Interview: Matt Costello & Neil Richards, authors of Cherringham

CostelloRichardsCherringhamMurderOnThamesFolks, I have a treat for you today. Please welcome Matt Costello and Neil Richards to the blog. They are here as part of the virtual tour for Bastei Entertainment. You can check out other stops on the tour HERE. We chat about movies, dead authors, fictional evil books that could destroy the world, and mystery writing.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Neil: Impossible to choose one! Movies – Stand by Me, the best coming of age movie ever, North by Northwest – Hitch’s lightest but most unpredictable, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for what it says about love. TV – Band of Brothers for me the best series ever made. Book – What Makes Sammy Run, still one of the funniest books ever (well maybe you have to work in movies to feel like that!)

Matt: King Kong. On a black and white TV, in my Brooklyn home. Seminal, amazing, and quite possibly a film that forever altered my creative life to come.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

Neil: The characters have to be true – and in the case of our Cherringham series the world has to be true. They’re cozy mysteries so the cussing gets the cut – but we have to totally believe in the reality of our world to make it work.

Matt: Writing is selective. Even for dramatic events, the focus of the word, the line, the paragraph should be on creating the moment. If a visit to the bathroom is important, it should read so as well, whether it’s to be suspenseful, funny or horrific. Readers should feel the mundane under the surface without ever having to experience the tedium of reading it.

CostelloRichardsCherringhamMysteryAtManorMore and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

Neil: Matt and I both work in ‘multimedia’ writing games, interactive, TV, books, animation, etc. so it’s a world we know pretty well. We’ve written a YA novel which grew out of a location-based app and will work alongside it. And transmedia – where it’s appropriate – can open up a fictional world in intriguing ways. Cherringham feels to us like a TV series above all – we’ll wait and see…

Matt: As Neil says, we have created works with straddle the different platforms, and would love to see Cherringham do the same.

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

Neil: I’ve rediscovered Dickens in the last few years – so a year off to read them all would be great. I never read War and Peace and feel I should…

Matt: I have a pristine copy of Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon locked in a safe, in a crypt, just to the left of the wine cellar in my basement. The book itself, more mummified than bound, would be a daunting, even dangerous read. One of these dark and stormy nights, I fear I will be compelled to open the safe and crack those ancient pages…

CostelloRichardsCherringhamMurderByMoonlightWho are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Neil: Sherlock and Dr Watson. Morse and Lewis.

Matt: Abbott and Costello. Oh pages…hm, Sherlock and Watson, as my esteemed colleague suggests. The game’s….afoot.

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

Neil: We don’t do it deliberately – but sometimes a news story will trigger a conversation between us and turn into the core of a new plot. Any time we’re creating an ‘institution’ (say an old people’s home, or a local fire station etc) or perhaps entering a specialized story world (a character’s love of metal detecting for instance) we’ll spend time learning the jargon and reality of that world. But too much research can slow you down – just pick what’s needed to be able to write truthfully about the specialism.

Matt: What I tend to do when I hit something that indeed must be researched (for example, the technical name of an item or part of a device or machine) is to type ‘xx’ and carry on….knowing that when the draft is done for the day, I can jump onto the net and find out exactly what this part or that particular thing is called.

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

Neil: Ah, well – the way our stories unfold the bad guy is concealed until the very ending when our heroes uncover the plot or the murderer. So we usually present them in the most generous light we can.

Matt: It can be tricky keeping our real bad guys hidden. But that is also part of the fun of these ‘cozies’…to know whodunit, and then making sure that they remain well hidden – but then…clearly so guilty at the end!

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

Neil: Hmm, Poseidon Adventure 2Taking of Pelham 123… Best not to dwell on these things. The best films make the worst remakes.

Matt: I worked on a prequel for Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and I found that film powerful, honoring the tone and power of the original. John Campbell’s classic story Who Goes There? was made into the original film The Thing, and amazingly all the reboots of that tale have worked extremely well.

CostelloRichardsCherringhamLastTrainToLondonIn 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?

Neil: I like chatting to readers, bloggers, reviewers, TV and radio people – I guess because there’s no preparation and it never feels like hard work. The constant sharing of info on social media can get time-consuming – I still feel that if I’m at my desk I should be writing not selling but I guess those days are long gone…

Matt: Gone, but not forgotten….

If you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

Neil: I love train travel – and eating a meal in a proper restaurant car is one of life’s luxuries. So what better for a mystery writer than dinner with Poirot himself on the Orient Express, crossing Europe at night. Classic French cuisine of course!

Matt: Private dinner in Casino Royale, stack of chips, martini, and company for evening awaiting…

CostelloRichardsCherringhamCurseOfMabb'sFarmWhat does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

Neil: I work in a custom-made garden office – a writing den I’ve waited a very long time for! At the start of every project I like to clear the desk. By the end I’m surrounded by piles of paper. Being digital doesn’t seem to have reduced the mess as it should have done! I don’t need to be there – in fact I wrote fifty pages on a long train journey in a crowded carriage a couple of years ago – just got ‘into the zone’ and didn’t stop. At the end I was exhilarated and the feeling didn’t go away for a couple of days.

Matt: Just an office, with bookshelves, a desk, Mac, printer, and stacks of notebooks and pads related to countless projects. But I can – and do – write anywhere, anytime.

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

Neil: I still haven’t done that. Never want to tempt fate…

Matt: Having been published a lot, for me – now — it is about the work I am in the middle of, and the work to come. Champagne can wait…

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

Neil: Dickens for story-telling. Hemingway would be fun for a while but I think we’d kick him out when he got too wild. Chandler to learn about crime writing. Dodie Smith for class. And Douglas Adams who I worked with for a few years and whose humour I miss. They’d eat what I cooked for them and be grateful – plenty of other writers on that deceased list to pick from…

Matt: Well you see, I don’t think having dinner with a dead author would be very entertaining., I mean, there they are, all moldy and decayed, sitting there, sans appetite. Plus imagine explaining to them every time you reach for your iPhone to check the latest IM!

CostelloRichardsCherringhamBodyInLakeSide characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works?

Neil: I’m reading a lot of Alan Furst at the moment. His novels take place across Europe in the late 1930’s and 40’s. His side characters interweave across the series, sometimes becoming protagonists, sometimes just flitting through the lives of other central characters. John le Carre is a master at creating fully blown side characters, often marching through their own tragedies.

What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Neil: A bit early to say as we’re only published a few months. But some of the regulars are becoming old friends to us.

Matt: We have gathered quite the collection of locals, bit players in our stories, who all seem quite real. I’m beginning to think I know them better that the real humans who are my neighbors in my hamlet of Katonah!

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

Neil: As well as crime I write a lot for children’s television and games. I’ll be at the Children’s Media Conference. Also Develop in Brighton – and the Forum on Financing Family movies in Erfurt Germany later this month. The last game I wrote – Broken Sword the Serpent’s Curse – is just out on most platforms. And the game company I’m a part of publish their first game Battleplan Gettysburg this month too. And Matt and I have the last three of the current series of Cherringham to write. After that, we have a much darker crime story to outline…

Matt: I’ve begun the third and final book in my Post-apocalyptic trilogy that began with 2012’s Vacation. I’m working on a major TV meets game project that I can’t talk about, and I am also working on a surreal interactive graphic novel project for Blue Rocket, based in Tasmania.

Places to Find Matt and Neil

Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery by Jim Bernheimer

BernheimerPrimeSuspectsWhy I Read It: I have a thing for clones, detectives, and the gritty noir.

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

Who Do I Recommend This To: Blade Runner fans.

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Self-published (2012)

Length: 4 hours 54 minutes

Series: I really, really hope there will be more books in this clone-filled world that the author created.

Author’s Page

David Bagini is a cop, a smart ass, and also a clone in a city filled with clones. Once awakened, and once he gets over his surprised combative response, he learns that he is the 42nd clone of the original bad-ass super detective, David Bagini, Prime. 42 has been called upon to solve the murder of the Prime Bagini because the evidence points to one of his ‘brothers’ as the culprit. With cool tech and a few frenemies, David Bagini 42 will still have a difficult, twisted time solving this case.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. In a world where clones are dispensable and are little more than slave labor, David 42 must muddle his way through with less than cutting edge tech. He’s a copy of a younger, still idealistic David Prime, and hence doesn’t have some of the moral flexibility as some of his other ‘brothers’, such as the partyer, the drug addict, or even the religious commune dweller. For every clone working, the Prime gets a piece of their paycheck, allowing him or her to live in luxury. The clones live and mostly work in this section of the city, in low-rent crappy housing, and eating at cheap, vomit-inducing diners. The Primes live and play in Prime City, serviced by mask-wearing clones (makes it easier to ID them as ‘servants’). Most clones have to take on second jobs to have the money to upgrade their living arrangements, such as working as a mall cop. Yes, the quality of life for clones is not all that for the vast majority of them.

A great mix of humor, nitty-gritty, and tough cop makes this an exciting mystery adventure. David Bagini was once one of the best detectives in the galaxy. Not only does 42 have to go up against swamp thugs, a therapist, bureaucracy, and a steep learning curve, he also has to be far more clever than all the other Bagini clones; they all know the tricks of the trade – how to catch a murderer, but also how to avoid being caught.

Since clones are dispensable, they tend to have lots of casual sex. With that statement, you might think there was plenty of that in the book. Nope. Well, not in detail. The orgies are referenced just often enough for the reader to understand that is not what David 42 is looking for. Sadly, he is stuck in a society where casual sex is the norm and long-term, in-depth relationships are deviations. Not like the guy needs that added frustration to his already full agenda of catch the murderer(s) of David Prime and quickly before Those On High decide to scrub the entire Bagini line. Every. Last. Bagini. Clone. Yeah, gone for ever.

While the pacing of this adventure was pretty quick, David 42 was a multi-tasker, such as interviewing a potential suspect while taking the time to learn the latest police-issue firearm at the range. I really liked that 42 didn’t simply wake up and know everything; he had to learn, and learn quickly, as he went. The guns, the hoppers (flying vehicles), the scroll (kind of like a PDA but much, much cooler), and even all the things clones do to individualize themselves. There’s tatts, piercings, constantly changing hair colors, etc. David 42 had a whole culture to learn.

Of course, 42 is a nod to Douglas Adams and there are some jokes through the book that fans of Adams will get. Towel!

All that goodness in less that 5 hours of reading time. My one minor criticism, and it is small, is that I would have liked to see a few more female cops. The novel has female lovers, waitresses, therapists, and finally, 1 female cop. Most of the ladies had well rounded characters and individual traits and the main character did not treat them as sex objects. Yet, it is far future SF and I do like to think that certain jobs will balance out in the future – like lady cops and house husbands. Still, minor negative comment on an otherwise very worthy novel.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer was a treat to listen to, pulling off the sarcasm, the asshole remarks, the tough cop that is secretly lost and trying to bluff his way through this freaking mess. Yeah, Kafer delivered.

What I Liked: The cover; clones!; disadvantaged cop in a tough situation; lots of cool tech; nitty-gritty feel to the story;the 42 reference (answers to everything); the ending; the narration was great!

What I Disliked: The story could have used a few more women in traditional male roles.

2014SFExperienceI’m taking part in The Sci-Fi Experince 2014 hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. Swing by his place to see other SF reviews and posts. Anyone can join!

What Others Think:

Kalpar’s Arsenal

Good Book Alert

Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

ShowalterAwakenMeDarklyWhy I Read It: Future Earth infested with aliens that need to be policed by a tough, heavily armed woman in her late 20s? Perfect!

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Need some butt-kicking practical boots, alien murders, and a slice of romance? Check this book out.

Narrator: Justine Eyre

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2013)

Length: 8 hours 58 minutes

Series: Book 1 Alien Huntress

Follow along inside Mia Snow’s head as she and the guys from Chicago’s PD AIR (Alien Investigation & Removal) team track down an alien serial murderer of humans. In her late 20s, she’s lived long enough to not make the basic mistakes. No, her mistakes are all complicated. Hence, the plethora of weapons she carries on her person. Mia and her partner Dallas get a little closer to the alien’s identity, at least, until he is very badly injured. In a future world where Earth is lightly infested with a variety of aliens, a deal had to be made. Aliens could live on Earth, provided they do so peaceably, following all laws. Members of the AIR team can use their professional discretion to execute a law-breaking off-worlder. Mia uses her wit and cool tech to track and capture first Leela and then her brother Kyrin, both powerful Arcadians with dangerous abilities. Oh, and there is sexual tension left and right.

First, let me talk about the cover art. There is no black lingerie anywhere in this book. Or is that a nightclub dress? There aren’t any skimpy black nightclub dresses either. Anyway, there is a white gauzy revealing piece at one point. So, while this cover is not aesthetically displeasing to me, it doesn’t really portray the awesome fun murder trip inside this book. I see one knife on the cover. Mia Snow would laugh. She wears practical boots, carries knives and guns (plural), and is trained in hand-to-hand combat. there’s aliens and a future world covered in new-fangle technology.  Can I please have some of that on the cover? If I saw this cover in the SFF section, I wouldn’t even give the book a second look. I’m looking for something other than a wee little knife and a black teddy in my reading.

OK, thanks for letting me share. Now, this book was a lot of fun. It is my first Gena Showalter book and I really enjoyed getting inside Mia’s head. Her past isn’t too dark, but definitely has grey spots, especially concerning her dead brother Dash and her distant father who turned abusive after loosing his son. She’s been reliant on herself for a long time and it shows in her work and snarky attitude. She holds her own in a male dominated career. I kind of had mixed feelings about that element of the story: Even in the future, men still dominate police business and women have to use attitude and occasionally a well-placed elbow to hold their own. While it sets up a fun and well-known dynamic, I had a little trouble believing us ladies hadn’t evened the battle of the sexes by the time the aliens found Earth.

So, back to the goodness. Men turn up dead and an alien is suspected. Leela is arrested and detained, though she is difficult to subdue with her strong telepathic abilities. Nevertheless, Mia manages it, barely. However, as more info comes forth, Mia becomes convinced that Leela, while not telling everything she knows, is not the center of the crime spree. Leela’s brother, an Arcadian who is quite nice to look at, wants his sister released. He offers Mia a trade: His healing blood for her injured partner Dallas in exchange for his sister’s freedom. Obviously, Mia can’t go for such a trade. Hence, a combative dynamic is set up between the two – they are both physically fit, emotionally damaged, and in need of a good lay. Yes, we’re talking about the romantic element here folks. I loved the sexual tension that gave a tantalizing undercurrent to the murder plot for the first 2/3 of the book. I won’t give away the ending to this subplot, but let me say the initial combative nature between these two was the best.

I really enjoyed how everyone had a past in this urban scifi (yes, I just made that term up). Mia has her issues with family. Kyrin and his entire race have a population issue on the homeworld. Then there are all the guys from AIR that I am looking forward to seeing what Showalter does with them: Kitty, Ghost, her boss Jackson, partner Dallas. The cool tech was interspersed along the plot, built into the furniture and weapons and transportation. While we really only spent time with one alien race, we heard little snippets of others. The world building for the series is off to a good start. While I would like to see more female characters, a bit more tech, and some related cover art, Awaken Me Darkly was still a fun read.

Justine Eyre, the narrator, was a perfect fit for Mia Snow. She gave the character a sensual yet no-nonsense voice. I could totally see Eyre in kick-ass boots while narrating this book, channeling Mia Snow. My one negative criticism is that sometimes the male voices were not distinct and I had to pay extra attention to figure out which male character was talking.

What I Liked: Female lead detective in a murder case; aliens inhabiting Earth under a treaty; cool future tech; Mia’s family issues; the sexual tension between Mia & Kyrin; the boots – I love serious boots; a woman with sensible weapons.

What I Disliked: Could use a few more female characters; unrelated cover art; the love scenes didn’t grab me as much as the initial sexual tension; even in the future, women are still fighting for their place in male-dominated careers.

What Others Think:

Under the Covers

Paranormal Haven

Red Hot Books

Gaijin Cowgirl by Jame DiBiasio

DiBiasioGaijinCowgirlWhy I Read It: I like nitty gritty stories that throw me into a foreign culture.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Premier Virtual Author Book Tours (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Those who like an action-driven plot, a bit of history, a treasure hunt, and don’t mind a bit of sex and violence would enjoy this novel.

Publisher: Crime Wave Press (2013)

Length: 393 pages

Set in the early 2000s, Valerie Benson is a young lady, more than a little spoiled, on the run from her own failings and a closet of family secrets. She ends up in Japan, crashing at her old boyfriend’s place. After several weeks, she ends up working for the nightclub Cowboy as a hostess. Charlie Kwok, a lawyer trying to bring down Japanese business men who benefited from WWII brothels, is at first bemused by her job, which is questionable, but doesn’t entail sex. In short, Val is paid to look good, flirt and dance with the customers, who spend lots on liquor and leave big tips for the ladies and the club. Val’s biggest tipper of all is known as The Painter, and he likes to paint ladies in the nude. Specifically, he likes to paint women’s genitalia. That’s his addiction. He is willing to pay lots of money, and that is Val’s addiction. Val finds herself in the middle of something bigger than anything she has ever tackled before, and this time running won’t get her out of trouble. Essentially, she finds herself the owner of a treasure map, WWII treasure buried somewhere in Asia, most likely Thailand, and long forgotten. Enter Muddy, an Australian with decades of experience treasure hunting.

Initially, Valerie is a character that I didn’t have much connection with. She lacks responsibility for herself, often leaving others who care about her abruptly. She comes from a wealthy, and highly disfunctional, family, her father being a US Congressman. She’s use to having money and someone to take care of her, always willing to rescue her or give her a place to stay. She detests her father, but can’t give up the trustfund, which is how he always tracks her down (whenever she pulls funds from it). And poor Charlie. He was once head over heels in love with her, begged her for months in every way he could for her to come back to him. But no, she gave him no hope. But ran straight to him in far off Japan when she needed a place to hide away from her troubles.

Then Jame DiBiasio takes us into the seedier side if Japanese culture, but he tells it from the view point of Val, an outsider, and Suki, soon-to-be Val’s best friend. Sure, these ladies could make some better choices in their life, but so could all of us. They are very human, with hopes, dreams, needs, mistakes. They both hostess at this bar, and while no sex happens for money, all the ladies are expected to dress up, flirt, dance, and generally let the customers believe there is always a chance some sexytimes may happen.

I also enjoyed the little history lessons DiBiasio built into the story line. First, charlie Kwok and his firm are filing lawsuits on behave of surviving comfort women, women who were enslaved and forced to work in brothels in WWII for the ‘comfort’ of Japanese soldiers. I had not heard the term ‘comfort women’ before this book, and I do enjoy a fiction that can teach me a little bit about history or science.

So, the first quarter of the book is Val’s night life and Charlie’s lawsuits. Then Val and Suki have a near-death experience at the house of The Painter that throws the plot in a new direction. Val discovers a treasure map, and she and Suki both flee, intending to go to the police with their story. However, it quickly becomes apparent they can’t and must leave the country. This option is cemented when Val looses something precious to her, forcing her resolution to follow the treasure map. Val grows as a character, and I like that in my lead characters.

DiBiasio could have built in more sex than there was, but he leaves much hinted at, or merely stated as facts, without going into lots of description. Prostitution, enslaved women, hostessing…. you would think sexytimes would be happening left, right, and center. But the author restrained himself, putting in enough to make it realistic, to move the plot forward, to show us a point, and not so much as to make me think I wandered onto an Adam & Eve film production. I applaud him for that.

Definitely fast-paced, with action happening at every intersection, this book is full of memorable characters and interesting historical tidbits. Pick it up for the treasure hunting and walk away with some historical trivia. My small criticisms weren’t enough to detract me from enjoying this book. If you are interested, my small criticisms included such things as: occasionally moving a little to abruptly from one scene to the next; Suki appears to need a man for a future; and why did it take Suki and Val so long to figure out that the bad guys would check for them at their apartments?

What I Liked: Val grows from a snot-nosed irresponsible main character, to a woman on the hunt to forge her own life; the book captured the seedier side of life without being risque; lots of Japanese cultural references, vocabulary, poetry built into the story line; historical tidbits tucked in here and there.

What I Disliked: Would have liked Suki to be a little more independent; occasionally moved a little abruptly from one scene to the next.

Jame DiBiasio and Gaijin Cowgirl are on tour. If you would like see more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways, check out the schedule at Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.

Hiding Gladys by Lee Mims

This is Pico being used as a book stand.
This is Pico being used as a book stand.

Why I Read It: I needed a cozy mystery – and there was a snake on the cover.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy a strong female lead, field geology, and a twisted mystery would enjoy this book.

Publisher: Midnight Ink (2013)

Length: 242 pages

Series: Book 1 of The Cleo Cooper Mysteries

Cleo Cooper is a divorced 45-year old mother of 2 (both adults now). She is also a field geologist and an independent business woman. And she has taken the time to learn how to use more than one handgun (a skill I recommend to most adults). In North Carolina, Cleo believes she may have found a mammoth underground granite mountain, which is unusual for the area, but would be a multi-million dollar mine. However, Cleo needs tests to confirm her suspicions, and her potential granite mine is located on private property. Cleo has done all the proper ground work with the legal owner, Gladys. However, Galdys’s adult children, who are not employed and live at home, have been running interference left and right. One too many convenient accidents and a body later, Cleo starts to suspect someone if playing hard to shut down her efforts.

When I finished this book, I let out a deep sigh, blinked, and immediately looked around for the next Cleo Cooper mystery. Alas, there is not one. Yet. Though I have heard there is potentially another in the making. Lee Mims, take all the time you need to do your craft. I can wait for excellence. Simply, I thoroughly enjoyed this cozy mystery and I want more. This book didn’t try to outreach itself and kept the story line simple, fun, and engaging. One of the main things I appreciated about it was the protagonist Cleo. She knows what she wants and goes for it, in business, in recreation, and in bed.

If I have to chat about the faults of this book, which were few and minor and didn’t detract from my enjoyment, then I will. There are 2 handguns used by Cleo in this book, a Beretta and a Glock. However, she used some slang (baby 9) and I occasionally thought she was talking about the Glock and then later thought she was referring to the Beretta. So, if you are a handgun aficionado this discrepancy would probably stand out for you like it did for me. Also, there is one scene where our heroine shoots in a darkened house at someone she believes is a bad guy, which folks might question for all sorts of safety reasons – you can’t really tell if there is a third party or not in the house and shooting gives away your position quite well. And that’s all I got for flaws. Yep.

I liked the use of wildlife, nature, and a pet dog throughout the book to give the main characters depth. The minor conflict between Cleo and her ex-husband (he wants her back, the kids want her to go back to him) was intriguing; Cleo is quite good at setting her boundaries and still having a friendly, even friendly with benefits, relationship with her ex-husband. Cleo also has a snarky sense of humor – in particular there was a certain 9 inch joke during a boat chase that had me groaning and laughing at the same time. All in all, I am looking forward to the sequel coming out and seeing what other trouble Cleo can get into and out of. And I nearly forgot about the frogmore stew! I bet some of you wish I had – hehe!

What I Liked: The pace of the story was perfect for a cozy mystery; Cleo is an awesome protagonist for real-world folks who want a break from teen heroes with endless powers; Playing hide and seek with Gladys throughout the book was amusing; Cleo’s sense of humor had me laughing to myself, gaining odd looks from strangers; there’s field geology and a snake!

What I Disliked: I wasn’t always positive which handgun Cleo had in use; Cleo shoots into a darkened house which is something most people trained in handgun safety would be extremely reluctant to do.

I received my copy of the book through JKS Communications as part of a blog tour. If you would like to see more reviews, interviews (including my own), guest posts, and giveaway, check HERE for the schedule.

Dab of Darkness Expands

For-Review books and a book won from a blogger's giveaway.
For-Review books and a book won from a blogger’s giveaway.

2012 ended on an exceedingly good note for Dab of Darkness, which got mentioned on a SF Signal podcast (Episode 170). Thank you everyone who had a hand in that, especially Lady Dark Cargo and Little Red Reviewer.

Since 2010, I have been writing for Dark Cargo, and once I started up my review blog, I kept writing for Dark Cargo because I love the atmosphere, the dialogue, the other contributors. Truly, it feels like a second bloggy home. With the success of Dab of Darkness over the past several months, I have decided to expand beyond my reviews and read alongs. I intend to start doing author interviews, bookish commentary, and other whimsical posts at my discretion. Of course, you’ll still be able to find me over at Dark Cargo on Tuesdays, but I highly recommend you visit DC for the great stuff by the other wonderful writers throughout the week.

For Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Scifi Month, I will have a guest post on Brian Stableford up on January 10th. I am sure I will remind you all. Andrea will have great posts about vintage (in this case pre-1979) science fiction going up all month long, so don’t hesitate to stop by over there .

Several nonfiction books from Granma.
Several nonfiction books from Granma.

For 2013, I hope to participate in several reading events (see this previous post for info on upcoming reading events), but I also hope to add more historical fiction to my reading calendar. Truly, I find it difficult to say which of the three genres (Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Historical Fiction) are my favorite as I value them all highly. Throw in several series I would like to finish, several SFF series I would like to start, a handful of rereads, a little poetry, and some nonfiction, and you’ll have a TBR mountain that you’ll never see me dig out of. Haha!

AsherPennRowling
I have several Neal Asher & Shraon Kay Penn books, given to me by a good friend.

Over the past several months, I have also taken in several For-Review books, all of which I am excited about, of course. So I plan to get that pile down to a much smaller list before accepting further review books. Additionally, the bookish blogging community is so very generous with their book contests and giveaways; I have won several books over the past year and yet have only read a small percentage of them. That will change. Once again, I am excited about all those books and have nefarious plans for them that involve heavy, sleepy cats and a good cup of tea.

Finally, what follows is a partial, random list of my bookish hopes and dreams for 2013. What books are on your 2013 Hope-To-Finish List?

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (a reread)

Ian Tregillis’s 3rd book will be out this year (Bitter Seeds was awesome)

The Red Wall series by Brian Jacques

Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander series

Some nonfiction by William Shatner

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (reread)

NK Jemisin (I’m a few books behind)

Jasper Forde (I keep hearing his stuff is amazing)

Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough

Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut (nonfiction)

Oedipus the King

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (I’m not sure about this one, but willing to give it a try)

I’m 2 books behind on Alan Bradley’s Flavia deLuce mysteries

The Stand by Stephen King (I have never read King, ever)

Spook Country by William Gibson

Tanuki with Spook Country

Why I Read It: Pattern Recognition (Book 1 in The Blue Ant Trilogy) was highly entertaining.

Where I Got It: Paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy modern-day cutting edge technology mixed with an intricate plot and detailed, quirky characters.

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2007)

Length: 9 CDs

I didn’t realize this going into the series, but The Blue Ant Trilogy is a composite trilogy – meaning that each of the books takes place in the same world, with some of the same characters, but is not directly associated with the lead character in the other books in the series. Other examples of composite trilogies that I greatly enjoyed are the Warchild series by Karin Lowachee, The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, and Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler.

I think most folks come to know William Gibson’s works through his cyberpunk books like Neuromancer. The Blue Ant Trilogy is some of his latest work and this is my second Gibson book. I have been mightily impressed and entertained by his writing so far that I have added all his works to my TBR mountain range. I keep it in the backyard, on the horizon, where the neighbors won’t complain too much.

Bigend, found of Blue Ant corporation, has another interesting pet project that calls for people with special talents. This book jumps right into the middle of things; the characters and situations have backgrounds that we are not immediately privy to. So you have to pay attention to the first bits in order to enjoy the rest of the book, which is well worth the initial concentration outlay. Hollis Henry once was in a rock band, so folks recognize her face here and there. She is a journalist now, that having been a long-time interest. Bigend hires her to track down some unusual info; in fact, at first, we and Hollis are not sure what info we are hunting.

The second strand of this braid is The Old Man and Tito. I could not get a read on The Old Man until the end of the book; is he a good guy, bad guy, indifferent and chaotic? I loved how he was a mystery until the finale. Tito is a young man of Cuban-Chinese decent. He worships some ancient gods, speaks at least 3 languages including Russian, and has been thoroughly trained in systema, the KGB modern-day martial art that is highly effective in urban settings against people with guns, knives, and body armor.

Milgrim and Brown make up the third strand. Milgrim is a Russian translator and a drug addict. Brown is…..well, you’ll have to read the book to find out who he works for. Brown has kidnapped and held Milgrim captive because he needs a Russian translator. For about half the book, we have guesses about who Brown is following and once it becomes clear, I wasn’t sure who to root for. Milgrim added some much needed comedy with his drug-addled take on life and his out-of-place comments.

All these characters are interested in Bobby Chombo, a paranoid technical whiz with a new form or art. Place this bulky helmet on your head and look at a certain sidewalk or coffee shop and see a reenactment of some famous event, like River Phoenix collapsing from a drug overdose. I was captivated by this idea and Gibson does a good job of showing the possibilities of this tech through Hollis’s eyes. Bobby is not only an artist, he is also capable of tracking a moving shipping container, which contains a mystery.

Robertson Dean did a great job with the dry wit that threads it’s way throughout this entire book. I loved his baffled, slightly distracted, voice for Milgrim and his soft voice for The Old Man was absolutely chilling at times.

What I Liked: Never heard of the KGB systema before this book and I find it fascinating; every character has their quirks which makes them all real people; the fast pace of the book kept me thinking about the plot even when I wasn’t reading it.

What I Disliked: If you are distracted during that first audio CD, you are probably going to have to relisten to it since this book plops you right down into the middle of it.