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 🙂
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 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?
Well, until next time then, please remain always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s drop dead delectable parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!
True some have called it a ghastly garret haunted by fiendish ghouls and black hearted demons, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning, quaking to the core because we are certain we heard the mounful cry of the first flesh eating Liver Birds rising from their long summer sleep and we are now trying to pluck up the courage to ask our landlord if he might not possibly, very sweetly, consider replacing our sack cloth roof for something more substantial…
But before we do anything so foolhardy, let us contemplate the matter over a nice cup of tea and a good book…
Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series has been our chief excuse for not lifting a tentacle from the chaise longue for hours on end over this past year; these books just cannot be put down and when the final page is read, the sense of loss as we close the cover on some of our favourite fictional characters ever, is so great that we just have to read the thing all over again.
Dead Magic is no exception. If you are new to the series you will want to start here. But if, like us, you have followed Immanuel and Emmeline to hell and back, defeated demons and even death by their side and are wondering if, at last, Immanuel and Adam will get their ‘happily ever after’ in London then take a deep breath and step into the jaws of Dead Magic…
Immanuel has now moved to London with his lover, Adam, and begins his new dream job at the museum. Meanwhile Emmeline (as adorable as ever) is ‘suffering’ under the watchful eye of her aunt and continuing her work at the Spiritualist Society. But soon Emmeline finds her lust for success, both in magic and marriage, drawing her down a much darker spiritual path, a secret path which both terrifies and enchants her; will Immanuel be able to bring her back this time? Or does Emmeline require a new saviour, one whose soul isn’t quite so pure…
This book left us breathless, in tears, in love, in anguish and practically clawing at the aether to get to the next book, Selkie Cove, which thankfully is now available to purchase here.
And is that the kettle singing? Perhaps you will join us in something appropriately dark and delicious? Like this dark Side chocolate and cherry tea from fandom teas…
We wish you a divinely dark and marvellously magical afternoon and invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then, please be always
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s superiorly sub-aquatic parlour located within the desperately deluged city of Lancaster! True some have called it a wet weekend with only drips for company but we consider that such people are from less than hardy stock. And dashed rude to boot.
You find us this morning bailing out after three months worth of rain has fallen in the space of a single evening. Sack cloth roofing is not built to stand such an onslaught and so we have spent a desperate night, myself using a tea cup in each of my eight tentacles to catch the heavens as they fell and Max fending of the Liver Birds with his aether-colliding energy ray pistol.
We are both exhausted, the tea has gone for a Burton and we are in desperate need of some reviving literature. Fortunately we have managed to salvage some from the flood…
This is the first book in the Steamship Chronicles but we highly recommend reading the prequel Safe Haven first so that you come to this having already fallen in love with the main characters (and we promise you will fall in love!)
In a world where’naturals’ (those who are able to hear the dreams of machines and use aether to make those dreams real) are feared, despised and locked away in asylums, Lily and her husband Henry think they have found the perfect safe haven for Lily’s ‘natural’ sister, Sam. But it soon becomes aparent that even Henry’s country estate is not going to provide Sam with the chance to truly live a life of freedom and safety. With Lily’s health in rapid decline, Sam bravely sets off for the continent where Henry has found a colony of ‘naturals’ living in peace and safety. But Sam soon discovers that her ‘gift’ can be a dangerous thing which she struggles to control away from Lily’s calming influence…
Nathaniel Bowden wants desperately too leave his upper class heritage behind and work his way up to become a Steamship Captain. Hardworking, capable and honourable almost to the point of self destruction, Nat has won the respect of the captain and crew but the gruff engineer remains prejudiced against him and when mysterious things begin to happen in the engine room he is quick to insist that Nat must be to blame. Desperate to defend both his honour and his life, Nat sets out to capture the real culprit…
This story had us in tears from the first page. A tense steampunk adventure full of high adrenaline moments with a warm heart running through it thanks to the truly lovable cast of characters. The story has a real ‘coming of age’ flavour to it as both Nat and Sam are forced slowly to control their impetuous natures as they realise the effect their actions have on those around them and they both move from egocentric naivete to the self sacrifice that is the bedrock of true friendship.
This book ended on such a cliff hanger that we had to plunge straight into the next one in the same sitting and will be reviewing it shortly!
Now then, as our cephalopterois is sulking under a tea cosy giving us a look which seems to say ‘I tried to warn you…’ there is nothing more to do but wish you all a very arid afternoon and invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow when we will hopefully be in a better position to receive visitors… and of course spin you the tale of our dreadful visitor last week… so, until then please be always,
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s formidably flamboyant and delinquently day-dreamy parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!
True, some have called it a barren affair; its charms a figment of fiendish imagination, but we consider that such people spend too much time indulging in unsavoury gossip.
You find us this morning reminiscing about the innocent delights of youth… at least I think that is what we are doing.. we are coming out of the end of an all night tiffin session with the lovely Miss Ottis, our local Milliner. I’m not sure Max has noticed that she gave her leave over an hour ago and he has just finished regaling her empty chair with a charming story about how the poet Christina Biscotti first introduced him to something called a sherbet rocket.
I confess I couldn’t follow most of it (sweet delights like that may be illegal in the land f Ire but below the sea they are simply unobtainable, as even the most intrepid cake smuggler does not think to put on a diving suit and peddle their wares along the sea bed.) but the whole thing seemed to take place on a punt in Oxford and ended in a near death collision with a steamer.
Anyway, Max has now moved on to rambling about Christina’s Mostly Awful Poetry and that can only end in tears so I think it is time we opened something splendid to read and put the kettle on again for a nice grounding cup of Wildflower Serenity Tea from DaisyandMallow
Our book this morning is An Oxford Holiday, another beautiful offering from the mistress of ingenious mechanical devices, Kara Jorgensen. An oxford holiday is a short companion story to the series and falls between books two and three.
Lovers Adam and Immanuel have been separated since their last adventure, Adam lives in London while Immanuel is finishing his studies in Oxford. Although the nightmare reality of Immanuel’s capture and torture by the gentleman devil is now over, the Oxford bully boys continue to make his life a misery and his experiences have left scars that are both physical and emotional. He is overjoyed at the prospect of Adam coming to stay for a weekend, even if they cant let their feelings show in public it will be good to have a friend as company, and then f course Adam will have his own hotel room… But things don’t go as planned as an emergency at the university means that Adam and Immanuel may not get the break they planned for after all.
If you haven’t already read the first two books it is possible to enjoy this as a sweet gay romance story on its own as Kara does a great job of filtering in the necessary facts without any annoying information dumping. What newcomers may not fully appreciate, and this is the reason devotees of the series will want to make sure they grab this little bonus book, is just how much Immanuel has suffered in the past, how much this precious time alone with Adam means to them both. Immanuel is an adorable character and we desperately want him to find happiness with Adam if their plans for the future work out, but the subtle threat to that at the very end of the book implies that even London may not be the sanctuary he is hoping for, we suspect that Immanuel and Adam have more trying times ahead and we can’t wait to read the next book
And now we must pop our oracular pet into its cup and see what its tentacles have plucked from the aether for us this morning…
That is truly ingenious! I wonder if he could make us one for the tea… we wish you all a very sweet and steamy afternoon, and hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow so,until then, please be always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s awe-inspiringly amorous and remorselessly romantic parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!
True, some have called it a dark-hearted affair riddled with unrequited fancies but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning waltzing around the parlour, tripping over eachother’s tentacles and generally getting our heads in a giddy spin because this week, here in The Scattered Isles of Ire, we are celebrating the ‘ festival of (almost) unconditional love’ during which all citizens (well, all those who value their necks so that’s us obviously) make an ostentatious show of celebrating the love that Wiz has shown to us all by doing all he can to prevent us frenziedly nomming ourselves into early graves (ie, banning tea, cake and magic from being consumed by the general populous) …a-hem.
And to kick off this week long love-fest we have this adorable Lovers’ Tea by Rooted Earth and to accompany it, this sweet steampunk romance…
Safe Haven is the prequel book in Margaret McGaffey Fisk’s Steamship Chronicles and if you are looking for a book that is heavy on the steampunk with an interesting love story intertwined with the plot (and without any unwarranted bodice ripping or token macho-chaps sticking their pistols where they aren’t wanted) then we think you will adore this book as much as we did.
When Lily’s father dies the responsibility of caring for her younger sister, Sam, falls to Lily. But Sam is a Natural – someone who understands the dreams of machines…and in order to keep society safe, the law decrees that all Naturals must be locked up.
Henry is desperate to carry on the high principles and altruistic achievements of his predecessors and although his job in the local police force doesn’t quite provide him with the opportunities he craves to do this, he is certainly doing his best to be a champion of the poor, combat these lunatic Naturals and keep innocent citizens safe from their monstrous creations.
Will Henry’s burning desire to ‘do the right thing’ and Lily’s commitment to protect her sister be the tools which drive them apart or bond them together?
We loved the steampunk world offered in this book and the originality and ‘freshness’ of the plot. The characters were adorable and we will definitely be reading the next book to see what happens to them all next.
Now then, time to pop our oracular pet into his cup and see if it has any ideas for celebrating the love of our kind and benevolent dictator…
Splendid! We wish you all a very splendid morning filled with amorous suitors and absinthe flavoured hearts and we invite you to join us tomorrow for elevenses so, until then, please be always,
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
Helping me this morning is steampunk and fantasy author, Karen J Carlisle, writer of ‘Doctor Jack’ which Max and Collin recommended to us all on Monday. Good morning Karen, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
“Thank you, Mrs Baker. I’ve got our version of homemade leek and potato soup. I grew the leeks myself. Here’s the recipe:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 leeks (pale section) – thinly sliced
- 4 celery sticks – halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 4 zucchinis – quartered and thinly sliced
- 700g potatoes – peeled and cut into 1.5cm squares
- 1.5 L (6 cups) salt reduced chicken stock
- Handful of spring onions – chopped
Heat the oil in a large saucepan on low to medium heat. Add leek, celery and zucchini and cook until the vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes). Add potatoes and stock. Cover and heat on med to high heat, until boiling. Reduce to simmer and cook, partly covered, until the potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes).
You can feed a hungry horde of eight.”
Mmm, it smells delicious, and how wonderful that you grew the leeks yourself! Here in Lancaster, Lord Ashton is apparently building a sky-garden so that every resident can have their own vegetable plot so perhaps I will try my hand at leek growing too! Now then, while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about the heroine of your book series, Viola Stewart?
“Viola is an intelligent woman living in a man’s world. She studied, in Edinburgh, to become a doctor but was refused registration because of her sex. After her husband died, she became an optician. She is also an inventor, amateur detective and avid reader.”
Doctor Jack is based on the well-known London mystery of Jack The Ripper, however you manage to take the reader on an exciting and unexpected journey as Viola investigates, what inspired you to put a new twist on this famous tale?
“I was watching a documentary on Jack the Ripper and wondered what would happen if my recurring villains, The Society (aka the Men in Grey), tried to use him in their plans – and what if he had plans of his own? Of course, even the villain has a past – old acquaintances and a family. Perhaps he and Viola had already met? During my research I discovered little tit bits suggesting various alternatives to the traditional narrative.
I love ‘what ifs’.”
Ah, the old ‘what-if-itis’ … I believe it is the curse of every true steampunk! Now,the cover art and presentation of your books is absolutely beautiful, do you design the covers yourself?
“Yes, I do. After high school, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a writer, a photographer/cinematographer, an artist/designer, an astronaut, or the Doctor’s next companion. I wanted to do it all. I chose the safe option and finished a Bachelor of Applied Science in optometry. I recently changed careers (long story) and now I get to do photography, design, make book trailers as well as write. Perhaps I am trying to make up for lost time?”
My goodness you certainly have a lot of strings to your bow! And do you have any more mysteries for Viola to solve in the near future?
“Oh, yes. I’ve just published a second journal of Viola’s adventures, Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales, with a second set of short stories and a new novella. There’s mummies and curses and madness. I’ve already started working on the third book in the series.”
As well as writing wonderful books you are also a talented artist have you brought any of your work to show us today?
“I’m participating in Inktober again this year. Inktober is a concept, created by Jake Parker: 31 days, 31 inks. The aim of the project is to practice and improve my ink work and drawing skills. I post to my Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook pages.
This year I started with some characters you may recognise:
Viola Stewart and dear Doctor Henry Collins and Doctor Jack…”
“I’ve just released the Doctor Jack design as a t-shirt on my Redbubble store.“
Those really are amazing, Karen, and a t-shirt with Doctor Jack on the front sounds like a very splendid thing indeed, especially for Halloween! And do you have any new releases, workshops or events planned over the next few months?
“My short story, All that Glitters, is being published in an upcoming steampunk anthology, Den of Antiquity. It’s a story set in nineteenth century South Australia. I’m also attending a few local events: a local ‘mini comic con’ over the Halloween weekend – featuring local Adelaide writers, artists and comic book creators, and I have a table in the Artist Alley at Adelaide Supanova’s pop culture event, next month.”
Wonderful, so that is lots of places where fans can catch up with you! And now the all important question, I’ve heard that you are rather passionate about tea, but what is your favourite brew and how do you take it?
Max and Colin will be glad to hear you take your tea black! (or ‘neat’ as I think they term it.) you know, for an octopus, Collin has very strong opinions on adding milk to hot beverages.
Well now, here is your tea and thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Karen, it’s been wonderful to chat with you! Your home made soup smells delicious and I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?
“Definitely. And thanks for sharing your kitchen.”
A pleasure! Max and Collin will of course be ‘all punked up with no place to go’ tomorrow if you would care to join them in the parlour, and of course Peril will be sharing some fabulous fiction on Friday from his lovely library. I will be back next week with musician and youtuber Bellabeth giving me a hand to dish up the soup.
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins.
Helping me this morning is one of my favourite authors, Charity Tahmaseb, writer of ‘Coffee and Ghosts’ which Max and Collin recommended to us all on Monday. Good morning Charity, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
“I do have some soup, although my husband is the soup expert in our house. That being said, my daughter’s favorite is the matzo ball soup I make (and to be honest, I use a kit–still, she loves it). “
Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your book series, Coffee and Ghosts?
“Coffee and Ghosts revolves around the adventures of Katy Lindstrom and her business partner Malcolm Armand in which they use coffee (and sometimes tea) to catch ghosts.
The first season begins with Katy and her grandmother using coffee to catch ghosts and storing them in Tupperware containers, an idea which I (and probably most of your readers) found instantly adorable, where did the inspiration for such a brilliant idea come from?
A long while back, I wrote a mystery from the point of view of a ghost. While the novel never went anywhere, during my research, I came across an anecdote about people catching ghosts in jars.
That idea percolated for years until I saw the call for submissions for Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic, and I used that to write a short story about catching ghosts with coffee. Glass jars seemed too dangerous for that task, so I substituted Tupperware containers.
That story, Ghost in the Coffee Machine, became the pilot episode for Coffee and Ghosts. Early this year, The Drabblecast produced the story in audio. It’s so much fun. It even has sounds effects! It’s not very long and you can listen to it here:”
And have you ever seen a ghost?
“I have not. Can you believe it? I even did a “haunted London” tour when I went to England several years back. No cold spots, no slamming doors. Nothing. I was so disappointed.”
Well, never mind my dear, you must be sure to pop along and visit our own resident ghost, Perilous Wight, in his Lovely Library some time! Now then, several readers have commented on the beautiful coffee pot illustrated on the front of your books, do you have a special coffee pot or other piece of chinaware that inspires your writing?
“The samovar that Malcolm uses is based on the one my in-laws have, as is the tea he brews. I love incorporating a little piece of their heritage into the story.”
Oh that is wonderful to know! I must say I did love the samovar description and the gorgeous smell of the tea he brews, how wonderful! Malcolm is a splendid character and Katy is a very lovable character who I think most readers can identify with but, if you had to chose, who is your personal favourite in the first series?
“Although he doesn’t get a lot of page time in season one, I do like Police Chief Ramsey. He changes a lot over the next two seasons, and has his reasons for being so grumpy. But there will always be a generation gap and some antagonism between him and Katy.”
Hm, reasons to read on then and discover more! Each series is made up of fairly self-contained ‘novelettes’ which makes them very convenient reading for a busy witch like me, rather like a biscuit tin which can be dipped into during sneaky tea (or indeed coffee) breaks! Did you set out to write like this or was it more of a ‘happy accident’?
“It’s a little bit of both. When I started, I thought I would write a handful of self-contained stories. But as I was writing, a larger story arc appeared, one that encompassed the entire season. Then, it evolved into a multi-season arc.
I make a point to wrap up each story (even if not all threads are resolved) and try to make each one a satisfying read. It’s a fun way to write. It’s more flexible than a standalone novel, and I can take time in various episodes to explore subplots and secondary characters.”
And do you have any plans to write another season?
“Seasons one and two are already out, and I’m getting season three ready to go, with the first episode available on or about Halloween. I recently released both seasons on all vendors, so you can find the series on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.”
Coffee and Ghosts has totally captured my heart as a reader and I really hope you will continue to write about Katy’s adventures but what other projects are you working on right now? Do you have any new releases we can look forward to
“Certainly! Season three of Coffee and Ghosts is almost ready to go. This season wraps up all major story threads and was a blast to write.
For 2017, I’m hoping to launch two new series, a fairy tale one and another paranormal one.”
Wonderful news! Well I will be sure to keep an eye out for those next year and perhaps when they are out you’ll come back and tell us a little more about them. But now the all important question, on which the fate of the universe may very well hinge,…you are obviously passionate about hot beverages but which do you really prefer, coffee or tea?
“I must–must–have my coffee in the morning, and I take it with half and half, no sugar (in fact, I dislike sweet coffee so much, I don’t even like coffee ice cream).
In the afternoon? Well, that’s a different story. Then I’m all about tea. I love all sorts of teas, but generally drink green tea and the hot cinnamon spice tea from Caribou Coffee. (My go-to drink when I’m writing at the coffee shop.)”
Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Charity, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?
“Thank you for having me! I’ve enjoyed our chat. Let’s eat!”
I will be back in the kitchen next Wednesday with another helpful guest, Karen J Carlisle who will be telling us all about her steampunk series, The Adventures of Viola Stewart, but Max and Collin will be back in the parlour tomorrow with some tremendous Tea @ Three.
Blessings on your brew my dears and if you’d like to read Charity’s lovely series for yourselves you can find her books by following the links below…