black dog

Sunday, September 30, 2012 | | 4 comments
I had a lovely day at KidLitCon.  The panels were fun, useful and interesting, the keynote speech accessible, and the people (old friends and new) wonderful.  To top it off, I stayed the night with my cousins and their two children in Brooklyn.  I’ve found myself unable to visit those kids without a picture book gift in hand.  It’s too much fun to make the selection, and beside that, I get to read a(nother) book!  This is how I discovered Levi Pinfold’s charming Black Dog.

black dog by levi pinfold book cover
An enormous black dog and a very tiny little girl star in this offbeat tale about confronting one’s fears.

When a huge black dog appears outside the Hope family home, each member of the household sees it and hides. Only Small, the youngest Hope, has the courage to face the black dog, who might not be as frightening as everyone else thinks.

Black Dog opens with a… black dog.  A rather large one.  The dog is sniffing around the Hope house on a snowy winter morning when Mr. Hope spots it – and is alarmed – the dog is the size of a tiger!  As the rest of the family wake up, one by one, their exclamations of surprise seem to cause the dog to grow, until it’s the size of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (!).  By the time Small (for short) Hope wakes up, the rest of her family is cowering underneath a blanket.  It is Small who bundles up in her winter gear and heads out the door to confront the monstrous dog.  Her adventure through the winter morning puts things in perspective, and when she arrives back at home she has conquered the thing her family feared and found herself a new friend.

Oh, I LIKED this picture book!  The story itself is timeless, and will appeal especially to dog-lovers, youngest children, and parents and kids who enjoy pictures that you can pour over for hours.  Resourcefulness and facing big fears are the two themes, and they are complemented by excellent artwork and touches of humor.  It’s a beautiful book and a worthy one too.

Back to Pinfold’s illustrations: they are imaginative and not all what you’d expect.  There is of course the enormous dog, but there are also spreads demonstrating the family’s reaction to it.  The Hope house interior is a fascinating and whimsical place, and the wintry outdoors is full of animals and pathways that only a child would recognize.  The book as a whole is a delightful piece of art, and I only wish I knew more children to gift it to.

Recommended for: children (and the adults who read to them) who like picture-rich books, and anyone who needs a dose of fearlessness.

avocado and gouda grilled cheese sandwich

I’m going to cheat a little bit this week.  And you are going to be complicit.  Okay?  Okay.  (thanks, you’re rad!)  As you read this, I’m in New York City for KidLitCon (a one-day conference for those who blog about children’s lit), an event that I’ve been looking forward to for a while.  I also managed to miss work on Wednesday with a migraine.  Baking?  Farthest thing from my mind.  In fact, my only food prep this week involved cheese, avocado, and nutty bread.  This is where the cheating comes in (we’re going to pretend that it counts for Weekend Cooking!).

Avocado and Gouda Grilled Cheese Sandwich


baking spray
2 slices of oat nut bread (or other bread with crunchy texture and mild taste)
1 tablespoon butter (salted)
1/2 avocado, sliced thinly
1-2 generous slices creamy Gouda cheese (mine is from Spring Gap Mountain Creamery, via farmers’ market)


Place an omelet pan or skillet over medium-low heat.

Spread (or in my case, chop!) butter onto slices of bread, and then layer the Gouda and avocado evenly onto one side.  Place other slice – butter side down – on the top of the pile of ingredients.  Squish down a bit with your hand or a spatula, and then spray the top slice evenly with baking spray.  Flip into the pan, spray side down.  Spray (new) top slice with baking spray.  Turn sandwich after 3-4 minutes, or when dark brown.  When grilled to your satisfaction, remove from pan and slice.  Wait a minute for the hot cheese to cool a bit, and enjoy!

Grilled cheese sandwiches and omelets are my go-to dinners when stressed and tired.  You could, of course, make the grilled cheese with any combination of cheese, bread and filling, but this one is pretty freaking delicious (and looks pretty, too).  Besides: avocado nutrients! Okay, now I’m reaching.  Tell me, what are your favorite grilled cheese combinations?

Recommended for: a quick, delicious meal when time is of the essence and simplicity is the order of the day, for that random cheese craving, and a decadent take on an old standby.

Interested in other food-related posts?  Check out Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking.

the cavendish home for boys and girls

I don’t like scary stories.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself.  I’ve never read Stephen King, never finished an R.L. Stine book (I know!), and I can’t watch horror films to save my life.  That said, I have some tolerance for creepy tales, because I read dark fantasy fairly often (zombies, too!).  Maybe it’s a thing I’ve made up in my head?  In any case, when I saw the summary and cover art for Claire Legrand’s debut, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, I knew right away that I couldn’t let a little squeamishness get in the way.  It looked too fun to be anything but good.

the cavendish home for boys and girls by claire legrand book coverVictoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.)

But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that Mrs. Cavendish’s children’s home is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different, or they don’t come out at all.

If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria, even if it means getting a little messy.

Victoria Wright is always right.  She is the best at school, she is her parents’ pride and joy, and she faces challenges with imperturbable calm, because she knows she’ll get her way.  In fact, the only blot in her ledger is her only friend, Lawrence.  But Lawrence is more of a project than a friend – isn’t he?  That’s what Victoria tells herself until one fateful day, when he goes missing.  And Victoria must know what has happened to him.  After all, he was her friend.  What she finds is a deep, rotten mystery surrounding the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls.  And something sinister has taken note of her search…

The hook in this tale is too-perfect Victoria.  She rigid and a bit too intelligent, which makes her somewhat bizarre.  Her reactions range from logical and funny to ridiculous.  It’s a good combination for a middle grade book, and the result is a stylized story that reads like a classic.  Beyond Victoria, what kept me reading was the clever and sinister way the story unfolded.  I needed to know how it would end, if Lawrence would survive, and what it would take for Belleville to return to ‘normal.’  IF it could, even.

One lovely surprise in the book? The illustrations by Sarah Watts – done in black and white and meant not only to reel in the reluctant chapter book reader, but also add to the atmosphere.  Watts’ art reminded me a bit of the illustrations in the Chronicles of Narnia books – just a bit of a scene to aid your imagination in picturing a slice of the fantastic or remind you that these characters are quite normal, thank you.

In all, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a well-written and slightly gruesome adventure that will give you delightful shivers and possibly send you to the store for more bug spray.  I found it immensely enjoyable, even thought I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at (much less eat!) a certain candy again.  Claire Legrand has written the perfect Halloween tale for someone who isn’t sure they like creepy stories at all.

Recommended for: fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and classic children’s horror, anyone who may find themselves influenced by beautiful cover art and extremely confident girl heroines, and readers of all ages who like their stories a little bizarre, a lot dark, and all the way clever.

waiting on wednesday (36)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | | 11 comments
I’m participating today in "Waiting On" Wednesday. It is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and its purpose is to spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

I’ve never read Brenna Yovanoff’s books, but I’ve heard great things about them.  Great and creepy things (that’s a pretty decent combination, if you ask me…).  I’ve always meant to pick up her books, but haven’t followed through.  Enter a special breakfast during BEA put on by the folks at Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab in honor of The Curiosities, and a couple of minutes spent talking with Yovanoff about her latest projects… and I immediately knew that Paper Valentine would live on my wishlist until it made its debut.  I’m even more excited now to see its beautiful cover and read the synopsis.  Paper Valentine will be published by Razorbill (Penguin), and releases on January 8, 2013.

paper valentine by brenna yovanoff book cover
The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record.  The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls. 

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one.  Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders?  Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness. 

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets.  She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

What books are you waiting on?

top ten series i haven’t finished

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | | 28 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Series I Haven't Finished

1. Paranormalcy by Kiersten WhiteI read the first book in the series, but lost momentum (and interest) after that.  I doubt I’ll go back to it.

2. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose WoodThe Mysterious Howling (the first book in this series) was hilarious and mysterious and clever.  In other words?  Fun.  I need to go back and read books #2 and #3 – will do as soon as I have a moment to think.

3. Delirium by Lauren OliverI was completely unimpressed by Oliver’s YA dystopian novel.  You couldn’t pay me to read the rest.  Harsh?  Yes.  True?  Also yes.

4. The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater – I didn’t have feelings either way about Shiver, and that was the trouble.  I didn’t have feelings.  Doesn’t inspire one to pick up the rest of the books, that’s for sure.

5. Curse Workers by Holly Black – This is a case of wanting to savor the final book in a series… and waiting a smidge too long.  Now I’m going to put it off until I can reread the first couple of books.  Which will happen… soon?

6. Théâtre Illuminata by Lisa Mantchev – I honestly don’t know what my problem is with this series.  I adored Eyes Like Stars, and I have the second sitting on my shelf.  I need a weekend of fairy magic and sweets!

7. Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis – Oh, this series takes me back!  To my freshman year of college.  I went through the first two books in the series, but never finished That Hideous Strength.  I think it’s going to remain That Hideously Unfinished Series.

8. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie RyanI did not like the first book in this series.  Not.  At.  All.  The heroine was too stupid to live, really.  The only thing that makes me feel marginally better about this series is that Ryan wrote a great short story that was included in the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology.

9. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan – Oh, Sarah Rees Brennan.  You wrote a bizarre and awesome and hilarious debut.  I NEED to read the rest of the series.  Like, soon?!  Soon.  It’ll happen.  Oh, there’s the 2nd in the series on my shelf!  Perfect.

10. Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness – I was totally awed by Ness and his talent and the way The Knife of Never Letting Go skinned my heart and made me love it.  But… I’ll admit that I’m a little afraid to read the rest of the series.  It might just kill me.  *gulp*

So, tell me: what are some series you haven’t finished?

almond flour and white chocolate chunk cookies

I ran out of flour last week.  I mentioned this to my roommate.  She said, “How do you run out of flour?!”  I responded, “Emily, I BAKE A LOT.”  And then we laughed, because this is true.  I try to bake at least once a week, if only for the benefit of my friends and to have something to post for the Weekend Cooking meme.  Yes, that second part is a real reason.  The opportunity to share recipes is an inspiration!  Anyway, back to the dearth of flour.  To be clear, I ran out of wheat flour.  I still had some almond meal/flour, and I used that to make these delicious cookies.  Good call.

Almond Flour and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies (modified from this The Wannabe Chef recipe)


1 3/4 cups almond flour or almond meal
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks (one 4 oz. Ghiradelli bar)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except for the white chocolate chunks, and mix until combined.  Fold in the white chocolate.

Drop dough in tablespoon-sized portions onto prepared baking sheets, keeping two inches between each cookie.  Place in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Cookies are done when very lightly brown on bottom and at edges.  Remove from oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.  Makes 12-18 cookies.

This recipe may be my new favorite gluten-free dessert.  The cookies were light and slightly chewy, and though the dough itself wasn’t sweet, the white chocolate was just the right touch.  I brought all of the cookies to a party, and they were gone within 5 minutes.  No exaggeration.  Definite success!

Recommended for: when you need a gluten-free dessert with delicious flavor and texture, a unique take on the chocolate chip cookie, and a crowd-pleaser with unexpected ingredients.

Interested in other food-related posts?  Check out Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.


Saturday, September 22, 2012 | | 1 comments
Right around the time that I read Meljean Brook’s novella “Here There Be Dragons,” I knew I’d found a new auto-buy author.  Brook combines imaginative world building with great characters, romance, and a focus on the social politics of her world. The combination is electric, and I have yet to be anything less than delighted by her steampunk The Iron Seas series.

riveted by meljean brook book cover
A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell tales of giant trolls guarding the land and of seductive witches who steal men’s hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magic—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.

Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airship Phatéon, flying from port to port in search of her sister and longing to return home...but that home is threatened when expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard.

Determined to solve the mystery of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika’s secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam...

Riveted is the story of two people hunting for their pasts.  Annika has been seeking her sister Källa for four long years while traveling the world as an airship mechanic.  She’s been hiding her origins and hoping that the next stopover will bring news that will allow her to return home.  David Kentewess is on a mission to find his mother’s birthplace, but he’s also a volcanologist, traveling to the far corners of the earth to study mountains and their eruptions.  Each has their secrets, but they’ll be forced to share more than secrets when a brilliant (mad?) mind threatens all.

In The Iron Duke and Heart of Steel, the main source of action and movement was a physical threat.  While element remains in Riveted, both David and Annika’s pasts play a much larger role.  Where they are from, who their parents were, what they are escaping and what they have come to turns with – these drive the plot and development at least as much as physical danger.  And Brook has done a fantastic job of making that transition not only interesting, but page-turning.

I won't write more about the content of the book or unravel its secrets in a review.  That is for the reader to do.  What I will say is that Brook addresses themes of gender and sexuality, race and religion, the results of colonialism, and how people navigate within culture and grapple with experiences different than their own.   Don’t get me wrong – it IS a satisfying steampunk romance.  But it is ALSO an extremely thoughtful book, and I find (perhaps you do too?) that the smarter the story, the more I enjoy it after the fact.

Riveted is a winner, and I can tell I’ll be reading it again soon.

Recommended for: fans of intelligent romantic fiction, those who enjoy steampunk, and anyone who appreciates stories that break the mould and characters that go far beyond ordinary.  

Interested in more steampunk?  Check out the Steampunk Week in September calendar of events.

leviathan – guest post by ginny of ginnylou studio

Friday, September 21, 2012 | | 2 comments
Today’s guest blogger is Ginny of GinnyLou Studio (my sister, in other words).  She paints her nails obsessively and has an overly large accessory collection.  She’s also my best friend.


hi--it's Cecelia's favorite sister (never mind the only part) here with a post about steampunk.

why, oh why, would Cecelia ask her crafty sister to do a post?  


'cuz i'm a teacher.

of kids.

in the english language.  and various historical events.

and i'm smart.

(even though the last few sentences may have painted me in an unflattering light.  and please disregard the fact that i wrote the aforementioned sentences.)


or it might have something to do with the fact that i really like steampunk literature and have actually read quite a few books that fit the category.

yeah, that must be it.  okay, back on track here.

leviathan by scott westerfeld book cover
so i'm going to share a few of my thoughts on one of the first steampunk books i ever read: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

see, back when my sister lived in Washington (state), we went to this book signing/ book talk event because she was still a book nerd back then.  i was her plus one, because let's face it, i'm the best plus one EVER, and i'm pretty sure she told me we could have food on the way up.

so, we went to this event and saw THE Scott Westerfeld, listened to him promote his book, saw the book trailer, asked questions, got in line for the book signing, got a picture with him, and walked out of the store with a free cardboard cutout of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days."  it was fun.

it was also my first exposure to steampunk.

i was impressed.

if you haven't seen the book trailer for Leviathan, you should really check it out.  it's one of the best book trailers i've ever seen, and i know legitimate school librarians with real school jobs who use that trailer when they talk about books to kids.

there's this combination of sound effects/ music that makes the video engaging, and somehow all of it unwittingly piques your interest in the entire world that Westerfeld creates.  it's mesmerizing.  you see and hear and can almost smell the machines clanking around the screen.  go watch it.  *phew* and i haven't even started talking about the illustrations.  (well, i guess now i've mentioned it.)  

so the book not only has a stellar author in Westerfeld, but also an amazing illustrator.  i'm not talking doodles with stick-like figures.  these pictures are full blown, 24"x36" print-worthy illustrations.  these illustrations give life to the machines and beasts and contraptions, and imagery in the steampunk book.  (please also note that the following two books in the series sport their own full page pictures as well--AWESOME-SAUCE!)  some of the illustrations pop up in the book trailer, but they're really best seen in person in the pages of Leviathan... they stand out when you're flipping through your book, reading little captions below pictures to see what's coming ahead (but not in a "give it all away" type of way).

i must admit, i think Leviathan was the perfect introduction to steamunk.  it has the pictures, it has great story elements (more on that later).  AND, it just happens to be historical fiction (albeit extreme historical fiction).  basically, right up my alley!

lots of things i liked about this book:

1.  action scenes.  this book isn't too heavy on the expository sections... Westerfeld shows us the world, but he also doesn't bore us to death with detail-overload.  the action scenes were fun for me because i've always been a fan of war movies... my dad used to borrow war movies from the library and i swear i've probably seen 3/4 of all the war movies ever made.  the action wasn't gratuitous either, i mean, the setting of the book is a war.  it's the clankers vs. darwinists--machines vs. beasts.

2.  there's a good mix of fantasy/ history.  the Darwinist animals in this story are some of the most interesting elements in my humble opinion.  not that i don't enjoy a piece of machinery as much as the next guy, but Westerfeld made the 'beasties' likeable even if they were those attacking bat/ bird things.  and the title "Leviathan" actually refers to the name of the Darwinist ship, a huge honking whale/ blimp.  it's awesome.  and like the book trailer says, it's 1914, Europe is close to war, but this story is a re-working of the history of WWI... it both follows the main points, yet doesn't.  sorry for being cryptic.  you should just read the book.

3.  there's this awesome guy/ girl thing.  it's that painfully truthful representation of girls... or one girl in particular: Deryn (who poses as a boy so she can work on the ship).  she over thinks her relationship with Alek, the son of the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  and she doesn't just do a little bit of over thinking, she does the adolescent version of over thinking.  i know this because it sounds just like the kids i teach in school.  *le sigh*  and then there's Alek... he's a typical guy--he's still figuring out life, he doesn't know what he thinks about girls, or his role in the war, and he's clueless.  there are plenty of hints throughout the book that point towards the truth about Deryn.  does he pick up on them?  of course not.  he's a guy.

4.  the occasional caper-ish type of scene.  this is different than the action scenes.  i guess it's more about the main characters actually acting like teenagers.  Westerfeld must have a really good model to study in terms of teenaged behavior, because he does a really truthful telling of what they're like.  almost painfully so.

all in all, i guess i didn't really hit on too many "steampunk" elements, but don't worry, this book is squarely/ firmly/ concretely in the steampunk genre, and will be for a long long time.  but never fear, there are tons of fun steampunk-y slang phrases ("Barking spiders!" and "You're a bum-rag" which is really just an insult, not a steampunk phrase...) and there are also lots of gadgets too... guns, tools ,machines, that type of thing.

recommended for: adventure fans, coming-of-age stories, slight romance lovers, gadget geeks, and other people that are easily swayed by book trailers, fancy covers, offers of food, and book blogging sisters.  so pretty much everyone.

leviathan by scott westerfeld book cover
It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men. 

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl 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 the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.

If you'd like to see more steampunk goodness, check out the Steampunk Week in September calendar of events!

steampunk! an anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories – guest post by alexis of lit from woe

Today’s guest blogger is Alexis of Lit From Woe.  She’s part of my DC FYA book club, and is (of course) smart & funny. Deadly combination.


This is not Detroit. I've never even BEEN to Detroit. But it sounded punk rock and a bit mechanical, and since this week is steampun…

Oh. NOT that kind of steampunk? Man. I'm two and oh here.

Okay. *Steampunk* Like, the sub-genre. In kid lit.

Got it.

I don't think I'm alone in having more than a bit of private embarrassment over the fact that, while I like the *idea* of steampunk, and I LOVE the aesthetics, I'm rarely enticed, let alone bowled over, by steampunk in literature. Maybe because the concept is TOO visual, it's hard to sustain interest in a non-visual medium. Maybe my imagination sucks.

I know, I know. This whole post is going all the wrong ways. BEAR WITH ME.

steampunk! an anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories edited by kelly link and gavin j. grant book cover
So I don't love stempunk in literature, but I really really *want to.* My TBR pile, it's always open to new steampunk efforts. And even if I'm not the right reader for most of them, occasionally I find things I love, and Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, is one of the efforts I loved.

Not surprising, really. Kelly Link is a superhero with words. I would buy her Pretty Monsters collection for every person I ever met, if only I had the money. The things she does with stories…seriously. SERIOUSLY. She takes genres and peels them inside out and rightside back, and makes you wonder how it is possible that no one ever thought of those stories (monsters; aliens; wolves; ghosts) from those angles before.

Which is probably why I was so impressed by her edited collection of steampunk short stories, and bowled the heck over by both her own and Libba Bray's contributions: their stories are steampunk, but pulled inside out and rightside back.

In Link's "The Summer People," the story opens on a contemporary girl, home miserably sick from school, dealing with a myopic, self-interested dad on his way out the door for a "week or three" to "get right with God." Again. There is NyQuil and television and Lexuses and prayer meetings and hooch running in this world. There are also fairies.

But the story isn't about the fairies (although Fran's entire existence hinges on her relationship with them), or about the hooch running or prayer meetings (although Fran's entire existence hinges around her father's relationship to THOSE), or even about the magical clockwork toys the summer people leave for Fran as gifts for her help (although those are as fascinating as any a clockwork bauble popped up in steampunk lore).

No, what "The Summer People" is about is how Fran is living her life, and what she does, good or bad, to take it by the horns and make it HERS. This is steampunk where the steam power and clockwork is incidental background noise, and the real story is what happens in and around it. This is steampunk where punk ideals—fighting against/within/despite/in the face of the system, wearing your own decisions like a bloody crown, making your own damn mark on the world—those are what matter most. And it's fantastic.

The word I most associate with Libba Bray (incidentally, doing a The Diviners event @ DC's own Politics & Prose this very evening!) is AMBITIOUS, and with her entry in the Steampunk! collection, she does not disappoint. "The Last Ride of the Glory Girls" is just as punk rock, with just as much spitting by the heroine(s) in the face of the clockwork world at large as is Link's "Summer People," just with fewer fairies and a few more train heists.

(Although, interestingly, there is still plenty of "getting right with God" serving as motivation for the heroine to grab the reins of her own life…)

"Glory Girls," for all it is steampunk, is also a western. It is, too, sci-fi. But the generic trappings aren't what make the story. When Adelaide Jones rides with the Glory Girls, she is not a cowgirl. When she signs up with the Pinkertons, she is not a dusty private detective. When she fiddles together a clockwork device that bubbles time, she is not a steampunk engineer.

What she is is a girl whose been left behind and forced into working the system the only way the system will let her. What she is is a girl who is on her way to having just about too damn much, and would you mind greatly if I go ahead and explode my way through a life I've decided on for myself, you love-drowning, backwards society, please and thank you and a big EFF YOU to you all.

She is Adelaide Jones, and her story is not ABOUT the aesthetic trappings of steampunk. That's just icing.

So, privately—now publicly—embarrassed as I may be to admit that literary steampunk just isn't my bag, I am MORE than happy to shill for steampunk that lets the steampunk do its own thing in the background, so long as the characters are allowed to punch their way through their own lives up front.

steampunk! an anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories uk book cover
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.

Interested in more steampunk? Check out the Steampunk Week in September calendar of events!

steampunk for all (yes, you!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | | 10 comments
One comment I have heard consistently about steampunk is that readers don’t know where to ‘start.’  The genre has gained popularity quickly, and the trouble is that there’s no one book that spawned it all.  Rather, it has been a slow movement that is now having a moment in the sun (or gaslight, if you will).

steampunk week in september

With that in mind, today’s Steampunk Week in September post is about finding the perfect steampunk book for _______. (fill in the blank)  Keep in mind that some of these books are a little lighter than others on steampunk elements, my list leans heavily toward YA, and is meant to be fun and/or helpful only.  I am by no means an expert.  With that said, your additions and suggestions are welcome in the comments!

Steampunk books for…

airborn by kenneth oppel book cover
thoughtful readers: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

fans of Sherlock Holmes (especially the recent Robert Downey, Jr. version): The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

museum enthusiasts: The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent

fans of Faerie: Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear

romance readers: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook, Steam & Sorcery by Cindy Spencer Pape

those who prefer the classics: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

love triangle lovers: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

boneshaker by cherie priest book cover
zombie enthusiasts: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

admirers of the short story form: Steampunk! edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant or Corsets & Clockwork edited by Trisha Telep for teens, Steampunk edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer for adults

middle grade readers: The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

fans of westerns: The Native Star by M.K. Hobson

vampire addicts: Soulless by Gail Carriger, God Save the Queen by Kate Locke

leviathan by scott westerfeld book cover
adventure junkies: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

horror buffs: The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge, This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

graphic novel enthusiasts: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore, Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 by Gail Carriger and Rem

fans of fantasy: Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

Still stumped?  Check out the list that Kirkus put together of steampunk books for teens (with links to their reviews!), a Library Journal article focused on adult and ‘classic’ steampunk, and a post from Charlotte's Library about steampunk for kids.  And please, if you have any categories and suggestions, mention them in the comments!

the iron wyrm affair

There are times I know that I want (or need!) to read a book even before I check out the summary on the back cover or inside flap.  I’ve even been known to skip the summary altogether, and take a cover image on faith.  Lilith Saintcrow’s The Iron Wyrm Affair was just such an occasion.  That faith was born out – I was impressed and pleased to find that this title exceeded my (admittedly high) expectations.  What can I say?  A steampunk Sherlock Holmes-style tale, mixed with magic equals my reading dreams come true.

the iron wyrm affair by lilith saintcrow book cover
Emma Bannon, forensic sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn't help much that they barely tolerate each other, or that Bannon's Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen.

In an alternate London where illogical magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, Bannon and Clare now face hostility, treason, cannon fire, black sorcery, and the problem of reliably finding hansom cabs.

The game is afoot…

In Saintcrow’s rendering of a fantastical, steampunk London, mentaths are unparalleled devotees of Logic, wielding their intellect with precision and to great effect – that is, if they are official and ‘registered.’  An excess of that same intelligence left without an object drives them mad.  On the other side is illogical magic, to be used in the service of Queen and Country.  However, someone has been killing mentaths… and the trail leads toward conspiracy.  Then sorceress Emma Bannon is entrusted with the keeping of mentath Clare, and the survival of Britain may rely on their ability to trust each other, deduce, and fight!

Reading this book was work for my brain – good, complex work that left me anxious to find out what would happen next, how the twists would unfold, and to see who would survive.  It is a superbly plotted and lushly written mystery adventure, and I, for one, have been hooked completely.  I haven’t read a sci-fi or fantasy world so minutely rendered in a long time.

However, Saintcrow takes it a step further: her characters are lovable.   It is their wide open faults and weaknesses that make Bannon and Clare such a wonderful match.  Bannon is caught somewhere between lady, magician and public servant, and it is a difficult space to occupy.  Clare is unregistered, and perhaps a smidgen too close to madness.  And yet, their partnership works, and there is enough of the unexpected (both in terms of plot and character development) that this reader, at least, was pleasantly surprised by the departure from cliché.  Was that too vague?  Here’s a tidbit: the slight hint of romance was JUST RIGHT, and I imagine this series will continue to be not only clever and exciting, but dangerous, surprising, and satisfying as well.  You couldn’t really expect any less from an epic steampunk mystery team, could you? It’s a heck of a fun ride…er…book.

Recommended for: fans of sci-fi/fantasy, anyone with a confessed ‘thing’ for steampunk and Sherlock Holmes (perhaps especially the recent films with Robert Downey, Jr.), and those who like their stories clever, their intrigue just a bit bloody, and the consequences of failure dire indeed.

If you're interested in steampunk, check out the Steampunk Week in September event, running from the 16th to the 22nd here at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia.

steampunk week in september (+ giveaway)

Sunday, September 16, 2012 | | 9 comments
It is here!  The Steampunk Week in September event at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia will feature steampunk book reviews, giveaways and related posts from the 16th (today!) to the 22nd (next Saturday).  Stay tuned each day for new content, and refer back to this post as needed – I’ll add each post to the list as it goes up.  Oh, and check out the sweet weeklong giveaway below!

Calendar of Events

This event will feature newer steampunk releases, but what about all those books from the past few years?  You know, the books that brought attention to the genre and got people excited about the possibilities?  They’re still out there, and they’re still fun.  Today’s giveaway will feature the steampunk books I’ve reviewed over the last three years here at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia.

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
Corsets & Clockwork edited by Trisha Telep
Soulless by Gail Carriger
“Here There Be Dragons” (part of the anthology Burning Up) by Meljean Brook
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
Steam & Sorcery by Cindy Spencer Pape 
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

Want to win a book of your choice from the list above?  Simply fill out the FORM.  Giveaway open internationally, will end on September 29th at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.  Good luck!

So tell me, what's your favorite steampunk read?
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