New Spring, Part I

JordanNewSpringBannerWelcome everyone to Book 0 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan which is a prequel to the series set several years before Book 1. You can find the schedule to New Spring over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week, our host is Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, and he can be found in the comments.  Stop by Sue’s at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers, a place for deft reasoning. Make sure to check out Liesel’s at Musings on Fantasia, home of the cool non-spoilery fan art.

This week, we covered Chapters 1-6. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1. We find ourselves back at the end of the Aiel war, with a long-lost friend. Are there any other time periods you would have liked to see instead? Other characters you would have liked to follow?

I’m not too sure when the Ogier pretty much stopped leaving their Steddings to do construction (was it before or after this Aiel war?) but I would have liked to see them at work, instead of just their handy work falling into disrepair over the ages.

For this book, I am really hoping we get to see Tam, maybe hang out in his head a bit, and see what he is like as a soldier.

2. Gitara Moroso foretells Rand’s birth. If you recall, she was also the one who told Tigraine (Rand’s mother) to leave and go to the waste. What do you think about one person having such an impact on history?

Maybe that is why Gitara had her heart attack. In her prophesy she saw Tigraine’s face and realized just what her impact on history was.

By now, we have had it repeated quite often that the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills and there is no escaping that will. So someone somewhere had to tell Tigraine to leave for the Waste, or help her, or force her to. So if Gitara had not done so, some other person/mechanism would have done so. With that in mind, no it is not so surprising that Gitara’s actions set in motion other actions that lead to Rand’s birth meeting the specifics of more than one prophesy concerning the Dragon Reborn.

3. Tamra Ospenya hopes to catch the Dragon Reborn in a big list of names. What do you think of this idea? Knowing what we know about Rand, do you find it likely that he’ll be in the lists somewhere?

I’m trying to recall if Tam came back with a big pouch of coins, even if he just tucked them away with his sword…..and I can’t recall. But since Rand was born to a dying woman, and Tam meets up with Rand’s step-mom just before or just after Rand’s birth, I am guessing that Tam wouldn’t have taken Rand to a long list and waited for such sad details to be recorded.

So perhaps someone else on the battlefield witnessed the birth and the death of the mother and will report it to the Aes Sedai when they take their own babe to be recorded, since we saw Moiraine and Siuan asking some of the women if they knew of other babes not being carried in the line. But even then, it might be pretty vague – Aiel mother, son with red hair, etc.

4. Elaida has apparently never been nice in her entire life. Was she even at this point seeing herself as a future Amyrlin, or has she just gotten ambitious later?

Oh I have the distinct impression that Elaida has always had a stick up her ass and has always planned to use that stick to climb as high as she can. And we all know she pulled it off. I feel a little sorry for the stick.

I do find it interesting that she seems to have it in for Siuan and Moiraine at the very start of their Aes Sedai career. I think this makes it that much easier to hate Elaida for what she does to Siuan later.

5. Am I the only one who can’t help drawing comparisons with Hogwarts? Do you have any funny ones?

LOL! I was doing that too throughout this section. The Amyrlin giving Moiraine a smile when it came to using the Power to clean the ink stain out of her skirt made me think of Dumbledore reminding Hermione about time and then casually locking them in so they won’t be disturbed as they rewind time to carry off the rescue.

6. Both Moiraine and Siuan are close to being raised to the shawl. Will we see that in this book? What do you think the testing will be like, and what new thing might we learn about Moiraine and Siuan from it? Lan is around also… will we see a warder bonding?

I expect we will see at least Moiraine raised so that she can bond Lan. Siuan seems ready and prepared to be raised, but will she be tested this book? I am not sure. The senior Aes Sedai seem to enjoy tormenting the young by moving too slowly on such matters.

We’ve heard a little bit that the testers can do anything short of physical abuse/maiming to break an Accepted’s concentration during the test. So I expect anything from outright goofy to vicious words to pains and threats of pain. Perhaps they will even threaten to harm an Accepted’s friends. Aes Sedai can be pretty darn cruel. But I bet if oneof them did something completely out of character, like suddenly appear in a clown suit, that shock factor may very well be enough to break the Accepted’s concentration.

As with Nynaeve’s testing from Novice into the Accepted ranks, I expect we will see some of what makes up the core of Moiraine’s character (and Siuan’s too if she gets to test in this book). Perhaps we will see something that points to her chaotic good nature – basically her deep dedication to save this world, and yet not really beholden to any one authority.

Other Tidbits:

Lan starts off with some interesting ideas of Aes Sedai, considering where he ends up.

I love seeing Moiraine and Siuan as somewhat insecure students still learning what they can do and what roads are possible for them.

It is also fun to see that Moiraine and Siuan totally buy in to some of these Aes Sedai assumptions and lies – like the superiority assumption that the Sea Folk and Tinkers turn over any girls who show a spark of the Power. Then there is the lie that all those who run away from the Tower are caught eventually and brought back to finish out their training.

Green Ajah are one of two warrior Ajahs (the Red being the other)! That’s a new way of looking at it!

OK. I need a family tree again. Moiraine is a Damodred. Elayne’s step-brother, Galad, is a Damodred, right? And Galad is suppose to be Tigraine’s first son, right? So is Moiraine like Rand’s auntie?

Interview: Gabi Stevens, Author of The Wish List

StevensTheWishListEveryone, please welcome Gabi Stevens to the blog today. She is the author of the Time of Transition series. She also writes under the name Gabi Anderson (Destiny Coin series) and G. S. Anderson (Preternatural). Today we discuss Harry Potter and Cinderella, Star Wars I and backstory, game shows, reboots versus retellings, and plenty more!

Who are your non-writer influences?

Dare I be cliché and say my family? Okay, now that that’s behind us . . . I have to thank the teachers in my life who taught me how to think and dream, especially in high school. I went to boarding school and not only did those teachers see us in the classroom, but they also lived with us on campus. We ate meals with them, I babysat their children, etc. They introduced me to Sci Fi and Fantasy novels.

StevensAsYouWishWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Ooo, confession time. I haven’t read Dickens. I know. Shocking. But I will, one day. I’ve really never read Hemmingway, but I know the plots, and I just don’t want to. Okay, I have read The Old Man and the Sea, but none of the others. Steinbeck is another author I’ve never read. I tried to read The Red Pony once, but, well, no. I only kick myself for the Dickens. I haven’t read all of The Canterbury Tales or any of Beowulf, but I can claim to have read part of The Aeneid in Latin, as well as some Livy, Tacitus, and Palutus’s Menaechmi. And I can claim Faust, parts one and two in German. (Too much bragging?)

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

If you subscribe to the Joseph Campbell school of thought, there is only one story, so essentially every story is a reboot. That said, I loved Harry Potter (books more than movies, although I loved the movies too), which is essentially Cinderella. I myself have written a couple of Beauty and the Beast stories (one of my favorites). If you can’t tell, I love fairy tales (must be my German Lit background). I enjoy most of the new retellings of them–although no one has ever tackled my favorite, King Thrushbeard (or Grislybeard, as some have translated it, although the point of Thrushbeard is that the king’s beard looks like the beak of a bird).

StevensWishfulThinkingI’m not as fond of reboots. If it was good before, why remake it? Psycho? Really? And not enough time has passed to reboot some of the series (Could be that I’m just old). Dare I confess I haven’t seen the new Spiderman reboots? Planet of the Apes? Mad Max, ignoring the modern incarnation of Mel Gibson, is pretty awesome already. So what if it’s dated. That’s part of its charm. And clearly, the new one is not out yet, but did we really need a new one? There are so many untouched stories out there, why remake something that’s already been done and done well? But of course there are exceptions. I can’t wait for a good Hulk movie. And (I know this is controversial) I do like the reboot of Star Trek (but I loved the old series). But if they have to reboot, why not pick the really old stuff, like the Thin Man series. But my favorite is the reboot of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock (huge fan of this reboot).

There is this rumor that you have been on a few game shows – an experience worth repeating? What would your favorite characters from your own writing be like on a game show?

I have indeed. I was on the Family Feud with the women in my family when Richard Dawson was the host. We won twice then lost the third time, but only won the “Big Money” once. So many tales to tell from that experience, especially since two of our members had heavy Hungarian accents.

Then I appeared on Sale of the Century, and lost it in a tiebreaker because they said tiebreakers would be hard questions– it was easy, and by the time I thought, “But that’s easy,” the other guy had answered.

AndersonTemptation'sWarriorBut my favorite was on Jeopardy, where I came in third, but won the best set of pots and pans ever. No, seriously, they will be handed down to my children, the quality is that good. And I was doing great until Final Jeopardy. To myself I was chanting, “Don’t be US presidents, don’t be US Presidents”, and up pops the category: US Presidents. Man, the day before (because you watch several tapings while you wait) no one got the Final Jeopardy question right (What does Alice cross in “Through the Looking Glass?), and I was sitting in the audience screaming to myself because I knew it. My question: The last surviving president to have signed the US Constitution. Really?

So if my characters would be on game shows my characters, Tennyson Ritter, hero of THE WISH LIST, would do awesome on something like Jeopardy, but horrible on something like Family Feud. He’s got brains, but he just doesn’t have the exposure to the real world to answer questions about how other people would answer. Jonathan Bastion, hero of AS YOU WISH, is too savvy a businessman not to know how people respond to things, so Family Feud would be his game. And Hyacinth, one of the Fairy Godmothers who appear in the entire trilogy, couldn’t be bothered to do something like a game show. She would probably watch them and mock the contestants that appeared on them.

What is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th) is my favorite, closely followed by May the Fourth (Star Wars day!).

AndersonFalconAndWolfHow did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

That was fun. I bought my daughters little tokens—one got a Pocket Dragon (porcelain figurine) reading a book, one got items for her Josefina doll, and I just can’t remember what I got the youngest. I bought my husband a ping pong table, which has since gone the way of the dinosaur. For myself, I bought a tiny Swarovski crystal inkwell with gold quill. When I got the call my husband was in the air, flying to Britain, so I had to leave a message at his hotel to call me as soon as he arrived with the words, “Good news” so he wouldn’t panic upon arrival. My two oldest daughters jumped up and down, and my youngest just looked up at me and said, “Chocolate milk.” Way to bring me down to reality quickly, but she was only four.

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

Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Edgar Allan Poe, L. Frank Baum, and Agatha Christie. But I would order for them–tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa, margaritas, green chile, and sopapillas. They need to be exposed to the food from where I’m from. Especially the margaritas. Can you imagine the conversation we could have after a couple?

AndersonEverYoursIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

How about for your 8th grade students?

I already did give my eighth graders SFF literature. Not only did we read a bunch of short stories—Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” “There Will Come Soft Rains”; Asimov’s Nightfall; Stephen Vincent Benet’s By the Waters of Babylon; but we also read the entire I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

As for college, here is my list of must reads: Stranger in a Strange Land, The Stars My Destination, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Martian Chronicles, The Foundation Series, The Lord of the Rings, Doomsday Book, Lord Foul’s Bane,…I know I’ve forgotten a ton.

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?

When isn’t such a moment awkward? When I’m the one doing the gushing, I figure I’m bothering the author. I had a chance to meet Brent Weeks last year and his wife and their little girl and all I could talk about was child rearing. And when someone gushes to me, I always wonder why? I’m not that good (did you know that most writers are terribly insecure).

AndersonPreternaturalWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

When my husband and I watched Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, we spent two hours discussing the movie at the end. We are both huge Star Wars fans (the original series, and Han shot first) and we didn’t like it. What it boiled down to for me was it was all backstory. As a writer you’re taught not to dump backstory on the reader. Yes, you give hints to what happened in the past, but unless it’s relevant, you don’t need backstory. SW I, II, and III are all backstory. I didn’t need to know why Anakin turned bad. I already knew he had and that he was redeemed. Funny, considering I usually like spoilers, but the difference between spoilers and backstory is huge.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am currently working on shopping around my first pure fantasy novel. I’ll keep you posted. In addition, I’ve got a story collection, Preternatural, on Kindle and Nook under the name GS Anderson, which is receiving some great reviews (Phew). Look for me and news about me at my web site: www.GabiStevens.com. You can also find me at Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Places to Stalk Gabi Stevens

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Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst

Claudie oblivious to the photoshoot.

Claudie oblivious to the photoshoot.

Why I Read It:  Over the last two years, I have developed an interest in WWII, so this looked interesting.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy historical fiction with a touch of romance and a touch of spyness.

Narrator: Daniel Gerroll

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 8 hours 13 minutes

Series: Book 13 Night Soldiers

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this book is #13 in the series, it worked just fine as a stand alone.

Cristian Ferrar is a Spanish emigre living in France, having moved with his family at a young age, completed his schooling, and attained a position at a prestigious law firm. He is the sole financial support for his family, yet even with this on his mind, he can’t turn down the possibility to help the Spanish Republic in their civil war. Set in 1938, WWII wasn’t yet begun, but there is plenty of strive throughout Europe as powers large and small jockey for position and gather in weapons and assets. Cristian teams up with Max de Lyon as they enter Germany in search of a reliable arms dealer. They are joined off and on throughout the story by colorful associates and Cristian isn’t one to put his love life on hold just because he has to worry about spies and thugs.

I enjoyed the tandem plot lines of Spanish civil war and the hints that some bigger war (WWII) is coming. Germany is tightening up her borders and cracking down on dissenters. Russia is building up weapons stocks. The wealthy pick up and leave their homelands in search of safer grounds. There was plenty of uncertainty at this time and Furst captured that very well. Since Cristian’s family left Spain seeking a more peaceful and safer abode, he knows well the double-edged sword of being an emigre. His position at a prestigious Paris law firm, one that also has offices in New York, gave him heady creditability that let his bluff his way through more than one predicament.

While we are talking about Cristian, we have to talk about his ladies. I won’t talk about all of them, because that would take too many paragraphs. I will say that he seems to be a considerate lover, and usually a good one. Of course, his predilection towards love affairs from the start of the book made me suspicious that a woman may lead him into trouble with his spy work, so when that did happen, it was not a surprise. While there are several ladies in this novel, they are merely two-dimensional at best (they have a front side and a back side, and both are usually pleasing to Cristian’s eye). None of them have any role that impacts the plot and nearly all of them are love interests, though we do have at least 2 motherly figures tossed in. I think it is obvious that I would have enjoyed some of the ladies to take a more active role in the plot instead of being scenery.

Putting that one criticism aside, we had a pretty interesting plot that centered around trying to get weapons/armaments out of one country and into another. This was far more complicated than any movie ever depicted it and I was right there with Max and Cristian feeling their determined frustration over the matter. The story took us to several countries as secret agreements were made and potential assets were spied out. There were some grimly humorous scenes tossed in that made the book a joy to listen to.

As with any good historical fiction, I learned a few things. I won’t bore you with all of them, but here are two that I found particularly interesting. During this time, the Reich of Germany supported public nudity, as admiration of the ‘perfect Aryan body’ was very important. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy naked volleyball (except for maybe the heavy breasted – male or female!)? The second little bit was that Cristian took a date to an expensive restaurant and they were given male & female menus. The Lady’s menu lacked any prices. I guess in 1938, it was assumed in all the swanky places that the man was paying. An entertaining read!

The Narration:  Daniel Gerroll was a very good pick for the voice of Cristian – light European accent, very cultured. He did have an interesting pronunciation of the Spanish word ‘abuela’ which means grandmother. Here in the desert Southwest, it is a 2 3 syllable word and Gerroll gave it 3 4 syllables. Perhaps that is high aristocratic Spanish instead of the Americanized Hispanic Spanish I know. Anyway, it was a small thing. All his voices were distinct and he did a good job with the female voices. I enjoyed his Greek accent and the few Yddish words he had to do.

What I Liked:  Educational and entertaining; Cristian is an interesting character that I connected to; a few love scenes; Furst captured the feel of uncertainty that 1938 must have held for so many Europeans; the narration was very good.

What I Disliked:  The cover doesn’t really portray the spy aspect of the story so if I just looked at the cover, I would pass it by as a romance; the ladies have no impact on the plot.

What Others Think:

We Love This Book

Historical Novel Society

Words and Peace

FaceOff edited by David Baldacci

Waffles and her nightly grooming.

Waffles and her nightly grooming.

Why I Read It: I thought this would be a great way to check out several mystery/crime/suspense/thriller authors.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy crime in its many faces.

Narrators: Dylan Baker, Jeremy Bobb, Dennis Boutsikaris, Daniel Gerroll, January LaVoy, David Baldacci

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 10 hours 49 minutes

Editor’s Page

Authors who contributed to this anthology: Lee Child, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Lisa Gardner, Dennis Lehane, Steve Berry, Jeffery Deaver, Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, James Rollins, Joseph Finder, Steve Martini, Heather Graham, Ian Rankin, Linda Fairstein, M. J. Rose, R.L. Stine, Raymond Khoury, Linwood Barclay, John Lescroart, T. Jefferson Parker, F. Paul Wilson, Peter James

This anthology contains 11 short stories, each one written by a pairing of authors, allowing characters from beloved series and standalones to be paired with another author’s famous character. Sometimes these characters worked together. Sometimes they were at cross purposes. Nearly always, it s was purely entertaining. Below is a list of the stories, the main characters, and the authors.
· Patrick Kenzie vs. Harry Bosch in “Red Eye,” by Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly
· John Rebus vs. Roy Grace in “In the Nick of Time,” by Ian Rankin and Peter James
· Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast in “Gaslighted,” by R.L. Stine, Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child
· Malachai Samuels vs. D.D. Warren in “The Laughing Buddha,” by M.J. Rose and Lisa Gardner
· Paul Madriani vs. Alexandra Cooper in “Surfing the Panther,” by Steve Martini and Linda Fairstein
· Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport in “Rhymes With Prey,” by Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford
· Michael Quinn vs. Repairman Jack in “Infernal Night,” by Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson
· Sean Reilly vs. Glen Garber in “Pit Stop,” by Raymond Khoury and Linwood Barclay
· Wyatt Hunt vs. Joe Trona in “Silent Hunt,” by John Lescroart and T. Jefferson Parker
· Cotton Malone vs. Gray Pierce in “The Devil’s Bones,” by Steve Berry and James Rollins
· Jack Reacher vs. Nick Heller in “Good and Valuable Consideration,” by Lee Child and Joseph Finder

A few of these authors I have read before (Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child) but nearly all of them were new to me. This was a great way to check out such a selection of today’s brilliant mystery writers. Of course, I gravitated towards the Pendergast story as I have read a few in this series. I did find Slappy the Dummy rather disturbing, as I found the story on the whole. ‘Rhymes with Prey’ was my second favorite, featuring the paraplegic investigator and his clipped phrases and abrupt, sometimes rude, attitude. ‘The Laughing Buddha’ was an unexpected story. The character Malachai Samuels is a kind of past life psychic, helping people realize who they once were and what their hang ups are from past lives. At first I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it, but now I want to check out both M. J. Rose and Lisa Gardner.  I aso want to seek out works by Heather Graham after listening to ‘Infernal Night’. Just a touch of the supernatural gave this mystery an extra facet. Plus that whole mausoleum scene was excellent. Khoury & Barclay kept me on the edge of my seat with ‘Pit Stop’. It was fast paced and intense!

Those were the stories that stood out for me. Many of the rest were interesting. However, ‘Surfing the Panther’ didn’t shine for me. I felt like too much was being crammed into a short story and I never really connected to the main characters. I was looking forward to the Reacher versus Heller story as my man is a fan of Lee Child’s work. I was intrigued and then it was over. Yep, just like that. It went by too quickly.

Other than those two stories, the anthology was a hit. I now have several more authors on my To-Be-Read list (or some would call it a small mountain range). I was kept entertained for most of the 10+ hours of listening time.

Narration: The narration was very good. With 11 stories, it was great that the publisher went the extra mile and utilized so many narrators. One of the reasons I usually steer clear of audio anthologies is that it is the same reader for the entire book, all the short stories. This makes it difficult for me to keep the individual stories individual. So thank you, S&S, for going the distance and using so many narrators for this book. It really made it stand out as an anthology.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: Great way to be be introduced to new-to-me authors; Some were creepy, others edge-of-the-seat action; nearly all were interesting; great narration.

What I Disliked: Only 1 of the stories didn’t do it for; one other story seemed too short and nothing much happened in it.

I am participating in the yearly reading event R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings. I will count 2103 Act I as my mystery/crime read for the R.I.P. challenge.

What Others Think:

 Lit Reactor

Bill’s Book Reviews

Beth Fish Reads

The Book Diva’s Reads

Alive on the Shelves

Bea’s Book Nook

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

FremantleSistersOfTreasonWhy I Read It: I really enjoyed Fremantle’s Queen’s Gambit so I had to check this one out.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Elizabeth Tudor fans who have always been curious about the Grey sisters.

Narrator: Georgina Sutton, Teresa Gallagher, Rachel Bavidge

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 15 hours 28 minutes

Author’s Page

Opening in the mid-1500s England, the remaining Grey sisters (Catherine and Mary) are still in mourning after the execution of their elder sister, Lady Jane Grey. Mary Tudor rules England and holds strong, vehemently, to the Catholic faith. Religious executions become, perhaps not normal, but far too common as religious intolerance grows over the years. The plot takes place over several decades as Queen Mary Tudor is replaced by her half sister Queen Elizabeth Tudor. Much of the story is told through the eyes of Catherine and Mary Grey, along with their mother’s best friend, the court painter Levina Teerlinc. Catherine is a bit of a flirt and seeks love and safety in affection. Mary Grey, who was born with a crooked spine and a small stature (which becomes apparent with age) must rely on her wits as she has zero prospects for a marriage. With court intrigue ever threatening to turn them into the reigning monarch’s enemy, these ladies are hard pressed to stay out of trouble.

This was an excellent read. It’s that simple. I loved learning about this little corner of history that I was previously ignorant of. I greatly enjoyed the characters. The plot, while driven by history, was still captivating. While I had heard of Lady Jane Grey an her execution I had never considered her immediate family and what became of them. Her two younger sisters were kept close at court, I expect to see if they had any designs upon the throne that needed to be squelched quickly. Jane’s mother goes on to have a second marriage, one that removes her from court but not from worrying about her remaining daughters. With Mary Tudor on the throne, there is royal intrigue constantly circling the Greys as they have a strong claim to the throne via their Tudor blood.

From the artist Levina we learn some gruesome details about the weekly burnings of heretics as Queen Mary attempts to make the whole of England Catholic. Of course weekly executions are never really useful in maintaining a stable government. Queen Mary needs an heir. From Levina, I got a very good sense of constant tension she and the Greys were in. Those wishing for more religious freedom pushed for another queen, one who could reproduce. However, once Queen Elizabeth takes the throne, the Grey sisters may or may not be in worse circumstances.

With all that said, I believe my favorite character was Mary Grey. She is physically deformed in an age where good looks were associated with the grace of Heaven and bad looks (including birth deformations) were often considered the sign of the Devil. due to Mary’s small stature, she is often treated like an intelligent pet or a doll by the courtiers and the Queen. She is commanded to sit upon the Queen’s knee and keep her entertained with her quips. Mary also has to tolerate the rude remarks by the other court ladies when the Queen isn’t looking. Indeed, her life from a young age looks bleak except for the fact that she will never be eligible to rule England as she can bear no children. No, Mary must use her eyes, ears, and mind to sift her way through decades of court intrigue.

Catherine Grey is also interesting because she had so many love entanglements. She was married at a young age, and pretty much in name only, though the two younglings did their best to sneak a few kisses here and there. With the fall of the Greys from grace (execution of Jane Grey), the marriage was ignored by the parents. Catherine goes through a few years of keeping a few young men dancing on their toes around her. Early on, I found her quite vapid, which suited her character’s actions. But as time went on and life became more serious for her, I found myself getting attached to her character too.

Levina Teerlinc as not quite an anomaly of her time; she earned the bulk of the yearly income with her court paintings and kept her household staffed and fed. In an age where so many women were dependent on a husband or male relative, she stood out in this regard. The author included an afterward in which she explained that very little is known about Levina and she was required to make several educated guesses about Levina’s life. I say she did a very good job and made Levina quite believable.

This book makes history interesting not only for showing what the women were up to, but also capturing how the whim of a monarch can affect so many at this time and place in history. The ending was very satisfying, and there were a few poignant moments that got a little tear from me. That speaks to how attached I became to some of these characters.

The Narration: I think the publisher did the listener a good turn when they decided to employ three narrators for this book. I felt that all the female characters were given greater distinction with the additional narrators. Each of them performed well and feel there was good continuation from one to the other when the point of view shifted. I especially loved the main narrator for Catherine as she caught her often silly and sometimes vapid inner monologue quite well. I truly felt like I was listening to the inner thoughts of a love struck fool.

What I Liked: I feel I am no longer an ignoramus on this facet of history; the characters were excellent; the plot, even knowing the general outline, was still riveting; Mary Grey was a most fascinating character; Levina stood out as being employable and monetarily self-sufficient; the explanatory afterword; the narration.

What I Disliked: No dislikes on this one.

What Others Think:

History and Women

Madame Guillotine

Bibliophile’s Reverie

These Little Words

Historical Novel Society

Tudor Book Reivews

Shiny New Books

Killer Aphrodite

Luxury Reading

Interview & Giveaway: Drew Avera, Author of 2103, Act I

AveraReichHello Dabbers, please welcome Drew Avera to the blog today. I have been enjoying his audiobooks and it is time that others have the opportunity to do so as well. Drew is offering a giveaway of his audiobooks 2103 Act I and Reich. Just scroll to the bottom for details on how to enter. Otherwise, please enjoy the interview where we chat about villains, Falling Skies, dragons versus snakes, comics, and more.

Have you utilized your Navy experience in building your characters and worlds? If so, in what ways?

It’s hard not to take from life experiences and put them into your writing. Typically I will see personality traits from people I’ve met and use some of them in the characters I write. Honestly, some of the biggest a-holes I’ve met have been in the Navy and it helps draw inspiration for antagonists.

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

That’s a tough one because I don’t usually watch anything more than twice. I’m tempted to say Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, but now I’m second guessing myself. On TV Breaking Bad was awesome, but then again I really like shows like Continuum and Falling Skies. I’m also an avid comic book fan and shows like Arrow are fun. Maybe I should pick a book…sorry I can’t pick just one, but I will say that What Savage Beast written by Peter David was the first novel I read that made me love reading. It’s a book featuring The Incredible Hulk. Maybe reliving that experience would be nice.

Avera2103ActIGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The answer to both is a dragon. After seeing How to Train Your Dragon I would be tempted to try and ride one, but I’m also very afraid of snakes (we have a lot of poisonous snakes where I grew up in Mississippi) and a dragon is like a big snake.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

What I think would be cool is a mix between an audiobook and film. It would be hard to pull off for long novels, but I have some science fiction short stories that are being professionally narrated that I plan to create a video for. It would last about 20-30 minutes and have images of characters or maybe even video footage of the character. I could even score music for it and make it as close to a “movie” as possible. Unfortunately I haven’t found the time to put it all together yet to test my theory, but I think it would be fun to watch.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I am horrible at video games and I’m not really into things like Magic: The Gathering so I’m not really sure. I would say live action role playing The Hunger Games would be kind of fun though…unless you’re the first one to die.

AveraDeadPlanetexodusIn my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

Everything I write is founded on a fear. I don’t think it is paranoia, but that’s probably what every paranoid person would say. Anyways, if you look at the story Reich, it is about a German society that lives in a utopian state. They live under the pretense that Hitler won the war and he is now a god-like figure. That’s not reality, but what if people drank the Kool-Aid and believed in that Aryan superiority? I also have a non-existent relationship with my mother which finds its way into creating the character Jenna. I tried to justify her actions with my abandonment issues with my own mother. It wasn’t intentional, but I can see it now that the book is done.

Other books like Dead Planet: Exodus, 2103: The Fall of America, and a new one I’m working on called The Banished are all dystopian books about government corruption. Everyone is potentially a villain in most of my books. There’s that string of paranoia again, but I bet no one thought Rome would fall did they? Seriously though, I’m not a conspiracy theorist or anything like that. I just fall prey to answering the “what if” question. And like I said, the foundation is always based on fear.

In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

I think a good villain has to believe they are the hero. They are fighting for something worthwhile, but maybe the other people are just too ignorant to see it his/her way. I use that method for development most of the time, but sometimes I write crazy serial killers with no legitimate rhyme or reason to their methods. Those people scare me J.

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

Batman, Wolverine,  Pope (from Falling Skies),  Captain Weaver (Falling Skies), and Jesse (from Breaking Bad) because everyone needs someone to poke fun at lol.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Jesse from Breaking Bad was great. He could lighten any serious moment with just one word…”B****!” hahaha.  As far as my characters go I use them just to support the main character in some way. Sometimes they are almost an extension of the main character’s development. It’s kind of hard to explain, but essentially I want all of my characters to grow and I want them to influence each other like real people influence each other. It’s not just experience, but also relationships that shape a personality. I try to keep that in mind when my characters react.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am always working on the next book. I’m moving into different genres now with a set of books that will be more crime thriller based. I’m working on the first Nathan Fox novel called Born to Die and I will follow it up with another called Dead Eye. All of my books are short, action packed, and fast paced. I jokingly say that my books are written for people with ADHD. You can finish my book before something shiny grabs your attention! Growing up with ADHD I struggled with sitting down to read. That’s why comic books were a big part of my life until I discovered books about the very things I was passionate about. Now as an adult I can focus more, but I understand not wanting to be tied down to a five hundred page book.

