Fools’ Gold by Philippa Gregory

Tanuki wouldn't hold still for a pic, so I got his back legs instead.

Tanuki wouldn’t hold still for a pic, so I got his back legs instead.

Why I Read It: This series, Changeling and Stormbringers, has been fun so far, so had to check out Book 3.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you’re looking for a light historical fiction on Venice, money forgery, & religion, check this book out.

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 9 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 3 Order of Darkness

Author’s Page

Book 3 picks up where Book 2 left us. Our little crew of Frieze, Isolde, Luca, Brother Peter, and Ishraq have orders to go to Venice, pretend to be a wealthy merchant family, and seek out forged coins and the forgerers themselves. They end up in Venice during Carnival, the one time a year that well-to-do ladies are allowed to go out of the home. This is 1400s Italy, so plenty of rules to help a person stay proper and respectful, especially for young ladies. Early on, they learn about gambling, gondolas, and how convenient a well planned costume can be.

So if you have been following this series, then you know that Frieze was absent most of Book 2, which was one of the few things I didn’t like about it. No worries on that count with this book; Frieze gets to goof around and be at the center stage plenty in this book. His blunt country charm is well received by this reader. The odd love tangle from the last book sorts itself out, somewhat anyway, in this book and such silliness doesn’t get as much screen time (which is fine by me). Over all, I felt this book was better than Book 2, and perhaps better than Book 1.

In carrying out their mission, Luca and crew come upon a pair of alchemists. Lots of mystery surrounds these two and what they are up to. Indeed, Frieze and Ishraq get the chance to snoop through their house, and some of the things they discover are hair raising! Venice is a trade city, and one of the major things they trade is currency, such as Italian currencies for the English gold noble. During this tale, they are in great demand and play an important role in the end of this book. I liked that we got a bit of history on a specific coin, and on coin forgery.

Luca has also had a break through in locating his parents. In Book 2, he was directed to someone who could perhaps find out if his parents were still living as slaves somewhere in the Ottoman empire. If so, there was the chance to buy their freedom. This little side plot is a bit of a tear-jerker.

I feel the characters grew in this book, even Brother Peter who is always so by-the-book straight. Isolde has a moment when she must defend her good character, which has the consequence of tearing another down. Luca has the drama with finding more info on his parents. Ishraq has to face the confining culture of Venice which requires young ladies to basically stay at home unless at church or escorted to another lady’s house for a visit. Frieze….well, he had to stable his best buddy Rufino the horse outside Venice for the duration of the book, which was very hard on the lad.

My one criticism is that for much of the book, when any two or more ladies were talking together, it was about a man (usually Luca). Sometimes, this was fighting over the man. It was silly. Women do talk about more than men when they get together, and considering the new culture for our main ladies (that of Venice) and the mysteries of the alchemists, there was plenty for them to talk about.

Narration: Nicola Barber was an excellent choice for this book, as she was for the previous book. She does Isolde’s voice perfectly, with the right notch of a high-born lady, plus the wonder of youth. Ishraq almost always has a questioning tone, as fits her nature. Brother Peter is so very stern. Luca and Frieze are done quite well, and with distinct voices.

What I Liked: The Venician setting; learning a little about coin forgery as I read; the alchemists’ lair was interesting and spooky; Brother Peter bent a bit to help his young charges and I found it to be one of the most hilarious and yet moving scenes in the book.

What I Disliked: The ladies pretty much only talk about men when it is just them, which didn’t seem realistic considering their surroundings and mission.

What Others Think:

The Sweet Review

Book Referees

The Sekhmet Bed by L. M. Ironside

IronsideSekhmetBedWhy I Read It: Ancient Egypt has long fascinated me, so this looked like a great historical fiction to become lost in.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Ancient Egyptian buffs will find this book entertaining.

Narrator: Amanda C. Miller

Publisher: Libbie M. Grant (2013)

Length: 9 hours and 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 The She-King

Author’s Page

Ahmose was raised to be a priestess, to be a dream interpreter. But life takes a turn when the Pharaoh dies and her mother and grandmother chose her to be the Great Royal Wife. Wedded to a soldier, Thutmose, her God Chosen status gives him a bit of legitimacy. However, Mutnofret, Ahmose’s elder sister, holds a long-simmering resentment for being passed up; she was raised to be the Great Royal Wife, not Second Wife.

L. M. Ironside tells this tale with depth, lush settings, and interesting characters. From the beginning, I was attached to Ahmose. She’s thrown into a difficult situation at such a young age, given great responsibility, and has to face many opponents (including her own sister!). Early on, she witnesses a birth that does not go well and thus, one of her greatest fears is childbirth. This fear shapes some of her important decisions, thereby shaping not only her life, but those around her.

I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptive scenes of ceremonies. Of course, there was the wedding feast of Thutmose to his two brides. There are also several religious ceremonies, especially once we see God’s Own Wife, a title granted to a woman who then has much power over the priesthood. These scenes were told so clearly that I felt like I was a spectator there enjoying the ceremony.

There’s chariot rides. Yep. I have been tempted to build a chariot for me and my donkeys, but never seem to get around to it. So I live vicariously when I can through books with chariot rides.

Of course there is romance. Ahmose and her sister, Mutnofret, vie for Thutmose’s affections. Unfortunately, this also increases the tension between the sisters. Through these two plot devices, we see sorrow and loss, hope and love. Thuthmose is often gone on one military campaign or another. Most of the time, he leaves one sister pregnant and the other to run the country. Rumors spread of secret lover, adding to the tension. There was this one poignant scene that involved rain and the disapproval of the gods.

My one small criticism is that I wish we could have seen more of the governing that went on while Thutmose was off shoving spears into one disagreeable group or another. Ahmose and Mutnofret are young (in their teens) when they start running the country. It must have been intense for them. We have one brief scene that is more about the power play between the two sisters rather than governing. Nearly all the interactions between the sisters concerns a man, and we have so many other issues that could be discussed.

The Narration: Amanda Miller was a great choice for the voice of Ahmose. She was young and innocent at first, but gradually became more confident and firmer in her decisions. Miller was able to portray this shift in the character’s voice. I also enjoyed her voice for Mutnofret (who was most times condescending). While her male voices could use a bit more masculinity, they were still distinct and I had not trouble discerning one character from another.

What I Liked: The setting; each character grew throughout the story; the gods are real in Ahmose’s visions; great use of ceremonies; the cover; chariot rides.

What I Disliked: I would have liked a bit more on the governing of the country, since it did take up a good chunk of Ahmose’s life.

What Others Think:

Historical Novel Society

Diane Dooley

Just Wondering

Scroll of a Modern Scribe

Historical Novel Review

Rise to Power by Uvi Poznansky

PoznanskyRiseToPowerWhy I Read It: I really enjoyed Poznansky’s Twisted so decided to check out her historical fiction.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Those interested in 1st-2nd century BC history, and/or bible stories told from a secular point of view.

Narrator: David George

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours and 38 minutes

Series: Book 1 The David Chronicles

Author’s Page

The story opens with an old king, one who has had his claws and fangs pulled. Indeed, he is not a particularly impressive specimen. Through the course of one night, his memory flashes back to younger days. David started off as a court entertainer – a poet, a dancer, a harp player. But then one decision after another leads David down a road of tough choices, choices that often lead to blood. Set in the land of Israel in the 1st or 2nd century BC, we watch as David rises in power, watch as that power is snatched away, and then watch as David claws that power back.

This story was new to me as I am not religious, though I am pretty certain that the life of David is chronicled in the Christian and Hebrew bibles. So some of you may already be familiar with many of the details of this story. Even I, who lives under a rock, had heard the tale of David versus Goliath. I have to admit that my overall ignorance of David and his deeds added to my pleasure in discovering this tale through this book. except for the David versus Goliath fight, I had no idea what would happen to David. So, yes I fretted over him.

He started off so simple and care-free. He was a court entertainer and a bit of a ladies’ man. A young lad soon to be a man who had little a need to be noticed. Of course, the King (King Saul) offers him a daughter’s hand in marriage for defeating Goliath. This turns out to be a bit of a ruse and David ends up with another daughter. But don’t worry, later in the story he collects a few more wives. He has plenty of companionship in the bedroom. Just as he has plenty of conflict in the king’s court and later in the battlefield.

David is a complicated guy. He starts off on a bit of a lark, off for adventure. Then marriage and court intrigue send him into a series of conflicts that bloody his hands. By the end of the book, we have a very different picture of David. I am not sure I like the man he turned into, even as I am sure that I am quite intrigued by him. The ending left me ready for the sequel in the series, wanting to know if David can redeem himself of his misdeeds, or if I am going to want to behead him.

My few criticisms are small, as I quite enjoyed my time with this book. The first partly stems from my own cultural and (perhaps) historical ignorance. There is a scene where David must collect the foreskins of 100 Philistines. Now I assume that the only way to do that is to convert the uncut men to Judaism, and part of that conversion means the willing circumcision. The other option is to kill the Philistine men and then collect their foreskins. I can only imagine that would be a grisly task left to servants and they would probably do it quickly, so there might be a few extra tips thrown in with the foreskins. Ugh! Oh, and these were a wedding present. As you can see, I had to make some assumptions there as to why David would be tasked with foreskin collection duty.

The other criticism is that the ladies are mostly wives and sex objects. We’re told one lady (Abigail, I think) is particularly clever, but in the few lines she had, I did not see it. The ladies don’t seem to have anything other than David to talk about, so I didn’t get a sense of their personalities.

Still, with those in mind, I did enjoy this book, and I enjoyed learning a bit of history from it. David is a complex character that evolves through out the book and while I may not end up liking him and wanting to have him over for tea, I want to know more about him.

The Narration: David George made a good David, scoffing and pouting and womanizing in all the right places. He also did a good job expressing incredulity (like the numerous times King Solomon has to throw his spear at someone in court). I especially liked his voice of the taunting David when certain items were liberated (quietly and sneakily) from an enemy’s camp. His female voices were rather similar, but as the women didn’t have major roles and didn’t chat with one another, it was easy to keep their characters apart.

What I Liked: David is a complicated man; learned a bit about history; the cover; I haven’t decided if I like the main character yet and this keeps me intrigued.

What I Disliked: The female roles were limited.

What Others Think:

Christoph Fischer

Reviews by Amos Lassen

DW Headrick

Dastardly Bastard by Edward Lorn

LornDastardlyBastardWhy I Read It: Having read other Edward Lorn novels, Hope for the Wicked and Life After Dane, I couldn’t wait to delve into Dastardly Bastard.

Where I Got It: A won a copy in a giveaway by the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: This is for the paranormal ghost story fans who like an outdoor setting.

Narrator: Glenn Marcum

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing (2013)

Length: 6 hours 38 minutes

Author’s Page

The story starts off tame enough. We get to know each of the characters a bit and why they all end up at Waverly Chasm, near Bay’s End, on the same day. Justine and Trevor camped over night and plan to join the guided hike. Justine isn’t really the outdoor type, but she’s making an effort for Trevor.  Mark, a professional photographer, is tasked with doing a piece on the Chasm which is a step down from his war correspondence he recently wrapped up. He’s an obese guy and a 6 hour hike isn’t really something he is looking forward to. Marsha, recently widowed, takes her fancy-phone addicted kid, Lyle, out to the woods because it is something her dead husband would do. Donald is a world-famous author, but he as chosen a pen name and a full size model to play him in public as he is dwarf and doesn’t want to make his books about his size. Finally, Jaleel is stuck with all of them, being the guide for the hike. As they get warmed up, they talk of one of the main features of the hike – Scooter’s Drop (or was it Plunge?). It’s where this kid fell off into the Chasm, never to be recovered. As they near it, shit starts happening. And the real personalities come out.

Rainbow rug, cotton rayon blend, 28inX89in.

Rainbow rug, cotton rayon blend, 28inX89in.

Edward Lorn’s writing does strange things to me. This is a horror story. Bad things happen to good people. Lots of suspense, a bit of blood, a touch of innards, a swirl of scary. What did I do while listening to this book? I wove a rug. Not just any rug. A rainbow rug. Yep. And when I was done with that, I had over an hour left of the audiobook. So what did I do while finishing out the book? I baked a cake. From scratch. And not just any cake, but a 3 layer chocolate cake. It weighed perhaps 7 pounds when I was done. 6 eggs, a pound of butter, sugar, cocoa, and love. I shared with the volunteer fire department.

Three layers of home made cake.

Three layers of home made cake.

Yeah, his books do odd things to me.

Now you probably want to hear about the book. In short, I loved it. It was fast-paced, full of wit and suspense. Each character came with their own baggage, their own horrors, that they had to face. Justine was my favorite. She was a real hero in this story, pulling folks together, leading the way when the path was not clear. At first I didn’t care for Donald the writer. He was a bit of a dick. But then we get a peek at his deepest horror and shame and I think my heart cracked a little for him. After that, I liked him quite a bit. Mark was also a favorite as he faced a professional quandary as a war correspondent – what to publish and what to delete, how much truth to tell?

I liked that not everyone survived (because I do find it unrealistic when all the good guys survive a paranormal attack of some sort). The pacing was good (never a dull moment). And the mix of people was great – various sizes, various skin tones, single, paired up, widowed, etc. The ending was more upbeat than the other two Lorn books I have read, so that was unexpected for me (but I liked it!). I really enjoyed that the characters had to go through some tough crap, face it, makes friends with it, and then they could attempt to come out the other side. Nothing was just given to the good guys.

I’ve now read three Lord books and quite enjoyed each one. This one did not disappoint and may have been even more enjoyable because it was an audiobook and I could listen as I worked.

Narration: Glen Marcum was an excellent fit for this audiobook. He infused the story with tension, tenderness, pissed-offness, etc. as needed. Edward Lorn writes well, and Glen Marcum did a great job of giving those characters a voice. I especially like his voices for Lyle and for Justine. Oh, and Trevor (who sounded stoned throughout the book).

What I Liked:  Lots of suspense; outdoor setting; such a variety of characters for so many different backgrounds; the fears the characters faced (real shit, nothing half-assed); the ending.

What I Disliked:  I too wondered why the police didn’t ask about Trevor’s lack of pants.

What Others Think:

Zigzag Timeline

Books, Books, & More Books

J. Marie Ravenshaw

Big Al’s Books & Pals

Erian’s Lair by Troy Lee Henderson

HendersonErian'sLairWhy I Read It: Really enjoyed Book 1, Eathed, so had to give this book a try.

Where I Got It: A review copy via the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Dragon stories and adventure – perfect for kids and dreamers.

Narrator: William Dufris

Publisher: Mind Wings Audio (2012)

Length: 2 hours 21 minutes

Series: Book 2, The Hill Brothers Trilogy

Author’s Page

Simon, our hero from Book 1, has been off studying for the last few years but has to return suddenly when he hears that his parents have passed away. His two younger brothers, Darien and Edwin, have been allowed to stay on the farm – if the new farm family will have them. The lord of the land gave the farm and all that lies within its boundaries to the new family, and they may or may not want two more mouths to feed. So Simon offers them adventure instead – a hunt for a dragon! They mean to seek out the daughter of old Eathed (from Book 1) and befriend her, hence having high adventure and gaining a mighty friend all at once. Along the way, they take up with professional dragon hunter Deandra, whose father was killed by a dragon. Not all turns out as Simon had hoped.

Once again, Troy Lee Henderson brings us a worthy dragon story. I was enchanted by Eathed in the first book and while Book 2 focuses much more on Simon and his siblings, Erian does get some important lines near the end. This book is also longer, giving the reader (or listener) more time for the adventure. The boys of course are on cloud nine to be off and way from dreary farm chores for a careless master. They get to spend some time bonding as people will do when off on a walking holiday, hunting dangerous prey. The boys live through some humorous antics.

Then there was Deandra, who seemed to have no sympathy in her heart for the nearly extinct dragons. She tells her tale of her parents’ deaths (separately) and she can’t bring herself to believe in good dragons that don’t mean humans any ill. This fire in her heart carries her through the story, making her courageous but single-minded. While Simon hopes to improve dragon-human relations, Deandra has no desire to do so.

The ending had a little twist at the end that I enjoyed. Erian reveals how she lost her mate and this touches one of Simon’s party deeply. It was quite well done.

All in all, it is a fun, short adventure perfect for that long car trip with kids, or dragon-loving adults.

Narration: William Dufris was excellent for this story, sounding like a young boy, or a stern dragon, or a furious young lady as the story required. He was a treat to listen to.

What I Liked: The cover is gorgeous; adventure and dragons; nice twist at the end.

What I Disliked: I could have used a little more of Erian earlier in the story.

The Heaven Makers by Frank Herbert

HerbertHeavenMakersWhy I Read It: I have never been disappointed by Frank Herbert’s works.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Enjoy stalkerish aliens that mess with human events, big and small? Check this out.

Narrator: Scott Brick

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2014)

Length: 7 hours 35 minutes

Author’s Page

Fraffin is the king of his little world. As a Chem, he is immortal, receiving regular rejuvenations, and he is infinitely bored. He’s seen it all, done it all, and watched others do it all. So he did something forbidden with this little world. The Chem are not suppose to interfere in the lives and histories of the native species of the ‘story ships’ they run. But Fraffin couldn’t resist taking careful time, decades, to set up a few interesting scenarios. The Chem have been recording human histories for centuries – and broadcasting these recordings to full-sensory interface viewers for the bulk of the Chem to enjoy. But now Fraffin is about to receive an inspector – Kelexel. And of course a pair of humans are on the brink of unmasking the Chem.

I have read several Frank Herbert books over the years and have always enjoyed them. So in writing this review I have to keep his other works (the greatness the man was capable of) in mind. While this book was interesting, it is not among my favorite Frank Herbert books. First, the good stuff. I loved the whole idea of our little human lives being recorded, even meddled with, for the entertainment of others. Isn’t that how things go? Think of your favorite nature TV shows – think the producers and narrators and filmers didn’t occasionally add angry bees to the mix or tease the grizzly bear with a fish or poke the branch a great horned owl was sitting on to get the bird into flight? Yeah, so if we do it, why wouldn’t other sentient beings with advanced tech want to do the same to us? And I enjoyed the Chem politics and Fraffin and Kelexel trying to outmaneuver each other. Then there are the humans – two of which catch on to what may be happening. But who are they going to tell? Who would believe them? So, lots of entertainment in the overall plot.

Now, why isn’t this novel among my favorites? Well, there’s really only 1 female character (the human Ruth) plus a few other ladies with tiny, minute roles. Ruth is the love interest and sex object of the book. The other ladies get the simple roles of murder victim, sympathetic neighbor, sympathetic aunt, and ambitious alien on the rise. I know this was originally published in 1967 as a serialized story for a pulp fiction magazine, but Ruth is an idiot. She relies on men for her stability in life and can’t work on her own out of the house nor run her father’s business. Hmmm…. let’s see…. what was my grandma doing in 1967? Oh, yeah, that’s right – independent business woman working in realty.

MINOR SPOILER Ruth becomes the sex object for one of the Chem later in the book and is abducted. Through advanced tech, she is forced into happily servicing him. But there were plenty of times when she wasn’t under the manipulator and could have done things – like try to escape, neuter some Chem, break machinery. But no, she sits and cries. END SPOILER So I found her character weak and rather uninteresting. She needs rescuing more than once throughout the novel.

The ending was a surprise – a very nice twist. I didn’t see that coming and I really, really liked it. At first, as I was listening to the ending, I felt that it was anticlimatic. But then all the fall out happens and it all melds together to make a great ending.

One final comment – one racial slur is used and perhaps it was appropriate for 1967, but I don’t care for it today, or even 10 years ago. It is used 2-3 times in the novel and not gratuitously.

Narration: Scott Brick, as always, did a great job. It seems he tried really hard to make Ruth an interesting character, adding plenty of emotions to her voice.

What I Liked: The overall plot; twisted ending.

What I Disliked: Idiotic main female; the racial slur.

What Others Think:

A Drip of Truth

Val’s Random Comments

Apart From Love by Uvi Poznansky

PoznanskyApartFromLoveWhy I Read It: I really enjoyed Poznansky’s Twisted so decided to step out of my usually genres and give this a try. Plus, I really like this cover art.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you feel the need to explore parent-child relationships in depth, especially where infidelity and divorce are of interest, then you should check this out.

Narrator: Heather Jane Hogan and David Kudler

Publisher: Self-published (2013)

Length: 12 hours and 49 minutes

Author’s Page

This story centers around three main people: Lenny, his son Ben, and Lenny’s young wife, Anita. While Ben’s mother (Natasha) has very few appearances in the book, her person still has strong effects on the main three characters. The tale jumps back and forth in time, basically covering two main points in time. The story starts off with Lenny and Anita marrying. Then we learn that they have been together roughly 10 years. Slowly, gradually, the reader learns that Lenny and Natasha were once happily married, until Natasha was struck with early onset Alzheimer’s and their relationship started to fall apart. Lenny turned his affections outside the marriage and happened to bump into Anita at an ice cream parlor. Anita and Ben are about the same age and as Natasha leaves and Anita comes in the door, Ben goes off to Europe for university. We see very few snippets of life for these three until the wedding 10 years later. Ben returns for the wedding and several unresolved issues bubble to the surface among the three. The story is an in-depth look into these issues, showing the love and conflict knitted throughout these relationships.

This book was well written with plenty of thought put into the plights of the characters, carefully mapping out how each responds to the emotional situations they find themselves in, considering each person’s needs and desires. With that said, this wasn’t the book for me. I found the pacing of the story extremely slow (and for someone who adores Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, the pacing must be pretty slow). Also, I saw very little character growth for any of the characters from the time Anita comes into their lives fastforwarded 10 years to the wedding of Lenny and Anita. Ben went off to college, to Europe and comes back at age 27. Didn’t he have adventures? Romances? Heartbreak? But he appears to be the same as he was at age 17 when Anita first came into his life. Also, Anita seems to have very little growth. While I found her story line the most interesting, I was left feeling that all she did for 10 years was watch questionable TV and keep Lenny happy in bed. I think if the storyline was compressed over a 3-4 year span, this lack of character growth wouldn’t have bugged me as it did.

With that criticism, if you have an interest in child-parent relations when there is a divorce and a new, younger significant other takes the place of one parent, then this book might be of great interest to you. There was also that side tragedy of Natasha’s illness (which Lenny managed to hide from Ben for 10-12 years). I definitely understood Ben’s mix of emotions when he finally found out – deep sadness, betrayal (why didn’t his dad trust him with this news much earlier?). If you read the blurb on Goodreads for this book, you will see that a tape recorder with the recorded innermost thoughts of the main characters plays a key role in the story. However, this tape recorder doesn’t really come into play until the reader is perhaps 75% of the way through the book. So, it’s significance seemed rather minor to me, as compared the Natasha’s piano.

While this book was not the book for me, I am not turned off of Uvi Poznansky’s works and will look forward to checking out further works from her. Her care in plotting and setting up characters was evident in this book, even if the subject didn’t move me.

The Narration: Heather Jane Hogan and David Kudler did a decent job of narrating the story. Heather’s voice for Anita was especially good since she had the most emotional outbursts. David gave Ben an agonized voice for when he finally reunites with his ill mother and he filled Ben’s voice with longing when Ben was thinking of Anita.

What I Liked: The cover; well-written; Anita’s storyline was the most compelling.

What I Disliked: The pacing was extremely slow; little to no character growth over a decade of plot time.

What Others Think:

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Words of Radiance Read Along: The Schedule

Tofu actually believes he is hiding behind this book.

Tofu actually believes he is hiding behind this book.

Everyone, the read along for Book 2 of The Stormlight Archives has arrived! Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings and I plotted and then planned. We are very, very glad to be joined by several other bloggers as hosts and of course, anyone is welcome to join in . If you would like to receive the weekly discussion questions a few days before post date, just leave me a comment to that effect.

SandersonWordsOfRadianceBannerAs you can see on the schedule, we are still finalizing a few weeks, still awaiting word from a few more bloggers to see if they would like to host. If not, we have several folks who are willing to host more than one week. So no worries. And I will update this post as we finalize the schedule.

The first posts will go up April 2nd, so consider start reading soon, perhaps now.

Week 1 – April 2 – Prologue – Chapter 8 110 Pages Musings on Fantasia
Week 2 – April 9 Chapters 9-15, 105 Pages Over the Effing Rainbow
Week 3 – April 16 Chapters 16-28, 112 Pages Stainless Steel Droppings
Week 4 – April 23 Chapters 29-39, 111 Pages Dab of Darkness
Week 5 – April 30 Chapters 40-48, 107 Pages Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers
Week 6 – May 7 Chapters 49-57, 110 Pages Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 7 – May 14 Chapters 58-65, 102 Pages Over the Effing Rainbow
Week 8 – May 21 Chapters 66-74, 104 Pages  Books Without Any Pictures
Week 9 – May 28 Chapters 75-81, 103 Pages Musings on Fantasia
Week 10 – June 4 Chapters 82-END, 94 Pages Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers

Book 1, The Way of Kings, was incredible. I am very much looking forward to spending 10 weeks on Book 2 with such a great group of bloggers. Hopefully, my internet service will be daily, if not hourly, for this affair. Haha! Even as I typed up this itty-bitty post, the internet went down twice. Cross your fingers for me (unless you live in a country where that is some sort of rude hand gesture).

Phoenix Island by John Dixon

DixonPhoenixIslandWhy I Read It: Shallow me, it was the cover that drew me in.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Have issues with authority figures? This book might let you exercise some of that angst.

Narrator: Kirby Heyborne

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 12 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 1 of the series (which I can’t find a name for at any of the regular places)

Author’s Page

Carl is in a lot of trouble. In fact, he’s been in trouble for quite some time, which explains why he has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. The courts have had enough of him and he is being sent to a somewhat secret boot camp island prison called Phoenix Island. He will have to endure there until he turns 18. Carl is also a champion boxer and since he keeps slamming his fists into bullies, and Phoenix Island is run by bullies, I expect Carl will have some trouble there.

Phoenix Island is a mix of tough boot camp, abusive authority figures, really nice kids in the wrong place, and illegal science experiments on humans. Carl, our all-around boyscout, tries to help the weak and gets a few more scars for his efforts. His sidekick, Ross, is always quipping off some reply to the wrong person, which earns him a few more scars. The romantic interest is Octavia, who tries very hard to blend into the background and not draw attention, but things don’t work out that way and she earns a few new scars too.

Eventually, Carl’s physical abilities draw the attention of the Old Man, the guy who runs Phoenix Island. Carl is given a gift, one that enhances his physical prowess. Even more important, the Old Man becomes the caring authority/parental figure in Carl’s life as Carl is given further training in hand-to-hand combat, small arms training, and a taste of the Old Man’s zero tolerance policy for terrorists…….But perhaps the Old Man takes it too far.

I think if I had a lot of angst towards authority figures, I would have enjoyed this book quite a bit more. At first I questioned Carl’s all around good-guy-in-a-bad-situation character, I got use to it and thought he would be an exception. How many kids go through foster homes like crack-laced popcorn and stay boyscouts? But I settled into it. But then we get o the island. Seems like all of the ‘good kids’ are innocent cherubs inadvertently stuck in hell. There’s some bad kids, but they are totally bad, spoiled, rotten – not redeemable. There are definitely black and white (good and evil) characters in this book and not much in between. I count this as the only big flaw for the book because it made things predictable.

That issue aside, I enjoyed this book for the suspense. It was like a mix of The Island and Lord of the Flies. The innocent eventually suspect they are being used for something more (what really goes on in the Chop Shop?) while the baddies start to hold sway (maybe there will be a really exciting hunt?). Still, I kept expecting the innocent to somehow out trick the baddies and win the day. The ending did surprise me. Nice little twist at the end sets it up just right for Book 2.

Narration: Kirby Heyborne did a good job as narrator. He was a believable Carl and he did great bullying voices (and there were lots of bullies). His feminine voices could use a little more work, but each was distinct.

What I Liked: Mystery island; through the main character, I was able to vent some angst towards authority figures; twist at the end.

What I Disliked: The characters were pretty black and white (they were either good or bad) and this made parts of the book very predictable.

What Others Think:

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Scott Reads It

Step Into Fiction

Dead End Follies

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

CullenMrsPoeWhy I Read It: Historical fiction about a poet I know so little about – obviously I needed the education.

Where I got It: A review copy via the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Edgar Allen Poe fans, historical fiction fans, romance fans.

Narrator: Eliza Foss

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2013)

Length: 12 hours 1 minutes

Author’s Page

Mrs. Frances Osgood, a poet, mother of 2, and wife to a philandering (but famous) portraitist Samuel Osgood, finds herself connecting to another lonely soul, poet Edgar Allen Poe. Lynn Cullen takes the time to set the scene, drawing the reader into the time and place. Slavery still exists. The US continues to expand west, affecting Native Americans. Women have no rights other than those the man of the house (usually the husband) grant them. We also get to know the characters as individuals before they become involved with each other. As the readers, we walk into their lives in 1845. Gas lighting and whale oil are in. The Raven, Poe’s famous poem, as been published and is all the rage. Mrs. Virginia Poe is ill with consumption but still able to mostly hide it from the public.

As I have said before, poetry isn’t my thing unless it is ancient and epic. But I was immediately drawn into the historical fiction by its ambiance. I loved how the author wove the building blocks of this tale together, bringing life to people and setting. Frances was an abandoned wife with 2 small girls trying to make a life on her writing. True, some good friends took her in and her daughters in. Life wasn’t too hard. There was at least 1 maid, someone to watch after the kids, and a cook. But societal norms required Frances to pretend that her husband was merely off on work, instead of plowing another’s field.

When we do meet Poe, he is rather stand offish. While his poem The Raven is all the rage, he doesn’t think it is one of his best works. Neither does Frances. Her honesty sets the first brick on which their friendship can build. And it also attracts the attention of Poe’s wife, Virginia. Virginia and Edgar are cousins, first cousins. And Virginia married the 27 year old Poe when she was 13. I know, all sorts of ‘Eww!’ factor all over that. While those facts are built into the story, we learn them from Frances point of view and the relationship between Edgar and Virginia is never explained in detail, but rather, left in broadstrokes which allow the mystery to build. Virginia is 23 or 24 at the time of this story.

As Edgar and Frances begin to explore their friendship and mutual appreciation for poetry, society starts to judge both harshly. Both are married. Even though it becomes widely known that Frances husband is a cad with a lose zipper, Frances is still required to act the ‘proper wife’. While little is known of Edgar’s private life, high society turns to his modest background, using it as an excuse for him not ‘being fit for proper society’. As you can see, I wanted to take some of those high society members and knock their heads together!

And there’s mystery! Virginia seems to be fixated on Frances, sometimes imitating her in dress and sometimes antagonizing her. Then there are a series of mysterious mishaps that seem to occur whenever Virginia comes calling. It definitely added suspense to the story.

While the story during the last quarter does focus more on the doomed romance and not so much the historical fiction, I was definitely attached to the characters by that point and had to finish the novel to see what happened.

The Narration:  Eliza Foss was the perfect voice for Frances Osgood. She was cultured, sincere, and emotional when needed. She also had a nice, deeper voice for Poe that makes him sound way sexier than his Wikipedia photo leads one to believe.

What I Liked:  The rich historical background; Frances is an intelligent woman trapped by societal norms in a difficult position;  the odd, creepines of Mrs. Poe; the suspense/mystery.

What I Disliked:  This historical fiction devolved into a doomed romance at the end.

What Others Think:

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The Lit Bitch