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A light, silly read - The Half-Assed Wizard by Gary Jonas

The Half-Assed Wizard (Volume 1) - Gary Jonas

This was a fast-paced, fun, and snarky wizarding tale. Brett Masters is way more interested in sleeping, attempting to make music with his band, and drinking than he is in family wizarding politics. He comes from a rich and powerful family and has never had to work for his keep. Things are about to be upended!

I could totally picture Brett. I’ve known a few people like him stuck in that place of not contributing to anything so it was easy to get a feel for this main character right away.  The entire story, I was rooting for him, hoping he’d get his feet under him and finally save the day.

His cousin, Sabrina, showed a polar opposite to Brett. She hails from the same rich and powerful family, is an accomplished wizard herself, and is a motivational power, constantly pushing Brett to do something… anything, really. While she’s not our only female character, she is the main one. More than once she has to be rescued but she also spends a third of the time kicking butt.

The shark men! Ack! These guys were a bit creepy. No one wants to tango with shark men… unless you’re a half-assed wizard that is pretty drunk and out of good options (like running away and hiding for half a century).

There’s also Brett’s band. Michael was the one that stood out the most to me. He has dreamy vampire eyes that can melt the panties off of almost anyone. Unfortunately, his charm doesn’t work on powerful wizards like Brett’s dad or his main adversary. Michael does give Brett some much needed advice about living in the real world, but I think Brett was too drunk to take much of it in.

There’s plenty of rock and roll references. I only caught some of them. I’m sure others will recognize songs, musicians, and the like. The enchanted guitar pick was a fun little tidbit.

Overall, this tale is enjoyable. There’s not much character depth and the plot is pretty straight forward but the characters make it excellent brain candy. I look forward to the sequel! 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Joe Hempel makes an excellent slacker Brett Masters. He has this perfect don’t give a flip attitude for this character. I also really liked his drunk Brett voice. His female voices were sometimes feminine and sometimes needed a little boost to sound like a woman. All his character voices were distinct. 4.5/5 stars.

Excellent mashup! Legion of the Undead by Michael Whitehead

Legion of the Undead - Michael Whitehead

Legion of the Undead really hit the spot; I need a second helping! First, I love Roman Empire stories and I’ve come to love zombie fiction in the past few years. Now we have the perfect mash-up. Hungry zombie horde, meet the Roman legions! Cue evil laughter!

Often with ancient Roman historical fiction, I don’t see too many female characters and the few that are present are usually only there to act as someone’s love/lust interest. Not so with this book! Yay! The ladies are true to accepted Roman Empire gender roles but they also get plot-relevant stuff done. Even the minor but evil Sevillia did something that affected the plot. And I love Lucia, who is a 16 year old thrown into the midst of this zombie uprising. She’s not a cliched uber-tough zombie stomping heroine but she is practical, saves the day a time or two like the other heroes, and doesn’t fall to pieces when she needs to be rescued.

Of course Vitas Protus is my favorite. He’s an archer that is catapulted up into the ranks as the zombie issue becomes a real problem. He keeps his wits about him, takes advice from those around him, and gets stuff done. I loved how he watched out for Regulus, the 14 year old lad that was forced into the military. Then there’s big Antonius too. He’s also a practical sort, giving the soldiers orders to aim for the heads if they want to take out the zombies.

Starting out on the outskirts of Germania where the Roman legions were pushing back the German tribes, Vitas has to get his little band to safety. First, it’s to the their encampment and then on to the estate of Governor Clemmons. There Vitas gets his orders to head to Rome with a dire note and Lucia, who can speak to her merchant father’s home being overrun with these Risen (as the zombies are called in this book). Not everyone makes it out unscathed. In fact, a character I had gotten a little attached to takes one for the team before the end. There’s also a touch of intrigue and betrayal!

Anyway, it’s just a really good book and since we’re in November, I can safely say it’s one of my favorites of the year. Legion of the Undeadhas set a new bar for zombie Roman Empire historical fiction! 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Terry Self really out did himself with the narration. Just a great performance all around. He has distinct voices for all the characters and his female character voices are feminine. There’s a few accents as well (Spain Spanish, Gaulish, and Chinese) which he pulls off quite well. In fact, Terry Self sounded like he was really into the story, it never being a dull moment. There were no technical issues with this audiobook. 5/5 stars.

An elephant trap! Sneaky elephant! Tembo Makaburi by John Isaac Jones

Tembo Makaburi - John Isaac Jones

This novella is set in the days before the ban on ivory. Walter Cravens is out to get his fortune by hunting elephants and taking their tusks. Abasi is a servant, guide, and translator to Cravens who is set on bringing ‘progress’ to Africa. An old woman tries to give him some advice, warns about the elephant graveyard. Of course, Cravens won’t be warned off.

I liked the mouse and cat game that Cravens plays with an old bull elephant as they go ever deeper into the wilds. Cravens comes off a little strong in his pompous attitude but it serves the plot well. He’s dead sure that no animal could outsmart him and he’s got the imperious attitude to prove it – ha!

Meanwhile, Abasi and the porters do all the work. In some ways Abasi is the true center of this story. He gathers all the intel (chatting up locals, doing the tracking) and lays it at the feet of the great White hunter Cravens. I liked that Abasi makes mistakes too and isn’t really averse to killing elephants even if he gets a bit spooked later on in the story. He’s not perfect but he’s not the hero of the tale either.

As the story progresses, the tension builds. Something a little supernatural is going on here, right? Or is it just that Cravens and Abasi are making idiot choices and Nature eventually wins out? It’s left up to the reader to decide and I really enjoyed this slant to the story. 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: JD Kelly has one of those rich voices that makes you want to listen to darn near anything that he reads. I loved his voice for Cravens and he also had a distinct voice for Abasi with a believable Swahili accent. Abasi’s fear and skepticism and placating charm all came through loud and clear even as Kelly made Cravens sound like a pompous jerk as he’s meant to be. 5/5 stars.

Cute, cuddly, & educational - The Case of the Cursed Dodo by Jake G. Panda

The Case of the Cursed Dodo (The Endangered Files) (Volume 1) - Jake G. Panda

This was so cute! It’s got some detective noir feel to it with the period phrases but none of the real violence since this is for kids. There’s humor all over the place; you can’t help tripping over it. As a biologist, I loved seeing all the endangered animals, like the macaroni penguin, tucked into the story.

Jake Panda was a fun detective, trying to be all tough and grumpy and yet sweet talking his bamboo plant. I kept picturing him in a hat and trench coat even though he doesn’t wear a hat. While working at the Last Resort hotel as the house detective, he gets a postcard from his friend The Professor, a hare (not a rabbit!), seeking his aid. He runs off to do so and gets tangled up in this nefarious underground animal ring. Jake Panda won’t stand for that! Yay! Even though this is for kids, the mystery was still fun to watch unravel.

The story sometimes included stuff like ‘and we fade in to whoever doing whatever’, etc. This seemed a little odd at first but I soon got used to the stage directions being there. I really liked that the tale took place in more than one place around the world and yet more places were mentioned. In fact, this whole story is full of little learning moments – the various types of animals, locations around the world, small interesting bits about the animals themselves. I think this is great for kids interested in biology or science in general.

There’s really only 1 main female character, Daisy Condor, and she comes into the tale half way through. She’s a romantic interest and while she gets to take part in the grand finale, I felt that this story needed some gender balancing. There were a handful of ladies briefly mentioned but all with small tiny roles. Meanwhile, we have The Professor, the Dodo, the guy who double crosses Jake, etc. How are all these endangered animals going to reproduce if there’s no ladies?

All told, it was a delightful tale and fit fora family road trip with young kids. 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: So many awesome narrators came together to make this story alive! All the character voices were distinct and I loved that the voice actors made each voice sound a little like the animal they are portraying. There was a snorting hog, a laughing hyena, and Jake Panda often had a little growl to his voice. There were plenty of sound effects and they added to the story, though there was once or twice when the sounds over-shadowed the voices for a moment or three. 4.5/5 stars.

A vampire dragon zombie? Yes! Attack on the Overworld by Danica Davidson

Attack on the Overworld: An Unofficial Overworld Adventure, Book Two - Danica Davidson

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone story. Also, you don’t have to be a Minecraft fan to enjoy this tale.

Maison and Stevie return for another adventure! Though, admittedly, this isn’t one either signed up for. While Maison is visiting Stevie in the Overworld, she realizes her computer was hacked by some cyberbullies and they are most definitely up to no good! Destiny and her cousin wreak zombie havoc in Stevie’s home village.

This was quite a bit of fun and I liked it a little better than Book 1. The stakes were higher as people Stevie knows and cares about are turned into zombies by the bully TheVampireDragon555, who I will just call Vampire Dragon. It was both funny and a little disturbing for Maison and Stevie that Vampire Dragon was turned into a thinking angry zombie. Yep, you got that right – a Vampire Dragon zombie loose in the Overworld! Cue evil laughter!

I liked that the cyberbullying issue wasn’t a simple thing in this tale. Davidson does a great job of showing multiple facets to this real-life problem. Through the characters of Destiny and Vampire Dragon, she shows us a few reasons why bullies do what they do. Then through Maison and Stevie she shows what those targeted by the bullies can do. Sometimes it takes a few choice kind words and sometimes greater actions, perhaps using a sword, are needed.

While there is an obvious underlying message about bullying, the story works really well in the action and plot department. Maison really shines as a character as she feels very responsible for the bullies making their way into the Overworld and yet she doesn’t give up hope in saving the zombified villagers. She also has to make a leap of trust that could turn the tide one way or another.

Over all, it was a fun listen and makes me want to check out Minecraft and see what adventures I could go on.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Dan Woren is the perfect vampire dragon zombie! His voice for that character was excellent – a bit raspy, a bit evil, and a bit wannabe ruler of the world. I loved it! His character voices were all distinct and his female voices were definitely feminine. He sounds totally engaged in the plot as well, easily pulling off all the emotions the characters go through.

Deliciously dark & intense - Blood Divine by Greg Howard

Blood Divine - Greg  Howard

This paranormal mystery has some Southern Gothic flair to it while also being set in the modern day world. Cooper Causey starts off as a bit of a man whore, flitting from man to man in a string of one-night stands. Part of him knows he wants a deeper relationship yet he runs from the idea of it. Then he gets a very strange and a little frightening voicemail from his granma, his only family left, and he hightails it to South Carolina and then Warfield to rescue her. Turns out Granma Maymay (as the locals call her) had some secrets! I can’t recall her real name – Anne-May? Lilly May? I think it was Granma Lilly May so I’ll just call her that.

What a treat this book was! The dark Gothic style to it pulled me right in. I love that there’s family secrets Cooper has to dig up even as he has to decide whether or not to keep his own secrets. He’s gay and he doesn’t know how Lilly May will take it. Silly Cooper! You’ve got much bigger problems on your hands!

So he calls the cops to help locate Lilly May and in walks 6 ft 4 in tall, all muscle, Chief of Police Randy. Yep, Cooper had a crush on him in his teen years and it seems that crush hasn’t faded. Definitely a complication when Cooper doesn’t need one, but a very handsome complication. So, the police are doing their thing when Betsy swoops in and rescues Cooper from Alexander and Stephen (our two main nemeses).

That’s when Cooper has to learn all about the Anakim, which are basically vampires, and how Betsy and her crew have been working hard for centuries to eradicate them from the planet. Cooper’s bloodline has special powers and are called the Divinum. Cooper’s blood does special things for the Anakim.

The story becomes a bit of a hostage swap game as Alexander demands Cooper submit to him as a blood slave in exchange for whoever he has captured at the moment. Yes, there’s plenty of flirtatious and lascivious comments, some double entendres, and some outright compliments between all the men. They often lightened up the mood, putting a little humor into the story line.

I especially liked the two old lady ghosts that set up watch and info center at the Phipps house (Lilly May’s place). Now these ladies don’t like to be called ghosts as that’s an out dated term and considered a little insulting. They prefer to be called spirits. So even as Cooper is learning his ethereal political correctness, one of these old ladies uses out dated terms, such as Negro, which was commonly used when she was alive. Cooper tries to bring them up to speed but eventually shelves it for more important matters. This whole situation gave me a bit of a chuckle.

All together, it was a very good listen. I liked the mystery, and the mystique, the jokes and the underlying seriousness to many of them, the bad guys and their minions, the good guys and their complicated motivations. The story wraps up several major points but leaves plenty open for a sequel. I do so hope things work out OK for Cooper!

The Narration: Gary Furlong is the reason I decided to give this book a listen and I’m very glad I did. The story was engaging and Furlong added to that with his excellent narration. He was perfect as Cooper while also keeping all the other characters distinct. He performed a few regional accents and his female characters were believable. I really liked his voice for Randy both when he was pissed off and in his softer more intimate moments.

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

Full of action and time-rending bugs! Time Reavers by Jacob Holo

Time Reavers - Jacob Holo

Time manipulators, a secret society based in the secret city of Chronopolis, and the Reavers (giant bugs) make this a hell of a fun ride! Nicole unexpectedly finds out that she can manipulate time while on a class trip to Russia. There she meets Daniel, a friendly guy with a sword in a trench coat who slays these gigantic bugs. And that’s just the start. I was caught up in this tale right away and the party continued the whole way through the book.

First, Nicole was an easy character to like. She does enter the story a bit deer in the headlights but once she accepts this is her new reality, some of her inner spark and humor start to show. I didn’t always care for her passive aggression with her sister Amy, but I did find it added to her character. They’re sisters so there’s bound to be some love and hate all mixed together. Speaking of Amy, I really liked her. She’s got some issues as well but I like that she owns them.

Then there’s Daniel. This guy had me laughing out loud. He’s got this quirky sense of humor and he can be almost innocent at times. But then he’s also a trained assassin with special gifts. So, yeah. He’s a cuddly, friendly dude who kills people for the leadership of Chronopolis. Those two polar opposites in one character made him fascinating to me.

Enter Rudigers and his cousin Melanie Krieg. They also work for Chronopolis but Ruddy has some different ideas on some things. He and Daniel have history and that gives barbs to their comments to one another. Still, they are committed to saving people and that means they are stuck working together. These 5 young adults make a great team, each one bringing their own unique powers to the story. Later in the tale, we meet Shoto, a swords-smith at Chronopolis. She has some choice words for Daniel, in Japanese. Daniel really does need to get some linguistics lessons.

I loved the bugs! Some are sentient, some aren’t. Some are hive drones, some are brain bugs. These Reavers were all scary and deadly. I especially enjoyed Nicole’s look into the bug leaders’s ideas. While I expected that this story would turn out OK, I did have these little moments where I wasn’t sure if someone would fall to the bugs. They have so many ways to kill humans!

My one little quibble was that I found it a bit unrealistic that Nicole’s parents weren’t more involved. They were quite OK with 16-year-old Nicole and her older sister gallivanting around Europe (that’s the tale they told the parents). So in moments like this, Amy and Nicole felt more like college students instead of high school students. Other than that, I really enjoyed this tale and was entertained throughout it.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Tess Irondale was great for this book. She had plenty of accents to pull off (Russian, British, German, Japanese, American) which she did incredibly well. I was impressed with the speed and accuracy she showed for the various languages. Then there were some emotions in this book and she did great with those as well. Each character was kept distinct and her male voices were believable. A great narration all told!

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

A chilling zombie tale! Summer of 68 by Kevin Millikin

Summer Of 68 - Kevin Millikin

This story started with reports coming in to radio stations across the USA reporting the dead rising and eating the living. Of course, few believed it was possible. Since this is set in 1968, zombies and how to combat them wasn’t on too many people’s minds. In California, a small town is hit with this strange occurrence. I was really drawn into the tale at this point especially because I wanted to see how these two kids, Jake and Russell, fared.

First we get a glimpse into their everyday lives. The kids’s dad is off in Vietnam and their mother is trying to take care of everything – all the parenting duties, working, and trying to be both mom and pop to the kids. She was a very realistic character, sneaking smokes when she could. The neighbor offers to take the kids off to the fishing hole. Lucky for them, this gets them out of town for the initial outbreak.

Meanwhile, the town’s sheriff, Sheriff Baker, has been called out to deal with some lazy jerks terrorizing this farmer’s animals in the barn. She tried to scare them off with a few shots but when they started to kill her animals, she called in the police. Baker arrives there and expects drunk and belligerent drifters or farm hands. What he and his deputy find is far, far worse. Wow! It’s totally logical that animals locked in a barn wouldn’t fare well but still, that was tough. Baker was kinda boring at first but he really shined in this scene. This is where I started paying attention to him.

Once the kids get caught up in the zombie apocalypse, they have some choices to make – head for town or head for home. I found this part of the story a bit wonky. I felt it was more logical for them to head home instead of to town and the older brother even weighs out this argument in his head… and then seems to go against his own logic.

This story starts off pretty gender balanced but as things progress, the tale focuses only on the male characters. I would have liked a bit more from the ladies, especially as they are written quite well in the first half of the book. If the world is going down, I want to hear from everyone, not just the guys.

For the entire story, I was hoping but not expecting all my favorite characters to get out alive. This is not a happy conquer all the dead kind of tale. I respect that. As the book blurb strongly hints, this is not a happy ending story. Still, the tale left me wanting a little more. Yet overall, it kept me entertained and I was invested in the main characters.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a decent job with this book. His kid voices for Jake and Russel start off great. He sounds like a kid and keeps the two voices distinct. However as the story progresses, they sound more and more like the adult characters and they aren’t always distinct. That said, the pacing is good and there were no technical issues I noticed. His female voices are believable and I especially loved his voice for the old grumpy neighbor that takes the kids to the fishing hole.

Interesting even if it lags occasionally - Lost in the Clouds by R. K. Gold

Lost in the Clouds - R.K. Gold

Neville is quite the ordinary man, neither a saint nor a devil. He’s got some hangups but also some righteous anger. As he drifts in the in-between, he’s guided by a rather blunt, grumpy man. Neville has to face all the things he loved and hated in life and one by one let go so that he can move on to the next stage of existence.

Not much happens in this book. It’s a quiet, personal, and emotionally challenging journey for Neville and us readers are just along for the ride. In this sense, I would compare it to some of Guy Gavriel Kay’s books where the story is all about a character’s personal growth. Honestly, at first I wasn’t too sure where this tale would go but I was hooked on Neville and really wanted to see what he would make of it.

Perhaps half way through the tale we learn more about Tessa, Neville’s older sister, and why he holds such anger towards her. I really liked this scene because it gave me both sides of the larger issues that stood between the two. They both made mistakes and they both had to pay for them.

Neville’s bland wife Catherine wasn’t all the interesting. We only get small snatches of her, seeing how she’s done her best to support Neville emotionally throughout the years. I would have liked more about her because I’m pretty sure she had hobbies or friends or personal tribulations.

A few more minor characters come into play. Dennis is the office parasite. There’s a memory of Neville’s dog Wilbur. There’s also a lovely lady at the office that could be Neville’s friend or his undoing. The cast was pretty small for this book and I think that makes it ideal for a stage play.

There were a few times when the story lagged a little for me. I felt that Neville had made his point but then slid into the Whiny Zone. The first time, this was part of his character but as he did it more and more often, I became a little tired of it.

On a side note, as Neville fades in and out of life throughout this book, he often mentions tingling in his personal bits. Yep. Honestly, after the second time it added a little humor to the tale. Neville’s nethers are tingling again! Perhaps it’s just me or perhaps the author was trying to work in a reference to Neville’s root chakra.

All together, I was entertained throughout the book. The tale has some weight as Neville confronts his own shortcomings and overcomes them. This is a small, quiet tale that left me with some deep thinking to do.

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

Narration: Kyle Tait was a perfect fit for this book. He was great as Neville, capturing the often subtle emotions of this character. His female voices were also believable and all the character voices were distinct. I especially loved his voice of the grumpy guide that Neville is plagued by as he transitions from the living to the after life.

A fun LGBTQ fractured fairytale - Ballad of the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty

Ballad of the Beanstalk - Amy McNulty

Clarion is our quiet, determined hero of this story. She’s on the cusp of adulthood and this adventure will catapult her into life with several decisive actions. I really liked her character. She’s had a pretty stable if downward spiraling life up until recently. She and her mom are facing poverty. With her dad deceased, it’s up to her and her mom to make ends meet. I was right beside Clarion in her grief over her mom’s decision to sell the last of the pigs. However I do wonder why Clarion thought Royce and Raymond would keep their little pig farm going. I’m pretty sure Clarion understood that it takes male and female pigs to get a new generation of piglets… but her inner monologue on these two boy pigs says she doesn’t. That was the first little thing that didn’t make sense with this tale.

Note: I have since learned that it’s Royse (as in Medieval version of Rose). The author shared that little tidbit with me which is great since I didn’t pick up on the spelling with this audioversion.

Over all, I enjoyed this story. With that said, there are several small points (like the pig issue mentioned above) that show this tale could have used a little polishing. Clarion’s mom comes off as a bit of a harpy at first but then her character becomes softer, more approachable. But then we quickly move on with the rest of the story, so I can’t say which version of Clarion’s mom was the more realistic. These are just two examples of small points that sometimes contradicted each other.

Anyhoo, Clarion has a social gathering to get ready for and that involves first cleaning the Mayor’s house and then borrowing someone’s dress. Her beloved harp (a big awkward thing) may not be her’s for much longer. Both Clarion and I were sad about this. But we are given little time to cry over that because there’s a big beanstalk!

From this point forward, things get a bit predictable. The story still has a charm to it but I was not surprised by anything. Up in the clouds, there’s a domineering bully of a giant along with other giants. The characters travel up and down the various beanstalks while they attempt to resolve all the conflicts. The witch Jacosa plays a key role in these beanstalks and in shrinking and enlarging various characters; her herbs and magical beans provide the backbone for this tale.

Now I really did like that Clarion is having to muddle through her romantic feelings in the midst of all this. She and Elena have been friends for years and perhaps a little more. However, in the recent months, Clarion isn’t sure she feels that way about Elena any longer. Then a new young man comes to town, Mack, and Clarion feels her first little crush on a boy. I loved that her blossoming feelings for a potential heterosexual relationship doesn’t diminish her past homosexual feelings for Elena. Two thumb ups for this aspect of the story despite some ridiculous insta-love later on in the tale.

Now the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger so I hope there will be a sequel, otherwise Clarion will be stuck in an uncomfortable disposition forever. All told, it was Clarion that carried me through the story. I was attached to her even with the tale being a bit predictable.

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

Narration: Kaitlin Descutner did a very good job with this story. She had the perfect young lady voice for Clarion. There was singing! Yes, indeed! Descutner pulled this off really well. Not all narrators can easily work in a bit of singing and Descutner did not disappoint. Her male voices were believable and all her characters were distinct. There were no technical issues with the recording.

Practical skills from one generation to the next - Trapping Rabbits by John Isaac Jones

Trapping Rabbits - John Isaac Jones

This little piece of historical fiction centers on Billy Johnson. In 1951, he’s just a kid and it’s plowing season. Billy’s dad and two Black farm workers (Rufus & Calvin) are hard at work with the mules when a little rain shower comes along and work is paused. Billy’s dad doesn’t waste the time but instead uses it to teach Billy the useful skill of catching and killing rabbits.

I really liked this part of the story because it’s set on a farm, there are mules (I used to have donkeys and one of them was trained to plow), and there’s some parent-kid bonding going on. In today’s world of industrial meat farms, catching and killing rabbits isn’t a common skill to pass down but I think it’s a useful one to have. The author didn’t hold back on how to capture and kill rabbits, nor did he make the descriptions gruesome. It was simply a useful skill being passed on from one generation to the next.

The story is catapulted into 1975 for the second half of the tale. Billy is a functioning adult with a job and aspirations. In a conversation with a shoestring relative, he’s flung back to that moment in 1951 where his dad taught him about rabbits.

I was intrigued by the second half of this story. It was interesting to see Billy living and working in near-modern world with office buildings and packaged foods. However, the tale ends rather abruptly. I was left wondering what the point was and how Billy was affected by this unexpected trigger in 1975 that brought back 1951. I would have liked just a little more to finish this story out. We don’t know if Billy’s dad is alive in 1975 or not. Perhaps Billy would give him a call or visit his grave or simply toast his memory with a scotch.

In short, the tale started off interesting and gripping. Then there’s the sudden jump in timeline but the story holds promise for interesting times. Then it simply ends abruptly.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: James Kiser was a good fit for this story. He had a kid voice for Billy and then an adult voice for him. There was only 1 female character but Kiser had a believable voice for her. He captured the dramatic bits as well as the in-between moments well.

80s music rocks in this SF thriller! The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein

The Punch Escrow - Tal M. Klein, Matthew Mercer

Wow!

Yeah, that sums up my experience with this book. I really enjoyed it. There’s tons of science-y bits, and you know how I like my science. There’s the mosquitoes that eat carbon fumes (and then pee rainwater), the personal assistant AIs, self-driving vehicles, and teleportation. Yep! The 22nd century is looking mighty fine indeed. Then in steps Joel Byram.

Joel is such a smart ass and I had a lot of fun with this character. He’s a Salter, someone who is paid to provide conundrums to AIs. Legally, benignly, salting teaches the AI. However, Joel could use his salting skills to backdoor hack an AI, which is totally illegal and our hero would never do that. Or would he? The author did a great job of showing us this job, which is totally fascinating to me, but is rather humdrum boring to Joel. There are tons of Salters and Joel makes it sound as boring as customer service.

Then there’s Joel’s fascination with 1980s music. Oh my! I had so many of those songs stuck in my head while listening to this book, especially Karma Chameleon by Culture Club. At least some, if not all, of the chapters were named after 1980s songs. I’m sure I missed some of the references. Which makes this a perfect book for a reread.

It did take me a little bit to figure out the title of the book. At one point, Joel goes over the philosophy of this 17th century British dude, John Punch along with Ockham’s Razor. It wasn’t until halfway through that I finally understood the ‘escrow’ part of the title: holding in trust. As Joel learns the true mechanism behind International Transport’s teleportation, the title becomes clear and it is a very chilling and horrifying truth indeed! Tal Klein, hats off to you. You made my blood run cold with that reveal.

OK, so I loved all the science though if you’re not into science, some of the info dumps might bore you a little. Fear not! This tale is full of action and danger and snark. Oh yes, we get plenty of snark (yay!). Joel goes to great lengths to ensure his wife Sylvia is OK. She works for International Transport on top secret classified stuff and after the Big Event, all sorts of people are either trying to kill or capture Joel and Sylvia. Joel resorts to various types of trickery, torturing people with 1980s songs, hijacking an emergency vehicle, and teaming up with questionable people. It is a wonderful roller coaster ride.

In short, this was a unique and completely engaging story. The mix of science and snark captured my brain and my heart. Klein is a talented author and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

Narration: Matthew Mercer – you rocked this book! Literally, you rocked it 1980s style. Thank you for pulling out all the stops and making Punch Escrow a total delight to listen to. You were the perfect smart ass Joel and I loved the bits of song. As Joel went through his myriad of emotions, you were right there portraying them to the listeners. All together, it was a great performance.

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

Why did I wait so long to enjoy this!?! Where the Hell is Tesla? by Rob Dircks

Where the Hell is Tesla? - Rob Dircks

Haha! This was so much fun! Why did I wait so long to give this a listen?!? Chip is such an interactive character. He’s always talking to me, the audience. He has a lot of cheek and often screams in terror. Luckily he has the much more down to Earth and competent Pete to get him out of trouble. Pete started off as a bit of a jock and I wasn’t too sure I would like him but he quickly grew on me.

Later on we get to know Tesla, yes the mad scientist, as a character. Don’t call him dude. He will correct you. Then there’s also Bobo, some weird alien thing that Chip befriends as he bumbles his way around the hallway of inter-dimensions. Bobo quickly picks up the middle finger salute, thinking it is some sort of greeting.

The ladies were noticeable in that they were largely absent. Chip often messages his girlfriend Julie and later on we meet the talented Meg but I found myself wanting a little more gender balance. That is my only quibble and I quite enjoyed this tale despite the lack of ladies.

The quest itself was full of fun. I love the way nearly everything is captured in a kind of journal form either through email messages or journal entries in Tesla’s newly rediscovered notebook. Chip, Pete, and Bobo kind of turn into modern-day superheroes. Luckily, they haven’t taken up wearing spandex.

The humor is what did it for me. It’s a mix of snark, slap stick, cursing, and absurd situations. This mix really worked for as I was never sure of what Chip would end up in next and how that would make me laugh. This is a very fun science fiction story with unique characters trapped in an absurd situation.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rob Dircks isn’t just an entertaining author, he’s also great at narration. I loved his narration of his other book The Wrong Unit so I knew I was in good hands with this audiobook. Each character voice is distinct, his female voices are believable, and he puts so much life into the characters! All around, he’s just really great at this. There are no technical issues either – sound quality is perfect, no mouth noises, no repeated sentences or such. Great narration!

A Fun Rowdy Ride! Curse of the Zombie Omelet by Grivante

The Zee Brothers : Zombie Exterminators - Grivante

This was a fun zombie flick. There’s plenty of humor mixed with a little death and gore. Apparently zombies are a regular issue and there’s specialized exterminator companies out there to see to all your zombie needs. The Zee brothers get a call from an old penny pincher but arrive too late to save him. It quickly becomes clear that they’ll have a much bigger problem soon if they don’t stop the angry dead from rising.

I have a thing for stories that feature old disturbed burial grounds complete with angry ghosts rising to kick someone’s butt for disturbing them. For this tale, that happens to be the burial grounds of a local Native American tribe. It was quite fun to watch the boys scramble around trying to figure out what got these spirits so riled up and how to appease them now.

In steps JJ. For some reason she’s wearing tight shorts and a zipped up leather jacket… in Arizona… and I don’t think it’s winter. She also has a cute little pink gun. Now I’m all for tales that feature both genders going armed but I’ve never been fond of pink guns. On the other hand, JJ obviously knows what to do with said gun so if she wants a pink one, I guess it’s OK. For much of the tale, JJ is a sex object. Sigh… But then she takes down her share of zombies and protects the Zees’s backs a few times. So I’m on the fence about her character. We’ll see if she gets more of a useful role in the future.

Jonah and Judas make a fun pair because Jonah is a bit gruff and likes to be in charge while Judas is a lovable bumbling eager lad that wants to impress Jonah, and later JJ. Though I don’t think Judas will be getting many kisses with his tobacco chew habit – blech! I think I rather kiss a zombie! Jonah is missing some fingers and he doesn’t want to talk about it, grumpy man! While they are constantly jabbing each other, they each protect the other. It’s a good chemistry for this humorous zombie romp.

Let’s talk about Sasha. I really lie Sasha. I know. She’s the truck but she still kicks butt! Sounds like she needs a tune up and her transmission gears have had some teeth knocked out. First no longer works so the guys have to stumble over getting her started in second more than once. Those little touches were realistic and brought back memories of my early standards. Sasha also has a magic eightball gear shifter, so she gets to add her 5 cents to mix on a regular basis. JJ comes to like that eightball quite a bit.

Then there’s Xanadu! To the rescue! With disco music! Yep, you heard me. Complete with disco lighting. I know, it is so ridiculous and so much fun. It’s like the author took a dare on whether or not he could write a zombie flick that involved a burial site, omelets, a pink handgun, an eightball, disco music, and Xanadu. Well, if that’s the case, he did it well. This story was pure fun to listen to. I’m looking forward to future installments.

Narration: Ian McEuen did a pretty good job with this book. There was one or two odd pauses but that was the only technical issue I caught. His voice characterization is spot on. He has distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices are believable. I especially liked the variety of screams and moans he came up with for this tale. There’s also a touch of music worked in at appropriate times which really added to those scenes in the book.

Heart of Gold by Cipriano & Garner

Heart of Gold (Clans of Shadow) (Volume 1) - J. A. Cipriano, J. B. Garner

Frank Butcher delivers packages. He’s got a big ego and a crush on Dr. Gabrielle Perez. During one of his flirtatious encounters, the crap hits the fan as part of the building explodes around him. When he wakes, it’s a magical device that’s keeping him alive and the cultists want it. Pretty soon he has to make a hard choice as the cultists aren’t above threatening children to get what they want.

I want to say this is set in Florida but I may be wrong. Anyway, it’s a big city with some Hispanic and Latino influences. While I did like the Spanish used here and there, it’s el corazon and not la corazon. It’s a small mistake, but it did make me listen closer for other such linguistic errors.

Setting aside the language lesson, this was a very fun book. It’s brain candy and Frank is the star. True, he’s got a big ego, but he’s also got a big heart of gold, literally. There’s plenty of humor thrown in, though sometimes it was borderline punny and a little much. At times the humor felt like a worn thin comedic routine and at other times I was laughing out loud.

There’s plenty of action, and since Frank is a vet, there’s some gun play as well. Mixing magic and guns nearly always works for me. I really liked Gabrielle. She’s right in the mix. No shrinking wall flower status for her! She’s often the one keeping Frank on track or keeping him alive or getting him out of harm’s way. Then her son Max becomes a focus for the cultists so Frank and Gabrielle have to come up with a new game plan.

I did enjoy the bigger plot concerning the cultists and what they are up to. Frank and Gabrielle certainly have their hands full. And poor Gabrielle! I’m sure she feels betrayed by certain people. This tale wraps up well but leaves a larger story arc open for a sequel, which I look forward to enjoying with some popcorn.

The Narration: Joe Hempel makes a great Frank Butcher. It seems he really had fun with the character’s ego and humor. He also did a great job with Gabrielle’s voice and I liked his Hispanic accent for the little bit of Spanish in the story.

Lucky Penny by Ellie Ashe

Lucky Penny (Miranda Vaughn Mysteries) (Volume 3) - Ellie Ashe

Note: While this is Book 3 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

Miranda Vaughn has a new job that may lead to a bigger, more permanent job. She’s off to the Whispering Pines Resort at Lake Tahoe to help Dottie Russel assess the owner’s finances, since he wishes to buy a currently abandoned casino resort, Lucky Penny, that his family once owned. It sounds like a dream job, at least until things get complicated. With a film crew on site and the FBI coming out to investigate the possibility of illegal gambling, there’s plenty of possible culprits in the mix.

This book is rather different from the last, Dropping the Dime, which was also different from the first, Chasing the Dollar. All 3 have been good, though I think I enjoyed Book 2 the most. There wasn’t an instant mystery and nearly all the action happens in the last quarter of the book. However, since I was hooked on the main characters from the previous books, I didn’t mind the slow burn on this story. Just because we don’t have a body doesn’t mean that Miranda isn’t capable of being in the middle of trouble.

I did like the addition of the film crew and famous movie stars. It made parts of the resort inaccessible so Miranda and Dottie can’t go everywhere. Miranda does meet a personal assistant on the film crew and this lady is very cheerful and bouncy and quite willing to sneak Miranda into the filming area so she can meet the heart throb of the film. That adds to Miranda’s romantic entanglements nearly as much as when Quinn arrives.

In Book 2, Quinn showed definite interest in Miranda and she was definitely tempted, yet she still has this simmering undercurrent of attraction with FBI agent Jake Barnes, who also shows up at the resort later. One thing I have enjoyed about these books is that while there is this romantic element, it’s secondary to the mystery. With that said, the author does bump of the time spent on Miranda’s romance life in this book, which made some parts of the story a little silly or a little slow for me. I prefer the mystery, the hunt, the action, the critical thinking.

So we get to the last quarter of the book and things really pick up. There’s definitely some double dealing going on and the Lucky Penny seems to be at the heart of it. This was the best part of the book though I do have to say that using a sneeze to move the plot along is just a touch cliche. It’s cute, but cliche. Still, even with that, I really enjoyed watching Jake and Miranda figure out who did what, since there’s more than one crime to solve. I suspected one culprit but did not see the other. Clever.

All together, it was a fun cozy mystery. I look forward to seeing what trouble Jake and Miranda can get into in the future and also how their relationship develops.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Teri Schnaubelt is still great at being Miranda Vaughn. I also really liked her always cheery voice for the personal assistant, her older, quavering voice for Dottie, and her distressed drama queen voice for the female movie star. She was great at the male voices as well.