Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Heading Back Out on the Iron Seas

Meljean Brook's Iron Seas is one of my favorite romance series. In fact, the bar scene in Here There Be Monsters is near the top of my all-time favorite romantic moments. The world-building in this series is phenomenal. The action is intense. The women kick ass, and the men do as well. We've seen many different "types" of heroes and heroines in this series: Alphas (both male and female), adventurers, investigators, inventors, some experienced, some virgins (even the rare virgin hero). Each time I've felt like we've gotten a different kind of couple. It's not just the alpha-show 24/7, and I am thankful for that.

It's steampunk (so this review fits well with my own personal Steampunk Week). There are mechanical "bugs" that the Horde used to control conquered people, but in the new freedom from the invaders, the bugs help to repair injuries, give strength, and enable the grafting of mechanical limbs. We've also got airships and all kinds of mechanical creations. Oh and zombies, but not any of those in Riveted, the third Iron Seas novel. Seriously, the world sets this series apart. If you are a fan of epic, expansive world-building (and you like romance) you should try the Iron Seas.

In Riveted, we're out of London and more in the New World, settled when the Europeans fled the Horde. Annika is a very "improper" young woman by New World standards. Of course, New World Social Rules make the Pilgrims look like swingers, so for the reader, Annika is a breath of fresh air. She wears bright colored clothes, speaks her mind, has an almost innocent view of the world (in the sense she isn't jaded), is searching for her sister, is a phenomenal mechanic. Oh, and she comes from a secret women-only village in Iceland.

We also have David, horrifically injured in a volcanic explosion that killed his mother, he has become a vulcanologist, an expert in volcanoes. He also has been rebuilt with mechanical legs, hand and eye. He is used to people, especially prejudiced New Worlders, shying away from him. He doesn't think he will be able to find someone who can see the man behind the mechanics. He is also searching for his mother's people. She also dressed and acted differently, much like Annika...

And there's your setup. We have an airship, madman (or two), a giant whale, and two people who are outsiders in the world, but kindred spirits.

I loved this book so much. The was just one of the most romantic Romances I've read that also satisfies my need for some action (not just of the smexy variety). Annika and David work so well. I also really enjoy that they become friends first. Brook hits all the right notes here.

That wasn't all, of course. Riveted even brings in LGBT issues and explores the need of being able to love freely without fear of physical violence or social condemnation. And this happened in a way that did not feel preachy. I am so looking forward to Scarsdale's book.

This also isn't an alpha-hero situation. Not that I don't appreciate the alphas, but I also really appreciate the male characters who exude strength, but don't necessarily need to be dominate.

I didn't feel there was as much focus on the world as we got in the first two books, but that felt right to me. The Iron Seas world is now established in my mind. There is still plenty of exploration, of course, and I can't wait for what we'll encounter next.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I'm Feeling Steampunkish....

I hope everyone had a great holiday (all you US folks) or a wonderful weekend (hi rest of the world!). I found myself with a hankering for some steampunk. I also had 3 books that I've had on my shelf awhile but hadn' t gotten to yet because of time, and 1 new relase, so this week is theirs. Except for when Steel's Edge comes out, but I think we can fit everything in.

Currently on my Reading Now list:

Skies of Fire (The Ether Chronicles book 1) by Zoe Archer

Zoe and her husband Nico Rosso take turns penning the tales in this steampunk romance series. Book one is by Archer. It introduces us to the world and what it is like to be a Man O' War - a human/metal amalgamation. Lots of power. Good for the pecs.This one mostly takes place on an airship (win!) and has two ex-lovers reuniting.

Tin Swift (Age of Steam book 2) by Devon Monk

If you haven't read Dead Iron yet, go do that. Also, you might want to read the short Hang Fire (available soon as an eBook on Amazon, B&N & Smashwords). I am very much looking forward to the further adventures of Cedar Hunt, Mae Lindson, the Madder brothers, and of course, the always awesome Rose Small. Here's hoping Rose gets to kick a little ass.

The Janus Affair (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences book 2) by Philippa Ballantine & Tee Morris

Book 1, Phoenix Rising, was so much fun. I'm looking forward to finally reading book 2. Books & Braun, so different and so, so good together. There is a whole world of fun to explore with this series, including podcasts of stories and ebooks of those short stories.

The Inexplicables (Clockwork Century book 5) by Cherie Priest

This time, the action packed series is back in Seattle. I love losing myself in Priest's re-imagined America.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: How Beauty Met the Beast

How Beauty Met the Beast (Tales of the Underlight #1) by Jax Garren

This short novel is very, very tricky. I keep trying to think how to place it and the solution eludes me.

It's a bit of a fairytale retelling, a very much all growed up Beauty and the Beast. But I can't quite call it that. There are some steampunkish elements, but that label doesn't work either. There are some romantic elements, but if I called this a Romance it would imply certain traditional tropes that just aren't here. There is action as well as a bit of magic too, along with mysterious societies and a secret war. So, an Urban-Fairytale-Steampunkish-Romance-Fantasy.

Hauk is a horribly scarred veteran of Afghanistan, and is sure that no one will ever be able to look past his scars. He devotes his energy into helping the Underlight, a secret underground community, against the evil Order of Ananke (whose members control the media, governments, and in general try to take over the world).

Jolie is an heiress who is thumbing her nose at her family by working as a burlesque dancer. She is attempting to live her life on her own terms, and is in an open relationship with a musician. After her first show, she has a steamy encounter through a curtain with Hauk (although she never sees his face). Later, she is almost kidnapped when a monstrous looking man with a familiar voice rips her assailants apart. Soon she is in an underground community and is learning more about her family's ties to the evil Order.

There is some action, a little flirting, but not much else in the romance department, and we do have an annoying teenager (who is thankfully kept to a minimum). This isn't an "after a night Jolie can look past all of Hauk's scars and they are in love the end". Nope. She does get used to his scars and starts to appreciate Hauk, but there are still 2 books to go in this trilogy.

It's a really quick read, and I was intrigued by the world and the assorted characters. I like Hauk. I think most Romance fans will love the tortured Hero who feels he'll never have anyone love him. Jolie is a bit tougher to like in that respect, because Hauk is so sympathetic, but I did think her reactions were realistic, and she showed some growth. I wish we had seen more of the Underlight and its inhabitants. Hopefully in book 2 we will.

When I say quick read, I mean quick. This is a short novel, and there will likely be folks saying, "Where is the rest?" You know I'm good with short stories, and since I knew going into it that there would be more than 1 book, I'm OK with the short installments.

[received an arc to review]

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Three Parts Dead

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

I can honestly say that this book was nothing like what I expected.

The trickiest part about writing this review is that no matter what I say, I don't think I can adequately describe the utter uniqueness of the story. I'll try, though.

Let's look at the cover: knife, shiny, magicky looking mark on arm, shrouded city. I'm thinking: action and magic, with a dark tone. Looks like an Urban Fantasy maybe.

Kind of.

There is magic. And there is action. It takes place in a city. But the whole style, world, plot, problems, characters were not what I was expecting.

It all was a bit more corporate, and lawyer-ey (I don't care if that isn't a word, it totally fits).

In Tara's world, the Craftspeople (human magic users) battled with the gods. And the Craftspeople won.

There are still gods and goddesses, but the world is run according to Craft law. The Craftsmen and women are the ones who draft contracts and handle disputes. Life essence is currency. Of course, in a magic court, the truth is relative to whoever has the most power.

Tara is a novice who was thrown out of Craft school for some reason. She gets a job under Elayne Kevarian, a very powerful Craftswoman. They are needed to resurrect a god. But why did the god die in the first place? And what is with the gargoyles in the city? And why oh why did the opposing counsel have to be her enemy? What kind of f'ed up world is this anyways?

Here's the thing - this isn't what I expected, but I still really liked it. I had a bit of "What is going on here" in the beginning, but I still kept turning the pages, wanting to see how it all turns out.

There isn't any romance, and while there is some action, Tara is not throwing punches right and left. She has power, but she also is very, very smart. Her counterpart, Abelard, a devotee of the dead god, was very interesting to follow as well. Don't think think this is a "get the team together and go on a quest" story either. We have a team, of sorts, with varying levels of trust.

If you have strict lines where your fantasy must fall, you might have some issues getting into this one. However, if you want something different on your fantasy shelf, give Three Parts Dead a try.

[received an ARC to review.]

Conjure Winner

And the Conjure winner is....
Alyssa Susanna
Thanks to Lea Nolan, Entangled Publishing, and everyone who entered!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Showcasing Some Gender Equality in YA

Today I'm over at Stellar Four spotlighting some YA reads that have an equal partnership between the male and female leads, where the skills of each are valued.

I would love for my children to live in a world where their skills are valued, regardless of gender. The idea that the only way for a male to be masculine is if the female is submissive is just so full of wrong I get stabby thinking about it.

Please share your favorite partnerships in the comments here or over on S4.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Conjure"-ing Up Some Creepy YA Fun & a Giveaway!

Today, Lea Nolan is at the Book Pile to talk about her new book, Conjure, part 1 of The Hoodoo Apprentice trilogy. There's also a Q&A and Giveaway!

The blurbage:

"Be careful what you search for...
Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry—hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.

But when a strange girl appears bent on revenge, demon dogs become a threat, and Jack turns into a walking skeleton, Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer—and her friends—are lost forever."

My take: I really liked this YA paranormal. There is a little action, more towards the end, but my favorite part was following Emma as she learns hoodoo to try to save her brother.

The book is fast-paced and I found it an engaging read. It starts a little younger than many YAs - the three main kids are all 15, but the tone will progress as the series does (see Q&A below), which makes sense for this Middle School-YA crossover. There are some dark aspects, and enough creepy without being really gory or too scary.

Jack is more than a bit of a jerk, but I'm hopeful he will grow. Cooper is very sweet. Emma is quiet, but strong. I really liked her as a character. She is learning and she makes mistakes, but I love her resolve. She has a crush on Cooper, but I'm happy to say that this isn't an angsty romance. It's all very sweet (and bittersweet too). Of course, the story isn't done. We do get an ending, but everyone isn't out of the woods yet.

I enjoyed the mythology (any story involving Gullah history and folklore is of interest to me) and I'm looking forward to book 2.

And now, let's get to know Lea a little better.