Book Review: London Steampunk series

kissofsteelKiss of Steel/Heart of Iron
Bec McMaster
Victorian Steampunk Urban Fantasy Romance
400ish pages
Published 2012/2013

Holy crap. I have only read the first two of this series – I have three more to read. (My Lady Quicksilver, Forged By Desire, and Of Silk and Steam, with a second series in the same universe called The Blue Blood Conspiracy.)

THESE ARE SO GOOD.

Victorian Steampunk in London with vampires, mechs, and werewolves (sort of) with romance, a political conspiracy plot, and plenty of action? YES PLEASE. These books are excellently written, with a hefty plot that moves at a perfect pace. Both romances have been very believable and intertwined seamlessly with the larger world’s plot. Each book is a hefty length, enough to really get absorbed in and flesh out everything that needs to be covered, without dragging on and getting old. The characters are fascinating – even the side characters are interesting enough that I really hope future books focus on them.

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this series, and I can’t wait to read the next books. I am forcing myself to take a break from the series, even though I have the next two books, because I have library books that are due sooner that I need to read.

The first book, Kiss of Steel, is available on Kindle Unlimited, my library had #2 and #4, and #3 is also on Kindle Unlimited, so they’ve been very convenient to read. This series is definitely going on one my list of best reads for this year, it’s that good.

If you like Steampunk, READ THESE.

From the cover of Kiss of Steel:

Honoria Todd has more secrets than most people and she’s hiding them in Whitechapel. Blade is the master of the rookeries and agrees to protect her, but at what price?

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it’s the last safe haven as she hides from the Blue Blood aristocracy that rules London through power and fear.

Blade rules the rookeries-no one dares cross him. It’s been said he faced down the Echelon’s army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he’s been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She’s so…innocent. He doesn’t see her backbone of steel-or that she could be the very salvation he’s been seeking.

From the cover of Heart of Iron:heartofiron

In Victorian London, if you’re not a blue blood of the Echelon then you’re nothing at all. The Great Houses rule the city with an iron fist, imposing their strict “blood taxes’ on the nation, and the Queen is merely a puppet on a string…

Lena Todd makes the perfect spy. Nobody suspects the flirtatious debutante could be a sympathizer for the humanist movement haunting London’s vicious blue blood elite. Not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can’t twist around her little finger, and the one man whose kiss she can’t forget…

Stricken with the loupe and considered little more than a slave-without-a-collar to the blue bloods, Will wants nothing to do with the Echelon or the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds a coded letter on Lena-a code that matches one he saw on a fire-bombing suspect-he realizes she’s in trouble. To protect her, he must seduce the truth from her.

With London on the brink of revolution, Lena and Will must race against time-and an automaton army-to stop the humanist plot before it’s too late. But as they fight to save a city, the greatest danger might just be to their hearts…

Book Review: The Wolves of Dynamo

wolvesThe Wolves of Dynamo
Gareth S. Young
Urban Fantasy
297 pages
Published 2016

This book arrived unexpectedly in the mail – I believe it was from a Goodreads Giveaway, but I was never notified I’d won one. It’s even signed by the author!

I am….a little puzzled on how I feel about this book. It has a bit of a confusing, dream-like quality to it, which fits the book, but left me a little less than satisfied. It always felt like I was forgetting details, or like the book assumed I knew things about the world that I didn’t. (Much like many dreams.) The plot was unique, the characters could have used more depth, the division between forest and city was indistinct, and the conclusion was unsatisfying. It could have been very good, but I think it needs a lot more polish.

The physical book itself felt like an ARC, even though it’s not. I think it’s the simplistic cover and the typesetting. It just doesn’t feel – finished. Like much of the book. I’d give this a pass, but I might be interested in future writings by the author, if his style matures and his editor improves.

From the cover of The Wolves of Dynamo:

Thirteen-year-old Eileen MacCormick has always called Dynamo City home. Its bustling streets, imposing Cathedral, and enveloping forest fascinate her, giving her solace after the death of her father. But after moving closer to the forest she finds so comforting, she discovers that it hides a dark, magical world.

Eileen’s life changes irrevocably when she crosses paths with a murderer who is terrorizing the city. Heartsick, she finds herself drawn back to the forest where an enclave of mysterious wolves reveal themselves to her. Eileen is shocked to learn she can communicate with the wolves and outraged when the ancient animals demand she lure the murderer to the forest.

How can these creatures ask this of her? How can a thirteen-year-old possibly catch a killer?

Bewildered by her role in this new magical world, and by the wolves’ extraordinary request, Eileen must battle her sorrow and find courage as she begins the most dangerous and incredible adventure of her life.

#Charlottesville

I posted it on my Facebook, but I wanted to make sure everyone saw it. I don’t often get into politics on this blog – I typically save that for my personal social media – but this needs to be said. What happened in Charlottesville is not just heartbreaking, but ENRAGING. Nazis and White Supremacy are not an opinion that deserves a seat at the table. They need to be SMASHED. We literally FOUGHT A WAR about this.

Nazis literally murdered a woman in Charlottesville, and though they’re calling it murder, they’re not calling it terrorism. The police sat around in regular uniforms and gear while Nazis were marching with torches and assault rifles. But peaceful protests by black people get the riot gear? Fuck THAT racist double standard.

Here are the beliefs of this blog, in an easy-to-digest format:

Black Lives Matter.
Women’s Rights are Human Rights. (And so are every Minority’s.)
Love is Love.
No Human is Illegal.
Science is Real.
Kindness is Important, but Violence has its place, too.
God Probably Does Not Exist, and if he does, he doesn’t seem to care what we do. (That said, as long as you’re not forcing your religious beliefs on people that don’t share them, you’re cool.)

I am an atheist, socialist, feminist, angry-as-fuck white woman. (And yeah, I’m specifying white because I try to recognize my privilege, and I’m not going to gloss over it. We white women need to STAND THE FUCK UP and stop making WOC do all the real fucking work. Over half of us voted for Trump. TRUMP. We’re fucking responsible for this shit.)

I refuse to apologize for any of my beliefs. And I will not debate them.

Book Review: The Empire’s Ghost

empghostThe Empire’s Ghost
Isabelle Steiger
High/Epic Fantasy
419 pages
Published 2017

So I’ve had pretty good luck with debut novels, overall. (The Golem and the Jinni, The Crown’s Game, and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic come to mind.) This one was good – not what I’d called spectacular, like those three, but good. If the sequel was out now, I’d read it. Knowing my reading habits, I probably won’t, because by the time the sequel does come out, I’ll have forgotten too much of this first book. (I strongly dislike only reading the first book in a series and then having to wait.)

What I really liked was how the author painted every character. Even the would-be Emperor, who is probably the closest to evil any character is in this book, was interesting and had clear motivations that made sense. I wouldn’t even call him evil, just ambitious. His assassin shows a different side in part of the book that also removes him from the “evil” category. I’m impressed that Steiger manager to set up several factions at odds with each other without making any of them evil. Wrong, perhaps, misguided perhaps, but not evil. Which is unusual in high fantasy.

What I disliked was there was a point in the middle where I had to set aside the book for real life – and I almost never picked it up again. Three days later, I finally did, but to me, that means I wasn’t invested in the characters or the story. I could have moved on to a different book, and I almost did. I liked most of the characters – but without liking any of them enough to truly care what happened. I also wish the pacing was a little faster, but that’s a victim of too many viewpoints, I think.

So I could go either way on this book. It was well-written but a little slow and didn’t just GRAB me the way some books do.

From the cover of The Empire’s Ghost:

The empire of Elesthene once spanned a continent, but its rise heralded the death of magic. It tore itself apart from within, leaving behind a patchwork of kingdoms struggling to rebuild. 

But when a new dictator, the ambitious and enigmatic Imperator Elgar, seizes power in the old capital and seeks to re-create the lost empire anew, the other kingdoms have little hope of stopping him. Prince Kelken of Reglay finds himself at odds with his father at his country’s darkest hour; the marquise of Esthrades is unmatched in politics and strategy, but she sits at a staggering military disadvantage. And Issamira, the most powerful of the free countries, has shut itself off from the conflict, thrown into confusion by the disappearance of its crown prince and the ensuing struggle for succession.

Everything seems aligned in Elgar’s favor, but when he presses a band of insignificant but skilled alley-dwellers into his service for a mission of the greatest secrecy, they find an unexpected opportunity to alter the balance of power in the war. Through their actions and those of the remaining royals, they may uncover not just a way to defeat Elgar, but also a deeper truth about their world’s lost history.

Set in a fantastical world that is both welcomingly familiar and excitingly unique, The Empire’s Ghost shows nobles and commoners alike struggling to survive and maintain power in an ever-changing, chaotic world.

Upcoming Books, a rare DNF, and Faire!

wolvesHi! Summer’s almost over (thank god, I’m so sick of this heat!) which means the Maryland Renaissance Festival is starting again soon! I’m not working the Fair nearly as much as I have the past two years, so I should be keeping up on at least the Saturday reviews, though my Tuesday posts might suffer. Between The Canadian Book Challenge, and the tempting books on my Litsy feed, though, I’ve been reading a lot! I’ve also started to get a few books from Goodreads giveaways, so you can look forward to a review of The Wolves of Dynamo, and The Awakening (which is also written by a Canadian author, so it doubles for the Canadian Challenge!) I’m always amused when I get a random book in the mail, since all the giveaways say you’ll be notified by e-mail….and you never are! Just surprise books in the mailbox! (Which I’m really not opposed to!)

I started to read Oryx and Crake – gave it 130 pages, in fact,  before I tossed it. It was too disconnected, and jumpy, and it just IRRITATED me. I loved The Handmaid’s Tale, I was excited to read more Atwood, but I couldn’t handle it. So that’s a rare Did Not Finish for me. There’s a Litsy read along for it this month, so I’m going to keep an eye on it and see if they convince me to give it another shot, but I doubt it.

darkmoneyAhead in the next month of reviews is a debut fantasy novel about a kingdom that’s lost its magic, an absolutely FANTASTIC London Steampunk Vampire/Werewolf series, a YA GLBT novel, and Station Eleven, a Canadian dystopia. I also have Dark Money requested from the library, but heavy nonfiction like that always takes me longer to read, so I’m not sure when I’ll post that review.

Also from the library currently I have The Courier, another Canadian dystopia; A Hundred Veils, about an American caught in the Iranian Revolution; The Last Neanderthal, a novel about an archeologist and the ancient people she’s studying; and What the Dead Leave Behind, “A Gilded Age Mystery.”

courierAs you can probably see, I’m trying to diversify my reading away from just sci-fi/fantasy and romances! The Canadian Book Challenge is helping with that, and I’m making a concentrated effort to pick up more diverse books in general. (Litsy is also making my TBR list absolutely GINORMOUS.)

In a couple of weeks I’ll be making a trip to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, one of the oldest free public library systems in the United States. (Established in 1882!) I’ll take pictures and make a post dedicated to that visit! Anyone in Maryland can get a library card for their system, so I’ll also be doing that and gaining access to another library system besides my county system. I’ll probably mostly use it for ebooks, but there’s a branch close enough to swing by and pick up books if I need to, as well.