Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “reviews

Penny’s Reviews: The Hands We’re Given by O E Tearmann

Blurb:

Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.
Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.

So, I’m usually more of a Steampunk / Gothic / Fantasy chic but when I DO go for Sci Fi, THIS is the kind I go for – the 1984 / Banksish / Kafka-esque Distopian kind where corporate and governmental control make the lives of those who don’t or won’t ‘fit the mould’ unbearable and misfits are pushed to an almost liminal existence.

Despite this grim backdrop, the story told here is pervaded by warmth, tenderness and passion thanks to the gorgeous characters, their backstories and relationships, emotions, hopes, fears and insecurities which make them each so unique and lovable I found myself swiftly invested in their future, not only the main character, Aidan, but also the secondary characters as well.

This is the tale of a lovable, awkward little band of rogues just perfect for anyone who likes serious Sci Fi with a credible MM love story at its heart. It’s also the start of this series so if , like me, you finish this book and are dying for more you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 


Penny’s Book Reviews: The Recruit by Addison Albright

Blurb:

Albert Manlii has walked this earth for more than two thousand years, but survival on his own was never easy. Now he leads a faction of highly organized vampires who carefully guard the secret of their existence. Unlike the old days, potential recruits are carefully selected and presented with an offer.

Phillip Brewer has weeks to live — if he lets his disease run its course. He doesn’t want to die, but given a choice, will his desire to live outweigh his concerns about the vampires’ ethics?

When the new recruit’s missteps are cause for concern, can Albert control the fallout, or will Phillip’s life once again be torn apart?

 

I have to confess I actually came to this book having read snippets from the next book in the series via the Rainbow Snippets facebook group and so I had already fallen in love with the character of Albert and seen flashes and hints of how their story plays out in the future.

I’m a sucker for vampire stories but can’t stand the ‘Twilight flavour’ so many now seem to carry, so I delighted in the fresh feel of this series and loved the combination of appealing characters and engaging plot.

I fell more in love with Philip than I thought I would – he is a beautiful character without being at all delicate or whiny or precious which I think is over-done in vampire novels.

Overall, I loved the characters and their world, especially Albert, and I would recommend the series to anyone looking for a modern vampire series with lovable characters and a fresh, unique feel.


Penny’s Book Reviews: Shafter by Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Blurb:

Born in the abandoned subway shafts beneath First City, Trina measures life in the coin she steals from her wealthy father’s people living above. She gives little weight to her dying mother’s fairy tales about how her father will rescue Trina and her twin sister, taking them away from this planet. Yet the stars catch her attention every time she goes to the surface.

Trina is the protector, a role she created more from heroic tales in books her father gave them than anything in a shafter’s life. When she sees drunken aristocrats harassing laborers, she can’t turn away even though attacking them carries a death sentence. Her paternal grandfather discovers Trina before the enforcers can and offers everything she has ever desired—safety for her family and a way off Ceric.

Can she trust their family connection, or will the price of her dreams be more than Trina is willing to pay?

 

I fell in love with Margaret’s wonderful story weaving skills through her Steampunk series The Steamship Chronicles. This was my first encounter with her Sci-fi series and, as someone who tends to steer away from space-based Sci-fi and more towards Fantasy and Steampunk I was taken aback at how instantly I was drawn into this world.

Once I had pulled my head out again at the final page and re-orientated myself to reality, I realised that what had pulled me in and held me there so firmly was the characters – not just the focal two, but even those who only featured in one or two scenes were so intricately and lovingly portrayed I cared deeply about all of them at once.

I won’t mention the plot because it is marvellous and can’t be mentioned without spoiling the marvellousness but there is a lot to chew over in here – darkness and light, love and bitter hatred, intention and risk and an overall sense of ‘the human condition’ as being well intentioned but sadly often painfully fallible.

There is great love here in many forms – some of them dangerous – there is pain, yes, but at the end, thankfully, there is immense hope.


Penny’s Book Reviews: Hangover From Hell by Zakarrie Clarke

Blurb:

A Hangover From Hell is exactly what greets rock star Callum Carter on the final morning of an ‘On the Road’ trip along Route 66, taken with his partner, artist Daniel Flynn. Theirs is a story of fame, lust, laughter and all-consuming love. They met five years ago, when the infamous ‘enfant terrible’ was commissioned to paint Callum’s portrait and have been together ever since. The latter remains a closely kept secret…until the morning they wake up in Las Vegas. Married. Dan has no memory of this miracle taking place, only one thing seems certain; he has somehow managed to pull off his masterpiece of mischief, and inveigled Cal down the aisle.

Zakarrie Clarke has an ineffable knack for infusing her stories with the perfect balance of humour and heart – Even in the first chapter of this book her writing broke my soul with pain and had me almost on the floor with peels of wicked laughter.

That first glimpse at Dan and Cal’s relationship was but a siren’s song that swiftly pulled me so deep into their beautiful / painful / hilarious / fragile / exhilarating but ultimately feel-good world, I never wanted to surface again and so I was over the moon to find there was a sequel to dive into and more of the series planned as well for the future.

This is an utterly entertaining – raw at times – thoroughly heart-warming read, filled with passion and mischief and that kind of Bohemian love that risks all and rises, on broken wings, victorious (and perhaps with a wicked two-fingered salute to those who said it couldn’t survive)


Lovely Library: A Wizard’s Quandary

Good evening and welcome to my awe inspiring athenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets – or as that ridiculous octopus calls it, my ‘lovely library.’

old-library-1571043

I am the ghost of Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect, catalogue and review every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler of the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

 

But I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which might perhaps one day bring about the downfall of our oppressive overlord, Wiz.

 

Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my work and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.

 

This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.

 

By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent…hm? Did I have to drug them first? Well how very rude of you of course I did not have to drug them…I mean the very idea!

 

So, this evening I am most honoured to be occupying the form of  authour Guy Donovan and I… no those are NOT blood stains on his shirt. It is red paint. I may have had a very minor altercation with a disgruntled barge woman who mistook my innocent enquiries about leather bound tomes for something else entirely, but I managed to set her straight in the end… after I’d clambered out of the canal and removed most of the pond weed.

 

Anyway I do not have time for an interrogation on the moral use of other people’s bodies, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have new books everywhere and I must review and catalogue them  and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe? You’ve brought along some single malt to keep out the chills as we work?

Oh.

Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate a short extract of each story and a review, and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…

A WIZARD’S QUANDARY BY JAQ D HAWKINS

The story concerns the wizard Lesana, who is employed by her local king to keep him in potions that preserve his youth. She lives alone in her tower far from the capitol, unless of course you count the small, green dragon in her keeping that she found as a hatchling and named Khadri. No one but Lesana knows about Khadri, and they both intend to keep it that way. If the king found out about him…well, you can guess what would happen, right?
Then one day, a soldier comes from the capitol with orders to take Lesana to the king and teach him how to make her magic potions for himself. Naturally enough, Lesana isn’t very interested in doing anything of the sort, so she and Khadri abscond, with the soldier pursuing them into the mountains—the same mountains in which Lesana found Khadri. The mountains where the dragons live.
What I liked most about the story is the relationship between Lesana and Khadri. It’s very playful and touches on maternal without ever getting cloying. The below sample shows that very well, I think.
*****
Lesana peered carefully into the crucible, closely observing the swirling, black mass within.
“If that pops, you could lose an eye.” Khadri, Lesana’s miniature green dragon companion, hopped onto Lesana’s shoulder, causing her to brace herself against the weight of an animal the size of a full-grown wolverine. He glanced at the churning elixir.
Lesana pulled her head back a little, but continued frowning at the crucible.
“Your eyes see more colours than mine,” she stated aloud. “Can you see any hint of vermilion?”
Khadri danced around on his shoulder perch, pretending not to notice when Lesana steeled herself against the new claw punctures in her partially healed, damaged skin.
“I see the red glowing crystals forming rapidly, as always. You’ve never failed in your efforts to make the Philosopher’s Stone to my knowledge.”
Lesana smirked.
“You should have seen my early efforts, when you were just a hatchling,” she replied. “It’s more by luck than judgement that I never blew up the entire tower.”
“It’s a dangerous business,” Khadri acknowledged. “I don’t see why the king doesn’t just send you to Egypt to retrieve the cinnabar from mummy wrappings.”
Lesana guffawed, pushing herself away from the table where the crucible continued to send sulphuric vapour into the close space of the uppermost tower room where she kept her laboratory, just in case. Fire and explosions tended to travel upwards.
“I can just see the Egyptian Department of Antiquities allowing a foreign wizard to help herself to the preservatives in their precious national tourist industry. Last I heard they didn’t even know the nature of the red ochre. I’d rather not be the one to explain that they’ve had the key to immortality within their relics all this time.”
She wandered to the arched window that looked out over the dead forest to the north. The elevation provided by the fifth level tower room allowed Lesana to see the Crystal Mountains in the distance. A wistful note entered her voice.
“Besides, if I ever leave the king’s employ and travel somewhere, I’d like to go back to the Crystal Mountains.”
“Where you found me?” Khadri gasped. “The dragons would eat you!”
“Perhaps,” Lesana admitted. “But they didn’t before. I felt something while I was there. Something…magical.”
*****
Being a writer of dragon tales myself, (I grew up reading Anne McCaffrey’s fantastic Pern series and the influence shows) I think it’s very important that they be treated as characters in their own right, rather than simply bestial antagonists. Now that’s not to say that dragons can’t be the bad guy! I just think that they’re better storywise when they are presented as more than mere powerful animals. Besides, being that us humans are so good at being bad, I prefer stories where the dragons are more noble. Jaq D. Hawkins did that very well.

 

And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and I must be getting this body back to its rightful owner… hm? What’s that you say? You don’t think I should give it back in this state? Well we’ve only had a few haven’t we? It is hardly my fault if Guy can’t hold his liquor… hic…

 

MANY THANKS TO AUTHOUR GUY DONOVAN FOR BEING A FABULOUS SPORT AND SHARING HIS REVIEW IN PERIL’S LOVELY LIBRARY! YOU CAN FIND GUY HERE

AMAZON AUTHOUR PAGE

FACEBOOK PAGE

AND YOU CAN READ THE REST OF A WIZARD’S QUANDARY IN THE DREAMTIME DAMSELS ANTHOLOGY HERE:

 

library image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com


Lovely Library: Muliebral The Bald… oops, I mean Bold, sorry!

Good evening and welcome to my awe inspiring athenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets – or as that ridiculous octopus calls it, my ‘lovely library.’ 

old-library-1571043.jpg

I am the ghost of Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect, catalogue and review every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler of the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

 

But I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which might perhaps one day bring about the downfall of our oppressive overlord, Wiz.

 

Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my work and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.

 

This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.

 

By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent…hm? Did I have to drug them first? Well how very rude of you of course I did not have to drug them…I mean the very idea! 

 

So this evening, I most honoured to be occupying the form of  authour Jaq D Hawkins and I… yes her hair is supposed to look like that. I think. Well, alright there may have been a very minor altercation with a disgruntled Bar Keep who mistook my innocent enquiries about leather bound tomes for something else entirely, but I managed to set him straight in the end… no, no those are not bruises on her knuckles, I didn’t hit him that hard. 

 

Anyway I do not have time for an interrogation on the moral use of other people’s bodies, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have new books everywhere and I must review and catalogue them  and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe? You’ve brought along some cherry brandy to keep out the chills as we work?

Oh.

Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate a short extract of each story and a review, and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem… 

 

Nav Logan has an undeniable talent for comedy. I first came across this author when we were both invited to submit stories for the Dreamtime Dragons Anthology. I was well impressed that he was able to make getting eaten by a dragon funny!

 

Muliebral the Bald (or Bold) has compounded my opinion that Logan could give Terry Pratchett some serious competition in the area of human observation comedy, while setting the story within a believable historical fiction context. He can even do the accents while keeping them understandable, no small feat!

 

The story is about a king who has two daughters whom he feels he must marry off to generate heirs in the old Medieval patriarchal system. However, the girls are good fighters, being descendants of Boudicca and all, and Muliebral, more than her sister Chastity, sees no reason why they need a man to protect them or fill the role of heir to the kingdom.

 

Her basic attitude is summed up in a quote from her maternal grandmother, who clearly never approved of her daughter’s choice of husband, king or not:

 

Todhmhii’s (Tommy) one regret was that he had no sons to pass his kingdom on to. His wife, Hayleigh, had given him two daughters: Chastity and Muliebral, and they were as different as chalk and cheese. His mother-in-law, Lannau, regularly and publicly scorned him for his inability to produce any male heirs. 

“If I  told our Hayleigh once, I must have told her a hundred times,” the old hag would mutter to anyone who was daft enough to heed her, “You need to marry a strong virile Iceni man and you’ll be blessed with godlike children, not go gallivanting off with a worthless bog-trotting Briganti brigand who can’t tell the difference between a ewe in heat and a tavern wench! My grandmother, Queen Boudicca, would turn in her grave at the shame of it. Her last surviving kinswoman marrying a foul-mouthed, crotch-dribbling, goat fondler!”

How Mulibral goes about getting around her father’s insistence on following tradition not too subtly reflects a trope popular in Classical stories about strong women, but it is delivered with Logan’s characteristic ribald humour and is entertaining from start to finish. The quality of writing is superb and the characters come to life from the page with seemingly no effort.

 

This is definitely one of my own favourite stories from the collection!

 

And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and I must be getting this body back to its rightful owner… hm? What’s that you say? You don’t think I should give it back in this state? Well we’ve only had a few haven’t we? It is hardly my fault if Jaq is a light weight… hic… 

 

MANY THANKS TO AUTHOUR JAQ D HAWKINS FOR BEING A FABULOUS SPORT AND SHARING HER REVIEW IN PERIL’S LOVELY LIBRARY! YOU CAN FIND JAQ HERE

:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jaq-D-Hawkins/e/B0034P4BFI?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1570617386&sr=8-1

 

AND YOU CAN FIND MULIEBRAL THE BALD / BOLD IN THE DREAMTIME DAMSELS ANTHOLOGY HERE…

 

library image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com by Johnathan Adrianzen


May Review: The Department Of Curiosities by Karen J Carlisle

DOC Bk1 2019 Coming FB bANNER

It’s no secret at all that I’ve been a huge fan of Karen J Carlisle’s ineffable knack for storytelling and world building since I fist encountered her Viola Stewart series a few years ago. Her beautifully entertaining paranormal series Aunt Enid has captured my heart too, but I have to confess that I have been missing the mysterious steampunkish world Viola inhabits with its secret societies and artefacts of wonder … so imagine my glee when I was sent an ARC of the first book in her new series The Department Of Curiosities -For The Good Of The Empire, which is set in the same world as the Viola Stewart stories! I couldn’t wait to click ‘open’ and begin reading and I’m happy to say it was all I could have hoped for and more…

Karen J Carlisle is one of those rare gems who’s storytelling captivated me from the first page and carried me expertly through a marvellous world of mysterious occurrences, secret societies, wondrous devices and characters I both loved and loved to hate.

Miss Matilda Meriwether is a strong, independent and resourceful character with secrets to protect and unravel and an agenda that is utterly her own. Having said this she is also realistic for the world and time period in which she exists and she wrangles with all the social and emotional baggage that women in the late Victorian era had to contend with. These both combine to make her an utterly believable and lovable character and I found myself feeling her frustrations and quandaries even as I admired her bravado and ingenuity. She is certainly a character I now want to follow through the rest of the series.

As for the plot I don’t want to reveal to much because the beauty of this book is in the secrets and surprises… young Matilda is trying to unravel a family secret with the help of a very unexpected and comically petulant and cryptic ‘guide,’ when she becomes entangled with The Department Of Curiosities. Tillie hopes that working for the department will bring her closer to solving her own mystery but of course life has a lot more in store for her before she gets there… this is a fabulous ‘gateway’ book for anyone new to Steampunk and for old hands it is an expertly woven tale incorporating everything we love about the genre from mad scientists, secret societies, strong heroines, dastardly villains, marvellous mysteries and incredible devices ; yet another another absolute treat from Karen J Carlisle.

You can pre-order The Department Of Curiosities: For The Good Of The Empire here: 

cropped_small DOC_copyright2019 Karen J Carlisle

 

 

 

 

And find out more about the book, characters and world and read more reviews on Karen’s website here:

one off launch post

 

 

 

 

 


February Review: Of Rats And Cats

Greetings! Well our Lancastrian Frost Fair has come to an end, I really hope you enjoyed meeting all our lovely authors and discovered some fantastic new things to read 🙂

Here in Lancaster now the snow has melted, the sun is blazing, spring is in the air and so here is my February book review…

 

OF RATS AND CATS BY ADDISON ALBRIGHT

I met Addison Albright through the #RainbowSnippets facebook group and quickly fell in love with her Vampire series  which I’m reading at the moment and will be reviewing in a few months time. Extracts from Of Rats And Cats were posted as snippets on her website and I found them heart warming and hilarious so when she asked if anyone would like a PDF in exchange for an honest review I immediately volunteered 🙂

Raymond just wants to enjoy his healthy breakfast, green tea and morning paper but his morning calm is shattered when a ‘rat’ dashes into his apartment and, with Pandemonium the cat in hot pursuit,  takes refuge in his closet, amongst his lacy underwear!
Kevin is all set – his hearty breakfast casserole is in the oven, he’s just finished setting up the mouse-condominium in his new apartment and is ready to think about coffee and unpacking the rest of his things. But his mouse, Corky, has other plans and, when she decides to make a dash into his neighbor’s apartment, a hilarious and heart-warming cat and mouse game ensues!
This is a super-adorable quick-read e-book ; I was through it under and hour and I was smiling and chuckling all the way through. The characters (both human and non-human) are sweet, quirky and engaging and there was enough ‘meat’ in the background to make me wish I had longer to get to know them all.
If you’re a fan of sweet, MM romance and are looking for a quick read that’s tons of fun I think you’ll love this.
If you want to read more of Addison’s brilliant work you can find her here:
If you want to by Of Rats And Cats on amazon you can do so here:
If you’d like to explore more rainbow snippets of fabulous LGBTQIA+ fiction or join in the fun posting snippets yourself, you can do so here:
Through March I’ll be planning our new Aether Eggs feature for April, posting my March Review and working on my WIP Jack and Marjory which you can read snippets of every Saturday. If I can get other things done and posted I will but between house renovating and home schooling things are a little crazy this end!
Best wishes to you all for the madness that is March – blessings on your brew!
PENNY 🙂

January Book Review: Boston Metaphysical Society

Good morning! So, this is me taking over the review slots from Collin and Max … is it weird that I should feel inexplicably nervous about this? As though Collin is peering over my shoulder to make sure I get all my links in the right places and don’t get my tentacles in a twist over the spellchecker? (Perhaps not as he is in fact sitting in the armchair by the window contemplating the frost outside and hopefully not about to put his ice skates on again after the last fiasco.) If you are missing Max and Collin, they are still very much around and doing fun and you can catch up with them having that on Saturdays in our #rainbowsnippets posts. But for now you have me, hugging my mug of Lapsang in fingerless gloves to ward off the snow and bringing you our monthly book review…

 

 

Boston007 coverfinal2 [Recovered]

Boston Metaphysical Society is a  graphic novel series set in the late 1800’s in an alternate retro-futuristic America, where steam power has allowed rapid technological advancement along with rapid and, for some, alarming changes in the function of society. This socio-political upheaval and its affects on the collective consciousness have rent the fabric of time and space and a sinister creature has been able to pass through into this world.

Caitlin O’sullivan, Samuel Hunter and Granville Woods are The Boston Metaphysical Society and their individual expertise in science, detection and the spirit world must combine to destroy The Shifter once and for all.

This is a story which touched my heart in many ways. Firstly the illustrations (Emily Hu) are perfect; capturing the pace, emotion, mood and narrative perfectly in each scene and reminiscent of a combination of the weight and beauty of Sana Takeda and the vibrancy of Tim Yates in a style which enticed me before I had even read a word.

Secondly, the writing is exquisite and tight as tuned drumskin. The dialogue is an absolute joy to read at times, particularly the banter between Tesla, Houdini and the other members of the secret society B.E.T.H, and works in perfect harmony with the illustration to give a rich and  immersive experience for the reader.

And lastly I loved the characters – from the machinating big-names who I fell in and out of love with all over again (having had to wrench their souls laboriously from dry history books and dull documentaries over the course of many years, to see them here given life in alternate and vibrant form which both captured and questioned their lives, personalities, motives and aspirations was an exciting and exhilarating experience.) to the Boston Metaphysical Society characters with their rich, diverse and engaging personalities and their complex and intriguing back stories (more about which can be found by reading the prelude to this series) .

This is bold, unflinching storytelling at it’s best and sits at that raw, uncomfortable heart of the Steampunk genre where the lives of the privileged and the poor jarr together and their stories and histories vie for our attention. This is the curtain – as subtle and subliminal as it ought to be – which gives the backdrop for this graphic novel series. Madeleine Holly-Rosing has built a seductive world filled with the classic steampunk staples of alternate science, technology, history and magic and laced through with sharp wit and subtle warmth, but our storytellers come from every corner of late 1800’s society and this, for me, makes the series particularly enjoyable.

I am very much looking forward to reading the next books in the series ; The Scourge Of The Mechanical Man and A Storm Of Secrets and will be reviewing both over the next few months.

The complete series of Boston Metaphysical Society installments can be bought as one paperback with a ten page bonus story ‘Hunter-Killer ‘ here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Boston-Metaphysical-Society-Madeleine-Holly-Rosing/dp/0996429220/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548232812&sr=1-2

 

Or kindle users can purchase the episodes separately in special editions  here:

 

I hope you are all able to enjoy, or at the very least survive, the cold snap and I hope you’re enjoying our Frost Fair guest posts as well which will be going on throughout the rest of January and February, we’ve had some fabulous contributions and if you’d like to take part there’s still just about time to send me something so drop me an email for full details.

Blessings on your brew, Penny 🙂


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: 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

 

 


Getting back to normality! (And the ridiculous route we took to it!)

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Firstly I think I owe everyone  a massive apology  that it has taken me so long to get back to the blog. When I signed off for a while we were poised to move into our new house and I was poised to have a small but necessary operation… well the best laid plans as they say!

The house turned out to be falling down and had illegal building work done on it so the sale fell through – which left us sofa-surfing while we scrabbled around trying  to find another house! On the plus side we got to spend lots of time with family and friends, visited some unusual places and had some fun caravan in the snow and wrestling with frozen pipes, no heating, filthy accommodation and all sorts of funnish things! We made some lovely memories saw some beautiful landscapes and wildlife and, looking back, our lives are undoubtedly richer for those experiences – but it is very, very, very good to finally have a roof over our heads that is ‘ours’ !

We have now settled into a lovely little house which suits us perfectly and our first house warming present arrived yesterday which I have to share with you…

 

THE FLUFFY DOOM! Made for us by the most talented, awesome and beautiful woman in the world Nimue Brown of http://www.hopelessmaine.com

We had the very great privilege of spending time with Nimue and Tom at the Hopeless Maine Tourist Information Booth and Time Quake festival in Manchester last month and you can read all about that on the Hopeless Maine website here:

https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/hopeless-maine-comes-to-time-quake/

We also joined the Ministry Of Steam Wizards and there will be more about that in the coming months.

As I’m sure you can all appreciate, moving house and getting a truck load of little coglings back into their routines takes a lot of time and energy and I’d like to make sure I do that bit right, so there are going to be some temporary changes to the blog schedule to allow me to catch up with everything and not let anyone down.

My review list has grown slightly insane! So I’m not taking on any new books just now and any books I have promised to review will be done between now and December, when the list will open again with the usual Recommended Christmas Reads.

In order to make all this happen, elevenses and the soup kitchen will stop until either September or December, with the exception of very special and worthy promotions (ie folks doing non-profit, good cause  or exceptionally cool low budget / indie things). However if you are missing our kitchen witch and her culinary wisdom, if you feel you desperately need advice on housekeeping, moral living and general wholesomeness, you may want to keep an eye on the Hopeless Vendetta over the next few weeks … I will say no more but there will be links when links are available…

The lovely library will open as usual in the autumn and authors whose work has been reviewed or featured are, as always, welcome to submit short stories / extracts for this (see submissions above).

So things will be a little quieter than usual around here but the wheels will continue to turn and slowly gather speed as we settle in and whenever I get the chance I will continue with the Rromani Steampunk posts and Notes From Penny as well.

Next Friday (yes I know that’s weird)  Max and Collin will be back for the Army of Brass blog tour which begins today on Steampunk Journal  and continues across the web until the 13th May. You can join us all for the Facebook Launch Party on 28th – 29th April as well to chat to the authors and take part in giveaways and such but more about that next week.

For now I will just say thankyou so much to everyone who has continued to be patient and supportive and inspiring and awesome through this ridiculously uncertain and disorganised period of our lives.

Blessings on all your brews, whatever they may be

Penny 😀


Morning Cuppa: Spoon Duelling for beginners

Good morning Ladie and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously spoontastic parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True some have called it an unfulfilling place of half baked fancies, bad eggs and drastic measures, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

This morning you find us about to engage in the noble art of the festive spoon duel. We understand that in your dimension you settle your disputes by duelling with tea but, frankly, we find it hard to understand the mechanics of such a thing – do you hurl the tea at eachother? Or are the cups somehow used as foils?

Here  in the New World we settle our disputes with a series of Parlour Affairs, one of which is spoon duelling (or Spuelling if you are feeling lazy). Spoon duel challenges are usually reserved for the Wizmas period.

In case you are not familiar with the art and history of the spoon duel let us enlighten you:

Spoon duelling began during the Ancient Egyptian era and was reserved for religious ceremonies in honour of The Goddess. Ornate spoons made of wood, flint and ivory were carved with hieroglyphs pertaining to tea, cake and magic.

Archaeological evidence suggests that it was in Ancient Greece that spoon duelling moved from being a religious ritual to an event used by the upper classes to settle disputes in a sophisticated fashion. Silver and bronze spoons were used during this period and spoons in the British Museum can still be seen which bear the scars of spoon duelling.

By 1259 CE (Cakeless Era), spoons had become a symbol of power. Royal monarchs were anointed with a special spoon to mark their coronations. The wealthy displayed the many battle-mangled weapons of their defeated opponents while the peasants were left spoonless to slurp soup with their bare hands and stir their tea with their burnt and blistered fingers.

Discontent began to stir the soul of the general populous and The Great Spoon Uprising of the Renaissance period lead to greater equality in cutlery which in turn lead to a greater diversity in spoon design. In joyous celebration of the noble spoon, artisans sprang up in every town, flooding the market with an array of spoons for every occasion.

Soon  there were Caviar spoons (made of mother of pearl), Dessert spoons, Tea spoons, Fruit spoons, Runcibles (Max’s favoured weapon), Iced tea spoons, Jolly Long Spoons, Demitasse spoons, Chinese spoons, Bouillon spoons, Parfait spoons, Rattail spoons, Salt spoons, Seal-top spoons, Bar spoons, Caddy spoons, Slotted spoon, Mote spoons, Mustard spoons, Cheese scoop spoons… not to mention the cochlear ritual and anointing spoons, ear spoons, nose spoons and new born spoons (for ladling out babies)…

By the time Queen Vic came to the throne The Good Folk were screaming for regulation and one of the first papers to pass through parliament was the Standardisation Of Kitchen Utensils Act which introduced the standard issue spoons, tea cups and other tableware permitted for use today.

Obviously underground artisans linked to the Arts and Crafts Movement have sprung up across the scattered isles to produce illegal cutlery of the most impractical and extravagant artistic merit …

Hm? Sorry? Oh yes, Max says I should stop the history lesson and get on with the thing… you know for a Very Quiet Gentleman Max does interrupt an awful lot…

So, the noble art of spoon duelling :

Each competitor sits opposite the other at a tea table. (Historically, spoon duelling was a standing affair and opponents would attempt to crack eachother over the top of the head with a battle cry of ‘bad egg!’. After hats became fashionable the aim then became to knock the opponents’ headwear to the ground. This type of spoon duelling was outlawed by King George in 1721 CE. Of course there are those who claim to have revived it in some sort of secret- society- boys- club- thing… but we’re not sure we believe them…)

A point (or hit) is scored when one competitor taps the centre knuckle of their opponents’ spoon-hand with the back of their spoon. Three hits are needed to win the duel.

A hit is established thus; each spoon is moistened (traditionally with cold water but some vulgar persons lick their spoon and spiteful ones have been known to stir their scalding tea) and then dipped into coloured chalk. The chalk mark left on the back of the hand makes it easier for adjudicators to judge whether or not a hit is legitimate.

The spoon hand or wrist must remain in contact with the table at all times and the other hand may be placed behind the back, on the hip or above the head as preferred but never upon the table, knee or chair.

 The winner takes the spoon of the defeated competitor as a trophy and many people choose to display their hard won spoons upon their hats, waistcoats, parasols, bed posts and parlour walls. 

So we will soon be packing our runcibles into their leather holsters and heading into town to witness, and hopefully take part in, some festive sport. But before we do that we must tighten the belts on our dressing gowns, pour ourselves a morning cuppa and see what our little dust sucking friends have been up to in the night…

 hopelesslullabye

 

 

Hm, Gnii fishing eh? I’m not terribly fond of fishing now, having done so very much of it in the sunken city of Hull. Fish – delicious, but the getting of them? I would much rather visit the local monger rather than run the dispiriting odds of catching other ocean debris., the things you humans throw into the ocean sets my tentacles shuddering. Anyway… let us forget all that and dip our tentacles into  our seasonally spicy tea which should give us plenty of zest for the morning is this superb ginger rooibos from craftteacompany… 

ginger-rooibos

 

Splendid, and now we must button up tight and head out into the cold dark alley ways of Lancaster and find ourselves a shady little tavern where we can lay a few bets on a spoon wrestling match (it’s similar to the duelling but for Ladies only and so there are less rules, more name calling, eye gouging, spork scratching, hair tangling etc and it all gets a little rougher and therefore more interesting, especially when the wigs come off…)

We wish you an utterly ineffable morning chockablock with spoonfulls of fun and we invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then

please be always

Utterly yourself

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: Punk fiction, Poe and Cake (is there more to life?)

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s pristinely punked-up and ruthlessly rebellious parlour located somewhere  near the grumbling appendix of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True some have postulated that we are an inconvenient truth which our landlord has sought to bury in his darkest and most inhospitable dungeon, but we consider that any below ground level abode is vastly preferable to one with windows in a city that is overrun by flesh eating birds. In short, we couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. ish.

You find us immensely apologetic that we have not been ‘at home’ the last few days – we honestly swear that we have been up to a lot of very good things and Penny will tell you about them shortly but for now all we can do is humbly offer an appeasing teapot overflowing with splendid keemun xiang luo, an epicly proportioned slice of sticky ginger cake, and two excellent books…

The first of which is….

 

 

 

This book came into our hands via the eminent procurer of curiosities via the historical Suffolk ‘free trading’ system – steampunk author Nils Nisse Visser , and fans of his excellent book ‘Amster Damned’ will be happy to see another splendid smuggler’s tale ‘The Rottingdean Rhyme’ featuring the series’ central character Alice Kittyhawk (as her much younger and frankly adorable self).

The collection is a gleaming treasure trove of subversive, twisted, re-imagined  and perfectly punked-up versions of classic tales from a wide variety of genres and time periods;

Our personal favourite was ‘A Connecticut Rigger In Kings Court’ not only because we are utterly besotted with anything to do with Ada Lovelace but because it was challenging and heartbreaking and had that exquisite but very subtle  tension between beauty and abomination that pervades all good Gothic tales, but presented in a refreshingly original way.

We also loved The Red Headed Mob by Anthony Stark which, although not quite as ‘punk’ as some of the other tales, was a strong, well written and altogether utterly enjoyable tale that set Holmes and Watson amid the political and social tension of the 1980s.

There really is something for everyone in here from ‘Aurelia Awakes’ by Andrea Hintz giving  Pinocchio a delightful Steampunk make-over to ‘Of Folly And Fallibility’ by Amber Cook who skillfully manganese to take Jane Austin to ‘new heights’… “If an ordinary woman is to become a heroine, she cannot allow the unremarkable state of her life to prevent it. She must and will do something, anything, to throw adventure her way…” Or from Rachel A Brune’s ‘Bea Wolf’ to Jeffery Cook and Katherine Perkins’ ‘Consolidated Scrooge’ and plenty more besides but we won’t list them all – you need to have a peek at this chocolate box for yourselves…

 

Our second book this morning is also from Writerpunk Press and (only because of our obsessive compulsive penchant for punking Poe) was our favourite of the two and longstanding followers will remember we did feature it in our Poevember month last year – but it’s such a fantastic collection we’re sure you won’t mind us singing its praises once again…

 

Here in the parlour we have read lots of Poe, we have punked lots of Poe, we have read lots of attempts at punking Poe and we therefore, rather egotistically, consider ourselves to be quite the connoisseurs of the genre. So when we say that “this collection of short stories is a splendid spectrum of Gothic gorgeousness that takes a hearty cross section of the Poevian gamut, distils each essence into scintillating glass vials and then creates a series of new and wonderful word-creatures in which the marrow of Poe lives on” you can take us at our word.

The  macabre, the melancholy and the madness that we all expect from Poe are here in abundance but the ‘punk’ aspect is very skillfully executed throughout to give a collection that is inventive, refreshing, exciting and unpredictable. Steampunk seems to marry well with Poe for obvious reasons but we hadn’t anticipated how well his themes would be translated here  into Cyber, Bio and Diesel as well.

Sandwiched between two vibrant and  enthralling versions of The Fall of The House Of Usher, we have another gem from the world of Alice Kittyhawk ‘The Oval Skyroom’ , the beautiful ‘To Helen’, the sinister ‘Envy Of Angels’ and ‘Silence, Stillness, Night’ , the pure insanity of ‘Ticker’  and so very many more treasures that we often find ourselves dipping into on a rainy afternoon or long skyrail journey. This is an indispensable addition to the library of punk and Poe fans alike.

And now the teapot is empty and we are quite breathless from all this talk so I hope you will excuse us as we retire for a little snooze? We wish you a devilishly delightful afternoon and until we see you again, please be always

Utterly Yourself

 

A Post Script From Penny – I’ve started using the ’embed’ version of sharing amazon titles because it’s easier and quicker than authors having to send me cover files and also hopefully easier to find the book if you want to sample or buy it. I haven’t signed up to the affiliate amazon programme though, if I ever do I will make that clear in the posts. If anyone would strongly prefer me to go back to the old method of posting just the cover file and links let me know 🙂


Morning Cuppa: Threats #steampunkfiction

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s frightfully fancy and remorselessly ravishing parlour located somewhere around the grumbling appendix of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True our psychotic landlord may have banished us to this sinister cellar, but anyone who would be crest fallen by such a turn of events has obviously never stood on their rooftop in their suspenders fighting off flesh eating Liver Birds with nothing but a canister of Aerosol Tea.

You find us this morning basking in that cozy glow that can only come from coming to the end of a magnificent masterpiece of fabulous fiction (or escaping with your life from a predicament you had thought was genuinely ‘the end’) …

 

 

Threats is the second (or if you count the marvellous prequel, the third) book in Margaret McGaffey Fisk’s Steamship Chronicles series and although it can be enjoyed as a stand alone story we very much recommend that you start with the prequel    in which we meet and fall in love with the heroine, Sam, her devoted sister Lilly and their adorable champion, Henry. (warning series-summary and possible spoilers ahead)

Sam is a ‘Natural’ – someone with the dubious gift of being able to communicate with machines. They speak to her subconscious, pressing their needs, dreams and desires into her waking thoughts and trying to manipulate her into shaping them to function the way they would prefer.

Sometimes this is a wonderful thing – a malfunctioning engine can tell Sam exactly where the missing cog has come lose, or which piston isn’t firing and why… other times a machine is hell bent on out-performing itself; it wants more power, it wants to go faster, it wants to break its restraints or become something completely different … and then disaster can occur if Sam is not strong enough to resist the smooth talking mechanical.

Rather than see the potential that Naturals have for benefiting the advance of science and technology, the government of Sam’s world treats them as a dangerous foe to be rounded up and imprisoned for then safety of themselves and others. Lilly and Henry managed to keep Sam hidden and safe for many years but as she becomes older it is clear that she is missing out on a life of freedom and independence.

Fortunately, after much searching, Henry is able to locate a ‘Safe Haven’ where Naturals are living together in peace, freedom and safety and so Sam sets out as a stow away on board a Steamship in search of her Utopia.

But the threat of discovery is never far away – struggling to steal food and resist the call of the ship’s engine, Sam soon begins to learn that her actions can impact hugely upon the life of others and that her precious ‘gift’ can sometimes be more of a curse. Her new friend Nat is determined to keep her safe, but will he be so eager to defend her once he learns who she really is?

This next episode is even more thrilling than the last; tense and emotional with danger never more than a breath away and the slow tease of fragile friendships which can never be taken for granted, Threats nevertheless keeps that beautiful warmth at its heart which, we feel, is characteristic of this wonderful steampunk series.

There has been a lot of character growth so far, both in the main characters and the ‘supporting cast’ , and we can’t wait to dive into the next book and see what new adventures await them!

And now that must be the kettle boiling… or did you just sit on a cat? No? Must be the kettle then! Won’t you join us in a festive cup of something from  3rd coast kitchen’s Vampire Tea Collection? 

We wish you a very safe and cosy afternoon, free from threats of any kind (especially the kind our Landlord issues when we forget to pay the rent on time) and until we see you again please, be always,

Utterly Yourself


Morning Cuppa: For The Love Of Temperance

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s deliciously dark and relentlessly romantic parlour located somewhere in lower intestine of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True our psychotic landlord may have banished us to this dank and miserable oubliette, but anyone who would be crest fallen by such a turn of events has obviously never stood in their pyjamas fighting off flesh eating Liver Birds with nothing but a frying pan and a will of steel.

You find us this morning bleary eyed after being kept awake all night by the screams of the dying (and very possibly the already dead for sometime) as Lord Ashton’s Liver Birds rampaged the streets devouring all those too poor or too witless to abide by the curfew. Thank mercy we were snug and cozy down here in our damp and cat infested little cellar 🙂

But what a dreadful night, some neighbours have no consideration for the nerves of others, we are now in desperate need of a good book and some splendid tea to accompany it and if you are too, then you have come to the right place!

 

This is the third book in the Ichabod Temperance series and, honestly, this is a series that just gets better and better and, to our mind, certainly deserves cult status.

An absolutely biscuit-taking combination of adorable characters, tongue-in-cheek humour, subtle and witty social commentary, historical and literary parody, geeky inventions and intergalactic mayhem with enough twists and turns to keep the reader constantly on their toes right up to the last page.

This time the talented Miss Persephone Plumtartt and her devoted side-kick Mr Ichabod Temperance are faced with an alien invasion from Mars! In this fast paced, hilarious and utterly gripping adventure their team of chums, both old and new, will be taxed to the limit of their creative genius to save the planet from the usurping Martian empire.

If you are new to the series you can still enjoy this adventure as a stand alone but we very much recommend you begin at book one because it is ineffably marvellous. On the other hand if you have been with us for a while and have read the two books previous to this one then you will not be disappointed by this episode in the manic adventures of Ichabod and Persephone! An absolute must for steampunk fans who prefer the more humorous side of the genre.

And now that is the kettle boiling… or is it our landlord taking out his angst on another helpless tenant? … no, no it’s alright, it is the kettle! Won’t you join us in a festively frightful cup of ZOMBIE HUNTER TEA from fandom teas?

We wish you a devilishly delightful afternoon with far more treats than tricks, and hope you will join us tomorrow for elevenses so until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself


Morning cuppa: Six Gun Snow White

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s salubriously sweet and succulent parlour, located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True some have called it a pithy affair, frequented by fiends who are rotten to core, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

What is it about this time of year? Who, I would like to know, came up with the cunning plan of arming autumnal street urchins with small, unreasonably hard, green and red missiles to pelt at innocent Gentlemen out for their morning stroll?

Max and I put this question to our dear witchy friend Mrs Baker just last week as we sheltered in her soup kitchen, attempting to remove the smears of rancid fruit and sticky, slobbered over toffee remnants from our attire.

Mrs Baker informed us that, at this time of year Her Majesty’s apple orchards (all orchards in Ire belong, officially, to the queen) are often over flowing with such a glut of fruit that the rate of consumption by the rich Tea Time Lords cannot match the rate of production. Mounds of rotting fruit are not anybody’s cup of tea and so the Wizards have devised a Social Health Development Scheme in order to rid the rich of their rancid excesses. Free barrels of ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ apples are delivered each October to inner city slum areas like ours on a special day called ‘Apple Day’ and posters have appeared (beside the usual ones threatening death and destruction to anyone caught in possession of tea, sugar or homemade soup) sporting the maxim ‘an apple a day keeps the flesh eating Liver Birds away..’

In an attempt to make the fruit more palatable to the poor starving orphans, Mrs Baker had the ingenious idea of dipping them in candy syrup. This may have seemed like a cunning plan indeed except that the orphans were yet more cunning and simply seem to be nibbling off the sticky candy coating and then using pedestrians as target practise for their resulting revolting  fruit bombs.

Max and I have decided not to venture forth until all this fruity business has calmed down. Instead, let us kick our tentacles upon the table and eclipse our sorrows with some exelent fiction and splendid tea (of course, as usual, we have both…)

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The prose that flies from the spinning wheel of Catherynne M Valente is utterly delicious. Every sentence is ‘to die for’ as though she she sees the hidden face of things, as though she looks at the moon and says ‘what is the moon like, that no one has ever said it is like?’ and so a tale is woven that is both ancient and familiar and yet incredibly fresh and unexpected and enthralling.

Six Gun Snow White is the heart-shattering story of a young girl of mixed race fighting her way through the harsh and unforgiving world of the Western Frontier, where anyone who is not white and male is considered little better than property or animal – often worse. The story opens with her father’s horrendous treatment of her Native American mother, Gun That Sings, who eventually dies in childbirth, and then it moves through Snow White’s own heartbreaking experiences at the hands of  her step mother.

As a re-telling of a well known fairy tale, this story succeeds in offering a fresh and enticing new version, intensely and intricately rooted in both the mythology and history of its setting. As a work of fiction in its own right, it is a beautiful, challenging and uncomfortable story with no easy endings , two dimensional archetypes or happy ever afters. Fans of mythpunk and folk tale connoisseurs will find plenty here to be delighted with.

And now that must be the kettle singing… or is it the screams from our Landlord’s latest rent-shy victim? …er…no, no that definitely is the kettle! Please, won’t you join us in a delicious cup of FAIRYTALE SNOW WHITE TEA from FRIDAY TEAS? 

 

We wish you a most fruitful afternoon and hope you will join us tomorrow for, if all goes well, some more inktober tea-painting.

Until then, please, be always,

Utterly Yourself.

 


VIOLA STEWART: STEAMPUNK BOOK TOUR AND GIVEAWAY!

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Thankyou for joining us in the parlour this morning. Our fish-oil lanterns are still burning well, as you can smell…er…see for yourselves and so we laugh in the faces of those who mentioned the impracticalities and health risks of such a venture, at least we would if we could see their faces through the haze of fish-funk and sooty black smoke, ah-hem – ugh – hem..

But all that aside, please, pull up a lemonade crate and a cushion, perhaps even a cat or two, kick your tentacles upon the table and let us treat you to something rather splendid because today we are hosting a leg (tentacle?) of the book tour for the release of Karen J Carlisle’s fabulous new Viola Stewart ebooks – ‘From the Depths’ and ‘Tomorrow, when I die.’

 

 

We first fell in love with Viola Stewart almost a year ago when we read Doctor Jack  and we have been devoted fan-boys ever since. These next titles in the series did not disappoint, if you are already a fan you can expect the same thrill and excitement of these delightful steampunk mysteries coupled with a cast of much loved characters (and a few new ones to boot!) If you are not familiar with Viola yet then have no fear, you can still enjoy these novellas as stand-alones so, what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in…

FROM THE DEPTHS

Doctor Viola Stewart, a widowed optician with a penchant for investigating, is recuperating after her last adventure ; a relaxing holiday on the Scottish coast, a spot of sea bathing and fossil hunting… but Viola hasn’t been there long before she hears rumours of a mysterious sea monster that is plaguing the local coastline, attacking bathers and fishing boats. At first Viola, woman of science, isn’t taken in by the tales, but when her bathing machine is attacked, it seems that something certainly is haunting the waters around the bay. Determined to investigate, Viola soon stumbles into a web of murder, intrigue and an enigmatic stranger… who is this mysterious Mr Peabody? Who exactly is he working for? And why is he so interested in Viola?

TOMORROW, WHEN I DIE

Viola’s friend , Sir Archibald, physician to the queen, is in danger – he will die tomorrow unless Viola can save him. But as Viola begins to investigate his strange assertions she begins to unravel a fantastical plot involving time travel , secret societies and curious devices that ought only to exist in science fiction! Will Viola’s rational understanding of space and time be forced to accommodate the incredible? Is time travel really the only way to save Sir Archibald? And with her beloved Henry out of action, the dashing Mr. Peabody back on the scene and The Men In Grey lurking in the shadows, just who can Viola trust?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition and published her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, in 2015. Her short story, Hunted, featured in the Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’. Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat. She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea. Her favourite tea at present is a local specialty (special tea – ha!) called Roman’s blend – Assam and Darjeeling combination – named after a friend of hers. He worked with local tea cafe, Kappy’s, to develop the brew. It sold so well, they named it after him.

 

And there’s the kettle boiling so please do join us in a cup of Roman’s Blend while we tell you about Karen’s free ebook competition…

 

THE COMPETITION

For a chance to win a free Viola Stewart ebook visit  www.karenjcarlisle.com and answer the daily question in the comments below the post. (See Karen’s blog pages for full terms and conditions. ) You can enter once.  No purchase is required. To enter, answer the day’s question in the comments below on the corresponding post at  www.karenjcarlisle.com Begin your entry comment with ANSWER: (to make it clear you wish to enter).One winner is chosen randomly from those with the correct answer posted in comments below and will be announced at www.karenjcarlisle.com Prize is one Viola Stewart eBook and cannot be redeemed for cash. Prize is redeemed via Smashwords. The winner will be advised to email Karen to receive Voucher code and instructions on how to redeem your prize.

 

MORE TO LOOK FORWARD TO…

 

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The final ebook in the series is due out early October and the paperback is due later in October.  sign up for Karen’s Tea and Tidings newsletter to get all the latest info. http://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/

 

Where to find Karen on the aether web:

Web: www.karenjcarlisle.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/KarenJCarlisle

And you can find hints of current research threads on her Pinterest page: https://au.pinterest.com/riverkat42/ 

 

We wish you an exceedingly scrumptious afternoon and hope you will join us in the parlour tomorrow for more tea-based adventures, until then,

please be always, Utterly Yourself


Morning Cuppa: Clockwork Fairies #steampunkfiction

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s sublimely subterranean, yet  lavishly luminescent parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True there may be some rather odd noises coming from our landlord’s ‘rumpus room’ next door, but we ask that you ignore the screams of those poor unfortunates who couldn’t pay their rent, and pull up a cat, or a cushion, and make yourselves at home.

Do you like what we’ve done with the place? We discovered that marvellous little lanterns can be made by filling our empty lemonade bottles with fish oil (there are barrels of the stuff lying around at the docks), sticking a wick of rope in the top and setting fire to it! Genius eh?

Hm? A bit of a smell, you say? Well the cats seem to like it… black smoke? No no that must be your imagination…now look here, did you come to give us a health and safety inspection or to enjoy a cup of tea and some excellent fiction? Right then, let’s begin…

 

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Desiree is an inventor of unparalleled skill –  a wealthy heiress with the luxury of time and money to spend in doing what she loves best. But her father is worried; keenly aware of the fragility of a woman’s freedom in Victorian society, he dreads his beloved daughter being forced to bend her will beneath the yolk of misogyny. This is why he dislikes her fiancee, Claude.

Claude (Oxford Dean, wealthy and influential) loves Desiree as well. He loves her exotic beauty (provided her dress does not become too flamboyant), he loves her intelligence (although of course her views on Darwinism are heretical ), he loves her inventions (but of course that will all have to stop when they have children) and he loves the idea of taming such a creature and bringing her under the protective wing of his care and instruction.

Into this furnace of social and emotional tension strolls Lord Tyrell, the enigmatic Irish Gentleman who casts his charismatic spell over all and soon the little family are transported to his country estate for a weekend of hunting and fine entertainment. Despite all this, Claude is certain that something is not quite right about their host – but are his macabre suspicions and fears for Desiree’s safety founded on reason, or fantasy?

 

This is a beautifully written short story, heartbreaking and tense with the leash-tight interplay of well-crafted characters and a plot that is both surprising and moving. If you are looking for a steampunk read that is both satisfying and short then we thoroughly recommend this one.

And is that the kettle boiling? I think it is, please do join us in a cup of cat-inspired tea from Contours Albion

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Yes it was a house warming gift left without a note on the doorstep this morning. Some people find themselves very amusing don’t they? I don’t suppose you would like to take a cat with you when you leave? They make very good foot-warmers, if you have feet…?

Anyway, we wish you a deliciously delinquent afternoon and hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow. Until then, please, be always,

Utterly Yourself


Morning Cuppa: The Brazen Shark #steampunk fiction

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s brilliantly brute-proof and cunningly-concealed parlour located within the somewhat-invisible-from-here but nonetheless scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it the cat-infested oubliette of a psychotic-scarecrow-landlord, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us on this bright, sunlit morning struggling to read by candlelight and failing to find cushions to sit on that are not occupied by damp cats. The water doesn’t drip from the roof down here, it rises up through the floor instead, at first we thought there was a tasteless carpet on the floor, but after a few licks it turned out to be some sort of softly luminescent purple fungus…

Anyway, you didn’t come here to eat mushrooms (or did you?) No – you came to enjoy a nice cup of tea and to hear some excellent steampunk fiction and that, dear friends, is what you shall have –

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You want Steampunk that’s ‘Beyond Victoriana’? You want airships, aliens, pirates and samurai? Then look no further than The Brazen Shark…

Welcome to the third book in the Clockwork Legion series!  The concept and motives of the alien life form Legion, who can read and control the human mind, continue to grow and intrigue – at times we felt sympathy, and at others fear and awe at the scope of their involvement in the affairs of planet earth – as Fatemeh and Ramon find themselves taking an active role in world affairs once more, this time in Japan, where a group of Samurai are planning to overthrow the emperor, sparking conflict with Russia in their purloined airship!

We have already enjoyed the earlier adventures of Fatemeh and Ramon Morales but The Brazen Shark is by far and away our favourite book of the Clockwork Legion series and, to be honest, even if you have not read the previous Owl Dance or Lightning Wolves, you can still start the series here and become thoroughly enthralled with David Lee Summers’ epic host of engaging characters in this brilliantly paced, world-spanning Steampunk adventure.

 

And no reading session is complete without an excellent tea to go with it, so please join us in a cup of ‘kiss goodbye to summer’ Peach Cobbler from Friday Teas

Now then, to make up for the dreadful fiasco this week we will be in the parlour Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week as we are taking part in Karen J Carlisle’s fabulous book tour for the new titles in her Viola Stewart series (tentacles writhing in excitement!)

In the meantime, we wish you all a very dry and witty weekend and until we see you again, please be always,

Utterly Yourself