Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

death-comes-to-kurland-hallDeath Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St. Mary Mystery series #3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: Kurland St. Mary in rural England, 1817
Published by Kensington, 2015
Library book
281 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: As wedding bells chime in Kurland St. Mary, a motley group of visitors descends on the village—and with a murderer on the prowl, some of them may not be returning home…

Lucy Harrington has returned to Kurland St. Mary to help with her friend Sophia Giffin’s wedding. But her homecoming is made disagreeable by the presence of Major Robert Kurland, whose bungled proposal has ruffled Lucy’s composure, and a meddling widow who has designs on her father, the village rector.

Wary of the cloying Mrs. Chingsford from the start, Lucy has doubts about the busybody’s intentions with her father. But everyone else seems to think they make an ideal match—until the courtship is curtailed when Mrs. Chingsford is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. It’s clear that it wasn’t an accident, and in hopes of finding the culprit, Lucy and Robert call a truce and begin scrutinizing the wedding guests.

But the widow left behind plenty of enemies, and when one of them is the next to turn up dead, Lucy and Robert discover that the truth is far more scandalous than anyone could have imagined…

How was she supposed to deal with someone who asked the most outrageous questions with a smile on her face? She could only pray her father wouldn’t be taken in by the sweetness for too long before he discovered the sour underneath. But then men often seemed incapable of seeing much at all. . . .

and

There was a bitter sound to her words, but Lucy couldn’t blame her. Unwanted or unwed female relatives had very few options if their menfolk died.

Initial impressions

  • I love the characters in these books. The mysteries are good, too!

The story

  • Lucy returns to Kurland St. Mary to help her friend Sophia with her wedding. Sophia found someone to love in London, but Lucy didn’t have any proposals that suited her.
  • Guests begin to arrive for the wedding and since it’s a small village some guests stay at the vicarage.
  • It turns out the guests at the vicarage are Mrs. Chingford and her daughters. Lucy’s father knew Mrs. Chingford when they were both younger and he is pleased to see her again. Lucy hopes he’s not taken in by her.
  • Mrs. Chingford seems to know lots of gossip about the wedding guests and enjoys confronting people. However, Lucy’s father is enamored and announces his engagement to Mrs. Chingford.
  • When Mrs. Chingford falls down a staircase Lucy and Robert declare a truce and try to discover if this was an accident or a murder.

Pluses

  • Before I read the second book I saw that this book is about a wedding and, of course, I thought it would be Lucy and Robert’s wedding!
  • Lucy is happy to be back in her village. She didn’t like London very much, but she’s also sad she didn’t find a suitor in London.
  • Lucy and Robert declare a truce to their annoyance with each other to try to figure out how Mrs. Chingford died.
  • I like the mystery in this book as well as the wedding preparations.
  • We get to know more about several characters from earlier books and see more about their lives and motivations.
  • I do like the bits of romance in these books. I also like that these are more than the romance and that I like the characters a lot.
  • I like Lucy who is outspoken and a “managing” female. Robert is often impatient and always seems to say the wrong thing to Lucy. However, there’s some chemistry there and I hope they discover it soon!

Minuses

  • Sometimes the banter and insults between Lucy and Robert goes on too long. However, I do enjoy them and the story so I don’t let that bother me too much.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • The fourth book in the series–Death Comes to the Fair–comes out in November 2016. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Goodreads): “Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and youngest daughter.. ”

Reading Challenges

February reading challenge updates

my-reading-challenges

February updates

When I look at these stats I come to several conclusions…lol.

  • You can see the specific books read and reviewed (or not read) in each category if you check out my “Reading Challenges” Pages.
  • I’m reading more mysteries than fantasies or science fiction so far this year.
  • I’ve read and reviewed quite a few NetGalley books–and thus new releases–so far this year (so I haven’t read any TBR books yet).
  • I’ve read books in several categories, but just haven’t reviewed the books yet. That should change in March.

