Nanoshock

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Nanoshock
Author: K.C Alexander
Publisher: Angry Robot, Nov. 2017
Blurb: As Riko works to rebuild her shattered cred, following the events of Necrotech, she’s stuck fighting off every jerk looking to raise their standing on the streets. But when a corp with some serious influence ups the stakes, Riko’s going to have to take the fight to them, put this nonsense down for good. Nothing is what it seems when corp politics are in play, and another necro blight right where her answers are buried might very well be the end of the life she didn’t know she’d borrowed.

The Experience
(This review hints at spoilers)

Friends, do I have some thoughts I need to get out about Nanoshock.

This review is coming a little late, considering I hammered out the last, eh, 200 pages or so within 24 hours, right before I was leaving for vacation, so it’s been a few weeks since I experienced all the feels this book caused. That doesn’t mean they’ve become any less potent, thinking about them now.

First, I need to call attention to one thing in particular.

That first line.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to know how to write a bloody brilliant first line that causes your readers to go around and show it to everyone in the near vicinity (and then more people later), just so they can be caught off-guard and as floored as you were when you first read it (okay, almost everyone; not showing my boss/parents that line…), then look no further than Nanoshock.

You wanna know what it is, don’t you?

Good. Go read it and find out.

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But what I really want to talk about is that ending. Because I need to process, people. You see, I feel into the classic blunder. I got comfortable. This is after Riko fought so hard for redemption. This is after the major fight, the “boss battle,” if you will; the point in a video game where you’re warned that you won’t be able to complete any side missions if you push further, so your choice better be f-ing solid. Yeah, this is after that, in the bar. I think I was feeling slightly akin to what Riko felt; relief, comfort, acceptance, even if it wasn’t fully there yet. At home. I honestly thought the book would end there and I was totally content with that.

I was completely, totally and utterly blindsided by what happened next.

I won’t actually say what it was, because I don’t want to ruin this book for you, friends. But my jaw dropped and I stilled (I usually rock when I read) and I just set the book down in complete disbelief. As a writer, I was applauding, because of course this is what Alexander would do next. Of bloody course. But as a reader?

Fucking hell no.

How could you?

And honestly, there isn’t a better compliment than I can give than that.

Read on!

PS: Alexander, tell me: is there a book three? Please tell me there is.

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Karen Memory

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Karen Memory
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Publisher: Tor, Feb. 2015
Blurb: “You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

The Experience

I started reading Karen Memory at this current juncture as research (you know, since I asked for this book for Christmas and got it…two years ago). Since I’m planning to start working on a steampunk novel of my own, I figured I probably should read a couple more (read: a lot more) in the genre, just to get a feel of how different authors write steampunk novels.

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I was slightly surprised when Memory, to me, felt more like a western than steampunk, even with all the wonderful steampunk influences and mechanics that played a major role within the story. Yet I wasn’t disappointed by this. As I read, instead of looking at the book critically and noticing how steampunk played a role, I instead got lost within the story, to the point where I finished the book a few days after I started it and I couldn’t believe it was already over. And that was in large part thanks to the narrator of the book.

Karen Memory.

She had such a lively voice and way of speaking, if you know what I mean. It was a joy to not only get lost in the story, rooting for the women going up against Peter Bantle (who was just such an arse), but to hear all about it from Karen’s perspective. Her point of view and little reflections and tidbits were what made the book so enjoyable. It was one of those books I just seeped into, without thinking too much about it. It was a simple, enjoyable read and that’s always refreshing to find. And, I just learned, through searching Goodreads, that the sequel is meant to come out this year, in March! An added bonus and make no mistake.

Read on!

Age of Assassins

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Age of Assassins
Author: R.J. Barker
Publisher: Orbit Books, August 2017
Blurb: Girton Club-Foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But his latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder. 

In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies, Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire kingdom.

The Experience
(Warning: spoilers are hinted at towards the end of this review)

So, let me start off with a story about how this book came into my hands.

I discovered Barker through Twitter, because he followed/interacted with some authors that I adore (i.e., Melissa Caruso), so I started following him and his blog. One day, a new blog post from him came up on my WordPress feed and I gave it a read. It detailed a contest to win a copy of Age of Assassins, if you could guess how one copy he owned met it’s demise: by water, by coffee (I think this was one of the options?) or cat’s pee.

