Monday, June 4, 2012

Neverwhere Group Read Part III

Here we are at the end of a Neil Gaiman book. While this was a reread for me, it still left me wanting to go on a Gaiman reading spree. Marathon, anyone?

Stainless Steel Droppings deserves much thanks for putting this book up there for a group read and providing the questions for Part I and Part II. Now, he has left it free form for Part III!

Some impressions of the book: 

The Marquis de Carabas seems to hold to some form of honor and I always hope to be on the right side of that honor. It is clever and fascinating that he can keep his life in a box. Then he entrusted Old Bailey with his life! Is the Marquis a great judge of character or do you think he had some hold over Old Bailey?

Door is described as quite young throughout the book, yet she is making hard decisions (not always the right ones) all the time. If there is ever to be a sequel or prequel, I would love to see a bit of London Below through her eyes.

Vandemar and Croup got sucked out to the far end of the universe with Islington. I found it very interesting that Vandemar went willingly. We never did get to find out exactly what Croup and Vandemar are - they don't seem to take any notice of injuries and they don't bleed. I wonder if they are akin to The Marquis - who did take offense to pain and who did bleed, but who still came back from the dead.

Hunter went astray, didn't she? I can still remember the first time I read this book and I got to that point where you know for the first time that Hunter has sold out Door and is willing to crush anyone who stands between her and that spear and the Beast of London Below. I so wanted her to be the good good guy. In a way, she found her way back by giving Richard his chance. I do have to wonder how dead is dead - and what Lady Serpentine planned to do with Hunter's body.

Richard grew up a bit, didn't he? Though I did think he was jumping the gun to hire the Lamia. He was lucky to get his heat back, and his life. Then when it was all said and done, I really felt for Door when he left her there; it probably took remarkable courage for her to ask him to stay. However, I think Richard had to go back to his old life and see how pale and empty it is compared to London Below. Even with a promotion and everyone looking up to him, even with Jessica apologizing and wanting back into his life, it all just didn't measure up to what he became in London Below. It was achingly sweet when he wanted to return.

Questions for you: 

What do you think the golden toad in the box Door opened for Hammersmith was all about?

I remember the first time I read this book, I didn't see all the twists and tricks coming, from Hunter's betrayal, to The Marquis returning from the dead, to Islington's need for power, to the fake key. What twists and turns caught you by surprise?

Out of all the food we experienced throughout the book, it was Richard's English breakfast of eggs and baked beans he shares in a diner at the end of the book with his work buddy that made me shudder. Did any of the food strike you as over the top? Any descriptions make you want to go out and cook a Neverwhere dinner?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Neverwhere Group Read Part II

Welcome back everyone for the second installment of the group read of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Stainless Steel Droppings is our friendly instigator and supplier of witty, deeply insightful questions. Make sure to stop by his blog and see his thoughts on this book.

1.  Chapter 6 begins with Richard chanting the mantra, "I want to go home".  How do you feel about Richard and his reactions at this point to the unexpected adventure he finds himself on?

I see two things: a) Richard is still scared, uncertain, and not welcoming of this new life with open arms. He isn't seeing the potential or the good things about London Below; b) He is desiring to return to his old life because it is familiar, not because he has really great friends, an awesome girlfriend, and a kickass career waiting for him.

2.  The Marquis de Carabas was even more mysterious and cagey during the first part of this week's reading.  What were your reactions to him/thoughts about him as you followed his activities?

Is he playing everyone? How did he know where and when to meet with Croup and Vandemar? What is in that box he gave to Old Bailey? It's been years since I read this book, and some of the answers to these questions have faded.

I have to say the dude is playing everyone and doing it stylishly dressed. But I don't remember what his end goal is, so I am very curious about what is motivating him.

That scene with him and Croup and the T'ang Dynasty figurine was great.

3.  How did you feel about the Ordeal of the Key?

Talk about Richard's inner doubts pulling out all the stops! But I think he faced those self-destructive demons in the end and made a decision to live and to live well. That quartz bead reminder was a nice touch to ground him in reality.

4.  This section of the book is filled with moments.  Small, sometimes quite significant, moments that pass within a few pages but stick with you.  What are one or two of these that you haven't discussed yet that stood out to you, or that you particularly enjoyed.

Hunter's dream sequence which is more of a memory concerning the 300 pound weasel that she slew. She then presented the hide to a special young lady who was appropriately grateful. Such a simple phrase - how was she grateful? Hmm.....

Also, Old Bailey telling punny jokes to his birds. That is funny in a pathetic kind of way. But I can relate, since I am very bad with telling jokes.

5.  Any other things/ideas that you want to talk about from this section of the book?

Croup needs to take Vandemar to a buffet every once in a while.
That whole scene at the museum with Jessica and Mr. Stockton - I was really hoping that things would go wrong for Jessica some how because I felt that by things going right it would reinforce her self-centered traits (which isn't healthy).
Did the Atlanteans know how to make wine, or what?
Lady Serpentine - I Want The Back Story!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Neverwhere Group Read - Part I

It has been years since I last read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. It was my first Gaiman novel and it has had a special place on my bookshelf ever since.

Big thanks to Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting, organizing, and inspiring this groups read. Stop by his blog to see his thoughts on the book.

1.  What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?

At first glance, they didn't seem to be too formidable. Vandemar likes to eat questionable things and Croup has a way with words. Both enjoy intimidating folks. But then they take out a very skilled bodyguard. Hmmm.....And that scene with the knife throwing at the hand - I now have to wonder how much, if at all, these two can be hurt.

2.  Thus far we've had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it.  What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the "real world" occupies?

London Below needs a suite of cleaning ladies and lads. I am not too keen on the whole roasted cat idea. I like that all the folks Richard has met so far have some sort of power or ability that he wasn't expecting and completely lacks himself.

3.  What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere?  Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?

The Portico family - Arch, Door, etc. Very interesting how they are all some sort of gateway between things.

Richard is an average guy who is treated below average by nearly everyone, except maybe Door. I am glad Jessica is out of his life.

4.  We've met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?

The Floating Market (not really a character itself but has lots of character) has a huge potential to be a very central location in the book.

I was taken in by Anasthesia....but that didn't last long.
I would love the back story on Hunter.

5.  As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?

I bet rat tails are out. Cat tails in.
Did you ever see the movie rendition of Stardust, another Gaiman novel? I would expect the Floating Market to by a grittier and less wholesome version of the market just beyond the Wall.
And I would want to sample the local bangers and mash. Maybe.

6.  If you haven't already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?

London Above is really boring and full of boring and self-important folks.
The theme that there is so much more going on around us, outside of our little life, is beautifully illustrated.
Who should Door trust? Hmmm.....I am thnking she might be a little too trusting.

Other Thoughts: 
Very funny that Richard's first idea of Hunter is that she is a prostitute. 
Everyone in London Below has interesting clothing, not dictated by the latest fashion star.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Red Seas Under Red Skies Week 3

Hey everyone, and welcome to another Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along post. This week the questions were provided by @ohthatashley. I'll be responding to these a bit later than I had planned (summer kids stuff has kept me away from the blog for far longer than even I planned, sorry), but feel free to jump in and reply yourself before my answers are up. Thanks!

1. Locke and Jean's ability to find themselves at the center of a serious mess seems unparalleled. At this point, do you think that Stragos will get the return he expects on his investment in them?

2. Merrain's activities after our boys leave Windward Rock are interesting. What do you think her plans are?

3. Does anyone know why having cats aboard the ship is so important?

4. The word "mutiny" creates a lot of mental pictures. Were you surprised? Why or why not?

5. Ah, the Poison Orchid. So many surprises there, not the least of which were the captain's children. Did you find the young children a natural part of the story?

6. Jean is developing more and more as a character as we get further in to the book. Ezri makes the comment to him that "Out here, the past is a currency, Jerome. Sometimes it's the only one we have." I think several interesting possibilities are coming into play regarding Jean and Ezri. What about you?

7. As we close down this week's reading, the Thorn of Camorr is back! I love it, even with all the conflict.  Several things from their Camorri background have come back up. Do you think we will see more Camorri characters?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mistborn: The Final Empire Group Read Part V

The Conclusion is upon us! At least until we tackle the second book in the series.

This week's questions were supplied by Stainless Steel Droppings, who masterminded this whole group read, so make sure to stop by his place and see what his thoughts are on the end of Book I.

With much begging and pleading from those who reign above (at my local internet repair headquarters), El Internet was returned to service this morning after roughly 36 hours of me being left to my own devices. Which mostly involved cooking and cleaning. Having risen this morning to view that tell-tale light upon the modem, joy surged through me, only to find my desktop monitor had died in the night. A second of silence please.

Luckily, this is a geek and nerd household and there is this trusty little laptop.

Without more pissing and moaning, here are the final questions.

1.  So, what do you think of Kelsier's plan now? Or his 'plan within a plan'?  How do you feel the late introduction of the kandra and how it fit into Kelsier's plan?

It was very touching to find out that Kelsier planned all along for him not to come out on top, and yet for the rebellion to continue on. At the beginning, even tho I liked Kell, I kind of felt this was about his ego, his need. His ending showed that his drive went beyond that.

2.  The final section of the book was very Vin-centric.  How do you feel about the choices she made and did you have any worries/fears about what might happen to her before everything was resolved?

OMG - there were several points where I wanted to slap her and tell her it's OK to regroup and fight another day. You don't have to get yourself killed today! But I think it held true to form - what we have seen of her stubbornness. Yeah, but I was concerned that Vin might be joining the ranks of the daft & dead sooner than anticipated.

3.  After all that we find out that the Lord Ruler wasn't the prophesied one after all.  Surprised? Had you figured it out?  What thoughts do you have about the big reveal, including how it tied into Sazed's people?

Another blogger last week (forgive my memory, can't recall who) had guessed this, and I thought it was a pretty interesting idea. So, when the reveal came I was still surprised, but it all clicked right away.

I wonder if the Terrismen will have some sort of racial grieving over all the damage the Lord ruler has done over the years and will, in some way, feel as tho they must apologize to the world.

Whatever their motivation, they will now be free to share all that stored knowledge, dance in the streets naked, and breed freely.

4.  There was some back and forth about Elend throughout the story and we finally got to see him take a greater stand.  Any predictions about what might happen in book two with Elend taking on leadership duties?

Elend had some nasty shocks, didn't he? His father leaving him to face certain doom alone, taking charge, turning himself over, going on a suicide mission to rescue Vin; the boy became a man in a few hours and did it well.

I look forward to watching his character grow in Book 2. It should be interesting to see how many of the nobles follow him, what they think of his alliance with Vin and the rebel leaders, and what happens if his father returns. I think someone might be due for a spanking and it won't be Elend.

5.  Lastly, provide a little wrap up of your experience with the book.  What do you think Sanderson's strengths are?  How does this book stack up against other fantasies you've read?

Sanderson builds a fascinating world, with rules and class norms, and holds to them throughout the book. Then, he builds an awesome plot to stick in that world, one that allows his characters to have a past and a future. My first Sanderson book was The Way of Kings, which is his latest and greatest; In reading Mistborn: TFE, I am impressed at how much of that writing skill was there all those years ago, and merely has been refined over time. 

This has been an awesome ride and reading the book for the first time as part of a group read made it more enjoyable. Thanks everyone!

Other Thoughts:
Vin kicks ass!
I wonder which, if any, of the rebel leaders will be opposed to joining forces with the nobles?
Will folks trust Marsh even tho he basically saved Vin? Can he rule the remaining Steel Inquisitors? Will he have to destroy them too?
I want to learn more about gold, the 11th metal, and atium; are there more metals for them to play with?
Where is all that atium anyway?
What was the Lord Ruler protecting the world from?
Vin kicks ass!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Red Seas Under Red Skies, Week 2

It's week 2, and The Little Red Reviewer's questions are good. I mean really good.

So, make sure to jump straight over to her sight to get in on the awesome discussion. I apologize for not being more active lately. Family life has really taken over, and it's going to be tough for me to have as much time as I used to for blogging-related activities. We'll figure it out, though and get things moving along smoothly soon enough.

So, answer me these awesome questions and let's get chatting. Also, feel free to check out my answers below.

Now that we know a little more about Selendri and Requin, what do you think of them? I worry Locke is suddenly realizing this con might be a bit tougher than he expected.

Isn’t the Artificers’ Crescent just amazing?  If you could purchase anything there, what would it be?

What did you think of  Salon Corbeau and the goings on that occur there? A bit crueler than a Camorri crime boss, no?

The Archon might be a megalomaniacal military dictator, but he thinks he’s doing right by Tal Verrar: his ultimate goal seems to be to protect them.  What do you think he’s so afraid of?

And who the heck is trying to kill Locke and Jean every few days?  they just almost got poisoned (again!)!

Do you really think it’s possibly for a city rat like Locke to fake his way onto a Pirate ship?

Now that we know a little more about Selendri and Requin, what do you think of them? I worry Locke is suddenly realizing this con might be a bit tougher than he expected.

Agreed. Locke has tough times ahead for him, no doubt.

Isn’t the Artificers’ Crescent just amazing?  If you could purchase anything there, what would it be?

It's so hard to answer a question like this. In this fantasy world there are so MANY things that I'd love to own or try. I really can't choose.

What did you think of  Salon Corbeau and the goings on that occur there? A bit crueler than a Camorri crime boss, no?

Absolutely crueler. I have a wacky theory about this place and later books, but I don't think it's even close to right, so I'll be keeping it to myself.

The Archon might be a megalomaniacal military dictator, but he thinks he’s doing right by Tal Verrar: his ultimate goal seems to be to protect them.  What do you think he’s so afraid of?
Good question. I find him to be an interesting character. He's smart like the gray king, but seems to have less crazy and chaos surrounding his thoughts.

And who the heck is trying to kill Locke and Jean every few days?  they just almost got poisoned (again!)!
I think one of the great things about this series is that someone will ALWAYS be around to try and kill Locke and Jean. If they aren't half a step from death's door then they're not being themselves.

Do you really think it’s possibly for a city rat like Locke to fake his way onto a Pirate ship?

You know, the first time I read this book, I really did think he could pull it off. Locke has that kind of talent that just seems to be able to do anything he puts his mind to, or gets pressured with death to do.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MIstborn: The Final Empire Group Read Part IV

Hello Everyone! This week's questions were supplied by Lynn over at Lynn's Book Blog - so stop by and check out her answers. Another big thanks to Stainless Steel Droppings for pulling this whole group read together! This section takes us through the end of Chapter 34 and there are SPOILERS, everywhere. You will probably step on, stumble over, and end up falling on them. Body armor will not help you. Next week, we will be concluding this book, so check back here next Wednesday for that.


1.       Well, we finally got our long awaited view of the Lord Ruler, firstly just a brief glimpse during the executions and then during the fight with Kelsier.  What do you now think about him and the myth’s surrounding him?  And, given his strength do you think he can be beaten?

Damn. Triple damn. He is real, and he hits hard! And has great fashion sense.

Yet, everything has a weakness; maybe not physical. So, yes, by the end of the trilogy, I expect there to be some way to get to him. Poison powder in his tailored undergarments? 

2.       We seemed to suffer a number of set backs to the plans this week.  The army had already been all but destroyed and following a bit of a rethink/regroup/coming up with a Plan B, things still have gone disastrously astray.  What do you think the Crew will do now?

I am hoping that the death of one of the rebellion's leaders after he defeated a steel inquisitor will rally the Skaa. I want the word to grow to legend and spread throughout Luthadel and then throughout the countryside, reaching all Skaa in the Final Empire. I want Sazed to send secret word to all Terrismen to rally with the Skaa. I want plantation work to cease, and hence food production. I want the government of the Final Empire to come to its knees!

I have a lot of wants because I am a complicated person.

Seriously - that last loss in the square was harsh. I am hoping that the Skaa rally, instead of scatter. I wonder if Vin will become the new driving force, and if she will join forces with Elend. That could be a formidable team. 

3.       What was your reaction to Kelsier’s response to finding Marsh dead?  I can’t help feeling that there are going to be some serious economic repercussions to destroying the crystals – what sort of impact do you think this will have, not just on the nobles but on the Skaa?

The Pits of Hathsin were the only atium mines that WE knew about. There could be other mines, that would be kept just as secret.

However, if these were the only mines, then there is less reason for the Skaa. I think things will become more oppressive for the Skaa, that those Skaa that are craftsmen (like Clubs) will be shunned by the ruling parties, if not burned out.

And there will be less shiny metal for the nobility to flash around. But that's OK, since we saw the last ball for some time. The nobility can play with their shiny things inprivate, including what little atium they have. 

Mistborns may be strongly affected - no more seeing 2 seconds into the future. Those that have hoarded atium will have an edge over those who have not.

4.       Finally, each week we learn a little bit more of the Lord Ruler’s history.  And each week it has a different impact.  This week’s snippets had the same impact – I was really interested in the excerpt when he mentions that the Darkness is not as oppressive when higher up in the mountains – do you have any more ideas about the Darkness?

That Darkness seems to be a bigger deal than The Lord Ruler. the terms 'Well of Ascension' and 'The Deepness' are still big unknowns. I theorize that The Lord Ruler has become what he is today by near-constant contact with the Deepness - holding it at bay. It has twisted him, made him cruel. I think this is tied to the atium production somehow. I think The Lord Ruler is not simply hoarding it, but using it in some fashion to stay in power, and perhaps to fight The Deepness.

But I might just be blowing wind up your kilts. 

5.   I was wondering about Elend and Vin – they’ve also had their ups and downs this week but seem determined to work round them – can you see anything of a future for these two or is there too much history between the nobles and Skaa and too much difference and prejudice between the two?

I am SO hoping that they can at least be allies. The Skaa rebellion needs all the help it can get and it looks like, with the destruction of the atium mines, House Venture, especially Elend (with his dad wishing him ill), needs an ally.

It would knock Elend's socks off to know Vin is Mistborn, and protected him. Ha! It would knock more than his socks off - probably his pants too. Which would be socially embarrassing. So I hope he finds out when he is sitting down. 

Other Bits of Interest:

Why is Vin the only doughnut at a sausage fest? 

Vin kicks ass. That scene where she tears off her ballgown and accoutrements and goes assassin hunting was awesome. I bet she will consider concealing a knife or two in the future.

Marsh got the beginner's eye tattoos! Now I have a finger tattoo, but getting the face, especially near the eyes, tatted takes some nerves of steal. Or Prozac.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Red Seas Under Red Skies, Week 1

So, here we are, part 1 of our Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along. It's been a heck of a ride so far, so if you haven't participated and want to see what all the fuss is about, feel free to browse the archives and look at past weeks' posts about The Lies of Locke Lamora and what we thought about it.

I'll keep this short, so let's move right to the questions, shall we?

1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?

2.  Anyone want to guess how they're going to make it happen?

3. It's a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?

4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?

5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven't spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke's life?

6. It's early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn't expect. How do you think their new "employer" is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tar the Wandering by Helen Sea

Publisher: Books Are Loud (2011)

Narrator: Julia Franklin

Audio length: 53 minutes

Blurb from Audio Book StoreThis is a beautiful and subtly written story told in the best traditions of an Old Norse tale. It is poetic and delicate and at the same time suspenseful and dramatic. There are dangers and discoveries, adventure and sadness as Tar follows her quest. Will the forces of good keep her safe from her enemies as she follows her destiny? Helen Sea has written the original music that flavours her sensuous storytelling in this wonderful and engaging story that will appeal to a teenage audience and listeners of all ages.

Helen Sea has given us an enchanting, insightful short story featuring a precocious girl named Tar.  She collects tears. I think it is great to have a hobby and it is probably more difficult and perhaps more interesting than collecting stamps or bookmarks. She has a feathered friend who tries to keep her out of trouble, and yet also lights the fire of a quest in Tar by finding a crystal tear. 

Tar lets her obsession of finding the owner of this tear drive her into adventure and danger. Staring down an ancient wolf, nearly turning into stone herself, only to run into a battle - she braves it all to confirm the owner of the tear. All-father One-eye makes an appearance himself, which is great. I have enjoyed the old Norse tales for years, partly because strong women are typical. Tar the Wandering does not disappoint. 

Julia Franklin performed this story beautifully, her voice rising and falling with the mystery, danger, and adventure of the story. There was also haunting music throughout, composed by the author. At first I was concerned that the music would drown out the narrator, but that was not the case in this audio production. 

Pluses: Adventure; lots of old Norse mythical beings; a tale I had not heard before; left me wanting more. 

Minuses: There is a lot that happens in this short 53 minutes, and part of me wanted the story drawn out more to give me more time with these fascinating characters.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mistborn: The Final Empire Group Read Part III

This week covered Chapters 17-24 of Mistborn: The Final Empire. This section was chalked full of so much good stuff. Grace over at Books Without Any Pictures provided this week's questions, so be sure to stop by her site to see her answers. Once again, a big thanks to Stainless Steel Droppings for putting this group read together. Check out his site to see who else is playing.  Haven't seen a map of this world yet? Check out a map of the Dominances, plus of Luthadel over at the artist Isaac Stewart's site.

1.  During the past week there's been a lot of speculation as to the quotes at the beginning of each chapter.  Now that we finally know the answer, does it change anyone's opinions of the Lord Ruler?

It has me wondering if the current Lord Ruler is the same guy who wrote the diary ~1000 years ago. The current Lord Ruler could be a figure head only, a myth perpetuated by the obligators and inquisitors, or the same body but a possessed soul. So far, we haven't seen the Lord Ruler do any amazing feats with his mystical powers. Someone might be putting on a very convincing show, like Kelsier puts on a very convincing show.

2.  What did you think of Elend's group of subversive nobles?  Do you think that Kelsier is right to dismiss people who could be potential allies, or is this another case of his anti-nobility biases showing?

Kelsier needs all the allies he can get; however I have to wonder if he plans to kill all nobles in some bloody French-like revolution. Of course, it appears that all Allomancers have some noble blood within 5 generations. So who is Kelsier's progenitor?

3.  What's your favorite part of the book so far?

Vin trying to hold her temper and curiosity in check - with Sazed (the blunder finding out he is a eunuch), with the nobles (a mouthy with Lady Shan), and Soothing Marsh to pry more info out of him. She keeps bouncing back and forth between the old Vin (who watches everything and says little) to the new Vin (who is interactive, but doesn't have a whole lot of practical social experience).

4.  Now that Kelsier's plan has hit some major stumbling blocks, what do you think will happen next?  Do you think he can still succeed in defeating the Lord Ruler?

We still have over 2 books to go in this trilogy. I have a fear that Kelsier is far more like the Lord Ruler than he would be comfortable as and he just might stumble into the role as the Next Lord Ruler.

Bonus:  For anyone who has read "The Way of Kings," were you surprised at all to see Hoid pop up?  What do you think of his role here?
Haha! Wasn't that cool? It was a WTF moment for me. Snuck right up on me. 'Informant' seems to be a perfect role for him to do whatever he needs to do.

Other Things of Interest:
Elend's book collection - definitely a source for blackmail (by Vin or Lady Shan).
Very interested in learning more about Feruchemists and the history of the Terrismen.
These impending House Wars that Kelsier is stirring up - how messy is that going to get?
Kelsier's callous take on potentially killing Elend to perpetuate tension between the Great Houses is cold, calculating, and practical all at once.
I want to know more about Marsh, his attachment to Mare, and his hatred of the obligators.
Vin's reveal about her baby sister was a bit startling, but explained chunks of her personality.

