The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-20-15

Sunday Post

This is giveaway week. The Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop started this morning, and it will still be going strong when the Rockin’ Reads Giveaway Hop stars on Wednesday. This is the end of summer/chilly enough to curl up with a good book giveaway season. Enjoy!

This was a damn good week for reviews. I obviously got very lucky. It’s seldom when every book in the week is a grade A winner. Hopefully next week will be just as good.

Current Giveaways:

StuckinaGoodBook Hop 2015$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Paris Time Capsule is Megan B.

rebel queen by michelle moranBlog Recap:

A- Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
A- Review: Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
A Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
A- Review: Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean
A- Guest Review: How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro
Stacking the Shelves (153)
Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Rockin Reads Giveaway HopComing Next Week:

Gold Coast Blues by Marc Krulewitch (blog tour review)
The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton (review)
Rockin’ Reads Giveaway Hop
Marcus by Anna Hackett (review)
Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart (review)

Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

aeronauts windlass by jim butcherFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: steampunk, fantasy
Series: Cinder Spires #1
Length: 640 pages
Publisher: Roc
Date Released: September 29, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

My Review:

I read this during WorldCon. I wanted something big that I could really sink my teeth into, and I’ll admit that I also picked a big book because I didn’t want to read a lot of short books and not have time to do the brain dump of the reviews.

Fortunately for me, The Aeronaut’s Windlass was an excellent choice. Unfortunately for me, it was so excellent that I found myself reading it during some of the panels at the con, or sitting in the hallway just reading.

On the other hand, I was able to give it an in-person enthusiastic “thumbs up” during the Ace/Roc showcase. I’d just finished it a half hour before the panel started.

About the book…this is definitely Jim Butcher writes steampunk. So it reminds me a little bit of his Dresden Files, and an awful lot of his Codex Alera. He’s taken the steampunk and put his own snarky twist on it.

One of the refreshing things is that this is not first person singular point-of-view. We are not stuck in anyone’s head. And, in a delightful twist, this story is every bit as much a heroine’s journey as it is a hero’s journey. Possibly even more so.

While the character profiled in the blurb is Captain Grimm, and he is an important perspective, he’s not the only perspective. After finishing this book, it feels as if the main protagonists are not just Grimm, but equally the Guard cadets Gwen Lancaster and Bridget Tagwynn, Guard Lieutenant Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster, and the young female Etherialist Apprentice (read mage) Folly. And especially Rowl of the Nine Claws, who is the heir to a great cat clan, and Bridget’s best friend and protector.

So we have a group of young people, including Rowl, who is very definitely people. It’s pretty clear that this is going to be their collective coming of age story. Grimm is the one relatively mature main character, and he appears to be somewhere in his 30s.

The setting is fascinating. We don’t know exactly how this situation came about, but everyone lives in extremely tall spires that poke up out of the mist that enshrouds whatever planet this might be. It could be Earth. It could also be a lost colony. While they use airships to travel between the spires, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that there is travel to other worlds.

The surface isn’t uninhabitable per se, but it is inhabited by lots and LOTS of monsters. Who all seem to be cousins of Shelob or the great Ungoliant. Giant, predatory spiders. (Ewwww)

The story in The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the beginning of a war. The author uses the perspectives of these characters to show them switching from whatever they were in peace to growing, changing and adapting to survive. They also band together, sometimes in spite of themselves.

What is not as clear are the reasons for the war. Spire Albion (our heroes) has generally operated as a benevolent monarchy. I think the structure is somewhat like the constitutional monarchy of England, but it is hard to tell. What is certain is that the Spirearch is more powerful and functional, and less ostentatious and pompous, than what we see of the British Royal Family in public. In extremis, the Spirearch can still get things done.

Spire Aurora is employing evil magicians. We know that. There is some explanation that Aurora is a bit like the old Roman Empire – its economy is based on continually gobbling up new territory, and goes into recession when they completely digest whoever they’ve most recently conquered. It also reminds me a bit of the Republic of Haven in the Honorverse.

Of course, the good guys, the Albions, base their economy on their people working for themselves and making things. And those people get to keep and profit from the fruits of their labors. Kind of an idealized middle class, but with nobles on top.

So the story is about the war. It starts with a brutal and cowardly attack on Albion by the Aurorans, and we’re off to the races. At the end of this first book, all of our heroes have survived, but definitely not unscathed. We still don’t know the true nature of the conflict, only that it will be to the death.

In the last two lines of the book, Folly tells her mentor, “I’m frightened”. His response, “ So am I child, so am I.” And he’s right to be. There’s going to be a whole lot of dark between here and the end.

Escape Rating A-: While I occasionally felt like the story dragged a tiny bit, and I could see a whole lot of tropes coming from miles away, I still loved this story, and enjoyed the hell out of exploring this world, even as it (the world, not the book) falls apart.

This is going to be one of those stories where things are always darkest just before they turn completely black. And there will be one tiny light on the horizon that grows until we reach safe harbor in the end. But probably not all of us.

There were a lot of hints dropped about the past. Folly’s mentor, Ferus, clearly has some issues with the evil witch Sycorax. Grimm used to be married to the pirate captain who is helping the Albions. There’s a dark period in Grimm’s past that has depths yet to be plumbed. And the entire Albion economy has just been shot to hell. Literally.

At the same time, the main characters are a mixed bag who are still finding their way. It feels like Bridget, the reluctant guard, may be one of the primary foci. She’s the one who is changing most. On the other hand, Gwen Lancaster, who starts out as a disobedient and disrespectful noble child, has the most to learn about life in the real world. Gwen does not start as a likeable character, but she seems to be improving.

Grimm has all the makings of a dark and brooding hero, but he has touches of dry humor that make me laugh.

Then there’s Rowl. He feels like the voice of the author’s usual snark, but I could be wrong. Certainly Rowl is awesomely self-serving and incredibly snarky. He also, as cats do, retcons every situation to his best advantage, but always in retrospect. When Bridget tells him that he is insufferable, his response is “I am cat.” He is. He is very anthropomorphized and yet he retains what we think of as feline attitudes and feline perspectives. From his point of view, he is the leader and is always in charge. In the end, he may be right.

All in all, I was totally immersed in the world of The Aeronaut’s Windlass, and I can’t wait to return. Soon, please?

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-13-15

Sunday Post

Last week’s schedule fell completely to bits by the end. Hopefully this week will hew a little closer to my intentions from this end of the lens. But sometimes, no matter my best inentions, a book just doesn’t do anything for me, and I drop it. Sometimes the feeling is temporary (I loved both Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh and Heartmate by Robin D. Owens on the second go around, but felt very ‘meh’ about both of them on my first try). But sometimes its permanent, and I can never make myself go back. And of course, sometimes it’s not me, it’s the book. Either it turns out not to be for me, or just plain awful. Not that I haven’t occasionally finished some of those when I think it’s going to make a scathingly funny review.

And sometimes I bounce off of one book because there’s a different one calling my name so loudly that I can’t get a stray thought in until I read it. Has this ever happened to you?

paris time capsule by ella careyCurrent Giveaways:

Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Wildest Dreams by Robin Carr is Anita Y.

autobiography of james t kirk by david goodmanBlog Recap:

Labor Day 2015
B+ Review: Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey + Giveaway
C- Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
D+ Review: Ryker by Sawyer Bennett
B+ Review: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman
Stacking the Shelves (152)



rebel queen by michelle moranComing Next Week:

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (review)
Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean (review)
Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran (review)
Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman (review)
Penric’s Demon (World of the Five Gods #3.5) by Lois McMaster Bujold (review)

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-26-15

Sunday Post

I finally have some giveaways coming up this week. It’s been kind of a long dry spell. Even some of the tours I’ve hosted haven’t had giveaways attached, which is a real pity. There have been some good books on those tours that it would have been great to share.

As you read this, we are probably on our way to my mom’s in Cincy. One of the reasons we moved back east was so that visiting family would be a more reasonable trip, and that is turning out to be the case. Air travel used to be fun. Now it is mostly annoying. Driving takes longer but seems less hassle when it’s feasible. There’s such a trade-off between living near a big airport and living near a relatively small one.

The lines in Gainesville, Tallahassee and even Anchorage were relatively short. But getting anywhere involved at least one extra hop, and sometimes two. Also it was reasonable to live not horribly far from the airport. From Chicago, Seattle and Atlanta you can get almost anywhere on a nonstop flight, but getting to the airport is a major pain, the lines for everything take forever and parking costs the earth.

On the other hand, Atlanta had an Ice Cream Festival on Saturday which tasted wonderful.

C’est la vie.

mechanical by ian tregillisBlog Recap:

B+ Review: Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape
B Review: The Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane
B+ Review: Wings in the Dark by Michael Murphy
A Review: The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis
A- Review: Liesmith by Alis Franklin
Stacking the Shelves (145)




flask of the drunken master by susan spannComing Next Week:

The Terrans by Jean Johnson (review)
Broken Open by Lauren Dane (review)
Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann (blog tour review)
Deadly Lover by Charlee Allden (review)
Hot Point by M.L. Buchman (blog tour review)

Review: The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis

mechanical by ian tregillisFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: science fiction, alternate history
Series: Alchemy Wars #1
Length: 440 pages
Publisher: Orbit Books
Date Released: March 10, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

My name is Jax.

That is the name granted to me by my human masters.

I am a clakker: a mechanical man, powered by alchemy. Armies of my kind have conquered the world – and made the Brasswork Throne the sole superpower.

I am a faithful servant. I am the ultimate fighting machine. I am endowed with great strength and boundless stamina.

But I am beholden to the wishes of my human masters.

I am a slave. But I shall be free.

My Review:

There were two things running through my head as I read The Mechanical. The first was that the institution of slavery, any kind of slavery, in its desire to dehumanize the slaves, mostly succeeds in dehumanizing the masters.

This is certainly true in this story, even through the “slaves” in this particular alternate history are clockwork machines. If their owners thought that the assemblages of metal and gears and alchemy were things rather than people, it could almost be excusable. The clakkers really are just animated collections of things. They also happen to be people, as long as your definition of “people” encompasses the possession of free will rather than simply an origin in biological instead of mechanical processes.

Although the question of what is free will definitely comes into play here, with catastrophic results.

But this world that the author has created, an alternate 1926 in which the Dutch rule the world because they possess the alchemical secrets to make and bind clakkers, reminds me also of the future that Captain Picard posited in the Star Trek Next Gen episode The Measure of a Man. For those not familiar, this is the episode where a scientist tries to take possession of Lieutenant Commander Data by asserting that Data is just a machine, and therefore the property of Starfleet to do with as it wills, including disassemble him to see what makes him tick. Picard successfully defends Data’s personhood, in a moving speech where he raises the possibility of an army of slave-Data’s doing all of Starfleet’s dirty work, unwillingly condemned to centuries of servitude.

The Mechanical in effect puts that future in a much earlier time frame, but the arguments are the same. It is the mechanical man, the clakker Jax who demonstrates the full depth of humanity’s inhumanity to this new form of sentient life.

This story is an alternative history, and an action/adventure type quest that starts out in an attempt to save the clakker’s, and to preserve the French government in exile, who are effectively the Rebel Alliance fighting a long defeat.

Not a single one of the obvious to me antecedents kept me from enjoying the book in front of me. Then again, I love the antecedents.

The Mechanical is the first book in the author’s Alchemy Wars, so a chunk of this story is setting up the background for those wars, as seen through the eyes of the clakker Jax, the French intelligence agent Berenice, and the poor, unfortunate former French spy and eventual Dutch assassin, Visser.

We see the world in 1926, more than a century after scientist Christiaan Huygens melded alchemy to clockwork and created the first Clakker. Due to clakker-power, the Dutch control the world.

There is also a strong resemblance between the clakkers and golems, legendary creatures of Jewish folklore who are created out of clay and alchemy.

But the world created by the invention of the clakkers is a very different 1926 than the one we know. In ways that made this reader wonder if a later theme of the series will be that the creation of a permanent underclass to do all the hard work has not been good for the creativity and advancement of humankind. But we’re not there yet.

Instead, we see the setup of a great world-spanning war, as the Dutch are on the brink of expanding their control over the entirety of North America, and the French intelligence service is working in secret to stay alive, even if it means creating or suborning a clakker service of their very own.

And in the middle of it all is Jax, one lone servitor clakker who has accidentally found his free will, and is willing to do anything to keep it, even allying with the French and inserting himself into his very own heart of darkness.

Escape Rating A: This is a big book, and I suspect it is just the opening salvo in what will become a very big series. It takes a lot of set up to get this universe going, but it feels like all the setup is absolutely crucial for understanding how this world came about and the herculean effort it will take to push it into a different track.

One of the fascinating parts of the story is that the clakker Jax is much more human than the human intelligence officer Berenice. In spite of the terrible things that happen to her, Berenice is an unsympathetic character and her people are often disgusting. The only redeeming thing about the French court-in-exile is that it exists in opposition to the Dutch, who are even worse. (Back to my comment at the beginning about slave holding removing the humanity of the masters more than that of the slaves.)

Just as in Star Trek Next Gen, there are times when Jax is the most compassionately and understandably human of all the focus characters. He certainly feels more guilt than they do when he makes a mistake.

While the movement and counter-movement of empires is the force behind the big events in the story, it is Jax’ description of the intense pain of conflicting orders, or geasa, and the ways in which his people have found solidarity amidst their suffering that both warms the soul and chills the heart. It makes them fully “people” in a story where the humans so often are not. We can see that this is exactly what would happen. And we fear that it is all too much like what did happen in our real history.

rising by ian tregillisBook 2 of this series, The Rising, can’t come soon enough for this reader. I await it eagerly with anticipatory chills.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape

ether and elephants by cindy spencer papeFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: Gaslight Chronicles #8
Length: 180 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: July 20, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian have loved each other most of their lives—but sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.

Their chance at happiness was ruined by Tom’s hasty marriage to someone else. Heartbroken, Nell left home, finding a new life as a teacher at a school for the blind. But when one of her supernaturally gifted students, Charlie, is kidnapped, Tom reappears and her worlds collide.

Tom claims he hasn’t seen his wife since the day of their marriage…yet he fears the missing student could be his son.

The deeper they dig, the more Tom and Nell discover: a deadly alchemist, more missing gifted children and long-suppressed feelings neither of them is ready for. A race on airship across England and India may lead them to answers—including a second chance at love—but only if all of British Society isn’t destroyed first.

My Review:

Ether & Elephants is the last book in Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles. I’ve enjoyed the series very much, from my first night binge-reading Steam & Sorcery (reviewed here) and Photographs & Phantoms in one lovely gulp.

moonlight and mechanicalsMy favorite in the series is still Moonlight & Mechanicals (see review). It even made my Best Ebook Romances of 2012 list for Library Journal.

But Ether & Elephants brings the series to a very lovely conclusion – all the more so because it brings things full circle. The series both starts and ends with the adoption of a bunch of slightly misfit, seriously talented and definitely precocious children into a family that is expressly made to nurture all their varied talents.

A family headed by two adults who finally figure out that they love each other to pieces, and that nothing can, or should, stand in their way.

The journey for Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian is even rockier than the one in the first book – because Tom and Nell are two of the children who were adopted back then. They are all grown up now, and have loved each other forever.

And they’ve both given up hope.

Tom made a horrible mistake while he was at university. It’s not really that he gave in to temptation and fell into someone’s bed. While he may have known that he loved Eleanor, and may have guessed that she loved him, he was five or so years older and Eleanor was not yet an adult. There were no promises, no commitments – they hadn’t even talked about a possible future.

The problem was that the adventuress who seduced him claimed to be pregnant with his child, so he married her. She disappeared the morning after their wedding with the contents of his wallet and anything else in his room that seemed salable. He never saw her again, but he still feels bound to the marriage.

He also doesn’t seem to have done anything like a thorough job in investigating his runaway wife or her circumstances after the fact. A young nobleman with all the power of the Order of the Knights of the Round Table behind him should have done a much better job of tracking down the thief – or at least discovered that there was something fishy about that wedding, as there so obviously was.

Tom seems to have been too ashamed to take care of his own business, and now it may be too late. Not just because Eleanor has made a life for herself away from the family, or even that she may be engaged to another man. The problem at the root of everything is that she feels she can’t trust him.

But she needs his help. Well, she needs the Order’s help, and Tom is what she gets.

Nell has become a teacher, specifically a teacher of blind students. And one of her students has been kidnapped. This isn’t a simple rescue, because young Christopher appears to be “talented” in the way that the Knights are. He’s also not the only child, or more especially the only “talented” child, to be kidnapped in recent months. There’s also the ghost of a chance that Christopher might be Tom’s son. It’s certain that Christopher’s mother is, or was, Tom’s erstwhile wife.

In the investigation and chase to determine Christopher’s whereabouts, a number of long-buried truths come to light. They discover that Tom’s missing “wife” has been practicing the pregnant and disappearing bride scam at Oxford and Cambridge for at least ten years, meaning at least 5 years before she pulled the stunt on Tom. The inevitable conclusion is that Tom can’t possibly be married to her because she “married” so many other men first.

She’s also aimed her sights very high. All of the students she conned were rich and noble, including one well-heeled rake from Buckingham Palace. The Queen is worried there’s a little bastard princeling somewhere in the country.

And the Order’s old enemy, the Alchemist, seems to be taking these talented children to fuel a dastardly plot of his own.

Meanwhile, the chase moves to India, where Eleanor, with the Order’s help, is able to find the formerly young sailor who fathered her on a trip to England long ago. Only to find out that Nell is much better connected, at least in the Raj, than any of the Hadrians are back home.

But with all of their lives on the line, and with the certainty that Tom is now free, Nell can’t resist indulging in the passion that she has always felt for him. The question is whether passion is enough to overcome years of mistrust.

And whether they all come out of this mess alive.

Escape Rating B+: Ether & Elephants is a very nice wrap-up to the series as a whole. We first met Tom and Nell in Steam & Sorcery, when Sir Merrick Hadrian discovers Tom in the stews of London and realizes that Tom must be the son of one of his fellow Knights. That Tom will not leave behind the family that he has made and protected for years is just one more sign of his nobility, considering that Tom is all of 14 at the time.

But children grow up. Nell has always loved the young man who saved the lives of herself and her half-brother Piers, and hoped that Tom felt the same. Discovering that he did, but that he had pissed away their chance at happiness nearly broke her.

Eleanor Hadrian, like all of the family she has built, is made of stern stuff. She doesn’t just soldier on, but she finds a career that fulfills her, and makes a new life. When her new life intersects with the old one, she is the first person to volunteer to find her lost student, even knowing that she will have to deal with Tom and the ashes of their old relationship.

One of the ongoing themes of the story is that Nell doesn’t need anyone’s protection, not from the bad guys, and not from her own past. So many people have tried to be delicate about her feelings for Tom, and while she isn’t 100% sure those feelings are completely dead, she is utterly certain that she is tired of being treated like a delicate flower, because she so isn’t.

Bringing the story to India was a very nice touch. It allows Eleanor to discover and embrace the other half of her nature, and also answers the question that she has always wondered about – where do her supernatural talents come from? While I loved Eleanor’s ability to embrace her Indian family and heritage, it felt just a bit over-the-top that her father was effectively a prince. Eleanor has all the nobility she needs without inheriting it from her father along with her talent for seeing ghosts.

