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review 2016-10-11 15:40
Nice & Not so Nice: No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished | Review
No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished: Heartstrikers, Book 3 - Audible Studios,Vikas Adam,Rachel Aaron

Two wonderful protagonists & a slow burn romance make this NA Fantasy a real pleasure.

 

When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place.

 

To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair. But there’s more going on in Heartstriker Mountain than politics. Every family has its secrets, but the skeletons in Bethesda’s closet are dragon sized, and with Algonquin’s war looming over them all, breaking his clan wide open might just be the only hope Julius has of saving it.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I received this book free in return from Audible. My opinions are my own.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron, read by Vikas Adam, published by Audible Studios (2016) / Length: 18 hrs 50 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #3 in the "Heartstrikers" series. The author confirmed on Twitter that there will be 2 more books (for a total of 5) and that she hopes to publish them both in 2017.

 

**This review may contain minor spoilers for the previous books.**

 

SUMMARY:

You really should be reading this series. Each book builds the story and the characters further. So much happens in this book; yet I don't want to spoil anything, so this review won't have a lot of details.

 

CHARACTERS:

Julius: Although I don't always agree with his decisions, I am very impressed by how much he has grown. By the end of this book he knows who he is, what he wants, and what he is willing to do to get it. And he is not ashamed of any of it.

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review 2016-09-22 07:01
A Sequel that Surpasses its Predecessor: Atone | Review
Atone: A Fairytale: Fairytale Trilogy - Jessica Grey,Randi Larson,Tall House Books

A sweet & funny YA Contemporary Fantasy Retelling that's biggest drawback is that it's too short.

 

Becca Ward knows that magic is real... Two years ago, not only had she and her best friend Alex found a real life sleeping beauty in the middle of Los Angeles, they also discovered that they were powerful in their own right. They've managed to keep both their fae powers and their friend Lilia's identity as a medieval princess a secret and live a normal life. Now that normalcy is threatened by the return of their former advisor at the Gem and Mineral Museum, and Becca's least favorite person, Nicholas Hunt. And she's about to find out that more than one fairy tale is true.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Kindle + Audible = $4.98 (must purchase Kindle first, prices may change)

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this audiobook myself from Audible (the only place it is currently available.)

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Atone by Jessica Grey, read by Randi Larson, published 2013 / Length: 6 hrs 43 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of "The Fairytale Trilogy." While the series has not been officially abandoned, the 3rd book (Aspire) appears to have been indefinitely delayed.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book.**

 

SUMMARY:

This is one of my favorite fairy tale retellings. I love how the relationship grows between them.  I wasn't a fan of the narration but it hasn't kept me from relistening. And I really don't like the cover.

 

Note: Audible has this in the 11-13 year old bracket, but Becca is 20 and Nicholas is several years older. I've categorized it as NA (although there isn't any sex, so it's appropriate for younger readers as well).

 

CHARACTERS:

Becca Ward: I love how she is snarky but not mean. She is very relatable since she comes from a broken home with lots of "steps," but they all muddle along trying to take care of each other despite their issues. She does make a couple of seriously rash decisions, I wouldn't have expected her to let her emotions get the better of her like that.

 

Nicholas Hunt: I didn't actually hate him in the last one. He was selfish & obnoxious, but not really much of an obstacle. The inappropriateness of his previous actions become clearer in this one though. He definitely deserved what happened to him.

 

Becca & Nicholas: This is a couple that actually has a lot in common, if they can overcome their past animosity (and his being a beast). I was never very sure why Alex & Luke were supposedly so perfect for each other in the first book, besides having been childhood friends (and hot); but that isn't the case here. And I really like the way they talk and interact.

 

Note: I also like the way neither blames their families or upbringing for anything they do, but instead take responsibility.

 

Alex - I like her better without all the baggage she was carrying in the previous book. / Lilia - she is much less annoying in this book, but still appears to be dealing with losing her entire world & waking up 1100 years later a bit better than seems likely.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

We are introduced to additional Fae in this book with different powers & affinities. The L.A. setting continues to be important to what is going on (traffic & parking, heat, rich people's homes, Koreatown, and amusement parks are some of the things that are included).

 

PLOT:

The beginning did a good job of setting up who the characters were and what had happened to them in the previous book as well as what their current relationships with each other

 

As I said above, the book is too short. There were some wonderful scenes that explored the changing nature of Becca & Nicholas' very non-Instalove relationship. I wanted quite a bit more.

