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: 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: 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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Review: Steamborn by Eric R. Asher

Steamborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Synopsys:
Steamborn is about Jacob, a young man with a gift for mechanics and pick-pocketing. Jacob lives in the Lowlands, the slums of the mountain city Ancora. When the towering city walls – that have protected the Lowlands and its people from the creatures that live outside of the city in what is called the Deadlands – are breached and fall Jacob and his family and friends must flee to the Highlands, the wealthy part of the city. Jacob and his friend Alice stumble upon a terrible secret about the truth behind the attacks on the Lowlands.

Review:
I was excited about this new series from Eric R. Asher, as I enjoyed his The Vesik Series: Books 1-3. I have not read many novels of the steam-punk genre, So I was even more interested in giving it a try. I was not disappointed!

What I enjoyed most is the world this novel is based in. There is a rich and deep history full of mysteries, many of which go unanswered in book 1. Not only is the city and world surrounding it written well, the political tensions and intrigues are also done very well. Every character carries with him or her pieces of this history or political conflicts making each character an integral part of the overall story.

I found the writing in Steamborn more polished than in the Vesik series. In my review of The Vesik Series Books 1-3, I stated there was an issue I had with repetitive reactions. I found absolutely none of that in Steamborn, and the overall feel was more polished.

I experienced this novel through Audiobook. The Narrator was Saskia Maarleveld. I found her narration quite enjoyable. The voices were all performed excellently. Each character was consistent and distinct.

My only complaint is that the story ended too soon as I was not ready to end my journey with Jacob, Alice, and Charles! I look forward to the next book in this series, Steamforged!

Check out Eric R. Asher’s site here: http://www.ericrasher.com/

Check out Saskia Maarleveld’s site here: http://www.saskiamaarleveld.com

Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator, or publisher

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Review: The Vesik Series: Books 1-3 by Eric R. Asher

The Vesik Series: Books 1-3 (Vesik Series Boxset)The Vesik Series: Books 1-3 by Eric R. Asher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review is for books 1-3 (spoiler free)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Vesik Series is an Urban Fantasy series about a Necromancer named Damian Vesik, told in first-person from Damian’s perspective. Damian works with and against such creatures such as Faries, Vampires, Werewolves, Demons, Ghosts, Gods and of course… Zombies!

As a huge fan of urban fantasy such as Jim Butcher‘s The Dresden Files, Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid series, Carrie Vaughn‘s Kitty Norville, and Kim Harrison‘s Hallows series, I found this series quite enjoyable.

Eric Asher starts the story in a world with a rich history and characters all have deep backstories that you get to learn as you go along. Some things are explained, some things are hinted at and remain a mystery. It is executed in a way that feels as if you just joined a group of old friends. It is done in a way that feels organic. Between the books, time passes without us and events have happened that you catch up on during the course of each book.

I do have to comment on one nit-picking thing that bothered me throughout all three books. This book has a good amount of humor, in the form of jokes, sarcasm, and innuendo. Mostly it is done well however after every joke the author has to make sure you know that a joke was made by having another character react with a snort, chuckle, or laugh.

Every. Single. Time.

The jokes and humor themselves are done well, but when the reactions have to point out the jokes so often it subtracts from the joke itself. In the same way having to explain why something is so funny, pointing out that it IS funny kills it. Some jokes deserve a reaction, but the frequency in which it is done in these novels quickly started to get to me. Not quite enough to kill my enjoyment of the story, but enough to diminish it. Eventually, I had to just convince my imagination that these parts didn’t happen. Perhaps because I experienced these books on audiobook format, it was more noticeable. OK, I am done with my nit-picking!

The Narrator William Dufris does an excellent job especially depicting different characters of different sexes, accents, and inflections. I have enjoyed William’s work in Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, The AMAZING Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo and many other great Audiobooks. He is a great narrator and I always enjoy his work.

This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.

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