Two Serpents Rise – Part II

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, Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow your host, so make sure to swing by her blog to see what she thinks, along with everyone else thinks.

1)  So we’re halfway in, and we seem to have uncovered the culprit already… What did you make of the confrontation at Seven Leaf?

I was surprised twice over – 1) that there was actually someone at Seven Leaf to confront and 2) that they not only won, but utterly destroyed their opponent. Since we still have half the book to go, I think we can safely say there is more to come.

Alesandra was probably someone’s pawn, but who’s? We met her first working for Alaxic, but I think it would be a little simple to point the finger at him and him alone.

I have suspicions about Mal, but there’s a question about her below, so I will put my speculations there.

2)  Temoc is still turning up at random, and still protesting his innocence. Doth he protest too much…?

Well, he has been pretty specific in exactly what he is innocent of. He has stated he was not responsible for the tzemoc in Bright Mirror, nor did he contaminate Seven Leaf with the wee beasties. I can’t recall if he said he was clear of the explosion.

Now if we were finding heartless bodies on stone altars, I would be highly suspicious of him. But so far, those have been confined to the past.

Still, someone used Alesandra as a pawn and Temoc could very well be involved in something much, much bigger, and possibly is being used as a figurehead pawn himself.

3)  The Red King. Discuss.

This is a complicated, power-hungry, and super powerful being. He nearly squished Caleb, but he then healed him. So, perhaps he has forgotten how frail us mere humans are. He also lost his lover to the sacrificial table years ago. Obviously, this strongly affected him. I want to know more about how Alaxic was a part of that, and I want to know how he was let off of charges. Why didn’t the Red King kill him in the chaos? What force or legal system could be strong enough to restrain the Red King from killing Alaxic afterwards?

He trusts Caleb, which is a very healthy thing for Caleb, but doesn’t trust Mal. I’m not sure I do either.

4)  And let’s not forget Mal! I confess, I did not see any of those surprises coming. What do you think of Caleb’s ‘sweetheart’ now?

Mal, Mal, Mal. Wow. So where to begin! When she walked out on stage for the signing ceremony I was totally surprised. But that was nothing compared to the surprises we get later in the section.

I really liked the chemistry building between Mal and Caleb, and they seem to like it too. Their dance date was quite sweet and sexy. They also chat about the bigger things (like feeling alive) and the hard stuff (Caleb’s dad and the new order versus the old god worship). So part of me wants these two to work and be able to ride off into the sunset.

But then there are little things that make me think they are working for different teams, kind of like two spies for different organizations that may or may not have opposing goals.

Mal was doing really good at dodging Caleb’s questions. He did try to dodge some of hers. I couldn’t tell if she was relieved to find out Caleb could hold his own, and therefore, giver her back up at Seven Leaf, or having to quickly rethink all her plans for how things would go down at Seven Leaf.

Then they get there and Caleb gets into a bind and is nearly beaten. Mal seems to think that he is dead and she says something along the lines that Caleb wasn’t to be part of this and that’s when she goes all badass on Alesandra. So, was it an innocent, enraged comment made by someone who thinks they just lost a boyfriend? Or was she drawing a line with her comrades and in fury and shame took out Alesandra?

My suspicions are further heightened learning more about how her parents died, and also how she feels about all of it – the trapping and diminishing of the old spirits, and the old ways, the current unending use of the trapped spirits, etc.

Or, I could be way too suspicious.

Other Tidbits:

It was so creepy seeing all the trapped revenants and spirits and whethered gods in Seven Leaf. And that of course means the same is most likely true for Bright Mirror Reservoir as well. A city build on the entrapment of such beings is probably a ticking time bomb.

So Caleb has had Mal’s pendant all this time and we haven’t seen him do anything with it, nor anything terribly drastic happen to him. Mal did chat a little bit about where she got it, but nothing in depth. Is the pendant important or am I just fixated on the shiny?

Temoc made the comment that Caleb sleeps like a stone most nights. Does this mean he pops in regularly to watch his son sleep? I’m not sure if that is sweet or creepy.

Mal believes in blood atonement. This freaks Caleb out. Mal thinks human sacrifice is OK as long as they are volunteers who understand the end they are in for and that they want to die. If Mal gets her way and they do set up a volunteer human sacrifice gig, then I really hope they put in a detailed and lengthy interview and counseling system, like they have for folks who want to change their genitalia drastically. It’s one of those things that can’t be undone.

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

Two Serpents Rise – Part I

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

This week, I’m your host, so make sure to swing by everyone else’s blog to see what everyone else thinks.

1) Poison in the Bright Mirror reservoir! What are your thoughts on the infestation? Then an explosion later on! Any ideas of who is the culprit yet? Are the two events related?

Wow! So the zemet (spelling?) infestation sounds like a real bugger. I like how the infestation is explained, and also how the folks who run the reservoir expected such a thing to happen eventually. What? They things pop up in other reservoirs? Have they occurred in this one before and it is something that has to be wiped out once a decade? Still, they are some cool beasties to throw into the mix.

I definitely think the poisoning and the explosion are related. I also think that whoever is behind it is using both Mal (for showing the way past security) and Timok (spelling) because of his past ill deeds and his political views. I would venture to guess further that 1) someone with a lot of power is behind it (so either the Red King or Alaxic) and 2) Mal’s shark tooth pendant was present at both sites, and I wonder if someone is using it as a conduit to conduct ill deeds. Now that Caleb as the pendant, we shall see if bad luck follows him around.

2) Let’s talk about Mal and the sport of cliff running. Care to compare this sport to one here in our real world? What do you think Mal gets out of the sport?

Cliff running made me think of parkour, of course. And also the slightly less crazy tradition of palo volador (pole flying). In the video below, skip ahead to about 3 minutes in to see the action start.

I think Mal gets several things out of the sport. We’ve seen a few hints that she comes from a more privileged side of town, so perhaps this is her freedom, where she can call all the shots, and suffer all the consequences. Her life is her own when she trains and competes.

3) Are you enjoying the deities and culture this book is infused with? Has any of the architecture wowed or frightened you?

I am really loving the world this story is set in. I’ve lived most of my life in New Mexico, which has vestiges and echoes of the ancient Toltec and Aztec cultures, so may of the proper nouns and myths sound familiar to me.

I will say some of the buildings and the way some things are done have been a little daunting. There are plenty of pyramids throughout the city, pyramids that not too long ago were used for regular sacrifice. And the description of the city’s slaughterhouse with the sharpened, whirling wires was pretty horrendous.

4) The Red King is a pretty serious guy. Will he make the deal with Alaxic concerning the powerhouses known as Achel & Aquel?

I think the Red King desires power more than anything these days, because it seems that is all that is left to him. So I expect he is feeling out multiple ways to gain control over the sister serpents. I am not sure Alaxic will make the deal, as I am not sure he would get what he wants out if it. He seems like the kind of guy who enjoys flaunting his power or a pretty item about to see who else is interested and then lead them on, never intending to give it up.

5) Finally, Caleb has a wealth of scars, linguistic skills, and a complex relationship with his father. Discuss!

Caleb is definitively a most fascinating main character. I think his father raised him to be a high priest, hence the linguistic skills and most likely the scars (which I think will turn out to be ceremonial). At some point, Caleb obviously decided that repeated, and perhaps mass, ceremonial human sacrifice was wrong for so may reasons and turned his back on it. In order to do that, it seems he had to turn his back on his father and certain aspects of his father’s culture. I can’t tell yet if the author will try to mend that rend in this book, or let it stand as simply the way things will be. Honestly, I am not sure how one would mend the damage caused by repeated human sacrifice.

Other Tidbits:

I am really enjoying Teo as Caleb’s best buddy. She’s smart, a good listener, and has a sense of humor when it comes to watching out for Caleb. Also, I love that we have a secondary character that is all these things, and also happens to be lesbian. Hooray for integration in fantasy literature!

There are lots of intense conversations in Part 1 of the book – Caleb talking with Mal over the sharktooth pendant (sexual tension), Caleb chatting with his dad (all sorts of anger and perhaps love), the Red King chatting at Caleb (power and fear and perhaps regret flowing through that conversation), etc. Its excellent that the conversations add so much to the story and aren’t simply filler and fluff.

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

Two Serpents Rise – Read Along – The Schedule

GladstoneTwoSerpentsRisingHello everyone! I am happy to announce that I will be teaming up with with a great group of book bloggers to do a read along of Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone. It is the second book in The Craft Sequence series, but has a new cast of characters and looks like it stands on its own. Feel free to join us!

Book Blurb:

Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father — the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists — has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire… and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

And we have put together the schedule: 

1st Post Date: April 13th Book 1: chapter 1-Interlude: Fire, hosted by Dab of Darkness
2nd Post Date: April 20th Book 2: chapter 16-Interlude: Dreams, hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow
3rd Post Date: April 27th Book 3: chapter 29-Interlude: Tea, Hosted by Violin in a Void
4th Post Date: May 4th Book 4: chapter 36-Epilogue, hosted by Little Lion Lynnet’s

Below are the blogs participating:<

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

More folks are always welcome. If you’d like to join us and receive the weekly discussion questions via email, just leave a comment or email me (nrlymrtl@gmail.com). You can also catch all the fun over at the Goodreads SF/F Read Alongs group.

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.