Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs

Claudie, one of the ugliest cats I have ever owned.

Claudie, one of the ugliest cats I have ever owned.

Why I Read It: I really enjoy other books in this series.

Where I Got It: paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Arm-chair sleuths who enjoy a bit of scientific jargon.

Narrator: Michele Pawk

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2005)

Length: 11 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 8 Temperance Brennan

Author’s Page

Even though this is Book 8 in the series, it worked perfectly as a stand alone.

Dr. Tempe has to investigate the evident suicide of an Orthodox Jewish man in Montreal. One question leads to another. Was this really a suicide? Why were the cats locked in the closet with the body? At his detailed autopsy, a stranger slips Tempe a picture of a skeleton uncovered at an archaeological dig site. The man disappears leaving her with more questions than answers. Turns out those answers can be found in Israel. So can many, many foes, including hyenas. This tale included plenty of archaeology that relates to religion, making it a very touchy case for many folks involved.

I have only read a handful of books in this series, but I quite enjoy them. This one was the hardest for me to get into. The main drama of the story surrounds the question of whether or not Jesus died on the cross and afterward ascended to heaven, or if he decided to stay on Earth and have a family. Not being religious, this question didn’t really interest me, and so the drama of the book was rather muted for me. Instead, I enjoyed the intricate plot.

There were plenty of characters with shady motives and Tempe and her sexy times man, Detective Andrew Ryan, had to figure out who they could trust and how far. Biblical archaeologist Jake Drum, long-time friend of Tempe’s, helps her ID the mystery photo and fills her in on the scandal that accompanied that particular dig site in the 1960s. Later, he joins Tempe in Israel and assists her in tracking down the physical site, people, and info. But even he comes under suspicion as the pieces of the puzzle start to come together.

The plot takes them back home to Montreal for the wrap up. Honestly, I did get a little fuddled towards the end. The plot was great until Tempe started trying to tie all the pieces together and then I got a little lost. The main points were good, and at the end I understood why the murderer did as they did. But some of the finer points flew over my head. It was a larger cast of characters than I have seen in other Temperance Brennan books.

I did learn two things that have stuck with me. 1) Joshua is an old spelling of Jesus. 2) There are hyenas in Israel (which I just think is freaking cool). If you do enjoy bible mysteries and have questions about whether or not Jesus fathered children, or had brothers and sisters, then this book will probably hold some extra entertainment value for you. the aspect was well done; I simply didn’t have much interest in the true answer one way or another.

The Narration: Michele Pawk did a very good job. This particular installation of the series required excellent pronunciation of several Jewish names, since a chunk of the book takes place in Israel. Pawk definitely met the challenge. Her masculine voices could use a little more work, but her voice for Tempe was really good.

What I Liked: The cover; hyenas; plenty of intrigue; lots of suspicious characters with their own motives.

What I Disliked: I was not invested in the central drama of the big biblical question of Jesus’s family; some of the side intrigues got away from me and I lost track of where they came from and why they went where they did.

What Others Think:

Book Reporter

Onyx Reviews

all the books i can read

Bookworm Burrow

My Years of Reading Seriously

 

Summerland by Michael Chabon

ChabonSummerlandWhy I Read It: A friend highly recommended it.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from a friend (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you like baseball with some mythology adventure thrown in, then check this book out.

Narrator: Michael Chabon

Publisher: HighBridge Company (2002)

Length: 12 CDs or so

Author’s Page

Ethan Feld doesn’t really like baseball. He finds it boring, isn’t any good at it, and his team usually loses. However, his father is a big fan of baseball in all its forms and his best friend, Jennifer T. Rideout, insists he keep playing. Set on Clam Island, Washington, these youngins soon become embroiled in the an impending war between Coyote (known by many names including Loki) and Clam Island fairies. this story couples Native American mythology with Nordic tales and deities, and then throws in some American baseball. It was a pretty crazy ride.

This story seemlessly, beautifully blends beings from the Nordic and Native American mythos. I had not seen this done so well before and I quite enjoyed this particular aspect of the book. We have these Clam Island fairies that are more Native American than pasty white pixies with red hair. There’s Padfoot, servant of Coyote who lives in a very cold place and is somewhat mad. Sasquatches and la llarona (the wailing woman in white who steals children) also make appearances. And there are plenty of images of the World Tree as our heroes learn to slip, skip, and trip along branches and twigs to get from place to place. And that is just a taste of all the mythology that was wonderfully sewn into this tale.

The characters were often fascinating. Ethan’s mom, a doctor, died and he and his dad have been trying to live a normal happy life since. Ethan’s dad is an inventor trying to garner interest and financial backing for his family-sized zeppelin. Jennifer T. (as she likes to be called) comes from a messy homelife, but her aunties are cool. She too is a lover of baseball. Then there is Thor. He often pretends he is an android to make it easier (for him) to deal with normal humans. As the story unfolds, we learn that Thor has a hidden past and a hidden talent. The various supernatural beings that enter the story often have more than just a name – they have histories and agendas of their own.

And then we have the baseball aspect. I had to laugh a little because near the beginning of the story as Mr. Feld is driving Ethan to yet another baseball game, Ethan complains that baseball is boring. Mr. Feld says that something is only boring when you are not paying enough attention to it. There is a lot of baseball in this book. There’s the little league game that starts the book off, then the multitude of games throughout the book (many against or with supernatural beings), and too much baseball jargon even when a game is not occurring. Before this book, I had no real opinion on baseball. I didn’t watch it, and only ever played it when required to in gradeschool. But now I have a rather strong opinion on baseball; it is, indeed, quite boring. Baseball sucked the life out of this book. I had to struggle to finish it.

So, do I recommend it to you? Well, it is very well written. And has really endearing characters and plenty of mythology. But, do you like baseball? If you dislike baseball, then I would recommend giving this book a pass. If you are indifferent to the sport, sure check it out, it might work for you. If you enjoy baseball and mythology, then this may be the best book you read all year.

Narration:  Michael Chabon is an excellent narrator. And he didn’t take the easy road on some of his characters. He went all out making up plenty of individual voices for the plethora of supernatural beings he wrote into this work. His female voices were decent. I especially loved his efforts on the voices of the giants.

What I Liked:  Lots of mythology; great characters with excellent detail and back stories; great narration.

What I Disliked: Way too much baseball.

What Others Think:

Book Reporter

Bibliomantics

The Book Book

Things Mean A Lot

OnceUponATime8Tis the season for fantasy in all forms. Join the reading challenge Once Upon A Time, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. You can catch my intro post to this year’s challenge over HERE. Anyone can join this event, which runs from March 21 – June 20, 2014.

One For The Money by Janet Evanovich

I caught tofu mid-sneeze!

I caught tofu mid-sneeze!

Why I Read It: The series has been highly recommended to me.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: Modern-day action mysteries with a quirky hero.

Narrator: C. J. Critt

Publisher: Recorded Books (1994)

Length: 8 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Stephanie Plum

Author’s Page

Stephanie Plum use to sell lingerie. But she lost her job, hasn’t found any real work for several months, lost her car, and will soon be evicted if she doesn’t pay her rent. taking place in Trenton, New Jersey, Stephanie survives having regular dinner at her parents’ place (and her mother’s attempts to set her up with a potential husband). She manages to score beat up vehicle that had some interesting graffiti, and lands a job at her cousin Vinny’s place, as a bounty hunter. Her first case is to track down and apprehend an ex-cop wanted for murder. Along the way, she attracts the attention of a man known for his taste in violence. Now she has two reasons to learn how to use pepper spray and a gun. In walks Ranger, a professional bounty hunter of Cuban descent. It’s a crazy, whacky mystery just with that set up.

I think this book had less impact on me because I saw the movie based on the book a few years ago. So, I already had an idea of how odd it was and the sense of humor I was in for. That said, it was an enjoyable book with plenty of humor, and just enough seriousness for me to look forward to catching more books in the series. Stephanie’s focus on the ex-cop, Joseph Morelli, became a bit silly at times because she was focused on him for the wrong reasons – they had a little hour long fling back in high school and she has held a grudge since. It’s been 15 or more years since that fling and in this respect the character hit me as immature, repeatedly, throughout the book with each encounter between Stephanie and Morelli. But it also led to several jokes.

The humor balanced the darker side of the job. In this mystery, one of her leads, a boxer named Ramirez, was known to be associated with one of the witnesses in Morelli’s case. But he also has a violent streak, one that eventually comes to threaten Stephanie. While I found the actions of this character despicable, the seriousness of scenes involving this character kept the mystery grounded in real life, one with real consequences.

I have just one pet peeve with this story. Stephanie’s wardrobe throughout the tale was usually ridiculous for her daily tasks – like running, wrestling with her bounty, avoiding being shot, punched, restrained, etc. But I do have to say that she use to be a lingerie sales person and her wardrobe fits those job needs. And with no income, I guess she just couldn’t afford to get some decent shoes or boots, pants, etc.

Over all, it was fun, a light read. It entertained and didn’t require brain power.

Narration: C. J. Critt was an excellent pick for the voice of Stephanie. She performed the various emotions of Stephanie quite well, from enthusiasm, to embarrassment, to fear, to high-five excitement. Her voices for the other characters were distinct, making it easy to keep track of which character was talking.

What I Liked: The ridiculous situations Stephanie often found herself in; the reactions of family and friends to her new job; uses for handcuffs; the serious side of the business.

What I Disliked: Stephanie’s wardrobe – tis ridiculous for her new job.

What Others Think:

Book Reporter

Ermilia

Steph, The Bookworm

Gladstone by John A. Miller

MillerGladstoneWhy I Read It: Desert southwest mystery with a twist – had to read it.

Where I Got It: Won a copy.

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy your mysteries with a Twilight Zone-esquness to them, then this is worth your time to check out.

Narrator: Deren Hansen

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 4 hours 46 minutes

Series: Book 1 Gladstone

Author’s Page

Jack needs to relax, and find a new life. Leaving a messy divorce behind, he heads out west, only to take a wrong turn and have his car break down. Luckily, Susan comes by on her Indian motorcycle to give him assistance. Pretty soon, Jack finds himself in an old-time Western town. It looks like the place is done up to attract tourists during the right season. Everyone is polite, helping with his car, finding him a room to rent for a few days as parts are ordered in. Heck, someone even offers him a cigar and a game of darts. The town sheriff could be right out of a Spaghetti Western. But there is something odd, and Jack first notices with Susan, the only Native American in town. Animals seem to understand her. Then he starts to notice that things don’t cost as much as they do out in the real world. Yep, there is definitely something strange, perhaps even magical, about Gladstone.

This story caught my attention early on. Jack breaking down on a dusty road in Arizona really isn’t that odd. Lots of dusty roads in the Southwest. Lots of people break down. But once he gets to Gladstone, we start to see interesting little bits that let us, the readers, know that all is not as it seems. So while I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on with the townsfolk, I had fun watching Jack start to notice the oddities. The town is small, tucked away in a canyon. There’s one bar where folks go to drink and socialize and lose at darts. One man goes out every few weeks to bring in supplies. So no deliveries from the outside world. Yet folks have cell phones and computers. So these folks are not ignorant of the rest of the world. Indeed the set up is excellent, giving the reader plenty to ponder and keep them reading on.

The middle of the story sagged a bit for me as everyone was way, way polite. While we do start to learn of Susan’s strange affinity with animals, that was pretty much the highlight of the middle. But the last third picked up again with Haskell, who use to live in Gladstone. He becomes the main antagonist. Of course, Jack isn’t aware of Haskell or his reasons for wanting to cause destruction to Gladstone, so the townsfolk have to make a choice of whether or not to trust the man. Will Jack help the town? Will they kick him out? Will they tie him up and lock him in his car until all the excitement is over and then toss him out? I wasn’t sure until the last quarter of the book how things would turn out for Jack – and that is one of the things I liked about this book.

The plot starts off strong, but by the end I had some questions, mostly about the other main character, Susan. She is Native American, but we never learn her family name. And since she has this strong affinity for the animals, wild and tame, I wondered how she felt about the townsfolk eating meat. I can’t recall her specifically eating meat, but she did go to a dance where a pig was being roasted. Luckily, the author didn’t mind chatting on line and assured me that all meat was brought in from the outside (so, no the townsfolk were not eating Susan’s friends). And Susan has her Caucasian name because her Native American name is too hard for many people to pronounce.

Also, my one real criticism is that Susan is the only non-Caucasian in this book. If you have read the book and know the ending, this doesn’t make much sense. SPOILER ALERT The canyon has some magical quality that has preserved Susan since the 1800s. Her family left her there to go finish business warring and never came back. So after a few years, she was lonely, and started taking in strays – like these sick, dying folks who couldn’t keep up with a caravan heading to California. But for some reason she never found any Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, or Native Americans that were sick or wounded or being chased by bad people to take in and help. Given the racial mix of the Southwest over the 200 year time period, you’d think there would be at least one or two other non-Caucasian’s taken in and who also decided to stay. END SPOILER. Still, perhaps this will come up in future installments in the series and we’ll see a more realistic cast of characters.

The ending wrapped up the major plot points for this story, but also left the door open for the next book in the series. By the end, we have more info about the antagonist and his reasons for attacking Gladstone and we also know something of the magical qualities of the canyon. Jack still needs to find his spot in life, and the townsfolk may have found an ally in Jack. Oh, and part of this book takes place in the town I was born in, albeit I only ever visited the hospital – my parents living in an even smaller town that had no medical  personnel whatsoever.

Narration:  The narration was very good, Hansen capturing Jack’s often questioning attitude as he tried to figure out what the hell was going on. Hansen also had very nice feminine voices, a British accent, and a Tennessee accent too (when it was required).

What I Liked:  The setting; Susan’s affinity for animals; the cover; the ending wrapped up this plot but left plenty of room for a sequel.

What I Disliked:  There was only 1 non-Caucasian in this story; the middle was a bit slow.

OnceUponATime8Tis the season for fantasy in all forms. Join the reading challenge Once Upon A Time, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. You can catch my intro post to this year’s challenge over HERE. Anyone can join this event, which runs from March 21 – June 20, 2014.

Dragon Stones by Kristian Alva

AlvaDragonStonesWhy I Read It: I enjoy a good dragon adventure fantasy every few books.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy adventures fans who like a note of seriousness in their fiction.

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Passkey Publications DBA Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 4 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

In a little corner of the world, Elias lives with his grandmother on the edge of the village. She’s a healer and he is her apprentice, though healing arts are considered to be women’s work. At night she tells him stories of her youth, when she traveled and dragons and their riders were not so scarce. Before Emperor Vosper came to reign, magic in many forms was not uncommon. In fact, Grandma got a year or two of training in magic before Vosper started his wholesale enslavement or slaughter of magi users and dragons. So some of her healing is done with a touch of magic, which she has taught to Elias. Through her stories, we get a good idea of the past 20-30 years in this land without it being a strenuous info dump. Then one day, Elias finds a Dragon Stone while mushrooming in the woods and things change. Word of the Dragon Stone leaks out to the authorities, and they come in force to Elias’s house. His grandma hides him in the cellar and tells him to run when he can – and he does. So begins the adventure. There’s dwarves and dragons, necromancers, tricks & traps, and a goal.

I was hooked on this book from the beginning. It starts with a dark scene – the Emperor’s men have been out searching and destroying dragon nests and they have just found one. While not overly graphic, the point comes across loud and clear with the killing of newly hatched dragons. I definitely like my fantasy to have a little bit of a darker side, a more serious side, as this shows there are real consequences for the characters to consider. Then we moved to Elias and his grandma. She was a strong, guiding force in his life and such an integral character before Elias set off on his adventure. Through her, we have just enough background to be very curious about many things: her own past, Elias’s parents, dragon riders and dragons in general, etc. I definitely wanted more and the author delivered.

Pretty soon, Elias comes across the dwarf Thorin (and I think Thorin is actually a half-breed dwarf-halfling, but I could have that wrong). And yes, is Thorin a nod to Tolkien’s work? Thorin and Elias become quick friends, mostly because Thorin has recently fallen out of a tree and needs some healing and Elias obliges. They adventure off together, dodging the Emperor’s men and necromancers, meeting more dwarves, ever heading for safety. The necromancer we meet was freaky scarey and the voice the narrator gave her was quite fitting and a little frightening.

The adventure scenes are speckled with scenes of another kingdom – the last hold out from Vosper’s tyrannical reign. Dragons, their riders, and magic users are welcomed and safe there (or at least not actively hunted by the government). We meet some of the dragon riders, the dragons, and the king. There is an interesting scene involving star fruit (a personal favorite of mine). And in the second half of the book we meet a dragon and her rider who were once imprisoned and tortured by Vosper and his minions. Wow! I don’t know if they are the good guys, good guys gone a little insane, or potentially a chaotic bad element off on their own. I am fascinated by these two and really, really look forward to learning more about them in the next installment.

This was a great start to a fantasy series. While suitable for most (if not all) audiences, it has enough gravity to strongly appeal to most adult readers. The characters have depth and history, the world building is just enough to give scope and interest without bogging down the story. The narration was excellent.

Narration:  Here is where I gush about the narration of Adam Chase. I loved his various accents for the different peoples of this book, especially Thorin’s voice and that creepy voice of the necromancer. His female voices were also done quite well, especially for Elias’s granma.

What I Liked:  The world building; Elias as a main character; the serious note to this adventure; left me ready to jump into the next book; excellent narration.

What I Disliked:  While I like the cover art, I am not sure who it depicts. Am I daft? I don’t think that is Elias’s granma, with such a slim figure and low neckline. Is it the necromancer?

What Others Think:

Peace Love Books

Bookworm Family

Suddenly Books

OnceUponATime8Tis the season for fantasy in all forms. Join the reading challenge Once Upon A Time, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. You can catch my intro post to this year’s challenge over HERE. Anyone can join this event, which runs from March 21 – June 20, 2014.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

MontgomeryAnneOfGreenGablesWhy I Read It: I never read this series as a kid and decided to give it a try.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Fans of Pipi Longstalking, and other tales that  mischievous and curious kids.

Narrator: Colleen Winton

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press (2013)

Length: 10 hours 7 minutes

Author’s Page

The elderly Cuthberts have decided they need an extra pair of hands around the farm, especially for all those pesky chores in the long Canadian winters. They decided to adopt an orphan boy. That alone was cause for talk among the neighbors. Unfortunately, the mistress of the orphan house makes a mistake and sends a young lass instead, Anne Shirley. Matthew Cuthbert takes her home anyway until things can be sorted out. Along the way, Anne falls in love with the land, and the farm. Matthew starts to change his mind about keeping her but Marilla Cuthbert just won’t have it. So Anne’s first challenge in this book (but certainly not her first in life and not her last) is to convince the Cuthberts to keep her on. Full of wonder and joy at life, many learn to overlook her penchant for speaking her mind. In fact, some become outright charmed by it. Set in the early 1900s rural Canada, Anne fills her world with wonder and magic.

Somehow, I missed this series in its entirety (never read it, never watched the many version of it, no plays, etc.) growing up. But I know by now the fine work the folks at Post Hypnotic Press do. So I gave it a try. And I was charmed. In fact, if I was ever a cleaned mouthed, less jaded person, I think I may have been much like Anne. I can be distracted by beetles, I have a tendency to be blunt, and I love the realm of fantasy. Anne is a little heavier on the romance in her likes, but I am sure she and I could be friends.

While it is obvious that the book is set in the early 1900s, with the ‘proper’ roles of women (like women don’t have the legal right to vote), church is a mandatory weekly occurrence, and there was one remark about letting strangers in the house that could be construed as racist (against Italians, which seemed odd to me), these few negatives are balanced out by Anne’s huge imagination, and the trouble she gets into. This novel spans several years of Anne’s life, so there are plenty of humorous events to enjoy.  Anne hates her red hair, and attempts to dye it black. But it comes out this muddled green. So, they have to shave it off. Haha! I found this pretty humorous, and part of it was because of the location and times. In today’s day, green hair, or a bald head isn’t so unusual. But for 1909 Canada, well…I expect it was the talk of the village for at least a week.

Besides the humor, there are also scenes of more seriousness that give this tale a weight that many children’s’ books lack. Anne was an orphan and spent time in several homes before coming to the Cuthberts. Most often, she was set right to work taking care of the children and hence wasn’t allowed to be a child herself, to go to school, or attend social events. On one house, she had to contend with an alcoholic. While much of Anne’s life before the Cuthberts was merely alluded to, there was enough there to let the life experienced reader fill in the gaps.

All in all, I enjoyed this book more than I expected. I found it a good mix of magical innocence of growing up in the countryside and remembered hardship of starting off an orphan. Anne’s lasting friendships with the people of Avonlea were also quite touching.

The Narration: Colleen Winton was an excellent choice for this book. She performed with abandon, just as I imagined Anne would. Winton imbued Anne’s voice with wonder, Marilla’s with steadfastness, Anne’s friend Diana with constant curiosity in Anne’s shenanigans.

What I Liked: Country living; plenty of imagination; red hair gone awry; a slightly more serious side balances out the innocent humor; narration was top notch.

What I Disliked: While not particularly pertinent to the story, I find the cover boring.

What Others Think:

Nerdy Book Club

Teen Ink

Pretty Books

The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki

PatakiTraitor'sWifeWhy I Read It: American Revolutionary war in an engaging tale, how could I resist?

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

Who I Recommend This To: Those with an interest in American Revolutionary war, or traitors.

Narrator: Madeleine Maby

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 16 hours 11 minute

Author’s Page

Peggy Shippen is the bell of the town. She’s young, beautiful, a flirt, and from a respectable family. She flits from one dress fitting to some dance party, chasing after one man and flirting with the others. But when she doesn’t get her man (John Andre, a British officer), she has to reconsider her options. Philadelphia has been ceded to the Americans and all the British military must pull out. Enter Benedict Arnold, the American military commander stationed to Philadelphia. Now that the Americans (or the rebels to those loyal to Britain) have control of the area, it is wise of the Shippen family to down play their British ties and kiss up to the Americans. Peggy takes to this with gusto, and soon she is engaged to Benedict.

Ah, the 1770s of the American colonies was a lively time. Well, for the well to do. There were balls at least every month, and small dance parties with card gambling nearly every night. Peggy revels in being chased after by most of the men. She also enjoys making snide remarks about the other ladies’ dresses. Truly, she is a pretty shallow thing. As the tide shifts for the city of Philadelphia, Benedict woos Peggy, and eventually gets to marry her. She is half his age and it shows. He promises her the moon, and when he can’t deliver, she pouts. Pouting turns to sulking, which turns to frigidness, and eventually to scheming.

Allison Pataki does a great job of showing the very logical route from dancing to traitor activities. Peggy wants all the fun, the fancy clothes, the attention, and none of the mess. Benedict has already been serving his country for decades, having taken crippling wounds and depleted his own funds keeping his men fed. The American government has yet to repay Benedict and that ways heavy on him.

The book is told through the eyes of Peggy’s maid, Clara Bell. This was a great way to see all the main characters, both their good and bad sides. Peggy is obviously a selfish brat, but she does have a few moments where she treats Clara with true affection. We see that Benedict had true reservations about betraying his country. It made for a fascinating read. The revolutionary war affected everyone, from the poor to the rich. The servants of those rich would go to great lengths to stay employed; after all, if they lost their position, they also lost their home, being kicked to the street.

In the end, I found myself hoping that Benedict would be able to extricate himself not only from his traitorous dilemma but also from Peggy. Clara was the true hero of this tale and by twist and turn, I cheered her on. This was an excellent read and I truly had a hard time putting it down.

The Narration:  Madeleine Maby was an excellent fit for this book. She was the perfect voice for Clara Bell. And I loved her high-bred snotty voice for Peggy. She also did British accents and male voices quite well.

What I Liked:  Peggy, while a snotty rich bitch, was fun to follow around; Clara Bell was the perfect person to see all the action through; history made interesting; love the book cover; the ending was extremely satisfying.

What I Disliked:  No dislikes on this one.

What Others Think:

Reading the Past

Burton Book Review

Historical Novel Society

Unlikely by Frances Pauli

PauliUnlikelyWhy I Read It: Quite frankly, it was the cover. I can be shallow like that. :)

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

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy fans

Narrator: Lisa L. Wiley

Publisher: Self-published (2013)

Length: 6 hours 52 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Kingdoms Gone Story

Author’s Page

Satina spends her life on the move. In a world of violent-prone gangs, Satina can’t help but grant those who ask her help. She is a Granter, that is her special gift. So after helping someone flee a gang, she herself must move on, traveling from pocket to pocket (places only those in the know magically can access), she ends up in Westwood. This place is about to be torn apart by two rival gangs and the people of Westwood are caught in the middle. The leader of one gang seeks an edge, magic that will make him the ruler of this little town. Satina joins forces in a haphazard sort of way with an unlikely group.

This story was rich and magical. Frances Pauli created a world with its own lingo, a rich atmosphere that I sank into. I loved riding around in Satina’s head, figuring out her world and the mess she stepped into in Westwood. There’s history and lost knowledge to be considered, different cultures and peoples, and the broken down disarray that allows the gangs to rule. And of course, there are the other magical denizens keeping a low profile in Westwood.

Enter the imp Skinner, Marten. Is he a bit of a mischief maker? A little chaotic good? At first Satina isn’t sure. Marten runs a little store in Westwood and the bullying gangs aren’t above wrecking the place and roughing up Martin to force Satina into helping them with their plans for total local domination. Marten was an intriguing character since I was not sure where he stood at the beginning. Of course, I became quite fond of him by the end. And one gang, lead by Zane, became more of a pain in the ass than the others. While Zane threatens Marten’s health to get Satina to help him, he also lets Satina know that more of her is desired.

My favorite aspect of this story was the pockets, magical bubbles closed off from the real world unless you have the magic and can enter them. In these pockets, many of the remaining magical folks (faeries and such) choose to live. These pockets range in size from small grassy knolls perfect for a lovers’ tryst to small villages (where the magic folk can romp and play). Satina uses the pockets to travel safely, often setting up camp in one at night (provided she can find one). We learn a little about the magical denizens of these pockets, how they have chosen to shut out the real world and humanity. And because of this, much of humanity has forgotten how magic works.

All in all, a very good start to a fantasy series. There’s been great set up of Satina’s world, with plenty more left to discover.

Narration: Lisa L. Wiley was a good choice for the voice of Satina. She had a great mix of wonder, hesitancy, and resolve in her performance of Satina. Her male voices were also decent. On occasion, Wiley did narrate rather slowly and a few times there was some stilted speech patterns. These were not enough to make me put the book down.

What I Liked: The world building; the cover; Satina’s practical nature; Martin the imp; the magical pockets.

What I Disliked: The narration was sometimes stilted.

What Others Think:

Book Hostage

My World…in words and pages

OnceUponATime8Tis the season for fantasy in all forms. Join the reading challenge Once Upon A Time, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. You can catch my intro post to this year’s challenge over HERE. Anyone can join this event, which runs from March 21 – June 20, 2014.

Arrow Through the Axes by Patrick Bowman

BowmanArrowThroughAxesWhy I Read It: I really enjoyed Book 1 in this series, Torn from Troy and Book 2, Cursed by the Sea God.

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

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy the Iliad & other ancient stories, this is a fun retelling.

Narrator: Gerard Doyle

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press (2014)

Length: 5 hours 57 minutes

Series: Book 3 Odyssey of a Slave

Author’s Page

Book 3 picks up where Book 2 left off. Our young hero Alexi is now somewhere between 17 and 19 years old and he has done a lot of learning and growing in Books 1 & 2. With the death of an enemy in Book 2, he finds himself escaping the island of the sacred cattle with Lopex and crew. Only, there is this big thundercloud chasing them, raining down lightning bolts. Pretty soon, the ship is torn apart. Alexi finds himself rescued by the young woman who warned him about the cattle on the island. His wounds are tended and eventually he leaves to go in search of his (hopefully) alive sister. His travels take him on many adventures through Greek lands. On the way, he befriends Orestes and meets Agamemnon and the infamous Helen. Later, he meets Telemachus (Tel to his friends) and finds himself in the middle of the ribald wooing of Lopex’s wife (everyone assumes Lopex is dead since he has been gone for so many years).

If you checked out my reviews of Books 1 & 2, then you know I have quite enjoyed this series. While Book 3 was still enjoyable, I felt that Alexi’s character backslid in age and intelligence a bit. Perhaps this was done on purpose to keep Book 3 suitable for a certain age of readers? I am not sure. I did enjoy Alexi’s growth in Books 1 & 2. He lived through the siege of Troy, most of it without parents. Lived through the sacking of Troy and was made a slave. He has been a slave for 2 books and 3-5 years of sailing around on adventures with rough men. So by Book 3, I would think that he would be a little more jaded about a lone woman on a sacred island populated by sacred cattle. Every evening, she makes him a nice tea, and after consuming it, he grows very weak. This goes on for just over a month. Alexi’s father was a healer and Alexi himself has been tending sailors with poultices and concoctions and stitches for years. And yet, he doesn’t suspect this tea. Since this event happens early in the book, I don’t mind using it as an example, but it is not the last example of Alexi’s sudden dimwittedness.

Still, if I set that aside and pretend that Alexi is 12 or 14 again, then the story is quite fun. Two adventures really stand out for me. He meets Orestes and at the court of Agamemnon, he meets Helen. Agamemnon is a little crazy and very possessive of Helen. This spells trouble for even young, innocent Alexi. Helen gets a chance to tell her side of the love story between her and Paris, and that was a nice touch. The second scene that I thoroughly enjoyed was at the very end. I can’t say too much about it, but the title and the cover will click once you get there. It was intense and a very good wrap up to this trilogy (though part of hopes that Bowman goes on to write the further adventures of Alexi, the Adult).

Telemachus was an odd character. His father went off to participate in the siege and sacking of Troy, so the lad grew up with out a father. He is a bit socially inept, yet friendly. I did find it a weak plot point to say that his social ineptness was due to not being raised by a man, so he doesn’t know how to behave as a man. Yet he is traveling with a male companion as he searches for his father, interacting with lots of men. Seems to be plenty of men in this story line, and around his mom’s house (the steward, the hopeful suitors, the slaves, etc.). Later, we see Telemachus become more ‘manly’ which seems to be mostly the character trait of decisiveness (I guess Tel never saw his mom be decisive).

Which points to the women of the story. There are a few and they have small roles. And they are mostly cast in the roles of love interest, slave, wife. We do have one who helps Alexi escape at one point and it would have been nice to see a more balanced arrangement of characters and roles. But this might have been difficult to do and stay mostly true to the ancient original storyline. So I won’t harp on the point too much.

Over all, this has been a great trilogy and a fun retelling of this ancient tale. While I missed having Lopex in the bulk of this story line, I did find Alexi’s adventures through Greece as he searches for his sister to be amusing. Also, it was very interesting to see through Alexi’s eyes how the lengthy siege against Troy took its toll on the Grecian lands, and not just on Troy. The lengthy war was not good for the masses and few people profited from it. The side jaunt over to Agamemnon’s court was quite chilling and it was a good way to show how one of the main provocateurs of the war fared.

Narration: One again, Gerard Doyle is a great voice for Alexi. He kept Alexi’s voice young and innocent, which suited his actions and words for this book. His sad Helen voice was also great.

What I Liked: Plenty of adventure; gives a view of the Grecian lands and peoples after a lengthy siege; the side stories of Agamemnon and Helen closed out some questions for the trilogy; the final scenes were excellent.

What I Disliked: Alexi seems to have regressed in age and intelligence a bit; limited female roles; Telemachus is socially inept because he was ‘raised by a woman’ which seemed silly to me.

What Others Think:

CanLit for Little Canadians

OnceUponATime8Tis the season for fantasy in all forms. Join the reading challenge Once Upon A Time, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. You can catch my intro post to this year’s challenge over HERE. Anyone can join this event, which runs from March 21 – June 20, 2014.

Darkbound by Michaelbrent Collings

CollingsDarkboundWhy I Read It: Really enjoyed his other book The Loon.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Horror & thriller lovers.

Narrator: Steve Marvel

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 1 minute

Author’s Page

A subway train driven by a skeleton takes on 6 passengers, all in one car. They come from a  variety of backgrounds and have different reasons for being chosen for this very ride. Full of suspense, and at times, gore, this fast-paced thriller grabs you early on and keeps you interested the whole way through. Jim, our mild-mannered narrator and family man, provides the viewpoint for the story. It is through his eyes and his prejudices that we see these other characters. An abuelita (little Hispanic grandmother) actually first meets Jim on the platform as they wait for their train. She is kicking a man (Freddy) in the lower legs; he is dressed in a trench coat and sucking a lollipop and the other characters all assume him to be a pedophile. Once the train loads, we get to meet an older man who is from Eastern Europe’s Georgia and has been involved in some shady life style choices. There’s also a tall, model-esque woman (Sarah) in a business suit and NY gang member.

I have read a few of Collings’s books now and all are easy to get caught up in; this is even more so. Right away, we have a hint of the paranormal and we have a short grandmother giving some vicious kicks to Freddy who is ogling the photo of Jim’s wife and daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed the fast pace of this novel. The characters were set and then the plot ran with them. While I will say that the characters are pretty one dimensional, this book is more about the action. We do get a little bit more on each character as one after the other suffers some gruesome death. And there are plenty of gruesome scenes. Out of all the Collings books I have read, I believe this to be the most graphic in violence and gore. And I was OK with that, because these characters have all done some pretty horrendous things in their pasts.

There is a wonderful twist that I want to say something about with out giving anything away. Such a challenge this early in the morning! Not all the characters are as they first seem and the ending wasn’t what I expected. There. That is vague enough. For a fast-paced thriller, this was excellent; I was enjoying the book, but I had certain ideas of how it would end. But then the twist hits and the ending is different and that took this book to the next level for me.

My one criticism is that the characters by and large are pretty one dimensional and fit into stereotypes. It’s not necessary that they be anything else for the plot, but a little more would have been nice.

The Narration:  Steve Marvel was a great fit for Jim (the main character) who is POV for the story. His mild-mannered voice caught on excitement, fear, sadness, terror. Indeed, he did an excellent job with all the emotions that Jim went through. A few of the stereotype accents were a bit over done (the Hispanic grandmother and the gang member) but I liked his soft, deadly voice for Sarah (the business woman) and Eastern European man. I would listen to another book narrated by him.

What I Liked:  Lots and lots of action; Sarah the business woman; there’s a series of twists at the end that make the final ending very exciting.

What I Disliked:  Not much in character development.

What Others Think:

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