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  • Street Rats of Aramoor

  • Street Rats of Aramoor, Book 1
  • By: Michael Wisehart
  • Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • Length: 16 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 665
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 635
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 633

Ayrion has been training to fight since he was old enough to walk. As far back as he can remember he’s always had one dream - to be the youngest warrior of his clan. Unfortunately, Ayrion learns the hard way that being the best isn't always a good thing. After a tragic accident rips away his dreams and leaves him without a home, Ayrion heads south to the capital city of Aramoor in hopes of starting a new life. That journey will test him in ways he had never expected, forcing him to use every ounce of his training just to stay alive.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Should be classified as Young Adult

  • By MissRed on 12-28-18

Constant Adventure; Admirable Hero; Wonky World

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

Reviewed: 12-10-18

Street Rats of Aramoor is written as kind of two books side-by-side. The first leg of the adventure involves a magically gifted young killer-in-training, Ayrion, struggling to find his place in his clan within the unique cloistered society he grew up in. Ayrion and his supportive family run into problems with the clan head family, and as a result, Ayrion finds himself on route to Aramoor where his heritage has less chance of hindering his ability to survive. The first leg of the journey involves Ayrion's odd path to Aramoor, and the second leg involves Ayrion's initial adventures within the city.

Pros:
Ayrion is a likable hero who tries hard to do the right thing and be the best he can be. He is a proactive protagonist, for better or worse, and has a level of energy appropriate for his age. He meets several interesting characters along his journey, although his personal growth isn't huge and he does act against his main stated motivation of survival on occasion. Ayrion has a fair number of successes and failures, and his choices go well with a thirteen year old warrior in training that is trying to figure out a world different than the one he has been immersed in his whole life. The story is heavy on adventure, and includes several physical conflicts and some well-placed interpersonal conflicts. The tension and release cycle is pretty well-managed, for an overall smooth experience.

Cons:
The world gets a bit wonky inside Aramoor. The street rat tribe system is just hard to buy, and the series of events leading to the final conflict, and even during the final conflict, are hard to make sense of. Ayrion's choices, as well as the consequences for them, just seem off. This sense of 'off' is why I took a star off the story rating. I also wanted to mention the reuse of very similar personalities for the same-age female characters encountered by Ayrion; this also hurt the engagement in the story for me slightly. I feel like those characters acted very oddly for their age, and also very similarly to one another. I hope the author refines his writing for these characters for any subsequent stories.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Web of Eyes

  • By: Rhett C. Bruno, Jaime Castle
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 495
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 476
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 474

When a piece of the crown prince's soul is stolen by a traitorous warlock, disgraced knight Torsten Unger makes it his sworn duty to get it back and save the last hope for the kingdom. But he can't do it alone. Self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Thief" Whitney Fierstown sits in the castle dungeon, destined for the gallows until Torsten offers this choice: rot and die in a dank cell or join him on a dangerous expedition to put his skills to good use and earn his freedom. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I loved this book!

  • By Joliet Jill on 11-15-18

Interesting World; Standard Tropes; Well-Delivered

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

Reviewed: 12-10-18

Web of Eyes is a swords and sorcery style fantasy that is driven by an unfolding mystery about interacting divinities. A dedicated knight must tolerate working with a goofy adrenaline-junky thief to recover an object that he thinks might help the mentally unstable queen focus on her duties. This is not the most mind-blowing fantasy story I have listened to, but it delivers a decent experience and has enough of a larger plot to make me interested in the next leg of the story.

Pros:
Web of Eyes has a smooth tension and release cycle. It has mysteries to be solve, interpersonal tension, and foes to be slain, all of which are believable enough to engage in the story without being so painful as to make it feel like a cartoon. Whitney is a goof that borderlines on cartoon, but still manages to be a fun and funny character. Torsten is a bit of a grump, but his interaction with Whitney is still amusing. Beyond the characters, the draw for me is the greater story of the conflict of the divines, which is unfolding as the kingdom struggles with weak leadership. I also like the world building with mentions of other nations, although the details on those are still pretty light at this point.

Cons:
The villains and opponents are pretty common tropes. The character interaction sometimes seems forced as well, although not a major problem. The main rub is that the kingdom really seems to have had no right to be successful in the first place, considering the administrative abilities of the leadership (not just the queen either). That foundation of the plot is shaky, and the villain had too easy a time initially. Those things hurt my engagement with the story somewhat.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter

  • By: Michael J. Sullivan
  • Narrated by: Michael J. Sullivan, Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • Length: 13 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 5,594
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 5,294
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,277

When Gabriel Winter's daughter mysteriously disappears and is presumed dead, the wealthy whiskey baron seeks revenge. Having lived in Colnora during the infamous Year of Fear, he hires the one man he knows can deliver a bloody retribution - the notorious Duster.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • By Mar! A brilliant addition to my favorite Chronicle

  • By Gina on 12-30-17

Well-Done, Smooth, Mystery/Adventure Sub-Epic

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

Reviewed: 11-14-18

The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter is a swords and sorcery fantasy novel in the well-known Riyria Chronicles setting featuring the usual Hadrian and Royce duo as the main characters, with several well-developed secondary characters. The novel has themes of oppression and vengeance, action and love (but not sex), and some mystery and magic. Readers new to Sullivan should note that while there is a decent amount of action and some intense scenes, the descriptions of gore and gruesomeness are vague enough to allow the listener to imagine them to their desired level of detail.

Pros:
There is a pretty good tension and release cycle, with ample use of humor and investigation to break up scenes of desperate action. I especially enjoyed the description of Royce's various chase scenes in this novel; they were exciting and suspenseful. I also liked the ruminations of Royce and Hadrian, who are both discovering more about themselves as they go along; those might be a bit boring to others, though, especially if they haven't listened to the Riyria Revelations books. Evelyn and Genevieve were really fun characters too, I thought, though Evelyn was a tad unbelievable. Royce's solution to the climactic problem was pretty satisfying, too; I can't believe I didn't think of that before Royce pulled that stunt.

Cons:
Griswold was inconsistent and hard to believe; I feel like his character disagreed with his final actions. Mercator also acted surprisingly considering the character Sullivan built for her. Characters whose actions disagree with who they seem to break immersion a bit. Sullivan tried a bit too hard to get readers to dislike Vilar I think, making him act not-quite-human. Still, these are little things that don't deserve a star to be taken off.

Overall, I found the book well worth a credit and look forward to additional works in the series.

  • How Children Succeed

  • Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
  • By: Paul Tough
  • Narrated by: Dan John Miller
  • Length: 8 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,024
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 876
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 867

The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: Success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues for a very different understanding of what makes a successful child. Drawing on groundbreaking research in neuroscience, economics, and psychology, Tough shows that the qualities that matter most have less to do with IQ and more to do with character: skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Heavy on Anecdotes, light on data

  • By Gregory on 01-21-13

Reality check on success skills; good writing

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

Reviewed: 10-16-18

How Children Succeed is a book about presenting evidence of success skills beyond school subjects through the use of narratives. If you have listened to other books on this topic, you likely have come across similar topics presented in different ways. The narratives were interesting, and the book was an easy listen. It is a reminder to me as a parent to pay attention to the character skills that do not show up on report cards, and help my children develop them when I can. It is also a reminder to avoid creating an environment of constant stress, which according to this book practically amounts to a disability that children have to overcome in order to learn normally.

The book goes over which character skills to pay close attention to when it comes to a child being able to grow into a self-sufficient adult. I cannot recite all of the characteristics from memory, but some important ones such as grit and self-control stuck.

The message on stress is a little more depressing. I'm not worried especially for for my children, where we have a pretty stable environment and are pretty good at balancing intermittent challenges with the comfort of regular meals, shelter, and attention; however, I'm concerned for children of inadequate environments who experience violence or potential violence, inconsistent and inadequate care, indifferent or hopeless guardians, or other stressors on a constant basis. There are those that can experience changed circumstances and grow adjusted and self-sufficient, but for many the disability of the constantly stressful environment is too much to overcome. This makes me sad, and I hope mentoring and other programs, as well as the individuals that struggle to provide an adequate learning environment for children, can develop and make progress in erasing the inadequate environment. Because of that important message, I recommend this book to pretty much anyone, in case one might have the opportunity to change the circumstances of a stress-disabled child.

  • The Spear of Stars

  • The Cycle of Galand, Book 5
  • By: Edward W. Robertson
  • Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • Length: 20 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,449
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,238
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,221

The White Lich has conquered Tanar Atain. Soon, he means to take the entire world. Dante suspects his next target will be Bressel, where the Tanarians have established their court in exile. The only chance to stop the lich will be to forge a fragile alliance between the bitter enemies of three different lands: Tanar Atain, Mallon, and Narashtovik. The city stands on the brink of rebellion. Yet even if Dante, Blays, and Gladdic can unite it, they still might not have the strength to stand against the army of the lich.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another Galand hit!

  • By Carrie on 10-12-18

Unexpected progression with twists, mystery, humor

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

Reviewed: 10-15-18

The Spear of Stars delivered exactly what I was looking forward to. I've listened to and/or read each one of the stories in this universe, from the Cycle of Arawn through the Cycle of Galand series. This volume featured more action than normal, but still managed a good tension cycle and was packed with plot rather than filler (unlike some stories... you know who you are ;)). There were mysteries to be uncovered, a large threat to manage, periods of hope in the struggle followed by setbacks. Overall, a very satisfying experience, like the other books in the series.

For potential listeners who are wondering what they are getting into, this is a swords and sorcery series that follows the life of Dante Galand and his childhood friend Blays Buckler through a variety of challenges, including those of self-discovery. The author builds and presents his characters pretty well, and while Blays and Dante share some mannerisms and speech, they grew up in a similar area and have spent much of their lives together. The focus of the stories is generally on presented external problems that usually involve mystery and clever solutions, and often grand adventure. There is some macabre humor, as Dante and Blays generally have to use whatever tools they have at hand to deal with a situation, and the solution isn't always nice and clean. Or... is hardly ever nice and clean really. So, expect lots of battles and blood and gore, but balanced by not being unnecessarily gruesome in description thus leaving you to stay in your immersion zone. Romance and sexual themes are general in nature and aren't usually focused greatly upon in the Cycle series, and are basically nonexistent in this leg of the story.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Kings of Paradise

  • Ash and Sand, Book 1
  • By: Richard Nell
  • Narrated by: Ralph Lister
  • Length: 25 hrs and 31 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 32

Ruka, called a demon at birth, is a genius. Born malformed and ugly into the snow-covered wasteland of the Ascom, he was spared from death by his mother's love. Now he is an outcast, consumed with hate for those who've wronged him. But to take his vengeance, he must first survive. Across a vast sea in the white-sand island paradise of Sri Kon, Kale is fourth and youngest son of the Sorcerer King. As the first prince ever forced to serve with low-born marines, Kale must prove himself and become a man, or else lose all chance of a worthy future, and any hope to win the love of his life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Grimdark at its finest

  • By C.T. on 10-09-18

Showed promise, but story degenerate into torture

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

Reviewed: 10-09-18

After the first quarter of the book, I was pretty into this story; there were interesting protagonists Ruka and Prince Kale in two separate story lines, and decent world-building. Ruka was sympathetic at first and Kale was likable and fun with his marine efforts. The performance was decent. As time went on, Kale, who one would think the book would focus on a bit more, seemed to drift into the background, Ruka degenerates into an evil psychotic animal (NOT a genius), and we get introduced to Dalla, also eventually a psycho (this time a religious flavor of psycho).

After hearing about the success of Dalla into getting into the priesthood through the extremely unlikely arrangement of miraculously successful assassin trash men, and Ruka torturing a bard ally for no real reason, I couldn't immerse myself in the story anymore and stopped. The author was having protagonists unnecessarily act like evil imbeciles; this kind of thing usually seems reserved for poorly-motivated antagonists as a plot device, but in this case the author had to keep trying to breathe life into Ruka's and Dalla's characters by lamely adding scenes that showed that their victims were flawed too, so what they were doing might be justified.

This my second disappointment in a row for fantasy books that showed promise and then degenerated into petty filth. I do not normally like to leave reviews for unfinished books, but I made it about 13 hours into this one and I'm pretty confident in my recommendation not to listen to this one. The plot just seems to stumble over and fall into a gutter halfway through.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Journey to the Black City

  • By: Keith R. Mueller
  • Narrated by: Michael Snider
  • Length: 14 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 5

On an Earth that is very much like our own, the civilizations of ancient man have been crushed; the giant glaciers that cover the northern part of the globe continue, even now, moving ever south, grinding the remains of the sky-touching cities of men beneath them. This Ice Age created warfare between two mighty nations, and in the midst of this mechanized slaughter, a virulent influenza plague ultimately killed most of the human population of the Earth within just one year.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Not what I thought it would be; major flaws

  • By Small Mountain on 10-06-18

Not what I thought it would be; major flaws

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

Reviewed: 10-06-18

After listening to Shadow of the Fox, I was looking for another fun and compelling adventure story filled with mysteries, challenges, clever solutions, sword fights, intriguing magic, likable developing characters, and a fun-to-imagine world. Based on the description of this story, I hoped that is what Journey to the Black City might deliver. I mean, I thought I was going to hear about shamanic magic visiting a steampunk setting for an epic adventure.

Instead, the looney cartoony druggie murder prostitute Hadria and the somehow not completely ostracized Religion of Horny Abusive Priests of Evil (RHAPE) take over the story and drive out my interest. C’mon, Mr. Mueller, you come up with a cool-sounding world scenario, mix in magic and mystery, and then go off about mostly unrelated rape, drugs, and murder for half the book or more? It wasn’t what I was here to listen about. Maybe I’m not the target demographic, but I probably don’t want to meet someone who is.

The whole Hadria part of this book should have been cut in favor of Kel and Lyria problem-solving and character development. Maybe throw in some epic battle that doesn’t involve insta-win, like in Dawn of Wonder’s tower battle with Liru and Aedan versus the experienced adult swordsman. Expose the world through the main characters adventures rather than in dialogue dumps.

Heck, the only type of climax in the book is the literally hundreds sexual climaxes mentioned. My jaw honest-to-goodness hung slack when the book ended; the epilogue even implies that in the next book we will still hear about the essentially pointless sex and murder psycho Hadria in the following book.

I want the next book to do this imagined adventure justice, but this first book is so disappointing and was such a chore to get through that I couldn’t take going through another book like it. I’ll have to take a look at the sequel’s reviews and get a really positive impression before I consider purchasing the sequel.

I do not recommend this book as a fantasy adventure, I recommend it even less for readers younger than 17 due the bizarrely detailed and mostly unnecessary sex and violence.

  • Rogue Dungeon: A litRPG Adventure

  • The Rogue Dungeon, Book 1
  • By: James Hunter, eden Hudson
  • Narrated by: Nick Podehl
  • Length: 7 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,065
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1,020
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,020

Roark von Graf - hedge mage and lesser noble of Traisbin - is one of only a handful of Freedom fighters left, and he knows the Resistance’s days are numbered. Unless they do something drastic... But when a daring plan to unseat the Tyrant King goes awry, Roark finds himself on the run through an interdimensional portal, which strands him in a very unexpected location: an ultra-immersive fantasy video game called Hearthworld. He can’t log out, his magic is on the fritz, and, worst of all, he’s not even human.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Solid start to a unique series.

  • By Tyler on 09-22-18

Good for a short LitRPG jaunt with lots of action

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

Reviewed: 10-05-18

I'm conflicted as to what to what to rate this book, but I'll stick to the positive rating. This book is good for what it is; it is a pretty simple and accessible LitRPG jaunt with a very MMO game feel (I think. I haven't played one in many years, and never really got past trying them out). It doesn't really worry much about plot holes or in-depth dialog or how the world really works, but it has a lot of action and involves level-ups and has enough of an intriguing plot that anyone who enjoys LitRPG with the MMO flavor should enjoy it.

The book didn't quite have enough substance for my taste, but I'm considering getting the next book in the series when it comes out so that must mean I enjoyed it enough to think about spending more money on a sequel.

  • Shadow of the Fox

  • Shadow of the Fox Series, Book 1
  • By: Julie Kagawa
  • Narrated by: Joy Osmanski, Brian Nishii, Emily Woo Zeller
  • Length: 14 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 129
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 124
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 124

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish - and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos. Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Love it!

  • By Anonymous User on 10-24-18

Fun characters; mysterious foes; Japanese flavor

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

Reviewed: 10-05-18

Shadow of the Fox was a real delight to listen to. The world built in the book is a lot of fun to imagine, and the main characters struck a great balance with one another. Yumeko is adorable to imagine, and Okame, who we meet later on, is a favorite as well. The greater quest is clear, but the parties who are interested in the actions of the main characters (some potentially friends, some potentially foes, some potentially both at once) are mysterious and add intrigue to the story.

While remaining partly mysterious, the plot is not super complicated, making this a really approachable listen. There is some violence, gore and demonic evilness, but nearly no foul language and no tasteless/awkward sexual themes. I'd probably let my children listen to it in high school.

Pros:
The setting and characters combine to make a really fun world. The tension and release cycle is well-managed; the protagonists face interesting challenges, including an overarching challenge that clearly drives the plot, but with many soft pleasant interactions in-between. The plot does not feel forced and within this fantasy world, I did not often feel that the characters acted unbelievably, even though I might have in a less colorful setting.

Cons:
The author does have a bit of exposition-dump dialog in there; not enough to reduce the story rating, and in this world where certain people talk with flowery language as a matter of habit and culture, I was actually able to imagine those conversations taking place even though people do not typically speak that way in the real world. Also, this is the first time I thought the narration was merely adequate. Normally, I do not mind when multiple narrators narrate a book; in this case, though, I felt the inconsistent voices were a little distracting.

Overall, I recommend this book to listeners who enjoy colorful fantasy worlds, swords and sorcery, and Japanese-themed characters, lore, and challenges. I am looking forward to the next book in this series, especially after the intriguing ending.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Differently Morphous

  • By: Yahtzee Croshaw
  • Narrated by: Yahtzee Croshaw
  • Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,963
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,750
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,738

A magical serial killer is on the loose, and gelatinous, otherworldly creatures are infesting the English countryside. Which is making life for the Ministry of Occultism difficult, because magic is supposed to be their best kept secret. After centuries in the shadows, the Ministry is forced to unmask, exposing the country's magical history - and magical citizens - to a brave new world of social media, government scrutiny, and public relations.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Not for everybody

  • By R. MCRACKAN on 09-24-18

Constant witty humor framed by a interesting plot

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

Reviewed: 10-01-18

This novel is a joke delivery device with a plot. Differently Morphus delivers constant doses of sci-fi and fantasy humor, and while I cannot be bothered to get a nuanced handle on what British humor is, the book feels full of it. I think the setting of the book being Great Britain somehow adds to the amusement of the experience. The representation of the world is just silly enough to accommodate the absurd events of the plot, and the plot does its job; I had no problem sustaining disbelief and wondering what would happen next. There was a mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery in there if you looked past the humor.

Pros:
This book was much more cleverly done than Mogworld, I think. The characters were more memorable to me, and more important, they were more fun. The blobs being blissfully unaware of political correctness and polite (not wanting to "make a fuss") made me smile, even from the first description where one of the blobs adopted a XD face. The human characters were all caricatures, but in a way that allowed one to imagine them within the world of Differently Morphus. From the main character, Allison, to Mike Badger, to Anderson, to the mysterious Diablury (sp?), each character was memorable and fun in their own way. The book's plot also took some surprising turns, and the ending was unexpected but still mostly satisfying considering the reset of the events. This book encourages me to keep an eye out for more Yahtzee Croshaw books.. Also, he did a great job with the narration again.

Cons:
There are enough plot holes that are force-filled that I am going to go with four stars for the story. They successfully threw off the reader's expectations, but at least a few weren't resolved in a with that satisfying "Oh OF COURSE that's why [insert character] did [insert action]" feeling.

Differently Morphous was still a satisfying book though; I'd recommended it even at full price to anyone looking for some light-hearted humorous sci-fi/fantasy flavored mystery. I'd buy a sequel to Differently Morphous just to see what the Diablury character is up to in the next novel. Get to it, Croshaw.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful