Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Steampunk”

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #44: The Falling Machine by Andrew P. Mayer

Target: Andrew P. Mayer’s The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam #1)

Profile: Steampunk, Superhero Fiction

Confession time.  I accidentally left my Kindle at home over the Thanksgiving vacation and was forced to pick up some reading material in the airport.  I wasn’t super excited about The Falling Machine, but it had a pretty cover.  And I was in a hurry.  Publishers, take note.

There is very little of substance to Falling Machine.  It is a wannabe comic book that draws so heavily on its inspiration that there isn’t much left for the reader to discover.  If you’re at all familiar with the steampunk genre, or the plot of Watchmen, you’re already covered most of the territory.  What fills in the gaps is bland but inoffensive writing.  On the plus side, there’s not much in the way of technobabble, but the science is so flimsy it might as well be a fantasy.

Read the rest of the review…

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Katie’s #CBR4 Review #52: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Title: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: It was everything I hoped for – awesome integration of a steampunk society with supernatural elements plus hilarious characters.

“First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.” Alexia is afflicted with these and a variety of other social stigmas which she bravely soldiers through, all while dealing with suspicion that she is responsible for recent vampire disappearances. She handles even the most uncouth behavior with remarkable poise, a sharp wit, and a bxcziting sense of humor. And somehow, in the midst of it all, she manages to begin a startlingly wonderful romance.

Read more on Doing Dewey.

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #41: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

Target: Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4/ex)

Profile: Fantasy, Western, Steampunk

Waxillium is a stupid name.  Okay, so you wanted to call your protagonist Wax.  Fine.  There are better ways to get there.  Ways that don’t leave the guy sounding like a posh hair-removal process.  Uh… where was I?

I’m developing problems with Brandon Sanderson.  Yes, I really enjoyed The Way of Kings and the first two Mistborn books, but The Hero of Ages left me with a really bad taste in my mouth.  The biggest problem was that Sanderson had padded out the last book with reused scenes from the first two, and spent more time re-telling the history of the world he had built than he spent moving the story forward.  Now with his fourth Mistborn book, one separated from its predecessors by three hundred years and a canonical world reboot, Sanderson is STILL using the same damn ballroom scenes!

Read the rest of the review…

Read Fofo’s reviews of the Mistborn books

ElCicco #CBR4 Review#47: Hopeless, Maine by Tom and Nimue Brown

I’m reviewing yet another web comic! Last time it was the outstanding Darths and Droids. This time, it’s a series called Hopeless Maine. Book 1 “Personal Demons” is available in hardback book form. Book 2 “Inheritance” is available on the web site. My husband brought “Personal Demons” home from the comic book store and I was drawn to it by the art. Like the story, it is sort of dark/gothic. The authors describe their style as gothic/steampunk.

The story takes place on an island, Hopeless Maine, that is isolated from contact with outsiders. For reasons unexplained, many children on the island are orphans and end up cared for by a local minister and his wife. The main character, Salamandra, is an orphan who seems to possess some sort of magical power. It is unclear what has happened to her parents, but she seems glad to be rid of them. At the orphanage, she has a hard time fitting in with the other kids except for another girl who is either an imaginary friend or malevolent spirit, and Owen, the son of the minister who runs the orphanage. Salamandra has also befriended a crow and has contact with others on the island who also possess special powers.

In vol. 2, Owen’s mother dies and he wants desperately to leave the island. Sal finds out she has a living grandfather who lives in the lighthouse that is never needed because ships never pass by. Owen and Sal’s grandfather make a plan to leave, while Sal assists them and stays behind at the lighthouse. Will they return? Will Sal’s powers develop? And why are there so many deaths on the island? And why is it so hard to leave?

Some of the art details are lovely — there is an art nouveau feel to it and the magical creatures are unique. The human characters are less distinguishable from one another, which makes it a little confusing sometimes to follow the story. They look a little like goth Precious Moments.

The storyline is intriguing and I look forward to following the mystery as it unravels. Hopeless Maine is safe reading for kids, unless you are weirded out by the occult, in which case you probably don’t allow Harry Potter in the house either.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #31 – Cinder by Marissa Meyer

*Audiobook Review*

OK, I read this book a couple of months ago, so I’m fuzzy on a lot of the details.  Basically, this is a steam-punk/futuristic retelling of Cinderella.  Cinder is a cyborg, living in New Beijing with her wicked step-mother and step-sisters.  Cyborgs are the lowest class of society.  Most people view them as no better than robots, which are treated as slaves.  However, Cinder is the best mechanic in the city, so she gets the freedom to work at the market.  There is a breakout of some kind of plague, and Cinder is volunteered by her evil bitch step-mother to be used as a test subject.  Telling anymore would be giving too much away.

I really enjoyed this book, but I’m getting really sick of reading series.  Can’t an author write one good stand-alone story? This book is the first of a quadrology, and they are only planning on releasing one book a year.  I’m getting old and my memory is too bad for that.  I can’t remember what happened that far apart. This is the book that inspired my new rule: No more reading a book in a series until the entire series is published.  I’m still waiting on the third book in the Exiles series by Melanie Rawn.  The second was published in 1997.  I will eventually finish this series, but probably not until all four books are available.

4/5 Stars

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #81: Riveted by Meljean Brook

Annika has grown up in a small secluded village in Iceland, populated entirely by women, who have kept it well-hidden through stories of witches and trolls in the area. She’s been travelling for four years, trying to find her sister, who took the blame for Annika’s nearly revealing the location of the town to the outside world, had a massive row with the elders, and left.

David Kentewess is a vulcanologist desperate to find the village Annika is from, as his mother’s dying words was that he bury an heirloom necklace by the sacred mountain close to where she was born. When he meets Annika, he recognises her accent, and tries desperately to share her secrets. While drawn to David, Annika can’t reveal the secrets of her home and the women there, whether threatened or cajoled. And before long, both Annika and David have much more to worry about than their growing attraction to each other and whatever promises they made to their families.

I will say this for Meljean Brook, after The Iron Duke and Heart of Steel, I thought I knew a little bit of what to expect. I was wrong. Well, I expected clever writing and interesting world building, and multi-faceted characters who I’d enjoy reading about, and I got all that. But story wise, this was completely different from the other two Iron Seas novels, and the start of the novel gave me absolutely no hints of where the story was going to end up. Suffice to say, Annika and David are absolutely nothing like the protagonists of the previous two novels Brook has written in her alternate history, pseudo-Victorian Steampunk world.

Annika has been raised purely by women, in a community where women either go off to get pregnant (some stay with their baby daddies if they have sons), or bring home foundling girls from other places. Same sex relationships are very common, to the point where Annika clearly feels slightly sad that she hasn’t seemed to find a romantic relationship with any of the girls she grew up with. Nick-named “Rabbit” growing up, she still finds the tremendous courage to go off into the wider world to find her sister, visiting a number of new places on the airship where she serves as an engineer, and David is both amused and baffled by her lack of self-insight when he sees her many acts of self-sacrifice and bravery throughout the story.

David lost an arm and both his legs, and sustained a fair amount of facial scarring, in a horrible accident as a child, and his mother died to save him. He now has a mechanical eye-piece over part of his face, and mechanical limbs to replace the ones he lost. Most people naturally have trouble seeing past his artificial additions, and women especially seem either repulsed by him or excessively pity him. So when Annika, unused to men in general, treats him with kindness and openness, he’s drawn to her even before he recognises her accent to be the same as his mother’s. In no way an alpha male, David is deeply reluctant to pursue Annika, because of his previous bad luck around women.

The development of their friendship and later romance is a wonderful, slow and gradual process (frankly, both characters were almost too convinced of the other’s disinterest and so reluctant to approach the other that I wanted to reach into the book and shake them both). Yet I’d rather the character have time to get to know each other properly before they declare they madly love each other than fall into instant lust and/or love.

As I’ve come to expect in Brook’s novels, the world building is excellent, and while the first third of the story is very slow and sets up Annika and David’s relationship and gives us their back stories, once the plot takes a sharp turn, it’s frankly action and adventure and unexpected plot twists until the end. As in the other two Iron Seas novels, there are several breath taking action sequences that kept me at the edge of my seat, and once the story got going, I really didn’t want to put the book down. While Heart of Steel is still my absolute favourite, this is a decent second, and I can’t wait to see what Meljean Brook is going to give us next.

Also published on my blog, and Goodreads.

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews #70-74: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost, Timeless by Gail Carriger, Grave Memory by Kalayna Price, The Thief and The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

More of my backlog being cleared, here are five more reviews:

Book 70: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost. First book in new series of paranormal fantasy books, where a girl who channels electricity and can read the history of objects, and the vampireVlad Tepesh (who hates being called Dracula) fall in lust and get into hijinx. 4 stars.

Book 71: Timeless by Gail Carriger. Fifth and final novel in the Parasol Protectorate series. Fluffy fun. 3 stars.

Book 72: Grave Memory by Kalayna Price. Third book in a well-written paranormal series I discovered through Felicia Day. 3 1/2 stars.

Book 73: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. I wasn’t very impressed with this book the first time I read it, and nearly stopped reading half the way through. Boy, am I glad I stuck with it. Essential young adult literature. 4 stars.

Book 74: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. I loved this one the first time I read it, and even more on a second reading, when I really knew how clever and wonderful it was. Everyone should read this book. 5 stars.

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #25: Salute the Dark by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Target: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt #4)

Profile: Alternative Fantasy, Steampunk, Epic Fantasy

This review contains some minor spoilers.

Salute the Dark brings the first major story arc of Shadows of the Apt to a conclusion.  The book is so final it could easily be confused for the end of the series.  Protagonists die off left and right, and plotlines get resolved or shoved under expositional carpets.  But because none of the major arcs are really resolved, there is a real sense of dissatisfaction coming from the final chapters.  The Wasps are still there, stopped for the moment but far from beaten. The Emperor’s quest for immortality ended with many questions unanswered and a mess of major antagonists dead.  And Thalric changed sides four or five more times.

Read the rest of the review…

Fofo’s reviews of the rest of the Shadows of the Apt series

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #22: Phoenix Rising by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris

Target: Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris’ Phoenix Rising(Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1)

Profile: Steampunk, Mystery

I’m having a bit of a bad run.  REAMDE was obnoxiously long and mostly not good so I went after a bit of steampunk book candy in Phoenix Rising, which turned out to be mostly not good.  I wrote in my review of The Wise Man’s Fear that a good book can capture your attention and power you through exhaustion.  Conversely, a bad book will put you right to sleep.  I feel asleep six times trying to finish Phoenix Rising, and two of those times were in the middle of the day.  It could be that I’ve read enough steampunk that the setting is starting to get boring for me, but I’m more inclined to put the blame on bad writing and terrible puns.

Read the rest of the review…

Fofo’s blog moved!  Check out the new website – Deconstructive Criticism

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #15: Blood of the Mantis by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Target: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt #3) 

Profile: Alternative Fantasy, Steampunk, Epic Fantasy

Despite the fact that all but the 7th book in the Shadows of the Apt series were written before I started reading the first one, I can’t help but feel that Adrian Tchaikovsky somehow channeled my review of Dragonfly Falling when he was writing Blood of the Mantis.  It is far more likely that Tchaikovsky saw for himself where his story was going off the rails and acted to correct the problem, but the reviewer in me is a little smug about being right, even if it was 3 years after the fact.

Mantis addressed all the problems I had with Dragonfly, from the sprawling story that proved harder to follow, to the bland characters, and even the minor focus issues that plagued the battle sequences.  Unfortunately, he also overcorrected for some of these problems.  An expansive world with more than a half-dozen plots is suddenly replaced with a tight narrative at the expense of several unresolved stories and lost PoV characters.  The remaining cast starts to flesh out a little, but become strangled by their reduced plotlines.  Tchaikovsky also hasn’t stopped introducing new concepts and characters to the still complex setting.  These new elements feel flat at best and extraneous at worst.  In spite of these weaknesses, the book completely succeeds in its task: prolonging the series and setting up the next book.

Read the rest of the review…

Fofo’s reviews of the rest of the Shadows of the Apt series

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