Owl Dance by David Lee Summers

Narrator: Edward Mittelstedt

Publisher: Sky Warrior Publishing LLC (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clockwork Legion

Author’s Page

Set in the 1870s, this Wild West steampunk adventure is full of surprises. Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi make a great pair of heroes as they travel from New Mexico to California. Gun fights, dirigibles, steam-powered mechanical wolves, a Russian plot to take a chunk of the US, plus an unexpected alien influence called Legion provide a dangerous playground for our main characters – and plenty of entertainment for us.

I read this book back in 2011 and it was great to see it come to audio! I enjoyed it more in this medium as the narrator did it justice. If you love your Wild West and you like it weird, then this is a great series to get into. The story includes several different ethnicities and I love that about this book. The frontier West was a very diverse place and having that reflected in this work is worthy.

Our Persian healer, Fatemeh, has traveled far from home and she’s a bit vague about why. I love that we have this little mystery about her. Also, she talks to owls… or does she? She claims that she only understands their nature but to others it looks like she is actually communicating with them. While I felt the romance between her and Ramon sparked a little too easily, I also feel they make a great couple. Fatemeh is of the Baha’i faith while Ramon is Catholic and this sets up a dynamic to explore not just culture clash but also these different religions.

Meanwhile Ramon has recently had a big shift in his life. He was a sheriff in Socorro, NM and then things went south.. and so did he while he fled with Fatemeh (who was about to be executed for witch craft). Their search for work takes them all the way out to California. Along the way they meet the eccentric inventor, Professor Maravilla. He’s got a thing for steam-powered mechanical beasties. I loved his owls!

Then there’s the bounty hunter Larissa who I look forward to hearing more about later in the series. She’s got plenty of gumption and loves her independent life but she’s drawn into this bigger plot as Russia starts making moves to invade the West coast.

Now lets talk about that alien influence Legion. We come across it early on but it’s not clear right away if it’s something supernatural, man-made, or from outer space. Whatever it is (and yes, we do get that cleared up in this book), it has a hive mind and can communicate directly with humans as well as influence them. So we got the Wild West (yay!), steampunk (awesome!), and now this unknown big picture influencer. The author does a great job of pulling this all together.

My one real quibble with the story is that sometimes it’s a little too easy for Ramon and Fatemeh to convince a ‘villain’ to assist them. It seems like everyone is really a good guy at heart and was just simply misunderstood or was acting under some false or incomplete data. I think the story would have benefited from a real villain or two.

The Narration: Edward Mittelstedt did a really good job. His Spanish accent was consistent throughout the story. Now, his Spanish pronunciations were sometimes different from what I expected. Living in New Mexico, I expected a certain accent (like for Chavez or Maravilla). Mittelstedt’s pronunciation isn’t wrong but it’s not the local dialect either. I believe it’s the difference between high proper Spanish and the Southwest Hispanic accent. Besides that, he was great with keeping all the characters distinct and also with the various emotions throughout the story. He also gave Fatemeh a consistent Persian accent. His female voices were believable.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; Wild Weird West!; Steampunk!; the mix of ethnicities; the owls; the hive-mind influence; Fatemeh and Ramon make a great duo; the ending leaves us ready for further adventures.

What I Disliked: There was no true villain; the romance between Ramon and Fatemeh sparked up rather easily.

What Others Think: 

RJ Blain

Steampunk Journal

Steampunk Junkies

Prudence by Gail Carriger

Clementine could use a few manners.
Clementine could use a few manners.

Narrator: Moira Quirk

Publisher: Hachette Audio (2015)

Length: 12 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 1 Custard Protocol

Author’s Page

The metanatural Rue and her friends are on a mission for Queen and Country! And tea, of course. Prudence Alessandra Macon Akeldama (Rue) has been gifted an airship, which she charmingly names the Spotted Custard. She’s also been given a charge, and that is to fly off to India on a mission of secrecy – it involves tea. There’s proper manners and attire, werewolves, tea-time, weremonkeys, and plenty of proper British manners.

Rue and her best friend Primrose (Prim) Tunstall make a great team for mayhem. In fact the opening scene is one where Prim and Rue work together to turn a stuffy British cocktail party into a race through the Victorian London streets. Rue’s metanatural abilities allow her to temporarily ‘borrow’ the powers of a paranormal. For instance, she can become a werewolf (which tears her lovely gown and underthings all to hell) and then Prim can catch a ride on her back as they make a noisy exit from the boring party.

Of course these hijinks are just the latest and Rue’s parents, along with her adoptive vampire father Dama, decide she needs a job. Hence, she’s given a mission that involves tea in India. Rue selects Prim, of course, to accompany her but then also Prim’s bookish brother Percy. Toss in the intense Quesnel Lefoux, who Percy detests, and you have quite the madcap company for the trip. The crew who actually do all the work are quite fun as well, not giving a fig if the passengers are practically nobility or not.

This was a my first Gail Carriger book and it was so much fun! It was light and silly and full of adventure and flowery phrases that just had me giggling. Maybe I was just in the right mood for this book, but I really did get a kick out of it. There’s some light flirting between Rue and Quesnel but there’s also some pond tossing that comes up as well. It’s a love/hate thing and very amusing.

There’s a bit of a steampunk flavor to this story but it’s not a heavy element of the tale. Of course the dirigible is fun. I enjoyed all the action scenes because they were often had some bits of comedy involved. I especially enjoyed Percy and his hunt for mushrooms. He was delightfully bookish.

Once the Spotted Custard gets to India, things change as the local paranormal citizens checkout the Londoners. There’s plenty here that surprised me! It’s a whole different rule book and Rue and Prim have to do some improvising, even if it means ticking off the local English gentry. I was entertained throughout the entire book and I look forward to reading more Carriger novels in the future.

The Narration: Moira Quirk was so good in this book! She’s the perfect Rue but she’s also the perfect Prim and the perfect Dama and the perfect Percy! She’s got these English characters down to a T. I loved her light lisp for Dama as I could totally picture him talking and every so often on certain syllables, a touch of a lisp due to this teeth. I loved her distracted Percy, his head always in a book. She really did a most excellent job with this narration. 

What I Liked: The dirigible; proper English manners tossed out the window again and again; all the humor; plenty of action; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing! This was such a fun book!

What Others Think:

Smart Bitches Trashy Books

Fantasy Book Critic

Vampire Book Club

For the Love of Words

The BiblioSanctum

Guest Post: Inkitt publishes 4 algorithm-picked books and launches iOS app

You’ve previously read about Inkitt on Dab of Darkness, they are the first readers-driven book publisher and a fast-growing community for readers and writers. Emerging authors share their work on Inkitt to get feedback and find an audience while fiction lovers discover new writers and ‘read tomorrow’s bestsellers today for free’. Inkitt has developed an algorithm which analyzes reading behavior: as readers read, the algorithm gathers data and analyzes to understand how strong a potential a novel has to become a bestseller.

Last week, Inkitt launched their 4th algorithm-picked book, Esper Files. Ryan Attard’s novel was the winner of Inkitt’s Sky Bound writing contest. Esper Files follows a group of supernatural people and their struggle to use their abilities for good or evil. The book launched on the 2nd of November and within hours of release became a best seller on Amazon in its genre.

inkitt2pic1

Prior to that, Inkitt published two YA books, I Was A Bitch by Emily Ruben who won Inkitt’s Grand Novel writing contest and Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan who won the Swoon writing contest. Right after launch the reviews on Amazon came pouring in and both novels quickly became best sellers in their respective categories. Just Juliet, a coming out novel by a lesbian author, received immense support and praise within the LGBT community and remains the #1 best seller 8 weeks after launch in the Teen & Young Adult LGBT Issues Fiction category.

inkitt2pic2

inkitt2pic3

Inkitt’s first publishing contest, Dreamlands, introduced Linda L. Garcia and her novel Catalyst Moon. This is the first volume in the exciting new fantasy series Incursion and reviewers on Amazon are already anxiously awaiting the release of the next book in the series.

Inkitt runs regular writing contests to help new writers get discovered and kickstart their career. They are all free to enter and all submissions are accepted as long as they fit within the respective guidelines. Their latest contest, The Novelist, just wrapped up and Inkitt will soon be announcing the three authors whose novels have been chosen for publication. Along with the release of these new novels, Inkitt is also hard at work to launch their next writing contest. Keep an eye out for the announcement here and on their Facebook Page.

Finally, for those of you who prefer to read on your iPhone and iPad, Inkitt has just launched their iOS app globally: it’s available to download on the App Store here.

The app offers a substantially better reading experience:

  • It’s fast and seamless, optimised for iOS devices
  • You can also read when offline, by adding stories to your ‘Offline Library’
  • Each user receives personalized reading suggestions based on selected fiction genres
  • You can customize the font sizes and background colors to meet your reading preferences

Other cool features: autoscrolling with adjustable speed and navigation between screens with a swipe. Really liked those two.

Here’s an intro video where you can get a taste of the app, it’s free to download too:

Introducing Inkitt for iOS: Read great novels by up-and-coming authors on your iPhone and iPad from Inkitt – The Hipster’s Library on Vimeo.

 

The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade

SladeTheDarkDeepsChupaNarrator: Jayne Entwistle

Publisher: Listening Library (2010)

Length: 8 hours 11 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Hunchback Assignments

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works OK as a stand alone story. Reading the first book would give you more info on the characters, but their past relationships are covered well enough in this book that you don’t need to have read Book 1, The Hunchback Assignments, to enjoy this novel.

Set in a steampunked 1800s, Modo works hard to please his master, Mr. Socrates, with his espionage abilities. Stealing secrets from the French has been fun, but now he and Octavia are sent on a much more mysterious mission. Something has been floundering ships in the North Atlantic. Is it a trained whale? No one is certain and Mr. Socrates wants to be the first to know.

I really enjoyed Book 1 but I think I enjoyed this book a bit more. The characters are a bit more refined and the world better set in it’s fixture. I was pretty excited to see that the author drew upon two classics, Invisible Man and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Mixing these two themes with steampunk and then tossing in Modo, Octavia, and some new interesting characters, the book has charm written all over it.

The evil Clockwork Guild is still active with Dr. Hyde creating his metal-jawed dogs and a new type of human. Gryf, an unfortunate kid, is the subject of these experiments. Well, he’s the one that has survived long enough to be an important role in this story. Ms. Hackdotter, who has a mechanical arm, is the true villain in the book, sending chills down my spine as she toys with her captives. She’s devious, using her charm to maintain power over some of the Guild’s minions.

Meanwhile, we have two new and very interesting characters. There’s the French spy, Colette Brunet, who is half Japanese and who can speak English without a noticeable accent, letting her blend in easier. Then there’s Monturiol, who is a captain in her own right. Both of these ladies could be enemies or friends and Modo spends much of the book trying to figure out who his real foes are.

Even though Octavia and Modo started off on this adventure together, they soon became separated. While Modo is off with these new characters, Tavia is organizing a rescue party. I was a little sad that Tavia didn’t get to join Modo on the real adventure with Colette and Monturiol, but I was also glad that the author didn’t simply shelve her. The story keeps peeking back in on her and her rescue efforts. Meanwhile, Modo is learning to like a whole new cuisine and I quite enjoyed the little jokes that with it – dolphin’s milk indeed!

As a counterpoint to the adventure and humor, we have Modo’s struggle with his natural looks. He feels that people will despise him if they see his real face. Of course, this was enforced throughout his childhood by Mr. Socrates, even if he meant it in a good way. However, in this story, Modo often finds himself in a position where it is very difficult to keep his natural face under a mask or morphed into something pleasant. While my heart goes out a little to Modo during these scenes, I do find it a bit refreshing to have a male character so very concerned about his looks, instead of a female character.

The ending was a little bittersweet, which was quite suitable for the story. I like that not everything came up roses. Since Modo and Tavia are getting older, this story seems a little more subtle and adult than Book 1. I definitely like the direction this series is going in.

Narration: Jayne Entwistle continues to narrate the series. In this book Modo is 14 and I was hoping that his voice would have aged a little, but he still has a kid’s voice for the entirety of the book. Again, I first got to know Modo through Ember’s End, a graphic novel, so I came into these audiobooks with an idea already in my head of what he should sound like as a near adult. For Book 1, the kid’s voice was OK, even worked well in certain scenes. But now that he’s older, and also that he and Tavia are supposed to pretend to be married for some of their espionage work, I need his voice to be a bit older. Setting that aside, Entwistle did a good job with all the female characters and I loved the various accents she had to pull off. She’s also really good at imbuing the character voices with emotions.

What I Liked: Steampunked!; Tavia and Modo joking with each other; the new ladies – Colette and Monturiol; Dr. Hyde’s latest experiment; underwater cuisine; Ms. Hackendotter’s chilling control of the situation. 

What I Disliked: I need Modo’s voice to be masculine and a little older. 

What Others Think:

Book Reviews and More

Through the Looking Glass

AudioFile

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

SladeTheHunchbackAssignmentsChupaNarrator: Jayne Entwistle

Publisher: Listening Library (2009)

Length: 7 hours 15 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Hunchback Assignments

Author’s Page

 

Set in the 1800s in England, the story starts off with Dr. Hyde working on his latest formula. It has rather gruesome side effects. Meanwhile, Mr. Socrates is looking for the unusual and he finds it in a very young boy named Modo who can, to some extent, change his appearance. Skipping ahead several years, Modo’s first true test comes when he’s left on his own in London. There he finds a way to make enough money for food and lodging, which leads him to meet Miss Octavia Milkweed. Together, they get pulled into a devious plot, one that has Dr. Hyde at the center.

This was a very fun story that gave a new twist to some old classics. Of course there is Dr. Hyde, who I think obviously comes from the story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Then there is Modo himself. His full first name is Quasimodo, which is the important character from The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Plus there’s a bit of The Wolf Man (a classic 1940s movie) going on too. And if I want to stretch things a bit (there’s the need for Modo to wear mask sometimes), perhaps there’s a touch of The Phantom of the Opera as well. Slade has done a great job of plucking certain elements out of these classics and spinning them into an entertaining tale set in a steampunk Victorian England.

Modo and Tavia (short for Octavia) were the stars of the show. We get to see snapshots of Modo growing up in the care of Mr. Socrates. He’s a stern figure and Modo gets most of his human contact from Mrs. Finchley, a governess and care taker, and Mr. Tharpa, his Indian fighting instructor. Although Tavia comes into the picture later, we learn about her upbringing through remarks she makes or her inner dialogue. Both of these kids (who meet when they are in their teens) have interesting backgrounds and Mr. Socrates is obviously shaping them for bigger things. I really liked that we aren’t sure for most of the book whether Mr. Socrates’s goals are good, bad, or simply selfish.

Dr. Hyde is one of those evil characters you enjoy hating on. He’s totally self-absorbed, running these cruel experiments solely for his own ends. He’s not the only evil one. There’s a fascinating lady with a steampunked mechanical arm and also a crippled man made whole by metal and gears. I do have to say I was a little disturbed by Dr. Hyde’s experiments on the dogs. Oh, how that made me want to see him ended!

The steampunk elements are definitely well in place with this Modo/Tavia adventure. I have read one of their other adventures, a graphic novel called Ember’s End, that was described as a steampunk western but had very little steampunky goodness in it. In contrast, The Hunchback Assignments does not disappoint in this aspect. There were small touches here and there throughout the story, and then the larger elements such as replacement body parts.

Modo himself is quite charming. His upbringing is not your standard schooling with extracurricular activities. His unusual looks could easily be called ugly but his morphing abilities give him some lee-way in fitting in. He’s clever and strong but also very shy about who sees his real face. There’s a lot to relate to in this kid. Tavia is also a treat, in different ways. She’s had to learn to be clever to avoid the pitfalls of street life, but she’s a different kind of clever than Modo. She’s also quite pretty and she knows it, which allows her to use her beauty to gain information. I was very glad to learn, as the story progresses, that she can also be a very loyal friend.

All told, this was a excellent start to a YA steampunk adventure series. I look forward to reading more of the series.

Narration: Jayne Entwistle was better than I thought she would be. I think because I eyeball read the graphic novel Ember’s End, I already had certain voices for Modo and Tavia. Entwistle hit Tavia’s voice perfectly. However, I was expecting a deeper voice for Modo as an adult. Now since he’s not an adult in this book, but ranges from a toddler to a 14-year-old, I think Entwistle did a really decent job. Also, she did have deeper male voices for the older men like Mr. Socrates. I loved her English accents. Also she was excellent at portraying the emotions of the characters.

What I Liked: Victorian England; steampunky goodness everywhere; Dr. Hyde is a true villain!; Tavia is clever and extroverted; Modo is a different kind of clever and rather shy; references to classics sprinkled throughout the book; Mr. Socrates is a little bit of an enigma. 

What I Disliked: I was expecting a deeper voice for Modo but I think I can come to enjoy Entwistle’s portrayal of his character. 

What Others Think:

Two Readers Writing

My Bookish Ways

Jenny Martin

The Book Zone

Steampunk Scholar

Amy’s Marathon of Books

Book Reviews and More

Literary Treats

Teens Read and Write

 

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Arthur Slade, author of The Hunchback Assignments

SladeDustEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Arthur Slade. I’ve enjoyed Slade’s works – check out my reviews of Dust and Ember’s End. We chat about book villains, which fictional characters to invite over for tea, tough jobs, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the international GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – ebook of Dust.

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

The Six Million Dollar Man. Battling sasquatches! Running at amazing speed! A bionic eye! When I was a kid this was the only science fiction type show on tv and I watched it religiously. In fact, I think we only had one channel on our TV (I grew up in the outback). So I’d love to experience that amazing, overwhelming joy that I felt whenever the show came on TV. In second place would be Star Trek and Space: 1999 (tied for 2nd, of course).

SladeEmber'sEndWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I was a night auditor for a hotel. It wasn’t horribly difficult, except that I was the only employee in the hotel from 1 to 7AM and that meant I was the plumber, the security guard, and the guy behind the desk. Often there were hours of boredom peppered by the occasional crazy party that I’d have to break up. Writing is certainly safer and, oddly enough, pays better. I was able to get a bit of writing done between 2 to 4 AM because the hotel was usually quite then.

SladeTheHunchbackAssignmentsMore and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel, etc. Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm? Will there be more Arthur Slade audiobooks?

I do have plans to create more audiobooks. My latest novel, Flickers is in the hands of a studio right now that is putting the book together. I’ve been lucky, also, to delve into graphic novels via Kickstarter. And my steampunk series, The Hunchback Assignments, has been optioned for a movie. So there are several irons in the fire, so to speak. One of the joys of this modern digital age is that so many of these types of publications are easier to access. Well, except making movies. Those still cost a mountain of money.

SladeTheDarkDeepsWho are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

As far as villains, I’m partial to Captain Hook. That villainous pirate who always hears ticking in the background. I’m also a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but in all honesty Sauron is a boring villain. He’s just so powerful and so far in the background. Instead betrayers like Saruman are much more interesting. Any of the hobbit duos were great fun in those books, too.

SladeEmpireOfRuinsIf you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Hamlet, but he probably wouldn’t be able to make up his mind whether he wanted tea or a beer. Darth Vader, to see if he would use the force in a ping pong game. Katniss, to tell her to hurry up and make up her mind about one of those men. Sherlock Holmes, because he could probably find the socks that I’ve lost. And Julius Caesar (who appears as a fictional character in many works) to ask him whether he was represented properly.

SladeIslandOfDoomCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

The restraining order from Stephen King doesn’t allow me to repeat the story. Kidding, of course. I did go to his house once because I was in Bangor, Maine. I just wanted to see it. Didn’t knock on the gates or anything. I did ask his neighbour what it was like to live next to Stephen King and he said, “It’s fine, but I get tired of the tourist buses pulling up and people getting out to stare.” Not sure I’d want to be that famous.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Netflix. Oh, and reading. Far too much Netflix, though.

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

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. Still one of my favourites! I blame it for turning me into a fantastical type writer.

ArthurSladeAuthorPlaces to Find Arthur Slade

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Author Bio: Arthur Slade was raised on a cattle ranch in the Cypress Hills of southwest Saskatchewan and he caught the writing bug at an early age. He is the author of eighteen bestselling books, including “Dust”, “Jolted,” and “The Hunchback Assignments.” He currently lives in Saskatoon, Canada.

SladeDustBook Blurb for Dust: SEVEN-YEAR-OLD MATTHEW DISAPPEARS one day on a walk into Horshoe, a dust bowl farm town in Depression-era Saskatchewan. Other children go missing just as a strange man named Abram Harsich appears in town. He dazzles the townspeople with the promises of a rainmaking machine. Only Matthew’s older brother Robert seems to be able to resist Abram’s spell, and to discover what happened to Matthew and the others.

GIVEAWAY!

Arthur Slade is offering up an ebook copy of Dust. Giveaway is open internationally! You can enter the Rafflecopter below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) What country do you live in? 2) Who are some of your favorite heroes from books? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways end October 7, 2016, midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ember's End by Arthur Slade

SladeEmber'sEndWhere I Got It: Own it.

Illustrator: Christopher Steininger

Publisher: Arthur Slade (2014)

Length: 88 pages

Author’s Page

Note: This book is a stand-alone adventure that follows two of the characters from Slade’s The Hunchback Assignments series. It works quite well.

Modo and Tavia are trained secret agents with the British Empire and have been sent on assignment to the Wild West town of Ember’s End. Set in the mid 1800s, the story is lush with western archetypes but also with a few all-too-often left out aspects of the Wild West, such the ethnic diversity of the time and location. I was pleasantly surprised to see the story had some extras in turbans throughout the town. Also, the ladies weren’t relegated to the brothels or being ranch wives.

This book, and The Hunchback Assignments series, are touted as steampunk. There was a touch of steampunk goodness in this book, but it was really minor. I kept waiting for that to become part of the story, whether as part of a character or simply background. The town does use pneumatic tubes to shoot messages around quickly. And much later in the story a character is revealed to be part steampunky robot. So my only little quibble is that this story could have used a bit more steampunk.

Tavia does like to dress in style but she’s also a practical woman, able to keep up with Modo in the field. Modo himself is a curious character, often keeping his face covered. He has a special ability when it comes to working in disguise. I liked the camaraderie between these two and could tell from the start they would always have each other’s backs.

Ember’s End is a strange place. The first building our heroes head to is the town saloon, which also happens to be the town library. They learn from the barkeep/librarian that there is no whiskey to serve, but they have a fine fresh milk from a Jersey cow. Also, the now-departed mad scientist who founded the town (Mr. Ember), put a field over the entire town that prevents gunpowder from working. Of course this renders firearms useless. So here we readers are, in the depths of the Wild West with no whiskey and no gun fights. Never fear! There’s still plenty of action.

Ember’s adult daughter has her secrets and is apparently at the heart of the mystery that surrounds Ember’s End. As Tavia and Modo try to untangle this mystery and set things right, they comes across a gang of worthy foes including a ninja, because every great steampunk Western should have a ninja!. With no bullets to trade at decent velocity with the bad guys and no half-aged whiskey to toss in their faces, our heroes have to get creative.

The humor is pretty good with this story as well. Tavia and Modo trade it back and forth in good natured jabs. Then there is the librarian/barkeep who has several other town jobs as well. I also enjoyed the preemptive undertaker. In fact, it felt like a nod to the the old Spaghetti Westerns. It’s a fun story for both kids and adults and I look forward to reading more Modo & Tavia adventures.

Illustration: This graphic novel is lush with color and detail. Christopher Steininger did a good job catching the rust reds that make up a good chunk of the Southwestern pallet. I liked that the point of view was often switching, showing the scene from far away and then up close, etc. Modo’s eyes are very expressive!

What I Liked: Fun story for all ages; the Wild West setting; perhaps some hidden nods to classic Western movies/TV shows; plenty of humor and action; interesting with no bullets and no whiskey; the ladies and minorities are portrayed as real people and not just shoved into stereotypical roles; great illustration.

What I Disliked: This book could have used a bit more steampunk.

Women Destroy Science Fiction!: Lightspeed Magazine Special Issue edited by Christie Yant

YantWomenDestroyScienceFictionLightspeedMagazineWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrators: Cassandra Campbell, Gabrielle de Cuir, Harlan Ellison, Grover Gardner, Jamye Grant, Susan Hanfield, Jonathan L. Howard, John Allen Nelson, Bahni Turpin, Stefan Rudnicki, Molly Underwood, and Judy Young

Publisher: Skyboat Media Inc. (2015)

Length: 15 hours 11 minutes

Editor’s Page   Lightspeed Magazine’s Page

Over the past few years, there has been a series of ‘XXXXX Destroy Science Fiction’ anthologies, but this is the first one I have read. While the title may smack of too much ‘I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar’, the anthology was quite balanced with characters of all genders, action and contemplation, mystery and exploration, happy endings and not-so happy endings. Most of the stories had some real meat on them, including several of the flash fiction tales, giving me something to chat about over tea. Some were humorous and some required some thoughtful contemplation afterwards. Over all, it’s an excellent science fiction anthology.

Contained in this audiobook are 11 original short stories, 4 short story reprints, 1 novella, and 15 flash fiction tales. If you pick up the text version, you also get 7 non-fiction pieces, 28 personal essays, and 15 author spotlights. Authors for stories in this audiobook include Charlie Jane Anders, Eleanor Arnason, Elizabeth Porter Birdsall, Heather Clitheroe, Tina Connolly, Katherine Crighton, Ellen Denham. Tananarive Due, Rhonda Eikamp, Amal El-Mohtar, Emily Fox, Maria Dahvana Headley, Cathy Humble, N. K. Jemisin, Marina J. Lostetter, Seanan McGuire Maureen F. McHugh, Kris Millering, Maria Romasco Moore, Samantha Murray, K. C. Norton, Anaid Perez, Sarah Pinsker, Rhiannon Rasmussen, Holly Schofield, Effie Seiberg, Gabriella Stalker, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Vanessa Torline, Carrie Vaughn, and Kim Winternheimer.

Below are the 11 original stories.

Each to Each by Seanan McGuire

The Navy has modified whole submarine corps of women into ‘mermaids’ to explore and claim the ocean floor for bubble cities and resources. The main character finds something in the deep that she didn’t expect. The narrator did a great job with the elongated vowels and such (sounding like in between ocean animal and human) and keeping each female character distinct. This was my favorite story of the whole book and a great way to start the anthology off. 6/5

A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering

Maurine is an angry artist in space. Her only ‘companion’ is a dead man in the corner. Rather eerie but interesting. Good narration – kept the eerie quality to it. 4/5

Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe

Spencer is a memory recall specialist. He floats through his memories, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. Held in high regard for the work he does but it messes with his personal life. Was OK. Didn’t hold my attention like the first 2. Narration good. 3/5

Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin

Sadie is a caretaker, helping raise the kids until they are old enough for the Masters to inhabit. Henri, one of her young charges, has been chosen. Abrupt ending. Don’t know if Sadie was successful or just nuts. Narration good tho Sadie sounded a lot younger than 40 years old. 4/5

The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp

A Gearlock Holmes & Watson story. There is murder at Gearlock’s mansion and the robotic amalgam Mrs. Hudson is in custody for the murder. Fun piece. Steampunky. Good stiff upper lip narration. 5/5

In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker

Set in Houston, TX, Wendell & his parents live in a mall. Big Box stores, and their advertising, dominate Wendell’s life, including church and living quarters. Teen loans are the norm. Very interesting piece on materialism and debt. Narration very good with a light Western twang. 5/5

The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders

Roger and Mary broke up. Mary’s friend Stacia convinces her to ask for Roger’s memories of the beginning of their relationship when things were on a high note. Interesting piece. Good  narration. 4/5

Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley

Set in a far future where the Moon is colonized, Bert, a restaurant critic, has told the secret of the dim sun restaurant. Now it’s crowded. Rodney and Bert are having a lunch there when Harriet, Bert’s ex-wife and a powerful politician, joins them. It was a very fun piece – creative dishes. Great narration. 5/5

The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar

Laila is encouraged to talk to the psychologist. She’s an interplanetary geoscientist. She has an ism – addicted to diamonds or the idea of diamonds. This tale explores various stories about diamonds as part of Laila’s fascination. Interesting piece but kind of broken up, not clear in places. Narrated by several people. At least 1 line repeated. The volumes varies, but mostly much quieter than the rest of the book. Main narrator does great with emotions. 3/5

A Burglary, Addressed By a Young Lady by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall

Genevieve’s a thief. She makes her debut burglary and runs into another thief, Catherine. They bond over the difficulties of breaking into the Marquis’s place. Some cool tech. Love the proper British accent and social niceties. 4/5

Canth by K.C. Norton

The Canth is an underwater vessel, part animal, powered by a perpetual motion machine. Capt. Pierce has lost the Canth but pursues her in a ship, the Jeronimo, captained by Rios. Portugues flavor to the story. Cod in every meal. Very interesting story. Narration was good, especially with the Portuguese  words. 5/5

Below are the reprinted stories, including the 1 novella. 

Like Daughter by Tananarive Due

Paige looks after Denise (Neecy) as much a s she can. She often reflects on their childhood and how things were different between them. Now Denise needs her to take her 6 year old daughter. Heavy story. Well done. Good narration. 5/5.

The Great Loneliness by Maria Romasco Moore

A slow apocalypse happened. Now clones of one flavor or another live out their lives in the few pockets of habitable space on Earth. Various groups have sent probes and manned space missions over the years into space searching for another habitable planet. I really like the imagery that was every where in this story- the underwater museum, the main character’s plant-like daughter Verdant, the human’s Eyes, Brain, etc. walking around independently. The narration was great, even a little song. 5/5

Love is the Plan the Plan is Death by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)

Mogadit has discovered a little one, Lililu, and his teen hormones all at once. Strange, enthralling. Sometimes felt like I was watching animals mating. Stefan Rudnicki narrates and he does it excellently. 4/5

Knapsack Poems by Eleanor Arnason

Strange story. Main character seems to have more than 1 entity and this is the norm. The main character has a scout and a poet and such. It finds a child of some sorts and carries it along falling in love with it. The entities can be more than one gender, but not necessarily so. I don’t get all of it. Rudnicki narrates, doing a good job. 3/5

The Cost to Be Wise by Maureen F. McHugh (novella)

Scarline is a colony on a little populated world. Not much tech. Dogs as sheep – for food. An outworlder, Veranique, comes to visit along with her Professor Ian. Janna, who is an unwed teen of the colony, is fascinated with plastic. Scaffalos is a great clan that visits Scarline for trade, though sometimes they just take what they want. Travesty befalls the colony. Interesting story. A thoughtful, perhaps harsh, ending. Well narrated. 5/5

Below are the 15 original flash fiction stories. 

Salvage by Carrie Vaughn

A spooky ghost ship story with a happy ending.

A Guide to Grief by Emily Fox

Sad story.

See DANGEROUS EARTH-POSSIBLES! by Tina Connolly

Narrator sounds drunk, which isn’t necessarily bad for this story.

A Debt Repaid by Marina J. Lostetter

The 2-headed monster has dual addiction – gambling & drink.

The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced by Sarah Pinsker

Those that suffer from accidental time travel can hang out in an asylum. There’s jello.

#TrainFightTuesday by Vanessa Torline

Fun tail told through tweets. Super heroes/villains. Cute noises to denote switching between tweeters.

The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23 by Rhiannon Rasmussen

A beautiful story of interstellar kamikazes come home. This was my favorite on the Flash Fiction.

Emoticon by Anaid Perez

:-$

The Mouths by Ellen Denham

Cracker obsessed aliens with only 1 orifice.

M1A by Kim Winternheimer

M1A is her clone there to give her parts as she needs. They grow up as sisters, but she is always sick while her clone is healthy. Poignant story.

Standard Deviant by Holly Schofield

A punkass homeless lass is given the opportunity to become an intergalactic ambassador. Fun story.

Getting on in Years by Cathy Humble

Immortal 800 year old man tired of hiding it. Interesting. Ending up to interpretation.

Ro-Sham-Bot by Effie Seiberg

Robot wants to play Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Everything That Has Already Been Said by Samantha Murray

An odd duck of a story.

The Lies We Tell Our Children by Katherine Crighton

She tells her daughters about space and what that means. They become sad. Very nice sadly sweet story.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the publisher (via Audiobook Jukebox) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Nearly all of the narration was well done for this anthology. There was one story with more than 1 narrator and it definitely sounded like the narrators were in different studios, not recorded at the same time. However, the  majority of the narration was excellent. I especially like seeing Stefan Rudnicki’s abilities tested in the James Tiptree story.  

What I Liked: Such a variety of SF – horror, steampunk, time travel, romance, exploration, etc.; it was great to have so many narrators for this anthology, which helped keep each story distinct;  beautiful  cover art.

What I Disliked: The title does make me chuckle a little.

What Others Think:

NPR

Tangent

Adventures in SciFi Publishing

Hopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson

WilsonHopebreakerWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: T. Anthony Quinn

Publisher: Dioscuri Press (2015)

Length: 5 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Great Iron War

Author’s Page

 

In the land of Altadas, the Regime rules with an iron fist. Through addictive drugs, might, fear tactics, and replacing the population with demons, they are nearly unchallenged. However, the Order still resists them. Jacob, a smuggler, will get caught up in their machinations and will also get to drive the magnificent coal-powered machine Hopebreaker.

This book is a steampunk novel set in a future dystopian world. Somehow, the Regime is preventing healthy conceptions and women can now only give birth to demons. The Order, and some few others, are able to create amulets that prevent conception. Jacob was caught smuggling these amulets in a Regime controlled city and summarily tossed in a dungeon. He grumbles and gripes and has this fatalistic sense of humor throughout the book, not just when he’s in prison. There he meets a young man, Whistler, who was born into the Order. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of an innocent and doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. Luckily for him, he has friends.

Pretty soon, Taborah and crew are breaking Whistler out and they allow Jacob to tag along. Then he owes them a favor and then the Order owes him a favor and before you know it, they are so tangled up they couldn’t possibly separate. Jacob never gives over fully to the Order’s ideals, preferring to be paid in cold, hard coils (the currency of the area). Yet he keeps giving a little bit more because down deep, he really is a nice guy. He moans and complains much of the time, but you can tell he’s getting attached to at least a few of the members.

There’s plenty of tech in this story. Obviously, there is the big war machine called Hopebreaker. There’s smaller machines, such as transports, and then these kind walking war towers. There’s also a variety of cool goggles too. I definitely enjoyed the steampunk flair of the story.

I’m not sure I understood the amulets and the demon children so well. First, I can’t recall any examples of these demons; they were simply referred to. So I would have liked to have seen a demon or two to help cement this little touch of fantasy in this otherwise steampunk scifi novel. Coupled with that, is the use of the amulets – not much is given on how or why they work to prevent conception. Perhaps you don’t wear it around your neck the entire time, electing to wear it somewhere else during intimate moments?

The characters are fun, if pretty one dimensional. The bad guys are described as slimy, etc., so you can spot them early on in the story. While the good guys have a little more depth, like Jacob wrestling with some inner demons, they are still pretty predictable. This is basically just a fun story, like brain candy. It was enjoyable and I look forward to seeing what trouble Jacob gets into (and out of) in the next book.

Narration: T. Anthony Quinn has a lovely rich voice. He made a great Jacob, pulling off the humor and emotions quite nicely. His female voices were distinct and I especially liked his accent for Taborah.

What I Liked: Dystopian; steampunk; large coal-powered machines; classic good vs. evil fight; assorted goggles; the end sets us up for the next adventure.

What I Disliked: Not sure about the whole amulet demon conception thing; characters are rather predictable; the bad guys are practically labelled.

What Others Think:

The Mad Reviewer

On Writing

Andy Peloquin

The Bohemian Housewife

Book Stop Corner

Cranky Author’s Book Blog

The Earl of Brass by Kara Jorgensen

JorgensenTheEarlOfBrassWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Patrick Oniyelu

Publisher: Fox Collie Publishing (2015)

Length: 9 hours 23 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Ingenious Mechanical Devices

Author’s Page

 

Hadley Fenice and her brother Adam just lost their genius brother, George, to a lengthy illness. He was the brains behind the family business. Now, Hadley, who also has some natural talent in making prosthesis and mechanized toys, wants to continue the business. Meanwhile, Lord Eilian Sorrell is recovering from a dirigible accident in which he lost his arm. He and Hadley join forces in creating a replacement arm, and then in an archaeological dig in the Negev Desert.

This steampunk adventure is set in England, perhaps the mid 1800s. Obviously, respectable women don’t work, so Hadley has quite the uphill battle in convincing people that she can and does create these wonderful prosthesis and unique toys. She tries several things to get around this inconvenient social bias, such as claiming she in only the assistant or even dressing as a man. Eilian doesn’t really care if she is female or male, as long as the prosthesis works.

Lord Eilian Sorrell, who has been an archaeologist for some time, isn’t too stuffy. He knows what it’s like living rough. Meanwhile, his family is pretty uptight about many things, including how society sees them. In fact, they aren’t too sure what to do with him at dinner parties now that he is missing an arm. The first prosthesis (not made by Hadley) was hideous and greatly disturbed the other dinner guests.

I found these two main characters rather practical (in their own ways) and interesting. Hadley is fiercely independent. For instance, she doesn’t force her other brother Adam into being the face of the family business while she does all the work. She wants to tackle it all herself and she wants the respect that goes along with a well made and well installed prosthesis. Eilian, who needs some assistance at the start of the story due to the loss of his arm, doesn’t linger in a sick bed. He starts training his other hand for the basics, including writing and feeding himself. He’s not hesitant over undergoing a painful surgery to install a useful prosthesis. So, right off, these two characters pulled me into the story.

Once the arm is installed and working, Eilian wants to get back into the archaeological work. He invites Hadley along as his assistant. Of course, she has to cross dress for this and goes by the name Harold Fox. She does it smartly, practicing at home first with what’s the best way to pin down her bosom. She even cuts her hair short as a man would have it. Then the two are off in a steampunky airship to the Negev desert (which is somewhere in modern Israel).

The steampunk aspects of the story are more subtle that I expected. Hadley’s workshop had a few extras but for the most part, the story is an adventure romance story first and a steampunk story second. Of course, the romance can be seen coming a mile away. Hadley has at least one female friend and Eilian has a mom and a sister. Yet, Hadley is pretty much the only female that really gets any time on the page. So there’s no competition for Eilian’s interest. Towards the end, there is a rather silly scene between the two where Hadley gets a little over dramatic. That was the first and only time I rolled my eyes at the romantic element to the plot.

Once in the desert, the two discover a long-lost society. They have chosen to remain hidden from most but they welcome Hadley and Eilian. This hidden society has rather different social norms that Victorian England. There’s plenty of talk about equality, both for women in general and then for homosexuality. At first, this is done well because Hadley and Eilian are simply learning about this society, but later on I felt that certain points were being pounded in and I felt it was a little preachy. Also, there is a small magical element concerning learning the language of this hidden society that felt out of place when the rest of the book steers clear of magic.

The ending satisfied my questions about the future for the hidden society and what Eilian and Hadley are (a couple? business friends?). It also left the door open for further adventures. There were things I really liked about this book (Hadley and Eilian) but there were also things that didn’t hold my attention as much (the hidden society). I’m on the fence about continuing the series.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author (via Audiobook Blast) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: It took me quite a while to finish this audiobook and one of the main reasons is because of the narrator. He did very little with individual character voices, so most of the time, all the characters sounded the same. This meant I had to pay close attention to the book instead of multitasking. Also, many times, his word pronunciation was off and I had puzzle out what he was trying to say. Whenever this happened, it took me out of the story. Sometimes he chose the incorrect pronunciation on a word that can be pronounced two different ways. Like there is this one small scene where a woman’s lips are being described as akin to Cupid’s bow. Instead of pronouncing ‘bow’ as in bow and arrow, the narrator pronounces it as in to bow before royalty. While I can give Patrick Oniyelu and A for effort, the final product was not an A product.

What I Liked: Steampunk goodness!; Hadley and her practical outlook; Eilian and his disregard for propriety; archaeological dig!; the ending was satisfying. 

What I Disliked: Hadley gets a little silly and over dramatic towards the end; I felt like the book got a little preachy on equal rights (which I totally agree with, so maybe I didn’t need to be convinced on this point); the magical element to learning the language of the hidden society; the narration wasn’t all that.

What Others Think:

Nicolette Andrews

Kate M. Colby

Indie Reader

Beauty in Ruins

The Pages Room

Celtic Frog Reviews