Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cover Revealed: Curtsies & Conspiracies (Gail Carriger)

It was just so gorgeous, I couldn't help sharing it! On her blog (here), author Gail Carriger just revealed the cover of Finishing School Book the Second, Curtsies & Conspiracies, and it's even prettier than Book the First! Check it out:

Curtsies & Conspiracies

Isn't it gorgeous?! And it's BLUE!!! *pets*

Book the First, Etiquette & Espionage (which I recently reviewed here), releases THIS TUESDAY, so be sure to pick up a copy next week at your local independent bookstore! And don't forget to add Curtsies & Conspiracies, due out this winter, to your To-Read list! Your bookshelf deserves this kind of pretty.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Etiquette & Espionage (Gail Carriger)

Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Series: Finishing School Book the First
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Steampunk
Content Rating: Teen (some violence, rule-breaking throughout, the viscous mauling of both an undergarment and an outer-garment, implied tipsiness, several instances of assault by food, and Pickelmen)
Format Read: ARC (2nd Read)
Find It On: Goodreads

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence, more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea -- and God forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, 
Mrs. Temminnick enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right -- but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

*          *          *

I describe it as... Harry Potter meets Jeeves & Wooster. Or, if Jane Austen wrote Harry Potter after apprenticing under P.G. Wodehouse and H.G. Wells.

Writing: Ms. Carriger's style is easy to read and highly engaging - both times I read this book I breezed through it. She has a prim wit and a deft hand for excavating levity from the formal dialect of Victorian English. Her skill especially shines in dialogue:

"What's that?"
"Oh, that? That's just Pillover."
"And what is a pillover, when it's at home?"
"My little brother."

She also has a comical way with names, from places to people (Lord Dingleproops) to things (the "Depraved Lens of Crispy Magnification," for example). In this area she really reminds me of a female P.G. Wodehouse, which makes sense as she claims the author as an influence.

Setting: Ms. Carriger's world is an altered version of our history that runs with the question of, "What would things have been like if there really had been supernatural beings living among us?" With her knowledge well grounded in actual history (in her former life she was an archaeologist), she effortlessly explains how vampires would've obviously had a hand in this or that fashion craze, and werewolves most certainly would've been a pivotal aspect of the British military. While adding supernatural creatures into the mix may sound like a vast alteration, Ms. Carriger's world is still so very familiar that you can't help but wonder if perhaps it might really true after all...

Characters: Sophronia is highly inquisitive and not unlike a sponge in the way she soaks up information, secret or otherwise. While her feminine ways are in desperate need of refining, it's obvious from the start that she has a bright (and rather unladylike) future ahead of her. She is one of the strongest, most unflinching and capable female characters I have come across in a long while - she makes her own questions, roots out her own answers, and doesn't look to a boy or an adult to save her (unless it's her idea, of course).

As for the supporting cast, Sophronia's best friend Dimity, with her love of shiny things and propensity to faint at the most inappropriate moments, is the perfect companion, confidante, and conspirator. And one cannot help but fall in love with Sophronia's "pet" Bumbersnoot, although I still suspect him of ulterior motives of espionage. The other girls in her study group (elegant and inelegant alike) round off the cast nicely, as do Sophronia's "unseemly" companions belowdecks, and an assortment of eccentric teachers.

Ms. Carriger has a delightful way of describing, and especially introducing, characters. All are colorful and highly entertaining - not a boring one in the bunch. Not even the lowliest character goes forgotten once Ms. Carriger gets done with them.

Story: This is truly a tale of etiquette and espionage - and the hijinks that ensue from both. It's a classic "first year at boarding school" story, with all the intrigue of making new friends, new enemies, and the constant investigation to discover the mysteries of the school itself. The plot is fun and engaging and a journey of a mystery that Sophronia is more than willing to take. She bravely powers through every obstacle and roots out the answers through newly-endowed stealth, the right (and wrong) kind of acquaintances, and a great deal of climbing. Think of her as Harry Potter, but with more social restrictions and gobs more spunk and gumption.

Genre: I'm not usually much for steampunk (typically too technical for my palette), and my love affair with the paranormal wore off a while ago. But Ms. Carriger's fresh take on both is such that even the likes of me can be engaged and entertained. Her steampunk feels natural, not a showy spectacle but an everyday part of the setting. And the supernatural beings are not fearful creatures that stalk the night, but just another, albeit unusual, ethnic group one stumbles across in evening society.

My Only Complaint: The opening scene (aka "The Incident with the Dumbwaiter (and the Trifle)") was rather a disaster. I couldn't follow it at all, it was so choppy and confusing. I didn't even realize Sophronia was actually in the dumbwaiter until she launched herself out of it! This is the sixth book I have read by Ms. Carriger, and her other five opening scenes were stellar, so I honestly have no idea what happened here. Whatever you do, DO NOT judge this book by its opening scene. Because you will miss out on an absolutely wonderful book if you do.

Three things to expect: Traversing, transformations, and transmitters.

My Etiquette & Espionage Love List (in no particular order)
  • Bumbersnoot (but of course!). For who couldn't love a small mechanical weiner dog?
  • The Depraved Lens of Crispy Magnification.
  • Professor Brainthorpe's moustache, and the description thereof (see below).
  • The abundance of cravats. So much fun to read and say and such a dashing addition to a man's ensemble. I wish they would come back in style.
  • Vieve. Because I have always adored her - why not now?
  • Cheese pies. Although quite messy, they are a must at any ball worth attending.
  • A werewolf in a top hat.
  • The "light" repast that is Mademoiselle Geraldine's breakfast. Brunch. Lunch?
  • Pillover. I really don't know why, but I hope there are great things in store for him. One of which being, possibly, Sophronia's hand?
  • Using "stoat" as a descriptive word for a person.
  • Because of course, "Who doesn't want an exploding wicker chicken?"

Favorite Lines (because with Ms. Carriger there can never be just one)*

"A headmistress isn't interested in education."

"He...boasted an unassuming mustache, which was perched atop his upper lip cautiously, as though it were slightly embarrassed to be there and would like to slide away and become a sideburn or something more fashionable."

"No, dear, don't curtsy. I couldn't bear it - not twice in one night."

"It'll all end in tears and oil."

*All quotes were taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and are not final proof.

I'm still wondering... What is dangerous about a robin in a bowler?

Lesson Learned: Like a man and his towel, a woman should never be without a handkerchief.

ConclusionEtiquette & Espionage is a highly entertaining read that I shall recommend to anyone and everyone for years to come. I look forward to Book the Second, Curtsies & Conspiracies, later this year with immense anticipation!

Recommend?: But of course!

Scribble Rating
5 of 5 Scribbles

Book Website:

Etiquette & Espionage releases February 5th (next Tuesday!), and I highly recommend you pre-order your copy today at your local independent bookstore or any of these fine establishments:

Barnes & Noble   The Book Depository   Amazon   Changing Hands

Be sure to check back Monday, February 4th for an exclusive interview with the author herself, Gail Carriger! She will discuss her transition into Young Adult and even give a sneak peek of sorts into Book 2!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Welcome to Finishing School!

Gail Carriger's young adult debut, Etiquette & Espionage, releases in less than two weeks, and yesterday publisher Little, Brown launched the official Finishing School webiste HERE - check it out!

Etiquette & Espionage Add

Also released yesterday was the book's trailer! I'm not one for book trailers (at all, actually), but this one is just too much fun not to enjoy, so do take a second to watch it! They did a splendid job.

I will be posting my review of Finishing School Book the 1st, Etiquette & Espionage, this Tuesday, January 29th, so be sure to keep an eye out for it (especially since I will be announcing a special post to come Monday, February 4th)!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Flora Segunda (Ysabeau S. Wilce)

Flora Segunda (Flora Trilogy, #1)
Title: Flora Segunda
SubtitleBeing the Magical Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog
Series: Flora Trilogy #1
Author: Ysabeau S. Wilce
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Release Date:
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Content Rating: Younger Young Adult (minor language, violence, scary situations)
Format Read: ARC
Find On: Goodreads

Flora knows better than to take shortcuts in her family home, Crackpot Hall--the house has eleven thousand rooms, and ever since her mother banished the magickal butler, those rooms move around at random. But Flora is late for school, so she takes the unpredictable elevator anyway. Huge mistake. Lost in her own house, she stumbles upon the long-banished butler--and into a mind-blowing muddle of intrigue and betrayal that changes her world forever. Full of wildly clever plot twists, this extraordinary first novel establishes Ysabeau Wilce as a compelling new voice in teen fantasy.

*          *          *

I describe it as... So You Want to Be a Wizard meets Howl's Moving Castle.

Writing: A little too carefree for my usual tastes, but not too childish that I lost interest. Relatively easy to follow.

Setting: I have absolutely no idea what the setting is. My closest guess was alternate historical Scotland with magical and modern elements. I was lost through the entire book, constantly guessing and then being proven wrong by another mention of cafĂ© au lait and the like. But it was unique and fun and I didn't mind so very much spending my time with Flora in it. Whatever it was.

Story: This is a story of adventure and a true testament to the "try/fail cycle" that every good book should have a handful of. But instead of "try/fail" cycles, this book has "try/fail miserably, despair, repeat" cycles. With each turn Flora digs herself deeper and deeper into a hole she cannot possibly climb back out of - and not just her, but everyone involved. But just as all is lost (and I really do mean all), the book concludes with a most uplifting and satisfying ending. This story will take you for a ride, but one of the best kind.

Characters: Flora is a spunky young lady who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty in the name of adventure, and you couldn't help but root for her in all her schemes. I didn't think much would come of her companion Udo, but I was proven wrong halfway through the book and it was fun to have him along for the ride - and sometimes leading the charge. The rest of the motley cast of characters ranged from fantastical to family, and each one was colorful (some extremely so, being purple or blue) and entertaining.

Favorite Bit(s): The cover - so pretty - and the end. I love a good, happy ending, especially after such horrible failure and despair. I haven't read a book like this in such a long time and it was so very refreshing.

Comments: When the book came out in 2007, I thought it was about a girl who gets lost in her own house and wanders the entire book trying to find the way out. While this sounded fascinating, I read the first few lines and then never touched it again. Imagine my surprise when I finally picked it up and discovered it was entirely not what I had imagined - and a happy discovery it was. Although the voice wasn't quite what I like, it was a fun and engaging read that had me giddy with adventure, depressed with despair, and tingling with the warm fuzzies at the end. I did not think I would look into the other two books, but now I think I might quite enjoy them.

Recommend?: Definitely.

Scribble Rating
4 of 5 Scribbles

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where in the World Wednesday: Toaster Edition!

It's time for another installment of my writing meme: "Where in the World Wednesday"! Show us where your character is right now in your story, either from a broad view like France or a narrow view like the deli on First Street. Wherever they are, blog a picture of the location - but don't feel the need to explain or even tell us where it is! The mystery is part of the fun. ;)

Today's location comes from the book I will be blogging starting in February, entitled Toaster Loses Her Hatting! I just discovered it among my old notes: a hand-drawn map of the story's world! I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek of what to expect. ;) Pardon my drawing and handwriting, though - with no real artistic talent this was the best I sketch out in 2010:

Needless to say, Toaster and her friends will be traveling all over this circular world. Follow the blog here and join the journey on February 1st!

So where in the world is your character this Wednesday? Blog a pic and comment below with the link!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Where in the World Wednesday: Stacks

It's time for another installment of my writing meme: "Where in the World Wednesday"! Show us where your character is right now in your story, either from a broad view like France or a narrow view like the deli on First Street. Wherever they are, blog a picture of the location - but don't feel the need to explain or even tell us where it is! The mystery is part of the fun. ;)

Today's location comes once more from Project P, and my MC is currently here:

It's a very familiar location, but perhaps not from this angle. Hint: as with all my Project P pics so far, this one is in Manhattan!

So where in the world is your character this Wednesday? Blog a pic and comment below with the link!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Blog Updation & Giveaway!

Welcome to my newly updated blog, Skye's Scribblings, in which I talk about writing, reading, and any other wordy subject in between! This is a consolidation of my Write or Die Trying writer blog and Black Kitten Reviews book review blog. Simplicity is my new best friend this year! :)

There won't be much change to the content, but the site name has altered so please make note of it ( I will be posting here at least once a week on writing, books, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

To mark this auspicious occasion, I am, of course, doing a giveaway! And this time, YOU get to choose the book from four familiar Young Adult titles! There's a little bit of everything, so pick one of the books below and sign up with the Rafflecopter form at the bottom. Good luck!

Halo (Halo, #1)Cross My Heart (Cross My Heart, #1)
Imaginary GirlsLies Beneath (Lies Beneath, #1)

*The ARC cover of Cross My Heart is different, but the book is the same.

  • Open to U.S. residents only
  • Must be 13 or older to enter
  • Ends at midnight Sunday, January 20th
  • If I don't hear back from the winner after one week of contacting them, I will draw a new winner.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 12, 2013


It's time for another entry in my "Currently..." segment, in which I let you know what I'm currently up to on a number of highly important topics.



Novels: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber. It's historical and told in journal form, neither of which is usually my cup of tea but I'm really enjoying it. I just finished re-reading Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, and you can expect a gushing review of it soon.
Manga: I haven't been reading much manga of late. I think I've fallen out of my addiction, although I still have my favorite series that I get excited about. Volumes just come out so far apart now that I lose interest in between. I did find an engaging-enough series in Dawn of the Arcana though, and I'm enjoying it.


TV: I got Early Edition Season 1 for Christmas! It did turn out to be just as good as I remembered, and now I require at least one episode a day lest I go into withdrawal.
Movies: Caught a snippet of The Fugitive on television a few weeks ago and wanted to see it again so I picked it up from the library. It's an amazing movie - the acting, the story, the action. If you've never seen it, or if you haven't seen it in a while, watch it.


Project P: I've been so busy with All the Other Things that I haven't been able to write - and after I said I'd write 5k a month. Bad Skye. XP My procrastination also has to do with the fact that I'm at The Point - the point in my story (which each of my books has) where I get stuck and have to decide if I'll continue with the book or not. Considering how far into Project P I already am, I fully intend to continue to finish, but January is not the time. Therefore, I am declaring February will be All the Writing Month, and letting myself off the hook for now. It's been about a week since I've written though and I'm beginning to feel The Itch, so expect to hear of some writing soon.


Blogging: I have been pondering my blogs (of which I have several) and, to simplify my life, will be compiling my writing and reviewing blog. Expect this blog to change very soon!

Bookshelf: My favorite local teen librarian gave me their backlog of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), which was a GIANT box that was almost impossible to lug up the stairs to the car but was TOTALLY worth the strain. There were some real gems that I can't wait to read! I'm now in the process of trying to trade/get rid of the unwanted ones, since I now have bags of books littering the floor of my tiny bedroom. Expect another giveaway or two soon (and if you have any ARCs to trade, feel free to contact me via Twitter @skyelyte).

That's it for me. What are you "currently" up to?

The Story Siren needs YOU!

Book-blogger The Story Siren needs your help before she finds herself buried under a book draft! (I mean, look at this picture!) Sign up to win a box of ARCs HERE and help her make the necessary purge!

The Story Siren needs YOU.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2013 Word for the Year

Last year's word was Change, and it was a big year of change for me - mainly in my diet. I became Gluten-Free in the spring, and then Dairy-Free and Yeast-Free in December. This makes for major meal-planning challenges, but I've adapted well enough (GF Bisquick = my lifesaver).

While 2013 will still see some more changes for me, I think the big ones are out of the way. That means it's time for the next step, and that brings me to this year's word:

My 2013 word: Discovery

I am ready to discover new things, new places, new words! A few of the ways I plan to do this is:

Posting a novel online. I have yet to truly edit a novel, so this will be a good experience for me, one chapter at a time. Be sure to Follow along on the journey at Toaster Loses Her Hatting!
Reading more. Less television re-runs, more books. I have already started in a major way, beginning with my first books of the year (yes, plural - and one is an adult book no less!), Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and Etiquette & Espionage (which is actually a second read - look for the review soon!).
New food. Since my list of approved foods continues to shrink, it's time for me to let go of the stubborn child within and try some new foods! First up, I think: asparagus.

So what is your word for 2013?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Me Giveaway WINNER!

The winner of my New Year, New Me Giveaway has been chosen! And the lucky Follower is:

Kristen J.

Kristen: look for an email in your Inbox!

Thank you to all who entered my first giveaway (and especially tweeted about it!), and I wish you all an amazing 2013! :)