The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone

BooneTheHatchingWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: George Newbern

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2016)

Length: 8 hours 46 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Hatching

Author’s Page

From the cover and title, I’m sure you can guess this story involves some sort of insect. Responsible world leaders have ensured their countries are prepped for a variety of events: plague, nuclear war, asteroid collision, etc. Yet insect infestation somehow missed the top 10 list. Incidents of voracious bugs start popping up across the globe: Peru, China, USA, India, etc. Get ready to be creeped out by the creepy crawlies!

This was a pretty entertaining creature feature. The tension starts slowly. Perhaps this really is just a touristy walk through the Peruvian jungles. Maybe the Chinese really did have a training accident that involved a small nuclear detonation. Those odd shimmers beneath the seismic lab in India? Probably nothing. The action picks up with a private airplane crash and an entomologist, Melanie, examining an egg sac that is hundreds of years old. US President Stephanie Pilgrim will be tested as few presidents have. The bugs have hit US soil and it’s only a matter of time before the crunching sounds of chewing insects cause the White House staff to puke.

This book has a pretty large cast and more and more characters kept being added in even late into the book. Now some are simply there to die horribly, but some appear to be keepers. On one hand, I really enjoyed that this was a world-wide catastrophe and that meant characters from a variety of nations, both men and women. A diverse cast usually means an awesome cast. On the other hand, we don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with any one character. I wanted to get attached to some characters, but by even the end of the book, I was only half way there. Mike Rich, FBI agent that reports to the Minneapolis event, was one of my favorite characters. He has this back story that involves a daughter (Annie) and his divorced wife (Fannie) plus he has this really tough job. Then I also like Melanie, and not just because we both share a love bugs. She’s in her 40s, has kept both mind and body in shape, and owns that lab in the sense that she is definitely the boss. Even though we get a lot less of her, I also liked Kim, who is in the marines and has to make some tough choices in this story.

The bugs were awesome! There’s this sorta maybe tie in with the Nazca lines in Peru, a small mind in the middle of nowhere China, and the underground monitoring area beneath the seismic lab in India. The source of these bugs is a bit of a mystery, especially since they popped up in multiple countries around the same time. Then I also felt that people reacted realistically. There’s the initial disbelief, even with videos (perhaps an intricate hoax?). Then a few people get their hands on some actual insects and things start to go from fascinating for bug people to potential security issue for the nation. As the story bounces around the various characters, we get to see how scientists, preppers, politicians, military personnel, parents, one old coon dog, and murder mystery writers react.

As things spiral down, some questions are answered and some are not, a few tiny things are resolved, and several big picture things are not. The book does end on a bit of a cliff hanger. I am very much hoping that Book 2 will be out in audio soon.

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration:  George Newbern has quite a good voice to listen to. He especially did a great job with imbuing the character voices with emotions. I like his sometimes coldly analytical Melanie, his gruff Scottish mystery writer, and his young Annie, daughter of FBI agent Mike Rich. Since this is a world-wide cast, we had characters from all over the world. Sometimes Newbern did a national accent and sometimes he chose not to. I think the performance would have been just a touch better if he had gone the extra mile with the national accents. Still, it was a pretty good performance and I hope he narrates Book 2. 

What I Liked: The bugs!; the initial reaction by people; it’s a global issue; Mike Rich and his initial discovery of one of the insects; Melanie and all her buggy info bits; the preppers and their reaction to the event; a diverse cast of characters; definitely ready for Book 2.

What I Disliked: Since it is such a large cast, I didn’t get to spend much time with any one character; it is a bit of a cliff hanger.

What Others Think:

Jenn’s Bookshelves

Michael Patrick Hicks

Book Hooked Blog

The Bibliosanctum

Crime by the Book

This Is Horror

SciFiNow

The REAL Book Spy

Grigory Lukin

Audiobook Giveaway & Interivew: Keira Gillett, Author of the Zaria Fierce Series

GillettZariaFierceAndTheSecretOfGloomwoodForestFolks, please give a warm welcome to Keira Gillett! I’ve really enjoyed the first 2 books in her Zaria Fierce series (The Secret of Gloomwood Forest and The Enchanted Drakeland Sword) so it’s a real pleasure to have her on the blog today. We chat about Scandinavian folklore, cover art, magical quests, and plenty more! Also, please check out the audiobook giveaway at the end of the post!

Susan: Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Keira: Great question, Susan! I believe all fictional stories regardless of genre help to shape the world around us because they shape the people reading them. Things that were once the stuff of science fiction are today the norm – flying machines, submarines, space stations. Anything that sparks the imagination towards discovery and progress is a great thing. Fantasy is the same, and while we might not be riding around on great winter-wyverns like Norwick, there is always more to learn about the world around us. I read an article recently about a new species of whale that’s been discovered. A whale! Those creatures are huge! So I think fantasy keeps readers interested in how things seen and things hidden intersect and connect with each other. They share a sense of wonder and hope that anything is possible.

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

Keira: I’m lucky because I don’t think any of the jobs I have held have been difficult or beyond my capability. The hard part was probably the commute. Writing can be done anywhere. Zaria’s story in its current form started when I was in the car driving and I pulled out my phone at a stoplight and opened the voice memo app. I started talking about her, introducing her to readers, and later transcribed it. The hardest part about writing is distractions and research rabbit holes that I fall into. I love looking into things and figuring out how to adapt and incorporate them in the Zaria Fierce world. Sometimes I would be so involved I’d look up and it’d be time to go to bed and not a lick of writing had been done.

Susan: If you were sent on a magical quest, which 4 other children’s books authors would you take with you?

I love quests and there are authors out there who really understand how to get into and out of trouble. If my quest involved an ancient culture I would snag Rick Riordan. He’s got his fingers on the pulse of several and would be handy to have around. If it involved magic and alternate worlds connected to our own, then C.S. Lewis is a definite must for the party to succeed. If the quest would involve politics, years of travel, and dangerous objects J.R. Tolkien would be my go to guy. The last person I would bring is Cressida Cowell, for she is the best in the world for dragons, which almost always guard hoards of secret treasures.

Susan: In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

Keira: For one, I read a bunch of folktales, and in fact, I am reading right now another book of them that I found recently for Norse and Scandinavian folklore. The Tall Ships Race actually exists and has been held in Fredrikstad in the recent past. I watched several videos on YouTube featuring ships and people from the event. I even got a map/brochure of the different events happening around the city tucked away. The castle and its grounds that are in the Under Realm are based on real Scandinavian castles. I look at maps and try to keep my kingdoms in real locations so readers could say to themselves, maybe… maybe it’s there if I look hard enough.

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSwordSusan: 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?

Keira: I haven’t really a story about fans or authors, but I did write Robert Pattinson a letter once. It was really bad, but I remained cool and didn’t express my undying love or anything. LOL But it was bad enough that not even his people bothered to send me back a form letter thanking me for writing. Mostly when I gush I gush to like-minded individuals near me and not to the objects of my intense gushing. I spare them the indignity of having to pry me off.

Susan: Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. Your books have great cover art. Can you tell us a little about how you found the illustrator and the collaborative process that lead to the book covers?

Keira: Thank you! I love my covers too. I think they really stand out and grab attention in the best of ways. They were a collaboration with Eoghan Kerrigan. He provided the cover art and I set up the covers with fonts and backgrounds. I found Eoghan through a series of events.

On one of my rabbit hole research trips, right after I had decided Zaria would be set in Norway, I found myself looking into John Bauer’s art. He created such ethereal landscapes and fantastic little trolls. Somewhere in that search I found a piece where an artist copied Bauer’s style on Deviant Art, but when trying to locate that artist down the road as the story neared its conclusion proved impossible.

I spent hours looking at other artists on the site and discovered Eoghan Kerrigan’s magnificent trolls. I fell in love with them on the spot. I tracked him across several websites trying to determine if he was open to commission work and lucky for me it turned out he was. We connected on Facebook and then by e-mail and the rest as they say is history.

Eoghan is fantastic to work with. He’s very open during the process. We did a few rounds of sketches to determine how Zaria and Olaf would look like, and another round for the covers. Once that was sorted I gave him carte blanche to pick what he wanted to illustrate for each chapter and I’m so glad I did. His style brings such realism to the books, characters, creatures, etc.

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

Keira: The first book I remember reading on my own is probably Nancy Drew. I read that series until there wasn’t a single yellow book on the shelf left. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Baby-Sitters Club. The first book I remember being read to me is Half Magic. My mother read it at home and would volunteer to read it at my school too. Great books.

Susan: You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

Keira: Can it be a zipline course? I love those. Getting to climb around in the trees and soar across spaces is so much fun. Food is probably some sort of meaty, hearty fare to keep you full and ready to tackle the next obstacle. I’d probably bring friends and family and make a day of it. Thanks for having me at Dab of Darkness, Susan. This has been a lot of fun! If you keep scrolling there’s information about a giveaway below.


Zaria3Book Three in the Zaria Fierce Trilogy

Summary: “Nothing can save you now, Princess.”

How can anyone be tricked twice? Isn’t there even a saying about that? Zaria Fierce is determined to get things right this time and with the Drakeland Sword in her possession she’s ready to take on trolls, dragons, and whatever else may come… but first she and her friends are going to have to figure out just how much trouble they’re in at home.

Release Date: July 1, 2016

Available in E-book, Paperback, and Audiobook (Coming Soon)

Praise for Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes (Book 3):

“That’s the great thing about the Zaria Fierce trilogy: adventure is fast, furious, and loaded with Norse mythology, but the friendship between Zaria and her group of friends is the heart that drives this story.” Rosemary, Mom Read It

Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes was the magical conclusion this trilogy asked for. Filled with action and adventure, Zaria and her friends showed us the importance of teamwork, friendship, and having courage in ourselves. The perfect ending to a fun series, I recommend this to all fantasy lovers, middle school and beyond!” – Emily, Midwestern Book Nerd

Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes was a spectacular conclusion to a great trilogy (though the ending left the door open for more adventures). Filled with magic, a great story line, amazing and real characters, wonderful settings and beautifully explored themes, Keira Gillett created a trilogy that I will always cherish and will visit anytime. If you like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Spiderwick Chronicles or simply love a book filled with Norwegian folklore and fantasy, then this is the ultimate series for you to read, devour and lose yourselves in.” – Ner, A Cup of Coffee and a Book

Excerpt:

Hector was right that the group wasn’t far from Malmdor. They reached the entrance before night fell, and in the gloomy dusk that slipped around them like a cloak, they reached the edge of the forest and stopped. Below them in a wide clearing was an abandoned quarry filled with water.

The lake was nestled at the bottom of a deep, steep pit. Its deep blue water was smooth and glassy, protected from wind by the rocky walls and surrounding forest. Zaria could see the lakebed in the shallower areas. Something large swam in the center, too deep to see clearly.

“What is that?” asked Filip, having spotted the creature at the same time.

Hector said, “It’s a water-wyvern.”

“Is that like the Loch Ness Monster?” asked Christoffer. “Cool. No wonder they can’t find it in Scotland.”

“You haven’t seen a winter-wyvern,” Zaria said. “I bet it’s more like Norwick.”

“The flying snow leopard-bear-bat thing you told me about? Even better,” Christoffer said, rubbing his hands together in glee. “Do we get to meet it?”

“Is it friendly?” worried Geirr.

“The beastie is not friendly,” said Hector, grimly. “And yes, we will be meeting it. Water-wyverns are wild, unpredictable creatures. This one is particularly nasty. It was captured and transported to this quarry lake over a century ago. It can’t escape – water-wyverns aren’t able to live out of water for very long. This makes it very angry. The lake is too small for him.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Geirr said, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “So, can it eat us?”

Hector nodded. “It once devoured an entire legion of dwarf handlers because they smelled bad. They’ve showered regularly ever since.”

Geirr looked at Zaria. “Why?” he moaned. “Why do we have to meet it?”

“Look on the bright side, mate,” Filip said, clapping Geirr on the back. “Maybe we get to ride it.”

Hector shook his head. “The water-wyvern is the guardian of Malmdor. Its job is to keep out all trespassers.”

Christoffer sighed, disappointed. “Too bad. I would have loved to ride him.”

“Will we have to feed it to get by it? What does a water-wyvern eat?” Aleks asked, readjusting his backpack and bow.

“It eats whatever it can catch,” Hector said forebodingly. “We’ll have to be careful as we near the shoreline. A water-wyvern might not have much in the way of limbs, being adapted to the water, but it has enough leg-power to propel itself onto the shore and attack.”

“At least it can’t fly,” said Geirr, relieved. “Small favors.”

Zaria and her friends gasped as it breached the surface, blowing out a large stream of air. The water-wyvern was magnificent with a gray-and-white pattern. It had a seahorse face, with a long snout, and no ears. The top of its head bore a wavy crest that trailed down its neck.

As the creature dove beneath the water, it flipped its body into the air. There were no scales anywhere on it, as far as she could see. Zaria half-expected a whale fluke, but its tail looked like an eel’s. The thing was massive, at least four times bigger than Norwick, and hideous.

They stood there, watching the shifting, undulating, shadow in the water. Aleks wore a pensive frown, his brown eyes narrowed. “Does it have a name?”

“The dwarves call it Vingar.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29983980-zaria-fierce-and-the-dragon-keeper-s-golden-shoes

Keira Gillett author pictureAuthor Bio: Keira Gillett is a technical publications librarian, book blogger, world traveler, artist, and now author. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing and Painting. From an early age her mother instilled a love of the written word, as such she has always been a big reader. Her first book, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, is about a young girl who must complete a quest to save her friend from a nasty river-troll.

Website: http://keiragillett.com

Social Media: Twitter (keiragillett), Facebook (zariafiercetrilogy), Pinterest (zariafierce)

Giveaway: Keira is offering up the first 2 books in the Zaria Fierce series in audiobook format (from Audible.com) to one winner. Enter the Rafflecopter by clicking the link below. Ends Aug. 14, 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese

KroeseStarshipGriftersWhere I Got It: Kindle Unlimited

Narrator: Kate Rudd

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2014)

Length: 7 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Rex Nihilo

Author’s Page

Rex Nihilo thinks he savvy and smart and no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince him otherwise. Luckily, this robot sidekick (and keeper), Sasha, is able to navigate a safe-ish path for both of them…. most of the time.

This was a very, very fun book. The humor reminds me a bit of Douglas Adams but better because nearly all of it is delivered in Sasha’s dead straight manner. She is a robot after all. This book is clever. The dialogue is witty, the characters are fleshed out, the plot is carried through. And I snicker-snort laughed my way through it. Sasha is the perfect character to deliver much of the humor in this book in that straight, matter-of-fact voice of hers.

Sasha is one of those nearly independent thinking robots. Someone somewhere at some time decided it was a bad idea to have sentient robots roaming the galaxy, so a governor was installed in them that monitors for individual and original thoughts and if any are detected, the robot is shut down for 15 seconds and a small part of its memory wiped. So, every time Sasha is on the verge of an independent thought, she shuts down for 15 seconds only to come back to it with no recall of what she was thinking or about to say. This little gimmick added to the humor of the book quite a bit.

The story starts off with a card game in which Rex unwisely bets his entire wealth, as little as it is. Then we wins some hands, and a few more, and the rich guy he’s up against starts making ludicrous bets – his ship, and then a planet he owns. Rex wins, much to the amazement of nearly everyone, just in time for a ruckus to start. Rex and Sasha flee in the newly won space ship, Flagrante Delicto. Meanwhile, Sasha who is always cogitating if not outright thinking, has discovered that Rex’s new planet is actually in arrears on some taxes. So he is now in a great amount of debt. The kind of debt that attracts bounty hunters.

But he has bigger problems that that right now (at least until Pepper Melange in her ship Bad Little Kitty shows up). As circumstances evolve, he gets sucked into the conflict between the Malarchian army and the revolutionary Revolting Front. He makes promises he can’t possibly keep to both sides. Rex is a total scoundrel and Sasha keeps him alive and sometimes makes him look competent.

There were just so many fun parts in this book. At one point, Sasha takes a pretty heavy hit to the face, which does some damage to her face plate. She and the guard start up a conversation about armor and what works best for both protecting and damaging. I swear, they were flirting! And Sasha deserves a fun date.

The ending had a surprise twist that was cleverly done. There’s definitely more going on with some of these characters! I’m really hoping for more Sasha/Rex adventures.

The Narration: Kate Rudd was perfect for this book. Since everything is told through Sasha’s eyes, Rudd maintained this polite yet just-the-facts voice for the entire book. It was perfect for delivering the humor. Of course she did character voices for whenever someone else was speaking and she kept them all quite distinct. There’s an evil villain who is described as having a screechy voice and Rudd did that one quite well – definitely a screech but not so much that it got on my nerves. I also liked her sexy voice for Pepper. 

What I Liked: Simply a joy to read; all the humor; Sasha was my favorite character; Rex gets himself into plenty of trouble; lots of interesting characters; surprise ending; great narration; awesome book cover.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a lot of fun!

What Others Think:

Battles and Book Reviews

Paper Blog

Sabotage Reviews

SFF Audio

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Keira Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSwordWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Michele Carpenter

Publisher: Keira Gillett (2015)

Length: 5 hours 14 minutes

Series: Book 2 Zaria Fierce

Author’s Page

Note: This is a series best read in order. So start with the most entertaining Book 1, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest.

Continuing Zaria’s adventures in Norway, she and the boys have the chance to set sail to visit the giants! Who could say no to that? Yet even on the initial leg of their journey, Zaria feels that something is following her, perhaps even haunting her. No one else sees it or feels it in anyway so Zaria begins to doubt herself. And this is not an adventure for the faint of heart! Giants and elves and dwarfs! And don’t forget that shadow of the dragon Koll that seems to loom over everything.

In Book 1, Christoffer had to sit out most of the book since he was being held captive by the river troll Olaf. Now he’s free and he happily joins his friends in this latest adventure. Aleks, the changeling, once again uses his Stargazer to freeze time so they can leave without stirring a fuss with their parents. Geirr and Filip are definitely up for another adventure! Hector has asked them to come along in his quest to obtain a mighty sword that will aid him in freeing his son Hart, who was taken captive at the end of Book 1. Zaria feels quite a bit of responsibility for how things went wrong and she wants to make up for it by helping Hector anyway she can.

Once they board the ship, the kids learn the captain is a troll and they are a little leery. After all, their only experiences with trolls have been a bit negative. But they soon learn that Captain Bjarke is a good person and a friend to Hector. The land of the giants was quite fun. Pet woolly mammoth! Such great imagery. The first giant they meet, Ingdor, is working the harbor and the kids quickly have to become accustomed to either them or whatever they are standing on (like the ship Ursula) being picked up and moved about. Hector is hoping to barter for safe passage to the Dwarven lands but Oskar the Elevated and his wife Siela, her Altitudiness, are not willing.

The action amps up as they try a trickier way into the Dwarven halls. Unfortunately, they come across a group of tricksy elves. Zaria uses her wits to maneuver them into agreeing to three challenges. Things could go wrong in so many ways! Without spoiling anything, let me just say Zaria and crew eventually do get to chat with the Dwarves but it’s not as warm a welcome as Hector had been hoping for.

Both Aleks and Zaria are adopted and both have to deal with their fae heritage. Aleks has been told all his life to avoid it and that makes this trip extra hard for him. Zaria only found out about her fae heritage towards the end of Book 1 and it’s still a big, big mystery to her. But they aren’t the only ones dealing with fears. One of the lads has a great fear of being underground. Zaria is haunted by this apparition that only she can see from time to time. Indeed, the kids are growing up and part of that is facing these fears.

The ending was clever, dramatic, and I definitely felt for Zaria. Ugh! This girl will need therapy. She already carries some weight for the capture and imprisonment of Hart in Book 1. Now, she has to face the unexpected consequences of her well-intentioned actions. I look forward to seeing how Zaria saves the day or compounds the problem in Book 3.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Once again, Michele Carpenter did a great job. She has the perfect voice for Zaria and I love how she gives light Norwegian accents to the all the boys. There’s even one song that is actually sung (though I believe another voice actress came in and performed it). Still, it was nice to have that little addition to the book and it was well edited in – the volume was the same, etc.

What I Liked: There’s giants and one of them has a pet woolly mammoth!; Zaria and the boys learn that not all trolls are beastly brutes; the elves are tricky and condescending; the dwarves aren’t very cooperative; Zaria has this fear that she is being haunted;  both Aleks and Zaria have to start dealing with their fae heritage; a complicated ending but perfect set up for a hero to ride into Book 3 and save the day; excellent narration; great cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – great book!

What Others Think:

The Booklandia

Emily Reads Everything

Book Lover’s Life

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

ButcherGhostStoryWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2015)

Length: 17 hours 36 minutes

Series: Book 13 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

In the previous book, Changes, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s finest (and only) wizard, lost everything in the gambit to save his daughter.  He lost his office, his apartment, his car, and broke his back. So he had to make a deal with the lesser of three evils. His ability to walk restored, he soldiered on and while he saved his daughter from the Red Court vampires he also lost his life at the end of Changes. So this story opens with ghost Harry in a train station. There he meets a familiar face, Karrin Murphy’s old partner who died in one of the earliest books. He gives Harry some info but mostly evades questions as he ushers Harry over to Captain Murphy’s office –  Karrin’s long deceased father. There Harry is given a choice – he can continue on his ghostly journey (and, no, they don’t know what waits outside of their ghostly city) or he can go back as a ghost to prevent harm from coming to three of his friends.

Of course, we all know what Harry decides. So he’s dropped off outside Mortimer’s because he’s the only guy Harry knows that has the ability to reliably communicate with ghosts. There we meet one of Mortimer’s protectors, Sir Steward. Sir Steward explains more about who the ghost world works and Harry has to be rather careful to not think too loudly less he attract ghosts who want to devour his essence. I really liked Sir Steward. He had a dry sense of humor and a strong sense of honor and a very solid idea of who and what he is, which has allowed his ghost to live on as long as it has.

Harry had an uphill battle the entire time in this book. It was crazy. He’s been dead for 6 months and while no one retrieved his body, there was far too much blood left at the scene. So lots of folks have trouble believing that either Harry is dead (Karrin) or that he is a ghost zipping around trying to rescue folks (nearly everyone). Even Mortimer, who accepts that Harry’s dead, doesn’t want anything to do with his ghost. But Harry saves his life and Mortimer gives him a small amount of his time, initially. Harry has to keep on hacking away (pleading, bargaining, threatening) at Mortimer to get more of his time.

Things have gone to rubble while Harry was away. Molly has become unpredictable and homeless. Karrin lost her job. The streets are dangerous now in nearly every neighborhood. Things that had stayed away from Chicago because Harry protected it have come creeping in. But not all is doom and gloom. Mister, Harry’s cat, made it out of the fire in the last book and found a decent home. Mouse, his dog, is happily guarding his daughter who also landed in a loving home. There’s plenty more along those lines, some of which jerked some emotions out of me. Harry, in classic ghost story form, gets a good look at what his presence meant to those that cared for him.

OK, so besides all the feels in this book, there’s plenty of action too. Harry has been tasked with finding his own killer, which is no easy feat. Then this bully and low-level magic user makes his presence known by ordering a drive-by shooting. Through him, Harry learns that one of his old enemies is in town, but this enemy has a new and powerful sidekick. So Harry is floating  around (or sometimes zipping around) Chicago learning to use his ghostly skills and fighting crime. Yay! He’s also learned to make use of that grave that the Black Court vampire lady bought for him several books back. A ghost has to rest sometimes.

Since memories have power in ghostland, and can also be used to trade for favors, we get to learn more of Harry’s past. I was particularly intrigued by the memories of his time with Justin DuMorn. Harry keeps getting more and more complicated – and I like it!

The ending was fantastic! I loved the final fight scenes and how folks came together to do what they could. It was a lot of fun but also filled with tension and since Butcher killed off Harry I have this fear that he might start bumping off favorite characters. Lots of good stuff went down in that final fight scene.

Afterwards, we learn a few more tidbits. The mystery of Harry’s killer has been revealed. Harry has a chance to see his family members, such as Thomas. I have to say that I felt Butcher bent the rules just a little on the Thomas/Justine love but don’t touch thing. It was sweet but I also felt it was a cheat. Anyway, it’s such a minor thing. The ending did have one last surprise, so I hope you have the next book handy. This was another excellent addition to one of my favorite series.

Narration: This book was originally narrated by John Glover but fans had become accustomed to James Marsters’s performances and didn’t want a switch in narrators this late in the series. So Penguin Audio re-recorded it with James Marsters. Hooray! His performance was spot on, as always. Harry has some really complex emotions in this book, usually about his daughter, and Marsters did an excellent job of getting those across to the listener. I also loved his voices for Molly as she impersonates various characters from the original Star Trek crew.

What I Liked: Harry has a whole new set of rules to figure out; the key to the mystery of who killed Harry; what became of his friends and pets after his death; Mortimer’s continued resistance to become entangled in Harry’s ghostly affairs; the big final fight scene; the warp up; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: There is this teensy criticism about Thomas and Justine and their work around.

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

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The Ranting Dragon

iO9

Fantasy Book Critic

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Brian E. Niskala, Author of Rhinehoth

NiskalaRhinehothFolks, please welcome Brian Niskala to the blog today. We chat about horror writers, financial growth, cycling, and a porpoise scare – plus much more. Indeed, Brian is quite the entertaining interview! There’s an audiobook copy of his suspenseful horror novel Rhinehoth up for grabs, so scroll to the bottom to check out the giveaway!

What makes you cringe?

Wow, what a question to lead off with. People who Mix capital and lower case letters when they hand write something. The use of the word “mine’s” as “That is mine’s” or at least I think they intend to use an apostrophe. People who think they drive a car/truck well and pass on the right. Okay I could go on and on…

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Works of Shakespeare, I studied them in High School English and hated it. But now I see the root and invention of so many words came from him that I would like time to read all his works. I’ve actually read the Bible 3 times and actually have become rather opinioned on the whole thing. As a result, I like to read the bible every so often as a refresher. Not that I consider myself religious, but more spiritual as I have become older and wiser. I have in fact also read the translated Koran and Torah, but more so as a book, rather than a study. The Koran and Torah I would like to revisit and take my time to understand them as I do the Bible.

NiskalaArticlesInHorrorIDo you have any phobias?

No phobias that I can think of, I’m paranoid about some things, but no so much as to be a conspiracy junkie. Well now that I think of it, I could say I have a phobia about sharks. I mean I will swim in the ocean, or rather wade in it. But if I can’t see my feet, I’m too deep. I had a scare when I was a young teen. I was swimming in a bay off my uncle’s boat and something rubbed up against me. When I say I turned white and froze, I turned pale white and almost sank because I stopped moving my arms and legs. It ended up being a porpoise, similar to a dolphin. But when its fin broke the top of the water, I freaked! Not to mention I had recently watched Jaws and to this day I will not go deep enough in the ocean to swim. I have a lake by my house with a cool looking beach. I even freak out a little swimming over to this floating dock we have about 40 feet from the beach. If a piece of lake weed hits me or a fish, I nearly jump right out of the water!

In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I write both fiction and non-fiction so I find myself being a research bee. I like to read and re-read a lot of books. I find myself reading Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, often. Then into my research, I try to craft characters around Campbell’s research of what works over the millenniums. I draw a lot from biblical reference, more so for the familiarity that people will associate with and as those stories have been so well crafted over time.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

Besides writing, I am an avid investor. I have a book out on investing and I’ve always been interested in the stock and bond markets. I actually spend more time researching stocks and financials than writing. Writing fiction actually gives my mind a break from writing my non-fiction works. So in short, I would have probably chosen to be a stock broker or hedge fund manager at this point of my life.

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 have a Twitter account listed under the name Rhinehoth, fitting enough. I have about 19,000+ followers which that number seems to grow daily. I use Twitter to help promote my books as well as other author’s works that I enjoy. I have not started an official blog as of yet, but think that is my next social engagement. Self-promotion is paramount to being successful in just about anything, especially in book marketing and sales in general.

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

As a kid I was high energy! To say the least I had trouble sitting still, so writing was initially the furthest from my mind. I wanted to be a ship captain from an early age. However I did write this adventure story that got some national recognition when I was in 5th grade, I went to a couple of writing workshops as a result but wasn’t taken too serious as I was so young. My short lived ship captain and writing dream was put on hold for another passion. I had a friend who was interested in cycling and as a result I became a very avid cyclist. My love for cycling grew and soon I found myself pursuing a position on the US and Olympic cycling teams. So needless to say, my athletics took over as my primary focus. I began writing seriously after a long term bout with unemployment after the 2008 economic hiccup. It was either sit on the couch and “drink” (I haven’t and don’t drink alcohol) or keep active, productive and write. I had an opportunity to start-over and reinvent myself. I thought of what I dreamed of as a kid, being a captain of a ship was possible, if I bought the ship and captained it myself at my age. I remembered the excitement of getting national recognition for my story when I was younger and that is when my mind became flooded with countless book ideas. From there I knew what I wanted to do, write.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Edgar Allan Poe would be my first pick. He was the only one that truly wrote anything that kept my attention span in High School English. He would order blackbird pie of course…

Alexandre Dumas as he is my favorite author. The Count of Monte Cristo is my all-time favorite read. Said to be an expert cook himself, I would think where ever we ate he would order the house special to learn from and test his taste buds.

Agatha Christie I like her writing a lot, it gives you a glimpse into early 20th century with people’s thought patterns of her day. Her mystery/detective novels would keep me reading for hours. She would order the most exotic thing on the menu.

Jane Austen I love. Her novels are great reads and give you a real good representation of her time period. It truly is remarkable how our language has changed over a few centuries. The fact she died at 41 is a tragedy considering if she had lived another decade or more we probably would have a few more master pieces from her. She would probably order gruel and soft boiled eggs and boiled potatoes…😉

H.G. Wells had a significant impact on my vision of the future. The fact he wrote about complex futures in a time period where the technology was still rather primitive is amazing! Somehow I always pictured him eating steak, baked potato and beer.

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

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Hell House by Richard Matheson

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Shining by Stephen King

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

I would choose these 6, a nice number representing monsters, ghosts, demonic possession, and one who was driven mad. Classic mixed with some modern tales. My class would be based around how one’s inner thoughts can create a hell on earth.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I am a father of 4. Half of them are grown but still live home and the other half in school. They keep me pretty busy. But I am a voracious reader and audiobook listener as I travel often for business. I am well past the 1,000 mark of books read/listened to! But my true passion, above and beyond anything else is finance. Believe it or not, most of my daily thought pattern is how to invest my money to create more wealth.

Places to Stalk Brian E. Niskala

Website

Twitter

GoodReads

Amazon

Book Blurb for Rhinehoth

NiskalaRhinehothThis AudioBook has a full cast of characters! Over half a dozen actors and actresses were cast to complete this audio drama production.

Rhinehoth – Centuries ago, a great castle was built in the mountains of Germany’s Black Forest. Its ancient guardians still thrive in its walls, forever protecting its dark secrets, holding captive an enemy that threatens their very existence. Foretold is a story of an ancient warrior that is to return to the castle to free the captive Vampire Prince.

Simon Roberts was a petty thief who fled England to escape Scotland Yard after a series of unsuccessful jewelry store heists. He was recruited to do a job in Germany where he was to simply drive the getaway car while providing a look out. He thought this was going to be an easy job and a way to break into the German crime scene. But things go terribly wrong, and he ended up being the only survivor of the botched heist. Simon is quickly sentenced to a prison called Rhinehoth. This is where Germany sent the worst of the worst, surely not a place for a petty thief such as himself.

Rhinehoth is a great German castle that was converted in the late 1930s to a Stalag for war criminals of World War II. The converted prison’s modern day inhabitants are relentlessly tortured, starved, and sleep deprived. This contributes to the prisoners’ delusional visions that help hide the truth and keeps Rhinehoth’s secrets. Their captors are the army of Werewolves who have survived the centuries off the very flesh and blood of Germany’s worst forgotten criminals.

Simon, imprisoned, becomes plagued with visions from his subconscious ancient past with confusion of his modern day consciousness. He discovers through his visions that he is the ancient warrior Guthrie, who has come to free the Vampire Prince and all the captives, while saving the world from a dark plan of biblical proportions that has been orchestrated over the centuries!

GIVEAWAY!

Brian is offering up an Audible.com audiobook copy of Rhinehoth! Hooray! To enter the drawing, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) What makes you cringe? 3) Leave a way for me to contact you if you win. This giveaway ends August 25th, midnight my time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rhinehoth by Brian E. Niskala

NiskalaRhinehothWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: John Pennington

Publisher: Brian E. Niskala (2016)

Length: 10 hours

Author’s Page

Poor Simon Roberts. He doesn’t know what he’s in for. He fled England because he had made one too many mistakes in the criminal world. Now in Germany he hopes to make his entry into the jewelry heist business by acting as the getaway driver. Things go very, very wrong for him and he ends up in Rhinehoth prison, which is an isolated ancient castle that was converted to a prison in WWII. Rhinehoth has many secrets and Simon is afraid of most of them.

Earlier this year, I read the classic The Sound of His Horn by Sarban and this spooky, suspenseful tale has echoes of that classic. Isolated German castle – Check! Aristocratic jailers bent on a ‘higher’ purpose – Check! Strange, beast like qualities in some of the humans – Check! Dark mystery and deep suspense – Check! If you have enjoyed that classic, then I think you would like this book because it has much of the same flavor but with more going on. There’s werewolves and vampires and an ancient hero come to life and deep questions about choosing morally right over instinct. Quite frankly, I wish we had had two days of thunderstorms so I could listen to this book with lightning flashing outside my windows and rolling thunder above.

Simon Roberts starts off as a fairly simple man. Stuff always ‘happens’ to him (he’s never the architect of his own circumstances, according to him). Indeed, he’s a little bit of a whiner. Then he gets sent to Rhinehoth and stuff really does start happening to him that is weird and dangerous and often leaves bruises. I started to feel for the guy. For a chunk of the book, he does fumble around, simply trying to serve out his time. Then this mix of curiosity and self-preservation pushes him to look around a bit more. With his friends Mouse and Michael, they come across some really questionable things, like lots of bodies hanging suspended in vats. Ugh!

Dr. Maxine Huellen is the daughter of the warden (Adolph). Well, adopted daughter. She has a lot of secrets. She’s got these ice blue eyes and Simon finds he’s very drawn to her. In fact, he has several sexual dreams of her. The story makes much out of these dreams, but I have to say that Simon is dreaming what most of the inmates are dreaming, since it appears that Maxine in is the only female on the premises. For much of the story, she is the only female and nearly her entire role is as the sex object/object of affection, though we do occasionally get glimmers that she actually has a degree and does use it from time to time. A few other ladies appear much later in the book, such as Esmerelda (who is highly sexualized) and some witches.

Simon starts having these rather vivid memories that he’s not sure are his memories. The first one is from his childhood and involves wolves. Then a little later in the story he has a very, very long flashback of a dream that explains a chunk of the Rhinehoth history. While I enjoyed this part of the story, it really did take me out of the main story line for a significant amount of time. Also, I felt the timeline became a bit muddled. The book description talks about ancient times, centuries past. Yet I think that tanks and Hitler were mentioned in this long flashback, so I was definitely confused as to what happened when.

The last two or three hours of the book felt really sped up to me. A lot happens in those last hours whereas the pace has been steady throughout the rest of the book. For instance, Simon takes several weeks to become a trained fighting man in the space of perhaps three sentences. Still, the ending did maintain the tension we’ve had for the entire book and Simon has this big chance to show his true grit. This final bit of the book really plays out questions of souls, the morale good, might vs. right, etc. There’s a lot of good stuff going on in the end, I just wish it had the same page time as the rest of the book. All in all, it was a worthy suspenseful tale of werewolves and vampires that relied on characters and plot and not so much on gore and body count.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: The narration is OK. The main narrator, John Pennington, sounds bored most of the time. Then other character voices (and I think some are performed by other narrators though I can’t find a credit to them) cut in and out, sometimes overlapping Pennington’s narration by a beat or two, and sometimes they aren’t the same volume. Then there are some sound effects here and there, but for most of the story they are so quiet I am wondering what they are and if they are really on the audiobook. The editing does get better as the story moves forward. The ladies especially put a lot of emotion into their characters. In fact, the performance of all the female characters is very theatrical and shows a distinct difference to Pennington’s subdued performance.

What I Liked: Plenty of suspense; ancient German castle with a dark history; Simon and friends risk much in trying to figure out what is going on; werewolves and vampires!; some deeper questions get to play out later in the book.

What I Disliked: The timeline of the backstory was a bit muddled; the ending didn’t have the same pacing as the rest of the book; the narration was mediocre.

What Others Think:

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