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Etiquette & Espionage | Gail Carriger

Summary: Sophronia is 14, a member of the gentry, and “a cracking bother” as she displays all the hallmarks of an under-stimulated overeager puppy. She wants to know how things work, is willing to take systems apart to study them, and can’t help but eavesdrop on interesting conversations. What’s a concerned mother to do? Send the chit to finishing school. Maybe they can develop the young lady into someone useful to polite society. Or a master intelligencer-assassin.

Recommendation: Carriger creates a universe with generations of steampunk-adventure goodness to be explored. There are vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and more to be navigated just as carefully as you might a coal-heated or helium-filled airship. This is the first installment of 4 in the Finishing School series and occurs earliest in her related works (followed by the Parasol Protectorate and the Custard Protocol). Appropriate for teens, this story includes flirtation based on the timing of one’s blush and the fluttering of one’s lashes. If you give the audiobook a try, Moira Quirk is my favorite narrator in the business and she entertains with multiple accents.

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The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein | Kiersten White

Summary: Perhaps the title intrigued you – Frankenstein and his monster have been entertaining us for over 200 years. The characters in this novel are introduced as children, aging appropriately with time into young adults. However, the elements of their stories are not child-like at all. Much of what is presented would be considered abuse and neglect today. Amazon marked this work as geared toward 12-17 years olds. I beg to differ and would recommend it for mature teens and up. There is a psychosis at work well before any ‘monster’ comes into being.

Recommendation: Why, if I found the content so uncomfortable, would I recommend this work? Because it was moving – it was vivid and grotesque, made me squirm and gasp and cringe. I had little faith that the story would work out well, but trusted the characters to keep to their strengths. Feeling quite satisfied by the end, I would not be surprised if eventually a sequel were available. And I’d read it hungrily.

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The Angel of the Crows | Katherine Addison

Summary: Entering this work, you make a few assumptions. So many things sound reasonably familiar, you expect to hear certain names and events happening. Instead, we have original characters following the paths of famous entities with wild differences in origin or nature. Those portions that are unfamiliar bring the spark of ingenious creativity into focus. If you are not already a fan of Holmes and Watson, that’s all right. These characters ARE NOT THEM.

Recommendation: Addison creates a supernatural-laden world encircling historical London that holds secrets inside secrets. Head into this mystery with the notion that you’re reading Sherlockian fanfic and you’re still going to be surprised. The relationship that develops between the main characters is more intriguing that the identity of the various killers brought into the light by our esteemed detective. Had this been presented as a series of short stories, it would have read as smoothly. I particularly enjoyed the audiobook version as the narrator was highly skilled.

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