Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Morning Star (The Katerina Trilogy Vol III) by Robin Bridges

Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not as a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katrina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katrina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.

Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so.  Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fiancĂ©, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina’s focus remains on the sword. Russia’s fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow (summary courtesy of Goodreads).

The Morning Star is the third book in the Katrina Trilogy, which includes The Gathering Storm (Katerina #1 and The Unfailing Light (Katerina #2). I have absolutely loved each book in the series. Robin Bridges has managed to make this series one worth reading. This doesn’t always happen with a young adult trilogy. More often or not, the second or third book in a trilogy will be lacking in story or action. Not so with The Morning Star. Bridges was able to bring Katerina’s story full circle and write a satisfying conclusion to a very good story.

As in the first two books, Robin Bridges brings the world of the paranormal to life in 1890s Russia. It is such a seamless blending of two worlds that you might forget that vampires and werewolves didn't walk the streets alongside fairies and necromancers in the Imperial Court of St. Petersburg. That is one of my favorite things about this trilogy; how easy it is to believe that this was truly Katerina's world.  

I was worried about getting back into that world, but Bridges is such a fantastic writer that she eases you back into the world and you are engrossed before you know it.  I love Katerina; she is such a strong female character. I thoroughly enjoy watching her kick butt.  And she does plenty of that in this book.

Katerina must fight against enemies, both familiar and unfamiliar, while traveling through a country she knows very little about. Every minute is a struggle to survive and every second brings the lich tsar closer to taking over the throne. Katerina must use everything at her disposal to stop Konstantin from taking over her beloved Russia. Not only that, but she must avoid the unwanted attentions of her former fiance, Prince Danilo, deal with the changes her mother has gone through and fight for the love of George Alexandrovich. Katerina's plate is so full it's overflowing. 

If you are a fan of the Katerina trilogy, The Morning Star is a must read. And if you haven’t picked up this wonderful series, do it now! It is beautifully written, rich in history and overflowing with romance. I love this series and I hope others will enjoy it as much as I have.

My grade for The Morning Star by Robin Bridges:

Want to check out other reviews on The Morning Star blog tour? Check these out:

August 18thThe Hiding Spot
August 19thYA Bibliophile
August 19th
Bibliophile Support Group
August 21st
Candace’s Book Blog
August 22nd
Mom Reads My Books
August 23rd
Marmalade Libby
August 24th
My Life is a Notebook
August 26th
Imaginary Reads
August 26th
Reader Girls
August 27th
Kimba Caffeinated
August 28thPage Turners Blog
August 29thBook Rook Reviews


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

(book jacket photo courtesy of Goodreads)

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one...except the "thing" inside her. When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no "normal" Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch...

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

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

But The Machinist wants to tear Griffin's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on--even if no one believes her (summary courtesy of Goodreads). 

I am just venturing into the world of Steampunk. I read the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare and LOVED it, but I never actually got the fact that it was considered Steampunk until just recently. I was too wrapped up in the Shadowhunter world. But I digress. Anyway, I honestly consider this my first "official" Steampunk novel. And unfortunately, I was disappointed.

I really wanted to love this novel. Just looking at the gorgeous cover makes you want it to be good, makes you want to devour every word.  But, The Girl in the Steel Corset fell short for me. 

Let's start by saying, I know I am reading a Steampunk novel. That's one of the reasons I'm reading it. Please don't remind me every few pages that not only is this Victorian England, but there are things here that are just not possible, like the automatons. I got the impression Ms. Cross felt the need to constantly remind her readers that this is a novel set in the past and filled with improbable gadgets. It got very tiring, very fast. Every time a new gadget was introduced, I was reminded that this was not probable during that time period. I know! Let me read the book and have the story be so amazing that I am drawn into the world you created. Don't tell me, show me.

Also, a little research goes a long way. If you are going to set a novel in Victorian London, make sure you know what you are writing about. I got the impression that Ms. Cross didn't know that much about the time period she chose for her novel. One of the reasons I have been excited to read Steampunk is because of the time period it is set in. I really felt like the story was a modern story plunked down in the late 19th century, with little to no effort expended to help the reader feel as if they were in 1897. And in this supposed "proper" world where there is constant worry about anything inappropriate happening, a lot of "inappropriate" things happen. As a way to remind us that this is the 1890s in Victorian London, the author tosses in frequent references to improprieties and the inappropriateness of the characters' actions. Though she seems to ignore those improprieties just pages later. Not only that, but I felt like she didn't know that much about the country she chose as her setting. Most of what she wrote about London could have been read on Wikipedia. And the couple of references made about Queen Victoria could have been pulled from the episode of Doctor Who about her. "I am not amused" is perhaps the most over-used line for a non-fictional character ever. And it's used in this book. Very disappointing, considering the Queen is an oft-wrote about part of this book. 

Perhaps the biggest issue I had with this book was the lack of character development and character consistency. Now, I know this is a YA book, and they are notorious for character development issues, but I felt like the characters and relationships could have been better written. The various characters' back stories could have been an entire book themselves. I felt as if I walked into a story already in progress and I had missed a lot of what I needed to know. The most emphasis seemed to be placed on getting Sam's back story out. While it was important to the plot, so were other stories, in particular Griffin's. I felt as if he was glossed over and I was just supposed to like him because he was the male lead of the story. I liked Emily, but unfortunately we never learned much about her. Jack Dandy was another interesting character with little to no story, as was Griffin's Aunt Cordelia. Another character with a lot of potential was the American, Jasper. Unfortunately, he came off very stereotypical, with his "Howdies" and his cowboy boots and hat. Incidentally, my least favorite character was Sam, one of the characters the most time was spent on. I found him whiny and annoying. And don't get me started on the two, yes TWO, love triangles evident in The Girl in the Steel Corset. Both of which were very under-developed or downright unlikely. How exactly does one fall in love with a girl they have met once and talked to for 10 minutes? I guess when you need a love triangle (though I'm not sure exactly why there had to be one), the improbable will happen. As the reader, I was never shown that the characters were falling for each other, I was told they were. I was supposed to accept it based on being told it was happening, rather than watching it come to fruition on its own. 

Finally, this novel tries to throw too much in the pot at one time. It's Steampunk, it's paranormal, it's romance, it's science fiction. There are too many things overlapping and struggling to be included. Ms. Cross borrowed heavily from other books, in particular the Infernal Devices series (the use of runes on the body, the flesh on automatons) as well as comic books (superhero powers and super-healing).  

There was one thing that did stand out for me and that was Ms. Cross's knowledge of mechanics and various machinery. Perhaps the most well-written parts of the book were those written about the automatons, the velocycles, and the various other gadgets she created for this story. If only that effort had also gone into building the characters as well, this would have been a much better book.

My grade for The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross:


Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm Back! With Sincere Apologies and Lame Excuses.

I feel awful. I mean really awful. I have neglected this blog for nearly a year. But I do have my reasons.

What started out as a fun hobby and a place to showcase books I enjoyed rapidly turned into a very time-consuming job that I wasn't getting paid to do.  That is completely my fault. I took on far more than I could chew (so to speak).

First of all, I agreed to read and review more books than any sane person could read in a year, let alone the short amount of time I was giving myself (roughly six months).  Again, totally my fault. I can't say no. I get an email asking me to read and review a book, I say "Sure! Why not?"  I had my list of books to read at well over 150 books.  This included books I agreed to review and books I just wanted to read. That list of books would have required me to read roughly one or more books A DAY. Not going to happen. I do love to read, but I also have a life.

Second, I got a new job. In my previous job, I could read frequently during the day. I mean, I could read A LOT, sometimes for hours at a time. Unfortunately, it paid practically nothing. And I couldn't afford to keep working it. So, I found a new job with more hours and more pay. But, no more reading at work. I barely have time to take my lunch, let alone pick up a book to read. When I get home, I have to cook, clean, chauffeur my kids around and be a mom and a wife. I was only grabbing time to read for about a half an hour before bed and a lot of the time, I fell asleep while reading. Oops.

Finally, I was trying too hard.  I was trying to write reviews that were earth-shattering. Ground-breaking. Amazing. And too much work. I realized I just needed to tell people what I thought about a book. Did I like it, love it or hate it? Was it just "meh?" I needed to stop trying so hard and just write the review. I'm not Shakespeare or Jane Austen or Emily Bronte. I'm Amie, a mom who reads the books her kids read and writes reviews about them. I need to embrace that and run with it.

I am re-dedicating myself to this blog. I can't promise a new book review every week or even every other week. But I am going to try to post reviews at least once or twice a month. I'm also not going to work so hard at posting a review. I am just going to write what I think about a book, instead of killing myself to write some masterpiece.

Hopefully I haven't lost too many of you. I apologize to those who were frequent visitors to my blog and I let you down. I hope I can regain your trust.