The Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

Heya Everyone! I was recently tagged by The Audiobookworm in this fun book tag. Feel free to comment on my book choices or to add your own for each category in the comments. I’m going to tag a few people at the end, but if you want to throw up a post with your answers, leave me your link in the comments so I can swing by.

1. “Tale As Old As Time” – A popular theme, trope or setting you will never get bored of reading.

Theme – Underdog

BrownRedRisingThe Red Rising series by Pierce Brown was excellent. Can’t wait to see more from this author. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s a mash up of Roman mythology/military command structure with terraforming of Mars and beyond. Be proud of your scars. You’ve earned them!

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainD-List Supervillain series by Jim Bernheimer – which is just a lot of damn fun! Mostly, the supervillains in this series are just anti-organization. The various super-characters are imaginative and there’s plenty of humor.

Trope – Artificial Intelligence

DircksTheWrongUnitI recently read a whole bunch of AI stuff. The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks was a delight. It had that right mix of humor and serious bits. The AI units are programmed to learn to care for their humans, so the anthropomorphizing of the AI units is realistically built into the story.

PerreaultProgenyRay Jay Perreault has written several stories that feature AI and I have been enjoying making my way through his audiobooks. Progeny is one of my favorite AI stories, though his AIs run the gamut of cold, calculating evil to human-like societal beings.

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Serengeti by JB Rockwell was super intense in several ways. The story starts off with a space battle and the AIs are the ships, though they all have human crews. This space battle takes perhaps as much as half the book. Then the second half is the story of this one ship trying to limp home. The humans have to go into stasis, so that just leaves the ship’s AI and her little AI minion bots. The struggle to reach their goal, to stay sane over the lengthy years, to keep functioning just enough to keep the human crew alive – just an excellent tale.

Setting – Ancient Times

There’s plenty of stuff that happened in ancient times. Most of it is interesting, gritty, and dramatic. Here’s a list of some of the stuff I’ve read so far and have really enjoyed.

SmithRiseOfZenobiaConn Iggulden’s Emperor series – This series focuses on Julius Caesar, starting with his boyhood years and going all the way through his life to the dramatic, bitter end.

The Rise of Zenobia by JD Smith – set during the Roman empire in the Syrian city of Palmyra. I learned from this book and that always is a plus.

John Maddox Roberts’s SPQR murder mystery series – Set in 1st century ancient Rome during the time of Crassus and Pompey. Who could resist murder mystery and ancient Rome? Not me!

Patrick Bowman’s retelling of The Odyssey for young adults – The Odyssey of the Slave series. In this series, the focus is on a young lad who is taken as a slave when the famous city of Troy falls.

Colossus by Colin Falconer – This is a tale of Alexander the Great. Technically, it’s an alternate history, but if you don’t know much abut Alexander and the arc of his life, you wouldn’t know it. I really enjoyed this tale – elephants!

The Sekhmet Bed by LM Ironside – set in ancient Egypt. Ahmose was raised up to Great Royal Wife status. Political intrigue plays a big role in this story.

RobertsClaimedByTheEnemyRise to Power by Uvi Poznansky – set in the land of Israel in the 1st or 2nd century BCE. This is the first book in a series about David and his rise to power told from a secular point of view.

Claimed by the Enemy by Shauna Roberts – despite the title and the cover art, this book is pretty darn good. Set in ancient Mesopotamia during the time of King Sargon, the book focuses on two young individuals who were placed in difficult positions.

2. Belle – A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too

KayUnderHeavenGuy Gavriel Kay never fails to provide a beautiful story and his covers are always so well done. Recently, I read Children of Earth and Sky, and the cover is indeed just as beautiful as the tale inside. If you said I had to pick my favorite GGK novel, I would be hard-pressed to say which it was. His Sarantium duology is about the fall of an empire, so plenty of vast ideas going on there but with excellent pinpoint characters that do a great job of showing the human side. I also loved The Lions of Al-Rassan, which is based on Moorish Spain. There’s plenty of areas of conflict but also plenty of areas for commonality. I could go on and on, but you should just go pick up some GGK for yourself.

Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear was one of my favorite reads of 2015. The cover did a great job of capturing the Wild West and Steampunk mix of the story. Karen was also a wonderful character, not being a stereotypical kick ass heroine that are so abundant lately. She does kick ass, she’s just also a real person who happens to be brave when backed into a corner.

3. Beast – A book you didn’t expect much from but pleasantly surprised you.

AllendeZorroZorro by Isabel Allende was a pleasant surprise. In essence, it was an origin story for Zorro. I loved watching the black & white TV show was a kid so it was pretty cool to read this book and get Allende’s take on how Zorro came to be. There was a lot more depth to this character than I expected, which, in retrospect, was silly of me. Zorro lived during a time of Spanish colonialism in the New World – there were plenty of cultures and conflicts. Allende did a great job of pulling those elements into this tale.

ClinesTheFoldThe Fold by Peter Clines was one of the best SF Thriller novels I have read. It was fun. It was intense. It had SF themes that I could get into. The characters were also interesting, especially the lead guy who has a true eidetic memory. This was both a help and a hindrance to him.

King11226311-22-63 by Stephen King is the first King novel I have read. It won’t be the last. King did a really great job with the characters in this book. I know some folks have labeled him as a horror novelist, and nothing more. However, this book shows that he has a lot more going on. It’s obvious he put quite a bit of research in to the time and location (1963, Texas) of the bulk of the book. While I do expect that as I explore King’s works, this novel won’t be my favorite but it certainly delivered more than I expected.

4. Gaston – A book everyone loves that you don’t.

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel – I was on the fence about this one. I liked that it was a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that wasn’t full of angst. However, I didn’t really care for the character Arthur Leander, who all the other characters are somehow connected with. He was boring and I wanted to know more about these other characters but the story kept coming back to him.

CoehloAlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – it’s a young man’s adventure quest and it’s been done so many times before. All the ladies are in some subservient role, which is also a standard (unfortunately) in such adventure tales. Most of the men have a Personal Legend to find or to fullfill. Meanwhile, the 3 female characters lack any such ambition.

Grahame-SmithAbrahamLincolnVampireHunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – The most exciting parts of this book were the dream sequences and even those were mean tricks. The reader enters each of the dream sequences as if they are the next part of the story and only at the end of the scene do you realize it’s a dream. I really liked Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and his Unholy Nights was pretty entertaining as well, so I was sad to say that I found this book to be a snoozer.

5. Lefou – A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counter part.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraJean Tannen from The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch – This series is full of creative cursing, thievery, camaraderie, magic, death, romance, pirates, evil people getting their due, the good guys getting the crap beaten out of them, and more creative cursing.

PriestBloodshotHeldigAdrian from the Cheshire Red Reports by Cherie Priest – Adrian is still a bit of a mystery, since I have only read the first 2 books in this series (I hope there will be more in the series!). He’s ex-military on a search for his missing kid sister. He’s also a dragqueen, and his parents have disowned him because of this. He makes a great sidekick for Raylene, the vampire thief.

6. Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumier & Cogsworth – A book that helped you through a difficult time or that taught you something valuable.

For over a year now, I have been going through this medical thing. I’ve basically been on bed rest for a year now and I was finally diagnosed in May with CTEPH – which is basically blood clots that have hardened in my pulmonary arteries, which has caused pulmonary hypertension to a moderately high degree, which will be fatal…. in perhaps 6-10 years, unless I have this big, kinda cool in a SF way, kinda scary in a mortality rate way, surgery. That’s scheduled for early February. So, these books have helped me cope with this lengthy process.

Good cat, good book, what else does one need?

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford – this is a coloring book for adults and it’s the first one I ever bought. It’s remarkably detailed and it’s pretty amazing how coloring really takes me out of my current situation. Also, it’s something I  can do while listening to audiobooks.

CareyKushiel'sDartTerre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey – This series has been awesome and I have been part of a group read along with several wonderful ladies on the blogosphere. I’ve read Book 1, Kushiel’s Dart, so many times but it was quite something to share it with others in this in-depth discussion of the book. We started the read along back in May 2015, and now we’re on Book 7, Naamah’s Kiss. We’ll have to finish the last two books after my surgery – so that gives me something to look forward to. If you haven’t checked this series out, then I highly recommend it for alternate history and epic fantasy fans. I know sometimes it gets panned because there is plenty of sex in it, but the amount sex doesn’t outweigh all the awesomeness – the political intrigue, the sword fights, the desperate straights of the heroes, the saving of the realm! Honestly, the sex enhances the characters instead of just being padding to up the page count.

7. “Something There” – A book or a series that you weren’t into at first but picked up towards the end.

JordanPathOfDaggersThe Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – It took me about 4 books to really get into this series, but I’m very glad I read it as it is a touchstone for epic fantasy fans. The first book really took a lot from Tolkien’s works and I was bit insulted the first and second time I read it. However, I was encouraged by a great group of book bloggers, who were part of this big 2+ years-long read along of the series, to keep going. Also, in an interview, Jordan spoke about how he wanted to model Book 1 on Tolkien’s works to give readers something familiar. Eventually, starting at Book 4, Jordan’s genius really starts to show through. I am very much hoping they do make this series in to a quality TV series or a quality series of movies.

8. “Be Our Guest” – A fictional character you’d love to have over for dinner.

ButcherDeadBeatHarry Dresden & Bob the Skull from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files – This is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. The first few can be read in any order, but I think the series is best read in order since the larger story arc starts really building on itself around Book 4 or 5, though there are small things even in Book 1 that are tied into again later in the series. Bob would be a hoot at any dinner party. He doesn’t get much socializing, so he lacks all those hindrances that make most dinner conversations so dull.

HearneShatteredAtticus & Oberon from Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles – this is yet another favorite urban fantasy series. Oberon would bring the appetite and the humor with his simple doggy demands. Atticus, being the 2000+ year old druid that he is, would be able to chat about several entertaining subjects.

Tagging Others

So now I would like to tag some other bookish folks, though please don’t feel obligated if this isn’t your cup of tea. Also, if I don’t tag you but you want to play along, please do! And leave me a comment with a link to your post so I can visit.

Lynn from Books and Travelling

Andrea from Little Red Reviewer

Julie from Oh, Julie!

Austine from Novel Knight

Book Wins from Novel Knight
Book Wins from Novel Knight

And I would like to smash into this long post a big thank you to Austine! I won a very fun book package from her recently. It was full of books and bookish things and fake tattoos and a red mask and nail art. And then she wrapped everything in gold paper! This box of goodies was such an upper, especially since I have been sick. I loved unwrapping everything and modeling the mask, tattoos, and nail art for my man. Thank you Austine!

Bloggity Award and Other Stuff

Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn blog recently nominated me for the Real Neat Blog award. I tend to enjoy blog awards because it forces me to be a little more personable and chatty. Plus, we all get to talk about books.

The Rules:

    • Thank and link the blogger that nominated you.
    • Answer the 7 questions that the nomination has provided you.
    • Create 7 questions for your nominees.
    • Nominate 7 other bloggers.
    • Bend said rules

1. If you could meet any author, from any time (past and present), who would that be and what would be your most pressing question?

That’s a tough one. Andre Norton (Forerunner Foray, Timetraders, etc.), Alan Dean Foster (for his Pip & Flynx series), Isaac Asimov (for his Lucky Starr series), and Anne McCaffrey (for her Dragonriders of Pern series) all an impact on me as a kid and it would be cool to get a drink with them and find out what books, authors, or artists had an impact on them.

2. Who is your absolute favorite character, ever. I know you’re probably groaning and rolling your eyes but there must be one character that springs to mind immediately – probably followed by a host of others – but, I want that first knee jerk reaction please and why!

I find that if you ask me this today, you’ll get one answer and if you ask 6 months from now, you’ll get another. I’m easily swayed by whatever I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying at the moment. Let’s go with Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing wizard PI. I like how he can think out side of the box and come up with crazy polka powered T-rex zombie type solutions to messed up situations.

3. What is your favorite series out of all the books you’ve read?  The series you would recommend without hesitation.

I will always adore Jacqueline Carey’s Terre D’Ange Cycle. The epic fantasy, the alternate history, breaking so many standard tropes! However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone because of the sex. I love the sex, and that’s part of what breaks so many dated, sexist standards in fantasy fiction, but is everyone ready for it? Personally, 9/10 people I recommend this series to, has enjoyed it.

4. What’s your preferred reading format, book or e-reader?

These days I do a lot of audiobooks. I dabble in other formats, but find that my deep fatigue from illness makes concentration an issue. Audiobooks are great for me because I don’t get hung up on typos, grammatical errors, large words that I once knew but now find difficult to connect meanings to, etc. The story continues with an audiobook no matter what issues the book may or may not have.

5. The book you were most looking forward to but ended up being really disappointed with?

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. Wow! This book was a bit of a snoozer for me. The main character that ties it all together, that everyone knows or is tied to in some manner, is pretty darn boring. I kept on with it to the end hoping it would get better. There’s plenty of interesting side characters and I liked the slower pacing than usual for the fall of modern society story. But instead the book really is about this one guy who is pretty bland.

6. Blogging – what do you love/not love – any embarrassing moments?

I love that I don’t have a schedule. I blog when I feel like it (or when I feel up to it) and can take a break from it when I don’t. I like that I have kept it small and just blog what I want to blog about and don’t try to force myself into being glitzy, trendy, or the first to post a review on the latest hot ARC. There’s plenty of blogs that do focus on those things, and I’m glad they’re out there because I read them.

So far, I haven’t done anything too embarrassing. I know my typos and such have gone up this past year while I have been sick. But in the big scheme of things, that’s rather small.

7. Most anticipated book for the remainder of 2016?

Kevin Hearne is coming out with his first epic fantasy, I think. Hooray! I really enjoy his Iron Druid Chronicles (urban fantasy). Scott Lynch may be releasing his next Gentleman Bastards book (hooray!). As far as I know, there’s no release date yet for Peace Talks by Jim Butcher. Henry Hertz & his two sons have at least 2 more kids books coming out this year – they’re always so well illustrated! Of course, the next A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I always look forward to something new from Jim Bernheimer. I’m hoping Domino Finn does another Sycamore Moon book. I’ve really enjoyed the first 3 Jonathan Shade urban fantasy books by Gary Jonas and I’m hoping he puts more of the series out as audiobooks. Joe Hempel does a great job narrating them.

Here’s my 7 questions:

If you could be an extra on a period piece (Outlander, Spartacus, etc.) what would it be and what would you be doing?

What makes you cringe?

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

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?

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?

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Bonus Question: If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class about your favorite genre, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

While I will mention some favorite blogs below, I’m going to leave this open mic. If you find the questions (or my answers) amusing, feel free to chime in down in the comments or create your own blog post answering them – if you let me know you did so, I’ll swing by and check it out.

I like to visit author David Lee Summers blog for the steampunk – most definitely for the steampunk. Viviana, Enchanstress of Books is doing a lot of cool audiobook stuff this month. Broken Teepee has a fun mix of home gardening, book reviews, and info on home brewing kits and such. I’ve found Home Cooked Books by narrator Karen White to be a fun place with lots of interesting bits on what it’s like to make an audiobook. Violin in a Void is constantly expanding my world of books, and I like her focus on African authors and book blogs. Mike Powell is a photographer and he focuses on nature. I especially love his photos of herons. Evelyn Aster, who writes mostly contemporary romance (which, admittedly, is a bit outside my favorite genres), regularly posts pics of her fancy nails and her fancy drinks.

On a personal note, I haven’t been as involved as I normally am due to chronic illness. 2015 was one of the toughest years of my life and 2016 is shaping up to be as well. However, just last month I finally got a diagnosis! Hooray! Turns out I have many, many tiny blood clots throughout my lungs. Because the blood clots have been tiny, the condition didn’t present with the normal sharp pains to the chest, etc. Various scans and doctors missed it, and I was often misdiagnosed as having an asthma exacerbation. Now my doctors suspect the blood clots could have been going on as long as 2 years, with my lungs absorbing at least some of them. Because it went on so long, I have a moderately high case of pulmonary hypertension, which in turn has enlarged my heart. So, I have lots of work to do to get better and it will take many months. I’ve been on 24/7 oxygen since January and will be for at least a few more months, perhaps longer.

So, if you pinged me about something and I haven’t responded, feel free to ping me again. I’ve been hypoxic for probably about 12 months now and when your brain doesn’t have it’s regular stream of healthy oxygen, you get stupid, tired, and forgetful.

2015: The Worthy

So this year, according to my GoodReads account, I read or listened to just over 300 books, ranging from 10 pages in length to over 1100 pages in length. Obviously, I had to put a lot of thought into what books I found worthy this year, there being so many to sort through. So, I got it down to my top 15 (sort of) most entertaining reads of the year. None of these books were re-reads. In no particular order:

Squatch and a good book
Squatch and a good book

Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds

Spearpoint, the last human city, is an atmosphere-piercing spire of vast size. Clinging to its skin are the zones, a series of semi-autonomous city-states, each of which enjoys a different – and rigidly enforced – level of technology. Horsetown is pre-industrial; in Neon Heights they have television and electric trains . . .

Following an infiltration mission that went tragically wrong, Quillon has been living incognito, working as a pathologist in the district morgue. But when a near-dead angel drops onto his dissecting table, Quillon’s world is wrenched apart one more time, for the angel is a winged posthuman from Spearpoint’s Celestial Levels – and with the dying body comes bad news.

If Quillon is to save his life, he must leave his home and journey into the cold and hostile lands beyond Spearpoint’s base, starting an exile that will take him further than he could ever imagine. But there is far more at stake than just Quillon’s own survival, for the limiting technologies of the zones are determined not by governments or police, but by the very nature of reality – and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability . . .

TERMINAL WORLD is a snarling, drooling, crazy-eyed mongrel of a book: equal parts steampunk, western, planetary romance and far-future SF.

FinnTheSeventhSonsDomino Finn’s Sycamore Moon series

The Seventh Sons

Two years after his wife went missing, Detective Maxim Dwyer is still running down leads. The isolated woods of Sycamore are home to many lawless men, and no one’s talking, but that hasn’t stopped Maxim from gathering suspects. Topping his list is the local motorcycle club, the Seventh Sons. His biggest obstacle? Everyone swears the bikers are werewolves. The small-town residents are wary of provoking the MC, and the marshal’s office is no exception.

Everything changes when a routine biker brawl turns fatal. Going against procedure, Maxim presses an enigmatic stranger for answers. But Diego de la Torre is running his own con. The outlaw deals in lies and legends, and no adversary can back him down. Not even the police.

It’s too bad that nobody’s above the law for Maxim. He’s willing to risk his badge, and his life, to prove it.

FinnTheBloodOfBrothersThe Blood of Brothers

Diego de la Torre is officially an outlaw now, a full-fledged member of The Seventh Sons Motorcycle Club. The werewolf MC runs the wild lands of Sycamore with ease. At least until a dead body shows up and points to them as the culprits.

Detective Maxim Dwyer presses the Seventh Sons hard, but there are other guns in play. California bikers look to expand their drug trade. A mercenary outfit seeks revenge. Top that with an overbearing FBI agent who undermines local police, and both detective and outlaw have their hands full.

Brothers or not, Sycamore’s about to get a whole lot bloodier.

Claudie snoring
Claudie snoring

The Martian by Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills — and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength – he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive – but Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

Grounded in real, present-day science from the first page to the last, yet propelled by a brilliantly ingenious plot that surprises the reader again and again, The Martian is a truly remarkable thriller: an impossible-to-put-down suspense novel that manages to read like a real-life survival tale.

MooreRapunzelStayAtHomeMomRapunzel: Stay At Home Mom by Melinda Moore

Shut away from the world as a child, Rapunzel is now obsessed with the safety of her own children. When she locks her kids in a castle tower, her husband decides it’s time Rapunzel had a day off at Sleeping Beauty’s Spa. But the path to the spa is perilous, culminating in a confrontation with her fairy witch mother. Should Rapunzel have stayed safe in the tower after all?

Pico was rudely awakened from his nap for this pic.
Pico was rudely awakened from his nap for this pic.

Among Others by Jo Walton

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

 

FranklinMistressOfTheArtOfDeathThe Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction. In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town’s Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry II is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest “master of the art of death,” an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia-the king has been sent a “mistress” of the art of death. Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king’s tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia’s investigation takes her into Cambridge’s shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again . .

 

The Anne Manx series by Larry Weiner and Radio Repertory Co. of America

WeinerAnneManxInLivesOfTheCatAnne Manx and the Lives of the Cat

This new science fiction series charges into action at a head-long pace, deadly serious and wickedly satirical. Great performances from Claudia Christian (Babylon 5’s ‘Susan Ivanova’), as Detective Annie Manx, an honest cop in a system under siege, and Patricia Tallman (B5’s ‘Lyta Alexander’) as the vicious Lieutenant Richmond. Annie and her boss are marked for death, as they stand between Richmond and a police take-over of the entire sector. But somehow, astoundingly – when Annie gets killed, she doesn’t die. Just how many lives does this cat have? Mystery, action, suspense, sex, and razor-sharp humour, all wrapped up in a splendid digital production!

WeinerAnneManxAndTheRingOfMinotourAnne Manx and the Ring of Minotour

The eagerly-awaited sequel to Lives Of The Cat hurls us into a web of intrigue swirling around an ancient temple, a mysteriousring – and a legend that offers the chance for someone to actually become a god. Jean Richmond’s murderous lunge for ultimate power forces Anne Manx to risk her own soul for revenge. Claudia Christian returns in this gripping SF thriller as the hard-driving future detective, Patricia Tallman returns as the evil Richmond, along with Alexandra Tydings (“Aphrodite” on Xena) as Charlotte Miller, with co-star Richard Fish as both Jack and Rory. Magnificent performances, escalating suspense, and slam-bang action will hold you riveted Larry Weiner’s brilliant new script, the intense reality of the sound production, and a superb original score by Angelo Panetta, combine to bring you whole new worlds of adventure on the biggest screen of all — your imagination.

WeinerAnneManxAndTheTroubleOnChromiusAnne Manx and the Trouble on Chromius

Claudia Christian is back as Anne Manx, the Galaxy’s smartest, toughest, most durable private investigator!
Chromius is a backwater world whose President Josephson has replaced democracy with tyranny. Patriots are planning a revolt to restore liberty, and Anne is caught in the crossfire and then thrown right into the midst of the struggle. Trying to help Archie (Andy Hallett) and Wendy (Paris Jefferson), a couple of citizens caught up in the fight for freedom, the story becomes a nightmare maze of danger, betrayal, and ulterior motives. It takes all the courage, fighting skill and detective genius Manx can muster just to stay alive as things heat up – and to figure out the shocking truth.
Action, mystery, action, danger, action, humor, action, and suspense all pile in on each other as the story grows. (Did we mention it’s got plenty of action?) Great writing, superb performances, and excellent sound design are all tied together with a complete original musical score.
The Trouble on Chromius keeps your mind on the very edge of its seat!

 

Tofu kitty as a book stand.
Tofu kitty as a book stand.

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton

Reviewers exhaust superlatives when it comes to the science fiction of Peter F. Hamilton. His complex and engaging novels, which span thousands of years–and light-years–are as intellectually stimulating as they are emotionally fulfilling. Now, with The Dreaming Void, the eagerly awaited first volume in a new trilogy set in the same far-future as his acclaimed Commonwealth saga, Hamilton has created his most ambitious and gripping space epic yet.

The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfaced: a threat to the existence of the universe itself.
At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be breached, cannot be destroyed, and cannot be stopped as it steadily expands in all directions, consuming everything in its path: planets, stars, civilizations. The Void has existed for untold millions of years. Even the oldest and most technologically advanced of the galaxy’s sentient races, the Raiel, do not know its origin, its makers, or its purpose.

But then Inigo, an astrophysicist studying the Void, begins dreaming of human beings who live within it. Inigo’s dreams reveal a world in which thoughts become actions and dreams become reality. Inside the Void, Inigo sees paradise. Thanks to the gaiafield, a neural entanglement wired into most humans, Inigo’s dreams are shared by hundreds of millions–and a religion, the Living Dream, is born, with Inigo as its prophet. But then he vanishes.

Suddenly there is a new wave of dreams. Dreams broadcast by an unknown Second Dreamer serve as the inspiration for a massive Pilgrimage into the Void. But there is a chance that by attempting to enter the Void, the pilgrims will trigger a catastrophic expansion, an accelerated devourment phase that will swallow up thousands of worlds.

And thus begins a desperate race to find Inigo and the mysterious Second Dreamer. Some seek to prevent the Pilgrimage; others to speed its progress–while within the Void, a supreme entity has turned its gaze, for the first time, outward. . .

GladstoneThreePartsDeadMax Gladstone’s Craft Sequence

Three Parts Dead

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

GladstoneTwoSerpentsRisingTwo Serpents Rise

Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father — the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists — has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire… and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

 

Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.
Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

BernheimerSecretsOfADListSupervillainSecrets of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer

Cal Stringel may be dead to the world at large, but a select few know that he’s still alive and in control of the most powerful suit of battle armor ever created. He’s part of a rogue super team taking the world by storm and changing the dynamic for both heroes and villains alike. With change comes resistance and those holding control and power are not ready to just hand it over without a fight.

For the former D-List Supervillain, it’s time to break out the spare synthmuscle, charge the massive railgun pistol, and bring the pain. With his new team, he thinks he can take on the world, but is Cal biting off more than he can chew? He must deal with sanctioned hero teams and power mad bureaucrats on one side and the major supervillains of his world on the other.

As Cal and his allies ready themselves to face friend and foe, he will also have to deal with his relationship with Stacy Mitchell, also known as the Olympian, Aphrodite. Separated for over a year, they’ve only just reunited and are faced with the prospect of being on opposite sides of the coming conflict. Can they find enough common ground between the secrets and half-truths to sustain their fledgling relationship, or are they doomed like the last time to crash and burn?

SivecBuryMeBury Me by Tara Sivec

I hear screams in my head.
I see blood on my hands.
When I look in the mirror I see a stranger.

How is it that I can remember bits and pieces of my life, but nothing of any importance and nothing that makes any sense? Everything is twisted and nothing is right. I’m choking with every breath I take, suffocating on the unknown.

Two days ago, everything changed. Two days ago, the people I should trust the most became strangers in my convoluted head. The dreams I have can’t be real. The fleeting memories that whisper through my mind are scary and wrong…they have to be. If they aren’t, I have something much worse to fear than my fractured mind. I need to find out the truth, even if it destroys me.

I’ve been told my name is Ravenna Duskin. I’m eighteen years old and I live in a prison…

 

ForbesDeadLuckyGhosts & Magic series by M. R. Forbes

Dead Lucky

When a strange message arrives through an even stranger channel, necromancer Conor Night is driven to discover its meaning, even if it takes a road trip that he might not be healthy enough to survive. Joined by his sexy partner and an undead wise-ass, he’s about to rush headlong into a magic and mayhem filled night in New Orleans that will leave his future riding on a roll of the dice.
Luck, be a lady…

* Dead Lucky is a standalone novella (20,000 words) set in the contemporary, urban fantasy world of Ghosts & Magic. It precedes Dead of Night in the timeline, and is a great place to sample the series, get a deeper look into Conor’s backstory, or simply enjoy the ride. *

ForbesDeadOfNightDead of Night

Small-time thief and hitman Conor Night thinks having terminal cancer is his worst problem. The illegal treatments keeping him alive are expensive, and the side effects a mixed bag:

Conor can raise the dead.

When a low-end hit points to a high-end job, Conor is suspicious, but it’s an opportunity he can’t afford to ignore. Armed with a set of soul-sucking ancient dice, a collection of corpses, and the estranged daughter of one of the most powerful wizards on Earth, it will take all of his wit, charm, and magic to navigate the treacherous world of the dominant Houses and either finish the job, or be finished himself.

He’s got ninety-nine problems, and dying is only one.

ForbesDeadRedDead Red

Conor Night, the world’s only surviving necromancer, is used to having bad days. After all, he’s spent the last few years as a minor pawn in the Game of Houses while keeping one foot planted firmly in the grave. But between the job offer he can’t refuse from a wizard he doesn’t trust, and the appearance of a cult bent on sending him to the afterlife, his days are about to get a whole lot worse.

He’s used to the threat of death. Death making threats? That’s new.

JonasModernSorceryModern Sorcery by Gary Jonas

A SAVAGE MURDER

A husband armed with a sword hacks apart his wife in a Denver grocery store. There are dozens of witnesses, and the crime is captured on the security cameras. To the police, it’s an open-and-shut case.

To Naomi, the daughter of the couple, it’s evidence of dark magic. She hires her ex-lover, a private investigator named Jonathan Shade to prove her father is innocent.

Shade specializes in paranormal cases, but he isn’t buying it. Still, he takes the case, hoping to rekindle their relationship. Instead, Shade finds himself mixed up in supernatural intrigue with wizards, magically engineered assassins, and an ancient sorcerer returned to life who’s willing to kill anyone who stands in his way.

Too bad Shade doesn’t have any magic.

MoscaHighMidnightHigh Midnight by Rob Mosca

Ghouls, cryptids, homicidal clowns, knife wielding chimps and the best damn phantom bordello north of the border… welcome to Unity, Texas!

Sheriff Laredo Beaumont, former truck driver, hobo savant and ex-luchadore, along with his bonobo deputy Cicero are the sole law in Unity – a literal ghost town perched on the mysterious crater known as the Devil’s Outhouse – whose main economy derives from the spectral pleasures found within the Heskiaoff House bordello along with the Gallows Daughter Saloon (the last watering hole before exiting the American Dream). Whether corralling a pack of feral Chihuahua Yetis, giving chase to monstrous Thunderbirds or stemming the endless tides of sleep-walking dead – there’s no problem Sheriff Beaumont couldn’t handle either behind the business end of his trusted Colt or at the bottom of a bottle of Wild Turkey. But every man’s got his limits and Laredo has long reached his, retiring from the badge that bought him little respect and less gratitude. Ready to settle down with his beloved Sally Mae, a ghostly soiled dove working in the town’s infamous ghost bordello, Laredo has no idea that a gang of murderous clowns are closing in… each looking to settle a long forgotten score with the infamous ‘Sheriff of Unity’.

A gonzo pulp western for the 21st century, High Midnight is a timeless tale of blood and redemption set against a preternatural and pre-apocalyptic Texas.

Secrets of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer

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

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Jim Bernheimer (2015)

Length: 6 hours 27 minutes

Series: Book 3 D-List Supervillain

Author’s Page

The world thinks Cal Stringel, aka Mechani-Cal, is dead. However, Cal knows differently. He is in hiding, building back up his power and his alternate identity. He and a few select folks don’t agree with the status quo and they are going against it. On one side are the bureaucrats of the powerful nations of the world backing the sanctioned superheroes. On the other hand are the supervillains willing to sabotage Cal and his rogue buddies. Now toss in Cal’s personal life, such as his relationship with Stacy Mitchell (a sanctioned superhero known as Aphrodite) and his boss (Whirlwendy) who happens to be his baby momma, and you have quite the setting for reader entertainment.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and I believe this is the best yet. Bernheimer’s writing gets better with each new work. This tale is told mostly as a series of flashbacks. Stacy and Cal had a falling out and a year later they reconnect. So of course Stacy wants the inside story of Cal’s life for the past 12 months. As Cal and Stacy do mundane things like make dinner or shower together, Cal tells his tale. It’s a great story, something that is worthy of headlines if only the world at large knew the half of it. It was a great way to break up all the action with moments of reflection on the consequences.

Then there is the whole idea of Cal as a father. He reproduced! That happens to real people, so why not our D-List supervillain. Of course the dynamic between his baby momma (Whirlwendy) and him is a source of entertainment. Cal and a few others have joined forces and their default team captain is the mother of Cal’s baby. You can imagine my amusement.

At one point, Jim Bernheimer had a contest or such and several fans of the series had their names built into this book as minor characters. That includes me! Hooray! I was quite surprised and amused as to how my character ended up naked on a football field with several others.

OK, back to the plot and characters. Even though the story is told in flashbacks, so we know that Cal survived, there are still several twists and turns that made Cal’s story telling engrossing. Yep, I know he’s still intact and relatively healthy, but I wanted to see how he outwitted or outfought or outhid all these powers that he was up against. I was not disappointed. Then there is the character development. Cal started off the series by burning nearly all his bridges. In this book we see how that has shifted and he is actively trying to build relationships, and not just for the sex. He’s still an ass with a good heart, but he more self-aware and not just reacting to his raw emotions.

Overall, a great addition to the D-List Supervillain series.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer once again was awesome. I love his voice for Cal as it is always a little sarcastic. He has great voices for all the other characters and does a great job conveying emotion.

What I Liked: Cal grows as a person; my name was used a side character; plenty of action interspersed with reflection; some twists and turns; the cover art.

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

What Others Think:

Bookie Monster

Dead Eye: The Skinwalker Conspiracies by Jim Bernheimer

BernehimerSkinwalkerConspiraciesWhere I Got It: review copy via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Gryphonwood Press (2012)

Length: 7 hours 54 minutes

Series: Book 2 Dead Eyes

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, I think it stands on it’s own pretty well.

Mike Ross returns in this excellent sequel to Pennies for the Ferryman. He’s still missing an eye, still plagued by ghosts, and his love life is still nonexistent. However, he has been working out so he should be able to punch ghosts with more effectiveness. Perhaps his love life will even come back from the grave.

Mike is on a quest. His dad walked out on him and his mom when he was a kid and he learned in Book 1 that it might not have been by his dad’s own volition. His dad may have been possessed by a skinwalker and Mike has to know the whole truth in order to put his past to bed. In his hunt for his dad, he also has to work through the revelations from Book 1 concerning his genetic ties to Edgar Alan Poe. Mike isn’t the first Ferryman in his family tree. With all that and the ever clinging ghosts dying to chat with a mortal, Mike is in for an adventure.

I enjoyed this story even more than Book 1. I think it is because Mike is indeed a reluctant hero. He’s still recovering from wounds received in military service and his disability check barely lets him get by while living at his mom’s. So, yeah, he likes to see some financial gain for assisting the numerous ghosts that want him to carry a message or return some family trinket to a long lost niece. But on occasion, Mike feels compelled to do something simply because it is the right thing to do. In the end, it is this sense of good that drives Mike onward even when he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

This adventure featured a Cadillac that broke down more than once (electrical interference from emotionally disturbed ghosts), a wedding ring (haunted with memories of  a honeymoon gone awry), a body swap (say ‘Woof!’ for me boy!), and a female ghost hunter turned personal trainer (she’s quite comfortable handling Glocks). Toss in a powerful ghost on the brink of insanity, a few skinwalkers, and the Alamo and you have one wicked crazy adventure.

I’m a fan of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, which is a well known urban fantasy series. I think Bernheimer’s Dead Eye series is every bit as entertaining as the early books in The Dresden Files series and I very much look forward to seeing where he takes Mike next.

Narration:  Jeffrey Kafer did another excellent job. He’s a great voice for Mike, sounding like a determined but down and out man who is just trying to get by. Kafer has an array of distinct voices for both men and women. He also carried off accents for the Alamo quite well.

What I Liked:  Mike’s powers continue to grow; several storylines in this book pulled together and tied off nicely; Edgar Alan Poe; looking forward to the next adventure!

What I Disliked:  Nothing – thoroughly enjoyed myself with this book.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Critic

Reading Rainbow Six

Schesarazade

Best of 2014

ElwesLaydenAsYouWishA big thank you to all the publishers, authors, and narrators who generously provided review copies, especially the audiobooks. Thanks to all my book blogger friends, real life friends, and family who recommended books, or simply let me babble on about books even when you really didn’t care. According to Goodreads (which I don’t use religiously but perhaps I should just for the stats) says I read 116 books this year, the majority of which were audiobooks. Here is my list of favorites from 2014. Enjoy!

SummersLightningWolvesAs You Wish by Cary Elwes – Nonfiction: True adventures of the filming of the movie The Princess Bride. Lots of good stuff to make you laugh.

AlvaVosper'sRevengeLightning Wolves by David Lee Summers – Steampunk: Wild west gets even wilder in this multi-cultural steampunk adventure.

BernheimerPenniesForferrymanVosper’s Revenge by Kristian Alva – Epic Fantasy: Book 3 of the series and a most excellent wrap up to the first trilogy in this world. Intense and insightful!

Pennies for the Ferryman by Jim BernheimerUrban fantasy: Mike Ross is a reluctant detective with a bad eye that lets him communicate with the ghost world. A great nitty-gritty ride. 

Ancient Stout being used as a bookstand.

CampbellDragonsOfDorcastleThe Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse by Lauren Wilson & Kristian Bauthus – Nonfiction: Cookbook, survival book, and snarky humor on the end of civilization as we know it.

ShrumDyingForALivingDragons of Dorcastle by Jack Campbell – Epic Fantasy: Book 1 in a new series with some steampunk thrown in with unreal magic. Excellent world building in this book!

Tofu actually believes he is hiding behind this book.

Dying for a Living by Kory M. Shrum – Urban Fantasy: Jesse is a Necronites who can take the place of another in death….and come back to life. I almost passed this book up and it turned out to be one of my faves of the year. I thank the book gnomes for preventing me from being a total dunce!

PriestMaplecroftWords of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Epic Fantasy: Book 2 in the Stormlight Archives and some of the best fiction I have ever read, hands-down.

7912701Maplecroft by Cherie Priest – Gothic Horror: Take Lizzie Borden and Cthulu monsters and you have something cunningly magnificent. Dare I say this is what Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and HP Lovecraft have been waiting for?

WillisAllClearBoneshaker by Cherie Priest – Steampunk: The Civil War hasn’t ended and the Pacific Northwest remains in shambles due to an industrial accident. Complex world surrounds a complex relationship between a mother and son.

SeboldShanghaiSparrowAll Clear by Connie Willis – Time Travel: Book 2 in the All Clear series is an excellent wrap up to Blackout (WWII historical fiction).

MartinDeadlyCuriositiesShanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold – Steampunk: Awesome multi-cultural fiction with a stubborn lass at the center of it.

BowmanArrowThroughAxesDeadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin – Urban Fantasy: Certain objects attract ghosts or hold onto malevolent memories. Time to call in the right detectives to neutralize the object!

AlexanderAmbassadorArrow through the Axes by Patrick Bowman – Classic Retelling: Book 3 concludes Bowman’s excellent retelling of the ancient The Odyssey.

JangDearLeaderAmbassador by William Alexander – Science Fiction: Awesome adventure that asks so much from one young lad.

Cats: Picky readers.

Dear Leader by Jang Jin-sung – Nonfiction: A look inside North Korea from a native poet and spy. Absolutely fascinating.

FremantleSistersOfTreasonThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman – Historical Fiction: Beautiful story of two young people in NY during one of the worst fires in history.

LornDastardlyBastardSisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle – Historical Fiction: The sisters of Lady Jane Grey must navigate murky political waters for decades, and they do not always succeed.

KozeniewskiBraineaterJonesDastardly Bastard by Edward Lorn – Horror: A fast-paced, intense ride right up to the end.

Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski – Urban Fantasy: Think noir detective meets zombies. Yeah. Pretty fucking awesome indeed.

One of the few times Smudge has willingly held still for her photo.

JordanNewSpringThe Kingdom of the Gods by N. K. Jemisin – Epic Fantasy: Book 3 of The Inheritance Trilogy offers a beautiful ending to this complex and rich series.

AtwoodMaddAddamNew Spring by Robert Jordan – Epic Fantasy: I believe this to be Jordan’s finest work in The Wheel of Time series.

Grahame-SmithAustenPrideAndPrejudiceAndZombiesThe MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood – Dystopian: I read all three of these books this year and each blew me away in different ways. Atwood had me laughing one minute and wanting to punch something the next.

Streak sleeping in his basket.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith & Jane Austen – Classic Retelling: Yep, hoity-toity aristocracy of England has been infested with zombies. And now it is fashionable to send your kids off to Asia to become martial arts experts. A most excellent and entertaining book!

The Mystery of Grace by Charles de Lint – Paranormal Fantasy: A captivating tale of a mechanic who has to figure out a way to free herself and others from a mundane afterlife.

Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman by Jim Bernheimer

BernheimerPenniesForferrymanWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Gryphonwood Press (2012)

Length: 8 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dead Eyes

Author’s Page

Mike Ross is ex-military, having lost an eye and received some leg injuries while serving the country. He now lives with his mom as he tries to pull his life together; re-acclimatizing to civilian life, finding a job, multiple doctor visits, and plenty of physical therapy. Oh, and that ever so annoying tendency to see & hear ghosts. They aren’t all nice ghosts either and some of them can hurt him.

Mike decides to enroll in college, mostly as a way to stave off having to find a job at some fast food joint. There, he meets a young woman who has a ghost problem. Once he solves her ghost problem, their relationship starts having problems. If it’s not one thing, then it’s another. For a while, I was worried Mike would be a lonely hero. Then entered Candace (Candy) who is older and refreshingly secure in her sexuality. Also, she is responsibly employed as a police officer. These two make a good team.

As Mike starts to question his sanity, ghost after ghost proves that it isn’t just all in his head. His ability to interact with the spirit world make him a Ferryman. But as his ability becomes more common knowledge, various entities start messing with him – ghosts, humans, Skinwalkers. Yep, it’s never a slow day in Mike’s world. Luckily, he has some good friends in his corner.

If you check out my blog often, then you know I am a Jim Bernheimer fan. Pennies for the Ferryman does not disappoint! It was a great listen from start to finish. The action is nicely mixed with moments of introspection or character building (via his relationships with others). While there are fewer ladies than the guys, they play pivotal roles. The world building was fun to watch coalesce, as Mike explores his new abilities and the world those abilities dump him into. And these abilities (for both Mike and the other supernatural characters) followed distinct rules which gave the story a nice framework for the plot to happen.

Part mystery, part ghost story, all good intense fun. So looking forward to the sequel!

Narration:  Jeffrey Kafer did another excellent job. He also narrated the D-List Supervillain novels. He had a great beat-upon voice for Mike. His female voices were feminine and distinct. He had to come up with a variety of accents and sometimes spooky voices for the ghosts. His narration was a joy to listen to!

What I Liked:  The rules of the supernatural world; Mike’s practical take on his new abilities; the female characters; the cover art.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – thoroughly enjoyed myself with this book.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Critic

Simply Stacie

Mugglenet

Hidden in Pages

Reading Rainbow Six

Interview: Michael O'Neal, Author of The Eighth Day

O'NealTheEighthDayEveryone, please welcome Michael O’Neal. You can catch me review of his book, The Eighth Day, over HERE. Today Michael stopped by to chat about action flicks, his kid-self, detassling corn, and much more. Enjoy!

1) If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I would have to go with The X Files. Not only is it still my one of my favorite shows, I would be curious to experience it for the first time in the post-9/11 world, with all we know now about our government’s nefarious activities (NSA spying, CIA “black sites”, etc).

2) How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

We’re immersed in our culture so it’s hard not to let that seep into the work, but you’d be amazed how fast the world changes. For instance, in the original draft of THE EIGHTH DAY a reporter references Y2K as being the biggest crises the president had to deal with so far, which in 1999 when the book was first written was this big impending thing, and two years later (after 9/11) it was a laughable afterthought. So that had to be changed.

It really depends on how timeless the culture reference is as to whether it dates it. The book references The X Files and Top Gun, and I think both have cemented their status as pop culture icons to the extent that it doesn’t date the piece at all.

3) Due to your job and training as a maritime safety instructor, you know some action is dangerous, but does your character? Do you find your background helpful in creating dangerous circumstances in your writing?

My background definitely helps, although getting expert opinion is just as important. The author always knows more than the character. Right now I’m working on a new series of books (a heart-warming tale of a girl and her dog…trying to survive the zombie apocalypse 😉 and I just wrote a sequence the other day where they’re escaping in a small private plane, and the heroine’s only had a little bit of instruction on how to fly, so I thought back to my early days in flight school at some of the things I had trouble with and potential pitfalls for a young, inexperienced pilot.

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

My most physically demanding job was detassling corn during the summers in high school, but as unpleasant as that was my worst job was my first job at the second college I attended. I was working at a call center shaking down alumni for money, and I lasted about a month and a half (of working 2 days a week). No amount of showering will make you feel clean after bugging a just-furloughed-going-through-a-nasty-divorce airline pilot for money. They call me now and I give them a little just because I feel bad for the poor sap on the other end of the line, having spent some time in their shoes getting cursed at. Some of the people I called were pretty cool but most were less than happy to talk to me and some were just downright nasty. I don’t particularly care for talking on the phone anyway. Needless to say, writing is a much nicer way to make money (and I sleep better too).

5) I see that you are into thrillers and action stories (The Avengers, Top Gun, Tom Clancy novels). In the past year or two, what have been some of your favorite action/thrillers either to hit the pages or the big screen?

As far as books go, there’s been a couple. Katya’s World is one of my favorite YA books, it reminded me a lot of seaQuest DSV, which while short-lived was one of my favorite shows growing up. Tom Clancy’s last book, Command Authority, was really good and unnervingly prescient, given what’s happening in Crimea and Ukraine right now. I was deeply saddened when he passed, though his co-writer Mark Greaney has taken up the mantle with Support and Defend, which you could kind of tell was the publisher letting him take the Clancyverse out for a spin on his own before giving him the keys to the kingdom. But he did a good job, the transition was nearly seamless. It looks like the powers that be thought so too, since Greaney’s next book will include Jack Ryan and all the supporting characters, rather than just one of the lesser Campus operators that Support and Defend centered on.

Speaking of the Clancyverse, I thought the new Jack Ryan movie was pretty good, but I think they’re missing a golden opportunity right now. I think they should make the Campus series books into movies and have Chris Pine play Jack Ryan Junior, and bring back Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan Senior, but that’s just my two cents.

Outside of that, Marvel Studios continues to knock one after another out of the park. The Winter Soldier was probably the best Marvel stand-alone movie so far. And the last two Hunger Games movies were really good too. Sometimes a movie adaptation will add a little something to the story that really kicks it up a notch, like some of the Harry/Hermione scenes in Deathly Hallows Part 1, and in the Mockingjay movie I loved how Peeta’s rescue, which happens off-page in the book, becomes a nail-biting almost shot-for-shot remake of the climax of Zero Dark Thirty.

6) What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’ve always been a big fan of the Splinter Cell PC games since to me they were like experiencing a Tom Clancy novel rather than just reading one, so I’d probably have to go with one of his newer books. Probably Locked On or Threat Vector, maybe more the former since it featured the Rainbow counter-terror team that’s already been featured in a number of successful video games.

Come to think of it though, Jim Bernhiemer’s Dead Eye books would make a cool GTA-style game. Go around punching ghosts, always low on cash and gas, having to make allies and run errands for funds, and there would be plenty of puzzles to solve as your character figures out how to control his powers as a Ferryman and how to use them to get out of sticky situations. I’d definitely want a “Pedestrian view” so you can see your character trying to fight a ghost but not the ghost itself, that would probably be good for a laugh.

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

Oh man, me as a kid. I have a good anecdote about that. Part of my first book takes place at a place called AUTEC (Atlantic Underwater Testing and Evaluation Center, it’s a real place the Navy plays with all their underwater toys), after one of my co-workers read the book he came up to me and said “I knew about AUTEC because I used to run the civilian contract ships down there. How the hell did you know about it as a sophomore in high school?” To which I shrugged and replied, “My fourth grade book report was on a 400 page dissertation on the U-boat campaign off the East Coast of the US during WWII. I was kind of a weird kid.” I always had my head buried in a book. The only way my parents got me to go outside was introducing me to model rocketry, which after they had to run in terror from an errant home-made rocket is something they probably regret.

That said, as much as I liked reading I never really saw myself as a professional writer. I was always good at it in school but didn’t start doing it for fun until high school, and doubted I was good enough to turn pro. For most of my childhood I either wanted to fly or design airplanes or be a submariner or underwater explorer. Looking back, two out of four ain’t bad.

8) 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?

Unfortunately I don’t have enough fans for this to have occurred yet, nor have I personally met most of my favorite authors. Thus far the people who gush about the book are people I know so that makes it less awkward. I did spot a guy I’d met before at the local Comic-Con where I was selling my books, and this guy had the most terrifying creepy clown sounding laugh you’ve ever heard. It haunts my nightmares still. So I thought to myself “If I call out to him I bet he’ll come over and buy a book…but I will literally pay $15 to not have to hear that creepy clown laugh again.”

9) What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

If they ever do a “VH1 Behind the Music”-style documentary about me, the time I got sucked into playing Physics Equation Hangman with my fellow aerospace engineering students in the basement of the engineering building at Iowa State will be the “and that’s when he knew he’d hit rock bottom” moment. I looked around me and thought, I don’t belong here. I transferred to flight school shortly thereafter 🙂

Origins of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer

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

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

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

Narrators: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Jim Bernheimer (2014)

Length: 7 hours 1 minute

Series: Book 1 D-List Supervillain

Author’s Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Disliked: Few women in the story.

What Others Think:

Grigory Lukin

Guest Post: Jim Bernheimer, Author of Prime Suspects

BernheimerPenniesForferrymanFolks, please welcome Jim Bernheimer back to Dab of Darkness. I have enjoyed a few of his novels and a short story collection to date. ‘Enjoyed’ really is too light a term. I tore through three of Jim’s books back to back. Little housework was accomplished that week. So it is with great pleasure that Jim agreed to do a guest post and tell us about his latest book, Origins of a D-List Supervillain. You can also check out the Dab of Darkness interview along with my reviews of Prime Suspects, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, and Horror, Humor, and Heroes.

A Post That’s Pretty Much About Nothing

I’ll start with thanking Susan for allowing me to come on and do a guest post.

She gave me a plethora of topics to choose from, which was cool, and it gave me the opportunity to use plethora in a sentence. Unfortunately, as I read on it became crystal clear that all her imaginative ideas weren’t clicking with me. The good news was she said I was free to come up with my own topic.

I’m a writer. How hard could that possibly be?

The answer is very. In the aftermath of finishing my latest novel, I find myself devoid of any meaningful ideas, so I’m going to try and totally wing it.

BernheimerOriginsOfD-ListSupervillainObviously I want to talk about my new book, Origins of a D-List Supervillain (available in paperback, Kindle/Nook, and with the audiobook coming soon). However I figured I shouldn’t be blatant because savvy and intelligent readers, like those visiting Dab of Darkness, can spot a shameless, self-promoter hawking their wares from a mile away. So I figured I’d have to be clever when I insert a paragraph promoting the prequel to one of the highest rated novels in the superhero genre. Y’know, so people won’t roll their eyes at me when they read this and do so without seeming to pander to this well-read and fascinating audience.

Prequel? Yeah, I wanted to be like George Lucas and go there – only with less Jar-Jar, because that’s how “Meesa Roll.” Anyway, I just did a single prequel. That’s all I had material for, which is also sort of like, well movies 1-3.

Maybe I should get rid of that last bit? Picking on the prequel trilogy and Jar-Jar is low hanging fruit. Then again, most everyone laughs; so I guess it stays.

What am I working on now? That’s always good to talk about. People like that, but that’s usually at the end of the guest post and I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Plus, it’s fairly self-evident. I’m reasonably certain that everyone can see that I’m out contacting blogs and trying to promote my latest novel. Also, there are all those tasks that my wife has reminded me that I’ve been neglecting while writing my latest rollicking adventure that’s already receiving a number of excellent reviews from readers.

I told her that I needed to spend most of July marketing it, so I’m safe for a few more weeks. The deck has lasted this long. Sanding it down and then applying a new coat of stain during the hottest months of the year doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of fun in the sun. Really, I should be thanking you folks for helping me delay that particular bit of nastiness. If sales continue to improve, I can probably make it to fall before the honey-do list becomes a get your butt off the computer and do something other than convert oxygen into carbon dioxide list.

I can’t really say I suffer for my art. It’s more like I suffer without my art or whenever my wife of twenty years realizes she married a slacker. I’m not sure.

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainSo thanks in advance for doing me a solid. What does that really mean anyway? It’s a good thing I’m just typing this and not saying it. After all, I’m about to turn forty-five. Isn’t it embarrassing when middle aged men try to use hip terms to try and sound cool and with it? The pinnacle of my wild side is usually Friday Night Magic or playing Cards Against Humanity, which clearly makes me a rebel without a cause. (Perhaps a rebel without a clue is more appropriate?) That’s when I’m not busy writing a number of really excellent books that are so good that everyone should take a moment and check out my Amazon author page right here – http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Bernheimer/e/B0028OE2UA

I figured putting my youngest daughter in the picture with me would help my sales better than one of just me. We just got a new puppy, so he’ll probably be in the next picture I upload there along with my daughter. My goal is to get enough cute things in there to offset my ugly mug because I’m kind of like the Grumpy Cat without the viral Internet presence. Heck, I just searched Amazon and discovered that the Grumpy Cat has an author page. It has a book out with 298 reviews! That eclipses even the 263 reviews for Confessions of a D-List Supervillain! Though, my story has a significantly higher rating. I can still hang my hat on that.

Now I can say I did some research for this guest post.

Do you think Susan will notice? If you folks are reading this either she didn’t or is tolerant of my rambling and feeble attempt at humor.

Wow! I’ve got over eight hundred words done and it’s about time to tie off the loose ends. This might prove to be difficult because the whole thing has been just one big loose end covering for a marketing ploy.

BernheimerSorceressI suppose now would be the right spot for talking about the next books I’ll be working on. My wife and several fans want to see the third Dead Eye novel and there is also a small, but rather vocal group who are eagerly awaiting the third Spirals of Destiny installment, but considering how well the D-List books are doing, I’d be an idiot (or an even bigger one than I already am) not to write more in that universe. So yes, I’m hoping to have two more D-List books ready by the end of the year. Also, I’m collaborating on a screenplay adaptation of my novel Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective mystery because I want to be that author who is muttering how Hollywood corrupted my art while cashing their check. For enough money, I’d even let them write Jar-Jar into … No! I’d have to draw the line somewhere.

Places to Stalk Jim Bernheimer

Website

Amazon

Goodreads