Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 9/22/19

 

Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip.  Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.

Back with new releases again… they keep writin’ them, we keep readin’ them.

Ever go through one of those times where how you feel prevents you from picking up a book?  Yeah, I am on week 3 of that problem.  It sucks!  Something I enjoy so much has absolutely no appeal.  I have some really awesome choices in my TBR pile so that’s not the problem.  I guess I’ve weathered these storms before.  I am hoping this dry spell ends soon.

  • I really enjoyed Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews so I’ve been watching for new books in the series.  Here’s #4:

Title: Sweep of the Blade
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #4
Description: Maud Demille was a daughter of Innkeepers. She knew that a simple life wasn’t in the cards, but she never anticipated what Fate would throw at her.

Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her daughter, Helen, had been exiled for the sins of her husband to the desolate planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud had spent a year and a half avenging his debts. But now all the debts are paid. Rescued by her sister Dina, Maud had swore off all things vampire. Except she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined.

Try as she might, she can’t just walk away from Arland. It doesn’t help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

To sort it all out, she accepts his invitation to visit his home planet. House Krahr is a powerful vampire House, and Maud knows that a woman who turned down the proposal from its most beloved son wouldn’t get a warm reception. But Maud Demille never shied from a fight and House Krahr may soon discover that there is more to this human woman than they ever thought possible.

  • Here’s something that looks interesting, HOWEVER, be aware it’s a trilogy.  I have to get myself prepared to a trilogy instead of a lengthy series.  I don’t know why.  I’m weird.

Title:  The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl
Author: Theodora Goss
Series: The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #3
Release date: October 1, 2019
Description: Mary Jekyll and the Athena Club race to save Alice—and foil a plot to unseat the Queen, in the electrifying conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Nebula Award finalist and Locus Award winner The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.

Life’s always an adventure for the Athena Club…especially when one of their own has been kidnapped! After their thrilling European escapades rescuing Lucina van Helsing, Mary Jekyll and her friends return home to discover that their friend and kitchen maid Alice has vanished— and so has their friend and employer Sherlock Holmes!

As they race to find Alice and bring her home safely, they discover that Alice and Sherlock’s kidnapping are only one small part of a plot that threatens Queen Victoria, and the very future of the British Empire. Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, Catherine, and Justine save their friends—and save the Empire? Find out in the final installment of the fantastic and memorable Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.

  • If you thought this last book was interesting, check out this one from Kevin Hearne!

Title:  The Princess Beard: The Tales of Pell
Author:  Kevin Hearne
Release date: October 9, 2019
Description:Shave the princess? Inconceivable! The hilarious bestselling authors of Kill the Farm Boy and No Country for Old Gnomes are back with a new adventure in the irreverent world of Pell.

Once upon a time, a princess slept in a magical tower cloaked in thorns and roses.

When she woke, she found no Prince Charming, only a surfeit of hair and grotesquely long fingernails–which was, honestly, better than some creep who acted without consent. She cut off her long braids and used them to escape. But she kept the beard because it made a great disguise.

This is not a story about finding true love’s kiss–it’s a story about finding yourself. On a pirate ship. Where you belong.

But these are no ordinary pirates aboard The Puffy Peach, serving under Filthy Lucre, the one-eyed parrot pirate captain. First there’s Vic, a swole and misogynistic centaur on a mission to expunge himself of the magic that causes him to conjure tea and dainty cupcakes in response to stress. Then there’s Tempest, who’s determined to become the first dryad lawyer–preferably before she takes her ultimate form as a man-eating tree. They’re joined by Alobartalus, an awkward and unelfly elf who longs to meet his hero, the Sn’archivist who is said to take dictation directly from the gods of Pell. Throw in some mystery meat and a dastardly capitalist plot, and you’ve got one Pell of an adventure on the high seas!

In this new escapade set in the magical land of Pell, Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne lovingly skewer the tropes of fairy tales and create a new kind of fantasy: generous, gently humorous, and inclusive. There might also be otters.

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Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 9/15/19

 

Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip.  Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.

Back with new releases again… they keep writin’ them, we keep readin’ them.

  • I am a huge fan of Kris Michaels, author of The Kings of Guardian, Guardian Security Shadow World and now there is a new series making it’s way into the world: Guardian Defenders.  This looks like a very tasty book as it explores the founding father of The Guardians Security, Gabriel.  He has had cameos in every Guardian book, if by person or by mention.  He’s yummy and ready to tell his story.

TitleGabriel
Author: Kris Michaels
Series:  Guardian Defenders #1
Release date:  October 29, 2019
Description: David Xavier—and all those he loved or counted as friends—would forever be mouth-watering targets to men of evil intent. His wealth could settle a small country’s foreign debt. Because of this, from the moment of his birth, his mother obscured his identity. Reborn as the man named Gabriel, however, he walked free into a world where the innocents and the weak cried out for a defender, for the hand of justice, for a guardian angel.

In response, an elite, paramilitary operation, Guardian, rose to stand between the evil men did and those whom they would make their victims. Gabriel was CEO. His goal was worthy and all consuming, but fighting on the side of angels didn’t make his nights less lonely or soothe the ache in his heart for hearth, home, and family.

He needed a courageous woman of unflinching integrity, of goodness and honor, to stand at his side. He’d given up hope of finding such a person. He thought he’d found her years ago. The sex had been combustible, but they’d met at the very birth of Guardian, when he hadn’t time for a personal life. Chalk it up to fate or bad timing.

Over the years, twenty-eight-year-old, Denver ER nurse, Anna Harriger, watched as all her friends, many of whom were former patients, found their soul mates, got married, and had children. Shoot, she’d been a bridesmaid six times. She figured she was destined to be the “crazy friend” that everyone liked but who, at the end of the day, went home to a solitary apartment. She wanted love. She wanted a family, but she refused to compromise her standards. She’d met her Prince Charming, but unlike the fairytale, after an incendiary night of sex, she’d never seen him again. Chalk it up to fate or bad timing.

When events throw them together again, each find their attraction vastly more than simply physical, but once again, Gabriel’s responsibilities pull them apart. After an absence of almost half a year, Gabriel returns for Anna, but she has vanished. He will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to find her and bring her home, but fear dogs his efforts. Who was she running from? Why did she disappear so thoroughly? He knew his Anna. She’d have a very good reason.

  • Adam J. Wright is releasing another Harbinger, P.I. novel on September 27, 2019.   I am very behind on this series but it’s on my TBR list anyway.  Why? Won’t I be crushed by my TBR pile? Yep, probably, but I can then read my way out!

TitleFaerie Storm
AuthorAdam J. Wright
Series: Harbinger, P.I. #8
Release date: September 27, 2019
Description: Be careful what you wish for…it might be inhabited by a demon

When a case takes me to the wilderness of Northern Maine, I’m not even sure there’s a paranormal angle. Two girls walked into the woods one night and only one of them came back. She’s so traumatized by what she saw that she hasn’t spoken a word since.

The police come up empty-handed so the girl’s father hires me to find out what happened. Getting out of Dearmont for a while seems like a good idea—especially when there’s an ancient wizard trying to force me into using a cursed sword—so I pack the mosquito repellent and head north.

But when my client ends up dead, surrounded by occult symbols, I realize this is no vacation. Evil forces are at work here and someone is going to have to deal with them.

Guess that someone will have to be me.

  • I used to read Lillith Saintcrow quite a lot.  My favorite series was Jill Kismet with Dante Valentine following a close second.  This new novel looks pretty good too and if you are quick, Lillith is offering the first 6 chapters for free for your reading pleasure.  Just hop over to her website and click the button.

TitleIncorruptible
AuthorLillith Saintcrow
Release date: unknown at this time
DescriptionFalling was only the beginning…

Jenna Delacroix is determined to keep her life as simple as possible. Maybe if she tries hard enough to be normal the nightmares and strange occurrences plaguing her all her life will finally recede. But then the monsters arrive—and with them, the man who says he’s her protector.

Lonely and disciplined, Michael Gabon is just a grunt in the Legion’s endless war, but now he’s stumbled across something special—a living, breathing Incorruptible, the first one he’s seen in more decades than he can count. She’s also being hunted. And now, so is he.

On the run without backup, the diaboli haunting their trail, their only hope is working together. Even that might not be enough, because the unclean seem to know more than they should. Whether it’s treachery or bad luck doesn’t matter to Michael. The only thing he cares about is seeing his Incorruptible safe…

…no matter who–or what–he has to kill.

  • I haven’t talked about the Alex Verus world for awhile.  Again, this is another series that has gotten away from me.  The last several books are on my TBR pile and each and every one are very tempting.

TitleFallen
Author: Benedict Jacka
Series: Alex Verus #10
Release date: September 24, 2019
DescriptionFor Mage Alex Verus, everything is on the line in the tenth urban fantasy novel from the national bestselling author of Marked.

Once Alex Verus was a diviner trying to live quietly under the radar. Now he’s a member of the Light Council who’s found success, friends…and love. But it’s come with a price–the Council is investigating him, and if they find out the truth, he’ll lose everything.

Meanwhile, Alex’s old master, Richard Drakh, is waging a war against the Council, and he’s preparing a move that will bring Alex and the life mage, Anne, under his control. Caught between Richard and the Council, Alex’s time is running out. To protect those he cares for, Alex will have to become something different. Something darker…

 

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Series Spotlight: The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

By the time I was introduced to the Lady Trent series (thank you, Agent Annie!), it was complete, and I devoured the series as a whole rather than one book at a time. So I will be reviewing it as a whole series. The TL:DR version of my review is that I love it!

Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent
Author: Marie Brennan
Genre: Historical fantasy
Audiobook Narrator: Kate Reading
Titles:

Description: Set in an alternate world much like our own during the nineteenth century, the Memoirs of Lady Trent is a five-book series chronicling the adventures and discoveries of Isabella, Lady Trent, renowned dragon naturalist.


Invested Ivana says…

I have listened to this series now twice and just adore it.

The series is set in a fantasy version of our own world somewhere in the Victorian era. The elderly Isabella, Lady Trent, is writing her memoirs to answer questions about the more personal nature of her adventures and to set the record straight on certain rumors that have been spread about her and about a few politically-driven lies she’s had to tell in the past.

Since the stories are told by Isabella later in life, she has the advantage of being brutally honest about her own behavior and the societal norms she broke in pursuit of her work. Her self-reflection makes the stories very personal and even more entertaining. It reminded me about the times I would listen to my grandmother tell stories about when she was young and did things I could never imagine my grandmother doing. She seemed quite outrageous, but the stories deepened my understanding of and connection to her.

In contrast to the feminine stereotype of the time, Isabella is an intellectual, driven to study the nature and biology of dragons and dragon-esque species. Being a natural historian is not a proper pastime for a gentle-born lady, and so to continue her work, she must buck tradition constantly. She is criticized for everything, from the way she dresses, parents her son, and travels without an escort in the company of men to the way she submits her work to traditionally-male scholarly societies and supports other women in their scholarly pursuits. Even so, we see Isabella persist in finding her own happiness, both intellectual and personal. That makes her a good role model for our own world.

Each book centers around one of her famous adventures to a different part of the globe, and during each adventure, what she discovers that furthers her understanding of dragons. I love the fact that each book introduces us to a new culture, a new way of living, and a new way of thinking.

Each book also focuses on the relationships Lady Trent forms, both with her countrymen and those in the places she visits. These relationships influence so much of Lady Trent’s thinking and choices that, over the course of the series, which covers many years, we see Isabella grow from the child we are introduced to initially to the matron who is telling the story. I love seeing characters grow and develop from their experiences, so I find this part of the series very satisfying.

Unfortunately, Isabella often stumbles into tense political situations during her travels, which doesn’t help her reputation at all. While she sometimes exacerbates the situation, she is often a means of addressing the conflict as well. She introduces a very chaotic element into the highly-controlled Victorian British aesthetic of the time. That contrast makes for some delightful story conflict.

In some ways, I think listening to the audio version of these books is an advantage. Kate Reading, the narrator, is fantastic. Between this series and the Athena Club series, I listened to her voice regularly for a couple of months. She does an amazing job of bringing each character to life. Also, as a listener, I don’t have to stumble over the pronunciation of any of the place or character names in the story.

The one disadvantage of the audio, though, is missing out on the art of Todd Lockwood, which appears throughout the book as maps and sketches Lady Trent makes as part of her scientific study. It adds a lot to the story to see the artwork. I purchased both the audio and Kindle versions of these books in order to see the art, but I believe these would be beautiful books to have in hardcover as part of a fantasy art collection. Perhaps there will someday be a pictorial reference to the dragons of Lady Trent’s world that can keep my Art of Pern books company.

If, like me, you aren’t quite ready to leave Isabella’s world behind, you’re in luck. First, Uncanny Magazine has made a short story available free on their website. The story is a speech given by Jacob, Isabella’s son, to the congregation of the Langley Square First Nakhonian Assembly-House during his coming-of-age ceremony. It is quite entertaining. It’s called On The Impurity of Dragon-Kind.

Second, Brennan has just published a new book in the same world, told from the viewpoint of Lady Trent’s granddaughter. It’s called Turning Darkness Into Light. I just picked up the audio today and will be listening to it and reviewing it very soon.

This is the first of Brennan’s series I’ve read, though I’ve known about her as an author for a while. I’ll certainly be checking out some of her others now. Warrior and Witch have been on my TBR for years, and I’ve heard really good things about her Onyx Court series. I’m so impressed by the Lady Trent series that I imagine I’ve been missing out on some good stuff.

So, if you are a fan of dragons, of Victorian history, of natural history, or of women bucking tradition and getting the last laugh, be sure to check out this series. It won’t disappoint.

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series by Theodora Goss has quickly become one of my favorites, particularly in audio. In fact, when I finished the second book, the third was still two months away from publication! But I wasn’t ready to leave Goss’s world, and I struggled to settle on another book. Eventually, I went back to the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan because 1) it is also a Victorian-era tale about the power of women, and 2) it is also narrated by Kate Reading, who is a phenomenal voice performer. But as I write this review, I am counting the days until October 1 when the third book in the series, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, is available.

Title: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
Author: Theodora Goss
Series: Book 02, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club
Publish Date: July 10, 2018, Simon & Schuester
Genre: Historical fantasy, historical mystery
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionMary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

In this second installment of adventures, we again see the ladies of the Athena Club come together to save a young woman from the mad “scientific” designs of her father. Only this time, they have to travel to distant lands to do it. Along the way, they put themselves at risk not only to save the girl but to make greater strides in preventing further abuse in the name of science.

The elements I appreciated about the first book in the series are still here—the way this family of women supports one another and the way they are sacrificing to protect others. As a fan of fantasy, literature, history, and culture, I adore all those elements that Goss brings into the story as well—riding the Orient Express, traveling with a Victorian circus, exploring foreign and exotic lands. I am particularly enamored of the coffeehouse in Budapest. I fear I would be as greedy as Diana in that environment, wanting to sample all its flavorful offerings.

The repetition of specific phrases or story elements persists, but I feel it happens less often. It doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Again, I struggle to find new ways to say how much I love this book. I’m already heavily invested in the characters and their world and am finding the wait for the next book, as I’m sure I will find the wait between books three and four, to be excruciating.

Books in this series

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Imagine the TV show Penny Dreadful, with all of the characters from classic sci-fi and mystery literature, including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. However, instead of horror, picture it as a late-Victorian-era mystery series with a strong dose of girl power. What you get is the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series by Theodora Goss. Let me introduce you to the first book in the series.

Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
Author: Theodora Goss
Series: Book 01, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club
Publish Date: June 20, 2017, Simon & Schuester
Genre: Historical fantasy, historical mystery
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ deaths, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

I find it hardest to review those books I enjoy the most, and so I’m struggling to review this one. I simply love it. I love that all these women come together to form a family. I love that they each have a distinct personality and that they all are so accepting of one another without being too timid about calling one another out. I love how they are all working toward common goals, each in the way that bests uses their talents. I know some of this won’t make sense until you read the book, but the example this book sets for being part of a family, blood-related or not, is a big part of its charm.

Another part I love is how these women are trying to prevent anyone else from being subject to the abuses they have endured. Most of the women in the story have been somehow “created” by their scientifically-minded fathers or keepers. Their primary goal is to prevent other girls from being experimented on or created the way they were. This mirrors much of the activist work we see in women’s groups today, where victims of abuse speak out to prevent others from having to experience the same. I imagine it’s a comment by the author about one of the best qualities we see in women who support each other: We are strong, we survive, and we work hard to protect others.

Being a huge fan of audiobooks, I listened to this book. The narrator, Kate Reading, is amazing. She also narrated the Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan, which I adore. Reading has a large catalog of titles familiar to me, including books by Judy Blume, Jim Butcher, Patricia Cornwell, Sara Donati, Robert Jordan, Sophie Kinsella, Stephanie Meyer, Anne Rice, Brandon Sanderson, V.E. Schwab, and Lauren Willig. She has quickly become one of my favorite narrators, and I will be listening to more of her narration in the future for sure.

However, audiobook listeners may want to download a sample of the ebook or peek at a print book at the bookstore, because the book uses an unusual writing convention, and without the text cues, it may take a bit for the listener to catch on. Essentially, the protagonists of the book, the ladies of the Athena Club, are the ones actually writing the book about their adventures. A character named Catherine is the novelist, and the others insert commentary from time to time. As a result, the book uses both third-person limited and first-person POVs at different points in the story. While it breaks normal convention, it’s done well and is really fun, providing much of the humor in the book.

The only complaint I have, and it’s a minor one, is that bits of the story or even exact phrases are occasionally repeated. Either one of the characters will use the exact phrase they used a few lines ago, or a bit of story will be repeated a couple of times in different places, maybe in the novel text and then the “commentary” text, or maybe in two different places in the story. Those repetitions could be tightened up.

Despite that small complaint, I am in love with this series, particularly in audio. I can’t wait for more adventures with the ladies of the Athena Club.

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