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A Reader of Fictions: October 2010

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Date Rape - Sublime

The Mockingbirds
The Mockingbirds, Book 1

Author: Daisy Whitney
Genre: realistic fiction, young adult
Pages: 332
ARC Acquired From: Little, Brown and Company at ALA 2010

Brief Summary:
Themis Academy is a prestigious boarding school with incredibly difficult academics. The schools sets the students up for bright futures and expects only the best of them. Consequently, they almost entirely ignore any disciplinary problems. As a result of the administration's negligence, a school society has arisen, The Mockingbirds, which creates laws, tries the accused and punishes those proven guilty. Alex had always been focused on her music and very careful, until one night when she had way too much drink. The next morning she wakes up naked with a guy she barely knows. At first, she is shocked at her promiscuity, but as memories of the night slowly return, she fears that she has been date raped. Afraid to see the boy around the school, she stops going to the cafeteria and takes long routes to class. Finally, sick of this and wanting to help other girls in similar situations, Alex takes her case to the Mockingbirds.

Daisy Whitney informs the reader in an Afterword to the book that this book is based off of her own experience with date rape. She was raped in college and felt much the way Alex did in this novel. Daisy turned to a college disciplinary committee for justice. The Mockingbirds considers the implications of date rape on the victim very openly. At times, the book was definitely tough to read, because the situation is so awful. I would not ordinarily have chosen this book for myself, but I was really impressed by it. Whitney confronts the issue of date rape without venturing too much into preaching. She also, from her own experience, knows how a girl would really feel in that situation: the anger, the guilt, the self-doubt, the fear.

The name of the book and the group in the school are drawn from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The justice meant to come from this school society, which dealt with cases of varying severity, was meant to be similar to Atticus Finch and Boo Radley. I really need to reread To Kill a Mockingbird soon, since this is the second book from ALA referencing it and my memories of freshman year of high school are fuzzy at best. The literary reference is appreciated, Ms. Whitney! (Brief note to the publisher: the catchphrase on the cover, 'Hush little students, don't say a word...' seems in bad taste. I am somewhat offended by it in the context of the story.)

The Mockingbirds is evidently the first in a series. I am eagerly looking forward to the next one. Hopefully, a number of the characters will recur (this is one of the series where it could theoretically be an almost entirely different cast), as they were quite likable. I highly recommend this book. It is well-written and full of useful information. This is definitely a good book for teen girls to read, because date rape is real and should not be dismissed. The Mockingbirds comes out next Tuesday, November 2.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind? - The Lovin' Spoonful

Nightshade, Book 1

Author: Andrea Cremer
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Pages: 452
ARC Acquired From: Penguin booth at ALA 2010

Brief Summary:
Calla is a Guardian, able to shift into a wolf at will, conveniently without losing any clothing in the process. She is the alpha of her pack and soon to be paired with the male alpha, Ren, of the other young pack by the Keepers, witches who give the Guardians anything they need in exchange for protection and some other less savory things. As a female, Calla is required to remain chaste, but Ren has done nothing of the sort (isn't that always the way?), which is one of the main reasons why Calla does not feel entirely certain about the impending union. Also making her hesitant is the cute new boy, Shay, whose life she saved with her awesome Guardian blood healing powers. Her decision is one of love versus duty, if only she could figure out who she loves and what her duty actually should be.

has a flashy, eye-catching cover. Quite beautiful. The chapters, of the ARC at least, each begin with an image of the waxing or waning moon. Also lovely. The publishers have done a lot to make this book appealing and have aesthetically succeeded. Except that these images are not well-matched to the content of the book. As I said, I like the cover art, but there is nothing about Calla that says purple, especially not her hair. Calla also hates makeup and will not wear it for even the fanciest events, so why would the girl on the cover (presumably Calla) be covered in glitter? As for the moon shots, I liked them a lot until I got to the climax of the book, which takes place at the 'Blood Moon,' which is described in the book as being a full moon. And yet the moon images at the end of the book are of the moon disappearing entirely. Did no one notice this?

The story itself is certainly melodramatic, as is rather unavoidable when the plot is based entirely around a love triangle. Still, I enjoyed the book and will probably read any sequels fairly eagerly. Cremer has done interesting things with the basic premise of werewolves (which these aren't really). Her story definitely falls into a more serious fantasy category than the paranormal bandwagon books. I do hope to see some more exposition about the Keepers and Searchers in later volumes, as this one left a lot of information out.

Nightshade falls somewhere between Twilight and Shiver, but I liked it better than both. Elements of the love triangle were certainly frustrating (such as Calla's inability to suss out her feelings), but I try not hold it against her too much. I did not blame Katniss for that, so Call also deserves a pardon for her circumstances. Paranormal romance fans, this one won't disappoint you!

"Did you ever have to finally decide
Say yes to one and let the other one ride
There's so many changes and tears you must hide"

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Monday, October 25, 2010

I Want It Now - Julie Dawn Cole

Wicked Appetite
The Unmentionables, Book 1

Author: Janet Evanovich
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 313

Brief Summary:
Diesel from the Stephanie Plum series gets his own spin-off series, of which this is book one. Of course, Evanovich likes her men mysterious, so the perspective is that of Diesel's love interest, Lizzy Tucker, cupcake baker extraordinaire. Diesel just shows up in her life, along with another creepier man, and tells her she must help him prevent the stone of gluttony from falling into evil hands. Lizzy, unsurprisingly, has trouble believing this, but the trouble is real, so she ends up sticking with Diesel. Helping her out (or something) along the way are her boss Clara, who resembles Cher, her coworker Glo, who thinks she has magical powers, Cat 7143, who has one glass eye and half a tail, and Carl the monkey, who also appeared in the Stephanie Plum series.

I freely admit that Diesel was not my favorite part of the Stephanie Plum series. Quite the opposite. I am a Morelli fan and Stephanie really doesn't need any more confusion than Ranger already provides. His powers, which are Unmentionable apparently, confused me then and do still. I am somehow very bothered by the cross between realistic, if silly, fiction and fantasy. I want the story to stay within the framework set within the original series. I love fantasy and I love Stephanie Plum, but I do not like the weird mixture.

However, if I pretend to myself that this series is not a spin-off, but its own fantasy series, this is a pretty fair opening. The characteristic Evanovich humor, animals and love of food are all present and accounted for (my goodness will you want a cupcake while you read parts of this book, although others will make you want never to eat again).

Differences between the Diesel series and Stephanie Plum:
1) Way less action for the main characters, as a result of some magical taboos
2) Lizzy has some conception of what she is good at (cooking) and what she is not (fighting)
3) Lizzy has only one love interest and it is obvious, by the nature of the series, that she will end up with Diesel (no, I do not consider this a spoiler). This is actually pretty neat, since Evanovich keeps stringing her fans along with Stephanie's indecisiveness.

All in all, this promises to be another great series. I do not expect to like it as much as Plum in its heyday, but I will be reading every other installment in Diesel's books. Evanovich is just too darn fun to pass up!

"Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake with no nuts
So good you could go nuts"

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle - Nirvana

Adios, Nirvana

Author: Conrad Wesselhoeft
Genre: young adult, music
Pages: 235
ARC Acquired From: Houghton Mifflin booth at ALA 2010

Brief Summary:
Jonathan, a promising poet, has been tempted by suicide, by taking a leap or fall from some high place and ending his life, ever since the tragic death of his twin brother Telemachus. He is an insomniac, addicted to No Doz and Red Bull, and failing all of his classes. His life is going nowhere fast and he just wants to get there faster. The book takes place in the pivotal moment where he can choose between living and dying, where he can make a comeback and figure out how to live without his brother and be his own person or not. This is a story of grieving, of rock music and of poetry.

From the first few pages, I thought I would have to force myself to get through this book. I hated those pages and wanted nothing to do with the story following. I would summarize them thus: Boy depressed by the passing of brother gets drunk with friends. Boy pees over the edge of a ledge twenty feet up. Boy vomits epically and descriptively. Boy falls, mostly non-accidentally, off of the ledge and into the puke. This is, in my opinion, not an excellent start to a book or anything I am particularly into reading. Having continued though, I was rewarded for my perseverance.

This is not to say that this book is one that I will keep in my personal collection or probably ever read again. But it definitely had its moments and had a few fantastic quotes. More than that though, it had heart and passion. The descriptions of poetry, of the writing process and of music are unbeatable. Wesselhoeft really makes the reader feel the creative juices flowing and get really into those moments. The best parts of this book, the most engaging, are the scenes where very little is actually happening, the moments of contemplation and quiet, frenzied creation.

For all rock music fans and poets, Adios, Nirvana is definitely worth reading. It comes out tomorrow, so go give it a try!

"I miss the comfort in being sad."

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pink Bullets - The Shins

Paranormalcy, Book 1

Author: Kiersten White
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Pages: 335

Brief Summary:
Evie grew up in foster care until the day she cut through a graveyard and was approached by a vampire. Unlike most people, the vampire looked like a corpse to her, not like a handsome man, so she screamed her head off (not literally). Turns out that Evie is the only person on the world who can see through glamours, making her very valuable. She goes to work (not that she has much choice) for the IPCA, responsible for tagging and maintaining control of paranormals all over the world. Evie desperately wishes she could attend high school and do normal things, but is happy enough living vicariously through her favorite teen drama, Easton Heights. When a new kind of paranormal, a cute, shape-shifting boy, appears, Evie starts thinking long and hard about everything she is missing. Add a mysterious serial killer of paranormals, an obsessed fairy stalker, the prom and some scary truths about the IPCA and Evie has a lot on her plate.

Paranormalcy successfully walks a fine line between lameness and humor. The book certainly is following on the tail of all of the other paranormal fiction being written now. White does not add anything new particularly, but does do some interesting things with the conventions she chooses to use. Evie, as a heroine, is not particularly impressive. She can protect herself to some degree, she is a little above average intelligence-wise and she is hugely innocent. In essence, she does seem like a real girl. She loves everything in the color pink, like her taser (Tasey) and her knife (no pink bullets, but she would have used them if she had a gun). While I found this absurd, I found it to be so in an entirely believable way.

While romance is a big part of Paranormalcy, it will probably disappoint some teen readers for its lack of sexual activity. The characters keep it PG, even in their thoughts, except for a couple of weak innuendos. The innocence of the characters is actually refreshing after having read so many teen books about seriously sexually active teenagers. While that may be true to life too, not all teens are that quick out of the starting gate. One of the scenes that sold me on White's portrayal of a teen girl was when the couple has their first kiss (the first kiss for both of them). The moment is awkward and sweet. When it's over, Evie keeps remembering the kiss, causing the "giddiness [to] set in anew." (No page number because I read this on my Kindle.) This perfectly captures a girl's thoughts in such a moment.

No, Paranormalcy is not a paragon of literature, even when limited to young adult titles, but it is a fun read. It is amusing and better written than many. For a fun, quick, humorous read, Paranormalcy is well-worth the time.

"I was just bony hands as cold as a winter pole
You held a warm stone out new flowing blood to hold"

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hunger Strike - Temple of the Dog

Riders of the Apocalypse, Book 1

Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 177
ARC Acquired From: Houghton Mifflin booth at ALA 2010

Brief Summary:
Lisabeth Lewis thinks she is too fat. She exercises constantly, counts calories and envies the self-control of her bulimic best friend Tammy. Lisabeth is anorexic, although she will not admit it; she does not believe someone as fat as she is could be anorexic. Her friendship with Tammy arose when her previous best friend accused her of being anorexic. Tammy understands her in a way Suzanne never did. Her eating disorder becomes more severe all the time and her boyfriend and parents are starting to take notice, which is causing arguments and tension. When Death shows up at her doorstep, stopping a suicide attempt, to give her the scales of Famine, she thinks she has imagined it. Until he shows up again and she goes for a ride on the invisible (to everyone else) horse on the lawn. Performing the role of a Horseman of the Apocalypse may just provide some much needed perspective on Lisabeth's life.

While the book does eventually come out on the side of not being anorexic, reading the sections where Lisabeth (what kind of a name is that anyway?) wishes she could be bulimic is (pardon the incredibly awful pun) nauseating. Add to this the constant interruptions of the Thin voice, which constantly reminds Lisabeth that "Anorexics don't have muffin tops," so she is not anorexic. The voice tells her not to eat and mocks her. This may be how it feels to have an eating disorder, as the author reveals at the end that she suffered from bulimia for a time. but it drove me crazy.

Perhaps worst of all are some of the delightful scatalogical scenes that come along with a book centered largely on anorexia and bulimia. After her first night working as Famine, there is a lovely description of Lisabeth's really painful poo. Later, when she spends time with Tammy, the reader is treated to an even more detailed description of vomiting. Certainly this might be off putting to a teen considering throwing up as a method of weight loss, but it also urged me to keep far away from any other books this series may have.

Although this book is technically fantasy (and I marked its genre as fantasy for lack of a better heading), Hunger is far more about eating disorders than about the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In fact, the whole fantasy frame story could easily be read as a dream that motivates Lisabeth to change her ways. The fantasy elements never feel real and are only a vehicle for keeping the book from being preachy.

I do not particularly recommend this book. If you really like books that deal openly with tough teen issues, like Speak does, then this book may interest you. This not being my niche area, I am just glad the book was really short.

"I don't mind stealing bread
From the mouths of decadence
But I can't feed on the powerless

When my cup's already overfilled"

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Learn to Fly - Foo Fighters

Leviathan, Book 1

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: steampunk
Audiobook Narrated By: (the incomparable) Alan Cumming
Discs: 7

Brief Summary:
Alec, son of the assassinated Franz Ferdinand and wife Sophie, escapes with his father's most loyal servants in a walker, a two-legged, mechanical war machine. Although he is not recognized as an heir to the Habsburg empire by his uncle, the Emperor, he still represents a major pawn as the powers of the world go to war in 1914. Meanwhile, Deryn Sharp, a fifteen year old girl, dresses up as a boy and lies about her age to join the British air forces. Britain flies fabricated animals (created through the blending of species, a science begun after the revelation of Darwin's theories) and aligns with the other Darwinist nations against the 'Clankers,' who use machinery (Germany, Austria Hungary, the Ottoman Empire. Deryn and Alec's paths lead them to the same place and to similar short-term goals as World War I erupts into full force around them.

Normally, I steer clear of audiobooks, considering them just a step above not reading at all. For the most part, I think of them as cheating; listening to a book just isn't the same as reading one. I put aside my admittedly unfair assumptions for the Leviathan audiobook when I heard that Alan Cumming narrated it. Alan Cumming is one of the most delightful actors in my opinion and I could just not resist. I listened to the book on my drive up to my alma mater for a friend's wedding.

First, I cannot stress enough the love I have for Alan Cumming. He is an entirely spectacular narrator, as I expected he would be. He does the voices (with accents!) for the characters. As in the second X-Men movie, he does a great German accent and he is, of course, British, so he can do that too. His female voices are a bit lacking, but there are only two in the whole book and one is pretending to be a boy. Besides, no one's perfect. And his attempts at sounding female are pretty hilarious. His pacing is great and he conveys emotions perfectly.

Now, for the story itself, I can say that I enjoyed Leviathan far more than I did the other Westerfeld books I have read (the Uglies trilogy). His language either annoyed me less in audiobook format or was kept under wraps by the historical setting. The book was incredibly fun. Westerfeld did really interesting things in his reimagining of the war, changing some background seriously, but still causing everything to happen much the way it did. The Darwinist versus Clanker version of World War I makes me laugh and is, in its framework, easy to believe. Those alliance make more sense than the real version. I also found the idea that Darwin's discoveries led to so much scientific development totally awesome.

I flipped through the book itself and am sad to have missed out on the neat artwork. Still worth it for Alan Cumming though. Check this book out! It's totally worth either a read or a listen. The sequel, Behemoth, just came out.

"Fly along with me, I can't quite make it alone
Try to make this life my own"

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne

The Clockwork Century, Book 3

Cherie Priest
Genre: steampunk
Pages: 400
ARC Acquired From: Goodreads First Reads

Brief Summary:
Vinita Lynch, a nurse, called Mercy by her patients, works in a Reb hospital in Richmond. Her husband, born in Kentucky, fights for the Union. She gets word that her husband has passed on right about the time she hears that her father, who she has not seen since she was a child, is dying out in Washington state. Although not initially inclined to go see the man who deserted her and her mother, she ultimately decides to go, partly because she needs to do something. Well, she has lots of excitement to take her mind off of the death of her husband on her journey west. There are dirigible crashes, battles, war wounds, attacks on trains and zombies all trying to keep her from making it to Washington alive.

Cherie Priest's books are really interesting and her diction and syntax excellently crafted. I have now read three of her books and I still feel like there is something missing. Maybe it's that there is never a single bit of romance; there are not even any married couples still happily together. I do not think every book needs romance, but it does seem odd that in a series of three books there would not be a single instance of attraction or a relationship. The closest to a relationship is Mercy and her husband, who never makes an appearance except in death. The main characters do not even have to be the ones; how about a couple of side characters leaving together or hooking up or something? It just struck me as weird.

Or maybe what's missing, in this book for certain, is the overarching plot. Technically, there is one: Mercy journeying to her father's bedside. Except that the book does not feel like it is actually in any way about that. At all. When Mercy arrives at said bedside, the book ends promptly. And by promptly, I mean in a page and a half. All of the drama was supposed to be to bring these two characters back together, but obviously it wasn't. It makes it quite apparent that the frame was tacked on at the end as an excuse to make the character take this trip across country. Is that bad? I think so, because it lends the whole book a sense of unreality. What was the point?

Characters from Boneshaker make an appearance in this book, although I would say it's more of a cameo than even a supporting role. As with the previous books, the women are strong, the men are too, the zombies are hungry and the scientists are crazy. While I like these books, I cannot pretend that I don't wish they were just a little bit better.

Heirs of a cold war
That's what we've become
Inheriting troubles I'm mentally numb
Crazy, I just cannot bear
I'm living with something' that just isn't fair

Mental wounds not healing
Who and what's to blame
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Imagine - John Lennon


Author: Sharon Dogar
Genre: historical fiction
Pages: 328
ARC Acquired From: Houghton Mifflin booth at ALA 2010

Brief Summary:
Dogar writes of the time the Franks and van Pels' spent hiding in the annex in Holland from the perspective of Peter van Pels, the boy who loved Anne Frank (so the cover proclaims). The story follows Peter from just before his entry into the annex up to his death, right around the time of the liberation. The novel suggests that Anne Frank may not have been quite how she portrayed herself in her diary.

I have read a few memoirs and fictitious accounts about the Holocaust, including The Diary of Anne Frank, although I read that some time in middle school, or possibly even late in elementary school. Dogar's book intrigued me, but I had no great expectations going into it.

Her portrayal of Peter van Pels is as a confused, hormonal, depressed, not all that intelligent boy. At the outset of the novel, he is obsessed with a girl named Liese, who he dreams of and mourns after he enters the annex; her being taken away was almost the last thing he saw before entering the hidden area behind the book case. His love for her dwindles over time, as Ann ages and time passes. Reading the section on their romance reminded me vaguely of Romeo and Juliet, what with their both having had prior love interests (at least in the novel) and their fates being doomed from the start. Their interactions felt awkward and not particularly loving. What I cannot say is whether that was intentional, meant to be indicative of the fact that their emotions were driven primarily by hormones, close quarters and the stress of not knowing how long they would live, or whether they were intended to be perceived as some legendary thwarted romance as the cover blurb would seem to suggest.

The writing is simple throughout, probably pretty easy to comprehend for reluctant readers or children transitioning to teen books. The story does go back and forth from Peter on his death bed to the memories of earlier times. This is however not confusing, as the times in the bast are written in regular font and death-bed Peter's thoughts are italicized.

The second part of the book, which describes briefly the experience getting to and living (if it can rightly be called so) in the camps. While I know why she included this, I am not entirely sure it added much to the story. Maybe it did, and I do not know if one can write a story about the Holocaust without including that. Either way, I did not particularly care for most of the section, since it was essentially a repetition of what memoirs have expressed about the camps. Although perhaps it is more accessible for younger people this way. (Can you tell I haven't quite made up my mind?) The one thing I found interesting from here was the emphasis on the terrible things that Peter had to do to survive in the camp, just as a regular prisoner, not as an overseer or anything.

Annexed may not be my idea of perfection, but it did make me want to reread Anne Frank's diary, so that's something. To conclude are some lyrics from the title song, which I think are quite in sync with Peter's opinions, as held in this historical imagining:

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace."

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Clementine - The Decemberists

The Clockwork Century, Book 2

Author: Cherie Priest
Genre: steampunk
Pages: 205

Brief Summary:
Contrary to my expectations, the Clockwork Century books are related stories with some characters making reappearances, so Briar and Zeke did not make reappearances. Clementine follows Captain Croggon Hainey, who appeared in Boneshaker, and his crew still trying to recover his ship, Free Crow, which was stolen in the first book. The chapters alternate between him and a female Confederate spy, Maria Boyd, who has taken a job at Pinkerton's in Chicago. Her first assignment is to keep Hainey from catching his ship, which has been renamed the Clementine, because the ship is carrying something vital to the Union.

First of all, I have to mention how difficult it was to figure out what was up with this book. I checked my book sites when I was starting to read Dreadnought and they all said it was book three in the series. But where's book two?, I wondered. I checked my local library (nope), I checked Barnes and Nobles' site (uh uh) and I checked Amazon (yes, but only if I want to pay fifty bucks for a two hundred page book. A little more research turned up the fact that for some reason Tor did not want to release the second book, so it went somewhere else, thus the lack of availability and the expensiveness. At any rate, since I cannot stand to read series out of order, I purchased the Kindle copy for $2.99, which seems to be the only realistic way to read this book. Crazy!

The story was, as mentioned before, fairly brief. It should not have been in any other way. As it is, it sets and maintains a good pace. It fills a bit of a gap from the first book. It's nice to see an author following a dangling plot thread, rather than leaving you wondering why his ship got stolen in book one other than to give a bunch of airmen a reason to be on the scene in Seattle. Much like in the first book, the characters still lack a bit of depth, but they are slightly improved.

The best thing about Cherie Priest's books though are her kickass women. Maria Boyd, in my opinion, puts the ladies of Seattle to shame, because she is smart, strong and willing to do whatever she has to in order to get her way. Action and gunfights abound and Maria is often right in the middle of them.

Fun bit of wordplay:
"'That's big of you,' Maria said dryly.
'I'm glad you approve,' he responded with equal lack of humidity."
Oh, that's great. Lack of humidity! It's such a terrible joke (which is why I love it)!

A fun second book for the series, quick and easy, like sorbet or crackers to cleanse the palette after a course in a meal or wine tasting.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! AHHHH! - Sufjan Stevens

The Clockwork Century, Book 1

Author: Cherie Priest
Genre: steampunk
Pages: 416

Brief Summary:
In this revisionist, steampunk history, the city of Seattle, because of the Klondike Gold Rush occurring earlier, became heavily populated in the 1850s. The Civil War continues to rage in the east, having dragged on for 18 years by the time of the main portion of the book. In January 1863, the inventor Leviticus Blue tested his drill, meant to be used for gold mining, underneath the city of Seattle. He destroyed the financial district and released toxic fumes, known as the blight, from underneath the earth. The blight turns people into zombies, or rotters. To halt the spread of the disease, the citizens evacuated and built a wall around the ruined portions of the city.

Fifteen years later, Blue's widow, Briar Wilkes, is trying to raise her son, Zeke. They live in the Outskirts, the city that built up right by Seattle's walls. Despite the danger, people lacked either the motivation or the desire to travel much further from their old homes. Zeke and Briar suffer the ignominy of their relations, father and grandfather too. The grandfather, the sheriff of old Seattle, is at least a folk hero in some circles, but there was little to be said for Blue. Zeke however does not want to accept that his father was all bad, especially since his mom isn't talking, so he decides to find out for himself by venturing into the walls. When Briar finds out, she will risk anything to get her son back alive.

Cherie Priest knows how to write and she has done her research. The alternate history she has created here is all kinds of fun (for the reader, not for anyone living in the fictional America). She responds at the end of the book to anyone bothered by the liberties she has taken with historical fact: "I realize that the story is a bit of a twisted stretch, but honestly--isn't that what steampunk is for?" (416). Personally, I think she's right and she has done the work to really make it believable within her framework.

I saw Cherie Priest speak at a panel about science fiction and fantasy at ALA 2010 (which is how I got a sweet, free autographed copy of Boneshaker). She mentioned the zombie element, something she probably frequently gets questions about, as they are not perhaps a necessary element. Her response, I believe, was just that she likes zombies. That's fair, considering she wrote the book. And the zombies do add an additional element of danger to the city.

Boneshaker will probably be read primarily by young adult audiences, what with the zombies and all, but I think adults would probably enjoy it to. In fact, the story tends to follow Briar more than her fifteen year old son. My only criticism would be that I found myself much more interested in the side characters, like Jeremiah and Cly, than in Briar and Zeke. Briar got more interesting toward the end when she started being open about the past, so this may be an untrue statement when it comes to the sequel, which I will be reading next.

I heartily recommend Boneshaker to steampunk or alternate history fans, as well as zombie enthusiasts.

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