Wizard's Nocturne by Gary Jonas

JonasWizardsNocturneNarrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Denton & White (2016)

Length: 5 hours 15 minutes

Series: Book 6 Jonathan Shade

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 6 in the series and I recommend reading at least the previous 2 books as there are major things that happened in those books that both explain and affect characters’s decisions in this book.

This book takes place in New York 1926 roughly 50 years after the previous book, Sunset Spectres. The Jonathan Shade from the previous book that decided to raise the young Henry Winslow long ago changed his name to John Eastman. Now Henry is a man in his prime and he and John are in business together and have a good relationship. However, John knows from his previous timeline that his younger previous self, Jonathan Shade, is due to show up and kill this version of Henry Winslow. Also, his once-girlfriend Reina is due to show up as well, from a different time jump. Things are about to get very, very complicated.

This was a fun book and while there are many things I liked about it, I did feel all the time traveling stuff got jumbled and was difficult to keep track of. I wanted a time jump map. Still, with that confusion I got enough enjoyment out this book to want to continue the series.

First, I like that John gave 50 years of his life to raise Henry in a loving environment, giving him the basis to become a good human being instead of the evil Henry Winslow that Jonathan Shade and crew have been trying to stop from becoming immortal. John is the mastermind in this tale, knowing some key specifics about how things will go down with the time jumps. In short, he’s trying to keep everyone he cares about alive. As we know from the previous book, one of his best friends died back in 1877. Now he just might have the chance to change that.

As John’s friends and even Jonathan start popping into 1926, none of them seem to recognize him as a much older version of Shade. This allows him to manipulate things. John and Henry have been leading members in an occult group for many years and John has set in motion a plan to initiate a new member, which will give John access to this man’s stunning find – the Emerald Tablets. These ancient artifacts are the source of the immortality spell that the evil Henry Winslow is trying to enact. 1926 is the stage for his final step in that spell.

This story had little bits of sentimentality laced through it everywhere. For instance, a vibrantly alive Esther is doing quite well as Mr. Eastman’s secretary. John knows he probably shouldn’t have hired her, based on his past experience with her ghost, but he couldn’t turn her down. Plus this way John believes he can ensure that Esther, alive or dead, doesn’t fall in love with him and suffer a broken heart for decades. I liked these little nods to characters we lost in previous books. Yet their appearances and different reactions/interactions with various characters also added to muddying the timelines and making it difficult to keep things straight.

Along with all the scheming that takes place in this book, the story wraps up with a decently long action sequence. Some people get what’s coming to them and, as always with this series, some good folks perish as well. This time they weren’t characters that I was heavily invested in so my heart didn’t ache like it did at the end of Sunset Spectres. There’s a lovely afterglow in which some things are explained and the surviving characters make plans to have lovely lives. I am pleased that my favorite characters are still alive and kicking though I do wonder what the author will do next. What a mess with the timelines!

I received a free copy of this audiobook.

The Narration: Joe Hempel is just simply great at this series. I really enjoyed him giving voice to the older, wiser John Eastman and the younger, still cocky Jonathan Shade. As always, his Kelly Chan and Esther are great. His emotional scenes, such as that between John and the good Henry, were very touching. 

What I Liked: 1926 New York; John’s long-term commitment to young Henry; the return of favorite characters (and then some) that I thought had been lost for good; not everyone gets out alive; great narration.

What I Disliked: Wow! I really need to map out the various timelines and the multiple versions of each character to keep that part of the story straight.

Sunset Specters by Gary Jonas

JonasSunsetSpectersNarrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Denton & White (2016)

Length: 4 hours 48 minutes

Series: Book 5 Jonathan Shade

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 5 in the series and I recommend reading the previous books as there are major things that happened in previous stories that affect characters’s decisions in this book.

Book 4, Anubis Nights, left us with quite the cliff hanger, so I was very glad I didn’t have to wait too long for this book to come out on audio. Jonathan Shade and his crew are still hunting Henry Winslow through time. Jonathan, Kelly Chan, and Ankhesenamun were yanked from ancient Egypt into 1877 at the end of the previous book. At the beginning of this book, Jonathan & Kelly are reunited with Brand and Esther, and they all have the opportunity to bring the confused Ankhesenamun up to speed.

And that’s the perfect set up for things to go very, very wrong. First, they finish traveling to San Francisco, hoping to catch up to the sorcerous Henry Winslow before he expects it and well before he can complete the next stage of his immortality ritual. Meanwhile, Douglas Freeman, a former slave, has suffered a great loss. He’s made a list of men who must die. Vengeful, angry ghosts accompany him as he tracks his quarry to San Francisco.

San Francisco is a mixing pot of cultures but it’s far from any kind of equality in 1877. Might still makes right and being any skin tone other than white leaves you with plenty of extra hurdles. Very few establishments outside of China town will serve Kelly Chan and nearly everyone assumes she is Jonathan’s slave. This provides plenty of opportunities for Kelly to set people right, much to my amusement. I’m really glad that the author didn’t ignore these facets of historical San Francisco as it made the story very interesting; Jonathan and crew can’t help but apply their 21st century standards to whatever time period they happen to be in.

The bad guy is very bad indeed! Henry Winslow is a very formidable foe as we saw in Book 4. That continues on in this book, though his powers have grown a bit. Still, Jonathan and crew think they can take him if they can just get the right combo of might, luck, and surprise going. At the very least, they can mess up this stage of his immortality ritual. For the most part, Winslow ignores them (or tosses them over houses) until they become a true nuisance. Then, there is hell to pay. There is this one scene that was a little bit of a tear jerker. Jonathan, in the first trilogy, managed to undo a few deaths with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. However, I don’t know if that will be possible this time around. This book’s description doesn’t lie about not everyone getting out alive.

In the previous book, I felt it was a bit silly that all 3 main female characters were in love with Jonathan. That theme was carried forth in this book, but now things are more complicated. Kelly and Jonathan had this romantic relationship in ancient Egypt and they continue that in 1877, but now they have Brand (Kelly’s ex-boyfriend) and Esther (a ghost who’s had a crush on Jonathan for years) to pay witness to it. This makes for some uncomfortable moments for these friends. However, I am better with the idea of Jonathan being the center of so much female attention now that I’ve read this book, especially in light of how this one ends.

OK, leaving all this mushy romance stuff to the side, Jonathan has more than one bad guy to deal with in this book. He and Douglas Freeman eventually cross paths and a deal is struck to assist each other, as they have one bad guy in common. This eventually brings plenty of pain and a few broken bones to Jonathan as he fights a man who is near indestructible. I quite enjoyed how he resolved that issue.

In the end, this is one of my favorite books of the series. There’s a lot going on in San Francisco in 1877 and a lot going on with Jonathan and his crew. The books ends on a bittersweet note with a bit of suspense for what will come next. So looking forward to Book 6!

I received a free copy of this audiobook.

The Narration: Yet again, Joe Hempel continues to be the perfect Jonathan Shade. As per his usual performance, he does an excellent light Chinese accent for Kelly Chan and a Southern drawl for Esther. I liked the little bit of high-and-mighty he put into Ankhesenamun’s voice. There were some pretty emotional scenes in this book and Hempel did a great job getting those emotions across to the listener. Indeed, I believe he must be attached to these characters by now and that really shows in his narration.  

What I Liked: 1877 San Francisco was a very interesting place; Kelly has plenty of opportunities to kick ass; Henry Winslow is such a powerful foe that I do wonder if Jonathan will be able to defeat him; not everyone gets out of this book alive (sniffle); Jonathan’s convoluted love life makes more sense now; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is a solidly good story.

Anubis Nights by Gary Jonas

JonasAnubisNightsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Denton & White (2016)

Length: 7 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 4 Jonathan Shade

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 4 in the series and I recommend reading the previous books as there are major things that happened in previous stories that affect characters’s decisions in this book.

Private investigator Jonathan Shade starts his day off having a serious argument with a witch and the ghost of her son. Things only get worse when Sharon and Chronos show up at Kelly’s dojo and force Jonathan and his friends into taking care of a little problem for them. Henry Winslow, a powerful magician, is attempting to become immortal. To do so, he split himself into three aspects and placed each one at a different time and place in the past. Now Jonathan and his friends must travel back in time and kill each aspect.

This was a fun addition to this urban fantasy series that I have enjoyed so much. Jonathan has done a smidge of time travel before (a fact that he keeps hidden from his friends) but this time he and Kelly (a magically constructed warrior) are sent back into ancient Egypt to find Winslow and kill him. Meanwhile, Brand (also a magically constructed warrior) and Esther (a ghost who is tied to these old typewriter keys) go back to the 1870s. Reina (who isn’t of this world and has some special abilities) heads to the 1920s.

Let me get my one criticism out of the way. We have three main ladies in this series now: Kelly, Esther, and Reina. For some reason, the author chose to write them all as being in love with Jonathan and that really comes to the forefront in this book. It’s silly and not really necessary for the plot. Plus, there are other interesting men, so why not spread the joy?

OK, back to the good stuff. Most of the book is spent on Jonathan and Kelly in ancient Egypt. I really enjoyed the scenes where everyone was getting ready for their trip and had to dress the part. Reina got a flapper dress plus some practical wear. Brand had some rough yet really durable clothes. Meanwhile, Kelly and Jonathan were given revealing (by today’s standards) clothing that was the norm for King Tut’s time period. Eventually, Kelly and Jonathan rebel and a compromise (sort of) is made. In the end, it didn’t matter much because the two of them materialized in front of people and therefore, folks thought they must be deities.

We get a little bit of time with Brand and Esther in the 1870s. They soon land in some serious trouble with Priscilla and Edward that they weren’t expecting. Brand used to be a very strong warrior, but at the end of the previous book, things changed for him. Now he finds himself in a next to helpless position but I think he’s too stubborn (or dense) to notice. He keeps on thinking, bidding his time, quietly flexing those muscles.

Meanwhile, Reina goes to the 1920s. She doesn’t know much about this time period and she’s never been to New York  city. We only get a smidge of her story and she swiftly finds herself in trouble. I was surprised at how quickly she was subdued and also a bit disappointed. Not much is being done with this character that has so much potential.

It’s a swift moving plot with fun characters and I like that Kelly and Jonathan continue to be at the heart of the story. I also like that things between Jonathan and Sharon are unresolved. Her previous betrayal still rankles him (as it should!) and I look forward to seeing how the author deals with that. The ending was great! I loved the last big fight scene and how things in Egypt resolved themselves. This book does leave us on a cliff hanger, so I’m really looking forward to having Book 5 in audio.

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

The Narration: Joe Hempel continues to be the perfect Jonathan Shade. Also, he’s the perfect Kelly Chan, with her light Chinese accent. He really pulls it off well. I also liked his ‘dumb jock’ voice for Brand (which suits his humor and character well) and I continue to like his light Southern drawl for Esther. All around, it’s a great performance.  

What I Liked: Ancient Egypt!; things are not yet resolved with Sharon; Brand and Esther have their own troubles; King Tut and all the court; the final fight scene.

What I Disliked: All three main ladies are romantically inclined towards Jonathan, which is a little silly.

Giveaway & Interview: Elizabeth Jeannel, Author of The Travelers

JeannelTheTravelersFolks, please give a warm welcome to Elizabeth Jeannel, author of The Travelers, to the blog today.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

As a child, I definitely would have chosen a space alien because superheros were real to me, actively saving the world, I just hadn’t met them yet. As an adult, I’ve somewhat grown up. I currently think superheros just live among us waiting for their time to shine. I’d have to say Batman would be my chosen hero because, lets face it, there’s enough billionaires out there that someone could realistically step up and do the job. Until then, my life will not be complete. So, someone who knows a billionaire needs to tell them its Batman time; we are all waiting.

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

Modern fantasy definitely affects human cultures today. People are constantly stepping up as they prepare for the zombie apocalypse (which is inevitable, might I add), some are even claiming to be vampires, others are searching for vampires, whether it be lover or hunter, people still look for Big Foot, and the age old Loch Ness, and we all know that the idea of time travel is secretly on the mind of everyone who can comprehend the idea. We want to believe what isn’t real because if the imaginary stay imaginary, life is just too normal.

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

I think my favorite aspect about the self-pro process so far is that I’ve really had full control. I decide where to go, what to talk about, who to talk to, and why. No one tells me where I have to go or what I have to do. Ultimately, its up to me.

My least favorite part is that I’m alone. Everything I do is sort of in my hands, and its a learn as I go experience. Most of the steps I’ve taken so far have really come from reading the experiences of others, and trying my best to learn from them. The writing world is so vast, and unless you make the right friends, you aren’t really going anywhere. I’m still trying to make friends in general, but those that I have are amazingly supportive.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

When I read this question, I imagined that each of us would have the ability to use our writing freely. I.e. we could magically create things and change things just like we do in the word world. So, that being said, I would definitely bring J.R.R Tolkien back from the dead because who doesn’t love classic, by his side C.S. Lewis would be kicking it, I’d definitely add Jim Butcher along for the ride, and finally I’d add one more female to this group of manly men with Lauren Kate. I feel like I’d definitely be the weakest link with this group of literary geniuses, but I still think we would take that magical quest by the horns.

What 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?

Sadly, I do most of my writing at my day job. Between caring for my spoiled cat, spending time with my disabled girlfriend, and doing that real work thing, I just don’t have a lot of spare time, except when work is slow. However, I typically leave an earthquake wherever I go, so if I had a Writer’s Den, it would most likely be a beautiful disaster. In all honesty, I’ve written at work between 911 calls, the park, school, the library, Starbucks (because I am a typical white girl and I don’t care), and even in the car at one point, BUT I prefer to be curled up with a blanket, munchies, and my favorite drink by a rainy window. I think that’s when I have my best creating juices flowing.

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?

I can actually honestly share two of these moments because both are equally worth it.

Since my first book has not been released, and a recent accident forced me to put it off, I’ve had some of my friends and family in full suspense waiting for the release since the spring of this year. Well, about a month ago, I bumped into an old high school friend at our local mall, and she had to stop me and beg me to release my book soon. She even said she checked my facebook page regularly to see if I had posted any tidbits about the book. It was the first time that I realized that other people actually do care about my work, and I can’t get over that day.

My second story flashes back to the dark days before my self publishing adventure began. These were dark times, Susan, very dark times. I was doing the unthinkable and querying like crazy, when I stumbled upon the agent of one of my favorite authors (who shall remain nameless for lack of ridicule from the general public). I literally squealed, scaring my cat, my girlfriend at the time, and my in laws. Quickly, I began forming a query letter, without explaining my outburst, and clicked send. Of course, I never received a response, and it just so happens now that I’m glad about it, but at the time, the idea of having the same agent as one of my favorite authors was something beyond my wildest dreams.

Thank you for the interview, and I hope you have an amazing day!

JeannelTheTravelersBook Blurb for The Travelers:

The town Alex calls home has always felt safe to her, until three girls her age are found dead. When Alex’s father forces her mother to skip town with him, possibly for good, they leave Alex behind to fend for herself and unfold years of lies they have built her life upon. Jaze, who has been invisible by her side for months, appears just in time to eliminate any normality that remained in her life. He’s tall, dark and terrifying, though that wasn’t his intent. Just as Jaze is earning Alex’s trust, the Council, a feared and powerful group of leaders from his world, orders him to protect her with his life.

Jaze quickly becomes torn between his duty and his love for Alex. When her real memories of her childhood return, Alex tumbles head first into Jaze’s strange world and into his arms. While Jaze soon finds that Alex may not be the ordinary girl he had originally assumed her to be. Together the two of them discover that sometimes love and simplicity aren’t always options in life.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Elizabeth Jeannel is offering up 2 ebook copies of her book The Travelers. This giveaway is open International! To Enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you think fantasy fiction affects modern society? 2) Leave a way to contact you! Giveaway ends December 7th, 2015, midnight.

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The Mentor by T. W. Fendley

FendleyTheMentorWhere I Got It: Won a copy from the author via Library Thing (thanks!).

Narrator: Matthew McGraw

Publisher: TW Fendley LLC (2015)

Length: 24 minutes

Author’s Page

So this book is a little hard to describe. Think far future, or some alternate galaxy. There are two-legged giraffes that have conquered space travel and populate multiple worlds. Same for lions. Then there is this tech that allows the giraffes, and lions, travel through time and space, and to be able to shield themselves from view. Now toss in big corporations that have total control over our finances, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In fact they can charge you today for money you will spend in the future.

Yep, all that in only 24 minutes. This is a very odd little story, but quite delightful. First, our main giraffe or, rather, a two-legged girapod, Zher, is a low-paid teacher. She has to take all these young girapods on a field trip. They use the tech to go to a zoo where their supposed ancestors (the giraffes we all know and love) reside. Of course, she has to pay for the trip. So she has gotten her hands on a fake credit wand via a shady relative.

Enter the mighty Max, who is quite leonine and unwilling to easily give up the chase. He intends to figure out how Zher is paying for her stuff. Now all that is just the set up. I haven’t spoiled anything. Plenty of shenanigans ensue. In fact, there is quite a nice little twist at the end that makes perfect sense once you see it.

Over all, this was a delightfully strange story. There is quite a bit going on it, so I suggest you listen to it when you have the time to give it your full attention. I really loved the idea of sentient, space and time traveling giraffes. Let alone ones who commit credit card fraud! And look at that cover art. Ha! Too fun!

The Narration:  Matthew McGraw was a fun narrator for this book. He didn’t giggle at the idea of two-legged girapods traveling space with fake credit cards. Or, if he did, he didn’t record it. I especially liked his voice for Max the leonine credit detective. 

What I Liked: Totally fun; crazy cover art; two-legged time traveling, space traveling, credit abusers – need I say more?

What I Disliked: Nothing! I really liked this tale.

Roman Holiday by Jodi Taylor

TaylorRomanHolidayWhere I Got It: Was free on Audible.com when I picked it up (thanks!).

Narrator: Zara Ramm

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 1 hour 12 minutes

Series: Book 3.5 The Chronicles of St. Mary’s

Author’s Page

Note: Although this is Book 3.5 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

The folks of St. Mary’s are time travelers. They have rules and a whole costume department and some pretty snazzy tech, along with whole sheets of language cheats. The mission for this book is one to merely observe. They are sent back to 44BC Rome. Julius Caesar has installed his mistress Cleopatra in his wife’s house. Yeah. The dude has big brass ones.

This was my first Jodi Taylor book ever and it will definitely not be my last. The mix of history, cool tech, and humor had me hooked. I kept alternating between chuckling and, when surprised, snorting hot tea through my nose. I switched to cool water after the second time. The humor was often sharp and pointed (such as calling out Caesar on the wisdom of where to install his mistress when in Rome) – just my style of humor!

Also, our time travelers are lead by an older female, which makes her perfect for this mission as she can totally play the respectable wealthy matron. Plenty of unforeseen circumstances occur, and the proper mayhem follows.

I’ll be catching up on this series for sure!

The Narration: Zara Ramm was a great voice for the lead female in this book. She had the right mix of humor and experienced self-assuredness that really brought this character to life. She also had distinct and believable voices for the other female and male characters.

What I Liked: Time travel!; sharp-tongued humor; famous historical figures; a crazy set of circumstances.

What I Disliked: The cover art and the title don’t really say ‘time travel’ to me,which is probably why I haven’t taken note of this series before.

Rewinder by Brett Battles

BattlesRewinderWhere I Got It: Review copy via the publisher (thanks!).

Publisher: Audible Studios (2014)

Narrator: Vikas Adam

Length: 7 hours 48 minutes

Author’s Page

Denny Younger was born into one of the lowest classes of society of the English Empire. His hopes for job placement following the end of school tests were a short list of very boring, menial jobs. That is, until the mysterious Upjohn Institute takes an interest in him. There, he trains and tests to be a Rewinder, someone who verifies the personal history of patrons to the Institute….in person. He travels through time to verify some aspect about the heritage of the interested party is correct. At first, he is excited about this job – who wouldn’t be? But then small things start to tug at his conscience and lead him to ask questions. These questions make others uncomfortable. Pretty soon, Denny is faced with a terribly hard choice.

I read the description of this book and figured it would be interesting and an OK time travel story. I was wrong.

It was an amazingly fun ride!

Brett Battles created an alternate timeline complete with a history going back over 200 years. The English Empire didn’t cease to grow and expand in the late 1700s, but rather continued on to engulf much of our known world, including North America. The caste system that was in place in early colonial England continued to refine throughout the years. Denny and his family come from Class 8, just barely above the bottom rung. His other Rewinders in training are not pleased to have such a lowly peasant among them.

Denny had studied history for fun in his teens, and possibly as an escape from the drudgery of his life, the death of loved ones over the years, the strained relationship with his father. Therefore, this hopping back in time to physically observe history is a dream job. But things start to unravel as he notices small things that are awry. Pretty soon it becomes apparent that the Institute, or at least certain members of the Institute, are using time travel to benefit themselves and perpetuate the caste system and the British Empire.

And then something happens during one of Denny’s trips that sets history on a different course. In returning to his own time, he finds things very different. Once the panic has receded, he has time to figure out his mistake, and to get to know this new world that he inadvertently brought into being. Will he set things ‘right’? Or will he leave this new time line in place? Such a terribly tough choice!

I loved the way Battles built the tension in this book. You’re right there beside Denny the entire time, seeing his trapped despair at what he believes will be a life of drudgery until the Institute steps in, his elation at traveling through time, his dedication to job and Empire, how his mind doesn’t want to question the good of the Empire but can’t let these little questions go, and his anguish over having created an alternate time line. Being inside Denny’s head is an awesome ride!

The time travel aspect doesn’t get technical. Time travel is a tool, pure and simple, used by the Institute. There are a few discussions about possible paradoxes and other nuances of time travel. Basically, you never get bogged down in the science of time travel, which allows us to simply enjoy the story. I thought it was an interesting point that the travelers often were paired to a Companion who stayed in the home time and suffered the physical discomforts of time travel – head aches, vomiting, etc. This would leave the traveler free of these symptoms upon arrival at their destination so they could quickly get started on their job.

While this is definitely Denny’s story, there are plenty of women who play critical roles in the plot. Denny’s trainer, Marie, definitely gives him a nudge in the right direction. Then there is Lydia, an upper class brat who is assigned to the Institute at the same time as Denny. She is less than pleased to have the same job description as a lowly 8. Finally, there is Iffy, a woman Denny meets in the alternate time line. All these ladies have their own stories and motivations.

This is one of the better time travel stories I have read in recent years. I am thoroughly glad I gave it a chance.

Narration: Vikas Adam was the perfect voice for Denny. He brought the mysriad of emotions Denny experiences in this book. He also had believable and varied voices for all the ladies. I especially liked his upper class, snotty British accent used for some of the minor characters.

What I Liked:  Denny is an enjoyable character, easy to connect with; time travel without all the science and questions; alternate timeline quandary; the ladies are pivotal to the plot; very satisfying ending. 

What I Disliked: The cover art doesn’t say ‘time travel’ or ‘alternate history’ to me so it is not a book I would have picked up on my own.

What Others Think:

Alternate History Weekly Update

The Guilded Earlobe

I Feel the Need, the Need to Read

Following the Nerd

Wizard’s Blog

Gadget Girl Reviews

Now Very Bad…

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All Clear by Connie Willis

WillisAllClearWhy I Read It: I loved the first book in this duology, Blackout.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: WWII historical fiction fans who don’t mind a bit of time travel.

Narrator: Katherine Kellgren

Publisher: Audible Frontiers (2010)

Length: 23 hours 46 minutes

Series: Book 2 All Clear

Author’s Page

If you haven’t read Blackout, you need to do so before reading this book because the All Clear definitely needs it in order to understand the characters and setting.

This was an amazing conclusion to the party started by my favorite characters in Blackout. Eileen, Polly, and Mike are still trapped in WWII England during the Blitz with none of their drops opening. They come up with several creative ways to let Oxford of 2060 know where and when they are all the while trying to affect the timeline of WWII as little as possible. But despite their best of intentions, they are each thrown into situations where they simply can’t stand back and do nothing. Which of course causes them to doubt that age old rule about time travel: Historians can’t affect the timeline. Polly and Mike, our experienced travelers, try to keep their concerns about having affected the timeline from Eileen (because it is her first assignment). Lots of action in this meticulously researched book.

I am going to go all gushy on this book and try very very hard not to spoil any plot points. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. If I ever have to do high school History Class again, please let them assign any of Connie Willis’s time travel novels! If I had had this book in high school, I might have gone on to major in History instead of Environmental Science. WWII had so much happening in it that I was totally oblivious to. For England, everyone was affected by the War, and nearly everyone had a role to play in it – young, old, woman, man, chorus girls, rectors, fire fighters, puzzle solvers, shop girls, and nurses. That is something that I really didn’t understand until I read this duology. All the wars I have been alive for have been fought on foreign soil and my daily life has not been affected by them. I feel a little uncomfortable saying that, now that I know how much WWII affected the world.

The characters were so much fun. Of course we have our main characters (Eileen, Polly, and Mike) but even the side characters all have these little ticks and notches that make them very real and personable. I especially loved the Hodbin children (Vinny and Alf) in book 1 and they have an appearance in book 2. Mr. Humphreys and Sir Godfrey, the chorus girls, and the ambulance drivers, even the characters from 2060 – they all make an excellent backdrop for our main characters. At first, I was a little frustrated that Mike and Polly wanted to keep so much from Eileen (to keep her from worrying) even though they are all stuck in the same barrel of sharks. But by the end, Eileen proves to be very resilient. So my initial frustration turned into deep satisfaction when Eileen is proven to be made of stern stuff.

This book has more than one plot line. We have Mike, Polly, and Eileen in the Blitz and then skip forward a few more years and we have Ernest towards the end of the war working with the puzzle solvers and Intelligence team that gave out false info in order to fool the Germans. We also have Mary, an ambulance driver, during the V1 and V2 rocket bombardment. Then we also have little snippets of 2060 Oxford. Towards the end of the book, we get one or two more short timelines. Despite all that, I felt it wasn’t too hard to follow. Perhaps this is because each chapter starts with a time and location.

The ending wrapped up questions about time travel, and required sacrifice. It was a beautiful ending that really spoke to the underlying theme of the ‘unsung hero’, those who served the country simply by holding it together. If you are one of those folks who have found WWII to be a dull topic, I ask you to give these books a chance – they could very well change your mind.

The Narration: Katherin Kellgren did a great job with this large cast of characters, nearly all of them with English accents. I loved how patient Eileen sounded, how the Hodbins could put curiosity and fake innocence into such simple sentences, and Mike’s American accent. The audio version of this book has a short forward by the author in which she explains some of her inspiration for a few of the characters in the books.

What I Liked: Time travel is used as a tool and it doesn’t go all mystical trying to explain the physics of how it works; I learned a lot about WWII from this duology; there’s a bit of Shakespeare; the Hodbins and Alf’s pet snake; how everyone was affected by the war and had to chip in and help out; very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: If you aren’t paying attention, you may get a little muddled on the timelines (but you can always flip to the chapter heading to figure out when you are).

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

SF Reviews

SF Site

Adventures in Scifi Publishing

Medieval Bookworm

Persistence of Vision by Liesel K. Hill

HillPersistenceOfVisionWhy I Read It: It was the tattoo on the cover – around the dude’s eye! It sucked me in.

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

Who I Recommend This To: Time travel/thriller aficionados.

Publisher: Tate Publishing (2013)

Length: 386 pages

Series: Book 1 of Interchron

The story starts simple enough. Maggie Harper is on her way to meet her brother and his latest girlfriend. It’s hot in Las Vegas, and crowded. As she plods her way towards the meeting, she sees a man on the crowded side walk, and the crowd is leaving a triangle of space around him. After an eery chit chat with him, she meets her brother, they have a drink at the nearest bar, and then the stuff hits the fan.

They both wake up on the floor of a hotel room that neither of them recognize. Neither do they recall how they got their, nor what took place in those lost hours. The police turn up nothing. A year goes by (but it’s like 2 pages for us, so no worries) and Maggie returns home from running errands to find a strange and deadly man in her house. He absolutely intends her harm and she is out muscled. But here comes our knight of the story, Marcus – the strange man from Las Vegas. He kills the assailant and flees with Maggie into the wilds, and eventually into a future time. Oddly, everyone Maggie encounters recognizes her, yet she has zero memory of them. I think tea is in order. Tea always makes it easier to sort such shit out, am I right?

OK, so to summarize, the world made a mind-boggling break through some years after Maggie’s native time concerning the brain. It was fully mapped and folks began to realize some of the deepest psychological reasons for human behavior, including criminal behavior. But then some folks of the justice system took things too far, claiming that criminals were not responsible for their actions, it was their brains and how they are put together that made them do bad things. Short story – Society falls apart.

New societies rise in their place – and they believe in collectivism. This is were all minds are joined in one beehive-like colony and individualism is wiped from each person. Gender identity no longer has any meaning, free will isn’t an issue since is doesn’t exist, and they believe themselves the most efficient human form around. This thinking starts a battle for freedom as the collectivism colonies start collecting individuals and forcing them into the colonies.

And this is where Marcus and his cronies come into play, at Interchron. They are part of a prophecy that predicts the dismantling of the collectivism colonies – and Maggie is a key piece to that effort. In fact, she spent a year fighting by their side, but then lost her memories in some freak accident and had to be returned to hot Las Vegas only hours after she was swept up into this mess. Now she has been brought back not only for her safety, but to assist the group in a new attempt to save the world.

Phew! Long set up. Now to tell you about the cool mental powers. Energy is pulled in and channeled through conduits to make all sort of things come apart, fly backward, or cease to function (if necessary – these are the good guys after all). Marcus is the strong, damaged-goods kind of guy and highly protective of Maggie. Maggie herself starts off a bit wishy-washy about raining physical damage upon her attackers, but snaps out of that pretty kick with a good kick to an opponent’s face. Doc is the most knowledgeable of the group, and I feel he is holding back on the depth of his knowledge. Karl was once Maggie’s best friend and confidante, and he plays the role again filling her in on her relationship to the rest of the group. He also provides some well-timed comic relief. There’s Lila and her mom, Nat, and later a long-lost relative of one of the main character’s shows up.

Overall, the tale was an interesting one bringing together several tropes I had not found in one book before. There’s the super hero-like mental abilities, time travel, a dystopian future, the fight for individualism, and a main character with lost memories. Stir thoroughly, add a dash of Evil Overlords, a pinch of romance, and a hint of some other world memory goddess, and you have a fascinating plot. While I believe each of the characters could have used more description, each had their own distinct voice, standing out clearly in my imagination. The ‘magic system’ of this universe was mostly defined for all but the main character; Maggie gains untold powers rather quickly and unexpectedly, blasting through the rules at the most convenient of time. In essence, I enjoyed the book enough to ignore the few detracting points. Liesel Hill has given us a unique setting with a unique conundrum that I had not bumped into before in my reading.

ScifiExperience2013BadgeWhat I Liked: The mystery of the missing memories; that feeling of, ‘can I really trust these good guy characters?,’ that I had throughout the book; Maggie is a complex, likeable character stuck in a tricky position; Marcus is all sorts of convoluted.

What I Disliked: Maggie’s character is constantly breaking the known rules of the mental powers (convenient); there was only 1 evil female character, which created a slight imbalance.

We’re at the tail end of The Science Fiction Experience hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Make sure to stop by his place to enjoy more SF goodness.

I received this book as part of the Persistence of Vision Blog Tour organized by the author. Click HERE to see the rest of the tour.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Heldig hoovering, hoping for a) dinner, b) attention, c) dinner.
Heldig hoovering, hoping for a) dinner, b) attention, c) dinner.

Why I Read It: I’m participating in Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Scifi Month, and this fit.

Where I Got It: The Library.

Who I Recommend This To: In many regards, this is a coming of age story, and if you enjoy those, then this would probably suit you.

Narrator: Full Cast – The Colonial Radio Theatre

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2007)

Length: 2 CDs

Dandelion Wine was first published in 1957 and is a fix-up novella of other loosely connected short stories, many of which had been previously published. However, upon listening to it, I could not tell that it was written in such a way, which shows Ray Bradbury‘s craftsmanship in sticking them all together into a single fluid story. The setting is 1928 Green Town, IL. Douglas Spaulding is a 12 year old who has the full run of his town and the magic of youth in the perfect summer. This book is divided into 2 parts. Part I is all about the wonder of running through the woods on a hot day, of the fun of collecting dandelions for senior citizens to turn into intoxicants, and of the play of pretending fireflies are more than they are. There’s also best friends, tom girls, new sneakers, listening to heroic tales from old men, and the first crush on the town’s young librarian. Part II, however, is darker and is about realizing that things change, not always for the good, and yet life still goes on.

This tale is 90% mainstream fiction, with a slight, nebulous time travel element; hence, it is classified as science fiction. I had not heard the details of this tale before and I was expecting much more science fiction, or at least Outer Limits type plot. Alas, no. The story was well written for its brevity and I enjoyed certain elements of it, such as Doug’s shy interactions with the librarian and his fascination with a new pair of sneakers. However, this work just didn’t do anything special for me. I found myself waiting for something to happen in the story, and when it finally did, the events were not resolved, but rather the story turned into a Lesson, a lesson about growing up, letting go, and moving on. I know Ray Bradbury, and probably this work in particular, holds a lot of magic for many folks. I just am not one of those folks.

The audio production and performance by The Colonial Radio Theatre was excellent. There were sound effects and various narrators to pull off the cast of characters. My only slight criticism is that at times I had to turn the sound down a bit because of the excited sound effects and then turn up the volume later to catch the conversation between two characters.

VintageScifiBadgeWhat I Liked: This book got me curious about dandelion wine; the magic of a care-free summer.

What I Disliked: The lack of a strong scifi element; story became a Lesson and stopped being a tale.

ScifiExperience2013Badge

This month I am participating in two reading events that this fits into: Little Red Reviwer’s Vintage Scifi Month and Stainless Steel Droppings’ Science Fiction Experience (which runs to the end of February). Make sure to check out both blogs for further science fiction treats from around the blogosphere.

I am also including this in the weekly Read & Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by her website to catch more great book reviews.

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