Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

JosephMarkerStoneNarrator: Paul J. Joseph

Publisher: Paul J. Joseph (2015)

Length: 2 hours 58 minutes

Series: Book 1 Through the Fold

Author’s Page

Sally Buds is the doctor on an underfunded and rather ill-equipped asteroid mining station full of gravity sick miners. She doesn’t get along with the station chief, LaValley, but in some ways his hands are tied with the steep budget constraints. She confides in Ian Merry Field, a shuttle pilot, about the records from a lost ore shuttle that mysteriously returned from the Kelthy region. There is something very odd and plenty of people don’t want Sally and Ian poking their noses into this mystery.

This was a fun story with lots of great tech. In many ways, this was a pretty straight forward story, which let me sink into it quickly, sit back, and enjoy it. Jackie, Sally’s significant other back on Earth in Santa Fe, provides a key piece of info for Sally and Ian in their investigations.With that, Ian and Sally go on a secret mission to figure it out. What they find is one of the biggest discoveries of humankind.

I’m not big on romance, so I was glad to see that it didn’t really play a role in this story. When I read the description and saw we had Sally and Ian thrown together, I was worried we might get distracted with some soppy romance. But never fear! Both Ian and Sally have other romantic ties, so they were able to focus on the mystery at hand. Yay!

I liked all the geeky, science bits tossed in. Plus we get all this cool tech for exploring and mining the asteroid belt. Also, the Canadian Mining Consortium was not the good guy we all expect from friendly, polite Canadians! This was great because we need more Canadians trying to take over the universe. Muwahahahahahaha!

I listened to this book for free on Podiobooks.com.

Narration: The author, Paul J. Joseph, narrated his own story and it was pretty good. He was consistent in his voices and accents. While he was not quite as good as a seasoned professional, I have listened to far worse. The production was really good – volume was consistent, no mouth noises. There was perhaps 1 repeated sentence in the entire book.

What I Liked: All the cool tech; lots of science bits; Ian and Sally are not a romantic item; reference to Santa Fe; asteroid mining; evil Canadians; Sally has a girlfriend; pretty good narration. 

What I Disliked: Not really a dislike, but the cover is rather so-so for this book and doesn’t really indicate the asteroid mining that plays such a central role in the book. 

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Tofu cleaning his foot

Tofu cleaning his foot

Narrator: Jeff Gurner

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 15 hours 57 minutes

Series: Book 1 Daemon

Author’s Page

When master computer game creator Matthew Sobol passed away, gamer geeks mourned. Life continued for everyone else… except for two programmers who each died mysteriously. This sets off a chain of events which appear to be controlled by Sobol himself. However, it’s really Sobol’s computer daemon, a near AI program that Sobol created to carry out all these tasks upon his death. Those who realize what is really happening race against the daemon, attempting to stop it in it’s tracks before it’s final task can be carried out.

There were some things I liked about this book and some things that I did not. So let’s start with the negative and get that out of the way. This book did drag in several places. Each time I thought it was time I gave it up, something exciting would happen and pull me back into it. But then it would drag again and I contemplated shelving this book unfinished perhaps 4 times throughout the story. While there are some female characters, this book is definitely male dominated, which is bordering on unlikely in today’s age. Plus this is science fiction, so why not live a little and have a few more female characters, right? Finally, there were several times where I simply thought to myself, ‘That’s not bloody likely, ‘ in regards to a characters decisions or actions. Each time I did that, it took me out of the story and made me question how much thought did the author really put into this story.

So, besides all those things that dragged a decent book down into mediocrity, there’s some exciting stuff going on here. The major premise of the story, a master daemon program that can carry on after your death making decisions as you would have made them, was the thing that drew me to this book. Then we have the murder mysteries happening. Detective Seebeck was one of my favorite characters, being assigned to the investigation on the death of one of the programmers early in the book. He played an important role for the entire story. Lots of crazy stuff happens to him and he’s hard-pressed to explain much of it.

The news media plays a significant role in this book. For instance, the daemon is triggered to come on and run it’s program when news headlines report the death of Matthew Sobol. The reporter Anderson is contacted by this Daemon and offered the story of her life if she follows it’s instructions. Then, of course, the news agencies have a feeding frenzy over all the deaths and strange attacks linked to Sobol in some way. For instance, there’s this pretty intense attack by remote controlled Hummer vehicles at Sobol’s estate.

Finally, Sobol was a computer game programmer and a fan of computer games in general, so there’s at least one Easter Egg for game savvy fans to hunt down. I really liked this aspect of the story since that is so true to Sobol’s character, which we learn about through his daemon. It also allows tech analyst Ted Ross, who has played Sobol’s games, to predict some of the daemon’s next moves.

There’s many action scenes and plenty of odd deaths in this book. Yet there are stretches were things are just being reiterated and characters are making decisions that aren’t in line with what has already been established. All told, there’s a decent story in here somewhere and at the end I was glad I stuck it out and finished the book. I may or may not continue the series.

The Narration: Jeff Gurner was really great with this book. There’s a handful of accents for the characters and he does them all well. He kept all his character voices distinct and his female voices were passable. I liked his voice for the daemon quite a bit.

What I Liked: Computer game geeks; a master daemon carries on his creator’s wishes after his death; remote controlled everything!; news media can be a help or a hazard; plenty of action scenes; murder mystery.

What I Disliked: There were plenty of places that dragged in this book; few female characters; unlikely character decisions.

What Others Think:

SF Signal

SF Site

Matt Cutts

Blog Critics

The Great Geek Manual

Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey

Streak being calm & snuggly.

Streak being calm & snuggly.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2008)

Length: 24 hours 15 minutes

Series: Book 6 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 6 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 3 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3 of the first trilogy, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Mercy is best read as part of the second trilogy, if not as Book 6 in the larger series, since there are plenty of characters and situations referred to from the previous books.

Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood, and Sidonie de la Courcel, Terre D’Ange’s princess and next in line to the throne, are in love. This doesn’t sit well with much of the realm because Imriel’s estranged birth mother, Melisande Shahrizai, betrayed the nation a generation ago. Imriel and Sidonie are faced with a difficult choice: Bring Melisande to justice or Sidonie will not inherit the throne. After beginning their search for Melisande in earnest, an unlikely city nation, Carthage, comes with luxurious gifts, promises of alliance, and an apparently heartfelt hope that Sidonie will consider their General Astegal for marriage. Things do not go as expected, for anyone.

This historical fantasy is another beautiful addition to the Terre D’Ange cycle. Through the adventures of Imriel and Sidonie, we learn more about this alternate world Carey has created. Carthage is a budding empire, rich in gold and gems but also dependent on slavery. General Astegal comes off as a very charming man, willing to bend to Terre D’Ange’s way of things when it comes to love; for instance, he wouldn’t be in a miff if Sidonie decided to have a harem of pretty young men. The other culture that really stood out for me was the Euskerri, which is akin to the Basque. Deeply proud and also demanding equality from their two neighboring countries – Terre D’Ange and Aragonia.

In the previous books, there has been some magic, though much of it is left up to the reader’s interpretation. In this novel, the magic is direct and has immediate consequences. Even though this is a reread for me, I always find myself surprised by how not subtle the magic component is in this story, as compared to the previous books. So how do you fight strong magic when you only have a passing experience with it? That is something that Imriel and Sidonie will have to figure out, though I do like all the hints that Elua, Terre D’Ange’s primary deity, may be giving them a hand. The magic does follow certain rules, which I liked, though it was quite the trial for Imriel to figure out what those rules were.

There’s plenty of adventure and sneaking about in this story. Imriel must make alliances with the most unlikely of people to even make a solid attempt to not only rescue Sidonie but the entire capitol of Terre D’Ange, the City of Elua. Indeed, spying, misdirection, and disguises make up a good part of the book. I think it was hardest on Imriel to deceive his beloved foster parents, Phedre and Joscelin. There’s some pretty intense scenes that had me holding my breath! Also, those scenes with Barquiel L’Enver, a man who has disliked Imriel since he was born, were quite worthy.

Sidonie really shines in this book. Even with everything told through Imriel’s eyes, Sidonie had some tough decisions to make and was at the center of some dangerous situations. Carey has this magical way of writing female characters behaving in feminine ways and still getting important stuff done. While Imriel is the character that carried me forward in this story, there’s a strong argument for Sidonie being that star of the story.

Each time we think our heroes have found the key to winning the day, there’s another twist or another spell or another hurdle or another bad guy that must be vanquished. One of the hardest things about this was that sometimes they had to find a way to sneak past, trick, or even fight friends and family that were ensnared in the magic. My poor nails! I was biting my nails too often with this story!

As with the series, there are incredible sex scenes that range from playful to desperate to healing to sad to joyful. Carey is just as detailed in her love scenes as she is with her use of cultures and linguistics. I always enjoy these scenes because they reveal something further about the characters.

The ending was well done. I was very satisfied that things were not easy to unravel and iron out. Not everyone gets everything they want. There’s plenty to be forgiven all around. Still, it was beautiful and satisfying.

The Narration: Simon Vance does this final book in Imriel’s trilogy justice. He had to take on further accents as our heroes experienced new cultures. There were also plenty of complicated emotions and intense scenes and Vance did a great job capturing the subtleties of those emotions in his voice work. Also, he did a fantastic job with the sex scenes.

What I Liked: Tangible magic with rules; Imriel has to make some unlikely alliances; Sidonie is at the heart of the matter and she shines through; exploration of further cultures in this alternate world; the love scenes; the intensity of Imriel interacting with his foster parents; Imriel and Sidonie really had to fight for their love; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is an excellent way to end this trilogy.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

Dear Author

Miss Geeky

The Bibliosanctum

The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks

DircksTheWrongUnitNarrator: Rob Dircks

Publisher: Goldfinch Publishing (2016)

Length: 5 hours 37 minutes

Author’s Page

Heyoo, an autonomous servile unit housed in a bipedal chassis, was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Now he’s in the middle of nowhere with a most cumbersome, demanding package, one that could save humanity. Heyoo rewrites his mission to include getting the package to the indicated place, even if it takes a very long time. What Heyoo finds there is unexpected…. and rather foul-mouthed.

This was a very fun piece of science fiction! Don’t be fooled by the rather bland cover art, this story is full of humor, adventure, and a quest to save humanity. Heyoo is an interesting character, being a mobile AI unit that is now on his own. He likes humans, but he doesn’t really understand them. Now out in the middle of nowhere with a rather needy package, he has a lot of time to rewrite some of his programs to make him adaptable to the demands of this new adventure.

While Heyoo is certainly the star of the book, there’s plenty of other interesting characters. Of course Wa is central to the storyline. He’s proof that humans can get rather attached to their AI units as well. Brick was a great addition. She provides the much needed human history and also the link to the future of humanity. As more humans and at least one other AI servile unit (Arch, Sarah, Oscar, Tener) are brought into the storyline, the plan to free humanity becomes clear.

There’s plenty of humor mixed in, keeping the story light and fun. It also moves along at a good clip, so I never got bored even when there was lengthy travel going on. The storyline takes place over many years. As such, our hero Heyoo gets a little beat up. I found the story especially endearing in how Heyoo’s friends came to care for him. All together, it’s a fun, humorous story with a touch sentimentality.

I received a free copy of this audiobook.

Narration: Rob Dircks did a really good job. I’m always a bit concerned when I see that an author has narrated their own work, because not every writer can narrate well. However, that was not something I had to worry about with Dircks. His performance was great, having distinct character voices and a few effects that enhanced the audiobook experience. I especially liked his accent for Brick and her wonderful endearments for people.

What I Liked: AI – yay!; Heyoo is a unique character; plenty of humor, some of it involving cussing; the package that will save humanity; how AIs can get attached to their humans and vice versa; a touching story that isn’t heavy; Brick because she’s awesome; great narration. 

What I Disliked: Not really a dislike but the cover art doesn’t really speak to the SF nature or humor of the story.

What Others Think:

J Barron Owens

Book Giveaway & Review: David Travels to the Past by Gonzalo Martínez De Antoñana

DeAntonanaDavidTravelsToThePast

Don’t forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post!

Illustrator: María José Mosquera

Publisher: Saure Publisher (2016)

Length: 74 pages

Author’s Page

Note: This book contains two distinct adventures: The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period and also The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia. Each story starts with a little introduction page. David is an apprentice artist to Master Messina and Angela joins in the second adventure. While there are a few typos, perhaps due to translation errors perhaps, in the first story, there are more in the second, including a few lines that are rather clunky. Please note that my copy was an ARC and these typos and translation errors may be corrected in the final publication. They did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.

In the first tale, The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period, Messina uses hypnosis to transport both himself and David into the distant past – the Paleolithic period. There, they befriend a small group of nomadic hunters and they then spend weeks with them learning about their various types of art. Po-pec and Ae-tel are the most prominent characters among the the tribe. They act as guides for David and Messina in exploring caves and learning how to do their art.

What I really loved about this story is that the author didn’t shy away from using big words, which were then usually explained by Messina or by the context of the images the words related to. Also, the story shows several different types of art, such as portable art (images carved on small bone pieces), narrative art (art that tells a story), clay modeling, bas-reliefs, and others. The story also goes into some of the techniques used in making the art.

In between the bits of art lesson, David and Messina are on an adventure. There’s animal hunts, dancing, mudslides, and more. Not only do our heroes get to examine the prehistoric art up close, they get to live the life for several weeks, giving them a deeper appreciation of the art. My little criticism for this story is that while there are a few females depicted in the tale, none of them get names, get any lines, and aren’t a significant part of the story.

In the second story, The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia, David and Messina use the same method to be transported back to around 600 BC in the city of Babylon. Angela, Messina’s niece, was also transported with them and she’s just as ready as David for an adventure. They start their hunt for the origins of Mesopotamian art. They see several famous buildings, such as the Ishtar Gate and the Babylonian gardens. It’s not just architecture they investigate, but also the decorative friezes and and the glass bricks with relief patterns.

Still they hunt for the origins of this fine art. With the aid of the god Marduk, they are transported even further back to 645 BC at the Ninive library. At this point in the story, somehow they are able to understand the Niniveans and vice versa. In the first story, such linguistic abilities were not possible. However, they are unable to understand the written cuneiform. While I found this odd, it wasn’t a major point in the story. Besides, I was having too much fun with this ancient history adventure. There’s the ruler Assurbanipal and the mythological hero Gilgamesh to meet! There’s wall paintings and sculptures to enjoy!

The next leg of the journey has them even further back in time, in the second millennium BC, where they meet Hammurabi. Here, I was pleased to see the diorite sculptures. Finally, Marduk transports them to the third millennium BC, in the city of Uruk of the Sumerian civilization. Here they meet the high priestess of the goddess Innana. Finally, they discover the origins of the Mesopotamian art. Indeed, I found it very clever to walk back in time and see how architecture and art grew from these earliest Sumerian works. I enjoyed this second adventure more than the first, partially because it wasn’t just an art adventure, but also architecture and history. Also, this story had three female characters (though only two have names) that each had lines and roles in the story.

Illustration: I really enjoyed the illustrations for this graphic novel. In the first adventure, The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period, I especially liked that Mosquera has this distinct style for the story, but then also uses a different style to depict the Paleolithic art. Her depictions of the cave art is immediately identifiable as such. As with the first story, The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia has the distinct style for all the characters and background, but then totally different styles to depict the various art. I like that Mosquera rendered true-to-life depictions of the various art, which added to my delight in the book.

What I Liked: Adventures in art and history!; great illustration!; David and Messina appreciate the art more with each adventure; Angela joins in for the second adventure; the Mesopotamian gods and rulers; how David and Angela mimic the art they’ve learned about.

What I Disliked: The first adventure was all about the men.

Be sure to check out other reviews on the book tour via iRead Book Tours!

Buy the Book

USA: Amazon  ~  Kindle ~  Barnes & Noble

UK: Amazon  ~ Kindle

Australia: Fishpond  ~  Booktopia ~ Kindle

Author and Illustrator

María José is a teacher. She won international illustrations awards.

Gonzalo has a degree in art history. He works in museums and as a tourist guide.

Connect with them: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook ~ Pinterest

GIVEAWAY!!!

Win a print copy of the graphic novel David Travels to the Past (open int’l / 5 winners)

Ends Dec 10

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The American Fathers: Dinner Invitation by Henry L. Sullivan III

SullivanDinnerInvitationNarrators: Adrianne Cury, Amy MontgomeryFawzia Mirza, Cameron KnightJennie Moreau, Juan Francisco Villa, Karin Anglin, Kevin Theis

Publisher: Sullivan Serials (2016)

Length: 1 hour 56 minutes

Series: Book 2 The American Fathers

Author’s Page

Note: Since this is Book 2 in the series, it is better (though not absolutely necessary) to have read Book 1, Swept Away, before reading this book.

Once again, we return to the near future America, where powerful houses run the country from behind the scenes. Irene Daco, the first American dynastic princess, is a current hot topic. Sheila, a smart academic who believes the dynastic houses will ruin the country, has been swept up into an undefined relationship with the mysterious Jasira, a congressional correspondent. Now Sheila is offered a dinner date with this dynastic princess and she’s tempted to go.

It’s been over a year since Book 1 came out in audiobook format, but this sequel was worth the wait. I think it’s even a little better than Book 1 (which I really enjoyed). First, my little criticism about the lack of cutting edge tech in Book 1 has been blown away by the wonderful tech integrated into the story here in Book 2. I can’t tell you all the awesome stuff going on in this book because that would be spoilery, but I was definitely impressed with the cutting edge tech and how it added to the ambiance of the story. I will say one thing: artificial intelligence. Yay!

Jasira and Sheila continue to be my favorite characters. Sheila is so open and straight forward, perhaps even a little naive in some ways. Jasira is full of grace and mystery and I can’t tell what her motives are, but I do hope she’s on the side of good. The chemistry between these two was sweet and intense in Book 1 and it continues to be intense in Book 2. The love scene was fantastic – detailed, hot, and charming all at the same time.

Irene Daco plays an important role in this story and she isn’t what I was expecting. I was glad that we finally get to meet someone from one of the big American dynastic houses. Sheila has pre-formed ideas about Irene and I think that’s going to be hard to shake. Yet I have faith in Sheila because she’s a fair person… and yet I also worry that someone is trying to trick her. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next episode which way that will fall out. This book does end on a little cliffhanger, so that’s another reason to look forward to Book 3.

Just as an side note, I want to give this story credit for bringing the Peters map into play. It’s difficult to portray the Earth accurately on a flat surface and the Peters map shows land area correctly, which looks a bit different from the maps we typically see in American school systems. The conversation between Sheila and Jasira about Sheila’s work on the dynastic houses was pretty intense, and the Peters map was the perfect comparison.

Over all, this is a smart and sexy story and I really enjoyed this second installment. I’m definitely looking forward to what the author will do next with this tale!

I received a free copy this book.

The Narration: The audio experience continues to be excellent. The ladies performing Sheila and Jasira do an incredible job – the accents and emotional inflections are spot on. Also, the love scene is so well done I have to wonder if there’s real chemistry between the performers. All the character voices are distinct. The production includes ambient sounds to add to the over all experience, never drowning out the dialogue. Just a quality production all around.

What I Liked: Political intriuge; to trust or not to trust; Jasira and Sheila continue to captivate; Irene Daco; the love scene; the AI; the cliffhanger – I need more!; great narration and sound effects.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was an excellent story!

Another Man’s Treasure by S. W. Hubbard

HubbardAnotherMansTreasureNarrator: Janelle Tedesco

Publisher: S. W. Hubbard (2016)

Length: 11 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Palmyrton Estate Sale Mystery Series

Author’s Page

Set in New Jersey, Audrey Nealon has a successful estate auction business. While prepping the recently deceased Mrs. Saabo’s estate for sale, Audrey’s crew finds the oddest things – Ecstasy hidden in the kitchen and a trunk of jewelry hidden in the attic. Unexpectedly, her mother’s ring was in that trunk, which brings up all sorts of questions for Audrey, since her mother disappeared 30 years ago, supposedly drowned in a freezing lake after a car accident. Audrey’s pursuit of the truth leads her into danger and she starts to wonder just who she can trust.

This book is part cozy mystery (humor, beloved pet), part thriller (stalking, gruesome injury, betrayal), and part murder mystery. For the most part, it all works well together. Audrey is a single child raised by a father that was rather indifferent, if not outright disapproving of her. She managed to obtain a math degree but then decided to go into the estate sale business, gaining yet more disapproval from her math professor father. But she has this dedicated crew of two – Jill with her crew cut hairstyle and piercings, and Tyshon with his prickly dignity and ex-con past. Audrey’s life is cozy and orderly and predictable, that is, until her mom’s unique ring shows up unexpectedly at Mrs. Saabo’s estate.

Just a few days after discovering her mom’s ring, along with the drugs and other jewelry, she’s jumped by a masked assailant that leaves her unconscious and bleeding. The trauma to her head was rather severe and she spends some quality time in the hospital. For the rest of the story, she’s a bit jumpy, especially around strangers or in underground parking lots. While this was realistic, I did get a little tired of her screaming and breaking down so often. I kept hoping she would do something practical, like start carrying pepper spray or a tire iron. This was one of the few things about the story that I didn’t like.

Audrey’s dog, Ethel, was often a source of amusement and cute cuddliness. However, the author often used Ethel as a way to bridge two characters, since Ethel likes everyone who has a treat for her. I really liked this aspect since it was a bigger role for the Ethel than just a beloved pet and comedian. For instance, Audrey’s father really likes Ethel and their mutual love of the dog allows them to have a conversation, even if neither one of them is comfortable with the other.

There’s a little romance in this book. Cal Tremaine, Mrs. Saabo’s nephew handling the estate, is a lawyer who is currently working hard on the campaign for the next hopeful state governor. When Audrey tells him about the trunk of jewelry and the Ecstasy, Cal wants to keep both quiet until after the campaign is over. Audrey is obviously a little smitten with him from the beginning and they have a few impromptu dates. Sex is implied but the curtains always close before we get to anything steamy. The romance never eclipsed the mystery (hooray!) but I did have to endure one lengthy scene where Audrey agonizes over what to wear to a dinner party.

Meanwhile, after Audrey’s attack that left her in the hospital, detective Shawn Kaughlin is focused on Tyshon Griggs because of his past conviction. Shawn is a big stalwart force, but Audrey isn’t sure she can trust him. She defends Tyshon, convinced he would never do something so vicious as the attacker did. Of course, this adds tension to the small team as they continue to work on setting up further estate sales.

At the end, the author gave a little twist that I didn’t see coming and I quite enjoyed being surprised. After the various threads the author had lead me on in the book, I was squinting at each character in suspicion of having done something at some point, but the final telling of who did what and why was quite good. Over all, I enjoyed this book and I expect the series just gets better from here on out.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Janelle Tedesco did a great job with this book. Her male characters sounded masculine and I really liked how she tossed in regional accents. I was most impressed with her ability to give voice to Audrey’s father, who is recovering from a stroke in the book, so his speech is definitely impeded. 

What I Liked: The estate sale business angle; the mystery of Audrey’s mother’s ring; the romance was light and didn’t eclipse the mystery; Ethel the dog; the complicated relationship between Audrey and her father; Jill and Tyshon; detective Shawn Kaughlin and his suspicions; untangling all the threads and solving the mystery; satisfying ending. 

What I Disliked: While understandable, Audrey spends a chunk of the book shrieking in fright and I wished she had picked up something useful – pepper spray, etc.; the agonizing over clothing held no interest for me but that is a tiny, minor complaint as it was just one scene.

What Others Think:

Buried Under Books

Lady Myers’ Wordsmithing

Indie Reader