Review: Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw

Jam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So after recently enjoying Mogworld (See my review here), I decided to give this book a try in audiobook form while on a road trip to Vegas with my wife. I was a tad nervous that she would not enjoy it having not knowing the Author’s other works. My concern was quickly dashed as within the first 10 minutes she was laughing at the quick and dry wit on display.

The story is a pretty unique take on the apocalyptic, end-of-the-world genre. The premise is as simple as it is silly: The protagonist wakes up to find that his city of Brisbane, and maybe the world, has been covered in three feet of carnivorous jam that smells of strawberry. The result is a wacky and yet still interesting survival story.

I am impressed with how Yahtzee Croshaw is able to tell a story so well with witty humor. Not once did I find myself thinking “well that’s stupid they should just… “, because before I could do that he was already doing it himself in a hilarious way.

This is probably one of the few books that I would recommend experiencing in audiobook form as opposed to reading in book form as it is narrated by the author and his brand of witty humor transfers over PERFECTLY in a way I am not sure it would in text.

Review: Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw

MogworldMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mogworld is a fantasy story about a mage in training named Jim who dies in an unremarkable way, in a senseless battle between his Mage college and a rival fighters school. And frankly, he is fine with that. It sure beats life back home on his families pig farm. Then, years later to his utter consternation he is brought back from the dead by a necromancer.

Jim immediately tries to put an end to his life, again. On his quest to end his unlife he discovers something has gone wrong with the world and in order to finish his quest to die, he may first have to get to the bottom of this mystery.

If you are familiar with the work of Yahtzee Croshaw reviewing video games in a video series called Zero Punctuation on the YouTube channel The Escapist (YouTube link), then you will be familiar with his snarky, dry-wit brand of humor. This book is overflowing with that same feel but without the sped up jump cuts that he uses on YouTube.

I was ready for a trope heavy romp through a cookie cutter fantasy story. And while there definitely some tropes, it feels like they were included more for the opportunity to poke fun of them than to actually use them in earnest.

I enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to seeing what else Yahtzee Croshaw has to offer in his other novels. I have already purchased Jam and it is in my to-read pile.

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Review: The Feedback Loop Books 1-3 by Harmon Cooper

The Feedback Loop Books 1-3 (The Feedback Loop #1-3)My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harmon Cooper adds to the “on the rise” genre of LITRPG with The Feedback Loop series. The Protagonist is Quantum Hughes. The series starts off with him stuck in a virtual world which he calls “The Loop” because every day is the same. He is also the only actual person in this virtual reality world for the past two years, so when another actual person appears it throws Quantum’s “life” into a tailspin.

This series is highly entertaining if you are into this new Genre. If you are new to LITRPG then this would be a good introduction. Each novel is fairly short but full of humor, action, and adventure!

The only thing I found lacking with this story is that there does not seem to be enough consequences for Quantum’s violent behaviors, and so far there has been no progression of character to learn to handle his anger issues. These are parts of his character but I feel that there was not enough growth for him to overcome these behaviors which should be hampering him in a civilized society.

Jeff Hayes does a great job narrating and bringing the characters in this story to life. There are some effects used on his voice that is done in moderation and only serves to enhance the experience.

** I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review **

Review: Faith Against the Wolves by Jonathan Chateau

Faith Against the Wolves (Travis Rail #1)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Travis Rail is a transporter. He picks up packages and delivers them. He is told these items are artifacts that possess supernatural powers. Travis does not believe in the supernatural, but he is good behind the wheel and good in a fight. When Travis is attacked by a group of people called “The Rift”, he finds out that they are not only after artifacts but him as well. Travis is determined to finish this one last job so he can retire but it turns out a lot harder than he thought.

The story starts off strong with good action and plenty of mystery. About halfway in however, the narrative starts to get a bit of a “preachy” feel to it. The Preachy message also starts to get a little repetitive. At some points it felt more like Christian fiction however, the book is also fairly violent, gory, and the use of profanity would turn off most people looking for a Christian message. If you can get past this, there is enough of a story underneath to keep it interesting though I did have to skip forward 10-20 seconds a few times.

The Audiobook is narrated by Chris Rice. Chris does a great job narrating the action scenes and the main character. The one weakness to his narration (at least in this performance) was his female characters could have been done better.

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

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Review: The Last Warrior of Unigaea by Harmon Cooper

The Last Warrior of UnigaeaMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Last Warrior of Unigaea Written by Harmon Cooper is a new book in the LitPRG genre. If you do not know what this is, let me explain. LitRPG is a fairly new genre that mainly consists of story and characters based in either a Virtual reality world, MMO game (Massively Multiplayer Game Online Game – Like World of Warcraft), or other similar RPG (Role Playing Game).

The story follows Oric Rune as he lives in the world of Unigaea as a special class of character called a “Player Killer”. This class is universally hated and untrusted by other players and NPC’s (Think computer controlled characters) alike. Oric chooses this profession in order to be able to seek revenge on other “Player Killer” characters who had previously wronged him in the game. While he is on his quest he discovers another threat that is threatening his new world of Unigaea and must make a decision to ignore this threat or to put off his mission of revenge and face this new threat for the sake of the virtual world that he loves.

Harmon Cooper drops us into the world of Unigaea without any explanation of how this world works. We do learn a few things such as in Unigaea when you die, your character is DEAD and you must start completely over as a new character. We also learn that Oric in real life has opted to be “Perma logged” into this game. How or why is never explained. To me, these things are both a blessing and a curse. Other books in this genre that I have read have the tendency to explain these things as if they were explaining to someone who has no idea how video games or RPGs work at all and tend to go a little TOO into the details to the point that it is too much. Pretty much these days most people get the concept of Virtual Reality, Video Games and such. If not, then this genre is probably not for you.

On the other hand, it would be nice to have some more information than is provided in this book. I get the feeling that this book is in the same universe as other books by Harmon Cooper such as Fantasy Online and if I had read those books then I would have a better understanding.

Overall, I was still able to enjoy the story. The pace was a bit slow at first (never too slow though), and picked up nicely by the end. I found myself not wanting to put the story down and finding excuses to find time to jump back in!

The narration by Jeff Hays and Annie Ellicott was done very well! I enjoyed how the game voices had effects on them and how the character of Sam Raid was performed by Annie Ellicott. The dual roles really lent a great contrast to the experience!

** I received this book free of charge from the author / narrator / publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. **

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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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