Steampunk

Review: Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

(For those of you who were expecting the next Mistborn book today, I’m sorry – but I finally found this at the library and just had to read it first. Also Mistborn books are really long.)

WAISTCOATS AND WEAPONRY
Image from Gail Carriger

Title: Waistcoats and Weaponry (Finishing School #3)

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Steampunk

Warning: This book is third in a series, so this review will probably have spoilers of the previous books. This series is too good to spoil, so if you haven’t read the first two Finishing School books, I recommend not reading this review. (Also, go read them right now.)

Back cover:

Sophronia continues finishing school in style – with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapons comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey hijack a suspiciously empty train to return their chum Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. But when Sophronia discovers they are being trailed by a dirigible of Picklemen and flywaymen, she unearths a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos. With her friends in mortal danger, Sophronia must sacrifice what she holds most dear – her freedom.

Review:

I love the Finishing School series. I knew that as soon as I finished Etiquette and Espionage, and devoured Curtsies and Conspiracies as soon as I could get my hands on it. But it took me a long time (over a year) to read this one – mainly because it was never in at the library. Apparently everybody else wanted to read it, too.

We’ll start with Sophronia, who is getting even more epic with training. She now has an awesome signature weapon (I totally want one), some very creative tricks up her sleeve, and a reputation. She is good – really, really good – at the whole spying-while-being-polite-and-fashionable thing. And it is awesome.

There’s quite a few other characters playing main parts here. Lord Felix Mersey shows up, Soap actually has a pretty large role, and Sidheag actually shows emotion. The relationships are a mess sometimes, but it’s a mess that’s fun to read about.

This book’s plot was a little … different. It almost felt like an interim plot until the actual plot got started (I’m assuming there’s something big for the next book). But it seemed a tiny bit unfocused – I can’t even remember what it was in the beginning, besides a slight mystery around what’s happening with Sidheag, and then some relationship problems (I’ll get to those more in a minute), and trying to get Sidheag home, and then they got distracted by technology and Picklemen and a whole host of other stuff. I think that’s the best way to describe the plot: it kept getting sidetracked. Which wasn’t a bad thing and I still enjoyed it, but it was a little different than expected.

There were a few things I found disappointing about this book – number one being the love triangle. I have yet to see a love triangle done well (i.e. doesn’t annoy me. But that could just be me). It was handled nicely (there’s only so much romance a non-engaged couple can have in Victorian England), but I found it annoyingly obvious which guy Sophronia would pick. And it seemed to be more of a plot device than character development.

My other disappointment was the school, or lack thereof. I’ve mentioned in previous books that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is my favorite part of this series. And Sophronia and company didn’t spend a lot of time at the school in this book. Admittedly, their adventures were just as fun, but I kind of missed the epic dirigible school.

Will I still read book four? Absolutely. Those few disappointing bits were not nearly enough to dissuade me (and besides, I think the love triangle is mostly wrapped up). The good still far outweighs the bad, and I am really looking forward to getting my hands on Manners and Mutiny.

The Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette and Espionage
  2. Curtsies and Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats and Weaponry
  4. Manners and Mutiny
Book Round-Ups

2014 in Books

I don’t know how this happened, but it’s 2015. 2014 has been a year of huge changes for me – mainly because I left for college in August. And I only read 89 books this year, 44 fewer than 2013 – the first time since I started tracking my reading in 2010 that the number has dropped below 100. A little disappointing, but still not bad.

So, to start the new year, I’ve put together three lists: My top 5 favorite books of 2014 (since I can never decide on just one), some 2014 reads worth mentioning that didn’t make the top 5, and the 5 books I’m most excited to read in 2015. None of the lists are in any particular order.Jalyn at jalynely.com's 5 favorite reads of 2014: BLACKOUT by Madeleine Henry, ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE by Gail Carriger, NEW SIGHT by Jo Schneider, WIN THE RINGS by K.D. Van Brunt, and THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson

  1. Blackout (Darkness #1) by Madeleine Henry. I had a deadline of one week to read and review this book, which I agreed to against my better judgement … and ended up devouring the entire book during the busiest week of my year. The characters, concept, and amazing execution blew me away, and I would be happy to read book two with a yesterday deadline if that means I get it soon.
  2. Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger. Steampunk is my current obsession anyway, but steampunk, in high-class Victorian England, at a finishing school, that teaches girls to be spies? Absolute perfection.
  3. New Sight by Jo Schneider. Giving a new twist to the idea of psychic powers, this Indie urban fantasy added beautifully dark, gritty tones of insanity and addiction to the traditional master-your-powers-help-the-good-guys plot.
  4. Win the Rings (Cracked Chronicles #1) by K.D. Van Brunt. Despite a vague blurb, bland cover, and seemingly nonsensical title, this Indie book was amazing. Tense, action-packed, amazing concept, and told from two perspectives that gave the best of both worlds – the hunter and the hunted.
  5. The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson. This is the second year in a row a Sanderson book has made my top 5, and for good reason. Fascinating and original magic systems, great characters, a delightfully complicated plot, and I never could decide on a prediction for the bad guy.

Jalyn at JalynEly.com's books worth mentioning of 2014Reviews of the mentioned books:

  1. Ballad of the Northland by Jason Barron
  2. Theory of Mind by Jacob Gorczyca
  3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen by J.L McCreedy
  5. My Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos
  6. Tea Cups and Tiger Claws by Timothy Patrick
  7. Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by F.J.R. TitchenellJalyn at jalynely.com's top 5 books to read in 2015: FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson, EXPOSURE by Kathy Reichs, UNWHOLLY by Neal Shusterman, THE SHADOW THRONE by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and DATA RUNNER by Sam Patel
  1. Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson. The first book, Steelheart,was amazing (honestly, anything Brandon Sanderson writes is amazing), so I’m really looking forward to reading more of this fabulous series.
  2. Exposure (Virals #4) by Kathy Reichs. I’ve loved the Virals series since I discovered it, and after the way Code, the third book, ended, I need to know what happens.
  3. UnWholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman. Unwind has been a favorite for a while, so I was thrilled to find it was first in a series (I actually just bought this book – now I have to get around to reading it).
  4. The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I absolutely loved the first two books in this series, even though it’s middle grade, and I’m looking forward to finishing the series.
  5. Data Runner (Data Runner #1) by Sam A. Patel. Couriers running information in a high-tech world, including cool aliases and conspiracies – sounds like a fun, action-packed ride.

So that’s my year in books. What were your favorite books of 2014? What books are you looking forward to reading in the coming year?

Steampunk

Review: Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Curtsies and Conspiracies
Image from Gail Carriger

Title: Curtsies and Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Steampunk

WARNING: This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of the previous book. If you haven’t read Etiquette and Espionage, I recommend not reading this review.

Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy – won’t Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

After how much I loved Etiquette and Espionage, I pestered my mom at least daily to get into town to stop at the library and get Curtsies and Conspiracies. But once I got it, I had to wait a while to read it, because I knew I’d want an empty afternoon to just read the whole thing.

In my review of Etiquette and Espionage, I mentioned that Sophronia was fun, but I thought she’d be amazing with a few more dangerous skills. And I was right. Last book’s unmannerly and unfinished Sophronia has become amazingly good at all the secret stuff Madamouiselle Geraldine’s teaches. Those skills plus her natural cleverness and knack for finding trouble made her absolutely awesome.

Gah, I want to mention all the characters! Even the minor characters were so unique and fun.

Yeah, I think there was a plot…. Okay, there was. And it was interesting. There were all sorts of things to learn about the world and new technology (and even some of the vampire hive rules and intrigue). And it was fascinating and fabulous (especially when Dimity and Sophronia pretend to be male vampire drones…but anyway). However…

I still think the actual finishing school is the best part about this book. I love steampunk anyway, but with a school that trains girls to be proper ladies and spies – yeah, I think I’m in love.

My first impression was correct – this book is best read in one sitting. Now why the heck doesn’t book three come out until November?

The Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette and Espionage
  2. Curtsies and Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats and Weaponry (November 4, 2014)
  4. Manners and Mutiny (2015)

Report Card

For more on my grading system, please see my About page.

CURTSIES AND CONSPIRACIES scored 4.0 (A)

Steampunk

Review: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette and Espionage
Image from Gail Carriger

Title: Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1)

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Steampunk

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. She is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners – and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage – in the politest possible way, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousting first year’s education.

I made a mistake with this book. I started it the night before a super-busy week. Worst. Choice. Ever. By chapter two, all I wanted to do was sit down and read until I finished. Instead, I had to cram chapters into car rides and spare minutes before bed.

Sophronia was totally fun. She was a bit younger than I expected (14), but I could live with that. She was spunky and bold, but also clever and inventive. I thought she was fabulous in the beginning, but a little bit of subterfuge training and she was FANTASTIC. I can’t wait to see how many more awesome skills she gets.

Dimity, Sophronia’s first new friend, was Sophronia’s complete opposite. She was quieter and not as bold, and much more ladylike. She was a great foil fo Sophronia, and I’m looking forward to her learning more at finishing school, as well.

I really shouldn’t mention too many other characters, to avoid spoilers and making this too long. But let me just say that even the minor characters were fabulous. Vampire teachers, a student raised by werewolves, Sophronia’s friends in the boiler room and a sneaky seven-year-old…they were all amazing fun.

There was a good plot – student Monique hid a prototype of something, and everyone (good guys and bad) are desperate to get their hands on it. But exciting though the plot was, sometimes I felt like it was a distraction from the world and the school. Those are what I really wanted more of.

I have to mention the names, because they were so amusingly absurd. Besides Sophronia Temminnick and Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott, there’s Dimity’s brother Pillover, and Mrs. Barnaclegoose…and all the names followed that kind of pattern. Some were downright absurd, but it fit right in with the completely-serious-yet-entirely-ridiculous tone.

I absolutely loved the concept here. The paranormal creatures I could take or leave, but the rest of it – steampunk Victorian finishing school that teaches girls how to be spies – was awesome. I’ll be honest, I seriously want to attend Mademoiselle Geraldine’s.

This series is actually set in the same world as Gail Carriger’s previous adult series, the Parasol Protectorate. According to Angie at the Bibliophile Support Group, the Parasol Protectorate have a few more adult themes in them. But I enjoyed Etiquette and Espionage so thoroughly, I may have to try it anyway.

Now I have to get to the library, and preferably soon, because I know they have book two. And I’m going to pick a nice, empty afternoon to start it, because I doubt I’m going to want to put Curtsies and Conspiracies down, either.

The Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette and Espionage
  2. Curtsies and Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats and Weaponry (November 4, 2014)
  4. Manners and Mutiny (2015)