Owl Dance by David Lee Summers

Narrator: Edward Mittelstedt

Publisher: Sky Warrior Publishing LLC (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clockwork Legion

Author’s Page

Set in the 1870s, this Wild West steampunk adventure is full of surprises. Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi make a great pair of heroes as they travel from New Mexico to California. Gun fights, dirigibles, steam-powered mechanical wolves, a Russian plot to take a chunk of the US, plus an unexpected alien influence called Legion provide a dangerous playground for our main characters – and plenty of entertainment for us.

I read this book back in 2011 and it was great to see it come to audio! I enjoyed it more in this medium as the narrator did it justice. If you love your Wild West and you like it weird, then this is a great series to get into. The story includes several different ethnicities and I love that about this book. The frontier West was a very diverse place and having that reflected in this work is worthy.

Our Persian healer, Fatemeh, has traveled far from home and she’s a bit vague about why. I love that we have this little mystery about her. Also, she talks to owls… or does she? She claims that she only understands their nature but to others it looks like she is actually communicating with them. While I felt the romance between her and Ramon sparked a little too easily, I also feel they make a great couple. Fatemeh is of the Baha’i faith while Ramon is Catholic and this sets up a dynamic to explore not just culture clash but also these different religions.

Meanwhile Ramon has recently had a big shift in his life. He was a sheriff in Socorro, NM and then things went south.. and so did he while he fled with Fatemeh (who was about to be executed for witch craft). Their search for work takes them all the way out to California. Along the way they meet the eccentric inventor, Professor Maravilla. He’s got a thing for steam-powered mechanical beasties. I loved his owls!

Then there’s the bounty hunter Larissa who I look forward to hearing more about later in the series. She’s got plenty of gumption and loves her independent life but she’s drawn into this bigger plot as Russia starts making moves to invade the West coast.

Now lets talk about that alien influence Legion. We come across it early on but it’s not clear right away if it’s something supernatural, man-made, or from outer space. Whatever it is (and yes, we do get that cleared up in this book), it has a hive mind and can communicate directly with humans as well as influence them. So we got the Wild West (yay!), steampunk (awesome!), and now this unknown big picture influencer. The author does a great job of pulling this all together.

My one real quibble with the story is that sometimes it’s a little too easy for Ramon and Fatemeh to convince a ‘villain’ to assist them. It seems like everyone is really a good guy at heart and was just simply misunderstood or was acting under some false or incomplete data. I think the story would have benefited from a real villain or two.

The Narration: Edward Mittelstedt did a really good job. His Spanish accent was consistent throughout the story. Now, his Spanish pronunciations were sometimes different from what I expected. Living in New Mexico, I expected a certain accent (like for Chavez or Maravilla). Mittelstedt’s pronunciation isn’t wrong but it’s not the local dialect either. I believe it’s the difference between high proper Spanish and the Southwest Hispanic accent. Besides that, he was great with keeping all the characters distinct and also with the various emotions throughout the story. He also gave Fatemeh a consistent Persian accent. His female voices were believable.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; Wild Weird West!; Steampunk!; the mix of ethnicities; the owls; the hive-mind influence; Fatemeh and Ramon make a great duo; the ending leaves us ready for further adventures.

What I Disliked: There was no true villain; the romance between Ramon and Fatemeh sparked up rather easily.

What Others Think: 

RJ Blain

Steampunk Journal

Steampunk Junkies

Butterfly by Kathryn Harvey

HarveyButterflyWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Laura Jennings

Publisher: Cherry Hill Publishing (2015)

Length: 18 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Butterfly Trilogy

Author’s Page

This book is about far more than simple seduction and erotic fantasies. The author spins a deep and engrossing tale that spans decades, showing what the drive of one young women can build over time. Butterfly is a unique and exclusive club that caters to women’s fantasies. The men, staff, and clients are all hand picked for their ability to be discrete. As a counter to that, there is the simple, elegant, and irreproachable Beverly Highland, who has become quite the businesswoman over the years. Her support of the evangelist-turned-politician Danny MacKay has helped him rise to his high station. But does she have ulterior motives? This book also has several engaging flashbacks to Rachel Dwyer in the 1950s. We meet her as a 14 year old girl and follow her through her troubles, watching her eventually transform into something else.

