This novella is about Mackenzie (Kenzie) and Drake who meet each other at a werewolf shifter meeting where other shifters usually meet for both social and educational purposes. This meeting happens in Oklahoma in Kenzie’s metaphorical backyard, while Drake and his brothers drive in from Texas. At the meeting, they realize, much to Kenzie’s dismay, that they are destined mates. The attraction is very mutual. Despite lots of baggage, she agrees to go home with him, and with Drake’s patience and love, Kenzie gets over her hang-ups.
The hero Drake is the dream of a patient lover who lets Kenzie set the pace. At the beginning of the story, she is the frightened virgin with mental scars (hence, Tarnished). He teaches her all about her body and her desires in a way that doesn’t scare her. He is understanding and kind, a stark contrast to all other wolf males Kenzie has met. We also find out here and there that Drake and Kenzie are good matches for other reasons beyond their initial and immediate attraction.
While there are wolf shifters in this world, there is less focus on that for this story. It is the shallow dressing, and if you are a person who wants the heavy focus to be on werewolves, this will disappoint you. It could have been told as nearly any other small societal group meet-up and still come out the same way.
The narrator did an interesting thing with this story, and I am inclined to like the performance more than the material she is performing. There were 3 types of voices used above and beyond the character voices. She has a voice for narration, dialogue, and thoughts. This may not seem remarkable, but because the writing is often tumbling out like stream of consciousness, that kind of differentiation is a nice touch. I also like what she chose to do with Drake’s voice. He’s got an accent that sounds like a genuine Texas accent. While certainly are many of those, but the point is he sounds close to authentic.
For me personally, this was an okay story that I doubt will stay with me long. I just didn’t feel connected to the main couple, and I didn’t find Drake appealing. He said and did all the things a hero should, and he’s probably sincere. I just wasn’t buying what he was selling.
I expect the people who would enjoy this story are the ones who don’t mind a novella with a couple getting the HEA they want. It is for those who find romance and the healing power of love (and good sex!) appealing no matter how that story is told.
Disclaimer: I received an audio copy of this book from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.
Most of us who have had any exposure to holiday-time entertainment know what a good secular Christmas story does. It reaffirms our beliefs in family, ourselves, and the general goodness of humanity. Some out way that it acts as a counter to the modern age where the holidays can conversely be the darkest time of the year.
In this story by Dennis Canfield, we have the charm of the affirming Christmas story that makes you feel better after reading/hearing it. It isn’t that you don’t know what you’re going to get, but the fun is in the way the author interprets this holiday staple.
Canfield’s novella is really funny, and it starts from the summary. When he mentioned that there was an aging heavy-metal rock star in this, I knew I had to read. He’s the neighbor to the family who gain their Christmas spirit to get Back to Christmas. (You see what the author did there?)
There are some truly funny elements in this, and I had the best laughs over Reverse Santa, or RC. Because he lives at the South Pole, he has a Southern accent. Southern accent! Oh, you sleigh me…
By the way, I was really doubtful about penguins when the story started, but it makes a lot of sense within the story when you realize both poles are used. The names of the penguin team are really cute, too. The description of the way the team flies is different than that o the reindeer team, but it makes total sense for penguins. Good show there.
I do have one criticism to the story in that the meal that the family finally cobbles together at the last minute seems so huge that they surely couldn’t have done it in the time allowed. Sure this is an uplifting holiday fantasy, but that part stuck out.
For the narration specifically, Ralph Lister has a great voice for this. I’ve enjoyed his other works. He’s got an almost Jim Dale-like quality that will appeal to the sense of wonder in some readers, as Dale has done so well with the Harry Potter series.
One thing I did not enjoy was Lister’s character voices for the father of the family (David?) and Repo, the musician next door. Mr. Krumwerth sounds at the beginning like he’s always on the edge of blowing his top and having a heart attack because of it. Meanwhile, I was hoping Repo would prove to be an interesting character with lots of lines, but the performance didn’t make it so. It was too much like Ozzy Osbourne (without sounding Brummie) in his spaced out days.
Despite my narration nitpicks, Lister performed well a fun book by Canfield. Those in the mood for a fun, feel-good Christmas story would enjoy this. It is the perfect length to listen as a family during one of those commutes to visit relatives.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
This indie novella is the first of what may become a series. As a typical novella, the time period covered in the story is very short, but the world building inside the story is done very well. It is one of the best examples I’ve seen of putting the rules of the world naturally into the narrative instead of having an awkward info dump.
This author tried some things that I hadn’t experienced before in other people’s werewolf stories, such as bloodlings (werewolf children born in wolf form). The world here is rich, even if we are only beginning to see the tip of it.
To the author’s credit, the story is well-paced. There is only one moment where I felt pulled out of the moment of the story. It was a longer flashback in the middle of present-story urgency. This novella also has a great and inviting cover, which is sadly not the norm for indie books.
One of the things I liked from the story is that at the beginning the heroine is reading a Patricia Briggs novel. Briggs is one of my favorite writers for werewolf stories, and it was fun to see the character bring it up. The real werewolf of the story also has a good reason to read about the fictional werewolves of Briggs’s stories.
There is a sex scene, but it is a fade to black type. That is refreshing after so many other werewolf stories that use graphic and often brutal sex to illustrate the beastly nature of the characters.
I will say that the title is long and unwieldy. “Werewolf paranormal fantasy” is NOT needed as part of the title because the vendors will already have the book marked for genre. It is also somewhat redundant as werewolves in a story usually come with the assumption of paranormal and fantasy or scifi.
As for the narration, I wasn’t sure I liked the voice at first, but after a few sentences everything moved along quite well. Unfortunately, the recording pauses in the story can be heard. They are minimized and quiet, but I recognize them from personally recording things to cassette tape. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it is very consistently noticeable unlike work from other sources.
In summary, I enjoyed this very much, and I plan on continuing with the series as new volumes become available.
Disclaimer: I received a free download of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
This is an indie story and audiobook that was an expansion of the author’s previous novella. This is a straight-up science fiction invasion story. Our galaxy is not so empty of life as we would suppose, and one of the enemies of the dominant rulers is coming after us!
This is not a military science fiction story in the strictest sense. I enjoy those very much and had initially thought that this would be of that type. While the main human characters are in the military, it doesn’t have the components of command, engineering, weapons, etc. The main focus here is a small group of pilots and how they confront the challenge.
One of my favorite pieces in the story is when our hero (Captain Jake Giard) rides in the Turtle for the first time and goes to the moon. The descriptions there are pure wonder and joy. I would be very surprised if the author didn’t enjoy writing that part as much as I enjoyed hearing that part.
By the way, I think it was a stroke of genius that the author described the navigation system similarly to the motions of operating a smart phone. That was what I was thinking before he explicitly stated it. It was one of the parts of the book that was really fun.
The story is over 11 hours of listening time, but it moves at a quick pace, and I didn’t feel it lagged anywhere. The time within the story itself also moves at a quick pace as most of the events described therein are about dealing with the actual invasion.
The story ends with the promise of more to come, so if you enjoy it, there will be something on the way.
At first I thought the narrator’s voice was a little old for this work, but as it continued on, I got used to it. I admit the voice of military sci-fi (which this isn’t exactly) in my mind is Christian Rummel, but Ortego was very professional and capable. His accent for one of the Russian characters was quite nice. The voice for the main villain was initially very distracting, but considering how the character was described, it was appropriate.
This recording was very professional and capable. The author as curator of his own work made a competent choice.
One caveat here. When art is created and released into the world, the artist has no control over how things are perceived, and many times the consumer finds things that were in no way the creator’s intent. I have the suspicion, or at least the hope, that my understanding of things wasn’t exactly as the author intended. Spoilers ahead.
The cast of characters is very small, and the humans are basically military. This very much felt like a “man” story to me, reeking of testosterone. The A-story (to use TV parlance) is focused on the male hero and his 2 male coworkers trying to save the world from the invasion while the B-story focuses on the hero’s girlfriend and her attempt to save her family.
Captain Sandra Fitzpatrick, the MC’s girlfriend, is painted as both badass and nurturing at least when it comes to her family. She is really the only female character of note in this one, as there are only 4 female characters with dialogue on the page. (The other three are Sandra’s mother, a particularly anonymous female Major who contacts Fitzpatrick later, and Vic’s hallucination of his mother.) During the course of the novel, she finds out that she is pregnant. Any time there is an emotion for her (worry or the need to protect), she reaches to her belly to cover her unborn child.
I understand that she would do it, and it’s a decent shorthand to show emotion. The problem is that after a while this became over-used. Any time there would be an emotional scene ending with her in it, Sandy would have her hand on her belly. We get it! Find a new way to describe that, please.
The other thing that really struck me about the book was all the casual misogyny. The three pilots on the Turtle joke and tease each other, especially the younger mentally unstable pilot Vic, and they use misogynistic language to do it. Calling each other ladies and any other “not man enough” slurs.
The thing about all of it that really got to me was how lived-in it felt. The author has a military background, and he wrote men in the rough way that men are seldom portrayed in media of late. For that, I feel the portrayal was actually rather authentic, but it also disturbed me. This is not to say that I think the author is promoting a misogynistic viewpoint as valid. Sometimes fiction is just a mirror on our world, and it's present in this book in a significant way.
The other thing that got to me was the character of Vic. He’s clearly got a mental illness of some sort. Thankfully, it’s not played for laughs, but it is there and a big part of the character. I was wondering why in the world he hadn’t gotten help before. Had no one seen it? It made him a very tragic character, and at least with me developed some care and empathy toward him.
If you like an invasion story where the good guys win eventually after some upsetting battles and you’re not bothered by the qualms I listed above, feel free to enjoy this.
I received a free copy of the autiobook in exchange for an honest review.
This is one of those titles that I had consistently been seeing on Audible as a suggested read. When the narrator offered a download in exchange for an honest review, I took the plunge.
It begins with Mara on her birthday and the tarot reading of doom and gloom. She is a gifted witch, but at the start of the book everything is going bad for her full stop. She’s lost her job, has started having horrible nightmares, and will be evicted from her beloved apartment at the end of the month. Near the middle of the book when all hope seems lost, she gets an inheritance from the titular dead Aunt Tillie that seems like the solution to her problems.
The story isn’t a bad story, but it is not without its problems. Firstly, the pacing is off. There is too much time spent in the Los Angeles setting before Mara moves to the property in Michigan. It’s not that those things aren’t interesting and enlightening to who Mara is, but this falls into the mistake of not beginning in the right place. Refer to other stories where the big incident that starts the adventure is much closer to the beginning.
Her chapter endings became overused so much so that I internally groaned every time one came up. They were of the consistent variety of “If I would have known what would happen next, I never would have done what I just did.” Except the next never did happen NEXT. Sure, it’s a trick to get readers to turn pages faster, but it’s a promise with little follow-through.
When she does finally get to Michigan, things happen too fast. She makes a joke while in transit about fictional heroines in her situation finding a hunky neighbor to fall in love with. It was a cute wink to convention, but then the same thing happens to her! That was actually less cute, as far as I’m concerned. Other than the fact that Paul was attractive, it all seemed too much insta-love for me. (I find that trope in YA novels, but I don’t expect it in adult books.)
More time should have been spent on what was going on in Michigan and Mara’s relationship with Paul and what happened during the possession. That said, one of the best things about the Los Angeles section of the story was all about Mara’s BFF Gus. He was a great character, and I did love that he stayed in her life even when she moved across the country.
The performance of the story is something else entirely. There were many different characters here using different accents. With a full cast, Marie Rose had a lot of work to get the final product up to snuff.
One of the best examples that shows her skill and hard work is that in one section of a scene with possession we have an American character who is trying to fake another character’s Scottish accent. All three of these voices are distinct. We have Mara’s American voice, her relative’s Scottish voice, and then Mara attempting to fool the woman’s lover by pretending to be her. There the Scottish accent is subtly different than the true one.
I don’t plan on continuing with this series. I will say, though, that I was very impressed with Marie Rose’s narration and would be willing to listen to something else from her in the future.
I have been listening to a few audiobooks lately that are YA time travel, and when I got an opportunity to listen and review this one, I took it. The name was charming, so it intrigued me from the get-go.
Here’s what you get:
*Time travel, of course! One of the things I liked about the use of time travel here is how the heroine reacts to it. Because she lives in a place with lots of history, she frequently time travels. It’s not something she can control, and she’d rather not do it. All the same, it’s just something that happens to her, almost a mundane inconvenience. It seems different than many of the other time travel stories I’ve read.
*A fast story with almost insta-love. Considering this is a novella, and a short one even among already short things, that’s somewhat understandable, though it still took me by surprise.
*Tie-in with a well-known ghost story from Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. I confess that I didn’t know of the story before the novella, but it presents itself quite nicely.
*A teenager who acts like a teenager. She has trouble in some classes in school, goes to parties and does things she maybe shouldn’t, has a clique of friends including some she likes more than others, and she is a cheerleader with an athlete boyfriend. In some ways, she’s very typical except for the time travel.
Though a short novella, you get as full of a character as you can expect, she does go through a journey of transformation, and there is a happy ending. If any of that interests you, you will probably enjoy this.
Because I got a copy of this story from the narrator, I have to mention her performance. The story is told from First Person POV, and the narrator has a voice that totally works for the 17 year old lead character. She is believable as both Lauren and as John, the love interest. She sounds good doing all of it, and I would be happy to listen to her other performances on YA material.
There are two prominent spots in the audio where there are repeats of text and dead silence as it is rerecorded. The sound of it reminds me of the clicking sound that would happen when recording things onto cassettes. I realize both the ebook and the audiobook were indie productions, but I am truly surprised those made it into the final product. Even if money is tight, there are free, open source editing tools that can take care of these issues.
Disclaimer: I received a free download of this audiobook from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.
The Great Jackalope Stampede is the third book in the Jackrabbit Junction series, and as a third book it ups the stakes in the mystery and expands the cast of characters.
If you’ve been following along, we have the series star Claire up to her regular hijinks. Claire is one of those women who has studied a lot, but doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of actual university degrees or gainful employment. What she does have is a varied skill set that is quite useful for the mysteries she finds herself embroiled in.
The romantic subplot of book two focused on younger Morgan sister, Katie and introduced us to Deborah, the shrew of a mother to the Morgan sisters. This book brings the third Morgan sister, Veronica, and the romantic subplot shines on her. We also have a cousin by the name of Natalie.
The new mystery is yet another effect of the deceitful things Ruby’s ex-husband Joe got up to. This creates something new for Claire to obsess about, and obsess she does. She invariably finds her way into peril, but solves the mystery by the end. There are also subplots with a stolen watch, potential pregnancies, a gang of rebellious old ladies, and Ronnie (Veronica) getting over the humiliation of her marriage and divorce.
Those new to the series may wonder if starting on the 3rd book is even doable. There are some books where you can enter at any point, and I would say that this one could be like that. The basic points of the previous books are referenced so readers won’t feel lost.
Deborah was a thorn in everyone’s sides in book 2 (Jackrabbit Jitters), but she’s not actually on the page much in this book. Oddly enough, I missed her this time around. I did enjoy the twist plot with her near the end, though, especially since it was with one of my favorite male secondary characters.
Cousin Natalie was a nice addition. I had to check if she was a cross-over character with the author’s Deadwood series, but it seems she is not. If Ann Charles wants to continue this series, she could do it with a focus on Natalie returning to Jackrabbit Junction. I would suggest, though, that she try to come up with a plot other than the effects of Joe’s thieving ways.
One thing the author has done all through the series is mention country songs of various types and ages. Music plays a big part of what’s going on, and it’s a cute way to add flavor to the story.
Her other bit of flavor is how obsessed with bid euchre the main characters are. I used to play spades a lot and almost learned how to play euchre. It’s something else that provides good character setting since it’s completely realistic that people from South Dakota would play indoor card games, especially in winter, and that they’d also use this game in the hot of summer in Arizona to stay out of the heat.
For the performance of the audiobook itself, Lisa Larsen did great with this. I enjoyed what she did for the first two books, and she did not disappoint here. New characters sound different, and established characters sound the same. We don’t have moments of wondering just who is speaking. Lisa even sings a passage or two in the character of one of the drunk sisters singing Patsy Cline. (And who hasn’t ever tried a line or two of “Crazy”?) I like what she’s done here, and I’d be perfectly willing to follow Lisa into other audiobook projects she has.
In summary: Try it. You’ll like it.
Disclaimer: I received a free Audible download of this book from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.
This 2nd book in the Jackrabbit Junction series is firing on all cylinders and expands the cast of characters. We have the same fun crowd as before with Claire, Harley and his besties (my favorite is Manny), Ruby, her daughter Jess, and Mac. Add to the mix Claire’s mother Deborah, her younger sister Kate and the very hot bar owner Butch, and things in the Junction just got jittery.
They mystery is less mysterious this time around, but that’s only because it relies again on the misdeeds of Ruby’s dead husband Joe. This time we have a different person he did wrong. If Joe was so rotten, it’s hard to believe that Ruby was so blind she didn’t see it.
There is also a recurring thread about Mac having told Claire he loves her but that he doesn’t want the rest of the world to know he said that. I found those parts of the story really annoying. They could potentially be true to how people really are, but it made me want to tell the character to man up. He said it, so he should own it.
Narrator Lisa Larsen shines again with her performance. The sound is professional, and with minimal slips she sounds great and clear all the way through. Generally, the listener will immediately know who is being voiced even without the tags. There is one time where Chester didn’t sound gruff enough, but that was an exception and not the rule.
Full disclosure: I received a free audible download of this book from the narrator in exchange for an honest review. I have enjoyed this so much, though, that I plan on immediately buying the 3rd book in the series just so I know what happens next.
Disclaimer: I received a free Audible download of this book from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this audiobook. To be honest, I was just happy to have one for “free.” I hadn’t heard of this author before, but I like mysteries, romance and love audiobooks. So I gave it a go.
The story has Claire and her grandfather Harley together in an RV park as a mystery unfolds around them. The author introduced an interesting cast of supporting characters. I have a soft spot for Manny, the Latin lover who is one of the two friends of Claire’s grandfather. I really enjoyed the fact that we got a story with an adult and her grandfather, which is not something I’ve often encountered.
Anne Charles did not let the reader wonder who the villain of the mystery was. There are times when it’s great to figure out along with the characters whodunit, but I liked this device of letting us know right away. It provided tension as I wondered just when they characters were going to figure it out.
As far as the narration itself, it was perfectly polished as if it had come from a major studio. The narrator had a great voice that immediately put me at ease so I knew I would enjoy spending 10 hours with her. She was deft at making the speaking of different people sound different enough so that there was never any question who might be speaking.
I will warn you that the main character of Claire is very loud. She’s louder than everyone else. That’s not a problem with the audio or production, but instead is a deliberate acting choice that seemed truly appropriate to Claire’s personality once I got to know her.
My only real criticism about the book is about the cover art, which looked very, very cheap. As a first point of contact, it doesn’t do the author any favors to get potential readers. It’s hard enough being an indie author without having a product that *looks* like it’s indie, too.
In summary, I really liked this story and these characters. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately wanted to dive into the next book and I already wonder who soon the narrator will have the book after that ready.
If anything in the summary intrigues you, give this a chance. Recommended.
This is an interracial love story, but it doesn't fetishize it. It's just 2 people falling in love. There is the subplot of the black female lead as foster mother to a white male teen. They have a great relationship.
The main character didn't seem black enough. I know that seems an odd comment, but given the bland writing and the narration she just seemed like a 2-dimensional character from a writer who didn't know any better. It was interesting to find out later that the author actually is a black woman, so she would know how black women actually are.
The story itself is light enough, but the narration could be better. The voice for Izzy is annoyingly high and child-like. The neutral narration voice and Jason's voice are fine, though.
Even though the ebook was published in 2010, the "modern" slang places it a few years before that.
While not a bad story, I wouldn't recommend spending a credit on this book. Use whispersync to get it on a discount or try it during a sale.
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