Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: S. C. Flynn, Author of Children of the Different

FlynnChildrenOfTheDifferentEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author S. C. Flynn. I’ve quite enjoyed his Australian dystopian novel Children of the Different. Today, we chat about survival quests, making up stories in grain bins, a Doctor Who debate, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – an Audible.com version of Children of the Different, narrated by Stephen Briggs

If you were sent on a survival quest, which other 4 post-apocalyptic/dystopian authors would you take with you?

SCF: Margaret Atwood, because she would be our high priestess and could communicate in all known languages and cultural situations. David Brin, because he would invent anything we needed. Hugh Howey, because he would have plenty of time to tell me the secret of publishing success. Jeff VanderMeer, because of his experience in organising expeditions and group endeavours. 

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you choose to do?

SCF: Jazz musician. I grew up playing trumpet in my dad’s band.

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

SCF: I really like finding new bloggers and serious readers. I have made lots of good online friends. The biggest challenge is simply finding the time to keep up with what everyone else is doing.

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

SCF: I always wanted to hide away and make up stories. I grew up in country Australia, and I used to sit in a wheat bin, where I was away from everyone and free to invent things; there’s a photo somewhere of me in there. Back then, I didn’t think in terms of being a writer as such, but I was already on the path.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

SCF: Mary Shelley: spaghetti and clams. James Tiptree Jr: steak and chips, beer, neat whisky, with port and cigar afterwards. H.G. Wells: steak and kidney pie.. Jack Vance: fillet of black marlin. Philip K Dick: Baked Ubik.

What do you do when you are not writing?

SCF: Not much music these days, unfortunately! Reading, watching films.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

SCF: The best era of classic Doctor Who (the 3rd Doctor, by the way, even though it was before my time…).

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

SCF: 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne; I still liked it last time I read it! 

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

SCF: This interview is part of a blog tour for “Children of the Different” that is running every day on various sites and podcasts till early October; details of what I am doing and where can be found on my site, www.scflynn.com

Thanks for your time.

SCF: Thank you, Susan!

About the Author

S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.

He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.

S. C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. This path included two periods of being represented by professional literary agents, from whom he learnt a lot about writing, but who were unable to get him published.

He responded by deciding to self-publish his post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different and, together with an American support team, aimed for a book as good as those created by the major publishers.

S. C. Flynn blogs on science fiction and fantasy at scflynn.com. He is on Twitter @scyflynn and on Facebook. Join his email newsletter list here.

Book Blurb for Children of the Different

FlynnChildrenOfTheDifferentNineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and either emerge with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.

In the great forest of south-western Australia, thirteen year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.

After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia. If they can reach it before time runs out.

CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel set among the varied landscapes and wildlife of Western Australia.

Purchase Links

Amazon US             Amazon UK              Amazon Australia

GIVEAWAY!

S. C. Flynn is offering up an Audible.com audiobook of Children of the Different. You can enter the Rafflecopter below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) What do you do when you’re not reading? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways ends October 17, 2016, midnight.

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Flynnchildrenofthedifferentfinalanimation2

Children of the Different by S. C. Flynn

FlynnChildrenOfTheDifferentWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Stephen Briggs

Publisher: The Hive (2016)

Length: 9 hours 39 minutes

Author’s Page

This post-apocalyptic tale is set in Western Australia. 19 years ago, the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. Now when children enter their adolescence, they go into a trance-like state, entering the Changeland, and may come out of it fairly normal or a bit deranged and prone to cannibalism. Arika and her twin brother Narrah are at that age and their adventures in the Changeland will alter them, and perhaps their small society, forever.

This tale was just a bit different from anything else I have read recently. First, I loved the setting and all the Australian animals that come into play throughout the tale. There’s even stromatolites! From dense forest to dry desert to cityscape to ocean-side village – this story covers a lot of ground. Then we have the Changeland, a place that can only be entered by your spirit through a trance-like state. Everything is warped in the Changeland. Sometimes a person sees images of cities healthy and whole before the Great Madness and sometimes a persons sees things as a they are now, but far, far from where they live. For both Arika and Narrah, they each run into the Anteater, which is like our Coyote trickster of the desert southwest here in the states. His motives aren’t clear until the end of the story, but he uses both charm and threats to set things in motion.

While Arika in undergoing her Change, her brother is out of the village when he comes across Weiran, who used to be part of the village before he went a bit feral after his own Change. Narrah ends up captured by a group of city people and hauled away. Once Arika comes back to reality, she insists on going after him but she has to sneak away to do so. Turah, another childhood friend who now has strange prophetic abilities, goes with her. Both Arika and Narrah will have some harrowing experiences before they are reunited. Once they do, there is the task of taking one of the few remaining military bases in the area! The plot kept me guessing the entire time. There’s a little Mad Max action too when folks take some of the few remaining functional vehicles on the last jog of the story.

This was an exciting story. At times, it was beautiful and strange, and at other times I was biting my nails in anticipation of what would happen to our heroes. The Changeland is an eerie, unpredictable place and adds an unexpected dimension to this post-apocalyptic tale. S. C. Flynn is an author to keep an eye on and see what he comes up with next.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Stephen Briggs was a great choice for this tale. I loved his Australian accent he did for all the characters (except for the 1 or 2 minor characters who weren’t Australian). He also had this great gritty voice for this character Bowman who doesn’t show up until the second half of the story. Sometimes the volume did wiggle up and down a bit, but not so much I had to turn the volume down or risk ear damage. Over all, a great performance. 

What I Liked: New-to-me settings; the Anteater!; great twist with the Changeland; stromatolites!; such a beautiful book cover; plenty of action; great to have 2 heroes to follow through the tale; great narration.

What I Disliked: Occasionally, the volume dipped a bit for a section, or rose slightly for the next section. Not a big deal, but I did have to turn up the book a handful times.

Women Destroy Science Fiction!: Lightspeed Magazine Special Issue edited by Christie Yant

YantWomenDestroyScienceFictionLightspeedMagazineWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrators: Cassandra Campbell, Gabrielle de Cuir, Harlan Ellison, Grover Gardner, Jamye Grant, Susan Hanfield, Jonathan L. Howard, John Allen Nelson, Bahni Turpin, Stefan Rudnicki, Molly Underwood, and Judy Young

Publisher: Skyboat Media Inc. (2015)

Length: 15 hours 11 minutes

Editor’s Page   Lightspeed Magazine’s Page

Over the past few years, there has been a series of ‘XXXXX Destroy Science Fiction’ anthologies, but this is the first one I have read. While the title may smack of too much ‘I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar’, the anthology was quite balanced with characters of all genders, action and contemplation, mystery and exploration, happy endings and not-so happy endings. Most of the stories had some real meat on them, including several of the flash fiction tales, giving me something to chat about over tea. Some were humorous and some required some thoughtful contemplation afterwards. Over all, it’s an excellent science fiction anthology.

Contained in this audiobook are 11 original short stories, 4 short story reprints, 1 novella, and 15 flash fiction tales. If you pick up the text version, you also get 7 non-fiction pieces, 28 personal essays, and 15 author spotlights. Authors for stories in this audiobook include Charlie Jane Anders, Eleanor Arnason, Elizabeth Porter Birdsall, Heather Clitheroe, Tina Connolly, Katherine Crighton, Ellen Denham. Tananarive Due, Rhonda Eikamp, Amal El-Mohtar, Emily Fox, Maria Dahvana Headley, Cathy Humble, N. K. Jemisin, Marina J. Lostetter, Seanan McGuire Maureen F. McHugh, Kris Millering, Maria Romasco Moore, Samantha Murray, K. C. Norton, Anaid Perez, Sarah Pinsker, Rhiannon Rasmussen, Holly Schofield, Effie Seiberg, Gabriella Stalker, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Vanessa Torline, Carrie Vaughn, and Kim Winternheimer.

Below are the 11 original stories.

Each to Each by Seanan McGuire

The Navy has modified whole submarine corps of women into ‘mermaids’ to explore and claim the ocean floor for bubble cities and resources. The main character finds something in the deep that she didn’t expect. The narrator did a great job with the elongated vowels and such (sounding like in between ocean animal and human) and keeping each female character distinct. This was my favorite story of the whole book and a great way to start the anthology off. 6/5

A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering

Maurine is an angry artist in space. Her only ‘companion’ is a dead man in the corner. Rather eerie but interesting. Good narration – kept the eerie quality to it. 4/5

Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe

Spencer is a memory recall specialist. He floats through his memories, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. Held in high regard for the work he does but it messes with his personal life. Was OK. Didn’t hold my attention like the first 2. Narration good. 3/5

Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin

Sadie is a caretaker, helping raise the kids until they are old enough for the Masters to inhabit. Henri, one of her young charges, has been chosen. Abrupt ending. Don’t know if Sadie was successful or just nuts. Narration good tho Sadie sounded a lot younger than 40 years old. 4/5

The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp

A Gearlock Holmes & Watson story. There is murder at Gearlock’s mansion and the robotic amalgam Mrs. Hudson is in custody for the murder. Fun piece. Steampunky. Good stiff upper lip narration. 5/5

In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker

Set in Houston, TX, Wendell & his parents live in a mall. Big Box stores, and their advertising, dominate Wendell’s life, including church and living quarters. Teen loans are the norm. Very interesting piece on materialism and debt. Narration very good with a light Western twang. 5/5

The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders

Roger and Mary broke up. Mary’s friend Stacia convinces her to ask for Roger’s memories of the beginning of their relationship when things were on a high note. Interesting piece. Good  narration. 4/5

Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley

Set in a far future where the Moon is colonized, Bert, a restaurant critic, has told the secret of the dim sun restaurant. Now it’s crowded. Rodney and Bert are having a lunch there when Harriet, Bert’s ex-wife and a powerful politician, joins them. It was a very fun piece – creative dishes. Great narration. 5/5

The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar

Laila is encouraged to talk to the psychologist. She’s an interplanetary geoscientist. She has an ism – addicted to diamonds or the idea of diamonds. This tale explores various stories about diamonds as part of Laila’s fascination. Interesting piece but kind of broken up, not clear in places. Narrated by several people. At least 1 line repeated. The volumes varies, but mostly much quieter than the rest of the book. Main narrator does great with emotions. 3/5

A Burglary, Addressed By a Young Lady by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall

Genevieve’s a thief. She makes her debut burglary and runs into another thief, Catherine. They bond over the difficulties of breaking into the Marquis’s place. Some cool tech. Love the proper British accent and social niceties. 4/5

Canth by K.C. Norton

The Canth is an underwater vessel, part animal, powered by a perpetual motion machine. Capt. Pierce has lost the Canth but pursues her in a ship, the Jeronimo, captained by Rios. Portugues flavor to the story. Cod in every meal. Very interesting story. Narration was good, especially with the Portuguese  words. 5/5

Below are the reprinted stories, including the 1 novella. 

Like Daughter by Tananarive Due

Paige looks after Denise (Neecy) as much a s she can. She often reflects on their childhood and how things were different between them. Now Denise needs her to take her 6 year old daughter. Heavy story. Well done. Good narration. 5/5.

The Great Loneliness by Maria Romasco Moore

A slow apocalypse happened. Now clones of one flavor or another live out their lives in the few pockets of habitable space on Earth. Various groups have sent probes and manned space missions over the years into space searching for another habitable planet. I really like the imagery that was every where in this story- the underwater museum, the main character’s plant-like daughter Verdant, the human’s Eyes, Brain, etc. walking around independently. The narration was great, even a little song. 5/5

Love is the Plan the Plan is Death by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)

Mogadit has discovered a little one, Lililu, and his teen hormones all at once. Strange, enthralling. Sometimes felt like I was watching animals mating. Stefan Rudnicki narrates and he does it excellently. 4/5

Knapsack Poems by Eleanor Arnason

Strange story. Main character seems to have more than 1 entity and this is the norm. The main character has a scout and a poet and such. It finds a child of some sorts and carries it along falling in love with it. The entities can be more than one gender, but not necessarily so. I don’t get all of it. Rudnicki narrates, doing a good job. 3/5

The Cost to Be Wise by Maureen F. McHugh (novella)

Scarline is a colony on a little populated world. Not much tech. Dogs as sheep – for food. An outworlder, Veranique, comes to visit along with her Professor Ian. Janna, who is an unwed teen of the colony, is fascinated with plastic. Scaffalos is a great clan that visits Scarline for trade, though sometimes they just take what they want. Travesty befalls the colony. Interesting story. A thoughtful, perhaps harsh, ending. Well narrated. 5/5

Below are the 15 original flash fiction stories. 

Salvage by Carrie Vaughn

A spooky ghost ship story with a happy ending.

A Guide to Grief by Emily Fox

Sad story.

See DANGEROUS EARTH-POSSIBLES! by Tina Connolly

Narrator sounds drunk, which isn’t necessarily bad for this story.

A Debt Repaid by Marina J. Lostetter

The 2-headed monster has dual addiction – gambling & drink.

The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced by Sarah Pinsker

Those that suffer from accidental time travel can hang out in an asylum. There’s jello.

#TrainFightTuesday by Vanessa Torline

Fun tail told through tweets. Super heroes/villains. Cute noises to denote switching between tweeters.

The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23 by Rhiannon Rasmussen

A beautiful story of interstellar kamikazes come home. This was my favorite on the Flash Fiction.

Emoticon by Anaid Perez

:-$

The Mouths by Ellen Denham

Cracker obsessed aliens with only 1 orifice.

M1A by Kim Winternheimer

M1A is her clone there to give her parts as she needs. They grow up as sisters, but she is always sick while her clone is healthy. Poignant story.

Standard Deviant by Holly Schofield

A punkass homeless lass is given the opportunity to become an intergalactic ambassador. Fun story.

Getting on in Years by Cathy Humble

Immortal 800 year old man tired of hiding it. Interesting. Ending up to interpretation.

Ro-Sham-Bot by Effie Seiberg

Robot wants to play Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Everything That Has Already Been Said by Samantha Murray

An odd duck of a story.

The Lies We Tell Our Children by Katherine Crighton

She tells her daughters about space and what that means. They become sad. Very nice sadly sweet story.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the publisher (via Audiobook Jukebox) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Nearly all of the narration was well done for this anthology. There was one story with more than 1 narrator and it definitely sounded like the narrators were in different studios, not recorded at the same time. However, the  majority of the narration was excellent. I especially like seeing Stefan Rudnicki’s abilities tested in the James Tiptree story.  

What I Liked: Such a variety of SF – horror, steampunk, time travel, romance, exploration, etc.; it was great to have so many narrators for this anthology, which helped keep each story distinct;  beautiful  cover art.

What I Disliked: The title does make me chuckle a little.

What Others Think:

NPR

Tangent

Adventures in SciFi Publishing

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ClineReadyPlayerOneWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Wil Wheaton

Publisher: Random House Audio (2011)

Length: 15 hours 46 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a near future, this book often looks to the past – the glorious 1980s! Wade Watts lives in a dingy, crowded trailer park and goes to virtual high school. His joy in life is found through the OASIS, an on-line universe created by James Halliday & Ogden Morrow. You can discover space aliens and ride unicorns or play for hours in a 1980s arcade. In fact, after Halliday’s death, his final message was released to the world: He had built a quest into the OASIS, one that required the players to uncover secret, hidden clues (or Easter eggs). The prize is his fortune, and the prize is still unclaimed. Now Wade has discovered one of those clues and the hunt for the ultimate prize has heated up again as more competitors join the game.

Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog told me I would love this book and she was right. This was just all kinds of fun. The future is a kind of stagnant, bleak place. Technology only went so far and then it petered out. With most of the world’s fuel supplies used up, people abandoned the countrysides and gathered in ever-increasingly congested cities. The OASIS allows many people to log in from home and go to virtual schools or virtual offices. Yet folks often stay connected to this virtual reality for their entertainment as well; so society is becoming less and less connected to each other in the real world.

Wade is a high schooler I could relate to – not popular with any clique but decent at his grades. I especially liked that in VR high school you can mute anyone but the teacher – so even if some jerk is calling you names, you don’t have to listen to them. His personality comes alive when he logs on to the OASIS and can zip around with his VR friends saving worlds and doing dungeon crawls. It’s not to say that the VR doesn’t have it’s cliques and bullies. If you have the funds, you can spend them in the OASIS on cool equipment for your avatar. So there’s always some amount of ‘fitting in’ strife for Wade to maneuver through. However, he does have stalwart friends in the OASIS, like Aech. They’ve been on dozens of missions together and spent hours and hours discussing every thing. They’ve been on-line friends for years, and that friendship really means something to Wade who has few people in the real world.

Then we have the whole 1980s nostalgia thing going on. Halliday, who built the ultimate prize game into the OASIS, was a big fan of the 1980s. He loved several things about it and built those things into the OASIS here and there. From the music to the arcade games to the TV series to the SFF books of the time, this story is a smorgasbord of 1980s trivia. I was born in 1978, and then I was raised on country music. MTV was not allowed in my house, but I married a man who loves his 80s music, so I have picked up some of it over time. For me, I loved nearly all the 1980s references. Some of the music references I didn’t recognize and some of the Asian anime I haven’t seen, but for the most part it was all recognizable. Sometimes the references would just be a one-liner from a movie and you’d get it if you’ve seen the movie. It made this book one of those stories you can geek out over.

Of course, the over-arching plot is for Wade to find all of Halliday’s Easter eggs, complete the quest, and win the prize. However, it was far more complicated than that. Halliday’s quest has been around for many years now and thousands have been trying to find the next clue and it hasn’t happened. Even Wade has spent many, many hours searching the OASIS for the next scrap of intel on the Easter eggs. But now Wade has a hunch and he, as his avatar Parzival, acts on it and he’s rewarded with the key to the first gate. Of course, once he accomplishes this, his name appears on the public OASIS scoreboard and now everyone is tracking his avatar’s doings. The race is on to complete Halliday’s quest and win the prize!

Along the way, Parzival makes some new on-line friends such as Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito. Aech is along for the ride, being Parzival’s trusty sidekick. I really loved the interactions among these teens. Well, Wade makes some assumptions about their ages and such – it’s almost impossible not to. Pitted against them are Nolan Sorrento and the Sixers. These players are corporate funded and there are thousands of them. They have been paid to hunt for the Easter eggs. They have more equipment (both real world and in the OASIS) and they have this wealth of experience to draw upon for any situation. They are intimidating competitors. Also, their corporation isn’t above bribing, paying off, threatening, or physical acts of aggression. Sadly, Wade learns this the hard way.

I found myself cheering Parzival/Wade on throughout this book. I also did a few face palms when I thought Wade had lost his way or made a stupid move. The book has so many great scenes! I love how the beauty, wonder, and infinite possibilities of the OASIS are paired with the dingy, crowded, hopeless reality of the real world. Wade just wants an escape. I totally get that. Later in the book, he meets a character who wants to change that and make the real world something to look forward to and use the OASIS as a tool to help mankind get back on it’s feet and perhaps out into the stars. That was a great touch too because it gets Wade to consider the possibilities.

This was a most enjoyable book, perhaps one of my top 5 for the year. The fancy VR world coupled with all the 1980s nostalgia made this story unexpectedly fun. By twists and turns, I would be caught up in a fond Atari game memory one moment and completely entrenched in the next Easter egg challenge the next moment. And I bet this book is just as good on the second read.

The Narration: Ah, Wil Wheaton, you were born to narrate this book! Wheaton was the perfect fit for this novel. He makes a very believable teen Wade. His female voices were good. Each character was distinct. He was especially good at imbuing the characters with emotion and there is quite the range of emotions in this book. Great performance!

What I Liked: The virtual reality – so many possibilities!; the 1980s nostalgia; Wade’s real world life versus his OASIS life; the Halliday Easter eggs and the hunt for them; the Sixers make formidable foes; Wade’s on-line friends; the outcome of the book; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a thoroughly enjoyable book!

What Others Think:

Lynn’s Book Blog

i09

Fantasy Book Review

Escape Pod

SF Site

Her Bookish Things

The Book Smugglers

Hopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson

WilsonHopebreakerWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: T. Anthony Quinn

Publisher: Dioscuri Press (2015)

Length: 5 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Great Iron War

Author’s Page

 

In the land of Altadas, the Regime rules with an iron fist. Through addictive drugs, might, fear tactics, and replacing the population with demons, they are nearly unchallenged. However, the Order still resists them. Jacob, a smuggler, will get caught up in their machinations and will also get to drive the magnificent coal-powered machine Hopebreaker.

This book is a steampunk novel set in a future dystopian world. Somehow, the Regime is preventing healthy conceptions and women can now only give birth to demons. The Order, and some few others, are able to create amulets that prevent conception. Jacob was caught smuggling these amulets in a Regime controlled city and summarily tossed in a dungeon. He grumbles and gripes and has this fatalistic sense of humor throughout the book, not just when he’s in prison. There he meets a young man, Whistler, who was born into the Order. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of an innocent and doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. Luckily for him, he has friends.

Pretty soon, Taborah and crew are breaking Whistler out and they allow Jacob to tag along. Then he owes them a favor and then the Order owes him a favor and before you know it, they are so tangled up they couldn’t possibly separate. Jacob never gives over fully to the Order’s ideals, preferring to be paid in cold, hard coils (the currency of the area). Yet he keeps giving a little bit more because down deep, he really is a nice guy. He moans and complains much of the time, but you can tell he’s getting attached to at least a few of the members.

There’s plenty of tech in this story. Obviously, there is the big war machine called Hopebreaker. There’s smaller machines, such as transports, and then these kind walking war towers. There’s also a variety of cool goggles too. I definitely enjoyed the steampunk flair of the story.

I’m not sure I understood the amulets and the demon children so well. First, I can’t recall any examples of these demons; they were simply referred to. So I would have liked to have seen a demon or two to help cement this little touch of fantasy in this otherwise steampunk scifi novel. Coupled with that, is the use of the amulets – not much is given on how or why they work to prevent conception. Perhaps you don’t wear it around your neck the entire time, electing to wear it somewhere else during intimate moments?

The characters are fun, if pretty one dimensional. The bad guys are described as slimy, etc., so you can spot them early on in the story. While the good guys have a little more depth, like Jacob wrestling with some inner demons, they are still pretty predictable. This is basically just a fun story, like brain candy. It was enjoyable and I look forward to seeing what trouble Jacob gets into (and out of) in the next book.

Narration: T. Anthony Quinn has a lovely rich voice. He made a great Jacob, pulling off the humor and emotions quite nicely. His female voices were distinct and I especially liked his accent for Taborah.

What I Liked: Dystopian; steampunk; large coal-powered machines; classic good vs. evil fight; assorted goggles; the end sets us up for the next adventure.

What I Disliked: Not sure about the whole amulet demon conception thing; characters are rather predictable; the bad guys are practically labelled.

What Others Think:

The Mad Reviewer

On Writing

Andy Peloquin

The Bohemian Housewife

Book Stop Corner

Cranky Author’s Book Blog

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

AtwoodTheHandmaid'sTaleWhere I Got It: Borrowed from library

Narrator: Claire Danes

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2014)

Length: 11 hours

Author’s Page

 

The world has changed. The US government has long since been deposed and the new Republic of Gilead has arisen. Told through the eyes of one Handmaid (Offred), the new world order is revealed and explored. Her memories of a time when she had a job, a husband, and a child are only that now. Her new life demands she gives the Commander and his wife Serena Joy a child.

There’s plenty of food for thought in this novel. Power now belongs to a handful of men and women and everyone else has to quietly and expertly navigate their way through the rules and whims of those in power. Offred use to have her own name, one she is forbidden from using now. Every time she is sent to a new station, her name changes as well. She now is in the service of the Commander and his wife and therefore her name is Offred for as long as she is stationed there. During her time at this station, she reviews memories of the past, before the new republic and of her training days.

When I first delved into this book, I made an assumption that men now held the majority of power. Since having finished it, I think that is incorrect. The balance of power is much more nuanced than simply one gender or the other holding the majority. Women run the training centers for the other women. It appears that women decide when a woman is not longer fit to be a Handmaid and is therefore demoted to a Martha (house servant) or an Econowife (for the masses) or is even deemed a Jezebel (nightclub worker) or an Unwoman (sent to the colonies to clean up toxins of various sorts). Women mete out the punishments on other women and women dictate what is or is not proper behavior for both men and women. On the other hand, we have a handful of Commanders (all of which we see are male), the only doctor in the book is male, and men do all the heavy lifting and gun carrying. Among the women, only the Aunts (teachers at the training centers) are allowed to read and write; otherwise that is a man’s domain. I quite enjoyed how complex the power play was between the genders.

Since Offred did have a full life before the change in governments, she has many memories of how things started to shift. For instance, her own mother was an activist for change, though I don’t think she was looking for what the world got. As a kid, her mother would take her to the park supposedly to feed the ducks, but it was also so she could meet up with her activist friends and burn magazines that featured women in heavy makeup and skimpy clothing. Scenes like this hint at something and I am not sure yet if I grasped the author’s intention correctly or not. Women themselves started to protest such magazines, perhaps seeing them as objectifying women. Eventually, that became this movement and part of a change in government. Now, it’s unseemly for any woman to be showing skin beyond hands and face and sometimes even that can be deemed immodest depending on the demeanor of the individual. If you forbid such a basic freedom, such as how to dress, then where does that lead society? Again, another interesting thought to mull over.

Offred is a Handmaid and that means her main purpose is to reproduce. She’s told what to wear (bright red, which makes it hard to disappear), what to eat (only nutritional food for her), and how much to exercise (a daily walk is required). On one hand, she is held on high because so few women are still capable of reproduction. On the other hand, her entire life is scheduled for her. She has a monthly doctor’s visit. She’s not allowed caffeine, cigarettes, or alcohol. Even the sex act is ritualized to the point that it is simply something to be endured as no one seems to be allowed to enjoy it. Other women, such as the Marthas, show jealousy over the ‘pampered’ life of a Handmaid. Really, this seems to be the epitome of objectifying women! Offred is no longer a person with her own hopes, ambitions, mistakes, vices, etc. Instead, she is a vessel for a potential fetus. The author does a great job of showing all this through Offred’s eyes.

Offred needs a baby to keep herself from being demoted and the powers that be happy. When it becomes obvious that the ritualized sex with the Commander is not getting her what she needs, the wife steps in with a suggestion. It is quite the status symbol to have child and Serena Joy definitely wants that prestige. Meanwhile, the Commander wants something else entirely. He secretly invites Offred to his study for late night Scrabble games and mulling over old 1970s fashion magazines. In a way, I think he’s looking for companionship, a thing that is no longer encouraged and is not something he has with his wife (her being so very proper and all). These diverging needs of the two people who essentially own her, if only temporarily, put Offred in a very difficult position.

Now, added to that, there are a few groups that are working the background to either smuggle women to safety and freedom or to bring down the Republic of Gilead. If you even hint at sympathizing with these groups to the wrong person, you can end up dead in a number of uncomfortable ways. Anyone can be a spy or informer to the Republic, so Offred has to be very very sure of someone before she makes even the smallest comment outside of the accepted proper responses. This cloak and dagger type stuff definitely added to the tension of the story and brought out another dimension, one that was especially relevant to the ending.

My one criticism is that the tale does jump around a lot on the time line. It makes sense as Offred’s daily life triggers this memory or that, so staying true to the character meant jumping all over the time line. However, there were pieces I had trouble fitting together until much of the story had passed and some other close-in-time-line memory was revealed. So on one hand I get why the author laid it out this way; on the other hand there is already plenty here for me to enjoy and mull over, so why jumble up the time line so very much?

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. Some parts of it were a little tough to read. So many women losing basic rights and yet that appears to have been instigated by women. To some extent, this new government that oppresses women is held in place by women; not just their quiet acceptance of it but also by the active consent of many. The final epilogue provided some additional views on the Republic of Gilead. Without spoiling anything, I found this to be one of the most interesting parts of the book. It gave a satisfying ending to the tale.

Narration: Claire Danes made a very good Offred. She imbued the character with emotion, especially when that character was forbidden from showing any outward emotion. There’s only a handful of male voices, but they were believable. Danes never showed any hesitancy over the difficult scenes, of which there are several.

What I Liked: Plenty of food for thought here; Offred is a very interesting character; not everything is laid out and revealed at once; layers of control; Handmaids are set on high and yet have no freedoms; underground movements; the final epilogue.

What I Disliked: It does jump around the time line quite a bit.

What Others Think:

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The Grim Company by Luke Scull

Elderly Stout wanting to sleep on this book.

Elderly Stout wanting to sleep on this book.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from the library.

Narrator: Gerard Doyle

Publisher: Recorded Books (2013)

Length: 15 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Grim Company

Author’s Page

Set in a dystopianized fantasy world, a set of heroes comes forth to fight evil, or at least, to save their own skins. Young Davarus Cole boldly steps forward, believing with every molecule that he is a true hero. Meanwhile, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf, two highlanders on the run from a powerful sorcerer who took over their home village, are dragged into the mix. Plenty of powerful entities battle for total domination.

I heard a lot of good things about this book and went into it truly expecting to like it. Unfortunately, it fell way short. I almost gave up on it but because I had heard such great things about it, I didn’t want to give up on it. Sad to say, the ending did not justify my time spent on it.

The set up looked very promising. I liked that the main characters were pretty eclectic in age. That is good point in favor of this book –  no age discrimination here! Brodar and Jerek are past their prime yet still vital to the plot. They have their own histories and reasons for continuing on. The author doesn’t skimp in describing their aging bodies – they have trouble peeing and issues with hemorrhoids. But beyond that I never really bonded with them.

Then there is Davarus Cole, a young wanna be hero and member of the Shards, a secret organization that works to overthrow the evil Salazar. At first, I found him quite silly and full of himself. Yet, despite all the crap that gets thrown at him in this book, he perseveres in believing in himself. I grew a bit found of him by the end.

The ladies are few and far between in this book, unless you count all the nameless prostitutes and the few rape victims. Sasha, a member of the Shards, takes a long time to come into her abilities. We’re told early on that she can handle herself, but for most of the book she is a sex object that is carried by the men from one scene to the next. Eventually, she gets to use her crossbow and show us her skills and determination. There are some evil powerful ladies, most of whom remain vague for most of the book. There is a ton of jokes made by the male characters about violence towards women. If this was balanced out by more competent female characters, it would not have bothered me. However, this is not a balanced book in this regard.

The adventure plot is a bit predictable and I kept waiting for something more to be thrown in. I guess the most interesting bits were the characters’ pasts –  Brodar’s clash with the evil sorcerer from his village that sent him fleeing; Davarus’s upbringing that created his believe that he was indeed a true hero. While these things had influence on the plot, they were not the main gristle of the book. The world building wasn’t all that unique, though it has potential to be built upon. I found myself somewhat bored with this book and just waiting for one of two things to happen: The story to get super good and prove all my doubts wrong; or for it to end.

The Narration: Gerard Doyle did a really good job with this book. He had several accents and ages to portray, along with the few ladies who had more than one line. He made them all distinct and I never had to guess who was talking.

What I Liked: Lots of potential for this book; there is no age discrimination; interesting back stories; Cole proves a worthy character.

What I Disliked: This book fell way short of expectations; definitely not balanced where the genders are concerned; I didn’t become attached to most of the characters; the world building and plot were pretty predictable.

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