Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poetry Splash: Wilfred Owen (plus some artwork)

Recently in AP Euro, we covered the First World War, including its cultural movements. I discovered that I love WWI art and poetry! There were some great poems included in one assignment that I did; here are two of my favorite shorter ones, which both happen to be by Wilfred Owen (of "Dulce et Decorum Est" fame).

"On Seeing a Piece of Heavy Artillery Brought Into Action"

Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great Gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse.
Spend our resentment, cannon -- yea, disburse
Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.

Yet, for men's sakes whom thy vast malison
Must wither innocent of enmity,
Be not withdrawn, dark arm, thy spoilure done,
Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!

"The Parable of the Old Man and the Young"

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and strops,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

And some artwork that I liked:
Assault Under Gas, Otto Dix (1924)

A Bursting Shell by C.R.W. Nevinson (1915)

The Destruction of the Turkish Transport in the Gorge of the Wadi Fara, Palestine, 1918 by Sydney Carline (1920)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Scribbling Women Blog Tour: Review, Interview, and Giveaway

Hello and welcome to my stop on the "Scribbling Women" blog tour, hosted by Tundra Books! For my part of the tour, I'm asking the author, Marthe Jocelyn, a few questions, as well as posting my review of her new book.

"Scribbling Women" highlights the "astonishing" lives of eleven female writers from around the world. Each of these women, who all lived sometime between the 10th and 21st centuries, have left their unique legacies behind through their writings, whether diaries, letters, novels, memoirs, or cookbooks. For some of these amazing women, entire books could be filled with their lives; for others, little is known about them besides the sources that they themselves left behind. Jocelyn has devoted only ten or twenty pages to each writer in her small book, but she still succeeds in conveying to the reader the interesting lives of her subjects. Even though I already knew about almost half of the women featured in this book, I still found new insights into their lives by reading "Scribbling Women." Given that this book is written towards younger readers, I am sure that most of the people who read this book will be able to glean not only new knowledge of a few of the most extraordinary women in history, but also a broader view of history itself. A few highlights of some of the featured females:

Most humorous: Margaret Catchpole, an English convict sent to Australia whose record exists in the letters she wrote back to her former employer, the woman she stole from.
Writers whose works I now want to read: Mary Kingsley, British adventurer who only began traveling to Africa in her thirties, and Nellie Bly, Victorian muckraking journalist.
Most absolutely astounding stories: Harriet Jacobs, enslaved mother of two by the time she was twenty, who spent seven years hiding in an attic, and Ada Blackjack, an Inuit woman who was stranded on an Arctic island for two years.
Most eye-opening: Dang Thuy Tram, North Vietnamese doctor who was killed during the Vietnam War, and Doris Pilkington Garimara, an Australian Aborigine whose mother, and then herself, were taken away from their families as part of a British attempt to "civilize" half-Aborigine children.

I also asked Marthe Jocelyn a few questions about her book:
How did you decide who to include in "Scribbling Women"?
Choosing the women for this book was maybe the hardest part. I read and thought and delved and read some more for about a year before finally narrowing the options to a shortlist of twenty. Then I began to write as if I intended to include them all. They fell off the list for one reason or another - no feasible translation, for instance, or too much context involved in explaining someone to a young reader who might be encountering an era or culture for the first time. Eventually, as I say in the introduction, I picked the eleven women whose stories made me catch my breath.

Is there a particular woman highlighted in the book who you enjoyed researching the most?
I've been worried about people asking me which woman was my favorite because I change my mind daily. I especially liked the moments during my research that made the women feel alive. Reading Margaret Catchpole's three hundred year old letters out loud and realizing that her invented spelling gives a strong indication of her accent. Exploring the old city of Philadelphia to uncover the house - on a street with a new name - where runaway slave Harriet Jacobs spent her first night in a free state. Getting email from Doris Pilkington Garimara in Australia, the only one of the women who is still alive. Speaking to Fred Whitehurst, the American who brought Dang Thuy Tram's diary safely out of war-torn Vietnam. All highlights.

Who are your female role models for writing and life in general?
There are soooo many women to admire, and so many writing women. I don't know how to pick just one!

Several of your YA books are historical fiction. Is there a particular time period/subject that you like to write (or read) about the most?
I seem to be a bit stuck in the late Victorian period - all my historical books but one are set between 1880 and 1901. I wonder whether that's because I've actually known people who were born during that time - though of course they're dead now! But it still feels like "my" lifetime, that my grandparents were reigned over by Queen Victoria. The one exception was How It Happened in Peach Hill, which took place in the 1920s, and centers around a mother-daughter team of fraudulent clairvoyents. This was a period of revival for Spiritualism, and all the accompanying scams. I love reading about that.

Do you have any current writing projects that you would like to share?
I am working on two books right now, which is normal for me. I'm writing a novel for teens, which unfolds in stories written from various points of view. And I'm making a book for young readers that is not quite a picture book and not quite a craft book but has lots of pictures and lots of crafts. I like to keep two projects going on so that when I'm stalled on one, I can go to a different room and work on the other.

Thanks for answering my questions, Marthe!

Giveaway: Tundra Books is hosting a huge giveaway of Marthe's 28 books as part of this blog tour. To enter, just leave a comment on this post. You can also get 30 more entries by commenting on other stops on the tour! More details can be found on the publisher's website. The contest runs until April 10th!

Previous Stop: ManicDDaily                                        Next Stop: The Book Tree

Probably the largest volume of writings featured in "Scribbling Women": 1100+ pages of recipes and household advice.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Books, Week of 3/19-3/26

I was hoping to get a review in this week, but it was not to be. I finished Scribbling Women; my review will be posted on Monday as part of the Scribbling Women blog tour run by Tundra Books. Also as part of the tour, I'm posting a short interview with author Marthe Jocelyn, and Tundra is having a huge giveaway of Marthe's books!

This week's books:
Crusade by Nancy Holder (thank you, I Am a Reader Not a Writer)
Mr. Darcy's Secret by Jane Odiwe (thank you, Laura's Reviews)

For review
Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson (GoodReads)
Stones for My Father by Trilby Kent (LibraryThing/Tundra Books)
*My review of Stones for My Father will be posted towards the end of April as part of a blog tour

Purchased (used, of course)
Visions of Utopia by various authors
And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer
The Inheritors by William Golding

About Visions of Utopia: Utopianism is one of my favorite subjects to study. Both theories and actual communities are fascinating to me. Along with this love comes a fascination with cults and planned societies, the older and more obscure the better.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And the winner is...

The winner of the Lucky Leprechaun giveaway hop (which is also my first giveaway ever!), who is to receive a copy of The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson, is:

Kristi the Book Faery!

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Books and Happenings

Five books arrived in the mail this week! The snail mail finally decided to have packages show up; some of these had been expected for a month. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After was supposed to arrive in time for me to review it on March 22, but, unfortunately, I have not seen the book yet, so this review will have to be postponed. Scribbling Women was a late arrival and I ended up with two copies, one of which will be given away during a blog hop in late April.

I've thought of an idea for a month-long event: old dystopias. There are a ton of mostly YA dystopias coming out this year - what about a month devoted to those published before, say, 1950? Any thoughts? I was thinking reviews, giveaways (probably of used books, as that's all I can afford, but I could see if some publishers would be willing to donate...). No interviews, though, as most authors died decades ago.

This week will probably be a slow one for reviews. I'm almost done with An Atlas of Impossible Longing, but my review of that won't be posted until the book's release on April 5. Other than that, I'm preparing for the Scribbling Women blog hop and starting Here on Earth.

Arrived this week for review:
Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planet by Tim Flannery (publisher: Grove/Atlantic)
Scribbling Women by Marthe Jocelyn (review/interview to be posted on 3/28!)

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin (publisher: St. Martin's Press)
Drought by Pam Bachorz, thanks to Queen of Happy Endings

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper (Random Buzzers)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop! Mar 17-20

Welcome to my stop on the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop! This giveaway will last from 12:01 AM EST on March 17 to 11:59 PM EST on March 20.

Since I received duplicate copies of this from both GoodReads and LibraryThing, I am giving away one brand-new, hardback copy of The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis by Kirby Larson. It is part of the Dear America historical fiction series for older elementary and middle school readers. I have also posted a synopsis of the book and my review of it here.

To enter:
Leave a comment on this post with your e-mail address (comments are located below the linky list).
It is not required that you be a follower, but both old and new followers will receive extra entries should you mention this in your comment.

This giveaway is only open to those with mailing addresses within the U.S. The winner (chosen at random) will be notified on March 21 and will have 3 days to respond before another winner is chosen.

Happy blog hopping and reading!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Children's Historical Fiction - The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson (Dear America)

Piper Davis lives with her minister father and collegiate sister in Seattle, Washington. Her older brother has recently joined the military, but he's at Pearl Harbor, which in 1941 should be a relatively safe place. Piper's living the average life of a 1940s girl - attending high school, going to the movies with friends, coming to church every Sunday with her father. The only difference between her and most other American girls is that she lives in a Japanese neighborhood, because her father is the minister at a Baptist Japanese church. But the Japanese are just like everyone else, at least until the attack at Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, Piper is overwhelmed with worry for her brother and debates over whether the Japanese-Americans are friends, as they have always been to her family, or America's biggest homeland enemy. When her neighborhood is forced to move to an internment camp, is it really to protect the U.S. or is it just prejudice? And what will happen when Piper's father decides to follow his congregants to the camps, taking Piper with him?

I wasn't sure what to expect from Scholastic's first addition to the Dear America series in years, but Larson didn't let me down. Coming back to my favorite elementary school series as a high schooler, I still found The Fences Between Us to be an interesting and informative read. Larson managed to smoothly incorporate great historical details into the story, and she offered a unique perspective on WWII. I've known about the Caucasian ministers who followed Japanese-American congregations into internment camps (my great-great uncle, formerly a missionary to Japan, was one of them), but this is the first time I've heard of a book that focuses on their experiences. And it's written for kids, which makes it even better! As Larson is able to accurately write about this interesting part of American history while keeping the story engaging, The Fences Between Us is a great, educational read, appropriate for all ages.

My copy of The Fences Between Us was received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. I also received a copy through GoodReads' First Look program, which I will be giving away as part of the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop on March 17-20. The Fences Between Us was published in December 2010.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fantasy - Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford

What would Jane Austen be like if she had never died, instead living on - as a vampire - into modern times? In Ford's sequel to Jane Bites Back, she is now Jane Fairfax, the owner of a small-town bookstore in upstate New York. Her best friends, Lord Byron (also a vampire) and Lucy (a normal human being but an extraordinary friend), live nearby, as does Jane's boyfriend, Walter. Life is going great for Jane. Her newest novel, the first in almost 200 years, is a best-seller, soon to be made into a movie. Charlotte Bronte, fellow vampire and (im)mortal enemy, is gone for good (see previous book for explanation). But then life gets a twist. Several of them, in fact. Jane's new agent is a *insert bad word of choice* who's hounding her for her next novel, the film of her latest book isn't going as planned, Our Gloomy Friend (as Charlotte B. is referred to) may be back, and, scariest of all, Walter's mother is coming to visit and expects Jane to be Jewish.

My Likes: Ford has a pretty good writing style and seems to know what he's talking about with all the little details he so smoothly incorporates into the story (croquet, Jewish folklore, what goes into publishing and films, to name a few). Ford's take on Byron is quite interesting, as are all of the connections that pop up between various seemingly unrelated literary figures of the late 18th/early and mid-19th centuries. Jane Goes Batty doesn't have a dull moment, and the characters are enjoyable to read about. Another thing: in Ford's books, vampires can drink enough blood to satisfy themselves but not they do not, in the long run, have to affect their victims. It's kind of hard to imagine Jane Austen as a murderer, so I find it rather nice that she doesn't actually kill the people whose blood she has to drink.

My Dislikes: It seemed like the author was cramming too many events into the book. Jane's being battered with her long-overdue second novel, her irritating editor, too-enthused romance fanatics and their tour guide, the filming of her latest novel, new vampires, old vampire enemies, vampire hunters, a relationship that's possibly going farther than she's read for, her boyfriend's mother, a romance novel fair, croquet championships, finding food (blood) at the appropriate time...

My Evaluation: Jane Goes Batty is a fun book to read, but in a few months chances are I won't be able to remember much about it; it's all fun and little memorable substance. Still, if I run across the other books in the series, I'll probably pick them up.

My finished copy of Jane Goes Batty was received through LibraryThing's Member Giveaways program. Published by Ballantine Books, it went on sale in February, 2011.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Poetry Splash - George Herbert

I'm not a big fan of poetry, but lately my classes have had me reading a lot of it. Most poems, unfortunately, I couldn't care less about, but some are pretty great, so I'm going to start posting some of those. First off: George Herbert (1593-1633), religious metaphysical poet known for his book of poems The Temple.

The Pilgrimage

I traveled on, seeing the hill where lay
My expectation.
A long it was and weary way.
The gloomy cave of desperation
I left on th' one, and on the other side
The rock of pride.

And so I came to fancy's meadow, strowed
With many a flower;
Fain would I here have made my abode,
But I was quickened by my hour.
So to care's copse I came, and there got through
With much ado.

That led me to the wild of passion, which
Some call the wold -
A wasted place but sometimes rich,
Here I was robbed of all my gold
Save one good angel, which a friend had tied
Close to my side.

At length I got unto the gladsome hill
Where lay my hope,
Where lay my heart; and, climbing still,
When I had gained the brow and top,
A lake of brackish waters on the ground
Was all I found.

With that abashed, and struck with many a sting
Of swarming fears,
I fell, and cried, "Alas, my king!
Can both the way and end be tears?"
Yet taking heart I rose, and then perceived
I was deceived:

My hill was further; so I flung away,
Yet heard a cry,
Just as I went: None goes that way
And lives: "If that be all," said I,
"After so foul a journey, death is fair,
And but a chair."

The Pulley

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
"Let us," said he, "pour on him all we can:
Let the world's riches, which dispersed lie,
Contract into a span."

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honor, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

"For if I should," said He,
"Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

"Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness:
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast."

New Book This Week

Despite having 11 books expected in the mail for the past three weeks, this is the only one that has shown up this week: An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy, courtesy of Free Press Blog Tours.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

YA Sci-Fi: Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

Fifteen-year-old Nora Emily James lives in Washington, D.C. Her "glossy" life consists of hanging out with her in-crowd friends at school and shopping with her mom. Even though terrorist attacks, usually in the form of car bombings, are frequent, they don't bother Nora and her parents much. They themselves are safe from attacks: their home has a good security system, they use a secure car service (insurance is too high for them to own their own car), and they're thinking of moving to a compound where all of the necessary conveniences of life are contained within one secure environment. And even if they happen to witness a terrorist attack, there's always the TFC - Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic. One pill, and they won't remember the incident. But then Nora sees an attack, and her mother brings her to TFC. When Mom tells her a big secret right before she takes the pill, Nora realizes that she can't stand to forget what her mom told her - so, secretly, she doesn't take the pill. Afterward, when Nora falls in with new friends, Micah and Winter, she begins to realize that there are many secrets hidden by "forgetting," both in her own life and in the world she lives in.

Memento Nora is a very fast-paced book. It took me a little time to get used to how fast Smibert moves between events, but after that I really enjoyed reading the book. It's exciting, though somehow most of the plot twists are not the jump-out-at-you surprises expected of such a story. Memento Nora has some interesting things to say about capitalism, materialism, the fears of contemporary American society, and the willingness of humans to "forget" things in order to avoid what they don't like or don't want to deal with, though I'm not sure which of these Smibert is really trying to focus on. The ending of the book is perfect, even with me accidentally reading the final lines and knowing (mostly) what was coming ahead of time. My concluding thoughts on this book? I. Want. The. Sequel. Now.

My ARC of Memento Nora was received from the publisher, Marshall Cavendish. It goes on sale April 1, 2011.

