Posted in Uncategorized

My mistake – Finishing School HAS NOT BEEN DISMISSED!

Yesterday, I posted a review for Gail Carriger’s Waistcoats & Weaponry, mentioning that this was the final chapter in the Finishing School series. Thankfully, I was wrong, as fellow librarian Jenna Goodall and Gail Carriger herself let me know!

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Now that I’ve fangirled properly over receiving a Tweet from Gail Carriger, I send huge thank-yous to Jenna Goodall and Ms. Carriger for enlightening me. Back to awaiting Prudence, and now, Manners and Mutiny!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Steampunk, Teen

All Hail Gail Carriger! Waistcoats and Weaponry concludes the Finishing School saga!

cover47801-mediumWaistcoats & Weaponry, by Gail Carriger (2014, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), $18, ISBN: 9780316190275

Recommended for ages 13+

If there is one writer I fangirl for these days, it’s Gail Carriger. I discovered her Parasol Protectorate series a few years ago, and was immediately hooked. There’s paranormal adventure, steampunk fabulousness, including airships, mechanicals, and loaded parasols, and most importantly, fierce fashion. And tea. A lot of tea. What’s not to love?

When she announced she was writing a YA series that takes place in the Parasol Protectorate universe, I was jubilant.  The Finishing School series: Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies, and now, Waistcoats & Weaponry, take place at a finishing school for young ladies. But it’s not just any finishing school: the ladies are taught to be covert assassins as easily as they’re taught to properly bat their eyelashes and set a proper table. If you’ve been following the series, you know that Sophronia left off with a pretty major benefactor last book. He’s alluded to here in Waistcoats, but Sophronia is front and center in this book. She’s working out her feelings for both her friend, Soap, and Felix, a wealthy Duke’s son who’s been flirting outrageously with her. She’s still trying to figure out what Monique – and, by extension, a vampire hive – is up to. And when family drama strikes at her friend Sidheag, she has to be there for her. She’s got a full plate, and watching her juggle it is nothing short of brilliant.

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I love Sophronia, and seeing her develop as a character throughout these three books has been a delight. She goes from being a headstrong young girl who likes to find out how things work, to a headstrong, determined young woman who exudes an air of polish when she needs to, but is never afraid to pull on a pair of trousers (gasp!) and get right into the thick of things to find out what she needs to know. She’ll take on a vampire or a werewolf if it means helping her friends, but she’ll always think things through and try to come to the best situation for everyone involved. It’s also tremendous fun to see the storylines developed in The Parasol Protectorate come full circle here; Finishing School takes place about 15-20 years before, and events discussed in the first series find their origins here, as do several key characters.

I’m sad to see Finishing School dismissed, but I can’t wait for Prudence, her new series, to hit stores next month. Pick up the Finishing School series. You’ll be so glad you did. And make sure to stop by the Finishing School website, where you can take some lessons of your own, and download an educator’s guide to the series. THERE’S AN EDUCATOR’S GUIDE TO THIS SERIES. Why wasn’t I taught this stuff in high school?!

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Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place – A Hilarious Whodunit!

scandalous sisterhoodThe Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry (Roaring Brook Press, Sept 2013) $15.99, ISBN: 9781596439566

Recommended for ages 10+

In Victorian England, seven girls are students at St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls when their headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her brother, Mr. Godding, drop dead at the dinner table, poisoned. Once the girls are sure that the poisoner isn’t among them, they figure out their next steps – namely, how to get Mrs. Plackett and her brother out of sight, and creating a cover story that will allow them to continue on at St. Etheldreda’s, unchaperoned, mistresses of their own destiny! The only problem – the poisoner REALLY wants the targets out of the picture. And if everyone thinks the headmistress and her brother are still alive, then the girls may still be in danger.

The seven girls are often identified with an adjective that gives readers a background on their personality: Disgraceful Mary Jane, who’s more concerned with the attention of the opposite sex than she is about keeping to their cover story; Stout Alice, who’s stout of heart as well as body; Dour Elinor, who could be the mother of the goth movement; Dull Martha, who’s… well… not that bright; Dear Robert, a kind soul with nothing bad to say about anyone; Pocked Louise, the burgeoning scientist with a bit of a blemish condition, and Smooth Kitty, daughter of a businessman, who seems to have inherited his smooth talking business acumen. Their personalities clash and meld according to the situation as they work together to keep up their façade and solve the mysteries that continue to pop up around them.

The book is darkly funny – think the Gashlycrumb Tinies in finishing school. It’s a comedy of manners meets a Victorian crime drama, and Julie Berry – a noted middle grade and YA novelist – embraces the genres. I enjoyed every second I read this book. If I were to find out that somehow, some way, we’d get to go on more adventures with the Sisterhood, I’d be thrilled!

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place hits stores on September 23rd. I’ve already got my order in for my library – this will make for fun Fall reading! Treat yourself and your middle graders/tweens to this hilarious whodunit.

Julie Berry’s author page provides links to social media and information about author visits, plus book info.

Take a look at The Scandalous Sisterhood’s book trailer – then get your order in!

Posted in Adventure, Espionage, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Steampunk

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger (Little, Brown, 2013)

etiquette and espionageRecommended for ages 13+

Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate series, kicks off her YA Finishing School series, set in the same universe as the Parasol Protectorate series, with Etiquette & Espionage.

Fourteen year-old Sophronia is driving her society lady mother crazy. She climbs trees. She takes apart things to figure out how they work. She lines her books with rubber from a dumbwaiter in the house. Fed up with Sophronia’s antics, she sends her to finishing school – Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, to be precise.

What neither Sophronia nor her mother bet on, though, was that this is no ordinary finishing school – when they say “finish”, they mean “finish” – the students learn how to curtsey and flutter their eyelashes, but they also learn about poisoning, espionage, and weapons placement. Sophronia is learning to be a spy and an assassin in addition to being a lady. But she also stumbles into a mystery involving one of the students as soon as she boards the coach to school – what is really going on at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, and what does her newfound nemesis have to do with it?

While I am a big fan of the Parasol Protectorate series and went into this series with high hopes, I was a little let down here. I understand that this is the first book in a new series, with much to be established, but I felt there was an overall lack of plot to drive the story forward. It seemed more a collection of “look what Sophronia’s got herself into now” moments, with some vague subplot surfacing to give her an archenemy in future books.

The dry humor is there, though, and that kept me reading. I love the way Ms. Carriger writes, and I enjoy her stubborn heroines who can lock horns with a werewolf and then stress about their state of dress and look for a cup of tea. I enjoy the Parasol Protectorate universe, and there’s paranormal and steampunk aplenty here, with werewolves, dirigibles, and automatons for all. There are a few pleasant surprises for Parasol Protectorate fans, too.

If you’re a fan of Carriger’s, you’ll at least enjoy the universe and references. I look forward to the next book in the series.