Author: S.A. Huchton
Release Date: 3 June, 2013
Available Formats: Ebook
Early on in my review catalog, I stumbled across a story called The Dreamer’s Thread by Ms. Huchton. I enjoyed it very much. I started following Ms. Huchton on twitter and tried to stay abreast of her creative endeavors. This has paid off due to the fact that she has leant her voice talents to one of my very favorite series. Unfortunately though, she hadn’t released any other of her own writing for public consumption. That is about to change.
Synopsis: How far would you go for love?
Since losing her parents at 14, young prodigy Dr. Lydia Ashley has focused on one thing: an appointment on the Deep Water Research Command Endure. Now 21, she’s about to realize that dream, but nothing is how she imagined it would be. Her transitional sponsor forgets her, her new lab is in complete chaos, and, as if that weren’t enough, she’s about to discover something so horrific it could potentially destroy all life on the planet.
Daniel Brewer, a noted playboy and genius in his own right, may be exactly what she needs… Or he may make everything worse.
Has she finally found a puzzle she can’t solve? (Provided by the author)
Odin’s thoughts: I am not going to recommend Ms. Huchton’s Maven. Yet. I will say that the synopsis intrigues me and I will be buying the book and reviewing it here. If the story lives up to its synopsis, I expect Ms. Huchton will be responsible for turning me onto another series I will enjoy. This time, her own. Ms. Huchton has been kind enough to provide us with an excerpt of of the story that you will find below.
Excerpt from Maven:
“Did you have a chance to look at those files I sent yet?” Daniel changed the subject.
“Files?” She thought back. “Oh, those files. No, not yet. I can take a look now though, since we’re waiting for everyone else to get here.” Lydia set her cup on the desk and walked around to the chair. Settling in, she called up her messages and opened the attached files Daniel had sent. He stood behind her, watching.
“Hmm,” she murmured as she read the first one. “It looks like experiment results, but I’m not sure what the initial subject is.” She opened another. More results. “I don’t get… Wait. This list of bacteria?” She pointed at a column on the screen. He put a hand down on the desk and leaned in close to her to read the words. She was surprised that her voice didn’t tremble when she spoke. “These are all marine specimens. Specifically, ones that have been found around deep ocean volcanoes. They’re rare and we don’t know much about them yet, but we do know they’re dangerous. These are some of the most resilient bacteria on the planet. They have to be, given the environment they live in.”
Daniel frowned. “What kind of experimentation would have been going on here with these things?”
“That’s what has me concerned.” She bit her lip. “These documents don’t give any information aside from which samples were being used and basic test results, like genetic composition and temperature reactivity, but they’re reference documents for another research project. Given the dates they originate, I would have heard about any work with these specific bacteria, and I know of none. I wouldn’t normally pick up research from another study without specifically being tasked, but something here isn’t sitting right with me.” It was hard to concentrate. At this proximity, she could smell the scent of his body; soft and clean, with the faintest hint of his aftershave.
“So, what will you do?” Daniel asked.
Lydia considered that for a moment, struggling to retain her composure. “Did you say you thought there were other related files somewhere?” She turned her head slightly, but couldn’t face him directly. Not with him this close.
He shrugged. “It’s possible. There was a ton of old data dumped into a trash file I dug up while cleaning out the system. Backups of backups, it looks like. I didn’t know what I was looking for specifically, so I tossed anything from 3-SSR into the same group. It wasn’t much, but there was a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t identify.” He straightened, much to her relief. The near contact was clouding her brain.
“If I gave you a list of keywords to search for, would that help? Based on these documents, I can narrow down what might be contained in related files.”
“Yes,” he said. “Definitely. If I know what I should be looking for, I have some tools for doing entire sweeps of all connected computers, including the Endure’s core programs. How long would it take you to make up that list?”
She looked at the list of files he had already sent. “There’s forty-eight documents here. Not all of them may pertain to this project, but it will take me at least a day to do a quick once through. Are you sure you have time to take this on?” Lydia faced him.
