Cover Shot! Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café.  I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share.  More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents.  There is an allure to a beautiful cover.  Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

The second book in Bec McMaster’s steampunk series, Heart of Iron, recently had a cover reveal.  While I love the covers and the commotion in the background, I wish we could see a little more of the guy’s face. 

In stores May 2013

 

In Victorian London, if you’re not a blue blood of the Echelon then you’re nothing at all. The Great Houses rule the city with an iron fist, imposing their strict ‘blood taxes’ on the nation, and the Queen is merely a puppet on a string…

Lena Todd makes the perfect spy. Nobody suspects the flirtatious debutante could be a sympathizer for the humanist movement haunting London’s vicious blue blood elite. Not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can’t twist around her little finger, and the one man whose kiss she can’t forget…

Stricken with the loupe and considered little more than a slave-without-a-collar to the blue bloods, Will wants nothing to do with the Echelon or the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds a coded letter on Lena—a code that matches one he saw on a fire-bombing suspect—he realizes she’s in trouble. To protect her, he must seduce the truth from her.

With the humanists looking to start a war with the Echelon, Lena and Will must race against time—and an automaton army—to stop the humanist plot before it’s too late. But as they fight to save a city on the brink of revolution, the greatest danger might just be to their hearts…

Excerpt: Nights of Steel by Nico Rosso and Giveaway!

 

Nico Rosso’s latest release, Night of Steel, is in stores now.  This is the 4th book in the Ether Chronicles, which is a collaboration with Zoe Archer.  I have an excerpt to share, as well as a chance for you to win a copy of the first 3 books in the series.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

The remote hills south of Thornville, California.

“The only good place for a man is on the other end of my gun.” Anna Blue cocked the hammer of her .45, keeping the green dot of her prismatic sight hovering over “Dirty” Danny Malone’s heart. His partner in crime, Ron “Rat” Welles, stood on the other side of their little dead campfire. Anna had heard Malone was fast, but she had no doubt she could put a bullet in him before he reached the pistol on his hip. And he knew it, too.

Instead, Malone shot off his mouth again. “You ain’t too plain. Wash some of that trail dust off and you could be a pretty little flower.”

She kept her gun steady. The sun was high, but her tinted spectacles kept the glare down, as well as letting her see the green dot of her pistol’s sight. “I know you boys are stupid, but do you really think you’re the first to try to use what’s in your breeches to distract me from taking you in?”

Malone spoke up, thumbs casually hitched in his belt, but ready to draw if he had to. “Might want to reconsider that, sweetheart. A lot of things a man can do for you. A man like me.”

She laughed, but it didn’t break the tension in her body. She’d done this a hundred times—more, even. No one was better than she was at running down bounties. The image of a man with intense eyes, broad shoulders, and a two-gun rig flashed through her mind. Maybe one man was as good as she was.

“That’s right.” Welles’s nasal voice seemed to rattle in the pine needles around the campsite. “Laugh a little. Live a little. Got a bottle of corn liquor we could all share.”

“You boys could never earn the right to drink with me.” She hadn’t had a drink with a man in years. Something like that, sharing the heat of whiskey, the calm it soaked into her nerves, was more intimate than the tumbles she’d had with strangers.

Malone sucked a breath, shaking his head in disappointment. “Never met a more ornery woman.”

“That’s your problem,” she said. “Gotta stop thinking of me as a woman and start realizing I’m the bounty hunter who’s bringing your sorry hide in.”

Malone’s eyes narrowed. She saw the tendons twitch on the back of his hand. Welles shifted his feet in the dirt. Now they were serious. Even the horses that were tied on the edge of the campsite had the sense to paw at the ground and nicker nervously.

She kept the green dot on Dirty Danny’s chest. “What’s your play, Malone? Boxed yourselves in. You can’t run north. Up that way is Thornville, and everyone knows the law doesn’t even let mosquitos bite in that town. The ocean’s to the west, hunting parties to the east, coming up from New Mexico where they really want you dead.” Malone glanced in all the directions she mentioned, a tic developing at the side of his eye. She didn’t let up. “I imagine you wanted to run south, but I’m standing here.”

Welles’s nickname of “Rat” became abundantly clear when he showed his sharp front teeth in a mean sneer. “Not for long.”

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Interview with Bec McMaster, Author of Kiss of Steel and Giveaway!

 

Bec McMaster is the author of Kiss of Steel, a sexy steampunk romp that blazes with action and romance.  Bec dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her book, and she brought along a copy for one of you to win! Check out what she has to say, and then enter for your chance to win a copy of Kiss of Steel!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Bec McMaster] Dreamer, adventurer, glass half-full kind of gal with an addiction to paranormal romance, steampunk and alpha heroes. Wannabe world traveler.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Kiss of Steel?

[Bec McMaster] Kiss of Steel is set in a steam-fuelled London where the aristocratic Echelon rule with an iron fist and crush any and all who oppose them. With their puppet queen, blood taxes and automaton army, the only man they don’t dare touch is Blade, the notorious Devil of Whitechapel – and one of their own.

Fleeing from the Duke of Vickers with a secret he’d kill for, Honoria Todd is forced to accept Blade’s protection. Infected with the craving virus that makes the Echelon what they are, Blade has his own vendetta against the duke. When Honoria comes into his life she could be the key to bringing down his old enemy – or the very salvation he never dared dream of.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Bec McMaster] I’ve always had this idea about an aristocratic race – almost like a corruption of the ton – that rule a dark and dangerous world. Then this image sprang to mind of the steamy surrounds of Whitechapel and a desperate woman hurrying through the crowds, glancing over her shoulder. Watching her from the shadows was a dangerous man with his own intentions and secrets. I couldn’t wait to find out who they were.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Honoria?

[Bec McMaster] Uptight, fierce, protective.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Blade would never have in his pocket?

[Bec McMaster] 1. A plain white cotton handkerchief. It would be silk and most likely something garish, like red, or gold.

2. A book. Raised in the rookeries, he’s never had the time to learn to read.

3. A pistol. He prefers something that will get him up close and personal in a fight – like brass knuckles or a cut-throat razor.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Blade’s single most prized possession?

[Bec McMaster] Blade doesn’t really care about material things, but his most prized possession would be his home – and the adopted family of strays he’s gathered over the years. He never really had a home growing up, and he lost his sister at a young age, so the instinct to create his own family and to protect them is a strong one. He’ll fight to the death to keep it all.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Bec McMaster] My grandfather used to read to me every time I stayed at his place, and they would be wonderful, exciting stories that let my imagination roam as a child. He was the one who made me fascinated with reading and all of the amazing worlds out there in books.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Bec McMaster] 1. Tea and copious amounts of it. Preferably English Breakfast.

2. My ugg boots to keep my feet warm – and because writing is such a glamorous job.

3. Two cushions to prop me up nice and straight and keep my back comfortable.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Bec McMaster] Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson. I finished it last week and it was such pure steampunky-fun with blud-bunnies, an interesting take on the vampire mythos and a charming hero who has spent years waiting for his love to come to him.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Bec McMaster] Wow, this is really tough. As I said above, my grandfather read to me from a really early age (I can’t ever remember not reading or being read to), so it’s hard to know what grabbed my attention the most. A quick list of my favorite childhood books includes Brer Rabbit, Nicky and his Forest Friends, Hiawatha, the Children of Cherry Tree Farm, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Hobbit. I could go on. I obviously liked talking animal stories. And witches.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Bec McMaster] As any writer will probably tell you, this doesn’t happen very often. I love to read, though I need to make more opportunity for this (my TBR shelves groan in agreement), I love cooking, walking the dog, going to the gym, playing netball, hanging with my boyfriend, reading travel brochures and plotting my next trip.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Bec McMaster] At my website at www.becmcmaster.com, @BecMcMaster on Twitter and Facebook www.facebook.com/BecMcMaster. I love to hear from readers!

Thank you so much for having me!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

GIVEAWAY TIME!!

Thanks to Sourcebooks, I have a copy of Kiss of Steel to give to one of you! Just fill out the widget to enter! Earn extra entries for following.  US and Canadian mailing addresses only, please.

 

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Didn’t win? You can purchase Kiss of Steel from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in both print and digital.

 

KISS OF STEEL BY BEC MCMASTER – IN STORES SEPTEMBER 2012

A brilliantly creative debut where vampires, werewolves, and clockwork creatures roam the mist–shrouded streets of London…

When Nowhere is Safe

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it’s the last safe haven. But at what price?

Blade is known as the master of the rookeries—no one dares cross him. It’s been said he faced down the Echelon’s army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he’s been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She’s so…innocent. He doesn’t see her backbone of steel—or that she could be the very salvation he’s been seeking.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. For more information, please visit http://www.becmcmaster.com/ or follow her on Twitter, @BecMcMaster.

Under the Sea Giveaway Hop! Win Cuttlefish by Dave Freer!

 

Welcome to my  Under the Sea Giveaway,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and The Musings of ALMYBNENR.  This hop runs from September 14th to September 20, and you can win lots of new reads.  Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I am giving away a finished copy of Cuttlefish by Dave Freer.  I enjoyed this seafaring adventure, and I think you will, too!

The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery and capture. Under flooded London’s canals they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty – the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no further than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.

 

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Just fill in the widget below for your chance to win.  Earn extra entries by following.  US shipping addresses only, please.

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New and Notable Releases Week of August 6 – Part One

Here are some new and notable books that are releasing this week:

Check back tomorrow for YA and MG releases

(Please hit your refresh button if the images don’t load)

 

Sweet Deception by Heather Snow

Kiss of the Moon by Lisa Jackson (eBook)

A Woman Made for Pleasure by Michele Sinclair

 

 

The Spymaster’s Daughter by Jeane Westin

A Lady Never Lies by Juliana Gray

The Black Isle by Sandi Tan (Kindle eBook is 4.99!)

Contemporary

 

Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood

One Night Rodeo by Lorelei James

White Hot by Nina Bruhns

 

Hell on Wheels by Julie Ann Walker

The Grass King’s Concubine by Kari Sperring

Libriomancer by Jim C Hines

 

Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway

Time Untime by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Biting Cold by Chole Neill

 

Master of Darkness by Angela Knight

Desire After Dark by Jo Carlisle

Kept by Seduction by Jaymie Holland

 

Lover’s Instinct by Katie Reus (eNovella)

Mina Wentwork and the Invisible City by Meljean Brook (eNovella)

Originally Human by Eileen Wilks

 

 

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A Wolf at the Door by K A Stewart

Two Weeks’ Notice by Rachel Caine

 

Seawitch by Kat Richardson

The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

Soul Weaver by Hailey Edwards

Heart of Darkness by Kira Brady

Fragile by Shiloh Walker

A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious by Mary Wine

Are any of these on your to buy list?

Review: Cuttlefish by Dave Freer

 

Title:  Cuttlefish

Author: Dave Freer

Publisher:  Pyr

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery, and capture. Under flooded London’s canals, they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty—the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no farther than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.

Review:

Cuttlefish has been on my radar since I first saw the cover on Amazon.  When I received a review copy, I could hardly wait to start reading it.  Between the covers, I found a compelling adventure, one that was enhanced by the two extremely likable protagonists.  Tim and Clara made the book for me, and it was on the strength of their personalities that I eagerly journeyed to the end.  The pacing could be a little slow as the Cuttlefish journeyed across the ocean, and without these protagonists, who demand that you pay attention to them, I don’t know if I would have found the book as enjoyable.  Sometimes the journey holds your attention, and sometimes, it’s your companions who make the trip worth taking.

Clara is the daughter of a chemist, and when her mother arrives at her school, frantically demanding that Clara follow her with no questions asked, the girl is bewildered.  What is going on?  Why are these scary guys chasing after them?  Clara is a clever girl, and after overcoming her initial fear, she quickly starts to question everything that’s going on around her.  The Russians are determined to capture them, as are the British, all to gain possession of her mother’s research.  And here Clara thought her mother was dull and boring, and overly engrossed in her research!  In reality, she’s the object of a dangerous manhunt that will take them all over the world!

The two end up on the Cuttlefish, a submarine at smuggles goods from around the world back to London.  In the years after the Big Melt, life is difficult for all.  There isn’t enough food being harvested, nations are bickering over limited resources, and the super powers are battling for control of shipping lanes, overland trade routes, and mining facilities.  Once it’s suspected that Clara’s mother’s research could tip the balance of power, everyone is after them, with orders to capture them, or barring that, kill them so that the research doesn’t fall into another nation’s hands.   Yikes!  These guys aren’t playing around, but Clara’s resourcefulness and courage proves to be quite a match for all of the bad guys.

On board the sub, Clara meets Tim.  Tim was raised in the tunnels under drowned London, and there is no love lost between them at first.  Confused, Tim wonders why the women are on the sub.  He also suspects, at first, that Clara is over-privileged and over-indulged.  As they share one dangerous adventure after another, Tim slowly learns how wrong he is about his new friend.  Clara’s honest and open friendship makes him question how he perceives the world, and makes him re-evaluate his plans for the future.  I loved how their growing friendship brought out the best in both of them.  Where Clara is weak, Tim is strong, and visa versa.  While Tim is more laid-back and more of a thinker, Clara is impulsive, jumping into any situation without hesitation.  They manage to get each other into, and back out of, several hair-raising scrapes, by learning to trust and rely on each other.  I loved their relationship.

The pacing was a little sluggish near the end, but the last 50 pages were frantically urgent, keeping me on the edge of my seat.  I couldn’t put the book down, even though it was far past my bedtime.  I was so engaged in the survival of the Cuttlefish that I couldn’t set the book aside.  The thought of being chased across the Pacific, trapped in a crippled submarine, actually kept me up after I finished.  The tension was almost unbearable, and I marveled at the steadiness and calm efficiency of the captain and crew.  I quickly decided that I could never join the Navy, because I would have gone off my rocker if anything like that had ever happened to me!

The strength of Cuttlefish is the likability of the young protagonists, as well as the strong action sequences, especially the huge, heart-pounding near disaster at the end.  I loved the characters, and I can hardly wait to have another adventure with them.  The Steam Mole will be out in December; it’s already on my wish list.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

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Cover Shot! A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious by Mary Wine

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Like the heroine of A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious, the cover for Mary Wine’s steampunk novel has my interest piqued.  I love the heroine’s expression, but the guy looks kind of dorky; I don’t know if it’s the goggles, his derby, or his goofy grin.  What do you think of this cover?

In stores August 2012.

On the outside, Janette Aston appears to be a proper young lady; however, the people of England have no idea that this poised young miss secretly studies the scientific discoveries of the mysterious Illuminist Society. Janette soon grows hungry for more secrets about this Society, and she finds herself impersonating an Illuminist to discover more information. As she is exposed to secrets and dangers she never could have imagined, she begins to wonder if she’s finally gone too far. But when she runs into gorgeous Illuminist Guardian Darius Lawley, she finds that, while her life is in danger, her sense of curiosity is most certainly piqued…

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Review: Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

 

   Title: Dead Reckoning

   Author: Mercedes Lackey  & Rosemary Edghill

   Publisher: Bloomsbury

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

Review:

I haven’t read anything by Mercedes Lackey in a long, long time, and I don’t think I have ever read Rosemary Edghill, and that’s something I would like to rectify, because I enjoyed Dead Reckoning. Though there are some pacing issues at the end, and few too many convenient coincidences, I found my time  with Jett, White Fox, and Gibbons well spent. These characters were easy to like.  I do wish White Fox had been given more depth and more page time.  I loved Gibbons, and thought that she could probably talk her way in to and back out of Fort Knox with a bucket full of gold bars.  She was never content to take anything at face value; she had this all-consuming need to understand the how and the why of everything.  I loved how this drove Jett nuts.  She was more than willing to accept what she saw with her own eyes, and didn’t need to overthink anything.  Gibbons had an annoying habit of getting on her last, frayed nerve, and there was nothing Jett could do once her new acquaintance got on a roll.

I feel that I am still a recent convert to zombie-dom.  I wouldn’t even consider reading a zombie book until after a few reviews of The Enemy and The Forest of Hands and Teeth prompted me to read outside of my comfort zone.  I’m so glad that I did, but I am still a bit squeamish when it comes to rotting corpses.  I can’t be too scared, or I start to feel anxious and worried and I am torn in agony over putting the book aside or mincing cautiously through the pages.  Dead Reckoning was downright creepy in a few parts, but the horror elements weren’t the focus of the story.  If you are looking for a gross out, zombie rampage, you won’t find it here.  Instead, you’ll find a western that’s more medical thriller than zombie apocalypse, with steampunk elements thrown in for good measure.

What made this book for me was the character interaction.  White Fox was the peacemaker between Gibbons and Jett, whose constant head-butting kept me turning the pages.  In the years just after the Civil War, Jett is desperately searching for her twin brother.  She doesn’t believe that he’s dead, and he’s the only family she has left after the devastating war.  Masquerading as a  boy, she pretends to be a gambler and gunslinger, thinking that she’ll encounter less trouble if everyone thinks she is a male.  Having witnessed the looting and destruction of her home by Northerners, she doesn’t have much trust for them.  Fleeing from certain death at the putrefying hands of a zombie army, Jett encounters White Fox and Gibbons – both Yankees and both to be viewed with suspicion.  When Gibbons, who is too clever by far, immediately sees through her disguise, Jett is even more wary of them.  Her continued safety depends on her ruse, and she doesn’t trust either of them to keep her secret.

Though they are very different, both Gibbons and Jett are strong, outspoken women.  Gibbons has gotten grief because of her “outlandish” ideas and demeanor, but she refuses to be something that she’s not.  She prizes science and thinks that if she only looks hard enough, she’ll find a rational reason for everything.  Even an apparent zombie horde.  She has no patience for simpering females, or their ridiculous clothing.  Jett, on the other hand, enjoyed wearing frilly gowns and attending parties.  She blames the war for changing her life so drastically, and she believes that after she locates her brother, she can go back to her idea of normal.  They couldn’t be more different, but they both share the courage and resourcefulness to try to stop the zombie army.  Neither of them has a personal stake in this fight, but they won’t ignore their moral obligation to save the countless lives that would be lost if they didn’t put a stop to it.  They made a great team, I would love to see them take on another fight in the future.  I feel that White Fox was seriously underutilized here, and would like another chance for him to prove his mettle.

Dead Reckoning is a fun read with zombies, a Western setting, and steampunk elements.  The pacing was a bit off near the end as the villain rambled on without end, gloating about his superior intellect and forthcoming victory. Despite that, this is a fast, popcorn read with a cast of diverse personalities that are thrown together and forced to stop a zombie army – even though one of their number doesn’t believe in zombies.    

Grade: B/B-

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

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