Outer Diverse by Nina Munteanu

MunteanuOuterDiverseWhy I Read It: Space opera with a lead female – why not? Oh, and the supreme bad guys, a race of aliens, have my last name. No joking.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Adults who enjoy a space adventure with a strong female protagonist.

Narrator: Dawn Harvey

Publisher: Iambik Audio (2012)

Length: 11 hours 31 minutes

Series: Book 1 Splinter Universe trilogy

Rhea Hawke is a Galactic Guardian, and I love to say her name. Her name alone let’s you know that there is a bad ass super hero of a woman on site. I can picture her boots, her great coat, and her side arms. I want to be her when I grow up. Obviously, you can tell I developed some hero worship for her by the end of this book. Back to the story, where we start off with the massacre of a religious sect. Hawke has her ideas about who is ultimately behind it, but, alas, the more bureaucratically minded in the Galactic Guardians refuse to listen to her. Nina Munteanu has spread alien races thickly throughout this story, with just a peppering of humans. The Eosians are very similar to humans genetically, yet Rhea has a prejudice towards them since childhood, when she inadvertently killed a male Eosian in a gruesome way.

Let me come clean. There is a nefarious, evil race of aliens that have perpetrated more than one attempted genocide. They are the Vos. For those of you who know me, you know that is simply one S short of my name, and pronounced exactly the same. I confess – it was a bit of an ego rush to hear Rhea Hawke, my hero, threatening death to all Vos. Indeed, she called them all sorts of nasty names.

OK. I feel better getting that off my chest. So, Rhea manages to kick too much ass in a very public way in a very messy way. We call this pissing off a whole lot of people in a very short amount of time. So, her badge, her Guardian issued-weapons, her ever so cool Great Coat, and her little AI ship are all taken. She is left on her own to cool off a bit. So, of course she joins a gym, and develops a romantic interest. Hehe. Why not? But then the book picks up again and the adventure, intrigue, and cursing of the dastardly Vos.

I really got wrapped up in this novel. Yes, the characters only grew a little bit, and that growth was mainly on Rhea and her relationship to her mother, but I really connected with her. I loved all the fancy tech and the variety of alien races, with humans barely hanging on as a species. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for Book 2.

I have to mention the sex. No, there aren’t any diagrams. So, Rhea and her beau have some pretty steamy sex off and on throughout the book. Nothing really shocked me. What I did find curious is that Rhea really considers a certain position (anal) to be perverse. This theme carries through in the background until Rhea herself experiences that certain position. Oddly, that is all tied to some of Rhea’s personal history and she suddenly understands so much more about her own mom. Anyway, I am trying not to give away too much. Just a note – this book contains sex, in some detail. There was one scene I was so wrapped up in and later tried to explain to my man – and it sounds ridiculous without the back story. This shows that the author totally had me sucked in.

Dawn Harvey was the perfect narrator for this novel as it is all told from Rhea’s point of view. Dawn came across as strong and determined without over playing it. Plus, I like how she says my last name with a variety of epithets. The alien voices were challenging, and Dawn met those challenges with gusto.

What I Liked: Rhea Hawke, her tech, her ship, and her attitude; my last name was cursed thoroughly throughout the novel; lots and lots of aliens; humans are not the main focus of the book as a species; Rhea has a very complicated past, of which she knows so little of.

What I Disliked: There were a few loose ends dealing with Rhea’s ancestors that left me with question marks – minor complaint as I look forward to Book 2.

 

In the Shadow of Swords by Val Gunn

Why I Read It: Assassins and Legendary Books – Who could pass this up?

Where I Got It: Review copy from publisher (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Need a fast-paced fantasy set in an medieval Arabic world? Then this is for you.

Narrator: Clive Catterall

Publisher: Iambik Audio (2011)

Length: 10 hours and 14 minutes

Series: Book 1 in series

This book was a treat, full of intrigue and the quest for vengeance. Val Gunn provided a lush background for his murderous spies and devious assassins to carry out their deeds. Marin isn’t just an accomplished tracker, spy, and sword-swinger, but also a grieving widow. She wants a man’s head on a spike, and not just any man’s. Hiril Altair has a djin curse upon him that makes it impossible to resist his master’s bidding. But he wasn’t bidden to fetch the Legendary Books of Promise. Tsk, tsk…..This sets up the story for lots of conflict, and sharp-tongued remarks tinged in dark humor.

In a world of ghuls and other demon-spawned beasties, these humans must muddle through for my entertainment. And I was indeed mightily entertained. In fact, when this book ended, I was tempted to give it another go. The sequel isn’t out there yet, which is a bit of a (calculated?) torture. The beasties were real beasties, slaughtering without concern for age or gender or armament. Some of the descriptive scenes of destruction and death really drove home the darker side of this tale.

Clive Catterall was the perfect voice for Hiril Altair, our main assassin, providing a somewhat gravely, world-weary voice. He also did a decent female voice for Marin. His character voices were distinct for each person. Just a note here: When I had a snag with an incomplete track, I contacted Iambik and it was fixed in less than 24 hours. Excellent customer service response.

What I Liked: Lots of action; a touch of horror; strong female character; not based in a European fantasy land; no one gets exactly what they want in the end.

What I Disliked: Only 1 main female character; I had a little trouble keeping the cast of characters straight as I had difficulty imagining how to spell some of the names.

I am counting this as a Dark Fantasy for Stainless Steel Droppings’ R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (which is a lot of fun and you can still play along if pop over there).

A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files

Why I Read It: To Feed The Need – my Gemma Files addiction.

Where I Got It: From the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If your into sexy westerns, with some witch craftery thrown in, this is for you.

Narrator: Gordon MacKenzie

Publisher: Iambik Audio (2012)

Length: 12 hours 59 minutes

Series: Book 2 Hexslinger

I am surely addicted, and this new addiction has a name – Gemma Files. We had company over the weekend, company I adore and hadn’t seen in a year, and I still snuck in bits of this audio book. The author spins together imagery that is breath-taking in both beauty and terror. A Rope of Thorns picks right up where Book 1, A Book of Tongues, left off. Chess Pargeter and Ed Morrow have a whole posse of pissed-off folks after them and need to lay low. In a sleepy little town, they regain their strength, and also work out a few bits of their relationship. It’s hot and sweet at the same time. The night before a wedding, one of the local women, Yancy, demands that they take advantage of the celebration to slip out quietly. Things don’t quite as planned, and Yancy ends up leaving with Chess and Ed.

Meanwhile, Rook and his Aztec death Goddess wife Ixchel are still plotting and building their empire, summoning all hexes to them and taking worship in blood. As with everything in these books, nothing is black and white. The new Hex empire is a safe place for Hexes to raise families, something they couldn’t do in the open before. Speaking of family, Ixchel has a powerful brother, and it looks like these two are headed for a once-in-a-millenium confrontation. And I don’t think either cares about the term ‘collateral damage’.

Chess’s character really grew in this second book. At the end of Book 1, I was cheering him on, but in this book his personality is unfolding piece by piece, against his better judgement. Ed has to address the fact that he cares deeply for Chess, while at the same time being attracted to the opposite sex. Asher Rook, Chess’s former lover, did a very BAD THING in the first book (left out because it is a spoiler), and he struggles with loosing his friendship with Chess over it. Overall, these characters are not static; they hurt, grow, and morph into new people, forced to it by the extraordinary times they find themselves in. Throw in a few new characters, like kick-ass Yancy, and some allegiance-switching side characters, and you have a hoof-pounding, ricochet of a ride.

Our narrator, Gordon MacKenzie, did a fantastic job once again. Book 1 would be a challenge for any experienced and gifted narrator. Book 2, with further accents and more characters plus voices for dead deities and other monstrosities, is beyond what I have here-to-fore heard done well. Applause for Gordon MacKenzie please! He really brings this series to life with the effort he puts into the accents, regional and otherwise. He also had more female characters this time to play – which he did well. I can even picture him in a skirt when he does Yancy’s voice. In addition, there was some singing, and I love it when a narrator goes all out and actually sings the lyrics, instead of reciting them like poetry.

What I Liked: All of it – the dirt, blood, tears, betrayal, regret, love, trust, friendship; the sex was good too; Yancy’s character is a lot of fun; I love to hate the bad guys.

What I Disliked: This is really a minor thing, but I would liked to have heard more about Ixchel’s new empire and what she does in her off time (besides bedding Rook).