May 17, 2012

Review: Corsets & Clockwork

By: A Collection of Authors
Published: April 2011 by Running Press Kids
Format: Paperback, 430 pages
First Reviewed: August 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

When good hearts battle evil, resistance is automated...

Dark, urban fantasies come to life in the newest collection of Steampunk stories, Corsets & Clockwork. Young heroes and heroines battle evils with the help of supernatural or super-technological powers, each individual story perfectly balancing historical and fantastical elements. Throw in epic romances that transcend time, and this trendy, engrossing anthology is sure to become another hit for the fast-growing Steampunk genre!

This collection features some of the hottest writers in the teen genre, including: Ann Aguirre, Jaclyn Dolamore, Tessa Gratton, Frewin Jones, Caitlin Kittredge, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, Dru Pagliassotti, Dia Reeves, Michael Scott, Maria V. Snyder, Tiffany Trent, and Kiersten White.

Rating: 2/5

Okay, so, FYI: The follow reviews were written after I finished each story, so that's why you'll notice they get smaller and smaller. I didn't think it would be so exhausting to read thirteen short stories, but I feel like I need to go take a nap now and ice my brain. Anyway, my initial thought was, Whoo! Steampunk! My immediate after thought the moment I started reading, Okay, this is going to be a long read. And I was right. Short story collections are just not for me.

Rude Mechanicals by Lesley Livingston:
A boy who works in a theater in London falls in love (er...not really the right word, but I guess that was the romance in this) with an Actromaton, an artificial girl made of copper, metal, and some other stuff. Not real, but who our MC teaches to become Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Interesting concept, but rushed. In the beginning, I was bored. Didn't get into it until the girl came into the picture halfway through. But then Livingston seemed to rush through the story from there, so it was over before it started.

Quint, our nineteen-year-old main character, was boring for me, and I just found it weird that he became attracted in about three seconds to a robot. It was just odd for me. And, come on, if you're going to throw in the Actromaton, at least bring her into the picture for more than a few pages. Op, you're here, op, you're dead!

The writing didn't grab me either, as I found three errors that shouldn't have been, and Livingston is completely adverb-happy and too wordy. However, it was an interesting concept and I liked the premise of the story with theater and the idea of the perfect actor in an Actromaton. But it just fell flat for me. Two stars.

The Cannibal Fiend of Rotherhithe by Frewin Jones:
Okay, I'm growing more and more convinced that Trisha Telep needs to either A) Be fired. Or B) Go back to school and learn the basics of dialogue format, capitalization, and punctuation. Because she's making all these authors look illiterate. I thought I found too many errors in the first story, but there were twice as many errors in this. Errors that should never be overlooked. A first grader would notice some of these. Anyway, I promise I won't mention Trisha Telep's terrible editing skills again, until the end. Back to my thoughts on this story:

Loved it! This was exciting, creative, and had fantastic writing to back it up. Steampunk mermaids? Hello! That is awesome! And not only did Jones make mermaids hideous, blood-sucking creatures, he made Silka (a half-mermaid) act like, well, a half-mermaid/half-human. I thought it was fantastic. It had a solid beginning, middle, and end, and was both intense and paced well. While I think it was a tad bit overwritten in some places, I really enjoyed Jones writing and want to read more by him. I have a feeling it'll be hard to top this creative, unique story. Five stars.

Wild Magic by Ann Aguirre:
All right, I liked this story. It didn't blow me away, but it was pretty good. I enjoyed the writing style, as it was descriptive and flowed nicely. Sometimes I think it was a tad bit overwritten, but not too much.

The premise was also a good one, though I don't think it was overly creative. A royal girl with magic powers meets a poor boy with powers too, and they fall in love while trying to reach a certain goal. The twists were ones I've read a million times, and the romance felt a bit forced. I felt this would be better suited for a longer story. It felt a bit rushed at times, and I didn't like the ending. However, it did hold my attention throughout and I rather liked it. Three stars.

Deadwood by Michael Scott:
This one was full of action and intensity. Almost 90% of it, it seemed, and that was my main issue. I did enjoy it, though I would have liked to see a bit more build up. However, I liked the two main characters and their connection, as it wasn't a slam! romance. It was a very nice, subtle attraction between the two, and the ending left it open for our own minds to develop their relationship.

I also liked the characters individually. Martha I could see as a novel lead, and JW was a solid, nicely developed male lead. What else I liked was the pacing in general. Besides the build up I would have liked added, I think it had a very good beginning, middle, and end. The writing was good, too. A little heavy in some places, but overall, I enjoyed it. Four stars.

Code of Blood by Dru Pagliassotti:
This one was just not for me. The only part I could get into and feel comfortable with reading was the first couple pages. After that, it just felt like too much. For one, I never can get into books with really strange and foreign names. There was too much Italian in this for me and I just felt lost. To be honest, I don't really know what happened. I mean, the basic plot, yeah, which felt too unrealistic and over the top to me. But, frankly, I felt like I was trudging through mud while reading this. It just didn't do it for me. And I also need to state that I was kind of out of it as I read this story, so it may need a re-read in the future to be fair. One star.

