Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Narrator: Andre Holland

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2016)

Length: 11 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 1 Darktown

Author’s Page

Set in post-WWII 1940s Atlanta, the police department has hired it’s first Black police officers. Tensions are high within the Atlanta PD but also across political lines throughout the city. A young Black woman is found dead and few seem willing to follow up on it.

This was an excellent read, drawing together a murder mystery, racial intolerance, the progressive movement to integrate the police department, and the upcoming generation. The author did a great job of portraying the politics of the day while also giving us a gripping mystery. The main characters, Black officer Lucius Boggs and young Denny Rakestraw, show us the various view points about integration throughout the story.

I most fascinated by the Black officers. They have limited authority within the police department. They aren’t allowed to drive the squad cars and the can’t enter the front door of the police station. Yet they have one of the toughest beats as well. There’s an unwritten division with the police department where the Black officers are expected to police Darktown (the area of Atlanta that is primarily populated by Blacks) and the White officers will police the rest of the city. This sets up a dynamic that is rich for missteps, over-reaching, and bigotry.

Meanwhile, Boggs and his partner Tommy Smith fly under the radar (mostly) to investigate the death of the young Black woman Lily Ellsworth. Since she was last seen in a car in the company of a White man, they have to be very careful about how they investigate.

Young Rakestraw is partnered with an older cop, Lionel Dunlow. Now Dunlow is an open and active racist and many of his usual ways of doing business strike Rakestraw as unfair at the best of times and downright criminal at the worst of times. I wanted to root for Rakestraw, hoping he would find a way to push back on Dunlow’s brutal ways. However, pushing back on Dunlow means pushing back on a good chunk of the PD. So Rakestraw has to pick his battles.

The mystery itself was excellent. There’s a twist near the end that neatly tied everything together and once revealed so many little hints clicked into place. I was engrossed in this book and thoroughly pleased with the ending. I greatly hope for more stories about Boggs and Rakestraw. My one quibble is that I would like to see more female characters and not just as murder victims or romantic interests.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Andre Holland did a fantastic job. He was just excellent at the nuanced local accents. He was also great with all the emotions the various characters go through in this book.

What I Liked: The setting; how the racial tensions are handled; learning about the Atlanta PD in the late 1940s; the murder mystery itself; the main characters Boggs and Rakestraw; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Could have used a few more female characters.

What Others Think:

The Book Bag

Wag the Fox

The Real Book Spy

BookPage

Leviathan Wakes Part I

The read along of Leviathan Wakes, Book 1 of The Expanse is off and running! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along. I’m listening to the audiobook, so apologies for any misspellings.

This week, Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow is our host. We’re covering Chapters 1-14, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. First impressions! We’re given two main POVs here, a lot of important information, and a big fat (intriguingly political) murder mystery in space. What’s your take on the setup so far?

I think there’s too many cooks in the kitchen. Perhaps one hand doesn’t know what the other 6 are doing. So the Canterbury is annihilated and that gets broadcast everywhere and perhaps multiple groups see it as a sign to act, and then of course we have government agencies reacting to try to tamp things down. While I read this book several years ago, I truly have forgotten a lot of the details. I would be delighted to find out that there’s some mastermind orchestrating everything but odds are against that.

2. Regarding the narrative: we get the bulk of the story so far from the POVs of Miller and Holden. What do you think of each character, and how do you think they compare to one another? Do you think their paths might cross or are we looking at more of a Game of Thrones style approach to the story’s arc? For that matter, which might you prefer?

I think it’s giving us a good balance of what space freighter life is like versus a stable space station existence. Really, we just need someone living on a planet that has a sky (even if you can only see it thru a bubble) to complete the picture. Holden seems like an upright, always attempt to do the right thing kind of guy. Miller’s morals are more flexible but his core seems to be good; he always works towards stability of his little home station Ceres (spelling?). I do recall the answer to whether or not they will meet in this book, so I will hold my tongue on that.

3. Let’s talk about Julie Mao, and THAT prologue. Given what we know about her by the end of chapter 14, do you think Julie might just be a victim of circumstance or is she more deeply involved in whatever is going on?

Now Julie’s story arc for this book I do recall. Let’s say there’s more going on here than nearly anyone knows and Julie is caught up in it, partly due to her own actions and partly due to other people’s goals.

4. Chapter 14 ends with Miller contacting Julie’s father; do you think his hunch about dear old Dad knowing some things is right, or should he listen to Shaddid on this one?

Tough question! So for my entertainment, of course I want Miller to keep digging and find a way to Julie. However, for his own safety and a future that involves decent medical coverage, I would tell him to drop it.

Other Tidbits:

I love all the bits of SF throughout the book. This isn’t just some light-hearted space opera. This story has real cutting edge tech to far flung hypothetical stuff. The sense-heightening lozenges that the Mars Military guy used when chatting with Holden is a good example.

Back when I first read this book in 2013, I was a bit sad that there weren’t any major female characters. There are several good secondary female characters and my Bill, who has read the rest of the series, says the female characters do get more prominent even with Book 2. So I find myself paying more attention to them during this reread.

And here is the current list of participators:
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Sarah at The Illustrated Page
Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well.

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Narrator: Dick Hill

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2008)

Length: 13 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 1 Harry Bosch

Author’s Page

Set in Los Angeles in perhaps the early 1990s, Harry Bosch is on the case of a dead man found in a drainage pipe. In fact, he identifies the victim, having served with him in Vietnam. Internal strife in the LAPD and the involvement of the FBI make life hard for Harry.

While this book did have many cliched plot points, I still enjoyed it. In fact, I think the tried & tested cliches made it easy to slip into the book. Harry has a chip on his shoulder and not much going on outside of his job. He smokes, doesn’t eat healthy, and drinks beer. He seems to be in trouble all the time. Either his lieutenant is yelling at him or the Internal Affairs office is threatening him. Now that his old Vietnam buddy, Billy Meadows, has been found dead, his PTSD is stirred up.

This story is rather light on female characters and when we do get an interesting one, Elizabeth Wish with the FBI, she’s quickly turned into a romantic interest. Still, she has her secrets and this gave her a little depth. I hope the author can do more with her character in future books.

Despite the typical plot points for this genre, Harry stands out for a few things. His mother was a prostitute who was murdered. Harry doesn’t hate prostitutes and seems to have a protective streak in general for women. He’s got a lovely house because a movie company paid him handsomely to use his name in a movie that was loosely based on a case he was involved in. So I really liked that he’s this older cop (early 40s) whose got this interesting past and knows that he truly wants to be in law enforcement.

The mystery itself was interesting for the most part, though there were times I felt that Harry or another character did something out of character just to up the drama or move the plot forward. In general, it’s a decent start to a series and I will probably check out more books by this author.

The Narration: Dick Hill is a favorite go-to narrator for me. He did a good job here, keeping all the male characters distinct. His female characters could use more femininity. I especially liked his ability to portray Harry’s emotions.

What I Liked: It was easy to slip into the story; Harry is a fully formed character with a past; Elizabeth Wish has potential to become a major character; the mystery of dead Billy Meadows.

What I Disliked: Plenty of cliches made much of this book predictable; few female characters; does Elizabeth have to be a romantic interest so soon? Sigh…

What Others Think:

Mike Finn’s Fiction

Mystery File

Simon McDonald

Reviews and More

Reactions to Reading

The Technology Geek

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Your Holistically Hot Transformation by Marissa Vicario

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Marissa Vicario

Publisher: Falk Audio (2017)

Length: 4 hours 33 minutes

Author’s Page

This book is about finding that food and exercise balance in your own life. It’s not about yet another fad diet or some supposedly awesome exercise plan that will transform you. Rather, it’s about listening to what your body needs and regaining that control over your food and activity choices.

When I first looked at this book, I have to admit, the title turned me off. Just at a glance, I thought this book was more focused on looks than on healthy living. I’m certainly glad I gave it a chance though! It’s got a lot going on inside. So, don’t judge this book by it’s title. There’s some thoughtful and helpful advice in this book.

I especially liked the advice to ditch the scale. Yes! Really, this is only one way to measure your progress and it doesn’t necessarily indicate healthiness. The info on sugars, fat, and fiber and what they do or don’t do for the body was especially useful.

As always, I like the reinforcement of getting away from pre-packaged foods and fast food restaurants. I can totally get behind the idea of plating up even simple meals so they look lovely since presentation does make a difference in the enjoyment of a meal.

The info on the cleanses and juicing was new to me. I found it interesting to learn just how limited their usefulness was to weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. The other side of the coin was the info, and the author’s own experiences, on becoming a good cook. Now the author does compare cooking to shoe shopping, which I found to be a bit silly. I’m not a shoe person myself (my husband owns more shoes than I do) so this section I felt like breezing through. Plus it reinforced my first impression about the book. Health should be attained (or maintained) for it’s own worthiness, not simply because you want to look hot. It’s fine if that’s a side effect, but shouldn’t be the main goal.

Finally, the book talks about the importance of having personal time and quality sleep. I totally agree. I think most people would benefit plenty from these two things in general, whether they are seeking to lose weight or not. The PDF that comes with the audiobook was easy to access and had some helpful recipes (such as making my own salad dressings – yum!).

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Marissa Vicario narrated her own book and the narration was OK. While I enjoyed hearing the book in the author’s own voice, her production quality wasn’t that good. There were a few repeated sentences, mouth noises, and odd sounds (perhaps the turning of a page?). However, the sound quality itself was good, staying at an even volume all the way through. The author’s passion for this subject comes through clearly in her narration.

What I Liked: Great advice on finding what works for each individual; info on cleanses and juicing; reinforcement of avoiding fast foods; the PDF that accompanies the audiobook; the importance of personal time.

What I Disliked: The book’s title; shoe shopping? really?; the narration production could have used a few touch ups.

What Others Think:

Confessions of a Fitness Instructor

Lunging Through Life

Peace, Love, & Oats

Your Path To Fit

GIVEAWAY!!!!

Marissa is giving away 3 Audible.com copies of Your Holistically Hot Transformation. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: Do you have an Audible.com account? What is your favorite fitness thing (a certain exercise or some super food you love)? If you follow Marissa in any way, let me know in the comments for an extra entry into the giveaway. Giveaway ends July 9th, 2017, midnight.

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Leviathan Wakes Read Along – The Schedule

I read Leviathan Wakes (Book 1 of The Expanse series) some years ago and I have watched the first season of The Expanse as well. Now the wonderful folks on the SF/F Read Alongs GoodReads group have put together this group read. I couldn’t resist. Anyone is welcome to join in the fun. I’ll be listening along with the audiobook.

Here is the current schedule:

Week 1: Friday 9th June – Chapters 1-14, hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Week 2: Friday 16th June – Chapters 15-28, hosted by The Illustrated Page
Week 3: Friday 23rd June – Chapters 29-43, hosted by There’s Always Room For One More
Week 4: Friday 30th June – Chapters 44-End, hosted by The Illustrated Page

Book Blurb for Leviathan Wakes:

Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

As always, folks are welcome to jump in and join us. You don’t have to be a host or a blogger. You can always choose the easy route and tackle the weekly discussion in the comments of the hosting blog. We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well.

Malaise Falchion by Paul Barrett

Narrator: Jack Wayne

Publisher: Paul Barrett (2017)

Length: 8 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Spade Case Files

Author’s Page

The Dwarf Spade is a private detective who’s in disgrace with his family & clan. When an Elf lord shows up demanding he not assist a certain client, Spade gets drawn into this intrigue with the promise of redemption. Lizard archers, magicians, dragon planes, goblins, and more populate this book.

This is a fantastic mashup of the noir detective and the D&D fantasy genres. I had so much fun with this book! In fact, I listened to it twice since I had left it on my phone when we headed out on a long road trip. My husband greatly enjoyed this book as well.

Now the story does start off a bit light on the female characters. Spade and his little lizard side kick, Crizz, get beaten up by these thugs hired by an elf lord who bears the assassin’s guild tattoo. Yep. That should be enough to dissuade Spade from taking the next case that walks in his door; a young lady elf seeks his help. Perhaps the elf lord should have offered gold instead of beatings. Eventually we get some more lady characters. I especially love Liz the female lizard archer. She’s so practical and so gentle with Crizz, who has a crush on Liz that will never be returned.

A quest! Yes, we have a quest! It’s a crazy, wonderful ride. I love all the humor, most of which is dry observation. It’s witty and acerbic most of the time. I especially enjoyed Spade’s comments on dragon airplane travel for the masses.

The range of magical peoples in this book is great too. If Dashiell Hammet and the folks behind the Dragonlance novels coupled and produced a grumpy baby, this would be that baby. I was delightfully surprised by the variety and also how even minor characters add something to the plot.

I’m really hoping there are Spade Case novels in the making.

I received a free copy of this book from Falcon Sound Company.

The Narration: Jack Wayne did a great job with this book. I loved his grumpy, low gravelly voice for Spade. He made each character sound distinct and there were some challenging voices in this book with all the D&D characters! He was also wonderful with the emotions and the dry humor.

