Roman Holiday by Jodi Taylor

TaylorRomanHolidayWhere I Got It: Was free on Audible.com when I picked it up (thanks!).

Narrator: Zara Ramm

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 1 hour 12 minutes

Series: Book 3.5 The Chronicles of St. Mary’s

Author’s Page

Note: Although this is Book 3.5 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

The folks of St. Mary’s are time travelers. They have rules and a whole costume department and some pretty snazzy tech, along with whole sheets of language cheats. The mission for this book is one to merely observe. They are sent back to 44BC Rome. Julius Caesar has installed his mistress Cleopatra in his wife’s house. Yeah. The dude has big brass ones.

This was my first Jodi Taylor book ever and it will definitely not be my last. The mix of history, cool tech, and humor had me hooked. I kept alternating between chuckling and, when surprised, snorting hot tea through my nose. I switched to cool water after the second time. The humor was often sharp and pointed (such as calling out Caesar on the wisdom of where to install his mistress when in Rome) – just my style of humor!

Also, our time travelers are lead by an older female, which makes her perfect for this mission as she can totally play the respectable wealthy matron. Plenty of unforeseen circumstances occur, and the proper mayhem follows.

I’ll be catching up on this series for sure!

The Narration: Zara Ramm was a great voice for the lead female in this book. She had the right mix of humor and experienced self-assuredness that really brought this character to life. She also had distinct and believable voices for the other female and male characters.

What I Liked: Time travel!; sharp-tongued humor; famous historical figures; a crazy set of circumstances.

What I Disliked: The cover art and the title don’t really say ‘time travel’ to me,which is probably why I haven’t taken note of this series before.

A Time of Demons: Before the End by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

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

Narrator: Wendy Tremont King

Publisher: Self published (2014)

Length: 18 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Time of Demons

Author’s Page

In St. Louis, MO, the Graystones are musicians playing at a local bar and taking care of their elderly aunt and uncle. Cassandra and Johnny lost their parents and siblings in a fire when they were kids and ever since then, Cassandra has been plagued with a few supernatural powers: she can sense when someone is about to die, and (more recently) she can see demons (often disguised as humans). But now things are getting scary with more and more demons about and freak storms and accidents that force the Graystones and their friends on the road.

This book starts off pretty slow and stays that way for much of the story. On one hand, we get to know the main characters, especially Cassandra, pretty well. On the other hand, the long spaces between the bits of action were a bit tiring to get through as the characters are simply rehashing events and feelings we have already heard about. I place this book firmly in Christian Fiction first and paranormal fantasy fiction second. The only non-Christians in this book are the demons. While I understand this is a fiction based on the idea of Revelation, I was surprised that none of our non-demon characters were of a different religion, nor did any of our characters discuss any friends or family that were of another religious persuasion. I found this odd since our characters are musicians, fortune tellers, and circus clowns, all professions that at least rub elbows with a variety of folks. Plus St. Louis is a fairly large city with plenty happening.

Since there was lack of variety in religious backgrounds, all of our good guys were on the same page. This meant that the only conflict was between our heroes and the demons and that was pretty straight forward. This lack of differences meant no real conflict among our characters and this added to the dullness of the book; they were all on the same page. This also means that the character growth is limited to their religious take on the events they live through. The most interesting character was the blood demon Rayner and he is interesting because he has both internal conflict and conflict with his fellow demons as well as the humans going on. Unfortunately, his page time with readers is limited.

In short, if you enjoy Revelation or Christian fiction stories, then this might be right up your alley. There is some character development for our heroes and they do have to go through one travesty after another as the world approaches Revelation. However, for me, this book didn’t work. I like more diversity, which leads to situations where the characters face not only conflict with the forces of evil, but internal conflict and conflict with their friends and allies.

The Narration: Wendy King did a great job narrating this book. It is a quality performance with plenty of individual, distinct voices for the characters. She also has some great creepy voices for the demons. 

What I Liked: Cover art; great narration; the demon Rayner was the most interesting character.

What I Disliked: This is a pretty slow book; not much diversity; the conflict is simple and one-dimensional.

What Others Think:

Book Lover’s Life

Damnation Books

She Never Slept

Under the Amoral Bridge by Gary A. Ballard

BallardUnderTheAmoralBridgeWhere I Got It: Review copy from the narrators via the Goodreads group Audiobooks (thanks!).

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Length: 4 hours

Series: Book 1 The Bridge Chronicles

Author’s Page

In this cyberpunkian near future novel, Artemis Bridge is a fixer – the go-to guy for when you need something illegal or under the radar. Bridge doesn’t care how foul your need is, he simply finds you the guy who can make it happen, taking a small fixer fee along the way. He’s proud to say he himself never does anything indecent; he merely facilitates. Of course, that all goes sideways when a dying associate feeds him a recording of the present mayor doing something quite distasteful.

Our main character Bridge likes to think of himself as a cool cat, making his money on the morally depleted but never dipping in the dirty waters himself. I can’t say I particularly liked this character, but he was so fascinating I didn’t have to. He obviously has morals concerning his own behavior and yet holds back on enforcing those morals on others. Plus he makes most of his money off of one type of degenerate or other. He has a body guard (Archimedes is his handle) who is paid to look aware and tough but not paid enough to take a punch for Bridge. I found their banter and dynamic both comical and interesting.

While there are few females in this story, they are integral to the plot (hurray!). The main female character is Bridge’s ex-girlfriend. I think she got all the brains in the relationship. She too is an interesting character with her own values and hobbies and actions. Much of the cyberpunk hardware belongs to her and hence, much of the the cyberpunk scenes include her.

The plot has a few unexpected twists and turns and they were a treat to watch unfold. Bridge has to call in favors, rely on friends, and outwit the bad guys. However, bad guys are nearly all he deals with, so there’s plenty of fancy foot work to stay ahead of a bullet. All in all this was an enjoyable ride with an original lead character. Definitely worthy of my time.

The Narration: Joe Hempel had a variety of voices, each distinct, for all the characters. He even pulled off a few accents as the roles required. While I found his voice for Bridge more of a boy-next-door voice instead of shady, slick, psuedo-criminal, he still made it work and I connected with the character through the narration. He even went the extra length with one of the cyberpunk voices, giving it the echo described in the scene.

What I Liked: The cover art; unique interesting lead character; ladies are integral to the plot; unexpected twists and turn; nitty gritty vibe; cyberpunk elements; good narration.

What I Disliked: Could have used one or two more females to balance out the cast.

What Others Think:

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Fantasy Book Critic

Red Adept Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your non-writer influences? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1984

Brave New World

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

Arthur Clarke

H. G. Wells

Ray Bradbury

Thank you Franz for spending time with us!

Book Blurb for Our Future Good:

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

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

Ross Books

T. J. Kirby Website

Goodreads

Audible

Amazon

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley

Heldig, my most evil cat.

Heldig, my most evil cat.

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

Narrator: Dion Graham

Publisher: HighBridge (2015)

Length: 6 hours 54 minutes

Author’s Page

Ronnie Bottoms and Lorraine Fell crash together in just the right place to activate the Silver Box, a box that the Laz (an alien race) placed on the Earth long before humans and which contains & constrains the last of a most powerful and destructive sentient force. Together, they struggle to contain what they inadvertently have set loose in order to save the entire planet.

I don’t like this book and I really did want to like this book. It is my first Walter Mosley book and I have heard great things about his work. HighBridge Audio is a quality publisher and the narrator, Dion Graham, is awesome. The cover art is intriguing. The story itself was a clash of themes and ideas that never melded into a coherent plot line. Quite frankly, I was bored with it.

First, Ronnie is a serial mugger and rapist. He has been in and out of prison much of his adult life. He ‘meets’ Lorraine in a New York City park when he attempts to mug and rape her. She fights back and he reacts harshly, killing her. This all happens in an area that is full of small boulders and large rocks and is right over the resting place of the Silver Box. Once Lorraine is dead, the Silver Box preserves her consciousness and this allows her to take over other bodies and eventually get Ronnie to return to the scene of the crime. At that point, using the power of the Silver Box, he has the greatest orgasmic experience of his life in bringing Lorraine’s dead, bloated corpse back to life, and in fine shape.

So we get all that very early on in the book. Ronnie and Lorraine have now become our heroes set on saving the Earth. They have been set upon a quest and given special powers. And they decide they need to visit family, friends, and folks from their past in order to hash some stuff out. Uh… wasn’t there a time limit for their quest? I kept waiting for the story to veer back towards the cool scifi part that involves aliens and saving the Earth. That is almost completely sidelined until the very end, which is hugely anticlimactic and not satisfying at all.

Next, Ronnie is now one of our heroes. Mr. Serial Rapist is going to save the Earth. He has completely turned over a new leaf (in record time from one scene to the next) and now sees that all those horrible things he did were wrong. He no longer has all the anger and hunger inside. So he digs up an old teacher to chat about the old days, stumbles into an old girlfriend, and crashes at Lorraine’s swanky uptown penthouse, complete with weekly maid service. He never visits his victims to redress his past ill deeds. I had a hard time routing for him because of his past bad behavior and also because he is not being very proactive in saving the world.

Lorraine wasn’t much better. She comes from a privileged family and she has to struggle with realizing that turning your head and looking the other way is wrong, especially when you have the power and money to make a difference. She has a shouting match with her parents, who threaten to stop making payments on her penthouse. So, Lorraine doesn’t work and isn’t paying for her upkeep at all, and that doesn’t change by the end of the book. I found her character to be boring because her circumstances didn’t change, so her behavior didn’t have to change much either.

Lastly, there is sex, and then there isn’t. Ronnie initially attempts to rape Lorraine, and once she returns to the land of the living, she has some choice words to say to him about that. But then they get super powers and there are 2 scenes in the book where they kind of have sex. And yet they think of each other as akin to siblings since the Silver Box changed them. So that added a yuck factor to their sexytimes, plus that whole attempted rape thing starting off their acquaintance.

So with all that, I had this feeling that perhaps the author was attempting to mash together opposing themes that would intentionally make the reader uncomfortable. Yes, I left this book feeling like I had been put through some kind of social experiment and then tossed out the back door with my meager compensation for my time – the pleasure of writing up this review.

The Narration: While I didn’t care for this book, Dion Graham was an amazing narrator. His voice is deep and smooth and a joy to listen to. He had dialects for the various New Yorkers and a range of male and female voices. The audio production was excellent.  

What I Liked: Excellent narration; cool cover art.

What I Disliked: I never connected with the main characters; the cool scifi element took a back seat to the boring philosophy lesson on good and evil; the ending was supremely anticlimactic and totally unsatisfying; very awkward sexytimes.

What Others Think:

Book Reporter

Grandmother Maelkevejen’s Belly by C. S. MacCath

MacCathGrandmotherMaelkevejen's BellyWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: C. S. MacCath

Publisher: Triskele Media Press (2015)

Length: 55 minutes

Author’s Page

They lost a group of folks precious to them and now they dance and trance, attempting to communicate with them, hoping there is still someone left to communicate with. At the galactic core there is the grandmother of all black holes. Some folks drifted too close to the edge. Now the people left argue back and forth about whether they are dead or not, whether they can be rescued or not.

This is a rich and dense novelette, full of characters that obviously have back stories. The reader is tossed into the middle of a years-old debate, showing the hopeful and usually drug addled dreamers who believe their long-lost friends & relatives life on and the more scientifically-minded bureaucrats who way the odds and find them wanting. Over time, a percentage of the population has begun to suffer from various diseases – some are born with functional eyes but lack the connection to brain, and other afflictions. Humanity is dwindling with each generation. So they dance & trance, argue & survey, and stay in the area.

This is such a dense story, I highly recommend that you give it your focus in order to get the most out of it. Since you are tossed right in to the middle of things, you need to pay attention to work out what is going on. That said, it is highly worth your time. The characters and story line are well written. I love that there is so much that went on before we enter the story, as it gives this tale a full-rounded feeling. The character have agendas and hopes. They have history with one another, and with generations past. Dive into this tale and enjoy!

The Narration: C. S. MacCath narrated her own book and I am usually wary of books narrated by the author. However, with this audiobook, set aside all such concerns. She has a range of voices for both female and male characters and does a good job of imbuing the text with emotions when needed. It was a well made audio. 

What I Liked: I simply love the title because it is so unusual; the cover art; a rich, dense story; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I found this story quite enjoyable!

Our Future Good by T. J. Kirby

KirbyOurFutureGoodWhere I Got It: Won a copy from the author via Audiobook Reviewer (thanks!).

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Ross Books (2014)

Length: 2 hours 47 minutes

Author’s Page

Mary & Joe are about to embark on their adult lives. They’ve just finished their General Studies and it’s now time for them to pick a Project to work on. Mary would like to work on the NutriSuit Project. However, Joe has been following a story in the news and he really wants to join a journalism team reporting on the issue.

Set a few generations from now, this novella tells a fun tale while also providing a subtle commentary on current day society. At least, that is what I got out of it. Joe has been following the story of the L5Pilgrim space colony society. They wish to break away from the International Space Station (ISS) and go weightless. Of course, this not only affects the current inhabitants of the colony, but will affect future generations. Some of the opposition point out that such colonists would not be able to return to Earth, essentially creating a subspecies of humans. Major detractors believe it isn’t right for them to make such a choice for their future offspring.

If the basic story isn’t enough for you, this tale is full of future tech that made the story fascinating. Much of it is seamlessly put into play without distracting from the story. The NutriSuit would allow a person to absorb all the nutrients they need while sleeping. Housing and robots and travel have all improved in the future. You can modify any room with a few button pushes – sound, color, furniture.

Then there are the societal changes. Every human is guaranteed basic housing and a small stipend each month. However, if a person volunteers for a Project, then they are paid for their efforts on top of the stipend, allowing the person to purchase luxuries. Of course I love this idea, even if I think we will never achieve it globally. Then there is sex. Mary and Joe aren’t married, just barely into adulthood, and yet it is clear they have been enjoying each other’s attentions for some time. I think this is fine (perhaps even preferred). Joe’s parents don’t even mind having Mary stay over. Both of these youngsters work hard and are worthy citizens AND they have sex. Good for them! It wasn’t taboo and I found this very refreshing.

My one little criticism about the story is that I found the underlying tale a little predictable. I won’t go into details as that would spoil the ending. However, with all the other goodness going on in this novel, I can overlook the mild predictability. Also, the cover art and title initially made me think this book was on spiritual guidance or world prayer or some such. I wold not have guessed it was a science fiction story from the tile and cover.

The Narration: Simon Vance has been a favorite narrator for some time. His performance here was great, as usual. He had a variety of voices for men and women and imbued the text with emotion where needed.  

What I Liked: Fascinating future tech; evolved societal norms; L5Pilgrim’s dilemma; story raises questions about a human’s right to pick their path in life.

What I Disliked: Plot was a little predictable; cover art and title don’t say ‘scifi story’ to me.

What Others Think:

Audiobook Reviewer