more, and we learn of the sweet delicate relationship they share. I was a Henry fan from the start. He’s cooky and distracted, but I always knew that his heart is exactly where it is suppose to be, and that is proven in this novel. Jessamine plays a rather large part in this book, and I’m curious to see if she will be able to redeem herself after this book. Gabriel and Gideon Lightwood…just wait and see. We get a bit more of Magnus Bane, and given that he’s a reoccurring character in two of Clare’s series, it’s fun to sort of gather bits and pieces of his life at random intervals and periods of time. There are also a lot of hints and nudges in the direction of where Tessa came from and how she may have come to be – but nothing definite yet. That is obviously going to have to wait for the Grand Finale!

There was a lot of foreshadowing going on in Clockwork Prince – I may have been looking for things that weren’t actually there, but I don’t think so and I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m right. I’m not going to tell you some of the things I picked up on, because I don’t like ruining anything – if you didn’t see it you’ll just be that much more surprised when it comes up. I will say that I’m a tinsy bit suspicious of that cook. What is her DEAL?

The Girl in the Steel Corset – Kady Cross

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Add half star to my rating…Goodreads, my suggestion – we need half stars please!)

GENRE: Young Adult – Paranormal/Fantasy/Steampunk
FORM: eBook – Nook
SERIES: The Steampunk Chronicles  #1

SYNOPSIS: Finley Jane, living in England late 1800’s, seems to have a split personality. One side of her is a sweet, gentle, kind-hearted girl despite her pension for sarcasm, the other side is much darker and thrives on confrontation and is prone to egg on anyone who wishes to challenge her or gets her mad. It is this other side that, she believes, is responsible for her heightened sense of sight, smell, hearing, agility, and strength; combined with fast healing abilities, Finley Jane is a force to be reckoned with. She meets up with Lord Griffin King, and his group of friends, all of whom seem to have special ‘talents’ of their own. Together, they will investigate a series of machine mishaps, believed to be caused by someone who calls himself “the Machinist,” and also discover a few of the what’s and why’s of their abilities.

REVIEW: I was really psyching myself up for this book. It had popped up all over the review blogs, and Goodreads and other discussions. The more I saw it, the more drawn to it I was. Of course the beautiful cover didn’t hurt any. I had never heard of “Steampunk” until this book started popping up, and even now I’m not completely sure what it is, exactly. I do know that, while this book is set in the late 1800’s, Steampunk seems to a popular thing right now, (I just heard of a “steampunk’ed themed bridal shower.”) Someone is going to need to educate me, I think. Of course, I could always just google.

Anyhow, so I’m all excited to get this book, and I am going to say that now that I’ve read it, I think I psyched it up a little too much in my mind. There really were parts that I loved, and parts that I didn’t love so much. So, I’m going to just jump into that portion of my review template, and they will be a bit longer than normal…

WHAT I LOVED: Lets see…the setting. Victorian era, London…the perfect mix of beautiful and sludge. I really enjoy novels set in this time-frame. In this case, it was nice not to be a reading about a debutant in a Victorian parade of lace and tradition. I liked seeing a bit of the underbelly; people who are not necessarily a part of all the pomp and circumstance, but stand outside of it.

I also loved the characters themselves. Finley Jane has a slightly vindictive, sarcastic side that I love to read in books. That kind of attitude never seems to stop making me smile. Of course, it’s not so nice when it’s not coming out of a demon hunter; or, as in this case, out of a girl trying to protect her virtue. She is also just one of those female leads I love to read about; beautiful butt-kicker! Griffin was a well put together young man; he seemed to know exactly how to take advantage of his power and money. It was extremely convenient to write him as a rich young ruler (of sorts) with no real parental guidance. It makes doing whatever, whenever so much easier, right? Then there is the true “underbelly” character of the book, Jack Dandy. Good guy? Bad guy? Will we ever really find out?

I also really, really enjoyed the action/fighting scenes. They were just about perfect.

Okay, now comes the harder part.

NOT SO MUCH: Let’s see…I had a really hard time merging the modern technology with the Victorian setting. I understand this is at the cusp of invention, and of course the entire “FICTION” portion of this Fantasy book…but there was just so much. It was too much, too convenient, too easy.

I also felt, while I loved the characters individually, they didn’t fit together very well. I didn’t feel any real connection between them. We have (KIND OF) two love triangles going on in this book (which I also think is too much), but I could care less who ends up with whom. I have no opinion. I felt no heat, no real attraction. Some kind of connection was missing. The perfect place for some heat between characters would have been the tattoo scene. What about a light touch of his hand caressing her back. His breath on her neck raising goose bumps. It was like the perfect set-up – and when the scene was over I wanted to scream: “YOU MISSED IT!!!! Opportunity over.” It felt like there was so much time spent on including the “new” technology and machines, and on describing what the characters were wearing, that we missed out on some other important parts of what makes a really good book. I think finding a harmony here is what is needed. It was neat; the way they dressed, that they had special abilities, they had cool, new technology – but you don’t need to stop and beat the point in with a stick. The book needs to flow into relationships and the story itself. Maybe I’m trying to say, it felt a little bit disjointed.

I sort of hinted at this a little bit above, but I felt like the story was also drawling off of a very popular Cassandra Clare series…one that involves strong, sarcastic teenagers; fighters with abilities, tattoos, and machines, set in the Victorian era?!? Unfortunately, the two books make an unfair comparison. If this is the aim for the Steampunk Series, then as I have been saying; step it up on some of the character interactions. We need to see some more jealousy and tension, if there are to be love triangles. Random acts of passion. (A nice backing up against the wall scene is always nice). More sarcasm, less gloating about our particular skills. Keep the outfits, just dedicate less time to each of their descriptions.

OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:
Coming in 2012:  The Girl in the Clockwork Collar

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Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cassandra Clare does it again! I am wrapped up, sucked in, and sitting on pins and needles in the long wait for Clockwork Prince. I really adore the world that Cassandra Clare has created and continues to expand upon. I’m very excited to hear that The Immortal Instruments Series is going to continue as well. More Jace please!! (Of course…Will is definitely giving him a run for his money.)

Clockwork Angel is actually set before The Immortal Instruments Series, when – I can’t remember since I was listened to audio and I don’t have a book to reference, but we’re talking horse and buggy time frame, in London. The book opened on Tessa traveling from the States to London to meet up with her brother after the death of her Aunt, and then moves forward to her subsequent kidnapping. The first couple chapters actually moved a bit slow for me. Even the discovery and shaping of Tessa’s special ability seemed kind of ‘eh’ to me at this point, but as soon as witty Will enters the scene the book seems to beg for my attention and moves forward much more rapidly. I’m sure the banter between characters helped out quite a bit, and trust me – there’s a lot. The book basically moves forward from Tessa’s rescue to the plan to find her brother and discover why she was kidnapped in the first place. There are lots of little surprises and fun moments in the book. Interesting friends and enemies – all of which I want to keep quiet, because it’s not up to me to reveal them to you.

The characters really make the book for me. While I love Thomas and Charlotte, (and who wouldn’t, Thomas being the spacey young genius scientist/inventor, Charlotte being the young ambitious wife who runs the institute…you have to love them!) Tessa, Will and Jim really make this book worth the read. I was laughing through a good portion of the book – probably making my coworkers think I was schitso-crazy. I was also please to also to see some favorites from The Immortal Instruments, it’s always fun when authors do that.

One thing I love about Cassandra’s writing is the romantic scenes. She knows how to give you just enough to make you sigh, and then pull back to the point of frustration. If the story and its content doesn’t keep you reading the rest of the series, you will keep reading just to find out what happens romantically. It really doesn’t hurt that all her male characters are bad boy enough to make you smile, and handsome enough to make you swoon. (BTW, in my mind, Will was loosely based around Ian Somerhalder from Vampire Diaries Show..good fit, no? Well, he might be a little old, but I did say loosely.)

Props must be given to Jennifer Ehle for her narration. She did a beautiful job. While the accents aren’t as thick as I would have imagined if I had been reading it, but it was great regardless. Everyone had their own personality and, really, their own voice (which is impressive). I love a good narrator, and was very pleased with this book!

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