Review: The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson

Last year, Dawson’s debut novel Wicked As They Come introduced one of the most unique and delightful landscapes I’ve come across in the paranormal genre for a long time. The world of Sang is dark, twisted, wonderfully irreverent and impossibly sexy.  In this novella, Dawson plunges readers back into her world, and I couldn’t be happier to return.

The story is rather short yet surprisingly well-developed for its truncated page time. Dawson effectively balances the necessity of reuniting us with past characters (because what Blud book would be complete without an appearance from Criminy?) with further developing the characters and creations that populate her fantasy world. I was so pleased with the pace of the worldbuilding with this novella, as it allows us a better glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in the caravan as well as a taste of life in the cities. I adored Mr. Murdoch and could have read twice as many pages recounting the various inventions he has contributed to the circus. Madam Morpho’s talent is equally as enchanting, and while I won’t spoil some of the surprises that are in store by going into detail about how her show really works, I will say that Dawson has succeeded in emphasizing the steampunk underpinnings of her story in a way that I haven’t seen before.

As for the characters, I didn’t connect as strongly with Madam Morpho as I had

The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson

with Trish, which proved to be somewhat of a struggle as I read, but her chemistry with Mr. Murdoch more than made up for any shortcomings I found in her character. I wish we could have gained a bit more insight into Mr. Murdoch’s psychology, as it plays quite an important role in the story and I felt that the story ended on a rather unresolved note. Yet in this regard Madam Morpho‘s ending was rather similar to the resolution of Tish and Criminy’s story in the previous book, and Dawson has shown that she is willing and eager to revisit their storyline, so I’m hoping that further installments in the series give us more insight into how Madam Morpho and Mr. Murdoch’s relationship allows each character to grow past their insecurities.

Overall, The Mysterious Madam Morpho is a great installment in the series and makes me greedy to get my hands on the second book, Wicked As She Wants, next year.

Advertisements

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

Today I was super excited to see the cover reveal for The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

An elusive woman arrives at Criminy’s doorstep with a steamer

The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson

trunk, begging for a position in the caravan to perform her unique new act. She opens her trunk to reveal a menagerie of brilliantly colored butterflies. The woman, who calls herself Madam Morpho, is on the run from a dark past in London, where she was forced to leave her equipment behind and abscond with only her tiny performers. Playing a hunch, Criminy hires Madam Morpho on the spot. Taking her down to meet Mr. Murdoch, the reclusive talented engineer who keeps the carnival’s clockworks running, Criminy instructs them to work together to design and build a groundbreaking new circus for the butterflies. Amid the magical ambiance of the circus and the hint of danger from Madam Morpho’s pursuers, she and Mr. Murdoch soon find that their scientific collaboration has produced chemistry of a more romantic kind.

I really enjoyed the first in Dawson’s Blud series and so can’t wait to see how she continues to build the world of Sang in this novella.

This title is released on October 2, 2012.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Characters I would Switch Places with for 24 Hours

1. Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Obviously, this series is my number one priority in terms of getting to live in it myself (my recent trip to the Wizarding World only strengthened my belief that Hogwarts would be the greatest place to live in the world). I see more of myself in Luna than in any of Rowling’s other characters (though Hermione is a close second), and if I had to stand in someone’s shoes for a day, I’d pick Luna hands-down. She’s smart, quirky, doesn’t care what others think, loves eccentric animals, has a brave sense of fashion, and just so happens to be a fellow Ravenclaw.
2. Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
Ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to be Buffy. She never fails to have a quippy comeback at the ready, and, more to the point, she kicks ass. But since I haven’t read a Buffy-related book since high school, I’ll have to get my vicarious fighting kicks through Kate instead. Having Curran by my side would only sweeten the deal.
3. Clare from The China Garden by Liz Berry
Ever since I first picked this book up in high school, I have longed to visit Ravensmere. If I were to trade places with Clare for the day, you’d be hard-pressed to tear me away from this gloriously quaint-sounding village.
4. Anna from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Many will probably go with Lola from Lola and the Boy Next Door, but for me, Anna is the girl I’d want to be (and be friends with once my twenty-four hours were up). I’ve never been out of the country, so spending a day in Paris with a great group of friends and one swoony male named Etienne sounds like heaven.
5. Amy from the Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund
I switched majors from journalism to geography in college, and I was never a part of the Greek life, so the Secret Society Girl series represents an intriguing peek into the college experience that I never had. Granted, my decisions were made intentionally, so I don’t regret never having been in a sorority or other society, but Peterfreund’s series made me wonder what it would be like nonetheless.
6. Penelope from Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Whenever I read a historical romance or one of the classics, I can’t help but ponder what life would have been like as a woman living amidst the restrictions imposed by society, class, and corsets. As unpleasant as many of the details seem, though, I’d like to experience it if only for a day. I’m bypassing classic heroines like Lizzie Bennett and my beloved Jane Eyre here and instead going with a more lighthearted take on the general era.
7. Mercy Thompson from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
Originally I was going to go with Elena from Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. Then I remembered the excruciating pain that Elena experiences during transformation as a werewolf, and I decided that if I were really going to get my fuzzy alternate persona on, I’d be better off as a shapeshifter.
8. Lily from Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
Dressing in eccentric outfits, baking holiday cookies, browsing The Strand bookstore, and exchanging witty journal entry dares with a mysterious penpal…I’d trade places with Lily in a heartbeat.
9. Tish from Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson
This is yet another entry chosen solely for the opportunity to visit the wonderful world in which the story takes place. Sang sounds like an absolute trip, and one that I would gladly take.
10. Anyone from one of Sarah Addison Allen’s novels
I spent the better part of ten minutes trying to choose one of Allen’s novels, but I honestly cannot limit myself to only one. As a North Carolina resident, I could pretend that I do actually live amidst the subtle magic that winds itself throughout all of Allen’s narrative threads, but it’s simply not the same. None of the trees in my backyard throw enchanted apples at me, and the wallpaper doesn’t change to reflect my mood. I long to be a part of the quietly magical realm that Allen has created.

