…and In With the New!

The year 2013 is done, and so my many challenges have come to an end. I’ve updated my 2013 Challenge Index and overall I did pretty well, though some areas definitely could use some improvement. Here’s a quick recap of how I did on my reading challenges:

2013 Goodreads Challenge: 130/75 books read

My previous high (since I started tracking everything I read on Goodreads) was 120 books in 2011. In 2012 I had a pitiful 50 books read. This year, I was glad to get back on track and I blew my conservative estimate out of the water. I think I reached my initial goal of 75 books by July or August! 

Debut Author Challenge: 4/12 books read

Once again, I didn’t read very many debuts. My self-imposed restriction on advance review copies has limited my access to debut author books, and they are harder to find at the library. I also found that I love reading new authors, just not necessarily debut authors.

Seriously Series Challenge: 12/12 series read

My focus for this challenge was to get up to the last book in a series that I had already purchased. I ended up getting quite a few from the library too. I’m happy I finally caught up on the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and I also finally read the entire trilogies of Across the Universe and the Infernal Devices. 

Get Steampunked Challenge: 5/5 books read

I managed to read more than my goal of five books, actually. I read 9! My favorite was the first in a new series combining steampunk and faeries, A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz.

Off the Shelves Challenge: 20/50 books read

I did better than last year, but still not as great as I would have liked. I made copious use of the library this year, and my shelves suffered as a result. I’m doing two challenges on Goodreads this year that focus on whittling down our TBR lists, so hopefully I can exceed this number in 2014.

Graphic Novels Challenge: 6/12 books read

I think I read all 6 of these in January and then promptly ignored my collection after that. I acquired two new graphic novels this year, one of which I’m reading for my YA book club in the spring. It would be nice if I could read another 6 this year.

Back to the Classics Challenge: 2/6 books read

I had so hoped to devote some time to the classics this year, but this was a pretty spectacular fail. I only read one of the required six, and read one alternate. I think in 2014 I’ll consider it a win if I read just one!

TBR Pile Challenge: 6/12 books read

There’s no cheating in this challenge run by Roof Beam Reader. The lists were set even before 2013 began, and I did pretty well. Ultimately, the rest of the list just didn’t appeal to me over the newer, shinier choices as the year progressed. 

Authors After Dark Challenge: 2/8 books read

I thought I would do better in this one this year, given the amount of PNR/UF I read. Turns out I just read a bunch of authors who happened not to be going to AAD. After two years of limping to the finish, I think it’s time to give this challenge a rest.

Literary Exploration Challenge: 33/36 books read

I came so very close to finishing this one, but just ran out of time. The five books I had left included a play and some sonnets – easy and quick reads. But the others I couldn’t quite sneak in. I had a lot of fun challenging myself to read such varied genres, and I struggled with the ones I expected to find more difficult. In many ways, however, it was easier than I expected. I learned that I tend to read in a lot more genres than I thought. This challenge has its own widget and group on Goodreads for easy tracking, and they’re offering it again in 2014 if any of you are interested in giving it a try.

Book to Movie Challenge: 6/6 books read and movies watched

This was the most fun to complete, I think. It helped that there were so many new movies this year based on great books. I saw Beautiful Creatures, The Great Gatsby, Ender’s Game, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and snuck in two oldies: The Princess Bride and One Day. I managed to read Austenland, The Book Thief, and Carrie, but didn’t get a chance to see the movie adaptations. I also haven’t seen City of Bones yet.

Did I miss any biggies? What book to movie adaptations did you see this year?

That’s it for my challenge round-up. Are you doing any challenges this year?




2013 Get Steampunk’d Challenge


This challenge is one of my favorites, as I do love steampunk! Hosted by Bookish Ardour, this challenge is all about reading steampunk books.

The challenge has seven levels ranging from 5 to 200 books. I’m going to take it easy this time around and go with the Geared level, which is only 5 books. I have a lot of other reading goals this year, so I don’t want to pressure myself so much in individual genres.

Sign up here!

My list so far:

  1. Native Star by M.K. Hobson
  2. The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
  3. Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson
  4. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
  5. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Check my progress all year on the sidebar or on my 2013 Challenge Index.

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had incredibly happy holidays and had a great New Year’s Day. I spent the majority of my holidays traveling, so I’m looking forward to some time at home the next few months!

In reflecting over the past blogging year, I took some time today to update my 2012 Challenge Index. Here’s a quick recap of how I did on my reading challenges:

2012 Goodreads Challenge: 50/100 books read

Compared to the 120 books I read in 2011, this is a pitiful number. I’m not sure why I read so many fewer books this year, but I think I simply wasn’t as motivated to power through so many review copies. I focused much more on library books and didn’t pressure myself to read quickly. I’ve adjusted my 2013 challenge to 75 as a “split the difference” strategy between my 2011 and 2012 reading goals.

Debut Author Challenge: 6/12 books read

I read far fewer review books this year. I even had my NetGalley account deactivated and changed my review policy so that I no longer accept advance copies at all. As a result, I read fewer debuts as their availability at the library is more limited than older titles, and I only purchased a couple of them. I probably won’t participate in this challenge anymore.

YA Historical Fiction Challenge: 6/10 books read

This is a favorite genre, so I’m not surprised I got closer to completing this one. I was derailed by finding lots more adult historical fiction this year, which doesn’t count for this particular challenge. I think I’ll try a less narrow genre challenge this year.

Get Steampunked Challenge: 3/15 books read

Yikes! I’m surprised I didn’t get through more of these. I have amassed a large selection of steampunk books this year, so now I need to get to actually reading them. I’ll be signing up for this one again.

Off the Shelves Challenge: 1/30 books read

At least it’s not zero! This was a challenge to read books sitting on my shelves, which did not happen (obviously). Because my book horde is approaching unmanageable proportions, this is a MAJOR goal of mine in 2013 – read the books I already own before I buy (or borrow) old ones. The library is proving to be the toughest competition, because I justify borrowing books because they are free, but doing so does nothing to increase the books read on my shelves. I am definitely doing at least a couple of TBR-oriented challenges this year to get my butt in gear!

Books Started But Not Finished Challenge: 2/6 books read

The idea here was to finish books from my short list of abandoned titles. It did not go well. There’s usually a reason I didn’t finish them, so most of these titles just didn’t appeal to me over shiny new books that might be the best book ever. I’ll give this challenge a miss in the future.

Graphic Novels Challenge: 0/12 books read

Another embarrassing failure. Because my graphic novel collection is precious to me, I don’t really want to take them out of my house. This means I don’t take them on the train, which is where I do most of my reading. Still, I plan to keep the same list and try again with this challenge. I can usually finish a graphic novel in a relatively short amount of time, so I need to pick a gloomy weekend this winter and get through a few at a time. Maybe that should be the primary focus of a read-a-thon?

Why Buy the Cow? Challenge: 0/12 books read

No freebies read this year. I also think I acquired very few (if any) of them. I have plenty of paid-for books to read, and I’m not really interested in glutting my Kindle with more freebies. Unless it’s a title I’ve been itching to read anyway, no thanks. After two years in a row of failing, I won’t be doing this challenge again.

Speculative Romance Challenge: 3/12 books read

This was another one that surprised me. I really thought I would read more than that in this genre. Instead of doing a strict romance genre challenge, I’ll be substituting the Seriously Series challenge, since I have so many UF/PNR series books in my TBR pile.

Dusty Volumes Challenge: 3/6 books read

Finishing half of my list is a definite step up from 2011, so I’m happy with that number. It’s entirely thanks to the Austen in August event hosted by Roof Beam Reader that I even got this far! I don’t think Midnyte Reader is hosting this again (so I’ll probably do her Authors After Dark challenge instead), but I’ll attempt a different classics challenge, since I have a good list in mind that I want to finish this year. 

Outlander Reading Challenge: 1/6 books read

This didn’t turn out to be a big priority for me, so it fell to the back of the pack. I know I’ll get to the rest of these eventually, but I don’t need a challenge to do so.

1st in a Series Challenge: 9/12 books read

I did the best in this challenge, partly because I like starting series, and partly because it’s hard to find books these days that aren’t part of a series.

Finishing the Series Challenge: 1/3 series finished

I guess I got too distracted by new series to finish the ones I’ve already started!

Now, on to 2013!

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting challenge sign-ups and getting my 2013 index ready. It felt really good to update links and do, well, anything, blog-related. Maybe this year I can get around to posting my challenge progress bar widgets to help keep me on track. 🙂




Review: Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Book: Airborn
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Eos
Release date: May 11, 2004
Source: Borrowed from library

Summary from Goodreads: Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

First impressions: Be still my beating, swooning heart! Kenneth Oppel wastes no time jumping into the action of this story, and it completely sucked me in. I so love when books do that.

Lasting impressions: Absolutely pitch perfect. Full of excitement, adventure, and mystery, this one grabs you and never lets go.

Conflicting impressions: None. Seriously.

Overall impressions: If I learned one thing from this book it’s that airships are so my thing.

Fans of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series will love this book as much as I did. Matt Cruse, our confident protagonist, is very similar to Westerfeld’s Deryn Sharp. He is so comfortable in the air he feels as if he could fly. He lost his father to a horrible airship accident. He has to take a post as a cabin boy to help pay the bills, but he also really and truly loves working on a ship. If there’s anyone who has found his place in the world, it’s Matt.

On a routine flight across the Pacific, Matt’s ship encounters an adrift hot air balloon with a few secrets contained within the pilot’s journal. On the next flight, Matt meets the pilot’s granddaughter, Kate de Vries. Kate is precocious, intelligent, stubborn, and a bit of a princess. She comes from the upper class and has a hard time taking no for an answer. Matt, as a lowly cabin boy, soon finds himself dragged into Kate’s exploits as she pursues the mysterious creatures her grandfather had discovered.

But Matt is not all passive. Part of his journey is finding his voice and learning to exploit his own capabilities in the face of hardship. Through the course of the book, Matt faces pirates (several times) and crashes and strange flying cats (oh my!), and still manages to keep his brain on straight. Younger readers will chew through this one!

If you’ve never tried steampunk, this is a superb place to start. It’s light on complicated gadgets and heavy on interesting characters and setting. Matt is brave and quick, and his story will capture your heart.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Book: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: October 1, 2009
Source: Bought ebook from Amazon
Series: Parasol Protectorate #1

Summary from Goodreads: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. 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.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampireâ??and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

First impressions: One of the first things I loved about this book was Alexia’s voice. She’s a stickler for etiquette, and her commentary on the manners of others, even in the most ridiculous of circumstances, is hilarious.

Lasting impressions: What a refreshing take on the paranormal and steampunk genres! I loved the mash-up of steam and clockwork technology with werewolves and vampires in Victorian society.

Conflicting impressions: The first third of the book moved pretty slowly. It wasn’t until the last third that I got truly hooked on the story.

Overall impressions: I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, and I’m happy that I finally did. Although this is a steampunk novel, it’s really more along the lines of “steampunk light.” I think if I had read this a few years ago, when it first popped up on my radar, I would have had a much different idea of what constituted steampunk. There are some elements of steampunk to the story, but it’s not nearly as integral to the story as, say, Leviathan. I definitely recommend this one for folks looking to ease in to the steampunk genre.

The paranormal elements are what make this book really shine. In Alexia’s world, vampires and werewolves are a part of society, even if they still inspire some trepidation and fear. They pose no threat to Alexia, however, as she has no soul. As a preternatural, her touch returns supernatural beings to their human state – vampires lose their fangs, werewolves shift back. Alexia’s abilities are known to select members of society, but she works to keep it away from friends and family.

Alexia is strong, stubborn, willful, and of course, proper. Yet her Italian heritage, abrasive (for the time) personality, and advancing age (I think she’s 27) have resigned her to life as a spinster. If I have one complaint about the book, it’s the incessant beating to the head we take on these three facets of Alexia’s life. On almost every page, and certainly in every scene, we are reminded that Alexia is old, Italian, and not suitable as a mate. She constantly refers to herself as a spinster. Later in the book there are hints that this has been drilled into her by her family, but through most of the story it is simply presented as fact so I never felt bad for her. Since these descriptors didn’t serve to elicit empathy, they just became annoying.

Lord Maccon is the best sort of love interest. He’s a dashing alpha male who still respects and appreciates Alexia. He can be condescending and brusque, but all in good fun as he matches wits with the equally snappish Alexia. The verbal sparring between these two is lots of fun to witness, and were some of my favorite parts of the book.

The mystery and plot were not nearly as exciting as the characters and world, so the story seemed to drag at points. Still, the ending sets up a new chapter in Alexia’s life that holds lots of promise and I’m eager to start the next book.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

2012 Get Steampunked! Challenge Sign-Up

**I’ve swiped Small Review‘s format for these sign-up posts, because she is awesome and organized and I am lazy and harried**

Challenge Basics:

Name: 2012 Get Steampunked! Challenge
Hosts: Bookish Ardour

Starts: January 1, 2012
Ends: December 31, 2012
Eligible Books: Steampunk or Gaslight Fantasy books.
Levels: 7 levels ranging from 5-200 books. I’m choosing Cogged: 15 Books.
Prizes? None.
Sign up here!

Why I’m Interested:

I really got introduced to steampunk last year, and I want to read so much more of it!

Some books I’m considering:

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Books completed:

Check my progress all year on the sidebar or on my 2012 Challenge Index.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: October 6, 2009
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Leviathan #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected wayâ?¦taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

First impressions: The opening scenes are quite intense, especially since we know the fate of the archduke, Alek’s father. Still, I found this one slow to get into, just because I had to wrap my head around the world and its rules. The payoff of this extra upfront effort was fully realized by the end.

Lasting impressions: My goodness. I would follow these characters in this world to the end of the universe and back. Strange? Yes. Disarming? Oh, yes. But fantastically amazing as well.

Conflicting impressions: I found Deryn to be the much stronger character. We could have dropped Alek’s perspective entirely and I wouldn’t have cared.

Overall impressions: Once I got comfortable in this strange Clanker vs. Darwinist world, it didn’t matter what the story was or where it was going. I can’t remember the last time a fantasy setting so fully transported me as this book did. The Clankers favor steam-powered machines and the Darwinists favor engineered beasts. Both sides use their preferred methods to create huge fighting vessels which they start to use more frequently as World War I breaks out around them.

Deryn Sharp is a Darwinist in Britain who desperately wants to be an airman. The trouble is she’s a girl. Off go the locks and on goes the restrictive and baggy clothes, and voila, a boy is created. She winds up on an air beast called the Leviathan, which is like a large zeppelin…if zeppelins were made out of living things. In this case, it’s a whale.

The Darwinists’ ecosystem machines were a bit hard for me to swallow. It wasn’t that I couldn’t fathom a world where scientists cobble together various life forms to create a new animal that serves their purposes (because really, are we that far off?). No, for me it was the incredulous idea that a large animal could be mutated into some kind of non-sentient creature that wouldn’t mind its body used as an airship. The thought of traipsing around inside of a whale was really bothersome to me. Every time Deryn said “Poor beastie” I thought that if she really felt sorry for the blasted thing she’d stop stomping through its innards. But I realize the point of steampunk is not to break down every detail. I decided to go with it, accepted the beasties as a part of this world, and moved on.

On the Clanker side of things, we follow the Austro-Hungarian heir, Alek, as he escapes his home country and flees to Switzerland in a giant metal walker. His team of mentors accompany him, and there is not much love lost between them. Alek is a haughty, naive, and self-entitled prince, but he is also respectful of duty to country. He is perhaps more complex than Deryn, which meant we didn’t get to know him quite as fully, and the coldness he has with his team didn’t improve his warmth with the reader.

Once Alek and Deryn meet, however, things really start to get interesting. They race to get off a glacier where the Leviathan has crash landed near Alek’s hideout, and by the end of the story these natural enemies are forced to form a somewhat shaky truce. It will be interesting to see how these two accomplish their individual goals while staying loyal to their respective causes.

This trilogy definitely needs to be read together, as this book ends just on the cusp of a new adventure for Deryn and Alek. It felt very “To be continued…” while still wrapping up nicely. That said, I won’t die if I never get around to reading Behemoth. The motivating factor isn’t the plot, here. What ultimately sets this book apart is its incredibly well developed setting, and the glorious dialogue Westerfeld built. My new favorite curse word/adjective is “barking.”

I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans who have an interest in steampunk, particularly if you enjoy YA. I should also point out that the book is beautifully illustrated by Keith Thompson, which enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this review by Books Turn Brains.

Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Book: Boneshaker
Author: Cherie Priest
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: September 29, 2009
Source: Borrowed from local library

Summary: (from jacket copy) In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaskaâ??s ice. Thus was Dr. Blueâ??s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blueâ??s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

First impressions: This book had me hooked straight through to Chapter Four. We are introduced to Briar Wilkes and her son, Zeke, both of whom are captivating. They live a hard life in 1880s Seattle, and there is some controversy around Briar’s father and her ex-husband. Cherie Priest drew me into this world right away and I was totally absorbed…

Lasting impressions: …and then it screeched to a halt. It took me 10 days to get through this book, because there was no urgency to the plot whatsoever. The characters have no internal conflict or growth. Every element of the story seemed held at a distance, so I could never invest in any of it. I don’t remember the last time reading a book was so painful.

Negative impressions: Beyond the aforementioned pacing problems, this book had too many characters that served no function. Once Briar and Zeke enter the walled-off portion of the city, where zombies (here called “rotters”) roam hungrily about, you expect some action. Instead, we get lots of scenes where they stumble across interesting and colorful characters, who help them get from one place to the next, and then disappear–only to then jump out at you in surprise later on, when you have already forgotten about them because you’ve met 14,527 new people since then. It was maddening.

Overall impressions: The only reason I finished this book was so I could give it a proper review. Though the process was like pulling teeth, there were portions of this book that were quite entertaining. The world was interesting, and I loved the idea of the rotters developing after a mysterious gas leak. The hidden society that Briar and Zeke stumble upon behind the wall is mildly interesting, but the ongoing is-he-or-isn’t-he surrounding Dr. Minnericht as possibly being Briar’s dead husband was more annoying than intriguing.

There is a big reveal at the end, but by the time the plot meandered its way to that point, I was so beyond caring that it hit me about as forcefully as a shrug. You ever see a movie where each scene is kind of exciting, and just enough happens that you don’t turn it off because you’re curious what will happen next, but when it’s over you realize that every scene had exactly the same intensity? That’s how this book was for me. Flat as a pancake, straight through. No real rise or fall to the action. Zero heartbeat. Flatlined.

The book is saved from one-star doom because there were flashes of light hidden away from time to time. I just wish overall there had been more of them, and they had been a thousand watts brighter.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Want a different perspective? Check out this Boneshaker review by Day to Day. It’s also worth mentioning that this book was named Steampunk Book of the Year 2010 by Steampunk.com and won a Locus Award for Best Sci-Fi Novel 2010. Perhaps steampunk isn’t my thing after all?

Get Steampunked!

Review: The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Book: The Alchemy of Stone
Author: Ekaterina Sedia
Publisher: Prime Books
Release date: July 4, 2008
Source: Local library

Summary: (from Goodreads) Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets – secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. However, this doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart – literally!

First impressions: I read the first half of this book without stopping. This world is so rich and different and mysterious that I had to keep reading to figure out what was going to happen next. If you like sci-fi or steampunk even in the slightest, you will be hooked from the get-go.

Lasting impressions: The gargoyles were fascinating. Mattie is the heart of the book, but the gargoyles are the soul. I didn’t quite understand them, but their presence was always lingering at the back of my mind. The characters and the story are dark, dirty, and complex, but definitely compelling.

Negative impressions: There were a few missteps. I wasn’t a fan of the love interest for Mattie, and the “sex” scene between them was awkward at best. I just couldn’t get into a man and machine hookup. I also had a hard time following the action at times. I don’t know if it was because I am new to the genre or if some scenes were intentionally vague, but I didn’t always grasp everything that was happening.

Overall impressions: The best way for me to describe this book is strangely beautiful. Mattie is an automaton, considered a lesser class, despite her emancipated status from her creator. She works as an alchemist and is quite good at what she does, which is what earns her a special benefactor who employs her for complex tasks. It is through this relationship that Mattie is drawn into the political upheaval happening between the alchemists, mechanics, and gargoyles in this world.

Mattie is also recruited for a task by the gargoyles, and maintains a relationship with her creator and mechanic friend, so is necessarily involved with all of these rival factions vying for control of the city. The more she’s drawn into the politics, the more involved her assignments, and eventually she has to make difficult choices about who she truly serves. The story unfolds quickly, and I finished this book in two sittings.

I thought Mattie was sweet and different, and tried to suspend my disbelief and avoid asking too many questions about how she was able to think and speak and remember (particularly when her memory becomes an important plot point later in the book). Instead, I just accepted the world as I was reading about it, and it became a really fascinating story.

This was my first exposure to steampunk, and I loved it. This tale was dark, dealing with issues of slavery, class struggles, independence, and abuse. Yet it also had touching moments between friends, and showed the value of sacrifice. Mattie has to endure cruelty and hardship, but she is self-assured and never gives up on herself. Though this certainly isn’t a book for everyone, if you’re looking for something different you should give it a try.

Rating: 4/5 stars