 

The ending is beautiful. There is a scene, where everything Nicholas is doing to try and fix a problem is just making it worse, that actually made me cry. And I enjoyed the short bit at the end with everyone together afterwards.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • The scene where they first look into the mirror at the same time (very sensual).
  • Playing together outside
  • Nicholas' reaction when Becca said she though they had become friends

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: mild swearing

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: Nicholas acts threatening to Becca on a couple of occasions, and physically restrains her at one point.

 

NARRATION:

Character voices differentiated = barely / Opposite sex voices acceptable = yes, but not good (and Nicholas doesn't sound at all beastly) / Accents = mosty ignored (“slightly accented” voice isn’t noticeably accented at all) / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = I had some issues with her phrasing / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Atone (The Fairytale Trilogy #2) by Jessica Grey, read by Randi Larson, published 2013 / Length: 6 hrs 43 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • So far I've read Beastly & this book. Can you recommend any other urban Beauty & the Beast retellings?
  • Do you enjoy it when an author brings back an antagonist from a previous book for a redemption story?

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review 2016-08-24 17:24
Can of Wyrms: One Good Dragon Deserves Another | Review
One Good Dragon Deserves Another - Rachel Aaron,Vikas Adam

A little less Urban, this Fantasy is still just as much fun

 

After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.

 

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Kindle + Audible = $6.98.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I borrowed this book from a family member, and definitely plan to purchase it. The audiobook is available exclusively through Audible & Amazon.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron, read by Vikas Adam, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 18 hrs 9 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of 3 (so far) in the "Heartstrikers" series. Book #3, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, is out now and will be available on audio 9/13/16.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book(s).**

 

SUMMARY:

I am still a huge fan of Julius & Marci, and am beginning to develop some appreciation for a few of the other dragons as well.

 

One of the strengths of this series is the way it takes some very common fantasy elements and uses them in a unique way. And I really like the narrative voice.

 

 

CHARACTERS:

Julius: I like that he is growing without changing his basic nature. He is still the "nice dragon" but not so much of a doormat, a trend that continues in this book. One of the things I liked in the last book, but referred to only vaguely in that review to avoid any hints of a spoiler, is the contrast between Julius' status & abilities as a dragon versus as a supposed human. He is seen as a weak and "pathetic" dragon with little strength, magic, or power. Yet he is so much stronger & faster than any human that he struggles to control it in order to avoid outing himself.

 

Marci: I like that Marci continues to be more dragonish than Julius, but is also proving herself to be a good partner for him. She makes decisions that are right for others and not just those that are best for her. She does sometimes let her enthusiasm and/or self-confidence get her into hot water when she should know better.

 

Marci & Julius: In the first book, we got one (overly tired) kiss; and when Julius chose to be a gentleman, Marci felt rejected. In this book Julius is so grateful to have a real friend that he's afraid to risk that by trying for more (and unlike many books with clueless best friends, he recognizes that she would quite possibly be open to trying but isn't ready to take that step). There were however some hints that a relationship might be possible afterall. I especially like how he puts up with her junker of a car because it has sentimental value to her (in the first book, he knew she wasn't some other dragon's human since none of them would tolerate it). And she puts up with them losing money due to his softheartedness.

 

Amelia (yes "A"melia) - I really feel for her, stuck between the rock & the hard place. I like how she is shaping up. (And I love how see calls Julius "Baby J") / Chelsie - this book revealed a lot more depth to the Enforcer, as well as an intriguing mystery. / Quetzalcoatl - although he died long before the series began, his role as the one responsible for all the brutal blood sacrifices is contrasted with his apparent tendency to be a doting father & grandfather in an interesting manner.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

In addition to the DFZ, we get to visit the Heartstriker's headquarters (it can hardly be called a home) and a very interesting place on another plane. The worldbuilding is strong and very descriptive.

 

There are lots of interesting revelations about dragons, spirits, and the nature of magic.

 

PLOT:

I was looking forward to seeing Marci & Julius working together in their business, so I am glad we got that before everything went haywire.

 

This definitely isn't one of those middle books were nothing much happens except some set-up for the next books. (It helps that there will be more than 3, so this isn't actually the middle.) A LOT happens, including some very big changes. Much of what happens is tied up in some very complicated effects of having seers and manipulating the future, so I had to read those parts twice.

 

The situation from this book is completely resolved, but then we get some great big teasing cliffhangerish revelations.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Julius' determination to be there for Justin.
  • Marci makes a very difficult and self-sacrificing decision that totally hit me in the feels.
  • Marci sees Julius in his natural form for the first time.

