Is Biocentrism Dead? by Raj Bogle

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

Narrator: Valerie Gilbert

Publisher: Lloyd Lewis (2014)

Length: 54 minutes

Author’s Page

This is an interesting little book on biocentrism. It is great for those who haven’t ventured into this philosophy before (such as myself). The concept is well explained along with the history of how it came about.

What I took away from this book is that biocentrism puts biological life at the center of everything. This philosophy incorporates a deep respect for any life, human, non-human, plant, etc. Humans are a part of the world, and the larger universe, instead of being held above or aloof from it. As a biologist, there was much in this book that I resonated with.

The book goes on to contemplate what was before the universe and gets rather philosophical, contemplating if life itself birthed the universe instead of the universe birthing life. While this book places biocentrism as a science and a theory, I don’t feel that it is quite there. A theory is testable, and this concept hasn’t been pushed that far yet. Some may place this idea in the realm of psuedoscience.

Over all, it was an educational piece. Even if you don’t subscribe to this concept as a theory, it is still worthy of contemplation. I very much like the idea of biology being at the center of everything, instead of physics or chemistry.

Narration:  Valerie Gilbert was a great narrator for this book. She performed in a clear voice with excellent pacing. She had the right mix of questioning and enthusiasm.

What I Liked: Educational; interesting concepts; great for beginners.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – I thought it was a very informative piece.

Chosen by Mark E. Cooper

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

Publisher: Impulse Books UK (2014)

Narrator: Mikael Naramore

Length: 9 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 2 Rune Gate Cycle

Author’s Page

Book 1, Rune Gate, left us with a bit of a cliff hanger, wondering who was forced through (or chose to go through) the rune gate, a gate between our Earth and the world of Othala. Our heroine, Alex Yorke, is one of those who was forced through the gate. Douglas, who is from Othala, manages to get through, along with some of the folks from the Silver Mist coven. We also have a few bad guys who make it through too. Now, the Earthlings have to learn the rules of Othala, as well as the language. There’s plenty of hidden trouble for them to get into.

I really, really enjoyed Book 1. It had this great mix of the paranormal and detective work. In Book 2, we totally lose the detective work. At first, I was a bit sad to see this gone, as Alex is trained in police work, so we no longer have that aspect to her character. My second issue with this book was that women were second class citizens. This made me sad. All the ladies who came through the gate aren’t taken seriously in Othala, by the Othala men nor by the Earth men who came through the gate. They get to cook, constantly need protecting, are given little belt daggers that are for show. Douglas (and later other men) give the Earth men lessons in sword fighting. Yet no lessons in any kind of self defense are given to the ladies. And they are all OK with that – the Othala men, the ladies, and the Earth men! Ugh!

This bothered me for two reasons: 1) It’s inherently ridiculous for women, who generally make up half the population, to not be armed and trained. This is fiction, so the rules of gender equality can be bent any way the author sees fit. 2) The Earthlings are fighters, even the ladies. So it really seemed to be against their personalities to accept this change in status without a roll of the eyes or a huff over crossed arms on breasts. 3) And why wouldn’t the Earth men speak up and insist the ladies get some training in? Again, another break in character.

As the story unfolds, there are more instances of gender inequality. Men can fight and do magic, but women are stuck with laundry and magic. Squared off, one on one, a male magic user will always be stronger than a female magic user. Sigh…..You get the picture.

So, how was the rest of the book? It was OK. There’s some politics going on that Douglas was entwined in before he left, and he gets re-entwined in upon his return. I found these interesting. Douglas also has to figure out how he feels about Alex and what he will do about her. Meanwhile, Thomas the sheriff from back home and Alex’s past lover is trying to find his niche in this new world. He is use to being in charge. Now he isn’t and he’s a novice with the sword. I really enjoyed his character arc.

And there’s betrayal and redemption (hopefully)! This was the most engaging plot line for me. It was unexpected to have one of Alex’s party commit betrayal. But this individual quickly decides an error was made and works towards redemption. This character’s growth was excellent to watch.

Alex herself does some growing as a character. First, in Othala there are folks who can teach her about her powers. Second, her powers are strong here. In this world, magic users are sometimes gifted by the Goddess with a companion that helps to keep them grounded, their Chosen. By the cover art, I am sure you can guess what form Alex’s Chosen takes. I really enjoyed the dynamic between these two and the surly remarks often made by the Chosen.

