A Wizard by R. F. Whittaker

Narrator: Jake Urry

Publisher: Richard Whittaker (2016)

Length: 5 hours 38 minutes

Author’s Page 

Ambrose is in a self-imposed exile after he accidentally killed a man with his magic. Now this wizard roams the wilderness looking for a purpose and possibly for redemption. He comes across Bertold who has a bloodsucker imprisoned. He’s waiting for the sun to rise and roast her alive. Ambrose won’t stand for this and his actions change the course of his life, bringing unexpected companions into his life along with deadly danger.

This tale had some high points, some amusing moments, and a lot of info dumps. Sometimes I was totally engaged and sometimes I was bored. the villains are really easy to spot being brutish, so that took some of the suspense out of the book.

Florentina is the bloodsucker (vampire) that Ambrose rescued at the beginning of the tale. She’s got some dimension to her. She’s suffering from an illness that means she needs fresh blood. Ambrose vows to find a cure for her but his wizard skills are still in their fledgling state. He bumbles his way through the book. Florentina offers some wisdom and acts like a central spoke around which all the other characters rotate.

Each time we got a new character in this tale, there would be a big info dump that would mostly be their back story. It was a rather tedious way to get introduced to each character. It often took me away from the plot. From Florentina to Reggie to the Wolfboy to even Bertold. It was like reading a character development sheet instead of being an integrated part of the story.

Florentina and Ambrose fall in love almost instantly. It’s not even lust. It’s this deep soul-cleaving love. Since it was so automatic I had trouble getting behind it.

The Tookingtons were amusing. They were these little animated flowers that acted as an honor guard for Florentina. Definitely dangerous in great numbers.

By the end, Ambrose and his crew still have some things to wrap up. I smell a sequel in the making. I was very satisfied to see that Ambrose had found his tribe. He’s the stronger for it.

The Narration: Jake Urry is so good in every book I have listened to him narrate and his performance here doesn’t disappoint. He gives Florentina an accent. The Wolfboy gets his own unique voice. The ladies sound like actual women. Ambrose’s emotions are nicely displayed in this narration.

What I Liked: The cover art; the initial set up; Ambrose’s quest; all these misfits that are brought together; ending left room for a sequel; great narration.

What I Disliked: Insta-love didn’t work for me; lots of info dumps.

Halfway Hunted by Terry Maggert

MaggertHalfwayHuntedCheck out the tour page for more reviews, interviews, and more. 

Narrator: Erin Spencer

Publisher: Terry Maggert (2016)

Length: 6 hours 56 minutes

Series: Book 3 Halfway Witchy

Author’s Page

Note: This book can work as a stand alone though you would get more out of it if you had read the previous two books just because of the relationship between Carlie and Wulfric.

Set nearly 1 year after the ending of Book 2, Halfway Bitten, Carlie is still fretting over Wulfric’s fate after he sacrificed his humanity to defeat the Big Baddie from Book 2. But she’s also still working at the diner and playing servant to her 35 pound cat Gus. Then her librarian friend gives her a new puzzle to work on – a stranger has turned up in town and he looks like he needs be brought up to speed. Exit Wainwright is a miner and mineralogist who recently woke up 100 years after he was cursed into a forced sleep.

Immediately, Gran and Carlie are on the case. It takes a bit of powerful magic to put someone into a suspended sleep for so long. Exit’s first concern is to find out what happened to his wife. He’s a practical man and he expects that she is dead but he wants to find her grave and perhaps learn how the rest of her life played out. Gran and Carlie immediately take him under their wings.

Early on, Carlie is able to use a spell to try to locate the remains of Mrs. Wainwright. However, what they find only deepens the mystery and also saddens Exit. Carlie then brings her shape-shifter friend, Alex, and his sister Anna (who Carlie isn’t a fan of) up to speed on the unfolding mystery. Alex is really growing on me. Anna is still mostly in the shadows in this book, despite her tie to Wulfric (they have a child together) and Carlie’s dislike of her.

It turns out there is a hunter in Halfway and Gran and Carlie disagree with his methods and his choice of prey. This book surprised me because they solve one problem only to have another layer revealed and yet another foe or obstacle to be tackled. Meanwhile, Carlie has been working for the past year on a spell to help Wulfric, whose vampire half has taken over. Carlie is in danger from more than one front! I wasn’t sure how things would turn out in the end and I was kept guessing until the last chapter.

Gran continues to surprise me. I am growing really attached to her character. In this book, Carlie makes a tough but perhaps a dangerous choice. Gran shows her what happened to a relative of hers in the past and that bit of family history really sobers Carlie.

As a final note, I really enjoyed the mail delivery lady in this story. She was introduced in the previous book, but she gets a bigger role in this story. Her wholesome sexuality is also a welcome addition to the tale. Plus, she rather practical and capable – two things that I always appreciate.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Erin Spencer continues to do this series justice. She makes a really good Carlie and I love her Gran voice as well. Her light accent for Wulfric remains charming. I also like her big bear of a man voice for Exit.

What I Liked: Carlie walks a narrow path between good and evil in her spell for helping Wulfric; Gran continues to be a font of wisdom; Exit is a fun new addition; Alex is turning into a good friend; great narration. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a fun read!

About the Author Terry Maggert

AuthorTerryMaggertLeft-handed. Father of an apparent nudist. Husband to a half-Norwegian. Herder of cats and dogs. Lover of pie. I write books. I’ve had an unhealthy fascination with dragons since the age of– well, for a while. Native Floridian. Current Tennessean. Location subject to change based on insurrection, upheaval, or availability of coffee. Nine books and counting, with no end in sight. You’ve been warned.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

About the Narrator Erin Spencer

ErinSpencerNarratorErin loves audiobooks!  As an actress, they have allowed her to creatively stretch by playing all kinds of characters, all kinds of ages and all kinds of accents!  She voiced roles in the Audie award winning title, Illuminae and was also nominated for a Voice Arts Award in the romance category.  She has narrated over 100 titles and as an audiobook director has worked on at least 100 more.  She has worked for most of the major publishers and also enjoys working with indie writers who are some of the most talented writers out there! Follow her on Twitter @ErinSpencerLA or find her on Facebook, Erin Spencer Actress.

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

Book Blurb for Halfway Hunted

MaggertHalfwayHuntedWelcome to Halfway; where the waffles are golden, the moon is silver, and magic is just around every corner.
A century old curse is broken, releasing Exit Wainwright, an innocent man trapped alone in time.
Lost and in danger, he enlists Carlie, Gran, and their magic to find the warlock who sentenced him to a hundred years of darkness. The hunter becomes the hunted when Carlie’s spells awaken a cold-blooded killer intent on adding another pelt to their gruesome collection: hers.
But the killer has never been to Halfway before, where there are three unbreakable rules:
1. Don’t complain about the diner’s waffles.
2. Don’t break the laws of magic.
3. Never threaten a witch on her home turf.
Can Carlie solve an ancient crime, defeat a ruthless killer and save the love of her life from a vampire’s curse without burning the waffles?
Come hunt with Carlie, and answer the call of the wild.

Audible ~ Amazon

Hellbent by Cherie Priest

Chupacabra is sacked out.
Chupacabra is sacked out.

Narrator: Natalie Ross

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2011)

Length: 10 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 2 Cheshire Red Reports

Author’s Page

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

Raylene is an expert thief and a wayward vampire. Her fixer Horace has an unusual job for her. He needs these rare yet odd relics stolen and he offers her a big financial incentive to take on the job. However, someone else is also after the relics – Elizabeth Creed. She’s a warlock and one who isn’t all there. Tossing in some trouble on the homefront, Ian (a blind vampire) has been summoned home by his House. It’s a death sentence to go and a death sentence to not go. Ray may not be able to help Ian with this one.

First, there was lots of humor and banter in this book, and plenty of it is a bit dark. The odd relics that Ray is hunting for are actually baculum, which are penis bones. Yep. Many placental mammals have penis bones. Alas, humans do not. Anyway, these particular baculum are from things like werewolves and such, making them perfect for magical spells. I’m sure you can see how this particular job was rife with humor.

The quest takes Ray out of Seattle and to Houston and Atlanta. She’s also trying to give her support to Ian as he tries to reconnect with this son Brandon. So we get to see a chunk of the country in this book. Adrian, an ex-military drag queen, is also along for the ride. Hooray! I really enjoyed his character in Book 1, Bloodshot. When he’s in drag, she’s Sister Rose. In the previous book, he was searching for his younger sister Isabel. That search comes up again in this novel and I was glad to see that Adrian had not given up his hunt.

There’s a touch of romance in this novel. There’s a low simmering heat between Ray and Ian, but since they live in the same big house, they have been keeping things casual. They also share space with two orphaned kids, Domino and his little sister Pepper. Domino is going through his angry teen years and I really was worried he was going to get dead in this book! Pepper is the brains of the two even if she’s only 7 or so.

There’s plenty of action as Ray tries again and again to doge the crazy warlock, the military group that once held Ian captive, and also Ian’s House. There are so many ways that things could go very, very wrong for Ray! Eeeeep! This was a real page, or, rather, disc, turner for me. I didn’t want to put this book down. Between the humor and the high-stakes action, I was hooked and enjoyed the entire book.

Narration: Natalie Ross did another great job with this book. I continue to be amazed at her performance with Adrian/Sister Rose. I also enjoy her various accents as needed here and there. Her rough, kind of seedy voice for Horace was perfect – just like how I picture him.

What I Liked: Raylene continues to be a very approachable hero; there’s even a kitten to rescue; Sister Rose/Adrian kicks ass and looks good doing it; Horace is mostly good but also self-centered; the baculum – hahahahahahahahaha!

What I Disliked: Nothing – too much fun!

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Love Vampires

The Illustrated Page

Pissed Off Geek

Dear Author

SF Book Reviews

Bastard Books and Other Crap

Hidden in the Pages

Tynga’s Reviews

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOtherWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Robert Petkoff

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2011)

Length: 11 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 2 Immortals After Dark

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone novel. I heard from other readers who have enjoyed the series that this was the first book published and later a prequel, which became Book 1, was published.

Emmaline Troy, a half-vampire, half-Valkyrie, is out on her own for the first time in Paris seeking answers about her dead parents. Werewolf Lachlain MacRieve, recently broken free from his captivity, hunts his mate. While their initial meeting will be tumultuous, they will have to join forces to face down a mighty foe – the leaders of the vampire horde.

This isn’t my typical read but I have been trying to expand my book horizons a bit. However, this wasn’t the book for me. I never became particularly attached to the characters and I found several aspects boring to distasteful.

Lachlain is an immortal, which means he can heal from nearly anything. The vampires have been torturing him for 150 years by having him chained over a fire, letting him cook to death, regenerate, and cook again. Lachlain senses his mate above him on the streets of Paris and that gives him the strength to finally break free. When he finally tracks down Emmaline, he’s still a bit crazed with disgust for all vampires and remembered pain from the fires. And that’s when things get a bit a rapey. Consent is sexy. Forced hand jobs are not. Obviously, I found it hard to see Lachlain as the hero after that. And it’s not just one instance of non-consensual sexual acts; there’s at least 4. Even if you can understand where Lachlain is coming from (his recent years of torture and deep hatred for vampires), it doesn’t make his actions excusable.

To be clear, there are several consensual acts in the book. In fact there is even one that is rather rough but both parties are enjoying it and clearly wanting to continue it. That made it steamy hot. Plus there was lighting in a moonlit forest, so that was an awesome image. However, these events occur between a kidnapped sexual assault victim (Emmaline) and the man who committed those acts (Lachlain), so I still found it hard to wish a Happily Ever After ending for them.

Emmaline’s character was nearly as disappointing. She never really sets boundaries for Lachlain. Most of her time is spent being beautiful and gentle. That’s her role in this story and I found that rather boring. She does eventually have a few moments of small glory, but because her character has been devoid of such characteristics, they felt out of place and rather forced. Emmaline, like all women with Valkyrie blood, has an acquisitive nature, which boils down to the fact that her interest can be bought with material wealth. Sigh…. Let’s not forget that Emmaline is only 70 years old, which is just out of childhood in the immortal world. Meanwhile, Lachlain is at least 900 years old. Emmaline is a virgin, never even having kissed a man. Meanwhile, Lachlain has plenty of experience under his belt. Sigh….

The plot is OK, though rather predictable. Lachlain, king of the Lykae clan, wants two things: Emmaline as his mate and revenge upon the vampires. Lachlain’s immediate friends and family accept his return really easily, which struck me as odd but the story marched on without giving it more than a squint and a blink. Emmaline plans to find out more about her parents. Her Valkyrie aunts want Emmaline back, as well as their long lost Valkyrie queen. In step the  evil vampires who want domination over all immortals. Through it all, Lachlain and Emmaline will have to find love for one another and a way to hold on to it. It was pretty easy to guess who Emmaline’s father was once we had all the characters introduced. Also, the Beauty and the Beast theme wasn’t subtle about wending it’s way through the plot.

Some of the side characters were fun, but most were exaggerated in some way or other. They were mostly there to provide drama and comedy. Regan made me chuckle a few times with her blunt remarks about other people’s sex lives. Nix was fun because she’s obviously working on a different plane where the future is open to her but the immediate present may escape her notice. Kat, who came into the story late, was interesting because she was so straight forward about everything, lacking emotions. Gareth, Lachlain’s brother, doesn’t make a showing until late in the book and then he ends up standing side by side with a vampire named Wroth.

All in all, it was a rather disappointing story. I was turned off early on and the story never really recovered because Lachlain doesn’t learn quickly or thoroughly. The story piled on themes that bored me because it made the outcome predictable.

Narration: Robert Petkoff did a fine job with this book. I’m not a good judge for accuracy when it comes to Scottish accents, but I can say Petkoff was consistent and had a variety of sexy voices for the Scottish werewolves. His female voices were very good, being pretty darn believable. There were a handful of other accents he performed as well, like Louisiana southern accent for Emmaline and a general European accent for Wroth.

What I Liked: Regan’s blunt wit; some of Nix’s silly remarks; one hot sexy scene in the woods; the narration.

What I Disliked: Lachlain’s forced sex acts; Emmaline’s character; Valkyrie interest can be bought with expensive shiny objects; very predictable story.

What Others Think:

Dear Author

Vampire Book Club

 

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

FrostHalwayToTheGraveWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Tavia Gilbert

Publisher: Blackstone Audio,  Inc. (2010)

Length: 11 hours 17 minutes

Series: Book 1 Night Huntress

Author’s Page

Cat Crawfield is half human and half vampire, her mother having been raped by a vampire, which left her pregnant. Cat has hated her vampire side her whole life and started hunting them in her teens, with her mom’s blessing. Now in her early 20s, she’s come across Bones, a vampire bounty hunter. Seems like a great person to team up with, right? Alas, Bones is also a vampire and Cat is torn between her single-minded approach to vampires (stake them and bury them) and her desire to learn more about vampires in order to hunt down her father.

This was a mostly fun paranormal romance. There’s a lot of witty banter, though by the end it was getting predictable. The characters started off interesting but then melodrama set in and I was wobbling about finishing it towards the end. While the romance was a bit silly, the sex scenes were pretty good – steamy and sweet.

Cat has a lot of hang ups which aren’t a big deal at the beginning of the book. Her unusual heritage and her mom’s hatred of vampires drive Cat to excel at her evening past time – going to clubs, luring vampires to secluded spots with the promise of sex, and staking them. She then buries them in the family orchard – vampnure! She had to learn much of what she knows on her own and there’s been no one to train her. So, that’s pretty impressive.

Alas, she has this whiny side. We all have one, and I don’t mind a character sharing a bit of it in a story, but she whined about something the entire book. First, she has no friends because she’s this outcast in a small town since her mother had her out of wedlock. Well, aren’t there other outcasts that you can at least sit around and commiserate with? There’s always other outcasts. So the idea of her never having a single other friend by her early 20s just seemed a bit over done. As the story progresses, she has hangups about her developing friendship and romantic interest in Bones. He’s a vampire and she’s also a bit afraid of sex, having only one other short lived experience. Near the end, it’s all gotten a bit too melodramatic for my tastes and Bones adds his own melodrama over their relationship as well. This was my biggest turn off for the book. I wanted more bad guy butt kicking and burying, more character development, and less angsty weeping heart-on-the-sleeve stuff.

The plot was decent. Bones has been in the bounty hunter business for some time and he’s made some friends and some enemies. Cat has an obvious goal – hunt down her father. Initially, it’s just Cat and Bones doing some training and then some work together. Then Bones introduces her to some of his friends and some frenemies. There’s plenty of action and injuries.

I really liked that we learned some of Bones’s earliest background later in the story and I especially liked that it forced Cat to rethink some of her assumptions about Bones. I think that Bones could be a rather interesting character if he wasn’t all hung up on Cat and her drama.

The ending was OK. The melodrama was a big part of it. But I did like that Cat had to make some hard decisions in order to keep some control over her own life. One of my favorite parts of the book was Bones calling Cat out on her hypocrisy. Since Cat hasn’t had a real friend before this both hurt and was truthful so it was big stepping stone for Cat to see the truth in it and decide what to do with it. I know several people really enjoy this series and I’m on the fence about continuing it. It’s fun in a brainless, just tune out the world sort of way, but the melodrama coupled with the narrator’s voice for Bones… not so hot.

Narration: Tavia Gilbert did a great job with voice of Cat. She sounded like a 22 year old female vampire hunter with a chip on her shoulder. However, I didn’t really like her voice for Bones. He’s suppose to have this English-Australian accent that’s been softened by 200+ years of living wherever he likes. However, her voice for him is over done and not sexy at all, which normally wouldn’t be too important except he is the main love interest in a romance novel. Gilbert did do a great job of imbuing the voices with emotion and I liked her voice for the alcoholic ghost, Winston.

What I Liked: Strong start to the book; Cat has had to teach herself all  of what she knows; Cat has some hangups; Bones is a bounty hunter; Bones’s back story; the butt-kicking and burying of the bad guys; Cat has to make some hard choices.

What I Disliked: So much drama; Cat has a LOT of hangups; Bones joins in the melodrama; the narrator’s voice for Bones.

What Others Think:

Dear Author

Love Vampires

Star-Crossed Book Blog

SF Site

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

PriestBloodshotHeldigWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Natalie Ross

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2011)

Length: 11 hours 16 minutes

Series: Book 1 Cheshire Red Reports

Author’s Page

Cheshire Red is a vampire and an acquisitions expert (thief). Raylene likes that many people assume Cheshire Red is a man and she’s not about to dissuade them, enjoying working in the shadows as she does. Ian, another vampire who is oddly blind, has hired her to track down his medical records from his enforced stay at a secret government complex. Yet before she can dig into this case, things start to unravel in her cushy little life in Seattle – someone breaks into her warehouse and someone else blows her well laid cover. She drops it all to follow a thin lead in Atlanta. As Raylene continues to snoop into Ian’s affairs, things get more and more risky. Before you know it, her best defense is a military-trained drag queen and her best offense is one seriously ticked off blind vampire.

This book was a lot of fun. Raylene definitely has a fluid sense of morals with few hard sticking points. She takes pleasure in her work – removing the priceless and rare from the rich and pretentious. She’s used Seattle as the base for her operations for a few decades now;  hence, the warehouse where she stores (or hoards) some of her collection as a financial safety net. There’s also two homeless kids, Pepper and Domino, who she lets live there. She doesn’t really like kids but for some reason keeps the heat and electricity on in one section of the building for them. Oh, and makes sure they have a cell phone to call her. And she checks in on them regularly. Perhaps she brings them food. Not that they’re pets or anything. As you can see, Raylene has this tough exterior and this gooey caramel soft center.  I really liked all the snark and Ray’s enjoyment of her own sexuality and being a vampire. I also like that she’s prone to panic attacks and that her powers don’t make her invincible – just really hard to kill.

Ian is a bit of a quandary. It’s very unusual for a vampire to have any debilitating injury that becomes permanent. So Ian’s loss of sight is disturbing. If it can be done to one vampire, it can be done to another. He also uses a ghoul, Cal, which Raylene doesn’t like. However as she gets to know the two of them a bit more, she starts to reconsider her views on ghouls. Cal obviously still has a mind of his own and Ian treats Cal with respect and it’s obvious he needs some amount of help being blind. Still, there are plenty of unanswered questions surrounding Ian and he is indeed very reluctant to elaborate on what little he has already told her.

Then we toss in a military-grade highly driven mad scientist and a large number or highly-trained military ‘acquisition experts’ that want Raylene and perhaps even want Ian back and everyone has to scatter to the four winds. Raylene ends up in Atlanta chasing down a lead. This is where my second favorite character, Adrian (aka Sister Rose), comes into the picture. Sister Rose is a drag queen and great at her nightly performances. Adrian is ex-military and has some specialty training. He initially becomes Raylene’s unwilling ally. Adrian was great with all the glitz and fringe and yet muscle and sensible behavior. I like that we never find out whether he’s straight, gay, or bi, or celibate. Raylene is too polite to ask.

There’s plenty of action and interesting characters in this urban fantasy. The ending was solid. We lose a little and gain a little and have a ton of questions for Book 2. Ian definitely has some some things to follow up on. I’m hoping Adrian will continue to be a part of the series. While Raylene and crew took out several of the questionable military bad guys, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them.

Narration: Natalie Ross did an awesome job with this book. All the characters are distinct and her male characters are great. She does this remarkable thing with Adrian’s two personas (Adrian versus Sister Rose). There’s also various accents that she does well. It’s just a very, very good performance.

What I Liked: Our main ‘hero’ doesn’t particularly act or think like a hero; Raylene isn’t all sharp elbows and hefty boot kicks – she’s also got a soft spot for homeless kids and has the occasional panic attack; Ian has his mysteries; Adrian has his fringed sparkly g-string; together, they have an enemy worth kicking in the teeth.

What I Disliked: Nothing – too much fun!

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Love Vampires

Alternative Magazine Online

Geek Syndicate

My Bookish Ways

The Illustrated Page

The BiblioSanctum

Pissed Off Geek

Giveaway & Interview: Bijhan Valibeigi, Author of The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship

ValibeigiBeginningOfABizarreFriendshipEveryone, please welcome Bijhan Valibeigi to the blog today! She’s here to chat about RPGs, Power Rangers, Steven Saylor books, and plenty more!  If you want to find out about the GIVEAWAY, then scroll to the bottom. You can also check out my review of her book, The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship, which I quite enjoyed.

If you could be an extra on a SFF movie or TV show, what would it be?

My first instinct would be to say one of the upcoming Star Trek films, in no small part because I would look excellent in one of those red skirted uniforms, but when I think about the set on which I’d probably have the most fun, it would probably have to be Power Rangers.

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?

Again, the answer comes back to Power Rangers. Who wouldn’t want to be swept up into the arms of those beautiful heroes? If footage existed of me being saved by the Power Rangers, I would watch it every morning with my breakfast.

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

Parks and Recreation. Every once in a while, I remember that there will never be another new episode, and my heart breaks a little. The answer would be 30 Rock, but now that The Muppets is on the air, that void has been filled.

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

There’s something especially grueling about working a job with a lot of down time and a lot of physical labor, like the work I did as a grocery clerk. Most people would assume that the strenuous labor would be the worst part, and it is not pleasant, but the real pain came from the need to turn my brain off. I cannot turn my brain off. That’s why I write, design games, compose music, and paint: My brain is constantly overflowing, and not having anywhere for my ideas to go is a special kind of pain.

More 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?

Star Trek was a pioneer in this field in the 1970s. Selling Spock shirts and Captain Kirk action figures was big money, so they began licensing for other products, including wonderful novels, comic books, and tabletop games which expanded the context of the Star Trek universe. This effort was decentralized, however, and therefore often contradictory and incompatible. George Lucas stepped up the multimedia game with Star Wars, which enhanced the core movies with novels, comics, television, and genuinely high-quality games of both the electronic and tabletop variety. Realizing the power of unified branding and cross-platform storytelling, Marvel and DC followed Star Wars’ lead. Unfortunately, Star Trek never made the leap to a wholly unified universe.

The Time Wars universe is one of my own creation, a vast series of interconnected timelines, sewing together the fates of Humanity, Vampires, aliens, spies, soldiers, heroes, and every people. In the tabletop RPG I designed, Time Wars: Strike Team [link: timewarsuniverse.com/StrikeTeam.html], which is available as a free downloadable PDF, players can take on the roles of superhuman time travelers who battle vampiric enemies from the Stone Age to the Galactic Age. I’ve also created a strategy card game, the world’s first deck-stacking game, Time Wars: Supreme Command [link: timewarsuniverse.com/SupremeCommand.html], where players use cards to assemble their Time Travelers, and duel for control over the Timeline as they set their own goals and foil the goals of their opponents. There are cards in the game which represent characters from not only The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship [link: timewarsuniverse.com/Books.html], the first novel in the Time Wars Tales fiction brand, but also the ongoing flash fiction series Time Wars Tales: Legends of the Order  [link:timewarsuniverse.wordpress.com]. The events of Legends of the Order provide a deeper context for the events of The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship, although both can be thoroughly enjoyed on their own.

My ideas have always transcended any one form of media. I can’t help but write music for the characters I create, develop stories for the games I design, and weave together my various stories into a larger narrative. In fact, one of the first games I ever designed came from sheer excitement at just having read the first Harry Potter novel, at which point I promptly invented a board game where players became students at Hogwarts. Perhaps it’s from consuming so much Star Trek and Star Wars as a youngster. It’s certainly enough for me to name my series Time Wars as an homage.

If you’d like to support the strategy card game, we will be having a Kickstarter for Time Wars: Supreme Command starting March 27th, and you can follow @TimeWarsRPG on Twitter for updates on that. You can also support all my multimedia work, including my music, comics, recipes, and more at Patreon.com/BijhanValibeigi.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

The “Roma Sub Rosa” books by Steven Saylor would make a fantastic video game. Because it’s a murder mystery series, I would want it to be an original story so I couldn’t guess the ending. In the stories, there’s often a sense of running out of time, and there’s a lot of daring escapes, but very few out-and-out fights. Since so many video games are either currency-based, or about obvious violence, it would be really fun to have an action mystery game to change it up. Also, it would be a lot of fun to solve crimes while immersed in the sights and sounds of Ancient Rome.

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

I’d have a few…
“Cries at children’s television shows, but not funerals.”
“Needs chocolate daily, and hugs three times daily, or else unit ceases to function.”
And, finally, “Not a meaningful source of f**ks.”

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

Most definitely. At a very young age I came to understand all media as having been created by a person, and therefore I could be that person. I wrote children’s books as a very small child and made copies for my parents. I would create elaborate stories and draw the characters in great detail. As I grew older I wrote embarrassingly self-indulgent action stories with no literary merit, along with some pretty funny sketch comedy. So it feels like a very natural progression into being a writer of more elaborate and meaningful fiction. Although, directly to the point of the question, what was I like as a kid? I was very strange. I would embody the characters of my imagination in every way. My mother likes to tell the story of how, one day, when I was a very small child, I went to sleep while pretending to be a dog, and when I woke up, I woke up as a dog, down to the bark and the panting. The realm of my mind has always felt very real, and something I’m eager to share.

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

A large part of me just wants to see some awesome drama. It would be an occasion for me to kick back and watch people yell at each other.

So, therefore, I would want the first three to be William F. Buckley, Jr., Gore Vidal, and Truman Capote. The final two, to fill out the rabble-rousers who would absolutely loathe one another, would have to be Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. These five people would absolutely hate one another, and I would love to watch them argue and feud. I imagine Buckley and Vidal would find some way for their orders to be barbs at one another, while Capote would probably order something self-indulgent. Hobbes would make a very conservative choice, based on the cost and health; Locke would likely have brought something from home.

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 have a terrible memory for faces, and I’m not much better with names, so I often have fans who have met me before approach me as if we are old friends, but whom I cannot recall at all. I, personally, have not had an opportunity to geek out over an author in person. I did, however, have an extended e-mail correspondence with Keith DeCandido when I was in high school about the Star Trek novels he wrote. I have no idea why he provided such detailed responses to such a bratty child – which I most assuredly was at the time – but our conversations on the non-binary nature of Andorian gender roles actually played a part in my own awakening to my identity as a gender outside the binary. I had a chance to email him again, as an adult, to thank him for that correspondence. He admitted no memory of it, which is understandable, and was very kind and gracious – as always.

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

I have three arguments I get in most regularly, and perhaps most passionately, because my opinions are not popular. To be brief, and not to go into detail:

1) Star Trek: the Next Generation was a bad sequel to Star Trek.

2) Power Rangers is deeply underrated as a science fiction series.

3) Most contemporary mainstream video games are really boring and derivative.

BijhanValibeigiAuthorAbout Bijhan Valibeigi

Bijhan Valibeigi is a writer, game designer, musician, and trans Muslim from West Seattle. When Bijhan is not pwning newbs in every kind of game ever made, hating on TNG for being objectively worse than Star Trek, or cheering for the BC Lions, she spends time at home with her partner RaeRae, three lovely cats Reza, Kya, and Jasper, and old cranky dog Elsa.

Find Bijhan and her works online

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ValibeigiBeginningOfABizarreFriendshipSynopsis of The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship

In the 161st Century, the Vampires have conquered their own Homeworld of Earth, and driven Humanity into the furthest reaches of space. From our exile across the galaxy, our people use time travel technology to wage a war against Vampirekind. We must change the past to protect the future.
Yet there are heroes who do not use time travel technology – clandestine warriors who remain in the shadows to hunt the monsters who lurk there. This secret-cloaked sorority is usually quite skilled at protecting its mysteries.

But sometimes, secrets can become revealed…

 

GIVEAWAY!!!

Bijhan is graciously offering up 3 ebook copies of The Beginning to a Bizarre Friendship. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below, or answer the following in the comments:  1) Which dead author(s) would you like to have dinner with?  2) Leave a way to contact you (email or twitter or facebook). Giveaway ends midnight June 10, 2016.

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The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship by Bijhan Valibeigi

ValibeigiBeginningOfABizarreFriendshipWhere I Got It: Kindle Unlimited

Publisher: Bijhan Valibeigi (2015)

Length: 98 pages

Series: Book 1 Time Wars Tales

Author’s Page

In the far, far future, vampires have taken over Earth and forced humans outward into the galaxy. Yet there are these time travel warriors who travel to the past in hopes of reclaiming the future. In this tale, the battlefront is modern day Seattle, Washington.

This is a fast-paced story with some fun tech, quirky characters, and one vengeful vampire. Agent Mu, as she comes to be called, kind of stumbled upon this gig. Out of work and out of money, she’s kicking around Seattle trying to figure out her next move when she comes upon two men in an alley fighting. Pretty soon, things turn weird and gory as one starts biting into the other. Once the attacker flees, our would be hero approaches the remaining man, who tells her to make the drop. Yep, there’s a touch of spy-ness going on here too, which makes the book extra fun.

So, she makes the drop and things happen pretty fast from there. Pretty soon, her handler is assuming she knows what she’s doing and she gets her cool vampire killing, gadget using, spy name of Agent Mu. She rolls with it, because what else does she have going on anyway?

There’s plenty of cool tech here, including Johnny, who is a very fancy personal assistant device. Though if you called him that, he would take it as an insult. There’s various weapons, a cool car, and fancy house with all sorts of tech built into it. Then there is the Gynoid – a humanoid automaton with lots of cool capabilities. But for some reason, it doesn’t have a mount or pocket or such for holding Johnny while the team runs around.

One of the things I liked about this tale was that you didn’t know the gender of our main character until the conversation where she gets her spy name. It’s left up to the reader to build an image of the main hero based on their first impressions. Also, and this is just my interpretation, I think she swings both ways. While there is no sex in this story to confirm yeah or nay on that, it’s great to see the door left open.

So over all, it was a very fun ride. My few criticisms are small. For instance, Gynoid has all sorts of trays and compartments and mounts, so why not one for Johnny? The tale doesn’t really include info about the vampires of the future, and yet there’s that whole spiel about them taking Earth in the far future in the book’s description. So I  would have liked a little more backstory within the actual story.  Other than that, I had a lot of fun with it. I loved the toothbrush and the comedy that brought into the story.

What I Liked: Lots of fun; cool tech; our main character Agent Mu; the toothbrush; Johnny and his sensitive ego;  the vampire hunt.

What I Disliked: Very minor – the tale could have used a bit more backstory built into it.

Northern Bites by Nikki Jefford

JeffordNorthernBitesWhere I Got It: Bought an Audible copy

Narrator: Em Eldridge

Publisher: Nikki Jefford (2015)

Length: 7 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 2 Vampire Hunter

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 in the series and probably wouldn’t work so well as a stand alone.

Aurora Sky returns to keep on kicking vampire butt! Well, she tries. Aurora is still in high school and still in training with the secret government group of vampire hunters. Her mentor Dante isn’t being much help, not with his flirting. Also, she gets to spend lots of time working with fellow vampire hunter Valerie, who she detests. Her ex-boyfriend Fane isn’t making things any easier either. Life is tough.

This book is mostly flirty silliness, dating woes, and fighting over boyfriends. There was a good dollop of this in Book 1 (Aurora Sky), but I feel this book got seconds dished out. I went into this book looking forward to seeing how Aurora fared in her continued training, what would happen between her and Fane, and basically looking forward to her evolving into a badass vampire slayer. Largely, those things didn’t happen because most of the book was caught up in these high school dating dramas. I suspect I was suppose to care about Aurora’s beef with fellow agent Valerie, but I didn’t particularly. Aurora still has feelings for Fane but Fane is moving on and not making it easy for Aurora. Then there is Aurora’s friend (and fellow agent) Noelle who later on muddies the waters and is obviously keeping secrets. Really, I just wanted to sit them all down and knock their heads together so we could move on with the real plot.

There’s a few action scenes here and there. There’s a few mysteries – a high school kid (Michael) goes missing, an agent (Krist) turns up dead, Aurora is having very odd cravings – but so little time is spent on these that I was left wanting more out of the book. There is some family drama that unfolds. I found those scenes interesting too as they added depth to Aurora’s character. She can’t simply check out and not be a part of her family; she’s forced to at least acknowledge the situation. So all these little good parts were stretched out painfully thin into something resembling a plot and then we have all this empty, repeating, predictable teen angst dating stuff as filler. I wanted more meat and less whip cream.

Then there is Dante’s character. In Book 1, he was something of a mentor. Here, he starts off as that but then this terribly flirtatious side of him comes out. It doesn’t really fit what we know about him and the change isn’t explained. Also, there’s a reveal late in the book about who may be behind the death of the agent, and when Aurora tries to chat with Dante about that, he blows her off. This also is not like him. So, of course one of two things is going on: either it’s poor character development or something drastic has happened to Dante behind the scenes that us readers are not privy to in this book. And that brings me to another point – nothing is resolved in this book. While this is a series, I do like some resolution for some of the plot points per book. That didn’t happen here.

Lastly, there were a ton of vampires mentioned in this book and I am sure most, if not all, were in Book 1. But there were no reminders for who most of these characters are. Really, for most of them, it was just a series of names that could be swapped out. Descriptors were few and far between. So, after a while I gave up trying to keep them straight. So, yeah, I kept hoping the book would get meatier, that the plot would strengthen, and it didn’t. There’s plenty here to intrigue, just not much to satisfy. I am not sure yet if I will continue with the series. I want answers, action, mystery, vampire slaying… but not teen angst in large quantities.

Narration: Em Eldridge did another good job as the voice of Aurora Sky. She has a young lady’s voice that can hold great emotion or become an angsty, flippant teen as the scene demands. Her other character voices were distinct and her male voices were believable.

What I Liked: Mysteries to be solved; set in Alaska; government-sanctioned vampire hunting; Aurora’s family drama gives her depth.

What I Disliked: The bulk of the book is teen angst over dating and flirting; many of the side characters were interchangeable; Dante’s character change doesn’t fit with what we know from Book 1; very little time spent on the relevant plot; nothing is resolved in this book.

What Others Think:

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Gizmo’s Reviews

Giveaway & Review: Burning Bright by E. J. Stevens

StevensBurningBrightWhere I Got It: Review copy.

Publisher: Sacred Oaks Press (2015)

Narrators: Melanie A. Mason, David Wilson Brown

Length: 7 hours 32 minutes

Series: Book 3 Ivy Granger

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, I think it works fine as a stand alone.

Ivy Granger returns for a third installment in the series. Her best friend Jinx is in dire straights – and Ivy is the only one who can save her, but at a cost. Someone may just have to die. Additionally, there’s a hoard of fire imps running lose, creating havoc in the city of Harborsmouth.

Previously, Ivy made a deal or two with the Green Lady (aka the glaistig) in a chaotic moment. Basically, Ivy owes her a favor, or two. And the Green Lady has called in her debt. It’s a doozy and Ivy is none too happy about it. But the fae have strict rules about deals and if Ivy doesn’t make good, then she may well become an assassin’s target. Yeah, this book was fun and I enjoyed it the most of the first three books in the series.

The plot has Ivy running all over the place trying to figure out how to get herself out of this jam while also saving her friend and not killing any other friends. It’s tough. Oh, and the vampires call in their mark, requiring Ivy to stop the fire imps. So, she’s got all sort s of pressures and she holds up well. The pacing and action are all great. There’s some small fight scenes but also several intense, dangerous situations that don’t necessarily end in violence. Some of these had me holding my breath as I didn’t know if Ivy would end up with some interesting scars or not.

Once again, this urban fantasy is steep in mythology, which I love. There’s various types of demons, water lords, a witch, and Ivy herself as a half-Wisp. Ivy has to use what she knows (or learns) about these folk to out wit them or to make reasonable bargains with them. Indeed, I think Ivy is coming into her own in this book. She’s not insecure or hesitant and instead acts with decision, which is needed in many of the cases. Frankly, she has become that bad ass we were all hoping for.

The side characters are all interesting in their own ways, but they are rather static. They have pretty much stayed the same since they stepped on the page. The one exception may be the demon Forneus, but we don’t get much of him overall. The characters do provide a good backdrop for Ivy to bounce off of and let her grow.

I quite enjoyed this installment in the series and I really look forward to seeing where the author takes the series next.

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

Narration: Melanie Mason was a good voice for Ivy. It did take me perhaps 30 minutes to get use to her voice for the story after recently listening to Book 1 & 2, which are narrated by Traci Odom. Nevertheless, she did a very nice job. of course, her inflections for Jinx and Kaye are different, but consistent throughout the book. David Wilson Brown stepped in and did all the male voices, which were each distinct. I especially liked his voice for Humphrey the gargoyle. They included a few sound effects, such as making a voice sound like it was on a phone and trying to do creepy  vampire laughter (which came off more amusing than creepy). Still, I appreciated these little touches and for the most part they worked.

What I Liked:  Great pacing with lots of action; Ivy grows as a character; Ivy is in a real pickle; plenty of interesting side characters; Ivy becomes the bad ass we have all wanted; nice ending. 

What I Disliked: The side characters are all pretty static.

What Others Think:

Gizmo’s Book Reviews

Earth’s Book Nook

Rabid Reads

Author Info

E.J. Stevens is the author of fourteen works of speculative fiction, including the Spirit Guide young adult paranormal romance series, the Hunters’ Guild urban fantasy series, and the award-winning Ivy Granger urban fantasy series. She is known for filling pages with quirky characters, bloodsucking vampires, psychotic faeries, and snarky, kick-butt heroines.

When E.J. isn’t at her writing desk, she enjoys teaching writing workshops, dancing along seaside cliffs, singing in graveyards, and sleeping in faerie circles. E.J. currently resides in a magical forest on the coast of Maine where she finds daily inspiration for her writing.

Connect with E.J. on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest, and on her Blog.

Giveaway Info

Winner will receive a signed BURNING BRIGHT postcard, BURNING BRIGHT audiobook download from Audible.com, and custom E.J. Stevens earbuds.  Giveaway begins November 10th and ends November 24th.  This giveaway is open to mailing addresses in US/CA/UK.  Giveaway winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter.  Giveaway ends November 24, 2015.

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