Friday, March 6, 2015

Book Review: The Orphan Queen

Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others

As any of you who have seen my Goodreads review can attest I had a mixed bag experience with this book originally.  5 months ago I had excitedly requested the book for review from Edelweiss, running home from my friend's to read it.  Eagerly I read it, though I had some trepidations about the beginning, and to my shock I finished it quickly (we're talking less then a hour here folks).  Insult to injury it ended so abruptly I couldn't understand what had happened.

A little research later proved that Harper had only put a sampler (the length of the first part of the book, roughly 140pages) online and didn't think to mark it as such.  Jodi had made a blog post about it by the time I had cooled down enough to actually NOT yell my anger.  Though it didn't do anything for my anger levels as it just made me angry in a different way*.

Anyhow I got my hands on a finished copy (thank you ALAMidwinter) and read it through as quickly as my exhausted brain would let me.  With frequent stops to comment on things (see hashtag #TheOrphanQueen...or this status update conversation no spoilers, unless you count reactions to things not named as spoilers).  And thank you sweet shiny books that I did because my heart could not go on.

Possibly not that surprisingly almost all of my issues with how Part 1/the sampler ended are resolved within Parts 2&3.  No I'm serious here.  
1) Multiple Possible Love interests? One tosses himself under the bus while another seems to start to work out but ultimately ALSO tosses himself under the bus.
2) Super Shady Melanie? Legit, if surprising to Wil, reason.
3) All telling no showing? Okay this evens out somewhat, though its still very much a "Ask a n00b question, get a detailed answer" game in some parts, sort of justified because of what one character is scheming.
4) Why is Magic Bad? I'm...on the fence for this one since I think an answer may have been revealed, but it was a small part of a larger issue so it may not be the whole truth.
5) Wil and Mel's inability to understand court politics? Answered and with relish on one character's part.
6) Black Knife's morality issues (aka the world is black and white): Answered. Especially once we find out who he is. It makes A LOT of sense.  Also why I love him.
7) Wil wondering about if magic is bad? TOTALLY ANSWERED and not in a good way for her sanity.

So you see my broken faith was restored by the end.  Only to be broken anew by the last few paragraphs.  Okay I'm being dramatic, but JOOOODDDDIIIIII :shakes fist:

A lot transpires within OQ and you do need a certain level of disbelief to go along.  Wil's journey outside the castle walls for a number of weeks for instance.  She's pretending to be a highborn lady, who's a Ward of the King.  How the heck she is able to sneak out night after night is surprising enough (though also mostly answered), but a two week journey? TWO WEEKS.  Not two days, not a week, two weeks she's expected to be able to roam off where she (reluctantly) wanted without anyone questioning?  I had a lot of trouble buying that.  

And quite frankly a band of misfit, underfed, orphans with minimal training could actually retake a Kingdom is just as o.O  I don't know what Patrick was smoking, but I'm glad when Wil calls him out.

Like I said put aside your disbelief because this is an engaging roller coaster ride.  I liked Wil, her heart was in the right place in regards to her intentions and during the course of the book she learns to grow that backbone she should have had in the beginning.   She makes plenty of mistakes, but she truly believes that she is working to save her Kingdom (or what is left of that Kingdom) from invaders.  

Tobiah I have little to say about - he's a Prince. He's a bored, kind of disinterested, mostly unhappy because he is being forced to marry a girl he doesn't love, Prince.

James is fun and flirty and protective.  His heart is in the right place as well, though his methods are occasionally suspect.

Patrick I want to see beheaded. 

Melanie...I feel for this girl.  She's torn in two by her loyalties and feelings, wanting to resent Wil for something she can't help and never asked for.  Loving Wil because they've been best friends forever and she knows Wil's heart is in the right place.  Distrusting Wil because she's not such a blind forgiving idiot that she doesn't see that the world she wants can't happen because of Wil.  She makes questionable choices, but like Wil she's trying to stay true her heart.  Its just not a cut and dry solution.

Black Knife. Hey so let's talk about Black Knife who is awesome and great and the best thing since sliced bread.  Also let me emphasize that Black Knife is the awesome one. Everything after we find out who he really is, that's a different story. Before that reveal however BK couldn't have been cooler if he tried.  Honestly he reminded me of why I used to love Nightwing in the New Teen Titans - he smiles and jokes and flirts while dispensing justice.  

Granted BK had some things to learn, like you know the world isn't black and white, nor should you assume all that you are told is sacrosanct, but he makes that effort and when he finds out he may have been on the somewhat less just side then he thought he changes his methods and atones.

That my friends is a sign of someone who is mature.

But like I said after we find out who he is things take a bit of a downhill turn.  Can't say why but depending on the second book's opening, you may hear me say "Don't you dare fridge ____!" 

This all said I'm a little iffy with the last fifth of the book.  A lot comes out into the light of day and suddenly happens.  Not that any of it wasn't previously discussed, but everything happens one on top of the other so its hard to feel anything but dizzy by the end when yet another game changer happens.

So now we wait.  The good news is that a new prequel novella is due out in June (The Hidden Prince), with another due out in September (The Glowing Knight), with at least two more in the wings (currently unnamed) and the second book is due out in March of 2016.  Yeah. Dammit.  Join me my friends in saying JOOOODDDDIIIIII :shakes fist:

Monday, March 2, 2015

ebook review: The Assassin's Salvation

When Jamie Flipkens signed on as a pilot and engineer for a small medical research company, she never expected to end up on a mercenary ship full of hulking soldiers who want to make her their latest conquest. The captain has been good to her--it doesn't hurt that he's her boss's new beau--but she's on the verge of quitting when a strange man shows up at her shuttle door.

Sergei Zharkov claims to be an old friend of the captain's. He neglects to mention that he's also an assassin, a dangerous man who even the hardened mercenaries avoid. Jamie should avoid him, too, but she's drawn to the charm that sometimes escapes from beneath his grim facade. She finds herself wanting to give him a reason to smile--and maybe a little more than that.

The problem? There's a fresh bounty on the captain's head, and it's possible Sergei is there to collect it.

Note this is Book 3 of the series (MERCENARY INSTINCT was book 1, TRIAL AND TEMPTATION is Book 2, but I skipped it because assassin) so there's quite a bit of spoilerage involved. However if you're in it for the couple--Jamie and Sergei that is--then you don't have much to worry about as Sergei is new to this book and Jamie, while a separate character in the other two books, doesn't come into her own personality until this one.

Straight off I want to address the fact that Liondrake took Jamie's story into area I was less comfortable with.  Jamie is quick to point out that the Captain has sheltered them and tolerated them because of his relationship with Ankari (and nominally the money of his investment).  However that was at odds with the fact that Jamie felt very awkward around the other crew members.  Their behavior towards her bordered on sexual harassment and it seemed odd to me that the Captain wouldn't say something since he did take a more protector role towards her.

Otherwise I enjoyed this a lot though the assassin angle wasn't quite what I expected (we can blame fantasy for that).  Sergei comes on rather strong, but he's careful towards Jamie.  He definitely wants her, tells her as much, but he wants Jamie on her terms, not his.  He's willing to wait, or step aside, if that's what is better for her.  

Jamie's a mixed up mess.  She wants to leave the ship (because of discomfort) but she's enjoying learning from the ship's engineer and acknowledges she's learning more from him then from a classroom.  She wants to go to school, but mainly its because she feels a fake and fraud since she's almost entirely self-taught from books.  She wants a relationship with Sergei...actually no she's firm on this one.

This one felt more insular then INSTINCT, with a lot more time spent on the two of them running around solo, then as part of the group.  I'm okay with that--I'm in these books first for the romance, second for the other stuff.  And their romance was a joy to watch develop.  Sergei is a man of few words, but Jamie learns to pick up on the actions to understand.  I loved how Sergei wanted to protect Jamie, but saw that she was hella more resourceful then him at times and let her protect him.  I loved how Jamie listened and really understood what making the choice to pursue him might mean.  He shared a lot of personal details with her (in a somewhat comical moment as he silently urged himself to STOP but just kept talking), but she gave it all serious consideration.

I will say not knowing the second book sort of impeded my understanding of something Jamie apparently did.  However it didn't impede the romance angle of this book so that's all I really cared about in the end.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Smashwords: Read an Ebook Week Sale (3/1 - 3/7)

Its that time of year again folks when Smashwords hosts a sale to grab your interest.  I've talked in the past about books I've gotten/read/enjoyed (here, here, here) and this'll be no different.

