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The Hands We're Given

Aces High, Jokers Wild, Book 1
Narrated by: Kirt Graves
Series: Aces High, Jokers Wild, Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 16 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Sex. Drones. Rock and roll.

Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That's fine with the Democratic State Force base he's been assigned to command: they don't like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.

Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.

Life's a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you're given.

©2018 Olivia Wylie (P)2019 Olivia Wylie

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good intro, looking forward to seeing what’s next for the Wildcards!

Hmm. Well. This book is slow-going. It’s definitely more romance-centric than what I was expecting since this wasn’t actually listed under the Romance category on Audible. I was expecting more rebellion and explosions? More suspense? Instead, this is a bit more light-hearted as far as the overall plot goes.

The book is fairly long, and I may not have finished it otherwise if it wasn’t for Kirt Graves’s narration. The narration is top-notch and can I just say that he does children’s voices VERY well?? He also does an English accent for one of the MCs - Kevin.

Although, I will note that the story is told in third-person but only Kevin’s speaking voice adopts an English accent and the narration of the story is still done in an American one. The story is a little choppy and since I listen to audiobooks at 2x speed, I got lost a lot between scene changes where days or weeks would pass with almost no warning.

This entire book is like a setup for the second book. It introduces you to the characters and the world. This is set in the not too distant future, where a select few corporations run the United States and we’ve fallen into a state where every citizen is monitored and you have the rebels living off grid, or in the “dust”, just trying to survive.

There are a few unanswered questions regarding how the rebel factions can be so organized and if they were once the military and somehow got edged out by the major corporations. I’m not entirely sure how that all came together.

At the heart of this story is a romance between the new commander, Aiden, and the logistics officer, Kevin. Aiden is a trans man and is anxious and new to being a commander. His first big assignment is a group of people who come from all walks of life called the Wildcards (okay, I totally still call them Wildcats because High School Musical is totally engrained into my psyche). They’re a failing group now ever since their commander Taylor died of cancer and now it’s up to a newbie like Aiden to get them back up to their previous numbers.

Aiden is precious and seems to do a good job as a commander? But the story seems to skip almost all the parts where he shows real leadership and shows him just trying to figure out how to get the Wildcards to work together. A lot of his anxiety stems from him not wanting the Wildcards from finding out he’s trans. In a world where it’s normalized to be genetically modified from birth, being homosexual is a crime, and being trans especially so. He makes it work off the grid, but he’s worried because he’s seen what can happen to those who aren’t deemed “normal”.

Something I love is that Aiden is never “outed” as trans because of something awful, but it’s only because he chose to tell people he’s trans. He does choose to tell Kevin his deadname, but I think that was the only time it came up.

I’m not sure I’ve seen an #ownvoices review for the book yet, so I’m not sure how this book rates for trans readers but the story doesn’t seem to fall into the usual horrid tropes in stories with trans characters for what it’s worth.

There are quite a few sex scenes in the back half of this book. It’s sweet how the characters ALWAYS ask for consent and I love how both Aiden and Kevin are equally awkward.

This one ends with a HFN seeing as there’s a hint at bigger things to come, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the Wildcards in book two. I know the text is already out, but I’ll definitely be waiting for the audiobook release!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it!

I loved it so much I bought the whole series on Kindle. I was enamored with the story and especially the characters. The most memorable scene for me is the Touch down scene.

I always enjoy listening to this narrator. There are times I forget that I'm listening to just one person; he gives a distinct voice to each character. I especially love how he does Kevin's voice.

I highly recommend it and really hoping that the next book will come out soon.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Sex, drama, and action in a well built world

The narrator was fantastic, and it was easy to tell the characters apart. The story itself seemed to be about 60% gay romance/erotica, 30% team drama, and 10% action. I would have personally preferred a bit of a different mix, but despite this I still thoroughly enjoyed the futuristic world and became invested in the lives of each of the characters. The middle was a bit hard for me to push through, but the beginning and end were great. If you're reading these reviews and were intrigued by the description, you would probably enjoy the read.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

sensitive, diverse, and engaging LGBTQIA sci fi

I loved this story. It's a science fiction dystopian story, in which we meet a small ragtag base peopled by officers and enlisted members of a political entity engaged in rebellion against a larger government/corporation that has completely taken over and controls all aspects of its members. The Big Brother-type controlling corporation is based entirely on control and profit, and have genetically engineered its children to wipe out ethnicity, disease, infirmity, and homosexuality. The citizens are wealthy and attractive, with increased intelligence and high productivity. Conformity is demanded. Rebellion means death. Those that are not corporate-raised are ostracized to live in poverty and scavenge for broken technology and struggle to find clothing and food. Our heroes are fighting to break the corporate entity and preserve free will and diversity.

The story is well-written and well-plotted, with a diverse ensemble cast of characters that provided contrast to each other. The core characters (Aiden and Kevin) were very well-developed, with lots of growth and development. It was heartwarming to watch as the crew at the base deal with being assigned a new Commander, one that they initially don't respect or trust. The crew is very diverse: male and female, gay and straight, cis and transsexual, old and young, strong and weakened by trauma. Characters had a variety of personalities from nuturing to haughty to mischevious to hostile. There is high tension and a decent amount of humor. It felt like a plausible group of rebels - strong personalities and high emotions. They are a flawed but tight-knit "chosen family", living under constant attack and a goal they believe in. The book reminded me of Firefly (the TV show) and also of Becky Chambers' A Way To A Small Angry Planet.

The main relationship in the story is a gay love story, with one character being transsexual. That relationship is very deftly written - full of emotional intensity and insecurity. It's tender and raw, and felt real to true life with discussion of poor coping mechanisms and dysphoria. While I appreciated the deft writing, it meant that the last third of the book is almost all about that emotional and physical journey, with lots of talking and graphic sex scenes. Despite liking the characters and their relationship, I got tired of all the kissing and sensitive soul-baring, and missed the more exciting action of the rebellion itself. The book ends with a bang fortunately, resolving tension via a high stakes heist that pulls the team together. I'm eager for the next book in the series!

Tearmann has carefully crafted this book. It's not awkward in structure or plot, and the author's ability to mange tension and conflict is almost perfect. The dialogue flows naturally. The level of representation is a bit heavy-handed, but it's a welcome change to address topics of gender, sexuality, inclusion, and anxiety in a story that is also entertaining and engaging on its own merits. This dystopian tale espouses a utopian goal for what it means to be inclusively human, and gives us a fight to cheer for.

I got this Audible book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent narration and great start to a series

A complementary audio was provide in exchange for an honest review.

I originally thought the story pacing was too slow, that there wasn't enough action. The more I thought about I realized that the story progression was spot on. Sometimes too much it pushed into the beginning of a story to get the reader to understand the who, what, when, and that can be overwhelming. In this story I was able to breath and take in everything about these characters and what made them tick. I hope the next book (and the rest) give more action in defeating the "evil overlord."

My interest in this audio was because of the narrator. The book tags did not tell me their would be an MM romance to this; I thought I was just going to get an interesting dystopian story narrated by a great narrator. Imagine my surprise to learn that Aidan is transgender (born female) and that he and Kevin have a romance! Loved them together.

I do wish there was a prequel to give more back story as to how the world, or at least the US, came to be the way it is. We are 100+ years in the future and the government is no more. Aidan, Kevin the rest of the Wildcards are tasked to fix things.

I would love to continue with this series because I really want to know how things end, and I want to see more of the rest of the gang.

Narration 5 stars
Story 4 stars (because I wanted more back story)

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  • David
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 08-16-19

Intriguing Tale

I received this audiobook free at my request and am leaving this review voluntarily.

O.E. Tearmann has given listeners/readers a tale with the potential for some major world building with these characters and setting. I'm really looking forward to seeing what's next in the series, and feel like there is definitely potential to do a lot with this story. This first chapter, The Hands We're Given, does a very good job of setting everything up, and you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat waiting to see how it all plays out!

The narration by Kirt Graves is phenomenal. A very strong performance that just adds to what is already a strong story.

You won't want to miss this one!

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

hard to follow

good story loved the characters in the story just had trouble following what the did for the job the love story was good I enjoy the story.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • K. Ramjohn
  • 09-28-19

I enjoyed it

This book wasn't what I expected but I have to admit I really enjoyed it. The Hands We're Given is a futuristic dystopian story about survival however it's also about romance, family and acceptance.
The world building in this novel was excellent as the author was very detailed in the description. There was a diverse cast of characters who you would love long before the story ends, however it was the close knit family feeling among the characters that makes them so relatable. There was MM romance where one of the characters is transgender (born a woman) and it was very much an eye opener as the author dealt with the insecurities of the characters. In addition the author did an excellent job portraying the honest emotions in the budding relationship between the two characters and brought out the emotional side of the story. I would highly recommend this novel to all lovers of dystopian and MM romances
This audiobook was narrated by Kirt Graves who did an excellent job with the story and was able to create unique, distinct voices for each of the characters. This really brought the story to life and I fully enjoyed listening to this narration.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Helen
  • 08-24-19

great book

Sex. Drones. Rock and roll.
lots of actions enjoyed this book very much
well written By: O.E. Tearmann
Narrated by: Kirt Graves who brought it to life