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