Tsunoda Naoki is a ghost expert! Maybe. Okay, not really. He just pretends to be one, scraping a living by putting the easily-spooked at ease. But his luck seems to run out when he’s suddenly got a real ghost to deal with. He can’t even see this spirit, let alone exorcise her—and to complicate matters further she apparently seems to like Naoki… a lot.

Is this ghost hunt a romantic comedy or a tragic horror?

When her dreams are smashed by an assignment which would leave her trapped in a job far beneath her abilities, Eleanor has nowhere to turn. The Imperial system prides itself on unassailable perfection. In desperation she rejects her assignment and the quality of life she would have been guaranteed - and finds her imagination captured by legends which tell of a secret society of elite assassins.

In a distant future, Trevor "Lex" Alexander was shaping up to be the next great race pilot until a fixed race got him banned from the sport. Reduced to making freelance deliveries, he thinks his life can't get any worse. That's when a package manages to get him mixed up with mobsters, a megacorp, and a mad scientist. Now his life depends on learning what their plans are, and how he can stop them.

Josephine is a powerful wizard with a talent for psychometry that is so strong and acute that she can read the psychic impressions in a room without touching anything. Her abilities are as rare as they are unsettling. Her peaceful and quiet retired life is shattered when the police request her help with investigating a crime scene left behind by a suspect with powers equal to her own.

***** Part 1 of an 8 part Serial *****

Saira doesn't know how she ended up in a mountain cave. She's not quite sure where she got this magic sword, either - or the tattoo on her arm. In fact, Saira can't say for certain who she is.

What she does know: she's been kidnapped by bandits. And apparently, they're planning to use her as bait for a city full of ghosts ...

When monsters break through the veil between worlds, Mackenzie Scott has nothing left to lose. Her brother is marked, her future is gone, and all that remains is a desperate need for revenge. She devises a plan to stop them, and finds an injured stranger that just might be the key. But he's not the helpless boy he appears to be. He's one of them. And he's got plans of his own.

25% Off

This Descendants Series box set includes the following titles:

BOUND BY PROPHECY -- Aern's only job is to protect the chosen. Emily just wants her sister back. Together, they'll take on destiny.

SHIFTING FATE -- Brianna Drake was born to save the world. Logan was sent to watch over her. Neither expects what fate has in store.

REIGN OF SHADOWS -- Brianna and Emily thought they'd set things to right, beaten the prophecy. But the shadows have other plans.

50% Off

Why is the Empress suddenly so interested in the drylands north of the Empire? Eleanor and Daniel don't agree on much, but when they're sent to investigate strange happenings near the border between two foreign states, neither of them is really sure why they're there. Meanwhile at home, the rebels are causing chaos in the streets, whilst the Empress is grows ever more demanding of her citizens.

You can check out the whole sale going on right now over at Smashwords.  Tell me what you find how about?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: Echo 8

Three lives. Two worlds. One chance to save them all.

As a parapsychologist working for Seattle Psi, Tess has devoted her life to studying psychic phenomena. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world that's been struck by an asteroid, nothing in her training will help her survive what's to come.

After dislocating to Seattle Psi from the other Earth, Jake is confined by a special task force for study. But when he drains life energy from Tess, almost killing her, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds — and creates a bond neither of them expected.

Ross is an FBI agent ordered to protect Tess while she studies Jake. His assignment is not random — he and Tess have a history, and a connection the Bureau hopes to use to its own advantage. By the time Ross realizes his mission could be compromised, it's already too late — he'll have to choose between his love for Tess and his duty to protect the people of his own Earth.

This one is more like GHOST PLANET then THE OPHELIA PROPHECY, even down to the paranormal component. Largely I spent the book confused by anything not directly related to the character emotional relationships with each other.

Basically this was much "harder" scifi then I'm accustomed to in my scifi romances. Words, theories and suppositions were all tossed around as if I should understand the underlying concepts.  I love parallel world stories.  Just look at my love for A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray or UNRAVELING by Elizabeth Norris.  But what I love more is some sort of understanding of how the parallel world works.

So let's instead focus on what I did enjoy. Tess is interesting in that she's obviously smart; we're told as much, but she proves it more than once in her analysis and comprehension.  She catches on quickly to what the circumstances surrounding Jake represent.  She's also a victim of her own brilliance in terms of her and Ross' relationship.  Social cues mean little to her so she takes everything on face value.  Ross made a snarky comment about something she believes in, so obviously he thinks everything she does is ridiculous.  Even as she recognizes the skepticism others have she holds him higher.

Ross meanwhile is very much "Listen to what I mean, not what I say" sort of person.  More than Tess we "hear" his regrets in how he has handled their first meeting and how they get along thereafter.  But he doesn't understand what she's looking into and he doesn't know how to get around that.  So he waits and he pokes about trying to find a way to get her to understand.

Jake is antagonistic, somewhat petty and wholly over his head.  I never quite understood Tess' attraction to him, and I'd argue she never felt romantically towards him.  Still we can thank him for Tess and Ross, since Ross' jealousy towards him prompt him to act.The change in their relationship is a shock, since it just sort of happens, but from his point of view made sense. 

Fisher does address the inconsistency on Tess' end, as to that point she spent much of the book worried over what her research could mean and how Ross kept getting in the way (or rather the group Ross represented), then any lust she felt towards him.  Given that their first time together is rather...extraordinary and opens up a host of new things for Tess to investigate, I was rather glad there wasn't a whole lot of time spent on regret.

The "Echoes" like Jake represent a link that, as anyone who is versed in any sort of paranormal books that involve the government can attest to, offers quite the juicy prize.  "You can travel across dimensions you say hmmm?" is the gist of at least one government official's commentary as he twirls his imaginary mustache.  Rule number one in dimension hopping never trust the government. Yours or the one on the other side.

In the end this wasn't enough for me to whole-heartedly enjoy.  The mechanics of it didn't interest me as much as they should have and Jake's grating presence wore thin on my patience.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Post ALAMW 2015: 5 Books to Be Excited About

ALA Midwinter is, by in large, a much more relaxed conference then Book Expo America (I spoke more about this last year).  I can't say anything towards the Annual Conference (which is larger and has a huge literacy signing open to the public), but for me ALAMW is really the perfect sort of conference.

I've already gone into (briefly, more to come) the We Need Diverse Book Panel (Part 1), and I'll speak as to several other author panels I sat in on at the Pop Top Stage (which was possibly my favorite part of the conference).  But I wanted to get y'all geared up for some exciting books coming our way.

You can see a complete list of the books I got at the conference here on GoodReads. Where possible I linked to a digital galley you could request, all other links lead back to GoodReads. 

"Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent."
Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge,  ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect.
Whyso Interested?  Let's start with the fact Athena (Pallas Athene) is a time traveling goddess and I think from there you can extrapolate why I'm so excited.  Also I think I'm going to like Ethel and Simmea.  I really do.

Welcome to Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions, the premier trainer of minions for Evil Overlords everywhere. No student is prouder to be at Dr. Critchlore’s than Runt Higgins, a twelve-year-old werewolf. (At least he thinks he’s twelve. He was abandoned at the school as a baby, so he can’t say for sure.) Runt loves everything about Dr. Critchlore’s. He loves his classes—like History of Henchmen and Introduction to Explosives. He loves his friends—like Darthin the gargoyle and Syke the tree nymph. And he loves his foster family, who took him in when his wolf pack couldn’t.

But not everyone loves Dr. Critchlore’s as much as Runt. After a series of disasters, each worse than the next, it’s clear that someone is trying to shut the school down. It’s up to Runt, who knows the place better than anybody, to figure out who’s behind the attacks . . . and to save his home, and Dr. Critchlore himself, from total destruction

Whyso Interested? SCHOOL FOR MINIONS.  Aside from the obvious awesome that is, who could say NO? I'd go to that school in a HEARTBEAT.

Goodreads // Netgalley
In the wake of the deadly devastation of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace, rescued from the ocean after torturous days adrift with her dying friend Libby, knows that the Persephone wasn’t sunk by a rogue wave as survivors Senator Wells and his son, Grey, are claiming—it was attacked.

To ensure her safety from the obviously dangerous and very power­ful Wells family, Libby’s father helps newly orphaned Frances assume Libby’s identity. After years of careful plotting, she’s ready to expose the truth and set her revenge plans into motion—even if it means taking down the boy she’d once been in love with: Grey Wells himself.

Whyso Interested?...yeah so I ran into a door while reading this...I greatly enjoyed Ryan's "Forest of Hands and Teeth" books (and short stories), and revenge is always intriguing to me. There's always more then one side to every story and I have to wonder what the truth is exactly because its never as cut and dry as it seems.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I'm allergic to the world.I don't leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black--black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can't predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It's almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Whyso Interested? In the normal course of things I'm not sure I would have glanced twice at this as its not in my normal genres of choice.  However during the "We Need Diverse Books" panel at ALA Midwinter, the author spoke so engagingly about it that I decided I would read the book.

Goodreads // Edelweiss
Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt's doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it's the miserable Home for the Friendless.

Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate...and not just by helping out with household chores. For Aunt Kate is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present.

Based on the extraordinary true story of Kate Warne, this fast-paced adventure recounts feats of daring and dan
ger...including saving the life of Abraham Lincoln!

Whyso Interested? HOW COULD I NOT BE?  This sounds fabulous!  Also anything to do with the Pinkerton Detective Agency from back in the day is of interest to me. 

Did you find new stuff to read and check out?  Did you hear about a book I didn't? Share your thoughts!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: Greta and the Glass Kingdom

Once upon a dark time…

Greta the human bounty hunter never quite fit into the shadowed, icy world of Mylena. Yet she's managed to defeat the demon Agramon and win the love of the darkly intense Goblin King, Isaac. Now Isaac wants her to rule by his side—a human queen. And the very announcement is enough to incite rebellion…

To make matters worse, defeating Agramon left Greta tainted with a dark magick. Its unclean power threatens to destroy her and everything she loves. With the Goblin King's life and the very peace of Mylena at stake, Greta must find a cure and fast.

Her only hope lies with the strange, elusive faeries in the Glass Kingdom…if she can get there before the evil within her destroys everything.

I don't know how I feel about this!  I'm serious.  Everything felt so...sudden.  At least everything after the party scene.  Greta goes on a adventure. Things go badly.  Isaac comes for her. Things go even worse.  Greta keeps traveling and things get even worse.  There is literally NO GOOD things that happen.  Every step Greta takes is one step further into misery and despair.  

And I just couldn't understand why.

This is a pretty standard length book by today's YA fantasy standards. And while the first book wasn't puppies and rainbows bright and cheery, there were bright moments.  I honestly started dreading when something evenly remotely happy was happening because I knew it would lead to endless pages of unhappiness.  

Meanwhile everything I liked about the first book, namely Isaac and Greta's interactions, disappeared.  After the party we don't get an honest to goodness Isaac and Greta scene until the last 10%.  And even that last bit I'm not sure was earned or justified.  The method by which we got Isaac back was nothing less then a TRUE LOVE CONQUERS ALL THINGS (including logic) device.  And it felt that way.

And so we're clear this book perpetuates why I dislike Fairies/the Fair Folk in general.  

You may be wondering why I gave this three stars when I had so much to be unhappy with (up to and including I think there's a third book I had no idea about?), but in truth I kept reading. This book kept me reading despite my anger, despite my complaints and I can't fault Jacobs for accelerating the plot.  Happy Greta and Happy Isaac wouldn't have worked half as well as a second book, especially as there are still a LOT of unanswered questions.

Like just how bad are things in the world of Mylena that Isaac is covering up to Greta about?  Or why in the holy hell can't Greta find one freaking friend who doesn't have ulterior motives?  JUST ONE. That's all I'm asking for here.

As for the ending...:sigh: Portal fantasies are, by in large, groused about for good reasons.  Whether it be by science or magic that sends out main character to a land of Not Their Own, portal fantasies need for the reader to buy into the conceit of how it happened.  Since in the first book Greta is already in Mylena, and we only have her recounting of how she ended up there as to the "how it happened", not such an issue. Similarly we could discount Agramon and his minions threatening to throw her into a portal somewhere since they're bad guys. Rule #1 as a bad guy is to lie or obfuscate the truth.

In this book we get a first hand dealio with the portal transport and its rushed. The whole last chapter is rushed.  For spoiler reasons please highlight to read why:
[spoiler] They wind up back in "our world"--they being all those Lost Boys, Greta and Isaac--thanks to, you guessed it the bad guys. Okay great wonderful.  Instead of ending the book there, with them confused and dazed Jacobs hand waves it all until we get to where they're all headed to see Greta's parents for help.

I'm sorry what?

We're told how confused Isaac--the only truly new to our world person in the group--is. We're told how they scavenged and hid and worked out what to do. We're told how they came up with a somewhat plan to see Greta's parents and go from there.  This is all stuff I would have liked to see.  It would have made a good way to start the next book and a solid way to have readers want to come back for more.  

Reading about Greta's half-angst about how the boyfriend/husband/partner she has (Isaac) isn't who her parents (that she hasn't seen for almost half a dozen years) would have wanted for her is not what I'm interested in reading about. Greta's earlier angst were good reasons for her to worry about her relationship (namely humans are hated in Mylena so making her their QUEEN suddenly wasn't going to improve matters). Greta's angst that her parents may disapprove is not a good reason.
[end spoiler]

In the end this book kept me reading, but I grew more irritated as I went on.  This was a 2.5 star read for me--basically I only enjoyed it half as much as I expected to--so its rounded up.  Here's hoping Book 3 resolves some of my issues.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

PR Special Edition: Ellizabeth Bear Interview

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition

Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!  Today we  welcome Elizabeth Bear, author of the wonderful Eternal Skies trilogy, New Amsterdam series and of course the Promethean Age novels.  Her newest book, Karen Memory, is a steampunk western yarn with Jack the Ripper at its center.  She's answering some Q's from inquiring minds.
“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.
Welcome Elizabeth to Poisoned Rationality! Thank you so much for joining us today :)
I’m thrilled to be here! Hello!
If you had to distill KAREN MEMORY down to three important moments what do you think they would be?
Oh, man, that’s hard. But I feel like it has to be meetings. There’s the moment when Karen meets Priya and Merry Lee, which sets her on her road toward taking on the biggest injustice in her small world. And there’s the moment when she meets the Marshall and his posseman, which provides her with allies and important information. And then there’s the moment when she meets her greatest enemy and discovers the true measure of her courage and resolve.
What type of help does a working girl need with steam powered science afoot?
Anybody she can get! From a burly doorman to a granite­jawed Madam; from an ex­slave lawman to a resourceful escapee from the sex­slave trade. A one­armed engineer, a steel­fisted lady of the evening, or a deaf white cat. Karen ain’t picky, as long as she feels she can trust you.  
If you happen to have access to an airship, or know how to sling a shooting iron, that might come in handy...
Why this time period and place?
It honestly had a lot to do with where I came to the ideas for the book from. There was a real Seattle
madam named Mother Damnable, for example. She’s not my Madame Damnable—and Rapid City isn’t Seattle—but there’s definitely inspiration there. The girls at the Hôtel Mon Cherie grew out of a period photograph of the ladies of a similar ‘parlor house,’ also located in Seattle. And I have a long­standing love for those sorts of buried cities, raised by fill around the ground floors of the buildings already standing. It seems to have happened to most coastal cities once upon a time—Boston has neighborhoods like that as well.
Was there anything you wanted to include in this book that you couldn't (for whatever reason)?
I would have liked a little more cryptozoology than we got. In Karen’s world, the various so­called Creatures of the Lumberwoods—the critters from legendry and tall tales, such as the squonk, the hodag, the splintercat, the hoopsnake, the jackalope, the chupacabra, the glawackus, Champ, the sasquatch, the wendigo—they’re all real. I think they have Pacific tree octopuses too, even though those are a modern invention, because I love them.
I’m a sucker for all that stuff. Especially squonks, which are a legendary bird that can never be captured alive because if you put it into a sack it weeps so copiously that it dissolves into a puddle of its own tears and seeps away. I’d have loved to do more with all of that. I just didn't have room, without it turning into a distraction. Discipline is the hardest thing.
Without spoiling the ending, what do you think Karen would like to do the most if money (and ability) were no object?
Oh gosh. She’d take the love of her life and travel the world. Pony trekking in Mongolia. She’d go up to Anchorage and see it for herself. Sri Lanka. Shanghai. Hawaii. Australia, Antarctica, Chile. The whole Pacific rim. Maybe even someplace really exotic, like Boston or New York!

Thank you Elizabeth!!


 About the Author

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

She lives in Massachusetts with a Giant Ridiculous Dog. Her partner, acclaimed fantasy author Scott Lynch, lives in Wisconsin.

Author Links:
The More You Know Links:
Fantasy Review Barn: Karen Memory Review (4 Stars)
SFF World: Karen Memory Review