Rex Tanner & the Sword of Damocles by Olufemi Sowemimo

SowemimoRexTannerAndTheSwordOfDamoclesWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrators: Keith Silverstein, Katie Leigh, Andrew S. Bates, Amy Robinson, Dave DeAndrea, & the rest of the Cast & Crew

Publisher: Audiblescripts (2015)

Length: 2 hours 26 minutes

Author’s Page

Rex Tanner is a race car driver, an American spy, a dude with an embedded gadget that gives him special abilities, and sometimes the hero. After saving the scientist Penelope Mulgrew, the two have a new mission. The 1935 Olympics draw nigh and something is stealing muscle strength from American athletes, leaving them depleted sad things. Plenty of shenanigans ensue as these two attempt to get to the bottom of this and save the Olympics for the Americans.

First, this book was a lot of fun. I quite enjoyed it. Rex is a fun hero to follow around. He has a bit of an ego and says some funny outrageous things. Penelope is a good foil for him, having to point out sexist remarks or such. It’s all done quite well with plenty of humor and action. In fact, this book reminded me of the TV cartoon series Archer (though Archer has more adult humor).

there’s plenty of gadgets and fun tech that makes me think of the older James Bond movies. Rex’s Omnidial, which is embedded in his flesh, is a source of usefulness and sometimes amusement. He doesn’t know what all the settings do and of course, Penelope, our scientist, wants to find out. Not all settings are conducive to all circumstances! Haha!

The bad guys are also interesting and they come in several flavors. Some are all-around jerks, others have their own agendas. Rex’s older brother shows up and there ensues sibling rivalry and male competition. The ladies play key roles on both side of the fence too. All around, this was an enjoyable tale fit for family fun. I am hoping for a sequel!

I received this audiobook from Audiblescripts (via the Audiobook Blast Newsletter) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: The sound effects, music, and narration for this book are all top notch. I enjoyed the full cast, especially those folks who had to pull off accents. Rex’s cocky voice was also excellent. The sound effects and music never drowned out the dialogue, and always added to the scenes.

What I Liked: Fun action flick; plenty of cool gadgets; the ladies get to poke fun at the male chauvinism; reminded me of the TV series Archer (which I really enjoy); excellent narration; plenty of humor.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really liked this one and want more.

Kill It With Magic by J. A. Cipriano

CiprianoKillItWithMagicWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Rebecca Roberts

Publisher: J. A. Cipriano (2015)

Length: 7 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Lillim Callina Chronices

Author’s Page

Lillim has magic and attitude on her side… and not much else. A kidnapping has her facing off demons and vampires to get the kid back. But there’s more going on and an ancient dragon wants her to do his bidding. Lillim isn’t so amenable to that idea. And the dragon is about to find out.

This is a fast-paced urban fantasy with plenty of baddies, magical weapons, action, good guys with questionable personal agendas, and tough parenting going on. Lillim may currently be only 16, but she’s also a reincarnated badass from before in her mother’s days of power. This is one of the key things that really made this book work for me. She can be physically 16 – strong, quick, perhaps even cute – but she also has some memories from her past life so she has this knowledge base that assists with decision making. Often Lillim thinks and acts older than a teen and I could always point at that past life influencing her here and now to explain it.

Supernatural beings are every where in this book. I like that they fill a range in complicated motivations to simple grasps for power (or food). The werewolves are on the line of being bad guys or good guys, depending on whether or not Lillim can or chooses to help them out. Then we have some interesting vampires, one of which does some dumb stuff with a demon. There’s also the semi-aware magical weapons that are pretty cool. Toss in an ancient dragon and you have a very exciting, if somewhat wrecking-ball, party.

Lillim has this complex relationship with her mother that we learn in little snippets. I liked that it wasn’t a clear love or hate, but a twisted mix of the two. Lillim had to learn to fight badly behaving supernatural beings the hard way, usually by being tossed into a mess of them. But that tough love from her mom has made her the badass enforcer she is today. Lillim’s mom’s relationship with Lillim’s past-life self makes this aspect of the story all that more interesting.

The pace is very fast and there is always some action going on. In fact, if Lillim is taking a moment for reflection, she is usually reflecting on some past fight (her’s or her mother’s). So on occasion I did get some battle fatigue as one fight after another blended together. This is a very minor criticism as I enjoyed the book most of the time and it won’t hinder me from checking out Book  2.

I received this audiobook from the author (via his publicist) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Rebecca Roberts made a very good Lillim Callina. She also had distinct voices for the other characters. On occasion, she had to come up with an interesting supernatural voice and she pulled those off as well.

What I Liked: The cover art; fast-paced urban fantasy; Lillim is strong and young but also has wisdom from a past life; plenty of baddies with a variety of agendas; magical semi-aware weapons; complicated relationship with her mom.

What I Disliked: Occasionally I got battle fatigue as one fight scene after another blended into each other. This is a minor dislike and won’t keep me from checking out Book 2.

What Others Think:

Musings of a Starving Author

Cathi Shaw

Borderlein Publishing

The Crescent Strikes by Dean Warren

WarrenTheCrescentStrikesWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: David Dietz

Publisher: Dean Warren (2014)

Length: 10 hours 32 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Pacification of Earth

Author’s Page

This book picks up a littler over a year after Book 1 ended. Benjamin Bjorn is still a man of power and still married to an Achiever (Jenny) who got pregnant and had his child. While North America has settled somewhat into the new regime, rumblings are occurring across Europe – their Welfies want the same things. Also, the Middle East and Asian countries are wanting to expand their territories into Europe, needing more resources for their large populations. War is imminent.

Honestly, I was lukewarm on Book 1 and I am the same with Book 2. There’s still a good pacing, the story line having a nice mix of politics, action, some quiet contemplation, and sexytimes. I enjoyed the various betrayals as that mixed things up a little. Bjorn is no longer the underdog but he still champions them.

Again, the plot lines were pretty predictable. I never worried that our heroes would be killed or that the bad guys would get away unscathed in some manner. We did have several more cultures involved in this book (which I liked) but their portrayals in the book relied heavily on dated cultural stereotypes (which made things predictable and a little boring).

There were some additional ladies in this book and we even had a female Prime Minister for the UK. However, nearly all the plot decisions were made by men and most of the women were incompetent. Contraception, or rather, the lack of it, came up several times throughout the book. The responsibility to hold off on reproducing was always laid at the woman’s feet. This struck me as an oddity for this story: The world as a whole is over populated; there are several types of contraception available to both men and women today; this is set in the near future where there would be more types of contraception available if anything. So I didn’t get why our hero Bjorn was putting all the blame on Jenny and none of the responsibility on his own shoulders. It was a recurring theme throughout the book and it struck me as a dated idea. Perhaps even a sexist one.

One of our female characters does get to carry the day at the end, which was nice. However, it felt more like an apology for making the ladies so inconsequential for 1.8 books. I still liked Uncle Will, though we saw less of him in this book. There were a handful of other characters that had their moments. Over all, it was a little more disappointing than Book 1, American Revolt.

I received this audiobook at no charge from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: David Dietz did a fine job with this book. It called for plenty of accents, had a sizable cast of characters, and required emotion from time to time. He did a really good job with all the various accents. He also had distinct character voices for all the different characters.

What I Liked: Underdog hero leading the way; good pacing; plenty of cultures.

What I Disliked: The plot lines are mostly predictable; the ladies are mostly vapid things; responsibility of contraception placed on the women alone; relies heavily on dated cultural stereotypes.

The Great Big War by Bob Nick Shields

ShieldsTheGreatBigWarWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: David Winograd

Publisher: Short on Time Books (2014)

Length: 2 hours 9 minutes

Author’s Page

This is Bobby Booclear’s story. He remembers the day long war clearly and is finally telling his side. In a time when kids could play outside during daylight and girls weren’t allowed in war games, Bobby reenacts some of the great big screen death scenes of his time.

This is a tale of childhood days gone by. Bobby is a kid playing with his buddies from the apartment building. Based on the movie references in this book, perhaps it is the 1960s. There’s a field near the apartment building and the kids organize a war with two sides and objectives. Everyone has some sort of toy weapon. These kids take their play very seriously! That made me smile because it made me recall childhood games and how seriously we all would take them sometimes.

There’s only 2 women in this book. One is a kid just heading into puberty. A game of spin-the-bottle leaves Bobby feeling  left out, poor dude. Then there is Bobby’s mom who makes all the kids tasty Kool-Aid ice cubes. While the men far out number the women in this book, they still contributed to the story.

I was charmed by Bobby because he takes his acting so seriously, especially his death scenes. In fact, there is a point later in the story where the death scenes are critiqued by the other boys. It was quite amusing!

I think due to my age (I’m in my 30s), some of the cultural references went over my head. Also, I have never lived in a big city or an apartment building. So some parts of this tale didn’t resonate as much with me as they might with other readers. Still, there was enough here in the story itself that I enjoyed hanging out with Bobby for a few hours.

I received this audiobook at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: David Winograd did a good job. He made a good Bobby Booclear, especially since the story is told from older Bobby’s voice as a long flashback to his childhood. I also enjoyed his serious warrior boy voices for when the kids were pretending to be generals or what not.

What I Liked: A tale of childhood; such dramatic acting from the kids!; the only 2 female characters contribute to the story; movie references.

What I Disliked: I didn’t get all of the cultural references; there are only 2 ladies.

Eye of the Scarab by Bill Meeks

MeeksEyeOfTheScarabWhere I Got It: Review copy.

Publisher: Bill Meeks (2015)

Narrator: Nathan Beatty

Length: 4 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 4 Dogboy Adventures

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 4 in the series, it works mostly fine as a stand alone.

In small town, USA, Colta City is in need of a hero or two. The police are corrupt and the politicians even more so. Bronson Black, aka Dogboy, has been putting on the mask and cape for a few years now to protect his home town. However, the Colta City Shadows (a collection of kids with super powers) find themselves in some twisted version of a cage fight for a mad scientist and the corrupt Mayor Lane. Dogboy may or may not be able to save them, just like he may or may not be able to save his relationship with his girlfriend Cindy McNeil.

This is another fun addition to the growing Superhero Genre. What I liked most about it is that Dogboy strives to hold on to these high ideals (like trial by jury) while other superpowers have a bit more wiggle room in their moral compass. At the beginning of the story, there are only tiny hints that this will become a big issue by the end. I really like how the author built it up over the story arc.

The various superheroes have interesting, and sometimes very simple, powers. They put them to amusing uses in their quest to do good. One character can walk through walls, another can erase specific memories, etc. Dogboy can fly.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of evil-doers. The police are corrupt and the average citizen is starting to feel the pinch of them and are pushing back. Then we have an arch-nemesis, Mayor Lane, and his immediate followers. They know about the kids and their powers, and they want to make more of them to create a personal army.

In this particular adventure, Bronson and Cindy, and their friend Mr. Harum (spelling?), go through some of Bronson’s dad’s old stuff. Apparently Bronson’s parents are no longer in the picture. His dad use to be a magician or such and they find this metal flying scarab which has a tiny camera. This leads to hard feelings later when Bronson checks on Cindy, and Cindy sees it as spying. Of course, Cindy has her own secrets and these two have some heartache to live through in this book.

Over all, it was a fun ride. The author relied more on plot and character development than on fancy powers, super-gadgets, and big fight scenes than many other superhero novels. I really enjoyed this take.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author via Audiobook Blast Facebook in exchange for an honest review (thanks!).

Narration: Nathan Beatty was a good fit for this book. He had great voices for all these teens that aren’t quite adults yet but have to run around making adult decisions. He also had a variety of accents (some regional, some foreign) for the characters.

What I Liked:  Variety of super powers; no single one is all-powerful; good story arc; nice character development; set up for the next book!

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

IZ ~ The Izzy Story – Encounters by Ddwlem

DdwlemISTheIzzyStoryEncountersWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrators: Roy Kelly & the whole crew

Publisher: Ddwlem, LLC (2015)

Length: 2 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Izzy Story

Author’s Page

 

Scientists from the far off planet Authair are in a race against time. A plague is killing their people and the must find a safe haven to complete their research. Earth looks like a winner. Meanwhile, a group of archaeologists and archaeology students are peeking into ruins and find something unexpected.

The action and humor are a lot of fun in this book. We start off in space with aliens, scientists (mad or otherwise), and  Izzy himself (who is like some sort of intelligent cat lizard). There’s this plague and some bad guys and the good guys must flee and continue playing with their glass beakers at the same time. They spot Earth and discuss, determining that it looks like a good place to hide out.

Then we totally switch character lists. Now we get to play with the Earthlings and the pace slows way down. This second half of the story is definitely more about a mystery and building some suspense. An archaeology student’s dog digs something unique up and the professor is consulted. Various shenanigans ensue.

For the most part, this book was fun, combining two of my favorite things – space opera and archaeological mystery. My only criticism is that the book is so cleanly divided in half in location and characters that I felt I was reading 2 separate stories. Plus this book cuts off before the connection between the two is cleanly tied together. So be ready to jump into Book 2!

I received this audiobook from the author (via the Audiobook Blast Newsletter) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: The narration, sound effects, and music for this book are excellent. It made the book extra fun to have so many voice actors and sound effects. The music was a nice touch too, never drowning out the dialogue.

What I Liked: Fun mix of space opera & archaeology mystery; Izzy is a strange cat lizard thing; both good and mad scientists abound; plenty of humor.

What I Disliked: Felt like I read 2 smaller books as the two story lines weren’t solidly connected by the end of this book.

 

The Riggle Twins by Gregor Xane

XaneTheRiggleTwinsWhere I Got It: The author gifted me a copy (thanks!).

Narrator: Commodore James

Publisher: new dollar pulp (2015)

Length: 1 hour 17 minutes

Author’s Page

Note: This is a stand alone selection from the anthology Bad Apples.

Ben & Bella Riggle are not your normal twins. Every year, they wait and wait for Halloween to come around. They spend their time in their little treehouse mending themselves and their clothes, tinkering with left over bits, and enjoying the rare visits by Sam, the one who brought them back.

This story opens on the day of Halloween, the twins getting a bit impatient waiting for night to fall. It is the one time a year they can safely leave their haven and venture out to mingle with the masked kids. But they have a task. Each year, they must bring tribute back to their treehouse before the sun rises.

I really enjoyed this story for several reasons. First, it is full of suspense and not focused on the gore some horror stories get caught up in. Second, it takes place on Halloween, a holiday ripe with mystery and mischief. Third, we get to know the little ‘horrors’ of the story first and foremost, and everyone else second. To them, this is simply what they do. They choose their tributes carefully. They do this to show how much they appreciate the one person left in their lives, the mysterious yet powerful Sam. Finally, while Sam has just a few short bits in this story, I really want to know more about him. Is he some deity? Is he just a guy with some special abilities? He has fondness for these kids, but is it self-serving fondness alone or something more, like family?

This story kept me engaged from beginning to end. Plus, it made me think. Here we have one answer (fantastical though it is) of where missing, perhaps unwanted children go. And right beside it we have the answer to what may very well happen to cranky adults full of hate for the world around. The story had a very nice symmetry.

Plus there was some gallows humor involved. Ben and Bella aren’t your typical sweet children. They don’t have empathy for normal humans, or at least, adult humans. Bad things happen to some of these adults, yet the author doesn’t linger over the blood spilled or the horror and pain the victims probably feel. This is a story about the Riggle twins, and that includes their humor. I was quite charmed by them. Not charmed enough to invite them over for tea, but charmed none the less.

The Narration: Commodore James did a very good job. He had some very interesting voices and odd human sounds to come up with. Plus he threw in a handful of sound effects. I really liked how he did Ben’s voice, as I could just imagine him having to physically lift the corners of his mouth up to get a touch of the required lisp. Also, on occasion, Sam has a multi-layered voice, just as described in the narrative. Very nicely done!

What I Liked: Ben & Bella are fascinating characters; full of suspense instead of gore; definitely want to know more about Sam (perhaps he will get another story?); the dark humor.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

What Others Think:

Lennon’s Lair

Horror After Dark

Michael Patrick Hicks