The Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

Heya Everyone! I was recently tagged by The Audiobookworm in this fun book tag. Feel free to comment on my book choices or to add your own for each category in the comments. I’m going to tag a few people at the end, but if you want to throw up a post with your answers, leave me your link in the comments so I can swing by.

1. “Tale As Old As Time” – A popular theme, trope or setting you will never get bored of reading.

Theme – Underdog

BrownRedRisingThe Red Rising series by Pierce Brown was excellent. Can’t wait to see more from this author. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s a mash up of Roman mythology/military command structure with terraforming of Mars and beyond. Be proud of your scars. You’ve earned them!

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainD-List Supervillain series by Jim Bernheimer – which is just a lot of damn fun! Mostly, the supervillains in this series are just anti-organization. The various super-characters are imaginative and there’s plenty of humor.

Trope – Artificial Intelligence

DircksTheWrongUnitI recently read a whole bunch of AI stuff. The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks was a delight. It had that right mix of humor and serious bits. The AI units are programmed to learn to care for their humans, so the anthropomorphizing of the AI units is realistically built into the story.

PerreaultProgenyRay Jay Perreault has written several stories that feature AI and I have been enjoying making my way through his audiobooks. Progeny is one of my favorite AI stories, though his AIs run the gamut of cold, calculating evil to human-like societal beings.

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Serengeti by JB Rockwell was super intense in several ways. The story starts off with a space battle and the AIs are the ships, though they all have human crews. This space battle takes perhaps as much as half the book. Then the second half is the story of this one ship trying to limp home. The humans have to go into stasis, so that just leaves the ship’s AI and her little AI minion bots. The struggle to reach their goal, to stay sane over the lengthy years, to keep functioning just enough to keep the human crew alive – just an excellent tale.

Setting – Ancient Times

There’s plenty of stuff that happened in ancient times. Most of it is interesting, gritty, and dramatic. Here’s a list of some of the stuff I’ve read so far and have really enjoyed.

SmithRiseOfZenobiaConn Iggulden’s Emperor series – This series focuses on Julius Caesar, starting with his boyhood years and going all the way through his life to the dramatic, bitter end.

The Rise of Zenobia by JD Smith – set during the Roman empire in the Syrian city of Palmyra. I learned from this book and that always is a plus.

John Maddox Roberts’s SPQR murder mystery series – Set in 1st century ancient Rome during the time of Crassus and Pompey. Who could resist murder mystery and ancient Rome? Not me!

Patrick Bowman’s retelling of The Odyssey for young adults – The Odyssey of the Slave series. In this series, the focus is on a young lad who is taken as a slave when the famous city of Troy falls.

Colossus by Colin Falconer – This is a tale of Alexander the Great. Technically, it’s an alternate history, but if you don’t know much abut Alexander and the arc of his life, you wouldn’t know it. I really enjoyed this tale – elephants!

The Sekhmet Bed by LM Ironside – set in ancient Egypt. Ahmose was raised up to Great Royal Wife status. Political intrigue plays a big role in this story.

RobertsClaimedByTheEnemyRise to Power by Uvi Poznansky – set in the land of Israel in the 1st or 2nd century BCE. This is the first book in a series about David and his rise to power told from a secular point of view.

Claimed by the Enemy by Shauna Roberts – despite the title and the cover art, this book is pretty darn good. Set in ancient Mesopotamia during the time of King Sargon, the book focuses on two young individuals who were placed in difficult positions.

2. Belle – A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too

KayUnderHeavenGuy Gavriel Kay never fails to provide a beautiful story and his covers are always so well done. Recently, I read Children of Earth and Sky, and the cover is indeed just as beautiful as the tale inside. If you said I had to pick my favorite GGK novel, I would be hard-pressed to say which it was. His Sarantium duology is about the fall of an empire, so plenty of vast ideas going on there but with excellent pinpoint characters that do a great job of showing the human side. I also loved The Lions of Al-Rassan, which is based on Moorish Spain. There’s plenty of areas of conflict but also plenty of areas for commonality. I could go on and on, but you should just go pick up some GGK for yourself.

Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear was one of my favorite reads of 2015. The cover did a great job of capturing the Wild West and Steampunk mix of the story. Karen was also a wonderful character, not being a stereotypical kick ass heroine that are so abundant lately. She does kick ass, she’s just also a real person who happens to be brave when backed into a corner.

3. Beast – A book you didn’t expect much from but pleasantly surprised you.

AllendeZorroZorro by Isabel Allende was a pleasant surprise. In essence, it was an origin story for Zorro. I loved watching the black & white TV show was a kid so it was pretty cool to read this book and get Allende’s take on how Zorro came to be. There was a lot more depth to this character than I expected, which, in retrospect, was silly of me. Zorro lived during a time of Spanish colonialism in the New World – there were plenty of cultures and conflicts. Allende did a great job of pulling those elements into this tale.

ClinesTheFoldThe Fold by Peter Clines was one of the best SF Thriller novels I have read. It was fun. It was intense. It had SF themes that I could get into. The characters were also interesting, especially the lead guy who has a true eidetic memory. This was both a help and a hindrance to him.

King11226311-22-63 by Stephen King is the first King novel I have read. It won’t be the last. King did a really great job with the characters in this book. I know some folks have labeled him as a horror novelist, and nothing more. However, this book shows that he has a lot more going on. It’s obvious he put quite a bit of research in to the time and location (1963, Texas) of the bulk of the book. While I do expect that as I explore King’s works, this novel won’t be my favorite but it certainly delivered more than I expected.

4. Gaston – A book everyone loves that you don’t.

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel – I was on the fence about this one. I liked that it was a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that wasn’t full of angst. However, I didn’t really care for the character Arthur Leander, who all the other characters are somehow connected with. He was boring and I wanted to know more about these other characters but the story kept coming back to him.

CoehloAlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – it’s a young man’s adventure quest and it’s been done so many times before. All the ladies are in some subservient role, which is also a standard (unfortunately) in such adventure tales. Most of the men have a Personal Legend to find or to fullfill. Meanwhile, the 3 female characters lack any such ambition.

Grahame-SmithAbrahamLincolnVampireHunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – The most exciting parts of this book were the dream sequences and even those were mean tricks. The reader enters each of the dream sequences as if they are the next part of the story and only at the end of the scene do you realize it’s a dream. I really liked Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and his Unholy Nights was pretty entertaining as well, so I was sad to say that I found this book to be a snoozer.

5. Lefou – A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counter part.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraJean Tannen from The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch – This series is full of creative cursing, thievery, camaraderie, magic, death, romance, pirates, evil people getting their due, the good guys getting the crap beaten out of them, and more creative cursing.

PriestBloodshotHeldigAdrian from the Cheshire Red Reports by Cherie Priest – Adrian is still a bit of a mystery, since I have only read the first 2 books in this series (I hope there will be more in the series!). He’s ex-military on a search for his missing kid sister. He’s also a dragqueen, and his parents have disowned him because of this. He makes a great sidekick for Raylene, the vampire thief.

6. Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumier & Cogsworth – A book that helped you through a difficult time or that taught you something valuable.

For over a year now, I have been going through this medical thing. I’ve basically been on bed rest for a year now and I was finally diagnosed in May with CTEPH – which is basically blood clots that have hardened in my pulmonary arteries, which has caused pulmonary hypertension to a moderately high degree, which will be fatal…. in perhaps 6-10 years, unless I have this big, kinda cool in a SF way, kinda scary in a mortality rate way, surgery. That’s scheduled for early February. So, these books have helped me cope with this lengthy process.

Good cat, good book, what else does one need?

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford – this is a coloring book for adults and it’s the first one I ever bought. It’s remarkably detailed and it’s pretty amazing how coloring really takes me out of my current situation. Also, it’s something I  can do while listening to audiobooks.

CareyKushiel'sDartTerre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey – This series has been awesome and I have been part of a group read along with several wonderful ladies on the blogosphere. I’ve read Book 1, Kushiel’s Dart, so many times but it was quite something to share it with others in this in-depth discussion of the book. We started the read along back in May 2015, and now we’re on Book 7, Naamah’s Kiss. We’ll have to finish the last two books after my surgery – so that gives me something to look forward to. If you haven’t checked this series out, then I highly recommend it for alternate history and epic fantasy fans. I know sometimes it gets panned because there is plenty of sex in it, but the amount sex doesn’t outweigh all the awesomeness – the political intrigue, the sword fights, the desperate straights of the heroes, the saving of the realm! Honestly, the sex enhances the characters instead of just being padding to up the page count.

7. “Something There” – A book or a series that you weren’t into at first but picked up towards the end.

JordanPathOfDaggersThe Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – It took me about 4 books to really get into this series, but I’m very glad I read it as it is a touchstone for epic fantasy fans. The first book really took a lot from Tolkien’s works and I was bit insulted the first and second time I read it. However, I was encouraged by a great group of book bloggers, who were part of this big 2+ years-long read along of the series, to keep going. Also, in an interview, Jordan spoke about how he wanted to model Book 1 on Tolkien’s works to give readers something familiar. Eventually, starting at Book 4, Jordan’s genius really starts to show through. I am very much hoping they do make this series in to a quality TV series or a quality series of movies.

8. “Be Our Guest” – A fictional character you’d love to have over for dinner.

ButcherDeadBeatHarry Dresden & Bob the Skull from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files – This is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. The first few can be read in any order, but I think the series is best read in order since the larger story arc starts really building on itself around Book 4 or 5, though there are small things even in Book 1 that are tied into again later in the series. Bob would be a hoot at any dinner party. He doesn’t get much socializing, so he lacks all those hindrances that make most dinner conversations so dull.

HearneShatteredAtticus & Oberon from Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles – this is yet another favorite urban fantasy series. Oberon would bring the appetite and the humor with his simple doggy demands. Atticus, being the 2000+ year old druid that he is, would be able to chat about several entertaining subjects.

Tagging Others

So now I would like to tag some other bookish folks, though please don’t feel obligated if this isn’t your cup of tea. Also, if I don’t tag you but you want to play along, please do! And leave me a comment with a link to your post so I can visit.

Lynn from Books and Travelling

Andrea from Little Red Reviewer

Julie from Oh, Julie!

Austine from Novel Knight

Book Wins from Novel Knight
Book Wins from Novel Knight

And I would like to smash into this long post a big thank you to Austine! I won a very fun book package from her recently. It was full of books and bookish things and fake tattoos and a red mask and nail art. And then she wrapped everything in gold paper! This box of goodies was such an upper, especially since I have been sick. I loved unwrapping everything and modeling the mask, tattoos, and nail art for my man. Thank you Austine!

Hellbent by Cherie Priest

Chupacabra is sacked out.
Chupacabra is sacked out.

Narrator: Natalie Ross

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2011)

Length: 10 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 2 Cheshire Red Reports

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone novel.

Raylene is an expert thief and a wayward vampire. Her fixer Horace has an unusual job for her. He needs these rare yet odd relics stolen and he offers her a big financial incentive to take on the job. However, someone else is also after the relics – Elizabeth Creed. She’s a warlock and one who isn’t all there. Tossing in some trouble on the homefront, Ian (a blind vampire) has been summoned home by his House. It’s a death sentence to go and a death sentence to not go. Ray may not be able to help Ian with this one.

First, there was lots of humor and banter in this book, and plenty of it is a bit dark. The odd relics that Ray is hunting for are actually baculum, which are penis bones. Yep. Many placental mammals have penis bones. Alas, humans do not. Anyway, these particular baculum are from things like werewolves and such, making them perfect for magical spells. I’m sure you can see how this particular job was rife with humor.

The quest takes Ray out of Seattle and to Houston and Atlanta. She’s also trying to give her support to Ian as he tries to reconnect with this son Brandon. So we get to see a chunk of the country in this book. Adrian, an ex-military drag queen, is also along for the ride. Hooray! I really enjoyed his character in Book 1, Bloodshot. When he’s in drag, she’s Sister Rose. In the previous book, he was searching for his younger sister Isabel. That search comes up again in this novel and I was glad to see that Adrian had not given up his hunt.

There’s a touch of romance in this novel. There’s a low simmering heat between Ray and Ian, but since they live in the same big house, they have been keeping things casual. They also share space with two orphaned kids, Domino and his little sister Pepper. Domino is going through his angry teen years and I really was worried he was going to get dead in this book! Pepper is the brains of the two even if she’s only 7 or so.

There’s plenty of action as Ray tries again and again to doge the crazy warlock, the military group that once held Ian captive, and also Ian’s House. There are so many ways that things could go very, very wrong for Ray! Eeeeep! This was a real page, or, rather, disc, turner for me. I didn’t want to put this book down. Between the humor and the high-stakes action, I was hooked and enjoyed the entire book.

Narration: Natalie Ross did another great job with this book. I continue to be amazed at her performance with Adrian/Sister Rose. I also enjoy her various accents as needed here and there. Her rough, kind of seedy voice for Horace was perfect – just like how I picture him.

What I Liked: Raylene continues to be a very approachable hero; there’s even a kitten to rescue; Sister Rose/Adrian kicks ass and looks good doing it; Horace is mostly good but also self-centered; the baculum – hahahahahahahahaha!

What I Disliked: Nothing – too much fun!

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Love Vampires

The Illustrated Page

Pissed Off Geek

Dear Author

SF Book Reviews

Bastard Books and Other Crap

Hidden in the Pages

Tynga’s Reviews

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

PriestBloodshotHeldigWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Natalie Ross

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2011)

Length: 11 hours 16 minutes

Series: Book 1 Cheshire Red Reports

Author’s Page

Cheshire Red is a vampire and an acquisitions expert (thief). Raylene likes that many people assume Cheshire Red is a man and she’s not about to dissuade them, enjoying working in the shadows as she does. Ian, another vampire who is oddly blind, has hired her to track down his medical records from his enforced stay at a secret government complex. Yet before she can dig into this case, things start to unravel in her cushy little life in Seattle – someone breaks into her warehouse and someone else blows her well laid cover. She drops it all to follow a thin lead in Atlanta. As Raylene continues to snoop into Ian’s affairs, things get more and more risky. Before you know it, her best defense is a military-trained drag queen and her best offense is one seriously ticked off blind vampire.

This book was a lot of fun. Raylene definitely has a fluid sense of morals with few hard sticking points. She takes pleasure in her work – removing the priceless and rare from the rich and pretentious. She’s used Seattle as the base for her operations for a few decades now;  hence, the warehouse where she stores (or hoards) some of her collection as a financial safety net. There’s also two homeless kids, Pepper and Domino, who she lets live there. She doesn’t really like kids but for some reason keeps the heat and electricity on in one section of the building for them. Oh, and makes sure they have a cell phone to call her. And she checks in on them regularly. Perhaps she brings them food. Not that they’re pets or anything. As you can see, Raylene has this tough exterior and this gooey caramel soft center.  I really liked all the snark and Ray’s enjoyment of her own sexuality and being a vampire. I also like that she’s prone to panic attacks and that her powers don’t make her invincible – just really hard to kill.

Ian is a bit of a quandary. It’s very unusual for a vampire to have any debilitating injury that becomes permanent. So Ian’s loss of sight is disturbing. If it can be done to one vampire, it can be done to another. He also uses a ghoul, Cal, which Raylene doesn’t like. However as she gets to know the two of them a bit more, she starts to reconsider her views on ghouls. Cal obviously still has a mind of his own and Ian treats Cal with respect and it’s obvious he needs some amount of help being blind. Still, there are plenty of unanswered questions surrounding Ian and he is indeed very reluctant to elaborate on what little he has already told her.

Then we toss in a military-grade highly driven mad scientist and a large number or highly-trained military ‘acquisition experts’ that want Raylene and perhaps even want Ian back and everyone has to scatter to the four winds. Raylene ends up in Atlanta chasing down a lead. This is where my second favorite character, Adrian (aka Sister Rose), comes into the picture. Sister Rose is a drag queen and great at her nightly performances. Adrian is ex-military and has some specialty training. He initially becomes Raylene’s unwilling ally. Adrian was great with all the glitz and fringe and yet muscle and sensible behavior. I like that we never find out whether he’s straight, gay, or bi, or celibate. Raylene is too polite to ask.

There’s plenty of action and interesting characters in this urban fantasy. The ending was solid. We lose a little and gain a little and have a ton of questions for Book 2. Ian definitely has some some things to follow up on. I’m hoping Adrian will continue to be a part of the series. While Raylene and crew took out several of the questionable military bad guys, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them.

Narration: Natalie Ross did an awesome job with this book. All the characters are distinct and her male characters are great. She does this remarkable thing with Adrian’s two personas (Adrian versus Sister Rose). There’s also various accents that she does well. It’s just a very, very good performance.

What I Liked: Our main ‘hero’ doesn’t particularly act or think like a hero; Raylene isn’t all sharp elbows and hefty boot kicks – she’s also got a soft spot for homeless kids and has the occasional panic attack; Ian has his mysteries; Adrian has his fringed sparkly g-string; together, they have an enemy worth kicking in the teeth.

What I Disliked: Nothing – too much fun!

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Love Vampires

Alternative Magazine Online

Geek Syndicate

My Bookish Ways

The Illustrated Page

The BiblioSanctum

Pissed Off Geek