Kill It With Magic by J. A. Cipriano

CiprianoKillItWithMagicWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Rebecca Roberts

Publisher: J. A. Cipriano (2015)

Length: 7 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Lillim Callina Chronices

Author’s Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Others Think:

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Cathi Shaw

Borderlein Publishing

Frostborn by Lou Anders

Waffles snoozing

Waffles snoozing

Where I Got It: Won a copy from SF Signal (thanks!).

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (2014)

Length: 336 pages

Series: Book 1 Thrones & Bones

Author’s Page

Karn doesn’t particularly want to run the family farm in Norrongard. However, his father is adamant that he learn everything about the farm and the business, including successfully conducting trades. Yet Karn’s head is more interested in traveling and the board game Thrones & Bones. Meanwhile, high up in the ice mountains, Thianna is having her own trouble fitting in. She is half human and half frostgiant and she has spent her whole life proving she is more giant than human. Too tall for a human and too short for a giant, she feels she doesn’t truly fit in anywhere.

The two worlds collide at the Moot, where trading occurs between humans and giants. Not all have held to this tradition and each year the number of attendees gets smaller. So of course Thianna and Karn are the only two young people at the event. If I have any quibble with this book, it is this one little point. Why were they the only young people at this event (and for much of the book, tho there are some giant younglings)? Anyway, back to the plot.

Pretty soon, the evil scheme of a relative unfolds and the two of them have to join forces to escape, and then defeat a plethora of baddies. There’s some undead viking warriors, a magnificent dragon, multi-headed trolls, and some wyvern warrior ladies. Sometimes they face them together and sometimes they are on their own.

Karn has to come to grips with the betrayal of a family member. While on this adventure, he realizes how important family and farm are. Meanwhile, Thianna struggles with her identity when the wyvern warriors show up demanding an item that belonged to her mother. One could say this is a coming of age story, but foremost it is a wickedly entertaining adventure tale. Weaving myth and magic into practical characters, Lou Anders will keep his readers entertained. So looking forward to book 2!

What I Liked: Various myths woven into the story; Karn often uses logic and wit while Thianna uses heart and strength; fine adventure tale; plenty of interesting and entertaining baddies; a touch of magic; coming of age story; wonderful cover art; very satisfying end.

What I Disliked: One very small quibble: Why are there no other young people at the Moot & fr much of the book?

What Others Think:

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To Light the Dragon’s Fire by Margaret Taylor

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

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 17 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dragons, Griffons, & Centaurs, Oh My!

Author’s Page

Twin sisters Terra and Lanni Heegan go caving in the wilds of Wyoming. For Terra, it is her last hurrah before entering into a loveless marriage. However, things take a turn pretty quickly and soon they are swept up in another world where shifters and chimeras rule. They will each face numerous foes, and perhaps even find a mate.

Draven is a shifter and lord of the land. He is use to being obeyed and his every word taken seriously. That is, until he is presented with two examples of the mythical being known as human. Terra is pretty sure Lanni has set this up. Perhaps it is with actors. Perhaps it is one of those all submersive vids that you can buy. Maybe even a dose of mushrooms. So when she doesn’t take Draven seriously, things go awry. He has to shift into his dragon form to save her from a nasty fall. Unfortunately. Draven’s guards take Terra’s actions as an act of aggression and she and Lanni are tossed in a dungeon, only to be rescued by an unlikely being.

The action picks up really quickly and Terra and Lanni, neither of the shrinking violet variety, do their best to hold their own. Periodically, they are being rescued. Sometimes they do the saving. Draven and his wing man (Arin) make a good duo for the twins to alternately argue with and fight evil side by side. The world building is full of fantastical creatures, such as talking animals, all sorts of chimeras, the shifters, and magical creatures who don’t appear to do any shifting (like the unicorns and rhocs). Arin is a bit of an outcast as he is part of a small group of beings that are never fully human, always retaining some traits of what they shift into. So I pictured him as looking a little like the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, but more disgruntled and trimmer, being the war commander he is.

While Terra is a bit more kick ass than Lanni, they both contribute to the plot and are not simply there as romantic interests. They do tend to do more thinking than the men, but this is required by someone if they are to outwit their foes. And the foes are many, with several of them hidden.

My one quibble is that Lanni becomes a trauma medic without having had any hands on training or experience, but just from having read a medical book or two. At one point, a character is injured, passes out, and Lanni stitches this character up. That’s fine. Lots of people can do stitches in a pinch. Once the character wakes, she goes on to say how they must have had some internal bleeding. Uh… well, if that is the case then it is pure luck they didn’t die and that the bleeding either stopped on it’s own, or slowed enough to leave the injured stable until a real medic could be called.

The romance is a light thread that carries throughout the book. For some of the characters, the connection is made really swift, and others it takes a while. It did not detract from the plot and in certain instances, added to it. There’s also a touch of modern and just over the horizon tech. I liked how this was done lightly, so that we could stay focused on the characters and the plot and not get hung up on whether this was fantasy or science fiction. The ending left us on a very dramatic note (which I liked) and then a bit of a cliffhanger. So be ready to jump right into Book 2 because there is plenty of plot left to unfold and resolve!

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a good job with all the character voices. I especially liked his slightly furry voice for Aaron (and since he has whiskers and a kind of leonine face it totally fit). His female voices were believable and he had a range that allowed for distinct characters. There was a true challenge in doing voices for Terra and Lanni (who are twins) and yet making them distinct for the listener and he met that challenge with excellence.

What I Liked: So many magical beasties!; Terra and Lanni kick butt and add to the plot; plenty of action; dramatic ending; ready to jump into Book 2!

What I Disliked: Lanni has excellent trauma medic skills after reading a book or two.

BannerOnceUponATimeIXTis the season for fantasy reading. I am participating in this year’s Once Upon A Time IX reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

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The Violet Hour Book Reviews

Kingdom of the Last Dragons by Theresa Snyder

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

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Mary Sibulsky

Length: 1 hour 55 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Farloft Chronicles

Author’s Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind Little Edmond by Edith Nesbit

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

Narrator: Karen Krause

Publisher: Audiobooks by Mike Vendetti (2015)

Length: 33 minutes

Series: Book 8 The Book of Dragons

Author’s Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James & The Dragon by Theresa Snyder

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

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Steve Sibulsky

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Farloft Chronicles

Author’s Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit

NesbitTheBookOfBeastsWhere I Got It: Won a copy on Eargasms (copy provided by the narrator) (thanks!)

Narrator: Karen Krause

Publisher: Audiobooks by Mike Vendetti (2014)

Length: 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Book of Dragons

Author’s Page

A child king (Lionel) finds a book once owned by one of his distant grandsires. Like all good kids, he plays with it and sets a giant butterfly free. He’s warned not to do so again, but he releases yet another fantastical critter (a bird of paradise), and then another (the dragon!), which threatens his kingdom and he must make it right again. A hippogriff and manticore come into play too!

This was a great story for kids and fun for adults too. The very young Lionel knows he is king, but also knows he must answer to his nurse for any bad behavior. He will be sent to bed without supper if he misbehaves. This was a great point about the story because, while the king supposedly had great control over his kingdom and people, he also had to face the consequences of poor choices.

The story starts off with some harmful ‘beasts’ that are really quite pretty to look at and enjoy. So at first, the consequences of messing around with this magical Book of Beasts is not readily apparent. But as the story continues, we find our young hero king in a world of trouble! I think this is great fun for both kids and adults and would be fine entertainment for a car ride.

Narration:  Karen Krause did a great job having the perfect little boy voice for the child king. She also had a stern, yet amusing, voice for the king’s nurse.

What I Liked:  The cover art; giant butterfly!; there’s a dragon involved; subtle point about consequences to actions/choices but not preachy at all.

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

VintageScifiBadgeI’m taking part in Vintage SciFi Month over at The Little Red Reviewer. Fantasy is allowed too! This book was originally published in 1900 as part of a collection called The Book of Dragons. Anyone can join, so feel free to check it out!

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