Tag Archives: 3.5 Stars

Keeping the Castle

Keeping the Castle

Althea Crawley is seventeen and determined to marry well.  She must, as she is the sole supporter of her entire family (i.e. her mother and brother; she has two step-sisters but they have their own fortunes which they will not share).  Althea, her family, and her step-sisters reside in a worn-down castle (built by their impulsive Grandfather) that is plagued by rickety furniture, rust, a leaking roof, and a host of other repairs. Perched on the edge of a cliff, it looks as if the whole thing could come tumbling down at any moment. Unfortunately, as Althea lives in out-of-the-way north England, there are few wealthy suitors to be found.  Nevertheless, she has her beauty as an advantage and her frank tongue as a deterrent.

Young, attractive, and to all appearances very rich Lord Boring arrives and opens up the playing field. Althea sets him in her sights – in fierce competition with her step-sisters, Charity and Prudence. Lord Boring brings with him a host of characters, including his cousin and friend Mr. Frederick, both their mothers, and a Marquis (who is a family friend as well).  The party is later joined by the Vincy family, where Miss Vincy is added to the playing field.

It’s a story of determined plans, match-making, and determination.

I did enjoy this book.  It nods to Pride and Prejudice in lively Althea and the whole marriage-hunting business (which is pretty much the whole plot).  It’s a shiny surface kind of book – one without layers or great feeling. Althea is clever in some ways, but extremely blind in others. If it wasn’t short, I think I would find the intrigues a little dull, or perhaps worn.

A tiny bit of spoilers:

okay ready?

It found it pretty predictable that Lord Boring was in fact pretty destitute and in need of a wealthy bride himself. Of course Mr. Frederick, who came over very disagreeable to start, would turn out to be not only extremely wealthy but also possessing of a fine character.  That plot thread was a parody of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and unfortunately it was not as well executed.  You could believe that Althea and Mr. Frederick were falling for each other – mostly – but it was a scratchy kind of romance.

The only surprise was Miss Vincy, to be honest.

I’m painting a poor picture of the book, because even despite it’s faults I did enjoy it and would probably even read it again in the future. Which is why I’ll give it a 3.5/5 (which is bordering on a 4/5 when you consider rounding anyway).

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The Girl with the Iron Touch (Steampunk Chronicles #3)

The girl with the iron touch

I finally got around to book three of The Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl with the Iron Touch. (You can find my thoughts on book one here and book two here). I feel like the Goodreads Summary, which I read before the book, doesn’t really do it justice AT ALL.  Or at least focuses on weird things which aren’t as big a deal in the book.

Finley, Griffin, Emily, Sam, and Jasper are all back in England.  When Emily is kidnapped by automatons, it seems that their old foe, The Machinist, is somehow behind things once again.

Emily has been summoned to transplant The Machinist’s consciousness into one of his automatons.

Griffin, in the meantime, appears to be suffering but won’t tell why.  What is tormenting him? Or who?

Finley is good at getting mad, and must confront her feelings for Griffin … and for Jack Dandy.

Sam is determined to get his Emily back, and finish an unfinished conversation between them.

Jasper, distant and withdrawn, is still mourning the events in New York.

My thoughts:

  • Better.  Better than the second book (The Girl with the Clockwork Collar) at least.  Maybe I just like Emily better than I like Finley.
  • I still can’t put my finger on what bothers me about these books. Maybe it is that it takes place in a historical setting but doesn’t have a historical FEEL to it.
  • I like Sam a LOT better
  • I feel like the description on the back hypes stuff up too much (i.e. Love triangle) but the story focuses on other things, including a new character.
  • FINALLY Griffin and Finley get to actually confronting their feelings.
  • Happily, there are no new love triangles and the old ones are mostly resolved! Woot!
  • An amusing side note: apparently my mental voice cannot do an Irish accent that is NOT the voice of an old man haha.  It made reading Emily really funny.  I’m going to have to watch clips of a young Irish girl talking to get the old man voice out of my head!!!

3.5/5

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Deep Secret

Deep Secret

Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones was entirely unexpected.  I admittedly did not even read the synopsis before delving in, which in retrospect was probably why I found the book so surprising.  I was excepting something along the lines of her other books (e.g. the Chrestomanci books or Howl’s Moving Castle) but Deep Secret struck me as something similar to / reminiscent of The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Not in storyline so much as in style.

I don’t really know how to sum up the story but here is my lame attempt:

The Universe is really the Multiverse – with lots of layers and worlds, some being Naywards and some Aftwards.  It’s the Magid’s job to oversee what goes on – sort of like a guide.  Rupert is a junior Magid whose territory includes both Earth and the Empire of Korfyros.  When his mentor dies Rupert must find a replacement Magid.  Unfortunately for Rupert, things start to go sour in the Empire of Korfyros when the Emperor dies.  Rupert must find a replacement Magid and find the hidden heir to the Empire.  Rupert’s search for the new Magid leads him to Maree and Nick Mallory – two cousins who might be more trouble than Rupert knows.

I did not really think this book was a children’s book or a young adult book.  It’s definitely fantasy, and weaves the story around Earth and the other worlds pretty deftly.

I liked most of the main characters (Rupert, Stan, Maree, Nick), although I never really identified with or really felt deeply for any of them.  I found the story a bit confusing as I tried to piece together what exactly a Magid was or did, and why he would be so involved with the Empire – and what was going on with the whole infinity loop / lots of worlds thing. In the end I gave up trying to understand and just went with the flow.

I wasn’t deeply attached to or emotionally invested in the story or any of the characters, though I was happy enough when good things happened (eventually).  I felt like the story had too many threads perhaps.  I didn’t really understand what was happening in some of the action bits, which was frustrating, though Rupert did explain most things afterward.

All in all, a decent read but not overwhelmingly so.  I’d rate it 3.5 out of 5.

Cheers!

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Spirit’s Princess / Spirit’s Chosen

Spirit's Princess

After enjoying Sphinx’s Princess / Sphinx’s Queen so much, it was a natural extension to try another series by Esther Friesner, beginning with Spirit’s Princess.

Himiko is the young daughter of a Cheiftain.  Her father heads the Maka clan and Himiko’s family is bound by his word.  She is a spunky daughter who adores her elder brother, Aki.  Spirit’s Princess follows Himiko as she grows from an impulsive child into a self-assured shaman.  Admittedly, the plot line isn’t a strong thread, but the book is a bunch of little events all coming together.  It’s not a dramatic story, but a tale of a girl figuring out who she is and how to be that person.

I’ve seen some of the Goodreads Reviews and I’ve come to the conclusion that:

  1. If you’re going to enjoy the book, as I did, you must be prepared for gross historical inaccuracies.  Since I didn’t know the history to begin with, this wasn’t a problem for me.  It’s fiction, and it borders on the fantasy.  I’m okay with that.
  2. You’re going to have to read both of these together.  The ending of Spirit’s Princess is lacking enough that I don’t think it can really be a stand-alone book.
  3. Accept that the cover is terrible and move on.
  4. Be warned that Himiko is a bit of a brat, particularly in her youth.  As she grew into her own person, I liked her more and more.
  5. It’s a slower paced book, with no clear plot direction for most of it.  You have to be okay with meandering.

I did enjoy it, but didn’t LOVE it, so I’ll give Spirit’s Princess a 3.5 / 5.

Spirit's Chosen

Now for Spirit’s Chosen, which I ended up reading a while after Spirit’s Princess because I had to wait for it to become available through the library.

Unfortunately, I found Spirit’s Chosen to be a bit disappointing.  Himiko already knows who she is and what path she wants to follow, so there was no self-discovery to ease the slow story.  Himiko is much more likable (less of a brat) but much less spunky in this second novel. In Spirit’s Chosen, Himiko tracks down the Ookami Clan in order to rescue her people, and most importantly her baby brother.  Things don’t go quite as planned and Himiko is captured as a slave herself.  She must find a way to survive and ultimately achieve her initial goal.  As her powers as a Shaman are slowly recognized, Himiko becomes closer and closer to reaching her aim.

Thoughts:

  1. Still the slow pace.
  2. There was a bit of a love story which did add some spice to the story.
  3. I felt like Himiko was a much more passive player this time around.  She didn’t seem to actively try to change her fate – a characteristic I yearn for in a strong female character.
  4. I also didn’t really buy-in to the Shaman part of the story.  I normally love tales of Magic, but the Spirit world didn’t capture my imagination.
  5. I felt that the climax was a bit too… convenient.  I didn’t believe the change of heart experienced by one of the characters, and I was annoyed (and saddened) by the death of another character.

Although it didn’t really do it for me, this wasn’t a terrible book, so I think it still warrants a 3 / 5.  Not a re-read.

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The Iron Thorn

I apologize for missing this Tuesday’s post.  It appears that summer is busy – we’ve had lots of lovely out of town guests and events going on, which means I’ve had almost NO time for reading or for posting.  I’ve fallen a bit behind.  I was able to get through The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge this week (snatching moments to read on the subway).  I had a really hard time getting into this book – I’m not sure if it’s because I really did not have time to sit down and read for any extended periods, or if it was the book itself.  It took me a long time to warm up to Aoife, the main character.  I felt like I SHOULD like her but it took me quite a while to.

(What is with the cover? I don't feel like it goes with the book AT ALL)

(What is with the cover? I don’t feel like it goes with the book AT ALL)

My immediate thoughts on the major players in the book:

Aoife – Smart but gullible, tough but secretly scared, stubborn and defiant. I felt like she wants to be girly but its just not her fate.   A ward of the state and the only female student a the School of Engines, Aoife is a girl who loves machines.  She’s also living under the shadow of madness – her sixteenth birthday draws near and her Mother and Brother both went mad when they turned 16. I had a hard time connecting with her but warmed up to her by the end.

Cal – The friend who never seems to do anything right / is always getting into trouble. Super annoying for the greater part of the book. He holds a secret and I liked him A LOT better once it was revealed.

Dean – The ultimate bad boy, who only shows his sensitive side to the right girl. Aside from his nicotine habit (I abhor smoking, even in books) he was actually my favorite character.  He also holds a secret.  I don’t really buy his motivation to keep hanging around Aoife… but it works.

Graystone – A creepy but in the end Awesome house that has a heart of clockwork and secrets of its own.

Lovecraft – A crazy city powered by an immense aether/steam engine.  Controlled by the Proctors, Lovecraft is (as most of the word) battling an epidemic of madness – the “necroviris”.   Heretics (believers in anything that remotely smells of witches / magic / witchcraft) are feared and brought to swift justice when caught.  Oh and there are nasty creatures that roam city streets after dark.

The basic story:  Aoife may or may not go crazy in a few weeks, when she turns 16.  She receives a mysterious note from her brother and sets off to rescue / help him, accompanied by her awkward friend Cal and the somewhat sketchy guide they hire (Dean).  They travel to Graystone, the home of Aoife’s father, unsure of what they may find.  Aoife’s journey to find her brother takes some unexpected turns and reveals secrets about herself and the very fabric of the world.

I feel like this is the kind of book I will like more after the second or third reading. I really liked the sometimes unique metaphors but I felt like I had to re-read paragraphs or pages to make sure that I had caught them right the first time.  That is unusual for me (and may be due to reading on the train – so distracting!). It took me a long time to warm up to Aoife even though I wanted to like her.   I did appreciate the steampunk flavour, though I was not entirely sure about the mashing of the faerie world and the “iron” world.  

I’m going to give it a 3.5/5 , with the caveat that I may change my mind after I read it again.  I’m curious what the next book will bring!

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The Emerald Key

The Emerald Key

The Emerald Key  by Christopher Dinsdale, is a historial fiction novel that travels from Ireland to Canada in the mid-1800s.  It’s a time that I know little about, other than my vague awareness that this was during the Irish Potato Famine – a tragedy which wiped out perhaps 20 to 25% of the population through death or emmigration.  Being Canadian with distant Irish ancestors, I found it an interesting peek into the world at that time.

The book follows Jamie Galway, a young Irish priest, in his urgent quest to recover both his brother, Ryan, and the priceless book Ryan held.  Jamie and Ryan are part of an ancient brotherhood, sworn to protect Irish heritage and a secret Irish treasure.  They are given the job of transporting a book – the key to finding this treasure.  Unfortunately, they are waylaid on their journey in an tumultuous encounter with British soldiers.  Jamie comes-to and discovers that Ryan has been made an unwilling passenger on a ship bound for Canada, along with the precious book.  As he seeks out his brother, Jamie explores a bit of Canada, shows off some unexpected skills (e.g. carpentry, sailing, breaking-and-entering, rappelling, and a bit of engineering), and picks up some orphan sidekicks.  Unfortunately for Jamie, his trail is being followed by a greedy treasure-hunter, intent on getting his next big payoff.

The story moves quickly and is action-packed.  Jamie is a likeable, if somewhat unrealistic character. He seems to be good at everything.  I do appreciate his casual regard for the law (all in the name of the greater good, of course) and his ability to make friends every step of the way.

Overall, I though it was a good, fast-paced action book, if a little shallow.  It had a lot of potential to show some hidden depths but they were never revealed.  If you’re interested in historical fiction, particularly in early Canadian history, I would recommend it.  My rating = 3.5 / 5

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The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure

Hi again!

I finally got around to reading books #2 and #3 in the Maze Runner Series:  The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, by James Dashner.  Both these books were action-packed!

First off, The Scorch Trails:

Scorch Trials

I found the Maze Runner to be intense, but the Scorch Trials (and The Death Cure) actually scared me – I literally couldn’t sleep because I kept picturing Cranks (crazy, Fare-Infected basically zombie-like people).  In the Scorch Trails, Thomas and his friends are sent on a mission to cross this crazy desert (the Scorch) and Crank-infested city in search of the “Safe Haven” on the other side of the Mountains to the North.  The Trials continue – the organization called “WICKED” is still trying to collect data by submitting groups of teenagers to some truly awful conditions.

This book was definitely different from the Maze Runner, and I appreciated that things about WICKED and the state of the world actually got explained (a bit) as the story goes along.  The story takes a few twists, which I actually expected.

Aside from the bad call of reading this right before bed, I did enjoy it overall.  It is NOT going to be on my re-read list, however.

Overall rating:  3/5

Death Cure

I immediately started The Death Cure after finishing the Scorch Trials.  This book just felt like an extension of the first two.  WICKED wants to restore the memories of the Gladers and Group B, and most of them decide to go along with it.  Thomas breaks free from WICKED, along with Minho and Newt, with the help of two new friends he met in the Scorch (Brenda & Jorge).   Thomas must struggle with his own inner conflicts as he tries to figure out what to do and who to trust.  Ultimately, this leads him to a final show-down with WICKED.

I was still scared by the Cranks (seriously, disturbing) but I liked this book better than the Scorch Trials.  Perhaps because there was (a little) less Cranks and more fighting WICKED.

I feel quite strongly that endings should leave you feeling hopeful and uplifted about the future of the characters and I am happy to say that this book delivered.  Despite the craziness, I liked the end.

So all in all, I would give this book a 3.5 / 5.

It was an interesting series.  Again, its not one that I will re-read, and I’m not sure I want to read the prequel book (The Kill Zone), but I’m glad I got through them all.

Cheers!

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