Billy and the Cloneasaurus by Stephen Kozeniewski

Narrator: Steve Rimpici

Publisher: Stephen Kozeniewski (2017)

Length: 4 hours 59 minutes

Author’s Page 

William 790 (later known as Billy) is a good clone. He goes to work every day in his boring insurance sales job, has the same thing to eat every night, catches the ball game with the other clones, sleeps, and gets up and does it all over again. Each clone gets 1 year of life and then he gets slurried. It’s a world of monotony, Williams as far as you can see. Yet Billy manages to avoid getting slurried due to a freak accident. He then starts questioning his life and this entire existence.

I initially tried to read the ebook but then switched over to the audiobook. The beginning reminded me of that movie Ground Hog Day. Billy does the same routine again and again, even after the freak accident because that’s what his replacement would have done. So it was a little slow for me as I kept waiting for something more to happen. When I switched over to the audiobook, things moved along more quickly for me.

Billy has to get sneaky, something he isn’t programmed for. He learns about an odd building somewhere in the wilds in between two Williamsport cities. Yep. All the cities have ‘William’ in their name and everyone lives in the glorious country of Williamerica. Privately, this was all rather amusing to me since my husband is Bill. Ha!

OK, so Billy starts showing some initiative and the story gets more interesting. He stops to pee by the road and he happens to see this weird building (a windmill) and as he goes to investigate he finally comes across the cloneasaurus! Yes! Since this little guy is on the cover and in the title I really wanted to meet it. This reptile understandably freaks Billy out, since all animal life has been extinct for several generations of Williams. From there, Billy meets the William that made the cloneasaurus and then we finally get our one and only female, Willa.

The second half of the book was way more interesting than the first. Billy starts looking at the top of the hierarchy and how he can go on living. He’s also fascinated with Willa and some awkward conversations occur which are amusing to the reader but rather embarrassing for Billy. He’s never used his personal equipment for self gratification so he’s in the dark about natural procreation.

I was a little disappointed that Willa didn’t get a bigger role. She’s well read, educated in a biochemistry lab, raised by a man with radical political ideas. She has a lot of potential to be a force to change things. But then nothing other than being the romantic interest of the tale ensues for her. Sigh…

The ending was down right creepy. I loved the ending. It really made the book for me. Things don’t go as Billy had hoped nor how I expected things to go.

The Narration: Steve Rimpici was a really good fit for this book. He sounds just like a mild mannered boring accountant. He makes a really good William 790…. along with all the other Williams in this world. Honestly, it was probably a real challenge to come up with nuanced voices that all sound very similar and yet can remain distinct in a conversation. He did this with capturing each characters emotions. I found the conversations between multiple Williams easy to follow. He had a believable female voice for Willa.

What I Liked: The Cloneasaurus!; Billy finally rises to the occasion; Willa and her secret windmill laboratory; solid creepy ending; great narration.

What I Disliked: The beginning was a bit repetitious and boring; only 1 female character and all her potential is shoved to the side.

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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.

Guest Post: Christmas Wrapping the Cat by Stephen Kozeniewski

KozeniewskiBraineaterJonesDabbers, please welcome Stephen Kozeniewski back to the blog, author of Braineater Jones, a zombie mystery noir with more than one twist. You can catch my review of Braineater Jones over HERE and my interview with Stephen over HERE. Today Stephen is here to share some very funny, and perhaps incriminating, pictures of his cats. Oh, and yes, we will try to talk about his books a little too.

I was in charge of Christmas wrapping the cat….and other impossible feats by Stephen Kozeniewski

Anyone who knows me even slightly knows of my immense love of cats. Specifically my two cats, Nibbler and Felix.

KozeniewskiCats1
An Eternal Love

In fact, my Facebook profile photo is of me and Nibbler right now. Nibbler is just over one year old and still in her cute stage. This is somewhat offset by also still being in her “pooping outside the box” stage, but I digress.

Felix just turned ten, so for the vast majority of his life, he was an only fur-child, and was treated as such (and grew used to such treatment.) In fact we largely justified the second cat because we felt like he needed a playmate.

And why did our dear, beloved feline need a playmate? Well, true enough that my wife and I both work, so Felix was spending eight hours or so a day finding things to knock off of shelves instead of cuddling with his owners. So part of it was to keep him from getting bored (read: destructive.) But a second, and perhaps larger segment of this concern was the entire 22 lbs of his bulk.

More Of Me To Love
More Of Me To Love

Yes, our dear, sweet Felix is larger than most cats. And dogs. And some of the sportier European sedans. We hoped a second cat would encourage him to exercise a bit. You can imagine, I suppose, what it’s like trying to get a cat the size of a car tire to do something he doesn’t want to do.

Nevertheless, three or four times a year we go through the futile exercise of trying to dress him up for various holidays. Most times we manage to furtively jam a costume onto him and take pictures until one, usually by accident, turns out.

Rudolph was the hap-hap-happiest reindeer.
Rudolph was the hap-hap-happiest reindeer.

I think when Susan asked me to write this guest post about “Christmas wrapping the cat” she meant it as a metaphor. You know, like “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” or “the better angels of our nature.” Little did she realize, I suppose, that I actually DO have to Christmas wrap the cat every year.

Last year was the worst. I got a wild hair up my ass that we should have a professional photo done for the Christmas card. I take 100% responsibility for this one. The problem is that Felix does not care for other human beings. Not a one of them. And you remember what I said about trying to get 1 ½ stones of cat to do what he doesn’t want to do.

Literally, all we had to do was get Felix to sit still for long enough to get one decent picture. My wife and I were dressed up, and we decided to eschew the entire reindeer costume in favor of just the jingle bell collar, hoping it would calm him.

It did not. He did not care to sit still for even a portion of a second as our photographer friend attempted to take picture after picture.

At 220 lbs (according to my driver’s license) I should, theoretically be able to calm a cat 1/10th my size. Not so. In fact, in the following photo, you can see how badly he shredded up my hand:

Photo Credit: George Griffo (https://www.facebook.com/griffography)
Photo Credit: George Griffo (https://www.facebook.com/griffography)

KozeniewskiBillyAndThenCloneasaurusSo, yes, sadly, for me Christmas wrapping the cat is not a metaphor, but, in fact, an annual chore that results in holiday cheers of pain and colorful ribbons of blood, usually my own. Thanks to Susan for having me and I hope you’ll all check out my newest novel, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS, which somehow I haven’t managed to mention this entire post, so I’ll just jam it in here at the end.

Stephen – thank you so much for stopping by the blog and sharing your fat, ornery cat story!

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Interview: Stephen Kozeniewski, Author of Braineater Jones

KozeniewskiBraineaterJonesDabbers, please welcome Stephen Kozeniewski, author of Braineater Jones, a zombie mystery noir with more than one twist. You can catch my review of Braineater Jones over HERE. Today, we talk about the original Warcraft, Shawshank Redemption, and MASH. I expect you will find Stephen’s answers as entertaining as I did.

1) Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

I strongly wish to have a Babel fish stuck in my ear and I would avoid that preachy-ass Lorax.

2) As a veteran of the United States Field Artillery Corps, are there skills you learned from that experience that you used in your writing? In the publishing world?

I have very rarely felt the need to shell my enemies since becoming a writer (although you’re on notice, Gillian Flynn) but I think military experience is good to have because so many writers get it so, so wrong.  Don’t get me wrong, I love watching MASH and, yes, even Enlisted as much as the next guy, but I think people, especially veterans, appreciate verisimilitude in their fictional depictions of war.  Of course, I also learned discipline, organization, and etiquette from the army, and, yes, even how to rain napalm on any chick lit authors who happen to arouse my ire should the need ever arise.

3) With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

I definitely think mashups are going to be the “it” thing for a while.  People are always looking for something original and the easiest way for some hack writer to capitalize on that is to come up with some hacky idea like “zombie noir” or “cartoon steampunk.”  (Also, I just came up with an idea for a book called STEAMPUNK WILLIE…)  So, yes, I think we’ll see more blended genres in the future, and I’m hoping that translates to double the audience.  I could also see someone who loves regency romance reading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and then on the strength of that going to read DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON.  So maybe readers will get to explore outside their comfort zone.  I, of course, have never read any book other than FINNEGANS WAKE, so it won’t affect me.  I’ve re-read it 600 times now, and I keep hoping that the last line won’t loop back around to the first and I won’t have to start over, but so far no such luck.

KozeniewskiGhoulArchipelago4) In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works, such as the Prohibition era in Braineater Jones?

If you’re looking for well-researched history in BRAINEATER JONES, prepare to be disappointed.  However, I did work in a substance abuse clinic for several years and I think the social workers would not be disappointed in how I portrayed addiction in the book.  The flesh cravings of the zombies is, of course, a metaphor for alcoholism, and the alcoholism is a metaphor for overindulging in the 12 Steps…it’s a whole thing.

5) In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

Oh, no.  There’s no Darth Vader moment for The Old Man.  I like my villains to be the chiefest and greatest calamities of their respective ages.

6) Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

Well, I stand by my longstanding conceit that the film version of The Shawshank Redemption was far superior to the original novella.  I honestly cannot think of a single PC game that was adapted into a book so I feel ill-equipped to answer that question.  Also, I think the last PC game I played was Warcraft.  (Not World of Warcraft.  Not Warcraft III.  Warcraft.)

BuftonAnother100Horrors7) In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I really enjoy getting to meet the titans of the industry and interacting with them as peers.  (And praying that they don’t find out I’m a complete and utter sham.)  What I find most challenging is translating marketing into sales.  Sometimes I can tweet, FB, send e-mails, and write blog posts all day and my sales rank never changes.  It can be discouraging but when I do get a sale or a review or sometimes just a kind word from a reader it can inflate my whole mood and make me feel like maybe I’m not such a sham after all.  (But I still am.)

8) What is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

Vindaloo Day from that great unappreciated masterwork of our time, Outsourced.  Jolly Vindaloo Day, everybody!

9) How did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

For the release of BRAINEATER JONES my wife threw me a big party (or, as they would say in Harlan County, a whoop-dee-doo.)  Most of my favorite people in the world were there and I shamelessly sold them all copies of both of my novels and signed, signed, signed the night away.  My friend Tony also made a brain-shaped cake.  (http://pic.twitter.com/xNmc3Nr2WH)

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Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski

KozeniewskiBraineaterJonesWhy I Read It: With a title like that, how could I turn it down?

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Haha! Well, anyone who needs a mystery, a laugh, and some questionable humor.

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing (2013)

Length: 234 pages

Series: I really hope there is more to come…..

Author’s Page

A man wakes face down in a pool, staring at some submerged stone figures. Then he starts to notice things – like his lack of need for breath and the gaping hole in his chest. Eventually, he finds himself under a bridge with cardboard for a best friend. And that is when the other homeless name him Braineater while trying to kick the crap out of him. As he can’t remember who or what he was before waking up a zombie, he calls himself Braineater Jones. Of course, he wants to solve the mystery of his death and this leads him into the seedier side of life in 1934 Smalltown, America (actually a place called Ganesh). Prohibition is on it’s wobbly way out, but alas, is still in effect for his little town of other walking dead. So of course, he takes up a small apartment above the only speak easy for his kind as booze is the only thing that holds off the eventual dementia and brain cravings all of his kind suffer.

This was a fun romp through a small slice of history and the more indelicate side to being a walking, talking corpse. Taking elements from the Prohibition Era and detective noir, Kozeniewski has come up with something original. Filled with zombie humor and fast-paced, I looked forward to reading a few chapters each night. Braineater’s humor was also amusing, being a bit rough and crude. Hey, when you can inadvertently scratch a body part off while idly considering a bug on the ceiling the humor is bound to be a little crude.

In a neighborhood where one can be separated from one’s body parts, and still be able to wiggle them, the local cathouse has got to have a few new twists, right? I won’t give away anything, but I was not expecting that, nor was Braineater. So I had fun being surprised and a little wierded out with him. Specialty doctors can be paid to keep the dead looking recently deceased. And the living have an interest in the walking dead, sometimes leading to less than necessary experiments. Whatever turns a person zombie isn’t limited to the full-grown either – just check out The Old Man who runs the show at the zombie speak easy. There’s a reason he resides in a jar folks.

If I have any complaints, it is that the women had limited and predictable roles. While there are stereotypes for women of the 1930s, I had hoped that one or more of those ladies would have something more going on, something to surprise Braineater. But perhaps he couldn’t handle any more surprises in this book. Still, the language used in the book, such as the various words for one kind of woman or another, reflects the time period and that added to the detective noir ambiance of the book.

As the description of the book notes, there is a talking head sidekick (Alcibe) for part of the novel. Ever seen a talking zombie head eat? Hehe….yeah, don’t try to picture that. Alcibe had some of the most amusing circumstances, since he really only had the ability to kind of shrug-walk on his neck stump – or roll around.

I also liked that one of the characters swung one way in his breathing life and another way in his zombie life. The fluid sexuality of this character was handled well, and was really just a side note that simply added to the character, instead of overshadowing him.

Towards the end of the novel, the plot really ramps up. Braineater has been facing more than one opponent and he finally untangles the different threads of the mystery. His short stature doesn’t keep him from taking the challenge to the most nefarious of his opponents. And no, I was not expecting that ending but I quite liked it. And I want more. I really hope this is simply Book 1 in a series.

What I Liked: The cover; zombie bits and pieces – ugh!; booze keeps the zombies fresh and sane; the detective noir element; the ending was great; bisexuality is no big deal; the crude humor fit right in; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked: The women had predictable roles.

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