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review 2018-06-13 03:01
Legacy by Jesikah Sundin
Legacy (The Biodome Chronicles series Book 1) - Jesikah Sundin

The basic premise of this story pulled me right in. Take some Medieval LARPers and stick them in a biodome for decades and monitor how their society evolves. Now it’s 2 generations later and the grandchildren of those original LARPers are coming into their own. Willow and Leaf Watson just put their father, Joel, to rest in a grave and they have many questions about where their lives will go from here. Being the two oldest members of one of the reigning houses, they know they hold some power but are not sure what to do with it. Their young sister, Laurel, is still a child and unaware of what perils may befall their family.

Meanwhile, out in the real world with all it’s technology, the Game Master Hannley Nichols plots. The biodome was originally set up to study human psychology when a society is confined yet separate from the larger whole of humanity (as it would be on Mars or such). However, I wonder if his goals have changed over time or if he had ulterior motives all along. A good chunk of the world sees the biodome and it’s residents as entertainment and not a serious scientific study. Initially, Hannley was just a side character, but by the end of the book I had a real interest in him and what his story arc will be for the series.

The word ‘biodome’ makes me sit up and take notice. For many years now I have been fascinated with this concept and the limited number of actual biodome experiments that have been done. The concept definitely helped pull me into this story but I found that it wasn’t executed very realistically. A self-sustained, closed society needs a lot of cross over training and strong connections among it’s members to work. The regular, daily tasks that it takes to live in a Medieval-like society in a biodome were glossed over and I found the enforced gender roles to be unlikely to work in such a situation. Plus, if we ever do send a chunk of humans to Mars to set up a biodome, we will probably make sure they have quality medical knowledge. This group didn’t have that.

So, setting that quibble aside, I was initially interested in the main characters. Willow, who prefers to be called Oaklee (and never let us forget it), is almost 16 and boys are starting to look her way as a potential partner in marriage. However, she lets her emotions rule her. At first, this was a charming quality about her as everyone, even herself, acknowledges this and loves her anyway. As the story went on, though, I found myself tiring of her emotional tantrums, weeping, fainting, crying to the point her stomach aches, etc. Since she was the main female character, I really wanted more out of her.

Leaf is rather mild and not that memorable other than he is easily offended. Meanwhile, Fillion revels in offending people. So maybe Leaf and Fillion were made for each other. Fillion has been a bad boy and is sentenced to a kind of community service that puts him ever closer to the biodome inhabitants. I found his character inconsistent at times even as I enjoyed his cheek. On one had, he claims no woman has offered him true affection before yet in other scenes he bemoans the fact that so many women have thrown themselves at his feet. While many of those girls could have been star struck or inconsiderate fortune hunters, I expect there were a few that served up true affections.

Then there’s some connection between the Watsons and the Nichols that I don’t fully understand yet. Della, Fillion’s mom, was also involved with Joel Watson at some point. So does that make Fillion and his sister Lynden stepsiblings (or divorced stepsiblings?) to the Watson kids? I’m not sure. I felt I needed a little family tree.

The story also gives us some insta-love which isn’t my thing. I expected more out of the biodome inhabitants as they don’t seem to have any method for divorce so I would think that pairings would be made with plenty of consideration for actual love matches. There’s also a love triangle to contend with, and again, that’s not my thing. So I could have done without the romance in this story as it seems to be there just to add drama.

The ending had plenty of drama and some of it was good (like Fillion’s final fist fight) and some of it was silly (Willow’s emotional tantrum). There’s this bit of failed drama where Fillion assumes a false name. This doesn’t go over as planned and yet Willow is fooled… hmmm…. really? And that’s when I decided I really wanted some other main female character. Anyway, all around, the setting and plot hold potential for the next book in the series. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Sunil Patel has a very enjoyable voice. It’s rich and clear and just makes me want to listen to him all day. However, his narration skills need a little polishing. There were a few mispronounced words but his French was good. I felt his Japanese was a bit rough. Also, he doesn’t really do distinct character voices. He did try to soften his voice for the female characters, but that wasn’t consistent either. Whenever Willow was yelling, she sounded just like her brother or Fillion. The biodome inhabitants are supposed to have a general British English accent, which Patel does well, but Fillion and Hannley and all the outsiders really sound just like biodomers in accent. The recording was OK but there are a few places where the volume goes up or the recording sounds a little rough. 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 Jesikah Sundin. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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review 2018-01-26 23:36
The Feedback Loop by Harmon Cooper
The Feedback Loop: (Book One) (Sci-Fi Series) (Volume 1) - Harmon Cooper
Initially, I was drawn into this world that Quantum is trapped in. Every day starts off with yet one more attempt to kill him. He’s got it down to a T now because he’s stuck in this cybergame on some kind of loop. Life holds no more mysteries for him, except for the big one: why is he trapped here and how can he get out? This story definitely has elements of the movie Groundhog Day (which I always found boring) but luckily this story gives us just a taste of Quantum’s repetitive life before something new happens.
Frances Euphoria walks in, boobs first. Yep, her physical attributes are the first things we learn about and her skills only come on display later. In fact, all the ladies in this story (including a voluptuous waitress) are described first by their looks and perhaps, maybe, later by some important skill they have. After I finished rolling my eyes at this, I really liked what Euphoria brought to the table: A possible way out! Quantum will do nearly anything at this point to escape this personal hell.
The plot thickens as Quantum tries harder and harder to escape. He had slipped into a kind of complacency but now as he pushes back against the Loop, more and more deadly things and characters are set against him. There is also an unexpected ally.
Just as I was getting sucked into this tale, we neared the end. Things felt a little rushed towards the end and I wanted more out of Euphoria. While Quantum was surprised by who was behind his imprisonment, it wasn’t a surprise to me. 3.5/5 stars.
The Narration: Jeff Hays never disappoints. All of his character voices were distinct and his female voices are excellent. Also, his enthusiasm for this story came through in his performance. I liked his grumbly voice for Quantum and his ticked off voice for Euphoria. 5/5 stars.
I won a free copy of this book. My opinions are solely my own.
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review 2018-01-26 21:54
Welcome to Ludus by Blaise Corvin
Delvers LLC: Welcome to Ludus - Blaise Corvin
Henry and Jason are engaging characters. They have a little knowledge about weapons, armor, and fighting and these are definitely put to the test right away on Ludus. Dolos, the omnipotent god of Ludus, is a jerk but Henry and Jason strike a bargain with him and are determined to win. I am skeptical that Dolos will hold up his end of the bargain. Still, I hope Henry and Jason best him by the end of the series.
The first big hurdle for the guys is to take out some orc-like creatures that have taken some human-like captives. Enter Mareen, the first maiden that needs saving. Now she’s not all helpless. She puts up a fight and is quick to recover enough to get out of there with the guys and back to safety where she can fall apart in private. So, she held potential from the beginning…. if only the author had used that potential.
The quests and magic continue from there. Henry is more the reactive, leader type while Jason is much more the thinker. The inhabitants of Ludus know how Henry and Jason got here because either they themselves were brought here for Dolos’s entertainment or their ancestors were. So they offer what knowledge they have to Jason and Henry.
There’s caves and dungeons to explore to gain treasure and the chance to level up your magical skills. It really felt like these characters were immersed in an epic fantasy computer game. Mostly I enjoyed the world building, though there were a few times where explaining the rules dragged things down a bit.
For some reason, Mareen remains our only female character for some time. Also, her destiny is to fall in love. Yep… sigh…. really? Eventually, we get Uulula who is basically an elf. She’s a bit more interesting than Mareen when we first meet her. Both ladies do get some skills but their main focus is to serve as love interests for Henry and Jason. Since there are so few ladies in a large cast, I really needed them to shine and they didn’t. While they had a little depth by the end of the book, they were pretty much cookie cutter, interchangeable characters which was greatly disappointing. Keeja is the one female character that holds my interest but she comes in near the very end of Book 1. I’m really hoping that the author keeps her around for the rest of the series.
All told, it’s a fun, breezy take on the epic fantasy genre even with it’s flaws. I hope Book 2 holds my interest more than Book 1. 3.5/5 stars.
The Narration: Jeff Hayes was the star of this book. It’s his performance that kept me going. All his character voices are distinct and his female voices are very believable. Hayes sounded engaged for the entire book and appears to have enjoyed giving voice to this story. I loved his serious, grumpy voice for Henry and his flippant voice for Keeja. 5/5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book. My opinions are solely my own.
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review 2018-01-14 02:56
Audio Book Review: Hero of Thera
Hero of Thera - Eric Nylund Hero of Thera - Eric Nylund

*I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

Hector Savage is on death row, for a bombing he's framed for. He's received his last request and ready to game on the laptop for his last twelve hours of life. As he readies to log in, time stops and a demon visits who claims to have business to conduct with Hector. Play as a character in the world of Thera. This is a live action game that keeps many universes from warring. Hector has a choice - die via lethal injection in less than twelve hours or play the ultimate, coolest game there is...and maybe live.

Jeff shines again with a multitude of characters and voices to match. It's great to see Mr. Null in 3 forms when we meet him, and the voice in each form matches, making it feel real and fitting. Jeff never lets me down in his performances. He entertains me while I'm drawn into the story, listening to what feels like a live show. Thank you for another amazing voice action performance!

I found I was drawn into the creation of the realm of Thera. The way Hector is drawn to it, it's like a game but oh so real. You live or die here, but it's the adventure and action that everyone who's played video games could ever want.

I love the early on irony that appears in Hector's life here. The Hector's reason for being in prison and what the last choice to save those in a village in Thera is. The one thing he didn't do in life, he'll have to do in Thera. Then when we get the secrets behind all that's happened with Hector. Wow. I loved how things panned out.

There was a few moments the direction of the character felt to get a little distorted for me. When we start we know exactly what he wants, and still wants, and where things are going with the trial. We then know he does not want to be a fighter for the clan he's in (demons, that's not good), so he figures out how to adjust for that. After that... I'm a little fuzzy on what his new drive and direction is. There was a lot of details given at one time here with the Game Master so it could be tucked in there and I missed it. I'm thinking his new direction is to stay alive on Thera, and prevent the Abyssal Lords from coming after him. But there felt like there should be more. He has a huge secret that NO ONE can know of, and that's something that's got to stay that way. When things calmed in the story, after I thought this, we got Hector listing things out and this is clarified.

I got the feel of a theme that asked and had me wondering, what really is evil. There are things people do in their lives that's not good, but it's to survive. There are those who just do mean things. But which is worse than the other? This got my mind spinning on the idea and thinking.

I do enjoy the world of Thera. It's a fantasy world with rifts. Rather cool. Sort of like many fantasy worlds we've seen or read about in the way of creatures and living. And rifts that connect to other worlds. Hector has to live here in Thera, but he has an overlay that he can tap into to see his health and skills along with a virtual carrying system. It's real life with a game overlay for him and any other players here.

I like the need of balance along with the creation of Game Master (GM). GM is neither good or bad, but the one that works to keep things on an even keel in the world. This feels to go hand in hand with the theme of what's evil. I found there is much you can play with on this type of board and feel to a character.

In the end, I found I really liked the world created and how the game is also life for the characters. I will gladly listen to future installments of books in this world.

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review 2018-01-14 02:50
Audio Book Review: EverRealm
EverRealm (Level Dead Book 1) - Jake Bib... EverRealm (Level Dead Book 1) - Jake Bible

*I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

The human world has ended. Humans and animals are now the undead and own the world. Steve is one of nine who have created virtual worlds that join at the place they call Center. They plan to live in their own Domains for eternity, as long as the main power keeps going. But, when they arrive at the Center there are two of the nine missing. Trying to help his friend, then warn others, Henry brings the nightmare of the real world to them when he thought he could filter the infection out while transitioning to where they were to be safe. Now they need to find the infected that's loose in their worlds...somewhere...

When I go into an audiobook knowing Jeff's the narrator, I have high expectations. I look for different voices and personalities to come to life. And I get them. I love listening to Jeff voice all the characters differently. It's entertaining for me in listening along with makes it easy to differentiate everyone. When a voice actor puts this much effort into a piece, it shows and makes the book along with his work shine. Sometimes the small things make the book all the better, like overlaying several voices at one time when all speak. Jeff does that, and it's totally cool. He really makes me feel as though it's a show and live.

Let me talk about the world creation. I wasn't sure how it was all going to relate at the beginning. Jake gives us the ground work as to why and how this is done, though it's quick to not slow the pacing of the story. I followed it all easily and found it interesting to see it come together when I get into the Center with Steve and others. And what we learn through the book in how the worlds are connected.

Undead, gaming worlds of different structure... action has to happen! Cool combo!

Steve's relationships with each of the characters grows more as they fight together to save the worlds they've created for themselves. And we get to know his friends as we go. I like the humor Steve's written with. And felt bad for him because when he tried to make a joke or state anything he was wrong in his doing in EverRealm it Always seeming to cause problems.

Speaking of problems... wow, do things really get messed up here in EverRealm. With the undead and with what Steve and friends do. It's crazy! But it all works together and somehow works out in the end. For me, the story felt smooth in flow with these problems. It all fit the world, characters, and situations.

Another cool creation for the LitRPG world in books. I really like that they are leaving the "real" world behind for virtual ones, and the reason behind it all. This gives the solid reason for coming to the gaming worlds in my mind. We get the explanations of how it's done, but it's not over science-y to lose us. It's just what it is.

I will say this is a game RPG setting, but I don't feel like I'm in a "game". The RPG setting is actually to be their homes. That makes the world real and important to them. What they do here has an impact and they try to live knowing that. Also, we aren't always grasping for our tool bar to see supplies and stats. Steve does do it, but it's not a constant thing.

I'm really enjoying the LitRPG books I've been getting lately. Jeff's voice acting is fun and fits the worlds and characters so well. And the stories are alive and feel more than just a "gaming" atmosphere. Well done with this one Jake!

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