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Book Review: The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

“I’m called Endeavor 312.” The girl- Emily couldn’t think of her as a thing- moved closer, crouched on the floor by her bed. “You are the mother.”
She frowned. “No, I’m not.”
In return, 312 cocked her head, perplexed. “Yes, you are. Your genetic material is inside my own. You speak to metal, understand it. You are our mother.”

“My genetic material…” Damnation. The warehouse where they’d taken on the Machinist. All of them would have left bits of themselves behind-blood, skin, hair. All the organites needed was a little piece of a person to copy their cellular structure. No wonder 312 looked so familiar- she was made up from bits of her, Finley, Jasper, Sam, and Griffin. Not only was she a sentient machine on the verge of becoming almost completely human, there was a very good chance she might exhibit one, if not all, of their talents. She might even develop some of her own.
And she was at the whim of that awful spider creature. That was almost as disconcerting and frightening as the fact that the Machinist was not only alive but close by. He had to be in deplorable condition to require such treatment. Could he communicate with them at all? Of course they would protect him, try to save him. If she was their “mother,” because she could speak to them then Leonardo Garibaldi was their father, because he had literally given them life by using the organite power source to power their logic engines.
That was a thought that made her want to be physically ill, and it wasn’t all because of the concussion. This … girl could prove to be the most dangerous and powerful creature in Europe, perhaps the world, and she was at the control of a madman. Or, at least, at the control of a madman’s creations.

Brilliant.


The Girl with the Iron Touch is the third book in the Steampunk Chronicles by author Kady Cross (her young adult pen name). Picking up where The Girl in the Clockwork Collar left off, Griffin, Emily, Sam, and Finley are back in London, and trying to figure out how to work as a team and how to deal with not only Griffin’s growing powers but also their own personal relationships. Emily has come into her own by being able to talk to machines, but is completely frustrated by not being able to make Sam understand her true feelings- partially because of Sam’s own issues and partially because of her own. However, when the Machinist’s creatures take Emily to help with their mission of bringing him back to a more useful form, Sam’s and Emily’s relationship will be tested in ways they never could imagine.

Girl with the Iron Touch was a wild ride, and definitely delved further into the relationship aspects within the group originally formed in the series than previously touched on. The fact that it considers serious issues (e.g. what makes a person, how human are you), and how it draws on inspiration from Shelly’s Frankenstein, make this more than just a fast-paced steampunk adventure. There is sexual content (sexual assault in the past and reactions is talked about, as well as a a current physical relationship is described tastefully), moreso than in the previous books, though not explicit at all. 3.75 out of 5 stars. As of July 21, 2013, Goodreads has Girl with the Iron Touch rated as 3.96 stars. Definitely can be paired with any of the steampunk reads that we have talked about in the past, including these:



SPOILER SPACE



I really like this series, and have since the beginning. I love the fact that Kady is pulling inspiration from the Victorian era literature for inspiration (Frankenstein for this one) and they can easily be paired with their inspiration; with nonfiction on the technology they’re using, the genetic technology of the organites; and with comic series like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I love the complicated relationships between the characters- the fact that Finely and Griffin are stumbling over each other, that Jasper is still torn over what happened in the last book, and that Sam and Emily can’t seem to find the right words. What bugged me about this book is that I was expected *more* about Emily, more of her backstory and history, more of her relationship with Sam, and for them to really shine. Finley and Griffin were the stars in The Girl in The Steel Corset, and Jasper was the main story in The Girl in the Clockwork Collar.  In The Girl with the Iron Touch, yes, it progressed Emily and Sam’s story and relationship, but it pushed Griffin’s story more, and to me that was a little disappointing.

One thing that I adore in this series is that it realistically deals with the situation women were (and actually still are) placed in when dealing with sex. In Emily’s backstory readers knew that she was abused in the past, and in Girl with the Iron Touch we find out that she was raped, by someone that she knew and trusted. She ended up taking revenge, but she didn’t tell anyone because no one would have believed her- this was a friend of the family, someone that her family entrusted her safety with. The same is true today.  You can read stories and police reports about kids and teens who don’t report abuse of any kind because they know that no one will believe them because it’s a family member, or a friend of the family, someone they and/or the family trusted.

And Emily is still dealing with the aftereffects of the rape to this day:  it colors her relationships with others, and the way she reacts.  This is the same with abuse survivors.  You never forget, and even though you can survive it, you will never be the same.  Reading Emily’s story is powerful, and something that I don’t think we find often enough in YA literature. When 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and 44% of sexual assaults are to teens 18 and under, it’s something that needs to be talked about.

For more information about sexual assault statistics, or ways you can help, check out the RAINN website.

Book Review: The Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Henry lurched to his feet, his gingery hair matted with blood and ichor. His gear was torn at the shoulder, scarlet fluid leaking from the would. “Tessa,” he exclaimed, and then he was beside her, helping her to her feet. “By the Angel, we’re a pair,” he said in his rueful Henry way, looking at her worriedly. 

“You’re not hurt, are you?”

She glanced down at herself and saw what he meant: Her dress was soaked with a spray of ichor, and there was an ugly cut on her forearm where she had fallen on the broken glass. It didn’t hurt much, yet, but there was blood. “I am quite all right,” she said. “What happened, Henry? What was that thing and why was it in here?”

A guardian demon. I was searching Benedict’s desk, and I must have moved or touched something that awoke it. A black smoke poured from the drawer, and become that. It lunged at me-“

“And clawed you,” Tessa said in concern. “You’re bleeding-“
“No, I did that myself. Fell on my dagger,” Henry said sheepishly, drawing a stele from his belt. “Don’t tell Charlotte.”


Tessa almost smiled; then, remembering, she dashed across the room and tugged open the curtains across one of the tall windows. She could see out across the gardens, but not, frustratingly, the Italian garden; they were on the wrong side of the house for that. Green box hedges and flat grass, beginning to brown with winter, stretched out before her. “I must go,” she said. “Will and Jem and Cecily- they were battling the creature. It has killed Tatiana Blackthorn’s husband. I had to convey her back to the carriage as she was near fainting.”

There was a silence. Then: “Tessa,” Henry said in an odd voice, and she turned to see him, arrested in the act of applying an iratze to his inner arm. He was staring at the wall across from him- the wall Tessa had thought earlier was oddly mottled and splotched with stains. She saw now that they were no accidental mess. Letters a foot tall each stretched across the wallpaper, written in what looked like dried black blood.

THE  INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT PITY.
THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT REGRET.
THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT NUMBER.
THE INFERNAL DEVICES WILL NEVER STOP COMING.
And there, beneath the scrawls, a last sentence, barely readable, as if whoever had written it had been losing the use of his hands. She pictured Benedict locked in this room, going slowly mad as he transformed, smearing the words on the wall with his own ichor-ridden blood.
MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON OUR SOULS.

Mortmain is tightening his plan around the Shadowhunters, and while he lurks in the shadows, his intent is clearer than ever: he wants Tessa.  Will and Jem, along with the rest of the London Institute, are determined not to let him have her, especially as it’s clear that she’s at least part Shadowhunter. However, when she’s taken from them, Tessa realizes that she must be the one to rescue herself- but how, even with a clockwork angel protecting her?

The Clockwork Princess, the third and final book in the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare, is a wonderful finish to the series. Mortmain is plotting to be rid of the Shadowhunters once and for all, and to do that he needs what he’s wanted since the beginning:  Tessa Gray.  Part Shadowhunter, part something else, her abilities are crucial to his plot destroy everything Tessa has learned to care for, including Will and Jem. Yet Mortmain is not the only one with plots in place against Charlotte and her allies- the Consul is moving against her as well. Risking everything, they must defeat all of their enemies or perish.  The characters really grow within this series, and readers come to love them as their own; the heartbreak and anguish that they go through in this final book is rewarded only by the ending chapter.  Definitely give this series to those who are reading Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series (if only so they can trace where characters such as Magnus come from), or tie in with Kady Cross’ Steampunk Chronicles series or Fisher’s Incarceron duet. 4.5 out of 5 stars.  As of April 9, 2013, Goodreads has Clockwork Princess as 4.64 stars.


OMG, such a wonderful book.  I did NOT want it to end, and even when it did, I wanted more.  The whole love triangle between Tessa and Will and Jem is so poignant and agonizing, especially when you have to know that Jem’s time is limited, even more so with what happened in The Clockwork Prince (Mortmain buying up the drug, etc.). I was floored with what actually happened to Jem, and then with the final chapter I was gone, and my heart soared.  SOOOO wonderful, and with what is a perfect ending to a love story.

The developing love stories between the Lightwood boys and Sophie and Cecily are hysterical and completely spot-on.  I am now having to re-read The Mortal Instruments because I am trying to figure out who are the ancestors of Alec and Isabella in The City of Bones, because right now it could be either brother (I am leaning towards Gabriel, however- if you know, don’t tell me, because I can’t remember, and I’m waiting on the second book to come back). I could cheat and just go to the bookstore and look at the cover (my library covered it, so it’s sealed, so no genealogy chart for me) but I’d much rather try and figure it out for myself. And the relationship between Charlotte and Henry is so touching and real it just wants to break your heart.

There’s just enough of the mechanical and fantastical to keep readers of that genre interested- not near as much as the Steampunk Chronicles, or even The Clockwork Angel but then that’s to be expected in the final book.

I could totally live in this world if not for the stays and dresses. I’d be running around in pants.

Book Review: Pantomime by Laura Lam

“‘Nice try, love,’ she said, and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. “It won’t be so terrible, just you wait and see.”

I hoped she was right.

And so I bathed and brushed and shaved and scented myself. All the while, I tried to stifle the feeling that it was like a holy animal from the rural parts of Byssia being pampered and perfumed before slaughter to the Chimaera demi-gods. I may have been feeling a little melodramatic.

Lia had laid all of my clothing on the bed and helped me into my petticoats and undershirt and slid the corset around my torso.

Lia grunted slightly as she pulled the stays. My ribs constricted and I clutched the bedpost.
I felt caged in a corset. The device did give me a bit of an illusion of a waist, I thought, looking at my body in the mirror of my dressing table. Lia slipped the dress over my head and it fell about me in a wave of blue fabric so pale it was almost white. I twisted my hips and the fabric settled into place and Lia fastened the dozens of tiny buttons on the back. The dress was lovely, with simply lines, the only decoration pink satin ribbons about the waist and the high neckline and the hem of the skirt. Mother and I had disagreed on every other dress I had tried on, but as soon as I had come out of the dressing room in the shop on Jade Street, we had both agreed it a success.

Lia plaited my hair into a crown about my head with more ribbon and tiny sprays of baby’s breath. She left little curls about my face and another at the nape of my neck. I sat patiently as she powdered and painted my face in such a way that it did not look as though I was wearing cosmetics at all, which I did not see the point in. I stepped into heeled pink dancing slippers. A little strand of pearls about the neck and elbow-length gloves and a feather fan completed the look.

All dolled up to look like a girl and the illusion was fairly convincing.”
RH Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest of circus of Ellada- if they do say so themselves. Wonders beyond the imagination, where anything is possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the Chimeras and Alders still exist, and where people can make a new life for themselves. Iphigenia (Gene) comes from a noble family, but doesn’t fit into the formal world of corsets and crinoline. Enter Micah Gray, joining the circus as an aerialist apprentice and rising star. However, when a secret in their blood could unlock mysteries of Ellada and a civilization long forgotten, choices must be made and relationships hang in the balance.


A wonderfully rich steampunk world, Pantomime gives us Gene and Micah, richly developed characters struggling to figure out who they are within a world that is losing its magic, and more and more are struggling.  Sixteen year old Iphigenia would much rather climb trees than have tea parties, and is certain that with her ‘condition’ she is unsuitable for the noble world of a lady at any rate. Micah, hiding from the authorities, joins the Circus of Magic and tries to learn his place in the world- and possibly falling in love along the way- before his past and present collide. Pantomime is a beautifully written tale about identity and gender, set against a world where illusion is everything and reality is malleable. Secondary characters take on lives on their own, and the world is remarkable:  the history is given through museums and tours that the characters take, rather than through dialog or narrative. For those looking for more of the circus aspect, pair with The Night Circus, while those looking for identity stories similar to those in Pantomime could try Luna by Julie Ann Peters or Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger.  5 out of 5 stars.  As of April 9, 2013, Goodreads has Pantomime listed at 4.06 stars.

 BIG
I must be under a rock or something, because I didn’t hear of the ‘controversy’ of the official blurb for the book (for reference see first paragraph above). Evidently people were thinking they were being “tricked” into reading a book, and when they were given something different, they were upset. Um, yea. About that. You got a romance and love story, it just wasn’t what you were thinking. You were thinking that Gene and Micah were going to fall in love, yeah?

Told in alternating chapters readers get the story of Gene, chosen by zes noble parents to be raised as a girl, and Micah, a runaway who joins the circus to be trained as an aerialist.  Early on readers figure out that Gene and Micah are one and the same, and that Gene/Micah is an intersex character, which in Ellada is a Kedi, a long forgotten mythical being. Facing surgery to be totally female, ze runs away from everything, loses zirself in the circus, and tries to discover what it is ze really wants out of life, and what the secrets of the Vestige machinery hold for zir. 

Part of the problem is that Micah (as ze is called in the circus) falls in love with two very different people, and has to figure out what zir heart and body wants; unfortunately, ze is determined to keep zir secret from everyone, and that destroys one relationship.

The circus has its own intrigue, as well, and dangers always seem to lurk within from sources both inside and out. The ending seems shoved within the last few chapters of the book, and is at an extremely jarring pace compared to  the majority of the book. I know that while I was expecting something of that nature to happen, I wasn’t expecting that ending. It’s still wonderfully written, and that it is a fantasy with an intersex character is wonderful.

Pantomine is the first of the Micah Gray series.

TPiB: Steampunk Crafts, take 2

As part of Steampunkpalooza with author Suzanne Lazear, we are bringing you today some excellent Steampunk Crafts.

Steampunk USB Drive (using Polymer clay)
Ehow takes you through the 7 easy steps to make a fantastic Steampunk USB Drive.  If you search on Etsy and Deviant Art you will see that people are making and selling all kinds of Steampunk USB drives for quite a chunk of change.

Steampunk Jewelry
There are a variety of books out there that discuss making jewelry out of everyday things found in your toolbox.  These are all easily adaptable to make some amazing Steampunk inspired jewelry.

You can also use Pull Tabs, Beading Wire and Small Beads to make jewelry, like these ear rings found on Flickr. There are also step by step instructions over at Wiki How on how to make a pull tab bracelet.  There is also this cool button necklace, which you could make by spray painting a bunch of buttons gold or silver.

 
Check out these and other jewelry books at your library for tips, tricks & inspiration


Steampunk Shadow Art Coffin from Blue Butterfly Creations
http://blubutterflycreations.blogspot.com/2012/08/steampunk-alterned-art-shadow-coffin.html



Make this super fab Victorian Style hat over at Better Homes and Gardens
http://www.bhg.com/halloween/crafts/wacky-white-rabbits-hat/


Marble and Bottle Cap Magnets
You can use discarded magazines and newspapers to create Steampunk looking magnets.  The bottle cap variety takes the steampunk look a step further.  Bottle caps can also be used to make jewelry, keychains, etc.  Use a fine tip black marker around the edges to give your images that dirty, torn look. 

Not Martha: Marble Magnet instructons
Squidoo: Bottle Cap Craft Magnet instructions

Altered Altoid Tin
You can use THESE plans for altering Altoid tins and some Steampunk looking paper and embellishments to create a Steampunk tin for storing business cards, small jewelry, etc. 

Dirigibles

This great blog post on re purposing and upcycling shows an example of how you can use light bulbs to create Hot Air Balloons/Dirigibles.

Steampunk Scrapbooks and Journals (Papercrafts)
Keep in mind you can make amazing photo frames, scrapbook pages and more by simply choosing the right color papers (rusts, silvers, tarnished gold, etc.), cutting out gear shapes, etc.  There is an entire Pinterest page dedicated to Steampunk Scrapbooking.  Check here for some great tips, tricks and design layouts.

You can use these same design and layout ideas to decorate a blank journal and create a Steampunk Journal.

And finally, you can Mod Podge your pages onto canvas to make one of a kind Steampunk looking art.  I look to this Etsy project for inspiration.  

There are TONS of tutorials and inspiration on things like Pinterest, Etsy and the Web in general.  Just do a search for “Steampunk Crafts”.


More Steampunk over at Teen Librarian Toolbox, including more craft ideas:
Some other great online (but non-TLT) Steampunk tutorials:
Steampunk Party Food (including edible hats – yum!) 

INNOCENT DARKNESS, book 1 of The Aether Chronicles is Suzanne Lazear’s young adult steampunk dark fairytale debut. Suzanne lives in Southern California with her daughter, the hubby, and a hermit crab, where she’s currently attempting to make a raygun to match her ballgown. She’s also part of the Steampunk group blog Steamed. Learn more about the Aether Chronicles at http://www.aetherchronicles.com

Steampunk @ Your Library

Tuesday was Steampunk day, so here is a RA Poster for you

You can download the poster at https://www.box.com/s/dw7wnufoie5r3eey8meg
Also, be sure to read our book reviews and posts:
Tell us, what’s your favorite Steampunk title?

TPiB: Steampunk in the Library


“I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe can exist without a clockmaker.” – Voltaire

Steampunk: Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes.(Urban Dictionary)
 
Steampunk is not tricky, it’s a way of looking at the world through a different lens.  Worlds that exist in the books of Cassandra Clare, Kady Cross, Kenneth Oppel, Cherie Priest, and Scott Westerfield and HG Wells help set the ideas that you’re looking for, and with these crafts to tie into those worlds, your teens will be into steampunk in no time….  Have ideas that have worked for you?  Share in the comments!


Wearables

For day wear with a twist, think about creating a charm bracelet with shrinky dinks and old world charms added in.  If you don’t have the means to make the photos at your workplace, think about making them at home and bringing them in the day of with using teen volunteers to scouring old magazines for images. 

 Over the Cresent Moon’s blog has this example:
 

For a top hat with steampunk style and duct tape pizzaz, take a look at what Cut Out and Keep has on their site:
 
Or for your special someone, how about a button ring?  Lana Red has an easy tutorial: 
 

Carryables
For those who have a writing bent in them, what about creating smash books (scrapbook by way of a junk drawer) with your teens?  Over on the Craftster site, there was some interesting ideas to get you started, like this one:
It starts from scratch, but if you get a DIY journal from Oriental trading like these, you could easily add embellishments to steampunk them out.
 
You could also collect all those metal tins (mints, gum, etc.) that your staff and teens have around, and make mini scenes and modge podge pictures into the insides and outsides of them.  Go Make Something has a good tutorial for prepping them (although I’m sure there’s others):
 

And the Guides from the Mesa Library has an awesome directory for steampunk and other crafts…

Steampunk 101 with author Suzanne Lazear

Steampunk has been around for decades, but has really gained popularity in the past few years. But what exactly is that Steampunk stuff anyway?


Imagine a world where steam and natural gas, not coal and electricity, are the primary power sources. Steampunk transports us to a place abounding with airships, gas lamps, gears, cogs, and brass goggles and populated with mad scientists, philosophers, adventurers, and air pirates. Steampunk stories are filled with exploration, optimism, curiosity, technology, and rebellion. They boldly go new places, explore and invent new things, and ponder the what ifs and never wases of technology and history. HG Wells and Jules Verne are huge inspirations for Steampunk. Examples include League of Extraordinary Gentleman and Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker.

It seems to me that by its very nature Steampunk is a genre meant to challenge itself. Lately, Steampunk has grown from its SciFi roots to really cross genres and boundaries. We have paranormal Steampunk, like the popular Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger and God Save the Queen by Kate Locke. We have “steamypunk.” We have clockpunk with steampunkatude. We have steampunk retellings of classic stories, like Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. In YA especially, there’s a whole crop of steampunk mashups, where authors explore the breadths and depths of steampunk to the very limit, sometimes creating something new altogether. 



My Aether Chronicles series falls into that “mashup” category. I call it “Fairytale Steampunk.” I sought to combine my favorite things—fairies, Steampunk, and fairytales—into one book. I didn’t want to steampunk an existing fairytale, I wanted to create my own.

Book 1, Innocent Darkness tells the tale of sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock, a mortal girl who’d rather fix cars than attend balls and who’d like to save her family by going to the university and becoming a botanist, not getting married—something unacceptable in her world. A single wish tears her from her realm and throws her into word filled with wishes, bad bargains, huntsman, and evil queens. 


Charmed Vengeance, which releases 8-8-13, continues the story of Noli, V, James, and Kevighn. Book two is set mostly in the mortal realm and is an adventurous tale of quests, automatons, airships, air pirates, and cake.


One of the things I love about Steampunk is the 19th century aesthetic. There’s something about all that brass, the balls and bustles, and the ornate details, that just call to me. However, technology is an important part of Steampunk. There could still be extraordinary technology all done with 19th century materials and in 19th century styles. There can be Steampunk airships, spaceships, computers, and brass robots. In Innocent Darkness I have flying cars and hoverboards, in Charmed Vengeance we see a lot more Steampunk technology, since a large portion of the book takes place aboard an airship (run by air pirates, of course). 


Steampunk stories are hardly limited to Victorian London. They can be set in the past, in the future, or on another planet. They can be set in Victorian London, the Wild West, Asia, another world entirely – you are only limited by your imagination.  The Aether Chronicles series has a very heavy Victorian feel to it and takes place in an alternate version of the early 1900’s, where technology has evolved a little faster. Book 1 is set in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Otherworld. In Book 2 we revisit those places but also get peaks at other cities, such as Denver, Boston, and New York City.


One of the things that really makes Steampunk attractive to me is that it IS so many things. There literally is something for everyone in Steampunk. There is so much to explore. No two Steampunk worlds are alike, so if you don’t like one Steampunk tale, try another. Steampunk is also more than just stories—there’s music and art, handicrafts and beautiful clothing, conventions, balls, and so much more. Put “steampunk” into etsy.com to get just a peak at what it’s become. Go, explore steampunk and see what you can find.

Let the adventures begin.

~Suzanne Lazear


Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA steampunk fairytale series The Aether Chronicles. INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now. Book 2, CHARMED VENGEANCE, releases from Flux 8-8-13. Visit the series site at www.aetherchronicles.com. She’s also part of the Steampunk group blog Steamed http://wwww.ageofsteam.wordpress.com  

Book Review: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

Wildcat turned her attention to Finley. “I know you. You’re the one that was here with the Irish witch.”

“She would prefer to be called a scientist” came Finley’s drawled reply. “I’ll give her your regards.”

The dark girl turned back to Jasper. “She’s almost as much a smart-arse as you. She all you brought?”
“I got a driver, but he’d rather see me dead that do me a favor.” Then he grinned. ‘But if you know my friend, you know she’s enough.”

The girl nodded, grime-streaked face serious. “All right, then. You know what has to be done.” And then she stepped across the threshold,  a baseball bat in her hands. Its wood was smooth and stained brown with old blood. A dozen other girls and fellas followed after her- some armed, some not.

