Comment #1 Jeane!
Jeane, I’ll be providing the email you left with your entry to the author, who will send along the ebook to you himself.
Thanks for entering!
It’s the penultimate giveaway of 2014 here at Opinions of a Wolf. I was so happy to be able to offer so many giveaways this year! Thanks to the indie authors and indie publishing houses that made it possible.
How to Enter: Leave a comment on this post stating the coolest fact you know about elephants.
Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL
Contest Ends: December 13th. One week from today!
Disclaimer: The winners will have their ebook sent to them by the author. The blogger is not responsible for sending the book. Void where prohibited by law.
When Far Stream is still a young elephant in the late 1800s, not yet full grown and learning from her mother, aunties, and grandmother, humans trap and capture her and other members of her herd. She is shipped to America and sold to a traveling circus. Over the years, she slowly comes to be known as a bad elephant who must be put down. But is she really bad?
I was quite excited when this book was submitted to me for review. A piece of historic fiction from the perspective of an animal, focusing on animal rights problems in the circus? Such a perfect fit! This is a well-researched and written piece of historic fiction that eloquently depicts the minds of elephants as similar to and yet different from those of humans.
The book opens with a scene of a so-called bad elephant about to be executed. The humans state they are doing so humanely and nothing can be done because the elephant has gone rogue and killed too many humans. The book then flashes back to see the elephant’s life from the elephant’s perspective, leaving it up to the reader to determine if the elephant is actually bad. The humans calls her Topsy, but her elephant name is actually Far Stream. What follows in the flashback is a delicately handled and clearly exquisitely researched tale of the life of a circus elephant in the late 1800s in the US.
From the beginning, the author makes it clear that elephants are intelligent, with lives, families, and emotions of their own. Quite a bit of this is backed up by science, such as elephants crying and also mourning dead members of the herd. There are also those who think that elephants might communicate via sign language and/or telepathically, and the book fully embraces both ideas. What results in telling this tale from the elephant’s perspective is a scene of one intelligent species enslaved by another that is heartbreaking to read. What really makes the story work, though, is that the author strikes the perfect balance between showing the horror of being a circus elephant and also not fully demonizing humans. There are good humans (trainers and non-trainers) who love the elephants and treat them well but simply do not understand that elephants are more intelligent and have a richer emotional life than they give them credit for and by simply keeping them away from the roaming herd life they were made for they are hurting them.
Everything about the circus in the late 1800s in the US was clearly thoroughly researched by the author. The historic setting and ways of life flow smoothly and fit perfectly within the plot. They are presented simply as reality without any unfortunate modern commentary or forcing of unnaturally modern ideas into the plot. Reading this book truly transported me back in time, and it was fascinating and enjoyable, as well as heartbreaking.
Although the reader knows from the beginning that Far Stream will be executed, how she gets there is still a mystery and is handled delicately enough that the plot has momentum.
The one bit that didn’t really work for me is how the book presents what appears to be elephant spirituality. There is one scene where Far Stream and another elephant appear to hallucinate, and it is never entirely clear what actually happened. Similarly the ending goes to an odd spiritual place that just left me confused, rather than in the strong emotional state I was in the moments immediately prior to this. I found the elephant spirituality bits to be a touch confusing that lessened the emotional strength of the rest of the book, which came across much more matter-of-fact. Some readers may enjoy and relate to the spiritual aspect more than I did, however.
Overall, this is a piece of thoroughly researched historic fiction with a smooth moving plot and an empathetic, well-rounded main character. It clearly demonstrates how animals humans once thought were less intelligent and less emotional than we now know them to be came to be mistreated, setting up a precedent for that mistreatment that to some extent continues to this day. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy historic fiction and animal main characters.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
Raptor Red is one of the utahraptors who’ve newly arrived in what will one day be the western United States. Follow a year of her life as faces being both a predator and, as one of the smaller predator dinosaurs, prey.
