The Dark Unwinding

by Sharon Cameron,  Fiona Hardingham (Narrator)
Audio Edition Read May 15, 2015

Original Release Date:  August 27, 2012

Length: 318 pages

Official Description: (This is book #1 of The Dark Unwinding series)

When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.

 

My Take:

First of all I want to correct something. If you follow my Goodreads page then you’ll notice that I have shelved this under “Steampunk” I don’t really think it’s a true steampunk, not even close, but it wants to be. Not only does the cover have the gears and cogs one associates with the genre it has that cover and look to it. It’s not though, and there are so many novels that try to shove themselves in this genre. Steampunk is awesome, I love it, I haven’t read a great, true, one in a while.

Now that we’ve gotten that out-of-the-way lets move on to the good stuff, the book. I will not lie, the idea of Steampunk drew me in to this young adult novel. This is kind of mystery/coming of age story. Katharine was sent to her uncle’s estate to find proof that he needs to be locked away into a lunatic’s asylum. As an orphan being cared for by her aunt she must do this task, because if not she could have been thrown out and penniless. Her aunt wants the uncle gone so Katharine’s cousin would get the money and her aunt would be in charge of what is presumed to be a fortune. Katharine has no idea what she’s in for.

I loved the characters, they are not cut and paste characters that we’re used to in modern YA or NA fiction. They are unique, charismatic, you aren’t entirely sure who the bad guys are, there are just so many shades of grey. The heroine, or our protagonist, has the misfortune of being fated to either destroy her world, or the world of Mr. Tully and his village of people who were saved from work houses. It’s a hard choice, especially for a 17-year-old kid, who has never really had to make these kind of choices. There are inward struggles as well as outward struggles. It appears that Katharine is going crazy, she already has OCD, it appears, and she fears that she will go as mad as her uncle. It’s all really good, if you don’t mind the typical young adult feel to our main character. She is a bit on the whiney side, but all of the characters are robust, so I could overlook it. I love all the mysteries and the twist, most of which you could see miles away, but there are some sad things that happen that are kind of brushed over. Overall, it’s a great historical, young adult fiction with a bit of action and romance thrown in.

My Favorite Quote:

“Warm sun and robin’s-egg skies were inappropriate conditions for sending one’s uncle to a lunatic asylum.”

Up Next:

Frog Music

by Emma Donoghue,  Khristine Hvam (narrator)
Kindle/Audio Edition – Read May 8, 2015

Original Release Date:  January 1, 2014

Length: 416 pages

Official Description:

Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.

The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice–if he doesn’t track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

In thrilling, cinematic style, FROG MUSIC digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue’s lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.

My Take:

Frog Music is an interesting read. It was quite popular last year, I saw it everywhere. I don’t read a lot of type of fiction so it was a nice break. This one is based in reality, with a ton of research, not only in the crime around the unsolved murder of a frog catching, cross dresser, but in the music and culture that was 1876 San Francisco. There are advantages of reading the print version and listening to the audio book. First the print has a French/English guide, translating common French phrases in the book into English. On the other hand the audio version has the narrator singing all of the songs to you, in I am assuming the way they were meant to be heard, so you don’t have to guess what these songs are supposed to sound like. Music is one of the …. themes…that connect the characters. I enjoyed both, the audio on my commute and the print at home. I knew enough French to understand the phrases, and what I didn’t know the context was pretty obvious.

