That Ghoul Ava: Her First Adventures by TW Brown

BrownThatGhoulAvaWhere I Got It: Won a copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Celia Aurora de Blas

Publisher: Todd Brown (2013)

Length: 2 hours 1 minute

Series: Book 1 That Ghoul Ava

Author’s Page

Ava is a ghoul and didn’t know it at first. Indeed, life sucked and her human life ended one night. The next day she awoke and the changes were already done. Sunlight burned like a laser. Her sense of smell and hearing were intense. Teeth and claws appeared and her skin was a uniform grey. Oh, and the dead smelled divinely tasty.

This first book contains two short stories about Ava and her side kick Lisa. They work fine together as one happens shortly after the other chronologically. I so enjoyed this book! Ava is the next thing in urban fantasy. She has a sharp it and a snarky tongue. I repeatedly found myself snort laughing at the dark humor.

Ava has no grief over eating the naughty or the dead and I like this about her. After all, she has now entered a seedier world where the questionable and evil roam free. She doesn’t get all emotional over it; she simply deals with it, often with her shark mouth.

Lisa is a great sidekick because she is so very human. She’s messed up, fell in with a bad crowd. Yet she has maintained her sweetness and Ava is rather protective of this. Together, they are a well balanced team.

I especially like that Ava isn’t your typical Causcasian heroine. Hooray for diversity in fiction! Toss in the equivalent of a psychic gang boss for the area, a few vampires, and the run-of-the-mill street punks, and you have a very entertaining story!

The Narration: Celia Aurora de Blas was awesome! I absolutely loved her as Ava. She was so fun and I really felt she brought the humor to life in her performance.

What I Liked: Ghouls!; plenty of snarky humor; Ava is so capable and doesn’t cry about it; the cover art; Lisa is an excellent sidekick; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I so loved this book!

What Others Think:

D. R. Johnson

The Bookie Monster

What Does the Fluffy Red Fox Say?

Robin Hood: The History & Folklore of the English Legend by Jesse Harasta & Charles River Editors

CharlesRiverEditorsRobinHoodWhere I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!).

Narrator: Jack Chekijian

Publisher: Charles River Editors (2015)

Length: 1 hour 10 minutes

Author’s Page

The legends of Robin Hood arose in Medieval times and were carried forth in the Renaissance and modernized by Hollywood. This book takes us back to the earliest stories of Robin Hood, the changes the tales underwent in the Renaissance, and the enduring traits that have survived into modern retellings.

Here is another educational book from Charles River Editors. I had always assumed that Robin Hood was a fictional legend. However, there may indeed have been a man that the earliest stories were based on. It’s still debated in history circles. In addition, the earliest tales had a much more practical, gruff man at the center. He wasn’t the Lionheart loving, giving to poor hero that we all think of today.

In fact, many of the attributes that modern retellings include didn’t come about until the late Medieval, or early Renaissance time period. For instance, there were no Friars in Medieval England, so the character Friar Tuck obviously didn’t occur in the earliest tales. Also, the Renaissance Tudors felt the need to elevate Robin Hood and managed to ‘research’ a noble lineage for the man.

Indeed, this book was an eye opener for me. Granted, I had never really looked into Robin Hood’s history. I think this book would be great for other folks for have previously only had a passing interest.

The Narration: Once again, Jack Chekijian did a great job. I like that he has the right mix of excitement for the subject and professorial air to keep us all grounded. 

What I Liked: Educational and entertaining!; the book explores the history of the man and the tales; it’s interesting to see how the stories changed over time; the cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this one!

The Earp Brothers: Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp by Charles River Editors

CharlesRiverEditorsTheEarpBrothersWhere I Got It: Review copy from Punch Audio (thanks!).

Narrator: Alex Hyde-White

Publisher: Charles River Editors (2015)

Length: 2 hours 45 minutes

Author’s Page

Many folks know the Earp brothers from the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, AZ. Wyatt Earp in particular is seen as an icon of the Wild West. However, this book gives you so much more than that. Each of the Earp brothers was a flawed human, leading interesting lives. There’s law breaking, brothels, drug use, affairs and multiple wives, gambling, and the rough & tough enforcement of the law.

Charles River Editors has put together yet another fascinating read. I knew very little about the Earp brothers before diving into this book and now feel that I can hold a decent conversation about them. This book starts off with their family back east and shows how the brothers grew up, went separate ways, and then ended up together again in AZ. The story doesn’t stop there and the book continues the tale of each brother, following them until each one passes out of history.

The Earp’s flaws and sometimes outright lawlessness isn’t sugar coated or glossed over in this book. Indeed, we get to know the factual story for each man, including all their documented indiscretions. I especially like that when the facts become a bit muddied the book is honest about questionable or conflicting historical sources.

My only criticism is that sometimes I would lose track of which brother the story was focused on at any one time. Often, the book would start a section or perhaps a paragraph with the full name (i.e. Wyatt Earp) but then just refer to the man as Earp the rest of the section. So if you missed the full name, you could easily think the story was still focused on whichever brother before. I wish the book had stuck with first names when referring to the Earp brothers for much of the book instead of going with Earp, Earp, and Earp for like 80% of the book. As each brother dies off, it becomes easier to follow which brother is doing what. I expect this wouldn’t be such an issue with a print or ebook edition as you can quickly flip back and visually check which brother you are reading about at any given time.

Overall, this was a very educational book for the uninitiated. I really liked that the gunfight at Tombstone did not make up the bulk of the tale, as there was so much more to the Earp brothers. The book ends by giving a list of various movies made based on the Earps, nearly all focused on the fight in Tombstone.

The Narration: Alex Hyde-White was a good choice for this book. I really felt that he enjoyed narrating the book as much as I enjoyed listening to it. His appreciation for the subject matter came through.  

What I Liked: Educational and entertaining!; The Earps were flawed humans and this book doesn’t flinch from telling it like it is; the gunfight in Tombstone is covered but not the focus of the book; when historical references are conflicting or questionable, this book let’s the reader know that.

What I Disliked: Quite often all 3 brothers are referred to by their last name, so several times I lost track of which Earp brother the book was referring to.

Roman Holiday by Jodi Taylor

TaylorRomanHolidayWhere I Got It: Was free on Audible.com when I picked it up (thanks!).

Narrator: Zara Ramm

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 1 hour 12 minutes

Series: Book 3.5 The Chronicles of St. Mary’s

Author’s Page

Note: Although this is Book 3.5 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

The folks of St. Mary’s are time travelers. They have rules and a whole costume department and some pretty snazzy tech, along with whole sheets of language cheats. The mission for this book is one to merely observe. They are sent back to 44BC Rome. Julius Caesar has installed his mistress Cleopatra in his wife’s house. Yeah. The dude has big brass ones.

This was my first Jodi Taylor book ever and it will definitely not be my last. The mix of history, cool tech, and humor had me hooked. I kept alternating between chuckling and, when surprised, snorting hot tea through my nose. I switched to cool water after the second time. The humor was often sharp and pointed (such as calling out Caesar on the wisdom of where to install his mistress when in Rome) – just my style of humor!

Also, our time travelers are lead by an older female, which makes her perfect for this mission as she can totally play the respectable wealthy matron. Plenty of unforeseen circumstances occur, and the proper mayhem follows.

I’ll be catching up on this series for sure!

The Narration: Zara Ramm was a great voice for the lead female in this book. She had the right mix of humor and experienced self-assuredness that really brought this character to life. She also had distinct and believable voices for the other female and male characters.

What I Liked: Time travel!; sharp-tongued humor; famous historical figures; a crazy set of circumstances.

What I Disliked: The cover art and the title don’t really say ‘time travel’ to me,which is probably why I haven’t taken note of this series before.

Dog Training by Daniela Emerson

EmersonDogTrainingWhere I Got It: Review copy from Cosmic Crate (thanks!).

Narrator: Kelly Dievendorf

Publisher: Sender Publishing (2015)

Length: 55 minutes

Author’s Page

Here is a good primer for taking on a puppy or an older dog. If you’ve never taken a dog obedience class or read other dog training books, then this is a good place to start. It covers all the basics without getting bogged down in example stories or trying to delve into doggy psychology.

I am one of those life-long pet owners that has never taken a pet obedience course. Instead, I have found nuggets of useful information along in the way in books like this one. For this particular book, I like how the author distinguishes the different set of challenges an owner may have taking on a puppy versus an older dog. Since I have done both, I can attest that the challenges are indeed quite different. There are also bonuses to each, which the book explains as well.

I was quite pleased to see that the book drew on consistency and patience as key in training a dog. The author also doesn’t pull any punches letting a potential dog owner know when they probably aren’t ready for a pet. We’ve all known adults who were not in a place (emotionally, mentally, physically) to properly care for a pet and some of us have probably been there. So kudos for the author for not shying away from saying it. If you are looking for a dog training book for kids or for adults new to the idea of pet ownership, this is a great place to start.

The Narration: Kelly Dievendorf was a good voice for this book. She had a clear voice that you could easily imagine belonging to an experienced pet trainer. 

What I Liked: Easy to take in info; different challenges in adopting a puppy versus an adult dog; not holding back on who probably isn’t ready to adopt a dog; the cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – good source of info!

How to Be Creative by Clayton Geoffreys

GeoffreysHowToBeCreativeWhere I Got It: Review copy from Cosmic Crate (thanks!).

Narrator: Jake Stevens

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Length: 1 hour 10 minutes

Author’s Page

This is a short little book on how to become creative, or how to get out of a rut and get back to being creative. If you’re one of those folks that feels life is dull and your glued to your routine, you might well find this interesting.

Once again, the author does a great job of packing a lot of info into a short amount of time (I recently enjoyed his book Milk Thistle). The section on defining creativity was interesting and informative. Also, I liked the sections on how to incorporate creativity in your daily life and how to let your creativity grow. There were two case studies on famous creative people: Steve Jobs and Jerry Seinfeld. I have not followed either one other than in passing. I have caught several episodes of The Jerry Seinfeld Show and found the jokes repetitive and therefore, easy to spot on the horizon. So for me, the second example didn’t really work, as the point was to not be repetitive when being creative. Setting that aside, the book used these examples to show that these two famous men didn’t just do one thing with their lives; they had several projects going, usually at the same time.

The author shares steps to keeping creativity alive in your daily life and I think these are useful. As a weaver myself, when I get in a slump I often do some of these things and they give me a fresh perspective. Basically, it is just shaking up your routine and doing something you like and that is a bit different from what you had planned that day. The author keeps it simple (like taking detours when walking the dog, or gardening instead of doing laundry, etc.) and I like that he doesn’t turn it into a big production. You don’t need to go skydiving or try out a new-to-you narcotic to get your creative juices flowing. All in all, if you find you are not a creative person, this book could be just the stimulant you are looking for.

The Narration: Jake Stevens’ performance was great. He kept a good pace and had the right mix of excited and serious.

What I Liked: Easy to take in info; plenty of examples; simple actions to take; the cover art.

What I Disliked: The famous creative men examples didn’t particularly resonate with me.

Kushiel’s Dart – Part II

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

Hello everyone! Welcome to the read along of Jacqueline Carey‘s Kushiel’s Dart. You can find the schedule HERE. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join in. We also have a Goodreads group for SF/F read alongs. Folks are always welcome to join us.

This week, Allie from Tethyan Books is your host. Pop over there and leave a link to your post in the comments so we can all visit you. Folks are also most welcome to answer any and all questions in the comments and join in the conversation.

Chapters 9-18 are covered below. If you haven’t read the book, there will be spoilers for these chapters.

1) In these chapters, Phèdre finally gets to have her own dedication ceremony.  Were you surprised by what they did with the dove? Also, do you think it is fair to ask people to make a life decision about serving Naamah at such a young age?

The first time I read this book, I was a little worried for the dove. After all, animal sacrifice has been around for a long time and is not unheard of in epic fantasy fiction. So I was quite pleased when it was more of a catch and release situation.

Many cultures and religions require children to make such a life long decision at an early age. As an example, consider the Catholic religion and how early a child can have their dedication ceremony. Most folks who go through such a ceremony still turn out to be OK people.

With that said, I still think it is unfair to ask a kid or teen to make such a sincere, life-long dedication (to the Catholic church, or Naamah, or some other religion/philosophy) at such a young age. After all, few of us know much about life at such an age, even if we believed differently then. For this book, the dedication ceremony is supported by the culture and religion and is not out of place.

2) Sex ed is definitely different in Terre d’Ange.  Do you think the Showing was useful for the teenagers? Do you think, at their age, you would have appreciated something like the book-learning they received in the art?

I love the sex ed in this book. I really wish our society, or at least my parents, had been as open minded and educated when I was a teenager. I especially like the Showing as it shows sex to be an act of joy, beauty, love, and respect. Honesty, I got most of my sex ed as a teen from the Benny Hill show(which my parents found quite amusing and now I wonder why), which is none of those things.

I definitely would have appreciated 2 years of book learning on the subject. Sex ed in the US public school systems is mostly pictures of diseased genitals and abstinence as the only form of birth control. There was no instruction on the mechanics of the act, and definitely no conversation on what a beautiful, joyful thing it can be.

Luckily, today’s kids have a plethora of sex ed available, like Laci Green.

3) Hyacinthe has some neat theories about Delauney’s past.  What is your favorite theory?

Well, with Delaunay, I always lean towards the romantic theories. He strikes me as a man who loves deeply, even if he has to hide those feelings. In this book and later in the series, we learn a bit more about Delaunay’s past. But for Delaunay’s back story, you may have to check out the anthology Unfettered in which a short story by Jacqueline Carey is included.

4) Phèdre seems to be making a name for herself as an anguissette, known for never giving the signale. Do you think she would ever actually choose to use the signale, even if she were in real danger? Do you think her inability to do so might get her into trouble?

When I first read this book, I had never heard of a signale, or safe word. So I totally expected her to use it on her first assignation. However, she didn’t, nor did she use it with the pincer fanatic, nor with the riding crop lady. This speaks to Phedre’s stubbornness. Later in the book, we learn that which yields is not weak.

5) Do you think Alcuin is enjoying his career as much as Phèdre, or do you think he has a different focus? Do you think their differing appeals and tastes will drive them apart?

Ah. Alcuin! In many ways, even though he is slightly older than Phedre, he is so much younger in the ways of love. As Phedre noted, he did not grow up in one of the Houses and so was ignorant of so much that Phedre took for granted. Also, I think he feels he has a great debt towards Delaunay for rescuing him as a boy. At first, I don’t think he enjoyed the assignations as much. However, his sex ed instructor Cecile did borrow him for a night and introduce him to an experienced lady that left him dreamy eyed and dopey for a day or two.

Phedre is super special, being Kushiel’s chosen. She is almost always going to be in a class of her own when it comes to bedroom play. So I don’t think this will drive Alcuin and Phedre apart. After all, Alcuin and much of Terre D’Ange are totally accepting of her sexual preferences.

Other Tidbits

The old marquiste always gives me a laugh! How can he do quality work with Phedre squirming on the tattoo table?

It does not surprise me that Phedre abhors cleaning. ;)

The first few encounters with Melisandre still give me shivers – such beauty and intelligence rolled together!

Just because I am curious, where is everyone from? I believe we have quite the international crowd for this read along. I hale from the sticks of northern New Mexico, USA.

Participating Bloggers:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness