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Hands Down! Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Hi!

I’m pretty sure that Gail Carriger is in on a conspiracy to make me want all of her books. My favorite new series of 2013 was her Finishing School series, hands down! You can read my review of book one, Etiquette & Espionage here. I may have done more gushing that I should have but if you’ve read it then you’ll understand!

Because of this love for the first book, I was incredibly excited when the awesome people at Hachette Audio offered Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carrigerthe audiobook of Carriger’s second book, Curtsies & Conspiracies for review I had to take them up on their offer! (Thank you!)

Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won’t Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

Guys. Seriously. THAT COVER!

I’ve said it before. It’s like Carriger has a secret window into my little book lovers’ heart and knows exactly what I want to read about. Her opulent steampunk world is exactly where I want to spend my afternoons and evenings. This setting is just so well-imagined and there is so much depth yet to be explored that it reminds me a lot of the wizarding world that J.K. Rowling creates in the Harry Potter series. It’s richness promises more books, which makes me incredibly giddy just thinking about it!

Curtsies and Conspiracies picks up at the start of Sophronia’s second semester at Madame Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality with the girls’ sixth month review underway. While the first book is full of nothing but fun, this second book starts to bring a little more seriousness with it. For example, Sophronia’s group of friends are all fighting and a spectacular weekend in London is dulled by threat of a dangerous evil plot. Even the lessons the lessons the students’ are learning begin to take a turn for the dark. This step towards the serious actually reminds me a lot of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series (which I ALSO LOVE!) because Sophronia’s world is beginning to open up and the stakes are getting higher. Don’t think that Carriger’s signature wit and humor are missing in all this newly found seriousness, however, because they are still there!

We have the beginnings of a serious love triangle here, ladies! I don’t mind a bit of a triangle so it makes me happy to see Sophronia struggle with her growing feelings toward two boys; one of which would be socially uplifting and the other which may be frowned upon for numerous reasons. I do think both boys are not exactly as they seem however…there are hints of things to come hidden in their actions and words!

Not only are these potential love interests well written and interesting, but Carriger’s cast of supporting characters are just as captivating as they were in book one. My favorites are Sophronia’s friends, of course.  Dimity, Sidheag and Agatha are so warm, loving, and fun that I want them to be real so I could hang out with them! I love how each one of them brings something different to the table and the way in which they all challenge one another to step out of comfort zones. They’re exactly the type of friends I’d want if I were a boarding student in a flying dirigible spy school for young ladies.

All in all, Curtsies and Conspiracies was on my favorites of 2013 list for a reason. If you haven’t already given the Finishing School series a chance, then make sure you do! You won’t be disappointed I promise! I also highly recommend this series on audio; it is hands down a fabulous listen!

Also…have you seen this book trailer?! I don’t know how I missed it until now, but I think it is absolutely brilliant!

Author: Gail Carriger

Publisher: Hachette Audio (Little, Brown) (November 5, 2013)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 9 hours and 30 minutes

Narrator(s): Moira Quirk

Series: Second in the Finishing School series

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School)

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Werewolves and Nakedness: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Forever by Maggie StiefvaterHappy Saturday morning (or whenever you’re reading this) everyone! I recently read Forever, by Maggie Stiefvater as part of the 2012 YA Audiobook Challenge.

In Stiefvater’s Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. In Linger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

Stiefvater is a lovely storyteller. She creates stories that are both magical and reality woven together.

Forever, the third book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, is told from four perspectives (plus one time there is a fifth); Cole, Sam, Isabel, and Grace. I listened to the audiobook and was glad that there was a different narrator for each character. This helped me stay focused with each character, so I didn’t get confused as to who was telling the story. I also really liked hearing the story from the perspective of the characters who shift into wolves. The confusion experienced by the characters when they shift into a wolf is so intense and I never quite “got it” when Sam talked about it before, but hearing it happen made it more visceral.

Lets talk about the wolves and how they change. Rather than being supernatural, Stiefvater makes the shift from human to wolf and back again scientific. What I really appreciate is the way Stiefvater does not attempt to over explain the science behind the wolves (she tells us how it is without focusing on the details of it). This is such a smart move because I roll my eyes when something “supernatural” is over explained! I don’t have to roll my eyes, because Stiefvater tells me just enough for it to work.

I may have said this in my review of Linger, but I love Isabel and Cole. Their characters are conflicted and pained (dark and twisty?!) so they’re incredibly interesting! Plus their relationship is full of energy and frustrated passion. Their sharp wit and cynicism is like an explosion every time they’re in a scene together. I do enjoy this relationship better than Sam and Grace’s. The reader knows Sam and Grace are always going to be together, but Isabel and Cole? They keep you wondering.

Speaking of Cole, I like seeing his growth as a character. The way Cole started as a self loathing narcissist and is slowly transforming into a more caring and loving man. He’s not perfect, but he’s showing positive growth. Plus I love the scene where he is running with the wolves (no spoilers!!)

I also think its hilarious how okay with nakedness the characters are. By the end of Forever, I was thinking, “okay. Grace is naked again and no one mentions if that’s awkward or not for them. I know it is necessity because they’re naked when they transform from wolf to human and they don’t want to ruin their clothes when they shift and I’m not complaining! There are just some scenes where I laughed because its just Sam and Cole preparing for Sam to shift, so Sam strips down so as not to ruin his clothes. Cole, who usually has a humorous comment acted like it was normal (which I guess it is for them!) I’m just picturing the two of them standing on the front porch together and it makes me giggle.

As much as I love the multiple narrator technique, there were times where hearing the same event from different points of view made me want to scream “just tell me what happens!”. I would get annoyed during an exciting scene same about the same thing from Sam, Grace and Cole or Isabel; it would stretch the even out, but this is only a minor issue.

Overall, I was pleased with the last installment of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series and I recommend Forever, to fans of the first two titles in the series and older middle school readers (and higher). Enjoy!

Oh! And the cover is stunning; one of my absolutes favorites ever. And I’ll also share a beautiful stop motion trailer by for the book created by Maggie Stiefvater herself!

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Audio (July 12, 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 12 hrs and 16 mins

Narrator(s): Jenna Lamia, Pierce Cravens, Dan Bittner, Emma Galvin, Maggie Stiefvater

Series: Third in a trilogy

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Forever – Audio (Wolves of Mercy Falls)

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Sorry but I Can’t Help It: “Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater

Are you ready for some good old fashioned all-consuming teenage romance?  Yes!  Good!

I think Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is a lot like Twilight, as both revolve around teen romance with a supernatural twist, but I like Shiver better! Now don’t get me wrong, as pure entertainment Twilight was fun but for me that’s it. Its just that Shiver has so much more…mystery, intensity, and much stronger characters.  OK, so I know it’s not fair to compare one book to another but I can’t help it!

Shiver is the story of Grace, a high schooler in Mercy Falls, Minnesota, who feels an indescribable connection with the wolves who live in the woods behind her house. One wolf in particular; the one with yellow eyes. The one who protected her when she was attacked by the pack six years ago. The wolf, a boy named Sam who shape-shifts between human and wolf as the seasons change, is also inexplicably drawn to Grace.  A missing teenager and the subsequent wolf hunt lead Grace and Sam to each other and beings a hunt of their own as they try to figure out the mystery that surrounds Sam’s wolf pack.

First things first, this book is full of mushy teenage love and lust (quite a bit of teenage lust), but it didn’t make me want to puke. The characters have a reason to be so enthralled by each other because their time together may be painfully short. So, if teenage romance is not your thing, this is not the book for you.

One of my favorite things about Shiver is that it’s told from two different points of view, that of Grace and Sam. This allows the reader to see the characters’ personalities in more depth. Also, I love the fact that Grace is a strong character! She has her faults, but throughout much of the story she is the one taking care of her friends and she never plays the helpless damsel in distress role. I also thought the author’s take on the werewolf myth is fresh and interesting.  But to say more here would give things away! :)

Overall, I’d have to recommend Shiver to older young adult readers (maybe 16 and up) due to the lingering sexual electricity throughout the story.I really enjoyed this book and now I’m reading (or listening to) the sequel.

-Ctina