Lady of Devices (Magnificent Devices #1) by Shelley Adina

London, 1889.

Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world.

At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up.

When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It’s not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices . . .

When she meets Andrew Malvern, a member of the Royal Society of Engineers, she realizes her talents may encompass more than the invention of explosive devices. They may help her realize her dreams and his . . . if they can both stay alive long enough to see that sometimes the closest friendships can trigger the greatest betrayals . . .

Lady of Devices is the first book in Shelley Adina’s Magnificent Devices series. It opens with the main character, Claire Trevelyan, causing a rather messy accident in one of her classes. Despite the warnings of her instructors, she combines two reactive ingredients because she wishes to know what exactly will happen. And when she is tasked with cleaning up her mess, Claire seems to act as if this wasn’t her fault. If only her teacher had told her what would occur!

This small series of events was only the start of numerous eye rolling moments I had while reading this book.

Now do not get me wrong my dear reader, I enjoy the Steampunk genre as much as the next person. There is so much that can be played with in regards to technology and science. The way history has been shaped by the technology leaves countless ideas for authors to use. Unfortunately, Lady of Devices barely touches on any of them and when it does it is done with a heavy handed and awkward manner.

While Lady Claire is a smart young woman, she can also be irritatingly obtuse at times. When she takes up with the East End gang, she originally berates them for picking pockets. Yet she then turns around and teaches these same children how to cheat and swindle. She becomes a kind of governess for them with the intention of helping them become proper English citizens. But not some time later she (albeit accidentally) kills another gang leader and takes over his base of operations. For someone who supposedly prides herself on being a proper young woman, Lady Claire seems to follow the rules only when it suits her.

While I personally didn’t particular enjoy reading Lady of Devices, neither do I want to discourage my readers from trying it. Over on Goodreads, just as many readers gave it glowing reviews as others gave it less than stellar ones. Like in so many other instances, the reader shall simply have to decide for themselves.

Provided for Review: The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Milly, Aubrey and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised…and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

Many thanks to the author, Penguin Publishing, and to The Write Reads on Twitter for providing this book for review. Thank you!

You know what you did…

Those five words were the last each of the four Story children heard from their mother before disinheriting them. Those five words, written on a single sheet of paper, one for each child. Five little words and then nothing. Not for over 20 years.

The Cousins is the latest book by Karen M. McManus, author of the equally thrilling One of Us is Lying. Again we are met with secrets and lies. Of half truths and where what lies on the surface is on the beginning. And where even those who proclaim innocence aren’t as innocent as they might seem.

The Cousins is told from a variety of viewpoints. Not only are there chapters told from each cousin’s point of view, there are also several chapters from summer/fall of 1996 – just before the four Story children are disinherited. I will not say just who narrates those particuar chapters, just that their addition gives some very good insight as to why what happened did.

The main characters of The Cousins are the three cousins themselves; Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah. I found them all to be quite likeable. Each is a well rounded and well thought out character. Written in a believable manner where like almost every one else, they too have something to hide. Each one is a product of the background and upbringing and their actions through out the novel reflect that.

My only real complaint was while the main characters of the three cousins were well rounded, the same could not be said of the secondary characters. I honestly would have liked to have seen more of the original Story children as older adults along with the flashbacks that we see them in. The same can also said for the grandmother, I would have really liked to have seen more of her aside from the very brief glimpses we are given. While I understand that McManus could only include so much background before inundating us, I still would have liked to have had a least a little more.

In the end though, I enjoyed reading The Cousins. I found it to be a very entertaining read and had a good time trying to put the puzzle pieces together just as the cousins themselves were trying to do. Readers who have enjoyed McManus’ other books will enjoy this one and those who are new to her work should definitely give it a try. It was a fun read and I look forward to going back and reading more of her stuff.

Provided for Review: Under the Lesser Moon (The Marked Son #1) by Shelly Campbell

“Dragons once led our people across the wastelands, away from storms, and toward hunting grounds.”

That’s what the elders say, but Akrist has squinted at empty skies his whole life. The dragons have abandoned them, and it’s Akrist’s fault. He’s cursed. Like every other firstborn son, he has inherited the sins of his ancestors. In his camp, he’s the only eldest boy left. Something happened to the others. Something terrible.

When Akrist befriends Tanar, an eldest boy from another tribe, he discovers the awful truth: they’re being raised as sacrifices to appease the Goddess and win back her dragons. The ritual happens when the dual moons eclipse. Escape is the only option, but Akrist was never taught to hunt or survive the wastelands alone. Time is running out, and he has to do something before the moons touch. 

Thank you to Mythos & Ink Publishing for inviting me to this tour and for providing the book.

Trigger Warning: Physical, mental, and emotional abuse; Drug abuse; Sexual abuse; Violence towards an animal; Violence towards a child/children; Murder

Under a Lesser Moon is the first book of Shelly Campbell’s series The Marked Son. Set in a unique world that is part Stone Age and part fantasy, it follows young Akrist and the unique struggles he faces. As a first born son he is an outcast, looked down on by everyone in his clan, his only concern is to try and survive. When another clan joins his and Akrist meets another first born son like himself he learns a terrible truth – first born sons are raised only to be sacrificed when the two moons meet.

Dear reader, I won’t mince words – Under a Lesser Moon is a very dark book. The world that Akrist and his clan lives in is not a friendly one. Survival is a day to day struggle with the possibility of death at every turn.

As dragons are an important part of the story, some might compare Lesser Moon to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. Unfortunately, this is not an apt comparison. A better comparison would be to compare Lesser Moon to Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series.

With Under the Lesser Moon, Campbell has created a new world that is both cruel and beautiful. The characters are well fleshed out and though some of them are not the nicest of people, their actions and ways of thinking are not out of place in the land they inhabit.

As much as I enjoyed reading Under the Lesser Moon, this is not a book I would recommend to everyone. There is a good deal of dark subject matter and there are some scenes that could be triggering. Older readers and readers that are familiar with Auel’s Cave Bear books will likely enjoy this new series. For every one else, proceed with caution but also dare to step out of your comfort zone.

Book Tour Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

She came from nothing.
Avery has a plan: keep her head down and work hard for a better future.
Then an eccentric billionaire dies, leaving her almost his entire fortune. And no one, least of all Avery, knows why.

They had everything.
Now she must move into the mansion she’s inherited.
It’s filled with secrets and codes, and the old man’s surviving relatives –
a family hell-bent on discovering why Avery got ‘their’ money.

Now there’s only one rule: winner takes all.
Soon she is caught in a deadly game that everyone in this strange family is playing.
But just how far will they go to keep their fortune?

This book was provided by the author as part of a book tour with The Write Reads. Thank you!

Trigger Warning: Physical and emotional abuse (Avery’s sister Libby receives a black eye from her boyfriend) both past and present, alcohol consumption, mentions of stalking

“…Hawthorne loves a good puzzle as much as he loves a good whiskey. And he loves his whiskey.”

Avery Grimes is your typical teenager. She studies hard and works hard, all with the aim of giving herself and her half sister a better life. So what if she has to sometimes sleep in her car because her sister’s boyfriend is being a jerk again? Avery knows that one day things will be better.

Avery’s “one day” happens sooner than expected. A well tailored, handsome young man comes to Avery’s school, informing her that he comes on behest of his family and she is wanted in Texas for the reading of a will. Avery doesn’t know any one in Texas, least of all any one who would be naming her in a will…

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is the first book in the series with the same title. Much like the acclaimed movie Knives Out (great movie, btw), it centers on a ridiculously rich family and the patriarch’s Last Will and Testament.

The Inheritance Games is a tense, puzzle filled, nail biter of a story. Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda of some kind. With nearly every person holding on to one secret or another, Avery (and the reader) have a hard time knowing who to trust. Even Mr. Hawthorne himself though he’s dead. The puzzles he’s left behind seem to point at something but no one is sure of what.

I deeply enjoyed reading The Inheritance Games. Because of how it is written, the reader goes along with Avery as she tries to unravel the clues and puzzles left behind. We learn the answers as she figures them out – and she is very good at figuring puzzles out.

I wasn’t too fond of the love triangle Barnes introduced between Avery and two of the Hawthorne grandsons. Such a thing seems common in many YA books, so much so as to have become a kind of trope. However since it was such a small part of the overall plot and didn’t really figure in to the story, it was also easy to overlook and ignore.

On the whole I quite enjoyed this book. Not everything was tied up neatly at the end, leaving it open for the next book in the series. It is something I am eagerly looking forward to and will likely review it here given the chance.

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland

Arrested on accusations of witchcraft and treason, Chant finds himself trapped in a cold, filthy jail cell in a foreign land. With only his advocate, the unhelpful and uninterested Consanza, he quickly finds himself cast as a bargaining chip in a brewing battle between the five rulers of this small, backwards, and petty nation.

Or, at least, that’s how he would tell the story.

In truth, Chant has little idea of what is happening outside the walls of his cell, but he must quickly start to unravel the puzzle of his imprisonment before they execute him for his alleged crimes. But Chant is no witch—he is a member of a rare and obscure order of wandering storytellers. With no country to call his home, and no people to claim as his own, all Chant has is his wits and his apprentice, a lad more interested in wooing handsome shepherds than learning the ways of the world.

And yet, he has one great power: his stories in the ears of the rulers determined to prosecute him for betraying a nation he knows next to nothing about. The tales he tells will topple the Queens of Nuryevet and just maybe, save his life. 

A Conspiracy of Truths is a story about stories. It is a story about people, about their stories, and about how their stories aren’t all that different from other people regardless of where or when.

I will be honest and say I did not quite know what to expect when I started reading A Conspiracy of Truths. Going by the blurb provided I was expecting something akin to 1001 Arabian Nights or something similar. And while A Conspiracy of Truths does include stories within the main story, the book as a whole is a completely different beast entirely.

In regards to the characters, there are so many to choose from that every reader is likely to find someone they can connect with. Whether it be the elderly, snarky, main character Chant, or his seemingly unhelpful and maybe cares a little too much advocate Consanza, there is someone for practically everyone. The majority of the characters have 2, 3, even 4 names – and that doesn’t count titles! – and it can be a little difficult to keep track of who is who. While I didn’t do it myself, I highly recommend readers take notes on character names because it is very easy to get confused.

Plot-wise, A Conspiracy of Truths is a bit politics heavy. Because so much happens so quickly and so much information is given to the reader it can feel a little overwhelming at times. This is why I recommend the reader take notes and even go back and reread passages for anything they might have missed. The overall story is very deep and very wonderful and one wouldn’t want to miss a thing.

I really enjoyed reading A Conspiracy of Truths. Ms. Rowland not only did an outstanding job creating and peopling a world, she did it in a way that makes it relatable to almost all who read it. I highly recommend it to my readers and I look forward to seeing what Ms. Rowland comes up with next.

Provided for Review: The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

Not far from Luella and Effie Tildon’s large family mansion in Inwood looms the House of Mercy, a work house for wayward girls. The sisters grow up under its shadow with the understanding that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. When the sisters accidentally discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen older sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases.

With rebellion comes consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone. Effie suspects her father has made good on his threat to send Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to save her sister. She has however made a mistake, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s escape from the House of Mercy seems impossible—unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on each other and their tenuous friendship to survive.

This book was provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

Trigger Warnings: Infidelity, Mentions of rape, Teenage pregnancy, Racial slurs (Specifically the word “gypsy”)

“The times they are a-changin’…” So goes the line in the song by Bob Dylan and so goes the overall theme in Serena Burdick’s The Girls with No Names.

Told from the point of view of a variety of individuals, The Girls with No Names is a story about change. The changes that come with age, that come with knowledge, that come with the inevitable march of time. Events that change the way one sees the world regardless of how large or small it is.

As it is primarily set in the early 1910’s, the way of thinking of some characters might be off-putting for some. When Effie and Luella come across the Romani camp in the beginning of the book, they are enamored of the “other” ness of the group. There is a sense of playing with the forbidden when the girls continue to visit the camp even after their parents express their distaste. It is something that comes up again when the girls’ Grandmother complains of “foreigners” taking over the city.

I personally found myself captivated by each individual characters story in this book. Each woman is connected to the others in numerous ways – by blood, by love, by circumstance. Each connection bringing another layer to the story until it is a veritable tapestry.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Girls with No Names and was able to finish the book in just two days. While there is some difficult subject matter, I found it to be written about in a way that sensitive without being overly so.

Readers who are looking for well written female characters are likely to enjoy this book. I recommend they give it a go.

I Bring the Fire Parts 1, 2, and 3 by C. Gockel

Sometimes the hero is the wrong guy at the right time.

When Amy Lewis prays for a savior, Loki Norse God of Mischief and Chaos isn’t who she has in mind. Loki can’t resist Amy’s summons, but he can insist she help him outwit Odin, ruler of the Nine Realms. Can Amy trust a so-called God of Mischief? With a powerful evil calling him from beneath the city’s streets, can Loki even trust himself?

In this urban fantasy tale a nice mid-western girl and a jaded, mischievous Loki must join forces to outwit gods, elves, magic sniffing cats, and nosy neighbors. If Loki can remember exactly what he’s forgotten and Amy can convince him not to be too distracted by Earthly gadgets, Earthly pleasures, or three day benders, they just might pull it off…

Part One of I Bring The Fire was reviewed here, while Part Two was reviewed here.

Part Three of I Bring The Fire is aptly subtitled Chaos and picks up immediately where Part Two left off. Loki’s intention on taking the mysterious World Seed for himself still burns as bright as ever. He wants to watch Asgard burn and Odin suffer even if he doesn’t quite understand the reason behind it.

Like with the previous books the story is told from a variety of view points. We see various points from Loki’s past, from when he was a child and from when he was an adult. Moments with his first wife Anganboda and his second wife Sigyn, moments with his children; moments that shape him in to the man that he eventually becomes. There are other moments as well, moments that hint to Loki’s true past.

Loki changes the most in this third book and it isn’t always for the best. Throughout the first two books Cera has done untold psychic damage to him and it is in the third book the results are seen. In Part One Loki was a mischievous character but still likable. Part Two saw him as a darker man even while he had his lighter moments.

In Part Three he is almost a completely different person. While not overtly cruel, he is manipulative even to those he purportedly cares about. He is especially this way towards Amy, taking her to Paris and away from the people who have come to rely on her.

It is only when Loki gets what he wants does he realize in doing so he loses everything.

The way Part Three wraps up makes it clear this is not quite the end. This is only a single story arc with other arcs following behind. Readers who were able to make it through Parts One and Two would do well to read Part Three. It wraps a good deal up while leaving plenty for subsequent books to cover.

Extreme Medical Services by Jamie Davis

Read the book described by one reader as “Like Grimm With Paramedics.” Follow the exploits of new paramedic Dean Flynn as he gets assigned to a backwater station no one has ever heard of, Station U. He soon learns that his unusual patients are far from normal. They are the creatures of myth and legend. His tough, experienced paramedic trainer Brynne is determined to teach him everything she knows. With vampires, werewolves, witches and fairies as patients, will he survive? Will they?

Ever since he was a teenager Dean Flynn has wanted to be a paramedic. Working hard and graduating top of his class, Dean is sure he’ll have his pick of posts. Instead, he’s assigned to Station U – a tiny station at the edge of town that practically no one knows about. Dean thinks he’s being punished until he learns about the unique patients Station U treats.

Extreme Medical Services is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly in to any one category. It’s not quite a medical style novel nor is it completely fantasy based – it is instead a mish mash of the two. It does rely quite heavily on medical jargon however if the reader has seen even one medical drama (ER, Chicago Hope, The Good Doctor, etc.) they shouldn’t be to lost.

This overabundance of jargon and procedure comes at a price though, and that price is the characters themselves. There just isn’t enough given to create a connection between the reader and the characters. Everyone sounds quite interesting yet as there is so much emphasis put on the actual emergency procedures themselves, no one character is allowed to develop any depth.

I am also rather confused by the picture on the cover. None of the paramedics show even a hint of supernatural abilities.

As someone who has enjoyed the occasional medical drama in the past, I was rather looking forward to reading Extreme Medical Services. Especially as it was combined with another genre I enjoy – fantasy. I was however sadly disappointed. The premise itself was quite promising but the execution was sorely lacking. Readers who prefer a book that focuses on actual medical procedures albeit in a fictional setting might enjoy it. Other readers might want to look somewhere else.

Channel Blue by Jay Martel

channelblue

This review was originally posted January 2015

Turn on the TV at practically any time of day or night on any channel and you have a good chance of seeing some kind of Reality Program. The programs run the gamut from the serious to the insane and cover any number of subjects. People tune in to them in droves and the people who appear on them become stars overnight. But what if the Earth itself was its own reality program? What if the day to day happenings of the people here, no matter how mundane, provide entertainment to extraterrestrial beings?

That is the question posed in Channel Blue.

At one time Earth was Galaxy Entertainment’s highest ranking show. The viewers couldn’t get enough of the backwards little people. But like most audiences, they are fickle and what was once the biggest thing is now at the bottom of the heap. This is what has happened to Earth, aka Channel Blue. With its ratings quickly going down the tube they plan to draw in the viewers once more with an amazing finale. In just three weeks, the TV show will go out with a bang, and unfortunately so will Earth.

One man however can save our planet from it’s final curtain call, but Perry Bunt’s hardly the hero type.

If that last line sounds a tad cliched, that’s probably because it is. Earth is on the brink of destruction and out of the billions of people on the planet the only one who can save us is some nobody. He is your token white man, non-descript and bland. Like most in the anti-hero trope, Perry starts the book with a “I don’t want to do this” approach which evolves in to a “I guess I have to do this” approach which becomes a “I want to do this!” approach. He continues to try and do the right thing which only gets him in to trouble and usually ends with some kind of physical beating for Perry. As the story carries on this becomes tiring, not only for Perry, but for the reader them self.

With Perry in this mad adventure is Amanda Mundo. Hailing from the planet Eden, but looking exactly like any human, she is one of the many many producers of Channel Blue. At first she’s interested in Perry because he’s an ex-script writer and she needs ideas to keep Channel Blue running. The disappointing thing is that eventually she too succumbs to the trope most female characters are subjected to – that of the love interest. Of course she falls in love with Perry and of course they end up together with a happy ending, the story left open-ended for the possibility of a sequel. In it’s predictability it’s almost disappointing.

Now I’m not saying that Channel Blue is a complete disappointment. There are some rather amusing moments and the book itself does present a sort of critique on our society. It is absurd in its own way but hardly “in the tradition of Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut” as one reviewer said it. Adams and Douglas set a precedent when it comes to sci-fi and while Martel does make a good endeavor, he simply cannot match the greats.

Provided for Review: Ten Days Gone (A.L. McKittridge #1) by Beverly Long

They know exactly when he’ll strike… They just have to find him first.

In all their years working for the Baywood police department, detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan have never seen anything like it. Four women dead in forty days, each killed ten days apart. With nothing connecting the victims and very little evidence, the clock is already counting down to when the next body drops. A.L. and Rena will have to act fast if they’re going to find the killer’s next victim before he does.

But identifying the killer’s next likely target is only half the battle. With pressure pushing in from all sides, a promising breakthrough leads the detectives to Tess Lyons, a woman whose past trauma has left her too damaged to appreciate the danger she’s in. Unwilling to let another woman die, A.L. and Rena will put everything on the line to keep Tess safe and end the killer’s deadly spree once and for all–before time runs out again. 

This book was provided for review by Netgalley. Thank you!

Trigger Warnings – mentions of abuse (physical and sexual), mention of animal death,

While I do enjoy reading the occasional murder mystery, police procedural novels haven’t always been my cup of tea. Some of the ones I’ve read over the years have been rather dry and never seemed to hold my interest. When I saw Ten Days Gone available on Netgalley, I decided to take a chance on it. And I am quite glad I did.

Ten Days Gone follows Detectives McKittridge and Morgan as they race against time to find a serial killer lurking in their mid-sized Wisconsin town. The killer has already taken the lives of four women, each murder spaced exactly ten days apart. With no clear connection between them, the two detectives are in a race against time to try and determine who the next victim will be.

Like many book and television police dramas, Ten Days Gone starts in the middle of the action. The fourth victim has just been found and we the reader join the two detectives as they must try and find what joins this new person to the previous victims. Like many television police dramas there is a good deal of talking, of going over evidence and discovering new clues. This book is very conversation heavy. It relies more on the detectives as well as other characters talking – either on the phone or in person – to convey information. Many writers use a “show, don’t tell” approach where with Ms. Long, the opposite approach is used.

Ten Days Gone is certainly not for every reader. It is a dark book, one that deals with subjects that might not be comfortable for some. Those readers who do enjoy a well paced thriller that will keep you guessing until the end would likely enjoy this book. I personally liked the characters very much and will be keeping an eye out for further books in the series.