Book Review #33: Dawn’s Early Light (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences)

Dawn's Early LightTitle: Dawn’s Early Light (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel)
Author: Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Available Formats: Dead tree, ebook, audiobook
Rating: PG for steampunk violence and enthusiasm

I have been a fan of Ms. Ballantine and Mr. Morris’ Ministry series since the very beginning. Pheonix Rising opened the door of steampunk to me and The Janus Affair firmly cemented my admiration for The Ministry’s duo of Wellington Books and Eliza Braun. When I received my ARC of Dawn’s Early Light, I could hardly wait to see if the third time would be the charm as our adventurers crossed the pond to the United States.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

Setting; After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

Plot: As the synopsis states, Books and Braun have journeyed to the U.S. in support of their American counterparts and become enmeshed in an international affair the could change the world as we know it. If that isn’t enough to keep even the keenest agent busy, readers of the series might remember (SPOILER ALERT) that The Janus Affair ended with Welly and Eliza sharing a romantic moment. In Dawn’s Early Light this fledgling romance is tested as the stubbornness of our leads and the interventions of a dynamic cowboy and a charming librarian conspire together to put our heroes at odds with each other. To be honest, this second plot device was every bit as interesting to me as the initial.

Characters: Characters from the first two books are reintroduced as members of the cast in the third. Along with our regular players we are also introduced to two American agents of the Office of the Supernatural, MoPo’s U.S. counterpart.

Odin’s recommendation: In my opinion Dawn’s Early Light is a fantastic read. This latest entry into the series is delicious fun that shouldn’t be missed. Each book in the series has improved on it’s predecessor. No small feat when you consider how well written and how much fun the previous two entries were.

Wellington and Eliza have grown into their own skins, so to speak, and have become a tighter unit. This book also flips the roles of our heroes and allows Eliza to play the lead, a role in which she excels. Ace is sure to be glad they picked up this series as I am positive that with Dawn’s Early Light, we have seen the truth birth of a series that will enthrall us for years, and volumes, to come.

Weather Child (YES… WEATHER CHILD) cover reveal!

Regular readers of this blog know that one of my favorite stories ever has been Weather Child. I still don’t understand why this book wasn’t picked up by one of the big New York City publishers years ago. Well, their loss still looks to turn into our gain! Ms. Ballantine has partnered with Imagine That! Studios and you will be able to hold this beauty in less than 2 months.

So… onto the cover reveal!

Weather-Child-Cover

Weather Child
The Awakened Epoch
Book One
Philippa Ballantine

 

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Imagine That! Studios
Date of Publication:  1st March 2014

ISBN: 978-0615953489

ASIN:

Word Count: 105,000

Cover Artist: Alex White

 

Book Description:

Never alone. Never apart.

They are the Awakened, a unique breed of people in a remote corner of the world. Faith is one of these gifted carriers of the Seraphim; and in return of her unconditional love, her Seraphim grants her powers of incredible potential.

But not all carriers embrace their blessing.

Jack loathes being an Awakened. He never asked for it, his Seraphim keeping him alive even in spite of his desire to die. Not even a great war could rid him of this curse.

Now a magician of incredible ability and a walking dead man must find a way to work together to save the Seraphim. Someone covets the power of the Awakened, and will not stop until that power belongs to him.

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 6.22.58 AM

About the Author:

New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.

Twitter: @PhilippaJane

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

Website: http://www.pjballantine.com/

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Book Review #32: Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero

71mRBhtNWBLTitle: Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero
Author: Michell Plested
Publisher: Five Rivers Chapmanry
Release Date: August 1, 2012
Available Formats: Dead tree, ebook, audiobook
Rating: K for kids of all ages

Michell Plested and I have followed each other on Twitter for quite a while. I don’t know who followed whom first. I do know I reviewed his podcast “Galaxybillies” a while back (Podcast Review #48) and that I genuinely enjoy his podcast “Get Published”. I also know that I am ashamed to admit that it has taken me so long to write this review. Mr. Plested provided me with a copy of Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero ages ago, and I read it quite sometime back and just haven’t gotten around to writing a review. For that, I must apologize.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: A delightful and truly Canadian tale of a 12 year old boy’s quest to protect his prairie town of Cranberry Flats, and in his search to acquire super-powers finds the most awesome power of all lies within his own inherent integrity.

Setting; Cranberry Flats is a small town much like the one I grew up in. It seems like you know almost everyone in the town and with that comes the good and the bad. Mik roams his town firmly encased in his own childlike sense of invisibility while at the same time looking for evil in the large and small things that make life interesting in a small town.

Plot: Mik goes to the movies with his Dad, and after seeing how the hero was transformed into a superhero, determines there has to be a way he to can become a superhuman force for good. Mik embarks on his road to discovery armed only with his wit and his canine companion (and a genuinely understanding and gracious set of parents).

Characters: Mik is the main character and the book is told from a first person perspective, allowing you to become quite familiar with Mik by the end of the book. Other characters appear in vignettes, but none really rival Mik’s predominance in this story of how a young boy becomes the hero of his own story.

Odin’s recommendation: If you can afford this book, buy it. Yes, it is a kids book. Preteen. However, I think most adults will be able to draw correlations between Mik’s adventures and their own childhoods. Most young children will be able to retain their curiosity in Mik as he gallops through his many mini-adventures presented in small vignettes while retaining a cohesive larger story.

I truly enjoyed Mik Murdoch and was delighted with the way Mr. Plested presented this charming story. Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero is a sweet, enchanting, delightful adventure that should appeal to the child in all of us.

Book Review #29: He Ain’t Heavy by Dan Sawyer

a7b619844d70f88fed4c5f6d7bede1f542923cdc-thumbTitle: He Ain’t Heavy
Author: J. Daniel Sawyer
Publisher: AWP Mystery
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Available Formats: ebook and paperback
Rating: Adult content/language

Last summer, Mr. Sawyer asked me if I’d like an ARC/beta of his new Clarke Lantham novel. If you’ve been reading these reviews, I’m sure you understand that my answer was a wholehearted “YES”. He sent it over and I read it. This was late July early August. Then I wrote this review. In August. Mr. Sawyer asked me to sit on the review while he ironed out some of his other projects (like Crudrat, google it). Late last week, he contacted me to let me know that it was ready to go…

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Along came a spider and killed the insider…

According to the official story, Martin Galloway shot himself in front of two cops. But his bereaved fiancee smells a rat, and when the system fails her, she turns to Clarke Lantham Investigations to prove that Martin was murdered. At stake: the reputation of one of the world’s greatest humanitarians…and his twenty billion dollar estate.

Descending into a web of venture capitalists, patent trolls, security contractors, and evangelists, Lantham and his team must find a way through a world of loyalty and deceit more insidious, and closer to home, than any case so far…

…assuming he can survive the coma, and the arms dealer, and the drug kingpin who holds his life in the balance.

Setting: San Franciso. Mr. Sawyer’s love affair with his adopted home city continues to be a source of education and enjoyment. I believe this is the first of the Lantham books to provide us with a brief road trip as well, going down to visit Tiajuna.

Plot: Clarke Lantham is hired by the grieving fiancé of a silicon valley tycoon to uncover the real cause of his death, a death reported to be suicide. Clarke steps into the world of the victim, a world of devout Christians, hot tubs and big money and smells something that has the sweet stench of decay touching every aspect of the case. Will Clarke discover what really happened, or will he become simply another hot tub casualty?

Characters: Mr. Sawyer continues to develop the main characters in the Clarke Lantham series. While Clarke has had a pretty solid persona from book one, the intrepid duo of Rachel and Nya shine in He Ain’t Heavy”. Significant portions of the book are given to these young ladies, and rather than diminish the action, it only accelerates it. Rachel especially shows us that there are depths unplumbed.

Odin’s recommendation: Mr. Sawyer continues to impress with He Ain’t Heavy, and Clarke Lantham shows he earns his place with the Mike Hammers, Sam Spades and Dirk Gentlys on your bookshelf. If you prefer the smell of cordite, the sounds of highly tuned engines and a sarcastic voice in your head, get your credit card ready and go order He Ain’t Heavy.

Book Review #31: The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

Title: The Shambling Guide to New York City
Author: Mur LaffertyShambling Guide
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Available Formats: Dead tree, ebook, audiobook and podcast for another week
Rating: Adult content warning

Mur Lafferty has been reviewed here more than once. She has appeared on my podcast. She is an active part of the twitter community I often visit. She recently found a home with Orbit books and is now releasing her Shambling Guide series

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can’t take off her resume — human.

Not to be put off by anything — especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker — Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble — with Zoe right in the middle.

Setting; New York City. However, this is not your father’s New York City. Unless your father was a vampire. Or maybe a zombie. The New York City in Ms. Lafferty’s book hosts a whole other population living in relative obscurity. This population consists of every monster or fantasy creature ever known. They are called Codery and live in an uneasy balance with humans and are policed by the Public Works office.

Plot: The plot of this book is actually quite well summarized in the above synopsis. Zoe learns to live in both worlds while dealing with a problem from her past that might end the future of everyone in NYC. Only Zoe and a few of her friends stand in the way of the end of New York City.

Characters: Zoe is human, but she has friends in all of the major race groups. Ms. Lafferty has done a good job of differentiating the races and describing how they are all able to cohabit the city without running afoul of one another.

Odin’s recommendation: Again, I admit, I don’t enjoy overly descriptive adult situations in my books. Yes, you can read that as sex. With that being said, you can skip chapter 14 completely and it won’t affect the story at all. I know, because after realizing what chapter 14 was about, that is what I did and I suffered not at all throughout the rest of the story. Initially I was hesitant to pick up this book because of the word shambling in the title. I will confess, I’ve simply had enough of zombies. I truly just can’t get myself to read about them. However, when Ms. Lafferty announced Orbit was allowing her to release this story as a podcast (more about that in a moment), well… how could I resist? Once I realized that the zombies in the story are rather minor characters and the book was about the supernatural element living in our mundane world, I was much more interested.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for anyone that likes a monster story that isn’t a horror story. Ms. Lafferty most often writes with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, and this is no exception.

I posted a pic of myself holding the book, because I wanted to prove that I had bought it (well, as much as a book being held is proof), and if you’re a fan of Ms. Lafferty, I think you should too. However, if you simply don’t have time to read (as I find myself more and more these days), you can download the audiobook in podcast form for free. At least for the next week or so. I believe Ms. Lafferty stated December 5th would be the final day the podcast would be available. As she states however, if you can afford to buy it, please do. I enjoy being able to listen to a story without being charged for the audiobook, and perhaps if this experiment works well, Orbit will allow the sequel to be made available for free in audio form as well.

Book Review #30: Things Unseen by Chris Lester

Things UnseenTitle: Things Unseen
Author: Chris Lester
Publisher: Liminal Corvid Press
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Available Formats: ebook (mobi,epub,pdf,rtf)
Rating: Adult content warning

I truthfully have no idea when I started following Chris Lester on Twitter, but I do know it was quite some time back. Mr. Lester has been producing speculative fiction in his Metamor City world for quite some time now. I reviewed his Making the Cut podcast almost 4 years ago. That was my introduction to Mr. Lester’s Metamor City world, and today we’ll be looking at his most recent entry.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: In the Year 1974 CR, a team of explorers vanished at the mysterious Telvari Rift. 25 years later, a new group of adventurers has braved this forbidden zone. Some sought power. Some sought answers. None expected what they found. Now a trail of death follows them from the jungles of the Rift to the towers of Metamor City, and only police detectives Kathryn Kitaen and David Silverleaf can stop it.

Setting; As previously stated, this book takes place in Metamor City. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Lester’s world, it is a strange and unique setting with a future scifi earth where people have obtained magical powers and mutated themselves into hybrids of human/animal as well as supplying us with elves and other mythical races. The city itself is torn between the rich and the poor with little middle class to be seen.

Plot: Police detectives Kitaen and Silverleaf are thrown into a web of intrigue and suspense as they try to unravel a case which transcends socioeconomic status and causes disruptions among all quadrants of Metamor City.

Characters: The book centers around the two previously mentioned police detectives but contains a good number of “extras”. So many, in fact, that you might want to keep a cheat sheet near your book to make a few notes. This doesn’t detract from the book however, as Mr. Lester is an adept in his own right as he weaves together a story that is both action and character driven. A feat as rare as the world he has created.

Odin’s recommendation: I make no excuses for the fact that I’m a prude. I don’t choose to read things regularly that challenge this fact. I will state that Things Unseen came close on several occasions to ending up on my “did not finish pile” for this reason. However, I did finish this book and will go farther and give it a favorable recommendation with the following caveat: I have labeled this with an Adult Content Warning. As Smashwords states, even some adults might be offended. I admit, I did skip some passages. With that being said, the story itself is quite interesting and the Metamor world is fascinating. While I haven’t read every book in the Metamor series, I will state that of the ones I have read, Things Unseen shows the growth Mr. Lester has made as an author, and if you’re a fan of the Metamor world, you don’t want to miss this one. If you haven’t read anything else by Mr. Lester, I don’t think you would have any trouble being able to follow this book and if you’re not offended by adult content, there is much to be enjoyed here.

Free book #1: Alibi Jones by Mike Luoma

Regular readers of this blog will  recognize  Mike Luoma as an author that has been reviewed here on a couple of occasions. Currently Mike is giving away (yes giving, as in FREE) his novel Alibi Jones  at his blog found here. I have shamelessly copied and pasted that post.

Glow-in-the-Dark Radio’s FREE book for September is the first book in The Adventures of Alibi Jones - the original novel Alibi Jones, by Mike Luoma. Your chance to check out the start of the science fiction adventure series risk-free!


Alibi Jones is a mediator for the Solar Alliance in the early 22nd Century, searching for a kidnapped friend with the help of the mysterious alien DakhurKit, and the man known asPiccolo. Alibi doesn’t know following the trail of alien kidnappers will lead to a shocking discovery – Dangers thought long-dead are still very much ALIVE!

Get your free pdf of the book at Drive Thru Comics and/or Fiction:
Drive Thru Comicshttp://comics.drivethrustuff.com/product/89354/Alibi-Jones
Drive Thru Fictionhttp://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/89354/Alibi-Jones
There’s also a code to use at Smashwords, where you can get ALIBI JONES in any eBook format – for now, that’s exclusive to the podcast, but you can find it in the podcast notes…

Please, enjoy the read, and feel free to share the links and the ebook with your friends all month!

Book Review #28: The Silver Sickle by Ellie Ann

silversickle_ellieann_fullcover_4-1Title: The Silver Sickle
Author: Ellie Ann
Publisher: Stonehouse Ink.
Release Date: July 2013
Available Formats: ebook and multi-media ebook (others?)

I’ve followed Ellie Ann on Twitter for a while. I don’t know how, though I expect she was a follower of someone I followed and a RT or something caught my interest. Its kind of how Twitter works. A couple of months ago, she made mention of a book she was planning on publishing. I don’t remember if she was looking for a reviewer, or if I volunteered. Regardless, The Silver Sickle made its way into my inbox and the rest is history.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: It’s a YA science fiction/steampunk about a girl trapped in a harem who must take down an extraterrestrial regime. It’s Esther meets District 9. With robots. (Stolen from the authors website.. seriously.. but yes.. that is a good elevator pitch for it.)

Setting: The Silver Sickle takes place in a futuristic past on another planet. Or Earth in an alternate timeline. Or perhaps the future of Earth. I don’t really know. It doesn’t really matter. Ellie Ann has created a feeling to her world the transcends time and place to simply draw the reader in. Whether the action is taking place in the city, the harem, or the alien spaceship, the reader will be able to picture the scene easily and will likely find many references to use as touchstones.

Plot: Farissa is marked by aliens as being special. Special how? The populace believes they are blessed among all humans. Farissa and the other chosen aren’t so sure. Are they to be deified or something more sinister? Farissa believes the latter and is determined to prove it.

Characters: The book is told from the perspective of three characters, each in the third person. Farissa, a young girl and one of the chosen. Zel, a young apprentice inventor with a kind heart and a great love. Gira, an alien self styled goddess that has a secret she’d rather not have the humans learn about. Ellie Ann does a commendable job switching between characters. This type of storytelling isn’t one I usually enjoy, but this story is told well enough that I didn’t find the multiple perspectives distracting or annoying. I enjoyed Farissa’s character the most, but each of the characters were well written and played their part well.

Odin’s recommendation: I really enjoyed The Silver Sickle and am hoping for more stories in this universe. If you like intelligently written YA, I’d advise you to keep your eye on this author.

View from Valhalla podcast reboot

As some of you are probably aware, for quite a while I also delivered episodes of the same reviews in podcast form. If you subscribed to the VfV podcast, you’re quite aware that it has been a year since I delivered an episode. Events in my personal life required my attention and the blog and podcast became quite unimportant comparatively.

Recently, I have decided to reboot the podcast. It will no longer be a simple reading of the reviews found here. The VfV podcast will now feature a guest host that will discuss the book or podcast fiction be reviewed with me.

If you are interested in being a guest on the show and you have a mic, let me know at odin1eye@viewfromvalhalla.com or @odin1eye on twitter.

The first reboot ep is now available on iTunes and features Katharina Bordet, from The Every Photo Tells podcast, as this weeks guest. We discuss the podiobook Sense Memory by Brion Humphrey.

Book Promotion and Cover Reveal: Maven by S.A. Huchton

MAVEN_halfsize
Author: S.A. Huchton
Release Date: 3 June, 2013
Available Formats: Ebook

Early on in my review catalog, I stumbled across a story called The Dreamer’s Thread by Ms. Huchton. I enjoyed it very much. I started following Ms. Huchton on twitter and tried to stay abreast of her creative endeavors. This has paid off due to the fact that she has leant her voice talents to one of my very favorite series. Unfortunately though, she hadn’t released any other of her own writing for public consumption. That is about to change.

Synopsis: How far would you go for love?

Since losing her parents at 14, young prodigy Dr. Lydia Ashley has focused on one thing: an appointment on the Deep Water Research Command Endure. Now 21, she’s about to realize that dream, but nothing is how she imagined it would be. Her transitional sponsor forgets her, her new lab is in complete chaos, and, as if that weren’t enough, she’s about to discover something so horrific it could potentially destroy all life on the planet.

Daniel Brewer, a noted playboy and genius in his own right, may be exactly what she needs… Or he may make everything worse.

Has she finally found a puzzle she can’t solve? (Provided by the author)

Odin’s thoughts: I am not going to recommend Ms. Huchton’s Maven. Yet. I will say that the synopsis intrigues me and I will be buying the book and reviewing it here. If the story lives up to its synopsis, I expect Ms. Huchton will be responsible for turning me onto another series I will enjoy. This time, her own. Ms. Huchton has been kind enough to provide us with an excerpt of of the story that you will find below.

Excerpt from Maven:

“Did you have a chance to look at those files I sent yet?” Daniel changed the subject.
“Files?” She thought back. “Oh, those files. No, not yet. I can take a look now though, since we’re waiting for everyone else to get here.” Lydia set her cup on the desk and walked around to the chair. Settling in, she called up her messages and opened the attached files Daniel had sent. He stood behind her, watching.
“Hmm,” she murmured as she read the first one. “It looks like experiment results, but I’m not sure what the initial subject is.” She opened another. More results. “I don’t get… Wait. This list of bacteria?” She pointed at a column on the screen. He put a hand down on the desk and leaned in close to her to read the words. She was surprised that her voice didn’t tremble when she spoke. “These are all marine specimens. Specifically, ones that have been found around deep ocean volcanoes. They’re rare and we don’t know much about them yet, but we do know they’re dangerous. These are some of the most resilient bacteria on the planet. They have to be, given the environment they live in.”
Daniel frowned. “What kind of experimentation would have been going on here with these things?”
“That’s what has me concerned.” She bit her lip. “These documents don’t give any information aside from which samples were being used and basic test results, like genetic composition and temperature reactivity, but they’re reference documents for another research project. Given the dates they originate, I would have heard about any work with these specific bacteria, and I know of none. I wouldn’t normally pick up research from another study without specifically being tasked, but something here isn’t sitting right with me.” It was hard to concentrate. At this proximity, she could smell the scent of his body; soft and clean, with the faintest hint of his aftershave.
“So, what will you do?” Daniel asked.
Lydia considered that for a moment, struggling to retain her composure. “Did you say you thought there were other related files somewhere?” She turned her head slightly, but couldn’t face him directly. Not with him this close.
He shrugged. “It’s possible. There was a ton of old data dumped into a trash file I dug up while cleaning out the system. Backups of backups, it looks like. I didn’t know what I was looking for specifically, so I tossed anything from 3-SSR into the same group. It wasn’t much, but there was a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t identify.” He straightened, much to her relief. The near contact was clouding her brain.
“If I gave you a list of keywords to search for, would that help? Based on these documents, I can narrow down what might be contained in related files.”
“Yes,” he said. “Definitely. If I know what I should be looking for, I have some tools for doing entire sweeps of all connected computers, including the Endure’s core programs. How long would it take you to make up that list?”
She looked at the list of files he had already sent. “There’s forty-eight documents here. Not all of them may pertain to this project, but it will take me at least a day to do a quick once through. Are you sure you have time to take this on?” Lydia faced him.
“Absolutely,” he said, his hazel eyes locking on to hers. Her breath caught unexpectedly in her throat. Something in the way he looked at her made her think that she could ask him for anything at that moment and he would say yes.
The sound of the lab door and voices shattered the moment. Lydia spun around and closed the list of files, along with the messaging program.
“Looks like people are arriving. I’ll go fire up the lab computers so we can all see the new software.” She rushed out of the office, hoping no one else could hear her pounding heart.

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