Review: Finishing School Books 1 & 2

Finishing School Books 1 & 2, Gail Carriger

Amanda

Etiquette & Espionage

Hardcover, 307 pages

Published February 5th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Source: NetGalley

10874177From Goodreads…

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother’s existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea–and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right–but it’s a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

This is my first forray into reading steampunk– what is steampunk you may ask?  Wikipedia says its a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.”  Examples might be Jules Verne or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  So we’re in Victorian England, with characters in horse drawn carriages yet being followed by steam powered dirigibles.  Are you confused too?  Kind of quirky and bizarre-but also fun because you can’t quite take it seriously.

Our heroine Sophronia is sent in disgrace to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.  She’s shocked to learn the faculty include a vampire and a werewolf, but even more shocked when her classes include poisoning and weapons.  Sophronia is an odd mixture of propriety and rebelliousness which made her fun to read about.  Also, she’s going to a school that flies-can you get much cooler?  I love that she’s fearless enough to be jumping from deck to deck to explore.

Maybe its just me, but there was something about the format of this book that made it feel almost like a watered down version of Harry Potter. Exhibit A: Strong Willed adolescent who finds her way all over school at night without repercussions. Exhibit B: A teacher who is probably watching, but not disciplining the student-instead letting the student solve a mystery.  Exhibit C: Interaction with the oppressed “sooties” who fly the school -as misused as house elves nearly.  Anyone else read this and see what I mean?

What was really original was the way Mademoiselle Geraldine’s seemed to be teaching these young ladies to use their femininity as a strength which to me would be complete counterintuitive to Victorian sensibilities.  I dig that!  I was a bit confused with the Picklemen and Evil Geniuses coming to play-but I did still enjoy Etiquette & Espionage in the end.

3 stars for potential!

I was entertained enough that I jumped straight into book 2…

15723286Curtsies & Conspiracies

Hardcover, 310 pages

Published November 2013 by Hachette Little, Brown & Co

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

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 flying 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.

I have to say I was much more into C&C right off the bat.  The steampunk world wasn’t quite as foreign and I was excited to see Sophronia get back to school and adventure.  Aspects of the mystery in Etiquette and Espionage continued into this book, but without having to go back and repeat all the details which was good. There was also a bit of a darker tone to this book which surprised me.  Sophronia realizes that there’s an end to school coming and she’ll have to pick a side when she’s done.  She employs the techniques she’s learned at finishing school to meddle with other’s lives and has to deal with the repercussions.  I’m really curious to see how this has affected her in Waistcoats & Weaponry.

What I did not like about this was the love triangle set up and all of the focus on courting.  They’re 14 for goodness sake! The interplay between a future Duke and a sootie-the racial tension, the class tension came across as awkward to me.  I know marriage was something girls had to worry about early, but something was just off for me here. I hope this is less of an issue in book #3.  I actually really like Soap, the sootie, so I hope too that we continue to see him.

Last note-how gorgeous are these covers! I love them!

Thank you NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for these copies in exchange for an honest opinion!

I’m about to dive into Waistcoats and Weaponry which will be published next week.  Any steampunk fans with suggestions of another book to try?

Review: The Perfectionists

The Perfectionists, (The Perfectionists #1) Sara Shepard

Amanda

Published October 7th 2014 by HarperCollins

Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: E-ARC from Edelweiss

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From Goodreads…

In Beacon Heights, Washington, five girls—Ava, Caitlin, Mackenzie, Julie, and Parker—know that you don’t have to be good to be perfect. At first the girls think they have nothing in common, until they realize that they all hate Nolan Hotchkiss, who’s done terrible things to each of them. They come up with the perfect way to kill him—a hypothetical murder, of course. It’s just a joke…until Nolan turns up dead, in exactly the way they planned. Only, they didn’t do it. And unless they find the real killer, their perfect lives will come crashing down around them.

This is my second Sara Shepard book and I really should have remembered– the freaking cliffhanger!

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I reviewed Shepard’s other new series of 2014 The Heiresses here.   We at least had a resolution to the major murder in that book but in the end the reader is still left hanging from a giant cliff.  Why do that to me again Shepard?  I have no idea of who the murderer is here and I’m going to have to keep reading to find out!

So… back to the beginning, we follow these 5 “perfect” high school students in the aftermath of a classmate’s murder.  Each of them had a motive-but so did nearly everyone else we come across!  I liked that the girls were all different-beauty queen, athlete, musician, etc.  Only Julie and Parker were really friends before Nolan’s death so the reader is learning about each girl along with her partners in crime.  This also helps keep your suspicions on everyone.  We don’t know any one girl enough to believe she’s innocent.  I liked the changing perspectives and seeing what the girls thought of each other too.

While the 5 perfectionists are being fleshed out for us,  the rest of the characters really are just shadows.  They’re all there only as foils to the main five girls.  It would have been nice to have some more depth to the surrounding characters-and perhaps some love interests that were not jerks!  This was a bit off putting for me–can one of these girls please have a healthy relationship?

With the title of The Perfectionists I was expecting for some reason a group of super-likeable popular girls-this was definitely proved wrong!  I can’t say I liked all of the girls, but I am definitely caught up in the drama.  I want to know who’s behind this all!

Some young adult books defy the niche they’re placed in and just are great books.  The Perfectionists felt like a book written for young adults-these are teens who are acting like teens.  This is not a deeply introspective book but it was definitely still compelling.  Shepard does an excellent job twisting the plot so you don’t know what’s coming next.   If you’re looking for some light and fluffy reading with a side of teen angst – and can handle the stress of a cliffhanger – check this out.  Book 2, The Good Girls is coming next summer so we don’t have too long wait for more!

2.5 stars

Thank you to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Character’s I’d Like to be for Halloween

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

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  1. Karou, Daughter of Smoke & Bone  I would like her blue hair and all that comes with.
  2. Thursday Next.  I think I’ve made it clear I’m obsessed with the book world. Leather jacket and a pony tail are easy.
  3. Ginny Weasley  Needs no explanation
  4. Anne Shirley.  Anne of Green Gables. Red hair and freckles would be fun!
  5. Dorian Grey. The Picture of Dorian Grey.  Go as perfect or ugly?
  6. Jane Wooliston, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation -especially now that Jane’s happy ending is coming.  I would love to wear those dresses-or her disguises.
  7. Luna Lovegood.  Also defies explanation I feel!
  8. Anna of Anna Dressed in Blood.  This is my one scary costume.
  9. The Grinch.  Please note I am in no way, shape or form ready for Christmas.
  10. This is a maybe, Lisbeth Salander, the MIllenium Trilogy.  She scares me! But she’s super cool nonetheless.

Who would you dress up as?  Link your list!

10 Ways to Up Your Reading Intake

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Though I don’t go through books as quickly as my sister, I have definitely increased the amount of time I spend reading over the past year. Sometimes I get asked how I find time to read so much, so I thought about ways that I made more room for reading in my life. Here’s my 10-step plan for more reading.

  1. Keep a running list of what you want to read. Some people love to track details about everything they’ve read and find patterns. I just update my Goodreads with what I want to read, what I’m currently reading, and what I’ve read, which helps me remember what to pick up next.
  2. Vary your genres. My reading choices are all over the place – from historical fiction to young adult dystopias to civil war non-fiction. I’m currently reading about politics, which I’ll probably follow up with a YA zombie book. Whatever floats your boat, yo.
  3. Read like-books together. Sometimes I like to make myself short (2-4 book) reading lists of books that are semi-related to read together. Like that time I decided to read books about marriage in preparation for mine. Or these book pairing posts about books that just naturally complement each other.
  4. Spread out a series. Sometimes it’s daunting to think about picking up a long series, even when the first one looks really good! I love the Pink for All Seasons readalong that Amanda and I are participating in – one book a month for 12 books to complete the series.
  5. Watch for deals! In addition to my Goodreads shelves, I keep an Amazon wish list with books I want to read, and I check it regularly to see if anything becomes a Kindle deal. Of course, you know what’s always a deal? The library.
  6. Make time for reading. Perhaps this is the most obvious or the most difficult step, but I’ve started to deliberately make time to read. I spend less time on Facebook. I’ll read a chapter in the morning before work if I find myself with 15 minutes to spare. I’ll sit for 20 minutes with coffee and a book on a weekend morning before doing whatever else I have planned (and if I have no plans, that 20 minutes becomes 40, becomes…)
  7. Read with a buddy! You don’t have to have a book club or a be a blogger to make this work. The reason I got through all the Game of Thrones books earlier this year is because J was reading them and I wanted to keep up! And of course, I love all the books that Amanda and I have read together this year. We live 800 miles apart, but we can (and do) text constantly while reading the same book!
  8. Share your books. I swear more books will come back to you! I know not everyone feels this way, but I’m all about lending or passing on books. Whenever I give a book away, it seems like 3 more end up on my bookshelf, at least temporarily.
  9. Carry a book with you! If I end up waiting around somewhere without a book, I will usually find myself scrolling through my phone – reading articles, texting my sister, or scanning Twitter. If I remember to bring a book with me, that time is much better spent!
  10. Finish a chapter. I didn’t used to be such a die-hard chapter-finisher, but my husband has converted me here. Even if I get interrupted while reading, I go back and finish the chapter asap, before the end of the day. That keeps me moving along in a book, lest I get distracted and completely forget what I was reading and what was going on. Repeat.
  11. Honorable mention by Amanda:  If you have an author that you really love see if you can follow them in some way on social media.  Do they blog? Are they on twitter/facebook/tumblr?  Do they have a newsletter?  I like to hear about what the authors I obsess over are working on.  Authors love to talk books and even about books that they didn’t write.  Lauren Willig has a weekly round-up on her blog talking about what she’s reading and interacting with her reader if you like historical romance.  If you like paranormal or urban fantasy Sookie Stackhouse creator Charlaine Harris reads a lot and shares her thoughts.  I’m amazed at the author reader interaction on twitter-and if you’re on twitter make sure you’re following us too :)

 

 

Review: Everly After

Everly After, Rebecca Paula

Amanda

Published October 21st 2014

Source: e-ARC from Love Between the Sheets Blog Tour

Book Cover - Everly After v4Synopsis:

All truths burn bright and clear. I’m still waiting in the dark.

Everly Monteith has traded her life of glitter, parties, and self-destruction for waitressing at a Parisian café. She’s put the tragedy that sent her across the Atlantic in the past—until her toxic ex shows up and sends her reeling once more. Her fresh start begins slipping away until a smug British war correspondent crashes her party. But falling for Beckett means letting down her guard, something that might pull them both into the dark.

There are beautiful lies in this world, and it takes me being chased through a hallway at a rave to decide this girl is one of them. But even the most beautiful lies aren’t worth chasing.

Twenty-five-year-old Beckett Reid is forced into sabbatical after being kidnapped on assignment in Afghanistan. Back in Paris, he locks himself away to work on a novel, focused on saving his budding journalism career. But when he meets an enigmatic American heiress, his plans are quickly neglected. Everly is the perfect replacement for dangerous war zones, even if she does leave glitter on everything he owns. Reckless and wild, she runs through life making more mistakes than anyone he’s met, but Beckett is determined to fight for her, even if he must face the messy truth that he must fight for himself first.

*This New Adult romance is recommended for readers 18+ due to mature content.*

I’m going to start you off with the messages I sent to my friend Christina while reading this book:

Holy shit this book is intense.

This is so much more than I expected!

I don’t even know what to say. I’m totally on edge and am going to have to finish tonight.

And if I read this book for Beckett to die ** ***** I am going to be supremely pissed!

I even tweeted at Rebecca Paula that she had better not break my heart!

So now almost a week later-my heart is recovered from the stress and I can tell you that I loved this book. Everly After is about two very different kinds of romantic love–love that makes two people bring out the best in each other and those that only bring out the worst in each other.  This story was a battle of who would win out in the end.  Paula did an amazing job of wrapping me up into Beckett and Everly. They felt completely real to me and their emotions were often so raw.   I wanted to reach through and shake them both on occasion (ok mostly Everly), but in the end I think things worked out perfectly.  I felt like I was right there with them-and my goodness-I felt the heat between them coming out of the book!

I don’t read a lot of New Adult (NA).  I expect NA to be fluffier books -romance, some sex and some light drama perhaps.  Just not what I gravitate towards first.  Everly After-not what I expected of NA and I am so glad I was proved wrong.  This was not light and fluffy but it was a book with depth and heart.  If this is her debut, I cannot wait to read what else Rebecca Paula is writing.

Thank you Rebecca Paula for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Here’s a link to a super fun giveaway including a copy of Everly After

Buy The Book

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1vwJNUy

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1pd6jdQ

KOBO: http://bit.ly/1w3SZ0y

About The Author

RebeccaIt began with a boy who survived a plane crash in the wilderness.

I discovered my love of writing during a fifth grade writing assignment for Hatchet. After that, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Always the hopeless romantic, I write late Victorian and Edwardian historical romances as well as contemporary New Adult romances.

I am a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), as well as the New Hampshire chapter (NHRWA) and the New England chapter (NECRWA). I contribute regularly to the Modern Belles of History blog, a site dedicated to writing, reading, and researching 20th century women’s historical fiction.

When I’m not writing, I’m most likely reading or daydreaming about my next travel adventure. I live in New Hampshire with my husband and our cat, Bella.

Website: https://rebecca-paula-esmo.squarespace.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccapaulaauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/beckapaula

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8442728.Rebecca_Paula

Review: The Silkworm

Warning! Minor spoilers below, but you can read our spoiler free discussions on the Silkworm part 1 and part 2.

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Amanda: Holly and have now finished The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (a/k/a J.K. Rowling) – in my case finished by reading in the car over the weekend while ignoring my husband and daughter.  Oops.  #booknerdproblems

Holly: Oh, I finished sitting outside a coffee shop with a latte. And a cookie. It was lovely.

Amanda: I loved this book! I had my suspicions about the motive and the murderer of course-but when it comes to mysteries I really love to be proved wrong. I did not see the ending coming.  I did have one suspicion as to the evidence in the murder prove correct so I could still feel like a good armchair detective!

Holly: I am impressed that you had a suspicion! I had zero clue what was going on. Observancy is not my strong point, sister. Strike pays attention to all these details and then pieces together the most obvious (though completely crazy-sounding) explanation. Isn’t that basically how Sherlock Holmes stories work too?

Amanda:  Yes! I think you’re right about Sherlock.  I think this means we need more Sherlock in our lives.  Exhibit A: Every Breath-a contemporary teenage Holmes set in Australia  which I need in my life pronto. Exhibit B: Sherlock.

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Anyway, pardon that diversion.  

It will be interesting to see as the series continues what mistakes Strike makes.  There has to be some or he’ll be too perfect.  I feel like none of his theories were wrong in the Silkworm. I hope he doesn’t get a big head!  Also, I loved Robin so much! I’m glad she did more investigative work in the Silkworm and I can’t wait to see how she does in investigative training.  I think they’ll continue to do an excellent “Good Cop, Bad Cop” together.

Holly: Well, sometimes he makes mistakes in his relationships with people – his cop buddy, his sister, and poor Nina! Oh, and his client at the beginning of the book too. So, he’s at least a little flawed. I definitely can’t wait for some more from Robin too.

Amanda: Excellent point! He’d totally be a tosser if he was a crime solver and everyone had to love him absolutely.  I do like that he has the rough edges. Hmm maybe I’m cold hearted, I didn’t feel too badly for Nina.  Maybe he’ll fall in love with Robin and get more in touch with his friends.  Maybe?  I can hope?

Unanimous! 5 stars! Can we have book 3 now please?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Series We Want To Start Reading

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday.  Here are 10 book series that we want to start

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Holly:

I know the prompt said NEW series, but I am a rule-breaker. Most of these series are more than two years old, but here’s what I want to start reading.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1, 2012) – this is the newest on my list. And, I have the first book thanks to a Kindle Daily Deal.

October Daye (Rosemary and Rue #1, 2009) – Amanda has demanded I read these books – but man, there’s a LOT of books…7? 8? That’s commitment. [Hello! You just read FEED, you should trust me by now.  Also finish FEED before you read more series. Also more, I am still emotionally preparing myself for #8]

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars #1, 2006) – I think I heard about these on a History Chicks’ podcast. I love Alice retellings!

Abhorsen (Sabriel #1, 1996) – Apparently people love these books. I think they have zombies?

The Giver (Giver #1, 1993) – okay, I have actually read the first of these books, eons ago. But, who knew there were 3 more?!

Amanda:

The Giver- Unlike my sister I haven’t even read the first one.  I feel really behind the times here.

The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter #1, 2013).  I’ve been really into the Gothic reads lately. Maybe its Halloween coming?

Finishing School (Etiquette and Espionage #1, 2013).  Combining tea parties with spy technique? Yes please.

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice #1, 1994).  Ok, so this has been around a long time-but there are still new books coming out!  Retired Sherlock Holmes plus a teenage detective sounds so fun to me. Maybe this will keep the wait for the next BBC Sherlock season from being too painful?

Tawny Man/The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy Robin Hobb.  I have an ARC of the Fool’s Assassin, #1 of the Fitz and Fool Trilogy that was just released this fall.  However, I don’t think I’m going to appreciate it until I read the back stories-so to the library I go!

Any opinions on what should be read first? Besides Holly reading Newsflesh clearly.  Speaking of October Daye, I’m nearly emotionally ready to try to read the Winter Long-anyone want to hold my hand virtually through this book? I know she’s going to break my heart again.