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!

Blurb:

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.

Thoughts:

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.

Thoughts:

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!

Blurb:

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

Thoughts:

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.

Continue reading  

Book Review: Time and Time Again, by Ben Elton

Title: Time and Time Again
Author: Ben Elton
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: December 22nd, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B

Blurb: 

If you had one chance to change history…Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you kill?

In Time and Time Again, international best-selling author Ben Elton takes readers on a thrilling journey through early 20th-Century Europe.

It’s the first of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.

Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.

Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century? And, if so, could another single bullet save it?

Thoughts:

Time and Time Again is that rare find: a time travel story done right. Immediately after reading it, I was blown away. The foundation Elton lays is excellent, and the twists and paradoxes make sense in the context of the story. True, I figured one or two things out before they were revealed, but I think that was intentional, as I’m generally one of the most credulous readers you’ll meet: I hardly ever figure out what’s going to happen before it does.

Staunton is sympathetic in his grief for his lost family, and believable as a man from the not-too-distant future running around in the past. I like the mechanics of this version of time travel (Isaac Newton! Mysterious societies! Hand-wavy science!) and the descriptions of life in 2024.

On closer inspection, a couple of things got to me, both large and small.  The story was a bit rushed towards the end, and the dialogue in the last few chapters felt stilted, which was more noticeable because of how much smoother it had been towards the beginning.  There were also a few loose threads that weren’t tied up, perhaps intentionally, and the introduction of a new character later in the book broke the rule of “show, don’t tell”.  That said, I didn’t notice these flaws until after I’d finished speeding through the book.

In any case, you may see where the story is going before you get there, but I think you’ll enjoy the ride. Time and Time Again is out now.

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

Blog Tour: An Interview with KJ Charles (and a Giveaway!)

The Breakfast Octopus is proud to present an interview with KJ Charles as part of her blog tour for A Seditious Affair, out this Tuesday, December 15th. You can check out my A+ review here.

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

Blurb: 

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.

And now, on to the interview! Thanks for being here today!

Continue reading  

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

Blurbs:

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…

Continue reading  

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!

Blurb: 

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.

Continue reading  

Release Day Book Review: Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Graudin

 

Title: Wolf by Wolf
Author: Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 20, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A

Thanks to Little, Brown Books for sending this review copy!

Blurb: 

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, they host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The prize? An audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele’s twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and stay true to her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Continue reading  

Book Review: The Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho

Title: Sorcerer to the Crown
Author: Zen Cho
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: September 1, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B

Thanks to Ace Books for sending this review copy!

Blurb:

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

 

Thoughts:

 

This book seems tailor-made for me. It has sorcery, and diverse characters who are central to the story rather than pushed to the edges, or worse, nonexistent.  It has two engaging main characters, who have differing agendas and are noticeably human beings. They have motivations that are not always nice or pure, but are quite understandable. Author Zen Cho has managed to make her prose sound a lot like a book written in Jane Austen’s day. Although a book with magic at its center doesn’t need to be “historically accurate”, I felt like her depictions of the time felt real. I never expected her heroine, Miss Prunella Gentleman, to do something anachronistic, even though she is feisty and is out to conuer the world.

With all of these great things about Sorcerer to the Crown, I’m not sure why it left me cold. Part of it may have been that I didn’t much like Prunella, and I found it difficult to empathize with her quest. Some of it may have been frustration with the world that Cho built. Her world is full of dangerous magic, in a way that reminds me a bit of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and is still full of the same racism and casual misogyny that exists in our world today.  But I applaud the author for not shying away from that; the treatment that Zacharias receives struck me as being real. So I can’t tell why I didn’t like the book, but that doesn’t stop me from still recommending it, in part because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. I haven’t read much like it, so check it out and tell me what you think.

Sorcerer to the Crown is Zen Cho’s first book and is out now.

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!

Blurb:

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…

Thoughts:

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.

Continue reading