Future Schedule:
Part 4: Chapter 25 through Chapter 34, Discussions posted Wed. May 2nd. Part 5: Chapter 35 to The End, Discussions posted Wed. May 9th.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Deathlands: Bloodfire by James Axler

Publisher: GraphicAudio (2005)

Narrator: Richard Rohan, Terence Aselford, Tymberlee Chanel, Nanette Savard, Cate Torre, and Mort Shelby

Audio length: Approximately 8 hours

Blurb from Life in twenty-second-century America is an odyssey of pain and death. Savagely transformed by atomic fallout, what remains of humanity endures an internacine war against those who thrive on chaos and bloodshed. A legend in a violent land, Ryan Cawdor lives and fights by his own rules as he and his companions traverse the grim world of Deathlands. For as long as the future remains out of reach, survival means living long enough to face a new day.

Hearing a rumor that the Trader, his old teacher and friend, is still alive, Ryan and his warrior group struggle across the treacherous Texas desert to find the truth. But an enemy with a score to settle is in hot pursuit and so is the elusive Trader. The preDark city of Sonora preserved for a century in the salt and sand of the nukescape becomes the staging ground for a showdown between mortal enemies, where the scales of revenge and death will be balanced with brutal finality.

In the Deathlands, the only law is lawlessness.

I'm willing to admit publicly to my addiction: The Deathlands series by James Axler. I don't mean to be addicted; it is simply something that happened. Of course the awesome cast and sound effects of GraphicAudio might have something to do with it.

Also, I have a weakness for post-apocalyptic settings. It usually creates a mix of independent gunslinger life with modern to future tech and weapons. Deathlands throws in some mutants and AI to make it that much more adventurous.

In Bloodfire, #64 in the series (how the heck do you get to 64?!?), Ryan and his companions (Dean Cawdor, J. B. Dix, Jak Lauren, Doc Tanner, Krysty Wroth, Mildred Wyeth) are on the run from both Baron Gaza and The Scorpion King while on the look out for The Trader. As they travel across what once was Texas, they come across a strange group of people. They live underground and subsist for an indefinite lifespan upon a single drink (perhaps made from some mutant scorpion). Of course, once you have a sip, you can't walk away from it, needing the poison to continue living.

Ryan and crew manage to walk away, with these strangers in pursuit, to stumble across a pre-Dark city hidden beneath the salt flat. Seeking safety and shelter, they get more than expected. The city is still guarded by some nearly-indestructible armored AIs. Add to that those in pursuit and you get a hell of an adventure story.

The audio production was intense and had me not wanting to put this book down. I truly enjoy the full cast along with the sound effects.

Pluses: Post-apocalyptic world; lots of mutant beasties; plethora of bad guys; very plot driven and fast paced.

Minuses: Little to no character development; the only sex int his book was a rape (which was not covered in detail).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Publisher: Recorded Books (1991)

Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat

Audio length: 9 hours and 52 minutes

Blurb from Elizabeth Peters's unforgettable heroine Amelia Peabody makes her first appearance in this clever mystery. Amelia receives a rather large inheritance and decides to use it for travel. On her way through Rome to Egypt, she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young woman abandoned by her lover and left with no means of support. Amelia promptly takes Evelyn under her wing, insisting that the young lady accompany her to Egypt, where Amelia plans to indulge her passion for Egyptology. When Evelyn becomes the target of an aborted kidnapping and the focus of a series of suspicious accidents and mysterious visitations, Amelia becomes convinced of a plot to harm her young friend. Like any self-respecting sleuth, Amelia sets out to discover who is behind it all.

I have read perhaps half a dozen books in the Amelia Peabody series and decided to start from the beginning with Crocodile on the Sandbank. Elizabeth Peters is a prolific writer and I look forward to enjoying her work for years to come. This series is set in late 1800s Egypt. The story is told from the view point of Ms. Amelia Peabody, an independently wealthy British lady who is of an age too unfashionable for marriage. So she decides to travel. On her way to Eqypt, she rescues Evelyn from destitution. Evelyn has been sorely treated by her lover and left on her own and believes herself to be a ruined woman.

Amelia is amazingly practical and brusque, I believe is the polite term. It is her voice that has sucked me into this series. In Egypt they meet a variety of characters, including the Emerson brothers. They are poor archaeologists on their way out to Armarna, the city of the heretic pharaoh. They way Elizabeth Peters weaves in tidbits about ancient Egypt, and early archaeological efforts, into the tale is highly entertaining.

Pretty soon the ladies meet up again with the Emersons and they camp together all assisting in the dig. Pretty soon they are visited almost nightly by something or someone wrapped in strips of cloth, like a mummy. Additionally, Evelyn's distant cousin Lucas has decided to track her down and is attempting to woo her. However, her inclinations run toward the younger of the two Emersons, Walter.

While that romantic triangle plays itself out, Amelia finds herself in cheerful arguments with the older Emerson, Radcliffe (which is a nifty name in my snobbish opinion). Images of Amelia considering using her bare toes to preserve a mural with tapioca have me chuckling still.

Barbara Rosenblat is one of my favorite narrators, hands-down. Her range for both male and female voices still astounds me. She is the perfect fit for practical, blunt, rarely hysterical Amelia Peabody.

Pluses: Ancient Egypt; plenty of strong females with significant, useful roles; mummy-ish intrigue; Radcliffe Emerson's outbursts.

Minuses: I am having a devil of a time (pardon the unlady-like language) finding the second book in audio format!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & other stories by Washington Irving

Publisher: Doubleday (1975)

Blurb on The Complete Tales of Washington Irving edited by Charles Neider from Washington Irving (1783–1859) was the first American literary artist to earn his living solely through his writings and the first to enjoy international acclaim. In addition to his long public service as a diplomat, Irving was amazingly prolific: His collected works fill forty volumes that encompass essays, history, travel writings, and multi-volume biographies of Columbus and Washington. But it is Irving’s mastery of suspense, characterization, tempo, and irony that transforms his fiction into virtuoso performances, earning him his reputation as the father of the American short story. Charles Neider has gathered all sixty-one of Irving's tales, originally scattered throughout his many collections of nonfiction essays and sketches, into one magnificent volume. Together, they reveal his wide range: besides the expected classics like "Rip Van Winkle," "The Spectre Bridegroom," "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and "The Devil and Tom Walker," his fiction embraces realistic tales, ghost stories, parodies, legends, fables, and satires. For those familiar only with secondhand retellings of Irving's most famous tales, this collection offers the opportunity to step inside Washington Irving's imagination and partake of its innumerable and timeless pleasures.

I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge (category folktale) held over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

First off, this tale was quite a bit shorter than expected. Hence, I also read Rip Van Winkle and The Spectre Bridegroom. But let's start with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I have been meaning to read this story for some time, since the Johnny Depp movie came out. I have to say the work by Washington Irving differs greatly from the movie. Ichabod Crane is a school teacher! And yes, he occasionally gives a student a good whack. His life is somewhat nomadic, as he is put up a week at a time by the village folks. He helps out with odd chores here and there - in order to flirt with the ladies and also in the hopes of receiving a tasty treat. He is a man ruled, partially, by his stomach. Hence, he sets eyes upon the lovely Daughter Van Tassel, who is described as something of a flirt. He sees that the Van Tassel's have a well-stocked larder, a full table, and plenty of good land to keep growing excellent food. But Miss Van Tassel has a dedicated beau, Brom.

A rivalry between Brom and Ichabod crops up easily and each one tries to out do the other in their pursuits. They also turn to tricking in other out of their time with the lady. Quite frankly, I found myself routing for Brom. While we don't learn much about Brom, we do know that Ichabod is after Miss Van Tassel's hand more for her land and wealth and food than for herself. Laced throughout this tale is the folktale of the area about the headless horseman, a Hessian mercenary from the Revolutionary War. As we all know, this eventually comes into play as a prank played on Ichabod Crane. I have to agree with Brom that it is a rather good one.

I also read Rip Van Winkle, which takes place in about the same place as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, near where Henrick Hudson made his base and started many of his explorations of north-eastern US. Rip Van Winkle is a dude's name. All these years, I thought it was a silly name for a goblin. Turns out it is a silly name for a man. A lazy man. Well, semi-lazy. Rip is one of those guys who will help out a neighbor or friend with any menial chore, no matter how onerous or smelly, but won't take care of his own property and things. He also has a wife who hen-pecks him constantly. I felt a little sorry for the guy.

So he and his dog Wolf had a habit of disappearing into the woods for some peace and quiet. One day, Rip comes across a group of rough-looking men in the woods playing nine-pins and drinking around a campfire. One man was dressed very finely: 'he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with roses in them'. Put anyone in high-heeled shoes and they become fashionable and much more desirable. You add roses to a man's outfit, and he is outright irresistible. Later on, we learn this is a prominent historical character of the area. Anyway, Rip is invited in and given something to drink and many hours later he falls asleep.

When he awakes, decades have passed. It takes him sometime to figure this out - his gun is rusted, his dog gone, he hardly recognizes anyone in town, George Washington is unknown to him, and his wife has passed on. Luckily, he left a child behind, giving the story a happy reunion ending.

In The Spectre Bridegroom, we have a tale of a betrothal left incomplete by the unexpected dying of the groom (young Count Von Altenburg). The young man charges his friend (Herman Von Starkenfaust) to carry word to his bride-to-be (daughter of Baron Von Landshort) so that she doesn't think he left her cold at the altar. But there is a complication - their families have been blood enemies for generations. But a death-bed promise is a promise of the heart. So Herman goes, with some trepidation, to the Von Landshorts. They are expecting the bridegroom anytime and when Herman is spotted, he is mistaken for young Von Altenburg.

Herman can't get a word in edgewise upon his arrival and is soon seated at the main table next to the bride-to-be and the feast is begun. He is entranced by her beauty and soon decides that he wishes to be the groom, but how to fulfill his dead friend's last request, not anger his future father-in-law and end up dead, and still get the girl? Well, lots of tales of the supernatural are told around the feast fire and they provide inspiration to the young man. Herman pretends to be a spectre of the dead bridegroom, acts oddly, and flees from the banquet.

Later, he returns to the gardens where his fair lady can see him. He proceeded to woo her and eventually, they elope. In returning to her father, they both beg pardon, which is given, and a happily-ever-after ensues. It was sweet.

Pluses: Lots of description of a long-since-settled early wild east-coast US; simple, good natured folktales with a moral point; true American tales and a bit of our history; lots of big vocabulary words.

Minuses: The ladies have very limited roles; the description of the countryside from one story to another can be interchanged with ease; pretty slow-paced.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mistborn: The Final Empire Group Read Part II

This week's questions were supplied by TBM - make sure to check out his site (50 Year Project) and his answers. This week covered Chapt. 7 through the end of Chapt. 15.

Thanks once again to Stainless Steel Droppings for pulling this all together. Click on his site to see who else is a Mistborn fan.

1. The nobility, the skaa, and the Lord Ruler have integral roles in the novel and yet we haven’t really interacted with them much. Do you think there is a reason for this? Have you formed an opinion about them?

I am enjoying how the absence of these powerful forces (with the exception of a few quick guest appearances) have built the mystery and tension. All I know as the reader is what Kelsier and Vin know. I might be operating in a void. I have to trust these characters, otherwise we are all hosed.

2. Religion plays a vital role in the story. What is your opinion about the role of religion under the Lord Ruler? What do you think of Sazed's role as a Keeper?

The Lord Ruler has built a mythos that grants him a hell of a lot of power. Hence, stamping out other religions is really important. And that makes the Keepers dangerous - their knowledge of other religions.

I am really looking forward to seeing more of Sazed - what exactly is he? Dangerous? Powerful? Is he allomantic? Some power/ability puts him up there with the heavy hitters in Kelsier's band.

3. Are you for/against/or ambivalent about Kelsier’s plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler? Do you think his heart is in the right place or is it just revenge?

I like Kelsier, but revenge is driving him hard. Revenge, like anger, can be used for good purposes. But I am not convinced they are going to win this one without heavy losses.

And that's why I keep reading.

4. Vin and Kelsier are the main characters of the novel, yet there are many characters. Is there a certain character who intrigues you more than the others?

Elend, of course. Sticks his nose in a book at a fancy party, curious about Vin, scion of the most powerful house, considered a non-power himself. There is all sorts of potential for this character.

Then I also want the back story on Kelsier's dead wife. Very curious. I get the vague impression that she did something... indiscreet? bad? traitorous?

Other Interesting Bits
Those dudes with the spikes through their heads - what metal did they use and do they get used up (burned) over time through allomancy? Do you think they get replaced or the dude dies once he has used up his spikes?

It was rewarding to see that Vin found something that clicked and came naturally to her. Of course, this might have made her a bit cocky - hence following Kelsier into danger.....

Very, very curious about the book Sazed brought back at the end of Chapt. 15. I expect that it will give us an interesting tidbit.

Future Schedule of this Group Read:

Part 3: Chapter 16 through Chapter 25, Discussions posted Wed. April 25th.

Part 4: Chapter 25 through Chapter 34,
Discussions posted Wed. May 2nd.

Part 5: Chapter 35 to The End, Discussions posted Wed. May 9th.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flinx Transcendent by Alan Dean Foster

Publisher: Audible Frontiers (May 2009)

Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

Audio Length: 15 hours 23 minutes

Blurb from Audible: From one of the most brilliant imaginations in science fiction comes Flinx Transcendent, Alan Dean Foster's thrilling conclusion to the series that began over 35 years ago - the epic adventures of Flinx and his flying minidrag companion, Pip.

Flinx is the only one with even the tiniest chance of stopping the evil colossus barreling in to destroy the Humanx Commonwealth (and everything else in the Milky Way). With time running out, Flinx is a man in search of a solution and in search of himself. His efforts take him to the land of his mortal enemies, the bloodthirsty AAnn, where chances are excellent that Flinx's discovery - and summary execution - will eliminate all his demons and doubts in one masterstroke.

The way Flinx is feeling, that might not be the worst imaginable end. After years of searching for his father, he finally has - and must bear - the truth. And now he must also seek out an ancient sentient weapons platform wandering around somewhere in the galaxy and then communicate with it, a powwow that could very well fry his already frazzled brain. Then there are the oblivion-craving assassins determined to stop Flinx before he can prevent total annihilation.

With a future that rosy, it's no surprise he's flirting with disaster. Still, Flinx is no quitter, and he's got something else going for him - an uncanny ability to improvise and triumph (or at least survive) in impossible situations. He's certainly been through enough of them, and now he's going to need every ounce of that know-how, because he's venturing to places where the laws of physics fear to tread, where no one's ever been, to do what no one's ever done, and where his deadliest enemy is so close it's invisible.

I have been enjoying this series since my early teens. It is bitter sweet to finish the final book in a 14-book series that started in 1972. Alan Dean Foster didn't let me down; Flinx Transcendent was full of action, self-realization, and character growth. Large reptiles (the AAnn), the mysterious and deadly Order of Null, plus a guest appearance by an old 'acquaintance', his mentors Thranx Truzenzuzex and human Bran Tse-Mallory all populate this tale.

We start off on the homeworld of the AAnn, with Flinx in an outrageous, yet convincing, full-body suit disguise. He's worked hard at learning the native tongue and costumes, and with luck he can probably pull off his ruse for....a few weeks? a few months? As clever as Flinx is, he didn't plan for everything. Now his life rests in the scaled, clawed palm of a young AAnn.

Let me just say, that, once again, Flinx proves he has a pair of brass balls.

After leaving the AAnn home planet, he heads to Clarity Held, his love, who is still recuperating from her massive injuries received in Book 12 (Trouble Magnet). Bran and Tru have been keeping Clarity company and seeing them again was like clasping hands with old friends. And this is also where The Order of Null starts making pests of themselves again. Flinx rescues Clarity with the assistance of another Thranx companion and all five of them depart on his ship The Teacher.

Now all they have to do is find the ancient, sentient, free-floating weapons platform and ask for assistance in destroying the great evil that is headed towards their galaxy. I think Flinx might need some caffeine and headache medicine.

Stefan Rudnicki did a great job, as usual. His voice is deep and provides a certain gravity to the serious parts of this novel.

Pluses: Pip and her son Scrap; Tru and Bran; the tale pulled in friends and foes from throughout the series; the ending.

Minuses: It might only be me, but Clarity Held never became as real a character as Bran and Tru and her main function in the series was to a) be rescued or b) provide support and affection to Flinx.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Corridors of the Dead by Jonathan D. Allen

Publisher: Qwendellonia Publishing (November 2011)

Blurb from Goodreads: Long ago, a mysterious being known as The Lost Aetelia crafted an elaborate series of Watchtowers, along with their resident guardians, the Aetelia, to watch over the Universe. In time, they sent a select group of their own to Earth, tasked with watching over the fledgling human race. This group used humanity to challenge the established structure of the Universe. A bitter war ensued, and these rebels, who had come to be known as Watchers, disappeared from history.

The time of the Aetelia – now known as angels – is returning. After a fateful night of violence, Artist Matty DiCamillo finds herself drawn into this world by a mysterious savior, who becomes a driving force in Matty’s new life.

Both driven by and fighting the words of prophecy that lay out her destiny, Matty, her lover Kristy, and her best friend Daniel, follow this mysterious savior on a journey from Northern California to Las Vegas on a path that crosses through the boundaries of time and space.
As Matty struggles to understand her destiny, she discovers that her savior may not be what she seems, and that even the denizens of this twilight world have no idea what lurks behind the stage dressing of reality. Matty finds herself not only racing to rescue the woman she loves, but learning that she herself could be the cause of the Universe’s day of reckoning.
In The Corridors of the Dead, book one in the Among the Dead trilogy, Jonathan D. Allen has an intriguing story. It starts out in every day life at a Circle K convenience store. The description of the Circle K is so good, I could smell and taste the atmosphere. Matty, our store clerk, is the heroine of this story. She uses a lot of slang, has a lot of spunk, and occasionally kicks and punches people. I like her.

Her life starts to take an unexpected turn when a tweeker walks into her store and forces her into a car. Matty isn't too surprised , since convenience stores get robbed by drug addicts all the time, but still not a good situation. This elderly lady, Delilah, comes to her rescue. Sort of. Matty definitely has her own ideas about how to handle the situation. She walks away from Delilah and home to her love, Kristy. Where they face another attack and are saved by Delilah again.

Matty is The Chosen One, in big gold letters. But her supernatural powers are revealed by a cast of characters in little snippets here and there.
She can walk between universes, the big thing we get to see in this book. Everyone wants to use her in one way or another. Even her friend Daniel becomes suspect at one point. Quite a collection of folks pop in for major and minor roles; a version of Satan, Satan's son, cute little, mysterious kid Tommy.

Pluses: Delilah's character was well defined and I loved how she swung those chains around; Daniel; main character is gay and the author doesn't make a big deal out of it; Satan isn't afraid of nail polish and face paint; totally unexpected ending.

Minuses: This felt like a draft rather than a polished final product (typos, verb tense issues, sometimes couldn't tell who was talking); many of the characters often bled together, making them interchangeable; even at the end I was still a bit confused about some of the major plot points.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Phantom Universe by Laura Kreitzer

Publisher: Revolution Publishing Inc. (October 2011)

Narrator: Karen Savage

Audio length: 8 hours 38 minutes

Blurb from Sold into slavery to pirates at the young age of four, Summer learns to survive the rough seas of subterfuge and thieves through silence. When the boat she's lived on most of her life is destroyed, Summer finds herself washed up on the shore of a new world, a phantom universe full of the bizarre and extraordinary. She meets Gage, the one boy who understands the girl with no speech. But when their lives are put on the line, will Summer finally call out? Or will all be lost in the fathomless depth of silence?

Phantom Universe, the first book in the Summer Chronicles, starts off in modern-day England with a woman fleeing from someone or something with her small child. However, pretty soon young Summer is stolen from her mum by slavers. That's where Laura Kreitzer takes us into darker issues. Child slavery is a tough topic to write about and do it well. Young Summer understandably cries for her mother and is beaten into silence. Like permanent silence. All before being sold to a ship's captain (most likely pirates of one sort or another). There, a lot of rough stuff happens (including a near-rape). Yet Summer also makes a friend, Landon. He accepts her silence and teaches her to read and write, which opens communication for her.

This takes us to about the half-way point in the book. I enjoyed it's intensity and trying to puzzle out where the plot was going. Then some visitors to the ship arrive and things get strange. Jaiden, a slave herself who was sold out of the same slaver house as Summer, is now property of The Secret Clock Society. Jaiden somehow manages to blow up the ship and rescue Summer. They end up on a nearby beach.

Then things get a little weirder, but I rode the weird and eventually settled into it. There's a blinding flash of light one night and Jaiden and Summer end a different time and place. Summer, however, is drained and needs medical attention. Jaiden can't wake her and seeks others. She comes up with soldiers from the League of The Canadian Federation. Cage Appleton is the leader and Cameron Skien is the medtech. Both do what they can for Summer in the field. There are two other soldiers who are less sympathetic.

This is where the story started to waver for me. Summer is 16, Jaiden a few years older. Makes sense, child slaves and all. But these soldiers are like.... what.. 16-20? Cage is 18. From this point forward, the story is about the romance between Summer and Cage, with a whole lot of highschool nonsense thrown in.

So, Summer goes to hospital and eventually has to go to one of the Outlander camps. Think prison camp for rowdy, snotty highschoolers. This part of the story takes place at the Phantom Ship community, former Los Angeles. But we never learn why it is called that. Anyway, once the plot gets free of the Outlander camp, things get a little more interesting. We learn a smidgen more about the Secret Clock Society and about Summer's origins. We also learn that Cage is an expert at catching spies. Excuse me for snort-laughing. It is difficult to be an expert at anything at 18.

Karen Savage has a very beautiful voice. She captured Summer's voice (even though she is silent) very well. The story is told from Summer's point of view so we get many of her thoughts on the situation. Savage had this perfect voice for Cameron - full of sympathy, patience, and gentleness. Since most of the main male characters were young males, the narrator was able to pull those off too.

Pluses: The intensity of the story carries throughout; Summer herself is an intriguing character with lots of challenges; the idea of Canada taking over a chunk of the world in the future is intriguing; lots of cool future-tech gadgets.

Minuses: Silly teen romance aspect; would have liked to know more about the other characters because babysitting Summer throughout was sometimes exhausting; there's high-tech surveillance everywhere, so how did these kids evade it?; very few adults in the story; seems that only kids (vast majority Caucasian) were sucked into the future (no wonder some of the Canadians are pissed); would have been interesting to hear more about the new surroundings, politics, and culture.

Red Seas Under Red Skies - Happening sooner than you might think!

All right everyone, it's time to get ready to jump into the second volume of Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Red Seas Under Red Skies. Prepare yourselves for

  • High Seas Adventure
  • Betrayal
  • Magic
  • Gambling
  • Masterful Swearing
  • High-Stakes Shenanigans
I hope you're as excited as I am. Get your copy of the book soon, since questions will go out to the participating bloggers on Thursday, April 26 (I'm the lead off batter this time around, yay!) and posts will go up on Saturday, April 28. That's not terribly far away. In fact, I'd better hurry the hell up and start reading today!

The first section of our Read-Along this time will cover the beginning through the end of Chapter 3, so feel free to get an early jump on the reading at your own peril (these books are like crack, and you won't be able to stop easily).

Want to participate, but missed out on the signup the last time around? Just email me at myawfulreviews #AT# gmail #DOT# com and we'll get you on the special list. Have fun everyone!

Special thanks, as always, to our host blogs:

@ohthatashley at