Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Ray Saunders, Author Of Winds West

Folks, please give a warm welcome to Ray Saunders. He’s here to share not only his novel, Winds West, but also a mostly non-fiction account of frontier life in Colorado (Gunnison Country) written by his mother, Betty Wallace. Don’t forget to check out the ebook giveaway at the end of the post!

What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?

No real mystery in my past, but Alternate History would be me having decided to be a poet instead of a computer maven. It would be a very convoluted plot, involving Greenwich Village, off-grid living in the Rockies and becoming God.

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

The lost contents of the Library of Alexandria and every poet since 500BC.

What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?

I would prefer to forget my teen years, but if I had to pick it would probably be the 1920s for the radical politics.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

Liza from Winds West would get along well with Sayward Luckett from Conrad Richter’s The Awakening Land trilogy. Both were strong women who knew what they wanted and had the courage to go after it.

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

The movies Amalie or Casablanca. And any of Maurice Walsh’s writingThe Quiet Man, The Small Dark Man, Trouble in the Glen, etc. (I love the way the Irish use the English language, both in prose and poetry. The Scots, on the other hand, use English like they still hold a grudge over Culloden).

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

The Americas before European contact.
Central Asia before Islam.
Celtic Europe before Caesar.

If you could own a famous or historical art work, what would it be? Would you put it on public display or keep it privately?

Picasso’s Guernica – displayed as publicly as possible.

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

John Masters, Maurice Walsh, Stephen Vincent Benet, Charles Bowden and A.A.Milne.

We’d all eat pizza. And drink lots of wine.

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

I always gush over my favorite writers at every opportunity, to the point of irritating those who’ve heard me for the umpteenth time. (I think it’s more awkward for them than for me). Don’t know if this counts, but a young lady wrote a glowing review of Winds West, albeit expressing surprise at my “uncanny insight into the female psyche”. LOL

Places to Find Ray Saunders

Website

Steele Park Press Facebook

Ray’s Facebook

GoodReads

Amazon

About the Author:

I grew up in a small western town, steeped in both pioneer culture and writing, my mother being a reporter, editor, English teacher and local historian. By the time I finished high school I was well versed in poetry and the Beat Generation, properly prepared to appreciate the ‘60s in Greenwich Village, which added folk music to the mix. To pay the bills, I spent 50 years doing cutting-edge computer work, then retired and now I’m back to writing poetry and songs and the occasional novel.

Book Blurb for Winds West

Home maker at 10, grown at 15 – what future awaits Liza as she head West? Young woman goes West on a voyage of self-discovery. “Winds West is a thoughtful account of Liza Woods, a young woman’s coming of age story set in early 20th century Ohio. At 13, Liza takes a job as a governess/housekeeper, but has a wisdom beyond her years. She yearns for the freedom generally afforded only to men, however, and what follows is her subsequent journey to Colorado, where she settles down, making a life for herself on the frontier.” – Granny’s Pantry review.

Book Blurb for Gunnison Country:

History of Gunnison Colorado and surrounding areas. Betty Wallace was born near Lake City, CO, in 1913. She spent her youth among the ranchers and miners who settled the Gunnison Country. Herself a child of pioneers, she understood the world they faced and how they coped. As a reporter and editor she worked to preserve the stories of those early days, from the displacement of the Native American by gold-seekers to the uranium prospectors of the 1950s. She researched the old newspapers and interviewed many Old Timers in a tireless effort to make sure their stories were preserved for future generations.

GIVEAWAY!

Ray is offering up one ebook copy of Winds West and one ebook copy of Gunnison Country. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments to be entered into the giveaway. 1) What special collections would the library of your dreams hold? 2) Which book would you prefer to win (Winds West or Gunnison Country)? This giveaway is open world wide and ends August 1, 2017, midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

RazorWire by Troy Hallewell

HallewellRazorWireAfterCivilizationNarrator: Troy Hallewell

Publisher: Asgard Publishing (2016)

Length: 7 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 1 After Civilization

Author’s Page

 

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Rock is an indie wanderer, traveling from place to place trading news and whatever he might have come by in between. He meets Caroline and her powerful father and is given a mission to escort her to the Wall. There her mission will begin as she attempts to find and bring back the last unscathed and powerful remnants of humanity. A tide of warriors is sweeping the land. They don’t trade, they don’t take tribute and submission. Instead, they seem bent on wiping the land clean of inhabitants and Caroline won’t let that happen without a last desperate attempt to push them back. Rock will have to figure out where his loyalties lie.

