Tag Archives: Gaie Sebold

Sunday Post – 3rd February, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

We had several hard frosts this week, before the temperature warmed up – only to suddenly plunge again so that on Thursday evening we had snow falling for nearly four hours, leaving behind over an inch covering everything and fears of travel chaos the following day. Fortunately the sun shone on Friday morning and by the time we had to make the drive to Brighton to pick up the children, it was pouring with rain, finally washing away any traces of snow or ice. Oscar and I spent Saturday morning building a Lego tower together, before my sister popped in with a present – a pack of hangers! I was delighted as I’m always running out. Himself got home at around 1 pm after a 3 am start and after a short nap, he and Oscar played a quick game of Bloodbowl, while Frances and I went out for a coffee/hot chocolate and a natter.

My daughter will be coming over to pick up the children this afternoon, so Oscar and I will be making vegan banana cake together this morning. Other than having the children this weekend, the week has slipped by at the speed of a downhill skier – how come we’re in February, already? I swear that Christmas was only a fortnight ago…

Last week I read:
Dark City – Book 1 of The Order of the Shadows series by Kit Hallows
My name’s Morgan Rook, Supernatural Detective, Undercover Agent, odd jobs man. Call it whatever you like. I take out the nightmares, demons and werewolves. The things that lurk in the shadows around you. Guys like us, we call them Nightkind. And here I was, set to quit this dark life and retire to sunnier climes, except for one final job. There’s always one. This time a call to eliminate a cruel, rogue vampire, named Mr. Tudor. Simple right? Sure. Until the bodies started piling up in a new wave of vicious occult killings leading scarily close to my own front door…
An entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy adventure featuring a mostly sympathetic protagonist.

Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr
Solidar is in chaos. Charyn, the young and untested ruler of Solidar, has survived assassination, and he struggles to gain control of a realm in the grip of social upheaval, war, and rioting. Solidar cannot be allowed to slide into social and political turmoil that will leave the High Holders with their ancient power and privilege, and the common people with nothing. But the stakes are even higher than he realizes.
This detailed, slow-burn fantasy adventure featuring a cool-headed young man struggling against difficult odds drew me in. Review to follow.

 

Knife Children – NOVELLA in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Lakewalker Barr Foxbrush returns from two years of patrolling the bitter wilds of Luthlia against the enigmatic, destructive entities called malices, only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind in the hinterland of Oleana has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of Barr’s mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future.
Wonderful addition to a favourite fantasy series by this fabulously talented author – review to follow.

Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold
Eveline Sparrow hopes to put her past experiences as a thief and con-artist to more legitimate use; which is why some of the girls at her Sparrow School receive private lessons in burglary, fakery, and other such underhand practices. But it’s hard to get honest work when few businesses will employ young ladies in the security professions…
It was fun to reacquaint myself with Evvie after the enjoyable Shanghai Sparrow and her talent for getting into trouble in this steampunk sci fi/fantasy mash-up provides an entertaining adventure.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th January 2019

Increasing Discoverability for Women Authors in SFF – 2018

Friday Face-Off featuring Eligible – Book 4 of the Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Headlong – Book 12 of The Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Quitting: Why Letting Go & Moving on Are Crucial for Success https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/01/successful-people-quitting/ Once again, the wonderful Kristen Lamb provides solid advice for those of us struggling to write amongst all the other stuff going on in our lives…

Music Monday: The Sound of Silence by Disturbed. #Music #MusicMonday https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/music-monday-the-sound-of-silence-by-disturbed/ I know the Simon and Garfunkel version – but this one, I think, is even better…

Piano: A Poem by D.H. Lawrence https://interestingliterature.com/2019/01/28/piano-a-poem-by-d-h-lawrence/ This article features a poignant poem that I’m very fond of. It isn’t brilliant or clever, but its very simplicity always moves me…

PLANETARY AWARDS: Nominations for the best of 2018 https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/planetary-awards-nominations-for-the-best-of-2018/ Maddalena on her excellent blog provides the links for those of you who enjoy SFF and would like to nominate your favourite novel and novella of last year. I’m currently pummelling my brain into porridge in an effort to choose between a final two…

Grimbold Books’ advice to aspiring authors “Listen to feedback” https://damienseaman.com/publishing-advice-for-aspiring-authors/ Listening to this wonderful interview with Kate reminds me all over again why I submitted to this lovely indie publisher.

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

#Authoring Annals – Bristolcon 2018 #Brainfluffblogauthoringannals-3 #Bristolcon2018Report

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This is the first conference I’ve attended in the past two years. But I was determined not to miss this year’s Bristolcon for the simple reason is that it’s my favourite. It’s known as The Friendly Con and with good reason – the first year I came along on my own, I was invited to join one of the groups sitting in the bar by the lovely Jaine Fenn.

This year I wasn’t on my own – my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson stayed over on Friday night, so on Saturday morning we could catch a 6-something train to Fareham, where we changed for Bristol. While the GWR train was flipping cold, at least everything was running on time and we arrived at Temple Meads station just after 10, all set to consume Second Breakfast at our favourite pasty shop before braving the bitterly cold wind for the walk to the conference hotel.

We hadn’t even got sufficiently organised to decide which panels to attend, so naturally we needed to swing by the bar to sit down and sort this out. I was delighted to see Juliet McKenna and congratulate her on the wonderfulness that is The Green Man’s Heir. I’m thrilled to report there is another book in this series being written – if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, this is one of my favourite books of the year. I was also able to catch up with Sarah Ash, another wonderful author whose writing I love.

Sarah was taking part in one of the excellent panels I attended Here Be Dragons. And Yokai. And Tokoloshe. And Kupua… which discussed the pros and cons of using spirits and mythology from other cultures – when does that become cultural appropriation? Sarah’s expertise lies in Japanese mythology, including anime and manga, while Zoe Burgess-Foreman is very knowledgeable about other Asian mythological creatures in addition to also being expert in Japanese culture. The other members of the panel included Nick Hembury and Steve McHugh, while the discussion was ably moderated by Jessica Rydill. The consensus was that whenever using ancient gods or spirits, ensure you are respectful of the context and any cultural issues – Steve aptly summed it up with the phrase, ‘Don’t be a dick about it.’

The second panel I attended was also great fun – Ben Jeapes moderated a discussion about the panellists’ most hated cliché in SFF writing, which would be then voted on by the audience and consigned to Room 101 – another cliché, perhaps? The cliché that overwhelmingly got voted into Room 101 was Jo Hall’s distaste for beautiful protagonists and ugly baddies. The beautification of Hester in the upcoming film Mortal Engines was cited as an example of this insidious trend, given that her face is horrifically scarred in the books.

The final panel I saw was Writing the Non-Human which brought together Su Haddrell, who moderated, Cheryl Morgan, Gareth L. Powell, Kim Lakin-Smith and Dev Agarwal to discuss what approaches they used when writing from other species’ viewpoints. It was fascinating to see the widely differing methods these experienced and capable authors adopted when working on their non-human characters. Everyone agreed, though, that you need to have a good grasp of the environment from which they originate and a clear idea of the character and how it responds to the unfolding situation within your story.

The closing ceremony was typically warm and celebratory where the Guests of Honour Jo Hall, Dave Hutchinson and Andrew Skilleter were applauded, along with the date for next year’s special 10th Anniversary Bristolcon.

As for books – I was very restrained, only purchasing Joel Cornah’s The Sky Slayer over and above the two books in my goody bag, partly because I truly am trying to be more sensible about my out-of-control book buying habit and partly because I had a long train journey ahead of me and books are heavy… The other two I acquired were K.M. Alford’s Atlantic and the Game of Time and Tracing the Shadow by Sarah Ash.

During the afternoon in the bar, I had a long chat with Mags L. Halliday on the necessity of evolving a con-clone for the next conference. We discussed the feasibility of a device that splits you into at least one other copy, though I personally think two would be ideal – just after you pick up your goody bag and then re-absorbs your cloned copies before you reel home. I was also thrilled to see the wonderful Sophie Tallis, someone else who warmly welcomed me to my first Bristolcon, – as well as Jo Hall, who I haven’t spoken to for far too long. And it was also great to be able to have a word with Gaie Sebold and Janet Edwards.

But as Mhairi and I trudged back to our hotel when we finally called it a night, I was aware that if only I had my clone alongside, I could also have managed to meet up with Sammy Smith, Jessica Rydill and Rosie Oliver among others – as well as attend those panels I missed, such as The City As Protagonist and Spaceship Top Trumps as well as Sophie’s silk painting workshop. Maybe a cloning device will be available next year – the need is surely great at all Cons, but particularly at Bristolcon – the Friendly Con.

Review of Shanghai Sparrow – Book 1 of the Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold

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I met up with Gaie at Bristolcon, who kindly gave me a copy of her book as it sounded right up my street. I’m already a fan of her writing – read my review of Babylon Steel here, which is memorably enjoyable adventure.

Eveline Duchen is a thief and con-artist, surviving day by day on the streets of London, where the glittering spires of progess rise on the straining backs of the poor and disenfranchised. Where the Folk, the otherworldly children of fairy tailes and legends, have all but withdrawn from the smoke of the furnaces and clamour of iron. But events overtake Eveline and as she is forced into someone else’s schemes, she begins to realise that her actions could affect everyone she knows and cares about…

shanghaisparrowI’ve tweaked the blurb somewhat – but this fantasy thriller set in an alternate Victorian England has all the classic steampunk ingredients. With an additional splash of Sebold magic. Eveline is a cracking protagonist – full of spirit and ingenuity, yet with sufficient vulnerability that I really cared what happened to her. And plenty already has… Eveline certainly has the family knack for getting sucked into life-threatening adventures – and as investigations into etheric science gather pace, Eveline draws down the unwelcome attention of powerful people who want results.

The supporting characters are also great fun – Uncle James bounces off the page with his smug arrogance and conviction that he should be the family inventor; Mr Holmforth is suitably menacing and driven; while the scatty and very likeable Beth who enjoys nothing more than fiddling around with the new-fangled steam engines, is a great foil for Eveline’s dare-devil nature. As well as producing a cast of strong characters, Sebold manages to make them all entirely plausible by providing strong motivating factors for each one without silting up the action, or lessening the pace. It’s a trick that is a whole lot harder to accomplish than Sebold makes it look. And for all the forward momentum and breeziness in this book that is characteristic of steampunk, Sebold doesn’t hesitate to show the darker side underbelly of her world, where the poor and sick are left to fend for themselves. Where children roam the streets begging or stealing. Where women can be bundled off to asylums if they annoy their male relatives by their ‘unwomanly’ behaviour. I’d like to say that aspect of Sebold’s story is pure fiction – but it isn’t.

The fantastic elements are also well handled – her otherworldly protagonist in many ways mirrors Eveline with his sharp wit, ability to think outside the box – and the fact that for all his cleverness and strong survival instincts, he is also trapped.

Sebold gives more than a nod to the likes of Dickens and Conan Doyle with some of the plot twists as this adventure unfolds – some I saw coming and some I didn’t… But with the energy crackling off the page, I just wanted to read on. In fact I finished off the book in three greedy gulps, staying up waaay too late to find out what happens to Eveline. Though I understand that this is the start of a series, so I shall be looking out for the sequel. And if you enjoy steampunk adventure tales with characters who ricochet off the page, then give this one a go – it’s a blast.
9/10

Review of Babylon Steel by Gaie Sebold

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I wasn’t totally convinced that I was going to enjoy this Fantastic romp. A female brothel owner cum ex-mercenary isn’t generally my sort of go-to character, but I’d fleetingly met Gaie at Fantasycon and was impressed with her friendly, solid advice, so gave the book a go. I’m mighty glad I did. It certainly brightened up a really dreary week in March.

Babylon Steel, ex-sword for hire, ex… other things, runs The Red Lantern, the best brothel in the city. She’s got elves using sex magicbabylon steel upstairs, S & M in the basement and a large green troll cooking breakfast in the kitchen, and she’d love you to visit, except… She’s not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, girls are disappearing, and if she can’t pay her taxes, Babylon’s going to lose the Lantern. She’d given up the mercenary life, but when the mysterious Darask Fain pays her to find a missing heiress, she has to take the job. And then her past starts to catch up with her in other, more dangerous ways.

Well, reading through the reviews of this book, it seems something of a marmite number – folks either love it or hate it. I loved it.  For starters, I thoroughly enjoyed the genre mash-up – the portals to various worlds happily rubbed shoulders with a medieval city/ancient Egyptian backdrop and there was a strong urban fantasy feel in the tone and writing. Great fun. Sebold also has the skill to pull off a dual narrative, one recounting Babylon’s past as an orphan serving girl who moves on to another, wholly different career – and the other plotline giving us the current slew of adventures that are engrossing our heroine. This structure worked perfectly and had me hooked from the first chapter. I also liked the variety of different races Sebold introduces and the quick-fire pace at which the book progresses.

Niggles? Well, I do think it a shame that Solaris saw fit to make Babylon white-skinned on the cover, when she is several times mentioned as being dark/copper skinned.

The world-building was enjoyable and unfolded through Babylon’s eyes with the fluid, pacy style that Sebold quickly established. This may be her debut novel, but she is clearly an experienced, skilful author, whose future work is firmly on my list of books to look out for. The ending had everything satisfyingly resolved – with a shock at who dies during the climactic action. I got to the final page with a real sense of regret that I’d finished the book and still wanting more. And if you are feeling grumpy and jaded with the current atrocious weather, search out this book and dive in.
9/10