The Opium Smuggler: Sword and Steampunk by Celine Jeanjean (The Viper and the Urchin Book 7) #NewRelease

 

Opium

An impossible smuggling route
A smuggler who won’t quit
Will Adelma’s stubbornness bring her success or get her killed?

Adelma has one dream: to set herself up as a smuggler. But as the daughter of a fisherman, that’s easier said than done.

As she slowly starts to network in the smuggling world, she comes across a man who loudly mocks her looks. What’s a self-respecting wannabe smuggler to do? Punch his lights out, of course. Preferably in front of an audience—adding humiliation to injury.

But the man turns out to be far more powerful than she realised, successfully ensuring no one in the smuggling world will give her work.

With no options left, Adelma turns to one of the most dangerous people in Damsport. No one knows where The Widow comes from, whether she’s truly a widow, or how she came to operate Damsport’s largest criminal network.

The one thing everyone knows? You don’t mess with the Widow, and if you work for her, you better make damn sure you’re successful. The consequences of failure don’t bear thinking about.

Except that Adelma’s first smuggling job is going to be a route that no seasoned smuggler has ever survived. That’s enough of a challenge, but it’ll be even harder with someone after her, determined to make sure she fails.

Adelma’s too stubborn to quit, but will she be able to pull off the impossible, or will she get herself killed in the process?

This novel tells the back story of Adelma, the fisherman’s daughter who became a smuggler and helped Rory and Longinus in earlier books of The Viper and the Urchin series. It can be read as a standalone, but it means a great deal more if you already know of Adelma as the hard-drinking, tough fighter with a hidden soft spot. At the beginning of The Opium Smuggler when we meet one-year old Adelma, “her looks were from her father, an ugly man, even if her eyes wide and dark were her mothers. Jeremiah her father teaches Adelma to trust no one and to react to any threat with retaliation.

After her father’s death, she is determined to become a successful smuggler, but making an enemy of Assurak, one of The Widow’s trusted captains, causes Adelma to lose everything. She can still cadge a drink and a place to sleep with Kriss at The Old Girl’s Arms and her unlikely friend Mercy, an agrophobic book-worm, helps her research Teraverre, the port where she hopes to prove her skills as a smuggler. But wherever Adelma goes, there like a bad penny, Radish turns up. He’s been a successful smuggler himself but now he’s relaxed and somehow gets under her skin.

I started the book feeling that it would not be as interesting without Rory and Longinus but gradually Adelma’s plight won me over and I hoped for her happiness and success. Celine Jeanjean’s vivid descriptions of the Damsport Rookery and the contrasting perfection of Terraverre fill your mind with pictures you believe in and the exciting adventure at sea was gripping.

My Review of Slave City in which Adelma first appears

The Opium Smuggler on Amazon UK

The Shadow Palace: Sword and Steampunk (The Viper and the Urchin Book 6) by Celine Jeanjean #TuesdayBookBlog

Shadow Palace

They made it into the palace…

…But will they be able to escape from it?

In the shadowy world of the Airnian court, nothing is more important than knowing who to trust. And nothing is harder to determine.

Rory and the gang need to make alliances if they’re to succeed in their mission, but their attempts are met with intrigue and betrayal. And all the while, the White Hornet is watching, waiting for an opportunity to make them disappear.

Longinus, meanwhile, continues with his quest to discover what happened to his family. His search for answers will take him deep within the palace, and deep within its secrets, until he is faced with a horrific choice.

Can Rory and the gang save him from a fate worse than death?

The 6th story in this series follows on immediately after the dramatic events in Arnia at the end of Book 5, The White Hornet. Recovering from her dip beneath the ice, Rory must now spend more time at the Arnian court hobnobbing with influential people. Accompanied by Rafe, with whom she has become closer they partake of the entertainment in the impressive palace, decorated with gold and full of mirrors.

Meanwhile Longinus, Adelma and Cruikshank search the corridors and caves beneath the palace encountering strange sickly people. But Longinus has his own agenda. He believes that his long-lost mother may be in the city and he wants to know more about the death of his father.  Soon both Longinus and Rafe are endangering their companions as they are both entangled in mistakes from the past.

It is the wonderful characterisation of the Damsian party which makes this story so gripping.  But it seems as though they will never be able to return to Damsport alive and even their friendship is threatened.  There could be a happy ending but dark secrets from the past will not go away.

The Shadow Palace is now available on Amazon UK

My review of The White Hornet

steam

The Strictly Business Proposal (Freshwater Bay Novel Series Book 1) by Nell Grey #BookReview #Romance

Business Proposal

Is Beth Barnes a beautiful con artist or the genuine friend of Evan Morgan, an elderly Welsh chef?

When Evan dies, he hands talented London chef Beth her big break. She has the chance to realise her dream and run her very own restaurant in a village on the wild Welsh Celtic coast. But there are strings attached. Can she comply and gain her inheritance, her dream? Accused of being a gold digger by the family, Beth’s welcome to Wales is not quite as warm as she’d hoped for.

Burned from a recent divorce, the last thing on architect Gareth Morgan’s mind is another wedding. If he wants to realise his development dreams, he must marry.

It’s a strictly business proposal. But can Beth and Gareth really stick to the terms

My Review

My first impression of this novel was not good. Reading the first paragraph of a book by a British author I didn’t expect to read,” busting her ass,” and “snuck out,” but perhaps this was to appeal to readers across the pond. Certainly, the vocabulary soon settled into recognisable English and I began to enjoy following the story of chef Beth Barnes and the handsome Welsh architect Gareth Morgan with whom she agreed a business contract.

Both Beth and Gareth are passionate about their careers and neither intend to become entangled in a relationship but in order to achieve their dreams of a successful restaurant on the Welsh coast and an eco-holiday village they must agree to a partnership which involves marriage. Of course, there is misunderstanding, anger and disappointment but this is more than just chick-lit. Gareth’s family are well-rounded interesting people with their own back stories and Beth’s friendship with local girl, Ariana promises more about this artistic jewellery maker.

In addition to some torrid love scenes, we are treated to two complex but likeable characters and a fascinating location in Freshwater Bay. This is the first of four books in the Freshwater Bay series so I shall certainly be following it to learn more about the Morgan bothers. An easy, enjoyable read.

The Strictly Business Proposal on Amazon UK

The White Hornet: Sword and Steampunk (The Viper and the Urchin Book 5) by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease

White h

A city of snow and wind.
A logistical nightmare when running a mission…
…or an opportunity to explore new sartorial delights?

Rory has faced many challenges in her time, but none quite so frustrating as mastering the art of walking in a corset and bustle.

She has to pass herself off as a wealthy heiress to infiltrate the House of Bel, a mysterious and highly exclusive club for Airnian high society, and of course her true identity must remain hidden at all costs.

Luckily, Longinus is on hand to advise—that is, when he’s not busy discovering the giddy delights of winter outerwear and investigating the mystery of what happened to his family.

But they soon become aware of a mysterious presence—someone paying disturbingly close attention to their every move.

Who or what is the White Hornet? What is the link to Longinus’s family?

And will Rory and the gang be able to infiltrate the House of Bel before the White Hornet uncovers their true identities?

My Review

Once again, Longinus and Rory are part of a team engaged in espionage on behalf of the Marchioness of Damsport.  Leaving the warmth of their home, Cruikshank, the clever engineer, Adelma, the strong, hard-drinking smuggler and Rafe, a handsome Varanguard, have travelled north with them to Arnia, fearing the Emperor intends to reconquer Damsport.

The fledgling romance between Rafe and Rory is beginning to blossom as they act out their parts of a noble but poor aristocrat and his rich but unsophisticated fiancé.  Soon the need for Rory to act independently and Rafe’s shame in admitting a weakness from his past, cause misunderstanding and distance between them.  Meanwhile Longinus creeps through the frozen city at night in search of information about his lost father and missing mother.

Increasingly Rory’s efforts lead her into greater danger as she puts her trust in the dissipated Airnian, Simeon.  While she and Rafe escape the authorities over the rooftops, Adelma, Cruikshank and Longinus attempt a daring diversion which nearly kills them all. But the greatest peril is the cold and ice of the unwelcoming city.

There are two parts to this story. First, during Rory’s visits to the House of Bel, we read fascinating descriptions of room after room of indulgence and desire where she finds no-one will help her, until she learns the importance of gossip. The second and most exciting part describes the dangers and heroism of the five vivid characters, as they fight, flee and help each other against weapons, soldiers and hostile weather.  Another rollicking adventure of this likeable, if eccentric group.

The White Hornet on Amazon Uk

My review of  The Slave City by Celine Jeanjean

The Doll Maker (The Viper and the Urchin Book 4) by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog

Doll

Revolution in the streets.

A deadly weapon stolen.

A wardrobe too wide to fit up the stairs.

All is most definitely not well back in Damsport…

For Rory and her companion Longinus, this is an exciting time, a new beginning.  No longer is Rory a waif, a defiant pick-pocket given a place to sleep and guidance by the wise but eccentric assassin.   They are moving into a new home as equals. Rory believes she is paying her way, an independent young woman who helps the Marchioness when Damsport is under threat.  Longinus is in his element, decorating their new home stylishly and employing Tess, a maid, to take care of them.  But their happiness is soon disturbed when Rory discovers their friend Cruikshank, the skilled machinist, critically injured by brutes who have broken into her workshop.  A dangerous weapon containing a lethal explosive has been stolen and the whole city could be destroyed.

Rory must work with Varanguard, Raif, once more and this time she has come of age. She is prepared to recognise her feelings for the strong handsome young man. Together with Longinus they face terrifying events.  Rory participates in a thrilling duel on board Crazy Willy’s steamcoach and Longinus faces up to fears from his past when he enters the eerie rooms in Arthur’s Automaton Emporium.  He found,

“himself facing rows and rows of beady black eyes, all looking at him.  The eyes belonged to dolls. Rows and rows of dolls….

The doll’s eyes were as black and gleaming as beetle wings and so shiny they looked wet….

One had hair but no face so that its black eyes looked out from metal sockets above an articulated metal jaw, its joints held in place by vicious-looking screws.”

Will the Old Girl maintain her position as ruler of Damsport or will a popular rising, funded by bribery and lies, replace her with a corrupt, power-seeking aristocrat who only cares for himself?  Rory’s links to the underworld in the Rookery are essential if the city is to survive.

This is the best of all these exciting steampunk adventures.  The plot turns from one frightening situation to another problem which must be solved.  The characters the reader now knows so well, are courageous, loyal and enterprising and their personal development is believable and heartening.  A must read!

The Doll Maker on Amazon UK

 

The Slave City: Book 3 of The Viper and the Urchin series by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease #SteamPunk #TuesdayBookBlog

 A complicated mission.
A team of misfits that just don’t get along.
What could possibly go wrong?

slave city

Longinus
“Everything about Longinus was conspicuous, from the way he spoke to the way he dressed. He stuck out like a whore in a convent, with his teal silk shirt, burnt-orange trousers and hat with an elaborate teal-and-orange feather arrangement. He wore his hair almost down to his shoulders and it always looked as though he had just stepped out of the barber’s. With his thin moustache and elegant, jewel-encrusted sword at his hip, he looked as though he belonged in a bygone era.”

Rory
“She was so slight that she looked as though a breath of wind might knock her over. She had put some weight on since her days as a scrawny street urchin, but she didn’t seem to get any bigger. Her small frame looked all the smaller for the masses of hair that dwarfed her. It was matted and clumped in thick segments more like rope than hair, trailing down her back. But Rory’s eyes were blue. Damsians were a dark people- dark of skin, dark of eye and black of hair. She had the dark skin of a Damsian, and at a glance, she could pass for one. But her blue eyes marked her out as having foreign blood too.”

My Review

I was excited to hear of a new book in the story of former street urchin, Rory and her friend, Longinus the assassin. This time they leave Damsport to travel with Cruikshank, the Machinist, who has been sent on a covert mission to the city of Azyr. Believing they will help Raheeme, a Reformist, to bring slavery to an end and provide water for the poorest of the city, they set out on the smuggling ship of Adelma, a massive, powerful woman they will be glad to have on their side. But they soon discover they are pawns in a power struggle in a hot, dangerous city and Rory is glad to have brave Varanguard, Rafe, accompanying them, even though her feelings for him are still complicated.

The larger than life characters in the Viper and the Urchin series are vivid, extraordinary, yet so real. I cannot help feeling affection for Rory, and Longinus may be a peacock, but his heart is definitely in the right place. In contrast, The Slave City contains a worthy villain in the evil Seneschal who manipulates the obese Prelate, a mere figurehead. Rory and her companions must discover who is trustworthy and who will deceive them, while Cruikshank suffers greatly.

The City of Azyr with its magnificent palace atop a steep hill and dust-covered, ramshackle huts for the poor at the lowest level spells out the structure of society so different to the mishmash of ethnicity and wealth in Damsport. Like a story from the Arabian Nights the vision of Palanquins and mechanised elephants, with richly dressed people served by slaves, is beautifully described, as is the horrific scene in the bloodstained arena. This is a thrilling, frightening adventure.

You can find Slave City on Amazon.com  and Amazon.co.uk

My Review of The Bloodless Assassin

celine

Celine Jeanjean

Celine Jeanjean is French, grew up in the UK and now lives in Hong Kong. That makes her a tad confused about where she is from. During her time in Asia she’s watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat, lost her shoes in Vietnam, and fallen off a bamboo raft in China.

Celine writes stories that feature quirky characters and misfits, and her books are a mixture of steampunk, fantasy and humour.

You can get a free novella by signing up to her mailing list here: http://celinejeanjean.com/the-pickpocket-free/

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman #FridayReads #BookReview

Masked City

After reading The Invisible Library I was looking forward to this second volume of the series in which Library Agent, Irene Winters, faces another challenging mission in alternative worlds.  Her handsome apprentice, Kai has been kidnapped and taken to an alternative Venice ruled by the Fae, therefore rampant with chaos.

Unaided, she must rescue Kai, before the Dragons, lords of “order,” declare war with the Fae.  Setting out to find him before it is too late, Irene makes unlikely alliances with a group of followers of important Fae patrons, as they travel on an incredible train which can move between worlds.  Adopting a carnival mask and an all covering cloak she attempts to move around the dark alleys and gloomy canals of Venice, incognito, but she constantly finds herself in increasing danger from the evil Lord and Lady Guantes.

The city is described in rich detail, maintaining its reputation for murder and fear.  Irene is a bold, creative agent who uses her story telling powers to create narratives which bend reality to her purpose.  Her powers of using the Library Language to open locks and change the state of matter, help her in her task, but cause her pain and exhaustion.  This colourful story is full of vivid images of the iconic buildings in Venice and the sumptuous mythical train, which are a delight to read.   Although all the essential background story is given, you will gain most by reading Book One The Invisible Library first.

The Masked City is available at Amazon UK

More about Genevieve Cogman and The invisible Library

#amreading The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman #FridayReads

“He smiled at Bradamant dazzlingly.  Irene felt a little of the overspill of it, the burning surge of slavish desire and passionate adoration, and felt the brand across her back burn like raw ice in reaction.  She also felt a quick burst of relief that apparently Silver hadn’t recognised her as a Library agent.  She was still incognito for the moment.”

Invisible Library

My current read is tremendous fun, a steampunk romp through an alternative world with Irene, a strong-minded, intelligent Librarian solving a crime while on a mission to take a precious Fairy Tale book back to the Invisible Library.  While mentoring a handsome, but troubling assistant she finds she also has to deal with her bitterest personal enemy and a dangerous foe who is trying to kill her.  It is a fascinating novel, filled with humour, danger, adventure and mystery -all the right ingredients.  And there are three more books to follow!

Genevieve

Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. Although The Invisible Library is her debut novel, she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve Cogman’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve #BookReview

Mortal

This post-apocalyptic, steam-punk novel may be aimed at 11 to 16 year olds, but it appeals to all ages, male and female. This is the second time I have read “Mortal Engines” and I still relish every minute getting to know Hester Shaw, the girl disfigured by her parents’ killer and Tom Natsworthy, a loyal apprentice in the Guild of Historians who encounters Hester in alarming circumstances. We also meet heroic explorer Thaddeus Valentine and the frightening Shrike who has been brought back to life, an amalgam of flesh and metal. Yet both these characters have hidden depths.

 

Set in a world following the 60 minute war when major cities like London have to travel around the world on wheels preying on smaller towns and cities, their enemies belong to the Ant-Traction League who wish to stop this cruel, belligerent lifestyle.

 

Perhaps it is Philip Reeve’s previous occupation as an illustrator which makes his descriptions of transportation and multi-tiered cities so easy to visualise but I am looking forward to the promised filming of this novel and desperately hope it will meet my expectation.

 

Mortal Engines can be found on Amazon UK

The Pickpocket (The Viper and the Urchin, Book 0.5) by Celine Jeanjean #bookreview

rory

Book Description

Rory is a seven-year-old starveling, carving out a survival for herself down on the docks of Damsport. When Daria, an older girl and talented pickpocket, suggests they team up to con Damsians out of their purses, Rory accepts at once.

But Rory’s friendship with Daria turns out to be much more than a partnership of convenience, transforming her into the confident urchin we met in The Bloodless Assassin, and teaching her the dangers of letting someone get too close.

To get the most out of this novella, the author recommends that you first read The Bloodless Assassin.

My review

As a long-time fan of The Viper and the Urchin series, I was intrigued by this introduction to the developing character of Rory, the street urchin.  But this book is not just about Rory’s early development, it is a story with pathos which enriches the reader’s knowledge of the underbelly of the city of Damsport.

 

In “The Pickpocket,” we find Rory at only 7 years old trying to survive against all odds.  Alone and uncared for, she is in danger of starving to death or of being casually murdered.  Scavenging and begging for food, she is noticed by the charismatic Daria, an older, more sophisticated street dweller, who sees potential in Rory.  While Rory annoys and pesters those who pass by, Daria can take advantage of their distraction to steal their money.  Soon Rory is captivated by her “friend,” wishing to emulate her, but she discovers that confident, sassy Daria has a secret.

 

In these chapters, Rory gains an identity, her raison d’être which make her the character we meet in the subsequent books.  As she moves through the Rookery, she will continue to be attacked and abused but she has become a streetwise survivor with an aim for the future.

My Review of The Bloodless Assassin