The Best & Worst of 2016

2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BrownRedRising

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ClineReadyPlayerOne

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

ButcherSkinGame

Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Tofu will help me hide the bodies.
Tofu will help me hide the bodies.

Anne Manx on Amazonia by Larry Weiner

WeinerAnneManxOnAmazonia

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

PriestChapelwood

The Green Children by Domino Finn

FinnTheGreenChildren

Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

JonasDragonGate

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSword

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddon

I did some rereads this past year – The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (yep, from the beginning), Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (I’ve been reading with a great group of on-line friends and we’re up to Book 7 now), Dune by Frank Herbert (just because it’s awesome), Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney (I read this in paperback some years ago but now it’s available as an audiobook and it is incredibly well done).

Here are the top 3 books that didn’t do it for me:

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

WardLoverEternal

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

AnthonyHairPower

I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.

Also here are some of my notable firsts for 2016:

My first Stephen King novel – 11-22-63

King112263

My first Star Wars novel – Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

My first Podiobooks audiobook – Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

JosephMarkerStone

My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

VonnegutCatsCradleTofu

As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.

Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

Where I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Marc Thompson

Publisher: Random House Audio (2015)

Length: 9 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 12 Star Wars

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 12 in the series, it works perfectly fine as a stand alone novel.

This story is set in between the original tales of New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Told from Luke Skywalker’s viewpoint, there’s plenty of daring piloting, espionage, laser blasts, and a touch of flirting. Luke is running several small missions for Admiral Ackbar and Princess Leia Organa. Then this much more important, and dangerous, mission comes along: rescue an Empire cryptographer, Drusil, who is under constant surveillance. Skywalker will have to team up with new recruit Nakari Kelen, who has a rather fancy space yacht.

This is my first Star Wars novel and it was a lot of fun. I was interested in this book because I have read Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and really enjoyed them, and I really enjoy Star Wars, so I figured if you put the two together, you’d  have something I really enjoyed. And, indeed, it was quite a bit of fun. There’s no major game changers or reveals in this novel, but considering where it’s placed in the Star Wars timeline, that’s to be expected.

I like the addition of the character Nakari. She’s independent, assertive, and competent. Also, the Rebel Alliance isn’t too sure how far they can trust her so for much of the book I had to  wonder if she was a double agent and would betray the mission in some way. This added some suspense to the novel. She also brought some humor to the story line with her jokes and gentle teasing of her father, a bio mogul who practically has an army himself – an army of scientists and explorers that search out new life forms to study for his pharmaceutical labs.

There were several smaller ‘missions’ that had to be accomplished first in order to go after the big target (rescuing the cryptologist) and I liked that this was a multi-layered space adventure. First, Skywalker is being sent off to negotiate with a group of weapons dealers and along the way he interferes in the Imperial pursuit of an unknown ship (just because he can). Once he receives this cryptologist mission, the space yacht needs upgrades and that means running some errands for Nakari’s dad. So there’s plenty of opportunities for mistakes to happen, death to creep in, dismemberment to be claimed later on the insurance forms.

Luke is also still exploring his abilities with the Force. He doesn’t have a current Jedi teacher and he feels a little lost in this area. He does carry his lightsaber that his father left him and a few others he comes across in this adventure know what one is on sight. Luckily, the lightsaber wins him some much-needed allies even as he has to cut down foes with it. Little nuggets of wisdom come from various sources and Luke puts them to use in getting in touch with the Force. In this book, he’s still a bit unsure of himself, awkward in romance, and just a touch naive. It’s totally how I picture him in my mind at this point in the Star Wars timeline.

The book is well balanced with plenty of action, moments of reflection (mostly Force related), some well-timed humor, and perhaps a budding romance. I also enjoyed that R2D2 was around for most of the story as he is one of my favorite characters. Other original characters make cameos in this book, either in person or as memories of Luke’s. All in all, it struck the perfect Star Wars tone and it was a great fix for my Rebel Alliance need. Now, all I need are some Nerf Nuggets.

A fellow blogger (thanks Audio Book Reviewer) sent me a box of bookish goodies a few months ago as a get well present and this is one of those books. This is not a review copy but I felt like reviewing it anyways. As always, my opinions are my own.

The Narration: Marc Thompson was a great pick for this book. He sounded like a young Luke Skywalker and his voice impersonations of other classic Star Wars characters were pretty good as well. I loved his light snark for Nakari. He had to come up with some inventive alien voices and I am sure his throat was raw after some of those sounds he came up with! There were lots of sound effects and music for this audiobook. Mostly, they were on target though there are a few places where the effects drowned out the narration. Also, sometimes the music would be playing in the background and I couldn’t figure out why – it just seemed off. Most of the time, it was perfect, reflecting a poignant or triumphant or anxious moment. Yet a few times the music was not reflective of the moment and I wondered why it was there distracting from the story. Still, all in all, it was like listening to a Star Wars movie and Thompson’s performance was excellent. 

What I Liked: The many unsung missions of Luke Skywalker are finally being told; Nakari is a fun addition to this story; plenty of aliens; plenty of action scenes; a little flirting; Luke continues to explore his abilites with the Force; Nerf nuggets!; great narration!

What I Disliked: Sometimes the music sound effects were just too much.

What Others Think:

The Force.net

Making Star Wars

Geekritique

BuzzyMag

Coffee with Kenobi

The Wookie Gunner

EU Cantina

Nerdvanna

Sunshine Blogger Award

I was awarded the Sunshine Blogger Award by My Library Card Wore Out, and yes, I did get a little bit of a giggle out it. But I guess even the sun has a little dab of darkness here and there whenever it farts a bit of pent up energy into the universe.

As it goes with these fun little awards, there are rules – which I don’t always adhere to, but I expect most people do these things for fun.

  • Name drop and link to the blog of the person who nominated you.

  • Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.

  • Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write (or borrow/steal) eleven questions for them to answer.

  • Bend said rules

And here are the questions from My Library Card Wore Out, along with my answers.

What are you currently reading and why did you choose that book?

I’m always in the middle of a few books. I’m currently listening to my very first Star Wars book, Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne. I’ve really enjoyed Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and then a blogger friend gifted me his Star Wars book. I’m only 1 disc into it so far, but it’s a lot of fun and makes me want to rewatch the Star Wars movies. Then I’m also listening to Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett. It’s a great kid’s book that takes place in Norway and had all this mythology stuff thrown in. Trolls and the Wild Hunt! Then on the Kindle I’m also listening to Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese. The humor reminds me a little of Douglas Adams but not so over the top all the time. I’m quite enjoying that as well. Then I’m trying to eyeball read Bad Apples 2: Six Slices of Halloween Horror and The Golden Valley: The Untold Story of the Other Cultural Center of Tibet. I’ve been dealing with a lengthy illness and it leaves me greatly fatigued so my text reading is very slow.

When you were a teenager, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A biologist of one flavor or another. For awhile, it was a marine biologist. Then I was into bugs. Reptiles are cool too. Pandas – so adorable and so horribly inefficient at surviving!

There’s a massive asteroid heading your way and it is about to destroy planet Earth and you have 24 hours to live. What would you do for your last 24 hours?

Well, first I call those that I want along for the ride and tell them to get their butts over here. Then I start packing my rocketship. I’ll need food, bedding, entertainment, toilet paper, pet food, and seeds to get the grow vats started. Then the last 6 hours will probably be spent convincing people and pets to get their asses on the ship, doing the final checks and warm up, and then actually getting off the planet.

Tea or coffee?

Tea. Black orange tea is one of my favorites. Last year I tried to become a coffee person, but it tears up my stomach when I drink it straight, and so I really only like it if it’s totally froofrooed up, and then it’s not really coffee anymore, is it?

Book or movie?

Usually a book, though I do like action movies with lots of special effects on the big screen. The age of the Super Hero movie is a great thing to alive for!

You can only watch one movie for the rest of your life. What will it be and why?

That’s a tough one. I’m tempted to cheat and say The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Firefly series including the movie Serenity. Lady in the Water is a top pick as well. Or perhaps Brick. Or Pitch Black.

You find a genie and he says that he can transport you into your favorite book. Forever. What book would it be and why?

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey. It’s a great mix of historical fiction and fantasy, with no small amount of quality sex thrown in.

What’s your favorite website (any subject)?

The giant panda cam at the national zoo. It feels a little voyeuristic but, hey, it’s pandas!

If you could meet any celebrity, who would you meet and why?

I think it would be great to meet Alan Dean Foster. I grew reading his scifi books and I especially love his Pip & Flinx series. From his website, it looks like he travels a lot as well, so I bet he would have lots of great stories to tell over drinks.

You can also meet any person from history, who would you choose to meet and for what reason?

Queen Elizabeth I of England. She was a ruler, and a fairly successful one, at a time when women weren’t rulers. She was also a bit more tolerant than other nations in regards to religious practices. Tho she did have a temper, so things would never be boring in her court.

You can only study one thing for the rest of your life. What would you choose to study?

Women in history. Since it has been overlooked for so long, there’s always more coming to light, so I think it will be decades, perhaps centuries before that chunk of history runs out of surprises for us.

As usual, I like to leave these things as an open mic. If you enjoy answering random questions, please join in – either in the comments or via a blog post. With that said, I will mention some blogs I enjoy following. I spend time over at The Audio Book Reviewer, where they have not only reviews but also giveaways and narrator and author interviews. Musings on Fantasia is a great place for not just chatting about books but for also writing tips/shares and such. It’s run by the author Liesel Hill, whose short story The Hatching is one of my favorites. I’m fairly new to following X+1, who has been hosting a read along of The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch, but there’s other good stuff there too. I’ve read several of Edward Lorn’s books and I like to follow his blog as well – book reviews, darkly humorous fun stuff, sometimes commentary on current events. Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust is rather eclectic in book reviews, some commentary, and cool giveaways. I enjoy catching the weekly Buzz Worthy news over at Cuddlebuggery. Under My Apple Tree is also an eclectic reader/reviewer and posts pics of birds and flowers as well. For more audiobook fun check out the AudioGals and The Guilded Earlobe.

Here are my 11 questions for folks who want to play to answer: 

  1. Do you have any phobias
  2. If you were to create your own special ice cream, what would it be?
  3. Who are your favorite hero duos?
  4. What was the last thing to keep you in suspense?
  5. Do spoilers ruin the experience for you?
  6. Who is your favorite comedian?
  7. You’re about to be tossed into a post-apocalyptic world –  pick the world.
  8. If you could be a super villain, what would be your super villain name?
  9. You’re arranging a family dinner out – fancy place where you have to dress up or comfy clothes and comfort food?
  10. What are your current top 5 favorite reads?
  11. What is your favorite format (paperbook, ebook, audiobook) of reading material?

Bloggity Award and Other Stuff

Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn blog recently nominated me for the Real Neat Blog award. I tend to enjoy blog awards because it forces me to be a little more personable and chatty. Plus, we all get to talk about books.

The Rules:

    • Thank and link the blogger that nominated you.
    • Answer the 7 questions that the nomination has provided you.
    • Create 7 questions for your nominees.
    • Nominate 7 other bloggers.
    • Bend said rules

1. If you could meet any author, from any time (past and present), who would that be and what would be your most pressing question?

That’s a tough one. Andre Norton (Forerunner Foray, Timetraders, etc.), Alan Dean Foster (for his Pip & Flynx series), Isaac Asimov (for his Lucky Starr series), and Anne McCaffrey (for her Dragonriders of Pern series) all an impact on me as a kid and it would be cool to get a drink with them and find out what books, authors, or artists had an impact on them.

2. Who is your absolute favorite character, ever. I know you’re probably groaning and rolling your eyes but there must be one character that springs to mind immediately – probably followed by a host of others – but, I want that first knee jerk reaction please and why!

I find that if you ask me this today, you’ll get one answer and if you ask 6 months from now, you’ll get another. I’m easily swayed by whatever I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying at the moment. Let’s go with Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing wizard PI. I like how he can think out side of the box and come up with crazy polka powered T-rex zombie type solutions to messed up situations.

3. What is your favorite series out of all the books you’ve read?  The series you would recommend without hesitation.

I will always adore Jacqueline Carey’s Terre D’Ange Cycle. The epic fantasy, the alternate history, breaking so many standard tropes! However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone because of the sex. I love the sex, and that’s part of what breaks so many dated, sexist standards in fantasy fiction, but is everyone ready for it? Personally, 9/10 people I recommend this series to, has enjoyed it.

4. What’s your preferred reading format, book or e-reader?

These days I do a lot of audiobooks. I dabble in other formats, but find that my deep fatigue from illness makes concentration an issue. Audiobooks are great for me because I don’t get hung up on typos, grammatical errors, large words that I once knew but now find difficult to connect meanings to, etc. The story continues with an audiobook no matter what issues the book may or may not have.

5. The book you were most looking forward to but ended up being really disappointed with?

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. Wow! This book was a bit of a snoozer for me. The main character that ties it all together, that everyone knows or is tied to in some manner, is pretty darn boring. I kept on with it to the end hoping it would get better. There’s plenty of interesting side characters and I liked the slower pacing than usual for the fall of modern society story. But instead the book really is about this one guy who is pretty bland.

6. Blogging – what do you love/not love – any embarrassing moments?

I love that I don’t have a schedule. I blog when I feel like it (or when I feel up to it) and can take a break from it when I don’t. I like that I have kept it small and just blog what I want to blog about and don’t try to force myself into being glitzy, trendy, or the first to post a review on the latest hot ARC. There’s plenty of blogs that do focus on those things, and I’m glad they’re out there because I read them.

So far, I haven’t done anything too embarrassing. I know my typos and such have gone up this past year while I have been sick. But in the big scheme of things, that’s rather small.

7. Most anticipated book for the remainder of 2016?

Kevin Hearne is coming out with his first epic fantasy, I think. Hooray! I really enjoy his Iron Druid Chronicles (urban fantasy). Scott Lynch may be releasing his next Gentleman Bastards book (hooray!). As far as I know, there’s no release date yet for Peace Talks by Jim Butcher. Henry Hertz & his two sons have at least 2 more kids books coming out this year – they’re always so well illustrated! Of course, the next A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I always look forward to something new from Jim Bernheimer. I’m hoping Domino Finn does another Sycamore Moon book. I’ve really enjoyed the first 3 Jonathan Shade urban fantasy books by Gary Jonas and I’m hoping he puts more of the series out as audiobooks. Joe Hempel does a great job narrating them.

Here’s my 7 questions:

If you could be an extra on a period piece (Outlander, Spartacus, etc.) what would it be and what would you be doing?

What makes you cringe?

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

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?

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

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

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Bonus Question: If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class about your favorite genre, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

While I will mention some favorite blogs below, I’m going to leave this open mic. If you find the questions (or my answers) amusing, feel free to chime in down in the comments or create your own blog post answering them – if you let me know you did so, I’ll swing by and check it out.

I like to visit author David Lee Summers blog for the steampunk – most definitely for the steampunk. Viviana, Enchanstress of Books is doing a lot of cool audiobook stuff this month. Broken Teepee has a fun mix of home gardening, book reviews, and info on home brewing kits and such. I’ve found Home Cooked Books by narrator Karen White to be a fun place with lots of interesting bits on what it’s like to make an audiobook. Violin in a Void is constantly expanding my world of books, and I like her focus on African authors and book blogs. Mike Powell is a photographer and he focuses on nature. I especially love his photos of herons. Evelyn Aster, who writes mostly contemporary romance (which, admittedly, is a bit outside my favorite genres), regularly posts pics of her fancy nails and her fancy drinks.

On a personal note, I haven’t been as involved as I normally am due to chronic illness. 2015 was one of the toughest years of my life and 2016 is shaping up to be as well. However, just last month I finally got a diagnosis! Hooray! Turns out I have many, many tiny blood clots throughout my lungs. Because the blood clots have been tiny, the condition didn’t present with the normal sharp pains to the chest, etc. Various scans and doctors missed it, and I was often misdiagnosed as having an asthma exacerbation. Now my doctors suspect the blood clots could have been going on as long as 2 years, with my lungs absorbing at least some of them. Because it went on so long, I have a moderately high case of pulmonary hypertension, which in turn has enlarged my heart. So, I have lots of work to do to get better and it will take many months. I’ve been on 24/7 oxygen since January and will be for at least a few more months, perhaps longer.

So, if you pinged me about something and I haven’t responded, feel free to ping me again. I’ve been hypoxic for probably about 12 months now and when your brain doesn’t have it’s regular stream of healthy oxygen, you get stupid, tired, and forgetful.

Upcoming Read Alongs and More

Chupacabra has spotted something!
Chupacabra has spotted something!

Heya Folks! We’re wrapping up the read along of Kushiel’s Scion by Jacqueline Carey and planning the read along of Book 2, Kushiel’s Justice. Looks like we will be starting that read along March 20th. I’ll put out an official post once we have that settled. If you’re interested in joining, just leave me a comment and I’ll add you to the weekly emails.

WardDarkLoverAlso going on right now is a fun group read of J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series over on Facebook. It’s 13 books and we’re going to try to do 1 book a week, but that might get modified as we go forward. The awesome Cyndi Marie is organizing this read along. So if you have read series and want to join in the fun discussions (and little contests with prizes) or if you are simply craving some vampire romance, go check that out.

McGuireALocalHabitationIf urban fantasy is more your style, I’m very excited to say that we’ll be continuing the October Daye series (by Seanan McGuire) with Book 2, A Local Habitation. I really enjoyed Book 1 and it has been a test of my will to wait for the read along of Book 2 to start. You can find all the info and keep up with discussions posts over at the GoodReads SF/F Read Alongs Group. Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow has organized this one. Just because I am really excited about it, here’s the schedule:

Week 1: Saturday 5th March, Chapters 1-8 hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Week 2: Saturday 12th March, Chapters 9-16 – hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 3: Saturday 19th March, Chapters 17-25 – hosted by Books By Proxy
Week 4: Saturday 26th March, Chapters 26-end – hosted by The Bibliosanctum

LynchLiesOfLockeLamoraNext, Imyril of X+1 blog is organizing a read along in April of The Lies of Locke Lamora, which is Book 1 of The Gentlemen Bastard series by Scott Lynch. I love these books! I’m sorely tempted to participate, but I will have to see how much is on my plate. Plus I did a read along of these books before with The Little Red Reviewer. Hopefully, Book 4, The Thorn of Emberlain, will be out later this year so it would be great to reread them…. Argh! The torture of having too many great books to read! Again, you can find out all the details over on the SF/F Read Along group.

Luxor as a bookstand.
Luxor as a bookstand.

I also want to take a moment to send a big thank you to Paul of Audio Book Reviewer who heard I have been ill. He mailed some audiobooks to me to help me while away the time. I’m very excited to be digging into these. I have a little confession – I have never read a Star Wars book. Yep, this SF fan hasn’t read a single Star Wars book. Now, thanks to Paul, I have Kevin Hearne’s Heir to the Jedi, and I love his Iron Druid Chronicles. Thank you Paul!

In January, I unexpectedly spent nearly a week in the hospital. Pneumonia was one culprit. Pulmonary hypertension was another. And it looks like I have another lung issue going on but I won’t know until I talk to the specialist (pulmonologist) in early March. I’ve been on 24/7 oxygen since I went into the hospital.  My face is very tired of being leashed to an oxygen unit. Anyway, I was pretty tired when I got out of the hospital, but I’m getting back into blogging. My life is lots of audiobooks, a little bit of questionable TV, and Sid Meier’s Civilization IV.

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: James Livingood, Author of Pale Rider

LivingoodPaleRiderFolks, please welcome the highly entertaining James Livingood. I have had the pleasure of enjoying 3 of his stories (Pale Rider, Summer Sword, & Magic Factory). We chat about Brandon Sanderson’s works, supernatural creatures, Firefly, and plenty more. Also, don’t miss out on the audiobook giveaway at the end of this post!

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

I would rather have a dragon than be a dragon. Popular media shows dragons as hording gold and the closest I’ve every come to that is having a “piece of eight” pirate treasure mounted in my office. I am not very materialistic.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I like the idea of a supernatural creature saving me from doom. Much of the current portrayal of superheros seem like “happy accidents”. They accidentally gain great power and now use that power for good. On the other side of that space aliens feel like deus ex machina. They can be anything the author wants because humanity has never met an alien. Furthermore, alien technology can be whatever the author wants. However, supernatural creatures are purpose driven which I find fascinating. They exist for a reason and that binding (then breaking) of rules is what draws me to fiction.

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

Book: God Emperor of Dune

Movie: Flash Gordon

TV Series: Firefly

For me, the entire Dune universe came to a conclusion in the God Emperor of Dune book. Flash Gordon is something my family watched on a regular basis. The soundtrack was created by Queen and the movie was a cheesy type of fun. Finally, Firefly was well written and a pleasure to watch.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

Brandon Sanderson would be the guide, since he knows the rules. Kevin Hearne could provide jokes and positive attitude. Jim Butcher could be the brooding one in the back that comes up with a crazy plan. Finally, I could sacrifice Terry Goodkind to the lion / volcano / angry natives. After reading all 11 of the original Sword of Truth series, I ended up only liking one book.

Who or what are your non-writer influences?

There are a lot of them: family, friends, teachers. I’ve been lucky to have so many great people in my life that singling just one out is difficult.

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

My other job is playing with technology. Beyond writing, it’s the closest thing to playing with magic. Using universal machines to create anything and communicate anywhere feels very magical.

LivingoodSummerSwordCare 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 once got into an awkward argument with Brandon Sanderson. I felt he wrote the exact same female characters better than Robert Jordan. He was humble and disagreed. However, I was in full fanboy mode and I kept pushing my point. It was very awkward.

Which favorite fictional worlds would you like to visit?

I am working my way through Scott Meyer’s Magic 2.0 series. I think it would be fun to visit a world that I could program like a computer code. Living in that world would be like the holodeck in Star Trek.

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

The first one I remember reading would be Where the Wild Things Are.

LivingoodPaleRiderBook Blurb for Pale Rider: Zombies Versus Dinosaurs:

“I am often left to wonder why a zombie, walking around in the sun, smells better than a pooping dinosaur.”

Two worlds collide in this action novelette. Zombies have destroyed civilization. Gasoline fuel is no longer an option, but humanity must find a way to survive. In response to trying to restore our way of life, we engineer franken-monsters. Because of their small brains and massive sizes, these beasts make quick work of farming and clearing land. These large creatures are immune to the zombie virus and perform excellently in loud conditions. They are easy to train. They behave like war horses, prone to help charge in and defend our livelihood.

In honor of the past, and to help build our future, we named these creatures dinosaurs.

Places to Stalk James Livingood

 

GIVEAWAY!
James is giving away 5 Audible.com copies of Pale Rider: Zombies Versus Dinosaurs! To enter do the Rafflecopter thing below OR answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) Please leave a contact email (I promise not to do anything evil with it) 3) Do you have an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment? Giveaway ends September 15, 2015, midnight.

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Shattered by Kevin Hearne

HearneShatteredWhere I Got It: Personal copy via Audible.

Publisher: Random House Audio (2014)

Narrator: Luke Daniels

Length: 11 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 7 The Iron Druid Chronicles

Author’s Page

Fans of this series are in for a treat with this latest installation. It picks up where the previous book left off. Granuaile is a full fledged druid. Atticus (our 2000+ year old druid) has unstuck his teacher, Owen Kennedy, from a bubble of time. The three must gather their wits for the forthcoming battle with Loki. But, alas, there is much to do before they can get to that.

If you’ve read my reviews for the previous books in this series, then you will know that it took me a long time to warm up to Granuaile. Well, with this book I can finally say that I have connected with her and that I would be sorely sad to see her dead. She and her companion hound go off to India to see about rescuing her dad. The witch Laksha does her best to assist her. Things do not go as planned and for a while there, I was pretty worried about Granuaile. Some of the most intense scenes of this book belonged to Granuaile.

Atticus spent time bouncing around, tending to some of his own matters, but also in educating Owen and seeing that he was acclimatizing to the modern world. How did he do this, you might ask. Well, by leaving him with the Arizona werewolves of course. All werewolves love a sharp tongued, ill-mannered druid who can shape shift into either a bear or a hunting hound. All sorts of colorful exchanges were had, much to the amusement of this listener. Owen’s crazy remarks, some of which had to do with his nipples, had me chuckling out loud.

So, without spoiling anything for this book, it is a worthy installation in this enjoyable series. The deities still play a major role in Atticus’s life. His friends are still stalwart, but in ever more and more danger. And epic battle gives us a very satisfying end to this book, but not to the series.

Narration: Once again, Luke Daniels does a great job. He has so many difficult names and words to roll off his tongue and he does it with seeming effortlessness. I especially love his cantankerous voice for Owen Kennedy.

What I Liked:  Granuiale’s own adventure; Owen Kennedy is an awesome addition; the epic battle; the werewolves reactions to Owen; the cover art; awesome narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

What Others Think:

No Baggage Attached

Yummy Men, Kickass Chicks

Fangs for the Fantasy

Respiring Thoughts

Interview: Henry Herz, Editor of Beyond the Pale

HerzBeyondThePaleFolks, please welcome author and editor Henry Herz to the blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed his works (Nimpentoad & Beyond the Pale) and just knew Henry would be a lot of fun to interview. Want to know how Seth MacFarlane and Leonardo da Vinci are similar? Curious about Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes? Keep reading and enjoy!

What drew you to organizing an anthology that focused on the sub-genre of paranormal Young Adult/New Adult?

I love the phrase “beyond the pale”, and everything sprang from that. Beyond the Pale is an anthology of fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal stories that skirt the border between our world and others. Was that my imagination, or did I hear something under my bed? What was that blurred movement in my darkened closet? There is but a thin Veil separating the real and the fantastic, and therein dwell the inhabitants of these stories.

The noun “pale” refers to a stake (as in impaling vampires) or pointed piece of wood (as in a paling fence). “Pale” came to refer to an area enclosed by a paling fence. Later, it acquired the figurative meaning of an enclosed and therefore safe domain. Conversely, “beyond the pale” means foreign, strange, or threatening.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Long ago, fantasy literature (although not labelled as such) directly influenced culture. There was no scientific method – people were scared of the unknown (falling off the edge of a flat earth, comets, dragon hunts, witch burnings, etc.). Today fantasy literature only affects pop culture. Few people seriously believe “Winter is Coming”, but it’s still fun to say at cocktail parties to establish geeky credentials. 🙂

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

I’d have to say The Lord of the Rings. I read it in elementary school. Reading it again for the first time as an adult would be a very different experience.

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of promoting a book and what are some of the least favorite parts of promotion?

For me, book promotion is the hardest part of indie publishing. There is always more to do, and if you’re not careful, it can drown out the time for writing. My favorite part is attending events where I can meet the authors and the readers who appreciate their work. I moderated a fantasy/science fiction panel at San Diego Comic-Con featuring award winning and NY Times bestselling authors David Brin, Jason Hough, Jonathan Maberry, Rachel Caine, Jim Butcher, and Marie Lu. That was also the initial public unveiling of Beyond the Pale. What’s not to like?

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. In that classic fantasy, he writes about allomancers – wizards who gain power by ingesting small amounts of powdered metals. A game about how such wizards would fight each other could be cool. Maybe there is such a game, and I simply haven’t seen it. Another good choice would be the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Great question. Certainly some illustrators have had a strong influence, like Maurice Sendak (yes, he wrote too), David Peterson (Mouse Guard), Aaron Becker (Journey). I’m also awestruck by people who are gifted in multiple disciplines, like Leonardo da Vinci or Seth MacFarlane (I never expected to put those two in the same sentence).

HerzHowRhinoGotHisSkinFrom your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have your kids, and co-writers, done any cosplay?

It would be fun to cosplay Nimpentoad, the protagonist of my fantasy early chapter book of the same name. But that would be quite an elaborate costume. My co-author kids and I enjoy attending conventions, and while we’ve occasionally worn armor and hefted fake weapons, I wouldn’t call it cosplay. We lack the dedication and time to create the truly inspired costumes that would qualify us for cosplay.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I’m a big fan of retellings. I had the idea of retelling Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes from a fantasy perspective, swapping creatures for the human characters. When I researched the concept, I found a couple of books out there, but they didn’t work for me. The gauntlet was tossed. Our version, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes, will be published by Pelican in 2015.

Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories are justifiably acclaimed. But, having been written so long ago, the language is outdated and too complex for today’s younger readers. So, my sons and I indie-published a picture book version, How the Rhino Got His Skin. See www.birchtreepub.com.

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?

It is always a pleasure to meet someone who was touched by my writing. That’s why authors write. Similarly, I’ve had my share of gushy fanboy moments meeting such inspiring authors as Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, David Brin, Orson Scott Card, Vernor Vinge, and Brandon Sanderson.

Lastly, please tell us a bit about the cover art for Beyond the Pale. Does it represent an overall concept for the book, or does it draw more on a single story contained in the anthology?

The cover art for Beyond the Pale represents an overall concept for the book. It’s entitled Snow White, and was done by Abigail Larson. She illustrated our picture book Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes. Love, love, love her dark style! If you agree it would look great on your bookshelf, please consider getting a copy via Amazon, Kindle, or www.birchtreepub.com.

My Book Loves of 2013

GaimanStardustHere is a post in which I gush about my favorite books of 2013. Out of the roughly 133 books I read this year, these are the ones that really stand out on reflection for one reason or another. Feel free to scroll until you see something interesting.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A reread, and a read along. I love this book and the movie. Fantasy, a quest, coming of age. Loads of fun and happy ending.

MathesonIAmLegendI Am Legend by Richard Matheson

New-to-me author. Vampire/zombie book, but starts off 1970s California, a simple virus. Loved the science, the survivalism, the societal twist at the end.

Squatch with Turning Point
Squatch with Turning Point

Turning Point by Robert P. Snow

Murder mystery set in northern NM. Lots of fun, recognize lots of the places in the book.

CooperGhostHawkGhost Hawk by Susan Cooper

New-to-me author. A historical fiction about the early settling of America told through a Native American’s eyes. Done really well, fully engaging.

HaldemanForeverPeaceThe Forever War & Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

New-to-me author. Great military SF. Awesome characters.

BearUndertowUndertow by Elizabeth Bear

Amphibious alien natives used as a workforce. Plus assassins. You can’t go wrong with that combination.

FremantleQueensGambitQueen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

New-to-me author. Tudor historical fiction told from Katherine Parr’s point of view.

WatersPayingPiperPaying Piper by Ilana Waters

A children’s book, beautiful illustrations, excellent story.

Pico consented to pose with my book.
Pico consented to pose with my book.

The Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish

This was a reread for me, and a read along. Still a damn good book even the 2nd time through, and dissecting it. High fantasy, swords & sorcery.

Smudge Cat as a book stand!
Smudge Cat as a book stand!

Shadow Chaser by Alexey Pehov

Book 2 int he series. Thieves, elves (black pointy teeth!), dwarves, gnomes, a quest.

FahyFragmentFragment by Warren Fahy

New-to-me author. A fun, modern-day beastie flick. The biologist in me loved this book.

Pico resting before dinner.
Pico resting before dinner.

The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

New-to-me author. Epic fantasy that is different, heavy on the economics, various humanoid races.

SakurazakaAllYouNeedIsKillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

New-to-me author. A short, excellent military SF with a twist.

HassonEmoticonGenerationCoverThe Emoticon Generation by Guy Hasson

New-to-me author. A fun collection of Hasson’s short stories. Some humorous, some creepy. All interesting.

ReichsBonesOfLostBones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

New-to-me author. A later book in the series following the forensic anthropologist. Addictive.

CollingsBillyMessengerOfPowersBilly: Messenger of Powers by Michaelbrent Collings

New-to-me author. A kid’s book, but a good one. Adventure, magic, a quest. Lots of fun.

HearneHuntedHunted by Kevin Hearne

I love the whole Iron Druid series. I think I am all caught upon this series. Luke Daniels does an incredible job of narrating the books.

Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.
Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.

The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop and Jeff Stokely

New-to-me author. A graphic novel, modern-day, a nod to Don Quixote.

Claudie is an old, dilapidated kitty.
Claudie is an old, dilapidated kitty.

The Hero and the Crown & Sunshine by Robin McKinley

While Sunshine was a reread, The Hero and the Crown was my first read through. Both are excellent. Female leads, magic, companion war horse, and Death by Bitter Chocolate.

LynchRepublicOfThievesThe Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The 3rd book in the Gentlemen Bastard series does not disappoint. Read this as part of a read along. Great series.

GabaldonOutlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

A reread, but it had been nearly 2 decades. Excellent historical fiction with sex. Yep. Not just silly, light kissing.

Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)
Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

New-to-me author. This was an excellent audiobook. Kid’s book. Adventure, masks, goblins, theater.

CoorlimSkyPiratesOverLondonSky Pirates Over London by Micheal Coorlim

New-to-me author. These are fun, short stories set in a steampunk England. I’ve read 4 of the books so far and enjoyed this one the most.

ShowalterAwakenMeDarklyAwaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

New-to-me author. This is one of my naughty book secrets. Simple plots, fun characters, erotica element. Aliens, assassins.

Stout snuggling with the Nac Mac Feegle.
Stout snuggling with the Nac Mac Feegle.

Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky)

All four were read this year as part of a read along, rereads for me. I love these books. They are my favorite Terry Pratchett novels, having a more serious bent than other Discworld books I have read.

BowmanTornFromTroyTorn from Troy by Patrick Bowman

New-to-me author. Another kid’s book and a great one for exploring Ancient Greece.

CoreyLeviathanWakesLeviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

New-to-me author. Well, I had read Daniel Abraham before this book, but Abraham writes this series with Ty Franck under the James SA Corey pen-name. Epic science fiction has never been better.

SchoonZennScarlettZenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

New-to-me author. My inner biologist geeked out the entire time reading this YA SF.

HillTheHatchingThe Hatching by Liesel K. Hill

I know it’s a short story, but it was one of the best I read all year. Dragons. I won’t spoil it for you. Go read it.

Pico & Chupa
Pico & Chupa

Makers by Corey Doctorow

New-to-me author. Quirky, insightful, and fun. It follows these two tinkers for a few decades. Cutting-edge SF.

BensonBlackStilettoThe Black Stiletto books by Raymond Benson (The Black Stiletto, Black & White, Stars & Stripes)

New-to-me author. Addictive. 1950s superheroine, New York. Need I say more?

LornHopeForWickedHope for the Wicked by Edward Lorn

New-to-me author. I also read his Life After Dane, but I like the Larry Laughlin character quite a bit. Horror. Illegal substance level addictive.

BracewellShadowOnCrownShadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

New-to-me author. 1001 AD Normandy, royal families. Excellent, excellent historical fiction.

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.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn

New-to-me author. This nonfiction was incredibly fun. The odd, slightly embarrassing things I learned from it to sprinkle party conversations with…..

MimsHidingGladysHiding Gladys by Lee Mims

New-to-me author. A cozy murder mystery that I didn’t want to put down.

Tofu being used as a bookstand.
Tofu being used as a bookstand.

The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster

More SF modifications for my inner biologist to geek out about. Excellent mystery, excellent SF, excellent characters.

Heldig & Tofu
Heldig & Tofu

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Book 6 in the Wheel of Time series, and part of the massive read along of the series. Incredible ending to this particular book. Robert Jordan gets better with each book.

Waffles is always bathing. A very clean cat.
Waffles is always bathing. A very clean cat.

The Mongoliad by Neal Stephenson & crew

A very fun historical fiction set in the time of Genghis Khan. Luke Daniels was amazing as the narrator.

ScalziRedshirtsRedshirts by John Scalzi

Haha! A fun Star Trek parody. Wil Wheaton as the narrator was perfect!

Typical morning cat cuddle pile on the bed.
Typical morning cat cuddle pile on the bed.

The Legend of Broken by Caleb Carr

Another awesome historical fiction. Sorcerers, hunters, midgets, a pox, and a crazed ruler who needs to be taken down.

This is Heldig's 'nice kitty' face.
This is Heldig’s ‘nice kitty’ face.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

New-to-me author. This is Book 1 in the trilogy, and my favorite of the series. Steampunk, Austria, airships, a woman in disguise and in service to the crown.

I didn't catch Pico in a good mood.
I didn’t catch Pico in a good mood.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Only Jeannette Walls can pull on my emotions as she does. Modern-day tale of two sisters trying to find some stability.

Chupa and Streak with a good book makes a decent cat pile.
Chupa and Streak with a good book makes a decent cat pile.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

New-to-me author. WWII female pilots and spies. One of the best WWII books I have ever read.

IgguldenBloodOfGodsThe Blood of Gods by Conn Iggulden

The 4th book in Emperor series tells what happens after Julius Caesar fell. Excellent series.

BernheimerPrimeSuspectsJim Bernheimer books (Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, Prime Suspects, Horror, Humor, and Heroes)

New-to-me author. Uh, yeah. You might of noticed that I listened to 3 of Bernheimer’s books in ~2 weeks. Yeah, addictive. Mostly SF. Go, read, enjoy.

I meant for this to be a more dignified pic, as I so enjoyed this book, but Pico refused to put his bath on hold.
I meant for this to be a more dignified pic, as I so enjoyed this book, but Pico refused to put his bath on hold.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

I really should read beyond Book 2. Both Books 1 & 2 were excellent. Historical fantasy, or just straight up epic fantasy.

SilvermanGardensOfAmpheiaGardens of Ampheia by Joshua Silverman

A novella set in his Legends of Amun Ra series. Think Ancient Greece set on an alien world. Magic, armor, SF.

MunteanuOuterDiverseOuter Diverse by Nina Munteanu

New-to-me author. SF detective story. Lots of fun.

Stout wouldn't hold still for a pic!
Stout wouldn’t hold still for a pic!

The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock

New-to-me author. Magic, steampunky, England, detective. Intrigued?

Toothless Waffles being used as a bookstand...again.
Toothless Waffles being used as a bookstand…again.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Historical fiction, Elizabeth of York, the War of the Roses. Very good, easy to get into.

WillisBlackoutBlackout by Connie Willis

New-to-me author. Excellent time travel, WWII SF-Historical Fiction. Great characters, great plot.

AcevedoNymphosRockyFlatsThe Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo

Vampire detective, nuclear weapons mill, and nymphos. Intrigued?

PoznanskyTwistedTwisted by Uvi Poznansky

A collection of her short fictions. Offers a darker twist to such things as the story of Job, working with clay, and elderly cats.

Hunted by Kevin Hearne

HearneHuntedWhy I Read It: I really enjoy this series and couldn’t pass up another installment.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: If you have kept up with this series, it’s another fine book to get your hands on. If you haven’t, I highly recommend starting it or catching up.

Narrator: Luke Daniels

Publisher: Random House Audio (2013)

Length: 9 hours 52 minutes

Series: Book 6 The Iron Druid Chronicles

This book picks up right where Book 5, Trapped, left us. Atticus and Granuaile are still being hunted by a variety of deities and their minions. The Earth Elementals and Oberon are on their side, but everyone is either constrained, have their own agendas, or are out to kill them outright. With Granuaile’s newly developed powers, hopefully this trio can make it through to the next book.

It is pretty hard to chat about this book without spoilers to the previous books. So, let me start by some generic gushing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I nearly finished it one day. Granted, I had some horrible imported Peruvian cold and really didn’t want to accomplish much that day, but still. This book had action, tender moments, a variety of deities acting badly in a variety of deadly ways, and bare-ass shenanigans. You all know now how much I like my bare-ass shenanigans, and Kevin Hearne does not leave me disappointed on that note. I won’t say this is my favorite in the series, but I definitely appreciate how the characters have grown and continue to grow in each book.

From this point on, there will be spoilers for the series up to the end of Book 5, Trapped. Avert your eyes now if you are concerned.

So we all know that Granuaile got her Druidic tatts in Book 5. She now can tap into Earth powers. Hooray! In this book, we finally get to see things from her point of view. I would say that perhaps a quarter of the book is narrated through her eyes. I’m listening to the audio, and at first, this threw me off a little, but later I appreciated it.

Oberon’s sense of humor is a bit less in this book than in the last two, but I was OK with that. Was it Book 4 that had a little too much punniness? Anyway, I enjoyed the slightly more serious tone. After all, they are running for their lives. With a few Greek Goddesses on their heels and Loki being the demented, twisted jerk he is, the three had their hands, or paws, talons, or hooves full. At one point, Wheaton’s Law is called upon: Don’t be a dick. I wish more folks applied it to their every day lives, especially when sharing the road with me.

Dark Elves, Dwarves, the Morigan, all play a part. There is so much good stuff in this book, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Let me say that there are two big events in this book that I expect will have lasting effects on our trio of heroes. These two events pulled on my heart strings. Overall, it was another fun and intense installment in The Iron Druid Chronicles. Atticus had a very clever and interesting response to deal with the hunting Greek Goddesses. He also had to make a deal to help hold off Ragnarok just a little longer.

Narration: Luke Daniels was awesome once again. I love his voice for the Morigan. Of course his Oberon silly wolfhound voice is always great. He had to come up with a wicked voice for Loki, and he pulled it off with finesse.

What I Liked: Bare-ass shenanigans; dark humor; just a few parts pulled on the heart strings and flung me back into action; the continuing growth of the main characters.

What I Disliked: The occasional switch to Granuaile’s point of view would throw me, but I see why it was necessary.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Critic

Love Vampires

My Bookish Ways

Whatchmacallit Reviews