Showing posts with label Elizabeth Bear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elizabeth Bear. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reading Update & Additions

My reading momentum is holding. I've read three books this month, but as in January they are books released in previous years. So, I have added a few 2015 releases to my eReader and/or my coffee table, and a couple of upcoming releases I'm looking forward to reading. It's about time! Three of the books highlighted are written by favorite authors Elliott Mackle, Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Bear. The rest of the books are written by new-to-me authors.

Here are six of my latest additions:


Stealing Arthur by Joel Perry (January 10, 2015 - Bear Bones Books/Lethe Press) Print Edition

In this hilarious novel based on an actual event, author Joel Perry tells of fifty-five of Hollywood's highest awards--the Arthurs--have been stolen, setting in motion the kind of crazy only turn-of-the-millennium Los Angeles can provide. Intrigue, murder, comedy, sex, romance, celebrity dish, and ultimately redemption play out for characters from Skid Row to Hollywood's Walk of Fame, including all the desperate wannabes in between. In a town where people would happily kill anyone for a part, what would they do for a gilded Arthur statuette?

Joel Perry is the author of Funny That Way; That's Why They're in Cages, People!; Going Down: The Instinct Guide to Oral Sex; and The Q Guide to Oscar Parties and Other Award Shows.

Sunset Island (Caloosa Club Mysteries) by Elliott Mackle (January 10, 2015 - Lethe Press) Print edition

February, 1950. Lee County, Florida. In the freewheeling, celebratory aftermath of World War II, survivors and veterans are starting new lives, resuming old ones, or just picking up the pieces. Former Navy officer Dan Ewing feels safer than any gay man might expect in a segregated, dry county where the Ku Klux Klan is still strong. Managing an ultra-private club-hotel in Ft. Myers with a mixed-race staff, untaxed alcohol, high-stakes card games and escorts of both sexes, he's been acting like he has nothing to lose: business is good and his romantic life is better. Lee County Detective Bud Wright, a former Marine sergeant and Dan's secret lover, is outwardly strong and brave, but uneasy with the knowledge that, every time he and Dan get naked together, they're breaking laws he's sworn to uphold. It's nothing that a few drinks can't get him past, especially when moonlighting as security for Dan's hotel. Both men have their work cut out for them, however, once a hurricane evacuation brings to the hotel wealthy, well-connected non-members who happen to own Sunset Island, a secluded resort fronting the Gulf of Mexico. Their arrival sets in motion a turnover of hotel staff, sensual and sordid seductions, brutal assaults, the discovery of looted art from Holocaust victims, and, of course, murder. After drowned men start washing ashore on nearby beaches, Dan and Bud must set to work unraveling war-related mysteries and exploring the implications of a rapidly changing society in those postwar years.


Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman (February 3, 2015 - William Morrow)

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (February 3, 2015 - Tor Books)

“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, beggin 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 Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble (March 1, 2015 - Skyscape)

2014 Winner — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Young Adult Fiction

There is no cure for being who you truly are...

In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions. By night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of three orphan infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree.

One day, Clara discovers shimmering scales just beneath her sister’s skin. She realizes that Maren is becoming a mermaid—and knows that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, Clara and O’Neill place the mermaid-girl in their gypsy wagon and set out for the sea. But no road is straight, and the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening mermaid.

And always, in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?
The One That Got Away by Simon Wood (March 1, 2015, Thomas & Mercer)

Graduate students Zoë and Holli only mean to blow off some steam on their road trip to Las Vegas. But something goes terribly wrong on their way home, and the last time Zoë sees her, Holli is in the clutches of a sadistic killer. Zoë flees with her life, changed forever.

A year later and still tortured with guilt, Zoë latches on to a police investigation where the crime eerily resembles her abduction. Along with a zealous detective, she retraces the steps of that fateful night in the desert, hoping that her memory will return and help them find justice for Holli. Her abductor—labeled the “Tally Man” by a fascinated media—lies in wait for Zoë. For him, she is not a survivor but simply the one that got away.

With an unforgettable heroine, a chillingly disturbed psychopath, and a story that moves at breakneck speed, The One That Got Away is thriller writer Simon Wood at his finest.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Halloween Reads: Creepy, Disturbing UF/Fantasy/LGBT/Spec Fic & Horror!

It's October. Time for reading the spooky and disturbing. I have a stack of books that I have been reading or checking out -- not a Stephen King book in sight either... but we all already know he's the King! My list is a combination of books that have an edge of the dark stuff, and others that are made of darkness. You may or may not have heard of them, but what they all have in common is that they are all great reads!

URBAN FANTASY AND FANTASY with an edge and a dash of the dark stuff. If you don't like too much of the creepy stuff that comes with horror but enjoy a bit of edge, urban fantasy, and fantasy can provide that. The following is a list of books I highly enjoyed, beginning with a few I read recently:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Novel 2013, Fantasy) - An adult fairy tale with the Gaiman magic and a darker, more adult plot at its core. There are some pretty disturbing scenes in this fairy tale, and not all of them come from the magic-side of things.
Written in Red by Anne Bishop (Novel, 2013 - Fantasy) - This fantasy piece has some fantastically gruesome shifters! I mean these are not cookie cutter vampires or shifters. The story has darkness and edge with a dash of warmth and humor providing balance. A great beginning to a new fantasy series by Ms. Bishop.
Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong (Novel, 2013 - Urban Fantasy) - Omens is the beginning of a new urban fantasy series by Armstrong. However, the fantasy aspects of the story are a bit blunted in the first book, but overall the story is definitely unsettling -- more of a suspense read with light paranormal elements and an edgy flavor.
Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear (Novella, 2010 - Fantasy) This novella with necromancy as a central theme is gorgeously dark. It also serves as a sort of prequel to Elizabeth Bear's Eternal Sky fantasy series.

In Search Of and Others by Will Ludwigsen (Collection 2013, Speculative Fiction) is one of the best collections of speculative fiction short stories I read this past year. It has those disturbing, unsettling pieces, and the ones that just make you think and wonder.
The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Doctor Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth (Illustrated Book, 2013 - Speculative Fiction/Horror) is one of the most creative pieces I read this year. This book has some magnificent illustrations and a very short story about Doctor Spencer Black, separate they are a curiosity, together they become a uniquely gruesome experience.
Fungi edited by Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Anthology, 2012 - Speculative Fiction/Horror) I began reading Fungi last year, finished it in 2013, and never reviewed it. It's a shame because this is such a great collection. I have favorite pieces that are stuck in my mind as if I read them yesterday, either because they're disturbing or downright unique. Two quick examples: "Last Bloom on the Sage by Andrew Penn Romine" is a memorable short with fantastic characters, world building, action and a plot that combines western steampunk with mushroom weirdness. And, in "Midnight Mushrumps by W. H. Pugmire" the beginning reads like a dream that quickly gains the atmosphere of a dark fairy tale and veers off into a dank, fungi infested, horror-filled nightmare.

READING: Moving on to a list of books I'm reading at the moment, you will find everything from the mild to pure unadulterated horror!
Still Life with Murder (Gilded Age Mystery #1) by P. B. Ryan (2003 Historical Mystery/Suspense) I saw a recommendation for this book at Li's site Me and My Books and decided to check it out. I'm already 25% through the book. It is set in the midst of aristocratic Boston during the Civil War and the main character is an Irish immigrant. It has an upstairs/downstairs sort of flavor with scenes that range from posh settings to the Bostonian Irish ghettos. I'm really liking it. Not a horror or speculative fiction read, but definitely a good mystery so far.
The Dust of Wonderland by Lee Thomas (2013, Novel Rerelease - LGBT Speculative Fiction/Horror) This story, set in New Orleans, is all about atmosphere and suspense. Lee Thomas always keeps me at the edge of my seat, and that's exactly what happened as soon as I began reading the prologue. I'm about 25% through the book and will let you know how it turns out. Mr. Thomas is an author whose works I absolutely, positively recommend if you want to read excellent spec-fic/suspense/horror that has a deeper, more meaningful subplot at its core. He does not disappoint.
Zombies: Shambling through the Ages ed. by Steve Berman (2013, Anthology - Horror) I am reading this collection at the moment. I am enjoying the creative way zombies are portrayed by the different authors, some of them are quite unusual. The book is divided in such a way that it more or less gives a history of the zombie, so the stories follow a fascinating progression. I was really hooked by the first short story "Blood Marker by Victoria Janssen," which almost serves as a sort of introduction to the Before Lazarus section and sets up a precedent for the uniqueness that follows.
I have more! My list was rather long this year, but I paired it down to ten which was not easy. I also have a "want to read" list and TBR pile that is a mile long. Do you read spooky stories, mysteries or crime suspense during October? What books do you recommend?

2012 Halloween Recs
2012 Xtra Scary Recs
2011 Halloween Reads

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

TBR Review: Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear

The theme for this month's TBR Challenge is Series Catch-up. Recently, I found out that the novella Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear, originally published in 2010, is connected to Bear's Eternal Sky fantasy world. However, I purchased this novella before I realized that connection, it has been in my TBR for a while. With the second full-length novel of the series Shattered Pillars releasing on March 19th (yesterday), I thought this month's TBR Challenge theme presented the perfect opportunity to read this piece.
Dark magic is afoot in the City of Jackals...

Eighty years Bijou the Artificer has been a Wizard of Messaline, building her servants from precious scraps, living with the memory of a great love that betrayed her. She is ready to rest.

But now her former apprentice, Brazen the Enchanter, has brought her a speechless feral child poisoned by a sorcerous infection. Now, Messaline is swept by a mysterious plague. Now the seeping corpses of the dead stalk the streets.

Now, finally, Bijou's old nemesis--Bijou's old love--Kaulas the Necromancer is unleashing a reeking half-death on Bijou's people. And only Bijou and her creatures wrought of bone and jewels can save the City of Jackals from his final revenge.
It is often the case with Elizabeth Bear's books that the covers don’t do justice to the fantasy she conjures in her stories, or to my imagination for that matter -- the exceptions are the two Eternal Sky novels. That is the case with Bone and Jewel Creatures, having said that, the summary is quite accurate. After having read so many of Bear's works I'm fairly familiar with her style, so why did it still surprise me that at the end, this 133-page fantasy novella felt as if I read a full-length story with all the bells and whistles, or in this case, all the necessary jewels and bones?

Messaline, the City of Jackals, is a far away place that lies southwest of the Land of Eternal Skies and just south of the Uthman Caliphate on the map provided at the beginning of Range of Ghosts. It is a city where the Old Bey rules and Brazen the Enchanter flourishes while both Bijou the Artificer and Kaulas the Necromancer decline. The decline of Bijou and Kaulas are at the heart of this piece as is the feral child with a poisonous wound that Brazen brings to Bijou's door to save or die.

Bijou saves the seemingly mute, feral child she names Emeraud, but soon finds herself inundated by walking corpses and infected animals poisoned in the same manner. It quickly becomes obvious that Kaulas the Necromancer, Bijou's old love, is the culprit. A wizard's war is at hand, but can Bijou and her Artifices made out of bone and jewels hold out against the stench of death that fills the City of Jackals?

This is such a well-written novella. Bear's gorgeous prose combined with the excellent magical atmosphere, fantastic characters, and some rather gruesome moments made this novella memorable for me. Bijou's Artifice creations are colorful and intricate, and I love the contrast between the world that exists inside Bijou's isolated little shop and Bear's descriptions of Messaline. The story is told from three points of view, that of Bijou, Brazen, and Emeraud. The shifts flow well, and as a result the characters become alive to the reader – particularly Bijou and Emeraud. I actually got lost in the magic and atmosphere of this place and these characters.

As to how this story relates to the Eternal Sky series, so far the only real connections I found between them is that Messaline is in the map mentioned above, making the City of Jackals a part of this world and the necromancy that ties in to the legend of the Carrion King. Hopefully the culture and its inhabitants (I'm thinking Emeraud) will play a role in future tales.

Bone and Jewel Creatures is what I hope to find when picking up a novella. The prose, world-building, atmosphere and characterization are excellent. The plot is good enough to keep me turning those pages until the very end and leaves me satisfied, but wishing that there's a follow-up book somewhere that will transport me to the same magical place again. Recommended.

Theme: Series Catch-Up
March 2013
Category: Fantasy
Series: Eternal Sky (#0.5)
Publisher/Release Date: Subterranean Press/March 31, 2010 - Kindle Ed.
Grade: B+

Visit Elizabeth Bear here.

Range of Ghosts, #1
Shattered Pillars, #2 (Released March 19, 2013)

ETA: Bone and Jewel Creatures can be read on its own or as part of the series. Having read Range of Ghosts a year ago, I'm sure that I missed some obvious connections to the Eternal Sky series, but hope to find more after reading Shattered Pillars. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

New Release March 2013: Shattered Pillars (Eternal Sky #2) by Elizabeth Bear

The Shattered Pillars is the second book of Bear’s The Eternal Sky trilogy and the sequel to Range of Ghosts. Set in a world drawn from our own great Asian Steppes, this saga of magic, politics and war sets Re-Temur, the exiled heir to the great Khagan and his friend Sarmarkar, a Wizard of Tsarepheth, against dark forces determined to conquer all the great Empires along the Celedon Road.

Elizabeth Bear is an astonishing writer, whose prose draws you into strange and wonderful worlds, and makes you care deeply about the people and the stories she tells. The world of The Eternal Sky is broadly and deeply created—her award-nominated novella, "Bone and Jewel Creatures" is also set there.

I loved Range of Ghosts, the first book of Elizabeth Bear's Eternal Sky fantasy series. It should not be a surprise then that Shattered Pillars is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.

Releasing: March 19, 2013 by Tor Books

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Top Reads

This year my top 10 reads were gathered from different categories of books released in 2012 and graded A at Impressions of a Reader or given 5 stars at Goodreads. My top ten favorite books of 2012 are numbered, but due to the fact that I read many different categories this year (and love them all) they are listed in no particular order. Please note that I've included books already listed in my *2012 LGBT Favorite Books & Authors post (read a separate list here). You will also find a list of 2012 Honorable Mention reads that I thoroughly enjoyed this year, and three Grade A 2012 favorite reprint/re-releases.

2012 TOP 10 FAVORITE READS: (Click on titles to read reviews) 

1.   The Witness by Nora Roberts: Contemporary Romance Suspense
2.   Green Thumb by Tom Cardamone: Speculative Fiction*
3.   Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral: Poetry*
4.   Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky #1) by Elizabeth Bear: Fantasy
5.   Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War by Jeff Mann: Erotic Historical Romance*
6.   The Last Renegade by Jo Goodman: Western Historical Romance
7.   A Horse Named Sorrow: A Novel by Trebor Healey: Fiction**
8.   The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: Historical Fantasy Fiction
9.   Captain Harding and His Men, #2 by Elliott Mackle: Historical Fiction/Mystery*
10. Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane #4) by Elizabeth Hoyt: Historical Romance

**Book read, reviewed after this post. Read in late December and unfortunately not included with my LGBT list of favorites! 

1.   Torn by Lee Thomas: Horror*
2.   Caliban's War (The Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey: Science Fiction
3.   Riveted (Iron Seas #3) by Meljean Brook: Science Fiction Romance/Steampunk
4.   Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry: Contemporary Romance
5.   Immobility by Brian Evenson: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction/Fantasy
6.   The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters: Science Fiction/Mystery
7.   The Heart's History by Lewis DeSimone: Fiction*
8.   This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz: Literary Fiction
9.   Hearts of Darkness (Deadglass #1) by Kira Brady: Paranormal Romance
10. The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir by Domingo Martinez: Non-Fiction

1.  The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh (2012 Dell): Historical Romance
2.  It Takes Two, #1 by Elliott Mackle (2012 Lethe Press): Historical Fiction/Mystery*
3.  The Rake by Mary Jo Putney (2012 Kensington Publishing): Historical Romance

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 Halloween Reads: Steampunk/PNR/LGBT Spec Fic/Horror

October means Halloween! So it is time vampires, zombies, evil-doers, the strange and the weird to give us chills and thrills. For the past month I've been in the mood for the chills, thrills and the strange, so I've been reading and accumulating recommendations for you -- both recent releases and back list books. Here are some of my favorite reads:

STEAMPUNK & PNR: (Click on titles to read reviews)

Riveted (Iron Seas #3) by Meljean Brook (Steampunk/Adventure/Romance)
If you like romance with great world building and amazing steampunk details that do not get in the way of the story, then Riveted is for you. This third book is the latest release in Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series and it was a favorite for me because of the sweet romance between the main characters, as well as for all those great details I mentioned above. 
New Amsterdam Series by Elizabeth Bear (Fantasy/Mystery/Steampunk)
The New Amsterdam series by Elizabeth Bear is not a new release, as a matter of fact the first book was released in 2007 and the last in the trilogy in 2010. But this wonderful series with its excellent writing, vampire detective and a forensic female sorcerer as central characters, alternate world, unique format, and subtle steampunk details is worth reading. My favorite two pieces of the trilogy were New Amsterdam and The White City, but believe me... Seven For A Secret is no slouch either. A moody, atmospheric and different kind of mystery solving read. 
Hearts of Darkness: A Deadglass Novel by Kira Brady (Paranormal Romance) 
Of the paranormal romances I've read recently, Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady is the darkest one, and the one I recommend be read during this time of the year. It has vampires, dragons, werewolves and other pretty unique beings, but I think what I loved the most about this novel was the way that Brady fused the dark, moody atmosphere usually found in an urban fantasy book with the romance found in PNR. There's a combination of dark and light that I enjoyed about this book, so yes... I recommend it.

LGBT SPECULATIVE FICTION & HORROR:(Click on titles to read reviews)

Green Thumb by Tom Cardamone (Queer Speculative Fiction) 
When it comes to speculative fiction if you're going to read one book this year, I recommend that you pick up Tom Cardamone's Green Thumb. If you are a spec fic fan, you'll appreciate the amazing characters, the atmosphere and worldbuilding, and most of all the creative twists and turns Cardamone uses to take this story from beautiful beginning to amazing end. 
Wilde Stories 2012: The Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman (Gay Speculative Fiction
I recommended last year's edition Wilde Stories 2011 because I loved it. This year's edition is also recommended. There are excellent speculative fiction stories and wonderful variety in this anthology with themes to please tastes all around. It's filled with quality stories and excellent writers. Some of my favorite LGBT writers are included, but there are new great writers in there whose stories are not to be missed.
Torn by Lee Thomas (Horror/Speculative Fiction)
I read a few straight up horror books, but of those only one had all the ingredients that worked for me, Torn by Lee Thomas. This novella was relentless in action, kept me at the edge of my seat from beginning to end, and gave me all the chills and thrills that I expect from horror. Lee Thomas' skills are in full display in this novella and I highly recommend it to horror fans.

I didn't list any romance suspense reads or straight mysteries in this list. I just read a wonderful book from my TBR that I really enjoyed, Anne Stuart's 2005 romantic suspense thriller, "Black Ice." Are there any books in those categories that you would recommend? What books have you read lately that you would recommend as a great Halloween/October read?  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Elizabeth Bear's New Amsterdam Series

New Amsterdam (New Amsterdam, Book #1 - 272 pages)

First published in 2007, New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear is a steampunkish mystery series set in a world with an alternate history as a backdrop. The book is divided into vignettes or short stories where crimes are both committed and solved by the central characters. Spanning a period of time from 1899 to 1903, the six stories are linked and an overall story arc simultaneously developed to slowly reveal characters and give her worldbuilding depth.

Known in Europe as the Great Detective, Sebastien de Ulloa is such an old creature that he no longer remembers his birth-name or even when or where he was born. After the woman who made him immortal chooses to burn rather than going on, Sebastien abandons his European "court" and emigrates to New Amsterdam with "courtier," friend and assistant, Jack Priest. Sebastien himself doesn't really have a reason to live, but between willful Jack, the pleasure found solving murders, and the people he meets in New Amsterdam, Sebastien slowly finds reasons not to take that last walk into the sunrise. Two of those reasons are DCI Abigail Irene Garrett and author Mrs. Phoebe Smith.

Detective Crown Investigator Abigail Irene Garrett is a forensic sorceress in service to the British Empire in New Amsterdam. In a world where men rule, Abby Irene is scandalous, notorious, loyal and a woman to be reckoned with when it comes to seeking justice. Abby Irene is an aging beauty who had affairs with royalty and when Sebastien meets her, is having an affair with the married and powerful Richard, Duke of New Amsterdam. Of course that doesn't stop the hard drinking single-minded Abby Irene from becoming entangled with Sebastien, becoming a friend and eventually part of his "court."

Bear is known for writing excellent fantasy and building her worlds around alternate history, so there is no surprise that in that respect she excels in this series. In this world, the British Empire takes New Amsterdam (New York/Manhattan) from the Dutch during the Napoleonic wars. The American colonies are restricted to a small area, as the Iroquois, with their magic, stopped the British from further expansion, and the Spanish and French conquered and kept other chunks of North America. And in the late 19th Century the Revolutionary War against the Crown is brewing. Magic and sorcery are very much accepted and part of the culture in both Europe and in the New World, while wampirs and their courts are accepted in sections of Europe and outlawed and persecuted in the New World.

This is a moody, atmospheric world with richly developed characters. As a wampir or vampire, Sebastien comes off as unusually unique, although he is constructed more or less after the traditional vampire. He's an immortal fighting time and history after surviving centuries by adjusting to changes and not growing too attached to mortals, or at least that's what he claims. He knits! And gentleness and warmth accompany coldness. Yes, Sebastien is different, and the logistics of how his relationships with his mortal court work are also different and unexpected. Abby Irene is a force! A relentlessly strong woman unwilling to show vulnerability to men or to compromise her beliefs. There are contrasts and similarities between Abby Irene and Phoebe who comes off as softer, but is just as strong and single-minded as Abby Irene. Oh and Jack! Lovely, loving Jack who at a young age has lived a lifetime.

Titles of stories in New Amsterdam: Lucifugous, Wax, Wane, Limerent, Chatoyant, Lumere. The mysteries/crimes are excellent although my favorite stories are the first three, Lucifugous which takes place in the dirigible while Sebastien and Jack are on their way to New Amsterdam, Wax and Wane taking place in New Amsterdam, and Lumere set in Paris oozes atmosphere. Highly recommended.

Seven for a Secret (New Amsterdam, Book #2 - 128 pages)

Released in March 2009, Seven for a Secret is the original sequel to New Amsterdam. However, if you read the series in chronological order, by events taking place, I believe that The White City should really be that sequel.

Seven for a Secret is one short story featuring a rather morose Sebastien who knows he will be losing his beloved friends to age and death soon; an old, frustrated, but still sharp Abby Irene, and of course Phoebe.  It is 1938 and Sebastien de Ulloa returns to London so that Abby Irene may die in her homeland, but they return to a Britain conquered by the Prussians where the Chancellor's army occupies and rules. Ironically, England's new King Phillip is exiled in New Amsterdam. Abby Irene won't have it, and Sebastien will do whatever it takes to make her happy. Central to this story are two young girls in love, Ruth and Adele. One lonely evening Sebastien follows two girls and although he saves them from a local policeman after witnessing their sweet kiss, something about them smells wrong. What he finds is the Chancellor's terrible plan to use Ruth, Adele, and a school of girls as his own personal secret weapon.

I liked this very short story, however, I don't recommend it be read on it's own as I don't believe the main characters would be understood or well-appreciated. Sebastien is quite philosophical about time and loss, Abby Irene can't perform her sorcery and Phoebe is in the background so this is a slower kind of story. The girls, Ruth in particular, are intriguing and I like how Bear incorporated the plight of the Jewish people through Ruth's character and how well she incorporated alternate history. However, Bear's focus on the effects of time, loss and aging affected me -- a nostalgic read. As a side note, I find the cover of this novella disturbing, even as I admit that it fits the story quite well. Recommended.

The White City (New Amsterdam, Book #3 - 189 pages)

Speaking of covers, I love the cover for The White City (December 31, 2010) and this was the first of the three stories I purchased because it called to me. I read the series in chronological order of events and read this book after I finished New Amsterdam. The series really flows better that way in my opinion.

The White City is set in Moscow and believe me the setting is gorgeous! After the events that chased Sebastien and his court from New Amsterdam and the terrible loss experienced in Paris, he decides to move on to Moscow to bring an old acquaintance some sad news. Instead what he finds when he arrives at Irina Stephanova's studio is a murder. Soon, Sebastien, Abby Irene and Phoebe are embroiled in a crime investigation. But quickly Sebastien realizes that this murder is somehow connected to another murder that took place the last time he and Jack were in Moscow, a murder that also involved Irina Stephanova.

I loved New Amsterdam, but this has to be my favorite of the three books. It features two parallel mystery murder investigations and/or stories, one led by Jack and Sebastien, and the other by Sebastien and Abby Irene, both beautifully worked and weaved into one by the end. The characters, setting and atmosphere in this story are rich and well.. gorgeous. I loved the mood, the revelations that came from and about all the characters, and particularly about the wampier culture. The White City made me want more stories about Don Sebastien de Ulloa and more of Elizabeth Bear's writing. Highly recommended.

That's the meat of this series, although I understand that Ad Eternum was written as an epilogue, a 90 page short story featuring Sebastien's return to New Amsterdam in 1962. I don't have it and don't intend to read it. I'm sure you have one question: how is this steampunk? Well, we can begin with the fact that in 1862 our characters travel from Europe to New Amsterdam in a hydrogen fueled dirigible and go from there. The steampunk details are subtle and don't overwhelm or take away from the rich characterization, the mystery murder investigations, or the alternate history details and fantastic atmosphere that make this series stand out.

NOTE: All three of these books are out of print but available in ebook format for eReaders for $2.99 each.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

May 2012: Reads + Updates

May is over! During May I celebrated my 3rd bloggiversary by reading and reviewing books by authors whose works I have recommended throughout the past three years. Favorite authors.

I was lucky that many of them had recent releases, and was able to read and/or review books by Mary Balogh, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Mayberry, Carrie Lofty, Nalini Singh, Lisa Dale, Alex Jeffers and Steve Berman. And since I love to 'discover' new-to-me authors, there a few of those in there too. I'll be following up by reading Catherine Lundoff, Sally MacKenzie and Annika Martin. :)

As you can see, May was definitely a great month!

May Books Read: 20
 Contemporary: 5
 Historical Romance: 6
 Paranormal Romance/Sci-fi: 1
 Fantasy: 1
 LGBT: 7 (Fantasy=2, Romance=5)

1.   The Proposal by Mary Balogh: B-
2.   Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky #1) by Elizabeth Bear: A-
3.   Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff: B
4.   Firooz and His Brother (Free Short Story from Wonder Stories) by Alex Jeffers: *NG
5.   The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro #2) by Nora Roberts: C+
6.   College Boys by Daisy Harris: C
7.   Addicted to You by Bethany Kane: C+
8.   Under Her Uniform by Victoria Janssen: B-
9.   A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale: B+
10. The Charm School by Susan Wiggs: B+
11. Boys of Summer edited by Steve Berman: B
12. The Hostage Bargain by Annika Martin: B
13. Hard Tail by J.L. Merrow: B
14. Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry: B+
15. Frog by Mary Calmes: C+
16. A Little More Scandal by Carrie Lofty: B+
17. Bedding Lord Ned (Duchess of Love #1) by Sally MacKenzie: B-
18. Permanently Legless by J.L. Merrow: C+
19. The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone: (Upcoming Review)
20. Tangle of Need (Psy/Changeling #11) by Nalini Singh: B
     *NG = No grade yet, will save it for the book release (Great story though!)

Upcoming Reviews:

Currently Reading:

If you go by my grades, my top reads last month were Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth BearHer Best Worst Mistake by Sarah MayberryA Little More Scandal by Carrie LoftyThe Charm School by Susan Wiggsand A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale. However, those "B" grades were really enjoyable too! 

How about you? Did you find any treasures in your book pile last month? 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Quotes" of the Month

Did everyone have a great weekend? I just got back to work today after the holiday. It was a hot, hot day! It actually felt like summer. Nice.

I didn't read half of the books that I planned to read during my three day weekend, but had a very nice time. Today instead of a review, I gathered a few quotes that stood out from some of the books read this month -- a few of them will be added to my collection.

She had never believed in fate. She still did not. It would make nonsense of freedom of will and choice, and it was through such freedom that we worked our way through life and learned what we needed to learn. -- Gwen, The Proposal by Mary Balogh
Better to be a neutered wizard than a woman. -- Samarkar-la, Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
To really get to know someone, get them out of their comfort zones -- out of their usual context. Then watch and learn. -- Lauren, A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale
She needn't have worried. Becca Thornton at fifty might as well have been invisible. Carts went around her, younger women picked up the romance novels, men old and young picked up the sports and car magazines, and not one of them noticed anything different about her.  -- Becca, Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff
Sweetheart. . . You think I'm going to let you go now that I have you in my clutches? You think I want to go back to living in black and white now that I know what Technicolor looks like? - Martin, Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry
"It's inappropriate to shoot the bad art," I said. Odin squinted. "We're criminals, baby. Everything we do is inappropriate." Melinda/Isis and Odin, The Hostage Bargain by Annika Martin
"Or if you're nervous about pain, you could consider getting your intimate hair dyed. It'd cover up the grey beautifully. It was nice seeing you, Tim." She swept up again, leaving me standing there, mortified. I had grey pubes? She'd seen my grey pubes? I mentally added tweezers to the shopping list. Tim and Olivia, Hard Tail by J.L. Merrow