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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-20-18

4/5 Start to a Larger Epic Tale

Summary: Devarius and a rag-tag band of refugees flee oppression at the hands of the evil empire. For years, the Resistance has bided its time, trying to build, hide, and build some more. Devarius and crew just might give them the edge they need to rise up against the Dragonia empire.

Additional Comments:
- Plot 4/5 – It’s a tried but true plot: the evil empire beating up on everybody and the pure of heart standing against the oppression.
- Pacing 3.5/5 – A huge chunk of the book covers the search for the Resistance. In hindsight, this could have been summarized in a chapter or two because the “real” action doesn’t really happen until they reach their destination.
Side note: Various characters from the Dragonia Empire have bit parts in here, but none really stand out enough to become familiar. I like their parts, but I think the page count could have been evened out a little more to focus on their motivations.
- Characters 3.5/5 – Devarius is a decent enough fellow. I imagine most readers will end up caring about his fate. I don’t remember the love interest’s name, the first lady, or the sidekick. I do remember the sidekick managed to annoy me on several occasions.
- The love angle 2.5/5 – Nearly every conversation with the love interest goes like this “I want to come. I can help.” Devarius – “You can’t come. I can’t think around you.” Love interest - *frustrated brooding* “Okay, fine.”
- World-building 4/5 – I love all the details here. The different powers for the wyverns are really awesome. Dragons stand out quite a bit.
- Final Battle 4.5/5 – Well-described and epic. (Motivation for the battle stands on shakier ground, but it’s still a great fight scene.)
- Narration 4/5 – Nicely handled.
- Closure 3.5/5 – There’s an unspoken “to be continued” on this story. Personal preference, I need more closure than that. It’s a good pausing place, but there’s so much left unsaid and undone.

Conclusion: There’s definitely more to the story. If epic fantasy is your thing, check out the Dragonia series.
*I received a free copy of the audiobook, but I have freely chosen to review it.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-05-18

3.45/5 stars Insanely Far-Fetched Suspense Story

Summary: Major Jaime Richards, an army chaplain, gets caught up in a giant conspiracy with world-altering consequences on the eve of Saddam Hussein’s fall in Iraq.

Additional Comments:
- Characters (3/5) – Jaime’s likable but not realistic in any sense. She doesn’t think, speak, or act anything like I’d expect a chaplain to … except in maybe 2 scenes. There’s maybe three prayers in the whole book and they seem bland. We don’t know much about Jamie’s family. I think that’s by design. Does she have just a brother or a brother and a sister? Yani’s mysterious. I get that. There are reasons for the mystery man. There are very few sections by random army personnel. They’re good but too few to know the character.
- Aside: The main character might be a chaplain but it’s not a very Christian-y book. That might thrill people, but it makes her unrealistic. (The cynical part of me says that perhaps she’s “too realistic” in terms of what the church has become in America, very politically correct.) If you’re looking for something marked Christian Fiction, look elsewhere. If you’re just in it for general thriller with fantasy-ish elements, go for it.
- Plot (2/5) – Scattered is the best term I can come up with. It’s definitely fast-paced much of the time, but the pacing’s also slightly awkward. It’ll be full-speed action sequence (well-described) then *boom* history lesson. I have several misgivings about coincidences that happen. Without going into too many for fear of spoilers, let me just chat a moment about a few. The character who shows up in the beginning “stumbles out of the desert” right across Jaime’s Humvee convoy – after having been captured by some nameless bad guys and tortured for information. How did she escape? How did she know how to find Jamie? They also went to college together. Jaime’s even in the Middle East at the right time and place she needs to be to be caught in the conspiracy. She speaks the right language to be relevant to the bad guys. I understand that they’re setting up for a larger world, but the plot’s needlessly complicated. It’s like they read a book on conspiracy theories and had a shopping list to tick off for items. Must have 2-3 crazy dudes looking for ultimate weapon for world domination.
- End Sequence (4/5) – Unrealistic, but cool.
- Very End Sequence (1/5) – Intriguing in the sense that it explains a lot, but it also strikes as a blatant, “well, if you want to know the real story, you’ll just have to buy book 2” bid. That leads to lack of closure and tends to tick me off. I have a thing about needing closure to enjoy a story.
- Action (4/5) – Nicely described.
- Narration (4.5/5) – Fitting. The narrator did a nice job, and I would listen to more books from her. She has a matter-of-fact style but it comes across as informative and earnest not annoying. Her voice quality is soothing.
- Content and Language warning – Besides a few war scenes (well-described), there is also one almost rape scene. There are at least 3 f-bombs in here. I officially tap out of a book at 4, so that’s saying something. Definitely not a kid-friendly book.

Conclusion: It’s an enjoyable listening experience if you can get past the highly unrealistic points.
* I received a free copy of the audiobook. I have chosen to review it. All opinions expressed are my own.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-17-18

4.45/5 Stars Great Start to an Epic Fantasy

Summary: Searon and Starlyn and company go on an epic quest to save Calthoria from all kinds of evil.


Additional Comments:

- I heard the audiobook version, so forgive me if spellings are a tad off. First, let me say this is a great start to an epic fantasy series and I did enjoy listening to it. Want to make that clear in case some of the rest seems nitpicky.

- Characters 4/5 stars – The main characters are pretty well defined and, for the most part, likeable. The wizard is characterized as annoying and he definitely lives up to that. While good characterization, it still irritated me. Searon’s a tad overpowered like a video game character somebody obsessed over for a few decades and just kept leveling up skills. (He’s good with every kind of weapon he lays his hands on, but then again, so are most of the main characters.)

- Character development 4/5 – Searon does develop a little emotionally throughout the story. He at least learns to let go of the main driving force behind his bloodthirsty rage against the drayaks. Not many others change.

- World-building (4/5) – Starlyn’s race is essentially elves. They’re cool. Pretty in tune with nature. I like how she breaks out of that mold. There are a number of different, terrifying races. Their motivations are murky, and they seem to be controlled by humans or dark wizards or something with a big chip on its shoulder.

The difference between mage, wizard, necrowhatevers, witches, and whatnot got tedious, but I think it would click better if I was wider read in this particular genre.

- Plot (4/5) – While action-packed, it doesn’t really seem like there’s much rhyme or reason to much of the quest. Simply put, bad guys are attacking and good guys have to unite to fight them off. Pretty sure that’s the plot of most epic fantasy stories, yet it still works here.

- Fight scenes (5/5) – many and awesome. Perhaps even overdone in the sense that even if there’s not a wider battle going on, there’s usually a sparring match of some sort.

- Confusing: Not sure why the title centers on Searon’s weapon. It’s a cool weapon, but it’s not immediately apparent in the first story why the crimson claymore matters. I’m assuming it’ll have greater meaning later in the series, but the weapon’s importance seems a minor point compared to the war arising between the various races on this world.


Conclusion:

Fun, relatively clean (I mean there are a LOT of fight scenes) epic fantasy story. It’s a series worth checking out. Audiobook version is definitely recommended.

*I received a free copy of the audio. I have freely chosen to share my thoughts on the work.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-06-18

Classic Fairy Tales Told Well

Summary: About 8 separate tales featuring dragons of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments.

Additional Comments:
- I heard the audiobook, and I went into it knowing I already like the narrator. This is one of the first books that I had a hard time finding on audible due to the fact that there are like 6 different versions. Since it’s a public domain book, quite a few people have taken a crack at it.
- The narrator indeed put on a lovely performance.
Here are my individual ratings for the stories:
- The Book of Beasts – (3/5) Lionel lets out all sorts of things from a magic book. Kind of just wanted to smack the small idiot king.
- Uncle James, or the Purple Stranger – (4/5) a kingdom has animals that vary in size from what we’re used to. Intriguing twists involved here.
- The Ice Dragon, or do as you are told – (4/5) Sort of a moral “here’s what sort of trouble you get if you don’t listen” tale. Features really annoying dwarves.
- The Island of Nine Whirlpools – (5/5) This is what you expect when you think tales with dragons and princesses.
- The Dragon Tamers – (4.5/5) Not sure why it starts so early in the timeline of the story, but it’s a fun tale overall.
- The Fiery Dragon or the Heart of Stone or the Heart of Gold – (4/5) Typical tale of strange magic rules of saving somebody.
- Kind Little Edmund or the Caves and the Cockatrice – (3.5/5) That poor kid. This one hit several bizarre buttons in me, even for a fairy tale.

Conclusion:
These are classic style fairy tales. As with any collection, I enjoyed some way more than others. It’s somewhat disappointing that the last one didn’t connect well with me, but it’s a worthwhile collection of stories.

*I received a free copy of the audiobook. I have chosen to post a review. All thoughts are my own.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-23-18

Intersting Star Wars Short Story Collection

Summary: Short stories that cover various perspectives of really, really, really minor and in some case completely new and made up characters that fit a certain point of view (a pilot, a smuggler, a soldier, etc).

Additional Comments:
- I heard the audiobook version. Pretty sure some stories would have been better/more tolerable if reading and most were worlds better just because they were performed aloud.
- I'm kind of torn on the book. There are hands-down some awesome stories here. I don't remember titles, but I remember tales. I enjoyed the one with the smuggler on Dantooine. I liked the one with the garbage chute monster. The one with the paper-pushing imperial jockey who just liked "helping" others was amusing. It was touching to see Breha and Bail's last moments.
- Funny: There was one tale with a storm trooper on Tatooine. I don't remember much about it, but the beginning was absolutely hilarious and the narrator for that story fit perfectly and delivered a stellar performance. He was basically filling out an incident report the whole time.
- Neutral: The one with the little red droid was cute but long.
- Then again, there were ones that were downright painful to listen to. I think there's one from a mouse droid's perspective. It goes through the diagnostic steps every other paragraph, so the poor reader was basically repeating himself ad-nausea for 25 minutes. Kind of wanted to tear my ears off at some point in that story. The second to last story should have definitely been the last. There were a few very long ones that went absolutely nowhere. (Incidentally, I'd forgotten the Tales from Mos Eisley Cantina, but that whole series was amazing.)
- It ended with a bittersweet, triumphant note like A New Hope. The actual last story falls in the clunker category. It tried for a light-hearted, off the cuff feel and came across as annoying. I get the 40 stories for 40 years thing, but geez, people, stick in another pilot story and cut the crappy end one.
- (Can you imagine being in on that planning meeting? So, what'd you get? I got Porkins. Well, I got the one-eyed garbage chute monster.)
- Most the narrators were downright fantastic.

Conclusion: If you're going to try it, I highly recommend the audio version. For the few that are actually painful to listen to, just skip to the end of that chapter. There are some great stories here. They're buried in a mass of mediocre with some absolute stinkers here and there. Great idea with fair results overall.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-23-18

Fun MG Paranormal Story

Summary: Charlie finds an ancient book that demons really want to get their incorporeal little paws on. Walter's dead. He's inexperienced as a guardian agent, and he's also got the mega-assignment of guarding Charlie from the demons that are after him.

Additional Comments:
- I heard the audiobook version. The narration provided was amazing.
- The cover makes a whole lot more sense after you read the book.
- 4/5 characters - Walter and Charlie are pretty well fleshed out. Walter's not particularly likable for some parts of the book though. Charlie seems like a nice enough kid. Mr. and Mrs. Doodle are cardboard cutouts of characters, but I suppose that's okay. It kind of bothered me that the kid sister, Darcey (sorry about spelling, I heard the book instead of reading it) seemed to come and go. There's one family dinner where I think she's completely absent. Kind of surprised me later in the book when they mentioned her again. I loved Hunga and his unique method of torturing people (making them play board games... it's humorous and fitting for a MG story.)
- 4/5 World-building - The world's fairly well-established, though it sort of takes the entire book to get what the rules/regulations are for who gets assigned where. Kind of seemed arbitrary. The rules of demons being able to be on Earth or not and stuff like that are believable as far as such fantasy goes, though again, some "rules" seemed arbitrary just for the sake of fitting the story.
- 4/5 Plot - Some of the conclusions the boys come up with are very large leaps of logic, but they work for the plot. I like that there are several twists and false twists, that's a nice touch. (Sorry if that sounds vague, trying to avoid spoilers.)
- A few minor things didn't make sense - besides the kid-sister coming and going from the book. I'm pretty sure Alton's tenure is reported as 30 years in some spots and 50 years in others. The bad guy's ultimate motivation seemed kind of weak. The title. It's not really about the Afterlife Academy at all. It probably would have made more sense with a Harry Potter-esque title (Charlie Doodle and the ... or focus on Walter - Walter Prairie - Guardian Agent). There could definitely be a book about the Academy itself, but this ain't it. I think maybe 2 chapters take place there or even refer heavily to that.
- Cover's pretty awesome.

Conclusion: Fun story featuring the paranormal in a lighthearted manner.

*I received a free copy of the audiobook I have chosen to review it. All thoughts are my own.*

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-21-18

4.5/5 stars Awesome Introduction to an Intriguing

Summary: A young policeman with a gift for remembering everything struggles to solve several murders, save a friend from the guillotine, and preserve his own career before the rich and powerful destroy him.

Additional Comments:
- I’ve never read the Powder Mage series, but this is a nice introduction to that world.
- 5/5 stars world-building: Fantasy of this sort hinges on creating a world at once familiar yet fantastically and fundamentally different. Brian McClellan does both. It probably helps that he already did the heavy lifting in the regular series, so he’s very comfortable describing his world to us.
- 4/5 stars characters: Adamat’s the sort of guy one can root for. Captain Hewi seems competent. Lieutenant Dorry’s somebody you’d love to hate. Adamat’s friend (the businessman) comes across as a useless lout, which is unfortunate because I think we’re supposed to like him. I don’t even remember his name and I finished the book yesterday. The cabal lady was suitably scary and awesome at the same time.
- 4.5/5 Plot: Things work out and tie up nicely. I liked the pieces where Adamat could explain stuff he’d read in newspapers several weeks ago. Kind of reminded me of a Sherlock Holmes’ moment.
- Content warning: standard fantasy violence. A few descriptions of blood and gore but nothing that would shake most genre fans.

Conclusion: Not sure where this fits in the grand scheme of the world, but it’s a cool introduction all the same. (Also not sure I’d invest $2.99 per subsequent 75 page novella … I’d probably wait for a combo book.)

*I received a free copy of the audiobook. I chose to review it. The opinions are solely my own.*

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-21-18

Intriguing Start to a Steampunk Series

4/5 stars Kingdom of Clockwork (Written and narrated by Billy O’Shea)
Summary: Karl Nielsen (going with the spelling I found in a review since I listened to the audio and the blurb doesn’t mention the main character, which is weird) is the king’s clockmaker. Despite kind of just wanting to do his thing quietly, he gets caught up in the court intrigue.

Additional Comments:
-5/5 stars for world-building: This is an intriguing world. To be honest, I had no idea it was supposed to be a future Denmark until I read the blurb (after listening to the book). It’s a future sort of set in the past. There are some things that don’t make sense but it’s not for lack of effort on the author’s part. As a world, they’re back to fighting with muskets and swords and using steam power. Yet there are remnants of what once was, forbidden railways and the like.
- 4/5 characters: Karl’s interesting as a narrator. I enjoyed the beginning even though it didn’t have much to do with the end except describe the world we land in. The king comes across as a decent king, which sort of requires him to be a jerk at times.
- 3.5/5 plot: The beginning is cool because it introduces you to a quaint world set in a future that’s been sent to the past by war and lack of oil. The middle is interesting because it features the bulk of the court intrigue and the start of what could be an exciting adventure. And then, it sort of just runs out of steam (sorry, had to do it). The main character doesn’t actually do much. He’s mostly an observer on this journey that takes up the bulk of the book. It turns into a political thing solved through means that don’t involve a good physical fight (that’s kind of disappointing). It ends with an okay amount of closure, but there are definitely threads to follow into a sequel.
- 4/5 Sound effects and narration: The sound effects were cool and the narration was well- handled.
- Content warnings: It’s mostly a clean fantasy read. There are some mentions of adult content late in the book, but nothing’s particularly described. Still, it’s a bit of an oddity because the rest is something that would be cool for a middle grade student.

Conclusion: Good start to a steampunk, pseudo-historical tale.
*I received a free copy of the audiobook. I have chosen to review it. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-14-18

4.0/5 Cute, Very Short Story

Summary: This is a very short story about an Earth dragon that basically follows a typical kid’s story arc. Nobody pays any attention to poor Adana until her unique talents save the day.

Additional Comments:
- It’s only 13 minutes as an audiobook.
- The morals are very clearly defined but don’t come across as too contrived.
- Adana is sweet.
- There’s very little to no danger involved.

Conclusion: Short and to the point children’s book.
*I received a copy of the audiobook. I have chosen to review it.*

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-26-18

Period Piece - Early 1900's America

Summary: Mary Davenport deals with the death of her father and a slew of intrigue within her own house.

Additional Comments:
- The dialogue is very, very, very formal. That comes across as stiff. I experienced the audiobook, so it didn’t bother me as much. But hearing it might actually turn some people off more.
- The plot’s decent.
- The saga vaguely reminds me of Downton Abbey.
- Some characters really came across as annoying. They’re either pure evil (selfish manipulative louses or drunken, useless heaps of humanity, etc) or pure good (selfless, kind, compassionate people walking around with an unseen halo over their heads). I think the most neutral one was the jealous servant.
- End twist was cool. Unrealistic but cool.
- Content warnings: none
- It never comes up how the Davenports are rich. What kind of business does Mr. Davenport do?
- Mary is a character one can root for.

Conclusion: If historical fiction is your thing, this is a decent series to start.

*I received a free copy of the audiobook. I chose to review it.

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