Sunday, December 31, 2017
Release Date: January 5, 2018
Publisher: Crossroad Press
When I read a book I really enjoy, I often have reservations going into the second book. Will it be a letdown? Will it take the characters in directions I won't like? Will the plot just be filler trying to get to the next book in the series? Well, I am happy to say, Lucifer's Nebula, the followup to the wildly inventive dark space opera Lucifer's Star more than lived up to my expectations. Not only did they write a compelling plot, but the directions taken with the characters not only fit, but expanded on who they were, as well as creating opportunities in future books to flesh them out even more.
The story starts with the crew of the space freighter Melampus, captained by the former Arch Duchy of Crius Count Cassius Mass, on a job transferring weapons for some shady characters. Unfortunately, said shady characters, being shady, are more than willing to screw them over and try to kill them. In the middle of the double-cross, another shady group interrupts, and a fire fight ensues, allowing Cassius and his medical officer/lover Isla, to escape. Upon escaping, they are contacted by Ida Claire, the former captain of the Melampus, who also happens to be the leader of The Commonwealth's spy agency, The Watchers. She has a job for Cassius and crew that will wipe the slate clean for them, as well as pay big: bring the reconstituted Arch Duchy of Crius, now known as The Free Systems Alliance, leadership, who have been kicking the Commonwealth's tail, the terms of surrender for the Commonwealth!
This is where things really take off, as Cassius and crew determine to follow this mission, even though they suspect it will be a trap. They also have the secret of Judith, the Cognition AI who happens to be modeled on Cassius's wife to protect, which would have them made outlaw anywhere in the universe. In the course of fulfilling the mission, Cassius and crew face betrayal on all sides, Including from people they had every reason to trust. They also have a family reunion for Cassius, including with a member of his family he thought long dead! This sends things spiraling in a wild direction, as they discover that The Free Systems Alliance is not at all what it appears.
There is a much bigger conspiracy behind it all, with elder races who have passed beyond mortality, the Community of aliens who hover on humanities borders, and an ancient Evil locked away in Lucifer's Nebula all pulling strings behind the scenes for their own various schemes to come to fruition. Humanity, unfortunately, may be the ones to pay the price! Cassius and his friends and new allies must figure out which side to back, all while avoiding the betrayal mentioned before, from someone you just don't expect. At the very end, Cassius and crew are forced to decide if running away is worth the price of the potential destruction of humanity itself, even if that humanity has betrayed them time and again.
Since I have started reading their books, I have been a huge fan of how Charles and Michael have been able to create such relatable, exciting characters. They flesh them out so well, even the side characters. The motivations for their actions, even in a distant, sci-fi future, are realistic, never forced. Being willing to fight for friends and crew, no matter the odds, is a trait that any reader should be able to admire. The characters have flaws, and make mistakes, making them even more relatable, but they still try to do the right thing. Well, right enough.
The plot is fast moving, smoothly transitioning from one action packed scene to the next, while allowing character interaction and growth. There is humor sprinkled throughout, with a lot of pop culture references, which is a hallmark of their writing. The settings, whether on the ship, or in the various planetary settings, are well drawn out. You can feel like you're right there in the scene, in the middle of the action, especially in the scenes in the Nebula. You never get the feeling this is a retread of some other sci-fi property.
Overall, I feel this is a great addition to the series. The writers took what worked in the first book, and really ran with the ideas, expanding on the themes, adding new characters, and exploring new ideas to round out the story. I can heartily recommend this story to anyone who likes strong character driven sci-fi.
Sunday, December 3, 2017
Author: Heath Stallcup
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Devil Dog Press
Release Date: December 29, 2016
After reading Heath Stallcup's Monster Squad series, I was in the mood to check out his other offerings. So what do I come across? A book called Hunter. I checked out the blurb, and must have been really tired, because I thought it was a book about Vikings. that was my misreading, because looking back, it didn't say that. Instead, its a book a vampire named Sven Ericsson who came to the new world when Sweden had a colony here in the mid 1600s while he was in the Swedish navy.
During his first shore leave, after a wild night of drinking, he wakes up in a stable, covered in blood, and is unable to leave the stable, since he can't stand the sun. After the sun goes down, he goes out and meets his creator, Inga, who inducts him into the night world, she shows him how to feed discreetly, and shows him his new abilities. After a few years together, Inga is killed on a solo hunt by some humans. After he hills the men, Sven begins a solo life, cut off from humans as much as possible, hunting Natives in the wilderness.
Switch to now. Sven, using that new fangled internet thing (he is almost 400 years old, so yeah, its new to him), finds a group advertising members willing to be fed on. Taking a chance, Sven meets Gibson, a pretty goth girl who actually lets him feed on her. Getting comfortable being with her, she betrays him and she and a group of her friends restrain him and Steal his blood to allow them to turn into vampires.
After escaping, He is attacked by another vampire named Jasmine, who is an enforcer for the Vampire Counsel, the ruling body of the supernatural world, of who's existence Sven wasn't even aware. He is drafted as her apprentice hunter to hunt the group down, as well as other supernatural threats. This starts a wild series of events, in which Sven ends up partnering with a nephillim named Orel to try and take out a corrupt counsel, as well as kill other supernatural threats. This leads to Sven having to decide where his real place in the supernatural world is, whether as a hunter or a lone wolf.
The characters are a real strength of this book. Sven, even being a bloodsucking vampire, is not evil. Even the Nephillim who can feel evil doesn't get that vibe from him. He is a well rounded character with centuries of various experience. Jasmine and Orel are also well drawn out, and have interesting backstories. The setting is well described, and gives you a feeling of really being in the action. With a fast moving, action packed plot, it avoids a lot of the vampire tropes and really charts its own course. I can happily recommend this story to any fans of urban fantasy, which is probably the genre is most belongs in.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Author: Brandon Cornwell
Pages/Length: 249 pages/ 13 hrs, 44 mins
Release Date: April 3, 2017/ October 10, 2017 (Audio)
Publisher: Brandon Cornwell/ Podium Publishing (Audio)
Narrated by Ralph Lister
I have to admit, the premise of this book, the idea of a giant outcast elf, really spoke to me. Unless we are talking Drow, most elves are the Tolkien ideal: A graceful, wise elder race set on the world to guide the younger races, or at least to look down on the short lived fools. Only in more recent works like Paul Lavender's The Eighth God has a new, more callous approach to elves been taken. This writer takes it to an even greater length.
Elias is a giant of an elf. at over seven feet tall, he towers over both elves and humans. in fact, other than giants and ogres, you won't find many creatures taller than he is. He is also strongly built, not the lithe, graceful elf that is typical of his kind. Exiled to the mountain humans in the North (this worlds analogs to Vikings) He has lived there for over 60 years, although in elf years, at 167 years of age. he is hardly more than an older teen. While he is accepted as a ward of the King, he is not trained any more as a warrior than he was with the elves. He goes on no raids and is not an advisor to the king, just a friend.
As the current king dies, a power play takes place, and Elias is forced to leave for at least a year by the King's son a he sorts out the potential usurpers. He can come an reclaim a place in a year, assuming the new king is still on the throne.
After leaving and deciding to head to the human lands, Elias is accosted on the road by a huge man wearing armor and wielding dark magic. He is only saved by the intervention of a mercenary troop that happened to be passing on the way to a job. Elias then joins the group, who specialize in guarding caravans and nobles. Their next job involves guarding a noble on a trip, but this goes horribly awry when he betrays them and sells them to pirates as galley slaves!
Leading a breakout by the rest of the slaves, Elias and the slaves finish the ships journey to the islands they were headed to. Elias finds out one of his fellow slaves, a sea elf (blue skinned elf), is a local chieftain, who invites him to stay with his village, since he suspect Elias is the answer to a prophecy. That prophesy involves an outsider saving the islanders from the pirates who have been preying on the islanders for decades. Elias also meets the chiefs daughter Coral, who he is told is part of the prophesy as she is slated to bear the chosen ones son. The young elves relationship grows from there.
What follows is a few seasons of mayhem and chaos, as Elias and the crew of mercenaries and islanders he recruits go after the pirates, both on the sea and on their island strongholds. They survive many battles and ambushes, and after a huge and tragic setback, they finally have the forces and a plan to attack the Pirates main base. The attack also brings out the mystery man who attacked Elias so many seasons ago, and they finally face off and some painful revelations are made to Elias. After the battle, Elias has some difficult decisions to make about where to go with the rest of his life, and with his men. He makes a decision that will have long lasting repercussions for much of the world.
I really enjoyed this book, the characters, especially Elias and Coral, are really well drawn out. The plot is fast paced, but takes time to flesh out and give interesting story lines to the various characters. The various locations are well described, and you really get a good feeling about how they appear, as well as the character descriptions, such as the difference in elf sub-types, like the sea elves having blue skin and Elias's tribe having reddish. There are also a few surprise elements to the plot, and they are quite fun for a pretty grimdark story. The ideal about the injustice of prejudice, overcoming odds, and finding happiness are all at play throughout the story, and are excellently portrayed.
One warning. This book does have some graphic sex scenes between Elias and Coral. They are integral to the story, not just tacked on, or so it seemed to me, but this may be a turn off for a few readers, so be forewarned. I didn't see anything objectionable about them, since it is consensual sex between two elves, both over 150 years old.
Ralph Lister is in top form on this one, bringing his substantial chops to bear on a complicated story with many different characters, with multiple accents. He handles them all well, and his narrative pacing is great. He really kept the story moving along, and gets the listener really into each of the characters.
This is one of those stories that will appeal to a broad variety of fantasy readers, whether they like epic fantasy, swords and sorcery or grimdark. I can't recommend it highly enough, because it is a fantastic novel for a debut writer, and things will only be getting better from here!
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Author: Roberto Calas
Length: 292 pages
Release date: October 9, 2017
Publisher: 47 North
The zombie apocalypse in the middle ages? Sign me up! The idea to take actual historical figures and an actual event like the Black Death, and twist it a little to have it become a zombie plague in England strikes me as a creative premise for a series.
This first in a trilogy deals with a knight and his two knightly companions trying to rescue the knight's wife from an abbey a 100 or so miles northeast of London during a zombie apocalypse. This is in the 1300's, when that would seem like a really long distance on horseback, especially with a horde of zombies in the way. They still make the attempt. It seems mail, swords, maces and crossbows are actually good weapons and defense against zombies. The intrepid knights travel across a nightmare England, with a ravenous population, warlords staking their claims in a lawless land, and even French incursions! This is all leading to a climactic battle with the horde besieging the abbey.
The plot is fast moving, the characters engaging, and the religions aspect is handled well, especially in an age where everything is seen through a religious prism. The battle scenes really shine, showing just how well an armored knight can do against the walking dead! Using real locations, and a main character who actually existed just adds realism to the story. I would recommend this to any fan of zombie and knight stories.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Author: CT Phipps
Pages/Length: 208 pages/6 hrs, 6 mins (Audio)
Publisher: Amber Cove Publishing
Release Date: April 1, 2017/ March 29, 2017 (Audio)
Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer
When I heard this was coming out, I checked the blurb, being a big fan of this author. I got super excited about the premise, and couldn't wait to get it. Well, I got a copy and listened to it in one sitting. It blew me away, it was that good.
The story revolves around Agent G, an assassin who works for the Society, a charity front that arranges high tech assassinations for large sums of money. If you have the money, they have the assassin for you! Assassins, named A to Z, are mind wiped, and are told they will be well paid and get their memories back after 10 years of service to the Society. This is the scenario G finds himself in. All the agents are cybernetically enhanced, both mentally and physically, and have beyond imagination black technology, real secret squirrel stuff.
This is the situation G finds himself. After he is ambushed at the Boston airport by a rival organization, the Carnivale, during a recall of all Society agents, it is discovered the Society has a mole in its midst. The mole is uncovered, and G is tasked with infiltrating the Carnivale and assassinating its leader, the Caesar and his daughter, a killer assassin in her own right. What commences is a wild ride of betrayals, plans within plans, gunfights, killer cyborg duels, torture and discovery for G, as he discovers more about the past that was wiped from his mind. In the end, he finds who he can really trust, and it's not who he expected. He has to decide what he really wants to be, and if the price for being that person is worth paying.
As always with a CT Phipps book, the story is very character driven. Whether its G, who is conflicted on many levels, his handler Marissa, with a shady past G is only becoming aware of, Persephone, the shadowy ice queen director of the Society or even the Caesar and his children, the characters are well defined, their actions making sense in context with their characters. They are fleshed out in subtle but important ways, being much more than just two dimensional cardboard cutout stereotypes of spies, assassins and villains. The setting is interesting, with locations and action occurring around the world. The dialogue is also crisp, swinging between serious and snark easily, depending on the situation. The story never lags with unneeded exposition, keeping a taut thriller feel.
As far as narration goes, Jeffery Kafer was definitely at his best for this one. Whether the voices were male or female, cyborg, computer, Italian or a variety of American accents, Jeffery nailed them all. He brought each character to life, giving them a vibrancy you get really attached to. His narration of the story never lags, keeping a good flow and is never monotonous.
Overall, I would have rated the whole effort six stars on Audible and Amazon if they had that rating. As it is, get this book if you like sci fi or thrillers!
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Author: Michael-Scott Earle
Pages/Length: 441 pages/6 hrs, 3 mins. (Audio)
Publisher: Michael-Scott Earle
Release Date: April 8, 2017/ July 19, 2017
Narrated by: Eric Bryan Moore
Having read several other book by this author, I saw the description of this one and thought is sounded very intriguing. The idea of a crossover of paranormal and sci-fi has always fascinated me, and this author's really strong character creations seemed like a perfect fit for this kind of genre hybrid. I'm happy to say I was right, it is a great fit.
In a far future where mankind has spread across the universe, Adam is a former prisoner who has been transformed through secret therapy to be able to transform into a tiger man for a certain amount of time, with enhanced, strength, speed, senses and durability. This therapy has been accompanied by heavy duty space marine training, as well as an explosive collar around his neck to keep him under control. He is part of a team of, for lack of a better term, Weretigers, and he has survived longer than any of the others.
On a mission to retrieve a mysterious article from a corporation on a distant world, The mission goes from smooth to pear shaped quickly. As they get closer to the package, Adam starts hearing a voice in his head as he moves ahead of the rest of the team, telling him to come to where the objective is. As he kills his way to the target, he discovers a shock: the package is a woman named Eve being kept in some kind of stasis. Breaking her out of the machine she is kept in, she removes his control collar without it exploding, and tells him they need to escape. Since he is now free, and being no fan of his employer, he agrees is they can figure out how to get out. He also discovers that Eve is both a psychic and a vampire, and she has been kept weakened by lack of blood.
This starts a wild escape, where they must get passed his teammates to start being able escape a ridiculously secured building, getting past drones, robotic canons, a large security force, as well as a corporate apparatus that will be on their tail if they do escape. They will later meet a smart mouth female hacker named Z who will provide them with documents to help escape, and when that goes pear shaped, she must go on the run with Adam and Eve to try and escape the planet and the hugely powerful conglomerate chasing them. Eve 's psychic ability leads them to an experimental ship they can escape on, although clearing their way past the huge security force and weapons emplacements is a wild fight, and is framed in a great, intensive series of scenes. It is intimated that their escaping the planet would force a dramatic shift in galactic politics, since corporations control so much of the power, although just how much should be interesting to discover as Adam, Eve and Z learn to coordinate their abilities to the fullest.
As with his other books, characters are a great strength in this book. Adam and Eve are both powerful in their own rights, but show surprising vulnerability. Z is a fun foil for them, being the one that's not built for combat, so to speak, and is the one looking for a place to hide while Adam and Eve sort out the rough stuff. She is brilliant in her element though, and surprises you with her ingenuity and secret courage. The villains are a bit generic, since there is no one figure to really get to hate, other than a short scene with the control head for Adams marine team, just corporate minions and security. I do expect that to change in later books, although a monolithic corporate villain may be the direction it takes, which would also work.
The setting has a very far future sci-fi feel to it. Vast interstellar distances, Cities that seem like a cross between Blade Runner and Minority Report, just straight sci fi cities overrun with corporate influence. The ships seem cool, and the other trappings, such as the robotic weapons platforms, the drones, the auto driving cars, the bio-engineered soldiers, they all fit with sense of a far flung galactic civilization. The crossover with the psychic/paranormal and the sci-fi is handled seamlessly, and is very enjoyable. All told, it really helps draw you in to the story.
The narration by Eric Bryan Moore is spot on. He gives each character their own unique voice, and helps make you really get into each of them. His narrative pacing is solid, never lagging or falling into a monotone. He definitely brings solid work to the narration.
Overall, this book should appeal to a wide range of readers/listeners. It has elements of military sci-fi, urban fantasy, vampire and were fantasy and even techno thrillers. It has strong female characters that are strong in their own right, not just because the males are weak. I can highly recommend this book.
Author: Michael-Scott Earle
Pages/Length: 297 Pages/4 hrs, 10 Mins (Audio)
Publisher: Michael-Scott Earle
Release Date: December 8, 2016/ September 15, 2017 (Audio)
Narrator: David Dietz
When last we saw Sherman and Charlotte, at the end of Hell High:Succubus!, they had just escaped A mob out to kill them by taking a portal to Hell. Yes, Hell. Of course, Charlotte being a succubus, this isn't as much of a problem as you'd think. Charlotte leaves Sherman locked in a room as she goes off to set up bringing him to Satan. While he's waiting, he talks to a girl name Joro through the door. Charlotte chases her away when she returns, and they try and find a way to get to Satan's palace without getting killed by all the other demons in hell. Deciding to travel underground, They have a harrowing trip, having to deal with minor bureaucrats, as well as a very angry Joro, who turns out to be much more than expected. The scenes with her are frightening and hilarious, all at the same time.
When they reach Satan's palace, Sherman is kidnapped by a group of Rhakshasi, Indian tiger demons, who turn out to be surprisingly polite hosts, even if they do want to eat Sherman for his power. After he escapes with Charlotte's help, they go and meet Satan. Yes, Satan. The meeting with Satan is absolutely hilarious, with Satan being portrayed much differently than expected. Satan explains that Sherman's abilities make him in demand, and offers him a job. The first job is hilarious, involving a Doppelganger and a duel to the death by video game. Sherman and Charlotte's relationship is explored further, although Charlotte still insists it is professional only. On their return to Satan, Sherman is offered another job to help in Satan's war against his enemies, and he makes a decision that will effect the rest of his life, and has ramifications for the rest of the world as well.
This series is a particular treat due to the characters, which are a real strength of this author. Sherman comes across initially as week and helpless, but he is smart and resourceful, and surprisingly stubborn. He is clueless when it comes to Charlotte, but considering he has basically been ignored his whole life, its surprising he socializes as well as he does. Charlotte, on the other hand, has no problem socializing, being a succubus. however, she is an assassin, so that makes her socialization a little uncomfortable for some of the other characters. Satan is played much differently than i expected, although he can be harsh and evil when need. The other characters are well drawn out as well, and really get the reader into the action.
The setting is well set up, and is not at all what one would expect from hell. It seems much more like the hell in Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim books than the hell from the bible, and is played for laughs in quite a few ways, from Satan's garage to the Rhakshasi's manor. You really get a sense of being there in the scene.
The narration by David Dietz is a real strength. He really nails the various voices. His Satan voice is especially good, and not at all what one expects from Satan. He has good pacing on the narration, and keeps the story flowing smoothly. I think he is perfect for this particular type of story.
All in all, this is a very enjoyable, slightly dark comedy that should appeal to a large group. If you like urban fantasy, gamer culture, or dark comedy, this book has something in it that you can enjoy. I highly recommend it.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Author: Michael-Scott Earle
Pages/Length: 95 pages/ 1 hr, 33 mins.
Publisher: Michael-Scott Earle
Release Date: September 21, 2016/ December 14, 2016 (Audio)
Narrator: David Dietz
I read the premise of Hell High and thought it sounded like dark comedy with lots of potential. After reading them, I have to say I was right! A lot of fun dark humor ensues.
Sherman is finally a senior in high school. That doesn't matter much, because a nerdy, anime and comics addicted kid like him, who is literally ignored and overlooked by everyone, even his parents, has no chance to get Charlotte, the girl of his dreams. Sounds like any 80's teen comedy, right? Did I mention that the girl of his dreams has wings and tail? Or that 9 out of 10 students in school is some kind of supernatural creature, whether it be Devil, Vampire, Werewolf, Naga or just about any other creature you can imagine? Sherman has seen them his whole life, so sees nothing unusual in the variety of "people" After following Charlotte as she left the cafeteria in an unusual rush, Sherman follows her into the Boiler room, where she confronts him. He lets slip he can see her true form, which is supposed top be impossible. He lets slip he can see ALL their true forms. This is a problem, since there are many factions actively fighting one another, and they are not allowed to show their true forms on Earth. This is especially a problem since Charlotte has been sent to assassinate a devil, and has been unable to find him so far.
After Charlotte confronts and kills the devil, all hell breaks loose, somewhat literally, as some of his fellow supernaturals of his faction discover his body and give chase. Since there are multiples of them, this doesn't look good for Sherman and Charlotte as they try to escape. After pulling the fire alarm of the school in hopes of escaping from the crowd, they are almost captured. Sherman somehow finds another ability, that of breaking glamours. As every supernatural lays exposed in true form, fights to the death suddenly burst out all throughout the school! The scene is played for laughs and horror at the same time.
Thus starts a wild chase as Charlotte and Sherman have to escape what has become an all out supernatural war. Dodging flying body parts, fireballs and talons, Charlotte and Sherman have to also avoid the faculty, who happen to be huge armed devils. After a harrowing run, Charlotte and Sherman manage to find a place to try and make their escape, and barely escape with their lives. Of course, the escape is to Hell, not exactly a place Sherman wants to visit.
I was really pleased with the characters in this book. Sherman comes across as a real person, and his musing to himself about Charlotte, comics, manga and other pop culture make for some hilarious scenes. Sherman bases his actions a lot of the time on stuff he's seen in comics and manga. Just funny stuff. Charlotte is also a fun character. Going back and forth from teen girl and big bad succubus assassin, its hilarious watching her try to deal with Sherman's mooning over her, especially since she, like everyone else, can't remember his right name. Since it's a shorter story, the rest of the characters aren't as fleshed out, they are still filled out enough to make good contributions to the story. The high school setting felt real, like every high school I've ever been in.
David Dietz handles the narration. He does a great job switching between characters, and gives each character a life of their own. His narrative pacing is good, and really sucks you in to the story.
All in all, this is a fun novella that is a good start to a series I hope goes into quite a few more volumes.
Monday, October 23, 2017
Author: David Hambling
Pages/Length: 196 pages/ 3 hrs (audio)
Publisher: David Hambling
Release Date: July 27, 2014/ August 22, 2016 (Audio)
Narrated by Brian Gill
Harry Stubbs, Great War vet and former boxer, works for a prestigious London law firm, collecting debts and doing some investigative work for them. While looking into collecting large debts from the estate of famed explorer Ernest Shackleton, Harry approaches Shackleton's brother, a low end antique shop owner, to see if he had any ideas about any hidden assets. Harry gets a cold reception, and is let in on the fact that Shackleton spent money like water, and was always in debt. He also mentions he is the last person Ernest would confide in, since he has a criminal background, and Ernest had grown distant from him. Harry realizes this is a dead end and goes into work to update his employers about his progress.
Later that night, after a night at the pub, harry is attacked by four Irish ruffians. Harry beats them using his skills, but realizes he might be onto something, since they let it slip this is about his latest case. This leads him onto a wild chase, as he tries to track down one lead after another. The speed of discoveries picks up, and Harry is drawn into a conspiracy older than history. The revelations about what Shackleton really discovered are mind boggling, and it brings into question humanity's place in global pecking order! The secrets of our deep past are revealed, and its certain not to be a good revelation.
All in all, this is a very well written book. Exciting fight scenes, a mystery older than written history and engaging characters really help. The characters are well drawn out, especially Harry. His past as a boxer and soldier are both brought into play effectively, as are his investigative skills and all around tenacity. The other characters are well drawn out as well, although Harry is definitely the star of the show. The setting is well described, and you get a real feel for what 1920's London society felt like. You can really get behind and root for Harry.
The narration is handled by Brian Gill in a memorable performance. He really nails the various British accents, and brings all various characters to life. His narrative style is smooth and steady, and he has great pacing. He can really suck the listener into the story. Top marks on this work.
Any reader that is into Brian Lumley's Titus Crow, Matthew Davenport's Andrew Doran or Ari Marmell's Mick Oberon books should take a look at this series. You won't be disappointed.
Friday, October 20, 2017
Author:Matthew Davenport and Michael Davenport
Pages/length: 202 Pages/ 6 hours, 23 mins (Audio)
Release Date: 2016/August 2016
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Narrated by Carson Beck
Imagine that after the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne decided to become a masked vigilante. Not hard to imagine, obviously. Now imagine if Bruce Wayne wasn't rich, wasn't a child, didn't have unlimited resources, as well as years with which to train before he started fighting crime. That's the premise of this story, where an ordinary young man named Jason Night decides to start fighting crime after a personal tragedy.
When his mother is murdered in the family hobby shop in front of his eyes by a man who randomly killed her decides he wants fight crime. He takes MMA lessons, learns Parkour, and build himself a suit with off the rack components, consisting of a cowled mask, bullet proof vest, padded gauntlets, with kevlar sleeves, with tonfas for weapons. Stuff a guy who owns a hobby shop can afford. He then starts fighting crime in the local neighborhood, stopping break ins, stuff like that. When he runs across a break in at the local Chinese restaurant, with a group of guys just busting the place up, he stumbles across a conspiracy that he is ill equipped to handle, since these guys travel in packs, and are armed with guns. That bullet proof vest comes in handy, although getting shot still hurts a lot! This group is on orders, and Jason needs to find out who's behind the break ins that are terrorizing his neighborhood.
Jason also has to deal with problems in his real life. His father has Alzheimer's Disease, and Jason and his sister Amy have to care for him as he deteriorates further. Amy has dealt with the tragedies by diving into work at the tech company she works at, and has no idea Jason is moonlighting as the vigilante the news dubs The Darden City Guardian. As the pressure from these break in continues, and the danger increases each run in, Jason has to decide if he can continue. The fact a villain has discovered who he is and where his family is increases his doubt that he can continue as the Guardian, since it is endangering his family and friends.
What follows is a hard fought battle for Darden City itself, as the true power behind all the disturbances makes itself know in a quest to further their plans to take over the city. This includes an army of super villains that Jason and his friends need to face in order to stop the insanity gripping Darden City, and someone will make the ultimate sacrifice to help stop the insanity, all leading to a pulse pounding, action packed ending you wont want to miss!
This is an interesting book, since while it is about a superhero vigilante, its also about family struggles, friendships and sacrifice. The characters are well thought out and come across as real people, with real problems and successes. They are people you can really get behind. The villain actually comes across as realistic, even in this setting. The master plot actually gets you sucked into the story, and is actually pretty original. The training flashbacks are really good, with his sister making fun of him for getting beat up in MMA classes, and his broken arm from his parkour accidents is handled a funny way as well. It is a very humanizing touch. The world building is well drawn out, giving you a first hand look into Darden City. You get a feeling of fighting crime on the streets. All told excellently done.
The narration duties are handled ably by Carson Beck. He brings a real warmth and is believable as the various characters. He really has a good pace, and his narrative voice is smooth and well paced. excellent work.
Any fans of comics should really enjoy this story, as should fans of writers like Drew Hayes, CT Phipps and Jim Bernheimer. I can't recommend it highly enough, and can't wait to see where book 2 goes!
Friday, October 13, 2017
Author: Matthew Davenport
Pages/Length: 182 Pages/ 6 hrs, 38 Mins (audio)
Release Date: September 24, 2017/March 24, 2015 (Audio)
Publisher: Macabre Ink
I had a friend recommend this author as someone to watch. After listening to this, I wholeheartedly agree! In a landscape filled with Dresden Files clones, someone willing to look at urban fantasy more like Brian Lumley is a refreshing change of pace. Moving the story back to WW2 era Europe helps give the story a flavor all its own.
Andrew Doran is an Archaeologist, a minor mage and former instructor at Misketonic University. He is called in by the University's Dean, since it seems the English translation of the Necronomicon has been stolen by the Nazis and taken back to Germany, to have its secrets unlocked by the Thule Society. Well, as much as Andrew hates the Dean, he knows that those evil spells in the hands of madmen bent on world conquest is bad. Traveling to Nazi occupied France, Andrew is connected up with some members of the French Resistance, including their beautiful leader. They escape the Nazis in France to travel to Switzerland, where they can find a source who can point them to the Necronomicon's location. What they find is a twisted nightmare that almost kills them, although they do find the information they need.
They are captured by the Germans, though, and are brought into Germany in chains. However, you cant keep a hero down, and in a scene reminiscent of the truck chase and fight scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, they manage to escape, and make their way to Berlin where the book is being kept. What follows after they arrive is such a wild scene of chaos, dark magic, harrowing chases, necromantic rituals and discovery about the true nature of his ally. The ending sets up more books in the series, but it is a stand alone. A very satisfying ending with a great twist you won's see coming.
I was impressed with the world building in this book. It is obvious the author researched the era thoroughly, and is also familiar with Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. The setting is very natural, and you get a real sense of being right in the thick of the action, in a WW2 era Europe. The hopelessness and despair, the suspicion and terror they lived through, as well as the otherworldly threats, really give it a palpable sense of tension, dread and menace.
The characters are top notch, with Andrew Doran being conflicted about his own power, and the accessibility of powers better left unknown by man, but knowing its better to use the power for good than let the bad guys win the day. His allies are well fleshed out and described, and are believable in both their motivations and actions. The villains are especially fun, reminding me most of the Nazi's from the aforementioned Raiders of the Lost Ark. We know what their motivations are, and its very easy to loathe them. So, good job with the villains as well, even the surprise villain, who shall remain nameless.
As far as narration, Shaun Toole is effective. He really nails the main character, but did seem to struggle a bit with accents. That being said, the narration was smooth, and it is very listenable. I wouldn't let a minor quibble keep you from listening to it. Again, I highly recommend this book.
All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a change of pace from the Dresden clones. Its a great combo of urban fantasy and a period thriller. I am very excited to see where the next book goes.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Author: James Hunter
Pages/Length: 440 pages/ 13 hrs, 57 mins (audio)
Publisher: Shadow Alley Press
Release Date: March 8, 2016/ August 2, 2016 (audio)
Narrated by Armen Taylor
I will say first off that I am a huge fan of of this author's Yancy Lazarus urban fantasy books, so when I heard there was a spinoff in the same universe, I just had to check it out. I am glad I did, because this one went in some wild directions even Yancy Lazarus doesn't go! I am now a huge fan of this character as well, and hopefully, you will check it out and discover how good it is!
Levi Adams is trying to be a good person. He goes to church, tries to live a simple Mennonite life, and keeps under the radar. Unfortunately, he has an unfortunate addiction: murder. Well, not just any murder. You see, since awakening in a shallow pit grave in a death camp in Nazi Germany, Levi, who is a stone golem, has been killing bad guys ever since, starting with the Nazi scum murderers. Levi just want to live in peace now, to atone for his "sins", but sometimes he just needs to kill bad guys. To do that, he goes into The Sprawl , the secret home of the supernatural. There, he can find monsters aplenty doing evil deeds they need to be killed for.
While doing a little seasonal cleanup by murder of some Kobocs, some evil little blue skinned monsters, Levi, also known as Mudman, comes across their shaman about to perform a human sacrifice. The sacrifice, Sally Ryder, is on deaths doorstep when Levi uses his own blood, the elixir of life, to save her. After a hair raising escape, Levi and Sally are off to try and figure out whey Sally was being sacrificed. The answer is terrifying. Someone is trying to break a hugely powerful biblical baddie from the ancient high tech prison in the far end of the Sprawl's wasteland. This does lead to the origin of Atlantis, which was a great shock of a scene. After Sally is recaptured and the ritual is then attempted, Levi and some new allies break in to attempt to stop what will basically lead to an apocalyptic event. Levi also discovers who his creator was, and it is not at all who he expected, although if you have read the Yancy Lazarus books, you will know who it is. Levi has to make some sacrifices if he want to have any chance of stopping these threats, and its a close run thing. Levi has to determine if he will be what he was truly created to be, or if he is a free thinking creature, regardless of instincts. The climactic battle basically determines Levi's course for the rest of his existence.
Like all his book, James Hunter really lavishes attention on his characters. Well described and drawn out, you can really get into their thoughts and motivations. Especially with Levi, you can feel his struggle to fight his instincts to be a monster killing machine, that he feels true guilt and remorse for all those he has killed since he was created. OK, maybe not the Nazis so much, but the others. Their physical descriptions are also top notch. You can really see Levi in his multiple forms in your head, as if he was standing right next to you, as well as Sally, or Dr. Hogg.
The setting, the world building, is an extension of the Yancy Lazarus books, taken in new directions. The prison setting was especially creative, as were its guardians. The underground Koboc Warrens are well described, and not something you'd see in the Lazarus books, because no way would a human, even a mage, want to go down there. Levi, though, can go where others can't. All in all, an excellent addition to this universe.
The narration was handled by Armen Taylor, who also narrated the author's Viridion Gate LitRPG series. He brings a real voice to the monster that is Levi. Speaking without a lot of inflection without becoming monotone is tough, but he hits just the right notes bringing Levi to life. His voice work with the other characters, whether it be Sally Ryder, Dr. Hogg or even the
villain, was all spot on, and really got you into what the characters were doing. Definitely a top notch effort.
If you have read the Yancy Lazarus books, this book should have a familiar feeling, while bringing in all new elements that flesh out the universe. It hits all the right notes, and makes you want to see what comes next, something every author should hope for. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Author: Jon Del Arroz
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Jon Del Arroz
Being a fan of this authors previous novels, I saw the premise of this and decided I had to check it out. I am so glad I did. It brought to my mind memories of watching and talking about baseball as a kid with my dad, some really good memories. It is an engaging story, sure to hook fans of baseball and those who like character driven stories.
Hideki Ichiro, Commissioner of the World Baseball League (WBL) has a dream of expanding the league, since revenues have flattened out
and attendance is starting to wane. The league has really topped out at 250 teams, with nowhere left to expand. Nowhere, that is, on Earth. Hideki's dream is to expand the league to the lunar colonies, an untapped market. unfortunately, the lunar gravity is too light to allow proper play, so the dream seem like it wont be possible. Hideki also has personal reasons to try and see the expansion come to fruition, since he has befriended a Lunar child with cancer on a make a wish type charity meeting, and he promised to do all he can to get a team on to the moon.
Hideki's is now facing a revolt in the league ownership about the moon expansion, the declining revenues, and a rogue owner of a small market club that wants to move into another larger teams territory. He is faced with the very real possibility of being ousted as commissioner when he receives a call from a University of Michigan professor of physics that may have the very answer to the problem with gravity on the moon. A huge sponsor also has the other piece of the puzzle to unlocking the moon expansion. In the end, we see whether Hideki's dream comes true, and how the league will continue into the future.
I really enjoyed the characters in this story. They really resonate as relatable, real people who have real problems and real interactions and relationships. The settings are well drawn out, with the various cities and the moon being described in such a way as you can imagine being there in the seats, watching the game. The backroom politics nature of baseball ownership is explored really well, with all the competing interests really shown in full color. The plot also moves along at a good clip, never slacking or leaving the reader bored. All in all a top notch effort I heartily recommend, and the cover by Shawn King is another example of his fine cover work as well!
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Author: Paul Lavender
Release Date: September 12, 2016
Publisher: Paul Lavender
This is one of those books some friends of mine recommended as a decent grimdark story. I decided to give it a shot, and I am glad I did. It is a completely different take on elves. No longer the wise, graceful elder race, these are gritty, at times petty and prejudiced. They can't stand the half elves, and give them a raw deal, and they are not too sympathetic.
The Orcs are much different than the fairly sterile ones Tolkien created. Yes, they kill indiscriminately, but this author's are so much worse. They don't just kill. They torture, humiliate and will rape anything they can hold still. They plunder, despoil, keep sex slaves and are generally the worst sort of evil race I have ever seen put to page that is not demonic, and these actually give other writer's demons a run for the money, and these create the background tension in the story.
The story starts 5000 years ago. An elvish battalion has been almost wiped out by a horde of orcs. The last seven elves are surrounded by the horde, protecting a pregnant human woman, about to be wiped out when a miracle occurs. The warriors are imbued by the seven elven gods with magic weapons and armor that they become bonded to for life, that allows them to defeat the orc horde. These are the Orcslayers, the scourge of the orc hordes, and the orcs would tremble in fear at the mention of them.
Now 5000 years later, the orcs haven't been seen in numbers in millennia. The South is at peace, with 5 forts guarding the passes between the orcs in the north and the elves and humans in the south. In the orc lands, and orc chieftain with dreams of uniting the tribes and conquering the south, sends his half-orc son, Bazak, to spy on the leadership of the Southern kingdoms, and help set up the invasion. He makes it down south and seduces a captain in the guard of Ashen Falls, gaining valuable intel.
Enter Saethryth. He is one of the two Orcslayers currently active. The roles have been passed down over the years. He follows the half-orc and confronts him as he is about to kill his duped captain, and saves her, although the orc gets away. He then decides to help her get revenge on Bazak by inducting her into the Orcslayers, realizing their numbers need to be increased, and she takes the new name Tierra.
The other storyline follows Melress, a half elf battle mage who is actually
Saethryth's half brother, unbeknownst to them both. Melress is sent on a mission to support the fort at Knight's Reach if the Orcs actually are invading. While he is on the way to the fort, he comes across a farm that an orc war band has despoiled, and he uses his power to save a young woman who was recently killed. He has a unique power to raise the dead, which is a priest's power, not a mages, and this plays an important part in the story later. He also unintentionally raises her parents, but they arise after he and the girl leave, and the parents quest for orc vengeance provides some hilarious moments in an otherwise grim story. Talk about gallows humor! We also discover that there might be a little more to the Elven pantheon than the seven accepted gods.
The story lines converge at Knight's Perch, where the one of the forces of the orcs is invading. What follows is a well drawn out battle scene, with surprising combat, monsters rampaging, heroism, courage and barbarism in steady amounts, as well as some betrayal you don't see coming. Bazak and Tierra meet again, although Bazak doesn't enjoy the meeting for long. We discover Melress is married to someone rather important, and that there is a grand conspiracy moving events far bigger than the orcs, looking for vengeance long denied. The story ends with us getting a glimpse at the larger world the story will be taking us in to in future books.
The characters and setting are real strengths of this book. Saethryth's world weary cynicism, Tierra's need for revenge and to protect her homeland, and Melress's innocent earnestness, with just a bit of a chip on his shoulder due to being half elven, all make them endearing. The side characters are also well fleshed out, making you interested in their interactions throughout the story. The villains are just loathsome. There is no other way to describe them. They are Orcs as would make Tolkien shiver just thinking about them. They are not sympathetic in the slightest, although they are interesting, as in wow, that train wreck sure has a lot of fatalities way. You just cant take your eyes off of them, even though you want to.
All in all, this was a very good debut novel. Grimdark as all hell, great characters, an interesting backstory, and a fully fleshed out world that has a grander conspiracy awaiting discovery. Is it a perfect book? No. There are some editing issues, such as punctuation, things of that nature, that are kind of usual in a lot of first time indy books. Its not something that will ruin your enjoyment of the book. I recommend this book wholeheartedly for dark fantasy fans.
I will mention one more thing. This book shows the orcs in a very visceral, graphic way. They keep sex slaves, and will slaughter, rape and humiliate any and all of their victims. This includes ALL of them, so gender and age do not restrain them. There is graphic talk of sex, and the aftermath of their raids is described, so if you are looking for clean, sterile fiction, this isn't it. I had no issue with it, since the author basically took the gloves with the orcs, and depicts them as I always imagined orcs to behave. Fair warning.
Monday, September 25, 2017
Pages: 252 pages/ 9 hrs, 15 mins. (Audio)
Release Date: October 24, 2017/ April 3, 2018 (Audio)
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Narrator: Arielle DeLisle
I was very excited to hear that this book was being written. I gave the first book in the series, I Was A Teenage Weredeer, a glowing review. It was easily the best book I had read this year. That is, until this book, which actually surpasses the first book in all ways. I know the authors have more planned out in the series, which is in the same universe as CT Phipps's Straight Outta Fangton series, so there are is a lot of potential stories in this series and universe.
The story starts a year after the last book. Jane is 19 now, and is basically the shaman of Bright Falls with her parents being hidden in Witness Protection. She is kind of muddling along in her job and in her love life, with FBI agent Alex Timmons out of town, and her attraction to Bright Falls bad boy Lucien Lyons put to the side, no matter how good looking he is, or what may have happened one drunken night! This is Jane's life as the story gets going.
While on a picnic with her best friend, the werewolf Emma O'Hara, two monster hunters sent by Alex come upon them, since they need some help on a case. Jane and Emma go with them, and discover a true horror: A mass collection of dead infant skeletons. This discovery sends Jane and crew on a quest to determine who left them for dead, and they are determined to stop it from happening again. Enter a charismatic immortal preacher, who is looking to kill Jane's mentor, Kim Su. Well, Jane's not down for that, either.
So starts a wild ride of a story, in which we discover Bright Falls has an actual god living in the woods, we meet a new character, Robyn, who's mysterious past is linked to the entire mystery. We also discover that there really was a King Arthur, although not quite like the stories say, as well as who Merlin really was. Jane's potential as a mage is explored, and her growth in power and skill are noticeable. The crew has to deal with a variety of challenges to find the truth about who is responsible for the deaths, and they find out the problem is a lot bigger than they could have ever imagined. Alex being accused of murdering the preacher? That's the least of the problems.
We also discover just what Alex went through in his abusive household, and his story is fleshed out more, and his relationship with Jane is more firmly defined. This all leads to the final showdown with the villain(s) and the results will effect the characters and the broader world. The final chapter has Jane meeting with the villain from the previous book, and settling that issue, but discovering that the world is a lot scarier than they expected. New opportunities are open to Jane and Alex, and we'll see where they go in book three.
Like book one, the characters are a great strength of this story. Jane is a fantastic character: Strong, with attitude to match, but still with moments of vulnerability and self discovery. She is a pop culture quote a minute machine and makes you like it, finding a quote for every situation. Alex is more fully fleshed out; his back story is truly tragic, and that gives insight into his motivations. The new additions, Robyn, and the hunters David and Yolanda, all add a new depth to the story, with Robyn really shining and sure to be a fan favorite, being a good foil to Jane. Learning more about Kim Su really fleshed her out as well, giving a view into her motivations. The villains are well drawn out as well, with realistic motivations (or lack of motivation) within the story line, which added to the level of threat to the heroes.
The setting of Bright Falls is probably one of my favorites in urban fantasy. The small lumber town that was the secret home to the Shifter leadership is a stroke of genius. The same town and leadership having to deal with the rest of the world after the Reveal of the supernatural is interesting, in the way that they now have to deal with tourists looking to take selfies with werewolves! Also, those same tourists are wanting to go into the surrounding woods on the look out for magic, of which Bright Falls has more than its fair share. The description of the town is so vivid, you can imagine it vividly in your mind. The new settings, including the Grove in the woods, are just perfect for the story. You'll see what I mean when you read it.
In her second go around narrating The Bright Falls books, Arielle DeLisle has become very comfortable with the various characters, the dialogue flowing so smoothly it feels like you're listening in on a conversation. She really nails the various voices, from Jane's sass and still somewhat innocence, to Emma's protective earnestness, to the creepy preacher's shtick. Her Alex and Kim Su voices are some of my favorites. She really catches his kind of spacy competence, and Kim's inscrutable attitude mixed with a Texas twang is really fun too. Her pacing is fantastic, and she really brings the story to life. Definitely someone who's work I will keep listening to.
All in all, this book improves in every way on an already fantastic book one. The characters are more fleshed out, as is the setting. It has some interesting twists on mythology and really expands upon the themes of book one. Jane also shows just how far she's willing to go for justice, and that is pretty damn far. This may be my favorite effort by these authors, and that's saying a lot, since I am such a fan of their previous work. I can't recommend this book highly enough!
Monday, September 4, 2017
Author: CT Phipps
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Release Date: September 21, 2017
Based in the same universe as the Straight Outta Fangton vampire series, I Was A Teenage Weredeer has the same comedic sensibility, but tackles a completely different aspect of the supernatural world. That would be the world of wereshifters, drug in to the spotlight with the vampires when the vampires bailed out the US government during the last economic meltdown, in exchange for equal rights and protection. Unfortunately for the shifters, they weren't included in the deal. Only two states, Michigan and New Hampshire, protect shifters from being killed outright. That's where the story picks up, in Bright Falls, Michigan.
Bright Falls is the unofficial capitol of the Shifter world. The heads of the 12 shifter clans are all there, from the powerful werewolf clan to the selkies, weredeer and werebears. The main protagonist, Jane Doe (pun fully intended) is 18 years old, and works at her family's restaurant. She is a member of the weredeer clan. Her parents are John and Judy Doe, which is a funny way of introducing a weredeer weakness, puns. Jane's sister is romantically involved with one of the Werewolf clan, and unbeknownst to Jane, so is her brother, the only member of her family not to be a shifter.
When Jane's brother is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Jane and the girl's sister Emma, who is actually Jane's best friend, start their own investigation to find out who really murdered her. What they find will shake the foundations of the town, and the balance of power throughout the shifter world. helping them along the way are Alex, an FBI mage who is kind of spacey, and Lucien, who happens to be the local gangster, and has some secrets of his own. As they continue down the rabbit hole, they discover evils perpetrated in the town by people they trusted, all in the name of the "greater good".
They discover the true nature of the evil infecting the town, and in a series of climactic fights, discover that the side of the angels might not be the clean side after all. Jane has to make some incredibly difficult decisions, that may include hurting the ones she loves the most to get to the truth. Oh, and she's had a vision of her in an intimate encounter with Lucien, and also finds Alex intriguing as well. Awkward!
I have to admit I am a huge fan of CT Phipps. I have loved every one of his books, and have them all. That being said, this one was something special. I think Jane Doe may be his best character to date. She is strong, independent and stubborn enough for a dozen people. While she has special abilities because she is a shifter, she relies on her brains to get through most problems, rather than battering them into submission with stronger than human strength. That being said, she has her moments of weredeer badassery too!
The supporting cast is also excellent. Emma is a great friend character, and her romantic feelings for the very straight Jane adds an extra dimension to their relationship. Alex's spacey kind of good guy is a lot of fun, as is Lucien's bad boy allure. Alex being a mage and Lucien being a...well, you'll see, adds some real spice as well.The villains are excellently crafted as well, bringing a real sense of grand danger as well as having realistic and somewhat sympathetic reasons for their actions, at least in the case of the biggest threat. The town of Bright Falls is colorfully and carefully described, actually feeling like a character itself. Characters have always been a strength of this writer, so that's no surprise.
Arielle Delisle is revelation as a narrator. She did a fantastic job bringing the various characters to life. She really captures Jane's snarky, sassy yet vulnerable personality, Emma's affectionate protectiveness, Lucian and Alex's tension and Kim Su's sarcasm and wisdom. Her pacing is excellent, and she is now on my "must listen to" list.
All in all, I feel this will appeal to a wide variety if readers, from teens to adults, male and female alike. I know this is a project of love for the author, and he is almost done with book two. Any fans of his other books should really be able to dig in and enjoy this one. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Total Rating: 10/10.
Monday, August 21, 2017
Author: Ken Lange
Publisher: Ken Lange
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2016 (ebook)/ Jan. 4, 2017 (audio)
Length: 242 Pages/10 hrs, 56 mins (audio)
Narrated by Marlin May
Most urban fantasy lately has been the usual wizard/mage/witch/warlock/druid, what have you detective/shop owner, etc protagonist. The Wanderer Awakens is not that book. In fact, its a pretty unique universe, which intersects fantasy, sci fi and a touch of time travel and Norse mythology. Sound intriguing? It should, because this is one creative, not run of the mill book.
Victor Warden is a leader in a secret society whose mission is to stop the forces of darkness from taking over the world. That includes a vast assortment of monsters and magic users. The problem is, the society's founder hasn't made an appearance in years, and the leader left in charge while he is gone, The Gatekeeper, is a power hungry scumbag. He starts a power play, all while a new threat to the entire world has come out of Victor's past to haunt him and the world. A dark evil Sorceress name Gulveig with a connection 15000 years in the past to Victor. That's right, I said 15000 years. Victor is far older than he appears, and has powers and abilities commensurate with that, all brought about by unique alien tech.
Victor, his daughter, Victor's powerful ex wife must deal with the Gatekeeper's plan to kill them all, while trying To also deal with Gulveig's plan to take over the world, as well as betrayal from within their circle of allies, which includes a Federal Marshal, an FBI Agent, and various leaders in the society. Gulveig will stop at nothing to fulfill her plan, killing whoever is in her way. Even Victor and his crew might not be able to stop the uber-powerful deathless sorceress. You'll have to listen/read it to find out how it turns out.
Victor has been unable to access more than the basics of his power, like strength, speed, and creating a body force shield, ever since his last run in with Gulveig 15000 years prior. After a pivotal event, Victor's mentor Mimir is released and starts repairing Victor's systems so he can access his full abilities and memories. The flashback scenes are first rate as he regains his memories, adding a sense of depth to the story.
The story takes place in New Orleans, which is a great setting for it. The city is rich with culture, history and tragedy, and the author utilizes these to the fullest, from scenes in the old US Mint, to various landmarks and even the final climactic scenes in the abandoned Six Flags amusement park. The setting is like another character, and it's very well drawn out.
I mentioned Norse mythology. Well, several of the characters, such as Gulveig, Mimir and Victors true name should be familiar to people who know Norse mythology. Some of the cosmology is different, but stories change over time. Victor's true identity actually surprised me. I thought I had it, but missed it. Great little touches with it though.
As narration goes, Marlin May did a very good job. He gave each character a unique voice, and really kept the story moving along. Great pacing, and good flow throughout. All in all, this is a book I would recommend for anyone looking for something little different than another Dresden Files or Iron Druid clone.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Author: C.T. Phipps
Publisher: Macabre Ink (ebook)/ Crossroad Press (audio)
Release Date: April 15, 2017/ August 28, 2017 (audio)
Length: 196 pages/ 7 hrs, 27 minutes (audio)
Narrated by Cary Hite
Peter Stone, or just Stone as he likes to be called, is at a bit of a loss. Here he is, one of the mighty undead, who are finally out of the coffin after bailing out the US after a financial collapse, a Vampire and Iraq war vet, and he cant seem to catch a break. No fancy clothes, no riches, no sports cars or exotic models looking to be his thralls. Instead, he's working at a low paying convenience store, exiled from the vampire society, and his only thrall is David, who is no ones idea of a model.
He's going nowhere fast, until one day his werewolf boss tells him that someone has OD'd in the bathroom of the store. Stone checks it out, and it's worse than that. Someone has dumped a newly changed vampire in the bathroom, mad with blood lust. Well, that can't be good. After attacking Stone, the fledgling vampire, Melissa, is subdued, and they discover she was an anti monster activist. They then discover she was turned by an overpowered vampire who used to be a Templar Knight who is almost unkillable, and has been hunting vampires since the middle ages. Stone takes her to see Thoth, his Creator and one of the Masters of New Detroit.
This starts a chain reaction of events, as a power play is taking place, with the Templar trying to take out the lead vampires and some lower rank vampires making moves of their own, which leads to Stone's and crew's final confrontation with the Templar and his expendable allies, with Stone being spectacularly outclassed but still struggling to win in the end.
This is the type of book I expect CT Phipps to write. Comedic, but with interesting characters, much deeper than you'd expect world building, great villains (a real strength of all his books) and a plot that just keeps racing along. Even the supporting characters are fleshed out, which is another strength of this writer. The pop culture references also fly fast and furious, everything from Twilight to Star Wars, again, something he does in all his books.
The only thing I had any issues with was the final battle with the Templar. While it had a satisfying conclusion, it was a bit quick. I suspect that might have been intentional, but it was something unusual for this author. Other than that minor point, this was one excellent novel.
Cary Hite is a revelation as a narrator. He really brings the story to life, giving each character a life of their own. He has a great voice, and his use of accents and inflection is excellent. Definitely on my list of top narrating talent.
I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is into urban fantasy or likes a good supernatural romp. You wont be disappointed.
Friday, June 16, 2017
Author: J. A Hunter
Publisher: Shadow Alley Press
Release Date: Dec 23, 2016 (ebook)/ April 20, 2017 (audio)
Length: 306 Pages/ 8 hrs, 44 mins (audio)
Narrated by Armen Taylor
LitRPG has been a hit or miss genre to me since I discovered it a couple years ago. While there are some really good books in it, there are also some that just seem to be trying to cash in by writing a generic story which just adds stats/leveling up and dungeon crawls and loot drops to be called LitRPG and grab onto the popularity the genre is currently having. That being said, Viridian Gate Online: Cateclysm, is not one of those. It is, in fact, my favorite title in the Genre, surpassing the Way of the Shaman series. Thats a pretty good recommendation in my opinion.
Viridian Gate Online (VGO) has a fairly unique premise. The story starts off with Jack, an EMT, conflicted over whether he should get into the immersion pod for VGO provided to him by an old college friend that works for the company that developed VGO. The reason he is conflicted is that if he gets in and stays 72 hours, one of 2 things will happen. He could stay in, and his mind would be mapped and digitized and he would remain in the game as his character, Grim Jack, forever. However, his body would shut down and he would only survive ingame. however, there is a one in 6 chance he would die before that in the tank, his mind rejecting the transition, and he would just be dead instead.
However, this is all kind of a moot point, since in 9 days, almost everyone will be dead. Yes, you heard that right. There is a 9 mile wide asteroid, 213 Astraea, headed for Earth, projected to land just off the coast of Greenland. Well, that's an extinction level event, so, game over, so to speak. Except for the ridiculously wealthy and survival lottery winners, planning to live in deep earth bunkers, the only way to "survive" is to immerse in VGO, where your digitized mind will survive in the 7 great over mind servers buried deep underground. Well, since Jack is the main character of the story, you can guess which path he chose.
After immersing himself in the game, Jack goes into the character development screen. He goes through the character race types, and picks Murk Elf for himself (think dark elf) type, liking some of the character's natural bonuses. Being an experienced MMO gamer, Jack knows he has lots of choices in class for himself down the line, and the game doesn't force a class choice immediately. After he sets up the character, she starts the game play. He awakens in a cage in a dungeon lab, where someone has been vivisecting people. Not the most promising start to a game! There is another prisoner named Cutter, a thief, who offers to help him escape what apparently is some evil dark priest's torture dungeon. No place they want to hang out in.
They make their escape, although along the way they discover an old Murk Elf woman on the edge of death. She charges Jack to return her medallion to her tribe, to let them know how she dies. She also unlocks the shadow spark in Jack, allowing him some access to special abilities. This is now a quest for Jack, with the attendant quest requirements and rewards attached to it. After their escape, Cutter takes Jack to his city, where he introduces Jack to the local thieves union hall, since thieves don't have a guild.
What starts here is the adventures Jack expected, since after some training, he goes on a series of adventures, collecting loot, leveling up, basically doing what everyone does in an RPG. After being contacted by his old college friend Abbie, he takes a teleport scroll and goes to meet her with Cutter. This start some adventures and quests Jack must undertake to advance.
Later on Jack meets up with Abbie. She explains she discovered irregularities in the code of VGO, that rich people have paid to have restricted areas and quests set aside, so that they could easily level up and gain legendary level weapons and gear, basically cheating to create a paradise with themselves at the top of the food chain. Abbie wants to end around that and see if they can circumvent it. They then start the set of adventures and quests that will determine the fate of VGO. Will it just be a rich persons paradise with everyone else a serf, or will it be a chance to excel for all? What follows is a set of epic adventures and quests, which test the mettle, heart and skills of Grim Jack and Cutter, meeting a wide assortment of characters and completing more and more challenging quests, all while finding out even deeper truths about VGO, and about what the world truly faces in game. He will have to make some life and death choices that will affect many more people than himself.
This book is a must read for any fan of LitRPG, or fan of good writing, actually. The characters are phenomenal, with Jack and Cutter being the standouts, but even the secondary characters and even the monsters are well drawn out. The dialogue is tight, and there is real emotional punch to the story. The world building is epic in scale, but so well described you feel as though you are right there in the thick of things, which is all you can ask from a writer. You can tell there is a much larger world and story out there, and that we are just being introduced to something grand.
Narration wise, Armen Taylor does a great job bringing each character to life. They all have their own personalities, quirks and voices. He uses tone, inflection and accent to differentiate each character. Overall, a top notch performance.
I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. I truly believe it is the best LitRPG on the market today, and I hope the author has huge success with it and keeps writing more! I for one, will be in line to get the next installment.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Author: David Guenther
Publisher: David Guenther
Release Date: Jabuary 7, 2016 (ebook)/ February 25, 2016 (audio)
Length: 226 pages/ 6 hrs, 16 mins.
Narrated by Liam Owen
30 years after Iran nuked Washington DC and we basically wasted them in response, the surviving government suspended half the bill of rights, confiscated guns and had half the military desert or resign rather than attack US citizen. What followed was a huge growth in Homeland Security contractors to take their place, enforcing the draconian "security".
This is the country Dan "D2" Daniels, a retired Army Sgt. Major, finds himself. When Dan goes down into an abandoned mine he hopes to find some gold in, he comes across a cavern with a spaceship that has been there for a hundred years. The ship is from a more advanced race that is peaceful, and it tells him that earth will be invaded in twenty years by a violent alien race. The ship, called Grub, agrees to help Dan prepare the Earth to repel the invaders, starting by making him young and healthy again, although his face is still that of a 70 year old man.
So begins the adventure of a lifetime, as Dan starts recruiting old vets into his group to prepare to take the country back from the disease of corruption that has shredded the Constitution and prepare to defend the Earth from invasion. They are going to save the Earth, no matter the cost or the obstacles thrown in their way. With a large diverse group of interesting characters, an all too believable setting in a totalitarian Socialist America, and interesting technology, along with pulse pounding battle scenes and close quarters fights, this will appeal to any fan of military science fiction.
Liam Owen, who also narrated Steven Campbell's Hard Luck Hank series, does an excellent job of creating great voices for the various characters. He gives them a real world weary quality, and his narrative pace is excellent, with great tone and inflection.
This is just a good old fashioned sci fi tale, not hard sci fi, but just a sci fi action story, and that's ok. Not everything needs to be a deep introspective look into hard science or social commentary. Sometimes, a story is just meant to entertain, which this one does. I can't wait to get into book 2. If it is as good as this one, this may easily become one of my favorite sci fi series.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Authors: Brian Keene and Steven L. Shrewsbury
Publisher: Apex Book Company (paper and ebook)/ Beacon Audiobooks (audio)
Release Date: July 21st, 2015 (paper and ebook)/ May 12, 2017 (audio)
Length: 163 pages /5 hrs, 23 mins
Narrated by Doug Greene
I picked this up on a whim, liking the idea that someone wrote an unabashed old school pulp fantasy. I wasn't disappointed! This reads like an old RE Howard Conan book, only one where Conan had his kingdom, tired of the throne and passed his kingdom on to his heir to rule while he want back out and had more adventures. All this takes place in a pre Hyperborea Earth, so some of the countries and places will sound similar. If that sounds intriguing, this is the book for you.
While on a fishing trip off one of his old ally states, in a bireme of all things, his ship is attacked by a tentacled horror, Pirates, and then zombies after the ship is destroyed. Before the ship sank, though, Rogan is told by the lead pirate he was sent by Logan's unknown bastard son, and he has conquered his kingdom and imprisoned the rightful king, and are raping and pillaging across his kingdom. They end up on a beach in unfamiliar territory and discover a tribe of natives. The native, and a group of Amazons who happen to be staying with the natives, agree to help them get home if they get rid of the evil necromancer and his demon on the top of the local mountain. Well, needs must, so if off to slay the wizard.
What follows is a wild trip to the mountain, with the invertible co mingling with the Amazons, with hilarious results.The climb up the mountain is crazy, and the fight after involving magic, strange science and even a dash of time travel is just gonzo fun. This being pulp fiction, you can probably figure out how it ends. It is a lot of fun right through to the end.
The characters are all larger than life Conan archetypes. Rogan is big, powerful and an epic warrior, even pushing 60. His nephew and aide is also an epic warrior. The Amazons are all beautiful, even with the one breast missing (traditional Amazons) and great warriors, all while being wildcats in bed. This is certainly not a PC kind of title. Its much more old school, and I think it is an under served market in the current marketplace. While they may be over the top, they are entertaining. The settings are well thought out and described, and fit the story well. The plot is fast paced, and relies on a lot of action to keep things moving.You just don't see this kind of book written too much anymore, sadly.
Doug Greene's narration was solid, keeping the story moving and giving the characters their own voices. Very good effort on his part.
If you are into the kind of fantasy RE Howard was writing, this is something you may want to check out. I know I am looking forward to any sequels.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Brian D. Anderson Becomes the First Indie Author to Get A Six-Figure Audiobook-Only Contract
"A deal of this magnitude proves once and for all that indie authors are on par with Big Five authors," Anderson said. "If anyone in publishing still has any doubts about the strength and quality of independently published books, this should go a long way to shatter that belief."
Anderson's literary agent, Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary, described the deal for these books as a fierce battle among audiobook producers similar to the plots of her client's books.
"Audible was the hero of the day, swooping in and winning Brian's books over some major competition,"
ABOUT THE GODLING CHRONICLES
The Godling Chronicles recounts the adventures of Gewey Stedding as he fights against the Dark Knight and his minions who have stolen The Sword of Truth from the gods, trapping them in heaven and bringing darkness to the world. With the Sword, the Reborn King can reshape the world and bring death to all who oppose him. It is epic fantasy at its best with elves, monsters, gods and a hero who must reach far beyond himself to save the world.
ABOUT BRIAN D. ANDERSON
Brian D. Anderson is the best-selling indie author of three fantasy series: The Godling Chronicles, Dragonvein, and Akiri (co-written with Steven Savile). His books have sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide. Brian lives in Fairhope, Alabama with his wife and son. For more information about Brian, visit his author page at Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/
ABOUT FUSE LITERARY
Fuse Literary is a new type of hybrid literary agency, blending the knowledge and skills of traditional book publishing with the brash new opportunities engendered by digital publishing, self-publishing, ebooks, social media, and technology. The company has offices in California, New York, North Dakota, Vancouver, Dallas, and Chicago. Founding partners Laurie McLean and Gordon Warnock are joined by agents Connor Goldsmith, Emily Keyes, Michelle Richter, Jennifer Chen Tran, Tricia Skinner, Margaret Bail and Carlie Webber. For more, visit www.fuseliterary.com or follow us on Twitter @FuseLiterary.
For more information contact:
Brian D. Anderson, 347-768-1654, thegodlingchronicles@
Laurie McLean, Fuse Literary, 650-922-0914, firstname.lastname@example.org
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