All posts by bookworm

Modern Sorcery: The First Jonathan Shade Novel by Gary Jonas

Jonathan Shade is a private investigator with a twist – he gets the cases with a paranormal twist to them.  Why?  He’s good at it, he’s the son of a powerful wizard family and while he does not have any magical powers of his own, he knows enough about it to solve mysteries.   When a husband enters a Colorado grocery store and hacks up his wife – both of whom are parents to his ex-fiancé – well, Jonathan has no choice but to get involved.

Naomi, his ex-fiancé hires him to prove his father’s innocence (the proof is in the camera evidence – he did it!).  Thus begins his involvement and near misses with death with members of the Dragon Gate Industry; owned and ran by wizards and other magical members of society Dragon Gate Industry. A long-dead and legendary sorcerer appears to be back and is hunting Shade – Shade has that effect on people.

Shade has connections too – like Charon, the ferryman of the underworld now known as Sharon the librarian; Kelly, a genetically produced mystical assassin/warrior; Esther the ghost and more.

Shade is a laid back, smart mouth man who takes sarcasm to new levels; his friend Kelly is a butt-kicking assassin/warrior who begs to kill; Esther his own personal ghost swoops in and helps save the day more than once!  Together this team of private investigators is top-notch, action-packed, and fun!

Gary Jonas creatively weaves a supernatural story that captures his audience with realistic dialog and action.  His characters are well-developed as is the plot.  He skillfully weaves a supernatural story around the myths of old intertwining the two and placing them in today’s society.

I enjoyed reading Jonathan Shade and look forward to the next in the series.  I am positive that the next book(s) will not disappoint!  I laughed out loud and earned several questioning looks, but it was worth it!

Joe Hempel did a superb job of narrating.  He took the character Jonathan and made it his own. As the listener I could not help but be swept away into the story as Hempel took control and became Shade. This is not something that is done easily but Hempel succeeds where others fail.

There were no issues with production.

Star Rating:  * * * *

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Watcher (Book One) by AJ Eversley

Sawyer is a strong, street smart young woman who has sworn her life to protecting humans and their humanity from the evilness of a power-hungry scientist.  Everything Sawyer knew is false, everything she believed is false and everything she feels is false.  With her head spinning, she pursues her hunt of carbons and bots without mercy trying to save the innocent.

AJ Eversley built a strong world with equally strong characters and a storyline that captures the attention of her listeners.  The character development is well done, the dialog matches each character and the way they move throughout the story is realistic.  Some parts are predictable, most are not.  Eversley has a talent for throwing curveballs into her plot twists.  Although a bit dark, there are humanizing pieces that make the listener smile – Chevy (dog not the car or actor), teenage love angst and discovering oneself.  Rich in detail and vivid descriptions Eversley paints the story with words.  Although it is a story of robots taking over the world that has been done in several different ways, Eversley brings a fresh take to it.

The narrators, Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell, performances were well done.  I enjoyed having Campbell narrating the male thoughts and Stephens narrating the female thoughts.  It helped give more perspective to the situations, you were seeing it from two points of view.  Stephens and Campbell’s performances were excellent.  They provided a connection between the characters and listeners helping to move the story along at a good pace.

I cannot wait to see what Sawyer does, as she continues to uncover half-truths and discovers just how deep the evilness goes.

There were no issues with the production or quality of the audiobook, it was clear and crisp.

 

Star Rating:  * * * *

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Conquest (The Chronicles of the Invaders Book 1) by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

Earth has been conquered with little bloodshed and is now ruled by a race of beautiful humanoids. Their control is seemingly schizophrenic, trying desperately to avoid loss of life, then being brutally cruel and even wiping out entire cities in retribution. The humans have not given up their planet and continue an unceasing campaign of resistance and rebellion.

The Illyri invaders have also conquered many different alien races and use them as servants and soldiers. But they have never met aliens so similar to themselves, nor as intellectually advanced as the human race. The Illyri are clearly far ahead of the humans technologically, but that is not much of a long term advantage. They are both fascinated and wary of humans.

Syl is the daughter of the Alien governor of Earth. Born in transit to Earth, she is Illyri, but raised on Earth and has a great affinity for humans. Her curiosity catches her in a vast web of conflict and lies, both from her people and the aliens; and she doesn’t know who to trust.

Conquest is a fast-paced story of action balanced with teenage romance and otherworldly technology. The teenage heroes are willing to do the right thing when their adult counterparts are not. The gentle Illyri is a contradiction, not wanting to harm the humans, but needing to put down the endless insurgencies, sometimes violently. The reason becomes clear at the end and would spoil the plot to reveal it here.

This is a well-crafted story with rich characters and believable technology. There is a hint of Dune in the novel, but more of a nod than any kind of derivative story. Perhaps because there are teenagers as the main characters, you could call it a young adult novel. But those are often arbitrary labels and Conquest should appeal to any SciFi lover, especially those who enjoy space opera.

The book is performed by Nicola Barber. There are many very good narrators working today, but Nicola stands above even this excellent crowd. She is magnificent, changing accents and voices with ease, male and female easily discernible. Her tone and pacing are spot on, moving the action forward, slowing when necessary and speeding up during the action, emotion oozing from her voice.  You will want to follow this talented performer and listen to other books by her. Just great.

Conquest is an enjoyable listen with a terrific performance. It doesn’t exactly break new ground plot-wise but has well-developed characters that are easy to like (and hate) with an exciting backdrop of war and intrigue. The novel wraps up the immediate action nicely but also starts the transition to the next volume.

Star Rating:  * * * * 1/2

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Spellbound and Hellhounds by Nia Rose

**An Amazing Land of Magic with Life Messages**

Review by Rox Burkey 

Nia Rose created a captivating world in the start of this series with Spellbound & Hellhounds, Coven Chronicles Book 1. This fantasy world is alive with supernatural creatures of varying degrees of good or evil powers and structures constructed of magic described to create detailed images in my mind. A balance of exploits and achievements, to witty humor captured my imagination in a one sitting listen. Yep this audible kept me seriously engaged.

Vanessa, a new member of the Coven grows up in this complex world of Raen, in the country of Aeristria, within the city Tolvade as she works to achieve her assignments to reach the next level in the Coven. Each of the magical creatures she encounters are like the woven spells of complex wards including all the colors, smells, sights, and sounds. As Vanessa works to defeat the 24 evil ones, galloping from one compromising situation after another, hellbent on succeeding to the rank of spell weaver.  Not only has Leon, an accomplished spell weaver of the same Coven, come to her rescue previously, but also saves Vanessa and Bobo from the pack of hellhounds. Leon glowered down at Vanessa with smugness earned by his sage experience, teetering on the edge of promotion to the rank of summoner. They share an unlikely partnership in Vanessa’s quest.

Bobo was my favorite, endearing ogre with an accented voice that matched perfectly to the well-developed character. He is Vanessa’s pet, protector, and confidant. His saving her – “suicidal hide on a regular basis” – is merely a taste of the tongue and cheek banter. Infused humor made me laugh aloud more than one.

Alex Goodman’s engaging pace kept my attention with clear, crisp narration, from start to finish. His transitions of voices between the characters was consistent and helped color the images of each. Alex’s voice acting was so winning that finding the pause or stop button was impossible.

I highly recommend Spellbound & Hellhound for those who want to be taken to a magic land of fantasy this series for those who enjoy a fantasy of magic

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A Crucible of Order: Sentinels of Creation Book 5 by Robert W. Ross

Thankfully Robert Ross finally told us where Kellan Thorne ended up once he assumed the role as Sentinel of Chaos!  I know it’s not been all that long in the grand scheme of things, but the wait was well worth it!  Kellan Thorne, Sentinel of Chaos formerly of Order is in Rome, specifically 50 A.D. where he is a fashionable gladiator!

In true Kellan form, his sardonic wit and inner dialog that sometimes leaks out into the world, his life is entertaining and engaging.  We meet two new mantles and poor James loses his job – not nearly as momentous as other moments in the book but I didn’t want to give out any other spoilers.

Ross is an exceptional writer.  He takes his fans to varying degrees of intensity and plot twists.  This is an edge of your chair type of book.  Ross creates a dialog that is realistic and is his character – for instance, Kellan can ramble and argue with himself, Shannon never loses her brogue accent or Lucifer’s charmingly deceptive twist of words.  Ross has the knowledge and experience to create the characters in a manner that is solid and realistic.

I truly enjoy the places that Ross has taken each of his characters and the insight he has given us into each one’s personality.  He is deliberate in his writing; nothing is truly a waste of reading/listening – each word takes the story somewhere.

Nick Podehl does a magnificent job of narrating the story.  To me, he has become Kellan, Shannon, Megan, Sera (aka Ares), etc.  I love how he can roll out the Scottish brogue and then fall immediately back into the American slang that Kellan uses then to the formal speech of Ares.  Podehl moves the story along as he performs engaging the listener to stick around.

“Ah teel ye thes fur nathin’” Ross and Podehl is a winning combination!

There were no issues with the production or quality of this audiobook.

Star Rating:  5

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Hell Divers (The Hell Divers Series Book 1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

The earth as we know and loved it has been nearly destroyed by humans.  Floating above the clouds and well above the radiation levels, two airships – Ares and The Hive contain the only living humans.  All others are gone, fallen to the earth in crashes leaving no survivors.  All too often, the airships need supplies that only the war-ravaged and nearly destroyed earth can provide – parts to maintain the ships.

The ships are self-sufficient, crowded and depending on who you are – life can be pleasant or hellish.  Not only does The Hive have to attempt a rescue mission over Hades (a particularly deadly area of the world) but their ship is falling into ruin.  Hell divers are the men and women who dive from the airships and fall to the earth to scavenge what the ship needs to stay afloat.  X is one of the best but he carries so much baggage that one wonders if he still has it in him.

Action-packed, X and his crew must find the necessary parts to keep their ship afloat while the captain faces her own difficulties.  Residents are recruited younger and younger to be engineers, hell divers and more – there is no childhood anymore!  Diving to the planet from the airship is dangerous given the electrical storms and other conditions that mother nature throws their way.  While on the planet, X not only loses his best friend and becomes a surrogate father but he comes face to face with deadly vicious monsters that have mutated into unspeakable horrors that enjoy human flesh.  The Hive must fly, X must return with the needed supplies and the human race must survive – but is it too late?

Nicholas Sansbury Smith brings the injustices of society, mistakes, and fallacies of humans to the forefront and mixes in unimaginable monsters with razor-sharp nails and teeth.

I thoroughly enjoyed Smith’s Extinction series so I was looking forward to this series with anticipation and excitement.  Smith did not fail to deliver – Hell Divers is an exciting action-packed book that is well written and developed fully.  Rich in detail, the characters are fully developed along with the plot.  Everything moves together – in a fluid-like manner leaving no questions or holes.

Smith is a rare and unique story-teller; one that can grow a story into a very skillful piece of writing capturing the audience’s attention and interest.

R.C. Bray, the narrator, performs this oral narration perfectly.  He captures the roughness and personality of each person; he plays his voice as if it were a musical instrument – concise and with the correct tone inflections and emotion.  He embraces the book and allows the book and its characters to shine.

If you enjoy action and well-written stories of the apocalypse, then don’t miss out on this one.  It is riveting!

There were no issues with the audio production or quality.

 

Star Rating:  * * * * *

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Ancient Echoes (Ancient Secrets Series Book 1) by Joanne Pence

Lots of secrets.  Deadly secrets!  Covert missions in the past with Lewis and Clark combined with the same type of covert missions with men in black, domestic and international all seeking the same place, the same mysterious pillars in Idaho – yes, Idaho!  Mix in some college students and renowned archaeologists, an Egyptian princess and the secret of alchemy and you have one attention holding, an edge of your seat thriller!

Slightly over 12 hours, this audiobook is enthralling and intriguing!  Combining the past with the present and everything in between would be confusing and distracting, however, Joanne Pence writes eloquently and thoroughly leaving nothing confusing, distracting or incomplete.  Vivid descriptions along with solidly built characters and a well-executed storyline, listeners will NOT be able to shut it off.

Pence allows her readers to believe everything is going smoothly, they expect an outcome then she gives them a major twist that will leave the listener wanting more.  Yes, there are some parts that are repetitive, but they are so for a reason – to drive home the point that things are not normal, and each character must experience it to come to that conclusion themselves.  It also helps to add to the terror of what is really going on.

The supernatural piece of this book was well done and blended well into the past and present happenings.  I have to say, she writes evil well!  There was no question at all who or when the evil was present!

The narrator, Tim Paige, performed the audiobook with a smooth, flowing style. Paige gave the listener a solid reading that was captivating and easy to follow.  He did not do voices which I think could have taken away from the story and lost some of the depth to the story. For a first time narrator, I give him a 5-star rating!  Hope to hear more from him.

The production and quality of the audiobook were good, however, there was some electronic noise about halfway through the book when a new chapter began.  It didn’t hurt the book or my enjoyment, but it was annoying.

Star Rating:  * * * *

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Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection Books 1-3 by Barbara Venkataraman

Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection is the first three books in the series.  Jamie is grieving, is continuing with a successful family law practice and finds herself thrust into mystery and intrigue.  All the while, her emotional turmoil plays a significant and sometimes entertaining role in the stories.

Barbara Venkataraman does an excellent job of building Jamie’s character along with other characters who are not only pivotal but just as interesting.  Duke Broussard is key to all three books although Venkataraman brings him in slowly in the first book.  From a murdered rock star, a divorce case turned murder, and murder in the park system – while they are out of Jamie’s league, her friends step up and help her solve the cases.

Venkataraman takes her time building the characters and story plot.  The dialog is well done and realistic.  In each book, there are moments of hilarity yet also seriousness.  One cannot help but love Jamie – she is a small part residing within each of us.

The narrator, Carrie Lee Martz performed the book very well.  She spoke clearly and added the emotions needed to further the story and engage the listener.  My only issue was Duke did not sound like he was described in the book; I had trouble reconciling his looks to his sound.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries and intrigue.

Star Rating:  * * * *

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Heaven, Hell, or Houston by Thom Erb

WARNING:  Explicit violence and rape of women and young girls as well as foul language.

Some people have all the luck and then there are guys like the volatile, alcoholic Texas Ranger, Jay McCutcheon.  From a long line of Texas Rangers and alcoholics, McCutcheon just wants to dump the stupid drunk perverted Governor’s security detail and get home to his wife and baby girl.  A year of living apart, McCutcheon wants to save his marriage and change.  He was well on his way until the yellow rain fell raising the dead to walk and eat. Oh, then there was Stacy-Jo a runaway who won his heart and whom he protected as much as possible from the uncanny situations she often found herself thrust into.

Toss in the evil Isandro Dianira, who recently escaped from prison and decided to rape and pillage everyone and thing in sight, and McCutcheon’s night just got worse since he’s the one who was responsible for Isandro’s prison term.  Isandro was the leader of a gang and one who had a special friend living in his head who told him to do “things.”  Such as slicing animals and … well torturing and murdering anything that has a pulse since he was old enough to walk!

If one can get past the violence, it is an authentically written book with the dialect, words and everything written in a very realistic manner.  Thom Erb has written an excellent book (violence aside) that captures what everyone fears but doesn’t realize  – who is the person entering the convenience store?  What are they likely to do?  What sets them off?

Vivid imagery, Erb paints a picture with his words.  Listeners can see the tired, angry Texas Ranger vividly as well as the evil Isandro.  Zombies do make an appearance but it is the evil Isandro and McCutcheon that are the center of the drama.  A strong plot and well-developed characters.

Doug Miller did an excellent Texas Ranger voice for McCutcheon, he was a little weak for Stacy-Jo’s New York accent but overall, he did an excellent job.  Not only could I feel his energy through his reading, but I could also feel the oozy slimy gunk flowing from the evil Isandro and the pervert on the bus by his talented reading by tone and voices.  His enunciation was perfect.

I enjoyed the book and was sorry to hear it end.  I would recommend this book to adults only given some of the content.

There were no issues with the production of this audiobook.

Star Rating:  * * * *

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Demon Fallout #1 by Mark Tufo

Mark Tufo has moved from Zombies and vampires to demons and creatures of the underworld in Demon Fallout – The Return. Talbot’s adopted son and vampire, Tommy gets a message to Talbot –  he’s in desperate need of help.  Talbot, a loyal friend and one who holds nothing else above family rushes to his aid crossing into the underworld of demons.  We are introduced to new characters and see the return of old ones as well as crossing over into other realms of Tufo – Talbot vs Timothy (the deadly flesh-eating zombie clown)!

Tufo is not one to rest on his tried and true writing style, this book shakes the world of Talbot and his readers into gut-wrenching moments that will leave you gasping and shocked! It has the Talbot humor and Talbot charm but the twist is quick, unexpected and well done; the reader has no opportunity to regain their balance period!  Imagine, if you will, being sideswiped by a semi driven by a cab full of Elves on the Shelf with crazy demonic eyes and maniacal laughter that appears out of nowhere – that is what this book is like!

Sean Runnette, once again performed superbly.  I cannot hear Runnette in anything else without connecting him to Michael Talbot first.  He IS the perfect voice for Michael Talbot.  He is skilled at drawing the listener in and keeping them there.  Tufo and Runnette together make a deadly combination!

I loved the book and while I am still reeling from it, this was perfect!

There were no issues with the production or audio quality of this book.

Star Rating:  * * * * *

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