Posts Tagged ‘Steampunk’

Wild Boy

wild boy coverLondon, 1841
A boy covered in hair, raised as a monster, condemned to life in a travelling freak show.
A boy with extraordinary powers of observation and detection.
A boy accused of murder; on the run; hungry for the truth.
Ladies and Gentlemen, take your seats. The show is about to begin.

Wild Boy is an extremely likeable character, and I found myself rooting for him from the off. Abandoned, psychologically abused, beaten, socially isolated and enslaved to a travelling freak show, my heart broke for him. But, despite what life has repeatedly taught him, he maintains his optimism and hopes for a better life. His sense of fairness, of right and wrong and his humour shines through the grime and sordidness of his environment.

An undelivered letter, the wrong place, the wrong time and our diamond in the rough finds himself falsely accused of murder and running for his life. With only his amazing skills of observation and deduction, and a reluctant partnership with his “arch enemy” Clarissa, a flamed haired, lock picking acrobat, Wild Boy must find the real culprit and clear his name.

The feisty characters and non-stop action, the Holmes like deduction and macabre Victorian backdrop, the secret passages and mad scientists – I loved every minute of this middle grade mystery and I really hope that this first of many adventures with Wild boy and “circus fiend” Clarissa.

Verdict: Fantastic middle grade mystery

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: April 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 301
Genre: Mystery, Historical fiction
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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It’s here!

It’s here,

It’s finally here!

The date Cassandra Clare fans have been waiting for since the moment they turned the last page of Clockwork prince. Or, perhaps like me, since they turned the first page of Clockwork Angel back in 2010.
The third and final instalment in The Infernal Devices series, Clockwork Princess, is released in to the world today.

clockwork Princess (walker)Danger intensifies for the Shadowhunters as the New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy comes to a close.
If the only way to save the world was to destroy what you loved most, would you do it?
The clock is ticking. Everyone must choose.
Passion. Power. Secrets. Enchantment.
Danger closes in around the Shadowhunters in the final installment of the bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy.

I write this post with red rimmed, puffy eyes and a stuffy nose.

The cause of my condition? An opportunistic cold virus? An episode of early hay fever? Or perhaps i’ve been chopping onions?

Oh no.

The cause of my distress can be laid firmly at the feet (or more fittingly, the mind and pen) of Cassandra Clare.

Despite a strict embargo, I was lucky enough to received my preordered copy of Clockwork Princess three days early *puts amazon on the naughty step*.

At first the excitement grabbed me and I could see no wrong in this situation. After all, I had no intention of releasing spoilers and after months, and months, and months (lets not talk about the agony caused by the change in release date) of waiting I was finally able to dive back in to Victorian London and the lives of Will, Jem and Tess.

I can’t even put in to words how much I Love this book. I’ve laughed and cried, been amazed and surprised, I’ve had my heart broken and re-built. I feel rung out. The Infernal Devices was already one of my favourite book series but the publication of Clockwork Princess, has cemented it’s place in my mind and engraved the characters names on my heart *rubs chest*

Now, having finished this remarkable book, I see the flaw in my haste.

I. Have. So. Many. Feelings. and No One to talk to about them!

SO, I implore you, Please get hold of a copy, read it quickly, and get in touch, before I explode from all of the feels.

Incoherent, fan girl, rambling by Caroline

Those lovely people at Walker books have kindly offered to ease some of my suffering by providing a UK paperback of Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Princess to one lucky reader.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Happy Publication Day: The Diamond Thief

Happy Book Birthday to Sharon Gosling and her middle grade debut, The Diamond Thief ( read Daisy’s thoughts here)
We are beside ourselves with excitment to be able to share with you the opening pages of this fabulous stream punk adventure. A massive thank you to the kind people at Curious Fox( learn more here )for granting us permission to post this extract.

the diamond thiefNo one performs on the circus trapeze like sixteen-year-old Remy Brunel. But Remy also leads another life, as a cat burglar and jewel thief. Forced by the evil circus owner Gustave to attempt the theft of one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, Remy thinks it will be just another heist, but when she meets determined young detective Thaddeus Rec, her life changes forever.
Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Remy that he needs to save?

Le Cirque de la Lune

Rémy took a deep breath as she stood on the edge of the narrow plunge board. Above her, the old material of the big top’s roof was close enough to touch. Below her was nothing at all but air dirtied by dust and tobacco smoke, and then, sixty feet below, arranged around the sawdust of the circus ring, there was the crowd. She could almost hear their silence, the collected indrawn breath of five hundred people. They were all waiting to see what she could do. They wanted to see her tumble through the air above them, to dive and swoop, hanging from a thin metal bar suspended only by two old ropes. And perhaps…just perhaps, this time, she would fall.

Beside her, Larotti balanced precariously, holding her trapeze still. Rémy dipped her hands in the chalk bowl, clapping them together to send a shower of white dust raining through the flickering gaslight. Then she nodded once, chin held high. The little Italian let go as the strains of Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre” began to rise from the ragged little orchestra below. Rémy counted two beats as the trapeze dropped away. Then she leapt, into thin air.

10 For a second, there was nothing to keep her from falling to a horrible death. The crowd gasped, and then, as Rémy’s fingers caught the fleeing trapeze, they sighed in relief. The sound rippled around the huge tent like a breeze, shivering its faded red and yellow stripes.

Rémy twisted lightly, graceful as a bird. She was wearing her favourite costume – it was cerise pink, edged in black, and, even though it was old and had been repaired more times than she could remember, it still stood out perfectly against her pale skin and unruly black hair. Rémy wore it with long fishnet stockings and greasepaint around her eyes, which made her look like a harlequin. Claudette had fashioned a flower from a scrap of almost-matching satin for her hair, along with two long, thin feathers dyed pitch black. From a distance, people said Rémy looked like a bird of paradise, flying on invisible wings. She flipped herself backwards, letting go of the bar with her hands and catching the trapeze with her feet instead, arms stretching down towards the sawdust. Rémy flicked her hips to the right, sending the trapeze into a fast spin as she let one foot come loose and held it straight out, so the audience could see that now, it was only by one ankle that she had any hold at all. Slowing the spin, Rémy righted herself again, dancing up to stand on her hands on the bar before somersaulting backwards as the trapeze swung in a graceful arc above the crowd.

Far below her, Rémy heard Claudette’s sharp whistle echo in the distance. Glancing down, she saw Dominique canter into the sawdust circle. The little palomino wore an old tan saddle and a feather headdress to match Rémy’s own, and on her back was Nicodemus. The pony circled, her pace steady as the wizened little capuchin monkey began to somersault too, over and over, copying Rémy’s movements on Domnique’s back. The crowd roared with laughter, pointing and clapping and slapping their thighs in delight.

Rémy swung the trapeze twice more, gathering speed as the music built and built. She somersaulted again and again, faster and faster. Below, Nicodemus kept perfect time with her all the way.

And then, as the music reached its crescendo, she somersaulted again, twisting backwards, reaching for the bar…She missed. Her fingers brushed the metal of the trapeze, but did not grip it.

Rémy fell like a stone.

Screams erupted around the big tent. People stood, shouting and pointing. Men waved their tattered hats in the air, women pulled their patched shawls up around their faces or used them to shield their children’s eyes, as Rémy plunged head-first towards the compacted earth of the sawdust ring. She managed to twist in mid-air, a mighty turnabout that tipped her upright. There was a flurry of movement in the corner of her eye. Someone from the audience had lunged over the barrier. It was a young man in a long brown coat and top hat – he was rushing towards her, arms outstretched, as if to break her fall. Rémy’s would-be rescuer was so focused on catching her that he almost stepped straight into the path of her horse. Thankfully, Dominique had seen Rémy falling and knew what she had to do.

The pony butted the man out of the way, hard enough to send him sprawling, but at least out of harm’s way. Then she slowed until she was in exactly the right spot. Nicodemus jumped from her back and ran to the upturned bucket in the middle of the ring. Rémy landed squarely, with both feet, on the pony’s saddle, immediately lifting one leg to stand in ballet pose, her free foot pointing elegantly outwards. Dominique continued to canter in a circle as Rémy rode her one-footed. Still standing on the upturned bucket, Nicodemus saluted them both. There was a second of silence as the crowd realized what had happened. And then the sound of cheering and clapping swept over Rémy like a tide, louder than for any other act that night. But then, it always was.

She dropped until she was seated on the pony’s back, patting Dominique with one hand as she waved to the audience with the other. She’d usually do a couple of victory circuits of the ring to soak up the applause, but tonight Rémy’s gaze searched for the man who had tried to save her. He was still picking himself up, forlornly brushing sawdust from his coat. “Sorry,” she called over the thunderous sound of the audience as she pulled Dominique to a halt beside him. “She is trained not to let anything get in her way when we do my act. If she had stopped, I would have died. And you too, probably. I would have crushed you!”

