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.

Three Parts Dead – Part II

GladstoneThreePartsDeadHello everyone! Welcome to the Three Parts Dead read along! You can catch the schedule over HERE. Feel free to join us int he comments if you like!

This week, I am your host, so make sure to check out everyone’s posts to see what everyone else thinks. My apologies for posting late. It’s been a crazy weekend with the greater half out of town and me trying to make a deadline while also being on farm duty.

This week we covered Chapters 8-14. There be spoilers for up through Chapter 14 in the Q&A below!

1)Throughout this section, we learn little tidbits about our main characters: Tara & her time at the Secret Universities, Kevarian and her past works, Abelard & his childhood. What fascinated you the most?

Tara’s time in the Secret Universities was the most interesting, though I suspect Ms. Kevarian has some stories to top Tara’s. It seems Prof Donovo is pretty corrupt and that the school is OK with turning a blind eye. No wonder Tara set his lab on fire!

And did I understand that correctly? Did Kevarian create Justice like 40 years ago after Kos’s love, Cyril (spelling?), died? Wow! So I bet there would be plenty of awkward silences over tea between Kat & Kevarian, should they ever sit down for a break.

And who knew Abelard had a thing for boilers from such a young age? Perhaps he would have been an engineer had there been any schools around.

2) So many conspiracies! Someone tried to burn out some of Raz’s memories, there were super secret contracts between the dead Cabot and Kos and some unknown third party, and Abelard found a hidden altar in the heart of Kos’s church! Do you think they are connected?

Right now, yes, I think we will find all these things connected by the end of the book. Though I don’t really know how that will all tie together. I am not too sure what Raz was carrying and how it ties to this case. Perhaps that chest had a copy of the super secret contracts, but a copy that wasn’t missing the co-signer’s name.

The hidden altar took time, money, and plenty of folks being hush hush in order to set up. I think Abelard might be in for huge, nasty shock to find many members of his beloved church in on the conspiracy. He might cry over it, poor dude.

And, of course, I really want the evil Donovo to be tangled up in it all so that he falls and breaks several bones, along with having his reputation destroyed, by the end of the book. But that might just be wishful thinking.

3) This question is just for fun & came about from discussion over at Violin in the Void last week. Abelard is a chain smoker and his worship of Kos keeps him safe from any ill effects of said smoking. If there were multiple deities who could protect you from ill effects of different vices (alcohol, illicit drugs, gluttony, etc.), which vice, if any, would you pick?

I have been pondering this question for a week. I really have 2 vices – sex and food. Luckily, I have a very accommodating man in my life, so sex is not an issue. But what if I didn’t have him? Well, then I would need protection from STDs and unintended pregnancies (because no birth control is 100%). Oh, and also the gift to choose partners wisely. So, would I choose food to sex, if I was to worship a deity? Hmmm….well, I am a pretty good cook. So I will go with sex.

4) Stonemen! Will Tara be able to win over Shale and gain his assistance? Will Justice’s Black Suits face off against them, potentially destroying the city? Discuss!

Wow! OK, if Tara is to win over Shale she either has to protect him from something bigger and nastier or offer him something he desperately wants and can’t get elsewhere. After all, she did practically kill him, take his face off, interrogate him on a mannequin’s head, and then carry him around for a few days folded up in a book in her handbag. That won’t be easy to forget, even if she did save him from the Black Suits.

The Stonemen seem fascinating, especially now that we have a bit more of their past. But they also seem very married to that past and unable to let go and redefine themselves. With that said, the Black Suits are very married to their purpose and don’t appear to be very flexible. I think that if Tara can’t clear things up in a hurry then these two parties will clash and the city could be left in ruin.

5) The Courthouse of Crafts is a strange place. Feel free to comment on it. Ms. Kevarian tells Tara, last minute, that she will be the one to face Donovo. Calculated way to boost Tara’s confidence? Or a cruel way to test her?

Yes, that is an odd building. Since the building somehow knows your purpose there, and will only let you walk to the area you need, I wonder if it also shows you the exterior you need to see? Also, this kind of craftwork probably keeps people from getting up to mischief..or at least, makes them work really hard to accomplish it.

The face off between Donovo and Tara was very interesting. The imagery of the dead Kos mixed with the legalese speak was fascinating! I think Tara did well, considering the hold Donovo had on her mind in the past. As for Ms. Kevarian’s intentions…..well, I am not sure yet. We don’t know all the much about her, and she keeps a lot close to her chest. However, I do get the feeling that she has a great dislike for Donovo, so whatever her reasoning for putting Tara in the ring, I doubt it was to benefit Donovo in any way.

Other Tidbits:

When Abelard asked Kevarian her age, and we learned a bit more about what Crafting does to the user’s body, ugh! But also, hooray! They can live as a long as they are creative enough to find a way to do so. But it seems they have to give up plenty as they age. Care to inhabit a stone statue for a few decades?

There have been a few references to Tara using starfire, and one reference to her sitting naked at night in order to absorb starlight for her Crafting. I wonder how long one night’s worth of starlight lasts? Does it kind of fade a bit each day, even with out use? Fascinating!

Such a cliff hanger! Tara is about to face off with Shale. Kat is messing around with the sleeping Raz, getting her next fix. Meanwhile, Abelard is running for his life from some horrible shadow monster. It was really hard for me to stop at this point.

Below are the blogs participating:

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

Three Parts Dead – Part I

GladstoneThreePartsDeadHello everyone! Welcome to the Three Parts Dead read along! You can catch the schedule over HERE. Feel free to join us int he comments if you like!

This week, Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog is our host, so make sure to swing by her place to catch her crafty answers and to see what everyone else thinks.

1. Max Gladstone isn’t holding any hands here, we’re dropped straight into the world (which is a bit ironic given the start – but I’ll get to that) and expected to pick up and run with it.  Are you enjoying the style and, more to the point,  what ‘reveals’ have been the most surprising for you so far??

I think this is great! I love books like this that treat the reader like they can figure stuff out and run with the rest. I did have to make sure I could dedicate a good chunk of my brain to the storyline, at first. As I am listening to the audiobook, this was especially important.

I really am enjoying the style as the main character, Tara, has a sense of humor that is something like my own. Plus the world is fascinating.

The gargoyle face removal was the biggest reveal for me! Yikes! I did NOT see that coming and we had to wait and see why Tara did that, and what she planned to do with the face.

2. At the start of the book Tara graduates and is cast out of school (literally from a great height) simultaneously – any ideas about why that might be?

Haha! I am sure her mouth may have had something to do with it. Also, she doesn’t seem to keep close to social norms. Like later she decides to wake up some corpses in order to protect the town, yet doesn’t really consider how the townsfolk would feel about that until it is too late. She strikes me as someone who jumps in and does whatever it is and then considers the fall out later.

So, maybe she messed up the sewage system or the kitchens or both! Perhaps all the professors woke up one morning to find that their toenails had been swapped with another. I know that would put me off!

3. I’m always interested in the magical systems and how they work and the one here seems to almost be a ‘payback’ type of affair.  What are your thoughts about the magical system so far, we do have a dead deity after all, not to mention it appears that regular everyday people can access magic as well as deities. Discuss please (if only to enlighten my tiny brain!)

This definitely feels like magic and deities have become almost currency, doesn’t it? It’s very interesting to have folks like Tara that approach deities and magic with a rather pragmatic, utilitarian way and yet, we have priests and worshipers who are all about the awe and wonder and mystery and treat deities and their magic reverentially. I am quite enjoying this dichotomy. I tend to lean towards Tara’s way of thinking, which of course adds to the mystery of the two dead we have so far.

4. We’re only a third in but how are you feeling towards the characters so far. Are you developing any favorites already, any sneaky suspicions of any of the characters or are you loving them all?

Since we have been plunged in, I am still sorting through all the characters. There aren’t any I don’t like yet, though some are rather more stuffy than others. I am really enjoying Tara and her humor and the messes she gets herself into and back out of.

Tara’s employer and former teacher seems a bit stiff, but so far I think she has a good heart and is sincere in her efforts to figure out who murdered the deity.

Other Tidbits:

The gargoyle fascinates me! Stone Men and Stone Women are not exactly welcomed in the city, and I really want to learn the backstory on that. And while Tara can interrogate the gargoyle face here and there, I have to wonder if he will stay just a face. What happens if he gets a body? Will Tara have one more enemy? She must have cast some preservative spell on it to, to keep it from rotting and stinking up her room!

Below are the blogs participating:

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