Blog Tour! The Spiritglass Charade

11 Oct

The Spiritglass Charade

Stoker & Holmes #2
Book 1: The Clockwork Scarab

author : colleen gleason

pages : [hardcover] 360

favorite characters : mina & evaline

summary :

After the Affair of the Clockwork Scarab, Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes are eager to help Princess Alix with a new case. Seventeen-year-old Willa Aston is obsessed with spiritual mediums, convinced she is speaking with her mother from beyond the grave. What seems like a case of spiritualist fraud quickly devolves into something far more menacing: someone is trying to make Willa “appear lunatic,” using an innocent-looking spiritglass to control her. The list of clues piles up: an unexpected murder, a gang of pickpockets, and the return of vampires to London. But are these events connected? As Uncle Sherlock would say, “there are no coincidences.” It will take all of Mina’s wit and Evaline’s muscle to keep London’s sinister underground at bay.

review:

If you haven’t already started this series, now is the perfect time to begin! You’ll have not one but two amazing mysteries to devour.

I loved The Clockwork Scarab and was infinitely excited when I learned it was going to be part of a series! I felt like there was so much more that could be done with the characters and The Spiritglass Charade really captured not only our leading ladies but the secondary characters as well. Mina and Evaline are truly a force to be reckoned with! I absolutely love seeing such strong women in this setting. As a steampunk book set in the Victorian Era, obviously there’s some sexism going on. Whenever Evaline and Mina need to face this, they kick butt and take no names. Honestly, throughout the entire book I was trying to decide which was my favorite. Maybe Evaline because I wish that I could be more like her, physically overpowering anyone who thought I was too weak to handle them. Or maybe Mina because she’s smart enough to outwit anyone, especially the men who think a woman can’t be an investigative spy.

And all of this is embedded in a wonderful, mysterious plot! I love how these stories are anything but predictable because of the way they unfold. While the ladies investigate, I’m trying to gauge what clue might lead them to their next step, but I only figure it out when they do. Which is wonderful, really, even though I’d like to think that I’d be better at solving mysteries! Sadly, it doesn’t seem like that’ll be my calling.

Another thing that I absolutely love about these books is the writing style. For me, the way an author writes is definitely a make or break situation and Gleason blew me away. Her writing is just the right mixture of cool, detached mystery combined with fantastical, complex imagery. Whatever she writes, I’ll be willing to pick up!

I’d recommend this book to anyone. It’s a fairly quick read. While it’s the kind of series that focuses on a different problem within each novel, you’ll only get the full effect (and love the characters even more!) if you pick up both books . . . and book three, whenever that’s released!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW :

 

 Did something inspire you to write the Stoker & Holmes series?

When I was writing my series about a female vampire hunter who lives in Regency-era England, my editor at the time said I should consider writing a steampunk novel one day.

I had no idea what steampunk was at the time (this was in 2006, when hardly anyone seemed to know what steampunk was!), but I looked it up and was fascinated by the idea of melding a historical setting with technology, literary characters, and an alternate history. So I let the idea perk for several years until I realized I wanted to write a steampunk novel for teens.

Then I began to think about how I would approach something like that, and what cast of characters I’d pull together. I wanted a “girl-power” team—a group of characters that appreciated the strengths and weaknesses of young women (whether they be male or female), because I thought it would be fascinating to juxtapose that sort of power over a time period where the female gender was very repressed—ie, Victorian England.

Add to that the fact that I am a big Sherlock Holmes geek, and wanted to write a female version of that amazing detective—plus my love for vampire hunters—et voilá! The Stoker and Holmes series was born.

What did you find most challenging about writing The Spiritglass Charade?

I would say that the most challenging—but yet most important part—of writing this second book in the series was to make sure both main characters showed some sort of character growth. They have to change somehow between the beginning and the end of the novel, and they will have to continue to change throughout the rest of the series (a planned five books). So not only am I working on significant character development for one character, as in most books, I really have to focus on two of them. So it’s twice the fun!

Have you been influenced by any particular writer’s style?

Yes indeed. When writing the Stoker & Holmes books in particular, I find myself heavily influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself (for obvious reasons), as well as Elizabeth Peters, who wrote with such a wry, pedantic, witty style—particularly in her Amelia Peabody books.

Who do you think you’re more like, Evaline or Mina?

Ha! Trick question…with a trick answer. I have elements of both young women in my makeup. I can be controlling, particular, and pedantic like Mina, and I am also socially capable, friendly, and sometimes impetuous like Evaline!

If you could meet any fictional character, who would you pick?

Hermione Granger.

Have you ever had the chance to solve a mystery?

Not in real life, though I’ve written several of them. Probably doesn’t count, though, does it?

What is the last book you read?

I just finished reading Someone in the House (a modern gothic/ghost story) by Barbara Michaels.

So, is anyone else incredibly excited to hear that there will be at least five books in this series! Because I’m so happy.

Follow the  rest of the tour!

 

Day Post Date

Blog

URL
Tuesday 10/7/2014 Esther’s Ever After http://everafteresther.blogspot.com
Wednesday 10/8/2014 Chronicle Books Blog http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/
Thursday 10/9/2014 Anna’s Book Blog http://annavivian.blogspot.com/
Friday 10/10/2014 Kid Lit Frenzy www.kidlitfrenzy.com
Saturday 10/11/2014 Caught Between the Pages http://caughtbetweenthepages.wordpress.com
Sunday 10/12/2014 Mother Daughter Book Club http://motherdaughterbookclub.com
Monday 10/13/2014 Cracking the Cover www.crackingthecover.com
Tuesday 10/14/2014 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia http://hauntedorchid.blogspot.com
Wednesday 10/15/2014 Forever Young Adult www.foreveryoungadult.com
Thursday 10/16/2014 SciFiChick.com Http://SciFiChick.com
Friday 10/17/2014 On Emily’s Bookshelf www.onemilysbookshelf.com

 If you’re into Steampunk things, like the world Mina and Evaline live in, think about throwing an awesome Steampunk party!

The Stoker & Holmes Guide to Throwing a Steampunk Party

//www.scribd.com/embeds/235972297/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true

Of course, for a party like that, you’ll need a great costume!

 

7 Tips for Making a Steampunk Costume (A Stoker and Holmes Guide)

//www.scribd.com/embeds/235971517/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true

 

 Start Reading the First Book!!

Clockwork Scarab Excerpt Scribd

A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached

11 Oct

 

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return

author : zeina abirached

pages : [hardcover] 188

summary :

When Zeina was born, the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for six years, so it’s just a normal part of life for her and her parents and her little brother. The city of Beirut is cut in two, separated by bricks and sandbags and threatened by snipers and shelling. East Beirut is for Christians, and West Beirut is for Muslims. When Zeina’s parents don’t return one afternoon from a visit to the other half of the city, and the bombing grows ever closer, the neighbors in her apartment house create a world indoors for Zeina and her brother where it’s comfy and safe, where they can share cooking lessons and games and gossip. Together they try to make it through a dramatic day in the one place they hoped they would always be safehome. Zeina Abirached, born into a Lebanese Christian family in 1981, has collected her childhood recollections of Beirut in a warm story about the strength of family and community.

review :

This graphic novel was very interesting! It taught me about a point of history that I’ve honestly never heard of before and need to learn more about. It isn’t like history classes are fixating on places like Lebanon, even if those conflicts could certainly be learned from. I’m glad that there are writers out there telling these stories so that people  like me can learn a little and then be intrigued enough to research it further.

I think what’s most interesting and confusing about the novel is that Zeina and her brother are presented as the main characters but they’re hardly in the book. They’re simply observers as the adults talk politics, worry about the coming bombs, and wonder why Zeina’s parents haven’t arrived home yet. While I really liked how most of the book was situated in the space of one day, giving a snapshot of life underneath this oppressive war, I think knowing more about the family dynamics would have been an improvement. It would have also been nice to see, perhaps in flashback, more about Zeina and her past as it relates to her perception of the terrible present.

The art was a little unconventional but I think that it worked for the book. It wasn’t my favorite style but I could certainly appreciate its presence in the narrative as it added a lot to the story.

I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy graphic memoir or are interested in historical accounts. It’s a quick read so even if you’re wanting to read something out of your typical genre, you could pick it up and sample it quickly.

3/5 stars

Graphic Novel Week!

10 Oct

Hey everyone! If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that my reading doesn’t typically sway toward graphic novels. I’ve read some based on storylines I already love (like the graphic version of The Lightning Thief and companion books to the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender). Some that I thought that I would like but which turned me away from the form, temporarily, like Neverland.

But I’ve heard about some great ones lately that have really made me interested in that diverse genre! I’m also researching these books to possibly use for a major paper I have coming up, which is awesome. What’s better than using the books you read for fun to get an A in class?

So, all this week I’ll be posting (among other things!) reviews to the stack of graphic novels I devoured this week. Some were much better than others, but it had me interested enough to reserve others at the library! Hopefully I can get to some of the novels that I’ve heard recommended over and over again.

If you’re into graphic novels, please recommend some to me! I’d love to hear about what you love to read. Are there any that you think I should never try? Comment below so we can talk about it!

A Sister to Scheherazade by Assia Djebar

6 Oct

 

A Sister to Scheherazade

author : assia djebar

pages : [paperback] 176

favorite character : hajila

summary :

Isma and Hajila are both wives of the same man, but they are not rivals.

Isma – older, vibrant, passionate, emancipated – is in stark contrast to the passive, cloistered Hajila. In alternating chapters, Isma tells her own story in the first person, and then Hajila’s in the second person. She details how she escaped from the traditional restraints imposed upon the women of her country – and how, in making her escape, she condemns Hajila to those very restraints. When Hajila catches a glimpse of an unveiled woman, she realized that she, too, wants a life beyond the veil, and it is Isma who offers her the key to her own freedom.

review :

Sister to Scheherazade is a fascinating story of female oppression framed by the story of Scheherazade. She is a woman who escapes death every morning by refusing to tell the end of her story to her husband, who wants to kill her but keeps delaying her death so that he might hear the end of her tales. Eventually he falls in love with her and she isn’t in danger of being murdered any longer. Hajila is in danger as well but from a different kind of death. Because she is forced to veil herself completely, because her family wishes and expects for her to remain inside her home like a proper woman would do, she will suffer a kind of death from the world and also lose a sense of self.

I really liked how the story was narrated. Isma is telling Hajila’s story; it’s symbolic in itself that Hajila has no say in what is told about her life. Hajila is the ‘you’ of the book while Isma remains the ‘I’, having freed herself of her husband who would have controlled and restricted all of her movements. While of course I hate reading about women who are treated so terribly, I can appreciate this book for it’s presentation of this flawed society in which little freedoms can seem like enough to live for. It’s terrible that women need to live their lives this way, completely under the constraints of men.

I don’t think that the writing was strong enough to carry the characters. While there were many short, powerful lines, I feel like the style didn’t do enough to make up for a rather passive plot. Isma is telling her story but she needs to make up much of it for Hajila because she can only imagine how the other woman might feel. There aren’t many incidents or exciting things that happen in this book.

I would certainly recommend it, not for a pleasurable read but something that will be thought-provoking and promote helping women around the world find equality and freedom.

3.5/5 stars

 

Asylum by Madeline Roux

5 Oct

 

Asylum 

Asylum #1

author : madeline roux

pages : [hardcover] 313

favorite character : abby

memorable quote No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.

summary :

Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux’s teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

review :

Asylum tries to do something that too many horror stories have done before. An asylum is a terrifying place. I hate the concept of losing control over what happens to yourself, both physically and mentally. There are plenty of stories about sane people being tormented in asylums, tortured patients coming back to haunt the living, and dead doctors attempting to experiment on intruders in closed asylums. Roux’s novel plays on all of that, though not in a new, exciting light.

I think that I could have forgiven the contrived horror if the characters had been more distinctive; I never truly got to know them because too much about the book was never explained in order to fixate on things that might make situations creepier to the reader. Despite the pictures cleverly inserted in the book to make the reader see what Dan is finding in this closed asylum turned dorm, I never found myself truly scared or afraid for these characters. And I’m usually someone who can be kept awake at night by anything.

Without a horrific plot or interesting characters, what does Asylum have? An unrealistic setting. No sane college campus would put student in an old asylum without clearing out the building first! They can’t honestly expect that teenagers wouldn’t go poking around where they don’t belong. With all of the medical instruments and other deadly stuff in the basement, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. It was odd to me that Dan and his friends were the only ones interested in and fixated upon the fact that the building used to house mental patients. Well, maybe not so surprised because we don’t really get to hear about any students other than Dan and his two friends.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone looking for a frightening story that’ll keep them up at night. I can’t really think of who this book will appeal to. Apparently there’s a sequel to this, which I might pick up out of pure curiosity to see where else this plot is going to go. It kind of ended itself in Asylum, so I don’t see why book two is necessary. I think this horror series is one you can skip.

2/5 stars

The Dark Bride by Laura Restrepo

4 Oct

 

The Dark Bride

author : laura restrepo

pages : [paperback] 368

summary :

Once a month, the refinery workers of the Tropical Oil Company descend upon Tora, a city in the Colombian forest. They journey down from the mountains searching for earthly bliss and hoping to encounter Sayonara, the legendary Indian prostitute who rules their squalid paradise like a queen. Beautiful, exotic, and mysterious, Sayonara, the undisputed barrio angel, captivates whoever crosses her path. Then, one day, she violates the unwritten rules of her profession and falls in love with a man she can never have. Sayonara’s unrequited passion has tragic consequences not only for her, but for all those whose lives ultimately depend on the Tropical Oil Company.

A slyly humorous yet poignant love story, The Dark Bride lovingly recreates the lusty, heartrending world of Colombian prostitutes and the men of the oil fields who are entranced by them. Full of wit and intelligence, tragedy and compassion, The Dark Bride is luminous and unforgettable.

review :

The Dark Bride is an intense book that will definitely keep you interested, though it isn’t the best novel that I’ve ever read. I needed to read it for class and found myself needing to push through it because I wasn’t very connected with the characters. I thought that the setting was interesting and was depressed about the lack of possibilities for the men and especially the women living in this area. I haven’t read much about Colombia so in itself I thought that it was a good experience to read more about a place that I’m not so informed about.

I think that the writing in this book is great! I really liked it, though I realize that this is a translation. It’s impossible to tell what the author would have chosen to say if she’d written the novel originally in English. I’m glad that I read a good translation, then, that got me interested in the book. I think that plenty of people who wouldn’t normally reach for this type of book would like the writing and get into the plot because of it. I definitely don’t read fiction like this when I typically read for pleasure but I’m trying to expand my horizons. I think that this is a good novel to pick if you’re looking to learn more about the world and read something outside of your typical box.

I’d recommend this book but I wouldn’t say that it’s one you should push yourself to read. If you’re looking to read something not so mainstream and that’ll make you more informed about another culture, try out The Dark Bride.

3/5 stars

A Pinch of Ooh La La by Renee Swindle

29 Sep

 

A Pinch of Ooh La La

Author : renee swindle

pages : [paperback] 336

favorite character : bendrix &

summary :

To get to happily ever after, sometimes you need to start from scratch….

Abbey Ross, who runs her own bakery in Oakland, California, is known for her visually stunning wedding cakes. But lately, Abbey’s own love life has become stale. According to her best friend, Bendrix, Abbey’s not the spontaneous young woman she was when they were teenagers listening to the Cure and creating attention-grabbing graffiti. Of course, her failed relationship with a womanizing art forger might have something to do with that. Nevertheless, it’s time for Abbey to step out of the kitchen—and her comfort zone—and Bendrix has even handpicked a man for her to date.

Samuel Howard is everything Abbey’s dreamed of: handsome, successful, and looking to raise a family. But a creamy icing might be needed to hide a problem or two. When Samuel complains about disrespect for the institution of marriage, Abbey’s reminded of her nontraditional family, with thirteen children from various mothers. And when Samuel rails about kids having kids, Abbey thinks of her twenty-year-old sister who’s recently revealed her pregnancy.

Soon Abbey is facing one disaster after another and struggling to make sense of it all. Her search for love has led her down a bitter path, but with the help of her unique family and unwavering friends, she just might find the ooh la la that makes life sweet.

review :

A Pinch of Ooh La La has good ideas, yet doesn’t execute them well. I went into the book thinking it’d be a cutesy story about Abbey’s search for love as well as finding herself. Unfortunately I was disappointed with how this book played out.

Abbey is nearing forty and sees her chance to be a mother ticking away as time goes on. There’s no harm in her worry because I think that she’d be a wonderful mother; seeing the way she interacted with her younger siblings as well as nieces and nephews only confirmed that. But she’s much too eager to find a man to ‘complete’ her life, especially when she’s doing very well on her own and has had terrible experiences with men in the past. Enter online dating (as it always happens in novels, she’s forced into it by her friends; I’ve never seen a story where online dating is the woman’s idea) and finally Samuel. He’s gorgeous, successful, and is quite nice to her. Unfortunately, as soon as Abbey meets him in the book, that’s when the plot begins to get awkward. She goes on a few dates with him and all of a sudden the novel skips ahead nine months. Then it starts skipping years. When I picked up this book I never imagined that the plot was going to cover such an enormous time span! It felt too forced and I couldn’t grasp how characters were developing when we weren’t given a chance to see them.

I also didn’t enjoy how predictable this novel was. While I really did like Abbey’s character, I didn’t understand some of the things that she put up with. She had such a strong family preaching great values to her, even if they were an unconventional family, that I can’t fathom some of her decisions. I’m not going to spoil anything, but during the novel I knew that I’d be extremely mad if it didn’t end the way that I was thinking it should. Some of the relationships in this book just aren’t healthy and it’s frustrating when characters, through no explanation, deal with insulting circumstances without a fight.

While I do think that so much could have been done with this book, I’m not sure that others will like it more than I did. Perhaps people who are older, closer to Abbey’s age, might enjoy reading such a novel because it does end with a good message. I particularly appreciated that. Yet for now, I think I’d say to skip this book.

3/5 stars

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