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

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).

Bookish Giveaway & Review: War of the Worlds: Retaliation by Mark Gardner & John J. Rust

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Samuel E. Hoke III

Publisher: Article94 (2017)

Length: 7 hours 38 minutes

Gardner’s Page ~ Rust’s Page

Starting in 1898 with the final throws of the Martian invasion, humanity is at a breaking point. However, the human bacteria prove deadly to the Martians and on mass, they die, leaving their advanced technology for the humans to scavenge. Skipping ahead to 1924, the world leaders have decided it’s time to take the fight to Mars and a massive invasion is launched.

I’m a fan of HG Wells’s works, including the original War of the Worlds. So of course I was thrilled to dive into a novel that told a story of what humans did afterwards. How does a failed Martian invasion change the course of humanity’s history? Gardner and Rust give a decent answer to that question.

I think this book would have extra interest to those who have studied WWI. There’s plenty of European and North American names to recognize in this novel such as Charles de Gaulle, Rommel, George Patton, and so on. You don’t have to be particularly knowledgeable about any of these historical figures to enjoy their characters in this tale. I was a bit surprised that the Asian countries weren’t represented at all. Also, since it was a world wide Martian invasion in 1898, I was initially hopeful to see how that great leap in tech affected many of the countries in Africa and South America. Alas, those continents are barely mentioned.

There’s plenty of great tech in this tale. First, I really enjoyed that some tested and true war machines of WWI were in this book, like the Fokker airplanes. There’s also some brand new vehicles made especially for the Martian invasion. However, I did notice that the physics of Mars was skimmed over when it came to actual battles.

Now, let me get out my little polished soap box. There is exactly 1 female character (Nurse Hill) in this entire book and she doesn’t appear until the last hour of the story and she isn’t plot relevant at all. There’s a few other ladies mentioned as wives or mothers. This pains me. Here we are in this fascinating science fiction novel that’s essentially about the survival of the species, and the women aren’t present. Sigh…

OK, so moving on. I loved that we got a look into Martian society through the Martian characters. Their society is suffering from stagnation and the inability for their leaders to admit that there’s a real threat coming from Earth. I really enjoyed watching the various Martians struggle with this.

The pacing of the story is good with strategy, reflection, and action all well intermingled. I never suffered from battle fatigue nor did I feel that the story bogged down here or there. As an aside, I liked that Hitler was receiving psychiatric help and was an exceptionally minor character in this book.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Samuel Hoke was a very good fit for this story. He performed several different accents as needed and was consistent with them throughout the story. Each character was distinct. 

What I Liked: We’re invading Mars!; fun technology; we get the Martian viewpoints; several historical figures make appearances; a worthy ending.

What I Disliked: Almost no women; Africa, Asia, and South America are barely mentioned; physics of Mars is skimmed over.

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Mark Gardner:

Mark Gardner is a US NAVY veteran. He lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications, and is the Chief Operator for an Arizona radio group.

Website ~ GoodReads ~ Twitter

About Author John J. Rust:

John J. Rust was born in New Jersey. He studied broadcasting and journalism at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey and the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York. He moved to Arizona in 1996, where he works as the Sports Director for an Arizona radio group.

Facebook ~ GoodReads ~ Twitter

Synopsis of War of the Worlds: Retaliation:

1898: Martian tripods lay waste to Earth’s cities. The world’s armies are unable to stem the tide of destruction. When all hope appears lost, common bacteria kills the alien invaders. From the ashes, the human race uses the technology left behind by the Martians to build new, advanced weapons.

1924: Armed with their own spaceships, tripods, and jet fighters, the nations of the world are ready to take the fight to Mars. George Patton, Erwin Rommel, Charles de Gaulle, and Georgy Zhukov lead their troops in battle across the red planet to end the alien menace once and for all. But the Martians have one last, desperate plan to try, and if successful, it could mean the end for all humanity.

Audible ~ Amazon

About Narrator Samuel Hoke III:

Samuel E. Hoke III is a 6’0″ Scorpio who summers in Virginia with his wife two amazingly wonderful black cats named Inca and Maya. In the winter they all head to central  Florida. Samuel is a veteran of the corporate world including IBM and Bank of America he now pursues his lifelong passion of acting.

Samuel has a Bachelors degree in Liberal Studies from Norwich University and an MBA in Global Technology Management from American University. He also conducted a Pre-Doctoral studies in Strategic Leadership at Cornell University. Samuel enjoys Rock and Roll music, photography, fast cars, and international travel.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Win an Astoria VR 3D Immersive Virtual Reality Headset! There will be 2 winners! Ends July 17th, 2017.

War of the Worlds Giveaway

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).

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).

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Alex Avrio, Author of The Alchemist’s Box

Everyone, please give a warm welcome to Alex Avrio. She’s the author of the Merchant Blades series, of which The Alchemist’s Box is Book 1. Scroll to the bottom for the ebook GIVEAWAY of 5 copies of The Alchemist’s Box.

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

I think it would be The Matrix (the first one). I remember when it came out the concept blew my mind. The other one would be The Lord of The Rings. I remember I was eagerly anticipating the movie. I have always been a Tolkien fan, and the only movie available was a 1978 animated movie directed by Ralph Bakshi. I knew that a LOTR movie would either be really good or really bad. When I was in the cinema and saw the first scene I knew it was going to be awesome.

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

This would be my first job, which was in a financial company. I had to be there at 9 am and there was no fixed time I’d leave. I was supposed to leave around 5 but around 4 everybody would come and demand things be done, all of which were urgent, and so I could easily end up having to do several unpaid hours of overtime every night. I was so happy to leave.

However, the most difficult thing I have done was my PhD. Doing the research and writing a document of many thousand words was much tougher than writing a novel. I guess with a novel, I feel I am totally in control and have a good instinctive feel for how it needs to progress, whereas with a PhD thesis, I found the writing process much less natural – probably because it all had to be the truth!

Where is the farthest from home that you have traveled? Would you like to live there?

I’m guessing you mean outside a book? In that case, it would be Peru. The farthest we’ve went was to Cusco and Machu Picchu. The highest was Colca Canyon, watching the condors fly. Peru is a beautiful country with amazing people and I’d love to live there if I had the chance.

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 guess it’s driving long distances to attend my favourite authors’ book signings and talks. The most memorable is dragging my significant other to see Neil Gaiman. We drove for about five hours to get there and queued for another three to get good seats at the venue. This was despite my having a very bad back at the time. (Enough to be in significant pain, not bad enough to be given any special treatment). Still, I regret nothing.

If anyone is a fan and wants to gush over my work feel free to contact me! I love hearing from readers.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I can be usually found drinking coffee, eating cake and reading a book.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

The most recurring geeky argument I have is about what constitutes a strong female character. My view is that there are many things that make a woman strong, physical strength being only one of them. I try to write strong women characters into my books in different ways, each one being strong in her own way. Read ‘The Alchemist’s Box’ and ‘Lose a Princess, Lose Your Head’ and see if you agree with me.

Also: Han Solo fired First.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’d love to share with the readers the first two books of the Merchant Blades series, The Alchemist’s Box and Lose a Princess, Lose Your Head. They take place in a world with similar culture and technology of the Napoleonic/Regency period in Europe. The main characters joined the Merchant Blades mercenary guild after the end of the war between the two major powers of the time. and they become mercenaries. Regina Fitzwaters is a former Captain of the Merrovigian army and is forced to work together with a former enemy, Kapitan Maximillian Jaeger of the Eressian army to repay a debt to the shady underworld bosses in the sewer of Border Town. They must go to the city of Pella and retrieve a box the Bosses bought from the Alchemist there. What could possibly go wrong? They must confront bandits, werewolves, a curse reawakened, and magical creatures while trying not to kill each other.

Places to Find Alex Avrio

Website

Facebook

Twitter

GoodReads

Amazon

Book Blurb for The Alchemist’s Box

When Captain Regina Fitzwaters’ misguided scheme to leave the tough life of a mercenary behind her backfires, the underworld bosses of Border Town offer her a way out: Bring them the mysterious Alchemist’s box from the neighboring Duchy of Pella. The catch? She must work with Maximillian Jaeger, a former enemy in the recent bitter war. Now she must overcome her prejudices and trust him with her life. In Pella, nothing is as it seems. Why have the niece and nephew of the Duke developed such an interest in the team? Where are all the court dignitaries? What does the Alchemist’s box contain that is worth killing, or dying, for? Can Regina and Jaeger put the war behind them and work together to save everyone in the Duchy before it’s too late?

Amazon

Author Bio: 

Alex Avrio is an author of fantasy adventure short stories, novellas, and novels. The first two novels in the swashbuckling Merchant Blades mercenary fantasy adventure series are now available to buy. Her previous dark fantasy novella, the Dreaming Demon, is also for sale on Amazon.

The third novel in the Merchant Blades series, The Hidden Dragon, is due for release in late 2017.

Alex was born in Nottingham, UK, to Greek parents. She has lived both in Greece and England where she returned to study for an MBA in the University of Kent. She has also a PhD in E-business Strategy Management from the University of Kent. She has been writing stories from an early age, and after concluding the PhD she decided that it was the time to try in all earnest to become a professional writer. Alexandra currently lives with her husband and their two cats in Newcastle upon Tyne, a place so far up north that if you go any further you’re south again. She would love to share with you her love of fantasy and adventures. She also has a book, bingo and dessert habit to fuel, so please help by buying the books.

To find out more about Alex Avrio, and to keep up to date on her latest work please visit www.alexavrio.com. She would love to hear from you, and can be reached by E-mail: contact@alexavrio.com Facebook: facebook.com/alexavrio Twitter: @alexavrio

GIVEAWAY!!!

Alex is graciously offering up 5 copies of her ebook The Alchemists’s Box. Giveaway is open internationally! Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: What country do you live in? What do you do when you’re not reading? Optional: Follow Alex Avrio anyway you like and tell me in the comments where you follow her and under what name. Giveaway ends June 17th, 2017, midnight.

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Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher:  Tantor Audio (2009)

Length:  26 hours 57 minutes

Series: Book 1 Naamah Trilogy

Author’s Page

Note: This is the first book in the third trilogy set in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. However, this last trilogy is set a few generations later and stands on it’s own so don’t be afraid to start here if this book intrigues you.

The Bear Witches of Alba are all but extinct but for those few that remain, they do possess small magics and the Great Bear does look out for her own. Moirin grows up in a cave in the depths of a forest and from these humble beginnings she will be tasked by her divine Bear to fulfill a destiny that lies over seas. First she travels to Terre D’Ange to find her D’Angeline relatives, including her father. A D’Angeline lord and healer is intrigued by her small gifts and she’s soon wrapped up in a semi-secret demon summoning circle. She also meets a Chi’in Master and his student/body guard Bao. Perhaps her destiny lies even further than she could imagine.

I read this for the second time as part of a group read and there were weekly discussions which hold plenty of detail on what I think of the book. Once again, I was wrapped up in Carey’s world building. I fell in love with the D’Angelines when I read Kushiel’s Dart so many years ago. I recall my first time reading this book and how it didn’t wow me as much as the first 6 books. However, knowing this round that this is Moirin’s tale, I gave it a better chance. Indeed, I did like this book quite a bit more the second time through. I think with the first read through, I was constantly looking for reflections of the characters I had come to know and love from the first 2 trilogies. Now with the second reading I was focused on Moirin.

I loved Moirin’s small magics. She’s inherited a few from her D’Angeline side as well as her Alban side. Each individual one is rather small, but as we see Moirin grow from a child to a young lady to a woman, she learns to use her powers to great effect. Carey does a most excellent job of showing the reader this growth as the story unfolds.

Moirin is of the Maghuin Dhonn, the Bear Witch people, which we learned a little about in earlier books in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the Maghuin Dhonn directly through Moirin. While much of Maghuin Dhonn live in near isolation, they are still a connected people and will come together in larger groups for certain occasions, such as Moirin’s coming of age ceremony. Moirin has to work hard to be acknowledged by the Bear Witch herself, but that acknowledgement comes at a steep price, one that I think we won’t fully understand until the end of this trilogy.

As usual with this series, there are several lovely sex scenes. Carey doesn’t skimp but she also doesn’t toss in throwaway love scenes. These interactions always reveal something more about the characters involved. I found this especially true in the later part of the book where there is a princess and a dragon. I won’t say anything further as I don’t want to be spoilery. Just know that it’s worthy.

I do have one quibble for this book. At the end, there is some drama and death and I did feel there was some deus ex machina involved. It involves the ultimate bad guy and why he wasn’t properly trussed up. Even with this one small criticism, I did enjoy how the ending leaves our heroes in a complicated place, setting us up for the next adventure.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik is a joy to listen to. She does such an excellent job with the multitude of accents needed for this book. She’s also great with a voice for Moirin that ages as she comes of age throughout the story. Her male voices are quite believable.

What I Liked: The cover art; great narration; Moirin in her own right; the quest to find one’s heritage; the desire to fulfill the Great Bear’s wishes; Bao as the main love interest; the dragon; from humble beginnings to world traveler!

What I Disliked: There was a bit of deus ex machina at the end.

What Others Think:

Eyrie

Book Smugglers

Dear Author

Fantasy Book Critic

A. V. Club

Fantasy Cafe

Strange Horizons

The Bibliosanctum

Books Without Any Pictures

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaways!

Narrator: Gary Furlong

Publisher: Forever Young Audiobooks (2017)

Length: 8 hours 48 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Timekeeper Trilogy

Author’s Page

Set in a Victorian England, the clock towers keep time from fracturing and the Timekeepers keep the clocks ticking along smoothly. Danny Hart is a time mechanic like his father and he hopes to one day free his father and citizens of a Stopped town where a clock tower broke 3 years ago. Meanwhile, he has been assigned temporarily to the clock tower in the little town of Enfield where small things keep going wrong. Danny begins to suspect sabotage even as he learns an unsettling yet still intriguing truth about the clock tower – it does indeed have a clock spirit. Colton seems equally intrigued by Danny and the two share a spark of romance that may or may not go anywhere.

This book was so much more than I was expecting. First, I was sucked in by the mythos of Chronos and how time was shattered but brought back under control by the clock towers and their spirits. Through out the book, we get little snippets of this mythology – never enough to bore and they always intrigued me. Then we learn more about the clock mechanics, their rigorous training, and how it’s more than just sprogs and bolts. There’s also this slightly mystical ability to feel the flow of time coupled with intuition of knowing just what the clock needs to run smoothly.

Danny Hart enters the picture and he has plenty going on in his life. He’s the youngest mechanic to graduate from the training program. His dad has been absent for the past 3 years trapped in the stopped city of Malden and no one has figured out how to free the city yet. Also, the lad survived a nasty accident himself and he’s suffering from PTSD. Lastly, he has finally come out of the closet, now that being gay is no longer a hanging offense. Few people are understanding, including his mom. Luckily, he has a stalwart friend in Cassie, a lass who has been his friend since childhood. As you can see, I was totally caught up in Danny’s character and definitely wanted to follow him around and see what he could accomplish in this book.

When Colton, the clock spirit in Enfield, first appears, he doesn’t tell Danny what he is. Danny guesses early on in their friendship but this presented yet another problem. Few people believed that the clock spirits were real so it wasn’t something he could readily explain to folks. Then as their romance begins, he finds it even more difficult to chat about Colton to folks. The romance is light, sweet, fumbling, and has a few misunderstandings between the two. I look forward to seeing where the author takes their relationship in the next book.

Danny becomes convinced that someone is sabotaging the tower in Enfield and so the hunt for clues begins. I enjoyed this little mystery and I only began to suspect the culprit late into the story. I was delighted that the tale hid the true nature of this person for so long. That made the reveal that much more delicious to me as the reader and it hit a hard punch to Danny when he figured it out.

As for side characters, I felt they were nicely developed and weren’t simple stand ins. Mrs. Hart is obviously grieving for her lost husband and is ready to move on. I think she’s a bit afraid to care too deeply as her son is in the same line of work and has already escaped one nasty accident. Cassie is a mechanic herself, though she tends to enjoy automobiles most. Daphne greatly intrigued me. She has a facial tattoo, wears men’s work clothes, and is rumored to have a parent from India. I hope there is more about her in the next book. I was charmed by Matthias, an older friend of Danny’s who went through a hardship and now is a teacher instead of a mechanic. He often took Danny under his wing in a paternal uncle-ish sort of way.

All together, it’s a great start to the trilogy. I saw that some folks stuck this book in the steampunk genre but I wouldn’t call it steampunk. I don’t recall a single thing being steam-driven. Regardless of what genre you place this book in, it’s going on my top shelf.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Gary Furlong was a great pick for this book. I loved his rich, older voice for Matthias. He had the perfect on-the-cusp-of-manhood voice for Danny. His female voices were believable and varied (the ladies didn’t all sound the same).

What I Liked: Time can be messed with but you probably shouldn’t do so anyway; Danny comes into the story with some issues to work on; the mythological bits; the little romance; the mystery; the side characters brought something to the story; solid ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I was fully entertained by this book.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Gary Furlong:

Gary Furlong grew up in Wexford, Ireland. Throughout his life he has worn many a hat: He has worked as a teacher in Niigata, Japan; a puppeteer in Prague; an improv artist in Memphis, Tennessee; and as a singer and actor all over Ireland. He started narrating audiobooks in late 2015 and hasn’t looked back.

Gary made his acting debut in the musical Godspell as a student. Since then he has pursued acting both on the amateur and professional circuits. Notable roles include Tom Collins in Bare Cheek’s production of Rent in 2010.

Over the course of his five years in Japan, he was an actor, director, and audio producer. It was during this time that he discovered his interest in audiobooks and voice-over.

He now works full-time as an audiobook narrator and voice actor from his home in Ireland.

 Website ~ Twitter

Synopsis of Timekeeper:

Two o’clock was missing.

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Tara Sim:

Tara Sim is the author of Timekeeper (Sky Pony Press) and can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, clocks, and explosives. Follow her on Twitter at @EachStarAWorld, and check out her website at tarasim.com.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads ~ InstaGram ~ Pinterest

GIVEWAYS!!!

$50 Amazon Gift Card

Timekeeper Giveaway #1

Audiobook Bundle that includes Timekeeper

Timekeeper Giveaway #2

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

DickTheManInTheHighCastleNarrator: Jeff Cummings

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2015)

Length: 9 hours 58 minutes

Author’s Page

In this alternate history, the US and it’s allies lost WWII in the 1940s. The US in 1962 is divided up between Germany and Japan, with an unoccupied strip in the middle following the Rocky Mountain Range. A banned novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, is read by many of the main characters, influencing their choices, but perhaps not as much as the popular I Ching.

It was very interesting visiting this SF classic after having watched the first season of the TV series. Juliana is one of the few ladies to have a full name and a role in the plot. She’s Frank Frink’s ex-wife and lives in Canon City in the neutral Mountain States teaching martial arts. Meanwhile, Frank is still in San Francisco working at a metalsmith’s shop. He’s one of a shrinking number of Jewish Americans living in the Japanese occupied states. For me, it was these two characters that I initially gravitated towards the most.

A Mountain States author wrote The Grasshopper Lies Heavy some years ago and it was initially banned in all Axis occupied lands. However, Japan lifted it’s ban and this has allowed the book to spread a bit. This book depicts a world in which the Allies won; the book’s WWII outcome doesn’t reflect our historical reality but provides yet another possible scenario which I found interesting. Most of the main characters have an interaction with this book and each character’s reaction is a bit different. Juliana becomes a bit obsessed with the book after she meets a truck driver, Joe Cinnadella, who let her borrow his copy.

I didn’t particularly like Juliana after she hooked up with Joe. Her character really had this shift that I didn’t find fully believable. I also noticed the same thing happen with Robert Childan, the man who runs a San Francisco antiques store. Both characters change direction and are then used by the plot. It felt like PKD wrote a quarter of this novel, set it aside, and when he came back to it he decided he wanted to take a different path but was too lazy to rewrite these characters to fit what came next. Instead, he just has this rather swift shift in character for each of them that feels unnatural the rest of the book.

While there is not much more than a peek into Nazi-occupied US, we do hear quite a bit about the Germans. They have a huge advantage in technology, so much so that they are sending Germans to Mars and Venus to colonize them. Japan is increasingly falling behind in their tech and tensions continue to mount between these two world powers. I did get a giggle out of the apparent jump in tech and science (colonizing Mars) and yet the Germans and Japanese continue to use tape recorders. I just had to keep in mind that this book was originally published in 1962 and many authors, even the SF greats, rarely saw any tech beyond physical recordings on some sort of plastic strip.

The story winds up the reader, tightening the tension with each chapter. Some characters are just trying to get by. Others are actively assisting the German government in maintaining their current world dominance. Some few are interested in finding a way out of this Germany/Japanese controlled world for everyone. Yet even as the story reaches what I was expecting to be the final crescendo, nothing truly big happens at the end. Most of our characters are still, for the most part, stuck in their various situations trying to find a way out. Nothing is truly resolved. Since I wasn’t fully invested in the characters, I was OK with that. This novel was pretty mediocre for me.

I received a free copy of this book from eStories in exchange for a review of their audiobook services. Their service is set up much the same as other audiobook platforms. When you sign up, you get 1 audiobook for free and you have this free audiobooks trial period as well. There’s also the free audiobooks download app for iPhone or Android. Keep in mind, my experience is for this single book. Nowhere on their website does it say that you can download to a PC or laptop, so I had to clarify that with a representative before I agreed to give their services a try since 90% of my audiobook listening happens on a laptop. Once I signed up, I picked out my book, I went to my eStories library, and there is a DOWNLOAD button, which I clicked. I was expecting options to pop up – various formats, perhaps a eStories specific player for computers (or links to Windows Media Player or iTunes), etc. However, instead it just started downloading a zip file full of the MP3s for my book. Now, for me, this was fine. Once fully downloaded in my Download Folder, I wanted to move my audiobook to another folder but the move failed completely and I had to redownload. (I don’t know if the failed download was due to corrupted files or not, but considering the small difficulty with the Android player, that might well be the case.) Later on, since we were headed out on a road trip, we downloaded the same book from eStories to my man’s Android cellphone. The download went swiftly, however there was some minor corruption of each MP3 file. Each file ended with a random sentence fragment taken from that file. At first, we thought the eStories player was cutting off the last word or two of the chapter but a spot check of my laptop audiobook revealed what was happening (though not the why of it). I informed my contact of this and the info was passed on to the tech team, so hopefully that is already fixed if you go to use the Android player. Browsing their selection is pretty good – genre, length, abridged or unabridged, etc. They don’t have as big a selection as Audible.com but they do have some small publishers and indie authors/narrators as well as the big publishing houses. You can create a Wish List as well. One cool thing is that you can upload any audiobook from your computer to your eStories library and from there listen to it on your Android or iPhone. I haven’t tried this yet but I like the idea for Librivox audiobooks for my husband’s Android. Each book has a detailed description – author, narrator, publisher, length, series, etc. However, unlike other platforms, I can’t click on the series and have all the books in the series pop up. Overall, eStories has potential.

The Narration:  Jeff Cummings was OK. He did fine with regional American accents but his foreign accents were pretty rough, especially his Italian accent. He did do a good job imbuing the characters with emotions at the right times. 

What I Liked: It was an interesting look into a world where WWII had a different outcome; Frank Frink is an interesting character; Having the US divided up into 3 sections gives a view into 3 different sets of human standards; use of the I Ching; the alternate WWII ending in the fictitious book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.

What I Disliked: Juliana is one of the few female characters; a few characters have sudden shifts in their outlooks and then their motives feel forced the rest of the book; no real look into German-occupied US; the story winds us up and then just leaves us; narration was a little rough with foreign accents.

VintageScifiBadgeVintage SciFi Month! This book was originally published in 1962, and being of the alternate history SF genre, it easily qualifies for my Vintage SF challenge. Hooray! Anyone is welcome to join the yearly Vintage SF Month!

What Others Think:

Philip K. Dick Fan Site

Conceptual Fiction

Prometheus Unbound

Infinity Plus

Rat Race Refuge

Man of la Book