Over Her Head by Nora Fleischer

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

Narrator: Anna Starr

Publisher: Jennifer Lee Goloboy (2014)

Length: 2 hours 26 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in early 1900s Maine, Frances Schmidt isn’t your average historian. Nope. She’s a woman. She has worked very hard to get her peers to ignore this fact so that she can finish her degree. She’s so close and the last big hurdle is completing her dissertation, one that she has focused on the myths and legends on merpeople. So she must travel to Maine to try to persuade Garrett Hathaway of letting her study his collection of such legends and tales. Since he is a very private person, she has quite a challenge ahead of him.

The bulk of this story is told through Frances eyes and I really enjoyed her character. She’s chosen a field that is male dominated and has a passion for it. Her peers are a mix of men; some support her efforts, some don’t mind her as long as she doesn’t act like a woman, and then there are some who actively try to block or sabotage her efforts. Also, I liked that she isn’t tall and willowy, but rather short and curvy. Some even call her stocky.

Garrett starts off as a pretty ordinary, if a little reclusive. However, he has a secret, one that has both left him lonely and hating himself but also given him such glee. I also suspect it is the reason he has such an athletic body.

The relationship between these two starts off perfectly professionally. Frances stays at a boarding house while in Maine, making sure to leave Garrett’s house each day before sunset. Propriety must be maintained. She initially bribes him with cookies she baked herself. This later turns into a mutual enjoyment of baking. It was quite sweet to watch the romance blossom between these two, and come to near disastrous ruin a few times due to misunderstandings. These two had to work for their love!

Sprinkled throughout the story are tidbits on merpeople – fanciful bits tossed in by the author but then also poems and works by other authors are cited by the main characters. These were especially nice touches.

My one little quibble occurs near the end of the story, and as such, deals with a spoiler. SPOILER ALERT It wasn’t clear to me how or why Frances became a mermaid when she takes a swim with Garrett. He thinks he transmitted a disease to her, but surely he (or other merpeople) have swum with other people and they didn’t run into merpeople. I could have used a few lines stolen from mythology to make this more plausible. Or perhaps some mystical/magical reason for the transformation. END SPOILER

Other than that one minor criticism, I really enjoyed this novella. The mix of merpeople myths, historical fiction, and romance kept me listening and not wanting to set the book down.

The Narration: Anna Starr was a good pick for Frances. She had a solid, no nonsense voice for her that could also be a bit vulnerable when it came to matters of the heart. Starr had a range of voices that allowed both male and female characters to come through distinctly. 

What I Liked: Merpeople myths and legends; woman in a line of work that is male dominated; romance born out of mutual interests; very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: The cover art doesn’t encompass all the awesomeness contained in this book; the how and why of the transformation of a character needed a little solidifying.

BannerOnceUponATimeIXTis the season for fantasy reading. I am participating in this year’s Once Upon A Time IX reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

Night Owl Romance

Long and Short Reviews

Amber Stults

To Light the Dragon’s Fire by Margaret Taylor

TaylorToLightTheDragonsFireWhere I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!).

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 17 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dragons, Griffons, & Centaurs, Oh My!

Author’s Page

Twin sisters Terra and Lanni Heegan go caving in the wilds of Wyoming. For Terra, it is her last hurrah before entering into a loveless marriage. However, things take a turn pretty quickly and soon they are swept up in another world where shifters and chimeras rule. They will each face numerous foes, and perhaps even find a mate.

Draven is a shifter and lord of the land. He is use to being obeyed and his every word taken seriously. That is, until he is presented with two examples of the mythical being known as human. Terra is pretty sure Lanni has set this up. Perhaps it is with actors. Perhaps it is one of those all submersive vids that you can buy. Maybe even a dose of mushrooms. So when she doesn’t take Draven seriously, things go awry. He has to shift into his dragon form to save her from a nasty fall. Unfortunately. Draven’s guards take Terra’s actions as an act of aggression and she and Lanni are tossed in a dungeon, only to be rescued by an unlikely being.

The action picks up really quickly and Terra and Lanni, neither of the shrinking violet variety, do their best to hold their own. Periodically, they are being rescued. Sometimes they do the saving. Draven and his wing man (Arin) make a good duo for the twins to alternately argue with and fight evil side by side. The world building is full of fantastical creatures, such as talking animals, all sorts of chimeras, the shifters, and magical creatures who don’t appear to do any shifting (like the unicorns and rhocs). Arin is a bit of an outcast as he is part of a small group of beings that are never fully human, always retaining some traits of what they shift into. So I pictured him as looking a little like the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, but more disgruntled and trimmer, being the war commander he is.

While Terra is a bit more kick ass than Lanni, they both contribute to the plot and are not simply there as romantic interests. They do tend to do more thinking than the men, but this is required by someone if they are to outwit their foes. And the foes are many, with several of them hidden.

My one quibble is that Lanni becomes a trauma medic without having had any hands on training or experience, but just from having read a medical book or two. At one point, a character is injured, passes out, and Lanni stitches this character up. That’s fine. Lots of people can do stitches in a pinch. Once the character wakes, she goes on to say how they must have had some internal bleeding. Uh… well, if that is the case then it is pure luck they didn’t die and that the bleeding either stopped on it’s own, or slowed enough to leave the injured stable until a real medic could be called.

The romance is a light thread that carries throughout the book. For some of the characters, the connection is made really swift, and others it takes a while. It did not detract from the plot and in certain instances, added to it. There’s also a touch of modern and just over the horizon tech. I liked how this was done lightly, so that we could stay focused on the characters and the plot and not get hung up on whether this was fantasy or science fiction. The ending left us on a very dramatic note (which I liked) and then a bit of a cliffhanger. So be ready to jump right into Book 2 because there is plenty of plot left to unfold and resolve!

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a good job with all the character voices. I especially liked his slightly furry voice for Aaron (and since he has whiskers and a kind of leonine face it totally fit). His female voices were believable and he had a range that allowed for distinct characters. There was a true challenge in doing voices for Terra and Lanni (who are twins) and yet making them distinct for the listener and he met that challenge with excellence.

What I Liked: So many magical beasties!; Terra and Lanni kick butt and add to the plot; plenty of action; dramatic ending; ready to jump into Book 2!

What I Disliked: Lanni has excellent trauma medic skills after reading a book or two.

BannerOnceUponATimeIXTis the season for fantasy reading. I am participating in this year’s Once Upon A Time IX reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

Night Owl Romance

The Violet Hour Book Reviews

Around the Blogosphere March 2015

JordanNewSpringFirst, remember that big long read along on The Wheel of Time series that I kept posting about for just over 2 years? Yeah, that one. So us participators got together and made one big wrap up post that SF Signal was kind enough to host. So make sure to swing by over there to catch all our thoughts on the series, but also on the experience of such a long read along.

Next I want to tell you all about Audiobook Blast because I think it is really, really cool. If you enjoy listening to and reviewing audiobooks, this is one more place to get your fix. There is a Facebook Page and a Newsletter. There is a little overlap between the two, so I say check out both and enjoy the variety of books on offer!

BannerOnceUponATimeIXStainless Steel Droppings is hosting the yearly awesome reading event Once Upon A Time IX. This reading event is for fun (no pressure!) and anyone can join. It focuses on the fantasy genre, or anything that can be construed as even a kissing cousin to the fantasy genre. I have participated in the past few years. This year, I plan to pop in and out of the event.

And now I leave you with a rhino who thinks it is a goat.


Three Parts Dead – Part III

GladstoneThreePartsDeadHello everyone! Welcome to the Three Parts Dead read along! This is the final week!

This week, Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow is your host, so make sure to swing by her place to check out everyone’s posts to see what everyone else thinks. My apologies for posting late, again. There was a goat, a downed fence, and the neighbor’s apple trees involved.

This week we covered Chapter 15 – END. There be spoilers in the Q&A below!

1) So we finally got all the facts behind whodunit – and how, and why… What did you think of the epic(sized) reveal scene?

I really enjoyed this scene. It had the big epic feel without being a 1000 page novel. I especially liked that no one character was the key – so many of them played an instrumental role in wrapping affairs up. Tara got to pull out her dagger – which was way cool. Denovo was defeated by her in combat – even cooler. Abelard had his part with Cat and his cigarette. Cat had and did make some difficult choices there and that was very important for the good guys. Even the ‘bad guys’ had key parts to play. Justice, who did some damage but also some good, was a driving force there at the end. Gustav landing like a bloody vulture in his red robes was quite the image.

2) Surprise! We found Kos. You’ll never believe where he was… Or did you?

Haha! Well, I was joking last week that it would be funny if Abelard’s chain smoking turned out to be integral to keeping Kos alive. But I was just joking around and didn’t really expect it and I certainly didn’t think Kos was actually hiding in the cigarette. That took me by surprise.

And it totally made sense and I loved it. Abelard being this somewhat innocent, totally devoted priest, even tho he had his faith shaken there near the end, had given Kos a warm smokey, homey place to hide while things unfolded.

3) Elayne Kevarian proved to be even more devious than we suspected. What do you think of this Craftswoman now that the dust is settling? Sympathy for Denovo, or victorious fist-pump?

Total fistpump over here! I really didn’t like Denovo for taking over Elayne yet again, and I didn’t like that she allowed it, or fell into the trap easily. But then when she does the reveal, haha! It was excellent that she allowed Denovo’s ego to totally blind him to her wickedly simply plan.

And then he didn’t die in the big reveal and I was a little, ‘Here, let me come over there and give you guys a hand. I am sure you don’t need this dead weight called Denovo. How about I just find a nice hole in the desert to bury him in. No problem!’. And then we get the final scene and it was perfect. I really liked that the shadow monster got an appropriate little home inside Denovo (at least temporarily).

4) I did a little checking and the second book in this series seems to feature a whole new cast, though it’s still set in the same world. Do you think this one wrapped things up for Tara, Abelard and company well enough, or are you wishing for more? For that matter, will you read on?

I will definitely be reading more Gladstone. While I had assumed the series would continue to feature Tara, I was impressed enough with this book that I am willing to give a new cast of characters a chance. I wouldn’t mind if there was another Tara & Abelard & Shale & Cat story.

Other Tidbits:

I laughed a little when Raz asked Cat if she had heard of consent – concerning her just using him for his high while he slept. Dark humor, probably inappropriate, I am sure. Then later she gives him a sincere apology and that was very nicely done. Perhaps these two should date?

Below are the blogs participating:

Lauren – Violin in a Void
Heather – The Bastard Title
Susan (me) – Dab of Darkness

Kushiel’s Dart Read Along – Who’s Interested?

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.

So why haven’t I done a read along of this book before? Well, in short, it is near and dear to my heart. As such, it is with great pleasure and with a little trepidation, I put it out there for a group read (aka group dissection).

This series is full of political intrigue, spies, betrayal, sword fights, escapes, captures, and no small amount of romance. The characters aren’t static, grabbing the readers hearts as they grow throughout the series. The world is rich in deities, queens & kings, many cultures, and excellent food.

And then there is the sex. It’s one of the reasons I love it. The main character of Kushiel’s Dart, Phedre, is a prostitute, though this term doesn’t fully cover her position in society. In an alternate history, Terre D’Ange (France) is a place of multiple deities and many of those deities have houses of worship that recognize sex as a beautiful and sometimes transcendent activity. If you have ever read Gilgamesh, then you might recognize the concept of temple prostitutes.

But it goes a bit further than that. I first picked up a copy of Kushiel’s Dart when I was 23. I definitely didn’t think I was a prude at the time and yet when I read the spicy scenes I found that I was not as well versed in bedroom antics as I thought I was. Throughout the series, I expect there are intimate scenes that will push nearly every reader’s boundaries. There’s BDSM, and not the non-consensual kind that has made the big screen lately. There are bisexual and homosexual relationships, which I would like to think wouldn’t even raise the eyebrows of my readers. There are some non-consensual scenes in the series, but the author does a great job of showing what a transgression such actions are. These scenes are described in as great a detail as the rest of the book – which means great detail.

So who’s with me? I would like to start with Kushiel’s Dart and if enough folks want to continue with the next book, I am more than happy to do so. In total, there are 9 books in the Terre D’Ange Cycle, comprising 3 trilogies that are related to each other. My little heart would do a happy dance if folks wanted to do a group read of all 9 books.

So what does this read along entail? This read along is for the new-to-the-series read as well as though familiar with Jacqueline Carey’s works. Once we have a group of folks, we set a 1st post date and start reading. At ~100 pages per week (paperback version), Kushiel’s Dart will take 10 weeks. Weekly discussion questions are emailed out to the participators a few days before the post date. Folks can post on a blog, live journal, book likes, or even just comment on the host blog’s site with their discussion answers. Whatever works for you. Some folks like to simply be silent stalkers, which is fine too.

Of course I’ll host, but if anyone else would like to host as well, just let me know. Hosting consists of providing that week’s discussion questions and then folks flock to your blog (or wherever) to comment and leave a link to their post.

If you’re interested in participating in any fashion, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email: nrlymrtl@gmail.com

Once I have enough people interested, I will send out a group email to organize the schedule. Once we have a schedule, I will post here.

Interview & Giveaway: Kristian Alva, Author of the Dragon Stone Saga

AlvaDragonStonesEveryone, please welcome the most talented Kristian Alva. I have absolutely loved her Dragon Stone Saga and it was such a treat to be able to interview Ms. Alva, especially since she recently released her lastest book, Rise of the Blood Masters, Book 5 in the series. Please enjoy the chitchat below! The giveaway for a Dragon Stone Saga audiobook is at the very, so don’t miss that!

In your books, the themes of forgiveness and redemption occur more than once. Was that intended from the beginning, or is it something that snuck it’s way into the story?

It wasn’t intentional—but it did “sneak” into the story, and I’m glad that it did. In my own life, I’ve found that holding onto one’s anger was so much worse than just letting it go. I struggle with that aspect of my own life, so it’s a recurring theme in all my books.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Unfortunately, Terry Pratchett. He just passed away this week, and I was so upset by it. Good Omens is my favorite book.

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

My worst job? Waiting tables in a sports bar while I was going to college was downright awful. The money was good, which is why I stayed, but eventually the stress got to be too much. I can’t count the number of times some drunk college kid tried to grab me. That was almost 20 years ago, and I would never have the stomach to do it now.

Who are your non-writer influences?

I’m inspired by visionaries like Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. One was a marketing and design genius, and the other was an engineering genius. As a team, they built one of the most profitable companies in US history. They were both flawed individuals (as we all are), but so talented in their own right. I always wonder if either one of them would have had the same success if they didn’t have each other.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I really enjoy communicating with my fans, especially the much older ones. For some reason, I get a lot of email from elderly folks, who have found my books on e-readers. Since the newer devices allow people to essentially make every book into a large-print edition, my books have found a whole new readership in older folks, and that makes me very happy. As for the most challenging aspect of my job, it would be juggling family and a full-time writing career. My kids are still young, so it’s tough to manage everything and still find time to sleep! I can’t remember the last time I was able to sleep 8 hours uninterrupted.

AlvaVosper'sRevengeIf you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Hmm. That would be a tough one. Terry Pratchett, (who I mentioned above). I would love to speak with Albert Camus, even for a minute. Jack Kirby would be wonderful too (he’s an artistic legend from the golden age of comic books). J. D. Salinger might be interesting. Émile Zola, too (if I could speak French).

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Although I haven’t read the series in many years, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan would be a great choice. A whole course could be structured around his books alone.

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 have had one or two instances of male fans contacting me through Facebook and being a little too forward (if you understand what I mean). I usually decline nicely, and tell them that I’m happily married with 3 kids. That usually solves the problem. For the most part, though, all my fans have always been wonderful.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Sleeping, eating, and wiping snotty noses.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I read voraciously as a child—even books that had adult themes. I remember reading East of Eden when I was about 11 and being shocked by the content. I do remember reading Charlotte’s Web at a very young age, and crying uncontrollably when Charlotte dies. That was tough to deal with at 8 years of age, even if she was only a spider.

AlvaDragonStonesGoodreads blurb for Dragon Stones:

Sequestered deep in the capital, the tyrannical Emperor Vosper weaves a plan to destroy all the dragons. He succeeds in driving them to the very brink of extinction. Only a handful of dragons and riders remain; living in exile in the desert. When young Elias Dorgumir finds a carved dragon stone in the forest, it brings empire soldiers to his doorstep, and puts Elias on the run with a bounty on his head.

With some help from his friends, Elias must escape the emperor’s wrath and try to make it to the safety of the dwarf caverns. Elias holds the key to the salvation of the dragon race. Is Elias strong enough to save himself and halt the evil that is spreading across the land?

Places to Find Kristian Alva






This giveaway is for 1 audiobook in the Dragon Stone Saga. You MUST have an Audible USA account. I have listened to all but the latest in this series. They just keep getting better and better and the narrator, Adam Chase, is simply amazing! Just click on the Rafflecopter link below to be taken to the widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chosen by Mark E. Cooper

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

Publisher: Impulse Books UK (2014)

Narrator: Mikael Naramore

Length: 9 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 2 Rune Gate Cycle

Author’s Page

Book 1, Rune Gate, left us with a bit of a cliff hanger, wondering who was forced through (or chose to go through) the rune gate, a gate between our Earth and the world of Othala. Our heroine, Alex Yorke, is one of those who was forced through the gate. Douglas, who is from Othala, manages to get through, along with some of the folks from the Silver Mist coven. We also have a few bad guys who make it through too. Now, the Earthlings have to learn the rules of Othala, as well as the language. There’s plenty of hidden trouble for them to get into.

I really, really enjoyed Book 1. It had this great mix of the paranormal and detective work. In Book 2, we totally lose the detective work. At first, I was a bit sad to see this gone, as Alex is trained in police work, so we no longer have that aspect to her character. My second issue with this book was that women were second class citizens. This made me sad. All the ladies who came through the gate aren’t taken seriously in Othala, by the Othala men nor by the Earth men who came through the gate. They get to cook, constantly need protecting, are given little belt daggers that are for show. Douglas (and later other men) give the Earth men lessons in sword fighting. Yet no lessons in any kind of self defense are given to the ladies. And they are all OK with that – the Othala men, the ladies, and the Earth men! Ugh!

This bothered me for two reasons: 1) It’s inherently ridiculous for women, who generally make up half the population, to not be armed and trained. This is fiction, so the rules of gender equality can be bent any way the author sees fit. 2) The Earthlings are fighters, even the ladies. So it really seemed to be against their personalities to accept this change in status without a roll of the eyes or a huff over crossed arms on breasts. 3) And why wouldn’t the Earth men speak up and insist the ladies get some training in? Again, another break in character.

As the story unfolds, there are more instances of gender inequality. Men can fight and do magic, but women are stuck with laundry and magic. Squared off, one on one, a male magic user will always be stronger than a female magic user. Sigh…..You get the picture.

So, how was the rest of the book? It was OK. There’s some politics going on that Douglas was entwined in before he left, and he gets re-entwined in upon his return. I found these interesting. Douglas also has to figure out how he feels about Alex and what he will do about her. Meanwhile, Thomas the sheriff from back home and Alex’s past lover is trying to find his niche in this new world. He is use to being in charge. Now he isn’t and he’s a novice with the sword. I really enjoyed his character arc.

And there’s betrayal and redemption (hopefully)! This was the most engaging plot line for me. It was unexpected to have one of Alex’s party commit betrayal. But this individual quickly decides an error was made and works towards redemption. This character’s growth was excellent to watch.

Alex herself does some growing as a character. First, in Othala there are folks who can teach her about her powers. Second, her powers are strong here. In this world, magic users are sometimes gifted by the Goddess with a companion that helps to keep them grounded, their Chosen. By the cover art, I am sure you can guess what form Alex’s Chosen takes. I really enjoyed the dynamic between these two and the surly remarks often made by the Chosen.

So, over all the plot and individual characters were entertaining and engaging. However, the Earth characters’ lack of comment or action concerning the gender inequality on Othala felt like a huge break in character for most of them. I really wanted them to comment or, for the more opinionated characters (Alex, Thomas), to rail against the social norms of Othala. Yet they didn’t and this seemed to go against their characters. Also, do we need yet one more fantasy novel that places women in ‘traditional’ roles? It made some of the plot and some of the choices faced by our heroes predictable. On the other hand, the ending was very well done and satisfying.

Narration: Mikael Naramore gave another good performance. Some of his bad guy voices were a little over done. Other than that, he had a lovely voice for Alex, and a wonderful accent for Douglas. I liked his big surly cat voice too.

What I Liked:  Some characters have very engaging story arcs; betrayal!; the cover art; a satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: None of the Earhers blink an eye at the Othala social norms (gender inequality); there was no detective work.