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  • The Alliance of Isian

  • The Isian Series, Book 2
  • By: Serena Clarke
  • Narrated by: Carolyn Kashner
  • Length: 7 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17

War is coming and all the kingdoms must choose a side. Isian decides to make an alliance with their long-time enemies in order to defeat a common enemy. So Isian sends a proposal, offering their daughter to the prince, in order to ensure an alliance. Princess Gabrielle and her new husband, Prince Alec must learn to work together and trust each other in order to triumph in the approaching war.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Good sequel.

  • By Natalie @ ABookLoversLife on 12-29-17

An Improvement Over Book 1

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

Reviewed: 11-18-16

Real Rating = 3.5*

A pleasant, clean, YA/NA fantasy romance.

Source: I received this book for free from the publisher. My opinions are my own.

BOOK DETAILS:
Alliance of Isian by Serena Clarke, read by Carolyn Kashner, published by Red Mountain Shadows (2016) / Length: 7 hrs 30 min

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #2 of 3 in the "Isian" series, but could easily be read as a standalone. Number 3 is not yet available on audio.

SUMMARY:
In my review for Book #1, I wrote how that book didn't really appeal to me until the final third of the story. Thankfully, this book was more enjoyable almost from the start. I still feel that there isn't anything outstanding here, and that the dialog often seems too contemporary, but it was a sweet fantasy romance.

I have tagged the book with diversity, as Gabrielle and her family are POC and their country has different customs & culture.

CHARACTERS:
Gabrielle: Once we got past the beginning, she was a sympathetic character caught in a difficult situation.

Alec: I think the book would have benefited from some chapters from his POV. I never quite felt as if the present day Alec & the Alec from the first time they met were the same person. In fact, despite the flashback and what it implied, I connected more with him for the first couple of chapters.

Gabrielle & Alec: An alternating POV would have benefited the development of the romance as well. I like that they grew closer when they made the effort to spend time together & talk about things and struggled when they forgot to do that. My favorite aspect of the romance was that such things were important, rather than only how blue his eyes are or how beautiful she is.

WORLDBUILDING:
This book gives us another country, in the less magical portion of this world. I would have liked a deeper exploration of the difference in culture and how that would impact things. I would also have liked more details on the magic.

PLOT:
As I stated above, not having Alec's POV meant that the beginning was a bit rocky. Trying to connect how they were in the past to how they are now wasn't as easy as I would have liked. Also, although I disapprove of drunkenness & infidelity, Gabrielle's initial judgmental attitude was off putting.

I think it would have been better if the flashback to their first meeting had been held for later. Then, even without his POV, we would have had a firmer grasp of who they were (or appeared to be) now.

The pacing was better in this one. There was a reveal towards the end that didn't surprise me at all, since I had guessed it from the minute something happened.

The ending, wrapped things up for this portion of the story quite well. But the overall arc of the impending war was left open for next book.

HIGHLIGHTS:
--The get-away cottage
--Alec buys her a gift

NARRATION:
The narration was better in this one, although still not above average. I still like the Isian accent and the speed was good.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Little Fuzzy [Audible]

  • By: H. Beam Piper
  • Narrated by: Peter Ganim
  • Length: 6 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 362
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 270
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 271

The chartered Zarathustra Company had it all their way. Their charter was for a Class III uninhabited planet, which Zarathustra was, and it meant they owned the planet lock stock and barrel. They exploited it, developed it and reaped the huge profits from it without interference from the Colonial Government. Then Jack Holloway, a sunstone prospector, appeared on the scene with his family of Fuzzies and the passionate conviction that they were not cute animals but little people.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An old and much loved friend

  • By Carl on 07-04-09

Will We Ever Be Better?

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

Reviewed: 11-15-16

A classic Adult SF that stands up better than some but still has issues.

BOOK DETAILS:
Little Fuzzy by H Beam Piper, read by Peter Ganim, published by Audible Studios (2009) / Length: 6 hrs 25 min

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #1 of the "Fuzzy Sapiens," series and the only one available on audio. Note: two of the sequels were written by Piper, with some additional ones that were written by other people. There is also a "reboot" of this novel written by John Scalzi.