I love dinosaurs. Who doesn’t? When I saw that this book was written by a paleontologist, I immediately was intrigued. Who better to tell a story about dinosaurs than someone who studies them extensively? The book certainly presents a realistic view of dinosaurs based on science, but sometimes the story suffers as a result of the intense attention paid to science.
First I just want to say my absolute favorite part of the book is the beginning of each chapter. Each chapter beginning has a small note in the corner about what month it is, but more importantly, it has a hilarious drawing of a dinosaur (or a few) along with a tongue-in-cheek chapter title.
I wish that this ability to both present scientifically realistic dinosaurs and be humorous/cartoonish about them simultaneously had carried through to the writing. The overarching story that the book tells is sound. Raptor Red’s mate dies, and she reunites with her similarly widowed sister while simultaneously looking for a new mate. (This is not a spoiler, it is well-established in the first chapter). But the story on the sentence level is belabored by the author’s apparent need to couch everything in speculations. For instance, instead of just saying Raptor Red stamped her foot angrily, he’ll say something like Raptor Red was probably angry because she stamped her foot, and we know that dinosaurs stamping their foot indicated impatience, and if we believe that higher-thinking animals can feel emotions, then it was probably anger she was feeling. Passages like that really gum up the storytelling. The story would have worked better if he had some disclaimer at the beginning regarding emotions in animals, literary license, etc…, and then just ran with putting emotions on the extremely well-researched animal behavior.
The book teaches the reader a lot about dinosaurs in the context of the story, but the storytelling manner makes the reader get bogged down and realize they’re learning, instead of enjoying a story and happening to get some knowledge about dinosaurs in the process. The former makes for a tough read, in spite of enjoyable illustrations.
Overall, dinosaur enthusiasts will enjoy both the illustrations and the high level of science present in the story. Some may be frustrated by the author’s insistence on not personifying the dinosaurs, in spite of telling a very emotional story of being widowed and finding a new mate. Recommended primarily to those with a vested interest in reading everything dinosaur who won’t mind that the story sometimes suffers at the hands of science.
3 out of 5 stars
I post series reviews after completing reading an entire series of books. It gives me a chance to reflect on and analyze the series as a whole. These series reviews are designed to also be useful for people who: A) have read the series too and would like to read other thoughts on it or discuss it with others OR B) have not read the series yet but would like a full idea of what the series is like, including possible spoilers, prior to reading it themselves or buying it for another. Please be aware that series reviews necessarily contain some spoilers.
Georgina Kincaid loves her job managing a bookstore in Seattle. She’s not so sure about her job as Seattle’s only succubus, but she doesn’t have much choice about that one since she sold her soul to Hell back when she was mortal in ancient Greece. After hundreds of years of being a succubus, Georgina has started to feel guilty about stealing the life energy of good-souled men. So she’s switched to stealing the less high-quality life energy of bad-souled men. Her demon boss, Jerome, is none too happy about this. Things take an even more interesting turn when famous author, Seth Mortensen, moves to Seattle and chooses Georgina’s bookstore as his base of operations. Georgina quickly finds herself falling for him. Her first time falling for a man since WWII. Nobody seems to like the idea of Georgina dating Seth, except for Seth, but Georgina doesn’t have much time to wonder why as supernatural life carries on. Everything from an incubus plot to attempts at overthrowing her demonic boss (by another demon of course) to an escaped ancient supernatural power who feeds on dreams come Georgina’s way. Georgina starts to notice that Seattle seems to be facing more than the normal level of supernatural upheaval, and she starts to wonder why.
A tightly told, sexy, humorous series featuring an overarching plot that ties into all of the smaller plots and lends the series as a whole a greater meaning makes this urban fantasy stand out above the rest.
