That Ghoul Ava: Her First Adventures by TW Brown

BrownThatGhoulAvaWhere I Got It: Won a copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Celia Aurora de Blas

Publisher: Todd Brown (2013)

Length: 2 hours 1 minute

Series: Book 1 That Ghoul Ava

Author’s Page

Ava is a ghoul and didn’t know it at first. Indeed, life sucked and her human life ended one night. The next day she awoke and the changes were already done. Sunlight burned like a laser. Her sense of smell and hearing were intense. Teeth and claws appeared and her skin was a uniform grey. Oh, and the dead smelled divinely tasty.

This first book contains two short stories about Ava and her side kick Lisa. They work fine together as one happens shortly after the other chronologically. I so enjoyed this book! Ava is the next thing in urban fantasy. She has a sharp it and a snarky tongue. I repeatedly found myself snort laughing at the dark humor.

Ava has no grief over eating the naughty or the dead and I like this about her. After all, she has now entered a seedier world where the questionable and evil roam free. She doesn’t get all emotional over it; she simply deals with it, often with her shark mouth.

Lisa is a great sidekick because she is so very human. She’s messed up, fell in with a bad crowd. Yet she has maintained her sweetness and Ava is rather protective of this. Together, they are a well balanced team.

I especially like that Ava isn’t your typical Causcasian heroine. Hooray for diversity in fiction! Toss in the equivalent of a psychic gang boss for the area, a few vampires, and the run-of-the-mill street punks, and you have a very entertaining story!

The Narration: Celia Aurora de Blas was awesome! I absolutely loved her as Ava. She was so fun and I really felt she brought the humor to life in her performance.

What I Liked: Ghouls!; plenty of snarky humor; Ava is so capable and doesn’t cry about it; the cover art; Lisa is an excellent sidekick; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I so loved this book!

What Others Think:

D. R. Johnson

The Bookie Monster

What Does the Fluffy Red Fox Say?

Robin Hood: The History & Folklore of the English Legend by Jesse Harasta & Charles River Editors

CharlesRiverEditorsRobinHoodWhere I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!).

Narrator: Jack Chekijian

Publisher: Charles River Editors (2015)

Length: 1 hour 10 minutes

Author’s Page

The legends of Robin Hood arose in Medieval times and were carried forth in the Renaissance and modernized by Hollywood. This book takes us back to the earliest stories of Robin Hood, the changes the tales underwent in the Renaissance, and the enduring traits that have survived into modern retellings.

Here is another educational book from Charles River Editors. I had always assumed that Robin Hood was a fictional legend. However, there may indeed have been a man that the earliest stories were based on. It’s still debated in history circles. In addition, the earliest tales had a much more practical, gruff man at the center. He wasn’t the Lionheart loving, giving to poor hero that we all think of today.

In fact, many of the attributes that modern retellings include didn’t come about until the late Medieval, or early Renaissance time period. For instance, there were no Friars in Medieval England, so the character Friar Tuck obviously didn’t occur in the earliest tales. Also, the Renaissance Tudors felt the need to elevate Robin Hood and managed to ‘research’ a noble lineage for the man.

Indeed, this book was an eye opener for me. Granted, I had never really looked into Robin Hood’s history. I think this book would be great for other folks for have previously only had a passing interest.

The Narration: Once again, Jack Chekijian did a great job. I like that he has the right mix of excitement for the subject and professorial air to keep us all grounded. 

What I Liked: Educational and entertaining!; the book explores the history of the man and the tales; it’s interesting to see how the stories changed over time; the cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this one!

The Earp Brothers: Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp by Charles River Editors

CharlesRiverEditorsTheEarpBrothersWhere I Got It: Review copy from Punch Audio (thanks!).

Narrator: Alex Hyde-White

Publisher: Charles River Editors (2015)

Length: 2 hours 45 minutes

Author’s Page

Many folks know the Earp brothers from the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, AZ. Wyatt Earp in particular is seen as an icon of the Wild West. However, this book gives you so much more than that. Each of the Earp brothers was a flawed human, leading interesting lives. There’s law breaking, brothels, drug use, affairs and multiple wives, gambling, and the rough & tough enforcement of the law.

Charles River Editors has put together yet another fascinating read. I knew very little about the Earp brothers before diving into this book and now feel that I can hold a decent conversation about them. This book starts off with their family back east and shows how the brothers grew up, went separate ways, and then ended up together again in AZ. The story doesn’t stop there and the book continues the tale of each brother, following them until each one passes out of history.

The Earp’s flaws and sometimes outright lawlessness isn’t sugar coated or glossed over in this book. Indeed, we get to know the factual story for each man, including all their documented indiscretions. I especially like that when the facts become a bit muddied the book is honest about questionable or conflicting historical sources.

My only criticism is that sometimes I would lose track of which brother the story was focused on at any one time. Often, the book would start a section or perhaps a paragraph with the full name (i.e. Wyatt Earp) but then just refer to the man as Earp the rest of the section. So if you missed the full name, you could easily think the story was still focused on whichever brother before. I wish the book had stuck with first names when referring to the Earp brothers for much of the book instead of going with Earp, Earp, and Earp for like 80% of the book. As each brother dies off, it becomes easier to follow which brother is doing what. I expect this wouldn’t be such an issue with a print or ebook edition as you can quickly flip back and visually check which brother you are reading about at any given time.

Overall, this was a very educational book for the uninitiated. I really liked that the gunfight at Tombstone did not make up the bulk of the tale, as there was so much more to the Earp brothers. The book ends by giving a list of various movies made based on the Earps, nearly all focused on the fight in Tombstone.

The Narration: Alex Hyde-White was a good choice for this book. I really felt that he enjoyed narrating the book as much as I enjoyed listening to it. His appreciation for the subject matter came through.  

What I Liked: Educational and entertaining!; The Earps were flawed humans and this book doesn’t flinch from telling it like it is; the gunfight in Tombstone is covered but not the focus of the book; when historical references are conflicting or questionable, this book let’s the reader know that.

What I Disliked: Quite often all 3 brothers are referred to by their last name, so several times I lost track of which Earp brother the book was referring to.

Roman Holiday by Jodi Taylor

TaylorRomanHolidayWhere I Got It: Was free on Audible.com when I picked it up (thanks!).

Narrator: Zara Ramm

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 1 hour 12 minutes

Series: Book 3.5 The Chronicles of St. Mary’s

Author’s Page

Note: Although this is Book 3.5 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

The folks of St. Mary’s are time travelers. They have rules and a whole costume department and some pretty snazzy tech, along with whole sheets of language cheats. The mission for this book is one to merely observe. They are sent back to 44BC Rome. Julius Caesar has installed his mistress Cleopatra in his wife’s house. Yeah. The dude has big brass ones.

This was my first Jodi Taylor book ever and it will definitely not be my last. The mix of history, cool tech, and humor had me hooked. I kept alternating between chuckling and, when surprised, snorting hot tea through my nose. I switched to cool water after the second time. The humor was often sharp and pointed (such as calling out Caesar on the wisdom of where to install his mistress when in Rome) – just my style of humor!

Also, our time travelers are lead by an older female, which makes her perfect for this mission as she can totally play the respectable wealthy matron. Plenty of unforeseen circumstances occur, and the proper mayhem follows.

I’ll be catching up on this series for sure!

The Narration: Zara Ramm was a great voice for the lead female in this book. She had the right mix of humor and experienced self-assuredness that really brought this character to life. She also had distinct and believable voices for the other female and male characters.

What I Liked: Time travel!; sharp-tongued humor; famous historical figures; a crazy set of circumstances.

What I Disliked: The cover art and the title don’t really say ‘time travel’ to me,which is probably why I haven’t taken note of this series before.

Dog Training by Daniela Emerson

EmersonDogTrainingWhere I Got It: Review copy from Cosmic Crate (thanks!).

Narrator: Kelly Dievendorf

Publisher: Sender Publishing (2015)

Length: 55 minutes

Author’s Page

Here is a good primer for taking on a puppy or an older dog. If you’ve never taken a dog obedience class or read other dog training books, then this is a good place to start. It covers all the basics without getting bogged down in example stories or trying to delve into doggy psychology.

I am one of those life-long pet owners that has never taken a pet obedience course. Instead, I have found nuggets of useful information along in the way in books like this one. For this particular book, I like how the author distinguishes the different set of challenges an owner may have taking on a puppy versus an older dog. Since I have done both, I can attest that the challenges are indeed quite different. There are also bonuses to each, which the book explains as well.

I was quite pleased to see that the book drew on consistency and patience as key in training a dog. The author also doesn’t pull any punches letting a potential dog owner know when they probably aren’t ready for a pet. We’ve all known adults who were not in a place (emotionally, mentally, physically) to properly care for a pet and some of us have probably been there. So kudos for the author for not shying away from saying it. If you are looking for a dog training book for kids or for adults new to the idea of pet ownership, this is a great place to start.

The Narration: Kelly Dievendorf was a good voice for this book. She had a clear voice that you could easily imagine belonging to an experienced pet trainer. 

What I Liked: Easy to take in info; different challenges in adopting a puppy versus an adult dog; not holding back on who probably isn’t ready to adopt a dog; the cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – good source of info!

How to Be Creative by Clayton Geoffreys

GeoffreysHowToBeCreativeWhere I Got It: Review copy from Cosmic Crate (thanks!).

Narrator: Jake Stevens

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Length: 1 hour 10 minutes

Author’s Page

This is a short little book on how to become creative, or how to get out of a rut and get back to being creative. If you’re one of those folks that feels life is dull and your glued to your routine, you might well find this interesting.

Once again, the author does a great job of packing a lot of info into a short amount of time (I recently enjoyed his book Milk Thistle). The section on defining creativity was interesting and informative. Also, I liked the sections on how to incorporate creativity in your daily life and how to let your creativity grow. There were two case studies on famous creative people: Steve Jobs and Jerry Seinfeld. I have not followed either one other than in passing. I have caught several episodes of The Jerry Seinfeld Show and found the jokes repetitive and therefore, easy to spot on the horizon. So for me, the second example didn’t really work, as the point was to not be repetitive when being creative. Setting that aside, the book used these examples to show that these two famous men didn’t just do one thing with their lives; they had several projects going, usually at the same time.

The author shares steps to keeping creativity alive in your daily life and I think these are useful. As a weaver myself, when I get in a slump I often do some of these things and they give me a fresh perspective. Basically, it is just shaking up your routine and doing something you like and that is a bit different from what you had planned that day. The author keeps it simple (like taking detours when walking the dog, or gardening instead of doing laundry, etc.) and I like that he doesn’t turn it into a big production. You don’t need to go skydiving or try out a new-to-you narcotic to get your creative juices flowing. All in all, if you find you are not a creative person, this book could be just the stimulant you are looking for.

The Narration: Jake Stevens’ performance was great. He kept a good pace and had the right mix of excited and serious.

What I Liked: Easy to take in info; plenty of examples; simple actions to take; the cover art.

What I Disliked: The famous creative men examples didn’t particularly resonate with me.

A Time of Demons: Before the End by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

GriffithATimeOfDemonsWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Wendy Tremont King

Publisher: Self published (2014)

Length: 18 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Time of Demons

Author’s Page

In St. Louis, MO, the Graystones are musicians playing at a local bar and taking care of their elderly aunt and uncle. Cassandra and Johnny lost their parents and siblings in a fire when they were kids and ever since then, Cassandra has been plagued with a few supernatural powers: she can sense when someone is about to die, and (more recently) she can see demons (often disguised as humans). But now things are getting scary with more and more demons about and freak storms and accidents that force the Graystones and their friends on the road.

This book starts off pretty slow and stays that way for much of the story. On one hand, we get to know the main characters, especially Cassandra, pretty well. On the other hand, the long spaces between the bits of action were a bit tiring to get through as the characters are simply rehashing events and feelings we have already heard about. I place this book firmly in Christian Fiction first and paranormal fantasy fiction second. The only non-Christians in this book are the demons. While I understand this is a fiction based on the idea of Revelation, I was surprised that none of our non-demon characters were of a different religion, nor did any of our characters discuss any friends or family that were of another religious persuasion. I found this odd since our characters are musicians, fortune tellers, and circus clowns, all professions that at least rub elbows with a variety of folks. Plus St. Louis is a fairly large city with plenty happening.

Since there was lack of variety in religious backgrounds, all of our good guys were on the same page. This meant that the only conflict was between our heroes and the demons and that was pretty straight forward. This lack of differences meant no real conflict among our characters and this added to the dullness of the book; they were all on the same page. This also means that the character growth is limited to their religious take on the events they live through. The most interesting character was the blood demon Rayner and he is interesting because he has both internal conflict and conflict with his fellow demons as well as the humans going on. Unfortunately, his page time with readers is limited.

In short, if you enjoy Revelation or Christian fiction stories, then this might be right up your alley. There is some character development for our heroes and they do have to go through one travesty after another as the world approaches Revelation. However, for me, this book didn’t work. I like more diversity, which leads to situations where the characters face not only conflict with the forces of evil, but internal conflict and conflict with their friends and allies.

The Narration: Wendy King did a great job narrating this book. It is a quality performance with plenty of individual, distinct voices for the characters. She also has some great creepy voices for the demons. 

What I Liked: Cover art; great narration; the demon Rayner was the most interesting character.

What I Disliked: This is a pretty slow book; not much diversity; the conflict is simple and one-dimensional.

What Others Think:

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