44 Followers
39 Following
susanvoss18

susanvoss18

Ruin and Rebirth by Michael Whitehead

Ruin and Rebirth - Michael Whitehead

Note: While this is Book 3 in the series, it works mostly OK as a stand alone. The series is worthy, so I recommend starting at Book 1 for entertainment value.

Lucia and the archer Vitas have made it this far and they aren’t giving up! These were my two favorite characters from Book 1 and it’s good to see they have survived the zombie plague to play important roles in Book 3. It’s been a few months since the end of Book 2, but our little band of heroes is on a nebulous quest. Lucia has gotten better and better with weapons and avoiding zombies. She pulls her own weight while also noting how much she’s stepped outside the typical Roman woman’s role in society. These are extraordinary circumstances and they require shields, weapons, and some common sense. The men in her group are all for it because this is a fight for humanity. No room for shrinking violets here!

Meanwhile, back in Rome proper, some few humans have managed to survive by scavenging for supplies and hiding from zombies. There are a few brave folks that ban together to rescue those that can be brought back to one central location. Garrick, a butcher, is a lead character in these scenes. He’s smart, careful, and becomes a major force in the fight to reclaim Rome.

Flavia and her husband do much to bring the survivors of Rome together. I really like Flavia because she’s competent, gets stuff done, and yet sticks to the societal boundaries of the time and location. She doesn’t get to pick up a weapon but she does use her wits. She shows bravery in the toughest moments and appreciates what others risk to keep her and others safe.

Back in Germania, Vitus and Lucia keep moving their band north. Regulus is at the heart of something, having visions of the source of the plague. Vedus (spelling?) has been showing Regulus a temple via these visions. So there’s this supernatural quality to the story and as it progresses, Regulus becomes more and more aware of what might await them. Lucia and Vitus do everything they can to get the weakening Regulus north.

The Roman Empire was huge and contained many cultures. This series and this book have nods to that. There’s a young Chinese lad and the Persian warrior Harkour. And the Spaniard (Gallus, if I recall correctly). I love that the Roman Empire isn’t white washed in this series.

The final conclusion to the tale is carried out on two fronts: the truth of Regulus’s visions and back in the City of Rome where frenzied zombies threaten to eradicate human life. It was only in the last moments that I realized what a toll this plague would take. It pulled on my heart strings, being both horrible and beautiful at once. The concept of sacrifice is well captured in these scenes. It’s a worthy ending to a worthy series. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Terry Self is his usual outstanding. Every character was distinct and the ladies sounded like women. I especially appreciate how he kept Vitus and Vedus very clearly delineated from each other as it would be easy for a listener to mix up these names if the narration was sub-par. His true gift this time is working with all the emotions of the characters. They are seeing their society fall in short order and so much has already been lost. I also liked his various accents. The pacing was perfect and there were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

This is a cute kids’s tale. Percy is 12 and apparently gets kicked out of schools often. His mom currently has them living with a dead beat, verbally abusive man that has a body odor problem. Life is just tough on Percy. But it’s about to get a lot tougher when Greek deities and monsters pop up in his life!

There were several moments that made me laugh…. like Grover suddenly yanking off his pants. That’s the moment where Percy is all, ‘What the hell!’ but then Grover has fur and hooves below the waist, so Percy is stunned into silence. Grover is a Satyr assigned to protect Percy but he’s been keeping his Greek mythology side on the down low with a disguised lower half. Grover isn’t the only one who’s been keeping their real identity from Percy. In fact, there were a few times I thought Percy’s young mind might melt from the over load of reveals.

After a harrowing chase and the death of someone important to him, he ends up at the Half Blood training camp where he meets other kids who are half mortal and half deity. Now, I did think that Percy took that death in stride and it was a bit glossed over. I expected tears for days and scars for life but this book seems to veer wide of any serious stuff. There’s several examples of this, like Medusa and how she really came to be a snake headed monster. It wasn’t some jealousy over dating partners.

Anyhoo, pretty soon Percy gets a quest and goes on a road trip. Annabeth (a daughter of Athena) and Grover accompany him. There’s also the gifts from Luke (a son of Hermes). As Western culture has shifted further and further west, key places in Greek mythology have also shifted and several now reside in the USA. I liked this bit of world building because it meant I didn’t have to bang my head against a wall every time a Greek mythological location popped up.

Percy isn’t the only one to face their fears and take on a personal challenge in this story. His companions also suffer and have a chance at victory. There’s treachery too. Percy must figure out who his true friends are while also discovering who stole Zeus’s lightning. It’s a fun tale but I didn’t have a strong reaction to it as I did with Harry Potter. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Jesse Bernstein does a really good job. He sounds like a 12 year old boy who has gotten kicked out of a lot of places. His voice for Grover is great, as he sometimes has a little goat in it. His female voices are spot on. There’s several monsters with their various yells, hisses, snorts, etc and Bernstein carries them off without a hitch. 5/5 stars.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan

Book 1 was only OK for me but since Book 2 was just sitting there on Hoopla, I thought I would give it a try. I liked it a bit better than Book 1. It seemed to move along at a swifter clip and Percy is growing up a little. After all, he’s gotten to use his sword (Riptide) a few times and beaten back several monsters.

After another boring year at a regular school, he returns to the Half Blood training camp for the summer. There he’s surprised to find out that he has to share his living quarters with Tyson, who’s a big cyclops kid with some mental challenges. Percy spends his time being embarrassed by this big one-eyed kid that follows him around. While Percy doesn’t tease him, several other kids tease one or both of them. I really like that we have this character and that Percy has to figure out how to live with him.

Pretty soon, there is a quest! A quest to save the camp! But Percy isn’t the one chosen to go on it. Alas, that honor falls to the combative Clarice, a daughter of Aires. Yet the god Hermes might have other plans for Percy and pretty soon he, Annabeth, and Tyson are on their way to save Grover (who is currently on some unnamed island in drag trying to avoid getting married or eaten).

While there were plenty of moments that made me laugh, there were also those moments were I expected more emotion or reaction from Percy. Once again, there’s the death of a character that means a lot to Percy and yet he doesn’t really put a lot of thought into it, not any tears, no grieving. So it’s hard for me to get fully sucked into a tale that doesn’t take itself seriously. Even if the author knows that all will turn out OK, the characters don’t.

I did like that the kids are getting a little older and Percy has started to notice the first niggling of some deeper emotion for Annabeth. I’m not sure if Grover will ever get a chance to grow up though. He’s pretty much just comic relief in this story.

Tyson becomes the real shining star, teaching not only Percy but some of the other kids that different isn’t so bad. Tyson has different gifts than most of the kids, and in some of them he’s quite the genius. Annabeth is a bit prejudiced towards cyclops in general due to a past bad experience. She has to face this and learn to shelve it because Tyson isn’t a jerk.

All told, it was fun and I liked it better than Book 1. Especially those Party Ponies at the end. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Jesse Bernstein continues to do great with the voices. He’s got the perfect Percy voice and his female voices are dead on. I really liked his combative voice for Clarice. All of his characters are distinct and his pacing is good. 5/5 stars.

The Meg + Meg: Origins by Steve Alten

Meg - Steve Alten

Jonas Taylor is an interesting character because he’s struggling. A few years back, his career tanked and he’s been kicking around since then between therapists and his hunt for the Meg. His wife, Maggie, has made her journalism career her priority and has turned rather nasty towards Jonas and his hunt. Meanwhile, the star of this story, Meg herself, inadvertently escapes from the warm water layer of the Marianas trench, up through the cold water section, into the upper warm waters of the Pacific. She’s on the loose and happy to be hunting.

I love stories that are just on the edge of possible when it comes to big dangerous beasties. We know so little about the depths of our oceans and that makes them a good breeding ground for stories of monsters. The Meg holds a lot of credibility since this proficient killer ruled the oceans for far longer than humanity has existed. Sharks as a species are hard to kill and Mother Earth has definitely tried…. and not always won. We still have plenty of sharks.

Terri and her father provide equipment and a pre-prepared California bay which might allow them to capture this prehistoric beast. Yeah, right! Right from the start, I knew this wasn’t going to happen as planned. And what’s more, the Meg appears to be pregnant! Yikes! The ocean’s animal social hierarchy will be changed forever! But I still hoped it would work.

After some sightings of the Meg and several deaths, the US Navy decides it’s best to put this beast down for good. Terri is in agreement with them but has to play for her dad’s team, which means teaming up with Jonas. There’s some playful flirtation between the two that comes off as rather forced and fake. I had high hopes that Terri would get to do some awesome stuff, but mostly she spends time on the sidelines.

The action ramps up and up and up… and it looks like things might just work out for those characters that are still left… and then stuff goes horribly wrong. Jonas ends up covered in blood and nearly drowned. More people die. Terri’s dad doesn’t get his prize. It’s a lovely mess of a situation.

The ending leaves us perfectly set up for the next book but closes off the main fights for this book. It also leaves us with a sappy romantic situation that I had trouble buying into even though I wanted some happiness for Jonas. Over all, 3.5/5 stars.

This particular audiobook version includes Book 0.5 Meg: Origins. It’s the story of how Jonas’s career tanked. I really liked this novella. Not only does it flesh out the bare bones facts in The Meg Book 1 but it also shows us that there are others who bumped into the Meg all those years ago. Jonas has mourned the loss of those scientists in the submersible with him that day but now we know how it all played out. This novella was written years after The Meg and it shows how the author’s skill has grown. 5/5 stars for Book 0.5.

The Narration: First, there’s a short bit from the author about his personal fascination with sharks, especially the Meg. I love when authors take the time to add a personal note like this and love it even more when it’s included in the audiobook. Sean Runnette was great as Jonas Taylor. He really does a great job portraying Jonas’s evolving emotions throughout the story. He starts off indecisive and dissatisfied with his life but as things heat up, the character focuses and becomes more and more sure of himself. Runnette did great with this. His female voices could use more femininity. He was great with Maggie’s venom and Terri’s assertiveness but they didn’t always sound like women. I liked his light Asian accent for Terri’s dad and how he made Terri and her brother sound all American. 4/5 stars

Dragonia by Craig A. Price Jr.

Dragonia: Rise of the Wyverns - Craig A. Price Jr.

Devarius is at the center of this tale. His family was devastated when he was just a kid and his new village ruined by the Dragon Riders. Now he leads a small group of ~30 people to possible safety with the Resistance. Along the way, he makes an amazing discovery: Wyverns! This might just well be the answer to how to defeat the Dragon Riders, in time.

It’s a cute, quick story that incorporates many fantasy tropes. It’s fun brain candy that doesn’t take much thought to enjoy it. The story moves along quickly with little pause for character development or development of the world or magic systems.

The ladies don’t do much in this story and that was a disappointment. In the first half of the story, Devarius and his little group are being hunted and trying to locate the Resistance. Once they do find help, Devarius and his friend Paedyn are informed that their society is all about equality. Men and women of any ethnicity will be given equal opportunities. Yes! I was excited because I felt this would be a good way to force your characters into some growth. Alas, that is not what happens. The ladies are underrepresented for the entire story. Aquila, our main female character, is simply a romantic interest and doesn’t add to the plot at all. There is one female guard who has a name and even gets a few lines, but they are all of a flirtatious nature…. and then, poof! She’s gone. I felt the few nods to the ladies were added as after thoughts and their characters were never fully incorporated into the story.

The wyverns are fun but I wish their magical abilities had a bit more depth. They come in different colors and each color corresponds to a different ability. Pretty straight forward and simplistic. I hope the story develops this further in the next book.

Devarius gets some sword training and he sets his heart on having a special sword made: a mashup of the straight Bastard sword and a Flamberge (which has wavy edges). A local blacksmith (named predictably Smithy) puts a lot of thought and trial & error into creating this blade. A lot of time was spent on this and I felt it could have been shortened up to give more time for the basics of the story.

Aquila has skills with a bow, or so we are told. Again, I felt this was tacked on after the fact. While on the run from the Dragon Riders, the group needed food yet Aquila’s hunting skills (which she learned from her dad) aren’t ever used. In fact, we only hear about these skills long after the fact. Towards the end, Aquila once again has the opportunity to show off her skills by joining a fight against the Dragon Riders. However, Devarius won’t let her join in because he’d be too distracted worrying about her.

Sigh…. Devarius, that sounds like a ‘you’ problem and not Aquila’s problem. Someone wasn’t paying attention at the Gender Equality training.

All together, it’s a fun little piece of fiction that moves at a swift clip. Nothing deep here but it is entertaining. 3/5 stars.

The Narration: Reuben Corbett gives a really good performance on this narration. All of his characters have distinct voices and his female voices are believable. He makes a really good Devarius and I loved his impish Paedyn. I could always tell Paedyn was up to something by his voice. 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 Craig A. Price Jr.. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Pawn of Prophecy - David Eddings

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings is a classic in the epic fantasy realm. I read them as a kid but only recently have enjoyed the first in the series as an audiobook. Here is my review.

While the premise to Pawn of Prophecy is pretty basic (ancient evil is awakening and a Chosen One may be our only salvation), I still enjoyed it. I read this series as a kid and only recently have discovered them as audiobooks. As an adult, I find that I have a more critical eye. However, I still found myself enjoying this book. Perhaps part of that is nostalgia but I think the characters hold up well even if the plot is pretty much boiler plate.

I really enjoyed Silk for his wit. He pokes fun at other characters but also has quieter moments where he teaches Garion something useful or playful moments when he’s getting up to some mischief. Garion’s Aunt Pol (Polgara) is also a favorite. I love how she insists on keeping Garion clean, presentable, and well fed. She’s the care giver in the group but she’s also one of the sternest characters. She will suffer no foolishness on her watch!

There’s this one scene that really stood out for me because Silk was poking fun at certain social norms. At a big meeting of the nations’s leaders, there are some women present. Some nations expect their ladies to stay pregnant and in the house while other nations have greater equality. Silk pokes fun at the former while praising the later. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the author was making a little fun of earlier epic fantasy works where the ladies are relegated to minor roles of providing love, comfort, and babies. It’s scenes like this that rekindled my love for this series.

Garion himself is an OK character though I expect I will once again fall in love with his character later in the series. Right now, he really is a bit of a pawn. People want to control him because he could be The One. Yep, the bad guys want him and the good guys in the know want to keep him safe. While that is all pretty standard for several epic fantasies, I still found my self holding my breath during fight scenes or when a bad guy was skulking around.

All told, this was a story that stood the test of time and I’m glad that I have reacquainted myself with it. 4/5 stars

The Narration: Cameron Beierle did an amazing job with his narration. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. I especially love how he managed Silk’s role. Silk speaks multiple languages and likes to go about in disguise, including disguising his voice. I liked his grumpy Belgariad and stern Pol as well. All around, an excellent performance. 5/5 stars

Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat) - Richard Castle

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

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

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

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

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

The Green Lama by Adam Lance Garcia

The Green Lama: Scions - Adam Lance Garcia, Douglas Klauba

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frostbite by E. J. Stevens

Frostbite - E. J. Stevens

I’ve enjoyed all the Ivy Granger audiobooks so far and it was nice to jump way back to the beginning of the series with this prequel short story. Ivy and Jinx run a private detective business. Ivy has the paranormal abilities and Jinx gets along with the public. It’s obvious these two ladies have been friends for some time and work well together.

This short story gives you just a peek into Ivy’s world. There’s ghosts, danger, fairy dust, a mystery to solve, and more. It’s a great way to check out the series to see if it’s right for you.

I wouldn’t call this a cozy mystery urban fantasy as the tale has some grit to it. A little kid needs help and Ivy is hard pressed to find a way to do so. I like the darker side to this series even as a bit of humor and snark is mixed in. Being a fan of the series, my one little complaint is that it is indeed a short story. Looking forward to the next installment in the series! 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Melanie A. Mason does a great job with Ivy’s voice and Jinx’s practicalness. I liked her spooky little kid voices and Big Baddie voice as well. Mason gives a great performance with unique voices for all the characters. The pacing is perfect and there are no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars.

Starless by Jacqueline Carey

Starless - Jacqueline Carey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Culling by Ramona Finn

The Culling (The Culling Trilogy Book 1) - Ramona Finn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girl Vs by Xela Culletto

Girl Vs - Xela Culletto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski

The Ghoul Archipelago - Stephen Kozeniewski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lawn Job by Chuck Caruso

The Lawn Job - Chuck Caruso

Ex-con Craig Collins isn’t the sharpest pencil in the pack but he thinks he is. He’s ticked off for losing his lawn job with several clients so he hatches this plan with his stripper girlfriend Juana that he hopes will give him a big payday. The plot was pretty straight forward though I did hope Alfonso’s guns for drugs stuff would complicate matters and make things interesting. Alas, that didn’t lead to much but it did give Alfonso a bit of personality.

Initially, I was rooting for Juana. She had the most depth out of all the characters. While it’s never made clear if she’s transgender or a hermaphrodite, she does use her assets to the best of their ability. I liked that Collins found her sexy in many ways but he was also a bit of jerk for thinking of her as a freak. Juana was great for pushing back for more in a relationship and for a little while there I hoped that things between her and Gino would turn out well.

But then one betrayal after another happens and I stopped rooting for any of the characters. The mystery still held a little interest for me. I wanted to know which character would win this little drama. I was pleased to see it wasn’t Craig. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Joe Formichella narrated in a monotone voice for most of the story. He did give Craig’s two ex-con friends distinct voices. However, his Spanish accent for Alfonso was pretty rough. His female voices were lacking femininity. His pacing was good. There were technical issues with the recording. 3/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

Tracing Shadows by Alex Lidell

Tracing Shadows - Alex Lidell

Kali and Trace make a really good team! I enjoyed getting to know Kali on her own and even enjoyed her initial interactions with Trace, who was a bit high and mighty. There was a bit of silly tension between the two as they worked out their always fluctuating relationship but I can forgive them that.

Kali’s young enough to have doubts about her abilities on her first real espionage mission. Still, there were situations that I thought her training would have readied her for, like nudity in the guards change room, etc. So, I did do some small eyerolls. After all, what good is a spy that gives themselves away by blushing over a bit of casual nudity? Kali totally redeemed herself with her knife skills.

Leaf, Kali’s sister who is being held hostage, has her secret skills too – she’s talented with the crystal healing magic, a Whisperer. Alas, this talent can get a person killed. Even though she has such a small role, I liked her character and want to learn more about her.

Crown Prince Wil and his sister Violet are very different from each other. Kali is charged with protecting Wil, so she has to traipse around with him, and also Trace. Meanwhile, Violet is an introverted young lady who has severe doubts of her self-worth. She is also caught up in deep grieving over the recent death of their mother. While I didn’t particularly like her character, she gave us a window into a dangerous and manipulative religious group.

Next to Kali, Trace becomes my favorite character…. yes, it’s a tie between the two of them. While the plot and characters start off simple, we get a little layering later in the tale, with Trace especially. He’s got plenty of secrets and hidden skills. Kali eventually grows a bit after she makes a bad mistake that leaves her injured.

The story never lagged for me. Plenty of action interspersed with spy stuff kept me engaged. The tale does end on a cliff hanger so I hope Book 2 comes out on audiobook very soon. 4.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Hayden Daviau gave a really good performance with this narration. Her male voices are believable and she had distinct voices for all the characters. I especially liked her waspish, peeved voice for Leaf while she tries to attend to Kali’s injuries. She did a great job with the emotional scenes as well. 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 Alex Lidell. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Graveyard Shift by Michael Haspil

Graveyard Shift - Michael F. Haspil

Vampires are out in the open now and UMBRA, a top secret group of government-funded vampire hunters, has been dismantled. Now Alex, a former UMBRA agent, has to navigate a new world of bloody drinks at every corner store and a good chunk of the world that operates at night instead of the day. Instantly, I was captivated by this main character. Alex isn’t your typical vampire hunter. He’s got some supernatural secrets of his own. And a cat.

The former Pharaoh, Alex Menkaure, now lives in Miami working as Detective Alex Romero. A murder mystery needs to be solved fast before more civilians and Nocturnes (as vampires like to be called) die. When it became apparent that someone has been tampering with commercially available blood drinks (Hemo-Synth), I did flash to True Blood briefly. While this central plot point may not be original, the story still worked really well.

Marcus, Alex’s partner, is also a vampire, one who once was a Roman Imperator. So the two do most of their work at night. They eventually team up with some unlikely allies to solve this murder mystery and bring down the criminal mastermind going by the name Abraham. Marcus and Alex have great banter between them. I often enjoyed a dark chuckle.

Betrayal and dangerous enemies make life hard for Alex. I enjoyed all the action. There was never a dull moment. I really hope for a sequel. 4.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Michael Kramer has long been a favorite voice to listen to. I was quite pleased to hear him give life to this story. He had distinct voices for all the characters, including a variety of accents. His female voices were believable. All around, it was a great performance. 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.