Monday, December 9, 2013

5 Star Review, Interview & Kindle Giveaway - Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak

Title: Chasing the Star Garden
Series: The Airship Racing Chronicles #1
Author: Melanie Karsak
Release Date: December 4, 2013
Pages: 325, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4.6 stars
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Content Rating: 18+ (Explicit sex and drug abuse)

Summary from Goodreads: An opium-addicted beauty.
An infamous poet living in self-imposed exile.
An ancient treasure about to fall into the wrong hands.

Melanie Karsak's Chasing the Star Garden takes readers on a thrilling adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem-colored waters of the ancient world. Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and shattered past, reluctantly plunges into a centuries-old mystery in a romantic adventure best described as Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley.

It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium. 

Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.

Chasing the Star Garden was an amazing book that will keep you thinking about it for months to come!  I honestly wasn't sure what to expect with this book - I haven't read a ton of steampunk and an opium-addicted heroine could work well or it could be a disaster for me (I have a hard time with unlikable main characters).  But that gorgeous cover kept calling to me - I mean, I want to frame it on my wall, it's so gorgeous.  So, I decided to give it a try and I am SO glad I did.

The book follows Lily, an airship racer who spends her time living on the edge and running from her past.  When a mysterious man slips her a kaleidoscope, tells her to fly to Venice and plunges off a tower to his death, she reluctantly finds herself on an adventure to rescue a statue of a Greek goddess.  But she's not the only one after the statue, and the trip is anything but smooth.

The negatives:
  • The beginning?  Honestly, the only negative I can come up with for this book was that I was a little hesitant about it for a chapter or two starting at about the second chapter.  The very beginning of the book is really exciting and starts out with a bang, but then I got a little nervous when it looked like the book might center a bit too much on Lily's somewhat kinky sex life and her opium addiction.  However, my fears were allayed relatively quickly, when I found that the book went far deeper than just relaying Lily's antics - these gritty scenes were necessary at the beginning of the book so that we could establish where Lily is at in her life, learn about why and watch her overcome her demons.
  • The romance.  I don't even really want to reveal who the main romance in this book is with because there is some question about it - there is a little bit of a love triangle (but not a major one, so don't avoid it for that reason if you're not a fan of love triangles).  But, I absolutely loved seeing Lily move from a purely physical relationship toward real love.  The romance in this book was sweet and touching and sometimes steamy.  It moved at the perfect pace.  Even better, the love story was central to the story, but didn't overtake the plot.
  • Mythology.  Karsak wove Greek mythology into this book into a really unique way.  It was definitely a part of the story, but didn't overwhelm the general plot.  Also, it wasn't really clear whether the mythology was being treated as purely myth or as reality - at least not until you get a good portion of the way through the book - and I loved guessing!  Toward the end of the book, the mythology becomes more meaningful to Lily, and I felt myself loving it even more!
  • Steampunk.  Like I said, I haven't read a ton of steampunk, but I LOVED the steampunk elements to this book.  The hot air ballooning, the interesting clothing and the unique devices that the tinkers came up with all added a great ambiance to the story and added a really fun flair.  Now I want to read more!
  • The handling of addiction and abuse.  This book handles some pretty serious issues.  Lily suffers from an opium addiction that profoundly affects her daily life and keeps her from truly connecting to the world.  Like I said, I was a bit concerned at first that the book was going to glorify her drug use, but that's not the case at all.  Lily uses drugs to escape her past - a past that is filled with abandonment and abuse.  We see Lily's past unfold throughout the book.  As I learned more and more, I was completely drawn in and invested in Lily.  I understood how she got to this place of addiction and I so wanted her to overcome it!  Really, it is Lily's backstory that makes this book so compelling and that makes it a not-to-be-missed read.
I highly recommend Chasing the Star Garden to just about anyone - anyone who enjoys steampunk, fantasy or just really riveting characters!  While this book gave us a nice conclusion, I'm happy to see that it is just the first in a series - I will definitely be keeping my eye out for the next book!  5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

What draws you to steampunk fiction?
The love the aesthetic of science and the decedent blended together. I grew up with HG Wells and Jules Verne, and as an adult, I fell in love with the beauty and history of the Regency and Victorian eras. When I stumbled upon steampunk, it was like falling in love! It is fun to imagine an alternative history where science takes a different turn. I am also a fantasy reader and writer at heart, so once I add in the fantastical, I have a lot of fun writing steampunk.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. How long did it take you to write Chasing the star Garden?  Did you have the whole story mapped out before you started writing or did you figure out the plot as you went along? 
I am a planner. I need to have the whole story mapped out in my head. I wrote the book in a matter of months but took more than a year working with my editor and beta readers to get the book polished.

Who is your favorite character in the book?
Lily is, by far, my favorite of all the characters I have ever written. There is something so appealing about a character who is not perfect. She has her vices, and she is not ashamed of them. As the same time, she is so loveable. You just want to give her a big hug. I also like that she is so brave and so strong. Lily is someone you want to root for; you just want to see her life turn around. She even evokes my sympathy!

I’m also fond of Byron. He is just fun to write. He has more “on page” time in Book II of this series, and it’s just a joy to get inside his wild, irrational head and try to view the world through his eyes.

Lily struggles to find real love and to overcome a past full of abuse.  Was it difficult to write about lily’s painful memories? 
It was, but the sad reality is that so many women have either experienced or witnessed what Lily and Nicolette went through. I think, as writers, we need to be brave and face some of the gross misfortunes to which women are subjected as a way to understand and heal. When Lily has a moment with Nicolette late in the book, I cry every time. It is such a cathartic moment.   

Have to Agree with you there - That scene is amazing! 

What’s your next project?
Right now I am finishing the editing of Chasing the Green Fairy, the second novel in Lily’s series. I am also working on a companion short story for this series. After, I have a 3rd novel planned for Lily, and I hope to get to that this spring. Readers of my Harvesting Series will be happy to know I’ll be turning back to that project in 2014.

Tell us a little about one of your favorite authors, Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Why do you love her writing?
Marion Zimmer Bradley did something wonderful for fantasy. In The Mists of Avalon, she took a traditionally masculine body of literature, the Arthurian saga, and gave it a female voice. And not just any voice, the voice of Morgan le fey, “the witch.” She made a mythologically “evil” character and made her sympathetic, admirable, and loveable. I appreciate that MZB set a precedent for strong female characters in fantasy, and I think we fantasy writers owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

One more fun question.  Since my blog is called Feed Your Fiction Addiction, I always have to ask: What are you addicted to?
Mint-flavored anything! I love this time of year: peppermint coffee creamer, candy cane ice cream, peppermint oreos, peppermint mochas lattes, chocolate covered candy canes, etc. December becomes a mint-eating extravaganza. By the time I get to February, I am minted-out! But in the meantime, it’s mint-flavored bacchanalia!


Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there was an abysmal lack of entertainment, so she turned to reading and hiking. Apparently, rambling around the woods with a head full of fantasy worlds and characters will inspire you to become an author. Be warned. Melanie wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, the author now resides in Florida with her husband and two children. Melanie is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College. 

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  1. I've recently been introduced to steampunk (I know, where have I been) and this sounds like an excellent read to begin my new fetish!

    1. If you enjoy steampunk, you should definitely check this one out!!

  2. NOTE FOR GIVEAWAY HOST - there were several comments here which were lost due to a technical glitch (every once in a great while IntenseDebate and CommentLuv disappear off of one of my posts and all of my comments disappear with it!). Please not that if someone said that they commented on this post and you don't see it, the comment was most likely lost, so the giveaway entry should count. Sorry for the inconvenience!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  3. I like the story and enjoyed reading the excerpt good luck the book

  4. Such an interesting story line. I have to admit I don't read a lot of steampunk, but am wiling to give this one a try.

    1. I;ve never been all that interested in steampunk before, but I really loved this book!

  5. Thanks for this giveaway. Story line is good

  6. Wow!! Awesome Review!! I have read The Harvesting by Melanie and loved it, so I think I'd love this one too!! The characters sound great and I like this world she's created... You are pushing me to get it!!

    Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

  7. I can't wait to get my hands on this book! it sounds SO FANTASTIC!! Much thanks for the giveaway opportunity :)

    1. You're very welcome!! Good luck in the giveaway and I hope you get the book and enjoy it!

  8. I would love to have some good reads during the winter months. Thank you for the giveaway.