Break the Chains

If you read my review over the first book in The Scorched Continent (which, can we just say how fantastic of a series name that is?), Steal the Sky, it comes to no surprise that I was really, really excited to read the next installment. Unfortunately, I’m in a financial situation where buying books isn’t a luxury I get to partake in. Thankfully, I have within my grasp the glorious power of a library card. As soon as I realized that Break the Chains was already published (which was actually realized in the middle of writing that review; seriously, it’s the section in all caps), I immediately went to my library’s catalog to request it.

I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment when none of Megan E. O’Keefe’s works were there.

I’m also sure that you can continue to imagine my sheer and utter elation when I got an email saying that Break the Chains was on hold for me, because the library had bought it.

I just started using this library as my main hub for my book addiction, so I just discovered that you can request up to three books a month to be bought by the library and added to their catalog. So I requested O’Keefe’s second novel, but honestly, I didn’t really expect anything to happen. That just seemed way too good of a deal to be true.

Yet it did happen (and very quickly after I put in the request, too!) and I’ve read it and got completely floored by it and now I’m anxiously awaiting the publication of book three. So shout out to LPL for making that experience happen. And I apologize formally for all of the book requests you’ll be getting from me every month (I’m not even kidding, I’ve already maxed out this month’s request availability…).

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But now, the real reason we are all here: to rave about Break the Chains. Mostly, though, I’m going to freak about the last…eh, I’d wager ten pages.

Because holy.shit.

Don’t get me wrong: the entire book was lovely and lived up to the expectations that the first one set. Slipping back into cahoots with Detan and Tibs felt like returning into the familiar, warm embrace of a loved one. Seriously. I just want to third wheel it with those two, because I’m sort of in love with them? Then, Ripka’s journey in the prison with New Chum had some of my favorite chapters in the book. The characters they met and the situations they got themselves in were intense and also slightly heartbreaking. It was hard to watch Ripka have to restrain her actual personality through a mask, making herself lesser, in my opinion. Once again, the dialogue was awesome, the details were everything I wished all books would include more of and I continue to be fascinated by the harsh setting and great worldbuilding.

So yeah, the entire book was really, really good.

But those last ten pages, y’all.

Ten is a rough estimate, as I had to return the book to its proper home at my kickass public library. But there I was, just reading my way innocently along (translation: actually home sick and feeling utterly miserable, Break the Chains being the only thing powerful enough to help me forget for a moment that I felt like death). And then suddenly, a certain character reappears. She has…done things. And then Detan…freaking Detan…

I couldn’t believe it. I actually got pissed. I’m no genius by any means, but usually, I can pick up a feel for a book’s momentum and not guess the ending, necessarily, but nine times out of ten, I’m not caught off-guard. I know where the book is headed. This ending? Completely caught off-guard. And not in a good way. Not at bloody all (which, actually, is a great thing, because O’Keefe masterfully manipulated my emotions and completely shredded my heart and, as a writer, I am so impressed; as the heartbroken reader, I’m anxiously awaiting for April 4th so I can read Inherit the Flame, with the full expectation that O’Keefe will FIX THIS. Because you can’t just ends things like this. You just can’t).

Ahem.

Obviously, you’re annoyed right now, because I have detailed you nothing about what actually ripped my soul to shreds. I’m not kidding–my chest physically hurt after I put the book down, floored (and I really don’t think the coughing my lungs out was the sole cause). But just as obviously, I can’t tell you what happens. It’d spoil everything. And this is not a series to be spoiled. It is a series to be read and enjoyed and then discussed with me, because none of my friends have read it yet and it’s driving me nuts having no one to talk to about this.

So what are you waiting for? Go. Invest your heart into fictional characters only to have it broken, which still hurts even though you know the pain is going to happen. Read. That’s what I meant. Go read O’Keefe’s The Scorched Continent. 

Read on!

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Waiting On Wednesday: The Olympian Affair

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where we readers salivate over the books we wish were on our bookshelves yesterday.

I know we’re supposed to highlight books that we’re stoked are being published, but this week, I’m taking it a step further and highlighting a book that hasn’t even been written yet, but still is definitely going to be published…we’ll just be waiting a long time.

But based off how much I adored the first book, it’s going to be worth it, I think.

I’m waiting on Jim Butcher’s The Olympian Affair, the second installment of The Cinder Spires series. In his steampunk debut, Butcher absolutely rocked it. From his fantastic characters (particularly men like Captain Grimm and Benjamin, who raised the bar as to what I expect from a gentleman), the vivid world and the ultimate dominance of a cat named Rowl, The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a book where the only times I put it down was to pause and wipe my eyes from laughter. It was funny, it was moving, it was such a joy to read and ever since I turned the last page, I’ve been itching for the sequel.

Which hasn’t been written yet.

Hasn’t even been started yet.

Butcher is writing Peace Talks (The Dresden Files, #16) first and then he’ll write The Olympian Affair. (I also must say that I’m eagerly awaiting Peace Talks, as I’m a huge Harry Dresden fan, so I’m not complaining about this in the slightest). So really, this post could just be titled: “Waiting (Gladly) On Jim Butcher” and it would be just as apt. Because I’m eager for everything he’s working on and while no publication dates are in sight, you know I’ll be the first one in line to pick up either of his books once they grace the shelves.

So, until we can read the next fantastic work by Butcher, let’s just enjoy him cosplaying as the fantastic Captain Grimm, shall we?

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Read on!

Steal the Sky

** Copy of Steal the Sky by Megan E. O’Keefe gloriously given by Agent Sam Morgan of Jabberwocky Literary Agency in exchange for an honest review**

I did this book the greatest disservice I think you can do to a book: start it right in the middle of the holidays.

I began reading Steal the Sky on December 12th, 2016 (thanks go to Goodreads for the stats). I finished it on January 13th, 2017 (curses go to Goodreads for that realization). Sure, a month isn’t really a long time to finish a book. Especially when you add in going home for Christmas plus New Years, trying to balance two jobs and getting a PS4 for Christmas and rapidly playing catch-up on all of your favorite games. But for me, a month, no matter if it is December or May, is a really long time to finish a book.

Especially a book of this caliber.

I can think of two main elements that made this book positively fantastic; made it to where I actually read a solid 250+ pages last weekend, thus proving how quickly I could have (and should have) devoured it, had I not given in to other delights; made it to where I just stalked O’Keefe’s website AND SAW THE SECOND BOOK IS ALREADY OUT AND I’M TRYING NOT TO HAVE AN AUDIBLE FREAK OUT MOMENT BECAUSE I’M WORKING AT A LIBRARY AND WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE QUIET HERE.

Ahem.

The first aspect that clued me into knowing I was going to fall in love with this book was not just the characters themselves–which, honestly, would still be enough–but their interactions with one another. Detan and Tibs deserve to see their friendship portrayed on screen, simply so I can listen to their witty banter and see their hilarious facial-expression-exchanges somewhere else besides my head. They had me laughing from the start, pulled at my heartstrings on numerous occasions and from the very first page, felt so utterly natural; so real. Add in New Chum, Ripka Watch Captain (oh, I could write pages upon pages about the badassery and favoritism I feel towards Ripka Watch Captain), the dopple and the slew of other characters that you interact with in this creative, unique steampunk universe and my friend, you will be hooked. So utterly hooked.

Yet that wasn’t even my favorite aspect of the book.

I know, right? How could I fall so in love with the characters, be so drawn into their relationships, be utterly convinced at their reality that my own moods were affected by what they were going through (particularly on the Black), and yet that isn’t my favorite aspect of the book? What could possibly top that?

The details, friends. The details.

I grew up on Tolkien, so there isn’t any surprise that I have a fondness for details (but details that matter, details that entice and excite me, unlike the pages of details I’ve been forced to suffer through in works by authors like Steinbeck). O’Keefe’s work was special to me because I was constantly noticing the details, but not in an overbearing way. And in noticing them and being impressed with not only how they were written, but also what they were describing and how in-scene they brought me, I found myself craving more. I wanted paragraphs, page upon page, of detail. But, like I said, we weren’t onslaughted with description and backstory and the inner workings of the mind. They were sprinkled in, expertly woven into the narrative to the point that you can’t imagine reading this story without them.

Personally, I feel like that mastery–and risk–over detail is a lost art.

Technology has forced us to live life fast-paced, expecting everything instantly, where we just want to go, go, go. In talking with a lot of readers, I’ve found that many don’t appreciate a solid paragraph or page of description like readers once did. In turn, I think authors and their books run the risk of choosing to cut those details or hell, not even writing them in the first place, trying to appease the shortened attention spans and increased need to keep moving without pause of modern day readers.

Yet not O’Keefe. Not Steal the Sky. We get into the nitty-gritty of the world. We are given the extra details. We are allowed to pause and soak it all in–and with so many elements incorporated into this novel, there is plenty to soak in; plenty that deserves our pause and attention. And though I can never know if O’Keefe was purposeful in how she used detail in her novel, if there was any ulterior motive in being a more descriptive writer (in my opinion) or if she just writes this brilliantly naturally, I am so thankful for it. I am so thankful for the reminder that detail can be incorporated and it can be enjoyed and written in ways that make you smile, nod your head or cringe.

Detail is the biggest reason why I would label Steal the Sky as utterly refreshing.

Notice how I gave you no examples of what I was talking about above? No witty banter exchanges between Detan and Tibs? No paragraph showing exactly what I mean by expertly inserted and gloriously refreshing detail? I can’t know O’Keefe’s inspiration or process (but damn if I wouldn’t love to find out), but I do know my own and I’m not afraid to admit that I purposefully left any examples out, upping your curiosity and causing an itch for you to know exactly what I’m talking about; an itch that can only be sated by procuring a copy of Steal the Sky yourself. If my not-so-cleverly-disguised-or-executed tactic didn’t work, then you should just take my word for it and hop on down to the library. This is a writer–and a series–you are not going to want to miss.

Read on!

PS: Biggest missed opportunity of the year last year? O’Keefe was at WorldCon last year and I distinctly remember seeing her standing across from me in this epic writers circle I’m still baffled that I somehow was standing in the shadows of…and I didn’t say hello. I’m still pissed at myself for it, especially now that I’ve read her work and just want to nerd out/fangirl with her about it. UGH.