Review of the Chronological Man Adventure Series by Andrew Mayne

Bottom line: A fun, historical, science-y, steampunk-y, adventure-y series of short stories.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I really like this series. It consists (so far) of two short stories, telling the tale of Smith, time traveler extraordinaire, who shows up to save the day whenever he is needed. The books are short enough to be read in one sitting (Ok, so I read most books in one sitting, but I’m a bit obsessive that way. Normal people could read these books in one sitting), but long enough to feel balanced – you get good characters, good settings, AND a good story. I wouldn’t put the premise in the “terribly plausible” category, but the ride is such a good one that it doesn’t matter. My favorite aspect of the series is the characters. The assistant, April, is smart and capable and takes action when it’s called for. She’s no Watson-esque sidekick, perpetually stumbling around in the dark. Teddy Roosevelt, more big stick than speaking softly here, is a hilarious and brilliant addition to the crew in the second story. And of course there’s Smith, a strange genius who suffers from amnesia due to his time travelling.

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Review of Timekeeper by Heather Albano (2012)

Bottom line: A very strong sequel to Timepiece, and a very fun read.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

An alternate history adventure featuring time travelers, freedom fighters, Frankenstein’s monster, the Battle of Waterloo, and Napoleon invading Britain by dirigible.

In Timepiece, young adventurer Elizabeth Barton and her suitor William Carrington used a mysterious pocket watch to travel from 1815 to 1885. Horrified by what they found—a steampunk dystopia patrolled by Gatling-gun-wielding robots—they joined fellow time traveler Mr. Maxwell in his quest to prevent that future from taking form…and accidentally set in motion a chain of events that allowed Napoleon to win the Battle of Waterloo.

Now they are trapped in a second 1885, one even worse than the first, where the tricolor flag flies from the Tower of London and Britain has long since accepted its fate as a conquered possession of the globe-spanning French Empire. In Timekeeper, Elizabeth, William, and Maxwell struggle to undo the damage they caused—and gradually come to realize the stakes may be even higher than they initially supposed, for they are not the only ones attempting to affect the timeline.

Review:

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was well worth waiting for. The plot ran smoother, the characters had more depth, and the writing was just as strong as the first book, Timepiece (review here). All of the minor quibbles I had with the first book were nonexistent here. I think you could read this book as a standalone, but I wouldn’t really recommend it – it definitely follows straight on from the first, and you’d miss a lot of the context. I think one of the great strengths of this book was how she took the same people and made them believably act differently due to their external circumstances, yet consistently with their characterization in the alternate timeline.

The story wraps up satisfactorily for two of the main characters, and there is enough closure for the third that you don’t feel left hanging, although his story is certainly not finished. I’ll certainly read that when/if she writes it, but I was very happy with the way things concluded.

Available:E-book currently $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and in all e-formats at Smashwords.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

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Review of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (1987) (Dirk Gently Book 1)

Bottom line: Not up to Douglas Adams’s usual standard. Worth a try if you’re a big fan of his other work.

Rating: Recommended IF – you are a Douglas Adams fan

Blurb:

There is a long tradition of Great Detectives, and Dirk Gently does not belong to it. But his search for a missing cat uncovers a ghost, a time traveler, AND the devastating secret of humankind! Detective Gently’s bill for saving the human race from extinction: NO CHARGE.

Review:

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped to. From the blurb and the title, I had expected a mystery/sci fi/fantasy mashup, and written by Douglas Adams, to boot! I (obviously) love both the mystery and sci fi/fantasy genres, and I’m a big fan of Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (read the books (great), listened to the radio drama (fantastic), and seen the movie (meh)) so I thought that if ever there was a book for me, it would be this one.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. There was kind of a mystery, but not really, and while it has the hallmarks of a Douglas Adams – quirky characters, non sequiturs of plot and dialogue, hapless creatures from other planets, etc. – it just didn’t work for me. The story seemed very disjointed and it felt like the first half to two thirds of the book was intro material. I kept waiting for him to get to the point and bring it all together. There were some hysterically funny, snort out loud on the commuter train kind of moments (yes, I’m that girl), but there weren’t very many of them.

All in all, I’m glad I gave it a try, but I won’t be reading it again. There’s another book in the series out, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, but I don’t see myself reaching for it anytime soon.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes.

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Review of Timepiece by Heather Albano (2011)

Bottom line: Even though Timepiece took me a while to get into, once I got into it I was hooked. When I read it for the second time, I enjoyed it right from the beginning.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

A novel-length steampunk time travel adventure about a girl, a pocket watch, Frankenstein’s monster, the Battle of Waterloo, and giant clockwork robots taking over London.

Elizabeth Barton longs to escape the endless round of social ritual that defines life in the village of Hartwich during the Regency of Prince George. Her neighbor William Carrington has lost the use of his arm in the Napoleonic Wars, and now must watch from the sidelines as the final act of that conflict unfolds without him. Both go through the motions of their lives, dutiful but dissatisfied, as the Battle of Waterloo looms on the horizon. When an anonymous benefactor sends Elizabeth a pocket watch that is more than what it seems, they are swept seventy years into the future.

The London of 1885 is a steampunk dystopia where the streets are patrolled by Gatling-gun-wielding robots and the clockwork of the British Empire is slick with its subjects’ blood. This future has its roots on the field of Waterloo–in the secret weapon Wellington employed there–and it will come true in seventy years’ time unless Elizabeth and William find a way to stop it.

Review:

It took me a while to get into this book. It jumps around between time periods, and I know that it is a time traveling book, after all, but it felt a bit like watching tv while someone is randomly flicking channels. Later on, you start to see how those pieces fit together, giving you background on characters or showing what happened at a particular juncture in the back story. If you’re the kind of person who typically skips over chapter headings (like me), DON’T! Keeping track of the dates will really help orient you – even if you just remember that 1815 is Elizabeth and William’s “present”, 1885 is the “future”, and the 1870s are giving you background on the “future” (1885) characters. This might sound more complicated than it actually is – you can also just ignore all this and enjoy the story.

The writing is well done, and the characters and plot are intriguing. The further in I got, the more sucked in I found myself. I would have liked to see more interaction between the three time traveler characters, and less time spent on various battlefields, but other than that and the difficulty I had remembering all of the names, I don’t have any complaints about the book. I can’t wait for the second book in the series, Timekeeper, to come out (set for summer 2012). I’m hoping that we get to see more of the other time traveler, Maxwell’s past, and follow up on some interesting hints about Elizabeth’s family that were dropped in Timepiece.

Side note: It’s classified as “steampunk” but the steampunk elements aren’t overwhelming. I’m fairly new to the steampunk genre, but I was surprised after I read it that the author had put it in this category. I’m not sure how I would classify it – maybe Jane Austen meets H.G. Wells?

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

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