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Steve H. Caldwell

Tacoma, WA
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  • Lucifer's Nebula

  • Lucifer's Star, Book 2
  • By: C. T. Phipps, Michael Suttkus
  • Narrated by: Eric Burns
  • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20

Captain Cassius Mass can only run so far from his problems and the galaxy isn't big enough to hide from those pursuing him. Cassius soon finds himself blackmailed into a mission that will clear him of all charges as well as protect him from future persecution: bring an end to the civil war currently racking the galaxy. Accompanied by a new set of untrustworthy allies, the crew of the Melampus, and the A.I duplicate of his dead wife - Cassius needs to figure out how to not only deal with his target but also his employers. Because the entire universe is at stake.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Universe survives but with funny bad decisions!

  • By AudioBook Reviewer on 08-31-18

Dark Space Opera at its finest!

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

Reviewed: 08-06-18

When I read a book I really enjoy, I often have reservations going into the second book. Will it be a letdown? Will it take the characters in directions I won't like? Will the plot just be filler trying to get to the next book in the series? Well, I am happy to say, Lucifer's Nebula, the followup to the wildly inventive dark space opera Lucifer's Star more than lived up to my expectations. Not only did they write a compelling plot, but the directions taken with the characters not only fit, but expanded on who they were, as well as creating opportunities in future books to flesh them out even more.

The story starts with the crew of the space freighter Melampus, captained by the former Arch Duchy of Crius Count Cassius Mass, on a job transferring weapons for some shady characters. Unfortunately, said shady characters, being shady, are more than willing to screw them over and try to kill them. In the middle of the double-cross, another shady group interrupts, and a fire fight ensues, allowing Cassius and his medical officer/lover Isla, to escape. Upon escaping, they are contacted by Ida Claire, the former captain of the Melampus, who also happens to be the leader of The Commonwealth's spy agency, The Watchers. She has a job for Cassius and crew that will wipe the slate clean for them, as well as pay big: bring the reconstituted Arch Duchy of Crius, now known as The Free Systems Alliance, leadership, who have been kicking the Commonwealth's tail, the terms of surrender for the Commonwealth!

This is where things really take off, as Cassius and crew determine to follow this mission, even though they suspect it will be a trap. They also have the secret of Judith, the Cognition AI who happens to be modeled on Cassius's wife to protect, which would have them made outlaw anywhere in the universe. In the course of fulfilling the mission, Cassius and crew face betrayal on all sides, Including from people they had every reason to trust. They also have a family reunion for Cassius, including with a member of his family he thought long dead! This sends things spiraling in a wild direction, as they discover that The Free Systems Alliance is not at all what it appears.

There is a much bigger conspiracy behind it all, with elder races who have passed beyond mortality, the Community of aliens who hover on humanities borders, and an ancient Evil locked away in Lucifer's Nebula all pulling strings behind the scenes for their own various schemes to come to fruition. Humanity, unfortunately, may be the ones to pay the price! Cassius and his friends and new allies must figure out which side to back, all while avoiding the betrayal mentioned before, from someone you just don't expect. At the very end, Cassius and crew are forced to decide if running away is worth the price of the potential destruction of humanity itself, even if that humanity has betrayed them time and again.

Since I have started reading their books, I have been a huge fan of how Charles and Michael have been able to create such relatable, exciting characters. They flesh them out so well, even the side characters. The motivations for their actions, even in a distant, sci-fi future, are realistic, never forced. Being willing to fight for friends and crew, no matter the odds, is a trait that any reader should be able to admire. The characters have flaws, and make mistakes, making them even more relatable, but they still try to do the right thing. Well, right enough.

The plot is fast moving, smoothly transitioning from one action packed scene to the next, while allowing character interaction and growth. There is humor sprinkled throughout, with a lot of pop culture references, which is a hallmark of their writing. The settings, whether on the ship, or in the various planetary settings, are well drawn out. You can feel like you're right there in the scene, in the middle of the action, especially in the scenes in the Nebula. You never get the feeling this is a retread of some other sci-fi property.

Narration, like the first book, is handled by the talented Eric Burns. He has a real knack for bringing each character to a life of their own, and you are never confused about which character is which. His narrative pacing is excellent, never dropping into a monotone, keeping the listeners engaged in the story. Overall, an excellent narration job.

Overall, I feel this is a great addition to the series. The writers took what worked in the first book, and really ran with the ideas, expanding on the themes, adding new characters, and exploring new ideas to round out the story. I can heartily recommend this story to anyone who likes strong character driven sci-fi.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Jurassic Jackaroo: Jasper’s Junction

  • A Hunted Tribe Prequel
  • By: Roma Gray
  • Narrated by: Terry F. Self
  • Length: 4 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 11

How does the greatest gunslinger of the old west end his career? By hunting a dinosaur animal spirit, of course. Karl Redgrave has a big plans for his retirement party. He's bringing together the world's greatest criminals, murderers, warriors, and assassins to hunt something worthy of them all: a highly intelligent, seven-foot tall dinosaur spirit; known to the natives as the Grishla. Of course, Karl wants only the best on his safari, so he has pitted these men against each other in a deadly contest in an old ghost town, with five winners securing a place in the hunt.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting prequel.

  • By Natalie @ ABookLoversLife on 01-30-18

Grimdark Weird West mixed with Wild, Wild West...

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

Reviewed: 07-30-18


I discovered this one on a Facebook audiobook promotions group offering Audible codes for honest reviews. I had a bunch of other books to finish, but the author was local, and the premise interested me, since I have always been fascinated by Native American superstition. I'm glad I took a chance on it, since I discovered a talented author and a fantastic narrator.

In the turn of the turn of the 19th century western US, a retired gunfighter who has more money than he can spend meets a Native man with an interesting story to tell. A story about his tribe, and a curse that brings death from an ancient monster to all that speak of it out loud. An ancient monster his tribe brought about with their shamans' magic and hubris. Right then, part of the roof collapses and the Native runs out of the room, leaving the gunslinger to wonder if what he said was true. Following the native out of the saloon, he finds him, just as he is being slaughtered by a creature of nightmare. Speaking to it, he finds he's not a target, since he hasn't spoken of the monster. This gives him an idea for some excitement in his life, something sorely lacking since he retired.

A bit in the past, we see a young native boy talking to his mother, confused why she is so sad. Turns out, she was supposed to pass her magic on to her children, and since she didn't, well, the tribe wants the magic back from her. They get it back too, in a horrific scene the young boy is forced to watch. Ten years later, a girl he had a crush on when he was younger is about to meet the same fate. Instead, he convinces her to run away with him to the white mans world, where hopefully, the tribe and it's evil wont be able to find them.

A year later, we find them working a ranch with an immigrant Australian couple who moved to the states to start a ranch. They are happy and accepted by all the local townsfolk and church members, and have begun to reconstruct their lives. Then, out of nowhere, the girl is captured by their tribes shamans, who have managed to track them down and need to get her back to complete the sacrifice. The boy and the rancher determine to take off after them and get her back. This leads to a series of misadventures as they try and get her back before they reach the tribe, but things don't quite go as planned.

Meanwhile, in Jasper's Junction, a ghost town the gunslinger had made as a prop, the Gunslinger has invited a bunch of gun fighters, warriors, thieves and assassin's to compete in a hunt in the town for items that, when found, will show their skill and get them into the game of riches the gunslinger has proposed. All they have to do is find one of several Fabergé Eggs recently stolen from the Tsar of Russia's collection, and get them to the saloon. Of course, they have to make it through lethal traps, hired gunmen out to kill them as well as each other, since millions of dollars are on the line and they will all kill anyone in their way. This interesting group of characters is whittled away until only 5 are left, and the gunslinger gives his proposal: Be part of his safari to hunt a mythical monster which he wont give details about to avoid invoking the curse.

Meanwhile, in the mountains, the young native man and woman face their tribe as they are about to do the unspeakable to them. Suddenly, a commotion arises, and the ceremony is disrupted and chaos ensues. In this confusion, the young native man is given an offer of a chance to come out on top if he's willing to make a rather unpalatable deal. Seeing no other choice, he accepts, spinning the future onto its head, and leaving us to ponder where his story will go next.

For a fairly short book, the world building in this one is well done. You get a good feel for where the story takes place, especially Jasper's Junction, which feels like an old west version of the Marvel Comics villain Arcade's Murderworld, only competent in killing people. The characters are well executed, with their motivations and actions feeling natural and organic to who they are and what they have experienced. The villain, if you can call an ancient spirit monster a villain, is excellent, keeping hidden and only striking when the moment is right, and it's final appearance turns the whole story topsy-turvy. The whole thing feels like a combination of Grimdark weird west mixed with the inventions and adventures of Wild, Wild West. All we needed was Robert Conrad to make a cameo to make the whole thing perfect.

Narration was handled by Terry F. Self, who did a fantastic job both bringing the characters to life and keeping the narration flowing. He avoided trop accents for the natives and foreign characters, taking a nuance approach. His change of tones, inflections and emphasis definitely differentiated each character, and he is definitely a reason to consider checking this book out.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Dancing in the Dust

  • By: Gwendolyn Pendraig
  • Narrated by: Karin Allers
  • Length: 6 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 12
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11

After surviving the plague that wiped out her family and most of the warm-blooded life on Earth, Ayla has spent 10 years in relative solitude surviving and, against all odds, thriving. Ayla's world gets a whole lot bigger when she finds a fascinating new canine companion. Along the way, she picks herself up a nemesis, a needless distraction, and a new approach to postapocalyptic life. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • All the gore that comes with the end of the world

  • By Jamie on 05-24-18

A pulls no punches Post apocolyptic action story!

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

Reviewed: 07-21-18

In a not too distant future that bears a resemblance to The Handmaid's Tale, religious fundamentalists have been voted in to power in the US, and quickly discard many of the freedoms Americans enjoy, especially cracking down on women's freedom. It basically looks like the worst of Saudi Arabia's suppression of women, where men rule over the women. This would have continued, except the Dust falls, and everything changes.

When the dust clouds come, almost all the humans get sick and die horribly of a plague like sickness. It happens so suddenly that the worlds governments are caught flat footed and have no chance to stop it. Society falls apart, becoming something Mad Max would be familiar with. This is the world Ayla grows up in, fending for herself, from a young teen to her mid 20's, when the story starts. She has trained herself to be able to hunt and defend herself against the lawless bandits that survived the plague like she did. While not huge in number, she is alone, so she is careful to keep hidden and build up supplies and weapons. She has even gained a new companion, a large dog that's much more than it seems. Unfortunately, things are about to change for the worse.

After being discovered by a group of men, Ayla is captured and is tortured sexually and physically. Keeping her cool in her worst case scenario, she manages to escape and What follows in a crazy conclusion that would make any post apocalyptic warrior proud, as she tries to defeat her new enemies while keeping herself alive and somewhat sane. This all leads to a surprising conclusion, as we see that the men were not some isolated scavengers, but a part of something larger and much more sinister. We also see that changes to the people of the world are coming, changing what it means to be human.

I have enjoyed the wide variety of Post Apoc stories that have made a resurgence lately, and Dancing in the Dust is no exception. In fact, it has some very creative settings and characters. Ayla is an excellent character. I've seen reviews saying she's an anti-hero. In a world with no heroes, where its every person for themselves, I'd say she's no hero or anti-hero, just a survivor. She is also not in any way the dreaded Mary Sue. She struggles, she makes mistakes, and while she is strong, its through years of training and surviving in the harshest crucible imaginable, life with no rules at all, to the strongest and quickest and most clever goes the spoils. Is it a perfect book? No. Occasionally Ayla does some things that are head scratchers, but that's probably to be expected in such tense conditions. The secondary characters aren't spectacularly rounded out, but that's more a function of the books length and their parts in it than anything else. Still, it is excellently plotted, paced and executed, and Ayla is in that group of Post Apoc warriors you'd want at your back if society ever fell apart.

The narration was handled by Karin Allers. She did a good job of using tone and inflection to differentiate the characters. Her voice is such that there was not a huge variety of male voices, but there are enough in any scene to be able to tell who is who. Her narration is steady, and she doesn't fall back into a monotone, keeping the action moving along. Overall, a solid effort, and I would definitely recommend this book whole heartedly.

Warning: The rape scenes in this book are fairly graphic, as is the violence. They really pull no punches, so fair warning.

  • The Novices

  • Last Reaches, Book 1
  • By: David Goldfarb
  • Narrated by: Travis Baldree
  • Length: 5 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 17

Sure, dragonslaying is heroic business. But some poor bastards have to handle the dirty work of cleaning up the god-awful mess the heroes leave behind. Gwill, the grizzled second-in-command of the fabled Iron Line, saw things go a little sideways at the end of their last adventure. After a successful dragonslaying, they might have forgotten to burn the dragon's body. Now Gwill needs a few warm bodies to take care of it. All they have to do is burn the body of the dragon and all's well that ends well. This is where the Novices come in....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An excellent comedic fantasy with dark elements.

  • By Steve H. Caldwell on 07-21-18

An excellent comedic fantasy with dark elements.

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

Reviewed: 07-21-18

This is one of those titles I had in my Audible account for a while and for whatever reason, had just not gotten to. Well, gladly, as is searched through for something to listen to this week, this caught my eye. I had recently finished another book done by this narrator, and thought the story sounded fun. Six hours later, I can happily and whole heartedly recommend this book.

The famed mercenary company, the Iron Line, is about to retire and disband after many years of top flight adventuring, and they are going out on a lucrative high note, having slain the last dragon in a quest set out by a rural duke. Unfortunately, they missed the fine print in the contract where they were responsible for cleanup and destruction of the dragons body, or no pay, and possible damages if the carcass drew other predators to the area. Needing to get the dragons head back to town, the band finds that they can hire locals to go do the cleanup, and they find a group of 3 new adventurers to accomplish the task. How hard can the cleanup be, if they provide Eelfire oil to destroy it? It turns out, much more complicated than anyone could expect!

It turns out Gwill, the Second in command of the Line, who wields the death dagger Tomb, has been keeping some secrets from her band, like how she came to get the dagger, and who she made the deal with to get it. To pa back for the dagger, she has to ensure to be paid in 24 hours for the dragon kill. Unfortunately, the group they hired to get rid of the body are, ah, clueless. A warrior, bard and priest with one spell, healing, are probably not best suited for the task. In addition, well, it turns out the last dragon was the next to last dragon. The last dragon is this dragon's ancient, super powerful mother, asleep under a mountain these last 300 years, and does she wake up pissed when her baby dies. Pissing off a dragon that can breath both ice and fire is never a good idea. Lets just say that what follows is both a comedy of errors and dragon wreckage on an epic scale, all leading to a climactic battle where the stakes are huge, and not everyone will make it to the other side.

The narration is handled by Travis Baldree. I have been a huge fan of his since I read his work on Charles Grant's horror book, Jackals. He is definitely in my list of top 10 narrators working today. He has an excellent narrative pace, and has an excellent command of accent, pitch and tone to convey the differences in various characters. He never drops into a monotone, and seems to be really interested in the story as he reads it, adding to the quality. Definitely something to check out.

All told, this is definitely a worthy book in a crowded field. Is it perfect? No. The world it takes place in seems a bit underdeveloped, but then again, the characters really didn't go anywhere, so that will probably be rectified in the next book. The characters are fun, and worth reading about. Gwill especially is an interesting character, and her motivations are actually very realistic and thoughtful. All in all, though, I hope more people discover this book, because it would be a shame if more in the series weren't written. Any fans of comedic fantasy should definitely give this one a shot. It's worth the read/listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Krakenstein VS. Koalatron

  • By: Kevin Candela
  • Narrated by: Paul-Alexandre Petit
  • Length: 5 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 2

Cleaning up is dirty business. Especially when you're Argiss Valance, a ruthless corporate magnate, and you want the world to see you as its ultimate philanthropist...even as you secretly plumb the ocean's depths for the key to immortality. Enter Koalatron, towering garbage-munching mechanical marvel, brainchild of Valance's brilliant wife Deanna, and cutting edge genius, Dr. Max Shepperton.  When Shepperton goes missing and a growing sea-horror rises, Deanna, her journalist half-sister Key Sharlayne and renegade eco-vigilante Jeremiah Savage find themselves in a terrifying showdown.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Cthulhu vs Mecha-Godzilla styled action.

  • By Ray Johnson on 07-09-18

A fun homage of a Kaiju vs. Mecha story!

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

Reviewed: 07-16-18

When an industrialist decides to create a giant robot to help clean up the oceans trash, starting with the trash islands leftover from the Japanese tsunami disaster, he is hailed as a philanthropist. The fact his companies were some of the ones creating the trash islands has been overlooked by all but a few, those few including his soon to be ex sister in law, a reporter, and his soon to be ex wife, a scientist working on the project. This giant robot is revealed to the world as, Koalatron! A huge, Godzilla sized Koala shaped trash eating robot. Have to keep the marketing channels open, after all.

Meanwhile, in another section of his floating lab, another set of scientists is studying the animal life being dredged up by the robot and their explorations. They are mutating fast due to radiation. So fast, in fact, that they have become a danger to to everyone around them, and are isolated. That is, until one escapes, and being surrounded by all sorts of natural and unnatural radiation, grows to gigantic size, and after having eaten a scientist on the project, going after the industrialist's holdings. As the epic sized Kaiju, goes about wrecking an economic empire, plans are brought into play to try and stop it, and result in the biggest clash of Kaiju and Mecha since Godzilla took on Mecha-Godzilla and wrecked Tokyo for the hundredth time!

This was a really fun story. the various characters kind of fit into particular molds, i.e., the greedy, duplicitous industrialist, the plucky girl reporter, the clueless scientist, the adventurous activist, but it all worked, since the author realized you can have fun with the tropes if you do it right. The plotting was well done, and there were no lulls in the action. The setting was well described, and the you really got a good sense of what the Kaiju and Koalatron looked like. Definitely a story that draws you in.

Paul-Alexandre Petit did a good job narrating. He gave each character a unique voice, and he played on the various tropes himself in voicing them. He had a good grasp of the various accents, and his tone shifts were good. His narrative pacing was solid, never devolving to a monotone. All in all, a solid narrative effort.

This is not normally a book I would have tried out, but it turned out to be a good listening decision. Kevin Candela is a talented writer, and created a fun story homage to the old Kaiju/Mecha movies of yesteryears. I very much recommend it for people looking for a lighter hearted version of the kind of thing Jeremy Robinson writes.

  • Flotsam Prison Blues

  • The Technomancer Novels Series, Book 2
  • By: M. K. Gibson
  • Narrated by: Jeffrey Kafer
  • Length: 10 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 102
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 102
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 102

A couple of months have passed since the cyborg smuggler known as Salem led a small team in the violent coup that brought down Abraxas, demon Archduke of New Golgotha’s central kingdom of Ars Goetia. From the destruction, Salem became a hero, whether he wanted to be one or not, and was appointed the first human baron in the demon-run supercity. But Hell does not like being made to look foolish - or weak. And Salem’s actions, while noble, have consequences. A victory for man means a defeat for Hell. A single question will be asked of Salem: How far can a hero fall?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A good way to spend your time.

  • By cosmitron on 06-16-18

Fantastic trill ride of an audiobook.

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

Reviewed: 06-26-18

After reading the first Technomancer book, I was excited to see where the author would take the series after the momentous events of the first book, in which a cyborg named Salem and a group of companions brought down an Archdemon in the hell ruled Earth they find themselves living in. This is, of course, after God abandoned Earth, after some scientists tried to clone Jesus, and God, fed up, just left, leaving a free for all for power. This combination Cyberpunk/Post-Apoc/Urban Fantasy is where we find the book starting.

Following the downfall of the Archdemon Abraxas, Salem has been granted the title of Baron and his land is now protected as a barony. Unfortunately, on an Earth ruled by demons, that doesn't mean a whole lot. When his lands tithe's become late, assassins are cleared to try and take out Salem. Then several of his storage vaults are looted, and an assassin tries to take him and his companion, Father Grimm, out permanently. While he survives, Salem is getting more upset and goes after the source of the attempts and the robbery, which turns out to be a huge mistake, because he is connected, and Salem ends up in Flotsam Prison, where problems go to die, to await his hearing.

The second half of the book, which takes place inside the prison, is where the book takes a decided turn to the grim side of fantasy. And by grim, I mean stuff that would make Nazi prison guards retch. After the group of inmates Salem is dropped into the prison with are tortured for days with horrific acts, they are then forced to fight to the death for five spots in the prison, even though there are eight of them. Salem comes up with an interesting solution to this, although it costs him the chance for protection from any of the "clans" in the prison, when the Warden declares him a nomad, meaning no one is to help or protect him. After a chance encounter with a powerful inmate, Salem's fortunes change, and he starts to turn things around. However, the outside world is about to intrude, since if he is convicted, he loses his title and all his property and people can be sold off. Well, drastic times call for drastic actions, and Salem is nothing if not drastic. After he is offered a deal to save his people, even though it will make him a wanted man, Salem does what he does, which is cause chaos, mayhem and destruction to accomplish his goals. There is also an epilogue scene which hints at who is behind all the chaos in Salem's life, and who is aiming him toward his end goal.

To me, this book, while it has a fantastic setting in New Golgotha, is all about the characters. Characters like Salem, Father Grimm, T (Nichola Tesla' living head) and all the rest are so well written, with such visceral reactions to stress and crisis. Crisis is what its all about too, in a world ruled by hell. There is not a lot of room for cute and cuddly, and the fact these characters manage to retain any humanity at all is amazing, showing just how good the author is. The reactions to the torture scenes were just so primal, you felt as though you were there. That is some excellent writing that can put you right in the middle of a horrible scene, feeling as though you are part of the action. The dialogue is snappy, witty, with a lot of snark and cynicism. The plotting never once slows down or drags, as you are moved from one intense scene to the next. A real E-ticket ride for those old enough to understand the reference.

Jeffrey Kafer is one of my top 10 favorite narrators. He has an amazing range of character voices, and his narrative pacing is second to non. He especially shines when a character is world weary and cynical, although he can handle everything from a 60 year old lady to a giant man beast, and everything in between. He really helps bring any story he narrates to life, and with Salem, its like he has met his ultimate character. I say this as someone who owns 32 books he has narrated across a variety of genres. Fantastic work I can't help but recommend.

In all, if you are a fan of Post-apocalyptic books, cyberpunk, or urban fantasy, this series has something for you. The fast paced plot, overall mystery and action should appeal to a wide range of readers/listeners, and Jeffery Kafer's narration should seal the deal. If I gave star ratings, this one would be a ten out of ten.

I voluntarily reviewed this audiobook from a review copy I received from the narrator.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Accession of the Stone Born: The Vigiles Urbani Chronicles

  • By: Ken Lange
  • Narrated by: Paul Clewell
  • Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 105
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 98
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 99

Former DOD operative Gavin Randall is coming home after 28 years of war. Dismissed by the government he spent his life fighting for, his only solace is knowing that the life waiting for him is one of peace. Unfortunately, Gavin stumbles upon a secret underworld that exists alongside ours, one populated by vampires, mages, and bloodthirsty weres. Now, Gavin finds himself recruited by the biblical Lazarus, leader of this hidden community. He must track down those who seek to disrupt the fragile peace keeping these horrors at bay.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent!

  • By Scott L Madden on 10-19-17

An excellent Urban Fantasy story.

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

Reviewed: 06-25-18

Having read the other series that shares the same universe as this book and really enjoying it, I was understandably excited to try this one out. I am happy to report that this series, parallel to The Warden Global books, is just as well written, with characters just as engaging and with the universe and its magic further expanded.

After 28 years of clandestine work (assassin) for the Department of Defense, Gavin Randle returns home to New Orleans to see his only surviving family, his uncle Andrew. There, he discovers there is a much bigger world than he expected, even as a jet setting fixer. He discovers he is stone born, a type of mage, and that there is a whole counsel that deals with the supernatural worldwide. Gavin is an anomaly, though, as external magic doesn't work on him, as he discovers during an assassination attempt. His skills as an assassin serve him well as he investigates who murdered the last Vigil (basically, the magical sheriff of the region), as he survives assassination attempts and tries to solve her last open case, a bunch of murders tied together over 50 years. He has authority to do this, as he accepts the mantle of being the new Vigil, and bonds with his token of office, a magical Denarius coin with a sentient entity named Kerr in it, with the accumulated knowledge of its previous holders.

While trying to keep his uncle and new friends safe, he must try and discover who is behind the string of murders, which leads to shocking discoveries including a vast conspiracy in the hall of power. There is also the issue of a necromancer raising wraiths to murder his enemies, including Gavin. Gavin, as a new Vigil, also has to deal with the triumvirate in charge of the local counsel area, who don't appreciate what his duties and authority are. Oh, and did I mention that this entire supernatural world is ruled from on high by Lazarus? Yes, the uber-powerful Lazarus from the bible, although his story is a little different here. Chasing down the conspiracy leads Gavin to a final confrontation with his most powerful enemy yet, and its only if he can fully utilize his powers does he stand a chance to defeat them.

This is an excellent example of a book that takes the world set up in another series and uses it as a jumping off point, while making its own mark. The supernatural underworld of a spooky city like New Orleans is not the usual setting for an urban fantasy, but its a great one nonetheless. The characters are rock solid, with Gavin being particularly well written. The plotting is fast paced, and the politics, both mundane and supernatural, flow naturally and consistently throughout.

I had never heard Paul Clewell narrate before, but he did a good job bringing the characters to life. He gave them all distinctive voices, and his narrative pacing was excellent, never dipping into a monotone. all in all, a fine effort.

Any fan of urban fantasy should find something to like in this book. There's magic, intrigue, mystery, murder and some excellent fight scenes. Gavin's mysterious past is also something that drew me to the story as well. Let's just say that he was accomplished at his work.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Charlemagne: Father of the Franks, Leader of the Lombards, and Premier Holy Roman Emperor

  • By: in60Learning
  • Narrated by: William Kenny
  • Length: 1 hr and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 20
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 19
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19

Charlemagne's name means "Charles the Great", a title he earned after an impressive life filled with military conquests. His life inspired countless tales, including the legends that he was 20 feet tall, that he slept under the guard of 100 armed knights, and that he rose from the dead to aid in the Crusades. While these fantastical tales are false, the truth is equally fantastic: By the end of his life, Charlemagne had been king of the Franks, king of the Lombards, and the first emperor of the newly formed Holy Roman Empire.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A quick dose of knowledge.

  • By cosmitron on 06-14-18

An excellent primer on Charlemagne.

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

Reviewed: 06-18-18

While I normally do reviews of Fantasy novels, I have always had a passion for history. Ancient Greece and Rome, Indian history, Medieval and renaissance history, history of the Middle East, I love it all. This book is a primer on the life and times of Charlemagne, covering the highlights of his life and reign.

The book starts off with the some basic information about Charlemagne (Charles the Great), including his family's history, the time and area he ruled in southern Germany and all of France, as well as a chunk of Italy. It showed how he came to the throne after the death of his father Pippin the Short, and how he expanded his rule throughout the region. It describes his various battles and conquests, and his ruling style, which was defeat your enemy, then let them rule themselves with his as their overall leader. His various alliances are described, as well as the one defeat he ever had in battle, fighting through the Basques of Northern Spain on his way back to France. His death and subsequent dynastic issues are also described, as well as his legacy on French and German history.

William Kenny did a nice job narrating. He has a smooth voice, and he has excellent pacing, never dropping into the dreaded monotone. He definitely brought an added dimension to the material.

While it is a short primer, I would definitely recommend this for anyone looking for some basic information about Charlemagne's life and times.

I am voluntarily reviewing this title I received for free from the author, Narrator or Publisher.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Fear the Light

  • By: William Massa
  • Narrated by: Kirby Heyborne
  • Length: 5 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 3

Over the centuries, many had tried to kill the Count. All had failed. Until now. Eight vampires - all the spawn of Dracula - gather at their master's estate to solve the mystery of his murder. But as a new day dawns, a voice cries out and another creature of the night is slain. Trapped, the sun burning bright outside, the apex predators realize they have met their match - a diabolical killer who plans on picking them off one by one. As the day wears on and their numbers dwindle, a terrible suspicion grows - could the killer be hiding in plain sight?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent Hybrid of Vampire fantasy and Mystery.

  • By Steve H. Caldwell on 06-17-18

Excellent Hybrid of Vampire fantasy and Mystery.

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

Reviewed: 06-17-18

While a lot of the vampire fiction out today is more urban fantasy than Dracula slays, There are still some original stories being told. This happens to be one of them. It's actually a hybrid of a vampire story mixed with a murder mystery, and it will keep you guessing through to the end.

When Dracula awakens to find himself just before sunrise outside staked to a cross with Silver stakes, he realizes his very long unlife is about to end in pain and misery. When his eight progeny come together to determine the new leader of the clan, things definitely don't go as expected. The diverse group, including a renaissance era knight, a 40's movie starlet, an 1800's era Texas Ranger, a teen street thief from the Victorian era and a 70's Hells Angel. AS the group bickers amongst themselves, one by one they are being killed in ever increasingly ingenious ways. Trapped in Dracula's French Chateau, The dwindling survivor's must find a way to either escape or catch the killer before they are all killed. This becomes even more difficult when hired mercenaries arrive at the chateau, fully trained and prepared to kill vampires. When the last vampire is left standing and the villain is revealed, you realize this whole story is about the sins of the past coming back to haunt. Great way to tie off the story!

This is a shorter story, so plot was much more in the forefront than super detailed character building. That being said, you got a good handle on the personalities of the characters, their motivations and the paths they had taken to get to where the story begins. The setting is well described, the action sequences and murders are excellently laid out and executed, The mystery elements are all their too, and William Massa is excellent at building tension and suspense.

Kirby Heyborne's narration was fantastic. He has a softer narrating voice, but he has a wide range of character voices and accents, and has no trouble switching from Hell's angel to Hollywood starlet.His narrative pitch and pacing is excellent as well, and he makes you want to keep listening. He is a very talented actor, having appeared in quite a few movies, tv shows and commercials, and his audiobook work is pretty wide ranging and just excellent.


I think this is the kind of book that will appeal to fans of mysteries, vampire horror or urban fantasy. It has a little bit of everything from those genre's, and stands apart in a world of Twilight clones.

  • Son of a Liche

  • The Dark Profit Saga, Book 2
  • By: J. Zachary Pike
  • Narrated by: Doug Tisdale Jr.
  • Length: 20 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 628
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 600
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 600

Still bruised and heartbroken from their last calamitous quest, Gorm Ingerson and his band of washed-up heroes try to make amends for the orcs they accidentally betrayed. But justice is put on hold when an old foe marches to the city gates. Gorm is horrified to discover a liche pitching the frightened city-dwellers on the merits of the undead lifestyle...at the head of a corpse army. To save the city from high-pressure sales tactics and an inevitable siege, the dwarf warrior and his misfit band hatch a harebrained scheme that lands them at the top of the king’s kill list.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Crony capitalism compete to crush our heroes

  • By Ray Johnson on 05-27-18

Literally my favorite listen this year!

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

Reviewed: 05-21-18

Its always a worry when getting book two in a series with a first book as good as Orconomics that the book will be a letdown, not being able to capture the same magic as the first. Well, after reading and listening to Son of a Liche, I can attest that this is not an issue. While it follows in the same vein as Orconomics, it improves in a lot of ways what was already a fantastic series debut. More action, deeper plot, character revelations, bigger stakes for the overall world. In other words, it is a fantastic book in its own right.

One year after the events of Orconomics, the party of Gorm, Kaitha, Jynn, Heraldin, Gaist and Laruna are still hunting for the remnants of the betrayed Gazvarda tribe of orcs, and having no success. In fact, they haven't had nearly the success they planned on. The Heroes Guild and kingdom have a a huge bounty after them, and they haven't had the impact helping protect the Darklings they had hoped to. The Darkling races of Orcs, goblins and other assorted races that were screwed out of their NPC status have formed the Red Horde, forsaking their clans. Meanwhile, the bankers and King that had betrayed them all are starting to haul in the loot from revoking the NPC's papers.

Deciding to put the Gazvarda quest on hold, the party comes across a skeleton that is animated. This is bad news, since the only one who could animate a skeleton is a necromancer, and the group only knows of one of them operating currently: Datarr Urmayan, Jynn's father, currently a powerful undead Liche! Following the skeleton, they discover Jynn has gathered an army of the undead and plans to invade the Freedlands. Hatching a plan to recover some artifacts that may help them fight Datarr, they meet some old companions of Gorm to help equip them, and recover a powerful artifact to use against him.

Facing Datarr in battle as he attempts to destroy the bulk of the Kingdom's army and Heroes Guild, the group is defeated, and Datarr gains even more converts to his cause. you know, the cause of undeath. It does have a great benefits plan, after all, and he actually goes recruiting with surprising results. Licking their wounds as they barely escape, The party comes up with a last dich plan to stop the necromancer and get an army of their own: Namely, the Red Horde. Now, if only the Red Horde didn't want the party dead, thinking they were the ones that betrayed them to the Heroes. All of this leads to a climactic battle in the Kingdom's capital of Andoran, with an amazingly staged battle scene that has more twists than seem possible. The book ends with plot lines resolved, but the story isn't over. In fact, it will be continued in Dragon Fired.

I can't stress again how fantastic I found this books. The characters were all fleshed out even more, with more revelations about their pasts, some of which were just completely unseen. The dialogue is crisp and witty, and it just comes across as banter that real friends and companions would use. You really sympathize with their struggles, and cheer at their successes. The setting is expanded even more, and the author's world building is some of my favorite in all of fantasy. You just feel like you are right there in the middle of the action at all times. The same issues from the first book are addressed. The nature of heroics, the good and ills of a market economy, especially when its abused by those in charge. Those same individuals, though, also show how easy it is to fall from grace. Even the least of us has it in them to be a hero, as several of the characters show.

Doug Tisdale, Jr. did his usual fantastic work narrating this one. He had an even bigger cast to work with, and he still managed to give them all a life of their own. While Gorm may be my favorite character he does, several others were almost at that level this time. His narration is smooth and flowing, never lagging or monotonous. He has crept up into my top 3 narrators with this performance, it's that good.

All in all, this is probably my favorite read this year, a year that included Kings of the Wyld, Blackwing and The Great Hearts. Lofty company, but it has something for everyone who likes a fantasy novel, with elements of comedic, epic and grimdark fantasy woven throughout. I can't recommend it highly enough, and you are missing out if you don't try these out for yourself. If I did stars, this would be a 10 out of 10 stars. Its that good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful