Step into a world which is both magically fictitious and shockingly real, to follow the lives of Tamsin, Ellie, Arun, and Charlie; a refugee, native, occupier, and economic migrant. Watch them grow up during a halcyon past, an everyday present, and a dystopian future. And be prepared to be amazed. Inspired by the occupations of Palestine, Kurdistan, and Tibet, and by the corporate occupation of the west, Occupied is a haunting glance into a society which is too familiar for comfort. It truly is a unique piece of literary fiction.
While it did take me 3 tries to get into this book, I’m glad I stuck with it. Occupied is a thought-provoking work. The three main characters, Tamsin, Ellie, and Arun, start off as kids, each coming from different backgrounds. As they age, they are pulled apart and their friendships set aside though they do occasionally intersect later in the story. A fourth pivotal character, Charlie, comes into the tale much later.
While this story qualifies as a satire, I did feel that I would have gotten quite a bit more out of it if I was more knowledgeable on Middle East politics (past and present). For the most part, the story stood on it’s own though I admit that I often lost track of which character is a Godly versus a Holy. I had the feeling that the underlying alluded to politics were more important than the story and I really just wanted to be swept up into the tale.
There is a lot of repetition in this book. Lots. That is the main thing that kept me from getting caught up in this book. If the book was 1/3 to 1/2 as long I feel that it would have more of punch, the important scenes would hit harder, and there would be more poignancy to the disturbing bits. All those things exist in the book as it is but you have to wade through the repetition to get to them.
The last fifth of the book was my favorite. It takes us into a near-future view of a consumer driven society. It definitely had that Brave New World vibe which I quite enjoyed. Also, I didn’t feel I had to be knowledgeable about certain politics to get what the story was telling me. This was the most chilling part of the book because there’s a society-encompassing apathy whereas the rest of the book has plenty of emotions flying around as one wrong is done after another, usually in the name of Right.
So, all told, I’m glad I finished it and I can see how fans of the satire genre would be interested in checking this book out. While the repetition and my lack of great knowledge on the politics alluded to made this book a bit of a chore to get through, it did end on a very strong note that resonated with me. 3.5/ 5 stars.
The Narration: Jack Wynters gave a decent performance. He had some accents and some voice range though not all of his characters were distinctly performed. He sounded interested in the story for the entire book never going deadpan bored. The pacing was good and there were no technical issues with the recording. 4/5 stars.
➜ This audiobook was received at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
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Menarm was a great and prosperous kingdom, known throughout the lands for its friendly, hard-working people and fair trade. But a bitter struggle of succession between brothers left the kingdom devastated, the people divided. Some stayed with Fenil, who had conquered the crown, others followed Renil to the wild lands of the north, founding a new kingdom. Now Adren, the last princess of the vanquished realm of Menarm, finds herself alone in a world where women live in the shadows of men.
I started this book with high hopes. I liked the book blurb description and was up for an Elven adventure. However, this story fell a little short. The beginning was easy to start with but then the timeline jumps around a bit and I had trouble following who did what when. Now, if you get past that, the story settles on 16 year old Princess Adren.
Initially, I really liked her character. Her mother dies shortly after we meet her and Adren’s kingdom is in ruins. I worried she wouldn’t be able to save herself let alone her kingdom! But she has been taking sword-fighting lessons from a master, Donian. Now he was a fun character! I loved his harsh nature and no-nonsense training. He’s merciless in her training and she picks up the art quickly. Now, I did find it a bit too convenient that she mastered sword training so quickly, but it’s necessary for the story to progress.
Adren must venture out on a quest to find allies but her little world is one where women are kept safe and secure and don’t learn to fight with swords and gallivant around the countryside. Initially, I found her solution to this problem endearing, because who wouldn’t want to put on a mask and pretend to be someone else, especially if you have to kill anyone? Still, I was a little dismayed that in this fictional world, ladies in general have very little to do with the plot.