Basically, this was a Western given a little post-apocalyptic flare. It followed a pretty standard, and, at times, cliched, script. The beginning held a lot of promise and I was rather excited to venture into another destroyed future that was mostly desert and full of folks who have their own agendas. Once they started circling the wagons and shooting at warriors on horseback, I had to roll my eyes a little. This is a Western, which can be fun if a bit tired and worn.

On the plus side, Rock is an interesting character if a bit standard. I always have a thing for those strong silent types that are good in a fight but bad in relationships. Still, I was rooting for him the whole way. Caroline was your standard plucky female wild west woman. She’s beautiful and knows how to shoot but is a bit brash and wants to rebel. Still, she’s dead set on saving her people, if she can, even if it kills her. There were very few women in this story, which might explain why the world hasn’t managed to repopulate itself yet. There’s Caroline (who has plenty of lines), a mysterious female leader of the warrior tribe that is sweeping the land (who has perhaps 3 lines), a little baby girl that gets to be cute and cuddly for a scene or two, and then Rock’s remembrances of his own mother (who has 3 or 4 lines as well). This story could definitely improve with some gender balancing.

I also feel the need to comment on how the invading hoard all seem to be brown skinned, instead of a greater mix of ethnicities as I had been expecting with humanity surviving an apocalyptic event. Perhaps they are akin to a Mongolian tribe or perhaps akin to a Native American tribe. Since we haven’t met any of them individually, other than that brief encounter with one of their female leaders, we don’t know much about them. Still, their feathers, beaded clothing, horse skills, and archery all add to the Western story tone of the book.

Now I am very curious what lies beyond the Wall and why everyone thinks their saviors may be hidden in that direction. After all, no one has survived their journey over the Wall and returned to tell about it. In fact, bones of those who died shortly after traversing the Wall can be seen from it. I think Caroline definitely has her hands full in attempting this quest.

Over all, if you enjoy your standard fare Western and want a little more sprinkled in, then this is a good book for you. For me, it was so-so. It started off promising but the middle was very predictable. The ending has promise for the series with the Wall and beyond.

I received a free copy of this book through Audiobook Jukebox.

Narration: The author performed his own narration of this book. It was mediocre. First, the production quality wasn’t all good but it wasn’t all bad either. The volume goes up and down but never so loud as to blow out your ears. Also, sometimes it sounds a bit tinny and sometimes it’s good and clear. Hallewell does do a good job of keeping each character distinct. However, most of his voices appear to be based off old Western serials, which adds to the whole cliched Western flavor of this book. His female voice for Caroline is OK.

What I Liked: The cover art for the book; the beginning held promise; desert setting; Rock is an interesting character; Caroline’s quest; the Wall and what lies beyond hold promise for the series.

What I Disliked: It’s a cliched Western with a post-apocalyptic veneer; the invading hoard appears typecast; very few women and only one that has a real role; the narration was mediocre at best.

 

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.

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson

JohnsonWaitForSignsWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: George Guidall

Publisher: Recorded Books (2014)

Length: 5 hours 8 minutes

Series: Walt Longmire (collection of short stories)

Author’s Page

This collection contains 12 short stories about Sheriff Walt Longmire and his myriad of side kicks, set in the modern-day Absaroka County, Wyoming. There’s also an introduction by Lou Diamond Phillips, who plays Henry Standing Bear in the TV series. If you’ve been wondering if this series is for you, I think this is a good way to find out. The humor and intensity of the novels is well represented by this collection of short stories.

The story that stuck with me the most is Ministerial Aide in which a woman has been hanging out in a parked car in the cold of winter for a day or more. Walt, who’s underdressed for the occasion, sits and has a talk with her. She’s at the end of her rope and Walt can tell that. She’s also mistaken Walt for a deity and that makes for some humor in an otherwise intense story. Walt’s sense of right and wrong and what he can do about it is on top display in this tale.

Slicked-Tongue Devil surprised me twice, which I wasn’t expecting for a short story. A bible salesman comes knocking on Walt’s door with a special edition bible that Walt’s wife Martha ordered before she passed. Walt invites the man in for a chat and it’s clear he been drinking so I didn’t expect Walt to be at the top of his game. However, he quickly recognizes that not all is as it seems and I was surprised at the ruse. Then I was surprised again with how Walt dealt with the matter. That there shows you why I enjoy this author.

This book offers some food for thought. I don’t know if I would do the same thing as Walt or Henry in many of these stories and they leave me wanting to be a better person. Some stories are more humorous than others and some characters are more desperate than others. It’s a really good mix; the book isn’t weighed down by one note over another. The stories do jump around on the timeline for the series, but I didn’t mind this. I have read only two books in the series (Book 1 The Cold Dish and Book 9 The Serpent’s Tooth).

Here are the 12 tales included in this collection:

Old Indian trick
Ministerial Aide
Slick-Tongued Devil
Fire Bird
Unbalanced
Several Stations
High Holidays
Toys for Tots
Divorce Horse
Thankstaking
Messenger
Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Big Horns

The Narration: George Guidall is a great voice for Walt Longmire. He gave each story their due in this collection, giving one of his better performances when it comes to variety of character voices. His female voices were better in this book than they are in some others.  

What I Liked: Great way to get introduced to the series; a good mix of humor and intensity; some surprises; great cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I enjoyed this collection.

What Others Think:

Crimespace

Planet Peschel

KD Did It Edits

Mystery People

Mysterious Reviews

Jen’s Book Thoughts

Lit and Life

Open Book Society

Depravity by Emilie J. Howard

HowardDepravityWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: J. Scott Bennett

Publisher: Emilie J Howard (2015)

Length: 11 hours 17 minutes

Author’s Page

Lehem, Iowa, 1979: it’s a small ranching community, tight knit, a little afraid of outsiders, and into rodeos and parades. Pretty soon they won’t know what hit them. This story is told in three parts, but it’s a tight story and one part flows right into the next.

Peter Carston is fresh out of high school and new to the Sheriff’s department. He’ll be receiving some tough on-the-job training with the mayhem that’s about to ensue. There’s a new stranger in town; he’s exceedingly polite and it’s obvious from the beginning that he knows something about the bloody messes that happen during the full moon. He’s the second son of the Warfield family and not very happy to claim the name. Unknown to Peter, his family history will make him a target.

So things come to a head with the second son and the story enters Part II. The eldest Warfield son arrives in town and tries his best to make amends for the mess that occurred in Part I. Still, Peter and the rest of the Sheriff’s office aren’t quick to trust. Their fears are soon validated as yet more bodies keep turning up. The Warfield brothers have a dark family history which comes to light as the city girds it’s collective loins for the show down. Part III continues the grudge match with an unexpected assailant.

On one had, the story has a Western genre feel to it – good guys with high morals protecting the common people. On the other hand, this is so a horror tale with it’s body count and twisted villains. It’s an interesting mashup and I wasn’t convinced that it would work. The beginning is pretty darn slow and the manner-minding young hero (Peter) was pretty boring. However, the bad guys are very interesting and it’s really them who steal the show and carry the story forward.

There’s an asylum and some twisted human experiments. Then the Warfield patriarch has some pretty warped ideas of family loyalty. Toss in some demented members from a mercenary band and you have yourself one big fuster cluck. This book definitely explores a few different faces of depravity.

There’s not many ladies in this story which might explain the steady decline of Lehem. Peter has a high school sweetheart that has to be protected and coddled all the way through. There’s only one female police office and she’s nameless, on and off the screen in a jiffy. Then there’s the lost love of one of the Warfield’s and her young son. She too is admired for her beauty and coddled throughout the book. Really, the only interesting female character is the loud, obnoxious sister of one of the unfortunate murdered souls.

I very much enjoyed Howard’s Cold Hollow and I can see echoes of that same genius in this book but it was not the same fully engrossing experience. I enjoyed the initial mystery and then the reasons behind the insane killings. I even reveled a little in taking out the last few bad guys. I will continue to explore this author’s works.

I received a copy of this book at no cost (via the narrator) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: J. Scott Bennett did a good job with feel of the story – light Western twang for most of the characters. His cultured accents for the rich Warfield family were well done. His little kid voice was spot on.

What I Liked: Interesting mashup of horror and Western; the belligerent sister; excellent bad guys; the reasons for all the bad behavior; beautiful book cover. 

What I Disliked: Few women and they were mostly coddled; the good guys were rather boring for the most part; started off a bit slow.

Dynamite by J. C. Hulsey

HulseyDynamiteWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: J. Scott Bennett

Publisher: Outlaws Publishing (2015)

Length: 2 hours 10 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in 1877, Texas, Ruby Cantrell has just arrived via coach. Now she just need a lift to her uncle Bernie’s ranch. However, she has a couple of crates that need a light touch in transport. Jubul Foxworth, the deputy sheriff, is hired to give her a lift in his cart.

The first big chunk of the book is all set up. Mostly, the characters are all being rather polite with each other and not much is happening. We learn that uncle Bernie runs a horse ranch and that he and Jubul have some beef between them. Ruby would like them to talk it out and then set it aside. A man named Renfro (spelling?) has the ranch next door where he runs cattle. There’s a dispute between him and Bernie as to who owns what land along that border and things are rather nebulous because this is the great wild west where sometimes might makes right.

All the action occurs in the last 40 minutes of the book. There’s someone shooting at law enforcement. Then the bad guys have come up with a simple plan to do evil deeds. Of course, the good guys end up on top while keeping their hands clean. Really, it reminded me of Disney in that manner. There’s no real moral conundrums and things end neat and tidy.

There were only three ladies. Ruby, who is polite and is a love interest; Sandra, who is the cook at the Cantrell Ranch, and also a love interest; and the newsman’s wife who we never actually see or hear but is just referred to. There’s a sweet little romance going on throughout the plot that was pretty simple and fast moving.

All together, the story read more like a screenplay for an old time western TV show. If that is what the author was going for, then he did it spot on. I found the plot and characters rather predictable. It was a sweet little tale that might evoke nostalgia for those old western serials for some. For me, I wanted a bit more – more realistic characters all around, more complex plot, etc.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the narrator (via the GoodReads Audiobooks Group) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: J. Scott Bennett did a good job. I think it must have been difficult to come up with so many cowboy voices and keep them all distinct, but he pulled it off. There was only 1 Hispanic accent (Sandra the cook) and he did that well. The voices for the lady characters were believable.

What I Liked: Jubul Foxworth – his name is just fun to say; the setting; Sandra the cook.  

What I Disliked: Characters and plot were rather predictable.

A Serpent's Tooth by Craig Johnson

Heldig startled by bookage.
Heldig startled by bookage.

Where I Got It: From the library.

Narrator: George Guidall

Publisher: Recorded Books (2013)

Length: 9 hours 26 minutes

Series: Book 9 Walt Longmire

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 9 in the series, it works well as a stand alone. There are some vague references to events that happened in the previous book, but I don’t feel that it detracted or distracted from this story.

In Absaroka County, Wyoming, Sheriff Longmire and his deputies are caught up in the mystery of a homeless Mormon ‘lost boy’ and his missing mother. The boy, Cord, has a mysterious protector, an elderly man who claims the name of a long-dead Mormon founder. Meanwhile, Longmire and his deputies keep having run-ins with the local heads of the polygamy religious group. There’s weapons a plenty and not a few people shielding themselves with religion as they make their power plays.

In this modern day western, Walt Longmire has his work cut out for him. An elderly single lady truly believes that she has a guardian angel that fixes all her broken house hold appliances while she is out running chores or socializing. What Walt and his deputy Vic Moretti find is a young man who quickly scampers away, inadvertently leaving his pants behind. Of course, a pantsless boy on foot isn’t that hard to track down and before long, Walt is trying to get info out of young Cord Lynear. What Walt steps into is beyond his expectations.

It appears that the small, yet well armed, polygamy Mormon sect has had trouble in other states. Now that trouble is on Walt’s doorstep. However, finding people to talk to him about the inner workings of this sect is difficult, and dangerous. I really enjoyed watching Walt and his team unwind this mystery. The author does a good job of getting my ire up without having the injustices of this small, made-up religious sect over crowd the plot. I really felt for the women and children of the sect, even though we only meet a few of them.

Meanwhile, there has been a romance brewing between Walt and Vic for some time. We get more of that here, though I don’t want to say too much as I haven’t read Book 8 and don’t know where that left off with this romantic subplot. Things definitely heat up and by the end of the book there is a poignant surprise for both Walt and the readers. The romance adds to the characters and doesn’t detract from the plot.

Henry Standing Bear is ever a presence in these books and I am glad that he is around. Walt can definitely use the help with this case. His stolid character and dry humor are always a welcome addition to any scene. Also, he can handle himself in a fight.

Over all, this was a very enjoyable mystery. I got quite attached to Cord and his self-assigned protector, Orrin Porter (or so he says he is). Also, I like that the author takes these mysteries seriously. Not all of Walt’s deputies will make it out of this story whole and healthy. Even though I am not particularly attached to most of these side characters (i. e. Frymire and Double Tough), I still felt for them when the plot got serious.

The Narration: George Guidall has a great voice for Walt Longmire. Also, I found he did a decent job for Vic Moretti’s voice as well. His pacing was also good in this book. He also had a great adolescent voice for Cord and crotchety old man voice for Orrin Porter. 

What I Liked: The mystery goes from a missing person to something much larger; there’s enough injustices done in a religion’s name to irk without eclipsing the plot; the romance doesn’t distract from the plot; Cord and Orrin were great characters; not everyone gets out unscathed.

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

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Lynch: A Gothic Western by Nancy A. Collins

CollinsLynchWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: Lucas D. Smith

Publisher: Nancy A. Collins (2012)

Length: 3 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This is one of those wild weird west stories – and I really enjoyed every minute of it. So we got this guy, Johnny Pearl, wandering the Wyoming area post-Civil War. He’s killed a lot of people, has a reputation, and has to kill more people because idiots keep on challenging him to gun duels and won’t take ‘No’ for an answer. But then he finds his personal angel, Katie Small Dove. Too bad that doesn’t last long. The main antagonist, known as Cpt. Antioch Drake, strolls in and sets things ablaze, killing and hanging. But shortly after Drake and his soldiers clear out, a wonky medicine wagon rolls in, driven by Dr. Mirablis who has a special use for a hung corpse such as Johnny Pearl.

Even though this is novella length, we have a nice solid set up to give us an idea of who Johnny Pearl was before he met Katie, and who he was with Katie, to compare with what he becomes after Doc Mirablis hooks him up to a power source and forces him back to life. I really like that the author took the time to show that. Johnny starts off as a damaged warrior who isn’t sure he wants to warrior anymore but doesn’t see a good alternative (not until Katie enters his life). He goes from this typical damaged hero to this reluctant vengeful hero – a path I enjoyed reading.

Meanwhile, Doc Mirablis has a chip on his shoulder, something to prove. His once-friend and associate, Dr. Viktor Von Frankenstein, managed something incredible, and Mirablis plans to out do him! Cue evil scientist laughter. He’s already made a few attempts – such as the horse in the stable back at the hidden evil laboratory, and his two reluctant henchmen – Sasquatch and Pompeii. Sasquatch was made up of a collection of body parts from a slain Indian village, and as such, he has a rather unique take on his second life (or lives?). Meanwhile, Pompeii was Mirablis’s man servant for years before he died and Mirablis brought him back to life. There’s true loyalty there. But there’s a few costs to living for these once dead men (and horse). If Johnny doesn’t plan ahead, he could end up returning to the dead or becoming a true monster. Both costs make sense, but one is a wee bit bone chilling!

As you might have guessed, once Johnny gets his feet back under him, he is obsessed with revenge. Antioch Drake must die! But he’s not allowed to leave the hidden evil laboratory and the exit is well guarded. Too bad Johnny is rather single-minded, eh? The last quarter of the book is the most exciting. It was indeed nail biting. Given all the crap that has already happened to Johnny, and not knowing if there is a sequel out there (I don’t think there is), I was deeply concerned for our hero. I did not know if he would make it out of this story alive or not. When all was said and done, I was quite satisfied with how things ended, even with that little disturbing twist at the end.

My one little quibble is that we only 1 female character and she has such a small role, even if she has a big impact on Johnny Pearl.

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

Narration:  Lucas Smith was the perfect voice for Johnny Pearl. He had this gravelly, touch-of-sadness voice that really worked for the character. He had great accents for the other characters as well – like the German accent for Dr. Mirablis. The one female character had very few lines but Smith made them sound like a believable female. Later in the story, he has to make some interesting sounds for these walking dead men. An excellent performance all around.

What I Liked:  A wild weird west story!; love the cover art; really enjoyed Johnny Pearl’s character arc; the various twists were well placed and made this story stick with me; couple different ethnicities tossed in; very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked:  There’s only 1 female character and her role is rather tiny and she could really be almost any woman for the purposes of this story.

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