Dab of Darkness Expands

For-Review books and a book won from a blogger's giveaway.
For-Review books and a book won from a blogger’s giveaway.

2012 ended on an exceedingly good note for Dab of Darkness, which got mentioned on a SF Signal podcast (Episode 170). Thank you everyone who had a hand in that, especially Lady Dark Cargo and Little Red Reviewer.

Since 2010, I have been writing for Dark Cargo, and once I started up my review blog, I kept writing for Dark Cargo because I love the atmosphere, the dialogue, the other contributors. Truly, it feels like a second bloggy home. With the success of Dab of Darkness over the past several months, I have decided to expand beyond my reviews and read alongs. I intend to start doing author interviews, bookish commentary, and other whimsical posts at my discretion. Of course, you’ll still be able to find me over at Dark Cargo on Tuesdays, but I highly recommend you visit DC for the great stuff by the other wonderful writers throughout the week.

For Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Scifi Month, I will have a guest post on Brian Stableford up on January 10th. I am sure I will remind you all. Andrea will have great posts about vintage (in this case pre-1979) science fiction going up all month long, so don’t hesitate to stop by over there .

Several nonfiction books from Granma.
Several nonfiction books from Granma.

For 2013, I hope to participate in several reading events (see this previous post for info on upcoming reading events), but I also hope to add more historical fiction to my reading calendar. Truly, I find it difficult to say which of the three genres (Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Historical Fiction) are my favorite as I value them all highly. Throw in several series I would like to finish, several SFF series I would like to start, a handful of rereads, a little poetry, and some nonfiction, and you’ll have a TBR mountain that you’ll never see me dig out of. Haha!

AsherPennRowling
I have several Neal Asher & Shraon Kay Penn books, given to me by a good friend.

Over the past several months, I have also taken in several For-Review books, all of which I am excited about, of course. So I plan to get that pile down to a much smaller list before accepting further review books. Additionally, the bookish blogging community is so very generous with their book contests and giveaways; I have won several books over the past year and yet have only read a small percentage of them. That will change. Once again, I am excited about all those books and have nefarious plans for them that involve heavy, sleepy cats and a good cup of tea.

Finally, what follows is a partial, random list of my bookish hopes and dreams for 2013. What books are on your 2013 Hope-To-Finish List?

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (a reread)

Ian Tregillis’s 3rd book will be out this year (Bitter Seeds was awesome)

The Red Wall series by Brian Jacques

Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander series

Some nonfiction by William Shatner

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (reread)

NK Jemisin (I’m a few books behind)

Jasper Forde (I keep hearing his stuff is amazing)

Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough

Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut (nonfiction)

Oedipus the King

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (I’m not sure about this one, but willing to give it a try)

I’m 2 books behind on Alan Bradley’s Flavia deLuce mysteries

The Stand by Stephen King (I have never read King, ever)

McCaffrey, Jordan, & Some SciFi

BradburyGermanMcCaffreyDumasProvost2013 is upon us and my reading date calendar is already getting full. I plan to participate in some exciting things this year, of which below is just part of them.

Dark cargo is hosting the year-long Ye Olde Booke Clubbe in which folks pick some classics to challenge themselves with. This year, I have picked 11 books to attempt, and perhaps even finish, by the end of 2013 that fit into YOBC. I have never read any of these books, so it should be educational if nothing else.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Sr.

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas, Sr.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Sr.

Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

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I will also be doing several science fiction reading events the first part of the year. First off, Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting The Science Fiction Experience that goes from Jan. 1st through the end of February. I have several For-Review books that are scifi and this reading event will encourage me to get to them sooner instead of later. He is also hosting a read along for Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey that I am most excited about – I read most of the series as a kid and look forward to this kicking me into a reread of several of her books over the year. These two events coincide perfectly with Little Red Reviewer‘s Vintage Scifi Month (January). For this event, I picked out several possible reads, though I am not sure I will get through them all:

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Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Dark is the Sun by Philip Jose Farmer

A variety of Heinlein and Vonnegut novellas

I also have some things in the works with Mercury Retrograde Press, run by the most accommodating Barabara Friend Ish. Mercury Retrograde is a small press with several fine authors and I am looking forward to working my way through the catalog this year. I hope to participate in one or more read alongs of Mercury Retrograde books, along with reviews and author interviews. Of course, as things become more concrete, there will be the usual read along announcements to see if others are interested in joining Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog, Sue from Coffee Cookies & Chili Peppers, and myself. Dark Cargo, by the way, was quite the instigator in getting the ball rolling on this.

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Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series read along is still going strong, co-hosted by Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings. Currently, we are on The Eye of the World and we’ll be at the 300-something-page mark this coming Sunday (Jan. 6th). If you would like to see the schedule or sign up to join us, click HERE. Also, here are Part I and Part II.

Being a read along junkie, there may be some Terry Pratchett and Andre Norton stuff coming out later, but again, I will put up announcement posts once those things are ironed out.

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The Eye of the World Read Along Part II

eyeoftheworldbannerWelcome back everyone. Hopefully one and all had excellent holidays.

This week Anya over at On Starships and Dragonwings is hosting, so make sure to stop by over at her place. She will also have some sort of link mechanism up to enter your blog post on so we can all visit each other. If you want, feel free to leave a link to your blog post here in the comments too.

This week’s reading post covers Chapters 8 through end of Chapter 14. Click over HERE for the schedule. If you wish to recieve weekly emails with the discussion questions a day or two before the Sunday post, sign up over HERE. Next week will be Chapters 15 through the end of Chapter 20, hosted here.

Without further ado, here are this week’s questions with my questionable answers:

1. The stories of Moiraine and her sisters don’t seem to always match up with who she is, but other times they do (the whirlpool). How do you think these two versions of Moraine compare?
Moiraine has excellent fashion sense – and I am talking about that cloak and dress of hers. I definitely want a Moiraine outfit for next Halloween. Second, I think that with any large organization (and I get the impression that there are many Aes Sedai) there’s going to be a wide spectrum of folks with extremes on both ends. Couple that with the longevity of the organization, and you will have tales of wonder and healing and evil-doings and sinking of ships. I really look forward to meeting more Aes Sedai to have someone to compare Moiraine to.
2. Rand has now had two dreams that seem to be more than dreams. What do you think they mean?
Let me be honest and just say that I am not really digging the dream sequences…at least, not yet. In essence, given the basic outline of this story, I think they mean that the Dark Side is trying to scare him. Perhaps it is also a mechanism to help in tracking him or make him more susceptible to making mistakes (like not trusting Moiraine), and hence, easier to catch.
3. There are two other boys that could be significant to the Trollocs, but Moiraine seems to be paying special attention to Rand. How do you think all of them are involved? Also why do you think all of this is happening now all of a sudden, instead of when the boys were younger?
Perhaps Moiraine knows that rand’s father left The Two Rivers and returned with a child and a foreign wife, while Mat’s and Perrin’s parents are homegrown and never got any further than the farthest pig field or the nearest village. This would make Rand unique in this one regard. Also, the trolloc at Rand’s house said the Shade wanted to chat with him. Now how many people do you know get invited out to tea and a chat with a Shade? That would make me feel pretty darn special.
Pico in his basket, his nap time interrupted.
Pico in his basket, his nap time interrupted.

4. Thom has hinted at an interesting past and reacted to Moraine’s presence when she first appeared. What do you think of this mysterious gleeman?

Anyone who has traveled extensively is going to have many interesting stories, a past, and things they would rather keep to themselves. So the fact that Thom reacted to an Aes Sedai doesn’t concern me too much yet. Though I will say that I am a bit suspicious of him and his motives – as anyone should be of a near stranger who offers to disappear with you suddenly in the middle of the night. And anyone who can play an instrument, can tell of good story, or juggle, and has a fancy patchwork cape can call themselves a gleeman.
5. We’ve been learning more about the Aes Sedai, but also about the lack of male counterparts. What do you think of this? Is it somehow related to the prologue?
I believe the prologue is about the last time the world was broken by the Dragon, creating Dragonmount, and I assume, disrupting the land around it for hundreds of miles. I am still trying to figure out the details on how the magic system is set up. The One Power has male and female sides. So why not male Aes Sedai? They can’t all be bad; they can’t all be driven insane by the use of the power so easily……can they? And how do the Warders weigh into it?
6. Lan noticed Rand’s sword and commented on how Rand’s father taught him to concentrate. How do you think these coincidences are related?
Obviously, there is more to Tam’s past than Rand is aware of. I would really enjoy seeing Tam’s character again, and learning more about his past and the truth of his fever mutterings. I think Lan has some guesses and he obviously knows more about the heron mark than Rand does. I wonder if he will make the opportunity to explain some of it to Rand?
(7) Finally, Anya just wanted to mention that her copy has a map before chapter 13 for the new areas that our adventurers have moved into and she was wondering if anyone else had noticed this map and what people thought of “maps as you go.”
I decided to go with the audio version of this book for the read along. However, I have a paperback that I use to look at the cool maps. I am a map studier; I will take a good 10 minutes to study a detailed map before launching into a book (if one is available). I think it is cool that a small part of the large map (right after the prologue in my book) is put at the beginning of Chapter 13, with a bit more detail. While I love my maps, sometimes they can also giveaway part of the story if you are a map studier like I am. So Maps As You Go are a pretty cool idea.
Other Tidbits:
The last names of Perrin Aybara & Haral Luhhan are similar in sound to local Hispanic last names and since I am doing the audio, this always gives me a warm little smile.
I am glad that both Egwene and Bela got to go on the adventure, though I felt it was a little convenient that it was ‘part of the pattern’.
I think The Children of the Light might turn out to be some of the scariest people in the book/series.
I am pretty sure there is some serious foreshadowing when Thom goes on about the Stone of Tear and the Sword That Cannot Be Touched. Be interesting to see how that turns out.

 

The Living Room by Bill Rolfe

Smudge is my most skittish cat, detesting most electronics.
Smudge is my most skittish cat, detesting most electronics.

Why I Read It: I liked the idea that the author was inspired by a dream, which would not let go of him.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy inspirational books about finding purpose and love in life will probably enjoy this book.

Publisher: LTD Publications (2012)

Length: 155 pages

Daniel Clay is a New York investment adviser, well liked by nearly everyone. He works out, is a good looker, has a golden career ahead of him. However, his personal life is a desert, lacking in close friends, family, and spouse. A mysterious unknown uncle leaves him his house in a will, this house being located in England. Daniel takes a much deserved break from work to fix up the old house and put it on the market. In the process of doing these home repairs, he manages to injure himself bad enough to need some minor medical attention from none other than the most lovely Claire. Some Instant Love ensues and pretty soon the two are setting up house.

Claire’s job is as a nurse for the terminally ill children, some of which she has nursed for years. In Daniel’s house, there is an upstairs room full of light with an excellent view. He gives permission to set it up for the children in their final days. Daniel understandably freaks out a bit after the first little girl passes away. He then starts praying for the next child, who miraculously recovers, even as Daniel becomes ill.

Let be up front and say that I have a deep-seeded prejudice towards faith healing, having suffered the consequences of a childhood of failed prayer healings that have left me with a debilitating disease. With that stated, I have definitely tried my best to set that aside and enjoy this book, and to write an honest review free of my personal prejudice. I leave it up to all of you to decide if I have done so.

This book is fairly short, at 155 pages, so the story moves along at a pretty fast clip. Most of the time, this works well for me though I did find it a bit convenient, if sweet, to have the two main characters instantly fall in love. I think the limited length of the story also led to pretty one dimensional characters (which isn’t always bad – such as in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere). Hence, the story is pretty predictable. With that said, there were still several small insights into the human condition that I found touching – such as the flute playing elderly nurse, the simple kindness of taking an ill kid out for a drive, ice cream, and a toy, and encouraging a young newspaper boy to attend college.

The ending was mostly satisfying. SPOILER ALERT While Daniel and Claire decide to live their lives together (bonus), there was this assumption that would happen in NY (negative) and not in England; Claire’s years of work in her community are just as valuable, if not more so, than Daniel’s in NY END SPOILER. If you are one to believe in miracles, then this book is very touching, capturing the necessity for small kindnesses both for the living and the soon to be dead.

What I Liked: The set up of the story drew me in; Daniel’s character captures how a person can be polite, even kind, yet have an empty life; Claire’s calling is a tough one and she carries it out with strength, poise, and kindness.

What I Disliked: The Instant Love between the two main characters; the dead-uncle-left-me-a-house really reminded me of a Peter Mayle book that was made into a movie (A Good Year) some years ago; Daniel’s charity seemed a little over the top sometimes (like the giving of a car, etc.).

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Clean sheets, cats, and a good book.
Clean sheets, cats, and a good book.

Why I Read It: The Dresden Files is one of my all-time favorite series.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: The Dresden Files series is urban fantasy at it’s best. If you are not familiar with Butcher’s works, start with Storm Front.

Publisher: Penguin Group (2012)

Length: 528 pages

Series: Book 14 Dresden Files

I will do my best to chat about this book without revealing too many spoilers about the series or this specific book. The few spoilers included will be marked.

Harry Dresden, Chicago wizard detective, seems to have at least one really tough day a year. If you’ve kept up with this series, you know that each book is about one of those days. Book 14 is no exception. Book 12, Changes, ended in a tough way for Harry. Book 13, Ghost Story, found Harry defeating that tough ending, only to jump from the fire into the frying pan. Book 14, Cold Days, we get to find out what Harry does with the frying pan. And he handles it masterfully, grabbing that frying pan with both hands and slamming it into anyone who tries to manipulate him. Once again, Jim Butcher kept me well entertained.

Harry has a new role in the land of the Fae, specifically in the Winter Court, and he is given a most difficult task by Queen Mab. In order to accomplish this task, he reunites with friends from the human world and crashes into opposition from not only the Fae Summer Court, but also trouble makers in the Winter Court. Fans of the series will be glad to see old friends brought into play, even as old enemies start coming out of the wood work. Most touching to me were several scenes between vampire Thomas and Harry.

Even as Harry fights for the good of our world, he is tormented by a newly given power which threatens to turn him into a less honorable man. Coupled with this, a fight on the Large Universe level is revealed to him, adding urgency to his quest to fulfill his Winter Court orders and yet maintain his humanity. Each time I read one of these books, I think, that’s as big as it can get; it just can’t get any worse than this. Ha! I’m always delightedly wrong. Because the characters continue to grow and change throughout this series, it never, ever gets old. Each book isn’t a rerun of the last, nor are there simply 4-6 tropes that Butcher recycles. People change, allegiances change, the scope changes. Book 14 is not an exception.

If I have any complaints about this book, it is that some of the banter fell a little short, didn’t make me chuckle as much as in previous books. In part, this may be due to conscious decision by Butcher, as things are a little strained between Harry and some of his Chicago friends, so the conversations and banter would be a little off, a little strained themselves. However, such a minor complaint did not keep me from experiencing a large sense of fulfillment at the end of the novel. Foolishly, at Page 99, I thought I had glimpsed the ending; I was wrong, because the ending was so much more than I anticipated.

What I Liked: Harry has additional inner demons to fight; Harry doesn’t magically, instantaneously recover from injuries received in past books; his love life is complicated; we got a glimpse of what the final, giganto battle might be for the series; Thomas and Harry have some of the best lines together; satisfying ending; SPOILERS Mac’s mysterious past; reunited with Mouse; Bob shares a key piece of info; Murph on a Harley; Harry teasing The Malk (is he an idiot, or just sleep deprived?); Demonreach and his underground jail of mayhem; pet names like ‘Spangle Crotch’ END SPOILERS.

What I Disliked: In a few instances, the banter didn’t feel as well-rounded as I would have enjoyed.

readandreviewbuttonThis week, I am counting this as part of On Starships and Dragonwings’ Read & Review Hop. I mean, it’s an awesome book and everyone should hear about it. Period. Make sure to stop over at Anya’s for more great reviews.

The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman

Waffles is such an easy cat to photograph, mostly because she is sleeping.
Waffles is such an easy cat to photograph, mostly because she is sleeping.

Why I Read It: I felt like something light, an easy read.

Where I Got It: paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy children’s adventure books, this is pretty decent.

Narrator: Aasne Vigesaa

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2005)

Length: 5 CDs

Series: Book 1 The Land of Elyon

It was cute.

Oh, OK. This is a book review site and you all deserve more than that. Well, most of you anyway.

Set in the fantasy land of Elyon, our 12 year old heroine (Alexa Daley) is precocious, independent, and has a tendency to inadvertently break stuff. She also saves the day through perseverance and cleverness. She lives in a world of connected cities that elected to wall out nature some decades ago. Spending the summer in Bridewell with her father, she can just barely catch a glimpse of the forest beyond the walls if she stands in just the right place. Her fascination leads her to an unexpected realm of talking animals and a dangerous plot by a group of once-upon-a-time criminals living in the woods.

While Patrick Carman‘s book had a few twists and turns, it was still fairly predictable. Alexa seemed to be the only kid around (which I found odd, but didn’t really detract from the story), and a small clever person was needed by the animals to sabotage the Evil Plan. While certain characteristics of some people, like the pesky rule-oriented Mr. Kotcher, were rather exaggerated, I was pleased that not everyone was as they seemed. I also enjoyed watching Alexa work pretty hard for each step of the adventure; very little was given to her.

In the end, the good guys win. Congrats. If I was younger, it probably would have been more exciting for me. I can see parents putting this on for the kids for a long road trip and enjoying bits of it themselves.

The audio was well done. The narrator, Aasne Vigesaa, was a great fit for Alexa’s voice and I especially loved her animal voices (yeah for squirrels!). I wish I could find a website for her, but Brilliance Audio lists several other books performed by her.

What I Liked: Starred a heroine; plot twists; talking animals; an intense moment or two with Mr. Kotcher were some of my favorite scenes; the cover.

What I Disliked: Overall, a bit predictable.

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Why I Read It: I’m enraptured by the Enderverse!

Where I Got It: The library.

969454Who I Would Recommend This To: Folks who enjoyed Ender’s Game would probably like this book – it’s a great complimentary book.

Narrators: Stefan Rudnicki, Gabrielle de Cuir, Scott Brick

Publisher: MacMillan Audio (2005)

Length: 15 hours 42 minutes

Series: Book 1 Shadow Saga

I know that I kind of jumped out of order in which the books were written, but I couldn’t resist going back to Ender’s Game through the eyes of Bean. It was actually pretty cool to read the two books so close together. If you’ve read Ender’s Game, then you already know that Bean is pretty darn smart for his young age; you have to be to end up at Battle School. So this tale is about Bean’s origins and his journey to Battle School and then tagging along to help Ender save the human race. If you haven’t read Ender’s Game, I would strongly suggest starting there instead of with Ender’s Shadow, and I believe both books would be an excellent read before the movie comes out.

Once again, Orson Scott Card shows his depth of understanding of the human heart and psyche. While not as moving as Speaker for the Dead, Ender’s Shadow still contained several poignant moments. Bean is yet another of the numerous orphans on the streets of crowded Rotterdam. He manages to join a small gang and comes up with a plan that changes the paradigm in his neighborhood. This, of course, brings himself and his little gang to the attention of the authorities who are ever searching for that talented few that will succeed in beating off the next Bugger attack.

Pretty soon, we are rocketing up to Battle School with Bean who has to learn a whole new way of life, including friendship and trust. Even though I already knew the outcome of the many confrontations from reading Ender’s Game, it was still nail biting suspense to see them through Bean’s eyes. Of course, there were a number of events that happened in Bean’s life that are not in Ender’s Game, keeping the reader interested even though the book’s ending is known.

My one complaint with this novel is that cleverness and knowledge seem to by accentuated in Bean’s character, even beyond what I would allow for a genious kid. Without spoiling anything, there is a scene where Baby Bean hides in a small thing of water for several hours. Now, putting aside the brain power and knowledge necessary to do so successfully, a hairless being that small needs to be concerned about hypothermia. These instances were few and small, but still I feel they detracted a bit from the overall novel, especially since I know what Card is capable of in Speaker for the Dead.

The audio production and narration was superb. The same crew played a role in this novel and that helps greatly in enjoying such a large branching series in audio format. Stefan Rudnicki, always a favorite, was Graff and he plays him so very well. It was great to have Gabrielle de Cuir and Scott Brick along for the read also.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: Bean has some good one-liners; learning about trust and friendship can be just as scary as having street smarts pounded into you; a good ending for Bean.

What I Disliked: A few exaggerated points that I felt were beyond even a genius child in a scifi story; why are there so few girls at Battle School?

This review is part of The Read & Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by over there to enjoy more book reviews.

The Eye of the World Read Along Part I

eyeoftheworldbannerWelcome everyone to the fun of dissecting Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World, Book 1 of The Wheel of Time series. Anya of On Starships and Dragonwings and I here at Dab of Darkness will be hosting back and forth. It’s great that so many of you signed up to enjoy with us. If anyone else would like to join in receiving the blog post questions a few days early so you can prepare a blog post, you can sign up at the form over HERE.

Below are this week’s questions, along with my answers. Just a reminder, we will be skipping next week due to the numerous winter holidays going on and returning the week after. Schedule in detail is over HERE.

Waffles in a rare serious mood.
Waffles in a rare serious mood.

Again, this week’s post covers the prologue through the end of Chapter 7.

