Interview: J. Bridger, Author of Shifted Perspective

BridgerShiftedPerspectiveEveryone, please give a warm welcome to J. Bridger, author of Shifted Perspective, one of my favorite reads of 2012. As can be found on Bridger’s website, this is her first novel, which is about a young man, Caleb, who discovers that he is a shifter, that it runs in his family on his mother’s side, and that he turns into an adorable Cocker spaniel. Please enjoy; I know I did.

1) I have noticed a trend in Paranormal Fantasy over the past several years to nearly always have the main paranormal character to be really powerful and also eye candy. I can’t but help that you did something very different in Shifted Perspective. Will you tell us why you walked a different path with your Cocker spaniel hero?

Well, I do love those stories about a “Chosen One.” I do want to make that perfectly clear. I adore Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I like Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix is one of my favorite novels of all time. I think there’s definitely a time and place for the strongest or the predestined hero. This just wasn’t that story.
 
I figured in the supernatural world, there just had to be an every man (or every woman) type who was just spending the days trying to do everything he could to avoid having his butt kicked. 

Also, I think it’s an Edward Cullen knee-jerk reflex. I don’t think Caleb is unattractive in my novel, if a little gangly. I just sometimes get tired of the dark and mysterious brooding teen guy archetype so Caleb’s definitely not that either.

2) Having spent time as an intern in a Bolivian mental hospital and also as a tour guide at a lemur research center, can you tell us how these experiences have/still are influencing your writing?

Right now? Not as much since I haven’t explored mental conditions or, well, lemurs in my writing. However, I do think working in the psych field in general has given me a good idea for how people do act and what’s just a true-to-life reaction and what’s just over the top fantasy/falls flat.

3) In Shifted Perspective, one of the shifters decided to have her tail bobbed. In general, how does that work with the healing and regenerative abilities of shifters in the world you created?

Ha-ha!

 

Some of this is getting answered in the sequel I’m working on called Second Skin. I have thought a lot about what the shifters, even the lowly canines, can do and can’t do, what they can heal from. I will say we’ll get a bigger look at that as we go and that, for instance, if Kalista had tried to get her tail bobbed as an adult with all her abilities fully intact, it wouldn’t have stuck. They definitely have better healing than humans, but I’ll wait to have people read where those limits really lie.

4) From the world of books and from the world of science, who are some of the major influences in your work?

As far as writing, I know it’s trite, but I have to say Stephen King. I reread his On Writing constantly and have taken it to heart for years. I love his short stories best, actually, and have devoured all of his anthologies. My favorite is probably either Everything’s Eventual or Nightmares and Dreamscapes
 
I also love Hemingway and take great comfort from his quote that “The first draft of anything is shit.If he can write shit, why am I better than that?

From science? Actually from psychology, I’d love to explore more from Carl Jung. I don’t think his dream analysis/dream archetype and collective unconsciousness theories have much scientific merit, but they’d be fascinating to explore in different stories and books.

 5) What future works can we expect? (Yes, I am prying!)

Well, this is where I promote Second Skin, the sequel to Shifted Perspective, that I wanted out in the winter but will probably get delayed until April or May. It’s going to have mystery, snark, and mayhem just like last time, but now Caleb’s deeper into the shifter world, has his own debts and entanglements to deal with, especially with Althea, and is going to have his life complicated by the arrival of a selkie in L.A.

 

Also, there will be a Tails of Change Christmas anthology out in November of 2013. Again, it was a goal to try and have it up for this Christmas but it didn’t happen so I have that (and an already commissioned gorgeous cover by Rebecca Weaver) to tempt readers next Holiday Season.

6) As a student of the Spanish language, can we expect to see some Spanish or Spanglish in your forthcoming works? I know just enough textbook Spanish to say, ‘Tengo un gato malo en me pantolones.’

Mis pantolones 😉

Actually, yes, that would have fit with my talk of future novels. I’m workshopping an idea with my writers’ group about a Bolivian half-demon and her relationship with her whole human half sibling. It’s still in the building stages and outlining, but I’d love to have it as something to publish/be publish ready by the end of 2013. 
 

It will have a bit of Spanglish throw in and try to look also at her being of Bolivian descent, but I won’t abuse the Spanish asides and interjections!

7) Of course, I have to ask: Do you have a Cocker spaniel or two in your life?

Actually, that’s the irony. I don’t really like Cocker Spaniels. A friend of mine loaned me the idea of having a Cocker main hero (hence my dedication to C.E. in the book). She has Cockers and likes them; I prefer my Yorkies and half-beagle. Penny’s a beagle because my dog, Snoopy is (mostly).

The Eye of the World Read Along Part IV

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Welcome back everyone! This week Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings is our host and provided the questions. She’ll have a link up for bloggers participating along with her entertaining answers. And in case you haven’t heard, we are hosting an audiobook giveaway of 1 Wheel of Time book (except A Memory of Light) and you can find that over HERE. If you want to check out the schedule for The Eye of the World or want to sign up for weekly previews of the questions, you can find both over HERE. Now, without further ado, here is this week’s discussion.
1. Moraine and Lan were discussing how the Trollocs could be amassing such large numbers and other strange occurrences such as the Forsaken and possible opposition from the White Tower early in this section. What do you think about all of these revelations?
Damn! These kids could be getting into more trouble that Lan and Moiraine have let on. Add to the variety of opposition they face, Lan and Moiraine don’t seem to have all the answers, such as how the trollocs are moving about without raising cry and hew throughout the countryside. I am not sure Lan and Moiraine are wise to keep the kids in the dark. Like at spooky city, Shadar Logoth, perhaps Rand, Mat, and Perrin would have benefited from knowing a little more about why the trollocs would be hesitant to enter the city.
2. Turns out a side effect of using magic is taking foolish chances and acting giddy, sound like any boys we know? What do you think is happening to Rand? Mat?
Well, I definitely think Rand may be coming into his magic, but what brand? I mean, is Aes Sedai the only kind of magic Rand can tap into? I am not sure since we met Elyas, who doesn’t seem to be using The One Power. As for Mat, I think he is still a reckless prankster. I’m sure that will play into something serious later on and perhaps Mat will learn to reduce the magnitude and frequency of his pranks. Now Mat also has that dagger of Mordeth’s, so I have to wonder if some of his anti-social behavior is due to some malevolent influence of that dagger.
Waffles in a rare serious mood.
Waffles in a rare serious mood.

3. Egwene and Perrin end up wandering very far afield, why do you think the land is so thoroughly abandoned? Not just of people, but also of animals, if we assume that Perrin isn’t that horrible of a tracker ;-)?

I expect that both Perrin and Egwene are both reasonable trackers, having lived a chunk of their lives exploring the wilderness around Two Rivers. As for the lack of wildlife in the area, perhaps there is something afoot that scared them off…..like a motley crew of trollocs? Or something worse? I’m going to go with something worse because the trollocs seem to be loud and somewhat clumsy…and wouldn’t there be hoof prints?
4. Elyas and his wolves! What do you think of this new type of magic and Perrin’s new skills? How about what Elyas said about “Old things coming again” and the Aes Sedai not being happy about it?
It’s pretty obvious that Perrin is startled and perplexed by his abilities with the wolves. And I can’t say whether Elyas is really a friend per se or just in the run because of his curiosity of Perrin. Again, I get the impression that Elyas had some run in with Aes Sedai sometime back and now paints them all with the same brush. As to the ‘Old things coming again,’ I think this goes along with the references to the Wheel of Time, and some perpetual battle.
5. Rand had another dream, but we can’t be sure if the other boys did or not…. In it there was mention of the Eye of the World serving him, what do you think the Eye of the World is? Any other ideas for what this dream meant?
Even tho I read this years ago, I simply don’t remember most of it, like what the Eye of the World is. I’m going to say that it is significant as the book is named after it. I think it’s pretty obvious that Serious Bad Dude Whose Name I Can’t Spell On The Fly is focusing on Rand more than the other kids. If Serious Bad Dude is telling Rand that the Eye will not serve him, then I think there is some potential that there is and Serious Bad Dude is concerned about that.
6. Domon told many tales about fantastic sights across the land, which was your favorite? 😀
Haha! I’ve warmed up to Domon despite his all-but-required threats to throw Rand, Mat, and Thom off when they first met. I like the Tanchico animal bones story the best. I mean, I can take the bones of a turkey, an elk, and a coyote and string them all together in some fanciful beast. Wait, didn’t some folks in the 1800s do that in England and claim that dragons were real?
7. The Tinkers’ had an interesting and scary tale to tell. What do you think about this new omen about the Dark One? Why do you think the Tinkers’ thought Elyas would know more?
Couple the Tinkers’ tale with Rand’s dream, and the title of the book, obviously, the Eye of the World is pretty darn important. I like the idea of warrior women, like with society acceptance and training. The Tinkers probably know something about Elyas, more than we have been made privy to. And because of this knowledge, like perhaps Elyas travels far and wide, the Tinkers were hoping to hear more from Elyas.
Other Tidbits:
I thought Moiraine’s and Nynaeve’s conversation in Chapter 21 was amusing and enlightening. It was also good to learn more of both women.

The Prodigal Son by Colleen McCullough

McCulloughProdigalSonWhy I Read It: I read The Thorn Birds years ago and was impressed with it. It was time to revisit this author.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: This was a great, twisted multiple murder mystery which I think mystery and suspense fans would enjoy.

Narrator: Charles Leggett

Publisher: AudioGo (2012)

Length: 10 CDs

Series: Book 4 Carmine Delmonico

Set in 1969 Holloman, Connecticut, this murder mystery puts Captain Carmine Delmonico on a quest to solve a multiple murder case, featuring plenty of prime suspects. Dr. Millie Hunter and her husband Dr. Jim Hunter are both biochemists; Jim is a star scientist and soon to publish what is commonly believed will be a best seller while his wife is a highly competent lab technician and scientist in her own right. In the course of her neuroscience research, Millie had extracted a deadly toxin, tetrodotoxin, from blowfish, which was mysteriously stolen, and then put to nefarious deeds.

While this is Book 4 in the series, it stands on it’s own quite well. Indeed, I have not read the other books in this series and had no problems at all jumping right into this book. Colleen McCullough managed to intrigue me right away with several points: the class differences between the Hunters and the Tunbulls; Millie and Jim are a long-term white and black couple; there’s a very nasty neurotoxin on the loose! In 1969, there were not that many mixed-race couples, nor too many female scientists. Both points come to bear in the tale and McCullough uses them realistically. Also, Max Tunbull married a Russian woman, Davina, some many years younger than himself, and her mixed heritage comes to play an interesting, yet important, side note in this mystery.

Carmine Delmonico and his crew of investigators are an interesting lot. Carmine himself is very level-headed and often puts Delia, a British woman with one of the oddest dress-sense I have ever seen, on the case. Indeed, because she is a woman, she sometimes has access to certain information that a male investigator would not. Carmine’s wife, Desdemona, is also a source of wisdom and comfort in this murder mystery. How I would love to be invited to Desdemona’s table for dinner!

Throw in a long-lost son, a cruel-tongued cousin, Davina’s maid Uda (spelling?) who may be more than she seems, a New York gangster, and Chubb University Head Scholar and you have a twisty, elegant, and very human mystery on your hands. This book was riveting to listen to, not because of the body count, but because McCullough captures the human nature so well in her motivations.

The narrator, Charles Leggett, was quite excellent. I enjoyed his accents (Russian, British, and New York gangster). His range of voices for ladies and gents was also quite good, giving Millie a distinct voice.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: Conflict every where!; there were plenty of twists and turns and motivations for killing someone; the gruesome portrayal of death by neurotoxin; Desdemona’s cooking; there were things I hated about Davina and things that I greatly admired about her; watching Delmonico and crew do their magic in catching the killer.

What I Disliked: The ending was a little predictable.

This is part of the weekly Read & Review Hop hosted by Anya over at On Starhips and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by her blog to read other great reviews.

Guest Posting Elsewhere: Brian Stableford

StablefordCriticalThresholdHeya everyone, Andrea over at The Little Red Reviewer was very cool to ask me to provide a guest post for Vintage SciFi Month. This is my second year participating in this reading event, and I have to say it is one of my favorite annual events. It’s going on all month, so if you have some scifi books that were originally published 1979 or before, this is a great reason to read and chat about them with a blogger community doing the same thing all month.

My post, which you can read by clicking HERE, is on Brian Stableford. I recently discovered his works, even though he has been around for decades. I know, I life under a rock. It’s the third on the left down the road from yours 😉

So far, I have been enamored by the man’s Daedalus Mission books, of which I have read The Florians and Critical Threshold. Wildside Press has been reissuing these in ebook format, with amazing covers.

I hope you get a chance to pop over to Little Red Reviewer and read more about this great science fiction author.

Dragonflight Read Along Part I

Waffles interrupted from her nap; she was curled around her favorite heater.
Waffles interrupted from her nap; she was curled around her favorite heater.

Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting this month a read along of Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragonflight, volume 1 of The Dragonriders of Pern series. Part I of the read along covers sections I and II of the book. Carl has provided the questions and over on his site are not only his entertaining answers but also a list of other participating blogs. So make sure to stop by his site to continue the fun.

1.  I (Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings) have hosted SFF-related group reads for books by Asimov, Herbert, Sanderson and Gaiman.  This is our first group read by a female author.  What are your thoughts on McCaffrey’s handling of the male and female characters in Dragonflight?  Feel free to compare and contrast male and female characters and/or discuss various male and female characters in relations to others in the book of the same sex.

As I often find with female writers, McCaffrey treats both males and females as humans first and then throws in any sex-based differences secondly. Both Gaiman and Sanderson are also good at this skill, while Herbert and Asimov create distinctly female characters in positions of power (equal in importance to the story but lacking equally interchangeable roles with the males of the story). I enjoy all 5 of these writers immensely.

2.  F’Lar and Lessa are an interesting pair of protagonists.  What do you like and/or dislike about their interactions thus far?  What things stand out for you as particularly engaging about each character (if anything)?

They are both driven and both have a strong need to be in charge. I think F’Lar has learned to hold his desire for power in check and await the right moment, while Lessa is still hasty in her decisions and is definitely driven by her need for revenge. Lessa’s callous behavior toward’s Fax’s wife Gemma came back to bother her, which showed me that Lessa can grow as a character. Yet, then we see F’Lar’s callous behavior towards Ruatha’s watch weyr as he dies trying to protect Lessa. I like that these main characters are not perfect heroes from the beginning with polished feelings and the ability to intuit others on a moment’s observation. They are rough, and perhaps that is what Pern needs right now.

3.  How do you feel about Pern to this point in the story?  For those new to Pern, you may want to discuss your speculations/thoughts on the Red Star and on the between here.  What are your thoughts on McCaffrey’s world-building?

I like how there are small indications that the current civilization has lost some knowledge to the past. I study maps in books, so I was quite pleased there was one at the front of this book. In looking at this map and counting all the Weyrs in the northern hemisphere, I have to wonder why there is only 1 in the southern hemisphere. I read this book when I was a teen, and I am happily surprised at all the details I have forgotten, including the mystery of the southern Weyr. I enjoy how McCaffrey shows us her world of Pern and doesn’t simply lay out all the facts for us in some boring internal monologue or narrative. With that said, there are times when I feel that perhaps the editors pulled out too much and could have given McCaffery another 50-100 pages to play with.

4.  For those new to Dragonflight, was their anything that particularly surprised you with the narrative choices, etc. thus far?  For those who have already read Dragonflight, how do you feel about  your return to Pern?  What stands out in your revisit?

As I read through this tale for my 2nd time at roughly 20 years apart, I can look on with amusement at how I used this book as a vocabulary lesson in my early teens. Various words stick out now as they did then, and I remember making a long list to go look up the next morning in the 30 pound dictionary we kept in the living room. Incumbent, midden, legumes, gravid, indolence, etc.

Many of the details of the story I have forgotten. I do remember my excitement of riding flying dragons, the curious nature of the Threads, Lessa’s temper and courage. All those things are still there. I do find myself wishing for more details here, or further character development there – things I didn’t notice missing as a kid.

5.  Discuss anything else that you feel passionate to discuss that wasn’t included in your responses to the above questions.

Back when I read this book in my early teens, I was fascinated by the references to ‘dragon roused’ and the mating flight and what that meant for the humans. Now, as an adult with a full understanding of such human relations, I can look at those sections without the mystery. Yet they still add to the overall story and the worldbuilding of Pern and life with sentient dragons. Truly, this is about the survival of dragonkind as Pern knows it and of carrying on the dragonrider livelihood. I am glad that Anne McCaffrey did not gloss over this significant part of human complexity.

The Wheel of Time Audiobook Giveaway

JordanEyeOfWorldAudioYep. The first giveaway on this blog, and it’s a great one. As most of you know, Anya over at On Starships and Dragonwings and I are hosting a massive read along of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. In fact, we are only up to Chapter 20 (not even half way) into Book 1, The Eye of the World. MacMillan Audio heard we were doing this thing and approached Anya, asking if we’d like to do a giveaway of one audiobook (exception is A Memory of Light) from the series. Of course, we were very excited to to do so.

Below is the rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you would like to join us in our crazy quest to read along the series, you can check out the schedule for Book 1 and sign up for the weekly email over HERE. If you’d simply like to catch up on what has been discussed so far, here are Part I, Part II, and Part III.

MacMillan Audio also provided Anya with an audioclip from The Eye of the World so that you can check out the quality over at On Starships and Dragonwings. My man and I are listening to Book 1 ourselves, and we are quite enjoying the performance.

This giveaway will run for two weeks. No comment is necessary to enter this giveaway, but comments are always appreciated ; )

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The Eye of the World Read Along Part III

eyeoftheworldbannerWelcome back everyone to the third installment of The Eye of the World Read Along. This week, we are covering Chapters 15-20. There will be SPOILERS below if you have not read this book yet. If you would like to receive the questions ahead of time in the future, you can sign up over HERE. The schedule is also available over HERE. Make sure to check out my partner in crime in this endeavor over at On Starships and Dragonwings to see what clever answers she has for us.

Without further ado:

1) In this section of the reading, we learn that Perrin and Mat are also having wicked dreams. Add to that, Min’s visions for each of those in the small party. Prophesy, portents and dreams are playing a bigger and bigger role in this epic tale. Are you enjoying this plot device?

Often in Fantasy, I see this type of plot device used as a convenient way to move the story forward, or to save the heroes from some nasty end. Robert Jordan isn’t doing that here, at least not so far, and I appreciate that. Rather the dreams, portents, and Min’s visions are building tension in the tale. I definitely feel that Rand, Perrin, and Mat are getting a bit freaked out; but these dreams, etc. don’t dictate their actions. The many, many broken-backed rats was a bit disturbing, even for me as the reader.

2) The Whitecloaks (AKA Children of the Light) make their first real appearance in the tale and of course, Mat has to play one of his tricks. Funny? Dangerous? What did you think of Rand’s reaction?

I get the impression that Mat’s jokes in the Two Rivers never truly got him in trouble, like a couple of village seniors giving their consent to let some farm wives take some sticks to Mat, etc. Does anyone else want to know what Mat and his buddy ended up doing with the badger from the beginning of the book? As for Rand, I don’t really remember this book very well, but since he is central to the story, I have to say that this may be the first glimmer of him manifesting some power. Though I am not convinced yet that Rand or the other two are male Aes Sedai.

3) Nynaeve found them! What do you think Moiraine and Nynaeve said to each other behind that closed door at the inn?

By now, I am wondering if Moiraine has some slight Jedi mind trick capability. Remember when she pressed those silver coins on the boys back in Two Rivers, insisting they take them? Well, I would have loved to see if she tried some similar thing with Nynaeve…and found it didn’t work because she is too stubborn and had to fall back on telling some of the facts, all in truth, and logic.

4) The party has to do a swift exit from the inn because of the Fade Rand saw during his milk run. How do you think they were found?

For one, they are not that far from Two Rivers. I am not sure if the Whitecloaks, while they say they spend day and night stomping on the face of evil, some number of them could be Dark Friends. Then there was that shady guy with the scar at the inn who is purportedly a spy for the Whitecloaks, and if he spies for them, he could spy for others. My last possible suspect is Padan fain, but I am just not sure. He must have run like hell to get there; didn’t he loose his horses at Two Rivers? Was the Fade just a projection? I mean, it didn’t even touch Rand and then it disappeared.

5) Moiraine burns a lot of power in these chapters: appears to become a giantess to step over the city wall; a wall of flame to hold off the Trollocs; laying a false trail; setting wards in the spooky city. Do you think this shows the limits of her powers, or has she got more to give?

Since this is such a long series, I want to say that we haven’t seen all her capabilities yet. However, this could be the edge of her current limits and circumstances later in the book/series push her beyond even what she thought she was capable of. She’s the only Aes Sedai we’ve met so far, and I am getting mighty curious to learn what others are like, in temperament and abilities.

6) A lot happens at Shadar Logoth, where the party hopes to hide from the Trollocs and Myrddral. What do you think Mordeth is? And the misty Mashadar? As Lan contemplates, the Myrddral must drive the Trollocs into the city to search for them, but what is driving the Myrddral?

Mordeth, and I assume he has buddies hiding in the city (all those eyes!), strikes me as vampire-like. He stuck to the shadows, had a odd face, needs the life force of living humans, did that trick with shadow in the treasure chamber. As far as the Mashadar goes, I am not sure. Perhaps if I had been a little more D&D nerd, I would have some monster comparison. The closest I can come to in my little world, is government paperwork. Once it touches you, you are lost in it forever, perpetual slave to it, sucked into the misty white bureaucracy.  I don’t know what is worse than a Myrddral in this collection of nasties. Perhaps there is a Balrog equivalent?

7) This section certainly leaves us on a cliff-hanger with the party separated. Worried? Perrin and Egwene found each other, but then galloped headlong into the river. Mat, Rand, and Thom made it onto a boat, The Spray, captained by Domon. Now Captain Domon makes a comment about the Trollocs following him; why do you think that is?

That whole big scene of them escaping the spooky city was nail biting. I was pretty glad that Thom was able to keep some wits and get 2 of the kids to safety. Hurray for throwing knives! though I can commiserate with Thom over loosing a favorite knife or two. That one comment by Cpt. Domon has me very curious indeed. If the Trollocs are after him, that could mean he is a good guy in a bad situation…..or it could mean that he is an idiot who double crossed some Dark Friends. I look forward to learning more about him.

Picabuche - Just a smidge demon?
Picabuche – Just a smidge demon?

Other Tidbits:

Nynaeve knows something about Rand’s parentage, or she at least suspects. Still, I was a little frustrated that Rand and Nynaeve didn’t share the fact that Rand was born outside the Two Rivers while Tam was roving with Moiraine. Or rather, shouldn’t this be something of common knowledge in such a small village? I can understand why Rand doesn’t want to share his suspicions that Tam may not be his father.

When Lan and the boys charged the Trollocs, they shouted various war cries, in foreign tongues. And afterwards, Egwene felt like she almost understood them. Moiraine translates, revealing the war cries to be of ancient Menetheren. I need to memorize something monumental in ancient Byzantine, just in case I find myself in a similar position some day.

If the Mr. Linky below is misbehaving, or out to lunch, or sitting in time out, please leave your link to your post in the comments, and I will list it in my post old school style. Thanks!

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The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov

AsimovStarsLikeDustWhy I Read It: The Currents of Space and The Foundation trilogy were worthy.

Where I Got It: My library.

Who I Recommend This To: Space-Spy-Thriller fans would enjoy this book.

Narrator: Stephen Thorne

Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America (2008)

Length: 7 hours, 22 minutes

Series: Book 1 Galactic Empire

The Galactic Empire series is made up of three very loosely connected books. In publication order they are: Pebble in the Sky (1950), The Stars, Like Dust (1951), and The Currents of Space (1952).  The series order is as follows: The Stars, Like Dust, The Currents of Space, Pebble in the Sky. Or as near as I can tell, according to the various Wikipedia articles. So far, I have read 2 of these books and each stands alone just fine. I expect Pebble in the Sky will be the same.

When I finished reading this book, my impression was that Isaac Asimov watched several black and white espionage flicks, took his 3-4 favorite plot lines, twisted them together and wrote The Stars, Like Dust, and set it in space. The characters are a bit one dimensional, the plot predictable, and cliches have a free run. I think this is one of his earliest published novels; I can tell a significant difference in his story-building skills just between this novel and The Currents of Space.

With that said, it was still fun. Biron Farrill, a young physically fit male, gets tricked into a plot deeper than he is mentally prepared for. Of course, it starts with the death of his father, which could off-set anyone. He believes he must flee his university and Earth for his own safety. Along the way, he meets unexpected friends, and certain friends unexpectedly turn out to be villains. Artemisia, daughter of a powerful ruler, is the main, er…only, love interest being the single female character of the story. She disobeys her patriarch and has a mind of her own, even if it is mainly interested in Biron’s thigh strength. In the end, the good guys win while Artemisia was taken in a swoon, poor lass.

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The narrator, Stephen Thorne, pulled off the different male voices well, with enthusiasm in the correct places. As there was only 1 lady, he only had to employ a semi-feminie voice on occassion, which worked well enough.

What I Liked: Asimov, even at his worst, is still pretty entertaining; Asimov pays attention to both male and female physique giving the ladies something to appreciate.

What I Disliked: Predictable plot; only 1 female and she doesn’t get a weapon and spends time in a faint.

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This review is part of both The Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage SciFi Month and Stainless Steel Droppings’ The Science Fiction Experience. Vintage SciFi Month runs through January while The Science Fiction Experience runs through the end of February. Make sure to stop by both blogs to see what other scifi aficionados are up to.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn

Heldig will steal anyone's body heat...if they'll hold still for it.
Heldig will steal anyone’s body heat…if they’ll hold still for it.

Why I Read It: To feed my brain, and because the cover is very cool.

Where I Got It: The Library.

Who I Recommend This To: Anyone interested in human parasites and their relationship to the immune system would enjoy this book.

Publisher: Harper Collins (2011)

Length: 290 pages

This book was incredibly fun nonfiction to read. The subtitle to the book pretty much sums it up: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today. In some ways, this book explores a healthnut’s worst taboos, like inoculating yourself on purpose with parasitic intestinal worms. How about trying to grow living mammals in a metal box to be completely free of other organisms? The mystery of the human appendix has been all but solved; it’s there to bolster your flora and fauna in the eventuality that most of the small organisms in your digestive track get wiped out, like by dysentery or heavy antibiotic use.

While of great interest to anyone with a bioscience bend, you don’t have to be scientifically minded to enjoy this book. Indeed, the concepts contained in this work are laid out for everyone to enjoy and access. In fact, Rob Dunn often waxes nearly poetic in his passion to imbue this book, and his readers, with knowledge. There are also many footnotes containing esoteric, yet highly amusing, information. For centuries, humans have tried to live apart from the world, cleaning, dousing, shaving, medicating away any other living organism on or near our pristine bodies. But perhaps that has not been the wisest course; after all, the human body, and it’s immune system, evolved over millennium to coexist with these little, microscopic organisms. In this book, this taboo subject is covered.

Here are some tidbits I learned from this book: Depending on your gut fauna, you may be able to extract up to 30% more calories from the exact same portioned food than your neighbor, who has a different set of gut fauna. You have taste buds not only in your mouth, but also in your gut, potentially adding to your cravings for sweet and salty. Most large predators who hunt and eat humans are diseased, old, or damaged in a way that they cannot hunt their regular, harder-to-catch prey. Scorpionflies are so named because the male genitals are rather large for a fly and resemble a scorpion’s sting.

OK, you get the gist of how fun a read this book was. If you need to pick out a nonfiction as some reading assignment, you won’t lack for entertainment if you pick this one up.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: So much info told in such a fun way; yes, I read the footnotes, and I loved them; the cover is very cool; there are pronghorns in this book; the concept that living in harmony with nature also means being at peace with our internal fauna; the final chapter covers the possibility of greening up large cities with whole buildings that grow plants for food, air pollution control, and beauty.

What I Disliked: Occasionally, the author was a little over dramatic in telling an educational tale.

I’m including this in this week’s Read & Review Hop hosted by Anya over at On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by her place to catch other book reviews.

Dab of Darkness Expands

For-Review books and a book won from a blogger's giveaway.
For-Review books and a book won from a blogger’s giveaway.

2012 ended on an exceedingly good note for Dab of Darkness, which got mentioned on a SF Signal podcast (Episode 170). Thank you everyone who had a hand in that, especially Lady Dark Cargo and Little Red Reviewer.

Since 2010, I have been writing for Dark Cargo, and once I started up my review blog, I kept writing for Dark Cargo because I love the atmosphere, the dialogue, the other contributors. Truly, it feels like a second bloggy home. With the success of Dab of Darkness over the past several months, I have decided to expand beyond my reviews and read alongs. I intend to start doing author interviews, bookish commentary, and other whimsical posts at my discretion. Of course, you’ll still be able to find me over at Dark Cargo on Tuesdays, but I highly recommend you visit DC for the great stuff by the other wonderful writers throughout the week.

For Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Scifi Month, I will have a guest post on Brian Stableford up on January 10th. I am sure I will remind you all. Andrea will have great posts about vintage (in this case pre-1979) science fiction going up all month long, so don’t hesitate to stop by over there .

Several nonfiction books from Granma.
Several nonfiction books from Granma.

For 2013, I hope to participate in several reading events (see this previous post for info on upcoming reading events), but I also hope to add more historical fiction to my reading calendar. Truly, I find it difficult to say which of the three genres (Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Historical Fiction) are my favorite as I value them all highly. Throw in several series I would like to finish, several SFF series I would like to start, a handful of rereads, a little poetry, and some nonfiction, and you’ll have a TBR mountain that you’ll never see me dig out of. Haha!

AsherPennRowling
I have several Neal Asher & Shraon Kay Penn books, given to me by a good friend.

Over the past several months, I have also taken in several For-Review books, all of which I am excited about, of course. So I plan to get that pile down to a much smaller list before accepting further review books. Additionally, the bookish blogging community is so very generous with their book contests and giveaways; I have won several books over the past year and yet have only read a small percentage of them. That will change. Once again, I am excited about all those books and have nefarious plans for them that involve heavy, sleepy cats and a good cup of tea.

Finally, what follows is a partial, random list of my bookish hopes and dreams for 2013. What books are on your 2013 Hope-To-Finish List?

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (a reread)

Ian Tregillis’s 3rd book will be out this year (Bitter Seeds was awesome)

The Red Wall series by Brian Jacques

Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander series

Some nonfiction by William Shatner

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (reread)

NK Jemisin (I’m a few books behind)

Jasper Forde (I keep hearing his stuff is amazing)

Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough

Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut (nonfiction)

Oedipus the King

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (I’m not sure about this one, but willing to give it a try)

I’m 2 books behind on Alan Bradley’s Flavia deLuce mysteries

The Stand by Stephen King (I have never read King, ever)