If anyone is interested in checking out my work you can find my books at www.amazon.com/author/drewavera  and on facebook at www.facebook.com/authordrewavera  I’m active on twitter at www.twitter.com/drewavera and I have a blog where I feature other authors at www.drewavera.wordpress.com  I have many authors on there so there’s a little something for everyone.

Also I have a few free stories here: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/drewavera if anyone is interested.

Thank you for having me on your blog! I really appreciate it.

Giveaway!!!

Drew is giving away 1 audiobook copy of Reich and 1 audiobook copy of 2103 Act I. You must be able to download via Audible.com. To enter the giveaway, comment below with 1) a way to contact you should you win (email, twitter handle, etc.), 2) Are you able to download Audible.com audiobooks? Yes or no, and 3) Answer this question: What little facet from history would you like to see projected into a future utopian/dystopian story?

The giveaway will run through October 8th, 2014. Good luck everyone!

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2103, Act I by Drew Avera

Avera2103ActIWhy I Read It: I enjoyed Avera’s Reich and decided to give this a listen.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy a cautionary note underlying their thriller/suspense stories.

Narrator: Al Kessel

Publisher: Drew Alexander Avera (2014)

Length: 2 hours 31 minutes

Series: Act I of 2103

Author’s Page

As you can probably guess, the year is 2103 and it has been just over 50 years since the second American Civil War. However, this civil war left the USA in 3 separate pieces. This book, Act I, takes place in one of those three – the American Union. Martial law is the usual law with anyone who shares an opinion that is contrary to the government’s is labeled an Outlier. Death usually follows shortly after the label is affixed.

With plenty of suspense and no little amount of action, Avera leads us through this future America in grisly fashion. There’s sorrow, death, selfishness, madness, greed for power, and no little amount of anger. President Caleb Fulton rules everyone and everything with an iron fist, including his actor persona, a man names Stephen he hired to play himself for the public eye. Being wheelchair bound and suffering from a disfiguring illness, he knew the American people would never have elected him president; hence the subterfuge. Stephen and his family live under constant threat from the real Fulton and his shadow administration.

Throughout the book, we see many different viewpoints. As with Reich, everyone is a hero in their own head and this is an aspect I really enjoyed about the book. Some justify their actions more than others. Some simply assume they are a good person, hence all their actions must be the right actions. A few of the characters I thoroughly enjoyed hating on (the real Fulton and this other psycho who I won’t name so as to avoid spoilers) while other characters I could completely sympathize with even though I disagreed with some of their actions (such as the priest). It made for dynamic reading.

My one criticism concerns the female characters. They are love interests, wives, or sex objects. None of them stand alone as an individual character. Rather they are something the men must take care of, rescue, or use in some way. Needless to say, I found their characters to be the least interesting of the story.

This tale has an underlying cautionary note, as did Reich, concerning power unchecked and allowed to blossom (inevitably?) into a brutal tyranny draped in bureaucracy that punishes all but those at the pinnacle of power. Plenty of questions were left open ended for the reader to ponder, and also for a sequel. I hope there is a sequel. After all, not all the bad guys met their deserved end.

Narration: Over all, the narration was good. each character had a distinct voice, the female voices were believable, and the pacing was good. There was one psycho bad guy whose voice I thought was a little over the top, and little too sinister and creepy, so we always knew he was up to no good, but this quickly became apparent and then this creepy voice matched the character’s actions.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: A thought-provoking piece; each character believes they are a hero; the true baddies were delicious to hate on; plenty of room for a sequel.

What I Disliked: The women’s roles were minimal and predictable, and hence, boring.

I am participating in the yearly reading event R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings. I will count 2103 Act I as my thriller/suspense read for the R.I.P. challenge.

What Others Think:

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