I liked her Indian family, and their participation in the final chase and capture is crucial, but her “Baba” didn’t have to be the social or political equal of Sir Merrick Hadrian to be effective, or to accept her as his daughter.

It gave the story an aftertaste of Eleanor’s needing to be a princess to be accepted as Lady Devere, when Tom, the Hadrians and especially Eleanor herself had all the nobility required.

I will miss the Hadrians and their magically steampunk world, but Ether & Elephants makes a fitting end to this lovely series.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Stacking the Shelves (141)

Stacking the Shelves

Today, I am in San Francisco at the American Library Association Annual Conference, surrounded by aisles and aisles and piles and piles of books and ARCs. I will be desperately attempting to resist temptation, or at least channel it into requests for NetGalley and Edelweiss eARCs instead of overloading my suitcase.

Again. <sigh>

For Review:
The Drafter (Peri Reed Chronicles #1) by Kim Harrison
Ether & Elephants (Gaslight Chronicles #8) by Cindy Spencer Pape
The Obsidian Temple (Desert Rising #2) by Kelley Grant
Rockies Retreat (Destination: Desire #5) by Crystal Jordan
Space Cowboys & Indians (Cosmic Cowboys #1) by Lisa Medley
Tales by Charles Todd

Purchased from Amazon:
Wildfire on the Skagit (Firehawks #9) by M.L. Buchman


The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-7-15

Sunday Post

I had a couple of really terrific books this week.

One of my terrific books here this week was The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy, the epic conclusion of her Twelve Kingdoms series. I loved the series so much that I am giving away a copy of the winner’s choice of title in the series, so that I can share the love. If you like epic fantasy and/or fantasy romance, this series is awesome.

shards of hope by nalini singhAnd over at The Book Pushers I was part of the gang for one of our epic group reviews, this time for Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh. Shards was also absolutely awesome, and everything I’ve come to expect from Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. And now we wait for next year’s installment.

Speaking of awesome, my first book this coming week is Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman. It is a more than worthy successor to last year’s fantastic Spider Woman’s Daughter, and to her father’s terrific Navajo Mysteries series.

Current Giveaways:

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller
Winner’s choice of title in The Twelve Kingdoms series by Jeffe Kennedy
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland is Anita Y.

talon of the hawk by jeffe kennedyBlog Recap:

B+ Review: The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway
A+ Review: The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy
Guest Post by Author Jeffe Kennedy about Warrior Women + Giveaway
B Review: Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
B Review: Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy + Giveaway
A Review: The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato
Stacking the Shelves (138)

sinners gin by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman (review)
Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane (blog tour review)
Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate (blog tour review)
Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper (blog tour review)
Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford (review)

Review: The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato

clockwork crown by beth catoFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: steampunk, fantasy
Series: Clockwork Dagger #2
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date Released: June 9, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Narrowly surviving assassination and capture, Octavia Leander, a powerful magical healer, is on the run with handsome Alonzo Garrett, the Clockwork Dagger who forfeited his career with the Queen’s secret society of spies and killers—and possibly his life—to save her. Now, they are on a dangerous quest to find safety and answers: Why is Octavia so powerful? Why does she seem to be undergoing a transformation unlike any witnessed for hundreds of years?

The truth may rest with the source of her mysterious healing power—the Lady’s Tree. But the tree lies somewhere in a rough, inhospitable territory known as the Waste. Eons ago, this land was made barren and uninhabitable by an evil spell, until a few hardy souls dared to return over the last century. For years, the Waste has waged a bloody battle against the royal court to win its independence—and they need Octavia’s powers to succeed.

Joined by unlikely allies, including a menagerie of gremlin companions, she must evade killers and Clockwork Daggers on a dangerous journey through a world on the brink of deadly civil war.

My Review:

In Genesis, there is a famous quote that states, “So God created mankind in his own image…” While many of us might quibble about God as male, and whether mankind is the proper inclusive term for all humans, the essence, either way, is the same.

There is also a competing quote, often mangled, but I’ll use the version from Ludwig Feuerbach, “It is not as in the Bible, that God created man in his own image. But, on the contrary, man created God in his own image.”

For anyone who has read anything of Greek and Roman mythology, that second quote has a ring of truth as well, because their myths certainly reflect a perspective of deities who are all too often all-powerful and continually misbehaving humans.

In The Clockwork Crown, we, along with our heroine Octavia Leander, discover that in her world the second quote is all too true, and in ways that may prove life-altering if not disastrous for Octavia herself.

clockwork dagger by beth catoI read Clockwork Crown immediately after finishing The Clockwork Dagger (enthusiastically reviewed here), because it was obvious at that point that Octavia’s adventure wasn’t over, and that things might get pretty dark before all of the issues finally got resolved.

Also, Miss Percival had some redemption coming, and I wasn’t too picky how she got it. The way that particular plot point resolved was awesome. And truly redemptive.

But a lot of Octavia’s story in The Clockwork Crown has an element of “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. Every time she thinks she’s solved one piece of the infernal puzzle, or has earned herself just a tiny break, events go spinning out of her control and she is back in the thick of it again.

There’s a bit of a “Perils of Pauline” aspect, except that Pauline’s perils mostly only affected herself, where the outcome of Octavia’s perils is either going to save or condemn two countries, and possibly the world.

Whether Octavia gets her own happy ending – well that is in the lap of the gods. Or at least one particular god who doesn’t even have a lap.

Escape Rating A: I don’t want to spoil the story, and there are so many possible ways to spoil things.

Everyone who Octavia has met along her journey has a part to play in this epic conclusion. Some of those parts are for good, and some, well, not so much.

Octavia finds out that nothing and no one in her life or history is exactly what she thought. There was a point in the story where I thought it was going to go the way that M.J. Scott’s The Shattered Crown (reviewed at The Book Pushers) or Jeffe Kennedy’s Twelve Kingdoms series (reviews here, here and here) have done. Meaning that the heroine would discover that the roles of good and bad were reversed from the way she had been taught.

The Clockwork Crown does not use that particular out. Admittedly, neither the Caskentians or the Dallowmen, as the Wasters prefer to be called, are particularly admirable by this point in a 50-year war. But neither of them is really evil. They are both corrupt and both exhausted and they both want victory after decades of violence and destruction.

It’s not that they don’t each perform some evil acts, because they both do. But there’s no Sauron and no forces of irredeemable darkness. They’re just people who have been hanging onto the end of their fraying rope for far too long.

There’s also an element in the story that I think of as coming from Battlestar Galactica, but of course this trope has been around forever. “This has all happened before and it will all happen again.” What drives this story is that it has been so long since it happened before, and the secret has been held so close, that no one knows what it means or even what “it” is, until the very end.

A point at which it is almost too late for everyone, especially Octavia. Who still just wants a cottage and a garden and people to help and heal. The only way that her dream has changed is that she now knows she wants Alonzo Garret to share it with her.

But she has to choose between her own dreams and saving the world. The questions are both “should she?” and “does she?” The answer is marvelous.

The Clockwork Crown Book Banner

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-31-15

Sunday Post

I’ve gone weeks with relatively few blog tours, but next week is chock-full of them. Lucky for me, they are all for books that I am really anxious to read, so it should be a real treat of a week.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Current Giveaways:

One copy of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

beyond galaxy's edge by anna hackettBlog Recap:

Memorial Day 2015
A- Review: Beyond Galaxy’s Edge by Anna Hackett
B+ Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford
B+ Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
B Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (137)



moonlight on butternut lake by mary mcnearComing Next Week:

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller (blog tour review)
The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy (blog tour review)
Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear (blog tour review)
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (blog tour review)
The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato (blog tour review)