LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 018

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 018 - Desire: Book 2, The Wayward Bard, Regicide, Yesterday’s Spacemage

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

Desire: A LitRPG Adventure Book 2 (00:22)

Score: 6.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2B3IdSk

The Wayward Bard - World of Chains, Book 1 (14:37)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Tao4Ba

Regicide - The Completionist Chronicles Series, Book 2 (27:46)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2T9X6cL

Yesterday’s Spacemage (39:44)

Score: 7.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2K0ZePS

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Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:


Desire: A LitRPG Adventure

Book 2

By: Cameron Milan

Narrated by: John Downey

Series: Desire: A LitRPG Adventure, Book 2

Length: 6 hrs and 57 mins


Pause


Desire is one of those books that seems, at first glance, to be fairly decent but as you go deeper it begins to have some flaws.  Nothing horrible, but kinks exist. First of all, Milan’s dialogue is like something from an old Hanna Barbera Saturday morning cartoon.  The villain is overly dramatic and one dimensional. He goes around challenging the heroes of the world to 1) Prove his might 2) Test his mettle and 3) Kill them so that he can take over the world.


The plot is pretty convoluted, too.  One of the heroes goes rogue in his own bid for the world.  The heroes are very disjointed and have no clue of how to work together, and the pacing of the story is strange.  There are time jumps involved and the focus of the action moves from earth to an alien planet. It’s kind of all over the place.  The characters are flat and you have a hard time connecting with them.


The story goes like this, an ancient orc super warrior from another planet comes to Earth to kick butt, write down some names, and take over the planet.  Unfortunately, the planet has some defenders that he has to go through first. They aren’t so easy, and he only gets to take one name before his pen breaks.  The book, which while not overwhelming stays on track up until the point that the uber orc decides to team up with one of the human heroes to take over the world.  Then it just becomes a fight, beat the orc, oops the orc is actually stronger than we expected or has some weird power manifest that allows him to escape and or beat the heroes before being chased off, over and over again.  It was less than exciting and so overly repetitive that it was more annoying and I just wished the heroes would die and the earth would explode so that the book could be over.


The story does have some cool ideas, for example people get their powers from these magical tattoos.  Each power seems to be unique to the individual as it grows, but not everyone develops high tier abilities.  For example, the Asian hero, Dragon, gains strength based on the number of his followers and the territory he owns.  Another is a hemomage who controls blood. Dragon has something along the lines of a million followers, and can use their power to increase his stats for a temporary time while leaving them defenseless.  The orc, on the other hand, seems to have no end to power reserves or abilities. Everytime he is almost beaten a new power pops up and he manages to turn the tide. Like I say, this is very Saturday morning cartoon stuff.  It really came across like a fanfic combo of Dragonball Z and Justice League Unlimited. The orc went super saiyan more times than I could count, to a point in fact that I didn’t wonder if he was going to win or lose I just had to ask what new power was going to show up that he hadn’t used to that point.  It was a flat story, and the only time that I felt connected to the characters or the tale was at the very end with the big planet fight by two of the heroes. What tried to be epic became a straight to the $5 bin at Walmart. The story did not grab me in the same way as the original did, and I think it is because of the villain.  Villains make or break a story, and the minute the orc show up he took devilled eggs and made them into scrambled somehow.


The narration is a tough call.  If you listen to the narrator he has a lot of crazy stuff to say, like the charred person became a charred corpse.  Well, he was already charred and dead so nothing change from one second to the next other than someone stepped on the body and crunched it.  It is the reading that comes off as flat. I can remember listening to this story, but I had no memory of how he sounded. I had to go back and relisten to the book just to pinpoint how he was.  Downey was clear and pronounced his words just fine, but there was very little emotion. But there was no animus or emotion to the reading. This really felt like he just said, “I’m going to have to slog through this, so I might as well make the best of it.  Sadly I have no other series to compare him to, because some readers rise to the level of their stories. I would like to say that it was a memorable performance, but I truly do not recall what he sounded like other than semi bored.



Final Score 6.9 The book jumps all over the place, and the one saving grace that I was happy to see is that it wasn’t afraid to kill off characters.  If it had been more coherent I might have put it in the 7 range, or even if the dialogue flowed more realistically, or the characters had more depth. This combo tanked the whole story and made it a middle ground kind of tale.



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The Wayward Bard

World of Chains, Book 1

By: Lars M.

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James, Jeff Hays, Laurie Catherine Winkel

Length: 12 hrs and 45 mins




Pause


OK Kiddies, gather round the fire, because here is the tale you’ve been waiting for.  This is my Soundbooth Spotlight for the week, and I have been trying to get this on the show for a while now.  Other books just jumped ahead for various reasons, but I am finally able to let you know about how awesome this book is.


Ready?  Imma going to start off chatting about the way the Soundbooth theater handled this book.  You know, one thing I respect about Jeff hays is his vision. He does not want to just crank out readings of books.  He wants you to have an experience. That’s why if you listen to Harmon Cooper’s amazing Cherry Blossom Girls series you practically get the entire cast plus effects.  I sort of griped about there being so many readers, because I really prefer one voice to tell me a tale, but SBT has slowly made me into a convert to that way of thinking.  Now, they’ve upped their game all the way around. The Wayward Bard was less an experience as it was a full on EVENT. This had multiple narrators, sound effects, and music.


Justin Thomas James carries this book like he is Atlas holding up the world.  He shrugs his shoulders and the world moves. The man has smooth mellow voice that just draws you in.  You can’t help listening to him. His is the voice I want on loudspeakers during the Apocalypse saying, “Please remain calm.  There is nothing you can do to stop the end of the world, but you don’t have to go out in a panic. Please enjoy the remaining time that you have left.”  After hearing him say that I think I’d just opt to chill out and watch the world burn. Seriously, James is one of my faves, and has been since I first listened to After Life Reboot by Domino Finn.  JTJ has a range of voices that you don’t expect from a fellow with such a sonorous vocal style. Jeff Hay rolls in to play a punny little character or two, and the Bonnie to James’s Clyde, Laurie Catherine Winkle stops by to steal a scene or two as a matronly tinkerer/shopkeeper.  Did I mention James sings as well. Yep yep yep. You really don’t want to miss this book. Now, I have to admit, when the music first rolled in I had a little trouble hearing Justin speaking, but that is my crappy ears, not a production issue, and I did not have a problem like that again for the rest of the book.  SBT really turned things up to 11 here, and I seriously think the only contender that will be able to take my honorary award of Most Audacious Auditory Attempt in 2018 might just be that Monster Hunters book I keep hearing about, but that is a questionable release for this year. Either way, no one loses this was an Event.


So let me tell you about Lars M.  Here’s a guy, as John Madden would say, who knows how to write.  Not only does he craft a great story that starts off with one hell of a good reason to go into a game long term, but he makes the game interesting enough that you are glad it is a two year game plan.  He not only scripts perfect prose, but he also cranks out some decent songs for JTJ to sing.


The story is about a guy who rips off the Russian mob, and opts to go underground for about two years by hiding in a virtual game called World of Chains.  He hopes to do two things. Let the heat die down while he is in game, and sit back play some music, drink some brew, and dally with the ladies. Of course something goes wrong and all of his plans go out the window moments after arriving in the game.  He reluctantly becomes a hero, and sets off to become a real bard. From there a mystery intertwines with the adventure, and the story takes off. I like the reluctant hero, and am so glad to finally get what I have been wanting for a while now. A GOOD bad novel.  My only complaint? I wanted to see a little seduction getting pulled off, and I don’t count charm monster spells. I will admit that this is not an action packed go kill kill kill type of book. This is a bard tale after all, and bards are not tanks, they are more like boomboxes (do you youngsters even know what a boombox is?) that fire arrows or spells.  I did miss seeing the bard placed into a group dynamic, and by that I mean an actual party rather than partner. I would have loved to see the bard enhance, bolster, and empower his group with his music. Either way, the story was fun, and it wasn’t a I saw who it was the whole time type of mystery.


From start to finish Master M., I only now wonder if that stands for Moriarty? Weaves a nice slow build mystery with some puzzles and monsters to overcome.  The work by SBT will just blow your ears as well as your mind. I have to pass out 8.5 stars for the combination of the production and writing. Congrats to Lars Machmüller and Soundbooth Theater for an amazing experience.


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Regicide

The Completionist Chronicles Series, Book 2

By: Dakota Krout

Narrated by: Vikas Adam

Length: 13 hrs and 3 mins


Pause



The great bald chronicler of all things occult has returned, and the world is better for it.  Again, I curse Dakota Krout for putting out such excellence instead of the Divine Dungeon. It irks me that he has created another series so addictive that I had to create a ritual that signaled that it was time to start reading this book.


Honestly, I always hear if you had to pick one gameworld to play in, which one would it be, and I would choose Krout’s setting for the completionist chronicles.  There are ton of options, and everything is boosted by your real life skills so a chiropractor becomes a fearsome warrior based on his knowledge of anatomy, pressure points, and nerve clusters.


Joe, the main character, decides to start up his own little group and to do so he dirty dozens the hell out of  potential guild members who were turned down because of their od proclivities. Each person that he hand picks for his personal squad is an oddball in some way, but they are all interesting and unique characters and for a ragtag squad of weirdos they work really well as a team.  I think that my favorite way that Krout worked the attribute of charm in the game was amazing. It made total sense and was a hilarious consequence of having such a low score. For me that was the best part of the story. It was a small almost throwaway bit, but it worked and had such an impact on our favorite Crackyerbackter that it just stood out like a firework in a coal mine.


I also appreciated how nothing in the game is just given over, Joe has to work just to be able to learn how to, for example, create a scroll.   Additionally, I also felt that the way he stole temples was a nifty idea and was glad to see him actually employ such tactics. There were a few things that I was not a fan of, for example, the town that became a dungeon sequence did not fly well with me.  I don’t know if it was because of the constant failures that the group encountered or just the format of the story itself. It just seemed very clunky with beary a pun that was fun, that made me have to grit my teeth and bear it though most of the bear bones of the battles.  Truthfully, this was the only real part of the book that I had a hard time getting through. It just sort of stalled there. One of my favorite sequences involved Joe creating an artifact level building. It was fun even if there was no “fighting” involved. I would have enjoyed more research or meeting up with the fellow who sold him his brains in the first book, that looked like an interesting path, but alas Dakota did not follow it this time around.  Several developments that were also enjoyable were that we got to see a bit more of Joe’s mother, and that not everything in the guild is all apples and rainbows, it’s more like A-holes and raisins. This strife led to a great confrontation, and Joe doing some things you didn’t expect. Oh, and the title of the book juuuuuuuuust might be a little misleading. You’ll get the title at the end of the book.


Vikas Adams continues to please, amaze, and astound.  I think that he works so very well with Krout that they are an unbeatable team.  Truly, Adam’s voice is versatile and is able to run a range of emotions, and carries such depth that he elevates the book to a whole new level.  I enjoy listening to him a great deal.


I’m going to give this an 8.4 rating.  I enjoyed it, but felt that Krout’s dungeon sequence did not fit in well with the rest of the book.  It just felt like he needed something to let the team fight together, but it just didn’t click like it did in other areas of the book.  Overall another fantastic job.


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Yesterday’s Spacemage

By: Timothy Ellis

Narrated by: Kevin T. Collins

Length: 7 hrs and 19 mins


Pause



Alright, this was a tough one for me.  First of all, I had this suggested as one of my this feels like LitRPG, so is it close enough to be LIT?  I’ll get to that at the end, but the truth is this is a book that was broken into sections. I had a lot of trouble with how it ended, and several other things.


First, the odd stuff.  The book’s premise is that there is a young man, Thorn, who is raised in a society in which you can detail what job you want during a coming of age ceremony.  This is your life job. I’m guessing that once you take it you are stuck. No take backsies or something along those lines. Anyway, it turns out he wants to be a battlemage, the toughest job to get, and the high lord emperor decides that the young mage will either work under him, where he will be stymied because his power is a threat to the Emp, or he will die.  The boy decides that he is going to Nope out of the situation by teleporting away as he is attacked, and he wakes up in the far future with no magic. After a bit of time he manages to regain his abilities, and is then kidnapped by an alien race. After he kills his abductors he goes on a spree of attacking slavers with a few people he rescues.


What’s so odd you ask?  Well, you are literally given no information about who his people were, where they were from, where he ends up in the future, who the aliens are that kidnap him, or even who the military is that he fights against.  There is really no reason for this, nothing is kept from the reader for any reason, there is just no information given. It is bizarre.


Secondly, each part of the book feels like a story unto itself, with the beginning being the most interesting.  Each deals with the MC sort of finding his way and where he belongs. The third section is about him coming to grips with being a spacemage with him making a final decision that is beyond strange.  I don’t want to give anything away, but everything that he decides to do at the end was very out of character and did not fit the rest of the story. He’s a guy who wanted to be a battle mage, and when that opportunity is transformed in to becoming a Space mage he turns away.  It felt forced and was not organic at all.


Kevin T. Collins narration is a standout.  He is probably not someone that you would know since he is not a part of the LIT community, but he handles the story well, and peppers it with emotion and really hands out defined personalities to each character.  He does do voices for each character as well, and I liked listening to him. He has a unique cadence to his story telling, sort of like listening to someone speak in iambic pentameter. He stands out and I appreciated all the fine work that he did.


So, now the question becomes is this close to LITRPG?  I have to say no. There are certain criteria that must be met to qualify, and in no way does it come close.   The main character doesn't level up, he is pretty much as powerful at the end as he is in the beginning, he just streamlines how he uses his powers.  There are no stats, no correlation to stats or attributes, nothing along those lines. I think the closest we come is with him using a portal. When he time jumps he does enter into a new world, technically.  Still, it is his old world and he never gets near a game or game type world.

The story is good, and the character interesting.  I enjoyed the book, but the ending really let me down.  I wanted a lot more. So, I am going to give this 7.5 stars.  A decent read, but in no way does it come close to being LITRPG.

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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 017

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 017 -  The Slayer, Tamer 4, Everybody Loves Large Chests- Volume 3, Apocalypse Gates - Book 2, Hero Hunter

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

The Slayer: Aether Gate Online (00:18)

Score: 5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2RCMema


Tamer 4: King of Dinosaurs (17:03)

Score: 8.1 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2RHHlZh


Vortena: Everybody Loves Large Chests, Volume 3 (32:26)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2RAGwRA


Valley of Death: Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 2 (43:38)

Score: 7.7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Dos8sG


Hero Hunter: A Superhero Gamelit Saga (01:03:23)

Score: 7.7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2F2hWYs


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The Slayer: Aether Gate Online

By: Darren Hultberg Jr

Narrated by: J. Scott Bennett

Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins



This was a wonky bit of work.  The story is ambitious, but in a lot of ways its grasps impedes its reach.  It wants to do a lot of things, and goes all over the board because of it. Game mechanics were weird, motivations were off, and the characterizations were off putting.  For example, the main character finds himself in a game only to discover that it is not a game, it is a real game and that if you die there then you die for real. The players have been separated mentally from their bodies, but the bodies remain alive, as do their minds.  Dying in the game is true death, and disconnecting from the game will cause the body to die, and will have severe repercussions for the player who is still alive. This disconnect issue makes no sense. No one would live very long if they were forced to stay attached to the game, and that means that the issues that the players face is going to happen to all of them at some point regardless of what they do in the game.  Secondly, the whole mind body connection is tenuous at best. Either they are on a new world with new bodies, or they are still on Earth and playing a game. It can’t be both.


Another issue was the omniscient powers of the Main character, Adam.  Although he is just as much a newbie as every other player in the game he somehow knows certain rules and prohibitions that no one else does.  It is never explained why or how he can do this and no one else can. Also, the mechanics of the game fluctuate. Sometimes they require energy and sometimes they don’t, cooldowns are the same.  It really felt like this was a book that was started one way and then changed direction midway through and was never reworked at all. Another issue is the fact that you only have one life. Yet Adam and other players continually do things to risk their existence for no reason.  I don’t know about you, but if I have to decide to be safe, get a job, and maybe start a family vs going out into the wilds of an unknown alien world full of magic, monsters, and mazes and most likely getting killed I’m going to become a merchant. There is no reason to risk themselves.  Yes, Adam is tempted with the possibility of going back home, but you and I both know as readers that the likelihood of that happening is about two hundred to one odds against.


There were a lot of issues, and I have to ask myself if it would have worked as a straightforward fantasy, and I still say no.  Adam is kind of boring and dumb. I mean he just doesn’t catch on to things that my five year old would see coming from a mile away.  Honestly, the entire premise of the reborn world makes very little sense when you consider that the people who destroyed it before are going to do the same thing over again, and not one of the newly minted NPC’s who are real people remembers the events that trashed their world the first time around.  The book is very predictable and not even being a straight up fantasy could have done a thing to help it.


Scott Bennett narrates this story, and while he does a good job he could not save this hot mess.  I often wonder why Bennett is not a bigger part of the LITRPG community, he has done a lot of LITRPG books, but he seems to only pop in on the FB pages on occasion.  I’d love to see him become a larger part of our community. Honestly, there is nothing that he or anyone could have done to save this book. It was a hot mess from start to finish with inconsistencies, a bland MC, and predictable storytelling.  Bennett is not a magician, and I do not lay one issue this book has on his feet. He did everything he could to keep this ship afloat. But this book was the Titanic carrying twenty tons of instant forming concrete mix, and another forty tons of steel girders.  It started off with some hope and went down quickly. Bennett was like one of those brave musicians who continued to play as the ship sank. They had nothing to do with the crash, but did everything they could to make the passengers feel better. He tries to bout your spirits, but to no avail, a sinking ship is a sinking ship no matter what sounds it makes as it submerges.



This book isn’t as bad as some I’ve reviewed, but I had to force myself to listen.  I know when I’m doing that a quarter of the way in it isn’t going to be fun. I have thought a lot about this score.  If I am honest I didn’t loathe the book, but neither did I like it. It was kind of like an accidental bully, it beat you up without meaning to.  Regardless of the intent, it still left me with bruises. So, in fairness I am giving this a 5 out of 10, since this book wasn’t a complete dumpster fire, and I think it had the skeletal frame of a decent book that just got bogged down with inconsistencies.  


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Tamer 4: King of Dinosaurs

By: Michael-Scott Earle

Narrated by: Luke Daniels

Length: 7 hrs and 28 mins



First of all, I have to say it is nice to get a new MSE book on Audible.  Earle might not have ever vanished from Audible like he did Amazon, but there really wan't anything NEW popping up.  Honestly, I've read several series of Earle's, Destroyer, Lion's Quest, and so on but nothing really blew me away. Hell, it felt like three quarters of Lion's Quest was outside of th game, and Destroyer was so overhyped that I kept hearing, just wait till he snaps on the elves.  Just wait. I did, and wasn't impressed. Then I tried Tamer, because I didn't hate the books, they didn't blow me away. Tamer clicked right away, and I have been a fane since.


Tamer is a light LITRPG that actually focuses more of world and camp building than it does leveling, stats, or character sheets.  Everyone in Dinoworld has a power, some are amazing, some aren't but Victor has a killer one. He can control dinos, and in Dinoland that gives him quite the edge.  He'd built up quite a (literal) harem, and seems to add more ladies to his roster each book.


One thing that I like is that this book picks up exactly where the last left off, and we find Victor negotiating with another camp for goods.  Of course, something goes off the rails after their meeting and there is a scramble to prepare for the coming danger. Things they have to deal with, Trell's pregnancy, a flying humanoid, and an assualt on the fort.  In between we have a few sex scenes, and get to know a little more about the mysterious Jade. For some reason, Victor seems to be able to understand her when no one else can. So, MSE gives you a likttle information that only serves to make the reptilian replicator even more mysteious.


I have always felt that MSE knows how to pace a story.  I might not have loved Destroyer, but it moved right along.  Here though, while the pacing is fine it is getting a touch predictable.  As soon as he left the others camp I knew there was going to be a fight. Going to the watering hole has become a euphamism for going to bed with whomever he is with.  There is a nice snappy drumbeat that says here is where we try to improve the camp, and here is where we have a fight. I'm not complaining. I still enjoy the story, and can't wait to see what happenes, but I sort of know what is coming next depending on the time of day or where they are.


The biggest issue that I have is that we are now four books into the series and it feels like we are treading water.  No real advances have been made. Are they on a spaceship or a planet? Don't know. Who are their abductors, and what are they doing with the people they've snatched?  Don't Know. How much longer will new people be added to the planet? Don't know. These are things that haven't even been hinted at. There are no solid answers, and while the stories are fun and fast paced they are on a treadmill.  We are handed out bits and pieces thaty come from different puzzles and expected to trust that it is going to make an awesome picture in the end. After three books I think we need some answers, not more questions. A lsighter issue is that the more women that get added the more difficult it becomes to connect with the ladies.  Sheila was a standout character to me, and I have long hoped that Victor would get a chance to fight her husband at some point. Now she is barely mentioned in contrast to Trell, who somehow manages to dominate each scene that the women are in. Earle focuses on only two or three women a book, and the majority of that deals with them having sex with Victor.  It makes it hard to connect with the newbies and maintain ties to the classic guard of the camp. It makes me wonder just how many women becomes too many women in a Harem. Yes, I get that the village needs to grow, and that everyone who is new has some ability that will make thier lives easier in the long run, but it can be overwhelming. To be honest he added a couple of girls in the last book and I can't even tell you the name of the alien who can make things heavier or lighter.  The newest batch of babes are just a blur to me.


Still, I think one of the biggest standout moments came during Victor's battle.  It was great to see him finally go toe to talon with a bloke that he wouldn't have even considered a possibility of fighting in book one.  It was a great bloody fight that showed Victor what he was actually made of, and that he belonged as the leader of the team. It was a cool villain, too.  To me, that fight scene made the whole book worthwhile. I still want to see Victor tackle Shelia's husband sans Dinos now more than ever.


Luke Daniels is an narration BEAST.  I know I tout Jeff Hays alot, but I have to admit that Daniels is my second go to guy for narration.  He has a bag full of voices that are authentic and stunning, he just doesn't do women's voices as well as Jeff, but he does do one hell of a dog.  Just listen to the Iron Druid and you will see what I mean. He does a killer Irish Wolfhound impression. Here he completely knocks this story out of the park.  He lends emotion to Victor that you could only get from amazing voicework. It doens't come from the page so much as Daniels' heart.


The book is good, but I am starting to need more from the series than just setting up camp, sex scenes, and dinosaurs.  My final score is an 8.1. The book and series continues to hold my attention, but it is becoming predictable in its plot and pacing, the saving graces are that it has great fight scenes and Victor shows growth in each book.


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Vortena: Everybody Loves Large Chests, Volume 3

By: Neven Iliev (Author), Jeff Hays (Narrator), Spoken Realms (Publisher)

Length: 14 hours and 11 minutes




Boxy's back and your gonna be in trouble . . . . . . hey ya, Boxy's back.


Pause


Everybody's favorite murder box has returned for yet another installation of this amazing series of monstrous adventures. It has a few things going for it right off the bat. First, it pretty much picks up where the last book ended. I like that. Sometimes a months later type opening works, but not here; it is important to note that Boxy is still very young, in spite of his powers, and it is good to stay with that. Secondly, we get right into the lich action, we don't really dawdle around trying to set the story up.


Iliev knows how to write so that the more things change the more they stay the same. By that I mean that no matter what happens to Boxy, no matter how he evolves he is still that little chest full of teeth and as brutal as ever. Truth is, every time someting happened I nearly panicked thinking things were going to dramatically alter the way our monster worked, and no matter what evolution Boxy went through he remained Boxy. Clueless, cunning, and without mercy. There are numerous battles that are fairly epic in nature; I really enjoyed the encounter with the Lich and how the murder box dealt with her. The demons are as nasty as you remember, which means lots of naughty fun. The only issue that I have with the book comes in how the mimic treats Fizzy. Her brutalization actually bothered me a bit, because unlike the demons or undead she was a living being who was basically tortured on a constant basis, and then there is an event that occurs that pretty much nearly made me stop listening just because it was rather real. I sort of wish Iliev had just pulled a Shawshank move and rolled away around the corner and left things to our imaginations, but later on it is clearly spelled out what happened. As an adult, I can say that this is an adult book, and how can I complain about something like that when people are being murdered left and right and I didn't blink an eye. So, contextually it fit, but I have to admit it hit me kind of hard. So be warned, there are some very grown up issues taking place. One thing that really amazed me is that this somehow turned into a harem book, with the mad box at the center of all the sexcapades. Considering that Boxy is basically an amorphous asexual I didn't see that part on the horizon at all.


Vortena is not heavy most of the time. Generally you will find your self chuckling at the antics of one of th characters or situations. The book is funny as hell, and it made me laugh multiple times, and I won't lie I never enjoyed the book more than when Boxy was slaughtering people. Ignorance is his armor and his confidence is his sword. A paragon of humility he is not.


The narration is top of the line, and Hays really nails the vocals. Seriously, I think he played Fizzy so well that she become pretty real, and that was why her incident bothered me so much. Also, there are only two books that have amazing hotline phonecalls, one is After Life by Domino Finn, and the other is this killer series. I cannot wait for the moments when boxy calls Carl and talks things over. Those moments are so precious that I really appreciate the way that they are handled. Jeff really upped his game this time around, as the emotional stakes also increased to such a high point. He made some stuff real. Kudos, because as much as I admire Jeff's voicework I don't think he ever hit a Fizzy emotional rollercoaster moment like this before. This is some top tier narration, and it rocked me right back to 1981, when Stray Cats released Rock this Town, cause that ws just what he did. He rocked it inside out. Hays just continues to get better and better.


This isone of those books that you burn through like it was soaked in gasoline. You have so much fun that you are sorry that there isn't a new novel lined up, so I get jealous of people who are just discovering this series, because they can SBT and chill as the series unfolds. Seriously, I was not panning the events in the book, but I will say that they will hit you hard, so be prepared. Get the latest installment now, because I need my Boxy to come back and eat more towns.


Final score 8.4


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Valley of Death: Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 2

By: Daniel Schinhofen

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 9 hrs and 39 mins




Make no mistake, one of my favorite style of games to play was survival horror, I was a Resident Evil Junkie, and I played Dino Crisis long after I should have.  Hell, I bought an entire gaming console just to play Alien Vs Predator when it first came out. I love horror, not the crappy stuff that Stephen King calls horror, I mean real horror.  Like when John Caprenter was actually crafting films, rather than cranking them out. Ghosts of Mars, I am looking at you. So, when you hit me with a book with a horror theme I’m all in.


Valley of Death does that thing I like where they pick up where they left off in the last book.  I just wish that the tone would have carried over as well. This book confused me on a couple of levels.  Book one set up that Alvin, the anti-hero (because he’s a self professed A-hole) is set on the task of creating various safe places for humanity to rebuild from, or at least take a solid stance to survive from.  He fought some zombies and mutated animals and basically did what he set out to do. He managed to start a settlement and have it prepared to defend itself. Then these things called the Apocalypse gates get opened, making things even harder to survive in.  Sounded even more interesting, as we would now have more monsters for Alvin and Gothy to fight.


The truth is it kind of turned into a hodge podge of genre’s that took away the horror elements the first book established.  Suddenly there are dragons, wyverns, drakes, and Fey to deal with making the book into more of a dark fantasy survivalist setting.  Sure there are still zombies and mutated animals, but Alvin literally has a discussion with a set of mutated birds that eliminates a need to fight, and we gloss over that the zombies are becoming more intelligent and using weapons.  This reminded me of the Walking Dead TV show in one way, they pretty much overlook the zombies until they are necessary to the plot. What could have been a great turn of events is overshadowed by boring flying lizards and and weaksauce elves.  Oh, and you know how I am always kvetching about doing research before you write something? Here is a prime example. In the book, Alvin and Gothy are attacked by giant toads. It was a cool scenes and awesome premise, but toads do not live in the water.  They are amphibians, yes, but the ONLY time that they live in water is during their metamorphic stages as tadpoles. Once they are adults they are land bound. They would not have gone into the water, and I don’t want to hear that they are monsters and so can do whatever the writer says.  That’s a crap argument. If he meant frogs then he should have used frogs, the terms are not interchangeable. It is stuff like that that takes me out of a story pronto.


Another issue I had was that in spite of upping his charisma, which as supposed to make his life easier he still seems to run into jerks that don’t trust him or try to kill him.  This is in every single potential settlement. Secondly, and my biggest beef is that there are massive changes that happen at the end of the book that really negates everything that Alvin has worked to achieve.  It really makes no sense. It felt like Schinhofen had gotten tired of the outline that he had and scrapped it in hopes of making something more suited to what he wanted. Don’t change horses midstream. Don’t rewrite code while you are playing a game, and don’t shift a plot for no discernable reason.  Granted, as I listened to this book I kept saying to myself that it felt like Schinhofen was just spinning his tires. It was try to start a settlement, have sex with Gothy, kill something, have sex, start a settlement. I could see that even with the gates open that it was just a kill a new kind of monster adventure.

My issue comes from the fact that I totally respect Alvin and Gothy’s relationship.  It is very healthy and supportive and shows that two people can be adults and not fight all the time.  There is no struggle in their relationship. This is the books shining achievement, and it gets a little undercut with the constant sex.  I would have preferred a tender moment or two over three or four of the sex scenes. Sex scenes you can skip, but open emotional feeling filled scenes, ones played by the intense Parsneau add a hell of a lot more than them boning for two or more pages.  I know there are people who skip the sex scenes, but I don’t, and even I felt like there were more than there should have been. Especially towards the end of the book. They just popped up like daisies.


Parsneau is what keeps this book on an even course.  She fuels it with emotion, and can read an action scene far better than Michael Bay can direct one.  I know that I often come across as an unabashed fanboy, but Andrea really knows her craft and tells one hell of a story.  I doubt that I would have enjoyed this story as much if she hadn’t been given the reigns. It is her portrayal of Gothy that just resonates with the listener and rings so true she makes you believe that she is real.


The book lacks a solid direction, and really did nothing here to advance the story.  I was not happy with the changes that were implemented, which seemed to be arbitrary, and by that I am talking about the entire Settlement issue.  I don’t see why that was redone, and it pretty much negated a lot of what Alvin did in the first book. Still, I enjoyed the book. I just didn’t see any progression, and it was a step away from the horror elements introduced in book one.  The fey are not creatures of horror, no matter what they do, and dragons in any setting are fantasy creatures.


I’m giving this book a 7.7 stars.  It isn’t bad, but it was just one long run down a dark hallway that had no door at the end, in other words it went nowhere fast.  I sincerely hope book three does a course correction and gets this back on track. Even though I did receive a promo code for this review it in no way influenced my considerations of the material, and in fact, inspired me to be more honest. Getting a code generally makes me harsher as a reviewer as I am more often concerned what someone like Me will decide based on my review.


As seen on the LITRPG AUDIOBOOK PODCAST, please check it out on Youtube.com


If this review helped, please press the YES below. Thank you immensely!!!


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Finally we come to:


Hero Hunter: A Superhero Gamelit Saga

The Heroes Rising Series, Book 1

By: Darren Hultberg Jr

Narrated by: J. Scott Bennett

Length: 5 hrs and 53 mins


Pause




Ok, so I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, where I review two books by the same author on the same show, but not only am I doing the same author, but the same narrator as well.  This time I think I’ll start with the narration. J. Scott Bennett has long been one of my Audible go to’s. He narrates an amazing series called Brother Bones. It’s not LITRPG, but it is an incredible pulp noir paranormal tale that will knock your socks off, so don’t listen to it in your bare feet or it’ll get messy.  As I generally say with Bennett you get a solid all-around performance. The man knows his craft, and I enjoy listening to him. He really treats the material right, and you get an enjoyable story guaranteed from him.


Unlike Slayer, Hero Hunter is fairly consistent as it goes.  It is light Litrpg, but it does have states, HUDs, and character sheets.  The powers are clearly defined, as are the hero/villain class levels from C to S.  I didn’t see any fluctuations or 180 degree changes that I did in The Slayer. The characters are well developed and well thought out.  I also think that the Supers all had cool names. Generally, in Superhero novels you get some really dopey, and not Dope, names. Valor, Nightfall, Dragon, even Hero Hunter all work.  The only name that felt forced was that of the Hero Hunters super hero ID, Tech Imperious. Imperious Tech flows better (butt then I’ve always been a Namor fan).


The story is pretty simple, Hero Hunter is wronged and begins killing heroes in retaliation of what was done to him and his friends.  The only flaw that I really see in this whole characterization is that If HH started out on the side of the angels, then why would he kill innocent heroes?  A good and decent guy would not grease every hero he encountered just because one of the big names in heroland did something horrifying. Otherwise the story is decent and has some cool fight scenes.


The run time works well too, the story isn’t overly long, but fits in pretty well for the time that we are given.  I find more and more that I am liking my books to be five to eight hours in length.


Final Score 7.7 stars.


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 016

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 016 -  Dungeon Special



“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”


Dungeon Born (03:50)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://www.amazon.com/Dungeon-Born-Divine-Book/dp/B06XQ44QVK/


The Slime Dungeon (13:12)

Score: 8.1 out of 10

https://www.amazon.com/Slime-Dungeon-Chronicles-Book/dp/B074CJQLPR/


The Monster Spawn (21:18)

A LitRPG Series, Adonis Rebirth #1

Score: 6.5 out of 10

www.amazon.com/Monster-Spawn-LitRPG-Adonis-Rebirth/dp/B07D2JXS23/


Dungeon Lord: The Wraith's Haunt (32:31)

Score: 8.6 out of 10

www.amazon.com/Dungeon-Lord-Wraiths-Haunt-LitRPG/dp/B07957KLMC/


Rogue Dungeon: A litRPG Adventure (41:34)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

www.amazon.com/Rogue-Dungeon-litRPG-Adventure-Book/dp/B07GRBTW1J/


Dungeon Deposed (50:03)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

www.amazon.com/Dungeon-Deposed/dp/B07D8C3K7G/


The Laboratory -A Futuristic Dungeon Core (59:01)

Score: 7.5 out of 10

www.amazon.com/Laboratory-Futuristic-Dungeon-Core/dp/B077G93GTV/




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Dungeon Born

By: Dakota Krout

Narrated by: Vikas Adam

Series: Divine Dungeon Series, Book 1

Length: 12 hrs and 32 mins


Pause


Cal & Dani


When I first heard of Dungeon Born I was a bit skeptical, I had never read any dungeon books, and the entire concept reminded me of an old video game I played called Dungeon Keeper.  It was a fantastic game in which you played and controlled a dungeon, and fought off invading heroes. So, my skepticism dwindled when I remembered how much fun I had with that game. How I loved the concept, and thought man, if it is half as fun as that game then this writer is a genius.  So, I gave it a shot.


I am so glad that I did.  I loved the way the book started, who doesn’t like a sacrifice? I appreciated the way that Cal slowly came into awareness.  It really felt like a seed that had been planted slowly growing into awareness and I was fascinated to watch him grow. Then Dani, the dungeon wisp appeared, and I was hooked.  Between the two of them I had no chance of getting away without being addicted. Dani is probably one of the best supporting cast members out there, and I could listen to her say “Caaaaaaaaal” all day long.  Her fits of exasperation are hilarious, and the bond that they share is tender and precious. It is quite possibly the best pure and chaste romance I have ever seen written. Though Platonic their love for one another is so clear that it is outstanding, and I am not a mushy mushy hugsy kinda guy.  Still, I can respect the emotions. I also enjoy Dale, and not just because my middle name is Dale. He’s actually a pretty cool guy, and he is a thinker and he is not afraid of hard work. He constantly strives to better himself, oh and his best companion is Hanz. Hanz reminds me a lot of Miller interacts in War Aeternus.  Not in his way of speaking, but the way that he has his back, and that his personality shines so much stronger than the other dungeon divers.


I digress, though.  I haven’t even told you what this is about.  The story is about an unknown man who is sacrificed during a ritual intended to make a dungeon core.  His soul is ripped from his body, and embedded within the core, the core then is lost in a sudden battle, it slowly becomes sapient and expands and grows.  It is during this growth stage that Dani, the wisp appears. The two bond, and set of creating a dungeon that is both deadly and fair in the way it does business.  


Like I said, the interaction between Cal and Dani, and Cal’s desperate attempts to get Dale are some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen in a long time.  Dale, battling expansion on his land, struggling with guilds, and trying to clean his system of corruption is just as fun and fascinating. The creatures that Cal creates are original, and show that Krout has an appreciation for Monty Python movies unless I miss my guess.  The book is filled with action, there are plenty of fights and deaths by traps to satisfy the most outstanding bloodlust on our listeners, as well as a mystery. I mean who was Cal? I had my suspicion from the start, and I was close, but that mystery isn’t answered in this book.  It just blooms here. Also, there appears to be an adversary hiding off in the shadows, that wants the worst for Cal, and keeps trying to kill Dale. The story is very humorous, but simultaneously it can be very serious in the events that take place. I really rooted for the dungeon to eat everybody, and cheered every time he leveled up.



This was the first time I had heard Vikas Adams, remember that I had just gotten into LITRPG, and was listened to Jeff Hays, and I really thought that these LITRPG guys really know how to narrate, I mean they were both so good.  If you’ve listened to me at all you know I love Hays, the man is a master, but I’m going to say that Vikas Adams is right within spitting distance of him. Oddly, I think the next book I read after this was Reboot by Domino Finn, which means I was also introduced to Justin Thomas James.  I really have to wonder if those guys didn’t influence my taste in literature. Either way, I know James Marsters is famous for his Dresden Files reading, but I will forever say that Adams owns the dungeon genre, or at least has a pretty big mansion there. Like I said, his characterizations of Cal, Dani (oh, God, especially Dani), and Hanz are simply amazing.  So, for male voices I would have to say in no particular order the best male voices I’ve heard have been Hays, Adams, Thomas, and Morgan Freeman. Freeman’s only in because he voiced the Shawshank Redemption. No one cares about the penguins. Unless they go to jail and things get stabby. Then, they’ll care. Digressing again aren’t I? I’m going to have to subtitle the show BUT I DIGRESS.  Either way, Adams is outstanding. I loved listening to him.


This book is what started me off on the whole Dungeon genre, and I am glad it did, because it showed me exactly who things should go.  The companion, the leveling, the building, etc. It is wonderfully handled, and Krout has only improved with each book he’s done. Seriously, check out the Completionist Chronicles.  I hate to even give this a rating because I’ll either be too high or too low. How about and 8.5. It is so close to perfection.


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The Slime Dungeon

By: Jeffrey "Falcon" Logue

Narrated by: Ryan Turner

Series: The Slime Dungeon Chronicles, Book 1

Length: 6 hrs and 12 mins


Pause


Claire the Dungeon Pixie and Doc the core


This book came out shortly after Dungeon Born, by about five months, and actually bears a lot of similarities to the novel by Dakota Krout.  For example, the companion is a Dungeon Pixie, and the dungeon is unique in its own way too. Doc, the dungeon, has no recall of who he was only that he must save “her”.


That is where the similarities end.  Doc is not interested in how things are normally done, he likes to follow the unbeaten path, and really goes in for using slimes as his vessels of destruction.  Now, I am very much a fan a short story called Slime by Joseph Payne Brennan, which appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Anthology called Monster Museum and predated one of my favorite movies, the Blob, by five or so years.  There is also the movie Creepshow 2, with the piece titled the Raft, and the movie Phantoms, as well. There were also movies like Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, and the H-man that made me love gelatinous monsters. Heck, my favorite monsters were Cubes, green slime, and the various puddings.  So, I think you can see my attraction to a dungeon filled with voracious slimes.


Doc, however, is a fair lair of death, and does his best only to kill when absolutely necessary.  He feeds himself in other ways. And while the dungeon is the Main character, there is a story in which a royal person is plotted against, and targeted for murder.  The dungeon intervenes, as he recalls that he must save “her” and goofs up the plot. This leads to a mess of events happening, which slowly reveals the big bad of the book.  


The writing is pretty good, but it does almost feel episodic, like each chapter was written in and of itself, it isn’t bad, but it doesn’t seem to flow as well as it could have.  Also, while Doc and Claire have a nice relationship it feels a little weird, almost like two kids wanting to play doctor but never getting there. Part of the episodic feel stems from the way the characters are introduced, it’s sort of like Bob the paladin came in, he was from the bo-shan province, and he was so good looking people called him the face of bo.  He worshipped the sun god, Dial, and had six brothers and sisters. It really isn’t that bad, but it gives you an idea of how they are not given a chance to develop some depth, and allow us to find out about them naturally. It isn’t bad, but it does detract from the fun of discovering a character on our own. That is about it for flaws. It isn’t perfect, but there are a lot of good things.  The relationship between Claire and Doc, Doc’s desire to be a “good Dungeon” and not kill people. The way he takes in the wolf cubs, and grows his slimes. Even the villain is cool, and properly evil. The book is fun, and sets up a good bit to make the next book flow a little easier now that the world building is out of the way.

In the spirit of honesty, I have only recently listened to this book.  I got it just so that I could review it for this special. The reason I held off for so long is that I had listened to the audio snippet that Audible provides, and I was leery about the narration provided by Ryan Turner.  It didn’t grab me, but I said, hey here is an author that I am not giving a chance because of my impression from a 5 minute clip. That’s not exactly fair, so I gave this a try. Turner is a fair narrator. He does quite well on most voices, but he does stumble on the female ones a bit.  It was hard to discern which lady he was speaking for sometimes, and none of them stood out to me like Vikas Adam’s Dani, or Jeff Hay’s doing Jade for example. I would say he did a more than competent job, I just wasn’t overwhelmed with the ladies in the book. When he just does the straight reading he’s fine.


I did enjoy this book, and have subsequently gotten the other books in the series, so I know that I liked it.  I don’t know what happens later on, but book one provides a lot of set up for what looks to be a fun lighthearted series.  I would almost say that this had the potential to be a great family book or Young Adult series, but there is a potential rape scene, and that puts it right out of those categories for me.  I can let my kids listen to a man get dissolved by a hostile slime, but yes, I do balk at them hearing someone talk about rape. My priorities may be a little skewed. Either way, just a few minor issues, so I have to give this an 8.1 stars.  My biggest problem was with the narration, more than the story. The dungeon building and slime evolution was some of the best bits.


-----------


The Monster Spawn

A LitRPG Series, Adonis Rebirth #1

By: Deckhard Davis

Narrated by: David Loving

Length: 4 hrs and 40 mins


Pause



Alright, I know that I said I would not be doing Deck Davis reviews for awhile.  I had been pretty hard in a couple of reviews and didn’t want to go around beating the poor guy up, because, hey this stuff is just my opinion and I don’t want to hurt anybody, But, I talked with Ramon, and he said that my job is to review, and so long as I am open, honest, and fair then it was up to me to do what I do and he was right.  So, I have to admit that I headed into this book with some serious trepidation, and not trepanation which is honestly what I thought it would take to get me to return to this well.


Ready for this?  I actually enjoyed the book.  A lot of the stuff that put me off in his other tales were noticeably absent here.  While the MC is a monster he isn’t a d-bag. He isn’t a smart mouth or a punk, and that actually plays well for Davis.  I cannot handle his crude characters and humor. Here the humor wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, but then it also wasn’t predicated about potty humor, sexual innuendo, or vulgarity.  It was refreshing to actually see him do some straight forward writing rather than letting his inner teenager take the wheel.


The story centers on a guy named Nathan who has died, like in Reboot, and has been uploaded into the game Adonis Rebirth, the problem is that he’s downloaded monster and not a player.  A lot of the book deals with him coming to grips with that fact, and accepting it, and it isn’t until sometime after the midway point that he actively acts like a dungeon master by setting traps and creating minions.  One thing I will say is that the premise showed a lot of potential with where this could have gone, and the ending threw me a good bit. Davis tossed a huge curveball and I don’t know why it was thrown, since this seemed to be a football game up to that point.  I thought that the mechanics were unique, but the end seemed to toss everything that we knew out the window. Plus, there were a lot of things that just made no sense to me at all. The end confrontation with the big bad was really poorly executed, the plan had more holes in it than a fishing net and held water as well as a colander.  Like I say, the writing was improved, but there were a lot of little things that bogged the story down. I think my favorite aspect was the whole sanity aspect, in which he goes more and more insane as he does monstrous stuff. That was an excellent game mechanic that played into my call of Cthulhu sympathies.


David Loving’s narration is purely middle of the road, but it does not detract from the story.  In fact, I believe that it sort of meshed well with Davis’ writing. By no means was I blown away by his vocal skills or reading capability.  To me he seemed more like a novice high school kid trying out for the Senior play, but one who knows how to read his lines without fumbling. He was clear, but his emphasis and emotional delivery could really use some work.  But, he didn’t kill the story. He kind of dragged it a long at a fair pace and managed to keep things running.


So, plot holes, weird ending direction, and mediocre narration made this actually much better than his other audiobooks I’ve reviewed so far.  It is a step up, and I like that he is trying to be more adult in his writing. This is a great step up from what he’s done so far, and I am actually looking forward to the sequel to this book just because it is such a departure from what he has done before.  In spite of the weird direction he took I can still see a lot of potential. After all, he’s the monster that PC’s want to kill, and now he’s . . .well I can’t tell you that. Spoilers! So anyway, I digress, while I did say that I liked it that pretty much meant that I didn’t hate it.  The story had a better semblance of what it takes to make a story, but the plans and attacks were not well executed, the MC was a little dense and clumsy, and the villain’s motivation made zero sense. Either way, the book was more than tolerable and I am glad to see that improvements have been made.  I would actually read/listen to the next book in this series.



Final Score: 6.5


--------------


Dungeon Lord: The Wraith's Haunt

By: Hugo Huesca   -----weska

Narrated by: Jeff Hays & Annie Ellicott

Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins


Pause


This is a very visceral book that will simply hit you on numerous emotional.  At first glance it is a nothing more than a standard LITRPG/Portal/Dungeon book.  Which is nice, because it kind of pops three cherries for a new reader all at once, with three.  I think the only thing that Hugo missed was the potential for a harem aspect, but he wisely stayed away from that.  The protagonist, Edward, is Simple cat who is dominated by his boss both in and outside of work. His only relief from the doldrums of life comes from playing an MMORPG with his co-workers once their shift ends.  His jerk of a boss finds out that the co-workers play together, and insinuates himself into their game. Worse yet, not only is he a major jerk, but he is also a horrible player. He repeatedly goofs up their gameplay and then shunts the blame to other players. Edward, is then put in a tough position by his boss who wants him to fire one of is gaming pals and co-workers for not playing well in the game the night before.  Edward considers the order and then decides his life would just be better if he were to punch the guy out and quit. Which he does. Moments after walking out the door he is contacted by an entity that is not of his world. This being then offers him a chance to become a dungeon lord on another world. The world in which he played in all the time, and in fact he will be replacing Lord that he and his his team had killed the night before.  It seems that the game world Edward has been playing in is real, and the evil there wants to overtake it. An evil god, Murmur needs agents, such as Dungeon Lords to do their dirty work and corrupt the land and souls. Edward makes the pact, but swears that he will never do Murmur’s bidding. He will use the power granted him to do good, and be his own person. He will be beholden to no one. This is a good start, and the book moves swiftly in the intro, it doesn’t take 1/3 of the book to get into the action.


How does this fit into the Dungeon genre you ask?  Well, while Lord Wraith, that’s Edward to you mugs, isn’t a soul trapped inside of a dungeon core but it is his job to build a dungeon, stock it with MOBS, and kill any players that enter his demesne (Demain).  So, no, he isn’t a dungeon core but he is the life of the dungeon that he takes over, and so this qualifies as a dungeon genre tale. I appreciate that, that Huesca could change up the format enough that it is identifiable as a dungeon book, but make it so that the MC isn’t landlocked into one position.


In and of itself, the story is lighthearted for the most part, but then it adds a new element, horror.  I can’t say just how good it worked on the written page, but the audio certainly adds a massive creep factor and is legitimately disturbing, but I’ll get to that in a minute or so.  Back to the funny or light aspects, I think that one of the best scenes in the book comes when Edward realizes that he is living and fighting in a “real” video game and that he complains when he doesn’t get enough XP for killing a tough MOB. The underlings that he gathers after he enters the world all have great personalities and could easily steal the show, but Edward’s presence is strong enough that he manages to dominate the page or rather the spoken images of the narrators.



While the story bounces between drama, comedy, and action there comes a point when element of horror is introduced without warning, and damn if it doesn’t work.  Again, I am going to say that this most likely works better in an audio format, because your imagination will never compare to the distraught cries that the narration brings to the written page.  I can tell you straight up I am very innured to horrifying things. I have watched creature features and horror movies since I was two or three years old. I cannot tell you the things that I have seen as a funeral director.  Nothing bothers me. Nothing makes me jump or flinch. Annie Ellicott’s narration made my stomach turn, and literally disturbed me as I listened. I don’t say this lightly, either. She stole this book with her cameo. Jeff Hays is as rock steady and impactful as he always is, and on any other day, he would have owned this book body and soul.  He plays Edward and all the other characters to perfection, and has some fun with Charon, but Annie makes her monster heartbreaking and terrifying all at the same time. You will actually sympathize with the creature. As she was a new comer to the narration industry I have to applaud her. She killed this piece. Once more, I will iterate that Soundbooth was flawless in their audio production.  Hays, the man of a thousand and one voices serves up some of his best work. The sound quality is pitch perfect, with a nary hitch in its giddy-up, and the storytelling by the dynamic duo of disquisition is unbelievable.



Overall, this is a fantastic first book in what promises to be a long line of novels.  The writing is top notch, the plot is perfection, the pace is pulsing, and the narration makes this more of an adventure than you would expect.  Personally, I really look forward to more from this writer, this series, and the narrators. They are all top quality. You will undoubtedly enjoy this novel, and I see it as a five star across the board piece of fiction that you rarely find.


Final Score: 8.6


------------------



Rogue Dungeon: A litRPG Adventure

By: James Hunter, eden Hudson

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Length: 7 hrs and 41 mins


Pause


OK, I am going to come clean here.  I am unquestioningly a huge fan of James Hunter.  I enjoy everything he’s written from this Urban Fantasy Yancy Lazarus, his Litrpg Series Viridian Gate Online, to that grocery list he dropped while shopping the other day.  I must also say, that you might further consider me to be biased because I do have a story in his upcoming Viridian Gate Anthology novel Side Quests, but that does not make anything I am about to say untrue or inaccurate.


This is a genuinely brilliant book, that much like the Land of the Undying by Dave Willmarth is just as interesting in the real world as it is in the game world.  The “real world” is actually a fantasy realm in which the hero, Roark is a rebel. He fights against an evil Usurper who has used his ability to control magics unlike every mage before him to steal an empire.  The setting seems to be slightly German in tone, with an interesting magic system in which written words convey power. When his attack on the Tyrant fails he tries to escape through a portal, which is a dicey proposition at best, and he finds himself not where he wanted to be, but in a strange world with new magics and an unlimited lifespan that allows him to respawn.  What he doesn’t realize is that he has entered Hearthworld, which is actually an MMORPG. Obviously, he has no clue that he is in a video game, and simply treats it like he has entered another world which is a logical conclusion for him to reach.


That, my friends is the brilliance of this story.  Roark is an interesting protagonist, and oddly the real antagonist is a player named Pwner Boner 007, that is a game name that will stand beside the most legendary Leroy Jenkins.  That isn’t to say that the Tyrant lord doesn’t loom and play in the back of Roark’s mind, but honestly, he really goes at Pwner Boner 007 enough that he qualifies as the bad guy. That is another strength of this book, it goes some serious to silly and no matter the tone Roark plays it straight.


Truly, this book was far too short.  I loved every second of it, and really think that this is quite possibly one of the best series he’s done to date.  It stands right beside VGO. Don’t think that I am discounting eden Hudson, either. She is an incredible writer, and her novel, Two Faced, is about as top notch as they come.  She has some serious chops. I mean like Mr. Miyagi chops. I know I said that I respected how well James was able to co-write with Aaron Crash because it seemed like it was a single voice, and the same is true here.  Only thing is the voice is very different in tone from War God. This is a masterful piece of combining writing styles, vision, and attitudes. This book blew me away at every turn. The only drawback was that it was too short.  


Now you might be calling me out on how this fits into the dungeon category for this special, and I’m going to tell you it is because Roark becomes a part of the dungeon.   He grows in power and manages to lead a section of it all by himself. I can see him eventually taking the entire dungeon over at some point in the future.


The narration by Nick Pohdel is outstanding.  He transitions Roark’s voice slowly as he gains levels, and it is subtle, but so realistic that you have to pay attention.  He plays monsters so well, and embodies the snark of Pwner Boner 007.




Final Score: 8.5

----------------


Dungeon Deposed

By: William D. Arand

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 13 hrs and 19 mins


I really enjoy dungeon books. Never thought that I would, but they are an amazing concept and I really admire the versatility of the writing that allows so many variations of what it means to be a dungeon. For example, Dakota Krout's Divine Dungeon is a literal core that builds a structure around itself. Hugo Huesca's Dungeon Lord is about a man who is tied to his dungeon, and can only build up in one area. Arand has created a character who literally steals a dungeon core for himself and is able to create and add to his dungeon on a whim.


This concept sets him alone, as it is fun and different to see a man who basically is super talented, but lacks the capability to adventure use his wits to become a success and get revenge as a dungeon. One pump, as he is affectionately know by his peers, is a highly skilled mage, but only has the stamina to cast up to about three spells before he is exhausted to the point of invalidity. He schemes to get his revenge on those who have mistreated him, and steal a dungeon core, setting about laying in plans to get his revenge. There is some typical stuff, like the dungeon wisp/fairy, and the act of a town building up around the dungeon, but this is a really fresh concept that plays out well. Plus, Ryker is a likable fellow, even though he is a little petty when it comes to getting his revenge.


Andrea Parsneau does an amazing job narrating. She really nails the majority of the characters, but I will say that her version of Ryker makes him sound snively. He sounds like someone who is perpetually disappointed, and as much as he isn't perfect I think he could have been a little bit manlier. In fact, I wanted him to be a touch less whiney sounding. Win was great as the fairy, and the two royal cousins clicked, wife and mother-in-law Duchess were awesome in their portrayal, but even his arch nemesis sounded more manly. I wish they had traded voices. Still, that is my conceit, and I am not docking a star, simply because she did a great job; she just didn't match my vision of Ryker's voice. Parsneau is a true professional, and she handles this tale with panache. I really can't imagine anyone else reading it.  And, after talking to her about this very issue she informed me that she is going to man his voice up in the next book.


The cover is fantastic, and you get to see Ryker plotting and scheming. Mino and Win are in there as well, but I must laugh, because the audible version cuts off the cityscape at his lap and leaves him with a glowing palm, and a rather phallic looking tower leaping from his lap. I think a little too much trimming took place, and made it look a tad embarrassing. Still, no points added or subtracted for the cover. It draws the reader in, and that is all that matters.


Arand never lets a reader or listener down. His stories always manage to grab your attention, and then hold it until he finishes. The bad thing is, no matter how long the book is it never lasts long long enough. You just never want the story to end. His characters are captivating, and the betrayals really cut deeply. You will root for the Church of Light to light a stick of dynamite, and for the proper queen to remain in place. Too bad we don't always get what we want. This, like all of Arand's other works, contains a proper harem, a bevy of beauties that Ryker claims as his own. So be prepared for that. Also, be prepared to anticipate the next book in this series, because once you read book one you will be hooked. Thankfully, Arand writes trilogies, and so there is a conclusion to look forward too!


Look, I really enjoyed this book lot. Arand is an amazeballs writer, and the pure Parsneau narration is a fantastic. There is simply no way you will be disappointed if you get this book. Read it now, and become an Arand fan for life, I suppose you'll become a Parsneau fan as well. Jump in the water while the water is cool and fun. Why waste time reading or listening to other booring books when you can win with this one?


Final Score:  8.25

--------------


The Laboratory

A Futuristic Dungeon Core

By: Skyler Grant

Narrated by: Gabriella Cavallero

Series: A Futuristic Dungeon Core, Book 1

Length: 5 hrs and 45 mins


Pause


I have been wanting to try some of Skyler Grant’s stuff for a while now, but for some reason I always kept holding off with other books taking a priority in my queque.  I’m really sad that I didn’t have an opportunity to get into this book sooner. I really love the Dungeon sub-genre, and honestly, only listened to this because I wanted to review a few different dungeon stories so that I could compare and contrast, because Grant has a few other books that I really want to put my ears to such as Glitch Hunter and his Shards series.


What is really great about this story is that it isn’t set in a fantasy world.  It is a post cataclysmic event tale in which reality itself is changing. The tale rockets to a start with a reawakened computer core coming online just as the girl who rebooted her/it is about to be raped.  Once that event is dealt with the core and the woman who wants to rule the world decide to join forces in order to see their wishes come to fruition.

One of the best things about the story is that the Computer core, Emma, is not a likable character.  This kind of flies in the face of other dungeon stories as Cal from Divine Dungeon, Ryker from Dungeon Deposed, and even Edward from Dungeon Lord all seem to be honorable and likable people.  Emma is rude, crass, and seems to do what is best for herself for the most part. This sets her apart from the other dungeon core types. Furthermore, her human companion is really just as single minded and power hungry as Emma is.  All she wants to do is rule the world. So, you essentially have two characters who aren’t very nice or sympathetic. That can be hard on a reader. Now, I will admit that the book itself really doesn’t have much character growth, although there are points when Emma starts to question her relationship with her human partner.  The book really is just one encounter after another with a boss fight at the end. There were points that it just felt like events happened because something needed to happen, and the oddest thing was the way in which all of these core users just sort of fell into Emma’s scope. She needed subjects, and lo many did appear.


The one thing that sort of fell flat for me was the narration.  For the most part, Cavallero did a good job, but when she was not doing a voice for one of the human characters she was very monotone.  I don’t know if this was in order to reflect that it was from a machine’s perspective, or if it was just her style of speaking because she did not pace the story like Andrea Parsinaeu or Laurie Catherine Winkel would.  It was a direct and matter of fact reading in my opinion, and I feel she could have slipped in some emotion, I mean hell even Data and Spock had inflections when they spoke. Otherwise, she does a good job, I’m just picking at nits.


One of the best parts about the book was the setting, as it is mysterious, foreboding, and not an underground lair in the middle of a magical forest.  I really appreciate the change in scenery, so to speak. Not all dungeons need to be magical, and Grant proves that here. In spite of story issues, such as flat characters and some we need a fight scene here moments, I enjoyed the book.  I wanted to see more of the core’s world and find out just what had happened that broke the world. I have to be honest. In spite of some flaws, I really liked the book, and I think that the series will get better as it goes forward. I’m going to give this  7.5 stars, it is a fair start for a series, and is well written in spots.


---------

Credits:


Pictures for the title card an background came from Pixabay by RohmBernhard

Music was Desolation and Allnighter, which came from http://www.purple-planet.com




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 015

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 015 -  Awaken Online: Apathy, Enhancer, Luck Stat Strategy, Feedback Loop- Book 4



“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”


Awaken Online: Apathy (Side Quest) (00:21)

Score: 6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2R1ZZuc


Enhancer - The Enhancer Series, Book 1 (18:57)

Score: 7.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2CXuMFL


Luck Stat Strategy: Secret of the Old Ones (30:00)

Score: 8.6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2CYoN3h


Reapers and Repercussions - The Feedback Loop Series, Book 4 (45:58)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2R9SwJX


---------


Awaken Online: Apathy (Side Quest)

By: Travis Bagwell

Narrated by: David Stifel

Series: Awaken Online, Book 3.5

Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins


Pause


Here it comes, I am really getting bored with this series.  Awaken Online is the title because I need three cups of coffee and a handful of no-doze to get through the latest books.  Honestly. You want the truth, the best part of this book was that there was no chance of Alexion showing up, and he still had a mention.  Eliza is just a more milquetoast version of Jason. She has his crappy parental relationship, and gets jerked around by an in-game god. The only difference is that Jason’s god is much cooler and much more tolerable.  I absolutely hate every moment that the Hippie appears. I cannot stand Fluffy, and I think that every joke that they do or is done in their spirit falls flatter than a sheaf of rice paper. I just don’t see the appeal of the guy or the black sheep.  His every appearance sends shivers down my spine.


The quests that he send Eliza on are neither funny nor very exciting.  Honestly, at no point did I have a sense of danger or concern, nor even when she was killed.  Yes, she does come up with an innovative way to kill the troll, but it was as exciting as watching someone spray a wasp with a can of Raid.  Her solution for the Stag was slightly better, and she actually showed some life when she confronted the other players, but that went by the wayside as soon as she got back home.  One moment of real growth and it was squished quickly. Seriously, she kills a ton of players but feel bad when she is given a quest to basically wipe out a band of pirates. It made no sense.


For some reason Bagwell has decided that it is much better to have an intellectual battle or solution rather than an actual fight.  I don’t know about you but I like my intellectual battles fought in conjunction with a sword or spear. In his third book the most mind numbing scenes came when the team was doing the Hippy’s trials.  This felt like a longer more drawn out version of those trials. I really don’t know why Bagwell is going this direction because in the first two books Jason not only out thought but he out fought his enemies.  Here, it seems like Eliza is afraid to get her hands dirty. The only real moment where I saw a touch of Jason came when she confronted the PKers. There she duped and destroyed them. Then she went and became old Eliza again.  That was the whole book, cry about how hard her life at home was, arguing with the hippy, doing an asinine Hippy quest, and then complaining about it afterwards. Wash, rinse, repeat. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I am not liking the direction this series is taking.  Again, I will reiterate, this felt like a pilot episode for a spin-off within an established series. Chandler from Friends goes to visit his awkward cousin Eliza, we then spend some time with Eliza, Chandler pops back in to say good bye and next fall we have Eliza’s show, The Awkward Herbalist or the Anguished Alchemist, not sure about the title yet, but you get the idea.  This is not a series that I will continue out of love. I’m sure I’ll get it just to keep up the reviews, but that is the only reason.


David Stifel stays true to form, and does his solid work as always.  If you liked him in the other three books you won’t be disappointed here.  He is probably the one saving grace that this book had, because if he hadn’t have been here to keep this story anchored it would have drifted far afield of where it should have been.


I know that there are a lot of Travis Bagwell fans out there, hell, I know authors who won’t even try to do a release near him, but I am growing to be less enthused about this series the longer it goes on.  I’d like to see him stick to Jason’s exploits or create a character who doesn’t have trolls for parents and actually has a spine and a brain. They can be a little broken, but I need a break from the weak and obsequious characters that he pummels us with, and Eliza is the biggest offender.


I’m giving this book a rating of 6 stars.  I feel that this is just a revisit from the last book that really didn’t need written.  Thankfully it wasn’t a 22 hour novel because I would have had a hard time finishing it.


------------


Enhancer

The Enhancer Series, Book 1

By: Wyatt Kane

Narrated by: Chris Graves

Series: The Enhancer Series, Book 1

Length: 7 hrs and 12 mins


Pause


According to the book’s description, this book has some light gamelit elements, so I grabbed it for an examination.  When Kane says light he means light. The only things that remotely make this gamelit is the fact that they use Huds, heads up displays, and they have stats that can increase via various manipulations or exercise/practice.  Otherwise, this is a straight up super hero harem tale that isn’t half bad. The book does feel rushed, and I mean there really is not much time between the time that the MC gains his powers until he is at the end fight with the Boss.  Character development comes only from physical changes and is minimal when it comes to actual character growth. The sex scenes come off as a light for of Late night on Cinemax, slightly graphic but not overly explicit if you ask me.


The set up is pretty simple, the main character encounters a battle between two supers, and when the hero is killed, the protagonist, Ty, grabs a strange device that the villain is trying to get and puts it on.  Turns out it is the thing that makes mere mortals into super heroes. His device clears his acne, makes him taller, and irresistible to any female that wears a device similar to him.


Lucky dude that he is he meets one at the end of the battle, and wakes up naked in her safe house.  Her name is Tempest, and she helps him learn the ropes. His powers allow him to create or upgrade any kind of technology.  This potentially makes him the most powerful hero to ever exist. He is fortunate enough to have met the creator of the wristbands that give them their powers.  The creator is the Architect, and he just so happens to have been Tempest’s father. He also left like a million schematics that Ty can use to create or upgrade new power items.  In between, Ty manages to have sex with Tempest and her Roommate a who is a human deer hybrid. The sex scenes are not as hard as they could have been and play out a little lighter than late night cable.  I pretty much say that if you are going for a sex scene have a sex scene. If not fade to black. One thing that drove me crazy is that the deerkin character had antlers. In nature, the only female deer that have antlers are ones with higher than average testosterone levels or reindeer.  She was not a modified human reindeer combo. I would let it slide if it was just a cosmetic change, but my understanding was that it was a far more than superficial change. He should have given her doe ears in addition to the hooves and tail. It is details like that that throw me off and out of a book.  Easily researched details. Also, I have to say that the end battle was incredibly outrageous and so poorly planned that I cannot understand how the villain didn’t destroy them. Ty had open access to the Architect’s plans, schematics, and concept designs and more than 24 hours to plan, and that was the best he could come up with?  He’s already designed a “super suit” replete with offensive and defensive capabilities. He should have been able to design something that would have given them more of an upper hand than they had. It was just silly.


The story is fast paced, and by that I mean there is little development.  The characters are stereotypical, for example Ty’s boss is a clear case of Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter being inserted into a non-teaching role.  Ty is the reluctant hero, and Tempest is the hardcore hero who brooks no insolence. The villain is loud and obnoxious and pretty much as major A-hole. In other words, just what you expect each of them to be.


Graves, is a good narrator who handles the books poor pacing, i.e. rapid plot advancement, in the best way he can, he also tries very hard to take the two dimensional characters and breath some life into them.  His female voices aren’t half bad, but he only did three of them so I’m not sure how much variation or range he has, I’ll need to hear him a few times before I decide on just how far he can push his limits. Either way I enjoyed his work.


The book was a little thin, and certainly felt like it was a bare bones edition of what could have been a pretty epic story.  It needed more characterization and development to make this a solid tale. For that reason I’m going to hit it with a 7.3 star rating.  There was a lot of potential, but most of it was overlooked. I will get the next book, and hopefully some of these issues will have been addressed.


---------


Luck Stat Strategy: Secret of the Old Ones

By: Blaise Corvin

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 4 hrs and 45 mins


Pause


Straight up, there is no reason you haven’t gotten this book.  I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here, because I love Delvers, and really appreciate how much Corvin gives back to his readers.  This is one of those books, that if you have read it you want more of immediately. Sincerely, you will crave this stuff like a five dollar hooker craves some smack.  The problem is, this book is not leaping off the shelves, and since Blaise has bills, he writes what pays them. He’s got bills, he’s gotta pay. He’s got mouths to feed.  Why would he write something that no one reads, regardless of how amazing it is? It is a passion project for him. He even has a cover ready to roll on book number two! And do you know why this book isn’t done yet?  Because every time he gets into it some body demands the sequel ASAP, and it puts him right off. Instead of being entitled and demanding, and believe me I completely get that you want, nay, crave more of this magic he doth produce, you might suggest to people you know actually buy the book.  Word of mouth the hell out of it. I actually said to myself, “Self, you are constantly bragging about Delvers, and Nora, but when was the last time you mentioned The Luck Stat strategy?” I almost replied, but then I realized I had asked a rhetorical question, and I didn’t have a rhetorical answer.  SO, I figured the least I could do would be to review this amazing novella, and get it onto some people’s radar! Maybe they would then tell their friends, and then they would tell their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on! Until, by merit of exponential growth this book hit the top of the charts and took off like a bat out of hell with his arse on fire.  I’m realistic, and my hope is that some one will cotton on to just how good this book is and spread the gospel of the Luck Stat. Sorry, if I’m proselytizing too much, but this book is really that endearing and easily garners such fervor and devotion.


So, have I got your attention?  Good well let me tell you about this roller coaster that is the Secret of the old Ones.  And when I say roller coaster, I don’t mean some wimpy coaster like the Magnum XL at Cedar Point, I’m talking the Kingda Ka, the Mount Everest of coasters. This books starts off with a PVP battle between old bitter enemies, like Indiana Jones vs Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  There are some pretty hard feelings, and needless to say things don’t get better when the loser gets looted. The book is a mix of Lovecraft and Steampunk, and it is well thought out, expertly crafted, and the gaming rules are well designed. Writing about a game in which you might lose sanity cannot be easy, but Corvin not only made it look easy, he makes you wonder why this isn’t implemented everywhere.  I know if I was sent to Dolos’s world in Delvers, and came face to face with one of its monsters I’d probably lose a few points of sanity, and they are just regular monsters, not Lovecraftian styled ones. The setting is similar to England in the 1800’s, very Victorian, and thus the steampunk aspect, but the setting lends itself so well to the Cthulhu influences that it feels natural. The story itself is very tightly written, there is no excess and thus no punches are pulled.  The book has some amazing action sequences, and the final fight, on the train was a major standout scene, I think about it all the time. Just like in Delvers when one of the boys goes toe to toe with one of Dolos’s priestesses. It is something you just don’t forget. The characters are well developed, and believably motivated and show a lot of growth and development in the story. This is not your standard players go kill stuff for 30,000 words. There is a lot going on, and there are just hints of better things to come.


One of my favorite aspects was that it was not only PVE and PVP, but there didn’t seem to be a safe zone that Trent could flee to in order to escape his pursuers.  Also, the whole sanity check mechanic worked really well, and if you have ever played COC then you will really respect it here. It was like a snuggly tentacle wrapping around your limp body.  The book is really worth it. Honestly, I know it is shy of a full five hours, but I don’t know of a single person who has read or listened to this that didn’t immediately become a rabid fan. It really is that good.  So much happens that it is hard for me to tell you everything because the book is such a whirlwind that you just wonder where it went and what comes next.



Sometimes, I think this book is cursed to be an actual secret, that only old timers will look back upon fondly in the years to come, and whisper, “I remember the train fight, when all was lost. . .”  I sincerely hope that isn’t the case, and that Blaise writes so many of these books that he runs the series right into the ground. I really think the thing that is holding this book back is its title.  Secret of the Old ones sounds like a bunch of old timers in a nursing a nursing home trying not to admit who farted, and the Luck Stat Strategy sounds like something a college mathematics professor would try to make money in Vegas.  I love Corvin, but I really think that no one grabs this incredible book because of the title. Make a change, call it the Miskatonic Steampunk or Deep Ones Rising. Just something different.


Finally, I come to the amazing work done by Jeff Hayes.  I have to say that his narration here is some of the best I’ve heard him do.  I don’t want to call him subdued, but he is very restrained and in control of the characters and the pacing of the story it’s scary.  He adds to the Lovecraftian atmosphere in such an integrated way that you can just feel the call of the old ones in the background. He brings a menace of being stalked, and an ambience of quiet desperation from the Main character.  And when it gets to the action, I can’t see anyone doing it better. Like I say, that train ride scene was just intense, action packed, and filled with danger. He made you feel every second of it. I know I praise Jeff a lot (and it might be because he’s my favorite narrator) but he really deserves it.  This is an excellent pairing that goes together like wine and cheese only with blood, slimy tentacles, and dead bodies strewn about.


So, here is my score. 8.6 stars, I think it is an intense and overwhelming story that grips you from the moment that you start it, and if you pay attention to its fans it doesn’t let you go afterward.  The only caveat I have is that I have to put a disclaimer and say that we know the next book will come out, we just don’t know when. Regardless, just consider this an Amuse Bouche of this gaming world, and enjoy the wonderful bite that you’ve been given


--------


Reapers and Repercussions

The Feedback Loop Series, Book 4

By: Harmon Cooper

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Series: The Feedback Loop, Book 4

Length: 7 hrs and 32 mins


Pause


Cooper returns to the Proxima Galaxy and everybody's favorite smart mouth, Quantum Hughes, returns in style. My biggest beef with this dish? Not enough Francis Euphoria, I love that dame. The search for Godsick's son is still ongoing, and the dream team is finally making some progress on finding his location, but they end up getting sidetracked into doing a mission for one of the upper crust royal personages that think their diznikes don't stink. It was a blast seeing Quantum get some payback on one of the reaper B-holes that has been a plug in his "but" for a few books. Best use of a sword stick I've ever heard!


Seriously, Hughes is twice as mouthy and grumpier than ever, and his team seems to be suffering from the we can't trust anybody virus, as one or two members do some shady dealings or break a lot easier than they should have. Quantum might be out of the action for a little of this book, but his arena fights are the stuff of Legends! And if you want to talk about funny, all I can say is there are two bits in which Quantum is chided for being racist, the first is an "Engrish Prease" back and forth that made me belly laugh, and the other was about Islamic proselytizing that literally made me almost fall out of my car as I was opening the door because I was laughing so hard. Cooper is clearly the snarkiest snark that ever snarked, and he uses that to his advantage. I would fear a conversation with him, just on the basis that somewhere in the back of his lizard brain lurked a fully formed Quantum Hughes who was ready to strike at the slightest hint of vulnerability.


Also, I love the cover, Qpappy187 looks suitably vicious, but I would have loved to see him in his life vest with Hacky in his hand. That would have fit so much better than the grim and dark angle, but hey, ya gotta go with what sells and this cover is an attention grabber.


Gotta talk about Hays, and his narration. No one else could play the fast talking wise-acre, Quantum Hughes, quite like Hays does. I think other narrators would get marble mouthed just trying to keep up. Plus, it is refreshing to see Jeff doing the whole book solo, I appreciate the other SBT cast members, but Jeff just rocks out stories all on his own, and Quantum is 100% Jeff all the way. He spits out quotes and phrases that would stunt a lesser narrator's growth, and does so with aplomb. Shockingly, I do have a few small issues I have to take with the Master of the Vocal Arts. First, in the aforementioned Islamic bit there is a bit of a pause that goes a little long when the giant is speaking to the Dream team. It goes on for what feels longer than a dramatic pause and seems more like a piece that got spliced back into the story. Like he had to redo it due to a flubbed line, and the timing was just a little off. Next, and this is strictly because I know some chefs, and would get a wet rag slapped in my mouth if I said it this way, but Jeff says the word "Saucier" in a distinctly American manner. Technically, his saying the word as saucey-er isn't incorrect, but it is french, and they way I have always heard it is as saucey-A, with the A being a long vowel sound. The same way that person who recommends wine is referred to as a sommelier. It too, ends with a long A sound. I am sure he did his due diligence and checked out how to pronounce it, but sometimes that old interweb lies or misdirects you. Just check out Top Chef sometime, they will give you the real skinny on how to pronounce those kitchen terms. I really don't want to pick at nits, and I am seriously not pointing the no-no finger at Jeff, but it needed pointing out.


What does all that mean? With the issues that I took umbrage with, i.e. less Francis than I'd have liked, a minute (as in small) pause, and one word being misprounced I'd have to give this a subtraction of .00001 % of a star. Rounding up, there is no negligable difference. This book takes the Proxima Galaxy and sucks it into a black hole of pure awesomeness. You can't go wrong with the combo of Cooper and Hays!


Final score 8 stars, you just can’t go wrong with the combination of Cooper and Hays.


-------


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 014

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 014 -  Shards of Reality, Freehaven Online Dragonsbane, Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

Shards of Reality: Enter the Realm, Book 1 (00:25)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2CLC8Mi

Freehaven Online Dragonsbane: A LitRPG Adventure (08:25)

Score: 7.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2yIDxPA

Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm (The Viridian Gate Archives Book 1) (22:51)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2pUQWQz





Shards of Reality:  Enter the Realm

By: Timothy W. Long

Narrated by: Todd Menesses

Length: 10 hrs and 51 mins




Shards of Reality, Enter the Realm, Book 1 is a fun LITRPG novel.  It follows your basic premise in which protagonists find themselves in a virtual reality, usually as players in the game, but sometimes there at their own request, sometimes not.  For example, Viridian Gate Online has a player enter the game world to escape an asteroid that is going to destroy all life on earth. Reboot, has a player die, and his mind uploaded into the game.  Here, the protagonist, Walt, wakes up in a popular MMORPG that he has played numerous times, but with no memory of how he got there. He is utterly clueless as to what has caused his current situation.  Worse yet, he is in a newbie character, and not the one that he spent voluminous amounts of time leveling & building up. As time passes Walt manages to find a few other people who are in the same predicament as him, players, who also have no recollection of how they got there.  The scary thing is they might not be able to leave. So this is a bit like a trapped in the game trope, but with the added event of amnesia. Honestly, Thaman’s Respawn tried to go for this feel, but didn’t quite his this mark. If you liked Respawn you will love this book.

I have to warn you that the book does start out a little slowly, but it does so only so that you are able to take in everything at the same pace as the characters.  One aspect that I liked is that this book is not bogged down by tons of stats like most LITRPG books. Yes, they grind, and level, and improve but their stats do not run by every five minutes like they do in some books.  Let me tell you, that incessant listing of stats can be annoying. I enjoyed how they didn’t overwhelm the listener.

Another nice touch is that the characters all earn, and I have to emphasize this point, they earn their skills and levels, there is no OP characters to be found here.  Additionally, the characters are portrayed as regular people. Oz, for example, does whine and cry like most of us would at the exertion and pain he goes through to level.  Walt can come across like a jerk sometimes, and I can see him being off putting to some listeners. All I can say is that either you will get him, and his sense of humor or you will not, and if you don’t you won’t like him very much.  That can be hard on a listener when you aren’t fond of the protagonist. I however, did enjoy the man quite a bit. Another item that I should address is that some readers might take umbrage that the book ends on a cliffhanger. I know readers who absolutely flip out when they have that happen to them, but it is no big deal to me.  I can handle a cliffhanger so long as I know there is more coming. I just put this out there because I know how readers can get.

The writing is smooth, the dialogue is snappy, and the plot really picks up once they hit their main quest.  That is important to note, once the set up is done the story does take off. The characters do play out like real people, and are not one dimensional cut outs.  If you cut them they will bleed, and then they will yell at you about cutting them or run away crying, it’s a toss up. The narration is clean and crisp, and fun to listen to.  Todd Menesses really pulls out all the stops, sets off some fireworks, and blows up the bells and whistles in the kitchen sink. He really helps to bring the story to life, and you will find no faults with his work.

The book is fun, and enjoys nice pace once things are explained and the characters get rolling on their big quest.  Like I say, I don’t mind a slow burn as long as there is pay off, and we get pay off, and an excellent set up for the next book.  Don’t miss out.


I’m giving this 8 stars, it is solid but it takes a little time to build before the real momentum kicks in.


-----------



Freehaven Online Dragonsbane: A LitRPG Adventure

By: Jun Prince

Narrated by: Amy Landon

Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins


Pause


I think that as a funeral director I see this book in a light that few others will.  I look at it as an introspection of a character going through the grieving process. Jun really looks at loss in a couple of ways, and how it affects our lives, and I really appreciated that aspect because I had never seen it done in LITRPG before.  Justine’s brother died, and she sort of steals his account, and finds herself entering the game as him just to get a feel for who he was, and what he was like. The best part of it is that she has to come to conclusions on her own because no one magically shows up and tells her how great her brother was, or what a D-bag he was to other players.  She has to figure these things out all on her own. The book also deals with loss in a few other ways, the players become trapped in the game (not a spoiler it’s in the description) and have to deal with the possibility of never going home again. Also, some players learn that there is a way to permanently join the game, but die in the process. This leads to some complications, and Prince does not make it easy, as grieving never is just a simple emotional process.


Another aspect that I enjoyed was the concept of two MMORPG’s merging into a totally new game. Let’s be honest, not every game can end up like World of Warcraft and exist in perpetuity.  So, how could games stay alive? By merging with another game that is also losing traction. Can you imagine if City of Heroes merged with Everquest? How cool would that be? Great idea!


The story has some innovative battles, cool quests, dragons, and interesting NPCs, but it isn’t without its own issues.  First, the whole trapped in the game thing kind of comes out of left field. Personally, I think it would have worked better if it had happened early in the book.  As it was it was a little jarring even if you had read the book’s description. A lot of possible ramifications were overlooked, such as what if a single parent had gotten online just before the attack happened.  Young kids would be left to fend for themselves, even if the parent was kept alive by the VR tech. It could be days before they were found. What if a person trapped had to have medication, and lived alone? I would have loved to have seen some other players voicing these concerns.  We do have one dad who wants to get back to his kids.


The biggest issue I had, and only because I could see it being confusing was that the MC, a well as the other players, could all switch between their alts at any time.  One it made it really hard for me to connect with Justine’s character side, as I enjoyed Scootie Wootums, but the dwarf got bounced as the party needs dictated. I was fully expecting a merging of her brother’s character and her own.  I think a melding would have played better, so that all the alts merged into one unique class. That would have really amped the story up, if everyone was struggling to suss out what their capabilities were after the merge. As it was it was just a choice of picking your COH superhero or the Everquest Druid whenever you wanted for example.  Also, I don’t really recall a lot of the other players swapping their characters all that often. I did appreciate that Justine’s squad was basically a playground group, you know you wander around the playground and ask kids if they wanted to play. This was a pack of LFG people, you know “Looking for a group!” That isn’t something that you see very often in Litrpg books either, while it should be the norm.  Most times you enter a game with maybe one other person you know playing, and get to know others by shouting out Tank LFG or Rogue LFG. The story was good and well written, but I did have an issue connecting to the characters as much as I would have liked, but I loved the underlying theme that grief and loss played throughout the book.


The narration by Landon was fair.  There were times that I just did not connect with her at all, she was very clear when she spoke but her non dialogue bits lacked any emotion at all.  Go back and listen to the book’s audio clip. She almost says each sentence separately, and without any kind of inflection. Her dialogue isn’t bad, and she does some decent accents, but I could not connect with her reading style much at all.  It was very distant and seemed cold. She’s not bad, but really needs to add some energy into the reading of non-dialogue portions of the novel. This had a major impact on me, as I found it a little harder to connect with the characters and their actions, especially during fight scenes.


So, just on the basis that I enjoyed the narration, but was not enamored of it, and a few other factors such as having a hard time identifying with the MC’s rotating character class, and the wonky delivery of the game trap I have to give this a 7.3 stars.  I enjoyed it, but felt that some issues could have been better addressed and it really needed one class for me to latch onto as a reader/listener.


Final Score: 7.3 stars


------------



Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm

The Viridian Gate Archives Series

By: J. A. Hunter

Narrated by: Armen Taylor

Length: 8 hrs and 44 mins



Pause

Don't wanna burn and die

Don't wanna asteroid fall on me

So, Imma gonna enter Viridian, Abby  

Cause I know the asteroid won’t miss a thing

'Cause even when I even virtual reality

That VR realm would never do

I'd still miss you, baby

And I don't wanna miss a thing


I swear to God, prop guy, if you hit me in the head with a rock!


Awright, Awright, Awright.  So you’ve seen those books where something goes horribly wrong and people end up trapped in a digital world as players.  Maybe there’s a zombie apocalypse, maybe resources are so low that people can’t feed themselves, or maybe it’s an form of afterlife for people to have a second chance.  Well, James Hunter decided that none of that stuff was big enough to make him go into a MMORPG permanently. Nope, he figured the only way that he would do something like that would be if the whole world got taken out.  So he sent a massive asteroid to destroy his world, one without Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to save it. I have to say that this approach was a smashing success. (Cricket sounds here) OK. OK. But you have to admit it works.  I appreciated how it didn’t take three chapters to get into the game world VGO is an interesting take on the RPGlit/Gamelit genre. It has some familiar twists and turns, but done in brilliant ways. Hunter has a nice flowing writing style; he knows how to open and close a chapter, and his ability to do dialogue is fantastic. I would put this book up among Delvers, LLC, Awaken Online, and Ascend Online.


One thing the book really has going for it is the characters.  That isn’t to say that the game world isn’t fascinating, or that the plot isn’t impactful, but the vibrancy and realism of the characters is what makes this book shine.  Grimjack is complex, he is both a thinker and a doer. Usually MC’s are one or the other, but Grimjack’s actions manage to make sense because of his nature. I especially enjoyed the way in which the character used his head, rather than his hammer, to defeat his foes. It really came into play during the big "Godzilla vs Mothra" fight at the end.  For an example early on in the game, however, he is given a choice; abandon an old woman to die alone or help her. If he helps he increases his risk of capture and or death but he decides to help against the advice of his newfound companion. That companion is a whole different kind of beast. Cutter, Grimjack's sidekick/partner in crime is a complete jerk, a ne’er-do-well, and a very reluctant hero who is clearly more mercenary than he is merciful, but he is loyal to the core.  Abby, Grimjack’s love interest, is a strong independent woman who is responsible for getting the team the hope that they have in stopping the Devs from creating a permanent feudal society where the rich remain on top.


One thing I liked was that the book did not focus on having to level up or power level in such as hurry; it happened as it happened.  Leveling was gradual and a natural process, and was not the main focus of the characters. No, they had more important matters to attend to, such as stopping a rather evil gentleman of getting his hands on an item of power, rebuilding a keep, and trying to stay out of the view of the people in power long enough to achieve their goals.  Just imagine how you would feel if after you are in, you find that the game has been rigged to heavily favor of some members of the upper 1%; that you are essentially fated to be an eternal servant? That would take precedence over power leveling for its own sake. Basically, you come for the asteroid, and stay for the characters and the tribulations that they face.


Armen Taylor was a palpable force while narrating. He played out the entire cast of characters in different voices, and each of their personalities shined through. He was a one man troupe in a play of dozens. Taylor makes him sound like a young Mick Jagger, all cocky and vitriolic, to a point I thought he had to have practiced that voice for hours.  One of my favorite things about Taylor is how he voices yelling. He doesn’t raise his voice or actually yell, he does it like a kid who is messing about with his action figures but doesn’t want to be loud. He sort of whisper yells, instead. Total fun. He does a great job, and this was my first introduction to him as a narrator. I’ve since grown to love listening to him.


So, I’ve stated repeatedly that this is one of my favorite series, and this is the book that started the ball rolling and I can’t help but want to share the love.  I’m actually going to trim this score back, because I am such a fan, I can’t help but feel that my enthusiasm is too powerful. I’m going to say 8.3 stars, but it has a lot more going on for it.  This is a brilliant character study that just happens to have a lot of fighting, monsters, and adventure happening around it. Oh, and book 6 comes out on the 16th, with an audible release about two months after that, So I’ll be listening to it then.  Cheers.



------------





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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 013

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 013 - Travail Online: Resurrection,  Pangea Online, The Feedback Loop: Books 1-3, Reboot


“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

Travail Online: Resurrection (A LitRPG Series, Book 2) (00:23)

Score: 8.1 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2zYF8Td

Pangea Online Book One: Death and Axes: A LitRPG Novel (12:32)

Score: 8.25

https://amzn.to/2pI5KSt

The Feedback Loop: Books 1-3 (21:51)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2y7qgR2

Reboot (31:58)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2pHxkPu

--------

Travail Online: Resurrection

A LitRPG Series, Book 2

By: Brian Simons

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Series: Travail Online Series, Book 2

Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins


Pause

I’m going to take a minute here and rail about last week.  Last week I jumped all over a good narrator for mispronouncing the word ensign.  Justifiably so, I might add. But, in the spirit of fairness I have to admit when I say something wrong.  I mispronounced Andrea Parsneau’s name. I said Parsneau, and it is said as Par Snow, see the pic? It should be easy to make sense of it from that little meme.  So, if you guys catch me on something, call me out! I want to extend my apologies to Andrea for pulling a Sweeny Todd on her last name. Anyhow, back to what you came for:

Well, everyone’s favorite tailor/seamstress, Coral, is back and she opens with the wanton slaughter of some vicious humanoids from the deep (a great Corman classic B movie if you haven’t seen it or heard of it) and she is making some awesome armor from their skins.  I don’t think that you can get a better opening, when a lady is just minding her business fishing while waiting on some pals to show up and ends up killing a murderous fish man (no, I played D&D for years and could never pronounce their name then, and I can’t now so I’m not even going to try) with a pair of scissors.  If you have to open a book then evisceration by scissors is a good way to start. It caught my attention.

This time around there are some Shenanigans taking place by the game devs, who feel that the games economy is generating too much income and is damaging the real economy.  Thus, they implement a plan that will obliterate the in game economy, and strip players of their wealth. How do they do this? By brainwashing the players into becoming religious zealots who give all of their money to rebuild a god’s temple.

Simons really plays this at different angles.  One member of the party wholeheartedly joins the clerical staff and becomes a priest and does one hell of a fundraising job for the god.  Another player gets the whammy put on him and the others struggle to keep him from giving away everything he owns (in the real world and the VR one).  He plays with the theme of betrayal and forgiveness. I’m not saying forgiveness is granted, only that he plays with the notion of how people can react to trust be broken.  Coral feels betrayed by one of her team mates, a team mates actually betrays them, and the game company breaks trust by manipulating minds. He hits that subject on various levels, and also shows how trust is something that isn’t lightly given, but when it is earned it is worthwhile.  The book is emotional, but also has some great fight scenes. Personally, I loved the poison that wanted to be used and kept calling out to kill others. When it was employed all I could think of was the red wedding from Game of Thrones and the pie scene from Stand By Me. Wickedly brilliant and funny in an evil kind of way.  It wasn’t written for laughs, but I got a good snicker out of it.

Coral is the heart of the book.  She is the team’s center and moral compass, and Andrea plays her so well.  I know that she strives to put in emotions that we readers aren’t even supposed to know are there, and here, her reaction as Coral to the betrayal is cinematic.  You can feel the hurt and reluctance in her voice, her need to get away, her need to start anew. It is pretty damned impressive. I don’t mean to downplay her ability to play the other characters, because you actually understand the betrayer’s motives, and she conveys their feelings just as deeply.  It is one hell of a juggling act that she pulls off. Andrea never fails to impress me.

I am so glad that the snake on the cover with the apple in its mouth is explained, I was very curious about that, but I have to say that was probably the only weak spot that I found in the story.  It just came off as a little silly when compared to the depth of the rest of the book. But hey, I love silly. It just felt out of place compared to the various moral quandaries that each character dealt with such as working for a corrupt lord, putting yourself over the team because of jealousy, or dealing with betrayal from someone that you might be in love with or at the very least respect.  When the snakes were used later it was much more effective. So, just one bump as far as I was concerned.

I’m awarding a solid 8.1 stars, just because of the depth and character growth that takes place.  The story is intriguing and enjoyable. I know that you will like this book.

----------------

Pangea Online Book One: Death and Axes: A LitRPG Novel

By: S. L. Rowland

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James, Laurie Catherine Winkel

Length: 7 hrs and 33 mins


Pause

Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a yarn about a boy doomed to toil away his life in a virtual mine.  A boy who has no choice but to waste his life digging out electronic ore in order to take care of himself. That is until he discovers a chest full of loot that grants him a free pass to wherever he wants to go in the game, and enough digital currency to see this become a reality.  That’s when he learns there are only two things certain in this life, Death and Axes.

The boy is Esil, and his struggles may sound a little similar to another book, one in which a kid has to escape the mines and win a game wide contest.  I just can’t remember what it was called. It was . . . . .it was . . .(tank flies in and hits me in the head, prop guy yells Dodge Tank!)

Ow!  Yeah.  Thanks, prop guy.  Dodge tank. Now, while the stories seem similar it is only a facile one at best.  Both have protagonists who work in digital mines, and both have that protagonist have to win a game wide contest in order to . . . well you know make their lives better and stuff.  Other than those two items, both stories are radically different. Pangea, by the way, was released before Dodge tank by about three months so The similarities are just coincidental.

Anyway, Esil is a pretty good kid, who just happens to meet a popular player his first day in game, and he manages to impress her with a cheat that he doesn’t know he has.  The two slowly become friends, and when the inevitable announcement of a worldwide event that will provide money, fame, and game bonuses they agree to help one another out until the final contest, because just like they say in Highlander, there can be only one.  Here is where the story reminds me of Harmon Cooper’s Proxima Galaxy, as the game that Esil is in also hosts multiple worlds in hundreds of genres. There were several things that I enjoyed about the contest’s trials. First, the clues actually mislead our heroes, and they don’t solve the first one.  Second, we get to go to some exciting new worlds, and third, the game is set so that it takes innovation and wits to advance more than levels for the most part. The characters all carry their own weight, they are interesting, and when a betrayal occurs it cuts to the quick like it should. Esil, or Lone Wolf as I prefer to call him, is crushed by it but pushes ahead anyway.  And that is the crux of the tale. Perseverance, dedication, and determination. You really get to see what kind of man Esil is by the way he earns his mount, and the way in which he handles the betrayal. The fight scenes are fun, and Esil’s introduction to the game he has never played is pretty funny when he gets into his first battle. The book is light and fun, and while the plot is something you may have seen a few times you won’t mind because Rowland manages keep things so interesting.

So, you ask me, what about the narration?  How was it? Is it worth the time and effort to listen?  Is it amazing? The only thing I can say is that this is SBT, a Soundbooth Theater production, so you know that it is going to be great.  I really like the pairing of Justin Thomas James and Laurie Catherine Winkel. They have become, for me, the Bonnie and Clyde of the audible world.  They are narrators who come in guns blazing, and run off with the story like it was the last hamburger in a world filled with Wimpy’s. Sorry for anyone under 40, that’s a Popeye reference.  The incredible part is that they are not even in the same studio when they record, One is in Georgia, and the other in Canada. What? How can there be that much chemistry when people are so far apart?  They pair up more and more often, and I really think that their latest efforts, Dave Wilmarth’s the Land of the Undying has been their best effort to date. Here you can see them really unifying into collaborators of the highest quality.   Like I say, they are like Bonnie and Clyde, they pull off their narration in a flash and flurry that never lets you know what is coming. I love the way they handle the tale, the characters, and my attention. They never let it become boring.  I do believe there was one slight audible flub, but it was nothing major, a line was repeated but that’s all. Otherwise this audio portion was flawless.

So, what’s the verdict?  This book is solid, has good writing, plays out tropes but doesn’t tropifiy your mind with them and still manages to keep it interesting, and has some killer narration.  It also plays out like it could have been a stand alone novel, and I respect that a great deal. Not every book needs a cliffhanger. This one wraps up pretty well, even though there is another book in the series.  Rowland unquestionably makes me want the next book Magic and Mayhem, as well as his other new novel (not on audible yet) Vestiges which is a Post Apoc novel. So, I’m eager for more, that means an 8.25. Can’t ask for more.

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Rise and shine campers, its the Feedback Loop

The Feedback Loop: Books 1-3

By: Harmon Cooper

Narrated by: Jeff Hays, Soundbooth Theater

Series: The Feedback Loop, Book 1-3

Length: 16 hrs and 2 mins


Pause


Wow.

Huh? Not enough of a review?

How about Holy Freaking Crap!

No?

Ok, since you are interested have to say that this is just brilliant, and should become a Netflix series. It would so crush Alterd Carbon!  They’d just have to add a touch more nudity, but I don’t see Quantum complaining about going to a few strip clubs to help ratings.

It is a sweeping story that begins with Groundhogs Day for a setting, and transitions into a reality hopping mind trip that you just won't forget anytime soon. Quantum, the MC, is interesting and funny. The action is cinematic, and the emotions are like a rabid methhead on redbull who just found out his dog got run over but is alive. The story easily flips settings, and does so effortlessly. The concept is so out there it was on an episode of X-files!  I think.

This is not one book, it is a collection of three awe inspiring jaw dropping story telling that centers on a fast talking, hard drinking mug who is trapped in a VR world, and I think suffers from Stockholm Syndrome.  Quantum Hughes is a character that you will either love or completely hate. I don’t think there can be a middle ground. Harmon Cooper is a stand out writer, who must have been tripping on peyote all day long to come up with some of the stuff that he conceives in this book. Plus, not only is he imaginative, but he has a real way with words, most importantly, with dialogue. The words his characters speak are believable, emotional, and funny when they need to be. You really get to like his cast of characters, and will fall in love with the whole game concept that he creates.

It’s the fast talk and the creative use of everyday items as implements of murder that make Quantum stand out.  I’m just waiting for him to kill someone with a paper clip. Hughes is a bit of a conundrum, as he seems to have flawless pop culture memory to draw upon, but can barely recall what he was like before going into the Proxima Universe.  Now, Proxima is a game design company that houses all of its games in one shared universe, so while Hughes has been living like Sam Spade in a noirish 40’s styled game he also gets to visit other worlds and games as well. That is a real plus, as it makes sense for a company to umbrella all of their product into one universe, and it makes it fun knowing that we might get to visit a fantasy realm or a steampunk universe.  It is the 40’s noir setting that really sucked me into this book series. It simply isn’t something that you see in LITRPG. Most worlds are fantasy based, some sci fi, and now a few horror ones as well, but this setting, the one in book one, really stands out. It is vast, it is real, and it is all noir. The attitude is more of a Dead Men don’t wear Plaid kinda vibe, as it is so hard to take Hughes seriously. Another plus, you get characters with names like Quantum Hughes and Frances Euphoria.  Total fun.

The series does bounce through three different worlds, unless you count the real world, then it’s four.  Each book is laced with humor, and rails against things like government interference on what we eat, how we act, and what we think.  Each member of the Dream team is fully fleshed out, and have distinctive quirky personalities of their own. No one plays second fiddle to Hughes, which is impressive since he technically should steamroller any other character her encounters in a clash of personalities.

Do I have to talk about Jeff Hays? Yeah? Good, because I have no qualms admitting he is my favorite narrator by far. This guy is so talented he could win a yodeling contest with a ventriloquist dummy, while gargling chocolate syrup. Told you he was my favorite. In all sincerity, the man is a master of the vocal arts, like Dr. Strange, but with words. He can do no wrong in my eyes.  Honestly, Hays is the only cat that I can see pulling off Quantum’s incessant ramblings. He not only talks fast, but he infuses the lines with comedic timing that I know isn’t easy to pull off. I will reiterate that Hays knows his characters, and that I know that he is the only guy that can pull some of them off. I think of Jade, from the awesome War Aeternus series, and I can’t think of anyone else being able to play her either.  Jeff just nails the people he is playing so well, that there are points that it will not occur to me that Frances, for example, is being read by a man.

This means that the pairing of Cooper and Hays is powerful enough to create a rift in space time if not handled appropriately. It might even cause a feedback loop in our own digital universe! The truth is their combo makes for one heck of a fine time listening to an amazeballs story that you will have never seen anywhere else before.  This book is packed with action, morning assassins, backstabs, intrigue, and is a very noticeable loving homage to movies like Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon while dancing into VR territory. I cannot count the number of times that I burst out laughing, or was choked up by a character’s actions. This series collection is well worth the money or credit that you plunk down for it.  I have to say that it is easily an 8.4 stars. If you like your books quirky, full of sass, blood splattering action, and fast talking MC’s then you will LOVE this book.

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Reboot

Afterlife Online, Book 1

By: Domino Finn

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James

Series: Afterlife Online, Book 1

Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins


Pause

Reboot is one of the first litrpg books that I read, and when I say that I quite literally mean listened to, because my time for reading has vanished.  To say that the book wowed me would be an understatement, I came into this right after Delvers, Divine Dungeon, and Morningwood. So it most likely was the very first “litrpg full blood” novel that I had gotten.  I’m not discounting the other books, as far as I’m concerned they are among the best of the best Litrpg out there, but this one is a bit heavier than them on crunch, such as levels, stats, character sheets, and so on.

The concept  reminded me of one of my favorite series the Bobiverse, with We are Legion, we are Bob, because like in Bob, the protagonist dies and wakes up in game.  The MC renames himself Talon, and tries to come to grips with the fact that he and the people he meets with are all dead, having been uploaded at some point after passing away.  He gets a goofy roommate who wants to do nothing more than sit around the apartment they share and watch movies. Talon decides that he is going to make the most of his life, and sets off to level up and have some fun.  A few things happen along the way that makes him upset and curious. First of all, he is not permitted to speak to anyone on the outside. He is repeatedly denied that privilege. Also, whenever he contacts customer support he gets the run around.  By the way, the customer support bits are some of the best things about the book. They are witty, cutting, and hilarious. His antics in game also get him into some trouble as he attracts the interest of a play known only as Lucifer. Lucifer is on the Devs crap list, and is wanted for a variety of crimes.  Talon has to wonder who he should believe, the mods who won’t let him contact the outside world or the wanted villain who tells him more of what’s going on than anyone else has since he arrived.

The book is part action, part mystery, and all about the characters and their development and growth.  This is a rare book in which I loved the grinding aspect so much that I was a little perturbed when the main plotline kicked into gear.  Talon has a lot going against him, and his biggest issue is just getting to the truth of what happened to him for real. Finn plays his cards so close to the vest that when the revelation comes it is a revelation.  You also want to side against the games creators, who have been keeping things from Talon and company. Oh, hey, and added bonus, Talon sports a spear, and I can respect that he goes against expectations of a standard weapon.  The way that Talon interacts with the world and the monsters is far from what you would expect a PC to do, and that helps keep your attention and the plot moving. And man, does this story just cruise by

Another bonus for me is that this book was my introduction to Justin Thomas James as a narrator.  I have to say that his characterization of Talon’s Alchemist roommate was simultaneously funny and heart wrenching.  Remember, all these folks are dead, and they all have backstories. James adds so much emotion that I really felt like this was an event that happened to him and not the character in the book.   I can also see just how much he’s changed in so short a time. He has really developed into one hell of a narrator, and is someone that I really respect in the community. He really brings this story to life and that not easy in book full of dead people.

I did this review because book three of the series is coming soon, and I want everyone to know what a great series it has been thus far.  This book is easily an 8.3 stars, and right now that is enough to fill my sky, so go get this and get ready for the new book that is coming.



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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 012

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 012 -  Accidental Duelist, Martyrs, Eden's Gate, Fostering Faust


“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

Accidental Duelist: Accidental Champion Trilogy

Score: 8.2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2OooLat


Martyrs: Legends of the Great Savanna, Book 1

Score: 7.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2zGhFWs


Eden's Gate: The Reborn

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Or7KMA


Fostering Faust

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Oqj8bH


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Accidental Duelist: Accidental Champion Trilogy

By: Jamie Davis, C.J. Davis

Narrated by: Stacy Gonzalez

Length: 10 hrs and 29 mins



Pause



Ok, so we return to the land of Fantasma for another round of who will I be this time.  Only not. This time it is Kari Dix who has the spotlight, and she really takes the mantle her father laid down, and runs off into the night with it.  I have to admit that I was initially skeptical of someone stepping into the hero role that Hal created, but I can see that Davis and his son have really thought this one out.  Kari, and accomplished fencer has been told that her memories of Fantasma are all false, and that she was basically delusional, until the Empress sends out a call for her hero to return, and Kari is inadvertently pulled into her “imaginary” world.  Upon her entry she opts to become a duelist, surprise surprise, but there were a few other choices she could have made that were pretty intriguing such as a paladin. Within about ten minutes of her arrival she manages to run afoul of some men who work for the Duke, y’know the guy who is after the Empress’s throne, and is challenged to a duel.  Well, as you guess it bad things happen and she ends up on the lam. The book is then devoted to her reluctantly trying to protect the last grandchild of the ailing Empress.


What is really nice about this book is that it actually breaks the format of the old series.  As much as I loved Hal, it was a touch repetitive in the last book. It had become a sort of wash, rinse, repeat sort of thing with him basically restarting with a different class each time he entered Fantasma.  Each book also had Hal returning back home after each of his adventures had concluded. Not here, from the way it looks it seems that Kari is going to stay in Fantasma for a while. And that, my friends, was perhaps the most refreshing part. Ninety percent of the books out there always have the main character trying to make their way back home the minute they find themselves stuck in a game they love to play.  Alright, 90% is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. Kari is actually reluctant to go home, and shows little to no interest in doing so. SO, I can’t go into more detail but suffice it to say the book does not end like the other books do. Also, it sort of looks like Kari will be remaining a Duelist for a while longer. Additionally, it looks like Hal, and possibly his wife might be returning to Fantasma as well.  Hmmm, maybe one of them will become a cool paladin! We’ll see.

Now, one change that I am not doing cartwheels over is that Roberto Scarlato didn’t return for this series.  It is a real shame because I am a huge fan of his, and he was sorely missed. Although, from talking to Jamie and C.J. at the Dover Comic Con this year (where I got this totally awesome signed book, MY FIRST SIGNED book!)  they told me that Roberto will be narrating his Extreme Medical Services series, in which a Paramedic helps humans and monsters alike. It isn’t LITRPG, but it is something I will be getting. But I digress. As I was saying, Scarlato isn’t returning because Stacy Gonzalez has taken over the accidental champion reigns, and is now leading the team with her vocal charms.  She is new to me, but she seems to handle things fairly well. Now, I’m not going to lie. She does do voices, but her male impersonations are not as strong as they could be. There were a few times that I had to wonder who was speaking, and I almost wondered if they were female or not. But it isn’t like that with all of her male voices, just some. I chalk that up as a rookie thing, I think that this is only her 6th book that she has narrated, so I can cut her some slack.  From what I’ve heard, once she gets her footing, she is going to become a really great narrator. She does this series some serious justice, and that is really all that matters.


The book is fun and is family friendly, if you don’t mind some killing every now and then.  Kari, as much as I resisted her replacing Hal, I think that she has some real depth, and brings a new perspective to Fantasma that I really enjoyed.  I have to say that I like the new format of the stories, so it isn’t a one and done kind of deal anymore, and that I have seen some serious improvements over all, there are a lot of changes to Fantasma, and it doesn’t feel like a “The Emporer is evil and oppressive” kind of tale.  There is a lot more going on, and things are not so straight forward. I’m going to give this book a solid 8.2. It is well worth your time to give it a listen.

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Martyrs

Legends of the Great Savanna, Book 1

By: Justin Lincoln

Narrated by: Matthew Broadhead

Length: 10 hrs and 40 mins


Pause


Martyrs is a book I would readily recommend to a few types of listeners, those who are new to the genre, young adults, or families looking to listen to something together that’s light and fun.  The book is not overly heavy on the numbers, and is most certainly meant for a younger audience with references to characters like Lion Dude. Well, I should say that it starts off stat lite and works it way into the numbers and game info at around the 30% mark of the book.


James, the MC, wakes up and finds himself in game.  His mission, as far as he knows is to take six months and figure out what he can about the game.  He arrives in the camp of the Martyrs, a group of lion folk, and settles in with them for a bit. The mechanics of the game do work pretty well, and one aspect that I liked was how the game gradually altered as he learned about how to play.  I enjoyed the town building aspect a lot, but the one thing that did throw me was the sort of game within the game, that got played out like Tower Defense. I could have done without that bit altogether. Still, it is nice to see a new fantasy race, and not your standard elves, orcs, dwarves, and goblins as the MC’s best pal.  


One thing that really bothered me was the way the Martyrs were handled.  They were on their last legs as a species so to speak, and yet they continually do nothing to stop the rapid decline of their numbers.  At the end all I could think of was here is a pretty neat new race, and they are doomed to extinction because of poor decisions and lackluster defense.  Another thing that bugged me was the way that the MC and pals behaved. I have five and seven year olds who act more mature and consider their actions better than James.  I find it ironic, too, because at the beginning of the book he is mistaken for a human child because of his size. I just wish that he had acting more like a grown up (I hate that term), rather than a child.


In spite of this the book does hold your interest and has some solid moments that keep you hooked, it is certainly worth the time that you put into it, and like I say this is some good family fare, and if you have ever listened to me you know that I love family books because then I can listen to a book while I drive and get the added bonus of the kids keeping their yaps shut for a few hours.  I really didn’t mean that. Much.


Matthew Broadhead has become kind of hit or miss with me.  He was great in the Bathrobe Knight series by Charles Dean and the Artificer by James Hunter, but then he tanks hard in Warscapia by Garrett Boggs.  Here, he kinda hits the middle of the road, not bad, but not amazing either. I’d say he was solid, but did not stand out. I really think for him it is the material.  If he doesn’t have a strong connection then he doesn’t pop as much as he should. Here he seems almost languid in his approach to reading this, and I know I have said there were times that I wanted to slow down my narration speed because the action was so hot, here I wanted to speed it up.  I didn’t but I should have. It might have helped. Either way he was just a 5 or a 6 on the narration scale. This saddens me because I think he was the first narrator that we found who was for the whole family, that even my wife enjoyed.


There were some issues, so I’m going to give this a 7.5 stars.  Honestly, the game within a game bit just made no sense other than to throw it in just because, and the narration choked the book a little as well.  It is a fun slice of life styled book, and I think it only struggles when it gets away from that aspect.


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Eden's Gate: The Reborn

By: Edward Brody

Narrated by: Pavi Proczko  (prochcov)

Series: Eden's Gate, Book 1

Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins


Pause


Brody pens one helluva book here.  I give him credit, he takes a few tropes here and turns then on their head.  For me, this was a really fun ride, and I felt that this is one of those series that has a lot of potential, which means it is either going to soar or crash and burn horribly.  Personally, I believe it is going to be the former rather than the latter, there is just too much beefy goodness here for the series to drop off. I can honestly only see it getting better.


So, here is the book in a nutshell.  A new innovative virtual reality MMORPG is released, and everyone who is in the game on launch day dies as their minds are uploaded into the world of Eden’s Gate unwittingly and against their will.  The games creator happily accompanies them and promptly shuts the game off from the outside world. There is no communication between the game world and the real world.


Gunnar, the protagonist, is told what happens via a message alert, but like you or me, he doesn’t understand nor believe what he’s been told.  So he goes forward looking for a way out, and for his girlfriend, whom he believes had entered the game in a distant land due to her being a different race when they started out, but he admits he has no idea if she was in game when the great massacre occurred.  


Now, where this book really stands out is the characters, Gunnar and his pals are fully fleshed individuals.  I think the best example of how realistic Gunnar is comes when he makes a deal with Jax, a man who takes him in when he first arrives in the game, and then tries to weasel out of it.  The entire event had the ring of truth to it. I could see a player doing that to an NPC. The repercussions were even better which just shows that the writing is excellent, and the plot is paced perfectly.  Normally, I hate interludes with info from the “real world” but real world event had actual significance and had bearing on events in the game world in spite of there being no communication between the two. And that is the issue.  People in the real world are killing themselves to enter the game, and the government feels it has to be stopped. So they implement a plan to shut down everything in an effort to wipe the game out. When Gunnar finds out he reluctantly agrees at first to help try to initiate contact between the two realities.  And that is the crux of it all. The gamer’s reluctance to actually try to save the world he is in because of doubt is very believable, as is the staunch belief by the politicians that the game is just a game that must be shut down. The reactions, the reluctance, the revelations are all believable, and I enjoyed the whole aspect that Gunnar wasn’t out to win any prizes, nor was he an uber super character.  He was just a player who happened to be at the wrong? Place at the right time. He is drafted more than he volunteers, but once he is onboard he is all in. Plus, he has ulterior motives, getting where he needs to go might just help him find his girlfriend. All in all, this book is really fun and my only concern is that the rest of the books will just focus on Gunnar’s lost love, and if it is just a secondary quest then great, as Gunnar really makes some strides in other game related areas then fantastic.  I’ll wait and see, because I am most definitely going to be picking up the next book.



Proczko is an excellent narrator.  He hits every mark that I can ask for.  He does excellent voices, he is crisp, clean, and easy to follow, he paces the story well, he adds emotion and emphasis where needed and he makes you care about the characters in a way that the written word can’t convey.  I keep going to Jax and the betrayal, he handled very well.


This is a solid book that was music to my ear holes.  For that, I am going to say that this is a firm 8 out of 10 stars.  Excellent work.

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Fostering Faust

By: Randi Darren

Narrated by: Stephanie Savannah

Length: 13 hrs and 16 mins


Pause


I am at a loss as to how to delicately describe this series.  The best I can come up with is it is the Marquis De Sade shakes hands with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  This book both impressed me and appalled me, which is no easy task, and I am not being negative when I say that.  Randi Darren is pretty fearless in tackling what is basically a story about a man who tries to keep his soul out of hell by creating deals with other people.  Each deal he makes helps him meet a monthly quota that he has to fill for the evil goddess of murder, Lea. Darren very wisely breaks away from the possibility of having a monster as the protagonist, Alex, by making bargain for people’s souls.  No, if he had done that then this book would have been very different. Alex is caught between the Scylla and Charybdis, no matter what he does he is damned and he has to make deals in which he always comes off with the better end of things. People need to unwillingly part with a piece of themselves in exchange from very little from him.  The more he gets, and the less he gives the better off he is.


Alex, to his credit, doesn’t revel in his newfound power over people.  He is actually pretty cool about it, and this too helps to mitigate the creepiness factor that he could have. Darren really pushes boundaries, but manages to male Alex likable and sympathetic.  I’m going to be honest, this book is not something someone new to LITRPG should start with. If you are a fan of Randi Darren from his other books in the Wild Waste saga, or even books by William Arand, then you will love this book.  The characters are all well written, have very distinctive personalities, and come across as the broken people that they are. The only person in the entire book who isn’t broken or damaged in any way that I could see is Alex’s main wife.  She is an incredibly stable and sane individual who allows nothing to phase her. In fact, I loved her the moment she was introduced.


Every character is so well fleshed out that they feel real, and if you know Darren from Wild Wastes then you know that you are gonna get hit in the feelz somewhere along the way.  The only character that felt like a potato was Alex’s second wife, who was about as bland as they come. She is so shattered that it takes nothing for him to break her within minutes of their meeting.   That’s ok, as that is what she is meant to be, but you will have no connection with her at all. The actions scenes are all fun and range from a fistfight duel to a full on warfare. Darren really had fun storming the castle.


In spite of all the lurid things that happen in this book, and I mean all the breaking of people, not all the graphic sex scenes this was a great book.  Did I mention sex scenes? Yep. If the general content wasn’t enough to let you know, this ain’t a book for kiddies, so don’t listen around the house if you have children.   The sex is pretty graphic, and does last, as Darren does not do a fade to black and he doesn’t hold back. Also, Alex is more powerful than most porn stars in the volume of the product of his loving, and the frequency in which he is able to perform.


The story is a fun look into what you might do if you were put into a bad situation.  Alex really reminds me of Felix (who actually gets a nod here) from Super Sales on Superheroes.  Felix has to deal with the issue of slavery for the sake of his powers. So, the two both handle tough subjects in their own way.  Now I want to see a William Arand and Randi Darren collaboration in the future.


Stephanie Savannah handles the narration, and she is actually really wonderful.  She is also a new voice for me, and I thought she just killed this reading of this book.  I mean she played every number (that would be Alex’s conquests) with a clear and distinctive personality so that I NEVER wondered who was speaking.  She also played Alex really well, showing that she can crush masculine voices as well. I’m really surprised that she only has four narrated books to her credit so far.  She really is incredibly talented and hopefully this book will get her noticed. I loved listening to every second of her.


This book was a blast, and it was unrelenting.  I can very easily see how some of the content can put people off, and know that the disclaimer that Darren uses in his book description is warranted.  Either way, I had fun, I enjoyed Alex, numbers 1 through 5, and the whole concept of the story. I cannot stress how difficult it had to be to create a sympathetic lead who has to do really nasty things in order to keep from burning in hell.  I’m going to give this an 8.4 star review, because I think the next book will be better, and while it was emotional I don’t think it quite had the heart of his Wild Waste series. I think that will come a little bit later. Either way, this is a very different kind of book, one that I have no doubt that you will enjoy.






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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 011

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 011 -  Warden: Nova Online, Initializing - Somnia Online, Book 1, Jessica's Challenge: Book 5, War Aeternus 3

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

Warden: Nova Online (00:26)

Score: 7.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2QTN6Dr


Initializing - Somnia Online, Book 1 (13:50)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NzlN3g


Jessica's Challenge: Book 5 in the Puatera Online (22:26)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2N1VJIM


War Aeternus 3: The Culling (29:08)

Score: 9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2QTNOAB


--------


Warden: Nova Online

By: Alex Knight

Narrated by: Todd Boyce

Length: 10 hrs and 45 mins


Pause


This story is about a young fellow named Kaidon, who get framed for the murder of his only friend.  Once in prison he is drafted into the Warden program, in which inmates are made into a virtual police force in a game called Nova Online to help players who get themselves into trouble.  The whole thing seems a little silly, drafting criminals to be a police corps, and players needing help surviving their game. The last part makes since when you consider that if you are killed in the game then you are locked out of play for seven days, and so if you are paying a lot of money to play (and the game generates cash for the state) then you want to keep the players alive.  Additionally, by using incarcerated people they do not have to pay them, whereas if they hired actual gamers to police the game it would cost money, so there is logic to this.


By Playing, Kaidon has an opportunity to shave time off of his fifty year sentence.  He ends up with two teammates and slowly begins to unravel the secret of who killed his friend and framed him.  The story itself is enjoyable. You will like Kaidon and his compatriots, and they have some excellent battles. As a lovecraftian maniac I particularly enjoyed the void spawn.  The story is, for the most part, spent in game with a few prison scenes thrown in, so this is kind of like Shawshank Redemption blended with the colonial marines from Aliens. The book has some excellent fight scenes, and a fun chase scene.  We pretty much only have about six real characters that rotate in and out of the book, with several background players popping in at various times, so while you get some character growth it also makes it a little easy to spot the villain of the story.  Either way, I enjoyed the book.


The book was a fun escape, and I will most definitely be on the lookout for book two.  This was a solid eight stars, coulda been higher, but I had to shave points for the incessant incorrect pronunciations that filled this book.  I hate to do that to a good story, but the fact is it was jarring and not fun to listen to. Now, honestly, I would rate this book higher, but the mispronunciations were so jarring, and easy to catch that I had to take some points way.  What could have been much higher, I’m going to give 7.8 stars. Hopefully, next time around Boyce does some research or Knight checks his audio, because this was a decent and well written story.



-------------


Initializing

Somnia Online, Book 1

By: K. T. Hanna

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins


Pause


Initializing is one of those rare books that really has no end game, no antagonist, and no real big battle scenes, but is very interesting nonetheless.  It has a great twist at the end that you can pick up on if you pay attention to the way that the main character, Murmur, interacts with others, the powers that she begins to wield,  and the way others treat her in the game, but you have to really be on your game. I figured it out during the bathroom scene, and maybe I was slow, but it was rewarding to see that my hypothesis , or in the words of the Heavy Jake Sullivan, Hypo thee sis, panned out to be accurate.  No spoilers from me. Hanna is fantastic at fleshing out her characters, and their relationships such as those between Murmur and Sinister, Murmur and her instructor/mentor, and Murmur and her dragon pal. Each is unique and realistically rendered. The only issue I really had was that I have to wonder when Sin left the game.  


Normally, I would complain that this book is just one long bit of grinding, as it really lacks a villain to latch onto, although there is a player that gives Mur some grief.  What the book is actually about is Murmur coming to grips with herself before school starts, rekindling friendship, and unraveling a mystery that only she seems to notice. There is a movie out there that stars the ex-wife of Tom Cruise that this put me in the mind of, but I don’t want to spoil things for you.  The grindy thingy, as Scott Pilgrim would say, is actually fun as Mur and company get to test their ever growing powers as they beat on monsters and accrue XP. Best of all, while the group does advance their levels quickly, they do not power level, which is a big no no in my book. No, the real fun comes in piecing together the mystery that Murmur slowly senses is around her and seeing just who is a part of the conspiracy.  The best part of it, I was certain that Sinister was going to tell Murmur that she was in love with her. So, keep an eye open and an ear to ground to see if you can get the big reveal at the end.


The Fabulous Andrea Parsneau narrates this, and kills the narration.  I am so glad to be able to review a book that has a solid narrator and I do not have to describe just how much they brought the story down.  Nope, Andrea elevates an already great story to even higher levels. She really nails the characters, and is flawless in her readings. The sound quality is superb and she really enlivens the dialogue between Sin and Murmur to the point that you believe they are two distinct people, but also that they are very dear friends.  You can feel their bond.


One thing that I like is that while this is a basically one long game session that it is neither bogged down by the grinding , nor does it try to be overly cerebral, Murmur outthinks her opponents, but also puts a good smack down on them in the process.  She is not one to be trifled with, and it is clear as to why she is a leader, and not a follower. She is a very complex character, and one that I want to see more of, and cannot wait for the next edition to come out. This is a solid book that stands out for what it doesn’t have or do with the characters.  The narration is outstanding, and the plot is slick and fast paced. I really enjoyed this book, and if I am going to be honest I wasn’t sure if I would. I knew nothing of KT Hanna, but I figured if Andrea liked her book it had to be of substance. I am awarding 8.25 stars. This is a great book, and I look forward to it more from this writing narrating pair in the future.


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Jessica's Challenge: Book 5 in the Puatera Online

By: Dawn Chapman & Jess Mountifield

Narrated by: Suzanne Barbetta

Length: 3 hrs and 24 mins


Puatera Online, and Dawn Chapman hold a special place in my heart.  I came to this series right after I discovered the Litrpg genre. Now, I don’t mean discovered in the sense that Columbus “discovered” America.  I mean that I had just sort of stumbled into this magical thing, and Dawn was there to guide me. Putera was very different from the other books I had thus far read, it was sci-fi based (a plus for me) and starred and NPC rather than a player.  That was a hook I could enjoy. Dawn, herself, was incredibly open to her fans, and always found time to answer any questions or to let me know when her next book was coming out. I’ve been a fan ever since.


Jessica’s Challenge returns back to the format that I was accustomed to in the first three books.  The book length was back to a three hour listen, which is great for someone like me who loves a nice amuse-bouche just as much as feast.  Dawn does really well with short bursts. That isn’t to imply that she can’t write a great full length book. Just look at book four, Akilla’s Reign.  She nailed it, but she has a real skill in packing a lot of material into three hour bites. For me, this means that there is never a lull or a break in her book that a longer version might have.  She gets to jam it full of action, emotion, and adventure. And man, does she manage to do that here, along with Jess Mountifield’s help. I’ll be honest, I always get a little leery of collaborations.  Sometimes voices don’t mix very well, but that isn’t the case for Jessica’s Challenge. Nope, their voices meld together wonderfully, and the story flows smoothly. Alright, at this point, you are probably asking what the book is about.  It is about three sisters accidentally enter Puatera for real, and struggle to find one another as well as a way home. When I say struggle, I mean they struggle. The story is just as I said earlier. It is emotional. It is adventurous, and it is undoubtedly dangerous.  All I could think of was this will teach them to stay out of their mum’s lab. They go through a lot, which amazes me for the timespan that we have to work with. While the book flew by pleasantly, it really felt like there was waaaay more to it. This was a tightly written piece that really impressed me.  I love the Putera series, and cannot wait for the next book.


As for the narration, Suzanne Barbetta is a new narrator to me, and I appreciate that Dawn continues to introduce me to all of these wonderful new readers of words.  I would have never heard of Anneliese Rennie if she hadn’t shifted the tone of her books with new narrators. All I can say is that when Maddie returns we better have Andrea Parsneau back for that, though, otherwise it just won’t be Maddie.  Anyway, I digress, Barbetta does a fine job, and is really pleasant to listen to. Like my pop used to say, she is sweet on the ears. She has distinctive voices, and readily distinguishes who is speaking with the tone of her voice. I enjoyed hearing her for the first time and welcome her to the Litrpg community.  I thnk she’ll fit right in.


As always, the writing is smooth and fun, the characters, ALTHOUGH THEY ARE NOT MADDIE, are interesting and you connect with them right away.  This was a fun book, and it only adds to the Putera World. All I can say it that I hope Dawn can keep up this amazing series, because Putera is a fun place to visit every now and again.


As for my rating, man I really hate ratings, I can never really convey how much I love of hate a book with a number.  I think you know that just by how I act when I do the review, but if I have to then I will say that this is probably the best book in the series so far, just in terms of concept and how things played out so I am going to give this an 8.25 stars.  If you haven’t read the series, this could be a stand alone book, and so is a perfect place for someone to jump in. Don’t miss out, go back and start with the early books. You won’t be sorry.


----------


War Aeternus 3: The Culling

By: Charles Dean

Narrated by: Jeff Hays & Annie Ellicott

Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins


Pause


Lee and the surviving team return for book three, and all I can say is that this is a welcome return after the kick in the feelz that Dean gave us in the last book.  One thing I will say about the Lord of Beards is that he knows how to entertain. After the events in the last novel, Lee is in a funk, and he isn’t looking to break out of it anytime soon.  To say that the quality of his mercy is strained would be an understatement. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the book, in which Lee and the amazing Miller rush to defend a monument Lee built at the end of book two.  Sorry, spoilers and all that, so I can’t reveal anything, but there are two moments in which Miller steals the show. The first comes from the eating of the nobleman’s heart, and the other is the spear to the face and Miller playing thing off with the line, “Well, you said to kill anyone moving towards the statue.”  I burst out laughing, and chuckled for another ten minutes after the scene was played out. I admit that I am a Miller junkie. And, if I am being honest, that is the only complaint that I have about this book. There is not enough Miller. He is missing for a big chunk of it, but it is for reasons that I cannot reveal.  So, I just cherished every moment I had with him.


Thankfully, Lee keeps things interesting as he goes around killing blind children and old people, this is all about culling the weak, after all.  While this might sound controversial, it is simultaneously funny, heartbreaking, horrifying, and moving as Lee is only doing what he must. Meanwhile, poor Augustus is getting his butt chewed off for having a herald who goes around killing other heralds.  Even though that is pretty much expected of him. Augustus is probably my second favorite character, because he just does what he wants, and worries about consequence later, since he doubts they will ever affect him.


Dean also introduces a new character, Jade, who could be a Patty Duke styled cousin to the Bathrobe Knight’s Stephanie.  She is a fun character who has no issue speaking her mind, lives as if she were in a Manga Anime series, and just so happens to see non heralds as NPC’s who are not real.  Her POV is . . . . . . . . . . . . . .different , to say the least. You can tell that Charles had a blast writing her, and that Lee is in some serious trouble with her as a companion.  To say that she makes life complicated for him would be an understatement. Dean is almost making a harem for Lee, who just isn’t biting. We have Ling, Brigid, and Jade, but for me Masha is the best and most practical choice for Lee in my humble opinion.  I really like her, and think that he has an emotional tie with her that the others all lack. If I was going to play MFK with these ladies, I would marry Masha. I love Jade, as a character, but she is far too crazy town for me. Like I said, she reminds me of Stephanie, and while both I and my kids loved her, we wouldn’t want to marry her.


The story is fast paced, and we finally get back to Satterfield.  Lee gets to know the game AI, and the herald he faces off against is about a bat crap crazy as you can get.  I don’t think that there was ever a moment that wasn’t dragging me along at a break neck speed, an awesome fight was taking place, or danger didn’t loom off in the corner.  This is a tightly written tale that fulfills every need for comedy, action, adventure, emotion, and big events. Dean just continues to step up his game. I see him improve in every book he has written, and I know that WA4 is going to be even more amazing.  I have no complaints on the word front.


As for the narration, well I have to say that I have never heard Jeff Hays do better.  I don’t think there is another person who could pull off Jade the way that he does. Are multiple reasons Jeff is amazing, and his ability to do believable female voices is one of them.  Still, he hits the attitude and exuberance that is Jade like he lived with her as a kid. Between his performance of her and that of Miller I don’t know how Lee ever gets a voice of his own.  Jade definitely steals the show. Annie plays a fine Brigid, and who I’ll call the crazy chicken lady (because that is all I could see when she transformed). She nails them both like she was a gas powered hammer.  I really like their chemistry, these two don’t work so well together as they just blend flawlessly with one another. They go together like water and a Kool aid packet. Like peas and carrots. As always, the sound production is exemplary and the book is as clear as Crystal Lake right after summer break.  SBT has the highest quality standards when it comes to storytelling that you could ask for.


War Aeternus: The Culling literally cut away every weak moment that it had, and left us with the most choice cut of pure Kobe Beef.  This story had real meat on its bones, and I most happily dug in and asked for thirds when it was all over. I am giving this book a 9.  It is solid, surprising, funny, and poignant. I could not have asked for or expected more.




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 010

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 010 - War God's Mantle: Descent, Barrow King, The Land of the Undying

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

War God's Mantle: Descent: A litRPG Harem Adventure (The War God Saga, Book 2) (00:10)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NPqUf6

Barrow King: The Realms, Book 1 (11:44)

Score: 8.75 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NPsDRC

The Land of the Undying - Dark Elf Chronicles, Book 1 (21:09)

Score: 8.75 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2pfoeJD

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War God's Mantle: Descent: A litRPG Harem Adventure (The War God Saga, Book 2)

By: James Hunter, Aaron Crash

Narrated by: Armen Taylor

Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins


Pause


Alright, I’m going to have to keep from gushing, because this is a collaboration between two writers, one of whom is a favorite of mine.  Aaron Crash and James Hunter cooked up a crazy concept in which a regular old military man is given the power of the Greek god, Ares, and has to create a bunch of warrior Amazons to help him fight off the hordes of, and the god himself, Hades.  Hades it seems, is out to destroy the world, and Ares was all that stood between him and our utter destruction.


Now, if you know James Hunter, you know he is a master of utter destruction.  His series, Viridian Gate Online is about a world that is obliterated by an asteroid, and the one way left to survive was to upload your mind into a virtual world.  The entire series is amazing, and I rate it up there with Delvers, the Divine Dungeon, and War Aeternus. So, I knew that his next Litrpg venture was going to be a blast.  He and Crash work very well together, I honestly felt that this was a complete work in and of itself that had a singular voice, and did not feel stitched together in any way.   The writing was smooth and packed full of action, as well as some exciting and unexpected twists, the characterizations were probably my favorite thing about the book, which is an odd thing to say about a book that has necromancy, hordes of dinosaurs, and a ton of battles but it was the quiet times when Jacob, the protagonist, was intimate with his amazons.  There is a lot of intimate and emotional moments that stand out, and that makes the betrayal even more devastating. Sorry, that’s not much of a spoiler as they suss out that there is a spy in the camp for a good portion of the book. Either way, whether you like the interplay or the action the story never fails to deliver. Those personal moments were so special because each character is fully fleshed out, and stand out as individuals that you can’t help but love each and every one of them. When things weren’t so quiet and introspective I often fought to keep up with what was happening in the battles as there was just so much happening.  It was such a breakneck speed I almost slowed my narration speed down a little just so I could catch my breath. Let me clarify that this isn’t a bad thing, no no no, I enjoy as fast paced story.


The story picks up pretty close to where the last one left off, and opens on a battle.  I like that, let’s not dawdle about getting the new god of war into a fight seems to be the best way to start the book off.  Things escalate quickly, and I particularly like how who escalate the villains. The antagonist in book one was good, but the new antithesis of our hero has personal ties to him, which makes it all the more interesting.  I also enjoy how the villains do not drag on for several books. I really prefer the one and done kind of approach that the first book does, as it allows for growth and changes. That is my big problem with Awaken Online, the villain there is weak and uninteresting and is due for a swap out.  As much as I hate the new Star Wars films, they generally stick to one bad guy per film, and tend to kill him off when they are done. Overall, this is a really fun book, and it makes me realize I need to review VGO, book one soon. Maybe I’ll try to do that soon.


I have to say that the narration by Armen Taylor is outstanding.  I really like listening to him, even if some of his female voices do stray into a deep timbre at times.  He has a great cadence, and paces the story so well, like I said I almost had to slow my speed down because of everything he was spitting out.  I really think the sound quality was superb, and that he added a lot to the story. He is rapidly becoming a favorite narrator of mine. Hell bells, he is a favorite narrator.  After five VGO books I don’t see how he can’t be. I am always happy to hear his voice, and I enjoy his reading style.


As a series, I have to say that the story, characters, and plot are all fascinating, and will keep you on the hook waiting for what comes next.  I love that we get big confrontations, epic battles, and personal moments all in one chapter. There is elation and heartbreak, and that is a sign of good storytelling.  I eagerly await the next installation of the Wargod’s Mantle. 8.25 stars, with plenty of room to get bigger and better.


-------


Barrow King: The Realms, Book 1

By: C.M. Carney

Narrated by: Armen Taylor

Length: 13 hrs and 30 mins



Pause


This is a book that does something mind blowing in its execution.  It sets up a quest for a man to save his sister by entering a Game World, and then spends the rest of the time with him on a dungeon crawl.  It is pure madness in how it appears, but is really flawless in its execution. In fact, the story is more interesting than most books that take place in an open world.  I give a real tip of the hat to Chris Carney for the conception and the implementation of this tale. I would never have done what he did, creating a whole world, and then confining the whole book to just one dungeon.  Even Dungeon stories have more outside interaction than this book. Not to confuse you, but there is no dungeon core involved in this story. Although, the villain, aka the Barrow King, pretty much runs the place like he was one.  I also appreciated how he avoided the trope of the smart mouthed AI that usually helps and hinders the MC as the story progresses. He does so in a pretty clever way that only adds to the story. So, the writing is clearly innovative and original.  I get shivers just thinking about how good it was.


The main character, Finn/Gryph learns that his sister is in danger, and has been trapped in a virtual world that is not so virtual for over 40 subjective years.  He has to go in and save in spite of the fact that he is not a gamer, nor does he have any real game knowledge or experience. What he does have is real world fighting experience, which he immediately puts to use in the game.  His instincts are spot on, and when he listens to them he tends to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. I like his fearlessness, but caution tempered attitude, and can respect a man who can stand up to a god.


The dungeon is full of dangers, and some almost familiar monsters if you are a fan of the Old D&D monster Manuals and Fiend Folio.  I think my favorite was the Arboleth encounter that was a stunningly fun battle, and made me long for my old Psionicist character. There are nods to several of the best underdark creatures and races sprinkled throughout the book.  It is easter eggs like that that I truly appreciate and respect. It was handled with a delicate hand, as it didn’t beat you over the head with it, but it also gave a nostalgic nod to days long gone. Another aspect of the book that I loved was the time compression that I touched upon a little earlier.  Time moves much faster in the game, so days or months here could equal actual years there, I’m not sure about the time dilution, but it certainly made the story more interesting. Speaking of time dilation, this book did not seem like it was thirteen hours long, not even remotely. It was incredibly edited and time managed so that I really never saw a low point, or felt like there was a lull in the story.  Once the book got going it was unrelenting, and for me the set up was the only thing that even slightly held the story up, but you have to have that background info, and even that was not some simple I’m entering a game and leveling up.


Armen Taylor really brings his A game to this book.  I know I just talked about him in War God’s Mantle, but I have to say he is even better here than he ever has before, and he never sounded bad previously.  There is just something in the way that he carries himself, and thereby the characters through the story. He is utterly gripping, and cements himself in the hallows of my heart as a preferred narrator.  He really knocks this book out of the park.


Finally, he ends the book on a note with Gryph that I am not sure that I would have, but then he has turned some many other things on their ear that I can trust him to handle the new revelation with complete class and a deft skill that few writers I know can do.  This book really hit every mark for me. I have to say that this is an 8.5 easily, but I’m going to go a little higher because of all the creativity employed here. 8.75 Stars, and a helping heap of I can’t wait for the next book.


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The Land of the Undying

Dark Elf Chronicles, Book 1

By: Dave Willmarth

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James, Laurie Catherine Winkel, Jeff Hays

Length: 13 hrs and 52 mins


Pause


We were in a cave

Everybody there was a drow

Somebody went into shock

When he saw a  rock

It wasn't a rock

It was a rock spider

Rock Spider

Rock Spider

Rock Spider

Rock Spider


Holy crap, this book, I must say was the complete package.  I don’t know what I enjoyed more, the real life stuff that the MC had to endure or the game play itself, which was also fun.   And that was a real pleasure. Mace, the protagonist, lives in a world populated by zombies of every shape and size. It seems that those numbnuts at Cern goofed up, and collided the wrong leptons, muons, and preons together an accidentally created a zombie particle, an insidious sub atomic beast that infects biological material and turns it into nasty zombies that can infect with but a touch.  The real problem is that the particles attack ALL biological matter, thus plants and animals are also infected. Now, here is my one and only beef with this story. I said the exact same thing when Brian Keene wrote his zombie masterpiece The Rising. If insects became zombies, as well as higher animals, then nothing would exist in a matter of days. Insects and arachnids are everywhere, and touch everything.  Life on Earth would not have a calendar of weeks or months, it would be days. Make the grass deadly, too, and the timer speeds up. Now, in Wilmarth’s case, I completely understand that he could not say that the particle only affected humans, as there would be no discernable reason for that to happen, so it had to be anything biological, but it does really make me have to fight to suspend my disbelief. Thankfully, the tale that he crafts is so outstanding that I can let it all slide and just enjoy the story.


It turns out that Mace got lucky, and essentially found a bunker that he could hole up in, and joy of all joys, he is able to access the MMORPG that he loved to play before everything went to hell.  He hatches a plan, one in which he will upload his mind into the game itself, so that he won’t have to consider starvation or becoming a mindless monster. Still he has to venture out in order to get supplies and see if he can locate any survivors.  And it is in the daily struggles to stay sane, keep fed, and ever alert for the rampaging undead that Wilmarth really ups his game and makes this not just Litrpg, but also survival horror and I appreciate that he turns the concept on its head. Most Lit books would make it where the zombies were in the game, and not vice versa.  He has created some real depth in the land of the unliving, and it is so well (ahem) fleshed out . This feels like it could be a real world event, and is exactly how humanity would react to it occurring.


The gameplay was amazingly just as interesting and fun as the real life drama, and there were several battles in the Underdark that just caught my imagination.  I’m thinking of the Cthulhu-esque kaiju battle for one, but I can honestly say that for every moment spent in the real world I wondered about the game, and for every moment in the game I wondered about the real world.  Wilmarth also comes up with a rather likable love interest in Shari, who is fun and complex and can actually show Mace a thing or two when it comes to surviving. I like that Shari is no wilting flower, and has complete control of whatever situation she is in.  The two make up some of the best Character’s I have read/listened to in some time. The world, though bleak, is rich and vibrant in its descriptions, and the game is the kind of game I’d want to play in. Oh, and I have to comment on this, Mace plays a Drow, and in the game he is treated like a baby killing madman by most of the “people” that he meets.  Just the way a Drow should be treated, this has been a moment of reflection in memory of Archaic Venture and its Drow character. Take notes please. Mace struggles to overcome his dark legacy throughout the game, which only adds more to the realism and the overall wow factor because you can sympathize with his struggle as a good person who has to overcome his appearance.  


This is the part where I praise Justin Thomas James, and Laurie Catherine Winkel, two people who must be constantly in trouble because we keep using their full names when we talk to about them.  Justin Thomas James! What are you doing?!? Why creating a vocal masterpiece. His narration is full of emotion that ranges from angst to antici. . . . . . . pation. He fully embodies that character of Mace, and brings him to life in such a way that you really worry for the poor man whenever he goes outside his door, of get choked up when he talks to a brother and sister who are hanging out over at the fire department.  LCW, that’s Laurie Catherine Winkel to you and me (mumble) since the restraining order) is utterly vibrant as Shari. She makes you believe that this is a real girl who has had to endure a ton of crap since the moment things started going haywire, but is still able to cope and keep herself clear headed. Honestly, I am so happy to hear her get a nice juicy role like this, and I really want to hear her do a whole great big book unto herself at some point.  She has a wonderful voice, and I really want to hear more from her every time she is in a book narrating. JTJ, is the same, and I am an unabashed fan of Soundbooth theater. I know that whenever I see that name on a book I am in for an experience. Also, I deeply appreciated that only two narrators were used in the making of this Audio. As much as I realize Jeff Hays has a master vision of what the audible book experience can be I still cotton on the concept of having one or two narrators as most, and this made the book all the more enjoyable for me even though Jeff and Annie were deeply missed.


I really cannot convey how much I enjoyed this book, and I hated the fact that it ended.  Thirteen hours just wasn’t enough, I could have used a another thirteen, but probably still wouldn’t have been satisfied with the extra time allotted.  All I can say is that I eagerly await the next installment of this series, and that I am glad that Dave stepped aside from his main series to pen this critter.  This was a blast to listen to; I loved the characters, and really enjoyed both the real world as much as the game world. I can only see this series getting better and better.  This is a solid and seamless story of two worlds, and two characters; each of whom is as interesting and fascinating as the other. So, please, take a trip into the Land. . . .of the undying.   


My final score is 8.75, but no matter how high I rate it you will love this story.




This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheater/


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 009

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 009 -

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”


Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests (Vol.1) (00:10)

Score: 8.75 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2QggQKx


Inside Out: Bloodfeast, Book 1 (06:50)

Score: 5.75 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Nz4RJg


Archaic Venture: The Myth of Cerberus A LitRPG Adventure (17:30)

Score: 5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2MZphf0


Shard Warrior Crystal Shards Online, Book 2 (38:03)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Ns2Rmf





Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests (Vol.1)

By: Neven Iliev

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins


This is one of my first forays into LITRPG books, and it was my introduction to Jeff Hays narration.  I have to say that I fell in love with this book instantly. It was vicious, brutal, raunchy, and funny as hell.  It was also original. I’ve been reading books since 1971, and I can honestly say that I have never heard anything like this before.  The fact that Neven even came up with this concept, a book centered on a non-human character, who is about as alien from you and I as is a Xenomorph is impressive.  The fact that he pulls it off is outstanding.


The book centers on a minor mimic, who just wants to live out his days with his limited intellect eating unwary adventurers as they wander through his dungeon.  His life expectancy shouldn’t be very long, but a series of events transpire that help the creature begin to from in both intelligence and power. The fact that Iliev manages to make the beginning part so interesting and not a series of this happened and so he gets stronger proves how adept he is at his craft.  The writing is smooth, effortless, and funny. I really can’t say what has more humor, the characters, the situations they find themselves in, or the entire premise. The mimic, Boxy, is an interesting study in what it is like to be the predator. Its perspective is captivating, and you see that he isn’t so much evil as he is hungry.  He later becomes a lot more clearly evil as he begins to seek out power, but even then you could say that he is only trying to make himself stronger and more efficient as a killer, and as an asexual predator he would see others only as food or a way to improve his lot in life. His compatriots include a couple of demons, although I have to say that Snacks is the best, Arms is interesting, but man oh man, Snacks the succubus manages to steal the show.  She also helps to give the listener some much needed outside perspective. I think that the funniest bit in the whole book was when a grate became Boxy’s greatest foe. Yes, just a simple grate, but so dangerous a foe.


Jeff Hays took this book and claimed it as his own.  His vocalizations of Boxy are some of the funniest pieces to this story.  What would have just been a minor giggle on the page because uproariously funny to actually hear spoken out loud.  I guess, since Boxy is a “box” and he has no lips to speak with that you might consider him having a speech impediment.  It sounds like Jeff is keeping his lips straight as a board when he speaks and his vocalizations made me burst out loud laughing numerous times.  When Boxy finally manages to speak clearly, Jeff made the phone calls (effects and all) the highlights of the book. I really can’t say just how funny Jeff is here, his timing, vocalizations, and style all mesh together so perfectly that it is like listening to Robing Williams doing Stand Up.


This book brought me into the genre full time, and led me to find other stories in the same vein, like the Divine Dungeon series.  The book itself is just about as perfect as you can get. The characters, the world, the humor, and the narration are a perfect storm of audible audacity that you will not forget.  This is one of the best books I have ever listened to, and if you haven’t I highly suggest that you go grab a credit and splurge on this book today.


Final Score: 8.75 stars because this book is just so tasty.


--------------------


Inside Out: Bloodfeast, Book 1

By: Ellis Michaels

Narrated by: S.K. Linna

Length: 4 hrs and 29 mins


Pause


There are a lot of times I will bemoan how a good book was crushed by some crappy narration, but here the only real saving grace is the narration.  The story wanders and lacks any real drama, danger, or character growth. The premise is pretty cool, I’ll give it that, in which a group of players swap places with their characters against their will.  Beyond that it is all wasted potential. The story meanders, and has no real focus beyond the whole “we need to find our way back home” trope. The one element that could have been fun, the characters in the real world is squandered on them eating junk food and watching their players try to find a way back home.  


A lot of the book is confusing because there are few, if anything, about the game that is explained or revealed.  For example the game is called Bloodfeast, and you are supposed to eat the body f your fallen enemies, but no explanation is given as to why they should do that.  I saw no buffs or benefits from the act, just kill and eat. Pardon me, but that sounds a little like a game a psycho would play. If they said what the boons were from eating the dead then I missed it every time they did it.  Also, the book is unintentionally funny. What do I mean by that? There are lines that are not meant to be humorous, but are such as, “The area was full of beggars and prostitutes, who were mostly NPCs.” Poor grammar appeared, and it is hard to notice when doing an audible book, but there they were.  It was mostly when it came to she versus her. By that I mean he would say, “Her and him went to the store.” That kind of stuff popped up all the time, and it tripped me up every time it happened. Poor grammar isn’t something to expect when having a book narrated to you.


You may recall a review that I did in regards to Archaic Venture, where I believed the narrator to have killed the story.  Here, I’m going to say the opposite is true. While Linna isn’t a mind blowing narrator by any stretch of the imagination he does a good job, and I have to admit that his voice for the Luke character sounded like my Uncle Ron, and so I had to like him a bit more than usual.  Honestly, he does do a good job here, and does different voices for each character, and does a decent job of it. I never heard an issue with the sound quality or voice work, he was as solid as the Great Wall of China. I really wish that he would have had a better story to work with, because he might have been amazing.  Tough call, but the issues this story had did not fall at his feet.


I do find it sad that I have to hit this book with a hammer, but the fact is I cannot abide when things are not explained.  One of the most annoying things in this book came when they gamers went on their quest to find the artifact necessary to send them home, and at every step they learn that they were on the trail of a group that looked just like them.  (They were following their character’s routes to the magical object that could send them home), and the entire time I’m thinking that the object has to be gone because the characters had already gotten and used the orb they were seeking , but no.  Surprise the orb was right there! You might argue that it reset, but I’m going to call BS and say it was poor writing because all signs pointed to it being missing, but then nothing ever came from that aspect of the story either. There were too many inconsistencies, a lack of explanations (for example how did their characters become self aware?), and grammatical problems that made this ship look like it was a submarine.   My Final score is five and three quarters stars. Honestly, I don’t think it is worth your money for roughly eleven dollars for a four and a half hour book. I don’t think I’ll be looking at book 2 in this series.


-------------------


Archaic Venture: The Myth of Cerberus A LitRPG Adventure

By: Henry D. Milton

Narrated by: Jon Wilkins

Length: 3 hrs


Pause


The narrator, Milton, sounds like Brad Garrett who just smoke five cartons of cigarettes and drank five bottles  of whiskey and not in an endearing way. He speaks so slowly that I guess a benefit is that you have no issue understanding him, and that he enunciates very clearly due to his rhythm.  He seems to struggle to do various voices. One voice seems to just be a little deeper than the other. No real accents exist that are discernable, nor is any real emotion is added into this storytelling.  He lost me when the hobbit NPC sounded like an orc or ogre. There was no attempt to even sound like a tiny humanoid. Milton almost seems to read the story one sentence at a time. He really takes away from the actual tale, and for me a mediocre narrator can drag down a decent story.  This makes it really hard for me to tell how good the story itself is, and the addition of sound effects and music DETRACTS from the narration rather than adding to it. For example, He talks about a crowd going crazy, then you hear applause, and then he picks up the narration again. It is like he waits for the clapping to die down.  There are also bits of music added in at various places, usually at the start of a chapter or the end. The music starts, then stops, and there is a pause before the narration picks up again. It just starts and ends and serves no purpose other than to act as filler. Then there are parts where an annoying noise repeats over and over after the bar fight for no discernable reason.  Additionally, when Michael does meet Komodo and Rampage I had no idea that one of them was a female, Rampage, as no attempt was made to even make her sound feminine. The narration was a miserable event.


I start out talking about the narration because I recently reviewed a story called the Glass Bard, and my interpretation of the story was harsh due to the narration.  I did not like the story, but admitted that the narration could have been a major contributing factor, and then I saw that Ramon, from the LITRPG Podcast liked the story, and scored it much higher than I did.  This means that the narration played a larger part than I anticipated. Which caused me to dissect the story more than I normally would, since I know that my interpretation was tainted by the less than stellar narration.


The writing isn’t amazing.  I found large chunks of dialogue to be stilted and almost awkward.  The fights were average and did not grip my imagination at all. The story itself was your standard tale of a young man who is disabled, and decides to enter the VR world Archaic Venture so that he can experience what it actually is like to walk and make friends.  The odd thing is that Michael meets two players, Komodo and Rampage, and they reluctantly let him join them in a quest to kill Cerberus, a beast that will earn them $30,000 bucks, godlike in game abilities, and a visit with the game’s creator. Michael then takes them to a bar to seek info on Cerberus and ends up getting them into a battle with a higher level player because Michael just killed his horse.  The fight bonds them. Huh? What? The guy is a noob that one half of the group wasn’t happy allowing to join, and he instantly gets them into a life or death battle and they become closer? I’d have booted the noob out the door once everything finished. I saw no reason for them to bond together other than the thinking that they fought together and now are pals from the experience.


One thing that bothered me was that the book takes about five minutes to start into the story itself, and another half of an hour is tacked on the end for an additional half hour for a book preview.  I don’t mind previews, but I hate it when a book’s runtime is shot up longer than what it is, and honestly it feels a lot like books stuffing. Additionally, the story is only LITPRG in the barest meaning of the word.  Leveling is involved, but it is never explained, but then none of the game mechanics are ever explained, and the loot tends to just be cash, exp, or jewels. Michael jumps from being a newbie to being level thirty in a very short period of time.  The fact that they get a clue on how to power level is all the explanation that we ever get. We never get any stats, character information, or the ramifications for playing various races. Michael opts to play a Drow with a suspect class as well.  You never see any NPCs having a bad reaction to his race or class. The story itself is basically just a go beat the monster for fabulous prizes quest. There’s not a lot about this story otherwise. Before I got this audiobook I looked at the reviews of this on audible, because I have really seeking a great LITRPG short story, and saw a lot of positive reviews, but they were very short, with not a lot to say.  After listening to this I have to wonder what they were listening to. For me, this book was more of a fizzle than a sizzle. I chokingly give it a rating of 5 out of 10 stars.



----------------


Shard Warrior Crystal Shards Online, Book 2

By: Rick Scott

Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer

Length: 11 hrs and 28 mins



Holy Moley, I have been waiting on this book since the first one finished and was not disappointed at all by the continuing saga of Reese and his compatriots.  Book one left the team stranded in the real world, where death means death, and there is no respawning going to happen. Reese, Gilly, and Val Helena had just hooked up with Maxis and Rembrandt.  Maxis being Reese’s brother. They found themselves in a barren wasteland, with enemies at every turn, and with Reese and Gilly being so low leveled that it looked to be certain death for them soon.


And this is where Scott does that thing where he takes something that should make you angry and makes it interesting.  What happens is that the characters are not trapped in the barren wastelands surrounded by deadly enemies at every turn.  Nope, turns out that there are safe zones in the real world, and these boundaries keep away the real nasties of the world.  Normally, that would set me right off, we are promised a grim and gritty world unlike any other we have seen and we get safe zones where the characters spend most of their time.  Secondly, we also find out that as dangerous as the place was made out to be the fact is there are players who lived on the surface for a long time. What was looking like a we’ll barely survive this place scenario turns into a place that some players vacation at for fun.  That part I can’t let slide. If Maxis has been there 4 times and is one of the few people to do so and survive then it should be a lot harder a place to get around. The action scenes are still dope as crystal meth, and the character’s growth and development are impressive.  Still, this book almost felt like some spinning tires that made a lot of noise and got nowhere fast, for every revelation you get two more questions. I also, did not like the way Iko became wimpified all of a sudden, and I doubt that Reese’s mother would have been so stupid to do what she did.  So there were a lot of problems that I had here.


Still, Scott manages to make the story interesting, the characters, compelling, and the action flying.  We get a decent villain, and some added worries for Reese as he becomes a town administrator. Each character has some small arc that they go through, and I appreciate that this is a series that I can listen to with my kids.  I can listen to it with youngsters and still enjoy it as an adult. The writing is that strong.


Summerer’s narration is just as good as it was the first time around, and I have to say that he has really grown on me as a narrator.  I loved him in the Dark Herbalist series, and here he continues to make my mouth drop open with his vocal skills. He really adds an element of fun to this audible anime series.

One thing I do want to comment upon briefly is the way the covers are set up.  You place the title right over the center of the artwork, obscuring half of what you paid for.  I would have like to seen Gilly on the cover of Book 2, but she is almost invisible. Move your title up a bit.  Covers are a part of the book, and I will discuss them from time to time.


Again, I had some issues with the story and characterizations, but I still managed to walk away satisfied and eager to see what happens next.  You will too.


Final Score: 8.25 because we were kind of lead to expect a certain type of world, and I must say that the portions we got to see of it were fascinating.  Still, I loved it. Bring on the next one soon.







This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheater/


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 008

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 008 - Ritualist: Completionist Chronicles, Outpost: Monsters, Maces and Magic Series, Respawn: Killstreak, Rapture: Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut

You can read the full reviews and shownotes if you visit us at: www.litrpgpodcast.com/litrpg-audiobook-podcast-008  

 

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray, your audiobook reviewer, and I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

 

Ritualist: Completionist Chronicles, Book 1

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2P1H4yF

Outpost: Monsters, Maces and Magic Series, Book 1

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NdJmKA

Respawn: Killstreak, Book One

Score: 6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NghHZP

Rapture: Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 1

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NdJslq


 

---

Ritualist the Completionist Chronicles, Book 1

By: Dakota Krout

Narrated by: Vikas Adam

Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins

 

Ritual is necessary for us to know anything

I really did not want to like this book. I wanted Dakota Krout to keep putting out his Divine Dungeon series until it was finished. Now, I'm torn. I still want the Divine Dungeon series, but now I also want MORE Ritualist. Krout is an incredible writer, and you get sucked into the story immediately. I appreciate how he gets the character of Joe into the game quickly and doesn't really screw around with all the usual angst or cognitive dissonance most MC's display when they are about to go into a virtual world permanently. Nope, we go straight into the game, and we are better for it.

 

I really appreciate that Joe gets a secret class, with special skills, and that he works for a hidden god. It's fun watching him try to keep things straight, because once the cat is out of the bag then he loses all kinds of benefits. And he has some sweet skills. The only thing that really throws me off is that the MC, Joe, enters the VR permanently because he is a quadrapalegic, and still opts to get a body that will be winded from walking to fast and can be beheaded from a paper cut. You would expect him to take a healthy vibrant body, but I will say his choice does make sense if you consider that he is in it for the long haul. He has a long distance perspective that few others have. Additionally, Krout is about the only dude I know that can make a healer not only exciting but totally a bad grass mamajamma. Most people go swordsman, rogue, or wizard. Dakota manages to make the cleric interesting. Plus the ritual stuff and the occultist proffesion suck you in.

 

Vikas Adams had me waaaaay back with the Divine Dungeon number one, Dungeon Born. I loved his characterizations and the humor he injects with his voice. There are few narrators who are as skilled as he is, and he really moves the story along at his pace. The man is a pleasure to listen to, and his female voices are just as good as his male ones.

 

I give Krout points for including a nod to my beloved Dungeon, Cal, in this book and can see the similarities in attitudes. Both are fair, easily annoyed, and ready to dole out proper punishments and rewards. Can we see a nod to everyone's favorite wisp in the next book, Dakota?

 

Joe is a fun character, and I really look forward to seeing more of him in the future. Now, we just need to get the Divine Dungeon series caught up and I'll be satisfied. YOU will be satisfied if you get this book. This is, without question, one of the best LitRPG/GameLit books I've ever read!

 

Final Score: 8.5, it is near perfection on the page and is music in your ears.

 

--------------------

 

Outpost: Monsters, Maces and Magic Series, Book 1

By: Terry W Ervin II

Narrated by: Jonathan Waters

Length: 7 hrs and 23 mins


 

If you saw the first LIT Audiobook Podcast, then you know that one of my all time favorite books is The Sleeping Dragon, book one of the Guardians of the Flame series, and that I had also enjoyed Quag Keep as well.  I think that those are some of the best books written in the LITRPG genre, or at a minimum Gamelit. I really respect and admire them for their innovative stories and creativity, as well as some amazing characters. I now add Outpost onto that list.  There is just something that really appeals to me about RPGer’s getting sucked into the world that they play in. It is fun and fascinating, if done right, and Terry Ervin does it right.

 

We start out with three students who are looking to write a class paper joining a local gaming session with a three regular players, one of whom is a kid from Jr. High.  The MC, is one of the students, a necessary perspective for the listener since the world is supposed to be all new and shiny to him. He ends up becoming a gnome healer. The other two students, both female, opt for a warrior monk and an elven mage.  One of the best bits and running gags is how the kid, tricks the girl playing the elven mage into having a pornstar body with goddess looks. Her boobs are good for more than a few chuckles. Each of the characters are interesting, and if I had to speculate, not all of them are neutral or good.  Methinks one of them picked a dark alignment without telling the others. For me, the characters sell the story. Each is distinct and has their own voice, but the real standouts are the gnome, the half goblin, and the Elf.

 

One of the things I enjoyed so much about the Guardians of the Flame series was that it was not afraid to kill off characters, and Ervin has no such qualms either.  PC’s are vulnerable, and do die. So the remaining troupe has to figure how to get back home and possible resurrect a comrade on the way. The answer to both might surprise you at the end.  The book isn’t all crunchy and full of stats and numbers, and that is fine here. It works the way it is setup and you won’t miss those aspects at all. The only complaint was the shifting from the character’s real life names to their gaming names.  For example, the big boobed elf was named Stephanie, and in game she was known as Marigold. At any given time she could be referred to by either name, and so it went for all the characters. I followed along no problem, but I can see where some might find it confusing; they should have settled on one or the other, and not both.

 

Waters narration is really really fun, and he does the ladies voices about as easily as he does the men’s, which is impressive, I only know a handful of narrators who can pull that off as easily as he does.  His reading is rock solid, the sound quality is fantastic, and he really infuses a ton of emotion into the story. I hadn’t heard him before, but I must admit I was impressed with him

 

Final Score: 8 Stars for a fun run through a dangerous world, with slight points shaved off for the confusing name swapping issue.

 

--------------

 

Respawn: Killstreak, Book One

By: Stuart Thaman

Narrated by: J. Scott Bennett

Length: 8 hrs and 39 mins

 

Pause

 

This was a rather difficult book for me.  It isn’t bad, but I took umbrage with a lot of things that either lack explanation or made no sense.  The premise is that a man from Earth, hence the title Earth born, awakens one day in another world. He struggles for  number of years to get back home, but finally gives up and decides to acclimate after an incident causes him to fend for his life.  Now, in this world you seem to play, and I am only assuming this because it is never stated, on what seems to be a hardcore mode. You get one life, if you die you lose everything and have to start over from level 0.  Which would suck, if it were a game, but there is literally no hint that he was uploaded into a game. None, so I don’t know. Oddly, this happens to EVERYONE in this world. You die, and you get reborn and get to pick a new life.  Old crap you’ve done is forgiven or you can reestablish old ties and connections. So basically, the only thing you have to fear from death is having to restart your life over. So, I guess if you really hate your job you can just kill yourself.  If this is the same for everyone, I wonder why anyone even cares if you are Earth Born. Why would it even matter? How could you even tell the difference? The weirdest thing in the whole book is the MC’s companion, who just so happened to be his pet snake on Earth.  How he became a PC or NPC or whatever is never explained at all, but is referenced numerous times.

 

That was my big problem with this book, there was a complete lack of consequences for anything, nothing is explained, and there is no sense of danger at all.  I had a hard time worrying that Cadaraacts, the MC, would have to restart his life over again. The book is just basically the MC and a couple of friends either doing some fighting, hanging around, or trying to score some XP to level.  It’s slice of life meets go grind some monsters. Also, the new class that the MC takes is really vague and mysterious. I really dig new classes, check out Dakota Krout’s Ritualist to see how to handle a never before heard of class. He explains everything upfront.  Thaman doesn’t do that. It almost seems like he is making it up as he goes along. It has a lovecraftian feel to it, but it is too mysterious to tell anything about it, even at the end of the book. And the ending is just an ending. There is no big pay off, climax, or battle; not even the slightest bit of resolution.  The story does nothing to move ahead. Which is really sad because it could be a tour de force with some explanations, and consequences for the characters. The writing isn’t bad, it just has nowhere to go. A good editor could have given Thaman some direction and really helped this out.

 

Scott Bennett handles the narration, and he is one of my favorite narrators.  Seriously, I know it isn’t LIT but the books he’s done like the Brother Bones series and Death Master are just great.  Check them out. Here he does what he can, and does a fine job. He’s fun to listen to paces the story out well. He does everything he can to elevate it, too.  I really respect what he does here, and have to say that the sound is flawlessly fantastic.


 

Final score: 6 out of 10.  If Thaman had just fleshed out the world a bit more, and not kept everything so close to the vest this could have been a really fun book because there are things here that could be interesting if we had some idea of what the hell was going on.  Never keep your readers out of the loop, give them a taste or a hint to keep them interested. I will get the next book, just to see if he reveals anything, and I sincerely hope so.

 

------------------

 

Rapture: Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 1

By: Daniel Schinhofen

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins


 

Pause

 

Daniel Schinhofen has written something I have been waiting to hit Audible for some time, Horror Survival LITRPG.  Survivalist horror isn’t a huge setting in the genre, and I don’t know why. Sometimes it seems we are lucky if we get anything outside of a Western Fantasy Style book, which inevitable means that we’ll get some sort of a sci-fi version instead.  I have been wanting to see some other fields get a chance at the plate. I could really go for a good Western (Red Dead Redemption) LITRPG, or something comedic, but most especially I want a horror styled LIT book on audio. I know there are some that have been written, but nothing I can find, and so when I found out this was survivalist horror I was ecstatic.

 

The book is really well written, and the characters are all standouts.  I really adored Gothy, though, far more than any others. I like that Schinhofen slips in some jokes here and there without announcing what he is talking about.  They are either you get them or you don’t, such as his wanting to rename the AI known as Scott into Betty. The book has a solid crunch to it, for you gamer fans.  But there were some things I found strange, such as when the MC, Al, tells everyone that they are trapped in a video game. You just don’t see that very often.

 

One thing that set me off a little was the easy pathway to weapons and unlimited ammo.  For the entire beginning of the book, Al does his zombie whacking with a wooden baseball bat.  He has a hard time upgrading, because upgrades cost him XP, and he doesn’t get a lot of it to start out.  Next thing you know he is upgrading guns so that they have unlimited fire power. Now, to me, part of what makes movies like NOTLD fun is that the people fighting the undead have limited weapons and resources.  We sort of skip that problem really quickly, and focus on base building and saving survivors. On top of the zombies we also get a few other creepy creatures that show up by the end of the book, so I am really looking forward to what comes next in the series, as the escalation seems to be right on point.

 

Narration is performed by the excellent and adorable Andrea Parsneau, who seems to really enjoy playing Gothy.  She really makes that girl shine. She does a fab job on the other voices, and maintains the pace and flow of the story effortlessly.  I actually kind of got upset when she had to switch off her Scott voice for the AI’s new personality, as she really killed it with Scott.  Other guy was fun, but, he was no Scott. I really can’t say how much I enjoyed her here. If we do have a rapture, and for some odd reason she isn’t taken I hope that she makes play by plays over a loud speaker.

 

Final score: 8 points, mostly because I felt no real sense of danger after the initial break in phase for Al was finished, and for robbing us of seeing Al struggle a little more than he could have scrounging for weapons and ammo.




 

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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 007

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 007 - Accidental Mage, Warscapia, Awaken Online: Evolution, Days of High Adventure

 

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

 

Accidental Mage the Accidental Traveler Adventure, Book 3 (00:23)

Score: 6.75 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2v4Eq3E

 

Warscapia: A LitRPG Spoof (06:32)

Score: 4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2M1wYNb

 

Awaken Online: Evolution (13:54)

Score: 7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2KaP6T6

 

Days of High Adventure (27:14)

Score: 6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2M36uuZ


 

Accidental Mage the Accidental Traveler Adventure, Book 3

By: Jamie Davis, C. J. Davis

Narrated by: Roberto Scarlato

Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins

 

I really enjoyed the Accidental Thief when it first came out.  I even enjoyed it when book two hit, and mirrored it. Now, we have book three, and I have to say that while the book is well written and well plotted it begins to become all too familiar.  Essentially, Hal Dix, the MC, gets pulled back into his gameland, and has to stop some force of nastiness before he can return home. The one thing that sort of bothered me before, and really bothered me now was how the writers basically wiped away all of the skills and abilities that Hal had achieved in the books preceding this.  His other classes get locked out while he trains to become a mage. That is lazy writing in my eyes, there is no reason for that other than to say because of plot points. The other bit of bother came that not only did he have to level up one mage skill, but each elemental school before he access the fifth. This led to a series of quests for him to unlock each school, and master in days what took other wizards years to accomplish.  It really stretched my credulity. I would have made it a little simpler, with him realizing that each school was similar to another, and it was only the unlocking that was hard to do, but that’s me.

 

Here, Hal’s family is kidnapped, and he must go after the Emperor himself in order to save them.  In one sense he lacks a sense of urgency, taking over two finds to find them as he progressed, and on the other hand, I would have complained if he had kept moaning and pining for them every other paragraph.  I don’t want you to feel like this isn’t a worthwhile read or story, it really is, and I enjoyed it a great deal. My biggest issue came from the familiarity and the ending when Hal decides he’s going to leave and never come back.  That is so the series can continue with his daughter, Carrie, instead. The action, characterizations, and pacing are all solid. As things go the book is fun, and you do root for Hal and his comrades. The series does wrap up all existing plotlines and makes a clean slate for Carrie’s return to Fantasma next series.  I can completely respect that and appreciate writers who can stick to a trilogy, when they could have played this out forever with titles like the Accidental Alchemist, The Accidental Tourist, and the Accidental Peasant.

 

Roberto Scarlato is the cohesive factor for this series.  His voice is like a finely aged whiskey for your ears, and he was the deciding factor for appreciating book one in this series.  He has a strong and powerful voice that just carries the story forward. His characterization of Hal Dix is fantastic, and he corrals a whole mess of other characters as the story moves along.  I honestly think that he keeps this audio going, because each book is pretty much like the one preceding it at this point.

 

Final Score: 6.75 stars, due only to the slightly repetitive nature of the books, and the weak explanation of why Hal would never return.

 

---------------------

 

Warscapia: A LitRPG Spoof

By: Garrett Boggs

Narrated by: Matthew Broadhead

Length: 4 hrs and 5 mins

 

PAUSE

 

A spoof is when you take a particular genre or film, imitate it, and then exaggerate the characteristics of said item for comic effect.  Warscapia is not a spoof by any standards that I could think of. You want a Spoof, watch Spaceballs. That is a spoof. If you want a great literary spoof, that is on Audible, then go an check out Bored of the Rings: A Parody written by the Harvard Lampoon and narrated by Jim Meskimen.  It is funny and attacks its target mercilessly. Seriously, it might not be LITRPG but it is a good listen. Warscapia does none of this. You don’t have player issues outside of the game, there is no recognizable world that is being riffed on, no races, or situations for that matter. For all intents and purposes this book should be considered a LITRPG comedy, and only barely so.  You want honesty? The book is silly, but not a fun ha ha kind of silly. The MC, a mage named Sparrow summons ducks to do his fighting, the fighter, a guy named Rock Star, knows just how cool he is, and their female companion is so integral to the plot and story that I have forgotten her name. I think it was Jade. Maybe, not sure what she did either.

 

The book itself is about as LIT as an unopened box of matches.  If leveling weren’t involved I don’t think it would qualify in my eyes.  Titles do not make it so. The book itself is a very weak, like a tea bag that has been used 100 times and now actually purifies the water more than flavors it.  It has a story arc, and the characters do get more powerful, but there is no development or character growth per se. Sparrow does come to accept his ability to summon ducks, but that is as far as it gets.

 

As for the funny stuff, for a spoof there is little to be found.  Boggs attempts to slightly break the 4th wall by inserting himself into the story, but that fell flat. The group fights a lot of monsters with stupid names like lizard monkeys and a Dracula Dragon.  Slight spoiler, the dragon is actually an alt form of a real vampire. Count Dragula. What was the missed opportunity here? With a name like Dragula he either should have been in a race car, per the old Munster’s dragula, or in ladies clothing for the drag aspect.  Nope. Dracula lite. That’s all. There are a lot of things that you might consider funny if you were reading the book, but Broadhead lacks the proper timing or inflection to sell the joke. For example, there is a lot of talk about heavy metal goblins, whose music will corrupt your soul.  A party member retorts, “But I don’t have soul.” Would have been funny if read right. The only thing done right here, by Broadhead, are the various quacks that the ducks do. Zombie duck was the best, but tracker duck came in second. A shame because I have immensely enjoyed his readings of the Bathrobe Knight, a beloved series of myself and my family.  My son still says Broadhead can’t do female voices well, and I will note that here they tended to sound the same to other characters he’s done, but he really nailed the Heavy Metal Goblin Guard and Chuckles voices. His Count Dragula was your standard Blah blah blah vampire Lugosi imitation.

 

Boggs has another LITRPG book out called Dragon Mastery: Daybreak.  I will be passing that one by. I don’t want to beat him up any further, and if someone out there listens to it and likes it, let me know and I might give a try, but for now I’m just going to do what Count Olaff says and look away.

 

Final Score 4 out of 10.  Not funny. Lame characters.  No real plot.

 

------------------------

 

Awaken Online: Evolution

By: Travis Bagwell

Narrated by: David Stifel

Length: 23 hrs and 2 mins

 

I’ve got a few things to say about this book, and I want to get right into it.  There were several issues that I had. First of all, I am a fan of the series. I think that Bagwell is a writer’s writer, someone other writers respect and look up to and I give him full props for his scale of excellence that he inspires.  I know there are authors out there who don’t want to release anything near one of his books. SO, I know the dude has chops. I say this, just so you know where I’m coming from. First of all, the book is in some serious need of editing. I don’t mean there are grammatical errors.  I mean this book could have used some serious trimming.

 

I have no problem with long run times, heck I listened to Galaxy Outlaws: The Complete Black Ocean Mobius Missions for over 85 hours and was entertained the entire time.  Here however, the Hippie trials seemed to take on a Twilight Zone style life of their own, trials that I found not to be very interesting nor entertaining. For me, the whole sequence was just interminably long.  I honestly don’t know if Bagwell wants a certain page count or book length, but here it comes across (to me) as rambling and drawn out. Secondly, the subplots, one involving Alexion/Alex and the other involving the Dev trying to find out about Alfred were broken up and spread out to a point where I said, “I get it, Alexion is a complete D-bag and he has evil machinations.  Move on, and the dev took forever trying to gather her clues. Oh, and I for the record, I am tired of Alexion. Self entitled, self centered, egomaniacal bullies can be fun. He isn’t. He bores the hell out of me. He should have been a villain that lasted for one book and then got swapped out for someone with real teeth. Not only does he get everything handed to him in real life, but even in the game, at the end he gets advanced for no real reason or effort being put in other than to keep him apace with Jason.  Jason basically goes through 23 hours worth of book trying to earn an upgrade in power, Alex fails miserable for the same length of time, and still gets upgraded. It makes no sense, unless you say that this is all a part of Alfred’s plan. Otherwise, it is just because of plot necessities. Also, I have to say that this felt like one of those TV episodes where they want to start a spinoff, so they sent a star off to some new place for an episode, where they meet a really interesting group of people and then go back home and never talk about them again.  The new people then get their own show. Eliza felt like that to me. Like she was just there to give the readers a taste, because she really didn’t do a lot in the battles other than just kind of back people up. Had she been more enmeshed in the group it would have felt like she was going to be a recurring character or a new group member. Also, her background is very similar to Jason, she doesn’t fit in, only friends are in-game, and she has extreme parent issues. Did I say parent issues? Can Bagwell honestly expect me to suspend my disbelief that Jason has such absentee parents that they don’t come to their kid’s aid when he has been arrested for murder?  Even if, as they explain, couldn’t get there immediately, they could have made sure that the kid had legal representation to keep him from self incriminating. Three days in jail and no word, no help? I am a father of 5 and I don’t care who told me I couldn’t leave, I would have been home with my kids, consequences be damned. Too unbelievable for me. Considering that Riley, Frank, and Eliza all have parental issues of some sort I really have to wonder if this isn’t some sort of therapy for Travis.

 

David Stifel continues to crush on the narration, I have no issues or qualms with anything he did.  Top notch across the board. He has handled this entire series about as professionally as you could ask, and made it fun to  listen to. And like Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

 

I don’t want you to think that I didn’t like this book.  I was fun and action packed, but it really needed trimming, and as far as I am concerned the villain has lost his teeth.  He is boring and annoying and is not intimidating at all. For me, the bad guy is more important than the hero, because he is what the hero uses to reflect his integrity and goodness.  Alex is just a self-centered spoiled brat, and that does not make for a great villain. Like I say, the book was fun and exciting in a lot of spots, but there were many slow down for upcoming turn ahead spots.  For this reason, I have to give this book a rating of 7 out of 10. Part of that is for the series track record, making it a little higher than I would have given a stand alone first novel.

 

Final Score: 7 out of 10


 

---------------------

Days of High Adventure

By: Elliott Kay

Narrated by: Tess Irondale

Length: 4 hrs and 14 min


 

Full disclosure here, this is a book that you might consider to be gamelit or you might not, for me there is enough to justify calling this story a LITRPG, even though it really skates the boundaries of the genre.  Days is set in the real world, and focuses on a gaming group (meets criteria #1), the group includes several people, but only two of them are really relevant to the story. During the gaming session, the MC, a young lady named, Amanda begins to joke about the main bad guy’s name, Beldinab.  She calls out to him over and over, like he was Beetlejuice, and the GM warns her not to do that. Later on, she does so again, while she is with another gamer, Eric, and this time Beldinab hears her and pulls them into his world. Thus meeting criteria #2 of gamelit rules. From there, the two become slaves and have to figure out how to escape confinement, and make their way back home.  Sorta sounds like Criteria #3 to me. Anyway, the story is actually interesting and is told in a very appropriate amount of time. Any longer and it would have totally failed, any shorter and it would have missed the mark. The characterizations, story, plot, and pacing really flow. The only thing that threw me was the sudden appearance of the sex. NO, I DON’T look for disclaimers, or I would have seen that it had a warning about sex.  Nor did I notice that this was the very same Elliot Kay who writes the Series Good intentions which is just chalk fulla naughtiness. I like to go into things blind, without expectations. The sex doesn’t take away from the story, nor does it overwhelm, but neither can I say it adds anything. It’s just there. There is a lot of character development for Amanda and Eric, and the story hinges on their growth. There is also a pretty kick butt barbarian babe who you should thoroughly enjoy.  The world they enter is dark and drab, and starkly merciless. Which matches up to the description the GM laid out.

 

Tess Irondale does a pretty good job here.  She has a voice for each character, and you can feel the disdain the bad guys have for the rest of the people round them.  She doesn’t amaze me, but the job is handled well, and there are no issues with the audio.

 

Like I say, this is a close call, but for me, it fits the Lit Criteria, and the deal sealer came when Amanda realized that the magic spells were laid out exactly as 4th edition spells were in her  game. Personally, this is 6 out of ten stars, but I would be happen to revisit the characters, and see how they handle their return to our world, or fare in a return trip back to Beldinab’s digs. Give it a try, it won’t overwhelm you, but it is good for a getaway of a few hours.

 

Final Score: 6 out of 10



 

This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheater/

 

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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 006

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 006 - Level Up or Die! Underworld, Book 1, Super Sales on Super Heroes Book 2, The Hobgoblin Riot Dominion of Blades, Book 2, Dante's Immortality: Beginnings

 

You can read the full reviews and shownotes if you visit us at:  

 

Level Up or Die! Underworld, Book 1 (33:19)

https://amzn.to/2AKhAnv

 

Super Sales on Super Heroes Book 2 (08:12)

https://amzn.to/2nNXv6h

 

The Hobgoblin Riot Dominion of Blades, Book 2 (15:00)

https://amzn.to/2OaIqXw

 

Dante's Immortality: Beginnings (21:26)

https://amzn.to/2KtZ6a4


 

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”


 

Level Up or Die! Underworld, Book 1

Author: Apollos Thorne

Narrator(s): Graham Halstead

Audiobook Length: 7 hrs and 7 mins


 

(Pause so I can insert a sample of the Audiobook)


 

Level Up or Die! By Apollos Thorne is a fun book, but not one without its problems.  The main character is a gamer who is snatched from our world and taken to what is essentially a hellish under realm where every fantasy monster you ever heard of is real.  The Underworld is not a human friendly environment, or so we are told, and the only job the abductees have is to . . . you guessed it, level up or die. A great premise with some intriguing characters, but even the Hope Diamond has flaws.

 

My biggest complaint comes from the title.  Level up or die. There is a boatload of leveling, and not a whole lot of dying.  At least not by anyone except monsters. I suppose that in a case where your protagonist can die, but we all know he’s not going to die, can be hard to write.  But, if you go through the whole of the book the number of deaths that we get, even from background characters is . . . . .well, I won’t say how many, but it sure isn’t a high number.  In fact, there is literally no sense of danger to the MC at any point. Elorion pretty much solos the labyrinth the majority of the time. He plays everything rather smartly, and keeps his head cool in situations most of us would freak out about and so never comes remotely close to any danger.  There is one time where he is shot by an archer, but even that is a minor wound that he comments could have been much worse. This lack of danger really takes some of the kick out of what could have been an outstanding novel.

 

Elorion is an interesting player, who seems to adjust well to whatever situation he is dropped into.  He uses his head, and at the right time listens to his heart. His unique abilities allow him to level himself, and others, far quicker than should have been possible.  He also manages to constantly think of innovative ways to use his powers that show he will be a force to be reckoned with when the time comes. At no point was I ever bored with the story or any characters, in fact I rather loved seeing the creative methods Elorion came up with to defeat his enemies or apply his abilities.  I know I just carped about the whole no sense of danger thing, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this book in the slightest. The Mistress is a luscious villainess that you love to see appear, and you will want to punch an imp in the face. The MOBs are standard fare, and just fodder, but Thorne’s writing still makes them interesting creatures to kill.  I did appreciate that most loot that Elorion pillaged from the corpses of his enemies was not something that he could always use, or even if he could use it he did not employ it. He sold or shared most of the loot.

 

Graham Halstead narrates the story, and does very well.  His voice isn’t as smooth as Luke Daniels or Jeff Hays, but it still works in this genre.  He’s read a ton of novels, and knows what he is doing. He plays a multitude of roles, and has fun with it, and so you enjoy the listening even more.  He has a done a few other series that I have looked at, and will now probably pick up and give a listen to in the future.

 

In spite of the few flaws, the book is fun, and keeps your attention.  I only paused the book because work or real life intruded, otherwise it would have been a straight shot all the way through.  I cannot wait for the next novel in the series, and look forward to more great things from Thorne.

 

Final Score 7 out of 10

---------------

 

Super Sales on Super Heroes Book 2

By: William D. Arand

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Length: 12 hrs and 4 mins

 

Legion First!!! That is the motto Felix's people live, die, and get resurrected by, and it is the way that you need to think of this book series. Get it before all others. This is a fantastically fun romp into a melding of gamelit and superheroes that is over far too fast, and is filled with funny lines, a harem of beauties, bad grass mo-fo villains, and a gubernatorial run.

 

This book does not take you where you expect it to go. When we first started out I really thought the whole thing would be about Felix running for governor and consolidating his forces in the new city. It's not. There is so much more to it. That's the thing with Arand, he shows you a roadmap, then promptly takes an indelible marker and makes his own roads into areas and territories you would not expect. He's pretty slick, and he continually pulls the rug out from under you. Then you find there is no floor beneath the rug. Additionally, the space below you isn't empty as it actually leads into a magma pit filled with fireproof alligators and Piranha. He then hands you an umbrella to slow your descent, and some aloe to soothe your burns. You just have to live with the bites.

 

Seriously, this could have been a major let down on so many levels. First, the original book in the series was simply brilliant in concept and creation. The characters, and I do mean all of them, suck you in. You love all of them, each for a different reason. Third, the first book made it so that this book had to really go freaking big or blow up. There wasn't going to be a middle ground. This book most certainly comes up to the level of being his The Empire Strikes Back book. I really hope he can avoid a Return of the Jedi in book three. Felix just continues to impress, and his solutions are pretty ingenious. I love his "fixers". Each of the other characters evolve in their own way; Kit, Andrea, Felicia, Lilly, and the rest all have their own subplots/development that fits. With a cast as large as this that is hard to do.

 

Another area that could have tanked this audible version is that, for whatever reason, Jeff Hays did not return as the narrator. Now, I have repeatedly stated, and will continue to do so, that Jeff is far and away my favorite narrator. He cannot be touched, and this is his genre! I was crushed when I found out that he wasn't returning for the rest of the series, and I worried that it might be a blow that SSOSH wouldn't be able to recover from. Now, if you expect me to say that Nick came in and did a better job, forget it. Hays is the MAN. HOWEVER, I will concede that if it had to be anyone, then Pohdel was the cat to take care of business. He really does his best to emulate the voices that Jeff put forth, and I think he comes closest with Andrea, but his pancakes will never be Jeff's pancakes. The rest of the voices are all great jobs, although I did have some difficulty knowing if it was Kit or Lilly talking, but I believe that is only because I have listened to Jeff's version so many times that their voices are ingrained in my head.


 

I hope that you, the person reading this review sees that I feel that this is one of the best series on the market, not matter what genre you look at. I believe that there is no way that you could not enjoy this book unless you completely lack imagination or a soul. Yes, it does deal with some dark stuff, like slavery (but not in the way you are thinking) and brains are as likely to blow by as a tumbleweed in a western or a newspaper in a post apocalyptic world, but this is an adventure. This is a lamborghini strapped to a rollercoaster rail ride of a lifetime. Don't miss out. Join Legion now!! Remember, Legion first!!!!!!

 

Final Score:  7.5



 

----------------

 

The Hobgoblin Riot Dominion of Blades, Book 2

By: Matt Dinniman

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau, Hays McGee

Length: 18 hrs and 24 mins

 

(Sings)

 

    Hobgoblin Riot, throw back a bottle of beer, Hobgoblin Riot, never know when the polecat’s near!  Many thanks to the Cherry Poppin' Daddies for letting me butcher that song in parody.

The Hobgoblin Riot was darn good, though there was a bit of wheel spinning in some ways and some seemingly dropped plotlines that end up paying off at the end so it’s mostly forgiven. Also sometimes it can be a bit confusing as to the timing of certain things if you don't pay attention to the perspective changes.

 

Almost double the length of book one, feels sort of like 2 books smooshed into one.  I don’t have a problem with extended times like this, so long as it is a good book, and I have to say, Popper’s outbursts alone could keep me occupied for a fortnight before I got bored.  I really can’t tell if Dinniman can write great one liners, or if Andrea’s reading of them is so superb, but I laughed at every exasperated utterance Popper made. Most likely, it is a combination.  The whole book is like that, Dinniman and Parsneau have this great symbiotic relationship going on, he creates a vivid and detailed scene or event, and she adds color and emotion that you simply miss when reading. The book itself is almost a type of comedic horror, a few levels above Abbot and Costello directed by Tobe Hooper or Clive Barker .

 

The narration by Andrea Parsneau is about as flawless as you can get, she really nails the voices, but if I have to be honest here, I could listen to her read the phone book, so long as she did it in Popper’s voice and threw out a zinger every ten or so numbers.  Do we even have phonebooks anymore? The sound quality is beyond reproach, and I don’t think I heard her misspeak a word or a line. I do have to cast a dubious eye at this Hays McGee fella, whom she claims is her husband, and not actually Jeff Hays in vocal disguise.  The jury is still out on that one, Andrea! Hays, whoever he really is, does a great job as well, and he backs Andrea’s narration up like he’s been doing this his whole life. Well done, sir. Well, done indeed. Oh, and I loved the way that Andrea handled the mob scene!  That is how audio is done. Has she gotten an Oscar or something yet? I have to add that my all time favorite female character voice is that of Harley Quinn, from Batman the Animated Series. My number 2? Andrea’s version of Popper!

 

Ok, aside from me referencing Abbot and Costello, whom I know 95% of kids alive today have never heard of, I try to keep things simple, so here it is.  Book one was great as we got to see the characters feel out who they were, and learn what they could accomplish. It was slick introducing characters that you never see in a traditional gaming party including a hippocorn and polecat (whom I love), and here we get to see them progress and evolve.  My biggest issue is that it really feels like two books that got compressed together, and some plotlines were forgotten or dropped in the melding., but the characters are what drive this book. To me, the plotline was incidental to how the characters handled things. That is why I am ok with some of the dropped plots.  Maybe book three will address them, maybe not, but I do know one thing for certain, I’ll be there to find out when it does come out! Hopefully you will too, because this is a great book and an amazing series. Don’t pass this one up!!

 

Final score 8 stars, with points taken for dropped plots and a few places where the story stalled out for a bit.

 

--------------------

 

Dante's Immortality: Beginnings

By: Antonio Terzini

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Series: Dante's Immortality, Book 1

Length: 14 hrs and 28 mins


 

This is one of those books where I sincerely believe that it could have worked better without the LitRPG elements. This isn't to say that the LitRPG doesn't work. It is cool as hell, but I think that this would have actually been more powerful as a straight up fantasy novel. It is one heck of a magic system. The world is built with precision and purpose, and is one of the best fantasy settings I have ever read. The characters that fill it all seem to be major S.O.B.s, though, lol. This is most certainly a place where you can trust no one. Everyone has an ulterior motive, and is out to remove you from their way or see what they can get from you.

 

There are some really scary things here, such as wraith collars and predatory dungeons. Sincerely, this world is a character unto itself, and Dante is just an intriguing character. I have to say that this book does one thing right compared to 99% of all other books and that is the layout of the nemesis and the fate of said nemesis. It is handled the way any intelligent person would, and when it happened I shouted out "YES!!!" Terzini knows how to put you in the car, strap you in, hit the buttons, send you up the hill, and just before you go over the top scream at you that the rollercoaster has no brakes!!!!! The ride requires very little set up, and once the story starts going it never stops. There are parts that are just heart wrenching, and others where you cheer and shout for joy! I loved every minute with Dante and want more right now.

 

Jeff Hays is on point narrating, and dang if this doesn't seem to be his best work. I mean you could just feel Dante's suffering in his voice, and the growl from his anger put off heat. You ever see the movie Dune? Where they have the weirding modules that allow a person's voice to set fires, rend flesh, and shatter stone? Yeah? Well, I think Jeff is about to lose the need for a weirding module. His vocal powers are legendary, but here he just stomped Zeus into the dirt leaving godhood behind and becoming a full fledged Titan. He just brought this book home in a solid gold limousine. I don't know how he does this everytime, but he is continually improving and getting stronger. Rock Solid narration. Nuff said.


 

Final Rating:  8.75 stars


 

This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheater/

 

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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 005
 

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 005 - Mitigating Risk, Temple of Sorrow, Stuff and Nonsense, Supers: Ex Heroes

 

You can read the full reviews and shownotes if you visit us at:  


 

Mitigating Risk Nora Hazard Series, Book 1 (00:10)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2LQwaOy

 

Temple of Sorrow Stonehaven League, Book 1 (06:46)

Score: 7.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2LNq8OI

 

Stuff and Nonsense Threadbare Series, Volume 1 (17:18)

Score: 8.75 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Ark4XI

 

Supers: Ex Heroes (23:17)

Score: 6.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2uZxtkE




 

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

 

Mitigating Risk Nora Hazard Series, Book 1

By: Blaise Corvin

Narrated by: Emily Beresford

Length: 7 hrs and 49 mins



 

I make no exaggeration in stating that Delvers LLC is one of my favorite series, and that I was miffed when I learned that the master craftsman, Blaise Corvin had decided to shoehorn this series in between the next Delvers book. Still, I trust that Corvin is going to craft a tale that will make me happy in the end, and so I got the first Nora Hazard book.

First of all, I can see that Corvin has finally crafted a character that he can appreciate. Nora is a streetwise, tough as nail, knife fighter. Anyone who knows Corvin will recognize his penchant for blades, and Nora is his Valkyrie warrior maiden made flesh. The only umbrage that I had anywhere in the book came from the overly emotional reaction that Nora experiences from a loss early in the book. It really colors everything that she does, and only when she frees herself from its constraints that she fully embraces her destiny and potential. Of course, that is something that every character in every book has to face, but she is just overly whiney about it. That, however, is a minor detail. I have to point it out, otherwise I'm not doing my job as a reviewer properly.

 

On the upside, the book has a ton of fantastic stuff going on including magic knives, superpowers, naughty drakes, and evil villains. Corvin can most assuredly cast out a vivid battle scene, one full of blades, fire and death. He also manages to bring in one or three faces from Delvers for us to clap at when they appear. Nora is a complex and riveting character whom you will automatically empathize with and want to succeed. The woman's story is one of tragedy and loss, but with an unrelenting perseverance that pushes her forward. Her attitude and grit will keep you listening as the story goes. The final show down between the White Shadow . . .no. . .White Darkness . . .um, Eggshell and Nora is epic, and it shows that ingenuity and the ability to keep going can be unbeatable at times.

 

Emily Beresford does an incredible job narrating, right now she is in my top three for lady narrators and with good reason. She fuels every step that Nora takes with emotion and gravitas. You bleed right along with her, your eyes water when she cries (if you are nancy boy wimp, that is. I had dust in my eyes). You can feel the heat from her rage, and the strength in her resolve. Beresford knows how to pace a story, and speeds up and slows down naturally. She really makes storytelling seem effortless.

 

Corvin most certainly stepped out of his comfort zone to pen this amazing book, and he nails it like he was hanging a Picasso. This is an excellent addition to the world of Ludus, and really serves as a prequel to Jason and Henry arriving. If you have enjoyed Delvers you will love Nora Hazard. If you like strong independent female leads you will love Nora, if you are fan of action, adventure, magic, knife fights, sword fights, monsters, hidden dungeons, intelligent weapons, crazy priestesses, and Dolos Orbs then this is not something you will want to miss!!!

 

Final Score:  8 out of 10 stars


 

--------------------

 

Next up is . . . .

 

Temple of Sorrow Stonehaven League, Book 1

By: Carrie Summers

Narrated by: Annie Ellicott, Jeff Hays

Length: 8 hrs and 30 mins




 

Temple of Sorrows is a book made for readers new to Gamelit/Litrpg stories.  It has some crunch, but nothing someone coming in fresh couldn’t handle, and it gives you the “I’m going to build up my character blindly” MC.  She is basically an awesome gamer, until Devon, the MC, enters Relic Online. At which point she turns into a such a complete noob that she knocks herself out within five minutes of entering the game.  She then does just about everything wrong that she can, until she starts using her head and gets into the game. Once she has made her decision to actually help out the area she is in she begins to make semi-intelligent choices.  Which allows new readers to flow into the game world with her, and sink their teeth into something not so overwhelming. Hardcore readers of LITRPG may find this tale a little less spicy than they like. Although the book has some action scenes, there is no real major battle that takes place.  Even the confrontation with the book’s big bad had no teeth. It was not exciting nor action packed. It was more of a resolution created by one swift action. You might argue that the scene with the tainted animals might qualify as action packed, but I will disagree. I never got swept away in any of the fights.  I can compare it to going and actually watching gladiatorial battles in ancient Rome, and then coming back and watching professional wrestling. It was nice seeing Devon use her head, and out think some things, but the action was completely watered down and carried no weight. Storywise, this looks to be a lengthy series, as Devon has to acquire several objects in order to revive an ancient city.

 

The writing is actually really good, it is articulate, verbose, and descriptive.  It is not boring, and it is fun. There were some research issues that drove me crazy, things that someone not familiar with animals and insects might make, such as Summers wrote that when a snake was stunned it blinked.  Snakes don’t have eyelids, and so cannot blink. She also called spiders insects, they are arachnids, and I swear to you I was congratulating her in my head after those two slips for saying venomous snakes, and not calling them poisonous, when she referred to the spiders as spitting poison.  Little stuff like that stands out to me. I am not a grammar nazi, but if you are going to refer to something, know how to refer to it. Research takes minutes nowadays. Otherwise, the tale is pretty flawless, and is a fun listen. I only pointed out those details because they kicked me out of the story.  Like I say, the story is good, and the character of Devon is interesting. She’ll keep you reading.

 

The narration by Annie Ellicott and Jeff Hays is top notch as always.  The pair interact with one another effortlessly, and really add some depth to the story.  I will say that Annie really fills her voice with emotion that I don’t see in a lot of narrators, male or female.  Jeff, on the other hand has a toolbox filled with different voices that he uses to reflect Annie’s acting. I also really appreciate the production quality of this book, it had nary a hitch nor glitch soundwise.  Soundwise? Is that Pennywise’s evil narrating sibling? Either way, the narration really picks this book up and meshes with the direction that Summers is taking the story.

 

Final Score: 7.5 for lack of a pay off and no real big battle scene.

 

------------

 

Stuff and Nonsense Threadbare Series, Volume 1

By: Andrew Seiple

Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds

Series: Threadbare Series, Book 1

Length: 10 hrs and 40 mins

 

Pause

 

I’m sure that most of you have seen this book, after getting such high praise from Whoopi Goldberg.  That is NOT what brought me to this novel, I had my sights on it when I first heard it was coming out.  Honestly, I thought it was going to be similar to another book series called Teddy Bears in Monsterland: An Urban Fantasy Novel: Teddy Defenders, by Justin Sloan.  But it wasn’t. This is a fairly powerful stand on its own story, in which the main character, a golem who happens to be a Teddy Bear, goes from sentience to sapience.  This is book one of the series, and it was incredible, but I could have done without the Epilogue. Had it ended on the preceding chapter the book would have been near perfection.

The setting is strange, and it has the distinct feel of having been a world based off of a tabletop rpg, that somehow transitioned into a computer game.  There are little hints here and there as the characters all discuss how things suddenly changed overnight for no particular reasons they could fathom. Threadbare, the main character, is just as adorable and cuddly as you would expect, right up until he pops his claws and starts slashing foes.  For the majority of the book he runs on instinct, and it is a fascinating look into the mind of a creature that slowly becomes self-aware.

One thing that threw me was that this really plays out like a book a kid could read, and then suddenly the cursing and killing begins, and it throws you.  Granted, in a book that deals with bloody kills, some cursing shouldn’t stand out, but it does. Once you get into the book it kinda of becomes background noise and it doesn’t bother you, but it takes a little while for that to happen.  Otherwise the story is intense, and while it does vacillate between Threadbare and his human girl in POV, the story never slows down. It is a crunchy LITRPG book, too. You get stats, notices, etc. The book hits every box needed to make a fun and exciting story.

One thing that really sealed the deal for me was the narration by Tim Gerard Reynolds.  At first he comes across like Sebastian Cabot reading Winnie the Pooh. He has a very distinct, Mr. French way of speaking, and I half expected Threadbare to start thinking, Tut Tut, it looks like rain, but then he morphs his voice once other characters are introduced and he does a spectrum of male to female and human to inhuman that is distinct in each case, and is believable.  At no point did it feel like this was a guy doing voices. He was living the parts, and that only added to the fun. I think he played the cat better than anyone else, and everyone knows that cats are notoriously hard to play.

Like I say, the book is nearly flawless, but could have done without the Epilogue.  The writing, characterization, plot, drama, and willingness to kill characters coupled with the incredible narration make me give this book a final score of 8 and three quarter stars.  I really hope that Seiple can maintain the momentum that this book has got going for it. Give this book a big listen and enjoy a teddy bear picnic.


 

Final score:  8.75 Stars

 

---------------------



 

Supers: Ex Heroes

By: Jamie Hawke

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James, Laurie Catherine Winkel, Annie Ellicott, Jeff Hays

Length: 5 hrs and 47 mins

 

This book really feels like a Harmon Cooper or JA Cipriano story melded into William D. Arand’s Super Sales on Super Heroes.  That’s not bad, but it doesn’t have its own distinctive voice per se. The story itself is a Harem/Portal/Litrpg tale about a man framed for murder and is then abducted by aliens to be placed in their intergalactic jail for super criminals.  His problem is, he doesn’t have any powers, and he makes some pretty powerful enemies as soon as he arrives. The book then turns into a survival, level up, stop the big bad who is coming story. That bit isn’t bad, but the tale is really swamped by sex scenes.  Now, I get why the sex is important to the story, but the MC, Breaker, stops to have sex about every five minutes, even when he is on the clock and there is a timer counting down. Granted, there are times when the sex serves a purpose, but if you did a fade to black every time he had sex you would probably shave an hour and a half off of the run time of the book.  I’m no prude, and I am not offended by sex scenes, but sometimes the story should play out a bit more before the characters engage in coitus. Just as an example, in JA Cipriano’s the Pen is Mightier 2, the MC meets a girl in Vegas, and actually takes some time to get to know her before they finally do the deed. Here it was almost like a pizza guy making a delivery in a porno.  Ding dong, Hi gotcher pizza! Thanks, you want a slice? Wink Wink. And that is a real shame because Breaker, and his bevy of beautiful bouncy babes all are interesting characters, and have some pretty cool back stories that could be further expounded upon. Their powers are all fairly unique, or at least used in new ways, and the leveling worked enough for me to consider this to be Litrpg.

 

The real saving grace here is the audible antics provided by Soundbooth Theater.  The team is on point and packing heat for this one, and you can tell they were having fun with it.  The girls really know how to turn on the naughty, and JTJ manages to make you believe he is just a regular guy simultaneously having the best and worst day of his life.  Jiffy Jeff Hays gets to play the heavy, and he knows how to bring the menace and monstrous to a character. I know, I sound like a fanboy, but I know that when I have SBT as my auditory attackers that I will have been handed the best quality narration I could ask for.

 

Again, this could have been an amazing book, if Hawke had added some more story to make up for the overriding sex scenes.  Then they wouldn’t have felt so overwhelming or broken the storyline up so much. I really think that we needed a little more time in the prison, with some added danger, a few more minor characters, and a little more revelation about all the fighting going on.  We could have met a few more faction leaders, or some character that Breaker did not want to have sex with or get to have sex with.

 

Final Score: 6.5 for focusing more on sex than story or character development.  If this had been more fully fleshed out the score would have been much higher.




 

This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheater/

 

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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 004
 

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 004  - War Aeternus 2, Akillia's Reign, Difficulty: Legendary, The Glass Bard

 

You can read the full reviews and shownotes if you visit us at:  

 

War Aeternus 2: Sacrifices (20:13)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2v1HKwH

Akillia's Reign Puatera Online Series, Book 4 (08:08)

Score: 7.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2AAfu9J

Difficulty: Legendary (16:09)

Score: 4.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2KbFibp

The Glass Bard (23:31)

Score: 4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Aq7RCr


 

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”


 

War Aeternus 2: Sacrifices

By: Charles Dean

Narrated by: Jeff Hays, Annie Ellicott

Series: War Aeternus, Book 2

Length: 14 hrs and 13 mins


 

Its Miller Time!!!

 

Holy cow.  As much as I have enjoyed The Bathrobe Knight by Dean and Haygood, the Bearded Lord of Bacon and Booze has really created a brilliant series in which a regular Joe, Lee, finds out that he is related to a powerful god named Augustus, and that he has to participate in a competition between gods and their heralds known the Faith Game.

I loved book one, but honestly, book two completely amped up the story and made it so much better as it has progressed far more than I would have ever hoped.  Dean has seriously upped his game. I’m talking he went from playing old maid to strip poker. The writing is far improved, the story is far tighter, and the characters are so interesting.  I really cannot say just how much I enjoy the paladin of Justice, Miller, and Lee, the MC, as people. You really get to know a lot about them in this go around and the rest of the party. More importantly, Lee learns how to magic up some of the most delicious beer anyone has ever tasted.  

Lee and Augustus still have some issues in their relationship, although I begin to sense that the old shapeshifter has a lot more to him than he lets on.  Lee finds a gal pal back in the real world, and finds out that her family may be just the right fit for him even if they did try to kill him. This book really hits its stride with the arena battles, and Lee learning to adapt and improvise on his feet in order to survive.  The big bad for this book is another herald, and Lee has no idea of what he is getting himself and Augustus into when he decides to take him down; still this is all good fun. Or is it?

 

I’m not going to lie.  We do have some tragedy here that cannot be downplayed, nor would I want to.  It really lends some gravitas that book one was needing. It did choke me up, and made me feel for Lee in a way that I have not sympathized with a character in a looong time.  We also get to know about Miller’s own tragic backstory, and you will see just how deranged Dean can be to his best characters. The man is utterly merciless. I LOVE it. For me, the best scene came with the confrontation of the team with the psycho lady Firbolg.  She was, hands down the best fun psycho character I’ve heard in 10 years. She was written and played perfectly, like a master with a Stradivarius. Man, is Dean on fire with this story or what?

 

The narration here is proof that two people can make an entire world come alive.  Jeff Hays, the mystical master of the Vocal Arts, and Annie Ellicott combine their talents, powers, and skills into one amazing audible adventure.  Without a doubt, my favorite voice in this book is Hays’ Miller. If I hear him for more than 30 seconds I spend the rest of my day talking to everyone like him.  The fools think I am just doing an Ah-nold impression. Annie really pulls at your heartstrings in this book. This is twice now that she has almost made me cry, and I am no gurly man!  You cannot ask for better, and it was nice to see the pair of them handling things rather than the whole squad. This really felt like a narration rather than a production, and that is just what I am looking for.  

This book has some startling revelations, and simultaneously creates new mysteries.  Lee learns how to handle his magic, and yet realizes that he really doesn’t know enough yet.  He does a lot more than just creating golems now. So, we get some serious growth, development, and powering up in this book.  All signs point to book three being even bigger and better, and the way that Dean has been promoting the new character, Jade, I fully expect some joy joy feelings when book three hits.  All I know is that I’ll be around as long as Dean keeps pumping out quality material like this. Don’t miss the train, get on board before we leave the station.

 

Final Score 8.25 stars!  Keep bringing the Bacon, Oh bearded one!!

 

--------------

 

Akillia's Reign Puatera Online Series, Book 4

By: Dawn Chapman

Narrated by: Anneliese Rennie

Length: 9 hrs and 48 mins



 

Dawn Chapman is one of the first LITRPG authors I ever read.  She is among Blaise Corvin, Dakota Krout, and William D. Arand; which, in my eyes is some fantastic company to keep.  The first three books of Putera were really different than your standard LITRPG fare, in so far that it focused on an NPC, named Maddie who was just trying to get by and keep some people she held near and dear safe.

 

Then Dawn did something crazy.  First, she slips away from Maddie in her new book.  Then, she triples the length of this book compared to the first three Putera stories.  Finally, she ditches Andrea Parsneau in favor of a new narrator. Now, if you knew Mr. Ray, that’s me, you’d say Mr. Ray, out of respect, I know that leaving behind characters and narrators who have done beautiful work in the past behind in favor of some new characters and narrative perspectives is just plain craziness.  You just don’t do that. That’ll upset your stomach. And, I’m touched that you’d be so concerned for me and aware of my feelings, but I have to say this. I really like the longer book length. The first three Putera novels had a serial feel to them, and it worked. This is one cohesive uninterrupted tale. Secondly, in order to get this perspective, we needed a new character, and if you HAVE to replace Andrea, well, Anneliese Rennie is a good choice.  She gives the series a new voice, figuratively and literally, and I like Maddie belonging to Andrea.

 

The story itself is already centered in a familiar place, and so we flow into the story rather than being swept away.  Emma/Akilla the MC is a complete noobie, and she is one of those clichés in that she is special, but considering the populations size of the other players It isn’t so hard to swallow.  I have always appreciated that Chapman keeps the crunchy stuff to a minimum in her books, I think that spouting numbers would just break the flow that she achieves, and she plays this riff out with the constant pings that Akilla receives.  The really nice thing is that the world building is pretty much done at this point, and all she needs to do is tell an amazing story, which is exactly what she does. Chapman’s attention to detail is pretty legendary, and she never fails to make the detail interesting rather than verbose and boring.  The whole story is well written and full of adventure.

 

Anneliese Rennie is not Andrea P., but she manages to hold her own.  She does give each character their own distinctive voice. But there are a couple of audio nibblets or hiccups that I noticed, nothing major though.  I really liked her characterization as Akilla, and can see why Chapman opted to give the new spinoff series a distinctive voice. This is my first time listening to her, and I think I would be happy to hear her again in the future.

 

Final score: 7.5 because I did find the Tutorial a bit draggy, a few audible flubs, a weak love story, and for a bit of jealousy for not keeping up with Maddie’s story full on.  I look forward to more in this series, and know that book 5 is also available. I’ll be getting that soon!

 

----------------

 

Difficulty: Legendary

Gregg Horlock

Narrated by: Guy Williams

Length: 2 hrs and 57 mins



 

This was a tough book for me to review.  I keep trying to find a really good short Litrpg story, something that in under 5 hours to listen to and be amazed by, and so far I keep coming up short, no pun intended.  The issue that I have is that the story is pretty decent, but the narration is of such meh quality that it lowers the potential of the tale. The reading style is solidly mediocre and mostly monotone in melody.  The story is set in the future where you get entry into a game called REFUSE one time. You get to play as long as you can until you die, and then that is it, as Hudson would say it’s Game over man, game over. You don’t get to go back.  The MC, makes it inside the game for an hour before dying, because he is sent to a level 70+ area even though he is level 0. He protests the death, because he was not placed where he needed to be, but it all falls on deaf ears and he is doomed to enter military service.  Then, someone sends him a cheat and he reenters the game, with a chance to earn some much needed credits for his family. He then proceeds to doing every single thing wrong that he possibly can, and never learns from anything. He is a complete and utter noob.

 

That is the one part that makes this believable to me.  His family is really poor, and it takes credits to do everything in the society he is in, and just looking information up on the internet costs more money than he can afford, so he never really had a chance to learn about the world he is entering, or what options he had skill wise, magic wise, and so forth.  He goes into it blindly, and his trusting (or stupid nature) is evidenced by how he handles a woman on a bus in need of credit to get home. So, you can forgive him for doing altruistic things even though you know that they will never work out right for him.

 

As I said, William’s narration is unexciting, weak, and lacking any real impact to the story.  It’s kind of like someone in need of sleep trying to read you the business section of the newspaper that’s upside down.  It’s not going to get far. It’s not so bad that I wanted to plug up my ears, but this was a short book, and I didn’t have to listen all that long.  There is a follow up tale called Tinker, Tailor, Giant, Dwarf, which I have already purchased, so I may review it in the future. We’ll see, because that is a 7 plus hour adventure, and I don’t know if I can handle Williams that long.

 

Final Score: 4.5 could have been a real gem, but the narration was a major flaw.


 

---------------

 

The Glass Bard

Darryl DeCelle Riser

Narrated by: Scott Servheen

Length: 1 hr and 11 mins

 

This is a weird little short story that runs for just over an hour, but feels like it is twice that time.  The Story is about an MC who is a PC who wants to help an NPC while stuck in some MMORPG. Got that? Ok, lemme flesh that out for you.  The main character falls into a game tutorial, and meets Sai, an NPC. She is not only an NPC, but she is also the tutorial guide, and within minutes of meeting the titular Bard, she tells him just how many times she has been raped by one player, and sold into slavery by others.  She is surprised to learn that he, the MC, is self aware when he is also back at his desk clicking away on his keyboard (or at least that is supposed to be where he is at).

 

There are a few problems with this audiobook, and the run time isn’t one of them.  When I first saw this I thought well here’s a great opportunity to get a LITRPG short story, hopefully get a cool premise or world, or even see something great about a Bard.  Little known fact, bards (when done right) can be fun as hell. I refer you to read the bard in Quag Keep by Andre Norton. When done wrong they come across as a wannabe singer for a Carpenter cover band.  Here, I really never got to see the Bard do bard stuff. Ok, so he sings in order to speed along his journey, and he sings to a few people, but there is no real bard magic at play here. The most clever thing I saw was the use of the autosave.  The rest of the story is basically the bard being a complete gentleman to his slave companion and doing everything from sleeping in an uncomfortable chair for her to be willing to throw away his very life for a computer generated character. There is no real reason for this, he literally makes no connection with her to a point he should be willing to die, but hey, plot points!  Aside from some overwrought angst or unrealistic sympathy I could see no reason for such instant and automatic willingness to die for her. The only reason I could logically conceive of was that he had been the player that raped her 200 times, and had logged in under someone else’s profile. Otherwise he has no real connection to her.

 

The narration is rife with background static, and the narration by Servheen serves no one here.  This is mediocre work at best. Let me tell you. I can allow some mispronunciations, but there are certain words that I cannot let slide.  Given that I work with blood vessels all day long, and with this particular beast especially, I have to say that I could not believe that he pronounced carotid as carroted.  Yep, you don’t have a carotid artery, you, like Bugs Bunny, have a carrotted artery. Like I say, nothing horrible, but this is really the sign of a low level narrator. If you don’t know how to pronounce something, look it up!  His delivery is most likely responsible for the low score, because he doesn’t bring this story to life, but he sure as hell shoots it in the foot. Given the right voice work this story might not have been so bad.

 

Oh, and in case you are wondering, he is called a glass bard because he eventually realizes that he is just like a glass tank.  A character who packs a good punch, but shatters when hit. The only problem is, we never really see him actually pack a powerful punch to account for his tank accreditation.  Lack of real Bard action in a bard story, mediocre narration, and some audio issues leave me no choice but to go with 4 out of 10 stars. Clean it up audibly, change narrators, and this could have been much better.






 

This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheater/

 

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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 003
 

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 003 - Dodge Tank, Steele Alchemist, Gun Meister Online

 

You can read the full reviews and shownotes if you visit us at:  

 

Dodge Tank: Crystal Shards Online Series, Book 1 (00:16)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2KaQ2qO

Steele Alchemist A LitRPG Series (10:06)

Score: 4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2LLgrA5

Gun Meister Online: Adult and Uncensored (17:37)

Score: 7.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2LN9L4K


 

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

 

---------------

 

“Next is …”

 

Dodge Tank Crystal Shards Online Series, Book 1

Author: Rick Scott

Narrator(s):  Eric Michael Summerer

Audiobook Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins


 

This book needs a theme song. Given an existing one, I would pick the Cowboy Bebop theme as it is as frantic and frenetic as this book, and sounds great. Everything about this book is tinged with anime, just look at the cover, take away the title and you might think that was a Toonami program. Ryan could be about to throw down with Inuyasha or Naruto. The internal fighting feels the same way, and I am not saying this in a negative way. Anime either works really well, or it fizzles out spectacularly. This book works.

 

But it shouldn't. I don't do spoilers, but nothing I am going to say won't be revealed in less than five minutes into the book. This book lays on the old LITRPG tropes like it was making a sandwich. Ryan/Reese, the protagonist, lives in poverty and only his gaming keeps the family in food and shelter, but just barely. Trope #2 is the sick relative. Ryan's mother is dying of cancer. Trope #3, the player suffers from a physical ailment. Ryan has a gimpy leg, and this limits what he can do in both the real world and the virtual one. Trope #4 is the cute and supportive love interest. Ryan just so happens to work in the mines every day with a sexy mama, but he's too focused on bringing home the bread to cook some bacon. Trope #5, he has to win against the big boss to save his family. There are a few more, but you get the point. Yeah, Rick Scott almost made me put the book down, because I've seen all of these things a hundred times by this point.

 

The book also has a few other things that I hate going for it. The first being game currency doubling as real world currency. I see it all the time, and in every book that I read with that as plot device I think that the writer is out of touch. Yes, Bitcoins are real, and there are several other types of Cryptocurrency, but I will say this, no matter how much gold I ever earned in WOW it never translated into my bank accepting that as honest to God dough. I really wish it had, but no. No. The other flaw, and one I particularly loathe, and will not later forgive, is the super leveling that happens. Ryan literally levels roughly 100 times in a matter of days (if you count all the previous classes he had to take before getting to Ninja); and he does this mostly as a solo player. Now I totally get that this is a plot device to get him where he needs to be, but the game would be pretty boring if it took you no time to Max level. I get where he was going, but he could have done the same thing with lower levels. The part that really peeved me about this is that several characters explicitly say that they cannot and will not help him power level, and then he does it anyway.

 

So, I have just listed a boatload of issues I had with this book, and yet you look at the Stars above and think I am being inconsistent. Well, let me just say that while the tropes are the tropes you forgive each one a little at a time. Ryan is trying to become a dodge tank, that is a person who accrues aggro, but doesn't get hit. He has a few devastating attacks, but the ninja class is designed to gradually wear an opponent down. The book, for me at least, took off when Ryan fought Bathsheba the giant cat. Up until that point the wheels were spinning but had no traction. After that point the car had hit the ground running and was hauling arse like it was on fire. Each trope got resolved or managed to actually have a purpose that fit well into the story as things moved forward.

 

Best of all, the book derails the plans it laid out so carefully and takes you into new territory. Into a land that you were not expecting, but want to see more of. Now I will warn you that this book does, in fact, end on a MAJOR cliffhanger, so beware if you can't handle not knowing what comes next, and what is coming is like something out of the Matrix. I liked the concept and thought that even with the power leveling Ryan ends the book too weak for the place he is at, and that he needs to start leveling quickly.


 

Eric Michael Summerer does a really nice job on the narration. There were one or two word snafus, but nothing that was unforgiveable. I enjoyed listening to him, and anticipate his tackling the next book soon. Sound quality was good, and he played each character with emotion and presence.

 

While it took me a little while to get into this book it sank its claws into me, and has yet to let me go. I cannot wait to see what happens next. You won't either, so don't delay, become a dodge tank fan.

 

Final Score:  8.5 with points shaved for the power leveling, and the make you want more ending.


 

Final Score: Based on a scale of 1-10.  With 1 being horrible, 5 being average, and 10 being perfect.  

 

------------


 

“Next is…”

 

Steele Alchemist A LitRPG Series

Author:  Deck Davis

Narrator(s):  Kevin Gisi

Audiobook Length:  9 hrs and 33 mins

 

Last week I reviewed Deck Davis's book, the Arcane Survivalist, and now I find myself doing the same for his other book. I wish I had read this book first, because I wouldn't have struggled so much to listen to the next one. Arcane Survivalist really left a bad taste in my mouth, and if I hadn't gotten these two books together I would have stopped after Survivalist.

This book has a few more story issues than Survivalist, but the narration saves it. If I had to place a wager, I'd put money down that this was Davis' first novel. You can see him making the effort, and he does steer his way through the choppy waters, but he has some holes in his boat when he is done. If this is a first effort, it isn't bad. Not great, but not bad. I guess after reading Blademage Beastmaster, I have higher expectations.

The problems I have here, aside from the story fluctuations is that this also becomes one long giant penis joke. Not funny ones at that. Also, the MC, Steele, is rude. I mean if someone in need of my help spoke to me like that they would go away empty handed. No one would ever just walk up to someone and start acting that way. Not unless they wanted socked in the jaw.

I will say this, which is funny, I hated the title Blademage Beastmaster, but enjoyed the book. I loved the titles Arcane Survivlalist and Steele Alchemist, but did not enjoy them so much. Again, Davis can come up with some catchy titles. And my issues with these books may just be that they weren't polished, but were overwhelmed by potty humor and unlikeable characters. I'd like to think he is improving.

With Alchemist I will say that Gisi almost manages to save the story. There is emotion and tension, and this is read as if it came from a person rather than a tree as in Arcane Survivalist. He manages to make this book bearable. At no point did I pray for it to end like I did Survivalist, and I didn't switch out to another book just to keep my head on straight, and I credit that to Kevin, whose narration was like some aloe vera on a sun burn.

I won't say stay away from this book, it does have some redeeming qualities, and the narration takes it a long way. You might enjoy it, I just hope the bathroom humor gets erased or severely curtailed from here on out, because it really isn't funny.

 

Final Score 4 out of 10, only because the narration really elevated this piece.

 

-------------

 

“Next is…”

 

Gun Meister Online: Adult and Uncensored

Author: Noah Barnett

Narrator(s): Annie Ellicott, Justin Thomas James, Jeff Hays

Audiobook Length: 14 hrs and 13 mins

 

I have to admit to have been waiting to listen to this book since it first came out. I'd heard a ton of

positive things about it, and the premise seemed pretty cool. I was doubly excited that we got the Adult

and Uncensored version as well. I don't see a need to tone things down, and in the day and age when

Harem lit is popular and even MSE goes graphic I think it is fine to go grown up. After all, this is a book

about people playing a game in which headshots are a common thing. I still would have liked to have

heard the mature cut! I can't imagine what we are missing!!

Next, how can I not comment on the narration? Barnett was a wise man, and went through Soundbooth

Theater, and in this case got not one, but three narrators! Annie Ellicott, Justin Thomas James, and the

ever amazing Jeff Hays all work their butts off, and bring you some of the best vocal readings I have ever

heard! This book is like a reverse image of their usual work, as Hays generally reads the bulk of the story

and Ellicott backs him up with the female voices. Here, however, Annie gets her gun, and takes the lead.

Jeff does most of the male voices, and James locks and loads in as backup on one other voice. This is the

triple threat of narration right here. Jeff is far and away my favorite narrator. I never fail to mention

that, and Annie is coming up on my list as well. James does a great job, I just haven't heard enough of

him to really dole out the praise he assuredly deserves. Hopefuly he'll solo a book and I can tell you just

how incredible I know him to be. As it stands, the work he does is awesome. Anyhow, this combination

is like alternating mortar shells and napalm on your ears. They won't know what hit them. Annie really

pushes the story forward, and Jeff makes you believe he is the Meister we all want to be. I love hearing

this talanted troupe working together, it really brings more to the table than your standard fare.

 

Have I even mentioned Barnett's writing yet? Nope? Well, I should have. As a fledgling author this cat

has really got it together. He knows how to pace a plot, and build tension. He adds humor in where it is

needed ("I surrender"), and he doesn't hold back on the big story. There is a lot more going on here than

a guy rotating in and out of death duel gun matches. He is also pretty creative with his gaming system.

The players don't build up, but their weapons do. Their weapons are sentient, and require some love to

keep them happy and tied to their owners. This is a creative world, and a unique game. He really has the

ammo necessary to write a Gunventure like this. I like that it takes time for the protagonist to go from

being a doofus to being a leader of men. The ragtag group that he ends up with are all interesting

characters, and I found it humorous that out of all the people in the game there is at least one powder

loading dude keeping things real with the old timey gun. I could totally see my father carrying a flintlock

 

into the game, and using the tag of Hawkeye. The action scenes are not Michael Bay stupid, but more of

the Die Hard first and second movie type. The big fights are brutal and fun, all three of them, and I must

say that I was glad to have so much content. Anything over 7 or 8 hours of run time is a blessing.

You want to know the best way I can tell you to get this book and read it? The simple fact that I really

want a sequel ASAP. This book blows you off of your arse, and makes you peek around corners as you

listen. You will feel the bullets zip by, and feel the shrapnel of ricochet's spatter your face. You will fall in

love with Elva (sorry, audio book so not sure about the spelling), and wish you could just "holster" her

one time. This is a frantic and frenetic story that locks and loads you in and never lets you up. You will be

pinned down by cover fire, and have no chance of backup coming to save you. Only thing is, you won't

want rescued. You will want to join in the fun, and deal out your own grievous head wounds.

 

Final Score 7.5 for missing the target at the end needing about 2 hours trimmed off.


 

This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheater/

 

You can follow us on

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/litrpgpodcast/

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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 002
 

 

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 002 - Countdown Reality Benders, Bathrobe Knight 3, Cherry Blossom Girls 2

 

Countdown Reality Benders Series, Book 1 (00:09)

Score: 7.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Oa0f9T

The Bathrobe Knight: Volume 3 (10:15)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NB3WEw

Cherry Blossom Girls 2: A Superhero Harem Adventure (19:43)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2mz7QSZ


 

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

 

Countdown Reality Benders Series, Book 1

Author:  Michael Atamanov, Andrew Schmitt - translator

Narrator(s): Rudy Sanda

Audiobook Length:  12 hrs and 29 mins

 

When this book first hit the Eshelves on Amazon I got really stoked. It sounded like it was right up my alley, and was a punchy LITRPG book. So, I grabbed this as soon as I had the chance, and dove right in. There are some great things in this book, and some hiccups. The bumps thankfully don't leave bruises, but they are noticable. The writing is decent, but if I hadn't been told this was translated I'dve known in less than ten minutes. There are times when obviously wrong words are used in place of proper ones, such as the council anonymously decided rather than unanimously decided. This made it sound like Archie Bunker or Andy Sipowicz was narrating the story. Millennials, go look them up, I'm not explaining those references. On the whole it makes it look like the translator was of a mid-level skill. He got the job done, but took the wrong way while getting there. Also, I would have known this was a Russian written tale, even if the main characters didn't say they were Russian. The whole story has a similar vibe/feel to D. Rus' Alterworld. Seriously, they could be siblings. One thing that did bother me about the writing was the incessant references to the game itself. Every time the game is mentioned the people call it by its full name, The Game That Changes Reality (close enough), rather than shortening it to just the Game, or something else as normal people would do. No one talks like that.

 

Rudy Sanda does a fair job at the narration, I wasn't blown away by his work, and was disappointed that he was either too lazy to give the Russians Russian accents, or he could not DO a Russian accent and glossed over that part of the story. It was kind of like listening to a story about a man from India, but is read to speak bland American. It just took me out of the story every time someone spoke.

 

The story itself is actually pretty good, although it does wander off in a few places. Basically, It revolves on Nat, an uber awesome player that never listens to anyone or does what he is told, and always seem to manage to come out ahead, because everyone loves winners. The story is pretty simple. Aliens now own the Earth, and humans must play the Game that changes Reality or be destroyed. If they don't play it right or tick off their benevolent overlords tey'll be destroyed. If they lose to other gamers, they be destroyed. So there is obviously a lot riding on their success. Nat always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and always manages to do the right thing somehow when he needs to.

 

Some issues I took with the game. Your classes were pretty much limited by what you were familiar with, and so you could not pick anything you wanted. You had to play as a human, of course, and you pretty much had to start out building your tech from scratch. The funniest thing that I noticed was that the game itself posed no threat to Nat. The only time he was ever killed came from his team mates ganking him.

 

Still, in spite of the flaws the book was fun, and I will happily get the next book in the series. If you liked Alterworld then you will like this book. Don't miss out on awesome fun, and just do like I did and overlook the little flaws.



 

Final Score:  7.5 for a couple of slow points in the story, and sloppy translation.

---------------

 

“Next is …”

 

The Bathrobe Knight: Volume 3

Author: Charles Dean & Richard Haygood

Narrator(s):  Matthew Broadhead

Audiobook Length: 10 hrs and 34 mins


 

The Bearded Lord of Bacon and Booze has broken my expectations with his third installment of the Bathrobe Knight. This is a series that I started listening to with my family when BK I first hit audible, and we all became hooked. My mistake was that I did not wait for them when I started BK III, and my son caught me listening. He had a complete hissy fit that I betrayed him by not sharing the new book (we usually listen when we go on long trips, but we haven't had anywhere to go for some time, and I wanted to get this bad boy reviewed). So, I had to swear to him that I would relisten to the book when we go on our family trip in August. That says a lot about how devoted Dean's listeners can be, and the rabid fervor that his writing inspires.

In BK III we finally get to see Stephanie's plan, the truth about Darwin, and Charles's idea of what he expects Darwin to do. Cass falls into some hard times, Kitchens get upset that Big D might be looking up his precious flower's dress, and several members undergo some dramatic changes that you really do not see coming. Dean amps up this story, but he also lets it slow cook like a nice pig roast. There is a ton of action, and plenty of killing to go around, but he spools out the big picture stuff like you were a fish on a hook and he was just waiting for you to get tired before reeling you into his net.

My only concern is that this book seemed to be lacking one really big stick in your brain moment. For example, in BK I the spoon in the eye incident is something we all laugh about, BK II dealt with what happened with Caisson, the king. Yeah, there are some great battle scenes, and the council encounter might be equivalent, but it didn't feel so. Nor did the encounter between Charles and Darwin, which was cool, but not a stand out in your mind book, not like I have come to expect from a master wordsmith like Charles Dean. Did I like the book any less? No. I just really wanted a gut-busting or heart wrenching moment. Cass's big scene could have fit the bill if things had gone another way, but this was not a wash out. I just got a great book that stayed awesome across the board, that's all.

Broadhead carries this book on his broad shoulders, and as always, does a great job. He is always infusing a scene with emotion, and he plays each character with a different and distinctive voice. My youngest son doesn't think he does female voices very well, and made me swear to say that, but I have no issues with his rendition of the ladies; particularly Stephanie.

 

This book does not wrap things up, there is still plenty of story to tell, and it is clear that Darwin's journey is far from over, that Stephanie's plans are only just starting to come to fruition, and Cass is slowly becoming aware of everything that is happening around her. I truly anticipate the upcoming events, and trust that the Bacon Lord will keep us on a fun, exciting road as we find out humanity's fate. Just wish we didn’t have the cliffhanger at the end.

Final Score:  8 out of 10 points

Final Score: Based on a scale of 1-10.  With 1 being horrible, 5 being average, and 10 being perfect.  

-----------

 

Finally, we have:  

 

Cherry Blossom Girls 2: A Superhero Harem Adventure

Author:  Harmon Cooper

Narrator(s):  The cast of Soundbooth Theater including Justin Thomas James, Annie Ellicott, Laurie Catherine Winkel, & Jeff Hays

Audiobook Length:  9 hrs and 2 mins

 

All right super fans of the ink slinger known as the most Harmonious of Coopers, hunker down and prepare your ears for an aural feast that you know is super sweet! The outstanding wordsmith has penned another tale of our super sexy Cherry Blossom gals, and has set events in motion that might mean their end.

 

Gideon, Grace, and Veronique are out taking down bases, when Mother decides she's had enough and sends a new girl to trounce our tireless trio. The deadly Dorian Gray, whose saliva (and other bodily fluids) is not only corrosive, but can also form deadly energy animates with a wave of her brush is now hot on their tails. Can they stop her, evade her, beat her, or enslave her? Well, you gotta listen to find out!

 

Dorian is another cool character who can kick butt and chew bubble gum while painting the deadliest portrait since Van Gogh cut of his ear and made a selfie. She really fits into the mythos of the Mutants in the Making, and there may just be more to her than we first see. We finally learn how Veronique eats, and that both she and Grace (Sabine, if you prefer) have their abilities toned down a bit.

 

Just like the first book, Cooper hits the ground running, only he's wearing roller skates, and the ground is thin ice. You never know which way he is going to turn, and what you get and what you expect shall never meet. The fight scenes, as always, are exciting and amazing. The downtime with the girls is wet and steamy, and you get an idea of how Reed Richards feels when he is intimate with his wife, and she goes translucent. You will also realize that no matter how great your bathroom is, your showers will never compare to Gideon's. By the way, I loved the shout out to the Proxima gaming system. Now, if he could just sneak a cameo in of Momma Hughes I would be a happy happy fanboy.

 

The Man with three first names, Justin Thomas James really carries this book. I enjoyed him in book one, and in Gun Meister Online, but I think I have heard him enough to know that this dude can narrate. He carries the bulk of this book on his powerful shoulders, and I really look forward to him doing some work on his own, or at least taking lead in a few more books at the very least. The rest of Soundbooth theater acts as the supporting cast, with Master of the Vocal Art, Jeff Hays portraying the non-Gideon male characters, and Annie taking the roles of the CBG's, and Laurie W. tackling the role of Dorian. I can't say enough about how good the sound quality is, or the level of awesomeness these narrators instill in their characters, BUT this is really starting to turn into a radio play, and as much as I enjoy this, I really prefer one or two narrators in my audiobooks. Shoot, Jeff can play about 50 characters by himself without breaking a sweat, and Justin has the Ricola Pipes to crank out some stunning syllables himself. Annie and Laurie also have track records of impressiveness, and I think that rather than blurring the lines with all these voices, one male and one female narrator should suffice. But that is just me. I'll take whatever I can get from SBT, and happily ask for more.

 

I cannot wait for the next installment. Whatever happens next will be brilliant. Keep it up, Cooper!

 

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10

 

This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheater/

 

You can follow us on

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/litrpgpodcast/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LitRPGPodcast

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3-eBvpm-g7IkjfVktObGAA

Patreon:  https://www.patreon.com/geekbytespodcast

Our Webpage: www.litrpgpodcast.com  

 

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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 001
 

Stratus Online: Awakening A LitRPG Series, Book 1  (00:21)

Score: 7.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NT64IJ

Arcane Survivalist Apocalyptic Fantasy LitRPG   (07:28)

Score: 2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Lj5fdK

The Sleeping Dragon Guardians of the Flame, Book 1   (15:09)

Score: 9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NnZrx3


 

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

 

Stratus Online: Awakening A LitRPG Series, Book 1

Author:  Drew Cordell

Narrator(s): William Turbett

Audiobook Length:  8 hrs and 22 mins

 

Stratus Online is a good break-in novel for people new to LITRPG game novels. It has the traditional set up, entry into the game, a quest to complete, and the normal catastrophic consequences that appear once you are in game. It is perfect for the noobie reader because it is not overwhelming in game stats or games speech, and when gaming terminology is used it is quickly explained. Additionally, this is not a book in which the party just travels around leveling up by grinding. I think the highest level they reach by the end of the book is level five. No, there is a long-term goal that the team is trying to reach, and so there is not a lot of time spent grinding. Another reason I think this book is ideal for newer LIT readers is that the party is feeling their way into the game, they aren't given manuals to study before entering, nor is there a wiki they can run too whenever they have a question. The party learns as they go, and so does the reader.

 

There are a few small flaws, but nothing major. The first for me is that it takes a long time to actually go into the game. I'm not sure, but I think it was somewhere around the two hour mark before the team makes their way in to actually play. Granted, a lot of that which came before was set up, and it does show you that the MC is not an idiot as he does things in a logical manner, such as having a lawyer look over his work contract, but I have to say that a lot of that is something that another writer would have glossed over in about two paragraphs. Still, it helped you get to know the characters, and show you that they actually use their heads. The other thing was that the narrator,Turbett, constantly pronounce the word attribute as Ah-trib-ute. As in when someone might ask, "What do you attribute to the team's failure?" Instead, for gaming stats he should have said it as At-trib-bute. As in, "Strength is his greatest attribute." It really is a minor thing, but I have to point these things out if I am going to be honest.

 

The story itself really pops once you get into the game, and it was nice to not see the party hunting 35 rats to gain Exp. Points. It is more like a story with LIT elements than is is a LIT story laden with burdensome stats. The team itself is fun, and Edwin is a likable character. The story itself is filled with several twists and turns, and ends up having a Matrix feel towards the end. The end game revolves around the gaming gods fighting back evil Titans. They end up backing . . . .well, I won't spoil it for you, but no matter which side they pick they are going to be on the opposite side of some other gamers. One or two just happen to be out for their blood. As beginning books go the series looks to be a worthwhile investment, considering the flippy trippy twist that came at the end. I have to admit that I have not seen that one in a LITRPG setting before, so it was fun to get a new twist and turn right at the end. It does end on a cliffhanger of sorts, so if you don't want a book that feels like it could be one and done then forget it, because this series sets up a long game, and is not even partially competed when it ends. There are a lot of loose ends that are yet to be wrapped up. So expect a lot more to come, and if the series progresses like the first book did it will get better the further it goes along.

 

Turbett's narration, aside from the attribute issue, is great. He provides voices for each character, and really gives the evil PC a snotty haughty tone that just oozes disdain and malevolence for everyone around him. He certainly has some fun with the nonhuman voices, I've listened to him narrate a few other books, and he has never let me or a tale down yet.

 

If you are looking for a new LIT series, or are new to the genre, then this is an excellent place to start. Like I said, this is not a grind away for 10 chapters kind of book, it sticks to important things, although there are a few points that the stats are run through as you might expect. The book does take some time to build, but the ending has a good turn that will make you want to come back for the next book.

 

The final score is a good 7.5, good sound quality, and above average writing and narration.  I hope to see some improvement in the future.


 

Final Score: Based on a scale of 1-10.  With 1 being horrible, 5 being average, and 10 being perfect.  

 

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“Next is…”

 

Arcane Survivalist Apocalyptic Fantasy LitRPG

Author:  Deck Davis

Narrator(s):  JJ Jenness

Audiobook Length:  7 hrs and 34 mins

 

I have to admit one thing, Deck Davis knows how to craft a title. This one really called out to me. It sounded fierce and awesome. I had high hopes for this book, and I am sad to say that those hopes were dashed on the rocks of despair by the cliffs of insanity on the sea of drowned discouragement.

The book itself seems like it was written by a 12 year old who just found out that he can swear when his parents aren't around. The never ending d*ck jokes and @ss references put me right off. Seriously, I can enjoy swearing, in fact I love to do it myself, but this was not even cursing to be funny. See Richard Pryor and cursing to understand that swearing can be used judiciously and with humor. Not here. The protagonist names the mental assistant something that rhymes with duck face, but goes by the initials FF. I could not stand it after a while, and even though I had 55 minutes left, I listened to a 10 hour audio book in its stead just to cleanse my brain. Those last 55 minutes, and I did go back and listen to them were some of the longest in my life.

The plot is decent, otherworldly beings want to merge worlds, and implant their souls into human bodies. Red balls carry alien souls that will over ride human ones, and blue balls (ha ha) were sent in to give humans the ability to fight the invaders. The protagonist becomes a bloodmage, meaning he sacrifices his own blood to cast spells. I know this is supposed to be gamelit, but this book was about as crunchy as a bowl of mush. The MC kept "topping himself of with HP after a fight by draining his foes. There was never a moment where you felt as if he were in danger, there was no tension, and there was no life in this story. Oh, and for some reason Davis made the MC a con man. I think he felt that would make him more of a b-hole than normal. Funny thing is, he is not all that smart, and his con is about as smooth and original as burned pancakes. I just could not stomach the crappy humor or the MC's attitude at all.

Oh, and lord save me, I did not look to see that it was JJ Jeness who narrated. I listened to him before, and was underwhelmed by his capabilities. Had I seen his mane on this book I would have instapassed. The man can speak clearly, and properly pronounce and enunciate words, but his voice is weak and his reading is wooden. The only time he shows any signs of emotion or life is when he is reading as the monsters, and I think he just automatically makes them aggressive sounding instinctively. He drug this book down a lot. Had it had a different narrator it might have been a three star book, but this is audible, and hear your narrator makes or breaks you and JJJ shattered this book before it began.

This review has been a real struggle for me. I always try to focus on positive aspects, and make suggestions for the author to take into consideration if there were any problems. I can't do that here. Sorry. I hate being negative, but I really do not think you want to listen to this book. Maybe read it, but listen? Nope. Skip this and make another choice, cool title aside this book will kill your soul.


Final Score 2 out of 10, only because there is a story and it had a decent plotline.

 

-------------

 

“Last is Ray’s Retro Review where I highlight a slightly older LitRPG title that could use some love.”

 

The Sleeping Dragon Guardians of the Flame, Book 1

Author:  Joel Rosenberg

Narrator(s):  Keith Silverstein

Audiobook Length:  9 hrs and 2 mins

 

Ok kids, gather round the campfire.  I’m kind tell you an old story now, from way back before we even knew what LITRPG was.  You want to talk about groundbreaking? The Land? Ready Player One? They are the descendants of this book.  In fact, The Sleeping Dragon is the Grandfather to modern LITRPG books.

No, it wasn’t the first.  Arguably, that distinction most likely goes to Andre Norton who wrote Quag Keep after playing a gaming session with the father of Dungeons and Dragons, Gary Gygax.  She wrote about a group of role players who were drawn into the World of Greyhawk, with the best character being a bard who sang Billy Joel songs. Unfortunately, neither book one nor two of this series is on Audio, so by default I will be talking about the Sleeping Dragon; which is a far better story anyway.  

This book is so brilliant that it actually blazed a new genre that is really only taking a hold today. This is one of the books that literally cast the mold that Gamelit books operate out of today.  You have to understand that this book came out in 1983, just before the whole Dungeons and Dragons is turning your children into satanic slaves and warping them into cultists. It hit right at the popularity, and came outright about the time that the iconic D&D cartoon came out. Guardians is about some college students who get together to do some role-playing with a professor once a week. On the night we join them the Prof. has a new setting, and they've added a new player. The only problem is that they aren't playing a game, and the Prof. Isn't what he seems. They find themselves in the game world as their characters. They soon find out that they are playing for keeps with their lives, and need to find a way back home before they all end up dead.

The writing is slick, sharp, and dramatic.  The only flaws that I see is, that looking back with 2018 lens over my eyes the book can come across as a little chauvinistic.  One girl is a love interest for the MC, and another is the game “slut”, who has really suffered a lot of sexual abuse in her life, and ends up having more tossed on her once they hit the game world.  The realism is fantastic, characters die because they do stupid things, and the party, who only wants to go home, begins to suffer attrition as they move forward. The fight scenes are incredible, and the characterizations are so spot on they feel like real people.

 

This book really was ahead of its time. The writing is powerful, and the characters fully fleshed out. You empathize with them, and really feel like you know them. The plot the pacing, and the cast of characters feel organic. Not forced. Silverstein embodies the characters too. He drives home every blade swing, every burn, and every bite.  His portrayal of Karl, Walter, and the dwarf, Ahrmin are outstanding, and his female voices are intense and believable.

You will not want to miss this book, not if you love Gamelit or litrpg.  It sets off a fantastic series that goes for quite a while and only peters out after Karl’s son takes over, and unfortunately, Silverberg does die before he ends the series, but that is ok, and you know how things are going to work out.  Honestly, I suggest the first 5 books and then cutting free. You’ll have fun, and get a lot out of the series.

Final Score: 9 out of 10


 

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