*Blog Book Tour*: The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Muvihill

Posted Sunday, 29 September, 2013 by jorielov , , , , , , 0 Comments

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The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Mulvihill
[Book One in the Steel Roots series]

Published by: Seventh Star Press, 12 July 2013.
Official Novel Websites: The Boxcar Baby Blog & The Steel Roots Facebook Page
Converse on Twitter: @JLMulvihill & #boxcarbaby
Author Page: @ Seventh Star Press
Artist Page: Matthew Perry @ Seventh Star Press; Portfolio
Available Formats: Softcover and E-book
Page Count: 274

The Boxcar Baby Book Tour | Tomorrow Comes Media

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a stop on “The Boxcar Baby” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by Tomorrow Comes Media. I received a complimentary copy of “The Boxcar Baby” in exchange for an honest review by the publisher Seventh Star Press. The book released on 12 July 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. This marks my first stop as a Tour Host for Tomorrow Comes Media!

Author Biography:

J.L. MulvihillBorn in Hollywood and raised in San Diego, CA, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past fifteen years. Her début novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaging fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of steampunk, published through Kerlak Publishing.  The Boxcar Baby, the first novel of her Steel Roots Series, was released by Seventh Star Press in the summer of 2013.

J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, among them “Chilled Meat”, a steampunk thriller found in the Dreams of Steam II-Of Bolts and Brass, anthology (Kerlak Publishing) and “The Leprechaun’s Story”, a steampunk urban Fantasy found in the anthology, Clockwork, Spells, & Magical Bells (Kerlak Publishing)J.L. is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower.  She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Arts Council of Clinton, and the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.

Inspired to Read: Nearly all of my best ‘finds’ for the science fiction realms have been serendipitous in nature! You see, if I hadn’t been roaming around the bookish blogosphere a week ago, I might not have seen a curious little tour badge with “Tomorrow Comes Media” on it! Nor would I have suspected to click over to scope out the tour company and the authors that they represented! Had I not kept an open mind towards discovering ‘something!’ curious and unexpected, I might not have known about this author and book! This was the same way I had stumbled across “The Clockwork Carnival” in August [2013], the forthcoming “Sci-Fi November” (of whose badge is in my sidebar; my post on it coming the first week of October!), and the mere fact that I had chosen this particular Autumn to serve as a gateway back into a genre that my heart first came to know at the age of seventeen! I lay claim to that as my starting ground into the ‘literature’ side of things, but you’ll have to come back for my “Sci-Fi November” postings to learn the full story of how I’ve been happily consuming all-things sci-fi for the well full of my life!

As you may or may not know, it took me a bit to resolve what to read as my ‘first’ Steampunk selection, as much as I became attached to this revolutionary genre where the lines blur on what a story can attach itself into being, and jettison the reader off into such fantastical realms and worlds, that it nearly takes your breath away! Some aspects of Steam are subtle, others are full-on adventurous catalysts to transport you into a world bent on steam technology! I love the vitality of choice!! Therefore, when I saw a blog tour announcement for this story, I knew I had found my ‘second’ Steam novel and author!

Be sure to read my poster advert for this tour to glimpse my motivation to read “The Boxcar Baby”.

Synopsis of the Story:

The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Muvihill

Born in a boxcar on a train bound for Georgia. At least that is what Papa Steel always told AB’Gale. But now, fifteen years later, the man who adopted and raised her as his own is missing and it’s up to AB’Gale to find him. Aided only by a motley gang of friends, AB’Gale train hops her way across the United States in a desperate attempt to find her papa and put her life and family back the way it was. Her only guide is a map given to her by a mysterious hobo, with hand written clues she found hidden in her papa’s spyglass. Here is the Great American Adventure in an alternate steampunk dystopian world, where fifteen-year-old AB’Gale Steel learns that nothing is as it seems, but instead is shrouded in secrets and mysteries … and that monsters come in all shapes and forms.

Notations on Artwork & Design:

The Boxcar Baby | Interior Shot 1
Artwork Credit: Matthew Perry

In this particular day and age, where book cover designs are based more upon stock images and less on the artistically creative book cover designers, whose original artwork is all but lost; I must confess, what impressed me the most about this book, was the diversity of art, and the choice of which scenes to illustrate! I have always held a special place in my heart for illustrators, as they are encouraging our imaginations to jettison us off to that internal place where all stories live inside our hearts! They enable us to help stitch together imagery and scenes, that we may or may not, have been able to visually conceive on our own.

They create a tangible palette in which the scope of the story is percolated through a lens similar to a motion picture’s storyboard, yet instead of having the ‘images’ set to fluid motion by ‘camera’, we get to expand on what is being presented and wholly enter the realm of the literary unknown! Almost as though we jumped through hyperspace and entered a completely new dimension!

Such is the happenstance adventures of readers everywhere, who are given such a breadth of light by artwork that co-creates the story by which the author first conceived!

Mr. Perry’s first image seen on the left of the unidentifiable ‘person’ holding what appears to be a container or a particular ‘type’ of something that comes with a sling strap for your shoulder, is bang-on accurate to the descriptive narrative that Muvihill supports in Chapter 8!  This scene takes place at a train yard at night, in a discernible city of hidden suspense! What I liked about this snapshot of the character being brought forward into AB’Gale’s life at this moment in time, is that it shows that she is never going to know who or whom is going to cross her path! She’s set alight on a course where the most unsuspecting people she encounters, might hold ‘key’s to where she is headed next!

This is a metaphor for life as well, because its most oft known that the people who come to your aide or give you guidance are generally not always the ones you think will be akin to provide the information you need! No, actually in life as in stories, its the people you might overlook that provide the best advisers who help guide you on your path!

There was a second illustration that I was going to include in my review, but the chapter in which it was revealed has left me wondering why this particular thread was inside the story!? Of all the chapters, Chapter 54 was by far the most horrific!! I was not expecting a nose-dive into the realms of gruesome horror, yet that is the twist of a turn this story took at that junction! I would rather bypass it, and focus more on the main thread of story, by which, I enjoyed the most!

In regards to the cover art itself, a sense of urgency is playing out before us, as the locomotive is on fast approach, with a heightened sense of foreboding intensity! The gnarled and curling of the trunk of the tree, nearly reflects a sense of “unyielding twists of time and place”, as a curious hinting that the train can act as both a conveyor of people and goods, but also of destiny. I had been lamenting upon the visual symbolism of including the ‘tree with the train’ in full sight of the reader,… yet at the conclusion of the story, where I was expecting to arrive at a clarification of the symbolism, I was left instead with a questionable ending!

[My musings prior to the ending:]

Of all the times I’ve looked at the cover, I didn’t quite see what I saw whilst polishing this post to publish!! I was moving my mouse up and down, darting through everything to check the flow, as much as to check the rhythm of what I was wanting to convey about reading the story. Somewhere between the moving of the mouse and watching the screen, the cover art in this post was full in my sights, and therein, I noticed what I could not see whilst observing the cover art ‘flat and close’!!! The juxtaposition of AB’Gale Steel’s roots! It was like a lightning bolt had struck itself upon my desk, and all the logic of the choice in art electrified itself into my brain! The train’s boxcar in sight around the curve is “AB Gale Logs”; the workhouse factory is in the background with its garish stacks of smoke billowing towards the sky; and portions of a map are bleeding through the background into the foreground! The map bits I did originally see, as I thought I saw an overlay of a compass originally, but to see her origins and present circumstance coming rushing into view — kismet!

 

In total, Mr. Perry supplied 2 illustrative plates to give The Boxcar Baby a highly unique periscope into the lifeblood of the Steel Roots! His perception and understanding of the narrative is spot-on! And, I commend his artistic eye as much as his conveyance of the emotions, heart, and climatic moments of the evolving story! Even if I didn’t agree of the story shift, the illustrations honour the context in full! IF I could have picked one scene to be illustrated, it would have been of the girls’ new wardrobe, which hearkened quick to mind everything that I simply adore about Steampunk couture!

I look forward with whet anticipation of which Seventh Star Press novel I might encounter his brilliant artwork again! He’s truly an asset to the writers whose novels are published with the Press!

My Review of The Boxcar Baby:

Miss AB’Gale Steel, is a pure spitfire girl, full of strong-minded grit, who draws strength out of adversity, and endures hardship by bracing herself against self-pity. She latches her heart, her mind, and her spirit to the world by which she grew up in, as a method of memory against the vexatiousness life she feels consumed by. If it weren’t for percuring huckleberry friends: Charlotte, Raine, Lyza, and Freckles, I dare not presume to know how she would have found the strength to overcome! The girls owe allegiance towards each other as members of a surviving tribe of girls’ cast out and into a perpetual System that works against their well-being. Strengthened in their combined resolve, their sisterhood pits them against any opponent known or unknown.

By the fortuitousness of keen observation, these young women will assert their right to freedom by declaring their right to liberty. The woman who was behind their misery, Ms. Marcs, made me recollect my disdain for Brucklehurst who was the inflicter of desolation for Jane Eyre. Tragedy, flight of freedom, and an instinct for adventure transports these lovely huckleberries into a life of living by their wits!  

The girls usage of veritable language choices, are a direct reflection of other distinctive times in history, where the choice of words could not only separate you into a class structure, but be a reflective mirror into your place of origin. This is an ingenious ploy by Mulvihill to construct a fuller picture of the world building she set off to accomplish, as their attentive nature to using slang, akin to the quick-wit of the 1920s or of East Londoners’ Cockney, provides them with a unique voice of character! She sets into motion a world that we can draw a familiar line against, but purports it into a new dimension that we have not yet visited!

I was taken aback when the story shifted off the tracks of Steampunk suspense, and entered into the macabre horror of creatures who live in the pitch black of caves! I felt as though there was a story shift in the ending chapters that was not foreshadowed or even built into the first half of the book! I was settled into the story, and even thought I had found metaphoric meanings into the narratives, yet in the end, I felt disillusioned and saddened to see, that where I thought this adventure was leading me was not to be!

Reflective Musings of the Story:

I am a reader who has always felt a bit trepiderious about reading books that fall under the Dystopian genre, as I always was unsure of if I could find story-lines that I could rally behind. This particular story has a side of Eyre in it, as the working-house that she is sequestered too, reminds me of Lowood! Prior to the community breaking free the poor conditions by which the girls were kept! In this way, I am navigating new territory here, as I proceed to understand the setting and the condition of which the world exists. its like lighting a lantern and numbly finding your way in the pitch of night! I am enjoying the process, even if I do not fully understand everything of the environment. What I do know, is that the System has too much control, and the the working class are suffering for it, because they are not allowed to overcome their adversities and obstacles that arise in their lives.

I was thankful too, that Muvihill pulled back from turning a few scenes into a worse state of affairs, as she glosses over the harder hitting scenes of mistreatment, in much the same way as Charlotte Brontë, with the exception of including a hair cutting scene that was vivid enough to make me shudder! And, I never had hair as long as AB’Gale Steel! Oy! I saw murmurs of the stairs being washed by Annie and the Orphans as well, as a crucial scene involved stair-washing in this story, too! I think its rather curious how hard labour institutions and camps were truly set up against the people who were imprisoned there, as almost as a sure-fire way of not being able to live through their ordeals! Such anguish and hardship make my heart bleed for the girls and boys who were subjected to this is miserable state of living conditions! I think this is partly where the alternative history comes into play as well, as the Child Labour Laws were not enforced at the time that this story is set.

Which reminded me about how important those laws were, and how many lives they saved! One of the hardest books I ever read about the conditions of sweat-shoppes and labour factories, was “Rivington Street” by Meredith Tax. The imagery in that book turned me into a reader, who is being more careful and cautious of what she drinks in! However, the history of what young girls and women went through in the garment district is what stayed with me! The strictness of the rules, the difficultly in the conditions, and the worst, of course, are the injuries from the machines that they never should have been using! I’ll refrain from addressing how the factories would catch fire and how devastating those events were as well. Echoes of that book, still are able to be drawn forward in my mind’s eye when I encounter a story that has little ripples of its heart inside its own setting. Such as were my remembrances lit aflame and flickering strong as I observed AB’Gale in her new surroundings at the working-house!

Her soul cannot acknowledge that this is her forever home, as her ties to her Granny, Papa, and childhood home are far too strong to tolerate a severing of her previous life en masse. She keeps her museful reflections on her place in the universe bittersweet as she bravely faces her day-to-day exploits at a factory where child labour is oppressed to the point of abusive. In this way, she expurgates her soul by harnessing herself to a fervent hope of reunion with her family. In this, she echoed my memories of “Annie”, who never gave up her innermost desire to locate her parents, of whom, she did not realise had passed on. Her courageous spirit to take on a task of such importance, reminds me of the courageous bravery of “Natty Gann”.

A note on ‘dystopian’ literature:

Being that I am not as well versed in this particular genre, my understanding of its place in literature and the key components that make it vital to be read, will evolve as I seek out more titles to read. However, I started to expound on what I am reading through The Boxcar Baby, and have drawn one curious conclusion: dystopian stories have the tendency to bring out the warts of our exterior worlds and environments, and seek to convey a critical thought or forewarning that would then, either indirectly or directly shift the perspective of those who can bring about the most change in our own lives. Its a method of story-telling to bring to the readers’ attention certain aspects of modern life that are effectively in need of change OR give a cautionary tale of ‘what could be’ if humans do not tread lightly on a path that could lead them to a future of ill-regret. Again, I could be completely mistaken, but this is a newcomer’s perspective of what the genre is seeking to reveal and assert. To put it another way, one must endeavour to walk through a desolate and despairing dystopia in order to emerge into a utopia of balanced proportion.

Fly in the Ointment:

The only particular curiosities that I found as I read the book, were the copy edit errors that I discovered as I read the story! I am used to reading ARCs for reviews, in which, there is always a note attached that they are uncorrected proofs and will be proof read prior to final copy; however, this is the first time that I have seen a larger set of errors in a finished copy! I have noticed though, in the last year or so, there are more copy edit errors &/or proof reading errors, and this is not limited to the indie publishing side of things either! I read quite a heap of major trade titles as well, and it appears to be a new trend?! I am not sure if its just the books I am selecting to read or not. I will have to yield to what readers may say as they comment on this post. I feel bad for the authors though, because their work is strong yet with the inclusion of the errors, it tricks your mind a bit, and it breaks the momentum that you have whilst your reading. I did bring this to the attention of Tomorrow Comes Media, as I wasn’t sure if it had already been addressed by other reviewers on the tour, or not. I didn’t feel in good conscience to look the other way, if I could help fix these errors for when the book enters its second printing. In this regard, I am submitting a list of errors that I noticed as I read the novel.

Despite all of this, the reading of the story was still agreeable because Muvihill writes a compelling story, by a protagonist who gets inside your heart and makes you want to see her succeed! I overlooked the errors, in order to stand behind AB’Gale as she embarked on such a courageous story towards revealing the truth behind everything that had happened!!

My main concern truly, is why an adventure of suspense had to turn to such horrific proportions in the ending chapters!? I was completely entertained by the story leading up into the latter bits of the story, but as soon as that portion began, I noticed a shift in story-telling. My review focuses mostly upon what occurs to a certain point in the story, as for me, that is the heart of who AB’Gale Steel is and the message of her evolving story. Everything sort of shifted to a darker lit ‘place’, and I was caught off-guard, unawares, and ill-prepared for what occurred next! For me personally, if this installment of the story had concluded at the opening of Chapter 48, I believe it would have made an excellent segue into Roots of Steel Part II.

If I might be so bold to say:

The Boxcar Baby is a spin-off of Jane Eyre, set in a future not-so-far away from our own, on an alternative time-line that cross-sects with events that could take shape if mankind ever chooses to off-set the balance of how we live. Classical literature enthusiasts will appreciate the coincidental and crucial elements that stitch Eyre to AB’Gale in such a way, as they could be time travelers in each others’ worlds. Each has a spark of spunk to help them endure circumstance, by which, most of us would either find difficult to yield too or readily overcome. They put their grit of determination into resolving a creative solution that allows them to step outside their plight, and gives them the strength to hope that wherever they shall go next, should be at the least, a bit of a better circumstance than the one they left behind! Each of them found solace in noticing the little things that tend to be the most important, whilst giving the worst moments of their lives a bit of worth and a lot of inter-reflection to understand the larger picture.

In this way, any reader who has let Ms. Jane Eyre into her heart, might find a new heroine in Ms. AB’Gale Steel who lives just to the left of our known dimension, and to the right of Ms. Eyre!

At least, this is how I felt until I reached Chapter 48! I felt disappointed by the direction of the story afterwards.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

“The Boxcar Baby” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 23 September: Contest @ Come Selahway With Me
  2. 23 September: Review @ Fantastical Adventures Through the Paper Realm
  3. 23 September: Top Ten List @ The Flipside of Julianne
  4. 24 September: Guest Post @ Jess Resides Here
  5. 25 September: Promo Spotlight @ Beagle Book Space
  6. 25 September: Guest Post @ Sheila Deeth
  7. 25 September: Promo Spotlight @ Spellbindings
  8. 25 September: Review @ Lost Inside The Covers
  9. 26 September: Review @ A TiffyFit’s Reading Corner
  10. 26 September: Promo Spotlight @ Azure Dwarf
  11. 26 September: Character Interview & Review @ Rachel Tsoumbakos
  12. 26 September: Author Interview @ A Daydreamer’s Thought
  13. 27 September: Guest Post @ Armand Rosamilia, Author
  14. 27 September: Promo Spotlight @ Kayla’s Reads and Reviews
  15. 28 September: Review @ WTF Are You Reading?
  16. 28 September: Guest Post @ Bee’s Knees Reviews
  17. 28 September: Promo Spotlight @ Word to Dreams
  18. 29 September: Interview @ The Cabin Goddess
  19. 29 September: Promo Spotlight @ Illuminite Calginosus
  20. 29 September: Character Interview @ Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews
  21. 29 September: Review @ Jorie Loves A Story
  22. 29 September: Guest Post @ JeanzBookReadNReview
  23. 29 September: Review @ Book and Movie Dimension

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:
Tomorrow Comes Media Tour Hoston my Bookish Events Featured on JLAS

{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Boxcar Baby” as well as interior artwork/illustration by Matthew Perry; J.L. Mulvihill’s photograph and biography, and the blog tour badge were all provided by Tomorrow Comes Media and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Sunday, 29 September, 2013 by jorielov in Alternative History, Coming-Of Age, Dystopian, Fly in the Ointment, Folklore, Horror, Indie Author, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Tomorrow Comes Media, Trains, Young Adult Fiction




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