Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Ray Saunders, Author Of Winds West

Folks, please give a warm welcome to Ray Saunders. He’s here to share not only his novel, Winds West, but also a mostly non-fiction account of frontier life in Colorado (Gunnison Country) written by his mother, Betty Wallace. Don’t forget to check out the ebook giveaway at the end of the post!

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

No real mystery in my past, but Alternate History would be me having decided to be a poet instead of a computer maven. It would be a very convoluted plot, involving Greenwich Village, off-grid living in the Rockies and becoming God.

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

The lost contents of the Library of Alexandria and every poet since 500BC.

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

I would prefer to forget my teen years, but if I had to pick it would probably be the 1920s for the radical politics.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

Liza from Winds West would get along well with Sayward Luckett from Conrad Richter’s The Awakening Land trilogy. Both were strong women who knew what they wanted and had the courage to go after it.

If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The movies Amalie or Casablanca. And any of Maurice Walsh’s writingThe Quiet Man, The Small Dark Man, Trouble in the Glen, etc. (I love the way the Irish use the English language, both in prose and poetry. The Scots, on the other hand, use English like they still hold a grudge over Culloden).

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

The Americas before European contact.
Central Asia before Islam.
Celtic Europe before Caesar.

If you could own a famous or historical art work, what would it be? Would you put it on public display or keep it privately?

Picasso’s Guernica – displayed as publicly as possible.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

John Masters, Maurice Walsh, Stephen Vincent Benet, Charles Bowden and A.A.Milne.

We’d all eat pizza. And drink lots of wine.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I always gush over my favorite writers at every opportunity, to the point of irritating those who’ve heard me for the umpteenth time. (I think it’s more awkward for them than for me). Don’t know if this counts, but a young lady wrote a glowing review of Winds West, albeit expressing surprise at my “uncanny insight into the female psyche”. LOL

Places to Find Ray Saunders

Website

Steele Park Press Facebook

Ray’s Facebook

GoodReads

Amazon

About the Author:

I grew up in a small western town, steeped in both pioneer culture and writing, my mother being a reporter, editor, English teacher and local historian. By the time I finished high school I was well versed in poetry and the Beat Generation, properly prepared to appreciate the ‘60s in Greenwich Village, which added folk music to the mix. To pay the bills, I spent 50 years doing cutting-edge computer work, then retired and now I’m back to writing poetry and songs and the occasional novel.

Book Blurb for Winds West

Home maker at 10, grown at 15 – what future awaits Liza as she head West? Young woman goes West on a voyage of self-discovery. “Winds West is a thoughtful account of Liza Woods, a young woman’s coming of age story set in early 20th century Ohio. At 13, Liza takes a job as a governess/housekeeper, but has a wisdom beyond her years. She yearns for the freedom generally afforded only to men, however, and what follows is her subsequent journey to Colorado, where she settles down, making a life for herself on the frontier.” – Granny’s Pantry review.

Book Blurb for Gunnison Country:

History of Gunnison Colorado and surrounding areas. Betty Wallace was born near Lake City, CO, in 1913. She spent her youth among the ranchers and miners who settled the Gunnison Country. Herself a child of pioneers, she understood the world they faced and how they coped. As a reporter and editor she worked to preserve the stories of those early days, from the displacement of the Native American by gold-seekers to the uranium prospectors of the 1950s. She researched the old newspapers and interviewed many Old Timers in a tireless effort to make sure their stories were preserved for future generations.

GIVEAWAY!

Ray is offering up one ebook copy of Winds West and one ebook copy of Gunnison Country. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments to be entered into the giveaway. 1) What special collections would the library of your dreams hold? 2) Which book would you prefer to win (Winds West or Gunnison Country)? This giveaway is open world wide and ends August 1, 2017, midnight.

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Leviathan Wakes Part IV

The read along of Leviathan Wakes, Book 1 of The Expanse is off and running! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along. I’m listening to the audiobook, so apologies for any misspellings.

This week, Sarah at The Illustrated Page is our host. We’re covering Chapters 44-END, so be prepared for spoilers below!

 

1. So first off, what do you make of what Miller found inside Eros?

What a big gooey mess! For whatever reason, this alien protovirus (?) had enough time to bond with Julie to the extent that some of her personality and intelligence is now melded with it. It’s a sentient life of sorts and if this was Star Trek, then we’d have to preserve it, coddle it, give it a name… unless it had a Borg-like need to assimilate all known life.

