Review of Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

by Kady Cross

And here we go with the third book in the Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross. Not too long ago I read the first two books in this series and reviewed them. This one I received as an advance reader copy from the publisher.

Description from Goodreads:

When mechanical genius Emily is kidnapped by rogue automatons, Finley Jayne and her fellow misfits fear the worst. What’s left of their archenemy, The Machinist, hungers to be resurrected, and Emily must transplant his consciousness into one of his automatons—or forfeit her friends’ lives.

With Griffin being mysteriously tormented by the Aether, the young duke’s sanity is close to the breaking point. Seeking help, Finley turns to Jack Dandy, but trusting the master criminal is as dangerous as controlling her dark side. When Jack kisses her, Finley must finally confront her true feelings for him…and for Griffin.

Meanwhile, Sam is searching everywhere for Emily, from Whitechapel’s desolate alleyways to Mayfair’s elegant mansions. He would walk into hell for her, but the choice she must make will test them more than they could imagine.

To save those she cares about, Emily must confront The Machinist’s ultimate creation—an automaton more human than machine. And if she’s to have any chance at triumphing, she must summon a strength even she doesn’t know she has….

When reading the first two books in this series, I did a lot of ignoring the weird way the characters just seemed to take for granted the unusual things that happened around them and the baseless trust they showed in near strangers. The fast pace of the story and the intriguing plot do a lot to make up for the shallow characters, and the same is true in this book. Cross is an excellent storyteller, knowing just the right time and place to leave suspense and build tension. I might personally have been a little happier with a little less time devoted to the characters’ inner romantic turmoil, but I do see how the romantic developments helped drive the story along. I’m still not completely over the moon about the Steampunk Chronicles, but I will continue to read them just to find out what happens next.

Advertisements

Review of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

from goodreads.com

I just finished reading the first two books in the Steampunk Chronicles by Kady CrossThe Girl in the Steel Corset and The Girl in the Clockwork Collar. Instead of writing individual reviews for each of these, I’m going to give you two book reviews in one! I’m going to be very vague and general. No spoilers, I promise.

From goodreads.comI want to start by saying I love steampunk lit. It tickles my technology bone. I run an after school club for middle schoolers centered around reading steampunk YA novels and doing hands on projects based on themes and technology in the book (more on that here). The first thing I want to say about these books is that I couldn’t read them fast enough. That’s not to say that they are the most amazing books ever, but rather the story was so engaging I just had to keep reading.

The characters in this series are not especially deep. In The Girl in the Steel Corset, you have four main characters who simply come to terms with unnatural and impossible things without seeming to think much about them. You’ve got one character who has had two distinct personalities her whole life and through only a few hours of “training’ begins bringing the two halves together to make an uneasy truce. One character trusts an unconscious stranger enough to bring her to his home/secret headquarters and maker her part of the crew.

When I think too hard about the characters themselves, I realize that I probably shouldn’t have liked this book as much as I did. But if you just take all the unnatural and impossible things in stride as the characters do, you get absorbed in the story. It is very fast paced and exciting. There are so many things going on, twists, explosions, myterious persons, that I forgot about the vagueness of the characters and kept turning the pages just to see what happened next.

And I’ll read the third one too when it comes out.

Review of Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger was just released on February 5th, 2013. I am a huge fan of Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (henceforth designated as PP because typing that out every time is tiresome) so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this, the first book in her Finishing School YA series. In fact, I pre-ordered a copy for my Kindle and was delighted when it appeared like magic.

Description from Goodreads:

Featured imageSophronia Temminnick at 14 is a great trial more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners — and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Her poor mother, desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, enrolls the lively tomboy in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But 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 ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Sophronia is a precocious teenage girl who prefers mechanics and exploring to the more ladylike subjects of fashion and society. She is sent away quite abruptly to a finishing school. Almost immediately Sophronia  realizes that this is not your normal finishing school. Between her home and the school, she is involved in a flywaymen attack (like highwaymen but they travel by air instead of land), a daring rescue, and a high-speed carriage escape. And that’s just the first 2 chapters. There is one major mystery that spans the entire book, but there are many small mysteries and quiet intrigues that spin off the main mystery and come as a result of the students’ social dynamics. Something interesting or exiting happens at almost every turn of the page, so much so I had a lot of trouble putting this book down.

Every one of the students has a distinct personality which sets them apart from the others, even if they fall into the usual stereotypes of teen girls at a boarding school (there’s always that one girl whose personality is just to admire and copy everything that one bossy/rich/popular girl does). Each girl has a particular strength I absolutely loved the descriptions of the school itself and the various areas upon it, though I did worry a bit for its structural integrity (I can’t help it, it’s the engineer in me).

If you have read Carriger’s PP series, you may find a few of these characters familiar. In fact, they are the same characters in the same world some 25 years prior to the happenings in the PP series. It isn’t the entirety of the cast, however, so don’t expect to find young Miss Hisselpenny cavorting about with young Miss Tarabotti, but you will find several familiar names and be enthralled to learn more about their early years.

All in all I loved this book and will highly recommend it.

STEAMPunk Club!

Steampunk Digital Sign

The inspiration for this club is an indirect demand in our community for more STEM subject programming for teens. The community that supports us is home to one of the highest scoring school districts in the state for the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and we have seen a push to promote STEM subjects through the adoption of Common Core standards in schools New York. In the Fayetteville Free Library, we like to add the A for art and make it STEAM instead. We have had success with programming for teens based around our maker culture and using the materials for our Fab Lab. We have also had outstanding response to our LEGO robotics programs. So, we decided to put some of those ideas together to create an ongoing afterschool club that will touch on all of these things while still involving literacy and reading.

The STEAMPunk Club gets its name from the steampunk YA genre and from STEAM subjects. STEAMPunk Club meets twice a month and every month is inspired by a steampunk YA novel. There are discussions relating to the book and then there are hands-on projects based on the book.

For example, our first month is inspired by Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld:

Description from Goodreads: Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

In Leviathan, there is a girl masquerading as a boy so that she can be an airman and you have a princeling who has lost his kingdom. You also have world powers who use Darwin’s theories of evolution to engineer living creatures who can be used as war machines (Darwinists) and you have world powers who rely on engineering and physics to build mechanical wonders that are used as war machines (Clankers).

In our first meeting, we examined the creations of the Darwinists, specifically Leviathan itself, a massive air-beast that is reminiscent of a whale but flies through the air like a zeppelin. Obviously, we are unable to genetically engineer a Leviathan for ourselves in the library in 90 minutes, we we did discuss how it is that Leviathan and other flying ships work. After doing an experiment with water to illustrate clearly how hot water/air rises and cold water/air sinks, we then applied this principle to making hot air balloons from tissue paper. Unfortunately our hot air balloons were less airworthy than Leviathan, but we did enjoy making them nonetheless. My coworker and I had so much fun trying out the water experiment in advance, if you have any jars, I highly recommend it.

In our next meeting, we will discuss the meaning of bravery and compare Deryn’s definition with our own. And then we will go the Clanker route and build mechanical Walkers using LEGO Mindstorms. Our walkers will have four legs instead of two, but they will still give the club members an opportunity to understand how a simple walking machine works to give them an appreciation for the engineering involved.

So far, we have met only once and there were 4 teens who showed up. I hope that those who come will have so much fun they will spread the word among their friends and classmates. My goal is to have a core group of more than 10 teens show up to each meeting by May.