Two Serpents Rise – Part IV

GladstoneTwoSerpentsRisingHello everyone! Welcome to the Two Serpents Rise read along! It’s the final week (sniffle) but no worries! There’s chatter of doing a read along of the third book, Full Fathom Five, though we might hold off until July to accommodate folks. We’ll keep you posted.

This week, Lynn E. from Little Lion Lynnet’s  is your host, so make sure to swing by her blog to see what she thinks, along with everyone else thinks.

1. I think we all pegged Mal for involved with whatever is going wrong in Dresediel Lex after the way Book 3 ended last week. How do you feel about discovering how deep that involvement goes?

I think it was clear from the beginning that Mal is an independent thinker. I mean you would have to be to be successful at cliff running. That isn’t a sport for followers, but for leaders. As we learned more and more about her, I had this feeling that she was deeply involved in whatever was going down. Still, it was a bit of a shock to see how dedicated to her beliefs she was and how far she would go. I liked Mal and because of that I wanted to think well of her. However, destroying a whole city and rebuilding from the rubble is not the way to wins friends and influence people.

2. Caleb and Temoc have to work together to save Dresediel Lex (and the world) from certain destruction. Do you think they make a good team?

Uh, no. For a brief moment, it seemed that Caleb had won his father over to giving his option a chance and it was interesting to see them work together. Caleb still had his defenses up and was sometimes hesitant to do as told. But Temoc had no hesitation in working with his son. In fact, he seemed proud and satisfied.

Then the jerk had to go and betray his son’s tentative trust once again this time by knocking him on the head and nearly sacrificing his best friend. Oh yeah, Caleb will need therapy for that. Temoc has probably destroyed any chance of having a meaningful relationship with his son too.

3. What do you think of the narrative’s overall treatment of Teo? Especially in light of her role in the finale?

I really liked Teo. While this story wasn’t about her, her moments in the story had weight. So when she temporarily became the damsel in distress at the end, I didn’t feel that that was her only role in the story. Especially since she turns around and is the one to tear the contract and get Lord Kopal to put in an appearance.

4. In the epilogue Caleb seems to have found a way to compromise between the ways of his father and the new world brought about by the God Wars. Do you think he’ll succeed in his goals?

We’ve seen that Caleb can be very tenacious when he is chasing after something. So, yes, I believe he will make it work. And, right now, it looks like Lord Kopal is willing to give him enough support to give it a try. If Kopal decides to stop supplying the soul stuff at some point, then I am sure that Caleb and Teo will put on a highly successful charity drive to gather enough soul stuff annually to keep the Sister Serpents happy. It might involve bake sales. Perhaps a charity run over rooftops and flinging from spire to spire.

Other Tidbits:

While Mal was on the destructive path, I can still imagine her in all her glory essentially channeling the might of the serpent sisters. Mal is athletic to begin with but the added power would make her a deity. Ah, I wish I was an artist and could do some fan art for this book.

The large crowds that gathered to riot were crazy! And since so much cultural knowledge had been set aside or lost, very few folks remembered that the wide main road, San Silva I think, wasn’t created for the people, but for the gods. Flee you mortals! Flee if you can!

I really enjoyed Book 1, but I definitely enjoyed this book even more. I think it was because of all the wonderful Aztec cultural awesomeness squeezed into every nook and crannie.

Below are the blogs participating:

Lauren – Violin in a Void
Heather – The Bastard Title (who will be in and out as time allows)
Ria – Bibliotropic
Susan (me) – Dab of Darkness

Blood Moon by Geraldine Allie

AllieBloodMoonWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Alex Hyde-White

Publisher: Punch Audio (2014)

Length: 1 hour 29 minutes

Series: Book 1 Werewolves & Shifters

Author’s Page

Maxine Lewis and Nate Jackson find themselves thrown together in a dark, dirty place. Nate, as leader of his shifter pack, was on the hunt for some murderous vampires. Maxine was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Things happen super fast in this one. Nate goes on the hunt, rescues Maxine from some vampires, they end up running and hiding and getting to know one another via some sexytimes, and then there is more vampire killing. There’s only one female character, and she needs rescuing. So the whole Damsel In Distress thing was a bit predictable. Also, sometimes the events happened so quickly I felt like I had whiplash.

Now that I have my criticisms out of the way, I did enjoy Nate’s character throughout the story. He is focused and wants what is best for his pack. Falling for Maxine is definitely not what’s best, and that constant flow of contradictory emotions was well played. While I did enjoy the sexytimes, they were over too quickly and since I hadn’t really connected to both characters, it was not as enjoyable as when I care about both parties involved.

There’s plenty of potential with this story. It’s short and perhaps should be read with the intent of jumping right into Book 2 so that the world and character development can continue.

The Narration: Alex Hyde-White was a good pick for Nate. He definitely pulled off the take-charge attitude. He had a decent feminine voice for Maxine.

What I Liked: Lovely cover art!; fun basic premise (vampires versus werewolves); Maxine & Nate definitely have sparks; plenty of room to grow in world & character development.

What I Disliked: The pacing is sometimes very fast (like whiplash fast); Maxine is the damsel in distress.

What Others Think:

Eargasms

Sweeter Than Honey: Call of the Kodiak by Geraldine Allie

AllieSweeterThanHoneyCallOfTheKodiakWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Vanessa Hart

Publisher: Punch Audio (2014)

Length: 1 hour 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 Bear Shifters

Author’s Page

Set perhaps in the late 1800s USA, Crysta is a single woman, and doing quite well on her own in private business. John is a business man in his own right, and his biggest business is honey. Once he sees Crystal, his inner beast takes over and he knows that he must convince her that he is the man for her.

So I am totally guessing on the era this is set in. There are no phones or locomotives, but the USA is somewhat settled and Crystal is able to hold her own in the world of business. This is set in the southeastern US, perhaps Georgia or New Orleans. Honestly, I forgot because all the fun stuff happens out in the woods in a little cabin by the stream. ;)

John basically maneuvers Crystal into a bet. She has to spend time with him out at the cabin, chatting about how beneficial it would be to combine forces in the business world via a marriage. However John has this secret that he worries will drive Crystal away. As you can guess from the title and the name of the series, John is a shifter.

While it was predictable that all would work out, it was still sweet to see it come to fruition. There is one brief sex scene that I wish had been longer. The author left it in a good place for the next in the series to build upon.

The Narration: Vanessa Hart was a good choice. Her sultry southern voice for Crystal was honey on the ears. She also had a good voice for John, being very straight forward and a little gruff when needed.  

What I Liked: The location; excellent narration; John’s secret; Crystal’s independence; sweet ending.

What I Disliked: I wanted a bit more on the era this is set in; the sex scene was brief.

What Others Think:

Eargasms

Delicate Thorns by Ainsley Shay & Miranda Hardy

ShayHardyDelicateThornsWhere I Got It: Review copy via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!)

Narrator: Angie Hickman

Publisher: Quixotic Publishing (2015)

Length: 2 hours 40 minutes

Shay’s Author’s Page & Hardy’s Author’s Page

She awoke alone on an island and has been so for some time now. She hungers for blood and avoids the sun. She has no memory of who she is nor does she know how she came to be on the island. Then a chance encounter with a group of tourists allows her to leave the island and rejoin society. Her missing past is a constant reminder that she isn’t normal. Her constant awareness of all the walking, talking meals is an annoyance.

Jasmine (for that is the name she chose for herself) fumbles through her life, Part II. At first, it was just about survival, and then it was about a little bit of happiness. She ended up in a larger city, one with a beach and a bad section of town, along with some higher end apartments that are mostly only inhabited by seasonal visitors. As she settles in and starts seriously wondering about her past, she also meets a young, handsome man who lives just a few doors down.

The most intriguing thing about this book was Jasmine’s hidden past. Of course I wanted to learn how she came to be on that island. Was she shunned by a vampire community? Was she once an oblivious tourist who was ambushed on that island and left to die to turn? There were plenty of questions swirling around Jasmine. Eventually, we do get the answers and they were doled out bit by bit, keeping the suspense high. The answer to this particular question was satisfying.

There are only a handful of characters in this book, being a novella or long short story. Jasmine gets the most page time and, hence, has the most development. I enjoyed her character arc from survivalist to answer seeker to someone just trying to fit in and live a life. The young man a few doors down was nice enough, though he was a little too perfect. If this had been a longer story, I would hope that he would have revealed some flaw sooner or later. Other characters show up late in the story so they don’t have time for deep thoughts, but they do play critical roles in unwinding Jasmine’s secret past.

The ending to the story was bitter sweet, and that is how I like it. Jasmine gets some, but not all, the answers and has to make some choices. I am hoping the authors choose to make this a start of a series as there is more for both Jasmine and the reader to explore.

Narration:  Angie Hickman was a great voice for Jasmine, using the perfect mix of anguished, ticked off, and lost soul. Eventually, as Jasmine’s character starts to settle in, we get other feelings. There are some very ugly characters in this book that have very small roles and Hickman pulled these off well too, though it was probably a bit hard. She had a good range of male and female voices, and also accents for a few of the characters.

What I Liked:  The mystery!; the cover art; Jasmine’s character was well rounded and had a good story arc; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked:  The handsome young man/love interest was a little too perfect – so perfect it was almost like he didn’t have any character depth.

Kushiel’s Dart Read Along – The Schedule

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

It’s time. This has been kicking around in the back of my head for some time. I love doing read alongs and discussing the minutiae of a good book. The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Dart is Book 1) is one of my all time favorite series. In particular, I am forever enamored of Kushiel’s Dart. My man and I have read this book so many times, the covers have fallen off more than one copy.

Here is the current schedule. Notice there are 2 slots for hosting if someone else wants to host, even a new person who jumps in last minute.

Week 1: May 10, Chapters 1-8, Hosted by Dab of Darkness
Week 2: May 17, Chapters 9-18, Hosted by Tethyan Books
Week 3: May 24, Chapters 19-26, Hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow
Week 4: May 31, Chapters 27-36, Hosted by Beauty is a Sleeping Cat
Week 5: June 7, Chapters 37-45, Hosted by Dab of Darkness (unless someone else wants to host)
Week 6: June 14, Chapters 46-54, Hosted by Books Without Any Pictures
Week 7: June 21, Chapters 55-63, Hosted by Dolce Bellezza
Week 8: June 28, Chapters 64-73, Hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 9: July 5, Chapters 74-83, Hosted by Dab of Darkness (unless someone else wants to host)
Week 10: July 12, Chapter 84-END, Hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow

And here is the current list of participators:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

 

As always, folks are welcome to jump in and join us. You don’t have to be a host or a blogger. You can always choose the easy route and tackle the weekly discussion in the comments of the hosting blog. We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S DART in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

I am VERY excited be reading this book with a group and such a fine group we have!

Two Serpents Rise – Part III

GladstoneTwoSerpentsRisingHello everyone! Welcome to the Two Serpents Rise read along! You can catch the schedule over HERE. Feel free to join us in the comments if you like!

This week, Lauren from Violin in a Void is your host, so make sure to swing by her blog to see what she thinks, along with everyone else thinks.

1. After the fight at Seven Leaf, Caleb apologizes to Mal and they finally start dating. What do you think of the way their relationship has developed? Do you agree with Mal that Caleb chased her because he needs gods in his life?

At first, I was a little sad they didn’t sleep together that first night. But in retrospect, I think Caleb was right – that would have been their one and only night together.

Besides, things have been much more interesting this way. So, I am glad that they have had all this time to play off each other, the good and the bad. If they can both survive what’s coming, they could have a lasting relationship.

The sex on the beach was awesome, including that whole engulfed in a shark’s mouth thing. Though I do hope the force field kept out the fetid mouth breath of the beast.

I think Caleb is both attracted to and repulsed by people who have strong spiritual beliefs. He grew up in his father’s shadow, in some ways loved and protected, and in other ways horrified and disgusted. I’m going to go all Psychology 101 on this and guess that he has that same attraction/hate for Mal because of her strong beliefs, even it is only subconscious.

2. This section has been quite philosophical. Where do you stand on the debate – gods, no gods, or some kind of compromise? Do you agree with Caleb’s idea of sacrificing your morality because the religious alternative is even worse?

While I am not a religious person myself, I think a world without gods (and yes, I like there to be many of them and not just one) would be rather dull. Lots of inspiration comes from deities in one way or another. For this world, I think the humans have gained enough Craft knowledge and enough tech that they could reintegrate the gods without losing clean water and plentiful food. As we saw in Three Parts Dead, some (if not all) gods can be negotiated with using the Craft. Maybe that would be possible here.

It took me a while to figure out what Caleb was getting at – that no matter what choice is made, there is indeed a sacrifice. I think this is because my morality isn’t based on religion, so I was having trouble connecting the dots in this world where gods are real. For this world, I can no see clearly what Caleb is saying – imprisoning and enslaving gods, even the vegetable-mind kind, destroys a bit of society’s morality.

So with all that in mind, I have to look at what little we know of these gods. So far, they all seem to be a beastial in nature, taking from and feeding on the humans as desire drives them. Now, this has mostly been through Caleb’s eyes that we learn this, so have a grain of salt to swallow with it. But if that is so, then the gods themselves would understand the Red King’s destruction of them, and enslavement of what remained. they wouldn’t like it, but they would get it. And yet, I still am not entirely OK with enslaving these particular gods. Damn morals.

3. Gladstone is still unveiling amazing things in his world, like a sport based on myth, the eclipse festival, walking on water, and a half-dead sea god whose heart is being used for desalination. What interested you the most?

It was nice to see the ancient Aztec ball game being used as a live sport with raving teams and jerseys and drunken after game parties. This game isn’t based on myth, but on a real ancient ball game (Wikipedia Article). Doesn’t look any more brutal than hockey of Polish Knight League melees.

Haha! I laughed a little too at the Red King’s woes over the cost for a fireworks display for the eclipse festival. I like fireworks, but am not particularly enamored of them. Plus, I live in the desert where we have to perpetually be wary of forest fires. Fireworks season can suck. I think I would rather have free coffee for the entire populace for a day than fireworks.

Desalination isn’t easy, so it was mighty impressive that they found a perpetual power source to do the job in a vegetative state god. Now I am an organ donor and if I ever end up in a vegetative state, I hope they cut out the organs and tissues they can use and then pull the plug. OR plug me into a desalination plant and put me to work for the greater good!

Yet I doubt the god was an organ donor card carrier.

4. Mal has noted twice that they don’t have much time, and she apologizes to Caleb while he sleeps on the ocean. Then Alaxic kills himself and tries to kill Temoc – the last two priests of the old Quechal. What do you think is going on here? Any speculation about how it might turn out?

Something big is coming. I am a little surprised that Caleb, with all his inherent skepticism, hasn’t caught on to Mal’s little phrase of there not being much time left. Perhaps he has a blind spot there, being that he is trying to have a serious kissy-kissy relationship with her.

Alaxic was talking about worthy sacrifices on the night of the lunar eclipse. However, sacrificing himself wasn’t enough. So does this mean that he holds Temoc in high regard, so taking Temoc with him in this poisoned suicide was a worthy sacrifice? Or had Alaxic truly retired to the sidelines and knew Temoc was up to something and so was not only sacrificing himself & Temoc, but also whatever Temoc was trying to achieve?

Still so many questions on this one, and I look forward to getting the answers in the final part!

Other Tidbits:

I had forgotten the Red King had kept Mal’s pendant. It’s checked out and now Caleb has it back, along with the order to find the cliffrunner woman. Caleb is walking a slippery slope…..

Hooray for female sports celebrities!

Mal is the one who bought Teo’s girlfriend’s art piece. Coincidence? Or does it mean something? I’m going to go all conspiracy theory here and wonder if both Teo and Caleb are being shadowed in case they need to be eliminated or controlled for whenever this Big Something happens…..cause we all know something big is yet to come, right?

Below are the blogs participating:

Lauren – Violin in a Void
Heather – The Bastard Title (who will be in and out as time allows)
Ria – Bibliotropic
Susan (me) – Dab of Darkness

The Merchant Adventurer by Patrick E. McLean

McLeanTheMerchantAdventurerWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!)

Narrator: Patrick E. McLean

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 6 hours 17 minutes

Author’s Page

This book is part epic adventure fantasy and part tongue in cheek pointed humor at the often overdone fantasy tropes. Our main hero, Boltac the Merchant, is, indeed, a very reluctant hero. However, eventually, against his better nature, he is forced to join the adventure, outwit the bad guy, rescue his lady love, and bring prosperity to his home town. Or something along those lines. Really, Boltac is just focused on one thing: not letting his lady love know he actually has a soft spot for her.

One day a would be hero, Relan, strolls in to a shop wanting to purchase a sword so he can gallivant off to rescue his lady love. However, he doesn’t have the coin for it. So he asks to lease out a sword. Boltac rolls his eyes and eventually clouts Relan over the head and drags his unconscious body outside. But then the minions of an evil wizard (Dimsbury) and his side kick (Raddick). The owner of the local tavern, and secret sweetheart of Boltac, is stolen away. Now Boltac must make some tough choices.

The humor permeates this novel and is often of the skeptical variety. Boltac questions nearly everything, even if it is just in his head. He’s always weighing the choices, adding the coins, calculating what’s in his best interest. Relan is great sidekick for him, being so idealistic, so naive, so honorable. Boltac is constantly having to rein the young man in, and not always teaching him the ways of adventuring. The back and forth between these two is most amusing!

There are a few ladies in this book. I can think of two off the top of my head. There might have been a third. One is a supposed damsel in distress that is working with a group of folks running scams. The second is Boltac’s secret love, the tavern owner. She’s smart in her own right, taking charge of her actions and formulating a plan to escape from the first moment. However, we spend little time with her. The author shows he can write female characters, and yet he had so few in this book and gave them small, tiny roles. I hope his other books make better use of the female gender, as I fully intend to seek out more of his work.

Then we have the bad guys. They come in two flavors: ruthless and deserving of death and then we have the orc servants (like Samga the orc leader) who would probably have fairly quiet lives if left to their own devices. Raddick is vicious and enjoys killing for the sport. Dimsbury is the brains behind the evil duo and is quite ruthless in his own way. These potent villains make great adversaries for the shrewd Boltac and the idiotically heroic Relan.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It strongly reminded me of the days when my man played Dungeons & Dragons weekly and he come home in the early dawn hours, smelling of stale pizza, one too many energy drinks, and cigarette smoke, babbling about his exploits in a some dungeon or medieval forest. This book was like that, but far better since it was a coherent story and not just disconnected ramblings by a man who was obviously dead tired but too wired on caffeine to sleep.

Narration: Patrick McLean narrated his own book, and I always have a few worries when I see an author narrating his own work. But have no fears here! McLean does an awesome job of narrating this book. He has a perfectly shrewd and skeptical voice for Boltac, a wonderfully dense and optimistic voice for Relan, and a serpent’s treacherous sneer for Raddick. I also enjoyed his ‘I’m way too smart to deign to chat with you’ voice for Dimsbury. And don’t forget his toothy voice for the orc Samga. It was a most excellent performance.

What I Liked:  Plenty of humor; the characters play off each other well; excellent narration; reminiscent of D&D adventures; worthy villains.

What I Disliked:  The ladies’ roles are few and limited.

What Others Think:

Amie’s Book Review Blog

Now Very Bad

Dan Absalonson