SUMMARY:
I have been rereading a lot of classic SF now that I have a blog, and some of them have really made me cringe. This one isn't quite as bad. My biggest problem with it lies in the, I really hope we eventually outgrow such behavior, colonial attitudes. It is made clear from the beginning that proving that the Fuzzies are sentient won't mean that their planet will be given back, just that it will be governed differently.

CHARACTERS:
Jack: He's an old codger you definitely shouldn't mess with, but he's actually quite amiable (rather than cranky). There are tons of interesting tidbits thrown out about him, but never explained. When did he set off a thermonuke? Who did he leave behind? How did he end up on Zarathustra, and does he have any plans for the wealth he may find prospecting.

As is typical for almost all classic SF written by men, the ratio of men to women is way above 50%. The only main female character, Ruth, is at least intelligent & educated and contributes significantly to the outcome.

Also, most of the characters appear to pretty un-diverse. There is one man named Akmed. He is described as being the local police leader's "driver," but I think he is simply the officer who "rides" with the chief & does the driving rather than a menial. He also seems intelligent and is sympathetic to the Fuzzies.

WORLDBUILDING:
This planet has a wealth of strange flora & fauna. And I love the way they name things (if a planet is known to be inhabited, they ask a native and write down whatever they say, regardless of whether it is an answer or not).

There isn't a lot of truly advanced technology, other than space travel, from our current prospective. The most out-dated technology is the lack of digital media & data transmission. They still use tape & film.

PLOT:
The book starts with a chapter or two of Jack just going about his daily routine, before introducing the first Fuzzy. I think this is important as a contrast to how isolated his life was before they showed up.

Although there have been sequels written (both by Piper & others), this book really can stand on it's own. It ends with the ruling and subsequent consequences & plans.

HIGHLIGHTS:
--A custom that has developed for formal video communications is for people to "shake hands" by each using a "Chinese" like shaking your own hands gesture.
--The agent is revealed
--Although there's a lot of social drinking going on, Jack avoids drinking away his problems (and another character is struggling with that)

"Take a drink because you pity yourself, and then the drink pities you and has a drink, and then two good drinks get together and that calls for drinks all around."


CONTENT NOTES(?): There is a lot of smoking & drinking going on. / This is the wild west of the galaxy, i.e. when Jack shot people who tried to rob him, it was listed as suicide / There is a brutal (though not gory) murder.

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents = There are some, but who can judge them in the far future. They didn't bother me. / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Fine / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual, and it was a touch fast. / I heard 1 or 2 small errors.

He has a very deep voice, that I didn't love. Mostly I think this is a case where I'm neutral on the narrator. He didn't distract from my enjoyment, but didn't increase it either.

  • Enchanted, Inc.

  • A Novel
  • By: Shanna Swendson
  • Narrated by: Eva Wilhelm
  • Length: 10 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,795
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,606
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,608

Katie Chandler had always heard that New York is a weird and wonderful place, but this small-town Texas gal had no idea how weird until she moved there. Everywhere she goes, she sees something worth gawking at and Katie is afraid she's a little too normal to make a splash in the big city. Working for an ogre of a boss doesn't help. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Katie gets a job offer from Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., a company that tricks of the trade to the magic community. For MSI, Katie's ordinariness is an asset.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fun story of magic.

  • By Debbie on 02-07-14

NYC is Weirder than you Thought

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

Reviewed: 11-08-16

A fluffy Adult Contemporary Fantasy that resonated with me (since I lived in NYC for 4 years, although I never saw any fairies)

BOOK DETAILS:
Enchanted, Inc by Shanna Swendson, read by Eva Wilhelm, published by Audible Studios (2014) / Length: 10 hrs 31 min

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #1 of 7 in the completed "Enchanted, Inc" series. All of them are available on audio.

SUMMARY:
I'm not a huge fan of Urban Fantasy, since I don't really like "dark" and so much of that genre merits the description. It was a real pleasure to find this comedic city based fantasy.

I wasn't pleased with the love triangle that developed later in the book, however.

CHARACTERS:
Katie: I like that she totally willing to the let the stronger people protect her from the "scary bad guys," yet jumps in whenever she can.

There are a lot of other characters in this book, but most of them are just supporting characters. Mr Mervyn is my favorite (although I'm not generally a fan of his story line). Owen is a sweetie, but doesn't get enough development in this book. Sam the gargoyle is another favorite, who I hope to see more of in the following books.

WORLDBUILDING:
So many NYC books & movies have their characters living in apartments that would be nice in other cities but are palatial for Manhattan. Ms. Swendson has 3 women living in a 1 bedroom fourth story walk-up (no elevator) and each paying enough for a 1 bedroom in my city. This is just one of the details that made me feel like I really was reading a book that takes place there.

Although technically this is an urban Fantasy (since it takes place in our largest city), it is not Urban Fantasy in tone. There are fairies & other fae type creatures, and humans who can use magic, but there don't appear to be any vampires or werewolves. And this is definitely light comedy.

PLOT:
It felt like it took a bit long to get to the good stuff. I would have liked a bit less set up of her situation at her old job. And some of the stuff with her friends could have been moved to after she gets her new job.

The main situation for this book is resolved at the end, so there isn't an actual cliffhanger. But the overall situations in the magical world and Katie's romantic life are completely unresolved.

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
--The way she commuted to work in comfortable shoes and changed when she got there. I've totally done that lots of times.
--The scenes where she goes out with Mr. Mervyn to help him get used to the city (not on a date).
--The description of their Matrix wannabe opponents at the duel

CONTENT NOTES(?): One of Katie's roommates is completely comfortable spending the night with a man she just met. / A number of characters, including Katie, get drunk. / Some sexual innuendo.

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: The whole girls night out and frog kissing stuff just wasn't funny to me (although I know it sets up important stuff later).

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes, she mostly changes the tone of her voice for these / Accents = I really would have liked a bit more Texan, but Katie does try to suppress it. There wasn't much NY in anyone's accent, but that is actually consistent with my experiences in Manhattan / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good. I especially want to note that she pronounced Houston St the correct NYC way (how-ston) which few people do / Emoting = Good. I really liked it / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual, and it was perfect

Her voice is a bit unusual. If that sometimes bothers you, be sure to check out the sample before buying.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Only You Can Save Mankind

  • By: Terry Pratchett
  • Narrated by: Richard Mitchley
  • Length: 4 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 180
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 148
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 150

As the mighty alien fleet from the very latest computer game thunders across the computer screen, Johnny prepares to blow them into the usual million pieces. And they send him a message: We surrender. They're not supposed to do that! They're supposed to die. And computer joysticks don't have 'Don't Fire' buttons. But it's only a game... isn't it?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Another Terry Pratchett delight

  • By Amazon Customer on 06-21-12

What is Real?

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

Reviewed: 11-05-16

A fun little MG Paranormal SF that may require some explanation of history.

BOOK DETAILS:
Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett, read by Richard Mitchley, published by Random House Audio (2011) / Length: 4 hrs 11 min (this is the Unabridged version)

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #1 of the "Johnny Maxwell" trilogy. All of them are available on audio.

SUMMARY:
Like most Pratchett book, this one is a pleasure to read for people who love interesting characters.

Note: It takes place during the first Gulf War; so you might need to explain who "Stormin' Norman" is, and other such things, to children who are going to read it. It isn't absolutely necessary though. The book has some interesting commentary on how the war is just another "show" to kids who have grown up with lots of different screens in their lives, and yet they can't help but be affected by it.

CHARACTERS:
Johnny: On the surface, he's an absolutely normal tween kid in a home that is breaking up. And yet this is just the first of the weird things that end up happening to him. He isn't sure if he's crazy or this is real, or even what "real" is. I think his character can be summed up by the fact that he's the only one who listened and was willing to answer.

Kirsty: She's used to being the best at everything she does. But she also expects things to be the way they "should" be. Her character can be summed up by saying that Sigourney Weaver is her hero.

There is a fun cast of quirky supporting characters that includes Johnny's 3 best friends (this is definitely the "left-overs" clique) and the Scree Wee captain.

WORLDBUILDING:
This is Gulf War era small-town England. And it is video game space ship interiors. One of the best bits of worldbuilding is the way Johnny's fighter comes with all sorts of smells, sounds, and tastes he didn't expect when he is "in" the game. Real life (even a virtual version) just has so many additional dimensions.

PLOT:
It starts with Johnny having died 6 times already (and it isn't even 5 o'clock). I was pulled right in by him, his likeable ordinariness, and the baffling situation he now finds himself in.

Although there are 3 books in this series, they are each completely separate adventures. The ending wraps up everything with a typically quirky (and entirely satisfactory) detail.

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
--The food delivery run (and the alien's way of describing human foods)
--The changes that take place inside the game world once Kirsty enters.

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: The game pirating (enabled by a father who copies the instruction manual at work) / Parents who try to be "friends," but don't make sure that their children have clean clothes and something to eat. / A couple of small vulgarities

OTHER CAUTIONS(?): Johnny & his friends sometimes do each others homework. / Big Mac is a self-proclaimed skin-head, but one of his best friends is black (sorry, I don't know the British equivalent of African American), and he spends a night in their home with no problems. I think it is all part of his effort to look tough to the people in his bad area of town.

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes. The captain's voice sometimes approached irritating. But I think he did an excellent job with Kirsty "actually." / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents = Mid-Atlantic? Sound good to me / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

  • Prom Night in Purgatory

  • Purgatory, Book 2
  • By: Amy Harmon
  • Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
  • Length: 8 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 66
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 59
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 60

By some miracle and against all odds, Johnny and Maggie are given a second chance at life and love. But Johnny is freed from Purgatory only to find himself in a totally different time and place, in a world full of strangers. One unsolved mystery becomes another, and Johnny and Maggie must unravel the past to have any chance at a future. Prom Night in Purgatory is the sequel to the love story that is unlike any other, where time is shifting and everything can change, and Maggie must fight for Johnny all over again.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Unique take on time travel

  • By K.R. Patterson on 03-21-15

Time Travel in Texas

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

Reviewed: 11-03-16


A slightly confusing but wonderful YA Paranormal Romance.

BOOK DETAILS:
Prom Night in Purgatory by Amy Harmon, read by Emily Woo Zeller, published by Tantor Audio (2014) / Length: 8 hrs 18 min

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #2 in the "Purgatory" duology.

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book.**

SUMMARY:
I wasn't sure that I wanted to read this. Sometimes I worry that it might be better to leave things the way they ended previously. But in the end I couldn't resist. My first time through, I wasn’t able to keep it entirely straight. But I enjoyed it enough to listen a second time. The issue is flashbacks, paranormal “dreams,” and time twisting.

However, and despite their issues in this book, the central romance remains a favorite.

CHARACTERS:
Maggie: Poor girl, she thought all her wishes had been granted; but life isn't usually that easy. She continued to fight for what she wanted though. When she told him that she missed the way things were between them, it really touched me.

Johnny: I really wanted to shout that he had suffered enough. And it was difficult to see him struggle to understand what had happened, and yet in a way it was harder to read about him the way he used to be.

Maggie & Johhny: When things are good between them, they're the best.

I still love Gus, and Maggie's grandma Lizzie is a wonderful addition. Although it is sad to meet people in the past who are already dead in present time.

WORLDBUILDING:
We get the interesting experience of seeing the modern world through the eyes of someone from the past (although I wish there was more of this) and also seeing the past through someone from the future.

PLOT:
As I said, it is very convoluted. We do finally get our conclusive ending this time though. Some good changes happen, and some not so good changes can't be undone.

