Review: Waistcoats & Weaponry

Waistcoats & Weaponry, Gail Carriger (Finishing School #3)

Amanda

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published November 4th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Source: E-ARC from NetGalley

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From Goodreads…

Class is back in session…

Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style–with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what–or who–they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.

I’ll admit that I am still not positive I understand steampunk as a genre, but I am sure I’m enjoying this series.  As I tried to figure out what drives the steampunk culture I found Gail Carriger’s website which has a lot of information in general and from the author’s perspective.  I reviewed books 1 and 2 of the Finishing School series here and I quickly dove into the third.  Sophronia is now 16 and thinking seriously about life when she is “finished.”  Will she work for the Queen?  Perhaps one of the vampire hives out of London if she can do so without giving blood?  Or will she have to find a sponsor to keep her in in weapons and intrigue?  Will she marry?

After reading books 1 & 2, I was looking forward to a new plot path in Waistcoats & Weaponry. I wanted some action that wasn’t those silly Picklemen!  The Pickleman thus far have been the villians of Sophronia’s tale.  These men are pro-machinery with things like mechanimals and more flying airships, and don’t want to involve themselves with the supernaturals.  So far Sophronia finds vampires and werewolves quite pleasant, but does not want to pick a side.

Things certainly changed when the girls found an empty train and climbed aboard to help a friend find her way home- no damsels waiting to be rescued in this series! Sophronia has grown up quite a bit but her quick wit and sense of adventure is the same. Also, her new weapon of choice is a bladed fan-how can you not love a girl that wants to protect herself with that?

As for the romance, I enjoyed Sophronia’s comparing her love interests without this becoming a love triangle. The questions of marriage bothered me a bit in Curtsies and Conspiracies, but they seemed much more appropriate in here.  Yes, Sophronia and her friends are 16, but that was not inappropriate for the Victorian period I don’t think.  I am really interested to see where her heart leads her in #4, Manners and Mutiny, because the ending here really shocked me!

This was a strong follow-up to Curtsies and Conspiracies and a fun read on its own.  My only complaint is that it could have been longer! I’m still curious about the werewolf packs and how they’d fit into the rest of Society.  Bring on Book 4!

4 stars!

Thank you Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

On a last note our giveaway is still open! Details and signup here.

Nonfiction November – Week 3

Diversity in Nonfiction:

or Reading down the Rabbit Hole

This week’s Nonfiction November discussion is about diversity in non-fiction. And this post is not about Alice-In-Wonderland-related-nonfiction (though that sounds great!), but rather, about the times when one thing leads to another leads to “oh, I must find out more about this topic.”

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This is a common reaction in my life – reading novels piques an interest in reading something else, visiting a historic site makes me want to read about that place, and so on. Books are generally my first resort (okay, Google is my first first resort when I need to know something, but I am often inclined to search for a book next).

Here’s a few examples of what I’m calling the diversity in my non-fiction reading pile (and to-be-read pile).

  1. You don’t always read about isolated dictatorships while reading Young Adult Fantasy, but that’s exactly what happened when I read Silvern by Christina Farley. The author manages to sneak in some really interesting tidbits about North Korea, which left me wanting to know more. Thankfully, shortly after that, I read this post by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness which gave me two books on North Korea to look into: Without You, There is No Us and Nothing to Envy. I’ve seen these two recommended and discussed on other Nonfiction November posts too!
  2. Sometimes, watching TV is a completely mindless activity (See: everytime J is working late and I turn on TLC). Other times, I learn just a little bit about something, and I need to know more. Case in point: The Borgias. I am not sure that I loved this show, but I was definitely intrigued – and watching The Borgias led to some more nonfiction on my TBR pile: Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy (recommended by my sister!) and The Borgias: The Hidden History.

  3. When I visited Monticello, we had the world’s worst tour guide leading us through Thomas Jefferson’s house. Thankfully, we had an amazing tour guide for an outdoor tour of Mulberry Row, where  many of Jefferson’s slaves lived and worked. After that visit, I read Master of the Mountain, which was both informative and frustrating in equal measures.
To quote my favorite fictional POTUS, "America isn't easy."

To quote my favorite fictional POTUS, “America isn’t easy.” (pic via http://ijpc.org/)

Between contemporary North Korea; Renaissance Italy, and Antebellum Virginia, I guess I’m looking at “Diversity in Nonfiction” in the broadest possible way – reading about experiences that are different than mine. I’d be hard pressed to find a nonfiction book on my shelves (physical or virtual) that doesn’t fall into this umbrella. Nonfiction books, at least the narrative-type nonfiction books that I’m interested in reading, tell the stories of people or places or events, and that’s pretty much guaranteed to include “different” kinds of people. I think when writing in a fictional world, it can be easier to leave out whole swaths of people, versus telling what actually happened. After all, as much as America may have tried this for years, we can’t actually talk about Thomas Jefferson without talking about the distinctions between his words and his actions, his Declarations of Independence and the people he refused to set free. Reading fiction can play an amazing role in opening up our eyes to new ideas (see my thoughts on diversity in fiction here) but reading (good) nonfiction will give you a whole new level of credibility when you want to talk about (or better yet, act upon) those ideas.

/end #nonficnov – On another note, Amanda and I are giving away one of our fave reads of 2014, The Cuckoo’s Calling! Details and signup here.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Sequels we need NOW

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday.

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Holly: Amanda sent me this TTT topic, and I was pretty sure that I couldn’t think of any. After all, I am hardly ever up on what’s hip and trendy and I’m usually pretty content to pick up books I meant to read a decade ago, rather than thinking ahead to books that haven’t even come out out.

But then I thought for about 5 minutes and came up with 5. Much easier than I thought – I blame Amanda’s influence for my reading more recent books!

  1. The next Comoran Strike book – Amanda and I loved the first two books that J.K. Rowling has written as her alter-ego Robert Galbraith. And there are more in the works!
  2. The last book in the “Secret History of the Pink Carnation” series – okay, I still need to read #4-11, but #12 is coming out in 2015. I will be ready!
  3. Brazen – I really enjoyed Gilded and Silvern, about a Korean-American teen who moves to Seoul with her father – and then discovers she has super-powers in the spirit world. #3 was just announced, though it was kind of a given at the end of #2!
  4. The Winds of Winter. Ha. Who isn’t waiting for this book? (Besides my sister, obv)
  5. Diana Peterfreund’s Stars Series – I loved For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star Swept Sea. And, I have no idea if she’s writing any more books set in this post apocalyptic future, but I hope so.

Amanda

  1. Incryptid #4-Pocket Apocalypse – More Price family? Yes please! I need to preorder this asap!  I want my own colony of talking mice-ok they talk a lot so maybe just to borrow.  Basically I need everythign Seanan McGuire is writing immediately.
  2. Invasion of the Tearling.  Reviews of the Queen of the Tearling were all over the place. I gave it 4.5 stars here.  I want more history of the Tearling and more Kelsea!
  3. The Ruby Circle.  I kind of feel like my VA and Bloodlines love is a dirty secret, but I don’t care.  I just want to see Sydney and Adrian happy together and also please more Rose and Dimitri.  Really just Dimitri.  Please and thank you.
  4. Strike #3.  More Strike and Robin now!
  5. Thursday Next #8 -Dark Reading Matter. Some day.  I hope.  PLEASE.  Jasper Fforde doesn’t even have a date on his website for this one.  I’ll just long for the day it comes out. I’ll keep rereading 1-7 for now and wishing for my own book jumping abilities.

What’s on your list?

Pink for All Seasons, Books 1-3

As participants in Pink For All Seasons, a Lauren Willig read-along, with The Bubblebath Reader, we thought we’d share our thoughts on the first 3 books in the Pink Carnation series. And, if you’re not reading these, you should be – they’re fun, quick reads, and the first one came out in 2005, so your odds of finding them at your local library are pretty good! Holly has been reading them all for the first time (with the exception of #1), while Amanda has been rereading.

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The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (2005)

Synopsis: Eloise, a modern day Harvard graduate student finds herself engrossed in studying the family papers of the British spy called the Purple Gentian, hoping to discover the identity of his successor, the Pink Carnation. She navigates the story of Amy Balcourt who returns to France with dreams of joining the league of the Purple Gentian, and her relationship with Lord Richard Selwick, who is not exactly what he seems.

Holly: This book is a lot of fun – I reread it, and I remembered enjoying it the first time, and then I dove right into the second one, wondering why I hadn’t done that before. Amy and Richard are hilarious, and, how many books offer both a steamy luv scene on a moonlit boat on the Seine, and an overview of Napoleonic history?

Amanda: I admit it I haven’t reread it this time.  I love Amy and Richard though, and Eloise is adorable! Despite my love for this series, this is actually my least favorite Pink book.  That sounds worse than I want it to-this is a must read to get sucked into the Pink fun!

The Masque of the Black Tulip (2006)

Synopsis: Eloise continues her research into the Selwick family papers, this time discovering that Lord Richard’s sister Henrietta was involved in trying to catch a French spy – while also catching the attention of her brother’s best friend, Miles.

 Holly: I think I started this one the same night I finished #1, and I started #3 right after. And, I started to figure out that while there are connections between the characters across books, each one focuses on a different pair. Also, Richard proves to be a bit of hypocrite here!

Amanda: Hen and Miles might be my favorite couple.  I love the spark between them.  Its great that this book is set in London so we can really get an idea of the circle that Willig has created and get excited for the stories to come.  I had forgotten about Miles and all his mistresses though-that makes him a bit less loveable I have to say.  Yes, realistic for the period and all, just gets my feminist 2014 self slightly riled up.

The Deception of the Emerald Ring (2006)

Synopsis: This time, Eloise finds herself researching Viscount Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, another good friend of Richard and Miles’s, along with his accidental bride Letty. More chasing spies, more last minute getaways, and more Eloise waiting for the phone to ring.

 Holly: I actually really liked this story too, even though my synopsis makes it sound like more of the same. Maybe I just read too much Pink back-to-back. However, I did start to get annoyed here with another marriage because someone might be “compromised.” In the first book, Amy and Richard are all but d-o-i-n-g-i-t on a boat, and then here, there’s a little k-i-s-s-i-n-g which immediates necessitates getting married to avoid a scandal. I know Lauren Willig worked on a doctorate in history so maybe British high society really was so uptight, but it comes across a bit heavy-handed. We’ve had three innocent and virtuous young women for whom marriage is the only way to experience intimacy, while the men are allowed to engage in affairs with impunity (going back to books 1 & 2). And I suppose that’s not the author’s projection – that is/was the reality – with the modern-equivalent being that Eloise thinks that Colin is playing games with her so she tries to play right back. I’m looking forward to reading #4, because I don’t think Mary Alsworthy is going to be such an innocent maiden!

Amanda-Yes! Get to reading! #4 is one of my favorites and I think was the book I tried to get for the Pink readalong to begin with.  But back to your points, I definitely don’t think Willig is over-exaggerating the risk of being compromised.  Not that I’m a Regency scholar, but that’s the impression I have.  I had forgotten how poorly our hero and his bride start off in Pink III.  I really like Letty and the spunk that she surprises even herself with.  I did feel the romance moved a bit too quickly in the end, but at the same time I was totally entertained because this book has one of my favorite villians.  Also, I kind of adore Lord Vaughn so I’m always happy read when he’s skulking about.  Now I’m even more excited to get the Seduction of the Crimson Rose!

Last-another perk for following the Pink readalong is that Ashley is giving away copies of all the books and other fun prizes.  Holly and I have both won so far! Maybe you’ll win next?

All about Us and a Giveaway!

Welcome!  I’m so excited to be a part of Cuddlebuggery’s blog hop because they were the first book blog I started following!  I’m Amanda and I post here with my sister Holly.

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Gun in Act One was born in homage to our high school English literature teacher (RIP Brother Ruhl) who I can say taught me to really read well and taught us both to read Chekhov.  Important lesson-If there’s a gun on the wall in Act One, it’s going to go off by Act Five.

The decision to start a book blog was made over a glass of wine while I was visiting Holly’s house in Virginia.  This has been an awesome hobby to have together, despite the fact that we live way too many miles apart.  We continually find ourselves hilarious though our spouses sadly don’t always agree. (Holly interjection – psssh. Sad for them!)

I live in Chicago with my husband, 4 year-old daughter and insane labrabeast.  Holly lives in Virginia with her husband and much maligned dog, who they generally refer to just as doggie.  (Holly interjection – she is the meanest, laziest, prettiest dog you will ever see. Probably from a distance because she doesn’t want to be your friend.) We both like to cook, love to travel, and try to stay healthy by running, sometimes after the 4 year-old. We’re happy to sit down and chat about pretty much anything over a glass of wine.  We’re staunchly pro-women and despite the Gun in the Title we’re not really fans of those.  Despite what this might sound like we’re very different too!

I, Amanda, tend to post more reviews because I have lots of commuting time to read and I will generally try any book you put in front of me (with some exceptions).  Holly is, shall we say, more selective?  She can’t always be bothered to read what doesn’t sound wonderful, which is why I harass her to follow my book obsessions. Ex. 1. Lumatere , Ex 2. Feed.  Maybe I sometimes purchase books to send to her kindle to make her read them.  Maybe.  Holly posts more discussion posts because she’s basically the smartest person I know and she’s full of profound thoughts (and hilarious).

One of our new favorite things to do is read a book together for review.  The first book we read was Robert Galbraith, a/k/a J.K. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling.  This mystery is far from the Hogwarts scene you might expect from Rowling but we loved it and we especially loved Cormoran Strike, the hero of this new series.

We’re giving away a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling so that you can fall for Strike too! US only please-sorry we have to keep the dogs in biscuits and the 4 year-old in books too and postage is expensive!  To enter, either follow us on WordPress (see the button on the top right) or on Bloglovin. Then, click the Rafflecopter link below to tell us how you follow Gun In Act One. You can get a second Rafflecopter entry by leaving us a comment below – tell us your favorite book or series, favorite ice cream, or favorite high school English teacher!  Enter again by following one of us or both on twitter!

Enter here

Are you on the blog hop too?  Leave us a link so we can get to know you!

One Year Later

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Guess what, people? We started this blog exactly one year ago today. In honor of our birthday, we’ve decided to reveal the answers to life, the universe, and everything. Or, just share a few details about what we’ve been doing this year.

What on earth are you guys doing?

I think that it started something like this:

Amanda: You know, one of my friends has a book blog.

Holly: WTF is a book blog?

Amanda: You know, like a blog, about books. We could do that!

Holly: Yeah, I don’t really understand what that means. Let’s do it!

Amanda: Secretly plots how she will get access to all of the books.

Holly: Secretly plots how she will write about random things and vaguely connect them to books. Maybe no one will notice?

Why do you guys do this?

Reason 1: It’s fun, and we think we are hilarious.

Reason 2: We’ve started reading books together to write about, which are probably some of our best posts. If you want to see that for yourself, check out the books we’ve read together this year.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Grave Mercy

Dorothy Must Die

Dark Triumph

The Silkworm

Reason 3: We have been validated by actual writers, so we feel justified in continuing to write in our own way about books. This post about reading about John Brown received a comment from author Tony Horwitz. That’s Pulitzer Prize winning Tony Horwitz, yo. And Amanda recently got an author comment on her review of a book by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg – a.k.a. superbestsellers.

So, we’ll just keep doing what we do. Maybe we’ll get better. Maybe we’ll update our now out-of-date ‘about us’ page soon.

Why should I read your blog?

a. Because we’re funny?

b. So you know what books to read? (Or not to read?)

c. Because sometimes we give things away. Come back on Saturday because we are giving away a book we love!

d. All of the above. Obviously

e. 42

Review: You Have to F*cking Eat

You Have to Fucking Eat, Adam Mansbach, Owen Brozman, Illustrator

Amanda & Joshua

Hardcover, 32 pages

Publication: November 12th 2014 by Akashic Books

Source: Print ARC from Publisher

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Sometimes, a book comes along that is so profoundly truthful that it defies explanation. The ideas expressed within are so universal in their application that the work elevates from mere text to something approaching scripture.  For us, this is that book.

  Your cute little tummy is rumbling

And pancakes are your favorite treat.

I’m kind of surprised you suddenly hate them.

That’s bullshit.  Stop lying and eat.

Poetic. Fucking. Brilliance. An inspired artistic expression of the existential crisis every parent experiences while out for breakfast at their favorite spot (or what used to be their favorite spot 5 years ago when they still had time to enjoy things like breakfast on a Saturday fucking morning, but I digress) while trying to get junior to shove just one more goddamned bite of french toast or egg or anything to postpone for even five fucking minutes the next cry of “daddy, im hungry”.

This book is not only informative and potentially therapeutic, it is also aesthetically pleasing, with entertaining illustrations to show the importance of EATING YOUR GODDAMNED DINNER! In fact, this book is even enjoyable for children; our daughter liked the pictures in this book so much she picked it up and wandered off to read it on her own.  Oops.  Thankfully, it didn’t end up in her backpack and go to school for her teacher to discover, my sister’s prediction notwithstanding… Maybe she will even f-ing learn something from it!

Seriously, every parent should buy a copy of this for their partner or anyone else who has children in their house.  Fill Christmas stockings with this book!  Let the Chanukah fairy deliver it!  You can read it while you eat your kid’s leftovers for your after-bedtime dinner and drown your sorrows in a glass of wine and a couple muscle relaxers.  Or wait – is that just at our house?

5 stars!

Thank you Akashic Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition