📚 Wraith Knight by C.T. Phillips

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Three Worlds, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Jan. 2018

Narrator: Kevin T. Collins
Length: 12 hrs and 2 mins
Publisher: Audible Studios⎮2017

Synopsis: The King Below, Enemy of the World, is dead. Will his successor save the world…or rule it? Jacob Riverson was once the greatest hero of an age. Cut down during what should have been the final battle against the King Below, he was condemned to centuries of torment as a Wraith Knight in the service of said monster. With the destruction of his master, Jacob finds his free will returning and discovers he is in a world torn by civil war between the King Below’s former slaves and the heroes who “saved” them. Joining forces with the overly-idealistic but brilliant warrior Regina Whitetremor, Jacob must determine whether he has any place in the new world and whether his destiny is as a hero or monster. Or both.

Wraith Knight is book one of the Three Worlds saga by C.T. Phipps.


Guest Reviewer SusanWraith Knight is a cross between epic fantasy and grimdark fantasy. Our main character Jacob was a hero over two centuries ago but his soul was enslaved by the Big Baddie and he served as a Wraith Knight committing many atrocities. Now his servitude is over and he has no memory of his time spent as the repellent Wraith Knight. He was a very interesting character. He gave his life fighting the King Below but now that that malevolence is gone from the world, he is sad to see that the world isn’t a cheery paradise. He has a lot of conflicting emotions and the large cast of characters all treat him differently. Some are disgusted by his actions as a Wraith Knight. Some fear him. Some seek him out for his power. It’s a lot for anyone to deal with.

In this epic story, there’s so many characters. Serah, a witch of a sort, stands out for me as well as Regina. Both are powerful in different ways and both have an eye on Jacob. I also liked the interplay between the ladies. There’s a bit of romance later in the book, but in typical Phipps fashion, it’s not your standard epic fantasy romance. Yay!

 

Trickster was a fun minor character. It’s a disembodied voice that often speaks Jacob’s doubts, making them seem more plausible. Indeed, without Trickster Jacob wouldn’t have been so interesting as I bet he would have had more self-confidence.

 

Despite all these things the story had going for it, I still found it hard to be fully engaged with it. Parts of the story lagged for me. I really wanted to enjoy this story completely but I found that many of the characters held no interest for me. Also, I think the narration style had something to do with it as well. 4/5 stars

 

The Narration: Kevin T. Collins put a lot into his performance. While I can appreciate that, it was also tough to listen to this stylized narration for 12 hours. It was like I was listening to a Shakespeare play for all those hours. Every character spoke in this high and mighty style, all the actions were great and thunderous, all the prose had flourishes. I am guessing that Collins was directed to narrate the entire book in this style. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. I found myself quickly becoming fatigued and since the nuances were tiny, everything said and done sounded important. I had to listen to this audiobook in small chunks of 1-2 hours or I would start zoning out. It was exhausting to get through this audiobook. With that said, Collins never sounded bored with his own performance. His male character voices were distinct, though his ladies didn’t always sound like ladies, nor were they always distinct. The pacing was good and there were no technical issues with the recording. 3/5 stars

 

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📚 Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

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The Nyxia Triad, Book 1

Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2018

Narrators: Sullivan Jones, Dominic Hoffman
Length: 10 hours 6 minutes
Publisher: Listening Library⎮2017

Synopsis: Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series called the Nyxia Triad that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they’re willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of 10 recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden – a planet that Babel has kept hidden – where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.


 3.75★ Audiobook⎮This was a solidly good story. It wasn’t fantastic, just “good”with a few great moments thrown in. I did put it down for a couple of months before coming back to it with the determination to finish it. Even though it didn’t blow my mind, it’s still worth a listen. In my opinion, the narrator gives the audiobook the edge over the traditional book (more on that later).

I had this nagging feeling the entire time I was listening to Nyxia that I had heard it before. Or, at least, something very similar to it. Nyxia felt a lot like two or three different existing stories patch worked together. The literary déjà vu sometimes stemmed from memories of The Hunger Games and at other times Nyxia was reminiscent of The Maze Runner. The good news is that I love both of those series. The not-so-good news is that they made the plot and some of the characters of Nyxia feel stale by comparison.

That’s not to say Nyxia didn’t have its own original elements. The protagonist, for example, felt very original. When reading the author’s bio, it’s easy to understand why Emmett seemed so real. Apart from the narration, it was the best thing about Nyxia. Honestly, I think the story would have fared a lot better if more of a focus had been on Emmett and his background. He was a wonderfully developed character, but we seem to have only seen the tip of his iceberg. Everything about his background is told in retrospect. I would have loved it if more of the story had taken place into Detroit prior to Emmett’s journey.

Speaking of Detroit, I know that Nyxia takes place at some point in the future (I’m still unclear on exactly when, which says a lot), but future Detroit seems a lot like present-day Detroit. At one point, Emmett and his father even discussed the current NFL draft. This raised questions about Reintgen’s world building. Again, actually seeing Reintgen’s future (but not futuristic?) Detroit would have probably filled in a lot of the gaps. This seemed like a missed opportunity on the part of the author.

The other point that was really original to Nyxia was the Nyxia itself. This powerful and rare substance was unlike anything I’ve heard of before. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that the mystery and originality of the Nyxia substance opens a lot of plot avenues for Reintgen. I like what he’s done with it so far.

I originally gave Nyxia 4 stars, but after a few days of reflection, I’m dropping it down to 3.75. The rush of action at the end really had my blood pumping and temporarily blinded me to the story’s weaknesses, which are now more prominent in my memory. Only time will tell if I wind up continuing with this series. I don’t foresee myself spending an Audible credit on the next installment, but I won’t rule out borrowing it from the library, if the mood strikes me.

Narration review: Sullivan Jones was my favorite part of the Nyxia audiobook. At one point, my mom overheard part of it and even commented on Jones’ voice. His voice is deep and rich. It’s the kind of voice you can sink into, like a waterbed. He provided subtle characterization for the majority of the characters and excellent characterization for a few. For the most part, it wasn’t the best characterization I’ve heard, but it was enough to get me through the story. He excelled at providing vocal distinction for the younger characters, especially those with well-defined personalities and backgrounds, but the distinction waned slightly when more than one adult character was involved in a conversation. Luckily, the majority of the characters were younger and several were from locations with distinct accents. Overall, there were a lot of characters in this story and Jones handled them all with aplomb. I will be actively seeking out his work in the future. ♣︎

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📚 The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

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The Ring and the Crown, Book 1

Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2018

Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Length: 10 hours 23 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2014

Synopsis: Princess Marie-Elizabeth, heir to the Lily Throne, and Morgan Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of the Head Merlin, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. But Eleanor’s extended lifespan is nearing its end.

The princess must marry and produce an heir. When Marie is promised to the heir to the Prussian throne, she turns to Morgan, desperate for help. The best friends form a perilous plan: Morgan, a powerful magician herself, will take on Marie’s face, allowing the princess to escape with the boy she loves and live the quiet life she’s always wanted. And Morgan will get what she’s always dreamed of – the chance to rule. But the hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor’s court: Trust no one.


 4.75★ AudiobookThe Ring and the Crown had one foot planted in fiction and the other in history. Still, I wouldn’t call it historical fiction. At least, not the Philippa Gregory kind. This was more decidedly fantasy, but with an air of alternate history.

Melissa de la Cruz drew inspiration from several fountains. Some of her characters were from Welsh/Arthurian legends and some were derived from history pages. A prime example is the pairing of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and the mage Merlin, her adviser. In a twist of alternate history, Britain conquered France and France became a part of the British Empire. I love alternate histories, but most seem to be either in a futuristic science fiction setting or revolve around a “mission to save the world” plot with a historical fiction setting. The Ring and the Crown was neither.

The Ring and the Crown was this beautiful mix of everything I love. It felt like it was plucked straight from my brain (and then made way better). There were several different subplots that seemed completely unrelated for much of the story. I enjoyed Ronan Astor’s story and I appreciated her flaws, even though she wasn’t always the most palatable character. Her side of the story was delightfully reminiscent of The Luxe Series.

Princess Marie Victoria and “Wolf” were by far the most enjoyable characters. I haven’t shipped a fictional couple in quite sometime, but I loved them together. Their friendship was so pure. I would have a really enjoyed seeing where de la Cruz took them. I say “would have” because this series was canceled by the publisher in 2014. Melissa de la Cruz released the unedited manuscript for fans to read soon after the cancellation and then the second installment was released on November 12, 2017. Honestly, the whole situation is rather confusing but I’m hoping that the recent release of The Lily and the Cross means that an audiobook isn’t completely out of the question.

As disappointed as I am that I may know how de la Cruz intended to end the series, I’m relieved that she didn’t end this installment with a massive cliffhanger. That would be unbearable. Most of the storylines were contained nicely by the end of this installment, except for Isabel’s, and I can live with that.

Melissa de la Cruz tends to paint with broad strokes and then hastily color in details for before the conclusion. It’s annoying at times, but I enjoy so much of the other aspects of her writing style that it doesn’t really bother me anymore. I do wish she would have drawn out the ultimate resolution a little more. I feel like there was more there to be savored. Her big revelations are often told rather than shown. But again, this is a minor concern for me. I’m a huge fan of Melissa de la Cruz and I look forward to settling into more of her work.

Narration review: Jennifer Ikeda is one of my favorite narrators. She has to be one of the top narrators for YA Fantasy, if not YA Fiction. The Ring and the Crown really allowed her to show off her many accents. The story frequently changed point of view and Ikeda kept pace with it spectacularly. Not once did I ever wonder whom was speaking. The transitions were smooth and even. This was a wonderful audiobook to experience and I highly recommend giving it a listen. ♣︎

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📚 The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

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Diabolic, Book 2

Description⎮Reviewed Dec. 2017

Narrator: Candace Thaxton
Length: 11 hours 7 minutes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2017

SynopsisIt’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?


 4.75★ Audiobook⎮ I always sort of hold my breath when beginning a sequel, especially if it’s been a while since hearing the previous installment. That was especially true when beginning The Empress because my expectations for it were so high.

I can’t imagine the type of pressure authors must feel when writing sequels. But luckily, in the case of The Empress, Kincaid was able to perfectly recapture the magic of The Diabolic. I actually breathed a sigh of relief when realizing that I was enjoying The Empress just as much as I had enjoyed The Diabolic. That rare, but spectacularly balanced, mixture of fantasy and science-fiction was again present in Kincaid’s work. There was a slightly more dominant Sci-Fi vibe in The Empress, giving it the feel of a Space Opera at times. But it still possessed the eery timeless atmosphere that I adored it in its predecessor. 

I had been looking forward to The Empress all year and it exceeded my expectations. And, oh my, the twists and turns we took. Nothing is ever as you expect it to be with SJ Kincaid. There’s political intrigue, backstabbing, and betrayal. Nothing is straightforward and no one is ever really dead, just like in a soap opera. My daytime television loving heart ate it all up. Kincaid managed to weave together a gripping drama that surprised me with every turn.

And beneath all of that drama was a deeper theme of finding one’s humanity. How exactly do we define what it means to be human? That question is at the core of this series. Nemesis’ growth as a character has been thought-provoking, to say the least. Nemesis is a fantastic and memorable character. She is written in a beautiful, if not entirely relatable, manner. The course her character development has taken has been just as much of an unexpected twist as anything else in the series.

It’s to the point now that I want to go back and hear everything Kincaid has ever written. The Diabolic was not a singular strike of luck. SJ Kincaid may very well be on the way to becoming one of my favorite authors. As it stands now, this series has already claimed its place on my virtual “Favorites” shelf and in my heart.

Narration review: My previous enjoyment of Candace Thaxton’s performance was something else I needed to reaffirm while hearing The Empress, because it had been 12 months since my last experience with her narration of this series. I most recently heard her perform The Last Magician in August (which I enjoyed immensely), but The Diabolic series requires the use of a different set of skills, particularly when voicing the main character.

Right off the bat, I remembered how pleasing her vocal tone was to my ears. Some people just have voices you like listening to, you know? Further in, I noted that her interpretation of Nemesis’ voice was spot-on. Such an accurate interpretation deeply enhanced my understanding of the character. I also noted that Nemesis sounded more human in this installment, which was extremely appropriate. ♣︎

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📚 Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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Goodreads⎮Reviewed Dec. 2017

Narrator: Robin Miles
Length: 2 hrs and 30 mins
Publisher: Macmillan Audio⎮2015

Synopsis: Winner of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novella!

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself — but first she has to make it there, alive.


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮Young Binti comes from an insular people (the Himba) who are dedicated to their land, their rituals, and science. She is the first of her people to be excepted to this big university and she’s willing to leave the bosom of her people to go experience this thing called ‘higher learning’. I really liked Binti right from the start. She’s a great character to take us through this tale. I was caught up in her culture and how that differed from all those around her. The story does a great job of showing how Binti’s people have, in some ways, limited themselves by choosing to remain so isolated. There’s several details about the Himba culture including their otjize, which is a mix of oil and clay they use on their skin and hair.

Other students on their way to the university populate this spaceship and Binti makes a few friends. Alas, the jellyfish-like aliens Meduse attack the ship and kill nearly everyone before we get a real chance to know these new friends. The Meduse have a bone to pick with university and plan to exact a messy revenge for the perceived insult.

 

OK. So, I was indeed entertained by this story even though there is this sudden and not subtle at all plot twist with the Meduse. The story started off promising complexity and depth but once the Meduse squiggle into the story, we lose that. Deus ex machina becomes the mechanism driving the story forward from that point. Despite that, I still really liked Binti and was biting my lip wondering how things would turn out for her.

 

Binti gets more of an education than she ever expected. So do the Meduse. The overall message of the story holds true throughout the plot even if I felt it was a bit strained for the second half: acceptance and respect of different cultures. Despite the difficulties with the plot, I was entertained enough to seek out the sequel and I look forward to giving that a listen. 4/5 stars because I was so entertained.

 

The Narration: Robin Miles gave such a beautiful performance. I really enjoyed listening to her voice. She made the perfect Binti. Her other character voices were distinct and her male character voices were believable. I also enjoyed her voice for the Meduse. Binti goes through a pantheon of strong emotions in this tale and Miles delivered them all with skill. 5/5 stars
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📚 Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

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Hercule Poirot Mysteries #20

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Dec. 2017

Narrator: Hugh Fraser
Length: 6 hrs and 12 mins
Publisher: Harper Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: Christmas Eve, and the Lee family’s reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture and a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed.

When Hercule Poirot offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man….


4 ★ Audiobook⎮ I heard Murder On the Orient Express around Thanksgiving and enjoyed it so much that I vowed to hear more Agatha Christie soon. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas presented the perfect opportunity to hear another Christie novel as well as a holiday tale. It turned out to be more of one than the other, but I’m still pleased with this relatively brief listen.

Agatha Christie has proven herself to be more than capable of telling a complete story in just a few hours time. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas was a perfect holiday listen, not because it was filled with holiday cheer, but because its brevity allowed it to fit into my jam-packed holiday schedule. I had been worried that I wouldn’t be able to find time for audiobook listening during the holidays, but Hercule Poirot’s Christmas was not only a quick listen, but an easy listen as well.

I’ll admit I was hoping for a little more “cozy”, but I guess that’s not Christie’s style. I was slightly disappointed with the lack of holiday atmosphere, especially considering that the title is Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. The holiday itself played very little into the setting or plot. Aside from the title and the fact that Christmas was the reason for the family reunion the plot centers around, this could have been any other time of year. That’s not a huge detraction, but I was hoping this story would help enhance my Christmas spirit.

As for the mystery itself, I feel like this one was a bit more obvious than Murder On the Orient Express. Still, it had me debating right up until the big reveal. And, what a reveal! Classic Poirot. I’m getting more of a sense of his character now and it’s only compelling me to hear more of his mysteries.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is the 20th book in the series and Murder On the Orient Express was the 10th, so I’m definitely reading these out of order. But that’s another fantastic thing about the series: Each installment truly stands on its own. I don’t remember hearing any references to previous installments, so it’s possible Christie planned it this way.

The Hercule Poirot Mysteries will be one of those series that I return to whenever I’m in the mood for a solid mystery, without the pressure of having to hear the series in its entirety.

Narration review: Although this was my second Hercule Poirot mysteryit was my first time hearing Hugh Fraser’s narration. He is apparently well known for having narrated the entire Hercule Poirot series and even though this is a series that has been covered and recovered by many voice actors, it seems that Fraser is a fan favorite.

Fraser’s dynamic voice allowed him to be quite colorful in his characterizations, which helped my understanding of the plot tremendously. His accents were exceedingly well-done, especially the South African accent, which I was previously unable to recognize. I’m looking forward to many more of Hercule Poirot’s mysteries with Fraser at the helm. ♣︎

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🎁 Leonardo the Florentine by Catherine Jaime

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Goodreads⎮Reviewed Dec. 2017

Narrator: David Winograd
Length: 2 hrs and 55 mins
Publisher: Catherine Jaime⎮2017

Synopsis: Who are the Medici brothers? And who is trying to assassinate them? Why was the Pitti Palace never completed? And what part did Leonardo play in all of this? Leonardo da Vinci is remembered as an artist and inventor. But who was he before anyone knew his name? This family-friendly novel explores the history and the legends of his early years in Florence. It also weaves a mystery of politics and power. This novel is the first in the series of historically based novels – The Life and Travels of Da Vinci (followed by Leonardo: Masterpieces in Milan and Leonardo: To Mantua and Beyond).


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮What little I knew of Leonardo da Vinci before listening to this book was about his later years. Leonardo the Florentine does a great job of showing us who Leonardo was as a boy, teen, and young man. At an age we would today consider far to young to be off on your own, Leonardo apprenticed at Master Verrochio’s art workshop in Florence. The story excels at describing not only the work done at the workshop but the various architecture, pageantry, and statues around Florence. Leonardo was exposed to quite the variety of art forms and media during his formative years. Even though he was much older that the typical novice, he possessed a deep interest and no little amount of natural skill. Verrochio noted that and encouraged Leonardo to take on greater and greater challenges.

There’s a bit of intrigue tossed into the tale. Leonardo was alive during the time of the Medicis and the politics of the time often involved battles and small wars up and down the length of Italy. Leonardo isn’t interested in politics and hopes to never get caught up in a war, but there is this mystery concerning the Pitti Palace that threatens to suck Leonardo and his friends into intrigue. While I would have enjoyed the book a little more if this aspect of the story had more of a presence, I still enjoyed Leonardo uncovering information one clue at a time.

This is a family-friendly version of Leonardo’s younger years. There’s no gore or love story or even harsh words. All the characters are polite to each other, even the gruff ones. While I can appreciate that the focus of the story is giving us a good outline of young Leonardo’s life, it did come off as a little to tidied up. The 1470s were definitely harsher than our modern era with flush toilets, antibiotics, and the UN. A little grit would have given a more believable flavor to the story. Leonardo comes off as naive throughout the entire tale; as a kid and even teen, this would have probably worked but as he enters his young adult years, having lived without family and earning his keep from a young age, the naivety didn’t work so well.

While there are a handful of women mentioned, there are no female characters. There were obviously women in the 1470s in Florence and most likely there were some women in Leonardo’s life even if they were relegated to the roles of someone’s wife or housekeeper or cook or such. I would have appreciated even a token try at gender balancing this tale.
Leonardo the Florentine is a good source of information about Leonardo’s young years, if not detailed. I learned that Leonardo had no formal schooling (even by standards of the day) and had to learn Latin mostly on his own. This single skill opened a world of knowledge to Leonardo. His status as a student and worker at Verrochio’s workshop opened doors for him that would have remained closed otherwise due to his birth status. Prior to listening to this book, I did not know that Leonardo had such a strained relationship with his parents. Nuggets of info like these are revealed throughout the story in interesting ways. By the end, I felt I knew young Leonardo as a possible friend instead of some wise old man high up on a pedestal. 4/5 stars

The Narration: David Winograd did a pretty good job with this story. His Italian and Latin pronunciations of names and certain words sounded accurate to me. His voice as young, naive Leonardo was well done. There were a few places throughout the story where there were some odd pauses in the middle of sentences. All his character voices were distinct. 4.5/5 stars.

 This audiobook was received at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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🎁 The Ruby Brooch by Katherine Lowry Logan

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The Celtic Brooch Trilogy, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Dec. 2017

Narrator: Teri Schnaubelt
Length: 12 hrs and 40 mins
Publisher: Katherine Lowry Logan⎮2015

Synopsis: As the sole survivor of the car crash that killed her parents, grief-stricken paramedic Kit MacKlenna is stunned to learn her life is built on lies. A legacy from her father includes a faded letter and a well-worn journal. The journal reveals she was abandoned as a baby 160 years ago. The only clues to her identity are a blood-splattered shawl, a locket with the portrait of a 19th century man, and a Celtic brooch with magical powers. Kit decides to continue her father’s 25-year search for her identity and solve her birth parents’ murders.

Scotsman Cullen Montgomery, a San Francisco-bound lawyer who resembles the ghost who has haunted Kit since childhood, helps her join a wagon train heading west. More dangerous than the river crossings, bad water, and disease encountered on the trail is Cullen’s determination to expose her lies and uncover the source of her unusual knowledge and lifesaving powers.

Kit is convinced that if she can survive the perilous journey and Cullen’s accusations, as well as thwart his attempts to seduce her, she might solve the mystery of her heritage and return home without leaving her heart on the other side of time.


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮I was pretty excited to dive into this time travel novel because I played way too much Oregon Trail as a kid and this book is set in the mid-1800s along the Oregon Trail. Kit MacKlenna is a modern day paramedic living on her ancestral horse ranch. Yet she has questions about her heritage and a small package left to her tempts her into the past to discover her true roots. I really liked that she knowingly traveled to the past. She plans well, studying up on the time period and packing certain supplies. Now I will say that I was a little surprised by how many modern things she decided to take with her (flashlights, IVs, pregnancy tests, etc.) and I did worry that would lead to many, many questions for her later. Also, she chose to take her dog and cat along for the trip as well. While I do like having furry companions in any story, I did find this an odd choice and I deeply worried the pets were going to be Red Shirts for drama down the road.

Then we’re off into the semi-civilized lands of Missouri. She knows that it will be hard to get a place on a wagon train as a single woman so she’s hoping to find a group that will accept her. She’s capable of seeing to her own food, camping gear, and animals so it’s really a matter of bending the social norms of the time. At first, the mid-1800s characters held to their social morays but as the story progresses, I did notice that there were sometimes unlikely reactions to Kit’s modern attitudes. Those little breaks in character took me out of the story from time to time and I wish that Kit had to work harder to either hide her modern ways or win others over to her ways quietly.

There is a strong romantic element to this book. I did like Cullen though I found the insta-luv between him and Kit to be rather convenient. Cullen is an interesting character but once he becomes involved with Kit they had this silly emotional roller coaster. Flirting, fighting, showing off to one another, ignoring each other, kissing, making up, etc. I was much more interested in the historical elements of this story but, alas, those were rather lacking once the tale was set up and off and running. This is a romance story first and foremost and a historical fiction second.

Despite the silly romance, Kit is a woman who does get stuff done. She’s a good shot, knows how to ride well, and has her medical skills. She’s also skilled at sketching. So she has a lot going for her if she can just wrangle in her emotions and stay focused. This mystery about her true relatives eats away at her throughout the story. While I can understand how that mystery can drive a person, I did feel she was a bit too needy at times, forgetting all the good things her upbringing modern Kentucky did have. I can’t help comparing The Ruby Brooch to other time travel books by the likes of Diana Gabaldon and Connie Willis. This book isn’t on the same level as those works. It’s more romance than historical fiction.

Some of the other interesting characters include Braham McCabe, who adds a bit of comedy here and there.The Barrett Family was very good to Kit and I feel I got to know Mrs. Barrett and Frances the best among them. Elliot Fraser is Kit’s godfather in modern Kentucky and he provides wisdom and safe household to return to if needed. All told, 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Teri Schnaubelt was awesome as the narrator. I really liked her variety of accents and the range of voices she had for men and women. Kit cried so much in this book (a little too much for me) but Teri did a great job with all the emotions. Schnaubelt sounded engaged throughout the story and all her character voices were distinct. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

Susan received a free copy of this book from the narrator. Her opinions are 100% my own.

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🎁 The Elf and the Princess by Anna del C. Dye

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

The Silent Warrior Trilogy, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Dec. 2017

Narrator: George Tintura
Length: 6 hrs and 57 mins
Publisher: Anna del C. Dye⎮2012

Synopsis: A most thrilling and captivating tale for readers of all ages….

Menarm was a great and prosperous kingdom, known throughout the lands for its friendly, hard-working people and fair trade. But a bitter struggle of succession between brothers left the kingdom devastated, the people divided. Some stayed with Fenil, who had conquered the crown, others followed Renil to the wild lands of the north, founding a new kingdom.

Now Adren, the last princess of the vanquished realm of Menarm, finds herself alone in a world where women live in the shadows of men. Not only must she battle her enemies, but also a truth that could obliterate her last hope for happiness and bring dishonor to all those whom she holds dear. On her quest, she finds unlikely allies in a powerful prince and a defiant mercenary, only to be devastated by an ancient and wily elf. Will Adren be able to survive this final assault?

The Elf and the Princess is a brilliant tale of true love, high adventure, and medieval-style warfare between elves, men, and orcs. Drawing inspiration from the myths and legends of Europe and from such writers as J. K. Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien, Anna del C. Dye spins a completely original tale that will leave the reader wanting more.


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮I started this book with high hopes. I liked the book blurb description and was up for an Elven adventure. However, this story fell a little short. The beginning was easy to start with but then the timeline jumps around a bit and I had trouble following who did what when. Now, if you get past that, the story settles on 16 year old Princess Adren.

Initially, I really liked her character. Her mother dies shortly after we meet her and Adren’s kingdom is in ruins. I worried she wouldn’t be able to save herself let alone her kingdom! But she has been taking sword-fighting lessons from a master, Donian. Now he was a fun character! I loved his harsh nature and no-nonsense training. He’s merciless in her training and she picks up the art quickly. Now, I did find it a bit too convenient that she mastered sword training so quickly, but it’s necessary for the story to progress.

Adren must venture out on a quest to find allies but her little world is one where women are kept safe and secure and don’t learn to fight with swords and gallivant around the countryside. Initially, I found her solution to this problem endearing, because who wouldn’t want to put on a mask and pretend to be someone else, especially if you have to kill anyone? Still, I was a little dismayed that in this fictional world, ladies in general have very little to do with the plot.

Adren hasn’t spent any time with elves and now that she’s met some, she’s fascinated by them. Here’s another part of the story that didn’t work so well for me. We know that she was raised with stories about elves and there’s obviously contact and trade between humans and elves, and yet dear little Adren is totally blank on Elvish factoids. Really? Sigh… So I felt that contradicted what we learned earlier. Then when she learns why her ears are the shape they are…. well, it was just a lot of drama for no reason.
Still, there’s plenty of action and armor and sword fighting and heroes. I liked all those bits. Then we have the love story. Adren loves a certain person and then yet another person is falling in love with Adren (unbeknownst to her). Again, I felt the love story was a whole lot of drama for very little entertainment. Also, the wrap up to that romance in this book was a little cliched and I expected that twist well before it was revealed.

All together, the tale held potential to be a fun high adventure but fell short with some inconcise writing and over-done drama. 3/5 stars.

The Narration: George Tintura did an OK job with this narration. He sounded interested in the story all the way through the book. He does make an effort to do accents and keep character voices distinct but they kind of go in and out. His grumpy voice for Donian is pretty good and most of the time, he does a believable 16 year old Princess Adren. He also makes a believable snobbish elf. 4/5 stars.

Susan received a free copy of this book from the author. Her opinions are 100% my own.

$ Available at Audible/Amazon

🎁 Occupied by Joss Sheldon

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Dec. 2017

Narrator: Jack Wynters
Length: 12 hrs and 15 mins
Publisher: Joss Sheldon⎮2016

Synopsis: SOME PEOPLE LIVE UNDER OCCUPATION.
SOME PEOPLE OCCUPY THEMSELVES.
NO ONE IS FREE.
Step into a world which is both magically fictitious and shockingly real. Walk side-by-side with a refugee, native, occupier and economic migrant. And watch on as the world around you transforms from a halcyon past into a dystopian future.
Inspired by the occupations of Palestine, Kurdistan and Tibet, and by the corporate occupation of the west, ‘Occupied’ is a haunting glance into a society which is a little too familiar for comfort. It truly is a unique piece of literary fiction…


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮While it did take me 3 tries to get into this book, I’m glad I stuck with it. Occupied is a thought-provoking work. The three main characters, Tamsin, Ellie, and Arun, start off as kids, each coming from different backgrounds. As they age, they are pulled apart and their friendships set aside though they do occasionally intersect later in the story. A fourth pivotal character, Charlie, comes into the tale much later.

While this story qualifies as a satire, I did feel that I would have gotten quite a bit more out of it if I was more knowledgeable on Middle East politics (past and present). For the most part, the story stood on it’s own though I admit that I often lost track of which character is a Godly versus a Holy. I had the feeling that the underlying alluded to politics were more important than the story and I really just wanted to be swept up into the tale.

There is a lot of repetition in this book. Lots. That is the main thing that kept me from getting caught up in this book. If the book was 1/3 to 1/2 as long I feel that it would have more of punch, the important scenes would hit harder, and there would be more poignancy to the disturbing bits. All those things exist in the book as it is but you have to wade through the repetition to get to them.

The last fifth of the book was my favorite. It takes us into a near-future view of a consumer driven society. It definitely had that Brave New World vibe which I quite enjoyed. Also, I didn’t feel I had to be knowledgeable about certain politics to get what the story was telling me. This was the most chilling part of the book because there’s a society-encompassing apathy whereas the rest of the book has plenty of emotions flying around as one wrong is done after another, usually in the name of Right.

So, all told, I’m glad I finished it and I can see how fans of the satire genre would be interested in checking this book out. While the repetition and my lack of great knowledge on the politics alluded to made this book a bit of a chore to get through, it did end on a very strong note that resonated with me. 3.5/ 5 stars.

The Narration: Jack Wynters gave a decent performance. He had some accents and some voice range though not all of his characters were distinctly performed. He sounded interested in the story for the entire book never going deadpan bored. The pacing was good and there were no technical issues with the recording. 4/5 stars.

 This audiobook was received at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

$ Available at Audible/Amazon