Archive for category Steampunk

Review of the Chronological Man Adventure Series by Andrew Mayne

Bottom line: A fun, historical, science-y, steampunk-y, adventure-y series of short stories.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I really like this series. It consists (so far) of two short stories, telling the tale of Smith, time traveler extraordinaire, who shows up to save the day whenever he is needed. The books are short enough to be read in one sitting (Ok, so I read most books in one sitting, but I’m a bit obsessive that way. Normal people could read these books in one sitting), but long enough to feel balanced – you get good characters, good settings, AND a good story. I wouldn’t put the premise in the “terribly plausible” category, but the ride is such a good one that it doesn’t matter. My favorite aspect of the series is the characters. The assistant, April, is smart and capable and takes action when it’s called for. She’s no Watson-esque sidekick, perpetually stumbling around in the dark. Teddy Roosevelt, more big stick than speaking softly here, is a hilarious and brilliant addition to the crew in the second story. And of course there’s Smith, a strange genius who suffers from amnesia due to his time travelling.

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Review of Timekeeper by Heather Albano (2012)

Bottom line: A very strong sequel to Timepiece, and a very fun read.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

An alternate history adventure featuring time travelers, freedom fighters, Frankenstein’s monster, the Battle of Waterloo, and Napoleon invading Britain by dirigible.

In Timepiece, young adventurer Elizabeth Barton and her suitor William Carrington used a mysterious pocket watch to travel from 1815 to 1885. Horrified by what they found—a steampunk dystopia patrolled by Gatling-gun-wielding robots—they joined fellow time traveler Mr. Maxwell in his quest to prevent that future from taking form…and accidentally set in motion a chain of events that allowed Napoleon to win the Battle of Waterloo.

Now they are trapped in a second 1885, one even worse than the first, where the tricolor flag flies from the Tower of London and Britain has long since accepted its fate as a conquered possession of the globe-spanning French Empire. In Timekeeper, Elizabeth, William, and Maxwell struggle to undo the damage they caused—and gradually come to realize the stakes may be even higher than they initially supposed, for they are not the only ones attempting to affect the timeline.

Review:

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was well worth waiting for. The plot ran smoother, the characters had more depth, and the writing was just as strong as the first book, Timepiece (review here). All of the minor quibbles I had with the first book were nonexistent here. I think you could read this book as a standalone, but I wouldn’t really recommend it – it definitely follows straight on from the first, and you’d miss a lot of the context. I think one of the great strengths of this book was how she took the same people and made them believably act differently due to their external circumstances, yet consistently with their characterization in the alternate timeline.

The story wraps up satisfactorily for two of the main characters, and there is enough closure for the third that you don’t feel left hanging, although his story is certainly not finished. I’ll certainly read that when/if she writes it, but I was very happy with the way things concluded.

Available:E-book currently $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and in all e-formats at Smashwords.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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Review of The Emperor’s Edge Series by Lindsay Buroker

Bottom line: This is one of my favorite ongoing series. These are great stories, extremely well written, with awesome characters. The first book is free, so give it a try and see what you think!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I was going to do a review on each of the books that are out, but then I realized the reviews would be virtually identical for all books, so I’m going to do it in one fell swoop for the books of the series that are currently out, and I’ll update as the other books come out. There are six planned total in the main storyline.

These books are excellent. It was one of those where I read the first one because it was free, not really expecting all that much from it. When I was done, I immediately downloaded the next two books in the series (the only ones that were out at the time), read all through the night, got an hour of sleep, and had to go to work the next day. I then discovered that there were short stories with the same characters, but not in the main storyline/time frame and bought and read those immediately as well.

 

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Review of The Emperor’s Edge Series by Lindsay Buroker

Bottom line: This is one of my favorite ongoing series. These are great stories, extremely well written, with awesome characters. The first book is free, so give it a try and see what you think!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I was going to do a review on each of the books that are out, but then I realized the reviews would be virtually identical for all books, so I’m going to do it in one fell swoop for the books of the series that are currently out, and I’ll update as the other books come out. There are six planned total in the main storyline.

These books are excellent. It was one of those where I read the first one because it was free, not really expecting all that much from it. When I was done, I immediately downloaded the next two books in the series (the only ones that were out at the time), read all through the night, got an hour of sleep, and had to go to work the next day. I then discovered that there were short stories with the same characters, but not in the main storyline/time frame and bought and read those immediately as well.

 

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Review of The Hidden Institute by Brand Gamblin (2011) Free Audiobook

Bottom line: Great story, great characters, great narration, and it’s available as a free audiobook!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Rising above your station can be deadly.

Cliffy is a child born on the streets of a Neo-Victorian world. Witnesses to a murder, he blackmails a nobleman, receiving a unique bribe. In exchange for his silence, the nobleman introduces him to the Malcolm Rutherford Holden Institute of Regentrification. There, Cliffy learns to walk, talk, and act like a nobleman, so that he may infiltrate high society. But that type of fraud is punishable by death, and when Cliffy uncovers a plot to assassinate a head of state, he’s hunted by more than just the aristocracy.

Royal intrigue, daring escapes, sub-dermal machines, and bear polo. A grand adventure in a not-so-distant world.

Review:

I’ve had The Hidden Institute on my iPod for a while, but never got around to listening to it. I generally prefer to read things myself instead of listening to other people read them. Also, with Podiobooks, the quality of narration and production can be variable. However, this weekend, thanks to a spring allergy migraine (no reading paperbacks or looking at electronic screens) I finally gave it a shot.

I enjoyed almost everything about it – the story and setting are interesting, his characters are fun to get to know, there’s action but it’s not overly stressful, and the narration is very well done. My one sticking point is that I found the transitional music at the beginning, middle, and end of each episode loud and annoying – but that’s probably just me. I always find transitional music in audiobooks to be loud and annoying. It’s set in a futuristic/steampunk US, but the story is more character driven than anything else, and the sci fi/steampunk elements are very much a part of the setting rather than a main plot driver.

Gamblin has a couple of other books out (on Podiobooks as well as e-book and paperback format) and I’m going to have to try them as well. If they’re even half as good as this one, I know they’ll be worth the read – or listen.

Available: as a free audiobook through Podiobooks and iTunes, in any e-book format $4.99 at Smashwords, and as an e-book and paperback ($0.99 to $11) at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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Review of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (2011) (The Steampunk Chronicles – Book 1)

Bottom line: An intriguing first full-length installment of the series. I had a few complaints about the writing, but the story was very entertaining. I’d recommend reading The Strange Case of Finley Jayne first (although you don’t need it for The Girl in the Steel Corset to make sense) because it’s free and if you like that, you should definitely give this one a shot.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the “thing” inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin’s investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on—even if it seems no one believes her.

Review:

The Girl in the Steel Corset continues the saga of Finley Jayne (introduced in the novella The Strange Case of Finley Jayne, review here), a girl with supernatural abilities. I found myself caught up in the plot and enjoying the characters. However, I was a little disappointed in the writing itself. I had been impressed with the author’s writing in her previous book, and was surprised to find that here I occasionally found it distracting. Normally when I read, I’m completely immersed in the book, but I kept being interrupted by thoughts like “wait, didn’t she describe the other guy in that exact same way?” “didn’t that other character say something the same thing to this same girl?” and “does EVERYONE in this book have a crooked smile?”. There are also some inconsistencies with the characters. It seems like this book could have benefited from one more pass by an editor – tighten up the writing and maybe decrease the amount of time spent on some of the subplots.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the read – I did, and I’ve read it a couple more times since the first time. I think it is a testament to Cross’s skill as a storyteller that the writing quirks were not as apparent on the first read through. At least for me, I was so caught up in the story the first time around that I didn’t notice as many of them, and then in the subsequent reads, as I became more familiar with the story, I noticed the writing more, and parts of it started to annoy me. There was a lot of ground covered – in addition to introducing all the members of the team to each other and the readers, and getting many of their back stories, there is the mystery to solve of what the bad guy is up to and how to stop him. I’m still excited to read the next book in the series (The Girl in the Clockwork Collar, due out June 2012), but I’m hoping the writing will be a little more polished and that the book will feel more seamless.

Available: Available as e-book or paperback through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other bookstores for around $7-$10.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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Review of The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross (Steampunk Chronicles – Prequel) (2011)

Bottom line: This novella is a wonderful introduction not only to the Steampunk Chronicles series, but to the steampunk genre itself. If you’ve been wanting to try out steampunk, wondered what it was, or just want a fun, well written book to read, give this one a shot. Also, it’s free!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Finley Jayne knows she’s not ‘normal’. Normal girls don’t lose time, or have something inside them that makes them capable of remarkably violent things. Her behavior has already cost her one job, so when she’s offered the lofty position of companion to Phoebe, a debutante recently engaged to Lord Vincent, she accepts, despite having no experience. Lord Vincent is a man of science with his automatons and inventions, but Finley is suspicious of his motives where Phoebe is concerned. She will do anything to protect her new friend, but what she discovers is even more monstrous than anything she could have imagined…

Review:

I downloaded this novella because it was free, and when I finished, I immediately went and bought the next book (first book? this one is a prequel – can I call it book zero?) in the series (book one review forthcoming). I would have bought the next one, too, but it won’t be out until June 2012.

I was impressed for a lot of reasons. For one thing, I often find that short stories/novellas feel incomplete – you are barely introduced to some characters, a plot is thrown together, and then it’s over. That was certainly not the case with this book. There is a good balance of time spent developing the characters and the world, and while the plot moves quickly, it doesn’t feel rushed. The heroine is a well written, strong female character, who’s struggling to come to terms with her unique capabilities and whether they are a blessing or a curse.

This is definitely in the steampunk genre – the setting is a late 1800s London with steam powered devices, automaton servants and interesting gadgets. All these things are mentioned and discussed a bit, but not harped on – thank goodness. I tend to get a bit glassy eyed over too many intricate details.

Available: Free e-book available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or iTunes.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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