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Murder in Keswick by William Todd

Murder in Keswick - William Todd

This was a good, classic Holmes & Watson tale. I think it would fit well into the original Doyle canon. I can just imagine H&W on vacation, with Holmes bored stiff until a headless body turns up. The glint of glee in his eyes must have shown to anyone interacting with him as he worked at the mystery.

Mrs. Darcy is no shrinking violet, which I liked. The ladies are still few in number and have limited roles, just as in the original stories (alas). I also liked Morwenna, who was no nonsense as well but in a different way from the American Mrs. Darcy. I think it was Morwenna that had my favorite line about finding dirty laundry under the bed, where her husband kicked it. She said something to the effect of her husband training her for child rearing by being lazy with his dirty clothes. Ha! I laughed out loud because it made me think of my man and how he leaves socks, plates, and empty drink containers here and there.

Initially, there are many suspects who had motive to take out Mr. Darcy. However, since we all know this is a Holmes mystery, it was very hard to ignore any little detail that might lead Holmes (and me as the reader) to the real killer. Still, the take did have a great twist near the end and I was little surprised by the final answer to the mystery. Kudos to the author for making it a little more intricate than expected.

Over all, the story has the feel and quality of the original H&W stories. I was entertained the entire time even if I was left wanting a bit more from the ladies. The story kept true to the Victorian setting. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Ben Werling is great with Sherlock’s arrogant voice as well as being great with the indulgent, easy-going voice of Watson. His female voices need some work. While there were few ladies in this story, they sounded like men. I had to pay close attention to their scenes to keep track of who said what when. Werling does do a great job of capturing the subtle emotional changes of Sherlock as well the more explosive emotions of Watson. His pacing is perfect and there are no technical recording issues. 4/5 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.

Destination Dachshund by Lisa Fleetwood

Destination Dachshund: A Travel Memoir: Three Months, Three Generations and Sixty Dachshunds - Lisa Fleetwood

This was a cute little travelogue. I found the Australian perspective on the magic of winter and Christmas entertaining. And what a trip of the lifetime! To take 3 months to travel throughout Europe, part of the US, and end up in New York in time for the winter holidays! I love that the extended family was able to be part of much of the trip, complete with a massive (27 people!) family get together at one point.

I did like the descriptions of Russia and the Balkans the most, as there was a hint of danger or uncertainty. Estonia seemed both bleak (especially near the border) and full of mystery. Of course, all the food descriptions were entertaining – sometimes delicious and sometimes full of mystery as well (ha!).

Parts of the tale did lag a little for me because they seemed a little empty, a little vapid. I wanted a bit more substance here and there. The dachshund spotting contest was cute at first but then got a little silly. Still, it was fun for the family and that’s what matters most for this book.

In the end, the family makes it home safely to Australia where the hunt for another dachshund begins (one of there dear beasties having died shortly before their adventure began). I was a little sad to see how fixated they were on getting a dachshund puppy, calling all the breeders three times over until they got the object they desired. After all, there’s plenty of pups and older dogs looking for good homes and getting hung up on a specific breed feeds into puppy mills, etc. So, for me, the tale ended on a sad note. It wasn’t about the dog, but about the object. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Stephanie Macfie was a lot of fun for this book. I feel she nailed the author’s voice perfectly. I also liked her voices for the family members and the occasional side character. Her male voices (which admittedly weren’t required often) were believable. Her pacing was perfect and she was upbeat and engaged for the entire book. 5/5 stars.

I received a copy of this audiobook via The Audiobookworm in exchange for an honest review. The gifting of this book did not affect my thoughts on the book.

Outer Diverse by Nina Munteanu

Outer Diverse - Nina Munteanu

I had the pleasure to listen to this book 5 or 6 years ago, and I really enjoyed it then. I’m very pleased to say that this book has stood up well over the years. Rhea Hawke is still the bad ass I want to be when I grow up. I love her dress sense (boots, weapons, sentient great coat), her sorta pet tappin (kinda a cat with 3 tails), and her best friend Beni, who is the AI on her little work-issued spaceship. Alas, she messed up big time at work (the Galactic Guardians, which is way more bureaucratic than it sounds), and she lost all but her boot and her sorta cat.

While wallowing in her self-pity, wondering what to do with her life now, she joins a gym where she meets Serge. He’s way more sexy than his name hints at. Pretty soon, she’s spending nearly all her time at his place. She’s held back from snooping into his past, as she would have done in a heart beat when she worked for the Guardians. That’s going to come back to bite her in the butt.

I especially enjoyed the tangled relationship she has with her mom. She loves her (maybe) but hates her too (and definitely hates that she sleeps around so much!). But her mom has kept some really big secrets from her and that had to sting, so I see her point most of the time.

So many aliens! I love this aspect to the story because humans aren’t the focus. In fact, they are basically an endangered species. Barely tolerated in most civilized places, Rhea has had to work twice as hard to prove herself worthy. She’d rather do that than take the path her mom did (free love).

Then there’s the evil Vos. Cue evil laughter. So many rumors about what they can do, what atrocities they have done. I know it’s quite silly, but I love this because that’s my last name, minus and S, pronounced the same way. Hahaha! If I lived in Rhea’s universe, I’d have to change my last name or risk being shot on sight.

My one little quibble with this tale is the little bit of mystic stuff tossed in, like about all the over diverses and how they can be connected with a dream portal and how soul mates will find each other across the divereses no matter what, etc. Yawn. Honestly, this story rocks without all that and a little technical-sounding stuff tossed in to explain bridging multiple universes would have worked better.

I’m very glad I revisited this exciting space opera. So looking forward to completing the trilogy. 4.75/5 stars.

The Narration: Dawn Harvey does a great job with all the different alien voices. She really went the extra mile, making them sound as described in the text of the story. I don’t know how she made some of those voices, but they really worked! I did notice a few mispronounced words this time around – like ‘Bedouin’ and ‘Hopi’ but that’s easily forgiven considering how much effort she put into the alien voices. The pacing is perfect. Her voice for Rhea is spot on – a hero that is sometimes vulnerable. There were no issues with this technical 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 Nina Munteanu. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

An American Weredeer in Michigan by Phipps & Suttkus

An American Weredeer in Michigan - Michael Suttkus, C. T. Phipps

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone story.

Can we say that a grave full of children’s bones is just the thing to get Jane’s blood up! She’s certainly not one to sit back and not investigate this. She’s working with her trusty sidekick, Emma the wolfshifter, and a new character, Robyn. She’s pretty hot about the bones as well and willing to take out a deity or two to prevent any further children being discarded.

What I loved most about this book was the quick back and forth pop culture references and even insults among friends. I also found it amusing how Jane and her friends tackle racism against shifters with two more new characters, Larry and Yolanda. They are Hunters and Michigan doesn’t allow hunting of shifter animals. So they are obviously outside their jurisdiction but they do have some useful skills. Besides, Alex is friends with them (which Jane finds hard to stomach sometimes).

The hunt for answers was my second favorite element of the story. It’s a murder mystery with fantasy elements and Robyn is ready to go off half cocked. She wants vengeance, not justice and Jane foolishly allowed herself to get maneuvered into promising to help her. This is a very big deal for the supernatural community because if you can’t keep your word, then you have very little coin in that community.

I did find the romance element a little silly. Jane is dating Alex, but in the past she kinda saw his brother Lucien, but apparently there’s been some miscommunication because Lucien sees things differently. Anyhoo, it’s made things all kinds of awkward for Jane, much to the amusement of her friends and frenemies. At first, it was cute, but then I felt it was brought up more than necessary. I was all into the action, the murder, the vengeance! That’s what I wanted. 4.5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book. My opinions are wholly my own.

The Narration: Arielle DeLisle was awesome in narrating this book. She’s perfect for our main character Jane and I love her wide variety of voices for all the other characters. She does Yolanda’s older, jaded voice quite well. I liked her doggy voice for Emma when she’s in wolf form. Her male voices sounded masculine. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

Inner Diverse by Nina Munteanu

Inner Diverse (Splintered Universe Trilogy, Book 2) - Nina Munteanu

There were plenty of questions from Book 1 and Book 2 plops us right down into the action. The first few hours, I was confused. I think there’s some jumping around the time line, or perhaps it’s jumping back and forth between the outer and inner diverses (since most people have a twin in the opposite verse). But then there was Serge, who I was 100% sure was dead at the end of Book 1 (which I’ve read twice). So I wasn’t sure if it was flashbacks to Serge before he died via Rhea’s death stare…. but, no, Serge is alive and well throughout Book 2. So, obviously I missed something and with the number of shapeshifters and dopplegangers, I guess that could easily happen.

Anyway, after about 2 hours, things level out and we stick to 1 universe and 1 timeline for the majority of the rest of the story. In fact, Rhea gets to go to prison. That was a delicious mix of Thunderdome and gray coveralls are the new black. Plenty of prison fights and Rhea has to come to terms with her previous mindless loyalty to the Galactic Guardians, an enforcement organization that isn’t above slavery and mass murder.

