Wandering at the Shadows' Edge

exploring potential and possibility

Archive for the category “Book Reviews”

Words That Light the Path

The past week my concentration has been writing-related. If you saw the previous post, I’m sure you’ll understand why.

As a result, I’ve been doing very little crafting. I’ve done some knitting on an ongoing shawl project, but that’s about it.

So…. I’m going to keep things writing related and recommend a few authors who inspire me.

Nathan Lowell 

I adore his Solar Clipper/ Deep Dark stories.  The main characters aren’t “heroes”. They are everyday people who make the effort to look outside of the boxes they are familiar with. In Quarter Share, the lead character’s first accomplishment is making good coffee! Ishmael’s stories go with me every time I travel. They’re old friends that I never tire of catching up on. At the same time, I avidly look forward to Nathan’s new stories – especially those in the Solar Clipper/Deep Dark universe.

Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

From their self published and small press works to their traditionally published novels, I’ve loved everything – fiction and non-fiction – I’ve read. Both are extremely approachable on social media as well.  If you want a fun entry point to steampunk, that involves more than just pasting gears on to things, try their Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series.

Scott Sigler

If you like horror, sci-fi, or football, take a look at Scott’s works. Though he has lousy taste in beer, he’s a wonderful storyteller, and for a “Future Dark Overlord (FDO)”, he’s a pretty decent guy. I don’t know if he’ll remember the “brewmistress” after all these years, but I remember the Houston book signing for Infected and being asked what beer at the brewpub he should get.  Then there was the first Podcasters’ Pimp party at DragonCon 2007 when he learned I’d brought my own homebrewed beer.  😉

There are other authors I adore – but they have larger, traditional publishing audiences.  These authors are perhaps (Scott is a NYT bestseller) less well known. But they are all authors that I’ve personally met – back in the early days of podcasting. They’ve chosen to blaze non-traditional paths for others, including myself, to follow, and for the most part not gotten the credit or recognition they deserve. They helped to set me on the path to publication, encouraged me in podcasting, brewing, and writing. The least I can do is give them a shout out here.

These are some of the authors that light the paths through the shadows for me. Maybe they can do the same for you.

Words from the Shadows 1: Phoenix Rising

I just finished re-reading a book so that I could read the next in the series.  I think I enjoyed it more this time, in part because I picked up more of the inside references.

Now, I have to be up front here.  I have met both the authors of this book and I’ve been supporting their work for several years and yes, the links to the books and Kindle versions of the short stories mentioned in this review are my Amazon affiliate links.   That being said, a review of the book can’t be impartial.  Then again, is any review ever really impartial?

The book in question is Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.  Phoenix Rising is a steampunk novel featuring Wellington Thornhill Books – a proper British Archivist for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and Eliza Braun – a field agent for the Ministry from New Zealand who is particularly fond of dynamite and black powder. It is the tale of what happens when two very different people are forced to work together.

There were three things in particular that I enjoyed about this book and that make it worth re-reading and recommending to friends and to my local indie book store.

  1. Steampunk is not just an aesthetic.  When goggles or a gadget is introduced, it’s put to use.  Not only that, the gadget and its use are well described – the hiss of steam and sound of gears and cogs moving is always noted, but never gets in the way of the story.
  2. There are dark moments and themes, but the story is not distopian or depressing.  It’s fun.  This is a Victorian Britain where there is crime and dirt and unfairness, but it is also a Britain with hope and kindness.  I’ve heard the book described as “the Avengers (1960’s TV- not comic books) meets the X-Files meets Steampunk.”  I think that’s pretty accurate.  I might add The Wild Wild West TV series into the mix although the novel (other than the opening chapter) never makes it out of Britain.
  3. There is depth to the characters and story.  There are many passing references to cases and to the characters’ pasts that make me want to know more.  And, over at The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, there is more to learn.  Pip and Tee  (and their publisher HarperVoyager)have allowed other authors to write in their world, expanding on agents and stories mentioned only briefly in the book.  The stories are available in e-book versions from several sources for 99 cents for individual stories to 2.99 for collections of stories. Here’s a link to the Kindle Versions.
There are other things that I enjoyed as well.  I got a kick out of the inside jokes and references, but then again, I’ve met or know of several of the people involved in them.  I also enjoyed the appearance of the Ministry Seven.  An unexpected yet wonderful use of  the unnoticed and “unimportant” in Victorian London.

Phoenix Rising is a book that can be read for simple enjoyment and fun – and the banter between the main characters will bring a smile to your face.  It can be re-read with equal enjoyment even when more attention is paid to details and themes.  I have no doubt that I’ll be re-reading it yet again in the future and the story will always fit the mood I’m in  and what I’m looking for.

I just hope that by the time I read  Phoenix Rising again, I’ll have had a chance to get it, and the follow-up (The Janus Affair) signed by Pip and Tee!

Words from the Shadows

Since this blog is a map of my wanderings at the shadows’ edge, I’m finding I need to start including a few things I hadn’t planned on. One of those things is what I read.

Now, I read a lot. Blame my step dad, who taught me how to speed read when I was in third grade. And I have feeling its only going to get worse because I just got a Kindle Touch for my birthday.

I can’t afford to buy books as fast as I read them, so very few of the books I post about here will probably be new – unless I can get advanced reader copies. Many of the books will be old friends that I return to when I want something I know will entertain me. Some of the books will be those that I use to research the various projects that I’m working on. So I may be posting about books from sci-fi and fantasy to the history of a particular period or how to make or do something.

I will start posting these reviews within the next week or so although I don’t know how often I’ll post them. I certainly won’t be posting about everything I read – just what I enjoy or find useful.

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