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review 2018-06-12 23:15
The Jacq of Spades by Patricia Loofbourrow
The Jacq of Spades - Patricia Loofbourrow

There’s a lot going on in this book, maybe too much. Jacqueline (Jacqui) Spadros is married to Tony Spadros, the son of one of the ruling families of Bridges. She herself comes from the poor, the ‘Pot’. Jacqui has some sort of private detective business going on on the side, very secret. Then there’s a dangerous illegal drug, Party Time, going around. Plus there’s a missing boy. Then there’s the whole setting.

Basically, I was intrigued by it all but had little time to figure one thing out before something else was thrown at me. The setting kept throwing me for a loop. It feels little historical, a little steampunky, a little dystopian. I like all those things but never got a firm grasp on what the domed city of Bridges was all about.

Plenty of the characters held my interest. Of course, Jacqui is front and center. Now the tale does jump back and forth a bit, telling me in small snippets about Jacqui’s past. However, this confused me sometimes as to what was going on in the present. Jacqui has had all this training from Tony’s dad before she and Tony were married – everything from dressing like a lady to hand guns. She and Tony have been married for 3 years and it’s sometimes been good and sometimes not. I would have liked this story more if we had seen Jacqui in action more instead of simply being told what she can do.

There’s Jacqui’s contacts and friends and family that are still in the Pot that add flavor to the tale. Her husband Tony isn’t as limited as he first appears to be. Tony’s dad is a right jerk and I look forward to seeing his demise (I hope) later in the series. Though I still feel like I missed something when it came to him lashing out at Jacqui’s maids.

Jacqui’s secret private eye stuff felt over the top. We already have a lot going on in the story and then we toss this in. Jacqui references previous cases she’s solved but I kept wondering how she managed to do that plus keep it secret plus all the training she does for Family Spadros plus just being a lady, etc. I hope this side of her character gets filled out as the series goes forward.

So all together, I wanted more from the story by trimming things down. I did enjoy it and I look forward to seeing where the series goes from here. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Machelle Williams was OK as the narrator. Her pacing is a bit slow. She does have a good voice for Jacqui. Her female voices were good but her male character voices were sometimes OK and sometimes they sounded like women. There were plenty of emotions in this story and sometimes Williams portrayed them well and sometimes her narration was a little stiff and dead. 3.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Patricia Loofbourrow. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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review 2018-06-12 22:47
The Queen of Diamonds by Patricia Loofbourrow
The Queen of Diamonds - Patricia Loofbourrow

Note: This is Book 2 in the series and you really need Book 1 before enjoying this book.

Book 1 left me confused across the board. I wasn’t sure about the setting, I didn’t really get the main character, and the plot had so many little plots within it that I wasn’t sure that what I got was what the author intended. I did like this book better as it explained more of what was going on for all areas even if it didn’t clear everything up.

So I finally understand why Jacqui is going on about Joseph, who didn’t really put in an appearance in Book 1. Although that can easily lead to some silly love triangle….. Also the setting is much clearer. Alcatraz Island is mentioned more than once and also we learn there are other domed cities (which everyone knows about but somehow I missed in Book 1). There’s also references to an uprising and a collapse so I think we have a fallen human civilization where only domed cities can support large numbers of humans. Yet I’m still a bit confused about the time. The story reads like it’s set in Victorian times but with the collapse and references to a few pieces of tech, I feel like it’s set in a future time.

Anyhoo, the plot was a little more straight forward this time. Jacqui is still dealing with the fall out from the previous book. She conquered one villain but a second is untouchable. She has pressure from every corner.  Her husband, Tony Spadros, truly cares about her but she doesn’t have the same intensity of feelings. Roy, Tony’s dad, is a sadistic control freak who enjoys hurting others. Then there are those that need her help. Anastasia has fallen on tough financial times and Jacqui agrees to help her. Toss in some child abuse, a few secrets, and a lost love or two and you have plenty to keep Jacqui busy.

There’s a lot of cloak and dagger in this tale and some of it is well laid out and some of it reads like it was tossed in spur of the moment. When things were well laid out, I felt like it was a good episode of Peaky Blinders with the organized crime, family on the rise, secrets, and occasional violence. At other times, I just rolled my eyes a little because it felt like some deceptions or secrets were tossed in just to add drama, like that big do about Jacqui being trained to fire a gun. It was part of her training in Book 1 but now in Book 2 her husband isn’t suppose to know that she’s ever fired a gun. It just came off as silly.

I think I know who Jacqui is now but I am still sometimes confused on her timeline. In fact, I haven’t even figured out why Roy Spadros had her dragged up from the Pot (poor man’s neighborhood), cleaned up, educated, and engaged to Tony so many years ago. It’s not a secret she comes from the Pot but it’s suppose to be a secret that she was forced by Roy to marry Tony. She had some of the best tutors but lacks even passing Italian (apparently, that’s the classy language of choice) and knowledge of the basic politics of who to invite to dinner (which can have political implications for the entire Spadros family). Again, it seemed a matter of convenience for the plot or for drama as to what Jacqui knew or didn’t know.

This tale ends with a wrap up to several questions even as it leaves the door open for the next book. This story felt more polished than the first book but still needs a bit here and there. 3.75/5 stars.

The Narration: Machelle Williams did an OK job. Her voices were clearer this time, each character being distinct and most of the male voices being masculine. Her pacing is still quite slow. She does do some regional accents for some of the characters, which I liked. There were no issues with the recording. 4/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Patricia Loofbourrow. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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review 2018-06-12 21:50
The Ace of Clubs by Patricia Loofbourrow
The Ace of Clubs - Patricia Loofbourrow

Note: This is Book 3 in the series and the books really need to be read in order to get the plot.

So far, I have been luke warm about this series but finally here in Book 3 the story is growing on me. I finally have the setting down. Yay! Some distant major event dropped humanity down a few notches and we now have domed cities and dirigibles and women have very few rights. Jacqui finds these restrictions chaffing and she uses her talents to step outside those rules. And that is the main reason I like Jacqui. I find she’s a bit of a twit from time to time yet her character keeps drawing me back into this tale.

The plot picks up shortly after the events of Book 2. There’s a major inquest into the explosion that took out a dirigible and killed several people including a friend of Jacqui’s. More than one of the major families is under suspicion, including the Spadros. Even as the families pull into tight, defensive groups, Jacqui still has her own motivations and sometimes is a bit oblivious to the political dangers she’s straying into.

That is one of the things that still tickles at me. Supposedly Jacqui has been trained since the age of 12 to be a good Spadros spouse. Yet she still lacks some basics, like not knowing some Italian, who to invite to dinner without starting a war between families, etc. Perhaps she had bad teachers? But I tend to think that Jacqui can be a little dense in regards to such things. I can’t help but think that this part of her character could have been cleaned up a bit, sharpened, made clear.

Tony Spadros keeps earning my respect. He finally has some big reveals about his wife and her secret activities and contacts. I really wanted Jacqui and Tony to join forces and become a cohesive team to take on the world, but that didn’t happen. Instead Jacqui is still hung up on Joseph who is just as caught up in her. Joseph is still a stick figure. I wish we had more about his character. After 3 books, we still know little about him other than he has strong feelings for Jacqui.

The story ramps up as things start to fall apart for Jacqui. Most of her secrets have been pried out of the closet. Her list of allies and friends is dwindling. Her choices are narrowing. Even with that, she’s still holding onto her core values. The story does end on a cliff hanger. The fate of the main characters is all up in the air. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Machelle Williams continues to improve. Her pacing is better in this book. The character voices are all distinct and her male character voices are masculine. She makes a good Jacqui Spadros. There were no issues with the recording. 4/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Patricia Loofbourrow. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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review 2018-06-12 20:31
Review: The Illustrious by Pavel Kornev
The Illustrious (The Sublime Electricity Book #1) - Pavel Kornev

It took me two tries to get into this book but I’m glad I stuck with it. This tale a mix of steampunk, historical fiction, fantasy, and murder mystery. Detective Leopold Orso is a very interesting character that takes time to get to know.

The plot flops the reader down right in the middle of it and it takes time to figure out everything – the magic system, the history of the city, the police department, Orso, etc. I think this is the reason it took me a while to get into this book. I had to set aside time to listen to it seriously in order to figure out everything.

I love the magical beings that populate this story and I’m sure the sequels introduce even more variety. There’s a few succubi and some dangerous shape shifters as well as mischievous leprechaun. The werewolf was the scariest of the lot though the idea of a gang of werefoxes seemed daunting! The two succubi make up the majority of the female characters. This was a weak spot in the tale: the limited number of female characters. The ladies are often referred to as ‘girls’ even as they are appreciated for their sexual attributes. Indeed, the ladies do little more than look alluring as sex objects. I did get very tired of them being referred to as girls all the time.

The plot has a lot of loops and a few cul-de-sacs. Orso has stuff going on at work with the police department, there’s some inheritance entanglement with his uncle, another line of plot with a Judean bank, and then there’s his connections to the paranormal beings. The mess with the police department and his paranormal entanglements were my favorite parts of the book. The bit with his uncle felt like just one more thing to complicate Orso’s life.

Orso himself is the most interesting character. He’s got a sweet tooth, was born into privilege but has since fallen to the point where he needs a job, and there are some interesting tattoos. His moral compass provides some hard rules about how to treat friends but leaves some wiggle room when it comes to dealing with bad guys.

Over all, the world is worth more exploration and I look forward to the second book. 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Neil Hellegers gives a great performance. I love his deep, slightly rough voice for Orso. He also doesa good job with various accents. His female voices sound feminine. Each character had a distinct voice. There were no recording or technical issues. 5/5 stars.

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review 2018-06-05 20:00
The Hunchback Assignments / Arthur Slade
The Hunchback Assignments - Arthur Slade

The mysterious Mr. Socrates rescues Modo, a child in a traveling freak show. Modo is a hunchback with an amazing ability to transform his appearance, and Mr. Socrates raises him in isolation as an agent for the Permanent Association, a spy agency behind Brittania's efforts to rule the empire. At 14, Modo is left on the streets of London to fend for himself. When he encounters Octavia Milkweed, another Association agent, the two uncover a plot by the Clockword Guild behind the murders of important men. Furthermore, a mad scientist is turning orphan children into automatons to further the goals of the Guild. Modo and Octavia journey deep into the tunnels under London and discover a terrifying plot against the British government. It's up to them to save their country.


Although others have classified this book as young adult, I would consider it to be for a younger audience than that. I would recommend it for tweens and young teens. I’m rating it three stars, but that’s for the reading experience from my current vantage point as an adult. I think that if I’d read it at the right age, I would definitely have rated it at four stars.

The story is an interesting mix of steampunk elements and allusions to classic literature. The main character, Modo (the hunchback of the title) harks back to Quasimodo of Victor Hugo and Modo’s partner in crime, Octavia Milkweed, reminds me obliquely of La Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like Quasimodo & Esmeralda, Modo becomes enamoured with Octavia. Unlike Quasimodo, Modo has a paranormal ability to change his appearance for limited amounts of time. Because of his crush on Octavia, he spends quite a bit of time & effort to avoid being seen by her in his natural state—this is obviously a state of affairs that will progress in future volumes.

The story’s villain, Dr. Hyde, has some roots in Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, without the virtuous Jekyl state. He performs many horrible experiments on both adults and children, but nothing vivid enough to leave younger readers with nightmares, unless they are ultra-sensitive. The bolts that he inserts in his experimental subjects reminded me strongly of the popular-culture version of Frankenstein’s monster.

Unlike so many of these alternate history Victorian stories, this one seems to be aimed more at boys than at girls, although I think any girl of the right age would definitely identify with Octavia. But with Modo as the narrator of the tale, the appeal to boys is greater. Since I think that reading for young men is a neglected demographic, I am glad to know about this fun, engaging series.

The author, Arthur Slade, will be attending the When Words Collide conference this August (2018) and I am glad that I read one of his books before hearing him speak there.

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