From there, Rhea has to confront yet another relative and she faces betrayal by a good friend. Enemies & frenemies alike still want the specs on her fancy gun. This lands her shape shifting into a blenoid in order to flee across a desert. I really liked this part of the book since it delves into animal biology. The blenoids are hunted for food but they are also seen as one of the universe’s most vicious creatures.

The tale ends with Rhea pulling together some tattered ideas of how to fight the nihilistic evil Vos, who want to damage Rhea’s universe. Along the way, she’s met several Vos and she now understands that not all are evil, but many are fine with standing aside and letting the evil Vos do their thing.

There’s so much I have enjoyed about this series so far. Rhea is a fascinating character from the start and she continues to grow throughout the tale. There’s her AI ship, Benny, her sentient great coat, her special made gun, and her own hidden shapeshifting abilities. Then there’s a cast of interesting characters, good guys and bad guys. I love that I don’t know how things will turn out; the plot keeps me guessing.

And then there’s the mystical portal to the alternate universe which is accessed via anal sex. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s just flat out odd. It came up in Book 1 (and I mentioned it in my 2013 review) and Book 2 starts off with Rhea confronting the mother of the mystical anal sea snakes which gave her some telepathic connection to the big mother snake… and that all ties in with a Vos trying to convince Rhea that she can be transported to this alternate universe once her body is prepared via superduper secretions during anal sex.

Yeah, I know. I say it out loud, try to explain it to my husband, and it just sounds too fantastical for this space opera. While I have taken some deranged glee in trying to explain this aspect of the story to others, the entire mystical aspect still bores me. Yawn.

Other than that, it’s a very entertaining space opera. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Dawn Harvey does another great job. She was most excellent with Book 1 and she continues the same superb quality with Book 2. I love how she makes all the different alien voices, and I can’t even guess how she makes some of them. She’s got the perfect voice for Rhea and she tackles some tough emotional situations in this book too. Her male voices are masculine. There were no technical issues in 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 Nina Munteanu. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Cornered Magic by Charissa Dufour

Cornered Magic (The Void Series Book 1) - Charissa Dufour

I really like Samantha’s character. She’s fae, but not quite fae enough. On top of that, she’s a rare and usually shunned type of fae, a Void. Her special power allows her to steal energy from others (though she tries hard not to). With few friends and a parent who belittles her every day, Sam treasures her friendship with Amber. Sam also has a boyfriend, Chad, who she doesn’t really click with but so few people hang out with her, that she feels obligated to give Chad a chance.

Then in steps Roman, who makes her tingle in places she didn’t know could tingle. Roman works for some corporation that makes plastic housing (since iron is such a hazard to the fae). He’s got a secret and Sam immediately keys into it. Roman shows definite interest in Sam but she’s not used to such attentions. So there’s potential there for a meaningful romantic involvement in the next book.

Now all this is taking place on the Mystical Reservation in Illinois. Basically, all magical creatures in the US have been rounded up and forced onto reservations. I think this idea has the potential to be a significant part of the plot. However, I worry that there is some cultural insensitivity too. We’ll just have to see how that develops with the series.

There’s a variety of other characters, like Heywood the vampire and Carl who has a gift with technology (even though almost all tech is forbidden on the reservation). There’s mages and empaths (like Amber) too. The murder mystery was solved a little too quick and the initial build up was a little silly. Why wouldn’t Amber and Sam check their friend’s apartment first, before going to the unconcerned authorities? So that could have been a little more tightly written. On the whole, it’s an intriguing start to something that could be really good, or could be mediocre. 3.5/5 stars

I received a free copy of this book. My opinions on it are wholly my own.

The Narration: Janelle Tedesco gave an excellent performance. She had the perfect voice for Sam and distinct voices for each of the characters. Her male voices sounded masculine. I thought her voices for the bullying authorities were especially good. There  were no technical issues with the recording of this audiobook. 5/5 stars.

Metaverse by Nina Munteanu

Metaverse - Nina Munteanu

I had a hard time getting into this third installment of this series. I fell in love with the characters in Book 1, continued to enjoy them in Book 2, but here in Book 3 they don’t get much done. The first 4-5 hours is spent on romantic entanglements, miscommunication, and hurt feelings. For me, that was pretty darn boring. The book does pick up a little in the last 3 hours. There was a point where our hero Rhea has a big important climatic moment, and I could have lived with the story ending there. However, it continues on after for perhaps another 2 hours.

The things I enjoyed about Books 1 & 2 (the hunt for bad guys, fancy weapons, action, mistakes made, alliances broken, etc.) were largely missing in this book. The things that I found a bit boring in the previous books (the big spiritual ideas, romantic angst, mystical portal opening sex, etc.) make up the bulk of this story. I really wonder why Serge is still alive. Why hasn’t Rhea killed him (again)? He seems to be very split on his allegiances.

I did find it a little predictable in a few ways. In Book 1, we learn early on that Rhea absolutely hates Eosians. Then, boom! She finds out she’s part Eosian. So in Book 2, she absolutely hates the vile, evil Vos. Then, boom! She finds out that she is part Vos. Haha! So, you can guess what happens in Book 3. I won’t tell you which species it is this time.

I did enjoy the return to the Sekhmet prison to assist the Rill even further. I felt that was a good way to bring the story home. Rhea has grown as a character and is striving to make amends for her past wrongs. Overall, this tale lacked the awesome of the previous two books but I’m still glad I closed out the trilogy. 3/5 stars.

The Narration: Dawn Harvey continues to bring a great performance to this series. Her narration is so well done. She’s got the perfect voice for Rhea Hawke. I love how she manages all the different alien voices. Truly, I don’t know how she pulled some of them off, and with such consistency across all three books. 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 Nina Munteanu. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

The Chronothon by Nathan Van Coops

The Chronothon - Nathan Van Coops

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it can be read as a stand alone.

Ben has decided to continue on with his time travel explorations. He’s been traipsing around with Mim Quickly, Dr. Quickly’s daughter. But before he knows it, he’s tricked into entering a competitive race, the Chronothon! Each competitor is matched up with a guide and they all vault through time, hunting out their specific hidden items at each stop, each hoping to be the winner. Alas, there’s a lot more going on with the Chronothon than just a simple time travel race.

I had a lot of fun with this story. I love this take on the Amazing Race. Ben has learned some great skills in the few months he’s been time traveling and this race will need all his tricks and wits. Even before he can get started, his assigned guide is murdered and he’s suspected of it! But the race must go on, so he gets a new guide (Viznir, who packs practical stuff like snacks).

There’s one weak spot in this entertaining story. It’s the ladies. Fresca from book one has a tiny cameo. Mim is a ridiculous woman who spends much of the story in a jealous sulk; the rest of the time she’s relegated to love interest & doesn’t get to do much else. There’s some new ladies introduced, out of whom Kera is the more interesting. I hope she gets a bigger part in the next book. I like her attitude and weapons. Mim grew up time traveling and yet the author hasn’t used her character for much. Such a shame. That’s a missed opportunity.

We have tons of new characters in this book. The other competitors include the kid Jonah and his dog Barley (yay!), the Ivans (two copies of the same guy), a tattooed green skin alien named Bozzle, and several others. There’s also several new bad guys like Ariella (who lured Ben into all this madness) and the time purists who don’t get names until near the end. Ben’s life is threatened more than once during the adventure. The scariest moment was when he tangled with the circus freak! Eeek! Yes, a real paid circus freak who lives and travels with a circus.

I loved the time traveling dog and his kid. Such an excellent addition to the story. This tale would have a been a bit less great without those two characters. Jonah’s special ‘organism gun’ brought a lot of humor to the story. Awesome! Can I have one of those guns? <img class="emoji" draggable="false" src="https://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/11/svg/1f609.svg" alt="

Watcher by A J Eversley

Watcher - A.J. Eversley

This story started off really good. I was pulled in straight away and the tale gripped my attention for the first 3rd of the book. By then, I was attached to certain characters and rode the rest of the story out. It lagged a bit in the middle but picked up with intrigue and action during the last third.

Sawyer is a capable young lady who has been training since a young age to protect her people and combat the bots and carbons. I love that sometimes she’s in charge of a mission but she’s also got bosses back at base. The world has long since been in disarray and humanity is losing the fight against the artificial beings. Everyone wonders when their last day will be. As far as everyone knows, there are only 2 remaining cities in the world: Cytos and Kuros. No one is sure how many free humans are left since they are all in hiding. This setting really drew me in.

I did get a kick out of some of the character names like Tennyson and Byron. Then some have regular names like Kyle and Sam. Toss in Kenzie, who we know from the beginning has something to do with a nefarious group. I do wish there had been more female characters. There is one who serves as the main cook for the humans and Sawyer’s memory of her mother plays a strong emotional role. Still, there is only 1 woman, Sawyer, who gets plot-related stuff done. We need more ladies in this story.

The romance was silly and I felt it dragged the story down. It was cliched and didn’t hold any special magic to it. I found myself hoping the two lovebirds would find out they were blood relatives so then all their angst would have a real reason behind it. I’m evil that way.

Coleman, the Big Baddie, was also a bit cliched too. His lines were always predictable and all the traps could be seen coming a mile off. I wanted a bit more from the evil ones. Also, for some odd reason, most of the humans have never even held a gun…. which doesn’t make sense at all. It’s not like the world fell just last month. No, these women and men have had years (maybe decades) to build secret bases, have organized missions, and a little bit of espionage on the carbons. I expect most would be armed with some weapon all the time and all would know the basics of a handgun.

Chevy the dog was a cute touch but I felt he was put there more to pull on the heart strings and provide some comic relief than anything else. Who takes an untrained dog on a dangerous rescue mission? Sawyer, that’s who! But, why? Sawyer, you’re in charge. You can leave Chevy behind. The base literally locks it doors behind you once you leave for your mission. He’ll settle down eventually, chewing on your favorite shoe.

The last third of the book picks up again with a few twists. I got back into the story and was rooting for Sawyer. Things aren’t looking good for the humans but perhaps Sawyer and crew can pull off a miracle. Sawyer now has some internal, personal battles to work on as well. The sequel holds promise. 3.5/4 stars

The Narration: Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell do a good job narrating this book. Stephens makes a great Sawyer with her clear voice that can be both tough and tender. Campbell makes a great eerie Kenzie. Most of the story is narrated by Stephens and she did a good job with distinct character voices. Her male characters sounded like men. I especially liked her voices for the cook and the elderly mad scientist on Sawyer’s side. 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 AJ Eversley. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Time Is Relative for a Knight of Time by Brett Matthew Williams

Time is Relative for a Knight of Time - Brett Matthew Williams

There is a lot going on in this story! Rolland has fallen on hard times since his mom died and his dad disappeared. He’s been trying to finish out highschool on his own, living out of a car when he can’t hang at a friend’s house. His pride keeps him from telling people his true situation, that, and a healthy sense of self-preservation. It’s always good to not appear vulnerable. Right away, I was cheering for Rolland and wishing him well on whatever horrible undertakings he might be forced into.

Then Time Knights! Yes, I think they need their own theme music. They swoop in and change his life forever, which includes the unfortunate permanent demise of his car and all his possessions. Sephone, Tina, and the old Prof Turtledove try to ease him into his new life, but there’s just no easy way to rewrite your personal history, is there? Rolland has little time to absorb the truth about his parents before fate sweeps them up into a dangerous adventure that involves Andrew Jackson. Yep. Prepare yourself for some fascinating US history (and not the boringly bland stuff you had to learn in school).

I did find most of the ladies and their interactions with Rolland to be silly. Tina dives right into some pre-teen-ish lust thing that just comes off awkward and weird. Meanwhile Rolland is having his own lustful thoughts about Sephone. Later Joan joins the mix, but she’s totally worthy (and great at hand to hand combat). Then we get Blaisy (spelling?), a Native American princess who pulls her own weight. These last two ladies made up for the short comings of the other ladies. I just couldn’t see Tina being the successful leader of anything.

Andrew Jackson is written as a villain in this tale and he’s right up there with the Time Villain (cue evil theme music) Edward Vilth. I will say that Jackson is the better written villain as we get details about his mindset and lack of consideration for others. Tho that hypnosis bit was silly. Vilth is indeed a bad guy but he’s covered all in shadows and doesn’t really stand out at any point in the story.

Towards the end, I did get a little battle fatigue. There’s a lot of back and forth with alliances, new enemies around every corner, but, hey, wait, maybe they could be temporary allies as we kick some butt over here, but then yet another person is kidnapped and held hostage while the others try to rescue them or are forced into doing things their mom told them not to do. So, yes, the story could have been shortened up a bit in this area and it would be more exciting.

All told, there’s a decent story here with a blend of scifi and fantasy going on to propel the time travel. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: This is where this audiobook fell down for me. Williams decided to narrate his own book and with some polishing, he could manage it. He has distinct voices for each character most of the time. His female character voices are feminine. His verbal pacing is good too. However, there’s several repeated half sentences, mispronounced words, mouth noises, and why is he pronouncing Rolland like ‘Rawlins’ most of the time? There are significant issues with the recording as well. Sometimes it sounds tinny, sometimes like it was recorded in a cavern. There’s these odd pop sounds (and I’m not referring to the finger snaps) that I think might be from bumping the mic. Then there’s the rustling sounds (paper I think). Also, irregular long pauses between chapters too. If this book was narrated by a professional, it would be so much better. As it was, the narration/recording made it a chore to finish. 2.5/5 stars.

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

You're Going to Mars by Rob Dircks

You're Going to Mars - Rob Dircks

This book was a pure joy to listen to. I enjoyed every minute of it. Paper Forest was the perfect character to lead me through this near future scifi tale. She’s blessed with caring family & friends even as she grows up in one of the poorest areas, working in a giant landfill. She and her sisters (Rock and Scissors, and yes, they are triplets) each have different talents and Paper’s is her fascination with rockets and Mars. This causes several model rocket mishaps, much to Duggie’s amusement (Paper’s best friend). Everyone in the Fill watches the game show You’re Going To Mars, the entertainment child of trillionaire Zach Larson.

Then a magical thing happens. People have conspired to get Paper on that show because they believe in her, love her, and want a champion of the Fill. The Gitanos, a ruthless family that owns and runs the Fills around the world, have near-slavery multi-generational contracts with the inhabitants of the Fills. The horrible living and working conditions are unknown to outsiders.

There is so much well placed humor in this story. Sometimes it’s used to lighten a moment, sometimes just to give some snark, and then sometimes to make a serious point. Paper is great with her snark. It’s just the right amount and I never got tired of hearing her thoughts on everything.

The other contestants on the show were fun too. Aurora stands out because of all her sass but also because she’s both needy and distrusting all at the same time. She’s one of those celebrity stars known for her music and not her math or engineering skills. The real astronauts that have been training for years for this Mars trip aren’t too thrilled about taking along some bratty contestant winner, whoever that turns out to be. Astronaut Dan Daniels sure isn’t happy and he lets everyone know it.

The suspense winds up and one contestant after another is dropped from the competition. I loved that it wasn’t a bad thing for everyone (in fact someone wins a pet store! Ha! What a consolation prize!). There’s also more humor as the would be astronauts learn about astronaut life, like all those close living arrangements…. when you are doing everything. I mean everything!

Paper has some scary moments but I love how Jane does her best again and again to keep Paper in the game. The Gitanos are just one hurdle. There are others that don’t want a private organization successfully setting down on Mars. Perhaps there is something there we don’t expect after all.

This story gave me one fist-bump moment after another. I was verbally cheering Paper on at times, much to the amusement of people around me. You go Paper! The ending has a few sad moments and some great want to the hug everyone moments. Honestly, this has been one my favorite books for the year. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Khristine Hvam did an amazing job. She is Paper Forest. I also applaud her ability to make all three sisters sound closely related but to also give each a distinct voice, mostly through attitude. Her male voices are spot on too. She had the perfect older male voice for Zach Larson. Her sass for Aurora was just as I pictured it. The recording quality was top notch. Excellent all around. 5/5 stars.

Agent G: Saboteur by C. T. Phipps

Agent G: Saboteur - C. T. Phipps

Note: Even though this is Book 2, it works just fine as a stand alone.

This was a lot of fun. Set in a near future, G is an enhanced assassin. He’s got cyber enhancements, bio enhancements, perhaps even… uh… personal private enhancements. But he also has a limited shelf life. He was created to be used and then discarded (and his realization of all that is in Book 1 but is summarized for this book in bits and pieces). The International Refugee Society (IRS) is a front for a world-controlling power-hungry gang. They’ve been successful for many years but now things are falling apart and G has enemies coming at him from every corner and perhaps even from within his small circle of allies.

The action never ends for G and Marissa Sanchez (another shady character with hidden motives). Along the way, he picks up James (who he has to convince to come over to his side where they at least have paid vacations). There’s also the AI riding around in G’s head. She has a to-do list as well and not everything on there will jive with what G wants to accomplish.

One of the things I enjoy so much about any Phipps novel is that there is usually a reference to his other works tucked in to the tale. In this novel, the term ‘bioroid’ is used, which is a reference to this Lucifer’s Star series (which is great space opera stuff).  Then there’s the Supervillainy references as well (which is a great superhero/supervillain series). I love that it’s a TV show in G’s world. Ha!

The ladies are just as diverse and deadly as the men in this series, which is a thing I always love finding in spy & cyberpunk stories. One of the big baddies here is Persephone who has been running things from the shadows for some time. Coupled with Dr. Gordon and his black tech from the Karma Corp, G needs to bring his A game if he’s going to survive to the end of the book!

I was glad that we got to see Lucita Biondi again. She was key in Book 1 for bringing down the Carnivale and she’s still a player here, just not as big a part. Being transgender has brought her all kids of grief from her family, but she’s persevered. With a handgun.

The story also has plenty of references to other cyberpunk tales, including the classics. I loved this! I know I didn’t catch them all but it makes me want to go binge a bunch of cyberpunk and then come back to this series with that on my mind. Action and mayhem keep the plot moving forward even as G and others, like the AI, contemplate what it really means to be human.

All told, it’s a great sequel but it also stands well on it’s own. I was never bored with the tale and I like the few moments of seriousness. I look forward to seeing what Agent G does next. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer is always a treat to listen to and I love his voice for Agent G. It’s perfect. Also, Kafer’s delivery of the humor is so well timed! Kafer’s female character voices are feminine and each character has their own distinct voice. There are no tech issues with the recording. 5/5 stars.

Born in Fire by K. F. Breene

Born in Fire - K.F. Breene

What a fun story! I really enjoyed this urban fantasy. Reagan is my kind of bounty hunter – efficient with weapons and full of sass. I so enjoyed all her quips and how that affected those around her. Through a series of work technicalities, she gets stuck working with a powerful and handsome vampire Darius. They are hunting down some strange magics.

Now this isn’t your typical vampire tale. While there is a hint of flirtation that could develop into romance, there are no sex scenes in this story. It’s all about solving the mystery and if a few instances of dry humping occur, that’s just one of the hazards of dealing with magic. While Darius is all for entering into a formal bond with Reagan, she’s an independent sort and not interested.

Reagan has her secrets and apparently some old family friends (Callie and Dizzy) know some of those secrets plus a few more. Reagan’s magic isn’t like any other magic she knows and she goes to good lengths to conceal that. I can see how Callie could become a surrogate mother to Reagan as the series moves forward.

There’s plenty of humor in this story and I applaud the use of sarcasm and pointing out the obvious. Her mouth lands her in trouble a few times but she has the muscle and magic to handle it. Sword, gun, and magic all get equal time in the fights.

When I finished this book, I was quite ready to jump into the next. Looking forward to the rest of the series. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Nicole Poole was a perfect fit for this book. Her voice for Reagan is spot on and she makes a sexy Darius as well. I love her harsh voices for Reagan’s neighbors, Callie’s commanding shout, Dizzy’s old man apologetic voice, and the mechanical modified voice of the Big Baddie. I felt that Poole had a lot of fun with this story; her enthusiasm shows in the performance. 5/5 stars.

Truth Kills by Nanci Rathbun

Truth Kills: An Angelina Bonaparte Mystery - Nanci Rathbun

I love that our hero in this tale is an independent, older woman. Angie Bonaparte is an independent investigator that often works closely with the local Milwaukee police. However, she’s also got some character flaws that made it difficult for me to like her. She’s really hung up on looks and comparing herself to other women. Angie assumes all women do this and she does so through out the entire book. I would have liked more self-confidence in her character. She trades some petty gossip about her boyfriend and that puts her in Mean Girl territory. I felt it was small of her… but then I liked how things ended there and felt she deserved it. So, yeah, I had a love/hate relationship with Angie. Despite that, I have solid hopes that she will grow as a person and do better in Book 2.

The plot itself is solid and I quite enjoyed this aspect of the story. Anthony Belloni, a mob boss, is the obvious suspect when his dish on the side (Elisa Murano) gets murdered. Angie was hired by Gracie Belloni (Tony’s wife) to look into whether or not Tony was having an affair. After digging around in Tony’s affairs, she believes Anthony was honestly re-prioritizing his life with the imminent birth of his 4th or 5th kid by his wife. Of course the local police assigned to the case are way more skeptical.

I especially liked Ted Wukowski, one of the police detectives assigned to the case. He’s grumpy and not personable but Angie sees there’s something more going on there. It was a joy to see the back and forth between these two.

The story does beat on one particular drum quite often: a woman’s independence. Angie comes from a very traditional Italian family that expects women to be stay at home wives and mothers. Angie, after her divorce, has broken away from that. She went even further by choosing a traditionally male occupation. I like all of this but, even so, sometimes that drum beating was a little too often. Angie has a bit of a chip on her shoulder while also being a bit silly worrying over her personal sex appeal. I would have liked the story a little more if this aspect had been toned down a bit.

The pacing is good with clues, some action, character building, and this budding relationship between Angie and Wukowski. Over all, I look forward to Book 2 and seeing if Angie can gain some self confidence. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Kieren Calland Metts was OK for this book. Her narration needs some polishing all around. She has a decent voice for Angie and her pronunciations are very clear. She is hesitant with any accent so sometimes it came out a bit fumbled or over-accentuated. Her male voices need some masculinity. The pacing is a little slow and the volume sometimes fluctuates a bit. 3/5 stars.

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

Murder by Perfection by Lauren Carr

Murder by Perfection - Lauren Carr

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

I’ve been a fan of Lauren Carr’s works for several years now. Sinking into this book was like joining an old friend for a lengthy cup of tea. I enjoy the writing style and characters equally. There’s also a twist or three and there’s usually more than one mystery to solve.

Jessica and Murphy are trying to balance her schooling and his career with their personal lives. And that’s how they get pulled into a minor investigation that involves a couples’s cooking class. Natalie Stepford is a well known cook and quite the looker too.

Of course, we get a body or two and the investigations into each are off and running. Then Murphy turns up missing. So the timeline jumps around a little in regards to Murphy and that through me a bit more than once. Still, I loved it that Murphy, this very capable man with lots of combat training and other special skills gained from his time in the super secret Phantoms, is the one that goes missing and it’s up to his wife and family to save him.

Newman was a source of amusement, a mix dog of some sort that rules over the TV, changing the station if the show doesn’t suit him. I also found the electronic butler Nigel fun, as people are sometimes started by his disembodied voice.

This tale had a few more cliches than normal for Carr’s works. On one hand, that made it easy to follow along and just enjoy the characters. On the other hand, it did make some things predictable. Despite this, I had a lot of fun with the story.

Murphy’s twin brother gets called in to help lay down a ruse that will bring the culprits to light even as other members of the family continue to pursue their investigations. I didn’t really like that Jessica had to use her feminine wiles, playing a woman in emotional distress, as her part of the ruse. First, she hasn’t acted like that at all, and secondly, she has plenty more to offer as a character.

The action is well balanced with humor and I also liked the flirtations between Murphy and Jessica as they do their best to fit in some sexytimes with their busy schedules. The end leaves us on a very satisfying note. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Mike Alger has narrated several of Carr’s books and listening to his narrations is like listening to an old friend at this point. I love his voices for the men. He manages to make all the related men sound like relatives while also giving them their own unique voices. He makes a perfect Murphy. His female voices are usually feminine but there’s less range there and sometimes more then one woman will sound like the other. His pacing is perfect and there’s no issues with the recording. 4.5/5 stars.

Cash Kills by Nanci Rathbun

Cash Kills - Nanci Rathbun

Note: Even though this is Book 2, it works fine as a stand alone novel.

Private instigator Angeline Bonaparte is growing on me. I was on the fence in Book 1, but I like her better in this story. She’s a bit more mature and not as lacking in confidence as in Book 1. The plot is tighter than Book 1 and the mystery takes a bit more to solve. I also enjoy the continuing relationship between Angie and Ted Wukowski.

I didn’t care for all the fashion name drops and the repeated descriptions of Angie’s underwear. I don’t care that much about her matching bra and panties, even if Ted does. I liked that a 50+ year old single woman enjoys her sexuality, but I don’t need to know her daily choice in under garments. I don’t pay attention to fashion name brands, so dropping those names to describe what characters are wearing was boring for me. Honestly, I’m not going to go google what this type of hat is or that type of jacket.

Back to the plot: Adriana Johnson is a young adult who recently lost both her parents in an apparent robbery gone bad. Now she’s inherited millions of dollars but she’s got lots of questions. Her family didn’t live like they had money so Adriana has suspicions about where this money came from. Considering her family has a bloody past, I think this prudent of her. Adriana has a mix of distrusting nature and innocence. She doesn’t know how to do her own makeup but she’s wise enough to hire a PI to look into this money.

It’s a small cast this time, so it soon becomes apparent who’s the bad guy, but tracking that person down and keeping Adriana safe isn’t so easy. Most of this tale is about the hunt which I liked. Angie carries concealed & knows how to handle her gun, which is great. The fact that she feels she needs to repeat this was a little tiring. Angie had a chip on her shoulder about women working in traditionally male jobs in Book 1; she’s still got that chip in this book. I don’t mind the point being made, but to keep hammering away at it is a little tiring.

Ted and Angie continue to circle each other, figuring out just how deep their romance really is. I liked the back and forth between them. It’s quite sweet how their families get pulled into it. I didn’t feel that Angie should have to apologize to her dad, but I also could see how a traditional Italian family might take the minor ‘scandal’. This tale ends on a sweet, happy note. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Kieren Calland Metts did OK with this narration. Her pacing is a little slow but she has a very good voice for Angie Bonaparte. Her masculine voices are better than in Book 1 but could still use a little more masculinity. Metts accents are hesitant and muddied. Also, and I don’t think this falls on the narrator, but there are several moments in the book where the author explains how certain names are pronounced. With an audiobook version, there’s no need to spell out how to pronounce Adriana, etc. Metts has great little kid voices and a perfect elderly woman voice for Ted’s mother. 3/5 stars.

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