So, over all the plot and individual characters were entertaining and engaging. However, the Earth characters’ lack of comment or action concerning the gender inequality on Othala felt like a huge break in character for most of them. I really wanted them to comment or, for the more opinionated characters (Alex, Thomas), to rail against the social norms of Othala. Yet they didn’t and this seemed to go against their characters. Also, do we need yet one more fantasy novel that places women in ‘traditional’ roles? It made some of the plot and some of the choices faced by our heroes predictable. On the other hand, the ending was very well done and satisfying.

Narration: Mikael Naramore gave another good performance. Some of his bad guy voices were a little over done. Other than that, he had a lovely voice for Alex, and a wonderful accent for Douglas. I liked his big surly cat voice too.

What I Liked:  Some characters have very engaging story arcs; betrayal!; the cover art; a satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: None of the Earhers blink an eye at the Othala social norms (gender inequality); there was no detective work.

Fascinomas: Fascinating Medical Mysteries by Clifton K. Meador

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

Narrator: James H. Kiser

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Length: 3 hours 11 minutes

Author’s Page

Here is another collection of fascinating medical mysteries. Written in the same vein as his other book, True Medical Detective Mysteries, Meador delivers an entertaining array of the bizarre, little known, and unusual medical cases. I enjoyed this book just as much as his previous collection.

This collection has a greater number of self-inflicted illnesses and conditions than the first book did. I found these to be especially interesting. Sometimes they were seeking attention, sometimes they were ingesting something they did not know was the cause of their illness. There was once a time, not too long ago, when it was unknown acetaminophen could damage the liver if ingested in a large enough dose. Then there was the blue cheese case. The other side of the coin is well demonstrated by a case with a young athlete – the first three doctors assumed he was a drug seeker. Unfortunately, he was suffering from a real medical issue and only his life-long doctor took him seriously.

The stories are told as if you have sat down to have a whiskey and chat with Meador.  I can just picture the author and a colleague telling old war stories in a cozy library. While I enjoy big words and have a biology degree, I still appreciate that this book is written so that it is easily accessible to non-medical people.

Narration:  James Kiser did another great job on this book. He delivers the cases in a clear, yet conversational, voice. He has no trouble with the occasional medical jargon.

What I Liked: Cover art; entertaining & educational; plenty of self-inflicted illness cases; doesn’t get hung up on medical jargon.

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

What Others Think:

Book Journey

Literary Litter

Reviews by Teri

Book Pleasures

Three Parts Dead – Part II

GladstoneThreePartsDeadHello everyone! Welcome to the Three Parts Dead read along! You can catch the schedule over HERE. Feel free to join us int he comments if you like!

This week, I am your host, so make sure to check out everyone’s posts to see what everyone else thinks. My apologies for posting late. It’s been a crazy weekend with the greater half out of town and me trying to make a deadline while also being on farm duty.

This week we covered Chapters 8-14. There be spoilers for up through Chapter 14 in the Q&A below!

1)Throughout this section, we learn little tidbits about our main characters: Tara & her time at the Secret Universities, Kevarian and her past works, Abelard & his childhood. What fascinated you the most?

Tara’s time in the Secret Universities was the most interesting, though I suspect Ms. Kevarian has some stories to top Tara’s. It seems Prof Donovo is pretty corrupt and that the school is OK with turning a blind eye. No wonder Tara set his lab on fire!

And did I understand that correctly? Did Kevarian create Justice like 40 years ago after Kos’s love, Cyril (spelling?), died? Wow! So I bet there would be plenty of awkward silences over tea between Kat & Kevarian, should they ever sit down for a break.

And who knew Abelard had a thing for boilers from such a young age? Perhaps he would have been an engineer had there been any schools around.

2) So many conspiracies! Someone tried to burn out some of Raz’s memories, there were super secret contracts between the dead Cabot and Kos and some unknown third party, and Abelard found a hidden altar in the heart of Kos’s church! Do you think they are connected?

Right now, yes, I think we will find all these things connected by the end of the book. Though I don’t really know how that will all tie together. I am not too sure what Raz was carrying and how it ties to this case. Perhaps that chest had a copy of the super secret contracts, but a copy that wasn’t missing the co-signer’s name.

The hidden altar took time, money, and plenty of folks being hush hush in order to set up. I think Abelard might be in for huge, nasty shock to find many members of his beloved church in on the conspiracy. He might cry over it, poor dude.

And, of course, I really want the evil Donovo to be tangled up in it all so that he falls and breaks several bones, along with having his reputation destroyed, by the end of the book. But that might just be wishful thinking.

3) This question is just for fun & came about from discussion over at Violin in the Void last week. Abelard is a chain smoker and his worship of Kos keeps him safe from any ill effects of said smoking. If there were multiple deities who could protect you from ill effects of different vices (alcohol, illicit drugs, gluttony, etc.), which vice, if any, would you pick?

I have been pondering this question for a week. I really have 2 vices – sex and food. Luckily, I have a very accommodating man in my life, so sex is not an issue. But what if I didn’t have him? Well, then I would need protection from STDs and unintended pregnancies (because no birth control is 100%). Oh, and also the gift to choose partners wisely. So, would I choose food to sex, if I was to worship a deity? Hmmm….well, I am a pretty good cook. So I will go with sex.

4) Stonemen! Will Tara be able to win over Shale and gain his assistance? Will Justice’s Black Suits face off against them, potentially destroying the city? Discuss!

Wow! OK, if Tara is to win over Shale she either has to protect him from something bigger and nastier or offer him something he desperately wants and can’t get elsewhere. After all, she did practically kill him, take his face off, interrogate him on a mannequin’s head, and then carry him around for a few days folded up in a book in her handbag. That won’t be easy to forget, even if she did save him from the Black Suits.

The Stonemen seem fascinating, especially now that we have a bit more of their past. But they also seem very married to that past and unable to let go and redefine themselves. With that said, the Black Suits are very married to their purpose and don’t appear to be very flexible. I think that if Tara can’t clear things up in a hurry then these two parties will clash and the city could be left in ruin.

5) The Courthouse of Crafts is a strange place. Feel free to comment on it. Ms. Kevarian tells Tara, last minute, that she will be the one to face Donovo. Calculated way to boost Tara’s confidence? Or a cruel way to test her?

Yes, that is an odd building. Since the building somehow knows your purpose there, and will only let you walk to the area you need, I wonder if it also shows you the exterior you need to see? Also, this kind of craftwork probably keeps people from getting up to mischief..or at least, makes them work really hard to accomplish it.

The face off between Donovo and Tara was very interesting. The imagery of the dead Kos mixed with the legalese speak was fascinating! I think Tara did well, considering the hold Donovo had on her mind in the past. As for Ms. Kevarian’s intentions…..well, I am not sure yet. We don’t know all the much about her, and she keeps a lot close to her chest. However, I do get the feeling that she has a great dislike for Donovo, so whatever her reasoning for putting Tara in the ring, I doubt it was to benefit Donovo in any way.

Other Tidbits:

When Abelard asked Kevarian her age, and we learned a bit more about what Crafting does to the user’s body, ugh! But also, hooray! They can live as a long as they are creative enough to find a way to do so. But it seems they have to give up plenty as they age. Care to inhabit a stone statue for a few decades?

There have been a few references to Tara using starfire, and one reference to her sitting naked at night in order to absorb starlight for her Crafting. I wonder how long one night’s worth of starlight lasts? Does it kind of fade a bit each day, even with out use? Fascinating!

Such a cliff hanger! Tara is about to face off with Shale. Kat is messing around with the sleeping Raz, getting her next fix. Meanwhile, Abelard is running for his life from some horrible shadow monster. It was really hard for me to stop at this point.

Below are the blogs participating:

Lauren – Violin in a Void
Heather – The Bastard Title
Susan (me) – Dab of Darkness

The Hidden Masters of Marandur by Jack Campbell

CampbellTheHiddenMastersOfMarandurWhere I Got It: Review copy via the publisher (thanks!).

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Narrator: MacLeod Andrews

Length: 12 hours 54 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Pillars of Reality

Author’s Page

Book 1 in the series left us with Mage Alain and Master Mechanic Mari going separate paths. Both strive to fit in and make strides in their respective guilds. Mari takes on every task required of her, until one day she is told she must travel to a war-torn area, on her own. Mage Alain is in a similar situation, having been assigned to protect a group of people, only to be targeted by other mages who are tossing around lightning. Mari & Alain unite forces once more and strive to come up with a solution to turning aside the storm they both sense is about to hit their world. They turn their eyes towards the long buried and forgotten archives of the long dead city Marandur.

I absolutely loved Book 1 in this series and Book 2 did not disappoint, though I would be hard-pressed to say which one I enjoyed more. Mari and Alain have great chemistry and I love watching them try to figure out their relationship, as well as survive the numerous enemies they have gained. Alain is delving into long suppressed memories of family in order to regain his emotional side. He is also developing social skills, which adds some much appreciated humor even in the bleakest moments. Mari struggles a bit with an age-old prophecy concerning the possible ending to the world as they know it. If I have any complaint about this book, it is that sometimes Mari is a little too emotional. Also, she has a streak of jealousy that is a little ridiculous and isn’t fully resolved by the end of this book. I wasn’t a particular fan of this trait in her and felt it could have been less emphasized.

That little complaint aside, the plot is rich with further developments. Both guilds have secrets, but they also have folks who want those secrets out. Plus there are the Dark Mechanics who we briefly glimpsed at the end of Book 1. So many folks want these two dead! So with great reluctance, the duo finally head off to Marandur only after they feel other possibilities have been exhausted.

Now Marandur was not as expected. It was more complicated and what they found there could be a huge asset….if only they can get out alive. I really don’t want to spoil any of this for you, as all the Marandur scenes happen late in the book. Let me just say it was a bitch to get into and, even then, they were not safe.

This book does a masterful job of weaving steampunky science fiction with philosophical fantasy. It’s an excellent combination and sets the bar high for the small, but growing, subgenre of science fantasy.

Narration: MacLeod Andrews once again did a great job of Mari and Alain. He can totally cut all emotion from his voice when doing a Mage, and yet imbue Mari’s voice with so much emotion when she is frightened or angry. I especially like his voice for Mari as it is a bit throaty and it makes it so easy to picture her as a serious mechanic.

What I Liked:  Mari & Alain are a great hero duo; the cover art is gorgeous; so many enemies!; the prophecy of their world ending is becoming clearer; Marandur; very satisfying ending. 

What I Disliked: Occasionally, Mari is a little too emotional or jealous, but that won’t stop me from enjoying the book!

What Others Think:

Not Yet Read

All Things Urban Fantasy

The Cult of Sutek by Joshua P. Simon

SimonTheCultOfSutekWhere I Got It: Review copy via the narrator (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Epic of Andrasta & Rondel

Author’s Page

Another addition to the ever-growing Swords & Sorcery genre, this is a tale not to be passed by. Oh, all the expected elements are there, they just aren’t quite what one is expecting. We have our warrior, Andrasta, who is a a well-muscled, highly trained half-breed woman with almost no sense of humor. We have our near useless (at the beginning) comic relief – Rondel. He use to be a great bard and something of a fop. However, he starts this story off mutilated and having spent too many years in prison. These two make an unlikely alliance, and the adventuring begins with an escape!

Every time I thought this book would take a turn and head down the often-trod trail of mediocrity, it surprised me. Are there maidens who need rescuing? Well, yes but they are also willing to stab your eyes out if you turn out to be with the bad guys. Is there an untried young magician in the group? Well, yes but Andrasta puts him through some really tough & rough training before he has to do any actual battle. Is there a horrendously evil cult that everyone must try to escape from at the end? Well yes, and not everyone makes it.

Plus, there is all this other great stuff going on in the book. Like Andrasta has his huge chip on her shoulder that only she can knock down. But until she is ready to do that, she will just pound Rondel into some semblance of a fighter. There’s this horrible place called the Blood Forest. Yeah, it’s creepy and hungry, evil things lurk with in it. Of course I want our heroes to have to enter it! So, that was awesome, twice over because they had to go through the forest twice.

Our two main characters had excellent story arcs for a first book. We met them and then they slowly changed through out the book. Rondel is the more compassionate of the two and he rubs off on Andrasta, even as she teaches him to use the sword and make shim run laps to build up his endurance. Then the author takes it one step further and has a few of our side characters also grow and change through out the book. I think I will miss two of our side characters, as I don’t expect them to be in the next book. On occasion, there is a minor character that happens by at the right time who provides critical info to the heroes. While I understand this is done to help move the plot forward, and it was decently done, it was also obvious that was the character’s entire point. If I have to have a criticism about this book, that would be my tiny, little one right there.

By the end of the book, we have plenty of murder and mayhem because the Cult of Sutek is full of evil people who need to die. Hopefully, the good guys got them all. While there is plenty of death, it is not particularly gory and the author doesn’t linger of spilled guts or the blood rituals the cult practices. Enough details are given to make you want the cult dead but not so much that your lunch will revolt on you.

I am very much looking forward to the next installment in this series. Andrasta is a fascinating character because she pounds against boundaries until they break. Rondel has also earned a warm little place in my heart with his mix of practicality and compassion. The two make a great duo!

Narration: Jeffrey Kafer was a good pick for this book. Much of the tale is told through Rondel’s eyes and he Kafer makes a very good broken bard turned sellsword. He also had a plethora of female and male voices to fill out all the other characters. He had a good young male voice for the untried magician. The book does talk of accents from time to time, and I couldn’t discern much of an accent given to any of the characters, to that would be my only quibble. If the book hadn’t mentioned accents as much as it did, I wouldn’t have noticed the lack of them.

What I Liked:  Andrasta is such a fighter all the time!; the Blood Forest is a worthy foe; Rondel has a great character arc; the women in this tale never simply allowed the plot to happen to them – they were always an active part of it; excellent ending. 

What I Disliked: There are a few times where a one time character appears at the right time to casually provide critical info to our heroes, and while this moved the plot forward, it was also obvious that was what the character’s entire point was. However, this would not dissuade me from wholeheartedly recommending this book.

What Others Think:

Adventures Fantastic

Ravaged by Jason Brant

BrantRavagedWhere I Got It: Review copy via the narrator & Audiobook Monthly (thanks!)

Narrator: Wayne June

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 3 minutes

Series: Book 3 The Hunger

Author’s Page

Book 3 picks up roughly 1 month after Book 2 ends. Our heroes are still at the compound they wrested away from the maniacal Ralph. Other survivors continue to join them and the camp’s resources are starting to strain. Add to that, the infected monsters seem to be getting smarter and are targeting the camp. Even with the arrival of a new ally, they might not survive.

Our main foursome continue to face the odds. Each one of them has a demon or three to face in this installment of The Hunger series. Lance York, the man who started the apocalypse in nothing but a hospital gown, has gone from being a sad couch potato to a man of action. He’s at that point where he can look at himself and see the changes – both physically and psychologically. The world has gone to crap and he has risen from it, becoming a man he can respect. I have really enjoyed his story arc because he is just such a normal guy. Perhaps we would all benefit from an apocalypse.

Cass continues to grow as a character too. She was use to fending for herself before the infected covered the Earth. However, her time spent with Lance has shown her the benefits to being a little soft around a few select humans. She’s still a bad ass with a war axe and has her own dress code, but now she has opened a bit to Lance and even Emmett and Meghan.

Speaking of Emmett and Meghan, they play more central roles in this book as well. The group as a whole face some difficult decisions, but both Meghan and Emmett, who have trained and served in their own ways to protect and preserve life, must face the decision to take life. They were fine sidekicks in Book 2; in this book, they are integral and I would miss them if they weren’t there.

The plot line keeps us moving along. There’s still plenty of action and savagery from the infected, but those are punctuated with moments of reflection or humor. One of the things I really like about this series is that the dangers change with each book. We have the human dangers – humans like to be jerks to each other and that probably won’t change. Also, the infected – those savage monsters – have started to show more than bestial reactions to stimuli. They are already incredibly deadly, but now imagine them able to reason and problem solve! It makes for a very exciting plot!

With new foes and dangers, I was concerned for more than one of our foursome throughout the book. The ending was very satisfying and I can only hope that the author continues on with these characters. I am not ready to let them go.

Narration:  Wayne June once again was THE voice for Lance York. I like his average guy in a crappy situation voice. It really suits Lance’s humor. As usual, Wayne had a good array of male and female voices for all the other characters. He even pulled off a Pittsburgh-specific accent for one side character that I thought was very well done.

What I Liked:  The cover art; Cass’s attitude; I was worried about some of characters making it out alive!; the monsters aren’t as stupid as we all thought; trust issues; the ending was satisfying.

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

What Others Think:

Michael Loring

Fun With Books

Indie Addict