Amazon, Authors Life, Blog, Books, Fantasy, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Urban Fantasy, Writing

Review: SUICIDE SOULS by Penni Jones

Description:

Front Cover

Death is not always final…

Naomi and Luke have only one thing in common: they both died by suicide. They can earn a second chance at life by efficiently guiding their loved ones through grieving their untimely deaths.

Naomi excels at making her friends and family mourn, but the Death Shadow stalks ever closer to Luke. The dark entity carries non-compliant souls straight to Oblivion where unspeakably terrifying torture and the final goodbye await.

The two are forced to work together to navigate the in-between world in which they’re stuck. The only certainty is that the rules are unclear and shifting, and things are not always as they seem.

The pair must prove they’re worthy of another shot at life before time runs out. Can Naomi and Luke get better at living now that they’re dead?

My Take:

You’ve got to love an author who is willing to take chances, challenging norms, and pushing beyond the conventions of a genre. Penni Jones has done that with each of her previous novels: ON THE BRICKS and KRICKET. Although her writing has elements of mystery, suspense, and thrillers, there is always a gritty kind of realism as well. We can readily identify with her characters because they remind us of someone we know, or perhaps ourselves. She is frank, honest, and unafraid to tell us things others might decide not to. And what she says tends to be what we would think if we were in the same circumstances. This lends an immediacy to the story that allows the reader to become immersed into the story and care about what happens to its characters. SUICIDE SOULS is no different in its style but deviates from its siblings in subject matter. It is about life, death, and an afterlife that clearly is not exactly what the characters might have been led to expect. There is depth here that is subtly presented as a fairly simple, straight-forward story becomes more involved and complicated as the telling progresses. And in this, death becomes more and more like life, just with more frustrating differences.

As Naomi and Luke introduce themselves, we not only learn how they offed themselves but, over the course of the telling, we learn more than just the why. We learn about their character flaws, their insecurities, and their self-images that have followed them beyond death. Even though their physical natures perished with their bodies their self-images have followed them beyond the grave. For example, Naomi is busty and, in her own eyes, that has defined her relationships with men. Luke is insure about nearly everything including his obsession with superficial primary gender characteristics. Luke’s eyes rarely stray from Naomi’s boobs, even though they are merely echoes of what they were in life. As the story evolves, each of them must reconcile their pasts with their current situations. In due course, they come to realize how thin and vapid they were in their own lives – and perhaps why these flaws contributed to why they ended their lives. Although their lives were complicated and not all the different from the situations that define many of our own lives and those of our friends, they decided to end it all, only to learn that the end is only the beginning of a more complicated mess.

In death, Naomi and Luke’s existences become convoluted, confusing and, on the whole, a lot worse. Jones envisions an arbitrary structure that permeates everything around her characters as they navigate a minefield of manipulation and selfish intentions set against them. Redemption is not guaranteed as the author presents the world with a wry eye for the absurd and ill-conceived that reminds me of the societal commentaries embedded in the stories of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Jones’ characters make do with their lots as they progress toward uncertain conclusions. What results is an often biting treatment of the human condition that attacks conventional aspirations, ambitions, hopes, and dreams with hellish potentials largely beyond the characters’ control. The taking of one’s life is not glorified. Far from it. Death here is not the escape from life that some assume but an inevitable consequence of a larger process. Nothing is given. Nothing can be taken for granted. Your situation may vary and is not intended to get better. The best anyone can do is paying a lot of attention to the decisions one makes. The result is an engaging story that becomes more compelling and even hilariously farcical at the conclusion.

Author Bio:

Penni Jones

Penni Jones is a writer, movie buff, concert t-shirt enthusiast, reluctant multi-tasker, grunge music listener, and blogger extraordinaire of Scapegoats and Sacred Cows
Penni started writing stories as soon as she learned how to hold a pencil. She is an avid reader whose favorites include Mark Haskell Smith, Ariel Gore, Chuck Palahniuk, Kurt Vonnegut, Gillian Flynn, Christopher Moore, and Kelly Braffet.

Penni is an Arkansas native with a nomadic spirit. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. She has worked as a bartender, restaurant manager, bank teller, payroll specialist, event planner, and office manager. These days she focuses on writing. She currently resides in Michigan and probably has too many pets. She is currently the Membership Chair of Michigan Sisters in Crime. Follow her on Twitter at .

Pre-Order ebook of SUICIDE SOULS (launches on 2.10.21). Find info on her other books at Pandamoon Publishing.

Amazon, Authors Life, Blog, Books, Mystery, novel, Publishing

Review: FUR by Ward Parker

Description:

BRING OUT THE ANIMAL IN YOU

FUR Front Cover

Teens lighting firecrackers at front doors, ringing doorbells, and running away. What could go wrong? When one of them is shot and killed by a homeowner, it looks like the shooter will get off under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But wouldn’t you know it, the shooter ends up bludgeoned to death with a golf club.

The dead teen’s adoptive father, Jimmy, is arrested for the murder. He’s an old friend of Zeke Adams, former sleazy tabloid journalist and landlord to a menagerie of weird tenants. Zeke promises to save his friend by finding the real murderer. He discovers the dead shooter’s profession involved opposition research on politicians. And that includes scandalous video footage of a U.S. Congressman. If the video goes public, it could throw the upcoming election.

Zeke has to navigate the worlds of kinky furries, animal-rights militants, anti-government militias, horny dolphins, a wayward alligator, and a conspiracy-buff assassin who has Zeke in his sights. Can Zeke stay alive long enough to clear his friend? Find out in this dark, deadly, and diverting Florida-noir thriller. If you enjoy Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, and Janet Evanovich, you’ll go wild over Fur.


My Take:
Although I usually recommend you read previous books in a series, it isn’t necessary to enjoy FUR, the new installment in the Zeke Adams Series. In fact, during a recent video interview on the Pandaverse Book Club, Ward explained that the foundation of the storyline for FUR predates the writing PARIAH, the first book in the series. So, technically much of the plot for FUR came first.

Once more, Zeke Adams is drawn into a convoluted puzzle disguised as a seemingly simple whodunit. While his intentions are mostly pure – are talking about a reformed tabloid sleaze monger – he tries to help Jimmy, a high school friend and current husband of an old flame, who is wrongly accused of murdering an unpopular neighbor who has accidentally killed his adopted son. But, as was the case in the series’ first book, things in Zeke’s world are not always what they seem, and certainly never easy.

The more Zeke pulls on the threads to unravel entangled mess, seeking the find the true culprits, the more the knot tightens around him, endangering not only his life but also his other friends, his unique assembly of weird tenants, and his latest lady friend. Springing his wrongly accused friend from jail requires Zeke to dive tail-first into a strange world of the Furry subculture as the twists and turns expose corruption at the highest levels of state and national politics. While he battles for his own survival against extremists bent on pushing their own agendas and a whacked out murderer skilled in the many ways of eliminating “problems” like Zeke, reluctant prosecutors, hesitant police, and misdirected federal agents, keep telling him to stay out of their investigation. Zeke must enlist the aid of his collection of weird tenants as he navigates a procession of absurd circumstances that likely could only happen in coastal Florida.

If you’re looking for something guaranteed to give you lots of laughs – and who doesn’t need that in these times? – FUR by Ward Parker is a top pick. You can find it at Pandamoon Publishing’s website and on Amazon.

Author Bio:

Ward Park is a Florida native and author of the Freaky Florida series, a romp through the Sunshine State with witches, vampires, werewolves, dragons, and other bizarre, mythical creatures such as #FloridaMan. He also pens the Zeke Adams series of noir mysteries and The Teratologist series of historical paranormal suspense. He lives in Florida (of course) with his wife, cats, and a demon who prefers to remain anonymous. Learn more at his website.

Amazon, Books, Fantasy, New Releases, novel

Quick Review of The Lost War: Eidyn Book One by Justin Lee Anderson

The Lost War is well-written and engaging with solid, interesting, well-developed characters. Even the lesser characters feel real for their moments in the spotlight. For those of us who have experienced Carpet Diem, this one is different but in a good way. This is an epic fantasy brushed onto a much larger canvas, a world where magic isn’t exactly accepted but whenever it shows up it isn’t a surprise. Where Carpet Diem was an urban fantasy told with a sense of irony and wit, Lost War is an evolution in Anderson’s storytelling with great attention to detail that allows the reader to become completely immersed and escape our own weird, warped world for several hours.

Recommended for lovers of Epic Fantasy teen and above

Rating – Five Stars

Print Length: 572 pages

Publisher: King Lot Publishing

Publication Date: August 30, 2019

Available in US on Amazon and in UK on Amazon

Amazon, Books, Fantasy, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Two Weeks from Today

The launch of Homer Underby, Book 2 of The Thuperman Trilogy, is set for August 14. It continues the story of Will and Sandra, two precocious 8-year-old kids with active imaginations and budding superpowers. The story picks up where Becoming Thuperman, Book 1 of the series, left off. Sandra is grounded. Although Will is not, having his best friend unavailable is like being grounded. All they can do is wait until Saturday. If they win the first Little League game of the season Sandra’s grounding is over. But a new adventure is just beginning as the kids learn about a 20-year-old unsolved mystery involving the deserted old house down the street from where they live.

Homer Underby is a Pandamoon Publishing release available for pre-order at Amazon.

Amazon, Blog, Books, Fantasy, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Technology, Urban Fantasy

Review of Audible Service & The Three J’Amigos Trilogy (JADE, JANE and JILL) by Rose Montague

Recently, I upgraded my Kindle Paperwhite. The latest one has twice the memory and is waterproof (within reason, anyway). It also supports Audible audiobooks, which is rapidly becoming huge in the publishing industry, with many Indies and small publishers joining the major publishers with titles in release. So,  I decided to give this new thing a test drive.

Audible Trademark

Audible is an Amazon company, but you don’t need a Kindle device to enjoy the audiobooks. If you have a smartphone (who doesn’t these days?) you can download the Audible App for Apple or Android and play the book through your Bluetooth speakers, headphones, earbuds or vehicle (if so equipped). There are some special trial deals going on for little or nothing. Once you see how much it frees you up, while still satisfying your lit needs you’ll want to sign up for it. You get one free download per month and discounts on other purchases throughout the period. What I have discovered is that I can listen to an average length book in a day or so, while doing menial things like laundry, cleaning the house, riding my bike, taking a walk, just about anything.

Author Rose Montague has been an early adopter of the audiobook format for her action-packed YA/NA books. Previously, I’ve read two of The Three J’Amigos Trilogy, as well as both of her other, spin-off books, which take place in the same universe but feature some other characters that have supporting roles in the trilogy. It was just with all the requests for reviews from others I hadn’t gotten around to reading JILL, which was published within the past year or so. But it was coming up on my “to-be- read” list.

All three audiobooks are narrated by Caryn Kuhlman, who does a fine job. It is essential for continuity between books of the same series to have the same narrator, I believe. Kuhlman varies her voice to make each character distinct, which helps a lot from a listener’s standpoint. For example, Jane in the series is “London Jane” and, yes, she has a British accent.

Cover of Jade Audiobook, 1st in the trilogy.

The one thing I will say that is a difference between listening to an audiobook and reading the eBook or print formats is that if you have read the print or eBook previously, it takes a bit to adjust to the narrator’s voice as opposed to your internal, reading voice. The characters are not going to sound the same as you have previously imagined. But you get used to that in relatively short order.

As for the story – I recommend taking the time to binge read or listen to this series. If you enjoy YA books featuring Supernatural beings (Supes), like Vampires, Shape-Shifters, Witches and Faeries, this is a series you’ll love. It offers a mind-expanding journey into the imagination of the author who is a great, natural storyteller. Her books’ pacing is quick.

Cover of Jane Audiobook, 2nd in the trilogy

Her characters are diverse. Jade is a Supernatural mutt, having the attributes of just about every supernatural being. Jane is a Vampire (Vamp) and a member of her community’s royalty. Jill is the Faeire Winter Queen who interacts with the human world on occasion. The female lead characters are strong, independent, sometimes snarky, sword-wielding, dagger-jabbing, (or steel-bat-swinging) badasses who you’ll be rooting for straight out of the gate. Oh, yes, there is a dragon in the mix as well. As J.R.R. Tolkien informed us, every good fantasy needs a dragon. There is plenty of action, excitement, and globe-trotting along the way, with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat guessing what will happen next. Rose’s books are a thrill ride waiting for you to jump in and claw at anything available while you hang on for dear life.

Cover of Jill Audiobook, 3rd in the series, 

Following this first exposure to Audible, I’ve decided I much prefer listening to the three books in sequence. While waiting for JANE to be written (after having read JADE) I had forgotten some of the story and had to go back into the first book of the series and catch up a bit. I am certain I would have needed to do the same with Jane before reading Jill. However, listening to the books proved to be the best way to revisit the story in preparation for JILL. The trilogy comes to a satisfying, fitting conclusion that also directs the reader to the author’s other series which features Jewel, a budding teenage badass in her own right. Having read both available books of that series I can say that I can’t wait for the audiobooks and also look forward to the next book in that series.   

Amazon, Online Ordering, Shopping, Uncategorized

Shopping with Amazon -or- How to Wrestle with the 800-Pound Gorilla & Sometimes Win

I use Amazon. These days, who doesn’t? I own a Kindle Paperwhite and use it about 80% of the time when I read eBooks. When I read at my desk I use the computer Kindle App. And because the Kindle device and app synch, I can switch back and forth without losing my place. Convenient.

About once a month or so I order something, occasionally more, but it has never been enough for me to justify the expense of an Amazon Prime membership. Yes, it would be nice to download and read books for free, but not worth the monthly fee. And I’m not one of those people who needs two-day delivery on everything I buy. If I do, I guess I can pay for rapid delivery.

So, even though there are a lot of things about Amazon that I like, their hard and heavy push to boost their Amazon Prime memberships each time I buy something irritates me. What’s more, I don’t appreciate the heavy-handed tactics they use to entice people to subscribe. Let me explain.

In case you don’t know, Amazon delays shipping orders going to non-Prime customers. It is a fact. I’ve seen it first-hand. Things that I order will sit in the queue for 3 days (or more) before processing begins. It’s a penalty for checking the little box that says, “No, I don’t want my order shipped in the quickest way possible” – or whatever the exact verbiage is for that button I must check to not sign up for the trial Prime account they offer with each purchase.

If the order is fulfilled by Amazon from one of their warehouses, sometimes it appears to be routed from an alternate location that is farther away. Yes, I get it that sometimes a nearer location may be out of something, or perhaps they don’t stock the item, but it happens often enough that I think I’m right on this one. It is yet another way to delay an order from shipping.

The tactic used to be blatantly obvious. If you ordered two things, one fulfilled from an Amazon authorized supplier on the other coast from where you live and the other from Amazon (an item they stock in the warehouse nearest you) the item from across the country would arrive a couple or three days before the Amazon supplied item. To prevent that from happening (and being obvious), if you don’t use Prime, Amazon sits on your order for three days regardless of the fulfillment.

If you doubt any of this, test it. I have several times.

If Amazon wants (or rather if they need to because of a problem) they can get something to you from one of their warehouses on the same day you ordered it. They can certainly ship anything you order that is stocked in one of their facilities and get it to you within two days. That’s the Prime deal, right? They should be able to get a non-Prime package to me within four days, which I’m okay with. I think most people would be. But that is contrary to Amazon’s goal of having everyone signed up for Prime. So, without Prime I’ve come to expect seven days or maybe ten.

Why does Amazon rule the world? That’s the real question every one of their competitors needs to ask. You see, any company that wants to capture the hearts of disgruntled Amazon customers (like me) only has to do things the same or (preferably) better. For example, guarantee FREE two-day delivery for any purchase $20 or more, which undercuts Amazon’s $25 – without any membership fee. Heck, guarantee FREE 3 or 4 day delivery without a fee. That’s still better than the service from Amazon for non-Prime members.

Last Saturday I ordered a few things I’ll need for a trip I’m taking to the Midwest to promote my books. As always, I didn’t select the One Month Trial for Prime. And I confirmed that I didn’t want the items shipped in the fastest way possible. I expected I’d get them in a week or so. And that was fine. One of the four items was coming from an authorized supplier. The other items were fulfilled by Amazon, two from the warehouse south of Tampa and the other from a warehouse in South Carolina. I use past tense because the items have all arrived (two on Monday and one of them on Tuesday). Why so soon? Well, you see, I decided to cancel the item coming from the authorized supplier because it would take so long (possibly two weeks). I had decided to buy somewhere else or make a different selection. The box I checked for the reason for the cancellation was “It will take too long to arrive.” Then a funny thing happened. The next morning, Sunday, I received shipping confirmation on all my Amazon fulfilled items, showing them expected on Monday and Tuesday. This sort of proves that Amazon could get the items to me faster if they wanted to. Obviously, someone decided to get my stuff to me before I cancelled the whole order.

Despite my attempt to cancel the order for the last item (within 24 hours, mind you) Amazon was unable to kill the order with the vendor. I’m skeptical about that whole thing, but I’m receiving the item on Saturday. That is a week earlier than the expected date given to me when they sent the order confirmation. We’ll see if the product suits my needs, which was one of the reasons I tried to cancel the order. The supplier received some negative reviews about the item being a cheap knock off, not the real thing.

Yes, all this expedited order shipping could be a coincidence? Except, I write mysteries often enough that I don’t believe in coincidences. The fact remains that an 800-pound gorilla can do pretty-much what it wants. Amazon can make anything happen with shipping, if they want to. You can believe that.