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review 2017-04-16 17:53
Performance Anomalies by Victor Lee Robert
Performance Anomalies - Victor Robert Lee

Our hero, Cono, is a free-lance spy. With his heightened nervous system, mixed heritage, and gift for languages, he makes a great spy. Now he’s on a personal mission to assist a friend out of a heap of trouble. In Kazakhstan, the stakes are raised as European oil resources are threatened and weapons-grade uranium comes into play.

I was easily swept up by this book. Cono is perfect for espionage and it was refreshing to have a non-Caucasian hero. His mixed heritage and linguistic skills allow him to blend into so many different cultures. Cono is sometimes referred to as Cono 7Q and there’s a short flashback that explains this. He has a rare mutation on gene 7Q that accelerates his nervous system, giving him an extra edge. He can pick up on minutia and interpret their meanings quickly. Also, he has lightning fast reflexes. He’s just on the edge of being a superhero.

Early in the story, he receives a desperate call from his former lover Xiao Li. She’s currently working as a classy prostitute and unfortunately she witnessed something she shouldn’t have. Now her life is in jeopardy. Cono is several countries away but he calls in a favor with his long-time friend Timur who can get to Xiao Li quickly.

Once Cono meets up with Timur, things get messy. There are plenty of things that Cono and Xiao Li are unaware of, making it difficult to figure out who is on their side or against them. I really enjoyed the changing allegiances as people make backroom alliances. It made it so much harder for Cono and Xiao Li to untangle themselves from this mess.

My one quibble with this story is how the ladies are sexual objects or love interests, each of them. Now they are a bit better than Bond Women in that each of them has their own personality and a role that affects the plot. Still, I couldn’t help giggling and rolling my eyes a bit as each woman wanted to bed Cono. Maybe that 7Q gene also puts out an irresistible pheromone. Dimira is a teacher and has known Cono for some years. She provides a temporary safe house and some contacts for Cono. Katerina, a Russian asset, has also known Cono for some years and has enjoyed his personal company on their dealings. Xiao Li struck me as rather petulant and self-centered. While I didn’t like her character very much, I did like how she was a catalyst for the story and how Cono risked much for her safety.

There’s this torture scene that had me laughing quite a bit. Now that makes me sound a bit demented but Cono came up with an excellent way to get under the skin of his captor. The torture was harsh but Cono’s response was all defiance but defiance with a solid understanding of how to demean his captor in front of his lackeys. It was great. That is my favorite scene from this book.

I’m definitely looking forward to more adventures of Cono 7Q. This book kept me up to 1am as I didn’t want to put it down.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: David Pittu was a very good fit for this book. He did an excellent Cono, giving him a vague, unplaceable accent (as the book describes it). There were a ton of accents in this book and to my untrained ear, he did a good job of keeping each one distinct. There were also plenty of characters who yelled and Pittu used skill in making it sound like yelling without actually raising his voice and blowing out my ear drums. His female voices were varied and believable. There were a few tender moments and he did a good job working with those emotions.

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review 2017-04-16 17:39
Off the Grid by Robert Kingett
Off the Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet - Robert Kingett

In Chicago, legally blind Robert Kingett takes the dare to live without the internet for one month. Has the internet really added to the degradation of society? Kingett shares his experiences, both positive and negative, in this journal-entry like publication.

Initially, due to the main title, I was expecting the author to go off the grid, which means disconnecting from public utilities and trying to live off rainfall and solar power and the like. As I got into the book, I realized this was just a small, but very interesting, experiment of trying to live without the internet in a major city. The author still has his apartment, public utilities, and access to public transport and such. At first, I thought that living without the internet wouldn’t be too big a deal. (Living off the grid is a bit more rigorous.) However, I was wrong. I’m glad the author only had to suffer for a single month as he underwent this experiment.

I really enjoyed the diary-like entries as I felt I was discovering these little nuggets of wisdom at the same time as the author. As he struggled to get movie times for a visually-impaired screening, I struggled with him. Installing a land-line phone was hampered by the fact the manual that came with it is in really tiny print (the author, while legally blind, can read large type… if it’s large enough). Meanwhile, he experienced the rush and joys of meeting people in person and getting to know them through long phone calls or conversations in person, instead of digging up stuff about their hobbies on the internet first. The author uses well-placed humor even when he’s clearly irritated with something, making this a fun read.

