Ember’s End by Arthur Slade

SladeEmber'sEndWhere I Got It: Own it.

Illustrator: Christopher Steininger

Publisher: Arthur Slade (2014)

Length: 88 pages

Author’s Page

Note: This book is a stand-alone adventure that follows two of the characters from Slade’s The Hunchback Assignments series. It works quite well.

Modo and Tavia are trained secret agents with the British Empire and have been sent on assignment to the Wild West town of Ember’s End. Set in the mid 1800s, the story is lush with western archetypes but also with a few all-too-often left out aspects of the Wild West, such the ethnic diversity of the time and location. I was pleasantly surprised to see the story had some extras in turbans throughout the town. Also, the ladies weren’t relegated to the brothels or being ranch wives.

This book, and The Hunchback Assignments series, are touted as steampunk. There was a touch of steampunk goodness in this book, but it was really minor. I kept waiting for that to become part of the story, whether as part of a character or simply background. The town does use pneumatic tubes to shoot messages around quickly. And much later in the story a character is revealed to be part steampunky robot. So my only little quibble is that this story could have used a bit more steampunk.

Tavia does like to dress in style but she’s also a practical woman, able to keep up with Modo in the field. Modo himself is a curious character, often keeping his face covered. He has a special ability when it comes to working in disguise. I liked the camaraderie between these two and could tell from the start they would always have each other’s backs.

Ember’s End is a strange place. The first building our heroes head to is the town saloon, which also happens to be the town library. They learn from the barkeep/librarian that there is no whiskey to serve, but they have a fine fresh milk from a Jersey cow. Also, the now-departed mad scientist who founded the town (Mr. Ember), put a field over the entire town that prevents gunpowder from working. Of course this renders firearms useless. So here we readers are, in the depths of the Wild West with no whiskey and no gun fights. Never fear! There’s still plenty of action.

Ember’s adult daughter has her secrets and is apparently at the heart of the mystery that surrounds Ember’s End. As Tavia and Modo try to untangle this mystery and set things right, they comes across a gang of worthy foes including a ninja, because every great steampunk Western should have a ninja!. With no bullets to trade at decent velocity with the bad guys and no half-aged whiskey to toss in their faces, our heroes have to get creative.

The humor is pretty good with this story as well. Tavia and Modo trade it back and forth in good natured jabs. Then there is the librarian/barkeep who has several other town jobs as well. I also enjoyed the preemptive undertaker. In fact, it felt like a nod to the the old Spaghetti Westerns. It’s a fun story for both kids and adults and I look forward to reading more Modo & Tavia adventures.

Illustration: This graphic novel is lush with color and detail. Christopher Steininger did a good job catching the rust reds that make up a good chunk of the Southwestern pallet. I liked that the point of view was often switching, showing the scene from far away and then up close, etc. Modo’s eyes are very expressive!

What I Liked: Fun story for all ages; the Wild West setting; perhaps some hidden nods to classic Western movies/TV shows; plenty of humor and action; interesting with no bullets and no whiskey; the ladies and minorities are portrayed as real people and not just shoved into stereotypical roles; great illustration.

What I Disliked: This book could have used a bit more steampunk.

A Concise History of Modern Europe by David S. Mason

MasonAConciseHistoryOfModernEuropeWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Charles Henderson Norman

Publisher: University Press Audiobooks (2016)

Length: 8 hours

Author’s Page

In general, this book covers happenings in Europe from 1789 (the French Revolution) through 1989 (the fall of Communism). There’s a little bit after that on the formation of the European Union and what current hurdles Europe as a whole faces. The book doesn’t focus overly on one country or another, rather covering significant events and people who shaped Europe for better or worse.

Having been raised in the American public school system, there were bits and pieces of European history that I knew some little about, but this book does a great job of putting them into perspective. I’m really glad I gave this book a listen because it makes me feel smarter for it. What follows here in my review are some of the little interesting nuggets I took from this book.

During and after the French Revolution, women demanded legal rights and some of those rights were granted; however, they were denied the right to education. Alas, then came Napoleon who was very fond of the patriarchal family hierarchy: Women and children were subject to the rule of the man of the house. Oddly, his laws on many things remain a cornerstone to French law, law within parts of Turkey, and law in the state of Louisiana. Ha! That does explain some things….

One of things that helped lead England into the Industrial Revolution was the use of turnips. Yep! Behold the mighty turnip! The English started farming turnips which did two things for them: turnips help add nutrients to the soil, so a field could be used longer; and also turnips can be fed to winter livestock, allowing the English to winterover more of the flocks instead of doing a major slaughter and preserving prior to snows setting in. Alas, boiled turnips did very little to excite Europe over English cuisine.

Karl Marx spent much of his life in poverty (along with his wife and kids) dedicated to his writings and studying so he could make more writings. He had patrons here and there that allowed him to occasionally keep a roof over his family’s head and the kids fed. Karl Marx gave us an interesting piece of political philosophy (The Communist Manifesto), but I think his family would have appreciated him having some kind of steady job instead. Only 11 people attended his funeral.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was published and it took some little time for most European countries to accept it. The US was (and perhaps still is) one of the last major world powers to accept the Theory of Evolution. Darwin happily married his first cousin and they had 10 kids together. The Crimean War was the first war covered by journalists and also the first war where women were officially allowed to serve, but only in the Nursing Corps (i.e. Florence Nightingale).

Ethiopia and Liberia avoided colonialism during the rush to claim Africa, though Liberia was primarily a colony for liberated native Africans and remained mostly under US control until they gained their freedom. In Asia, Japan remained free from colonialism while many other Asian countries (in part or in total) were colonized. I’ve always known that the term ‘first world country’ refers to places like western Europe, Canada, the US,  while the term ‘third world country’ usually refers to much of South America, Asia, and Africa. However, I didn’t know if there was a ‘second world country’, having never heard the term. Turns out that phrase refers to the communist Soviet block. One of the outcomes of World War I was the League of Nations proposed by US President Wilson. However, the US didn’t join it, nor did  Russia. Germany was prohibited from joining it until 1926. So it wasn’t particularly effective.

So those are just the little nuggets of info I pulled out of this book. I am sure there are plenty more that I would pick up on or understand better on a second read through. Mostly, I am grateful for the perspective this book gave me, how one event feeds into another. The author did a great job of providing a few key dates here and there, but not inundating the reader with a ton of dates that will be quickly forgotten. After all, this is an overview of 200+ years of European history, not a blow-by-blow recounting of it.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the narrator (via Audiobook Boom) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Charles Henderson Norman did a great job narrating this. He has a voice somewhere between a news reporter and a story telling uncle. His personal interest, and sometimes even joy, in the subject comes through clearly in his narration.

What I Liked: I never felt bogged down with dates, names, or places; this book really put the events in perspective; no single country was the focus of the book; I learned several interesting facts that will either boost my standing at the next work party or kill it entirely.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a great addition to European history books!

The Queen of Swords by Alana Melos

MelosTheQueenOfSwordsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Rebecca Wolfe

Publisher: Alana Melos Erotica (2015)

Length: 2 hours 37 minutes

Series: Book 1 Villainess

Author’s Page

This is a sexy supervillain story set in the fictional metropolis of Imperial City. Caprice (Capricious Whim) is very good at what she does but even she can be bested sometimes. In this tale, she will choose to trade certain favors for info and more. Will her evil plots be thwarted, or merely delayed as she dallies over an evening of pleasure?

This is one of the funnest sexy eroticas I have listened to in some time. I love the supervillain theme with all the costumes, super powers, and characters with loose morals. Caprice herself has the dual powers of telekinesis and telepathy, though each has it’s limits. Couple those powers with her swordsmanship, and you have a formidable foe. She’s not above a little murder and mayhem if it suits her needs or if someone tries to double cross her. I love her practical take on wearing Kevlar when needed and always going armed.

The main plot is pretty straight forward. She meets her ‘work’ associate Michael at a night club and they go meet Harry Sidowski together for this possible job. Michael is a unique villain in that his body has two souls – Michael’s and a vampire’s. After talking with Harry, they team up to take on the job, which they do but Caprice loses her sword and is injured. Later on, she will go on the hunt for her sword and more.

While the plot does move along pretty darn quickly, the author does let us linger over the sex scenes. Most of the scenes are energetic but pretty straight forward – one female, one male, various positions. Yet even though they are basic, they are written very well. In fact, I was surprised steam wasn’t coming off my audio player! There is one domination scene (with Caprice doing the dominating) that was OK for me. Caprice’s character wasn’t as excited about it as the other participant, so there wasn’t as much passion as with the other scenes. I really liked that the men in the story varied in height, weight, physical fitness, etc. Over all, it is a sexy, fun story that involves costumes, sexytimes, and a touch of violence.

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

The Narration: Rebecca Wolfe had the perfect voice for Caprice – certain, determined, sexy. She did a good job with the various male voices as well, keeping them distinct. She never faltered during the sexytimes scenes, sounding enthusiastic and natural. 

What I Liked: Beautiful cover art!; Caprice is a fun, naughty character; costumes and sexytimes – what could be better?

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a lot of fun.

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

YantWomenDestroyScienceFictionLightspeedMagazineWhere I Got It: Review copy

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

Publisher: Skyboat Media Inc. (2015)

Length: 15 hours 11 minutes

Editor’s Page   Lightspeed Magazine’s Page

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

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

Below are the 11 original stories.

Each to Each by Seanan McGuire

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

A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering

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

Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe

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

Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin

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

The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp

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

In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker

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

The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders

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

Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley

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

The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar

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

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

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

Canth by K.C. Norton

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

Below are the reprinted stories, including the 1 novella. 

Like Daughter by Tananarive Due

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

The Great Loneliness by Maria Romasco Moore

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

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

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

Knapsack Poems by Eleanor Arnason

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

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

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

Below are the 15 original flash fiction stories. 

Salvage by Carrie Vaughn

A spooky ghost ship story with a happy ending.

A Guide to Grief by Emily Fox

Sad story.

See DANGEROUS EARTH-POSSIBLES! by Tina Connolly

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

A Debt Repaid by Marina J. Lostetter

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

The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced by Sarah Pinsker

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

#TrainFightTuesday by Vanessa Torline

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

The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23 by Rhiannon Rasmussen

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

Emoticon by Anaid Perez

:-$

The Mouths by Ellen Denham

Cracker obsessed aliens with only 1 orifice.

M1A by Kim Winternheimer

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

Standard Deviant by Holly Schofield

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

Getting on in Years by Cathy Humble

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

Ro-Sham-Bot by Effie Seiberg

Robot wants to play Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Everything That Has Already Been Said by Samantha Murray

An odd duck of a story.

The Lies We Tell Our Children by Katherine Crighton

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

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

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

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

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

What Others Think:

NPR

Tangent

Adventures in SciFi Publishing

The Golden Valley: The Untold Story of the Other Cultural Center of Tibet by David C. Huber & Dave Glantz

HuberGlantzTheGoldenValleyHeldigWhere I Got It: Review copy

Publisher: David  Huber (2015)

Length: 202 pages

Huber’s Page  Glantz’s Page

Part history book, part art book, part documentary, this book is a real treasure trove on the Golden Valley of Tibet. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much was covered! There’s maps of the area, photos of the art, a written record of some of the oral histories of the place, and a beautiful section explaining numerous images used in Tibetan art. While I am a newbie to much of this, I felt this book is a good resource for both those new to Tibetan art and those who have a dedicated interest.

Now the book does jump right into a very lengthy, and somewhat dense, background info section. Quite frankly, I skipped this the first time through (except for the maps because that info is useful to start with) and started flipping around the book looking at all the art of various media. The Tibetan monks don’t just art up one or two things, they art up all sorts of stuff. From their wall hangings to their furniture to their prayer wheels, I bet their monasteries are a veritable feast for the eyes! I quickly saw there were repeated images and themes on much of the art and I didn’t have the knowledge as on what the significance was of those particular images. Never fear! This awesome book has a whole section (near the back) on what certain images/themes mean in Tibetan culture. I love how they had photographed examples for each image. Ever wonder what red corral means to the Golden Valley? Curious as to what a Zipak is? Just how important are the Mahamudra mists? This section of the book quickly became my favorite part as I studied a piece of art and flipped back to learn in detail what all the symbology meant. My favorite by far was the mongoose both eating and… uh…  releasing (perhaps laying?) Cintamani jewels of wisdom. Before I consulted this section of the book, I thought the mongooses were perhaps rabbits.

Several things have affected the survivability of early Tibetan art. I found the most interesting reason to be the practical take of most Tibetans that if it is worn and dirty, toss it and paint/create something new and vibrant. It’s interesting to see how the interest of Western collectors and scholars has started to change that attitude and some older works have survived. Also, Tibetans tend to preserve the physical objects of great teachers. So, oddly, we have lots of every day use objects from them as well as greater works of art. It makes it a rather eclectic collection when taken in whole. Once again, this was just a very fascinating book to delve into.

When I jumped into this book, I thought the cloth art would interest me the most, however I found it was the little portable reading desks. It combines the woodworking arts as well as painting the useful piece. The photographs show how stunning these small pieces of furniture are and they must be a delight to read on.

The authors also include some photos of the modern monasteries in the Golden Valley. I really liked this touch because it shows how much of their lives haven’t changed in all these centuries and what little has changed stands out. I think this book appeals to several audiences. Whether you’re thinking of traveling to the area, are a Tibetan art collector, or want to enrich your understanding of the Golden Valley and the Tibetan culture from afar, this book is a good, solid resource. Just a FYI: the book has a contents page, a few appendices, and a detailed index. These three things make it an extra useful research book.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author (via Word Slinger Publicity) in exchange for an honest review.

Photography: Nearly all of the photographs were taken by author David Huber (what few weren’t, are noted upfront in the book). The photos, all of which are color, range in clarity and lighting but there are plenty of them. This book is fully illustrated. Since there are so many great examples of the various art forms captured visually in this book, I think it would make a great resource to any Tibetan arts dealer or owner. For me, as  someone who has little knowledge on the subject, I reveled in all the photos. It definitely brought this region and art to life. All the photos are well labelled with descriptions, making it easy to flip through the book and gain some info just by looking at the photos.

What I Liked: Lots of photographed examples of the various art; the explanations of the  symbols/themes; maps!; a detailed history of the region; great cover!

What I Disliked: Nothing! It’s a great book on the region, suited to many audiences.

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

AndrewsOnTheEdgeWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Renée Raudman

Publisher: Tantor Audio (201o)

Length: 12 hours 8 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Edge

Author’s Page

There’s the Broken (with big box stores, vehicles, and the IRS), there’s the Weird (with nobility, magic, and a strict hierarchy), and then there’s the Edge where those that are a bit of both reside. Rose Drayton and her young brothers live in the Edge: Rose works as a cleaner in the Broken while the boys go to school. Then Declan Carmine shows up from the Weird putting Rose to a challenge even while they deal with strange creatures turning up in the Edge. All sorts of sparks fly as Rose is pushed to her max magical abilities, Declan’s patience is tested half a dozen ways, and the Edge residents will either stand together or fall prey to these creatures.

This was a very fun book. I really liked the world building, even though it was pretty straight forward once laid out. The Edge is a place without a law presence, so family ties and alliances usually work as the backbone for solving grievances. I especially like how guns are treated as a necessity in the Edge and not toys nor for sport. Rose has trained her brothers to respect guns at all times which I really appreciated. Some few folks in the Broken know about Edgers and they know they can exploit them, such as Rose’s boss paying her under the table and demanding crazy work hours. We learn some little about the Weird through Declan later in the book and I hope the Weird is explored much more in later books in this series.

Much of the story is told through Rose’s eyes and she’s only experienced the Edge and the Broken. Her parents aren’t in the picture so she has had to work extra hard to keep the boys clothed, fed, happy, and in school. Her grandmother lives nearby but Rose has her pride and will only accept so much help. Her strong magic has made her a target in the Edge, where the only law is that which the residents apply through might. We learn in little snippets throughout the story why she is so distrusting of nearly everyone. Being hunted, kidnapped, tricked, and trapped for your magic tends to make one a little skittish.

Declan also has his secrets and traumas. He was interesting to begin with – from the Weird, of noble birth, and what brings him to the Edge is a bit of an unknown. At first, Rose is very concerned about her brothers’s safety around him, but once he saves them once or twice, she starts to wonder if it is possible for him to be of noble character as well as birth. Declan has quite the history, some of which comes into play in this story, but I did find that his Supper Commando background was a  little over kill and really wasn’t necessary to keep me interested in his story arc. Through him, we learn some interesting things about the Weird – such as how differently shape shifters are treated there versus the Edge. At times I felt that poor Declan as suffering from culture shock, which made him more human and endearing.

Jack and George, Rose’s two brothers, are my second favorite characters. OK, maybe they come before Declan. They were very well written as each has their own challenge in life, and at a young age! At first, we aren’t too sure what’s going on with either of them. Jack is always distracted by shiny or flittery things. Meanwhile, George seems to have such a big heart that any little deceased critter nearly makes him cry. As the story unfolds, we learn more about each and their challenges seem scary, cool, and a little sad all at the same time. Rose is doing the best with the knowledge she has, but luckily Declan has forced himself into their lives. He has some insights that might prove key to lightening the load for each of the boys. There’s several side characters that shine out as well: William, a stranger new to town that also has an interest in comic books; a neighbor’s daft granma and her teddy bear collection; the resident pretty boy/bully; Rose’s coworker in the Broken. All together, it’s a very interesting cast.

The plot was riveting. We have this intriguing world, these fascinating characters, and now the author gives them all a potentially devastating foe! Of course, our heroes Rose and Declan don’t know at first this is truly what they are up against. There’s some random monsters lurking about the forests of the Edge, and at first folks are able to deal with them on their own. But when the bodies start showing up, and Rose gets a direct threat from the person behind it, that’s when the Edgers start to consider coming together to defeat this intruder. The story builds and builds until we get a big fight at the end that takes more than just Rose or Declan to win. It was impressive!

Sadly, there is only one sex scene in this book. Now it is a hot sex scene, even if it is short lived. It was fueled by the possibility that their little part of the world would end, so it was firey and desperate.

All together, this was a fun urban fantasy romance and I look forward to enjoying more Ilona Andrews novels. I hear the Kate Daniels series is especially good.

Narration: I liked Renée Raudman’s performance for this book. She was great with Rose’s voice and I really liked her kid voices for Jack and Georgie, though I did sometimes get them confused. She had a hard edge of masculinity for Declan, especially when he was being a bit of a stuffed shirt.

What I Liked: The world building; Rose has taken on so much at a young age; Jack and George have to be adult about many things; Declan and his protective manner; the mystery behind the intruder; great side characters; the epic fight at the end.  

What I Disliked: Declan’s über warrior part is a little over done – it wasn’t necessary for me to be interested in his character.

What Others Think:

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Dear Author

Dust by Arthur Slade

SladeDustWhere I Got It: Gifted a copy

Narrator: Arthur Slade

Publisher: Arthur Slade (2016)

Length: 4 hours 13 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a dry, dusty  Canadian town during the Depression Era, young Robert Steelgate is missing his young brother Matthew. Yet the disturbing thing is that he seems to be the only person missing him. A stranger comes to town promising rain and that is the same time kids start disappearing. Coincidence, or not?

This book was like a really good episode of The Twilight Zone. Things start off so plain, so dried out, so matter-of-fact. Then young Matthew, who insisted he be allowed to walk to town that day (instead of riding in the cart with his mom), meets a pale stranger (Abram Harisch) on the road. Meanwhile, Robert is left at home to read his science fiction story (The Warlock of Mars) that his uncle lent him. Reluctantly, Robert sets his book aside to see to the chickens like he promised only to find some scared chickens and some nasty blood eggs. Yuck! That’s when Sargent Ramson and Officer Davies show up to take Robert to town to be with his family as they begin the search for Matthew.

With a blend of historical fiction, mystery, and science fiction, the author spins a tale of a town hoping too hard for good rains, of good people willing to let their memories of lost children slip from them, and of how one boy with a strong, questioning imagination may be the only one to save them. Quite frankly, it was those scared chickens and their blood eggs that sucked me into the story. It was spooky and yet the biologist in me wanted an egg to examine. But I couldn’t have one of those eggs, but I could examine this story. From there, I wasn’t disappointed.

Abram with the odd eyes (I think he’s an albino) sets up a movie screen and the town gathers to see the attraction. Once the stranger has gained some small amount of trust with the town, he starts setting in his motion his bigger plan: promise the rains & happiness, take their wealth & memories, keep his end of the bargain with an unknown entity (which means more children disappear). At one point, Abram confides a bit in Robert because Robert has this innate ability to see through Abram’s charms. That was an eerie scene!

The ending reveals the master plan of Abram while also keeping some things up to the reader to decide. I liked that there was a little mystery left over at the end. We have everything resolved that counts, but the exact how and why of it may never be fully understood. Also, there is some wonderful imagery involving butterflies and moths. It’s a recurring small touch that kept me hooked. I was quite pleased with the ending. Not everything ended in rainbows but enough did for me to say it was a happy ending for our main character, Robert.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author with no strings attached.

Narration: Arthur Slade was pretty good as a narrator for this story. He had distinct voices for each person and decent female voices. I especially liked his voice for Robert’s uncle who was always giving him SFF books that his mom might not approve of.

What I Liked: Depression-Era small town Canada; the promise of rain; the mystery of the stranger;  the imagery of the butterflies and moths;  SFF keeps your mind on alert to trickery – that’s the moral of the story; good solid ending that left me feeling good – evil  was thwarted once again!; great cover!

What I Disliked: Nothing – an interesting story.

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