Sunday, May 24, 2015

Inside the minds of Wonderland

I found myself on another steampunk binge in the month of May. It doesn't seem to be too hard to do these days with the ever expanding popularity of the genre. This time we fell down the dark side of the rabbit hole. Now for a review of a book that has now been added to the list of my all-time favorites. I just finished it last week and want to re-read it already.

The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee

I will be quite honest when I say I picked this book based on its cover. It is beautifully fascinating. The imagery manages to boggle my  mind into seeing 3D. Then I read the small excerpt and really needed to read it. So very, very glad that I did.

I will easily give this novel 5 stars. I will also honestly point out that this will not be a story for everyone. The whole tale has a dark side. There is a mild scene of gore, but overall the violence is limited to a Tim Burton macabre death. 

Mirror has something trapped inside her and she must get it out. After living in the mysticism of Egypt, she travels to the dreary London in the days of Jack the Ripper to find a cure. Goliath takes her to a variety of soothsayers, tarot readers, and spiritualists of ill repute to find a cure for her. And he himself is one fantastical guardian.

There is also something very wicked interested in getting to Mirror before they are able to destroy her monstrosity. Everyone is looking at time and the way we interact with it. The creep factor is so high in this novel. The entire time I was on edge to read what was going to happen next. In what seedy alley were we going to end up? What disturbing character were we going to be introduced to next? I really could not put this book down. Another fantastic hit from Angry Robot.

Another aspect I love about this novel is the use of visual typeface. The creepy factor of John Loveheart is absolutely solidified by way the type is presented. It has been a very long time since I have seen such great use of graphic design. The cover plus the reading experience--just beautiful. 

The whole experience was like reading from inside the Mad Hatter and Chesire Cat's brain combined. Everything was just slightly off kilter and I loved every minute of it. Perhaps that really says something about my brain, but I don't care. I say read it, love it, embrace its kilter.

The most exciting thing I read about this novel though was the Volume I label. That means more are coming. Pumped!!! 

You can pre-order the book now from all the major, and most independent, retailers. For more amazing authors from Angry Robot, visit their website

Ungainly adventures in steampunk

I have gotten horribly lost in the weeds again. And I do mean that somewhat literally--spring time has brought me plenty of cleaning time in the flowerbeds. With a break from the daily grind, I'll make this a special weekend of many posts!

Unseemly Science by Rod Duncan

Unseemly Science by Rod DuncanWhile I usually try to get these reviews out before the book launches, (and I was really excited for this book) this one unfortunately didn't get me all that jazzed. It was a case of hype bringing some expectations that cannot be fulfilled. I was extremely impressed with The Bulletcatcher's Daughter (which you can read the review for over here) last year. The fresh steampunk aspect of not overly mechanized storyline with the charm and adventure of travelers made an unforgettable story. I was hooked from the beginning. Naturally I was pumped to get the advanced read of Unseemly Science

However, this second novel seems to have struggled from some dishonest beta readers. The pacing just seemed off the whole time. Someone was not honestly saying whole chapters of this book slogged down in useless byline. I struggled to build a solid picture of what was happening and how the different angles were fitting together. The whole thing needs a helping hand in continuity editing. By the end of the book, I found the writing style that excited me from the first book, but to get there--roller coaster.   Duncan's beauty of creating an intriguing mystery seemed to suffer from too many threads. The major characters don't have their usual snappy interactions.

I have not completely lost faith that the next book in the Gas Lit Empire will come back to what I love. I saw it in the final chapters of Unseemly Science and hidden amongst the filler narrative. I cross my fingers that the travelers come back with the levity and adventure that can bring. 

I give this novel 3 stars. Read it when you have some down time, but maybe wait for the third novel instead. Completely your choice.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Modern day Grimm style fairy tale

In November 2013, I experienced Anna Kashina's wonderful Eastern European fairy tale Mistress of the Solsitice. It was a wonderful foray into the folklore of a different culture than I am used to from my childhood. Last month, I was presented the opportunity to go back into a folktale from another background; and by one of my favorite authors no less. After a very crazy April, I needed the escape to the land of make believe. What I got was impressive and immersive.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This folktale comes to us from a Polish background. If you are unfamiliar with Naomi Novik, she writes a brilliant series about a Napoleanic era dragon named Temeraire. She is an author who can spin an amazing tapestry with her words that just shines brighter in this folktale setting. 

I am not sure from which fairy tale this story originated. I do know that I fell in love with this story. We are introduced to a small village on the very outskirts of a kingdom bordered by a man-eating forest. To keep the trees from stealing children and livestock, a wizard is stationed in an isolated tower and takes himself an apprentice every 10 years. Then, we are introduced to the girls he will choose from at the harvest ceremony. What we come away with at the end are lessons about expectations and perception. There is loyalty and bravery and magic; all the necessities of an excellent fairy tale. 

The pace moves smoothly through action, tension, and narrative. The whole picture is so intricately balanced. The characters and their development are inspiring. Agnieska's personal growth in particular has so many valuable lessons about coming terms with yourself and inner acceptance.

And one of my all time favorite parts about this book: it is a story about love like few others are daring enough to do right now--not be in your face about it. The story is beautiful and romantic in a real way. This tale easily deserves 6 stars. It really just surpasses anything I have read in the last year and the re-read potential is unlimited. Go pre-order a copy today over at Naomi's website.