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: a small bit of swearing / severed heads

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: Ian & Svena continue to be lovers. / Amelia is an alcoholic

 

NARRATION:

Character voices differentiated = Most definitely; I particularly liked Algonquin’s voice, it managed to sound both feminine & waterish. And Ghost's voice gets really creepy (in a good way) / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents good = Yes / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good (very) / Speed = a bit slow; listened on 1.5 speed, instead of my usual 1.25

 

There were a couple of small production issues - the quality of the sound changed - but they weren't too distracting

 

BOOK DETAILS:

One Good Dragon Deserves Another (The Heartstrikers #2) by Rachel Aaron, read by Vikas Adam, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 18 hrs 9 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Can you recommend any other non-erotic dragon shifter books/series?
  • Dragon's really aren't the nicest people (Julius aside) so why do we love reading about them?

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review 2016-06-08 16:55
Ruthless or Worthless?: Nice Dragons Finish Last | Review + Narrator Interview
Nice Dragons Finish Last: Heartstrikers, Book 1 - Rachel Aaron,Vikas Adam,Audible Studios

A quirky and enjoyable NA Dystopian Urban Fantasy that sucked me into it's complex world.

 

Audie Award, Fantasy, 2016. As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don't cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn't fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ - a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit - Julius has one month to prove he can be a ruthless dragon. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he's going to need some serious help to survive this test. He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons...

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Kindle + Audible = $6.98.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron, read by Vikas Adam, published by Audible Studios (2014) / Length: 13 hrs 2 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is #1 of 2 (so far) in the "Heartstrikers" series. Book #3, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, will be out in August with the audiobook being released, "by September or October at the latest."

 

SUMMARY:

Can I describe a book as light if the main character is in danger of being eaten by his mother for his failure to measure up? What if I add in the fact that it takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopian city where you have to pay the police to show up and dangerous magical creatures roam the squalid underbelly of the city, which is where the majority of the people live. This is not a place I would want to live, and yet I enjoy spending time there as long as I'm with Julius.

 

I am labeling this as New Adult because Julius is 24 and Marci is a year older, and they are both having to learn to make their way in the world. There isn't anything explicit in the book.

 

The covers of this series are great.

 

 

CHARACTERS:

Julius Heartstriker: The dragon equivalent of the guy living in his mother's basement and playing video games all day. He's just trying to stay under everyone's radar and stay alive. His human form is gorgeous, all dragons' are; but he is the furthest thing from the typical arrogant, amazingly attractive, smoldering, controlling jerks I've been getting sick of lately. He's not only the nicest dragon, he's the nicest anything. And every once in awhile he surprises us with a reminder that, even as the least of the dragons, he's NOT just some human slacker.

 

Marci Novali: As a Socratic Thaumaturge, she's the mage equivalent of the computer nerd who insists that their OS or language is the best. She's more dragonishly ruthless than Julius sometimes, but also gets all fangirly over magic and magical creatures.

 

Julius & Marci: I'm not sure how this relationship would work if it becomes romantic. Would Julius give up his immortality somehow, or would Marci gain it in some way? I wouldn't mind if they end up just being really good friends and co-workers, although they are cute together. (As a side note, I think I would love a television show about the further adventures of Julius & Marci in the DFZ. One of those "will they or won't they?" kind with lots of nerdy bookish banter.)

 

I think my favorite supporting character is Julius' sister Chelsie "the enforcer," probably because she's sounds so totally "bad." Although I also love the clueless & pushy Justin's straight-forward caring for his "little" brother.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

This world is incredibly complex. The premise is that a natural disaster returned magic to the world and awoke all the magical creatures. They weren't very happy with what humans had been doing and proceeded to make that very clear.

 

You have dragons and their complex schemes & ambitions. You have Spirits (elementals), who want their bits of the earth back. And you have human mages of many different varieties.

 

Most of the book takes place in the DFZ (Detroit Free Zone) where life is great - if you are a Spirit, or a fish. Not so much, if you are a human. And it's illegal to be a dragon.

 

Despite the presence of magic, technology has not stopped developing. Self driving cars and augmented reality phones are common.

 

PLOT:

The book begins with an introduction to Marci's situation that raises more questions than it answers, in a good way, before jumping feet first into Julius' problems. Because he is newly arrived in the DFZ, we are able to get a good introduction to the city and the background of the world that doesn't feel awkward.

 

Once Julius & Marci begin working together, we get a series of adventures that just keep getting bigger, with nice interludes between. Despite the relatively short time covered by this novel, Julius' character growth seems very natural and satisfying. I especially like that his changes involve embracing and improving on who he is, rather than becoming what everyone else wants him to be.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Great bookish references:
"In addition to the mini fridge and the lamp, she’d acquired a couch and a gigantic wooden wardrobe that looked like it might contain Narnia."

“You don’t have to come with us if you don’t want to.”

“No way,” she said, shaking her head. “I said I’d stick with you and I will. I just want to get all this out now so I can say ‘I told you so’ later when we get eaten by a Balrog.”

Despite everything that had happened, Julius couldn’t help smiling at that. “I can’t believe you know what a Balrog is.”

She gave him an arch look. “Who doesn’t? I mean, really.”

  • I love Julius & Marci's first meeting, her sweetness & vulnerability contrast with the ruthless dragons he's been dealing with, and also with some of her own actions later.

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Some swearing, including one instance of the Lord's name


OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: The other dragons’ morals are almost as bad as their ethics (but there is nothing explicit). / Marci's ethics are a bit shady as well, which is understandable given her background.

 

NARRATION:

Since he just won the Audie award, you don't need me to tell you he did a good job, but I will anyway. / His Marci is one of the better male-voiced females I’ve heard. And I love how menacing Chelsie sounds. / The speed is good (My usual 1.25 is a bit fast) / Accents sound good to me although I can't judge their accuracy.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1) by Rachel Aaron, read by Vikas Adam, published by Audible Studios (2014) / Length: 13 hrs 2 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • I have struggled with Urban Fantasy (since so much of it tips over into erotica), can you recommend other books such as this that don't?
  • In fiction, everybody seems to love the bad boys. Do fictional nice guys really finish last?

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  • I recently debuted my redesigned blog. What do you think?

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Bonus Narrator Interview (Part 1)

The remainder of the interview will be included with my review of Book #2

 

So, Congratulations, how does it feel to be an Audie Award Winner?

Thank you very much!  It feels amazing to be honored this way.  I was on Cloud 9 just being nominated alongside Simon [Vance], Robin [Miles], and Tim [Gerard Reynolds].  They are all so immensely talented with Robin and Simon being audiobook royalty (with good reason) and Tim being one of the most respected narrators out there that to be in their company was a gift. More so than the win though, was the amazing tsunami of love and congrats I received from my peers that night and after.

Who was your favorite character in the book and why?

Ohhhh, Julius is always great (his heart and purity are anchors) but I’m extremely partial to Bethesda and Bob.  I’m drawn to the wicked and the zany as well, what can I say?  Bob, in addition to his zany side, is probably one of my favorites to narrate because of his multidimensionality (did i just make up a word?) and the numerous choices he affords me to explore.  Where is he playing?  Where is he teasing?  Where is he communicating something of great peril?  Where is he walking a fine line in giving information?  Everything he says is for a reason.  So the way he says it is calculated and chosen because he wants to have a certain affect on the characters he’s interacting with.  It’s a puzzle and it’s a testament to Rachel’s writing that she doesn’t just launch him in with funny lines for nothing.  That’s one of the reasons I feel fans of the series really gravitate towards him.

Who was the easiest to narrate?  The hardest?

Oh, the lovely trio: Estella, Svena, and Katya.  I’m reading the book for the first time and going, “Okay, Svena is Russian, no probs [I then meet Estella] ohhhhkay another Russian sister, yup, yup...[and then Katya comes on board] Oh man, how am I supposed to differentiate three young looking beautiful sisters who are all Russian??"  I recall talking to Rachel and she laughed and apologized for doing that.

 

I decided that since it was sonic theatre, the Russian accents would differentiate them from the other characters but in order to tell them apart age wise (older, middle, youngest) as well as characteristically, I affected my voice pitch and tonally so that Estella as the oldest and the Seer of that clan had the lowest ‘I’ve seen the world and everything across time” voice, while Katya as the youngest was breathier and higher with still a youthful rebellious streak; Svena fell somewhere in the middle pitch wise but was the most sensual of the three with power aspirations so I could play with those tones too. 

 

Bob took a bit to find as well.  He started off as a surfer dude and I tried it and felt, “Nooooooo that’s too stereotypical.  He’s much more nuanced.”  So I played with him a bunch more and found where he would launch into a sing song vs speaking directly but then find his ‘real’ and serious voice as well.   Once again, a testament to Rachel’s writing.

Which actor/actress do you think should playing the lead character(s)?

I don’t know if I could cast specifically per se.  I do know that I would love to see the main Heartstriker clan members populated by actors of various colors, united by their green eyes. It’s about the energy of the actor and how they can effectively breathe life into these creatures. I don’t know who should play Julius, Bethesda, Marci and company but I do know that I would LOVE to play Bob.  Hands down. I’d be fascinated to explore his movement and the ability to play with communication and thought process visually would be an incredible opportunity!

For more information:

You can follow @vikasadam on Twitter or Instagram

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