Bloggity Award and Other Stuff

Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn blog recently nominated me for the Real Neat Blog award. I tend to enjoy blog awards because it forces me to be a little more personable and chatty. Plus, we all get to talk about books.

The Rules:

    • Thank and link the blogger that nominated you.
    • Answer the 7 questions that the nomination has provided you.
    • Create 7 questions for your nominees.
    • Nominate 7 other bloggers.
    • Bend said rules

1. If you could meet any author, from any time (past and present), who would that be and what would be your most pressing question?

That’s a tough one. Andre Norton (Forerunner Foray, Timetraders, etc.), Alan Dean Foster (for his Pip & Flynx series), Isaac Asimov (for his Lucky Starr series), and Anne McCaffrey (for her Dragonriders of Pern series) all an impact on me as a kid and it would be cool to get a drink with them and find out what books, authors, or artists had an impact on them.

2. Who is your absolute favorite character, ever. I know you’re probably groaning and rolling your eyes but there must be one character that springs to mind immediately – probably followed by a host of others – but, I want that first knee jerk reaction please and why!

I find that if you ask me this today, you’ll get one answer and if you ask 6 months from now, you’ll get another. I’m easily swayed by whatever I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying at the moment. Let’s go with Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing wizard PI. I like how he can think out side of the box and come up with crazy polka powered T-rex zombie type solutions to messed up situations.

3. What is your favorite series out of all the books you’ve read?  The series you would recommend without hesitation.

I will always adore Jacqueline Carey’s Terre D’Ange Cycle. The epic fantasy, the alternate history, breaking so many standard tropes! However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone because of the sex. I love the sex, and that’s part of what breaks so many dated, sexist standards in fantasy fiction, but is everyone ready for it? Personally, 9/10 people I recommend this series to, has enjoyed it.

4. What’s your preferred reading format, book or e-reader?

These days I do a lot of audiobooks. I dabble in other formats, but find that my deep fatigue from illness makes concentration an issue. Audiobooks are great for me because I don’t get hung up on typos, grammatical errors, large words that I once knew but now find difficult to connect meanings to, etc. The story continues with an audiobook no matter what issues the book may or may not have.

5. The book you were most looking forward to but ended up being really disappointed with?

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. Wow! This book was a bit of a snoozer for me. The main character that ties it all together, that everyone knows or is tied to in some manner, is pretty darn boring. I kept on with it to the end hoping it would get better. There’s plenty of interesting side characters and I liked the slower pacing than usual for the fall of modern society story. But instead the book really is about this one guy who is pretty bland.

6. Blogging – what do you love/not love – any embarrassing moments?

I love that I don’t have a schedule. I blog when I feel like it (or when I feel up to it) and can take a break from it when I don’t. I like that I have kept it small and just blog what I want to blog about and don’t try to force myself into being glitzy, trendy, or the first to post a review on the latest hot ARC. There’s plenty of blogs that do focus on those things, and I’m glad they’re out there because I read them.

So far, I haven’t done anything too embarrassing. I know my typos and such have gone up this past year while I have been sick. But in the big scheme of things, that’s rather small.

7. Most anticipated book for the remainder of 2016?

Kevin Hearne is coming out with his first epic fantasy, I think. Hooray! I really enjoy his Iron Druid Chronicles (urban fantasy). Scott Lynch may be releasing his next Gentleman Bastards book (hooray!). As far as I know, there’s no release date yet for Peace Talks by Jim Butcher. Henry Hertz & his two sons have at least 2 more kids books coming out this year – they’re always so well illustrated! Of course, the next A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I always look forward to something new from Jim Bernheimer. I’m hoping Domino Finn does another Sycamore Moon book. I’ve really enjoyed the first 3 Jonathan Shade urban fantasy books by Gary Jonas and I’m hoping he puts more of the series out as audiobooks. Joe Hempel does a great job narrating them.

Here’s my 7 questions:

If you could be an extra on a period piece (Outlander, Spartacus, etc.) what would it be and what would you be doing?

What makes you cringe?

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

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

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Bonus Question: If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class about your favorite genre, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

While I will mention some favorite blogs below, I’m going to leave this open mic. If you find the questions (or my answers) amusing, feel free to chime in down in the comments or create your own blog post answering them – if you let me know you did so, I’ll swing by and check it out.

I like to visit author David Lee Summers blog for the steampunk – most definitely for the steampunk. Viviana, Enchanstress of Books is doing a lot of cool audiobook stuff this month. Broken Teepee has a fun mix of home gardening, book reviews, and info on home brewing kits and such. I’ve found Home Cooked Books by narrator Karen White to be a fun place with lots of interesting bits on what it’s like to make an audiobook. Violin in a Void is constantly expanding my world of books, and I like her focus on African authors and book blogs. Mike Powell is a photographer and he focuses on nature. I especially love his photos of herons. Evelyn Aster, who writes mostly contemporary romance (which, admittedly, is a bit outside my favorite genres), regularly posts pics of her fancy nails and her fancy drinks.

On a personal note, I haven’t been as involved as I normally am due to chronic illness. 2015 was one of the toughest years of my life and 2016 is shaping up to be as well. However, just last month I finally got a diagnosis! Hooray! Turns out I have many, many tiny blood clots throughout my lungs. Because the blood clots have been tiny, the condition didn’t present with the normal sharp pains to the chest, etc. Various scans and doctors missed it, and I was often misdiagnosed as having an asthma exacerbation. Now my doctors suspect the blood clots could have been going on as long as 2 years, with my lungs absorbing at least some of them. Because it went on so long, I have a moderately high case of pulmonary hypertension, which in turn has enlarged my heart. So, I have lots of work to do to get better and it will take many months. I’ve been on 24/7 oxygen since January and will be for at least a few more months, perhaps longer.

So, if you pinged me about something and I haven’t responded, feel free to ping me again. I’ve been hypoxic for probably about 12 months now and when your brain doesn’t have it’s regular stream of healthy oxygen, you get stupid, tired, and forgetful.

Interview: Paul B. Spence, author of The Madness Engine

SpenceTheRemnantHello Dark Dabbers, please welcome SF writer Paul Spence to the blog today. We chat about heroes & villains, geeky stuff, books & movies, and plenty more. Enjoy!

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

Out of the Dark, by David Weber, because it was then that I knew I could do better.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Worst or most difficult job? Most of them. Anything monotonous that keeps me from thinking? Worst Job? Ditch digger. Writing is more stressful, but more rewarding.

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?

Other than mine? Seriously, I’d love to play a Fallout-type game set in my universe(s). Other than mine, Skyrim done Dragonriders of Pern style.

SpenceTheFallenWho are your non-writer influences?

Non-writer influences? What is this thing you speak of?

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

Gilgamesh. I haven’t made time for it yet. I need to.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

To be honest, I’m not fond of villains. As for villains I thought worked great, Eddorians would top the list. Maybe Cthulhu.

Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Kip and Peewee from Have Space Suit — Will Travel, by Robert Heinlein.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed?

The one that comes to mind is the movie Forbidden Planet, by William Shakespeare — er, The Tempest, yeah.

SpenceTheMadnessEngineIs there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you? 

I thought the later Hunger Games movies were good. I usually don’t watch adaptations too often. Don’t even ask my opinion on The Hobbit movies. I don’t read books derived from games.

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

Off the top of my head: Roger Zelazny, Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and E.E. “Doc” Smith. I haven’t got a clue what they’d order, but I imagine alcohol would be involved.

SpenceMilankovicCare 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?

Can’t think of any offhand. I’m pretty comfortable in my skin. Maybe when I shook hands with Neil Armstrong as a kid and realized I was already too tall to be an astronaut.

Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?

I like cover art that conveys something from the book. The original cover for John Steakley’s novel Armor really nailed it.

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

Too many to count. I’m a scientist, dammit! We geek out all the time! That said, I do have recurring arguments about Classic Star Trek vs Next Gen. Next Gen sucked and has no rewatch benefits. Classic Trek was real science fiction and still relevant. Anyone who thinks differently can feel free to try and debate me.

SpenceImposterWhat is the first book you remember reading on your own?

The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. I have dyslexia, so I started reading later than most. I’ve made it since then.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

Invite someone to go through an obstacle course? How bizarre. I’d challenge anyone who thought Next Gen was better than Classic Trek. How about that? Libations? No. Not till after I kick their asses. Then they can buy me Guinness.

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

My third novel, The Madness Engine (#3 The Awakening series), is scheduled for release on the 22nd of May. I will also most likely be at Bubonicon in Albuquerque again this year.

The Remnant (#1 The Awakening series)

SpenceTheRemnantLt. Commander Hrothgar Tebrey is assigned as a military attaché to an archaeological expedition as light duty to recover from the disaster of his previous mission. But things quickly begin to go wrong on Cedeforthy. Someone, or something, is manipulating events to sabotage the expedition.

When the science team becomes marooned on the planet by the tides of war, the sinister force reveals itself, and Tebrey must fight against a seemingly unstoppable enemy to save not just himself, the expedition, and the woman he loves, but his very soul.

Some things are worth dying for; it is the things worth living for that matter.

The Fallen (#2 The Awakening series)

SpenceTheFallenLt. Commander Hrothgar Tebrey has returned to duty in Special Operations, but it is becoming harder for him to fight in the name of a government he no longer feels is just – one that orders purges against its own citizens.

Meanwhile, dissention is growing within the ranks of the Earth Federation Fleet. Ships continue to go missing, and the military needs someone to blame. A war with the Sentient Concord seems inevitable.

But if the Earth Federation destroys the Sentient Concord, who will fight the true enemy? For the Sentient Concord is the only government that knows the truth about the hellish Theta entities…

…Entities that want Tebrey dead, and are willing murder entire worlds to make it happen.

The Madness Engine (#3 The Awakening series)

SpenceTheMadnessEngineThe war between the Sentient Concord and the Earth Federation grinds on, but dark forces are moving behind the scenes, forces intent on unleashing terror on a scale never seen before, a terror that has already spread beyond Commander Hrothgar Tebrey’s universe.

On an alternate Earth, acid rains fall smoking from the steely skies, and feral things that were once human skitter through the ruins. Tebrey’s father Daeren Drake searches for clues about the enemy and finds more than he bargained for.

Meanwhile, Lt. Commander Tonya Harris and Ghost stumble upon an engine, a weapon that must never be used, but already has been… by the enemy.

Loyalties will be tested, dark pasts revealed, and the enemy will strike a blow at the heart of the Concord from which it may never recover.

Places to Stalk Paul B. Spence

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon

Additional Interview over at North of Andover

Scifi This & Scfi That

2014SFExperienceOnce again I will be participating in two of my favorite yearly reading events: Stainless Steel Droppings’s 2014 Sci-Fi Experience and Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Science Fiction Month. These are not true book challenges in that sense, but more of a chance to totally geek out on all things science fiction with other bloggers. The Sci-Fi Experience has traditionally run Jan-Feb, but this year Carl has decided to shift to Dec. 1 – Jan. 31, 2014. Andrea’s Vintage Science Fiction Month is January 2014, and the scifi goodness should be 1979 or older.

Here in the high desert of northern New Mexico, the winter is often filled with clear night skies, excessively dry weather, house fires due to misplaced ashes or bad insulation, and nose bleeds (which I blame on the dry weather). It is also filled with the shortest days of the year, which allow me the most believable excuse for turning in early (~6PM) with a good book.

So I am very much looking forward to enjoying these two reading events with full enthusiasm.

VintageScifiBadgeWhat will I be reading? Well, I haven’t planned it out, but I recently picked up the second book in The Expansion series by James S. A. Corey (I read the first back in August and still need to post the review – someone’s life was being sucked away by office until recently). Also there is Stark’s War by Jack Campbell, a B. V. Larson book that looks fascinating, probably a Neal Asher or two, and Cyteen by C. J. Cherryh. For the Vintage Science Fiction Month especially, I am feeling the need to dig out some Andre Norton and perhaps Anne McCaffrey. Knowing me, there will probably be a variety of other odd bits thrown in.

Sound like fun to you? Just check out the links above. You can join any time and do as little or as much as you like.

The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.
Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

Why I Read It: It was a teen favorite of mine.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy a strong female lead and a whirlwind adventure.

Publisher: TOR (1993)

Length: 576 pages

Series: The Halfblood Chronicles Book 1

Shana is a half-blood in a world where half-bloods are forbidden, and killed when discovered. Her mother was a human concubine to a powerful Elven lord. Shana was born in the desert to a dying mother who had no use or love for her in the presence of a camouflaged dragon, Alara, who becomes her foster mother. She was born into a world where humans have been enslaved for generations by the invading elves from another world. Their written language, history, and culture have been all but eradicated. The Dragons too are from another world, but have remained in hiding, in secluded colonies out of the way of both humans and elven kind. All three races have individuals with magical abilities. Hence the half-bloods often contain the strongest powers of both parents, and are very dangerous to the ruling elves.

When I was in my teens, I read this book and thought it was one of the best books I had ever read. So when SJ from Snobbery and I teamed up for a read along of it, I was quite thrilled to revisit it. The first half of the book is a very good lead into the world created by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton. We get to ride along as Shana grows up in a dragon colony (why can’t I be that lucky!), as she explores her own magical abilities, and eventually as she learns that the dragon colony may not be for her.

However, then things drastically shift gear for the second half of the book as more and more new characters are introduced and Shana is thrown into ever increasing dangerous situations. In fact, the second half of the book became kind of muddled for me and I am pained to point out these flaws. I really wanted to love this book as much or more so as an adult. I think the major issue for me was that in the first half of the book we have pretty clear story rules about what the dragons could do magically, what the elves could do magically, and what the humans could do magically. Each had their own flavor of magic where certain things were possible and others things impossible. Then individuals within the race had varying strengths. Made sense. But the second half of the book kind of broke all those rules, or threw them out the window….was there a window or did they just smash against the wall and get all mixed together?

I could go on about the lesser flaws, but it’s really unnecessary. One of the weaknesses and greatest strengths of the fantasy genre is that you can literally make anything happen to your story and your characters. However, it is then extra important for fantasy writers to stick to the rules they have created for said story. If you start breaking those rules for plot convenience, then you’re going to loose the strength of your story, and your readers. I am not sure I will continue the series, even though I am itching a bit to see what happens to Shana in further adventures. She was very easy to get attached to, and to stay attached to.

What I Liked: The dragon colonies were real societies with their own cultures; Shana was an adventurous, strong, flawed character; Keman was my knight in shiny scale – the best friend and foster brother Shana could ever hope for; the history of the world with the past strife between humans, elves, and half-bloods gave the story depth.

What I Disliked: Somewhere around the mid point, lots of new characters were introduced; the delineated rules of the first half were tossed out the window in the second half; some characters did major things that were not in character; suddenly Shana is performing feats that no half-blood has successfully pulled off before.

OnceUponATime7Tis the Fantasy Season over at Stainless Steel Droppings, who is hosting the spring reading event Once Upon A Time. This is a celebration of all that is fantasy. Make sure to stop by and check it out.

If you would like more in depth discussion of this book, check out the read along posts:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

The Elvenbane Read Along Part IV

Yes, Smudge does want to bite me.
Yes, Smudge does want to bite me.

Well, here we are again, wrapping up the second read along of the week. I hope folks have enjoyed reading the antics of The Elvenbane Read Along. I would like to give a hearty thanks to my partner in crime on this one, SJ from Snobbery. Make sure to stop by her place and catch her final thoughts on this book.

1. Valyn makes any interesting decision about how to handle Shana’s infatuation. How do you feel about how he handled it?

Dork. Big dork. He goes through this through process, attempting to use logic. However, he is not very good at it. Valyn has this fear that if he outright rejects Shana’s moves, she and Keman will abandon him and Mero to the wilds. So, he wants to forge a connection with her, can see she would enjoy some 2 legged family, and thinks, aha! I’ll have her and Mero get hand fasted. That will do the trick. Dork. I think Shana would have been quite happy, after some brief embarrassment, to have a half brother. A blood relative. valyn should have taken a few more minutes to think on this conundrum before acting.

2. Finally, out of illness and being on the loosing side of a desperate pursuit, Valyn suggests they seek refuge with his friend Triana. What did you find most interesting about Triana’s little world?

Well, I give her kudos for being a stubborn powerful women in a society that is severely lacking in any female leadership. However, she is still pretty twisted, hung up on her power trips. She pretty much treats all males as toys – and since most males in her world do the same to all females, I can see where she learned the behavior. Still, her nefarious plans for Mero, Valyn, and Shana and Keman put her in the Evil Column, which means that not only will she not receive any Winter Solstice presents, she will also have to die.

3. Shana made a wee little mistake in using a transportation spell directly to the Citadel, which can be traced. Comments on her mistake? Have you ever made such a huge blunder (unknowingly)?

Well, she didn’t know tracing was possible, but still, I would have thought it prudent to transport to some place nearby, and let everyone get their stories straight and their game faces on before going in to the Citadel. While I have never endangered a while city, or even a small village, I have made my share of blunders unknowingly. Most of them social. Except for that time I opened Pandora’s box – but only because she was teasing my mercilessly about what jewels she kept locked away inside.

4. Alas, all the wizardly guerrilla war tactics aren’t enough to keep the Elves from finding them. If you had been in the same situation, what additional tactics would you have brought into play?

Well, since the Wizards have the sneaky skills of theft….uh, I mean teleportation, I would be stealing all their supplies. I mean, we want them to go away, and life would be much more difficult with out food, blankets, flints (for starting fires), cutlery (because they are so civilized), harness (horses don’t behave well without harness), and even clothes. Most folks go home if they don’t have clothes. I know I do.

5. Keman does a very brave thing going to fetch dragon help. What is the most memorable  to you about his efforts?

His evil sister immediately pops into mind. She just wants to trounce someone – not because she has actually put much thought into the right or wrong of her brother’s claim. She doesn’t even have a plan, or a goal, she just likes thwarting others and hurting them. So small minded. I want to tickle her till she pees and farts – in public.

6. In the end, we have a dead Elven Lord and his heir, and a treaty. Did the ending surprise you? What do you make of the treaty?

The treaty really surprised me because I felt both sides were playing for an all or nothing – the Elves want to wipe out the half bloods and the half bloods want freedom to move about society unmolested. But instead we have the Wizards going further into the wilds. So, while not eradicated, they still seemed to get the short end of the stick. I was also surprised by the suddenness of the ending – once Valyn made his decision, things moved very fast and I was left with several questions. Perhaps Book 2 answers them?

Other Tidbits:

The One-Horns were used once again to disrupt the Elves in the woods. Part of me feels bad for them. I mean, if they can be good enough to each other to hang out in such a large group, they can’t be all bad, right? As long as left alone, they seem quite nice. Like zebras are quite nice to look hate, but hell to mess with.

What Others Think:

Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers

The Elvenbane Read Along Part III

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.
Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

Hello Everybody – I hope folks have continued to enjoy this book. This week, SJ from Snobbery provided some rocking discussion questions for Chapters 14-18. Make sure to stop by her place and leave a comment.

Shana is taken in among the other halfblood Wizards as an apprentice.  She’s never lived with two-leggers of any variety before this, but seems to have adjusted rather quickly.  Do you think you’d be able to do the same in this situation?

Heck no! My form of adjusting means sticking my nose in a book and sitting in the corner until someone decides to guide me through this new, pesky, foreign situation. Or I need some essentials – like food or the bathroom. I think Shana did so well because she was always something of an oddity and an outsider with the dragons, so she was brought up in a kind of foreign environment.
While she’s wandering through the Citadel, Shana learns more about the first Wizard War than any of the living Wizards have so far.  Why do you think none of the others have bothered to explore?

My overall impression is that the Wizards are somewhat lazy. Yep. I said it out loud. They get really focused on their little projects, and their apprentices tend to their daily needs (food, cleaning, etc.), and they occasionally venture out to the real world to rescue/kidnap a young wizard in danger. They use their mental powers to filch everything they need from the elven lords – they have no gardens, don’t seem to hunt in the normal way, no need to weave cloth, etc. Yep, lazy. Thank goodness Shana is easily bored, perhaps has a touch of ADD and needs to explore.
We found, along with Shana, hidden rooms that were created by a dragon in halfblood form.  Do you think Kalamadea is a dragon we already know?  If so, any idea of his/her identity?

I read this nearly 2 decades ago and I totally forgot the second half of the book. I probably read it all in one sitting, tucked under the covers with a flashlight. I tend to forget stuff easier if I imbibe it too quickly. Anyhoo, nope. I think Kalamadea is dead, having long since squandered his/her life away in the futile attempt to rescue halfbloods, and perhaps humans.
Alara went to visit Father Dragon to ask for advice on how to handle events that have recently happened in the book.  Father Dragon says he thinks it’s a good thing that “the world at large is about to discover their existence,” because the Kin have grown “complacent and fat.”  Were you surprised to hear this from him?  Is he, personally, about to come out of hiding?  What will the repercussions be if the Kin reveal themselves?

I was a bit surprised. I think this is partly due to the shift in pacing of the book. I feel like the first half of the book had some definite plot that was being tackled, and now we have upped the speed of the story and thrown in some things I thought would be answered by the overall series story arc. So, I really thought we wouldn’t have any dragon support (other than Keman and Alara) for this book. I also think the dragons are divided on coming out – and some will fight it until some other source offers them a bigger problem – like the elven showing up at their doorstep to turn them into pretty clothing, drapes, and tea cozies.
Huzzah for finally meeting an elf that is sympathetic to humans/halfbloods!  And even better that he’s the son of that bastard, Dyran!  Were you surprised to learn about Valyn and Shadow’s relationship?  Do you feel like they’re equals, or does Valyn still think of Shadow as his inferior?

Well, I figured there had to be at least a few elves that were softer, if not sympathetic, to humans some where, but I expected them to be isolated and among the lower elven castes – the ones who have more contact with the humans. I was most definitely surprised that Valyn was sympathetic to the cause and hiding his cousin, the halfblood, right under Dyran’s nose! Definitely risky for both Valyn and Shadow to be in such close proximity to Dyran. Valyn is obviously affectionate towards Mero (Shadow), but I am not convinced yet that he sees him as an equal – and it would be hard for him to do so (his learning, upbringing, culture, and the fact that there are no halfbloods in society).
Shana was able to use her “treasure horde” to scry even further and into the mind of a young elf maiden, Sheyrena an Treves.  She even planted a suggestion in the girl’s mind that maybe her “minor” power could be used to do some very big things.  Will anything come of this?  Either with this particular girl, or with the elven women in general?

This is one of those points where I don’t expect to see anything this book, but maybe later in the series. We already have plenty going on, with new characters introduced for the second half of the book. I felt that this particular scene was minor for the immediate plot line – but hopefully will turn into something for the series story arc. It would be nice to have some more strong female characters.
What is going to happen with these rescued magic-having human children?  And is Keman going to be able to pull off the halfblood thing when they return to the Citadel?  Will Shadow and Valyn be welcomed?  WHEN WILL THEY REALIZE THAT VALYN IS SHANA’S HALF-BROTHER?!  Did anyone else “ewwwww” at that?  EW.

1) Uh….Since they are children, I don’t think they will be turned out. But they will have to do endless chores. No Disneyland experience for them.

2) Things are a little blurry for me on this point because I thought the halfblood Wizards could tell there was a shape shifter among them – but maybe Shana is the only one who can do this? I hate to say this, but does anyone else feel like the initial story rules are getting a bit bent?

3) I am very worried about Shadow and Valyn. Shadow is very devoted to Valyn, so if he is harmed, Shadow could end up harmed or dead in his defense. Still, I am not sure how they would disguise a full elven lord as I think the Wizards have tests/defenses for that.

4) Argh! The whole half-sibling thing with Shana’s infatuation! So not right. I hope there is some conversation that reveals their familial connection and that puts a squash on it before something truly awkward happens!

Other Tidbits:

Shana was a total show off with that large ungulate (deer or elk? i forget.) for her share of the goods for the week. But it was a but inconsiderate to leave it in her Master’s quarters. Large dead animals are heavy and hard to move. Plus they usually loose bowel control. Would have been much better to have it down to the butcher’s right away. The animal can’t simply lie around in private quarters for a few hours – bloat sets in and the meat begins to spoil. tsk, tsk…..

What Others Thought:

Snobbery

Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers

The Elvenbane Read Along Part II

Pico believes by ducking his head I can't tell he is eyeballing his brother Chupa.
Pico believes by ducking his head I can’t tell he is eyeballing his brother Chupa.

Welcome everyone to the continuation of The Elvenbane Read Along. This week we are covering Chapters 7-13. If you want to see the schedule, then I will have you hop over HERE. Lots of awesome, questionable, and wicked things happened in this section. Yes, spoilers will be roaming free, all natural feed only, and they are carnivorous, willing to feast upon your brain. (That was the meds talking). Make sure you visit my partner in crime on this adventure, sj over at Snobbery. Also, leave your link to your post in the comments so I can come by and heckle you. With love.

1) We finally learned of at least one power Shana is capable of – throwing rocks with her mind! If given the choice of any 1 power we have seen so far in the book (whether dragon, elven, human, wizard, halfblood, alicorn, etc.), which would you pick?

Remember when Shana made up that story about catching small, venomous lizards in the desert and using their skins to make her tunic? Well, that’s what I want to be – venomously brightly colored. Then I would only have to threaten to spit in someone’s Red Bull to get them to chill. Also, I could save a ton on wardrobe costs, as I would be ridiculously clad in colors I wouldn’t need clothing in warm weather. Yep. Feel free to peruse that mental image – just don’t tell me about it!

2) In the first few chapters, we learned that the dragons want to remain unknown to the elven and humans. But in these chapters we see that they haven’t been as careful as they would like. Do you think all the dragons are united on this wish to remain anonymous?

I find it curious that Keoke whisked Shana away, in dragon skin. What was all that chatter about not revealing the Kin and perhaps having to kill Shana if she ever came close to telling? Alara has a whole pile of human-made cloth that Shana uses for bedding. I don’t think that split-second decision is going to work out for the Kin. Couple that with Alara swooping in to carry off a pack animal (Keman in disguise) in front of dozens of humans. Nuts. But then we also have that Elven lord with the dragon banner who saw one feasting on one of his horses years ago. So, obviously the Kin haven’t been that careful.

Taken all together, I would suspect that not all the dragons hold the elven to be that dangerous, and are perhaps of hiding. Yes, given the egos on some of the dragons we have met so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are hatching take-over-the-world schemes.

3) Alara kept her foster-daughter ignorant about her own heritage and about the larger world. Did Alara make the right decision?

Now if Shana had been allowed to stay with the Kin, then Alara decision would make more sense. She could have given Shana the knowledge bit by bot over the years as she aged. Alas, Shana was not allowed to stay with the Kin. However, when Alara first heard the rumblings from her fellow dragons, like that little talk with Keoke, Orola, and Anoa, then she should have started prepping Shana for the worst.

Let’s say I have a pet peeve about parenting. I’m not a parent myself, but I have been a baffled child/teen from time to time and I have chatted with relatives’ baffled kids/teens. How can you expect your kids to make a good choice or face a hard task without some basic knowledge? Now Shana gets thrown out into the elements, then human slavery, and we’re left with her being introduced to a very secret society not knowing what they truly want from her. In our world, we just keep kids ignorant on such issues as birth control, cooking, and balancing a checkbook. But still, I can feel Shana’s pain.

4) In the last few chapters of this section, we get a more intimate look at human life and how it is intertwined with the schemes of the elven lords. What stood out for you?

The human hierarchy was very interesting. Slaves, then bondlings, then…overseers? Those humans trusted most by the elven lords. This keeps the humans very fractured as they strive for personal gain. With such factions among the humans, they are unlikely to form a cohesive resistance to the Elven.

5) Chapter 13 leaves off with the Wizards Zed and Rennis spiriting Shana away. Care to guess if their motives are benign or malignant?

I haven’t read this book since highschool, and I totally forgot about these guys. Naughty reader! So far, these two haven’t given Shana any hint of what they want from her. They went to a lot of risk, some money (most was stolen from Lord Dyran’s lackey), and plenty of trouble to get her. Since they know she is very powerful magically, I have to assume they didn’t rescue her out of the goodness of their hearts. Still, I think she will be better off with these 2 than in elven hands.

6) Throughout this section, there have been several acts of bravery. Sometimes they are motivated by greed, simple bodily need, or friendship. Which acts pulled an emotional response from you?

First, of course, I thought of Keman. He did a crazy mad-dash healing on his shoulders, then took off after her, tracked her through a sandstorm, and even put himself in peril by changing into a grel and taken along on the caravan. But really, it was Megwyn that stood out for me. She took Shana under her wing, gave her some advise and some protection. Too bad she died after that brutal beating. I really wanted to find out 1) how she knew Shana was a halfblood (aren’t they suppose to be really, really uncommon?); and 2) if she would have sold the info to another for promotion out of the slave pits.

Other Tidbits:

Keoke got under my nerves. He is so cold when it comes to using Shana to spy. And to spy for what purpose? I don’t think it is merely academic interest for him.

I wonder if Alara will be punished for so blatantly showing herself to the human caravan. It’s suppose to be a big nono, so we shall see.

What Others Think:

Snobbery

Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers

The Elvenbane Read Along Part I

Yes, Smudge does want to bite me.
Yes, Smudge does want to bite me.

Welcome everyone to The Elvenbane read along. Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton were favorite authors of mine when I was a kid and teen. It sure is a pleasure to return to them with this excellent spin on Elvish fantasy. sj over at Snobbery is going to be my copilot for this bookish adventure. While I am kicking it off by hosting this week, make sure to stop by her blog for snark and insight all rolled into one.

If you are just joining us, this week covers Chapters 1-6. Click HERE for the entire schedule. There will be spoilers ranging free – beware!

You can join us in the comments and if you have thrown a post together leave your link in the comments so I and others can hop on by.

The Questions:

1) Serina gives us our first glimpse into not only elven society but also the upper echelons of human society. What stood out for you?

The over all ignorance level of the humans pervaded everything. As we move forward, we learn that they have no written language of their own, so that definitely explains much of the ignorance. Also, Serina was not use to the open sky, which kind of blows my mind being a country girl myself. Even big cities get to see the sky usually twice a day, right – entering the work building and leaving the work building.
2) Alara, our first dragon of the book, has no qualms at all about playing pranks on the elven and smaller ones on the humans. What pranks would you pull on the elves & men if you could get away with it?

Hehe! There would definitely be some embarrassing jokes – like some elven lords and high ladies suddenly finding themselves naked in a crowded hallway, with a questionable assortment of fruit and love oil. As for the humans, I wouldn’t want to make thier lives too difficult, but perhaps some lesson pranks to get them to think for themselves. Surely there must be some humans entrusted with accounting of kitchen stores that have basic math skills – so something that would push them beyond their current needs. Might involve an abacus and some interesting fruit ;).
3) The elven Lord Dyran is one of the ‘good’ lords. *shudder* What do you think the bad lords are going to be like?

Perhaps they eat humans? Lord Dyran already beds them and has them fight to the death purely for his amusement. So, torture, mass killings, and eating them seem like the next step. Perhaps we’ll come across someone more devious who is skilled in mental torture. The Elves could be really bad at poetry, which might rival the Volgon form of torture ;).
4) Do you think being able to walk another’s memories as Alara did with Serina’s increases or decreases empathy?

Well if I came across an exhausted soon-to-be mother in the desert, I would give assistance, even knowing nothing about the person. But Alara had the opportunity to walk Serina’s life through her memories and she nearly left her there to die with her unborn child. I have to be honest and say I would have the same waffling as Alara, but in the end would at least try to save the child. While Serina didn’t deserve her punishment for getting pregnant, she probably deserved it for other questionable acts.
5) We met and heard about several of Keman’s pets. Do you enjoy the idea of dragons having pets? What has been the most interesting pet so far?

This book is such a refreshing take on dragons – they have art, preferred living quarters, writing, games, and pets. In this book they are not the semi-intelligent, yet highly dangerous and savage beast, nor are they the lone dragon who simply wants peace and/or gold. Nope, they have pets. Or at least Keman does. I was a bit surprised that this group of dragons had not learned the benefits of cohabitating with cats (to keep the vermin down) and lizards (too keep the insects down) until Keman brought some home. they have been in this world for several generations and supposedly are pretty intelligent and all about peaceful coexistence. Anyway, the real fascination for me has been the one horns. Vicious guard beasts. they sound like the mythical Asian kirins (or qilin).
6) Shana is a kid by the end of this section and she thinks she is really a dragon stuck in human form. How do you think that this misconception does and will affect her place in dragon society?

So really only Alara and Keman think of Shana as an intelligent being worth rights. the rest of the dragons are, at best, indifferent to her if not out right hostile and want to eat her. Yet Shana and even Keman are under this misconception that Shana’s mom was truly of the dragon kin but stuck in human form when she birthed Shana. Personally, I think this should have been cleared up right away. Alas, this misconception is going to lead to 1 of 2 things – great heartbreak when Shana does figure it out or some stupendous act of magic that actually allows Shana to shapeshift because she simply doesn’t realize she can’t. Either way, I expect that me as the reader will be immensely entertained and that is the true point of the book ;).

Other Tidbits:

Shana is wearing sloughed off dragon skin. Now I don’t know how many of you have ever smelled a discarded snake or lizard skin, but it is a pretty pungent scent. And that is what Shana smells like all the time, expect when newly bathed & naked. But as soon as she puts her ‘clothes’ on, she smells like stinky lizard until her next bath.

These elves are like pandas. Yep, you heard me. Generally solitary creatures, the females only come into heat a few days of the year, detest one another, usually only have 1 cub, and half the time that one dies to first time mothers because they don’t know what they are doing. I love my pandas, but evolution has stuck them in a dead end branch. I don’t love these elves, and I look forward to their dead end branch being torn off during a dragon storm!

What Other People Thought:

Snobbery

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The Elvenbane Read Along: The Schedule

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.
Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

sj of Snobbery and I are teeming up to read The Elvenbane, Book 1 of the Halfblood Chronicles, by two of the greats of Fantasy, Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey. Now both of us have read this before; for me, it has been…er…maybe 2 decades, so I have forgotten a good amount. I do remember really enjoying it. Here is a little blurb about it from goodreads:

This is the story of Shana, a halfbreed born of the forbidden union of an Elvenlord father and a human mother. Her exiled mother dead, she was rescued and raised by dragons, a proud, ancient race who existed unbeknownst to elven or humankind. From birth, Shana was the embodiment of the Prophecy that the all-powerful Elvenlords feared. Her destiny is the enthralling adventure of a lifetime.

Here is the schedule we worked out:

The Elvenbane 566 pages (trade paperback)
First Post March 15 Chapters 1-6 (154 pages) dab of darkness
Second Post March 22 Chapters 7-13 (150 pages) snobbery
Third Post March 29 Chapters 14-18 (118 pages) dod
Fourth Post April 5 Chapters 19-END (144 pages) snobbery

Would you like to join us? Perhaps get the discussion questions a day or two ahead? Well leave a comments below or shoot me an email (nrlymrtl at gmail dot com).

Great Classic Science Fiction by Various Authors

Smudge's face makes me laugh!
Smudge’s face makes me laugh!

Why I Read It: It’s Vintage Scifi Month and this fits right in.

Where I Got It: My library.

Who I Recommend This To: Those who want to enjoy some snippets of classic SF.

Narrators: Various (see below for each story)

Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America (2010)

Length: 7 hours 45 minutes

A little description for each of 8 stories captured in this collection follows below. Any misspellings of names are my own fault. This collection was an awesome, eclectic bit of classic science fiction. My favorite tale was by Andre Norton, featuring Stina and Bat (btw: it was the only tale featuring a woman as the protagonist). The ostrich-like Martian was probably my favorite character (Weinbaum did a great job of breaking down communication to its basic elements). Missing Link by Herbert was a very satisfying tale to end the collection with.

The Door in the Wall by H. G. Wells (narrated by Simon Vance)

Originally published in 1906. In this story, Wallace had a strange experience as a kid where he went through a beautiful and magical door and had a fanciful time. This experience haunts him for his life, driving him to search out the door again later in life.

All Cats are Gray by Andre Norton (narrated by Barbara Rosenblat)

Originally published in 1953. Stina and her cat, Bat, figured out where to find the lost ghost ship Empress of Mars has gotten off to. She’s a starliner, rich is goods and prestige. Once found though, there is question of why she disappeared. Bat figures the answer first, and luckily, tips off her mistress.

A Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum (narrated by Nick Sullivan)

Originally published in 1934. Four scientists land on Mars, and one, Dick Jarvis, has quite the adventure with the native Martian life. Think of some ostrich-like highly intelligent being, and the obvious communication issues.

Victory by Lester del Rey (narrated by Robert Fass)

Originally published in 1955. Set in a rich universe full of humanoid, insectoid, and fungoid races, Duke O’Neal is a jaded warrior married to a non-human who has been trapped in a war zone for some time. This tale is rather too long to be a short story, but rather was a novella. Lester del Rey pulls in SF coolness like time dilation and interplanetary relations.

The Moon is Green by Fritz Leiber (narrated by Katherine Kellgren)

Originally published in 1952. Ephie and Hank are stuck in an unhappy marriage, underground, for decades, while the man-made radiation storm blows over. But Ephie dreams of a life outside, which drives her to push back the lead shielding, and peer outside. Which leads her to meet Patrick, who has only a few mutations.

The Winds of Time by James H. Schmitz (narrated by Stephen R. Thorne)

Originally published 1962. Gefty Rammer is the pilot of the Silver Queen and has been hired by Marlbo to carry him, his secretary (Carrom Ruse), and his cargo to a corner of the galaxy. Of course, the cargo turns out to be something highly unexpected and Gefty has to fight for his life and rescue the secretary.

The Defenders by Philip K. Dick (narrated by Greg Itzin)

Originally published 1953. The cold war between Russia and the US escalated to peak, and the world was plunged into a radioactive inferno. Now humans live below the surface while robots (called letties) maintain the ongoing war on the surface. Don and Mary Taylor have their morning interrupted when Don is called into the office. Don, Frank, and Moss end up on the surface and discover a surprise.

Missing Link by Frank Herbert (narrated by Scott Brick)

Originally published in 1959. Lewis Orne is a junior fieldman and his mission is to find the remains of the Delphinus on an uncleared planet with hostile natives.

I often avoid audio short story collections that are read by 1 narrator as the stories tend to blend together. But this was a great collection because each story was told by a different narrator. Several of these narrators have been favorites for some time (Scott Brick, Barbara Rosenblat, Simon Vance). Others were unknown to me. All did a great job. Robert Fass (Victory) did this awesome thing with his voice to mimic how some of the aliens would sound.

VintageScifiBadgeWhat I Liked: A great mix of stories; aliens, time travel, apocalyptic rehab; the narrators were awesome; several favorite authors were featured.

What I Disliked: Nearly all the stories a) had zero females or b) the women were minimized or needed rescuing.

January is Vintage SciFi Month over at Andrea’s Little Red Reviewer. Make sure to check out her site for the tons of pre-1979 SF going on. Also, January and February are The Science Fiction Experience over at Carl’s Stainless Steel Droppings. He also has great SF stuff going on, so stop by his place and don’t miss out on the fun.

readandreviewbuttonI am also including this in Anya’s weekly Read&Review Hop over on On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to check it out for other great reviews.

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