There were two scenes that really stood out for me. First, the author was job searching during this month and the lack of internet service definitely affected his chances of getting a job or internship. The other one concerned his gaming system (I think it was Xbox, if I recall correctly). His efforts to play a certain game, which he had the CD for, were cut short when the game required him to be logged into his online account. Customer service was unable to assist him in this.

All together, this humorous account of one man’s adventure made me appreciate the internet more for the services it makes so much easier. I can pay all my bills online. Obtaining information is generally very easy. I have access to news, anything from immediately local to world view. Also, I quite enjoyed all the little references to nerdom – Harry Potter, gaming, etc.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: T. David Rutherford was pretty good for this book. He gave a sense of humor or frustration as the story dictated. The production was very good, lacking any external noises or lip smacking. While he only had to do a few voices, he did them well.

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review 2017-04-16 17:30
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott,Andrea Emmes,Listen2aBook.com

This American classic, set in the 19th century during the Civil War, follows the lives of the March sisters as they grow up and become young ladies. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are often joined by their neighbor Laurie, who is living with his grandfather.

Some how I missed reading this book as a kid but as an adult, I have had the pleasure to read it twice, this being the second time. Jo is still my favorite character. I love how she often flies in the face of what society might expect from a proper young lady. At one point she cuts off a good chunk of her hair. She learns to writes short stories that sell to newspapers, so she has a source of independent income. She’s not caught up in the latest dance or the stylish lace. Yep. She’s much how I would imagine myself if I was trapped in the 1800s.

The other sisters all have their own personalities as well. Meg is the oldest and seems be a little mother in waiting. Once she falls in love, that’s exactly what she becomes – a dotting mom. Then sweet Beth embodies the tender heart of the family. She is so kind to everyone and everyone in turn is so gentle and kind with her. Amy has a flash of independence as well but she’s also rather caught up in appearances. While the Marches don’t have much money, Amy makes up for it in grace and practical kindness.

Laurie is a good addition to the mix. I really like his grandfather as well. Laurie starts off as a rather shy and lonely lad but the girls draw him out pretty quickly and adopt him into their little circle of confidences and games. Marmee (Mrs. March) does her best to be a confidant to her daughters while also allowing them the privacy they need. Robert March, the dad, is seen quite a bit less in the book though he’s totally doted on by the family when he is home.

The entire book is riddled with little life lessons. For the first 3/4 of the book, these are well portrayed in story form. The author shows us rather than tells us. For instance, I like how Marmee often gives her girls enough rope to hang themselves. She lets them make mistakes so that they will recall the lesson better in the future. The solitary thing I don’t care for is that the last bit of this book gets a bit preachy. I feel the author was either rushed or got a little tired of the book herself and started telling us the lessons instead of showing us. Plus, perhaps since a main character dies, religion is brought into the mix. Despite this minor let down for the ending of the book, I still really enjoy this classic.

Let’s talk limes. Yes, limes. There’s a great little bit of the book that goes on about these pickled limes that were all the rage at school. In fact, the teacher banned them from his classroom since they were a distraction. One of the sisters had to borrow money from another sister just so she could buy some limes. After reading that section, I really want to try a pickled lime.

One of the reasons I so like this book is that most of the characters are women and it’s not a big romance. There is romance here and there, but that isn’t the main driving force of the plot. Women have so many more freedoms and rights now than they did during the Civil War and yet here we have a well written and enjoyable book that has women actually doing things, instead of being these flowery, vague love interests. So, when someone gives me the excuse, ‘Oh, things were different back then,’ to explain why a book is lacking in relevant female characters, I can always point to Alcott and quirk an eyebrow. Yes, things were different back then, but women were still relevant. Thank you Ms. Alcott!

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Andrea Emmes did such a lovely job with this book. She made each sister sound unique and she also managed to make them sound young when they are little girls and like young ladies by the end of the book. She also had a variety of male voices which were quite believable. 

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review 2017-04-16 17:21
Kill and Run by Lauren Carr
Kill and Run (A Thorny Rose Mystery Book 1) - Lauren Carr

Set in modern day Washington D.C., a serial killer has just taken out five women. As Murphy Thornton digs into it, more possible victims are discovered as the pattern becomes clear. He will need the help of his stepmom Cameron Gates to untangle this mess!

While there were plenty of things I liked about this book, I often felt that I needed two maps – one for the family tree of all the relatives involved in this story and the second for all the different military and state police groups involved. Basically, I could tell that our main characters had to be very careful of stepping on toes no matter what they did.

Now that I have that little criticism out of the way, here’s the good stuff. I really liked how deep this mystery went. There were plenty of people involved and the events span years. Now there’s a young girl, Izzy, in danger. She was a real treat, being the animal lover that she is. I was on the edge of my seat sometimes hoping things would work out ok for her.

There’s a little romance here as there are a few couples involved in solving the crime. Murphy, who is working with the NCIS, and his wife Jessica Faraday are newlyweds and still figuring out some of their longer term goals. Incidentally, Jessica is related to the main Faradays in Carr’s other mystery series – The Mac Faraday Mysteries.

Cameron Gates, a police detective, lost her first husband to a hit and run many years ago. She since has remarried to Joshua Thornton (a JAG lawyer), Murphy’s dad. As that hit and run is revisited, Cameron and Joshua are drawn into this mystery as well. Cameron and Joshua have their own mystery series that I am sorely tempted to check out – Lovers in Crime Mysteries.

With this talented cast, we need equally devious and dedicated criminals to make a good story and Carr doesn’t disappoint there. A string of rapes is soon connected to certain men rising in the military. Now some of those women are dead. There’s a killer on the loose who is also a sexual predator. It was pretty intense towards the end complete with car chases.

I liked that not every thing came out all rosy. The true villains at the hear of it got most of what they deserved but the good guys didn’t get all they asked for. I like how that reflects life sometimes. With yet another generation of this tangled family setting up for a love match, I had the distinct feeling the author was prepping us for another spinoff mystery series. Hooray!

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: C. J. McAllister did an OK job. The narration started off pretty bland but got better throughout the book. At first, the narrator sounded a bit bored but later on he seems to get into the story and the narration picks up. Also, from the voice acting I thought Murphy was much older and then his dad Joshua is brought into the story and Joshua’s voice sounded about the same or younger to me. The ladies voices were distinct and a somewhat feminine. He did do a really good job with young Izzy.

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review 2017-04-16 17:08
Slade by Eva Gordon
Slade, Book 1 in Team Greywolf Series - Eva Gordon

They’re both werewolves, but they come from worlds apart. Cricket is technically a Runt in the werewolf hierarchy, but her competence and ability to blend in as human has granted her honorary Beta status in the American Lycan Intelligence Agency in Team Greywolf. Slade comes from a long line of werewolf royalty where long-held rules of mate choosing are strictly adhered to. Recently, he lost his entire pack and madness threatens to consume him utterly. It’s hoped that Cricket’s Runt status will serve to bring out his Alpha protectiveness and ground him once again. Cricket isn’t too enthused about the assignment even as her libido lusts after the well-muscled Slade.

I’ve been wetting my feet on paranormal shifter romances this past year. I find some parts of this genre to be fascinating (like the shape-shifting) and other parts to be a bit over-pronounced (the damaged Alpha male). I found this book to be a better story than most I have encountered in this genre. It was Cricket. She made the story for me. I found her wit and sense of purpose and self to be refreshing and totally entertaining. She has a career and a place in Team Greywolf that she earned. Her status isn’t dependent upon the man in her life (another theme in shifter romances that has worn thin for me). I often chuckled at her sarcastic jokes. I think I could be best buds with her.

The damaged Slade was not much more than that. He has his royalty thing going, being a rich man in his own right and then his damaged psyche that needs healing. I could have used something more to give him personality. The lusty scenes between him and Cricket were good if a little brief. Perhaps that’s just my lustful hormones wanting more…

I did enjoy the big mystery to the story. Something is taking out werewolves, like Slade’s pack, and the Lycan Intelligence Agency is at a loss to explain it. One tiny lead gives us another and then Cricket and Slade have to go undercover and on the hunt. The action picks up and there’s one rescue after another. It was fun if a little predictable.

As a biologist, I also liked the few realistic touches about wolf hierarchy, such as all the sniffing, the nose nipping, and other such things. These details made the shape shifting, and especially the wolf form, more realistic and the other all story more entertaining.

At the end, not everyone gets everything they wanted, which I also liked. I don’t need everything to turn out totally happy hunky dory in my shifter romances. A few complications were left for the characters to work out.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Christine Padovan was great as Cricket. She has Cricket’s sarcasm down to a T. Padovan does tend to drop the last word in a sentence and draw it out, giving her speech an odd cadence that I can’t place. However, she doesn’t do this often when she’s doing a character’s lines. She does do it often when telling the story narrative and I feel it takes a little getting used to. Don’t be put off by it though as her character voices are worthy.

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