Criminy’s Clockwork Carnival was in full swing.
This is a novella, so the shorter page count (100ish pgs) hampers character and plot depth a bit, but I think the author did a fantastic job with what she had. This is listed in the Blud series as coming before Book 1 – Wicked as They Come but as the main couple from Wicked is already together, I wasn't sure why. Even if familiar or not, you'll get an introduction and refresher on the various characters that make up Master Criminy's Clockwork Carnival. The world building leaves a little bit to be desired as it isn't fully explained how Blud people and animals (vampire like creatures) exist in this other world; it is like Victorian time period Earth but not quite.
She stared down into the nest of books and hidden miracles. Before, the trunk had held hope. Now, in the wrong hands, it held evidence enough to hang her.
“If you’ll trust me, I think I know how best to keep your charges safe.”
Their eyes met over the trunk. She felt as if she stood on a precipice, one step away from freedom or doom. “I find that I trust you, Mr. Murdoch.”
“God help you, Madam Morpho.”
You'll feel for Imogen as you learn her story, Mr. Murdoch less so as I don't think he ever fully emerged from the shadows and fully showed up on the pages. He builds the clockworks and mechanics for the caravan carnival, I would have liked to have seen him interact more with his creations and what was the story behind his partner/friend Vil? They were a calm, cool, and tentative couple and I liked how they worked together but, again, the page count wasn't quite there to build their relationship.
Arm-in-arm, they watched Torno lift his weights, his strength defying physics thanks to Criminy’s magic. Emerlie juggled hedgehogs and rode her unicycle high up on the wire, her lime and magenta costume glowing against the velvety night sky. Next up came Abilene and Eblick and the two-headed Bludman, each waiting behind a curtain to amuse and entertain and, in the twins’case, terrify. A collection of bizarre creatures floating in large jars of liquid was surrounded by a crowd so deep that Imogen caught only a glimpse of the horrors within. They passed Letitia in her turban, telling fortunes in a sequin-spangled tent.
Even though the overall world building was somewhat absent, the immediate caravan carnival world was delightfully detailed and created. There was a sense of unknown, magic, wildness, freedom, jovial companionship, and troubles. I wish I could see the shows.
“Her name is Madam Morpho,” Henry said sharply. “And she doesn’t speak to the riff-raff.”
The main story thread comes from Imogen on the run from her former boss and hiding out in the caravan. I thought the sense of danger and romance was eclipsed by the descriptions of the people and clockworks that made up the caravan carnival. I also thought the magic and wonder of the butterflies Imogen stole got lost in the mix, they could have brought more sense of wonder if utilized more. The ending brought an extremely gruesome conclusion to the issue of Imogen being in danger. I suggest reading this in October to appreciate and enjoy the grisly ending, the spooky vampire like creatures, and the sense of magic and wonder.
“Imogen,” he said, voice ragged as he stepped closer to her, his feet brushing the wide swing of her skirts. “Are you aware that I haven’t seen a woman this close in more than six years?”
“That seems excessive,” she murmured. “Are we such fierce creatures?”
“There aren’t many cut out for caravan life, my girl. Most of those who stick around are running away from something or other. We’re a band of misfits, but we protect our own."
A little bit different, a little bit parallel universe with steampunk, horror (bludbunnies and blud people, think vampires), and a traveling carnival caravan filled with mysterious individuals.
Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri is an empowering voice for women. It's written as a letter to the future female President of the United States (if you couldn't figure that out from the title). To give some background, Palmieri served as the White House Director of Communications under President Obama and then afterwards as the Director of Communications for the Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Therefore, the reader will not be surprised that a large chunk of this book is devoted to behind the scenes of that campaign and its aftermath on herself and the country (from her point-of-view). From this standpoint alone, the book is interesting as we are seeing an event through the eyes of someone who actually experienced it from the inside. The overarching purpose of this book is to give advice and encouragement to women in any and every type of environment. Palmieri seeks to embolden women to allow for vulnerability and use the strengths that have historically been seen as weaknesses to launch yourself to the top. She emphasizes the importance of sticking up for yourself so that your voice is heard especially when yours is the only female voice in the room. (Did I mention this is quite a pro-female book? It is and I love that.) Remember: We cannot play by the same rules as men and we shouldn't have to. Personally, despite its shortness I think this is a necessary book for all peoples to read regardless of gender (but ladies ya'll should really try to seek this one out). I especially liked the book recommendations scattered throughout. :-D A solid 8/10 for me.
What's Up Next: Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me by Condoleezza Rice
What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #2: Mere Mortals by David Mack
Francis is a man that fell from grace while still a soldier. He’s now a rich man that can be best described as callous, cynical, and mercenary. His relationship with Caroline started as a business transaction and nothing more. While I appreciate the historical accuracy of Caroline’s circumstances I was not happy with the way she was coerced into doing things she most definitely didn’t want to do in order to pay her debts. That part of the story reminded me of the old bodice rippers, when the woman fell head over heels by the “hero” despite him being a jerk.
And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to hate Francis. He might have been a reprobate however, and as much as he tried to deny it, he was also compassionate and just in his own way. In the end, his redeeming qualities outdid his ruthlessness and he became the man Caroline always knew he could be. And what is best is that it was done in a totally believable way.
That being said, I’m not a fan of stories where the heroine must suffer quietly while the man has his way with her and everyone around him. I know, that’s the way things used to be but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
**I received this book at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.**