Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Victor Robert Lee, Author of Performance Anomalies

Everyone, please give a warm welcome to Victor Robert Lee. His espionage novel, Performance Anomalies, gives us a fresh face in the world of spies for hire. Scroll to the bottom for info on the audiobook giveaway!

Reality in your fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

VRL: If it’s mundane, I avoid it and take another path to move the story forward. But in a realistic story, characters still have to get from A to B, so within that motion you try to add elements that build on the personalities or the dilemma. Reality as a mindset in the novel Performance Anomalies is essential; even though Cono 7Q has capabilities that derive from an accelerated nervous system, there is a lot of scientific plausibility behind it. Researchers are just beginning to identify many examples of human performance anomalies based on rare genetic variations.

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

VRL: I don’t watch TV, so it would be a movie— any movie by Werner Herzog, either documentary or fiction feature. What would I be doing? I’d be watching his every move as director and thinker. The crashing through the (real) jungle in outrageously brilliant Aguirre, the Wrath of God and then in Fitzcarraldo — that was more than three decades ago, and today he is still pushing the envelope all the time. Guts and creative force. I’ll be his extra anytime.

What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?

VRL: The decade around 1900, when the Wright Brothers and Santos-Dumont and others were showing humans could fly. The inventiveness and courage and willingness to leap (literally) into the unknown — I’m in awe. I’ve flown hang-gliders and para-gliders and I love flight. If I’d been a teen then I would have volunteered to sweep sawdust or glue paper to wooden airframes, just to get close to liftoff, and maybe fly myself. Last month I visited the mountain site above Florence that Leonardo da Vinci used to test his flying machines in about 1506; it’s likely he built the first successful hang-glider. But then we had to wait four hundred years for the story to restart.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

VRL: Hazel Motes, from Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. Favorite— not really, but most searing, yes. And villain isn’t the right word; “disturbing protagonist” is probably more accurate. His twisting and manipulative pseudo-religiosity is scary enough, but you also get the sense he’s a psychopath one inch away from mass murder. And there is plenty of that in the world today; the difference now is that technology has made large-scale killing easy for your average Joe or Jane. Real-world villains are now dime-a-dozen— if I may digress for a moment, I wish the media wouldn’t publish images of mass murderers, over and over. In most cases, that is exactly the reward they were seeking.

Your news reporting keeps you traveling. What city has captivated you?

VRL: Many cities have grabbed me, and despite my travels I think I can say I’m not one of Graham Greene’s characters who “gave the impression that very many cities had rubbed him smooth.” I’m still pretty rough, and I prefer to travel that way. The impression of each place, each city, is governed by the big When, because cities, especially, change. Almaty in Kazakhstan, a beguiling favorite of mine in the past, is now a sprawling city with ugly modern features. Samarkand in Uzbekistan has turned into a place of hardship and crude oppression. Beijing, once so captivating and a destination for me dozens of times, is now a cloud of unbreathable paste; some of my friends there are moving to Los Angeles to escape the pollution — ironic, considering the smog in L.A. was the world’s worst 30-40 years ago.

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

VRL: Fair warning: I’m not a very good host! I like people, but I’m less and less sociable. Maybe I have been rubbed (or scratched) by too many cities, after all! Of course I would reach back in time for my guests — Confucius, Bertrand Russell, Einstein. Instead of discussing books, I’d ask them what they left out of their own writings during their lives. The things they didn’t say but should have, if they’d had more time or freedom. I’d also invite Catherine the Great of Russia, to keep the others on their toes.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

VRL: I was outdoors a lot as a kid. Collecting discarded liquor bottles from ditches, burying used washing machines with top-hatches for war games in the woods near the river, pinching the glowing abdomen off fireflies and sticking it to my forehead in the dark, searching for the perfect bluejay feather that might have fallen among the weeds.

When I was about thirteen I wrote a short editorial for the school newspaper, prodded by my English teacher. I didn’t know what to make of the satisfaction it gave me — such a little thing; why this feeling? My later training was mostly in hard sciences, except for a college minor in English Literature, which prevented the writing flame from being extinguished.

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

VRL: I think it was The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which I asked my mother to read to me over and over again when I was very young, until I could probably read it myself without even looking at the words. Big shout-out to all patient Moms!

Can we expect further adventures of Cono 7Q? 

VRL: Performance Anomalies is just a beginning for Cono 7Q. His strange heritage — Chinese, Russian, European and other unknown roots, coupled with his languages and experiences, make him an espionage agent for our age. For better or worse, the emerging new cold war between America and both China and Russia will be fertile ground for Cono’s interventions, real or imagined. I am grateful to David Pittu, the protean Broadway actor who read the Performance Anomalies audiobook. How can he create so many distinctive voices—male and female—and dead-on accents, all so naturally? Another example of a performance anomaly?

Author bio: 

Victor Robert Lee writes on the Asia-Pacific region and is the author of the espionage novel Performance Anomalies, described by The Japan Times as “a thoroughly original work of fiction” and by Singapore’s Best of Talking Books as “un-put-down-able.” His reporting from the South China Sea and other parts of Asia can be found in The Diplomat and elsewhere. His reporting has been cited in The GuardianBBC NewsCNNThe EconomistMainichi ShimbunThe Singapore Straits TimesAsahi ShimbunBloomberg ViewThe Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostThe WeekNational Geographic and other media, and in hearings of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He uses a pen name to avoid being denied travel visas by authoritarian governments. ​

Places to Find Victor Robert Lee

Website

Google Site

Short Stories

Facebook

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Book Blurb for Performance Anomalies

Victor Robert Lee’s provocative debut spy thriller PERFORMANCE ANOMALIES introduces a protagonist to rival the most memorable espionage heroes. Cono is a startling young man of mixed and haunting heritage who has been gifted – or cursed – with an accelerated nervous system. An orphan from the streets of Brazil, he acts as a freelance spy, happy to use his strange talents in the service of dubious organizations and governments – until, in Kazakhstan, on a personal mission to rescue a former lover, he is sucked into a deadly maelstrom of betrayal that forces him to question all notions of friendship and allegiance.

Relevant to our times, PERFORMANCE ANOMALIES explores the expansion of Beijing’s imperial reach into Central Asia, and the takeover of Kazakhstan. Cono’s main adversary is a brutal Beijing agent whose personality has been twisted by the Cultural Revolution’s devastation of his family. Victor Robert Lee’s topical depiction of a Beijing government pursuing territorial expansion resonates with current tensions over China’s claims on the entire South China Sea.

PERFORMANCE ANOMALIES travels from Brazil and Stanford to Almaty and the Tian Shan mountains, covering a tumultuous emotional landscape along the way. The fate of an oil-rich nation the size of Western Europe is at stake. So, too, is a hidden stockpile of weapons-grade uranium. The Beijing agent craves Cono’s suffering; a jihadi cell wants him dead. As the human cost of his mission escalates, Cono realizes that he must turn his strange talents toward higher deeds in the future – if by his guile he can survive the explosive present.

Amazon ~ Audible ~ Book Website

Info about the publisher Perimeter Six:

PERIMETER SIX publishes intelligent fiction with an emphasis on intrigue, action and territories in turmoil.

We take inspiration from authors who gaze at a fractured world and see in its cracks the fertile ground for unforgettable characters—fiction, yes, but making us all feel more real.

Contact us on this email address:
info@perimeter-six.com

Perimeter Six Website 

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Perimeter Six and Victor Robert Lee are giving away one Audible US/UK audiobook copy of Performance Anomalies. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: What country do you live in? Who is your favorite spy? Giveaway ends June 10th, 2017, midnight.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Agent G: Infiltrator by C. T. Phipps

Scroll to the bottom for the Giveaway!

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Amber Cove Publishing (2017)

Length: 6 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 1 Agent G

Author’s Page

Agent G is one of 26 hitmen for hire, working for the International Refugee Society (IRS). His memories of his previous life were wiped away even as cyber enhancements were installed. With the promise of restoring his memories, Agent G patiently works off his time for the IRS. His current mission is to infiltrate the opposition, the Carnivale, which is run by Caesar and his family. However, a mole within the IRS is making this a tricky, and possibly deadly, assignment.

Once again, Phipps brings me quality entertainment. This was a very fun read that had just enough seriousness to make me care about the characters and their fates. As Agent G wonders what kind of man he was before his time with the IRS, I too hoped he would find out and that it would be good for him. Each agent is assigned a handler (or personal assistant) and Marissa is assigned to Agent G. The two have a connection on a personal level. Marissa, like the Agents, has also had her memories wiped and has been enhanced to some extent by the IRS. However, she is much more replaceable than Agent G, so he sometimes worries about jeopardizing her life.

Besides the great characters, there’s plenty of fancy tech for us cyberpunk fans. Weapons, drugs, and criminal intrigue permeate this story. Agent G has plenty of mods and many of them come into play as he tries to wend his way through this double crossing, mole infested plot.

I also really enjoyed the ‘bad guys’, some of which are truly bad guys. Caesar and his adult kids bring out another side to Agent G, especially when he has to allow himself to be seduced. Yep, there’s a few sexytimes scenes sprinkled throughout the book. They were fine though not terribly erotic. That’s OK because Agent’s G’s sex appeal is written all over him with his competency and focus.

All around, it was a very fun listen and I look forward to seeing where Phipps takes this story next.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer is still one of my favorite narrators. He has the perfect voice for Agent G. It’s a touch gravelly but still sounds like a man in his 30s. I liked his mild Italian accent for the Casesar. Also his voice for Persephone (one of the people in charge at the IRS) was clipped and domineering, just like I pictured her.

What I Liked: Great cyberpunk spy hitman story; great narration; Agent G’s developed character; Agent G’s desire to get his memories back; the mole; infiltrating the Carnivale.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was awesome brain candy!

What Others Think:

 The Blogin’ Hobgoblin

The Audio Book Reviewer

Brian’s Book Blog

Timothy C. Ward

GIVEAWAY!!!

Phipps is generously offering up 3 Audible.com/UK audiobook copies of Agent G: Infiltrator. In fact, if we all spread the word and there’s a big response, he just may up that to 5 copies. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer this question in the comments: Do you have an Audible.com or Audible.co.uk account? Giveaway ends May 16th, 2017 at midnight.

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Giveaway & Review: The Good Spy Dies Twice by Mark H. Hosack

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Narrator: Mark H. Hosack

Publisher: Wide Awake Audio (2017)

Length: 10 hours 20 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Bulleseye Series

Author’s Page

Jake Boxer was a brilliant newscaster, shining a light on the world’s wrongs. However, in Russia with the death of Brody (the soundman), things spiral out of control for Jake. He gets sucked into his own paranoid conspiracy theories and his show is canceled. It takes years, but with the help of Claire (now his wife), a good therapist, and some regulated meds, he is a stable and caring person. Claire and Jake are on their honeymoon at a ski resort in Blind Creek, Alaska. The future is looking up for Jake… at least until an old source dies and his Claire starts acting a bit erratic. A murder and severe back injury may just be the thing to unhinge him as he gets caught up in yet another conspiracy.

I don’t always care for espionage novels because I find them a bit formulaic and therefore, predictable. This book was not that way and I quite enjoyed it. Jake is an interesting character. When we first meet him, he has confidence, charisma, and a drive to hunt down the truth. Circumstances in Russia break him and the story jumps forward several years. Jake is a changed man and he continues to change through this tale.

There’s skiing (which always makes me think of James Bond flicks), a valuable piece of art, the missing artist (did she defect or is she dead?), the mysterious accident that left Jake injured and two dead, and a colorful cast of characters. Jake has a lot on his plate to deal with: severe crippling pain, guilt over the newly dead, unraveling the mystery behind the art and artist, and just plain staying alive!

One of the most interesting aspects to this story was the Dagestan Hum. I labeled this as a red herring initially. We have the Taos Hum here in New Mexico and there isn’t anything particularly nefarious about it. At any rate, the Dagestan Hum is a jumping off point for this tale with Jake running a bit wild with his theories as to what causes that Hum and why Brody was killed for recording it.

As the story unfolds, there are conversations that only Jake is privy to. For a while, I wondered whether or not Jake was an unreliable narrator, having become addled after his latest accident. I loved that I was unsure right up to the last hour or so of the book. Of course this coincided with the big reveal of who was responsible for what. Some I had guessed but not the whole of it and I quite enjoyed being wrong on a few of my guesses.

Let’s talk about those wolves! That was a small but significant creepy bit tossed in by the author. The local wolf pack has been heavily hunted and their heads and bodies have been mounted in the not-yet-opened wing of the ski resort. Now who wants to sit around in a room full of stuffed wolves on a dark and cold night? Definitely a bit creepy and it allowed me to hate on the bad guys just a bit more.

This mystery closes by opening Jake’s eyes to the fact of a larger conspiracy. The loose ends for these immediate events were nicely tied up and the author did a good job of opening the door for more books in the series. It was good to see Jake regain some of his confidence.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Mark H. Hosack narrated his own book and as always when an author narrates their own work, I get a bit concerned. In this case, there is no need to be. This is a quality performance and a quality production. He goes out of his way to add little bits of music and sound effects here and there but not often enough to call this an audio drama. His female voices are believable and he does accents as well.

What I Liked: The mysterious Hum; Jake’s fall from grace and how reclaims a piece of that; the mystery of the art and artist; while I don’t like wolf hunting I do like how it was used in this book; Jake made a fascinating main character.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really liked this book!

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Author/Narrator Mark H. Hosack:

Mark Hosack is the author of THE GOOD SPY DIES TWICE (Book 1: The Bullseye Series, nominated for the 2016 RT Source Award), and IDENTITY (Simon & Schuster). He also wrote on the web series SEQUESTERED for Sony Crackle, the screenplay for GIVE ‘EM HELL, MALONE (Thomas Jane, Ving Rhames), and he both wrote and directed the award winning independent film PALE BLUE MOON. Mark lives in Los Angeles with his wife and a brood of gremlins who insist on calling him Dad.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of The Good Spy Dies Twice:

Jake Boxer, investigative journalist and host of the conspiratorial news show Bullseye, is in serious trouble. Not only is his soundman murdered by Russian intelligence agents while reporting on a secretive New World Order, but his network cancels his show, leaving Jake humiliated and spiraling into a deep dark depression.

Years later, a condemned murderer, who claims he was abandoned by the CIA, and who starred in an early episode of Bullseye, is finally executed for killing two supposed Soviet spies back in the 1970s. Jake Boxer, still trying to piece his life back together, is on his honeymoon in a posh ski resort in the Alaskan mountains when he gets word of the inmate’s execution…and the old killer’s final words: “The good spy dies twice”.

Those five words, seemingly meant for Jake, draw the ex-reporter out of his forced retirement and into a complex and deadly global conspiracy involving his newlywed wife, the secretive New World Order, and the hotel’s 100 or so guests.

Everyone is a suspect.

Audible        Amazon

GIVEAWAY!!!

The Blog Tour and the author have teamed up to giveaway a $50 Amazon Gift Card! Enter below through Gleam! Ends May 8, 2017.

The Good Spy Dies Twice Giveaway

Audiobook Giveaway! The Worlds of C. T. Phipps

Welcome audiofiles! It is my pleasure to have Charles Phipps on the blog once again! He’s already released 4 new audiobooks this year and his latest three are up for grabs in this giveaway! Want to know more about the mind behind these entertaining stories? Then check out his Dab of Darkness interview. To enter the giveaways, scroll all the way to bottom. Phipps is generously offering up 3 audiobook copies of each of the 3 books, via Audible.com and Audible.co.uk. In fact, if we all spread the word and there’s a big response, he just may up that to 5 copies a book. And yes, you can win more than 1 book.

Now here’s something new from Phipps – Agent G: Infiltrator. It’s a delicious spy flick with some future tech, betrayals, and a conflicted main character. The notorious Jeffrey Kafer narrates this book.

In a world where virtually any death can be bought for the right price, follow the path of a high-tech assassin searching for answers to questions he shouldn’t be asking along with his next target. Agent G is a Letter, one of the Society’s 26 weapons for hire.

Unfortunately for the Society, G is starting to think for himself.

Unfortunately for G, he’s in the middle of infiltrating a rival organization and is running out of people he can trust.

Audible ~ Amazon

 Ah ha! I was hoping there would be a sequel to Cthulhu Armageddon. Now here it is! The Tower of Zhaal is out! Narrated by the nefarious Jeffrey Kafer.

It has been a year since John Henry Booth’s exile from New America and the fall of the Black Cathedral. Cursed with a slow transformation into a monster, he has begun a doomed relationship with fellow escapee Mercury Halsey as they seek some way to arrest his transformation.

Dubious hope arrives in the form of the University, the deranged scientists and cultists descended from the staff of Miskatonic University. Except their offer of help comes at a price. Having sold themselves to ancient aliens called the Yith, they wish John and Mercury to join a group of rogues in hunting down a wayward member of their faculty: a man who intends to release the last of the sleeping Great Old Ones on an already ravaged planet. If they’re telling the truth, John and Mercury will be heroes. If.

The Tower of Zhaal is the second novel of the Cthulhu Armageddon series, a post-apocalyptic continuation of H.P. Lovecraft’s popular Cthulhu Mythos.

Audible ~ Amazon

Yes! The fourth book is out! The Science of Supervillainy – I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and I look forward to seeing what happens next to Gary Karkofsky and Falcon Crest City. Narrated by the infamous Jeffrey Kafer.

Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy (TM) returns in the fourth volume of the popular Supervillainy Saga. Having discovered the world’s greatest superhero slain by his doppelganger from another reality, Merciful: The Supervillain with Mercy (TM), and the arrogant President Omega, Gary dedicates himself to overthrowing both. Unfortunately, this is harder than it looks since Merciful has all of Gary’s genre savviness while President Omega has the entire brainwashed United States military behind him. In the end, though, there can be only one ruler of the world and two of these three feuding villains will have to go.

Audible ~ Amazon

Places to Find C. T. Phipps

Blog

Website

Facebook

Twitter

GoodReads

Amazon

Audible

GIVEAWAY!!!!

Phipps is generously offering up 3 Audible.com/UK audiobook copies of each of the 3 books. In fact, if we all spread the word and there’s a big response, he just may up that to 5 copies a book. And yes, you can win more than 1 book. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: Which book(s) are you interested in? Do you have an Audible.com or Audible.co.uk account? Giveaway ends May 16th, 2017 at midnight.

Agent G: Infiltrator Giveaway

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The Tower of Zhaal Giveaway

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The Science of Supervillainy Giveaway

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Performance Anomalies by Victor Robert Lee

Narrator: David Pittu

Publisher: Perimeter Six Press (Forthcoming May 2017)

Length: 8 hours 45 minutes

Series: Book 1 Cono 7Q

Author’s Page

 

Our hero, Cono, is a free-lance spy. With his heightened nervous system, mixed heritage, and gift for languages, he makes a great spy. Now he’s on a personal mission to assist a friend out of a heap of trouble. In Kazakhstan, the stakes are raised as European oil resources are threatened and weapons-grade uranium comes into play.

I was easily swept up by this book. Cono is perfect for espionage and it was refreshing to have a non-Caucasian hero. His mixed heritage and linguistic skills allow him to blend into so many different cultures. Cono is sometimes referred to as Cono 7Q and there’s a short flashback that explains this. He has a rare mutation on gene 7Q that accelerates his nervous system, giving him an extra edge. He can pick up on minutia and interpret their meanings quickly. Also, he has lightning fast reflexes. He’s just on the edge of being a superhero.

Early in the story, he receives a desperate call from his former lover Xiao Li. She’s currently working as a classy prostitute and unfortunately she witnessed something she shouldn’t have. Now her life is in jeopardy. Cono is several countries away but he calls in a favor with his long-time friend Timur who can get to Xiao Li quickly.

Once Cono meets up with Timur, things get messy. There are plenty of things that Cono and Xiao Li are unaware of, making it difficult to figure out who is on their side or against them. I really enjoyed the changing allegiances as people make backroom alliances. It made it so much harder for Cono and Xiao Li to untangle themselves from this mess.

My one quibble with this story is how the ladies are sexual objects or love interests, each of them. Now they are a bit better than Bond Women in that each of them has their own personality and a role that affects the plot. Still, I couldn’t help giggling and rolling my eyes a bit as each woman wanted to bed Cono. Maybe that 7Q gene also puts out an irresistible pheromone. Dimira is a teacher and has known Cono for some years. She provides a temporary safe house and some contacts for Cono. Katerina, a Russian asset, has also known Cono for some years and has enjoyed his personal company on their dealings. Xiao Li struck me as rather petulant and self-centered. While I didn’t like her character very much, I did like how she was a catalyst for the story and how Cono risked much for her safety.

There’s this torture scene that had me laughing quite a bit. Now that makes me sound a bit demented but Cono came up with an excellent way to get under the skin of his captor. The torture was harsh but Cono’s response was all defiance but defiance with a solid understanding of how to demean his captor in front of his lackeys. It was great. That is my favorite scene from this book.

I’m definitely looking forward to more adventures of Cono 7Q. This book kept me up to 1am as I didn’t want to put it down.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: David Pittu was a very good fit for this book. He did an excellent Cono, giving him a vague, unplaceable accent (as the book describes it). There were a ton of accents in this book and to my untrained ear, he did a good job of keeping each one distinct. There were also plenty of characters who yelled and Pittu used skill in making it sound like yelling without actually raising his voice and blowing out my ear drums. His female voices were varied and believable. There were a few tender moments and he did a good job working with those emotions.

What I Liked: The cover art; Cono is a unique and fascinating lead character; several ethnicities; switching allegiances; Cono risks much for a former lover; that torture scene!; a touching ending; great narration.

What I Disliked: Do all the female characters have to desire Cono in their bed?

What Others Think:

Novellum

Readers’ Muse

Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey

Streak being calm & snuggly.
Streak being calm & snuggly.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2008)

Length: 24 hours 15 minutes

Series: Book 6 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 6 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 3 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3 of the first trilogy, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Mercy is best read as part of the second trilogy, if not as Book 6 in the larger series, since there are plenty of characters and situations referred to from the previous books.

Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood, and Sidonie de la Courcel, Terre D’Ange’s princess and next in line to the throne, are in love. This doesn’t sit well with much of the realm because Imriel’s estranged birth mother, Melisande Shahrizai, betrayed the nation a generation ago. Imriel and Sidonie are faced with a difficult choice: Bring Melisande to justice or Sidonie will not inherit the throne. After beginning their search for Melisande in earnest, an unlikely city nation, Carthage, comes with luxurious gifts, promises of alliance, and an apparently heartfelt hope that Sidonie will consider their General Astegal for marriage. Things do not go as expected, for anyone.

This historical fantasy is another beautiful addition to the Terre D’Ange cycle. Through the adventures of Imriel and Sidonie, we learn more about this alternate world Carey has created. Carthage is a budding empire, rich in gold and gems but also dependent on slavery. General Astegal comes off as a very charming man, willing to bend to Terre D’Ange’s way of things when it comes to love; for instance, he wouldn’t be in a miff if Sidonie decided to have a harem of pretty young men. The other culture that really stood out for me was the Euskerri, which is akin to the Basque. Deeply proud and also demanding equality from their two neighboring countries – Terre D’Ange and Aragonia.

In the previous books, there has been some magic, though much of it is left up to the reader’s interpretation. In this novel, the magic is direct and has immediate consequences. Even though this is a reread for me, I always find myself surprised by how not subtle the magic component is in this story, as compared to the previous books. So how do you fight strong magic when you only have a passing experience with it? That is something that Imriel and Sidonie will have to figure out, though I do like all the hints that Elua, Terre D’Ange’s primary deity, may be giving them a hand. The magic does follow certain rules, which I liked, though it was quite the trial for Imriel to figure out what those rules were.

There’s plenty of adventure and sneaking about in this story. Imriel must make alliances with the most unlikely of people to even make a solid attempt to not only rescue Sidonie but the entire capitol of Terre D’Ange, the City of Elua. Indeed, spying, misdirection, and disguises make up a good part of the book. I think it was hardest on Imriel to deceive his beloved foster parents, Phedre and Joscelin. There’s some pretty intense scenes that had me holding my breath! Also, those scenes with Barquiel L’Enver, a man who has disliked Imriel since he was born, were quite worthy.

Sidonie really shines in this book. Even with everything told through Imriel’s eyes, Sidonie had some tough decisions to make and was at the center of some dangerous situations. Carey has this magical way of writing female characters behaving in feminine ways and still getting important stuff done. While Imriel is the character that carried me forward in this story, there’s a strong argument for Sidonie being that star of the story.

Each time we think our heroes have found the key to winning the day, there’s another twist or another spell or another hurdle or another bad guy that must be vanquished. One of the hardest things about this was that sometimes they had to find a way to sneak past, trick, or even fight friends and family that were ensnared in the magic. My poor nails! I was biting my nails too often with this story!

As with the series, there are incredible sex scenes that range from playful to desperate to healing to sad to joyful. Carey is just as detailed in her love scenes as she is with her use of cultures and linguistics. I always enjoy these scenes because they reveal something further about the characters.

The ending was well done. I was very satisfied that things were not easy to unravel and iron out. Not everyone gets everything they want. There’s plenty to be forgiven all around. Still, it was beautiful and satisfying.

The Narration: Simon Vance does this final book in Imriel’s trilogy justice. He had to take on further accents as our heroes experienced new cultures. There were also plenty of complicated emotions and intense scenes and Vance did a great job capturing the subtleties of those emotions in his voice work. Also, he did a fantastic job with the sex scenes.

What I Liked: Tangible magic with rules; Imriel has to make some unlikely alliances; Sidonie is at the heart of the matter and she shines through; exploration of further cultures in this alternate world; the love scenes; the intensity of Imriel interacting with his foster parents; Imriel and Sidonie really had to fight for their love; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is an excellent way to end this trilogy.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

Dear Author

Miss Geeky

The Bibliosanctum

Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey

Chupacabra has spotted something!
Chupacabra has spotted something!

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2009)

Length: 25 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 5 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 5 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 2 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Justice can work as a stand alone, though there are plenty of characters and situations referred to from the previous book.

Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood and adopted son to Phedre no Delaunay de Montreve, has returned to Terre D’Ange from his time in Caerdicca Unitas where he was attending university. He grew up quite a bit in the previous book and those around him think he may be ready for more responsibility. Unexpectedly, passion erupts between him and the heir to the Terre D’Ange throne, Sidonie de la Courcel. Not wanting to embroil the nation in the politics of their potential union, Imriel acquiesces to marrying a royal of the Alban family, Dorolei. Things go awry. Terribly, terribly awry and Imriel is propelled on a quest that takes him far afield of either nation.

Out of the first six books, I often found this book to be the slowest paced. It’s still a worthy read, yet I found it to have the fewest action scenes and long periods of travel and/or contemplation. However, this time around I read it with an on-line group and new little gems were revealed to me. It’s a time of change for Imriel and also of challenges that will define what kind of man he becomes going forward. It took him quite a bit of time and agonizing to figure out who he wanted and yet, now he has to make the hard choice of serving his country or alienating half the kingdom. Elua’s precept, love as thou wilt, was set aside.

Setting the gushy feelings aside for the moment, this installment to the series allows the reader to explore more of Alba and the Maghuin Dhon (the Bear Witches). Alais, Sidonie’s younger sister, travels with her father, the Cruarch of Alba, and Imriel, exploring the countryside as they make their slow progress to Dorolei’s home. The Alban nobles are not quick to adopt Imriel. They test him in several ways, including a cattle raid. But before long, tragedy strikes. My heart went out to Imri! I think he went a little insane with it for a short time, as to be expected.

From here, Imriel has a quest to undertake in order to fulfill an oath. But it’s more than that. There’s honor and duty in the quest for sure, but there’s also the need for vengeance. Something important was taken from Imriel, and from others, and he can’t let that abide. His quest takes him further east than he has ever traveled, into lands that barely exist on D’Angeline maps. Throughout this lengthy travel, Imriel meets many characters and several have views on vengeance versus justice. Indeed, this becomes one of the main themes of the second half of the book.

The sex scenes are just as compelling as the action scenes, and are more numerous. Carey doesn’t waste the reader’s time with flippant or empty romance scenes. While detailed, the sex scenes are beautifully written and always provide extra insight into the characters. After all, how we treat someone in private in intimate moments can be very revealing of our natures.

This series continues to render a rich and vibrant world filled with many cultures. Carey does an amazing job of fleshing out characters, even minor ones, giving them their own motives. I never feel like words are wasted when reading Carey. I love that I don’t always agree with a character’s choices, but I almost always see where they are coming from. Carey also includes different religions, food, and daily practices. The landscape and weather shape the backbone of the story. Indeed, I feel immersed when reading this series. The journey was worth the reread.

The Narration: Simon Vance’s skills are on great display with this book. His abilities with accents are surely put to the test with this tale! French, Gaelic, and Russian are just a few of the accents needed for the large cast of characters. There are also several moments of deep and complex emotions and Vance does a great job of showing these in his character voices.

What I Liked: The diversity captured in this book; Imriel has to make some hard choices;  the discussions of vengeance versus justice; exploring new lands; Imriel’s quest; Elua’s precept; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: I think the US market is ready for Imriel to be on the covers of this trilogy.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

The Obsessive Bookseller

The Bookbag

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Findings

Alexei Cyren

Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.
Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2008)

Length: 27 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 4 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

 

Note: While this is Book 4 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 1 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Scion can be read on it’s own.

Set in an alternate history mixed with a bit of fantasy, Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in the first trilogy, is growing up and he’s muddling his way through it. Certain things that come easy to his friends (like flirting) are difficult for him. It’s a long road full of blunders, missteps, and embarrassing moments. But there are also these gems of self-realization, beauty, and love. His teen years are full of various experiments, like him working alongside the Montreve folks to clear a new paddock, his early friendship with Eamonn mac Grainne, and his first visit to the Court of Night Blooming Flowers. This book is really the story of how Imriel becomes a man.

Eamonn goes off to Tiberium in Caerdicca Unitas to learn at the great universities and Imri follows soon enough. Both Phedre (Imri’s adopted mother) and Imri are curious if Phedre’s mentor Anafiel Delaunay learned the arts of covertcy in Tiberium when he was a young man. Imri makes it one of his goals to find out. He finds so much more than he expected, including himself. Living through Master Piero’s lessons, a riot, a siege, a wedding, the loss of a friend, Imri comes out of it wiser and more patient with himself and those around him.

Each of the first three books had distinct plots that arose early in the story. The second trilogy is a bit slower paced and I think of it as a plot that extends over all three books, taking longer to show itself. So, what was the main thread for this book? It was Imri learning how to be a man, but also what kind of man he wants to be. He spends much of his inner monologue worried over 1) whether he can be a good man and 2) whether he will choose to do so. He has this darker side, one that is prone to moodiness, anti-social behavior, brooding, and darker desires in the bedroom. Whereas the first trilogy has a distinct goal and hence plot for each book, this story is more subtle and takes more patience to pick out the main threads. Certain parts of the tale do tend to linger a bit overmuch (such as the teen angst that Imri goes through).

Then we all the good stuff. Melisande, Imri’s biological mother and a traitor to the kingdom of Terre D’Ange, still has a pinky in the mix. Imri becomes entangled in a torrid affair that brings him closer to the answer of who taught Anafiel such interesting skills. So much subtle intrigue! The siege is also interesting because it involves the ghosts of the city as well as the living. I won’t spoil this, but I found this to be the most interesting part of the book. Imri learns so much about love and friendship in it’s many shades in this tale.

As with the first trilogy, this book does have detailed sex scenes. They are hot and steamy, the author not flinching away from including both emotion and action in her descriptions. She’s a master at keeping them in context and using such scenes to either move the plot along or show you depths in her characters. Some of the scenes are a bit more robust than others, but most of them are sweet in nature.

I think I will always enjoy the first trilogy the most because it introduced me to this wonderful world. However, it was great to revisit Imriel’s tale once again, this time as part of a on-line group read. Nuances that I had missed reading on my own were brought up in the numerous discussions. This book definitely has stood up to scrutiny.

The Narration: Simon Vance gives a great performance as the voice of Imriel. He has that smooth cadence that is perfect for Imriel’s brooding thoughts or his well chosen words. I loved his accent for Eamonn and his Italian accents for the people of Caerdicca Unitas. All his characters were distinct and he had more than one female voice. He sounded very comfortable with the sex scenes.

What I Liked: A return and further exploration of this alternate fantasy world; Imriel himself; Phedre and Joscelin raising this kid to be a man; Master Piero and his pigeons; Gallus Tadeus during the siege; Imriel’s friendship with Lucius; the quest to find out where Anafiel learned his spy arts; the leavetakings and prepping for the next step in life.

What I Disliked: Very minor comment – there were times where Imriel’s adolescent moodiness became a bit much, but I guess that is true to form.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

The Obsessive Bookseller

Mervi’s Book Reviews

The Bookbag

Book Loons

 

The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship by Bijhan Valibeigi

ValibeigiBeginningOfABizarreFriendshipWhere I Got It: Kindle Unlimited

Publisher: Bijhan Valibeigi (2015)

Length: 98 pages

Series: Book 1 Time Wars Tales

Author’s Page

In the far, far future, vampires have taken over Earth and forced humans outward into the galaxy. Yet there are these time travel warriors who travel to the past in hopes of reclaiming the future. In this tale, the battlefront is modern day Seattle, Washington.

This is a fast-paced story with some fun tech, quirky characters, and one vengeful vampire. Agent Mu, as she comes to be called, kind of stumbled upon this gig. Out of work and out of money, she’s kicking around Seattle trying to figure out her next move when she comes upon two men in an alley fighting. Pretty soon, things turn weird and gory as one starts biting into the other. Once the attacker flees, our would be hero approaches the remaining man, who tells her to make the drop. Yep, there’s a touch of spy-ness going on here too, which makes the book extra fun.

So, she makes the drop and things happen pretty fast from there. Pretty soon, her handler is assuming she knows what she’s doing and she gets her cool vampire killing, gadget using, spy name of Agent Mu. She rolls with it, because what else does she have going on anyway?

There’s plenty of cool tech here, including Johnny, who is a very fancy personal assistant device. Though if you called him that, he would take it as an insult. There’s various weapons, a cool car, and fancy house with all sorts of tech built into it. Then there is the Gynoid – a humanoid automaton with lots of cool capabilities. But for some reason, it doesn’t have a mount or pocket or such for holding Johnny while the team runs around.

One of the things I liked about this tale was that you didn’t know the gender of our main character until the conversation where she gets her spy name. It’s left up to the reader to build an image of the main hero based on their first impressions. Also, and this is just my interpretation, I think she swings both ways. While there is no sex in this story to confirm yeah or nay on that, it’s great to see the door left open.

So over all, it was a very fun ride. My few criticisms are small. For instance, Gynoid has all sorts of trays and compartments and mounts, so why not one for Johnny? The tale doesn’t really include info about the vampires of the future, and yet there’s that whole spiel about them taking Earth in the far future in the book’s description. So I  would have liked a little more backstory within the actual story.  Other than that, I had a lot of fun with it. I loved the toothbrush and the comedy that brought into the story.

What I Liked: Lots of fun; cool tech; our main character Agent Mu; the toothbrush; Johnny and his sensitive ego;  the vampire hunt.

What I Disliked: Very minor – the tale could have used a bit more backstory built into it.

The Atomic Sea Vol. 1 by Jack Conner

ConnerTheAtomicSeaVol1Where I Got It: Review copy.

Narrator: Ray Greenley

Publisher: Jack Conner (2015)

Length: 6 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Atomic Sea

Author’s Page

In a future Earth, the seas have become tainted with a mix of radiation, mutated dangerous sea life, and who knows what else. This taint can affect humans who eat affected seafood or fall into the oceans. Small nations of humans survive, but war is imminent. Dr. Avery, aboard a Ghenisian military whaling ship, stumbles upon espionage and perhaps something more when a mysterious unconscious woman is brought aboard.

This was a crazy cool mix of mutated sea beasties, military fiction, a touch of murder mystery, and espionage. The Cthulu spawn coupled with the dark, imminent danger atmosphere of this book had me hooked from the beginning. As a biologist, I was geeking out over the mutated sea life but also the chemical and/or biological weapons the Octung enemies kept throwing at Ghenisia. Later in the story, we have some human diseases, even mutations, brought about by eating tainted sea food, and the wicked biologist in me enjoyed that as well.

Dr. Francis Avery is an interesting man as well. He is not your typical hero. He’s an alcoholic, middle years, balding, not so sure of himself, and for part of the story, he is a little easy to  manipulate. All this made him a very interesting character. He has the remnants of some high ideals, as much as the world he lives in will allow him, but by the end those once pristine black & white areas have all gone grey for him.

Captain Sheridan is also interesting. She was hard for me to guess what side of things she stood on and I very much enjoyed that. Dr. Avery spends quite a bit of time trying to figure her out as well. She is also a woman accustomed to getting her way in nearly everything, including the bedroom (which Avery well knows). I liked that the sex between them wasn’t all mushy but was completely focused on release of tension and lust. After all, this is a hard world and it breeds hard people, men and women alike.

The mysterious woman Layanna was brought up out of the sea unconscious. She poses a quandary as she is unblemished and remains that way while in sick bay. Perhaps she is some human genetic experiment gone right – making it possible for humans to remain untouched by the tainted sea. Perhaps she is a myth, something higher than humanity. At any rate, she is an item the Octung want and the Ghenisia government will want once they know about her.

Then we have all this cool espionage stuff going on in the background. Who aboard the Ghenisian whaler is dropping secret messages overboard? Who can Dr. Avery trust? Who killed those two sailors? So many questions for him to resolve!

Toss in big brawling Janx with his rag tag mutant, tattooed friends and you have quite the story! Indeed, I really enjoyed this book.

I was provided this audiobook at no charge from the author via the GoodReads Audiobooks Group in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks!

The Narration: Ray Greenley did an amazing job with this book. He really brought the characters to life and made them all distinct. He had believable female voices. I especially liked his voice for Janx and that of Janx’s buddy (who he fights in an organized match). 

What I Liked: The cover art; excellent narration; mutated sea beasties!; biowarfare; tainted seas; espionage; sex without the mushiness; Dr. Avery is a complicated guy; mutated humans; murder mystery; so ready for Book 2!

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book. 

What Others Think:

Rich’s Random Book Blog

Simon Goodson