Beyond the Cogs

Beyond the Cogs

Finished: 12/13/2021

Full disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy by one of the authors. All opinions are my own.

This collection features three novellas, so I’ll be discussing them individually.

The Soulless Ones by C. Vonzale Lewis

I had the opportunity to be a beta reader for this incredible adventure, and I was absolutely in awe of the changes Lewis was able to incorporate from the rougher draft I read before. She has an incredible knack for creating unique characters and spectacular worlds, and I absolutely love her creativity in this story. It has an Old West feel with a distinct steampunk style and deals with monsters reminiscent of vampires. Her unique style really shines in this story. It’s an absolutely fun read and I truly hope we’ll get more stories about Parasol because I could read a whole collection about her adventures!

The Rogue of Vangard by Nicholas J. Evans

This tale was more abstract and more visually focused so it took a bit for me to warm up to the story and characters. Once we get into a steampunk taxi ride with a law-straddling driver, a stuffy top politician, and our thieving protagonist, the entire story shifts with growing tension. We learn how corrupt the city is that our protagonist is stealing from, we learn how brainwashed the politician is, and how controlled the magic is in this world. The ending is the topping on the cake so I can’t spoil it here, however I was sad to see this unique world end. I grew to love so many characters in such a short few pages. I would love to read more in this world!

Gossamer and Thorns by Elle Beaumont

Now this story was reminiscent of the Vincent Price classics such as Fall of the House of Usher. Wealthy young Kris has fallen in love with Emilie who has a chronic disease. He lives in an abusive home with his father who is obsessed with transferring human souls into automatons. Kris’ father is an even more unbalanced Victor Frankenstein. Admittedly, I don’t usually read romance stories so since Kris and Emilie’s relationship filled the majority of the story, that was a struggle for me. Readers who love a budding romance will probably adore this story. It had some wonderful twists that I didn’t see coming and I was pleasantly surprised by the ending.

Overall this is a strong anthology with only a few authors but with a wide variety of steampunk. As a fan of steampunk (and a dabbler in it myself), I had an absolute blast reading these. Definitely recommended for readers looking to dive into another world for a while. And I’ve found new authors to obsess over.

My rating: 5/5 stars

Between the Quiet

Between the Quiet
By Candace Robinson

Finished: 8/14/2021

If you’ve followed my book reviews for a while, you’ve probably noticed a number of Candace’s stories on my reading list. I love her mixture of horror or spookiness with lighter storylines. This short story was no exception!

Tuesday is a high schooler who likes to stand on the street corner on Saturdays and be a mime for tips with her best friend Francis. I really loved how Candace digs into the history of mining and shares famous mimes–who do come into play later in the story.

I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling things, but it has some major Christmas Carol vibes but with a twist! It’s such a perfect blending of dark and sweet, and I absolutely can’t recommend this story enough!

A sweet holiday story with a beautifully gothic twist.

My rating: 5/5 thumbs up

The Bone Valley

Happy Release Day to The Bone Valley! Be sure to grab your copy if this sounds perfect for your October bookshelf!

The Bone Valley
By: Candace Robinson

Finished: 8/23/2021

I’ve read quite a few books by Robinson, and I can enthusiastically say that this one is my favorite! This is perhaps the most intense, grotesque, and beautiful story I’ve read from her, and I had a hard time putting it down!

I really loved Anton, a lover, and Nahli, a thief. They seem like characters whose paths would never cross until things go very, very wrong. Even Daryna, the old witch who lives int he woods, grew on me throughout this tale. Pav, Anton’s little brother, grew on me throughout this tale. At first I didn’t think much of him since he just seemed like he wanted to emulate his brother, but as the tale goes on he gains so much empathy and shows he has such a pure heart. I keep bouncing between Pav and Roka as my favorites, but as of this writing, I have to say the little skeleton meerkat Roka was my absolute fave. I can’t say too much about him without giving things away, but his tragic tale and determined love was touching. And he was such a cute companion to them.

I really can’t gush enough about this book because there were times when I was just blown away by the viciousness, the beauty, the cruelty, and the incredible levels of world-building. I could practically imagine this in a stock-motion animation ala Nightmare Before Christmas at times, and it was gorgeous. Robinson’s imagery and creativity was unmatched in this piece. She has such strength in mixing romantic storylines with horrific and dramatic world building and beautiful character development, but this one is a shining example of her skill. If this wasn’t already obvious, this book should not be missed!

I’ve never read a book like this and would happily devour more books in this style or in this world.

My rating: 5/5 skeletal thumbs up

Lineage

Lineage
By: C. Vonzale Lewis

Finished: 3/8/2021

Wow, this book absolutely blew me away! It has multiple parts to love, from evil corporation, to mysterious ancient magic, to a number of very sexy scenes. Not to mention the ending was incredible!

Lewis has a wonderful knack for piecing together many parts into a whole, cohesive world that makes it easy to fall into. She excels at creating multi-faceted characters to the point that you end up cheering for all of them. You fall in love with them without even realizing it. She slowly builds the magic of the world, dripping out piece by piece of information, until all the puzzle pieces come together. The further you get into the book, the more the train starts to build up speed and you have a hard time putting it down! At the end you are fearing for all of them and horrified by the people they are up against. And boy, are the villains in this tale twisted!

Lewis also tackles some dark themes in this book while also exploring the difficulty in dealing with trauma in a realistic way. Just as the magic system slowly evolves, so too does our lead character Nicole, a woman who has been kicked out of so many places of employment that she has to work for the seedy corporation that appears to be the only option left. Her fiery temper and quick wit make her bristle under authority. I absolutely loved her. She is confident and determined to speak her mind, which of course leads her to making some not-so-great decisions. But you understand why she does it because Lewis is so good at making her believable, relatable, flawed, and human.

A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys complex magic systems, a complex love life, detailed world-buidling, and plenty of hot and heavy moments!

My rating: 5/5 magical stars

Batman: Fear Itself

Batman: Fear Itself
By: Michael Reaves and Steven-Elliot Altman

Finished: 2/19/2021

This was a refreshing tale involving not only a desperate horror author but also one of my favorite Batman villains, The Scarecrow. I really loved the analysis of horror writing “going too far” with scaring readers, and whether the potential liability falls on the shoulders of the author. Of course that question gets ramped up since this involves the Scarecrow.

I grew to like Ulysses Cutter, the afflicted henchman that worked with Crane. However I struggled to like Maggie as a character since we ended up having both Bruce Wayne and the Horror Author fighting over her attention. I had some issues with the ending, but if you read enough comics or watch enough comic book movies, it’s not terribly surprising.

I enjoyed the characters and the setup, and I chuckled multiple times at the literary references and classic horror movie references. I may be biased toward this story since I am a horror author myself. 😉

Overall a fun read if predictable at the end.

My Rating: 4/5 stars