Naamah’s Curse Read Along – The Schedule

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Naamah’s Curse is Book 2 of the third trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. You don’t have to have read the first two trilogies to enjoy this third one, as it occurs a few generations after the second trilogy.

Here is the current schedule:

Week 1: Chapters 1-15, post Monday June 5 Hosted by Allie
Week 2:  Chapters 16-32, post Monday June 12 Hosted by Lynn
Week 3: Chapters 33-47, post Monday June 19 Hosted by Susan
Week 4: Chapters 48-64, post Monday June 26 Hosted by Allie
Week 5: Chapters 65-END, Post Monday July 3 Hosted by Lynn

And here is the current list of participators:

Alli at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Book Blurb for Naamah’s Curse:

Alone and far from the land of her birth, young Moirin sets out across wild Tatar territory to find her beloved Bao, the proud Ch’in stick fighter who holds the missing half of her diadhanam, the divine soul-spark of her mother’s people. But the lovers’ reunion is short lived. Moirin is abducted, cast in chains that bind her magic, and betrayed into the hands of a fanatic Yeshuite priest. Fiercely zealous, he is determined to save Moirin’s soul and convert her to his faith…or see her stoned to death for her many sins. With her soul declared a battleground of the gods, Moirin will struggle to hold on to her humanity and survive – all the while wondering if the gift of love bestowed on her by the goddess Naamah is a blessing or a curse.

Wrestling with issues of faith and divine will, Naamah’s Curse explores what happens when mortal men seek to mold the gods in their own images.

As always, folks are welcome to jump in and join us. You don’t have to be a host or a blogger. You can always choose the easy route and tackle the weekly discussion in the comments of the hosting blog. We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

The Tower of Zhaal by C. T. Phipps

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Crossroad Press (2017)

Length: 9 hours

Series: Book 2 Cthulhu Armageddon

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 and works OK as a stand alone. It would definitely be enhanced by having previously read Book 1.

Set in and around a post-apocalyptic Massachusetts, John Henry Booth and Mercury Halsey now work as security for merchant caravans. The world was reformed some decades back when the Old Ones and aliens took up residence on Earth, nearly wiping out humans. Unfortunately, most of these new arrivals found humans useful in some way or another, such as interbreeding or as a food source. John is undergoing a transformation into an unknown something he fears and perhaps the University can cure him. However, their assistance comes at a price. They must hunt down and kill a powerful sorcerer (wizard? magician?) Marcus Whatley, who is determined to released the last of the Old Ones, potentially dooming both humanity and Earth.

Yeah. John and Mercury have their work cut out for them.

The end of Book 1, Cthulhu Armageddon, saw the death of much of the cast. Here, we get several fresh faces and, yes, many of them perish in interesting ways before the end of the book. In fact, several folks from the merchant train John & Mercury are guarding die right away when the cultists of Yith show up unexpectedly. Professor Harvey Armitage of the Miskatonic University wanted a word with John & Mercury and this was his douchey way to getting their attention. Right off the bat, I didn’t care for Armitage and I hoped that John & Mercury found an interesting way to kill him off. And yet…. yet Armitage does has a wealth of knowledge and some healing powers. Perhaps this messed up world needs him… for now.

Mercury used to be a professional torturer and she’s an expert on EBEs, these extra biological entities. So she’s a pretty interesting character that has had an intense career path. In this book, she continues to grow with some training in the magical arts. She’s done all she can for John as a doctor (of sorts) short of killing him (if that’s possible). Perhaps the magical arts are the only way to assist John in controlling or containing his mutation.

I’m interested in seeing how things turn out for the side character Jackie Howard. She’s the teen-aged adopted daughter of John and Mercury and she’s half ghoul. Yes, ghoul. Like Richard Jameson from Book 1, she likes human flesh. But she’s cool. Don’t worry. Donated meat only. There’s this great scene between her and John where John is explaining why they are leaving her behind instead of taking her on this insanely dangerous mission. Lots of great lines in that scene where Jackie acknowledges that John & Mercury care while also calling them on their BS.

Jessica O’Reilly, John’s previous girlfriend, shows up later in the book, as well as his ex-wife. As if that doesn’t make his life complicated enough, his ex-wife is a psychic and she can tell that John is hiding his true nature from all but his closest companions. John also has a bit of a crisis of conscious when he and his team end up in a kind of paradise that relies on slave labor. John was a slave for about a year previously, so he has some strong feelings on the subject. Yet this labor pool is made up of these squid faced entities that could happily slaughter all humans planet wide if they were inclined to… and weren’t being held in slavery. So he’s got 99 problems along with his love life.

The ending was complete with great imagery and phrases like, ‘We must summon Cthulhu!’. There’s plenty of drama and yet things work out. I hope we get another book in this series because there’s plenty more for John to explore even as he goes through his own evolution.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer really shows off his skills with this book. This story is full of lots of nearly unpronounceable names such as Nyarlathotep and Shak’ta’hadron and Kafer has to pronounce them all with consistency and accuracy throughout the book. There’s also plenty of crazy cult ramblings in a nearly unpronounceable language, which Kafer makes the characters sound fluent in. I was impressed by the dexterity of this tongue multiple times throughout this book. He’s great at keeping the characters distinct and also imbuing the text with emotion as needed.

What I Liked: Great cover art; great narration; I just love this wild weird west thing happening in Massachusetts; Mercury’s a great character; Jackie could become a very interesting character; John’s internal battle with whatever is taking over; the answer to the slavery issue John faces.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is a great sequel to Book 1!

What Others Think:

Shoggoth.net

Beauty in Ruins

The Audio Book Reviewer

Brian’s Book Blog

The Science of Supervillainy by C. T. Phipps

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Amber Cove Publishing (2017)

Length: 6 hours 5 minutes

Series: Book 4 The Supervillainy Saga

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 4 in the series and it works best if you have read the previous books.

Gary Karkofsky, a professional supervillain, is up against some serious foes. President Omega has brainwashed the mighty USA military while Gary’s doppelganger from another reality has all of Gary’s abilities and most of his knowledge. Gary, aka Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy, might have to do the unthinkable. He might have to become that thing he dreads most: a hero.

The gang’s all back and for some of them, we get a bonus copy. For ease, the doppelganger Gary from another reality will be called Other Gary. This book was just as much fun as the previous books in the series, though I feel it has a touch more seriousness (which I liked). Gary is still popping off one-liners, there’s plenty of Star Wars references, and the crazy supervillain outfits & names continue to be amusing. Also, if you’re a Phipps fan, you might catch a few references to his other series here and there.

Mandy, Gary’s vampire wife, has a lot of great lines in this book. Several of the characters make references to adult relationships that don’t fit the standard married couple routine. Mandy’s extended life and need for blood has given her an extra spin on such relationships and I have to wonder where Mandy and Gary will take their relationship from here. Is there a harem in the future? Maybe….

Both El Diablo Man and Cloak have some serious chats with Gary. There’s a few points in this tale where things get a little heavy. Take for instance young Gizmo. She’s definitely going to need a parent around. Also, Phipps kills off a favorite character of mine (though I do hold a secret hope that this character will return in some sort of form).

Some of my favorite scenes were actually in the first part of the book. Gary and Mandy are being held in a warped prison where they and everyone else there are under this mindcontrol. It’s a cruel version of happy home-makers from the 1950s, complete with period outfits and enforced gender roles. Mandy has some great lines about blood and mayhem said in the sweetest happy significant other voice. Luckily, Night Girl comes along and helps them escape but it’s at a cost.

All around, it’s another great addition to the series. I like the few scenes that bend toward seriousness. It bodes of bigger things to come for Gary. Bigger things that may very well squish him.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer Is just great at this series. His enjoyment of these characters comes through in his performance. He makes a great Gary/Other Gary and I love his snarky voice for Cindy. He’s great at pulling off all the humor while also making the characters sound very concerned when they come up against a worthy foe.

What I Liked: Love the cover art; great narration; awesome brainwashed 1950s scenes; Mandy’s take on relationships; all the humor and nerdom references; Gary’s quandary of becoming a hero to take out a foe; Gizmo.

What I Disliked: Nothing! This was very fun!

What Others Think:

The Bookwyrm Speaks

The Audiobook Reviewer

The Blogin’ Hobgoblin

Quiet River by Natasha A. Salnikova

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: Natalia Salnikova (2016)

Length: 10 hours 1 minute

Author’s Page

Set in and around Seattle, Washington, the Collins are learning to deal with tragedy and move on. Lisa and Matt work at a small magazine and were expecting their second child until tragedy struck. In recovering from such a loss, Matt buys a small place in Quiet River. They recently had a lovely vacation there and Matt hopes that Lisa and Evan can be happy their during the week while he visits them on the weekends. However, there’s a quiet evil in this little town.

There was much to like about this tale, though it did drag on a bit at times. The story started off very happy happy. Lisa, Matt, and young Evan are all happily expecting a baby. Evan looks forward to being a big brother and Matt is great at tending to Lisa’s crazy food cravings. While they do have an odd experience while on vacation in Quiet River, it wasn’t much. Eventually, the plot does get a kick in the pants when Lisa unexpectedly loses the baby. She’s suffering from depression and pushing her loved ones away. Matt feels a lot of pressure and also sadness and loses himself in an affair.

This too goes on for a while becoming a bit dull. Then Matt decides that Lisa and Evan would probably be happier out in Quiet River, so he makes it so, and indeed, it does seem to help Lisa. She even makes a friend with a lonely neighbor, the elderly Trouby. Meanwhile, Evan has made a few friends with the local kids. They like to play by the river, which makes Lisa nervous but Mandy (one of the other parents) doesn’t seem to be that concerned.

During this time, there’s a lot of suspense being built up even if it drags for a bit. There’s definitely something odd about Trouby, but she might simply be a bit socially awkward. Then there’s Kristine, the woman who Matt had an affair with. She’s rather territorial and needy. Matt called off the affair some time ago, but Kristine is having trouble letting it go. Then someone very unexpected shows up in Quiet River and we have a body! Yes! The plot moved forward once again!

Nearly all the action happens in the last fifth of the book. Because the majority of the book was pretty mellow, having all that violence at the end was a little shocking and it was definitely a shift in tone. I would have liked to have things evened out a bit. All around, the story was OK with the best bits being the scenes that got the plot to move forward.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Denise Kahn was really good at imbuing the characters’s voices with emotions. She had distinct voices for all the characters and accents for a few of them. Her recording does sound a bit tinny here and there and the volume does go up and down throughout.

What I Liked: The setting; the building suspense; Lisa’s character; the mystery of Quiet River.

What I Disliked: The plot does drag here and there. 

What Others Think: 

Readers’ Favorite

Hot Air by Denise Kahn

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: 4Agapi (2017)

Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

Author’s Page

Sean’s roots start in Ireland with a girl on the cusp of womanhood. She eventually flees to the USA to get a fresh start where she meets the man who will become her husband. Together, they raise Sean who becomes a pararescueman and goes on to battle terrorists in Afghanistan and at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

I really wanted to like this story but it needs quite a bit of polishing. We start off with young Sean and we have several chapters of him being a kid. This part of the story is suited for kids. The sentences are shorter and the vocabulary easier than what we have later in the book. The story shifts when we get a long story about Fiona, Sean’s mother. We spend several chapters with her and then a few with her and Tibi, the Navajo man who becomes her husband and Sean’s father. Yet then we get another shift once Sean joins the military. There’s lots of cussing and some practical joking along with military stuff. Altogether, it felt like I had read 3-4 short stories, all with their own flavor, that had been smashed together in this book. It felt disjointed.

The description of this book makes me think this a thriller full of action and suspense. However, the terrorists and action really don’t come into the story until sometime in the second half. There is a little glimpse into this with the prologue but then we have half the book or more before we return to it.

The lengthy section about young Sean stands well on it’s own. He’s fascinated with the hot air balloons that are common in and around Albuquerque a good chunk of the year. There’s this mystical quality to his dreams as he travels back in time to witness the first European attempts at hot air ballooning. This section is decently written even if I find that it doesn’t really fit the description of the book.

In Sean’s late teens, we get a very lengthy flashback of Fiona’s history. Again, I liked this section on it’s own. There are parts of it that did seem over simplified, but for a short story explaining a character’s motivations for leaving Ireland and making her own way in a foreign land, it was OK. This section includes Fiona meeting Tibi, a native New Mexican and full-blood Navajo. Their romance is sweet, if simplistic.

Once Sean joins the military, things do pick up. There’s plenty more characters to enjoy, like Niko (Sean’s best friend) and later a little more romance as the men find love. I did find the terrorists to be simply drawn, not having much depth. The action follows Sean home and he has to do some heroics at the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

As a New Mexican, I just wanted to point out that there is a difference between salsa and sauce and typically when ordering a New Mexican dish with ‘Christmas’ on it, you are getting both red chile sauce and green chile sauce, not salsa (as the book has it in one chapter). These little inaccuracies just added to the over all feel that this story needed yet one more edit before going to print.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Denise Kahn could do with some polishing on both her narrating skills and her audio production skills. This recording had a tinny quality for most of it and the volume ranged throughout it. Also she took several chapters to settle into 1 pronunciation for Tibi; since she is also the author, I felt this was sloppy. She does make a solid effort to give each character an appropriate accent and for the most part, she is consistent (though I can’t speak to the accuracy of some of her foreign accents). The book does have some nice little bits of music in between each chapter.

What I Liked: The cover art; the over all concept; Sean’s love of being up in the air; the action scenes.

What I Disliked: The book feels like multiple short stories were smashed together and they don’t flow from one to another well; the narration and audio production were tough on this book.

The Ring of Minos: At the Palace of Knossos by N. P. James

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: Cv Publications (2016)

Length: 21 minutes

Author’s Page

The author visited the Palace of Knossos in 2005 and wrote up this little travelogue that includes his personal experience on the tour as well as his observations about the beauty and history of this place.

This book takes us on a tour of the Palace, starting with where the tour bus picks up the tourists. The history of the site is briefly covered and then we head into the royal apartments. I really like that the author includes the various materials used to create this Palace. A more detailed accounting of the founding of the Palace and the excavation is covered towards the end of the book.

There’s also a bit about the Minoan culture, especially the hierarchy of the society. I found it was a bit odd there was no real army. Perhaps this was because of the natural protection provided by it being an island. I was surprised by how wide-spread Minoan trading was. Minoan mythology is also briefly referred to. Of course, this mythology is reflected in the Palace’s architecture and art. Tales of the Minotaur!

There are a few references to either the tour guide or the other tourists throughout the book. I found these amusing and they were well-suited for this travelogue. Smaller Minoan bits can be seen at the tourist center & gift shop. I enjoyed the descriptions of the seals and how they were used in the Minoan culture. Then there’s the accounting table!

Definitely interesting for archaeologists and those with a keen interest in Minoan culture.

The Narration: Denise Kahn had multiple voices and accents for various people in this short book. While I don’t know about the accuracy of these accents since I’m not familiar with the Greek accent, Kahn was consistent throughout the book. Her recording does sound a little tinny. She does a great job of pacing, sounding interested in the topic, and clear enunciation.

What I Liked: The cover art; it feels like a travelogue all the way through; very approachable; peaks my interest in the Palace of Knossos.

What I Disliked: The recording is a little tinny.

There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale by Sean Astin & Joe Layden

Narrator: Sean Astin

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2004)

Length: 4 hours 33 minutes

Astin’s Page ~ Layden’s Page

Here we have Sean Astin’s adventures as Samwise Gamgee during filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He recounts how he first heard about the audition, how he prepped for the role, the delights and difficulties of doing such a long shoot in New Zealand, and how the role changed his life going forward. Told with candor, humor, and sometimes gentle criticism, I found this book quite engaging.

This was an educational delight all around. First, I love that Sean Astin was unfamiliar with Tolkien’s work prior to scheduling an audition for the role of Samwise. I found it amusing and endearing that Astin showed us his initial ignorance of The Lord of the Rings. I hope Tolkien’s works opened a door to other great fantasy and science fiction works.

Prior to listening to this book, I was unaware of Astin’s parentage and it’s a rather convoluted one that involves his birth father’s true identity, step dads, and DNA tests. Even though I have been an Astin fan since seeing Goonies when I was 12, I had not delved into Astin’s personal life. This book lifts that curtain a bit and we get to know this actor for more than just his famous movies.

There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes bits about filming in New Zealand, Astin’s fellow actors, Peter Jackson and his wife Fran Walsh, and his own doubts and personal victories. I was pleasantly surprised at how Astin chatted about the peculiarities and ticks of his fellow actors. Any criticism he offered was done in a gentle fashion and yet still had that center of truth to it.

I first read The Lord of the Rings when I was 13 or 14. So long before the movies came about, I knew just how important Samwise was to story. Therefore, I was a bit surprised at how Samwise, and Astin, were not considered that important to the storyline of the filming until the last movie. Logistically, it makes sense but I could sympathize with Astin’s periodic frustrations with this aspect of filming.

This book also covers the lengthy daily makeup sessions, accidents and near accidents that happened on set, the vagaries of weather, and the toll such a lengthy filming can take on not just the actors, but also their families. All around, this was an eye opener. Quite an enjoyable read!

The Narration: Sean Astin did a great job with narrating his own book. I loved how he would slip into Samwise’s voice at the appropriate moments. He also does a great job expressing his emotions without going over the top.

What I Liked: Behind the scenes look by a favorite author of a favorite movie trilogy; the humor; honesty about Astin’s unfamiliarity with Tolkien’s work; candor about other actors and the filming conditions; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a great little read!

What Others Think:

Stainless Steel Droppings

Pop Matters

The Singing in the Wood

Stories from Herodotus by Lorna Oakes

Narrator: Catherine O’Brien

Publisher: Essential Audiobooks LLC (2017)

Length: 1 hour 43 minutes

Author’s Page

If you’ve ever tried to read Herodotus, then you know that most translations have a lot of repetition and ramble on a bit. Now Lorna Oakes gives us some great stories from Herodotus distilled down into thoughtful, sometimes action-packed, stories that will delight adults and entertain kids.

The book starts off with a little bit about Herodotus. He traveled extensively during his lifetime and wrote down historical events as best he could. Many of the events he wrote about happened generations before his time, so there’s bound to be some inaccuracies. Yet there’s a charm to his works as well. He made a grand attempt at recording the known world’s history and that account has survived to this day. All around, that is extraordinary. I, myself, have only read a bit of Herodotus but Oakes’s book makes it easy to absorb the essence of the tales Herodotus was trying to capture.

There’s 4 parts to this book. Part I is all about King Croesus in Lydia, which is in modern-day Turkey. He has a portentous dream and is concerned about his reign. I really like how he tested the various oracles. Very clever! Yet he then relies on the foretelling of the Delphi Oracle, misinterpreting the true meaning. Oakes does a great job here of just telling this tale, showing us how arrogance can color the meaning to any oracle riddle. It provides a great discussion point for adults and kids alike.

Part II is the Story of Cyrus. Part I flowed into Part II as both Cyrus and King Croesus are both influenced by the Delphi Oracle. This tale tells us how Cyrus came into power. It’s significant because Cyrus united two major families and became a significant Persian ruler. Cyrus was slated for death as a babe but he was saved by a cowherder and his wife. Later, of course, this is discovered and a reckoning must come out of it. I love that Oakes doesn’t leave out a rather bit of gruesome in this story. She doesn’t linger over it either and I feel it was essential to show motivation for one of the character’s vengeance.

Part III is about Herodotus’s time in Egypt. Of course, he visits the great pyramids and writes about how they were constructed. Herodotus gives us his version of how Psammeticus became king of the 26th dynasty of Egypt. This sections also includes the tale of King Apries and how he was overthrown by General Amasis and rebel forces. For me, it was the bits about the Great Pyramids that stood out most in this section.

Part IV is all about the Greeks and Persians. There’s some famous stories in this section, including the tale of Leonidas and how he and his small force repelled Xerxes’s army. This is a captivating story and the retelling of it here is well done. This section also includes the esteemed Greek physician Democedes. He was taken captive and bounced around a bit, sometimes as tribute. He ties Polycrates of Samos to the Persian king Darius.

All around, it’s a great collection of ancient tales based on Herodotus’s works. I love that Oakes has made these tales so accessible and I think this is a great way to introduce kids to ancient history.

I received a free copy of this book via Audiobook Boom!

The Narration: Catherine O’Brien did a great job with this book. There are several people and place names I had not heard pronounced before, so I can’t speak to the accuracy, but I can say she was consistent in her pronunciations all the way through. She was also great with portraying the emotions of the various characters. She sounded engaged and interested in the work all the way through.

What I Liked: Herodotus’s tales made easily accessible; great for kids and adults alike; great narration; lovely cover art; the tale of Leonidas; the Great Pyramids; testing the oracles; Cyrus as a cowherder’s son.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great bit of history and entertainment.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Narrators: Ful Cast Including: Ron McLarty, Daniel Oreskes, Oliver Wyman, Dennis Boutsikaris

Publisher: HarperAudio (2011)

Length: 19 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 1 American Gods

Author’s Page

Shadow Moon is being released from prison a little early on account of the unexpected passing of his wife Laura. On his way home to the funeral, he meets Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job that is part body guard and part problem solver. Without anything else to lose, he makes it official. Then weird stuff starts happening. TV characters talk to him. A leprechaun teaches him a special coin trick after beating the crap out of him. Someone wants to give his skull a love tap with a large hammer. That’s just the start of things.

I’ve read this book multiple times over the years but this was my first time experiencing the full cast audio production. It was quite good and lived up to my expectations. Shadow is so easy to connect with. He’s got this big heart at his center but he also doesn’t want to be anyone’s push over. Mr. Wednesday was highly amusing with his love for bad food and lust for life. He’s a conman and makes no attempt to hide this from Shadow. These two make an unlikely team and you can’t help but wonder what is Wednesday’s final end game. You can see that Shadow is wondering the same thing and yet he’s still drawn to this man and sucked into whatever he’s playing at.

There’s several female characters in this tale, though they are all pretty minor. Laura has the biggest role in that her actions affect the other characters, though she doesn’t have much actual page time. Bilquis and Easter were my favorite side gods. One is worshiped through sex and the other provides a bounty of food for the homeless in a park. If there is one weakness to this book, it is that all the main characters are male and almost all the decisions and action in this book are carried out by male characters. I would have liked a bit more gender balancing.

Some of my favorite scenes for this book happen in a small frozen town during winter. Shadow has been sent there to lie low while Mr. Wednesday works on whatever scheme he’s got underway. While there, Shadow gets to know some of the people and he learns about some missing kids. In a way, it turns into a little murder mystery. Then there’s also the mortuary and that crazy carousel and the final vibrant scenes at the conclusion of Mr. Wednesday’s big scheme. In some ways, the story is all over the map (sometimes literally as Shadow travels around the US), but it is these American versions of various deities along with the newly minted technology and media-oriented deities that tie everything together. I was glad to see entities that represented the Native Americans as well.

This edition, the 10th anniversary edition, includes an afterword by Neil Gaiman. There he talks about his own journey in coming up with this extraordinary story and characters. He also includes a scene that has Jesus and explains why he ultimately decided not to place that scene within the story. It was great to hear the author’s thoughts on this well loved book.

The Narration: This full cast production was very well done. There were no volume issues and whenever there are two or more characters talking, they sound like they are in the same room. Ron McLarty, Daniel Oreskes, Oliver Wyman, Dennis Boutsikaris, and the rest (though I haven’t been able to find a complete cast list online) did a great job with the various characters. Oliver Wyman makes a great 6 foot tall drunken, angry, magic coin producing leprechaun. McLarty does well with Mr. Wednesday’s character, though in my head I always revert to George Guidall for Mr. Wednesday (Guidall narrated the original version of American Gods and it’s also quite good).

What I Liked: This tale is a piece of modern Americana; it was great trying to guess what deities some of the characters represented; several different locations, each with a distinct feel; Mr. Wednesday’s grand plan; Shadow’s ultimate role; great narration.

What I Disliked: While there are several female characters, not one of them is a main character.

What Others Think:

Little Red Reviewer

Nerdist

Best Fantasy Books

Supposedly Fun

Jonathan C. Gillespie

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: A. J. Spencer, Author of The Thol-ra

Join me in welcoming AJ Spencer back to the blog! He’s the author of The Thol-ra, a short tale of epic fantasyas well as the beloved SnowRaven ChroniclesCheck out his previous interview on Dab of Darkness. GIVEAWAY!!! Scroll to the bottom for the chance to win an audiobook copy of The Thol-ra.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Grand Admiral Thrawn (from Timothy Zahn’s Trilogy of Star Wars Books from the early 1990’s). He was one cool cat who was playing for the wrong team…..I wish he was on our side!

Is there a genre or literary niche that you feel hasn’t gotten it’s deserved amount of attention? 

Sword & Sorcery – huge back in the day…..but has now faded away…..

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold? 

A book that has the meaning of life would be nice. The lost books from the library of Alexandria……I wonder what they were. One historian said civilization was set back 1000 years when all that ancient knowledge went up in smoke….I think he was right.

If you could pick a fictional character to officiate at your wedding or renewal vows, who would it be?

I always thought being married on a ship, by a sea captain was very romantic (and if you want to have a honeymoon on a cruise ship, two birds with one stone). How about Captain Picard onboard the Starship Enterprise…..The holodeck could create one hell of a theme wedding!

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I’d have to say superhero (Is Batman available?) I think the supernatural creature and/or space alien would probably be causing the peril in question…….

What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?

I read somewhere that a ship was washed ashore during a big storm in the 1800’s, pushed right up on the beach and was just left there. People see the surreal image of an empty ship on a beach and say “Boy that was a bad storm…..or, isn’t that odd, kind of spooky”……Bram Stoker thought – vampire on board! This event became an inspiration for Dracula. That’s how inspiration works with a writer – could just be one little seed, one spark that can start a whole franchise. To answer your question – There are many, many mysteries I want to explore in my stories….but they are the BIG Mysteries of the universe (That run throughout all of Science Fiction, folklore and Mythology).

What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?

Actually, I was a teenager in the 1990’s.…..I wouldn’t mind reliving that time knowing then what I know now (but doesn’t EVERYONE?)

What future invention would you like to see not only created during your life time, but readily available to the public? 

DEFINITELY the food replicator from Star Trek…..just ask for something, ANYTHING and it just appears on your plate, I like that. I like that A LOT!

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I’ve had good days and bad days….and many days somewhere in between on every job. This question reminds me of  an interview with Rod Serling – he said the hardest part of writing was being your own boss…..the discipline of writing a certain quota each day. I also heard a story about a writer who kept missing his deadlines, just had too many distractions in everyday life. So his agent (or publisher) set up an empty cubicle in his office building and had the writer come in 9-5 Monday through Friday and just write the rest of the book they had given the writer an advance for. The writer didn’t rebel – but thanked him for doing this! Saying he never would have finished without that structure!

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

One of my favorite authors – Robert E. Howard (The creator of Conan The Barbarian); JRR Tolkien – if anyone knows about magical quests, its Tolkien!; George RR Martin (THE expert on Fantasy intrigue, and machinations); and JK Rowling, to school our team on conjuring a little magic of our own!

Finally, what can we expect from you next? I adore SnowRaven! Any chance for more stories about her? 

Thank You – you are the SnowRaven’s biggest fan 😊I don’t have writer’s block, but more of a writer’s OVERLOAD. I have LOTS of ideas, but am having a hard time pinning the story down. Getting the look and feel just right, and fleshing out the characters into 3 dimensional people. I am currently working on a big Science Fiction Anthology style book – having a REALLY hard time with it……but it could be one of the BEST things I’ll ever write (If I can pull it together that is…..) Some stories veer more toward fantasy, some are futuristic….some could be another SnowRaven story (The Thol-Ra was going to be a SnowRaven story but went in a different direction. The same may happen with the new anthology). However, I do want to put the same poetic flare into this story as the SnowRaven stories (the same style) and the main character of my big Sci Fi opus is very SnowRaven like…..very much a cyber punk SnowRaven!

Places to Follow AJ Spencer

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Book Blurb for The Thol-ra:

A city under siege…. An ancient book of forbidden magic…. A power that will save or destroy all!

The ancient desert city of Al-zora is under siege by a swarm of man eating insects – unleashed by a deposed queen’s vengeful curse.

But on the eve of total destruction hope for salvation comes…. In the form of Princess E’feena – the renegade princess who enlists the help of the noble swordsman Alcar, her sworn protector, and Jzemlek the alchemist and thief. To claim an ancient book of forbidden magic.

A book hidden deep in the very heart of the city – a vile swamp haunted by man eating plants every bit as ravenous and deadly as the attacking swarm.

But to save her beloved city from total annihilation E’feena will risk anything – ignoring the warnings of the sages, defying her father, the king -whose word is law! Defying all who fear the uncontrollable magic will bring a far greater calamity!

For E’feena means to unleash the most powerful force locked within the mysterious tome….a force with the power to not only destroy the insatiable swarm….but also create a true nightmare….a fate far worse then the horde encircling the city walls -For princess E’feena means to unleash the dreaded Thol-ra itself!

Audible ~ Amazon

Book Blurb for The SnowRaven Chronicles: The Shafra-Copian

The lady Snowraven becomes entangled in a tempestuous industrial revolution that promises to liberate the bleak mountaintop kingdom of Arkel-nia from the dominance of the Vosharian – a race of cunning and cruel bio-luminescent insects who have drained the kingdom’s wealth for centuries. Nightmarish creatures whose taste for human flesh has decimated countless generations of Arkel-nian maidens – human sacrifices given in exchange for the glowing orbs that only the Vosharian can create. A vicious, unending cycle for the orbs, prized above all for the light and warmth they give. The only source of energy in the whole of the desolate snow covered mountains- until now…

Audible ~ Amazon

GIVEAWAY!!!

AJ Spencer is offering up 6 copies of his short epic fantasy, The Thol-ra. Yep, 6 winners! Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: Do you have an Audible.com account? What authors would you take on a fantasy quest? Optional: Follow AJ Spencer any way you want and tell me in the comments how you follow him and under what name. Giveaway ends June 22nd, 2017, midnight. Giveaway is limited to those that have an Audible.com account.
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