Monday, March 7, 2011

YA Mystery/Historical Fiction - Death Cloud by Andrew Lane (Young Sherlock Holmes)

In the summer of 1868, fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes is looking forward to a vacation at home with his family. Instead, however, he is sent to stay at the country home of an aunt and uncle he's never met. What looks like an already boring summer is made worse when Sherlock's older brother, Mycroft, hires a tutor for him, but things begin to look up when Sherlock finds his first real friend in the orphan Matty Arnatt, and the tutor turns out to be an outdoors-y, logic-driven native of Albuquerque (who also happens to have a pretty, if rather tomboyish, daughter). Oh, and there's a mystery. Matty's seen a "death cloud" that leaves the people it touches dead, covered in boils reminiscent of the plague. Is it the plague, or is it murder? And, if murder, are the murders part of a larger plan?

It took a while (as in 2/3 of the book) for me to be able to ignore Death Cloud as just another Holmes spin-off unworthy of reading for any other reason besides it's just another Holmes spin-off. Meaning it took a long time for the mystery and plot to be able to hold their own, without the added appeal of having Sherlock Holmes as the main character. I only got truly interested in the plot and characters within the last fifty or so pages. The origins of the titular death cloud were rather anticlimatic, though still interesting, especially as what the purpose of the death cloud was eventually unfolded. Lane, at times, did a very good job of incorporating historical details into the story, but at other times he was not able to include such details smoothly. Also, some of his descriptions of characters' actions seemed a bit too drawn out; I really don't have to read a step-by-step (literally) description of someone climbing a fence to get the idea.

There were some lines/situations I found funny:

At the beginning, you are first introduced to Holmes as someone yells at him "You there! Come here!" Hardly the intro you would expect for such a famous detective...of course, that doesn't come 'til later.

"'I was coming to help,' Sherlock said. 'Strange,' Virginia replied. 'So was I'" (p 278).

"The bees had to be stopped" (p 285). Seems a bit melodramatic, doesn't it?

And, once everything is done: "But as your tutor, the question I have is, what did you learn from it all?" (p 305)

The ending to Death Cloud implies that the next book in the series will contain the same bad guys. However, the back of the book lists the sequel as taking place in America, where Sherlock and Matty will "uncover a plot to resuscitate the Confederacy." I live in North Carolina, and my mom has a lot of Civil War re-enacting friends (actually, we met them selling books and herbs at colonial/Civil War events). We occasionally get reprimanded for not referring to the Civil War as the "War of Northern Aggression." I'm definitely reading the sequel. Oh, and there's "bloodsucking creatures" involved.

Note: I seriously believe AP European History has corrupted my brain, because most of the books I've read recently, I connect in some way to the material in that class. Death Cloud is no exception. Thank you, Crimean War references, Sepoy Mutiny references, and the whole imperialism thing. I was reading this to get away from you, AP Euro!

My copy of Death Cloud is a finished copy received through Holt InGroup. It went on sale (in the U.S.; the British edition came out last year) on February 1, 2011.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Books, Week of 2/26 - 3/5

So out of the ten books (8 packages) that I was expecting in the mail this week, I got one. And two packages (four books) that I wasn't expecting. Those, along with two books I purchased, brings my total for this week up to seven new books!

Free Books:
Death Cloud (Young Sherlock Holmes) by Andrew Lane (Holt InGroup)
Shade's Children by Garth Nix (thank you, Mandy at Literary R&R!)
Memento Nora by Angie Smibert (many thanks to Ms. Torres of Marshall Cavendish, especially since I requested just this book and ended up with that and the two listed below!)
Crystal Bones (The Faelin Chronicles) by C. Aubrey Hall
Zitface by Emily Howse

Purchased (used):
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Wild Ducks and Other Plays by Henrik Ibsen

Friday, March 4, 2011

Classic Lit: The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

The Man Who Would Be King tells the story of Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, two English adventurers/entrepreneurs who set off for Kafiristan - a region in what is now Afghanistan - with the goal of becoming kings of the native population. The narrator of the story, a newspaperman, does not hear from the men for two years, until an ill, nearly insane Carnehan comes creeping back. What happened to the duo in Kafiristan? Did their plan work and, if it did, what caused the downfall of Dravot and Carnehan?

This story falls under the category of "lost world" or "lost race" fiction. Kafiristan is inhabited by whites who have a forgotten history of Masonic lore (that was probably the most interesting, and strangest, part of the story). I was actually rather disappointed after finishing The Man Who Would Be King. It seemed to be just a variation on King Solomon's Mines (H. Rider Haggard, 1885), and a really short one at that. Kipling would actually have made the story more interesting if he had stretched it out, given more details of Dravot and Carnehan's journey and experiences. I was surprised at how short it was and how little I got from reading it.

My copy of The Man Who Would Be King is the Signet edition of 1975, which I obtained from my parents' bookshelf. The story was originally published in Kipling's 1888 collection The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Eerie Tales.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What's Happening This Week

I made my first Twitter account today! I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with it - personal stuff, mini book reviews, notifications of giveaways around the blogosphere? - but it's there. Here is the link to my profile.

About Awesomeness! - I really don't want to have to keep up with posting these on a regular schedule. I don't always have time, and I'm going to run out of cool things eventually (especially since most of the things I think are awesome are various small publishers of obscure gothic/science fiction/18th century literature).

Upcoming reviews: I'm reading The Man Who Would Be King right now, 'bout halfway through. At present count, I've had four books come in this week and one of them, Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, is next on the review list, followed by Memento Nora.

I am participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop from March 17 to March 20. My review of The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson will be posted on March 15, and I will be giving away a brand new, hardback copy of it as part of the hop!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

YA Fantasy: The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge

First off: introduction to the world of The Iron Thorn, at least as it appears at the beginning of the book. It's a steampunk setting, about 1950. Lovecraft, Massachusetts, is a town run by clockwork - literally. Its four engines beneath the ground keep the city going, and they also help protect its inhabitants from the necrovirus and its evil carriers - the nightjars, ghouls, shoggoths, etc. that lurk in dark alleys and hide beneath the streets. Reason and science reign under the intimidating Proctors; magic and superstition are deemed heretical and punishable by imprisonment in jails or madhouses, burning, or death. Ravens and other spies keep watch over the city's inhabitants to seek out any heretical leanings.

Now for the plot: Fifteen-year-old Aoife Grayson has a lot to worry about. She's a ward of the state and the only girl at the School of Engineering; her mother's locked in an asylum, her beloved brother - who, in his madness, tried to kill her - is on the run, and her sixteenth birthday is coming up, with the implication that she, too, will go insane. But then she gets a note from Conrad, her brother. "Help. Find the witches' alphabet. Save yourself." So Aoife and her only friend, Cal, escape from the city of Lovecraft to find Conrad in Arkham, a neighboring town that is home to Aoife's ancestral house. With the aid of Dean, a heretical guide they find in the secret marketplace of Lovecraft, the trio sets out to rescue Conrad, discover the mysteries of the Grayson home, and unlock the secrets that the Proctors of Lovecraft have sought to hide for so long.

First off, I expected The Iron Thorn to be a science fiction, dystopian story. To my disappointment, it's actually fantasy, at least in my little categorical world. It is still steampunk, and there are dystopian elements, such as the Proctors who rule Lovecraft with an iron hand and one confrontation that reminded me of a scene in Brave New World (the rest of the book, interestingly enough, reminded me of A Great and Terrible Beauty). Besides this initial disappointment, however, the book was great! For all nearly 500 pages, I was interested and had problems putting the book down. I found out the plot twists when Aoife did, not even a moment sooner. That said, most of the many plot twists made perfect sense, but one or two were like "did the author have this in mind from the beginning? 'Cause there's not any lead up to that..." Another thing that I liked, besides the great storyline, was how it ended. The events of the book were mostly tied up by the conclusion, and a new chapter was opened at the end that will be continued in the next book of the series...which I will be very impatiently awaiting. By the way, I want Aoife's house. It's run by clockwork, has a lot of hidden spaces and tricks, and a large library. It's awesome.

My ARC of The Iron Thorn was received through Random Buzzers, a program of Random House. This book went on sale February 22, 2011.