2014 ~ Top Books

There have been so many great books this year, it was a very hard choice but, in no particular order, here are my top 12 reads/listens.

  1. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. Alternating between the past and present and telling the story of a family drama. After the death of their father, sisters Meredith and Nina struggle to really get to know their seemingly reserved and cold Russian born mother. As the sisters finally begin to discover their mother’s tragic story the three women can reach out to each other and find the bond that ties them together. My review.
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir. Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts sent to Mars and because of a terrible misunderstanding he is left behind. Completely alone and facing certain death, Mark struggles to survive in a totally alien environment. When the people back at NASA discover Mark is still alive the race is on to rescue him before his supplies run out. My review.
  3. Once Dead by Richard Phillips. The first of three prequels that set up the Rho Agenda trilogy. Jack Gregory is the CIA’s top assassin but when an encounter with a notorious criminal goes wrong Jack is left for dead. On his death-bed Jack is revived by a dark entity and has the choice of being a host to the demon or death. A sci-fi thriller with a supernatural twist. My review.
  4. Swan Loch by Randy Mixter. A really lovely, romantic and touching story that traverses time. Swan Loch is a peaceful New England town until a killer strikes. Police Chief Chris Hayward and FBI agent Jake Stanton try to solve a seemingly impossible case and for Chris it becomes very personal. Just when all hope is lost Chris finds the most precious thing in his life. A touch of the paranormal in this mystery thriller. My review.
  5. The Black Hours by Alison Williams. A chilling tale of life during the time of the self-styled Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, as he travels the country seeking out those he believes are in league with Satan. Seventeen year old Alice Pendle finds herself under suspicion in a tale of persecution and superstition. A suspenseful and gripping drama which mixes fact with fiction. My review
  6. Beyond Midnight ~ Asunder by Sarah M Cradit. Part of the paranormal Southern drama series, The House of Crimson and Clover, Asunder finds the Deschanel family reeling with the backlash of shock and horror brought on by the results of a two hundred year old curse. Hope brings them together to face whatever the future may hold. My review.
  7. Kings and Queens by Terry Tyler. A uniquely different concept and delivery with characters that parallel the life and times of Henry VIII and his wives in a modern day setting. Harry Lanchester’s dream of becoming a rock star is shattered with the death of his older brother and as Harry steps up to take the reins of the family business his life takes on an uncanny resemblance to the famous erstwhile King of England. My review.
  8. The Test by John Lansing. Although I’m loving the Jack Bertolino series, this short story is so touching and evocative, with incredibly vivid imagery and beautiful writing that it had to make this list. From the present day Jack Morgan looks back on his teenage years, being a fourteen year old growing up in the Long Island of the 1960s amid the racial tensions of the time and how it affects the rest of his life. My review.
  9. Losing It All by Marsha Cornelius. Frank Barnes, a homeless veteran, is content living on the streets and making the most of the little he has. Chloe Barnes is evicted and left destitute with two small children and finds life in shelters harsh and unforgiving. The two lives are interlinked and brought together in a compelling storyline. My review
  10. Don’t Touch (Null City #2) by Barb Taub. Lette Simoneau inherits a drastic form of the family ‘gift’ or curse as Lette thinks of it. Everything she touches each day turns into something different. Lette’s search for a cure leads her to the conclusion that boundaries are self-imposed  and as such are surmountable. An imaginative and fun story with a likeable protagonist. My review.
  11. Disappearing In Plain Sight by Francis Guenette. A very well crafted novel centred on the very tight knit community of Crater Lake on the shores of Vancouver Island. The characters are all genuine and the way they deal with their feelings and situations is very believable and show the complex layers which make up human nature. My review.
  12. Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby. Book three of the Wyattsville series is set at the end of the Second World War as Benjamin Church returns to Alabama. A powerful and moving tale of the prejudices and intolerance of the time, showing the good and bad sides of human nature regardless of skin colour. My review.

And my top 5 series.

  1. Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. This is a supernatural urban fantasy series which really caught my imagination with a very unlikely hero – or anti-hero would probably best describe James Stark, half angel, half human. Stark’s return from 11 years in hell, bent on revenge is a sharp, hilarious and sardonic tale. MacLeod Andrews portrays Stark and a multitude of diverse characters perfectly. Audiobooks 1-3.5.  Audiobooks 4-6
  2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. An Urban Fantasy series featuring Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, who lives in Arizona and runs an occult bookstore. Atticus draws his power from the earth through the Druidic tattoos on his arms. He is able to shape shift and enjoys hunting with his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. A fun series full of myths, legends, gods, goddess, witches and demons. Superb performance by Luke Daniels, with distinct voices for each character. My reviews 1-3, 4-6, 7
  3. The Project Eden Series by Brett Battles. This is a really compelling storyline. As Daniel Ash’s world crashes down around him he’s catapulted into a nightmare scenario. He can’t comprehend the fact that what happened is no accident. And there is worse, much worse to come as a deadly organisation plots the end of humanity as we know it. MacLeod Andrews delivers a flawless narration. My reviews.
  4. The Georgie Connolly Series by E.L. Lindley. Georgie Connolly is a transplanted English woman living and working in Los Angeles. Feisty and very often landing herself in hot water, Georgie acts on the spur of the moment, without thinking things through.  A change from the norm, Georgie is not connected to law enforcement but makes documentaries, no matter how serious the subject. A fun and easy series but with dangerous undertones. My reviews #1 #2
  5. The Black Series by Russell Blake. Artemus Black is a Hollywood P.I. Down on his luck, with money problems, anger issues and an assistant who ridicules him endlessly and a fat cat that hates him. Life couldn’t get much worse. A great characterisation of an easy to like protagonist with a cast of memorable, humorous characters and excellent and witty story lines. My reviews #1, #2, #3, #4

 

Shattered: The Iron Druid Chronicles #7

AudiobookReview

  • ShatteredAuthor: Kevin Hearne
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Publisher: Hatchette Audio UK
  • Audible Release Date: June 2014
  • Category: Urban Fantasy
  • five-stars

For nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth—Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.

And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse.

But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.

As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time . . . three’s a charm.

This series just gets better and Shattered, if anything, raises the bar. The research and seamless intermingling of gods from everywhere is incredible and works amazingly well in the context of the storyline. And the writing is glorious with all the humour and detail delivered in spades.

Atticus’ old archdruid, who was frozen in time by the Morrigan on Tír na nÓg, for the last 2,000 years, has been resurrected, so to speak. Owen, as he is now known, is a fun character with his grumpy ways and Old Irish cussing. Atticus’ attempts to acclimatize Owen, and bring him up to date with the world he now finds himself in, are hilarious and I love the interaction between the two of them. Owen very quickly becomes an integral part of the story.

Although I’m not generally a huge fan of multiple points of view, in this instance the threefold narration works because Owen, Atticus and Granuaile are in different places a lot of the time. It adds immensely to the development of each character too while they are independent of each other. Atticus has matured and his principles, compassion and wisdom have grown accordingly.

Granuaile travels to India after a message from Laksha, and from there to the Himalayas to meet the hockey loving Yeti (amazing!) She faces difficult problems without Atticus for the first time, with terrible consequences. The scenes with Granuaile and her father, and then her mother too, are so well written the emotion is just palpable.

I love the addition of Orlaith, I’m glad it’s time for Oberon to have a companion. And, of course, Oberon and the interaction between him and Atticus, is as funny and entertaining as ever.

<Atticus, she kissed me! Did you see that? She loves me!>

Yeah, I saw it, buddy, but I’m not sure you can conclude…

<Hail, Oberon, Lord of All Meats! I am the sausage in the morning and the bone at night! I am the bringer of beef and the singer of sweet suppertime! Mine is the chicken and the gravy forever, nom nom!>

Oberon, I think your ego is getting the best of you here.

<Don’t hate the Meat Lord, Atticus. Just offer him steak sauce and words of praise.>

Atticus discovers who his unknown enemy is and it’s a shock, to say the least, for all concerned. There’s a huge all out battle with several fatalities. But also a lot of introspection from the gods, druids and the Tuatha Dé Dannan, about mistakes made, opportunities missed and decisions taken. The conclusion and the epilogue set the scene nicely for the next book.

Luke Daniels’ narration is an absolute pleasure to listen to, with all the amazing characterisations…and there are lots of them. It must be a feat in itself to keep them all in order. Nevertheless they are all delivered with assurance and skill, incorporating the humour of the writing. Extremely entertaining.

tt10407952flttAmazon US Amazon UK

Upcoming Audio Releases

Not long to go…  🙂

ShatteredPublisher’s Summary

For nearly 2,000 years, only one Druid has walked the Earth – Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword have kept him alive as he’s been pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.
Atticus’ apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.
And Owen has some catching up to do.
Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki – or merely a pain in the arse.
But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.
As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time, three’s a charm.

 

 

SpellorHighWater

 

Publisher’s Summary

The adventures of an American hacker in Medieval England continue as Martin Banks takes his next step on the journey toward mastering his reality-altering powers and fulfilling his destiny.
A month has passed since Martin helped to defeat the evil programmer Jimmy, and things couldn’t be going better. Except for his love life, that is. Feeling distant and lost, Gwen has journeyed to Atlantis, a tolerant and benevolent kingdom governed by the Sorceresses, and a place known to be a safe haven to all female time-travelers.
Thankfully, Martin and Philip are invited to a summit in Atlantis for all of the leaders of the time-traveler colonies, and now Martin thinks this will be a chance to try again with Gwen. Of course, this is Martin Banks we’re talking about, so murder, mystery, and high intrigue all get in the way of a guy who just wants one more shot to get the girl.
The follow-up to the hilarious Off to Be the Wizard, Scott Meyer’s Spell or High Water proves that no matter what powers you have over time and space, you can’t control rotten luck.

 

 

Vanished

Publisher’s Summary

When an 11-year-old is abducted on her way to school, the FBI doesn’t waste a moment, sending agents to scour the area and embedding Special Agent Ava McLane with the distraught family. In the eye of the storm is local detective Mason Callahan, whose life is crumbling to pieces – he’s related to the victim, and his longtime confidential informant has just been murdered.
Both he and Agent McLane hole up in the victim’s family home. Every second counts in a kidnapping case, and the stakes keep rising the longer the girl is missing. As Ava and Mason struggle to hold the family together in their darkest hour, the two investigators find themselves drawn to each other.

 

 

Publisher’s Summary

ABetterWorld

The brilliants changed everything.
Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional…and the rest of us.
Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.
Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose – because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.
And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.

 

The Iron Druid Chronicles ~ the books

 

  • ID1Tricked ~ book 4
  • Author: Kevin Hearne
  • Published by Del Ray
  • Category: Urban Fantasy
  •  four-stars

Tricked picks up the story more or less straight after Hammered. Lots of gods from several pantheons are after Atticus for what happened in Asgard. Atticus decides on extreme action and fakes his own death with the help of Coyote who, of course, wants something in return. And not just a little something so again Atticus is drawn into battles he wouldn’t have chosen. Because he owes Coyote Atticus agrees to help the Navajo people. Coyote has worked things to his advantage and Atticus is obliged to fight shapeshifting skin walkers whose only thought is to kill.

Some new characters are introduced including a Navajo shaman, Frank, who proves to be a great addition to the story.  So, the mythology and culture leans more towards Native American which, again, has been thoroughly researched and is very interesting.

Lief makes a minor appearance, his creator, Zdenik is in Phoenix because Lief arranged for him to take over if he was killed or too badly injured in Asgard to continue as leader. It seems though, that Zdenik is planning to take over the territory regardless….

Thoughts

Another solid Iron Druid story, action packed with battles and fearsome creatures.  Oberon is back and so is the humorous banter. It was interesting to learn more about Atticus’ back story and I like the way the relationship is developing between Atticus and Granuaile.

I loved Lief, the friendship of sorts and conversations between him and Atticus in the first three books and hope he reappears as the Lief of old…on to book 5 to find out 🙂

  • ID2Trapped ~ book 5    
  • five-stars

Twelve years have passed since Atticus and Granuaile ‘died’ and Granuaile has finished her training and is a fully fledged druid. All Atticus has to do now is bind her to the earth. This involves intricate tattooing and communing with Lady Gaia and takes three months.

The only available place, for various reasons, is Olympus. Not the best place so needless to say it doesn’t go smoothly. The binding gets interrupted more than once because those who believed Atticus and Granuaile dead now know otherwise. They are attacked by several immortals including a vampire, Bacchants and a band of dark elves and have to fight their was round and through them all. Not to mention a battle royal with Hel and her brother, the wolf Fenris.

Finally Atticus and Granuaile find a quiet place to finish the tattooing which is very long…. and intimate. The sparks that have crackled between them from the beginning ignite good style, much to Oberon’s amused bewilderment at ’the mating habits of humans’.

Now hold on! First, you didn’t have to watch, because I specifically suggested you not do so, and second, it wasn’t grody. It was the stuff Al Green sings about.

 < It was you who told me that proverb thingie: ‘Grody is in the eye of the beholder’>

 No, Oberon, that was beauty.

Thoughts

The picture of Granuaile on the cover gives away the fact she features prominently in the story.  Now she’s a full druid and is bound to the Earth she can shape shift, her animals are brilliant, and perform magic.  She comes into her own in a big way and she and Atticus make a great team. Oberon, hilarious as ever, especially now he and Granuaile can communicate through thoughts as well.

The plot is intricate, a lot of Atticus’ past actions and enemies come back to bite him and there were almost too many gods and pantheons to keep track of. Leif returns but his relationship with Atticus is no better, Atticus believes Leif is using him for his own ends again.

The ending is a cliff hanger leaving several threads unresolved.  Straight on to book six for me then!

  • ID3Hunted ~ book 6
  • four-stars

So, carrying straight on from Trapped, Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon are under attack from Artemis and Diana because they have imprisoned Bacchus on an Island where time is frozen. The Morrigan holds the goddesses off and gives the three a head start. The consequences  are dire. Malina and her Polish coven also offer assistance in return for Atticus keeping Poland vampire free for a year.

Odin and Gaia are on their side but now Loki is on the loose and after them too, along with dark elves and vampires, and Atticus and co are trying their best to avoid Ragnarök along with everything else. Leif Helgarson puts in an appearance and he’s in scheming mode again.

Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon are looking for an Old Way through to Tír na nÓg that isn’t guarded or they must make their way to the forest of Herne the Hunter to escape the Olympians. So they trek across Europe and swim the Channel to England, as the Morrigan instructed, to find a safe portal. They’re ambushed several times along the way and Atticus has to make full use of his healing powers. You didn’t think he’d get away without injuries, did you! Some of which are spectacularly gruesome.

Thoughts

The title says it all, this chapter in Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon’s saga is all about them being hunted, by various gods and an unknown enemy in Tír na nÓg, all through Europe and beyond.  I was totally surprised with a happening in the first few pages which was quite sad. 

The characters are still developing, especially Granuaile who the Elementals have named Fierce Druid. She certainly has a novel way of despatching her enemies.

The original and creative mix up of mythology continues but more so and it was a little difficult to get my thoughts in order, there’s so much to take in. I found this a more challenging read than previous books although it didn’t detract from the enjoyment. It’s easier, I think, listening to the audio. 

The books are available at  Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Iron Druid Chronicles ~ the audiobooks 1-3

 

  • HoundedHounded ~ Book 1
  • Author: Kevin Hearne
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: May 2013 by Hatchette Audio
  • Category: Urban Fantasy
  •  five-stars

Atticus O’Sullivan is a powerful, shape shifting 2,000 year old Druid living in Arizona and running an occult bookstore. He’s also an accomplished apothecary by which means he is able to keep himself young. Atticus draws his power from the earth through the Druidic tattoos on his arms.

He’s a warrior with a softer side, he looks out for his friend, the elderly Irish widow who lives down the street. There’s a hugely interesting list of characters which includes Atticus’ attorneys, a werewolf and a vampire, and various gods, goddesses, witches and demons to name but a few! But the star, for me, is Atticus’ sidekick Oberon, the Irish Wolfhound. Atticus and Oberon have a connection and can speak to each other telepathically.

The first story in the series revolves around Fragarach, sword which Atticus won in battle with a dark god, Aenghus Óg, centuries ago. Óg has been hounding Atticus ever since trying to reclaim the sword and kill Atticus at the same time. 

Bloody battles and fast paced action keep the suspense and tension going and there’s never a dull moment. Atticus is a great protagonist, a loveable rogue with a good dose of morality.

  • HexedHexed – Book 2  
  • five-stars 

Since Atticus dispatched Aenghus Óg to the fiery depths of hell everyone now knows where he is and want his services in the god slaying arena. Thor seems to be the favourite target but Atticus isn’t sold on the idea. 

Trouble is a-brewin’ though and the Polish witch coven aka the Sisters of the Three Auroras, want to sign a non aggression treaty with Atticus since several of their sisters were killed.  Atticus has never been a fan of witches with good reason. A coven of evil German witches, who have associations with demons, are out to kill him and take over the area. Not only that, the Bacchants from Las Vegas are also on their way.  Stand by for battles galore with demons, witches and more..

I like Granuaile, the barmaid from Atticus’ favourite Irish pub, who is now an apprentice Druid and training with Atticus. It’ll be interesting to see where her character goes in the next book.

  • HammeredHammered – Book 3       
  • four-half-stars

Atticus manages to steal on of the golden apples of Idunn from Asgard to repay his debt to the Indian witch, Laksha.  The trip is not plain sailing and Atticus has a run in with Thor.  He decides he’s maybe been in Tempe too long and perhaps now is the time to move on. Being a Druid of his word he just needs to keep his promise to Lief and take him to the Norse plain to kill Thor. 

After having a few bevvies and a plate of fish and chips with Jesus at Rúla Búla Atticus has a violent confrontation with the Hammers of God. Jesus saves the day, proving who he is to the disbelieving Hammers of God.  

It’s not every day you see a tie-dyed man with a halo floating above the ground

There’s a feeling of pain and distress running through this story and it’s quite a lot darker than previous ones. Along with Atticus and Lief, Gunnar and several others who have grievances against Thor travel to Asgard and each tells their own story. It’s interesting to know the back stories, especially Lief’s and Gunnar’s and how they became vampires and werewolves.

Oberon, Granuaile and the widow just feature and the beginning and ending of the story and the scenes with the widow are quite sad.

No spoilers but be prepared for changes!

More excellent performances by Luke Daniels. Time and again the tone of the narrations and the character portrayals are just so perfect for each story and it sounds like a lot of fun was had with these characters, especially Oberon. His ‘voice’ is fabulous and if a dog could talk I’d want him to sound just like that 🙂  Magic.

Have a listen to this —> Oberon’s Holiday Message and you’ll see what I mean 🙂

There are lots of laugh out loud (literally) moments from Oberon and Leif. I love the humour Mr Hearne injects into the telling of the story, which is so cleverly written.  The mythology, magic and everything else…brilliant. Well researched and very interesting but the information doesn’t overpower or take over. Really enjoying this series.

Buy the books at Amazon UK and Amazon US