Venators: Magic Unleashed (Audiobook): This Introduction to a Fantasy Series Continues to Entertain on my Third Time Through

Venators: Magic Unleashed

Venators: Magic Unleashed

by Devri Walls, Daniel Thomas May (Narrator)
Series: Venators, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 20 mins.
Tantor Media, 2020

Read: February 26-27, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

When I saw that The Write Reads was doing one of their Ultimate Blog Tours for this book, I jumped to volunteer without thinking—sure, I’d be more than happy to help Walls promote her book. Shortly after I committed, however, I started to have second thoughts. What on earth, am I going to be able to say? I talked about the first edition of the novel back in ’16 and then again with the second, retitled, and improved edition last year. How is it possible to do anything but rehash what I’d said before? Then, Walls announced that an audiobook edition was going to be released. Phew.

If you remember what I said about the post last year*, you can skip the next seven paragraphs, because I’m going to basically plagiarize myself for a bit until I talk about Daniel Thomas May’s work.

* No, I can’t imagine anyone does, I didn’t. It’s just a joke.

This is a portal fantasy about a world called Eon, populated by humans, elves, vampires, werewolves, elves, dragons, etc. There are connections between Earth and Eon, allowing travel between the two—although they’re not as strong as they once were. It turns out some humans from Earth have a certain invulnerability to the kinds of magic employed by the various races (like a werewolf or vampire bite, but not, say, an invulnerability to a werewolf tearing off their head). Thee humans also have other enhanced physical attributes allowing them to go toe-to-toe in combat with members of these races. Which has made these humans a powerful force for good, and a potentially tyrannical force as well. Eon’s known more of the latter lately, which has led to a lack of recruitment.

But now, society’s on the verge of collapse into chaos, warring tribes trying to wipe out other races in a fight for dominance, and the end of law. So some people have taken it upon themselves to reintroduce these humans, Venators, to Eon. Enter Tate, a warrior who is convinced that Venators are the key to Eon’s survival—he’s been to Earth before, and now returns to bring back some people he observed then. Six years ago, he encountered a young teen named Grey Malteer—who was forever changed by their brief encounter. Now in college, Grey is about as well-read in the lore of the supernatural and weird as is possible for someone to be while stuck on Earth and not being known as a crackpot (although he’s regarded as pretty eccentric, probably well on his way to crack-pot status).

An acquaintance of his from childhood, now attending the same college, Rune Jenkins is repulsed by the same things that Grey is focused on (while also drawn to them). Rune is totally unprepared to accept that the supernatural is anything but wild fiction until she’s attacked by goblins and rescued by a large blue man (the aforementioned Tate). Which really can only make her a believer—or drive her to some sort of psychotic break. Thankfully, she goes with the former. Tate brings Rune and Grey into Eon and sets before them the calling of Venator.

To oversimplify things: from here out, the two are introduced to this world, the beings that populate it, the political realities that govern it (and see them only as pawns), and they begin to embrace their new identities, while engaging in a brief battle or two. While Rune and Grey are introduced to all this, so is the reader—and it’s clearly the point of this book—to bring the reader and these two into Eon, give us all a taste of what’s to come and help us get to know the players. There is a clear plotline and definite story here—don’t get me wrong—but the major function is to provide a foundation for things to come.

The book would have to be a lot longer to serve as anything other than an introduction—the ruling council alone is made up of enough characters we’d need a few more chapters to really get to know them and their goals—although they can be summed up in lust for power and influence for themselves and their race to the possible detriment of every other council member/race. Then you throw in Tate; his allies (however temporary) the vampire Veridia and the shapeshifter Beltran; the two humans; and the council’s enemy, Zio—and really, you’ve got enough players that you really can only skim the surface within 354 pages.

We get to know Grey and Rune enough to see they’re well-developed and three-dimensional, and many of the rest show signs of being that developed, but we don’t get to see that fully displayed—but we see enough to know that given the opportunity, the characters will be easily fleshed out. One thing I noted in particular while reading this is just how many seeds Walls planted in the characters and situations to come back to in future installments. This foundation is built in such a way that several books can be built on it—it’s really impressive to note.

Yes, this is written for the YA market, so there’s a bit more action than others might use. There’s a focus on certain kinds of emotional beats, and that sort of thing. But it’s more of an accent to the storytelling than other writers would’ve made it. For some reason, Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter series and Brandon Mull’s Beyonders Trilogy come to mind as I think about similar series—but the YA-ness of both of those comes through more strongly than it does with this book.

So, how does this translate into audio? Very well. I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into May’s narration. For some reason, I’d expected a female narrator—someone like Kathleen McInerney, Khristine Hvam, or Lorelei King—so May threw me a little. Which isn’t a reflection on him, just on my preconceived notions. And I thought the initial chapters were a little rough—it seems like it took him a bit to “get into” the bok. But I think that’s a characteristic of the novel itself, it doesn’t really take off until the humans leave Earth.

Once there, the book—and the narration—settle in. The Venators find a sense of calm on Eon that they’ve been denied on Earth, and it’s May captures that—but what really sealed the deal for me was his portrayal of the vampire Verida—it sounded like he had extra long teeth that he had to talk through. From there, it was smooth sailing. Tashara and Beltran were a couple of the other highlights—most of the Council were captured well, also. I’m not suggesting that he didn’t do a fine job with Tate, Grey or Rune—it’s just those others seemed a bit more interesting (and Tate’s accent seemed to wander around awhile before becoming consistent).

May narrates with a good energy, a nice pace, and shows the text to be what it is—very approachable. I had no problem sticking with him and didn’t want to speed up the narration or skip ahead or anything else. He captures the tone of the book, the emotions of the moments, and the characters. All in all, it’s exactly what you want in an audiobook.

On this tour, we were encouraged to ask Devri Walls a question as part of our posts, so here’s the one that kept coming to me while I listened: Why are the Venators immune to Vampire Bites, Werewolf Bites, but not at all immune to succubi, incubi, [Book 2 Spoilery things]? I have a theory, but I’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth (if for no other reason than my theory is probably wrong).

I ended up rating it a little higher this time—I’m not sure if it’s because I’m more familiar with the material so I can appreciate the little things more, if it was May’s narration, me just being in a generous mood, or what. Or it’s just me being inconsistent. Eh, whatever. It’s a fun little story. It is a foundation-setting kind of story, introducing the world, the magic system, the fantasy races, and many characters, so we don’t get too deep with anything. But now that things are established, the path is clear for more subtle, more layered storytelling to come.

In Print (electronic or paper) or on Audiobook, this is a solid YA fantasy that’s sure to please. Go get it for your own enjoyment and so TPTB continue to let her produce these books.

4 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

My thanks to The Write Reads for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

The Gene Wizards by Clare Blanchard: A brief, humor-filled, Fantasy that’ll make you think.

The Gene Wizards

The Gene Wizards

by Clare BlanchardSeries: Wizards Series, #2

Kindle Edition, 155 pg.
CB Books, 2019

Read: February 17, 2019

I’m having a hard time deciding what to put here—everything that I think about writing seems like a bit too much information. But I need to put something here or this Tour Stop will seem pointless.

So what can I say?

This is a strange overlap of SF, Fantasy, mythology/theology, and literary criticism. Throw in some laughter that goes along with 20-somethings and responsibility and I will.

The tone is more humor-filled than the first in the series (you aren’t required to read both to get it) Some of it is plain silly (there’s an initial burst of goofiness with name-based humor that disappears quickly, leaving only a handful of silly names), some is more advanced—all of it seems fitting. I know the initial novel attempted some comedic moments, but Blanchard is more successful here.

My complaint would be that there’s too much space devoted to and not enough to the plot/character development. A group of characters is focused on story (to be as vague as possible), and members of that group (and or prospective members) spend an awful lot of time talking about some stories and their place in contemporary thoughts. Both the Bible and the Western Canon are discussed here—sometimes provocatively, sometimes error-filled (sometimes both), occasionally offensive, never dull. Although I can’t help but think that we get too much of it and not enough plot.

After an initial bit of setup, it feels like the plot is then put on hold for quite a while before things shift to finishing the story. Not only does it feel like we spend too much time with the story-discussion (see last paragraph), it feels like we don’t get enough time with the plot of this novel. Without having the time to carefully look through things I’d roughly guess less than 50% of the novel is devoted to the plot (and even if I’m wrong when it comes to actual word count, that it leaves that impression says a lot). Which is a shame, because it’s more entertaining than the first novel in this series.

Thought-provoking, with a good bit of entertaining plot, a strong dose of humor, and a definite improvement over its predecessor. The Gene Wizards is a Fantasy novel unlike any you’ve read.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

GUEST POST: The Poop Diaries: How a clogged toilet turned into a book by Abby Ross

The Poop Diaries

How a clogged toilet turned into a book

I never expected to write a book. Of course, I have always loved to write. When I was a child, I wrote poems, short stories, and filled in the pages of those blank books designed for kids to put their imagination into words. Writing has served me well throughout my career. I worked as a television news reporter for six years where every day I wrote stories. I then transitioned into public relations where I wrote bylines, press releases and pitches. Today, I work in marketing where I write blog posts, client-facing and sales enablement content, and website pages. Writing is and has always been my favorite part of every job. Again, however, I never expected to write a book.

“The Poop Diaries” started as a side project. My toilet clogged on a Wednesday evening. I could not sleep without a working toilet, so I called a plumber – Jon. He showed up within an hour and unclogged the toilet almost immediately (as I embarrassingly cowered outside the bathroom door, like many people do). Jon also suggested I buy a new toilet, which he had in his truck ready to go. An hour later, the new toilet was installed, yet Jon did not seem to want to leave. He was a really nice guy who had that kind of magnetic personality where you hung on his words, curious what he would say next. I asked him to share his “greatest hit” stories, those service calls that he would always remember.

The minute he started sharing them, I began laughing and could not stop. I had no idea plumbers dealt with so much crap! And I do not mean literal crap. I mean the people they meet, things they find, and experiences they encounter. At that moment, I knew I had to write a book about Jon. After interviewing him and writing his diaries, I knew I had landed on something unique. So, I searched for more plumbers across North America.

The toughest part about the interviewing process was finding plumbers who would speak to me. As I mentioned earlier, I am a published writer in the sense of blogging and ghost-writing articles, but I am a “no name” in the book world. How were the plumbers supposed to know I was not a scammer? I found most of the plumbers through friends. Everywhere I went I told people I was writing a book about plumbers. I could not believe how many people in my inner circle knew a plumber! And I do not just mean a plumber who worked for them at one point in time. My friend’s uncle is a plumber. My other friend’s brother-in-law is a plumber. My friend’s friend is a plumber. Suddenly, plumbers were popping up everywhere.

Two of my biggest “finds” were women plumbers. Plumbing is still very much a man’s world. Women, however, are increasingly working in the business. The two women I interviewed own their own plumbing companies. My husband found them online, and fortunately, both agreed to talk to me. While I love the men’s stories in the book, the women’s stories are their own breed. For example, one of the women accidentally broke up a marriage because of what she found while on the job.

Writing this book made me come to a few realizations:

  1. Plumbers know so much about us, yet we know so little about them. They see us in our most private moments, sometimes because for whatever reason, we do not feel the need to “clear the cabinets” when a plumber comes over. Or, like one case in the book – get out of the shower. This book shows you those personal moments from the eyes of the plumber. It will definitely make you think twice about your trade worker etiquette.
  2. The stereotypes about plumbers – that they are blue-collar workers, who cannot pull up their pants, and are not educated – are FALSE. Plumbers are engineers. They spend years in school and/or working as an apprentice to learn the trade, which entails so much more than unclogging toilets. As one of the plumbers I interviewed stated, “Plumbing is like playing with a Tinkertoy set every day.” Plumbers also make good money. Many of the plumbers I interviewed have second homes and boats. No matter the state of the economy, the world will always need plumbers. It is a steady career that provides the opportunity to live well. Plumbers are also insanely patient and open-minded. Some of the stories they shared would make me want to run in the other direction. They all, however, stayed put, making sure they got the job done correctly, no matter how awkward the encounter. They also never made the customer feel embarrassed. All of the plumbers I interviewed said they are very careful with their reactions to situations because they never want a customer feeling uncomfortable. Oh, and that plumber’s crack stereotype? Most plumbers wear one-piece jumpers.
  3. Finally, I actually can write a book! All it took was finding a good story idea, and then dedicating the time to research, write and pitch (I pitched more than 100 publishers and agents. One said yes – Black Rose Writing). I believed in the idea from day one, and through the many rejections, I persisted. I knew if I could find just one person who believed in my idea as much as me, I would succeed. Persistence is the key to achieving an unexpected dream.

I hope you will enjoy reading “The Poop Diaries” as much as I enjoyed writing it. You can purchase it on and on

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Hiding in Plain Sight by Eoghan Egan

I CANNOT believe that I didn’t schedule this to post this morning. It does no one any good in my drafts folder. Very sorry to Eoghan Egan and Love Books Tours for this.

Today we are celebrating the release of Hiding in Plain Sight by Eoghan Egan. The official launch is on the 11th of January in Ireland and you are cordially invited. As I don’t think I have any readers who could make it, we’ll just focus on the book itself with some information about the book and the author. You are (I assume) also cordially invited to purchase it anytime.

Book Details:

Book Title: Hiding in Plain Sight by Eoghan Egan
Release date: January 4, 2020
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 347 pages

Book Blurb:

The stunning debut from Ireland’s hottest new crime writer

A vicious serial killer roams the Irish Midlands, with his sights set on the next victim.

A successful businessman has found the perfect recipe for getting away with murder.

No bodies, no evidence.

No evidence, no suspect.

High art and low morals collide when graduate Sharona Waters discovers a multi-million euro art scam in play. She delves in, unwittingly putting herself on a direct trajectory with danger as the killer accelerates his murder spree.

When Sharona gets drawn into the killer’s orbit, she peels away his public persona and exposes the psychopath underneath. Suddenly, the small town has no hiding place…

About Eoghan Egan:

Eoghan Egan

A native of Co. Roscommon, Eoghan studied Computer Programming in college, works in Sales Management & Marketing, but his passion for reading and writing remains.

Eoghan’s work got shortlisted for the 2018 Bridport Short Story Prize, and Listowel’s 2019 Bryan McMahon Short Story Award Competition. His novel was a contender in literary agent David Headley’s opening chapter Pitch Competition, and during March 2019, Eoghan’s entry won Litopia’s Pop-Up Submission.

A graduate of Maynooth University’s Creative Writing Curriculum, and Curtis Brown’s Edit & Pitch Your Novel Course, Eoghan’s novel Hiding in Plain Sight – the first in a crime fiction trilogy based around the Irish Midlands – will be available in paperback and audio on January 11th 2020.

Eoghan Egan’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ Website

My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour.

Love Books Group

46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick: Dave meets a better version of himself

46% Better Than Dave

46% Better Than Dave

by Alastair Puddick

Kindle Edition, 245 pg.
Raven Crest Books, 2019

Read: December 14-17, 2019

No matter which way I looked at it, I was now inexplicably living next door to another version of myself. Another Dave Brookman. A richer Dave Brookman. A more successful Dave Brookman. And though I didn’t like to admit it, he was clearly also a slimmer, fitter, more handsome Dave Brookman. It was as if he was better in just about every single way. And, whether it was his intention or not, he was making the old Dave Brookman look bad. Really bad.

To say that our narrator, Dave Brookman, is surprised to find out his new neighbor shares a name with him. He shortly learns that they grew up near each other and are in the same industry. The coincidences are mindblowing. But as our narrator starts comparing the two, he keeps thinking that the “new” Dave has it better—from a literal ex-model wife to a flashy car, and all points in between.

But just how much better is “new” Dave? “Old” Dave puts together a spreadsheet assigning numerical values to various attributes/possessions and ends up with the titular value:

I sighed loudly. Of course, I’d expected there to be a difference. I knew he would come out on top. But 46%? That was nearly 50%. And 50% was half. So New Dave was nearly a whole half better than me. How could this be? What the hell had I done with my life? Had I wasted the opportunities we apparently both shared, as New Dave took full advantage of them? What could my life have been if I’d made different decisions along the way? Would I have my own company and a flash, expensive car? A house with a new extension and swimming pool? Would I be married to a former model, and have robotically clever children?

Dave spends weeks obsessing over this idea and dives into a (very one-sided) competition to become the “better” Dave. Which is ridiculous, preposterous and unsuccessful. And that’s before his wife finds the spreadsheet. After that things go from bad to worse, and then worse. Until they don’t.

It’s a great concept, it hooks you right away. But it’s what happens after the hook that’s vital—how successful is that? Well, that depends on how you read the book.

If you are looking for any real degree of realism, it’s just too hard to swallow. But if you look at “old” Dave as a character in a comedy—he’s a lot of fun. He’s really a decent, successful guy with a good family. At least until his neighbesis (his word) moves in and he becomes an obsessive, jealous mess. In his less-obsessive moments, he seems like a decent, likable guy and it’s these moments that keep you reading. In his most-obsessive moments, he makes it hard to stick with. It’s quite the balancing act that Puddick tries here, and generally, he succeeds.

Everyone else in the novel—”new” Dave and his family, Dave’s family and co-workers—all seem perfectly normal and well-adjusted. Their reactions to him are perfectly rational and understanding, too. This both highlights his irrational behavior and makes everyone else the “straight man” to “old” Dave. Without that, I think the whole thing would’ve collapsed.

Puddick has given his readers a sweet and funny novel about obsession, jealousy, and what happens to someone when they lose sight of what’s important in life. If you’re looking for a fast and fun read, you’d do well to give this a shot.

3 Stars

My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.

Love Books Group

EXCERPT from 46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick

A Sample from Chapter 8

“No offence, mate, but when was the last time you ran further then the end of the street?” said Charlie. “Let alone 10k, jumping over electric fences.”

“Screw you,” I said. “I’ll have you know I used to run all the time. I was pretty good. And I’ve run loads of 10k races in the past. This dirty mother don’t sound too bad!”

“Oh, you haven’t run a 10k in years though, love,” said Catherine, changing tack and trying to bargain with me.

Et tu, you traitorous wife, I thought.

“No, but it’s just like riding a bike, isn’t it? I can quickly get back into it.” My words were really slurring now. “Besides, I’ve been looking to get fit again. This could be exactly the motivation I need to get in shape. When did you say, three months? Piece of piss. I’ll be running 10k, dodging mimes and hopping over eclectic fences before you know it! Then I’ll be round for my hundred quid.”

What the hell was I doing? I had the perfect way to get out of this. I could have blamed it on too much drink. I could have played it off as a big joke, without losing face. But I couldn’t help it. I just dug myself deeper and deeper.

“Come on, Dave, don’t be silly,” said Catherine, her eyes imploring.

“Silly?” I said. “Silly? I’ll show you who’s silly. I will sign up for this race. And I’ll raise loads of money for charity. And I’ll probably fucking even win it, too. That’ll bloody show you, won’t it?”

The mood changed instantly. The gentle mocking ceased. An awkward silence hung between us. People sat uncomfortably looking at their shoes, the stars, the drinks in their hands.

“You know… you move in here,” I slurred, pointing at New Dave, my head swimming and my hand wobbling, “and you’re like the best bloody thing since sliced cheese. Er… bread, I mean. The best thing since cheese bread. And I’m sick of it, actually. Because you’re not better than me. Not really.”

The words were coming thick and fast. I’d tapped into a rich vein of resentment.

“You know… you’re a man,” I continued rambling. “And I’m a man. And you’re a man. And… you know, other men can do equally… And it’s not about how much you’ve got… or the size of your… barbecue… or how nice your hair is… or how many fucking beer fridges you’ve got… What I mean is…” And then the words just stopped, my train of thought derailing violently.

Everyone looked on curiously, wondering if I was going to continue my tirade. But my brain had crashed. My mouth was no longer receiving any signal.

Another very awkward silence.

“Well, if you’re up for it, then I think that’s brilliant,” said New Dave, overenthusiastically. “Hey, we could even train together, if you fancy it?”

“There you go. At least someone believes in me. Thank you, David.” I turned to look at Catherine. I thought I was sneering and delivering menace with my eyes. But I probably just looked drunk and squinteyed.

“Anyway,” I said, standing awkwardly onto wobbly legs, “I need a piss.”

I pushed back my chair, accidentally knocking it over as I stepped away from the table. As I walked off towards the back door of the house, I suddenly felt very unstable.

It came over me like a wave. The world went wildly out of focus. I could barely keep my eyes open. My legs felt weak, like they could barely carry my weight. I swayed, my head swimming, and I wobbled this way and that. The more I tried to keep a straight line, the more my body chose to lurch violently in the opposite direction, like I was fighting a powerful magnet. It was hard enough just staying upright, let alone moving forwards.

Aware that everyone was watching me, I pigeon-stepped across the lawn, trying to stay as straight and upright as I could. I could see the swimming pool in my peripheral vision, and I tried to keep as far from it as possible. I locked in on the light from the door in front of me. All I had to do was walk straight. But the harder I tried, the more I felt myself drifting to the left. Towards the pool.

“Careful of the pool,” I heard someone shout out behind me.

“Yes, thank you,” I shouted back, “I’m perfectly capable of not falling in a swimming pool, thank you.”

Did I say thank you twice? I thought, as I continued to walk, stumbling closer and closer to the pool. And did I really just sign up to run a 10k obstacle course, climbing over electric fences?

I straightened myself again. I walked slowly and steadily, like a drunk driver trying to convince a police officer I was sober. One foot in front of the other. Move towards the light. Just walk in a straight line.

But the swimming pool’s magnetic pull grew stronger. And the more I tried to fight it, the more it pulled me closer.

“Dave, seriously,” I heard Catherine call out behind me.

I threw my hand up in the air, the middle digit extended in an act of childish rebellion. And that was all it took to completely unbalance me. I swerved violently to the left, tripping over my own feet, hopping, lurching and dancing until I tumbled over.

I went into the water sideways.

Read the rest in 46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick .

My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.

Love Books Group

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: 46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick

Today, I’m very happy to welcome the Book Tour for Alastair Puddick’s 46% Better Than Dave. We’ll kick it off with this spotlight post, then I have a small sample from the book, and then I’ll be giving my take on the book here in a bit. But like I said, let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?

Book Details:

Book Title: 46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick
Publisher: Raven Crest Books
Release date: October 12, 2019
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 245 pages

Book Blurb:

A novel of jealousy, muddy shoes and giant barbecues.

Dave Brookman’s new next-door neighbour is ruining his life. Because in a bizarre coincidence, he’s also called Dave Brookman, he’s the same age and he even grew up in the same town. There is one big difference, though. This new Dave is vastly more successful in every way.

As Dave starts questioning everything about himself, suddenly his perfect life seems a lot less than perfect. And what starts as friendly rivalry soon turns into obsessive jealousy and crazy behaviour that could see Dave lose it all. Can he get a grip before it’s too late? Everybody in the kingdom is supporting the brave knight Leo in his battle against his fearsome dragons. They try lots of different things to help him defeat them but eventually Leo realises that the most important thing to do is to believe in himself.

About Alastair Puddick:

William KnightAlastair Puddick is a writer and editor who has spent the past 20 years writing for a variety of magazines and websites. His work has spanned many different paths, from jetting off to exciting cities across the world to writing about dating advice, data centres, facilities management and the exciting world of flooring. He also once wrote an agony advice column posing as Elvis Presley’s ghost.

Alastair still works as a copywriter and lives in Sussex with his wife, Laura, and cat, George. He has written three novels: The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring, Killing Dylan and his newest book, 46% Better Than Dave.

Alastair Puddick’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website

My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.

Love Books Group