Little Red Cuttlefish by Henry Herz, Josh Herz, & Harrison Herz

HerzLittleRedCuttlefishWhere I Got It: Review copy

Illustrator: Kate Gotfredson

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company (2016)

Length: 32 pages

Author’s Page

This is an aquatic retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. Little Red, a cuttlefish, is set to deliver crabcakes to Grandma. Little Red looks forward to sharing krill cakes with her. She makes it there safely and that’s when the tiger shark shows up! The shark sniffs for her as she plays hide and seek. Little Red has to use her natural abilities, her smarts, and gumption to outwit the tiger shark.

There’s one page where Red has obviously changed colors (to gold like her mom) but no mention of the cuttlefish’s ability to change color is mentioned in the text. For small children this might be the only confusing part, but it also provides a chance for the reader and the kid to chat about the natural abilities of cuttlefish. This particular ability is mentioned in the Author’s Note at the back of the book, along with other factoids about cuttlefish. I like that info on the tiger shark is also included at the end of the book. The authors also provide links to additional resources on sea life in this section. The whole package is a great little introduction to sea life for small kids.

Illustrations: Brilliant colors worthy of a living coral reef are used. I like how the angle changes too throughout the story, sometimes looking side on and sometimes from above, like a scuba diver. The facial expressions on the characters are great, like when the tiger shark bumps his face into the coral. A variety of sea life is illustrated in this book: sea cucumber, shrimp, octopus, tiger shark, and staghorn coral.

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

What I Liked: A fun story; a variety of sea life; showing off the cuttlefish abilities; additional sea life facts in the Author’s Note; some links for more info; great illustrations.

What I Disliked: None – a fun book for little kids!

Kushiel’s Mercy Read Along – The Schedule

Streak being calm & snuggly.

Streak being calm & snuggly.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Mercy is Book 3 of the second trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. After dealing with some medical stuff, I’ve returned to continue the read along! Below is the schedule.

Here is the current schedule:

Oct.  9th Week 1: Chpts. 1-10 (Hosted by Dab of Darkness)
Oct. 16th Week 2: Chpts. 11-22 (Hosted by Tethyan Books)
Oct. 23rd Week 3: Chpts. 23-35 (Hosted by Emma Wolf)
Oct. 30th Week 4: Chpts. 36-49 (Hosted by Emma Wolf)
Nov. 6th Week 5: Chpts. 50-62 (Hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog)
Nov. 13th Week 6: Chpts. 63-75 (Hosted by Tethyan Books)
Nov. 20th Week 7: Chpts. 76-END (Hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow)

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

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 KUSHIEL’S MERCY in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Anubis Nights by Gary Jonas

JonasAnubisNightsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Denton & White (2016)

Length: 7 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 4 Jonathan Shade

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 4 in the series and I recommend reading the previous books as there are major things that happened in previous stories that affect characters’s decisions in this book.

Private investigator Jonathan Shade starts his day off having a serious argument with a witch and the ghost of her son. Things only get worse when Sharon and Chronos show up at Kelly’s dojo and force Jonathan and his friends into taking care of a little problem for them. Henry Winslow, a powerful magician, is attempting to become immortal. To do so, he split himself into three aspects and placed each one at a different time and place in the past. Now Jonathan and his friends must travel back in time and kill each aspect.

This was a fun addition to this urban fantasy series that I have enjoyed so much. Jonathan has done a smidge of time travel before (a fact that he keeps hidden from his friends) but this time he and Kelly (a magically constructed warrior) are sent back into ancient Egypt to find Winslow and kill him. Meanwhile, Brand (also a magically constructed warrior) and Esther (a ghost who is tied to these old typewriter keys) go back to the 1870s. Reina (who isn’t of this world and has some special abilities) heads to the 1920s.

Let me get my one criticism out of the way. We have three main ladies in this series now: Kelly, Esther, and Reina. For some reason, the author chose to write them all as being in love with Jonathan and that really comes to the forefront in this book. It’s silly and not really necessary for the plot. Plus, there are other interesting men, so why not spread the joy?

OK, back to the good stuff. Most of the book is spent on Jonathan and Kelly in ancient Egypt. I really enjoyed the scenes where everyone was getting ready for their trip and had to dress the part. Reina got a flapper dress plus some practical wear. Brand had some rough yet really durable clothes. Meanwhile, Kelly and Jonathan were given revealing (by today’s standards) clothing that was the norm for King Tut’s time period. Eventually, Kelly and Jonathan rebel and a compromise (sort of) is made. In the end, it didn’t matter much because the two of them materialized in front of people and therefore, folks thought they must be deities.

We get a little bit of time with Brand and Esther in the 1870s. They soon land in some serious trouble with Priscilla and Edward that they weren’t expecting. Brand used to be a very strong warrior, but at the end of the previous book, things changed for him. Now he finds himself in a next to helpless position but I think he’s too stubborn (or dense) to notice. He keeps on thinking, bidding his time, quietly flexing those muscles.

Meanwhile, Reina goes to the 1920s. She doesn’t know much about this time period and she’s never been to New York  city. We only get a smidge of her story and she swiftly finds herself in trouble. I was surprised at how quickly she was subdued and also a bit disappointed. Not much is being done with this character that has so much potential.

It’s a swift moving plot with fun characters and I like that Kelly and Jonathan continue to be at the heart of the story. I also like that things between Jonathan and Sharon are unresolved. Her previous betrayal still rankles him (as it should!) and I look forward to seeing how the author deals with that. The ending was great! I loved the last big fight scene and how things in Egypt resolved themselves. This book does leave us on a cliff hanger, so I’m really looking forward to having Book 5 in audio.

I received a copy at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Joe Hempel continues to be the perfect Jonathan Shade. Also, he’s the perfect Kelly Chan, with her light Chinese accent. He really pulls it off well. I also liked his ‘dumb jock’ voice for Brand (which suits his humor and character well) and I continue to like his light Southern drawl for Esther. All around, it’s a great performance.  

What I Liked: Ancient Egypt!; things are not yet resolved with Sharon; Brand and Esther have their own troubles; King Tut and all the court; the final fight scene.

What I Disliked: All three main ladies are romantically inclined towards Jonathan, which is a little silly.

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOtherWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Robert Petkoff

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2011)

Length: 11 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 2 Immortals After Dark

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone novel. I heard from other readers who have enjoyed the series that this was the first book published and later a prequel, which became Book 1, was published.

Emmaline Troy, a half-vampire, half-Valkyrie, is out on her own for the first time in Paris seeking answers about her dead parents. Werewolf Lachlain MacRieve, recently broken free from his captivity, hunts his mate. While their initial meeting will be tumultuous, they will have to join forces to face down a mighty foe – the leaders of the vampire horde.

This isn’t my typical read but I have been trying to expand my book horizons a bit. However, this wasn’t the book for me. I never became particularly attached to the characters and I found several aspects boring to distasteful.

Lachlain is an immortal, which means he can heal from nearly anything. The vampires have been torturing him for 150 years by having him chained over a fire, letting him cook to death, regenerate, and cook again. Lachlain senses his mate above him on the streets of Paris and that gives him the strength to finally break free. When he finally tracks down Emmaline, he’s still a bit crazed with disgust for all vampires and remembered pain from the fires. And that’s when things get a bit a rapey. Consent is sexy. Forced hand jobs are not. Obviously, I found it hard to see Lachlain as the hero after that. And it’s not just one instance of non-consensual sexual acts; there’s at least 4. Even if you can understand where Lachlain is coming from (his recent years of torture and deep hatred for vampires), it doesn’t make his actions excusable.

To be clear, there are several consensual acts in the book. In fact there is even one that is rather rough but both parties are enjoying it and clearly wanting to continue it. That made it steamy hot. Plus there was lighting in a moonlit forest, so that was an awesome image. However, these events occur between a kidnapped sexual assault victim (Emmaline) and the man who committed those acts (Lachlain), so I still found it hard to wish a Happily Ever After ending for them.

Emmaline’s character was nearly as disappointing. She never really sets boundaries for Lachlain. Most of her time is spent being beautiful and gentle. That’s her role in this story and I found that rather boring. She does eventually have a few moments of small glory, but because her character has been devoid of such characteristics, they felt out of place and rather forced. Emmaline, like all women with Valkyrie blood, has an acquisitive nature, which boils down to the fact that her interest can be bought with material wealth. Sigh…. Let’s not forget that Emmaline is only 70 years old, which is just out of childhood in the immortal world. Meanwhile, Lachlain is at least 900 years old. Emmaline is a virgin, never even having kissed a man. Meanwhile, Lachlain has plenty of experience under his belt. Sigh….

The plot is OK, though rather predictable. Lachlain, king of the Lykae clan, wants two things: Emmaline as his mate and revenge upon the vampires. Lachlain’s immediate friends and family accept his return really easily, which struck me as odd but the story marched on without giving it more than a squint and a blink. Emmaline plans to find out more about her parents. Her Valkyrie aunts want Emmaline back, as well as their long lost Valkyrie queen. In step the  evil vampires who want domination over all immortals. Through it all, Lachlain and Emmaline will have to find love for one another and a way to hold on to it. It was pretty easy to guess who Emmaline’s father was once we had all the characters introduced. Also, the Beauty and the Beast theme wasn’t subtle about wending it’s way through the plot.

Some of the side characters were fun, but most were exaggerated in some way or other. They were mostly there to provide drama and comedy. Regan made me chuckle a few times with her blunt remarks about other people’s sex lives. Nix was fun because she’s obviously working on a different plane where the future is open to her but the immediate present may escape her notice. Kat, who came into the story late, was interesting because she was so straight forward about everything, lacking emotions. Gareth, Lachlain’s brother, doesn’t make a showing until late in the book and then he ends up standing side by side with a vampire named Wroth.

All in all, it was a rather disappointing story. I was turned off early on and the story never really recovered because Lachlain doesn’t learn quickly or thoroughly. The story piled on themes that bored me because it made the outcome predictable.

Narration: Robert Petkoff did a fine job with this book. I’m not a good judge for accuracy when it comes to Scottish accents, but I can say Petkoff was consistent and had a variety of sexy voices for the Scottish werewolves. His female voices were very good, being pretty darn believable. There were a handful of other accents he performed as well, like Louisiana southern accent for Emmaline and a general European accent for Wroth.

What I Liked: Regan’s blunt wit; some of Nix’s silly remarks; one hot sexy scene in the woods; the narration.

What I Disliked: Lachlain’s forced sex acts; Emmaline’s character; Valkyrie interest can be bought with expensive shiny objects; very predictable story.

What Others Think:

Dear Author

Vampire Book Club

 

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Arthur Slade, author of The Hunchback Assignments

SladeDustEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Arthur Slade. I’ve enjoyed Slade’s works – check out my reviews of Dust and Ember’s End. We chat about book villains, which fictional characters to invite over for tea, tough jobs, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the international GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – ebook of Dust.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The Six Million Dollar Man. Battling sasquatches! Running at amazing speed! A bionic eye! When I was a kid this was the only science fiction type show on tv and I watched it religiously. In fact, I think we only had one channel on our TV (I grew up in the outback). So I’d love to experience that amazing, overwhelming joy that I felt whenever the show came on TV. In second place would be Star Trek and Space: 1999 (tied for 2nd, of course).

SladeEmber'sEndWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I was a night auditor for a hotel. It wasn’t horribly difficult, except that I was the only employee in the hotel from 1 to 7AM and that meant I was the plumber, the security guard, and the guy behind the desk. Often there were hours of boredom peppered by the occasional crazy party that I’d have to break up. Writing is certainly safer and, oddly enough, pays better. I was able to get a bit of writing done between 2 to 4 AM because the hotel was usually quite then.

SladeTheHunchbackAssignmentsMore and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel, etc. Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm? Will there be more Arthur Slade audiobooks?

I do have plans to create more audiobooks. My latest novel, Flickers is in the hands of a studio right now that is putting the book together. I’ve been lucky, also, to delve into graphic novels via Kickstarter. And my steampunk series, The Hunchback Assignments, has been optioned for a movie. So there are several irons in the fire, so to speak. One of the joys of this modern digital age is that so many of these types of publications are easier to access. Well, except making movies. Those still cost a mountain of money.

SladeTheDarkDeepsWho are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

As far as villains, I’m partial to Captain Hook. That villainous pirate who always hears ticking in the background. I’m also a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but in all honesty Sauron is a boring villain. He’s just so powerful and so far in the background. Instead betrayers like Saruman are much more interesting. Any of the hobbit duos were great fun in those books, too.

SladeEmpireOfRuinsIf you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Hamlet, but he probably wouldn’t be able to make up his mind whether he wanted tea or a beer. Darth Vader, to see if he would use the force in a ping pong game. Katniss, to tell her to hurry up and make up her mind about one of those men. Sherlock Holmes, because he could probably find the socks that I’ve lost. And Julius Caesar (who appears as a fictional character in many works) to ask him whether he was represented properly.

SladeIslandOfDoomCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

The restraining order from Stephen King doesn’t allow me to repeat the story. Kidding, of course. I did go to his house once because I was in Bangor, Maine. I just wanted to see it. Didn’t knock on the gates or anything. I did ask his neighbour what it was like to live next to Stephen King and he said, “It’s fine, but I get tired of the tourist buses pulling up and people getting out to stare.” Not sure I’d want to be that famous.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Netflix. Oh, and reading. Far too much Netflix, though.

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

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. Still one of my favourites! I blame it for turning me into a fantastical type writer.

ArthurSladeAuthorPlaces to Find Arthur Slade

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Author Bio: Arthur Slade was raised on a cattle ranch in the Cypress Hills of southwest Saskatchewan and he caught the writing bug at an early age. He is the author of eighteen bestselling books, including “Dust”, “Jolted,” and “The Hunchback Assignments.” He currently lives in Saskatoon, Canada.

SladeDustBook Blurb for Dust: SEVEN-YEAR-OLD MATTHEW DISAPPEARS one day on a walk into Horshoe, a dust bowl farm town in Depression-era Saskatchewan. Other children go missing just as a strange man named Abram Harsich appears in town. He dazzles the townspeople with the promises of a rainmaking machine. Only Matthew’s older brother Robert seems to be able to resist Abram’s spell, and to discover what happened to Matthew and the others.

GIVEAWAY!

Arthur Slade is offering up an ebook copy of Dust. Giveaway is open internationally! You can enter the Rafflecopter below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) What country do you live in? 2) Who are some of your favorite heroes from books? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways end October 7, 2016, midnight.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Keys to the Coven by Vicky Loebel

LoebelKeysToTheCoven

Scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Where I Got It: Review copy.

Narrators: Emily Beresford & Nick Podehl

Publisher: Pentachronistic Press (2013)

Length: 12 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 1 Demonic Intervention

Author’s Page

Set in Arizona, this adult urban fantasy is full of surprises! Felicity, a dog trainer, recently lost her mother and is going through a messy divorce. She’s the oldest of three children, having mostly raised her baby-sister Hannah, who is now in college. Her brother, Alton, isn’t so grateful of her efforts to ‘mother’ her younger siblings. Then in steps Max, a demon on assignment to recover a magical relic, the Minsk Homunculus. It’s been in Felicity’s family for generations, but she isn’t aware of it’s magical abilities nor what it means in regards to the powerful demon Roxashael (Rocky).

This was a very, very fun book. The mix of serious adult situations, witty banter, demonic entities in moral crises, and an unknowing witch who just inherited a bowling team makes a great read! Max has used his powers of seduction in the past to rev up his karma, which in turn he uses as a power base to get other things done. His demi Kate, a minor demon tied to his phone, is, by turns, a useful or irritating side kick. For this assignment, she is constantly reminding him to keep his eyes on the goal – the Minsk Homunculus. Yet he can’t help but be drawn into Felicity’s initial drama and later her life as she figures out her family history and the past deals her mom Rose made with the demon Rocky.

Felicity herself started off caught up in her own little drama, a little too much  for me. I wasn’t sure I was going to like her character at first. Then as things get explained –  the ugly divorce, her mom dying, her inheriting this odd coven with it’s bowling team, and then Max coming in saying he has to recover the artifact (Minsk Homunculus) or the equivalent dollar amount (think 6 digits), I could see why she was on the verge of having a melt down. It’s apparent from the beginning that she has tried her best to do what she thought was best for her younger siblings, but they don’t fully appreciate it. So that gets tossed in her face as well later in the story. She has a lot of stresses and Max provides a handsome distraction and also gives her something to focus on (the hunt for the artifact).

This book also contains a fair smidge of romance, which I normally don’t go in for but it’s done so well with the plot and doesn’t weigh down the pacing, that I found myself rooting for Max and Felicity. They each find the other indebted to them and their ties continue to grow as the story marches on. The make-out sessions, and later the sex, are steamy and sweet. Sometimes there’s a bit of humor mixed in, sometimes it’s intense. As a side note, this book also references some sexual abuse situations, but I felt they were in keeping with the plot and the characters and weren’t there for shock value.

The humor really brought the whole book together for me. Sometimes the humor was a little dark (which suits me fine) and sometimes it was a little slapstick, like Felicity falling off park benches or such. There was plenty of witty banter, but also certain situations the characters ended up in were funny, especially since I didn’t have to live them. All around, it was a very entertaining book with enough wit and a sharp edge to keep me engaged for the entire length.

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

Narration: Emily Beresford and Nick Podehl did a great job teaming up on this book. Beresford made a great Felicity and a jaded Kate. Podehl was a wonderful Max and quite the evil Rocky. There were plenty of secondary and minor characters and this team made them all distinct.

What I Liked: Setting in Arizona; Felicity’s life is in meltdown; Max is questioning his demonic morals; Max’s fancy car fetish; Kate’s impudence; the sordid history of the Minsk Homunculus; story has both wit and an edge of seriousness; the romance was a nice touch but didn’t overwhelm the story with cutsy-wutsy-ness.

What I Disliked: At first, I wasn’t sure I would like Felicity because she’s a bit dramatic at times, but I got past that and learned to appreciate her character.

GIVEAWAY!

Vicky is generously offering up 3 audiobook copies of her book Keys to the Coven! The audiobook is available through both Audible.com and Audible.UK. To enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1)  Do you have either an Audible.com or an Audible.UK account?  2) Do you have an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment? 3) Leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaway ends September 9th, 2016.

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Ebook Giveaway & Guest Post: Darrell Drake on The Art vs. The Artist

DrakeAStarReckonersLotDear readers, please welcome again author Darrell Drake! Today, he has a most interesting guest post for us on the conundrum of separating the merits of a work from the vagaries of the artist. Also, make sure to check out the GIVEAWAY of Drake’s forthcoming book at the bottom of this post. Also, check out the previous interview with Darrell.

The Art vs. The Artist

Does the person behind the work really matter? In a world dominated by social media and the desire to raise luminaries to celebrity status, I’ve asked myself this question many times.

I’ve seen literary accomplishments drained of prestige—at least conversationally—because of the reputation of the author behind them. Andrzej Sapkowski’s recent World Fantasy Award is a fresh example of readers conflating the author with the author’s work. It’s not necessary to go into detail, but the award was met with some criticism due to the public perception of the man.

Rather than being concerned solely with ferrying readers to worlds fantastic and spellbinding, authors are expected to make appearances, tramp through social media, and maintain a regular Internet presence. This is all well and good, but in doing so, it’s sometimes a task of smothering personality for the sake of appearing professional and avoiding backlash.

It is the firm belief of this author that the art should stand on its own, without condemnation or praise of the person behind it. Whether an author is a philanthropist or a psychopath has no bearing on what’s been written, unless it is intentionally imposed by the reader. If the reader can separate the art from the artist, or refrain from the connection to begin with, they’re free to simply read and enjoy—or don’t, if that’s the case—unhindered by irrelevant perceptions.

Centuries from now, it won’t matter who an artist offended on Twitter, whether they kowtowed to the right people, or whose approval they lost. The people of the future may spectulate and debate, but if a work of art survives the generations, it’ll stand or fall on its own merit.

Rather than getting caught up in judging an artist, perhaps we should skip to simply appreciating their work. Because that’s ultimately why we bother at all.

 

DarrellDrakeAuthorAuthor Bio: 

Darrell Drake has published four books, with A Star-Reckoner’s Lot being the latest. He often finds himself inspired by his research to take on new hobbies. Birdwatching, archery, stargazing, and a heightened interest in history have all become a welcome part of his life thanks to this habit.

Places to Find Darrell Drake

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Tumblr

Reddit

GoodReads

Amazon

DrakeAStarReckonersLotBook Blurb for A Star-Reckoner’s Lot: For some, loss merely deprives. For others, it consumes.

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been. Witness her treacherous journey through Iranian legends and ancient history.

Only a brave few storytellers still relate cautionary glimpses into the life of Ashtadukht, a woman who commanded the might of the constellations—if only just, and often unpredictably. They’ll stir the imagination with tales of her path to retribution. How, fraught with bereavement and a dogged illness, she criss-crossed Sassanian Iran in pursuit of creatures now believed mythical. Then, in hushed tones, what she wrought on that path.

GIVEAWAY!

Darrell is giving away 3 ebook copies of his fantasy historical fiction novel, A Star-Reckoner’s Lot. Open internationally. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you find it possible to separate the art from the artist? An example? 2) Leave a way to contact you. Thanks! Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.

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