Audiobook Challenge

  • Audiobooks read and reviewed: 0
  • Challenge Goal: 20 -30 audiobooks
  • I’m listening (or rather not listening) to an audiobook. I only listen during certain times and haven’t found those so much.

Cloak and Dagger Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 6 mysteries
  • Challenge Goal: 31+ books

Goodreads Challenge

  • Books read: 20 books
  • Challenge Goal: 100 books
  • I’ve only reviewed 7 of the 20 books I’ve read in 2016. I’m doing better reading than getting some of my books reviewed.

I Love Libraries Reading Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 0
  • Challenge Goal: 18 books

Netgalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 6 books
  • Challenge Goal: 25 books

New Author Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 7 books
  • Challenge Goal: 30 books
  • All 7 books I’ve reviewed so far this year are from new authors

New Release Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed:  6 books
  • Challenge Goal: 31 – 45 books

Science Fiction/Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 0

TBR Pile Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 0
  • Challenge Goal: 31 – 40 books

What about you? How are your reading, reviewing and challenges going so far this year?

The rest of the short reviews from 2015

I’ve finally finished all my reviews for 2015 with these last six shorts. Three of these are short stories, one is a book of short stories and the other two are novels. I have two science fiction, three fantasies and one contemporary fiction. These are very short snippets of reviews…lol. At least I have a post about them which makes me happy!

“Earth and Fire” & Earth 2788 by Janet Edwards

  • Earth and Fire” is a prequel novella. It’s a story about Jarra when she learns to fly a plane (takes place before the trilogy Ms. Edwards wrote). I enjoyed the glimpse into Jarra’s life before the books began. Grade: B
  • Earth 2788–Eight prequel short stories about some of the characters in the trilogy who come from the colony worlds. I really enjoyed reading about how these characters ended up in the class with Jarra. Grade: B

Chasing Christmas Past: An Airship Racing Chronicles Short Story” by Melanie Karsak

  • Another short story–this one very short (only 30 pages)–but I thought it was a fun story that gave me a flavor for what the series is about. I haven’t read anything else by this author, but this science fiction steampunk has fun characters in an interesting alternate world. Grade: B

Magic Stars” by Ilona Andrews

  • A short story set in the Kate Daniels world about Derek (a shifter wolf) and Julie (Curran and Kate’s ward) both of whom we’ve seen grow up while reading the Kate Daniels books. Both are very likable characters so it’s fun to read a story about them. I loved this! Since this is listed as Grey Wolf #1 (and Kate Daniels #8.5) I’m hoping there are more stories about Derek and as well as Julie. Grade: A-

Radiance by Grace Draven (Wraith Kings #1)

  • I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. It’s a fantasy romance and was a lot of fun to read. The characters are enjoyable and the story is good. I recommend it! Grade: B+

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.

  • This book made me cry. I have to admit I didn’t like it very well. I had trouble finishing it. I don’t like sad books. I can find enough to cry about in real life.
  • I listened to the audiobook and thought the narrator was great, but I thought the book was one sad scene after another. And I felt my emotions were manipulated some of the time. Grade: C+

Have you read any of these books? What’s your opinion?

2015 Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge
  • New Author Challenge
  • TBR Pile Challenge

2015 reading challenges–How’d I do?

my-reading-challenges

2015 Reading Challenges

I only completed 3 of the 8 challenges for 2015. However, I was 85% or better on 3 more of the challenges so I feel pretty good about that. I’m doing challenges again for 2016–some of the same challenges as the ones below and some new ones. I have fun trying to complete the challenges!

Audiobook Challenge — 85%

  • Goal–20-30 audiobooks
  • How many I listened to –17 audiobooks
  • Books reviewed by the end of 2015– 16 books
  • We traveled a lot in 2015 and when I travel I don’t listen to books as much.
  • I’ve signed up for this challenge again.

Cloak & Dagger Reading Challenge — 175% –completed!

  • Goal–20 books
  • How many I read — 35 books
  • Books reviewed by the end of 2015 — 32 books
  • I read 15 books more than my goal! YAY!
  • I’ve signed up for this one again.

Goodreads Challenge — 92%

  • Goal — 110 books
  • How many I read by the end of 2015 –101 books
  • Books reviewed by the end of 2015 — 90 books
  • I have chosen a smaller challenge for 2016. I started worrying about the number of books I’d read instead of just enjoying the books. I also stopped reading long books since I was trying to meet my goal.
  • My goal this year is 100 books.

Library Challenge — 58%

  • Goal — 12-16 books
  • How many I read — 7 books
  • Books reviewed by the end of 2015 — 7 books
  • Since we traveled so much last year I didn’t use the library as much as I meant to.
  • I haven’t signed up for a formal library challenge, but plan to keep track of the library books I read. And plan to buy fewer books since we’re retiring a few years earlier than planned and I need to keep to a budget.

New Author Challenge — 168% –completed!

  • Goal — 25 books
  • How many I read by the end of 2015 — 42 books
  • Books reviewed by the end of 2015 — 35 books
  • Lots of really good new authors this year.
  • I’ve signed up for this challenge again. I love finding new authors to keep reading.

TBR Challenge — 92%

  • Goal — 1 book per month
  • How many I read — 11 books total
  • Books reviewed by the end of 2015 — 11 books
  • I missed my July book–again, I got busy and didn’t finish the book until later in the year.
  • I’m not signing up for this challenge since it’s more romance oriented and I’m not reading so much romance anymore.

TBR Pile Reading Challenge — 116% — completed

  • Goal — 31-40 books
  • How many I read — 36 books
  • Books reviewed by the end of 2015 –33 books
  • I have lots of TBR books so this is one I’ve signed up again. I have plenty of books for this challenge!

Ultimate Reading Challenge — 58%

  • Goal — 52 books–each in a specific category
  • How many I read — 30 books
  • Books reviewed by the end of 2015 –30 books
  • There were some types of books on the list I probably wouldn’t have read, but I could have done a little better. In the last months of 2015 I got busy with other things and didn’t think about the challenge and trying to find books to meet the challenge.
  • I didn’t check to see if this challenge is occurring again this year. I signed up for a different challenge that’s somewhat similar, but confined to science fiction and fantasy.

Did you take part in reading challenges in 2015? How did you do?

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

the-firebird-by-susanna-kearsleyThe Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Series: Slains #2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Scotland, Belgium, Russia
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark , 2013
Audiobook, purchased
539 pages
14 hours, 37 minutes
Grade: A-
Narrator grade: A
Synopsis: Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.

There are times when our victories have a cost that we did not foresee, when winning brings us loss.

and

“If we cannot be what we were born to be–the whole of it–we die a little on the inside every day we live the lie. I’d die for you in every other way,” he told me quietly, “but not like that….”

Initial impressions

  • I love this book. And I love that we hear about and meet a few of the same characters from The Winter Sea.

Cheers

  • The narration by Katherine Kellgren is excellent.
  • I love the songs sprinkled throughout the audio version of the book. The narrator sings them and it’s lovely.
  • This book is similar to The Winter Sea in the sense that the story has both contemporary and historical story lines.
  • This book is called Slains #2, but I think it can be read as a standalone book.
  • I can understand why Nicola doesn’t want to publicize her gift–that she can sense things from objects when she holds them.
  • Rob is such a likable character–someone I would want as a friend. He really cares about Nicola, but he wants her to accept who she is. Even so, he’s willing to go to Russia with her and try to help her.
  • I love the part of the story in Russia–both in the past and in the present.
  • Parts of the book are heartbreaking–especially the story in the past. The story about Anna is from the time she’s a little girl until she’s a young woman. She is wonderful to read about. The narrator really brings her to life and though she goes through many trials she still emerges a happy and optimistic young woman.
  • I love the way Ms. Kearsley writes. Her writing is really lovely–very poetic. Makes me happy to read or listen to. She makes me care so much for the characters. Sometimes I’m crying and sometimes I’m just so happy to read about these characters.
  • I think I like The Winter Sea a little better than The Firebird.

