The Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit

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

Narrator: Karen Krause

Publisher: Audiobooks by Mike Vendetti (2014)

Length: 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Book of Dragons

Author’s Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weekend Notes

The Balborite Curse by Kristian Alva

AlvaTheBalboriteCurseWhere I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 6 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 4 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 4 in the series, it works as a stand alone. It is like a first book in a second trilogy following characters we met in the first 3 books, but set years later.

This was another excellent installment in the Dragon Stone Saga. In this book, the main character is Tallin, the half-dwarf dragon rider and teacher to Elias from the first three books. He was a fascinating character in previous books and I was quite pleased to see him take center stage. The Balborite Curse takes place about 5 years after Book 3, Vosper’s Revenge. Peace has lasted, though it is threadbare and falling apart in places (such as the dwarf kingdoms). There are still few dragons and few riders. Sela is still head of the dragon riders but is soon called back from her vacation to help Tallin deal with yet one more merchant attempting to smuggle a deadly poison into the desert city. I sense these two may be headed for romance in future installments, but for this book there was just the merest hint of something more than friendship.

The interrogation of the merchant leads to more questions and sends Tallin on a small quest to ensure the safety of the merchant’s family, if they still live. Along the way, he visits Chua and Starclaw. Starclaw gives Duskeye (dragon companion to Tallin) some much needed advice on finding receptive dragon females, if any still live. Dragon reproduction is a taboo subject for humans and dragons to chat about, therefore there is much mystery as to why the dragons have not started reproducing again.

Peppered throughout Tallin’s narrative, we get to hang out with the Balborite assassin Skarekina (spelling?), who we have met in previous books. We get some flashbacks to how she became a deadly, accomplished assassin. She has a grudge against Tallin and it comes to blows! Skarekina is a wonderful villain because she is so competent!

We also learn a little about the Orcs and their civilization. It seems that everyone discounts and looks down on the Orcs, even some of our heroes. However, I get the feeling that the author has something more planned for us when it comes to the Orcs. I look forward to surprises later in the series. Towards the end, another dwarf magic user is introduced. She is elderly and practical and was a joy to see in action. I expect we will be seeing more of her in Book 5. I am already somewhat attached to her, so I really hope she doesn’t get killed any time soon.

I know I keep saying it about this series, but I feel each book is just a touch better than the last. I couldn’t be more satisfied with a fantasy series. The characters are interesting, the plot has more than one story line and is not horribly predictable, and the bad guys are complicated and often competent. Plus we then have these side issues going on (fighting dwarf kingdoms, the Orcs, dragon reproduction, etc.) that keep the reader wondering what will happen in the next installment. With this book in particular, we have what could be a very significant question to be answered in the next book and I am very much looking forward to giving it a listen.

Narration:  Adam Chase continues to do a great job with this series. I love his blunt voice for Tallin. He voice for Starclaw (an older female dragon) was also great as I could just imagine her wrecked body and mild anger during her chat with Duskeye. Chase has the most wicked female laugh which he employs quite well while performing the assassin.

What I Liked:  Tallin is a great character and totally deserves his own few books; the evil assassin is competent and wicked scary; more info on the dragons; possible new threat in the Orcs; a new awesome dwarf magic user is introduced.

What I Disliked:  Nothing, this was a great book!

What Others Think:

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Mary’s Cup of Tea

Vosper’s Revenge by Kristian Alva

 

AlvaVosper'sRevengeWhere I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 8 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 3 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

I am going to go all gushy on this book. I have already given Books 1 & 2 high ratings, but this book is even better. This is just one of those series that each book surpasses the previous one in writing skill, character depth, and plot intrigue.

First, the basics. Book 3 picks up where Book 2 left off. Vosper and his evil minions are poised to take the continent by storm as the forces of good (or at least the forces of the reasonable) are scattered and/or arguing with one another. Elias is still learning about his powers and his parentage. His bond with Nydiered (his dragon) grows each day. Without tossing out spoilers, there is death, there is intrigue, there is hope. This is one of those series that a young reader can grow with.

For many of the characters, we have had 2 previous books to get attached to them, or to learn to despise them. In Book 2 we had a traitor, and part of Book 3 shows us what our heroes have to do with that traitor – the tough choices they have to make (as they don’t inherently enjoy killing people and yet, how to trust this person ever again?). These interactions were some of the most moving, most intense in the book.

Then we have Elias and his father (Chua, who he learned about in Book 2). These were also touching moments, but more than that, they were sometimes downright hair raising. Elias’s dad has a wealth of knowledge, and not just from his time as a warrior, but also from his new hard won ability as a seer. He provides some background to Elias, and not just about Vosper but also about his mother, Ionela.

Tallin was probably my favorite character. Being taciturn by nature, he is a tough nut to crack. He is also a half-breed, not truly accepted by either race, and yet he has to deal with them all. We get to learn plenty more about him and just why he is a bit of a grump, and pretty distrustful of most folks.

I have one little quibble about a severely injured character. This character is then transported and it takes days. Yet no real treatment is given to this injured character during that time and this character survives the transport. So, I felt a few lines could have fixed this minor slip up in weaving reality into the fiction.

Now for Vosper. He does wreak havoc among our heroes. Also, his power continues to grow as he makes plans to go through with a final transformation that will leave him more powerful than he could ever be as a mere man. Of course our heroes hear of this plan and it both scares them and spurs them on to desperate heroic acts. It all comes to a head at the end and while I found one tiny element a little rushed (can’t say as it would be a spoiler to the ending of the trilogy), the ending was quite satisfying to me.

I did not want to say goodbye to these characters and this world. Luckily for me, there is a wholenother series in this same world with some of the same characters. You can expect me to be bringing you reviews on that series in 2015.

Narration:  Adam Chase did a great job once again but I will say that I feel his narrating abilities have grown with this series. He had some powerful scenes to bring to life in this book and he did an amazing job. He also had some truly freaky, hair-raising voices to create with the numerous necromancers walking and and out of this book. I pictured him having to contort in order to make some of these characters come to life. His performance in this book puts him on my list of favorite narrators.

What I Liked:  Elias has lots of hard decisions; death & traitors; generations-old secrets coming to the light; Elias’s visit with Chua; Tallin’s character; the ending.

What I Disliked:  I have 2 very tiny negatives that did not detract from my immense enjoyment of this book: 1) a severely injured character receives no treatment and yet lasts for days; and 2) one element of the ending felt a bit rushed.

What Others Think:

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Just Reviews

Return of the Dragon Riders by Kristian Alva

AlvaRetunOfTheDragonRidersWhy I Read It: Book 1 was good and I wanted to see how the story continued.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy adventures fans who like a note of seriousness in their fiction.

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Passkey Publications DBA Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 7 hours 44 minutes

Series: Book 2 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

Book 2 picks up right where Book 1 left off. Elias is pulled up into a new world. one where great things are expected of him because of this prophesy. Pf course, this makes him a major target for the evil Vosper and his allies. The few remaining dragon riders have one last refuge, the city of Parthos. Elias and his new friends face many foes in this book and sometimes Elias isn’t too sure who his friends are.

While we have yet to meet the evil Vosper, we do get to see plenty of his badguy handy work, from the past, and in Elias’s present. More info about Elias’s parentage is revealed to the readers. Thorin, Elias’s halfling friend from Book 1, is still around providing advice, support, and the occasional comedic relief. The dragon riders themselves area mixed bag, some being extremely serious all the time. Others have a little fun. Some new magic users are recruited and some young dragons are looking to make a match with human riders.

There’s plenty of action in this novel and it is well-paced with comedic moments and serious moments. I like that the point of view shifts around and we get to spend time in different heads. Elias is a well-meaning teen who wants to think the best of nearly everyone. Many of the other characters are not so trusting. In fact, there is a hidden traitor among them, which added suspense to the story.

Overall, this was a very good follow up to Book 1. I am very much looking forward to Book 3.

Narration:  Chase did a great job once again. He has distinct male and female voices and does accents. He also had several opportunities to portray strong emotions in this book, which he did very well.

What I Liked:  Elias is growing up; plenty of action; Thorin is a true friend; the suspense of the hidden traitor; their task is not done and we are set up perfectly for the next book.

What I Disliked:  I wasn’t so keen about the cover to the paperbook, but I LOVE the cover to the audiobook.

What Others Think:

Peace Love Books

Bookworm Family

Interview: Melinda Moore, Author of A Sunset Finish

MooreASunsetFinish_200Please welcome Melinda Moore to the blog. I quite enjoyed her novella, A Sunset Finish, and asked her for an interview. Today, we chat about Katharine Hepburn, the Pueblo Revolt, The Hobbit movies, Star Wars, faeries, and bassist Edgar Meyer. Please sit back and enjoy!

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

I wish I could read The House with the Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs for the first time again. It’s a great childhood introduction to spooky books. I still go back to his stories now and then, but I can’t recapture that goose bumpy feel I had the first time.

BellairsHouseWithClockInWallsWhat biographies of the creators of your favorite genres do you want to read? Are there lesser known creators that still need a biography?

I’m actually not a fan of biographies. When I was in my twenties and very idealistic, I found biographies to diminish the subject. I had a favorite author whose ideals in his books were right along with mine, and then I read about his real life and found he didn’t follow those ideals at all. His was the first to be disappointing but not the last.

The highlight of my biography reads was Me, which is the autobiography of Katharine Hepburn. I found it to be exactly as I imagined her real life being. She was a leader in feminism in all her characters, and her real life was the same way.

Probably the low was not one I read myself. I had recommended Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to a friend of mine. She read Lewis Carroll’s biography and said, “Did you know he liked to paint and photograph nude little girls?” I have never recommended his stories to my children.

I still find myself wondering enough about an author to consider checking out what the Internet has to say about them. Of course with blogs you can watch living autobiographies. One of my favorite authors started to blog a few years ago, and while reading it didn’t ruin her books for me, I don’t follow it because her day to day life does not interest me.

But a writer who I do wish had a biography or autobiography out, and who I find to be very approachable (I emailed her how much I enjoyed a book she wrote and she replied in under an hour) is Jane Yolen. The breadth of her work is amazing.

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

Well depending on the type, I think a dragon qualifies as the answer to both :) I love to write about dragons and would want to encounter the friendly type, or hot erotic shapeshifting type, but not the type that would burn me to a crisp on sight.

What book(s) 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?

It seems like the Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher would make a good CCG because there are so many different factions. It would also be great as an MMO. It has a huge fan base, and I think players could make it a very dynamic game. It looks like it’s already an RPG, but I haven’t had the pleasure of playing it yet.

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

For A Sunset Finish I used Dancing Gods by Erna Fergusson and several historical books about the Pueblo Revolt. Although other stories I’ve written aren’t so directly tied to an area in the real world, I still research a lot about the folklore of whatever mythical creature I’m using. I use fairies frequently and have found The Erotic World of Faery by Maureen Duffy to be very helpful—it’s not as racy as it sounds :)

ZahnHeirToTheEmpireWho are some of your favorite book villains?

Admiral Thrawn from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy for Star Wars is by far my favorite villain. I think that series is officially the Heir to the Empire series, but because Thrawn is so awesome, people just call it the Thrawn Trilogy. In fact, he is so cool all other villains have escaped my head at the moment.

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

I really like the Pride and Prejudice production with Colin Firth. The new movies for the Narnia series have been great and added new depth to the books. I think the second Hobbit movie was terrible. I loved The Lord of the Rings movies, and the first Hobbit movie was good, but I don’t know what happened with the second part.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I really enjoy interviews like this, but it’s hard for me to go out and seek them along with seeking reviews. I also just spent what I considered a large sum for advertising and really didn’t get much in the way of sales from it. I’ve found the balance between promoting current publications and working on new stories to be difficult. In the long run, I think concentrating on improving my writing and getting new stuff out there will be what pays off.

MeyerViolinConcertoCare 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?

Actually, my awkward fan girl moment occurred in my musician life, but I wasn’t gushing. I played the bass from middle school until my early thirties. Bass is just not that glamorous. But when I was in high school, a man who was both a hot bass player and cute was burning up the music scene. He was giving a master class in Colorado, I live in NM, and I auditioned and received a spot to play for him along with a few other girls from here (strangely Albuquerque had mostly female bass players when I was going through high school even though it’s a male dominated instrument). So we drove up there, the whole time talking about how cute Edgar Meyer was and not focused on our music at all. By, the time I played for him, he was pretty much a god in my mind. I managed to get through my song; he gave me comments. His last comment was, “It would really be great if you played it by memory.” He whisked the music off my stand and stood there waiting for me to play it by memory. There was just no way. I was now humiliated in front of the bass god and all his worshipers!

A little addendum to the story: he just performed with Taylor Swift on one of the country music awards this year. I was flipping through channels, saw him and jumped up yelling that I knew him. My kids thought I was crazy :)

MorgensternNightCircusCover 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 really like both covers that I’ve seen for The Night Circus. I’d love to have artwork like that for a series I hope to publish one day.

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

My short story “The Virgin and the Dragon” has just been released in the Spring 2014 volume of The Colored Lens. My novella A Sunset Finish will have been out a year this summer, and I’ll probably do a special giveaway at my blog enchantedspark.com.

Places to Stalk Melinda Moore

Blog

Other Blog

Jupiter Gardens Press

Facebook

Goodreads

Dragon Stones by Kristian Alva

AlvaDragonStonesWhy I Read It: I enjoy a good dragon adventure fantasy every few books.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy adventures fans who like a note of seriousness in their fiction.

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Passkey Publications DBA Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 4 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

In a little corner of the world, Elias lives with his grandmother on the edge of the village. She’s a healer and he is her apprentice, though healing arts are considered to be women’s work. At night she tells him stories of her youth, when she traveled and dragons and their riders were not so scarce. Before Emperor Vosper came to reign, magic in many forms was not uncommon. In fact, Grandma got a year or two of training in magic before Vosper started his wholesale enslavement or slaughter of magi users and dragons. So some of her healing is done with a touch of magic, which she has taught to Elias. Through her stories, we get a good idea of the past 20-30 years in this land without it being a strenuous info dump. Then one day, Elias finds a Dragon Stone while mushrooming in the woods and things change. Word of the Dragon Stone leaks out to the authorities, and they come in force to Elias’s house. His grandma hides him in the cellar and tells him to run when he can – and he does. So begins the adventure. There’s dwarves and dragons, necromancers, tricks & traps, and a goal.

I was hooked on this book from the beginning. It starts with a dark scene – the Emperor’s men have been out searching and destroying dragon nests and they have just found one. While not overly graphic, the point comes across loud and clear with the killing of newly hatched dragons. I definitely like my fantasy to have a little bit of a darker side, a more serious side, as this shows there are real consequences for the characters to consider. Then we moved to Elias and his grandma. She was a strong, guiding force in his life and such an integral character before Elias set off on his adventure. Through her, we have just enough background to be very curious about many things: her own past, Elias’s parents, dragon riders and dragons in general, etc. I definitely wanted more and the author delivered.

Pretty soon, Elias comes across the dwarf Thorin (and I think Thorin is actually a half-breed dwarf-halfling, but I could have that wrong). And yes, is Thorin a nod to Tolkien’s work? Thorin and Elias become quick friends, mostly because Thorin has recently fallen out of a tree and needs some healing and Elias obliges. They adventure off together, dodging the Emperor’s men and necromancers, meeting more dwarves, ever heading for safety. The necromancer we meet was freaky scarey and the voice the narrator gave her was quite fitting and a little frightening.

The adventure scenes are speckled with scenes of another kingdom – the last hold out from Vosper’s tyrannical reign. Dragons, their riders, and magic users are welcomed and safe there (or at least not actively hunted by the government). We meet some of the dragon riders, the dragons, and the king. There is an interesting scene involving star fruit (a personal favorite of mine). And in the second half of the book we meet a dragon and her rider who were once imprisoned and tortured by Vosper and his minions. Wow! I don’t know if they are the good guys, good guys gone a little insane, or potentially a chaotic bad element off on their own. I am fascinated by these two and really, really look forward to learning more about them in the next installment.

This was a great start to a fantasy series. While suitable for most (if not all) audiences, it has enough gravity to strongly appeal to most adult readers. The characters have depth and history, the world building is just enough to give scope and interest without bogging down the story. The narration was excellent.

Narration:  Here is where I gush about the narration of Adam Chase. I loved his various accents for the different peoples of this book, especially Thorin’s voice and that creepy voice of the necromancer. His female voices were also done quite well, especially for Elias’s granma.

What I Liked:  The world building; Elias as a main character; the serious note to this adventure; left me ready to jump into the next book; excellent narration.

What I Disliked:  While I like the cover art, I am not sure who it depicts. Am I daft? I don’t think that is Elias’s granma, with such a slim figure and low neckline. Is it the necromancer?

What Others Think:

Peace Love Books

Bookworm Family

Suddenly Books

OnceUponATime8Tis the season for fantasy in all forms. Join the reading challenge Once Upon A Time, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. You can catch my intro post to this year’s challenge over HERE. Anyone can join this event, which runs from March 21 – June 20, 2014.

Erian’s Lair by Troy Lee Henderson

HendersonErian'sLairWhy I Read It: Really enjoyed Book 1, Eathed, so had to give this book a try.

Where I Got It: A review copy via the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Dragon stories and adventure – perfect for kids and dreamers.

Narrator: William Dufris

Publisher: Mind Wings Audio (2012)

Length: 2 hours 21 minutes

Series: Book 2, The Hill Brothers Trilogy

Author’s Page

Simon, our hero from Book 1, has been off studying for the last few years but has to return suddenly when he hears that his parents have passed away. His two younger brothers, Darien and Edwin, have been allowed to stay on the farm – if the new farm family will have them. The lord of the land gave the farm and all that lies within its boundaries to the new family, and they may or may not want two more mouths to feed. So Simon offers them adventure instead – a hunt for a dragon! They mean to seek out the daughter of old Eathed (from Book 1) and befriend her, hence having high adventure and gaining a mighty friend all at once. Along the way, they take up with professional dragon hunter Deandra, whose father was killed by a dragon. Not all turns out as Simon had hoped.

Once again, Troy Lee Henderson brings us a worthy dragon story. I was enchanted by Eathed in the first book and while Book 2 focuses much more on Simon and his siblings, Erian does get some important lines near the end. This book is also longer, giving the reader (or listener) more time for the adventure. The boys of course are on cloud nine to be off and way from dreary farm chores for a careless master. They get to spend some time bonding as people will do when off on a walking holiday, hunting dangerous prey. The boys live through some humorous antics.

Then there was Deandra, who seemed to have no sympathy in her heart for the nearly extinct dragons. She tells her tale of her parents’ deaths (separately) and she can’t bring herself to believe in good dragons that don’t mean humans any ill. This fire in her heart carries her through the story, making her courageous but single-minded. While Simon hopes to improve dragon-human relations, Deandra has no desire to do so.

The ending had a little twist at the end that I enjoyed. Erian reveals how she lost her mate and this touches one of Simon’s party deeply. It was quite well done.

All in all, it is a fun, short adventure perfect for that long car trip with kids, or dragon-loving adults.

Narration: William Dufris was excellent for this story, sounding like a young boy, or a stern dragon, or a furious young lady as the story required. He was a treat to listen to.

What I Liked: The cover is gorgeous; adventure and dragons; nice twist at the end.

What I Disliked: I could have used a little more of Erian earlier in the story.