Book Review: Clara’s Diary by Angelique S. Anderson

Book Review: Clara’s Diary by Angelique S. Anderson

Spoiler free summary: In Clara’s Diary by Angelique S. Anderson, Detective Desmond is a man haunted by the death of his daughter. When a new case lands on his desk that is disturbingly similar to his daughter’s death, Desmond is plunged (OK, I’m going to take this pun for all it’s worth), into a mystery that ties to the strange octopus people who live in this steampunk world. On such person, Sadie, helps Desmond, and her past is the key to all of Desmond’s questions.

The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character: In terms of the standard measurements of character (sympathy, competence, proactivity), these characters are ok. I think the reason they suffer is they have odd bouts of incompetence in situations their characters should be the most confident. At every point there should be tension, there’s a brief conversation, and the conflict is resolved in an unfortunately boring way. What could have been a very compelling factor in this relationship ark felt cast aside because the author had a clear idea where they were supposed to end. The problem is, the end is supposed to be a conclusion of a journey, not an objective that denies any twists and turns because the end is more important, and that’s what I think happened here. Desmond is supposed to be this “Sherlock-like” detective (and that is a challenge as well), and the first thing he does is completely wreck a crime scene he probably shouldn’t have been in to begin with. Those little inconsistencies undercut what was actually a pretty charming story.

Exposition: This was actually pretty good. Sure, we have the inevitable dialogue world history, but how else is the reader going to learn about these octopus-human hybrids? So while there were parts that were a bit dumpy is some places, it wasn’t an amount that I didn’t expect. Could it have been better? Yes. Was it so bad it ruined the story? No.

Worldbuilding: This is probably the strength of the story. It has a bit of the same feel as Carnival Row (without the constant sex, which I appreciated). We have this species of sentient beings that are in this world and that world has origins (which are actually pretty important to the plot). The presence of the wordlbuilding was great. The execution is probably what held this story back for me. If you can fast-forward or skip the spicy scenes and focus on the world building of Carnival Row, you see what that show did well that this book didn’t do so well. However, I still feel this book is better because the content is much more appropriate. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t analyze the storytelling aspects of the two. Diary gives us the history and scope of this world through exposition hidden in dialogue. This story would have been better served if we saw this world expand. Yes, it would have expanded the size of the novel, but I don’t mind that much.

Dialogue: So the portions of dialogue that were clearly there to provide exposition through the character’s point of view do drag the story down, but the dialogue is actually pretty charming. Sadie shines in this regard. It’s clever, and the characters have unique voices. The conversations between Desmond and Sadie were a big part of what kept me reading. (I always finish a book, even if I hate it, but reading this book wasn’t nearly as difficult as some others.)

This author portrait was taken from her Amazon author page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Description: I wonder if any steampunk fans have read this story. You see, I expected much more description here than I got. Steampunk is all about the gadgets and romanticism of a period that wasn’t actually so romantic. Yet this story was pretty sparse. Sure, it had description, and I didn’t personally feel like I was missing out. But a part of me was mentally prepared for these huge blocks of description that just weren’t in this story. I don’t know if that’s common or not. This is probably the second or third steampunk book I’ve read. I think it was better than one, and a little less fun than the other (coming in a future review). So while I didn’t have a problem with the lack of description, I only call it a lack because of what I expected. My question for steampunk fans is: How much description do you expect in a steampunk story?

Overall: The story is charming in its presentation, but it really falls short as a mystery because it was either super predictable or super convoluted. The author didn’t do herself any favors because we always got a giant block of dialogue-hidden exposition right before the “reveal.” That really spoiled it. Instead of sprinkling clues along the way for the reader to gobble up, the author smashed us over the head with a giant sign that (metaphorically) read “You need to know this before you read the next part!” This is a story that I still liked because the characters were actually adorable, but if you love mystery, you’ll feel differently.

Thanks for reading,


Story Review: The Red-Rimmed Eyes of Tou Ma by Aidan Moher from Unfettered II

Story Review: The Red-Rimmed Eyes of Tou Ma by Aidan Moher from Unfettered II



Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  The Red-Rimmed Eyes of Tou-Ma by Aidan Moher is the tenth story in the Unfettered II AnthologyA former mercenary is driven to get to his destination, but instead he’s hired by a woman with red-rimmed eyes. Her people are trapped, but that trap is much more than simple unfair treatment by a leader.  

Character:  The characters here are interesting. Their motivations are believable. They’re proactive, which is always a plus. I can’t say I really bonded with them, but they held my attention. 

Exposition: As with last week, this is probably why the story didn’t stick with me so well. The exposition here isn’t nearly as bad as it was last week, but there was far too much of it, and most of it was right up front. It sort of felt like having to get a brief history review before I could actually start the story.

Worldbuilding: This was pretty awesome! This world has a great balance of tech, magic, and creatures. It sort of felt like steampunk in a high fantasy setting, and that was cool! Also, some characters have little dragons (I forget what they’re called) that do some pretty cool stuff as well.  This story didn’t really hook me, but if there’s a larger book out there set in this world, I’d probably give it a shot.

This image was taken from the author’s “about” page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This was solid. Each character had a unique voice (helped by the narrator). But even some parts of the conversation that were honestly just spoken exposition, I at least had some sense of character from the conversations. 

Description: This was good in that I had the images in my mind going off and didn’t have to slow down to absorb the author’s vision of the scene. I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve ever read, but it was what I needed.

Overall: I really would be interested in seeing if there’s a larger story set in this world. What this particular story lacked in reader connection and exposition would probably be resolved by a longer format. If you’re a fan of mixed genre stories, you should at least give this story a chance. 

Thanks for reading



Announcing the June Book Cover of the Month!

Announcing the June Book Cover of the Month!

Hello everyone,

We’ve just wrapped up another month. This month was comparatively slow, but things got a bit better late in the game.

We had 2,560 votes this month.

It was close for a few days, but then the winner had a ten-voter surge and never looked back.

The June Book Cover of the Month is…



Alphas and Airships by Melanie Karsak! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Karsak received 145 total votes.

A Guiding Light by Susan Copperfield came in second, so Copperfield becomes the first author this year to get two second chances. We only saw that happen twice all of last year.

But for now, let’s look at this month’s winner!



With Lionheart as the new alpha, the streets of London are quiet.

But above the realm, mischief is brewing.

While airship pirates are a common plague upon the kingdom, the airship Fenrir proves particularly troublesome–especially on a full moon.

Clemeny must take to the skies before these shape-shifting Vikings kick off a new Ragnarok. Easier said than done now that she’s down one good eye, a partner, and not to mention the fact that she gets motion sick.

On top of that, the new scar across her face makes Clemeny feel like she’ll have better luck intimidating her foes than finding a beau. But Agent Edwin Hunter, recently assigned as head of Clemeny’s division, is proving to be an interesting prospect. Despite her apprehensions, it’s up to Agent Louvel to chase Fenrir across the heavens.

Alphas and Airships
is a retelling of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale set in Melanie Karsak’s bestselling steampunk universe. Alphas and Airships is Book 2 in the Steampunk Red Riding Hood series.


I’ve added Alphas and Airships to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I buy all the winning covers. I’ve already bought MayAprilMarchFebruaryJanuaryDecember’s book.

Here’s Melanie’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about her and her work.

I’ll try to find out who did that cover. Truth is interviews are a bit hard to arrange on my end these days.  I’ll try to get back on track, but things are looking a bit busy lately (in a less good way at the moment).

The July Book Cover of the Month is coming along, and that contest will launch Aug. 1.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading


Book Review: For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz

Book Review: For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz

This image was taken from for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

First off, before we get to my regular Wednesday review, please let me wish you all a happy Fourth of July. I love my country, which was one of the main reasons I served it for ten years as an active-duty Sailor, and I still serve as a DOD instructor. God bless our country, bless our service members, and may we hold true to the principles under which our great nation was formed.

Spolier Free Summary: For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz is a story about Zaira’s life is thrown off course when her dead father’s will places her on the deck of the last remaining air-ship in the empire. She’s face with the choice to leave the life she thought she’d have or embrace the life her father led, the same life that took him from her. Her life grows even more difficult when she encounters the Wyranth Empire, the empire behind her father’s death. This was my June Book Cover of the Month winner.

Character:  I’d say this was the strength of this story. There were issues I had with it, but the characters are proactive (for the most part). Zaira does seem to be a pretty standard character for YA novels. She’s the unsure, female on her own fighting to prove she’s tough enough. The trope is more of my problem than the execution of the character. My frustration is that Zaira seems to pretty much go with things.  She does however, start coming to her own in the book, which gives her a pretty decent character arc. Constant reminders of how like her father she is annoyed me as a reader even more than her as a character. I felt like there was a missed opportunity here since her father had been absent for much of her life. Rather than investigate that potential conflict, the book focuses mostly on plot-driven events.

This image of Mr. Arroz was taken from his webiste for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine. 

Description: Other than the non-stop references to her similarities to her father’s physical traits, the description of this book is, what I feel, good for a steampunk novel like this. As always, I stress I’m not one who loves a lot of detail in description. For steampunk lovers, there might not be enough of those little, minute details the genre loves so much, but I wasn’t bothered at all.  I saw what I needed to, and my imagination took care of the rest.

Thanks for reading,