I still feel that folks are jumping to conclusions about what this thing is.. but they had to in a way just to make decisions about what to do with it. I hope we get more science on it in the next book.

2. Was Miller’s end a noble sacrifice or was it the act of a suicidal man? Is Holden right in wanting Miller to be presented as a person, not a symbol?

I think Miller had suicidal tendencies for some time now, perhaps even before we meet him. Recall he used to talk to his ex-wife’s image at the beginning of the story the same way he came to talk to Julie’s image. However, something always held him back from doing something truly suicidal, so I think he needed to make a difference for someone somewhere before he gave up the ghost.

I love Holden’s insistence that Miller be presented as a real person (which makes me think of Speaker for the Dead) but I also think Earth, Mars, and the Belt are headed for war. Perhaps the right symbol would help stop that, or at least minimize the body count.

3. Do you believe war between Earth, Mars, and the Belt is inevitable? Will the they achieve peace, even peace for now?

We haven’t really seen Mars and Earth in this book but the Belt and even Mars talk as if Earth (and the Moon) are the rich, opulent neighborhood, Mars is for the mid-economy folks, and the Belt is for the poor grunts working their lives away. However, we see that there’s those that are better off than others within the Belt and I suspect that’s going to be the same for Mars and Earth… but will Earth have slums? Hmmm…  Anyway, perception really counts here and is a major factor in the brewing war. Belters can’t live on Earth without some serious medical care (since they grew up in a much lower gravity) but Earthers can travel the solar system and do OK. I think the best the Belters can hope for is better trade agreements with Earth and Mars. They can’t successfully invade and take over, nor can they break off completely from the two and survive for more than a generation.

4. Do you have any predictions for the next book? Things you want to see more of or find out about?

I too would like to see the fish farms in space. I saw a documentary about tilapia farms in the desert, so I expect some of the same techniques are used.

I’ve watched the first season of The Expanse and it takes things from Book 2, mostly the Earth politics (according to my man who’s caught up on the books). So I look forward to reading about that.

I’d also like to know more about Alex, especially with war brewing. Will he feel loyalty to Mars and decide to leave the crew?

Of course I want to see what happens with the Julie/Miller/Alien mashup. It’s already making crystal towers so I wouldn’t be surprised if it started talking soon.

Other Tidbits:

If Julie and the alien virus are now besties, what about those people on the ship which is now in the hands of Fred and OPA? Did they not have enough time to bond with it? Julie took care to reduce heat and radiation exposure, so perhaps that is what made it possible for her. But perhaps when they thaw those folks, they will get a nasty surprise, right?

I loved Amos’s response to Holden and Naomi being in a relationship. Ha!

Throughout this book, I have noticed these little snippets that I think could be nods to other great scifi works. Near the beginning of the book, there was a reference to voices in the whirlwind (a Walter Jon Williams novel), then this thing with Miller being seen as a real, flawed human in death (Speaker for the Dead), and finally this line about ’till human voices wake us’, which is the title for 1 scifi novel and 2 short SF stories by various authors. Did anyone else catch such nods?

I did feel a bit sorry for the Mormons losing their big generation ship, especially since it missed it’s mark and didn’t get to be a big piece of saving the solar system.

 

And here is the current list of participators:
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Sarah at The Illustrated Page
Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

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. Also, we’re planning the group read for Book 2. So check over there for updates.

Bookish Giveaway & Review: Blast from the Past by Lauren Carr

Scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrator: Dan Lawson

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2014)

Length: 7 hours 13 minutes

Series: Book 4 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

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

Set in Spencer, Maryland in the Deep Creek Lake gated community, retired DC cop Mac Faraday is about to be hip deep in organized crime and federal protection agents. Tommy Cruze is out of prison after several years and his search has finally turned up the witness that put him behind bars. He’s come to Spencer to hunt her down.

This was a great addition to the series. We finally have something more to Archie Monday than her efficient nature and love of pink. She witnessed a serious crime many years back and had to testify and then go into federal protective custody. That meant saying goodbye to her entire past and becoming the personal assistant to Robin Spencer, a renowned mystery writer and Mac’s true birth mother (who gave him up for adoption). Now all that has to come out and Mac’s both a little hurt that Archie hadn’t told him before and also feeling very protective of her, as two of Cruze’s men have already made an attempt on her life. Lucky for Archie, she took the time to become a proficient shot.

Things get even more convoluted when a poisoning occurs at a dockside cafe where a woman and her daughter, who also happen to be in federal protective custody, work. Leah and her young daughter Sari move into the big Spencer Manor for protection while all this gets sorted out.

Randi Finnegan was a fun addition to the story. Mac’s half-brother David O’Callaghan has caught the eye of the federal agent but Randi isn’t sure he’s interested at all. She’s prickly and not a beauty and she knows it. So she focuses on the job and she’s good at it. I liked the potential of something blooming between these two.

There’s potentially another murder at a B&B. Initially, it looks like a very sick woman stumbled and fell down the stairs, but Mac and David look deeper. Yet another death occurs outside of a restaurant in town and the police have to consider if this one is linked to Tommy Cruze and his second in command. Indeed, it seems Spencer is full of killers this season!

Mac, Archie, and David have their hands full untangling this one! I really enjoyed watching them dig down to the roots of these cases and figure out which were related and which weren’t. Meanwhile, Gnarly was keeping the little girl Sari company. This was so sweet and so cute that it was almost too much. Like a sweet lemonade, sometimes the sugar can just be too much. Luckily, those scenes were sprinkled throughout the story so it wasn’t a turn off.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Dan Lawson rocked this book. There have been a few narrators for this series and Lawson is my favorite so far. He has a really good range of voices, his female voices are believable, he does the little kid Sari really well, and he even has believable accents (both foreign and regional). I was impressed with his performance on this book.

What I Liked: Archie’s past; Archie’s gun skills; Randi’s dedication to her job; Sari & Gnarly; the tangle of murders; great narration.

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

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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Escape from the Overworld by Danica Davidson

Narrator: Dan Woren

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 2 hours

Series: Book 1 Overworld Adventures

Author’s Page

Minecraft comes to the real world! Stevie is happily building his treehouse when night begins to settle. Oooopppsss! He’s suppose to be home by now. But he has to fight his way past a creeper then a mob of zombies! Things don’t go smoothly and he feels like the worst mob fighter ever. The next day he spots a portal and he takes his chances, popping out of a computer screen on the other end into Maison’s bedroom. The sixth grader and Stevie quickly become friends, which is a good thing because the monsters of Minecraft have also discovered the portal and the people of Maison’s world are not well-equipped to deal with them!

I’ve never played Minecraft but this book was easy to get into anyway. Stevie is seeking his dad’s approval and is constantly measuring himself against his dad’s great deeds with his diamond sword. This little misadventure into Maison’s world gives him a chance to stand on his own and have great deeds to tell of later.

Maison was fun and bright. She’s keen on building things and wants to be an architect like her mom. While surprised to have Stevie pop out of her computer screen, she’s also very excited to show him her school and perhaps visit his world. Unfortunately, this also means having to deal with the school bullies, Dirk and Mitch. Argh! I wanted to pinch their ears and haul them off to the principle’s office!

Later on, once the zombies and spiders start showing up at the school, the bullies get their comeuppance. Also, Stevie’s wood working skills are greatly appreciated. Maison gets her wish as she and Stevie have to go back to Minecraft to deal with the portal. Together, they and Stevie’s dad come up with a solution that lets them continue their friendship. I really liked how Maison was able to get Stevie’s dad to see how worthy his son is.

All around, it’s a great little family-oriented story. You don’t need to be familiar with the Minecraft game to enjoy it.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Dan Woren was a great fit for this book. He sounds like a young Stevie and he was great at portraying his emotions. He also made a really good Maison. Then he had adult voices as well for Stevie’s dad and the school shop teacher. His bully voices were spot on as well.

What I Liked: Fun story line; Stevie’s wood working skills; Maison’s enthusiasm for building stuff; how the bullies were dealt with; big spiders!; showing Stevie’s dad that Stevie is worthy; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s a great family-oriented story.

What Others Think: 

The Simply Me Blog

The Whole Art of Detection by Lindsay Faye

Chupa sitting proud.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: HighBridge (2017)

Length: 11 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This collection of Holmes & Watson stories is charming, entertaining, and fulfills my need for stories of this great literary duo. The book is divided into 4 parts. Before Baker Street has stories of the time before the two met each other but they are told in a style that shows the two men know each other now and are sharing these past adventures.

In The Early Years part, Watson and Holmes have their first cases together, still working out their professional relationship and building a friendship.

The Return shows us Watson’s anger and distress at over losing both Holmes to Reichenbach Falls and his beloved wife Mary to illness, yet to find out that Holmes was still alive is well done. I don’t believe I have ever seen Watson so hurt and angry, and rightly so!

Finally in The Later Years, these stories feel like the traditional Doyle stories where Watson and Holmes work well together, have a solid friendship, and can still irritate one another from time to time.

feel like the traditional Doyle stories where our heroes are master sleuths and get along well with each other’s peculiar quirks.

The Case of Colonel Warburton’s MadnessWatson is attempting to entertain Holmes with a tale of his past before he met him. Set in the Wild West, Watson describes some strange goings on with Colonel Warburton and how this upsets his doting daughter. I really enjoyed this tale as I would like to see some alternate history where Watson and Holmes spend years in the desert Southwest solving cases. 5/5

The Adventure of the Magical MenagerieHolmes really does have a heart and it shows in this one. We can also see why he keeps it tucked away most times. Definitely an interesting way to hide your illegally gotten goods! It wasn’t my favorite but it was still good. 4/5

The Adventure of the Vintner’s CodexThis story really felt like a match for the original Doyle collection. Holmes can be a complete irritation to Watson and his way of ‘apologizing’ is to tell Watson a tale of stolen music. Parts were charming and heartfelt and a few times I chuckled. 4/5

The Adventure of the Honest WifeI really enjoyed this one! Sure, Holmes sometimes goes on about the ‘weaker sex’ and yet he often tries to set aside his harsher self to help a lady out.. unless he thinks her faithless. Watson notes how Holmes has an aversion for the female gender entirely. There were some great twists in this one. 5/5

The Adventure of the Beggar’s FeastThis was also a favorite story of the batch. I have often wondered what it would be like if Holmes was a father figure for someone and this story helps to answer that. I love that he was a bit flustered when Watson figures out what he was doing. I can even picture Holmes blushing. 5/5

Memoranda Upon the Gaskell Blackmailing DilemmaThis is one of the tales told from Holmes’s point of view and I get such a chuckle out of his straight forward, honest, and yet often acerbic observations of people and their activities. While Watson is off dealing with the hounds on the moors of Baskerville, Holmes has to sort out a blackmailer. There were some surprises to this one. 5/5

The Lowther Park MysteryOK, this one was just cute. It was fun but went by really fast. He’s been maneuvered into attending a social dinner party that’s brimming with important people. Watson gently teases him over his distaste of socializing. Engineering a charade, he uses that distraction to foil the plans of some nefarious people. This story also introduces Holmes’s brother Mycroft. The plot was a bit light on details. 4/5

An Empty HouseLestrade makes an appearance in this sad tale. It’s from Watson’s journal during the time shortly after his wife passed away. It’s a weighty piece, probably being the saddest story in the bunch. 4/5

The Adventure of the Memento MoriThis story showed the depths of the friendship between Watson and Holmes and also how hurt Watson was over Holmes’s presumed death. There’s acknowledgement, regret, and acceptance. Of course, there’s this deliciously creepy mystery going on as well. 5/5

Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James PhillimoreThis was a quick and fun tale. I guessed early on what was going on but it was interesting to see Watson put it all together. I do believe that Holmes had guessed the truth of the matter early on but was letting Watson gather up evidence to support his supposition. 4/5

The Adventure of the Willow BasketIt’s interesting to see Holmes’s rationale for handing off credit for solving various mysteries to Lestrade. Not that Lestrade is stupid but sometimes he portrayed as heavy-handed or a bit bumbling. I liked Faye’s take on his character in this story. Leeches. Gotta watch out for those leeches! 4/5

The Adventure of the Lightless MaidenThe Victorian age was in love with the supernatural and it’s quite fun to see what Holmes and Watson make out of a case that apparently involves a ghost. I enjoyed the technical aspects to it. Photography was really coming into it’s own at this time as well. 4/5

The Adventure of the Thames TunnelFor some reason, this one didn’t really stand out to me yet I don’t know why. Usually I enjoy tales that feature a shadowy organized criminal element, such as the Iron Hand in this story. There’s a jewel thief dead in the Thames Tunnel and our hero duo has only questions to get them started on the mystery. There’s revenge at the heart of the matter. It was fun but not one that stood out for me.  3/5

The Adventure of the Mad BaritoneThis was an unexpected one. It was a bit twisted and I totally agreed with Holmes’s anger over how the homeless opera singer was treated and a distressed woman was tricked and cheated. Holmes and Watson were very decent in how they revealed the truth to the woman and also assisting the singer. 5/5

Notes Upon the Diadem Club Affair Here we have the second story told from Holmes’s point of view, which I really enjoyed. In fact, I wish we had more stories from his point of view. Watson is always so polite and usually kind, so I enjoy these tales that shine a harsher light on all the participants. The mystery was OK but the story was pure fun. 5/5

This is a pretty good collection of Holmes & Watson stories. While there is no one central female character of note (though Mrs. Hudson puts in a few appearances), the female characters come from a variety of backgrounds and with varying degrees of intelligence. Even when I felt this or that character was rather gullible, they were still very human. The ladies weren’t merely filler or someone to be saved or assisted. Often they added to the mystery.

It was really great to see Watson’s medical expertise come into play more than once. Some authors give this skill set a mere nod or simply pass it on by. Not so here, thankfully! Watson worked hard for his medical knowledge. It should be put to use.

All together, I enjoyed this collection of stories more than I expected. This anthology provides depth to the beloved duo.

I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing.

The Narration: Simon Vance is absolutely lovely to listen to. I loved his clipped voice for Holmes and his warm, caring voice for Watson. He had a variety of accents and his female voices were mostly believable. He kept all the characters distinct and did a great job portraying the emotions of Watson and Holmes.

What I Liked: The stories cover the many years of their friendship and then some; a dabble of the paranormal; Sherlock’s secret heart where it concerns wronged women and homeless kids; Watson’s anger and sadness over losing his wife and Holmes; healing the rift between the two; helping Lestrade build his career; the stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What I Disliked: I would have enjoyed a few more stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What Others Think: 

The John H Watson Society

Reading Reality

Book Page

Criminal Element

The Baker Street Babes

Rhapsody in Books

Historical Novel Society

Booker Worm

20 Something Reads

It’s Murder, My Son by Lauren Carr

Narrator: Janean Jorgensen

Publisher: Books in Motion (2010)

Length: 11 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 1 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Mac Faraday receives the best news of his life on the toughest day he’s had yet. Just finalizing his messy divorce, he learns that his deceased birth mother who put him up for adoption has left him a fortune. Now Faraday has moved to Spencer Manor in an effort to connect with the mother he never knew. But murder lurks just around the corner and Mac puts his DC detective skills to use.

I’ve been listening to several of the Mac Faraday books recently and I love that they can be explored as stand alones. It was great to go back to Book 1 and see how things got started for Mac, how he met Archie, learned about his mom, and adopted Gnarly dog. While this isn’t my favorite book of the series, it’s a solid start to an entertaining murder mystery series.

Set in Spencer, Maryland, the Spencer Manor sits next to the lake in a gated community that harbors many secrets. Mac is new to wealth and he finds it takes some skills to navigate this new economic reality he’s landed in. It’s good that Archie is there to help him fit in. She was Robin Spencer’s assistant and lives in the guest cottage.

A few months before Mac moved in, a neighbor in the area was strangled to death. Katrina was a very charming woman who had a stalker. Of course, the husband Chad has to be cleared first but after 3 months, there are few clues to David (the local police officer) to continue on with the investigation.

I really enjoyed learning about David in this book. He’s the legitimate child of Robin Spencer and Mac’s younger half-brother. The two have never met and it’s a bit awkward. Toss in David’s current problems with his boss, Chief of Police Roy Phillips, and David’s got a few reasons to be angry. Things get even more aggravating for the two experienced investigators when Phillips brings in his ‘expert’, a crime fiction author. Awkward, indeed!

Gnarly was the star of the show once again. He has his own insecurities and is something of a klepto. Mac has to learn about this the hard way and Archie does her best to keep Gnarly out of trouble. Of course, that all goes out the window when Gnarly turns up with a human skull. Good boy! Er… maybe not. Where did you get that? No! You can’t eat it! Here! Have my breakfast instead.

There are lots of characters in this novel and I sometimes had trouble keeping up with all of them. I think it could have been slimmed down a bit and the plot would have been less tangled. I also would have liked a bit more Archie. I feel she’s underutilized even though I know she comes into her own later in the series. Still, it’s an entertaining read and I’m glad I skipped back to this book to see how things got started for Mac.

I listened to this book for free with Kindle Unlimited. However, as of this posting, it no longer seems to be available.

The Narration: Janean Jorgensen was OK for this book. She does a decent Archie and she was really good at the jerk Chief of Police. However, most of the characters are men and she only had so many male voices that at times I had to pay attention closely to follow who said what.

What I Liked: Mac’s beginning at Spencer Manor; meeting David, Archie, and Gnarly with fresh eyes; Gnarly stole the show with his thieving ways; David dealing with his jerk boss.

What I Disliked: The plot was a bit tangled; lots and lots of characters; Archie is underutilized.

What Others Think:

Kelly’s Lucky You

Mystery Suspense Reviews

JAQUO

Book’d Out

Naamah’s Curse Part IV

The read along continues with Naamah’s Curse, Book 2 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Allie at Tethyan Books is our host. We’re covering Chapters 48-64, so be prepared for spoilers below!

 

1) Moirin makes some new friends on the way to Rasa. What do you think will come of her decision to entrust them with the jade medallion? Do you see this as a betrayal of trust or do you think the Emperor would understand?

I think that any time the Emperor sends a traveler away with one of his jade medallions, he knows it could well end up in the hands of others. Perhaps this is a unique way to bring outsiders into Chi’in, providing them safe conduct. I bet he or his guards stationed around the country get to meet lots of random people this way.

I expect Moirin made the right choice in giving up the medallion to get one step closer to Bao and that these traders will do something worthy with it.

2) On her way to the Lady of Rats, Moirin ends up in a dangerous caravan. What are your thoughts on what happened, both with the assault and the illness?

Well, we all knew that the caravan leader was a shifty guy since everyone was concerned about Moirin traveling with his caravan, including herself. So the attempted assault doesn’t come as a surprise… tho I was a bit surprised that Moirin wasn’t really prepared for it. She did well and didn’t complain about losing all the little niceties she had become accustomed to. Later on, she seeks his counsel briefly but I felt that was quite awkward. Still, she needed as much info as she could get. And yet I feel the caravan leader deserved more punishment. He won’t try that again with Moirin but he will with the next woman who catches his eye and isn’t under someone else’s protection.

Sounds like she had some altitude sickness and that lead into some lung infection, perhaps pneumonia.

3) Is seems that caste/class is going to be a major point in this story. Even if Amrita agrees that the caste system may not be just, do you think there’s anything that she and Moirin can do about it? Do you see any path to happiness for Jagrati and/or do you think she deserves to be defeated?

I think Moirin is the spark to start the change of how the caste system is handled (and I suspect abused by some). I doubt the caste system will be done away with in Moirin’s lifetime. The caste system as presented here is too rigid and doesn’t allow for any mobility and keeps a chunk of the population locked into servitude of the lowest kind. It definitely needs reforming and in an ideal world, I would want it gone entirely. Moirin is right when she says that barring the lowest caste from their gods is cruel. I hope Amrita can come to see this and start to make some changes, setting the example herself.

Well, Jagrati was poorly treated, as so many are who are born into a low caste. That should be acknowledged but that doesn’t mean Jagrati gets away with all the naughty things she’s done. Her anger and frustration are a product of the caste system; what actions she took because of those emotions are her responsibility.

4) There is a lot of passion in Kushiel’s Legacy, but the sex scene in this section doesn’t involve much. Given all of the focus on “love as thou wilt”, what do you think about Amrita’s gift and it’s acceptance by Naamah? What do you think about the idea of sex without desire, but for compassionate purposes?

It’s interesting that we have a pity fuck thrown in here, isn’t it? It’s very nicely done, with both participants caring for each other even if Amrita has no passion for it. Compassion is a form of love and Amrita is compassion personified. That’s why she can be so accepting of Naamah’s presence even as she feels no true desire for Moirin. Carey does a great job of showing one more side to Naamah with this coupling.

5) Bao returns! I think we were all a little irritated with him for his Tatar adventures. Do his actions here change your opinion of him? Do you think he has escaped Jagrati’s diamond for good?

I think Moirin should have yelled at him in frustration and called him ‘Stupid Boy!’ during the first meeting. Even with Jagrati there, that stood a good chance of getting through to him. As it was, it was pretty amusing how he suddenly realizes it really is her and then passes out from illness.

Obviously, he went off seeking her and his heart was broken when he thought she died. So, yeah, I like the guy once again even if he’s still a bit thick skulled. He’s finally figured out what he wants and he wants Moirin.

No, I don’t think he’s fully free of Jagrati’s influence but the only way to test that is to put Bao in front of Jagrati and her diamond once again. For now, he has to shake off the opium, which will be a big enough challenge.

Other Tidbits:

Amrita’s son Javindra (spelling?) seems like a bright lad that will be able to lead his people one day.

Chess! Yay!

A temple full of rats. Hmm… so who cleans the temple if the lowest caste isn’t allowed in?

 

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

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).

Owl Dance by David Lee Summers

Narrator: Edward Mittelstedt

Publisher: Sky Warrior Publishing LLC (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clockwork Legion

Author’s Page

Set in the 1870s, this Wild West steampunk adventure is full of surprises. Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi make a great pair of heroes as they travel from New Mexico to California. Gun fights, dirigibles, steam-powered mechanical wolves, a Russian plot to take a chunk of the US, plus an unexpected alien influence called Legion provide a dangerous playground for our main characters – and plenty of entertainment for us.

I read this book back in 2011 and it was great to see it come to audio! I enjoyed it more in this medium as the narrator did it justice. If you love your Wild West and you like it weird, then this is a great series to get into. The story includes several different ethnicities and I love that about this book. The frontier West was a very diverse place and having that reflected in this work is worthy.

Our Persian healer, Fatemeh, has traveled far from home and she’s a bit vague about why. I love that we have this little mystery about her. Also, she talks to owls… or does she? She claims that she only understands their nature but to others it looks like she is actually communicating with them. While I felt the romance between her and Ramon sparked a little too easily, I also feel they make a great couple. Fatemeh is of the Baha’i faith while Ramon is Catholic and this sets up a dynamic to explore not just culture clash but also these different religions.

Meanwhile Ramon has recently had a big shift in his life. He was a sheriff in Socorro, NM and then things went south.. and so did he while he fled with Fatemeh (who was about to be executed for witch craft). Their search for work takes them all the way out to California. Along the way they meet the eccentric inventor, Professor Maravilla. He’s got a thing for steam-powered mechanical beasties. I loved his owls!

Then there’s the bounty hunter Larissa who I look forward to hearing more about later in the series. She’s got plenty of gumption and loves her independent life but she’s drawn into this bigger plot as Russia starts making moves to invade the West coast.

Now lets talk about that alien influence Legion. We come across it early on but it’s not clear right away if it’s something supernatural, man-made, or from outer space. Whatever it is (and yes, we do get that cleared up in this book), it has a hive mind and can communicate directly with humans as well as influence them. So we got the Wild West (yay!), steampunk (awesome!), and now this unknown big picture influencer. The author does a great job of pulling this all together.

My one real quibble with the story is that sometimes it’s a little too easy for Ramon and Fatemeh to convince a ‘villain’ to assist them. It seems like everyone is really a good guy at heart and was just simply misunderstood or was acting under some false or incomplete data. I think the story would have benefited from a real villain or two.

The Narration: Edward Mittelstedt did a really good job. His Spanish accent was consistent throughout the story. Now, his Spanish pronunciations were sometimes different from what I expected. Living in New Mexico, I expected a certain accent (like for Chavez or Maravilla). Mittelstedt’s pronunciation isn’t wrong but it’s not the local dialect either. I believe it’s the difference between high proper Spanish and the Southwest Hispanic accent. Besides that, he was great with keeping all the characters distinct and also with the various emotions throughout the story. He also gave Fatemeh a consistent Persian accent. His female voices were believable.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; Wild Weird West!; Steampunk!; the mix of ethnicities; the owls; the hive-mind influence; Fatemeh and Ramon make a great duo; the ending leaves us ready for further adventures.

What I Disliked: There was no true villain; the romance between Ramon and Fatemeh sparked up rather easily.

What Others Think: 

RJ Blain

Steampunk Journal

Steampunk Junkies

An Uncollected Death by Meg Wolfe

Publisher: Wolfe Johnson (2014)

Length: 373 Pages

Series: Book 1 The Charlotte Anthony Mysteries

Author’s Page

Set in Indiana, Charlotte Anthony is looking at having to downsize from her lake-side house to a small apartment in nearby Elm Grove. Her daughter is off in Paris continuing her education. She’s recently become unemployed since the magazine she’s edited for has had to close down. Luckily, her friend Helene has a sister who needs an editor for a semi-autobiographical work. Unfortunately, Charlotte finds her new employer Olivia dead on the first day with plenty of questions to be answered.

It took some effort to get into this book. I liked that Charlotte was going through this major shift in her life. She had become comfortable and then her stability is gone and she has to pare down her life. Yet the paring down part was mostly long lists of things in her kitchen or clothes closet. That was so tedious I almost gave up on the book. The story went on and on about minimalist lifestyle and how to achieve it, why it’s good for you, etc. It was really harped on and while I like the idea, I didn’t need a step by step tutorial on how to get there.

I liked Helene and even Olivia, who dies early on but we have bits and pieces of her life through these notebooks she left behind. Charlotte has been tasked with finding all these notebooks in Olivia’s cluttered house and then editing them into a publishable book. There are several long info drops when it comes to most of the characters. It’s like I was reading the authors own detailed description notes. This made for boring reading at times.

I did enjoy the treasure hunt for Olivia’s notebooks. She would fill each one, hide it (because she had a disapproving and controlling husband), and begin a new one, starting with a clue as to where she hid the previous one. So while Charlotte and Helene (and sometimes Helene’s photography friend) hunt for these notebooks, someone else keeps coming in at odd hours and stealing small items. Olivia’s estranged son Donovan is the obvious culprit but there’s more to it (which I liked).

Much of the book is focused on Charlotte as she goes through this midlife crisis. The murder mystery is secondary. I wanted to like Charlotte but at times the story was really angsty and that kept putting me off. I wanted to sympathize with Charlotte, but I also felt that she repeatedly sold herself short. She has skills, connections, and resources. She’s not that bad off yet she felt like her life was falling into the gutter. She went from upper middle class to average middle class. It felt like a great fall to her but for many folks, her final landing place would be a step up. So the angsty stuff made it difficult to connect with Charlotte.

In the end, I wanted more mystery. I would have enjoyed reading more about Olivia’s life as an author in Paris during and after WWII. The romance for Charlotte was sweet but also an extremely slow burn. I did like the cat that adopts her.

What I Liked: Olivia’s hidden journals; Helene’s character; Charlotte’s core character; the final wrap up; Charlotte’s new cat friend.

What I Disliked: Lots of long info drops; the long, long lists of Charlotte’s stuff (just not that interesting); the often angsty bits.

The After by David Hernandez

Narrator: Rick Gregory

Publisher: David Hernandez (2017)

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes

Author’s Page

Peter has an obsession with solving this ancient question – what happens after death? From his childhood when he loses his beloved pet, he has been driven to find the answer. Now he just might have found the key to unlocking this secret.

Dude, bro, dude, bro…. These two words were over used in this work.

The basic premise is an interesting one. Of course most of us would like an answer as to what happens after death. Peter has become a hazard to those around him with his quest to find the answer. Using his software engineering skills, he created a gizmo that can capture a few seconds of info on the after life. He needs more data, more subjects, and that becomes a slippery slope. From animal experiments to questionable uses for the elderly, Peter blows past these limits that most of humanity would hold to. The mechanics of how the gizmo worked were left very vague and I would have liked that tightened up a bit. I don’t need schematics but I need more than ‘Hey, look I invented this thing last night in the basement and I bet it’ll answer this big, huge question all of humanity has!’

Besides the over use of drunken college slang between Peter and his best friend Brian, the story is written in a screen play format which came across as a bit clunky in the audiobook format. Perhaps this works better visually as a text edition. For me, it made the story feel a bit disjointed. One scene didn’t flow smoothly into the next.

Peter’s girlfriend, Vanessa, is a bit clingy and seems to be just filler. I wasn’t impressed with her character and I think she may have been the only female character… There may have been some other incidental female, but if so, I don’t recall her. As usual, I would have liked a better gender balance and if you can’t do that, than make your single lady count.

Peter’s experiments eventually do come back to bite him and I liked that part of the book. It had a little bit of a karmic feel to it: you get what you put out there and Peter’s getting it.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a pretty good job. My one quibble is that his voice from Vanessa sometimes came off as cartoony and really whiny. He did have a great voice for Peter, being able to take that voice from sounding like kid Peter, to teen Peter, to adult Peter. He did really well with the over use of Dude and Bro, never sounding like he was rolling his eyes each time he had to utter these terms one more time.

What I Liked: Basic premise held promise; Peter’s obsession and how he breaks one limit after another; the karmic ending.

What I Disliked: One scene didn’t flow easily into another; the gizmo was so vague; the dialogue was repetitive; Vanessa was just filler.