Friday, October 13, 2017

A Review of The Statement of Andrew Doran by Matthew Davenport

The Statement of Andrew Doran Audiobook

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

Review of Mudman by James Hunter


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.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Review of Gravity of the Game by Jon Del Arroz

Author: Jon Del Arroz

Pages: 60

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

Review of The Eighth God by Paul Lavender

The Eighth God (The Orcslayers Book 1) by [Lavender, Paul S.]

Author: Paul Lavender

Pages: 233

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. 

Rating 8.5/10

Monday, September 25, 2017

Review of An American Weredeer In Michigan by CT Phipps and Michael Suttkus

An American Weredeer in Michigan by C. T. Phipps

 Authors: CT  Phipps and Michael Suttkus

Release Date: October 12, 2017

Publisher: Crossroad Press

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.

Ala 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!

Rating: 10/10

Monday, September 4, 2017

Review of I Was A Teenage Weredeer by CT Phipps

 I Was a Teenage Weredeer (Bright Falls Mysteries, #1)

Author: CT Phipps

Publisher: Crossroad Press

Release Date: September 21, 2017

Pages: 262

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.

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

A review of The Wanderer Awakens: Warden Global Book 1 by Ken Lange

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

Review of Straight Outta Fangton: A Comedic Vampire Story

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

Review of Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm

Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm: A litRPG Adventure (The Viridian Gate Archives Book 1) by [Hunter, James]

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

Review of Grey Panthers: Battle For Earth by David Guenther

Gray Panthers: Battle for Earth Audiobook

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

Review of King of the Bastards by Brian Keene and Steven L. Shrewsbury

 King of the Bastards Audiobook

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

Press release concerning Brian D. Anderson's new Audible deal

Brian D. Anderson Becomes the First Indie Author to Get A Six-Figure Audiobook-Only Contract

Brian D. Anderson
Brian D. Anderson
Spread the Word:

MANHATTAN, N.Y. - May 31, 2017 - PRLog -- BOOK EXPO NEWS -- Brian D. Anderson has a lot to celebrate as he is now the first self-published author to secure a six-figure advance for an audiobook-only deal. The indie bestselling fantasy author was offered six figures by Audible Inc. for the license to produce audiobooks for books seven and eight in his best-selling Godling Chronicles series.

"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," McLean said, tongue in cheek. She added that the impressive sales numbers for the first six books of The Godling Chronicles series in both audiobook and ebook formats, and their sustained sales over the past four years, convinced Audible that even a six-figure advance was not much of a risk.


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.


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 (

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 or follow us on Twitter @FuseLiterary.

For more information contact:
Brian D. Anderson, 347-768-1654,

Laurie McLean, Fuse Literary, 650-922-0914,
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Monday, May 1, 2017

A review of Fade Rippers: Galefire by Kenny Soward


Author: Kenny Soward

Publisher: Broken Dog Press 

Release Date: Jan 3rd, 2017 (ebook)/ April 11, 2018 (Audio)

Length: 127 pages / 4 hrs, 7 mins.

Narrator: Scott Aiello

Lonnie, runner for the Eighth Street gang, has a feeling something about his life isn't right. He is the lowest member of the gang, used for running deliveries of drugs and going to the store for supplies. He just keeps feeling something isn't right, and keeps having wild dreams of another world where he is flying on a dragons back fighting airships! When he gets a frantic call from a gang member to meet them out back of the clubhouse and be prepared for violence, he doesn't expect to see what he does, as the club members are being attacked by supernatural creatures! After watching his gang leader Selix use magic after getting high to defeat the invaders, Lonnie is thoroughly confused, and even more so after she uses her powers to wipe away the memory. The memories are starting to refuse to stay buried though, and after the club is attacked again, Lonnie learns he has been kept in a memory wiped daze to protect him, since the beings hunting him could sense him if he had his memories. Lonnie and the other gang members are refugees from a lost war in another dimension, which one I wont tell because that would be a huge spoiler. This new knowledge Leeds to a climactic confrontation with the forces hunting for Lonnie, and his life will never be the same again, as he finally gets his memories back and realizes just who he really is, and what that means. Nothing will be the same again and he needs to decide what actions to take from that point on.

This is not the typical urban fantasy, with the usual wizard detective or some such. The Eighth Streeters are a violent drug gang, due to their upbringing. They have a much more varied past than you'd expect, hinted at through conversations. It is an interesting mix of characters, and they bicker and fight as any group in close quarters would be expected to. The hidden secret the gang hides does explain quite a lot of their actions, and when it finally explodes in violence, it is much larger than you'd expect. Even though the characters are more anti-hero than hero, you can still get to like them, and appreciate the lengths they go through to protect Lonnie.

The setting is grimy and well drawn out, and not some place you'd want to visit. It takes place in Cincinnati, not the normal Chicago or LA of UF novels, so that was interesting, and you can almost see the grime on the street and smell the reek of the sewers as explained in the book. Overall, a well drawn out world.

Scott Aiello, who also narrated the author's Gnome Saga books, did an excellent job bringing the various characters to life. Each character has his or her own unique voice, and he has a great touch with tone, pitch and cadence. His narration is always top notch, never lagging or monotonous. 5 star effort all the way around.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A review of Lucifer's Star by CT Phipps and Michael Suttkus

Lucifer's Star by [Phipps, C. T., Suttkus, Michael]

Author: CT Phipps and Michael Suttkus

Publisher: Crossroads Press

Release Date: October 13, 2016 (ebook)/ May 17, 2017 (audio)

Length: 300 Pages/10 hours and 20 minutes

Narrated by Eric Burns

What would you do if you found out the cause you struggled and sacrificed so much for, the very nation you fought for, was actually the bad side, the greater of two evils? How would you reconcile that in your mind? That is the issue Cassius Mass, the Fire Count, ex-Crius Archduchy Fighter pilot and noble, as well as the clone of a noble, has to deal with five years after his side lost the last war against the Commonwealth. 

He has been on the run, hiding, and for a time, fighting against the people who brought down his country and killed all those he loved in a night of fire and death. Now he is navigator on a space freighter, just keeping a low profile hoping he will be forgotten. When his lover Isla tells him she knows who he is, and reveals her own secret, that she is a bioroid (a human body with a robotic brain), this touches off a series of events that will effect the power of the galaxy as its known. The ship's Captain Ida is secretly a commonwealth Watcher (Think secret police), and she too knows who Cassius is, and she will get him a pardon and get his fortune released if he agrees to perform a task for her. This task it to infiltrate a ship and get Ida's intel source out, with the vital information she has. The problem? After they get onto the ship, Cassius discovers the source is his dead sister Zoe, or at least her duplicate bioroid, and the secrets she carries could bring down the commonwealth or the Crius resistance and even draw in aliens into a conflict with humanity! The story continues on with a series of adventures, double and triple crosses, betrayals, tortures and revelations about the crew and about the nature of the ultimate enemy, leading to the climactic final scenes where Cassius must decide which side, if any, to ally himself with, all while staying true to his own beliefs. All in all, one incredibly complex and deep dark science fiction plot.

As with all CT Phipps books, this one is very character driven. As good as all the sci fi elements are, the complexity of the plot is, it is the characters that drive everything. From Cassius, the war hero pilot who was cloned by a powerful noble to displace his two natural born children, and has struggled to follow his own path, to Isla, the beautiful burned bioroid who was a pleasure slave and is now struggling to be free against her programming, to Clarice, Isla's other lover and a woman with a past as deep as Cassius, the cast of characters all have many hidden layers. their motivations make sense in the context of their environments. They all have interesting back stories, which are slowly drawn out throughout the book. This group of characters is very much an example of reactions showcasing nature vs. nurture. Can a noble's clone from an amoral society built on slavery and privilege, a feudal society in all but name, safeguard the lives of those that in a previous life he wouldn't have given a whit about? Can a bioroid pleasure slave violate her programming and fight for what she believes in? These are the types of quandaries the characters have to deal with, and so many more. When these characters all find out what is behind all the plots, will they stay and fight, or cut and run? You'll have to read it to find out, but it is worth the time investment.

The plot is very complex, with many twists and turns, betrayals, double and even triple crosses. It seemed everyone in the book had at least one secret, and many of the characters had multiple secrets. As always, even when dealing with very dark subject matter, CT Phipps manages to inject some humor and snark into the proceedings, keeping this from turning into Grimdark Game of Thrones in space. The characters are all relatable on some level, which is not something every writer excels at creating, but which this author has always managed. As you read further in the book, new layers open up before you, sucking you deeper into the story. The sci fi elements are all really well executed, and there are even a few new touches for the genre that definitely have the WOW factor to them.
Definitely a treat for sci fi fans.

The narration work is handled by Eric Burns. I was surprised at how well a relative newcomer like Eric handled the various voices, from the crew of the Melampus to the various other worlders and the Chel. He does a great job creating various voices through tone and cadence for the various male and female characters. His narration was steady, varying pitch and speed to the action.All in all, an excellent job bringing the story and characters to life.

The author is working on the sequel, and I can't wait to get into it! You will find yourself getting invested in these various characters, and wanting to see where their next adventure takes them. The story theme, that struggles like this are more shades of grey, rather than black and white, are topical in any time. I cant recommend this book highly enough to any fans of sci fi or thrillers. It is in a class all its own!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

A review of The Science of Supervillainy by CT Phipps.


Author: C.T. Phipps

Publisher: Amber Cove Publishing

Release Date: April 1st, 2017 (Print)/ April 11th, 2017 (Audible)

Length: 202 pages/ 6 hrs and 5 min. Audible

Audio narrated by Jeffrey Kafer

In which Gary, aka Merciless, the Supervillain Without Mercy™ struggles to defeat his arch enemy, Other Gary, aka Merciful.Thats right, Other Gary is back, and more Bat*** crazy and powerful than ever. At the end of the last book, Gary had dealt President Omega and Other Gary a setback. As this book starts, Gary and his team, including his henchmen (Henchpeople?) Red Riding Hood and El Diablo, as well as his vampire wife Mandy and ex fiance Ultragirl are attacking the presidents forces to try and stop President Omegas planned apocalyptic destruction of a large chunk of the worlds population. Just when they think they've won, things go pear shaped in a hurry!

Captured, brainwashed and imprisoned in what basically boils down to Pleasantville by other Gary, Gary and Mandy finally escape after 5 years with the help of Night Girl, another Cloak of Death bearer. Things have gone decidedly bad in Falconcrest City, with all the clean air, water, high tech readily available and air of happiness now found there, all for the cheap cost of being ruled by a dictatorship of Merciful and the world's other superheroes. Its up to Gary and his allies, including some new ones like Mr. Inventor, a former love interest of both Red Riding Hood and Night Girl, to stop other Gary from destroying the world and replacing it with his warped version of the world. Oh, and did I mention that Gary finds out about his...well, nope, that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, Gary has a lot of surprises awaiting him in his quest to stop Other Gary. Lives will be lost, relationships altered forever, and Gary will have to determine what path he truly want to follow, leading up to the climactic final boss battle with Other Gary!

As always, CT Phipps, while writing a story about Supers, really writes about people, characters you can relate to, even if they have a warped perspective. They really ring true to the reader/listener, having understandable motivations, even if they are, as Death calls it, alternatively sane. You can really empathize with Gary, which is strange, since he IS a sociopath. The new characters are a blast, especially Gizmo. She brings real insight into the various characters. I thought it was also fun that Gary's niece basically becomes Jubilee from the X Men. Same powers, if that's what you can call them, although she is much better at it than Jubilee.

The level of snark and humor in this one, especially with the level of violence and mayhem, really helped lighten the mood. Constant pop culture references to various geek chic things including Star Wars and Trek, various anime, D&D, comics and a slew of others are a treat for geek in all of us. I will be upfront, I had to agree with Gary's opininon of Rogue One in this one, not Red Riding Hood's, the exact opposite of Secrets of Supervillainy, where I agreed with Red's opinion over Gary's about Star Wars episode Seven. This is the kind of existential dialogue you can expect from this book. It is a geeks dream come true with the references! I love that the author has the characters reference his other book series, such as gary reading Cthulhu Armageddon while imprisoned, or referencing Straight Outta Fangton as the newest Vampire Chic culture. Not many other authors have the huzzpah to go all self reference, especially in such a funny way! He even references some other author's work, in particular Jim Bernheimer's D-List Supervillain protagonist, an alternate version in their world called MechaniCarl, Carl Stringel. Funny stuff if your in on the joke.

What can I say about the narration? It is top notch as always, Jefferey Kafer really being on his game. His various voices, especially Red Riding Hood and Gizmo, are fantastic, and his narrative pacing is excellent. He really helps bring the story to life! He is now my most collected narrator, having 30 of his books in my collection! That should tell you how much I like his work.

All in all, this feels like the strongest effort in the series, and does a great job of tying off loose plot threads. The author could stop writing these if he wanted to, having tied everything up, but I've heard there are more to come! Authors should read this series to see how to complete a plot arc without leaving loose ends or rushing things. All in all, one of my favorite listens this year. 6 stars!!