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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-15 04:38
Updrift
Updrift - Errin Stevens

I would have DNF'd this had I not needed a mermaid book for Ripped Bodice Bingo. I owned this one and have too many books to go and buy something new I knew I would like and would fit this category. 
I'm hiding this behind a page break because I can't review this book without spoilers. Rant ahead.

 

Ripped Bodice Bingo!!!!!: Mermaids

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review 2018-06-12 21:58
Hunting in Bruges by EJ Stevens
Hunting in Bruges - E.J. Stevens

Note: This is a spin off from the Ivy Granger series and works perfectly fine as a stand a lone.

Hunting in Bruges is a worthy addition to the urban fantasy genre. I really enjoyed this book. So much fun and intensity! Jenna is an excellent character. She’s got her past and a core set of values, both of which serve her well as she’s tossed into a difficult situation. Bruges is not her first choice of where to serve the Guild. She finds thing in quite the state when she gets there. The resident witch Celeste is strung out and not in neat, tidy control of her powers. The second in command, Simon Chadwick, is a sexist pig who’s not above using his position to take advantage of people. The Guild coroner, Doc Martens, is lazy, drunk, and not dedicated to his job. Yes, indeed, looks like Jenna is on her own for solving a string of murders.

At least until Ash appears. He gives her info on the local Bruges scene and also makes her laugh. However, there is something odd about Ash. My one little quibble is that Jenna didn’t pick up on this until well into the story when it was so obvious to me as the reader. Still, she did have her hands full with the pile of bodies, the messed up Bruges Guild, and a child-killing water fae. Luckily she has a knowledgeable Guild archivist (Darryl Lambert) and a disabled munitions expert (Aleksey) on hand!

The story was well balanced with action, character growth, and setting. I’ve never been to Belgium but now I would like to! Of course, I would go after Jenna has cleared the major cities of paranormal nasties. As Jenna digs into the pile of bodies, it quickly becomes clear that vampires are involved. There’s two major vampire families in Bruges. They are ancient and well established. Jenna certainly has her hands full!

Jenna herself is someone I would want on my team. She’s not perfect but she’s loyal, stubborn, and handy with weapons. She and Ash make a good team even though Jenna doesn’t completely trust him. I really liked how she tried to clean up the Bruges Guild as best as she can without stepping on toes. That is until it becomes necessary to risk punishment by the Guild in order to save innocents. She had tough choices to make and she did it well.

The other characters round out the story. I really liked the archivist, Darryl. He used to be a good fighter out in the field but now his blindness keeps him behind a desk. He requested his current position and he serves it well. Aleksey came into the story pretty late and I look forward to seeing what Stevens does with his character in the future. Celeste brought that sexuality and a bit of playfulness to the tale. I do have to note that we had few female characters in this tale and I would have liked a few more to balance things. Celeste eventually rises to the occasion.

The story ramps up with a potential impending disaster for humanity. I was on the edge of my seat for the last 2 hours of this book. I didn’t want to put it down. The tale wraps up well, completing the story arc for this book. I greatly look forward to future additions to this series. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Melanie A. Mason and Anthony Bowling narrated this book. Mason had the lion’s share making a great Jenna Lehane. Bowling’s voice was used for when male characters spoke. While Bowling did well,  felt that it wasn’t really necessary to have 2 narrators for this book. I think I would have enjoyed the narration a touch more if it was just Mason. While the recording was well done, I always knew that Bowling wasn’t in the same room as Mason for his small parts. The volume was good and Bowling didn’t sound tinny, but there was still something that made his additions stand apart. Setting that aside, Mason did great with the various character voices. Celeste sounds like a drug-abusing under-sexed witch. Jenna has a variety of emotions and those were performed well for the entire book. There were also a variety of accents and those all came across well. 4.5/5 stars.

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review 2018-05-28 18:59
And Then There Were None (audiobook) by Agatha Christie, narrated by Dan Stevens
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie,Dan Stevens

Several people, all strangers to one another, arrive at a small, isolated island. Some believe themselves to have been invited by an old acquaintance, while others thought they were being hired by someone named U.N. Owen. All of them discover, too late, that these were lies designed to lure them into a trap. With no way to escape the island, the guests begin to die, one by one, in ways that eerily fit the "Ten Little Soldiers" rhyme.

I've only read or listened to a few of Agatha Christie's mysteries, but so far this one is my favorite, and I think Dan Stevens' narration plays a part in that. Christie's works are usually difficult for me to handle in audio - it's easy for me to lose track of characters or details - but in this case the audio format is perfect.

I had to do a double take when I looked up the narrator's name, because it never clicked for me that this was the same Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey and Disney's live action Beauty and the Beast. The man's range is impressive. There were a couple characters who sounded a little too similar for my tastes (Rogers and Dr. Armstrong, I think), but, in general, I loved his interpretations of the characters, particularly Philip Lombard and Justice Wargrave.

The first time I listened to this, the big reveal was an absolute shock. The explanation didn't quite work for me, though. I've since listened to this audiobook several more times, and my doubts about whether some of the murders were possible haven't gone away. That hasn't made And Then There Were None any less entertaining, however.

Knowing the killer's identity added another level to my enjoyment. Certain lines and bits of dialogue struck me as jaw-droppingly gutsy on Christie's part. Did she ever worry that she was being too obvious? And as for the killer, ooh, some of the things that person said and did would have required nerves of steel.

Although I loved this book overall, I also want to note that it includes both antisemitism and racism. In the version of the story used for this audiobook, the antisemitism and racism are mostly (entirely?) linked to a particular character, Philip Lombard. I interpreted them as examples of Lombard's general nastiness. I just got through reading a little about the history of And Then There Were None's publication, however, and I'm now wondering if my interpretation of those moments in the text was too charitable. No matter how much I've enjoyed the present incarnation of the story, I doubt I could have made it through the original version.

 

Rating Note:

 

My gut-level rating, the first time I listened to this, was 4 stars. I've bumped this up to 4.5 because it's been such a consistently enjoyable re-listen.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-05-10 10:27
Disappointing
Multiplarity - Anthony Stevens
(spoiler show)

This book is a science fiction book that starts with a group of research scientists discovering a cure-all "fountain of youth" medicine. After successfully curing some lab rats of cancer, it was tried on one of the scientists wives who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and the prognosis was not good with traditional medicine. After she is successfully healed, news of this miracle is leaked and a group of people starts trouble for them with some of the protesters and researchers being injured/killed. The scientists are forced to go on the run while the government, in league with Big Pharma (who is scared that all of their to-date medicines are now useless and will cause a collapse of the economy), have it labelled as dangerous and employ scare tactics to try to dissuade people to stay away from it on the streets and through the black-market. The formula is published online anyway and people start making it in labs. This is how the medicine is supposed to work: some of the crystalline powder is put into a syringe, some of the patient's blood is drawn up into it, then the mixture is injected into the patient. The "Omniphage", or medicine then repairs any damaged or mutated dna, filling any "garbage" strands with more of the normal dna from the patient. Well, some people (accidentally, and others purposefully) contaminate the Omniphage dosage with other dna (i.e. an animal hair) waking up the next day part human/ part animal. Others (to avoid prosecution for crimes, for example) get a dna sample from another person and become a clone of the donor. Time advances, people are living longer, colonizing the moon and eventually other solar systems. Also a virtual reality, "Beta" is developed... that is more than that. People actually "live" there while their bodies are physically asleep elsewhere, and if someone dies and has created a life in "Beta" for themselves, they can actually be brought back to life in real life through a process.

For me, the story had a good premise, but got a bit far fetched for me with the half people/ animal combos and the cloning through a single injection. (Strike 1)
(Strike 2) The protesters in the book are labelled as "Christian", but I would say is a cult. I am a Christian, have grown up in church, moved to several communities and out of state in my life joining churches where I have moved, and known scores of Christians from other churches and have never met any "Christian" like the author describes. (I would say, irregardless of what they label themselves, they definitely were not Christian). We know throughout the world, in all segments of society, religions and belief systems, there are those on the fringe who are "out there". That would apply to this group of protesters. They were gun toting, violent, willing to commit murder and sabotage, vandalize innocent people to realize their messed up goals. The author implied that this was normal for "Christians" as many area "pastors" got involved in the protests and acting insane, abusive and misogynistic. 
(Strike 3) There were so many characters, it was hard to keep who was who straight.
And, lastly, there were many typos, around 20 (I was keeping a tally, but lost count), which was not too bad given the large size of the book, but it was distracting nonetheless when reading to find omitted letters, or words or missing puncutation.
So, if I could half ratings, I would give it 2.5 stars because it did hold promise, but the other issues I listed above disappointed me.
I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review, thank you.

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review 2018-05-10 00:57
We Were Made to Be Courageous
No Less Days - Amanda Stevens

Not having much experience with the speculative fiction genre, and purposely going into this book without reading more than the first sentence of the description, “No Less Days” proved to be a pleasant surprise. This was more or less my first foray into the genre, and I must admit that I was skeptical about how the Christian aspect would play out, but Amanda Stevens truly did a masterful job of interlacing the two. The plot is unique and plausible enough to be intriguing without having to completely suspend belief, and the characters are relatable in their flaws and struggles. Moreover, the subject matter is particularly prescient for contemporary culture.   

Immortality. It seems that society increasingly seeks this elusive state of being, but what might the consequences be? What boon would earthly immortality offer? Mark 8:36 asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” “No Less Days” confronts this issue head-on. The central characters are unable to die because of a doctor’s propitious but ultimately naive intervention in each of their lives a century and a half prior. David Galloway unwittingly meets them, and while they share the same unnerving quality of longevity, it soon becomes apparent that altruism is not likewise shared among them. David’s faith is tested as he struggles to do the right thing in what appears to be a catch-22 situation while also navigating a potential romantic relationship with a mortal woman. At the end of the day, what this novel epitomizes is that the focus should be on the legacy that we leave behind.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

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