Escape from the Overworld by Danica Davidson

Narrator: Dan Woren

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 2 hours

Series: Book 1 Overworld Adventures

Author’s Page

Minecraft comes to the real world! Stevie is happily building his treehouse when night begins to settle. Oooopppsss! He’s suppose to be home by now. But he has to fight his way past a creeper then a mob of zombies! Things don’t go smoothly and he feels like the worst mob fighter ever. The next day he spots a portal and he takes his chances, popping out of a computer screen on the other end into Maison’s bedroom. The sixth grader and Stevie quickly become friends, which is a good thing because the monsters of Minecraft have also discovered the portal and the people of Maison’s world are not well-equipped to deal with them!

I’ve never played Minecraft but this book was easy to get into anyway. Stevie is seeking his dad’s approval and is constantly measuring himself against his dad’s great deeds with his diamond sword. This little misadventure into Maison’s world gives him a chance to stand on his own and have great deeds to tell of later.

Maison was fun and bright. She’s keen on building things and wants to be an architect like her mom. While surprised to have Stevie pop out of her computer screen, she’s also very excited to show him her school and perhaps visit his world. Unfortunately, this also means having to deal with the school bullies, Dirk and Mitch. Argh! I wanted to pinch their ears and haul them off to the principle’s office!

Later on, once the zombies and spiders start showing up at the school, the bullies get their comeuppance. Also, Stevie’s wood working skills are greatly appreciated. Maison gets her wish as she and Stevie have to go back to Minecraft to deal with the portal. Together, they and Stevie’s dad come up with a solution that lets them continue their friendship. I really liked how Maison was able to get Stevie’s dad to see how worthy his son is.

All around, it’s a great little family-oriented story. You don’t need to be familiar with the Minecraft game to enjoy it.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Dan Woren was a great fit for this book. He sounds like a young Stevie and he was great at portraying his emotions. He also made a really good Maison. Then he had adult voices as well for Stevie’s dad and the school shop teacher. His bully voices were spot on as well.

What I Liked: Fun story line; Stevie’s wood working skills; Maison’s enthusiasm for building stuff; how the bullies were dealt with; big spiders!; showing Stevie’s dad that Stevie is worthy; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s a great family-oriented story.

What Others Think: 

The Simply Me Blog

14 by Peter Clines

Clines14Narrator: Ray Porter

Publisher: Audible Studios (2012)

Length: 12 hours 38 minutes

Author’s Page

Nate needed a new place to live, a cheaper place to live, so when he landed this apartment in an older building, he didn’t look too closely at all the little strange things. Later, he wishes he had made a closer inspection before moving in.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, except that it would be fun. I really enjoyed Clines’s The Fold and so I jumped right into this book without even reading the description. I was not disappointed. While the story starts off tame, it gets a bit creepy, and then twists into a wild ride towards the end. The initial mystery of the building pulled me in and the hunt for the truth kept me fully engaged.

The characters were fun though I can’t say that I was particularly attached to any of them. I liked that several ethnicities were represented, as well as ages, and we had a good gender ratio. Perhaps Veek was my favorite as she is so prickly but also the brainy one. Xela was often the comedic relief with her preference for nudity.

The unraveling of the mystery was my favorite part of the book as it was a delicious slow burn to figure out the truth. There’s the mutant cockroaches and then the odd messages hidden under layers of paint in some of the apartments. The landlord is strongly against any of them figuring out anything, so Nate and his fellow tenants become rather suspicious, and also curious, about him.

Once they finally figure out the mystery, there’s a whole new set of problems to deal with. I totally didn’t expect the ending. The last fifth of the book went to a place I had not foreseen but totally made sense. I was very pleased with the heart-pounding ending. I hope there may be another book with some of these same characters and the same building in the future.

Narration: Ray Porter did a really good job with this book. He had several accents for the various characters and his female voices were good as well. I especially liked his voice for pissed off Veek.

What I Liked: Mystery turned Fantasy thriller; all the little mysteries of the building; the hunt for the truth; the truth was unexpected but totally made sense; the final set of problems our heroes have to face; the ending was quite satisfying; great cover art; really good narration.

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

What Others Think:

Horror Novel Reviews

Fantasy Book Critic

Errant Dreams

Effusion of Wit and Humor

52 Book Reviews

SFFaudio

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Esoterrorism by C. T. Phipps

PhippsEsoterrorismScroll to the bottom to check out the audiobook giveaway!

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Audible Studios (2016)

Length: 9 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Secret Files of the Red Room

Author’s Page

In this urban fantasy, the morally questionable fight the morally void. Derek Hawthorne and his twin sister Penny were raised within the secret organization known as the Red Room. This organization has kept the larger world safe from the supernatural for millennium. However, Derek is now caught up in a plot that is wrongly accusing him of treason while at the same time he hunts down the evil and powerful Wazir. Things are about to get messy.

This was a fun story. It’s got dark humor, plenty of action, and really interesting characters. I give extra points for all the Richard Matheson references. Derek is our main character and we experience the entire book through his point of view. He’s been raised to be this spy who happens to have some supernatural abilities and his primary job is to keep the populace at large from learning about the existence of supernatural creatures. The Red Room doesn’t really have a retirement plan, so once you’re in, you’re in for lfve. In Derek’s case, he (and his sister) were born into the Red Room. This is what they know. Penny is the witch in the family whereas Derek is more like a scruffy James Bond with some unexpected talents.

Lucy was one of my favorite side characters. She’s so cute and such a geek and doesn’t pick up on social cues. She’s grown up in the lab of the Red Room creating supernatural gadgetry for all the agents. She seems happy if a bit odd. I do wonder what she and Penny do on date night, since Lucy seems to never leave the lab….

While there is plenty of entertaining snark and jokes passed back and forth among the agents, there is this more serious underlying plot. First, there’s the unexpected reappearance of the Wazir and his henchmen. Then there is evidence that a mole is releasing critical information about the Red Room to outsiders. Derek eventually picks up on the fact that some higherups at the Red Room think that mole might be him. As a test of sorts, he’s given a new partner (Shannon O’Riley) and they are sent to question Derek’s ex-wife Cassandra. This plot kept me engaged the entire time because I wasn’t sure how things would turn out. I knew Derek wasn’t a mole but I wasn’t sure about Shannon or Penny or Cassandra. The story kept me guessing and I really like that.

Shannon is a bundle of mysteries. She’s assigned to Derek out of the blue and he’s immediately suspicious of her and whoever arranged for her to be his partner. Still, she’s efficient and pleasant company. As the story progresses, Derek learns some of her secrets and, for the most part, these revelations just make him more wary of her. Still, there’s this sexual tension between the two that make for some entertaining conversations, in or out of the locker room.

Battling the Wazir was more difficult than Derek expected. I really liked that the story started off with a cocky Derek but as one misjudgment or mishap after another occurs, Derek becomes more cautious. The man is trainable! While I was expecting a higher body count, I was pleased that several of my favorite characters made it out alive (if not unscathed). I look forward to seeing what happens next in this series.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer was a great pick for this book. He makes a really good Derek Hawthorne. I also loved his snarky voice for Penny and his excited, geeky voice for Lucy. His Irish accent for Shannon started off a little rough but quickly smoothed out. He pulls off the humor so well! 

What I Liked: Snarky humor everywhere; Shannon’s secrets; Derek isn’t as emotionally devoid as he would have everyone think; I really wasn’t sure who the traitor was; the Wazir was harder to take down than expected; love the cover art.

What I Disliked: It’s a tiny criticism – the Irish accent in the narration started off a little rough.

What Others Think:

Audio Book Reviewer

My World… in words and pages

Book Lover’s Life

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Fantasy Book Critic

GIVEAWAY!!!

C. T. Phipps is offering up 3 copies of his audiobook The Secrets of Supervillainy! Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following questions in the comments section: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) Who are your favorite book villains? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Contest is open until Jan. 20, 2017, midnight my time. 

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Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

Tofu is not bothered by bugs or books.
Tofu is not bothered by bugs or books.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Lauren Fortgang

Publisher: Audible Studios (2010)

Length: 11 hours 59 minutes

Series: Book 1 Elemental Assassin

Author’s Page

Gin Blanco is a stone elemental and an assassin known as the Spider. She also works part time at the Pork Pit in Ashland, at the junction of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. A job goes south when she discovers she has been set up and now an air elemental is after her, along with the local police. With her handler dead and her base of operations currently unsafe, her resources are limited. However, she does gain a temporary ally – Detective Donovan Caine. The stage is set for Gin to fail spectacularly – and she knows it. The knowledge that the cards are stacked against her won’t stop her from taking out those that set her up.

This was a fun addition to the urban fantasy genre! I liked that it was more action and character development than romance, though there is a touch of that sprinkled in here. The story starts off in a mental health asylum. Gin is there undercover as that is the only feasible way of getting to her target. I had a lot of fun with this opening as it was not what I was expecting. Gin’s limited morals make her an interesting character right from the start. I like that she doesn’t go all emo when it comes to killing people. She’s already figured out what her limits are and where the lines are drawn for her in the matter of killing humans.

Her adoptive family trained her and now act as her partners in the business. Fletcher Lane is her handler, setting up the jobs and keeping her from direct contact with those that require her services. Fletcher’s son, Finn, is really good with documents and can make nearly anything that Gin might need for her jobs. They’ve been working together for years, and with the Pork Pit as their base of operations, they have a really good thing going. That is until someone set’s the Spider up for assassination herself.

So I wasn’t expecting things to get personal for Gin in the first book, with her adoptive family targeted along with her. That made this story much more exciting! As the injuries occur and the body count increases, we meet other magical misfits that have worked with Gin and her family for years. Jojo is a Dwarf beautician and a healer. Gin definitely needs access to a healer. Regularly. Sometimes desperately. Jojo’s Goth sister, Sophia, is good at disposing of bodies; another must for the assassination business.  I really enjoyed Sophia and her usually monosyllable responses to queries. The image of a grunting, aloof Goth Sophia is awesome!

Then we have the problem of Donovan Caine. He’s a straight arrow detective and he has a personal beef with the Spider; his partner was killed several months back by the Spider and now he wants this assassin behind bars or dead. Yet Gin saved his life even as she was busy taking out targets that were there to set her up. So now he owes her and agrees to help her on this one case. Pretty soon it becomes clear there is an undercurrent of attraction between the two, even if it is an unwelcome distraction for Gin and an undeniable fact for Detective Caine. Gin had very good reasons for killing Donovan’s partner but she holds off on telling him. After all, she doesn’t have to defend her actions to this detective! Part of me wants Donovan to ask and learn all the facts and part of me wanted Donovan to figure it out on his own – he’s a detective after all! This situation added a delicious dollop of tension to the book.

In the end, I really enjoyed this story. It was a fun mix of magic and mystery. The romance was an undercurrent and didn’t become the main feature – which is just how I like it! Gin is a very interesting character that already has a strong sense of who she is and what she will and will not do. I liked that we learned some keys things about her past but the book wasn’t flooded with flashbacks. Over all, a most enjoyable urban fantasy romp!

I won a physical copy of this book from AudioGals (thanks!). As always, my opinion is my own.

Narration: Lauren Fortgang was great with her southern twang for the Spider. She had distinct voices for all the characters and her male character voices were masculine. She did read the one sex scene in a kind of monotone, like she was bored with it, but that is my only criticism.

What I Liked: Gin is already a well-molded character; she’s an assassin; the elemental magic is fun; her adoptive family and friends mean much to Gin; things are complicated with Detective Caine; this is definitely more urban fantasy than romance.

What I Disliked: The sex scene was narrated in a monotone – was the narrator bored with it?

What Others Think:

AudioGals

Books That Hook

She-Wolf Reads

Fantasy Book Critic

The Book Smugglers

Insidious by Aleatha Romig

RomigInsidiousWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Savannah Richards

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 12 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 1 Tales from the Dark Side

Author’s Page

Victoria married young, at 18, to a powerful and rich man, Stewart Harrington. Their marriage came with a contract which spelled out Stewart’s most private desires of his young wife. Now, 10 years later, Victoria is a very different woman and she’s very much tired of Stewart’s desires.

I listened to this book as part of a group read and I had a lot of fun with the discussion over this book. However, it won’t be ending up in my Favorites pile. I’ve seen it listed as an erotic thriller, and while the erotic scenes are definitely there, the thriller part is kind of missing. For the first half of the book, we’re just learning the characters and the landscape of things. Victoria, while not forced into the marriage with the much older (but still fit) Stewart, she was placed in a tough situation back when she was 18. The story is told mostly in the present (10 years into their marriage) with flashbacks to their early days together. The second half of the story is where things finally start to move along, some secrets are revealed, and Victoria starts to strike back. So, I would say this is more erotic suspense than thriller.

I liked some things about Victoria. She’s genuine in that we get to ride around in her head. So even when she’s smiling and pretending all is OK, us readers know that she is not satisfied with the situation. She does tend to strike out emotionally. There’s not much in the way of plotting or planning or being cunning. She makes a snap decision and follows through on it and when the chips land and she has another problem, she approaches it the same way.

The situation young Victoria was placed in was a tough one, but she still had choices. She chose to marry, which honestly didn’t seem so bad at the time, and then decided to stay in the marriage for the last 10 years, even tho there are ways out of the marriage and the contract. And that’s one thing I didn’t like about the book – Victoria never takes ownership of her choices (albeit tough ones) that kept her in a marriage and a contract that she came to despise. None of the other characters point that out to her either and I really felt that should have been mentioned somewhere in the book.

The sex scenes were written well. Young Victoria definitely has an interest in Stewart at the beginning of their marriage and there was some steamy scenes between the two of them. 10 years down the road, there are some steamy scenes with Victoria and someone else. Then there are the scenes where, according to the contract, Victoria is carrying out sexual acts that don’t do anything for her at all. These are especially written well, showing us readers how little Victoria gets out them, how her body doesn’t respond to the other person involved, and how she locks herself away doing her best to just go through the motions and not be mentally present.

There’s secrets surrounding Victoria’s conception that are merely hinted at for the first half of the book. We finally get some answers in the second half and it almost is enough to explain Stewart’s marriage offer when shew as 18. I felt it was a bit of a weak plot point. As Victoria learns more of her family history, the author tossed in some accidental incest which I felt didn’t add much to the plot. Perhaps she needs both these things for a sequel?

Once Victoria finally gets around to taking action, she uses two very specific things. I’m positive one leaves a specific signature, of sorts, and perhaps the second as well and yet the medical community never flags the bodies for investigation. That is another reason I didn’t think of this as a thriller – the main character didn’t have to work particularly hard to cover her tracks nor does she have to contend with the authorities.

Some people have felt the ending was a cliff hanger but I felt it was good. It’s obvious to me what the next few scenes would have been and I didn’t feel that I needed them spelled out. Over all, the book held intrigue for me. I did enjoy the way the sex scenes were used and I liked that we spent most of our time in Victoria’s head. Miami is mentioned as the location, but we never get a flavor of Miami at all. The men are so-so for me. Brody was too needy. Travis said some truths but hid some others. All want to use her and Victoria kept forgetting that lesson, having to relearn it over and over again. I did feel there was plenty of room for development of characters and setting, and that went underutilized.

The Narration: Savannah Richards did a very good job with this book. It was pretty amazing how she could switch back and forth between younger, somewhat innocent 18-year-old Victoria, and the jaded bitter, angry, cussing Victoria of present day. Her male character voices had masculinity and each was easy to distinguish from the other. She was great with the sex scenes, showing no hesitancy on intimate words.

What I Liked: Being in Victoria’s head; the suspense throughout the book; the eventual body count; the use of the sex scenes; how young Victoria was put in a tough position; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked: Victoria never takes ownership for her own choices; there’s not much plotting going on; the authorities aren’t tipped off by certain specific circumstances on at least 2 of the bodies (unrealistic); weak plot point and unnecessary accidental incest concerning Victoria’s hidden family history.

What Others Think:

Smut Book Junkie Book Reviews

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The Fold by Peter Clines

ClinesTheFoldWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Ray Porter

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 10 hours 52 minutes

Author’s Page

Leland ‘Mike’ Erickson is quite happy with his high school job teaching American Literature in New England. He doesn’t want to go help his long-time friend Reggie Magnus out on his super secret DARPA project in sunny California. Yet somehow he is swept up into it and can’t help but want to solve the puzzle set before him. The DARPA scientists have found a way to travel hundreds of feet in a single step. This new science may revolutionize how the world travels. As exciting as it seems on the surface, Mike suspects there is more going on.

Mike is a very interesting main character. He has an eidetic memory, which basically means he has full recall of anything he witnesses. He likens this awesome recall to different tribes in his ants in his head, marching out with this info, collating that data, organizing random bits of info into a pattern. This unique gift, and sometimes curse, is what Reggie wants on the Albuquerque Door project, which is a cute code name for the instant matter transfer technology that Arthur Cross and his team are developing. So Mike gets on scene, and it’s obvious the team is guarded. They don’t want to share any of the code, the tech, the formulas, but they are willing to give demonstrations. These alone are quite impressive. Still, there are little things niggling away at Mike and he continues to ask questions.

The DARPA team is made up of some interesting characters as well. Jamie is the lead software tech while Sasha and Neal are engineers. I don’t quite recall what Bob does, but he’s a friendly sort and helps Mike get settled in one of the on-site trailers. Anne is the team’s secretary and doesn’t know any specifics of the project, but she does know which donuts to order for whom. Arthur is the elderly physicist who runs the group and whose word is law. Olaf is another physicist and a bit of an ass. Quite often I was amused by his dismissive way towards the rest of the team. It would be infuriating in real life, but in fiction it adds some humor. The plot thickens when one of the team dies. It’s pretty gruesome and comes with all sorts of questions.

When Mike finally gets to the root of what the DARPA team is hiding, he is stunned. I was stunned to. The book definitely took a turn I wasn’t expecting. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it. We have this solid scifi thriller and it looked like we were taking a turn into fantasy. Then the author does a bit of a save and things feel like they come back to the scifi thriller I have been enjoying. So, in the end, I was OK with the surprise twist. After that twist is revealed (and I settled into it), I could appreciate the magnitude of true trouble the team, and perhaps everyone on Earth, was in. Things got creepy and I reveled in several scenes where our main characters were having to deal with things out of nightmares.

The pacing is real good, and always kept me engaged in the story. There’s mystery from the beginning that got me hooked. Mike was a very interesting main character. Plus the ending leaves the door open for more adventures featuring Mike. Overall, I am very glad I gave this book a go and look forward to checking out more of the author’s works.

Narration: Ray Porter was a great voice for Mike. He sounded both clever and laid back. He had that inquisitive air about him without being pushy. For the most part, he had distinct voices for the other characters, though his voices for Sasha and Jamie often sounded alike to me. I really liked his condescending voice for Olaf.

What I Liked: Thrills in my science fiction!; Mike and his unique gift; the super secret Albuquerque Door project; the big reveal near the end.

What I Disliked: This scifi thriller almost veered into fantasy and I don’t think I would have enjoyed that; two of the female character voices sound alike on the narration.

What Others Think:

SFF World

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Grigory Lukin

The Bibliosanctum

Giveaway & Review: 1969 and Then Some by Robert Wintner

Wintner1969AndThenSomeWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Robin Bloodworth

Publisher: Audible Studios (2014)

Length: 10 hours 30 minutes

Author’s Page

This memoir follows the author on his European motorcycle adventure when he is in his early 20s, through his college days, and then his earliest attempts to make a living as a magazine writer and then a real estate handler. It’s nitty gritty, the author not holding back ever on recounting his decisions and life path.

I recently read another book by this author (Brainstorm) and it wasn’t a good fit for me. However, this book was absolutely fascinating and I was a little sad when it came to an end. There’s lots of drug culture and counter culture stuff going on in this book. I don’t get all of it, and I don’t agree with all of it. However, it was so very different from my own life that I was swiftly caught up in the tale. The author became this main character that I sometimes rooted for and sometimes I wanted to kick. I became attached to the story line and was very curious to see how things would turn out.

The first big chunk of the book covers the author’s European motorcycle trip. There’s plenty of drugs, interesting male characters, and women who the author is interested in. He’s exploring life in general, seeing the sites on a dime and meeting interesting people. In listening to this section, I really felt that the author remembers this time with great fondness.

After some few months, the author returns home. The Vietnam war is in full swing and being drafted into it is a very real thing. So, he goes to college to get that draft deferment. Again, there are plenty of drugs, alcohol, and women. In general, college was a joke. Students aimed for a middle grade C in order to stay in college, and perhaps earn a degree eventually. The author and most of his friends didn’t take college seriously. There’s almost a fatalistic feel to this section of the book, like no matter what they do, sooner or later they will be swept up into one of three things: death by drugs & alcohol, the war machine, or the much slower death of conformity.

Eventually, the author has to get proactive about dodging the Vietnam draft. These endeavors take him on road trips across the country, and also mental trips of physical degradation. Both wore him down. After this section, the time line of the tale speeds up. Years or decades go by as the author talks about what jobs he was willing to do once the fear of being drafted had passed. He also keeps tabs on a few friends, goes on a few more motorcycle rides, has a few stints in the hospital, and in general, ages.

Here’s one of my few criticisms of the book. Nearly all the ladies mentioned are merely sex objects. The author’s mom, who has a small role at the beginning of the book, and again near the end is one exception. Also, an old flame nicknamed Betty Boop has a recurring role in the tale, though most of those encounters center around her sex appeal. Late in the book, the author’s wife Rachel (who played a pivotal role in Brainstorm) is mentioned a few times. The book started off with the 20 something year old author and so I could understand raging hormones and all at that during that time of life. However, the ladies never seem to matter much more even as the author ages.

There’s tons of drug culture stuff in this book, which I found fascinating. The author speaks often of how the drug use was a way to expand the mind and become a little closer with the universe, etc. I didn’t really get this. Of course, I had to wonder how small the user’s mind was to begin with, and then I wondered what these ‘enlightened’ folks did with the expanded minds. While both questions went unanswered, I found it very interesting how they repeatedly told themselves this, like it was a justification. Perhaps for some it was. Perhaps for others, it was exactly what they said it was – an expansion of their reality.

This goes hand in hand with the need to not conform, ever. That seemed to be a driving force in the author’s life and definitely added some interesting aspects to the story. First off, there was a whole generation of people who decided they would not conform…. so that kind of created a new branch conformity. Having a standard 8-5 job with benefits was something of a death knell to these folks. It was very fascinating to watch them work so hard to avoid this conformity, and to keep enjoying drugs, alcohol, and free sex. Indeed, I didn’t get chunks of this book, and I don’t agree with all the philosophies woven through the narrative. Nevertheless, it was a fascinating look into someone else’s life. In the end, I simply enjoyed the ride.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost as part of the iReads Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration:  Robin Bloodworth did a great job with the narration. He had  a variety of regional and European accents for the tale. Also, his character voices were all distinct. His female voices were believable. He imbued the story with emotion as needed and I really liked how he brought the author’s memoir to life. 

What I Liked: Simply fascinating and entertaining; I sometimes rooted for the author and sometimes wanted to kick him; the author’s sense of nostalgia comes through clearly.

What I Disliked: The ladies never really become something more than sex objects, no matter how old the author gets.

Book Description for Brainstorm:

Brainstorm is a first-person narrative of incidents leading up to, through and after a cerebral aneurysm and hemorrhage in the immediate family. The action includes the dramatic process ongoing in trauma centers designed to process sudden occurrence of aneurysm, cerebral hemorrhage and morbidity. The American Medical Association estimates that 3% of all populations have aneurysm that may or may not leak—about 3½ million people in the U.S.

While the procedures and protocol for sudden onslaught are rote and fundamentally unchanged over the ages, hygienic and technological advances have reduced hazards. Death and debilitation statistics are still daunting, and Brainstorm factors a new component into the procedural mix, whereby a conscientious and healthy husband and wife seek participation in the process, to no avail.

Buy the book:    Amazon ~ Audible

Book Description for 1969 and Then Some:

1969 and Then Some is a memoir of the 60s and the influence of those years over the decades that followed. Romance, psychedelic insight and motorcycling evolve with the narrator maturity, such as it is, and non-compromise on morality and the undying spirit of adventure in nature.

While the 60s is often discounted or as ephemeral—as a social aberration—1969 & Then Some offers keen insight to lingering values that cannot be separated from significant segments of the most significant population group alive today, the baby boomers, many of whom still hold sway in key areas of social and cultural evolution.

Buy the book here:   Amazon ~ Audible

Author’s Bio:

Robert Wintner lives and works on Maui with his wife Anita, seven cats and Cookie the dog, who came in emaciated at 14 pounds, unable to stand. Cookie at 60 pounds raises a ruckus on the beach or in the living room in her continuing drive to make the world a happier place. The entire family eats well, stays fit and enjoys good health under blue skies.

Connect with the author:    Website    Facebook

GIVEAWAY!!!!

Win one copy of 1969 and Then Some (Open to USA & Canada)

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Murder on Safari by Peter Riva

RivaMurderOnSafariWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: R. D. Watson

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 11 hours 58 minutes

Author’s Page

Pero Baltazar is a wildlife film producer and this time he is working in northern Kenya, specifically trying to film large raptors and carrion birds. His local expert guide and friend of multiple decades, Mbuno, thinks there may be trouble brewing in the area. When the film crew loses a man in suspicious circumstances, they need to make some decisions and then a hasty exit. Trouble follows them into Tanzania where they are filming large crocodiles with world-renowned crocodile expert Mary. She also happens to be the daughter of a top TV evangelist, Jimmy Threte, and it looks like a terrorist organization may be targeting one or both of them.

This was a pretty interesting book for several reasons. We have the whole setting, which was done pretty well. The author didn’t gloss over the cultural differences, the good, or the bad. Then there is the wildlife, which my inner biologist thrilled to hear about. The characters, for the most part, were multi-dimensional and interesting. The plot, while it slowed in a few places, was well thought out and there were some surprises tossed in there.

The setting was multi-layered and complex. We have a lot of cultures and some interesting history that has shaped both Kenya and Tanzania. While we see the entire story through the eyes of Pero, he has filmed in these two countries before over the last few decades and has friends and pseudo-enemies (or at least, people he has to bribe upon sight) in the area. He’s not ignorant of the local languages and customs, but nor is he an expert. He relies heavily on his good friend Mbuno, who is the expert. that friendship and trust becomes pretty important during the story. Mbuno gives us a look into local culture while also still being able to relate to it. He’s a tracker as well as having contacts in nearly every city, town, and village. More than once, his abilities keep the crew alive.

Obviously, Pero and Mbuno are the stars of this book. I felt the most connected to these two. The author also did a good job of making side characters personable or, at least, memorable. Plenty of characters had both good and bad traits. For instance, a lot of folks expect or even demand bribes and yet that is how things work. Normally, I would put bribery in the bad category, but several characters rely on this type of transaction in order to get things done. It was very interesting to see how that worked in practice.

Our first female character, a vehicle rental business owner, doesn’t make an appearance until perhaps 1/4 of the way into the book. She was a minor character, even if she had lots of personality. Then finally we get Mary well into the book, perhaps as much as 1/3 of the way. She has a great personality and gets a scene or two to show us readers her biology expertise. There’s a few more female characters here and there, all minor. The ones who get to talk are written well and so I don’t know why the author is so shy in using female characters. Additionally, Mary is the only character through out the book that shows some skin, unless you count Pero’s comedic medical issue at the very end. Also, the women cry, need comforting, and occasionally faint. So, yes, in general they are interesting and well written, and yet the author still sometimes falls back on cliches.

The plot held my attention for most of the book. We start off basically on a safari with a knowledgeable film crew and I simply enjoyed soaking in the atmosphere. Then we have the mysterious death that sets off all the other events. We learn very early on that Pero has historically done very small jobs for interested governments – such as dropping off notes or making note of whether or not a certain political figure stayed at the same hotel as himself. In this tale, Pero’s role and, hence, his contacts will come into the big picture. This kind of spy stuff was a nice added touch to the plot and it totally worked with the terrorist plot that takes over the second half of the book. There were some twists and turns I didn’t see coming and those were exciting problems to see the crew take on and conquer.

So my one complaint with the plot is that sometimes it got too into the details and sometimes the dialogue repeated the same concepts again and again. I can see how the author was trying to bring in some reality, and sometimes that worked very much in his favor, but sometimes it went a little over and my mind would drift as the characters rehashed the same thing they had been rehashing for the last 10 minutes. Still, the book over all is worth these little bumps for the thrill of the ride. The ending was a wonderful nail-biting last hour and left me feeling very satisfied.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author (via the blog tour company iRead Book tours) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  R. D. Watson did a pretty darn good job. He had to pull off a lot of different accents – which he did quite well. His female voices were also believable. During times of excitement, stress, or sadness, he imbued the scenes with emotion. Nicely done!

What I Liked:  Very interesting setting; bribery in practicality; awesome animals; the characters don’t turn a blind eye to the grittier side of things; a few twists to keep it interesting; lots of interesting side characters; a satisfying ending.

What I Disliked:  More ladies please!; there were a few points where the plot was a little repetitious.

The Path by Peter Riva

RivaThePathWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: Jonathan Yen

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 11 hours 2 minutes

Author’s Page

It’s a well controlled world with the System in charge of everything from world finances to the weather. Politics is more for entertainment and so the humans can feel like they have a modicum of control than anything else. Skeptical Simon Bank knows this, and like nearly everyone else he knows, he’s OK with that. But then a small tornado hits downtown and it’s too much damage for it to be completely swept under the rug. Plus Simon actually witnessed it and he has the skills and position to figure out what went wrong.

Now the story did hit a slow patch early on. There’s plenty computer geek speak about outdated languages and such. I am pretty sure there were some hidden jokes in there, but they went right over this biologist’s head. I’m glad I stuck with the story because once you get past this slow part, the story picks up. There’s talk about how the human life has been extended hugely and people can have a certain number of biological kids and after that they can special order synth-children. They basically have a pre-programmed end date, but behave and act just like real kids. These bio-tech bits interested me the most.

Simon and a few friends (such as Markerman) suit up and take a dunk in the pool. Mary hangs back outside, ready to assist or pull them out if need be. This is where their special suits allow for a swifter connection with the system, letting them navigate it in an almost Matrix kind of way. Throughout the book, Simon uses this interface a few times and I found the tech to be very interesting. He has to take a certain drug to speed up his nerve response in order to interface with the System via the pool. When someone comes out of the pool, they can let it wear off or take drugs to slow their responses. I do like me some fun and cool tech in my SF stories. And it gets more interesting when Simon comes across an entity within the System. Yep, we’re talking Artificial Intelligence people. Awesome!

Now this new entity at first behaves a little badly and Simon has to think and act quickly to keep his comrades safe. Then the entity kind of clings to Simon. So Simon starts to teach this entity (who we come to know as Apollo) about The Path. Basically, Simon is trying to the teach Apollo some basic rights and wrongs. The Path becomes a subject that is discussed at length at several points throughout the tale. Sometimes the repetition, while realistic for teaching a fledgling entity, slowed the story again.

Now a little oddity is that Apollo has a secret pet name he/it picked out for himself – Peter. Yep, the same name as the author. Whenever an author does this, I get caught up wondering why – Ego? Inside joke? Just for fun? So every time I heard ‘Peter’ in the story I was immediately pulled out the story for a few seconds to contemplate this once again. Basically it was a distraction.

So the tale continues with more action and a deeper worry than the sudden accidental birth of an AI entity. Simon and Apollo have to go into hiding while still trying to figure things out in order to save the world. They have plenty of people after them, most of who want things to remain the status quo. The last quarter of the book was the most entertaining because everything was coming together and there was action. Cramer, and agent of Control, shows up pretty early and is a bit of a wild card. He definitely feels the need to be in control and Simon isn’t sure he can convince Cramer to help him, or at least, to not hinder him. Cramer is also the source of much of the action throughout the tale.

Most of the cast in this story is male. There are a few secondary and tertiary female characters. Mary is the most prominent one and gets to do the most. Even the AI Apollo gets deemed a ‘he’ by Simon. I would have liked a better representation of the ladies.

This book had some pluses and minuses. In the end, I am glad that I stuck with it. The ending is one of those great big concept idea endings. I really enjoyed how we started off with a small localized issue, how it then got bigger, then even bigger, and then the grand finale concept. The author has left the door open for a sequel.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author (via the blog tour company iRead Book tours) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  Jonathan Yen did a pretty good job. The entire tale is told from Simon’s point of view so mostly it is his voice we hear. He had a good, distinct voice for Apollo, sounding a bit clipped and proper. There were a few speaking females and Yen’s female voices were distinct and believable.

What I Liked:  Lots of interesting concepts; I liked how one small concept let to a larger one and that one to yet a larger one, etc.; plenty of interesting future tech; eventually Cramer brings the action; the ending is one to make a person think; the cover art.

What I Disliked:  More ladies please!; there were several slow bits in the story that really bogged it down; the use of the author’s first name as a character name kept pulling me out the story – it was a distraction.

What Others Think:

Fantascize

Audiobook Reviewer

Double Whammy by Gretchen Archer

ArcherDoubleWhammyWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Dina Pearlman

Publisher: Audible Studios (2013)

Length: 9 hours 53 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Davis Way Crime Caper

Author’s Page

Davis Way use to be a cop in Pine Apple, Alabama. That is, until, she kind of lost her mind and went after her thieving ex-husband, Eddie, a little too harshly. So she is terribly excited to be hired at the Bellissimo Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. At first, she isn’t too sure what her job really is. There’s wigs and a variety of uniforms. She’s set tasks and she accomplishes them. Eventually, she is handed something bigger and funner. That is until she runs into her ex-husband. Erg! Big trouble lies in wait for one or both of them if Davis can’t keep her cool.

This book was mostly humor with just the right touch of seriousness. Davis has been through some tough times, some of which were of her own making. However, she’s trying to put that behind her and make something new and shiny of her life by taking a job that is 4 hours away from her hometown and family. At first, she is ashamed to tell her father (the head cop in Pine Apple) about her security work at the casino, feeling it is a step down from law enforcement. However, he is forever supportive. Their relationship is one of the cornerstones that keeps Davis going.

Let’s talk about the casino life. I’ve been in 2 casinos in my life and each time it was to meet someone at the restaurant. So I jumped into this book partly for the experience of something very different from my day to day life. I was not disappointed. The author does a good job of capturing the ambiance of the casino and, through Davis’s eyes, showing a few of the gambling games. There is a touch of computer programing thrown in as Davis tries to figure out how a slot machine can be beaten. Yet I never felt like it was too much and became bored with the story.

Davis herself is a pretty interesting character. She attacks life with some self-effacing humor and a bit of sarcasm. She knows that she is not always the sharpest tack in the pack, but she carries on. Perhaps due to her law enforcement years, she doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff either, being familiar with handguns and having the wit to size a person up before trying any physical moves that may result in a broken bone. She’s practical that way. And yet, when it comes to her ex-husband, she loses all that practicality and becomes total emotion – much of which is rage and anger and hurt. This combination of character traits pulled me and never let me go. I was totally on Davis’s side even when she was in the wrong.

As Davis completes task after task, things become more complicated. Her employers, Richard Sanders & his assistant Nathalie, are learning to trust her and are taking her further into their confidences. Perhaps half way through the book, Davis learns what they truly want her to do. It involves her look-alike twin (Bianca), the ex-husband (Eddie), and a slot machine. Things end up going a bit deeper than that and it was definitely worth reveling in.

Towards the end, it really looked like Davis was going to lose it all and be stuck in a very bad situation. This gave her lots of time to reflect upon her life and what was important. Also, this is when a new love interest steps in and offers unlooked for assistance. Truly, I wasn’t sure how the author was going to wrap this mystery up. Being attached to Davis, I wanted things to work out for her. Yet I knew that may not happen. I was biting my nails as I devoured the last several hours of this book. In the end, I was pretty satisfied and looking forward to the next in the series.

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

The Narration: Dina Pearlman had a great voice for Davis. She performed the character with an Alabaman accent and she also included a few sounds here and there (gasps of astonishment, choking, etc.). She really portrayed Davis quite well. Her other character voices were all distinct and her male voices were believable. I especially liked her voice for the grumpy taxi driver, George. Quite often the text required character emotions and Pearlman did a great job there as well.

What I Liked: The story’s setting; the cover art; love Davis Way!; plenty of twists and turns; a variety of characters; Davis’s humor; those few moments of poignancy really grounded the story; the new love interest.

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

What Others Think:

Bill’s Book Reviews

Criminal Element

Mystery Sequels

Literary, etc.

Musings and Ramblings

Serendipity

Martha’s Bookshelf