Giveaway & Interview: Heather Henderson, Narrator of The Egg and I

Everyone, please welcome Heather Henderson to the blog today. I really enjoyed her narration of the classic The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. A big thank you to Jess at The Audio Book Worm for setting up this book tour. Swing by the tour page to catch more interviews, reviews, giveaways, and audio excerpts. If your interested in the giveaway (and who wouldn’t be?), scroll to the very bottom to learn how to win an Amazon GC, or credit at Post Hypnotic Press (audiobooks, yay!). On to the interview!

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?

Actually, in thinking about this question, I came up with a cool idea (well, I think it’s cool!).   I would invite a group of my friends who are audiobook narrators, and I would ask each of them to bring a book to discuss that he or she had narrated.

I thought of this because narrators’ experience of books is so much different from that of readers or even listeners.  No matter how well I might know a book in print, when I perform it, I learn all these new things about its style, cadence, rhythm, syntax — new layers of meaning and technique.

Narrators live in these books for weeks, as we prep (pre-read and study) the script, figure out how to perform the author’s intention, decide how we are going to do each character and accent, research pronunciations . . . And then we go into the studio and record every word, every sentence for hours and hours a day for a week (or three, depending on the book).  I think it would be fascinating to hear other narrators share what they have learned about an author or a book through narrating it.

For our first meeting, I would bring Betty MaDonald’s Anybody Can Do Anything (the third in her memoirs series that I narrated, and I think my favorite of the four).  I would invite . . . well, I wouldn’t know where to start.  We narrators are spread all over the world, and sometimes the only time we see each other is at conferences, so I would want to see all them.  Off the top of my head: Judith West, Cassandra Campbell, Hillary Huber, Scott Brick, Johnny Heller, Grover Gardner, Andi Arnt (who would keep us all in stitches), Xe Sands, Elizabeth Wiley, Ann Richardson, Simon Vance . . . .

Oh, forget it: I couldn’t possibly choose!

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to voice acting/narrating?

The worst job I ever had ever was through a temp agency in 1978, in the days before computers or even copy machines that collated for you . . . read on:  I was sent to a company that made utility boxes for electric companies — you know, those bland green things on street corners?  This company designed a whole range of shapes and sizes of these boxes (who knew?), and they needed me to collate their 12-page catalog.  I spent two weeks, eight hours a day, taking one page from each 12 piles and stapling it into a catalog, over and over again.  It was absolutely silent in there all day.  If only Walkmans had been invented — I could have listened to music, or an audiobook!

Voice acting — especially audiobook narrating — is on the other end of the spectrum.   It is all kinds of things: incredibly technically difficult, exhausting, rewarding, and exhilarating, intellectually stimulating.  It challenges all of my training in theater and voice, is wonderfully creative.  And I get to work with wonderful people — and with books!

Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite heroes from the pages?

Iago (from Shakespeare’s Othello) comes to mind as the worst villain.  I think it’s because he’s so intentional about doing evil, and he does it parasitically, through Othello.  Othello is one of the most kind, intelligent, loving characters in Shakespeare, but Iago manages to get to him.

Heroes:  Jane Eyre.  She has a heart willing to give everything, but she’s made of steel.  She speaks her mind, and she insists that everyone around her live up to her high standards of honesty and authenticity.

You are co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry. What is the toughest accent for most American voice actors to do well?

That absolutely depends on the actor.  I honestly could not identify a single accent that “most” actors struggle with.  We all have natural abilities with some and not with others, and we have all gotten different training.

A tougher challenge, especially for less experienced narrators, is not to overdo an accent.  You don’t have to speak East Indian like a native — you just have to sound like an Indian who is speaking English with an Indian accent.  Otherwise you’ll come off like Apu from The Simpsons (which Hank Azaria does brilliantly — but that’s a whole different kind of character voice and voiceover specialty).

I worked really hard on this balance when I was narrating the character of Kimi in The Plague and I (Betty MacDonald’s third memoir).  Kimi is Betty’s Japanese-born best friend, and her dialogue is written with a pretty strong Japanese accent.  But I didn’t want to make her sound like, you know, Mickey Rooney doing Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  I did many takes of Kimi’s lines as I recorded the book — I’d do sentences over until they sounded natural enough to my ear.

On AudioEloquence, we list two types of resources: pronunciation sites and dialect/accent sites.  The pronunciation sites are the most valuable part to most people, I think.  You would not believe how many words you need to research when you have to say every single one of them correctly — character names place names, technical terms, sci-fi character names . . . etc.  If you go onto AudioEloquence.com, you can see what I mean — we have resources for pronunciation sites on everything from music to microbiology to Alaska towns.

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

For some reason, all the people who come to mind for this question are not fictional — they’re authors.  They would be:

1)  Robert Heinlein.  I met him at a Star Trek conference in 1976 (yes, you heard that right), and he was so sweet and interesting that I always wanted to get to know him better!

2) Betty MacDonald, of course.  When you read The Egg and I and her other memoirs, you feel like she could be your most loyal and hilarious BFF.

3)  Charlotte Brontë.  I would love to meet the woman who created that amazing character of Jane Eyre.

4)  M. Wylie Blanchet.  She wrote one of my favorite books, which I was fortunate enough to be able to narrate: The Curve of Time.

5)  Alice Hoffman.  I like to imagine that we could have tea and do magic spells together. 🙂

What is the first book you remember reading on your own? And what is the first book you narrated professionally?

I have no idea what the first book I ever read was.  As soon I learned to read (via Dick and Jane books in first grade — I clearly remember that), I read so constantly that it’s all a blur.  On more than one report card, I had the teacher comment, “Heather must stop reading during class and pay attention.” 🙂

The first book I narrated professionally was a wonderful young adult fiction, Hit the Road by Caroline B. Cooney, produced by Audible Studios.

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

Well, the final book in the Betty MacDonald memoirs series — Onions in the Stew — is just about to be released, which means that the whole set will now be available in audio for the first time ever!

The back-story to this is that I had been searching my whole career to find a producer who would collaborate with me on pulling this classic series out of obscurity.  Most of the book jobs I do are new releases, and I don’t choose them — I get asked to do them by audiobook publishers.  But I had a dream of narrating Betty MacDonald’s humorous memoirs (published betwen 1945 and 1955), because they are some of my favorite books ever.  There are four: The Egg and I, The Plague and I, Anybody Can Do Anything, and Onions in the Stew.  Finally, I found Carlyn Craig, who owns Post Hypnotic Press . . . and my dream came true.

About Heather Henderson:

NarratorHeatherHendersonHeather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts.  Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire;  and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine.   She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry.  In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.

Connect with the narrator: Website ~ YouTube ~LinkedIn

MacDonaldTheEggAndISynopsis of The Egg and I:

When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up and relax. And then came the children. Yet through every trial and pitfall – through chaos and catastrophe – this indomitable family somehow, mercifully, never lost its sense of humor.

A beloved literary treasure for more than half a century, Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I is a heartwarming and uproarious account of adventure and survival on the American frontier.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Betty MacDonald:

AuthorBettyMacDonaldBetty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters. 

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island). 

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Find out more on Wikipedia

Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ YouTube ~ LinkedIn ~ SoundCloud ~ Pinterest

GIVEWAYS!!!

There are 4 different giveaways for this tour. You can enter any of them or all of them. These giveaways are hosted by The Audiobookworm and the prizes provided by the publisher. Enjoy!

Giveaway 1: Grand Prize! $100 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press

The Egg and I Grand Prize

Giveaway 2: $80 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press

The Egg and I Runner Up

Giveaway 3: $60 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press

The Egg and 2nd Runner Up

Giveaway 4: $20 Amazon Gift Card

The Egg and I 3rd Runner Up

Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey

Streak being calm & snuggly.

Streak being calm & snuggly.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2008)

Length: 24 hours 15 minutes

Series: Book 6 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 6 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 3 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3 of the first trilogy, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Mercy is best read as part of the second trilogy, if not as Book 6 in the larger series, since there are plenty of characters and situations referred to from the previous books.

Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood, and Sidonie de la Courcel, Terre D’Ange’s princess and next in line to the throne, are in love. This doesn’t sit well with much of the realm because Imriel’s estranged birth mother, Melisande Shahrizai, betrayed the nation a generation ago. Imriel and Sidonie are faced with a difficult choice: Bring Melisande to justice or Sidonie will not inherit the throne. After beginning their search for Melisande in earnest, an unlikely city nation, Carthage, comes with luxurious gifts, promises of alliance, and an apparently heartfelt hope that Sidonie will consider their General Astegal for marriage. Things do not go as expected, for anyone.

This historical fantasy is another beautiful addition to the Terre D’Ange cycle. Through the adventures of Imriel and Sidonie, we learn more about this alternate world Carey has created. Carthage is a budding empire, rich in gold and gems but also dependent on slavery. General Astegal comes off as a very charming man, willing to bend to Terre D’Ange’s way of things when it comes to love; for instance, he wouldn’t be in a miff if Sidonie decided to have a harem of pretty young men. The other culture that really stood out for me was the Euskerri, which is akin to the Basque. Deeply proud and also demanding equality from their two neighboring countries – Terre D’Ange and Aragonia.

In the previous books, there has been some magic, though much of it is left up to the reader’s interpretation. In this novel, the magic is direct and has immediate consequences. Even though this is a reread for me, I always find myself surprised by how not subtle the magic component is in this story, as compared to the previous books. So how do you fight strong magic when you only have a passing experience with it? That is something that Imriel and Sidonie will have to figure out, though I do like all the hints that Elua, Terre D’Ange’s primary deity, may be giving them a hand. The magic does follow certain rules, which I liked, though it was quite the trial for Imriel to figure out what those rules were.

There’s plenty of adventure and sneaking about in this story. Imriel must make alliances with the most unlikely of people to even make a solid attempt to not only rescue Sidonie but the entire capitol of Terre D’Ange, the City of Elua. Indeed, spying, misdirection, and disguises make up a good part of the book. I think it was hardest on Imriel to deceive his beloved foster parents, Phedre and Joscelin. There’s some pretty intense scenes that had me holding my breath! Also, those scenes with Barquiel L’Enver, a man who has disliked Imriel since he was born, were quite worthy.

Sidonie really shines in this book. Even with everything told through Imriel’s eyes, Sidonie had some tough decisions to make and was at the center of some dangerous situations. Carey has this magical way of writing female characters behaving in feminine ways and still getting important stuff done. While Imriel is the character that carried me forward in this story, there’s a strong argument for Sidonie being that star of the story.

Each time we think our heroes have found the key to winning the day, there’s another twist or another spell or another hurdle or another bad guy that must be vanquished. One of the hardest things about this was that sometimes they had to find a way to sneak past, trick, or even fight friends and family that were ensnared in the magic. My poor nails! I was biting my nails too often with this story!

As with the series, there are incredible sex scenes that range from playful to desperate to healing to sad to joyful. Carey is just as detailed in her love scenes as she is with her use of cultures and linguistics. I always enjoy these scenes because they reveal something further about the characters.

The ending was well done. I was very satisfied that things were not easy to unravel and iron out. Not everyone gets everything they want. There’s plenty to be forgiven all around. Still, it was beautiful and satisfying.

The Narration: Simon Vance does this final book in Imriel’s trilogy justice. He had to take on further accents as our heroes experienced new cultures. There were also plenty of complicated emotions and intense scenes and Vance did a great job capturing the subtleties of those emotions in his voice work. Also, he did a fantastic job with the sex scenes.

What I Liked: Tangible magic with rules; Imriel has to make some unlikely alliances; Sidonie is at the heart of the matter and she shines through; exploration of further cultures in this alternate world; the love scenes; the intensity of Imriel interacting with his foster parents; Imriel and Sidonie really had to fight for their love; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is an excellent way to end this trilogy.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

Dear Author

Miss Geeky

The Bibliosanctum

Dune by Frank Herbert

HerbertDuneWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrators: Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance, Ilyana Kadushin

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2007)

Length: 21 hours 8 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dune, Book 12 Dune Saga

Author’s Page

Set in a sweeping science fiction universe, the human empire is vast and complicated. Spice, from the planet Arrakis (aka Dune) powers it all, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in not so subtle ways. For years, the Harkonnen family has managed Dune for the Emperor, but now the Emperor has handed control of that planet over to House Atreides. Of course, the Harkonnens will do whatever they can to take down the Atreides. Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica will have to learn how to survive the most harshest zones of this desert planet in order to survive the Harkonnen.

I have read this book so many times over the years and each time I take something new from it. I was originally fascinated by the book because of the desert planet, which holds such great significance for the plot. Having spent most of my life in one desert or another, I really appreciated that Herbert built real desert life into the scenery. It’s not all sandy dunes, dry heat, and wind. Plus there’s giant sandworms and who doesn’t love giant worms of any kind?

This book is full of cool SF tech as well. There’s the small transport ships for collecting the Spice in the desert, the enormous space going vessels, personal protective shields, assassin’s tricks and tools, the specialized desert suits that reclaim and recycle the body’s water, and plenty more. If you’ve only seen the various movies/mini-series based on the book, then you are missing out.

The characters are also fascinating. While some are drawn simply, they still have motives and are useful to the plot. The main characters are layered, complex, have faults and foibles. Duke Leto, Paul’s father, comes across as a capable ruler who is worthy of respect. He is sure in his priorities and his code of honor. Jessica, Leto’s concubine and most trusted companion, is Bene Gesserit trained. Yes, she does scheme but her reasons are solidly good. Still, she miscalculates and makes mistakes. Paul starts off as a smart but somewhat sheltered boy. His story arc tosses him into a world of danger, literally, and there are so many ways he could have ended up dead. Gurney Halleck, Paul’s troubadour warrior trainer, is also a favorite. He has some of the roughest humor but also pushes Paul the hardest.

For a book that has staunchly remained in the SF genre, there is a mystical side to the story. The Bene Gesserit is a long-standing sisterhood that has spread it’s seeds of religion throughout the human universe. Most are trained from birth in mental abilities as well as history, languages, and martial arts. They also have the Voice, which allows them to compel most people to simple actions. The Bene Gesserit use the Spice to peek into the future (a talent called prescience) and thereby have kept humanity from being snuffed out by this disaster or that (or it’s own stupidity). Yet there is a place they can’t look, a place that terrifies them. Paul will play a role in helping them discover what is hidden there. Since this mystical element to the story can’t be nailed down by science, it has fascinated me the over the years.

There is so much to love about this book. The desert people,  the Fremen, have their own well-formed culture, shaped by the environment of Dune. Indeed, Dune itself is like a character in the story because it’s nature has such a strong influence on the story. The little touches of various languages throughout the story are also appreciated. I find it immensely sensible that House Atreides would have it’s own battle language, making it that much more difficult for their enemies to figure out what they are doing during a fight.

If you haven’t given this book a read yet, I highly recommend it. There is plenty to be discovered and enjoyed in this classic SF novel.

The Narration: The narration on this book is a little odd. There are chunks where multiple narrators are giving voice to the characters and then chunks where it is only Simon Vance narrating all the characters. I wonder if a trimmed radio theater version was recorded and then the publisher went back later and had Vance fill in all the in between spaces for an unabridged version. Vance’s performance is really good and the multi-cast parts are really good, but I found myself not liking switching between the two. I would get used to a character sounding a certain way and then have to get used to Vance’s performance of the same character, and then switching back and forth throughout – it was an unnecessary annoyance. Still, I love this book enough to tolerate it and for the most part, I still enjoyed the narration. 

What I Liked: The desert planet Dune and how it shapes the human existence; all the SF tech; so many assassins!; the worms of Arrakis; Paul’s story arc; the use of languages; the mystery of the Bene Gesserit; a worthy classic.

What I Disliked: The narration is odd – switching between a multi-cast performance and a single narrator, and back and forth for the entire book was a little annoying.

What Others Think:

Conceptual Fiction

Only the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy

World’s Strongest Librarian

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SF Reviews

Fantasy Book Review

Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey

Chupacabra has spotted something!

Chupacabra has spotted something!

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2009)

Length: 25 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 5 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 5 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 2 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Justice can work as a stand alone, though there are plenty of characters and situations referred to from the previous book.

Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood and adopted son to Phedre no Delaunay de Montreve, has returned to Terre D’Ange from his time in Caerdicca Unitas where he was attending university. He grew up quite a bit in the previous book and those around him think he may be ready for more responsibility. Unexpectedly, passion erupts between him and the heir to the Terre D’Ange throne, Sidonie de la Courcel. Not wanting to embroil the nation in the politics of their potential union, Imriel acquiesces to marrying a royal of the Alban family, Dorolei. Things go awry. Terribly, terribly awry and Imriel is propelled on a quest that takes him far afield of either nation.

Out of the first six books, I often found this book to be the slowest paced. It’s still a worthy read, yet I found it to have the fewest action scenes and long periods of travel and/or contemplation. However, this time around I read it with an on-line group and new little gems were revealed to me. It’s a time of change for Imriel and also of challenges that will define what kind of man he becomes going forward. It took him quite a bit of time and agonizing to figure out who he wanted and yet, now he has to make the hard choice of serving his country or alienating half the kingdom. Elua’s precept, love as thou wilt, was set aside.

Setting the gushy feelings aside for the moment, this installment to the series allows the reader to explore more of Alba and the Maghuin Dhon (the Bear Witches). Alais, Sidonie’s younger sister, travels with her father, the Cruarch of Alba, and Imriel, exploring the countryside as they make their slow progress to Dorolei’s home. The Alban nobles are not quick to adopt Imriel. They test him in several ways, including a cattle raid. But before long, tragedy strikes. My heart went out to Imri! I think he went a little insane with it for a short time, as to be expected.

From here, Imriel has a quest to undertake in order to fulfill an oath. But it’s more than that. There’s honor and duty in the quest for sure, but there’s also the need for vengeance. Something important was taken from Imriel, and from others, and he can’t let that abide. His quest takes him further east than he has ever traveled, into lands that barely exist on D’Angeline maps. Throughout this lengthy travel, Imriel meets many characters and several have views on vengeance versus justice. Indeed, this becomes one of the main themes of the second half of the book.

The sex scenes are just as compelling as the action scenes, and are more numerous. Carey doesn’t waste the reader’s time with flippant or empty romance scenes. While detailed, the sex scenes are beautifully written and always provide extra insight into the characters. After all, how we treat someone in private in intimate moments can be very revealing of our natures.

This series continues to render a rich and vibrant world filled with many cultures. Carey does an amazing job of fleshing out characters, even minor ones, giving them their own motives. I never feel like words are wasted when reading Carey. I love that I don’t always agree with a character’s choices, but I almost always see where they are coming from. Carey also includes different religions, food, and daily practices. The landscape and weather shape the backbone of the story. Indeed, I feel immersed when reading this series. The journey was worth the reread.

The Narration: Simon Vance’s skills are on great display with this book. His abilities with accents are surely put to the test with this tale! French, Gaelic, and Russian are just a few of the accents needed for the large cast of characters. There are also several moments of deep and complex emotions and Vance does a great job of showing these in his character voices.

What I Liked: The diversity captured in this book; Imriel has to make some hard choices;  the discussions of vengeance versus justice; exploring new lands; Imriel’s quest; Elua’s precept; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: I think the US market is ready for Imriel to be on the covers of this trilogy.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

The Obsessive Bookseller

The Bookbag

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Findings

Alexei Cyren

Kushiel’s Scion by Jacqueline Carey

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2008)

Length: 27 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 4 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

 

Note: While this is Book 4 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 1 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Scion can be read on it’s own.

Set in an alternate history mixed with a bit of fantasy, Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in the first trilogy, is growing up and he’s muddling his way through it. Certain things that come easy to his friends (like flirting) are difficult for him. It’s a long road full of blunders, missteps, and embarrassing moments. But there are also these gems of self-realization, beauty, and love. His teen years are full of various experiments, like him working alongside the Montreve folks to clear a new paddock, his early friendship with Eamonn mac Grainne, and his first visit to the Court of Night Blooming Flowers. This book is really the story of how Imriel becomes a man.

Eamonn goes off to Tiberium in Caerdicca Unitas to learn at the great universities and Imri follows soon enough. Both Phedre (Imri’s adopted mother) and Imri are curious if Phedre’s mentor Anafiel Delaunay learned the arts of covertcy in Tiberium when he was a young man. Imri makes it one of his goals to find out. He finds so much more than he expected, including himself. Living through Master Piero’s lessons, a riot, a siege, a wedding, the loss of a friend, Imri comes out of it wiser and more patient with himself and those around him.

Each of the first three books had distinct plots that arose early in the story. The second trilogy is a bit slower paced and I think of it as a plot that extends over all three books, taking longer to show itself. So, what was the main thread for this book? It was Imri learning how to be a man, but also what kind of man he wants to be. He spends much of his inner monologue worried over 1) whether he can be a good man and 2) whether he will choose to do so. He has this darker side, one that is prone to moodiness, anti-social behavior, brooding, and darker desires in the bedroom. Whereas the first trilogy has a distinct goal and hence plot for each book, this story is more subtle and takes more patience to pick out the main threads. Certain parts of the tale do tend to linger a bit overmuch (such as the teen angst that Imri goes through).

Then we all the good stuff. Melisande, Imri’s biological mother and a traitor to the kingdom of Terre D’Ange, still has a pinky in the mix. Imri becomes entangled in a torrid affair that brings him closer to the answer of who taught Anafiel such interesting skills. So much subtle intrigue! The siege is also interesting because it involves the ghosts of the city as well as the living. I won’t spoil this, but I found this to be the most interesting part of the book. Imri learns so much about love and friendship in it’s many shades in this tale.

As with the first trilogy, this book does have detailed sex scenes. They are hot and steamy, the author not flinching away from including both emotion and action in her descriptions. She’s a master at keeping them in context and using such scenes to either move the plot along or show you depths in her characters. Some of the scenes are a bit more robust than others, but most of them are sweet in nature.

I think I will always enjoy the first trilogy the most because it introduced me to this wonderful world. However, it was great to revisit Imriel’s tale once again, this time as part of a on-line group read. Nuances that I had missed reading on my own were brought up in the numerous discussions. This book definitely has stood up to scrutiny.

The Narration: Simon Vance gives a great performance as the voice of Imriel. He has that smooth cadence that is perfect for Imriel’s brooding thoughts or his well chosen words. I loved his accent for Eamonn and his Italian accents for the people of Caerdicca Unitas. All his characters were distinct and he had more than one female voice. He sounded very comfortable with the sex scenes.

What I Liked: A return and further exploration of this alternate fantasy world; Imriel himself; Phedre and Joscelin raising this kid to be a man; Master Piero and his pigeons; Gallus Tadeus during the siege; Imriel’s friendship with Lucius; the quest to find out where Anafiel learned his spy arts; the leavetakings and prepping for the next step in life.

What I Disliked: Very minor comment – there were times where Imriel’s adolescent moodiness became a bit much, but I guess that is true to form.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

The Obsessive Bookseller

Mervi’s Book Reviews

The Bookbag

Book Loons

 

SPQR I: The King’s Gambit by John Maddox Roberts

RobertsTheKingsGambitWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2008)

Length: 7 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 SPQR

Author’s Page

Set in the 1st century ancient Rome, this murder mystery will have you hooked and wanting more. In the time of Crassus and Pompey, murder and intrigue are not that uncommon. However, their is the dual murders of an ex-slave and a foreign merchant that catch the eye of Decius Caecilius Metellus. He isn’t willing to write these deaths off so quickly.

When I was younger, I read several of these SPQR books in paperback. I just couldn’t get enough of them. I was very delighted to find them in audio and narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Simon Vance. This book is a great introduction to the series and our main hero and detective Decius. I really enjoy how the murder trail cuts through several levels of society. This book doesn’t focus on the rich and famous, but rather, makes them the backdrop to the rest of Roman society.

There is a bit of sex in this book. Or rather, there is plenty of sensuality that leads up to the sex, which is then mostly done behind a curtain. The lead up was very well done. There were drugs and alcohol and tumblers involved, so it was all a little fuzzy to Decius the next morning. Coinciding with that, I wish there were a few more female characters in the story. But that is my only quibble with this book.

The author does a great job of putting the reader in ancient Rome. The food and the clothes and the lack of modern plumbing are all there for the reader experience. Plus the author does a great job of showing societal norms of the time, which is important in understanding the mindset of the main characters. He doesn’t try to take modern morals and shove them into an ancient Roman character.

The Narration: Simon Vance was awesome as always. He had distinct voices for both males and females. He didn’t hesitate at all with the Latin phrases tossed in here and there.

What I Liked: Ancient Rome; murder mystery; the political intrigue; Decius’s cleverness; explores the various classes of Roman life.

What I Disliked: Could use a few more female characters.

What Others Think:

KD Did It

Italophile Book Reviews

Book Loons

Giveaway & Interview: Franz Ross, Author of Our Future Good

KirbyOurFutureGoodFolks, please welcome Franz Ross (aka T. J. Kirby), author of Our Future Good. I really enjoyed Our Future Good, a sharp mix of near-future scifi and social commentary. The audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, one of my all-time favorite narrators. He’s here today for a lovely chat about physics in science fiction writing, holography, life as a realtor, Warren Buffett, and much more. If you’re here for the giveaway, Franz if offering up 3 audiobook copies of Our Future Good. Scroll to the bottom to enter!

You have a dedicated interest in holography. How did you get started in that? How has the hobby changed over the decades?

I have a small publishing business and I happened to see a notice that these guys were giving classes on how to make your own holograms.  If you ever see a real good volume hologram (a hologram that actually forms an image in space out in front of the plate) it is very impressive. People that have never seen one spend a lot of time running their hand through the ghost-like image.

So I did a book with the people that conducted these classes and the book was called the Holography Handbook and it was very well received. Both MacMillan and McGraw-Hill put it in their book clubs and the book sold well in stores too.

I then went on to do a series called the Holography Marketplace which had 8 editions and came out almost annually. Each edition had articles on holography and a database of all the businesses in holography. Each edition was also filled with lots of holograms from various vendors.

Artistic holography was very big for quite a while and there were hologram stores in lots of cities. It has kind of died down now and most uses of holograms today are in security devices like credit cards, money and things like that. It will probably come back in time.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Aldous Huxley. I thought Brave New World was an interesting insight to where things might go. The other possibility for the future was 1984. It would be interesting to hear his comments.

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

Being a Realtor is very difficult because you never know what is going to happen or where your next dollar will come from.

Writing takes a long time and it is more time consuming and difficult than I first thought but you do it because you love doing it.

Who are your non-writer influences? 

I like to casually follow stocks so people like Warren Buffett are interesting.

I really like cutting edge science so the things that people like Elon Musk are doing are very interesting. It is really exciting to be alive today because everything is changing so rapidly.

You have a degree in physics. Did that make writing your book, Our Future Good, easier or more difficult? 

It helps a little because it allows you to discount a lot of the garbage in the news and gives you a more realistic idea as to where things are going to go. Our Future Good is the not too distant future and I think people will be surprised how quickly these things come to exist.

I will take this moment to sketch this out: One way of looking at the near future is that there will be 3 major human inventions during our time. The inventions will be so important that you would have to go all the way back to the invention of written language or the wheel to find something comparable.

1)     The internet – We have just started this one and it is difficult to understand how incredible it is because you are living it.

2)     Mobile Robotic Devices – This has not started yet but it is coming very soon. Call them robots if you like. Robots will make robots and repair robots. So you will be able to create huge quantities of robots if needed and they will do all our mundane chores.

3)     Biological Evolution – This comes soon too. To survive as humans we have always gone out and wacked a plant or animal to death and then stuffed it in our mouth to get the nourishment we need. So we are basically using our body as a garbage disposal that leaches out nutrients that we need and this process also slowly clogs up our plumbing and kills us. We will find a way to provide all the nutrients our body needs without going through all this waste.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging? 

I really have to spend more time on this. I published a number of books by other authors in my business called Ross Books (www.rossbooks.com) but I never actually wrote a book before Our Future Good.

I admit I am not good at self-promotion and I need to work on it. Maybe your readers have some ideas.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

1984

Brave New World

Some of Isaac Asimov’s voluminous writings (hundreds of books).

Arthur Clarke

H. G. Wells

Ray Bradbury

Thank you Franz for spending time with us!

Book Blurb for Our Future Good:

KirbyOurFutureGoodMary and Joe are young people just graduating from their General Lessons. It is time for them to go to their first Project Day and choose the first Project they will to join. Mary wants desperately to get her boyfriend Joe to join her in the NutriSuit Project, but Joe wants just as desperately to do a Journalist Project because a major event is happening and Joe has an opportunity to play an important role

Places to Find Franz Ross (T. J. Kirby)

Ross Books

T. J. Kirby Website

Goodreads

Audible

Amazon

Now for the Giveaway! Franz Ross is offering up 3 (three!) copies of the audiobook Our Future Good. You need to have an Audible.com (USA) account. For a quick, easy entry in to the giveaway, leave me comment with the following: an email address, do you have an Audible USA account?, and recommend a scifi audiobook. For even more chances to win, do the rafflecopter thing.

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