“Jasper?” Finley asked warily. “What the devil’s going on?”

He turned to her with what he hoped was a suitably apologetic expression. “When I left the piece with Wildcat, she told me if I ever came back she’d ‘beat the snot out of me.'” Technically, he hadn’t left he part with Cat. It had gotten left behind when she kicked him out. He was simply relived she still had it.
Finley’s eyes widened. “Are you telling me we have to fight? All of them?” she gestured at the gang standing in the street behind Wildcat.

Jasper nodded. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Jasper Renn, taken back to America from the Greythorne estate supposedly to answer for a murder in San Francisco, has disappeared into the hands of his former friend, Reno Dalton.  Held against his will, Dalton wants to Jasper to piece back together a machine they stole together- a wondrously evil machine that can change a man’s fortune, or a thief’s life- and Jasper’s former love Mei is being used against him to make him cooperate.  One false move from either of them, and the clockwork collar around her neck tightens.  And tightens.  Griffen, Finley, Sam, and Emily are in New York trying to help from the outside (and inside as well) but can they figure out what the machine is, and what they can do to help Jasper and Mei, and stop Dalton, before time is up?
The second installment in Kady Cross’ Steampunk Chronicles finds the reader transported from 1897 London to New York, where evil is lurking in former friends, and betrayal is in surprising places.  Moving faster than The Girl in the Steel Corset (mainly because the author assumes you know about the world by now), Griffen and his “special branch” move into the Waldorf Astoria and infiltrate New York society (both high and low) in order to find Jasper, and thwart Dalton and his master plan.   The team still doesn’t quite trust each other yet, and the triangles in the first book carry over into the second, adding tension.  Growing abilities, and the work of Dr. Telsa and his machinery add to the danger as well.  Readers interested in ties to New York in the late 1800’s could read The Luxe series, while steampunkers would definitely feel a tie for the Leviathan and Airborn series with the emergence of Tesla in this book.  3.5 stars out of 5.  Goodreads has Girl in the Clockwork Collar rated at 4.08 stars as of February 10, 2013.
I enjoyed Clockwork Collar a little more and a little less that Steel Corset for different reasons.  I wanted more character building of the original characters, and Clockwork Collar  is more Jasper’s story- even though we get more of Finley and Griffin’s relationship and their bumps about trusting each other, it’s all about Jasper’s back story.  For a character who will not be continuing on, I wish that the focus was somewhere other than Mei- and I know what was going on with her about a third of the way through the book, so to be proven right made a difference I think.  I loved Finely’s and Emily’s relationship, and the more hints and reveals about Emily’s past, that made me love the book more.  I like that both Finley and Emily can take care of themselves, and that is made abundantly clear throughout the book- in fact, there is no shortage of female characters throughout this series that can take care of themselves.  
I didn’t like that Griffin made excuses for how he treated both Finley and Emily (there’s a passage in the book when Finley confronts him where he silently justifies to himself that that’s the way he was brought up)- hopefully he’s broken of that train of thought quite quickly.  I also didn’t like that the author didn’t quite explain what was going on with Griffin’s abilities, or Telsa’s inventions, or the malformations in the Aether, but I can hope that there will be more books to come that will assuage my curiosities.  I’m itchy when there are unresolved plot points in a book.

Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

“What have I done? she whispered.
What you had to do.
She felt his neck for a pulse, relief engulfing her as she found it. She hadn’t killed him.  At least she wouldn’t hang. But she had still attacked the son of a peer of the realm and there would be consequences.
Three jobs in three months and they’d all ended with an experience like this one, although this was be far the worse  She’d been let go from each position because of her behavior, something that had released this thing inside her. Urges to act in a way that was far from civilized, far beyond what she as a young woman should be capable of.
They’d bring the law down on her from this. They’d lock her up. Or worse, use her for scientific experiments in New Bethlehem Asylum- Bedlam. And they would experiment on her once they realized she was abnormal.
Run, the voice inside her whispered. Run away.
Listening to the voice had gotten her into this mess, perhaps it would get her out. There was no way Lord Felix wouldn’t exact retribution upon her for harming him-either by finishing what he’d started or by bringing the authorities down upon her. There was no way she was going to let him do what he wanted to her. No way she’d risk having her brain dissected for giving him less that what he really deserved.
So Finley listened to the voice and ran.

After the young lord of the manor tries to take definitely unwanted advantages  Finley Jayne runs out into the dark 1897 London night, straight into the velocycle path of Griffin King.  Griffin, the Duke of Greythorne, sees that the other voice Finley has makes her one of his “special branch,” those with dark magical abilities- Sam, who is stronger than can be normal; Emily, who can understand machines, and Griffin himself, who can connect with the Aether. And when they and England are threatened by a villain called the Machinist, can they bring their abilities together to defeat him, or will they die trying?

Kady Cross makes an engrossing first novel in her Steampunk Chronicles. Tying in themes from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and other Victorian gothic stories into the back story of her characters, The Girl in the Steel Corset can start off slow for those not interested in the cogs and boggles of the technology of Cross’s London, or the universe which she is building.  It is definitely heady information, and for those readers with a mechanical bent, it’s heaven to see how the world is built.  However, readers interested in romance who get to the triangles between Finley, Griffin and Jack, or Sam, Emily and Jasper will definitely be rewarded.  The book very obviously sets up for the sequel, the Girl in the Clockwork Collar, which is extremely nice as the ending is almost an abrupt cliffhanger that jerks you back to reality.  You could pair this with Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series or the works of Kenneth Oppel or Cherie Priest for the steampunk aspects, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which the author references herself as an inspiration) for older readers.  3.25 stars out of 5.  Goodreads ranks The Girl in the Steel Corset at 3.86 stars as of February 10, 2013.


So, to be fair, I am a geek, and lean a bit on the techy side, and loves me some steampunk.  So I really liked this series.  I LOVED the references to the Gothic and Victorian literature that was present during the late 1800’s, and the fact that Cross is putting her own twists on various famous literary creations.  I’m waiting for more to pop out.

I like the fact that Finley was able to take care of herself, and that she’s deciding what she wants and on her own timetable- a lot of romances that are set in this era (admittedly for adults) are oh, you must wed the Duke/Count/Nobleman and then make the best of it, and then they fall together forever and ever and everything is perfect.  Nope, not here, and I don’t think there will be perfect shiny happy ever with the way their powers are going.  Even though Finley merges her personalities by the end, who knows where that is going to lead to.  The fact that Griffin is growing in his abilities to reach the Aether, as well as Emily gaining abilities she didn’t even have before coming to the estate, leads me to believe that things will get dicey rather quickly.

I’m enjoying the series, but I’m not sure that I would recommend it to my romance readers- I’d definitely give it to my steampunkers and my geeks, but the first chunk of the book could put off the romancers who want more story and less world building.

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What’s the (Short) Story?

In my review of The Curiosities, I mention that short stories seem to be a hard sell to teens.  Most often, they are also a mixed bag; I have yet to come across a short story collection where I thought every story was a divine work of inspiration (although The Curiosities comes close).  But here are 5 short story collections that I think are must have for teens and the libraries that serve them . . .


Steampunk Poe
They are the original works of Poe with Steampunk illustrations.  You can never go wrong with Poe.



Cornered
Although there are some good stories about being bullied, standing up to bullies, etc., the reason this book is a must have is for the short story How Auto-Tune Saved My Life, a story that reminds us that sometimes adults in positions of power can be bullies.  This is a must read for all teachers.

Dear Teen Me
It’s such a unique concept and a great look at life as a teenager, and an important reminder that most of us make it out alive and relatively unscathed.

The Letter Q: Queer writers notes to their younger selves
David Levithan, Malinda Lo and more talk about growing up, coming out and surviving as they learned to understand their sexuality and embrace who they are.

And of course, The Curiosities

Now it’s your turn. What short story collections are on your must have list and why?