The young man looked up at her. To her surprise, she saw he couldn’t be that much older than she was. It was his eyes that really startled her, though. They were two different colours – one as blue as the sky over Paris on a bright day in May, one as deep brown as good chocolate. And they twinkled. He bent down to retrieve his hat and pushed it on over his mussed hair before replying.

“Well,” he said with a slight smile. “That’ll teach me to be a good Samaritan, won’t it? People do keep telling me I shouldn’t bother. Good day, miss.”

He tipped his hat briefly and then turned away. A second later, he was lost in the crowd. Rémy’s gaze tried to follow him, but it was no good. He was gone.

She and Dominique did one more circuit of the ring and then left the big top, Nicodemus skittering along in their wake. Claudette was waiting for her at the players’ entrance. The little monkey rushed off into the thick night, through London’s chill drizzle and back to the animal enclosure. Claudette tutted as she saw Rémy adjust her opal necklace, pulling it down from where it had flown up around her ears as she’d fallen. “You know you should not wear that on the wire, ma chérie,” Claudette chided in her gentle, sing-song voice, as Rémy slid gracefully from Dominique’s back. “One of these days, you will strangle yourself. And it will be a night like tonight, when someone stupid tries to save the girl who does not need to be saved.”

Rémy grinned as she took the threadbare black robe Claudette held out and pulled it on over her head. She kicked off the silver slippers she always wore on the trapeze and struggled into her boots, instead. They were leather, black and worn like everything else she possessed, and the only pair she had owned since she was ten – six whole years. “Never, Claudette. You know me – I live a charmed life. Probably because I never take my opal off.”

Claudette shook her head with long-suffering patience, her thick chestnut hair hanging loose around her shoulders. At 24, she was eight years older than Rémy, and along with her little daughter, Amélie, was the closest thing Rémy had to a family. “Well, I hope your charm is at full power tonight,” Claudette told her. “Gustave wants to see you.”

Rémy made a face and sighed. “Ach. It must be time.” Claudette raised an eyebrow. Her eyes seemed even darker than usual, and they bore a trace of worry. “Take care, chérie. This one will be difficult, I think. We are not in France now, you know. This is the great city of London, not a little town in Provence.” Rémy straightened up and wiped rain from her eyes as she regarded her friend. Claudette was a fortune-teller and talented pickpocket. She could take a wallet from its owner and they would swear blind she’d never even been close enough to touch them. They were all vagabonds and thieves at Le Cirque de la Lune – and Rémy… well, Rémy was queen of them all. She’d been stealing since she was old enough to walk, and a jewel thief since she’d learned how to work the wire aged eight. Now, she was the best gem snatcher in Europe, probably in the whole of the world. Rémy had never been caught. And, she thought to herself, I never will be. Never.

“You worry too much,” she said. “Why should this be different to any other? They’ll never catch me, Claudette. That is what makes me so valuable to Gustave, yes?” Claudette sighed. “You should not take these things too lightly, Rémy,” she warned. “One day your luck will run out. And in any case, this life… it is not good enough for you. You should run, while you still can. Gustave could not –” Rémy shook her head. “When I can take you and Amélie with me, then we will all go,” she said. “But not before. We need money! And now is not the time for this old argument of ours, ma belle amie. I must go before the old goat gets too impatient. Kiss Amélie goodnight for me. Tell her she must sleep well because Dominique will be waiting to give her another lesson in the morning.”

Claudette smiled, taking Dominique’s reigns and digging a sugar-lump from her pocket as she led her away. “Then you had better make sure you come back, hadn’t you, Little Bird?” Rémy watched Claudette disappear into the thick black shadows of the circus tents. Behind her, the last of the audience was leaving, laughing and chattering. She smiled. She had been good tonight – really good, even despite the almost-disaster caused by the boy with the mismatched eyes. Rémy was always good, she knew that, but some nights it felt as if she could walk on air, and those were always her best performances. Not that Gustave ever paid her extra, or praised her work. He was more interested in her other, illegal, skills.

Rémy looked towards his caravan. It stood apart from the rest, at the back of the field he had rented for them. Well, Gustave called it a field, but it was really just a barren patch of land behind the Spitalfields market, turned to mud by the never-ending rain. Rémy glanced up, blinking into the night gloom at the sooty grey clouds that seemed permanently gathered overhead. Out beyond the market square, the buildings of London slouched towards each other as if sheltering together from the miserable weather. Lights flickered and guttered in windows caked with grime and soot. The silhouettes of the taller townhouses of the East End loomed darkly over the cobbled streets. It was the first time Rémy had left France, and she’d expected a better, brighter place. But there was as much dirt and poverty here as at home, and the bread was bad, too. She dreamed of a life somewhere else, somewhere sunny, where she did not have to steal. One day…Rémy pulled her hands into her sleeves and scuffed the toe of her boot into the mud. ‘One day’ was not tonight, she reminded herself. Tonight, she had to steal the second biggest diamond in the world.

Squaring her shoulders, she headed for Gustave’s haunt. She could hear music from inside the caravan, and knew it was Dorffman, the German, playing his violin. He was supposed to be the circus’s chief carpenter, but ever since Gustave had uncovered Dorffman’s musical skills, he’d made him play every night as the circus owner ate. Rémy wondered what crime the man had committed to end up in this place. She liked him, he seemed nice, but it could be anything. Murder, maybe, although it was more likely to be theft…but everyone at Le Cirque de la Lune had their own story. One day she would ask, she decided, as she mounted the rickety painted steps to her master’s door. “Come!” Came the yell of his voice as she knocked. Inside, Gustave was at his dinner, tearing a whole roast chicken apart with his fat fingers. The sight of the grease trickling down over his knuckles turned Rémy’s stomach and made her forget that she hadn’t eaten since lunch, and then only a round of gritty, grey bread and dripping.

The circus owner glanced up at her. “The cloud is thick tonight. It is Friday, the police are tired after their long week,” he grunted. “But still, now is not the time.” She blinked, surprised. “No?”

“No,” Gustave rumbled around a mouthful of food. “You see, this is important. More important than any other job you’ve ever done. And so I want you to do a…reconnoitre. Find the best way in, determine where the guards are stationed and, more importantly, establish your escape route. Make the plan infallible, yes? You must not fail me, Rémy.” For a moment, Rémy was speechless. He’d never asked her to do reconnaissance before. And she had never, ever failed him. She had never even come close to failing. Seeing her indignation, Gustave sighed and put down his chicken. “You know where this jewel is being kept?” “In the Tower of London, master.”

“Yes,” he said, his voice dry. “The Tower of London. Make no mistake, my little thieving genius. However good you are, this is going to be the hardest thing you have ever tried. So, reconnaissance. There is to be a reception for the great and the good at the Tower tomorrow night. It is the perfect opportunity for you to learn everything you need to know about where the jewel is held. Now, tell me what you are looking for.” “The Darya-ye Noor,” Rémy huffed.

“And what are you not looking for?”

“The Koh-i Noor. I know.”

He snorted, sending flecks of grease and chicken flesh to pepper the table. “You think you know everything, do you not, little Rémy? Can you tell me the difference between the two?” Rémy sighed. Gustave had been lecturing her on this for weeks. As if she couldn’t tell one diamond from another. As if she hadn’t been born able to know the worth of a gem just by looking at it. Rémy remembered every precious stone she’d ever seen in her life, and she could feel all of them now as if she held them still. In her hands jewels were living things, and they seemed to like her. They fell towards her fingers gratefully. She knew them. The thief toyed with the opal around her neck absently, and recited Gustave’s lessons.

“The Koh-i Noor – the Mountain of Light – and the Darya-ye Noor – the Ocean of Light – are sister-stones. They were both mined from Golconda in India more than a century ago. Now Queen Victoria owns the Mountain of Light, and the Shah of Persia owns the Ocean of Light. And for the first time since they were both mined, the stones are back together. In the Tower of London. So that is why we are here.”

“And what do we want?”

“The ocean, not the mountain,” Rémy repeated, dutifully. Gustave’s pudgy, pasty face creased into a frown. “Remember that, Little Bird. The Ocean is smaller than the Mountain, but prettier. And it belongs to the Shah, not the Queen, so the good policemen of London will not care so much about it. Get in, take it, get out. That’s what you need to do when the time is right. Do not get distracted by the larger stone. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, master.”

He nodded slowly, and then held up the remains of his dinner’s carcass. “Do that, and there will be one of these for you. You can share it with that light-fingered friend of yours. And her strange little whelp, if you really do insist on feeding it.” Rémy held herself still, but she wanted to hit him. How dare he talk about Amélie like that? Just because she was different, just because she didn’t speak. How dare he – “Well?” Gustave bellowed. “What are you waiting for? Go!

