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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-15-18

Neat Supernatural Thriller

Summary: A mix of a fantasy and a low-speed chase story. Angela Cagle tries to keep her son safe by running away with him.


Additional Comments:

- Don’t read the book blurb! It actually explains way too much.

- 90% of the story’s about Bobbie and his mother being chased by Homeland security agents and the kid’s distraught, not-entirely-pleasant father. About 10% concerns what’s written on the book blurb. But it’s more fun if it unfolds organically.

- Characters 4/5: Lifelike and sympathetic. You love who you’re supposed to love and hate whom you’re supposed to hate. A few fall in a gray area. There were also a couple of characters whose involvement was so slim and rarely mentioned that it was hard to picture their relevance. (The mysterious man pulling strings for one.)

- Plot 3.5/5: The chase follows some logic. Only a few places of mystical intervention happen to get the players where they’re supposed to be. The Homeland Security agent’s involvement is a huge stretch, but at least it’s addressed a few times.

- Content Warnings: Contains a few curse words and at least one scene I’d consider too adult to label it a “clean” book. Also contains a scene or two of torture.

- Pacing 3/5: It could have unfolded much quicker. The scenes from Bobbie’s point of view, especially those in other lands will charm most people, but I found them distracting and pointless. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I don’t particularly have an affinity for any of the worlds he visited.

- Ending 5/5: Love the wrapup. It leaves room for more but gives one a sense of closure.

Conclusion: Enjoyable if you can deal with the stuff in the content warnings.
*I received a free copy from the author; the choice to review was my own as well as any thoughts contained herein.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-15-18

A Worthwhile Romance to Hear

4/5 Dante’s Gift by Aubrey Wynne

Narrated by Tom Jordan

Summary: Two love stories woven into one. Present tale: A girl isn’t quite sure she wants to commit to the perfect guy because his grandmother suddenly becomes a part of the picture. Past tale: An Italian girl meets an America GI in the winddown and aftermath of WWII.

Additional Comments:

- I’m not a huge fan of stories that bounce from the present to the past, but this was pretty well-done.

- Choosing a male narrator for the book is a pretty bold move, but Tom Jordan did a lovely job with it.

- Characters 4/5: They’re pretty well fleshed out, but I don’t remember their names. Dante’s the dog in the past story. That much I remember because the title didn’t make much sense until the last third of the story. I remember liking the BFF of the present day female lead.

- Conflicts 3.5/5: The romantic conflicts aren’t that mind blowing, but they work.

Conclusion: A worthwhile romance to listen to any time.

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

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-31-18

4/5 Nice Glimpse into Revolutionary Times

The Light: Tales from a Revolution New Jersey by Lars D. H. Hedbor

Summary: Robert, a Quaker and a blacksmith, tries to balance his beliefs and the uncertainties of the budding war.



Additional Comments:

- Characters 4.5/5 – The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad. It’s clear cut, but it works.

- Pacing 4/5 – The beginning’s a bit slow, but the middle and the end flow pretty nicely.

- Language/dialect 3/5 – The author uses a lot of “thee” and “thou” to be authentic, but that makes it a lot harder to listen to. You do gain an ear for it, but that takes some time.

- Audio performance 4/5 – The narrator has a nice, deep voice. One can imagine it fitting a guy like Robert very well.

- Although it’s part of a series, I imagine each book stands alone rather well.


Conclusion: Nice glimpse into struggles of the common folk during the revolutionary war.
*Please note that I received a free copy of the audiobook, but the choice to review was mine and the sentiments are purely my opinion.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-23-18

Weird Twist on the Future Continues

*Mild spoilers possible in the discussion*

Summary: Karl Nielsen struggles to make ends meat fixing clocks in the countryside. So, when the king calls him back into service, he sort of has no choice but to take the job to deal with some debt that has accumulated over time. Meanwhile, there’s a separate storyline with some monks on a dangerous mission.

Additional Comments:

- This is a sequel to Kingdom of Clockwork, but it can be listened to on its own. Hearing the first will give you some background into Karl and his family though.

- Characters 4/5: Christopher’s a bit of a screwup when it comes to being a monk, but I’m guessing he’s there as comic relief. Brother Joe has some cool inventions. Karl’s a good character because he’s not perfect. He’s not a world class fighter. He’s a clockmaker, an ordinary guy trying to make it in a world gone mad.

- Plot 4/5: Following the two different storylines is a tad disorienting because half is told in first person and half is third. That’s a find technique, but probably easier to take in when written down. I’m not entirely clear on the monks’ top-secret mission. Karl’s just trying to make it. The kingdom’s in a bit of turmoil, the queen doesn’t particularly like him, and the king’s plans are a tad eccentric. The king demands Karl make several things, including a machine that can reach space and a giant clock.

- Narration 4/5: The author/narrator knows his story best. He performs the singing parts with gusto.

- World-building 4.5/5: Most of the heavy lifting for world-building was accomplished in book 1 of the series, but there is enough information for newcomers to jump in.

Conclusion: Whether you have read/heard Kingdom of Clockwork or not, if you are a fan of steampunk, you should give the series a chance. It’s one of those rare futuristic books that don’t just turn everything high tech, it moves up backwards to something well out of the dark ages but still steeped in fantasy charm.

*I was freely given a copy of the audiobook and I chose to review it.*

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-23-18

Nicely Delivered Kid Story

Summary: Keira finds a magic hat that gives her access to knowledge she might not have otherwise. She forms a detective agency with her grandfather (whom she calls Papa). They’re called upon to discover who stole the crown jewels of England.


Additional Comments:

- I heard the audioversion, so some of my spellings might be a tad off.

- Narration 4.5/5: Very nice. It’s nice to have the male/female parts largely divided between the two narrators. The mother sounded a tad too formal, but Keira’s voice was excellent as were most of the British characters.

- Characters 3/5: Keira and Papa and Commish are fine characters. They’re a tad stock but in a tale of this size and breadth, that’s fitting. You want your girl detective to be super smart and always wind up on top. That’s part of the charm of girl detective stories. I know Waffles is supposed to be comic relief, but he’s usually just a nuisance. (Question the validity of such a genre? Nancy Drew’s survived quite a few decades as an ace detective.)

- Plot 2.5/5: Nonsensical at best. I get this is a kid’s book, but that doesn’t mean it should lack all sense. The crown jewels get stolen and they turn to a kid with a magic hat for the answers? They seem overly concerned with finding footprints at the crime scene.

- World-building 2/5: The magic hat’s powers aren’t really well-defined. Sometimes, it seems all powerful, in which case they should have just asked it “hey, who stole the jewels and how do we catch them?” At other times, it gets broken then repaired with duct tape. Magic in a kid’s story is fine, but there should still be an established system of why it works the way it does. Spy and detective are used pretty much interchangeably here, which is annoying because they’re way different jobs. Keira and her grandfather form a detective agency, but she repeatedly refers to what they do as spying, which simply isn’t true. It’s an investigation. The doll angle is kind of cool.

Conclusion: If you’re very good at suspending disbelief and just looking for some mindless kid charm, this is a decent choice. It’s very well-presented, even if the story is somewhat lacking in sense.


*I was freely given a copy of the audiobook and I chose to review it.*

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-22-18

Comfortably sits in Dystopian Teen Drama Section

*Mild spoilers possible in the discussion*
Stealing Liberty 4.25/5 by Jennifer Froleich (narrated by Laurie Lane)
Summary: Reed Paine and Riley Paca end up at a re-education camp for children of enemies of the State. Fate or fortune places them with a group of misfits, including Sam, Oliver, Adam, Paisley/Marie, and one other girl. Although the relationships do a fair amount of shifting, they become good friends willing to risk a lot for each other.

Additional Comments:
- Characters 4/5 – There are quite a few characters and a lot of setup. They’re fairly well-developed on the protagonist side with thorough backstories, but the villains are a tad lacking. The two teen brutes are forgettable. I do like Wanda. Totally blanking on her last name, but she’s an odd mix of mildly sadistic and control freakish.
- Narration 4/5 – You can definitely tell male from female narrative sections, but it’s sometimes harder to tell which teenager is which based on voice alone. The voice for Wanda was amazing though (controlled, measured, chilling). To be fair, there are like 7 MCs with distinct first person sections written about them.
- Plot 3.5/5 – The plan to steal the liberty bell is okay, but I’m with one of the characters who basically says “what’s the point”? The other half of their plan makes a lot of sense. Aside from billing this as a “stealing liberty” book, which is quite obviously going to have sequels, it’s a really big stretch that these kids would feel the need to steal the liberty bell.
- Pacing 2/5 – There’s a LOT of setup. That slows the work down significantly, to the point of a snail’s crawl.
- Worldbuilding 3.5/5 – Much like any dystopian future where liberty is severely restricted in the name of order and peace, the protagonists must figure out what’s right on their own. It’s a tad like any school-based drama. You can see this school being in the world of the Hunger Games.
- Ending/sense of closure 5/5 – There’s actually a lot of room to continue the story, but it reaches a good stopping point where one could have a semi-happily ever after stamped on it and feel fulfilled. The lead up to the end where they’re blundering about a bit is less impressive, but still, at least you reach some closure.

Conclusion: Fits comfortably in the dystopian teen drama genre. If that’s you’re thing, you’ll probably be satisfied.

*I was freely given a copy of the audiobook and I chose to review it.*

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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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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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