Because I’m an inept Luddite half of the time, I can’t find the tweet I sent in to enter, nor Barker’s response that I won (which, I saw a few days after he posted it, because I suck that much at social media; but also, *still squeeing*). I also don’t have a picture of the wonderfully signed first page, which included a drawing of the culprit that made it possible for me to get a gifted copy of this book, because I forgot to take a picture this morning.

(I really suck at technology, friends.)

Then, of course, when the book arrived in the mail, I had a stack from the library that I had to get through, especially since I’d already maxed out on renewals (…twice). So it took me a hot minute before I actually opened up the book and delved into the world of Girton Club-Foot, assassin who never really got to know what it was like to be a boy–and struggles to balance the two roles when he has an opportunity to play the boy while being required to be the assassin-in-hiding.

33296298Oh wow, what a journey that was.

I won’t lie: at first, I was a little wary. The writing style was…unlike anything I’d ever read before. I don’t think I can accurately describe it, but it was unique enough to catch me off-guard, if only for a few chapters. Once I got accumulated to such a strong and unique voice and realized how right it was for Girton’s character and personality, suddenly, every lunch break just wasn’t quite long enough.

Particularly the lunch break where I finished reading the book, where I might have stayed hunched in my cubicle for an extra, oh, I dunno, 30 minutes or so, to finish the novel? (Oops.) Because damn, that couldn’t wait until I got of work hours later. Not after what happened at the stables. Not after Girton learned the truth. Not after I learned what the gesture of exposing the neck meant. Not after that arrow hitting it’s mark. Not after the riders and their role.

Not after what we learned about Xus’s priest.

Nope. Reading that ending could not wait another bloody minute.

And now I’m back in my usual spot: yearning for the sequel.

*sigh*

It’s such a wonderfully tortuous place to be.

Read on!

The Iron Hound

So, this was an interesting read.

I read the first of the series and I absolutely f-ing loved that thing. This sequel was one of the books anxiously awaited, eager to see what happened next. So when it finally released, I went to my bomb public library and picked up a copy, excited to return to such a riveting world of religious struggle and war.

Apparently, I should have reread The Pagan Night before continuing the series with The Iron Hound.

You see, my main issue with the book, was that I couldn’t remember everything that happened and all the main players from book one, so for the first half of the book, I was a tad bit confused on what exactly was going on (I know, for someone who read The Pagan Night over a year ago and was so excited to read this book because I was so awed by how that one ended, my memory is apparently shite). I figured it out and caught on eventually, but my own memory really screwed me over. I don’t think it was any fault on the author’s part or results in any negative criticism on the book itself. I’m actually more pissed at myself, because my inability to remember what happened did taint my reading of its sequel.

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Yet, even with that, this book was good. Pretty dang good. Especially the last 200 pages or so.

I particularly enjoyed the sections covering the Blakeley’s–both Malcolm Blakeley and the juxtaposing struggles between his faith and the love he has for his wife; and Ian Blakeley and his hunt with Sir Elsa for Gwendolyn Adair. I also really enjoyed Gwen’s journey.

That girl has seen some shit.

But my favorite aspect of this book–probably of Tim Akers as an author, actually–is the quality of the writing. Because damn. There were so many times, whilst I was reading, that I thought, “Holy shit, this is so well written,” or went back to reread a passage because it was just that awesome. Akers definitely has a knack for writing descriptive, gorgeous, interesting fantasy prose–especially the dialogue.

I’m excited for the third book of the trilogy, The Winter Vow, to come out, next…August, I believe? I’m probably going to need to read a synopsis or something of The Iron Hound beforehand, so I don’t let my own inability to remember anything taint my reading of the conclusion of this series. Until then, I have a lot of other books to read–including the rest of Tim Akers work.

Read on!

Communication Failure

Warning: watch out for [EXPLETIVE] spoilers (even if they’re minor).

After devouring Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja last year, this was the book that I’ve been waiting to come out, i.e., my most anticipated read of 2017. It felt like it took an eternity to actually come out and even though I get that publishing is a slow business, I was impatient.

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Feels dramatic, I’m sure, but anyone who has ever waited for their next favorite book to come out knows this GIF is perfect.

I wanted to know what happened next. I wanted to see how Captain Rogers was going to handle being acting admiral of The Flagship. I wanted to see how they were going to manage an invading Thelicosan fleet. I wanted to see how many times the Viking could punch him in the face (and see if how, and if, their relationship developed). I wanted to hang out with my favorites again and laugh more than I usually do when escaping from reality in the hands of a paperback. And, let’s be real, here.

I missed Deet.

So, I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when November 7th finally rolled around or my gratitude to my public library, who was willing to buy a copy to add to their shelves since money is a bit tight for me (while I’m hoping to get my copy underneath the Christmas tree). I dove back into the hilarity of Captain Rogers’ world, curious if the impatient wait was worth it.

Spoiler: it totally was.

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It had everything I loved about the first book–the characters, the antics, the satire and the guaranteed sore abs from laughter–and then amped it up a little bit, by adding in the POV of the Thelicosans, specifically Grand Marshall Alandra Keffoule, Secretary Vilia Quinn and Commodore Zergan, as they try to deal with the message they accidentally sent to the Meridian’s: “We’re invading.” The solutions they come up with are absurd, hilarious and mathematically fueled, leading to a lot of chuckling and trying to turn the pages faster on my end. I also found myself relating a lot to Quinn as I read and rooting for her to unwind as the book progressed (I wonder if she can teach me how to do that…).

It was really fun to see a different culture living in this space opera, especially a culture that this non-mathematically-minded brain couldn’t fully understand, yet still found their jokes to be funny, anyway. It was fantastic to see Rogers grow as a character, without losing the humor that made me fall in love with him in the first place. It was awesome to discover a few twists and turns I was so not expecting (I see you, Zoo Keeper), not to mention that freakin’ ending.

But, as we all know, the best thing about the book, hands down?

Deet.

Considering I read this book in, what, two, three days, I’m now left in a familiar position as I was before I read this book. I have a greater understanding of what’s going on with Admiral Rogers and his crew and the questions I had before I read Communication Failure have been answered. But now, I have even more questions than I had before and, perhaps, an even greater desire for the last book of the Epic Failure trilogy, Miserable Failure, to come out.

So, back to Azkaban I go.

*commence waiting sequence*

Read on!

Inherit The Flame

Holy shit.

I don’t think I’m going to do this book review justice, because…wow. Talk about a way to end a trilogy.

I’m actually at a loss from words, here. To the point that, I’m not exactly sure what to even talk about, this book was that good. Should I mention that I read it in a span of, what, three days? Two days? That the plot took twists and turns that I absolutely did not see coming, yet were the epitome of brilliance? Should I discuss how utterly and completely satisfying the last, eh, I’d say 50 pages were? Especially that second to last chapter, I mean, damn. 

Except for one very particular thing that absolutely shattered my heart.

You know what I’m talking about, O’Keefe.

You’re merciless.

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It’s the kind of end of the series that, when you’re 50 pages from the end, you have no idea how everything’s going to get wrapped up, because there is still so much going on and there is no possible way it’s going to get wrapped up and all those threads tied with so little page space left. Yet you close the book and you’re content. You have (mostly, see above accusation for clarification) those warm, content butterflies fluttering in your stomach, completely satisfied with the ending.

Oh, you have questions, still. And you want to see more of this world, continue to be a part of the lives that you’d grown to adore so fondly. Yet, for this trilogy? You’re very content how things ended, especially considering it went down not at all like you expected (but, looking back, in exactly the way it needed to, for your desired ending to be possible at all).

It’s also the type of ending that, as soon as you finish the book, you may rush to check the author’s website (and maybe also her Twitter) to find out when the next book penned by her hand is meant to be published. You’ll be dismayed to realize that there is something in the works, but it’s probably not going to be in your hands anytime soon. Because you’re selfish and you want to escape into worlds told so beautifully, with charming, complex characters and complicated conflicts, as O’Keefe has with the entire Scorched Continent series.

It’s the type of ending that leaves you in a book hangover so the review you write isn’t as polished as it should be or praise the book or it’s author as much as they deserve–and O’Keefe and this series deserves the best of the best.

But, perhaps, experiencing that hangover from her stories, getting as invested in her characters as you did and being disappointed you have to wait for more; perhaps that praise speaks volumes for itself.

So go check out the Scorched Continent series for yourself.

Trust me, you’re going to love it.

Read on!

PS: To O’Keefe directly, here, if she reads this. These three words: “I promise it.” Holy shit, talk about the chills you caused from that. I mean, I’m getting them again just thinking about that scene. Whoa.

The Tethered Mage

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. 

*actual reaction after finishing The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso*

*attempts to calm down so she can properly write this review*

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*fails*

*tries again*

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*tries for a third time*

Friends.

You have got to read this book.

*succeeds, finally. Now, onward with the review*

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I actually, um, read this book before it was published.

(I know, right? This is probably one of the coolest claims of street cred I’ve ever had.)

I read a copy in the middle draft stages, as a beta reader thanks to my amazing internship with Naomi Davis. But even then, I could see how shiny every gem that decorated this crown of a story sparkled. With every draft, Caruso continued to polish and hone this story, until it became the glorious beauty that, mere days ago, was published for the entire world to read.

Selfishly, I put it on hold at the library so I could reread it just days after publication, because that’s how desperately I wanted to return to the world of Raverra.

Here’s why you should read it:

The worldbuilding! 

Seriously, from the first page, you are just completely drawn into this world, to the point where, when people try and draw you out of it, it’s almost a physical pain, because you just become ensnared and enamored so …effortlessly. It’s beautifully written and I love how we see so many aspects within this world, from the highest elite to the saddest pickpocket (and it gets even better when those juxtapositions clash and get mixed together, which happens constantly in this book, continually pulling at your heartstrings and making your opinions switch and complicate and question and GAH). I’m also thoroughly impressed by the way this book gives so much depth this world, yet also teases us enough to ensure that we don’t know everything yet–but we’re certainly hungry for more.

The beautiful magic system! 

Mage-marked innocents being conscripted through the magical power of jesses into the order of the Falconers and thus bound with someone without magic who has the power to control theirs, for the good of the realm in Raverra. Magical Witch Lords in Vaskandar who hold power specifically because of their magic. A struggling populace in Ardence whose opinions–and loyalty–to the Serene Empire sway like the tide.

I know, right? How can so much yes fit into one book?

The intricacy of the plot!

This book is the definition of a page-turner. I may or may not have read it in 150 page chunks over the span of half a week. I may or may not also have snuck in the last 20 at my desk at work, because the ending is just…whoa. Everything is so perfectly placed, so wonderfully interwoven to deliver the correct information just when you need it most, with twists you don’t see coming.

The budding relationship between Lady Amalia Cornaro and Zaira!

The characters are, by far, my favorite aspect of this book. I love how three-dimensional every single one of them are and how quickly I’ve formed a very deep attachment for them. But Amalia and Zaira deserve special notice: Amalia for her growth and truly becoming the woman she’s been both raised and created herself to be; and Zaira for her sharp tongue, purposeful lack of social graces, fantastic wit and fearlessness regarding speaking the truth.

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To get absolute chills from the badass scene on page 342!

I can’t write anything without giving this way, but holy goodness, I actually had to put the book down after reading that scene, because damn. 

If you follow this blog or know me in person or even just interact with me online, you know I love books. You know I love reading. You know I love really fantastic stories told with a passionate voice that feels alive. You know I love fantasy stories that remind me why I write in the first place, that challenge my creativity by saying, “Hey, this is how it’s done, so hurry up and finish your novels so we can hang out at the bookstore and rip readers’ hearts out together, eh?” (Because books talk to one another on the shelves. Obviously.) You know I love characters that feel like friends (or enemies) by the end, whose lives I become so invested in, that it borderline questions my sanity levels. You know I love intricate plots, wonderful magic, colorful banter, dashes (or full on dumps) of romance, characters that challenge and complement one another and worlds I wish I could live in. You know I love to read hours past my bedtime because “one more chapter” has unspokenly become my mantra, yet again, and you know, if I book manages to do all of these things, that I’ll talk your ear off until the end of time about how you need to read that book.

Well, The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso is that book, friends. And more.

Read on!