Naamah’s Curse Part IV

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

This week, Allie at Tethyan Books is our host. We’re covering Chapters 48-64, so be prepared for spoilers below!

 

1) Moirin makes some new friends on the way to Rasa. What do you think will come of her decision to entrust them with the jade medallion? Do you see this as a betrayal of trust or do you think the Emperor would understand?

I think that any time the Emperor sends a traveler away with one of his jade medallions, he knows it could well end up in the hands of others. Perhaps this is a unique way to bring outsiders into Chi’in, providing them safe conduct. I bet he or his guards stationed around the country get to meet lots of random people this way.

I expect Moirin made the right choice in giving up the medallion to get one step closer to Bao and that these traders will do something worthy with it.

2) On her way to the Lady of Rats, Moirin ends up in a dangerous caravan. What are your thoughts on what happened, both with the assault and the illness?

Well, we all knew that the caravan leader was a shifty guy since everyone was concerned about Moirin traveling with his caravan, including herself. So the attempted assault doesn’t come as a surprise… tho I was a bit surprised that Moirin wasn’t really prepared for it. She did well and didn’t complain about losing all the little niceties she had become accustomed to. Later on, she seeks his counsel briefly but I felt that was quite awkward. Still, she needed as much info as she could get. And yet I feel the caravan leader deserved more punishment. He won’t try that again with Moirin but he will with the next woman who catches his eye and isn’t under someone else’s protection.

Sounds like she had some altitude sickness and that lead into some lung infection, perhaps pneumonia.

3) Is seems that caste/class is going to be a major point in this story. Even if Amrita agrees that the caste system may not be just, do you think there’s anything that she and Moirin can do about it? Do you see any path to happiness for Jagrati and/or do you think she deserves to be defeated?

I think Moirin is the spark to start the change of how the caste system is handled (and I suspect abused by some). I doubt the caste system will be done away with in Moirin’s lifetime. The caste system as presented here is too rigid and doesn’t allow for any mobility and keeps a chunk of the population locked into servitude of the lowest kind. It definitely needs reforming and in an ideal world, I would want it gone entirely. Moirin is right when she says that barring the lowest caste from their gods is cruel. I hope Amrita can come to see this and start to make some changes, setting the example herself.

Well, Jagrati was poorly treated, as so many are who are born into a low caste. That should be acknowledged but that doesn’t mean Jagrati gets away with all the naughty things she’s done. Her anger and frustration are a product of the caste system; what actions she took because of those emotions are her responsibility.

4) There is a lot of passion in Kushiel’s Legacy, but the sex scene in this section doesn’t involve much. Given all of the focus on “love as thou wilt”, what do you think about Amrita’s gift and it’s acceptance by Naamah? What do you think about the idea of sex without desire, but for compassionate purposes?

It’s interesting that we have a pity fuck thrown in here, isn’t it? It’s very nicely done, with both participants caring for each other even if Amrita has no passion for it. Compassion is a form of love and Amrita is compassion personified. That’s why she can be so accepting of Naamah’s presence even as she feels no true desire for Moirin. Carey does a great job of showing one more side to Naamah with this coupling.

5) Bao returns! I think we were all a little irritated with him for his Tatar adventures. Do his actions here change your opinion of him? Do you think he has escaped Jagrati’s diamond for good?

I think Moirin should have yelled at him in frustration and called him ‘Stupid Boy!’ during the first meeting. Even with Jagrati there, that stood a good chance of getting through to him. As it was, it was pretty amusing how he suddenly realizes it really is her and then passes out from illness.

Obviously, he went off seeking her and his heart was broken when he thought she died. So, yeah, I like the guy once again even if he’s still a bit thick skulled. He’s finally figured out what he wants and he wants Moirin.

No, I don’t think he’s fully free of Jagrati’s influence but the only way to test that is to put Bao in front of Jagrati and her diamond once again. For now, he has to shake off the opium, which will be a big enough challenge.

Other Tidbits:

Amrita’s son Javindra (spelling?) seems like a bright lad that will be able to lead his people one day.

Chess! Yay!

A temple full of rats. Hmm… so who cleans the temple if the lowest caste isn’t allowed in?

 

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

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

Giveaway & Review: Shades of Murder by Lauren Carr

Scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrator: Mike Alger

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2016)

Length: 5 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 3 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

Mac Faraday, a retired cop and the unexpected inheritor of a famed mystery writer’s fortune, decides to delve into a cold case file when a long-lost painting comes into his possession. With the help of his girlfriend Archie, his dog Gnarly, and his half-brother cop David, they may be able to untangle this cold case. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, lawyer Joshua Thornton has agreed to look into yet a different cold case, one that nearly everyone assumes was committed by a serial killer who has been behind bars for years. Detective Cameron believes him and offer her aid along with a bit of mutual affection.

I really enjoyed this addition to the Faraday/Thornton murder mystery series. It was great seeing how Joshua’s and Cameron’s relationship got started. Cameron’s cat Irving was also a lot of fun and Joshua’s initial response to this ‘detective’ cat was amusing. Honestly, I love how forward Cameron is about everything. She makes no excuses or apologies for her cat and she gets her job done even if it means pissing off management. It’s great that she was the first to show real interest in starting a relationship.

I’ve read several Lauren Carr mysteries by now and I was guessing that the two cold cases were probably related somehow but the link between the two was not immediately obvious and for a good chunk of the tale, I thought that perhaps this book would be the odd ball. No worries! It’s not and I enjoyed how the author tied the two together.

In this particular book, Mac reveals that he’d like a little more out of his relationship with Archie and he doesn’t understand why she doesn’t sleep over, or why he’s not invited to sleep over at her place. After all, they have a fully affectionate relationship otherwise. The answer at the end of the book was amusing and I’m glad these two worked it out.

The murder mysteries themselves were very interesting. Initially, I was more interested in Joshua’s since it involved a serial killer, who is in prison, making a heartfelt plea to the lawyer to look into this particular Jane Doe, swearing he had nothing to do with her. That definitely piqued my interest. Faraday’s mystery took me a little longer to get interested in simply because it looked like so much was known about it all those years ago. However, it turns out that it’s not that simple. There’s plenty there for Mac and Archie to piece together.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Mike Alger was a good fit for this tale. I liked his voice for Cameron quite a bit as he managed to sound like a mature yet playful woman who knows her mind. I also liked his voice for Mac, sounding decisive. He was great with the humor as well. I did feel his accent for Greta could have used some polishing.

What I Liked: Cold case murders; how Joshua & Cameron got together; Irving’s need for company all the time; Gnarly’s love of beach towels; famous artwork; a serial killer’s plea.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really liked this one!

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway & Review: Dead on Ice by Lauren Carr

Scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrator: Mike Alger

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2016)

Length: 6 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 1 Lovers in Crime Mysteries

Author’s Page

The body of adult entertainment star Cherry Pickens turns up in the basement of Joshua Thornton’s cousin. It’s on Cameron Gates’s beat, throwing the two into a joint investigation. West Virginia-Pennsylvania state lines blur as they dig into this mystery.

While I have already ‘met’ Cameron and Jonathan in a later mystery (Kill and Run, Book 1 of Thorny Rose Mysteries), it was great to go back to this tale and meet them afresh. The tale starts off with a body in an old non-functioning freezer in a basement along with a bomb that throws some chaos into the mix. Turns out Cherry Pickens once lived in the area and disappeared years ago after the murder of teen Angie Sullivan. Discovery of Cherry’s body brings up old mysteries, feuds, and questions. I loved the layered mysteries in this book, as is such the case with other Carr mysteries I have enjoyed.

I have to say something about Cameron’s cat Irving. He is both a delight and a distraction. While I love that Irving is such a big part of Cameron’s life, I don’t get her taking him on investigations. She’s a police detective and good at it but having a ride along cat seems a bit silly. Other than that, I love how Irving isn’t too sure about Jonathan being around so much. The skunk scenes were great.

Jonathan’s teen son, Donny, had a great role in this story. He got to play undercover info gatherer at one point and there’s an older woman who’s willing to teach him some interesting things. However, both Cameron and Jonathan don’t approve of this woman.

Speaking of older women, there are two senior citizen ladies who have a bit of a brawl. In this scene they are actually rolling around on the floor yelling, punching, pulling hair, etc. I did find this to be a bit overkill and what might have been comedic turned into silly nonsense. This one scene sticks with me so well because it is simply ridiculous and doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the book. With that said, it does illustrate to great effect the distaste these two ladies have for each other. Their long-time feud becomes the center of the story.

On the side, the romance between Cameron and Jonathan is on. It feels like it has been going on for some time, so I wonder if this book is interconnected to yet an earlier series. Either way, it’s nice to have a touch of romance in the tale that doesn’t eclipse the murder mystery.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Mike Alger did a pretty good job with this story. His voices for Jonathan and Cameron were good and he does a really good old lady voice as well. I liked his teen voice for Donny too. I did feel that some of his female voices could use a touch more femininity but I can also hear that he is giving it his best.

What I Liked: Layered murder mystery; the state lines issue; there’s a bomb in the basement!; an old feud finally put to rest.

What I Disliked: Why take your cat on investigation?; that rolling around on the floor brawl scene – too silly!

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Understanding the Stars by Xela Culletto

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Lori Prince

Publisher: Xela Culletto (2017)

Length: 5 hours 59 minutes

Author’s Page

This X-files-like tale is set in Colorado. Alex Blackwood is just about to graduate high school when her life takes an unexpected turn. Ronan drops a stunning revelation on her involving three alien races, the CIA, and some secret surveillance. In the midst of all this, Alex’s dad is suffering from cancer and she has her pizza delivery job as well.

Ronan was the most interesting character for me. He’s a human descended from a group of humans that left Earth ages ago to co-habitate with an alien race (Salurians? My spelling is probably off since this was the audiobook version). I would have liked to get to know him more in this book and what his life in space is like. Now the Salurians are back and have been watching Earthers for a few decades, simply learning about current cultures and such.

Now the creepy part is that Ronan was assigned to watch Alex since she was 14 (she’s 18 at this point in the story) and this involves an implant in her. Yep. He knows every time she went to the bathroom, had the stomach flu, or suffered growing pains. On his part, I can see the insta-love that we stumble into later. I didn’t really care for the insta-love stuff, but Alex seemed pretty happy with it. Setting aside the beginning of the romance, it later grows into something meaningful as these two develop a friendship.

The Salurians need to leave ahead of schedule because the aggressive Kema’dor are on their way. Initially, they are portrayed as these violent tech thieves. Later on, Alex meets some of them and has to form her own opinion. Much later in the story, a third alien race (the Meddas – again, spelling?) come into play. I really liked that not all aliens are created the same and each race has their own ethics and goals.

I did feel that Alex was a little too easy going about these bigger revelations but freaked out a bit over small things (like the first image she saw of a Kema’dor). This didn’t work for me in terms of character development but it did move the plot along swiftly. I did like that not everything turns out OK for everyone. Alex has to deal with some sadness and loss. This added some seriousness to the story and gave Alex a little depth.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Lori Prince was a really great Alex. She sounded young but right there on the cusp of adulthood. She gets an A for effort when it comes to the alien voices and accents. I realize this is a difficult thing to pull off but I have heard better. That said, I did like her voice for the alien Malsoar. She did great with Alex’s feelings.

What I Liked: Multiple alien civilizations; Ronan’s personal history; not everyone gets out unscathed; the CIA mixed in there.

What I Disliked: The insta-love; could have used more about Ronan; why wasn’t Alex more stunned about these big things?

