Episode 4: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest with Marilag Angway and James DeBruicker

Another Reblog! Seriously, Meg @ La Foi Aveugle is amazing, and kudos to her for taking the time and getting this audio edited!

In this episode, we discuss Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, a steampunk zombie adventure (yes, you heard me) taking place in Seattle during the American Civil War (yes, you heard me again). Steampunk has always been near and dear to my heart, considering I write in this subgenre so much!

Source: Episode 4: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest with Marilag Angway and James DeBruicker

Review: The Velocipede Races

Initial Thoughts:

This was actually more entertaining than I thought, though admittedly the story dragged in parts. Still worth the read though! And I mean…why wouldn’t it be when it has a woman shattering glass ceilings?


THE VELOCIPEDE RACES

by Emily June Street
Elly Blue Publishing, April 2016
Science fiction, steampunk
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

Emmeline Escot knows that she was born to ride in Seren’s cutthroat velocipede races. The only problem: She’s female in a world where women lead tightly laced lives. Emmeline watches her twin brother gain success as a professional racing jockey while her own life grows increasingly narrow. Ever more stifled by rules, corsets, and her upcoming marriage of convenience to a brusque stranger, Emmy rebels—with stunning consequences. Can her dream to race survive scandal, scrutiny, and heartbreak?

I totally picked this book up because I can never resist a good ole “girl dresses up as boy, girl shows the world she can play with other boys” trope. In The Velocipede Races, the trope is no different, and yes, in that sense, it is pretty damn predictable.

But, I mean, friggin’ velocipedes, man. VELOCIPEDES.

For those not familiar, velocipedes are contraptions best associated with Victorian era innovation. It’s essentially a bike, though I do believe the wheels are bigger at the front and smaller at the back, so there’s a bit more of a balancing skill that goes along with riding the velo as well. In any case, it’s a contraption that many Serenians in the book enjoy to ride and watch.

Well, many male Serenians anyway.

Heaven forbid if females were interested in racing velos or anything. That would be scandalous in Serenian society, especially when the particular female is riesen (noble). And, in Emmeline’s case, it’s exactly that, because she’s that athletic riesen woman who’d do anything to take to the wheel of a velo and race her heart out. Only, the only thing she’s expected to do is marry some rich man while her twin brother undergoes the proper training to become a velo racer.

We know where things can go from there. Oh, yes, she’s got a twin brother who looks enough like her. Oh, yes, Emmeline is going to take advantage of that, and no matter how many times Gabriel has dissuaded her from trying to sneak out and practice alongside him, she does it anyway. Even after she is thrown into a reluctant marriage, Emmeline still finds a way.

And then things slowly go downhill from there.

In all honesty, much of this story has been told before, over and over again. And yet, I still find it charming to read, because how can I not love a woman who has a passion that goes beyond societal expectations? (As someone whose field of study is still largely male-dominated, I can totally relate). How can I not love a woman who knows exactly what she wants from life and husband be damned if he tried to stop her.

So yeah, I liked Emmeline. Very much. Even in her single-minded zeal towards velo racing and her almost ignoring anything else in society. I say almost because by the end, she does find another love, one she finds highly unexpected.

That said, I thought the story was paced too slow at times, and too fast at others. The velocipede races themselves were meticulously described, and yet, there were “blink and you miss it” moments that forced me to stop halfway into the description of a race to only go back and repeat the segment again. I suppose it’s styled like an actual race, which is kind of cool in that way, but read weirdly for me.

I also didn’t really feel like any of the other characters stood out. Gabriel was a close second in terms of most development, personality-wise, but there wasn’t really much time to develop him, considering he often disappeared to do his own thing while Emmeline was left to her own devices. Even the other secondary characters show up in a scene and then disappear so quickly that I couldn’t really form an opinion about them. (Except Eddings. Eddings was just a cocky little chauvinistic shite.)

I was a little disappointed that Everett was often written out of the picture half the time, with Emmeline stating that he’s “busy with work.” I mean, honestly, he was an intriguing character, a strange, self-made man in a society he barely acknowledges as his own. From the beginning, he’s seen as a mysterious personality, and his thoughts about Emmy are often hidden under inscrutable stares and coarse, blunt language. It made for an awkward romance at times, and I really did want more out of that relationship.

All that said, I found the book charming. Serenian society and its surrounding world is fashioned after Victorian England, and I’m sure if Victorian England had developed through the ages fast enough, it would have velocipede races, too. I’m sure the suffragettes would have tried their best to applaud anyone who has shattered the glass ceiling, which Emmeline was bound to do with her velocipede passion. And that’s really where the book shined the most, within the description of Emmeline’s love for velo races.

3 out of 5 cookies!

This counts as #2 of the Steampunk Reading Challenge.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Reading Challenges 2017

So I thought I did pretty well in 2016 as far as the two reading challenges went. Last year, I took part in Flights of Fantasy and the Fairy Tale Retelling reading challenges. I’d challenged myself to do 30 books in fantasy and 10 books in fairy tales, and I surpassed both, so yay for me! My Goodreads goal of 60 was also surpassed by the fact that I went ahead and read 90ish books in total (which is a big deal for me, considering I am usually a slow reader). Aaand as far as my 25 Reads Project went…erm…I at least got through 11 of them? Maybe I should have also signed up to do an ARC reading challenge, because my NetGalley ARC reading and reviewing has been behind, too.

In any case, fun stats:

bookstats-2016

For a more comprehensive list, check out my year in Goodreads.

That all said, it’s time to up the ante and join up on the 2017 reading challenges! I did two relatively well last year, so I decided this year I’m going to do a few more. I’m also excited about hosting my first ever Food and Fiction Reading Challenge, and I hope you’ll join me on this one!

So here are the challenges I’m participating in for the year:

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hosted by Mari @ Story and Somnomancy

I’m going to try and do 12 food and fiction posts, which which will be added to my Food and Fandom page on top of the other random geeky foods I tend to do.

flightsoffantasy-2017

Hosted by Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books and Rachel @ Hello, Chelly.

I participated in this one last year and it was a lovely challenge. Again, I’m pushing myself to doing 30 fantasy book reviews, maybe surpass this number again. As a fantasy reader on a regular basis, this should not be a problem. I did rather poorly on the FOF Book Club discussions, so I might also try that again (and at least this time, there’s a bigger time allotted per book!).

mangareading2017

Hosted by Nicola @ Graphic Novels Challenge.

So I decided 2017 is the year of me branching out and reading even MORE graphic novels. Not that this is out of my comfort zone. I actually read graphic novels when I can get to them, but I always find that I never read enough. So this year, I decided I’d do a graphic novel/manga challenge. I hope to read at least 12 graphic novels by the end of the year, though if I actually read a series (like, oh, finish Fables once and for all), this number will definitely go up.

Then I also wanted to do more steampunk reading. Occasionally I’ve picked a few up last year, but I admit, last year, I was severely lacking in good steampunk books. I want to change this in 2017 and actually take the effort in reading at least 10 steampunk books. Time to get steampunkin’!

I’m also going to be doing my 25 Reads Project again, though this time around, I’ve only put in books that carried over the last two years. Once I’ve finished that list, that’s when I’ll start picking books out of my book jar again. Hah, good luck to me. (Though in defense, I’m about halfway done with An Ember in the Ashes and have Snow Like Ashes on my high priority list.)

I’ve created a page that will help me keep track of the challenges I’ve signed up for here. Wish me luck!

Are you signed up for any reading challenges this year?

Steampunk Madness and Matriarchs || Monstress, Vol. 1 Review

monstress-review

Initial Thoughts: 

A speculative Asia during the 1900s with a largely matriarchal society on BOTH sides of a brutal human-beast war? New. Favorite. Series. EVER.

MONSTRESS, VOL. 1

by Marjorie M. Liu (author), Sana Takeda (illustrator)
Image Comics, July 2016
Graphic novel, science fiction, fantasy
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
e-ARC provided by NetGalley

monstressSet in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.

Image Comics Strikes Again

This time in an Asian steampunk world. And it looks effing fabulous. When I got an email about this series being opened up on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. It’s been on my TBR since I was alerted to it by The Book Smugglers, and I do not regret it one bit.

First of all, Takeda’s artwork is gorgeous. It’s half manga, half Westernized comics, a perfect combination of both, and so detailed I almost wanted to screenshot every darn page. There were several times where a page was just filled with wordless panels, and my gosh, the illustrated depiction of what’s happening on that page…it certainly brings proof to the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” adage.

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The main character is a feisty, stubborn, kick-ass one-armed Asian woman. She’s survived a violent war. She’s survived a traumatic enslavement experience. She’s survived the loss of a limb and the aftermath of conflict between two powerful factions. She’s seen shit. And she’s angry. On top of that, she wants to know what’s happening–and what’s happened–to her. And she’ll break down doors if she has to. I love her to bits.

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She also has a lovely way with words, that Maiko.

The matriarchal powers that be. The series is rife with fem-power on both sides. In fact, some of the highest positions are held by women. One of the first immortal ancients we see is a Wolf Queen. The first half-breed is a powerful woman, someone who apparently shook the world. The Cumaea is an order of witch-nuns who’ve taken the highest form of power in the human government. Heck, Lady Sophia is displayed quite remarkably as a woman who buys Arcanic slaves. She’s in charge, she’s despicable, and she gives zero fucks because she has shit to do and Arcanics to experiment on. Not to mention the fact that there’s a little romance (LGBT from what I saw!) but so far it hasn’t overwhelmed the narrative. It’s female empowerment to the max.

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There’s no better way to walk into a slave auction than in style. I’ll give it to Lady Sophia, she knows how to make an entrance.

It’s an adventure story drenched with the problems of race, war, and disability (both physical and emotional). It’s dark and merciless and it definitely makes no apology in showing the cruelties of the post-war world. Takeda’s depiction of Liu’s people makes for a great collaboration, and there’s really not much I can say against the series at the moment. I loved the entire volume.

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Also, Mister Ren. That two-tailed cat is the bees’ knees.

5 out of 5 cookies! Now, I’m not sure where the rest of this series is going just yet, but my gosh, I want the next issues already. Like, now.


monstress-all

Chasing Volcanoes: A Czech Translation

seaisoursOnce upon a time (re: a year and a half ago), I wrote a steampunk story that revolved around a destroyed Northern Philippines (speculative volcanic eruptions and the like). I sent it out, I squeed about finding a home for it (many thanks to the wonderful editrixes Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng, and publisher Bill Campbell at Rosarium Publishing for the acceptance!), I squeed again when it got illustrated (by Pear Nuallak), and I practically did a funny little dance in the middle of my living room when it finally, finally, FINALLY got published.

(I did another funny dance at the local B&N soon after I saw it on a scifi anthology shelf…but I swear I didn’t cause that much of a scene!)

And while I am grateful that this particular story went out into the world amidst critiquing eyes and steampunk enthusiasts, I am still wonderfully surprised at the feedback over “Chasing Volcanoes.” I certainly didn’t expect to get an email about it–and the rest of the The Sea is Ours anthology–being translated into Czech. The fact that the title of said Czech book IS a translation of “Chasing Volcanoes” has gone above and beyond any expectation I have with the stories I’ve written.

But there you go. It’s happened. I’m squeeing again. I’m writing about it again.

Thanks to Jan Kravčík at Gorgon Books, “Chasing Volcanoes” has got a Czech coating. And honestly, that cover is beautiful. While I know nothing in the Czech language (well, correction, I now know what “Kroceni Sopek” means), I am truly astounded–and excited–at the increasing readership, both for my story (because honestly, why wouldn’t I be excited that my work goes out there?) and for the wonderful fellow Southeast Asian authors I’ve shared the anthology with.

Now, if only I’d known about this translation BEFORE I’d gone to Praha last summer. I suppose maybe next time (because there most certainly will be a next time!) I visit Prague I’ll try to find my way into a bookshop.

Anyway, for the Czech readers out there, watch out for Kroceni Sopek, coming to you in a few weeks!