LISTENER

superstardrifter

  • 69
  • reviews
  • 102
  • helpful votes
  • 210
  • ratings
  • Straight Outta Fangton

  • A Comedic Vampire Story
  • By: C. T. Phipps
  • Narrated by: Cary Hite
  • Length: 7 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 146
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 142
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 141

Peter Stone is a poor, black vampire who is wondering where his nightclub, mansion, and sports car is. Instead, he is working a minimum wage job during the night shift, as being a vampire isn't all that impressive in a world where they've come out to mortals. Exiled from the rich and powerful undead in New Detroit, he is forced to go back when someone dumps a newly-transformed vampire in the bathroom of his gas station's store.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • So funny, you'll die!!!

  • By Jason on 09-29-17

Great narration and chuckles to be had.

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

Reviewed: 12-03-18

This is the story of Peter Stone, who is a vampire who has been exiled by his maker from his hometown of New Detroit, where vampires are actually quite numerous. He makes his way by working at a convenience store, not unlike a 7-11, with his boss the werewolf drug addict, and his friend and servant (someone who serves a vampire for a time until they change them).

When they find a newly made vampire in the ladies room of the store one night, one who was made and then left there alone without any of the support a newly made vampire would need, Peter steps in to help her out, and to see if he can figure out who she is and why someone would do this to her. In trying to figure it out he runs into all kinds of vampire shenanigans.

This story wasn’t too bad. It was well written and engaging enough that I never had a problem staying interested in it. I liked Peter, as a character, and I rooted for him to win the day, so to speak. This one, like the Weredeer series is full of pop culture references, some of which seemed admittedly a little out of place at times, but not too often.

Cary Hite, the narrator, was probably most of the reason I liked this book as much as I did. He was a fantastic narrator for this book, and he made every character in it come to life for me. I especially loved his narration of the character of Thoth (I dunno if I spelled that right, because audiobook) who is Peter’s maker. He’s described as having a very slight Caribbean accent, and Cary Hite totally nailed it. It was just perfectly slight. So super well done on the narration front. I’ll definitely endeavor to listen to books that he narrates in the future.

All told, I had a pretty good time with this one. It wasn’t my favorite vampire fantasy novel, but it was certainly an interesting idea to see things from the POV of a poor vampire in a city full of vampires and how he makes his way in the world.

This review is based on a review copy.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Killer Dungeon

  • By: Phil Tucker
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam
  • Length: 11 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 155
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 148
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 148

I'm entering the endgame. Even as I gain new allies, new gear, and greater understanding of Albertus' true plans, the odds are growing more extreme. Who can I trust? What is the AI Albertus Magnus trying to accomplish? What happened to archmagus Jeramy, and why is Guthorios massing an undead army so vast that it stretches from horizon to horizon? Any sane player would quit. Any reasonable person would admit defeat. But I've got no choice. I'm going to see this battle through to its bitter end. I'm going to unearth the secrets behind Euphoria Online - or die trying.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Read

  • By Miket641 on 10-26-18

Great conclusion to a great series!

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

Reviewed: 11-14-18

Wow this was a fantastic listen. One of those audiobooks that I had trouble finding time for, and yet *made* time for no matter how difficult it was to do so.

I love those. :D

I'll keep this as spoiler free as I can, but in this volume, things are all coming to a head, as the real reason for things having happened, or things happening are coming to light. What is the AI Albertus' real goal in creating Euphoria Online? It's up to Chris and his friends to find out! DUN DUN DUN Shenanigaaaannns.

This was absolutely my favorite book in the trilogy, and it's safe to say that I really liked books 1 and 2, so the praise here is high. This one had all kinds of action, and intrigue, and espionage, and near deaths, and what have you. It was very engaging and exciting all the way through. I was immersed in the story from start to finish. I would totally play Euphoria...

...I mean, even knowing the dangers inherent in doing so. I'd be all up in that. Maybe not on Death March mode (okay definitely not on Death March mode...) but all the same, I would be all up in that.

I especially liked the romance subplot that happened throughout the series, because I can relate! I met my husband in an MMO, and so it was nice that there was the inclusion of two players who both had all the feels at each other while killing baddies on the side. :D

Vikas Adam once again nails the narration on this one. He brought all the characters to life, and gave each of them their own accents and tones. He's very easy to listen to for long periods of time, and so it works out when authors I like have books narrated by him. It's truly a win-win!~

All told, this one is another easy 5/5 stars from me. I never thought I would love LitRPG as much as this, but here we are. I enjoyed this series from the start to the end. A great conclusion to a great series!

  • Nightmare Keep

  • By: Phil Tucker
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam
  • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 210
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 199
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 199

I've managed to survive my first week in Euphoria Online. But I couldn't have done it without my new friends. Lotharia. Falkon. The Green Liver goblins. But now Lotharia's gone missing. Swallowed by that nightmare keep. Lost to the darkness. Everyone's telling me that going after her is madness. That I don't have a chance in hell. But I'm not the kind of guy to turn my back on my friends. Damn the odds. I'm going to find her.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent!

  • By superstardrifter on 10-23-18

Excellent!

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

Reviewed: 10-23-18

Ahhhh man. This was a great addition to this series. In this one, Chris’ new friend Lotharia has disappeared into the titular Nightmare Keep after the events of the last novel, and Chris makes it his main goal to get her back.

Through goblins and undead, and more goblins and crazy exes, and… a group of high level mercenary players intent on finding the treasure of Nightmare Keep… and then some decidedly creepy stuff in the actual Keep itself…. he is dead set on getting her back.

This one, just like the first, was a really great listen. The plot flowed really well, and the book was never boring. Twists and turns made it really interesting, and I found myself getting all kinds of work done as I listened to this one in huge chunks during my work day. Parts of this one were legitimately feels inducing too, as we’re starting to find out just how crazy Euphoria can be.

Chris is a great character, and it’s really hard not to root for him. Falkon is another character that I’ve really identified with… the main reason being that in the last two or three MMO games that I played with any regularity, I played a male character (which was apparently *super* confusing. I mean for the amount of dudes who play female characters in MMO games… you’d think….? But, no. Super, super confusing, in my experience!) ^_^

There were a few parts here that got really deep as well, especially between Chris and his psycho ex girlfriend, and just how toxic that relationship was, and continues to be, really. Chris’ relationship with his friends, new allies, and possible allies whose true goals are sort of up in the air. Nightmare Keep is much, much more than it seems, and it was a truly exciting adventure trying to figure out what was going to happen next. This series is so well thought out and put together with really details about not only the stats and abilities that Chris gets, but also bits of Chris’s life outside of the game and a bit more of an in-depth look at the things that lead him to start playing the game in the first place. It really is engrossing in not only the gaming parts but the real life parts as well. Though it isn’t pointed out too often, I never forgot why Chris was doing what he was doing. There was always a little bit of real-life consequences added to the obvious in-game consequences in the back of my mind while I listened.

Once again, Vikas Adam nails the narration on this one, but at this point, there is never any question on that front, at least to me. He just has a pleasant sounding voice, and is one of those narrators that I can just… listen to for long periods. One would assume that most narrators would have this quality, but for me it’s really more rare than you’d think. He narrates a few other LitRPG books that I’ve been planning on listening to for a while, so I’m quite excited to explore this genre a little more with his help.

All told, this was another win from Phil Tucker. I think it’s pretty safe to say at this point that I’m never disappointed with anything he writes. His characters just grab my attention and hold on tight until the end, and like Asho and Acharsis grabbed hold and took me on grand adventures, Chris definitely has as well. I’m excited to see what is in store for him in the final book in this series. Onto book 3!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Elder Ice: A Harry Stubbs Adventure

  • By: David Hambling
  • Narrated by: Brian J. Gill
  • Length: 2 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 48
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 44

In this novella set in 1924 London, ex-boxer Harry Stubbs is on the trail of a mysterious legacy. A polar explorer has died, leaving huge debts and hints of a priceless find. His informants seem to be talking in riddles, and Harry soon finds he isn't the only one on the trail - and what he's looking for is as lethal as it is valuable. The key to the enigma lies in an ancient Arabian book and it leads to something stranger and more horrifying than Harry could ever imagine.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Great Lovecraftian Adventure

  • By Aaron on 02-20-18

Great listen!

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

Reviewed: 10-05-18

Well then. This was a very short audiobook (only coming in at about 3 hours) so this review is probably going to be pretty short as well!

This follows the exploits of Harry Stubbs, a former boxer and now solicitor who specializes in collecting on debts. He ends up following quite a mystery after investigating a rumor that Ernest Shackleton, despite being very much in debt at the time of his death, had found and brought back something priceless on one of his earlier Antarctic expeditions. Dun… dun…. duuuuuuuuuuunnnnn.

The prose was quite well done, and the story was well written. A fair amount of historical research regarding Shackleton’s expeditions went into this story, which was nice. A fair bit of boxing knowledge was in there too. I think it could have been a tad longer, but at the same time, I don’t mind a short audiobook to accompany an afternoon of work, and the story did wrap itself up before the end of the book. It wasn’t too short, I just wish it was longer is all.

This audiobook is narrated by Brian J. Gill, and I will tell you that if he didn’t do the introduction to the audiobook in his natural accent, I would have had no clue that he wasn’t British. He performed this one absolutely beautifully, making each character unique and bringing them all to life with really great accents. Very entertaining, at any rate. Doctor Evans, the tardigrade doctor was my favorite character. So excited about tardigrades! So, so excited.

It’s refreshing when you get a self-published audiobook that has such great narration. I listen to many of them, and have found many with such good narration, but there were also quite a lot that weren’t so good, so I’m always curious when I pick up one where it’ll fall on that spectrum. This one is on the really good side, so hooray! :D

All told I had a really good 3 hours with this one. It was quite an entertaining listen, with some really interesting and unique ideas that were presented really well. All and all, I think I can safely say that I had 4/5 stars of a good time with this one.

*This honest review is based on a free review copy of the audiobook.

  • City of Lies

  • A Poison War Novel
  • By: Sam Hawke
  • Narrated by: Rosa Coduri, Dan Morgan
  • Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he's a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state. But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising...and angry.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful listen!

  • By superstardrifter on 10-03-18

Wonderful listen!

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

Reviewed: 10-03-18

Wooow what a great listen this one was!

This is the story of Jovan and Kalina, who are siblings and nobles who have quite close ties to the Chancellor and his heir. Because while Jovan and Tain, the Chancellor’s Heir are best friends, their relationship is rather more than that. Jovan is a proofer. This means that he’s a master of poisons, and he tastes everything that Tain eats first, just like Jovan’s uncle does for the Chancellor.

Kalina, Jovan’s older sister, started training for this, but ultimately, her body has a malady that made it so she was too weak to handle the poisons involved. So Kalina was trained in other arts that helped her keep the Chancellor’s family safe.

Suddenly, the Chancellor and Jovan and Kalina’s uncle are both poisoned by an unidentifiable substance, and not long after they succumb to it, an army masses outside the city and puts it under siege. They call the nobles of the city spirit killers and refuse to negotiate or back down.

So the hunt is on to find out who poisoned the chancellor and why, and what it has to do with this army besieging the city.

Poison shenanigansssss!

Jovan and Kalina, who tell this story in alternating first person views, were both characters that I rooted for, and very very interesting to me. Interesting in that both characters are disabled in their own way, one physically and the other mentally, but they are never portrayed as less than anyone else because of their illnesses. Kalina suffers a lifelong malady that makes her body weaker than the average woman her age, and while she does what she can to keep herself as fit as she can be, there are times when she is exhausted, sore, and just physically weak. Jovan I could relate a little better to, as he suffers from some pretty legit anxiety and OCD. It will affect him from time to time, especially if unexpected or dangerous things are happening, which they often do, or if he is stressed, which the events of this book definitely make him. I can relate, and I found that the anxieties were definitely realistically portrayed. They certainly poked at mine a little, though not enough to make listening problematic (alas, that has happened before with other books). Each sibling worries over the other because of these ailments, and the relationship between them was really quite sweet at times. The best part though, is that neither character lets their disabilities hinder them from being really awesome. Jovan at the very least actually uses his anxiety to his advantage at least once, which was really cool.

This one played out as a fantasy murder mystery, which was awesome, because I do like a good mystery in my fantasy from time to time. I really quite enjoyed trying to figure out who the baddie was, and found myself completely in the dark about it throughout the entire thing, which was great. It makes twists and turns that threw me off the scent, and revealed clues that seemed important that turned out to be unimportant and vice versa. By the end of this book, I had suspected pretty much everyone except Jovan and Kalina, and I mean everyone, lol. The last few hours of this thing were a total thrillride of wondering what was going to happen and if things that happened were really for realsies happening. My feeeeeels!

The narration for this audiobook was fantastic. Dan Morgan, who narrated Jovan’s chapters, and Rosa Coduri, who narrated Kalina’s both brought their respective characters to life for me, especially Kalina. I would turn this book on at work and fall into this world as they told the story, and suddenly it was time to go home. Audiobooks that can do that to a work day are certainly something special. :)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Day of the Martians

  • The Martian Diaries, Volume 1
  • By: H.E. Wilburson
  • Narrated by: Terry Thompson, Harry Preston
  • Length: 2 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 13
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 13
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 13

The terror of the coming of the Martians has become a distant memory, a bad dream that has faded with time. It is now 1913 and the cosy, suburban life of the writer from H G Wells' iconic The War of the Worlds descends again into a Martian nightmare. A cylinder from the previous invasion has been unearthed in Wales, intact and completely sealed from the Earth's atmosphere, then transported to London for no apparent reason. It is unclear whether there are Martians still alive inside it after more than a decade.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Volume 1

  • By Zoe on 05-12-18

Not bad, but has a really odd soundtrack

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

Reviewed: 09-11-18

The Day of the Martians is written as a sequel to H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. It takes place 10 years after the Martians came to Earth with their heat-rays and it follows a man (presumably the same narrator as War of the Worlds) and his wife, as they investigate a projectile that has come from Mars to Earth and landed in Wales. The Martians, it seems, are planning on coming back to (spoiler alert for a book published in 1898) try and kill the bacteria that killed them the first time they came so they can get on with that invading and killing everyone thing.

The idea certainly had merit, but I will admit that I didn’t really love this audiobook, and it’s for a couple of reasons.

First of all, while the general narration of this story is quite good, there is a constant musical soundtrack playing in the background of it, and it got really distracting, and really old fast. Some of it is the sort of music that you would hear on an ambient trance album, so, while I understand that this is more-or-less sci-fi, the fact that it takes place in 1913 made this more modern music feel out of place and took me out of the story. There are times that the story and the music try and mingle together too. One part specifically sets out a bit of dialog (and it’s important dialog, don’t get me wrong) and mixes it into the music in what sounded like a really weird 80’s rock music remix of these 2 lines of dialog. Really, really odd. That was the only time that happened, so I’m not sure what purpose it served.

That said though, there are some cool sound effects at times that try and bring you back into the story, and it works sometimes, but again, sometimes these are sometimes over the top and overused. If the music wasn’t constantly going in the background, I might have been more inclined to give the overuse of some of them a pass, but it all mixed together at points and again, became distracting.

The writing itself wasn’t bad, and it told the story pretty well, though it certainly wasn’t Wells. I don’t know if I fully believed that we were in the timeframe that we were supposed to be in all the time, but that honestly could be due to the psy-trance beat happening in the background.

The narrator did a good job, all told. This story is told in the first person and he tells it quite well from the narrator’s point of view. He has a good voice for this sort of production, I think. It was certainly a production, but I’m not sure that it benefited from the level of production it got, in the end.

So, it wasn’t the worst audiobook I’ve listened to, and it was only two hours long so I don’t feel like it was a waste of my time at all, but I didn’t love it. I would have liked it quite a lot more had it not had a BGM soundtrack from a 90s adventure game/goa trance/random choirboy singing/piano concerto/easy listening guitar playing in the background. It was so bizarre at times and distracting that I couldn’t really stay engrossed in the story.

But, so it goes. I’ll call this one a 50/50 – 2.5/5 stars.

Thanks to the author for the review copy.

  • Death March

  • By: Phil Tucker
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam
  • Length: 9 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 303
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 292
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 290

I sacrificed everything for my family. It wasn't enough. I lost my mother, and now I'm about to lose my brother. I've got only one thing left to gamble: my life. Which is why I'm willing to play Euphoria Online in Death March mode. If I survive six months in-game against a lethal array of wyverns, ogres, necromancers, and more, I'll earn my brother a pardon. If I lose? Well. I'm done with losing.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Really great start! Can't wait for more.

  • By superstardrifter on 08-31-18

Really great start! Can't wait for more.

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

Reviewed: 08-31-18

Well then. I finally got some time to sit down and listen to this badboy, and while it’s only 9 hours or so long, it still took me a while because of so, so many other things happening in my life. I hate when that happens, but c’est la vie!

However this is one of those books that you just fall into for a while and you don’t realize how much time has passed since you started. I had an afternoon at work just fly by here, and before I knew it it was time to go home. That’s always good!

This is the story of Chris, who is a teacher and sometimes-pro-gamer, and in a rather untenable position. All he has left of family in the world is his brother, and his brother is in prison. He was caught scavenging off the coast of Florida, which in this world is partially flooded, and scavenging is a big no-no. There’s word that he’s going to be given the death penalty as an example to others as well, so Chris is scrambling to find out how to help him.

Suddenly and in seemingly the nick of time, Chris’ ex-girlfriend calls and says she has a free weekend pass for Euphoria Online, and would he like to have a go at the newest, most awesome game in the universe? Well, yes he does, because he has a brilliant idea!

Euphoria Online is a game that brings you right into the world. Your brain is hooked right into it, so it’s a much more real experience than any of these VR games that are all the rage. But, as such, it costs several thousand dollars for a weekend in the game. Good news though! One weekend in the real world feels like 6 months in the game. So at least you feel like you’re getting your moneys worth. There’s also a hardcore mode, like in Diablo for example, which in this game is called Death March. You get to die one time. Period.

Of course, with your brain all hooked in there and stuff, Death March is going to really for realsies kill you too, so there’s that. :D

But! If you manage 6 months in game in Death March mode without dying horribly, Albertus, the AI master of this game will grant you pretty much anything you ask. Money, houses, cars, visas…. or pardons. So, Chris is going to survive 6 months in Death March mode to get a pardon for his brother.

Of course, that’s not going to be as easy at it sounds.

I really enjoyed this one. I liked Chris as a character and I really wanted him to succeed in his quest. I liked that his character, while being suitably awesome enough to… yanno, not die immediately, was still fallible at times. He makes poor decisions at times, and he pays the price for doing so. It was quite fast-paced and the adventure was hair-raising when it needed to be, and took a bit of a break when needed as well. The addition of another character that he runs into, Lutharia, was neat. There was a bit of a romantic subplot here, which was actually really cleverly done, since charisma checks will often subvert a chance to be flirtatious in a way that doesn’t sound cringeworthy. Other characters Chris meets on the way are also fun. I especially liked the goblins.

Many books in this genre focus on stats a little too much for my liking, but this isn’t one of them – it seems to focus more on abilities than stats for many things. While the constant repetitive nature of some of the details of character sheets and what have you doesn’t always translate into audio well, it didn’t bother me overmuch here. This one is certainly repetitive when it’s time to look at stats, but I find that I could listen to Vikas Adam repeat things several million times and not really get sick of it, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice. ^_^

Guys, honestly, finding a narrator you really enjoy listening to and then getting *super* excited when you learn that they are narrating things by your favorite authors is one of those things that makes life worth living. :D

I am admittedly rather hesitant to jump into most of the LitRPGs I see (and there are very, very many to choose from at this point), since I had some real not-great experiences with a few of the first ones I ever listened to. I have been trying to choose far more carefully than I did a couple of years back. Thankfully, this is one that I never worried about not liking. Phil Tucker has never disappointed me thusfar, and so I was quite glad to hear that his kickstarter was a success.

This one gets 5/5 stars from me. I would totally play Euphoria Online. But not on hardcore mode. Man, that never goes well for me… my deeds of valor have absolutely been forgotten forever. :D

I can’t wait for the next audiobook in this series. ^_^

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Torn

  • The Unraveled Kingdom, Book 1
  • By: Rowenna Miller
  • Narrated by: Moira Quirk
  • Length: 14 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24

Sophie, a dressmaker and charm caster, has lifted her family out of poverty with a hard-won reputation for beautiful ball gowns and discreetly embroidered spells. A commission from the royal family could secure her future - and thrust her into a dangerous new world. Revolution is brewing. As Sophie's brother, Kristos, rises to prominence in the growing anti-monarchist movement, it is only a matter of time before their fortunes collide. When the unrest erupts into violence, she and Kristos are drawn into a deadly magical plot. Sophie is torn - between her family and her future.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Enjoyable but slow

  • By Tiffanie H on 04-17-18

Really gripping story!

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

Reviewed: 08-07-18

This one gained my attention back when it first came out because it involves a magic system that involves sewing. I got the audiobook with the entire idea that I would do some cross stitching while listening to it, but it didn’t end up working out like that. Oh well! :D

This is the story of Sophie, who is a seamstress in the city of Galitha. Her and her brother Kristos are common folk in the city ruled by the noble class. Their parents both died some years earlier, and were originally from the country of Pellia, where charms and curses and other such superstitions and magical abilities are still fairly commonplace. Sophie learned from her mother how to cast charms, and now makes a decent living running her shop and discreetly selling charmed clothing to the nobles.

Kristos on the other hand, is part of a radical group of common folk who have become more vocal as tensions between the noble class and working classes have increased. The common class wants more equality and a say in lawmaking and whatnot, and the nobility is… well, the nobility. Kristos is quite involved with these rebels, right up until they take him hostage in order to force Sophie to use her ever increasing friendships with some of the nobles in the city to make a cursed bit of clothing for someone in the royal family.

So, Sophie finds herself in between doing as she must to see her brother safe again, and an increasingly serious relationship with one of the most noble of dukes in the city.

I thought this book was fantastically written, with lovely prose, and brought so much well described tension to the table at times that I had to take breaks because the tension and the emotion that this book threw at me was getting me all riled up. That’s a sign of good writing! I will admit that when I went in, I was not expecting this book to have a real good fist fight with my feels, but it certainly did. I liked Sophie as a character, and I really wanted her to succeed against the antagonists. The revolt that plays out over the course of the story was very well plotted out and unfolded in a way that I felt was believable and totally could have happened in real life. The magic system was really neat, and while the magic wasn’t really the driving force of the story, it definitely added a level of mystique to the whole thing. I enjoyed the romance that played out in this one as well.

It had absolutely wonderful narration as well from Moira Quirk, who made all the characters sound suitably different and gave even male characters, like Kristos and Theodor really great voices. I sometimes have a hard time with female narrators, but her voice is very pleasant to listen to, and this book, when I had time and inclination to listen, seemed to just fly right on by.

All told, it was a great use of 14 or so hours of your time, if you like books with an interesting and old-world feeling magic system, with sewing, and a well written and believable proletariat revolt, and a bit of romance all in one package.

  • Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders

  • By: Richard Ellis Preston Jr.
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 11 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 339
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 314
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 316

In a postapocalyptic world of endless snow, Captain Romulus Buckle and the stalwart crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must embark on a perilous mission to rescue their kidnapped leader, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the impenetrable City of the Founders. Steaming over a territory once known as Southern California — before it was devastated in the alien war — Buckle navigates his massive airship through skies infested with enemy war zeppelins and ravenous alien beasties in this swashbuckling and high-octane steampunk adventure.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Exuberant Steampunk Swashbuckling Adventure!

  • By Joki on 01-28-14

As steampunk as it could possibly be! :D

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

Reviewed: 07-09-18

This is very probably the steampunkiest steampunk book I have ever read (or listened to) in my entire history of steampunk reading (of which there has actually been a decent amount). Mind you I knew that it was going to be steampunk AF, because read the title and then look at the cover, lol.

This is the story of Romulus Buckle and his crew of his airship, the Pneumatic Zeppelin. He’s only 18 years old, and yet, he is the captain of a ragtag group of orphans and other survivors in this dystopian Los Angeles. He and several of his foster brothers and sisters, who are also the commanding officers of the zeppelin, are about to embark on a dangerous mission to rescue the leader of their clan and foster father, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the City of the Founders.

This world is a dystopian version of our own. Many years ago, aliens came visiting and… the Earth ended up in endless winter after a war with them. Moreso, some parts of certain parts of it are covered in deadly yellow fog known as the Mustard. So, in and around the former city of Los Angeles, there are several ‘clans’ of people. The biggest clans in these parts are the Crankshafts, of which Romulus Buckle and his crew are part; the Alchemists, scientists and astronomers who live in Hollywood, in what I assume is the Griffith Observatory, and who build robots; the Imperials, who build airships; and the Founders, who live in Los Angeles – the titular City of the Founders.

The Founders have kidnapped the leaders of the other clans for some reason, and it’s up to Buckle and his crew to save them. And thus:

STEAM-POWERED SHENANIGANS!

As I said, this might be the steampunkiest book I’ve ever read. However, that said, at times it almost felt as though it was trying too hard to be as steampunk as it possibly could, as just about every steampunk buzzword you can think of is included in here at some point, and nearly every character has the most ridiculous name and is so over the top with steam powered gadgets and tophats that it was a little comical, to be honest.

There was one point where Romulus lands on the ground and passes a sign that says ‘espresso’ and quips to himself that he has no idea what espresso is, and the only thing that I could do was chuckle and say to myself: ‘seriously, literally everything in your entire world is steam powered and you don’t have an espresso machine?’ >.>

Nonetheless, I will say that everything technical in this one sounded legit. The author either knows quite a bit about naval commands or how to fly zeppelins or did his research well. Romulus and his crew, despite pretty much nobody in it being much older than their mid-twenties for some reason (and it gave the book a real… maybe not YA but definitely more New Adult feel… but whatever we’ll roll with it) know all the nitty gritty of how their zeppelin works, and how to fly it. Everything that needed to sound technical did, and this was quite an adventure with plenty of exciting things happening.

I’d say this one was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow meets Bioshock, meets Star Trek TNG, meets… Pirates of the Carribean. Something like a mix of all of those things dropped into post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. It’s not that this is a bad thing. Looking at that sentence… I mean that sounds awesome, right?

Well, at least I think so. :D

And it was pretty damn entertaining, if I’m honest!

Luke Daniels did a great job narrating this one. Characters all sounded different and had appropriate tones and accents. There was a couple foreign accents that all sounded excellently done. All told I’d give the narration a full 5/5 stars. I do believe that I will someday give the next book in the series a listen, because this one left the story open for more.

  • The Poppy War

  • A Novel
  • By: R. F. Kuang
  • Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
  • Length: 18 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 520
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 485
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 485

When Rin aced the Keju - the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies - it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard - the most elite military school in Nikan - was even more surprising.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • whiniest character

  • By James on 12-04-18

Wow. Just... wow.

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

Reviewed: 07-01-18

Wow. Where to start?

This one started out with Rin taking her exam, and I thought to myself ‘this isn’t so bad’ because, of course all ten of the people that recommended this book to me said that it ends a lot differently than it starts. Yeah… uh… not a lie, that.

This is the story of Rin, who is a a war-orphan in a small village in the south of the Nikara Empire, which is more-or-less China. She works in her foster-parents’ shop, which is a cover for their opium smuggling operation. She’s regularly beaten and starved by them, and all she dreams about is a way to get out. She dreams of taking the Keju exam, which, if she does well on it, could get her into a school far-far away from her village where she could thrive. She aces the exam, which nobody expected, and gets to go to Sinegard, which is a prestigious military academy in the north. When she gets there, Rin finds that it’s certainly not easy to be the one dark-skinned peasant southerner among the beautiful, pale, rich AF nobles who all attend Sinegard.

As Rin gains her military education, she finds out that she has a link to the gods through shamanic powers. These powers, as it happens, can be brought on and enhanced by psychedelic drugs, so she’s got that going for her. Her Master at the academy is slowly teaching her how to meditate to reach the gods. At the same time, Nikara and Mugen (more-or-less Japan) are getting closer and closer to another Poppy War, of which they have had two previously. It can probably be said that this book is based around our own world, most especially around the second Sino-Japanese War. And this war does come, and Rin finds herself directly in the middle of it and thrown head first into not only the military, but a very special branch of it known as the Cike, who are shamans, each with a different power from a different god.

There are plenty of influences from Asian mythologies. The twelve provinces of the Nikara Empire are named after the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. The Kirin/Qilin was mentioned a couple times, which is a sort of antlered dragon type creature (though, they’re also considered to be unicorns depending on where you are) said to arrive with either the arrival or death of a great ruler. There are mentions of the Four Holy Beasts, or the Four Symbols in the Chinese constellations. the Black Turtle in the North, the White Tiger in the West, the Vermilion Bird in the South, and the Azure Dragon in the East. I know them as Genbu, Byakko, Suzaku and Seiryu respectively, which is what they are known as in Japan, but they have different names in Korea, Vietnam, and in China. Is my mythology nerd showing again? >.>

The characters in this story were fantastically developed, and I found myself rooting for some and hating others, and then making entirely instantaneous switches here and there. Other than Rin, who is a pretty complex and awesome character herself, I really liked Nezha, who is Rin’s rival at school, and Altan, who is Rin’s commander in the Cike. Rin changes really profoundly as this book went on, but so too does one of the other major characters.

This book starts out light. That’s the only way I can put it. Part one is a rather… maybe not typical but… certainly not super-dark romp through a military academy. Rin goes to school. There are fights. There are rivalries with other students. There is tension with certain teachers. There was nothing inherently new about the idea, but I didn’t not enjoy it. I thought it was slow at times and at one point I said to myself ‘everyone told me this was the best debut of the year… and it’s good, but I’m not so sure about best…’ It’s not that I thought it was bad. Not at all, it’s well written from beginning to end. And it wasn’t boring, but it was fairly standard military school fantasy fare.

Then we get to part two. Part two definitely ramps up the action, as this is when the war more or less begins. There are some actual military maneuvers here, and Rin, along with her new compatriots in the Cike, go out and actively fight people from the Federation of Mugen, and fight actual monsters. And it gets a bit darker here for sure. Characters definitely start showing some truer colors here and characters I hated I ended up liking, new characters are introduced and I really liked a few (especially Ramza). But, I mean I was told this book was pretty bruuuutal, and while part two was moderately brutal… it wasn’t super duper dark….

And then came part three.

..........part three.

This book gets bruuuuutal in part three. Just… wow. Hold on to your butts. If you’re opposed to reading books with themes and events that are very savage, things like crazy violence against everyone, including children, with rape, torture, and genocide on top, um, maybe skip this one. Because yeah. You’re not going to have a good time.

All told, I started out being not so sure I was going to love it. I originally wasn’t planning on writing a full review when I was done, but maybe throwing up a few sentences and a rating at audible, amazon, and goodreads and calling it day. But, I ended up just having to sit here in solitude for a while afterwards just thinking about what I thought about it, which led me to my keyboard, and so here we have it. Any book that I started out rather indifferent about, but in the end had me sitting here like ‘gods above and below what in all the worlds even was that?’ is probably looking at being pretty good. Any book that has me being like ‘WHAT?!?!’ more than once during the last four hours has to be good. Admittedly, the subject matter in the end made it hard to listen to at times, but all the feelings and responses it evoked despite or because of those things made it very easy to know that this is a damn good book. Damn. Good. This book surprised me. I had warnings about it, and it still surprised me. This book -ruined- me. And books that do that can’t possibly be bad.

Bad books don’t make me ugly cry. I’m just saying.

The narrator, Emily Woo Zeller did a really great job. I was on the fence about that too because while I listened to the sample before I bought this in audio, and thought it fine, I have previously not really liked a book she narrated, and I wasn’t sure, thinking back, if it was the book or the narration or both put together that I didn’t really like. Well, no worries here, because she was awesome. Characters’ voices on point, areas where feeling needed full of feels. Well done!

If this book had went along with the same tone as part one had, it would have been a 3 or a 3.5. But no, this one got more and more stars as it went, ripping stars out of my poor feels. So, it ended pretty strongly with 5/5 stars. I’ve heard it called the best debut of 2018 by more than one person. It doesn’t quite make it there for me, but man, it’s close. I’m definitely, definitely looking forward to more from R.F. Kuang.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful