Owl Dance by David Lee Summers

Narrator: Edward Mittelstedt

Publisher: Sky Warrior Publishing LLC (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clockwork Legion

Author’s Page

Set in the 1870s, this Wild West steampunk adventure is full of surprises. Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi make a great pair of heroes as they travel from New Mexico to California. Gun fights, dirigibles, steam-powered mechanical wolves, a Russian plot to take a chunk of the US, plus an unexpected alien influence called Legion provide a dangerous playground for our main characters – and plenty of entertainment for us.

I read this book back in 2011 and it was great to see it come to audio! I enjoyed it more in this medium as the narrator did it justice. If you love your Wild West and you like it weird, then this is a great series to get into. The story includes several different ethnicities and I love that about this book. The frontier West was a very diverse place and having that reflected in this work is worthy.

Our Persian healer, Fatemeh, has traveled far from home and she’s a bit vague about why. I love that we have this little mystery about her. Also, she talks to owls… or does she? She claims that she only understands their nature but to others it looks like she is actually communicating with them. While I felt the romance between her and Ramon sparked a little too easily, I also feel they make a great couple. Fatemeh is of the Baha’i faith while Ramon is Catholic and this sets up a dynamic to explore not just culture clash but also these different religions.

Meanwhile Ramon has recently had a big shift in his life. He was a sheriff in Socorro, NM and then things went south.. and so did he while he fled with Fatemeh (who was about to be executed for witch craft). Their search for work takes them all the way out to California. Along the way they meet the eccentric inventor, Professor Maravilla. He’s got a thing for steam-powered mechanical beasties. I loved his owls!

Then there’s the bounty hunter Larissa who I look forward to hearing more about later in the series. She’s got plenty of gumption and loves her independent life but she’s drawn into this bigger plot as Russia starts making moves to invade the West coast.

Now lets talk about that alien influence Legion. We come across it early on but it’s not clear right away if it’s something supernatural, man-made, or from outer space. Whatever it is (and yes, we do get that cleared up in this book), it has a hive mind and can communicate directly with humans as well as influence them. So we got the Wild West (yay!), steampunk (awesome!), and now this unknown big picture influencer. The author does a great job of pulling this all together.

My one real quibble with the story is that sometimes it’s a little too easy for Ramon and Fatemeh to convince a ‘villain’ to assist them. It seems like everyone is really a good guy at heart and was just simply misunderstood or was acting under some false or incomplete data. I think the story would have benefited from a real villain or two.

The Narration: Edward Mittelstedt did a really good job. His Spanish accent was consistent throughout the story. Now, his Spanish pronunciations were sometimes different from what I expected. Living in New Mexico, I expected a certain accent (like for Chavez or Maravilla). Mittelstedt’s pronunciation isn’t wrong but it’s not the local dialect either. I believe it’s the difference between high proper Spanish and the Southwest Hispanic accent. Besides that, he was great with keeping all the characters distinct and also with the various emotions throughout the story. He also gave Fatemeh a consistent Persian accent. His female voices were believable.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; Wild Weird West!; Steampunk!; the mix of ethnicities; the owls; the hive-mind influence; Fatemeh and Ramon make a great duo; the ending leaves us ready for further adventures.

What I Disliked: There was no true villain; the romance between Ramon and Fatemeh sparked up rather easily.

What Others Think: 

RJ Blain

Steampunk Journal

Steampunk Junkies

Giveaway & Review: Beyond the Rising Tide by Sarah Beard

 

Beyond the Rising Tide Audio
Beyond the Rising Tide by Sarah Beard

Kai met Avery only once–in the moment he died saving her life. Now when he’s not using his new healing powers to help people, he watches helplessly as Avery’s life is unraveled by his death. To help her, he risks everything by breaking the rules, dangerously blurring the barriers between life and death.

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Praise for the Book

“Vividly imagined, this novel is the perfect mix of modern love story and literary fiction. One brimming with genuine emotion that had me re-reading passages simply because they were too beautifully written to experience just once.” –Julie N. Ford, author of With No Regrets

“This book is not only an engaging and satisfying supernatural romance, but also a beautiful story about life, death, and the gray places in between.” –E.B. Wheeler, author of The Haunting of Springett Hall
“This is one of those stories that stays with you long after the closing scene. It was beautifully imagined and vividly written and I absolutely loved it!” –Teresa Richards, author of Emerald Bound

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Author Sarah Beard had just released the Audiobook of Beyond the Rising Tide.

You can listen to a sample of the book HERE.

beyond-rising-tide
Sarah BeardAuthor Sarah Beard
Sarah Beard is the author of YA novels Porcelain Keys and Beyond the Rising Tide. She earned a degree in communications from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MFA in writing from VCFA. When she’s not writing, she referees wrestling matches between her three boys and listens to audiobooks while folding self-replicating piles of laundry. She is a breast cancer survivor, a baker of sweets, a seeker of good love stories, a composer of melancholy music, and a traveler who wishes her travel budget was much bigger. She lives with her husband and children in the shadow of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains.

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MY REVIEW

Narrators: Dana Dae, Zachary Webber, Punch Audio

Length: 9 hours 47 minutes

Publisher: Sarah Beard (2016)

Kai died while saving Avery from drowning and now his spirit continues on, healing people where he is assigned to. During his down time, he watches Avery. In the many months since that day she nearly drowned, her life has been fraying at the edges. She’s obsessed with finding out the identity of the boy who saved her life, only to have his lost and his body never recovered. She feels she can’t move on with her own life until she can locate his family and let them know how his ended. Kai, seeing that her life is not so much of a life anymore, risks much to help her heal her frayed emotions and move on.

This was a very enchanting story that surprised me in several ways. First, I’m not usually one to venture into contemporary romance, but lately I have been dabbling my toes in it. So I was quite surprised to find myself really wishing the two main characters would find a way to have a happy ending, one where love conquers all. Second, I know nothing about surfing and that sport features heavily in this book, but it’s done in such an approachable way. Now, I want surfing lessons. Lastly, YA is not something I seek out. If it happens to be a component of the story, then that’s OK, but it’s not a label that I look for. For this book, the coming of age coupled with young love was perfect for these characters.

The author did an amazing balancing act with this tale. Her writing brings up my own recollections of teenage parties, friendships, anxieties, hopes, and first loves. Yet she never goes overboard with any one component. For instance, there’s just the right touch of teen angst here and there but not so much as to make me think it’s there for drama’s sake alone. Young love plays a critical role in the plot, but, again, it’s not over worked. It was a joy to read these parts instead of being something I felt I had to plow through to get to the real story.

Kai, who technically is an angel (though the word is not lightly used in the story), is a very interesting character, and not just because he’s dead. We don’t learn everything about him upfront. Like Avery, we have to pull one secret after another out of him as the story moves forward. Before his heroic act, he had big dreams, family, a rough past. However, we meet him when those things are no longer in his grasp. Through him we learn about the place in between the Briar and Elysium, where others like him take on assignments to assist those in the mortal world in one way or another. I really liked these parts of the story with all their imagery. Also, there is Charles, Kai’s mentor from real life and his mentor in the afterlife. Charles was key in showing young Kai how to be a good person in life and he continues to give Kai that love and support after death. I think we all need a Charles in our lives.

Now Avery is also an interesting character but in different ways. Her life is more open and her secrets don’t have to be gently teased out of her, at least not for us readers. To some extent, she has been part of the adult world for a few years now. Her mom suffers from mental illness and she’s been working a regular job at her dad’s chocolate store for several years. At this point, she keeps her own schedule so long as one parent or the other knows where she’s at. She’s been a competition surfer for years but since that fateful day where she nearly drowned, she hasn’t been back in the water. Also, her boyfriend Tyler, who she was serious about, broke off their relationship after the accident. Additionally, her parents have separated, though she still sees each weekly. She’s been through trauma and change in short order.

There was a delicious build up to the end. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure how things would play out, but I had definite ideas about how I wanted things to end (because I cared about these characters). Kai has some serious things he has to do before he can move on to Elysium and Avery has some serious things she has to do before she can move on with her life. I was really hoping to see them end up together somehow, but I wasn’t sure until the very end whether that would be or not. Without giving anything away, it was a very satisfying ending. Indeed, this tale was a weight to it that I didn’t expect to find in a romantic surfer YA story.

The Narration: Quite frankly, when I saw that Punch Audio had a hand in the making of this audiobook, it heavily influenced me to give it a try. I have listened to several Punch Audio productions and they always put forth a quality story. Dana Dae was a great pick for Avery. She sounds like a young lady on the cusp of full adulthood. She did a great job imbuing the characters with emotion without making them sound overly dramatic. Zachary Webber was also great, a really good match for Kai. I loved his voice, being deep enough to evoke images of a man grown. He also did a very good Hispanic accent for old Isadora.

What I Liked: Avery’s got more than one issue going on in her life; Kai has his secrets and it takes most of the book to uncover them; the way surfing is used to anchor parts of the story; Charles and his patient guidance; beautiful cover art; excellent narration.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – it was quite a charming tale!

What Others Think:

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Butterfly by Kathryn Harvey

HarveyButterflyWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Laura Jennings

Publisher: Cherry Hill Publishing (2015)

Length: 18 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Butterfly Trilogy

Author’s Page

This book is about far more than simple seduction and erotic fantasies. The author spins a deep and engrossing tale that spans decades, showing what the drive of one young women can build over time. Butterfly is a unique and exclusive club that caters to women’s fantasies. The men, staff, and clients are all hand picked for their ability to be discrete. As a counter to that, there is the simple, elegant, and irreproachable Beverly Highland, who has become quite the businesswoman over the years. Her support of the evangelist-turned-politician Danny MacKay has helped him rise to his high station. But does she have ulterior motives? This book also has several engaging flashbacks to Rachel Dwyer in the 1950s. We meet her as a 14 year old girl and follow her through her troubles, watching her eventually transform into something else.

I’m sure this book has been labeled erotica or chick lit or romance and none of those labels do this book justice. True, it does have some of those elements, but they combine with other elements (suspense, historical fiction, etc.) to become something much more impressive. First, all the characters are so engaging. Even if I didn’t like some of them, I understood where they were coming from and wanted to know more about them. Second, the setting was interesting too. The modern-day parts happen mostly in Beverly Hills, California. The historical fiction elements happen in Texas, New Mexico, and California. Third, the plot had several unforeseen elements that kept me pleasantly surprised and turning the pages (well, listening to yet the next MP3 file and the next and the next).

The book opens with Dr. Linda Marques. She has a few failed marriages under her belt and that’s mostly due to her frigidity problems. She can’t seem to find joy in the bedroom. Her recent visits to Butterfly, where she dons a mask, have helped her start to face the deep reasons for her lack of enthusiasm. Trudie, who is head of a pool construction company, wants a man that considers her an equal, but she’s having a hard time finding such a person. Her regular hook ups at clubs and the occasional dalliance with someone else in the construction business have all left her unsatisfied. Yet her experiences at Butterfly, which often entail having entertaining arguments over brainy books, have shown her just how good things in the bedroom can be. Jessica, a lawyer for the celebrities, has a controlling and dismissive husband. She’s never really considered what she might be missing, that is, until she gets an exclusive invitation to Butterfly. There, she finds that she can call the shots in romance and it thrills her.

Now let’s bounce back to the 1950s and Rachel Dwyer, who was my favorite character. At age 14 she has to leave home as her father has made it quite clear, in his drunken abusive way, that she can’t stay there. She plans to head to California to beg a job from her mom’s friend but things go astray and she ends up on the wrong bus. Without enough money to make it to California, she feels stranded. That’s when she meets the young Danny McKay who offers to take her to his family’s farm and help her find a job. She instantly becomes smitten with him and they start a romantic relationship. Things become twisted when he places her in a house of prostitution. Rachel, still being somewhat naive, holds onto the hope that she will marry and have kids, that her love for Danny isn’t wasted. Rachel’s story shows us a woman who reaches her breaking point and at that point instead of accepting that life is awful and there’s no real escape from it, she becomes completely determined to find another way. At first, I thought Rachel’s story was one of those train wrecks that you can’t look away from, but really it’s about a young woman metamorphosing into something greater.

The men, while fewer that the female characters, are no less interesting. Of course, Danny MacKay is the lead male in this drama. We know from Rachel’s story that he’s not a great guy. From present-day Beverly Highland’s story, we see Danny for the political powerhouse he has become. He has the backing of his religious evangelical organization, plus other business people like Beverly. He has also invested in several properties and businesses over the decades, making him rich in his own right. He’s well known and now hoping to run for President. He’s still a very cruel man. I enjoyed very much hating on him throughout the book as he gives us so many reasons to dislike him.

This book does have several sex scenes, giving it an erotic flair. The scenes are quite varied showing what women desire at Butterfly, but also what they experience in the average, every day world (which usually lacks in quality when compared to Butterfly). A few of the scenes are violent and/or abusive (such as some of Rachel’s experiences) but the author doesn’t linger over them nor use them as shock factors. Instead, they reveal key points about the characters’s natures.

This was just an immensely satisfying book. I didn’t expect to like it so much when I dived into it. Quite frankly, I was expecting 16 hours of erotica with maybe 2 hours of character and plot development. What I got, which is much more desirable, is the opposite; the author built these amazing characters and did an excellent job revealing the plot. Going into it, I had no idea what Rachel would become, how Danny would rise so high, how Beverley would execute her end game. Truly, there is much more here than first meets the eye.

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

Narration: Laura Jennings did a pretty good job with this book. I really liked her distinct voices for all the ladies. However, several of her young male voices all sounded very similar. She did well with the older male voices. She was excellent at imbuing the text with emotions, and there were plenty of them in this book, several of them subtle. I also liked her Spanish accent for Carmella.

What I Liked: It’s a well-matched mix of romance, historical fiction, and suspense with a few erotic scenes; Rachel Dwyer really is the star of the book; great character arcs; the Butterfly club itself; the surprise turns in the plot; the very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Some of the male voices in the narration weren’t very distinct – they all sounded like Danny MacKay.

What Others Think:

{Dive} Under the Cover

Long and Short Reviews

Making Good Stories

House of Dads by June Gillam

GillamHouseOfDadsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Ginny Harman

Publisher: Gorilla Girl Ink (2015)

Length: 5 hours 16 minutes

Series: Book 2 Hillary Broome Novels

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series,  it works fine as a stand alone story.

The patriarch of the California Broome family has passed away and Hillary is off to attend the funeral and also get the details for her article at the newspaper. She’s a cousin to the powerful family, who own a construction company, and she has a lot to learn about them. During the funeral, Teddy, who had inherited the construction company, dies unexpectedly. Everyone suspects murder. Meanwhile, Hillary and Detective Ed Kiffin have had a whirlwind romance since they met two months ago in Book 1, House of Cuts.

I quite enjoyed the previous book in this series and this book was not quite as good. For me, the main disappointment was that the romance eclipsed the mystery and I’m not big on romance plots. While the first book had a solid murder mystery to pursue, this book didn’t have much detective work going on. Solving the case was more of an accident, of things falling into place at the last minute. While these two things made this story a bit less enjoyable than the first book, I still enjoyed it as a quick, cozy murder mystery.

The patriarch of the Broome Construction company set up his will so that only a male heir can inherit it, he having rather dated ideas about women in the work force. With Teddy suddenly dead, and no male heir waiting in the wings, the Broome women start battling for control of the company. Maggie is the remaining matriarch and her daughter Violet, per a clause in the will, has temporary control over the company until a male heir appears. Maggie wants control of the company and hatches an unlikely scheme for gaining that control. Meanwhile, Violet and her husband decide to get busy reproducing, hoping for a son.

There’s plenty of spying on one another and swapping gossip. In fact Hillary discovers a key piece of info and decides to share it with one of these ladies. Another body hits the floor. I thought it a bit naive of Hillary to share this info but then again, I know that she really wants to be accepted by this branch of her family.

Walt, Ed’s work partner, isn’t a big fan of the institution of marriage. However, he tends to enjoy his freedom a bit too much, over eating and over drinking. Still, he makes a charming side kick to Ed, who still struggles with his smoking addiction. While Ed has no doubts about a life with Hillary, she does have doubts. This creates some angsty romance stuff throughout the story that I found a little boring.

In the end, there’s a small twist concerning the number of murders that I quite liked. However, catching the murderer was a happenstance kind of thing that I felt was way too scripted. Over all, this book wasn’t as exciting and innovative as Book 1. It was still a pleasant read and I’m curious to see what happens to Hillary in Book 3.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author (via iRead Book Tours – thanks!) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Ginny Harman’s narration was OK. I kept getting the ladies mixed up as they sounded so similar. The male voices were easy to keep straight as they were each distinct.

What I Liked: Hillary gets to know her California cousins; only males can inherit the company – it was a great source of contention among the family members; the little twist at the end.  

What I Disliked: The romance eclipsed the murder mystery; in the end, catching the killer happened by chance rather than detective work; with the narration, I had trouble recognizing the character voices for the ladies. 

What Others Think:

Olio by Marylin

House of Cuts by June Gillam

GillamHouseOfCutsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Ginny Harman

Publisher: June Gillam (2013)

Length: 6 hours 34 minutes

Series: Hillary Broome Novels

Author’s Page

Hillary Broome, a reporter for a California paper, lands in the middle of a serial murder investigation. The murderer is targeting managers of big box stores and leaving their bodies in disturbing positions. Detective Ed Kiffin reluctantly teams up with Hillary to try to track down the killer.

This was a fun fast-paced murder mystery. I quickly became invested in the characters and even came to understand the killer’s motives (even as I don’t condone his actions). The point of view switches from Hillary to Ed to the killer throughout the story.

Hillary has some parental issues as her father recently died and her mother abandoned both of them when she was quite small. She recently left a bad relationship back east and she has some secret from that time period she doesn’t want her current colleagues to know about. Detective Ed is also an interesting character. He knows he should give up smoking but still can’t do it. His wife left him after their daughter died in an unsolved hit and run accident.

Initially, I wasn’t sure who the killer was even though we get to ride around in his head. As the story moves along it becomes apparent who it is to me as the reader, but I still quite enjoyed watching Hillary and Ed try to figure it out. It’s obvious with the first body that the killer has some experience butchering large animals. So the police suspect he is perhaps a hunter or a professional butcher. I really appreciated the few accurate butchering details the author included, which made the plot that much realer.

The suspense winds up as Hillary pieces the clues together and decides to follow her guesses. She has a need to make sure her new friend is OK and ends up confronting the killer. Honestly, I was biting my nails at this point since Ed and the police force seemed pretty behind on the chase. I was very pleased when Hillary had a hand in saving the day even as the police finally showed up. It was a fun, sometimes intense, story and I look forward to more Hillary Broome novels.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author (via iRead Book Tours – thanks!) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Ginny Harman was a good pick for this book. She had clear, distinct voices for all the characters. Also, her male voices were good. There was even a little singing that was done well.

What I Liked: I became attached to the main characters; Hillary has issues from her past still haunting her; Ed has issues as well; the killer has something to say about big box stores; the suspense throughout winding up to the climax; the butchering details; the ending where Hillary takes a hand in saving the day. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a fun read. 

What Others Think:

Olio by Marylin

An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

McGuireAnArtificialNightWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2010)

Length: 12 hours 32 minutes

Series: Book 3 October Daye

Author’s Page

Note: Even tho this is Book 3 in the series, it works mostly fine as a stand alone. Several side characters were introduced in the previous books but one can get the gist of the main character’s relationship to them without having read them.

In this installment of the series, changeling Toby is called upon by her friends to look into the case of several missing children. The children come from changeling households, non-fae parents, and the court of cats. She asks for info and advice from several quarters, but most sources are being quite vague. Eventually, she realizes the horror of the situation – Blind Michael has stolen the kids for the Wild Hunt! But that’s not all that Toby has to deal with – her own personal Fetch has turned up and Toby now knows she has a forthcoming expiration date.

This series has been good to me, providing hours of entertainment and this book doesn’t disappoint in that quarter. This book takes the series on a darker turn. Characters are irrevocably scarred by certain events. In general, it’s just a bit more serious and I found I enjoyed the higher stakes. There are still moments of humor, such as kids tossing things out of car windows and Toby’s Fetch, May Daye, is much more lighthearted than one would expect. So it’s not all doom and gloom – it’s well balanced.

The Wild Hunt and Blind Michael (who is a rather powerful First Born) are these two dark chaotic elements that really add to the tension of the tale. Blind Michael is bound by rules and Toby has to figure out what those rules are as no one is really willing to talk about the matter. There’s only so many ways to get into Blind Michael’s realm and she has to figure them out in order to rescue the children. Each path has it’s own risks.

There’s a bit of odd weirdness between Toby and Tybalt that becomes apparent right off the bat, and that was something that didn’t work for me because it’s not resolved in this book. I think (but am only hoping) the author is setting us up for something later in the series concerning these two characters, but even with that in mind, it just didn’t work well for me for this book. Their friendship has been off and on for the first two books and I’m starting to feel like the story is messing with me personally on this front. In fact, I was so frustrated with not knowing what was up with Tybalt in this book that I want to throw my hands in the air and say, ‘Call it quits or come clean you idiot!’.

Setting that criticism aside, Toby’s adventures in this tale had me on the edge of my seat. If I didn’t already know that this series is several more books in length, I would have truly worried for her continued existence. I was pleasantly surprised by her efforts, again and again, to rescue the kids from Blind Michael. Toby finally stops bemoaning the fact that she is a hero and accepts it. As the Wild Hunt can be unpredictable, there were plenty of little twists and turns I was not expecting in this story.

We learn plenty more about Luna and I especially liked this aspect. In the first two Books, it was mostly Toby who grew, but now the side characters are taking on more depth. The Luidaeg plays a big role and I continue to be a fan, albeit a very respectful one as I like all my body parts in their current arrangement. Quentin has to do some serious growing up in this book, and once again I had to worry if he was wearing the Red Shirt. Even Connor (aka Seal Boy) gets to be a bit more than he has in the past. Over all, this book was satisfying and I look forward to reading the next in the series.

 

The Narration: Mary Robinette Kowal has once again made a very good Toby Daye. I really liked how she pulled off this happier sounding Toby for the voice of the Fetch May. I could always tell the two apart because of how Kowal gave Toby her normal moody inflections and how she made May sound a bit bubblier. She did great with crazy Blind Michael and all the kids in his court. I continue to enjoy her harsh Luidaeg voice.  

What I Liked: A bit darker than the first 2 books in the series; the Wild Hunt!; some side characters get more depth; great narration; the Fetch May Daye; Quentin has to row up a bit more; Toby finally accepts being a hero; several small twists and turns.

What I Disliked: The oddness between Tybalt and Toby lasts the entire book and is not resolved – it was also very vague which made it more of an irritant than anything else.

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

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Notes from a Readerholic

 

A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire

McGuireALocalHabitationWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2010)

Length: 11 hours 52 minutes

Series: Book 2 October Daye

Author’s Page

Note: Even tho this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

Toby Daye is a PI and a changeling. Her liege lord, Duke Sylvester of the Shadowed Hills, sends her to his niece’s domain to see what is up. Toby and her sidekick Quentin come across far more than they expected, the pile of bodies being a bad sign. Computer tech and fantasy weave in and out of each other in this urban fantasy.

I’m always a bit leery of SF and Fantasy mashups. They have to be done well for me to enjoy them and Seanan McGuire does not disappoint! Toby is sent to the small County of Tamed Lightning to see what January O’Leary needs, if anything. January does her best to dodge questions and her people all seem tense. But then a body is discovered and it’s time for Jan to come clean. Yet there’s something everyone is holding back from telling Toby and Quentin. Toby has to resort to some extreme measures to get answers. The mystery had me guessing up to the last bit of the book.

I really enjoyed having Quentin as Toby’s sidekick. He’s a young changeling, still in high school, and completely untutored in blood magic, which is Toby’s specialty. He was a really minor character in Book 1 (Rosemary and Rue) and it was good to see him have a more prominent role in this book, mostly because Toby needs someone to fuss over.

April the dryad was a pretty fascinating character. She tragically lost her family and January took her in and literally made a home for her within the computer system. So April has all these unexpected abilities because she is the first dryad to ever live within a computer. This is the part I wasn’t sure I would like, but the author did a great job of setting up rules and sticking with them throughout the book making it work well with both the tech and the magic.

The beloved king of cats Tybalt makes several appearances, which is a good thing because Toby really needed a reality check from someone at a certain point. The ALH personnel are quite an eclectic bunch of magical misfits and Toby has a hard time guessing the heritage (and hence the abilities) of some of them. Tybalt shows up on scene and is a help, not a hindrance, without being condescending to Toby.

Over all, it was a very enjoyable read. Toby’s got some interesting history that we get glimpses of. Her life can be a bit complicated at times. She can be a little harsh on herself. Yet she also takes on the hard chores when it’s necessary. All this makes her a captivating lead character.

The Narration: Mary Robinette Kowal is a great voice for Toby, sounding like a grown woman who knows her own mind. I really like her voice for Tybalt, especially when he is tossing out insults or wry observations. Kowal had a great teen kid voice for April that was nearly heart breaking at certain moments. There was this one scene where a Hispanic accent was required and unfortunately that did not come through well at all. Kowal’s Hispanic accent for Book 1 started off a bit rough but smoothed out with use; it seems to have backslid for this one scene in this book. 

What I Liked: All the interesting place names, like Tamed Lightning; Toby’s personality and her messy love life; Quentin makes a great side kick; the mesh of SF and Fantasy works well in this story; the murder mystery had me guessing for much of the book; April’s innocence.

What I Disliked: Nothing – an excellent addition to the urban fantasy genre!

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

Fangs for the Fantasy

Vampire Book Club

Bunbury in the Stacks

Fantasy Cafe

Hybrid by Lawrence W. Gold, MD

GoldHybridWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Grass Valley Publishing (2015)

Length: 7 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 7 Brier Hospital

Author’s Page

 

Note: Even though this is Book 7 in the series, it works totally fine as a stand alone.

Zack Berg is a gifted wonder boy and his parents Denise and Gabe are very proud of that fact. They do the best they can support their son in finding activities and a school curriculum that will challenge him. Zack’s abilities and his Basque heritage (through his mother Denise) attract Dr. Jorge Maneo to his case. Dr. Maneo has a long-standing hatred of the Spanish government due to a life time of fighting for Basque independence. As Zack starts to explore his Basque heritage, he gets in deeper than he expected.

Set in California, this tale was an interesting mix of medical thriller and political thriller. Starting off with a small snapshot of someone switching sperm samples at some laboratory, the story then jumps ahead a few years, showing another little snapshot, and then again and again until we get to a young Zack starting to blossom into his abilities. It’s no secret that his parents had to go to a fertility clinic for in vitro fertilization, so you know from the start that the sperm sample switch will be important later.

The Maneos have a tortured family past. Alberto went into the priesthood while Jorge was encouraged again and again to attend school and then university. They were raised, for the most part, in Basque Country and fought in their own ways for Basque independence. However one family member after another is killed, usually in some brutal manner. Jorge early on sympathized with the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), a paramilitary Basque separatist group. Subsequently, the FBI has kept tabs on him since he entered the country.

While we are getting that background on the Maneos, Zack ages again and we rejoin him in his teen years. Of course, he’s super smart but he’s also got physical skills beyond those expected for his age. Also, his ability to show compassion is beyond what most adult humans are capable of. Yep, he’s a braniac jock with a heart of gold. At first, this combination was intriguing, but once Zack’s personality is established, his actions and reactions are all rather predictable. I became a little bored with him, but by that time I was caught up in his tale.

Throughout the story, there are these little snippets about Neanderthals. At first, I didn’t really see where this was going but I wanted to find out. Various theories about Neanderthals, including their possible culture and what became of them, are brought up by different characters. I won’t go into details because that would be spoilery. However, as the plot thickens, I found myself way more interested in this than in the ETA. So I wish the author had spent a bit more time on it, and tossed in some more science (I can take it!).

The ending was rather anticlimactic. It was easy to tell early on what the significance of the opening scene of the sperm sample switch was. There’s this action sequence that involves Jorge Maneo and then a bunch of cleanup. Given what we know of Zack’s personality, the ending concerning that plot line was predictable. At the very end, there is a reveal about Jorge Maneo and that again was easy to see coming. So, while I enjoyed the ride, it held only that one little tiny Neanderthal bit for me in terms of surprises.

I received a copy at no cost from the narrator (via the Facebook Audiobook Addicts group) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Joe Hempel’s accents (Spanish, Basque,  Austrian) started off a little rough but smoothed out pretty quickly. His female character voices were believable. However, towards the end of the story, the character voices were not as distinct as they were at the beginning. 

What I Liked: Science + Thriller  = Entertainment!; some Basque history; Neanderthal theories.

What I Disliked: A little predictable; a little slow in the middle.

What Others Think:

Amie’s Book Blog

Miki’s Hope

Gamadin: Word of Honor by Tom Kirkbride

KirkbrideWordOfHonorWhy I Read It: Surfers meet aliens and save the world: even I had to know what this was all about.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Did you like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure? Then you probably want to give this a try.

Narrators: Ian Alan Carlsen, Philip Hobby, Aaron Lockman, Kat Moraros, Kymberly Dakin, Harris Cooley, Christopher Price

Publisher: The Audio Comics Company (2013)

Length: 2 hours 14 minutes

Series: Gamadin Book 1

Author’s Page

While the book briefly starts off in perhaps the 1970s in New Mexico, showing a little back story to two side, yet important, characters, it then swiftly moves to the meat of this scifi thriller set on the beaches of California. Harlowe and Mat, who just as often go by their last names of Pylott and Riverstone, are two teen surfer dudes who have their minds on three things – surfing, cars, and women. I’m sure food surfaces to the top of the list every once in a while, but don’t quote me on that. In challenging authority, because that is what surfer dudes do (see job description), they end up surfing on a beach that is closed for safety reasons. But don’t worry, they guys are indestructible. They quickly become the hero of the story by saving a famous movie star, who spurns them, and Pylott gets to watch one-time hottie girlfriend Leucadia walk off with asshat. From there, we finally get thrown into the scifi element. Leucadia and her mom have been protecting this large, flyable, interstellar life form called Millawanda for decades. The story quickly picks up with chase scenes, crazy robobs, alien jerks, and the rescue of the century.

Now, what did I think of this 2 hour + adventure? Well, it was so-so for me. First, let me start with a little confession – I liked Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure way too much during what must have been some formative years (try not to judge, though I am!). Surfer idiots save the work through time travel. So why can’t a different set of surfer idiots save the planet? There’s plenty of ‘dude’, ‘whoa!’, and ‘babe’ throughout this performance. I liked the aliens (good and bad and vehicular).  I liked the geeky friends and the crazy robobs (robots with attitude).

So why was it so-so for me? Well, for the first half of it, the various cars had more of role than the women. And for most of the book, the women were delegated to looking hot, cooking, and screaming. Though the book did show promise at various points where Leucadia’s mom took front and center in the action, entering combat with competence. Alas, that was brief. Then we were back to awesome cars and 16-year old men firing alien weapons, while sending the half-alien daughter (Leucadia) – the only one besides her mom who would know anything about the alien tech- off to rustle up a meal. Sigh… So, yeah. I only had this one complaint about the book, but it was pervasive.

Still, if you have about 2 hours to kill, it was silly and fun. And there’s cool tech. And the hope of some competent, and sexy, women taking charge and showing the guys some martial expertise.

The Narration: As you can see from above, this was a pretty large crew for such a short book. They did a great job with the distinct voices and emotion (excitement, fear, surprise, etc.). There were a handful of times where I had trouble hearing the words for the exciting background sounds, but usually the words were some basics – Help! Get out of here!, etc. – or simply just screaming, so I didn’t miss any of the story.

What I Liked: Cool tech; aliens; constantly exciting; the cover art is gorgeous (even though the book is a bit silly).

What I Disliked: Often the vehicles had a bigger role than the women, who were busy screaming and clutching some protective male.