[Ren] The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas #1) by Meljean Brook

The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas #1) by Meljean BrookTitle: The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas #1)
Author: Meljean Brook
Published: October 1st, 2010
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 teacups

Steampunk alternate universe in which the Horde (Gengis Khan’s Mongols) invaded Europe centuries ago, infecting almost everybody’s blood with “bugs”. Some of the bugs turned people into mindless, ravaging zombies, and most of continental Europe is now a wasteland hunted by those creatures. In England, instead, bugs were used by the Horde overlords to brainwash everyone into slaves. Then, nine years ago, the titular Iron Duke destroyed the tower that the Horde used for mind control, and after a bloody revolt England is free again.

I’m really, really torn about this book. On one hand, I LOVED the worldbuilding. Society is still struggling to adapt after centuries of slavery — for example, the Horde had abolished marriages among the lower classes and babies were raised in crèches, so people don’t even have a concept of traditional family any more. It’s really interesting to see this alternative society in which noblewomen campaign for women’s right to marry instead of going to work.

And the steampunk bits! Aside from the bugs, which are used to make people stronger and resistant to illness or injury, there are a slew of machines and inventions: automatons, mechanical prosthetics, steam-powered carriages, airships… I always felt that a steampunk book is not really steampunk unless there’s an airship in it, and this book has one hell of an airship!

I haven’t even mentioned the characters yet. The protagonist is Mina Wentworth, a detective inspector with the London metropolitan police. She’s half-Horde, which means that everyone looks down on her and she goes everywhere escorted by a constable to avoid being harassed. (Or rather, to be harassed by fewer people.) When the story starts, she’s whisked away from a ball to investigate a mysterious death in the Iron Duke’s residence.

Now for the sad part of the review. I really really HATED the Iron Duke and the shitty romance that ensued. The problem is that the author built such a fascinating world, with such a different society, and then when it came to the romance she went for the rapey tropes that were outdated twenty years ago. The Iron Duke is a complete douchecanoe who falls in love/lust with Mina at first sight. Mina won’t give him the time of the day, so when she needs to go save his brother, he says that he’ll take her on his ship if she agrees to sleep with him in exchange.

Obviously the Iron Duke’s POV is full of crap about how he won’t force her because he loves her sooo much, but Mina is not a mind reader so she’s fucking terrified of the Iron Duke most of the time. Until she realizes she wants him too, and suddenly everything’s okay. What a good romance.

So I was judging the stupid Iron Duke for several chapters, but I couldn’t put the book down because they were on an airship! Things were happening! There were krakens and a threat to all of England! Zombies too! Gliders! My reading experience was a constant back and forth between “YAY STEAMPUNK!” and “EW ROMANCE!” — and I say this as a fan of romance. It wouldn’t have taken much for me to like the Iron Duke, I don’t mind romance tropes, I like romance tropes. I just hate the very shitty ones, like in this instance.

Everything would have been fine if the stupid Iron Duke had managed to behave like a decent human being instead of forcing his stupid self on Mina until she decided that she wanted him as well. And despite all of Mina’s weapons and the fact that her subordinates call her “sir”, that only makes me wonder why she doesn’t use her sword on the Iron Duke every time he gets into her personal space.

I’ve also read a couple of the novellas set in the same universe, “The Blushing Bounder” and “Here There Be Monsters”, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my enjoyment of those stories is inversely proportional to how much of a douche the male love interest is. Overall: awesome world, shitty men. Since the next books are about different people, I’ll try my luck and hope that those gentlemen will actually behave like gentlemen for a change. Otherwise I’ll have to do like Scarsdale, and get drunk or dose myself with opium whenever the Iron Duke is around.

Ren

Quickfire Reviews • Waistcoats, Perks, Symmetry, Beauty Queens, and Dark Minds

Quickfire Reviews

Waistcoats & Weaponry

Book: Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger
Rating: 5 out of 5 teacups

It’s been a while since I finished this book but aaaaahhhhh I had so many feels! Everything was so exciting and I very much adored the girls leaving the school grounds (so to speak) and adventuring. Not sure how much I like the romantic interest bits but ughhh I just love the world that Carriger created. Plus, I really adore reading about girls being kickass. The whole secret agent thing is fabulous and I love just how much these girls care about each other, especially in this book when they’re hellbent on helping Sidheag. Ugh. SO good!

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 teacups

Alas, I wanted to like it more than I did. It wasn’t a terrible book, far from it, but I think maybe the whole coming of age bracket in the genre is just not my thing. Perks reminded me quite a bit of The Catcher in the Rye, which made me rage a lot at the time. I just have no patience for main characters like these and maybe I would’ve liked the book more had I been younger, you know? It’s not bad, it’s just not my thing and I couldn’t really identify with Charlie at all. I was just exasperated with him. Not the character’s fault, of course, I just have very little patience with these stories.

 

Her Fearful Symmetry

Book: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Rating: 3 out of 5 teacups

Niiiiiice book. Here’s the thing with Niffenegger’s books: I can’t really build up an emotional connection to them, I will not fangirl or moan about them, but I will be incredibly intrigued by them. In particular, Her Fearful Symmetry wasn’t very big on the likeable characters front, I couldn’t identify with any of them and the mystery was easy to unravel if you wanted to (I sort of called everything, and the things I didn’t call I at least sort of had an inkling about), but ohhh the story-telling was pretty neat. It kept me glued to the pages (actual pages, for once! I read a physical copy of a book, go me!) and I just had continue reading so I could find out if my suspicions were true. They were. I’m afraid the title sort of gave a bit of it away, after a while, but this book combines some of my favourite things: twins, ghosts, and being set in the UK, and I really enjoyed how it all turned out. Only three stars because it wasn’t much of a OMGWTFBBQ sort of book, but it was good and I liked the dark tone of it, the differences between the twins, the twins trying to figure out why their mother wasn’t allowed to visit with them and stuff like that. I really liked that.

 

Beauty Queens

Book: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Rating: 5 out of 5 teacups

If you do not like this book, please take your opinion out with the trash where it belongs. (I kid. You are of course welcome to dislike a book. Any book.) I loved Beauty Queens. It was G.R.E.A.T. It was hilarious and beautiful and full of sarcasm and satirical remarks on good ol’ ‘murricah and by god, I loved it so so so much. The characters, a bunch of pageant contestants, started out really shallow and dumb — just like you’d expect, but then bam! These are all smart girls who know how to do certain things and they’re winners at life on this seemingly secluded island. I loved everything about them and whether or not you think it’s silly to set up a story like this, it just made me grin from ear to ear. This is a book about kickass girls doing awesome things, quite unlike what society expects of them. I loved the inclusion of LGBT issues particularly and idk Libba Bray wrote a fabulous thing here and I am glad that Ren told me to read it.

 

The Darkest Minds

Book: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Rating: 4 out of 5 teacups

Oooh, I liked this book a lot more than I expected! Which is good because I bought a physical copy of it and I always get more upset when I dislike physical copies. The premise of kids with brainy powers is particularly fascinating and I quite like seeing it all through the eyes of Ruby, who is far from perfect. Most of the time YA protagonists are just good at everything they do and of course the hero isn’t the shy quiet kid, but I am always so much more interested in those characters. Ruby grows a lot as a person and while other readers might be frustrated with how naive she is, I understand where she comes from. The girl is sixteen, for heaven’s sake! I’m pretty sure I was worse than her at that age. The only thing that bugged me was that I didn’t really understand the implications of the “disease”, either because I didn’t get it or because it wasn’t explained very well. But there were kids dying left and right and there was no explanation for that, only that the kids who weren’t dying were ~~~evil~~~. So. I hope I can figure that out for myself before I start Never Fade.

Isa

[Ren] Arsenic For Tea (Wells and Wong #2) by Robin Stevens

Arsenic For Tea (Wells and Wong #2) by Robin StevensReview copy badgeTitle: Arsenic For Tea (Wells and Wong #2)
Author: Robin Stevens
Published: October 27th, 2014
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 teacups

Once again we travel back to 1930s England, land of murders and bunbreaks, where schoolgirl detectives Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells are spending the hols at Daisy’s ancestral home. There’s also some family members and friends staying over for Daisy’s birthday party, and everyone knows what happens every time a group of Englishmen have a party in an isolated country house: someone’s going to get offed. Predictably, Hazel isn’t too pleased with having to deal with yet another murderer while Daisy is jumping at the change to solve the mystery before the adults… at least until she realizes that there’s a very good chance that someone in her family is a killer.

So I was going to do a serious (aka boring) review as usual, but then this happened:

…Okay then. This is going to be easier for me since I only have muddled, incoherent thoughts about this book. Usually when I read there’s a part of me that’s dissecting the plot and the characters and filing everything away for later. In this case however my train of thoughts was more like HAZEL IS MY BABY! OH LOOK BUNBREAKS!!! IS THAT UNCLE FELIX??? YAY DAISY!! OH NO DON’T CRY!!!! LET’S SOLVE THE MURDER!!!!!! FRIENDSHIP!! WHO DID THE MURDER?????? YAY TEATIME AGAIN!


An accurate representation of the reviewer reading the book.

First books are a gamble because I don’t know if I’m going to love or hate a series until I start it. But second books are the real test, especially when the bar has been set pretty high. “Murder Most Unladylike was pretty much perfect, how is it possible to top that?” I wondered as I perused the book’s page on NetGalley. This is totally what I told Isa at that time, and not “oggjhfjfnmas[expletive] i’m gonna request it and then cry when they reject me because our blog is not popular”.


Reviewer’s reaction on receiving an advance copy of the book.

It hadn’t occurred to me at first that not all Wells & Wong books could be set at a boarding school. I do love boarding school books, but yeah, it’d get a bit implausible in the end if they just kept killing off the Science mistress every schoolyear like they did with DADA teachers in Harry Potter. So while I got the change of setting, and I loved Fallingford, also like Hazel I felt a bit homesick for the familiar background of the school from the previous book. Reading about Daisy’s family was just like meeting someone you’ve heard a lot about. Especially Dashing Uncle Felix (yep I’m pretty sure that’s his full name) whom I’d be dying to learn more about since Isa pointed out that he’s the mysterious uncle who taught Daisy how to break into a car and told her that dead bodies are heavy.


In my mind Dashing Uncle Felix looks a lot like Rupert Everett with a monocle.

Everything is very British, including the fact that Daisy’s birthday party is a “children’s tea party”, whatever that means. From what I gathered, it means that there are children around and people serve themselves (shock!) instead of needing a butler to hand them the scones. Obviously it doesn’t take long before one of the guests drops dead… no, wait, it does take a while because apparently arsenic doesn’t work instantly like in the films. Anyway. Eventually one of the guests drops dead, which is very sad.


All that wasted tea and cakes. A tragedy.

Who ruined the tea party?? Hazel would like to go back to a time and place when it was safe to have tea without having to wonder if it was poisoned. If she read more of Daisy’s books she’d know that it’s too late by now: if you solve a murder, you’ll spend your life stumbling into dead bodies. Well-known cosmic law. Just look at Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher, it’s a wonder there was anyone still alive in their village!


But let’s have a cuppa anyway, poison’s no excuse to miss tea.

So Hazel and Daisy are investigating the crime, but (obviously) the house is isolated and (obviously) this means the murderer must be one of the guests. Usually, you know, who cares. The detectives are usually guests themselves, the reader has only just been introduced to those characters. HOWEVER! This time the moment when Daisy realizes “whooops is Mummy or Daddy a possible murderer?” is also the moment when I realized “whooops I’m too emotionally invested in those fictional characters”. So I have my list of suspects, and I’m trying to guess the culprit as usual, but my thoughts are all skewed because I DON’T WANT THEM TO BE GUILTY, DAISY WILL BE SAD!


I AM EMOTIONALLY COMPROMISED BECAUSE OF FICTIONAL CHARACTERS!

Safe to say, I didn’t figure out the culprit before Hazel and Daisy solved the case. I guessed some things, and I might have put some of the pieces together if I stopped to think about it, but I couldn’t stop because for the last few chapters I was glued to my kindle and crossing all my fingers that everything would end well. In between there were a lot of shenanigans that mostly I didn’t mention because I didn’t have suitable gifs on hand, I’ll just say that my favourite scene was probably the one with Daisy under her bed. I think I liked Daisy a lot more in this book (which means I liked her lots and lots, since I already liked it a fair bit in MMU).

I miiight like MMU a little bit more because of the setting (boarding schools yay) but overall: THIS BOOK, I LIKE IT!

So, now that I’m done being excited about the awesomeness that was this book, FIRST CLASS MURDER (WELLS & WONG #3) IS GOING TO BE SET ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (DURING THE HOLS??) AND THAT’S PRETTY MUCH THE BEST SETTING EVER SO GO READ ARSENIC FOR TEA, AND IF YOU’VE READ IT THEN READ IT AGAIN. Or idk go back to Deepdean and the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Regular reviews will resume as soon as I stop flailing, in the meantime you can communicate with me through gifs of British actors and biscuits. Bye.

Ren

[Ren] Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman

Eighty Days by Matthew GoodmanTitle: Eighty Days
Author: Matthew Goodman
Published: February 26th, 2013
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 teacups

A non fiction book that sometimes reads like Victorian speculative fiction, Eighty Days tells the true story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, two Americans who at the end of the nineteenth century raced against time (and against each other) to try and set a record for the fastest trip around the globe.

I have of course read Verne’s Around The World In Eighty Days, but I’d never heard about Nellie Bly, so I was excited to discover how the fictional character of Phileas Fogg influenced this very real race. Since this is not fiction, there are no shipwrecks or daring rescues or police chases; but the hazards of nineteenth century travels left just enough suspense that until the last few chapters I was left wondering how it would all turn out. Plus, being females and also real people, Bly and Bisland are much more interesting characters than Phileas Fogg.

Bly was a female journalist at a time when people thought women were only good for writing gossip columns and such. She started her career with an expose of the appalling conditions in mental asylums, and went on from there. Bisland was a more conventional woman journalist, at least outwardly. She was originally from the South and wrote poetry and literary reviews. From the start, their opposing characters make for a good story, with Bly pestering her editors to let her try to make this record journey around the world, and Bisland reluctant to go because of the “vulgar” publicity that she would receive.

Though I didn’t know anything about the subject beforehand, it’s obvious that the author did his research. In reading a novel about historical characters there’s always the doubt: can we be sure that they thought this? did they really feel that way or is the author making it up? Goodman draws extensively from Bly’s and Bisland’s own accounts, and from other period sources, and every line of dialogue is annotated in the appendix. In this regard, he was very thorough.

…Which brings me to my only complaint about the book, but it’s a bit one. In his zeal to paint a complete picture of this world race, Goodman goes off on endless tangents. There are pages and pages about famous characters who are somehow related to the story, like Jules Verne who aside from writing Around The World met Bly when she was passing through France. If Bisland stopped to have lunch at a hotel, the dining room is described, as well as the waiters, plus of course the food, and then there will be a digression on the town and its climate and its people and whatnot.

At first I enjoyed the asides about New York and the publishing industry, because they helped set the story in a place and time I am not very familiar with. But after two thirds of the book they started to become wearisome. I realized at some point that I was reading a lengthy account about the medical problems of Joseph Pulitzer, who was in the book only because he owned The World, which was the newspaper Bly worked for… And I couldn’t care less about Pulitzer’s sensitive nervous system.

So I skipped that bit, and all other digressions I didn’t care about, and I managed to finish the book without falling asleep. There’s just too much stuff in the book, which could and should have been edited out. If it physically pained Goodman to leave out the details about the house where Pulitzer lived, he could have put all that extra info in an appendix. The story of Bly and Bisland and their race is very compelling, but all the extraneous information weighs it down unnecessarily.

Overall, a solid book, but since he quoted him extensively Goodman might as well have taken Pulitzer’s advice and cut some of the unnecessary digressions.
Ren

What’s Up Buttercup • December Edition

What's Up, Buttercup?
What’s Up Buttercup is an overview of the past, present and future here on Words in a Teacup, posted around the middle of the month.

 

♦ A Small Update ♦

What's Been Going On:

As you may have noticed, we’ve barely been around lately. :( Alas, we miss blogging and commenting and participating in the community, but time is a rare commodity for us these days. I know, I know, you’re going to say “well, if you love something, you’ll make time for it!” You’re right, of course, but until they invent 48-hour days while keeping the work hours we have, time isn’t going to magically appear for us. If only we had a time-turner!

We’re still here and still reading posts if we get around to it, but looking through 200 unread posts every other day is a daunting task that can hardly be finished.

Did you know that Ren doesn’t like cheese? I know, right?! It’s a mystery to me that I’ve collected a bunch of friends who do not like cheese, actually. Am I a cheese-disliker magnet?

So anyhow, we’ve decided to cut back a lot. Not that we’ve been producing tons of posts, but we decided to take away some of the pressure we put on ourselves. Not taking review requests (UNLESS YOU ARE MARISSA MEYER PLEASE ASK US TO DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, MISS MEYER, WE WILL EVEN GIVE YOU OUR SOULS IF NEEDED) is part of it, but we’ve also decided to skip out on PFM for the time being and reviews (and other posts?? we just don’t know) will happen on a if-we-can-be-bothered-to-write-them basis.

Did you know that in order to sleep the ideal amount of time on nights before my early shift, I would need to go to bed before I even get home from work? I know, right?! What a marvellous way of creating loathing and despair.

In the meantime, please check out all the other sites in the great sea of internetty publications, such as Oh, the Books!, which has amazing round-ups every Sunday (the only book-related posts I religiously read, negl) or The Toast for all the possible needs you might have.

Did you know that on New Year’s Eve, the bakery shop that I work in will get at least 2,000 jam-filled doughnuts with sugar icing? And that’s only the ones with regular jam and sugar icing! There’s also regular ones with sugar on top, the ones with plum jam in it, or nougat, or marzipan, or egg liqueur. I’m already terrified of the numbers alone.

We wish you Happy Holidays, Happy Winter, Happy Friday and an otherwise Happy Time. ♥
Isa

 

[Ren] Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia BriggsPick For Me badgeTitle: Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Published: May 12th, 2014
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of werewolves and I’m generally bored by shapeshifters and similar paranormal elements. I started this series because I was intrigued by a short story set in the same universe. All things considered, I thought this book was okay.

The protagonist, Mercy, is a badass werecoyote. She also doesn’t look like the person on the cover of the book, since she spends most of the time wearing ill-fitted borrowed clothes because she tends to lose or destroy her own shirts… but then again, when ever have fantasy covers been realistic. Problem is, for a badass werecoyote, she’s also rather dull. As I was reading, I felt as if the book had the potential to be really entertaining, if only I wasn’t stuck inside the boring POV of Mercy Thompson. Which, you know, is a bit of a problem since the series is named after her. I sat on this review for a while, and after a week or so the only thing I remember about Mercy’s personality is… uh… she has a cat?

The secondary characters are marginally more interesting, though my enjoyment of Adam was slightly dampened by the fact that he looks like a corner of a love triangle. The worldbuilding and lore is by far the most interesting part of the novel, even considering that I don’t care much for werewolves. In fact, I didn’t mind when the action was paused for a bit of info dump, though it might be annoying if you’re into whatever Mercy is doing at the time.

As for me, I’m on the fence about this series. Bits of it were really cool but I think I’ll need a break of several months before my next dose of werewolves, especially since a love triangle seems to be looming over the horizon.
Ren

Top Ten Tuesday • Sequels I Can’t Wait To Get

top ten tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme/feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

 

It’s probably still Tuesday somewhere in the world. Maybe. Possibly.

Top Ten Sequels I Can’t Wait To Get

  1. Arsenic for Tea (Wells and Wong, #2) by Robin Stevens: January 29th 2015
  2. More cute girl detectives! Poisoning! Bunbreaks! Plus, Robin Stevens’s tweets are adorable and she’s already teasing about book #3 which will be set on a train!

  3. The Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoir by Lady Trent, #3) by Marie Brennan: March 1st 2015
  4. One day I will cave in and get the whole series in hardcover because of those stupidly pretty wraparound covers. This book is set on a ship! And there are (more) dragons!

  5. Who Buries the Dead (Sebastian St. Cyr, #10) by C.S. Harris: March 3rd 2015
  6. I still haven’t grown tired of Sebastian and Hero.

  7. Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories, #5) by Mary Robinette Kowal: April 28th 2015
  8. Last book in the series, which… feels about right. I’m curious to see how it’ll end (I predict babies) and I’m looking forward to whatever Kowal will write next. Her NaNoWriMo project looks awfully intriguing.

  9. The Stars of Summer (All Four Stars, #2) by Tara Dairman: May 5th 2015
  10. Seriously cute cover, and a cute food critic at summer camp!

    Arsenic for Tea The Voyage of the Basilisk Who Buries the Dead Of Noble Family The Stars of Summer

    Those next 5 books are so far into the future that they don’t have an official cover yet… Sob sob.

  11. Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer: November 24th 2015
  12. I NEED THIS BOOK TO BE OUT BUT I DON’T WANT THE SERIES TO EVER END.

  13. Hoarfrost (Whyborne & Griffin #6) by Jordan L. Hawk: 2015 maybe?
  14. She has been writing a couple of books every year so first or second quarter of 2015 is not impossible.

  15. Captive Prince: Volume Three by C.S. Pacat: 2015 hopefully?
  16. But it’s still being written so your guess is as good as mine.

  17. The Bastards and the Knives (Gentleman Bastard, #0)by Scott Lynch: 2017 possibly? who knows?
  18. I should’ve listed Gentleman Bastard #4 rather than #0, since that’s a prequel technically, but #0 will have the Sanzas! And Bug! So I’m a lot more excited about that one, and also I haven’t read book #3 yet, ooops.

  19. The Winds of Winter (A Song of Ice and Fire, #6) by George R.R. Martin: NEVER

Are you reading any of those series? Which ones are you most looking forward to?

Ren

What’s Up Buttercup • November Edition

What's Up, Buttercup?
What’s Up Buttercup is an overview of the past, present and future here on Words in a Teacup, posted around the middle of the month.

 

What's Been Going On:

  • WE MET ON NOVEMBER 1ST SO WE COULD GO AND SEE WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE IN HAMBURG AND IT WAS AMAZING (both the meeting and WTNV). We have photographic evidence too:

    There would’ve already been a post about it but some people on this blog are lazy butts.

  • Ren made a list of Top Ten new series she wants to start. We’ll see how that goes for her!
  • November’s Pick-For-Me is in full swing and while Isa’s not even midway through one of her picks, Ren has already finished one of hers! (Way to go, Ren, especially after you so steadfastly ignored the last couple of PFMs.)
  • Ren also made a list of her Top Ten books she wants to re-read. It goes without saying that Know Not Why (you should all read that, btw, it’s awfully cute and fluffy) and Harry Potter made the list. They’re both all-time favourites of ours.
  • The following week, we banded together and both contributed to the Top Ten Tuesday post! There are so many characters we wish would get their own books, it’s a miracle that we even like the books that they are only secondary characters in. Can you guess who wrote about which characters, though?
  • In blog-unrelated news, Isa is almost through her probation period (two more weeks!!! I can do this!!) of her apprenticeship. She’s also fallen into a pit of Fleetwood Mac and can’t get out. (You haven’t had a religious experience yet unless you’ve seen Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham be awfully cozy together post-breakup. And look at that cute dancing… I might be suffering from emotions due to this. Similarly, seeing them perform Rhiannon is like watching an exorcism and it’s amazing. 10/10 would recommend on-stage exorcisms if they include Stevie Nicks.)

 

Recently Reviewed

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley The Circus of the Damned by Cornelia Grey Bloodline by Jordan L. Hawk Black Dog by Cat Grant The Heiresses by Sara Shepard Also Known As by Robin Benway Precious Metals by L.A. Witt Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

 

 

Coming Up Soon:

Upcoming Reviews
I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38) by Terry Pratchett Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs

That’s it for this month, buttercups. What’s going on with you? Feel free to share in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!
Isa and Ren

[Ren] Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör by Grady HendrixReview copy badgeAvengers vs X-Men badgeTitle: Horrorstör
Author: Grady Hendrix
Published: September 23rd, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazongoodreads

This is a horror story with a cover that looks like an Ikea catalog. I don’t know about you but that caught my attention right away. I’m not usually a fan of horror because I’m a scaredy cat, but sometimes it’s nice to read outside my usual genres. As such I don’t know if this story is original or if it’s full of tropes, I only know that I enjoyed it a lot.

The story is set in the Orsk store which (even the characters admit) is an Ikea knockoff. Someone has been vandalizing the store, so some employees decide to spend the night patrolling the show to catch the culprits in the act. This is obviously a Very Bad Idea because the vandals are not human.

I’ll leave it at that, because part of the fun for me was not knowing just what exactly was wrong with the store — was it ghosts? monsters? a curse? — and I liked the shift from normal slice-of-life account of a day in the life of an Orsk employee to the really creepy stuff going on at night. It helped that I read this book as I was travelling to visit Isa: if you’re alone on a train before dawn you can really appreciate the creepiness of usually crowded spaces when they’re empty and silent.

As for the characters, the story is told from the POV of Amy and I really like her. She avoids most of the usual pitfalls, such as suggesting to split up, and I was really rooting for her. I also rather liked Basil, and the Big Bad is suitably creepy. Some of the characters left me indifferent though, and there was at least one death when I thought, oh well, one less character to keep track of.

There is death, and creepy things, and bloody gory bits that I really hope I won’t dream about at night. Like I said, I’m squeamish. And then the chapter headers that look like pages from an Ikea catalog make a really jarring counterpoint. For me, it works really well.

Again, horror is not my genre so I couldn’t predict the ending at all. I really liked it though, it solves the plot but leaves a couple of things open-ended so I can wonder what’ll happen next. (Not in a baiting-for-sequel wait though, just… I can imagine those characters living on after the end of the book. And I always like it when an author does that.)

I haven’t been converted to horror and I doubt I’ll read other similar books in the future, but I think Horrorstör is an experiment that works and I’d happily recommend it to anyone, though if you’re like me you might feel tempted to keep the lights on at night afterwards.
Ren

[Ren] Precious Metals by L.A. Witt

Precious Metals by L.A. WittReview copy badgeAvengers vs X-Men badgeTitle: Precious Metals
Author: L.A. Witt
Published: October 27th, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

I was not a huge fan of the previous book in this series, but I do like L.A. Witt so I immediately requested Precious Metals when I saw it on NetGalley. This book is set in the same universe as the other, in a kind of steampunk gold rush era. The characters are all different though; the protagonists are Joseph, who’s chasing after his kidnapped brother, and Paul, a mountie tasked with escorting him north. I really liked their story.

It’s difficult to talk about just this book, because I keep drawing comparisons with Noble Metals when I think about what exactly I liked. For example, the steampunk element is much more marked here. In the first book there were just the mechs, which are a kind of mechanical cart that gold diggers use to haul stuff around. Now there’s mechs and airships and a gold-digging machine and Joseph’s prosthetic leg, oh my! It’s way more steampunkier now, if that makes any sense.

The relationship between Joseph and Paul was also engaging. There still was some insta-love, given that the book is rather short and only covers a timespan of a few days, but I felt like it was handled in a more realistic way, as in “we almost died so I’m going to make a move NOW because life is short”, etc.

There are quite a lot of tropes in the story, but let’s be honest: I love tropes. Sharing the only bed roll? Huddling together for warmth? Give that to me. And the author does write steamy scenes, which is always a plus. If I had to complain about something, it’s that both sex scenes were from Joseph’s POV and I was hoping to get one from Paul’s POV instead. Then again, I did like Paul better so I was always looking forward to his chapters. (Not because Joseph is a bad character, mind, it’s just personal preference.)

I’m glad I read this because it definitely redeemed the series for me, and I wouldn’t mind reading more stories in this universe. And the good bit is that this book is a standalone, so you can skip Noble Metals and enjoy this excellent adventure through the snow.
Ren