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DabOfDarkness

Ojo Caliente, NM, United States
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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-16-18

An endearing tale

While this is a short tale, Monique Roy packs quite a lot into it. Grandpa Leo and his grandson Samuelle take a vacation in Venice, a city Leo knows well. Samuelle’s parents are gone and Leo wants him to get to know his Venetian relatives. The city of Venice really shines in this story.

I loved the relationship between Leo and Samuelle. Gramps really cares about the boy and takes great joy in showing off his old stomping grounds. Even though Samuelle is young, he soaks it all in. Their combined excitement on this vacation is palpable throughout the story.

Leo has a secret he’s been holding back from Samuelle because he wants the lad to enjoy Venice and not be troubled by Leo’s health issues. This made the last quarter of the story really standout. I was worried what Samuelle would do if his gramps passed away, being as young as he is.

Meanwhile, Samuelle continues to make friends in Venice. His impromptu explorations of the old Jewish ghetto was interesting. I also liked that Samuelle got to know Leo’s old flame, the one that got away. All these people are scattered throughout Venice and that let’s the author show off her own knowledge of this beautiful and historical city. In the end, it was Venice that captured my heart (sorry Samuelle). 5/5 stars

The Narration: The Narration: Kevin E. Green was a great pick for the narration. He had a great old, slightly gravelly voice for Leo and a great kid voice for Samuelle. He also did Italian accents for all the Venetian natives. His female voice (I believe there was only 1) was believable. There were no recording or technical issues. 5/5 stars

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-16-18

Basic plot but fun

This is fan fiction of a sort for the TV show Castle. I have only seen 1 episode of the show so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got into this book. Heat Wave is a fun, fast-paced murder mystery. Detective Nikki Heat is brought onto a case that involves the murder of Matthew Starr, a real estate baron of New York. Jameson Rook, a reporter, manages to get himself attached to the investigation.

The action keeps the story moving along at a fast clip. There’s a little romance between Heat and Rook but it didn’t distract from the murder mystery. The plot itself was pretty straight forward, the mystery being fairly easy to unravel by the reader if not the main characters.

There are several sidekicks in the story, like detectives Ochoa and Raley and the medical examiner Lauren Parry. Mostly, they fade into the background and go unnoticed. Lauren has a few moments where her personality shows through. The cast of characters attempts various quips and jokes but much of it comes off flat. I was much more into the serious scenes. The action scenes were usually well done.

Over all, I liked Nikki Heat as a character. I will enjoy getting to know more about her in future books. While it was a quick, easy read, it had it’s charms. 3.5/5 stars

The Narration: Johnny Heller took some getting used to. His style is nearly monotone but he also tries to go for that hard-boiled detective story feel. Once I settled into his voice, I liked it well enough though I had to pay attention to which character was talking as Heller didn’t always make distinct voices. There were no recording issues. 3.5/5 stars

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-15-18

More fun than I expected!

This story was way more fun than I expected. I do enjoy pulp fiction but I usually have to be in a mood for it as so much of the genre can be campy and sexist. Not this one! I was happy to see so many female characters in the book – and they get stuff done too! They don’t just look pretty while being rescued.

Set in New York, there’s a variety of characters for the Big Bad Evil to infect and/or kill. The creeptastic aspects lead back to a ship that crashed into Liberty Island. It’s something out of a horror movie and it has the police baffled. But never fear! The Green Lama knows what this evil is, much to his sadness.

For such a short story, it’s a pretty big cast of characters. I did have a little trouble keeping them all separate. However, they are all interesting. There’s Jean Farell, who is a good shot and doesn’t shy away from rescuing men knocked unconscious. Frankie, who is French Black American, has a soft spot for kids that need rescuing.

Jethro Durmont, the hero of this tale, is a bit standard. He’s a millionaire white guy who lost his parents under horrible circumstances, and ran off to Asia to learn some mystical self-defense arts. Sound familiar, no? Batman, Iron Fist, The Arrow, etc. He does have at least one unique aspect – he needs his special radioactive salts on a regular basis to maintain his special powers. I hope he labels those appropriately so the guests don’t use them to flavor their soup!

Betty Dale, a newsreporter, has me wondering what will happen in the next book. She knows the Green Lama’s secrets but he also knows who she is. Then there’s poor Lt. Caraway. He made me laugh a few times but things didn’t go well for him in this story. Overall, it was a fun story. 4.5/5 stars

The Narration: Jiraiya Addams puts on a great performance. He has unique voices for all the characters and his female characters sound feminine. He went all out voicing the Evil, which was multi-layered voices for individual characters affected by it. Chilling! There were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-15-18

A Smellerific Tale!

I think this story may have been written by a dog. I mean that in the best way possible. The story is full of smells, hearing sounds that may or may not be there, an ornery (even devilish) cat, and quick life-saving reactions. The scents were so descriptive and I kept hoping nasal fatigue would kick in for Joan as someone’s pomade kept distracting her, Running Wolf vomited, everyone’s body odor, and the musk of ticked off cat kept adding to the horrible situation. The Goodall has suffered a major catastrophe and now part of that ship holds a dozen or so crew plus one angry, uncooperative cat. Joan Chikage is deeply concerned that a mutiny occurred in the upper decks that led to this catastrophe but she has to set that aside while she deals with the remaining crew in her little bit of damaged ship. She’s the ranking officer, so it’s her responsibility to keep her crew alive.

Alas, Running Wolf has already perished, and not in a quick, clean way either. The crew is understandably spooked by the condition of Running Wolf’s body. As Joan and the others try to figure out what has happened and how to stay alive, more bodies add to the pile and things get weirder and weirder. The handsome, quick-witted Van der Ryn may be her ally, or not. Hadar seems reliable… but things could change. Tiberius the captain’s cat wishes they’d all leave him alone. Yet he may be their safety net, as Captain Carmady is very attached to that cat and Carmady still has a functional portion of The Goodall. Everywhere she turns, Joan isn’t sure if she’s made the right call. Cloud Eater, Leichter, Praetor, etc. Joan needs to bind the crew together if they are to make it out alive yet one of them is a murderer.
I would have liked another woman or two in the story, just to bring some gender balance. The only other female gets fridged and doesn’t add much to the story before that point. I really enjoyed the addition of the cat (because I’ve had ornery, naughty cats and I can just picture such a one on a damaged spaceship) and the beetles. Oh yay – even a dog would be disgusted by the beetles at a certain point in the story.
Throughout the tale, I couldn’t help wondering if Joan Chikage was an unreliable narrator. Things look all squirrely to her, but she was acting paranoid from the start of the story. A few times, her crew has to restrain her, knock some sense into her, get her to take in some oxygen. The story ends on such a note that this might be the case, but I won’t know for sure until I check out the sequel. The ending is a bit abrupt and while one major hurdle is said and done, now Joan faces even more challenges and has plenty of questions. 4/5 stars
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The Narration: Alexandra Haag was a very good Joan Chikage. She had distinct voices for all the characters and her male voices were believable. Haag did a great job with Chikage’s emotions and self-doubts. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Perfect little horror collection for a dark night

Suspense and horror! These six tales show different sides to each one. Each was chilling and three I felt were excellent. I do wish there were more female characters in the collection but two of my favorite tales have them as the stars. All told, 4.5/5 stars.

WHITAKER HOUSE CURSE: While the plot was straight forward on this one, the author did a great job building the suspense. Old creepy house, a couple of men drinking and talking late into the night, a wicked storm raging outside. Yep, perfect setting for something devilish to take place. 4/5

I’M STILL ALIVE: At first, I thought this was a continuation of the first story, which ends on such a note that the title to this book fits in as a twist… except it’s now obvious to me it’s another story. In my mind, these two stories are entwined and the specifics of this one have become blurred. 3/5

JACK: This was a deliciously wicked story. Syphilis and serial murder! There’s also a nice little twist at the end, shedding a new light on Jack the Ripper. 5/5

THE THING IN THE SHADOWS: This was my favorite tale. It has several layers. On the surface, it’s about a man trying to fight a demon and save souls. Toss in some family dynamics (absentee father, opium, black sheep of the family, etc.) and there’s plenty here to ponder after the story is over. 5/5

BUMPS IN THE NIGHT: I loved this one too. A Down Syndrome daughter tells the tale about her father’s affliction and his best attempts to keep her safe while also fighting his own demons. No one makes it out unscathed! 5/5

IT’S JUST JOHNNY: This was very short and it was OK. Just a little petite four to end the collection. 3/5

The Narration: Ben Werling was very entertaining. His one weakness is the lack of femininity for the lady characters. He has distinct voices for all the characters and he did a variety of ages as well. Those coughing fits for the old man in The Thing in the Shadows was very well done. I liked his very creepy, lightly accented Stregoi from Whitaker House Curse. Werling also tossed in a few sound effects. Sometimes it was a little music, sometimes a baby crying, sometimes a door being kicked. The effects didn’t detract from the narration, staying in the background where they belong. 4.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by William Todd. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

I wanted a bit more out of this story

It took me a while to get into this book. I found Kate boring and had trouble buying into the brain wave control mechanism done by the government on nearly all the population. I did like this is a near future story set after the US has fallen and sort of pieced itself back together with this technological way of brainwashing it’s citizenry into not noticing the general poverty. It would have been better had it included some regular mind-numbing drug to make people more susceptible to the brain wave machines.

Things do pick up a bit after Kate loses her fiance Will, she herself has to go on the run, and Jackson lands in the USA (he’s visiting from Iceland for his mom’s funeral). I waffled back and forth on liking Jackson for the rest of the book. He brings some skills but it’s a flavor of believing in the Force, be strong in mind, and all will be well. On the other hand, he has practical survival skills and can defend himself. I did find it hard to swallow the idea of ‘just realize there are no bullets and you’ll be OK’ because the government militia won’t be carrying loaded weapons, ever. Right….. And Jackson thinks too highly of himself. I don’t mind if he turns out to be awesome, but show me itself of having Jackson tell me repeatedly.

There’s these refugees hiding in the woods near a big metropolitan area, and they have been there for years and have gone unnoticed. I found this odd…. but tried to go with it. They have cleared land for crops (which I would think would be visible to government drones or planes), have organized the work (with women doing like 90% of the domestic chores), and have a very loose, basic government led by the Crone. I really like the idea of these refugees that can spearhead a revolution but I found somethings unrealistic. They are living on the cusp of starvation and yet they don’t eat organ meat until Jackson shows up and teaches them how to saute them with some onions. Right…..

I did like Alec’s role. I found him to be the most believable character. He and his lost love (Maggie?) and Kate all went to school together. When Kate shows up again in his life, it stirs up all his rough emotions. He’s angry with Kate but also doesn’t know what to do with his anger.

There’s also some insta-lust & budding romance thrown in which just muddied the waters and detracted from the story. The ladies in general don’t get to do much. The Crone affects the plot in a minor way at a few points. There’s also a female hacker that lends a hand but has a very minor role. Kate herself doesn’t do much other than weep and feel conflicted. Nick’s wife holds a high station among the refugees because of her husband’s role in that society instead of her own merits (and we don’t get to see her doing much other than laundry and cooking anyways). So, yeah, I wanted more from the ladies.

The tale ends with a cliff hanger. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Melissa Williams did an OK job. She was really good with the emotions of each character. Her male and female voices weren’t always distinguishable from each other. Her pacing was good. I especially liked her voice for Alec and her elderly voice for the Crone. Her vapid voice for another newsreporter was also good. I did wonder why Jackson didn’t have at least a mild Icelandic accent (he was raised by his American aunt and uncle in Iceland since the age of 2). There were no technical issues with the recording. 4/5 stars.

The tour is being sponsored by C.A. Gray. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

The most beautiful thing I've enjoyed this year!

I’ve just been on an adventure with Khai and Zariya. The desert sand is still wedged in creases, the sea salt adhering to my hair, and some jungle forest mystery patch is making it’s home in the shady part of my imagination. I’m a long time fan of Carey’s works but Starless may have surpassed them all. The plot was unexpected, the characters unforgettable, and the settings deadly beautiful.

A beautiful mythology wends it’s way through the plot. The stars, children of the sun Zar and he three moons, were cast from the heavens ages ago. Now these stars reside throughout the world, each gifted and bestowing their gifts upon mortals. Sometimes this is through direct interaction, sometimes through objects like rare seeds or a magical pearl.

The story is told through Khai’s eyes. He grows up in a desert fortress being trained by the monks on a variety of skills. He was born with a destiny: to be the Shadow to the Sun Blessed, Zariya. Once we’ve gotten to know Khai good and well (several years have passed), he goes to the royal palace to serve as Zariya’s body guard and confidante.

Since I had already fallen in love with Khai, I wasn’t sure I would bond as well with Zariya. Her world is so very different from the desert fortress but she has not been without her trials. An affliction challenges her daily. On top of that is the endless intrigues, making it difficult to trust anyone other than her Shadow. Zariya, being the last daughter of the last wife, believes she is destined for a simple marriage and child bearing. However, prophecy steps in and drags Zariya and Khai off on a world-saving adventure.

If Jacqueline Carey were ever to write horror, she would send a tremble through the entire genre. The creepy critters from the sea that threaten to decimate the world are truly things of nightmares. I thought the ants from the 3rd trilogy in the Terre D’Ange Cycle were scary; however, the critters from Starless take the cake.

I loved the gender fluidity of Khai’s character. The desert people call it ‘bazim’ (not sure on spelling). Khai grew up among only males but once he moves to the palace, he spends most of his time in the women’s quarter, guarding Zariya. There he learns about women and starts questioning his own gender-based roles in society. It’s all very well done. As Khai interacts with more cultures, each shares their take on the matter, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes bluntly. Khai grows by leaps and bonds and I loved his character all the more by the end of the tale. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Caitlin Davies did a great job with this book – a truly top notch performance. She provided so many different accents, keeping all the characters unique. Plenty of emotions, subtle and not, were on display in this tale and Davies gave them all their due. I especially enjoyed the valiant Mayfly. 5/5 stars.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Takes a while to get into but worth it

It took me a while to get into this book but I’m glad I stuck with it. I really enjoyed the characters and the main struggle. Glade Io is a pretty standard main character. She’s likable but a bit flawed in her absolute belief in the Authority. Still, I felt it was true to her character that she wouldn’t immediately believe those that oppose the Authority. It’s that struggle (Glade’s ability to parse the truth) that really drew me in.

The Ferrymen of Charon are your standard rebels or resistance. They just want to protect their families and have enough to live a decent life. Coopier inherited the leadership of the Ferrymen when his brother Loose died. The Ferrymen have come up with a plan to take out the Authority, but they need a Data Point and set about kidnapping a few (Glade and Sulia). This is where things finally got interesting for me. Glade’s 16 years of believing in the Authority are challenged by the Ferrymen (how they act & what they show her) and her world begins to crumble a bit.

Back at the Authority, Glade continues to train under Don, her long-term mentor. The story has set up a love triangle and love triangles are not my thing. It rarely works for me and it doesn’t work here. Despite that, I like Don and his own inner struggle – to trust Glade, hold true to the Authority, hate the Ferrymen.

The main premise of the tale is that specially trained people with a very specific personality (a little sociopathy, still maleable, highly intelligent, etc.) can work with specialized tech to read another person’s brainwaves and then snuff them out. Yep. Snuff out hundreds to thousands of people from afar. Planetwide but sometimes from other planets. I couldn’t help but shake my head at this. The writing could have made this a bit more believable but it was real loose and ridiculous.

Also there were small things that just didn’t ring true. The Authority monitors the Data Points during training… yet not during an actual culling? Some of the Data Points take up communicating silently through their tech and yet it’s not a common practice and is apparently unmonitored? Unlikely. Also, Glade is considered rather important and yet they don’t monitor all her movements all the time through her tech? It would be so simple to do…. So because of all these small things like this, I often felt the writing was lazy instead of giving us a story with solid, realistic rules.

On the other hand, the emotions of the characters and how some of them grow throughout the story kept me engaged. Even Sulia, who is a jerk, might have something more going on than just what we see on the surface. Because of the characters, I look forward to Book 2. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Stacey Glemboski did a great job with this book. She had distinct voices for all the characters and her male voices were believable. I really liked her voice for Coopier’s little brother and for Sulia when she’s being nasty. There’s plenty of tense emotions in this story and Glemboski did a great job portraying them. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Ramona Finn. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Don't let the title fool you - this is scifi!

The story drops us right down into the middle of things and that’s the way I like it. Rhyan is a likable character and it’s easy to grasp what’s going on. Aliens have wrecked Earth, tearing down nearly all human civilization. Now Rhyan and a handful of other survivors live day by day, scavenging for food, killing a few Vela aliens, and sleeping in a cavern at night. Things soon go wrong and Rhyan is on her own again, searching for safety and the basics. Luckily, she comes upon an abandoned horse, Lucky, who is more than happy to get out of his pasture and join her.

It’s not an easy road, but eventually Rhyan comes across a real human town that has electricity (solar & hydro power), apartment buildings, and even a hospital. Yet even then, danger is just around the corner. Rhyan never finds true safety because the aliens aren’t leaving and the remaining humans have conflicting agendas. I loved this aspect of the story. There was never a dull moment.

I did have trouble picturing the aliens. They’re bigger than humans, have claws, and bleed blue blood. But beyond that I’m not really sure. How many eyes? Number of arms? Armor? Hair? Perhaps there was one big long on description near the beginning and I missed all the details since I was gathering up the details of the story. I would have liked details about the aliens spaced throughout the story.

The humans were an interesting mixed bag. John stands out because he was so sure about the possibility of communicating with the aliens. Kalisha was my favorite side character. I can see her and Rhyan being a kickass team throughout the series. Valerie (I think that’s her name) was a panicked, wishy washy lady who just couldn’t fully trust Rhyan. I also liked Rhyan’s legless neighbor (Clarissa?) who watches TV too loudly in the early morning hours.

I did find it a bit odd that the aliens, with all their technology and military strength, have left this city of skyscrapers alone for the moment. Some people inside the city walls have wondered this too, so I hope the sequel gives us a good reason for it.

Even though this is silly, I’m going to say it anyway – the title keeps throwing me off. Until I heard the audiobook, I didn’t know if Girl Vs meant the V was her last name, a designation, etc. It turns out it’s Girl Versus – and I’m guessing that means Rhyan versus the aliens…. Still, I don’t like the title because it doesn’t tell me anything about the book. Despite that small criticism, I still enjoyed the tale. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Tonia Blake did a pretty good job with this narration. She had distinct voices for all the characters and her male voices were believable. I did notice that sometimes two or more character voices would blur into each other when more than 1 character was in a scene. Pacing was perfect and she did well with the emotions of all the characters. There were no technical issues with the recording. 4.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Xela Culletto. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Lots of fun ideas - but needed a little more

The Curien Island chain is infested with the walking dead… and they wear glass jars on their heads tightly sealed to their necks. Yeah – that should give you a horrific visual. Drug traffickers collide with the locals and the US Navy. It’s really quite a mess as the world falls apart. On top of that, Rand Bergeron, creator of the virtual reality gizmo and sex programs, is right smack in the middle of this as well. It’s quite logical that a twisted religious cult would rise up out of all this mess, lead by Sonntag. I loved hating on Sonntag! He was the most despicable character but also a powerful force that pushes all the other heavy hitters around.

My favorite character was Libby West. She’s trapped walking this thin line under Admiral Fall. She wants to keep her men safe and also help the remaining humans but Admiral Fall has some twisted ideas. West tries again and again to hold to some healthy morals as people around her stray ever further into one flavor of depravity or another.

It took me some time to get into this book. First, the zombies jar heads (while an awesome scary image) just wasn’t practical. Where do they get all these jars? What happens when they break? Zombies are clumsy. Then the story spent time on this fancy new tech from Bergeron which was at odds with this nitty gritty zombie infestation. But once all the characters clashed together, the story worked a lot better for me.

Tuan Jim was a fun character because he kept popping up in unexpected places. I loved it when he squared off with Sonntag. Martigan, while an important character, was only so-so for me. Hannibal Mo was more memorable, along with Kurtz and how they lend a much needed helping hand to Butch (a stow away).

The story takes a devious turn in the last quarter that I didn’t see coming. Yet I did wonder about Bergeron’s virtual reality collars. They have a little needle that slips between the vertebrae…. and injects something? There was line about the collars needing a refill? So I had questions about the collars and their final use.

All in all, it was a mash of fun ideas that could have been tightened up a bit. Most of the characters were one-dimensional and I wanted the details about the tech to be clearer. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Jennifer Fournier did a great job with this narration. She had a variety of character voices, complete with accents. Her male voices were believable. There were plenty of emotions in this story and Fournier portrayed them well. 5/5 stars.

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