Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Steampunk Carnival by Cassandra Leuthold || Blog Tour Post

Steampunk Carnival
Author:  Cassandra Leuthold
Publisher:  Green Hill Press
Pages: 253
Release Date: August 10th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Katya Romanova gave up everything to work at the one-of-a-kind Steampunk Carnival – her family, her home, her reputation.  She wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  As a guide to the guests, Katya enjoys more freedom than most.  She makes time to gossip with her best friend, Magdalene.  She basks in the elaborate costumes that bring her awed attention, hoping they might also win her a husband.  And no man pays her more attention than her boss and carnival owner, William Warden.

But in the summer of 1887, death threats against Mr. Warden break the spell.  Katya knows he might be as underhanded as he is charming, but who would actually want him dead?  When Katya finds unexpected evidence about the carnival’s true origins, the stakes jump even higher.  Not sure whom they can trust, Katya and Magdalene work to unravel the carnival’s mysteries.  Who really invented the innovative rides?  Is Mr. Warden protecting his employees or only himself from the looming violence?  And will Katya cling to the better side of his nature or eventually turn her affections for him into a powerful rivalry?

Before I start this review I need to make a confession: I'm a sucker for Steampunk. Looking around my blog, I'm pretty sure that shows. However, my love can be both helpful and a hindrance. While I can instantly adore anything in this genre, I can also be a bit tough on those who overdo it. Thankfully, Cassandra is tasteful with her story, and the way she mixes gears and glamour with the story line. 

What I like about Steampunk Carnival is that the corsets aren't thrown in just to be part on the fad, and the story can stand on it's own two feet without needing to have all the other bells and whistles (although, the steam elements are delightfully fun). The characters feel dynamic without being overly done, and the pacing and writing are handled well. The story itself is interesting: like some of my favorite novels, the mystery is woven into the story and lets the reader slowly piece things together on their own. I also enjoy that Cassandra doesn't overdo some of the world-building elements like other authors. I get to hear about fancy embroidery when it matters, and don't feel bogged down by overly detailed Victorian clothing descriptions the rest of the time.

Katya is also an interesting character. She feels feminine, yet capable, and doesn't feel "perfect"; there is something I found believable about her. Having a good character like this made it easy to engage in the story, so I was really happy with that. One critique was that there were a few points other female characters maybe felt a little flat or interchangeable (Mary and Magdalene, for instance, didn't really have enough that made them feel individual the same way Katya did). I think sometimes those places were plot driven more than character driven, but it was a minor complaint more than anything. It didn't detract from my general enjoyment of the book. 

Overall, I think this might be a good book if you like Steampunk, and want to try reading a novel in this genre. It has all the fun, without feeling a bit too saturated by "steam". I'm interested to see where the rest of the story goes!

About the Author

Cassandra grew up in the small town of La Porte, Indiana, exploring wooded parks and sparkling lakes. Making South Bend her home, the scenery hasn’t changed much - inspiring trees and a long, winding river. From the time she started writing in second grade up to the projects she works on now, the nature, history, and people around her inspire the stories she tells. You can find her work listed under many different genres, but the heart of each story remains the same. What keeps us together, and what pulls us apart?

She lives with her writer husband and their moody cat, Gaia, in a house three sizes too big. She holds a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in English. When she’s not writing, you can find her sewing, enjoying nature, listening to music, researching family history, and watching TV.

Author Links

Purchase Links
Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Steampunk-Carnival-Steam-World-Book-ebook/dp/B00MK9FPH2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408213825&sr=8-1&keywords=steampunk+carnival
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22890426-steampunk-carnival?ac=1




Link: http://open.spotify.com/user/knovitzke/playlist/69TP9kW9jha9Vmidx6IMO3

“What I Wouldn’t Do,” She Swings, She Sways
The first chapter of Steampunk Carnival is different than the rest of the book.  It’s narrated by someone whose name isn’t revealed for several chapters.  The reason he’s obsessed with filling a journal with his ideas isn’t clear until we find out who he is, but the song gives insight into his situation.  He’s a man driven by longing, loneliness, and desperation.  It adds extra layers and emotions to what’s shared at that point in the book.

“Kill The Lights,” The Birthday Massacre
I’m a big fan of the movie “Moulin Rouge.”  In the director’s commentary, Baz Luhrmann talks about the interesting difference between points of view in the climactic scene when Satine dies after the big, pulse-pounding performance.  The audience applauds.  They loved what they saw.  But what they missed was a murder attempt, and what they can’t see after the curtain closes is Satine’s heartbreaking death.  This song represents that for Steampunk Carnival.  All the guests see are beautiful costumes, spectacular rides, fun games, and delicious treats.  They don’t know about the death threats, the violence, and the arguments.  They never find out the games are rigged.

“Common Reaction,” Uh Huh Her
As the story unwinds, Katya finds herself in deeper and deeper trouble.  She acquires more to lose – friends, her safety, a boyfriend – and realizes there are fewer things she can be sure of.  A lot she took for granted isn’t true.  This song expresses Katya’s confusion and caution.  She doesn’t know how much to trust her boss, William Warden.  She hopes everything will work out all right, but she knows any ending is possible.

“Hold My Hand,” Mister Heavenly
This song reminds me of Maddox’s approach to Katya in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way.  If Maddox has one thing going for him, it’s persistence.  He tries several different tricks to get Katya to go out with him, and she turns him down several times.  She’s not easily persuaded to trade her love of money for appreciation of simple fun.

“Shake It Out,” Florence & the Machine
This song provides the perfect backdrop to the night Katya finally gives in to spending time with Maddox.  She leaves her fear, her distrust, and her rigid ideas about dating behind.  Katya and Maddox ride three attractions at the carnival, which thrills Katya more than she anticipated.  But more importantly, they’re finally able to share more about themselves and build a solid foundation for their relationship.

“Baptized by Fire,” Spinnerette
The lyrics and driving guitar in this song mirror what Katya and her friends are feeling by the time they confront the forces conspiring against them.  Katya has seen William Warden’s inner nature, and she doesn’t like it.  His security guards, allegedly hired to keep the employees safe, have been watching Magdalene like a hawk for weeks.  Katya’s tired of meeting in secret, worrying about how the carnival’s reputation will survive the truth about its origins.  But true to the song, with going to battle against powerful rivals comes a new beginning for all of them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This Languid Earth by Paul McCormack

This Languid Earth
Author:  Paul McCormack
Publisher:  Ichabod Dozer Press
Pages: 364
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The greatest tragi-comic romantic sci-fi ghost story written this millennium.

After finishing this book, I struggled a bit to put my thoughts into words. I skimmed some of the other reviews, good and bad, and found many of them already hit on the things I was feeling. The book did have potential, and I could tell there was a lot woven into this story. The problem was, there were some things that just didn't quite "click" to me. I was reading along, waiting for the "aha" moment. I didn't really ever get it. Can't say if that's the author's doing though, or mine.

This story had some elements that promised to make it interesting. There were interwoven stories, a plot that came together as you went, and some abstract thinking that had a slight psychological twist. When we hit the sci-fi, it borders somewhere between cool and odd, but it was unique, so it got points for that. 

The spacing between sections threw me off, though. We stayed so long with one character, that by the time we got to the next, I had already stopped caring about them. When I was with Hope, I wanted to just stay with her. When we were with Moses, I felt dragged away from another story to be there. It's hard to invest in characters when you're torn away from them after such a long time. I didn't really want to listen to Pastor Dave's sermons, because there were other, more interesting things happening. Then I struggled to figure out what the author was trying to do with Hope's story. It's like getting partway through the movie and someone switches to another channel. You kind of want to finish the one you're in first.

I think the biggest downfall for me as a reader was the Narratives thing. I think if you get what's happening, the story will start coming together at that point. I tried. I really did. But I don't think my brain quite put together all the blocks in the right places. Because I couldn't really make sense of what was being explained, as I kept reading, I felt more confused, rather than less. As things accelerated, I was still trying to fix a proverbial flat tire. 

That's not to say other people don't "get it". And that's not to say the whole book went over my head. There were a lot of good messages intermingled in this story. It was just a little hard to find, and a little hard to wait for. 

I think this is a good book for people who are patient. You need to be patient with the characters, the plot, and the author. It's not going to just instantaneously make sense. And for some people, sadly, it may never make sense. But I'll leave that for you as a reader to figure out. It's not that there isn't a lot here to be found. I just may not be talented enough for the scavenger hunt.