What I Liked: The cover art; range of characters; Spade’s humor; the quest; Crizz and his crush on Liz; lizard archer!; dragon planes!; great narration. 

What I Disliked: While I would have liked a few more ladies, or to have the ladies come into the story earlier, they were still present by the end.

What Others Think:

The Audiobook Reviewer

Giveaway & Review: Dead on Ice by Lauren Carr

Scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrator: Mike Alger

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2016)

Length: 6 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 1 Lovers in Crime Mysteries

Author’s Page

The body of adult entertainment star Cherry Pickens turns up in the basement of Joshua Thornton’s cousin. It’s on Cameron Gates’s beat, throwing the two into a joint investigation. West Virginia-Pennsylvania state lines blur as they dig into this mystery.

While I have already ‘met’ Cameron and Jonathan in a later mystery (Kill and Run, Book 1 of Thorny Rose Mysteries), it was great to go back to this tale and meet them afresh. The tale starts off with a body in an old non-functioning freezer in a basement along with a bomb that throws some chaos into the mix. Turns out Cherry Pickens once lived in the area and disappeared years ago after the murder of teen Angie Sullivan. Discovery of Cherry’s body brings up old mysteries, feuds, and questions. I loved the layered mysteries in this book, as is such the case with other Carr mysteries I have enjoyed.

I have to say something about Cameron’s cat Irving. He is both a delight and a distraction. While I love that Irving is such a big part of Cameron’s life, I don’t get her taking him on investigations. She’s a police detective and good at it but having a ride along cat seems a bit silly. Other than that, I love how Irving isn’t too sure about Jonathan being around so much. The skunk scenes were great.

Jonathan’s teen son, Donny, had a great role in this story. He got to play undercover info gatherer at one point and there’s an older woman who’s willing to teach him some interesting things. However, both Cameron and Jonathan don’t approve of this woman.

Speaking of older women, there are two senior citizen ladies who have a bit of a brawl. In this scene they are actually rolling around on the floor yelling, punching, pulling hair, etc. I did find this to be a bit overkill and what might have been comedic turned into silly nonsense. This one scene sticks with me so well because it is simply ridiculous and doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the book. With that said, it does illustrate to great effect the distaste these two ladies have for each other. Their long-time feud becomes the center of the story.

On the side, the romance between Cameron and Jonathan is on. It feels like it has been going on for some time, so I wonder if this book is interconnected to yet an earlier series. Either way, it’s nice to have a touch of romance in the tale that doesn’t eclipse the murder mystery.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Mike Alger did a pretty good job with this story. His voices for Jonathan and Cameron were good and he does a really good old lady voice as well. I liked his teen voice for Donny too. I did feel that some of his female voices could use a touch more femininity but I can also hear that he is giving it his best.

What I Liked: Layered murder mystery; the state lines issue; there’s a bomb in the basement!; an old feud finally put to rest.

What I Disliked: Why take your cat on investigation?; that rolling around on the floor brawl scene – too silly!

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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Bookish Giveaway: Heartborn by Terry Maggert

Check out the bookish giveaway at the end of the post!

I have enjoyed several of Terry Maggert’s books lately, including his Heartborn young adult fantasy. In celebration of the forthcoming sequel, Moonborn, Terry is throwing a giveaway! Also, check out the rest of the tour on the Audiobookworm Tour Page!

About Terry Maggert:

Born in 1968, I discovered fishing shortly after walking, a boon, considering I lived in South Florida. After a brief move to Kentucky, my family trekked back to the Sunshine State. I had the good fortune to attend high school in idyllic upstate New York, where I learned about a mythical substance known as “Seasons”. After two or three failed attempts at college, I bought a bar. That was fun because I love beer, but, then, I eventually met someone smarter than me (a common event), and, in this case, she married me and convinced me to go back to school–which I did, with enthusiasm. I earned a Master’s Degree in History and rediscovered my love for writing. My novels explore dark fantasy, immortality, and the nature of love as we know it. I live near Nashville, Tennessee, with the aforementioned wife, son, and herd, and, when I’m not writing, I teach history, grow wildly enthusiastic tomato plants, and restore my 1967 Mustang.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~Facebook ~ GoodReads

MaggertHeartbornSynopsis of Heartborn:

Her guardian angel was pushed.

Keiron was never meant to be anything other than a hero. Born high above in a place of war and deception, he is Heartborn, a being of purity and goodness in a place where violence and deceit are just around every corner.

His disappearance will spark a war he cannot see, for Keiron has pierced the light of days to save a girl he has never met, for reasons he cannot understand. Livvy Foster is seventeen, brave, and broken. With half a heart, she bears the scars of a lifetime of pain and little hope of survival.

Until Keiron arrives.

In the middle of a brewing war and Livvy’s failing heart, Keiron will risk everything for Livvy, because a Heartborn’s life can only end in one way: Sacrifice.

Fall with Livvy and Keiron as they seek the truth about her heart, and his power, and what it means to love someone who will give their very life to save you.

Audible ~ Amazon ~ Audio Excerpt

JuliaWhelanNarratorAbout the Narrator Julia Whelan:

Julia Whelan has appeared in many films and television series, most notably ABC’s Once And Again. After receiving a degree in English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College and Oxford University, Julia began narrating audiobooks. She’s recorded hundreds of novels across all genres and has received multiple Earphones and Audie Awards. She is repeatedly named one of Audiofile Magazine’s Best Voices and was Audible’s Narrator of the Year.

IMDB ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of Moonborn

Livvy Foster has a new heart, home, and a place in the powerful halls of House Windhook. The fall of Sliver was only the beginning of a civil war that sees angels from across the sky challenge each other to lead a world in which the past and the future are connected by a storm crafted from time, ambition, and power.

When House Selinus attempts to bend the light of days in order to become the supreme power in an apocalyptic future, they confront a goddess who is older than time itself– and she’ll stop at nothing to get the one soul who escaped her deadly grasp: Livvy.

With deceit, war and love swirling in the clouds above a shattered world that was once Livvy’s home, she’ll be asked to do something a girl with a broken heart never thought possible.
Fight for Windhook. Fight for her world.
Take wing with Livvy, one heartbeat at a time.

GoodReads

GIVEAWAY!!!

Terry Maggert is offering up a Moonborn Throw Pillow (16inX16in) for this tour.  Giveaway ends June 21, 2017. 

Heartborn Giveaway

Naamah’s Curse Part I

The read along continues with Naamah’s Curse, Book 2 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Allie is our host. We’re covering Chapters 1-15, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) A lot of this section involves recapping the adventures of Naamah’s Kiss. What do you think about the way this was incorporated into the story?

I really enjoy how J. Carey does this. In many ways, it makes each of her books in the Terre D’Ange Cycle stand alone to a great extent. For me with this particular book, it was useful as we group read Naamah’s Kiss when I was pretty sick and before my big surgery (which involved an intentional mini-coma) so I find that my memory is fuzzy on some things.

2) Moirin heads off alone toward the Tatar steppe in winter. Do you think this was the best course of action, or should she have traveled with some sort of escort or guide?

While she has a lot of outdoor skills, I think she over-estimated her survival skills a bit. Yet we all know how important it was to her (and later to Bao) that she do this without an escort. So I think she could have taken a little time to learn some essentials skills from the locals before heading out: where to find water, what rodents are edible, how to weave a grass mat for hauling stuff or making baskets, etc.

3) What stuck out to you the most about the Tatar tribe Moirin stays with and their way of life?

The short hairy cattle. I wonder if they are little yaks. Plus, burning dung may keep you warm, but I bet it scents everything…. clothing, the yurts, food….

Oh, and the grandmother. She said she was once an imperial princess, right? So I want her backstory and I wonder if Moirin got it out of her during those long, cold winter days.

3) Bao & Moirin reunite in kind of a difficult situation–he’s been married. Do you think they’re searching for a solution in the right way? What do you think of how Bao has handled things so far?

I’m pretty sure Bao has been sleeping with his wife regularly and so she may well be pregnant. So, no, I don’t think Bao and Moirin are considering everyone that will be affected by their current plans. Plus they haven’t really talked about what they want on a larger scale. I mean, if they plan to live in Chi’in versus Alba or Terre D’Ange (or anywhere in between) and how they each feel about that. If they plan to set up house relatively near the Tartars, then perhaps they need to be extra wary of making enemies.

Bao has known for months that Moirin was on her way and yet he hasn’t really prepared himself nor his wife for this. So, yeah, he’s made a mess of it. On the other hand, we haven’t heard yet his full thoughts on his father and what changed his mind about him. Is it just the Tartar royalty aspect or is it being accepted as a hero by his biological father or is there something more there?

4) Bao & Moirin might have been in love before, but now they’re forced together by divine magic. How do you think you would react to finding yourself trapped as they are? Would you initially react more like Moirin or Bao?

If I was initially in love with the person, I don’t think the divine magic part would bother me very much unless the love of my life started acting dickish…. glances sidewise at Bao.

I understand the importance of having choices, especially in regards to big things. I found out at age 23 and 5 months into my marriage that I wouldn’t be able to have kids and I was more upset about the choice not being mine than I was about the actual fact. So, I get Bao’s emotions even as I feel he hasn’t reacted the most maturely about it.

Other Tidbits:

So far, we’ve had no falconry and I was expecting some at these big games.

I think it was nice of Moirin to apologize to Edina but I also don’t feel it was necessarily her responsibility. Moirin had no clue that Bao was married. Still, I think it made it easier for Edina to see Moirin as a real person and perhaps, in the long run, to forgive Bao.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Understanding the Stars by Xela Culletto

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Lori Prince

Publisher: Xela Culletto (2017)

Length: 5 hours 59 minutes

Author’s Page

This X-files-like tale is set in Colorado. Alex Blackwood is just about to graduate high school when her life takes an unexpected turn. Ronan drops a stunning revelation on her involving three alien races, the CIA, and some secret surveillance. In the midst of all this, Alex’s dad is suffering from cancer and she has her pizza delivery job as well.

Ronan was the most interesting character for me. He’s a human descended from a group of humans that left Earth ages ago to co-habitate with an alien race (Salurians? My spelling is probably off since this was the audiobook version). I would have liked to get to know him more in this book and what his life in space is like. Now the Salurians are back and have been watching Earthers for a few decades, simply learning about current cultures and such.

Now the creepy part is that Ronan was assigned to watch Alex since she was 14 (she’s 18 at this point in the story) and this involves an implant in her. Yep. He knows every time she went to the bathroom, had the stomach flu, or suffered growing pains. On his part, I can see the insta-love that we stumble into later. I didn’t really care for the insta-love stuff, but Alex seemed pretty happy with it. Setting aside the beginning of the romance, it later grows into something meaningful as these two develop a friendship.

The Salurians need to leave ahead of schedule because the aggressive Kema’dor are on their way. Initially, they are portrayed as these violent tech thieves. Later on, Alex meets some of them and has to form her own opinion. Much later in the story, a third alien race (the Meddas – again, spelling?) come into play. I really liked that not all aliens are created the same and each race has their own ethics and goals.

I did feel that Alex was a little too easy going about these bigger revelations but freaked out a bit over small things (like the first image she saw of a Kema’dor). This didn’t work for me in terms of character development but it did move the plot along swiftly. I did like that not everything turns out OK for everyone. Alex has to deal with some sadness and loss. This added some seriousness to the story and gave Alex a little depth.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Lori Prince was a really great Alex. She sounded young but right there on the cusp of adulthood. She gets an A for effort when it comes to the alien voices and accents. I realize this is a difficult thing to pull off but I have heard better. That said, I did like her voice for the alien Malsoar. She did great with Alex’s feelings.

What I Liked: Multiple alien civilizations; Ronan’s personal history; not everyone gets out unscathed; the CIA mixed in there.

What I Disliked: The insta-love; could have used more about Ronan; why wasn’t Alex more stunned about these big things?

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Xela Culletto:

Xela is a working mother of three, living in the Utah. She teaches secondary English and after talking to students for years about following their dreams and doing whatever it takes to achieve them, she decided to take her own advice and complete her lifelong goal of writing a novel. The idea of life on other planets has always fascinated her, and she wondered what they would think of humanity, which is what spawned the idea for the plot of “Understanding the Stars”. When she’s not playing with her kids, or sorting through the endless laundry, you’ll find her watching The Walking Dead, horseback riding, or working on her next book.

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Synopsis of Understanding the Stars:

Alexandra Blackwood is minding her own troubled life when she unknowingly gets caught up in an extraterrestrial conflict. Ronan, a human with his own alien-entangled past, has been keeping an eye on her and sets out to help her escape looming abduction, and maybe win her heart.

Audible ~ Amazon

About Narrator Lori Prince:

Lori Prince is a classically trained actor with a BFA from Syracuse University.  She has performed Off-Broadway as well as at top regional theaters including; The Denver Center, Alliance Theater Company and PlayMakers Repertory Company among others.  She has also appeared on Television in Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU and Are We There Yet?. Her voice work includes various characters in the feature film Epic, as well as additional dialogue recorded for over 50 feature films and TV shows.

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