Adren hasn’t spent any time with elves and now that she’s met some, she’s fascinated by them. Here’s another part of the story that didn’t work so well for me. We know that she was raised with stories about elves and there’s obviously contact and trade between humans and elves, and yet dear little Adren is totally blank on Elvish factoids. Really? Sigh… So I felt that contradicted what we learned earlier. Then when she learns why her ears are the shape they are…. well, it was just a lot of drama for no reason.
Still, there’s plenty of action and armor and sword fighting and heroes. I liked all those bits. Then we have the love story. Adren loves a certain person and then yet another person is falling in love with Adren (unbeknownst to her). Again, I felt the love story was a whole lot of drama for very little entertainment. Also, the wrap up to that romance in this book was a little cliched and I expected that twist well before it was revealed.
All together, the tale held potential to be a fun high adventure but fell short with some inconcise writing and over-done drama. 3/5 stars.
The Narration: George Tintura did an OK job with this narration. He sounded interested in the story all the way through the book. He does make an effort to do accents and keep character voices distinct but they kind of go in and out. His grumpy voice for Donian is pretty good and most of the time, he does a believable 16 year old Princess Adren. He also makes a believable snobbish elf. 4/5 stars.
➜ Susan received a free copy of this book from the author. Her opinions are 100% my own.
As the sole survivor of the car crash that killed her parents, grief-stricken paramedic Kit MacKlenna is stunned to learn her life is built on lies. A legacy from her father includes a faded letter and a well-worn journal. The journal reveals she was abandoned as a baby 160 years ago. The only clues to her identity are a blood-splattered shawl, a locket with the portrait of a 19th century man, and a Celtic brooch with magical powers.
I was pretty excited to dive into this time travel novel because I played way too much Oregon Trail as a kid and this book is set in the mid-1800s along the Oregon Trail. Kit MacKlenna is a modern day paramedic living on her ancestral horse ranch. Yet she has questions about her heritage and a small package left to her tempts her into the past to discover her true roots. I really liked that she knowingly traveled to the past. She plans well, studying up on the time period and packing certain supplies. Now I will say that I was a little surprised by how many modern things she decided to take with her (flashlights, IVs, pregnancy tests, etc.) and I did worry that would lead to many, many questions for her later. Also, she chose to take her dog and cat along for the trip as well. While I do like having furry companions in any story, I did find this an odd choice and I deeply worried the pets were going to be Red Shirts for drama down the road.
Then we’re off into the semi-civilized lands of Missouri. She knows that it will be hard to get a place on a wagon train as a single woman so she’s hoping to find a group that will accept her. She’s capable of seeing to her own food, camping gear, and animals so it’s really a matter of bending the social norms of the time. At first, the mid-1800s characters held to their social morays but as the story progresses, I did notice that there were sometimes unlikely reactions to Kit’s modern attitudes. Those little breaks in character took me out of the story from time to time and I wish that Kit had to work harder to either hide her modern ways or win others over to her ways quietly.
There is a strong romantic element to this book. I did like Cullen though I found the insta-luv between him and Kit to be rather convenient. Cullen is an interesting character but once he becomes involved with Kit they had this silly emotional roller coaster. Flirting, fighting, showing off to one another, ignoring each other, kissing, making up, etc. I was much more interested in the historical elements of this story but, alas, those were rather lacking once the tale was set up and off and running. This is a romance story first and foremost and a historical fiction second.
Despite the silly romance, Kit is a woman who does get stuff done. She’s a good shot, knows how to ride well, and has her medical skills. She’s also skilled at sketching. So she has a lot going for her if she can just wrangle in her emotions and stay focused. This mystery about her true relatives eats away at her throughout the story. While I can understand how that mystery can drive a person, I did feel she was a bit too needy at times, forgetting all the good things her upbringing modern Kentucky did have. I can’t help comparing The Ruby Brooch to other time travel books by the likes of Diana Gabaldon and Connie Willis. This book isn’t on the same level as those works. It’s more romance than historical fiction.
Some of the other interesting characters include Braham McCabe, who adds a bit of comedy here and there.The Barrett Family was very good to Kit and I feel I got to know Mrs. Barrett and Frances the best among them. Elliot Fraser is Kit’s godfather in modern Kentucky and he provides wisdom and safe household to return to if needed. All told, 3.5/5 stars.
