Added This Week - Full steam ahead!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I have been on vacation for about eleven days and sadly the dream ends tomorrow. During this time I've discovered I have a lot of bought, unread steampunk books. (and I bought two more by George Mann today! And also The Physick Book of Deliverance Dance [it was only $4.98!]) But I digress: I've decided that my monthly planned reads for August will consist of a lot of steampunk novels. The list is thus:
The Aviator by Morgan Karpiel (Adventures of New Europa #3)
The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (Newbury & Hobbes #1)
The Osiris Ritual by George Mann (Newbury & Hobbes #2)
Steam and Sorcery by Cindy Spencer Pape (Gaslight Chronicles #1)
Photographs and Phantoms by Cindy Spencer Pape (Gaslight Chronicles #1.5)
Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia
Lady Dorn by Sean Hayden
Roil by Trent Jamieson (The Nightbound Land #1)
The Tinkerer's Daughter by Jamie Sedgwick

Of course, other books will be mixed in so I don't die of steampunk overload, but I'm pretty excited. I own all of those except for Roil and Heart of Iron, which are both NetGalley ARCs. Both Lady Dorn and Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris are available for only $.99 for Nooks and Kindles, too. Roil is available for only $4.79 as a preorder as well.


In other news, expect a review for 





most likely tomorrow. I was surprised by both this book and how I felt about it! And yes, I know it's still July for the rest of today and tomorrow, but I'm ahead of schedule (for once!)

Review: The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

Wednesday, July 27, 2011




Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: young-adult, supernatural/fae
Series: The Iron Fey #4
Pages: 386  (NetGalley uncorrected ARC)
Published: October 25th 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 5/5

Tagline: Soulless, banished
           but never forgotten




Without a doubt my absolute favorite of these four books, The Iron Knight was a fantastic finale to a series I've come to love. Though it was strange initially for me to not read Meghan's internal thoughts and concerns, the switch to Ash's POV for the final volume was a brilliant decision; one that allows the reader to once again see the Nevernever in a completely different light. It's a bold, fresh take on a well-loved and familiar world. It certainly helps that Ash was my favorite character (with the possible exception of Grimalkin), but the transition between the two differing viewpoints/characters was smooth and handled well. In this fourth novel, Ash is faced with the impossibility of being with his love in a realm poisonous to his very being. Determined fey that he is, Ash sets out in The Iron Knight to find a way to his love.

I have stated in previous reviews that I was tremendously impressed with the character arc Meghan had over the three books centering on her. I have to admit I was even more impressed with the depth, and care with which Ash has emerged from a shallow, silent killer into a real, conscientious being. Ash's own personal evolution takes place over a much shorter time than Meghan's (though he started to defrost in The Iron Queen) but it is rich, believably filled with pain and hope. Through Ash and his struggles, Julie Kagawa openly explores what it means to be human. Is it loving another beyond caring for oneself? Is it expressing regret and atoning for the wrongs committed? Ash must face questions unknowable with hard answers and repercussions if he is to be with his Queen in the Iron Realm. The once unassailable Winter Prince is revealed as human after all (forgive the saying). His moments of weakness, remorse, sorrow and joy are all spelled out in ways unseen in previous novels. This lowering of the wall of Ash's solitude makes him a far more real character.

This is a series that has improved with each successive novel. Each time the plot grew more complete, the atmosphere more enveloping and compelling, the characters more vivid. This is no exception: even the dialogue between frenemies Ash and Puck is at the best its been. There's a perfect balance of humor to level out the emotional and platonic tension. The interplay between both, without Meghan referring, is also an exposition minefield. Finally, more details on life before Meghan emerge: the reader can see the former closeness between the two fey, as well as the latent hostility. Even the mysterious figure of Ariella does not remain nearly as much of a cypher as she was before this book. The pacing was also top-notch, with a firm nod to a more creepy feel than the previous books; the numerous, varied adventures the band stumbles through were diverting and kept the pages moving at a steady pace. Kagawa's great talent for storytelling, along with the easy, smooth flow of the novel creates a story and world the reader is reluctant to put down.

Though missing several players from earlier stories, and adding a few completely (read: JAW-DROPPING) additions, the Iron Knight is not to be missed. Ending a well-loved story/series with delicacy and care is a hard accomplishment. Thankfully, Julie Kagawa can be grouped with J.K. Rowling as authors who were true to their characters, their world, and their fans. This book gets a very well done from me, along with the melancholy knowledge that I will never again have an Iron Fey novel before me. I highly recommend this series.

Blog Watch Wednesday!


Supercool, awesome online posts/sites found this last week:


Comic-Con was this weekend, and there was an awesome Game of Thrones panel with George R. R. Martin, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Kit Harrington (Jon Snow), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Jason Momoa (Drogo), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. (Whoa, the Starks are waaay underrepresented here!)

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist has the entire 40 minute panel right here I have NOT watched all the video so I cannot say if there are any A Dance with Dragons spoilers. But Jason Momoa does thank fantasy for "allowing him to rape beautiful women"... so there is that. In his defense, I think he was making a joke (though poor in taste) and seems like a lovely man otherwise.

Speaking of which: Game of Thrones name generators. For the ladies and the gents

My highborn lady name was Alerie Crakehall; lowborn name was Alerie Hill. I will protest that it is unfair that that men have four choices (Westerosi Knight, Westerosi Bastard, Targaryen King, and Dothraki Warrior) while the women only get 'Noble lady' and 'not so noble'. So, if I was a Knight: Cressen Harlaw. A bastard: Cressen Hill. Targaryen King: Jaehaerys I Targaryen. Dothraki warrior: Jhogo son of Cohollo.

Aaaaand Game of Throne LEGO characters. Sandor and Gregor are my favorites.

There's an interesting discussion at the Gripped into Books blog over just how long is long enough before you give up on a book. I personally, have very rarely given up on a novel. Even if I despise the characters, the plot, etc. I simply hate not knowing what happens at the end more.

Another great blog (and blogger) Ewa over at Palace of Distractions has her ownentertaining and link-tastic Daily Distractables. Highly fun and amusing!

Awesome blogger Libby has two fabulous posts I'd like to highlight today. One is a collection of her favorite awesome Funny or Die videos. Why not, laugh it up, it's hump day! The other is a post about her first self-published collection of her flash fiction. It's called Twist Turn and Burn and read her post for details on the stories and details on where to get it FREE!

The blog The Book Base does different interviews with authors of different blogs everyday. This week, they were kind enough to ask me. Here's the interview, if you'd like to read my answers.

I really really want to read Laini Taylor's new novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Bookhounds posted the new awesome book trailer and it's only made me want to read it more.

In case you haven't heard, chain bookseller Borders has gone under. Their entire labor force (more than 10,000 people across 400 stores) is out of work, but you can help them.

Are you reading YA? YA should be. (Claim for horrible pun all mine; actual title resists temptation)

Do you read steampunk? The Pen Muse has 10 Reasons Why You Should Drop Everything Right Now and Read Steampunk. I fully agree. Unless you're holding a baby, or a priceless Ming vase. Set them down and then read steampunk.

I love Dexter. I love this new promo out for Dexter. FYI: Dexter/Supernatural/Parks and Rec/Game of Thrones/Spartacus are my tv loves. I shall try not to inundate you with links about them...but it is hard. 

Daaaamn. Friends characters got arouuuund. Long but amusing if you liked the still-ubiquitous 90s show.

Review: The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: young-adult, supernatural/fae
Series: The Iron Fey #3
Pages: 295 (nook ebook version)
Published: February 2011
Source: won in giveaway
Rating: 4/5
Tagline: Summer fades
      Ice melts
      Here's what's left





In what was originally planned as the concluding book in the Iron Fey series, The Iron Queen neatly ties up most plot-lines, while creating enough new questions and emotions to trouble the reader long after the final page wraps up. Meghan, Ash, Puck and Grimalkin must once again team up, and struggle with each other and the forces of the Courts to save the Nevernever from the iron poisoning of the false king. This unlikely group of lovers, enemies, friends, and cats is the heart of all these novels; each character adds something unique and necessary to the mix. One of the things I love about this book is that in a world of harsh segregation and racism, it is a motley bunch from all three realms (Winter, Summer, Iron) that volunteers to save everyone, regardless of their affiliation. From the Court of Summer (Meghan herself, Puck),  and Winter (Ash),  and Iron (Ironhorse/Glitch/gremlins) and even the independent cait sith (Grimalkin) this group of individuals sets out to achieve what no 'normal' group of faeries would even contemplate.

In the third foray into this compelling and entrancing world, further glimpses of the Nevernever outside of the Summer and Winter Court are shown. Societies and cities (like the giant city of Mag Tureidh) are shown, and even become important settings for the novel. I appreciated the change of scenery in the story: in the first two books The Iron King and the Iron Daughter, the focus is mostly on the Iron fey themselves and the world they've created. The explorations of the group allow them (and the reader) a view into the Iron realm, Arcadia, Tir Na Nog, the wyldwood and everywhere else they must go. Each new place and denizen serve to illustrate how dangerous, alluring and just different from humans all the fey, Sellie/Unseelie/Iron are. With such a large and varied realm like the world of faery, Julie Kagawa teases and hints with details of a place that seems both plausible, interesting and above all, dangerous. Another thing I like about this author's style is that the details of this world are slowly doled out and revealed, making it appear that as Meghan discovers this world, so does the reader.

 Speaking of revelations, there is much more insight into the periphery characters than in previous novels. Ash is shown to have more sides than just the "broody, silent, sexy protector" he's been shown to be and Puck demonstrates his capability for more than just pranks and clever name-calling. The love-triangle issue is dealt with fairly quietly and easily, a fact for which I am most grateful. Meghan herself continues to grow and change in a strong character arc, that over several books, has impressed me greatly. In the first book, Meghan is a passive and almost weak girl. When taunted by her schoolmates Meghan cowers in the restroom. In the Iron Daughter, Meghan gains a bit of backbone; enough to confront to powerful faery monarchs. Here, in the Iron Queen, Meghan takes the initiative to learn self defense and "fight her on battles." While the line itself may be a bit hokey and cheesy, I can't help but love when a formerly passive heroine actually decides to change, to take charge and do something. Brava for Meghan. I respect her more for not simply standing back and letting her boyfriend protect her. Meghan's increasing confidence in herself, as well as in her intelligence has waxed large over these books and one of the highpoints of them. Another note about Meghan that I really liked: for a character that is so imbued with potent, unique power, Meghan rarely makes use of her glamours. This relatively human aspect, among characters that shift into birds and turn to ice, keeps Meghan relatable in an inhuman setting. The focus is on Meghan herself, rather than what she can do.

This novel certainly does not suffer from the slow start of book number two. Instead of introducing us to a new and unfamiliar place as before (the Nevernever in general, the Winter Court), the action launches straight from the first page. Picking up right after the final words and events of the Iron Daughter, the Iron Queen wastes no time in getting to plot and the huge problem facing the Nevernever and its traditional fae population. The battles between the Summer/Winter Fey and the Iron Fey are stark and bloody. Described with a gory and gritty feel, the battles came to life and resonated with each character. Mab and Oberon were impressive in battle; I did have hopes for more close scenes but since the main story is Meghan away from the central conflict, I cannot complain too much. The finale/climax was detailed in its superb execution and fulfilling, while managing to wrench my heartstrings and leave me lamenting several twists and turns I had not foreseen. The overwhelming message of this novel, and the ones preceding, is that family is who you love, not who shares your blood.

Though these books are not without problems and faults, I wholeheartedly have loved this series. I am delighted that there is a fourth book about Ash. I'm also intrigued that it is the only one not from Meghan's perspective; it will be interesting to see the Nevernever and also Meghan herself through another's, non-human eyes.

Review: The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Sunday, July 24, 2011

 Before we get to the review, I'd like to direct your attention to the Book Base. I recently did an interview with the awesome James, who was kind enough to post it yesterday. I'd love it if you were to stop on by and check it out!





Author: Julie Kagwa
Genre: young-adult, supernatural/fae
Series: The Iron Fey #2
Pages: 203 (nook Ebook version)
Published: August 2010
Source: won in a giveaway
Rating: 3.5/5
Tagline: Love & betrayal, 
a faery world gone mad

Round number two in the Iron Fey series with Meghan Chase might suffer slightly from a sophmore slump, however, as it was the middle branching book in an (originally) planned series of three, some faults were to expected. A bit uneven with pacing and tension (the Winter Formal high school dance scene tossed into the action threw me off for several pages), this was nevertheless a fun, diverting journey into a fully-realized and often strange world. In this book, we find Meghan in the hostile Winter Court, having just killed the Iron King to save the Nevernever from his poison.

This second installment jumps off from the first page; it almost feels like an extension from book one, a later chapter in that same book. The ease with which I was caught up in Meghan's mind and world was astonishing: it was as if I had never left. Though this was a book much more emotional in tone (I'll get to that in a bit) and feeling, I had the same sense of fun and adventure, mixed with interesting and dangerous fae creatures that I experienced and so delighted in while reading The Iron King. The mix of traditional faery lore coupled with new, innovative and creative mythology is unique to Kagawa and absolutely well-thought out and planned. I hate when authors have a great concept and only use it half-heartedly; the fully-realized Iron fey that Ms. Kagawa has envisioned is the best hook this book has to offer. While there is the traditional Summer/Winter Court animosity to keep the both the tension and stakes high, it is the mysterious and implacable Iron Court which dictates the dance those two powers will play. While the first book's plot was simple and essentially outlined from the first chapter, the plot of this second book is more nebulous, with several different subthreads throughout the story.

One of the things I did not love so much about the Iron Daughter was the teenage "why doesn't he love me anymore" angst. Meghan is in love with a mortal enemy of her people, had been warned many times (in The Iron King, Winter's Passage, the beginning of this very novel) that weakness is death in the Winter Court and he cannot be weak in his love for her. Instead of accepting that, hey, I'm in my enemy's palace, maybe I should do what I am told Meghan has an emotional hissyfit over Ash's "aloofness." It is very grating on my nerves that a previously capable, intelligent and independent girl cannot handle a situation she's been continually forewarned about. Instead of using her brain to realize Ash is protecting her as best as is possible, Meghan lost major points with me for being too Bella Swan-esque. A character that was not that naive and silly previous to this event frustrated me more than anything else in the novel. Another minor irritation of mine was that in this novel, Meghan forgets several key "faeryland laws" she KNEW in the first book! A little continuity, please -- either Meghan knows not to eat the food, or she doesn't. The constant back-and-forth of what she does know versus what she should know got old.

I was happy to see that the Winter Court was more expanded upon. In its madcap, viscous and chaotic way, the Court and its sidhe were described beautifully and hauntingly. I find myself wishing for more glimpses into the day-to-day life of the fae in this realm, and in the Summer Court. While Mab doesn't appear enough to give a sense of an individual personality (besides a White Witch proclivity to freeze her enemies alive in ice), her two sons besides Ash do finally make appearances. Sadly, besides our well-known players from before and the two Winter Princes Sage and Rowan, no other character in the Winter Court is fleshed out enough to make a permanent impression. This is a problem I had with the secondary villains as well. Only one villain SPOILER (coughRowancough) was malicious enough and present enough to really achieve the same level of malevolence as the Iron King from the first book.

Sadly, a couple scenes almost feel like filler, and the first quarter moves more slowly than the rest of the novel. However, once the titular Iron Fey are introduced back in the fray, calamitous things start to happen and fast.  The love triangle because solidified as both Ash and Puck are drawn to the half-human Summer princess, but happily it does not overtake essential plotlines with its banality. The constant repartee between the two male sidhe is amusing and real; they come across as two teenage boys trying to constantly out-do the other. The camaraderie that has built around Meghan's little band (Ash, Puck, Grim, Ironhorse, etc.) enhances successively, the more this disparate group works together. In a world full of segregation and hate, it is interesting to see that the only people/fae that continually save the Nevernever are a ragtag, motley bunch that should never have met, nor even suffered the others to live. In a world of intolerance, these characters are the only ones to display humanity. Meghan, for all her problems and her family in the real world, refuses to walk away and take the easy road. Ash, as Winter Prince, rebels against laws he's followed his whole life. Puck disobeys Oberon numerous times to help Meghan. These characteristics have made me love these characters.

The uneven pacing, and random filler scenes, along with Meghan's initial personality change, make this a more uneven novel than the first. Still enjoyable, still fun and original, The Iron Daughter suffers from many of the problems of being a "mid book" in a trilogy (though now there are four novels - quadrology?) By no means did these relatively small problems in the novel dissuade from my affection for this series/author/heroine/Ash - I am jumping into The Iron Queen later today.

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Friday, July 22, 2011



Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: young-adult, supernatural/fae
Series: The Iron Fey #1
Pages: 280 (nook ebook version)
Published: February 2010
Source: won in a giveaway
Rating: 4/5

Tagline: Iron, ice, a love doomed from the start




Consider me a fan of this series! While it may be a bit premature to announce that after reading just one book of a planned four (with two novellas as well), by the end of this book I did not want to stop reading. Despite its flaws, despite my initial apathy towards the main character, I was completely won over by this faery tale with a modernday twist.

Meghan Chase is our female main character, a teenage girl of half-human and half Summer Faery lineage. She's special and unique and wonderful, but only in the Nevernever (aka Faeryland -  a name I hate and will not use for this review.) At home in backwoods Louisiana, she often feels ignored and neglected by her mother and stepfather. She has one friend, Robbie Goodfell to rely on and depend on in hard times (like in this book when her brother Ethan is abducted and replaced with a creepy creature that looks just like him...) Meghan's determined, very impulsive, intelligent but occasionally annoying. She thinks she's a lot more capable than she actually is -- such as when setting out to rescue Ethan she makes various stupid decisions leading to more than a few repetitive situations where she must be saved by another. The good thing about Meghan Chase is that she adapts and she learns quickly; she doesn't make the same stupid decision twice. Her flaws and faults make her a more fleshed out and real character, in my opinion. Once confronted with the facts of an alternate, hidden fae world, Meghan doesn't bore the reader with thirty pages of "but HOW?!" and "it's just so impossible" or some such nonsense. Instead she does what made me like her more and more as she is confronted with unlikely and dangerous situations: she constantly adapts and plans her next move.

Her best friend Robbie in turn on their quest is revealed as the beloved Robin Goodfellow of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. A living extension of the mythology of this world, of the idea that human belief creating and sustaining the Nevernever, its Courts, peoples, creatures, etc., Robbie has existed for hundreds of years because he is continually popular within human culture. As Puck, I liked the character much more than Robbie. His personality is much more fleshed out and real as opposed to the goofy best-friend stereotype he was in Meghan's mortal life. Puck's irreverent humor and whip-sharp sarcasm were a nice contrast to Meghan's more straight woman act. Sad as I am to say though, in this love triangle my support definitely belongs to the broody Winter Prince, Ash. Though a bit of their relationship is troubling (half the time he's either trying to kill Meghan or she thinks he is), I've always been a fan of the mysterious, strong silent type, a type Ash fits completely. I know I usually despise love triangles in YA supernatural stories, but I was genuinely fond of both love interests so I was not too harsh when considering the inevitable wishwashy back-and-forth to come. It also helps that the triangle doesn;t consume too much of Meghan's inner monologue; as of yet she views Robbie as only as best friend though I predict that will change within a book. I also was a bit miffed at how fast both Ash and Meghan went from "I think you might be trying to kill me and I don't trust you" (about 200 pages) to "Oh my god I love you" (about 30 pages). As much as I like each character, I want more credibility than that, please. Ash is a Winter Prince of the Unseelie Court and Meghan a Summer Princess of the Seelie Court - it's not going to be that easy for two kids to be together when their families are mortal enemies.

Outside of the characters, the author clearly has a vivid imagination and has let it run wild. The easy style makes for fast reading, so it's easy to get caught up in the action and miss the side allusions to a fully-realized and populated world. The author is very visually descriptive without trying too hard to make the words shine, so the focus is on what is said, rather than how it is said. Like the changeling who took Meghan's brother's place that was mentioned earlier. many creatures in this novel are pretty creepy and unsettling. The list of familiar and new-to-me malevolent creatures reads like a horror movie: ogres, goblins, kelpies, norrgens, wisps, redcaps, glaistigs, etc. All were unique and reminded me of fairy tales before they became glossed-over happily-ever-after tales, when they were dark and full of danger and no one in the story made it out as good as it began.

While not human and not monsters either, the fae population of both the 'good' (Seelie/Oberon/Titania/Summer) and the 'bad' (Unseelie/Mab/Winter) at large seem morally grey, with neither side acting particularly humanely nor kindly towards Meghan in her plight. While the Summer Court may not be as openly sinister as the Winter Court (openly stating how much the nobles would like to drink Meghan's blood is disconcerting) neither Oberon nor Titania is sympathetic. Titania is actually enjoyable madcap and malevolent towards her husband's daughter, further isolating Meghan in the only world she has felt at home. While I might have wished for more personality from Oberon or even a sliver of affection shown for his daughter, the overt animosity of Titania worked better to keep Meghan moving and plot advancing. I had hoped for more of Mab as well, but clearly she is to play a much larger role in further books. I look forward to how Kagawa will distinguish her version of the popular Winter Queen from all the rest.
 
This is an unexpectedly engrossing story. For one populated with old, well used characters and a familiar plot, the Iron King still manages to be original and completely fun faery tale. From vivid action sequences that pop off the page, to a modern-day twist on age-old lore about Fae themselves, I was engrossed in this story, this world and cannot wait to jump into the next book, the Iron Daughter.

Blog Watch Wednesday - on Thursday!

Thursday, July 21, 2011
So here in Arizona we are going through our yearly downpour of monsoons. Because of a particularly effective storm last night, I couldn't get online and post my weekly Blog Watch. Thus, here we are: a Blog Watch Wednesday on a Thursday!
Without any further ado, all the most interesting pieces of the internet I've stumbled across in the last week:

Can you pronounce EVERY word in this poem correctly? If you can, you're one of the few that can speak English better than 90% of native speakers.

Do you like eyebrows? Do you like clever posts about famous people with strong browage? The Lovely Ewa's post about such is a must read! I also quite enjoyed her review of Among  Thieves, a book I've also read, reviewed and liked.

I've just finished A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in George R. R. Martin's epic A Song of Ice and Fire series. And after six years since the publication of #4 A Feast for Crows, I've forgotten several impotant things. Know what's helpful with remembering all those characters, Houses and people? This and this. The first is an infographic of just Houses and people belonging to which House. The second link is to an infographic of House and interpersonal character relationships.

Rolling Stone created a hilarious slideshow of rockstars that look like wizards. How can you not want to see Neil Young as Mad-Eye Moody? It's uncanny.

Author Michael J. Sullivan writes a fantasy series I'm a big fan of, The Riyria Revelations. This Writers and Readers discussion on goodreads is a nice look into how he got his books published, as well as answering any questions posed to him by his readers. It's an interesting read with a personable and friendly author.

Award-winning and nominated fantasy novelist N.K. Jemisin (author of the fantastic Inheritance Trilogy) wrote a thought-provoking post on her blog about the limitations of womanhood in fantasy. Coming from a female author that writes strong, unique female leads I thought this was definitely a post worth reading and sharing. 

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, having just finished part the fourth. Now on facebook, there are the first eleven pages of the manga soon to be published for the first in the series, Soulless. I've never read manga, but if I ever do it will be for this series. Just log into facebook and search for "Parasol Protectorate".

Want to know in detail what was cut and what was added to the final Harry Potter movie? and why? Right here has all your answers. (io9)

The fabulous Audra has several fantastic giveaways going on at the moment. There is The American Heiress which she reviewed and has offered up for a giveaway, as well as Karleen Koen's Before Versailles! Both are books that had caught my eye and now after reading Audra's reviews, they're ones I'd like to start straightaway.

There is a book about chocolate being illegal. AND COFFEE. THE HORROR. Who would imagine such a thing, and who would read it?! Well, me. I would. It looks promising. I just don't want to ever live in a world that I cannot have chocolate readily available.

Like Sean Bean? Ever notice he dies a lot in movies? Here's an awesome video, the Sean Bean Death Reel, to show his best demises.

Lastly, a plug for my giveaway. Choose from over 30 books to win with two grand prize winners! Just follow the blog and leave me a comment here with your email!

Announcing the Pick Your Prize Giveaway!

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm going to try out my first giveaway! The catch of mine is that the TWO winners will get to pick TWO books (each) that I have read and reviewed for this blog.

The list of eligible books is as follows (some are omitted [ARCS and NetGalley/GalleyGrab] because they've yet to be published):

Sabriel by Garth Nix (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

Lirael by Garth Nix (review here; 5/5 stars)

Abhorsen by Garth Nix (review here; 5/5 stars)

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (review here; 4/5 stars)

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (review here; 4.5/5 stars)

Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

Avempartha by Michael J. Sullivan (review here; 4/5 stars)

Nyphron Rising by Michael J. Sullivan (review here; 4/5 stars)

Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie (review here at the bottom; 5/5 stars)

The Lens and the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman (review here; 3/5 stars)

Embassytown by China MiƩville (review here; 4/5 stars)

Ice Cracker II by Lindsay Buroker (review here; 3/5 stars)

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black (review here; 4/5 stars)

Shadowspell by Jenna Black (review here; 3.75/5 stars)

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly (review here; 4/5 stars)

Betrayal by Mayandree Michel (review here; 1/5 stars)

Ethereal by Addison Moore (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

Games to Play After Dark by Sarah Gardner Borden (review here; 3/5 stars)

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (review here; 4/5 stars)

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (review here; 4/5 stars)

Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn (review here; 3/5 stars)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (review here; 4.5/5 stars)

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (review here; 4.5/5 stars)

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (review here; 3.5/s stars)

Miranda's Big Mistake by Jill Mansell (review here; 2/5 stars)

Legacy by Kayla Cluver (review here; 2/5 stars)

Trading Up by Candace Bushnell (review here; 1/5 stars)

Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell (review here; 1/5 stars)

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (review here; 3/5 stars)

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

Heartless by Gail Carriger (review here; 5/5 stars)

The Admiral by Morgan Karpiel (review here; 3/5 stars)

The Inventor by Morgan Karpiel (review here; 3.5/5 stars)

Heist Society by Ally Carter (review here; 2/5 stars)

The Goblin Market by Jennifer Hudock (review here; 3.75/5 stars)

all YOU have to do to enter is follow my blog, leave me a comment right here on this very post. If you'd like to earn an extra THREE entries, tweet about the giveaway/post/etc., just leave me the links! The contest is going to run from today until August 9th [Edit: extended until AUGUST 11TH, 2011]. Be sure to add your email in there so I can let you know if you win!

Good luck, and please spread the word for more entries!


Additionally, earlier this week at Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger I won Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast! 

It's been a good week for me bookwise, as I received in the mail:


I ordered A Dance With Dragons (and am taking forever to read it, I apologize and promise a Whatever Happened to Goodbye review soon) and Glow is a goodreads firstread I won in the beginning of June. 

Anyway! Giveaway! Here! Pick THE TWO books you want most out of the list! Follow & comment to enter!

Reviews: The Inventor and The Admiral by Morgan Karpiel

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I'm currently 350 pages into A Dance with Dragons (only 700 to go!) so I've no new recent reads to review. Instead, here are two Two-Minute reviews by the same author, with stories set in the same universe that I talked about the other day in this post.


Title: The Inventor
Genre: romance, steampunk, novella
Series: Fantasies of New Europa #1
Pages: 145 (Nook version)
Published: September 2010
Rating: 3/5

Inventive and short, Karpiel manages to incorporate a lot of story into just 150 pages of novella. Steampunk, espionage, jilted wives, duels, lovers quarrels, plus more strange happenings. It's a romance, so there's a heavy influence on love and sex and the scientific testing of "coldness" in a Countess that was left by her husband. The main character, the Countess of Caithmore (called less formally just Leda for most of the book) is believable and sympathetic as the King's cousin who was jilted by her husband the Earl for an infamous actress. She is the most on-screen character, with the titular inventor a close second. The two have excellent, if combustible chemistry, and the sex scenes did not make me cringe with embarrassment or laughter. 

Karpiel definitely has a unique way with words. She writes well, lyrically even, with her prose flowing off the page. There's definitely a larger focus on sex in this book than in most books I read, but it did not deter me or affect the story negatively; it was well written and central to the plot of the novel as well as the main character's mental state. It's a very easy to read story, and has a small cast of defined characters. I was certainly hoping for a more well-rounded background set of characters, but the remaining books leave me hope for a wide variety of humanity in this steam world. While very much an introductory novel for a series, there is more to recommend this novel than to disparage. The scene is set for an alt- England filled with steampunk and intrigue, and I have hopes that the next in the series will build off the foundation from this novel and create a bigger, more rounded and explored world.




Next up, the second in the Fantasies of New Europa.




Title: The Admiral
Genre: romance novel-ish, steampunk, novella
Series: Fantasies of New Europa #2
Pages: 166 (Nook version)
Published: October 2010
Rating: 3.5/5


Enjoyable and engaging, The Admiral is about the Empire of New Europa from the first book in the selfsame series The Inventor, but this time it is a sea-faring submersible that is the location instead of England. This is a very short story, only about 160 pages, so it does seem a bit rushed, especially in regards to the romantic aspect between Tristan and Jia. However, the characters are likable and more realistic than the first novel in the series. The male protagonist of Tristan was more fleshed out and detailed, with a more compelling and mysterious past. The clues and hints to his unrevealed history were partly my favorite aspect of this; the other aspect being the female lead Jia. She's fierce and strong in a world where those attributes seem to largely be held by men. The 'world' that the story takes place in does not suffer from the brevity of the plot or the rush of the romance; each successive novel has revealed more and hinted plenty about this alt-world that Karpiel has crafted so carefully. It seems fully-realized and tantalizing; each book has made me more and more curious about New Europa.

Basically this was a short, quick and enjoyable steampunk fluff. Karpiel has done great so far, with mixing many different elements in her stories: adventure, strange contraptions and romance all work wonderfully in a very readable series. I've noticed improvements in development, characterization and pacing that were just a mite off in the beginning novel. I will say that I hope the novels become longer the more are added to the series; each is succinct complete tale, but I live for details and world-building. All four in this series are only $.99 so if they sound somewhat interesting to you, it's really worth it to try it out.




I plan to read and review the two published as of yet (The Aviator; The Burn) as soon as possible. So, pretty much when I am 54 I'll have reduced the monstrosity enough ;)

Review: Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Title: Tris & Izzie
Genre: young-adult, supernatural fiction, legend retold
Series: N/A
Pages: 272 (Nook version; NetGalley uncorrected ARC)
Published: October 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 1/5



Simply and best put: the cover is the best part of the complicated mess that is this novel. I'd heard of a few other novels by this author I have wanted to read (mostly Mira, Mirror) so when I saw this on netgalley -- with that gorgeous cover -- I couldn't wait to read it. Sadly I was disappointed and frustrated by this retelling of the classic Tristan and Isolde legend.

The writing itself is very awkward and clunky from the beginning pages. Paragraphs like
"Mom said it was too painful to stay where all the memories were. Dad died just after I failed the test for magic that was supposed to figure out what kind I had. I guess magic can skip a generation or even fade out completely. No one knows the reason, but that's why there's less magic in the world now than there used to be. It's hard to live without magic surrounded by people who do, Mom says." 
are prevalent and just as heavy-handed and meandering (this is on page 12, where the author is explaining her life now she has moved and then randomly we're learning about the state of magic in her world) throughout the entire story.

There's a LOT of exposition early on in order to catch the reader up to speed with the events and principles of this particular world. Rather than show the audience anything, every last detail is explained in monotonous dialogue or the vapid inner monologue like that quoted above of the main character, Izzie.

Izzie, or rather Isolde as she's called only by her angst-magnet Tristan, is not a character I cared about very much. Vapid, vain and entirely too boy-crazy to accurately represent a girl I'd like, Izzie is pretty clueless to top it all off. When warned by her witch mother Gwen (multiple times, over many years with her own life as an example of a true love philtre gone wrong) Izzie DRINKS a real love potion intended for another instead of you know, spilling it and thus making her fall in love with someone other than her 'perfect' boyfriend of a year. And then, after Izzie knowingly stole said potion with its intent and accuracy, and put it in a bottle of Sprite for two people who had NO IDEA what she was doing, and then took it herself, she COMPLAINS ABOUT THE RESULT. (Girl. YOU DID THIS. You were going to take two people who did not know each other and make them obsessively love each for all time and then when it backfires, YOU DRINK IT AND COMPLAIN? Are you kidding me.) Instead of ruining someone else's life (her ahem best friend was the target...) Izzie ruined her own. Instead of inspiring sympathy from me, I felt it was justified for a girl so supercilious as to decide who should fall in love without any awareness of that fact.

Speaking of Izzie's best friend and perfect boyfriend, all the characters in this felt very wooden, and fairly bland. None sparkled with individuality or flair; Mark, her original boyfriend, was so unassumingly bland I forgot Isolde was supposed to be conflicted half the time. And while these are supposed to be teens in high school, the conversations and overly-loaded dialogue felt way out of place. Izzie casually mentions Mark "the king of the school" (also, real subtle allusion to the real story, there) willing to "exile" another classmate for offending Izzie. I'm sorry, but teenagers do not talk that way. It's unrealistic and laughable, not to mention anachronistic for a generation unconcerned with history.

The plotting is glacial and very hard to get through. The odd moments of humor (Tristan to Isolde: "You see things" Isolde: "What, dead people?!") were intermittent, and while I did find them occasionally humorous, it wasn't enough to save my failing opinion of the style of this novel.  I just cannot support a novel that has 16 year old teenagers discussing how they have found their soulmate, and how perfect him/her they are at length. The constant back-and-forth tugging between Tristan and Mark was extremely wearying, especially since I did not care who the author went with in the end: a fresh ending with a new twist or a new take on the old familiar. I just did not care.

Clearly this is a predictable story, one that has been told many times by many different people for a long, long time. But sadly, here in this novel, I saw little to distinguish from any other genre, run-of-the-mill retelling. I had hoped for an individualistic and clever take of forbidden love in a modern age, and instead I got genre popcorn. 1/5 and just not for me. 

It's HERE!


After six years of waiting since the last in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, A Feast of Crows, the fifth is out! A Dance of Dragons arrived at my doorstep yesterday, a whole 5 days before expected delivery and two before its official publication!





Six years of patiently waiting and it arrives just after I finish another I've long wanted to read (Heartless). Perfect timing!

Also, here are some cheap nookbook/ebooks I've stumbled across lately:

Morgan Karpiel writes short steampunk/romance-novelish novellas set in the same universe. They're all fairly short, and quick to read. The list of titles in the Fantasies of New Europa:

The Inventor  (amazon link) 
The Admiral (amazon link) 
The Aviator (amazon link) 

All four titles are listed at $.99 for both ereaders; I've only read and bought two of them (The Inventor and The Admiral) but they were enjoyable, if short.

If you're looking for paranormal romance, Tara Shuler has a series of three called Blood Haze with the first priced at $.99 and the last two at $2.99 each.

Book one: Shelter (amazon link)

Two guys, one girl, and two dark secrets that threaten to tear her world apart.
Alice Wright is a young vampire going to high school for the first time at the age of seventeen at the behest of her eccentric mother. In many ways, she's more afraid of the human students than they would be of her.
She feels lost and awkward in human society, but she soon develops a strong bond with the cousin of one of her human classmates, nineteen year old Kai. He is beautiful, but somewhat of an enigma. She discovers a dark secret in Kai's life, and she instantly wants to shelter him from the pain that has tormented him all his life.
Then she meets Maksim Augustine, the incredibly gorgeous guy who seems more like he should be a model than a high school student. She is overwhelmingly attracted to him physically, but her love for Kai causes her to continually push him away. Eventually, she discovers a frightening secret about Max, too.
But Max's secret threatens to destroy everything... 

The remaining two are Storm (amazon link) and Betrayal (amazon link) available to buy now. I haven't read any of these so no guarantees on quality!


Addison Moore's Celestra series is another quality self-published effort I've happened upon. I've read (and reviewed) the first book Ethereal (only $.99 for Nook and Kindles) and plan to read the following two Tremble ($2.99 on Nook and Kindle) and Burn.
Blurb for Ethereal:

Sixteen-year-old, Skyla Messenger is a dead girl walking.
When her newly remarried mother moves the family to Paragon Island, to a house that is rumored to be haunted, Skyla finds refuge in Logan Oliver, a boy who shares her unique ability to read minds.
Skyla discovers Logan holds the answers to the questions she’s been looking for, but Logan’s reluctance to give her the knowledge she desires leaves her believing Logan has a few secrets of his own.
Skyla’s bloodlines may just be connected to the most powerful angelic beings that roam the earth, and the more she knows, the more danger she seems to be in.
Suddenly an entire faction of earthbound angels wants her dead, at least she still has Logan, or does she? 


That's all for now because I've got a 900 page book waiting for me!

Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Title: Heartless
Genre: steampunk, historical fiction, JUST PLAIN AWESOME
Series: The Parasol Protectorate #4
Pages: 374 (paperback)
Published: July 2011
Source: bought
Rating: 5/5




The heroine of this unbelievably rich and vivid series is ultra proper and beautifully mannered Lady Alexia Maccon (formerly Tarabotti), a preternatural of (gasp!) Italian descent in an alt-Victorian England. In this world that Carriger has so deftly crafted a 'preternatural' is a person without a soul, and thus the direct opposite of vampires/werewolves, as those were people who died and possessed excess soul enough to become either a vampire, werewolf or ghost. The idea of 'excess soul' being the catalyst and determining factor of supernaturality is ingenious and intriguing. The mythology and world-building of this series are incredibly well-thought-out and unique in structure. Alexia's physiology makes her completely unique in nature, but she has all too-human problems, as exhibited in each book. In a genre populated with stereotypes and cliches, this was a breath of fresh air. It is a clever book in a clever series by a very smart woman. Between the dirigibles, octomatons (dangerous octopus weapons), mysterious secret societies (Hypocras Club, Order of the Brass Octopus, Alexia's own Parasol Protectorate), sexy werewolves, ultra-mannered and fashionable vampires (Victorian collars -- invented to hide the fang marks!) and sheer originality (a fang lisp for new vampires! Werewolves have packs with Alphas, but vampires have hives with Queens), and tea --- what more could you want?

There are plenty of books with worlds/universes I love and enjoy reading about; this is one of the very few I would like to live in. I'd also love to be Alexia's best friend (take that Ivy/Genevieve!) and help her with her zany, diverting and dangerous schemes. Another reason this book is so hard to put down (if you need more besides the awesome characters, witty dialogue, ingenious steam machines, werewolves/vampires, tea, more witty dialogue...) is that from page one, the atmosphere is enveloping. Well-researched in all aspects, without being overbearing on extraneous details, from clothing trends (do you know how to tie a cravat? or even what one is?) to correct phrasing and speech ("notoriety mongers" instead of "fame whores"), not one word feels out of place. It is certainly important to me to know what Alexia is wearing, but not at the expense of the plotting and development. A perfect balance of the frivolous and the necessary keep the tone light and the amusement nonstop, while continually building the mystery and tension.

Set in a steampunk version of Victorian England in the 19th century, Alexia is not your typical apathetic/passive Victorian woman. She's brash, abrasive, intelligent and above all, curious. Far from conforming to her society's ideals of women at the time, Alexia largely acts the part of a man in that point in history: she makes the important decisions, she rules her husband completely, she's on a secret council with the Queen of England: in short, she's an independent woman in a time of harsh repression for her sex. Interestingly, Carriger has some of the men in Alexia's life assume the roles and positions thought acceptable for women instead forced upon the males (Biffy as a lady's maid, Lyall organizing the house while Alexia does more 'mannish' activities, Floote running her life, etc.) This dichotomy is just another reminder of how very different Alexia is from the rest of humankind (and supernaturalkind) in her views, actions and day-to-day life.

Continuing in the same cheeky, smart tone as the amazing first three in the series, Heartless does not miss a beat. Characters beloved and loathed (ahem, Felicity) from Alexia's adventures before are all present, with new aspects or facets to their well-known personalities. Another reason I enjoy Alexia so much as a heroine is that she knows she has a large cast to back her up and she is not afraid to call on them. Not for her to decide it's all down to her and her alone: she might make all the decisions but when she needs help she is not too proud to ask. This large (mostly) amiable group of Floote, Lord Akeldama, Ivy & Tunny, Genevieve, Lyall, Conall, Biffy have a nice chemistry and camaraderie among them, though be it may that of those browbeaten into submission by a determined woman. Ivy even grows a bit as a character: she's shown to possess hidden facets of intelligence and observance heretofore believed outside her mental capacity. Genevieve, the alluring and shady French inventor gets more on-screen time than the last novel, eliciting much interest from me because she is such a morally grey character. Sadly, I did not get as much time with Alexia's sexy husband Conall as I'd have liked but in the face of all the awesome femaleness all up in this book, I think I can deal. As long as he's more involved in the last in the series, Timeless.

Can we talk about how fun it is to read these characters? Not only their inner monologue and thoughts, but conversations sparkle with wit and humor. Oh, I am so sorry. Humour. I look forward to reading any exchange involving Lord Akeldama especially: his flair and fashion are some of my favorite bits of each book. The question of the status of his star-crossed love with Biffy is finally answered in a way that surprised me with its simplicity. I do have to say the romance angle was much more played down than before (practically nonexistent), however as Alexia is supposed to be nine months pregnant during the events of the novel, it is understandable but much lamented. Ms. Carriger managed to drop quite a few bombs on me, about some of my most beloved characters! Incorporating events from past books in the series, a new spin was put on much of what I had thought I knew about these familiar characters. Speaking of spinning things in unexpected ways: the ending. While I predicted many of the outcomes (I don't mind because it was so fun getting there) the author still managed to pull the rug out from under me, even as I correctly anticipated many turns and twists.

This is an excellent, excellent series. I thoroughly enjoyed this fourth foray into the steam-powered world of Alexia Maccon, and I am only sorry that there remains only one more book left in this series. I highly, highly recommend reading all of them. Even if you've never read steampunk (I've heard this called steampunk, which I think is perfect) try with this series. It doesn't get caught up in the machinery aspect and lose the characters, nor does it ignore the technology as unimportant until the end. Excellent novel, one of my favorites of 2011.
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