Thrifting with Delilah S. Dawson: Secondhand Adventures Await with Steampunk

Starting a new hobby usually involves opening your wallet. You can’t play tennis without a racquet, new shoes, and lessons with a cute pro. You can’t take up music without an expensive instrument. In short, you have to pay to play. The sad truth is that most of us love investing in a new hobby but can’t always afford it.

Not so with steampunk.

Steampunk is a reimagining of Victorian science fiction and fashion centered on technology, rebellion, and adventure. When you get into the steampunk scene, handmade and hand-modified is king. At a steampunk event, people love nothing so much as seeing an interesting device, a unique piece of jewelry, or a modified Nerf Gun with an interesting color scheme. “How’d you make that?” is one of the most uttered phrases. People will ask to take your picture or sit down next to you to find out how you made your bustle. While there are some lovely (and expensive!) costume pieces available, handmade is valued just as highly as professionally made. And for a frugal crafter like myself, that’s thrilling.

Take my Queen of Hearts hat, for example. I saw a corset made of stapled playing cards on Pinterest and thought, “I can do that.” So I found an old deck of cards and some feathers, grabbed my stapler, and got to work. The finished hat took less than an hour to make and was a big hit at STEAMFest, a yearly steampunk festival by The Artifice Club in Atlanta.

And thrift stores are a great place to find inspiration. You might be surprised at what you can put together for practically nothing. With the exception of a few corsets bought on sale from Damsel in this Dress (on Etsy/on Artfire), the majority of my steampunk wardrobe is thrifted. Broomstick skirts can be layered and hiked. Lacy tank tops and blouses go great with vests and corsets. Consider button down shirts with bow ties, jackets, vests, or suspenders for guys. Costume jewelry can be glued together or onto pin backs. And it doesn’t have to be professionally sewn, either—glue guns and safety pins are your friends.

That’s one of the things I love so much about steampunk. For a minimal monetary investment and some imagination, you buy your ticket into an alternative world where you can be a character of your own invention. Whether you want to be a sky captain, a dandy, an exiled princess, an adventurer, a mad scientist, or just an everyday enthusiast, you get to tell your own story through your costume and accessories. It’s the next closest thing to writing a novel, but without all that pesky editing.

And if you need inspiration of the literary sort, check out the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, the Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook, the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, and the Infernal Devices YA series by Cassandra Clare. Or my own Wicked as They Come, but you’re going to need a lot of protective clothing, if you plan on venturing near the bludbunnies.

Delilah S. Dawson is the author of WICKED AS THEY COME, the first in a steampunk paranormal romance series from Pocket/Simon & Schuster. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or on her blog, where she often showcases her adventures in thrifting

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King and I got off on the wrong foot. While struggling through the first in her Iron Fey series, I continually felt as if the blogging community had pulled one over on me, because for the life of me I simply couldn’t see the awesomeness that everyone else was gushing over. It was a serviceable take on fey lore, at best, and Kagawa’s reliance on pretentious metaphor was about as subtle as a semi truck. Yet, recently the blogosphere has been alit with excitement once again for The Immortal Rules, the first in Kagawa’s new Blood of Eden series. So before I wrote Kagawa off for good, I decided to give her one more shot to wow me, this time with vampire tropes in tow.

I’m sure there are many readers who appreciate a headstrong, stubborn female. Many

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

will see her as a welcome divergence from the weak-willed women who rely on others to save them, the damsels in distress who give reliant women a bad name. I am not one of those readers, because for me, it takes more than sheer determination to demonstrate strength of character. Allison has determination in spades, and unfortunately it’s the kind I dislike the most. She makes her own decisions, dependence be damned, yet those decisions aren’t reasoned, at least not to any degree reflected in the narrative. I’ve forgone many series for failure to connect with the main character, due mostly to my inevitable distaste for women who act before they think. Rose Hathaway from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series springs to mind as an exemplar of this most detestable of character types. Standing in contrast, Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels and Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax are wonderful examples of female characters whose strength is demonstrated not only through physical skill, but also through their abilities and willingness to utilize the fellow human resources at their disposal.

Honestly, Allison barely undergoes enough interactions with others to provide her with the opportunity to work together rather than blindly be contrary, yet the opportunities she does have, she squanders. Her decision to aid the ragtag band of humans she encounters speaks less to the connections she forms with its members than it does to the fact that she is fighting against her new vampire nature. While this might be an understandable reaction, it’s not groundbreaking, which rather sums up my reaction to the entire novel. As with her interpretation of fey lore, Kagawa has seemingly reconstructed the well-known tropes of past vampire legend in The Immortal Rules. Granted, literature, to a large extent, is necessarily a process of rehashing previous ideas into new formations. Yet while the most successful authors accomplish this feat seamlessly, Kagawa’s edges are so sharp, they basically point directly to her source material.

Nearly every aspect of vampire mythology described in The Immortal Rules is a derivative of earlier, better vampire stories. Yet perhaps the most troubling similarities I spotted are shared with the author who seemed to spark the current young adult vampire craze. I won’t name names, but surely I’m not the only one who noticed the parallels to two of a certain author’s series, one young adult paranormal and the other adult science fiction. An angst-ridden, self-loathing vampire? Present. Innate ninja skills upon being sired? Check. An uneasy alliance with a distrustful band of survivors seeking to eradicate the existence of your race (with a leader named Jeb)? Done and done. A beautiful boy who overcomes his initial hatred of girl’s inhuman existence to find le love? Got it. Girl’s rechristening as Wanderer? The list goes on.

I won’t spend much time analyzing the formation of the romantic relationship here, because even amidst the sea of hormone-induced instaloves rampant in young adult literature, there is no foundation for Allison and Zeke’s attraction. More confounding is the evolution of Allison’s relationship with her band of humans after they discover her true nature. A little calm, reasoned lecturing and she is able to make first Zeke, then Jeb- religious zealot Jeb- recant the convictions that served as their sole buoy for most of their lives in order to trust her. Well before the halfway point, I began to miss Kanin’s presence if for no other reason than the fact that, unlike vanilla Zeke, I enjoy the strong, silent trope. Unfortunately, given Allison’s reaction to her vampire “brother,” I suspect that Kagawa is going to develop this relationship in a decidedly paternal direction. It’s rare that I request a love triangle, but in this case I think it could only improve things.

When I read a rather mediocre redo such as The Immortal Rules, I fear that kids will neglect the classics of the genre-Dracula, Anne Rice, Let the Right One In, I Am Legend (from which The Immortal Rules essentially stole what little plot it provides)-in lieu of these derivatives. And it’s not an original derivative at that. See authors such as Delilah S. Dawson, Ilona Andrews, and Clay and Susan Griffith for some new takes on the classic vampire theme. Suffice it to say, I am not a Kagawa fan, and while her sentences might flow nicely, her substance is severely lacking.

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme created by Kristi over at The Story Siren to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Bought

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
  • Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  • Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Received

  • Signed bookplates for Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

Playlist: Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

I’ve never been one who can listen to music while I read, and can barely even tolerate any background noise most of the time. But sometimes, I can’t help but imagine what the characters in a book would be hearing as a soundtrack to their adventures.

 With a landscape equal parts gypsy, circus, steampunk, and gothic romance, Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson evoked so many wonderful tunes as I read. I couldn’t resist the urge to compile a soundtrack to accompany Criminy and Tish’s adventures.

Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

This House Is a Circus by Arctic Monkeys