Pariah by Thomas Emson

EmsonPariahWhere I Got It: Review copy via the publisher via Edelweiss (thanks!).

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2013)

Narrator: Simon Vance

Length: 10 hours 55 minutes

Author’s Page

The 1888 murders of 5 east end Londoners was never solved, though the cases became famous for the nick name given to the never-identified murderer: Jack the Ripper. East End suffers another murder spree in 1996, and again, the cases go unsolved. The bulk of the story takes place 2011, when Charlie Faultless returns to East End and the murders start again. There are foes at every turn and a deeper, darker mystery that he must get to the bottom of if he hopes to prevent the murders of people he cares about.

This was a dark and creepy mystery and I really enjoyed it. While it had a few shortcomings, I found that I didn’t want to put it down. The main hero, if you can call him a hero, is not exactly a good guy, though he is trying to do right by his dead mother and dead girlfriend, both of whom died in the 1996 murder spree. Charlie grew up involved in crime and that was his way of life until he was banished from England in 1996. In 2011, as a well known investigative writer, he returns to London to delve into the 1996 murders. He reconnects with some past criminal associates and a few old friends, and not a few enemies bent on revenge. I really enjoyed this character because he isn’t going about these activities out of some new found idea of right and wrong but out of duty to what was his. Charlie’s character grows a bit with the book, as he connects with those now threatened, and as he learns about his true nature (which happens at the very end, so I can’t say too much about that without dropping spoilers).

Meanwhile, we get to spend time in the heads of other people. There are a few women in the story (the little sister (Tash) to the dead girlfriend, her daughter (Jasmin), and a handful of other  minor characters). There is a deeper mystery to the story and the women are at the center of that mystery. Jack the Ripper is a recurring evil that is unleashed every so many decades. He hunts certain humans because he requires something from them, something hidden deep in each one; hence, all the cutting up of the bodies. These special humans can sense him and have a kind of prescience allowing them to somewhat predict events. Over the ages, these special humans have often banded together to hunt Jack and seal him away.

And that is where my little criticism came in. The male hunters (while minor characters) had very active roles in hunting down and sealing away Jack. We get several flashbacks throughout the story showing us how this was done. However, the women of the past and of the present are pretty much useless. Only towards the end, and only in a spotty way, do we see the ladies put up some sort of struggle or take an active role in hunting Jack. Mostly, they huddle around in tears talking about their horrid dreams of a man hunting them and slicing them apart. Oh, and the adult ladies have sex with various male characters. Yep, the ladies are written pretty shallowly in this book.

And despite that, I was riveted. The plot wove bits of the past with lots of the modern mess of criminal activity. Charlie’s character fascinated me because he didn’t consider himself a hero, but just a guy who had set his mind to accomplish this one thing (bring down the murderer of his mum and girlfriend). Then there are all these fascinating bad guys who do pretty gruesome things (such as the dead girlfriend’s father, a crooked cop, and handiman, etc.). In each of their minds, they were their own hero and justified their actions.

The ending was terribly exciting and brutal. I really didn’t know how the outcome would go – Jack defeated or charlie broken? There is a very nice twist at the end and makes me deeply hope there will be a sequel to this tale.

Narration: Simon Vance did a great job, as always. He is one of my favorite authors and I will pick up a book by an author I have never heard of just because he is doing the narration. He had a very creepy voice for Jack and dark, intense voice for Charlie. Excellent performance!

What I Liked:   Nitty, gritty storyline; story shows us glimpses of the past; I like the idea of a secret society hunting the recurring evil known as Jack; excellent twist at the end. 

What I Disliked: The female characters were pretty shallow; the cover doesn’t encompass the dark, absorbing story contained within.

What Others Think:

Rea’s Reading & Reviews

The Eighth Day by Michael O’Neal

O'NealTheEighthDayWhere I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Robert Martinez

Length: 9 hours 42 minutes

Author’s Page

In a small town in Iowa, life turns messy for highschool senior Jay Anderson. He is accused of a drug crime he didn’t commit. Luckily, his friend Kathy sways the jury and gets him acquitted. But more than that is going on in this small town. Pretty soon Rachel, Ryan, and Jeff are pulled into the mystery as well. It seems some sort of sickness is spreading through out their town, making people irritable and paranoid. Men in suits with an unusually large armament show up. Pretty soon, the 5 friends have to leave the town or end up in a bad way.

In this action flick, the teens take on fantastic abilities while trying to save their friends and family, and perhaps the entire nation. It’s a mix of genres, with some gene splicing going on, alien life, conspiracy theories, and a touch of Christian morals lacing through it all. Jay and Kathy get the most page time and have the most character growth in the book. Ryan and Jeff play important second fiddles as the 5 travel the USA, then to Russia, and finally the Caribbean. Rachel often became non-existent in the narrative as she had so few lines; in fact, I had completely forgotten that she had traveled with the guys until her voice reappeared near the end.

The story starts off strong, with it’s mystery asteroid, the men in suits, and Jay prosecuted on false drug charges. The plot started to drift a bit after that, the various threads spreading so thinly that I wasn’t sure where the story was going. But during the final quarter of the book, the author brings it all back home and does a good job of wrapping it up. So if you started this book and felt that you were getting a bit lost, keep going – it all makes sense at the end.

Through out the tale, the kids do some fantastical things. Granted, two of them have some unusual biological abilities, but that doesn’t give them the ability to win trials or parachute jump successfully or fly airplanes (all on the first try). So I felt certain scenes were definitely stretching my ability to part with sensible reality. I wanted to root for the kids, but I also felt they weren’t truly equipped to do some of the things they accomplished in this book. Plus, many of the adults were written as simple obstacles meant to be pushed over by these young heroes. They didn’t have to struggle too much against the social norms or government system. There you have my one real criticism about this book. So, if you have a great ability to suspend disbelief, then check this book out.

Through out the book were touches of Christian morals and beliefs. I am not Christian, and for the most part, these didn’t bother me, until the last little bit of the book. There, I felt that the author was borderline preachy at points. By that point, I was invested in the book and wanted to see how it all turned out more than I was annoyed by the Christian moral advice. If you are into Christian fiction, then you would probably enjoy this little addition to the storyline.

I felt that Kathy did a good job of rescuing one of the guys as often as she needed rescuing. I would have liked to see more female characters. We have Kathy, her friend Rachel, someone’s mom, and much later in the book a female Navy or military officer. There is a plethora of male characters.

Over all it was an entertaining listen once I suspended by disbelieve and became attached to the two main characters. I also liked the addition of a dolphin later in the story.

Narration: Robert Martinez did a really good job with this story. He had a good range in voices and accents, making it easy to keep track of characters. Also, the characters were often thinking to themselves, so Martinez made the extra effort to put those lines into an internal dialogue sound. There was also a fighter pilot scene and he made it sound like the dialogue was coming over a radio. Very good performance!

What I Liked:  Fun, fast-paced action flick; Kathy makes a great female lead; plenty of plot lines that the author does a good job of tying together at the end. 

What I Disliked: The kids accomplish great feats that defy my ability to suspend my disbelief; there are few female characters.

Hetaera by Suzanne Tyrpak

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

Publisher: Adytum (2014)

Narrator: Laura Jennings

Length: 7 hours 42 minutes

Series: Book 1 Agathon’s Daughter

Author’s Page

Set in ancient Athens, this is a mix of mystery and romance. Hestia was born a bastard and has lived a life of servitude as a house slave. Her master, Agathon, reveals certain secrets upon his deathbed. Agathon’s widow, Melaina, sells Hestia to a local slaver. She in turn is bought by a wealthy man, Lycurgus, who was Agathon’s best friend. Toss in a love interest between Hestia and Diodorus, and you have an entertaining Greek soap opera.

I very much enjoyed this book even with its flaws. While the characters and the plot were a bit predictable, it was also easy to get attached to the main characters. Hestia has an intuition about people and is often blunt enough to speak her observations. Some praise her for this and others curse her. While a slave, she doesn’t simply allow life to happen to her. She makes choices throughout the book, some of which put her in danger. She does, at times, seem a bit too innocent. She has been a house slave all her life, but that doesn’t mean that she was kept locked in doors. She could go to the market, chat with other slaves from other households, etc. Despite this tendency towards obliviousness, she was an engaging character.

Diodorus is also a person who makes choices, though he is under a heavy, life-long manipulation by his mother Melaina. She is the villain of this story and I have to say, there are times where she steals the scene. She was an excellent villain to hate! Lycurgus comes off as a secondary character, though he plays a few crucial cards to keep the storyline moving forward. There were a few times that I felt certain events were contrived, were a little too convenient in popping up when they did. There were 2 chance meetings that I felt were unlikely to have happened without the author’s pen pushing them forward. Still, even with that, it was a fun listen.

The setting was a lot of fun too. I definitely felt like the characters were in ancient Athens. There were plenty of references to clothing, social customs, government policies, and food from that time period. The setting itself was so well done it was a character itself. Over all, I very much enjoyed this book. If Suzanne Tyrpak is this good today, imagine how refined and entertaining her stories will be in the future.

Narration: Laura Jennings was an excellent pick for this story. She made Hestia come to life. I have to say that her performances as Melania were excellent too. She also had a range of male voices which made it easy for the listener to keep all the characters separate.

What I Liked:  The setting; the main character (Hestia); Melania was an excellent villain; the ending (definitely ready for a second installment!). 

What I Disliked: There were a few points where the plot felt contrived; Hestia was occasionally too innocent; I don’t dislike the cover, but I don’t feel that it encompasses all the awesomeness of this book.

What Others Think:

Broken Teepee

My Book Chatter

Pirates of Mars by Chris Gerrib

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

Publisher: Hadley Rille Books (2014)

Narrator: Gary McKenzie

Length: 7 hours 50 minutes

Author’s Page

This not-so-far-future scifi story has humans settled on Mars and up to nefarious deeds. The pirates of Mars are quite a mixed crew (which was entertaining) who end up kidnapping a volunteer space rescue man (Peter). But his agency doesn’t have the funds to ransom him. Luckily, he has friends who improvise a rescue. Over all, the book had a Wild West feel to it, kind of a nod to the TV series Firefly.

Once the characters were set, there wasn’t much growth. But that was OK as this was a fast-paced action flick. I really liked that none of the women were wall flowers or simply there for pretty scenery. There was a lesbian sex scene which could be a bonus or a distraction depending on your view on sex in books. For me, the sex scene was OK, bringing a slight heat to my cheeks but nothing beyond that.

There’s plenty of fun tech in ships and weapons and protective gear. I don’t need it all to be true to life functional for me to enjoy the story. I was a bit skeptical of the human race being capable of having Mars settled and infested with pirates by 2074. But that was easy to set aside and simply pretend it was 2274 instead.

The storyline was predictable but for a quick action flick, I wasn’t looking for any deep mystery or great twists and turns. Over all, I would give this book a solid 3 out of 5 stars. My biggest issue was with the narration.

Narration: I hate being negative in my reviews, but I have to be honest and say that this was a pretty rough narration. McKenzie had a limited range in voice, so many of the characters blended together. His feminine voice was almost non-existent (which was an issue as about half the cast were ladies). Also, I could occasionally hear the pages being turned as he narrated. There were some words that were pronounced oddly and I had to stop and puzzle out what he meant. Also, his words were not always clear. For example, one of the characters is named Jack. So several times there is this phrased, ‘Jack asked….’. Well, the ‘asked’ part was not enunciated so it often sounded like ‘jackass’ and I thought the characters were joking with each other or insulting each other, when in fact Jack was being inquisitive. I felt that the story was being announced, like in some sports announcer voice, for much of the book. With such a narration, I have to rate the audiobook lower than 3 stars.

What I Liked:  Fun story line; Wild West feel; plenty of ladies who are active members of the story. 

What I Disliked: The narration; storyline was predictable.

What Others Think:

Windy City Reviews

Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson

SandersonLegionSkinDeepWhy I Read It: I really enjoyed Book 1, Legion.

Where I Got It: Own it on Audible.com.

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy detective stories and multiple personalities, then check this out!

Narrator: Oliver Wyman

Publisher: Audible Studios (2014)

Length: 4 hours 23 minutes

Series: Book 2, Legion

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it can stand on its own.

Stephen Leeds is a kind of modern-day detective. He’s super smart, doesn’t stand out in a crowd, and has a whole team of specialists that help him out. What makes him unique is that he is the only one who can see, hear, and interact with his team; he thinks of them as his Aspects. Hence, he is sometimes called ‘Legion’. In this book, Leeds is hired by a tech company (I3) to track down a morgue and ensure it is cremated. The corpse use to be a leading scientist in a niche industry researching biotechnology and wetwear. He was working on a project that would allow humans to store info in their very cells; but because it’s a new science and there’s always unforeseen outcomes, I3 is deeply worried that corpse could release something biologically unwholesome on the populace.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series. Since much of the mechanics of Leeds and his Aspects were already founded, I could concentrate on the plot. Stephen starts off on a date but soon is distracted by his bodyguard, JC, as he notices a hitwoman dining a few tables over. Of course Stephen’s conversation with JC is all one-sided to his date and pretty soon she is a bit spooked. But then Yall, who is one of the head managers of I3, calls with a job for Stephen (so he doesn’t have to linger over his failed date).

There’s plenty of humor, some suspense, and a good dash of very interesting cutting edge technology. The characters are interesting and I can see that they grow a little in this book (and if you read Book 1, then you can see that they have developed even further). The action is interspersed with either detective sleuthing or with Leeds doing some introspection. Put all together, it’s an excellent installment in this series.

As with Book 1, Leeds learns more about his Apsects and about what they can and can’t do. There’s not a few theories kicked around about just what Leeds’ Aspects are, and not a few of these are put forth by the Aspects themselves. I am very interested to see in future installments what Leeds’ final form will be with all his Aspects, if he ever has a final frm.

The Narration: Oliver Wyman did a great job once again. He’s a great voice for Leeds, but he also has a variety of accents, male and female voices for the host of characters. I especially like his voice for JC.

What I Liked: Interesting core mystery; plenty of humor; very cool biotech.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great book!

What Others Think:

Pat’s Hot List

Thoughts  & Afterthoughts

Around the Blogosphere, November 2014

SandersonLegionSkinDeepHeya folks, plenty of goodness happening around this time of the year, including goodness on the interwebs.

First up, Brandon Sanderson has released his sequel to Legion. Book 2 in the series, Legion: Skin Deep, is FREE on Audible.com for the first month of its release! Hurray! I am very much looking forward to this as I so enjoyed Book 1 in the series! Here’s the little Audible blur about the book:

Brandon Sanderson is one of the most significant fantasists to enter the field in a good many years. His ambitious, multi-volume epics (Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive) and his stellar continuation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series have earned both critical acclaim and a substantial popular following. In Legion, a short, distinctly contemporary novella filled with suspense, humor, and an endless flow of invention, Sanderson revealed a startling new facet of his singular narrative talent. In the stunning sequel, Legion: Skin Deep, that talent is on full display.

Stephen Leeds, AKA ”Legion’,’ is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the new story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are hired by I3 (Innovative Information Incorporated) to recover a corpse stolen from the local morgue. But there’s a catch. The corpse is that of a pioneer in the field of experimental biotechnology, a man whose work concerned the use of the human body as a massive storage device. He may have embedded something in the cells of his now dead body. And that something might be dangerous… What follows is a visionary thriller about the potential uses of technology, the mysteries of the human personality, and the ancient human need to believe that death is not the end. Legion: Skin Deep is speculative fiction at its most highly developed. It reaffirms Sanderson’s place as one of contemporary fiction’s most intelligent – and unpredictable – voices.

And here is an audio clip of the book so you can hear just how great a narrator Oliver Wyman is:

https://soundcloud.com/audible/legion-skin-deep/s-7sgzP

So if your a Sanderson fan, you will be all over this. If you have been wanting to give his work a try, or simply want to give an audiobook or Audible.com a try, this is a great way to do it.

VintageScifiBadgeNext on my list of fantastic is the upcoming (January 2015) Vintage Science Fiction Month hosted by Little Red Reviewer. I have enjoyed this event quite a bit these last few years and I look forward to enjoying once again. Since I am all about the audiobooks lately, I will probably be checking out Librivox’s Science Fiction section. As many of you know, Librivox is the noisy sister to Gutenberg project, bringing public domain books to eyes and ears FREE around the world. Everyone is welcome to join, and you can read/listen as much or as little as you want. You can also toss in old radio programs or SF tv/movies. The only rule (and it’s not like folks enforce these things), is that it is pre-1979. Simple, and a lot of fun!

Finally, I want to put a plug out there for The Pigeonhole, a kind of global book club with weekly installments in the ongoing book. They also have their previously completed books available for download. The monthly subscription gives you behind-the-scenes stuff on the authors and the Stories, which is cool. It’s also another way to support upcoming authors. So check it out and see if it is for you!

The Interview: Law Firm Erotica by Silk Jones

JonesTheInterviewLawFirmEroticaWhy I Read It: I was curious to see if erotica could make legal paperwork filing interesting….

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

Who I Recommend This To: If you have a spanking fetish, then you will probably enjoy this.

Narrator: Shoshana Franck

Publisher: Waterview Publishing (2014)

Length: 51 minutes

Series: Book 1 Law Firm Erotica

Author’s Page

Laura decides to answer a job ad for a submissive legal assistant. She had previously worked as an accountant but was laid off with a generous severance package. Right up front, she knows that BDSM is part of the job requirements and she has to admit to herself that she is pretty curious. Showing up for the interview, she considers leaving because she has no experience in BDSM and is worried that she won’t be qualified. However, she waffles too long in the waiting room and Mr. Hobbs calls her in to the interview before she leaves. As he goes over her resume, he asks her plenty of questions and also lets her know what would be expected of her. Things heat up when the interview moves to the hands-on portion!

This was a fun, quick erotica story. It was easy to get into and to have fun with. I felt it was a good balance between the two characters with dialogue and they share the narrative (though most of the story is told from Laura’s point of view). While Mr. Hobbs lead the action, Laura always had the opportunity to walk out of the interview. This particular scenario involved a heavy spanking. Most importantly, both characters felt satisfied at the end of the tale. There was a little cuddling and the beginning of affection between the two.

My little quibble is that I would have enjoyed the two characters vocalizing during the act. While it was a hot description, it was just that: an internal monologue description of the act by Laura. Surely Mr. Hobbs was doing some sort of animal-like grunting at the least with all the physical action he was doing? This criticism won’t keep me from listening to further adventures of Laura and the law firm.

Once again, my man conveniently popped in while I was listening to this audiobook and helped fold the laundry. He did this with Zane’s tales too. I really should listen to more erotica so that I get assistance with housechores. Hmmm… I bet this book would go good with cooking dinner.

The Narration: Shoshana Franck did a great job. There was no hesitancy with the erotica parts and she was good voice for Laura. She did a decent male voice as well.

What I Liked: This book had some heat to it!; Laura seeks out the experience; both characters are satisfied at the end; my laundry got folded by the husband as he eavesdropped.

What I Disliked: I’m sure the characters made some noises while in the middle of the act and I would have liked that to be part of the tale.

What Others Think:

Cocktails and Books