The Tower of Zhaal by C. T. Phipps

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Crossroad Press (2017)

Length: 9 hours

Series: Book 2 Cthulhu Armageddon

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 and works OK as a stand alone. It would definitely be enhanced by having previously read Book 1.

Set in and around a post-apocalyptic Massachusetts, John Henry Booth and Mercury Halsey now work as security for merchant caravans. The world was reformed some decades back when the Old Ones and aliens took up residence on Earth, nearly wiping out humans. Unfortunately, most of these new arrivals found humans useful in some way or another, such as interbreeding or as a food source. John is undergoing a transformation into an unknown something he fears and perhaps the University can cure him. However, their assistance comes at a price. They must hunt down and kill a powerful sorcerer (wizard? magician?) Marcus Whatley, who is determined to released the last of the Old Ones, potentially dooming both humanity and Earth.

Yeah. John and Mercury have their work cut out for them.

The end of Book 1, Cthulhu Armageddon, saw the death of much of the cast. Here, we get several fresh faces and, yes, many of them perish in interesting ways before the end of the book. In fact, several folks from the merchant train John & Mercury are guarding die right away when the cultists of Yith show up unexpectedly. Professor Harvey Armitage of the Miskatonic University wanted a word with John & Mercury and this was his douchey way to getting their attention. Right off the bat, I didn’t care for Armitage and I hoped that John & Mercury found an interesting way to kill him off. And yet…. yet Armitage does has a wealth of knowledge and some healing powers. Perhaps this messed up world needs him… for now.

Mercury used to be a professional torturer and she’s an expert on EBEs, these extra biological entities. So she’s a pretty interesting character that has had an intense career path. In this book, she continues to grow with some training in the magical arts. She’s done all she can for John as a doctor (of sorts) short of killing him (if that’s possible). Perhaps the magical arts are the only way to assist John in controlling or containing his mutation.

I’m interested in seeing how things turn out for the side character Jackie Howard. She’s the teen-aged adopted daughter of John and Mercury and she’s half ghoul. Yes, ghoul. Like Richard Jameson from Book 1, she likes human flesh. But she’s cool. Don’t worry. Donated meat only. There’s this great scene between her and John where John is explaining why they are leaving her behind instead of taking her on this insanely dangerous mission. Lots of great lines in that scene where Jackie acknowledges that John & Mercury care while also calling them on their BS.

Jessica O’Reilly, John’s previous girlfriend, shows up later in the book, as well as his ex-wife. As if that doesn’t make his life complicated enough, his ex-wife is a psychic and she can tell that John is hiding his true nature from all but his closest companions. John also has a bit of a crisis of conscious when he and his team end up in a kind of paradise that relies on slave labor. John was a slave for about a year previously, so he has some strong feelings on the subject. Yet this labor pool is made up of these squid faced entities that could happily slaughter all humans planet wide if they were inclined to… and weren’t being held in slavery. So he’s got 99 problems along with his love life.

The ending was complete with great imagery and phrases like, ‘We must summon Cthulhu!’. There’s plenty of drama and yet things work out. I hope we get another book in this series because there’s plenty more for John to explore even as he goes through his own evolution.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer really shows off his skills with this book. This story is full of lots of nearly unpronounceable names such as Nyarlathotep and Shak’ta’hadron and Kafer has to pronounce them all with consistency and accuracy throughout the book. There’s also plenty of crazy cult ramblings in a nearly unpronounceable language, which Kafer makes the characters sound fluent in. I was impressed by the dexterity of this tongue multiple times throughout this book. He’s great at keeping the characters distinct and also imbuing the text with emotion as needed.

What I Liked: Great cover art; great narration; I just love this wild weird west thing happening in Massachusetts; Mercury’s a great character; Jackie could become a very interesting character; John’s internal battle with whatever is taking over; the answer to the slavery issue John faces.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is a great sequel to Book 1!

What Others Think:

Shoggoth.net

Beauty in Ruins

The Audio Book Reviewer

Brian’s Book Blog

RazorWire by Troy Hallewell

HallewellRazorWireAfterCivilizationNarrator: Troy Hallewell

Publisher: Asgard Publishing (2016)

Length: 7 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 1 After Civilization

Author’s Page

 

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Rock is an indie wanderer, traveling from place to place trading news and whatever he might have come by in between. He meets Caroline and her powerful father and is given a mission to escort her to the Wall. There her mission will begin as she attempts to find and bring back the last unscathed and powerful remnants of humanity. A tide of warriors is sweeping the land. They don’t trade, they don’t take tribute and submission. Instead, they seem bent on wiping the land clean of inhabitants and Caroline won’t let that happen without a last desperate attempt to push them back. Rock will have to figure out where his loyalties lie.

Basically, this was a Western given a little post-apocalyptic flare. It followed a pretty standard, and, at times, cliched, script. The beginning held a lot of promise and I was rather excited to venture into another destroyed future that was mostly desert and full of folks who have their own agendas. Once they started circling the wagons and shooting at warriors on horseback, I had to roll my eyes a little. This is a Western, which can be fun if a bit tired and worn.

On the plus side, Rock is an interesting character if a bit standard. I always have a thing for those strong silent types that are good in a fight but bad in relationships. Still, I was rooting for him the whole way. Caroline was your standard plucky female wild west woman. She’s beautiful and knows how to shoot but is a bit brash and wants to rebel. Still, she’s dead set on saving her people, if she can, even if it kills her. There were very few women in this story, which might explain why the world hasn’t managed to repopulate itself yet. There’s Caroline (who has plenty of lines), a mysterious female leader of the warrior tribe that is sweeping the land (who has perhaps 3 lines), a little baby girl that gets to be cute and cuddly for a scene or two, and then Rock’s remembrances of his own mother (who has 3 or 4 lines as well). This story could definitely improve with some gender balancing.

I also feel the need to comment on how the invading hoard all seem to be brown skinned, instead of a greater mix of ethnicities as I had been expecting with humanity surviving an apocalyptic event. Perhaps they are akin to a Mongolian tribe or perhaps akin to a Native American tribe. Since we haven’t met any of them individually, other than that brief encounter with one of their female leaders, we don’t know much about them. Still, their feathers, beaded clothing, horse skills, and archery all add to the Western story tone of the book.

Now I am very curious what lies beyond the Wall and why everyone thinks their saviors may be hidden in that direction. After all, no one has survived their journey over the Wall and returned to tell about it. In fact, bones of those who died shortly after traversing the Wall can be seen from it. I think Caroline definitely has her hands full in attempting this quest.

Over all, if you enjoy your standard fare Western and want a little more sprinkled in, then this is a good book for you. For me, it was so-so. It started off promising but the middle was very predictable. The ending has promise for the series with the Wall and beyond.

I received a free copy of this book through Audiobook Jukebox.

Narration: The author performed his own narration of this book. It was mediocre. First, the production quality wasn’t all good but it wasn’t all bad either. The volume goes up and down but never so loud as to blow out your ears. Also, sometimes it sounds a bit tinny and sometimes it’s good and clear. Hallewell does do a good job of keeping each character distinct. However, most of his voices appear to be based off old Western serials, which adds to the whole cliched Western flavor of this book. His female voice for Caroline is OK.

What I Liked: The cover art for the book; the beginning held promise; desert setting; Rock is an interesting character; Caroline’s quest; the Wall and what lies beyond hold promise for the series.

What I Disliked: It’s a cliched Western with a post-apocalyptic veneer; the invading hoard appears typecast; very few women and only one that has a real role; the narration was mediocre at best.

 

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddonNarrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Crossroad Press (2016)

Length: 8 hours 30 minutes

Author’s Page

The Old ones rose more than 100 years ago and humanity dwindled and fractured in their struggle to survive. John Henry is a highly trained ranger for one of the last ‘civilized’ cities. However, he lost his friends and his sanity (temporarily) while battling a one-time friend who had gone over to worshiping the Old Ones. Now he seeks vengeance for his dead friends and his own lost future.

This was a wonderful mix of wild weird west, post-apocalyptic, and creature feature. John Booth is an intense man and it was great to live this story through his character. Also, just a side note, it’s refreshing to have the main hero be non-Caucasian. Hooray for diversity in SFF! OK, so back to John. The story starts off with him and his small group of rangers heading out to find several children who had been kidnapped by Cthulhu-monster worshipers. Things go very, very wrong. John wakes up while being interrogated with his memory all fuzzy. Yeah, that sucks.

John goes on a quest of sorts to find out if all his ranger buddies are dead and to regain his lost memories. Specifically, he’s hunting for Jessica who was the last ranger standing with him before everything went blank. He needs the help of a skilled torturer, Mercury, if he’s going to be successful. John gets a few brief moments with his estranged wife Martha throughout the story. Then there is also an ex-lover of sorts that he and Mercury come upon later in the story. I really enjoyed the main female characters – they were so diverse and written so well. However, nearly all the ladies in this story had some sort of sexual/romantic interest or tie to John. I felt that was a little silly, but it was a very minor part of the story so I won’t let it detract from my enjoyment of the tale.

The Old Ones were gooey and deadly and scary and awe-inspiring. Phipps did a great job with these creatures from the beyond. There’s your typical squidhead Cthulhu-looking monsters, horrible bat-winged flyers, and things that defy description but the characters have to describe anyway. I want to see these things but not feel their wrath, so it’s a good thing I have John’s story to enjoy.

There’s plenty of action scenes but they are spaced out well with scenes that touch on dark humor or on deeper things. It’s not just humans versus the Old Ones but also human versus human all too often. There’s slavery and bigotry and government assigned marriages. Phipps has the start of a whole world to explore here. I especially liked Richard the ghoul. He brought in humor but also fed on corpses. No one’s perfect.

The story kept me guessing right up to the end. I really didn’t know if John would persevere. After all, the title does have the word ‘armageddon’ in it. I was definitely attached to John and several of the other characters so I really did care how things turned out. I was very satisfied with the ending and I am hoping Phipps gives us another story set in this world.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer did a great job with this book, as I expected he would. He’s got the right voice for the main character, John. I also like his female voices, especially for Mercury in this book. She doesn’t have an ounce of tact and asks such personal questions so straightforwardly. He’s great at imbuing the characters with emotion as well. 

What I Liked: Great cover art; the world setting; Cthulhu monsters!; non-Caucasian hero; the female characters are plentiful and interesting; plenty of action; the hint of deeper waters in this story; had me guessing right up to the end; great narration.

What I Disliked: One tiny little thing – nearly all the ladies have a thing for John. 

What Others Think:

Grimdark Magazine

Audio Book Reviewer

Beauty in Ruins

Fantasy Book Critic

On A Dark Stormy Review

The Blog Goblin

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: S. C. Flynn, Author of Children of the Different

FlynnChildrenOfTheDifferentEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author S. C. Flynn. I’ve quite enjoyed his Australian dystopian novel Children of the Different. Today, we chat about survival quests, making up stories in grain bins, a Doctor Who debate, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – an Audible.com version of Children of the Different, narrated by Stephen Briggs

If you were sent on a survival quest, which other 4 post-apocalyptic/dystopian authors would you take with you?

SCF: Margaret Atwood, because she would be our high priestess and could communicate in all known languages and cultural situations. David Brin, because he would invent anything we needed. Hugh Howey, because he would have plenty of time to tell me the secret of publishing success. Jeff VanderMeer, because of his experience in organising expeditions and group endeavours. 

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

SCF: Jazz musician. I grew up playing trumpet in my dad’s band.

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?

SCF: I really like finding new bloggers and serious readers. I have made lots of good online friends. The biggest challenge is simply finding the time to keep up with what everyone else is doing.

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

SCF: I always wanted to hide away and make up stories. I grew up in country Australia, and I used to sit in a wheat bin, where I was away from everyone and free to invent things; there’s a photo somewhere of me in there. Back then, I didn’t think in terms of being a writer as such, but I was already on the path.

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

SCF: Mary Shelley: spaghetti and clams. James Tiptree Jr: steak and chips, beer, neat whisky, with port and cigar afterwards. H.G. Wells: steak and kidney pie.. Jack Vance: fillet of black marlin. Philip K Dick: Baked Ubik.

What do you do when you are not writing?

SCF: Not much music these days, unfortunately! Reading, watching films.

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

SCF: The best era of classic Doctor Who (the 3rd Doctor, by the way, even though it was before my time…).

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

SCF: 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne; I still liked it last time I read it! 

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

SCF: This interview is part of a blog tour for “Children of the Different” that is running every day on various sites and podcasts till early October; details of what I am doing and where can be found on my site, www.scflynn.com

Thanks for your time.

SCF: Thank you, Susan!

About the Author

S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.

He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.

S. C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. This path included two periods of being represented by professional literary agents, from whom he learnt a lot about writing, but who were unable to get him published.

He responded by deciding to self-publish his post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different and, together with an American support team, aimed for a book as good as those created by the major publishers.

S. C. Flynn blogs on science fiction and fantasy at scflynn.com. He is on Twitter @scyflynn and on Facebook. Join his email newsletter list here.

Book Blurb for Children of the Different

FlynnChildrenOfTheDifferentNineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and either emerge with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.

In the great forest of south-western Australia, thirteen year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.

After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia. If they can reach it before time runs out.

CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel set among the varied landscapes and wildlife of Western Australia.

Purchase Links

Amazon US             Amazon UK              Amazon Australia

GIVEAWAY!

S. C. Flynn is offering up an Audible.com audiobook of Children of the Different. You can enter the Rafflecopter below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) What do you do when you’re not reading? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways ends October 17, 2016, midnight.

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Flynnchildrenofthedifferentfinalanimation2

Children of the Different by S. C. Flynn

FlynnChildrenOfTheDifferentWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Stephen Briggs

Publisher: The Hive (2016)

Length: 9 hours 39 minutes

Author’s Page

This post-apocalyptic tale is set in Western Australia. 19 years ago, the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. Now when children enter their adolescence, they go into a trance-like state, entering the Changeland, and may come out of it fairly normal or a bit deranged and prone to cannibalism. Arika and her twin brother Narrah are at that age and their adventures in the Changeland will alter them, and perhaps their small society, forever.

This tale was just a bit different from anything else I have read recently. First, I loved the setting and all the Australian animals that come into play throughout the tale. There’s even stromatolites! From dense forest to dry desert to cityscape to ocean-side village – this story covers a lot of ground. Then we have the Changeland, a place that can only be entered by your spirit through a trance-like state. Everything is warped in the Changeland. Sometimes a person sees images of cities healthy and whole before the Great Madness and sometimes a persons sees things as a they are now, but far, far from where they live. For both Arika and Narrah, they each run into the Anteater, which is like our Coyote trickster of the desert southwest here in the states. His motives aren’t clear until the end of the story, but he uses both charm and threats to set things in motion.

While Arika in undergoing her Change, her brother is out of the village when he comes across Weiran, who used to be part of the village before he went a bit feral after his own Change. Narrah ends up captured by a group of city people and hauled away. Once Arika comes back to reality, she insists on going after him but she has to sneak away to do so. Turah, another childhood friend who now has strange prophetic abilities, goes with her. Both Arika and Narrah will have some harrowing experiences before they are reunited. Once they do, there is the task of taking one of the few remaining military bases in the area! The plot kept me guessing the entire time. There’s a little Mad Max action too when folks take some of the few remaining functional vehicles on the last jog of the story.

This was an exciting story. At times, it was beautiful and strange, and at other times I was biting my nails in anticipation of what would happen to our heroes. The Changeland is an eerie, unpredictable place and adds an unexpected dimension to this post-apocalyptic tale. S. C. Flynn is an author to keep an eye on and see what he comes up with next.

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

The Narration: Stephen Briggs was a great choice for this tale. I loved his Australian accent he did for all the characters (except for the 1 or 2 minor characters who weren’t Australian). He also had this great gritty voice for this character Bowman who doesn’t show up until the second half of the story. Sometimes the volume did wiggle up and down a bit, but not so much I had to turn the volume down or risk ear damage. Over all, a great performance. 

What I Liked: New-to-me settings; the Anteater!; great twist with the Changeland; stromatolites!; such a beautiful book cover; plenty of action; great to have 2 heroes to follow through the tale; great narration.

What I Disliked: Occasionally, the volume dipped a bit for a section, or rose slightly for the next section. Not a big deal, but I did have to turn up the book a handful times.

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Rissa Blakeley, Author of the Shattered Lives Series

BlakeleyBrokenDreamsFolks, please welcome author Rissa Blakeley to the blog. Get ready for a lively interview that includes The Christmas Story, Black Dagger Brotherhood, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post.

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

Worst job was retail. I started working at Lerner NY when I was fifteen. I don’t even think it’s called that anymore so I think I’m showing my age a bit! Anyway, I was working there maybe a week or so and the district manager came in. As I was adjusting some racks in the leather coats area, she came over and yelled loudly … Never turn your back on the door! Then she stormed away chapping to another employee about me…and my back to the door. -shrugs- How does this compare to writing? I’m my own boss. I can turn my back to the door anytime I want to.

If you were trapped in your post-apocalyptic world, the Shattered Lives series, which 4 other post-apocalyptic authors would you take with you?

I think putting four PA authors together could be dangerous! Writer’s are already a special kind of crazy. Then add four together who may or may not look at you like you’re the rogue or the one who was about to run away or even the one who would sacrifice the good of the group to survive… Maybe we should have a post-apocalyptic author, a romance author, a fantasy author, and a nonfiction author. Someone needs to keep it light, adventurous, and we would need someone to document everything.

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

Sarcasm used as main form of communication.

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

I was quiet and shy, then overcompensated until I figured out who I was. Now, I’ve just been growing as that person. I didn’t see myself as a writer at all. I wanted the usual things – doctor, lawyer, teacher. Things changed drastically in my life in 2004 and here I am today, living completely different than I thought I would.

BlakeleyTheKing'sFateIf you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Hmmm good question. I’m not a social butterfly so I’ll go small. Let’s start with Vishous and Rhage from Black Dagger Brotherhood.

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?

Nothing too crazy yet. I’m not sure how I would react. I may be just as excited as them.

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

It’s not really a debate or an argument, but my mother and I have had this long time ‘feud’. She hates the movie The Christmas Story. I dislike pink flamingo decor. So we are forever sending each other stuff. Most recently, I filled her birthday card with TCS stickers. I have been known to wrap her gifts in TCS paper. I send my father TCS stuff so she can’t throw it away. One year for his birthday, I bought him a huge Ralphie in the Pink Nightmare bunny outfit ornament. He thinks it’s hilarious, my mother just thinks of revenge.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

In October, I will be signing at the Carolina Book Fest in Charlotte. It’s a great event and I’m excited to be part of it again this year. As of right now, I don’t have any more release dates set. Soon. I think after this next read through of Full Circle (Shattered Lives, Book Five), I will have a better idea. The second book in the Corvidae Guard series, The King’s Destiny, will be written once I’ve sent Full Circle off to my betas. I do have an amazing thing happening in fall. I can’t wait to share it with everyone! Keep your eyes open!

Places to Find Rissa Blakeley

Website

Facebook

Twitter

GoodReads

Instagram

BlakeleyBrokenDreamsBook Blurb for Broken Dreams (Shattered Lives #1): Elaina Cooper’s world was turned upside down on what was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. She was about to marry Henry Daniels, the man of her dreams — or so she thought. Just as she was to walk down the aisle, screams pierced the air.

In the days that followed, questions lingered in Elaina’s mind. Why did Henry seem to know so much about what was happening? And why did she feel like he was keeping secrets from her? Henry knew that his haunted past would eventually catch up to him…in more ways than one. Through all of this, he must face his demons, and Elaina must decide whether she can accept who he is. Henry is determined to fight to the very end to make their sexy, mercurial relationship work no matter what staggers in their path.

Along with their ragtag band of survivors, they must travel south to face Henry’s fears. There will be joys and loss but, in the end, is love enough to hold them together?

BlakeleyTheKing'sFateBook Blurb for The King’s Fate (Corvidae Guard #1): In a world where Fae and Vampire will forever be at odds, a Vampire wins the crown, ruling the Fae Realm for the first time in history.

An Incubus, Leolin Kyffin, and his barren Succubus, Louise Bach, plot to end King Zachariah Orsova’s life, allowing them to rule the Fae Realm.

Through Louise’s encouragement, Leolin walks into a female Vampire’s dream and mates with her, breaking Zachariah’s law. His hope is to create what he thinks will be the most powerful half-breed known to the Realm.

When Zachariah kills the Succubus, Leolin vows revenge, sacrificing his half-breed son, Monty Saxon, and using him as a pawn to tear out the King’s heart, hoping to make him feel the pain of death while living.

When Leolin walks into Zachariah’s dreams, he fills his mind with unimaginable thoughts and desires. Doing the same to Monty, he secures his devious plot, patiently waiting for the precise moment Zachariah and Monty will be brought together as one.

The choices Leolin makes all add up to delivering a fate worse than death to his half-breed son and the King of the Fae Realm. Will Leolin avenge the murder of Louise? Will Zachariah and Monty survive, or will they be left suffering in the end?

GIVEAWAY!!!

I’m so excited to have Rissa here on my blog that I’m  giving away 1 ebook of Rissa’s works (winner’s choice). Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have a memorable or on-going geeky argument? 2) Please leave a way to contact you. Giveaway is open internationally. Ends September 25th, 2016, midnight.

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Driver 5 by Ray W. Clark

ClarkDriver5Where I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Larry Lang

Publisher: Driver5books (2016)

Length: 2 hours 18 minutes

Author’s Page

The man who will be known as Driver 5 for the entire book is offered a sweet fast car by an odd old man. He jumps at the chance and takes it for joy ride but soon finds himself in the midst of a zombie-filled land. Luckily, he runs into Leah pretty quickly and she gives him the basics and directs him to a safe place. This underground complex houses most of the remaining humans in the area and they have been fighting an ongoing mission to take out a half-demon half-human Hitler who has set up base in Detroit. Yeah, I know. This isn’t a deep work but it a lot of fun. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!

Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you my pet peeve with this story and then we can get to all the good fun stuff. First, there is only one female character, Leah, and she is a woman, not a girl. Additionally, 5ft 9in is NOT short. Just setting the record straight there Driver 5!

So Driver 5 has been sucked in to this alternate timeline where Hitler did a sneaky and deadly attack at the end of WWII which sunk much of the western USA and Japan and part of China, and created these zombies. He then dabbled in some occult stuff, became part demon, and moved his center of operations to Detroit. Ha! I was just snort laughing throughout this book in entertainment – some of the stuff is just so far over the top I had to laugh along with plot.

At the underground complex, Driver 5 (no one wants to know who he really is or what he’s like because these drivers don’t have a long life expectancy) gets gussied up for the quest. He gets some cool nanotech that heightens his reflexes and lets his car recognize him as the sole driver and it connects him to his weapons as well. The car gets well stocked for the crazy drive from Indianapolis to Detroit. Leah gets to be his copilot. Now why folks of this history line don’t drive yet have the tech to send people to hunt down drivers in alternate histories is a little odd, but hey, we’re hear for the crazy Thunderdome ride experience, right?

And, indeed, it is a crazy, crazy road trip. Leah does a good job keeping Driver 5 alive and he eventually gets up to speed and starts doing his fair share of zombie killing. Eventually, Leah becomes Driver 5’s romantic interest and she’s a full grown woman who can make up her own mind about him. When they get to Detroit, their intel says demon Hitler is set up in a sports stadium and is well defended. Yes, the ending was a full on action flick.

In short, I could totally pick apart the plot. There’s a lot things that won’t hold up under even light scrutiny. But honestly, that’s not why I listened to it. I read that book blurb. I knew going into it that this was not a book to take seriously. Yet I still enjoyed the hell out of it. So, yes, go pick up a copy, enjoy it, revel in zombie killing while driving a fast car with a weapons-competent leather-clad woman at your side.

I received this book free of charge from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: The narration started off rough. Larry Lang sounded muffled at first and some of his sound effects drowned out the narration. But things did get better. By the end, he has a good balance of sound effects and his narration doesn’t sound so muffled. Leah always sounded like a woman and the male characters all sounded distinct.

What I Liked: Just fun to listen to; zombies – anyone can shoot a zombie and not feel bad about it; demon Hitler set up in Detroit – ha!; the cool tech; Leah and her competence.

What I Disliked: 5ft 9in is not short; there’s only 1 woman so I guess this alternate history won’t be repopulating quickly; the narration was a little rough.

What Others Think:

AudioFile

Insanity Tales II, The Sense of Fear, an anthology

PhillipsInsanityTalesIIWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: The Storyside Press (2016)

Length: 7 hours 38 minutes

Six writers have come together with 11 tales in this anthology. Foreword is by Joe McKinney. Contributing authors are: David Daniel, Ursula Wong, Dale T. Phillips, Stacy Longo, Rob Smales, and Vlad V.

This collection ranges from the humorous to the vengeful to the brutal to the calculated deadly. There’s vomiting demons, cheating spouses, serial killings, back-room justice, despair and sadness, innocent madness, and a post-apocalyptic deadly obstacle course. I really enjoyed the first Insanity Tales anthology but I think this one is a bit more diverse. My three favorites from this collection were Hooks, Spirit in the Stone, and The Devil’s in the Details, though Rape Kit deserves a worthy mention.

Snow Day by David Daniel

Ed’s at a bar on a Thursday night about to head home. Normally he stays overnight in the city on Thursdays so he can get an early start at work on Friday and be home early for a long weekend. But it looks like snow is in the air and folks are hoping for a snow day. Liam, the bar tender, brings up the age-old question of whether size matters or not. Ed tells Liam a story about his grade school days: Susan liked to collect baseball cards –the more the better. Each individual one doesn’t matter. The size of her collection was what mattered to her. This story started off pretty innocently, letting me get all cozy within the telling, leading me by the hand down some dark alley of infidelity, handguns, and fancy lingerie. This was a good start to the anthology, getting the audience warmed up. And, yes, I did indeed like the running cliche of ‘size matters…. or not’ throughout the story. 5/5

The Book of Shadows by Rob Smales

James had his eyes operated on in his teen years, returning his sight. Now he lives out in the wilderness. A reporter, Carl, has tracked him down and wants a story about the serial killings. At first, James refuses to chat with him but Carl makes a strong argument for how he’ll get his story one way or the other. So James tells him his tale of how it all started, how he learned to interpret the shadows, and how it all went horribly wrong. Since the tale is told from the standpoint of the main character, I never questioned whether or not he was telling the truth about the shadows and his level of involvement in the deaths. Then we get to the ending and I have to wonder. James’s disturbed emotions over the foreshadowing shadows was quite clear and his horror, even terror at times, and eventual despair comes through clearly. 4/5

Voices by Dale T. Phillips

The story starts off with Chase Davis and his friend Marty at Rebecca’s graveside. Marty’s wife, Rebecca, was having an affair with Chase, who had wanted to call it off due to boredom but Rebecca was clingy. Marty misses her terribly and Chase is determined to keep his little secret so as not to devastate his best friend further. Yet Marty is certain he can find a way to communicate with the dead. All through this story I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Perhaps Marty knew about the affair all along or found out shortly after the funeral and now he wants to pull an elaborate, demented joke on Chase. However, there never is another shoe to drop. The story had a strong set up and then a whirlwind ending. In fact, I felt the ending was rather abrupt. 3/5

Nobody Ever Listens to Eddie by Stacey Longo

Eddie believes he has been psychic since he was a kid – his sister’s bike accident, his dad’s car, vomiting on the priest, that toad. So today is a big festive day and he has the worst feeling ever about the day. However, he’s reluctant to tell anyone about it. His sister Bev always finds a logical way to explain away his bad feeling. His wife Norma left him because of it as well. Will Eddie listen to his feelings today or finally set aside that side of him and try to have a normal day at the festivities? This was a fun, short piece. 4/5

Spirit in the Stone by Ursula Wong

This story flashes back and forth between the present (she’s spreading Joe’s ashes in the desert) and their past few years together. She’s always been a bit sad, but one day she meets Joe in a diner and they hit it off. He likes having someone to take care of and she likes being taken care of. Unfortunately, Joe gets sick. During the last days of his life he goes a little nuts and accuses her of poisoning him, of killing his 3rd grade teacher, etc. As she’s spreading his ashes, she finds some petroglyphs. She vaguely recalls a story that said spirits return to the rocks once their body passes. I really enjoyed this one. A bit mystical and yet everything can be explained by human nature. 5/5

Rape Kit by David Daniel

On a small campus in Pennsylvania, a 65 year old campus cop coordinates with his newest recruit, Roland, in dealing with the accusation of rape. They’ve taken care of all the immediate stuff and are waiting for the state police to show up. The old cop starts telling Roland stories of how such things were handled in the past prior to rape kits and forensic evidence. Plenty of food for thought in this one while dealing with a tough subject. 5/5

The Perfect Game by Rob Smales

Jimmy has been eagerly waiting for Joe and Charlie to return from their adventures in England. Joe shows up but he doesn’t look too good. Charlie still at Logan airport, waiting to be claimed by a family member. Joe tells Jimmy the lengthy story about a game of darts while they were in England and how it all went wrong. The dart game part took up the bulk of the story and I found it a bit boring. The surprise ending was a nice twist. 3.5/5

Hooks by Dale T. Phillips

Mr. Burrows lost his hands to an IED and now he has hooks. He feels they set him apart from society and he hates it. Even when people are kind, like giving him a free breakfast or such, he hates that too. One day he meets a nice lady and they spend hours talking before he reveals his hooks. She still likes him but is busy with school for a few weeks. He thinks she’s just letting him down easy. The story takes a much darker turn, showing how important (and perhaps deadly) it can be to self-identify as a predator instead of prey. I loved this one. It shined an eerie light on how disabled veterans are treated, even by well meaning folks, and a light on what those veterans might think of such pity. 5/5

The Devil’s in the Details by Stacey Longo

Tiffany is having a sleep-over at her house for her birthday. She’s invited the twins (Gretchen and Gerda), Allison (grammatical queen), and Julie. Tiffany received a Ouija board for her birthday and of course the girls have to try it out. Unfortunately, one of them makes the mistake of jokingly inviting a spirit to possess her body. Things change for her after that; some good, some bad. This one was quite fun and a bit light-hearted compared to the rest of the collection. It was cute and fun. I can see it as a start to a YA urban fantasy series. 5/5

Fly Away by Ursula Wong

Danny does his best to explain to his girlfriend Alice about his older sister Vega. She’s different and has spent the last several years at the Hampstead Home. Vega’s old room is full of ceramic birds, most in crazy colors. Now Vega is due to return home and Danny wants to meet her alone and introduce Alice a little later. But is reconnecting with Vega on the isolated farm really the best choice for Danny? This story started off strong. I like all the creepy bird imagery. The ending is a little abrupt and I could see it coming from the beginning. 4/5

Float by Vlad V.

This is a nitty, gritty, grimy, and sometimes slimy story. Set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of a large city (New Carthage), there’s still crime lords. Al Brunichelli wants his sister Adelina to at least marry an equal if not a little higher, perhaps allying his own crime organization with rival gang. Alas, Adelina has her eyes (and other body parts) set on Hector. He’s a low-level runner, and his skin isn’t white enough for Al. But they strike a deal. The biggest holiday of the year is coming up and that means the deadly float race is nearly upon them as well. Hector wants a float, and if he wins, then he gets Adelina. The float race is kind of like the thunderdome on big rubber water floats. There’s dirty tricks right, left, and center, and Hector has to figure a way through or under or over all of them. The competition is fierce and Al just might have added some extra dangers for Hector. I started off really liking this and it ended OK. I like the gritty feel to it and the dangerous float ride. However, there is only 1 woman and she is a prize to be won and she’s OK with that (a rather tired cliche). 4/5

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

Narration:  Fred Wolinsky did a really good job with this collection. In Spirit in the Stone, Wolinsky does a great job narrating the entire thing in a feminine voice. In Snow Day, Wolinsky had a little trouble with Liam’s Irish accent, but that’s my only negative comment on the narration. In The Devil’s in the Details, Wolinsky using special demon voice (gravelly) when the demon speaks and then he gave the voice a hollow echo for when the demon was speaking to his host in her own head.

What I Liked: Quite a variety of spooking stories; some tougher subjects are brought up in this anthology; a few are lighter to balance the heavier stories; horror can also be a part of back-room justice or a naughty prank.

What I Disliked: A few stories ended abruptly; one story treated the only female character as a tired cliche.

The Weller by Adam J. Whitlatch

WhitlatchTheWellerWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: A. W. Miller

Publisher: Adam J. Whitlatch (2015)

Length: 4 hours 56 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, much of the land is a waste. Food, water, shelter, and decent people are in short supply. Matt Freeborn lost his parents young and his granpa raised him to be a Weller, one who can find clean water.  While his existence with his granpa is tough, there is also joy satisfaction in it. Sadly, that won’t last because this is a book about how Matt gets scammed and beat up and shot and left for dead. He’s in for a tough time of it.

There’s lots that I really liked about this book, and one thing I didn’t care for. So, let’s get that out of the way – Dude! Where are all the women? You can’t repopulate the world without women! There’s several no-name ladies scattered throughout the book and one (count her exactly – 1) woman named Phoenix who has a plot relevant role. I want more women in this gritty, harsh world. The author can write female characters, as he proves with our lone female character or note.

This book was a joy to read. It had that mix of action, and desperate every day fight to live, and the nostalgia of better days lost. Our hero, Matt, is quite a mess. He’s decent enough, given the circumstances, but he’s going to make some bad decisions that give him a world of hurt. I really enjoyed that not all went his way all the time. I like to watch the heroes suffer and fight for what they want, and of course, overcome and be victorious. However, in this water barren world, ‘victorious’ might only get you a tiny tub bath of cold, undrinkable water.

I’m really hoping the author returns to this world and gives us another book. He’s created this rich backdrop in which we could have more adventures, with or without Matt. I’m sure the Distillers (folks who aren’t above stealing water out of people) have an interesting story or two to tell. They were quite chilling and ruthless in this book.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author (via the Audiobooks GoodReads Group) in  exchange for an honest review.

 

The Narration: A. W. Miller was a good choice for this book. He had this kind of old cowboy voice that was full of gravel for Granpa. I also liked his younger voice for Matt. He did a great job of getting Matt’s emotions across. 

What I Liked: A harsh world full of dangers; the Distillers were vicious!; Matt and his good heart but questionable choices; the nostalgia for better days and a lost world; Phoenix;  the cover art; great narration.

What I Disliked: So few women and only 1 of note :(.

What Others Think:

Book Lover’s Life

Survival Weekly

 

Janus: Zombies versus Dinosaurs by James Livingood

LivingoodJanusWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Randal Schaffer

Publisher: Paperbackward (2016)

Length: 5 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 2 Zombies vs. Dinosaurs

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

I really enjoyed Pale Rider so when the author offered me a review copy of the sequel, I jumped at the chance. Sad to say, I didn’t find this installment as interesting. Janus is a zombie leader and he controls his pack of zombies through instinct. He also uses this power, instinct, to control a non-zombiefied deer or elk (I forget which), which he rides upon. The zombies are definitely different than the ones we saw in Book 1, being able to group together like this and be lead by a strong ‘personality’. However, I found the whole instinct power not well flushed out and difficult to believe in. Yep, I can totally believe in zombies and genetically created dinosaur-looking beasties, but I had a hard time with this instinct. Mostly, it was because of the elk. Wild animals have their own agendas – eat, sleep, fornicate, repeat. Elk aren’t big fans of rotting meat smell either. So Janus is using his power, instinct, to keep this elk in line, by negating the elk’s own instincts to run? That’s where Janus’s power gets to squishy and ill-defined for me.

The character, Pale Rider, is a reluctant leader in his town. He settles disputes and folks seek him out for advice on difficult fencing situations. He has a young daughter and he deeply misses his wife. Janus has recognized him as the human leader and if Janus wants to ‘free’ these humans from their boring lives, giving them the gifts of instinct and freedom, he must take out Pale Rider. The story sets up early for a good Western-type showdown and I really enjoyed the building of suspense.

Then we have Heche, who is like a mad scientist. She creates new dinos to sell to the local farmers. They are used in putting up fencing, taking down trees, and farming. I really like the basics of her character – she’s a seeker of knowledge both in books and through her work. However, this is another area that isn’t really clear. Does she have a lab with petri dishes and sterile equipment? Or is more like a wizard’s barn, full of smelly potions and unidentified bits of dried animals? I would have liked a bit more on this front because it ties into other questions I have. How far has civilization fallen? There’s a reference to contact lenses and it’s unlikely someone whipped those up, even if the town has a watchmaker. Is it 6 months since the zombie calamity or 6 years? If it’s 6 months, then contact lenses are still around. If it’s 6 years, then no, not realistic.

Book 1 was pretty sparse on the ladies and Book 2 does better but there are definitely not enough females around to save humanity. Heche has the most lines, but that’s perhaps 10-20 lines, though we get some quality time in her head. Pale Rider’s young daughter also has a role. Then there are 2 female zombies (why so few?) and maybe a few human ladies tossed in here and there. As usual, I like to see more ladies in post-apocalyptic stories. How else will we rebuild?

OK. So, bad to the goodness. We do get a showdown at the end and there were some twists. The author took the story beyond what I expected. These zombies are more like feral beasts than shuffling corpses; they are not so easily beaten. Heche creates a fantastical beast that comes in handy. And then there’s that thing that happened right at the end that has me craving to know where things will go from here. It’s all very dramatic at the end and very satisfying.

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

 

The Narration: Randal Schaffer’s performance was OK. When the characters were talking, he imbued them with emotion. The rest of the story he read in a monologue that made me wonder if he was bored with the book or not.

What I Liked: Modified beasties!; showdown between zombies and humans; Heche’s work; the reluctant leader; some great surprises at the end.

What I Disliked: Not clear about the level of science or manufacturing that is available; the zombie instinct power was pretty nebulous and squishy; few female characters.