LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 042-  I Am Gamer, Killdozer, One More Last Time, Hero of Thera, Assassin's Play-Off

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 042-  I Am Gamer, Killdozer, One More Last Time, Hero of Thera, Assassin's Play-Off

“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: ”

I Am Gamer (01:02)

Score: 7.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/30xIXcd 

Killdozer - Arbiter Core, Book 1 (12:43)

Score: 8.2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2lnwY1B 

One More Last Time   A LitRPG/GameLit Novel (The Good Guys, Book 1) (26:27)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2k1CoPC 

Hero of Thera (43:17)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2k0Sb17 

Ray’s Pick (56:15)

Assassin's Play-Off

https://amzn.to/2lz12rj 

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I Am Gamer

By: Gabriel Rathweg

Narrated by: Gabriel L Rathweg

Length: 8 hrs and 18 mins



Pause


Well, here is a book that satisfies several of my loves.  Such as Litrpg and Time travel. Good combos that you can’t go wrong with for good tale.  This is one of the rare books that I always say that is brilliant or insane, and it is where the author actually decided to narrate his own book.  Personally, I admire such courage, and I always hope that the writer does such a thing because they know their character so well that they know they can handle the nuanced emotions and vocal stresses that a narrator has to guess at.  So, that is where I’m going to start. With the narration. 


Gabriel asked me to be kind, but I’d rather be honest.  You can pretty much tell that this wasn’t made with high end audio booth technology.  I’m not sure what Gabriel used, but it doesn’t feel the same as a normal audio production.  I could be off, but that is how it sounds to me. Secondly, the story could have stood some slightly better editing.  Several times I heard things repeat. Now, I am going to be fair and say that I actually enjoyed hearing Rathweg doing the various voices and telling his story HIS way.  You don’t get that a lot, and I know it took a huge amount of time to produce this book the way he wanted it and I don’t hold his vocal prowess against him. I think he did a pretty decent job for a first timer.  I have heard professional narrators not handle characters this well, and completely flub a story, but I did get an honest chuckle with how Rathweg made certain to properly pronounce certain words. It almost felt like he’d heard someone say supposebly or En Signs and tried to side step those floor traps.  This certainly isn’t Netflix's Nailed It moment, and for a DIY novel it has legs. But, if I’m honest I’d suggest that he use a legit narrator in the future because I always say that a good narrator can elevate a story, and a pro could have sky rocketed this tale.


As for the writing I enjoyed the story, the MC was a cool dude and feels genuine.  Sometimes the dialogue was off a touch, but overall it was fun. I will never complain about time travel stories.  I have been addicted to time travel since I first watched the Time Tunnel as a kid and I think Gabriel handles the travel aspects pretty well for the most part.  There were some things I don’t think he should have been having to teach indigenous people, but hey, I can sus[end my disbelief and say that happened.


We get game mechanics that are familiar, which I appreciate.  I hate having to learn some complicated gaming styles that drain the fun right out of the story.  I will say that the MC starts out OP pretty quickly, but it is balanced by his opponents being OP as well.  I do get picky about overly strong characters, but just like in the good guy series by Ugland this proves that you can have an Overpowered hero/MC so long as there is a balance, and I get that here.  IN fact, I really don’t know if he is OP or just better than most normal humans. For me, the real standout is the way in which we get to see native American mythology employed. I don’t think I’ve ever read that in a Litrpg novel before.  The catch here is that the gods want to Little Big Horn the entire “Go West Young Man” movement before it ever catches on. This is to be a not how the west was lost, but how the west was closed for bidness. Cool concept, and it gets played pretty well.


Over all, I enjoyed the book, but there were a few hiccups that could have been skirted with some professional editing soundwise (sorry, can’t overlook that).  I like that the book has a sort of playlist to go with, and it was fun. Final score 7.8 stars. Could have benefitted from a more professional touch


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Killdozer

Arbiter Core, Book 1

By: Cory Gaffner

Narrated by: Eric Bryan Moore

Length: 7 hrs and 22 mins


Pause


So, gonna come clean here. I was a little devastated by this book and the direction it went.  I’m sure that most of you, when you hear the word Killdozer automatically think of when the one crazy guy welded armor onto his bulldozer and set off to perform acts of murder and mayhem, and only managed to get himself killed in the process and only doing some property damage.  Me? I am a horror junkie and as soon as I hear the word Killdozer I think of the old Clint Walker flick in which a bulldozer comes to life and starts greasing construction guys. Plus, you have to give it credit because it predated the ’77 horror flick the Car by three years, which went on to inspire Stephen King’s Christine.  Hell, Killdozer even inspired Marvel Comic book, an issue that I actually have! So, I was all set for some madcap killing by a boy and his dozer.


Which wasn’t what I got.


Instead, Killdozer plays out like the start of the rampage that Marvin John Heemeyer, ya gotta say the three names or it isn’t right, went on before he got killed.  The MC, Hank, is a fell who has been pushed past his breaking point by unscrupulous individuals out to break him for perceived past wrongs. We get to his initial assault on city hall when things take a severe turn.


