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

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

Naamah’s Curse Part III

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, I am your host. We’re covering Chapters 33-47, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) What stood out to you for Moirin’s baptising ceremony? Have you ever been through such a religious ceremony and did it go as you expected?

At first, I thought this ceremony would go well and then Rostov or the Duke would decide to keep her captive anyway, like a trophy or something. In fact, I worried that Moirin would be married off directly afterwards just to keep her new chaste self safe from herself. I had totally forgotten how things went down. I agree with Moirin on not swearing that final vow and I don’t really know if there was anything she could have done at that moment to have changed Rostov’s mind about stoning her. Addressing the Duke concerning her royal lineage didn’t help. However, her anger also didn’t help. Still, I would have wept to have seen her beg.

I’ve never been through such a religious ceremony but I’m glad that I have the freedom to explore such things as I like.

2) Now Moirin and Alexsie (spelling?) are free. Alexsie has much to learn not just about Moirin but also about the larger world. What moment do you think challenged his ingrained believes the most? What do you think he will do ultimately with his life?

Alexsie and his idea that charms and enchantments lurk around every corner and are in everything that Moirin does! It gave me a laugh.

I believe that moment when Naamah bestows her blessing upon Alexsie and he knows it really challenged his ingrained beliefs, but in a good way. He now knows that the world, both mortal and godly, is so much bigger.

I’m not sure what Alexsie will go on to do with his life. I feel he’s a scholarly sort, so perhaps he will found a school of learning and religious tolerance. Hopefully, he will get some real traveling in before then so he can experience many new things before settling down.

3) There comes a moment when Moirin realizes that she did come to love Alexsie, in a way, and that’s the same moment she knows she will not see him again. Naamah’s curse indeed! Have you had such a moment yourself? Do you think this curse also applies now to Moirin’s love of the departed Jehane?

That was a little bitter sweet, wasn’t it? She’s done her best to be honest with Alexsie and hopefully he came to understand that there are many types of love in their short time together. No, I haven’t had such a moment yet though I expect if Naamah’s Curse ever does fall upon me, I will automatically think of Moirin.

As to the second question, perhaps. Moirin knows she loves Jehane but perhaps in that moment when she learned of her childbirth death, she realized the full weight of the love she bore for Jehane and also how she will no longer be able to revel in it with Jehane.

4) Falcons and spiders and rats, oh my! What stood out the most for you in Moirin meeting up again with Erdina, Bao’s wife? And what do you expect Moirin will find as she heads towards the Falconer with his Spider Queen?

It was such a gamble to approach Erdina in the first place, but then to hang around waiting to meet with her at an assigned time and place was really pushing her luck! Moirin is lucky that Erdina has more honor than her father. It was also extra lucky that Erdina gave Moirin back her personal belongings, though I half expected Moirin to turn around and give Erdina a small token, perhaps a bit of cloth scented with a few drops of Jehane’s perfume.

Falcons are cool, even spiders as long as they aren’t biting me. Same for rats, though the fleas they can carry could be a problem. Moirin is a forest-raised lass, so I expect she won’t have any trouble dealing with the beasties themselves, but this Spider Queen and her assassins could be a problem.

Other Tidbits:

While I like that Alexsie is still holding to such things like not stealing the horse from the church, he also takes a moment to weigh Moirin’s responses, like how they stole her first so she can right well borrow this horse now.

Moirin’s deep satisfaction at having the silver chains and manacles melted down was shared by me. Good riddance to them! While I think they were expecting a bit much to not be tracked by those chains, they definitely needed the money. Perhaps they should have fled first, and bedded later?

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).

Naamah’s Curse Part II

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, Lynn is our host. We’re covering Chapters 16-32, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Moirin takes part in the archery contest – what were your feelings of her and Bao’s plans up to this point and what did you think of the eventual outcome?

Well, I think they were a bit naive to think that winning a boon from Aram (who I keep confusing with Bao’s dad Asslan) would solve all their immediate problems. I know these two have been through the emotional ringer in the last book, but they should have stepped it up a bit here. Of course one or both of them were in danger since insulting and humiliating the Leader Aram wasn’t the route to go.

Still, it was awesome to see Moirin win and that some of the men were gracious about it.

2. I’m very puzzled about the direction the story has taken with this whole abduction theme – what do you make of this part of the story and in particular Pyotr Rostov?

I had completely forgotten about this part of the story, though it’s been some years since I last read this book. I think the abduction makes sense in that Rostov is trying to show his spiritual superiority by converting a heathen, but not just any heathen. No, he wanted a true challenge. What could be more challenging than a bear witch D’angeline?

Honestly, this isn’t my favorite part of the story only because I spend so much of it wanting to throttle Rostov. I really feel Moirin’s frustration with the situation and I really don’t care for religious superiority in people in real life.

3. I can’t help making comparisons as I read between Moirin and Phedre and the storyline here – are there any particular things that have drawn your eye or given you pause for thought?

I was thinking of Phedre too. For Phedre, she was able to accept and respect the gods of whatever land she was in. For Moirin, it’s a little different. She can respect any gods, but she can’t accept Rostov’s god without turning away from her Bear, as we saw in that vision Moirin had. Besides, I think that even had Moirin accepted him, Rostov would still have kept her captive and her final outcome could well have been being married off to a well-respected church man.

I do like that Alexi shared his mother’s hidden book that covered the adventures of Berlik in the area through the priest’s eyes. This allowed Moirin to move past much of her anger and find something good and bright in Rostov’s faith.

4. Any predictions about the next stage of the story?

Well, Bao got his wish to make his own choice about their relationship. With Moirin’s inner spirit quieted, I expect Bao has made his decision and I expect that decision will have him hunting her down. I hope he has really good tracking skills and isn’t fooled by whatever false story Aram gave him.

Other Tidbits:

I would not want to be scoured with lye soap. Ever.

I think Moirin was going about it wrong in her initial moves to seduce Alexi but I like that his mom gives her the clue she needs to get Alexi on her side: Tell him the truth.

All this talk about sins was both infuriating but also fascinating. Moirin has never been told that so many aspects of her life are shameful and I love seeing her question the logic of Rostov’s religion.

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).

Bookish Giveaway & Review: Hound’s Bite by E. J. Stevens

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrators: Melanie A. Mason, Anthony A. Bowling

Publisher: Sacred Oaks Press (2017)

Length: 7 hours

Series: Book 5 Ivy Granger, Psychic Detective

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 5 in the series, I feel that one could enjoy it as a stand alone.

Ivy Granger has returned from the Unseelie Faerie Court after learning some earth-shattering news about her parentage. But there’s no time to rest and deal with that because the Lord of the Hunt is about to hit Harborsmouth. She must call upon her allies, her latest training, and her friends to combat the Wild Hunt or suffer the loss of her beloved city.

This was a gripping read! I really enjoyed this installment in the series. First, there’s the great characters and they’re all written so well in this book, with great lines and actions that give them depth. Then there’s more than one crisis Ivy has to deal with, so it’s not just one long meandering battle with the Wild Hunt. Lastly, there are consequences and some of them are a bit rough. I like it when my urban fantasy drags talons across some of the major characters.

Jinx is still a big part of Ivy’s life and I’m very glad these two friends were able to deal with their recent falling out. And, yes, Jinx still has her crossbow. She and Forneus (who is a demon and a lawyer) are still together. Then there’s Torn, the cat sidhe, who flirts with both Ivy and Jinx, which really irritates both Forneus and Ceff (Ivy’s kelpie lord boyfriend). Then toss in Sparky, Ivy’s adopted demon child. Father Michael gets called in to babysit while the heroes work on a game plan to deal with Hearn, Lord of the Hunt.

Yet before they get too far along, Sparky goes missing. Now a powerful witch, Kaye, has a plan to save Harborsmouth from the Wild Hunt but things are going disastrously wrong there. Ivy and her friends will need the help of the mysterious Circle before they can regroup and get back to dealing with Hearn. I loved this part of the book. It was a bit of a detour from the big event but I really enjoyed how it added to several of the characters. Ariadne, a witchling who is in training to Kaye, really gets to be in the spotlight for part of it. Then there’s Ivy’s new Faerie and Wisp powers to put on display. Also the beetles! The next time I get something stuck in my throat, I will be looking for beetles.

So then we get past that and allies must be gathered for the big fight. Now the thing about the Wild Hunt is that if a hound of the Wild Hunt bites you, you turn into a hound yourself and you’re bound to serve the Lord of the Hunt. Armor! Bring me my armor! Obviously, things don’t go well for everyone involved and Ivy faces the very real danger of losing people she loves to the Wild Hunt.

I was very satisfied with the ending. Not everyone got everything they wanted but there’s still enough good stuff that people can pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. I especially like how far the Pooka came in this series, despite their choice of condom hats.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Once again, Melanie Mason narrates the bulk of this story, being the perfect voice for Ivy. I also love her Jinx voice. Anthony Bowling has all the male character lines and he does a great job with Torn (a flirtatious snot) and Father Michael (a sincere man). Most of the time, Bowling’s lines are inserted smoothly into the recording but other times it definitely felt like these two narrators weren’t in the same room during the recording. There were a few sound effects mixed in, and for the most part they worked. There were a few that I wasn’t sure what they were until the story told me what they were.

What I Liked: Great cover art; no rest for the wicked or the good; the segment dealing with Sparky’s abduction; the beetles!; the very real consequences of being bitten by a Hound; the Pookas; the way things ended.

What I Disliked: I would like the audio production to be a touch smoother, but this is a minor quibble and didn’t detour me from enjoying this book.

Synopsis of Hound’s Bite:

Ivy Granger thought she left the worst of Mab’s creations behind when she escaped Faerie. She thought wrong.

In a cruel twist of fate, Ivy has unleashed a powerful horde of Unseelie beasts upon her city, turning her homecoming into a potential slaughter of innocents. Now Ivy must gather her allies to fight a reputedly unstoppable force – The Wild Hunt.

Will the training Ivy received in her father’s court be enough to save her city, or will Harborsmouth be forced to kneel before the Lord of the Hunt? She is willing to risk her own life, but some sacrifices come at a cost worse than death. When an ally is bitten by one of The Wild Hunt’s hounds, Ivy must face the possibility that winning this battle may mean killing the one person she has come to love most.

Hound’s Bite is the fifth full-length novel in the award-winning, best-selling Ivy Granger urban fantasy series by E.J. Stevens. The world of Ivy Granger, including the Ivy Granger Psychic Detective series and Hunters’ Guild series, is filled with action, mystery, magic, dark humor, quirky characters, bloodsucking vampires, flirtatious demons, sarcastic gargoyles, sexy shifters, temperamental witches, psychotic faeries, and snarky, kick-butt heroines.

Audible ~ Amazon

Author Info

E.J. Stevens is the author of fourteen works of speculative fiction, including the Spirit Guide young adult paranormal romance series, the Hunters’ Guild urban fantasy series, and the award-winning Ivy Granger urban fantasy series. She is known for filling pages with quirky characters, bloodsucking vampires, psychotic faeries, and snarky, kick-butt heroines.

When E.J. isn’t at her writing desk, she enjoys teaching writing workshops, dancing along seaside cliffs, singing in graveyards, and sleeping in faerie circles. E.J. currently resides in a magical forest on the coast of Maine where she finds daily inspiration for her writing.

Connect with E.J. on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest, and on her Blog.

GIVEAWAY!!!

To celebrate the Hound’s Bite audiobook release and Audiobook Month, we are giving away a HUGE Ivy Granger Prize Pack, including an Ivy Granger button, pen, flashlight keychain, custom earbuds, a Hound’s Bite mini poster signed by the author, and a Passport to the World of Ivy Granger signed by the author and the audiobook narrators!  This giveaway is open to the US/UK/CA.  Giveaway begins June 1, 2017 and ends June 30, 2017.  Entry is by Rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Malaise Falchion by Paul Barrett

Narrator: Jack Wayne

Publisher: Paul Barrett (2017)

Length: 8 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Spade Case Files

Author’s Page

The Dwarf Spade is a private detective who’s in disgrace with his family & clan. When an Elf lord shows up demanding he not assist a certain client, Spade gets drawn into this intrigue with the promise of redemption. Lizard archers, magicians, dragon planes, goblins, and more populate this book.

This is a fantastic mashup of the noir detective and the D&D fantasy genres. I had so much fun with this book! In fact, I listened to it twice since I had left it on my phone when we headed out on a long road trip. My husband greatly enjoyed this book as well.

Now the story does start off a bit light on the female characters. Spade and his little lizard side kick, Crizz, get beaten up by these thugs hired by an elf lord who bears the assassin’s guild tattoo. Yep. That should be enough to dissuade Spade from taking the next case that walks in his door; a young lady elf seeks his help. Perhaps the elf lord should have offered gold instead of beatings. Eventually we get some more lady characters. I especially love Liz the female lizard archer. She’s so practical and so gentle with Crizz, who has a crush on Liz that will never be returned.

A quest! Yes, we have a quest! It’s a crazy, wonderful ride. I love all the humor, most of which is dry observation. It’s witty and acerbic most of the time. I especially enjoyed Spade’s comments on dragon airplane travel for the masses.

The range of magical peoples in this book is great too. If Dashiell Hammet and the folks behind the Dragonlance novels coupled and produced a grumpy baby, this would be that baby. I was delightfully surprised by the variety and also how even minor characters add something to the plot.

I’m really hoping there are Spade Case novels in the making.

I received a free copy of this book from Falcon Sound Company.

The Narration: Jack Wayne did a great job with this book. I loved his grumpy, low gravelly voice for Spade. He made each character sound distinct and there were some challenging voices in this book with all the D&D characters! He was also wonderful with the emotions and the dry humor.

What I Liked: The cover art; range of characters; Spade’s humor; the quest; Crizz and his crush on Liz; lizard archer!; dragon planes!; great narration. 

What I Disliked: While I would have liked a few more ladies, or to have the ladies come into the story earlier, they were still present by the end.

What Others Think:

The Audiobook Reviewer

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).

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.

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

Facebook

Amazon

Audiible

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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