Jeers

  • None I can think of!

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I was so happy to listen to this book. The narrator is excellent and Susanna Kearsley’s writing is excellent. I’m looking forward to reading some more of her books.

Awards

  • RITA Award by Romance Writers of America for Best Paranormal Romance (2014)
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (2013)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Susanna Kearsley studied politics and international development at university, and has worked as a museum curator.
  • Her first novel Mariana won the prestigious Catherine Cookson Literary Prize and launched her writing career. Susanna continued her mix of the historical and paranormal in novels The Splendour Falls, Named of the Dragon, Shadowy Horses and Season of Storms.
  • Susanna Kearsley also writes classic-style thrillers under the name of Emma Cole.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book set in a different country–Great Britain (Scotland) & Russia)

The Martian by Andy Weir

the-martian-by-Andy-WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir
Narrated by R.C. Bray
Series: None
Genre: Science Fiction
Setting: Mars, Space between Earth and Mars & Earth
Published by Crown, 2014
Audible book, purchased
314 pages
10 hours, 53 minutessci-fi-month-2015
Grade: A
Narrator grade: A
Synopsis: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Initial impressions

  • Very exciting! Well written and engaging. It’s one of my favorite books of the year.

Cheers

  • Such a good story. There’s excitement, suspense and heroism.
  • So many people have weighed in about this book and have written reviews I don’t think I have anything new to say. However, I want to talk about how much I liked the book.
  • Mark Watney keeps a journal which is what an astronaut and scientist would do. He wants to leave a record behind to let others know what he did in case he doesn’t survive. He’s often profane and irreverent and his personality comes through. At one point when he thinks he might survive after-all he thinks he should be more careful about what he writes!
  • The narrator is excellent. Mr. Bray is very matter-of-fact which I think is the Mark would act.
  • I haven’t seen the movie, but the entire book I could picture Matt Damon in this role as I listened to the narration!
  • I’m impressed by Mark’s ingenuity. I know astronauts are chosen and trained as problem-solvers and that’s illustrated in this book. It would be easy to give up and he never did.
  • He figures out how long his food will last, how many calories he needs plus oxygen and water needs and looks at those stats without flinching. He looks at risks and decides what he can manage to do. Even though he is clear-sighted he still makes mistakes.
  • The book reads like a nonfiction book. I’ve heard that the solutions to problems that Mark Watney comes up with are things that would work. That’s amazing!
  • I like the science in this book though I’m not a scientist and don’t understand all the science, but I think Mr. Weir does a good job mixing the science with the personalities of characters and humanity of the book.
  • I like all the problem-solving in the book–plus the obsession by news organizations and the public when they find out Mark is alive. That seems very realistic. I found myself thinking about the millions of dollars spent plus risking the lives of other people to save one person, but that also seems like something we would do, if possible.
  • I thought it was also realistic that not everyone at NASA is on-board with decisions made. And many of the things Mark does are very risky and sometimes don’t go as planned.
  • I think listening to this story made it more realistic and enjoyable. For me this is the perfect audiobook.

Jeers

  • None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’m looking forward to more books in the future by Andy Weir.
  • I think I especially loved this book, because one of my daughters wanted to be an astronaut and wanted to go to Mars. She was even on a team of kids in third grade who won a competition to make a space suit to go to Mars. They made the spacesuit and created a video to show and explain it They won all the local and regional contests as well as the national contest. The prize was a trip to Space Camp in Alabama. (She isn’t an astronaut today, but she is a plant pathologist–so if she went to Mars she’d be able to diagnose plant diseases there!)

Awards

  • Seiun Award for Best Novel (2015)
  • John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015)
  • ALA Alex Award (2015)
  • Japanese Booksellers Award Nominee for Translated Fiction (2015)
  • Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (2016)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Andy Weir was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Sci-Fi Month–hosted by Rinn @ Rinn Reads and Lisa @ Over the Effing Rainbow

The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

agatha-raisin-and-the-quiche-of-death-by-m.c.-beatonThe Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton
Narrated by Penelope Keith
Series: Agatha Raisin #1
Genre: Contemporary Mystery (Cozy)
Setting: The Cotswolds in England
Published by Blackstone Audio, 2012 (originally published 1992)
Audiobook, purchased
272 pages
6 hours, 26 minutes
Grade: B+
Narrator grade: B+
Synopsis:  Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry–but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe…

Initial impressions

  • This was a delight! Especially fun to listen to.

Cheers

  • I like the narrator. Easy to understand and does the different voices very well.
  • Agatha–who takes an early retirement and has lived and worked in London–starts out having little in the way of social skills as the book begins. She’s a prickly and a not very likable person. By the end of the book she begins to slowly gain some social skills and look at things from other people’s point of view–sometimes!
  • She decides to retire in the Cotswolds, because she spent a vacation there years before when she was a child. She’s never lived in a village before and has no idea what she’s doing!
  • After she moves she decides to enter a village quiche baking contest, because she’s sure she will win (even though she doesn’t cook!) and that will make everyone like her. (As I said above–she doesn’t have many people skills!)
  • The fact she doesn’t cook doesn’t phase her a bit–she goes to London and buys a quiche from her favorite shop. She doesn’t really think she’s cheating!
  • Thus, she’s shocked when she doesn’t win. Later she learns the judge has favorites in the various villages where he judges local contests.
  • She’s surprised when the judge is murdered and her quiche is apparently what poisoned him. Then she’s embarrassed when the police question her and ask her to make the quiche again. !he has to admit she didn’t make the original quiche!
  • She’s convinced she will never be able to show her face in the village again. And some people in the village don’t like her, but others are more forgiving and even find the incident funny. They assure her she never had a chance of winning.
  • The police finally decide the quiche’s poison (a plant) was added by mistake and the death was an accident.
  • Agatha isn’t so sure and she begins to ask questions.
  • There’s lots of humor in the book.
  • She becomes friends with one of the young policemen who keeps an eye on her. He gently suggests she might change some of her attitudes and she might like village life.
  • There’s an old-fashioned quality to the book (perhaps because it was written over 20 years ago?) I think it’s more than that. Agatha is an old-fashioned character.
  • The mystery is engaging, but really the book is as much about Agatha’s journey. And I suspect that journey will continue in future books!

Jeers

  • It’s hard to believe Agatha would reach the age she is and still be so socially inept.

And a few other thoughts . . .

  • There are a lot of books in this series and I hope to read some more of them.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • M.C.Beaton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1936. She worked at several papers including one where she reported mostly on crime. She finally moves to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter.
  • After marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles they moved to the United States. She wanted to spend more time at home with her small son so she started to write Regency romances.
  • She wrote over 100 regency romances under her maiden name–Marion Chesney–but she got tired of that and began to write detectives stories.
  • On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Hamish Macbeth story. They returned to Britain and bought a croft house in Sutherland. Eventually, they moved to the Cotswolds where Agatha Raisin was created.
  • Marion Chesney is known primarily for the more than 100 historical romance novels she has published under her own name and under several pseudonyms: Helen Crampton, Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, and Charlotte Ward. But M.C. Beaton is the pseudonym she reserves for her crime fiction and mystery novels.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog

Death & the Redheaded Woman by Loretta Ross

death-and-the-redheaded-woman-by-Loretta-RossDeath & the Redheaded Woman by Loretta Ross
Narrated by Amanda Ronconi
Series: An Auction Block Mystery #1
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Setting: Missouri
Published by Midnight Ink, 2015
Audiobook, purchased
264 pages
7 hours, 15 minutes
Grade: B+
Narrator grade: B+
Synopsis: A strange death calls on Wren to be a jewel-seeking sleuth

As someone who appraises and prepares houses for auction, Wren Morgan has seen her share of fixer-uppers. But when she arrives at her newest project, Wren is unprepared to find something she can’t easily fix–a naked, dead man.

Soon after her disturbing discovery, Wren meets Death Bogart, a private investigator and surety recovery agent who’s looking for the famous missing jewels of the Campbell family. When it becomes clear that there are actually two sets of lost family jewels, Wren and Death team up to solve not only the mystery of the jewels, but also the naked man’s murder. With their case growing more and more complex, though, will they be able to catch the killer and bring home the loot?

Initial impression

  • Immediately drew me in from the very first sentence!

Cheers

  • Wren works for an auction house and as the book opens she is at a house she is preparing for auction. She discovers a body in the house and when she goes to the police station to fill out a statement she sees Death (pronounced Deeth) Bogart for the first time. (A great name for a private detective!)
  • The narrator–Amanda Ronconi–is great in this book. Wren sometimes is the auctioneer during an auction and I love listening to that narration. She did a good job with the other voices, too.
  • I like that Wren has such an interesting job and that she’s surrounded by people who know her and like her.
  • Death Bogart is an interesting character. He’s a former soldier, was wounded and carries seen and unseen scars. As a disabled veteran whose family have all died he’s trying to make his way in the world, but having a tough time. At the beginning of the book he’s living in his car, trying to get an appointment with the Veterans Administration (sadly realistic) and working as a private detective and surety recovery agent.
  • Death is searching for jewels for an insurance company. They may be hidden in the house where Wren found the dead guy. He may have links to the jewels so Death and Wren team up to search the house. Coincidentally, there are a second set of jewels which disappeared during the Civil War. So quite a treasure hunt!
  • However, they realize someone doesn’t want either Death or Wren to find the jewels after they’re shot at.
  • The details make this sound like it could be a bleak story, but it’s lots of fun. I think that’s because of Wren and Death. I really enjoyed reading about them.
  • I really like this type of cover for a mystery.

Jeers

  • I don’t think the epilogue was necessary.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • This is Ms. Ross’ debut book. She’s an author to watch. I’m looking forward to the next book–Death and the Brewmaster’s Widow–which comes out February 8, 2016.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Loretta Ross is a writer and historian who lives and works in rural Missouri. She is an alumna of Cottey College and holds a BA in archaeology from the University of Missouri – Columbia. She has loved mysteries since she first learned to read. Death and the Redheaded Woman is  her first published novel.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog

Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

armadaArmada
by Ernest Cline
Narrated by Wil Wheaton
Series: None
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Setting: Beaverton, Oregon; Nebraska; space; dark side of the moon
Published by Crown Publishing, 2015 (Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2015)
Audiobook, Library
368 pages
11 hours, 49 minutes
Grade: B+
Narrator grade: A-
Synopsis: Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon

“Shit!” I heard Diehl shout over the comm. “I just lost my gorram shields because I’m already out of frakkin’ power!”
“Dude,” Cruz said. “You shouldn’t mix swears from different universes.”

and

If there were other civilizations out there, why would they ever want to make contact with humanity? If this was how we treated each other, how much kindness could we possibly show to some race of bug-eyed beings from beyond?

Cheers

  • I loved this book! I love military sci-fi and space opera and this had some of both in the book.
  • What person who reads science fiction or fantasy hasn’t daydreamed about some of their books really being true?
  • I know this book uses ideas from Ender’s Game and The Last Starfighter, but I don’t care. This is a fun science fiction.
  • I really like Wil Wheaton’s narration.
  • I also like the video game player as the gateway to military war training. The military really has used video games to lure fighter pilots and others into the military.
  • I don’t play video games much anymore, but when my husband and I were dating we played video games together. One of the bars we went to had a table console with a space invaders game! We had lots of fun with that.
  • This is an entertaining and fun “shoot-em-up” book, but it also has ideas worth thinking about.
  • Zack seems to be the only one asking why the aliens would be so obvious. Why the battles already fought go exactly like a video game. No one else seems to think that’s strange. By the end of the book after everything is wrapped up neatly Zack still is suspicious. Someone needs to ask questions!
  • Zack Lightman–a great name for a video game hero or real hero!
  • The use of drones is very realistic.
  • Conspiracy theories–that’s exactly what would happen!

Jeers

  • Why does everyone seem to accept the alien’s motives at face value?

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I thought this has room for a sequel which would be fun to read!
  • I look forward to whatever Ernest Cline is writing in the future.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Ernest Cline is a novelist, screenwriter and self-confessed geek. This is his second novel after the very successful Ready Player One.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • Library Challenge–hosted by Sheila @ the Book Journey blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book set in high school–at least the beginning is in high school)

Review: The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

the-sirens-depthsThe Siren Depths
by Martha Wells
Narrated by Christopher Kipiniak
Series: The Books of the Raksura #3
Genre: Fantasy
Published by Night Shade Books, 2012
Audiobook, purchased
277 pages
15 hours, 47 minutes
Grade: A-
Narrator grade: B+
Synopsis: All his life, Moon roamed the Three Worlds, a solitary wanderer forced to hide his true nature–until he was reunited with his own kind, the Raksura, and found a new life as consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud court.

But now a rival court has laid claim to Moon, and Jade may or may not be willing to fight for him. Beset by doubts, Moon must travel in the company of strangers to a distant realm where he will finally face the forgotten secrets of his past, even as an old enemy returns with a vengeance.

The Fell, a vicious race of shapeshifting predators, menaces groundlings and Raksura alike. Determined to crossbreed with the Raksura for arcane purposes, they are driven by an ancient voice that cries out from…

“About forty turns ago there was a colony in the east, and a warrior named Swift, who had to change her name to Sorrow….”

Cheers

  • I love this series. The world Ms. Wells has created is so interesting.
  • I like the narrator for this book. It took me a little while to get used to the narration since I had read e-book versions of the first two books.
  • I like that Moon discovers more about his background in this book. Also he finds out more about Sorrow in this book. She was so important in his early life.
  • Moon’s ancestral home is an interesting place still haunted by the past. And Moon’s life there is bittersweet and not exactly how he wants it.
  • I feel so sorry for Shade in this book, but he also finds his strength and his identity.
  • The Raksura are awesome, but they’re not perfect. That makes them more realistic.
  • I really like how different the Raksura are from humans. They aren’t just an alien culture that acts the same as a human culture. For example: gender roles are so different from human roles; males aren’t afraid to show affection for each other; there are different types of Raksura and each have their roles in their society; the Raksura are fierce predators.
  • It’s interesting to see more Raksura Courts and how they’re the same and different from each other.
  • I love seeing Moon’s strengths. He’s not the typical Raksura consort: he isn’t a pampered consort who waits for the females to save him.
  • I really like the relationship Moon and Jade have. They have difficulties in this book, but they work together to overcome them. They use each other’s strengths and trust each other.
  • It’s hard to understand the Fell. They’re intelligent, but seem totally without compassion, morals or empathy. And it’s so awful they look a lot like the Raksura and seem to be related.
  • Totally recommend this series!

Jeers

  • No jeers!

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I wasn’t sure there would be more full length books in this series. When I was checking on this book I discovered book 4 in this series–The Edge of Worlds–is due out on Apr 5, 2016. And it’s part of a two book series. Yay!
  • Ms. Wells has written two volumes of stories of the Raksura. I have both those books and can’t wait to read them, too.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Martha Wells is the author of over a dozen science fiction and fantasy novels, including the Books of the Raksura series, Star Wars: Razor’s Edge, and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer, as well as short stories, nonfiction, and YA fantasy. Her books have been published in seven languages.
  • Her first novel, The Element of Fire, was published by Tor in hardcover in July 1993 and was a finalist for the 1993 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award and a runner-up for the 1994 Crawford Award. The French edition, Le feu primordial, was a 2003 Imaginales Award nominee.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog