#ThrowbackThursday ~ Dead Set by Richard Kadrey #YA #Fantasy #Paranormal

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.

This week I’m looking back at Dead Set by Richard Kadrey, author of the Sandman Slim urban fantasy series. Dead Set is a stand alone young adult paranormal fantasy. I listened to the audiobook. 

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The Perdition Score (Sandman Slim #8) by Richard Kadrey #audiobook #urbanfantasy @MacLeodAndrews

Sandman Slim returns in a stunning, high-octane thriller filled with the intense kick-ass action and inventive fantasy that are the hallmarks of New York Times bestselling author Richard Kadrey.

After saving the world once more Stark is suffering from PTSD like symptoms, which isn’t helping his general demeanour. He is working for Thomas Abbot, the Augur of the Sub Rosa. His next job for Abbot involves uncovering council members who might be tied in with Wormwood Investments. Wormwood are into money and power, any way they can get it, no holds barred. Abbot also wants help in locating a friend’s missing son, a job that Stark passes on to Candy, who works for Julie’s detective agency where Stark used to work, before he got fired. Stark has not got a good track record when it comes to working for a living. Possibly a hangover from being Azazel’s slave Downtown, when the Hellion held the ultimate power over him. Continue reading

#FridayBookShare ~ The Perdition Score (Sandman Slim #8) by Richard Kadrey #UrbanFantasy @ShelleyWilson72

#FridayBookShare ~ an excellent idea created by Shelley Wilson

With the weekend approaching it’s the perfect time to seek out new books to read, so Shelley created a Friday Book Share game to help search for that ideal read.

FridayBookShare

Anyone can join in. Just answer the following F.R.I.D.A.Y. questions based on the book you’re either currently reading (or listening to, in my case) or have just finished reading. Use the hashtag #FridayBookShare and remember to tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72)  Continue reading

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

 

Sandman Slim Series ~ the Audiobooks (4-6 )

AudiobookReview

Getting out of Hell is just the beginning.
What do you do after you’ve escaped Hell, gone back, uncovered the true nature of God, and then managed to become the new Lucifer?
Well, if you’re James Stark, you have to figure out how to run Hell while also trying to get back out of it . . . again. Plus there’s the small matter of surviving. Because everyone in Heaven, Hell, and in between wants to be the fastest gun in the universe, and the best way to do so is to take down Lucifer, a.k.a. James Stark.

Stark, still tucked away in Pandemonium in his role as Lucifer, finds himself totally bored with admin work, dealing with Hellions and trying to sort out the chaos that is Hell so he is almost relieved when he’s on the receiving end of assassination attempts. At least it livens things up a bit and he can forget about court politics. Hell is just a lot of administration and red tape with infighting thrown into the mix.

Welcome to Hell. It’s just like high school but with more boredom and entrails.

After telling Candy when he left he would only be a few days but has now actually been stuck in Hell for months, Stark is absolutely ready to go home. And, of course, when he gets there via Hellion Hawg, LA is in big trouble. Reality has taken a nose dive and a killer ghost along with Aelita are causing havoc while the Dreamers are doing their best to hold reality together. Stark and St James have parted company so Stark no longer has the key to the room of thirteen doors but he returns from Hell in Lucifer’s armour and with a new and fascinating weapon.

Stark, still trying to save the world, is his usual coarse, snarky, irreverent and entertaining anti-hero self. All the fantastic characters from previous stories are back and I love who gets to be the permanent Lucifer.

The writing is dark and witty, the full on action plot does get a little convoluted at times but is still deliciously gratifying with lots of outrageous and exaggerated violence and everything that makes a Sandman Slim novel.

  • KillCityBluesKill City Blues #5
  • five-stars

James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has managed to get out of Hell, renounce his title as the new Lucifer, and settle back into life in LA. But he’s not out of trouble yet. Somewhere along the way he misplaced the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon from the banished older gods who are also searching for their lost power.

The hunt leads Stark to an abandoned shopping mall-a multi-story copy of LA-infested with Lurkers and wretched bottomfeeding Sub Rosa families, squatters who have formed tight tribes to guard their tiny patches of this fake LA. Somewhere in the kill zone of the former mall is a dead man with the answers Stark needs. All Stark has to do is find the dead man, get back out alive, and outrun some angry old gods-and a few killers-on his tail.

A great opening chapter has Stark, Candy and Samael in Donut Universe while Candy updates Stark and Samael’s Wikipedia pages. Stark and his angel half have reunited, he is back to being a nephilim and again has the Key to the Room of Thirteen Doors. 

Stark is in a race to find the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon greater than any other, before the old gods, namely the Angra Om Ya who existed before anything else, can take back and destroy the universe. Aleita has hidden it somewhere and Stark needs to find it before she can do her worst. Which requires a trip to Kill City, a creepy, abandoned shopping mall.

The world building is described in intricate detail and the dialogue and banter between the characters is superb. The violent action is way over the top and there’s a serious eww factor as Stark acquires more scars. Some surprise plot developments too. 

I love the growth of Stark’s character and how he gets a little introspective in this story.

Most nights I still dream about Hell. I can feel it inside me. It’s in the stink of my sweat. Flashing on the place even for a second makes me furious and sometimes afraid and sometimes ashamed of both those things.
On the plus side, I got up close and personal with the killer inside me. I learned I was good at taking lives. Doc Kinski called me a natural-born killer, so now it’s what I do. But I don’t always like it, and when I do, I don’t always like myself for liking it. That’s what Hell is. It’s the shithole bottom of the universe, but it’s a place where you’ll learn more about yourself than you ever wanted to know.

This is gritty urban fantasy at it’s darkest. Richard Kadrey’s off the wall sense of humour and amazingly imaginative writing, not to mention the unique take on Heaven and Hell and their residents, make this series one of my favourites. The cast of characters, some new and others returning from previous books, is as bizarre and outlandish as ever. 

 

  • TheGetawayGodThe Getaway God #6
  • five-stars

Being a half-human, half-angel nephilim with a bad rep and a worse attitude-not to mention temporarily playing Lucifer-James Stark aka Sandman Slim has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya-the old gods. But their imminent invasion is only one of Stark’s problems right now. LA is descending into chaos, and a new evil-the Wildfire Ripper-is stalking the city.

As the Apocalypse draws ever nearer and the non stop rain in LA has driven most of the population away, Stark is working to prevent the Old Gods, the Angra Om Ya, from finding the means to destroy the world and everyone on it. Add to that a serial killer running riot, and given to extremely gory tendencies with body parts, who turns out to be a very unexpected blast from the past. 

You’d think the end of the world would be exciting, but this apocalypse is about as much fun as dental surgery.

Take the current situation. Sitting at a dead stop in traffic, as lively as a stone angel over a tomb. Not one car has moved in ten minutes. It’s bumper to bumper on Sunset Boulevard, which is nothing new, but this kind of traffic is 24/7 these days, as it seems like half the city is hightailing it out of Dodge all at once. And the rain. It’s been coming down non-stop for two weeks. It’s like L.A. lost a bet with God and the old bastard is pissing his Happy Hour whiskey all over the city. Which, when you get down to it, isn’t far from the truth. This isn’t how I figured I’d ring in the apocalypse.

And as things get even more disastrous there is confusion, violence and shocking developments. Stark is once again working with The Golden Vigil as well as a mummified centuries old mystic called The Shonin. There’s an abundance of bizarre characters, flawed gods, angels and demons, and a huge amount of often gruesome action packed into this story. I like the way the relationships between Stark and the other key characters develops, albeit complicated and rocky in places.
An extremely tight, irreverent and darkly humorous narrative bringing to a satisfactory and surprising conclusion to the Angra Om Ya storyline. Also, it seems, bringing to a close this stage of Stark’s life. I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. And it’s actually quite amazing to realise the whole series spans just twelve months!

 

MacLeod Andrews’ performance is superb, I love his characterisation of Stark, and the way he handles all the other utterly diverse characters with their own individual ‘voices’ is perfect.

Sandman Slim Series ~ the audiobooks (1-3.5)

 

James Stark has spent the last eleven years in Hell as the slave of Azazel, Lucifer’s second favourite general, fighting for his life in the arena and as an assassin.

So what would you do if your boss gives you a particular key so you can kill another of Lucifer’s generals? Especially since this key can can take you anywhere and everywhere in the universe via shadows and the room of thirteen doors.

You kill your boss and get the hell out of Hell, of course, along with the key which is now buried (literally!) in Stark’s chest. That’s how James Stark aka Sandman Slim “wakes up on a pile of smouldering garbage” in a graveyard in LA.

So now he’s back, with Hellion magic, and looking for revenge against his old magic circle friends who sent him Downtown for being a better magician. The only advantage he has is the fact he’s become very hard to kill after his time in Hell.

It’s not too long before Stark finds one of his former friends, Kasabian, who pays a high and very weird, price for the part he played. Stark’s main aim though is to find Mason Faim and his sidekick, Parker, for killing his girlfriend, Alice.

Thoughts

A dark and gritty story told from Starks point of view with sarcasm and snarky humour. Things don’t quite work out as Stark thought as Heaven and Hell have their own agenda and he has to deal with every demon you could conjure up and more besides.

It’s witty, with laugh out loud moments, brutal but kind of sad as well and I find myself in compete sympathy with Stark. He’s the flawed anti-hero, the “monster that kills monsters”  It’s a roller coaster ride of the weird and wonderful.

  • 8026445Kill the Dead ~ book 2
  • Author: Richard Kadrey
  • Performed by MacLeod Andrews
  • Released: October 2010 by Brilliance Corporation
  • Category: Noir/Urban Fantasy
  • four-half-stars

After saving the world at the end of Sandman Slim Stark is back and freelancing for The Golden Vigil, a secret angelic arm of Homeland Security, tracking down and killing off monsters. A young vampire who goes on a rampage sets in motion the events leading to another LA apocalypse featuring several different variations of the undead, Zombies, Lacunas, Drifters and Vampires.

When Lucifer comes to LA supposedly to collaborate on a movie being made about him, he enlists Stark as his bodyguard for reasons he keeps to himself. That is, until Stark realises what those reasons are and how they will affect him.

You know you’re in for a fast and fun listen with the opening sentences…

“Imagine shoving a cattle prod up a rhino’s ass, shouting “April fool” and hoping the rhino thinks it’s funny. That’s about how much fun it is hunting a vampire.”

Which is how the story begins and Stark gets more than he bargained for from a pod of vampires.

Thoughts

Being a nephilim, of angel and human parentage, has played a key part in Stark’s personality and we get to know more about him as his character evolves.  And although he is as tough and acerbic as ever, underneath it all there is morality and his own set of ethics despite his penchant for violence. We lose Stark for a while there too, but I’m glad he’s back.

Lucifer figures quite a bit in this story, not in a cartoonish or over the top way either. He’s not to be trifled with but he’s humorous, cool and composed. And hurt, physically and by his banishment from heaven, which is surprising and not at all like the usual interpretation of Lucifer.

I love the addition of Brigitte Bardot, a Czech porn star who is starring in Lucifer’s movie and has a hidden agenda. She and Stark bounce off each other in more ways than one.

So now, the question is will Stark take Lucifer up on his offer.

  • 51PELCnbLrL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_Aloha from Hell ~ book 3
  • Author: Richard Kadrey
  • Performed by MacLeod Andrews
  • Released: July 2012 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Noir/Urban Fantasy
  • five-stars

Once again all is not right in L.A. Lucifer is back in Heaven, God is on vacation and an insane killer mounts a war against both Heaven and Hell

A few weeks have passed since Stark’s zombie killing spree. Stark and Kasabian are living in a motel room while Max Overdrive is being rebuilt. Stark thinks he’s getting the respite he deserves afar saving the world yet again….but no, that would be too easy.

He and Vidocq steal an artefact for Mr Muninn and have a run in with a demon. Stark is pulled into an exorcism gone wrong and meets an interesting new character, Father Traven. The boy who was being exorcised just happens to be the brother of one of the original magic circle. Coincidence? Stark doesn’t think so and the trail leads where he thought it would. Straight to Mason and into the middle of a planned war between Heaven and Hell.

Mason, along with Aelita, has been planning and plotting, gathering armies together and Stark has no choice but to go back to Hell and try and sort out the chaos Lucifer left behind. And while he’s there maybe this time he can save Alice from being murdered again by Mason. The downside, apart from the obvious, is what he has to do to get back there.

And now that he has his Angel under control he’s back to his old self.

The angel half of me got shaken loose a while back when a High Plains Drifter – that’s “zombie” to you – bit a chunk out of my hand. The human half of me almost died and the angel half thought that was its chance to take over. It was for a while, but then I got my strength back and I locked the angel upstairs in the attic like Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? It still bangs on the door and shouts but I’ve learned to ignore it most of the time

The snarky humour and wit is here again, in spades, along with the gruesome, the grotesque and the violence. It’s dark and hellish and Richard Kadrey’s writing is as entertaining as ever, made even more so by the narration. I love the way Hell and L.A. are written as versions of the same place and the descriptive writing paints vivid, if sometimes scary, pictures. It’s an insane, imaginative and creative ride through mind-boggling places. 

DevilintheDollhouseDevil in the Dollhouse ~ book 3.5

four-stars

James Stark, a.k.a. Sandman Slim, has a new job, but being the new Lucifer in town gives fresh meaning to the word “Hell.” Especially when he hears of hideous massacres near a haunted fortress out on Hell’s frontier.

As far as Stark’s concerned, the more dead Hellions, the better, but he still has to prove that no one screws with Sandman Slim. And facing creatures so terrible even Hell does not want them is no cakewalk, even for Lucifer.

Being Lucifer isn’t a fun job and it takes Stark into the outer reaches of hell in this short, violent and very bloody story. Lucifer #1 has left him a hell of a mess to clean up and although it’s the last thing he wants, Stark has to make sure he is acknowledged, if not approved, as the Lord of the Underworld. 

I used to be James Stark or sometimes Sandman Slim but then Lucifer 1.0 pissed off back to Heaven and stuck me running Hell. I thought that was the worst thing that ever happened to me. That was three days ago. Today things got worse. Today I’m in a truck convoy heading somewhere I never heard of to find someplace that scares even these evil fallen-angel pricks.

So, while trying to negotiate the politics in Hell, sorting out a demon even the worst Hellions fear and trying to find a way back home, Stark has his work cut out, to put things mildly.

A great bridge between Aloha from Hell and Devil said Bang filled with Richard Kadrey’s brilliant writing.

I love the gravely pitch of Stark’s voice, MacLeod Andrews absolutely nails it. Shifting seamlessly and without obviously ‘doing’ voices, he changes from Stark to a two hundred year old Frenchman, to several female voices, Hellions galore, the Kissi, a Texan sheriff and Lucifer to name a few. 

The books are available at  Amazon UK and Amazon US

Dead Set ~ the audiobook

 

  • 51xag+e+GRL._SL175_Author: Richard Kadrey
  • Performed by Kate Rudd
  • Released: October 2013 by Harper Audio
  • Category: Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  •  three-half-stars

After her father’s funeral, Zoe moved to the big city with her mother to start over. But change always brings trials, and life in the city is not so easy. Money is tight, and Zoe’s only escape, as has always been the case, is in her dreams—a world apart from her troubled real life where she can spend time with her closest companion: her lost brother, Valentine.

After her father’s death Zoe and her mother moved into a small apartment in a run down area of San Francisco.  It’s tough for both of them, Zoe misses her father terribly, has become withdrawn and has conversations with her dream brother, Valentine. Her mother is struggling emotionally too and is worried about finances and how they’ll cope.  

One day Zoe comes across an old record shop with a strange owner called Emmett. Emmett has a secret room where the vinyl records hold not music but the souls and lives of people who have died. Zoe’s father is there, Emmett lets her see him for a price…a lock of hair, maybe he’ll let her speak to her father for a tooth.

Zoe can’t refuse and is transported to Iphigene, the city of lost souls, ruled by Hecate and her ‘children’, creepy black dogs and scary snakes.  She’s determined to see her father again but the record shop is closed and so in desperation she follows Emmett down the sewers and back into Iphigene.

Will Zoe find what she’s looking for and will she ever find her way back…Once Hecate discovers there’s a living soul in her kingdom all hell (sorry ^_^) breaks loose.

A dark and menacing fantasy, quite disturbing and eerie in parts but nevertheless an intriguing story. I thought Richard Kadrey did a great job of capturing the teenage ‘voice’ of Zoe.  From her grief and confused loneliness to the desperate attempts to get to her father, she carries the story and keeps the impetus going.  

The writing is very expressive and detailed with an original storyline which begs the question, how far would you actually go to see and talk to a loved one again.

For all that, though, I didn’t really engage with the characters completely. I’m not sure if it was the narration.  I’ve listened to Kate Rudd before and enjoyed her performance but somehow this narration didn’t do it for me. Maybe in this instance, the book might have been a better choice.

Buy from Amazon UK and Amazon US