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Enhancer 3 audiobook cover art

Upping the stakes

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-23-19

I must say that I continue to enjoy the adventures of Ty and his team. Things are getting bigger: everyone's abilities, the stakes, the number of superpowered baddies, and Ty's team! Both the writing and narration continue to improve as we move into issue three of our comic book series. I still find it hard to believe we have gone through 20+ hours of audiobook and less than a week has passed. Ty continues doing things that may annoy some (tactical errors and gawking at his lady friends, in particular) but I do see the character growth starting to happen. The flaws in the series continue to diminish as the writer (and characters) grow. The plot, too, has become more complex and less "by-the-numbers."

Do you like old-school comic books? Do you enjoy a little naughty fun along the way? If so this series continues to improve and is well worth your time. This story definitely leaves some open plot points that I eagerly await seeing develop.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Enhancer 2 audiobook cover art

If you liked the first one...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-10-19

It took a little time for me to really get my thoughts together on this one. I left a longer review for the first novel in the series (with a name like "Enhancer 2," I'm sure even the casual shopper can guess this isn't a book one). If you enjoyed the first book I'm sure that you will like the second one.

One criticism leveled at the later books in this series is the lack of growth in the characters, citing examples like his continuing to be in awe of his lady-friends. I did find that to also be true until I thought of something: this isn't a novel. Lots of character growth can take place in a book the length of Terry Goodkind's "Wizard's First Rule." "The Enhancer" series is less like a series of novels and more like issues of a comic book. Less than a week passes between all the events of novels one and two. Character growth is being intentionally suppressed by this shorter length. I did notice in book 2 that the author tends to do a lot of recapping (re-hashing events from book 1), and I hope eventually this dies down.

As with the first series Chris Graves does a good job with the narration. He is best at the action scenes, which really pop. He puts a lot of the tension into the characters at this time. All of the characters have a distinct voice and even the female voices are well-done.

The series continues to be strong from "issue one" to "issue two." I can see what the author is doing: telling an issue-by-issue story that feels like a traditional comic book. Character growth will come, just not as fast as a traditional book reader may be used to. If you haven't read book one go pick it up; if you like what you see jump right into this one.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Enhancer audiobook cover art

A superhero origin - with benefits.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-28-19

Once found exclusively in comic books, superheroes in prose fiction is becoming more and more common. While I am sure that their popularity at the box office is partly to blame for this I think there is another reason. If you're a fan of comic books (like me), you might have come to be disappointed in what is available in comics today. I think old school comic fans are looking for new outlets as the quality of comics decline and I think this type of book is the result.

"The Enhancer" is a pretty typical origin story. Actually, it borders on stereotypical. The plot and characters are fairly straightforward, but good enough for a first novel in a series, particularly for a book of this length. Hopefully this will improve as the series moves forward. The main character is not the flawless "Mary Sue" type who is perfect fresh from the box. He's new at this so mistakes are made.

Where the novel stands out to me is in the world-building. This is a slightly future Earth setting, so advancing technologies makes things believable, if not plausible. I could see things developing in this way, and if superheroes were ever to be "made real" this would make sense. Everything fits together to me.

While this book does fall into the category of the "Harem Gamelit" genre, I would not say it is a typical example. Rather than this being a real person moving into a game (which is getting to be a little overdone for my tastes) the story brings the gaming mechanics into the "real world," so to speak. It doesn't have an impact on the plot but more serves to be used as an explanation of the characters (and is cleverly used, in my opinion). Ty does end up with a "superhero team with benefits," but it makes a little more sense than other harem stories I have read (which at times devolves into "it just happens"; here there is at least a story reason). The book does qualify as "adult" but not by much; I have seen a lot more explicit content out there, particularly in some romance novels.

I would say the narration is above average. The characters stand out well from each other, and none of the voices come across ad ridiculous. Even the female voices (difficult for a male narrator) are decent. The emotion and action stand out in the narration and don't come across as just novel-reading.

All in all I would say this is an excellent start to the series. While the book as a little simple I expect things to improve as the series progresses. I do want to see where things go from here and look forward to seeing the author grow with the team. If you're a comic fan and struggle to find something new to read this is well worth your time.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Greatshadow audiobook cover art

Deserves the stars

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-13-18

I've read quite a few independent titles in my day, and I just want to start out saying that this is a book that absolutely deserves the 4- and 5-star ratings that it has been getting. I don't say that lightly, either. This is the first time I've given anything a 5-star rating. Let me reiterate: this book was worth it. Every. Minute. Everything just works. Normally I'm not a fan of first-person storytelling, but even that worked in this instance. The character telling the story is not the main hero. In fact, he isn't even seen throughout much of the book. (Hah! Try to wrap your head around that!)

It took me a while to put my finger on what was the most compelling thing about the book, then it hit me: this is a genre mashup, cleverly disguised. Superhero fantasy! The characters here are well thought-out, detailed, and interesting. Heroes, villains, and rogues all stand out and are well-developed - the good, the bad, and the (very) ugly. You see their strengths and their flaws, their motivations and their beliefs. They could have come across as overly powerful and nigh-unbeatable, but the dangers they face are as tough - even tougher - than the strongest of them. (Also, this book has the BEST explanation EVER for the old-school pulp fantasy magazine cover metal bikini.)

The setting stands out as strikingly original, as well. This world is unique in that priestly magic dominates instead of the usual scholarly wizard. If you're familiar with old-school Dungeons and Dragons then the the land would be one part Dragonlance (epic storytelling, over-powerful dragons) and one part Dark Sun (elemental magic, powerful heroes). It's a well-thought-out mythology that is unique and added to my interest in the book.

Jake Urry does a great job with the narration. His voice is smooth as silk, and he does a fine job with the characters. I don't think I could have even imagined a better voice for No-Face. His voice was so smooth at times I wished he had a little more variation to his delivery to fit the mood of the situation, particularly in the action scenes.

Stagger and Infidel are on a great quest. There are dragons to fight. Ruins to explore. Friends (and frenemies) to meet like Lord Tower, Relic, Menagerie, and Aurora. Battles will be won. Lives will be lost. Won't you come along? I bet you won't be disappointed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

The Cain Conspiracy audiobook cover art

A fan of '80s action flicks

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-06-17

The Cain Conspiracy is an entertaining first entry into the world of the titular character, Matthew Cain. As I read this book, it came to my mind that this book would be the perfect fit for an 80s action flick. No, don't think Arnold or Stallone. Think more along the lines of Van-Damme or Seagal (any of his three-word film titles, not two word; if you get that reference then you are truly an 80s aficionado).

What do you get? Vaguely-defined shadowy government agencies, conspiracies, faked deaths, every girl falling for the hero, and (best of all) the stripper/hooker love interest. This book hits so many of the action tropes you'll think you've already read it. But, that is the joy of it. If you love that movie genre, or books like "The Bourne Identity" (more the book than the movie in this case) you'll get plenty of enjoyment out of the read.

The narrator is does an adequate job with the reading. Mr. Hayward is is definitely a pro, with smooth narration and good emotion throughout the book. I could have used more differentiation in the characters, as most of them sounded a little too similar.

Is the book a bit cliche? Yes, but in an entertaining way. It ends a little abruptly but leads well into the next book in the series. If you are looking for a fun, quick read you could do worse than giving this title a spin.

Eye of the Moonrat audiobook cover art

The long game

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-16-17

I must say I found this book to be enjoyable, overall. If you love fantasy the tale will pull you in. The story is a good introduction to our young hero Justan, filled with interesting characters, mysterious forces, and a fantastic setting. It has everything you need for a great fantasy tale. Based on the reviews and the fact that Trevor H. Cooley is past Book 10 in the series, other people would agree.

Why, then, do I only give it 3 stars? It's a question of philosophy. Whether you love or hate the "Harry Potter" series, one thing it does get very right is telling an overarching plotline over many books while still telling a self-contained story in each one. That can be a tough thing to do, especially in epic fantasy. I hate it when I read a story and feel like I've not gotten a complete tale. Some of the characters don't even fit into the story to this point, though it's clear they will play a role down the line. I would have rather the author combined some of the books into one long title (Terry Goodkind's "Wizard's First Rule" comes to mind) than break it up. Nearly 12 hours is too long for a serialized production but too short for a "to be continued" end feeling.

James Foster does a good job with the narration. There's a lot of characters and many different races to be dealt with here, and he manages to give each a unique sound. I particularly enjoyed the dwarf - not what I would have expected, but it worked.

If you're a fan of fantasy this book is well worth your time. I wouldn't start it, though, unless you are in it for the long haul. I've already picked up subsequent titles on Kindle, and may very well be adding Audible narration to that soon.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Debt Collector Season One audiobook cover art

A solid genre mashup

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-14-17

'You never know when it's your time to go.'

But what if you did? What if someone could tell you when your time was up - or how much you have left?

'Youth is wasted on the young.'

Further, what if someone could take that time from you, or give you more? What would that life be worth? How much would you pay? Is the reverse true as well - how much money can you get for your life?

Such is the world of Susan Kaye Quinn's "Debt Collector." Lirium, our trenchcoat-and-jackboot-wearing protagonist, is sanctioned to take life and give it to another. Good work if you can get it, but it's not as easy as it sounds. The job takes its toll - physically, mentally, and emotionally. He grows throughout the book to learn what he can and can't - and shouldn't - do.

I love a good genre mash-up - paranormal romance, historical mystery, even military courtroom drama. With "Debt Collector" you get the combination of science fiction and the noir crime novel. The combination works pretty well. The key to making it work is knowing how to work the formulas of each style in concert. For the sci-fi side, the book takes one thing ("taking your time"), changes it, and sees how society might react. That works really well for this concept as we get to see the good and the bad.

The bad is where the noir side kicks in - gangsters, prostitutes, smuggling, corruption, and hard drinking. More importantly to the noir concept than setting, though, is the idea of choices and consequences. The protagonist deciding who is going to be - choosing to do the right or wrong thing, and weighing the cost of doing so. To me that inner struggle is what makes or breaks a good noir and we get it in spades here. Lirium really struggles with what he is - how to be a good man doing what he can do. That struggle makes for compelling characters and good storytelling.

Max Miller does a good job with the narration. There are a lot of accents to juggle throughout the story and he handles them well. Kudos to SKQ on her selection of narrator; he fits the noir style like he is a gumshoe from a 1930's detective movie. It really helps set the mood throughout the book.

I mostly know the author from her young adult offerings. This book completely breaks that mold - it's definitely not for kids! What it is, though, is a great piece of speculative science fiction wrapped in some good old-fashioned noir storytelling. If this is what "not for kids" looks like, all I can say is "give me more."

Hungry Gods audiobook cover art

Superhero horror?

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-20-17

Two things I must admit starting out: I love superheroes, and I (mostly) hate horror flicks. Well, not all horror flicks, but I don't care for most things zombie. Still, the "superheroes for adults" moniker in the synopsis it looked like this might be a little different from the run-of-the-mill superhero book. Most of those that aren't from the major comic lines tend to be all about being a villain, so a book about the heroes would be a nice change of pace.

I have to say that while it doesn't quite live up to the "for adults" part of the description, this book was well worth my time. I say it is not quite "for adults" because Spitball (our main character) is VERY immature, and that was on purpose. You needed someone with fresh eyes to tell this story (no, it's not first person, but it is definitely first and foremost about him) so the newbie (and wannabe) superhero who needs lots of things explained to him makes a good central character. By immature, I mean he's a horn-dog who is a stereotypical Millennial (or at least what pop culture would tell us is the stereotype) who is all about image and social media followers.

Normally I'm not into the zombie story because it is less a sci-fi story and more a disaster survival story. Even other comic book zombie stories (like Marvel Zombies, which had like a dozen volumes) never thrilled me. This time around, though, the focus stays more towards the sci-fi realm. There's plenty of comic book tropes thrown in for good measure, but the way they are used kept me focused on the heroes and not on the possible apocalypse survival angle.

I loved Todd Menesses' narration for the story. While it wasn't groundbreaking, his style felt a lot like a narrator to a comic book cartoon or a voice-over guy in a movie trailer. It tended to keep the action moving and the tension levels high, and that really fit the story. His style might not have been as effective if the story was a long one with lots of fast and slow movements, but for a story of this length and almost constant intensity it really worked.

I noticed that this book is labeled as Book 1 of a series, even though to date no more have been released. My comment to that: please don't stop here. I'd love to see where this goes.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Modern Sorcery audiobook cover art

The paranormal detective

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-26-17

So why is it that the hard-boiled detective and magic seem to go together like hand in glove? I have a theory. First, paranormal is by definition a mystery - the unexplained. Who better than the detective to investigate? Not only that but the way modern paranormal fantasy is portrayed - a world that is a part of ours but unseen and completely hidden - feels a lot like the criminal underworld of the hard-boiled detective. Our detective becomes the perfect person to cross over into this world and solve the mystery.

I think that pretty well sums up how I felt about Gary Jonas' "Modern Sorcery." It's a tried-and-true formula (think Butcher's Harry Dresden) that works very well. While the formula is familiar, he does a good job of mixing it up and keeping it fresh. This time 'round our protagonist isn't the mage; he's quite the opposite (read the book to truly appreciate that). There are no werewolves, gods, or vampires here (though those could come in later novels, if we're lucky). My favorite character would have to be the Jonathan's secretary Esther, a (spoiler alert) ghost.

Unfortunately the one character who I wasn't 100% on board with was our protagonist. Don't get me wrong - overall he's okay. It's just that I think he, of all the main characters, is the weakest. His puppydog pining for the girl who hired him and former love of his life (there's a familiar detective trope for you) was a little over the top. While I enjoyed the detective's snarky attitude, I never really felt the pain or struggle underneath of the man who used sarcasm and snark to hide it. If you're writing the hard-boiled detective story, even in the paranormal world, that has to be at the forefront of the character. I'm not completely sure if it was the writing or the narration that masked these things, but it felt lacking in this one area.

Of course setting and character aren't everything. You still have to tell the story, and Mr. Jonas does that quite well. Magic, mystery, and mayhem (action) take equal parts in keeping things moving along at a crisp pace. The book is standalone and self-contained, although there are plenty more in the series. By the end you'll know whodunnit and why - no cliffhangers or unanswered questions trying to get you to buy the next one or two (or ten or eleven) titles.

The narration is handled well enough. Joe Hempel does an effective job of differentiating characters, and even handles the female voices decently. He manages to add the action to most scenes where appropriate (there is a fair amount of fighting and running in this book - makes me think it would be decent for a screen adaptation), but I could use a little more pain in the voices when characters get hurt (which, surprisingly, happens a lot).

Overall this is a good story and an excellent introduction into the world of Jonathan Shade. If I had a little more ability to finesse my rating I would give it 3.5 stars for both writing and narration, with a little more preference to the writing. If you're into the paranormal detective this book should work quite well for you. The best compliment I can give it: I think I'll look into the next book in the series when I'm looking for something to new read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Confliction Compendium audiobook cover art

Wildly imaginative fantasy

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-05-17

From time to time, long fantasy intimidates me. I admit that I put this on my shelf for a while after I first got it because I was leery about dedicating 24 hours of listening to a single title. Well, I finally got over it and managed to listen to "The Confliction Compendium," and I must say I'm glad I did.

What I found, once I got into it, was a wildly imaginative fantasy realm filled with creatures both familiar and completely alien (forgive the pun; you'll get it when you read it). The Sarax were particularly interesting; I thoroughly enjoyed their development and origins as they were revealed at different points in the story. Even the familiar creatures aren't stereotypical; you have orcs, goblins, ogres, and trolls but not all of them are the bad guys this time 'round.

There is plenty of action to go around, too - maybe a little too much. My mind could wander in some of the longer action scenes because they got slightly redundant. Some of the character gets cut short trying to squeeze in all of the action, and that's saying something for a 24-hour book. Some things just seem to happen suddenly without being given enough time on the page to breathe. Jenka's romance and Richard's changes (I won't say more to avoid spoilers) seemed a little too quick and without a full airing to let the paint dry, so to speak. Marcherion and Aikira don't get nearly enough development here, either.

I'm of two minds on the narration for these books. I did a little digging and it seems the three main stories were recorded a couple of years before the two short tales. The narrator does an adequate job, but in the main three books her reading has a certain sing-song quality to it. The technique world probably work for epic poetry, but it didn't work well here, in my opinion. This style seems to be either muted or gone completely by the time she records the two short stories, so I expect she has refined her technique a bit.

Overall if you're a fan of epic fantasy with large-scale battles and world-ending stakes this book will be right up your alley. Even at 24 hours it will be well worth your time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful