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Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 5/6/2018

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

We certainly have some books for you today! Things are exciting around here – not only has spring arrived but there is a super deal out there for a fabulous author, Laura Bickle.

Laura Bickle created one of my favorite characters ever. Sparky, a salamander familiar and elemental, is half the investigation team with Anya Kalinczyk being the other half. If you want a super read, check this out: Anya Kalinczyk series. 

In more recent publishing is Laura’s series, Dark Alchemy also known as Wildlands series . The news this week is that this series is on sale as Kindle Monthly Deals for May! Each price pointed at .99, a person can hardly go wrong with that entertainment value!

Title:
Dark Alchemy
Author: Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #1
Released: March 24, 2015
Publisher’s description: Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

Title: Mercury Retrograde 
Author: Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #2 (or Wildlands series)
Released: October 27, 2015
Publisher’s description: Something venomous has come to Temperance …

It’s been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance’s resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.

Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels―the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don’t want to kill the basilisk―they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters’ own murderous skills.

Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival. With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.

LOOK OUT! Owl is on the adventure path again!! Also, Kristi Charish is a B & N spotlight pick! How exciting is that?? What that means is that you can get Owl and the Japanese CircusAdventures of Owl #1, for $1.99 until Monday, May 7, 2018!! Take this series for a spin –

Title: Owl and the Tiger Thieves 
Author: Kristi Charish 
Series: Adventures of Owl series #4 
To Be Released: May 7, 2018
Publisher’s description: In this fourth Owl novel, Kristi Charish (The Voodoo Killings) melds sparkling fantasy with the grit of urban underbelly—with a detour through the world’s most spectacular cities. This is perfect for fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and fantasy lovers everywhere.

Through no fault of her own, Alix has found herself essential to the fate of the world as we know it. She didn’t mean for this to happen—she was quite happy being merely the notorious antiquities thief, and ex-archeologist, known as Owl.

However, years ago, Owl reluctantly entered the secret world of the supernatural. Her goals: complete one job, escape one bounty on her head, continue her thieving in peace.

Fast forward to today. Now, she has become a key player in a brutal paranormal civil war that is rapidly getting out of hand. The leader of one of these factions—a lethal opponent called the Electric Samurai—grows more powerful by the second. To stop him, Owl sets out to find the long-lost, legendary group known as the Tiger Thieves.

But will it be too little too late? One thing Owl misses about “normal” archaeology: there are few emergencies with thousand-year-old relics.

 

HOLD ON TIGHT!! Here comes Harry Dresden! Whoo! Hooo!
Title: Brief Cases 
Author: Jim Butcher 
Series: Dresden Files #15.1 
TO BE RELEASED: June 5, 2018
Publisher’s description: An all-new Dresden Files story headlines this urban fantasy short story collection starring the Windy City’s favorite wizard.

The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue–and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you’ll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection.

From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published “Zoo Day,” Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales.

With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry’s funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.

The collection includes:

* “Curses”, from THE NAKED CITY, edited by Ellen Datlow
* “AAAA Wizardry”, from the Dresden Files RPG
* “Even Hand”, from DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS, edited by P. N. Elrod
* “B is for Bigfoot”, from UNDER MY HAT: TALES FROM THE CAULDRON, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT
* “I was a Teenage Bigfoot”, from BLOOD LITE 3: AFTERTASTE, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
* “Bigfoot on Campus”, from HEX APPEAL, edited by P. N. Elrod. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
* “Bombshells”, from DANGEROUS WOMEN, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
* “Jury Duty”, from UNBOUND, edited by Shawn Speakman
* “Cold Case”, from SHADOWED SOULS, edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie Hughes
* “Day One”, from UNFETTERED II, edited by Shawn Speakman
* “A Fistful of Warlocks”, from STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, edited by David Boop
* “Zoo Day” – brand-new novella, original to this collection

DO YOU NEED AN ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN FIX? Jennifer Estep will be self-publishing Venom in the Veins, Elemental Assassin #17. Aren’t we all so happy for self publishing! We’d all be stuck holding the bag if the publishers got their way about some series! Anyway, here is what Jennifer has to say about her new book.

Print book: The print book won’t be available to order until release day, June 12. I’ll share those links as soon as they are online. The price will be $14.99.

The print book will NOT be stocked in your local bookstore so you will have to order it online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, the print book will be trade paperback size—not the smaller mass market size as the previous books in the series.

Audiobook: There will be an audiobook, and the awesome Lauren Fortgang will once again be the narrator. I’ll share more info about the audiobook as it becomes available.

Title: Venom in the Veins
Author: Jennifer Estep
Series: Elemental Assassin #17 
To Be Released: June 12, 2018
Publisher’s description: Blood might be thicker than water, but venom is stronger than just about anything …

It was supposed to be a nice, quiet, simple dinner with friends—but nothing is ever nice, quiet, or simple when you’re Gin Blanco, the Spider, notorious assassin and current queen of the Ashland underworld.

This time around, someone seems to be targeting Stuart Mosley, the president of First Trust bank. Lots of people have grudges against Mosley, but the more I investigate, the more Mosley’s problems seem to be connected to some of my own, especially when it comes to the Circle, the evil, shadowy group that is secretly responsible for much of the crime and corruption in Ashland.

But when another blast from my dark and deadly past as the Spider comes to light, I wonder if I’ll be able to survive this dangerous new enemy, who has a burning thirst for revenge that will only be satisfied with one thing: my death.

Read the first chapter: http://www.jenniferestep.com/books/venom-in-the-veins/

 

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Wild Card by Jim Butcher

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. Today we’re reviewing the fifth original story in the Dresden files graphic novels, Wild Card. Dresden is back! It’s a quick adventure and makes me want more new books to come out or to re-read old ones! I will take what I can get and this only slightly disappoints!

wild-cardTitleWild Card, Book 9.2
AuthorJim Butcher
SeriesJim Butcher’s Dresden Files
Publish Date: October 26, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files saga continues in this original and in-continuity graphic novel, featuring a never-before-told story set after the bestselling novel White Night and graphic novel Down Town! A bizarre double murder draws the interest of Chicago’s only wizard-for-hire. But as Harry Dresden begins his investigation, the clues lead to troubling conclusions about the possible perpetrator, and set him on a path that will place him in the middle of a conflict between the city’s three most powerful factions—a conflict that could engulf all of Chicago!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

I seriously could not read this fast enough. I love the adventures of Harry Dresden, and anything new is like an oasis in the long desert between book releases. The art is top notch and gives us a great take on the characters from the book. The bad guy is fun and works well as an agent of chaos. He’s out to amuse himself and doesn’t care what mortals get hurt in that pursuit. The fact that he could end the peace in Chicago of the main powers only heightens the bad guys fun! Of course, Harry can’t stand for that and works with Molly, Murphy, Butters, Thomas, and even Lara and Gentleman Johnny Marcone to rid his city of the menace.

badge4v5In the end, though, as much as I enjoyed it, I can only give the book a four. Maybe it was a four and a half but it is rounded down. The ending let me down. It fit the villain well, and I can see him being fine with putting everything online to the roll of the dice, but it misses the mark for me with Harry. I wanted to see that he had an edge, a trick, or something that pushed the odds into his favor because there was too much at stake to leave it up to as much chance as he did. I’m sure I will read it again and again, as I do with the rest of Dresden, but the ending will remain the weak point for me.

Our reviews in this series…

Down Town by Jim Butcher

Falling between White Night and Small Favor, this story features Harry, Molly, and Marcone fighting a psychotic denizen of Undertown. It’s good to watch Apprentice Molly really flex her magical muscles!

Down TownTitle:  Down Town
Author:  Jim Butcher
SeriesDresden Files Book 09.5
Publish Date:  September 30, 2015
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Chicago wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden and his new apprentice, Molly Carpenter, intend to end the havoc caused by a mad sorcerer – one whose ambitions would have the Windy City streets carved out as his own private kingdom. But when the magical upstart enters into an alliance with the notorious mob boss “Gentleman Johnnie” Marcone, will the fast-and-loose Dresden and his young charge survive unscathed?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

Things I didn’t like: The drawing of Gard didn’t work for me. I didn’t see her as wearing a mini skirt and being a warrior Pants! I also wasn’t fond of the team up with Marcone. It didn’t work for me, probably because I think it felt forced. How short it was. This one felt short or maybe it would have been nice to get a bit more background on the bad guy.

Things I liked: I did like the adventure itself. I like seeing Harry and Molly in action, along with Mouse. I did like them going into Undercity again to explore that more. I liked the monster that was used as well and it forced Harry to think not just blast away.

badge3v4While I liked this, and give it a solid three, I could have used a bit more. I think the villain was a bit cookie cutter and not developed enough. I also thought it was too forced for Marcone to go along. He’s not a young man anymore and I don’t think he should have been able to keep up with Harry as well as he did. Even with this nitpicks, though, a fine story and a fun, if quick, adventure to read.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

So, here I am, reading another graphic novel. I keep saying I don’t care much for them, but yet I keep reading them. This one happens to be a unique story in the Dresden Files series (as opposed to a graphic version of an existing novel).

What I liked:

  • Molly’s rainbow colored tips.
  • Mouse and Mister’s teamwork.
  • Ms. Gard’s battle axe.
  • The banter and Star Wars references between Harry and Molly.

What I didn’t like:

  • We don’t get much information about the antagonist. Who is he? Where did he come from? Has he been in Chicago all this time? What riled him up? How come we haven’t seen him before? Considering his own justification for his actions, it seems like he’d be someone Harry or Marcone would have encountered previously if he’d been around a while.
  • The “golem” was faceless and only vaguely humanoid. Made it hard to identify what it was at first.
  • Ms. Gard’s mini-skirt. I can’t remember if her outfits have been described in any of the books, but I picture her fighting in sensible clothes — meaning pants. But, she’s a Valkyrie; I guess she can fight in anything she wants.

badge3v4Overall, a fun story in the Dresden Files universe. Fun to see Molly get her fight on. Based on what I know at the moment, not a critical part of the series story arc, though.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try the other unique graphic novels in the Dresden Files series: Welcome to the Jungle, Ghoul Goblin, and War Cry.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors… (from Goodreads)

Cinder SpiresTitle:  The Aeronaut’s Windlass
Author:  Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires Book 01
Publish Date:  September 29, 2015
Genre:  Steampunk Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description:  Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Vagabond_Vahn50Did you read the new Jim Butcher novel, Aeronaut’s Windless, Book One in the Cinder Spires series?

Percy_Procrastinator_50I did. I had a tough time getting into it but I eventually finished it.

Vagabond_Vahn50

 

That doesn’t sound promising…

Percy_Procrastinator_50I try not to compare books I review to other books, but I think I need to compare Butcher to Butcher. I was reminded way too much of Codex Alera in reading this book. Big noble houses, fighting over scarce resources, and a spider like menace that threatens them all.

Vagabond_Vahn50I can’t bring myself to compare it to Codex Alera – despite loving the Dresden Files, I did not care for Codex Alera at all. I couldn’t finish the first book of the series, and I tried four separate times. While Aeronaut’s Windless took me a good three chapters, eventually I was fully committed.

Percy_Procrastinator_50 That is interesting. Another thing that got to me was I thought the kids were way too mature. I think they are supposed to be sixteen to nineteen and just a bit too experienced and good.

Vagabond_Vahn50That is another interesting dichotomy in our reactions to the novel as I was very comfortable with the maturity level of the characters. Given that the genre is Steampunk, we’re talking future-Victorian era level of expectations. Women were expected to be marriageable between ages fourteen and eighteen leading up to that, and with the right social status were taught the ways of court, expectations, etc. Given now that these are characters who are joining The Guard, undergoing training etc, in that Victorian-inspired setting, I was at ease with sixteen to nineteen year olds acting the way they did – but that’s just me. Did you ever read Little Women? I recall them being quite mature, the way we think of it, at that age.

Percy_Procrastinator_50When we get introduced to Gwendolyn Lancaster, and joining the guard, I had this idea she had already graduated some form of high school, was eighteen or nineteen, and was going to do this because everyone was supposed to serve. Same for the other girl, Bridget Tagwynn. I got it in my head she was at least three years older. So when it turns out she’s sixteen, I don’t buy it. It snapped me out of it and it didn’t jive with how she acted the rest of the time. Again, I’m not saying I thought she was older than twenty five but I just didn’t think how she was described was sixteen.

However, my big turn off was the cats. Maybe I’m not a cat person but all of it could have been cut, at least the perspective stuff, and I would have been fine.

Vagabond_Vahn50There’s that dichotomy again – I thought the cats were one of the best parts! I will note, based on conversations with others I know who have read this, that you either love them or hate them with a passion. I thought Butcher nailed the cat attitudes of nonchalance, and thinking they’re better than the humans, and scoffing at the way the humans do things, and the main one’s air of self importance. I thought it was hilarious, and spot-on for how I would imagine cats to think/act/communicate, if they could in the same way we do. So I really enjoyed that part. It also provided a burst of nostalgia, reminding me of Oberon from the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, and how totally opposite the cats are from that dog.

Percy_Procrastinator_50Nope, I can’t budge on the cats. I didn’t like them. I’m not disagreeing that he captured what a cat would probably be like but I didn’t like them. I think it’s also because he spent too much time with them. They didn’t work for me.

As a moderate annoyance, I think this was more me but I didn’t get a good picture in my head of what the spires look like and how they work. This vague idea of carved/created blocks where humanity now lives but not what Habble Landing was or how it differed, other than more wood? I also didn’t get a good picture in my head of how they eat when they can’t get to the surface. Basically, daily life on the spires.

Vagabond_Vahn50On that point we have found common ground. I agree with your annoyance at the visuals in your mind’s eye. Usually I like it when authors give you just enough to let your imagination fill it in, and I abhor when they spend three pages describing the bushes the character is passing (which is why Traditional Fantasy is often difficult for me to enjoy) – but I agree that I think he fell a bit short on providing the “just enough” for me as well.

Percy_Procrastinator_50I did find some things to like in the book. I did like the tech. I think he had some good “rules” for crystal tech and the gauntlets. I liked the Spirearch and Captain Grimm. I mostly liked the ship battles. I glazed over at times when it wasn’t clear to me but the tactics and ideas were interesting.

Vagabond_Vahn50I agree. I also appreciated that the love story kept the Victorian approach to it, and didn’t delve into make-out sessions in a teen romance-novel way.

Percy_Procrastinator_50I can agree with that. I really liked the Victorian approach and wanted to know more about the society. I think some more history would have been better than a bit of action, such as with the temple. I’m also wanting to know why the spires don’t like each other? Again, it’s probably resources, but we were left wanting on that front. However, in this case, I was left wanting more and in a good way, hoping later books would allow him to fill in those gaps.

So, how would you rate this book?

Vagabond_Vahn50I’m giving this a 4. What about you?

Percy_Procrastinator_50I give it a 2. With some edited content and a tighter story, it would easily have been higher.


Vagabond_Vahn100Vagabond Vahn says…

The Good: I’m a fan of Steampunk, and while this could be argued as Steampunk-lite from the descriptive perspective, the feel was still there and pulled me in.  I’m not a cat person.  In fact, many cats hate me; I think it’s beard jealousy.  That said, contrary to Percy I enjoyed the cats very much and appreciated the maturity level of the teenage characters given the Victorian aesthetic.  Again, this is likely going to be a love it or hate it topic for most – for me, the maturity level kept the Young Adult feel away, given that all of the main characters are teenagers.  As this is fantasy, I accepted and appreciated it.  I thought the other characters were very thought out as well, to ensure they’d stand out against the crowd.  Each character has very identifiable quirks and not only does that help when there are many side characters, but it also endeared them to me.

The Bad: I think Butcher fell a tad short on the descriptive side.  I would have liked to know a bit more about the politics between spires, some of the history on the spires themselves, and especially a bit more backstory on the monastery down on the ground.  I think he missed a great opportunity with that, because the characters arrived, it was building to be fascinating, and then we moved on.  While I don’t dislike any of the characters as a whole, I do think Gwendolyn was perhaps the most generic – I hope to see her evolve a bit more in the next entry.

The Conclusion: This entry is a great example of what makes One Book Two so neat; Percy and I read many of badge4v4the same novels, and often make recommendations to one another for additions to our reading lists.  Yet here we are, disagreeing on most counts with this one.  It took me a good three chapters to be brought into the world, but once in I gave myself to it and never looked back.  It was a fun ride – a bit light on world building, but filled with diverse characters and adventure.  Due to how many love it/hate it scenarios lie within, it’s difficult to provide a blanket recommendation.  Give it a shot, see what you think.

Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

Things I liked: Even though I didn’t like big parts of the book, the writing was mostly good. A few descriptions of daily life and a map of the spires would have gone a long way to help clear up many of my issues, such as how and what they eat, or how the energy crystals are grown. It did leave me curious enough to check out Book 2, but if the next book is still frustrating, I won’t read beyond that.

Things I didn’t like: I didn’t care for the cats.  Even though he probably captured what cats would be like, it detracted from the other characters a bit too much. If he had cut out all of the parts with Rowl on his own for a short story later, I would have liked it more. It would have added mystery to Rowl’s part in the book. I also found Gwendolyn lacking personality. She was too generic and seemed to have a quality because the story needed it, not because she was fleshed out and it fit well. I think Gwendolyn and Bridget acted way too mature for their age. They seemed to be three or four years older than they were.

badge2v4Final Thoughts: If I had followed the same rule for this book as I do for any other book I read for review, I would have given up at the fifty percent mark. At that point, I didn’t care about the characters and my interest in the plot wasn’t that high. I’m glad I did finish it, but I probably did only because it was Butcher. This is how it was with Book 1, and maybe Book 2, of his Codex Alera series. I guess he has earned enough trust with me, more than the other authors, that I kept going.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try the obvious, the Codex Alera and Dresden Files series, also by Jim Butcher.  You might also like Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series for the magic system she’s developed.  For more steampunk adventure, try Clay & Susan Griffith’s Crown & Key series.

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