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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019

Bye bye February! It was a blast....sort of maybe..OK maybe not. February was a really topsy-turvy kind of month for me. It all started with one of my beloved fur-babies getting diagnosed with diabetes. Wow....what a change to my schedule and to my non-existent social life that having to give her insulin injections every 12 hours has meant. I don't know which one of us was more stressed out by the injections either! (p.s. it was me!!!!) To make February a bit less exciting the hubinator and I did a gut re-boot diet which involved a lot of salad and no treats. Valentines Day was a chocolate free affair. Then to top it off the last week of February turned unseasonably warm with highs of 17C (62F). While you were shoveling snow I was putting away my winter coat. With all this happening I still managed to finish a few books. Let me tell you all about them.

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
Up first is 5th instalment of Bec McMaster's London Steampunk: Blue Blood Conspiracy series - Dukes are Forever. This one starts just a few months after the Company of Rogues rescue their leader Malloryn from Russia. Back in London Malloryn is trying to adjust to life after he was kidnapped and tortured at the hands of Balfour's dhampyrs. Malloryn sees his nemesis Balfour at every turn and starts to suspect his wife Adele of being a spy for him. Determined that she won't get the upper hand he decides to seduce her and discovers all her secrets before she learns his. Adele is determined that Malloryn will not get the upper hand or her heart. Its a battle of wills while the Company of Rogues battle to save the Queen and London. Who will win? Your turn to find out for yourself.

I was a bit surprised that McMaster released this instalment so quickly after book 4 - To Catch a Rogue - which was published in October 2018. Although, it became quite clear how it was possible to release the book so was quite disappointing. Adele and Malloryn's romance was a little lackluster especially given that it has been building across multiple books. The whole thing felt quite rushed and there really wasn't enough 'meat' to the plot. It will be interesting to see if McMaster has said goodbye to Steampunk London or whether there will be additional stories set in that world.

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
I listened to, rather than read the next book I have to tell you about - The Outlaw and the Upstart King by Rod Duncan. This is the second book in Duncan's The Map of Unknown Things series which is the follow on series from his Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series. This story starts from the POV of a new character, Elias. He is out for revenge, revenge for the people that cut off his thumbs and made him an outlaw. He has returned to his native Newfoundland in search of justice. However, he meets Elizabeth a mysterious barmaid who is much more than just a barmaid. It's not long before the story switches to Elizabeth, who along with her friends, crashed onto the unforgiving Newfoundland coast. They are desperate to leave and Elias might be the only way to escape.

I have to admit I had no clue what was going on for the first few chapters. It had been awhile since I read The Queen of All Crows (The Map of Unknown Things 1) and I had to jog my memory of what that book was about it. It didn't take long however before was completely gripped. I couldn't figure out how on earth that Elizabeth was going to avoid becoming a slave or worse at the hands of the main antagonist, Jago. Elias seemed incapable of helping himself let alone anyone else so I was flummoxed as to how she would escape. I would definitely describe this as a slow burn plot but it is well worth a read. Duncan creates such interesting characters and then places them in situations where you can't imagine how they are going to survive. I really like the narrator and thought she did an excellent job with both male and female characters. Well done Duncan. It is hard to follow the books from The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire with another terrific series.

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
My final book is is a short story. The Test by Sylvain Neuvel (one of my all time fave authors for his The Themis Files) is set in England with Idir about to take the British citizenship test. A simple multiple choice test has turned into a game of life or death and Idir gets to decide.

I had to take the British citizenship test so this story resonated with me and boy I am lucky my test wasn't this harrowing. This short story is a real page turner and rather tragic so be prepared. I don't want to say too much as I don't want to ruin the surprise. Don't miss out and get it on your TBR.

Well that is all for me folks. I hope you have had a less challenging February than I had. I am looking forward to smoother sailing in March and watching my daffodils come out. Until next month...Happy Reading!

Bec McMaster

Dukes Are Forever
London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy 5
Lochaber Press, February 12, 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
A compromising situation forced him into marriage. But has his wife been working for the enemy all along?

In a steam-fuelled world where vampires once ruled the aristocracy, a dangerous conspiracy threatens to topple the queen, and the Duke of Malloryn knows his nemesis has finally returned to enact his plans of revenge.

Malloryn can trust no one, and when incriminating photographs surface—of an enemy agent stealing a kiss from his wife—he is forced to question just why his wife, Adele, trapped him into marriage.

Is she an innocent pawn caught up in a madman's games, or is she a double agent working against him?

The only way to discover the truth is to seduce her himself...

Adele Hamilton may have agreed to a loveless marriage in order to protect herself, but that doesn't stop her heart from yearning for more.

Her husband promised her a cold marriage bed. He swore he'd never touch her. But suddenly he's engaged in a campaign of seduction—and the only way to keep her wits about her is to fight fire with fire.

The ruthless beauty has locked her heart away, but can she deny the passion that flares between them? And when the truth emerges, will she be the only thing that can save Malloryn's life?

Or the weapon his enemy will wield against him?

Join Bec McMaster in this ultimate showdown, as the Blue Blood Conspiracy reaches its final, thrilling conclusion. From glittering ballrooms to blood-soaked gaming hells, the Duke of Malloryn must battle his most dangerous opponent yet.... The woman who just might steal his heart.

Don’t miss any of the London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy books!

Book 1: Mission: Improper
Book 2: The Mech Who Loved Me
Book 3: You Only Love Twice
Book 4: To Catch A Rogue
Book 5: Dukes Are Forever

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
Book 1
Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
Book 2
Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
Book 3
Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
Book 4

Rod Duncan

The Outlaw and the Upstart King
The Map of Unknown Things 2
Angry Robot, January 8, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
Elizabeth Barnabus returns, to uncover the secrets and mysteries of the Gas-Lit Empire, in the startling sequel to The Queen of All Crows.

As it is inked, so shall your oaths and bindings be.

Tattoos are the only law on the Island of the Free, and there can never be a king. Every clan agrees on that. But a returning exile has smuggled something across the water that could send the old ways up in flames. Elias wants revenge on the men who severed his oaths and made him an outlaw. But, if his wealth and honour are to be restored, he’ll need help from the most unlikely quarter – a mysterious woman, landed unwontedly on Newfoundland’s rocky shore.

File Under: Fantasy [ Indelible Promise | The End Begins | Heart on Sleeve | Castaway ]

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
Book 1

Sylvain Neuvel

The Test, February 12, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 112 Pages

Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019
Award-winning author Sylvain Neuvel explores an immigration dystopia in The Test

Britain, the not-too-distant future.
Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.
He wants his family to belong.
Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.
When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.
How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018

Fear not gentle reader, I am back with my Week in Review :)  I thought I would give you a short break from my WIR and share two of my SPFBO 2017 reviews. I hope you enjoyed them. Keep your eye on the blog for reviews from my fellow Qwillery reviewers on what they thought of the books they read for the competition.

I had a little pooch at NetGalley this week and was surprised by two books I had read last year but hadn't yet reviewed.  Lately books have been available months before their publish date and then I get all excited about reading them. This time I had convinced myself that I had actually posted a review here but after some checking it transpired I hadn't left you a review so check out what I read.

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
First up is The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan which is the first instalment of The Map of Unknown Things, published by Angry Robot on January 2nd. This series is set in the same world as Duncan's The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire series with Elizabeth Barnabus back in her role of spy but this time with the dreaded Patent Office. When airships start to disappear, along with someone close to Elizabeth, she decides to take action and goes undercover, again as a man. As the science officer on a whaler far out to sea Elizabeth is desperate to find out what has happened and more importantly, who is responsible. Elizabeth finds herself in the middle of a mystery and in more danger than anything the Patent Office could do to her. It will take every ounce of her ingenuity and bravery to discover what has happened and survive long enough to report back.

I loved Duncan's The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire series and thought that Elizabeth was a complex, gutsy heroine. Normally, I am a bit nervous when an author creates a new series for one their characters as it usually means they don't want to let go and new books usually aren't as good. I prefer a shorter, excellent series than a long mediocre, drawn out one. However, Duncan doesn't disappoint and this is an excellent start to what I feel is going to be a compelling series. At the beginning of the story I had pretty much guessed what was going to happen, but midway through every thing changed and I couldn't really guess what was going to become of Elizabeth. This is a difficult book to review because I don't want to give anything away. I want you to discover what happens to Elizabeth on your own because it is such a tasty tale. I have read too many reviews that spell everything out and basically rewrite the book so I don't want to do that here. What I can say is that Duncan fleshes out Elizabeth even more and the new landscape in which this story is set is rich and bleak in equal measure. If I had to sum up this story I would describe it as a story of the power of friendship. Cruel, beautiful, warm, and chillingly lonely. It's all these things and a great mystery as well. If you haven't read the original series don't miss out and then join Elizabeth in The Queen of All Crows.

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
The second book I would like to tell you about is The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden. This is the second in her Winternight Trilogy and follows not long after the events of book 1 - The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya is on the run. She has been cast out of her village following the death of her father and she faces either being married off  - to become a girl in a tower - or joining a convent. Neither option appeals to her so when the opportunity presents itself she disguises herself as a boy and joins the Grand Prince of Moscow's retinue. When a mysterious and possibly magical force threatens the kingdom Vasya risks everything, including her freedom, to save the Prince, her family and her kingdom.

I can't believe that it is less than a year from the time that Arden released her debut The Bear and the Nightingale (check out my review here). Book 2 does not disappoint. In fact Arden has built upon the strengths of these characters and takes this from a mere fairy tale into some more like folklore. While this is fiction Arden has created characters who are credible, who make you believe they were actually alive, centuries ago. I have to admit I did spend a lot of the story thinking to myself  'poor Vasya' as things seem to go from bad to worse for our teenage heroine. She is forced to grow up quickly but at the same time stays innocent from how cruel the world can really be.

Again, this is another book that I could recount half the plot for you in this review but why would I ruin the journey that you need to take? Join Vasya on her journey of self discovery. Well done Arden, another great book. I can hardly wait for the final in this trilogy, The Winter of the Witch.

That is it for me this week. Apologies for not getting these reviews to you sooner. Better late than never! Until next time Happy Reading.

The Queen of All Crows
The Map of Unknown Things 1
Angry Robot Books, January 2, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
Only one woman can stop the world from descending into endless war, in the thrilling new series in the world of the Gas-Lit Empire
The year is 2012 but it might as well be the Victorian age. The nations of the world are overseen by the International Patent Office, and its ruthless stranglehold on technology.

When airships start disappearing in the middle of the Atlantic, the Patent Office is desperate to discover what has happened. Forbidden to operate beyond the territorial waters of member nations, they send spies to investigate in secret.

One of those spies is Elizabeth Barnabus. She must overcome her dislike of the machinations of her employers, disguise herself as a man, and take to the sea in search of the floating nation of pirates who threaten the world order.

File Under: Fantasy [ A Lost Airship | On the Sargasso | Stowaway Bay | The Crow Queen ]

The Girl in the Tower
Winternight Trilogy 2
Del Rey, December 5, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the backwoods of Russia to the court of Moscow, in the exhilarating sequel to Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale.

Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch.

Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.

But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.
Melanie's Month in Review - February 2019Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018

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