Origins of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer

BernheimerOriginsD-ListSupervillainWhy I Read It: Really enjoyed other works by the author.

Where I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Anyone like superhero stories? Want to know how to become a lesser Supervillain? Check this book out!

Narrators: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Jim Bernheimer (2014)

Length: 7 hours 1 minute

Series: Book 1 D-List Supervillain

Author’s Page

Having enjoyed several other Jim Bernheimer books, I had to give this one a go. I was not disappointed at all. Even though it is written after Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, it is actually set directly before it in story timeline. Our hero (or villain) of the story was once an engineer working for Ultraweapon. However, when a boss basically steals his design for a bigger, badder force blaster, he quits seeking glory and decent pay through self-employment. But Ultrweapon’s parent company, the Promethia Corporation, hound him with lawyers. Hence, he needed a place to hide; he needed a supervillain’s lair. Why not shack up with his buddy in an underground mechanic’s workshop? Sounds perfect. Except for the lack of plumbing.

As Cal (AKA MechniCal) works his way into supervillainy, he becomes aware of the need for cash to buy the supplies needed to build his mechwarrior suit. Hence, the bank robbing. He has a specially programmed getaway car, operated by a blow up doll in a suit and hat. But eventually, Cal gets caught. And no, it is not a long, hard chase, taking out numerous buildings, etc. He’s caught by the Superhero known as The Bugler. Yep. Cal was bugled into submission. Granted, the Bugler employs this sonic device that can melt your eardrums, but a pair of mufflers would have come in pretty handy. Cal was kicking his own butt over that one for a long, long time.

As with Confessions, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In fact, it only took two sessions of listening for me to devour this book. Cal’s dry sense of humor, the occasional self-deprecating naughty joke, the kicking of the little guy while he is down – all of that had me bonding with Cal and hoping he would rise to infamy and world domination. Then there are the other Supervillains that always let Cal know how little he is in the pond filled with very big fish. They make demands on him, because, quite frankly, he’s good at building mechanical gizmos and weapons.

While this book has more female characters than Confessions, they play lesser roles. That’s my only criticism. I would love to see Cal go eye to eye with some lady mechanic who grew up working in a Hispanic car garage, bench pressing transmissions, using engine grease for permanent tattoos, and is impervious to head trauma due to repeatedly knocking the guys out with head butts. But that could just be me. Cal might be a bit intimidated by such a woman.

Both Confessions and Origins can be read as stand-alones, though I think newcomers would find a little more enjoyment reading Origins first then Confessions. I eagerly await the next installment in Cal’s story.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer once again kicked ass. His narration is so full of energy and he does a great job making the characters distinct. There is this one female character that tends to talk at super fast speeds, and Kafer pulled that off. Very impressive performance!

What I Liked: Cal is so easy to identify with; cool tech; funny superpowers (like the sonic bugling); Cal is permanently in a tight spot.

What I Disliked: Few women in the story.

What Others Think:

Grigory Lukin

Treasure of the Silver Star by Michael Angel

AngelTreasureOfTheSilverStarWhy I Read It: Space opera that combines treasure hunting, archaeology, and space chase – can’t miss that!

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For light space opera junkies.

Narrator: Lee Strayer

Publisher: Banty Hen Publishing (2013)

Length: 5 hours 34 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a far flung galaxy, we have a disgraced starship captain (Drake) and an independent archaeologist (Tally) who must join forces to save the galaxy and perhaps earn a little money. Drake’s command crew made me think of Star Trek (Sebastien, Kincaide, Ferra, etc.) and the space battle scenes were reminiscent of Star Wars battles. Definitely a mix mash of pulp fiction and space opera.Drake struggles through the book to regain his former polish and glory after wrongly being placed in the Losers box with a bunch of Loser rejects on a Loser ship.

Then we have the treasure hunter/archaeology aspect thrown in. Tally made me think of a female Indiana Jones; she was very focused on her goal and not afraid of the physical effort it would take to get it. She had some of the most interesting scenes because they had to do with history, and therefore, had the most detail.

The plot was pretty straight forward and the characters, once established, didn’t change much. The bad guys were stereotypical and our heroes are 100% good guys. Normally, I enjoy a bit more variation in all of that, but for a fast paced, short space opera, it was decent. If you have some task where you need your hands and a bit of concentration, then this would be good braincandy for the background.

We had more men than women and I would have enjoyed seeing that a bit more balanced. But the few females we had in the storyline added to the plot and weren’t just scenery. The one sex scene came off as a bit awkward and didn’t engage my libido. I like my sex scenes and if one (or more) are going to be thrown in, they should count.

Narration: Lee Strayer did a good job of keeping the characters distinct. There were a few passages where the sentences were repeated, so not the cleanest on final editing. Still, the actual narration was well done with clear feminine and masculine voices, different accents, and proper emotions.

What I Liked: Fast-paced; fun; archaeology, hurray!; space battles!; treasure hunting; the ending.

What I Disliked: Only a few female characters; awkward sex scene; no character growth.

Reich by Drew Avera

AveraReichWhy I Read It: Odd as it sounds, I have never contemplated a world where Hitler and/or the Reich lived on, so this book intrigued me.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy your speculative fiction doused with a political or mildly moral bent, then check this out.

Narrator: Kieth L. O’Brien

Publisher: Drew Alexander Avera (2013)

Length: 1 hour 52 minutes

Author’s Page

Set roughly ~150 years after Hitler’s death, the citizens of Germany still live under the Reich, the Aryan Nation reigning supreme within her borders. Life is orderly, a little too orderly, and plenty of people stomp around in big boots and ill-designed uniforms. The average citizen of Germany lives in a tyrannical hell, and those that keep the order abuse it. Without giving away a huge plot twist, this book is more than the back cover description gives it credit for.

We open with a boy who runs afoul of authority. I have to say that the first three jumps, or was it four?, in point of view through me in a creeped-out-by-the-viciousness-of-authority-gone-astray kind of way. Folks die in this book people, hence some of the shifting POVs. Yet, everyone is a hero in their own heads. I definitely enjoy a tale where everyone believes that they aren’t really all that bad. So it was good to show that through the shifting POVs.

At under 2 hours, the plot has to move along pretty quickly. So we start with the view of the average citizen born and raised this in this new Germany, then learn the BIG SECRET, which is followed by a rebellion of the citizens. A young mother ends up leading this rebellion and we end up following her for most of the book. While I found her character a bit lacking in military leadership skills (she is chaperoned around everywhere by chivalrous men), I can see her as a very efficient administrator of a country.

There wasn’t much in the way of character development once the character was established, but then, this isn’t a very long piece. I was more fascinated with the plot and the idea of a world where Hitler and/or the Reich are worshiped and carried on in some way. Other than that very questionable movie about Nazis setting up a long-term camp on the moon (oh and it was short story from the 1950s too, I think), I have never really contemplated this. Toss in Avera’s twist (which has something to do with misplaced authority on a very large scale) and you have an ever deeper level of contemplation.

All in all, Drew Avera is an author to keep an eye on, specifically his writing pen, to see what he turns out next.

Narration: O’Brien did a good job narrating this story. His German accent and little bit of German was well done (to my ears which have only had 2 years of school German). His little kid and female voices were believable and each character was distinct.

What I Liked: Interesting story premise; very interesting plot twist; enjoyed the shifting POVs at the beginning; everyone is a hero in their own heads.

What I Disliked: Could use more women.

What Others Think:

Christoph Fischer (review & interview)

Mich’s Book Reviews

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

GrimesVertigo42Why I Read It: Have enjoyed her other works.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Cozy mystery fans.

Narrator: Steve West

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 11 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 23 Richard Jury

Author’s Page

Note: Although this is Book 23 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

A well off widower, Tom Williamson, wants the death of his wife, Tess, reopened. He seeks out Richard Jury’s help. Of course the death was 9 years ago and it was ruled an accident. There’s very little for Jury to go on. But there is this vague connection to a death of a child that happened at the same house a few years before Tess’s death. As Jury starts to dig into these two deaths, both ruled accidents, yet two more deaths occur in the nearby village. Oh, and there is this dog who appears lost but who might actually know more than the humans.

Vertigo 42 is a spritzy bar on the 42 floor of some fancy building in some fancy part of London. Plus the name of the bar keeps the idea of vertigo in the reader’s mind, which is important since Tess supposedly died due to falling, which was due to her vertigo. Tom Williamson comes off as a decent chap and Jury is drawn into the tale of his wife. When Jury consults Macalvie, he becomes even more interested. The child who died a few years before Tess was not was liked by her peers, since she was a bully and a bit of a terror. Questions abound concerning the child’s death, and those questions lead to the question: was Tess murdered for some supposed part in the child’s death or did she commit suicide in some depressed fog?

This murder mystery was quite fun to puzzle out, with the two deaths of the past and the two in Jury’s present. At first they don’t appear to be connected, and for a good quarter of the book I thought Jury might have two separate mysteries to work out. Even after it becomes clear that all the deaths are linked, it was quite fun to see how they were linked.

Jury, of course, is wonderful mind to ride around in, but I especially enjoyed his interactions with the gruff Macalvie.  Macalvie doesn’t pull his punches, tells it how he sees it. Plus he had a personal connection to one of the deceased, so we got to see a little more of his softer side.

And then there was the stray dog Stanley. Jury came upon the dog and rescued him, taking him to some of his friends who live in the ‘country’. Well, they have one cow and one cow is better than no cow. But the new owners have some funny rule that all animals on the farm have to have a name that start with a certain syllable (which I have forgotten). But it made me think of all those families that decide to names their kids with names that start with the same letter (Paca, Padraic, Pedr, Perele, etc.). Of course, Stanley only responds to his name, and hence, only to Jury.

There was plenty of food in this book, something that I always enjoy, but yet can be a pleasant torture if I am hard at work and thinking about food. Wiggins (the ever congested) was treated to some very tasty cheesecake. Over all, I think I enjoyed this mystery the most of the few Jury books I have read. It was complicated, but not so entangled a reader would have trouble following it. My favorite characters got to play nicely together. My only complaint is that we have so few females playing important roles in the story. There were several females in minor roles – love interests, witnesses, the dead, etc. But none of them get to run around helping Jury out.

The Narration: Steve West once again did a great job.  I still enjoy his gruff Macalvie the most. Also the congested Wiggins is always fun to listen to.

What I Liked: The mystery was indeed a real mystery in this episode of Jury’s life; plenty of featured food; Stanley the dog.

What I Disliked: The ladies are window dressing.

What Others Think:

Sherry Torgent

Read Me Deadly

KD Did It Takes On Books

20 Something Reads

All Clear by Connie Willis

WillisAllClearWhy I Read It: I loved the first book in this duology, Blackout.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: WWII historical fiction fans who don’t mind a bit of time travel.

Narrator: Katherine Kellgren

Publisher: Audible Frontiers (2010)

Length: 23 hours 46 minutes

Series: Book 2 All Clear

Author’s Page

If you haven’t read Blackout, you need to do so before reading this book because the All Clear definitely needs it in order to understand the characters and setting.

This was an amazing conclusion to the party started by my favorite characters in Blackout. Eileen, Polly, and Mike are still trapped in WWII England during the Blitz with none of their drops opening. They come up with several creative ways to let Oxford of 2060 know where and when they are all the while trying to affect the timeline of WWII as little as possible. But despite their best of intentions, they are each thrown into situations where they simply can’t stand back and do nothing. Which of course causes them to doubt that age old rule about time travel: Historians can’t affect the timeline. Polly and Mike, our experienced travelers, try to keep their concerns about having affected the timeline from Eileen (because it is her first assignment). Lots of action in this meticulously researched book.

I am going to go all gushy on this book and try very very hard not to spoil any plot points. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. If I ever have to do high school History Class again, please let them assign any of Connie Willis’s time travel novels! If I had had this book in high school, I might have gone on to major in History instead of Environmental Science. WWII had so much happening in it that I was totally oblivious to. For England, everyone was affected by the War, and nearly everyone had a role to play in it – young, old, woman, man, chorus girls, rectors, fire fighters, puzzle solvers, shop girls, and nurses. That is something that I really didn’t understand until I read this duology. All the wars I have been alive for have been fought on foreign soil and my daily life has not been affected by them. I feel a little uncomfortable saying that, now that I know how much WWII affected the world.

The characters were so much fun. Of course we have our main characters (Eileen, Polly, and Mike) but even the side characters all have these little ticks and notches that make them very real and personable. I especially loved the Hodbin children (Vinny and Alf) in book 1 and they have an appearance in book 2. Mr. Humphreys and Sir Godfrey, the chorus girls, and the ambulance drivers, even the characters from 2060 – they all make an excellent backdrop for our main characters. At first, I was a little frustrated that Mike and Polly wanted to keep so much from Eileen (to keep her from worrying) even though they are all stuck in the same barrel of sharks. But by the end, Eileen proves to be very resilient. So my initial frustration turned into deep satisfaction when Eileen is proven to be made of stern stuff.

This book has more than one plot line. We have Mike, Polly, and Eileen in the Blitz and then skip forward a few more years and we have Ernest towards the end of the war working with the puzzle solvers and Intelligence team that gave out false info in order to fool the Germans. We also have Mary, an ambulance driver, during the V1 and V2 rocket bombardment. Then we also have little snippets of 2060 Oxford. Towards the end of the book, we get one or two more short timelines. Despite all that, I felt it wasn’t too hard to follow. Perhaps this is because each chapter starts with a time and location.

The ending wrapped up questions about time travel, and required sacrifice. It was a beautiful ending that really spoke to the underlying theme of the ‘unsung hero’, those who served the country simply by holding it together. If you are one of those folks who have found WWII to be a dull topic, I ask you to give these books a chance – they could very well change your mind.

The Narration: Katherin Kellgren did a great job with this large cast of characters, nearly all of them with English accents. I loved how patient Eileen sounded, how the Hodbins could put curiosity and fake innocence into such simple sentences, and Mike’s American accent. The audio version of this book has a short forward by the author in which she explains some of her inspiration for a few of the characters in the books.

What I Liked: Time travel is used as a tool and it doesn’t go all mystical trying to explain the physics of how it works; I learned a lot about WWII from this duology; there’s a bit of Shakespeare; the Hodbins and Alf’s pet snake; how everyone was affected by the war and had to chip in and help out; very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: If you aren’t paying attention, you may get a little muddled on the timelines (but you can always flip to the chapter heading to figure out when you are).

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

SF Reviews

SF Site

Adventures in Scifi Publishing

Medieval Bookworm

Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs

Claudie, one of the ugliest cats I have ever owned.

Claudie, one of the ugliest cats I have ever owned.

Why I Read It: I really enjoy other books in this series.

Where I Got It: paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Arm-chair sleuths who enjoy a bit of scientific jargon.

Narrator: Michele Pawk

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2005)

Length: 11 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 8 Temperance Brennan

Author’s Page

Even though this is Book 8 in the series, it worked perfectly as a stand alone.

Dr. Tempe has to investigate the evident suicide of an Orthodox Jewish man in Montreal. One question leads to another. Was this really a suicide? Why were the cats locked in the closet with the body? At his detailed autopsy, a stranger slips Tempe a picture of a skeleton uncovered at an archaeological dig site. The man disappears leaving her with more questions than answers. Turns out those answers can be found in Israel. So can many, many foes, including hyenas. This tale included plenty of archaeology that relates to religion, making it a very touchy case for many folks involved.

I have only read a handful of books in this series, but I quite enjoy them. This one was the hardest for me to get into. The main drama of the story surrounds the question of whether or not Jesus died on the cross and afterward ascended to heaven, or if he decided to stay on Earth and have a family. Not being religious, this question didn’t really interest me, and so the drama of the book was rather muted for me. Instead, I enjoyed the intricate plot.

There were plenty of characters with shady motives and Tempe and her sexy times man, Detective Andrew Ryan, had to figure out who they could trust and how far. Biblical archaeologist Jake Drum, long-time friend of Tempe’s, helps her ID the mystery photo and fills her in on the scandal that accompanied that particular dig site in the 1960s. Later, he joins Tempe in Israel and assists her in tracking down the physical site, people, and info. But even he comes under suspicion as the pieces of the puzzle start to come together.

The plot takes them back home to Montreal for the wrap up. Honestly, I did get a little fuddled towards the end. The plot was great until Tempe started trying to tie all the pieces together and then I got a little lost. The main points were good, and at the end I understood why the murderer did as they did. But some of the finer points flew over my head. It was a larger cast of characters than I have seen in other Temperance Brennan books.

I did learn two things that have stuck with me. 1) Joshua is an old spelling of Jesus. 2) There are hyenas in Israel (which I just think is freaking cool). If you do enjoy bible mysteries and have questions about whether or not Jesus fathered children, or had brothers and sisters, then this book will probably hold some extra entertainment value for you. the aspect was well done; I simply didn’t have much interest in the true answer one way or another.

The Narration: Michele Pawk did a very good job. This particular installation of the series required excellent pronunciation of several Jewish names, since a chunk of the book takes place in Israel. Pawk definitely met the challenge. Her masculine voices could use a little more work, but her voice for Tempe was really good.

What I Liked: The cover; hyenas; plenty of intrigue; lots of suspicious characters with their own motives.

What I Disliked: I was not invested in the central drama of the big biblical question of Jesus’s family; some of the side intrigues got away from me and I lost track of where they came from and why they went where they did.

What Others Think:

Book Reporter

Onyx Reviews

all the books i can read

Bookworm Burrow

My Years of Reading Seriously

 

Summerland by Michael Chabon

ChabonSummerlandWhy I Read It: A friend highly recommended it.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from a friend (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you like baseball with some mythology adventure thrown in, then check this book out.

Narrator: Michael Chabon

Publisher: HighBridge Company (2002)

Length: 12 CDs or so

Author’s Page

Ethan Feld doesn’t really like baseball. He finds it boring, isn’t any good at it, and his team usually loses. However, his father is a big fan of baseball in all its forms and his best friend, Jennifer T. Rideout, insists he keep playing. Set on Clam Island, Washington, these youngins soon become embroiled in the an impending war between Coyote (known by many names including Loki) and Clam Island fairies. this story couples Native American mythology with Nordic tales and deities, and then throws in some American baseball. It was a pretty crazy ride.

This story seemlessly, beautifully blends beings from the Nordic and Native American mythos. I had not seen this done so well before and I quite enjoyed this particular aspect of the book. We have these Clam Island fairies that are more Native American than pasty white pixies with red hair. There’s Padfoot, servant of Coyote who lives in a very cold place and is somewhat mad. Sasquatches and la llarona (the wailing woman in white who steals children) also make appearances. And there are plenty of images of the World Tree as our heroes learn to slip, skip, and trip along branches and twigs to get from place to place. And that is just a taste of all the mythology that was wonderfully sewn into this tale.

The characters were often fascinating. Ethan’s mom, a doctor, died and he and his dad have been trying to live a normal happy life since. Ethan’s dad is an inventor trying to garner interest and financial backing for his family-sized zeppelin. Jennifer T. (as she likes to be called) comes from a messy homelife, but her aunties are cool. She too is a lover of baseball. Then there is Thor. He often pretends he is an android to make it easier (for him) to deal with normal humans. As the story unfolds, we learn that Thor has a hidden past and a hidden talent. The various supernatural beings that enter the story often have more than just a name – they have histories and agendas of their own.

And then we have the baseball aspect. I had to laugh a little because near the beginning of the story as Mr. Feld is driving Ethan to yet another baseball game, Ethan complains that baseball is boring. Mr. Feld says that something is only boring when you are not paying enough attention to it. There is a lot of baseball in this book. There’s the little league game that starts the book off, then the multitude of games throughout the book (many against or with supernatural beings), and too much baseball jargon even when a game is not occurring. Before this book, I had no real opinion on baseball. I didn’t watch it, and only ever played it when required to in gradeschool. But now I have a rather strong opinion on baseball; it is, indeed, quite boring. Baseball sucked the life out of this book. I had to struggle to finish it.

So, do I recommend it to you? Well, it is very well written. And has really endearing characters and plenty of mythology. But, do you like baseball? If you dislike baseball, then I would recommend giving this book a pass. If you are indifferent to the sport, sure check it out, it might work for you. If you enjoy baseball and mythology, then this may be the best book you read all year.

Narration:  Michael Chabon is an excellent narrator. And he didn’t take the easy road on some of his characters. He went all out making up plenty of individual voices for the plethora of supernatural beings he wrote into this work. His female voices were decent. I especially loved his efforts on the voices of the giants.

What I Liked:  Lots of mythology; great characters with excellent detail and back stories; great narration.

What I Disliked: Way too much baseball.

What Others Think:

Book Reporter

Bibliomantics

The Book Book

Things Mean A Lot

OnceUponATime8Tis the season for fantasy in all forms. Join the reading challenge Once Upon A Time, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. You can catch my intro post to this year’s challenge over HERE. Anyone can join this event, which runs from March 21 – June 20, 2014.