The series ostensibly focuses on the bad guys of the supernatural world, not something that is seen very often in urban fantasy. Yes, Georgina is a succubus with a guilt complex, but she is still a succubus, and she still goes out and does her succubus thing. She is not out trying to save the world. She’s just trying to get by day by day in the role she has chosen for herself–fighting on the bad guy side of the battle. But Mead does not let the series fall easily into clear good versus evil. It soon becomes evident that good guys can be on the bad guy side and bad guys on the good guy side. In most cases, one decision or the fault of birth decides where they land. Just because someone is a vampire doesn’t mean he can’t desire to help out his friends. Just because someone is an angel doesn’t mean they can’t make mistakes. And the rules aren’t always fair and sometimes incomprehensible. This gray complexity lends a lot of interesting notes to the series that otherwise wouldn’t be there, not least of which is the fact that the characters are able to be three-dimensional in this world Mead has created.
The characters, even the minor ones, are indeed three-dimensional. They sometimes make stupid choices, big mistakes, and are annoying. But they also make tough good choices, ones that aren’t easy but still happen. They fall in genuine love. They accidentally hurt each other but also sacrifice themselves for each other. They worry about having a bad hair day. They cry. They have great sex and bad sex. And they come to life in the reader’s mind.
The sex scenes, a key element of an urban fantasy series about a succubus, are never repetitive. They are tantalizing and sexy, except for a few which are aiming to show that sex can be bad. They range from the intense love making of a couple madly in love to a fun night out having sex in public at a public sex bar. And many positions and types of sex are covered as well. The sex scenes walk the line between barely mentioned and extremely explicit quite well. They are fully fleshed-out sex scenes without being extremely explicit.
The overarching plot, though, is what really made me fall in love with the series. Georgina became a succubus in exchange for her husband and all those who knew her forgetting all about her. She cheated on her husband, and she felt so much guilt at both the act and the pain it caused that she felt this was the best solution. At first, she goes into being a succubus with enthusiasm but over time her feelings change. Her hurt starts to heal, and she begins to see the good side of both humanity and life. She is in the throes of this complex situation of wanting to be good but having already signed a contract for the bad side of the fight when Seth shows up and everything starts going haywire in the supernatural world in Seattle. Eventually, she finds out that Seth is the reincarnation of her original husband, Kiriakos. He lived his life thinking he must have a soul mate but never meeting her, so when he died he struck a bargain to get more chances at meeting her. He has a limited number of reincarnations (10, I believe), that will occur in the same vicinity as his soul mate. His soul mate is Georgina, and she has met him multiple times throughout her life as as a succubus. This reincarnation as Seth is his last chance. From here, the story takes a hard look at what makes people soul mates, that being soul mates doesn’t mean no mistakes will be made, that love and a relationship aren’t an easy cakewalk and sacrifices and compromises must be made. It delves into the idea of redemption, and that being a good person and having a good life aren’t just something innate in you. It’s a beautiful love story, spanning many centuries, that takes a hard look at what makes relationships work. It also ties in nicely with the questions established earlier about good versus evil and if being good or evil is a one-time choice or something that happens over time. I never would have guessed that I could end up feeling so positively about a love story that begins with betrayal but that’s where Mead uses the supernatural with great skill. The story works because the betrayal is treated so seriously. Georgina’s betrayal of her husband (and soul mate) leads them both to centuries of pain. It is not something that can be just brushed off. It’s a mistake she made, yes, but just because it was a mistake doesn’t mean she can just say sorry and make it all right. On that note, Kiriakos/Seth also made mistakes when they were first together that he also has to work through. They both learn through time that you can’t just sit back and let the marriage happen. You have to pay attention, invest, and work at growing together.
The fun setting, tantalizing sex scenes, three-dimensional characters, and unexpected yet beautiful overarching plot about the nature of good and evil and love and redemption makes this series a stunner in urban fantasy. Highly recommended to urban fantasy and romance fans alike, although those who are irritated at the concept of soul mates might not enjoy it as much.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: PaperBackSwap, library, gift, Audible
Books in Series:
Succubus Blues, review, 4 stars
Succubus On Top, review, 4 stars
Succubus Dreams, review, 5 stars
Succubus Heat, review, 4 stars
Succubus Shadows, review, 5 stars
Succubus Revealed, review, 5 stars
Here on Opinions of a Wolf, I have started accepting review copy submissions for the upcoming year in November and December. Then, out of the books submitted to me for review, I select 12 to review in the upcoming year.
This year, 34 review requests were submitted. This means I accepted only 35% of the submitted books. Of those 34 book submissions, 2 didn’t follow my review request guidelines, so were automatically eliminated. Of the authors submitting, 74% were male and 26% female. The most popular genre submitted to me was thriller with 10 submissions. The least submitted genre (that wasn’t a genre I don’t accept) was a tie between romance, horror, urban fantasy, and fantasy, with 2 each. I ultimately accepted: 4 scifi, 2 fantasy, 2 horror, 2 thriller, 1 urban fantasy, and 1 historic fiction.
The accepted review copies are listed below, alphabetically. Summaries are pulled from GoodReads or Amazon, since I have yet to read them myself and so cannot write my own. These books will be read and reviewed here in 2014, although what order they are read in is entirely up to my whim at the moment.
Bad Elephant Far Stream
By: Samuel Hawley
Genre: Historic Fiction
Bad Elephant Far Stream is an elephant’s life story, told from her own perspective, through her own eyes.
Inspired by the life of a real elephant known as Topsy, it follows Far Stream from her birth and capture in the wild in Ceylon in the late 1860s, through her transportation to America and thirty years with the circus, which ultimately led to her being labeled as “bad.” It’s an unusual and uncompromising novel that explores the questions: What is it like to be an elephant trained for human amusement? What does such a creature think? What does it feel? What does it yearn for?
Bad Elephant Far Stream takes the reader on a voyage of discovery to find out
By: Michael J. Kolinski
Jake Wood receives an e-mail message from his cousin Jana whom he hasn’t seen in over a decade. Jana has learned of Jake’s tragedy: The seven people dead and the downward spiral of depression and survivor’s guilt his life has become. She invites him to leave a bitter cold Iowa winter to visit her in sunny Los Angeles.
Jake accepts Jana’s invitation but when he arrives, she is nowhere to be found. All Jake knows for certain is that Jana was working for renowned primatologist Dr. Gregory Mirek, a scientist with a towering reputation and a wide circle of wealthy and influential friends.
With the assistance of Jana’s best friend Laurie Summers, Jake travels across California and into Las Vegas in search of Jana. It’s a path that leads to a desperate real estate developer, a seedy casino owner, and the discovery that Dr. Mirek has ghastly secrets that he will do anything to protect.
The City of Time & Memory
By: Justin Childress
The City rises up from the silent gray clouds that surround it, structures like tombstones, built with recollections of bad days gone by, populated by fading screams and stale sobs. Unnameable nightmares stalk the streets, the alleys, the stairs, hungry for those unfortunate to find themselves lost in the City of Time & Memory.
Zak awakens to find himself in his room, but not in his house. His doorways no longer connect to the rest of his home, but to silent hallways and endless gray voids. He must find a way out of the labyrinth of alien rooms and endless stairwells, before something finds him.
By: Nick Milligan
Jack is the most famous rockstar in the world… he’s just not from this planet.
Before joining NASA’s space program, Jack had dreams of a career as a professional musician. When a deep space mission goes awry, he crashes on an alien planet. Jack discovers that his new world is inhabited by a race of humans that have evolved in parallel to those on Earth. He picks up a guitar and performs the most wondrous rock songs of his home planet. Neil Young. Leonard Cohen. Bob Dylan. Superstardom beckons as audiences around the globe revere Jack and his apparent songwriting abilities. He basks in the boundless glow of a hedonistic dream world. But Jack soon learns that his lie will have sinister consequences.
The House of Azareal
By: Erik Dreistadt
Christopher Porter lives a peaceful life with his wife and twin children in the mountains of Tennessee. Christopher’s life is about to be turned upside down as he and his family are drawn to a mysterious, old house deep in the woods near their home. After entering the house, he struggles to keep his family safe and try to escape the mysterious creatures living inside.
I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
By: E. A. Aymar
Tom Starks has spent the three years since his wife’s murder struggling to single-handedly raise their daughter, Julie, while haunted by memories of his dead spouse. When he learns that the man accused of her murder, Chris Taylor, has been released from prison, Tom hires a pair of hit men to get his revenge. But when the hit men botch the assassination, Tom is inadvertently pulled into their violent world. And now those hit men are after him and his daughter.
One Death at a Time
By: Thomas M. Hewlett
Genre: Urban Fantasy
“People think Alcoholics Anonymous is for drunks. It’s not. It’s for us, the real drinkers. The blood drinkers. All the rest of those meetings are just for show.”
Los Angeles, 1948. Detective Jack Strayhorn is killed while chasing down a suspect in the Black Dahlia murders all by himself.
Los Angeles, 2010. Jack Strayhorn is back in L.A. as a private investigator with a simple mission: catch the bad guys and try not to kill any innocent people along the way.
To him and his kind, human blood is the strongest drug in the world. Fortunately for Jack, he found the secret group within AA dedicated to helping Vampires survive the madness and destruction of their disease.
When a city councilmember with ties to a drug-dealing Fae clan is found dead in his home and the woman lying next to him is Jack’s current missing person’s case, tracking down the ghostlike hitman will test him like nothing before.
But this time, Jack won’t be alone. With the help of his unique powers of investigation, his magically talented friends, and a Medical Examiner with a few secrets of her own, Jack will face down a gang of outlaw biker werewolves, spell-casting Fae high on pixie dust, and an underground order of Vampires intent on ruling the world.
As Jack learned long ago, the only way to get through eternity is one death a time.
The Reflections of Queen Snow White
By: David C. Meredith
What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.
The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.
It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?
Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White
The Running Game
By: L. E. Fitzpatrick
Her father called it the running game. Count the exits, calculate the routes. Always be ready to run because they’ll always be coming for you. Whatever happens, they’ll always be coming for you.
Rachel had let her guard down and they had found her. She could run now, leave the city and try her luck beyond the borders, but with no money and a dark secret to hide her chances of survival are slim.
But then she meets two brothers with a dangerous past and secrets of their own. Can they help her turn the game around?
The Second Lives of Honest Men
By: John Cameron
Genre: Scifi, Historic Fiction
On the evening of April 14th, 1865, a flawless duplicate replaced the 16th President an instant prior to his assassination. Two centuries later, Honest Abe opened his eyes to a world in desperate need of guidance.
By: Paul Bussard
Stinger Stars is the story of mankind’s first contact with another intelligent species—a man-made species that can enable humans to regenerate lost or damaged body parts. Tragically, the intelligent creatures must be repeatedly maimed in order for them to produce the regenerative agent that makes them so useful. Set in a world of rival genetic research companies, ruthless alpha males, unauthorized experiments, and industrial espionage, Stinger Stars follows Maria de la Cruz, a lowly biology student with a stunted arm, as she struggles with the very personal moral and ethical issues—whether to protect the intelligent animals from cruel exploitation or benefit from their suffering to regain the use of her arm.
The Underworld King
By: Ranjit More
60,000 miles below the surface of the earth thrives a kingdom inhabited by daityas – giant, fanged beings of the night who sometimes travel to the surface above and eat humans in the hearts of grim forests. Their four-armed king, Drumila, faces a new peril, and this time it is advancing upon him not from the heavens, where his eternal enemies reside; but from the darkest depths of creation. The naagas -giant, flame-breathing serpents- are traveling towards the capital of daityas, intent upon reducing them to ashes, and Drumila must do something about it. For no matter how strongly he detests his subjects’ lifestyle and nature, it is his duty to protect them as king.
Moved by Drumila’s plight, the powerful sage, Shukracharya, swims down into the underworld upon the back of his giant crocodile and convinces his disciple-king to migrate to the surface of the earth.
What follows is an epic exodus to the world above and a strange encounter with a beautiful girl thereupon. Nandini seems to be human, but all signs point towards her having descended from the heavens, the least of which are a delicate waist and long eyes extending up to her ears. But is this a trick of the gods? Drumila will find out soon enough, when the battle begins.