Naamah’s Blessing Part I

The read along continues with Naamah’s Blessing, Book 3 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I’m the host. We’re covering Chapters 1-15, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) Wow! We’re back at Marsilikos and then into Terre D’Ange right away without any lengthy travel scenes. How was this change of pace for you after the lengthy travel journal we’ve had so far in this series?

I expect there’s some fanfiction out there some where that tells of some crazy happenings between Book 2 and Book 3. After all, they had to make it to a harbor and get passage home and then the entire lengthy trip itself.

But on the other hand, it’s good to be back in Terre D’Ange and ready to launch the last big adventure for this series.

2) What do you think of King Daniel’s management of the realm while he’s in mourning? The relationship he has with his daughter Desire?

He’s really stepped back, hasn’t he? And I guess his son isn’t ready to step in and manage everything just yet (tho he’s off doing royalty stuff). I get that he’s in mourning but he also suffered the loss of his first wife, so he knows he can’t just ignore stuff…. right? Even his daughter? Yeah, so he get’s a D for parenting at this point as neglect can have long-lasting effects on a kid.

3) Moirin has taken up the role as Desire’s protector. What do you think of the political quagmire she’s gotten herself into? Will her tumblers and poet be able to sway the general public in her favor?

I’m glad that Desire has a champion in her corner now but I think Moirin has done it more out of love for Jehane than for Desire herself (though that may become full blown parental love in time).

She’s definitely stirred up a not healed-over quagmire, hasn’t she? She left in the heat of Lion Mane’s embarrassment and it seems that is still seething a bit (probably due to Jehane’s death). Now she’s ‘picked a side’ by officially becoming Desire’s protector.

I hope her tumblers and poet will be enough to sway the public tho opposing factions can hire their own entertainers to smear her name. Seems that’s already started.

4) Moirin’s father has a lover, Balthazar Rogier, who is also in the king’s favor. How big of a problem for Moirin and Bao do you think he will be?

Hmm… well, right now he’s just being an inconvenience and a bit petty (like in assigning Moirin’s promised rooms to another at the last minute). However, I fear that he can become more of a problem, especially with King Daniel not paying attention to his realm all that much. Also, his name is one I associate with treacherous characters, so I expect he will become a much bigger problem soon.

Correction: Balthazar is one of the Sharhizai’s, not Phanuel’s lover.

Other Tidbits:

I like how Bao’s D’Angeline has improved and he doesn’t feel so foreign in Terre D’Ange now.

I also like that D’Angelines, for the most part, don’t know how to address Bao. Ha! His mere presence pushes most out of their comfort zone.

That sucks that Moirin can’t access her funds readily. I hope Bao doesn’t turn to competition fighting to pay the bills.

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 BLESSING in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah’s Curse Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Tidbits:

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

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

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

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah’s Curse Part I

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 is our host. We’re covering Chapters 1-15, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) A lot of this section involves recapping the adventures of Naamah’s Kiss. What do you think about the way this was incorporated into the story?

I really enjoy how J. Carey does this. In many ways, it makes each of her books in the Terre D’Ange Cycle stand alone to a great extent. For me with this particular book, it was useful as we group read Naamah’s Kiss when I was pretty sick and before my big surgery (which involved an intentional mini-coma) so I find that my memory is fuzzy on some things.

2) Moirin heads off alone toward the Tatar steppe in winter. Do you think this was the best course of action, or should she have traveled with some sort of escort or guide?

While she has a lot of outdoor skills, I think she over-estimated her survival skills a bit. Yet we all know how important it was to her (and later to Bao) that she do this without an escort. So I think she could have taken a little time to learn some essentials skills from the locals before heading out: where to find water, what rodents are edible, how to weave a grass mat for hauling stuff or making baskets, etc.

3) What stuck out to you the most about the Tatar tribe Moirin stays with and their way of life?

The short hairy cattle. I wonder if they are little yaks. Plus, burning dung may keep you warm, but I bet it scents everything…. clothing, the yurts, food….

Oh, and the grandmother. She said she was once an imperial princess, right? So I want her backstory and I wonder if Moirin got it out of her during those long, cold winter days.

3) Bao & Moirin reunite in kind of a difficult situation–he’s been married. Do you think they’re searching for a solution in the right way? What do you think of how Bao has handled things so far?

I’m pretty sure Bao has been sleeping with his wife regularly and so she may well be pregnant. So, no, I don’t think Bao and Moirin are considering everyone that will be affected by their current plans. Plus they haven’t really talked about what they want on a larger scale. I mean, if they plan to live in Chi’in versus Alba or Terre D’Ange (or anywhere in between) and how they each feel about that. If they plan to set up house relatively near the Tartars, then perhaps they need to be extra wary of making enemies.

Bao has known for months that Moirin was on her way and yet he hasn’t really prepared himself nor his wife for this. So, yeah, he’s made a mess of it. On the other hand, we haven’t heard yet his full thoughts on his father and what changed his mind about him. Is it just the Tartar royalty aspect or is it being accepted as a hero by his biological father or is there something more there?

4) Bao & Moirin might have been in love before, but now they’re forced together by divine magic. How do you think you would react to finding yourself trapped as they are? Would you initially react more like Moirin or Bao?

If I was initially in love with the person, I don’t think the divine magic part would bother me very much unless the love of my life started acting dickish…. glances sidewise at Bao.

I understand the importance of having choices, especially in regards to big things. I found out at age 23 and 5 months into my marriage that I wouldn’t be able to have kids and I was more upset about the choice not being mine than I was about the actual fact. So, I get Bao’s emotions even as I feel he hasn’t reacted the most maturely about it.

Other Tidbits:

So far, we’ve had no falconry and I was expecting some at these big games.

I think it was nice of Moirin to apologize to Edina but I also don’t feel it was necessarily her responsibility. Moirin had no clue that Bao was married. Still, I think it made it easier for Edina to see Moirin as a real person and perhaps, in the long run, to forgive Bao.

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).

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 Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

LiuTheGraceOfKingsNarrator: Michael Kramer

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2015)

Length: 21 hours 37 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dandelion Dynasty

Author’s Page

This epic fantasy spans decades, starting with a corrupt rulership that has much of the population enslaved one way or another, plenty of folks plot and scheme for a better life. Folks get their wish, sort of, as factions break away from the old regime. Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu become leaders of two of these factions and eventually good friends. However, the glory of battle after battle and the resultant peace will test their friendship.

This was a beautiful, sweeping story. The characters were fascinating and the cast was well balanced. At first, I thought the story would be a kind of alternate Japanese ancient history tale with some mythology tossed in. I was a bit off the mark. While this story has that indeed, there is so much more going on. Various ethnicities are represented and while the story centers around a series of islands, there is plenty of back and forth with the mainland. The characters, by and large, know the world is larger than their immediate settings. Also, there are deities gambling on their chosen favorites, finding sneaky little ways to affect the world they watch.

I especially loved the fighting kites. Yes, these are kites that a warrior straps to their back and they are lifted into the air to do either reconnaissance or battle. There are several scenes that make good use of these kites. There are also airships in play as well!

There are plenty of ladies in this novel and they are not trivial bits of pretty fluff either. Gia is skilled at herb lore and administering her household. She’s a fit mind to spar with one of our heroes, Kuni. Late to the show we get a female warrior, Jin, and I hope we see more of her in Book 2. There are other ladies with large and small roles, but these two really stood out to me.

Kuni wasn’t my favorite character in the beginning but he grew to be so. He starts off as a bit of a wastrel and layabout. He gambles and drinks too much and refuses to work. Yes, he still lives with his parents, so they have to put up with his self-centered uselessness even as they see that he’s clothed and fed. Then things start to change for him and he becomes something else by the middle of the book. He kind of stumbles into his calling.

Meanwhile, Mata struck me as a fascinating character right from the beginning. He’s from a royal family and was raised to be a ruler, if not the supreme ruler. He has refined manners and tastes. Plus he is simply physically imposing with his 8 foot stature and his double pupils. Yes, double pupils. Go look that up. There’s plenty of mesmerizing images even if there isn’t a scientifically documented occurrence.

There’s one drawback to this book and that is all the rather long info dumps. The author writes beautifully, so often I found myself in the middle of an interesting info dump before I knew it. However, there are so many of them that I felt that a good chunk of this book was written like a history novel instead of an action-packed epic fantasy. Perhaps that is exactly what the author intended. Even with all the info dumps, I still really enjoyed the tale.

The Narration: Michael Kramer is a long-time favorite narrator and he doesn’t disappoint with this performance. He has a matter-of-fact voice for the longer info dumps and a variety of voices and accents for the multitude of characters. He’s also great with emotions for the more poignant scenes. 

What I Liked: Fighting kites!; great cover art; The story arc for the two main characters; the ladies are not ignored in this epic story; it’s bigger than an alternate-world Japan; the gods are watching… and sometimes interfering; the ending was bitter sweet. 

What I Disliked: This is minor, since the author writes so elegantly, but there are many, many info dumps.

What Others Think:

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The Book Smugglers

Fantasy Book Critic

The Speculative Herald

SF Signal

Fantasy Scroll 

Interview: Mitchell Charles, Author of The Kingdom of Oceana

CharlesTheKingdomOfOceanaEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Mitchell Charles. I really enjoyed his book, The Kingdom of Oceana and am very excited to have the opportunity to interview him.

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

Chinatown is probably my favorite movie, and without question my favorite script. I can watch it over and over. The Alchemist is my favorite book, and has a profound effect on me every time I read it. I especially like the audiobook version read by Jeremy Irons – Epic!

If you were sent on a magical quest, which other 4 historical fantasy authors would you take with you?

Michael Crichton, George R. R. Martin, James Clavell, James A Michener

Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Professor Snape is my favorite villain. You really never know for sure that he’s against Harry until the very end of the series.

You and your publisher have gone to the trouble to build some extensive educational aids and activities that go hand in hand with your book, The Kingdom of Oceana. This isn’t often seen with fantasy novels, even historical fantasy novels. Do you think other publishers and authors will take up this excellent practice? Do you expect even more educational media to be added as your book series progresses?

I was looking for a fun way to engage students into my fantasy world. Hawaii is such a magical place, so it was easy to create the study guides.

To check out these study guides and fun activities, have a look at the Mitchell’s site.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I’ve always love the ocean and sea creatures. My father taught me to SCUBA dive as a teenager and it’s still my favorite activity. I think I always had a knack for story, but didn’t put in the time and effort to write until The Kingdom of Oceana series.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

The Alchemist (The Alchemist), Walter White (Breaking Bad), Doctor Stephen Strange (Dr. Strange), Yoda (Star Wars) and Doc Brown (Back to the Future).

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Hermione Granger – she has a spell for everything!

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

I am currently working on the sequel to The Kingdom of Oceana. The story takes place about 25 years later and follows the next generation of Oceanic heroes, King Ailani’s and Queen Momi’s three teenage children.

Book Blurb for The Kingdom of Oceana

CharlesTheKingdomOfOceanaFive centuries ago, on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic.  When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise.
 
Warring factions spar for control of Oceana, sparking an age-old conflict between rival sorcerers. With the help of ancestral spirit animals, a shape-shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must fight for his rightful place as the future king of Oceana.
About the Author

MitchellCharlesAuthorMitchell Charles’ love of the ocean and its miraculous creatures began at the age of 12 when his father taught him to SCUBA dive. From his first adventure 50 feet (15 meters) beneath the Caribbean Sea he was hooked.  He has been involved in the Oceanic Society, America’s first non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, established in 1969.

Mitchell’s inspiration for The Kingdom of Oceana was born of exploring the spectacular coastline, lush valleys, and vibrant coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands. On these excursions, he imagined what Hawaii was like hundreds of years ago. Before Captain Cook arrived from England. Before the golf courses and hotels. Before the ukulele and the Mai Tai became icons of Hawaiian culture. He dreamed of a time when the islands were an undiscovered magical paradise.

These days, Mitchell divides his time between Southern California and Hawaii. He has two teenage children and a dog named Magic.

Mitchell is currently working on the second book in the Kingdom of Oceana series, The Legend of the Nine Sacred Pearls. For more information, visit http://kingdomofoceana.com/

Readers can connect with Mitchell on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Prudence by Gail Carriger

Clementine could use a few manners.
Clementine could use a few manners.

Narrator: Moira Quirk

Publisher: Hachette Audio (2015)

Length: 12 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 1 Custard Protocol

Author’s Page

The metanatural Rue and her friends are on a mission for Queen and Country! And tea, of course. Prudence Alessandra Macon Akeldama (Rue) has been gifted an airship, which she charmingly names the Spotted Custard. She’s also been given a charge, and that is to fly off to India on a mission of secrecy – it involves tea. There’s proper manners and attire, werewolves, tea-time, weremonkeys, and plenty of proper British manners.

Rue and her best friend Primrose (Prim) Tunstall make a great team for mayhem. In fact the opening scene is one where Prim and Rue work together to turn a stuffy British cocktail party into a race through the Victorian London streets. Rue’s metanatural abilities allow her to temporarily ‘borrow’ the powers of a paranormal. For instance, she can become a werewolf (which tears her lovely gown and underthings all to hell) and then Prim can catch a ride on her back as they make a noisy exit from the boring party.

Of course these hijinks are just the latest and Rue’s parents, along with her adoptive vampire father Dama, decide she needs a job. Hence, she’s given a mission that involves tea in India. Rue selects Prim, of course, to accompany her but then also Prim’s bookish brother Percy. Toss in the intense Quesnel Lefoux, who Percy detests, and you have quite the madcap company for the trip. The crew who actually do all the work are quite fun as well, not giving a fig if the passengers are practically nobility or not.

This was a my first Gail Carriger book and it was so much fun! It was light and silly and full of adventure and flowery phrases that just had me giggling. Maybe I was just in the right mood for this book, but I really did get a kick out of it. There’s some light flirting between Rue and Quesnel but there’s also some pond tossing that comes up as well. It’s a love/hate thing and very amusing.

There’s a bit of a steampunk flavor to this story but it’s not a heavy element of the tale. Of course the dirigible is fun. I enjoyed all the action scenes because they were often had some bits of comedy involved. I especially enjoyed Percy and his hunt for mushrooms. He was delightfully bookish.

Once the Spotted Custard gets to India, things change as the local paranormal citizens checkout the Londoners. There’s plenty here that surprised me! It’s a whole different rule book and Rue and Prim have to do some improvising, even if it means ticking off the local English gentry. I was entertained throughout the entire book and I look forward to reading more Carriger novels in the future.

The Narration: Moira Quirk was so good in this book! She’s the perfect Rue but she’s also the perfect Prim and the perfect Dama and the perfect Percy! She’s got these English characters down to a T. I loved her light lisp for Dama as I could totally picture him talking and every so often on certain syllables, a touch of a lisp due to this teeth. I loved her distracted Percy, his head always in a book. She really did a most excellent job with this narration. 

What I Liked: The dirigible; proper English manners tossed out the window again and again; all the humor; plenty of action; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing! This was such a fun book!

What Others Think:

Smart Bitches Trashy Books

Fantasy Book Critic

Vampire Book Club

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The BiblioSanctum

The Beauty Bride by Claire Delacroix

DelacroixTheBeautyBrideNarrator: Saskia Maarleveld

Publisher: Deborah A. Cooke (2014)

Length: 12 hours 56 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Jewels of Kinfairlie

Author’s Page

Set on the east coast of Scotland, in 1421, Madeline is 23 and her betrothed James was killed on the English assault at Rougemont. Her brother Alexander is laird of Kinfairlie and as such, has the power to marry off herself and her 4 younger sisters (Annalise, Elizabeth, Viviane, Isabella). Madeline’s aunt Rosamund and uncle Tynman advise Alexander to hold an auction to sell off some of the estates art and jewels, including the matrimonial hand of Madeline. Needless to say, Madeline is not thrilled about this. Alexander insists because he has some serious debts. The auction happens swiftly yet Madeline is not satisfied being sold to the highest bidder (Rhys FitzHenry) so she runs away. This leads to all sorts of romantic silliness and adventure.

This was a sweet romance and an easy read. There’s a few bits of history tossed into the book, but for the most part, the setting is just background and doesn’t play into the plot or the characters. In fact, there are some historical inaccuracies or, to be more gentle, anomalies. For example, Madeline is 23 at the age of her first marriage and it would be much more likely that she and all her sisters, except perhaps for 12 year old Elizabeth, to be married off by now. Another example is Madeline’s thoughts on what determines a baby’s gender; Madeline is adamant that the mother has no control over the gender (which we now know to be correct) yet in the 15th century it was widely believed that women did indeed have some control over the gender of their baby. If you can ignore these types of historical anomalies, then you can probably enjoy this book.

It is a fun, simple adventure romance. Bride and groom are forced by circumstance into a marriage and eventually a bedchamber where they find out that they are compatible in at least one area of marriage. Of course there are subterfuges, secrets, and misunderstandings on both sides which each party has to decide whether or not to forgive. Then there’s the coming clean and revealing why they’ve been asses which is followed by the heroic rescue and/or sacrifice. Then comes the lovey-dovey reunion.

I really enjoyed several things about this book. First, there’s a sprite and Elizabeth can see her and interact with her. The sprite reminds me of an impertinent Tinkerbell. Then there are horses and they have names and their owners do fuss over them (always a good sign in a human). The love scenes are sweet and a little steamy (they were steamier than I expected which is a good thing). I also liked Rhys’s backstory, it being the darker, heavier side to the novel. Rhys is also a decent story teller in his own right and I quite enjoyed his little tales.

Once all the misunderstandings are out of the way, there’s a rescue needed. While I felt that it was a bit out of character for Madeline and her sisters, I still couldn’t but help enjoy these final scenes. These ladies are no shrinking violets after all. I would have enjoyed this book much more if the author had gone full on Fantasy genre and made the ladies bold to begin with. I can tell from how this book ends that the author has the skill to write a decent Fantasy novel.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Saskia Maarleveld was a good choice for this book. I really enjoyed her Scottish accent for most of the characters. Her males voices were believable and she had sexy voices for the marriage bed scenes. 

What I Liked: Nice cover art; fun romantic adventure; horses!; the sprite and Elizabeth’s connection with it; Rhys’s backstory and his story-telling abilities; the final rescue.

What I Disliked: Some historical inaccuracies; the final rescue seemed out of character for what we knew of most of the characters.

What Others Think:

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