The Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit

NesbitTheBookOfBeastsWhere I Got It: Won a copy on Eargasms (copy provided by the narrator) (thanks!)

Narrator: Karen Krause

Publisher: Audiobooks by Mike Vendetti (2014)

Length: 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Book of Dragons

Author’s Page

A child king (Lionel) finds a book once owned by one of his distant grandsires. Like all good kids, he plays with it and sets a giant butterfly free. He’s warned not to do so again, but he releases yet another fantastical critter (a bird of paradise), and then another (the dragon!), which threatens his kingdom and he must make it right again. A hippogriff and manticore come into play too!

This was a great story for kids and fun for adults too. The very young Lionel knows he is king, but also knows he must answer to his nurse for any bad behavior. He will be sent to bed without supper if he misbehaves. This was a great point about the story because, while the king supposedly had great control over his kingdom and people, he also had to face the consequences of poor choices.

The story starts off with some harmful ‘beasts’ that are really quite pretty to look at and enjoy. So at first, the consequences of messing around with this magical Book of Beasts is not readily apparent. But as the story continues, we find our young hero king in a world of trouble! I think this is great fun for both kids and adults and would be fine entertainment for a car ride.

Narration:  Karen Krause did a great job having the perfect little boy voice for the child king. She also had a stern, yet amusing, voice for the king’s nurse.

What I Liked:  The cover art; giant butterfly!; there’s a dragon involved; subtle point about consequences to actions/choices but not preachy at all.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – this is a great short story!

VintageScifiBadgeI’m taking part in Vintage SciFi Month over at The Little Red Reviewer. Fantasy is allowed too! This book was originally published in 1900 as part of a collection called The Book of Dragons. Anyone can join, so feel free to check it out!

What Others Think:

Weekend Notes

Zombies & The Football Apocalypse

I finally watched The Walking Dead. Yes, I live under a rock. It is a dry, dusty, desert rock that may or may not have been peed on by a lizard. My Main Man (M3) watched the seasons available on Netflix (because cable doesn’t exist out here and who wants satellite anyway?) and finally I was sick and tired enough to give it a go.

First, I am a biologist at heart and by degree. Reanimated flesh is just silly and so totally unlikely to happen. The body dies, it starts to break down on the cellular level. Without the cells whole, there is nothing to reanimate. The point is, I have trouble believing in zombies and without belief, how can I take them serious?

OK, so yes, football comes into to this in a moment. I’m not into football either.

For those who haven’t seen the show, it’s mostly based in Georgia. For our main characters, shit starts going down in Atlanta and spreads outward from there. At first, folks think it is like a bad, bad flu and that the government will get a handle on it, shelters will be put in place, vaccines and medical care dispensed, and in 6 months (tops) life will be back to normal. So a lot of folks chose to band together with their campers and RVs and basically have a very extended campout. The women do the cooking and the cleaning, the men do the patrols and peeing on trees to mark their territory.

Yep. For the first 2 seasons, the women are all but useless in this new, zombie infested world. There is one female character who starts learning to use firearms in Season 2, but mostly the women are like a commodity to be protected and shuffled around. The men go on and on about how to deploy their manpower, like the women can’t learn to use firearms, bows, or even pointy sticks (zombies aren’t particularly hard to kill once you are committed). Just a note, come Season 3 all the characters, male & female, young & old, are badass at dispensing zombie execution. And, yes, it is awesome and I am now addicted to the show, eagerly awaiting the next installment in Netflix.

So I was complaining to my man about this particular aspect of the series (because I was hooked on it for all the drama, especially concerning how kids grow up in this new world) and I had to back up a bit. I’ve grown up rural, not in a big city. I have one pair of heels and the rest (all 5 pairs) are books or sneakers. I know how to use firearms and break down and clean the ones I own. I know how to butcher a goat from live to freezer. Our home is heated with fireplaces. You get the idea.

But what if I hadn’t grown up with most of these skills (I added some later in life). What if I suddenly found myself in a very foreign lifestyle? Hence, The Football Apocalypse! I imagine locker rooms full of jocks and cheerleaders, millions of fans, and mascots. Angry coaches and the beer wenches. I don’t watch football, not too sure about the rules, etc. M3 does watch football and likes the rules.

So I asked him, ‘If there was a sudden and irrevocable Football Apocalypse, where every surviving person had to be attached to the game in some manner, do you think I would survive?’

M3 isn’t stupid. He thought long and hard before he replied. ‘No.’ He’s not a man of many words.

‘What if I was a water bearer? I could carry water to coaches and players. I wouldn’t run across the field or anything stupid like that.’

‘Hmm. No.’

I sighed heavily. M3 is a thoughtful guy. He doesn’t tell me I can’t do something without having his reasons. He knows me and the snarky mouth I have in reserve for sporting events. He was probably picturing me ripping the head off a mascot and slamming it into some athletic player, spilling his/her beer (yes, in my Football Apocalypse women will be playing the field), and ensuing chaos would swamp over me, ending in broken bones and tears.

He patted my back and said, ‘I’ll get you some pompoms.’

Mr. Grimm by Drew Avera

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

Narrator: Al Kessel

Publisher: Drew Alexander Avera (2014)

Length: 1 hour 24 minutes

Series: The Twin Cities Series; Apparently, The Twin Cities Series has several contributing authors. You can catch all the latest info at The Twin Cities Series blog. And here is a listing of the series by all the different authors on Amazon.

Author’s Page

Mr. Alexander Grimm is in servitude. The Twin Cities (Minneapolis & St. Paul) is a special place, concealing a door into The Realms. This is not good for humans as The Realms contain things of myths and legends such as vampires and demons. Mr. Grimm serves The Raven, who rules over The Realms with an iron fist. But several factions with The Realms would like to see a change in leadership. Mr. Grimm may be the key to that change.

This was a dark urban fantasy that was treat to listen to. Avera has created a noir world, albeit much of it behind the scenes. It’s gritty and dangerous, with things waiting the shadows. I loved the mystery to the story, the hint of deeper secrets to be told in forthcoming installments. Mr. Grimm is a deeply conflicted character. He’s in servitude to a vampire (that he hates) and yet he is pretty darn good at carrying out his job – taking out anyone The Raven points his finger at. He has a daughter he must protect at all costs and as the years go by, that cost becomes steeper and steeper.

I only have one quibble. There was a leap in time in the storyline and it had me slightly confused for a bit. During the first part of the story, Mr. Grimm is a family man, but then we move forward a decade or so. Perhaps the first part of the story was flashback for Mr. Grimm? I’m still not sure. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The secret world that Mr. Grimm moves through was intriguing and I look forward to listening to future installments of this series.

Narration: Al Kessel did a great job. He was a good voice for Mr. Grimm. He also did a few accents competently and had distinct male and female voices. His French vampire is entirely creepy, in a sophisticated way.

What I Liked: Dark, noir feel to the story; plenty of mystery left to explore; intriguing characters all over the place; Mr. Grimm is left in an impossible position.

AveraMr.GrimmAudiobookWhat I Disliked: I didn’t like the cover for the audiobook (seen here are the right), so I used the ebook cover for this review; there is one time leap in the storyline that caused some little confusion.

A Memory of Light, Part I

WOT 14Welcome everyone to Book 14 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and the final week of this read along. Here is the schedule for A Memory of Light if you want to join us.

This week, Liesel at Musings on Fantasia is out host. Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, can be found in the comments at Liesel’s. Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers has fine intellect and a wicked sense of humor.

This week, we covered the Prologue through the end of Chapter 1. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1. We get a terribly interesting chapter from Isam’s POV in the Town below Thakandar. So many things we could talk about here, including the pointy-toothed Aiel. What stood out to you? What did you think? What do you want to know more about?

There’s a lot going on here. First, I enjoyed getting this little insight into Isam/Luc/Slayer. When he saw the scruffy child across the street, his thoughts about urging him/her to try crossing the desert, that it is better to die than growing up in the Town, were fascinating. It seems Isam grew up in this creepy Town. That explains a lot about his inability to make friends.

Next, there was a caravan (or large wagon) that came in with 13 aes sedai. Isam concluded the ladies had trapped another male Channeler, but he wondered why since the Taint had been cleansed. Now I wonder too.

2. Talmanes becomes a freaking hero in his own right. Will Nynaeve’s healing be enough to save him? What did you think of his antics against the trollocs in Camelyn?

Talmanes is my hero!

I really want him to live but I fear he may have been living with the Red Shirt far too long. Nynaeve is a great healer, but she may only be able to put off the inevitable. Plus, there is this whole Last Battle thing. So, even if Talmanes is now healed, he has to go fight the big battle. He has learned that the best way to take out Myrrdraal is to be dead yourself. This kind of thinking could save thousands, but at the cost of the hero.

I LOVED how Talmanes ‘recruited’ the mercenaries and got them to fight the Trollocs.

3. Leilwin offers her services to Egwene. What do you think will come of this? Will Egwene be accepting of a Seanchan servant?

Well, we got a chunk of Leilwin’s thoughts. She is Seanchan in blood and she is desperately worried that the whole empire will collapse if/when the truth of the Channelers is finally realized. So she is offering to serve the Amyrlin Seat to either 1) show the Seanchan that there is another way and so the nobility doesn’t have to go all suicidal; or 2) she plans to assassinate Egwene to forestall the fall of the Seanchan empire.

Egwene will be stubborn and distrustful at first but, yes, she will accept Leilwin into her service.

4. Bair goes to Rhuidean after hearing Aviendha’s account. Do you think she’ll see what Aviendha saw, or something different? Do you think she was wise to send herself?

I think she will see something similar. I get the impression that each person sees similar things, but not the exact same images. Or perhaps each person can only retain so much of what they are shown, so individual recollections would vary a bit.

Yes, I think Bair is a good choice. She is not as reactionary as some of the Wise Women. Also, she is the one who can walk Tel’Aran’Rhiod but isn’t a Channeler, right? So she has skill and power without relying on Saidin.

5. Evil Mofo Meeting! Taim is raised to the level of Chosen and Moghedien is commanded to “help” Demandred. What disasters do you see arising from these decisions, if any.

So way back in like Book 4 or 5, whenever we first start getting Asha’men, we had a discussion question about them and I couldn’t recall names. So I stupidly went to the WoT Wiki to look up Asha’men names. Under Taim, the sentence about him being raised to Chosen by the Forsaken was like the first sentence. Ack! Big fat spoiler slapped right across my face like 10 books before it actually happens! Ugh!

Now that I have that off my chest, on to the question.

So Taim, Demondred, and The Dark One all want to be THE one to kill Rand. I don;t think any of these guys are team players, so I expect there to be a lot of wrangling for power on the Baddie side. In fact, Demondred and Taim may even decide to kill one another off. All this could be good for the good side, but it also means there are 3 Baddies dedicated to killing Rand. Oh, and Isam has explicit orders from a female Forsaken to kill Rand too. Maybe Isam will take out Demondred? Could be amusing.

6. What do you think of Egwene’s argument about when to break the Seals? Is she right?

Egwene has just won her seat and it was a long hard battle. Of course she wants to be cautious and if the world had even 6 months, I would say, sure, call an assembly of world leaders and argue it out for 3 or 4 months about whether or not to break the seals. But, alas, the world doesn’t have 6 months. Perhaps someone could show Egwene a calendar?

I liked Rand’s chat with Perrin about forging metal. He’s right. This has to be done. It’s going to suck, but it will suck more the longer they wait. So Egwene needs to get her Big girl Panties on, and perhaps some sensible boots instead of slippers, and get ready to kick ass.

7. Rand says it is the last night of peace they will know before the end, and on the morrow he will meet with every leader of the known world to forge an alliance. Predictions?

In Aviendha’s Ruidean visions, the Dragon Reborn’s peace was a theme that was repeated. I think that is what Rand will be forging at this big meeting. And I think this is where Aviendha will have to step in and save the Aiel from whatever inadvertent mistake Rand will make that would doom the Aiel to a slow dwindling death.

Other than that, I am not sure at all what to expect. Perhaps he will give them all a tongue lashing and rousing, inspiring speech all together about how differences and grievances must be put aside in order to face the Last Battle, etc.

Other Tidbits:

The book opened with a crazed military dude and his starving men, who basically mutinied, left him tied to a tree, and walked out on him. I think they are wise, because who wants to miss the Last Battle, really? And metal that has turned to putty! Good thing there are still stone workers!

The Wise Women (and the Aiel as a whole) seem snubbed that Rand told them not to worry about whatever he has planned at the big powwow. But Aviendha was good to point out that his insults have mostly been by accident/ignorance and not intentional slights. Still, the Aiel are stuck believing that their ways are the best ways, 100%. If they don’t get a bit more flexible, they won’t do well in the world that is left after the Last Battle.

We haven’t heard from Padan Fain in some time. Where is he? What is he doing? It can’t be good. And when is Mat going to return and get his Horn? Where is the gholam? elayne just lost a throne, good thing she has a second spare. Tuon is still planning to attack the White Tower and she has Traveling now. This could really fuck things up.

 

 

A Round of Tag – Me Being Chatty

So Lynn over at Lynn’s Book Blog had a round of tag up today, and while I wasn’t tagged, she invited all who wanted to, to go ahead and play. And one of the psuedo New Year’s resolutions was to be more chatty.

FOUR NAMES THAT PEOPLE CALL ME (OTHER THAN MY REAL NAME)

  1. Sue – I dislike this name but my parents won’t use anything else, so I answer to it.
  2. Sus – My love uses this, usually in a half whisper in public when I am about to do something extremely embarrassing (or already have – like that time with the see-through skirt).
  3. Lily Fox – SCA name
  4. Lily Pox – Our SCA herald got it wrong, so now it is something of a joke. Of course, it sounds like a medieval prostitute who is past her prime.

FOUR JOBS THAT I HAVE HAD

  1. Nuclear waste packer – yep. Did that for several years. Swing shift, Friday night was the wildest.
  2. Pronghorn antelope spotter & counter – summer job that also qualified for my degree thesis.
  3. I read textbooks onto audio tape for the blind for several years in college. The calculus textbooks were the toughest.
  4. Safety incident investigator – fascinating job, but hardly anyone was ever glad to see me.

FOUR MOVIES I HAVE WATCHED MORE THAN ONCE

  1. Brick
  2. Equilibrium
  3. Clash of the Titans
  4. Hansel & Gretel

FOUR BOOKS I’D RECOMMEND

  1. Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
  2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
  3. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

FOUR PLACES I HAVE LIVED

  1. Bullhead, Arizona – the Mohave valley which is like the wicked sister to Death Valley. Very hot & dry desert.
  2. Atascadero, California – I think ‘atascadero’ means mudhole.
  3. Clinton, Illinois – for like 11 months. First place I ever had the wind knocked out of me.
  4. Carlsbad, New Mexico – home to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (where nuclear waste is stored). And vinegaroons.

FOUR PLACES I HAVE BEEN

  1. The national zoo at Washington, DC – there was a baby panda involved.
  2. The Atlanta zoo – there were pandas involved
  3. Kathmandu, Nepal – for a wedding.
  4. Juarez, Mexico – family occasion, so no donkey show.

FOUR PLACES I’D RATHER BE RIGHT NOW

  1. On Serenity with the crew from Firefly
  2. Terre D’Ange with Phedre and Josceline
  3. Medieval Sherwood Forest with my SCA shire
  4. Hogwarts, after the fall of Voldemorte

FOUR THINGS I DON’T EAT

  1. Canned asparagus – it’s all squishy and smells like pee!
  2. Melons – I have an allergy to them that makes my throat swell to the point I have trouble breathing
  3. Licorice – it tastes like fruit that has started to spoil
  4. Coriander – tastes very bitter to me, like a poison (yep, I have the coriander-hating gene)

FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS

  1. Vanilla ice cream with nuts, honey, and a dash of salt
  2. Home made spaghetti sauce with home made garlic bread
  3. Chicken mole tacos – the Mexican mole sauce, not the fuzzy underground tunnelers.
  4. Fried squash blossoms

FOUR TV SHOWS THAT I’VE WATCHED…

  1. Battlestar Galactica
  2. House of Cards
  3. Sons of Anarchy
  4. Peaky Blinders

FOUR THINGS THAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR (THE NEXT 12 MONTHS)

  1. Bubonicon 2015
  2. Rag Rug Festival
  3. Santa Fe Renaissance Fest
  4. Halloween 2015

FOUR THINGS I AM ALWAYS SAYING

  1. Fucking A! (I think the ‘A’ is a Canadian thing – and I blame my Canadian husband for expanding my vocabulary) – Said when some farm beastie gives me a bruise
  2. Piss off! – Said to farm beastie to get it to step off my foot
  3. Dude, move! – Said to cat or dog when they step in front of me while I carry in a large load of firewood
  4. A la ve! (which is short for ‘a la verrga’ which is a very naughty phrase in the local Hispanic dialect). Said to humans when they share something surprising or messed up.

FOUR PEOPLE I TAG

Uh, well, I hate tagging people. I don’t want folks to feel obligated to play if they have something better to do, or have a real life. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if some folks wanted to play, like David Lee Summers or Liesel from Musings on Fantasia or Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings or Andrea from Little Red Reviewer or Grace from Books Without Any Pictures. And anyone is welcome to jump in and have fun with this, even in the comments. If you do a full post, let me know and I will swing by and share it on my social media and leave charming (or snarky) remarks.

I’m Not Talking About You, Of Course by Barbara Venkataraman

VenkataramanI'mNotTalkingAboutYouOfCourseWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Carrie Lee Martz

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Length: 54 minutes

Series: Book 1 Quirky Essays for Quirky People

Author’s Page

Venkataraman takes us through snippets of her life via these quirky little essays. She touches on phobias, the odd (and often boring) hobbies of a parent, living without electricity, pet owner obsessions, and much more. If you need a little something to break the ice or just want to read out loud during a long car trip, the folks confined with you will probably find these stories amusing and have their own to tell.

The essay on pet owners and how they can go on and on about their pets was amusing. The essay starts off with the writer complaining about how boring these pet stories can be and then launches into pet stories of their own. Of course, I ended up feeling sorry for the pets in the stories. Then the short bit about various phobias was amusing too. There seems to be a phobia for every strange fear out there, and each phobia has a fun, tongue-twisting name.

I chuckled out loud at the essay on boring parental hobbies and how the kids all get forced into participating. From stamp collecting to coin collections. Yep, I can definitely relate. The essay on living without electricity (following a hurricane) for two weeks was also interesting. I live in a rural part of the country, in an older house. There is no central AC or heat. We have fire places and fans. Before they put in the substation, it wasn’t unusual to go several hours a week without electricity and phone. So listening to this family missing their tv shows and music at first and then morphing into a family that spent time outside and doing things together was entertaining. Yep, without electricity, you have to entertain yourself.

There’s plenty more in this slim collection of essays to entertain yourself, or a group of people. Each story was easy to relate to and I almost felt like I was having a conversation with the author as I nodded my head and thought of my own similar tales. Great for family entertainment!

The Narration: Martz did another fine job (she also narrates Venkataraman’s Jamie Quinn mysteries). She was fun and entertaining as she read these essays, seeming to enjoy telling the tales.

What I Liked: Entertaining, relate-able tales; pet stories; living without electricity; great for family car rides.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it is an amusing collection of essays!

What Others Think:

Readers’ Favorite

Mismatched Bookends

Blood on the Mississippi by Colin Webster

WebsterBloodOnTheMississippiWhere I Got It: Review copy from via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!).

Narrator: Hubert Williams

Publisher: White Feather Press (2014)

Length: 5 hours 44 minutes

Series: Blood & Tequila, Book 2 (Audible also says it is Book 2 of Triple Trouble series)

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it stood well on it’s own.

Clay and Maria are newly weds and they are being constantly attacked as they travel up and down the Mississippi. Maria is a newly minted vampire and still getting use to her powers and how to control her thirst for human blood. Clay turned over a new leaf with his marriage, trying to earn an honest living (usually via gambling) instead of robbing trains. They have a pet vampire horse that was a pretty cool addition to the story. The Order hunts them with priests and guns; a stone angel wants Maria destroyed; and Clay has been invited to an exclusive (and shady) riverboat poker game.

This books starts off with action (a hunt through a moonlit graveyard) and only lets up well past the half-way mark when Clay and Maria are tricked into a deadly game of poker. Maria sleeps buried in the earth (snuggling her pet vampire horse) while Clay roams around buying new clothes, drinking whiskey, gambling, and usually trying to get himself killed. A rather spooky young priest leads the charge in hunting them down, flinging insults at them along with deadly knives. Just when it looks like the two newly weds will get in some quality marital bliss time, the stone angel Michael finds them and attempts to destroy Maria (and Clay along with her since he is deadly earnest in defending her). While each action scene was well written, I found myself in a battle fatigue well before we get to the poker game that takes up the last third of the book. It started to all blur together for me.

The poker game itself had an interesting twist to it that I enjoyed even while the game itself lacked the intensity of the previous obstacle course of gunfights, knife throwing contests, and stone angel evasion. I am not much of a card game player myself, so I think some of the nuances of the poker game were lost on me and that another reader who enjoys poker games would take more enjoyment from these scenes.

The story was full of western cliches and stock idioms. At first, this helped set the scenery and gave me the impression that Clay was not from the Mississippi area (and later we find out that he is from the desert Southwest). But after a while, with repetition of the cliches and idioms, I was a bit dulled by them. Maria herself is from Mexico. She does fight hand to hand several times in the book, but later has to ask what to do with a gun (which might have been in sarcasm but it was unclear), has to be protected and rescued more than once, and doesn’t know how to play poker. I felt that her character was underutilized; she definitely played second fiddle to Clay. In fact, we didn’t have a single other female character until the poker game at the end of the book. So I guess there are know knife-wielding, vampire-arse kicking nuns out there to help out The Order.

The book was mildly entertaining though I can see how the author has left the door open for both character and series growth. There is potential for it to get better as the series continues.

The Narration: Hubert Williams has a deep voice that I enjoyed listening to. However, his accents came and went and were often muddled. Sometimes he seemed to get into a reading rut himself and there was no emotion to the performance. Also, several times throughout the book there was an odd background sound and I think it was the sound of rustling papers as he read.

What I Liked: The setting was fun; plenty of action; the zombie horse was an excellent little addition; the stone angel was worriesome!

What I Disliked: The story was cliched to the point of being predictable and repetitive; I got battle fatigue from the gamut of fights; Maria’s character was underutilized.