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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 2016-06-29 16:03
A Bit Warm & Dark for this Church Lady: Burning Bright | Review
Burning Bright: Ivy Granger Book 3 - E.J. Stevens,Sacred Oaks,Melanie A. Mason

A fun Urban Fantasy that skirts the edges of my standards.

 

Things are not going well at the offices of Private Eye. Jinx is having demon problems, the city is overrun with pyromaniacal imps, and Ivy's wisp powers are burning out of control, attracting the attention of both the Seelie and Unseelie courts.

 

Along came a faerie queen.... It's the worst possible time for the Green Lady to call in a favor, but Ivy's bound by her deal with the glaistig. Too bad there's no wiggle room in faerie bargains.

 

Ivy must rid the city of imps, keep Jinx from murdering her one solid link to Hell, and fulfill her bargain with the Green Lady - with sidhe assassins hot on her tail.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Kindle + Audible = $5.98.

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 for an honest review.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Burning Bright by E.J. Stevens, read by Melanie A. Mason & David Wilson Brown,  published 2015 / Length: 7 hrs 32 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #3 of 4 (so far) in the "Ivy Granger, Psychic Detective" series. Book #4, Birthright just came out on audio.

 

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

 

SUMMARY:

I was very happy to see character growth and change in this book, but unhappy to see an increase in elements that aren't to my taste.

 

Note: If you are frequent reader of Urban Fantasy, then this book will probably seem tame to you. Also, I haven't read the novellas, but apparently that was a mistake since it appears that some important things happened in the last one that impact this one. It's not absolutely necessary to read it, but I plan to go back and do so.

 

I'm not a big fan of the covers for this series. And this book is incorrectly categorized in Audible as "Mysteries & Thrillers > Modern Detective."

 

CHARACTERS:

Ivy Granger: I love the fact that we are seeing true character growth for her. She is learning to see herself and others more clearly

 

Ceffyl Dwr: Continues to be the perfect boyfriend with the tragic past (i.e. a bit of a stereotype). I liked the way he was shown to grieve after a certain event. I would like to see a bit more development in his character outside of his relationship to Ivy.

 

Ivy & Ceff: I still feel like the status of their relationship is a bit unclear. In the second book, she called him her "boyfriend;" but he had himself introduced (at her debut to fae society) as her "consort." Now the term "suitor" is being used. And his (former?) wife has been referred to as just "wife" but then as "ex." It is clear that Ivy, at least, does not consider herself to be married (which makes their physical relationship problematic for me).

 

I would also like to see more of her helping Ceff and being involved in his world, not just the other way around. I adore how deeply he loves her, but would like to see some detailed reasons for that love beyond just gratitude for her saving him in the first book. Her ability gives the perfect opportunity to overcome his not being a POV character.

--

There were some significant changes for other characters in this book, which I am excited to see play out.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

The world remains much the same as before, with a mix of things like vampires, hell & demons, and Celtic fae in a U.S. coastal city. We get some additional Celtic myths thrown in this time also.

 

PLOT:

We begin with the same prologue found in the previous books.

 

The ending resolves the current issues, and some of ivy's problems from previous books, while introducing some new ones.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Sparky is my favorite new addition, I love him and can't wait to see what becomes of him.
  • The manner in which Ivy handles the issue with Arachne.
  • Everything involved with the use of the apples.

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: The language, especially the 6 or so F-words, and vulgarity. (I don't remember F-words in the first two books, maybe I just automatically skipped them because I was reading rather than listening) / The (literal) blood bath. Some other gore.


OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: A lot of time is spent thinking or talking about Ivy & Ceff's (premarital) sex life, although she doesn't go into great detail.

 

NARRATION:

Notes: There were some production issues with the sound quality at the very beginning, but they went away. / This is the kind of dual narration where they split it by who's speaking rather than by chapters.

 

DAVID: Character voices differentiated = Yes. I really liked Hob's voice, and loved the one for the fire imp. I would have liked an accent for Ceff (although he does live off the U.S. coast). / Accents good = Yes / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Yes / Emoting = Yes

 

MELANIE: Character voices differentiated = Yes, although everyone else got such great voices and accent that it made Ivy's voice seem kind of boring. I didn't like what they did with Ailinn's voice / Accents good = Yes / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Yes, although some of the Irish words may have been wrong, I'm not sure / Emoting = Yes

 

Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual, but it was just a touch fast.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Burning Bright (Ivy Granger #3) by E.J. Stevens, read by Melanie A. Mason & David Wilson Brown,  published 2015 / Length: 7 hrs 32 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Can you recommend any low-swearing, non-explicit Urban Fantasy?
  • Do vampires & fae belong in the same world?

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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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