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
--Prom night, especially the parts at the reservoir
--The reason Johnny's favorite color is pink. *smirk*
--Maggie's reasons for waiting

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: The scene in which a nurse removes Johnny's catheter. / Mild swearing / Johnny's lax attitude towards stealing

OTHER CAUTIONS(?): Johnny romances a teacher (in the past) to try and get out of an assignment / A story is told about someone who interrupts a sexual assault. / Another woman experiences an incident of verbal & physical abuse

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes, I especially like Lizzie's / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents = Still no real sense that they are all in Texas / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

  • The Crucible of Empire

  • By: Eric Flint, K. D. Wentworth
  • Narrated by: Chris Patton
  • Length: 16 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 134
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 121
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 120

Humanity is first subjugated by haughty alien colonizers calling themselves the Jao when Earth is unexpectedly attacked by the implacable and nearly-unstoppable Ekhat, exterminators of all intelligent life not their own. Now the fragile Human-Jao alliance is put to the test. A devastating encounter with the Ekhat in a distant nebula reveals a powerful alien society that may hold the key to defeating the Ekhat once and for all. There’s one big problem: they utterly loathe humanity's ally, the Jao.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Sequel to The Course of Empire

  • By David Hurwitz on 10-26-12

Withholding Final Judgement

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

Reviewed: 11-01-16

An uneven, possibly overly long, Adult SF story with some great characters.

BOOK DETAILS:
The Crucible of Empire by Eric Flint & KD Wentworth, read by Chris Patton, published by Audible Studios (2012) / Length: 16 hrs

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #2 of 3 in the "Jao" trilogy. Book #3 was just recently published, and is not currently available on audio.

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book.**

SUMMARY:
This book was a bit hit or miss for me. There were some parts that I loved, some I didn't enjoy as much, and a few I didn't like at all. In general, it seemed like a side trip. It's been left for the third book to explain why it was necessary.

CHARACTERS:
Tully: Still a favorite. He has really grown & changed, but isn't quite comfortable with that fact yet himself. It is interesting to see a spy who was always on the move try to become a leader.

Caitlyn: I found her sections to be even more boring than in the last book. She is an interesting character, but I just don't enjoy reading things from her POV.

Jihan: I'm with Tully and did not like the Lleix culture at all (although I understand how damaged it is by what has happened to it). That made it difficult to enjoy her parts as much as I might have if she had had different surroundings.

Pranks aside, my favorite new character is Kaln, the female Jao tech. Although, by the end, Terra Captain Dannet was shaping up to be very interesting also.

WORLDBUILDING:
I would still like to get more details about the state of current Earth society. We are given a deeper understanding of Jao culture, especially as experienced from outside the highest circles. And the Lleix culture is very clearly laid out. There are some great descriptions of their city and it's conditions. Although I didn't like their culture, these latter explorations of their setting and least important residents were good.

Note: there isn't really any acknowledgement of difference in time (i.e. years old) based on your planet.

PLOT:
We begin with Tully, who was one of my favorite characters in the first book. Most of the major characters from before get at least a cameo in the first few chapters. The current time (2 years later) and situation are made clear. It should be easy enough for someone to get oriented even if it's been awhile since they read the first one (or if they haven't).

Unlike the previous book, which had lots of POVs that were all part of the same set of happenings, this book has two different stories that come together in the middle.

Some concepts were repeated too many times after any reasonable reader should have already understood them.

I love the endings. The Ekhat situation isn't resolved, and even the Lleix are still somewhat in limbo, but it is hopeful and sweet.

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
--Tully & the surviving Krant officers.
--Everyone comes together for the first time
--Tully & the Lleix outcasts


I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Swearing / the pranks stuff, even if it is central to the plot / anything with Ekhat POV, nasty

OTHER CAUTIONS(?): There is some discussion of human sexual practices from an outside perspective.

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents = Good, especially since they were mostly aliens / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual


  • Nim's Island

  • By: Wendy Orr
  • Narrated by: Kate Reading
  • Length: 2 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 664
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 559
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 558

Nim lives on an island in the middle of the wide blue sea, shared by only her father, Jack, a marine iguana called Fred, a sea lion called Selkie, a turtle called Chica, and a satellite dish for her e-mail. No one else in the world lives quite like Nim, and she wouldn't swap places with anyone.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Enchanting for All

  • By Carol on 06-03-08

Just this Side of Reality

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

Reviewed: 10-29-16

An enchanting MG Contemporary Fantasy

BOOK DETAILS:
Nim's Island by Wendy Orr, read by Kate Reading, published by Blackstone Audio (2008) / Length: 2 hrs 25 min

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #1 of 3 in the Nim series. It is the only one available on audio.