The Narration: Teri Schnaubelt was awesome as the narrator. I really liked her variety of accents and the range of voices she had for men and women. Kit cried so much in this book (a little too much for me) but Teri did a great job with all the emotions. Schnaubelt sounded engaged throughout the story and all her character voices were distinct. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.
➜ Susan received a free copy of this book from the narrator. Her opinions are 100% her own.
Who are the Medici brothers? And who is trying to assassinate them? Why was the Pitti Palace never completed? And what part did Leonardo play in all of this? Leonardo da Vinci is remembered as an artist and inventor. But who was he before anyone knew his name? This family-friendly novel explores the history and the legends of his early years in Florence. It also weaves a mystery of politics and power.
What little I knew of Leonardo da Vinci before listening to this book was about his later years. Leonardo the Florentine does a great job of showing us who Leonardo was as a boy, teen, and young man. At an age we would today consider far to young to be off on your own, Leonardo apprenticed at Master Verrochio’s art workshop in Florence. The story excels at describing not only the work done at the workshop but the various architecture, pageantry, and statues around Florence. Leonardo was exposed to quite the variety of art forms and media during his formative years. Even though he was much older that the typical novice, he possessed a deep interest and no little amount of natural skill. Verrochio noted that and encouraged Leonardo to take on greater and greater challenges.
There’s a bit of intrigue tossed into the tale. Leonardo was alive during the time of the Medicis and the politics of the time often involved battles and small wars up and down the length of Italy. Leonardo isn’t interested in politics and hopes to never get caught up in a war, but there is this mystery concerning the Pitti Palace that threatens to suck Leonardo and his friends into intrigue. While I would have enjoyed the book a little more if this aspect of the story had more of a presence, I still enjoyed Leonardo uncovering information one clue at a time.
This is a family-friendly version of Leonardo’s younger years. There’s no gore or love story or even harsh words. All the characters are polite to each other, even the gruff ones. While I can appreciate that the focus of the story is giving us a good outline of young Leonardo’s life, it did come off as a little to tidied up. The 1470s were definitely harsher than our modern era with flush toilets, antibiotics, and the UN. A little grit would have given a more believable flavor to the story. Leonardo comes off as naive throughout the entire tale; as a kid and even teen, this would have probably worked but as he enters his young adult years, having lived without family and earning his keep from a young age, the naivety didn’t work so well.
While there are a handful of women mentioned, there are no female characters. There were obviously women in the 1470s in Florence and most likely there were some women in Leonardo’s life even if they were relegated to the roles of someone’s wife or housekeeper or cook or such. I would have appreciated even a token try at gender balancing this tale.
Leonardo the Florentine is a good source of information about Leonardo’s young years, if not detailed. I learned that Leonardo had no formal schooling (even by standards of the day) and had to learn Latin mostly on his own. This single skill opened a world of knowledge to Leonardo. His status as a student and worker at Verrochio’s workshop opened doors for him that would have remained closed otherwise due to his birth status. Prior to listening to this book, I did not know that Leonardo had such a strained relationship with his parents. Nuggets of info like these are revealed throughout the story in interesting ways. By the end, I felt I knew young Leonardo as a possible friend instead of some wise old man high up on a pedestal. 4/5 stars
The Narration: David Winograd did a pretty good job with this story. His Italian and Latin pronunciations of names and certain words sounded accurate to me. His voice as young, naive Leonardo was well done. There were a few places throughout the story where there were some odd pauses in the middle of sentences. All his character voices were distinct. 4.5/5 stars.
➜ This audiobook was received at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
The King Below, Enemy of the World, is dead. Will his successor save the world...or rule it? Jacob Riverson was once the greatest hero of an age. Cut down during what should have been the final battle against the King Below, he was condemned to centuries of torment as a Wraith Knight in the service of said monster. With the destruction of his master, Jacob finds his free will returning and discovers he is in a world torn by civil war between the King Below's former slaves and the heroes who "saved" them.
