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Tag Archives: Fiction


Last Summer, a novel by author J.W. Bouchard is now available as an audiobook on Audible.com and soon at Amazon and iTunes.  Click on the awesomely creepy cover art to go sample and download it!

This is a story about a group of teenagers in a small Iowa town who set out to have a little summer fun and end up finding a whole lot more than they bargained for.  And, yes, I did the narration.  It was a blast to read!

Publisher’s Synopsis:

During the summer of 1993, Zach and his friends set out to have one final adventure before they start high school. But instead, they accidentally discover an entrance to hell and the dark secret which resides there.

People are disappearing, and when Zach’s girlfriend goes missing, he suddenly finds himself caught up in a battle against an ancient evil which threatens to destroy anything that gets in its way.

This is a tale about evil and its existence in a small Iowa town. It’s about childhood, friendship, and growing up. It’s also a love story…

J.W. Bouchard is a horror, science fiction, and children’s fantasy author.  Other books by Mr. Bouchard include The Z Club, Sam Finch and the Zombie Hybrid, Killing God, Rabid, Adrift: A Short Story, All the Dark Places, and Vector.  You can visit him online at jwbouchard.com.

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Not too long ago I got the chance to narrate the book Doll Bones by Holly Black.  So as not to confuse those of you who are audiobook fans, let me explain that you will not find my read of this story at an online retailer nor in your local bookstore.  This project was a noncommercial narration for the Library of Congress which makes it available as part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).  If you are interested in this book but are not a member of the NLS, the book can be found at the usual places in hardback, paperback, and kindle with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler.  There is also a commercially available audiobook on CD.  Now for a bit …

About The Author *

Her first book, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, was published in 2002 by Simon & Schuster. Tithe was called “dark, edgy, beautifully written and compulsively readable” by Booklist, received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and was included in the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults. Holly has since written two other books in the same universe, Valiant (2005), and the sequel to Tithe, Ironside (2007), which spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Valiant was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award for Young Readers and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

Holly collaborated with her long-time friend, Caldecott award winning artist, Tony DiTerlizzi, to create the bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles. The first two books, The Field Guide and The Seeing Stone were released together in 2003 by Simon & Schuster, with the next three, Lucinda’s Secret (2003), The Ironwood Tree (2004) and The Wrath of Mulgarath (2004), following in rapid succession. The Wrath of Mulgarath climbed to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The five-book serial has been called “vintage Victorian fantasy” by the New York Post and Time Magazine reported that “the books wallow in their dusty Olde Worlde charm.”

The Spiderwick Chronicles were adapted into a film by Paramount Pictures in conjunction with Nickelodeon Films and released in February 2008.

Doll Bones is the tale of an adventure experienced/undertaken by three close friends.   The book is written about and for readers in the Middle Grades but could probably be enjoyed by younger and even older readers, too.  In relating her story, Ms. Black is able to reach into the world of Middle Graders and touch on some of the issues that present themselves to folks in her target audience in such a way as to make it relevant even to someone like myself who graduated from 8th grade quite some time ago.  Anyway here’s more …

About The Book *

Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.

But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.

Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?

* The excerpts about Holly Black and Doll Bones are quoted from Ms.Black’s own website at http://www.blackholly.com.


Are you familiar with Eric Flint?  Have you read his best-selling alternative history novel, 1632?

That seminal novel launched an entire movement and a collaborative writing effort that involves myriad authors and contributors which has, in turn, grown into what could be described as the 1632 Universe.  Among the writers published via the resulting Ring of Fire Press and the Grantville Gazette is Rick Boatright who authored this highly entertaining story, The Society of St. Philip of the Screwdriver.  Better yet, this fun short story is NOW AVAILABLE as an audiobook at Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

Synopsis:

Take a town full of West Virginia coal miners, 17th century nobility, one of the longest and bloodiest wars in history, d’Artagnan (without the three musketeers), Blaise Pascal, Rene Decartes, Galileo, Oliver Cromwell and Gustav II Adolph. Shake well and simmer for thirteen years.

Eric Flint’s world of 1632 is an amazing and complex alternate history universe that split off from ours one spring day in 2000 and 1631.

The Grantville Singles provide readers with the opportunity to sample some of our favorite stories from the semi-monthly magazine devoted to the series, The Grantville Gazette. We hope you enjoy them.

In this story, Rick Boatright’s popular character Father Nick Smithson returns. While part of the action of the story is set, as usual for Fr. Nick, in the Library, there is rather more ‘action’ than librarians are used to.

Father Nick and his associates continue their work to keep Murphy’s Imp directly in front of them lest a moment of inattention result in disaster.

Yes, I did the voice acting on this project.  It was a blast!!  I even got to use just a touch of my German (having lived there for 5 years, I still have a touch in me).   So … grab a copy using the links below, take a listen [46 mins. running time], and enjoy.

via Audible


The One and Only Ivan is a children’s books written by Katherine Applegate.  I got to narrate this little gem not too long ago.

When we meet the titular character Ivan, a gorilla, he is in captivity at an enclosure in what is described as a mall.  A mall?  Well, yes!  Evidently, this story is based on a true case in which a gorilla was kept in a kind of mall circus in Washington State for some 27 years.  No, I’m not kidding.  27 years!!  I’m pleased to say that both Katherine Applegate’s fictional account and the real story of Ivan have happy endings.  Ivan is saved from his lonely, solitary existence at the mall and gets to go to a zoo (Zoo Atlanta in real life) where he is able to be with other gorillas.  After all, gorillas are social animals.  That’s one of the things I learned about gorillas by reading The One And Only Ivan.

In Applegate’s book, Ivan doesn’t have any gorilla companionship at the mall, but he isn’t completely alone.  There’s his best friend, Bob the stray dog, who manages to elude mall security and the circus manager to sneak in and sleep in Ivan’s enclosure at night.  There is Stella the older elephant who is part of the odd little circus,too.  There are the circus caretaker, George, and his daughter Julie who visit regularly.  And in comes the new, young elephant Ruby.  The story that Ms. Applegate shares is entertaining, educational, and touching.  If you have young children, it seems like this would be a good one to share with them.  You could read it to them or have them read it to you.  It’s formatted – intentionally, no doubt – in such a way that it should be easier for new readers to get through the material successfully.

If you want to learn more about the book, the real Ivan, or the author, you can click through on the picture above.

A brief synopsis from the book’s website

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.


I think Devil’s Peak is a very good book.  I recently did some narration work on it, and I enjoyed the story a lot.  The story is by South African author Deon Meyer and the English translation by K.L. Seegers.

It is a fairly dark story, to be sure.  So it isn’t for readers who are looking for fairy tales and happy endings.  Not that there aren’t happy endings – sort of.  And I didn’t find the three main characters the easiest folks to empathize with because they weren’t always doing the nicest things or making the wisest choices.  But they did come across as interesting, complicated, and somewhat messed-up human beings – emphasis on their being human added by Deon Meyer on page after page.

Along the way I got some education in South African culture.  I also had to learn how to recite lyrics from popular songs in Afrikaans (Loslappie and Waterblommetjies).  I did my best with the Afrikaans!  I also tried to get down the palatal tick required to properly pronounce Nxele, the name of a Xhosa warrior, chief, and prophet.  Heck, there were a lot of proper names – places, roads, people – that took considerable research to track down as far as pronunciation.  From a narrator’s point of view, it was hard work.  But it was work that I enjoyed.

Here is a brief synopsis from goodreads.com

From rising South African thriller writer Deon Meyer, a gripping suspense novel about revenge, forgiveness, and the race to catch a trained killer. A young woman makes a terrible confession to a priest. An honorable man takes his own revenge for an unspeakable tragedy. An aging inspector tries to get himself sober while taking on the most difficult case of his career. From this beginning, Deon Meyer weaves a story of astonishing complexity and suspense, as Inspector Benny Griessel faces off against a dangerous vigilante who has everything on his side, including public sympathy.
A gruesome abuse case has hit the newsstands, and one man has taken it upon himself to stand up for the children of Cape Town . When the accused is found stabbed through the heart by spear, it’s only the beginning of a string of bloody murders – and of a dangerous dilemma for detective Griessel. The detective is always just one step behind as someone slays the city’s killers. But the paths of Griessel and the avenger collide when a young prostitute lures them both into a dangerous plan – and the two find themselves with a heart-stopping problem that no system of justice could ever make right.


Historical fiction seems to be the theme for me of late – in my book narration projects, I mean.  The novel, Jepp, Who Defied The Stars, by Katherine Marsh is no exception.

What I find fascinating in historical fiction is when the author does his or her homework and creatively weaves the information gleaned from that research into a great tale.  In this case, Katherine Marsh has done the legwork and brought to light some VERY interesting characters out of history – characters I had previously not known existed.  And that makes me happy.  The book is targeted toward readers in high school.  Even so, I didn’t mind learning a little and being entertained!

Basically, the story revolves around a dwarf  (Jepp) who goes from country bumkin in Holland to a human toy at court in Brussels to an esteemed scholar on a remote island in Denmark.  Of course, that is an oversimplification: the real story has lots of twists, turns, ups and downs.  And the personal growth Jepp realizes along the way will speak to many of us, to be sure.  But you don’t want me to spoil it for you.

Here’s a description from the book jacket –

FATE:
Is it written in the stars from the moment we are born?
Or is it a bendable thing that we can shape with our own hands?

Jepp of Astraveld needs to know.

He left his countryside home on the empty promise of a stranger, only to become a captive in a strange and luxurious prison: Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish Infanta. Nobody warned Jepp that as a court dwarf, daily injustices would become his seemingly unshakeable fate. If the humiliations were his alone, perhaps he could endure them, but it breaks Jepp’s heart to see his friend Lia suffer.

After Jepp and Lia attempt a daring escape from the palace, Jepp is imprisoned again, alone in a cage. Now, spirited across Europe in a henchman’s carriage, Jepp fears where his unfortunate stars will lead him. But he can’t even begin to imagine the strange, new world—with its beer-drinking moose, brilliant and eccentric master, and long-buried secrets about his own identity—that he’s about to discover.

Masterfully written, grippingly paced, and inspired by real historical characters, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is the tale of an unusual hero and his extraordinary quest to become the master of his own destiny.


Those of you who have read this blog before know that book narration is one of the performance jobs I pursue (successfully – lol).   “The Prisoner Of Heaven: A Novel” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves is the latest in my narration efforts.

I think it’s a very interesting book.  I’m drawn to mysteries, and this one is definitely a mystery.  At it’s core it tells the tale of a young man who becomes imprisoned during the reign of Generalissimo Franco in Spain – in Barcelona, in fact.  Woven, tangled even, around that tale are several others involving people we meet via the protagonist.   This book certainly gives us a full cast of characters – heroic, despicable, sympathetic and repulsive – to enjoy.  I found the dialogue extremely honest and touching at times.  On the other hand there are spots in which I felt the story was a bit sluggish.  I think this may be in part due to Mr. Zafon’s time hopping.  He skips back and forth in time to tell his story which requires setting the scene with each hop and can become a little confusing if you’re not on your toes.  Or perhaps it’s an artifact of the translation.  Then again, it could just be my TV-addled brain.  Ha!

Here’s a brief synopsis from the book jacket:

The internationally acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Carlos Ruiz Zafon takes us into a dark, gothic Barcelona and creates a rich, labyrinthine tale of love, literature, passion, and revenge in which the heroes of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game must contend with a nemesis that threatens to destroy them.


I recently completed narration of the fiction thriller Final Theory by Mark Alpert.  I have to say that I would never have thought you could create so much suspense, excitement and murder out of a few mathematical equations.  But that is exactly what Mark Alpert has done in his  Final Theory.

The plot of the book rests on the premise that Einstein did actually manage to solve the puzzle of the Einheitliches Feldtheorie which would basically be the holy grail for physicists – a theory that explains just how the universe works and all it’s fantastic mysteries.  From black holes to quarks to antimatter, etc., this theory would tie it all up in a package with a bow. 

But it’s hidden.  Not surprisingly, there are several folks interested in finding it — at all costs.  That’s because, as with almost any major scientific breakthrough, you can do lots of good knowing the Einheitliches Feldtheorie or you can do lots of damage with it.  Then along comes our unsuspecting hero —  David Swift — a former physics major who has become a college professor teaching and writing books about the history of science because he just didn’t have the makings of a true physicist.   (It was the math that did him in.)  As former assistants to Dr. Einstein begin suddenly dying out – with a little help from a suspected terrorist  – Swift is given a key that will unlock the mystery of the Einheitliches Feldtheorie and told to protect it.  And just like that … he and those around him are suddenly beset with all kinds of intrigue and mayhem.

I won’t give the whole story away here.  Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the book.  If you like a lot of action mixed with your scientific theories (not to mention ex-wives, former girlfriends, the FBI, elite military squads, and more), you’re going to have a good time reading this book.  If you haven’t already read it, I’d say this could definitely be a good book for the beach or sitting by the pool in summer 2011.


I recently finished narrating the novel The House of the Stag by Kage Baker.

This novel fits into the fantasy fiction genre but is not by any means just a typical fantasy fiction book.  Yes, it takes place in another place and another time.  Yes, there is magic and demons abound.  Yes, there is plenty of fighting and bloodshed along with romance.  Even so, our protagonist in this story is an unusual one, and his story is a tapestry of many colors and threads.  I found it enjoyable and entertaining.  It is a shame that Kage Baker is no longer with us to share still more chapters of the tale.

Here is what the author’s website says of the book:

Set in the same universe as The Anvil of the World, this is the story of Gard, a foundling raised by an innocent forest people. Their innocence is lost fairly soon, when invaders settle in their quiet valley and enslave them. Gard and his adoptive family take refuge in the hills, as a holy man rises to counsel peaceful resistance. Gard, however, begins a one-man guerrilla campaign that ends with his expulsion from his family and his world. Entirely unconscious of cliches, he sets out on the Hero’s Journey.

The role of Hero doesn’t come easily to Gard, however. He progresses from slave to gladiator to sorcerer, and escapes from being sacrificed only by double-crossing his masters. He does time as an actor with a penniless troupe and serves as a mercenary in the army of an unlucky duke, both of which experiences teach him that the Villain is the one who gets respect. Being a sensible man, Gard promptly acquires a suit of black armor, a demon army, and an impregnable fortress with skull-shaped turrets. He thenceforth enjoys an improved standard of living.

Meanwhile, back in the quiet valley, years of peaceful resistance finally pay off and a Promised Child is born, enabling the holy man to lead his people out of the valley to freedom. The Promised Child grows up, however, and she discovers that being a living Saint with the genuine ability to heal the sick and raise the dead does not necessarily guarantee personal fulfillment– rather the reverse. Undeterred, she continues to minister to her thankless people… and then one day her path crosses Gard’s.

All in all, The House of the Stag is about the masks we assign to Heroes and Villains, about the way we tell stories and what we expect of the characters in them. Can a Dark Lord and a Saint find happiness together? What do they tell their children? Where do they go when they want to take a holiday? What happens when an impregnable fortress’s plumbing backs up?

This book has been in the works since approximately 1964, and has been revised and reimagined many times. Episodes from it have been told in blank verse, as an illuminated manuscript, and a failed first novel. It is neither prequel, sequel nor the beginning of a multi-book story arc. You can read it without getting hand cramps, because it isn’t four inches thick. Nevertheless, it has battles, demons, monsters, sex, comedy, tragedy, birth, death, disillusionment, faith, magic. Something, I hope, for everyone.


Joe had been originally slated to narrate a young reader’s novel by Chris Bradford entitled, Young Samurai: The Way Of The Warrior.  This book is the first in the Young Samurai series which would have afforded Joe the opportunity to voice all the books in that series for the studio.  While Joe read the book and began the task of researching the Japanese terms and dialogue throughout the book, he was forced to forego the opportunity due to then pressing commitments.   Joe had been looking forward to drawing from his own life experience as a young American teenager in Japan to help bring to life the story of the young English gaijin, Jack Fletcher.