Intimidating TBR Tag

Thoughts and Review: The Transference Engine by Julia Verne St John

EngineThe Transference Engine by Julia Verne St. John

☆☆☆


Published by DAW
Publication Date : July 5th, 2016
Available as eBook – 320 Pages
Source : NetGalley (Thank you!) and Purchased

A fantastical steampunk novel of magic and machines set in an alternate 1830s London.

Madame Magdala has settled comfortably into her new life in London, as the proprietress of the Book View Café, a coffee shop and extensive library. Her silent partner is Ada Lovelace, who will one day become the world’s first computer programmer—but who now is simply the young woman for whom Madame Magdala was a nursery maid.

Ten years ago, Ada’s father, Lord Bryon, was known as a great writer. But few knew of his powers as a necromancer. Upon his death, his devoted followers tried to repair the Transference Engine—a device that would allow Byron’s soul to claim the body of its choice. Magadala, along with Mary Godwin—a.k.a. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley—had to stop them.

While the original Transference Engine was destroyed, they were unsure whether they truly stopped Bryon and his followers. Together, they fled to safety in London, and built new futures for themselves.

Now, Magdala and Mary care for the Book View Café’s community, leading fashion, following gossip, and reading the latest periodicals. But when members of the café’s community mysteriously disappear, and rumors of a threat of royal assassinaton grow, Magdala finds herself with new mysteries to solve. The more she learns, the clearer it becomes that this is the same mystery returned—the Transference Engine is back with a vengeance.

Thoughts:
Necromancy and Steampunk. Two things I’m always willing to give a try. Naturally this, back when I saw the cover revealed on (I think it was Bibliosanctum), was one of my most anticipated reads for this year. Not only did I get a digital ARC but I did in fact buy a physical copy of the book. I was stoked!
The book was interesting – but not as mind blowing as I had hoped unfortunately. It had a few things going for it and few things batting against it. The good things were the ideas and the settings, again I have to state Necromancy and Steampunk. Great ideas and the actual premise of this sounded super promising. The bits that dealt with Byron and Ada, spoke about them at length, those were some of my favorite parts.
The world in this one was also interesting to me. She built what could be a pretty typical steampunk London but I give her kudos – she made it seem very gritty and dirty. The idea of the coal being burnt for the steam to power everything made the city very dirty, something she conveyed well. I always love a good cost to an exotic setting.
Where it stumbled for me was in the pacing and characters. The pacing was odd, slightly slow at first building to a breakneck pace at the end. The constant and weirdly spaced flashbacks really did not add a lot to the story – confusing me at times. Every time we had one I had to reread the beginning to be sure we weren’t in the book’s present but the past. Also, I felt like I was reading a sequel, and I was! I had to look at other reviews and research but most of the grand escapades referenced (constantly) by our heroine are in a collection of short stories. I wish I’d known that going in.
Probably due to the pacing I couldn’t get attached to the characters. I found it hard to enjoy our main narrative because of the almost infallibility of the main character. This could entirely be because I didn’t get to read those short stories but she always seemed to know what to do and when, no problems. Other characters came and went at her disposal, an awkward and hazy after sex scene accompanying many out the door. I didn’t get to enjoy those characters – again because of the strange over-familiarity that never introduced me to them.
I wish, ultimately, that someone had told me this was a sequel of sorts. Was it the fault of the publisher for leaving that very important information out or is digging up that collection (which, may I add is under another name of the author’s) on the reader’s head? Remains to be seen. I think I’ll give the collection a shot then perhaps return to this one for another try. It definitely has some first book syndromes that could be solved with time, but I’m hoping the short stories could clear up the bigger issues I had.
I can’t recommend this knowing the stories are needed – but if you’ve read those, give this a shot! Maybe tell me if it helps?

Thoughts and Review: The Devourers by Indra Das

The DDevourersevourers by Indra Das
☆☆☆


Published by Del Rey
Publication Date : July 12th, 2016
Available as eBook & Hardback – 306 Pages
Source : NetGalley – Thank you!

For readers of Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, China Mieville, and David Mitchell comes a striking debut novel by a storyteller of keen insight and captivating imagination.
 
On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.
 
From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.
 
Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

Thoughts:
     I’m not going to lie, this one took me forever to read. Why it took so long we’ll never know for sure since this should have been something I gobbled up like candy. It’s incredibly hard to review this without spoiling the plot, and because of that it’s incredibly hard to even talk about it but I’m going to give it a shot just hitting the high points as best I can.
The story itself is not what I expected but I enjoyed it. Even the setup of the first section of the book left me confused till we meet the real main characters of the story. The structure on this was cleverly done, taking someone who will definitely be unlikable and villainous to most readers and introducing him and his story first gives us almost – but just barely – some understanding of his motives. It gives us a reason for his actions and that add a surprising depth to the story. In the end of course I hated the guy and I loved everyone else, but that initial setup gave that hated individual depth.
This book for me was about the characters so the story and characters go hand in hand. It was so focused on them and their struggles and what was happening to them. The frame felt tight on our very select cast even though it was spread across time and over journeys. This definitely beefed up the story, pulled you into their struggles without allowing you to realize it. I finished it and had to take a week to decide if I loved or hated these people. They aren’t, any of them really, likable but I could definitely cheer for them and they grew on me.
The only place I struggled with this was just in pacing, and honestly this rolls back to the fact that I’ve struggled with my reading on Kindle. The flashbacks between the narrative of present day to that of the past slowed the tale down for me. Though by the end I was clamoring for both stories to end. I had become invested in both but it took a very long time to get over the pacing and build-up.
The writing itself is beautiful and really captured the settings both in the past and future. That rich setting and the characters that won’t get out of my head made this strong for me even if I struggled through it at times. It reminded me of The Wolf In The Attic, which I really enjoyed earlier this year. I definitely will read more by this author (in print form), and even more in this setting. I really recommend this, especially if you haven’t read anything with this setting.

Review and Thoughts : Far Thoughts and Pale Gods by Greg Bear

Far Thoughts and Pale Gods by Greg Bear
farthoughts

☆☆☆


Published by Open Road Media
Publication Date : April 26, 2016
Available as eBook – 320 Pages
Source : NetGalley – Thank you!

6 dazzling stories, freshly revised for this volume, plus new introductions, commentary, and reminiscences from the Hugo and Nebula Award winning author of”War Dogs,” “Eternity,” and”The Forge of God” Greg Bear is the author of more than 30 books, from thrillers (“Darwin s Radio,” “Vitals”) to science fiction (“Blood Music,” “Eon,” “Hull Zero Three”) to pure fantasy (“The Infinity Concerto,” “The Serpent Mage”). He has won 5 Nebula and 2 Hugo Awards, his works have been translated into more than 20 languages, and his titles have sold millions of copies worldwide. But his skills are not confined to writing at full-length novels: He is also the author of dozens of brilliant short stories, novellas, and novelettes.”Far Thoughts and Pale Gods”contains 6 highly acclaimed stories, each newly revised by the author, that illustrate Bear s abundant breadth of talent. The volume includes: . Heads, which marks the first time the concept of quantum computing appears in science fiction though it is a vision of 400 frozen heads that will remain in the reader s memory; . The Wind from a Burning Woman, the first story set in the universe that spawned the novels”Eon”and”Eternity”; . Plague of Conscience, which explores what it means to be alien and whether that can be comprehended without understanding what it means to be human; . Scattershot, beginning The teddy bear spoke excellent Mandarin, a gripping deep-space adventure that is also a tribute to legendary female science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr. These and the remaining entries Mandala and Petra form a remarkable collection showcasing the talents of a major American writer. Each story is accompanied by an introduction and an afterword written especially for this volume. 

Thoughts:
Far Thoughts and Pale Gods is one of three books released to collect some of Greg Bear’s short stories, be they part of established narratives or a standalone. I’ve never read Mr. Bear before, only seen his books on a great many shelves at the book store and library so I thought a short story collection would be a great introduction. I have to say I enjoyed it! I’ve been easing my way back into science fiction this year, and perhaps this is one that more threw me in kicking in screaming, but it was a great addition on my ladder. Mr. Bear seems to specialize in hard science fiction, but his work also carries a lot of the undertones that work for me. Things affecting human mentality, culture, or religion make the flesh around the Science Fiction backbone on these.
Even though I stumbled a bit through the first story in the collection, I managed to get my feet under me before it ended and wound up really happy with it. It was grim, but incredibly fascinating. The same can be said for the rest of these. They weren’t what I would call happy stories, but they were challenging and did make you think. The additional ‘context’ that Mr. Bear added to the stories at the beginning really helped. I wish more collections did this, it adds a lot to the story getting where it was coming from.
The stories managed, even if they were riddled with science and the ins and outs of the technical, to take a deeper look and I really appreciated that. I think Greg Bear has definitely made his way to my ‘to read’ list with these stories – I would call them smart science fiction. I’ll be picking up the rest of these to read for myself, I really recommend them if you’re ready to tackle some harder science fiction.

May 2016 Favorites!

♥Book

sleepinggiants (1)

Sleeping Giants! WEEEE!! So amazing. I don’t need to gush too much about it, I have a review coming up that you should go read if you’re interested but it’s definitely up there as my favorite book this month. The clever storytelling, the subtle but incredible character growth of our narrator, I could go on and on. Read this!

♥Music♥

No changes on the music front for me. Still digging Taylor Swift and still hooked on Pentatonix. I did, like two days ago, rediscover Kimbra and her music. I really like her older stuff, and I think it’s worth looking into!

♥Games♥

I’ve not played much outside of piddling around on World of Warcraft but I’ve been pretty heavily invested in watching Hubby play through Dark Souls 3. That’s a hell of a game guys. The first game way back in the day made Hubby rage quit. So I’m pretty shocked he’s loving this one so much but he really is. He spends his free time watching videos about it if he’s not playing it, it’s pretty fantastic.

♥Food♥

My mum and I are making jams and jellies this month! We made two runs of Strawberry (one jam and one jelly) and we experimented last week and made Mango Raspberry jam. It’s pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. So good, so, so good.

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♥TV/Movies♥

Hubby and I are watching Houdini and Doyle which I’m going to be honest may not be the best written TV show, but damn it’s fun. I love the interaction between Doyle and Houdini. The two were close friends in real life and I like to think the two got along a lot like they do here. Houdini is a huge dick, but I think he means well? Maybe? I adore Doyle and his smart but kind personality and Adelaide (based on a real person!) is pretty damn stellar too. I’m itching to see the next episode and what her *secret* is.

Houdini&Doyle

♥Misc♥

Can I favorite a medical item? My wrist splint?
I’m just kidding (sort of). I don’t have much for this, but I will say I’ve been loving Litsy! I’m on there as Sarrie. I try to post as much as I can but I’m using Hubby’s work phone till it comes to Android and his camera works about 30% of the time. When it does work I try to take a bunch of pics at once. Definitely look me up if you’re on there!

 

Thoughts and Review : A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Homes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro
☆☆☆

StudyCharlotte.jpg

Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date : March 1st, 2016
Available as Hardback & eBook – 321 Pages
Source : Public Library

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy.

Thoughts:
This blog is a blog of a Sherlock Holmes fan, if anyone has not been here long. So naturally any new adaptations coming through the pipes I want to get my hands on. In fact, and I touched on this in my review of The Invisible Library, I’m a big fan of the ‘Great Detective’ trope in general. A Study in Charlotte takes that trope, with the usual Sherlock dressing and turns it into a YA book that frankly is more modern than I think most would give it credit for at first glance.
All not bore you with a summary of the summary above but it’s important to note here, because I didn’t know going in (it caused me a bit of confusion at first) that in this world the Sherlock Holmes stories, though while published, were true accounts. Everything that we would read, so would these characters but in their world it was non-fiction, the real accounts of an eccentric and brilliant detective and his companion. So that makes for some interesting character dynamics between the great-something-grandson of Watson and the great-something-granddaughter of Holmes.
Both families (and other families from the stories *suggestive eyebrow wiggle*) for the most part stay true to their predecessors in interesting ways. The Holmes train their children to be like their famous ancestor while the Watsons… don’t but end up like him I feel. Our author takes some liberties with the original characters, gives insider information that may or may not be canon and gives them personality traits that weren’t clear in the originals. For me however these touches added. Not only that but they strengthened our modern day iterations.
Something else I loved was the presence but not overbearing presence of real issues in this book. Rape, drug abuse/use, sex, and gambling all come up but nothing is treated as a PSA which I frankly found a bit refreshing. This book definitely takes the story to a modern place and gives everyone modern looks that work for them. It’s an adaptation that really adapted for me.
Overall, if you like Sherlock Holmes and you like YA this could be fun. The only fault I can give it is the expected love subplot. However it wasn’t overpowering and it didn’t detract from our story, a nice change. I would very much recommend this one!

Thoughts and Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

SerpentKing☆☆☆☆☆

Published by Crown Books \ Random House
Publication Date : March 8th, 2016
Available as Hardback & eBook – 384 Pages
Source : Received within the February OwlCrate

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

Thoughts:
This may be a short review but one I felt I really wanted to make. The Serpent King captured for me something I’ve never really gotten in a YA book. The closest I can think of would be Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin. What both got was a sense of a place. Deadly Curiosities captured what Charleston means to me (as a place I frequented as a child and now again as an adult) and The Serpent King  captures perfectly to me what it was like growing up in East Tennessee. In the college town I went to school in is mentioned briefly. The book itself is set only a few hours from me, and I could feel that.
I was cautious going into this book, honestly. I had gotten the sampler at YALLFest – one of the few I actually read, and thought it sounded intriguing enough to add to the ‘Library’ list. When this popped out of my OwlCrate I was genuinely excited. So excited I tossed my TBR out the window and started this the next day. I was worried about the mention of religion and of the chance that the location would adversely affect the book. I’ve read plenty of books where the ‘Southerner’ trope is used and abused and let me tell you – I hate it.
These characters however had the quiet dignity and reserve I wanted. The stereotype of the shoe-less hillbilly is tired and done and I wear my shoes at least most of the time I should, thank you very much. Characters like Travis’s mom, with her quiet and meek support and love is something so familiar it makes my heart ache. On that note let me say that I adored our main characters in this and it genuinely broke me. At one point I turned to my husband at work and said ‘These are my babies and something bad is going to happen, I’m not ready for it’. About an hour later it happened and I wasn’t read then either.
The book is a touch predictable in what the ultimate climax is, the triggering event that changes everything, but that doesn’t take away from it’s impact and how it changes the story. If you at all care for contemporary YA or are at all interested in what I feel was a lovely and accurate representation of a lot of East Tennessee check this one out.

Thoughts and Review : Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Williams

AsteroidAsteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Williams

☆☆☆

Published by Sword & Laser
Expected Publication Date : April 5th, 2016
Available as Paperback & eBook – 260 Pages
Source : NetGalley, Thank you!

Official Sword & Laser Selection!

When a lone goblin researcher stumbles across an artifact containing a terrifying message—that the world is in grave and immediate peril—she scrambles to find help. A very unusual asteroid (one constructed as a cage for dragons) is headed straight for the planet, and Xenon is the only person in the world who knows. As she clambers across hill and dale with her quill, journal, and dwindling coin purse to untangle the mystery, she’ll need plenty of luck to find the right clues and the right sort of help.

Meanwhile, our heroes have their own problems. They have a bank to rob, a sea to cross, and a kingdom to infiltrate. Luckily, Rime is a wild mage—the laws of reality quiver when she gives them a stern look—and her guardian, Jonas, wields a reasonably sharp sword. But Rime is slipping ever closer to the abyss of madness, and Jonas is wanted for murder at their final port of call. To make matters worse, the mage-killing Hunt and its commander, Linus, follow the duo like a patient shadow, bent on Rime’s destruction.

When the wise are underfunded, the brave are overbooked, and the cruel are unconcerned, can the world be saved from destruction?

Thoughts:
Asteroid Made of Dragons starts off strong with a non-human protagonist that I almost immediately fell in love with. A goblin researcher named Xenon is way, way more invested in getting information and learning about the ancient races than she is in anything else – including her seeming safety. She stumbles upon an artifact that tells of some thing coming, something called Shame and with it Zero will rise.
From there I was hooked on for her story, but the novel also follows a mage on the cusp of being driven mad by her Wild Magic, a squire who does his best to care for her, and the almost immortal being who seems (in my opinion) to have completely lost his mind. We bounce between them, seeing the story as it develops and changes from each’s perspective. Which is always, for me, a clever and unique way of telling a story. I love separate narratives that wind up through crazy turns of events locked together. It’s something that tickles me so much.
But the story was lacking something too, there was nothing that quite had me wanting to pick it back up after that first chapter. I loved our little goblin character but her chapters seemed few and far between when sprinkled between the rest of our cast that I struggled to connect with. This turns out to be due to the fact that this is a third book in a series, something I hadn’t seen or heard in any previous reviews. The previous books look as if they follow our mage and squire, and I can see that if you’ve read those previous books you’ll clearly have more of a connection there. I didn’t, so it was very hard for me to care and some of the reactions and actions of these characters seemed a little over the top or childish.
That’s ultimately what lost some stars with me, it was a big enough deal through my reading to make it hard to pick up, hard to follow, and hard to finish. I’d say you may want to read the first two books in the series before picking this up. Had it not been for that I would have loved this book for just the characters alone. I may one day pick up copies of those first two and return to this, we’ll see. It’s a fun, imaginative, and well written read for the most part – just be sure to read those previous novels.
***I was provided a free copy of this book for review from NetGalley by the publishers, thank you! My review is my own thoughts and opinions and not swayed in anyway.***

Top 5 Wednesday : Books You DNF

I DNF a lot of things. There is only so much time in the day and I can’t read everything over the course of my life that I want to, so I decided I just don’t have to read something that I’m not enjoying. Most times I give books a 100 page rule, and if it fails it then I DNF it and get rid of it. There have been a few books I’ve DNF’d and will probably go back to because I’m not in the mood for it, but that doesn’t happen often.

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