Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Misadventures as a Teenage Rock Star by Joyce Raskin and Carol Chu

What You Need to Know:  Fourteen year old Alex finds herself via playing bass and skateboarding in this slight novel.

Summary:  Alexis, age 14, is miserable.  She is neither blonde, nor pretty, nor cool.  All she can do is cry and mope.  However, once her older brother suggests that she learn to play bass in a friend's band, her life turns around.  Now a "rock-chick",  she wears combat boots and revels in her new found coolness. But just being on the bass and in the band might not be enough for Alex. 

What Worked:  Alex, formerly obsessed with being like the girls in magazines, figures herself out by the end of the book.  Kind of.   Chu's doodles, while not vital to the text, add a fun and whimsical note. 

What Didn't:  The only word I can use to describe this book is lightweight.  And, that's a shame, as it glosses over some fairly heavy issues.  Sexism in music, teen gender roles, sexual assault, drugs, cheating boyfriends -- they're all here, and none are examined very deeply. 

This book is very short, only 112 pages, with some of the back matter devoted to how-tos on buying and playing a guitar and writing songs.   The slimness might work to attract reluctant readers, but it works against creating a compelling story.  Amazing things happen to Alex, but the story doesn't pause to contemplate them, as it moves on to the next chapter. 

Finally, the voice felt a little young for me, and aside from the drug use, I could see this being more appealing to a middle grade audience. 

Who would I give this book to:  Reluctant readers with an interest in music.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

What You Need to Know:  The steampunk superhero conceit will draw in readers, but the excessive length, meandering plot and predictability of this book will turn off all but the most determined.

Summary:  Finley, a servant girl in "reduced circumstances" fears the angry thing inside of her.  When, upon being attacked, the thing causes her to harm the young lord of her household, she runs into the night.  As fate would have it, she runs directly into Griffin King, a young nobleman with exceptional abilities of his own.  Griffin is the head of a group of gifted young people who serve the English crown.  The energy that feeds the automatons was discovered by Griffin's parents, but now, the automatons are beginning to turn on their masters.  However, the criminal known only as the Machinist has other plans, for Griffin and his group...

What Worked:  The idea of a team of teenage, steampunk superheroes is a good one.  The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Finely's abilities is not the most original idea ever, but a Victorian girl learning to harness her darker nature is intriguing.

Emily, the genius inventor of Griffin's crew, is a great character.  Spunky, bright, brave and loyal, she is by far the most interesting thing about this book.

What Didn't:  Dear goddess, this book is long.   So very long, particularly for a book that could be described as The League of Extraordinary X-Men the First Class.

Cross switches between viewpoint characters frequently, which would be interesting if her characters had more depth.  Each of the members of the team came right out of central casting -- angry young man, confused girl, handsome rogue.  I admit to being charmed by Emily -- Spunky Girl Inventor -- but even she has been done a thousand times before.  Stock characters could be forgiven, if the plot of the book was less predictable.  Any reader with a basic understanding of superhero comics or Victorian mysteries will see where this book is headed, even as it takes its own sweet time about getting there.

Who Would I Give This Book To:   Fans of the steampunk genre will probably want to give this one a look, and it would be an interesting diversion for superhero fans.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Foray into Paranormal Romance

I am not a romance reader, and double that for paranormal romance.

But, The Iron Duke.  Damn, I love that book.  Really, if you're over 18 and O.K. with thrusting and heaving, you should totally read it.

So, I thought, maybe, possibly, that I haven't been fair to the genre.  That I had dismissed it out of hand.  And, I wanted to read more of Meljean Brook's work.

Enter Hot Spell and Burning Up -- two novella compilations that include Brook and some other authors.
I read both of them, and I have come to a conclusion.

I am still not a paranormal romance reader.  But, I tried to evaluate these stories on their merits.

The Countess's Pleasure by Emma Holly. Of the stories that I read, this was the best written.  A widowed countess engages a "demon" as a consort and the two fall in love.  I liked the steam-punky Indo-British setting, I liked that Georgiana (the countess) was seeking to become her own person.   The clash of cultures and philosophies was interesting.

Would I read more by this author in this series: Maybe.  A quick Google tells me that the others in the series have more of that retro-Victorian sci-fi vibe, and l find that interesting. 

The Breed Next Door by Lora Leigh.  A genetically engineered feline-man hybrid moves in next door to a "spitfire." The two discover they are genetically destined to be mates and have lots and lots of sex.  There's something in here about bounty hunters, but it's an afterthought.  This novella is all about the banging.  However, the way the sex was described was really unappealing and sexist.

Would I read more by this author in this series: No.  This sucked. 

Falling for Anthony by Meljean Brook.  Demons, and Nosferatu, and vampires and guardians.  Who are not angels.  But act like them.  Wha?  This was a confusing mess of ideas.  One thing I will say is that this story was one of the few that had a sexually experienced woman in it.

Would I read more by this author in this series: No.  I love Brook's Iron Seas books, but this... is not for me.  

The Blood Kiss by Shiloh Walker.  Evil Vampires. Who fight heroic werewolves.  Any story that attempts to frame kidnapping as a romantic act has an uphill battle with me.

Would I read more by this author in this series: No.  There wasn't enough new here that I want to know more about. 

Whisper of Sin by Nalini Singh. Surprisingly enjoyable.  I am not a were/shapeshifter fan, but this read more like a sci-fi/crime mash-up than a paranormal romance.  The heroine, Ria, was spunky, and educated and willing to seek out what she wanted.  

Would I read more by this author in this series: Maybe.  These had more of a sci-fi vibe, and I liked that.  I liked that there were women in powerful positions in the Changling universe.  

Blood and Roses by Angela Knight.   Heroic vampires.  And the courtesans who love them.  While Knight writes fairly well, this story had the most predictable arc imaginable.  And it had a child in danger, which is just cheap.

Would I read more by this author in this series: No.  Predictable and bland.

Shifting Sea by Virginia Kantra.  Surprisingly, I liked this story more than I was expecting, because...mermaids.  However, this is more of a historical fiction story, and I could totally see Major John Harris being played by Colin Firth. Would I want to read a whole novel set in this world, with these characters -- no.  But it was a pleasant novella.

Would I read more by this author in this series: No.  As I said above, it was pleasant, but the novella was enough.

Here Be Monsters by Meljean Brook.  I loved this one.  The setting of the Iron Seas has me hooked.   Steampunk nanotech.  I loved that Ivy was making choices and not letting things happen to her.  Would I love it without reading The Iron Duke first?  I'm not sure.

Would I read more by this author in this series: Been there, done that.