Book Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies

Curtsies & ConspiraciesI’m finally catching up to my NetGalley obligations, posting reviews of books I’ve gained access to through my membership. In this case, it’s the second in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Series, Curtsies & Conspiracies. As I mentioned last week, I inhaled both the first and this second book in the series in a sitting, enjoying the near-contiguous hand-off between the two.

In book two, Sophronia has started to settle in to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality when the group is warned that its members will face the first of the tests to determine whether the girls are, indeed, worthy to continue.

As usual, Sophronia sees conspiracies behind conspiracies, but has to suffer ostracism from her peers for her unusually high marks. Thus, she begins a closer association with non-student Vieve, Mme Lefoux’s niece, as well as the sootie, Soap, who’s been helping her keep Bumbersnoot well-fed. Together, the unlikely trio explore some of the details of the technology at the core of the series.

“The first aether-borne dirigible flight, and we get to witness it! Do you realize, if Giffard’s calculations are correct, this could halve float times? Can you believe it? We could get all the way to Scotland in four days! I wonder how he is handling aether-current monitoring. Can you imagine being that high up?”

Sophronia was not as impressed as Vieve thought she should be. “It is still faster by sleeper train.”

“Yes, but this is floating. Floating! Using aether currents. The possibilities are endless. It’s so exciting!” Vieve bounced up and down on Sophronia’s bed.

The young inventor had stopped by for a visit after breakfast. Sophronia had no idea where the scamp ate, but clearly it was within hearing distance of the assembly.

The expanding circle of incongruous names (Lord Dingleproops?! Felix Golborne, Viscount Mersey?? Professor Shrimpdittle! Picklemen, for crying out loud!) accounts for a reliable thread of laughter on its own, without considering the string of ridiculous circumstances Sophronia injects herself into. So while the author defined the Parasol Protectorate series as a comedy of manners, this series is shaping up to take the ridiculous deeper into the sublime.

I very much appreciate the association of the very fine points of etiquette with profound silliness, since it serves to underline the constraints under which people have chosen to operate while also illustrating that from another perspective, even constraints can serve a purpose and bring greater meaning to any given set of interactions.

So once again I will highly recommend a Carriger book for those looking for immersive, addictive escapism to a world that, while in some ways is staid and antiquated, also has interesting parallels to ours. The steampunk crossover with paranormal should appeal to a wide audience, even with such a young protagonist.

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School Series Book 1This is another book I picked up through my NetGalley membership. I’d thoroughly enjoyed Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (and reviewed Soulless, Timeless, Heartless, Changeless, and Blameless on my blog), so even though this new series falls into the YA genre, it carries over enough of the steampunk world-building and even a few of the characters from that first series that I was tipped into wanting to read it. After all, a series intro like the one that comes with this book promises great things:

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

The writing style shows Carriger has continued to strengthen her trademark voice. The humor is deeply embedded in the story–but in a British, stiff-upper-lip tone that reflects what I enjoy most about Monty Python:

“How do you do? Isn’t this a spiffing day? Really, quite spiffing. I’m Dimity. Who are you?”

“Sophronia.”

“Is that all?”

“What, isn’t it enough?”

“Oh, well, I mean to say, I’m Dimity Ann Plumleigh-Teignmott, actually, in full.”

“Sophronia Angelina Temminnick.”

“Gosh, that’s a mouthful.”

“It is? I suppose so.” As though Dimity Ann Plumleigh-Teignmott were a nice easy sort of name.

The nicest part of the story is Sophronia’s evolution from family misfit to something even more interesting–and the subversive commentary on women’s roles even in very early 20th-century England. Above all, this finishing school is a way for young women of quality to become aware of the wider application of feminine wiles and tricks of accoutrement. It’s easy to imagine a school like this turning out the Mata Hari–in fact, the timeline of that woman’s life falls neatly into the framework established for this story, and I’m having a head-slapping moment for not having tumbled to that fact earlier.

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For the first in a series, this book does not suffer from over-explanation–though I suspect my deep familiarity with the Parasol Protectorate series may also mean I would have been irritated had the author gone into additional detail about the politics and world in which Sophronia is making her way. In fact, the inclusion of Mme Lefoux and her niece operated as something of Easter Eggs for me, and served as tidy reminders of the wider world Sophronia faces. Because, certainly, she is young and naive when she starts at the boarding school, and needs the perspective their experiences can bring to bear.

In view of the fact that I swallowed the book (and its sequel) in a sitting last year while I was supposed to be focused on finishing homework myself, I can highly recommend this book for its ability to draw the reader into an escapist fantasy operating on a consistent set of internal rules. For anyone who wants a more scientific take on young people away at school for the first time (as opposed to the magic in Harry Potter‘s universe), this should fit the bill nicely.

Book Review: Born Confused

Born ConfusedI got this title through my membership at NetGalley because I was intrigued by the cross-cultural perspective of a second-generation South Asian young woman facing the summer before her senior year. I hoped the immersion in the Indian-American point of view would take me past the very young voice the author imbued in her protagonist, Dimple. It took a few chapters for me to really get into the story given Dimple’s profound lack of self-confidence, her level of self-absorption, and her undiagnosed eating disorder.

It’s evident from the beginning that even Dimple isn’t entirely sure of her perspective:

I didn’t have to struggle for spy status. Fortunately I have this gift for invisibility, which comes in handy when you’re trying to take sneaky peeks at other people’s lives, and which is odd, considering I’m one of only two Indians in the whole school.

Her best friend is deeply troubled from family drama, so the story ends up being about the perverse attempt at exchanging self-hood between the two girls. The patter of the writing style carries a heavy English-as-a-second-language Indian flavor with compound nouns, verbs, and adjectives used liberally in the narrative.

All of these elements combined to make my first impression of Tanuja Desai Hidier’s work lean toward indifference. However, as the narrative unfolds, and Dimple has to learn both about herself and reveal the things she’s kept hidden even from her closest friend, she grows into a surprisingly strong young woman. By the end of the book I was entranced by who she’d become and what she’d learned not only of herself, but also her heritage.

The main issue for me, when reading YA novels, is how callow the protagonists are. In stories where that unformed self is not challenged I’m left frustrated; in this story, Dimple has to come to terms with both her own and her friend’s self-destructive tendencies, as well as learn to understand and accept her family’s love. It ended up being a profound exploration of how to balance different cultural influences in a single individual, and left me satisfied that Dimple could grow into a more interesting adult having faced all the things she started out wishing she could ignore.

For anyone who’s interested in a story with a strong South Asian flavor or one that addresses a different aspect of being a third-culture kid, this one has worthwhile nuggets to recommend itself.

Guest Post: Tricia Stewart Shiu

Please enjoy this guest post by Tricia Stewart Shiu, author of the paranormal YA novel with a literary bent Moa. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku.

 

The Story Behind Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu

I’ve always loved Hawaii and was thrilled when my husband booked a visit for us to see his relatives in Honolulu, Hawaii in October of 2006. We packed light and brought our daughter, who was three-years-old at the time.

Our condo was close to parks and monuments that oozed history. We enjoyed wandering around and indulging in the local cuisine. I even tried poi and liked it!

The morning after we arrived, I rose early to push my daughter’s stroller through the quiet, cool morning air. It felt like such a gift to experience Honolulu before the rest of the island was up.

After a hearty island breakfast, we headed out for a morning at our favorite sandy reprieve, Kuhio Beach. The water was calm and protected by a breakwater. Our daughter enjoyed digging and splashing and my husband and I sat sit nearby without worrying about the strong current.

Afterward, we headed back to our condominium, ate a light lunch, and took a luxurious siesta. Although I’m not usually a mid-day napper, the fresh sea air and sun lulled me into a light sleep‚ÄĒthe kind where I felt like I was awake, but I was actually deeply asleep.

I heard a voice say my name and a part of me awoke. I use the word ‚Äúpart‚ÄĚ because I could definitely feel my body touching the soft material on the couch. And yet, another part was keenly aware of a young woman with dark hair standing over me. It felt real, but dream-like, so I decided to go with it and ask her her name.

She pronounced a long Hawaiian string of letters, which seemed to go on for minutes. After repeating the name three or four times, she told me to call her ‚ÄúMoa.‚ÄĚ Through my exhausted, sleepy haze, I remember being skeptical. If this was, indeed, a dream, I would ask as many questions as possible. So I did.

Why was she here? Where did she come from? How could I be sure she was who she claimed to be?

Instead of any answers, she flashed a mental picture of a woman and said that she was a long lost friend of my husband’s. She told me her name and explained that my husband’s family and she had lost touch 15 years before and had been orbiting around one another trying to reconnect.

I awoke from that nap, slightly groggy. That was an indication that I was definitely asleep. Perhaps it was just my creativity kicking into overdrive, I reasoned, and decided to go on with my day. We walked to a park with my daughter and began playing. Suddenly, there was a squeal and my husband and I turned to see the woman from my dream charging toward us with her arms stretched out wide. As she spoke, I tried to gather my wits. Here was the same woman from my dream, someone I’d only seen a mental picture of, and she was standing on the grass right in front of me.

She and my husband exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. For the next few hours, I tried to make sense of what happened. I had never had an experience like this before, but there was no denying that I saw a picture in a dream before I met someone and then they showed up in real life.

When I went to sleep that evening, Moa visited again. She answered the other questions I’d asked earlier that afternoon and wanted me to know that I was protected and should share my experience with the world. Since this was definitely my first metaphysical encounter, I had no idea how to form the correct words to share what had happened. How on earth, I asked Moa, am I supposed to convey such undocumented, unsubstantiated, unusual information?

She said that our world exists on many levels which all play simultaneously. Her analogy was of a DVR. Several shows can be playing at the same time but are on different tuners. That, she said, is where she existed.

When I awoke, I began writing and continued to do so. The story evolved into ‚ÄúMoa,‚ÄĚ then the sequel, ‚ÄúStatue of Ku.‚ÄĚ My daughter, now seven, took the cover photo and illustrated, as well. The photo was taken a few years ago on the North Shore as we played on the beach. The artwork has been compiled over the last two years.

Since my visit with Moa, I began an extensive and sometimes circuitous search to explain my metaphysical experience. I took classes on mediumship, Huna, energy work and through my education, I learned to create healing essential oils and elixir sprays and incorporated that information in the book. Not only did my experience with Moa inspire me and guide me through four-and-a-half of the most challenging years of my life, I also believe that writing about those events and including information I received about that inspiration and guidance, brought my own deep physical, mental, emotional and spiritual transformation and healing. Writing, editing and publishing Moa has opened doors to a new way of understanding myself, those around me and the energy we share.

Whatever your belief or understanding of the metaphysical world, I believe that if one person is transformed through learning, then we are all transformed. I truly believe the Moa I met came through in this work and, just as I connected with her as I wrote, those who read the book will experience her as well.

 

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Moa: Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon.

About Statue of Ku: ¬†The second book in the Moa Book Series, “The Statue of Ku” follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince‚Äôs private plane to reclaim¬†Moa‚Äôs family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku.¬†Get it on¬†Amazon.

About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Interview: Tricia Stewart Shiu

Please enjoy this interview with Tricia Stewart Shiu, author of the paranormal YA novel with a literary bent Moa. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku.

 

1. The Moa Book series has a metaphysical theme. Do you have any expertise in this area?

I am an energetic intuitive and have a talent for creating powerful healing essential oil blends and gem elixirs. The unearthing of these talents occurred as I embarked on a metaphysical journey, which included studies in mediumship, pagan and Huna rituals as well as an energy healing technique called ‚ÄúCrystalline Consciousness Technique.‚ÄĚ I also studied a variety of shamanic clearing methods and healing rituals.

2. You get pretty heavy into the metaphysical. Are you, in fact, a witch?

Like, Hillary, I question who I am on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. For centuries, women have been persecuted and even killed for being labeled a witch. I have studied many forms of healing rituals and magic and discovered that I have talents for using essential oils and crystals for the highest good. Others, who have witnessed the results of my practices, have called me many things: healer, shaman, and yes, witch. I choose not to accept any of these names but to embrace all of them as one growing changing name‚ÄĒwishealer or heshitch‚ÄĒto coin a phrase…or maybe not. As I discover more talents, gifts and unique parts to myself, this unusual word is sure to undergo a metamorphosis and may grow to the size of Moa’s real, and quite lengthy, Hawaiian name.

3. What are your favorite books and how have they touched you as a reader?

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.‚ÄĚ The books/stories that touch me most echo the theme of humanity and self discovery and include a sense of adventure and wonder.¬†Ray Bradbury’s short story, Frost and Fire is a shocking, but tender story about a boy’s journey into a world where people only live eight days. James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man inspired me to unleash my inner censor and allow my truth to shine though my writing.¬†If I could wish anything for those who read my books, it would be the gift of self acceptance and self acknowledgement.

4. How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?

Good question. I went back into my notes and discovered that it took me exactly three months and ten days to write Moa from beginning to end. That seems to be my average writing speed, three months. My aunt Rebecca Gummere is my editor extraordinaire. We have developed a comfortable and productive working rhythm that balances creativity and structure and brings such joy and enrichment to the work.

5. Who designs the covers for your books?

The brilliant and talented Sydney Shiu took the cover photos when she was six during a trip to Hawaii. Scott Torrance brought his years of experience in photographic art and design to the layouts.

6. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The time between stories is the most challenging for me. When I am inside a story and writing I am filled with peace and joy. When I finish and have to leave that world, I mourn the loss of this comforting place–the same is true when I finish reading a great book.¬†Nevertheless, I believe that this sadness brings with it a great opportunity and depth of creativity and I wouldn‚Äôt change a thing about the process.

7. Any take-away message you want readers to grasp?

Each of us has at least one divine gift to remember. The moment we wake up and retrieve the memory of who we are and what we are here to do, that’s when the adventure begins.

8. When did you first consider yourself an author?

I was in middle school and read James Joyce‚Äôs Portrait of an Artist for the first time. About an hour later, I was overcome by an urge to write, an impulse I readily indulged. Time stood still, I still can’t quite remember what happened during that frenzied period of first creation. All I remember is coming to with pages upon pages filled with words in front of me. It felt incredible to express myself so freely. I’ve never looked back.

9. Did you start out writing novels?

No. I started out writing short stories when I was young. Then when I began acting, I wrote one-woman shows and plays, eventually combining my efforts of performance and writing in a piece called Doing Lunch which made it‚Äôs way into a short film trilogy directed by Hal Trussel. That film won ‚ÄúBest Dramatic Short‚ÄĚ at the Houston Film Festival.

10. What was your main source of inspiration for the Moa book series?

When I was five, I was visited by a vision. I’ll never forget it, I was running down the stairs and the entity, a girl with dark hair, stopped me in my tracks. The spirit said that I would go through a deeply challenging time in my life, but would resurface, later in life, with unimaginable joy and fulfillment. That vision stayed with me. In middle school, I would sit quietly at my desk adding up the years to figure out exactly when my life would turn around.

And then I forgot. I got busy, my work and the stress of family life took over and I was completely overwhelmed and in desperate need of a vacation. My husband, daughter and I decided to go to Hawaii.

When the plane landed in Honolulu, I remember feeling the difference in the atmosphere as I disembarked. The air made me somehow, remember that there was a part of me that knew…something…what was it?

Never mind, I was in Hawaii it was time to see the sights! So, I sped off to see Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and then headed home for an afternoon nap before an evening luau. As I drifted toward sleep, I heard my name being called. In my mind’s eye, I saw a beautiful young woman with dark hair, who said her name was¬†Moaahuulikkiaaakea‚Äôo¬†Haanaapeekuluueehuehakipuunahe‚Äôe‚ÄĒMoa for short.

And then I remembered.

 

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Moa: Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon.

About Statue of Ku: ¬†The second book in the Moa Book Series, “The Statue of Ku” follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince‚Äôs private plane to reclaim¬†Moa‚Äôs family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku.¬†Get it on¬†Amazon.

About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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