Kingdom of the Last Dragons by Theresa Snyder

SnyderKingdomOfTheLastDragonsWhere I Got It: Own an Audible.com copy.

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Mary Sibulsky

Length: 1 hour 55 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Farloft Chronicles

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works as a stand alone. However, if you want to give Book 1 a try, the audiobook version is free on the author’s website.

The Healer Theresa has returned to the kingdom after studying for a decade in the far east. She renews her friendships with Farloft the dragon and the Wizard Laval. She also gets to know James as he continues to make strides in his learning how to be a dragon. Meanwhile, Theresa’s niece visits. She catches the eye of both the Prince and James. Laval appears distracted and secretive and Theresa tries her best to pry out of him what is the matter. Pretty soon, the Zonguldak Ruby is casting it’s evil spell upon everyone.

This was a fun installment in this jaded and interesting dragon series. On the surface, these books look like children’s books. But once you start digging in to them, you see that the characters have real, human issues. Or dragon issues. Farloft is ancient, full of wisdom, and rather arrogant with his know-it-all ways. Laval is harboring a deep hurt (from Book 1) and prone to vengeance. His pain could damage more than just his target.

Then we have Theresa and her niece who are doing their best to try to reconcile these two old friends (Farloft and Laval) while not ticking off the Prince. Plus they have their own lives – healing, house chores, the niece’s art. Snyder’s writing is so concise that she can fit a lot into a book that isn’t even 2 hours long.

So it’s obvious that the author made the decision to write herself into the book as a pretty important character. Usually, I find it kind of awkward and clunky when an author chooses to do this. However, in this book it was seamless. I really didn’t notice it at first and about 10 minutes in, it finally clicked that our Healer was a version of the author herself.

In Book 1, we learned a bit about the issue between Laval and Farloft, and also how the rift between them deepened. In this book, we get the back story. For then ending, we have a very satisfying resolution to this issue. My time listening to this book was well spent time indeed!

Narration: Mary Sibulsky was a good choice for this book as it was told from Theresa the Healer’s point of view. She also had a range of voice for both men and women and I especially liked her voice for a ticked off James and a recalcitrant Farloft.

What I Liked:  Not just for kids; the cover art; plenty of story in such a short amount of time; the Farloft-Laval issue from Book 1 is revisited here in Book 2; satisfying ending; great narration. 

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

Kind Little Edmond by Edith Nesbit

NesbitKindLittleEdmondWhere I Got It: Review copy provided by the narrator (thanks!)

Narrator: Karen Krause

Publisher: Audiobooks by Mike Vendetti (2015)

Length: 33 minutes

Series: Book 8 The Book of Dragons

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 8 in the series, it works completely as a stand alone.

This is the tale of young Edmond, who was filled to the brim with curiosity, so much so that he often irritated his elders. After all, finding out things for oneself isn’t anything like sitting quietly and attentively in a school room. He likes taking things apart to see how they work, and this irritates even more elders. But not his loving and doting grandmother.

One day, Edmond decides to explore the nearby mountains, and hears some very odd sounds. He builds a lantern of sorts and returns the next day. He meets and helps a mythical beast, who rewards him by telling him magnificent tales. he continues his explorations and eventually a beast is awakened that threatens the village!

This was a great little tale and I really enjoyed it. This is only my second Edith Nesbit tale, but I can’t believe I didn’t discover her works until early this year. I think these little dragon books are some of the best out there and are true classics that stand the test of time. I especially enjoyed this one as the tale has this underlying current about the value of learning things for oneself.

Narration:  Karen Krause once again had a great little kid boy voice, this time for Edmond. She also had some great voices for the few mythical beasts Edmond comes across. She also pulled off curmudgeonly elders.

What I Liked:  The cover art; mythical beasts; Edmond’s curiosity about the world; the calamity that hits and Edmond’s role in fixing it.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – this is a great short story!

True Medical Detective Stories by Clifton K. Meador

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

Narrator: James H. Kiser

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Length: 2 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This book is a compilation of 19 medical mystery cases, the details of which were collected over the years by the author, who is also a respected medical doctor. Some are humorous and all are interesting. The underlying focus of this book is relying on listening to what a patient is or is not telling the doctor, instead of fancy modern testing.

This book was both entertaining and educational – one of my favorite combinations. We start off with a case of a fellow male doctor developing breasts. Apparently, this is not all that uncommon for men suffering from testicular or adrenal gland cancer, or those who partake of marijuana. Haha! You would think that last tid bit would be better circulated among college students. Just to satisfy your curiosity, the gentlemen was not suffering from any of these and the source of his extra estrogen was of a more personal nature. *eyes slant towards the wife*

The case studies take off from there wandering from botulism to clay eating to self-inflicted injuries/illness to mass hysteria to several others. It was a fascinating mix of well understood (if little seen) cause and effect to the still not fully understood. I was especially interested in the few cases dealing with the self-inflicted. I would think this would be especially vexing for modern doctors, with their already full schedules and yet more patients needing real treatment and care.

This book is written in such a way that you don’t need to be a medical doctor to grasp the meaning of a scene or the importance of a certain diagnosis. The author does a good job of balancing the medical terms with lay person explanations. I feel the book is accessible to a wide range of folks with minimal medical knowledge.

The pacing of the book is good, moving back and forth between the serious and deadly to the humorous and back again. It was like sitting down for a tea or beer with the author and having a good long chat about all the weird stuff he had seen during his long career. Definitely worth the read!

Narration:  James Kiser was a good pick for this audiobook. He had a clear, and conversational, voice throughout the book. He never stumbled over the medical terms. During the few times where emotion was called for, he imbued the performance with it (awe, seriousness, humor, etc.).

What I Liked: Entertaining and educational!; humor mixed with seriousness; a few deeper questions are brought up but not hammered, leaving it up to the reader to contemplate at will.

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

What Others Think:

Blog Critics

Science Thrillers

The Blue Bookcase

Better Health

Shattered by Kevin Hearne

HearneShatteredWhere I Got It: Personal copy via Audible.

Publisher: Random House Audio (2014)

Narrator: Luke Daniels

Length: 11 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 7 The Iron Druid Chronicles

Author’s Page

Fans of this series are in for a treat with this latest installation. It picks up where the previous book left off. Granuaile is a full fledged druid. Atticus (our 2000+ year old druid) has unstuck his teacher, Owen Kennedy, from a bubble of time. The three must gather their wits for the forthcoming battle with Loki. But, alas, there is much to do before they can get to that.

If you’ve read my reviews for the previous books in this series, then you will know that it took me a long time to warm up to Granuaile. Well, with this book I can finally say that I have connected with her and that I would be sorely sad to see her dead. She and her companion hound go off to India to see about rescuing her dad. The witch Laksha does her best to assist her. Things do not go as planned and for a while there, I was pretty worried about Granuaile. Some of the most intense scenes of this book belonged to Granuaile.

Atticus spent time bouncing around, tending to some of his own matters, but also in educating Owen and seeing that he was acclimatizing to the modern world. How did he do this, you might ask. Well, by leaving him with the Arizona werewolves of course. All werewolves love a sharp tongued, ill-mannered druid who can shape shift into either a bear or a hunting hound. All sorts of colorful exchanges were had, much to the amusement of this listener. Owen’s crazy remarks, some of which had to do with his nipples, had me chuckling out loud.

So, without spoiling anything for this book, it is a worthy installation in this enjoyable series. The deities still play a major role in Atticus’s life. His friends are still stalwart, but in ever more and more danger. And epic battle gives us a very satisfying end to this book, but not to the series.

Narration: Once again, Luke Daniels does a great job. He has so many difficult names and words to roll off his tongue and he does it with seeming effortlessness. I especially love his cantankerous voice for Owen Kennedy.

What I Liked:  Granuiale’s own adventure; Owen Kennedy is an awesome addition; the epic battle; the werewolves reactions to Owen; the cover art; awesome narration.

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

What Others Think:

No Baggage Attached

Yummy Men, Kickass Chicks

Fangs for the Fantasy

Respiring Thoughts

Rune Gate by Mark E. Cooper

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

Publisher: Impulse Books UK (2014)

Narrator: Mikael Narammore

Length: 7 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 1 Rune Gate Cycle

Author’s Page

Alex Yorke is a Witch and also a police consultant. She recently returned from Los Angeles to her grandparents’ farm to give her psyche a rest. Assisting police track down murderers has taken it’s toll. She would like to simply turn off her clairvoyant abilities for a while, but, alas, that is not to be. The local police department is already knocking on her door to help track down a sadistic killer.  The reader (or listener) is in for a hell of a ride!

This story is a fun mix of urban fantasy and police procedural. On one side we have the local police. Thomas is the guy in charge, and a former lover of Alex’s. Jen is his deputy, and a friend to Alex. On the other side, we have the Wiccans and witches. Douglas is a mysterious man that Alex literally ran in to. He is one of a very few that can shield his thoughts from Alex. Michael is the head of a Wiccan coven, Silver Mist, and he and his fellow believers lend Alex a hand. As you can see, Alex is right smack in the middle of everyone. The mix of the fantastical with grounded detective techniques was very satisfying.

Alex herself was an interesting mix. She walks into the story fully formed. She has a past – past lovers, past college, past jobs, past residence. The reader learns bits and pieces of her past as we move through the story. She’s trained as a cop, studied to be a scientist, and yet has this clairvoyant ability. Unfortunately, she has had no one to train her and has never learned how to shut off overhearing other’s thoughts. And it becomes incredibly worse if a person touches her. So, no snuggles for her.

I put Alex in her mid to late 20s. Perhaps 60-70% of the book, she acts her age. However, throughout the narrative she loses her cool, gnashes her teeth, lashes out at folks, screeches, etc. It’s all rather dramatic. She cries and occasionally screams or has some melt down. Much of these instances can be explained by her lack of control of her abilities and the incredible stress of tracking down a killer. But I did tire of it. Quickly. Really, this is my only complaint about the book – the punctuated drama surrounding Alex and her witchy abilities. The opening scene, where Alex taps into the last memories of the now deceased and mutilated murder victim, made it pretty clear how horrible the experience is for Alex. But she continues to have various anger management problems throughout the story. It was right on that cusp of too much. Oh, and Alex is a babe and we get to know that right up front. Apparently, she is hot enough to be a super model. And this is important to the plot and her worth as a character…..in some nebulous way.

Now, setting that aside, I quite enjoyed the other characters. Douglas doesn’t show up until nearly half way through the tale. He’s got a lovely accent and has some antiquated ideas. Yep. Didn’t see that twist coming. However, he is a calming force to Alex, helping balance out the story.

The plot line was full of hunts and losses, more bodies keep turning up. The police are mystified by certain aspects of the murders. Plus there is some jurisdictional issues between county and city cops. I liked the mix of action, grumpy pissing matches, and certain characters building friendships. Now the ending! So intense! And it is a cliff hanger, so you need to be ready to jump into Book 2, Chosen, right away. And I plan to do just that!

Narration: Mikael Naramore was a good choice for this book. He does a very believable angry Alex. He also gives Douglas his lovely accent. For Thomas he has a gruff, older cop voice. I especially liked his voices for the evil bad guys.

What I Liked:  Great mix of police procedural and urban fantasy; Douglas is a good, calming influence on Alex; Douglas’s origins were an unforeseen twist; intense ending; ready to jump into Book 2. 

What I Disliked: Alex is a borderline drama queen; Alex’s looks seem to be really important.

A Little Benedictine Oblate Manual by James Nugent

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

Narrator: Valerie Gilbert

Publisher: James Joseph Nugent, Jr. (2013)

Length: 30 minutes

Author’s Page

Near as I can tell, this book is for folks who are already Benedictine Oblates, or at least have a solid idea of what one is. The author provides his experiences and opinions on such a spiritual life. If you read the book blurb on Goodreads or Audible, it seems this book is meant to spark ideas or conversation for folks already living the life as Oblates or considering doing so.

Going into to this book, I didn’t know what an Oblate was and in completing this book, I was still mystified. So I went to the Wikipedia Article to educate myself. While the book blurb says this little book would be useful for beginners to experts, I will say this is better suited to the expert, or at least someone who has a solid idea of many of the practices, prayers, and religious terms used. I do not and therefore, felt lost much of the time.

As one can say about most religious text and religion-related texts, the basis is try to do good and keep your deity/deities always in mind. That definitely applies here and that is a positive message. However, the author does tend to ramble. Couple that with the subject specific references and terms, and you don’t have a book that just anyone can step into and get much out of.

Several times, the author refers to his past job where he worked and lived on a boat, before he got an office job and became an Oblate. Personally, I think this would be a fascinating tale: what he and his life were like on that boat and then how things shifted to what he does today. Why did he decide to leave the ship life? What was hard and easy about doing so? How did he become an Oblate and what he finds easy and hard about that? You never know; the author could be planning to write such a thing. Then folding this little book into that would make it make sense.

While this book on it’s own didn’t work for me, others may find it interesting and useful. It’s short enough to enjoy during a lunch break. So if you have any interest in the subject of Oblates, this could give you a small taste of what that role in society and church means.

Narration:  Valerie Gilbert did a good job with this narration. She presented the book in a clear and thoughtful voice. During the few instances where the text required some emotion (wonder or even awe) she did a great job of imbuing that. Basically, it felt like I was having a cup of tea with the author as he had a nice lunch time ramble.

What I Liked: Forced me to learn by looking up the Wikipedia article; was like having a rambly chat with a neighbor.

What I Disliked:  The book required you to have quite a bit of knowledge to follow along; it was a long ramble so I wasn’t always clear what the point was; the cover is rather utilitarian.

James & The Dragon by Theresa Snyder

SnyderJames&TheDragonWhere I Got It: Free on the author’s website (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Steve Sibulsky

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Farloft Chronicles

Author’s Page

A plague has beset the land and many have perished. The Wizard Laval believes he can find a cure to the illness, but he needs a bit of dragonwing. Will the only known dragon, Farloft, of the land cooperate? Meanwhile, James struggles in a bog, cutting peat for the oncoming winter. With both his parents dead, James is on his own and his crude & rude neighbors know it.

I initially took this as a kid’s book, but there are deeper plots going on here. I love how all the characters have flaws – Farloft is a know it all, the wizard is arrogant, the boy James is lonely and afraid. While the humans suffer from disease and starvation, the dragon dithers on whether or not to give up a bit of wing. Laval didn’t argue very hard in his first attempt, feeling that was beneath him. James has sticky fingers, but this could easily be explained as being destitute, orphaned, and 10 years old. So you see, it’s not a simple pleasant kid’s book where all the characters follow well-rehearsed lines.

I liked this book for it’s complexity. Farloft has a hundred and one stories to tell, and during his time with the recovering boy waiting out a snow storm, he has a captive audience to show off all his wisdom too. James, being the mostly good lad that he is, soaks it all up. They build a bond. But then reality intrudes and both realize that a human child and an ancient dragon can’t live together as family.

Meanwhile, the Wizard Laval plots vengeance. And he has decent cause! Laval turns to trickery and sneakiness, but I couldn’t blame him 100% either. Farloft’s first refusal cost Laval something dear. Indeed, there was little cut and dry about this story and that made me like it.

The ending solved some problems and left others dangling. I felt it closed out the smaller story arc well while leaving room for more Farloft Chronicles. Plus the ending had a little surprise twist that I quite enjoyed! Definitely worth the listen!

Narration: Steve Sibulsky was a good choice for this book. He had excellent voices for the know it all dragon, the arrogant wizard, the scared kid. Then he tossed in an array of side character voices. He made this book come to life!

What I Liked:  Not so simple kid’s book; all the characters have wants and not all wants will be met; they all make mistakes, some of which can’t be undone; satisfying ending with surprise twist. 

What I Disliked: This is a small criticism – I felt the ending could have used just a touch more in showing things from Laval’s perspective, considering what he lost.

What Others Think:

One Thousand Worlds in One Thousand Words

David Stevens

Lanie’s Book Thoughts

Undiscovered Tomes