Rémy gritted her teeth and left, slamming the door as she ran down the steps. The sound was masked by Dorffman and his mournful violin, the ripple of sad strings rising into the dead, wet night.

* * *

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The Diamond Thief

Sharon Gosling

the diamond thiefNo one performs on the circus trapeze like sixteen-year-old Remy Brunel. But Remy also leads another life, as a cat burglar and jewel thief. Forced by the evil circus owner Gustave to attempt the theft of one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, Remy thinks it will be just another heist, but when she meets determined young detective Thaddeus Rec, her life changes forever.
Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Remy that he needs to save?

Remy Brunel is a trapeze artist for a French Circus. Known at the circus as ‘little bird’ no-one knows her real name. When doing an act Remy flies towards the trapeze and as she reaches towards the trapeze and her fingers brush the bar she plummets towards the ground and as she does so a man called Thaddeus Rec runs out to save her. He is a skinny, policeman with one brown eye and one blue eye. Remy has a secret identity prowling the back streets of London as the world’s best jewel thief! How cool is that? Well it turns out it isn’t for Remy, when she gets found out trying to steal the worlds second largest diamond at a party run by queen Victoria where a very suspicious man accuses her of stealing the jewel!

With her identity revealed she runs away and in the streets of London meets a friend. His name is J and together they plot to find the jewel in the suspicious man’s house. But their eyes are opened up to a whole new world, people getting kidnapped and used as slaves, death traps and secret underground mines which, depending on the tide, could get flooded with water at any given second. No-one is safe. But Remy finds out a curse has been put on her only to realise the only way to awaken it is when she falls in love and it turns out it’s been awake for some time now…

Verdict: This book was an amazing mystery book and whenever you turned a new page, well something completely unexpected happens. It’s very realistic and well-written and I think I’d give it about 8.5 out of 10. Very, very good book!

Reviewed by Daisy(11)

Publisher: Curious Fox
Publication Date: February 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
Genre: Steampunk, Adventure
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Daisy(11)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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C J Redwine
Rachel’s world is confined to the protective walls around her city. Beyond them are violent wanderers, extreme terrain, and a danger straight out of legend: a beast called the Cursed One that devastates everything in its path.
When Rachel’s father goes missing, she is desperate to search for him. But her attempts to flee the city bring her to the attention of its overbearing ruler. His efforts to control her make the world within the walls seem as dangerous as that outside.
Her only chance at escape is Logan. Once her father’s apprentice, and now her only protector, he feels that helping her might mean losing her completely. But if he can put his feelings aside, they might be able to save more than Rachel’s father. They might be able to break down the walls, and set their people free.

Like the thick stone and steel walls which surround the city of Baalboden, the archaic rules of the society are as restrictive to the people as they are protective.

Under the guise of Protection women are brought up to be dependent on the males in their life and obedient to them. Designated to the care and responsibility of a Protector, usually their father and later, a husband, women have no autonomy. Instead all decisions, from where a woman can go to whom she can marry, are made for her.

Every movement is chaperoned and traceable and the punishments for non-compliance are extreme; the last woman caught visiting the market without her protector accompanying her, was subjected to capital punishment.

While her peers were playing house Rachel, a motherless only child, was training with knives, swords and a bow. When her cohort’s educations focused on their future role as wives and mothers, Rachel was encouraged to think for herself.

Impulsive, often to the detriment of those associated with her and despite the potential repercussions, Rachel has no qualms about dropping everything, scaling the wall that encloses the city and searching for her missing father Jared.

As the only other person with the conviction that Jared still lives, Logan should be a natural ally in the search for Rachel’s missing parent. But an animosity exists between them, born out of hurt pride, humiliation and awkwardness.

While Rachel is impetuous, Logan is a deep analytical thinker, considering the best and worst case scenarios for every plan of action. Don’t be fooled by his attention to detail, nerdy focus on his inventions and awkwardness around the opposite sex. Logan is a hot boy with a sword and he knows exactly how to use it.

I really don’t know how to effectively express my love for this fantastic debut.

CJ has crafted a pacey, action packed, kick-arse, pseudo-historical dystopian, with fantasy, sci-fi and Steampunk elements. Thrilling, heart in your mouth action, sits side by side with uncomfortably honest narration, emotive, gut retching scenes, profound observations and an almost poetic descriptive prose.

Rather than being uncomfortably full and sickly from taking a bite out of every pie you are left with the experience of having tried a wonderfully unique flavor combination that experimental chef Heston Blumenthal would be proud of.

A romance junkie at heart, I simply adored the developing relationship between the two main protagonists. A foundation of friendship, turned sour by defensive pride, our protagonists have to wade through misunderstanding and miss communications before acknowledging that their uncomfortable, passionate responses to each other are formed from love, not hate.

Not only has CJ created two flawed but immensely likeable characters whose chemistry sizzles off of the page. But by writing a first person, dual narrative she has given us front row seats to the toe curling, breath catching action

Verdict: I feel like CJ Redwine sat down with a checklist of my favorite fictional ingredients, seamlessly combining them together in to one spectacularly decorated, mouthwatering treat. All that was missing from this surprising gift was an out of tune rendition of “Happy Birthday ”.

Review and interview questions by Caroline

Publisher: Atom
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 403
Genre: Speculative fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author

Big Book Little Book is delighted to welcome C J Redwine to talk about Defiance, work-life balance and sticky buns!

C.J. Redwine loves stilettos, lemon bars, and any movie starring Johnny Depp. She lives in Nashville with her husband, four kids, two cats, and one long-suffering dog. To learn more about C.J., visit her website.

What was your inspiration for Defiance?
For years, I’d had the idea of a Leviathon-like creature living underground with the capability to destroy our world if anyone accidentally released him. Then one day I saw a picture of a fortress and it reminded me of a city-state. I said “What if we lived in city-states again? Why would we do that?” One idea collided with another, and Defiance was born.

What attracted you to write a pseudo-historical society rather than one in which the inhabitant attempt to rebuild?
I’ve always loved reading about the medieval times, and I thought it would be fun to come up with a scenario in which we’d have to revert to that in some ways (though we still retain the knowledge gained before the apocalyptic event that destroyed society, so we aren’t totally turning back the clock). I’m always far more interested in swords and catapults and horse-drawn wagons than in guns and cell phones and fancy cars.

Logan’s inventions, made of wood, copper and cogs, have a definite Steampunk feel. Was it a conscious decision to include steampunk elements to Defiance or was it a case of the best fit for the world you had created?
It was a case of what materials would actually be available to him, and what he could somewhat realistically do with those materials. But I’m a definite fan of steampunk, so it was fun to give a little nod to that.

I loved reading both protagonists point of view. I understand that you initially wrote from single viewpoint. What prompted you to include Logan’s perspective?
I realized that Logan had an equal stake in the trilogy (both with his backstory and with his actions) as Rachel, and so he deserved a chance to tell his story. Plus, he was going to do some REALLY cool things while apart from Rachel, and I wanted the reader to be able to see that.

If Defiance came with a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
Hans Zimmer, Red, In This Moment, Evanescence, and One Republic

How is work progressing on the rest of the Courier’s Daughter trilogy?
Book two is in edits right now, and book 3 is begging me to write it! 🙂

Was there a particular book, person (author or civilian) or event, which inspired you to become a writer?
I started writing stories in second grade after I read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It was my first fantasy book, and it just cracked my imaginative world wide open.

Like the BBLB team, and many of our readers, you are a busy mother (of FOUR no less!). How on earth do you manage to fit your writing in around a busy home life? Do you treat it like any other job, 9-5 with set childcare, or is it a case of catching time whenever you can? How do you maintain your work-life-balance?
I am probably super un-balanced, so…I won’t give advice on that aspect, lol. But I fit it in around my toddler’s naptime and then after bedtime at night. And at least two days a week, I head to the local bookstore after my hubby comes home and write at the coffee shop for a few hours.

In your personal and writing life do you associate more with Logan, planning to the nth degree or are you more impulsive and spontaneous like Rachel?
I’m much more like Rachel than Logan. I fly by the seat of my pants half the time, and thinking through science and logic like he does just breaks my brain.

Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
Music! I build a playlist specific to each story.

One of the reasons we created Big Book Little Book was to share our passion for reading with children. Which books have you particularly enjoyed sharing with your own children?
My toddler and I love reading Goodnight Moon together every night as she goes to bed. For the boys, I’ve loved introducing them to Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

In Defiance as grandfatherly Oliver comforts Rachel he says
“It’s probably my job to tell you life isn’t fair, but I figure you already know that…So instead, I’ll tell you that hope is precious, and you’re right not to give up.”
How close is this piece of advice to your own personal ethos?

Oh, I believe that wholeheartedly. It’s one of the messages I hope readers take away from this trilogy. Sometimes hope is the hardest, most slippery thing to hold on to, but it’s always worth it.

What is the most important or memorable piece of advice you have ever received?
The only way to truly fail is to quit, so if you really want to do something, don’t quit.

As our Novel Nibbles feature will testify, I am a little obsessed with recreating food from my favorite books. Are any of Oliver’s baked goods based on actual recipes?
I was really close to my grandfather on my mother’s side. I had a very rough childhood, but he was my rock. He showed me what quiet, unconditional love looked like, and I based Oliver on him. He always baked for us, and one of his favourite treats to make was sticky buns! They’re like yeasty rolls with cinnamon and raisins inside and then they’re drizzled in a sticky maple-cinnamon syrup after they come out of the oven. I don’t have his recipe, he died before I could get it, but I wanted to honor what he meant to me by putting him in a book.

I would like to send out a huge thanks to C. J for stopping by to answers our questions and for writing such a fantastic addition to the YA dystopian genre. Now please excuse me while I scour the internet for bun recipes!

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Novel Nibbles: Steampunk Cupcakes

Following my recent outing to Foyles to meet Gail Carriger, I suddenly found myself craving afternoon tea and compelled to do some home baking to satisfy this craving. I found myself recalling the Cassandra Clare even I attended October 2011 and how one creative fan had made Cassie some yummy cupcakes, complete with edible clockwork cogs.  A regular cupcake just wasn’t going to hit the spot, I was going to have to make Steampunk Cupcakes.

With the image of Cassandra Clare’s cupcake in mind the search for a Clockwork or Cog shaped cookie cutter began. A rummage around Lakelands and Steamer Trading provided fruitless. It was time to bring out he big guns. A Google  search highlighted the distinct lack of Clockwork or Cog shaped cookie cutters. Those I could find were far too large and the shipping times too long for my sugar craving. Thankfully Google came through and I stumbled across Om-Noms by Kelly and her very clever cog shaped sugar cookies. The decoration sorted, it was time to focus on the main event- The Cake!

I wanted to do something a little different from a traditional vanilla cupcake. As much as I love chocolate, lemon and carrot cake, none of these flavours fitted with the image of a dainty Victorian afternoon tea. The inspiration struck, TEA! Searching through my cookery books I found a recipe for a chi tea infused cup cake, which brought to mind trendy coffee shop frequenters supping on Chi Tea lattes, close but not quite right.

Earl Grey on the other hand conjured images of a dainty floral tea service and raised pinkie fingers, Perfect! Two minutes later I was salivating over gorgeous images of Earl Grey infused cup cakes, of which there were many! I finally settled on this recipe from Mean Mother Cooker. Anyone who can pipe butter cream that beautifully  knows a thing or two about cake.
What follows is a build your own cupcake post.

1. Make 12  Earl Grey Infused Cupcakes
2. Choose from either Lemon or Earl Grey Butter Cream (I couldn’t resist making both!)
3. Select topper by level of effort (none, some, lots)

1. The Cup Cake

The Ingredients

150mls of Milk
3 Earl Grey Teabags
115g Soften Unsalted Butter
225g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs, beaten
250g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
Preheat oven to 180C.

Heat milk until steaming.Add tea bags and leave to infuse until milk is room temperature

Cream butter and sugar

Add the egg a little at a time, beating well.

add 1/3 milk, mixing mix well,followed by 1/3 flour. Repeat untilall milk and flour combined.

Line a muffin tin with 12 cake cases.Fill until 2/3 full. Bake in oven for approx 20min.

Allow to cool on a wire rack. If necessary trim of peaks to prepare for butter cream.

2. The Butter Cream.
Choose either Lemon  or Earl Grey butter cream.
The amounts stated will ice 12 cupcakes to the perfect ratio of 1/3 butter cream to 2/3 cupcake.
Alternatively halve the ingredients and make 6 of each type 😉

Beat 75g of Unsalted Butter with therind and juice of two unwaxed lemon(approx 5TBS) and 1/2 of your
375g icing sugar.
Once smooth slowly beat in the rest of the icing sugar.
Optional: Add a couple of drops of yellowfood colouring.

Earl Grey
Infuse 5TBS of milk with 1 earl grey teabag(same method as cakes).
Once cooled beat tea with 75g of unsalted butter and 1/2 of your 375g of icing sugar.
Once smooth slowly beat in remaining sugar.
Optional:add a couple of drop of lilac food colouring.

3. The Cupcake Topper
Pearls and Ball Bearings.
Simply sprinkle with these shop bought decorative balls.

Effort Level: Some
Steampunk Some Snowflakes.
Take left over snowflake sprinkles and mixed with a drop of vodka and 1/4 tsp of edible bronzing powder.
Spread out over a plate in a single layer.Leave to dry.

Effort Level: Lots
Clockwork Cogs: Come backtomorrow to check out my step- by- step post to creating these bronzed beauties!

Post by Caroline

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Love Books Will Travel: Steampunk Soiree with Gail Carriger

What: A Steampunk Soiree, Book Talk and Signing

Who: Gail Carriger and Lauren O’Farrell

Where: Foyles
Charing Cross Rd

When: Monday the 9th of April

Why: To Promote Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5): Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire’s second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell’s acting troupe’s latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia’s enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.
Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?

Now I have to begin this report by confessing that I haven’t read any of Gail’s work prior to attending this event. Her book Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate #1) has been sat on my Amazon wish list for quite a while but, like a lot of books undeserving of my maltreatment, has been buried as other books have been added on top of it. However I absolutely adore Cassandra Clare’s:The Infernal Devices series and I’ve enjoying dipping in to Trisha Telep’s anthology, Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances so I thought I’d take the opportunity to learn a bit more about this genre and one of its authors.

The first thing I discovered (while queuing) is that I was underdressed. Jeans and trainers just don’t cut it at a Steampunk soiree! Steampunk fans take their fashions very seriously. The majority of gathered fans were liberally sprinkled with goggles, top hats, visible corsets and clockwork mechanisms with about a third of those gathered, including Gail Carriger herself, kitted out from head to toe in Victorian inspired regalia.

The second thing that steampunk enthusiasts, or at least Gail Carriger fans, take very seriously is Tea, a sentiment I embrace whole heartily. On entering The Gallery at Charring Cross Foyles, the room had been set up as a tea parlour, complete with towering cake stands of fondant fancies, fairy cakes and jam tarts with bucketloads of hot, strong tea, poured from colourful, assorted sized tea pots. I partook of three cups of perfectly made tea, but decided to shun the confection following the chocolate excess of the Easter weekend.

Once the accompanied guests were all suitably fed and watered we were introduction to Craft book writer extraordinaire Lauren O’Farrell, author of Stitch London. I loved her knitted book covers and her knitted octopus (knitted from used plastic carrier bags). Alas I have not a single crafting bone in by body so I’ll just have to admire such creations from afar!

Gail Carriger began her segment of the evening reading from Soulless. Despite her very American accent 😉 Gail beautifully brought to life her very English characters and read a passage that highlighted an eye for detail and a delightfully British tongue in cheek humour. I really can’t wait to start this series.

A question and answer session revealed that Gail’s writing process begins with a single scene, which she visualises like a scene from a movie, and the rest of the novel takes shape around it. Soulless, originally intended as a standalone novel, began with Gail visualising a couple of proper Victorian ladies discussion how one of them had accidently killed a vampire the previous evening.

Initially attracted to the aesthetic of the steampunk movement, Gail felt that it was the perfect genre to combine her love of Victoriana  and her interest in science (particularly medical science) with her desire to write about immortals and their influence over history. A lot of the kookier parts of the history of the British Empire, it can be explained, by werewolves soldiers in the British army and vampires as members of the aristocracy!

Tea is absolutely vital to Gail’s writing process! Growing up with a British ex pat mother, Gail was weaned on tea, starting with milk and a dash of tea and graduating to a strong builders brew. Each afternoon after school her family would take tea, a tradition she keeps to this day. If she’s had a good writing day she will treat herself to a little chocolate with her tea. In fact Gail’s writing is dependent a personal reward system; one good days writing equals Chocolate, when she finishes a draft she treats herself to sushi and a finished book brings new shoes!

When asked how she would imagine her vampires would fair in an encounter with a certain modern incarnation of *cough* vegetarian vampires Gail replied that she likes to say that her vampires sparkle… because they are fabulous!

I came away with a signed copy of Soulless in traditional paperback form and the Soulless graphic novel, a first for me.

Verdict: A thoroughly enjoyable event enhanced with lashings of tea and a very humorous hostess. Now please excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, while I go and Google corsets!

Post by Caroline

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