Naamah’s Blessing Part IV

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

This week, I am the host (Lynn’s life got busy). We’re covering Chapters 43-57, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) Betrayal again! Did you expect it here in the heart of the jungle? How do you feel about this outcome versus what Durel has endured and has yet to face?

This time, I wasn’t really expecting such a big betrayal. I thought the disgruntled guide might leave, and perhaps that could put the party in a pinch, but I wasn’t expecting him to put both himself and his father is the middle of the violence.

It’s a tough situation but I think it was handled as best as possible. There wasn’t a feasible way to keep him under guard nor to send him back to the main city under guard to await some sort of ‘civilized’ law.

I do hope Durel hears of this and realizes how lucky he and his family are.

2) Raging rivers, deadly illness, efficient deadly natives, scary ants, big snakes: I know you don’t want to face any of them, but if you had to choose, which would you tackle?

So tough! So having faced 2 minor floods that messed up my property, I wouldn’t want to face a raging river. It’s really only luck if you survive that.

I can’t communicate with ants and they are rather single-minded once they get an idea. Unless I have a flame thrower, or a raging river between them and me, I am not tangling with them.

So snakes or people. Hmm… Snakes I guess. People are so unpredictable while snakes are pretty predictable and it pays not to be stupid.

3) Vilcabamba held a nasty surprise, didn’t it? An army of ants and Raphael controlling them! Were you surprised? How do you think Moirin will learn to deal with the ants?

Yes, I was surprised. I should have seen all the hints with Denis de Toulard mentioning the ants and even earlier with the D’Angeline poet and her 7th floor apartment, as far from the ants as possible.

I’m really not sure how Moirin will get around the ants. Perhaps she will be forced to summon Folkolor but as usual she will be polite and Folkolor will give her a small gift, one that lets her take control of the ants or destroy Raphael’s hold on them.

4) Raphael intends to summon Fokolor and force him to relinquish his powers or serve him without question. What do you think Fokolor’s reaction will be? Will he be so easily enslaved or tricked?

I really hope Fokolor plays some of his nasty tricks on Raphael. In fact I now wonder if he can take back his previous gift to Raphael and make it so he can no longer communicate with ants. I don’t expect anything concerning Fokolor to be easy.

Other Tidbits:

I keep noticing this underlying theme of family honor. Durel is concerned about having let his family down. Now this new betrayal leaves a grieving father feeling the need to make up for his son’s bad deeds.

Raphael has made the mistake of thinking of his servants and such as savages and letting them know it. Somehow I don’t think they expect their ‘god Raphael’ to think of them as savage. This is just another chink in his armor and I hope Moirin exploits it.

Potato planting! Yay!

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

Bookish Giveaway & Interview: James W. George, Author of My Father’s Kingdom

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Folks, please give a warm welcome to historical fiction author James W. George. I recently had the pleasure of listening to his book, My Father’s Kingdom, which explores the relations between the Wampanoag tribe and the Puritan colonists of the 1670s.

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

Wow, what a fun question. Is time travel a possibility? I might have to go back to 1970 and pilot a B-25 while sitting next to Art Garfunkel in “Catch-22.” If I have to stick around 2017, I guess “The Tudors” is long gone so I can’t gallivant around with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Natalie Dormer and Henry Cavill in my finest sixteenth-century frippery.
I guess I’ll keep it simple and appear on the next “Avengers” movie. Maybe I can smack some of the smugness out of Tony Stark, and my daughter would be extremely jealous.

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

My first answer is very predictable. When writing and marketing My Father’s Kingdom, I’ve held fast and true to a fundamental precept: King Philip’s War in 1675 New England was one of the most fascinating and catastrophic events in American history, and most of us have never even heard of it.

So certainly, I would welcome the opportunity to see seventeenth century New England, especially the first interactions between some of the Native people and the European settlers.

I would love to visit well-studied periods like WWII, the American Revolution, the Viking conquests of England, and Tudor England, but I feel like historical fiction and cinema have done such a remarkable job of recreating these eras, I almost wonder if anything would genuinely be surprising.

If you’re going to hand me a fully-functioning time machine, I think I’d like to see some really obscure and mysterious periods, such as the empires of South America.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Brom Bones from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is a remarkable piece of American literature. I love it so much my daughter is named Katrina. The lyrical prose by Washington Irving is simply unbelievable.

Brom Bones is the villain, but what did he actually do? He deceived the interloping schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane, with a brilliant ruse. No one was actually hurt, maimed, or killed. I guess in the end he already has his happy ending, but I would hope he and Katrina lived a wonderful married life together.

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

Wow. Let’s go with some intellectual giants of American history. Maybe Increase Mather, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Let’s throw in some modern-day wit. Perhaps Mark Steyn can regale us with the conservative viewpoint, and Jon Stewart can hold down the left wing.

What to read? Probably 1984 and Catch-22, but we’re going to have to do an awful lot of explaining to all those old people. And of course, my book, so Increase Mather can tell me how unfairly I portrayed him.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I used to load trucks for UPS while in high school. It was physically exhausting and quite difficult. You don’t load one truck at once, you loaded multiple trucks.

In addition to the physical toil, it was all like one big game of Tetris; you have to make sure you’re building the wall of boxes in the most logical, sturdy fashion possible. I guess there’s a lesson there for writers; sometimes you think all the disparate elements are seamlessly coming together in a nice, impressive structure, but when they don’t, you have to tear it down and start over.

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

As a writer of historical fiction, I rely on countless works of nonfiction that help make 1670s New England come to life. I think one book in particular, which is probably my favorite work of nonfiction, is Don’t Know Much about the Bible by Kenneth Davis. He approaches all the complex, thorny questions of the Bible with an open mind, and gears the book toward those who know little or nothing about the Bible. It helped me imagine how incomprehensible the Puritans and Bible must have been to Native Americans in the seventeenth century.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I live my relatively mundane life here in southeastern Virginia. I work my day job (which I love) and spend time with my wife and two kids. I’m a big music fan and it’s been a great pleasure watching my sixteen-year-old guitarist son completely eclipse me musically.

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

Yikes. No distinct memory is coming to mind. It might have been Clifford the Big Red Dog. I also remember loving the “Encyclopedia Brown” series as a kid. We have a house full of books and have kept quite a few children’s books. My favorite, hands-down, is Yertle the Turtle. That is Dr. Seuss at his finest!

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

I’ve completely immersed myself in the New England of the 1670s this year, but it’s reminded me how ignorant I am of so much history regarding the European exploration of the United States before the Mayflower. I live down the road from Jamestown, so I’m pretty familiar with that, but the tales of Spanish conquistadors like Coronado and DeSoto exploring the southern U.S. in the 1500s are unbelievable. How many Americans know the tale of the French Huguenot settlement in Florida?

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

Book Two should be out this fall, and I’m delighted with how it’s shaping up. I think Book One is quite atmospheric. It develops the characters and sets the tone for King Philip’s War, whereas Book Two is the actual war and is a little more action-packed. Benjamin Church, one of colonial America’s most famous soldiers, will play a very prominent role.

Check out more interviews, spotlights, & reviews on the blog tour.

About Author James W. George:

James W. George is a debut author currently residing in Virginia.  He is a graduate of Boston University, a military veteran, and a lover of historical fiction.

Amazon ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of My Father’s Kingdom:

In 1620, more than 100 devout men and women crossed the treacherous Atlantic Ocean and established a colony in the New World where they could build a righteous and Godly society. Without the fortuitous friendship of the Wampanoag people and their charismatic leader Massasoit, however, it is doubtful the holy experiment would have survived.

Fifty years later Plymouth Colony has not only survived, it has prospered, and more and more Englishmen are immigrating to New England. The blessed alliance with the Wampanoag, however, is in severe jeopardy. Massasoit has passed away along with most of the original settlers of Plymouth Colony, and their children and grandchildren have very different ideas about their historic friendship.

Thrust into the center of events is Reverend Israel Brewster, an idealistic young minister with a famous grandfather and a tragic past. Meanwhile, Massasoit’s son, known as “King Philip” by the English, is tormented by both the present and the past. He is watching the resources and culture of the Wampanoag nation fade away at the hands of the English and desperately wishes to restore hope and security to his people.

In a world of religious fervor, devastating sickness, and incessant greed, can the alliance of their forefathers survive? Or will New England feel the wrath of tragic, bloody war?

Audible ~ Amazon ~ Audio Excerpt

About Narrator Angus Freathy:

Angus Freathy was born and educated in London – that’s the one in England, for you Ohio folks!

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, he went to Switzerland to join Nestlé for a 2-year wandering assignment, which lasted 37 years and involved travel and work on every continent (except the cold ones at the top and bottom).

Periods of residence in the U.S., Hong Kong and Switzerland have resulted in a network of friends and acquaintances with an amazing range of world insight and a wide repertoire of mostly excellent jokes.

Since retirement, Angus and his (still working) wife, Debra have lived in Oregon, Maryland and are now in Dublin, Ohio, ‘the only place we have actually chosen to live since we have been married!’.

Following a crushing rejection by the BBC at the age of 19, Angus is re-activating a long-held ambition and launching a new career in voice-over, with the sole intention of having some fun and being in touch with some very talented people.

Website

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a $25 Amazon gift Card. Open internationally! Ends August 6th, 2017.

My Father’s Kingdom Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

My Father’s Kingdom by James W. George

Narrator: Angus Freathy

Publisher: James W. George (2017)

Length: 6 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 King Philip’s War

Author’s Page

Set in the 1670s, Plimouth has become a thriving colony in the New World. However, the once solid relationship between the English settlers and the local Native Americans, the Wampanoag chief among them, has become strained. Culture clash, religious differences, and disrespect could lead to much bigger issues. Israel Brewster, a Puritan reverend, is a bit idealistic but believes people can be won over to the faith through compassion and mutual respect. Linto, a once orphaned boy, was adopted into the Wampanoag tribe. Great things are expected of him.

While this story takes a little time to settle into, I found it quite worthy. At the end of the audiobook, there are two notes – an author’s note and a narrator’s note – and both express how this section of American history has mostly been overlooked. I wholeheartedly agree and it’s great that we now have a quality historical fiction novel to explore this section of history.

I knew going into this tale that religion would play a significant role in the story. There’s the Puritans, the nearby Quakers, and the more enigmatic religious believes of the Wampanoag. However, the first 2 hours of the tale are rather weighty with Biblical verses and such. For me, this was almost too much. While I appreciate knowing the lay of religious land in historical fiction, this first part was quite top heavy with it. That said, I’m very glad I stuck with it. The religious context, once established, slides to the side to make room for more interesting stuff. By the end of the book, I was looking around for the next book.

Linto was the most interesting character to me. He’s genuinely interested in the English and their odd ways. In fact, I really loved his way of repeating back Biblical stories when talking with Israel. The author did a great job in showing this culture clash that was going on at the time. The conversations between Linto and Israel really showed how strange some of the English and Christian ways were. Linto also carries quite a lot on his shoulders in his adoptive tribe. His own tribe was wiped out by disease, the Wampanoag finding him as a lone survivor as a baby. His adoptive father, Metacomet (Sachem or leader of the tribe), expects much from him especially as their Powwas (spiritual leader).

Meanwhile, Israel has an interesting story arc as well. He’s suffered a horrible tragedy and feels deep spiritual guilt over it. In reaching out with compassion and mutual respect (for not only the nearby Native Americans but also the Quakers in a nearby colony), he loses face with the Puritans. His life spirals out of control but much later in the book he finds his feet again and is able to provide a key piece of info to Linto about an event that happened a generation ago involving Metacomet’s older brother Wamsutta. Massasoit, Metacomet’s father, had welcomed the Puritans to the area 50 years ago. Both Israel and Linto want very much to preserve a peace between the Wampanoag and the English colonists. However, the Wampanoag have legitimate gripes with a colonist they refer to as Skunk Genitals. This, among other serious issues, could undo that peace.

There are a few female characters in this story and one or two of them even have spoken lines. Yes, this tale is woefully light on gender balance. The ladies during this time were important too and it’s a bit sad to see them overlooked. Despite this weakness, I still enjoyed this novel once I settled into it.

Towards the end, there is some courtroom drama which I felt would change the future one way or another. The author did a great job of building the suspense and not giving away how things would turn out. Since I haven’t studied this part of history, I really appreciated this. While I had heard of King Philip’s war in passing, I never really understood what it meant. Now I have a solid idea of what events lead up to it. I’m looking forward to Book 2 to see how things continue to unfold.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Angus Freathy was a good fit for this book. He has a variety of English accents that suited the various English colonists. He kept each character distinct. His female character voices were lacking femininity though. There is a little bit of singing which I quite enjoyed. 

What I Liked: Cover art; a much over-looked time period made clearer; the culture clash so clearly laid out; various religious believes; the Wampanoag get equal page time with the English colonists; compelling story, so much so I look forward to Book 2. 

What I Disliked: The first part is very thick with religion; very few ladies and they all have tiny roles, mostly as romantic interests.

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

River City Blues by Ward Howarth

Narrator: Ward Paxton

Publisher: Ward Howarth (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Author’s Page

1944 Richmond, Virginia is a gritty place and the local police department is part of that grit. Detective Bennie Sherwood has a lot of issues – his farther was murdered in the line of duty, he’s suffering from PTSD from his time at Guadalcanal, and now a friend has died in a suspicious manner. How crooked is the PD? How much can he rely on the intel on the black market? Bennie will have to figure it all out once he’s framed for murder, or go into hiding and never have his answers.

This was a pretty good noir detective story and I liked that our main character, Bennie, had so many issues. He’s suffering from PTSD well before our society really knew what that was and how to deal with it. The murder of his father, Detective Samuel Sherwood, is a big painful throbbing question mark in his life that is only 5 months old. But he’s got a job to do. He and his partner Detective Niles Hunter are set up to raid the black market along with Detectives Mills & Reed. However, things don’t go as expected there either. Skipper Holly, an old friend of Bennie’s father, is part of the black market and he’s mortally wounded during the raid. His presence there shakes Bennie up pretty badly. Right off the bat, I was caught up in this tale. I felt immersed in Sherwood’s world.

The Victory Squad and the wartime crime it was created to fight really fascinated me. I hadn’t really thought about how certain limited supplies during the wartime would have such a violent-riddled black market. There’s cheats and thieves and dealers in such numbers that you can’t help but trip over them. I really felt the author did his research homework and brought that to life in this novel. The missing gasoline was a nice side mystery.

The tale does have one weakness and that is the lack of female characters. I would have liked to see more of the ladies even if we do have one woman who’s a mechanic and a cab driver. She’s also a romantic interest and much of her page time is spent in that role.

The story includes some racism, sexism, and homophobia that was prevalent during the 1940s. I felt it was realistically portrayed without being gratuitous. I appreciate the author not veering away from this bit of historical accuracy. Humans are flawed, even our hero Bennie. I did get a kick out of how the acronyms SNAFU, FUBAR, and SUSFU were cleaned up a bit, substituting ‘fouled’ for the F word. While not necessary for me, I’m sure others appreciate it.

I liked the mystery surrounding Jedidiah King and his King Tobacco cigarettes. Skipper worked for him and that makes him a person of interest in the ongoing black market investigations. I also liked the Police Chief, The Cane, since he acts like a loud, demanding police chief. While such common character types sometimes made the story a bit predictable, it also felt like I was reading an old friend. It was easy to sink into this story.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Ward Paxton makes a really good noir detective. His voice for Bennie is a bit more gentle than the other cops, but since we get Bennie’s inner thoughts, I felt this was appropriate. Paxton did great with the regional accents of the time and place as well, keeping all the characters distinct. There were few females but I felt they could have used a touch more femininity in the narration.

What I Liked: The setting (it was turbulent times); Bennie’s life is full of interesting characters; plenty of mysteries surrounding the black market; the historical accuracy for the times.

What I Disliked: Could have used more female characters and ones that aren’t there for comfort or romance.

Exodus by Kimberly A. Bettes

Narrator: Rick Gregory

Publisher: Clifford Bettes (2017)

Length: 7 hours 29 minutes

Author’s Page

Set during the Great Depression, this horror historical fiction follows the Carlson family as they try to survive the biggest mistake of their lives. They stopped at a small mining town in Arizona (Exodus) on their way to California where they hoped to be hired on as fruit pickers. Now they have to do their best to survive Frank and his murdering cannibalistic family.

This is a horror fest. It’s not for the squeamish. If you can’t handle the first chapter, then this is not the book for you. Such was not the case for me. I listened to the whole thing and was entertained, grossed out, hopeful for the main character, and wanted the despicable family that perpetrated these acts dead.

Cannibalism, murder, rape, human lactation fascination, and incest make up this story. Frank’s family owns and runs the little diner in Exodus as well as the thrift store where they sell those items they take off of their victims. Frank’s mom is a loud, heavy handed matriarch that rules over her kids. Frank’s brother and his sister carry of an affair that they have to hide from Frank, since he gets rather jealous if his sister/lover even looks at another man. Yep, it’s one severely messed up family.

Sometimes the creepiness was a bit excessive like it was pushed to such a height simply to get a reaction out of the reader instead of moving the story forward. Occasionally it was gratuitous horror but over all I enjoyed the tale. I was really rooting for Anne, hoping she would get out of this hell hole with her baby James.

Speaking of them, this story was extra creepy for me because so many of the names match names of my family members. My paternal grandparents (also named John and Anne) were migrant farmers from Tennessee that went out to California to work in the fruit orchards. I have lots of cousins in small mining towns in Arizona because of this migration. My dad is also named James, though he was born in the 1940s instead of the 1930s. The characters John and Anne lost their first born daughter Sarah due to illness. My sister is named Sarah. So, yeah, talk about creepy! Now I want to ask my dad if there are any stories from that migration that the family doesn’t like to talk about.

Initially, I hoped that one of the Exodus siblings might turn good and help Anne, John, and James escape. Frank’s sister was the most likely candidate however she has a lot of serious character flaws to overcome. I did find that I was a bit squeamish about people suckling on Anne (she’s lactating for baby James). It didn’t bother me when it happened in Grapes of Wrath but here it feels like a violation instead of sharing nutrition.

Perhaps 2/3 of the way through, we get an info dump on Frank and his motivations. He’s this big monstrous object doing horrible things for most of the book and then we get a peak inside his head. I would have liked a bit more of that behind-the-scenes stuff in the first 2/3 of the book instead of one big info dump. Still, we got to know Frank a bit more before the big, messy finale. The ending was a good solid one that wraps up any questions. If you’re in the mood for a good jolt of horror to the system, then this in your book. I will be avoiding meat at small diners for a while.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a great job with this book. His female voices are feminine and distinct. He has individual voices for each of the characters and he’s so good at being scared and determined, or disgusting and sly, or angry and violent with his voice. He also went the extra mile and did a little special affect that included Frank’s favorite song that he likes to work to – ‘Ain’t We Got Fun’. He plays it in just the right moments and in little snippets so it doesn’t eclipse the narration.

What I Liked: Small Arizona mining town; Depression Era; John & Anne & baby James; Frank and his family are so easy to hate; initially, there might be hope for one of Frank’s siblings; the ending was solid; great narration.

What I Disliked: Some of the horror was for shock factor only; big info dump on Frank late in the book.

What Others Think:

Lomeraniel Audiobook Reviews

MyListens.com

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

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The Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Cafe

Speed-Reading Book Nerd Reviews

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Ray Saunders, Author Of Winds West

Folks, please give a warm welcome to Ray Saunders. He’s here to share not only his novel, Winds West, but also a mostly non-fiction account of frontier life in Colorado (Gunnison Country) written by his mother, Betty Wallace. Don’t forget to check out the ebook giveaway at the end of the post!

What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?

No real mystery in my past, but Alternate History would be me having decided to be a poet instead of a computer maven. It would be a very convoluted plot, involving Greenwich Village, off-grid living in the Rockies and becoming God.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold?

The lost contents of the Library of Alexandria and every poet since 500BC.

What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?

I would prefer to forget my teen years, but if I had to pick it would probably be the 1920s for the radical politics.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

Liza from Winds West would get along well with Sayward Luckett from Conrad Richter’s The Awakening Land trilogy. Both were strong women who knew what they wanted and had the courage to go after it.

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

The movies Amalie or Casablanca. And any of Maurice Walsh’s writingThe Quiet Man, The Small Dark Man, Trouble in the Glen, etc. (I love the way the Irish use the English language, both in prose and poetry. The Scots, on the other hand, use English like they still hold a grudge over Culloden).

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

The Americas before European contact.
Central Asia before Islam.
Celtic Europe before Caesar.

If you could own a famous or historical art work, what would it be? Would you put it on public display or keep it privately?

Picasso’s Guernica – displayed as publicly as possible.

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

John Masters, Maurice Walsh, Stephen Vincent Benet, Charles Bowden and A.A.Milne.

We’d all eat pizza. And drink lots of wine.

Care 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?

I always gush over my favorite writers at every opportunity, to the point of irritating those who’ve heard me for the umpteenth time. (I think it’s more awkward for them than for me). Don’t know if this counts, but a young lady wrote a glowing review of Winds West, albeit expressing surprise at my “uncanny insight into the female psyche”. LOL

Places to Find Ray Saunders

Website

Steele Park Press Facebook

Ray’s Facebook

GoodReads

Amazon

About the Author:

I grew up in a small western town, steeped in both pioneer culture and writing, my mother being a reporter, editor, English teacher and local historian. By the time I finished high school I was well versed in poetry and the Beat Generation, properly prepared to appreciate the ‘60s in Greenwich Village, which added folk music to the mix. To pay the bills, I spent 50 years doing cutting-edge computer work, then retired and now I’m back to writing poetry and songs and the occasional novel.

Book Blurb for Winds West

Home maker at 10, grown at 15 – what future awaits Liza as she head West? Young woman goes West on a voyage of self-discovery. “Winds West is a thoughtful account of Liza Woods, a young woman’s coming of age story set in early 20th century Ohio. At 13, Liza takes a job as a governess/housekeeper, but has a wisdom beyond her years. She yearns for the freedom generally afforded only to men, however, and what follows is her subsequent journey to Colorado, where she settles down, making a life for herself on the frontier.” – Granny’s Pantry review.

Book Blurb for Gunnison Country:

History of Gunnison Colorado and surrounding areas. Betty Wallace was born near Lake City, CO, in 1913. She spent her youth among the ranchers and miners who settled the Gunnison Country. Herself a child of pioneers, she understood the world they faced and how they coped. As a reporter and editor she worked to preserve the stories of those early days, from the displacement of the Native American by gold-seekers to the uranium prospectors of the 1950s. She researched the old newspapers and interviewed many Old Timers in a tireless effort to make sure their stories were preserved for future generations.

GIVEAWAY!

Ray is offering up one ebook copy of Winds West and one ebook copy of Gunnison Country. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments to be entered into the giveaway. 1) What special collections would the library of your dreams hold? 2) Which book would you prefer to win (Winds West or Gunnison Country)? This giveaway is open world wide and ends August 1, 2017, midnight.

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The Whole Art of Detection by Lindsay Faye

Chupa sitting proud.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: HighBridge (2017)

Length: 11 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This collection of Holmes & Watson stories is charming, entertaining, and fulfills my need for stories of this great literary duo. The book is divided into 4 parts. Before Baker Street has stories of the time before the two met each other but they are told in a style that shows the two men know each other now and are sharing these past adventures.

In The Early Years part, Watson and Holmes have their first cases together, still working out their professional relationship and building a friendship.

The Return shows us Watson’s anger and distress at over losing both Holmes to Reichenbach Falls and his beloved wife Mary to illness, yet to find out that Holmes was still alive is well done. I don’t believe I have ever seen Watson so hurt and angry, and rightly so!

Finally in The Later Years, these stories feel like the traditional Doyle stories where Watson and Holmes work well together, have a solid friendship, and can still irritate one another from time to time.

feel like the traditional Doyle stories where our heroes are master sleuths and get along well with each other’s peculiar quirks.

The Case of Colonel Warburton’s MadnessWatson is attempting to entertain Holmes with a tale of his past before he met him. Set in the Wild West, Watson describes some strange goings on with Colonel Warburton and how this upsets his doting daughter. I really enjoyed this tale as I would like to see some alternate history where Watson and Holmes spend years in the desert Southwest solving cases. 5/5

The Adventure of the Magical MenagerieHolmes really does have a heart and it shows in this one. We can also see why he keeps it tucked away most times. Definitely an interesting way to hide your illegally gotten goods! It wasn’t my favorite but it was still good. 4/5

The Adventure of the Vintner’s CodexThis story really felt like a match for the original Doyle collection. Holmes can be a complete irritation to Watson and his way of ‘apologizing’ is to tell Watson a tale of stolen music. Parts were charming and heartfelt and a few times I chuckled. 4/5

The Adventure of the Honest WifeI really enjoyed this one! Sure, Holmes sometimes goes on about the ‘weaker sex’ and yet he often tries to set aside his harsher self to help a lady out.. unless he thinks her faithless. Watson notes how Holmes has an aversion for the female gender entirely. There were some great twists in this one. 5/5

The Adventure of the Beggar’s FeastThis was also a favorite story of the batch. I have often wondered what it would be like if Holmes was a father figure for someone and this story helps to answer that. I love that he was a bit flustered when Watson figures out what he was doing. I can even picture Holmes blushing. 5/5

Memoranda Upon the Gaskell Blackmailing DilemmaThis is one of the tales told from Holmes’s point of view and I get such a chuckle out of his straight forward, honest, and yet often acerbic observations of people and their activities. While Watson is off dealing with the hounds on the moors of Baskerville, Holmes has to sort out a blackmailer. There were some surprises to this one. 5/5

The Lowther Park MysteryOK, this one was just cute. It was fun but went by really fast. He’s been maneuvered into attending a social dinner party that’s brimming with important people. Watson gently teases him over his distaste of socializing. Engineering a charade, he uses that distraction to foil the plans of some nefarious people. This story also introduces Holmes’s brother Mycroft. The plot was a bit light on details. 4/5

An Empty HouseLestrade makes an appearance in this sad tale. It’s from Watson’s journal during the time shortly after his wife passed away. It’s a weighty piece, probably being the saddest story in the bunch. 4/5

The Adventure of the Memento MoriThis story showed the depths of the friendship between Watson and Holmes and also how hurt Watson was over Holmes’s presumed death. There’s acknowledgement, regret, and acceptance. Of course, there’s this deliciously creepy mystery going on as well. 5/5

Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James PhillimoreThis was a quick and fun tale. I guessed early on what was going on but it was interesting to see Watson put it all together. I do believe that Holmes had guessed the truth of the matter early on but was letting Watson gather up evidence to support his supposition. 4/5

The Adventure of the Willow BasketIt’s interesting to see Holmes’s rationale for handing off credit for solving various mysteries to Lestrade. Not that Lestrade is stupid but sometimes he portrayed as heavy-handed or a bit bumbling. I liked Faye’s take on his character in this story. Leeches. Gotta watch out for those leeches! 4/5

The Adventure of the Lightless MaidenThe Victorian age was in love with the supernatural and it’s quite fun to see what Holmes and Watson make out of a case that apparently involves a ghost. I enjoyed the technical aspects to it. Photography was really coming into it’s own at this time as well. 4/5

The Adventure of the Thames TunnelFor some reason, this one didn’t really stand out to me yet I don’t know why. Usually I enjoy tales that feature a shadowy organized criminal element, such as the Iron Hand in this story. There’s a jewel thief dead in the Thames Tunnel and our hero duo has only questions to get them started on the mystery. There’s revenge at the heart of the matter. It was fun but not one that stood out for me.  3/5

The Adventure of the Mad BaritoneThis was an unexpected one. It was a bit twisted and I totally agreed with Holmes’s anger over how the homeless opera singer was treated and a distressed woman was tricked and cheated. Holmes and Watson were very decent in how they revealed the truth to the woman and also assisting the singer. 5/5

Notes Upon the Diadem Club Affair Here we have the second story told from Holmes’s point of view, which I really enjoyed. In fact, I wish we had more stories from his point of view. Watson is always so polite and usually kind, so I enjoy these tales that shine a harsher light on all the participants. The mystery was OK but the story was pure fun. 5/5

This is a pretty good collection of Holmes & Watson stories. While there is no one central female character of note (though Mrs. Hudson puts in a few appearances), the female characters come from a variety of backgrounds and with varying degrees of intelligence. Even when I felt this or that character was rather gullible, they were still very human. The ladies weren’t merely filler or someone to be saved or assisted. Often they added to the mystery.

It was really great to see Watson’s medical expertise come into play more than once. Some authors give this skill set a mere nod or simply pass it on by. Not so here, thankfully! Watson worked hard for his medical knowledge. It should be put to use.

All together, I enjoyed this collection of stories more than I expected. This anthology provides depth to the beloved duo.

I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing.

The Narration: Simon Vance is absolutely lovely to listen to. I loved his clipped voice for Holmes and his warm, caring voice for Watson. He had a variety of accents and his female voices were mostly believable. He kept all the characters distinct and did a great job portraying the emotions of Watson and Holmes.

What I Liked: The stories cover the many years of their friendship and then some; a dabble of the paranormal; Sherlock’s secret heart where it concerns wronged women and homeless kids; Watson’s anger and sadness over losing his wife and Holmes; healing the rift between the two; helping Lestrade build his career; the stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What I Disliked: I would have enjoyed a few more stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What Others Think: 

The John H Watson Society

Reading Reality

Book Page

Criminal Element

The Baker Street Babes

Rhapsody in Books

Historical Novel Society

Booker Worm

20 Something Reads

Naamah’s Curse Part IV

The read along continues with Naamah’s Curse, Book 2 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 48-64, so be prepared for spoilers below!

 

1) Moirin makes some new friends on the way to Rasa. What do you think will come of her decision to entrust them with the jade medallion? Do you see this as a betrayal of trust or do you think the Emperor would understand?

I think that any time the Emperor sends a traveler away with one of his jade medallions, he knows it could well end up in the hands of others. Perhaps this is a unique way to bring outsiders into Chi’in, providing them safe conduct. I bet he or his guards stationed around the country get to meet lots of random people this way.

I expect Moirin made the right choice in giving up the medallion to get one step closer to Bao and that these traders will do something worthy with it.

2) On her way to the Lady of Rats, Moirin ends up in a dangerous caravan. What are your thoughts on what happened, both with the assault and the illness?

Well, we all knew that the caravan leader was a shifty guy since everyone was concerned about Moirin traveling with his caravan, including herself. So the attempted assault doesn’t come as a surprise… tho I was a bit surprised that Moirin wasn’t really prepared for it. She did well and didn’t complain about losing all the little niceties she had become accustomed to. Later on, she seeks his counsel briefly but I felt that was quite awkward. Still, she needed as much info as she could get. And yet I feel the caravan leader deserved more punishment. He won’t try that again with Moirin but he will with the next woman who catches his eye and isn’t under someone else’s protection.

Sounds like she had some altitude sickness and that lead into some lung infection, perhaps pneumonia.

3) Is seems that caste/class is going to be a major point in this story. Even if Amrita agrees that the caste system may not be just, do you think there’s anything that she and Moirin can do about it? Do you see any path to happiness for Jagrati and/or do you think she deserves to be defeated?

I think Moirin is the spark to start the change of how the caste system is handled (and I suspect abused by some). I doubt the caste system will be done away with in Moirin’s lifetime. The caste system as presented here is too rigid and doesn’t allow for any mobility and keeps a chunk of the population locked into servitude of the lowest kind. It definitely needs reforming and in an ideal world, I would want it gone entirely. Moirin is right when she says that barring the lowest caste from their gods is cruel. I hope Amrita can come to see this and start to make some changes, setting the example herself.

Well, Jagrati was poorly treated, as so many are who are born into a low caste. That should be acknowledged but that doesn’t mean Jagrati gets away with all the naughty things she’s done. Her anger and frustration are a product of the caste system; what actions she took because of those emotions are her responsibility.

4) There is a lot of passion in Kushiel’s Legacy, but the sex scene in this section doesn’t involve much. Given all of the focus on “love as thou wilt”, what do you think about Amrita’s gift and it’s acceptance by Naamah? What do you think about the idea of sex without desire, but for compassionate purposes?

It’s interesting that we have a pity fuck thrown in here, isn’t it? It’s very nicely done, with both participants caring for each other even if Amrita has no passion for it. Compassion is a form of love and Amrita is compassion personified. That’s why she can be so accepting of Naamah’s presence even as she feels no true desire for Moirin. Carey does a great job of showing one more side to Naamah with this coupling.

5) Bao returns! I think we were all a little irritated with him for his Tatar adventures. Do his actions here change your opinion of him? Do you think he has escaped Jagrati’s diamond for good?

I think Moirin should have yelled at him in frustration and called him ‘Stupid Boy!’ during the first meeting. Even with Jagrati there, that stood a good chance of getting through to him. As it was, it was pretty amusing how he suddenly realizes it really is her and then passes out from illness.

Obviously, he went off seeking her and his heart was broken when he thought she died. So, yeah, I like the guy once again even if he’s still a bit thick skulled. He’s finally figured out what he wants and he wants Moirin.

No, I don’t think he’s fully free of Jagrati’s influence but the only way to test that is to put Bao in front of Jagrati and her diamond once again. For now, he has to shake off the opium, which will be a big enough challenge.

Other Tidbits:

Amrita’s son Javindra (spelling?) seems like a bright lad that will be able to lead his people one day.

Chess! Yay!

A temple full of rats. Hmm… so who cleans the temple if the lowest caste isn’t allowed in?

 

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

Owl Dance by David Lee Summers

Narrator: Edward Mittelstedt

Publisher: Sky Warrior Publishing LLC (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clockwork Legion

Author’s Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Others Think: 

RJ Blain

Steampunk Journal

Steampunk Junkies