ARC Review: The Brass Queen

Book Reviews

Let me start off by saying that The Brass Queen by Elizabeth Chatworth is not something I usually read. Steampunk is a relatively unexplored subgenre for me, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect …

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The writing itself is elegant, thorough. Every detail paints an elaborate picture of what is being viewed and the reader can easily see what they are being shown. At times the detail was a little too much and distracting, dragging down the action, but I mostly appreciated the overall picturesque scenes as I got to experience the world through the hero and heroine’s POV.

Tying into the language, and as mentioned a little above, the overall flow of the story dragged for me even with the bouts of action. While reading, I often was waiting for something that I just didn’t quite get. The mix of historical characters and events, the devices, the side characters, usage of humor, all were fabulous, and I was greedy for more details on the artifacts that the Haltwhistle’s housed. It was the main characters, specifically Constance herself, that just didn’t mesh with me.

Constance was supposed to be “The Brass Queen” and yet I didn’t really see that. There is mentionings of her creations, her dealings, and nods to her “second” persona but she didn’t seem to know how to handle a situation and “luck” was mostly on her side so she could prevail. I wanted more from her. Expected more.

Overall I adored the historical aspects, the creations that were birthed, the humor, and the side characters that added to the whimsy feel. I enjoyed the realistic ending and the open-endedness of what the characters themselves will do next.

Rating: 3/5

Looking for a witty and humorous read with a splash of romance, steampunk creations, and historical oddities? Give The Brass Queen a try—releasing this month!

Interview With Author Allison Saft

Author Interview

Meet Allison Saft.

Social media links:

Hi Allison!

Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, Rae! Thank you so much for having me! I’m the author of Down Comes the Night, which is out in early 2021 with Wednesday Books. It’s a blend of YA fantasy and Gothic romance about two sworn enemies who must work together when a snowstorm traps them in a mysterious, crumbling estate. I’m inspired by real-world history and politics, vivid settings, and, honestly, anime. I was born in Philadelphia, but I’ve lived in Austin, New Orleans, and most recently, the California Bay Area. When I’m not writing, I’m usually hiking the redwoods, experimenting with new recipes, or practicing aerial silks.

The Interview.

Do you think your background in English Literature enhances or weakens your writing? Perhaps both?

When working within the conventions of a historical literary movement like the Gothic, I think a background in English Literature can be a huge boon! Gothic literature is more than just a flickering-candlelight aesthetic; understanding the economic and cultural factors that led to its popularity in the 19th century has been instrumental in telling a story that stays true to its roots while appealing to 21st-century readers.

I could see potential drawbacks to a literature background, too! When we treat novels as objects of study—as literary contraptions, as one professor of mine used to say—it can suck the joy out of them. Writing fiction, at least in the drafting stage, is a very emotional, intuitive, sometimes even spiritual practice for me; too much analysis can kill a project in its early stages. For what it’s worth, though, I think you can get roped into believing that all your academic friends will judge you if you write genre fic—or worse, young adult genre fic! But if you don’t respect what you’re working on, it won’t be any good. Besides, any friends who consider genre fic lesser aren’t worth listening to (and are missing out, honestly).

What kickstarted your writing journey and resulted in your debut, Down Comes the Night?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid in some form or another (mostly fanfiction…), but what really kickstarted my writing journey was a mentorship program called Author Mentor Match. Deadlines always motivate me, so I planned to rewrite a trunked project during NaNoWriMo 2017 and submit it to AMM in March 2018. By late November, I finished my rewrite. I printed it out, read it through, and immediately threw it in the garbage. It was entirely soulless—the book I thought I was supposed to write rather than a book I really cared about.

I didn’t have any other ideas, so I moped for about a week. Then I thought, well, what do I have to lose? Why not write something fun? Something that would capture the magic writing once had when I was a teenager with no ambitions for my work beyond entertaining my friends. Something romantic and dramatic and full of all the tropes I loved. I finished a draft of Down Comes the Night in about six weeks. I ended up getting into AMM with it, and the guidance, support, and feedback from my mentor and peers were invaluable as I revised and queried the book. I wouldn’t be where I am without them, and I still count on them today!   

Name two things about Gothic literature that fascinate you.

Its relationship to the past—how it, by turns, expresses a longing to return to an unrecoverable time and stages hauntings from that which refuses to be left behind.

Its (sometimes hilariously) intense fixation on the emotional experience of the protagonist.  

As a writer, what has been your biggest struggle when drafting, revising, and editing?

Drafting: I’m a fast drafter—meaning I like to hurtle through a skeletal “draft zero” before I double back and fill in the details. Finishing that draft zero means I’m usually pretty sure a plot works in execution, but it also means the book reads almost like a screenplay. In those really early drafts, it’s sometimes hard for me to imagine how a project will come together thematically and emotionally.

