What Lies in Darkness by Jeff Seymour

SeymourWhatLiesInDarknessWhere I Got It: Author has placed it on Youtube – listen for free! (thanks!)

Narrator: Jeff Seymour

Publisher: Rough Path Press (2014)

Length: 1 hour

Author’s Page

This is Ellie Mailer’s story. She watches out for her little sister, Georgie, in a house that is coming apart at the seems. Her parents drink and fight. Her degenerate uncle recently moved in and she can hear every move he makes in his upstairs bedroom because it is right above her own room. Toss in some bad storms knocking out the electricity and a man with darkness for a face, and you get some pretty bad nightmares.

This is a horror story, no doubt about that that. It’s nitty gritty and Ellie is my kind of heroine. She doesn’t have all the answers, but she does have guts and a purpose: protect Georgie. She doesn’t kid herself, but she also doesn’t leave herself out of the equation. If the darkness is going to consume her, literally, then it will have to work hard to do so.

The darkness itself is wicked but also clever. It does have patience, and brutality. This combination makes it much more interesting than just some evil that slashes and breaks for fun without pausing for breath. Also, it means that Ellie has to out think this malevolence.

All in all, it was a pretty entertaining piece for a lunch break. Though I would definitely keep the volume down if you are at work. Ellie doesn’t mince her cuss words.

Narration: Jeff Seymour did a pretty good job narrating his own work. He has the range of emotion the story called for. However, he lacks female voices. He still imbues his voice with Ellie’s kick ass attitude.

What I Liked:  The cover art; Ellie and her goal of protecting her little sister; the evil is a thinking evil; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked:  The narration could use a little polishing.

The Merchant Adventurer by Patrick E. McLean

McLeanTheMerchantAdventurerWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!)

Narrator: Patrick E. McLean

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 6 hours 17 minutes

Author’s Page

This book is part epic adventure fantasy and part tongue in cheek pointed humor at the often overdone fantasy tropes. Our main hero, Boltac the Merchant, is, indeed, a very reluctant hero. However, eventually, against his better nature, he is forced to join the adventure, outwit the bad guy, rescue his lady love, and bring prosperity to his home town. Or something along those lines. Really, Boltac is just focused on one thing: not letting his lady love know he actually has a soft spot for her.

One day a would be hero, Relan, strolls in to a shop wanting to purchase a sword so he can gallivant off to rescue his lady love. However, he doesn’t have the coin for it. So he asks to lease out a sword. Boltac rolls his eyes and eventually clouts Relan over the head and drags his unconscious body outside. But then the minions of an evil wizard (Dimsbury) and his side kick (Raddick). The owner of the local tavern, and secret sweetheart of Boltac, is stolen away. Now Boltac must make some tough choices.

The humor permeates this novel and is often of the skeptical variety. Boltac questions nearly everything, even if it is just in his head. He’s always weighing the choices, adding the coins, calculating what’s in his best interest. Relan is great sidekick for him, being so idealistic, so naive, so honorable. Boltac is constantly having to rein the young man in, and not always teaching him the ways of adventuring. The back and forth between these two is most amusing!

There are a few ladies in this book. I can think of two off the top of my head. There might have been a third. One is a supposed damsel in distress that is working with a group of folks running scams. The second is Boltac’s secret love, the tavern owner. She’s smart in her own right, taking charge of her actions and formulating a plan to escape from the first moment. However, we spend little time with her. The author shows he can write female characters, and yet he had so few in this book and gave them small, tiny roles. I hope his other books make better use of the female gender, as I fully intend to seek out more of his work.

Then we have the bad guys. They come in two flavors: ruthless and deserving of death and then we have the orc servants (like Samga the orc leader) who would probably have fairly quiet lives if left to their own devices. Raddick is vicious and enjoys killing for the sport. Dimsbury is the brains behind the evil duo and is quite ruthless in his own way. These potent villains make great adversaries for the shrewd Boltac and the idiotically heroic Relan.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It strongly reminded me of the days when my man played Dungeons & Dragons weekly and he come home in the early dawn hours, smelling of stale pizza, one too many energy drinks, and cigarette smoke, babbling about his exploits in a some dungeon or medieval forest. This book was like that, but far better since it was a coherent story and not just disconnected ramblings by a man who was obviously dead tired but too wired on caffeine to sleep.

Narration: Patrick McLean narrated his own book, and I always have a few worries when I see an author narrating his own work. But have no fears here! McLean does an awesome job of narrating this book. He has a perfectly shrewd and skeptical voice for Boltac, a wonderfully dense and optimistic voice for Relan, and a serpent’s treacherous sneer for Raddick. I also enjoyed his ‘I’m way too smart to deign to chat with you’ voice for Dimsbury. And don’t forget his toothy voice for the orc Samga. It was a most excellent performance.

What I Liked:  Plenty of humor; the characters play off each other well; excellent narration; reminiscent of D&D adventures; worthy villains.

What I Disliked:  The ladies’ roles are few and limited.

What Others Think:

Amie’s Book Review Blog

Now Very Bad

Dan Absalonson

Giveaway & Interview: Franz Ross, Author of Our Future Good

KirbyOurFutureGoodFolks, please welcome Franz Ross (aka T. J. Kirby), author of Our Future Good. I really enjoyed Our Future Good, a sharp mix of near-future scifi and social commentary. The audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, one of my all-time favorite narrators. He’s here today for a lovely chat about physics in science fiction writing, holography, life as a realtor, Warren Buffett, and much more. If you’re here for the giveaway, Franz if offering up 3 audiobook copies of Our Future Good. Scroll to the bottom to enter!

You have a dedicated interest in holography. How did you get started in that? How has the hobby changed over the decades?

I have a small publishing business and I happened to see a notice that these guys were giving classes on how to make your own holograms.  If you ever see a real good volume hologram (a hologram that actually forms an image in space out in front of the plate) it is very impressive. People that have never seen one spend a lot of time running their hand through the ghost-like image.

So I did a book with the people that conducted these classes and the book was called the Holography Handbook and it was very well received. Both MacMillan and McGraw-Hill put it in their book clubs and the book sold well in stores too.

I then went on to do a series called the Holography Marketplace which had 8 editions and came out almost annually. Each edition had articles on holography and a database of all the businesses in holography. Each edition was also filled with lots of holograms from various vendors.

Artistic holography was very big for quite a while and there were hologram stores in lots of cities. It has kind of died down now and most uses of holograms today are in security devices like credit cards, money and things like that. It will probably come back in time.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Aldous Huxley. I thought Brave New World was an interesting insight to where things might go. The other possibility for the future was 1984. It would be interesting to hear his comments.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Being a Realtor is very difficult because you never know what is going to happen or where your next dollar will come from.

Writing takes a long time and it is more time consuming and difficult than I first thought but you do it because you love doing it.

Who are your non-writer influences? 

I like to casually follow stocks so people like Warren Buffett are interesting.

I really like cutting edge science so the things that people like Elon Musk are doing are very interesting. It is really exciting to be alive today because everything is changing so rapidly.

You have a degree in physics. Did that make writing your book, Our Future Good, easier or more difficult? 

It helps a little because it allows you to discount a lot of the garbage in the news and gives you a more realistic idea as to where things are going to go. Our Future Good is the not too distant future and I think people will be surprised how quickly these things come to exist.

I will take this moment to sketch this out: One way of looking at the near future is that there will be 3 major human inventions during our time. The inventions will be so important that you would have to go all the way back to the invention of written language or the wheel to find something comparable.

1)     The internet – We have just started this one and it is difficult to understand how incredible it is because you are living it.

2)     Mobile Robotic Devices – This has not started yet but it is coming very soon. Call them robots if you like. Robots will make robots and repair robots. So you will be able to create huge quantities of robots if needed and they will do all our mundane chores.

3)     Biological Evolution – This comes soon too. To survive as humans we have always gone out and wacked a plant or animal to death and then stuffed it in our mouth to get the nourishment we need. So we are basically using our body as a garbage disposal that leaches out nutrients that we need and this process also slowly clogs up our plumbing and kills us. We will find a way to provide all the nutrients our body needs without going through all this waste.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging? 

I really have to spend more time on this. I published a number of books by other authors in my business called Ross Books (www.rossbooks.com) but I never actually wrote a book before Our Future Good.

I admit I am not good at self-promotion and I need to work on it. Maybe your readers have some ideas.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

1984

Brave New World

Some of Isaac Asimov’s voluminous writings (hundreds of books).

Arthur Clarke

H. G. Wells

Ray Bradbury

Thank you Franz for spending time with us!

Book Blurb for Our Future Good:

KirbyOurFutureGoodMary and Joe are young people just graduating from their General Lessons. It is time for them to go to their first Project Day and choose the first Project they will to join. Mary wants desperately to get her boyfriend Joe to join her in the NutriSuit Project, but Joe wants just as desperately to do a Journalist Project because a major event is happening and Joe has an opportunity to play an important role

Places to Find Franz Ross (T. J. Kirby)

Ross Books

T. J. Kirby Website

Goodreads

Audible

Amazon

Now for the Giveaway! Franz Ross is offering up 3 (three!) copies of the audiobook Our Future Good. You need to have an Audible.com (USA) account. For a quick, easy entry in to the giveaway, leave me comment with the following: an email address, do you have an Audible USA account?, and recommend a scifi audiobook. For even more chances to win, do the rafflecopter thing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Raving Violet by Valerie Gilbert

GilbertRavingVioletWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author/narrator (thanks!)

Narrator: Valerie Gilbert

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Length: 7 hours 33 minutes

Author’s Page

For those of you who have followed Valerie Gilbert on her blog, Raving Violet, you won’t be a stranger to the various essays and stories, ramblings and musings, contained in this book. The collection varies from the humorous to the serious, the ranting to the spiritual, the mundane to the extraordinary. Set in New York over some months in 2011 and 2012, Valerie talks candidly about her life, her friends, her dead parents, and her love life (or sometimes the lack of one).

This book starts with a little forward that explains the author’s acknowledged growth as a writer through these essays and blogging. Initially, she was tempted to cut out some of the earlier works, but in the end, she left them in. As a listener, I could see in the space of this one book how her writing skill grew from start to finish.

There were parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed and other parts that didn’t do it for me. First, the good stuff. In general, Gilbert is putting a positive message out there centered around trusting oneself. She shares many stories about her own quest to find this center and learning to trust it. Most of the time, I found these stories amusing, and sometimes insightful. I enjoyed her tales of her pets, of good times with good friends, and of food.

Then there were chunks of the book that were kind of ho-hum for me. The author is very much into seances, mediums, channeling, readings, and various spiritual endeavors, teachings, and workshops. These things hold very little interest to me personally. When these tales were more about the story than the message, they held my interest and some I even found amusing and intriguing. However, there were periods where the narrative got hung up on giving a long, and sometimes rambling, spiritual message along with an explanation of the message. These sections were of little interest to me.

I found some of the spiritual endeavors interesting because human behavior is interesting. First, I was a bit surprised at how many people will pay money for some of these activities, teachings, and workshops. That statement is just me showing my ignorance. After all, people tithe churches, so why not pay for a weekend retreat to learn how to develop your psychic abilities? Then there is also the difference between channeling, being a medium, and simply having psychic abilities or being sensitive to another’s spirit. There are actual definitions and various, certified trainings one can take for each of these. The structure that went into classifying and defining these different abilities was a new thought to me.

Apparently there are many, many famous channelers and mediums and psychics out there. Gilbert walks you through some of her personal experiences with some of these famous folk, such as the hugging lady of India. There was also an Irish guru, who’s style and message weren’t to Gilbert’s liking. While Gilbert focused on the positive experiences throughout much of the book, I often found the not-so-positive more fascinating. The author doesn’t believe every self-proclaimed guru, medium, or psychic. Instead, she cautions that each person should listen to themselves first, and then carefully consider any spiritual messages received from without.

All in all, the book had a few gems that had me chuckling out loud or quirking an eyebrow.

Narration:  NOTE: I listened to an older version of this book. Since then, the author/narrator has re-recorded this book and I gave it a spot listen (you can download the new version from Audible if you have the old) and it is a quality audiobook with no background noises.What follows is my original review of the older version.

By now, I have listened to several audiobooks narrated by Valerie Gilbert. All have been top notch in sound quality….except this one. There were background sounds throughout the book, such as sirens and honking horns. This was a little distracting. Other than that, the production was good. Gilbert was enthusiastic about the book, imbuing it with emotion, humor, shock, awe, warmth, etc.

What I Liked: Humorous stories; the writing skill improves as the book continues; over all message is positive and is about trusting oneself; the cover art.

What I Disliked:  Much of the spiritual stories held little interest for me; sometimes the spiritual message went on at length and was a little rambly.

What Others Think:

Author Ingrid Hall

Black Opal Books

Ravenz Reviews

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

GladstoneThreePartsDeadWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Claudia Alick

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2012)

Length: 13 hours 7 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Craft Sequence

Author’s Page

Tara barely graduated and was, in fact, kicked of of school upon gradation. Still, she managed to land a provisional job with a firm. Her first task is to use her Craft to find out how and why the fire god Kos died. The city of Alt Coloumb, once powered by the fires of Kos, is slowing down; soon, there may be riots, or worse.

