Steampunk!

614hsqws58l-_sy344_bo1204203200_An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant
Review by KM

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed. Sorry about that, guys. Life has a way of spinning out of control and I tend to cower in bed until the ride stops. The best thing to do while waiting is to read, though.

And while life kept sending me interruptions like holidays, two jobs, and an overgrown child — I mean, husband — to entertain, I was finding it really hard to get past page fifty in any book.

There are only two things that I’ve found can combat this:

1.) Killing all distractions in brutally horrifying ways. (Not recommended — the jail time isn’t worth it.)
2.) Anthologies. The short stories are like petit fours, easily consumed in one sitting before someone realize you’re actually sitting for the first time in eight hours and demands you do some new task.

So, yeah, this is an anthology and a pretty frickin’ awesome one at that. It has a bunch of my favorite authors. Like, if someone could arrange a meet up of all these authors at the same convention or panel, I’d love to attend. I’ll bring the alcohol; it’ll be a blast.

Enough with my rambling, let’s move onto the book.

Summary

Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre’s established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.*

Musings

Oh my gosh, I found this hard to put this down. It starts with an awesome story by Cassandra Clare, which was probably my second favorite story in the entire book. It’s hard to write much about the plot without giving away the story, but automaton dolls and a flowers-in-the-attic-esque idea of romance definitely make this story amazing.

The anthology includes a few graphic-novel type stories, which were awesome breaks between the texts, to be honest. I think they made the book 500x better, since it’s a little bit hard to jump from story to story, without any pause. It was like a fresh taste of wine in between courses, so none of the flavors got muddled together.

My favorite, favorite, favorite story in this that had me talking about it for days was Libba Bray’s. It involved poor, mutilated orphans who used to be skilled workers and their awful caretaker. It was just so well put together; It’s probably my second favorite short story of all time. I feel like I got a book-hangover after reading just this. If I was teaching a short story class, this would be on the curriculum. I know I’m lavishing praise without giving any details, but I’m trying so hard not to ruin it for anyone.

Please, go out and get this book. Even if Steampunk isn’t your cup of tea, you’re bound to find something that excites you in here.

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Lair of Dreams

by Libba Bray

Review by KM

A few weeks ago, I posted my The Diviners review. It was a repost from years ago when I originally got the book. My friends Laura and Kelly had gone to Book Expo America that year and picked me up a copy; I couldn’t be more grateful. The historical setting of the series mixes well with the supernatural elements. In the years since the first book came out, I have still only found a few historical novels that I truly love, but Libba makes it easy for me to add Lair of Dreams to the list.

Summary

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, and earned the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry Dubois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret–for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess….As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

Musings

I loved Evie in The Diviners and while she has a spot in my heart, it was certainly the other characters that kept me in love with Lair of Dreams. Evie takes a backseat role in this book (which is good because I really couldn’t have tolerated her being the main right now) and lets Ling take the spotlight. Ling is wonderful, in my opinion. I want more of her and I want more of her now.

Okay, now just a complaint that doesn’t have to do with the writing: The cover of The Diviners was something I had never seen before. It was an artistic style that looked stunning and original compared to everything else on the YA shelf. Lair of Dreams lost that. I don’t think this cover expresses the book at all and actually did a double-take when it came into the library. I’m so sad they couldn’t stick with the original art theme.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t as enraptured by Lair of Dreams as I was by The Diviners. While the first book was fast paced, this one went much slower. It was just as large, but I  found myself putting it down often, which was something I never could have done with The Diviners. It still had the same lovely 1920’s slang, the same wonderfully horrific monsters, and the characters I loved. It was just missing the action. I’ll definitely be preordering both the third and fourth novels in this series, but I’m hoping it didn’t peak with the first book.