I’m sure this book has been labeled erotica or chick lit or romance and none of those labels do this book justice. True, it does have some of those elements, but they combine with other elements (suspense, historical fiction, etc.) to become something much more impressive. First, all the characters are so engaging. Even if I didn’t like some of them, I understood where they were coming from and wanted to know more about them. Second, the setting was interesting too. The modern-day parts happen mostly in Beverly Hills, California. The historical fiction elements happen in Texas, New Mexico, and California. Third, the plot had several unforeseen elements that kept me pleasantly surprised and turning the pages (well, listening to yet the next MP3 file and the next and the next).

The book opens with Dr. Linda Marques. She has a few failed marriages under her belt and that’s mostly due to her frigidity problems. She can’t seem to find joy in the bedroom. Her recent visits to Butterfly, where she dons a mask, have helped her start to face the deep reasons for her lack of enthusiasm. Trudie, who is head of a pool construction company, wants a man that considers her an equal, but she’s having a hard time finding such a person. Her regular hook ups at clubs and the occasional dalliance with someone else in the construction business have all left her unsatisfied. Yet her experiences at Butterfly, which often entail having entertaining arguments over brainy books, have shown her just how good things in the bedroom can be. Jessica, a lawyer for the celebrities, has a controlling and dismissive husband. She’s never really considered what she might be missing, that is, until she gets an exclusive invitation to Butterfly. There, she finds that she can call the shots in romance and it thrills her.

Now let’s bounce back to the 1950s and Rachel Dwyer, who was my favorite character. At age 14 she has to leave home as her father has made it quite clear, in his drunken abusive way, that she can’t stay there. She plans to head to California to beg a job from her mom’s friend but things go astray and she ends up on the wrong bus. Without enough money to make it to California, she feels stranded. That’s when she meets the young Danny McKay who offers to take her to his family’s farm and help her find a job. She instantly becomes smitten with him and they start a romantic relationship. Things become twisted when he places her in a house of prostitution. Rachel, still being somewhat naive, holds onto the hope that she will marry and have kids, that her love for Danny isn’t wasted. Rachel’s story shows us a woman who reaches her breaking point and at that point instead of accepting that life is awful and there’s no real escape from it, she becomes completely determined to find another way. At first, I thought Rachel’s story was one of those train wrecks that you can’t look away from, but really it’s about a young woman metamorphosing into something greater.

The men, while fewer that the female characters, are no less interesting. Of course, Danny MacKay is the lead male in this drama. We know from Rachel’s story that he’s not a great guy. From present-day Beverly Highland’s story, we see Danny for the political powerhouse he has become. He has the backing of his religious evangelical organization, plus other business people like Beverly. He has also invested in several properties and businesses over the decades, making him rich in his own right. He’s well known and now hoping to run for President. He’s still a very cruel man. I enjoyed very much hating on him throughout the book as he gives us so many reasons to dislike him.

This book does have several sex scenes, giving it an erotic flair. The scenes are quite varied showing what women desire at Butterfly, but also what they experience in the average, every day world (which usually lacks in quality when compared to Butterfly). A few of the scenes are violent and/or abusive (such as some of Rachel’s experiences) but the author doesn’t linger over them nor use them as shock factors. Instead, they reveal key points about the characters’s natures.

This was just an immensely satisfying book. I didn’t expect to like it so much when I dived into it. Quite frankly, I was expecting 16 hours of erotica with maybe 2 hours of character and plot development. What I got, which is much more desirable, is the opposite; the author built these amazing characters and did an excellent job revealing the plot. Going into it, I had no idea what Rachel would become, how Danny would rise so high, how Beverley would execute her end game. Truly, there is much more here than first meets the eye.

I received this audiobook at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Laura Jennings did a pretty good job with this book. I really liked her distinct voices for all the ladies. However, several of her young male voices all sounded very similar. She did well with the older male voices. She was excellent at imbuing the text with emotions, and there were plenty of them in this book, several of them subtle. I also liked her Spanish accent for Carmella.

What I Liked: It’s a well-matched mix of romance, historical fiction, and suspense with a few erotic scenes; Rachel Dwyer really is the star of the book; great character arcs; the Butterfly club itself; the surprise turns in the plot; the very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Some of the male voices in the narration weren’t very distinct – they all sounded like Danny MacKay.

What Others Think:

{Dive} Under the Cover

Long and Short Reviews

Making Good Stories

Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones

Chupa being used as a bookstand.
Chupa being used as a bookstand.

Where I Got It: Won a copy.

Narrator: Lorelei King

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2011)

Length: 9 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 2 Charley Davidson

Author’s Page

Charley Davidson is Albuquerque’s private eye extraordinaire and local Grim Reaper. In this installment, her best friend Cookie hits her up to help find her friend Mimi. Pretty soon the two ladies are pulled into a murder mystery, one that may be tied back to an event from Mimi’s past. On top of all that, Reyes Alexander Farrow, Charley’s lover and also the son of Satan, has yet another mystery for Charley. While his hidden body is tormented by demons, his spirit haunts Charley, tempting her with promises of hot, pleasurable nights.

I wasn’t particularly taken with Book 1 (First Grave on the Right) in this series, but then I heard the author talk at the local convention (Bubonicon) a few times and she came off as funny and smart. So when I won a copy of this book (from Audio Gals blog), I jumped right into. I was happily surprised that this book entertained me far more than Book 1.

There’s really three mysteries in this book; the two biggies already mentioned and then a smaller one that even Charley is not aware of until she stumbles right into it. I really liked how these three intertwined, each masking the other or revealing insights into the next. It made it much harder to predict the plot and I was pleasantly surprised several times when the next little twist wasn’t what I was expecting.

Charley herself has plenty of self effacing humor. Sometimes it made me chuckle and, unfortunately, some of it felt canned. This was probably the single point that by turns charmed me and turned me off. When the wit was flying and clever, I was a very happy listener. When the humor lacked wit and was the same joke I have heard a thousand times on TV, I was likely to let my focus wander off the book.  I have to admit the sometimes unsurprising dialogue was one of the drawbacks to Book 1 and Book 2 doesn’t quite escape from this rather predictable sitcom type humor.

Then we have the hot, flirty romance between Charley and Reyes. In Book 1, it didn’t quite work for me, but in this book, it is much smoother. The two have a little history together now, some trust, something more to go on than just lusting hormones. I really enjoyed that Charley isn’t always willing to sit back and let Reyes be the alpha in their relationship. The other side of the coin is that she sometimes truly does need his help and she has to admit that and essentially ask for it. Reyes, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to ask for help in a very, very long time, given the nature of his being. So he’s still got some growing to do.

The various side characters provide humor and angst as needed. Of course, Cookie is front and center with this story. She’s sometimes near hysterics, worrying for her missing friend Mimi but then you can see her pull it together. Uncle Bob and Charley’s dad are both cops, so there’s some family politics that come in to play in this book that added some nice depth to Charley’s character. Then there are all the dead people that Charley can see and the conversations with those individuals runs the gamut of emotions: hilarious, poignant; creepy; etc.

Yep, I definitely enjoyed this book more than Book 1 and I will be continuing the series.

Narration: Lorelei King gave us another great performance. She’s got the perfect sassy voice for Charley. I also liked her voice for Cookie, making her sound voluptuous and bold at the same time. Both her male and female voices were distinct and her little kid voices were excellent. She also pulled off the Hispanic accent nicely.

What I Liked: Love the Albuquerque setting; when the wit was snappy and original, it was great; the side characters really add to the tale; 3 mysteries make the plot a joy to untangle; the romance has more to it than in Book 1.

What I Disliked: Sometimes the humor was very predictable and not terribly funny.

What Others Think:

Love Vampires

Respiring Thoughts

Dark Faerie Tales

New York Journal of Books

Never Judge a Book By Its Cover

The Paper Dragon

Love, Literature, Art, & Reason

Effortlessly Reading

Candace’s Book Blog

Smexy Books

Contamination (Boxed Set 0-3) by T. W. Piperbrook

PiperbrookContamination0-3Where I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Troy Duran

Length: 13 hours 29 minutes

Series: Books 0-3 Contamination

Author’s Page

Note that this review is for the first 4 books (0-3) in the series as I listened to them as one big long story. I will try to avoid spoilers.

The contamination started in the American Southwest, and Book 0 (St. Matthews) opens in a small town (St. Matthews) in Arizona. Dan Lowery is a police officer in this small town and as the contamination spreads, the violence escalates. Pretty soon he feels he must get to his wife and daughter, see them safe, before he can do anything further to help the townspeople. However, there is an organized force working against any would-be rescuers.

Book 1 (The Onset) takes place in New Mexico, some of it in a nearly abandoned village (White Mist) and the rest in places such as Albuquerque. Sam Cooke continues on as the last remaining resident of White Mist when the contamination strikes. Meanwhile, two college kids just finished moving a couple to Albuquerque when they come upon a messy car wreck and the surviving woman, Delta.

In Book 2 (Crossroads), the two bands from the first two books come together at an old junk yard. These folks start to piece together what they know and guess about what they don’t. They also have to make choices about what to do next.

Book 3 (Wasteland) finds that our band has suffered yet more losses. One young man feels the need to see if his family, who live in the Pacific Northwest, are still alive. Meanwhile, Sam and Delta feel they need to track down the rumored source of the contamination in Salt Lake City, UT.

Sam & Delta were my favorite characters in the series (so far). Sam lost his family to a fire and Delta lost her father to prison. Their relationship starts off complex and moves into something close to platonic camaraderie. Also, Delta is the only adult female we get to spend quality time with in the series (there are 2 or 3 other ladies referred to but they die too soon to get to know, and then there is one female kid). Despite her being the token female for the story, she holds her own well, having plenty to offer the reader in character depth. I am hoping that the author chooses to add more ladies to the story as it moves forward as he can clearly write them. I do have to mention that occasionally, our characters were slow to learn, like trusting strangers a little to easily even weeks after the initial outbreak. While these were the weak points in the plot, I was able to forgive them as the stupidity of the characters moved the plot forward.

The plotline had hints of other same-genre books, such as Stephen King’s The Stand. Couple this with the Southwest setting, and I felt right at home from the beginning. It is an easy story to jump into and enjoy. While certain elements were a little predictable, there were other twists (such as the initial relationship between Delta and Sam) that I didn’t see coming at all. It was a good mix. The AZ/NM setting was enough for folks to get an idea of the expanse of the country; however, I felt it lacked the ethnic diversity we have.

Now let me talk about the bad guys. Oh! The baddies! I loved hating on these guys and they were pretty fascinating too. Each was into this organized, purposeful contamination for their own reasons, and several felt they were indeed heroes. I loved the amount of detail that went in to some of them – their reasons, their backstories. It definitely made the plot a bit more grey, gave the reader pause when deciding which team to get behind.

Narration: Troy Duran did a good job with this book. Each of his male characters had a distinct voice and he had a variety of contaminated undead (nearly dead?) voices also (and I would count this a talent). While the ladies were slimly represented, he did a good job with them also. I felt his strongest voices went to the maniacal bad guys when they waxed eloquent about world domination.

What I Liked:  Southwest setting; pretty fast-paced with moments of reflection; Sam & Delta are my favorite characters; the bad guys are complex and not just cardboard. 

What I Disliked: Few ladies; lack of realistic ethnic diversity; some characters were slow to learn.

What Others Think:

Errant Dreams

Interview: Hazel Woods, Author of This Is How I'd Love You

AuthorHazelWoodsFolks, please welcome New Mexico author Hazel Woods to the blog. She’s just released her debut novel, This Is How I’d Love You, a tale set in 1917, on the brink of WWI. Sit back and enjoy!

Who are your non-writer influences?

My non-writer influences are all of the ghosts from the past.  I think family history is really compelling.  Trying to imagine the people who lived and laughed and grieved and struggled long ago, but without whom we would not exist, is exhilarating.

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

Oh, man.  Two of the most shameful omissions are Beowulf and The Travels of Marco Polo.  I’m sure there are many others.

In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I think it’s important to try to have a distinct time when I stop researching, and just write.  My imagination needs space to incorporate what’s been learned.  If I keep going back to the research, I end up being too literal.  For me, if I don’t have a hard and fast end date, I will just keep researching and never write the novel.

WoodsThisIsHowI'dLoveYouIn 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 love being able to connect with readers.  Writing is such a lonesome endeavor.  It’s fun to finally have a dialogue about the work.  It’s tough for me, on the other hand, to be a salesperson.  There are so many amazing books published and never enough hours in the day—I find it difficult to insist that my book be on the top of someone’s list.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

As a kid, I was solely a reader.  I loved books more than anything else.  But it wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I realized all of those books that I loved were written by actual people.  I suppose I was a bit dense.  But the library was such a magical place filled with so much goodness, that I’d never stopped to consider what preceded the library in the supply chain–that place where the books were actually written.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in historical fiction literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

To be honest, I don’t have a very extensive list which is due to the fact that I don’t seek out historical fiction exclusively—I simply read for great characters and compelling drama.  That said, I’d recommend anything by Hilary Mantel; I loved  The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman and The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer.  Two other favorites are Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.

What do you do when you are not writing?

My biggest joy is my family—my two kids and my husband.  I am still an avid reader. I love to play tennis, eat cookies, and sew.

About The Book

As the Great War rages, an independent young woman struggles to sustain love—and life—through the power of words. It’s 1917 and America is on the brink of World War I. After Hensley Dench’s father is forced to resign from the New York Times for his anti-war writings, she finds herself expelled from the life she loves and the future she thought she would have. Instead, Hensley is transplanted to New Mexico, where her father has taken a job overseeing a gold mine. Driven by loneliness, Hensley hijacks her father’s correspondence with Charles Reid, a young American medic with whom her father plays chess via post. Hensley secretly begins her own exchange with Charles, but looming tragedy threatens them both, and—when everything turns against them—will their words be enough to beat the odds?

Places to Find Hazel Woods

Website

Twitter

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A Sunset Finish by Melinda Moore

MooreSunsetFinishWhy I Read It: Set in NM, a violin or two, with Native American culture – how could I say no?

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

Who I Recommend This To: Fans of the paranormal, such as body snatching ghosts, would enjoy this.

Publisher: Jupiter Gardens Press (2013)

Length: 65 pages

Author’s Page

Stephanie Minagawa has struggled with depression since her teen years. She has also struggled with the expectations of her parents as she wants to be a musician and her parents want her to be an engineer. So she tells her parents she’s off to far away New Mexico to work at Sandia National Labs but really she packs her violin and has hopes of joining the orchestra. Too bad the dry air of the desert splits her violin within hours of her landing there. But her stand partner recommends a violin repair shop on one of the local pueblos. And there she sees and hears the Sunset People. Their magical music calls to her and she can’t let it go. She returns again and again, demanding to know, even after she is loaned a violin while hers is being repaired.

The main character struggles with her depression and inclination towards suicide throughout the book. While I like how the author delved into this aspect (including self-mutilation and the altar of deceased relatives), I was a little unsatisfied that a reason, or series of reasons, for the depression was not revealed. Perhaps there was none in the fictional life of Stephanie……but for a novella, it nagged at me a bit. Whatever the reasons, or not, for her attraction to suicide, it was an integral part of the plot. The Sunset People’s music is for those who are ready to let go of life and move into the next realm of being. Stephani hears the music and is strongly drawn to it. Meanwhile, a lady she becomes friends with is struggling with a serious illness and can’t hear the music or see the Sunset People; she is not ready to let go. I liked the juxtaposition of these two.

Then we have the romance of the story. Granted, it’s a little like a whirlwind. He works at the violin repair shop and lends her his own violin. The two have a near-instant bond in their love for music. However, he still misses his deceased wife, Theresa. Poor man, I don’t recall his name. The ladies in this story were more interesting. Though he did get a few great lines about wanting to live, etc. Stephanie reacts angrily to these lines and he has to apologize later, which I thought was a bit unfair. She was dancing with death, toying with it, not fully living her life, but not quite able to give it up either. That aspect had me thinking a lot about life and not living it half-assed, no matter if you are suicidal or not.

Anyway, we get a paranormal aspect a bit later in the story as Theresa returns as a ghost and tries to take over Stephanie permanently. This creates another quandary for our main character. She could let go of her life, easily, with no pain, no fuss. Her parents wouldn’t even know she was gone. There would be no guilt over her leaving people behind. What do you think she picked? I won’t spoil it for you. I will say the ending was very satisfying.

What I Liked: Setting in NM; main character comes with long-term conflict (suicide inclination); the ending was quite satisfying.

What I Disliked: There wasn’t any reason(s) given for Stephanie’s depression.

What Others Think:

Obviously Opinionated

Ruth Hull Chatlien

Turning Point by R. P. Snow

Squatch with Turning Point
Squatch with Turning Point

Why I Read It: the first book, Folsom Point, was quite fun.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Anyone who enjoys modern-day mysteries or fiction set in northern New Mexico should check this out.

Publisher: Self-published (2013)

Length: 249 pages

Series: Book 2 Abigail Romero Mysteries

Even though this is Book 2 of the series, I think it would work quite fine as a stand alone.

Set in modern-day northern New Mexico, Abigail Romero is a private investigator living in Abiquiu, land of Georgia O’Keeffe, flash floods, green chile, and the hanta virus. Abigail joins her friends on Christmas Eve for a night time religious experience at Taos Pueblo, only to witness a murder. While she saw the disguised murderer leave, she can’t immediately give any useful information to the police. However, another job involving a missing Mimbres pot that belongs to a well-known and wealthy Santa Fe gallery owner lands on her plate. Yet she is drawn back to the Christmas Eve murder and soon finds herself trying to untangle some local political intrigue mixed with drug running that could potentially bring her harm.

Right off, I could tell that Robert P. Snow’s writing talent had grown since Book 1 (and they aren’t published years apart – so just think how good his next book will be!). His style was crisper and the plot picked up right away with a murder. Abigail certainly had her work cut out for her from the start. The book is filled with northern New Mexico culture and landmarks. The political intrigue resulted in your not-so-typical murder mystery that was interesting to follow and try to unravel before our lead sleuth.

Add to that a side romance for Abigail that involves one of my favorite side characters from Book 1. It was sweet and the author didn’t linger on it too much so there was no distraction from the mystery and action. I also need to put in that Abigail’s cat, Duster, made it into Book 2. I enjoy a furry animal companion as a sidekick and was glad to see that Duster continues to harass and nuzzle Abigail by turns.

In the previous book, Abigail had to face the possibility of shooting another human. In this book, she struggles with her darker side, wondering where the line is and will she ever face that turning point where a human goes from self-defense to murderer. In fact, some of the most intense scenes in this book is where she must face that definite possibility in her similarity to a character who went past the turning point some time ago.

My criticsms of this book are few. There were only a handful of typos. Sometimes I felt I could use a flow chart much like Abigail created in the story to help me keep the potential bad guys all straight. Abigail’s best friend Carmen works in an office (where?) and was sometimes used by the author as a resource for informational tidbits – and I felt that this was a quick and easy way to move the story forward. While I think that aspect could have been fleshed out a bit more, I was able to set that little annoying comment aside and enjoy the story. On a personal note, I really enjoyed the archaeological and anthropological tidbits in Book 1 and found that Book 2 had almost none of that type of info; but this is a personal preference and not necessary a criticism on this book.

Overall it was a delightful romp through northern New Mexico, capturing the flavor of the tangled politics, the time-honored tradition of vengeance, and just scraped the top of the drug issue that permeates the local culture. The ending was not what I expected and I was delighted by this unexpected surprise. Then, on top of that, there was one tiny little twist at the end that I did not see coming and it got my blood pumping. I am definitely ready for Book 3.

What I Liked: Set in northern NM; intriguing plot; unexpected ending; Abigail kicks ass; a little side romance that doesn’t hinder or eclipse the mystery; Duster the cat; all the Spanish vocabulary.

What I Disliked: One side character is used a little too often as an infomercial to keep the story moving forward.

RIP8It’s that time of year for the reading event R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone can join. Pop on over for other spooky, mysterious, or dark reading pleasure.

Prepping for Bubonicon 2013

This is Chupacabra & Waffles nesting in my books.
This is Chupacabra & Waffles nesting in my books.

That’s right. New Mexico has it’s own SFF convention and it’s coming up next weekend in Albuquerque. Bubonicon is the only con I will be able to jaunt off to this year, so I am making the most of it. I’ve already booked my hotel room and purchased my con ticket. My man has offered to watch the farm for the weekend (as I will be watching the farm while he is off at the Fire & EMS Symposium – you can see pics over HERE from last year). the con is a 2 hour trip one way from where we live, so my man may or may not make it down for part of Saturday.

Of course I stacked these books just so, just so for the cats.
Of course I stacked these books just so, just so for the cats.

As you can see from the pile of books (and cats) I have plenty to get signed and keep me entertained. Brent Weeks and Tim Powers are the guests of honor this year. I have read the Night Angel trilogy (how fast did I read those books?) by Weeks and picked up a book by Tim Powers to give a try (I’ve heard great things about his works). You can check out the full list of participants on the site. Several state and regional locals will be attending. Who am I excited to see, listen to, politely stalk, end up having to do some emergency elevator evacuation drill with? Well, DoD favorite David Lee Summers will be there (you can kind of see a pile of his book sunder Waffles kitty), Connie Willis (loved her book Blackout), George R. R. Martin (yes, I finally read the first 2 books in the series A Song of Ice & Fire), Diana Gabaldon (recently reread her book Outlander, and it was every bit as good as the first time almost 2 decades ago). I just finished The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham two nights ago and am very excited to know he will be at the con. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck wrote Leviathan Wakes under the pen name James S. A. Corey. I am just about halfway through Leviathan Wakes and loving that too. One of my man’s favorite writers, Walter Jon Williams, will be attending along with S. M. Stirling. Let’s see, who else…. Ian Tregillis, Sam Sykes, John Maddox Roberts and many more.

Cats. I will not be taking the cats.
Cats. I will not be taking the cats.

I attended one day last year (instead of the entire weekend) and saw a few costumes walking around. Since I have a room at the hotel hosting the con, I will be able to stay for the costume contest this year, hooray! There’s also tons of great panels and single author sessions scheduled. I plan to take my camera and my kindle – people like to sign kindles. I will probably take my knitting just in case there is a false fire alarm and we are all stuck in the parking lot. Speaking of the parking lot – right across it is Buca di Beppo, one of my favorite Italian restaurants. Yes, I will be eating good that weekend.

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Tofu didn't want to be a book stand.
Tofu didn’t want to be a book stand.

Why I Read It: Darynda Jones is going to be a guest at Bubonicon 2013, the one convention I will be attending this year, so I wanted to check out her urban fantasy series.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: If you are an urban fantasy or ghost story junkie, you may enjoy this series.

Narrator: Lorelei King

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2011)

Length: 9 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Charley Davidson

Charlotte (Charley) Davidson, a Grim Reaper in her mid 20s, spends her days as a private investigator based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Coming from a family of cops, she is in a perfect position to assist the newly dead in tracking down their killers. First Grave on the Right unwinds the mystery of the execution of three lawyers plus the fate of a missing teen. All sorts of seedy characters compliment the cast of do-gooders. A heavy romance subplot twists it’s way through the story, by turns dark and lush.

This book is full of quick-snap comebacks and snarky humor, set in the desert Southwest. I loved the quick wit, the murder mystery, and the Hispanic culture and words tossed in. Being familiar with Charley Davidson’s chosen city of Albuquerque, I could clearly see her acting as a portal to the dead (‘Go towards the light!‘) in the heat shimmer of the day. I so very much wanted a hot green chile breakfast burrito to go with this book. An independent strong woman with her share of friends and supportive family, she also has terrors both in the past and potentially right in front of her.

Her whole life, The Bad has watched over her, protecting her in his flowing cloak and death-dealing sword. However, only she can see him. Of course, suddenly slumping corpses following in her wake has caused for some interesting family discussions with her cop family. Add to that a mysterious entity that interrupts her shower, calling her a nick name only one other being (Reyes Alexander Farrow) has ever used, bringing to the forefront memories of a messed up event from her teen years. This book was off to a good start, grabbing my attention straight off and then hauling me around for the rest of it.

The adult romance and sexual tension between Charley and Reyes was exciting and added yet one more thing for Charley to try to track down in the midst of her triple homicide investigation. Deadly handsome and off the radar, Charley feels a great need to track him down, especially since he keeps appearing in a almost-ghostly way to give her waking wet dreams.

Still, with all that goodness, at the end I was a little conflicted. There were parts I so greatly enjoyed, but then parts that quirked my eyebrow in a negative way. First, there is objectification of woman, mostly the main character Charley. And mostly it is Charley doing the objectification. Large breasted, 125 points, a 9 out of 10 on the beauty scale – this is the description of Charley by herself. The book is smattered with compliments on her feminine anatomy and propositions by most of the men. So, sometimes I felt this added to the atmosphere – I mean she works mostly with men – and also a woman should feel free to express her own sexuality. But sometimes I felt it stayed too much on the objectification, especially after the ‘love’ word got pulled out of the closet.

The second point deals with the main love interest of the book. I know messed up shit happens in life and we sometimes choose to move past that and keep the people involved in that messed up shit in our lives. Still, I think if the author through Charley had acknowledged the fucked up nature of this relationship, I could have swallowed it better. OK, so here is the SPOILER ALERT: Charley meets Reyes when she is 14 or 15 and he is 17 or 18. He’s just taken a nasty beating and she threatens to call the cops (to defend him from further beatings). He desperately wants her to leave, so he threatens her with rape. He then gropes her breasts and her sex, making sure she is paying attention to his threat. She promises to leave and he lets her go. OK, messed up things happen. But then fast forward like 10+ years, and for the rest of the book he is the main sex attraction. Um….aren’t we going to talk about whether or not he has a violent (sexual?) streak? END SPOILER. So, yeah, without having a few paragraphs or a chapter for those two to acknowledge their assault & battery beginning, I had a hard time rooting for Reyes and for their potential coupling.

All that aside, it was a quick fun read, complete with a car named Misery, a best friend, neighbor, and secretary all in one Cookie, and evil step-mother and step-sister. Of course there are also other handsome men, such as investigator Garrett – complete with intense eyes and a questioning attitude when it comes to Charley’s ability to chat with the dead. Also, Charley gets hit, a lot, in this book and this, and the resultant bruises, show that she is human, can be damaged, and does need the support of her friends and family.

Narration: Lorelei King was a great narrator for this book, giving voice to Charley’s thoughts and pulling off her humor with ease. Her male voices could use a little more distinction, as I sometimes could not tell from the narration alone who was talking. King pronounced most of the Spanish words correctly.

What I Liked: Quick, snarky wit; the dead still have needs; set in the desert Southwest; some Hispanic culture thrown in; Charley has a series of tough days; the sex scenes were intense.

What I Disliked: Majorly conflicted about the main love interest; objectification of women.

What Others Think:

Candace’s Book Blog

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