Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher:  Tantor Audio (2010)

Length:  21 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 2 Naamah Trilogy

Author’s Page

Note: This is the second book in the third trilogy set in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. However, this last trilogy is set a few generations later and stands on it’s own. This book, as the second in this trilogy, works mostly well as a stand alone but is definitely enhanced by having read Naamah’s Kiss.

We return to Moirin’s adventures as she sets off to find Bao, her stubborn warrior love. She leaves the relatively comfortable Chi’in lands for the wilder and much colder territories ruled by the Tartar tribes. Once reunited, things don’t go as expected and some double crossing has them separated again. Moirin has to match wits with a Vralian religious zealot and later on face the Spider Queen!

It was good to be back in Moirin’s world. Her archery skills serve her well once again, as well as her small magics. For me, the beginning and then the last third of the book were more interesting than the middle part. She starts off on this solo quest to find Bao and that tests her determination and dedication to Bao. When they meet up, Bao is living with his father’s people. Sparks fly…. but then a complication becomes apparent to Moirin. The two simply can’t go off and have their own lives. The Tartars love their competitions which center mostly around horses and archery. Yep! Moirin has another opportunity to be the one that saves Bao.

The middle part sees them separated and Moirin is held captive by this man and his family as they attempt to convert her to their religion. There are a lot of good points in this section wrapped up in this story and these characters but I found that it lagged a bit. After all, I agree with Moirin 100% in this section so the arguments only reinforced my dislike for people who try to push their religious believes onto others.

The last third of the book sees us back in adventure land as Moirin befriends the Lady of Rats and has to face off against the Spider Queen and her husband, the Falconer. They have a band of assassins. Moirin is definitely in danger! Then there’s the caste system that has been strictly enforced for generations. Moirin had a real balancing act here between what she felt was right and also respecting local culture and religion. It was a tightrope walk.

Since Bao isn’t with Moirin for much of this book, he doesn’t play as big a role. He’s often in Moirin’s thoughts but she has herself to worry about as she travels from one strange land to another searching for him. One of the things I really like about them as a couple is that they aren’t a traditional couple. Throughout this book, they care greatly for each other, respect each other, but they each have other lovers along the way and they are OK with that.

Moirin often does the rescuing even though she’s not some tall, athletic warrior. She has certain skills (archery, summoning the twilight, etc.) and she uses them wisely and quite well. She often uses her compassion and patience to win people over. Also, she doesn’t shirk her fair share of the tougher chores be them tending to her horses or taking out enemy scouts.

While I enjoyed the first book in the series a bit more, this was a pretty good adventure tale. I look forward to seeing what Bao and Moirin get up to in the third and final book.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik keeps on impressing me. In this book she takes on even more accents as Moirin travels out of Chi’in (Chinese accent), into Tartar lands, then Vralia (Russian accent), and finally into Rasa (Indian accent). She manages to keep all the characters distinct even though this book has a sizable cast. Her male voices are believable. One of her greatest strengths is nailing the nuanced emotions of the main characters – truly impressive!

What I Liked: Moirin’s adventures; Moirin is often doing the rescuing; Bao and Moirin aren’t the traditional heroic couple; Tartar competitions; how the caste system was handled; the Spider Queen’s assassins; great narration.

What I Disliked: The middle part where Moirin is in Vralia lagged a little for me.

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

io9

The Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Cafe

Speed-Reading Book Nerd Reviews

Naamah’s Blessing – The Schedule

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Naamah’s Blessing is Book 3 of the third trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. I’ve been saving this book for something special since it is the final book in the Terre D’Ange Cycle. I’m very glad to be reading it for the first time along with this great group of bloggers.

Here is the current schedule:

Week 1: Chapters 1-15, July 24th, hosted by Dab of Darkness
Week 2: Chapters 16-29, July 31st, hosted by Dab of Darkness
Week 3: Chapters 30-42, Aug 7th, hosted by Books Without Any Pictures
Week 4: Chapters 43-57, August 14th, hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 5: Chapters 58-71, August 21st, hosted by Tethyan Books
Week 6: Chapters 72-END, August 28th, hosted by Dab of Darkness

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

Book Blurb for Naamah’s Blessing:

Returning to Terre d’Ange, Moirin finds the royal family broken. Wracked by unrelenting grief at the loss of his wife, Queen Jehanne, King Daniel is unable to rule. Prince Thierry, leading an expedition to explore the deadly jungles of Terra Nova, is halfway across the world. And three-year-old Desiree is a vision of her mother: tempestuous, intelligent, and fiery, but desperately lonely and a vulnerable pawn in a game of shifting political allegiances. As tensions mount, King Daniel asks that Moirin become Desirée’s oath-sworn protector. Navigating the intricate political landscape of the Court proves a difficult challenge, and when dire news arrives from overseas, the spirit of Queen Jehanne visits Moirin in a dream and bids her undertake an impossible quest. Another specter from the past also haunts Moirin. Travelling with Thierry in the New World is Raphael de Mereliot, her manipulative former lover. Years ago, Raphael forced her to help him summon fallen angels in the hopes of acquiring mystical gifts and knowledge. It was a disastrous effort that nearly killed them, and Moirin must finally bear the costs of those bitter mistakes.

 

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 BLESSING in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah’s Curse Read Along – The Schedule

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Naamah’s Curse is Book 2 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.

Here is the current schedule:

Week 1: Chapters 1-15, post Monday June 5 Hosted by Allie
Week 2:  Chapters 16-32, post Monday June 12 Hosted by Lynn
Week 3: Chapters 33-47, post Monday June 19 Hosted by Susan
Week 4: Chapters 48-64, post Monday June 26 Hosted by Allie
Week 5: Chapters 65-END, Post Monday July 3 Hosted by Lynn

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

Book Blurb for Naamah’s Curse:

Alone and far from the land of her birth, young Moirin sets out across wild Tatar territory to find her beloved Bao, the proud Ch’in stick fighter who holds the missing half of her diadhanam, the divine soul-spark of her mother’s people. But the lovers’ reunion is short lived. Moirin is abducted, cast in chains that bind her magic, and betrayed into the hands of a fanatic Yeshuite priest. Fiercely zealous, he is determined to save Moirin’s soul and convert her to his faith…or see her stoned to death for her many sins. With her soul declared a battleground of the gods, Moirin will struggle to hold on to her humanity and survive – all the while wondering if the gift of love bestowed on her by the goddess Naamah is a blessing or a curse.

Wrestling with issues of faith and divine will, Naamah’s Curse explores what happens when mortal men seek to mold the gods in their own images.

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 CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah's Kiss Part VII

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

Here we are at the end of Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy!

This week, Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog is our host. We’re covering Chapters 75-END, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Moirin has come a long way since we first met her. How do you think her adventures have changed her if at all – does anything stand out in particular?

Moirin went from an untutored wilderness buff to this somewhat well-travelled (for the time) linguistic royal companion. One of the things I really like about her story arc is that she started off not even concerned with her fate, then met the great Maghuin Dhonn Bear, and started searching for her fate, believing it was tied to love (and most likely a man), only to eventually set that idea aside and go for the adventure, and then finally, at the very end,to have her fate literally tied to a man as she shared her bear-soul to save him. I like that she was independent of the notion that her fate was tied to another person for a while, and grew comfortable with that thought, even if in the end of this book, she is clearly tied to another.

2. I was hit by how far Moirin’s magical abilities have come along, I don’t think I particularly expected it to be honest – why do you think that might be?

From my previous reading, I did recall that this book had more magic in it than the previous D’Angeline novels. I like that Moirin’s gifts are few but she makes the most of them, and thereby, does some pretty big important things. She can quicken plants, talk to plants, even sing flower bulbs to sleep, call the twilight and disappear and in the twilight talk to spirits including demons and dragons. Yet she doesn’t rely solely on them – there’s her archery skills and her horsemanship keeps improving. She never stops learning and that includes learning what more she can do with her few gifts.

3. Looking back through the story it feels like most aspects had a bearing on the final outcome, do you think Moirin’s path is really set in stone or does she have the ability to change things?

No. She’s been given several choices throughout the tale. Yet her own personality kind of has her trapped on a certain path. She’s a people pleaser. She wants to help people but she also desires their approval and (from some) their attention. The Great Bear gave her choices, never forcing her, but Moirin couldn’t bear to have her bear-soul thingy (sorry, I know the spelling is tricky on diathanam – haha! and there’s my attempt) fade out. Throughout the book we’ve seen her own personality trap her into making the same decision over and over again most of the time – with Cillian, with Raphael, with Jehanne, with Master Lo, with Bao. She is becoming more discerning and picking better allies and friends along the way. Her personality is her hidden strength but it is also makes her choices predictable most of the time. Her little note to Jehanne abut Raphael for that last summoning is a good example of when she does something unexpected.

4. Do you feel that Moirin’s actions will have an impact on the Maghuin Dhonn in any way?

Well, more people are getting to know them through her and she’s definitely made a favorable impression with nearly everyone and so many of those people have been influential leaders in their own countries. If nothing else, her adventures will make it a little easier for the Maghuin Dhonn to travel in Terre D’Ange.

5. Were you surprised by the final chapters with Lo and Bao and the overall reaction of Bao?

I had totally forgotten about this ending, so it caught me off guard…. again! It’s tough on Moirin but I can also see Bao’s point. Choice is really important to him. He had no choice in his heritage (nor do any of us) but that violent, brief union between his parents has had a lot of negative consequences for him. As he points out to Moirin, even when he was a peach bottom boy, it was his choice. And yet it wasn’t like Master Lo or Moirin could ask Bao his thoughts on the matter.

Also, I think the event made some things crystal to Bao and that’s why he set off to try to find his Tartar father. He died once without having known much about have his heritage. I’m not sure what he expects to find, but he might not be sure either.

6. We know that Moirin is about to set off an another journey as this book ends. Any predictions, hopes or fears for what is to come next?

I do recall bits and pieces of the next book. I won’t spoil anything but I will leave you with this one image: warm mare’s milk. Yum! or not…

Other Tidbts:

I really like how Moirin ended up using her gift to find a hidden thing.

The dragon is ever so magnificent!

I’m glad that Snow Tiger claimed her enjoyment of sex through Moirin’s patient tutoring.

Even if Ten Tigers Die (Dai?) never gets to show his love to Snow Tiger, I’m still very glad that he has found such a noble calling – royal body guard!

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.

Naamah's Kiss Part VI

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 61-74, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) We’ve finally met Snow Tiger! What do you make of her and her relationship with Moirin? Does anything stand out in particular?

Snow Tiger is pretty determined to do the right thing. She’s breaking so many ingrained customs – defying her husband, traveling in disguise with thugs and a bi-sexual D’Angeline/Alban/Maghuin Dhonn royal. She’s totally stepping out of her comfort zone as well.

And once again we see that Moirin makes a good, calming companion for our most noble Snow Tiger. She’s gently guiding Snow Tiger in how to behave outside of her servants and loyal followers. Snow Tiger will be a better person for this adventure.

2) The dragon is a surprising new addition to the cast. What do you think he’ll do when he is free? Will he really help in the civil war?

I honestly forget what happens with our dragon companion. I know very little about Chinese dragon mythology but if I recall correctly, they were often associated with natural phenomenon – both good and bad. If your water dragon was unhappy, lakes and streams would dry up. If your wind dragon was happy, you’d have smooth sailing. So I keep waiting to see what major natural disaster his freeing can rectify. We have civil unrest but no major drought, flooding, or hurricanes yet, right?

I think he must be key to the civil war in some way. This is a Jacqueline Carey novel, after all! Black Sleeve went to all the effort to ‘cage’ the dragon in a human body, so I bet he doesn’t want him free once again.

3) What do you think of the Path of Dharma, as described by Master Lo Feng? What path would you prefer to follow?

I’m seeing similarities in Moirin’s character and Phedre’s character in that strength can also come from knowing how and when to bend or sway or bow or breath deeply. Strength doesn’t always come from a sword ora staff, and as we’ve seen from the Snow Tiger/Dragon combo, it can be very destructive even when applied to the good.

I have to say that I’m most comfortable being direct. Sometimes I can soften it a bit and I usually refrain from being in someone’s face.

4) Moirin does not seem to mind Bao’s jealousy. What do you think of their possible future as a couple?

Well, as Bao pointed out, it’s like being jealous of the Moon’s beauty or some such thing he said. Moirin’s been a Queen’s companion and now she’s an Empress’s companion and, as someone could argue, she’s a dragon’s lover in an odd menage a troi. So, yeah, being jealous of that is wasted energy.

I don’t recall how long they last as a couple but I do think they will both be better for having had the relationship.

5) Do you think they acted wisely against Lord Jiang’s men at the temple? Can you see any other decision they should have taken?

Wisely? That’s tough to say. There were too many of them, armed and armored, to have a good chance of success without the dragon. Also, I like Moirin and Bao don’t think Jiang’s men would have left the monks alive if Snow Tiger had agreed to go with them quietly. They had no save retreat. I really feel they were forced into a corner. Was it wise? Perhaps not. However, it was necessary.

Other Tidbts:

I think Master Lo Feng is quite aware of Moirin’s role as Jehanne’s companion.

I love the animalistic qualities to the dragon’s personality – he’s really living in the moment most of the time, not thinking beyond it. His madness when he can’t see his reflection is an extreme of that, but we see it with his protectiveness/possessiveness of Moirin as well.

Bao meeting the kid he rejected! That was a tense scene! Though I am glad Ten Tigers Die decided to join the party to free Snow Tiger and save dragon and realm all in one magnificent adventure.

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).

2017: In the Beginning, Challenges Were Made

Here we are in a brand new spanking year. My husband started it off with a kidney stone. Yeah. Poor dude. So we’ve been binge watching a lot of TV and I have been lazy about posting.

I’m sure some of you have noticed the new look. What do you all think? I’m loving it! Jess from The Audiobook Worm did all the grunt work and she did a fantastic job of interpreting my nebulous requests. Thanks Jess!

VintageScifiBadgeSo, 2017 holds many challenges for me. First, I want to participate in Vintage Sci-Fi Month which is hosted by The Little Red Reviewer. I love Vintage SF Month but I wasn’t a good player last year due to illness and this year may be the same but I’m going to give it a shot anyways. Anyone is welcome to join and the only requirement is that the SFF be 1979 or older (books, movies, TV, radio dramas, whatever).

I’m also going to try an audiobook challenge this year. 2017 Audiobook Challenge is hosted by Hot Listens and Caffeinated Book Reviewer. They also have a GoodReads group for this challenge or you can keep track of everything on your blog or both. I like this challenge because there’s only 2 check-ins throughout the year, so it’s pretty low maintenance but you can put as much effort and socializing into it as you want. I already know I listen to a lot of audiobooks, so I’m aiming for the Marathoner level (50+ audiobooks for the year).

Next, there’s going to be some year-long reading challenge on the Lazy Day Library Reviews FaceBook group. I didn’t participate in last year’s challenge since I was hospitalized in the first part of January 2016 and felt like crap for several weeks afterwards, so all sorts of stuff just got shoved to the side. But this year I hope to participate. The particulars aren’t set yet but the host is running a little contest, taking suggestions for goals for the challenge.

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

I hope to finish out the Terre D’Ange Cycle (by Jacqueline Carey) Read Along this year. We’re currently on Book 7, Naamah’s Kiss and will be wrapping that up this month. But then I have to go do this major surgery thing (PTE surgery for my CTEPH) in early February out in San Diego (two states away), so I’m not sure when we will resume with the next book as my in-hospital recovery could be up to 20 days. I have never read the final book in the series as I was saving it for something special. I expect other people have done this odd thing – you know, when you don’t want the adventure to be over so you put off reading that last book…. So, that’s what I’ve done and it’s finally time to read it and it would be great to do so with the on-line group that’s gone through this series with me. They have been wonderful folks and have provided so much insight for one of my favorite series of all time.

What are your bookish goals for the year?

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

ClineReadyPlayerOne

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

ButcherSkinGame

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

FinnTheGreenChildren

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

WardLoverEternal

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

AnthonyHairPower

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

JosephMarkerStone

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).