SUMMARY:
It could be argued that this book is not really fantasy, it is just a book about a very imaginative little girl who is good with animals. That's probably true; but it reads more like a fantasy than a straightforward contemporary, so I feel comfortable reviewing it here on the blog.

Although the book is very short, it feels longer (in a good way). And it is strong in all three areas I generally review (see below).

CHARACTERS:
Nim: Although she is very mature for her age, and able to take care of herself pretty well, she is also a typical child. She loves to have fun, such as playing coconut soccer with her "friends," and throws a bit of a tantrum when things aren't what she thought they were.

The human supporting cast includes Jack (her father) & adventure writer Alex(andra) Rover. If I was reviewing this as a contemporary review, I might have to say some harsh things about Jack's parenting. But I'm not, so I can say that he is a loving & fun father who is raising a smart & self-sufficient daughter. / The animal friends are bursting with personality. Selkie, the sea-lion nanny, reminds me of Nana from Peter Pan.

WORLDBUILDING:
Although in real life I would probably hate the heat & humidity, this definitely makes me want to take a vacation to her island. There are so many details here of all the wonderful things in Nim's life. As well as a few not so wonderful ones, such as dead & rotting things - yuck.

PLOT:
This is a really short book, and yet a lot of things happen. We get to start out with a more typical view of her life with regular chores & scientific chores plus fun with her animal friends. Then things start to get more & more serious as she loses contact with her father and complications ensue. The ending resolves all of these issues while leaving their future open to changes.

HIGHLIGHTS:
--All the times they say they love something "the way..."
--An avian postman

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: dead sharks

CONTENT NOTES(?): Nim's mother died in an accident at sea (caused by the irresponsible actions of others.)

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes, I wasn't always fond of Alexandra's / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good, especially angry Nim / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

  • For Love of Mother-Not

  • A Pip & Flinx Adventure
  • By: Alan Dean Foster
  • Narrated by: Stefan Rudnicki
  • Length: 8 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 472
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 282
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 287

He was just a freckle-faced, red-headed kid with green eyes and a strangely campelling stare when Mather Mastiff first saw him an the auctioneer's block. One hundred credits and he was hers. For years the old woman was his only family. She loved him, fed him, taught him everything she knew - even let him keep the deadly flying snake he called Pip.Then Mother Mastiff mysteriously disappeared and Flinx took Pip to tail her kidnappers.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Best read in chronological order

  • By Christopher on 06-11-09

Where it All Began

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

Reviewed: 10-27-16

An interesting YA prequel to a long running (though now complete) NA SF series.

BOOK DETAILS:
For Love of Mother-Not by Alan Dean Foster, read by Stefan Rudnicki, published by Audible Studios (2009) / Length: 8 hrs 15 min

SERIES INFO:
This is (chronologically) Book #1 of 14 in the completed "Pip & Flinx" series, all of which are available on audio. If you prefer to read in publication order, it is #5.

SUMMARY:
This is probably my favorite of the Pip & Flinx adventures that I have read (I am currently a little over half way through the series.)

CHARACTERS:
Flinx: His ethics aren't what I would consider acceptable, specifically regarding other people's property. But considering his lack of true parental guidance, I guess it's to be expected. He is such a complex yet essentially likable character though.

Mother Mastiff: Very interesting as a fictional character, but not someone I would entrust with an actual child. She does really love him, and makes some unselfish decisions to try and protect him.

WORLDBUILDING:
Let me start by saying that I spent many years in the Pacific NW of the US (where it rains a lot), and I think I would go crazy living on a planet where it rains nearly constantly.

This is not a "central" world; so, although there is lots of tech that is more advanced, it is mostly the little things. A favorite piece of tech is the oil based version of a water bed (it sounds nice & toasty, and I'm writing this in the Fall). And I really like the large riding bird that Flinx eventually rents.

The book doesn't really try to get you up to speed on all the details of the vast Humanx Commonwealth. That's actually OK, because Flinx's "world" is much smaller at this point. I never felt like I had a firm grasp on the details of the market area Flinx grew up in, however; but once we got out into the forest, the descriptions were great.

PLOT:
This is the first book, chronologically, in Flinx's story, but it was not written first. In a way, it is just a much longer version of all the prequel novellas being written now days to fill in a character's backstory. But there is also a fully developed adventure here as well.

That mix means that we jump fairly quickly through Flinx's childhood before getting to the main body of the story. I really like the beginning, with his meeting Mother Mastiff. The rest of his childhood seemed a bit rushed. The last hour is very engrossing, and does a good job of setting things up for the remaining books in the series.

HIGHLIGHTS:
--The moment when Flinx first takes Mother Mastiff's hand
--There are some interesting perspectives on who are "good people" vs "bad people" and how outward behavior and attitudes can be one thing while your goals can be another.

CONTENT NOTES(?): Children can be "adopted" from the government by paying a fee (i.e. slavery, although they don't like to call it that). Abuse, by some, of the process and the children is hinted at. / There is a group of people who basically feel that any horror is justified if it is for the greater good. / Flinx is a teenage boy and experiences the usual physical & emotional responses to an attractive older woman.

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Some swearing / I don't think it is a good idea to give a small child complete freedom. / Theft

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes, mostly through mild accents & manner of speaking. It is not strong for minor characters. He has a very deep voice, so neither the child nor female voices sound authentic; but they are acceptable. / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = The non-dialog parts are a bit flat / Emoting = Good enough, for dialog / Speed = Slow. I listened on 1.5, rather than my usual 1.25, and it is still a touch slow.

There was a small repeated section

  • The Sleeping Beauty

  • Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, Book 5
  • By: Mercedes Lackey
  • Narrated by: Gabra Zackman
  • Length: 11 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 323
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 295
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 295

In Rosamund's realm, happiness hinges on a few simple beliefs. For every princess there's a prince. The King has ultimate power. Stepmothers should never be trusted. And bad things come to those who break with Tradition.... But when Rosa is pursued by a murderous huntsman and then captured by dwarves, her beliefs go up in smoke. Determined to escape and save her kingdom from imminent invasion, she agrees to become the subject of one of her stepmother's risky incantations - thus falling into a deep, deep sleep.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing - one of the best in the series

  • By grayfortress on 07-23-13

Wagner meets... The Sleeping Beauty

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

Reviewed: 10-25-16

This Adult Fantasy, which mixes various fairytales with "The Ring Cycle," is one of Lackey's better 500 Kingdoms novels.

BOOK DETAILS:
The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey, read by Gabra Zackman, published by Audible Studios (2013) / Length: 11 hrs 5 min

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #5 of 6 in the "Five Hundred Kingdoms" series. These books can easily be read as standalones.

SUMMARY:
Although I feel that Ms Lackey's newer books lack the narrative tightness & emotional punch of her earlier work, this one is the one I like the most. I enjoy the characters, even the disreputable ones, and find more of the story to be interesting.

Note: it is not necessary to be familiar with "The Ring Cycle" at all. Ms. Lackey does an excellent job of presenting the slightly altered details she has based this on.

CHARACTERS:
There are 3 main protagonists in this story.

Rosamund: Her father is the King and her mother, the late Queen, was once a commoner who got her HEA. Although she is definitely a damsel in distress, she does everything she can to save herself. And although she is strong, I like that at a particularly low moment she lets her self cry and be hysterical. Also that she still needs some help.

Siegfried: Although his background is very similar to that of Wagner's character with the same name (and he is running from a prophecy that he will marry his Valkyrie aunt), he is not the same type of person at all. He is intelligent, honorable, and very likeable. He has an intelligent Bird who keeps him company. Although he used to think that girls were icky, now he thinks that having someone "all his own" would be nice.

Godmother Lilly: She is a true Faerie Godmother (in this world, some Fairy Godmother's are talented & trained human women). She has been watching over the Kingdom for 100s of years. Some FG's take care of multiple kingdoms, but this one comes with enough troubles to keep her busy. She relies heavily on her mirror servant Jimson who is a great side character.

WORLDBUILDING:
This takes place in a a world where magic has taken on a power of its own in the form of The Tradition. This is a non-sentient force that seeks to push everyone into typical fairy tale roles regardless of whether it will make them happy or not. There are Fae folk, but they don't have a big presence in this book; there are also mythical creatures such as unicorns; and all the typical fairy tale trappings.

PLOT:
I did feel like it took quite awhile to get to the most interesting parts of the book, and that maybe it should have started a bit later and flashbacked some more. Once all the main characters come together and are known to each other, it really picks up. (Note: this seems to be an issue with many of her newer books, I feel like the main story did start a bit sooner here than in others I've read.)

I wish we had gotten more parts with Rosamund and her future husband interacting together, although I liked what we did get. And there is one section where everyone is having to answer riddles and it jumps back and forth so much that it's hard to tell which answers go with which questions (this may only apply to audio version, I don't know).

Since each of these books is essentially standalone, we get a very satisfactory ending that wraps everything up nicely.

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
--The "waking Sleeping Beauty" scene
--The "get rid of the curses" quest
--Siegfried's courting gift to Rosamund

CONTENT NOTES(?): Leopold is someone who is partial to tumbling any willing woman and liable to “take liberties” if allowed to. / Another couple talks about seducing each other.

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: A male character is laughed at for being a virgin. /
Mild swearing / Non-graphic harm to animals

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents = Sounded good to me / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

I find her voice very soothing, which makes this a great "comfort listen."

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The City of Ember

  • The First Book of Ember
  • By: Jeanne DuPrau
  • Narrated by: Wendy Dillon
  • Length: 7 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,472
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,081
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,091

The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she's sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever! This stunning debut novel offers refreshingly clear writing and fascinating, original characters.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Good story; annoying narrator and background sound

  • By Jolie B on 05-26-12

I Couldn't Forget It

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

Reviewed: 10-22-16

A Post-Apocalyptic MG book that refused to disappear into the back of my brain.

BOOK DETAILS:
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, read by Wendy Dillon, published by Listening Library (2004) / Length: 7 hrs 6 min

SERIES INFO:
This is Book #1 in the completed "Book of Ember" trilogy, all of which are available on audio.

SUMMARY:
The first time I listened to this book, I enjoyed it but wasn't really that impressed. I did not add it to the list of books I was considering buying. However, after the second time I re-borrowed it from the library and listened again, I realized that there was just something about the characters and their story that appealed to me. The next time a deal was available, I snapped it up.

CHARACTERS:
Lina: She is bright and active. She tries to get adult help when she believes she has found a way out of their predicament. And she doesn't give up the first time it doesn't work. I also like how she takes care of her grandmother & little sister.

Doon: He is moody and active. He doesn't understand why more people aren't trying to fix their problems. However, he has a deep need to be special & to receive recognition. This causes him to avoid opportunities to share what they've found.

I like that they used to be friends but, after a childhood incident, had drifted apart. So there is a sense of something new here, despite the very narrow nature of their world.

WORLDBUILDING:
Ms DuPrau did a good job of painting a picture of a dreary run down city and it's hand-me down wearing citizens. And I was very struck by the fact that outside the city, there is only darkness.

And we got a clear picture as we went along of how their society worked as well. It is sad that such young children are sent out into the work place, but I guess there isn't any need for additional education in their situation.

PLOT:
The Prologue seemed a bit awkward at first, with two people sort of telling each other things they probably already should have known. I really liked the stuff about the mayors and what happened to the box though.

Note: You really have to suspend disbelief that all the canned good and other supplies would last more than 200 years. (Maybe the "storage rooms" were vacumn sealed.)

The ending is somewhat of a cliffhanger, since the fate of the citizens of Ember is not resolved.

HIGHLIGHTS:
--Doon finds Poppy
--Lina sits with her ailing grandmother in the dark
--There are some adults who are helpful

CONTENT NOTES(?): There is a character with a disability who is also described as very unattractive and who is up to no good.

NARRATION:
Character voices differentiated = Yes, I wasn't fond of several of them though / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes, I actually liked some of them better than some of the females / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = / Emoting = / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

Ms Dillon did a superb job of reading "The Instructions," despite what happened to them.

I'm not really a fan of music in audiobooks, and this wasn't an exception. And the sounds effects were occasionally too loud. (The noises were supposed to be loud, but I want to hear the narrator.)