Black Chamber, by S. M. Stirling

1916. The Great War rages overseas, and the whole of Europe, Africa, and western Asia is falling to the Central Powers. To win a war that must be won, Teddy Roosevelt, once again the American president, turns to his top secret Black Chamber organization–and its cunning and deadly spy, Luz O’Malley Aróstegui. On a transatlantic airship voyage, Luz poses as an anti-American Mexican revolutionary to get close–very close–to a German agent code-named Imperial Sword. She’ll need every skill at her disposal to get him to trust her and lead her deep into enemy territory. In the mountains of Saxony, concealed from allied eyes, the German Reich’s plans for keeping the U.S. from entering the conflict are revealed: the deployment of a new diabolical weapon upon the shores of America…

I’ve always been a fan of speculative fiction. Behind Harry Turtledove, S. M. Stirling is my second favorite alternate history author. Black Chamber features a strong female protagonist in a World War I setting. Strong women in this era are fun to read, because although we know that these women had to exist in real life, there just aren’t a lot of stories about them.

S. M. Stirling is known for series without end, and I’ve already requested the next book in the Tales of the Black Chamber series on NetGalley. As I’ve come to expect with this author, the tale is full of adventure and there was obviously a lot of research for the telling of this gripping tale. Four starts, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one in 2019.

Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverse series.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.smstirling.com/


Sugar Spells, by Lola Dodge

After her run-in with a jealous warlock, apprentice baker Anise Wise can’t wait to get back the kitchen where she belongs. But thanks to her brush with death, the land of the living isn’t all cupcakes and marshmallows. Anise’s magical mojo is way out of whack and her evolving powers are stirring up trouble. As the town buzzes with news that Anise can bake deathly spells, unsavory characters start lining up for a taste. They’ll stop at nothing for the chance to use Anise and her witchcraft to further their own plots. She plans to hole up researching magic recipes until the attention dies down, but then she discovers the horrifying terms of her bodyguard’s contract. Wynn has saved her life so many times, she can’t leave him trapped. But doing the right thing will mean risking death or worse—being cast out of her dream job.

I’ve yet to read something by Lola Dodge that I haven’t liked, and Sugar Spellsis no exception. Although, I wonder why the names of the first two books aren’t swapped. I think that the titles describe each book better. Anyway, Anise continues in the employ of her great aunt, Agatha, but things are amiss, and well, Anise might never be the same again…

Like Deadly Sweet,Sugar Spells contains strong female characters, while allowing vulnerability that male protagonists are regularly not allowed to show in fiction. I didn’t groan at the mistakes Anise made in this second book. Unlike some series protagonists, Anise actually learns from her mistakes, and doesn’t repeat them over and over again.

Like book one, I requested this one from NetGalley, and my thoughts from my review of book one continue in regard to sexism and misandry, and the overall socio-anthropological view of the characters within the pages.

It’ll come as no surprise that I enjoyed Sugar Spells, and like its predecessor, I read the story as fast as I could pour the words into my brain. Even though the title just reminds me of the older brother in The Goldbergs, I look forward to reading Wicked Tastyin first quarter 2019. Four stars for Sugar Spells, and you should totally read these books.

Lola-Dodge

Lola Dodge is nomadic and has lived in New Zealand, France, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan. Her current base is Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she spends her days eating excessive amounts of coconut and trying to avoid heat stroke. She grew up in Upstate NY (Salt potatoes! Apple cider donuts!), got a degree in English Lit and German at Stonehill College, and an MFA in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She doesn’t like bacon, coffee, beer, the sun, or fireworks. Instead, give her tea, vodka drinks, air-conditioning, and anything sweet. She’s a proud part of the writing roster at Ink Monster publishing, where she collaborates on the Shadow Ravens and Alpha Girls series. Her other fiction is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DiFiore and Company Literary Agency. Some days she hates writing and some days she loves it, but she can’t imagine doing anything else (even though she works at the pace of a sloth on sleeping pills.)

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.loladodge.com
Twitter


Alyssa’s Blank Canvas available tomorrow.

Erika’s latest children’s book is now available on Amazon!

From the author, Erika Gardner:

People have been telling me for years that I should write a children’s book, and I finally decided to give it a shot. My 3 children loved having stories read to them when they were small, and though many of the books they loved were great and fun to read, there were always some that left me shaking my head and hoping I wouldn’t have to re-read them very often. I am a big fan of children’s books that rhyme. I love reading books that are entertaining and can be read with a fun rhythm. Colorful and cute pictures are also important. I am writing books that I wouldn’t mind reading over, and over, and over…which hopefully will be the case. I decided to have these first 3 books each have titles with ABC in them, partially because then I could have a book for each of my amazing children and also because I liked the ABC concept. I got really lucky that my husband was able to find an absolutely incredible illustrator to create the pictures for my books. I am SO EXCITED to see the finished products. It’s like the artist saw right into my mind and drew exactly what I wanted. This is a really fun undertaking for me and I hope to continue beyond the initial 3 ABC books, with holiday books and then whatever pops into my crazy mind after that.

Aubrey's Beautiful Crown Alyssa's Blank Canvas Anthony's Blue Crayon


Plains of Exodus, by Robert J. Burnett

Mankind’s first contact with an extraterrestrial species didn’t exactly go well. The inadvertent destruction of the Earth saw a call go out to the vast and ancient empire for help. Despite the quick response to this plea for aid, the remnants of humanity find themselves refugees in an overcrowded galaxy and at the mercy of an empire whose existence predates mankind’s own existence. Unwanted and unwelcome, humanity languishes in a dozen massive colony ships around an energy poor star. As a young smuggler, Jonah Mctier is one of those fortunate few who has access to this millennial old realm, and it is he who after fleeing a triad of imperial cruisers, discovers the answer to mankind’s dilemma. In desperation Jonah finds refuge in a parsecs deep dust cloud where he discovers not only a habitable and empty planetary system but one of the most sought after resources in the Milky Way a spatial conduit. Except this is no ordinary conduit. Exploitation of this unique and unknown type of spatial gateway offers an alternative to the slow but inevitable descent into extinction for the children of Adam. Key to this bright future is the need to keep their phenomenal find a secret from the resource hungry empire who would take this discovery for themselves and themselves alone. To complicate matter, Jonah discovers that there is more than one of these gateways, and for humanity to be successful in their question mankind must hold and eventually destroy all of these rare portals.

I really liked Plains of Exodus, by Robert J. Burnett. It’s not without a quibble or two, but I just had to keep reading it all the way to the end. (It still took me three days to read – it’s long!) I guess I’ll start with what I didn’t like about the book. The author introduced a major female character by her physical attributes. Curves, boobs, hair – standard sci-fi stuff for twenty years ago. It was really only the introduction, and the character is pretty bad-ass, but the description was a turn off for me. The other quibble was that the book formatting was hella odd. The chapters seemed to have scene breaks that had their own numbers? Hopefully it was because I was reading a pre-release version from NetGalley.

Now, on to the good stuff. Plains of Exodusis a straight up popcorn sci-fi. No deep political machinations, no heavy-handed social or religious subtext. Just a group of humans versus an overpopulated universe after tragedy destroyed the Earth. The entire book is an exciting read, and this would make an excellent miniseries. (They did it with Altered Carbon, and The Expanse, so this totally could be one too.) I can’t wait for a sequel. You hear me, Robert? I want a sequel. Five stars, and a must read.

Amazon
Goodreads


Aubrey’s Beautiful Crown now available.

Erika’s latest children’s book is now available on Amazon!

From the author, Erika Gardner:

People have been telling me for years that I should write a children’s book, and I finally decided to give it a shot. My 3 children loved having stories read to them when they were small, and though many of the books they loved were great and fun to read, there were always some that left me shaking my head and hoping I wouldn’t have to re-read them very often. I am a big fan of children’s books that rhyme. I love reading books that are entertaining and can be read with a fun rhythm. Colorful and cute pictures are also important. I am writing books that I wouldn’t mind reading over, and over, and over…which hopefully will be the case. I decided to have these first 3 books each have titles with ABC in them, partially because then I could have a book for each of my amazing children and also because I liked the ABC concept. I got really lucky that my husband was able to find an absolutely incredible illustrator to create the pictures for my books. I am SO EXCITED to see the finished products. It’s like the artist saw right into my mind and drew exactly what I wanted. This is a really fun undertaking for me and I hope to continue beyond the initial 3 ABC books, with holiday books and then whatever pops into my crazy mind after that.

Aubrey's Beautiful Crown Alyssa's Blank Canvas Anthony's Blue Crayon


What Gods Incite, by Clara Coulson

A month after the explosive end of his mission to the Divide, Vincent Whelan is spinning his wheels. He’s struggling to rebuild his business, frustrated at his position as Tom Tildrum’s “minion,” and uneasy about the dangers the near future will bring. So when a local spots a zombie prowling around one of Kinsale’s biggest factories, Vince takes extra precautions before he goes hunting for a necromancer in the dregs of his beleaguered city. Unfortunately for Vince, a straightforward case quickly morphs into a balancing act, when a familiar face pops in to drop a dangerous new quest on his head: Abarta has stolen a powerful tool from Manannán mac Lir, and to get it back, Vince will have to venture into the Otherworld yet again. With his allies split on two fronts, and threats rising on both sides, Vince finds himself facing the most perilous trial of his entire life: the battle to preserve his own humanity.

It really wasn’t until book three that I’m starting to like Vince. It’s not that I disliked him or anything in the first two books, but he was the reluctant hero before – almost a curmudgeon before his time. In What Gods Incite, he starts to become the hero we all knew that he’d be. More shenanigans ensue when Vince’s old friend, Rian, appears at just the right time to bail our hero out, and lend his skills to the fight against perennial villain Abarta. But as usual when fae magic is involved, not everyone is who they claim to be, so Vince, Rian, Odette and Saoirse need to watch each other’s back as they split into teams to confront multiple threats. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, and What Gods Inciteis another five star read.

Therin-Knite

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.claracoulson.com/
Twitter


See you at CoKoCon!

CoKoCon is a traditional science fiction/fantasy con in Phoenix, AZ which will be held over the Labor Day weekend in 2018. We’ll be at the Doubletree by Hilton Phoenix North at 10220 N Metro Parkway E, Phoenix, AZ 85051.

Regulars of the blog already know that I’ve been a fan of Harry Turtledove for several decades. I’m totally excited to be on an alternate history panel Saturday with my literary hero. There will be a limited amount of my novels and collections on hand – sold by Duncan’s Books and More. Copies of all my current novels (Champion Standing, Days Until Home, Score of Silence, Sixteen Sunsets & War of the Worlds: Retaliation) should be available, plus the discontinued story collection, Warmache and Other Stories. I’ll be signing books Saturday at 4pm, and Sunday at 1pm. I’ll be on the Alternate History panel with Harry Saturday at 12:30 (H. Paul Honsinger & Sue Martin as well), and a Space Opera panel at 6:30pm with author friend, David Van Dyke. (H. Paul Honsinger & T. L. Smith will be there too!) I’ll probably be heading back up north around 3pm on Sunday.