This is a wonderfully complex tale, full of the imaginative (using star-light fired Craft to argue legalities), the unexpected (gargoyle protectors and vampire sailors), and the impertinent (Tara, our lead character). The world in which Alt Coulumb is set is big, but thankfully, the author has nearly all the scenes set in the city itself. There is a lot going on this world and this city is a great place to get some of the basics down. In a world of multiple deities, and some dead ones, we also have the once-human Deathless Kings, vampires, Stone Men, Wardens, and much more. There is plenty here to keep the reader entertained.

The magic system does take some getting use to. At first, we learn a few bits and bobs and then just have to believe it works. As the story unfolds, Tara, and her mentor Lady Elayne Kevarian, explain more of the mechanics to Abelard, a priest of Kos. Abelard doesn’t need to know how Kos’s power works; faith alone is enough for him. However, he can’t help but be curious as to what Tara is doing with her powers, and the body, in figuring out the mystery of who is responsible. So don’t worry too much about the mechanics of the Craft. Much will be revealed, a little won’t; but it’s all entertaining and worthy.

Tara herself is a joy to follow around. She has a sense of humor, a strong idea of write and wrong, and just enough crazy to jump in with eyes closed when that seems like the quickest route (or the only way). She was a wonderful character to explore this new world with. Her partner in justice, Abelard, was also fun, but in a different way. He approaches life quite a bit differently, through faith, and leather pants. Then there was Lady Kevarian – who may be good, may be evil, or simply might be on Tara’s side for now because it is convenient. I like having characters like this in the mix – they keep me (and the characters) guessing.

With more than one dead body to mess with, Tara has her hands full. Then toss in the Wardens, the Stone Men, and some other hazardous beings and you have a very good time (even if Tara doesn’t, running around constantly trying to keep herself alive).

The Narration: Claudia Alick was a good fit for Tara. She gave her the right mix of sincere quest for the truth and a shrug of the shoulders as you dive off the cliff.  She had a variety of male and female voices, plus really spooky voices for some of the not-quite-human beings we run into. 

What I Liked: The cover art; excellent narration; Tara was a very fun character; such a fascinating world!; gargoyles!; a very satisfying end.

What I Disliked: Nothing! This book was a real treat!

What Others Think:

i09

Strange Horizons

The Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

SF Signal

SFF World

Best Fantasy Books

Staffer’s Book Review

Rulers to the Sky

Here There Be Books

Two Serpents Rise – Part II

GladstoneTwoSerpentsRisingHello everyone! Welcome to the Two Serpents Rise read along! You can catch the schedule over HERE. Feel free to join us in the comments if you like!

This week, Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow your host, so make sure to swing by her blog to see what she thinks, along with everyone else thinks.

1)  So we’re halfway in, and we seem to have uncovered the culprit already… What did you make of the confrontation at Seven Leaf?

I was surprised twice over – 1) that there was actually someone at Seven Leaf to confront and 2) that they not only won, but utterly destroyed their opponent. Since we still have half the book to go, I think we can safely say there is more to come.

Alesandra was probably someone’s pawn, but who’s? We met her first working for Alaxic, but I think it would be a little simple to point the finger at him and him alone.

I have suspicions about Mal, but there’s a question about her below, so I will put my speculations there.

2)  Temoc is still turning up at random, and still protesting his innocence. Doth he protest too much…?

Well, he has been pretty specific in exactly what he is innocent of. He has stated he was not responsible for the tzemoc in Bright Mirror, nor did he contaminate Seven Leaf with the wee beasties. I can’t recall if he said he was clear of the explosion.

Now if we were finding heartless bodies on stone altars, I would be highly suspicious of him. But so far, those have been confined to the past.

Still, someone used Alesandra as a pawn and Temoc could very well be involved in something much, much bigger, and possibly is being used as a figurehead pawn himself.

3)  The Red King. Discuss.

This is a complicated, power-hungry, and super powerful being. He nearly squished Caleb, but he then healed him. So, perhaps he has forgotten how frail us mere humans are. He also lost his lover to the sacrificial table years ago. Obviously, this strongly affected him. I want to know more about how Alaxic was a part of that, and I want to know how he was let off of charges. Why didn’t the Red King kill him in the chaos? What force or legal system could be strong enough to restrain the Red King from killing Alaxic afterwards?

He trusts Caleb, which is a very healthy thing for Caleb, but doesn’t trust Mal. I’m not sure I do either.

4)  And let’s not forget Mal! I confess, I did not see any of those surprises coming. What do you think of Caleb’s ‘sweetheart’ now?

Mal, Mal, Mal. Wow. So where to begin! When she walked out on stage for the signing ceremony I was totally surprised. But that was nothing compared to the surprises we get later in the section.

I really liked the chemistry building between Mal and Caleb, and they seem to like it too. Their dance date was quite sweet and sexy. They also chat about the bigger things (like feeling alive) and the hard stuff (Caleb’s dad and the new order versus the old god worship). So part of me wants these two to work and be able to ride off into the sunset.

But then there are little things that make me think they are working for different teams, kind of like two spies for different organizations that may or may not have opposing goals.

Mal was doing really good at dodging Caleb’s questions. He did try to dodge some of hers. I couldn’t tell if she was relieved to find out Caleb could hold his own, and therefore, giver her back up at Seven Leaf, or having to quickly rethink all her plans for how things would go down at Seven Leaf.

Then they get there and Caleb gets into a bind and is nearly beaten. Mal seems to think that he is dead and she says something along the lines that Caleb wasn’t to be part of this and that’s when she goes all badass on Alesandra. So, was it an innocent, enraged comment made by someone who thinks they just lost a boyfriend? Or was she drawing a line with her comrades and in fury and shame took out Alesandra?

My suspicions are further heightened learning more about how her parents died, and also how she feels about all of it – the trapping and diminishing of the old spirits, and the old ways, the current unending use of the trapped spirits, etc.

Or, I could be way too suspicious.

Other Tidbits:

It was so creepy seeing all the trapped revenants and spirits and whethered gods in Seven Leaf. And that of course means the same is most likely true for Bright Mirror Reservoir as well. A city build on the entrapment of such beings is probably a ticking time bomb.

So Caleb has had Mal’s pendant all this time and we haven’t seen him do anything with it, nor anything terribly drastic happen to him. Mal did chat a little bit about where she got it, but nothing in depth. Is the pendant important or am I just fixated on the shiny?

Temoc made the comment that Caleb sleeps like a stone most nights. Does this mean he pops in regularly to watch his son sleep? I’m not sure if that is sweet or creepy.

Mal believes in blood atonement. This freaks Caleb out. Mal thinks human sacrifice is OK as long as they are volunteers who understand the end they are in for and that they want to die. If Mal gets her way and they do set up a volunteer human sacrifice gig, then I really hope they put in a detailed and lengthy interview and counseling system, like they have for folks who want to change their genitalia drastically. It’s one of those things that can’t be undone.

Below are the blogs participating:

Lauren – Violin in a Void
Heather – The Bastard Title (who will be in and out as time allows)
Ria – Bibliotropic
Susan (me) – Dab of Darkness

The Vampire Dancer Saga: Part 3 by Shalimar Ali

AliTheVampireDancerSagaPart3Where I Got It: Won a copy from AudaVoxx (thanks!).

Narrators: Fatimah Halim, J. Lyle

Publisher: Belly Dance with Shalimar Ali (2014)

Length: 1 hour 7 minutes

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works OK as a stand alone.

Told in a series of short scenes, ancient queens and vampires compete and couple in the past, just as their dopplegangers do the same in our time. From Cleopatra to Dracula, belly dancing to the grind, ancient witch Queen Salome to modern day witch Grany Rosa Smith, this tale is anything but traditional.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of this book. It does skip around quickly, so you have to pay close attention. There is also a large cast of characters, so you never have time to get attached to any one character. Instead, you simply have to sit back and enjoy the experience, like watching an hour of 80s music videos. Not every video has to make 100% sense, and they don’t have to necessarily relate to one another, and you certainly don’t get to know the individual band members from the one video they feature in within that hour.

The over all experience was definitely different. I wouldn’t have thought to pair vampires and belly dancing, both of which can be sexy things. I liked that we had more female roles than male roles (something that is still hard to find in today’s literature). However, I didn’t like that at least half of these ladies were in direct competition with each of for a man. Sigh. So cliche.

Still, it was an interesting experience and for an hour’s entertainment, you could do far worse.

The Narration: Fatimah Halim and J. Lyle were excellent narrators. For having to switch characters, locations, and times so often they did a very nice job. I really liked Halim’s rich, full voice that made me think of comfort food and curvy sexy women all at once. J. Lyle had to pull off some accents while sounding like he had pointy teeth, which he did very well.  

What I Liked: The cover art; the narration; so very different than anything else I have read lately; belly dancing!; plenty of female roles.

What I Disliked: Often the ladies were in competition with each for a man’s attention, which is simply boring.