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review 2018-01-30 00:15
The Elf and the Princess by Ann Del C. Dye
The Elf and The Princess: The Silent Warrior Trilogy, Book 1 - Anna del C. Dye,Anna del C. Dye,George Tintura

I started this book with high hopes. I liked the book blurb description and was up for an Elven adventure. However, this story fell a little short. The beginning was easy to start with but then the timeline jumps around a bit and I had trouble following who did what when. Now, if you get past that, the story settles on 16 year old Princess Adren.

Initially, I really liked her character. Her mother dies shortly after we meet her and Adren’s kingdom is in ruins. I worried she wouldn’t be able to save herself let alone her kingdom! But she has been taking sword-fighting lessons from a master, Donian. Now he was a fun character! I loved his harsh nature and no-nonsense training. He’s merciless in her training and she picks up the art quickly. Now, I did find it a bit too convenient that she mastered sword training so quickly, but it’s necessary for the story to progress.

Adren must venture out on a quest to find allies but her little world is one where women are kept safe and secure and don’t learn to fight with swords and gallivant around the countryside. Initially, I found her solution to this problem endearing, because who wouldn’t want to put on a mask and pretend to be someone else, especially if you have to kill anyone? Still, I was a little dismayed that in this fictional world, ladies in general have very little to do with the plot.

Adren hasn’t spent any time with elves and now that she’s met some, she’s fascinated by them. Here’s another part of the story that didn’t work so well for me. We know that she was raised with stories about elves and there’s obviously contact and trade between humans and elves, and yet dear little Adren is totally blank on Elvish factoids. Really? Sigh… So I felt that contradicted what we learned earlier. Then when she learns why her ears are the shape they are…. well, it was just a lot of drama for no reason.
Still, there’s plenty of action and armor and sword fighting and heroes. I liked all those bits. Then we have the love story. Adren loves a certain person and then yet another person is falling in love with Adren (unbeknownst to her). Again, I felt the love story was a whole lot of drama for very little entertainment. Also, the wrap up to that romance in this book was a little cliched and I expected that twist well before it was revealed.

All together, the tale held potential to be a fun high adventure but fell short with some inconcise writing and over-done drama. 3/5 stars.

The Narration: George Tintura did an OK job with this narration. He sounded interested in the story all the way through the book. He does make an effort to do accents and keep character voices distinct but they kind of go in and out. His grumpy voice for Donian is pretty good and most of the time, he does a believable 16 year old Princess Adren. He also makes a believable snobbish elf. 4/5 stars.

➜ Susan received a free copy of this book from the author. Her opinions are 100% my own.

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review 2018-01-30 00:08
The Ruby Brooch by Katherine Lowry Logan
The Ruby Brooch - Katherine Lowry Logan

I was pretty excited to dive into this time travel novel because I played way too much Oregon Trail as a kid and this book is set in the mid-1800s along the Oregon Trail. Kit MacKlenna is a modern day paramedic living on her ancestral horse ranch. Yet she has questions about her heritage and a small package left to her tempts her into the past to discover her true roots. I really liked that she knowingly traveled to the past. She plans well, studying up on the time period and packing certain supplies. Now I will say that I was a little surprised by how many modern things she decided to take with her (flashlights, IVs, pregnancy tests, etc.) and I did worry that would lead to many, many questions for her later. Also, she chose to take her dog and cat along for the trip as well. While I do like having furry companions in any story, I did find this an odd choice and I deeply worried the pets were going to be Red Shirts for drama down the road.

Then we’re off into the semi-civilized lands of Missouri. She knows that it will be hard to get a place on a wagon train as a single woman so she’s hoping to find a group that will accept her. She’s capable of seeing to her own food, camping gear, and animals so it’s really a matter of bending the social norms of the time. At first, the mid-1800s characters held to their social morays but as the story progresses, I did notice that there were sometimes unlikely reactions to Kit’s modern attitudes. Those little breaks in character took me out of the story from time to time and I wish that Kit had to work harder to either hide her modern ways or win others over to her ways quietly.

There is a strong romantic element to this book. I did like Cullen though I found the insta-luv between him and Kit to be rather convenient. Cullen is an interesting character but once he becomes involved with Kit they had this silly emotional roller coaster. Flirting, fighting, showing off to one another, ignoring each other, kissing, making up, etc. I was much more interested in the historical elements of this story but, alas, those were rather lacking once the tale was set up and off and running. This is a romance story first and foremost and a historical fiction second.

Despite the silly romance, Kit is a woman who does get stuff done. She’s a good shot, knows how to ride well, and has her medical skills. She’s also skilled at sketching. So she has a lot going for her if she can just wrangle in her emotions and stay focused. This mystery about her true relatives eats away at her throughout the story. While I can understand how that mystery can drive a person, I did feel she was a bit too needy at times, forgetting all the good things her upbringing modern Kentucky did have. I can’t help comparing The Ruby Brooch to other time travel books by the likes of Diana Gabaldon and Connie Willis. This book isn’t on the same level as those works. It’s more romance than historical fiction.

Some of the other interesting characters include Braham McCabe, who adds a bit of comedy here and there.The Barrett Family was very good to Kit and I feel I got to know Mrs. Barrett and Frances the best among them. Elliot Fraser is Kit’s godfather in modern Kentucky and he provides wisdom and safe household to return to if needed. All told, 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Teri Schnaubelt was awesome as the narrator. I really liked her variety of accents and the range of voices she had for men and women. Kit cried so much in this book (a little too much for me) but Teri did a great job with all the emotions. Schnaubelt sounded engaged throughout the story and all her character voices were distinct. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

➜ Susan received a free copy of this book from the narrator. Her opinions are 100% my own.

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review 2018-01-29 23:54
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti - Nnedi Okorafor

Young Binti comes from an insular people (the Himba) who are dedicated to their land, their rituals, and science. She is the first of her people to be excepted to this big university and she’s willing to leave the bosom of her people to go experience this thing called ‘higher learning’. I really liked Binti right from the start. She’s a great character to take us through this tale. I was caught up in her culture and how that differed from all those around her. The story does a great job of showing how Binti’s people have, in some ways, limited themselves by choosing to remain so isolated. There’s several details about the Himba culture including their otjize, which is a mix of oil and clay they use on their skin and hair.

Other students on their way to the university populate this spaceship and Binti makes a few friends. Alas, the jellyfish-like aliens Meduse attack the ship and kill nearly everyone before we get a real chance to know these new friends. The Meduse have a bone to pick with university and plan to exact a messy revenge for the perceived insult.

 

OK. So, I was indeed entertained by this story even though there is this sudden and not subtle at all plot twist with the Meduse. The story started off promising complexity and depth but once the Meduse squiggle into the story, we lose that. Deus ex machina becomes the mechanism driving the story forward from that point. Despite that, I still really liked Binti and was biting my lip wondering how things would turn out for her.

 

Binti gets more of an education than she ever expected. So do the Meduse. The overall message of the story holds true throughout the plot even if I felt it was a bit strained for the second half: acceptance and respect of different cultures. Despite the difficulties with the plot, I was entertained enough to seek out the sequel and I look forward to giving that a listen. 4/5 stars because I was so entertained.

 

The Narration: Robin Miles gave such a beautiful performance. I really enjoyed listening to her voice. She made the perfect Binti. Her other character voices were distinct and her male character voices were believable. I also enjoyed her voice for the Meduse. Binti goes through a pantheon of strong emotions in this tale and Miles delivered them all with skill. 5/5 stars
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review 2018-01-27 00:21
The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe
The Woman in the Camphor Trunk - Jennifer Kincheloe

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works as a stand alone.

I didn’t realize how much I missed Anna Blanc until I returned to her world of early 1900s Los Angeles. She’s such a charming character having a kind of innocence but also a deep determination once she’s decided on a course of action. I love how she can judge certain traits about a person while also finding the person as a whole to be worthy. Some would say that her current circumstances are all her own making as she could have lived a life of indulgence and pampering, but doing so would have meant giving up her freedom in nearly everything. Besides, living on a police matron’s salary lets her eat decently (if you count whiskey, kippers, and cracker jacks as wholesome food).

Joe Singer is also a favorite character. While he often has to rescue Anna from one situation or another, he is usually returned the kindness when Anna has to rescue him (though that can put a rub on his male ego). It’s obvious he’s madly in love with Anna but he’s also hurt that she isn’t willing to set aside her independence and become his obedient stay-at-home wife. I expect that eventually Anna will cure him of such expectations but until then I greatly look forward to the back and forth, the give and take between these two.

Wolfe surprised me in this book. He’s always so obvious about how he wouldn’t mind making some time with Anna in the police stables. He definitely has a misogynistic streak and is borderline lewd at times with his blatant comeons. Still, there are some moments in this story where he shines and I very much look forward to seeing what the author has in store for him.

The plot delves into Los Angeles’s Chinatown. It’s a seedy, run down section of the town full of tasty food and crime. Anna can’t resist going again and again despite everyone warning her not to. She’s afforded some protection simply because she is a White woman and Chinatown doesn’t want to be turned upside down by the police in the event of something unfortunate happening to a White woman in Chinatown…. which is exactly what has happened to the mystery woman in the camphor trunk. Joe knows that this crime is a match waiting to strike so he and Anna do all they can to solve the murder before it makes news. However, most of Chinatown is not willing to help, with the exception of Mr. Jones who acts as translator for the two (though Joe knows some basic Chinese phrases).

Missionary work was big at the time and could be a blessing and a curse. Several missionary ladies have been providing English lessons to those in Chinatown, along with their spiritual guidance. Add all this to an underlying war brewing between the Tongs, and Chinatown is a hotbed of impending violence. Anna doesn’t care. Sigh…. Joe, I really feel for you. Keeping Anna safe is a full-time job.

Humor and danger intertwine in this tale to make a delightful murder mystery. The historical setting provides a backdrop of sexism and racism all while being very interesting. Anna is the shinning star of the show, often providing a bit of humor as folks are a little shocked by how she deals with various situations. I really enjoyed Book 1 in this series and Book 2 does not disappoint, holding to the high standard previously set by The Secret Life of Anna Blanc. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Moira Quirk continues to do this series justice. Her voice as Anna Blanc is spot on. Her masculine voices for the men are believable and her Chinese accents are well done. There’s a variety of emotions in this story, especially for Anna, and Quirk performs them all well. Joe Singer’s emotions are also on display even if he is trying to hold back and I appreciated Quirk ability to get across nuanced scenes. 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 Jennifer Kincheloe. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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review 2018-01-26 20:38
Awakening by Julie C. Gilbert
Awakening: Redeemer Chronicles, Book 1 - Julie C. Gilbert,Julie C. Gilbert,Caitlin Jacques

This tale had many of the elements that I really enjoy in a story and yet I didn’t fall in love with it. First, we have a Chosen One and while I have read and enjoyed many tales that have this element, it didn’t grab me here. Vic isn’t convinced she is a chosen one but she does think she’s a bit different from those around her. She pretty much grew up in this isolated cabin and sometimes her dad would go off for days leaving her to take care of everything. So she’s got some skills and yet I didn’t feel they were employed much.

The shape shifting element initially intrigued me. I like how Vic and her friends have multiple animals they can shift into. However, there were times when there was some info dumping about how this or that magic worked, including the shapeshifting snake and that bit about the berries.

Katrina was initially a worthy character being determined once she decided on something. She was the serious one of the three. Her character got a bit muddled as the story went on and sometimes I had trouble distinguishing her from Vic. Meanwhile, Tellen was the goof ball. He more than once pretended to be poisoned or such and considering that us and the main characters know that Vic is on someone’s hitlist, it didn’t come off as funny. Tellen didn’t make me laugh once.

So there’s a little political intrigue and that was pretty straight forward. It pretty much was just used to set us up for a big fight scene at the end. Now I really did like those last few scenes. The tension was there, the action, the drama. It was a good mix and I really did want Vic and her friends to make it through OK.

So while there’s all the elements I enjoy in a fantasy tale, it was still just meh for me. Oh, and there’s zombies but I didn’t feel their full potential was used in this story. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Caitlin Jacques was OK for this story. She does have a good voice for Vic, however I felt that sometimes her character voices were a bit muddled. Her male character voices were sometimes masculine and sometimes not. She did do Tellen really well. The sound quality is not the best. The volume varies a bit and sometimes it sounds like it was recorded in a cavern. Jacques didn’t always put emotions into the narrations even during desperate moments. So this narration could have used some polishing. 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 Julie C. Gilbert. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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