2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).
I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.
As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.
Note: Even though this is Book 5 in the series, it works just fine as a standalone.
Empress Blair of planet Iaranix (spelling?) just lost her father to assassination. A political group on planet Anyu is thought to be behind it, but no one is sure. Empress Blair needs a bodyguard, one that doesn’t have any preconceived ties to her enemies. Anne Manx, one of the best private investigators around, is on vacation and plans to keep it that way. Alas, Empress Blair makes her case to her and Anne agrees to the job. As she delves into the messy, back-stabbing, double-crossing politics of the situation, it becomes hard to tell friend from foe. For example, there’s Mr. Logan. Just who hired him and where his loyalties lie are a mystery.
Once again, I have dived back into the world of Anne Manx. I do so adore this series. It’s science fiction and humor with a little sexy thrown in. Anne’s humor with the young 17-year-old Empress Blair is very amusing. There’s a little adult humor between the two and one scene with a personal item that had me chuckling into my morning tea. Then Mr. Logan gets tossed into the mix and the humor goes up a notch. He’s got this special power to hypnotize almost anyone. Sometimes he gets creative and brawls break out. He and Anne hit it off by showing off their warrior skills to one another, and then trying out their sexytime skills.
As always, the plot is fast moving, the witty banter can be lightning speed, and the characters tricksy. Someone is always double crossing someone else. Anne is on the look out, having been burnt before. Yet Mr. Logan’s loyalties remain a mystery until the end. I really liked all the double and triple deals, all the scheming. Everyone seems to have a secret agenda, except for Ann herself who just wants to finish the job and get back to her vacation.
When all is said and done, when the body count has been tallied, I find this to be one of the best additions to the series. Perhaps I have said that about each story. Truly, this is one of the best sci-fi humor series out there, with a great cast and wonderful music and sound effects. Now that I have completed all the Ann Manx audiobooks to date, I hope RRCA decides to create more such works in the Anne Manx universe. You can now catch some of the Anne Manx books and other RRCA works on Audible, free, if you have a subscription via their Members Fantasy Channel.
I received a copy of this audiobook free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Narration: Once again, RRCA brought together a great group of voice actors and the Panetta studio. I really liked Elle Muth’s Empress Blair – she comes off as everyone’s best friend with gentle humor. Robin Atkin Downes had a great sexy voice for Mr. Logan – sometimes all business and sometimes all seduction. As always, Claudia Christian makes a great Anne Manx. I love her sarcastic humor and willingness to kick butt first and ask questions later. Bob Arsena was a great drunk General Hawks. And while it was a very small part, Raini the singer was a great humorous addition! The sound effects and music never drown out the dialogue and greatly add to the story. That joke about Empress Blair’s massage device would not be nearly so funny without the sound effects.
What I Liked: Witty banter all the way through the story; Empress Blair and her friendly save the whales attitude; drunk General Hawks; Anne Manx’s physical competition with Mr. Logan and the sparks that creates; everyone is double crossing someone; great sound effects and music; the adult humor; gorgeous cover art.
What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book.
Note: Even though this is Book 4 in the series, it works just fine as a standalone.
I return once again to the world of Anne Manx! This time, the rightful heir to the Amazonian throne seeks her aid. The planet of Amazonia has been peacefully ruled for generations by the Queen, who raises up a clone of herself as heir to the throne every several decades. However, the current Queen’s first clone was imperfect and she was discarded. A second clone has been raised to take the Queen’s place when the time comes. Meanwhile the first clone was adopted by a poor woman who named her Spunky. Now Spunky Brandburn seeks out the diamonds that are needed to run the cloning machine, the only machine that might fix her imperfections.
Jean Richmond returns to the series! I first met Jean Richmond in an off-shoot story, Jean Richmond Smokes a Joint, and then again in the early Anne Manx books. I have a bit of a girl crush on her. I know, she’s the evil one but I can’t help enjoying her character so much! Now she’s here causing havoc and entertaining me. Her presence does bring up the memory of loss for our hero Anne Manx and Anne wants her incarcerated or dead, understandably so. I really enjoy the dynamic between these two ladies.
Spunky Brandburn was an amusing character most of the time. Sometimes her personality was just a touch too much. She had some great lines though. Spunky is borderline mentally deficient, so her character gets to say some odd things that come across as amusing instead of as offensive. Spunky is a kind-hearted soul that has trouble seeing evil in anyone and I couldn’t help but root for her.
The heart of this story is good overthrowing evil but because of the cloned royal family thing going on, it’s a bit more complicated. Then there’s the stolen diamonds to deal with, even if they were stolen for a decent cause. This book had a few twists I wasn’t expecting and I loved that one of the main characters was handicapped. Science fiction in general could use more such diversity.
The trademark humor of this series is on full display. Double entendres had me chuckling through my hot tea (poor computer keyboard!). A chunk of the humor is definitely intended for adult audiences though there’s no descriptive sex or such. I think teens would be fine with it and this book would probably give them a good example of what witty adult humor looks like.
I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Narration: Once again, the performances all around were excellent. Claudia Christian will forever be the voice of Anne Manx in my head. Patricia Tallman’s enjoyment in the role as Jean Richmond comes through clearly. Barbara Harris pulled double duty as both Spunky and the Queen of Amazonia. It’s amazing how different the two characters were and Harris performed both quite well. There’s a slew of other voice actors picking up the smaller roles and it was great to have such different character voices. The music and sound effects were put to good use, adding drama and tension, yet never drowning out the dialogue.
What I Liked: Jean Richmond returns!; Anne Manx is always a favorite; Spunky has a handicap but does well nonetheless; great cover art; excellent narration and sound track; a few unexpected twists.
What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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. . .
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.
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.
“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.
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?
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…
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. *
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.
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.
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.
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.
Folks, meet Wendy McCloud. She has anger control issues. In fact, several Chromius senators tried to kill her father (President of Chromius), so she killed quite a few of them. Now the judge (who happens to be her uncle Fred) has sentenced her to anger management therapy. Follow along on this fast-paced adventure and see what triggers Wendy to scream into a pillow (instead of punching people).
If you are familiar with RRCA, then you have probably guessed this story is set in the same universe as the Anne Manx series (check out Anne Manx and the Trouble on Chromius). Wendy, who is a bisexual prostitute, gets pulled into the tangled intrigue that is behind the latest bombings on Chromius. Space pirates, lead by Jake Bloom, are suspected to be behind it. Wendy decides she needs a new job, uncover agent! Now since her father wasn’t too keen on her regular night job, Wendy hasn’t been introduced to a lot of people in her father’s circle of influence; she has a chance of pulling this off. She dies her hair red and goes by the spy name of Red Cloud.
Once again, RRCA has brought us a quick-witted space opera. Wendy was instantly a favorite character as she took her little anger management pillow everywhere with her and gave it a good scream whenever she felt like tagging someone with a laser. I loved all the jokes about her pillow. I also love that our main character is bisexual and is in a relationship with a woman. Hooray! Diversity in SF!
The dialogue holds to the RRCA standard in wittiness and jokes that left me chuckling even as we moved on with the story. Jake Bloom made an excellent bad guy partly because he is charming. He has this larger plan to extort protection money from all the planets in the area. Wendy does her best to keep him on a string in her undercover persona. There’s a bit of slap and tickle, even as Wendy (and I) look forward to the day she can set aside that pillow and give Jake a good jaw-breaking punch.
There’s plenty of great side characters that add to the drama and the humor. Elaine, Wendy’s girlfriend; President McCloud’s secretary Dorothy (who Wendy had some sort of relationship with in the past); Johnny Jack of the Secret Service; new President Ralph Rudin; Sean Beauford (who thinks he’s a stud but really he’s just a classy crook). They all bring a little something to the table making this performance feel like a full-length story instead of just under two hours. With the story arc complete, I leave the tale feeling satisfied and ready to hunt down the next RRCA performance.
I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Narration: Once again, RRCA does not disappoint. The performances are top of the game. The sound effects are expertly timed and the volume of them never drowns out the dialogue. I absolutely love the quick back and forth some of the scenes call for. I am sure the actors must have to practice before hand just to get their own giggles out of the way, the piece is rife with humor. Traci Lords was great as Wendy ‘Red Cloud’. I have to wonder if she was given a little pillow in the sound booth to make those ‘screaming into an anger management pillow’ sounds. James Leary made a great sleazy space pirate. I bet he had fun with that!
What I Liked: All the humor; set in the Anne Manx universe; the main heroine is awesome and not just because she’s a prostitute and bisexual; excellent narration/audio production; lovely cover art; a little adult humor; a bit of a surprise ending.
What I Disliked: Nothing – I completely enjoyed this book.
Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.
Did you know Anne Manx has a terrible fear of drowning? Well, that’s how this tale starts out, along with her rescue. Unfortunately, her rescuer is swiftly dispatched and before Anne knows it, she is swept up into the political intrigue that has long been brewing on the backwater world of Chromius. There, tyranny has gained a stranglehold and a few citizens are pushing back for justice, or, at least, the right to eat dinner without being under surveillance.
Plenty of people will attempt to kill Anne in this story but she is not likely to make it easy for them. Once on Chromius, she is joined by Archie who she hires as a tour guide while she snoops around. The quick and witty word play between these two often had me chuckling. Archie has his reasons for not showering or brushing his hair or living in clean environs. Of course, these are all a part of his charm….. and why he can be easily spotted across the room.
As Anne digs into the political mud slinging, she comes across a prostitution ring that services various politicians. She begs with Wendy for info while promising to protect her and help her get into some other line of work. Wendy isn’t quick to trust and Anne must use her wits and keep digging. Once Wendy is thrown into the mix, there’s some adult humor tossed in that added to my chuckling. I especially liked Archie’s repeated question of ‘What did she mean by ‘in between’?’ Obviously, the poor guy was distracted by the few details he got concerning a prostitute’s regular business.
So, there is a bit of a mystery here as well, which gives Anne, our galactic private eye, something to do. Folks have been killed and some other folks are trying to kill Anne. At first, it looks like a pretty straight forward deal. I did not see the ending coming and I was pleasantly surprised by this twist to the mystery.
Over all, this was another great addition to the Anne Manx series. Honestly, this may be my favorite yet. The dialogue was tight, the humor had an edge to it, the plot was a little more complex than some of the other stories, and Anne is just such an enjoyable character to follow around.
I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks!
The Narration: The voice acting was great, as I have come to expect from RRCA. I can just picture the facial expressions on the characters via the dialogue. Also, the sound effects are sharp and clear (I can identify them right away) and they never drown out the dialogue. I also like the bits of music tossed in. Oh, and Anne singing in the shower was a nice little bonus for us fans.
What I Liked: The dialogue was quick, humorous, well timed; the plot had an excellent twist at the end; I now know Anne is afraid of water; Archie and his aversion to neat & tidy; the adult humor; the voice acting, sound effects, and bits of music were all great; the cover art.
What I Disliked: Nothing – This was a most excellent book!
Set in the same future universe as the much enjoyed Anne Manx series, rises this new tale. Maureen Barnett, a once famous singer and performer, is now lucky to be performing at a smokey dive. She’s constantly arguing with her teenage daughter, Holly, who she pretty much ignored as a kid as she focused on her career. But now she desperately wants that familial connection. Then Amelia Storm walks into her life telling her a fantastical tale of a song that grants the singer premonitions. Of course, Maureen doesn’t believe her. Then her daughter goes missing and she’s willing to give anything a try to get her back, including counting on the recently retired police officer Henry Powell.
This story didn’t have near as much scifi flair as the Anne Manx series that I adore but it was still quite enjoyable. The dialogue was crisp and full of small jokes for the reader to catch and chuckle at. The characters were fun and interesting. Maureen really steals the show in this story. She’s got issues. She’s a bit of a diva, but a diva who had a breakdown not too long ago and realized that her baby daughter was nearly all grown up and she didn’t know her at all. So she takes these small singing jobs at little restaurants, bars, and nightclubs (partly because she’s still paralyzed by large crowds, but also so she can stay in one place and be a part of Holly’s life). She’s not perfect but she is trying.
The rest of the characters have their flaws too and each plays off the other and that adds to the both the plot and the humor. Holly has a lot of anger towards her mom (and probably rightly so) but she’s also being a bit of a spoiled brat. So I didn’t feel too bad for her when things started to go awry and she went missing. Henry is bitter about essentially being forced into retirement but he’s still got something to give to society. Amelia floats into the story as either our savior with her magical song or as the crack pot that might still incidentally save the day. It’s a great combination of character traits divvied up among these engaging characters. There is some light adult humor bantered around which should be fine for most kids and a family car trip. It did bring out the teen in me, leaving me sniggering a few times.
The plot started off pretty simple. Strained relationship between mother and daughter, then a missing daughter, plus that magical song. It’s a solid start to a story. Once Henry (who is now a private investigator) gets pulled into the story, the plot really starts to move along and we get a few twists. I have to admit, I did not see the ending coming. I was pleasantly surprised by who did what and why. Another fine addition to the RRCA catalog!
I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Narration: The audio performance was of the same great quality as we have come to know and expect from the Anne Manx series. The dialogue comes through clearly with the background sound effects and/or music never drowning it out. This particular story has snippets of song throughout and those snippets were performed to the same high standard. O’Hara’s performance of Maureen when she was having her nightmarish premonitions was very well done. Think about how hard it is to get across to a listener that a character is asleep having a bad dream. I really enjoyed Jones’s performance in the big reveal scene. She kept in character while also showing this new side. Asner was great as both disgruntled cop and love-smitten retiree. Kevin Crawley was the voice of Jeff (Holly’s boyfriend) and I loved his voice as he fawned over Maureen Barnett. All around, another great performance!
What I Liked: Excellent narration/audio production; lovely cover art; a fun, engaging story; crisp, quick humor; a little adult humor; a surprise ending.
What I Disliked: Nothing – I completely enjoyed this book.
Anne Manx is a rookie cadet at the intergalactic police academy. There, she meets Jean Richmond, who is a senior cadet. Fans of the audiobook series will also recognize other characters like Jack Reynolds.
Since I am already a fan of Anne Manx via the audiobook series, I was quite intrigued by this graphic novel. Here we have the origins of Anne and her law enforcement career. She’s young and has some self-confidence, but circumstances will harden her further into the tough, decisive private investigator I know and love from the series.
Jean Richmond, oddly, becomes her friend somewhat and also gives her some mentoring. This really explains some of the exchanges these two characters have later in the series. I really enjoyed this blossoming friendship as both women can be a bit bullheaded.
The plot itself was an exciting mix of character development, getting to know the police academy, and action. It’s law enforcement, so sooner or later we have to have some weapons play and hand to hand combat. I was not disappointed! Also, this was a great way to sneak in some future scifi tech, which I also enjoyed.
We have several male characters tossed in to balance the ladies. While Jean & Anne are the primary females, we see some others, mostly as background but all in academy uniforms looking professional. The men some times needed saving and some times did the saving. It was a great give and take balance that I so like about the audiobook series.
The dialogue varies between serious talk about the plot and sharp, sometimes cutting, humor. This book is an excellent origin story to the Anne Manx series. It really is a good fit, mirroring everything that I enjoy about the audiobook series.
I received this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Illustration: The cover art of the audiobooks reflects the faces of the voice actors for the major characters and I wondered if the art in this book would do the same. Indeed it does! Since I already have this idea of what Anne and Jean look like, it was awesome that the illustrator kept this going, perhaps smoothing the lines a bit to make Jean & Anne look younger. While both ladies are curvy, I didn’t feel they were two exaggerated. Also, both men & women at the academy where tight pants with big bulky jackets. While I appreciated that the uniforms were the same for both sexes, there were more backside shots of women than men. I personally would have liked this to be a bit more balanced – meaning that I wouldn’t have minded a few more backsides of men being on display.
What I Liked: Anne’s earliest days in law enforcement; her relationship to Jean Richmond; unisex uniforms; illustration goes well with the audiobook cover art; good mix of action, character development, and academy life; by the end, Anne is a bit tougher.
What I Disliked: This is a small criticism, but I would have liked a bit more equality when it comes to the occasional focus on buttocks.
Giveaway! So I will be giving away 1 Audible US download of any RRCA title available of Audible US. Enter the Rafflecopter widget below. Or tell me why you like radio dramas in the comments for a quick entry.
Larry: RRCA actually came into being in 1989, when I got together with an announcer friend, Bob Arsena (still the voice of RRCA), and another announcer, Mike Moran, to write and produce radio commercials for advertising agencies. That was nominally successful, but an article in my local newspaper in 1995 sent me into the direction of audio drama. It was a piece about National Public Radio’s “NPR Playhouse.” Somewhere in the article, program chief, Andy Trudeau mentioned he was always on the lookout for good original audio drama. I put the paper down and said to myself, “I can do that.” I had actually been fooling around with audio since I was a kid, and Trudeau’s comment gave me all the justification I needed to actually sit down as an adult and write something. Of course, I needed a studio to record the piece, and my partner, Bob Arsena, mentioned he’d been recording material at Angelo Panetta’s studio and was impressed by his ability. I approached Angelo with the idea, and he was just as gung ho as I was, and that was the birth of our relationship.
2) If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?
Angelo: Not sure I’d be interested in experiencing any for the 1st time again, but I can tell you some of my current favorites. I am really enjoying The Americans and just finished Mad Men. I’m also a Marvel TV and movie fan. Saw Ex Machina 3x’s, it’s my favorite movie of the summer so far. Book: Invent It, Sell It, Bank It! by Lori Greiner from Shark Tank.
Larry: My storytelling background is film (I was actually the story developer behind the muppet movie, “Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas”), so I think film even when I’m writing for audio. Every time I see the film noir classic, “Laura,” it’s always like watching it for the first time. Then, I’d have to list the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup,” and then “The Searchers.” Anything written by O’Henry is something I can appreciate as a ‘first time’ experience. Finally, the film “The Searchers,” is so good, I study it every time I see it from a film structure and cinematography perspective. As to TV series, I’d have to list “Mash,” and “Seinfeld” as shows I can watch over and over.
3) RRCA titles have music & sound effects incorporated with the story. For those of us who have no clue how those are seamlessly melded into the story, can you give a quick run down?
Angelo: We produce our audio like we were going to make an animated film, except we never draw the pictures. It’s important for us to make sure our actors put all the effort into their performance, like on a stage or movie. That way, when we add the sound fx, we can match the energy of the performance. Then we layer the sound effect and music. Early on we decided we would not use narration, so all of the action is told through dialog and sound. That is a challenge. The mix is what puts it over the top and makes the action clear to the listener.
4) In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author/publisher. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?
Larry: Well, Angelo runs the daily marketing effort, but in a global sense, the Internet has allowed us much more control and flexibility over the marketing of our own material. The downside is that you have to be much more active and involved in that, so I think successful creators today also need to be savvy marketers. And, we’re learning all the time. The most challenging part is trying to pin down a target audience, especially in today’s visual world. We think it’s a 35+ audience, but we’re still not sure about the size of that market. Also, we don’t really know if there’s a way to appeal to a younger audience, so we’re still playing around with ebooks, shorter form audio, etc.
Angelo: I don’t enjoy anything about the promotion process. It is very necessary, and we are learning a lot about facebook and social media. We have our own online store where you can order CD’s and download mp3 and High Definition Wav files. We are very thankful for the modern age of self publishing. It’s important to entertain your audience through social media just as you would with your product.
5) Many a scifi TV aficionado will recognize a few of the voice actors in RRCA titles. What is it like to work with such a cast?
Angelo: Getting to work with our talent is one of the most rewarding things about RRCA. Listen to this out take with Claudia Christian. We have so much fun when we record.
Claudia Chrstian and Pat Tallman are very supportive of the Anne Manx Series.
Larry: It’s all pretty incredible, but I have to say the cast that really blew me away was one of our non-Anne Manx titles. In “The Songbird,” I got to work with two absolute legends — Shirley Jones and Ed Asner — and a legend in the making, Broadway mega star Kelli O’Hara (now the star of “The King and I”). I actually got to write lyrics for two of the greatest legitimate voices of our time. I still shake my head over that. Working with Nala (Moira Kelly) from “The Lion King” was another incredible thrill. And, of course, every Anne Manx title has the unparalleled Claudia Christian, a truly great actor who has become an absolute friend.
6) What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?
Larry: To me, it’s always the question, is your stuff really science fiction or is it fantasy? I like to confound people by saying it’s neither. I’m simply writing character driven pieces that are set in the future. So, when people ask to categorize my work, I say, “It’s comedy, character driven stories, set in a science fiction motif.” Also, I tell people even though we’re writing audio material, I still follow a three act movie format.
Angelo: Anything to do with time travel.
7) Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?
Angelo: All of our side characters are wonderful. I enjoy Larry’s writing very much. The interesting thing about Larry’s writing is that it’s written to be spoken, and casting is what brings these characters to life. We recently had the pleasure of having Jerry Robbins from the Colonial Radio Theater act in both Richmond Smokes a Joint and Anne Manx and the Blood Chase. His portrayal of Chief Arum and Herm make those characters memorable.
Larry: In our first series, “Garson Krebs: Private Eye,” I had written an episode about two evil elder women, the Brook Sisters. They were so hilarious in the episode, I spun off an entire second series about them. They’re probably the best example of your question. The only time we did that with an Anne Manx episode, we spun off the Wendy McCloud from “Chromius,” which was played by Paris Jefferson. I thought it was an interesting character so I wrote a spin off with the Wendy character was the protagonist, and we cast Traci Lords in the part. Also from “Anne Manx and the Trouble on Chromius,” the side character Archie Lewis, played by the late Andy Hallet from the “Angel” series was probably the best side character of our series. His part was absolutely hilarious!
8) RRCA has some beautiful cover art. Will you tell us a bit about the artist(s)?
Angelo: Doug Shuler is an amazing artist. We were introduced to him through Holly Evan, Claudia Christian’s assistant at the time.
9) Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?
Larry: This is an exclusive, but I’ve begun work on a seventh episode of Anne Manx. My challenge is always trying to outdo my most recent Anne Manx, so maybe the next one will actually win the Audie award.
Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.
Anne Manx, galactic private detective, has a new task. Of course, she doesn’t really believe in this task, but once Jean Richmond gets involved, she can’t turn it down. The quest is to find the Ring of Minotour and translate the inscription while standing in the right place at the right time. Sounds hard, right? Not just any villain would be able to accomplish this. Fortunately for us, the audience, Jean Richmonds is on the quest and living up to her supervillain name tag.
This book was a bit different from the first in that Anne is no longer working for a corrupt police force. There we had this uber-good cop fighting the bad guys and the corrupt system going on. Here we have an independent Manx who can fight anyone she chooses and they can’t fire her. At first, I was a little concerned that with this change, we would loose some of the tense dynamics we saw in the first book. That isn’t so! This is just as good, if not better, than Book 1 (Anne Manx in Lives of the Cat).
The Ring of Minotour is this mythical item that can grant the wearer immortality. However, almost no one believes in it anymore. But Jean and Anne both learn, from separate sources, that it might be real. The race is on to find the ring and also find someone who can translate the long-dead language on the ring. All sorts of entertaining shenanigans ensue. There’s witty repartee, plenty of action, and we see the softer side to each of our lead female characters.
I have to say that I took deep, and perhaps inappropriate, amusement in the kidnapping of the little girl. When bumped, slapped, or knocked over she has a tendency to go into a trance and then she does this thing that’s really important for the plot. But it takes a while for Jean, and later Anne, to figure this out. So this young lady gets bumped and slapped a few times, and it’s done in these amusing ways each time. She was also instrumental in making sure Jean did not become all powerful.
This is another great addition to the Anne Manx space opera series. The dynamic between Jean and Anne can fluctuate from blood boiling, to laughing out loud, to touching moments. They really are excellent foils to one another.
I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks!
The Narration: Once again, the narration, sound effects, and music are all great. One thing I really enjoy about this series is that the sound effects (like the sound of a door opening) stand in for the narrator telling you a door is opening. It really lets me submerge into the story.
What I Liked: Anne and Jean are perfect hero-villain buddies; the cover art; the slaptstic girl; the whole idea of finding an ancient relic that bestows phenomenal power; the softer side to Anne and to Jean.
What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book.