Pre-Release Review: Clockwork Heart by Heidi Cullinan

Title: Clockwork Heart
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: February 2, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A

Thanks to Samhain Publishing for this review copy!


As the French army leader’s bastard son, Cornelius Stevens enjoys a great deal of latitude. But when he saves an enemy soldier using clockwork parts, he’s well aware he risks hanging for treason. That doesn’t worry him half as much, however, as the realization he’s falling for his patient.

Johann Berger never expected to survive his regiment’s suicide attack on Calais, much less wake up with mechanical parts. To avoid discovery, he’s forced to hide in plain sight as Cornelius’s lover—a role Johann finds himself taking to surprisingly well.

When a threat is made on Cornelius’s life, Johann learns the secret of the device implanted in his chest—a mythical weapon both warring countries would kill to obtain. Caught up in a political frenzy, in league with pirates, dodging rogue spies, mobsters and princesses with deadly parasols, Cornelius and Johann have no time to contemplate how they ended up in this mess. All they know is, the only way out is together—or not at all.


I stayed up way too late reading Heidi Cullinan’s Clockwork Heart, and it was worth every sleep-deprived minute.

I loved the combination of the brilliant inventor who’s also a bit of a flake but is charming, and the stoic soldier who is so worldly-wise in some ways and so delightfully clueless in others. Too often the genius inventors have no people skills, and it was great to see that stereotype turned on its head.

I wouldn’t have called myself a steampunk fan before reading this, but now I’ll have to check out more.  Cullinan deftly weaves the alternate history of Europe with the invention of clockwork organs and limbs, and it all works seamlessly.  It didn’t feel over-explained and it was easy to sink into her world.

I did get a bit bogged down in the last third of the book, getting befuddled about who was where and why, but I’m willing to believe that it had as much to do with my lack of sleep as anything else. And there’s one character who stuck out as possible sequel bait, not seeming to fit precisely in this story, but I’m so eager to read the sequel that I don’t care. (See you soon, Valentin?)

There are swashbuckling sky pirates! Competence porn! Intrigue! Realistic scenes of linguistic and cultural misunderstanding presented in touching and hilarious ways! It’s an adventure story that has a lovely soul to it.

Cullinan is a new author to me, and now I’m excited to hunt down and devour everything in her backlist.

Clockwork Heart comes out on February 2nd from Samhain Publishing.

** This post uses affiliate links – if you buy from the links posted, I will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting The Breakfast Octopus! **

Review: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes

 Title: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Revised: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter
Author: Matt Kepnes
Publisher: Perigee Books
Release Date: January 6, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: C

Blurb: No money? No problem. You can start packing your bags for that trip you’ve been dreaming a lifetime about.

For more than half a decade, Matt Kepnes (aka Nomadic Matt) has been showing readers of his enormously popular travel blog that traveling isn’t expensive and that it’s affordable to all. He proves that as long as you think out of the box and travel like locals, your trip doesn’t have to break your bank, nor do you need to give up luxury.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day reveals Nomadic Matt’s tips, tricks, and secrets to comfortable budget travel based on his experience traveling the world without giving up the sushi meals and comfortable beds he enjoys. Offering a blend of advice ranging from travel hacking to smart banking, you’ll learn how to:

* Avoid paying bank fees anywhere in the world
* Earn thousands of free frequent flyer points
* Find discount travel cards that can save on hostels, tours, and transportation
* Get cheap (or free) plane tickets

Whether it’s a two-week, two-month, or two-year trip, Nomadic Matt shows you how to stretch your money further so you can travel cheaper, smarter, and longer.


The title is long enough, but I feel like it should have a couple more subheadings, like “$50 on average, because some countries are cheaper and some are more expensive”. Maybe it was because I got increasingly bored the longer I read the book, but Matt seemed to concentrate more on the expensive parts of the world.

Highlights: Advice on staying safe as a solo female traveler in India, advice on purchasing Round-The-World tickets vs individual tickets.

Lowlights: Generic travel advice that generalizes about huge swaths of land as if they were the same.

The Takeaway: Borrow this from your local library as a starting point, and check out travel blogs and other guidebooks for a more in-depth picture of how to travel around the world on a budget.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Revised: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter is available now from Perigee Books.

** This post uses affiliate links – if you buy from the links posted, I will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting The Breakfast Octopus! **

Review: The Subs Club by JA Rock

Title: The Subs Club
Author: JA Rock
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: December 7, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B

Thanks to Riptide Publishing for this review copy!


A year ago, my best friend Hal died at the hands of an incompetent “dom.” So I started the Subs Club, a private blog where submissives can review doms and call out the douche bags.

A perfect example of the kind of arrogant asshole I mean? The Disciplinarian. He has a pornstache. He loves meat, stoicism, America, and real discipline. And he thinks subs exist to serve him.

But . . . not everything about him is awful. His Davy Crockett act just seems like a cover for his fear of intimacy, and part of me wants to show him it’s okay to get close to people. And, I mean, sue me, but I have fantasized about real discipline. Not role-play, but like, Dave, you’re gonna be thirty in four years and you still work in a mall; get your ass in gear or I’ll spank it.

Not that I’d ever trust anyone with that kind of control.

I’m gonna redefine “battle of wills” for the Disciplinarian. Or I’m gonna bone him. It’s hard to say.



Dave, the narrator and main character of The Subs Club, is shaken and grieving for his friend Hal, who was accidentally killed in a BDSM club. He feels some responsibility for it, whether it’s warranted or not.  Frustrated  by what he perceives as the club’s lack of responsibility, Dave and Hal’s other close friends start a website to review doms.

In some ways, Dave seems less mature than most 26-year-olds I know, but that’s part of his character: he’s feeling stalled and doesn’t know how to get stuck. He thinks that maybe “The Disciplinarian” can help him.  Dave’s disgust at some parts of BDSM culture (pony girls, a close friend’s interest in blood play) seems at odds when compared to his own interests. I don’t quite understand what makes someone both fear and crave physical punishment, but I believed that Dave truly did feel both ways.

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