Three Parts Dead – Read Along – The Schedule

GladstoneThreePartsDeadHello everyone! I am happy to announce that I will be teaming up with Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog to do a read along of Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. It is the first book in The Craft Sequence series.

Book Blurb:

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, a first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring him back to life before his city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without him, the metropolis’ steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god who’s having an understandable crisis of faith. When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts – and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces listeners to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

And we have put together the schedule: 

Post Date Monday March 9, Prologue up to Chapter 8 – week 1, (up to page 113) (page count 113) hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
Post Date Monday March 16, Chapter 8 up to Chapter 15 – week 2, (up to page 223) (page count 110) hosted by Dab of Darkness
Post Date Monday March 23, Chapter 15 through Epilogue – week 3 (up to page 333) (page count 110) hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow

Below are the blogs participating:<

Heather – The Bastard Title
Susan (me) – Dab of Darkness

More folks are always welcome. If you’d like to join us and receive the weekly discussion questions via email, just leave a comment or email me (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

A Memory of Light, Part VII

WOT 14Welcome everyone to Book 14 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and the next to final week of this read along.

This week, Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, is the host and can be found in the comments. Liesel at Musings on Fantasia has cool non-spoilery fan art. Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers  has in-depth answers.

This week, we covered Chapter 37, entitled ‘The Last Battle’. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1.  What did you think of the structure?  That is, one huge chapter with no breathers.  Was it appropriate for the battle, or did you find the difference from before jarring?

I thought the structure worked. We got to see the battle from several view points and I never felt like I had battle fatigue. In fact, I am eager to see what the final week brings, because things are still happening!

2.  Tuon orchestrates a fight with Mat, and decides to return only after some careful deliberations.  Ice-cold gamble or foolhardy move by Mat?  Am I the only one who thinks the Seanchan have gotten away with very little fighting so far?

I was surprised that Tuon agreed to the fake (or semi-fake) argument as she can get stuck on what is appropriate for her station.

But then I was more surprised that she was actually contemplating not returning to the battle! Has she not been paying attention? Ugh! I wanted Min to give her a slap.

And yes, the Seanchan as a whole have not been as engaged in the Last Battle as everyone else. I hope Mat can change that. After all, they do have a sizable force made up of competent warriors and a solid command structure.

3.  Androl and Pevara spend much of the battle behind enemy lines to recover the seals, practicing telepathy and other fascinating effects.  Why not another lava trick?  Logain also challenge Demandred.  What do you think of his motivations?  Where will his glory come from?

I think it is great that Androl and Pevara are exploring this double bond and also building a solid friendship (and perhaps something more?). Maybe Androl isn’t capable of such a big trick unless he is the recipient of a circle of channelers? Still, it would be cool if he made tiny little gateways that shot out little lava streams. That would distract the bad guys, if nothing else.

I think Logain wants to do good, but his time in captivity has also made him want to lash out. It really does remind me of Rand shortly after he was released from the Aes Sedai and their box. I am not sure where his glory will come from. I had hoped that he would get to take out Taim, but we saw that he did not. Perhaps Mogedien or Padan Fain? They’re lurking around somewhere, right?

4.  In the meantime, Rand and the Dark One exchange visions for the future.  What do you think of all these?  Can Rand really kill the Dark One now?

This was unexpected, but I really liked it. A few weeks ago, I asked if the Dark One could be killed, because he/it was kind of like a force of nature or Elemental. Now that we have seen this exchange of visions, including one in which the Dark One and evil no longer exists, we see that life would not be balanced or complete. So, no, I think Rand will have to find a way to contain or minimize the Dark One.

5.  Some choose not to fight for various reasons.  What do you think of Ila’s thoughts on violence, now, at the Last Battle?  Did you expect the gai’shain to fight?  Any difference between them and the reluctant mercenaries from the prologue?

The forces of the Dark are not going to give quarter. They are not interested in taking captives, except maybe a select few. They are not interested in a swift and honorable defeat of the enemy and will then rule in relative peace and efficiency (like the Seanchan). No, the Trollocs want to kill you and then eat you. The Red Aiel are literally mad with blood lust. The Sharans will enslave at best, and torture and kill at worst. The elderly, the young, the weak, the inebriated will not be spared. Essentially, if the Dark wins and you are left alive, you will wish you were dead.

So, it’s silly to try healing Trollocs, or simply turning them free to run wild in a lightly populated place. I think the Aiel as a whole will understand if the gai’shain pick up arms and fight at this time. I am sure there can be a way found to ‘regain’ any honor lost in such an act. And, yes, I think there is a philosophical difference between the gai’shain and the reluctant mercenaries – honor versus coin. But in practicality, no. They all need to get armed and get busy.

6.  Faile and Co. make it to the battle, only to be betrayed by Aravine.  Do you think anyone other than Olver made it out (Faile, especially)?  What did you think of Bela’s heroic death?  Where does the Horn go from here?

Aravine! Argh! Dark friends pop up in such inconvenient places.

I am not sure if Faile made it out alive. She was horsed and uninjured when she lead off the Trollocs. But it is a messy battle field. Quite frankly, if Faile dies I will be sorry for Perrin’s loss but not particularly sad that Faile is gone.

Fuck! Bela! Man, that was hard. She was there from the beginning. She will be mourned.

I am not sure how Olver will get the Horn to Mat. Perhaps Mat will figure out somehow that Olver has the Horn and will borrow one of the Seanchan flying beasties, swoop down, pick up the boy, and then boy fly to glory blowing the Horn!

7.  Gawyn, Galad and Lan all decide to challenge Demandred.  Gawyn pays the ultimate price: foolish move, or a reasonable gamble to remove the most dangerous enemy on the field?  Galad tries to avenge him, and fails, only for Lan to do the deed and finally fulfill his series-long death wish.  What do you think of these events?

Demandred is definitely a bad ass, even if he is an arrogant ass. So I think we all saw it coming that Gawyn would attempt something foolish with his fighting skills and the Seachan assassin rings. However, I didn’t see him be quite this foolish and accomplishing nothing. He didn’t even wound Demandred nor take out some key commanders in Demandred’s army. I was surprised that there was such an empty death for Gawyn.

I thought it was interesting that Mat sent Galad a note and the necklace with the duplicate foxhead medallion. Mat actually does do a lot of thinking, but I guess he has to be under some pressure for it to manifest.

Lan has been looking for his death since before we met him. So I am not surprised that he found it on this battlefield (though we haven’t seen his head on a spike nor had Nynaeve feel his last breath yet – resurrection?).

8.  Egwene, having lost her warder and husband, slays M’Hael (WITH a sa’angreal) and then lays waste to the Sharans, and kills herself, Lews Therin style.  Did you expect Egwene to be the first out of the original crew?  Was her fate sealed already when Gawyn died?  What will her legacy be, as Amyrlin?  And what of this new weave—the Flame of Tar Valon?

I was not expecting Egwene to die at all, even with Gawyn’s death! This totally surprised me. Yet, I was OK with it. This is the Last Battle and I don’t think everyone is going to make it out alive. After all, we have several heroes in the series and sometimes heroes die spectacularly.

As to Egwene’s legacy, well I expect all these crystals she created in sealing cracks will become pretty valuable. Maybe even turned into angreals of some sort. Also, nearly all her words were recorded for some reason or another, so I think the aes sedai who are left will take greater heed of them.

I think this new weave, the Flame of Tar Valon, will be very, very hard to teach without turning oneself into a giant crystal pillar. It will be studied, as best it can be, and written about ad naseum. But I am not sure anyone will be able to duplicate it until the Wheel turns again and we have another Last Battle and the need is great.

9.  Elayne, having suffered huge losses for the whole battle, is taken by Mellar, threatening to cut her babies out.  What will come of this?  Is Birgitte now permanently dead, or is she just waiting on the other side for the Horn to blow?

OK, as incompetent as Elayne is, I don’t particularly want to see her dead through said incompetence. Sigh….who will save Elayne this time? Bryne is gone, Bashere too. Birgitte too. Maybe Mat will blow that Horn soon and Birgitte’s first act will be to save Elayne’s ass one more time.

And yes, I totally think Birgitte is waiting in the ethereal wings for the Horn to blow.

10. Anything else you feel I missed?  Ogier?  Dragons?  The beautiful Shendla?  Demandred’s approach to the battle?  All the minor deaths: Hurin, Mr. and Mrs. Bashere, Bryne and, dare I say Siuan?  Min’s spy-hunting?  Leilwin?

There was so much in this chapter! I am pretty sure Siuan and Bryne are gone. Min’s visions don’t lie and they did separate in order to get some things done. I was worried how Egwene would take the loss of one of her closest advisors (Siuan) but with Egwene’s death, that is no longer a concern.

If Faile lives, I am sure she will take the loss of her parents hard. Though they did pass in glory, so that will be celebrated. Faile is enough of a warrior to see that.

Egwene freed Leilwin from the Bond before doing her last act, right? So, I am sure Leilwin will mourn her in some way, but she won’t be crushed by it. Perhaps she and Bayle will go on to do some more good deeds.

Since the Seanchan aren’t doing too much at the moment, I guess Min has time to hunt for spies. I wouldn’t be surprised by how many she might uncover.

Rune Gate by Mark E. Cooper

CooperRuneGateWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Impulse Books UK (2014)

Narrator: Mikael Narammore

Length: 7 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 1 Rune Gate Cycle

Author’s Page

Alex Yorke is a Witch and also a police consultant. She recently returned from Los Angeles to her grandparents’ farm to give her psyche a rest. Assisting police track down murderers has taken it’s toll. She would like to simply turn off her clairvoyant abilities for a while, but, alas, that is not to be. The local police department is already knocking on her door to help track down a sadistic killer.  The reader (or listener) is in for a hell of a ride!

This story is a fun mix of urban fantasy and police procedural. On one side we have the local police. Thomas is the guy in charge, and a former lover of Alex’s. Jen is his deputy, and a friend to Alex. On the other side, we have the Wiccans and witches. Douglas is a mysterious man that Alex literally ran in to. He is one of a very few that can shield his thoughts from Alex. Michael is the head of a Wiccan coven, Silver Mist, and he and his fellow believers lend Alex a hand. As you can see, Alex is right smack in the middle of everyone. The mix of the fantastical with grounded detective techniques was very satisfying.

Alex herself was an interesting mix. She walks into the story fully formed. She has a past – past lovers, past college, past jobs, past residence. The reader learns bits and pieces of her past as we move through the story. She’s trained as a cop, studied to be a scientist, and yet has this clairvoyant ability. Unfortunately, she has had no one to train her and has never learned how to shut off overhearing other’s thoughts. And it becomes incredibly worse if a person touches her. So, no snuggles for her.

I put Alex in her mid to late 20s. Perhaps 60-70% of the book, she acts her age. However, throughout the narrative she loses her cool, gnashes her teeth, lashes out at folks, screeches, etc. It’s all rather dramatic. She cries and occasionally screams or has some melt down. Much of these instances can be explained by her lack of control of her abilities and the incredible stress of tracking down a killer. But I did tire of it. Quickly. Really, this is my only complaint about the book – the punctuated drama surrounding Alex and her witchy abilities. The opening scene, where Alex taps into the last memories of the now deceased and mutilated murder victim, made it pretty clear how horrible the experience is for Alex. But she continues to have various anger management problems throughout the story. It was right on that cusp of too much. Oh, and Alex is a babe and we get to know that right up front. Apparently, she is hot enough to be a super model. And this is important to the plot and her worth as a character…..in some nebulous way.

Now, setting that aside, I quite enjoyed the other characters. Douglas doesn’t show up until nearly half way through the tale. He’s got a lovely accent and has some antiquated ideas. Yep. Didn’t see that twist coming. However, he is a calming force to Alex, helping balance out the story.

The plot line was full of hunts and losses, more bodies keep turning up. The police are mystified by certain aspects of the murders. Plus there is some jurisdictional issues between county and city cops. I liked the mix of action, grumpy pissing matches, and certain characters building friendships. Now the ending! So intense! And it is a cliff hanger, so you need to be ready to jump into Book 2, Chosen, right away. And I plan to do just that!

Narration: Mikael Naramore was a good choice for this book. He does a very believable angry Alex. He also gives Douglas his lovely accent. For Thomas he has a gruff, older cop voice. I especially liked his voices for the evil bad guys.

What I Liked:  Great mix of police procedural and urban fantasy; Douglas is a good, calming influence on Alex; Douglas’s origins were an unforeseen twist; intense ending; ready to jump into Book 2. 

What I Disliked: Alex is a borderline drama queen; Alex’s looks seem to be really important.

A Little Benedictine Oblate Manual by James Nugent

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

Narrator: Valerie Gilbert

Publisher: James Joseph Nugent, Jr. (2013)

Length: 30 minutes

Author’s Page

Near as I can tell, this book is for folks who are already Benedictine Oblates, or at least have a solid idea of what one is. The author provides his experiences and opinions on such a spiritual life. If you read the book blurb on Goodreads or Audible, it seems this book is meant to spark ideas or conversation for folks already living the life as Oblates or considering doing so.

Going into to this book, I didn’t know what an Oblate was and in completing this book, I was still mystified. So I went to the Wikipedia Article to educate myself. While the book blurb says this little book would be useful for beginners to experts, I will say this is better suited to the expert, or at least someone who has a solid idea of many of the practices, prayers, and religious terms used. I do not and therefore, felt lost much of the time.

As one can say about most religious text and religion-related texts, the basis is try to do good and keep your deity/deities always in mind. That definitely applies here and that is a positive message. However, the author does tend to ramble. Couple that with the subject specific references and terms, and you don’t have a book that just anyone can step into and get much out of.

Several times, the author refers to his past job where he worked and lived on a boat, before he got an office job and became an Oblate. Personally, I think this would be a fascinating tale: what he and his life were like on that boat and then how things shifted to what he does today. Why did he decide to leave the ship life? What was hard and easy about doing so? How did he become an Oblate and what he finds easy and hard about that? You never know; the author could be planning to write such a thing. Then folding this little book into that would make it make sense.

While this book on it’s own didn’t work for me, others may find it interesting and useful. It’s short enough to enjoy during a lunch break. So if you have any interest in the subject of Oblates, this could give you a small taste of what that role in society and church means.

Narration:  Valerie Gilbert did a good job with this narration. She presented the book in a clear and thoughtful voice. During the few instances where the text required some emotion (wonder or even awe) she did a great job of imbuing that. Basically, it felt like I was having a cup of tea with the author as he had a nice lunch time ramble.

What I Liked: Forced me to learn by looking up the Wikipedia article; was like having a rambly chat with a neighbor.

What I Disliked:  The book required you to have quite a bit of knowledge to follow along; it was a long ramble so I wasn’t always clear what the point was; the cover is rather utilitarian.

James & The Dragon by Theresa Snyder

SnyderJames&TheDragonWhere I Got It: Free on the author’s website (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Steve Sibulsky

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Farloft Chronicles

Author’s Page

A plague has beset the land and many have perished. The Wizard Laval believes he can find a cure to the illness, but he needs a bit of dragonwing. Will the only known dragon, Farloft, of the land cooperate? Meanwhile, James struggles in a bog, cutting peat for the oncoming winter. With both his parents dead, James is on his own and his crude & rude neighbors know it.

I initially took this as a kid’s book, but there are deeper plots going on here. I love how all the characters have flaws – Farloft is a know it all, the wizard is arrogant, the boy James is lonely and afraid. While the humans suffer from disease and starvation, the dragon dithers on whether or not to give up a bit of wing. Laval didn’t argue very hard in his first attempt, feeling that was beneath him. James has sticky fingers, but this could easily be explained as being destitute, orphaned, and 10 years old. So you see, it’s not a simple pleasant kid’s book where all the characters follow well-rehearsed lines.

I liked this book for it’s complexity. Farloft has a hundred and one stories to tell, and during his time with the recovering boy waiting out a snow storm, he has a captive audience to show off all his wisdom too. James, being the mostly good lad that he is, soaks it all up. They build a bond. But then reality intrudes and both realize that a human child and an ancient dragon can’t live together as family.

Meanwhile, the Wizard Laval plots vengeance. And he has decent cause! Laval turns to trickery and sneakiness, but I couldn’t blame him 100% either. Farloft’s first refusal cost Laval something dear. Indeed, there was little cut and dry about this story and that made me like it.

The ending solved some problems and left others dangling. I felt it closed out the smaller story arc well while leaving room for more Farloft Chronicles. Plus the ending had a little surprise twist that I quite enjoyed! Definitely worth the listen!

Narration: Steve Sibulsky was a good choice for this book. He had excellent voices for the know it all dragon, the arrogant wizard, the scared kid. Then he tossed in an array of side character voices. He made this book come to life!

What I Liked:  Not so simple kid’s book; all the characters have wants and not all wants will be met; they all make mistakes, some of which can’t be undone; satisfying ending with surprise twist. 

What I Disliked: This is a small criticism – I felt the ending could have used just a touch more in showing things from Laval’s perspective, considering what he lost.

What Others Think:

One Thousand Worlds in One Thousand Words

David Stevens

Lanie’s Book Thoughts

Undiscovered Tomes

Mama Cried by Talia Haven

HavenMamaCriedWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!)

Publisher: Sheehan & Haven (2015)

Length: 12 pages

Illustrator: Sytiva Sheehan

Author’s Page

Jenny and her pet puppies are goofing of on the playground at the swings. Like all the other kids, it is an endless round of playing, zipping from one game to another. At least, until a kid’s guardian comes for them. Then, the kid never returns. Today, Jenny’s guardian, Azula, comes for her. It is time for her to make a major decision.

If you read the description of the book, if you look at the cover, if you check out the illustrator’s page, if you check out the author’s page, then you would probably never suspect just how creepy this story is. There’s rainbows and puppies all over the place and therefore, I never suspected the suspense and deep story that I would find within.

Without giving too much away, Jenny has been in some kind of limbo. Now, she must face her killer one last time and decide his fate. The limbo has been the playground where she and her puppies, who grow into protective adult hounds, romped and played. Azula, who is her guardian, is also the adult voice that pushes Jenny forward in the story. It’s a pretty serious story.

I enjoyed the tale for its weightiness. Also, I like the idea that those we harm have some say in what our afterlife will be like. In this tale, we never learn the specifics on how Jenny died. I really liked that this was left up to the reader to speculate on. Drunk driver? Child rapist? Mowing accident? You could read a lot into your own issues based on what you assumed, if you are in to that sort of thing.

What I Liked: Serious story; tackling of the afterlife; protective hounds.

What I Disliked: The title almost turned me off from reading this story and, in retrospect, I don’t feel it encompasses all the awesomeness that this story is.

What Others Think: 

Author Larry Eissler

Gut Reaction Reviews

Open Book Society

Long & Short Reviews YA

The SnowRaven Chronicles: Thian Oil by A J Spencer

SpencerSnowRavenChroniclesThianOilWhere I Got It: A review copy via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Narrator: Matt Franklin

Publisher: Joseph Buzzoni (2014)

Length: 2 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 4 The SnowRaven Chronicles

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 4 in the series, it works as a stand alone.

The book blurb on Audible says this is the final installment to the SnowRaven Chronicles. I really, really hope that is not the case!

Saska has returned from the High Seas, out of the Duke’s favor. She has gone home to her sheep and the Andereke mountains. Her beloved mutated fox-serpent companion Lynx is still with her. Together, they must lead the sheep home through the treacherous mountains. There will be deadly, sneaky serpent-like monsters, dastardly trolls, the horrible thian oil and its inhabitants, plus a giant spider monster! Saska will have plenty of opportunity to fight all of them, clothing optional as always.

I have really enjoyed this series. Saska is such a fighter, holding tight to her honor and assessment of what is right or wrong in the moment. Her companion Lynx is a steadfast furry that not only keeps her warm on occasion but rescues her from time to time. Scout Tommy Calvor (spelling?) joins in the second half of the book. That may just be his coat Saska is wearing on the cover illustration.

Throughout the series, we have had minor clashes between the Vorashian industrialism that creates the highly prized nexil-orbs (which can provide both heat & light) and the old way of doing things – magic, hard work, raising hardy bug-eating sheep. In this installment, the two worlds butt heads big time. As monster after monster demand that Saska sacrifice a sheep or two, and maybe a human or three, she finds herself feeling the need to rid the earth of one more greedy monster, old school or industrialized.

The thian oil is a by-product of the production of the nexil orbs. It has to be disposed of somewhere, and that somewhere appears to be a deep ravine in the Andereke mountains. And somewhere along the way, some misguided humans started worshiping some monster deity associated with the oil. In their prayers, they became contaminated with the stuff and then mutated. These scenes where Saska is trying very hard to safely navigate over or past the thian oil were some of my favorite, mostly because it involves a lot of fighting and much of it in the nude. Yep, our heroine can not be taken out so easily even if she has lost all her clothes.

The story leaves us with a satisfying end to this one tale, but with plenty of questions for Saska’s future. So I am really, really hoping that this is not the final installment. After all, there are still more monsters to fight, more nude battle scenarios to be carried out, and what about her male entanglements?

Definitely a worthy installment in the series with plenty of mayhem and fun for the listener/reader.

Narration: Matt Franklin has returned as narrator for this book and once again did a great job. I really missed his performance for Book 3 and was so pleased to hear him in this installment. His rich stage voice adds an air of the epic poem to these tales, allowing for all the just-over-the-top fight scenes to be enjoyed fully. Just think of Beowulf’s naked fight scenes with his monster and how that just would seem a little silly if it wasn’t an epic Norse tale meant to be told around a campfire. That’s what Matt Franklin brings to these books. 

What I Liked: Hooray for fight scenes!; Saska kicks butt in so many ways; love the cover art; her companions are steadfast; the conflict between the good old ways and industrialism; the thian oil monsters; hardy bug-eating sheep!

What I Disliked: If this is truly the last SnowRaven story, I will have myself a good little cry.