Book Review: Netherfield by Maria Grace @WriteMariaGrace @AnAudiobookworm

************

Title: Netherfield
Series: Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 3
Author: Maria Grace
Narrator: Benjamin Fife
Publication Date: February 2020
Genres: Historical Fantasy

************

Netherfield
Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 3
Maria Grace
Narrated by Benjamin Fife
Maria Grace, January 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Elizabeth Bennet thought she was prepared to do anything to make the Dragon Conclave accept her beloved young dragon Pemberley into the Blue Order, but she had not anticipated it would leave her banished from her ancestral home and betrothed to none other than Mr. Darcy. But before Elizabeth and Darcy wed, they must find a dangerous rogue dragon before it provokes a war amongst the dragons and brings the fragile peace between dragons and mankind to a catastrophic end.

Nothing written in the annals of dragon lore has prepared Elizabeth to manage a dragon not governed by the Blue Order. Dragons have always loved her, but this one finds her arrogant, selfish and insensitive to others. With only her instincts to guide her, she must convince the rogue of her good intentions before the Blue Order loses patience and decides on more drastic measures.

Called away to the other side of the kingdom, trying to settle the dragons’ unrest, Darcy learns the nature of the force poisoning the rogue dragon against Elizabeth. One nearer and dearer than they could have imagined.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy convince with rogue dragon to cooperate before darker forces turn it against them, without destroying the fragile bonds uniting the couple?

We’ve come to the end of the saga entangling dragons with the original Pride and Prejudice (except for the prequel, A Proper Introduction to Dragons) and all comes to a head, potentially a more concrete meeting of the minds between humans and dragons. First, though, there are many threads to follow, not least of which is the mystery surrounding a rogue dragon. This particular dragon is unknown to both societies and, thus, not governed by the all-important treaty that supports their co-existence.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth has been banned from Longbourn, partly because she insulted the petulant and entitled landed dragon of the same name by refusing to marry Mr. Collins to whom the estate is entailed. Lydia has apparently run off with Wickham and is being chased by Darcy and Fitzwilliam, someone is involved in smuggling and leaving poisonous dragon venom where it can endanger others and an emissary from another dragon federation has gone missing. Add to that the trials of tending to the baby Pemberley and the somewhat tepid romance between Elizabeth and Darcy and the scenario is perfect for a lively adventure.

Once again, Mr. Fife wowed me with his narration, most especially his dragon voices (my favorites are April, Longbourn and Walker), and he certainly had great material to work with from Ms. Grace. I suspect I’ll be listening to this trilogy again, more than once 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

************

Purchase Links:
There has been a delay in publishing this third
audiobook but it will soon be available on

Audible and iTunes

************

About the Author

Five time BRAG Medallion Honoree and #1 best selling Historical Fantasy author, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gaslamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Pinterest

************

About the Narrator

Benjamin Fife has always had a passion for learning. With a mind that remembers all sorts of numbers and useless trivia, he regularly wins local radio shows and enjoys confusing people with sci-fi quotes.

Fife grew up in Southeast Idaho. He attended college at Idaho State University, where he met his future wife in their music theory class. They have been married nearly 20 years and now have six children and a whole menagerie of animals. When their oldest daughter was three or four years old they started reading aloud from novels every night at bedtime, and have continued the tradition ever since. The family loves exploring various worlds and topics through Fife’s wonderful reading skills, which get better every year. They all have his Christmas Carol voices memorized (and the older kids are known to quote along with portions), since he has read it to them every December.

Benjamin enjoys all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy – both books and shows, is an extreme eclectic music lover, and prefers his chocolate to be of the 90% cocoa variety. Above all, he loves to be with his family. He loves recording audio books, and is delighted to tell people, “I’ve finally found what I want to be when I grow up!”

Website

************

Play an excerpt here.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Giveaway

Custom Statue of the Dragon, ‘Pemberley’

Enter here.

************

Book Review: Longbourn by Maria Grace @WriteMariaGrace @AnAudiobookworm

************

Title: Longbourn
Series: Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 2
Author: Maria Grace
Narrator: Benjamin Fife
Publication Date: December 4, 2019
Genres: Historical Fantasy

************

Longbourn
Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 2
Maria Grace
Narrated by Benjamin Fife
Maria Grace, July 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Darcy thought his problems were over when Pemberley hatched and successfully imprinted on humans. But baby dragons prove far more difficult than any dragon lore prepared him for. Only Elizabeth Bennet’s notes offer him any help. When his imperious Aunt Catherine takes matters into her own hands, things take a turn for the worse and Pemberley’s life hangs in the balance. He desperately needs more of Elizabeth’s help, but she ignores all of his requests. 

Elizabeth, though, has problems of her own. After the Bennet family dragon sent Pemberley away, life at Longbourn was supposed to return to normal and Elizabeth get on with the all-important business of marrying the heir to her father’s estate. Except that he is the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to marry – a bumbling, addle-pated dragon-hater who demands she gives up the dragons she lives for. 

Can she, with the help of her dragon friends, find her way back to Pemberley before they both suffer their fate from the Dragon Entail? 

You could say that Darcy is suffering the trials of single fatherhood only the baby involved is a dragon, not a human, and there aren’t a lot of folks around who can offer experience and advice. The infant Pemberley is unhappy at being apart from Elizabeth to whom she’s very attached. As for Elizabeth, who does have more experience and a better connection to the scaled creatures, other matters are keeping her occupied, not the least of which is an arranged marriage that she really doesn’t want. Mr. Collins is entirely unsuitable. especially considering his views on dragons but, oddly enough, the Bennet estate’s landed dragon, the crabby Longbourn, is adamant that this marriage should happen.

Elizabeth is a woman ahead of her time, resistant to the societal controls that keep her from making the most important life choices for herself and Darcy still has remnants of his former arrogance and dismissal of the less wealthy Bennets but the two are drawn more and more towards each other. Meanwhile, the infamous Wickham seems to be up to something that does not bode well for anyone. Numerous plot threads intertwine but it’s all fun and I adore the many different dragons, each with his or her own distinctive personality.

This alternate Regency universe created by Maria Grace, with more than a little help from Jane Austen, continues to be immensely intriguing and compelling and, as with the first book in the series, I’m enchanted with the characters, human and dragon, and with Benjamin Fife’s impeccable narration and particularly with his vocalizations of the various dragons. I’m moving on now to the third book, Netherfield, with great anticipation.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

************

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

************

About the Author

Five time BRAG Medallion Honoree and #1 best selling Historical Fantasy author, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gaslamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Pinterest

************

About the Narrator

Benjamin Fife has always had a passion for learning. With a mind that remembers all sorts of numbers and useless trivia, he regularly wins local radio shows and enjoys confusing people with sci-fi quotes.

Fife grew up in Southeast Idaho. He attended college at Idaho State University, where he met his future wife in their music theory class. They have been married nearly 20 years and now have six children and a whole menagerie of animals. When their oldest daughter was three or four years old they started reading aloud from novels every night at bedtime, and have continued the tradition ever since. The family loves exploring various worlds and topics through Fife’s wonderful reading skills, which get better every year. They all have his Christmas Carol voices memorized (and the older kids are known to quote along with portions), since he has read it to them every December.

Benjamin enjoys all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy – both books and shows, is an extreme eclectic music lover, and prefers his chocolate to be of the 90% cocoa variety. Above all, he loves to be with his family. He loves recording audio books, and is delighted to tell people, “I’ve finally found what I want to be when I grow up!”

Website

************

Play an excerpt here.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Giveaway

Custom Statue of the Dragon, ‘Pemberley’

Enter here.

************

Book Review: Pemberley by Maria Grace @WriteMariaGrace @AnAudiobookworm

************

Title: Pemberley
Series: Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 1
Author: Maria Grace
Narrator: Benjamin Fife
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Genres: Historical Fantasy

************

Pemberley
Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 1
Maria Grace
Narrated by Benjamin Fife
Maria Grace, July 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

England is overrun by dragons of all shapes and sizes. Most people are blissfully unaware of them and the Pendragon Treaty that keeps the peace between human and dragon kind. Only those born with preternatural hearing, like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are able to hear and converse with dragonkind.  

When the first firedrake egg laid in a century is stolen from Pemberley, the fragile dragon peace teeters on collapse. Darcy has no choice but to chase down the thief, a journey that leads him to quaint market town of Meryton and fellow Dragon Keeper, Elizabeth Bennet.    

Elizabeth shares a unique bond with dragons, stronger than anything Darcy has ever experienced. More than that, her vast experience and knowledge of dragon lore may be the key to uncovering the lost egg. But Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy’s arrogance and doesn’t trust him to care properly for a precious baby firedrake. After all, he already lost the egg once. What’s to prevent it from happening again?  

Can he win her trust and recover the stolen egg before it hatches and sends England spiraling back into the Dark Ages of Dragon War?  

Reader Alert!! If you’re a Jane Austen purist, meaning you can’t bear to have someone mess with your favorite characters, having them do things Jane Austen didn’t intend, you need to walk away. Now, you’d think a purist would never dream of reading this book since it has a dragon right there on the cover but I’ve actually seen a few reviews by people who complained mightily about this retelling, particularly the dragons, even though they had to know what was coming. Why read them if you can’t stand the idea? Sheesh.

Normally, I’d save my comments regarding the narration till the end of my review but I have to bring it up now. Mr. Fife is purely amazing with the widest range of vocalizations I’ve heard in a long time and he truly breathes life into a story that’s already wonderful. His dragons are especially well done; when I first heard his interpretation of the tiny April, I was so taken with it—and her—that I had to pull off the side of the road and listen again without the distraction of driving. That wasn’t an anomaly as I soon discovered when other dragons spoke, each in a very distinctive voice. Even if I didn’t love this story, I would still have to listen to Mr. Fife’s rendition.

Ms. Grace’s worldbuilding is brilliant with much attention to detail. This is a sort of alternate universe but still with the trappings of Regency England, just with dragons, and we have the bones of Pride and Prejudice if not the exact story. For hundreds of years, dragons and humans have co-existed peaceably and each estate has its own landed dragon, named for the estate. In addition to the landed dragons, Ms. Grace has created a myriad of others of all types and sizes and they kept my attention psyched up.

Darcy and Lizzy are, of course, the main players on the human side and they sort of tiptoe around each other at first, much like in the original story. They have a mutual interest that takes precedence over any awkwardness and that’s the retrieval of the stolen dragon egg, legacy of the firedrake named Pemberley. If that egg hatches without a human present, the baby won’t imprint and the long-lasting treaty will be broken.

I can’t come up with sufficient praise for Pemberley other than to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s the first book I’ll be putting on my list of best books read in 2020. Now, on to the second book, Longbourn 🐉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

************

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

************

About the Author

Five time BRAG Medallion Honoree and #1 best selling Historical Fantasy author, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gaslamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Pinterest

************

About the Narrator

Benjamin Fife has always had a passion for learning. With a mind that remembers all sorts of numbers and useless trivia, he regularly wins local radio shows and enjoys confusing people with sci-fi quotes.

Fife grew up in Southeast Idaho. He attended college at Idaho State University, where he met his future wife in their music theory class. They have been married nearly 20 years and now have six children and a whole menagerie of animals. When their oldest daughter was three or four years old they started reading aloud from novels every night at bedtime, and have continued the tradition ever since. The family loves exploring various worlds and topics through Fife’s wonderful reading skills, which get better every year. They all have his Christmas Carol voices memorized (and the older kids are known to quote along with portions), since he has read it to them every December.

Benjamin enjoys all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy – both books and shows, is an extreme eclectic music lover, and prefers his chocolate to be of the 90% cocoa variety. Above all, he loves to be with his family. He loves recording audio books, and is delighted to tell people, “I’ve finally found what I want to be when I grow up!”

Website

************

Play an excerpt here.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Giveaway

Custom Statue of the Dragon, ‘Pemberley’

Enter here.

************

Book Review: Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Dust GirlDust Girl
The American Fairy Trilogy Book One
Sarah Zettel
Random House Children’s Books, June 2012
ISBN 978-0-375-86938-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she’s never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone, when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in “the golden hills of the west” (California). Along the way she meets Jack a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company—there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there’s also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.

Every now and then, a book comes along that gives a reviewer pause and the reasons can be complicated, perhaps even hard to explain. Such is the case with Dust Girl and what I think of it.

First, the downside. Callie, star of the show, is biracial, being the daughter of a white mother and a black father. Once again, the publishing industry has failed to capitalize on this fairly uncommon element and has put a slightly dark white girl on the cover. The most telling discrepancy is the hair—in the book, Callie talks about what her mother would do to try to hide the texture and curl of her hair, primarily by keeping it tightly braided. The hair on the cover is clearly not as described in the book. The skin also gives a false impression, certainly not “cream colored …with not too many freckles”—there is not a freckle in sight. The cover decisions are not the author’s fault as an author rarely has any say about cover art with major publishing houses but I’m not alone among readers when I wonder why these publishers won’t  gladly depict a person of color as just that.  Do they really think such a cover would deter sales? Perhaps they do think that and perhaps they would lose a few buyers but I guarantee they’d gain others who are actively looking for more diversity. (By the way, they did get Callie’s eyes right, a “stormy blue-gray…that…turned steel gray”.)

The only other negative I’ll mention is that I thought the story was a bit too slow in the beginning but that is truly a minor quibble and soon forgotten as things pick up speed.

I know about the Dust Bowl, of course, but this book does more to make the reader feel and understand what it was really like since John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Ms. Zettel handily evokes the era with its music and its railroad hobo communities and her spare prose brings the despair and heartache of the time and place to the forefront of the reader’s attention, all the while weaving a faery theme into the reality we know.

By crafting this as a tale of adversarial faery factions, Ms. Zettel has found a way to explore the racial and economic tensions of the 1930’s in an unusual and entertaining manner. The end of Callie LeRoux’s old life comes on April 14, 1935, when one of the worst dust storms recorded hits Slow Run, Kansas, her mother disappears, and Callie learns she isn’t really human. It’s then that very peculiar things begin to happen and she meets a hobo boy named Jack Holland, a boy who will prove to be the companion she needs on the journey that’s about to begin.

Sarah Zettel is a very accomplished writer and one who can be depended upon to tell a good tale. Being a fan of dark fantasy and of young adult fiction, I was hoping to find this an entertaining story that would hold my attention. Dust Girl did not let me down and I’ll be looking forward eagerly to Book Two in the American Fairy Trilogy.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2012.


Book Review: Territory by Emma Bull

Territory
Emma Bull
Tor Books, July 2007
ISBN 0312857357
Hardcover
Also available in Mass Market format

There are now less than a handful of authors whose hardcovers I will pick up without reading at least to Chapter Two. Emma Bull is one of that handful. She’s only produced a few books in her literary career, but I find her writing to be as finely honed as Damascus steel–with a terrible beauty to match. If I had checked and realized that Territory was a Western, I might not have even read it.

That would have been a big mistake.

Most people who know my book habits would describe me as a voracious reader. If I like a book, I’ll devour it in one sitting. In this case, I took a week to drink in the setting and the people and to occasionally read back.

Territory takes place in Tombstone, AZ, circa 1881. The town is barely in its toddler stage, born of greed and men’s need to find a new life.

Bull‘s point of view characters are Mildred Benjamin, a recent widow, who works as a typesetter for the local paper and writes serial fiction on the side. Jesse Fox is an Eastern educated drifter who started out training to be a mining engineer til he discovered he had a talent for horse training. Fox has been told by a Chinese physician, Chow Lung, that he has a gift for magic and should use it. Til now, Fox has postponed that suggestion.

Mildred and Fox both discover there is dark magic afoot in Tombstone. More than one magician is fighting over the land rights. For certain, they know that one of those dark magicians is Wyatt Earp, brother to the Deputy US Marshal, Virgil Earp.

Along the way, we experience Western life firsthand. Ironically, fire breaks out in one of the hotels while the town’s mayor is away trying to purchase a fire wagon for the town. The mining company is fighting folks with claims in town (including Mildred Benjamin) so they can acquire more space. As an aside note, President Garfield is assassinated. News comes via the telegraph–not the ‘up close and personal’ media of the television.

There’s a mystery woven tightly into this fantasy landscape. Characters are well-written and the descriptions literally take you there–to the point of tasting smoke and dirt when the fire first breaks out. The story’s spin is one that’s not commonly told–and an interesting one.  Territory is hard to put down, but I found myself doing that and re-reading a bit earlier than I’d left the book because I actually did want to make this one last. This is one of the best fantasy novels I have read in a long time.

Territory is not the first fantasy depiction of Tombstone, AZ during the OK Corral era. “Spectre of the Gun” (an original “Star Trek” episode) had Captain Kirk and his landing party inadvertently cast in the role of the Clantons and McCourys.

History purists:  Territory doesn’t quite match the historical accounts; however, we all know that history is written by the victors. Clanton (who survived the OK Corral) unsuccessfully tried to prosecute Wyatt Earp and companions for murder. There are two sides to the story and Bull‘s version definitely paints Earp with a dark brush.

Reviewed by Rebecca Kyle, July 2007.
Review first published on amazon.com in 2007.