Wraith Knight is a cross between epic fantasy and grimdark fantasy. Our main character Jacob was a hero over two centuries ago but his soul was enslaved by the Big Baddie and he served as a Wraith Knight committing many atrocities. Now his servitude is over and he has no memory of his time spent as the repellent Wraith Knight. He was a very interesting character. He gave his life fighting the King Below but now that that malevolence is gone from the world, he is sad to see that the world isn’t a cheery paradise. He has a lot of conflicting emotions and the large cast of characters all treat him differently. Some are disgusted by his actions as a Wraith Knight. Some fear him. Some seek him out for his power. It’s a lot for anyone to deal with.
In this epic story, there’s so many characters. Serah, a witch of a sort, stands out for me as well as Regina. Both are powerful in different ways and both have an eye on Jacob. I also liked the interplay between the ladies. There’s a bit of romance later in the book, but in typical Phipps fashion, it’s not your standard epic fantasy romance. Yay!
Trickster was a fun minor character. It’s a disembodied voice that often speaks Jacob’s doubts, making them seem more plausible. Indeed, without Trickster Jacob wouldn’t have been so interesting as I bet he would have had more self-confidence.
Despite all these things the story had going for it, I still found it hard to be fully engaged with it. Parts of the story lagged for me. I really wanted to enjoy this story completely but I found that many of the characters held no interest for me. Also, I think the narration style had something to do with it as well. 4/5 stars
The Narration: Kevin T. Collins put a lot into his performance. While I can appreciate that, it was also tough to listen to this stylized narration for 12 hours. It was like I was listening to a Shakespeare play for all those hours. Every character spoke in this high and mighty style, all the actions were great and thunderous, all the prose had flourishes. I am guessing that Collins was directed to narrate the entire book in this style. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. I found myself quickly becoming fatigued and since the nuances were tiny, everything said and done sounded important. I had to listen to this audiobook in small chunks of 1-2 hours or I would start zoning out. It was exhausting to get through this audiobook. With that said, Collins never sounded bored with his own performance. His male character voices were distinct, though his ladies didn’t always sound like ladies, nor were they always distinct. The pacing was good and there were no technical issues with the recording. 3/5 stars
Los Angeles, 1908. In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in LA, police matron Anna Blanc and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. If news about the murder gets out, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna work to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret, reluctantly helped by the good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent local leader.
Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works as a stand alone.
I didn’t realize how much I missed Anna Blanc until I returned to her world of early 1900s Los Angeles. She’s such a charming character having a kind of innocence but also a deep determination once she’s decided on a course of action. I love how she can judge certain traits about a person while also finding the person as a whole to be worthy. Some would say that her current circumstances are all her own making as she could have lived a life of indulgence and pampering, but doing so would have meant giving up her freedom in nearly everything. Besides, living on a police matron’s salary lets her eat decently (if you count whiskey, kippers, and cracker jacks as wholesome food).
Joe Singer is also a favorite character. While he often has to rescue Anna from one situation or another, he is usually returned the kindness when Anna has to rescue him (though that can put a rub on his male ego). It’s obvious he’s madly in love with Anna but he’s also hurt that she isn’t willing to set aside her independence and become his obedient stay-at-home wife. I expect that eventually Anna will cure him of such expectations but until then I greatly look forward to the back and forth, the give and take between these two.
Wolfe surprised me in this book. He’s always so obvious about how he wouldn’t mind making some time with Anna in the police stables. He definitely has a misogynistic streak and is borderline lewd at times with his blatant comeons. Still, there are some moments in this story where he shines and I very much look forward to seeing what the author has in store for him.
The plot delves into Los Angeles’s Chinatown. It’s a seedy, run down section of the town full of tasty food and crime. Anna can’t resist going again and again despite everyone warning her not to. She’s afforded some protection simply because she is a White woman and Chinatown doesn’t want to be turned upside down by the police in the event of something unfortunate happening to a White woman in Chinatown…. which is exactly what has happened to the mystery woman in the camphor trunk. Joe knows that this crime is a match waiting to strike so he and Anna do all they can to solve the murder before it makes news. However, most of Chinatown is not willing to help, with the exception of Mr. Jones who acts as translator for the two (though Joe knows some basic Chinese phrases).
Missionary work was big at the time and could be a blessing and a curse. Several missionary ladies have been providing English lessons to those in Chinatown, along with their spiritual guidance. Add all this to an underlying war brewing between the Tongs, and Chinatown is a hotbed of impending violence. Anna doesn’t care. Sigh…. Joe, I really feel for you. Keeping Anna safe is a full-time job.
Humor and danger intertwine in this tale to make a delightful murder mystery. The historical setting provides a backdrop of sexism and racism all while being very interesting. Anna is the shinning star of the show, often providing a bit of humor as folks are a little shocked by how she deals with various situations. I really enjoyed Book 1 in this series and Book 2 does not disappoint, holding to the high standard previously set by The Secret Life of Anna Blanc. 5/5 stars.
The Narration: Moira Quirk continues to do this series justice. Her voice as Anna Blanc is spot on. Her masculine voices for the men are believable and her Chinese accents are well done. There’s a variety of emotions in this story, especially for Anna, and Quirk performs them all well. Joe Singer’s emotions are also on display even if he is trying to hold back and I appreciated Quirk ability to get across nuanced scenes. 5/5 stars.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer Kincheloe. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Three months after life as she knows it was decimated, Megan Wolford has only one goal: protect her daughter, Caitlin, at any cost. When a mysterious illness strikes Caitlin down, Megan is forced to forage for medical supplies at a remote lodge. The last thing she wants is help from her fellow survivors when so many in her life have let her down - but soon she'll find herself with no other option.
There was much I liked about this book. First, the world as we know it is no longer there with all it’s technology and governments and such. While everyone believes that a large powerful EMP is the reason, the details are left sketchy, which I found very believable in this new world of limited communications. While folks begin to explore and rely on herbal medicines, they also concede that they can’t cure everything and diagnosing without medical tests is very challenging. The stage is set well and now we just need a good plot and some interesting characters.
I liked Megan at first. She’s determined to find safety for her daughter and she stumbles upon a remote cabin. Pretty soon, she meets the family that lives there: Wyatt, his brother Chase, Chase’s wife Willow, the men’s mother Rosie, Willow’s young son, and also someone’s neighbor Albert. There’s also the guard dog, Duke. Each character brings some skill to the table and I was pleased that Megan was able to pull her weight from the beginning with her hunting and snaring skills.
Now I did get a little tired of Wyatt man-splaining so many things to Megan. Yes, he’s got skills she needs to learn and she’s a willing student, but after the first round or two, I really felt it was venturing into the ‘pat you on the head, you’re such a good student’ realm. We’re often shown, step-by-step, how Wyatt makes a water filter or a food dryer but when it comes Megan’s skills, we’re just told and it’s very brief. So I would have liked some balance there.
Meanwhile, the plot thickens as a shifty character enters the story: Kyle. He’s out for trouble and we know it from the start. Too bad these well meaning preppers want to think the best of everyone. I liked that Kyle brought so much tension and danger to the story. It’s not just about surviving the elements; it’s also about surviving other people.
Megan’s character does get a little whiny later on. She’s got big trust issues and those push her into making some silly and possibly deadly decisions. If I knew more about her background, this might have come off better but as it is, it felt mostly like drama for drama’s sake. Toss in the near insta-love and you have some cookie cutter plot mechanisms in play. Wyatt was falling for Megan by Day 2 and I felt, at that point, it was more about loneliness and perhaps lust than about love. It’s OK for characters to acknowledge that. Still, I was happy with how their friendship deepened towards the end of the book.
Setting aside my quibbles, I felt the pacing of the story was good. I was never bored and I liked that even as they solve one problem, or are planning for a future harsh winter or such, a new problem crops up. There’s also the varying personalities that everyone has to get along with. The setting/world building is what shined in this book for me. 4/5 stars.
The Narration: Andrew Tell did an excellent job with this narration. At first, I was a little concerned because our primary character is Megan and I wasn’t sure Tell could pull off a female voice for the majority of the book. He did just fine as Megan. In fact, all his female voices were feminine and each was distinct from the other. I did sometimes confuse Wyatt’s and Chase’s voices, but they are brothers and needed to sound similar. Tell makes a great grumpy Albert. 4.5/5 stars.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Grace Hamilton. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Detective Norton is a broken man. Still grieving the murder of his girlfriend, he is called to investigate the daylight slaughter of an entire office amid rumours of a mysterious and lethal computer program. As the conspiracy unfolds the technological killer has a new target. Fighting for survival, Norton must also battle his inner demons, the wrath of MI5, and a beautiful but deadly mercenary only known as Orchid.
This story started off promising: sex scene followed by several murders by unknown means. Detective Norton is assigned to look into it and initially he’s stumped. There’s no obvious motive or even murder weapon. Norton is reeling from the death of his girlfriend Mel, so he’s got that beaten down, drown-myself-in-work thing going for him. Norton is what drew me into this story.
Then the mysterious Orchid makes an appearance. She’s got skills and I wasn’t sure Norton would last the entire book. Thankfully, Orchid doesn’t want him dead right away! I went back and forth about Orchid. She’s got this ‘disguise’ and her Evil Mistress name Orchid but then some minor character easily identifies her doing her regular day job. So, not much of a disguise there. She’s fun but turns up too conveniently or gets out of handcuffs too easily. That sort of thing had me roll my eyes a few times.
While the story is indeed fast-paced, I occasionally lost interest in the story. It’s one fight or chase scene or quickie in the office supplies closet after another. There are a few quieter moments, usually when Norton is thinking about his Mel. Those helped balance some of the fast-paced nature of this tale. I did enjoy the scifi techno thriller aspect to the murders even if I found it lacked any substantial detail. The story wasn’t here to show me how such a cyber crime could be possible, but, rather, used the idea as a gimmick to set the stage and occasionally push the plot forward.
The story initially gripped my attention, but then lost it, tried to snatch it back, failed, tried again, gained a bit of interest, and then held it because I knew the ending was nigh. All together, it was OK. 3.5/5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Rick Gregory had to pronounce the word ‘whilst’ far too many times in this story. I don’t know why the author used that word so often. Gregory did give it a second syllable nearly every time which I found to be a little jarring. Other than that, Gregory gave a good performance. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. 4/5 stars.
When the Lazy B Ranch is sold as a victim of the computer age, it seems that J.L. Crockett's way of life as a cowboy in the United States is finished. So he decides to pack up and move to Argentina, where ranches are still run by human beings. As J.L. begins a cross-country journey to Miami so he can board the ship to South America, he meets Karina, another soul chasing after an elusive dream. The two join together in a wild and crazy trip where they encounter evangelists, con artists, thieves, ghosts, and drug lords as they bond together over hardship.
This tale starts off in Florida in 2017 but the bulk of the tale is set in 2007 as the main character, J. L., reminisces meeting his current wife. J.L. of 2007 has just been laid off from a Montana ranch but he has a fall back plan which is to go to Argentina and work as a vaquero there. Along the drive to catch the boat to his new life, he meets Karina, who is also making a journey cross country heading to Florida.
While the set up was there for this to be the romantic comedy it claims to be, it fell flat in many ways. The story felt very dated, Karina’s main purpose in the tale was to be the romantic interest, some of the situations just didn’t ring true, and there just wasn’t much humor at all. I’ve listened to several stories by this author and some of them have been top notch. Alas, this is not one of them.
To be up front, contemporary romance isn’t my cup of tea. With that said, I found the little bit of romance we have in this book to be rather stiff and not titillating at all. In fact, when we get near the end of the story (and we know from the beginning that marriage happens), the whole marriage thing felt more like a business arrangement between two people who have a bit of fondness for one another instead of a great sweeping romance. Now, if that was the plot point, I’d be fine with it. But since this is labeled a romance, I want there to be real romance & heat between these characters.
The book is set in 2007 but it really felt more like 1967. I believe J.L. is in his late 20s in 2007 so I expected some modern ways of thinking. He insists on opening doors for the ladies (which isn’t all bad but when added with all the other dated things, it leaves this impression of a cowboy out of time). There’s some arguments about Custer’s last stand and an old Indian show that J. L. catches. Then that restaurant scene where J. L. was the only one to know the Heimlich maneuver. Then that scene where he splashes a little gas on the vehicle carburetor to get it started and the whole car catches on fire and no one has a fire extinguisher or a fire retardant tarp or even thinks to slam the hood down to smoother the flames. I could go on, but I won’t. All together, this didn’t feel like it was set in 2007.
Karina was a problem for me. For much of the story, she could be any woman. She does get a little background here and there but her lines are pretty standard and she makes few (any?) of the plot-relevant decisions in the story. The first night she and J. L. are traveling together, he offers to sleep in the truck and get her a hotel room. But she counters by insisting they just put up a sheet between the beds. The next day, she confesses that she’s always been afraid of men and that she doesn’t know why (so why were you OK sharing a room with a strange man?). Yet she then launches into her upbringing with a father who beat her mother regularly. J. L. then mansplains the psychology of how she’s afraid of men because her father was an abusive spouse. She then has an epiphany in which all that becomes clear to her. Sigh… Really? Later in the story, she faints and has to be carried. Further on, she says nothing would make her happier than to have his babies. Then even later, she wants a daughter so she can teach her how to be a lady, because gender roles…. in 2017…. sigh. Karina was not a worthy character.
During the 2007 trip, these two get into several situations that could have been funny but they are told so seriously that I didn’t find any comedy in them. Indeed, the main characters rarely laugh at their predicament either. There’s not even any slap stick humor. All told, this wasn’t the story I was expecting. 3/5 stars.
The Narration: Richard L. Walton has a very good cowboy voice. I liked his deep voice for J. L. While he gets a B for effort on attempting distinct character voices, he didn’t usually achieve clear, distinct character voices. Sometimes he used a lighter voice for the ladies, but not always and he pretty much only had the 1 female character voice. For the male characters, he relied on attitude and emotions rather than actual different voices, with the exception of doing a deeper voice for a very minor character mentioned by Karina as she went over a memory. His pacing was good. I did notice some background noise (rustling paper?) once or twice. I liked how he handled J. L.’s rudimentary Spanish while being pretty smooth with Karina’s native Spanish. 3/5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book.
Quantum Hughes' life is stuck on repeat. While trapped in The Loop, a virtual entertainment dreamworld, he struggles to free himself from a glitch that forces him to re-live the same day over and over. Everything changes after Quantum receives a mysterious message from a woman named Frances Euphoria, the first human player he has made contact with in years. Once Frances appears, members of the Reapers, a murder guild, begin surfacing in The Loop, hoping to capture Quantum, or worse - kill him.
Initially, I was drawn into this world that Quantum is trapped in. Every day starts off with yet one more attempt to kill him. He’s got it down to a T now because he’s stuck in this cybergame on some kind of loop. Life holds no more mysteries for him, except for the big one: why is he trapped here and how can he get out? This story definitely has elements of the movie Groundhog Day (which I always found boring) but luckily this story gives us just a taste of Quantum’s repetitive life before something new happens.
Frances Euphoria walks in, boobs first. Yep, her physical attributes are the first things we learn about and her skills only come on display later. In fact, all the ladies in this story (including a voluptuous waitress) are described first by their looks and perhaps, maybe, later by some important skill they have. After I finished rolling my eyes at this, I really liked what Euphoria brought to the table: A possible way out! Quantum will do nearly anything at this point to escape this personal hell.
The plot thickens as Quantum tries harder and harder to escape. He had slipped into a kind of complacency but now as he pushes back against the Loop, more and more deadly things and characters are set against him. There is also an unexpected ally.
Just as I was getting sucked into this tale, we neared the end. Things felt a little rushed towards the end and I wanted more out of Euphoria. While Quantum was surprised by who was behind his imprisonment, it wasn’t a surprise to me. 3.5/5 stars.
The Narration: Jeff Hays never disappoints. All of his character voices were distinct and his female voices are excellent. Also, his enthusiasm for this story came through in his performance. I liked his grumbly voice for Quantum and his ticked off voice for Euphoria. 5/5 stars.
I won a free copy of this book. My opinions are solely my own.