#AWW2019 // Book Review: “The Antics of Evangeline” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: The Antics of Evangeline (Books 1-4)
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Having read Madeleine D’Este’s newest release, “Women of Wasps and War” earlier in the year, it was nice to know that she had some lighter reading in her back catalogue that I could continue on with.

The Antics of Evangeline is made up of four novellas, but I’ve chosen to review them all together. Evangeline is the daughter of esteemed engineer and inventor, Montague Calidcott, though she’s only just discovered that fact. She’s now living with him in Melbourne, and getting up to all kinds of mischief.

Evangeline is a fun lead character. She’s clever but impulsive and doesn’t quite know how to stay out of trouble. She’s also an inspiring inventor, though her inventions don’t always work as intended. The term “inventress” did grate on me a little – I am not sure if it is period-appropriate or just the author’s stylistic decision but I didn’t love it either way. Just use “inventor”!

I know the stories are short but I would have liked to hear more of Evangeline’s backstory. There were definitely some revelations, but I feel like there’s a lot more to know! The last installment was published in 2017; I’m not sure whether further stories were/are intended where we might get to learn more. Ditto her father’s secret project that lurks beneath a sheet in his workshop and every now and then exhibits strange behaviour.

Evangeline is joined by a fun cast of characters, including her best friend Mei, who teaches her martial arts, her Uncle Edmond and his actor ‘friend’/’companion’ August, and Mrs Plockton, the God-fearing housekeeper. They all have very distinct personalities that sometimes clash.

Evangeline and the Spiritualist, episode 3, was definitely my favourite of the four. I actually included it among my Halloween reads as the seance scene was a bit unnerving.

While the books are primarily steampunk, there are small touches of fantasy, which I enjoyed. Things like the seance may be fake or might be supernatural, you’re never quite sure, but the bunyip (book 2) is definitely a monster.

These four instalments are available individually or in a combined volume. I recommend picking these up for light-hearted steampunky goodness.

Individual book ratings: 

Evangeline and the Alchemist – 4 stars

Evangeline and the Bunyip – 3 stars

Evangeline and the Spiritualist – 4 stars

Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights – 3 stars


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Book Review: “White Hornet” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: White Hornet (The Viper and the Urchin #5)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Upper YA/Adult
Date Read: 13/10/19 – 17/10/19
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

Please note: this review contains minor spoilers for the previous four books in this series.

If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll know that there is very little negative I have to say about the Viper and the Urchin series. This instalment is no different.

In White Hornet, the gang are undercover in the neighbouring country of Airnia, on a spy mission for the Old Girl. They have no idea who they can trust, and at any moment, their covers could be blown…

There was so much intrigue going on. I loved seeing the political machinations inside the House of Bel, even as I hated basically everyone there.

There are some really great character moments, from Adelma using alcohol to try to hide how much recent conflicts in Damsport have affected her (and the others noticing anyway), to Rory and Rafe setting some ground rules in their burgeoning relationship and Longinus finding out more about his family.

I really enjoyed Rory dealing with the Airnian fashions. Rory is no noblewoman, so having to put up with bustles and corsets was very much not to her liking and it was incredibly entertaining. XD

Speaking of Airnia, the descriptions were fantastic. I felt like I was in the middle of a steampunk Imperial Russia with all the descriptions of cold and snow and heated carriages, and enormous coats and pelts. A far cry from muggy Damsport.

This is the first book in the series to end on a cliffhanger, and the next book will be out in a few months. I’m intrigued to see how our team goes as they continue to navigate among their enemies!


(Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinions in any way)

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin (book 1),  The Black Orchid (book 2), The Slave City (book 3) and The Doll Maker (book 4) by clicking their titles.

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WWW Wednesday – 01 May 2019

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished P Is For Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones, which is a lot more character driven than books I usually read. But the coastal town vibe was so well done and I really liked the characters so I still enjoyed it. I’ll have a review up soon.

Click to read my review of The Doll Maker, book four in Celine Jeanjean’s The Viper and the Urchin series. This was released yesterday and might be my favourite one of the series so far!

What are you currently reading?

Still listening to Enchantee by Gita Trelease. The last audio books I read were A Thousand Pieces of You and Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray and I was actively cleaning or folding laundry in order to have more time to listen. I… am not having the same desire with this book. It’s going to take me a little while to get through, I think.

I am also reading an ARC of Lucid by Kristy Fairlamb, about a teenager cursed to dream the final moments of the dying. I’m about 20% of the way through and there have been some interesting characters introduced and some pretty nasty dream descriptions, but I’m kind of waiting for the story to get going. There’s a weekend away with friends coming up so I suspect that might be where things start getting interestinig.

What do you think you will read next?

I have accidentally ended up with eight library books out at once! Though a few of them are ready to return, several are for my Children’s Book of the Year reading challenge, which I need to get back to. I think I’ll start with The Things That Will Not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

“Even if tonight goes all belly-up, I’ll still be very glad today happened the way it did.” // Review of “The Doll Maker” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Doll Maker (The Viper and the Urchin #4)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 21/04/19 – 24/04/19
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

Celine Jeanjean is spoiling us. After a gap of several years, we’ve received two Viper and the Urchin books within a few months of one another. And I have to say I really loved this one. I may have caught myself making silly noises a couple of times.

One thing I enjoyed about this book particularly was that a lot of the stakes were really personal. Friendships were betrayed, loyalties were tested and feelings had to be faced.

We also got to learn more about the history of Damsport, and how the Marchioness and Lady Martha operate. Revolution is in the air and that got quite tense at times. It was interesting to see Rory having to reconcile her loyalties in Damsport with the political situation she sought to dissolve in Azyr in the previous book.

Rafe grows on me more with every book and in this instalment we got to learn a bit more about the family he’s unwilling to talk about. I also really loved the dynamic between him and Rory here. I won’t say anymore. 😉

Longinus once again needs all the hugs for various reasons. He’s still the Longinus we know and love from book one, but he’s learning to overcome some of his issues, though they are certainly still haunting him (and that’s going to be a major part of the next book, I expect).

I pretty much read this book in one sitting, so now I’ve got to wait the maximum amount of time for the next one. But I think it will be worth the wait.


(Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinions in any way)

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin (book 1),  The Black Orchid (book 2) and The Slave City (book 3) by clicking their titles.

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WWW Wednesday – 24 April 2019

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

I spent Friday reading Romanov by Nadine Brandes and for a while I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Part of that was because I was expecting it to be something it was not, but also in and of itself, there were things I had issues with. But I found myself thinking about the true story of the Romanovs a lot as a result, so it obviously got under my skin. Here’s my full review.

Then I read The Winter  Freak Show by Daniel Parsons, which has been on my TBR since about 2015! I want to give it the benefit of the doubt and say I’m just a bit old for it… but honestly, I think it was just not the best written book. I just never felt involved.

Last but not least, I finished my early copy of The Doll Maker, which is the fourth book in Celine Jeanjean’s The Viper and the Urchin steampunk series (she hasn’t got it up on GoodReads itself yet). I liked this more than the third book! I think because the conflicts were more personal to the characters, rather than the sweeping effects on a whole nation in the last book.

I don’t usually mentioned DNFs on WWW posts, but a couple of people were interested in Changing Gear by Scot Gardner when I mentioned it last week. I read about 90 pages and it’s possible that it was going to pick up after I left off. But the main character just made a string of terrible decisions and I didn’t have any sympathy for him!

I also reviewed Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine this week. Click the title to read it.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve started P Is For Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones, which is next on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of the Year Award Notables list. It’s a contemporary, and the Aussie setting is really vivid and the teen characters actually seem realistic (with all the SFF I’ve been reading recently, everyone has seemed a bit older than their years). I’m not sure exactly what this one’s about but I’ve been warned to have the tissues handy.

Not much movement on Enchantee by Gita Trelease this week. To be honest, after finishing Romanov, I spent my solo driving time singing along with the Anastasia cast album,  so this got pushed aside.

What do you think you will read next?

I was scanning NetGalley the other day and Lucid by Kristy Fairlamb was available as a Read Now. I already follow this author on Twitter and had been considering reading the book, so I snapped it up.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

Book Review: “The Slave City” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Slave City (The Viper and the Urchin #3)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 24/01/19 – 01/02/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I’ve got to say, I was pretty excited when I got an out of the blue email from Celine Jeanjean offering me an ARC of this book, as it had been a while! I re-read the first two in antipcation and then dived into this third one, where we are not only reunited with all the fabulous characters from this series, but also get to  see what this world is like beyond Damsport.

In this instalment,  Rory and Linginus, along with a ragtag group of friends, are sent to the nation of Azyr to rescue a Damsian machinist, and assist with the rebellion against the ignorant Prelate and evil Seneschal. Of course, nothing goes to plan…

In this book, Jeanjean diverges from the pattern in the first two books of only having Rory and Longinus as POV characters. We get to see what Cruickshank is doing, along with some of the new characters from Azyr. Sometimes I felt that it let us know what was going on a bit too too early, but it definitely made sense later when nearly all the characters were separated from one another.

I really enjoyed Rory’s character growth.  She realises over the course of the book that you can’t always hold onto things from the past, and sometimes you have to let go of things that once seemed the most important things in the world.

The plot is once again tightly structured. Having read all three books in the series in quick succession, I have to say I’m jealous of Jeanjean’s ability to craft a story. Things are foreshadowed and references made in the beginning of the book come full circle by the end.

I’m gather Celine Jeanjean has plenty more ideas left for these characters and I’m definitely looking forward to continuing adventures in this series.


(Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinions in any way)

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin and The Black Orchid by clicking their titles.

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#AWW2017 Book Review: “Heart of Brass” by Felicity Banks

Title: Heart of Brass
Author: Felicity Banks
Genre:
historical/urban fantasy/steampunk
Date Read: 07/05/2017 – 11/05/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review: 

I have a rather hit-or-miss relationship with steampunk, which I think is my main reason for not engaging with this book very much. It did pick up for me in the last quarter, but up until then, I unfortunately didn’t really feel connected to the story.

When Miss Emmeline Muchamore’s brass heart malfunctions and she is forced to steal the materials she requires to survive, she refuses to reveal her secret and destroy her family’s respectability. As a result, she is transported to van Dieman’s land, subsequently escapes and makes for the Victorian gold fields. But there is unrest amongst the miners. Can Emmeline find the gold to send back to her family and restore their fortune, or will she and her newfound friends be caught?

I think one of my main problems was that I never really warmed up to Emmeline. She was a bit too snobby, and kept talking about how she was the only civilised one around and would have to teach her companions how to behave. It felt out of place given they were on the run and she had already stolen from several people. Her companions, Lizzie (for a whille), then later Matilda and Patrick, were more relatable to me. A conflict with a fellow convict, Dunne, was also well-written.

I did enjoy the idea of different metals having different magical properties, though I felt that not a  huge amount was done with this idea. Every now and then I would forget exactly what magical properties  a particular metal had because it didn’t really come up all that much. Still, the hot air balloon partially levitated by sheets of aluminium was good fun.

I also enjoyed the way the historical events of the Eureka Rebellion were incorporated into the story. I did go away and read the Wikipedia entry on what really happened, and then it was fun to see how Felicity Bank’s version compared. I felt that this was where the story picked up; there was a really engaging climax with lots of action, and a lot of bad things happening that the characters had to  deal with.

As I said, a lot of my lack of enjoyment probably came from the fact that I can’t always get into steampunkish stories. I would recommend this if you are a fan, as you may well enjoy it more than I did.


This review forms part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2017. Click here for more information.

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“Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.” // Review of “Soulless” by Gail Carriger

Title: Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: Urban fantasy/historical fiction/humour
Date Read: 05/04/2017 – 13/04/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book was well-written and genuinely funny. I want to put that out there. But unfortunately I found that it was trying to do too many things to be really great at any one of them.

Alexia Tarabotti is a 26-year-old spinster with theh ability to render any supernatural power useless at her touch. When she is attacked by a vampire and accidentally kills it, she finds herself tangled up in a conspiracy where supernatural creatures are appearing and going missing at a rate of knots… not to mention, tangled up with the dashing werewofl, Lord Maccon, who is investigating by order of Queen Victoria.

I felt that the comedy of manners aspect of this book was the major player in the genre field. The steampunk and supernatural elements were almost window dressing. There was a great deal of witty banter, and that was where the laugh-out-loud moments came from. The plot itself, and the mystery contained therein, I didn’t actually find very engaging. That meant that when the comedy started wearing a bit thin, there wasn’t much left to hold my interest.

While the writing was overall strong, there were also some stylistic things that bugged me, such as the main character being referred to in the narration as Alexia in one paragraph, then Miss Tarabotti in the next.  Obviously, being the Victorian era, what the characters called each other was quite important, but when the narration was from Alexia’s point of view, it felt odd to hear her essentially refer to herself formally.

While it wasn’t for me, I do still recommend the book/series, as I know others have enjoyed it a lot more, and the genre blend will probably work for others better than it worked for me.


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“Everything is splendid, everything is just so!” // Review of “The Dark Unwinding” by Sharon Cameron

Title: The Dark Unwinding
Author: Sharon Cameron
Audio Book Narrator: Fiona Hardinham
Genre:
Historical fiction/steampunk(?)/YA
Date Read: 17/01/2017 – 26/01/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

A wonderful piece of historical fiction, with plenty of fabulous characters to get attached to. I will say at the outset though, that while it sells itself as steampunk, I wouldn’t put it in that category. Yes, clocks and clockwork automata play a role, but the aesthetic that comes with steampunk is absent. If anything, I’d call it a gothic mystery.

When her cruel aunt feels that her son’s inheritance is in peril, she sends Katherine Tulman to her uncle’s (the aunt’s brother-in-law) estate to see if he can’t be committed to an asylum, ensuring the safety of the family fortune. As Katharine depends on her aunt and cousin to survive, she is willing to all she can. That is, until she arrives at Stranwyne Keep and discovers that her uncle is a brilliant eccentric who employs 900 people on the estate who would otherwise be trapped in workhouses their whole working lives. And the more time she spends there, the more torn she becomes between protecting the people she comes to care for and protecting her only means of a future.

Let’s talk about Uncle Tully first. While the word is never mentioned – and would be anachronistic if it were, given the time period – it’s fairly clear that Uncle Tully is autistic. As far as I can tell (my experience is limited, admittedly), it is a very tender representation, too; from the moment you meet him, you curse Aunt Alice for wanting him anywhere near an asylum.  His excitement about his clockwork figures is so endearing, and you just know that there is the brain of a genius hidden in there, even if it isn’t always on show.

Katharine is also a well-constructed character. Her evolution from simply wanting to get the unpleasant business over and done with to caring deeply for those at Stranwyne and the torture of knowing that the truth will come out eventually, even if she lies for them, is well done.

My other favourite character was Lane Moreau, Mr Tully’s closest servant (more friend/family than servant, really) and also Katharine’s eventual love interest. Unlike a lot of male love interests in YA, he actually had a reason to be dark and brooding when Katharine first arrived, namely, he thought she was going to betray them all. I’m a sucker for the hate-to-love trope and it’s done wonderfully here. Lane comes to care for Katharine, too, especially after seeing how quickly Mr Tully takes to her. And the banter! There was so much banter, they were so playful when they were pretending they weren’t supposed to be on opposite sides of the situation. It was wonderful!

There are other great side characters as well. The ensemble cast is very colourful, but we would be here all night if I mentioned everyone. I also don’t want to mention certain other characters and give things away. .

The plot moves slowly, particularly in the first half of the book. The characters really are the focus, and the setting of Stranwyne Keep is also really well developed and described after Katherine’s original arrival. The lay of the land is quite important in the climax of the novel, so pay attention to all of that! Sometimes  I did find the descriptions of all the tunnels and secret doors and rooms a little confusing, probably not helped by the fact that I was listening to the audio book, so couldn’t just duck back a couple of pages or chapters to check things.

The climax itself is very exciting, though I did think the resolution of the situation with Aunt Alice and Cousin Robert was a little bit deus-ex-machina-y. Still, I was glad how things panned out. The book is definitely not a standalone, while many loose ends are tied up, some are not, and we are definitely left with questions. i plan to get to the sequel sometime in the very near future and revisit all these characters that I also came to really love.


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Book Review: “The Pickpocket” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Pickpocket (Viper and the Urchin prequel)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk
Date Read: 26/09/2016 – 29/09/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This is a fairly short review, as the book itself is also very short. As the cover says, this is the origin story for Rory, the central character in Celine Jeanjean’s Viper and the Urchin series.

Rory is seven  or eight years old and begging for scraps of food when she meets Daria, a teenager who teaches her to pick pockets. To Rory, Daria seems perfect, but she soon discovers not all is as it seems with Daria, and what she discovers will set her course for the next several years of her life.

Once again, the world-building of Damsport is fantastic. Jeanjean puts a lot of time into little details such as the bazaar, and the rooftop where Rory hides the money she saves up, and sleeps.

I wanted to give little Rory so many hugs. She just seemed so small and pathetic, and the way she changed for the better when Daria comes into her life made me smile so much. Daria was a great character, too; she was all bravado and heroics at first, and it was easy to see why Rory latched onto her, but her issues and scars were constructed really well and I felt so sad for her by the end.

While this story could probably stand alone without having read The Bloodless Assassin and The Black Orchid, I would probably recommend reading those first, as there are little nods to characters and aspects of Rory’s life in those books throughout this one. And really, if you haven’t already read those two books, why not? They’re awesome!