Death Knocks by Miranda Hardy and Jay Noel

Death Knocks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death Knocks by Miranda Hardy and Jay Noel takes a lesser known urban legend of Black Eyed Kids and turns it into a suspenseful, fun read. Maverick is about to start his senior year in high school and is spending the evening with his best friend playing video games when a knock at the door changes his whole life.

I thought that Hardy and Noel do a great job at writing characters that were likable, relatable, and yet flawed. Stakes are continuously raised throughout the story and the pacing was done well. The story kept moving forward at a good pace.

Memo from the nit-picking department: While this didn’t bother me enough to diminish my enjoyment of this book, it did nag at me. The book seemed to take place in the modern time of ~2017ish (there were game consoles and cell phones), yet not once was the possibility that the black eyes were caused by special contacts which exist. It just felt this possibility was overlooked.

I listened to this book on audiobook narrated by Jeff Simpson. Simpson did a good job making each voice distinct and bringing the characters to life, using different inflections and accents in an enjoyable way. The quality of the recording was excellent as well.

**I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.**

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Review: Whack A Mole by Chris Grabenstein

Whack A Mole (John Ceepak Mystery, #3)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whack A Mole is the third book in the John Ceepak Mystery series. This is one of the few series that you do not need to worry if you have not read the first two books in the series. The same could probably be said for Mad Mouse (book #2). So far each book is its own stand-alone mystery which is resolved entirely in the novel. This is a nice change of pace from many other series that I have read lately where even after three books into the series nothing major has been resolved.

The story is set in the New Jersey summer spot Sea Haven. It is told from the first person perspective of now rookie police officer Danny Boyle. Danny is partnered with John Ceepak, a man with a strict code: “Don’t lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate those who do.”. After a discovery on a beach, Danny and Ceepak start investigating a cold case of a missing person that is 30 years old. Soon new evidence comes to light that raises the stakes.

This book was a fun, light read much like the previous two books. One thing that bothered me in this book more than previous books, was the complete ineptitude of the other police in this book. The pinnacle of this is Officer Santucci. The degree to which Santucci took the inept police work, was just a bit much for me at times.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and will probably continue with this series!

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Review: Wendigo Fever by Kevin Hardman

Wendigo Fever (Warden, #1)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wendigo Fever is a short novel that introduces the book series “Wardens”. Wardens are monster hunters trained to deal with monsters and creatures roaming the world.
Intro novel does not go into detail on how these creatures came to the earth, or history of Wardens but focuses on Errol the younger brother to Tom, a Warden. Errol has no interest in becoming a Warden. When his older brother Tom goes missing, Errol is thrown into assuming the duties of his brother as well as investigating his disappearance.

This first book in the series is a short introduction to this world of Wardens and monsters. Though short I felt this book did a great job with pacing and story. The characters are likable yet flawed. The story manages to simultaneously have its own mini story arc and setting up a larger story arc for later books, which left me feeling both satisfied with the story and wanting more.

Mikael Naramore did a wonderful job at narrating, much like he did with Sensation which I also reviewed. distinctive and consistent characters, and good inflection that matches the tone of the story. Looking through his other works I am looking forward to listening to “Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It”!

Visit Kevin Hardman‘s blog at http://kevinhardman.blogspot.com/

Find Mikael Naramore on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikaelNaramore

**I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.**

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Review: Memories by Stephan Morse

Memories (Continue Online, #1)My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Memories is the first book in the Continue online series by Stephan Morse. It follows Grant Legate, a man who lost his wife and has now thrown himself into his work while most everyone else has become obsessed with the latest Virtual Reality “pods” that allow people to fully immerse into fantasy worlds. When Grant finally catches up with the rest of the world and tries the most popular Fantasy game, Continue Online he finds more than he expected and gets to experience the game in a unique way.

Overall I enjoyed this book and while this plot has been done before, I felt that Memories put enough of a fresh spin on it that it kept it interesting and unique. The story provides enough mystery and intrigue throughout to keep my interest. There were times I felt that the plot was moving a little slow but not enough to really diminish my enjoyment of the story, though it came close a couple times.

As a long time gamer and MMO player, there were a couple elements that bothered me throughout the book. First off Grant is employed by the company who makes the Virtual Reality systems as well as the hottest game “Continue Online”, yet seems to know very little about the game and some of the VR systems functions. Before even trying the game Grant goes online to learn about the game but finds nothing useful. It is later hinted at that any specifics about the game put online have been deleted or taken down but it is not very well explained. The game also has no manual or instructions what-so-ever, yet millions of people including young teens are able to figure out the game easily – still, Grant seems to be completely lost despite being a gamer in his youth and working for the very company who makes the VR system AND game!

I was also a tiny bit frustrated that the end of the book barely answered any questions presented in the story, not even the main mystery that drives the protagonist throughout the story. I get it, this is a series and you want to leave some threads dangling to entice readers to continue reading the series but when none of the mysteries are answered it ends up accomplishing the opposite effect. I am more hesitant to jump into Book two as I do not want to invest my time into another book and find myself at the end of that book with still no answers! This has happened to me enough times before that I can often recognize the signs and this book has several of them. I will likely give book two a chance mainly because I am interested in the plot and world enough to give it a shot.

I listened to this story in Audiobook form, narrated by Pavi Proczko. At first, I was not sure about the narration as it felt a little robotic and dry… but there is a reason for that which I will not give away here as to not spoil anything. Once the story was underway and more characters were introduced the narration started to shine through and I was overall satisfied with the performance and would be willing to listen to more of Pavi’s works and see other sides of his narration.

I would recommend this book to people who like Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Role Playing Games, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence.

**I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.**

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Review: The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle

The Atlantis Gene (The Origin Mystery, #1)My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is probably one of the most mixed reviews I have done in a while. The Atlantis Gene is a story with so much going on I find it hard to summarize. The synopsis of The Atlantis Gene reads quite a bit like a spy thriller/mysteryAnd while it certainly has those elements it is more so a sci-fi thriller. Reading through some of the reviews, I think this is a major factor in the negative comments.

I was very intrigued by the overall premise of this book, unfortunately it took me about 80% into the book to realize this and understand what the premise was. I am assuming that the Author was attempting to build suspense and mystery, but did not do a good job at feeding the audience enough bread crumbs to keep them satisfied and still hungry for more. Instead, I felt like I was just distracted with the same science (alleged) facts re-stated in different ways, or by different characters. As a Sci-Fi geek the science didn’t bother me but I can see how this would possibly drive away fans of more traditional spy / thriller / mystery novels especially when it never really provided answers.

Which leads me to another issue I had with this book. Not enough answers. This is a decent sized book at 449 pages (or 15 hrs and 44 mins in Audiobook format), and by the end of the book hardly any of the mysteries of the book were answered and it left me so frustrated I didn’t even bother with the preview of the next book in the series. While some questions should be left unanswered or as a hook for the next book in a series it is frustrating to a reader to put this much time in a story only to be left with hardly any answers to the multiple questions the story invokes.

I think the main cause for these issues is that there was just way too much going on. We have (possible) Aliens, Nazis, spies, science, time manipulation… and so on. The book really felt like it was written to be more like a good movie or TV series than a novel. The scenes often felt rushed, and the scenes would abruptly change making me have to skip back to see if I missed something.

Overall, I struggled with the rating of this book because I liked the premise and promise so much but was fairly disapointed with the delivery. I feel like a lot of these things are the product of a fairly new writer and if he could polish these problems he could write a really good book!

The Audiobook version of this book was narrated by Stephen Bel Davies. Davies did a good job narrating the novel and providing the correct tone and mood to the scenes. While I do not feel that he blew me away with his performance, it was still a solid performance that I found no issues with.

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Review: Gabby’s Run by M.D. Massey

Gabby's Run (Them #3)My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gabby’s Run is the first book by M.D. Massey that I have read. I must start out by stating that there is some confusion on where this book truly falls in the “Them” series. The book art and description on Amazon / Audible state that this is “Book Four”, however on Goodreads and other reviews it states “Book Three” and hints that this is actually a prequel or origin/backstory for a character in the other books. As I have not read these books I cannot comment on them, or how this book fits into the whole series.

The story follows 16-year-old Gabby Mendoza. Gabby lives in a post-apocalyptic world where monsters such as Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, and more are real. Gabby grows up being trained by ex-CIA “Uncle Tony” to hunt and kill monsters. As a child, she was given special serum injections that enhance her abilities giving her super-human speed, strength, and senses. The Serum however also has side effects as her body stopped growing when she was given the serum at twelve years old. Now she is 16, but she doesn’t look it.

While on a training exercise with her uncle, things go wrong and they get separated. She discovers a young boy Raleigh and his sister Violet while hiding out in a safehouse. Gabby follows them to the small camp they are living at and is taken in by Raleigh. When the boy is taken by a monster the boy calls “The boogeyman” Gabby takes off in pursuit to rescue him. During her time separated from her Uncle Tony and trying to rescue Raleigh Gabby learns a lot about who she is, and who she wants to be.

Overall I enjoyed the story as it had a unique feel to the Zombie Apocolypse / monster hunter genre. Gabby is an interesting character who is discovering herself and her place in this crazy world as she goes along. The pace of the book is nice and steady with lots of action and suspense to keep your attention and interest.

One problem I have is not with the book itself, rather that it is categorized as Young Adult (YA). Certain parts of this book have a very YA feel, but I do not think this book is not very YA friendly due to very dark subjects such as drug use, prostitution, rape, murder, gore, and cannibalism.

I listened to this book in Audio format. It was narrated by Laurie Catherine Winkel who did a superb job. The voice of all the characters was done very well with different accents, inflections, and tones. I would be very interested in listening to more audiobooks narrated by her in the future!

Links:
M.D. Massey: Check out his website at http://mdmassey.com/ or on Twitter at @mdmasseyauthor

Laurie Catherine Winkel: Check out her website at https://www.lauriecatherinewinkel.com

*I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audio book by the author, narrator, or publisher.*

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Review: Sensation by Kevin Hardman

Sensation (Kid Sensation, #1)My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SensationSensation by Kevin Hardman is a young adult book about a world in which superpowers are a reality. Those that develop these powers can try out to be part of the elite superhero team, the Alpha League.

The protagonist is Jim, a teenager who instead of having just one superpower has inherited multiple powers from his family which is full of other superheroes, and more powers seem to come to him as time goes on. When it is finally time for Jim to try out for the Alpha League, things don’t exactly go as planned and soon Jim finds himself fighting those who he wished to join. Two years after this, Jim finds himself with the opportunity to set things right and possibly become a member of the Alpha League. But of course, nothing is ever that easy!

Sensation is the first book by Kevin Hardman that I have read. I found the pacing of the book to be just about perfect. It had a good balance of action, character building, and drama to keep you interested and at the same time move the story along. I never felt like the story got into a slow spot or started to drag on at any point. The style is obviously written for a young audience, with plenty of teen angst and teen drama. However, as a 40-year-old, I did not find this to be so over the top as to affect the enjoyment I was able to get from the story. If you are a fan of superheroes then this book is definitely worth a listen!

The audiobook is narrated excellently by Mikael Naramore. Naramore’s narration checked off all the things I hope for in a good narration of an Audiobook: Distinctive and consistent characters, and good inflection that matches the tone of the story. His performance was done well enough that I will be looking for his name on other narrations in the future.

Visit Kevin Hardman’s blog at http://kevinhardman.blogspot.com/

Find Mikael Naramore on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikaelNaramore

*This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review*

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