1) The prologue is a pretty bleak and dark place. Then we enter Two Rivers and meet the young folk, mostly farmers. Do you think these two very different scenes show the bookends of the spectrum we can expect for the book?

Even though I read this book several years ago (pushing 2 decades), I don’t remember much of it. The bleakness and loss described in the prologue tho – really, can we get much worse than that? And so far there hasn’t been any cussing or particularly bloody violence, even as dire the circumstances as captured in the prologue. And I can’t really imagine things any mellower than the initial few chapters in Two Rivers. So, yeah, I think the prologue and first few chapters capture the spectrum of the book.

2) Overall are you enjoying the level of description and the portent telling (the crow, the black-robed man on horseback, etc.)?

I do enjoy my epic fiction descriptive. I know it’s not for everyone, but when I want detail, I really want it. And I enjoy portents as long as they are explained later in the story, and not just simply due to some psychic connection to the universe. I like it to be small things hindsight 20/20 makes reasonably clear.

3) What do you think the story is for Rand and Egwene up to this point?

These two are so awkward around each other that either there has been zero kissing or a very odd first kiss. I also suspect they have known each other their whole lives and at some point she lit his hair on fire and he tricked her into climbing into a well and left her there for a few hours, or some such nonsense.

4) The story takes a most serious turn once the trollocs attack the al’Thor farmstead. It also raises plenty of questions about Tam’s past. Care to guess on what some of that past is?

Oooo! So far, the most tantalizing bits are about Tam’s past. I would really love to hear his story at some point. I wonder if he was a traveling merchant, or a mercenary, or happened to be in an odd place at the wrong time and was pressed into the service of some noble for the war. I hope we get to hear more of it as the story goes on.

5) Chapter 7 leaves us with many questions, like Rand has many questions: Why trollocs? What was his father going on about in his fever? Who are Moraine and Lan and why are they really in Two Rivers? Will Tam survive? Which of these (or other) questions are you most anxious to see answered in the coming chapters?

The larger question I am more interested in is why the trollocs in Two Rivers. It is obvious they are looking for something or someone specific, but for what purpose I don’t recall from my reading all those years ago. I also forgot why Moraine and Lan had traveled so far afield and I look forward to learning (or relearning) about their quest.

Other Tidbits:

The world building seems to draw on a variety of European lore – Beltyne, Shaitan, al’Thor. I find this interesting, but the jury is still out on whether or not it works for me.

Some of the trollocs had hooves, some feathers, some more human than others. Disturbing. Yet the biologist in me wants to know how the variety of mishmashes was done. Yet it is probably unlikely I will get an explanation on this any time soon.

Looking forward to your comments. If you created a blog post, make sure to fill out the Mr. Linky below so we all get a chance to stop by. If for some reason the Linky isn’t working, just leave a comment with your blog name and link to your post and I’ll manually make a list throughout that day.

Mr. Linky tis broken.

1) On Starships and Dragonwings
2) Musings on Fantasia

3) Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers
Leave a comment below with your link and I’ll add it to the list. thanks!

Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler

10634286Why I Read It: I like reading about confined folks who got issues, whether it’s in space or under a dome on ruined Earth.

Where I Got It: From the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you are a fan of Logan’s Run and YA, then this book has a lot for you.

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Publisher: AudioGO (2012)

Length: 9 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 1 Ashes

I grew up with Logan’s Run, first the movie and then the series. There were many things I liked about them, including the characters’ needs to live beyond their assigned roles and years. Ashes of Twilight captures that same feel, but without being a duplicate of this classic. Set under a large dome somewhere in Wales, UK over what once was a large coal deposit, Wren MacAvoy struggles to fit in, to make her grandfather proud, and to unravel the hidden reasons for a friend’s death. As a coal miner, next to the lowest of the low in this structured society, she is shunned in most public places above ground and people of her status rarely marry outside of their class. And indeed, their world is very set, having existed under a dome for several generations after a world calamity made the surface unlivable.

With that set up, Kassy Tayler leads us into her world, bit by bit through Wren’s eyes. Indeed, this was one of the things I enjoyed about the writing: the story showed me Wren’s world instead of telling it to me. At 16, she and a few other young friends feel the need to stretch their wings and push for something more. One long-lived question in their lives has been what is beyond the dome wall? Alex challenges the status quo and ends up dead, his last words being, ‘The sky is blue,’ which leads to all sorts of grief and consternation.

Wren has to avoid not only the Filchers (masked folks that will grab a coal miner off the streets), and the city guard, but also her own people’s senior council. Yet she manages to attract the attention of all three plus the city Royals. Indeed, she becomes the focus for the spread of revolution. The intensity and action were sprinkled with Wren’s inner thoughts and concerns, keeping the tension high throughout the book. Along the way, she meets Pace, an aspiring city guard who ends up on the wrong side of a bit of knowledge and needs a place to hide. Young love strikes the both of them. Now, there was really only 1 thing I didn’t care for in this book, and it was the near instant love, yet no sex. Please, a set society trapped under a dome for numerous generations is going to have birth control freely available, or it would have collapsed due to over population after a few generations. It’s OK to be 16 or 18 and in lust and have that lust turn to friendship , and perhaps more later on.

I really connected with Wren and Pace and even a few of the minor characters. I like the use of animals (cats, canaries, and ponies) throughout the story. While I found it a little convenient that Pace is a super athlete brimming with muscle, a sensitive guy, and has great concern for his mum, I still enjoyed his humor and felt he made a descent counterpoint to Wren and her periodic lack of confidence. The ending gave me mixed feelings, but set up the reader for Book 2. On one hand, Wren stayed true to her 16-year-old self; on the other hand the larger picture wasn’t considered by Wren and her friends.

Nicola Barber was the perfect choice for this audiobook. She captured Wren’s voice crystal clear and I enjoyed her portrayal of Peggy, Pace, Alex, and the other young folks. Her ‘Royal’ voice was also fitting.

What I Liked: The cover; structured society trapped under a dome; big freaking secret kept from society at large; Wren’s kindness yet she has survival instincts; Pace’s humor; the characters had fears and shortcomings and this made then more real; Tayler’s storytelling is very approachable.

What I Disliked: Instant love yet no sex (not realistic); mixed feelings about the ending.

The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee

Waffles on the nice clean sheets.
Waffles on the nice clean sheets.

Why I Read It: I’m enamored with Lowachee‘s scifi books set in the Warchild Universe.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: I think those who enjoy intense fantasies that have the clash of cultures at the center of them would like this book.

Publisher: Orbit (2010)

Length: 368 pages

Series: I really hope this is Book 1 of a series.

Sjennonirk of the Aniw comes from a simple, frozen world where words are used in a straightforward manner and she is a spiritwalker, respected by her people. After her Dog kills a violent Kabliw (outsider), Sjenn is taken from her homeland to the Ciracusan city of Nev Anyan, where General Farrell directs her to teach the Dog to his son, Captain Jarrett Fawle. The story switches back and forth between Sjenn’s point of view and that of Jarrett’s, capturing the two main cultures. Set in a gaslight world of seven deities and warring tribes and the ever pressing Sairlanders, Karin Lowachee transports the reader into the hearts and minds of two complicated characters.

It took me approximately 100 pages to truly get into this novel. At first, I was trying to read it in quick snatches of 3-7 pages, but that wasn’t really working. This tale demands your full attention as you as the reader are forced into these different cultures. Luckily, I had to sit through an hour long MRI of my ankle and became fully engaged in the story. As long as I could give the book it’s due of 20-50 pages at a time, I absolutely loved this novel. In shorter increments, I felt slightly out of place, like I was trying to engage in a foreign language briefly at the corner cafe.

With that said, this book took my respect for Lowachee’s works to a new level. Her ability to capture another culture and mindset and transport the reader into those hearts and minds is well demonstrated in this book. This book will be one of those that I return to again and again over the years, each time gaining some new insight from it. This book has the cultures of multiple tribes coming into play, three of which have spiritwalkers. Up until Jarrett shows his young spirit, his Dog, Sjenn does not believe he can be taught, as it is unheard of for a Kabliw to have a Dog. Jarrett’s father is unbending in his insistence that he be taught.

The book ends on an open note and I am very much hoping that Orbit (or another publisher) publish the rest of the series. I have a need for more Lowachee. Orbit, I’ll be sending you a memo. MORE LOWACHEE.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: The spiritwalker Dogs; Sjenn is strong without feeling a need to compete with the men; Jarrett is complex, angry, lost; after reading this, I felt like I had just spent a month in another culture.

What I Disliked: It did take me several chapters to get into it, but it was well worth the effort; PLEASE let there be more to the series.

This is part of the Read&Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to check out the rest of the hop for more great reviews.