Naamah's Kiss Part V

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The read along continues with Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I am your host. Sorry for posting late – I started the New Year off with a cold and my blogging has been off and on this past week. We’re covering Chapters 49-60, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) Moirin and the Circle do one final summoning. What did you think of Folkolor’s choices in who to spare or not? King Daniel also has to make some choices in who to punish or not – do you think he was fair? Is he correct in that he should have given his people something greater to strive for?

It was very interesting that Folkolor spared those who were in it for love of one kind or another – love of the art or metallurgy, etc. I think Elua’s grace must have been holding Folkolor back… or perhaps that demon of so long ago that Imri & Sidonie freed must have warned the spirit realm of meddling with D’Angelines when it comes to love.

I think King Daniel had his hands tied by the law. He admitted that they broke no law so really he could only punish the poet by relieving her of her royal job. I do think Raphael needs some punishing but I’m not sure whose role it is to do so.

And, yes, I do think King Daniel could be giving his people something bigger to look up to or out towards. They could be exploring Terra Nova or the night skies or archaeological digs in distant deserts. It’s not too late for him to set that in motion.

2) Master Lo is summoned home to Ch’in to do what he can for the Emperor’s daughter Snow Tiger. What do you think of her ailment? What role, if any, do you expect Moirin to play in healing her?

I really don’t recall how this plays out. Perhaps Moirin is just there to learn for future dealings with the possessed (as there have been a few hints now that perhaps Raphael is possessed by Folkolor). Perhaps the D’Angeline snow drops can be made into a demon-battling tonic and not just an aphrodisiac. Perhaps Moirin will be able to call the twilight and see what kind of demon possesses Snow Tiger (since she saw all the Circle’s demons differently than they did) and that info will be of great use to Master Lo.

3) We learn more about Bao’s past. Do you like him any more or any less now? We also hear some amazing things about Master Lo. Do you think any of them are true?

Bao is definitely a more complex character. He did walk away from committing a horrible crime against a kid but he also didn’t do anything to protect that kid from the next asshole to come along who would take advantage of the situation. I love how he sees to Master Lo’s needs and I like how attentive he is to the ladies.

Master Lo is certainly old but I don’t think he’s 170 years old. It will be interesting to see him at the Ch’in court and see what others have to say about him.

4) During the lengthy voyage, Moirin has language lessons, learns a bit about the Ch’in religions, and enjoys Bao’s attentions. What stood out for you?

I loved the bit about how to properly pronounce Bao’s name. I can only imagine how it must sound in his head when some D’Angeline used his name and yet had it just a smidge off so they were addressing him as Womb.

I thought it was amusing how the other ladies wanted to give Moirin a make over and also how Bao approved her politely turning them down.

The story of the Yama Kings was intriguing. It makes me want to go learn more about Ch’in afterlives.

5) They finally make land right into the middle of a civil war. What do you think about Black Sleeve? What do you think his relationship to Master Lo is?

It was all very exciting and rushed, wasn’t it? I loved the Bag of Wind and the beautiful cloudy fabric they unfurled. I’m not sure yet what to make of Black Sleeve. On one hand, he sounds pretty ruthless and Bao and Master Lo definitely fear him and respect the power of his canon. But on the other hand, their own Emperor’s guards were rather ruthless in abandoning the ships and all those who didn’t have horses to flee with them. Still, perhaps there really wasn’t anything else that could have been done there.

Master Lo said Black Sleeve wasn’t his pupil so perhaps a relative? Perhaps they both trained under the same master at one point (Lo when he was younger and Black Sleeve more recently)? I really forget what their connection is.

Other Tidbts:

The Lady of Marsilikos wasn’t very nice or fair, now was she? Now that we’ve left D’Angeline shores, I really feel this Terre D’Ange is different from the gracious one that existed during Phedre’s time. It had it’s flaws, but I feel this current D’Angeline culture is a little high and mighty, a little in love with gossip, and a bit self-absorbed.

I love that Moirin is hesitant to pray to a deity not her own. Phedre was always willing to pay respects to any deity she may have come across but I like that Moirin is different in this regard. Also, her hesitancy isn’t out of some vain idea that her deities are better, but simply because they have claimed her as their own and she doesn’t want to offend anyone, her deities or someone else’s.

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

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

The Best & Worst of 2016

2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BrownRedRising

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Skin Game by Jim Butcher

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Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Tofu will help me hide the bodies.
Tofu will help me hide the bodies.

Anne Manx on Amazonia by Larry Weiner

WeinerAnneManxOnAmazonia

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

PriestChapelwood

The Green Children by Domino Finn

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Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

JonasDragonGate

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSword

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddon

I did some rereads this past year – The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (yep, from the beginning), Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (I’ve been reading with a great group of on-line friends and we’re up to Book 7 now), Dune by Frank Herbert (just because it’s awesome), Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney (I read this in paperback some years ago but now it’s available as an audiobook and it is incredibly well done).

Here are the top 3 books that didn’t do it for me:

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

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A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

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I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.

Also here are some of my notable firsts for 2016:

My first Stephen King novel – 11-22-63

King112263

My first Star Wars novel – Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

My first Podiobooks audiobook – Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

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My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

VonnegutCatsCradleTofu

As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.

Naamah's Kiss Part IV

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The read along continues with Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Allie at Tethyan Books is our host. We’re covering Chapters 37-48, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) The Circle of Shalomon still moves forward, despite the spirits’ tricks and the drain on Moirin. Do you think there is any deeper intent behind the gift Moirin receives, and the kindness of the spirits to her? Do you have any thoughts on how the gift might be involved with her destiny?

I really don’t recall where this demon-summoning business goes. I think Moirin has been respectful and that counts for something with the demons since it seems the Circle has been rather rude to them. It really shows that being polite doesn’t hurt and can sometimes save you a bit of pain.

As to how it might relate to her destiny, well that’s still hidden, right? And the charm is to reveal hidden things. Perhaps she won’t be able to figure it out herself, even with the hot/cold flaring of her inner Bear.

2) Moirin’s gift puts her in a difficult position, where wanting to help people could eventually kill her. Do you think you would be able to refuse the healing and/or the summoning if you were in Moirin’s place?

Tough question. She’s in a foreign land, and while she does have her own funds, she is still trying to get her feet under her. I would definitely have trouble refusing the healing gifts, but the summoning is another thing entirely. No one else in the Circle seems to be drained like Moirin is and it’s very disappointing that they don’t really acknowledge that effort. Plus they are dealing with tricky spirits that have their own motivations, motivations that the Circle certainly doesn’t understand.

3) Phanuel returns! Do you have any new thoughts about him on his second visit? Later, when he is ill, do you think he would have agreed for Moirin to take such a risk (including her bargain to Raphael) to heal him?

Phanuel is such a steady, good influence on Moirin. He’s accepting but also gentle in pointing out areas that she perhaps needs to give more attention to.

No, I don’t think he would have agreed for Moirin to take such a risk, nor would he have agreed on the bargain she made with Raphael. But, honestly, it’s Raphael I want to smack! He totally guilted Moirin into giving more and more and then he blamed her for his embarrassment with the court, when that was all his doing.

4) Were you surprised when Jehanne is finally the one to rescue Moirin from being bled dry? Do you trust her motivations? On the other side, what do you think about how Raphael and Thierry handled her being rescued from them?

Turns out Jehanne has more layers than I recalled. I think she was genuinely concerned for Moirin. She is fond of her. The fact that she basically brought the garden to her rooms to assist in healing her showed compassion and caring.

And yet… Do I trust her? No. She has been living a life full of double meanings and twisting words to suit herself. She has been the center of attention for so long. I think it’s hard for her to give that up because it has been her source of power (and stability) for so long.

Raphael was a right ass as I said above in a previous question. Thierry, well, he was a little bit of an ass as well, but I think his apology was sincere and he and Moirin will be good friends.

5) Do you think Moirin is a good Queen’s Companion? What do you think of her influence on Jehanne, and has your perspective of Jehanne and the complicated love polygon changed?

I thin kMoirin is doing the best that she can. She’s young and this is a new job to her entirely. They don’t have Queen’s Companions where she’s from so even the concept is something rather new to her (unless she read about her great (X 4 or 5) grandmother Amarante). I do think she is a very good influence on Jehanne. My only concern is that Moirin is still learning the politics of the City of Elua and could possibly push Jehanne astray unknowingly in some matter.

Jehanne seems to be making a true effort at motherhood despite all her fears. I think it was good for her to open up to Moirin about her own mother and her fears.

6) We see another Longest Night! Did anything notable stick out to you this time? What did you think of the court festivities with respect to the Night Court?

I wish Moirin’s outfit was on the cover of the book. The black ravens and all. Sounds so lush! The Night Court afterwards was fun. I think it was wise of Thierry to refuse to go with them. It would be odd to see your stepmother and your former lover enjoying a bit of debauchery. I liked how Moirin summoned the Twilight and they basically had sex in a public place. Good for them!

Other Tidbts:

Lo Feng’s and Bao’s rolls weren’t very big in this section but I’m still enjoying them as characters. Feng seems to see more than he lets on and is obviously concerned for Moirin as well as Raphael.

I think King Daniel is being very reasonable about all this. I just hope that Jehanne keeps her promise, especially now that she’s gone through the open-your-womb rights. I don’t doubt that her current pregnancy is due to her time with King Daniel, but I worry about after the birth and down the road. Jehanne seems rather mercurial.

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

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

Naamah's Kiss Part III

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The read along continues with Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Grace at Books Without Any Pictures is our host. We’re covering Chapters 27-36, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. What are your impressions of Queen Jehanne?

Wow! This lady has issues. She’s a bit of a control freak and she needs to be the center of attention. On the other hand, she does hold true to her vow to Naamah, even if she skirts the edge a little. So I think her service to Naamah must have given her something she desperately needed and that she cherishes. I’m guessing stability, purpose, and love.

2. Moirin has found herself in the middle of a sticky love triangle. How do you think it will play out?

I think Moirin will tired of it and be the bigger person. She will wish them well and walk away. Or, at least, I hope so. I really don’t recall how that love triangle ends.

3. Now that we finally get to meet Moirin’s father, what do you think of him?

Phanuel was great, wasn’t he? He was very accepting and curious about his daughter’s life. She was also curious about his life. I liked that there was this instant trust, and in Phanuel’s case, I don’t think it was misplaced (like it was with the Queen’s Poet and Jehanne herself).

4. The scene with the summoning of Valac seems to be a shift in tone from the rest of the series. Is the Circle in over its head? What do you think is happening here?

Here we have D’Angelines actively doing magic, and I don’t feel it is their strong suit. Obviously, the Circle isn’t too interested in listening to Moirin’s input. Also, I think there should be plenty of writings in the School of Magic about demons and their trickery, so I think these particular D’Angelines must also be on an ego trip.

5. What do you think of the descriptions so far of the Ch’in?

So far, we’ve had very little. We know there were Tartar raids in the past and we know that in at least some of the Ch’in cultures public affection is a no-no. I’ve never been much of a believer in chakras or chi, but I think these things definitely add to the Ch’in characters.

Other Tidbts:

That fox hunt was all the things about trophy/sport hunting that I don’t like. I’m a meat eater and I’ve raised and butchered my own goats and chickens. I have a lot of respect for hunters when they do so like Moirin (for sustenance).

I recall in the first trilogy when Phedre decided to re-enter Naamah’s service as a woman of the peerage, how it was such a scandal at the time. Now, it’s fairly common place.

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

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

Naamah's Kiss Part II

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The read along continues with Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I am your host. We’re covering Chapters 13-26, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) How does one go about finding their destiny? Do you think Moirin is doing a good job of finding her’s? How did you find your own destiny, or have you?

I think one has to step outside their comfort zone to find their destiny. I think it’s rare for it to simply plop into someone’s lap and even if it did so, that person would have to grab it by the horns and master it it. So, with that in mind, I think Moirin is doing the right thing right now – leaving home and searching for her father.

However, on the other hand she seems to think her destiny is tied to a man. She checks with her inner voice each time she’s attracted to a man – like with Theo the cab driver, and the sailor boy, and finally with Raphael. I have only vague memories of this book, but I don’t think her destiny is tied solely to a man, so I look forward to her coming to that realization and looking beyond to something bigger.

I thought I had found my destiny, but this past year I have had to reevaluate all that since I have been rather ill and have had to give up most of my activities. Hopefully, that will all be different within a year’s time. Heck, maybe I have 2 destinies and I already fulfilled Destiny #1 and now I need to find Destiny #2.

2) Moirin is pretty uncomfortable within stone walls and cities in general. Have you ever found yourself in a similar position, whether in the forest or at sea or in a large city?

Yes, definitely. I have always lived in small cities. I think the largest was probably Clinton, Illinois in the mid 1980s. After college, my man and I went to New York to visit his sister for a week and that was quite the difference. I tried to overcome my uncomfortableness by being polite and friendly and a little outgoing with people, but mostly people just looked at me strangely.

I think Moirin is doing a better job than I did. She knows she has to get used to it if she is to be successful in her travels, but she also realizes that she has to do it in steps.

3) We continue to meet or hear about descendants of characters we met in the first 6 books. Who has caught your attention the most?

Oh! Definitely Amarante, who has turned out to be Moirin’s great time 3 or 4 grandmother on her father’s side. I think that’s awesome that we have these ties back to the first 2 trilogies, but they aren’t so much that folks just jumping into this series will be annoyed or lost by it.

4) The Maghuin Dhonn. The Tsingani. Do you see parallels between the two or how they are treated?

So far, it looks like the Tsingani are more accepted now than they were a few generations back. So I feel that the Maghuin Dhonn are currently in the same social acceptance place that the Tsingani were back in the the time of Phedre and Joscelin. I hope the Maghuin Dhonn do become as accepted and as successful as the Tsingani.

With that said, there’s obviously still the social snobbiness in Terre D’Ange culture. For instance, the Tsingani do tend to live in a specific section of the City of Elua, a bit removed from the rest of the folks. And, obviously, Moirin is seeing first hand how people react to her Maghhuin Dhonn heritage.

5) First impressions of the denizens of the City of Elua? Of Raphael de Mereliot?

The City of Elua seems a bit harsher towards outsiders in this series, but it might just be we are seeing it now, whereas the first 2 trilogies were told through the eyes of a native to the City. I like that Moirin gave the opinionated ladies she shared the cab ride with a second chance. In some ways, they meant well even if they had superiority complexes.

Raphael seems to have all sorts of ulterior motives. First, there is his spat with his lover, Queen Jehane. That just has DANGER all over it. Then he has some mysterious business going on that we’ve only seen hinted at so far. He does seem really interested in Moirin’s small magics.

6) Morin continues her hunt for her D’Angeline heritage. What do you expect from Phanuel, her father?

I really have forgotten how that turns out. Since Phanuel is a priest of Naamah, I expect he will be accepting of Moirin, but I really am not sure how much responsibility he will feel towards Moirin. After all, he has probably had a few dozen couplings and he may very well have fathered several children. Hopefully, we shall see how that falls out n the next section.

Other Tidbts:

I like that Moirin continues to talk to trees, but I also appreciate that she can’t do the same thing with sea creatures. J. Carey has done a great job of putting limits on Moirin’s magical abilities and so far is sticking to them.

Moirin really has no impulse control when it comes to calling the twilight and spying on people. I don’t think she means any harm by it and she does have this very curious nature. Plus, this was totally acceptable where she came from and was a survival technique. However, I do worry that it could get her in trouble.

Raphael’s loss of his parents was definitely sad. I think it’s good he is finally talking to someone about it, even if he is a bit surprised and defensive at first in doing so.

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

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

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!

Naamah's Kiss Part I

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The read along continues with Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog is your host. We’re covering Chapters 1-12, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) Firstly, Carey has picked up the story a few generations down the line. How do you think this will affect the story, if at all?

This is a great question. The short answer is: I don’t know. Perhaps not. While this is a reread for me, it was years ago and I only have vague memories of this book. I will point out that Carey did a great job keeping the focus of her second trilogy on Imriel and not falling back on Phedre and Joscelin, which probably would have been easy to do. So I expect Moirin will remain front and center.

So far, it has been interesting to hear of Alais the Wise and of the horrible memory magic played on the City of Elua from Moirin and her generation.

2) We have a new female lead.  What are your first impressions of Moirin?

Moirin is something unexpected. That’s my impression. She has Naamah’s whisper in her dreams and Anael’s gift of making flowers bloom or ripen to seeds. Yet she can also make herself invisible and the great Mother Bear has recognized her as her own. So, there’s great potential in Moirin even if it’s not the potential her people expected.

Plus, I like that she is excited to learn, even if that is how to read or to wear proper clothing or ride a horse.

3) I enjoyed the return to Alba, and once again meeting the Maghuin Dhonn – what did you make of the coming of age ritual?

Magic mushrooms can alter your perception of reality and give you what you need.

But for the sake of this story, I am very glad that Moirin was so very stubborn and that the Great Bear eventually came and claimed Moirin as her own. I think that fierce look of belonging and pride will sustain her through some hard times.

Also, I like that she got to meet some other teens of the Maghuin Dhonn.

4) The story already has the inclusion of magic and also visions of Gods – any predictions on what these visions and magic might bring to the story?

Yeah… Let’s chat about this. In the first series, there’s perhaps what one might call magical realism – the sexual magic of the Night Court and Phedre’s red dot in her iris. Later in that series, we get some definite glimpses of deities and magic, but it’s light. In the second series, we see more magic, though often Imriel is on the receiving end of it and not the person casting the magic (tho there was that tiny bit where he put charms on Sidonie). Now we have Moirin who is raised with magic. To her, it is a natural part of being and I don’t think she could imagine her life with her little magics or not knowing there are true deities out there that interact with folk of this world. It’s a beautiful progression of the Terre D’Ange Cycle, don’t you think?

As far as predictions, well this trilogy has Naamah’s name in each book title, so I am guessing we will have plenty of sexy times in this trilogy.

Other Tidbts:

Moirin’s first experience with a book was precious! I think I would have been the same if I hadn’t experienced a book until I was 9 or 10.

The memory erase magic is a powerful and dire magic indeed!

Moirin is sort of named for the Morwen of old, the one who tricked Imriel time and again in a vain and desperate attempt to save her people. That is a dire portent for the beginning of the story!

Oh, Killian! Let’s all raise a beer, perhaps a Killian Red, to the youth! Mostly, I feel for Moirin because she was basically kicked out of Alban society with his death.

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

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

Naamah's Kiss Read Along – The Schedule

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Naamah’s Kiss is Book 1 of the third trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. You don’t have to have read the first two trilogies to enjoy this third one, as it occurs a few generations after the second trilogy. Lynn over at Lynn’s Book Blog is acting as co-pilot for this read along as I deal with medical stuff. Thanks Lynn! Below is the schedule.

Here is the current schedule:

Dec. 5th Week 1 – Chapters 1-12, Hosted Lynn’s Book Blog
Dec. 12th Week 2 – Chapters 13-26, Hosted by Dab of Darkness
Dec. 19th Week 3 – Chapters 27-36, Hosted by Books Without Any Pictures
Dec. 26th Week 4 – Chapters 37-48, Hosted by Tethyan Books
Jan. 2nd Week 5 – Chapters 49-60, Hosted by Dab of Darkness
Jan. 9th Week 6 – Chapters 61-74, Hosted by Tethyan Books
Jan 16th Week 7 – Chapters 75-End, Hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog

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

CareyNamaahsKissBook Blurb for Naamah’s Kiss:

Once there were great magicians born to the Maghuin Dhonn, the folk of the Brown Bear, the oldest tribe in Alba. But generations ago, the greatest of them all broke a sacred oath sworn in the name of all his people. Now only small gifts remain to them. Through her lineage, Moirin possesses such gifts—the ability to summon the twilight and conceal herself, and the skill to coax plants to grow.

Moirin has a secret, too. From childhood onward, she senses the presence of unfamiliar gods in her life—the bright lady and the man with a seedling cupped in his palm. Raised in the wilderness by her reclusive mother, Moirin learns only when she comes of age how illustrious, if mixed, her heritage is. The great-granddaughter of Alais the Wise, child of the Maghuin Donn and a cousin of the Cruarch of Alba, Moirin learns her father was a D’Angeline priest dedicated to serving Naamah, goddess of desire.

After Moirin undergoes the rites of adulthood, she finds divine acceptance… on the condition that she fulfill an unknown destiny that lies somewhere beyond the ocean. Or perhaps oceans. Beyond Terre d’Ange, where she finds her father, in the far reaches of distant Ch’in, Moirin’s skills will be a true gift when facing the vengeful plans of an ambitious mage, a noble warrior-princess desperate to save her father’s throne, and the spirit of a celestial dragon.

As always, folks are welcome to jump in and join us. You don’t have to be a host or a blogger. You can always choose the easy route and tackle the weekly discussion in the comments of the hosting blog. We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S KISS in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey

Streak being calm & snuggly.
Streak being calm & snuggly.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2008)

Length: 24 hours 15 minutes

Series: Book 6 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 6 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 3 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3 of the first trilogy, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Mercy is best read as part of the second trilogy, if not as Book 6 in the larger series, since there are plenty of characters and situations referred to from the previous books.

Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood, and Sidonie de la Courcel, Terre D’Ange’s princess and next in line to the throne, are in love. This doesn’t sit well with much of the realm because Imriel’s estranged birth mother, Melisande Shahrizai, betrayed the nation a generation ago. Imriel and Sidonie are faced with a difficult choice: Bring Melisande to justice or Sidonie will not inherit the throne. After beginning their search for Melisande in earnest, an unlikely city nation, Carthage, comes with luxurious gifts, promises of alliance, and an apparently heartfelt hope that Sidonie will consider their General Astegal for marriage. Things do not go as expected, for anyone.

This historical fantasy is another beautiful addition to the Terre D’Ange cycle. Through the adventures of Imriel and Sidonie, we learn more about this alternate world Carey has created. Carthage is a budding empire, rich in gold and gems but also dependent on slavery. General Astegal comes off as a very charming man, willing to bend to Terre D’Ange’s way of things when it comes to love; for instance, he wouldn’t be in a miff if Sidonie decided to have a harem of pretty young men. The other culture that really stood out for me was the Euskerri, which is akin to the Basque. Deeply proud and also demanding equality from their two neighboring countries – Terre D’Ange and Aragonia.

In the previous books, there has been some magic, though much of it is left up to the reader’s interpretation. In this novel, the magic is direct and has immediate consequences. Even though this is a reread for me, I always find myself surprised by how not subtle the magic component is in this story, as compared to the previous books. So how do you fight strong magic when you only have a passing experience with it? That is something that Imriel and Sidonie will have to figure out, though I do like all the hints that Elua, Terre D’Ange’s primary deity, may be giving them a hand. The magic does follow certain rules, which I liked, though it was quite the trial for Imriel to figure out what those rules were.

There’s plenty of adventure and sneaking about in this story. Imriel must make alliances with the most unlikely of people to even make a solid attempt to not only rescue Sidonie but the entire capitol of Terre D’Ange, the City of Elua. Indeed, spying, misdirection, and disguises make up a good part of the book. I think it was hardest on Imriel to deceive his beloved foster parents, Phedre and Joscelin. There’s some pretty intense scenes that had me holding my breath! Also, those scenes with Barquiel L’Enver, a man who has disliked Imriel since he was born, were quite worthy.

Sidonie really shines in this book. Even with everything told through Imriel’s eyes, Sidonie had some tough decisions to make and was at the center of some dangerous situations. Carey has this magical way of writing female characters behaving in feminine ways and still getting important stuff done. While Imriel is the character that carried me forward in this story, there’s a strong argument for Sidonie being that star of the story.

Each time we think our heroes have found the key to winning the day, there’s another twist or another spell or another hurdle or another bad guy that must be vanquished. One of the hardest things about this was that sometimes they had to find a way to sneak past, trick, or even fight friends and family that were ensnared in the magic. My poor nails! I was biting my nails too often with this story!

As with the series, there are incredible sex scenes that range from playful to desperate to healing to sad to joyful. Carey is just as detailed in her love scenes as she is with her use of cultures and linguistics. I always enjoy these scenes because they reveal something further about the characters.

The ending was well done. I was very satisfied that things were not easy to unravel and iron out. Not everyone gets everything they want. There’s plenty to be forgiven all around. Still, it was beautiful and satisfying.

The Narration: Simon Vance does this final book in Imriel’s trilogy justice. He had to take on further accents as our heroes experienced new cultures. There were also plenty of complicated emotions and intense scenes and Vance did a great job capturing the subtleties of those emotions in his voice work. Also, he did a fantastic job with the sex scenes.

What I Liked: Tangible magic with rules; Imriel has to make some unlikely alliances; Sidonie is at the heart of the matter and she shines through; exploration of further cultures in this alternate world; the love scenes; the intensity of Imriel interacting with his foster parents; Imriel and Sidonie really had to fight for their love; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is an excellent way to end this trilogy.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

Dear Author

Miss Geeky

The Bibliosanctum

Kushiel's Mercy Part VII

Streak being calm & snuggly.
Streak being calm & snuggly.

The read along continues with Kushiel’s Mercy, Book 3 of Imriel’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I am your host as Lisa had some unexpected appliance failures that wreaked havoc with her household this past week. We’re covering Chapters 76-End, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) We talked last week a bit about the charm Imriel put on Sidonie so she could maintain her own will. Did it work as well as you expected? Less or more? Is there anything more they could have done with these charms?

I actually don’t recall what I was expecting the first time I read this book. However, I do really like that these charms weren’t a cure all. Carey kept it real in that this is Imriel’s sincere attempt at a bit of magic he doesn’t really understand versus a well-wrought magic done by a master magician.

Other than having Kratos watch her as much as he could, I don’t think the three of them could have done anything more.

2) Mavros as part of the Queen’s Guard! Was that a surprise to you? Were you surprised by any other characters in this weird, corrupted version of the City of Elua?

Mavros really was the one that shocked me the most. He’s been a stalwart friend, but I never pictured him in uniform! I wonder if he will keep the post, now that everything is back to normal? I can’t recall if that was mentioned at the end.

3) In a desperate moment, Imriel seems to be filled with the light of the 13, or at least Elua, until he’s knocked out. Do you think it was Elua answering his prayers sideways?

I want to believe that Elua and his Companions were making a true plea to the people of the City through Imri. Having Imri knocked unconscious and coming to in a position to see the the gem’s hiding place in the portrait was their backup plan.

4) We have a few desperate moments once the location of the gem is revealed to Imriel – his duel with Joscelin, his ride to the square, his scramble up the tree, his taking hold of Sidonie, and the breaking of the spell, the appearance of the demon. What did you like most about these moments? Anything you didn’t like?

I recall that the first time I read this book, I was truly worried that Kratos would die by Joscelin’s hand. That would have been a true sorrow! So that fight was definitely worrisome. I’m glad that Imri trusted the core of Joscelin and came up with his unexpected tackling.

When Imri put a blade to Sidonie, I knew he wouldn’t harm her, but I wasn’t sure she would trust him enough to do what was needed.

Demon! OK, so it’s freed and the spell broken and perhaps it was a grateful enough to give them a bow, but I have always wondered what the demon did next. Does it have a home with other demons that missed it? Or did it seek out Bodeshmun’s soul and torment him? Did it zip off to some other town and torment innocent souls?

5) Terre D’Ange is at peace. What reconciliations stood out to you?

In a way, I’m glad we had Imriel’s madness and his return to sanity to show us how regretful he was over the things he said and did while his wits were not solely his own. I can only imagine how a big city and most of the nation’s army felt. Yet we also have the folks, like Drustan, who were bespelled but then left, regaining their wits. So they can now they can help guide the rest to reconciliation.

That scene where Sidonie requests Imriel to fetch her mom to help out in getting people settled and Imriel goes to Ysandre, only to have Ysandre turn him down, and then he pushed back – that was awesome.

6) Finally, we have a wedding. Perfect ending to the trilogy? Need something more? Any final questions that you want answered?

Yes, the wedding was beautiful. It was also good to see the Bastard returned and the real Leander (who I think Sidonie wants to do a three-some with). It’s hard to say goodbye to these characters, so of course I can think of all sorts of things I would love to see – like just where Phedre and Joscelin hid the lost book of Raziel. That whole demon question I had above. Alais and her role in Alba. What will Barquiel do now, or perhaps even more exciting, a young Barquiel’s adventures.

Other Tidbts:

Too bad there wasn’t a trusted female servant for Sidonie that could have kept an eye on her in the bath. Which also begs the question of how she kept her back scar from being questioned, because I suspect she did have bath attendants….

I love that she turned the scar into a beautiful tattoo. I expect that breaks all sorts of taboos, just as Phedre no Montreve having a marque and being a Peer of the realm was worth commenting on back in her day.

Melisande has her official pardon… and now I wonder about what’s his face who accidentally killed his sister Persia. Will he get a pardon?

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

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