“Absolutely,” he said, his hazel eyes locking on to hers. Her breath caught unexpectedly in her throat. Something in the way he looked at her made her think that she could ask him for anything at that moment and he would say yes.
The sound of the lab door and voices shattered the moment. Lydia spun around and closed the list of files, along with the messaging program.
“Looks like people are arriving. I’ll go fire up the lab computers so we can all see the new software.” She rushed out of the office, hoping no one else could hear her pounding heart.
Title: Ideas, INC
Author: J. Daniel Sawyer
Publisher: AWP Fantasy
Release Date: 14 March 2013
Available Formats: Paperback and ebook
If you aren’t familiar with the name J. Daniel Sawyer, you’re not a regular reader of this blog. I’m going to make an unsubstantiated claim that he is the most reviewed author here. Why? Well, for one, he is smart and witty (two things I enjoy). Secondly, he’s prolific. Doubt me? Check out his site.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: The author of Suave Rob’s Double-X Derring-Do brings you a farce of the tradition of P.G. Wodehouse and Douglas Adams.
Best friends Caleb and Lenny hate each other. Stranded in the middle of upstate New York with two flat tires, one spare, no cell reception, and no idea what to do, they figure they’re pretty much screwed. Fortunately, they broke down right in front of a place that deals in ideas. For the special one-time fire-sale price of seventeen bucks, they can get a pack of seven completely original, brand-new, ultra-premium, never-before-used ideas. But will it get them out of trouble before they’re forced to talk to each other again?
Find out in this hilarious all-night adventure yarn that reveals the terrible truth behind the worldwide pigeon cabal! (Stolen from the author’s website)
Setting: The middle of nowhere. A dark night. A broken down car. A mysterious encounter. A spooky barn.
Plot: Lenny and Caleb experience an escalating series of unfortunate events that eventually land them in a convertible, naked, in the dark being attacked by.. well that would be a spoiler. There are Nazis (not a spoiler, there is a swastika on the cover), supernatural creatures, cantankerous height challenged elderly drivers of questionable taste and enigmatic salespeople of questionable services. Roll these all together, and somehow you’ll find the plot of Ideas, INC. However, I doubt it will be as clever as the one Mr. Sawyer came up with.
Characters: This book really is centered around the aforementioned best friends that loathe each other, Lenny and Caleb. The story is told in 1st person, so you never really get an in depth feel for the motivations guiding the decisions being made. However, it does make for witty and fun internal and external banter.
Odin’s recommendation: In a case of the universe having a sense of humour, I had an epiphany while reading Mr. Sawyer’s previous offering, Suave Rob’s Double X Daring Do. I immediately contacted him and exclaimed, “You’re Harlan Ellision!” What I meant, and still do, is that Dan lives to shock, make you think, doesn’t care if he offends as long as its visceral level, and is an all around troublemaker in the best of sense. Well, I imagine Mr. Sawyer’s reaction to my epiphany was a chuckle (I envision him at that point in time with a cigar and whiskey for some reason) and he responded, “Wait to make that statement until you read Ideas, INC”. I almost ignored that bit of advice and proclaimed him Mr. Ellison’s scion with Suave Rob’s review. I’m glad I didn’t. If you’re a fan of Mr. Ellison’s work, you’ll get an extra chuckle with Idea’s Inc. Heck, if you detest Mr. Ellison, you’ll probably get an extra chuckle. So, my advice, buy Ideas, INC. and get ready to chuckle.
Title: Zypheria’s Call
Author: Nathan Lowell
Publisher: © Nathan Lowell
Release Date: October 2012
Available Formats: ebook (podiobook coming soon as stated on Mr. Lowell’s blog- May 1, 2013)
Nathan Lowell writes stories I love. I own multiple versions of the stories he’s published. I have listened to his books at podiobooks.com more often than any other author’s. His words have made me cry and cheer. His first Tanyth Fairport book, Ravenwood was very, very good. I had been waiting for ever to read the second in the series. In October of last year, Zypheria’s Call was finally released.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: Sometimes the longest journeys are within.
Tanyth makes her way across the ocean to continue her quest for the hermit of Lammas Wood. Storms and ice block her path, but her most serious enemies may be people she has never met. As her power grows, she must come to grips with the changes within her and the fear that she is going mad.
To accomplish that she must answer Zypheria’s Call and survive. (Stolen from the author’s website)
Setting: Zypheria’s Call continues the story of Mother Tanyth Fairport, though she has moved on from Ravenwood and is on a quest to further her own knowledge. She is accompanied by at first two, and then one, good friend from the settlement. The journey is by foot, wagon and ship. Mr. Lowell builds worlds without making in painfully clear that he is building worlds. This is never as apparent as in his Tanyth Fairport stories. I could smell the salt in the air and feel the wind on my cheeks as I read Zyperia’s Call. This is always the mark of a well told story.
Plot: Let me start by saying, things DO happen in this story. Things always happen in Mr. Lowell’s books, just some are more action oriented than others. Zypheria’s Call has plenty of action. We have explosions, highwaymen, assorted dangers and plenty of pointed sarcasm. However, to my delight, Mr. Lowell still makes this story one of character development and discovery as well as adventure and strife.
Characters: This is a Tanyth Fairport adventure. You should not be surprised to find that Tanyth is the main character. So as not to spoil in anyway, I’ll simply say that two characters from Ravenwood begin the journey with her. Tanyth also meets new friends along the way and, as is normal with any story by Mr. Lowell, each lives and breaths with a life of their own.
Odin’s recommendation: If you’re a fan of anything well written, drop what you’re doing and buy everything Mr. Lowell has ever written. The number of author’s I will always buy simply because a book has their name on it numbers less than the digits of a single hand. Mr. Lowell owns a prominent place on that hand. Zypheria’s Call was wonderful and wonderfully told. Go buy it now.
Title: The Adventures of Alibi Jones
Author: Mike Luoma
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 16 October 2009 – 6 February 2010
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast
Rating: R for violence, extreme language, adult content
Quite a while back I reviewed Mike Luoma’s Vatican Assassin. I can’t say I really enjoyed it, though I understood why the many that disagreed with me did. Recently, Mr. Luoma queried whether I’d be willing to give his follow up series a shot. Will it do any better?
On to the review.
Synopsis: Science Fiction Adventure in the year 2135! Alibi Jones, a Mediator for the Solar Alliance, is on the trail of alien kidnappers. He’ll soon discover that dangers thought long-dead are still very much ALIVE!
This stand-alone sequel (of sorts) to The VATICAN ASSASSIN Trilogy takes place 23 years after the events in VATICAN ABDICATOR. New readers will have no trouble jumping in, while those who enjoyed the first trilogy will meet old friends, new characters, and new alien races and civilizations! Alibi Jones is the son of BC- Bernard Campion – the Vatican Assassin. He may be a “chip off the old block”, but that doesn’t mean he has to like it… (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)
Production: Mr. Luoma does a fine job with the production of his stories. The sound isn’t too hot, but still has plenty of volume. I don’t notice any artifacts in his recording environment and his sound isn’t overly compressed. There was a repeated line or two (which is disturbingly common), but nothing that should bother the subscribed listener.
Cast: Mr. Luoma continues to do his stories as self reads. If you’re a fan of over the top, ebullient, extremely enthusiastic co-workers at 8:00 on a Monday morning, you’re sure to enjoy his readings. That being said, in my memory of Vatican Assassin holds true, he has actually toned it down a notch. I will not grade any author or reader too harshly because I’m not a fan of the “style” of the presentation, however, and Mr. Luoma does a fair job of differentiating his characters by using vocal cues.
Story: Maybe I’m maturing as a listener/reader. Maybe Mr. Luoma is maturing as a writer. Maybe both. Maybe something else. However, I did enjoy this story quite a bit more than his previous effort. That doesn’t mean I have no issues, but I did find the story tight and all of the many pieces fit in their (respective) slots well.
Verdict: Let me state from the outset, I still hate 3rd person present narrative. If I’d wanted to read a screenplay, I’d have read a screenplay (and no, I don’t know if screenplays are written in 3rd person present, it just feels that way). It came as an epiphany to me that the main reason I dislike this style so, is it continually makes me feel like i’m being “told, not shown” what is going on. I literally do not visualize these stories like I do every other style. I realize that probably makes me unique (read that as weird).
Now, setting that gripe aside, well, I’m still not through complaining. Mr. Luoma doesn’t tell one story in The Adventures of Alibi Jones. He tells two. And really, they seem to be two mostly unconnected stories. One is a love story, the other a traditional scifi action adventure. The good news is, I really enjoyed them both. I kept waiting for them to draw together, but surprisingly (to me), they never did. I recommend that you don’t let this stop you from listening to this one if you haven’t yet. If you can get around 3rd person present, and like an ebullient reading, this is a pretty straight forward enjoyable story.
Disclosure: I do follow Mr. Luoma on Twitter and have had a very few conversations with him. I was asked to consider listening to more of his work. I am not hesitant to say that I stick by my first review, but feel that The Adventures of Alibi Jones deserves to be listened to on its own merits. If you can get by the 3rd person present (I really do hate it).
Title: Rogues of the Black Fury
Author: Travis Heermann
Released: 21 Aug 2011 – 27 June 2012
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast
Rating: R for violence, language, adult content
Here’s a little poorly kept secret: If I review you even marginally favorably once, chances are I’m going to listen to you again. At least once. I listened to (and reviewed) Mr. Heermann’s Heart of the Ronin a while back and enjoyed the story. So when Mr. Heermann released Rogues of the Black Fury it was a natural that I would subscribe.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: When a band of shadowy fanatics abducts Javin Wollstone’s little sister, Bella, from his care, his only hope to bring her home is turning to a hard-bitten band of special warriors, Commander Rusk and the Black Furies.
The Black Furies are infamous for their bloodthirstiness, their amorality, their unconventional tactics—and for their success.
Javin follows Rusk and his men as they charge through a maze of political intrigues, religious fanaticism, and centuries of racial distrust in a headlong chase across the high seas to save the girl’s life. Little do they know that little Bella Wollstone’s fate could be the spark that sets off a war of Armageddon. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)
Production: Mr. Heermann produced this podcast himself and I have to say, it’s a bit uneven. Listeners that follow one episode with another will notice definite changes to the sound. This is obvious even within eps from time to time. Guest voices also suffer from drastically different recording environments.
Cast: Mr. Heermann decided to do something a bit strange here. This is not a full cast audio drama. It’s a self read with an occasional guest voice. For me, this really didn’t work. Especially with the aforementioned issues with production. Each individual voice worked fine on their own, but bringing them together actually lessened the listening experience.
Grade: C as a whole. B+ for individual efforts.
Story: As the synopsis states, this is a quest/rescue story. We have a training period, a travel period, and a confrontation period. One flows into the next pretty well and the story fits together fairly nicely.
Verdict: Hmmm. To be honest, I’m not sure. I did enjoy the story overall, and I think it was more production decisions and delayed eps than anything that would occasionally have me grinding my teeth.
I initially thought this sounded like one of Glen Cook’s Black Company books, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
In all fairness, the outside of the military elite mercenary theme does follow both books, but there is much less of the supernatural in Mr. Heermann’s books.
This story I would definitely recommend for adults as the language and violence can be a bit heavy. If this doesn’t offend you, give it a listen, and then tell us what you think.
Disclosure: I have had several discussions with Mr. Heermann over the last couple of years. I can’t say I really know him however, and have no vested interest in this book.
Title: Mask of the Red Panda
Author: Gregg Taylor
Artist: Dean Kotz
Publisher: Monkeybrain Comics
Release Date: February-April 2013
Available Formats: ecomic through comixology
If you’ve read many of my reviews at all, or talked to me on Twitter (@odin1eye), you probably know I’m a big fan of Gregg Taylor and Decoder Ring Theatre. I discovered The Red Panda and Black Jack Justice fairly early on in my podcast fiction addiction and I believe it is the only podcast that isn’t devoted to a single story that I still subscribe to. So when Mr. Taylor announced that Mask of the Red Panda would be released as a three issue comic story arc, it was a no brainer for me to pick them up.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: With his city set to become a battleground between otherworldly forces seeking unspeakable power, the Red Panda battles to gain the upper hand. An occasionally mad scientist, a utility belt full of anti-magic tech and the ever-present sassy sidekick – will it be enough to thwart the growing menace? Bringing to life characters from The Red Panda Adventures, Decoder Ring Theatre’s award-winning radio drama series, Mask of the Red Panda is pulse-pounding pulp perfection for all those who love the classic two-fisted adventures of the golden age of radio, classic movie serials and the hero pulps. (Stolen from Monkeybraincomics.com)
Setting: As with all things Red Panda, Mask of the Red Panda takes place in Toronto. The Panda is Canada’s greatest superhero afterall. The art and story make Toronto come to life in a 1930 noir love affair with the city.
Plot: Early on in the Red Panda’s career, fiends of the supernatural were quite common. Well, more common. Okay, heck, the Panda has always been, and always will be, a magnet for the supernatural baddy. That’s okay. With his trusty sidekick the Flying Squirrel (yes, boss) there will be action aplenty before we see the evil slink away to hide far away from Toronto and the Red Panda.
Characters: The book centers around the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel. They are neck deep in V’rahill, which kind of remind me of skinny rabid gargoyles from another dimension. There are other supporting characters, but truly: it has the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel. What else do you need?
Art: Mr. Kotz has done a phenomenal job with the art. The characters live and breath in a manner I never would have quite anticipated. The lack of colour only makes the art more perfect for Mr. Taylor’s Toronto and characters. If Mr. Taylor has any say so, I’d recommend he borrow some of Mr. Kotz art from the books for a refresh of the Decoder Ring site.
Odin’s recommendation: Go. Buy. These. Books. At .99 an issue, you’re only going to be out about $3 total. For 90 odd pages of art and story (total), this is a remarkable price. The story is easily worth that for each issue without art. I went cold turkey on my comic book addiction in the late 90′s. I’m ready to rethink that if we can convince Monkeybrain Comics to make Mask of the Red Panda a regular release.
Title: Iron Guns Blazing Hearts
Author: Heather Massey
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: February 2013
Available Formats: ebook
As I’ve said before, I’ll review almost any work of fiction. I do have some limits. I won’t read erotica or several other genres, but for the most part, these self decided rules leave most things available. The author contacted me after reading my review for another steampunk novel. She described her book as a western steampunk romance.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I really am enjoying good steampunk right now. I also always enjoy a good western. You see, I grew up in Southeast Wyoming in the shadow of the Laramie Mountains and while I might have left the area, the area will never leave me.
Of course I told Ms. Massey I would be happy to read her book and she sent me a copy for review…
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: The West just got a whole lot wilder.
A woman on a mission… Scientific achievement isn’t enough for Violet Whitcomb. Life working alongside her renowned scientist father is filled with intellectual challenges, but what she truly craves is love and adventure. She’s resigned to a fate of academic pursuits–until a fateful trip across the American frontier changes everything. A rogue inventor known as the Iron Scorpion kidnaps Violet’s father and she alone is left to plan his rescue.
A man with a secret… Logan McCoy knows firsthand going up against the Iron Scorpion is suicide, but he can’t let Violet waltz into the villain’s lair alone. She may be a stranger, but she’s also the most compelling woman he’s ever known.
A perilous quest… Their attraction is undeniable, but their alliance turns contentious when Violet insists on including a third partner on their mission: her father’s latest invention and the world’s most advanced automaton, Arthur. The reason for Logan’s resistance isn’t clear until Violet comes face-to-face with the Iron Scorpion’s diabolical devices, and by then, it’s far too late.
CONTENT WARNING: An irresistibly dangerous alpha hero, a heroine whose most prized accessory is her steam gun, an automaton gunslinger…and a villain whose lust for power drives him to evils beyond the scope of humanity.
A Lyrical Press Steampunk Romance (Stolen from Amazon.com)
Setting: Southeast Wyoming in the shadow of the Laramie Mountains. If you’re thinking you might have seen that sentence recently, let me help. Look up at the introduction. Yes. Without probably realizing it, Ms. Massey picked a reviewer that is intimately familiar with the land she chose to set her story in. Or not.
I’m not going to bash Ms. Massey on her description of my home, other than to say, it didn’t really seem like my home. However, there are many barren areas in that region that if Dr. Loveless had been allowed to run amok, might have turned out how she described. Once I disassociated names with places I knew, the setting felt very appropriate for this type of story.
Plot: The plot is fairly simplistic. A good girl falls for a rough guy and through the required quest find mutual respect and perhaps more. Nothing new here, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. My wife shared one of her favorite chlidhood author’s, Patricia Veryan with me. Ms. Veryan writes what I believe is called a Regency Romance. I would say that this kind of theme runs through much of this style of literature.
Characters: The characters really come down to Violet Whitcomb and Logan McCoy. Other than first chapter or two and the last chapter or two, no one else even has a speaking role. Thats okay. I found both characters quite likable and interesting. That isn’t to say they aren’t a bit transparent or that most adult readers won’t know more about what is happening than Ms. Whitcomb, but I don’t believe the author meant to write them any differently.
Odin’s recommendation: There are a number of factual errors in this story concerning firearms. Shotguns are not rifles, and a double barreled shotgun cannot shoot three times. I’m a bit hard to please when it comes to firearms because I believe that if you’re going to write about them, even in a cursory manner, you should try to get it right. Ask a friend, talk with your editor, buy Dan Sawyer’s Throwing Lead book. Something. Anything.
These issues notwithstanding, if you enjoy light romance with a western and/or steampunk flare, Iron Guns, Blazing Hearts should provide several hours of amusement and is worth the 4.99 asking price.
Title: Sense Memory
Author: Brion J. Humphrey
Genre: Supernatural Action
Released: 6 March 2013
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: R for violence
Sometimes all it takes to get me to listen to something is, “You should listen to….” from someone on my twitter stream. After this Sense Memory had been recommended to me several times, I took the hint and subscribed.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: If our memory is the thing that shapes and defines us, that informs who we are at our very core, then God help us all…for memory, is a wicked and deceitful wretch.
Thrust into a search for his own sister’s killer, Benjamin Cady flees Colorado and the only world he understands to scour the streets of Los Angeles, plagued by headaches and memories of murder. He quickly discovers that L.A. is not unknown to him, and as his memories of his sister’s death become clearer, so does the possibility that Ben himself may be the murderer.
Lieutenant Jim Banquer has plenty of bodies, but every witness seems to be suffering from a mysterious form of amnesia. Investigating these deaths means he must piece together the scattered shards of a deadly power scheme that goes well beyond murder, and Ben is the key.
Sense Memory is a psychological thriller that weaves an intricate web of doubt and intrigue as it goes, leaving no thread unstrung. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)
Production: I believe Mr. Humphrey did the production himself for Sense Memory. If he didn’t, I would recommend he take the credit for it anyway as it really is done very well. The audio is crisp and clean and the few audio cues he uses are appropriate and fit well with the story. I would give him an A except for the fact that I caught three repeated lines. Still, this podcast is a pleasure to listen to.
Cast: Mr. Humphrey read his story, and I’m glad he did. He used different voice cues and intonations to differentiate the characters and it worked very well. I always like when an author reads their own work because then I’m confident I’m hearing the story like the author meant it to be heard. With this being the case, Mr. Humphrey definitely meant his characters to be likable and his story to keep you on edge.
Story: The story, for me, started out rather slowly with different characters being given entire episodes or chapters. At times I felt like I was somewhat driving through those first chapters without a map. Thankfully, around episode three or four, I found the highway and it was a smooth ride from there.
Verdict: The above “slow start” isn’t really meant as a negative. Many stories start somewhat in spurts. As long as they even out and keep my interest, I tend to settle in for the journey. I enjoyed Sense Memory quite a bit. However, there were a few things that bothered me. Handguns don’t play a huge role in the novel, but enough that it seemed a bit like the author might have been overextending himself on his knowledge in this regard. I, unlike some, have no problem when someone refers to a gun’s magazine as a clip, because even many gun people do the same. However, handguns don’t have stocks. They have grips. This was only mentioned once, but it abruptly knocked me out of the story. I also am still not clear on how the protagonist linked himself to the antagonist rather than someone else through the experience that opens the story. However, that might be more my fault than the authors.
Other than these very minor quibbles, I have to say I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book of this strange, mixed genre as much. If you enjoy a mild horror, suspense, supernatural thriller, you’re going to love Sense Memory.
Disclosure: I have recently started following Mr. Humphrey on Twitter
Title: The Shadow of Black Wings
Author: James Calbraith
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Released: 13 February, 2013
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: PG – 13 for violence
Occasionally, it’s not what you know, it’s whom you know. Such is the case with The Shadow of Black Wings. I don’t know the author, Mr. Calbraith. Shocking, I know. The truth is, I was minding my own business a couple of weeks ago when I caught a tweet mentioning someone in my twitter circle had narrated a story. Again, shocking. I know. However, this was a bit different, because although this person does podcast, to my knowledge, she has never narrated a story before. She is also from my homestate and knows people I know. So yes, sometimes, you get a review by choosing the right narrator.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: It is the sixteenth year of Queen Victoria’s enlightened rule and the world trembles before the might of her ironclad navy and the dreaded Dragon Corps. The largest ship ever built sails from the Brigstow Harbour on a journey to the mysterious lands of Orient. Its load – a regiment of the Royal Marines and one Bran ap Dylan – freshly graduate in Dracology at the Llambed Academy of Mystic Arts.
In the empire of Yamato, sealed from the rest of the world for the last two centuries, a wizard’s daughter Sato witnesses her father joining an anti-government conspiracy. Her friend Nagomi, training to be a priestess, is haunted by dark visions that she must keep secret. Neither of them is aware that a change is coming to Yamato… on the wings of a dragon.
A detailed and fast-paced historical fantasy based around the turbulent opening of Japan to the West in the middle of the 19th century, “The Shadow of the Black Wings” is the first volume in “The Year of the Dragon” saga.
(Stolen from Podiobooks.com)
Production: The production of The Shadow of Black Wings is far from the best I’ve heard. It is also far from the worst. There are many reasons for bad production. Low quality source recordings. Poor production skills. Numerous other reasons. I have no idea what the issue was here. I will say that the production improved as it went along. My main complaint was the amount of compression or noise reduction used during the first episodes. It left the narrators voice sounding a bit electronic. As I said, this was less noticeable as the podcast went along. Perhaps I became accustomed to it, but I don’t believe so. The production was average and thus I graded it accordingly.
Cast: The narrator is Kate Sherrod. Kate is an acquaintance on Twitter and she and I grew up 70 miles from each other in a somewhat remote area of the country. She is the reason I initially listened.
Interestingly, I’ve never actually met Kate, and I also have never listened to her podcast (sorry Kate, my time is taken up with fiction), so I had no idea what her voice would sound like or if I would find her reading enjoyable.
I am happy to say Ms. Sherrod did a great job. I’m happy because I hate to give poor grades to people I know when they’re deserved. And I DO give poor grades to ANYONE that earns them. Ms. Sherrod does the reading without tons of character voices, but the vocal inflection and tone serve her well.
Story: The Shadow of Black Wings combines elements of traditional fantasy and steampunk quite well while also falling in line with being an alternative history. The dragons and their role in this world is different than those I’ve encountered before and I hope to hear more of them in books two and three (yes, it’s a series).
Verdict: Rule 1 for making Odin happy: DON’T use book one of your series as an overblown preface. Tie up SOMETHING! If all you’re doing in the first book is setting up the rest of the series, it makes me angry. Angry enough not to buy the rest of the series? Yes. (And yes people, I often buy the print version of the podcasts I review. If you can, so should you.) Now authors, you might disagree with me. That’s okay. I stick with this, and in the end, this is my venue, but feel free to send me a comment explaining why I’m wrong. I’ll continue to disagree with you, but I’m happy to let others express their opinions here. Okay, the rant is finished.
I liked The Shadow of Black Wings. Quite a bit actually. So much in fact, that I’ll probably go ahead and buy the next two books in the series. I felt the elements of this story were fresh and told a story that hasn’t been told before, which in and of itself is refreshing. So, while I don’t like providing spoilers of any type, as long as you don’t mind being left with no answers and many questions, I do recommend The Shadow of Black Wings. Enjoy!
Disclosure: All of my connections with anyone involved in this production, I opened with.
Title: Suave Rob’s Double X Derring Do
Author: J. Daniel Sawyer
Publisher: Artistic Whispers
Release Date: 2012
Available Formats: ebook, paperback
While I was on hiatus, I knew the world of authors that I am privileged to be allowed to peak in on would continue to evolve and progress. Little did I realize, however, just how prolific J. Daniel Sawyer would be during this period. Recently Mr. Sawyer provided a couple of titles for review. I finished the first, Suave Rob’s Double X Derring Do last night.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: One Surfboard. Two X-Chromosomes. All Man. Climbing Olympus Mons put him on the map, and children everywhere tune into watch every time he skydives from a space station, but Suave Rob Suarez is just getting started. Together with his childhood hero and his stunt partner, he’s gonna stage the biggest daredevil stunt the universe has ever seen: Surf a supernova. Or die trying. (Stolen from Smashwords.com)
Setting: The future. I’m not quite sure when. I’m not sure if the author stated, but to be honest, I’m terrible with dates in books. In this version of our future, sports and the culture surrounding them seem to remain pretty much as they are in the 21st century with athletes attaining superstar status with the prestige and groupies that goes with that.
Also in this time, stream gender reassignment surgery is somewhat routine and gender is a choice each individual is free to make without fear of reprisals.
Plot: Our hero and his trusty compatriots are looking for a new high. Everything has been done. The real danger has been removed from the equation and this situation is unpalatable for Suave Rob. One night, he and his soon to be partners devise a plan that will change that. Death, and the excitement that brings, are back on the table.
Characters: The only characters worth mentioning are Rob, Jeff and Tuppler. And truthfully Rob, who is telling the story in first person, (and the title character) is the star of the show.
Odin’s recommendation: Mr. Sawyer doesn’t know how to write anything that isn’t well researched. Either that or he knows a bit of everything. (Ed. note- I have talked with JDS to quite an extent and firmly believe it is the latter.) This book doesn’t go heavy on the science, but there is enough there to make the casual reader believe the details might work. Mr. Sawyer also doesn’t write things to just amuse himself. There always seems to be a point.
With the point of gender reassignment surgery becoming common place, the recurring discussion of it here seemed to be just a bit pedantic. However, that didn’t keep me from enjoying the story Mr. Sawyer had to tell. Suave Rob was a fun story, full of macho athletes and death defying do. I would be surprised not to see Suave Rob again and I predict Mr. Sawyer has another hit on his hands.
Suave Rob’s Double X Derring Do is a relatively short book and most will easily be able to read it in several settings. Just make sure you’re reading somewhere laughing out loud doesn’t get you carted away.