Now, I have to say right off that even though I didn’t get the story I was hoping for or expecting that I still enjoyed the tale.  Hank is one hell of an awesome character that you can’t help but like. He is sort of like Ron Swanson on steroids, all man, with a take no crap from anybody attitude. He is the kinda guy that would say I didn’t start it, but I am sure as hell gonna finish it.  He carries the entire story on his huge shoulders, and to be honest it wouldn’t matter what he was doing, so long as he was the one doing it. I loved the guy. He’s hardcore, but not unfeeling. Tough but fair, and principled.


So the story diverges into a Green Lantern Corps or Nova Corps feeling, depending on whether you prefer DC or Marvel.  Either way he gets offered an opportunity to join an intergalactic police force, and decides to power up his awesome weapon the killdozer.


Again, this is really about when the lit stuff comes into play, and fair warning, the lit stuff is pretty light.  It feels a lot like sprinkles added into a cream filled donut with icing. Delicious and fun but not really necessary to the tale.  It would play out just as well without the lit action as without. That means that the story is pretty good, because that is how every lit book should be, it shouldn’t depend on stats and quests to make it great.  Again, the story is fun, the characters are interesting, and the story is involving.


Moore, a newcomer to the genre, does really well.  I actually have one of his earlier audiobooks, The Undead Pool, which is an obvious parody of a well known Marvel superhero and I loved him in that.  Also, he also narrates the Bulletproof Adventures of Damien Stockwell, which I have been considering getting because they looked fun. Here, Moore does a fantastic job and he plays both genders well, and manages to let you feel the frustration that Poor Hank is going through.  So, he keeps pace well, adds in emotion when and where it is needed and makes it all feel easy as he does so. This is someone that I would love to see hit the community with a big splash in the future.


Final score 8.2 stars.


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One More Last Time   A LitRPG/GameLit Novel (The Good Guys, Book 1)

By: Eric Ugland

Narrated by: Neil Hellegers

Length: 7 hrs and 43 mins


Pause


OK, so I went into this with low expectations.  Honestly, the covers aren’t the best things to pull you in, they kind of look quick, cheap, and hooky.  However, I do not let a crappy cover scare me off, nor do I let a good one sucker me into believing it is a great tale, but I will talk a bit more about covers in the show.


Anywho, I have to say that by the third chapter of this book I was utterly and completely enthralled.  I was immediately sucked in. I loved the character, the world, the premise. The book hit every mark it was supposed to with me.  First, and most importantly it got me into the game quickly. We didn’t go thirty five percent of the way in before hitting the game.  It happens fairly early on. As in pretty much right out of the gate. That is how I prefer my LIT books, or any book to be. Get to the action, give me the exciting incident so I can enjoy the story.  Ugland does just that. Secondly, the MC enters the game in a pretty cool and unique way. I especially liked how he could bring extra things in to the game for special perks. Third, we get to see that the MC isn’t perfect and does stupid things in spite of being smart.  Now, I had heard that the MC is really dumb and it takes away the believability, but what I saw were a few instances of him not thinking his way completely through a problem and just relying on his abilities to get him out of danger. That’s most people. The rest I chalk up to naivete and inexperience. SO that issue gets a hard pass from me, I liked the way the MC handled things.


It honestly made me feel like I was reading about myself going into a game.  I am a fairly intelligent person, but I do stupid things all the time, notably in social situations, and so I totally got the way the MC handled himself.  Also, while the MC comes off as being OP it certainly doesn’t feel that way. At least not to me. I think there are some perks that the MC, Montana, lucked into and exploits in a standard way.  The fact that he uses his OPness for some utterly cool events doesn’t hurt the readability of this book.


The best thing about this book, however, is that while it certainly is a sort of slice of life story it is a lot more.  This feels like a serialized TV show, like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, in which each episode is a nearly self contained tale, but actually leads right into the next book, and carries on the tale, going further into the over arching tale that is laid out.  Seriously, I am not a huge fan of slice of life, but this does not carry that tone at all. Each book picks up right where the last left off and there is no time gap. So, like I said, it carries the feel of a single episode in a larger more planned out story. This is totally one of those Netflix and chill type of audiobooks, where you just want to binge listen to the entire series in just one go.


Now, not all is kosher in Ugland, sorry Eric bad pun, I know.  I did have an issue in the first book where the stats and powers/character sheet was done over and over to a point it was like a well that Eric kept going to so as to boost a word count here and there, but as the series goes on it does peter out more and more until it becomes more manageable and less annoying.


Neil Hellegers keeps popping up in more and more Litrpg books lately, sometimes I am a fan, other times I think he just does ok.  This is a fella for whom the material matters. For example, he was perfect in the Great Filter until the last chapter and then didn’t fit so well.  Not his fault, Just the way it panned out, but here he just kills. He is meant to play Montana the barbarian, and he does it well. This match, his voice and this story, is a rare melding of narrator and author but more importantly, narrator and character.  It reminds me of how Jeff Hays and Quantum Hughes are made for one another.


8.5 stars I loved this book.


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SOUNDBOOTH SPOTLIGHT

Hero of Thera

By: Eric Nylund

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 11 hrs and 38 mins



Pause


This is one of those books that I don’t understand how I hadn’t gotten to it earlier, then I thank the gods that I just tumbled it, because book two only just recently came out.  If I didn’t have a back up to fall back upon I can see that I would have been extremely disappointed. I am really excited to have this as my soundbooth spotlight, just because this book stands out so very well.  


First of all, the book starts off like every other Litrpg novel you’ve ever read.  Guy gets into a life and death game working for a faction he has no desire too because he has no choice.  OK, so it isn’t exactly like every other lit book out there, but it does carry strong vibes of familiarity.  What the book does right is to differentiate itself early on so that it loses the “I’ve seen this before vibe” and accelerates into holy cow, where are we going.  


The premise is pretty simple, a dude who is framed for a terrorist action is approached by evil forces that offer him a chance to continue living(he’s scheduled for execution) so long as he plays for them.  Seems that the old so it is on earth shall it be in heaven because even though the cat is innocent of the charges his guilty verdict carries over and his soul is damned. So he runs a trial version of “the game”, which is the only thing that is keeping humanity and all the various universes from destroying each other in a bid for ultimate power.  It is right after the free trial version ends that things get really interesting. The story flies ahead at light speed introducing us to a great roster of characters, interesting scenarios, and a cool MC whose Soul Warrior is exactly what you want to be reading about if you grew up on chop socky films, like me. I think this is why wuxia and cultivation books appeal to me so much.


Hektor St Savage is a likable character most importantly. He doesn’t whine or bemoan his lot in life and he is only ever thinking of how to outwit his opponents or improve himself.  The only dark mark, in my opinion, is that it telegraphs what is going to happen at the end if you pay close attention to what is said and done, and really think about the circumstances around what happens to Hector.  That said, it really isn’t even all that big a deal, and I doubt that everyone will cotton on to what is going to occur. BTW, this complaint isn’t really even a consideration so much as an observation because as telegraphed as it was I still relished every second of the book, and wanted the next book as soon as I put this one down.


The narration here is handled completely by Jeff Hays, and for me it was a grand thing to be able to just sit back and listen to Jeff do his thing without farming out parts to other SBT players.  Again, I love it when the gang does a production together, but there is something about having a solitary narrator deliver you the tale, especially one as talented as Jeff Hays. He made every second of this book fun, exciting, humorous, and heartfelt.  I love solo Hays books.


Final score 8.3 stars.


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Ray’s Pick


Assassin's Play-Off

By: Warren Murphy, Richard Sapir

Narrated by: Gray Gleason

Length: 4 hrs and 53 mins


Pause


Hero of Thera made me nostalgic for one of my favorite series of all time, and that is Warren Murphy’s The Destroyer.  You may have seen the one film based off the series, Remo Williams, the Adventure begins with Fred Ward, or even the failed TV pilot that starred Roddy McDowell of Planet of the Apes and Fright Night fame, and while I love both of them they are to the Destroyer series what every other martial art is to Sinanju, pale comparisons.  Shadows made from the light.


For those of you who don’t know the book series is about a secret governmental organization that actually does its job, and takes out enemies of the united states, criminals, and all around bad guys.  Sometimes this is something simple like stopping a war, or fighting a vampire. You never know. The organization is called CURE and they have contracted the master of sinanju to train a recruit in the ways of the one true martial art.  Remo and Chuin, the master, eventually bond as master and student although they never really seem to get along. The books are fun, lighthearted, pulpy, and quickly completed. These are 70’s serial books that were put out every few months, which makes me think of authors and Amazon today.  Also, they do have a semi-lit feel to them as Remo is constantly leveling up his powers, but the truth of the matter this is the first Wuxia stuff back before there was Wuxia.


Assassin’s Play off completes a series of encounters between Remo and a former student, and actual nephew of Chuin.  Honestly, if you haven’t read any of the prior books you might be a little lost as most of the pairs powers and abilities aren’t showcased.  They are often alluded to, or seen in quick brief strikes, but overall you never really get to see them doing all the amazing things they do in practically every other novel.  A huge majority of the novels are on Kindle, but only a handful are on audible and I don’t know why.


If you do decide to check out this series, start at book three or four, the first few novels were where Murphy and Sapir were still finding their character’s way, and they didn’t know if it was going to just be a James Bond kung fu type adventure or something more, but book three and then four really cement the storyline and the adventure, as the movie tagline suggests, begins.


Now, some warnings.  These books were written in the 70’s and up and so carry a lot of overtones that some people might find offensive. For example, the term Oriental is consistently used in lieu of the word Asian, the books are pretty sexist and promote male superiority for the most part, but there are some severely kick ass female characters that show up from time to time.  If you can’t overlook that then skip it, but the story is just as worthy as you’d hope. It is complete pulp and nothing but fun and fights, cool martial arts actions, and father son relationship dynamics that are just hilarious.


Gray Gleason is absolutely amazing and there are some great sound effects and sadly, these are the only books that he has done.  He really should be doing more audio, and if I were an up and coming author I would have my eye on this dude. While Audible does not have a lot of Destroyer stuff, Graphic Audio does have quite a few CD format Destroyer tales to pick from, but they are all the older books, the ones after the 100th novel, yeah there are that many books out there because they are so sweet.


My only caution is that this isn’t the book to break in on the Destroyer, as it really doesn’t explain a lot and you don’t see the skill sets that they have like you should.  However, I do recommend the series on kindle or the new series they started called Forgotten Son. Either way, this is one of the most cherished series I have read, and like a say that if you are a Wuxia fan then this would be perfect for you.  Give it a look.  

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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.

For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 041 - Apocalypse Special

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 041 - Apocalypse Special

“Hello, and welcome to the Litrpg audiobook podcast, my name is Ray and today I’ll be reviewing some current and classic audiobooks for you.  As George Fisher once told me I have a face for radio, a voice for silent films, the mentality of a five year old, and a personality similar to lifebuoy soap.  I might be paraphrasing that a little bit but you get a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Today we are exploring the apocalypse!!!  So, welcome to the end of the world special.  I just hope we have enough time to get this finished before the end! I’ll begin with: ”


Life in the North: An Apocalyptic LitRPG

Score: 8.6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Y5pHlt


Gearing Up - Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 3

Score: 7.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2XvIkSw


Survivors: Dark Elf Chronicles, Book 2

Score: 8.6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2WVjCf4


Towers of Heaven: Book 1

Score: 7.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2XpOeVh


The Great Filter: A Post-Apocalyptic Gamelit Novel - Great Filter Series, Book 1

Score: 7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2WZL0bE


Viridian Gate Online: Doom Forge -The Viridian Gate Archives, Book 6

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2WYQzm2


Arcane Kingdom Online: The Chosen - LitRPG Adventure Series, Book 1

Score: 7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Ixa54X


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Life in the North: An Apocalyptic LitRPG

By: Tao Wong

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Series: The System Apocalypse, Book 1

Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins


Pause


This book makes me regret a lot of things.  First of all, I’m going to come clean and say that I have alluded to there being an author that I would not listen to due to their style of writing.  Tao Wong was that author. I’m sure some of you probably thought it was another writer for completely different reasons. I think that, in my case, it is the narrator that made the difference.  The first book that I read of Tao’s was a first person present tense book, and the narrator did not bring it to life. Not like he should have, not like Pohdel does here. Seriously. The first book was like having Mozart played by first graders, while this was like having Beyonce produced by Mozart.  Complete difference.

So, since the narration was such a factor for me I’m going to talk about Pohdel first.  He brings this story to life. He is animated, emotional, and builds suspense and a sense of danger like nobody’s business.  I often list Pohdel among some of the best narrators out there, because I recognize the talent, but for me he’s always been the low guy out of the big 5.  Good, but not a heavy weight like Daniels, Parsenau, or Hays. There’s never been a book of his that I didn’t enjoy, but I don’t know he really seems to go crazy here and just adds so much that it really made me fall in love with the word and the characters.  More importantly, it made me recognize just how good Wong is

Wong starts the book the right way.  He goes for the jugular, and he has no mercy.  He gets right to the Apocalypse, making earth a sort of alien gaming get away as a dungeon world.  John, the MC wakes up in one of the highest rated danger zones he can find himself in, and because of it gets a lot of perks, but is also imperiled beyond belief.  He slowly makes his way back home and pulls off some feats due to his quick thinking so that by the time he makes it back to civilization he’s earned a pretty number of titles and a rep even though he isn’t as powerful as he could be.

That is the book in a nutshell.  Interesting MC, fantastic world building, great gaming sections as he builds his stats, levels, and gains a class.  The book will feel familiar and yet be amazingly new to you as you read this. I loved every second that I was listening to this book.  I don’t think there was a slow section in it and I was completely engaged the entire time.

I love apocalypses, hell I’m writing an apocalypse book, and I wish that I had time to crank out a few thousand words to submit to Wong’s call for short stories for a possible anthology in this series.  Deadline is end of June, so get cracking guys because I think this is an amazing opportunity. I have such a cool story in my head for it too, but no time means no time.

Either way, the story is simply amazing, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.  I’ll be honest again. The only reason I got this book was because I wanted to do an Apocalypse show and I completely regret not getting this so much sooner.  I was a complete idiot. The book is intense, tender, full of action, plotting, politics, monsters, mutants, mayhem, and more. I could not ask for more from this book, and I extend a deep apology to Tao Wong for taking so long to get to his material and acknowledging how good it is.

Final score 8.6 stars

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Gearing Up

Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 3

By: Daniel Schinhofen

Narrated by: Tess Irondale

Series: Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut Series, Book 3

Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins


OK Cats and kiddies, confession time.  I have to think that I’ve been a little hard on poor Daniel Schinhofen.  This series was one of the earlier books that I’d reviewed and I’d just gotten into the pool, so to speak,  and I had no life guard to pull me out of the deep water. Now, I have enjoyed his Apoc novels so far, but my biggest complaints were that it was more of a slice of life book, which I really hated at the time, and the fact that he kinda switched gears on the gameplay.  Now I can say that my mind has sort of drifted into new territory regarding Slice of life stuff, and I am trying really hard to adjust to the gameplay adjustments.

This book is being judged on its own merits.  Now I do have a disclaimer, the narrator for this series, Andrea Parsenau, voluntarily left due to some of the more graphic content that occurs in the book.  That is fine, there was no rift, and Daniel didn’t give her the boot. He has the right to pen whatever he likes, and Andrea also has the right to avoid things that she feels aren’t in her wheelhouse.  So, as much as I hate it when a series switches narrators I am not going to penalize this book at all since this is a no fault separation. Not a divorce, but the two could not continue on together. So on that note let me talk about Tess IRONDALE.

Tess does a good job stepping into Andrea’s ruby slippers.  Honestly, I think she keeps the tone of the first two books and does her best to give the book her own style while keeping to the original feel.  It’s a tough job, and a real balancing act that I think few people could pull off but she comes out swinging and looks to be batting about .400.

Now, as for the story this is one of those books that I could have put in my naughty episode.  It is chalk full of sex, and has some BDSM bits and pieces and so before I go any further I have to say that my safe word is MOIST.  Got it?

Ok.  Again there are changes to the game system, with the addition of runes which allow upgrades.  The story itself doesn't really do much progression story wise but we get to learn about why Alvin got the gig, have some other players pop up like daisies out of the snow, and we get to see more of the elves.  The elves sort of lead in to a disturbing section with certain concepts that I don’t want to mention here out of respect because I know no matter how I word the subject matter it will make some people angry but it has to do with binding.

My biggest beef, heh, I should have saved that for the upcoming naughty show is that I came into the book accepting that the plotline wasn’t going to go very far since the first two books were slice of life, but what I hadn’t expected was just how much the book was swallowed up by the incessant sex.  Again, I’m no prude but for people who are surviving an apocalypse and death lurks around every corner it seems like they are pounding one another more than they are fighting abominations, other players, or npcs.

Don’t get me wrong, the action is great, and the best thing about the series is Alvin and Gothy’s relationship, but Alvin has to be taking intravenous shots of Viagra, and Gothy has to be sorer than Nancy Kerrigan when she got laid out by that guy’s huge pipe (MOIST).  

Overall the book is well written, has great characterizations, and has a cool concept, but I think it seems to be tranisitioning from a hardcore action/adventure book into a cinemax sci-fi film.  That’s fine, because the writing is top notch, but I would like some sort of warning or notification if it is going to go that direction.


Final Score: 7.8 stars.  Tess does a great job, and Gothy is the greatest, but I just felt like the story took a backseat to the sex, which is ironic because that is where most sex happens.

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Survivors: Dark Elf Chronicles, Book 2

By: Dave Willmarth

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

Length: 12 hrs and 43 mins


Pause


Do the Rock Spider song


Whelp, I have been waiting for this book for some time and I was not disappointed.  Willmarth is an intense and yet, introspective writer. He cooks up some amazing stuff, but still makes you ponder things long after you’ve finished the story.  There is a character I believe named Evan, and his personality and portrayal make you wish horrible things upon him, even though he does nothing really wrong 90% of the time he shows up.  It is just the way that he acts and the little things he does, and you have to ask does my anger and frustration for this man come from somewhere else? Because being a dick doesn’t justify wanting to see someone die.  Then, when things happen you have to wonder if what occurred happened because he was a d-bag or because of the way he was treated/or perceived himself being treated? Lotsa thinky stuff there. So, yeah, we do get a few more new characters, and Damn Willmarth hit me with a Where the Red Fern grows/ Old Yeller moment that makes me wanna give him a swift kick somewhere south of the border.  There are reasons I don’t watch movies like that.

Anyhow, we pick up with Mace and his lady trying to make the best of a bad situation, and actually doing pretty well.  They locate another survivor, and then it steam rolls into more people being out there than they realized, even though they  don’t get into face to face contact with many of them.

I will reiterate that I don’t know which parts of the book I like more, the real world exploits or the in game adventures.  It is impossible to call, generally most litrpg books provide you with a cursory glance at what is devastating the outside world and then once they get in game it never comes up again.  Not DM, nope he constructs a real world counterpart to the game that is terrifying and keeps your attention when you should be wanting in the game. It is litrpg after all. All I know is that when I was in the “real world” I looked forward to the game, and when we were in the game I wanted to know what was happening IRL.  It was a vicious cycle that was unrelenting.

For me, the most compelling and emotionally charged bits came during the part that I cannot speak of. (Please put up the red fern book cover here)  I really don’t want to spoil anything, so if you don’t recognize my references don’t look them up until after you’ve listened to the book. DM also gives out a few nods to Daniel Schinhofen and MountainDale’s Master Krout.  I always appreciate shout outs in books. Narrators never get mentioned, though, so all you writers out there keep that in mind next time you set to writing. Even I mentioned Anniliese Rennie and Andrea Parsenau in a short story I did in an anthology that is out, cause narrators are the bomb.

