June 14, 2011

Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

Audio CD, 0 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2010)
ISBN 1442304340 (ISBN13: 9781442304345)
Source: Purchased

The Blurb (www.goodreads.com):

When Tempe is called to the scene of an autoerotic death, she has little idea of the tangled chain of events that will follow. Because the man whose body she examines apparently died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam 40 years before. So who is buried in the soldier's grave?

I love the Tempe Brennan books. I have almost all of them on audio, and they are great books for long car rides. Tempe's latest adventure takes her from Canada to North Carolina to Hawaii and back again, and I'm not sure but I think this may be the first case she works that actually spans both countries.

Tempe is called to the scene of a death that takes place in a pond in the middle of the Canadian countryside, and the specifics surrounding that death are a little less than conventional. However, they ID the body as a US citizen, and former soldier, who supposedly died in combat 40 years ago, and who is supposedly buried in North Carolina. The exhumation of that body leads Tempe to JPAC, the military organization responsible for making sure our men and women in uniform make it home, no matter what.

Reichs is great at setting up a multidimensional mystery. I don't want to say too much about it, because I know I wouldn't be able to do it justice without possibly ruining the ending.

There are a few things I will say:

I learned a lot about the military's devotion to ID'ing it's personnel killed in action and making sure they make it home. I actually found myself looking up a lot of the acronyms and reading about the JPAC online.

There was a the usual dry humor I've grown to expect from Tempe. Her lighthearted internal monologue amuses me.

I love the science that is randomly inserted into the story line. You don't see enough real science in books these days. Usually when I read books that have a scientist as a character, the "science" they talk about makes me want to tear my eyes out.

This book didn't have the suspense and sense of danger the last couple had. I didn't really get the feeling that her life was truly in danger that I would have expected. That's not to say there was no suspense, because there was. It just wasn't the "who buried Tempe in a cave" kind of suspense, like what was in the last book.

Overall, I highly recommend the series. It's still going strong and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

And Spiderbones adds a notch in my "Off the Shelf" Challenge. 4 down, 11 to go!

June 11, 2011

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

Hardcover, 477 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Harlequin Teen
ISBN 0373210337 (ISBN13: 9780373210336)
Primary Language: English
Source: From the Publisher via NetGalley

The blurb (www.goodreads.com):

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one except the thing inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch.
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits. Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on, even if it seems no one believes her.

Finley Jayne has a good job. She's a ladies maid in a noble house. Of course, it's the third job she's had in three months, but that's okay. She has issues. Like a second personality that likes to hit things. And when the young nobleman of the house tries to rape her, her other self takes over and beats him unconscious. When she realizes what's happened, she runs, and in her panic is hit by Duke Griffin King on a "velocycle".

Finley is then taken to his home, where she meets the mechanical and medical genius Emily, the gentle giant Sam (who happens to be part robot), the American Cowboy Jasper, and the royal psychic Cordelia. There, she learns about things she never imagined, like the Organites Griffin's parents brought up from the center of the Earth. She also learns the true history of her own life, including who her father really was, and how she is truly connected to Griffin.

Finley joins Griffin's little band of super-people in trying to solve the mystery of the Machinist, and how he could be making robots around London come to life and attack people. By the time they solve the mystery, Finley has learned a great deal about life, about the world, about herself, and about her friends.

I want to start by saying I really enjoyed the book. I really did. That being said, though, it had some problems. I was really excited to read it based on the title and the cover art, both of which are absolutely amazing. I expected a lot out of this book because of that, and I think I was setting myself up to be disappointed. I feel there was a lot that could have been done with the story, but in the end, it just missed being the amazing thing I had hoped for.

First of all, the author seemed to be trying too hard with the "steampunk" aspect. I like a good steampunk, but this book seemed to have more random tech gadgets thrown in at odd points just to be more "steampunky" without actually adding to the story at all. I get that Emily was a mechanical genius, but I find it hard to believe someone who was supposed to have been in her late teens would single-handedly invent all of the useful items they happened to need at any given moment with absolutely no prep time. Oh, here, have a flashlight, a voice recorder, a Polaroid camera, and a mechanical cat, I just whipped them up while you all were having breakfast. I do have to give her props for Finley's bulletproof corset, though. That one was unexpected and very cool.

Also, the characters were quite a bit one-sided and shallow, even Finley with her two-sided nature. I kept thinking that less time spent describing some automaton would have meant more time on character development. The most interesting character, to me, was the one with the least screen time, and I think my interest may be unwarranted. Jack Dandy is originally set up as a crime lord and the head of a band of noble-hooligans, and then turns out to be a very polished, educated, and honorable man. I kept wanting to know more about who he was and what he was up to, convinced there had to be some nefarious purpose under it all, but I'm afraid the buildup was all in my head, and not due to any devising on the author's part. I hope that's not the case, but it is my fear.

The mystery was not very mysterious. It's fairly obvious from the get-go who is behind things and what he's trying to do, but I'm willing to forgive on that. I was very confused by the seemingly random POV from the Machinist. It happened once, and was about a page long, and didn't seem to serve any purpose whatsoever.

But, like I said, I really did enjoy the book overall. I read it in one day. The truth behind Finley's dual nature was a very nice twist, and I'd like to see where that goes. I'm very interested to see what is in store for Miss Finley Jayne and her friends in the next installment, though I have my fingers crossed that author learned a lot with this book and will show a great deal of improvement in the next one.