Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Speakeasy Dead by Vicky Loebel

LoebelSpeakeasyDeadScroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrators: Emily Beresford & Nick Podehl

Publisher: Pentachronistic Press (2013)

Length: 12 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 0.5 Demonic Intervention

Author’s Page

Note: This book and it’s loosely tied-in sequel, Keys to the Coven, can each work just fine as stand alones.

Set in Falstaff, Arizona in the 1920s during Prohibition, the Woodsens run a speakeasy bar and also sell some of their surplus alcohol to others. Now a Chicago-based mob is trying to move in and run the alcohol trade. They will be surprised at how little pushing it takes to upset a witch. Meanwhile, the youngest of the Woodsen cousins, teen Clara, is desperate to save her beloved movie star Beau Beauregard. She’s willing to break some rules in the name of true love (or her first crush). Her older cousin, Bernard (Bernie) Benjamin, is just the guy to help her out, even if he has to be lured to the basement and tied to the center of a pentagram. Demons and zombies have never had so much fun as they will during the dance competition!

Once again, Vicky Loebel has given me something original and very funny. There’s a bit of sexy (though it’s pretty PG-13 for this book) as well. Clara is a driven character who’s young enough to not know to look at the bigger picture when it comes to love, yet old enough to have just enough responsibility and autonomy to get into big trouble. She’s dead set on saving her ‘beloved’ Beau even if he has no idea she exists (and that’s because they’ve never met). She’s even willing to become a warlock by summoning a demon and striking a bargain with it. Hans is the handsome demon that appears and somehow he talks things around so that his demon familiar, Ruth, will enter a dance contest. The pit just gets deeper from there on out.

With the Chicago mob, Bernie and his personal schemes, Gladys the Golem, Beau’s resentment over the whole mess, zombies, stolen booze, and an older Woodsen sibling arriving soonish, Clara really does have her hands full. It was so funny! There’s plenty of clever lines and each person really has their own agenda in mind. Clara wants love from Beau, and to not get caught. Bernie doesn’t want to die a horrible death (which is surely what will happen when Clara’s older witch sisters find out about this whole mess). The mob want their booze, the money, and control (and they seem constantly surprised when that doesn’t happen easily). Beau is quite angry with his situation and Clara is totally surprised by what he truly wants. Gladys just wants to get back to housekeeping.

I really enjoyed the various magical elements. There’s the demon Hans and his familiar Ruth which have their intricate little dos and don’ts. Then Gladys who is a Golem and rather protective of young Bernie. One of Clara’s best friends is a ghost whisperer and she has a ghost familiar (Gaspar, complete with Spanish accent). Loebel manages to pull each one into the storyline seamlessly. Moreover, she gives each one rules to work with and she keeps them within those rules. With a comedy, it would be easy to have these various magical folk breaking rules, so I appreciated that once the author laid down a law of this is how this type of magic works, she kept her characters in line.

I did quite enjoy all the flirty, sexy behavior that popped up here and there. Demons love to trade on sex because it builds up their karma, which is basically spiritual coinage. Clara knows all this from her older witch sisters and her book on demons. Yet when the offers are made to her, she’s tempted. Bernie isn’t as naive but he’s not as well-schooled as he likes to pretend either. Ruth, being a large hunting cat most of the time, has a sexy confidence all the time, even when she’s totally mangling her dance partner’s foot during practice. There’s plenty of wit and humor with the sexy bits, making them just as fun as the rest of the book.

Having listened to both audiobook set in this urban fantasy world, I really hope Loebel gives us more. The humor is a bit unique and I love the mix of serious situations, magic, and laughter. Not everyone makes it out of this story unscathed. In many ways, Clara comes of age in this tale. Loved it and looking forward to more of it!

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Emily Beresford and Nick Podehl once again did a great job on this book. Even though they voiced totally different characters for Keys to the Coven, I read them far enough apart that I didn’t have character echos in my head, as can sometimes happen when you listen to books set in the same universe that have different characters yet the same narrators. These two are great with all the emotions and also delivering straight lines so the humor is left hanging there for the reader/listener to catch even as the story moves onward.

What I Liked: Arizona!; the Prohibition era; silly mobsters being all tough and hard to take a hint; Clara’s first real crush; Beau’s reaction to that crush; Bernie’s role in all this mess; Gladys is probably the most dangerous one in the mix but knows when to hold back; Ruth is a sexy beast; Gaspar and his Zorro sword; how it all ends with a Charleston.

What I Disliked: Nothing – so darn funny!

GIVEAWAY!

Vicky is generously offering up 3 audiobook copies of her book Speakeasy Dead! The audiobook is available through both Audible.com and Audible.UK. To enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1)  Do you have either an Audible.com or an Audible.UK account?  2) What attracts you most to this book? Zombies? Prohibition? Demons? Dance Contests? 3) Leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaway ends April 4th, midnight, 2017.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Keys to the Coven by Vicky Loebel

LoebelKeysToTheCoven

Scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Where I Got It: Review copy.

Narrators: Emily Beresford & Nick Podehl

Publisher: Pentachronistic Press (2013)

Length: 12 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 1 Demonic Intervention

Author’s Page

Set in Arizona, this adult urban fantasy is full of surprises! Felicity, a dog trainer, recently lost her mother and is going through a messy divorce. She’s the oldest of three children, having mostly raised her baby-sister Hannah, who is now in college. Her brother, Alton, isn’t so grateful of her efforts to ‘mother’ her younger siblings. Then in steps Max, a demon on assignment to recover a magical relic, the Minsk Homunculus. It’s been in Felicity’s family for generations, but she isn’t aware of it’s magical abilities nor what it means in regards to the powerful demon Roxashael (Rocky).

This was a very, very fun book. The mix of serious adult situations, witty banter, demonic entities in moral crises, and an unknowing witch who just inherited a bowling team makes a great read! Max has used his powers of seduction in the past to rev up his karma, which in turn he uses as a power base to get other things done. His demi Kate, a minor demon tied to his phone, is, by turns, a useful or irritating side kick. For this assignment, she is constantly reminding him to keep his eyes on the goal – the Minsk Homunculus. Yet he can’t help but be drawn into Felicity’s initial drama and later her life as she figures out her family history and the past deals her mom Rose made with the demon Rocky.

Felicity herself started off caught up in her own little drama, a little too much  for me. I wasn’t sure I was going to like her character at first. Then as things get explained –  the ugly divorce, her mom dying, her inheriting this odd coven with it’s bowling team, and then Max coming in saying he has to recover the artifact (Minsk Homunculus) or the equivalent dollar amount (think 6 digits), I could see why she was on the verge of having a melt down. It’s apparent from the beginning that she has tried her best to do what she thought was best for her younger siblings, but they don’t fully appreciate it. So that gets tossed in her face as well later in the story. She has a lot of stresses and Max provides a handsome distraction and also gives her something to focus on (the hunt for the artifact).

This book also contains a fair smidge of romance, which I normally don’t go in for but it’s done so well with the plot and doesn’t weigh down the pacing, that I found myself rooting for Max and Felicity. They each find the other indebted to them and their ties continue to grow as the story marches on. The make-out sessions, and later the sex, are steamy and sweet. Sometimes there’s a bit of humor mixed in, sometimes it’s intense. As a side note, this book also references some sexual abuse situations, but I felt they were in keeping with the plot and the characters and weren’t there for shock value.

The humor really brought the whole book together for me. Sometimes the humor was a little dark (which suits me fine) and sometimes it was a little slapstick, like Felicity falling off park benches or such. There was plenty of witty banter, but also certain situations the characters ended up in were funny, especially since I didn’t have to live them. All around, it was a very entertaining book with enough wit and a sharp edge to keep me engaged for the entire length.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Emily Beresford and Nick Podehl did a great job teaming up on this book. Beresford made a great Felicity and a jaded Kate. Podehl was a wonderful Max and quite the evil Rocky. There were plenty of secondary and minor characters and this team made them all distinct.

What I Liked: Setting in Arizona; Felicity’s life is in meltdown; Max is questioning his demonic morals; Max’s fancy car fetish; Kate’s impudence; the sordid history of the Minsk Homunculus; story has both wit and an edge of seriousness; the romance was a nice touch but didn’t overwhelm the story with cutsy-wutsy-ness.

What I Disliked: At first, I wasn’t sure I would like Felicity because she’s a bit dramatic at times, but I got past that and learned to appreciate her character.

GIVEAWAY!

Vicky is generously offering up 3 audiobook copies of her book Keys to the Coven! The audiobook is available through both Audible.com and Audible.UK. To enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1)  Do you have either an Audible.com or an Audible.UK account?  2) Do you have an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment? 3) Leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaway ends September 9th, 2016.

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The Florentine Deception by Carey Nachenberg

NachenbergTheFlorentineDeceptionWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Nick Podehl

Publisher:  Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 10 hours 32 minutes

Author’s Page

Alex Fife is rather bored. He had the luck and the skills to start a successful company young and then sell it for a very pretty profit. Now at 25, he needs a new challenge. Cleaning up an old PC for a charity is not quite the challenge he was looking for, but he stumbles upon references to the Florentine, an item an antiques dealer was trying to sell on the black market. Alex’s hunt for the Florentine turns out to be a bigger challenge than he had in mind.

Alex and Steven, who have been best friends for some years, initially dug into the Florentine mystery out of boredom and curiosity. Richard Lister, the now deceased antiques dealer, was involved in some shady things. Alex and Steven hatch a plan to check out his house, which is for sale. Hillary, Steven’s wife, thinks they’re a bit nuts but swiftly gets caught up in the excitement. One discovery leads to another as the action spirals up. However, the stakes also continue to rise as it becomes apparent they aren’t the only one looking for the Florentine.

This was a pretty fun read. I enjoyed that Alex and crew thought they were looking for one thing and as things progressed, it became apparent they were looking for something completely different. Us readers know from the book’s description that this will happen, but it was fun to see how the author made his characters work it out. This story is mostly about the action, though there is some character development for Alex and Steven. There’s also a touch of romance, which was fine, though I didn’t feel that it particularly added to the book.

There’s plenty of computer geek speak in this book, which is what I was expecting, since Alex and most of his friends are computer scientists of one flavor or another. I enjoyed watching Alex use his expertise to collect info on the Florentine and also in laying traps for the bad guys. However, there were a few times when Alex was explaining some basic things (such as fire walls) to other computer savvy folks and that just came off as out of character. I think the author wanted these things laid out clearly for the reader, in case they aren’t computer nerds, but it came off as a bit clunky.

In contrast, the author did a great job in explaining some basics about caving. Alex has a few friends, including the most interesting Linda, who are caving folks and this techno-thriller requires some cave exploration. Hooray! Steven is not a caving person, so Alex has the perfect newbie to explain some basics to. However, there were times when Alex got a little dense on the subject. For instance, he thought it was pretty ingenious of his friend Potter to bring along glow sticks, which I would think would be a basic in most caving survival packs. Then there was that scene where Alex and crew gave up a little too easily for my taste. I felt the author was eager to move on to the next section of the book.

Now let’s talk about the morgue and Alex’s grandfather (Papa). This was by far my favorite scene of the book. Papa was so funny and yet took his role in the task so seriously! I really enjoyed this morgue caper as Alex and crew gathered further information. I’m glad the author didn’t make light of morgue security because it provided so much opportunity for Alex and Papa to have these tense, yet ridiculous, conversations.

Over all, this was a light, fun read. There were some clunky bits here and there. However, this is balanced out by the morgue scene and ratcheting-up tension and action of the story. Once the true nature of the Florentine is figured out by Alex, there’s a race on to either capture the Florentine or counteract it. The ending wraps up all the questions (except for those concerning Alex’s future love life) for this tale and leaves the door open for future installments. It would be interesting to see what Alex and crew go after next time.

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

The Narration: Nick Podehl was a good fit for Alex. He had that successful mid-20s feel to the voice that made Alex come through clearly. The narrator had to do several accents – Puerto Rican, Russian, Philipino, vague Arab, Ukranian, and regional American accents – and he did them well. His female voices were realistic.

What I Liked:  Mystery and action; building of tension; computer intrigue; caving; the morgue seen with Papa; great narration. 

What I Disliked: Some computer basics were laid out in a clunky way; I felt Alex and crew gave up too easily in the cave; the idea of packing glow sticks on a modern-day caving trip isn’t that ingenious. 

What Others Think:

The Audio Book Reviewer

Brian’s Book Blog

Palo Alto Networks

Virus Bulletin

The Dinosaur Four by Geoff Jones

JonesTheDinosaurFourWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: Nick Podehl

Publisher: Geoff Jones (2015)

Length: 8 hours 7 minutes

Author’s Page

The Daily Edition Cafe, in Denver near the Cherry Creek, has been Lisa’s dream for some time. She’s proud to have finally opened it and stayed open with regular customers these past few years. However, she never saw this coming! Now she and several others have been transported somehow to an unknown location. Pretty soon, it’s made clear that they are trapped in a land and time that contains dinosaurs!

This was an awesome ride! I really enjoyed this book and gobbled it down in two days. I had to put it away for sleep, though that was a tough decision. There’s a great balance of action and character development. I got to know each character to some extent, even the ones that met their demise. I really liked how each character made snap judgments about the others, just as I was doing as the reader. Later, as they get to know each other, they and I usually had to revise those judgments. Lisa is the owner of the cafe and Beth is her cute barista. She flirts with the customers and was in fact flirting with an older gentleman, Will, who is a UPS delivery man when all this happened. A regular, Al, was in the cafe, hoping to flirt with Lisa, just as he had been hoping to do so for the past 3 years. Callie and her fiance Hank had been out for a run and just stopped in for a pick me up right. And old lady Helen (who came over from Greece decades ago with her now deceased husband) just made it in the door along with a young man named Morgan (who says ‘dude’ a lot) right before the event happened. Patricia, dressed in a business power suit, was waiting to order. Tim, a joiner who works on building wood frames for houses, was waiting to meet his girlfriend Julie at the cafe for their next date.

They all hear this kind of ticking, but don’t know what it is and pay little to no attention to it. It becomes louder right before the event. Then the cafe and part of the floor above it and the sidewalk outside are all transported to what I believe to be the Late Cretaceous. I really liked all the various reactions people had, the theories they came up with, and how they come to realize they are in the land of the dinosaurs. Especially, I enjoyed how they whipped out their cells and took pictures of things, mostly dinos. Very nice touch, so modern!

Right away, they find a severed hand on the sidewalk. They come to the conclusion that they all were within whatever bubble that transported them and that bubble definitely had limits. The first dino they come across is a hadrosaur. Luckily, Will has two tween boys and they went through a dino phase, so he has some idea about some of the dinos. Patricia wants a selfie with the beastie and gets a little two close. Let’s just say the rest of the group learns a really important lesson from this. I had just started to like Patricia and thought she might be the one to take charge and lead the group. Of course, from the title, I had to wonder if only 4 would make it out of the book alive. So I was primed to expect some deaths before even starting the book. Still, I was surprised that Patricia was the first. Perhaps she was never around live stock and lacked that particular brand of common sense.

OK, so obvious the others are rather freaked out and each is having their own personal reaction to things. Helen took a significant scrape to her shin somehow during the event. After all, part of the cafe ceiling is now in the rear of the store and the bathroom. Callie, a red-headed psychiatrist, is the first to show some real initiative by tending to Helen’s leg. Hank, who comes off as a bully but is much more than that, appears to want to take charge, but the others are not so sure of him. He is wearing ridiculous running shorts. So the group sorts out that some will go on a scouting mission and the rest will stay behind in the safety of the cafe where there is at least food and water.

The scouting mission was awesome! We saw more dinos and folks were injured. We lost another member of the party. Yep. The action has started to get really real for our characters. I loved all the dinos and how none of them were portrayed as benevolent pastured cows ready for the milking. By the selection of dinos, I placed them in the Late Cretaceous and I believe the author stayed true to what dinos were around in that time period. I’m no expert, but based on a few web searches, I believe he did a good job at this. For instance, there was sea grass referred to in the book and I know that not all dino periods had flowering plants, but the Late Cretaceous did.

Eventually, the remaining grew discovers what remains of the floor above the cafe and there is a single survivor of the event who explains the why and how this happened. The crew must split up again to go find the gizmo that brought them here and they only have so many hours to retrieve it and return to the cafe before the gizmo automatically sends whatever is nearby back to downtown Denver. Oh, and there is this fail safe that might allow the crew to stop this hot mess from ever happening.

Now we have time travel conundrums and dinos! Awesome! More adventures ensue and the remaining crew show more spunk as they plot and plan their way out of this mess. The women are not just window dressing in this story (hooray!) and they definitely come up with some of the answers to immediate problems. Only Helen has certain physical limitations and can’t join in the more athletic endeavors, though she does show another member how to fish. Another member of the group starts thinking that life in the land the dinos might just be what they want and maybe they shouldn’t return. This becomes something of an obsession and then an actual plan. It’s a great mix of action and characters showing what they are truly made of.

Over all, this was an awesome book. I really enjoyed that the author stayed true to his chosen dino time period and also the possible conundrums thrown in by time travel. I became attached to many of the characters and was a little saddened when some of them met their demise. While I didn’t like all the characters (and I don’t think I was meant to), I definitely enjoyed getting inside their heads and seeing what made them tick. If you are into dinosaur adventure tales, then this is a great book to pick up.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author (via the GoodReads Audiobooks group) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Nick Podehl was an awesome narrator. He had distinct voices for all the characters and believable female voices that didn’t sound all the same. He made these incredibly cool dino noises from time to time that were both amusing and a little scary. 

What I Liked: Dinos! Time travel!; the author picked a dino time period and stayed true to it; the characters all got some to a lot of character growth throughout the story; the ladies are not just window dressing but each contributes to the tale; some nice surprises; time travel conundrums; the ending was full of action and very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing! This was an excellent read.

What Others Think:

Everything Dinosaur

Klinsman Hinjaya’s Blog