Thursday, August 25, 2016

#Thursday Review - Breath of Earth by Beth Cato (Alternative History, Steampunk) @BethCato @HarperVoyagerUS

Series: Breath of Earth # 1
Format: E-Galley, 400 pages
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher
Genre: Alternative History, Science Fiction

After the earth’s power under her city is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magic to survive in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of the acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.
In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation— the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong secretary Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.
When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s power to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese forces, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming San Francisco into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .
Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

Breath of Earth is the first installment in author Beth Cato's new series called Breath of Earth. Cato is also the author of the steampunk driven duology known as Clockwork Dagger, as well as several novella's in the same universe. Breath of Earth is a story that takes place between April 15 and April 18, 1906. The last date should be familiar to anyone who has heard about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake that destroyed the city. 

The twist is that this series is set in an alternative history, steampunk world where the United States and Japan have formed an alliance called United Pacific. There are other alliances as well, including the Russian & Ottoman Empires. Cato has created a world where Japanese airships and technology helped the North win the Civil War. It is a world where Japan is the senior partner in the alliance with the US and has no hesitation in destroying China while showing its muscle. 

Geomancers are important to a city like San Francisco. They can absorb the energy from earthquakes, while keeping severe damage from happening. The energy they absorb, is transferred into a crystal known as Kermanite. 25-year old Ingrid Carmichael is the personal secretary to Earth Warden Sakaguchi, a member of the Cordillean Auxiliary of Geomancers. Ingrid, however, has a secret. She may be the only woman in history who is more powerful than those in the Auxiliary. Ingrid is able to store energy like a bank vault.

A fact that belays the  fact that she is also a woman who isn't white, which means that she gets very little respect if any, from men of this era. People actually people that Ingrid is an immigrant who is likely illiterate since only white people have the brains and skills to be a Geomancer. Cato doesn't hesitate to use sexism and racism to tell her story. Something that is actually a breath of fresh air and accurate for this era, especially towards the Chinese and women.

Ingrid's situation becomes dire when she and Warden Sakaguchi nearly die after a bomb goes off under the Auxiliary. Ingrid's powers become even more impressive when she is somehow able to save herself and the man who has raised her from a child. Ingrid's adventure starts in earnest after she meets the pacifists Cypress Jennings and his partner Fenris Braun who own a steam driven airship.  I loved the fact that Cato twists Theodore Roosevelt's history. Instead of becoming President, he is instead one of the powerful Ambassadors. 

I can't say this enough. If you are truly interested in learning more about this era, then please feel free to read the Afterward at how certain people were treated during this age. Happily, this book is not a standalone. I have been told that the next book will be titled Call of Fire, and will release in 2017. That's good news. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#Wednesday Review - The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (Young Adult, Fantasy)

Series: Seven Realms # 1
Format: Hardcover, 506 pages
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell—the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth. They're clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.
One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She's just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her...
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

The Demon King is the first installment in Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series. This series that alternatives narratives between two characters. The first is 16-year old Hanson "Han" Alister aka Hunts Alone. Han is a former street lord who has tried to stay on the straight and narrow for the sake of his mother and little sister. The second is Raisa ana'Marianna, the princess heir of the Fells who has been seeing the Grey Wolves that indicate that trouble is brewing. 

These two characters couldn't be more different. Han wears silver cuffs on his wrists, while Raisa has been raised not only in her mother's world, but also her fathers which is much more exciting. Hans best friend is known as Fire Dancer and seems to know a lot about magic. Raisa's is Amon Byrne who comes from a long line of guards who have sworn to protect the monarchy with their lives, if necessary. One could hint that Amon would have been the perfect romantic interest for Raisa had things been different.

After a brief encounter with Micah Bayar and friends who are all magicians, Hans finds an amulet that only he is able to touch. An Amulet that people will kill in order to find. Raisa, in the meantime, finds that her own mother may be under the sway of magic that nearly destroyed the seven realms during the reign of the Demon King and Hanalea who Raisa tries to emulate. Raisa's curiosity and bravery really gives this book the much needed kick it needs to get going. 

My reading of this particular novel became necessary after I read Chima's Flamecaster which takes place 20 years after this series. It became necessary because this novel really hits on several characters who will be important cogs in Chima's new series. The Demon King, for all purposes for this review, takes place a thousand years after an agreement between the clans and the Wizard Council ended the calamity that nearly destroyed the world. Yet, as history is often likely to repeat itself, readers will find subtle hints that things aren't exactly all that copacetic when it comes to peace and harmony in the Seven Realms. 

The Demon King is slow paced for the first part of this book and that's fine since you need to understand the world and the characters that you are attempting to connect to. Han truly is the most intriguing character because of his silver cuffs and his street creed and the clans who have basically raised him. Whenever I find myself reading an Epic Fantasy novel, I have to suspend disbelief at the situations that these characters find themselves in.

Aye, I dare say that Raisa is a bit pretentious and snotty at times. She spends too much time thinking about who she is supposed to marry, or who she is supposed to kiss, and ignores what is going on right under her eyes. When the grand scheme is finally exposed, it is then that Raisa shows who she is really capable of being. That being said, and this being the first book in the series, reading The Exiled Queen next is almost mandatory to ensure that you remember how this book ended. 

In the end, The Demon King is a story that is filled with magic, treachery, heart breaking loss, action, and a whole lot of interesting secondary characters that hopefully will carry over into the next installment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#Tuesday Review - The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson (Young Adult, Fantasy)

Series: The Remnant Chronicles # 3
Format: Hardcover, 679 pages
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.
In The Remnant Chronicles a princess must find her way in a reborn world, through cultures built on myth, fairy tale, and the disconnected pieces of a world gone by. It is a story about the resilience of humanity and the short reach of history. But mostly The Remnant Chronicles is about Lia, and her timeless story of love and sacrifice.
Lia, Rafe, and Kaden's story comes to an epic conclusion in the final book in The Remnant Chronicles.

The Beauty of Darkness is the third and final installment in author Mary E. Pearson's The Remnant Chronicles. Picking up right where The Heart of Betrayal left off, Pearson once again weaves her way through FOUR separate narratives as she has done in the previous installments. The narratives are from Princess Lia of Morrighan, Crown Prince Rafe from Dalbreck, Kaden, the notorious assassin from Venda, as well as Pauline, Lia's handmaiden who has been left behind to deal with Lia's disappearance and being named an enemy of the state. 

The Beauty of Darkness takes our characters from Venda, where Lia and Rafe, with the help from Jeb, Tavish, Orrin, and Sven have managed to escape in the most incredible way possible. To Dalbreck, where Rafe must face a kingdom in disarray, a challenge to his leadership, and a choice between saving Dalbreck which may or may not face a rather large Vendan army incursion, or helping Lia with her own issues. Finally, to Morrighan where Lia's actions have come home to roost, and where her final showdown with the Kamizar, her parents, and those who have supported the Kamizar's attempt at taking over her country remain at large.

This really is the first time that readers have seen Dalbreck even for a brief moment. One could also say that about Morrighan as well, but we do get more of a feeling of the cutthroat politics of both nations. 
Dalbreck is the place where Lia was supposed to be Queen of after events prior to this trilogy were set in motion. It is a place resplendent in riches and beauty. It is also the place where Rafe has to find himself and lead a country that has been shocked by the deaths of the countries monarchy. This is the place that Rafe left behind in order to chase Lia all the way to Venda and back when he could have returned home.

Readers, you have to really give Rafe a whole lot of credit for his patience like Job. At any point in this trilogy, he could have told Lia to stuff her self, and walked away. At many points in this book, he should have done just that because Lia was making mistakes left and right without thinking first. Yet, in the end, he goes above and beyond the call of duty and makes Lia's decisions look a whole lot better than they should have been. Lia ended up being a better character in this book, than in previous installments. She's more of a take charge person and damn if she didn't have a whole lot of issues to take charge of.

I am happy that Pearson did away with the silly love triangle. I would say that Kaden and Lia are better as friends, than as romantic interests. I loved Kaden in this book, as well as his friends Griz and Eben. I am happy that Kaden becomes someone Lia can rely on rather than someone she needs to fall in love with. I am happy that Pauline found a slice of her own happiness after being left behind to deal with Lia's disappearance. I even liked who Pearson gave her a happy ending with. Shocking to say that I won't spoil that point. 

I loved Orrin, Tavish, Jeb, and Sven. They were Rafe's brothers in arms, and Lia's protectors when she needed them the most. I have to say that I felt really awful for the Vagabonds who Lia met in The Kiss of Deception. But, I am happy that at least one of the characters, Natiya, got a chance to do her part. The Beauty of Darkness isn't a joyful novel. It is filled with despair, and bloodshed, and deaths of those who have been around since the beginning. It is a novel of reunions, backstabbing, prophecies, gifts, and characters who shine when the darkness is about to sweep over them. The ending leaves some unanswered questions, but overall, I can freely allow my mind to wander into the realm of what could possibility happen next.

Monday, August 22, 2016

#Monday Review - Admiral by Sean Danker (Science Fiction)

Series: Evagardian # 1
Format: Hardcover, 320
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: ROC
Source: Publisher
Genre: Science Fiction

“I was on a dead ship on an unknown planet with three trainees freshly graduated into the Imperial Service. I tried to look on the bright side.”  
He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer. 
Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.

Admiral is the first installment in author Sean Danker's Evagardian series. Admiral is a militaristic science fiction story that features the narrative of a lead character named Admiral. The story begins when "Admiral" wakes up in his sleeper pod to find that he has been stranded on a dead Ganrean trade ship with three others. He soon discovers that he has been given the label of Admiral, and that the other three survivors are all recent graduates of the Evagardian Academy headed for the Julian, the Empresses' own flagship.

The graduates are Lt. Deilani, who sees the Admiral as either a Spy, a fraud, or someone not to be trusted. She does almost everything in her powers to push his buttons and get to admit who he really is without any success. Ensign Nils, who mostly follows his orders and is the most brilliant engineer you will find. He skills are more than impressive. Private Salmagard is a negotiator who recognizes who recognizes the Admiral, but doesn't give away who she thinks he really is. She follows his lead all the way without much if any hesitation. 

The one thing the crew can agree on, however, is that this unknown Admiral has some skills. He knows the ins and outs of the situation and has the leadership to put things into motion. He's not just a stationary subject that dictates to others while sitting around reading a book, or feeding his face with the short supply of food. Each of the characters brings their own goods along with them. Deilani knows her medical sciences, Nils is MacGyver in space, while Salmagard isn't afraid to get her hands dirty and is probably my favorite character. There might even be a bit of a romantic connection had the author leaned that way.

With the four facing life or death consequences from being stranded on a dead ship with no other surviving crew members, the mystery behind who the Admiral is remains something that will remain a secret until perhaps the sequel or mayhap a prequel? The four not only have to deal with a dead ship that is slowly tearing itself apart, but a planet that has a strange green atmosphere and alien life forms. They have to deal with the reality that they are putting their trust in someone they really don't know. They have to trust that he will somehow lead them to safety, and not leave them behind to the planet that is home to some very interesting alien life. They have to also deal with the fact that they are on a hostile planet where anyone could capture them and use them as cannon fodder to get what they want from the Evagardian's. Admiral is an intriguing book that reminds me of the original Aliens or the Martian. I shall definitely be reading the sequel called Free Space

Saturday, August 20, 2016

#Stacking the Shelves / Bought, Borrowed & Bagged # 29 < Library Haul Week >

Bought Borrowed and Bagged is all about the latest additions to your library – virtual or actual, with books that are  bought, borrowed, won or ARCs  you will be reading soon. Bought Borrowed and Bagged is a homage to to Barron’s Books and Baubles from Karen Marie Moning’s amazing Fever series, and is hosted by Braine over at Talk Supe. 

Thanks for Shopping by!
Nice Library Haul This Week!
Have a great weekend! 

This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - Ghost Talkers - Mary Robinette Kowal (Historical Fiction)

Tuesday - Poisoned Blade - Kate Elliott (YA, Fantasy)

Wednesday - Flamecaster - Cinda Williams Chima (YA, Fantasy)

Thursday - Omega - Lizzy Ford (YA, Dystopian, Mythology)

Friday - Unbreakable - Liz Long (YA, Science Fiction)

Saturday - Extracted - Sherry Ficklin/Tyler Jolley (YA, SyFy, Time Travel)

Scheduled for Next Week: 

Monday - Admiral by Sean Danker (Adult, Science Fiction)

Tuesday - The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson (YA, Fantasy)

Wednesday - The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (YA, Fantasy)

Thursday - Breath of Earth by Beth Cato (Alt History, Science Fiction)

Friday - The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (YA, Science Fiction)

Saturday - The Tattooed Heart by Michael Grant (YA, Fantasy)

Coming August 30

Unraveled by Jennifer Estep Blog Tour Stop

*Received from NetGalley, Library, Amazon*


Friday, August 19, 2016

#Steampunk Saturday - Extracted by Sherry Ficklin & Tyler Folley (Young Adult, Steampunk Science Fiction)

Series: The Lost Imperials # 1
Format: E-Galley, 323 pages
Release Date: August 15, 2016
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Two opposing factions of time travelers vie for control of the future in this thrilling steampunk series opener dubbed "Interesting" and "Unexpected" by Kirkus Reviews.

Lex and Ember—two time travelers with no memories of their lives before being recruited into the time war—are torn between the factions. When Lex accepts a mission that lands him deep within the heart of the Telsa Institute, he meets Ember, and the past that was stolen from them comes flooding back. Now armed with the truth of who they were, Lex and Ember must work together to save the future before the battle for time destroys them once again.

*This special edition contains expanded content and bonus material not found in the first release.

Extracted is the first installment in co-authors Sherry Ficklin & Tyler Folley's The Lost Imperials series. Extracted is a story that is being re-released by Clean Team Publishing with additional material. It is a story that has all my favorite elements; Steampunk, Time Travel, Science Fiction, and Alternative History with historical figures. Extracted alternates narratives between two individuals who are on the opposite sides of time traveling war and have no memories of their past.

Ember, who was saved a year ago, belongs to The Tesla Institute named after Nikola Tesla. The Tesla Institute is apparently the premier academy for training young time travelers who are called Rifters. How Tesla finds these individuals, isn't exactly clear. Lex belongs to a group called The Hollows that is considered to be rogue Rifters. They are presumed to be no more than time bandits who care little about the consequences they might leave behind. They are led by the mysterious Claymore. Some of their members are Tesla washouts left behind to die.

Ember and Lex have no memories of the life they left behind. They each have their own romantic interests. Ember with Ethan, Lex with Stein. They don't realize that they are connected until they meet on a fateful mission that sends Lex into enemy territory to retrieve a DOX so that he can find a way to save Stein who dies on a terrible mission to a place that shouldn't exist. When this scene pops up, you are immediately brought back to pre-Communist Russia and the family of the last Czar and his family who was needlessly executed. If you can guess right now who these two characters are, you are bloody brilliant! 

Here's what makes this story fun for me. Ember is such a wonderful character. She is quick, strong, fast, clever, and her body moves and reacts on its own. She is able to do things that other Rifters are unable to do. She slowly starts to gain back her memories of her past and who she really is, after passing her final test to become an operative. From there, she starts to question whether or not Tesla really intends on preserving the time stream or is he searching for something he lost. This is where the Tesla parts of the story become important not to ignore. Trust me when I say that by the time you get to the ending, you will find a shocking secret waiting for you.

Lex is not so different from Ember. He's one of the leaders of the Hollow. He is in love with Stein but has trouble putting words to emotions. He goes above and beyond the call of duty when he tries to save Stein, and later gets stunning news after encountering Ember at Tesla. Lex is a great character, and one that you will be eager to see what happens next. This is a story that has so many honest to goodness strong secondary characters, that you really can't ignore them. I especially love Stein and Ethan. Each has their own baggage to carry, and each will eventually have their own books to tell their stories.

Have you figured out which historical figures Ember and Lex are? Let me give you a hint. They are Romanov's. Ok, Ok, how about
Anastasia and Alexei? 

#Friday Review - Unbreakable: Heroes of Arcania by Liz Long (Young Adult, Science Fiction)

Series: Heroes of Arcania
Format: Mobi, 262 pages
Release Date: August 18, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace
Source: Author
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

True heroes refuse to be broken.
Nova started the fight against Fortune for simple revenge, but now it’s turned into something much bigger. Arcania’s criminals are at each other’s throats, putting the city right in the middle of a war-zone. She’ll have to work with a few unlikely allies to end Fortune’s games once and for all. Nova thought she understood what it meant to be a superhero, but will she have to lose herself to truly defeat Fortune? 

Fortune has given Cole a choice, one with unbearable consequences. When Cole takes matters into his own hands to save his sister Penelope, he realizes too late he’s another pawn in Fortune’s games. Fortune will use Cole’s gift against his enemies…including Nova. Cole will have to become the hero he always wanted to be if he’s going to protect the love of his life. 

Nova and Cole could finally save Arcania from Fortune’s deadly games, but are they willing to sacrifice each other?

Unbreakable is the third and final installment in author Liz Long's Heroes of Arcania trilogy. When last we left Nova Benson, aka Supernova, she was being tossed out a window by her arch-nemesis Fortune while holding a bomb. At the same time, Cole Warner was taken by a teleporter to Fortune, where he is given an ultimatum. He can either save his sister Penelope, or bring him Nova in hopes she will join with him and stop fighting him ever inch of the way. Cole's choice will have immediate implications for everyone involved. 

Once again, Long alternatives narratives between Nova and Cole. I have absolutely no complaints at this since you get both characters perspectives while they are away from each other, and together trying to find a way to defeat Fortune. Nova Benson, who has impenetrable skin, increased strength, speed, and agility, became a superhero after her younger sister Sterling was murdered in cold blood by Fortune. In a town that is over run with criminals and like minded folks with powers, Nova has become a beacon of hope for the innocents who end up caught in the middle.

Sterling knew all about her abilities as an Unbreakable and encouraged her to not follow in her father's footsteps and become a lawyer. Since then, Nova has joined with Cole to form a group that has been called vigilantes by the citizens of Arcania, as well as the police, including Detective Barnes who is like an itch you can't reach when it comes to digging into who Nova and Cole really are, and what they are really up to. In the last book, Nova's best friend Henry Wheeler discovered a secret that has set him on a new path. Can Henry survive in a world where powerful beings can crush him like a bug?

While Nova is struggling with Cole's choice, and the fact that Penelope has become her new partner in his absence, Cole has to work to find a way to get Fortune to trust him until Nova can find a key figure that will bring Fortune down. Trust doesn't come easy to a man who can control electricity and has people who can quickly teleport his posse away from trouble quickly. Cole's journey isn't at all easy. He's tested time and time again. He knows that Fortune isn't messing around with him, nor does he truly trust Cole. Yet, Fortune can offer something Cole wants; more training in how to use his timekeeper abilities.

One of the things I have been most impressed with in this series, besides the action, suspense, romance, and powerful villains, is the fact that Nova's parents are engaged. They may not like the fact that she is running around saving the day, but they haven't sat her down and demanded that she cease and desist. They haven't demanded that she move out of town in order to stay away from Fortune and the powerful gangs that run Arcania. On the other side of the coin, Cole and Penelope's relationship really comes full circle, while their father Benjamin has to make choices of his own. 

If you have read the previous two installments, then you know that there is a prophecy when it comes to Penelope. A prophecy that she learned about in Supernova which sent her off with Fortune and his hodge podge group of supervillains who all have super abilities. I will say that I am more than happy with Penelope being back in the fold, and for the choice she is forced to make. I am happy that Henry, and Nova are still friends no matter what happened in the previous installments. I loved the ending to this series. I dare say that I am totally OK with how Long wraps up her story line. I am also grateful that she reached out to me and offered access to all three titles in lieu of an honest review.