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nrlymrtl has commented on (206) products.

Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander

nrlymrtl, November 4, 2014

Calumny (Cal) Spinks lives with his father and mother in a village outside of London. Hi English father (Peter) drinks a bit too much and has more secrets than Cal can stand. His French mother is ill and weak and loves her son dearly. It’s the 1600s and unrest is in the air. Peter Spinks, a fair silk weaver, has kept his son in the dark about his past and has refused to add his son’s name to the apprentice list. Cal is nearing the age at when he will no longer be eligible to be an apprentice and that door will forever be closed to him. It’s maddening to Cal. Then Garric enters Cal’s life (and returns to Peter’s) on the very same day tragedy strikes the family. Cal is forced to make a new life in London in Clerkenwell neighborhood. There, he finds that many folks have secrets and he’s determined to find out Garric’s biggest secret.

I found the main protagonist, Calumny Spinks, to be fully engaging. He grows through out the book as he has one adventure (or mishap) after another, as he unravels these secrets and gains some of his own. He’s a bit of a rogue, enjoying the lasses so much that I was surprised he wasn’t in more trouble. His mouth can be sharp and foul as needed.

The setting is nearly a character itself (just how I like my settings) and you never forget that you are in 1688 England. Public sanitation is all but nonexistent; the food is fairly simple if rich and hearty at times; traveling from point a to point b takes time. The Glorious Revolution plays an important role in this book and I have to say that I was not educated on this event in history at all. So my only word of caution to folks venturing into this book is that it would be beneficial to go over a brief accounting of the politics of the time to better enjoy this book. If you don’t know the basics (as I didn’t) then I fear you will miss out on some of the nuances of the book (as I did).

The pacing is great �" not so fast-paced as to gloss over stuff and not so detailed as to bog the reader down. And the prose is excellent. The imagery sometimes had me chuckling out loud, nodding my head in agreement, or even grimacing. Here’s an example from early on in the story (no spoilers): ‘Abigail was boiling bones in the back kitchen. The more rotten the stock, the better the soup, she said, and hers was as rich and spicy as a woman’s summer-sweat.’ At times the characters, and the language, get quite bawdy, but I also enjoyed this as it was realistic and it didn’t eclipse the plotline.

Early on, the female characters are here and there and not integral to the plotline. It is only later on as the story progresses that we get a few ladies who are more than just lovers, mothers, and pretty things to coo over. Of course, I would have liked to see plot-necessary ladies earlier in the book, but I was content that the author made use of them at some point.

Over all, a very good read having an intricate plotline, a fully engaging lead character, and being educational to boot. If coffee and revolution and English history are your things, then this is definitely a good read for you.
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The League of Doorways by Tim O'rourke
The League of Doorways

nrlymrtl, November 4, 2014

Zach Black and his motley crew pick up just where Book 1 ended. Much of their time is spent trying to cross a desiccated and abandoned war zone. William Weaver the werewolf and Neanna the vampire keep him company as they continue their quest to find the Heart of Endra. Meanwhile, Anna Black is still in the hands of the ghoulish pirates along with uncle Thandel. Throat and his evil sister, Delf, continue to make plans to take out Zach and his companions.

I enjoyed this book more than I did Doorways (book 1 of the series). We have a new character, Dr. Faraday, that Zach & crew meet in the desert. He’s a mechanical man and has plenty of talents along with mysteries about him and how he came to dropped in the middle of a desert, turned off. We also have Anna playing a more pivotal role, along with Willow Weaver (William’s mother) and Delf playing bigger roles (in Book 1 we were just introduced to them). In this book, we get to follow a few plotlines, instead of just one, as these secondary characters have tasks and challenges of their own.

And then there is this pretty cool thing: The mechanical men made a mistake some time back. Fascinated with the animal life of Earth, they brought several species through before they realized that Endra didn’t act as an exact mirror. They were changed when they came through, creating strange, wondrous, and often terrifying modified beasties, such as the semi-mechanical tiger motorcycles. I quite enjoyed this part of the tale because it was beautiful, sad, and creepy all at once.

Then we have the bad guys. Searching for eternal life and beauty, they have fallen into crustiness and flatulence. While Throat has become a shadow of the mage he once was, his sister Delf has open, maggot-riddled sores, horrid breath, and gas. They are both uniquely twisted and disgusting in obvious and subtle ways. Though I have to say that Delf does seem to care for her mount, a large dog, who she feeds maggots to.

While all this is going on, Willow went on a quest to find the League of Doorways and ask their assistance in saving Endra. She finds Wally, an old family friend. I don’t want to spoil how her quest turns out, but let me say that it wasn’t simple and the answer wasn’t what she expected.

Up front, we know there is a concern that a traitor exists in Zach’s little group. He’s vigilant, keeping his eyes on a possibility. The ending wasn’t what I expected and I look forward to having Book 3 on audio to continue the tale.
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Olde School by Selah Janel
Olde School

nrlymrtl, November 4, 2014

Kingdom City, formerly known as Thadd’s Kingdom, has been modernizing for the last few decades. Now trolls, humans, and pixies can all enjoy a nice steaming cup of coffee at the local diner while checking their emails on the free local wi-fi. But not all are ready to modernize and many pick and choose what they want to modernize. Flat screen tvs and fold up concealed maces are popular while online banking and dating has only been accepted by certain parts of the population. Paddlelump Stonemonger is one of the first businesstrolls the kingdom has seen and he runs a toll bridge. Folks use it to cross a ravine to his lands of open meadow and forest. His older troll friends, Uljah and Izzpick, give him quite the ribbing over his business suit and lack of weaponry. But, hey, he’s a troll. Who the hell is going to mess with an 8 foot tall troll?

This book is heavy on the humor and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a great read for this time of the year if you are looking for the lighter side of Halloween. While it does take a while for the main plot to put in an appearance, you won’t be bored adventuring around Kingdom City, experiencing the ambiance and getting to know the characters. Flora (the waitress at the diner) and Nobody (maid to Paddlelump) are the two major female characters, though they both take back seat to the male characters. Flora has a sharp wit and isn’t cowed by troll, ogre, or studly prince wannabe. Nobody is introduced as a maiden in distress, who is looking for work and a place to pasture her pet cow. Paddlelump hires her to do the cleaning, laundry, and cooking, meanwhile allowing her to pasture her cow in his meadowlands. As she repeatedly fails to get the daily chores done, Paddlelumps friends encourage him to let her go, but he hesitates, much to his detriment later on when the plot arrives.

More characters are introduced as the story unfolds. I enjoyed learning about Grimclaw, the head detective/sheriff ogre, as the body count starts to build. Then there is Clyde. Ah, Clyde! Such a fun character. I loved his snooty attitude and his humor. Paddlelump himself is forced to grow as a character as life’s roadblocks continue to pile up on him. There’s the aforementioned issue with the maid, he’s in a tiff with the City Mayor, and then, about a third of the way in to the book, things turn grim indeed. I have to say I didn’t see the shift in tone coming for this book, but I liked the darker note intruding into this story. It gave it weight and made me care more about the characters. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you were thinking about reading this aloud at story time for small kids, you might want to give the entire book a skim first.

Over all, this was very enjoyable read. It kept me up way to late a few nights in a row as I didn’t want to put it down. I am very much looking forward to future installments in The Kingdom City Chronicles.
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Revenge of the Simians by Thomas Weston
Revenge of the Simians

nrlymrtl, October 25, 2014

Francine and Wayne work at a medical research facility. Their jobs pay the bills, keep them fed, and suck their souls away. They are the ones to work closely with the experimental & experimented on animals �" feeding them, cleaning up after them, and strapping them down for further tests and injections. Meanwhile, the upper crust of the research facility loan out their militarized experiments to the military, who in turn, run covert ops that bring about political chaos in chosen cities and countries. If that alone were not enough to keep the readers entertained, Thomas Weston takes the story a step farther when the simians start thinking for themselves, organizing, and challenging the authority of humans.

This story started off strong, with Fran and Wayne sympathetic to the apes they worked with but also feeling they were trapped in their current jobs due to financial burdens. Plus we had little snippets of the various military uses the apes were being put to. Then there are also the apes themselves, sporting names like Ishtar, Marduk, and Emond. They have character, desires, motivations. We also have some immediate bad guys that are great to hate on, such as some of the lead research scientists who are sadists when it comes to their simian experiments.

Even though the story is speckled throughout with various conspiracy theories and political commentaries, I was able to set those aside for the story. Many of the characters stayed true to their motivations throughout the story, except for Francine and Wayne. They went from sympathetic to highly selfish to chaotic evil and the transitions weren’t particularly clear. While there are a fair number of female characters in this story, by and large, they are being led around by the males, instead of making independent decisions and actions. There is a notable exception late in the story with Francine, but the whole scenario stretched the creditability of the story (if I go into detail, I give way part of the ending, so I won’t).

While I really like the plot idea of apes taking over the world, I felt that the main research facility sported too few of the simians to get the job done. Perhaps if the author had expanded the numbers in some plausible way, this would have made the final outcome of the novel plausible. Also, the apes use a kind of biowarfare towards the end and the idea that the humans wouldn’t catch on in time to control or even outright stop such an outbreak was not believable.

Overall, it is short enough to be a fun, gritty read for those who enjoy this niche science fiction. However, if you are looking for a great piece of literature to hold up and say, ‘Hey, it really could happen!’, this is not it. If you are easily insulted, then do note that the main characters sooner or later hit on nearly every major group that you can insult �" woman, homosexual, democrat, republican, etc. I think this was done to reflect the small-minded nature of many of the characters and are not necessarily a reflection of the author’s views on the world. I don’t know if you will be cheering for anyone by the end of the book, but it was the same for me with Brave New World, one of my all time favorite classics.

The Narration: David Dietz did a good job of narrating this tale. He had to come up with a variety of ape voices, in both male and female, while keeping them all distinct. I am sure the ape voices put a lasting bur into Dietz’s voice.
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Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole
Dreams of a Dark Warrior

nrlymrtl, October 25, 2014

Note: This book works fine as a stand alone even though it is Book 11 in the series.

The book started with a young Valkyrie, Regin the Radiant, beating up some viking Berserkers. That was pretty amusing and I was enjoying the give and take (both verbal and with blades). The lead Berserker, Aidan, recognizes she is an Immortal, but a rather young one who is still frail and can be injured. He take her under his wing and then proclaims that she will be his wife once she is full grown. In the meantime, she is to wait out her days at his mom’s house while he fights 200 battles in Odin’s name to earn the right to immortality himself. Regin, while young, isn’t really down with that.

So, 9 years later, they meet up again. She’s full immortal, totally able to take care of herself, and busy kicking vampire ass in the Dark Ages of northern Europe. Aidan hasn’t been victorious in 200 battles yet, but he is racking up the points. Regin has to admit that she is plenty curious about coupling in general and in specific, coupling with Aidan. Aidan is all good with this since he claimed Regin for his bride 9 years ago and hasn’t changed his mind on that one bit. In fact, his possessiveness towards Regin came on really strong.

Too strong.

And I had to start this book twice because the main masculine love interest was creeping me out in a rapey sort of way. His possessiveness leaves no room for Regin’s say in the matter and she’s a big part of the equation. This possessive streak is a main theme throughout the book, even with Aidan reincarnated into the modern covert ops soldier we come to know as Declan Chase. I want to believe that the author was setting us up early with a character flaw that Aidan/Declan has to overcome in order to be triumphant, but it didn’t work for me.

First, let me tell you about the characters, the plot, the action, the sex. Then I will come back to this creepy possessive trait. Regin is a lot of fun, always ready with the quip, and a blade if necessary. She starts off strong with plenty of punches, claw marks, and tossing of men twice her size. While she keeps a lot of her spunk throughout the book, she diminishes in her ability to fight and I think this was done to show how strong Aidan/Declan the Berserker is. Declan himself is a troubled man. Unknown to him, his violent dreams are memories of his past lives and past fights and past deaths. He gets lost in it all as a teen and takes up drugs. But then one night a horrible fate falls upon his family and himself, from which he barely survives. And that is where he takes up with this super secret underground military-like organization that hunts down, captures, interrogates, experiments on, and kills any and all immortals. I really enjoyed Declan’s backstory and got into his character, mostly.

The book is fast-paced with plenty of interesting side characters. My favorite was Nix, a Valkyrie gifted with foresight. But that gift also makes her a little crazy. She has a pet bat named Bertie. Then there are several characters we meet in the immortal prison such as the good farm boy Thad, a wicked ancient vampire, a London faerie, and more. They were all enjoyable. Several of the sex scenes were very hot and involved full consent. The partners were into each other and giving and taking equally.

But then we have the love story between Declan and Regin. Declan has a violent streak. At first, he just sees Regin as another immortal, like all the other immortals he has hunted, captured, tortured, and killed. So his initial violence towards Regin didn’t bother me. It was part of the story. And Regin is faced with this horrible decision to either awaken his memories of his past and trigger the curse that has killed each of his reincarnations upon full memory retrieval, or ride it out, try to escape, and hopefully never run into Declan again.

This is my biggest issue with the book. Aidan/Declan has a big possessive streak that goes way beyond being tolerable. It’s not sexy. There are multiple times in this book where Regin flat out refuses sexual contact and Aidan/Declan presses on anyway, once with full penetration. Now Regin does get around to enjoying herself and whatever sexual act is forced upon her, but there is this whole initial lack of consent. Folks, full consent is sexy. Aidan/Declan can declare all he wants how wonderful Regin is, how he will always protect her and cherish her, but the forced sex really negates all that sexy male protectiveness.

So, for me, while this book had a lot going for it, but the overly possessive nature of the main male love interest killed this book for me.

The Narration: Robert Petkoff did an excellent job. He had a variety of accents to pull off as well as male and female voices. He didn’t hesitate with the sex scenes either. In fact, he may very well have orgasmed once or twice while narrating the steamiest scenes. His male and female voices were distinct. Oh, and there was this one character, La Dorada, for which he had to pull off this awful creepy witch sound �" he raised the hairs on the back of my neck!
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