Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Morning Cuppa

Morning Cuppa: Boston Metaphysical Society

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s fabulously fangtastic parlour located somewhere along the seasonably chilled spine of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have called it a dreadful place inhabited  by frightful fiends and plagued by the occasional bad tempered Wight, but we consider that such people are merely getting a little carried away with their seasonal shenanigans.

You find us this morning in haste, our paper bags empty, our turnips carved and our faces painted with… stuff… because it is never really too early to begin trick or treating is it? Certainly we were attacked by a group of urchins over the  weekend dressed in panda masks and donkey heads and demanding sustenance and shelter and illegal sugar laden treats. So we are off now to see if we can score something for ourselves on that front…

But before we do, there is (always) just about time to kick our tentacles up on the table for  a moment and enjoy a festival-fuelling brew of Hershel’s Tonic and some seaonally spooky and splendidly steampunkish fiction, which we fortunately happen to have right here…

 

This is the prequel to Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s series of graphic novels, Boston Metaphysical Society. It is our first foray into this series and we are now absolutely hooked and ready to follow these characters and their fascinating world through whatever paranormal encounters and mysterious adventures await them in the next few books.

The set of seven individual short stories includes The Secret, The Devil Within (which was our favourite) , The Demons Of Liberty Row, The Secret Of Kage House, Steampunk Rat, The Clockwork Man and The Way Home. All are set in a re-imagined Steampunk America where the paranormal is… ah… normal! … and it is the primary purpose of society’s commoners to ensure these ghostly goings on do not interrupt the peaceful existence of the wealthy elite.

There are plenty of thrills, mysteries and intrigues inside this rather delightfully gothic-feeling collection; historical references aplenty for those of you who, like us, just go gooey over mash-ups and hat-tips and the like, and it will certainly appeal to anyone who likes the focus of their Steampunk to be on the everyday working classes rather than the upper.

What attracted us most though was the obvious depth and heart pervading each tale and we really felt that if we could fall in love with the characters in such small glimpses, then following them on through the rest of their adventures was absolutely obligatory – we’re very excited to see where life will take them all next!

If you have already read and enjoyed the comics / graphic novels in this series then we are willing to bet you will love these short stories which will no doubt add colour and depth to both the characters and world you already know. If, like us, this is your first encounter with the series, then this little collection is a lovely introduction and, as it has a nice little preface to set the scene before you dive in, it is a perfect place to begin.

 

Now then, we must delay no longer, the candy calls, as they say – do they say that? Possibly, either way we wish you a splendiferously spooky build up to the big bad treat-fest (whatever you call it in your dimension) and until we see you again,

Please remain always

Utterly Yourself


Morning Cuppa: Small Grey Bear Adventures

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s indeterrably intrepid and frabjously furry parlour located somewhere within the irritable bowels of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have called it a devilishly delinquent dive, frequented by only the most diabolical demons, but we consider that such people are merely getting a little carried away with the festive spirit.

This morning we are feeling far too warm and fuzzy inside to be entering into the Halloween / Samhain / All Souls / Candy-fest / Thing atmosphere because we have just finished reading two of the most delightful books ever written and we would like to share those with you over a spot of Galli-Grey Regeneration Tea ( because, New Doctor and, of course, Earl Grey…)

 

 

George is a small grey bear of adventurous inclination and these two books detail two of his intrepid adventures. He is also a Ghost Bear – which is something really quite marvelous indeed!

In book one, George and his chums are kidnapped by wicked pirate squirrels and are forced to endure scathing reviews of their performances of Gilbert and Sullivan and in the second book our little furry hero pits his wits against the some sweet-toothed skulduggerists on planet Mars!

These heart warming illustrated adventures are beautifully produced and an absolute joy from start to finish. The urchins we read them to were beaming with glee throughout and there many excited squeals of delight, particularly at ‘the end’ !

We actually shed tears and the urchins literally leap up and down with excitement when we discovered the story-related recipes in the back cover of each book (you know how emotional we get about cake…) We will definitely be baking these soon and when we do we will post pictures in our elevenses slot (but not the recipes! You’ll have to read the books for those because the recipe is given as a little story which is just too, too adorable to miss!

There is enough warm-hearted, gentle but highly witty humour throughout both books to keep both urchins and adults chuckling and engaged from start to finish and they immediately became firm bedtime favorites.

If your own little urchins are of the intelligent and discerning sort who prefer A A Milne, Kenneth Grahame, Edward Leah or Lewis Carroll to the average uninspiring mass produced picture books on offer, then these are a couple of gorgeous gems to add to your storytime treasure chest.

 

As for us, we are still plucking up the courage to have those stern words with Montmorency about the flooding in here – our pig has set sail for the land where the bong tree grows and I believe we may be heading that way soon ourselves if Max doesn’t bail out fast enough. Still tomorrow we will share with you our #inktober tea painting efforts and inky things and a little bit of story to go with them.

In the meantime stay dry and warm and do remain always

Uttery Yourself


Morning Cuppa: Selkie Cove

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s Utopian underwater apartments located, at present, beneath the deluge of water overflowing from the river Lune and into the drainage systems of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have said that there’s always something fishy going on around here, but what exactly do they expect when one of us is an octopus and the other refuses to kowtow to public demands for personal hygiene … owch! It was a joke Max! My gentleman friend has no sense of humour at all…

Well our pig is still happy, although we have had to set him adrift in a little crate as the parlour is flooded with rainwater coming in through the floor and we are going to have strong (ish) words with our landlord about this, once we pluck up the courage… in the meantime I am going to perch on Max’s head while he ‘bails out’ and… hm? … you think I ought to be just fine in the water because I’m an octopus? My dear friends, there is a world of difference (at least there ought to be) between the waters of The Great Western Ocean and the excrement of the Lancastrian sewer system… a-hem… now where was I? Oh yes, perching on Max’s head about to open a marvelous book …

 

Selkie Cove is the next installment of Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series which we have become absolutely addicted to over the last few years. It is no secret at all that she has become one of our favorite authors and with very good reason – her writing combines diverse, complex and compelling characters embedded in  gripping narratives which combine action, emotion and suspense in perfect balance.

If you are new to this series, it is possible to start here and still understand what has gone before, but much better to start at the beginning: The Earl Of Brass

If like us however you have been dying to know what happens next, you will not be disappointed…

With the horrors of the past seemingly far behind them, Immanuel and Adam are still feeling the after effects that dark magic has left on their lives. When a new mystery surfaces and magic invites itself into their lives once more, the couple are faced with some difficult choices that will affect the course of their future lives.

It was interesting to see how Adam and Immanuel’s  relationship developed – and how they both grew and changed as individuals – when faced with the new challenges of life as a couple within the rigidity of Victorian society. This interplay gave the story warmth and depth and added to the emotional roller coaster that all the IMD novels offer. Overall this was a top notch adventure and we loved the interplay of myth, magic and science within this steampunk setting.

Now then, I’m afraid we don’t have any tea to offer you today because it is all being painted with – today is the first of Inktober and, just like last year, we are going to endeavor to do a little bit of tea painting each day in the hopes of producing one painting per week (or perhaps more but lets not got carried away!)  we will post our first effort so far tomorrow so, until then

please remain always

Utterly Yourself


Morning Cuppa:A Study In Temperance

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s marvelously mysterious and sublimely sleuth-tastic parlour located beneath the beating heart of te splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have said that its occupants couldn’t figure their way out of a paper bag and that the only mystery involved is their continued existence but we consider that such people are merely embittered that we are smarter than them.

You find us this morning with a happy pig swilling beer, and a new idea for making rent money – we are going to open a small private detective agency! Surely there is an abundance of crime here in Lancaster (much of which we are involved in ourselves and still more of which we are already acquainted with the perpetrators, so finding the villains should be a piece of cake!)

However we wanted to begin in an informed manner and so we have been reading A Study In Temperance by our good friend Mr Ichabod Temperance. It’s taken us rather longer than intended to review this book because when we read an exert of The Two Faces Of Temperance WE JUST HAD to read that one first, we couldn’t wait! So our review schedule got a little messed up as we didn’t feel we could review book 10 out of the blue without going back and doing books 4-9 first.. if that makes sense? So, without further ado, let us kick our tentacles up on the table, pour an excellent cup of Sherlock Holmes Tea from Victoria Mae Designs  and take a look …

If you haven’t yet begun the riotous romp that is the adventures of Mr Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt, you could easily start with this adventure but you would do much better (because otherwise you will have missed so much fun!)to begin at the beginning…

If on the other hand you have got to book three and been eagerly awaiting to get your hands (or indeed tentacles) on the next installment then you are going to be in heaven because this series just gets better and better!

This time Ichabod and Persephone are back in England and we also get to meet a rather famous fictional detective… this was so splendidly done, as always,the writer goes far beyond taking a literary character, plot or setting and lifting it into his own world – rather he utterly makes it his own with more parody and pastiche than even we could shake a stick at. Also, as the books are progressing, t Persephone and Ichabod are given less of the spotlight which is a very interesting approach and gives the comedy a lot more scope as well!

We really don’t want to give any spoilers on this marvelous tale, suffice to say, another laugh out loud, unpredictable and utterly delightful  adventure from this chaotic couple.

And now we must busy ourselves with finding the right hats and pipes and business cards and all the other essential things needed for solving crime… we wish you all a delightfully delinquent morning and if you are personally involved in any felonious enterprises do please let us know so that we can cash-in won’t you?

And do remain always, utterly yourself.

If you are interested in reading our review policy please see the reviews section at the top menu. 

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: The Dandelion Farmer

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s exuberantly experimental and improbably porcine parlour located beneath the grimy streets of the splendidly scencic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some will call our flamboyant descriptions of our subterranean safe-house ‘Hogwash’ but we consider that such people are merely swine.

You find us this morning with a dead pig on the rug. This is entirely the fault of Nimue Brown and we take no responsibility for the matter whatsoever. (As Max says, “A True Gentleman never takes responsibility for anything, if he can help it, least of all his own actions.”) We have done some research and ordered a new pig and some beer and a couple of Conservative MPs and hope the thing will go better next time… What?

… Max says I am painting a very suspect and inaccurate picture of events and he would like me to make it clear that a) Max was not in any way involved with the pig , b) the purpose of the pig in the parlour was completely innocent and c) all we did was feed the pig substandard black-market tea which likely consisted of a large amount of brick dust and asbestos and this caused it to keel over and die. d) Max was in no way involved with the pig…

What? … no I don’t think that by making point d) a repetition of point a) it makes it sound as though you were involved with the pig Max… and I’m sure none of our dear friends here would think that of you in any case, I mean, I know you’re shackled to a regrettable romantic history but… owch! … right. Fine. I see cruelty to animals is not beneath you afterall. I shall say no more about it.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to listen to us bickering over a dead pig, you came to enjoy some marvelous tea and some splendid steampunk fiction. So, let us kick our tentacles up on the table, and do just that… Our tea this morning is Dandelion and Burdock brew by Muddy Boots (we are not usually fans of Dandelion, as you know, but coupled with Burdock here it is quite sweet and delicious) and to accopany it, what better than this…

 

 

The Dandelion Farmer is a magnificently crafted  steampunk’d science-fiction novel that could easily stand alongside any of the sci-fi classics, and indeed should be considered essential reading for anyone keen to expand their collection to include modern gems alongside the familiar old.

Humans have colonised Mars and the Dandelion Farmer is trying to grow plants for bio-fuel while fending off the underhanded tactics of his land-grabbing adversary. But when a stranger appears on the farm needing assistance events rapidly spiral into a dark and thrilling journey through a twisted labyrinth of past and present with some very real demons.

McCall’s Mars has an 1800s American Western feel and holds a critical mirror both to that colonial era here on Earth, and to our current socio-political climate. It is an exceptional work of science fiction with a steampunk flavour and we look forward to reading and reviewing the next book in the series , The Hour Glass Sea,  when it is released.

And now that appears to be the door … hopefully it is either the butcher or our new pet… hm? You’ll call who? The R.S what? Well there’s really no need to be like that you know… why don’t you calm down, put that dueling parasol away and stay for lunch? We’re having bacon sandwiches… OWCH! … Max stop cowering behind the sofa and protect me, our guests have been inexplicably incited to violence!…

 

 

 

Note from Penny: No pigs, octopuses or Very Quiet Gentlemen were actually harmed during this tea party. Well, not much… certainly no more than they deserved…


Morning Cuppa: Sinners

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back at last to Max and Collin’s scrupulously sinful and magnificently meretricious parlour located somewhere in the bowels of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have called it the slightly sinister cellar of a maniacally minacious monster, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning feeling slightly sorry for ourselves – the lemonade selling season is at an end, Lord Ashton’s delightful curfew begins again tonight and with it will come his flesh eating Liver Birds, ridding the Lancastrian streets of unsightly vagrants and orphans. If my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend and I do not find ingenious ways to pay our rent we will be cowering below the skyway rails with the best of them so, things really are as thick as government-standard-issue porridge, as they say.

But never mind all that for now, you didn’t come here to listen to an octopus bemoan the hand that a life of relentless roguery hath dealt him, you came to enjoy a splendid cup of tea and some excellent fiction, so let’s kick our tentacles up on the table and do just that…

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This is the third book in the graphic novel series and if you haven’t already dipped your tentacles into this divine cauldron of delicious gothic delights we suggest you begin at the beginning

If however you are already a fan and have previously devoured The Gathering you will no doubt have been gnawing your knuckles to bone waiting to find out what happens to Sal, Owen, the islanders and the ‘other islanders’ ( of whom so far there had only been hints and teasing glimpses through the mist) … if this is you, then in Sinners you will not be disappointed. The same glorious amalgam of wordcraft and illustration that is the hallmark of this enchanting series endures and the intriguing plot thickens – what is the eldritch presence that pervades the island of Hopeless Maine? And in what way are Sal and her, markedly absent, parents embroiled in it? The Doctor thinks he knows… The Reverend thinks he knows too… Owen hopes they are wrong but Sal’s inexplicable powers undoubtedly come from somewhere and the disembodied voices of demons in the mists claim they know as well. To make matters worse, an epidemic of consumption is sweeping the island and the delightfully demonic Durosimi and his underground followers think they have a very elegant solution ; should the islanders set their differences aside and take the controversial route to salvation? Or are there really worse things than being dead…

Flying boats, skeleton dogs, folk with tentacles … an absolute joy from start to finish.

Now then, but what tea could possibly accompany such an epic read? We think it HAS to be Seven Deadly Sins by Sugarmoon Teas (which is actually rather virtuous but shhh, don’t let on)

We very much hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow when we will be talking treacle with impunity, until then please remain always

Utterly Yourself

 


Morning Cuppa: Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire

 

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the sultry summer streets of stemapunk’d Lancaster! You find us not at home this morning but peddling our home made Lemonade on street corners, trying to catch the eye of corruptible young ladies and avoid the attention of Her Majesty’s police force because, as you already know, Lemonade (along with every other sweet treat) is illegal here in the land of Ire.

But we’ve a lot to be cheerful about because although custom is slow this morning and the threat of not making the rent money looms over us like an enormous sinister landlord with a large stick … a-hem… the lull in foot traffic has given us time to kick our tentacles up on a soap box and enjoy a delightful book in the early morning sunshine…

 

 

There are so many things to love about the first book in Karen J Carlisle’s new series of cosy paranormal mysteries.

The detailed description drew us straight into the story and kept us there, fully immersed on a sensory level – obviously we humble Lancastrian tea fiends have never actually been to Australia but right from the first page we felt we were there, feeling the intense heat, the buffeting and scorching winds and the scent of eucalyptus and lemon butter, hearing each chink of china or enamel in Aunt Enid’s quaint kitchen and dated bathroom.

Sally is staying with her aged Aunt Enid when  the sudden death of Enid’s dearest friend, Olive, hints at events which may put the safety of the entire world in jeopardy. As Enid and her friend Agnes begin to investigate, the secrets which Enid has  been keeping from Sally are forced into the light – fairies, daemons and magic are real, so is The Dark ; an inter-dimensional force that is hungry for human souls, and so are the treasured gnomes in Aunt Enid’s garden…

We really loved the fact that the main characters in this series are mostly in the 50 – 80 age range and all multidimensional, feisty and streetwise with no aversion to high speed driving and late night poker sessions, or a spot of romantic intrigue!

Fans of Carlisle’s Viola Stewart series will lap this up like cream – it has the same delightful mix of thrilling suspense, heart-in-mouth action and charming characters and settings that we have all come to adore.

 

We shall be out here selling Lemonade throughout most of July and August but don not fear, we have invited some of our very favourite authors to come and give us a hand, some will be helping us sell Lemonade, some will be minding the parlour, and those who cannot be here in person will be sending in picture postcards from their exciting inter-dimensional travels!

Tomorrow Aunt Enid will be hopping in from Australia and minding the parlour for us so do please pop in and have a scone with her and until we see you again, please remain always

Utterly Yourself!

 

In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire via the featured links in this article. This has not affected my review, I only review and recommend products which I genuinely think others will enjoy – Penny 🙂 


Morning Cuppa: Heart Of Brass

 

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s delicately dazzling and glamorously glitzy parlour located somewhere in the dark and desperate  heart of the city of Steampunk’d Lancaster!

True there are those who will say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning in mourning for we have lost the heart of our beloved Captain Jack Davenport forever  but all is not lost I suppose, there are plenty more fish in the sea as they say. And plenty more hearts to be won – like this brass heart for example! And with an excellent tea on the brew (Most Ardently – a delightfully fresh citrus blend from Wick and Fable) and an excellent book to read, what have we really got to be grumpy about?

 

Felicity Banks is a new author for us and we have to say we were absolutely delighted with Heart Of Brass which is the first in her steampunk series ‘The Antipodean Queen.’

While our own hearts are forever entombed within the marvellous emerald isle of Ire, we do LOVE the amount of awesome Australian Steampunk fiction that lines our parlour shelves and Felicity Banks is yet another amazing Australian author to add to our growing collection!

Although the novel begins in Victorian England, our heroine, Emmeline Muchamore, soon encounters difficulties when her steam powered heart malfunctions.  Emmeline makes the difficult choice to steal the parts she needs to repair it but she is discovered and finds herself transported on one of the famous prison ships to Australia. Here she grows immensely  as a character, going from spoilt aristocratic lady,  to independent and altruistic woman who uses her unique skills to aid and strengthen herself and her friends.

This book is a wonderful voyage of discovery on so many levels; there’s the coming of age aspect, the awakening sexuality of the main characters and also the opening out of the historical backdrop which mirrors the characters’ on a grander scale.

All in all a beautifully crafted and engaging LGBTQ+ Steampunk novel and a fantastic start to a series which we plan to see through to the end!

We hope you will join us tomorrow for elevenses when we will be mixing up a little magic with a parlour full of steam wizards! Until then, please remain always

Utterly Yourself

 

 

 

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: Army Of Brass

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s brazenly brassy and aggressively amorous parlour located somewhere beneath the bustling city of steampunk’d Lancaster.

Our tentacles are trembling with excitement to be back in the parlour, after so many calamitous adventures, and also to be part of  the Army f Brass blog tour this week so without further ado let us hand you cup of tea, kick our tentacles up on the table and take a look at this marvellous book.

army of brass

 

Army Of Brass was written by the Collaborative Writing Challenge with a different author writing each chapter. This gives the text quite a unique feel. On the one hand there is an inescapable sense of each chapter being its own ‘unit’ or ‘micro-story’ and on the other the neat plot development and consistency that speaks of the tight orchestration that must have taken place behind the scenes in order to bring a novel like this together, couple this with a cast of fully developed and likeable characters and you get an exciting, fast flowing steampunk adventure with just the right amount of romance, technology and political intrigue. It’s an amazing accomplishment and we’re all-over impressed by it.

Master Tinkerer Elaina Gable has settled into her new life after escaping her home country which was attacked by the blood thirsty conqueror The Hunter Baron. When the Baron’s warmongering  threatens to destroy her new life as well, Elaina is certain she knows a way to stop him; by reviving the ancient automaton army, the Tinkerers and the Smiths believe they can defeat the Baron, but the automatons harbour a deadly secret linked to the toxic valley in which they now sit rusting away. Only the mysterious silver skinned woman seems to hold the key, but will she decided to help or hinder Elaina and her friends as the Baron’s army draws nearer…

This is a nice, straightforward, old fashioned steampunk adventure full of automatons and airships and some really likeable characters (It was really lovely to see an older, mature heroine for once!) Excellent plot with a few carefully crafted twists and turns and overall a nice smooth read for existing steampunk fans or a perfect entry-point for newcomers to the genre.

 

Tomorrow we continue the Army of Brass blog tour and have the very great pleasure of entertaining Captain Jack Davenport of the Capital Cartographer’s Society for elevenses and so we must now ask you to excuse us while we race about trying on ludicrous amounts of bombazine and lace…. unless that is you’d like to stay and help a poor floundering octopus  with his corset?

No?

Well, until next time then, please remain always,

Utterly Yourself

 

 


Morning Cuppa: The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody bones

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, we ask that you be gentle with us this morning, no raised voices or glaring candle light please, we are very much sore-headed and delicate after a long weekend of carnival capers and masked-up mayhem and now want nothing more than to curl our aching tentacles around a marvellous piece of fiction and a steaming mug of tea…

 

The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones is one of our favourite books ever in the history of books. It is a love story of the most unique, raw and daring kind and at the same time it is an extremely dark fairy tale with all the exploration of psyche and self that hallmark a classic work of Gothic fiction. As a historical novel it explores the boundaries of class, affluence, education, mental health, culture, sexual and perceived moral behaviour to admirable depth making it a graphic, challenging and breathtaking read that will not suit everyone’s taste. This is not a book for the faint hearted but it is heart breaking and absorbing and utterly, utterly wonderful with characters who leave us weeping every time we step back into these dark and beautiful pages.

Tristan Hart is obsessed with understanding and preventing pain, at the same time he is addicted, enthralled and excited by it.

Nathaniel Ravenscroft is delightfully delinquent, exciting and enigmatic and everything that Tristan would like to be. Possibly. Or possess. But something isn’t quite right, there is a darkness lurking around that demonic smile, a secret or two that no one wants to talk about and when Nathaniel vanishes, does the key to his whereabouts lie in this world, or in the realm of fairies, daemons and an ancient half-remembered myth?

Katherine Montague is a troubled soul, beautiful and fragile, in need of Tristan perhaps as much as he is need of her… but is their love tonic or poison? Is their mutual obsession the key that will eventually help them both to find themselves, or is it a perversion that will eventually be their downfall?

An intensely compassionate, emotional and tormented soul, Tristan sees beauty where others see the grotesque and his days are a tense and brittle ice-path between the relationships of his physical world and the strange-woven mythology that inhabits the hearts and minds and landscapes that surround him. Who is this Raw Head? Who is Bloody Bones? Who, really, is Nathaniel Ravenscroft? Who is the monster and who the redeeming angel?

We wish you a perfectly restorative afternoon and swear we will be on better form to guide you around the frost fair tomorrow so, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself.