Broken Empires: Aftermath by E.A. Copen – a review

I continue to marvel at Copen’s versatility as an author. With Broken Empires, she begins a space opera. I actually had to do some research on how space operas work and how they’re formatted. With that said, here’s my review.

Copen begins her description of the book with three words: Soldier, Traitor, Savior. We soon learn that she’s describing Timothy Val. The Senjele Empire is restless, and rebellion is breaking out in some of the outer planets. Val is one of those sent to quell the rebellion on the backwater planet of Toria. Ethical questions begin immediately as members of Val’s squad wonder about shooting people who are part of their empire. Once the rebellious planet is subdued, Val is faced with another ethical dilemma about how to deal with the rebellious subjects. His response sets the rest of the book in motion.

Copen, as an author, reveals a lot about humanity. In her other books, she veils the message by sending it through the monsters of urban fantasy (Judah Black series, Beasts of Babylon). In Broken Empire: Aftermath, the message comes from a humanoid species forcing the reader to think about the best and the worst of humanity. Val becomes involved in a web of political intrigue that involves the emperor, his sons, his wife, a senator who is part of the revolution, in his own words, and a complicated slave belonging to the senator. All this plays against the background of Val’s family history.

If things aren’t bad enough for the Senjelens, relationships with the Erolyians, long time enemies, continue to worsen. Intrigue abounds in the Erolyian Empire as well and the Emperor of Erolyia seems to have some interesting powers. Bring in an unwelcomed birth and the emperor as a distraught father and husband, and the possibilities are endless.

One of Copen’s strengths in my eyes is that readers always want the story to go on. She weaves amazing stories that you don’t want to stop. Aftermath fits that pattern well, perhaps too well. Without giving too much away, the ending is closer to “The Empire Strikes Back” than “A New Hope.” Honestly, I was hoping for a resolution to one of the story lines, but I understand that Space Opera is like that. The good news is that more books are in the planning stage according to rumors I’ve heard!

The above disappointment aside, I really enjoyed this book. It has a few language issues that bother me, but most people aren’t as easily offended as I am. If you can’t live with profane language, you may have some issues with the book. Most of the time, though, they don’t come into play. I can recommend this book because Copen, in spreading her wings even further than she has in the past, plays to her strength and develops a great story that makes it hard to put the book down.

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Dragon Award Nominations – Make Yours Now

Dragon Award Nominations – Make Yours Now

I had the privilege of going to Dragon Con over the Labor Day weekend this year. Yes, I should have been at home helping with hurricane cleanup, but I wanted to go to have the chance to learn about writing, and the marketing of writing, from some of the best. And that I did. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make Dragon Con next year, but I would really enjoy the opportunity.

One of the highlights of Dragon Con comes during the Dragon Con Awards in various categories. One of the surprise nominees the last two years has been R.R. Virdi for his books Grave Measures, and Dangerous Ways. Dangerous Ways was just announced as the “Book of the Year” for 2016 by Drop of Ink reviews. Both books were nominated in the Fantasy category – they’re Urban Fantasy masterpieces. I had the chance to meet Virdi and truly enjoyed him as a person. Another author I had the chance to meet was D.R. Perry whose book, A Change in Crime, was nominated in the category of Alternative History. Perry whose series on Providence Paranormal College is highly whimsical, was equally skilled at this Prohibition era crime thriller – with a twist. She is also a wonderful person.

I mention this because you can begin making nominations for the Dragon Awards for the 2018 convention. You can only nominate once in any category, so use your nominations wisely. You can go back and nominate in another category later if you come across a worthy nominee. I’m going to be honest with you and share my nominees so far. First, in the Fantasy section, I’m pretty sure that R.R. Virdi’s newest release, Grave Dealings, is one of the best books of the year and is a worthy candidate. I seriously considered E.A. Copen’s book, Playing With Fire, for this category, but I stayed with Virdi’s book because I love it just a little more than Copen’s book. I’d also like to see Virdi get a third nomination. Could the third time be the charm? Speaking of Copen, though, her book Beasts of Babylon is awesome and a worthy nominee in the horror category. Beasts of Babylon was just named book of the year for 2017 by Drop of Ink reviews. I think this book deserves the nomination and support. I had a chance to meet Copen at Dragon Con as well and found her also to be a great person.

There’s one other book I will probably nominate: Wiser Guys by D.R. Perry. I haven’t read it yet, but if it’s the quality of A Change in Crime then I’ll be happy to lend it the recognition it deserves.

So here’s my suggestions. First, read the books I’ve mentioned to see if they’re worthy of nominating in your view. If not, then nominate your favorite books in these categories. Second, make the nominations. Third, Dragon Con is an overwhelming experience, but let me suggest that you look into going if you like those convention experiences. The experience was amazing.

Just a note on how I linked: Links on the author’s names go to their websites. Links on their books go to their Amazon pages so you can see all their work.

Top Ten Graves Moments – Reblog

Leslie Conzatti over at Upstream Writer put together a top 10 list of moments from the Grave Report Series (the first two books). I’m sharing her first two, and then giving you a link to the rest. If you’ve read the series, do you agree with her? What other moments would you consider. If you haven’t read the series, maybe this will give you a good introduction and spike your interest.


Hit List: Top 10 Vincent Graves Moments from “The Grave Reports” by R. R. Virdi

Vincent Graves. Those who know him, love him. Those who don’t know him–have no idea what they’re missing. A man reduced to literally a soul and begrudgingly whisked through time and space at the behest of a higher power, if there’s anything Vince consistently carries with him, it’s the sarcasm, the nerdy references, the brash impulsiveness–and at the bottom of it all, the unshakable belief that he can use his constantly-repeating life to make all the difference in the world, even if he has to break a few supernatural rules to do it. It’s that heart that drives us back to him and keeps us thirsty for more–and it’s moments like these ten (in no particular ranked order) that live in our imaginations and keep us giggling even when the peril is at its greatest!
1. Scaring The Bejeezus Out Of The Old Groundskeeper
We first meet Vince Graves in Grave Beginnings… literally bashing his way out of a grave. If that’s not a totally fitting introduction for a character, I don’t know what is!
It’s not just the fact that he knows all the statistics and “insider information” about being buried in a coffin, though… It’s when he gets out, and there’s this old man standing there–Vince has the gall to greet him with the well-timed phrase, “Well whaddya know? You really can dig your way here from China!” Whereupon the groundskeeper clutches his chest and keels over… and so the fun and games begin!
2. “Supernatural Douche Kitty.”
Hands-down my favorite line from the first book, Grave Beginnings. And absolutely a fitting insight into his character. See, the supernatural don’t fight by what we mortals consider “fair.” Things like inanimate objects, gravity, empirical senses–everything is fair game when you’re tracking a supernatural entity! This was the moment, though, where things began to really take a turn for the “holy altered state of reality, Batman!” Vince is on the trail of discovering the monster who killed the person whose body he currently inhabits (yeah… it takes some getting used to…) when said entity decides to throw him off–by animating a bronze tiger statue in front of a nearby Asian restaurant! Vince responds with his customary dry wit, understating the visual of a full-size tiger made of metal chasing him down the streets of Manhattan by referring to it as a “kitty.” And from that moment on, I knew I was going to love this series forever.
To read the rest of the Top Ten, go to Upstream Writer

Diving Into Grave Dealings

At last! It’s here! Fans of The Grave Report series have been waiting anxiously for the latest installment of the series, Grave Dealings, for a long time. It was worth the wait. R.R. Virdi brings Vincent Graves to life again in another great story. Yes, I had an Advanced Reader Copy so that I could write the review below. (Just so you don’t think I’m trying to hide anything.) I can tell you how much I like it by saying that the first thing I did was order a paperback copy so that I had the book in my collection. The enjoyment of the book is well worth the price.

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I have got to find a different place to read the next Grave Report book. Seriously. The edge of my seat is so worn down from this most recent book that I’m sure I’d keep falling on the floor going through another action-packed story like Grave Dealings from the Grave Report. Grave Dealings lives up to, no surpasses the standards of excellence that Virdi has established in “Grave Beginnings” and “Grave Measures,” as Vincent Graves comes back for another amazing case.

For those of you not familiar with the basic concept, Vincent Graves is a paranormal detective with a bit of a twist. He’s dead. Graves isn’t even really his name. He doesn’t know what his name is. He comes back to life in the body of the victim of a paranormal crime with the responsibility to bring the paranormal criminal to justice – which is a gentle way of saying he has to kill them. He arrives in the most unusual circumstances, depending on how the dearly departed was disposed of. In Grave Dealings, Graves wakes up sinking into a watery grave. He has to extricate himself from his bindings, swim back to the surface, and then quickly find the nearest church where he meets his contact, Church, who gives Graves all kinds of information, as long as it isn’t about him or the case. In this episode, though, Graves is hounded by another monster who tries to kill him even before the case starts. And the fun begins.

(Note: there may be spoilers from here on out. Be forewarned)

Daniel Kim has been murdered by unknown paranormal creatures and dumped into the ocean. What better way for Vincent Graves to begin a case than falling deeper and deeper into the water. He gets out of the water, and begins his quest to solve his body’s murder. While Graves is trying to do that, other forces are seeking to kill him. Along the way he runs into an old friend who apparently had feelings for the person who used to inhabit the body Graves is using now. This makes for some awkward relationship issues along the way. We’re introduced to a new character who brings Graves and company into the 21st century with her computer hacking and blogging skills.

Graves and his old friend outwit the monsters trying to kill him, and discover who had put the hit out on him only to realize that this was part of an old deal comes back to haunt him, and he gets dragged to a paranormal ball in the Neravene. (Do be careful who you deal with, it will come back to haunt you in the most inconvenient ways.) During the ball, his services become a highly valued gift, when he proves himself in a life or death match; meanwhile, his “date” to the ball causes all sorts of trouble in what was a “coming out” party for her.

Still, the case goes on and the time Graves has left keeps dropping. Graves puts it all together when he notices how many friends of the meat skin he’s using seem to have been unduly successful, and yet, still were dying. In the end, Graves takes on the monsters killing Daniel Kim and his friends off and crushes them, solving the case so that he can say good bye to friends old and new and get ready to move onto the next case.

As you read through this book, you’ll realize that Virdi is holding a mirror up to society, and to each of us. What are our dreams? What are our ambitions? What would we do to accomplish those dreams? What kind of deals would we cut to gain success. You cannot read this book without reflecting on those questions, and the answers might scare you. Still Virdi does this in such a skillful manner that you don’t realize that you’ve done it until after you’ve finished reading the book.

Grave Beginnings – Where it All Began, Oddly Enough

As we get ready for the launch of Grave Dealings, I need to ask – have you read the first book in the Grave Report titled “Grave Beginnings.” This is our introduction to Vincent Graves and here we learn about Church and other members of the ensemble. Thrill to the chase from the enchanted fire tiger and no, he didn’t set that fire. (That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.)

My full review of Grave Beginnings is here: Grave Beginnings – Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Die

Copen Lights It Up Again!

I’ve become an E. A. Copen Fan. If she writes it, I’m reading it! You may have caught my first review of her first book, Guilty By Association. If you haven’t, I provided a convenient link for you to check it out. Guilty By Association is the first Judah Black book. Book number four, Playing With Fire, has just gone live, so I’m now allowed to release my review of this book. The title of this post should make it clear that I love this book! This review has minor spoilers, but you still have to read it for the important part of the story!

Judah Black is back and you’ll want to get it soon! In the 4th installment of the Judah Black series, Playing with Fire, Judah’s called to the scene of a fire, and runs into a startling situation as she sees two friends, Gideon Reed and Ed, fighting to the death. When she arrives, one of the friends turns on her and the fun begins. As the fight continues, Sal, Judah’s werewolf boyfriend and mentor to her werewolf son, jumps into the fray and is severely injured by the blade swung by Reed. Ed was singed by the fire thrown by Reed. In the confusion after Sal’s injury, the sword slinger and fire flinger escapes.

As the investigation begins, Judah is pitted against a group called the “Tribulation Adventists” – a so-called Christian fundamentalist organization and Reed is in cahoots with them. The problem this group poses becomes personal for Ed as he reveals that Mara has come under the sway of this group which ostensibly seeks to include supernaturals in the ranks of Christianity. We meet Espinoza who is part of the Concho County task force for Supernaturals, a group created by the sheriff to help Judah. As the investigation continues, Judah discovers treachery at high levels of government and, in the process, we learn a bit about how she got transferred to Paint Rock, Texas.

While Sal lies wounded in the hospital, we realize that the sword that Reed struck him with is enchanted, and becomes a part of the struggle for power between Judah and another old nemesis. She learns a startling secret about this sword and why it’s become the centerpiece of this battle. Meanwhile, because Sal is dealing with his enchanted wounds, we see Ed transforming into a major player who’s beginning to come of age in this story. I really enjoyed the development of his character in this book.

This is the most intense Judah Black story so far, and you won’t be disappointed. Important people die in this story – I won’t tell you who. You’ll have to read the book to find out. While Copen doesn’t go on a killing spree of Gearge R.R. Martin proportions, I teared up as old “friends” died. Magick flows throughout the book, sometimes from those whom you’d least expect to show it. And, in a horrifying turn of events, extreme measures are taken to save the life of one of the characters. This book was well worth waiting for. I recommend it highly.

While there are a few spoilers in this review, I’ve tried to avoid major spoilers. I wish I could say more about what happens! There are two personal issues I need to point out: 1) I’m one of the few readers who has actually lived in Paint Rock. I’m predisposed to like these stories. The Paint Rock of the book is different from the Paint Rock I lived in – but that makes sense given the whole back story and situation. 2) I’m always leery when people start bringing in “Christian fundamentalist” organizations as the bad guy. Followers of Christ are “my people” and as the Tribulation Adventists were introduced, all sorts of warning bells rang in my head. Copen deals with the issues in a very respectful manner as she unveils the true dynamics of this group. My personal commentary on this is that it’s easy for any manipulative group to claim to be a “Christian” group by taking a few verses of things Jesus said out of context and using them to control others. Copen revealed the manipulation in a way that shows this group isn’t really a Christian group. (I guess that’s a bit of a spoiler, but I did it anyway.)

Guilty by Association by E.A. Copen – Review

Guilty by Association by E.A. Copen – Review

“Welcome to Paint Rock” is asign that signals you’re entering a very small town in west Texas. How small is the town? The sign is painted on both sides. Ok, that’s a bad joke, but you get the idea. The people in Paint Rock are wonderful people, but it’s a small town. I used to tell people trying to find me when I lived there, “Drive out to the middle of nowhere, and take a left.” Imagine my surprise to begin reading Guilty by Association by E. A. Copen and finding out that the Judah Black novels are set in Paint Rock, Texas. (You had me at “Paint Rock,” E. A.)

Paint Rock is a different town from the one I knew and loved. As the truth came out that Vampires, Werewolves, and Fae lived among us, the government had to do something. Someone took a map, put their finger in the middle of nowhere, moved it left slightly, and decided that Paint Rock was the perfect town to use to isolate the Supernatural Beings. Each group re-formed the area of the town that they settled in to their liking. It would be easy to look upon the new Paint Rock and channel Obi Wan: “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” Yet as Guilty by Association shows, evil is not caused by form. People who aren’t “supernatural” can look pretty bad too.

Paint Rock was the end of the line for BSI agents. (That’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigations.) And so we see Judah Black living there on assignment with her last chance. Doing normal things. Like laundry at the laundromat. And keeping knowledge of her son away from everyone.  Only that day, the laundromat was a crime scene that would lead Judah Black on a hunt for a vicious killer. A werewolf is splattered all over the laundromat and Judah has to begin the hunt while getting her boy ready for school, all in dirty clothes to boot. It was not going to be a good day.

While investigating the murder, Judah and Detective Tindall, her unwilling partner in the investigation uncover the disappearance of three children – one werewolf, one vampire, and one fae. The missing werewolf is the nephew of the murdered werewolf and suspicion begins to rest on him as the abductor. People soon learn that talking to Judah Black is dangerous to their health and it gets even harder for her to gain information. Her neighbor, a war veteran and a werewolf, steps in to help her during this time.

Things turn to the worst for Judah when her son is kidnapped as well. Death, destruction, and mayhem continue to follow Judah until the end of the book. By the time it’s complete, Judah has managed to make enemies with practically everyone in Paint Rock, and also in Eden – 22 miles to the south. Can she redeem herself by solving the murder and rescuing any of the children, including her own?

I have to admit that I might be prejudiced in favor of this book because of the setting. I have actually lived in Paint Rock, and while the overall building set up may have changed because of the circumstances of the story, I relived some good days I had there while reading. The story is gripping, E.A. Copen spins a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. She introduces you to a great idea in this book: if all these fantasy creatures really existed, how would we be able to live side by side in the world with them? I highly recommend this book and have enjoyed the next volumes in the series so far.

E.A. Copen is the author of the Judah Black novels and the forthcoming space opera, Broken Empire. She’s an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy and other genre fiction. When she’s not chained to her keyboard, she may be found time traveling on the weekends with her SCA friends. She lives in beautiful southeast Ohio with her husband and two kids, at least until she saves up enough to leave the shire and become a Jedi. (This last paragraph taken from her Amazon page)