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Xela Culletto:

Xela is a working mother of three, living in the Utah. She teaches secondary English and after talking to students for years about following their dreams and doing whatever it takes to achieve them, she decided to take her own advice and complete her lifelong goal of writing a novel. The idea of life on other planets has always fascinated her, and she wondered what they would think of humanity, which is what spawned the idea for the plot of “Understanding the Stars”. When she’s not playing with her kids, or sorting through the endless laundry, you’ll find her watching The Walking Dead, horseback riding, or working on her next book.

Amazon ~ GoodReads ~ Twitter

Synopsis of Understanding the Stars:

Alexandra Blackwood is minding her own troubled life when she unknowingly gets caught up in an extraterrestrial conflict. Ronan, a human with his own alien-entangled past, has been keeping an eye on her and sets out to help her escape looming abduction, and maybe win her heart.

Audible ~ Amazon

About Narrator Lori Prince:

Lori Prince is a classically trained actor with a BFA from Syracuse University.  She has performed Off-Broadway as well as at top regional theaters including; The Denver Center, Alliance Theater Company and PlayMakers Repertory Company among others.  She has also appeared on Television in Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU and Are We There Yet?. Her voice work includes various characters in the feature film Epic, as well as additional dialogue recorded for over 50 feature films and TV shows.

Website

GIVEAWAY!!!

Win an Audible.com audiobook of your choice! Ends June 11th.

Understanding the Stars Giveaway

Naamah’s Curse Read Along – The Schedule

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Naamah’s Curse is Book 2 of the third trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. You don’t have to have read the first two trilogies to enjoy this third one, as it occurs a few generations after the second trilogy.

Here is the current schedule:

Week 1: Chapters 1-15, post Monday June 5 Hosted by Allie
Week 2:  Chapters 16-32, post Monday June 12 Hosted by Lynn
Week 3: Chapters 33-47, post Monday June 19 Hosted by Susan
Week 4: Chapters 48-64, post Monday June 26 Hosted by Allie
Week 5: Chapters 65-END, Post Monday July 3 Hosted by Lynn

And here is the current list of participators:

Alli at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Book Blurb for Naamah’s Curse:

Alone and far from the land of her birth, young Moirin sets out across wild Tatar territory to find her beloved Bao, the proud Ch’in stick fighter who holds the missing half of her diadhanam, the divine soul-spark of her mother’s people. But the lovers’ reunion is short lived. Moirin is abducted, cast in chains that bind her magic, and betrayed into the hands of a fanatic Yeshuite priest. Fiercely zealous, he is determined to save Moirin’s soul and convert her to his faith…or see her stoned to death for her many sins. With her soul declared a battleground of the gods, Moirin will struggle to hold on to her humanity and survive – all the while wondering if the gift of love bestowed on her by the goddess Naamah is a blessing or a curse.

Wrestling with issues of faith and divine will, Naamah’s Curse explores what happens when mortal men seek to mold the gods in their own images.

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 NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Hot Air by Denise Kahn

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: 4Agapi (2017)

Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

Author’s Page

Sean’s roots start in Ireland with a girl on the cusp of womanhood. She eventually flees to the USA to get a fresh start where she meets the man who will become her husband. Together, they raise Sean who becomes a pararescueman and goes on to battle terrorists in Afghanistan and at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

I really wanted to like this story but it needs quite a bit of polishing. We start off with young Sean and we have several chapters of him being a kid. This part of the story is suited for kids. The sentences are shorter and the vocabulary easier than what we have later in the book. The story shifts when we get a long story about Fiona, Sean’s mother. We spend several chapters with her and then a few with her and Tibi, the Navajo man who becomes her husband and Sean’s father. Yet then we get another shift once Sean joins the military. There’s lots of cussing and some practical joking along with military stuff. Altogether, it felt like I had read 3-4 short stories, all with their own flavor, that had been smashed together in this book. It felt disjointed.

The description of this book makes me think this a thriller full of action and suspense. However, the terrorists and action really don’t come into the story until sometime in the second half. There is a little glimpse into this with the prologue but then we have half the book or more before we return to it.

The lengthy section about young Sean stands well on it’s own. He’s fascinated with the hot air balloons that are common in and around Albuquerque a good chunk of the year. There’s this mystical quality to his dreams as he travels back in time to witness the first European attempts at hot air ballooning. This section is decently written even if I find that it doesn’t really fit the description of the book.

In Sean’s late teens, we get a very lengthy flashback of Fiona’s history. Again, I liked this section on it’s own. There are parts of it that did seem over simplified, but for a short story explaining a character’s motivations for leaving Ireland and making her own way in a foreign land, it was OK. This section includes Fiona meeting Tibi, a native New Mexican and full-blood Navajo. Their romance is sweet, if simplistic.

Once Sean joins the military, things do pick up. There’s plenty more characters to enjoy, like Niko (Sean’s best friend) and later a little more romance as the men find love. I did find the terrorists to be simply drawn, not having much depth. The action follows Sean home and he has to do some heroics at the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

As a New Mexican, I just wanted to point out that there is a difference between salsa and sauce and typically when ordering a New Mexican dish with ‘Christmas’ on it, you are getting both red chile sauce and green chile sauce, not salsa (as the book has it in one chapter). These little inaccuracies just added to the over all feel that this story needed yet one more edit before going to print.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Denise Kahn could do with some polishing on both her narrating skills and her audio production skills. This recording had a tinny quality for most of it and the volume ranged throughout it. Also she took several chapters to settle into 1 pronunciation for Tibi; since she is also the author, I felt this was sloppy. She does make a solid effort to give each character an appropriate accent and for the most part, she is consistent (though I can’t speak to the accuracy of some of her foreign accents). The book does have some nice little bits of music in between each chapter.

What I Liked: The cover art; the over all concept; Sean’s love of being up in the air; the action scenes.

What I Disliked: The book feels like multiple short stories were smashed together and they don’t flow from one to another well; the narration and audio production were tough on this book.

Interview: Maya Tyler, Author of A Vampire’s Tale

Join me in welcoming Maya Tyler to the blog! She’s the author of A Vampire’s Tale, a paranormal romance. She’s also written the more sensual Dreamhunter, also a paranormal romance.

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

I recently discovered Outlander on Netflix and it has quickly become a favorite show. I’m completely enthralled, borderline obsessed, with it. The show combines my love of romance with my fascination of historical and paranormal.

From IMDB… Outlander is a British-American television drama series based on the historical time travel Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon… It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who in 1945 finds herself transported back to the Scotland of 1743, where she encounters the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings.

If I were cast as an extra on Outlander, I would love to play any role which has a close encounter with the dreamy Jamie Fraser.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

I would choose a happy ending for Captain Hook of J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, otherwise known as Peter Pan. I happily bought into the “reformed” Captain Hook that ABC’s Once Upon A Time portrayed, seeing him more as a tragic hero than an evil villain.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold? 

The library has ceiling to floor bookshelves, a sliding, wooden ladder, a vaulted, gothic cathedral ceiling, and a gas fireplace. The floors are worn, wooden planks. Warm sunshine filters in through tall windows, and the room smells wonderful—a combination of musty books and fresh coffee (or tea, if you prefer). In this classic space, I’d curl up in an oversized leather club chair and read a historical romance novel. This dream public library has an inviting atmosphere, a magical space that fosters book love, with the latest in children’s and adult’s fiction and non-fiction books. It contains literary classics, but also the film versions. Books which have been turned into film, and the associated films, will be a feature collection.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I’d pick a superhero, the gallant Thor, the Chris Hemsworth version, to rescue me! <<sigh>>

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

I have had the great fortune to experience so many fantastic books, movies, and shows so it’s hard to select just one I would like to experience again. What story continues to make my heart stop and my breath catch? After much thought, my choice would be my new all-time favorite TV series Outlander. I’m in the middle of season 2 right now, and I can’t watch it fast enough. After I finish season 2, I’m going to read the books—hopefully this will re-create a first-time experience for me.

What makes you fall in love with a story?

I fall in love with a story that makes me believe. And, with that belief, I become entrenched in the story and invested in the outcome. I absorb it as quickly as I can—reading non-stop or binge-watching—and re-live it again in my imagination. I hope my stories have the same effect on my readers.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

A warning label is more of an external observation. It’s not always easy to identify your own faults or short-comings. That said, I asked the person who knows me the best—my husband. He immediately said, “Sensitive.” I asked him why, and he hesitated. I knew he didn’t want to offend me. This potentially explosive question could create a dicey situation—similar to the “Do I look fat in this?” scenario. I explained why I asked him, and he elaborated enough for me to determine that I’m…

Sensitive, reacts with emotion.

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

I was a quiet, shy kid. I liked school, and I got good grades. I had a few close friends, but, as a bit of a homebody, I also liked to spend time by myself. My favorite hobbies were writing—fiction, poetry, songs—theatre, music, and reading. I wanted to be a writer, an actress, or a lawyer when I grew up. I had even planned on studying journalism in university, but life has its own ideas, and I didn’t return to writing until my twenties.

Places to Follow Maya Tyler

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Book Page

GoodReads

Book Blurb for A Vampire’s Tale:

A paranormal romance author who doesn’t believe in vampires? An ancient vampire who wants to tell the world his story?

A Vampire’s Tale

What happens when Marisa Clements, writer of vampire stories, non-believer of vampires, meets Corgan Halton, an actual, real “live” vampire? The unexpected, of course. Picture a cascading journey which propels Marisa into a world she never believed in and exposes her to a danger she never imagined existed. Picture an untold tale about the non-Hollywood vampire. Are you ready to uncover the truth?

Amazon

Author Bio:

Maya Tyler is a romance author, blogger, wife, and mother. She has a degree in Commerce, but writing is her true passion. Her short story “Just for Tonight” is included in an anthology called With Love from Val and Tyne and her debut paranormal romance novella was Dream Hunter, published in December 2014. Her second paranormal romance novel A Vampire’s Tale released in March 2017. She writes paranormal romance with a twist and all her books have a common theme – happily ever after. When she’s not writing, you can find her having fun with her husband and sons.

Corralling Callie by Amelia Smarts

Narrator: Gideon Welles

Publisher: Amelia Smarts (2017)

Length: 3 hours 45 minutes

Author’s Page

Callie Broderick is an orphan who is ready for a big change in her life. She’s masterminded a plan to ride a stagecoach out west to California where her fiance Albert awaits her. She’s willing to be a mail-order bride to get away from her poor life and past. However, as she comes to know the coachman, Jude Johnson, she starts questioning her choice to marry this unknown Albert.

I joined this blog tour on a whim because I do like a good western from time to time. Plus there’s spanking, which I always find both amusing and potentially erotic. This book was fun though there’s not much depth to it. Callie feels like she’s 16, though the description puts her at 18. She’s got this rough past as an abused orphan and yet she seems to lack some street smarts. Her character could have used a bit more to it.

Then we have Jude Johnson. He’s an ex-soldier and an experience coachman. He provides a steady, and sometimes stern, hand for Callie to clasp on to…. when he’s not using it to smack her bottom. He’s a decent guy and he felt like twice Callie’s age. I wanted to know more about him and his past. He carries a confidence that is attractive.

The main premise of the book was good. Callie wants to leave her old life behind and this chance to be the wife of a man with a stable income in far off Sacramento seems like a dream come true. She’s exchanged letters with Albert over the past several months and he appears to be a decent person. I did wonder how Callie came to read and write so well and how she came about the paper, ink, and postage to exchange so many letters. It’s these little things that would have made this a really good story had they been included.

So let’s talk about those spankings, because that is honestly why some of us picked this book up. The first few spankings were chaste punishments for Callie doing something that she shouldn’t. Her relationship with Jude really does start off with this older man in charge punishing a young disobedient pup feel to it. But then things start to shift as they become friends. Plus Callie is afraid of the dark and needs comforting nightly in order to sleep. That puts them in an intimate if still chaste position on a regular basis.

Eventually, we get 1 sex scene. It’s over quickly and lacks in description. While the romance and anticipation leading up to it were sweet, the actual love scene needed more page time. A lot more page time. The ending for Jude and Callie was a nice one and I can see how the author may well build upon this. Perhaps there will be a sequel. After all, there’s plenty more than spankings for the two to explore.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Gideon Welles can read to me any time he wants to. This is one of the sexiest voices I have heard in some time. He is excellent as Jude Johnson. He’s got just the right amount of gruffness to his voice. His female voice for Callie was decent. He also had distinct voices for the other characters in the story. I liked his regional accents as well.

What I Liked: Great narration; Callie is not only running from her past but running towards a brighter future; I want to know more about Jude – he’s intriguing; it’s a sweet ending.

What I Disliked: The only sex scene was over so quickly!; a few more details would have added greatly to the story.

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Amelia Smarts:

Amelia Smarts is a #1 Amazon bestselling author who was named Best New Spanking Romance Author in the 2016 Spanking Romance Reviews Reader’s Poll. She writes kinky romance novels containing domestic discipline, spanking, and Dominance/submission. Usually her stories involve a cowboy, and they always involve a man’s firm hand connecting with a woman’s naughty backside. She believes it’s important to tell a good story in addition to portraying hot sex and discipline scenes. For each book, she endeavors to write complex, flawed heroes and heroines who struggle, but eventually succeed, in their journey to love and happiness. A longtime lover of the written word, Amelia holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in creative writing and English. She loves to read, which allows her writing to be influenced by many different genres in addition to romance, including mystery, adventure, history, and suspense.

Website ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads ~ Twitter ~ Amazon

Synopsis of Corralling Callie:

For 18-year-old orphan Callie Broderick, going west as a mail-order bride seems to be the only hope she has for a decent husband. But when she sets out for the gold-mining town of Sacramento with nothing more than the clothes on her back and a stagecoach ticket, she quickly discovers that the trip will be quite a bit different than she expected.

As a former soldier and an experienced coachman, Jude Johnson is used to difficulties and dangers of all kinds during the arduous journey west, but he has never had to deal with trouble like Callie before. Not being the kind of man to kick a penniless orphan off his coach, he puts up with the sassy, disobedient girl for as long as he can, but when Callie’s antics put the lives of his passengers at risk Jude is forced to take matters into his own hands and spank her soundly.

The stern punishment leaves her thoroughly chastened and promising to behave, and Jude soon realizes that when she puts aside her foul-mouthed, defiant façade, the real Callie is as sweet and kind as she is beautiful. As the days pass, he takes it upon himself to guide her, care for her, and give her the loving discipline she so desperately needs, as often as she needs it. But when they reach their destination, will he be able to give her up?

Audible ~ Amazon

About Narrator Gideon Welles:

Gideon Welles is a man of many talents. He has a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies from Norwich University, an MBA in global technology management from American University, and engaged in Pre-Doctoral studies in Strategic Leadership at Cornell University. In addition to the voice acting, Gideon has professional experience as a real estate investor, as well as a stage and film actor. His personal interests include music, photography, fast cars, and travel.

Audible Books Narrated by Gideon Welles

Giveaway & Review: Old Loves Die Hard by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: James C. Lewis

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2016)

Length: 7 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 2 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone novel.

Set in Maryland, Mac Faraday is looking forward to a nice companionable evening with his neighbor Archie and his dog Gnarly when his ex-wife Christine unexpectedly shows up. She wants to reconcile but Mac isn’t even going to consider it. Making sure she’s safely ensconced at the nearby resort for the night, he plans to have a final conversation with her the next morning when she’s sober. However, she and the man that wrecked their marriage, Stephen, are both found dead at the resort. The plot thickens when Stephen’s room is searched and old case files that concern Mac are discovered.

It was nice to return to Mac Faraday’s neck of the woods. I have previously enjoyed Book 5, The Murders at Astaire Castle. Here, I get to know more about Mac’s origins. He’s a retired homicide detective who unexpectedly inherited a fortune from his birth mother. He’s also got a half-brother (David), the large mansion he now resides in, and the local resort. With no day job, the mystery of his ex-wife’s murder becomes the focus of his keen wit and all his energy.

As with every Lauren Carr novel I have experienced, this mystery has layers, some of which go back decades. For some reason Stephen was looking into old case files, several of which were tied to Mac in some way. The Chief of Police (David) has to take a hard look at Mac before he can be cleared in the murders, and their blood relationship ruffles some people’s feathers. Now I did find it a little too convenient that David was OK with Mac investigating the murders. Even with him cleared, he still has a stake in the outcome of the investigation. While it makes for great drama having Mac run around asking tough questions and discovering clues, I did have to work hard to suspend my disbelief on this point.

Archie is a wonder with modern electronics and worked closely with Mac’s birth mother (a famous mystery writer) for over a decade before she passed away. She’s become friends with Mac and there’s potentially a romance building between the two. While I do like her character, the author doesn’t really do much with her. Christine, who dies pretty early on, has more influence on the story than Archie does.

There’s this one side character who is of South American decent and works as a maid. The plot felt a little weak when Christine’s sisters immediately equated this person to a South American maid they had years ago. How many documented and undocumented South American women work as maids in the US? Too many to count. So I did feel that it was a really big leap for everyone to assume this maid was the same one who worked for the sisters in the past. While this leap did move the plot forward, it could have been done much better.

Otis the squirrel added some perfect comedic relief. I also liked Gnarly’s klepto behavior, not that I want to encourage it. Still, it was funny how he was so picky about what dog chew he stole from the store.

The answer to the big mystery wasn’t what I was expecting. I liked the surprise, but I felt the execution was a little far-fetched. I wanted a bit more build up or a few more details – something to help me buy into it. Even with that, I found the over all story to be engaging and entertaining. I really like Mac’s character.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: James C. Lewis makes a really good Mac Faraday. He sounds like a retired cop. I also liked how he managed to make David, Mac’s half-brother, sound related. His female voices could use more femininity but each character was distinct.

What I Liked: A layered mystery; Mac’s character; Gnarly and Otis; Archie’s skills; David’s easy relationship with Mac; an unexpected twist at the end.

What I Disliked: I had to work hard several times to suspend my disbelief and just go with the story; Archie’s character is under used.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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The Head by Brian Barr

Narrator: Rick Gregory

Publisher: Brian Barr (2017)

Length: 48 minutes

Author’s Page

What would you do if you found a lone human head in the yard? You’d probably do something practical, like dial 911 or bury it. What if that head started talking to you and begged not to be left alone? Yep. That’s the situation our heroine Elizabeth finds herself in.

This tale is equal parts horror, suspension, love story, and humor. First, it’s a decapitated head named Bill complaining about a headache. Ha! Poor Bill doesn’t have many memories but he does enjoy Elizabeth’s company. As time goes by, Elizabeth comes to care for Bill as well despite Bill’s off-putting odor.

Things move along as Bill insists they go in search of his body. More memories come back and Elizabeth is drawn into a twisted paranormal situation. Let’s just say that Bill comes from a messed up family.

It was fun and I wasn’t expecting so much humor nor the love story. Also, on a personal note, my husband’s name is Bill and I couldn’t help but picture his head as The Head in this tale. That just added to the enjoyment of this story, not that I want to decapitate the man. Just if he ever ends up in that situation, I’d like to think I would love him all the same. For such a short story, it was full of entertaining surprises.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a great job as Bill the detached head. He fluctuated between serious and caring, pleading and decisive, with ease. His character voices were distinct though I felt that Elizabeth could sound a bit more feminine without sounding slightly cartoony.

What I Liked: Surprising twists!; Ha! A love story!; bits of horror but not gratuitously so; humor mixed in as well.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was an unexpectedly funny love story.

What Others Think:

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