Revising: Since I draft the way I do, my first revision pass is basically… actually writing the book! That’s the hardest part, although it’s the most rewarding. From there, it’s all about ironing out the details, large and small. Revising Down Comes the Night nearly killed me a few times. It has an element of mystery, and it was hard to get right. Planning out the reveals, streamlining the investigation, cutting unnecessary red herring characters, making sure everyone’s motives were clear… Tears were shed!   

Editing: The hardest thing about editing is learning to let go. I struggled with this during line edits for Down Comes the Night, and I’m struggling again during copyedits. I could tinker forever with line-level prose, but there comes a point when you have to cut yourself off and accept that you’ve done the best you can. That the book will just be different, not better, and you may do more harm than good if you start messing with things that don’t need messing with.

What makes the ideal monster?

I think a lot about “monster romances” and what makes them work. What does it mean for a character to be monstrous? What does it mean for a (physically) non-monstrous character to identify with the monster? To me, it’s notable that some of the most successful (in my opinion) monster romances are between human women who are marginalized in some way and monsters who are similarly, often wrongly, reviled. In Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, it’s significant that Miryem is Jewish—as significant as it is that her monstrous love interest, the Staryk King, rules over a fae-like people who are hated because they supposedly strike ruthless bargains and impoverish the kingdom in their endless quest for gold. It’s significant that the heroine of Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is a mute woman named Elisa Esposito in love with a creature stolen from a river in Brazil.

However, I also think there are monsters who are purely reprehensible. Those that embody the ugliness in society or are clearly some cultural fear made flesh. I like them, too.

  • In terms of crumbly mansions, is there a real life mansion that you’ve visited or wanted to visit?

I’ve only ever been to the Newport mansions, which are stunning and ridiculous and the very opposite of crumbly. I’ve always wanted to see the real Allerdale Hall from Crimson Peak—but it turns out they built the entire set in the studio, which is wild to me!

What is the root of romance for you?

To me, a good romance has sizzling tension and also answers the question “why are these characters good for each other?” in a way that’s thematically satisfying.When I’m writing romance, I consider what the characters want and need individually—and how each character’s wants and needs both complement and complicate the other’s. I always try to write parallel character arcs for my romantic leads. Oftentimes, they both need the same thing; they’ve just developed different ways of coping with that lack and told themselves different stories about what exactly will make them happy.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

While Down Comes the Night doesn’t come out until next year, there are some really exciting books coming out in 2020! I can tell you from experience that Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald and The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman are absolutely fantastic. Some of my most-anticipated reads are Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Barshardoust, The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska, The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, and A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe.

Blog Tour: The Archer at Dawn

Blog Tour

The Archer at Dawn (The Tiger at Midnight Trilogy #2)

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 26th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, India, Cultural, Mythology
Synopsis:
The Sun Mela is many things: a call for peace, a cause for celebration, and, above all, a deadly competition. For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebel spies, it provides the perfect guise to infiltrate King Vardaan’s vicious court.
Kunal will return to his role as dedicated Senap soldier, at the Sun Mela to provide extra security for the palace during the peace summit for the divided nations of Jansa and Dharka. Meanwhile, Esha will use her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to keep a pulse on shifting political parties and seek out allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the stolen throne.
But amid the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel Blades’ entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their country and to each other. Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives.
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Cover Reveal: Lyrics & Curses

Cover Reveal

 

Lyrics & Curses
Candace Robinson
Published by: Filles Vertes Publishing
Publication date: November 10th 2020
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

Lark Espinoza could get lost in her music—and she’s not so sure anyone in her family would even care to find her. Her trendy, party-loving twin sister and her mother-come-lately Beth, who’s suddenly sworn off men and onto homemaking, don’t understand her love of cassette tapes, her loathing of the pop scene, or her standoffish personality. For outcast Lark, nothing feels as much like a real home as working at Bubble’s Oddities store and trying to attract the attention of the cute guy who works at the Vinyl shop next door—the same one she traded lyrical notes with in class.

Auden Ellis silences the incessant questions in his own head with a steady stream of beats. Despite the unconditional love of his aunt-turned-mother, he can’t quit thinking about the loss of his parents—or the possibility he might end up afflicted with his father’s issues. Despite his connection with lyric-loving Lark, Auden keeps her at arm’s length because letting her in might mean giving her a peek into something dangerous.

When two strangers arrive in town, one carrying a mysterious, dark object and the other playing an eerie flute tune, Lark and Auden find that their painful pasts have enmeshed them in a cursed future. Now, they must come to terms with their budding attraction while helping each other challenge the reflection they see in the mirror. If they fail, they’ll be trapped for eternity in a place beyond reality.

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Author Bio:

Candace Robinson spends her days consumed by words and hoping to one day find her own DeLorean time machine. Her life consists of avoiding migraines, admiring Bonsai trees, watching classic movies, and living with her husband and daughter in Texas–where it can be forty degrees one day and eighty the next!

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Blog Tour: By the Book

Blog Tour, Misc.

By the Book

By Amanda Sellet
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 12th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Synopsis:
Mary Porter-Malcolm has prepared for high school in the one way she knows how: an extensive review of classic literature to help navigate the friendships, romantic liaisons, and overall drama she has come to expect from such an “esteemed” institution. Her love of literature even inspires her to imagine herself the heroine of a nineteenth-century novel. Not the sort who makes poor life choices and ends up dying of consumption while still in her teens, but the noble, virtuous, quick-witted type.
When some new friends seem in danger of falling for the same tricks employed since the days of Austen and Tolstoy, Mary swoops in to create the Scoundrel Survival Guide, using archetypes of literature’s debonair bad boys to signal red flags. But despite her best efforts, she soon finds herself unable to listen to her own good advice and falling for a supposed cad—the same one she warned her friends away from. Without a convenient rain-swept moor to flee to, Mary is forced to admit that real life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction and that if she wants a happy ending, she’s going to have to write it herself.
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Guest Post

Meet the Characters

BY THE BOOK: A NOVEL OF PROSE AND CONS by Amanda Sellet

Mary

Being a reader means spending a lot of time in your own head. Mary is a person who thinks and feels deeply, but can sometimes be a step behind in picking up real-world cues. When the story begins, she’s caught between two conflicting ideas of herself. The first is that she’s less interesting than her siblings, and therefore easy to ignore. At the same time, there’s a little voice inside her (which I think most of us have) that whispers about a more exciting future, when she will make her mark on the world. She’s waiting in the wings, almost ready to step onto the stage – and she’s not 100% sure she knows her part.

Arden

I have known a handful of Ardens in my life. There is a warmth and energy and openness that almost makes you take a step back, like whoa; this person is plugged into a different frequency. It’s like they didn’t get the gene that makes the rest of us grumpy and judgmental, so they go through life looking at other people like they’re all lined up in a bakery window, one delicious surprise after another. Being generally optimistic doesn’t mean Arden can’t be hurt, however.

Lydia

If the fabled Emperor showed up in his “new clothes,” and the rest of the world was fawning over his non-existent threads, Lydia would be the first to say, dude, you’re naked. She can be brusque and intimidating, but she’s also fiercely loyal, and will definitely threaten to cut anyone who goes after her friends. The tricky thing is that her toughness can make it hard to see the vulnerability underneath.

Terry

If you surveyed a group of teens, most of them would probably say that being beautiful would make their lives easier. That’s not how it works for Terry. As a person who is shy to an extreme, attention is the last thing she wants. Quiet and analytical by nature, she’s comfortable in a small group but not looking for more. Of the four friends, Terry still has the farthest to go in terms of accepting herself and having the confidence to make her own choices.

Alex

Having learned at a young age that charm is a potent weapon, Alex knows how to smile and flirt, working the blue-eyed-boy thing to his advantage. As Mary gradually learns, that doesn’t mean he’s superficial, or only wants to take the easy road through life. Alex is also a loving brother with a sneaky sense of humor who is quickly intrigued by things – or people – who surprise him.

About the Author

Debut author Amanda Sellet had a previous career in journalism, during which she wrote book reviews for The Washington Post, personal essays for NPR, and music and movie coverage for VH1. These days she lives in Kansas with her archaeologist husband and their daughter.

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Blog Tour: The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly

Blog Tour

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly

By Jamie Pacton
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: May 5th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Synopsis:
Kit Sweetly slays sexism, bad bosses, and bad luck to become a knight at a medieval-themed restaurant.
Working as a wench―i.e. waitress―at a cheesy medieval-themed restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, Kit Sweetly dreams of being a knight like her brother. She has the moves, is capable on a horse, and desperately needs the raise that comes with knighthood, so she can help her mom pay the mortgage and hold a spot at her dream college.
Company policy allows only guys to be knights. So when Kit takes her brother’s place and reveals her identity at the end of the show, she rockets into internet fame and a whole lot of trouble with the management. But the Girl Knight won’t go down without a fight. As other wenches join her quest, a protest forms. In a joust before Castle executives, they’ll prove that gender restrictions should stay medieval―if they don’t get fired first.
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Guest Post

Official Dream Cast

Kit: Sophia Lillis

Jett: Karan Brar

Layla: Skai Jackson

Alex: Bex Taylor Klaus

Lizzy: Danielle MacDonald

Mags: Chelsea Zhang

Penny: Jazz Jennings

Chris: George MacKay

Dream Cast GP

 

About the Author
Jamie Pacton writes all sorts of books: dark, feminist YA fantasy; contemporary YA stories with a funny + geeky bent; funny MG adventure-fantasy; and, even the occasional adult rom-com. She was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2015 and she mentored YA in 2016, 2017, and 2018. She grew up minutes away from the National Storytelling Center in the mountains of East Tennessee; she’s the oldest of ten kids; and, she currently lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, their two kids, and a dog named Lego. The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly (forthcoming May 5, 2020) is her Young Adult debut.

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Ends: May 19th 2020

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