Dead of Night by M. R. Forbes

ForbesDeadOfNightWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Jeff Hays

Publisher: Quirky Algorithms (2014)

Length: 9 hours 53 minutes

Series: Book 1 Ghosts & Magic

Author’s Page

 

Conor Night is a necromancer, a hitman, and cancer patient. The illegal treatments keeping him alive are risky and expensive. Hence, the need to do odd jobs like thievery and the occasional murder. Lucky for him, he had a great instructor, Dani, who is still around to keep him organized; and he has his corpses, some of which are more useful than others.

A few weeks ago, I listened to the prequel, Dead Lucky, and really enjoyed it. This book follows that up with even more awesomeness. Set roughly 3 years after Conor was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he’s gone to great lengths to keep himself alive. He’s not proud of all that he has done but he is dead set on providing for the family he walked away from. He was lucky to have Dani find him back then, drunk and beaten. She was already a Ghost, having the special skills and training to pull off the difficult jobs no one wants to talk about but so many have a need for. Now Conor too is a Ghost. He’s a complicated character who usually chooses the right thing to do even if it is a difficult path. Yet he is always tormented by the few bad deeds he has done.

Conor isn’t your typical hero. He’s unhealthy. He’s not some hunky hero with a good haircut and abs to die for. Nope. He’s got determination, weapon skills, a reasonable IQ, and his rough humor to carry him forward. I was fascinated by his relationship with Dani in Dead Lucky and that fascination carries over to this book as well. Toss in another potential romantic interest and we see flashes of the tender side to Conor.

The author tosses you into the action, but then provides this rich background for the characters in conversations or small flashbacks as a character mulls over a situation. The job Conor signed on for morphs into something much bigger. There’s mystery and some double dealing. Toss in a few mysterious magic users, a pack of werewolves, a touch of romance, some cyberpunkian info gathering and you have quite the ride!

These fascinating characters, several of which are multifaceted, are set in this future world populated by magical creatures – ogres, werewolves, vampires, etc. The solid plot line makes room for all of that while keeping the story moving forward. There was a very unexpected twist near the end that had me talking back to the book (mostly saying NO! and such). It was well done and it made total sense for the plot. This is an excellent addition to the urban fantasy genre.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  Jeff Hays was once again excellent to listen to. His somewhat gravelly voice for Connor was perfect, again. He had some coughing fits (in line with the character) that he tossed in here and there, making Conor’s illness that much realer. Late in the story there is a ghostly element that speaks with a chorus of voices and Hays did some masterful sound magic there! I swear, the hairs on the back of my neck went up when I heard that chorus! Hays also has an amazing range of female character voices. I especially like his voice for Dani, being sharp and precise and yet somewhat loving all at the same time.

What I Liked:  Necromancy!; there’s well placed swearing; the cover art; excellent narration; magical urban fantasy setting; the relationship between Dani and Conor; Conor’s past; good use of werewolves.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – it’s a great listen!

What Others Think:

Bubblews

Kushiel’s Chosen Part V

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Chosen is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I am your host. We’re covering Chapters 50-61, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) This week we learn plenty more about Kazan Atrabiades and his personal demon, the kriavbhog. What do you think of this demon and his blood curse?

I really like this element. As in Book 1, we have very little truly fantastical elements. In Book 1, it was the Master of the Straights and his strange abilities. Here, we have the kriavbhog, this serpent demon type thing that only a handful can see. Makes me want to go look up fan art of the beastie. Alas, a quick search turns up nothing. :(

2) On the island of Dobrek, even Phedre has to admit she had some harsh pre-conceived notions about pirates in general and then Kazan specifically before she was brought to his home. How do you think this experience will affect Phedre going forward?

So through out the Book 1 read along and now in this read along a  few readers more astute than I have pointed out Phedre’s conceitedness or snobbery. It wasn’t something I put a lot of thought into before these read alongs, but now I really notice when Phedre herself takes note of her incorrect pre-conceived notions about people or cultures.

So, she’s had some pretty tough experiences for the last 200 or 300 pages and some of those have been nasty surprises she didn’t expect, in part, due to her ideas about folks or cultures. I think it was Emma or Allie last week who pointed out Phedre’s notion that D’Angelines would be her instant comrades in arms in the hunt for Melisande…. and we all know how that turned out.

So, here she is, once again, kind of slapped in the face by karma over her notions about pirates in general. I think these world travel experiences are going to teach her to pause and rethink any instant notion she has in the future. In Terry  Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching novels, Tiffany and the other witches call this look, and then look again. If you look a third time, I think Pratchett called it Third  Sight at some point in the books. Anyway, it is a worthy notion that has stuck with me since reading those books and I wish I could scribe Phedre a note and pass it on.

3) Nikanor’s ship returns and Phedre is once again off on the high seas. But, alas, she is not ransomed safely. Were you angry at Kazan for not telling Phedre who she was to ransomed to? Or angry at Phedre for not having told Kazan the whole of it in the first place?

Ah, well 20/20 hindsight isn’t so useful in the moment, now is it? So, no I was not angry at Phedre. She doesn’t know Kazan and the knowledge she carries is pretty sensitive top secret stuff. Plus Kazan was pretty much of an ass up until the final 2 or 3 weeks before this unfortunate event.

And, yes, I was a bit ticked with Kazan for not telling Phedre who she had been ransomed to. After all, that was part of the bargain. I think Phedre would have understood his dilemma with the blockade and some of his men being held as surety. But I also think she would have come up with some plan to get the men, and perhaps the rest of the gold.

4) Nearly to Epidauro & safety, Phedre can see the kriavbhog is killing Kazan and orders the ship about into the storm. Was there really no other choice?

Ah, another tough situation. And Phedre had to do the thinking in a desperate moment after a very lengthy chase in which many men were lost and the rest were dead tired. I guess Kazan could have jumped overboard and sent his ship ahead into  Epidauro…. but I  don’t know if he ca swim, plus the pursuers would probably have killed him.

5) Now in the land of Kriti, we meet Oeneus, Hierophant of the Temenos along with the Kore, Pasiphae.  What do you think of these two and the small amount of aid they offer Phedre and Kazan?

This makes me think of the Vatican City a little in that they have full say-so within their tiny little sphere of influence (much of which is this spiritual temple and the thetalos) and very little sway outside of it. So I think they truly are offering up what aid they can – fixing of the ship and a favorable introduction to a more powerful political entity.

We got to see more of Pasiphae and she seemed to be genuinely found of Phedre. Should be interesting to see what she thinks once everyone knows she entered the thetalos without a proper blessing.

6) Kazan enters the thetalos to be cleansed of his blood guilt. Of course, Phedre is pricked by Kushiel to go comfort him as she might. There she faces her own guilty demons. Would you be concerned if you had to pass through the thetalos?

Yes. I think the rude things I have occasionally done in ignorance I could view and then forgive myself over. But there are a handful of things I wish I could have handled things better. Nothing like what Phedre has been through, so if I am worried, then I can only imagine her despair at being caught up in that grief.
Other Tidbts:

 

Kazan’s little ‘trade’ of sex for speedy messenger service didn’t really seem fair to me. Though  I think Phedre carried out her part of the bargain in better spirits than I could have. Also, I wanted to slap Kazan upside the head as he could have offered up the speedy messenging as a nice gesture and then traded for Phedre’s special attentions later on… or even tried to woo her? Maybe wooing is not in his nature.

When Phedre wandered the house and checked out Kazan’s personal room and his personal affects! OMG! I was pretty sure Kazan was going to take a switch to her or hand her over to his men or make her a cleaning slave or something awful.

OK, when Phedre was on that ship about the be beheaded, I really wish she had taken up carrying at least some small knife or such at some point. I know it probably wouldn’t have saved her in that moment, but it might have given her some satisfaction to take out 1 or 2 assailants before she went down.

It was a grand, touching gesture that Kazan was willing to sacrifice himself after cheating Phedre on the ransom and getting so many of his men killed in the horrid affair. I think this is the point in the story where I start to like him.

Rouging of the nipples and formal dress code that calls for an exposed breast or two…. Has anyone tried this for a Halloween costume?

Various kinds of grief seems to be a theme for this book – grief between her and Joscelin, grief at La Dolorosa (both Asherat’s and her own on loosing her chevaliers and Joscelin), and now the grief faced within the thetalos. Oh and Kazan’s blood guilt grief over his brother.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S CHOSEN in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Kushiel’s Chosen Part IV

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Chosen is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow is our host. We’re covering Chapters 37-49, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Last week we talked a bit about who might succeed Cesare Stregazza as Doge. This week we learn that he might not be out of the game just yet, after all. What are your thoughts on his discussion and agreement with Phédre?

Well, first it struck me that Phedre is once again being told she is a weapon by an old man in a foreign country (the first time was with the Skaldi in Book 1). So I thought that was pretty cool, that old men seem to see right to the heart of things.

I think Cesare is wise to bide his time and let folks think  he may be bowing out and that he is a bit doddering. They are more likely to giveaway their intentions in front of him. But he walks that thin line too. If folks no longer have confidence in him, because of this act, then the people in general may no longer want him in power.

2. Melisande resurfaces – and right where I did NOT expect to find her! What about you? And what do you think of her latest ambitious designs? When she and Phédre speak again after her capture, Phédre calls her mad; Melisande hints at “playing a god’s game”. Is this ambition or is it in fact madness?

The first time I read this book, I had that jaw-dropping moment when it was revealed where Melisande had been ‘hiding’. Her disguise is perfect though, plus she has a powerful protector.

As always, Melisande is playing the long game. Sure, they plan to kill Ysandre within weeks or months and take the Terre D’Ange throne shortly thereafter, but it is Melisande’s son that she plans to have rule for decades. right now, he is like…. 6 months? 3 months? old. So a lot could go wrong between now and when he is 20. Perhaps she just views Imriel as another game piece on the board.

Melisande is having delusions of grandeur. She’s got a lot going for her – wit, intelligence, charm, beauty, the espionage training, the education in politics & history. But she lacks one thing – she is not god touched.

3. Things fall apart for Phédre and Joscelin after so much pent-up angst – but our Cassiline isn’t done with her yet, thank goodness! Phédre’s escape from La Dolorosa, and Joscelin’s attempted rescue, is some of the most nail-biting drama we’ve seen yet in this story. Do you think Joscelin will manage to find her, or will he play it smarter and go to Ysandre instead?

When I first read this book, I couldn’t fathom what Joscelin would do. He’s not very good on open water – being all seasick and such. So he would have to put his trust in someone with a boat and the know how… and then where would he begin looking?

And Ysandre is coming to La Serenissima soon, probably all ready on her way. So he could wait for her to get there and then try to seek an audience. But Melisande is definitely looking for him and they might have it out with the city watch that he is wanted man. Not to many choices for our hero, huh?

4. New character alert! What are your initial impressions of Kazan and Glaukos? How much trouble is Phédre in this time?

Phedre’s in for some high seas adventure! Glaukos seems like a kindly uncle from the beginning. I think Phedre has some sort of magic charm over older men. Kazan definitely has a chip or two on his shoulders, but Phedre also has a unique way of dealing with men with pent up anger. ;)

Other Tidbts:

That final tumble between Phedre and Joscelin was a little heartbreaking. Lots of feelings floating around this section. Joscelin specifically says that Phedre doesn’t need him. How wrong he was.

Ah, Fortun & Remy! Jacqueline Carey sure does know how to yank on my heart strings.

I’m very glad that Phedre released all the prisoners even if some or most of them died that night. I think her comment about the prison being a mockery (or some such) of the goddess’s grief was spot on.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S CHOSEN in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Interview: Kelly Michelle Baker, Author of The Waters of Nyra

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Kelly Michelle Baker. We spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite things – biology! But we also chat about some of my other favorite things like Harry Potter, fantasy authors, Ken Follett’s World Without End, and plenty more. Enjoy!

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Books are time capsules. They often reflect the era in which they were written. If Tolkien were to compose The Lord of the Rings today, would it be different? Maybe not the core messages, but the setting and characters might have subtle 2015 traits vs. the 1930’s and 40’s. Hobbits shaped a world far outside Middle Earth. It’s become an almost tangible piece of civilization, still pervasive over 60 years later. Tolkien’s an outstanding example, but far from alone. Take Harry Potter. The boy wizard turned non-readers into bibliophiles and put adults in the children’s section of Barnes and Nobel. Everyone knows Harry. It’s been almost 20 years since The Philosopher’s Stone was first published yet it’s the gift that keeps on giving; an upcoming stage play, a spin-off film franchise, bonus publications by Rowling through the online interface Pottermore, etc. Fans are just as jazzed as ever (myself included). Where we’d be without Harry is hard to envision. Personally, I think the explosion of young adult readerships would be a bit paler. Cash-cows like Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Unwind, and The Maze Runner would exist but, without flying on Harry’s coattails (or Nimbus 2000), be far less lucrative.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

1) David Clement-Davies. I went with him on a Kickstarter quest once, but perhaps one day we can do something more exciting. He too writes about dragons. David has one of those lyrical voices caught between prose and poetry, and he can play it out through animals. He weaves dark worlds and darker psychologies. There’d be no journey’s end without him. He’d know the magic, but more importantly, the enemy’s next move.

2) Clare Bell. First, she’s a stone’s throw from where I currently live, so I wouldn’t have to travel much out of my way. Second, she’s a biologist, sustainability advocate, and an animal fiction writer—in other words, who I want to be when I ‘grow up.’ Together, we’d go on a paleontological dig for prehistoric felines.

3) Brian Jacques. If anyone knew warriors, it was Brian. He also had a knack for describing mouth-watering feasts. He’d be in charge of swords and snacks.

4) Patricia C. Wrede. She knows dragons as well as quests, but more importantly, she knows humor. On a magic journey, I’d need someone to keep my spirits up. Patricia’s a bucket of laughs and lemon-water (read Dealing with Dragons for clarity).

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

The only reboot I know well is the The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire. The books were dense, but clever enough to warrant multiple readings. They work because they pay homage to the source material, but not at the expense of the story or characters. They can exist on their own without relying on constantly winking at the reader. I can’t stand that. It’s like a bad movie with no creativity, using celebrity cameos to garner box-office success. I can’t think of many books relying on such crappy hand-tricks, but that’s mostly because I avoid reboots. Still, good-retellings are out there. I hope to find them.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I’m a biologist! Writing doesn’t pay the bills (and for a long time, neither did biology). I’m currently working on the water crisis in California, but I hope to get back into wildlife ecology in the next few years. For my master’s I studied coyote diet and how it varies between season and location in the San Joaquin Valley. Coyotes have a bad rep but are extraordinarily important to human-modified ecosystems. If I could devote myself to preserving North American predators (and biodiversity in general), I’d be pleased as punch! As much as I love fantasy, nothing is more astonishing than the world we already live in. It’s more than worthy of our curiosity and exploration.

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?

To be honest, I hate advertising myself. I don’t mind other people doing it, but from me, it comes off vain and needy. I go through a cold sweat before putting anything up on Facebook or Twitter. I spent fifteen years keeping my manuscript a secret. Now when I hear my dragon’s name on another’s tongue, I have a little flip-out (like they’ve just read my mind). I’m slowly getting better, but it’s an adjustment. What I find difficult is telling strangers that I’ve made something worth looking into, but having no idea if that’s true. If I’m reaching a Watership Down fan, then yes, they should read my book. If they like teen-paranormal romance, they might hate it. Finding my target audience is challenging because animal-fiction is going through a dormant stage, at least for older readers. But this inspires me to write something new and peddle The Waters of Nyra when I can.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Caris from World Without End (Ken Follett) and Alexandra from O Pioneers! (Willa Cather) would be on either side of me. Though separated in time (1300’s vs the early 20th century), they are young people struggling for their dream career, fighting the oppressions of their sex, heritage, and social standing. Hell-bent on a singular source of happiness, Caris and Alexandra abandon the niceties of comfort and deeper relationships (romantic or otherwise) which wait on the fringes of their ambition. Life begets choices. As a millennial who graduated just in time for the economic recession, I can identify. I’ve been running a race and not quite getting ‘there,’ leaving much of what I love on the road. It’s a timeless battle, and one to which billions can relate.

Beyond these two would be Theo Decker from The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt). In literature, we too often see characters who play their best cards in spite of bad hands. Theo is dealt bad cards and then cheats. Yet we root for him. He’s a good person, even when he’s swindling, even when he’s using, even when he’s betraying his friends. How can we possibly love him? Because, like Caris and Alexandra, he is us. He screws up. Badly. But he learns. His ethical 180’s are slow and arduous, but life is like that. I followed him through hundreds of pages and it still wasn’t enough. I want to know what he got up to after the final paragraph.

Across from Theo sits Morgra from The Sight (although as a wolf, she might need special accommodations). Morgra is one of the great villains of literature, although few have heard of her. The best baddies aren’t baddies, or at least they didn’t start out that way. Some are borne from injustice or trauma. Morgra is no exception, however, whether she was transformed by circumstance or an innate hostility is never answered, not by the heroes, not by her. She’s the ultimate enigma. We hear her thoughts in a few chapters but she’s still impossible to decipher. I love characters like that, with self-belief that could either be true or entirely fabricated. At teatime, I’d take one last stab at trying to figure her out.

And finally, at the head of the table, would be Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. He is one of those rare characters who experiences his ethical turnaround at the beginning of the story, not three-quarters through. As readers and creators, it’s easy to forget that not all journeys twist at the ‘climactic battle.’ Valjean defies the formula. His story is about the after.  The generosity of people is often overlooked, especially since the selfless rarely wave their flags. Valjean would be the guest of honor because he would never ask for it, and serve as a reminder that the story doesn’t end with wisdom. Rather, it begins again.

Which favorite fantasy worlds would you like to visit and what would you do there?

Not gonna lie: Harry Potter. No elaboration necessary. You’ve read it. We all have. There’s a wonderful quote by Ms. Rowling: “All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter: you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together. Of course it happened inside your head, but why on earth should that mean it wasn’t real?” I went to Hogwarts with friends and strangers and look forward to dozens of visits.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

That I fell in love with? The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Sometime in early elementary school I was pushed (kicking and screaming) away from picture books toward intermediate-reader novels. None of them starred animals. As a misanthropic seven-year old, I started boycotting stories and turned to informative non-fiction. In doing so I became extremely learned in zoology. I begrudge nothing, as this may have resulted in my career in ecology. But it wasn’t until I discovered The Grand Escape, which stars cats, that I realized some authors were writing strictly-textual animal fiction. From there I hopped to Brian Jacques’ Redwall, Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing, and really didn’t look back until I discovered historical fiction in my 20’s. More ‘mature’ animal fiction waned in popularity some ten years ago, thus getting The Waters of Nyra to the surface has been tricky. So I’m grateful to older readers who haven’t turned their noses up at talking dragons. The kids have been great, too!

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

I’d take my own brainchild, Nyra, who has a knack for evading death. This is partially because she has a lot of help. But in spite of personal trepidation and more self-doubt than any eleven year old should have, she’s moderately clever and resourceful. I’m neither fast thinking nor thrill-seeking, so I’d have to strap myself to someone much more tenacious: her. A tasty libation? I’d settle for root beer, but Nyra (being a dragon) would prefer cool water from Fitzer’s Reservoir.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume 1:

Never an ordinary dragon, Nyra grew up forbidden to breathe fire or fly. Like her mother before her, she has only known a life of enslavement, held in thrall by mountain dragons, which need Nyra’s ripening wings to secure hunting for the future.

But at the cusp of her first flying lesson, new rumors whisper through the herd. Mother pursues friendships in forbidden places, blurring the once succinct enemy line. In a whirlwind of realization, Nyra uncovers a secret in plain sight, one thought unknown to her enslavers, and one putting her at the focal point of rebellion should it come into play.

And come it does, but through a terrible accident, killing the slaves’ last chance of escape. To survive, Nyra must conquer the sharp-ended lies cutting her future to ribbons and the war threading in their wake.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume II:

After braving the ocean, Nyra finds herself incarcerated on the other side of the world. The would-be saviors are in the midst of civil war, and her presence enflames their rivalry. Caught by the Sorja herd, Nyra is held prisoner with Olieve; a Royal as garrulous as she is blind, neither friend nor foe, but essential to the young dragon’s escape. Yet even escape has little promise, as the opposing Raklisall herd has a poisonous outlook on Agrings, so potent it reawakens an old scandal of superstition and murder.

At the crux of deceit, scorn, and prejudice, Nyra must unearth new weapons in her natural repertoire and learn the identity of a mysterious hero. Only then can she return home, and at long last free her downtrodden kin.

Places to Find Kelly Michelles Baker

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Youtube

Vlog

Amazon

 

Interview: Josh Powell, Author of The Berserker & the Pedant

PowellTheBerserker&ThePedantSeason1Everyone, please welcome Josh Powell, who authored the very entertaining The Berserker & the Pedant – so worthy! You can check out my review of it over HERE. Today we talk about Josh’s kickstarter project, other fantasy authors, TV shows and plenty more. Enjoy!

If you could be an extra on a SFF TV show or movie, what would it be?

Oh, that’s a fun one.  If it’s a main character, it’s too easy – Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!  As an extra I’m thinking SG-1 as a Jaffa or Goa’uld.

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

If the dragon can polymorph, be a dragon.  Otherwise, have a dragon.  Preferably a Pseudodragon or Pocket Dragon or a sarcastic Jhereg so I can bring them with me.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

A superhero, the other ones might bite or probe after saving me.

Would you choose to live permanently in a fictional world, or visit as many as you liked but you couldn’t stay more than a few hours?

If I get to choose which fictional world, stay permanently.  If not, visit as many as I can.  There are some worlds you just do NOT want to live in :)

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

I see modern fantasy more as a reflection and recording of who we are and strive to be at the time it was written, rather than shaping who we are becoming.  Sci fi is the vision of what we want to become in the future and actively shapes it.

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

Sitting at a desk working for the government as a programmer.  The people were great, but I could not stand being given two weeks to do something that only took 30 minutes. That experience is definitely reflected in my Sci fi writing.  Writing is the opposite of that, I have 30 minutes to do what should take two weeks!

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

Totally different answers than if I was hanging out in a bar with them. On a quest I’d like Jim Butcher as the wizard for his creativity and magical knowledge, Larry Correia to be the tank and kill the monsters, Patrick Rothfuss to be the bard, and since I’m not sure who the cleric is, Anne Rice to be the necromancer and raise the dead.  Back at the tavern, I’d want Steven Brust and GRRM swapped in there somewhere.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I try not to gush, when I see someone I’m a fan of I prefer to valiantly hide on the outskirts of their vision, stalking them just out of range saying “Oh my god, is that…” while pretending to look at something else.  That’s what I did at Baycon with Amber Benson, I think I really pulled it off well.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

There is a Kickstarter to turn The Berserker and the Pedant into a graphic novel series.  Some really amazing talent, veterans of Marvel and DC, have lined up to contribute to the work.  The sketches and pencils for the first issue are in, and the artists are working on the inks and colors.  So exciting!  You can find the details at www.pedantpublishing.com

Also, Dragon Apocalypse, the sequel to The Berserker and the Pedant, is available to preorder and will be out in another month.  It’s only 99 cents until soon after it’s released.

PowellTheBerserker&ThePedantSeason1Book Blurb for The Berkerker & the Pedant:

Gurken Stonebiter, avatar of Durstin Firebeard, templerager of the Stonebiter clan, is in a pretty pickle.

He’s an axe-happy, grammatically-challenged dwarf on the hunt for blood. Thieves made off with temple property, sending him into a fit of vengeful rage. Seeing as he’s a Berserker, it’s in everyone’s best interest not to get Gurken’s hackles up. Gurken often dissolves into a fury of blood, lust, and carnage unlike anything seen in the age of men. When he finds those whom he assumes to be the aforementioned thieves, he is unable to control himself. Thus for our heroes, a master magician named Arthur and a girl-child named Pellonia, the blood flows until poor Arthur is hacked into pieces.

It takes all the temple priests (and all the king’s men) to put Arthur back together again. Imprisoned for their supposed crimes, Pellonia and Arthur aren’t willing to sit around the dungeon on principle, and so promptly escape. They return the following morning to join Gurken on a hilarious and dangerous adventure to the Mines of Moog to recover the sacred Orb of Skzd. Along the way they face gruesome deaths at the hands of enormous arthropods, an amiable Minotaur, and excitable dragons, making them wonder what exactly they’re doing on this quest in the first place.

Pellonia, for one, is much more than meets the eye, and although she has the body of a pre-pubescent girl, she is full of snark and knowledge beyond her years. Her past and fate become apparent as they meet mysterious denizens from her childhood. Arthur’s ability to frequently engage in death throes only to return once more is to be admired as well as puzzled over. Unfortunately, one too many dismemberments occur and some shortcuts are taken during the resurrection process, to Arthur’s utmost shame and revulsion. Gurken, with his brash temperament and willingness to confront anything that challenges them, though it be ten times his size, is both an enviable asset and a terrible curse along the way. The three companions come together to brave obstacles and solve puzzles hindering them from obtaining the goal of their quest.

Within the Mines of Moog, the lurking creatures multiply in size, cleverness, and deadliness. Well, with the exception of a new knoll dwarf ally, who joins them as a healer to serve against future dismemberments. Kitten-sized ants, elven maidens, and others occasionally strive to assist our heroes on their oft-forgotten quest.

Gurken’s adventures run the gamut of the fantasy genre, taking us through the ridiculous to the mythological, passing through epic fantasy, and finally resting on fantastically improbable. The rapid, so-fast-you-might-miss-it pace of the short stories make for one incredible, bordering on the absurd, ride that will enthrall fantasy lovers everywhere. Fantastic creatures abound in these stories, and it takes a clever eye to catch all the different breeds and specimens from orc to elf. Blink and you will miss a flippant phrase or a clever beast of burden flickering into existence and going out. Gurken’s adventures have a cunning, dry, tongue-in-cheek style and quick-as-a-whip writing that will have fans of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and Piers Anthony’s Xanth series begging for more.

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The Berserker and the Pedant: Season One by Josh Powell

PowellTheBerserker&ThePedantSeason1Where I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Robert Ashker Kraft

Publisher: Josh Powell (2015)

Length: 3 hours 51 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Berserker & the Pedant

Author’s Page

Gurken Stonebiter is a berserker dwarf, not a specialized cucumber. He’s on a mission and not much will stand in his way other than his rash temper. Along the way, he picks up a grammatically-oriented magician, Arthur, and a pre-pubescent lass, Pellonia, who has snark to share. There’s plenty of death, and thankfully resurrection, and even more mayhem.

When Arthur died the first time, I was a little sad. After all, we had spent some quality time getting to know his love for proper punctuation. But I was happy to find out that there was a way or two to bring even a dismembered person back to life. Arthur blamed the very large ants, and rightly so! Arthur would not be their last victim. Later in the story, Arthur has to be resurrected again but there is a bit of a mix up and Arthur has to make do with what he gets. Ha!

Gurken is my hero throughout the story playing the uncomplicated straight man to all the humor and the occasional pun. Over time, he becomes attached to both Pellonia and Arthur. With his rough edges and big heart, he stole the show. When he’s made a decision, he follows through with everything. Towards the end, he has a tough choice, and once made, he has to shove it down the authorities’ collective throats. He did it with style.

Pellonia started off as the kid side kick. She was cuter than a button and as obnoxious (in a funny snarky way) as a broken zipper. Later in the story, we meet one of her siblings and then plenty is revealed about her to her new friends. Her secret family ties explained her knowledge on certain subjects and her adult attitude. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the surprise was a nice little twist and let the story take a larger, unexpected turn later on.

The answer to one quest leads to another. The action for these three never ceases. This story has a really good balance between humor and action. I was never bored with the tale. In fact, there were moments where I snort-laughed out loud. This book definitely starts off a solid fantasy humor story. However, there is a bit of a curve into science fiction by the end. It was nicely done and totally made sense with the characters and plot. Sometimes I don’t enjoy stories that try to meld scifi and fantasy as it feels forced. However, in this case, it was smoothly done and never made frown. There is a bit of cliffhanger at the end. Definitely looking forward to season 2!

I received this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Robert Ashker Kraft was an excellent fit for this story. He had a very nice brogue for Gurken that totally suited the character. He had this nasally ‘I always know best’ voice for Arthur, especially when he was going on about grammar. His female voices were quite good, especially for Pellonia.

What I Liked: The cover art; awesome characters I was instantly attached to; great balance of action and humor; a touch of the punny but not too much; a nice blend from fantasy into scifi; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

What Others Think:

The Fish Place

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

KristoffStormdancerWhere I Got It: Review copy

Publisher: Audible Studios (2013)

Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda

Length: 14 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Lotus War

Author’s Page

The world is polluted and it is only getting worse. The Shogun Yoritomo rules with an iron fist, taking whatever pleases him. The Lotus Guild holds sway via their knowledge of mechanics and running the empire’s many machines. The black lotus pollutes land and people alike, choking out the wild places, tainting air and water, and providing a temporary, poisoned escape from reality to those who smoke it. Yukiko, a 16 year old young woman, is of the Fox clan and has a special gift, one that she must keep secret. Her father was once a mighty hunter and the Shogun has not forgotten his past feats. He is sent on a hunt to bring the Shogun a live thunder tiger. However, one hasn’t been seen in so long some now believe they were only ever myths.

Honestly, it took me about 4 hours to get into this book. I’m really not sure why. This book has so many things that I love about fantasy in general and steampunk/dieselpunk in particular. It did take me a while to get attached to Yukiko, our main character. Nevertheless, once I became caught up in the story, I did not want to put it down. In fact, there were some moments towards the end where a few tears (just a few!) might have been jerked out of me. If you’ve been waffling about whether or not to give this book a try, then I definitely recommend it. Just be prepared to let the story gain momentum.

First, this world is not quite like anything else I have come across. I know the description says it is steampunk but the Lotus Guild’s tech relies much more on petroleum products than on steam power. But many of the literary elements of a good steampunk are there – we have an airship (highly flammable!), a guild that is pretty darn secretive about their tech, and goggles. Can’t have a good steampunk-like tale without goggles. On top of the tech, we have a feudal Japan-like setting. There’s plenty of Japanese vocabulary and cultural references throughout the book. There’s a series of islands too, though this book focuses on Shima. No matter what sub-genre you stick this fantastical world in, make sure to also label it ‘Awesome!’.

We don’t meet the thunder tiger, Buruu, until perhaps 3 hours in. He and Yukiko do not start off as friends. Indeed, far from it. In fact, their meeting and subsequent need to survive together is rather harrowing. Yukiko has a secret power that only her father knows about which is the ability to Ken with animals – basically mindspeak with them. The point where Yukiko and Buruu start working together was when the story really started for me and I became fully engaged. I really enjoyed the sometimes banter between the two. Also, Buruu has a rather distinct personality and pretty much only 1 way to solve problems – kill it! He’s not one for thinking about consequences. Yukiko has to be the one to do that for the both of them and that forces her to grow as a character.

Yukiko started off as a pretty self-sufficient yet angry teenager. Her father is often drunk on lotus smoke and Yukiko has to fend for herself most of the time. This is a pretty standard character set up and perhaps that is one of the reasons I was slow to come to enjoy this book. Once she and Buruu end up lost together in the last remaining Shima wilderness, things change. Yukiko is no longer raging (internally or externally) at her neglectful father. She now has a purpose, albeit a small one of mere survival. That blossoms into a larger purpose once she meets some unexpected folks. One revelation after another leaves Yukiko hardened into a focused individual who has one goal in mind. The Shogun should be worried.

Yukiko also has another unexpected ally – Shin. He’s a young guildsman who was badly injured. Through his eyes we learn some awful secrets about the Guild and their purposes. Shin, like so many others, didn’t have a choice about whether or not to be in the Lotus Guild. However, once fully indoctrinated, it is nearly impossible to leave. The Guild is responsible for much of the environmental pollution, the slavery and continued attempt to conquer new lands, and the lotus smoke that both intoxicates and poisons the users. In short, they have much to answer for.

Once the story picked up for me, I quite enjoyed the plot. There’s plenty of well-written fight scenes that had me holding my breath. Also, there is deception, intrigue, and a touch of romance. Yukiko’s and Buruu’s friendship continues to grow. In fact, there was this intense scene where we learn just how fond Buruu has become of his young mistress. Ah! I was worried for our main characters at that moment. The plot has a few twists, most of which revolve around revelations of the past. As Yukiko learns more about the Shogun’s past ill deeds, the more she focuses on him as the evil-doer and the easier it is to forgive her father.

I’m very glad that I stuck with this book. I came to love the main characters and to care about the land and what will become of its people. While the ending (which was most excellent) closed the story arc for this book, it also left us nicely set up for book 2. I’m definitely looking forward to more tales of Yukiko and Buruu!

I received this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Jennifer Ikeda was most excellent in her performance of this book! She had a great voice for Yukiko and her fluid Japanese accent for many of the Japanese words and names really added to the flavor of the book. I totally loved her voice for Buruu. She really managed to capture the tone of an angry thunder tiger! There were plenty of emotions in this book and Ikeda did a great job of imparting those to the character voices.

What I Liked:  Yukiko grows throughout the book; Buruu also does a little bit of growing but I loved his character early on; the setting is quite engaging; the many, many mysteries of the Guild; revelations from the past; the ending was quite satisfying.

What I Disliked: This book started off slow for me, taking about 4 hours for me to get into it.

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