Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Side Jobs" by Jim Butcher

"Side Jobs"
by Jim Butcher
read by James Marsters
Produced by Penguin Audio
approx. 13 hours

While still rushing with adrenaline from the huge cliff-hanger at the end of the last Dresden book, "Changes, " I'm looking everywhere I can for my Harry Dresden fix. If you haven't read any of Jim Butcher's series, "The Dresden Files," you are seriously lacking in your fun, exciting detective story romp through the supernatural reading.

Harry Dresden is a wizard and a private detective protecting the city of Chicago. His adventures have taken him through the land of the Faeries, off fighting werewolves and vampires and even Gruffs (you'll have to read about that one). His support staff consists of some college students who spend their evenings as werewolves protecting their neighborhood, Karrin Murphy at first a lieutenant for Chicago P.D. Special Investigations, but later demoted to Sargeant, Thomas his half-brother and White Court vampire, Bob a spirit of a wizard locked within a skull (the wizarding world version of a computer), Mouse a giant Temple Dog, Mister an oversized cat, and on occasion, Gentleman John Marcone Chicago's biggest mob boss.

With that team you'd think Harry would be able to take on anything, well in general he can, but for the most part it's his luck that doesn't hold out.

"Side Jobs" is an anthology book set in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files series. Most of the stories were published in other anthologies but finally here they are in one book, in chronological order of appearance in the time stream of the Dresden Files books. I had read many of these before because seeing a Jim Butcher story in an anthology, I had to read them at the time of release. There are a couple of stories that were only available on the website and a new one that takes place just after the previous book in the series. This collection contains the following short stories:

"Restoration of Faith," takes place before "Storm Front and originally published on This story tells a little of a backstory on Dresden as he was working to get his private investigator's license. Harry rescues a little girl from a troll under a bridge.

"Vignette" takes place between Death Masks and Blood Rites and was originally published on This one is a very short fun story about Bob and Harry trying to write the perfect yellow pages ad.

"Something Borrowed" was originally published in "My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding," and takes place between "Dead Beat" and "Proven Guilty," is about Billy and Georgia's (werewolves that help Harry from time to time) wedding day. Harry saves Georgia from a faerie and in doing so wrecks their wedding day, but they do live happily ever after.

"It's My Birthday Too" was originally published in "Many Bloody Returns" and takes place between "White Night" and "Small Favor" and depicts a day when Harry is trying to give his vampire half-brother, Thomas, a birthday gift but ends up saving Thomas and some "larpers" from a Black Court Vampire.

"Heorot" was originally published in "My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon" takes place between "White Night" and "Small Favor" and is the story of Harry rescuing a missing bride with the help of Miss Gard, a Valkyrie and agent of Gentleman Johnny Marcone. This one mixes in some Norse Mythology into the Dresden world.

"Day Off " was originally published in "Blood Lite" and takes place between "Small Favor" and "Turn Coat". This is a very funny story in which Jim Butcher explores the bad luck Dresden faces when trying to take a day off. Harry's apprentice is blowing up lab, the werewolves have fleas and a wannabe wizard is bombing the house. "It's my day off!"

"Backup: A Story of the Dresden Files" (Mike Mignola illustrations from the first edition not included) novelette from Harry's brother, Thomas’ POV, originally published by Subterranean Press, takes place between "Small Favor" and "Turn Coat." Harry is being used by an ancient evil, and Thomas must put a stop to it without him noticing. This story explores more of the "Oblivion Wars" which have only been mentioned in earlier books.

"The Warrior" was originally published in "Mean Streets" and takes place between "Small Favor" and "Turn Coat" reveals what happens to the Carpenter family after the events of "Small Favor." Michael Carpenter was a Knight of the cross, weilding the sword Amoracchius to battle for God. At the end of "Small Favor" Michael was battered to the point where he lost function of one of his eyes and some limbs. Michael will still battle when his family is threatened but will the take up the sword again?

"Last Call" was originally published in "Strange Brew" takes place between "Small Favor" and "Turn Coat" and tells when Harry takes on the darkest of dark powers–the ones who dare to mess with this favorite beer. Someone is lacing Mac's Home brew with a psycho-control drug, and Harry must stop them.

"Love Hurts" was originally published in "Songs of Love and Death: Tales of Star-Crossed Love" and takes place between "Turn Coat" and "Changes." Harry and Murphy investigate a series of love spells with deadly consequences. This also shows another side to the Harry / Murphy relationship.

And finally a new novelette exclusive to the anthology: "Aftermath" which takes place 45 minutes after "Changes" and is told from Karrin Murphy's point of view. She must help find a kidnapped werewolf. All through this story Murphy is using what she has learned from Harry while at the same time mourning his "possible" death.

If you haven't read any Dresden novels you may want to pick this one up, as it is a great introduction to the fun to be had. While I'm recommending, if you are into audiobooks, I highly recommend this in audiobook form. As are all the Dresden Files audiobooks, it is read by James Marsters (you know, Spike from the Buffy the Vampire Hunter Series). Marsters voice captures the wit and wisdom of Harry Dresden, and being that all the novels are told in first person you feel as though Harry is talking directly to you. If the Sci-Fi channel would have cast Marsters as the lead in the short lived Dresden Files series, I think they series would have done much better....just sayin'.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Brass Keys to Murder" by L. Ron Hubbard

"Brass Keys to Murder"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multi-cast performance
produced 2009 by Galaxy Audio
approx 2 hours.

This time around we dive into the mystery genre from the old pulp fiction writings of L. Ron Hubbard. Once again I just have to say that these audio books are just pure joy to hear. The acting, sound effects and music make for a perfect performance which will help the listener escape reality and enjoy some good story telling. Hubbard was a master of descriptive realistic stories and now that Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio are re-releasing his short stories from his pulp-fiction era, you can enjoy these gems.

The story this time is "Brass Keys to Murder," which was originally published in the April, 1935 issue of "Five Novels Monthly" and tells of a navy lieutenant, accused of murder, who risks his life to find the real killer and discovers the motive: the brass keys.

Lt. Stephen Craig is standing watch aboard a Naval vessel when a woman comes to tell him of his father's death. She also warns him that the police are coming to arrest him for the murder of his father. Lt. Craig knows he didn't do it but the police want to close the case and Craig and his father have a history of not quite getting along. When the police arrive, Craig basically informs them that he's been on the ship all day and that the local police have no jurisdiction onboard an Navy ship. This stalls but once he steps off the ship the police will be waiting.

Craig sneaks out to find some answers which leads to some shady characters and a set of 3 brass keys, which unlock not only 3 chests of treasure but possibly the answer as to who killed Lt. Craig's father.

This is a thrilling tale of mystery with dealings in darkened alleyways and, foggy nights on a dock and twists and turns that will spin your head but will give you that big "A-Ha" moment at the end when the murderer is found and the treasure is opened.

My advice, listen to these books from Galaxy Audio, although you can read the Galaxy Press paperback versions (made to fully reproduce the pulp fiction mags of yester-year), these audio productions are just some fun stuff with great character acting and narration that makes you feel as if you are listening to a radio drama from the same time period.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Final Crisis" by Greg Cox

"Final Crisis"
by Greg Cox
Multi-cast performance
Produced 2010, by GraphicAudio
Approx. 8 Hours

"Final Crisis" was a crossover storyline that appeared in DC comics published throughout 2008, primarily the seven-issue miniseries of the same name was written by Grant Morrison. This was the last of the multiverse type series from DC and sort of closed up some gaps left in the previous titles; "Crisis on Infinite Earths", "Infinite Crisis", "52", and "Countdown." However I think this created more questions than answers and served no other purpose but to confuse the reader. While having some great confrontations and interesting twists on science and gods the story just didn't do it for me. I was so glad I listened to the audio book format of this title.

As usual GraphicAudio delivers this audiobook with a punch, and I'm talking one of those full-graphic-with-exploding-colors-as-only-seen-in-comic-books punches. When GraphicAudio promises a "Movie in your Mind" they aren't exaggerating. First off the voice actors are superb and voice each character with precision accuracy, Superman sounds like Superman, Batman sounds like Batman and so on. There is no denying the excellence in the talent pool here. The sound effects will blast you out of your seat. With planets exploding or crumbling, a black hole sucking in the multiverse and even Green Lantern's ring fizzling out, the sound effects are perfect. And the music, well pretty much all I can say here is "WOW!" The music moves the story, mood and action perfectly. All in all these GraphicAudio productions are perfect. For me it was the only saving grace in this title.

The gist of this story is that one of the new gods, Orion, is murdered and another new god, Darkseid, sees this as his chance to take over Earth. Also one of Earth's multiverse monitors is stripped of his powers for letting Earth 51 be destroyed. While some of my favorite heroes play major parts in this, The Flashes (yes 3 generations of The Flash) open a time portal allowing things to begin and end, and The Green Lantern Corps try to stop Darkseid, I think the story relied too heavily on Superman.

There was one saving grace for the story and that was the creation of a young Japanese group of superheroes. Mixing superheroes with Japanese pop-culture, the characters are: Most Excellent Superbat, Big Atomic Lantern Boy, Shy Crazy Lolita Canary, Shiny Happy Aquazon and Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash. I first had some good laughs with their names but sheesh the way they interacted was fun. At one point all the characters had revealed their powers, except one, and when asked what his was Most Excellent Superbat responded, "Mine is the best of all, I can buy anything."

Throughout the story I was confused as to what caused what and with The Flashes and Superman doing a little time traveling that just made it even more hard to follow. But thanks to GraphicAudio, I had a great time listening.

Monday, March 07, 2011

"Six-Gun Caballero" by L. Ron Hubbard

"Six-Gun Caballero"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multi-Cast Performance
Produced 2009, by Galaxy Audio
Approx. 2 hours

"Six-Gun Caballero," originally published March, 1938 in "Western Story Magazine," tells the tale of Michael Patrick Obañon, who may have an Irish name, but has the soul of a Spanish gentleman, loses his hundred-thousand-acre spread and has to fight his renegade foes with cunning and firepower. Michael, or Don Michael as he is called by those who know him, is the son of an Irish immigrant and a Mexican woman and was sent off to school in Mexico city, is nothing but a pure gentleman the whole time and that politeness is what wins this little war.

New Mexico has just become part of the United States and claim jumpers are aplenty as they move into the new territory under U.S. law taking what once belonged to the Mexicans and claiming it as their own. A band of renegades led by three men, one of which is a gambler, one is the financier and the other a sort of ruffian bodyguard type. The fun part of this group is the gambler who speaks in card playing/gambling terms for everything. It's amazing how many card terms Hubbard came out with for this man's dialogue.

The three have met their match with Michael Patrick Obañon, proud owner of a 100,000-acre spread willed to him by his father, when they make a false claim on the ranch. Faced with having to save his property and his people, Obañon takes a courageous stand against the renegades, with the help of the villagers and vaqueros and even from the local cavalry, who think the "bad guys" are the "good guys" but it turns out the "good guys" are the "bad guys." Yeah, this story is full of the good ol' Hubbard twists and turns that keep you guessing what will happen next, but the listener/reader is always clear who the good guy is, after all, he is a pure gentleman.

Obañon realizes it will take far more than mere weapons to win the day. With all guns seemingly drawn against him, Michael must come up with a devious strategy of his own to outwit the imposters and regain his birthright. With excitement all they way through 2 possible hangings and a surprise ending that even seems to surprise Don Michael, this little piece of historical fiction is a fun telling of how the west was won and how America came to be.

As always Galaxy Audio utilizes excellent vocal actors, perfect sound effects and original music to give that old time radio feel or what I have come to call an Audio Pulp. Since the stories Galaxy Audio and Galaxy Press were originally all published in the old pulp fiction magazines of the early to mid-20th century.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

"Missing in Death" (short story in The Lost Anthology book) "In Death"series book 29.5 by J.D. Robb

"Missing in Death" (short story in The Lost Anthology book)
"In Death"series book 29.5
by J.D. Robb
produced 2009 by brilliance audio
read by Susan Ericksen
approx 3.5 hours

I just can't help myself, I keep coming back to this sci-fi detective series by J.D. Robb, I know what it is, it is the characters. J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts from book one has created some solid characters to fill these books. They are solid, three dimensional, and intriguing. Robb has created characters the reader can care about and want to hear/read more about their adventures. Lt. Eve Dallas is a tough homicide detective in New York City in the mid 21st Century. She led a rough childhood thanks to the some dark workings of Homeland Security. Eve's Husband, Roarke, also had a rough childhood, living off the streets in Dublin, Ireland, but is now a multi-billionaire (or multi-gazillionaire, depending on who you ask) who loves to dabble in computers and technology. And a cast of many more that make the family of these books.

Another aspect of these books is that they are set in the distant future, not too far to keep the stories on Earth, but far enough, that with the cool gadgets and some space travel to bring in the sci-fi fan. In fact if a television series were ever made of this book series, I would place my bets on the Sci-Fi (SyFy) channel getting the rights.

This story is a nice short story set in Lt. Eve Dallas's world that provides a very interesting mystery with one of those sci-fi gadgets turning out to be the focus of the investigation.

Lt. Dallas and her assistant Detective Delia Peabody are called in to one of the Staten Island Ferries (named "Hilary Rodham Clinton," how's that for futuristic?) because a woman is missing but what really brings the Homicide detectives to the ferry is that where the woman was last seen is a large amount of blood splatter, enough so that if it is from one source that person did not live. The mystery is how did the killer remove the body from the ferry packed full of 3,000 plus tourists?

When the missing tourist shows up, not only does the question of who does all that blood belong to, come up, but also a new threat. That new threat is some sort of mind control/hypnosis device. Dallas and her team set out to solve the mystery and catch a criminal that could be a threat to National Security.

The reader, Susan Ericksen, is the reader for the entire series and does a excellent job voicing these books. She is able to apply different voices to each character that not only separates who is talking but even adds deeper to the characters created by J.D. Robb, in fact at times you may think you are listening to a multi-cast performance.

This series is definitely worth checking out, and this short story would be a great intro into the series, even though it occurs late in the series.

Friday, March 04, 2011

"Zombie, Ohio" by Scott Kenemore

"Zombie, Ohio"
by Scott Kenemore
Published 2011 by Skyhorse
304 pages

Every zombie Apocalypse movie or book talks about how people work to either escape from or destroy the zombies, but very few take you into the mind of a zombie. Yeah I know zombies are supposed to be mindless but what if they could think. Scott Kenemore takes that what if and explores the mind of a zombie in his latest book "Zombie, Ohio." Scott can pretty much be called an expert in Zombie-ology especially after looking at the books he's written. He's pretty much explored all you can do with zombies with titles such as; "The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead" (2007), "Z.E.O", (2009),"The Art of Zombie Warfare" (2010),and "The Code of the Zombie Pirate" (2010). This time around he explores a Zombie Apocalypse through the mind of one certain Zombie.

Peter Mellor regains consciousness after having an automobile accident. He's having trouble remembering who he is but after checking his driver's license he finds out he's Peter Mellor and lives near Kenton College in Ohio. He finds his hat and begins to walk away from the accident to find his home. When he arrives at his house he finds stacks and stacks of books and empty bottles of scotch. He turns on the television and the only thing on TV is coverage of the Zombie Apocalypse hitting america. Zombies attacking and eating people, the government setting up safe zones and speculation as to how this occurred. Not remembering there was a zombie apocalypse just adds to his misery of not knowing anything.

Soon his friend (only friend he finds out), Sam, finds Peter in the house and is surprised to see Peter. Peter explains the accident and the memory loss. Sam in turn explains who Peter was. As it turns out he wasn't a great guy. A womanizer, a drunk and a philosphy professor at the college. Not too bright of a future, but Peter finds out also from Sam that his life recently turned around afer he met a woman that captivated him, in fact that was where he was headed before the accident, the woman's home which is one of those green homes where it is off the grid, possibly a great place to survive the zombie apocalypse. Sam offers to take Peter out to the house but after he stops and sees the doctor at the college.

Kenton College professors have stuck around defending the college from the zombies and seem to be doing a good job. Peter and Sam arrive at one of the watch points where the doctor is assisting in keeping watch over the cemetery killing zombies as they rise from the grave. Just as the doc is about examine Peter and check for a concussion, a zombie comes out of a grave and the shooting commences. Peter is splattered with zombie gore and goes in to wash himself off. In the restroom Peter removes his cap and sees his brain exposed on the top of his head. To Peter's horror he realizes he is a zombie and wonders what happens next. Being a philosophy professor he begins at first to contemplate his being. Sam comes in and Peter quickly puts the cap back on and hides his zombieness.

Sam takes Peter to his girlfriend, Vanessa's hide out and here Peter has to decide whether or not to expose his zombieness or to keep hiding. When Vanessa's neice goes missing Peter goes out to find the girl and discovers a biker that is trying to abduct the young girl, Peter attacks with all his zombie powers and eats the dead biker's brains...and oooh they taste sooo good! Peter jumps on a 4-wheeler and heads off to contemplate his future as a zombie. When he returns he finds the home destroyed and a few dead bikers in the yard, with Vanessa dead he has no reason to "live" and embraces his zombiness and begins to walk and eat brains.

Along this walk he attracts other zombies and forms a zombie army of sorts, making sure not to eat women or children (I guess even a zombie can have scruples), they soon become 400 strong and a force to be reckoned with. The army learns of his non-zombieness because of helicopters photographing him flipping them the bird and carrying and shooting guns. This makes him a target of interest to the military. Peter also accidentally discovers his death was not accidental and wants to find who killed him.

Written in first person, from Peter the Zombie's aspect, this book gives the reader a "film noir" feel while solving the mystery and experiencing exploits. Enjoy the gore, the killing and of course the brain eating while at the same time enjoying a mystery-love story adventure. This book is full of fun, from the funny to the whole end of the world via zombies. I hope Scott Kenemore will write more novels because his talent in telling a story is superb. While this book may not be on Oprah's list (unless she becomes undead sometime soon) it should be on any zombie lover's list.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Golden Hell" By L. Ron Hubbard

"Golden Hell"
By L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast Performance
Produced 2010 by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 Hours.

Normally when I sit down to write a review on one of these outstanding audio book productions by Galaxy Audio I harp on the fact that they are superb audio productions that go beyond the measure of your typical audio book. These audio pulps, as I like to call them, since they bring the pulp fiction feel to audio books, contain some of the best vocal acting, great sound effects and the most perfectly written original music. This time around I thought I'd speak more about the author, L. Ron Hubbard. Galaxy Audio and Galaxy Press are re-releasing Hubbard's stories from the Golden age of Stories, when writers of all genres submitted short stories to the pulp magazines for massive distribution. These re-releases cover a variety of genres that demonstrate how prolific a writer Hubbard was.

L. Ron Hubbard's legendary writing career spanned more than half a century when he wrote more than 250 published novels, novelettes, short stories and screenplays in every major genre. During the mid-20th Century Hubbard wrote the bulk of these stories for the pulp magazines. Hubbard was a master of narrative prose, his life experiences and travels in all corners of the globe were wide and diverse and show up in all his stories to give each story that feeling of realism. He was also an explorer, ethnologist, mariner and pilot, filmmaker and photographer, philosopher and educator, composer and musician. Basically being a jack-of-all-trades, Hubbard used his life experiences to create some excellent stories. Hubbard passed away in 1986, but his literary legacy lives on indelibly in works that continue to reverberate down through generations and millions of readers, making him one of the most widely read and highly acclaimed writers of our time, especially now that Galaxy Audio & Galaxy Press have been re-issuing these great stories.

Let's now talk about this audio book which features two stories from the "Tales of the Orient" genre of Hubbard's works.

The first story is the title story, "Golden Hell" originally published in "Thrilling Adventures" in September, 1936 and tells the tale of an American mining engineer, Captain Humbert Reynolds,who has gold fever. Reynolds has decided that the Gobi Desert is hiding a large amount of gold and travels to the far east in search of his riches. He contacts one of the local princes to purchase his way through, and seeing the chance to fill his coffers also the prince sends one of his own to assist Reynolds on his trek. Reynolds is captured by bandits and thrown to an enclave of Machiavellian monks nestled deep inside a cavernous mountain, Reynolds finds a scene that resembles the horrors of Dante's hell. And though he does find his much-desired gold, Reynolds also discovers that the price he has to pay for it just may lead to his doom. Told in first person, this story has that great "film noir" feel.

"Pearl Pirate" originally published in "Thrilling Adventures" May, 1934 is a great action story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last word. This is a nautical tale of deceit and treachery, set in the pre-World War II Coral Sea, in which a schooner skipper makes a deal to bring back about half a million dollars worth of black pearls from a pirate. Upon completion of his task he will receive $10,000 cash and will be forgiven the loan on his ship. He meets up with the pirate and a great battle ensues, but just when you think it's over, good ole L. Ron Hubbard throws in a few more twists that will keep you guessing.

Two more great stories from L. Ron Hubbard. There are many more to come and I plan on listening to them all.