The story is complicated, we go from present time to past going back and forth knitting the story together. We start with the murder and everything is leading to who killed Jenny. Blanche only knew her for a short time, but she thinks she knew who Jenny was. So that’s one aspect of the story. Then we have the city itself, with the heat wave running through San Fran and the small pox epidemic also running through the city, there is a lot of fear, irritability and paranoia that goes with it. Then we have Blanche’s drama. Oh Blanche she’s a character, one hard to relate to. She is a burlesque dancer, a former aristocrat,  and a former acrobat/equestrian. She fell in love with Arthur who was also an acrobat who had a friend Ernest who were inseparable. So Blanch, Arthur and Ernest moved from France to live in America in a true Bohemian fashion, Blanche gets knocked up gives up her son to ‘care takers’ on a ‘farm’ for children, she still has him come visit her, he’s an odd character. Not only is Blanche a Burlesque dancer, she is also a high-end prostitute, and she pays for everything. The women in the era are horribly degraded and not anyway near equal to men. However, San Fran is known for being accepting of everything strange and different. Like Jenny, our cross-dressing girl. She has an interesting story, and is by far a more interesting and whole character, compared to Blanche. Jenny has been jailed for wearing mens clothing, carries a gun and rides an expensive bike:

These bikes cost over 300 dollars, in their time, and were both dangerous and a sign of status.

How is the story overall? It’s long, too long. It goes from kinda dull, to interesting, to pretty cool, then boring and disappointing. There was just so much research shoved into the novel that it was overdone and it dragged on too long. The author could have just stuck with the murder and the friendship of Blanche and Jenny or just to the trauma of Blanche and Petite, Blanche’s child, and their reunion and the conditions of houses that kept Petite. Or we could have gone on about the crazy conditions of the small pox epidemic mixed with the crazy heat wave that hit San Fran at the time. Or we could have had a story about the conditions of entertainers who supported their boyfriends/husbands and the fact that women had no real rights. Instead we through all of the great themes together into a muddle of a story that had too many places to go and just kind of fizzled in the end.

My favorite Quotes:

“It occurs to Blanche that English doesn’t have French’s useful distinction between libre, meaning that something’s unconstrained, and gratuit, meaning that it costs nothing. Free thought, free speech, free love: the English word that Arthur was so fond of obscures the price of things.”

Other Books Read: by Khristine Hvam:

Up Next:

Ravished by a Highlander

by Paula Quinn, Carrington MacDuffie (Narrator)
Audio EditionRead May 8, 2015

Original Release Date:  May 1, 2010

Length: 337 pages

Official Description: (This is book #1 of the Children of the Mist series)

FORBIDDEN LOVE

Davina Montgomery is no ordinary English lady. For her own protection, she’s been locked away from society, her true identity the Crown’s most closely guarded secret. Until a shocking betrayal–and a bold rescue–land her in the arms of a fierce Highlander, a powerful warrior whose searing gaze and tantalizing touch awaken her body and soul.

UNDENIABLE DESIRE

As the firstborn son of a powerful Scottish laird, Robert MacGregor has no loyalty to the English throne, but he’s not the kind of man to leave a woman in distress, even if she is English. He vows to deliver Davina to safety, unharmed and untouched. Yet one stolen kiss leaves them both smoldering with desire…and desperate for more. With Davina’s secret threatening to destroy his clan, Rob must choose between everything he holds dear and the one woman he can’t live without.

RAVISHED BY A HIGHLANDER

My Take:

I like Highlander stories or rather period Highlander stories. This is fairly new, as I always used to avoid the pure romance titles. These kinds of books get me though. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the era, the highlanders, the country side. It’s not necessarily the plot or writing, which were both ok in the story. I like Davina, she is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, she is pretty self-sufficient, or at least as sufficient as she can be in her time. She is cloistered away to live the life of a nun, has a best friend guarding her who loves her and is the best kept secret of the crown. Enter the MacGregor’s who are happening along to the Abby Davina is kept and come upon a raid, they meet a man who tells them to save Davina. They do and of course Robert, future laird of the MacGregor clan, and Davina will eventually go all googly-eyed at one another. There is no insta-love. It’s insta-lust, of course, but everyone is prim and proper, for a while.

What can I say, the story, over all, is fairly cookie cutter, but I did enjoy it. I liked some of the historical references, because I knew what would become of those characters, in real life, and knew how the story would end up, in order to stay true to history. Honestly, the best part for me was the description of the country side. I’ve never been to Scotland, never been to Europe, Scotland is in my top 5 of places to visit. This book makes me wish I could go there sooner, it’s got some lovely descriptions. I think I’d be somewhat disappointed, when/if I go there I don’t want it to be modern, I want the hills and landscapes of history.

What I learned after reading this series is that it actually follows a different series. The MacGregors. Which chronicles the parents story. I hear if you read those you’ll be less lost in this series. I wasn’t all together lost, but it would have been nice to know.

What should you expect? As I said it’s a cookie cutter historical romance involving Highlanders. If you like that sort of thing you’ll love this. There is action, romance, adventure, backstabbing and redemption. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Up Next:

Birthright Volume 1: Homecoming

by Joshua Williamson, Andrei Bressan, Adriano Lucas
Digital EditionRead May 4, 2015

Original Release Date: March 4, 2015

Length: 128 pages

Official Description

For the Rhodes family, losing their son was the most devastating thing that could have occurred…but it couldn’t prepare them for what happened when he returned. Skybound’s newest hit turns fantasy into reality in this all-new series from the creator of Nailbiter and Ghosted. Pick up this introductory-priced collection and see what everyone’s talking about!

Collects Birthright #1-5

My Take:

I was not really sure where this book was going at first. We start with a heart warming scene father and son playing, then son vanishes. Then father gets blamed for the murder of the son, no body, family breaks up. This book could have gone into so many different directions from here. It goes into that other worldly fantasy spin though. Son comes back a year later but all grown up. Time is different in the land that Mikey went to, and it is apparent that all is not as it seems. So we have a lot of flash backs to Mikey in the world that he was taken to, but very limited. We don’t really know what Mikey’s life was like, what led him to his decisions and how he became a ‘warrior’ how he had anything to do with the prophecy. We have present day, which is a broken family trying to understand what is going on, disbelief, blind faith, it’s got a lot of dynamics. Overall, the book is well drawn and colored, the story was just kind of ok. There isn’t really enough here to judge the series properly. 5 issues, that’s it, it’s like dipping a toe in and expecting to understand the what’s going on, on the other side of the ocean. I look forward to future installments.

(I did receive this book free for an honest review)

 

Up Next:

The Fade Out

by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips
Digital EditionRead April 26, 2015

Original Release Date: February 25, 2015

Length: 120 pages

Official Description

Brubaker and Phillips’ newest hit series, The Fade Out, is an epic noir set in the world of noir itself, the backlots and bars of Hollywood at the end of its Golden Era. A movie stuck in endless reshoots, a writer damaged from the war and lost in the bottle, a dead movie star and the lookalike hired to replace her. Nothing is what it seems in the place where only lies are true. The Fade Out is Brubaker and Phillips’ most ambitious project yet!

My Take:

Here we have a Noir graphic novel.  Noir has been coming back with a vengeance lately. Why shouldn’t it? It’s very stylized, easy to make beautiful, a fun way to tell a story. This story was just ok for me. It has great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I just found it mediocre. It didn’t really do it for me. I found the story too stylized, to A Scanner Darkly for my tastes. The story was interesting, but didn’t really drag me in. I simply did not care for it. It’s not bad, it’s very artistic, it has that story line that makes you wonder, “Who Did it?” and it’s kinda cool to see 1940s Hollywood in this light. Again, this just wasn’t for me. It’s too winded, too many explanations, too much back story. How weird is that? This turned me off because the characters…in a book…talked too much. It doesn’t make sense, I get it. I’m sorry I didn’t like it more. I wanted to but oh well. Honestly I think it was the art. That overly dramatic, almost realistic feel, but not quite, always off.  It’s fine really, I think I’m trying to talk myself into liking it more, but too much standing around smoking, talking and talking. I loved the cover, the covers always get me.

(I did receive this book free for an honest review)

 

Up Next: