Audiobook Review: Johannes Cabal and the Blustery Day: And Other Tales of the Necromancer

Title: Johannes Cabal and the Blustery Day: And Other Tales of the Necromancer
Jonathan L. Howard
Publisher: Skyboat Media and Blackstone Audio; Unabridged edition
Release Date: June 23, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A


Johannes Cabal is a necromancer – and he’s slightly infamous.

Johannes Cabal and the Blustery Day: And Other Tales of the Necromancer features seven of Cabal’s most frightening adventures:

Also included is an original introduction written and read by the author.


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Book Review: Kings Rising, by CS Pacat

Title: Kings Rising
Author: CS Pacat
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 2, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A+


Damianos of Akielos has returned.

His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity—can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?


My work was canceled yesterday due to hazardous weather conditions, which was pretty darn fortunate for me. I stayed home and read my new copy of Kings Rising twice.

I haven’t been waiting nearly as long as some of Pacat’s fans, who have been with the story since she was posting it on livejournal.  But I felt just as invested in the fates of Damen and Laurent, her two very different but equally engrossing heroes.

Kings Rising is a fitting finish to the series. It’s as carefully plotted as the first two books, and Pacat is exceptional at building an excruciating amount of tension.  The first time I read it, my heart was in my throat for most of the story.  A few things felt almost too neatly wrapped up at the end, and some of the parallels seemed too perfect, but overall it worked well.

It’s also a surprisingly sweet story, with parts that were so funny that I cackled out loud and scared my dog.

I’m sad that the story is over, but I coludn’t have asked for a more satisfying or complete ending.

Kings Rising is out now from Berkley.

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

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: Captive Prince and Prince’s Gambit, by CS Pacat







Titles: Captive Prince and Prince’s Gambit
Author: CS Pacat
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 7, 2015 and July 7, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A


Captive Prince: From global phenomenon C. S. Pacat comes the first in her critically acclaimed trilogy

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

Prince’s Gambit: The second novel in the critically acclaimed trilogy from global phenomenon C. S. Pacat

With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.

Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow…

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Pre-Release Review and Giveaway: A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles


Title: A Seditious Affair
Author: KJ Charles
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: December 15th, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A+

Thanks to Loveswept for sending this review copy!


K. J. Charles turns up the heat in her new Society of Gentlemen novel, as two lovers face off in a sensual duel that challenges their deepest beliefs.
Silas Mason has no illusions about himself. He’s not lovable, or even likable. He’s an overbearing idealist, a Radical bookseller and pamphleteer who lives for revolution . . . and for Wednesday nights. Every week he meets anonymously with the same man, in whom Silas has discovered the ideal meld of intellectual companionship and absolute obedience to his sexual commands. But unbeknownst to Silas, his closest friend is also his greatest enemy, with the power to see him hanged—or spare his life.

A loyal, well-born gentleman official, Dominic Frey is torn apart by his affair with Silas. By the light of day, he cannot fathom the intoxicating lust that drives him to meet with the Radical week after week. In the bedroom, everything else falls away. Their needs match, and they are united by sympathy for each other’s deepest vulnerabilities. But when Silas’s politics earn him a death sentence, desire clashes with duty, and Dominic finds himself doing everything he can to save the man who stole his heart.

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Book Review: Viscount’s Wager by Ava March


Viscount's Wager

Title: Viscount’s Wager
Author: Ava March
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: August 10, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A

Thanks to Carina Press for sending this review copy!


You never forget your first love, but is a second chance worth the gamble?

Anthony, Viscount Rawling, knows exactly what he wants in life and he isn’t above having a look about London for it. When he spots recently widowed Gabriel Tilden at a ton function, he thinks he might have found love…again.

Gabriel is as gorgeous and reserved as he was when he broke Anthony’s heart seven years ago. But they were only adolescents then…surely Anthony won’t hold the incident against him. And especially not when the attraction between them is stronger than ever.

Gabriel came to London in search of distraction, and a teasing Anthony is impossible to resist. As Anthony introduces Gabriel to the pleasures that can be found in the city—and in his bedchamber—their bond deepens into something more. Yet both men are hiding secrets that could pull them apart forever…


I’m a sucker for thwarted lovers reunited, and Ava March does a splendid job of giving us Anthony and Gabriel’s story. I haven’t read the first two books in the Gambling on Love series, and while I will absolutely go back and read them, it wasn’t necessary to appreciate this story.

Gabriel and Anthony had one fateful kiss when they were 18 and 16, respectively, and March’s characterization of the romantic hopes of teenagers was so accurate that I winced while reading it.  I am very grateful to have left the 16-year-old Breakfast Octopus behind, as the “this is definitely true love!” thoughts that Anthony has hit a little too close to home.

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Book Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook


Title: The Rook
Author: Daniel O’Malley
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Release Date: October 16, 2012

The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A+


Myfanwy Thomas awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, her only hope of survival is to trust the instructions left in her pocket by her former self. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization and this person wants her dead.

As Myfanwy battles to save herself, she encounters a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and an unimaginably vast conspiracy. Suspenseful and hilarious, THE ROOK is an outrageously inventive debut for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.


For the past several years, I’ve volunteered as the crew chief for friends running the Leadville 100 trail race. The race is a 100 mile foot race starting in the highest incorporated town in the US at around 10,000 feet, and over the next 100 miles (again, of running!) participants go over the 12,600 Hope Pass peak, twice.  Runners rely on their support crews to pace them for the last 50 miles, and if you have a crew chief, she manages logistics of pacer arrival, timing, food and water at aid stations, and sometimes she yells at you to keep moving when you’d really rather just sit down and take a nap, thanks.  There’s a hard deadline of 30 hours to complete the race, and many of the participants who begin the race have to drop out partway through.

This has really nothing to do with Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, except that through the stress of trying to figure out timing and needs for a sleep-deprived runner traipsing (or lumbering) through many miles of trails in the dark, I feel that I’ve got the tiniest inkling of what life is like for Myfawny Thomas, the amnesiac protagonist of O’Malley’s novel.  Myfawny, both in her current memory-free incarnation and as her previous self, is a splendid organizer, prepared for any eventuality.  Her former self (‘Thomas’) has left careful and thorough directions to help the new Myfawny (‘Myfawny’) sort out her life, supernatural job, and most importantly, which bastard betrayed her and tried to kill her.

While Thomas was fantastic at logistics, she was “damaged” in a way that Myfawny isn’t, and it’s fun and a bit sad to see the potential that Thomas, who we meet only in her letters, could have had.  I don’t want to give away too much of the convoluted plot, so here’s a list of some other thoughts:

  • When recommending to a friend, I described it as:  Part mystery, part sci-fi/fantasy. Long-ish, engrossing, and thoroughly weird.
  • I’ve read it twice and listened to it on audiobook three times. Each time I heard or read something new.
  • It totally passes the Bechdel test, from an early conversation Myfawny has with her secretary regarding her schedule (it involves bumping the Minister of Defense for a more important meeting) to the friendship that Myfawny forms with a member of her super-secret-supernatural group’s American counterpart.
  • Myfawny as a character is as capable as Thomas was, with a flair for brazen improvization. Also, she can do interesting and fairly disgusting things to anyone who gets in her way.
  • Super powers! Government administration! Covert corruption and betrayals! Belgian enemies who rudely offer no chocolate! At least one vampire with mysterious intentions and powers, who doesn’t have the strangest or most menacing powers!

The Rook can be difficult to describe without spoilers, which I don’t want to give. A great part of the joy of reading it comes from starting out as ignorant as the main character and slowly learning about the bizarre (and sometimes bizarrely mundane) world in which she inhabits. Go read it. Then wait with bated breath for the sequel, Stiletto, to come out in January 2016.

Release Day Book Review: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles


Title: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal
Author: KJ Charles
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: June 16, 2015

The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A+


A story too secret, too terrifying—and too shockingly intimate—for Victorian eyes.

A note to the Editor

Dear Henry,

I have been Simon Feximal’s companion, assistant and chronicler for twenty years now, and during that time my Casebooks of Feximal the Ghost-Hunter have spread the reputation of this most accomplished of ghost-hunters far and wide.

You have asked me often for the tale of our first meeting, and how my association with Feximal came about. I have always declined, because it is a story too private to be truthfully recounted, and a memory too precious to be falsified. But none knows better than I that stories must be told.

So here is it, Henry, a full and accurate account of how I met Simon Feximal, which I shall leave with my solicitor to pass to you after my death.

I dare say it may not be quite what you expect.

Robert Caldwell

September 1914


I adored KJ Charles’ The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. It’s the story of a long-running partnership between two men, both as colleagues and lovers.  Simon Feximal is a ghost-hunter, and Robert Caldwell is a client of his at first, but things quickly change.

Other reviewers have already commented on Robert and Simon’s lovely relationship, and how authentic the Victorian setting feels.  The episodic nature of mysterious cases suits the long-running storyline.  Although I’m not sure that all of the stories would be able to stand on their own without something missing, some certainly can, as both “The Caldwell Ghost” and “Butterflies” were released on their own.

I loved the sly drop-ins of other books and stories of that time period. I especially appreciated that there was a guide at the end so that anyone who doesn’t immediately make the connection to the “Fat Man” and the Diogenes club could look it up and be enlightened.

What most struck me, perhaps, is how well Charles relates her stories of the Victorian occult to modern life without ever feeling anachronistic.

[This part is a bit spoilerish for one of the stories but reveals nothing major, and contains a small political rant] Continue reading  

Release Day Book Review: The Devil’s Only Friend by Dan Wells


Devil's Only Friend Cover


Title: The Devil’s Only Friend
Author: Dan Wells
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: June 16, 2015

The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A

Dan Wells’ The Devil’s Only Friend is a rollicking adventure/horror story told from the point of view of a teenage sociopath.  It’s the fourth book in the John Wayne Cleaver series, which kicked off with I am Not a Serial Killer in 2009. Before Tor Books sent me this latest book, I’d read the first novel, which was helpful but not necessary to follow and enjoy The Devil’s Only Friend.  You can definitely read this without having read the others. However, this review contains spoilers for all previous John Wayne Cleaver books. Continue reading