The Clockwork Corset by Adrienne Kress:
Despite the fact that the general idea of girl joining the army to save someone has been done--ahem, Mulan--I liked this story pretty well. First person, which was a shift from the other stories, and I liked the voice Kress gave Imogen. There were consistent errors that I don't just blame the editor for not catching, as the author should know. But the intensity was there with this story and the narrator carried it through for me. At times it lost my interest just a bit, but it was overall a nice, solid story. Four stars.

The Airship Gemini by Jaclyn Dolamore:
Okay, this story had waaay too many elements thrown in. I think Dolamore was attempting to be original, but then overdid it. Siamese Twins? Cool idea. Siamese Twins who are being forced to be separated? Cool idea. But you throw in a vampire boyfriend--what?!--and rushed pacing and absolutely zero emotion or connection with any of the characters, you get a pile of mush gone wrong. She should have left out the vampire bit all together. It was...sorry, it's true...dumb. The writing didn't wow me either. I think this story should have gone through a crap load more edits before it was printed in this. It just didn't work for me. One star.

Under Amber Skies by Maria V. Snyder:
This one was pretty good. I enjoyed the premise and the intensity, as well as the twist and narrative. The lead character was strong, and I liked how Snyder just dumped us into the story instead of trying to build up too much backstory/history. The pacing was good, and it had a solid beginning, middle, and end, which was a great ending if you ask me. My only issue was with the romance element. I didn't connect too well with it. I think that's the one place that felt just a tad underdeveloped. But other than that, this was a very good, solid story. I enjoyed it. Four stars.

King of the Greenlight City by Tessa Gratton:
First off: *fist pumps for Tessa Gratton just because she's a fellow Kansas Citian* I swear I'm not biased when I say I liked the story. Didn't love it, but it was a nice change in pace from the other stories. Different, and Gratton's writing was good. My main problem was with the lack of emotion I felt, though I did a bit at the end, and I wished it would have shown a bit more love between the two characters. Like, I knew it was there because Gratton told me, but I would have liked to have seen more of it. I did like the premise, though, the how magical element was handled--the people should only have one, but Ever had two and therefor asks for help from this crazy Titan guy, so to speak, and it held my attention throughout. Also, this story had one of my favorite openings so far. A decent story. Three stars.

The Emperor's Man by Tiffany Trent:
Another decent read. I didn't get into it completely, and there were a few elements I felt should have been expanded upon to really grasp the feel, but overall, I liked it. The writing was very good, as were the characters. The supporting character, Athena, was probably one of the most developed characters yet, which a spunky, real attitude that I liked. Our lead was all right, not amazing, but not bad either. I liked the set up of this story as well. Three stars.

Chickie Hill's Badass Ride by Dia Reeves:
No doubt, Dia Reeves has a very vivid, incredible imagination. I remember reading a book of hers--I believe it was her debut, even--and even though I didn't care for it, that's what I understood. And it still rings true. I liked the completely 360 she did with this compared to the other stories. It was completely different, which ended up being my main issue. It didn't feel very steampunk to me. Granted, the genre is hard to describe and there are many different types of steampunk, but I just didn't get the feeling. It felt more like a dated story with some creepy elements. However, I did like her characterization quite a bit. It just didn't register too well with me. Two stars.

The Vast Machinery of Dreams by Caitlin Kittredge:
This story had me wondering what the heck was going on. And in the good way. This was my most anticipated read, as the first--and only, as of now--steampunk book I've read is by Kittredge, which I absolutely loved. So I figured I was going to love this. At first, I thought I was going to be disappointed, but after I finished, I realized how well this story grabbed me and forced me to read, something none of the other stories besides Jones's had done. It was very engaging, unique, and so confusing that it was more intriguing than anything. Even now, I'm not completely sure what happened or what the girl was, and it's one of the stories I'll remember with ease. Very much enjoyed this story. Five stars.

Tick, Tick, Book by Kiersten White:
Easily one of the best of the entire collection, if you ask me. First off, White's use of voice with the lead character was fantastic. From the beginning it was clear what kind of character Catherine was. This story had a great and well executed premise, and was both funny and serious, and the writing was great. This story also had the perfect amount of steampunk and mixture of modern/dated language for me. The recipe I really like. Great story! Five stars.

Final Thoughts: For my first short story collection, I was a bit disappointed overall. But, I guess they're just not really for me. This took me so long--too long--to finish. Some stories were great, some just weren't for me. However, excuse the all caps, but: THIS HAD THE WORST EDITING EVER. Seriously, after finishing, I'm still convinced Telep should be fired or sent back to elementary school. I feel the need to point out some of the errors, so here's just a few from the first two stories:

In the book: "...Tilli, old chap," Agamemmon patted his nephew's knee.
Should be: "...Tilli, old chap." Agamemmon patted his nephew's knee.
I'm sorry, but you can't pat words.

In the book: "Agreed." she said.
Should be: "Agreed," she said.
I'm sorry, but you need commas before dialogue tags.

In the book: ...air was humming in her ears She opened her eyes a crack.
Should be: ...air was humming in her ears. She opened her eyes a crack.
I'm sorry, I thought sentences ended with periods?

And for y'all's sanity, I'll spare you anymore errors. Those are just a few. I spent half the book taking pictures to send to my friend because I couldn't believe some of them. Missing spaces, even. Sigh. Okay, that's enough. The way I came up with the rating is an average of all the stories' ratings minus one for the editing. I liked it all right, but slugged through it.

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