Size Doesn’t Matter (12): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger

Size Doesn’t Matter (12): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason
Series: Stoker & Holmes #2
Published by Chronicle Books on October 7, 2014
Genres: Steampunk, Mystery, Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 362
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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After the Affair of the Clockwork Scarab, Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes are eager to help Princess Alix with a new case. Seventeen-year-old Willa Aston is obsessed with spiritual mediums, convinced she is speaking with her mother from beyond the grave. What seems like a case of spiritualist fraud quickly devolves into something far more menacing: someone is trying to make Willa "appear lunatic," using an innocent-looking spiritglass to control her. The list of clues piles up: an unexpected murder, a gang of pickpockets, and the return of vampires to London. But are these events connected? As Uncle Sherlock would say, "there are no coincidences." It will take all of Mina's wit and Evaline's muscle to keep London's sinister underground at bay.

This series is SO MUCH FUN. Like, how can I not totally adore a lady power steampunk fantasy romance extravaganza? There’s just so much to love about that.

One of my favorite things is when historical novels focus on people ignored by history, like women. Instead of Sherlock Holmes, we have his equally as logical and observant niece Mina Holmes. Then there’s the vampire-killing Miss Stoker, inspiration (in this series) for the only good part of Dracula (personal opinion), which is in the process of being authored by her brother.

In The Spiritglass Charade, Stoker and Holmes have really started to become friends. They’re also plumbing new depths of character. I love that they’re really rubbing off on each other now, with Mina exhibiting some physicality and Evaline learning the art of deduction. They’re still not besties, but they rely on each other now in a way they did not before.

The plot of The Spiritglass Charade was much more fast-paced, and I could hardly put the book down. Though the initial assignment (to figure out if a young girl was being duped by spiritualists) was rather unimpressive, the case balloons out into something very intense.

I was a bit worried about how I’d feel when the series got more into vampires and the paranormal, but it actually turned out well so far. I enjoy the steampunk fun, but the fantasy really blends nicely. I’m still waiting to see how the alternate reality/time travel bit will integrate, but I’m pleasantly hopeful that the whole Dylan thing will play out well. He actually seems to be starting to serve a real plot purpose now, and I like that he seems to have been brought in for later plot, which means Gleason probably didn’t write herself into a corner with that. Yay!

In forthcoming volumes, I’m really looking forward to learning more about Miss Adler, Mina’s mother, and seeing what use Dylan is put to (since obviously he won’t be Mina’s love interest). There are some really interesting advances here, and my curiosity has been stoked. Also, Grayling has a puppy and it’s the cutest fucking thing that ever happened (and Mina clearly you love him please make out with his face).

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (12): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerMadly by Amy Alward
Series: Potion #1
Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR on September 29, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?

And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news.

No big deal, then.

Well, I’m sorry to have to say it, but this one wasn’t good. The premise had so much promise, and there were occasional glimmers of that in Madly, enough to keep me reading, because I hoped something hilarious and magical would happen at the end to make it all work. That, needless to say, did not occur.

Madly could have been a truly hilarious comedic fantasy that subverted tropes. With the princess in love with herself in a love potion gone wrong, I expected something like the fractured fairy tales on Rocky & Bullwinkle. A few times I thought maybe it would all turn out to be a wry comedy, but madly actually is just playing out that way. I still really love the idea, but the exectution failed me.

The world building is a mess. I honestly have no fucking clue what this world is. It’s the modern world, with high school and cars and all the typical stuff. The places are obviously renamed countries from the modern world. Only it’s also a fantasy world with magic and alchemists and unicorns and stuff. That could be fine if there were some sort of integration or explanation, but it just feels sloppy.

The heroine, Samantha, is nerdy and bookish, just the sort of person to appeal to a teen reader. She loves potion-making and her family. This is pretty much the extent of Samantha’s characterization, and she’s probably the most well-developed. All the characters lack depth, and, as a result, nothing whatsoever has any impact. The villain comes off as a low budget Maleficent; you can almost hear her cackling evilly as she enters and leaves scenes.

The romance is awful. Just horrible. Zain and Sam have no reason to trust each other and no chemistry. Yet, after a couple of days of competition, I’m supposed to believe that they might be in love. No, they don’t officially say that to one another, but the unicorn doesn’t like Sam which means she’s in love. Seriously. I’ve read a book where a magic egg told someone they were in love, and now it’s a unicorn. I guess that’s a step up? Sam should ditch Zain and get with Arjun, not that I’ll be around to see that happen.

Madly did verge on being a crack book at times, but ultimately it didn’t even do drama well enough for that. I finished because I wanted to see if it would get better, but it sure didn’t.

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