Speaking of narrators, SBT’s Bonnie and Clyde, Justin Thomas James, the man with three first names, and Laurie Catherine Winkle’s performances just kill ya.  There is some sincerely heartbreaking events that occur and you can just feel the emotion pouring out of them. One thing I would like to see would just be an uncredited walk through by one of the other SBT narrators from time to time.  Like Jeff hays just pops in to give out a blood curdling scream as someone is killed, or Annie makes some sort of monster noises. It would be like Brad Pitt showing up for three seconds in Deadpool 2. Unexpected and Awesome. These two work well together and play well off one another.  It is a treat to get to listen to them.


Final score 8.6


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Towers of Heaven: Book 1

By: Cameron Milan

Narrated by: Steve Campbell

Series: Towers of Heaven, Book 1

Length: 7 hrs and 37 mins


Pause


I have been with Cameron Milan since he first released his Desire series.  My biggest problem with him has always been that every protagonist that he has is either instantly OP or rapidly becomes OP.  Hell, the bad guy in Desire 2 was so OP that everytime he was beaten he popped up another power that meant that he was even more indestructible than before.  The pattern has repeated itself over and over again, and while I do think his writing has improved since his Zombie Apocalypse novel and the Adventure Island book he had continued with the overpowered characers.  Some people love OP MC’s and USMC’s for that matter, but I don’t find them all that fun or exciting. I need to see the struggle, that was why I think I fell asleep on the Captain Marvel Movie. Danvers was never in trouble and was always stronger or a better fighter than whomever she faced.

So, Milan puts out a book in which all but one human is destroyed and he ties to resurrect the humans killed in the Towerocalpse.  Backtracking. Six mysterious towers appear in various countries around the world and while separated spatially they are all connected via upper floors.  Lower floors are “in country” and the upper floors of each tower are all the same place. By defeating the final boss of the last floor a hero is granted a wish, and he tries to bring back the human race, but for plot reasons it can’t be done.  So, the MC is sent back in time in the hopes of averting the disasters that struck before.

Now, the funny thing is that while I KNOW other people found the MC to be overpowered I didn’t.  Not for a Milan book. I actually found Jason the cockroach to be somewhat less juiced than I was expecting.  Granted he is strong, but compared to other Milan MC’s not so much. In fact, a lot of his success comes from his knowledge of how to beat monsters he’s already fought and his fighting skills that he honed over years of practice.  As he goes on he does get stronger, but not in an exponential way like I thought he would. To me he was pretty toned down, and that was nice. That isn’t to say that the book is perfect. The book does have flaws, but nothing I couldn’t overlook.  There were a few sections that I felt dragged a bit, like when the MC became a golem but they weren’t bad bits of writing. I have to say this is probably the best book Milan has written. I just hope that he actually continues the series because he does have a tendency to just jump from one book to another with no follow-up, Desire being the exception.  Another issue, I understand why Jason takes Roy under his wing, but it suddenly goes from I have to become ultra-powerful to I have to train Roy. All we needed was a montage scene.

To be clear, this isn’t the second coming in book form, but I was impressed by Milan’s growth and advancement.  I enjoyed the book and felt that it had decent fight scenes and several characters that kept my interest. One thing that threw me off was how so many levels were easily skipped or provided no danger to the characters.  There is enough leveling and class building to qualify this as Litrpg.


Steve Campbell has really slipped into the role as Milan’s narrator, and I think that is a good thing.  I like Campbell’s style and voice, and he really does elevate the story. It is very clear that he shares Milan’s vison, as the pair mesh very well.  I look forward to more from him in the future.


Final score 7.9 stars.


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The Great Filter: A Post-Apocalyptic Gamelit Novel

Great Filter Series, Book 1

By: Russell Wilbinski

Narrated by: Neil Hellegers

Length: 8 hrs and 15 mins


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Here is a book that I simultaneously enjoyed and got really pissed at at the same time.  I have very few rules when it comes to things like enjoying a book. For example if a book is good, it is good regardless as to whether it is a write to market novel or not.  This isn’t a write to market book, BTW. I just wanted to point out that if a story is good I let it stand. However, there are only one or two things that you can do in a story that will earn my enmity, and Wilbinski pulls off one of the big ones.  All I’m going to say is that the book should have a shift from one POV to another, and doesn’t and it is a major cheat. I completely felt ripped off and my trust was shattered. There are unreliable narrators, and then there is what happens in this book.  The book should have gone from Third person to first or First person to third at some point and by failing to do so scorches some serious earth with me. I’m telling you right up front I took a full point off for the Shenanigans that occurred.

Other than that I actually felt that the story had some real merit and did some things I hadn’t seen before.  In this tale you come to find out that all of humanity and our world is nothing more than a digital construct that was used to run simulations on our worthiness.  Turns out we really suck, but rather than just pulling the plug on the sim the Devs decide to run humans through an new kind of wringer just to see what we are made of.  Thus, the world ends and zombies, mutants, and other terrors are added in making the lives of the survivors even harder. In fact they world restarts about 100 years after a nuclear war has wiped out most people, and the ones who do survive now must struggle to stay safe.

The game mechanics work pretty well and the story is fairly fun and interesting.  The story has nice humorous parts, has well developed characters, and deals out action like we were in a Jason Statham vs Arnold Swartzenegger flick.  The MC is engaging and interesting. Best of all the characters are for the most part, intelligent, and feel logical and real. You never think to yourself that they should have done something in a different way.

The narration by Hellegers works right up to the last chapter, and then, for no fault of his own, doesn’t fit.  We have a different character give their interpretation of what happens at the end of the book, and his voice and tone don’t really match up.  His voice, for example, is great for a grizzled veteran who has smoked a pack a day, or someone who drinks a lot. In other words it is deep, and a little dangerous sounding; so having say a 10 year old girl tell you her side of things (just an example, not what happens in the book) would not fit.  Clearly it would be a little jarring and feel very disjointed from the prior parts of the story. That is what happens here.

It makes me sad, because this really should be an 8 star book.  It hits all the checkmarks of what a good story needs, but the flip at the end was a bad call, and completely unfair.  Think of it like this, if the story is being told by someone then that someone should be able to tell the tale. I always think of the original Alien film.  In it Sigourney Weaver was supposed to narrate over what happens, and in the end you pan over to find her dead and the Alien telling you what occurred in her voice.  That is a total scam, and if they’d done that then we would not have thirty seven alien movies out today, and after seeing Alien 3 I kinda wish that’d been the case. Eh, part 2 really overrides anything 3 did.  So, you get the idea? A rug gets pulled, and you are standing on it. Not fun.


Final Score 7 stars.


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Viridian Gate Online: Doom Forge

The Viridian Gate Archives, Book 6

By: James Hunter

Narrated by: Armen Taylor

Series: The Viridian Gate Archives, Book 6

Length: 14 hrs and 8 mins



I can say without bias that this is unquestionably the best VGO novel to date.  It packs in a hell of a lot of material and continues to advance the story at the same time.  That is a problem with a lot of series. In order to keep a set of books alive the series treads lot of water and goes no where fast, and the whole point to a series is to complete on large overarching storyline that can’t be done in one or three books.  As much as it pains me I am going to use my least favorite series to illustrate this point. Harry Potter does it the right way, to be sure there are plot holes the size of buses, and some really weak transitions, but the over all story is told and we did not need the epilogue.  Hunter keeps things on course, and wisely does keep Ozmark out of the way in this novel. Lex Luthor does not need to be in every Superman comic, nor does Ozmark belong in each VGO iteration.

Now there was one thing that did repeat, and that was the use of the Death’s head quest again.  That is something that should have been a one time deal, or for use by one of the characters in the sidequest novels.  This was the only point that we seemed to revisit something that occurred in the not so distant past. I liked it the first time, but this time it didn’t carry the same impact and was less shocking.  I just wish another plot device had been used. A death’s head quest should be all but impossible and to survive one should display not only incredible skill, but also a lot of luck. Completing two is pushing the boundries a wee bit and takes away from the first achievement.

Other than that this book was really refreshing.  I don’t know what to gush about; the new gear, the new races, the amazing ability that Jack gets . . .as you can see there is a metric crapload of amazingness in this book.  If the first book didn’t set the bar so high I would say that hands down this is the best book in the series. It resounds with some crunch to keep the gamers happy and is still smooth and flows like a river for the fantasy fiends.

This series is one of the reasons that I read Litrpg, it sucked me in and pulled me under, and this book is a riptide.  I didn’t come up for air once I started it, no, no, I couldn’t come up for air. I am digging Cutters poofing out of thin air ability, and seeing the others growing in power too, but I was happy that jack was the main focus of the book.  Hunter could craft a solo Jack book and keep us glued to the pages.

Armen Taylor is, as always just amazing.  He is the voice of VGO and the first person that I think of after Hunter.  While James crafts one hell of a story it is Armen who steals the show. I almost feel bad for James because Taylor gets to live out the characters and give us HIS interpretation.


Score: 8.5


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Arcane Kingdom Online: The Chosen

LitRPG Adventure Series, Book 1

By: Jakob Tanner

Narrated by: Ryan Burke

Series: Arcane Kingdom Online Series, Book 1

Length: 6 hrs and 7 mins



Pause


Next up is Arcane Kingdom which has the world ending via the zero virus.  The MC, comes down with the illness and has but days to live. Fortunately for him his brother is a bigshot with conections that will allow him to be downloaded into the game.  To be honest, this is nothing I haven’t heard of or seen a dozen times over.

On the upside, the writing is actually well done and is solid work.  I think that Tanner has some chops, but it feels like he’s hitting the audience with a kung fu chop like Hong kong phooey.  The book is all right, but that is all that it is. It lacks a wow factor, but it does go all out at the end. Some real promise does pop up at the end of everything, and shows some promise for the next book.

The real low point here is the narration.  For some reason, the narrator Burke, does not know how to use the gaming terms like HUD was pronounced H-U-D.  He clearly had no idea of what he was talking about. It was both upsetting and distracting. Burke lost me a few times and it threw me out of the story.

The story itself centers on a 0 virus that is killing humanity.  The MC contracts it, and goes into a gameworld in which there are a ton of glitches.  He also is not guaranteed to exist until he is completely downloaded and not everyone makes it in.  There are a few too many times they go to the character sheet well. It seemed like it was done in order to fill in a word count.  A positive is that there is some gore and horror elements, so if you like darker stuff this will work for you.

Now, this does qualify as an apocalypse book, but I don’t want to give too much away.  So just take my word for it. I know this is short, the book has some problems, but it isn’t bad.  I will listen to the next book when it hits audible, I want to see what comes next.

Final score 7 stars.  


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 040 -   Nora Hazard 2, The Merchant of Tiqpa 2, Soda Pop Soldier, The Curse of Hurlig Ridge, Unbound Deathlord 2

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 040 -   Nora Hazard 2, The Merchant of Tiqpa 2, Soda Pop Soldier, The Curse of Hurlig Ridge, Unbound Deathlord 2


“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: ”

Competitive Advantage - Nora Hazard Series, Book 2 (08:52)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2F40fp8


The Merchant of Tiqpa 2 - The Bathrobe Knight, Book 5 (23:01)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2F3nobs


Soda Pop Soldier (35:18)

Score: 7.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2F3nPCC


The Curse of Hurlig Ridge: 1st Dive World Tree Online, Book 1 (50:12)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2F3Cldx


Obliteration - Unbound Deathlord, Book 2 (01:05:18)

Score: 8.1 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2WwXgv8


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Competitive Advantage

Nora Hazard Series, Book 2

By: Blaise Corvin

Narrated by: Emily Beresford

Series: Nora Hazard, Book 2

Length: 7 hrs and 45 mins


Pause


I have been wanting to get to this book for a while, but for some reason I did Asgard Awakening first and then never was able to get back to it.  So, my deepest apologies to Blaise Corvin for taking so long, I was trying to be fair, but then I look at some people that output a lot of books and I do get to them quickly.  So again. Apologies. Anyway, this is the second novel in the Nora Hazard series, and if you know Corvin you know he says he doesn’t write fast, but he is well worth the wait.  Ludus is an amazing place to visit, even if it doesn’t star Jason and Henry, and he proves this with Nora.


Speaking of Whom, I have to say that Nora is actually one of the better built characters that you will find.  I don’t mean she’s built like a brick house, but rather her character is believably defined and grows in a sensible manner.  For example, Nora lived on the streets and so had a mindset that dealt with her surviving from one moment to the next. This instinct has both benefitted her and been a drawback as she developed.  For example, it made her a great fighter who wasn’t worried about what was going to happen AFTER the fight, but rather what was going to happen DURING the fight. The drawback was the same thing. I don’t believe that she really thought all that far ahead in book one.  She was basically stuck in the moment, mourning her friend for most of the book and struggling to survive one encounter after another.

In this book we see her shed this mentality.  Partially because of her powers, but also because of the way her powers have allowed her to change.  She has what one might call photographic reflexes, if you are a Marvel fan, in which you can learn to do something just by watching someone else do it.  So kung fu, archery, gymnastics, even drawing are within her perview. This makes her much more dangerous than just another sword hand.


Secondly, she has hypervigilance, which allows her to speed up her consciousness so that things appear far slower than they are, which is another boon when in battle.  So, her powers develop along with her character. She no longer feels like a street rat who got lucky, but rather someone who is about to grasp her destiny by the shorthairs and pull it along in the direction she wants it to go.  I honestly don’t know if PewPew is a nod to Willmarth or not, but it is awesome nonetheless. Finally, Nora says some very powerful and poignant last words, not as in I’m dying last words, but as in the last thing she says, at the end.


The book has amazing pacing, believable dialogue, great action scenes, and some downright auspicious world building that really helps to flesh out the world of Ludus and its inhabitants.  Corvin was one of my gateway LITRPG drugs. He’s a total red pill if ever there was one, because the once you’ve swallowed the little red bugger you find yourself in a world that you won’t want to leave.  Five Delvers books are simply not enough. One more Nora to go? Only reason I want this trilogy completed is so that we can get back to the gang at Delvers, but I would be happy to get more Nora in the future.  If you are getting this book I have to ask why? You are only hurting yourself.


As for the narration portion I have to say that Emily Beresford nails it.  She is a total pro, and really gave life to the novel. I have to say that I find her voice were pleasant and soothing to listen to, but she knows how to elevate a menacing moment or interject actual danger into an action scene.  She can get plain mean when she needs to or as menacing as a rabid vampire bat is to a naked man in room full of razor blades. She’s versatile.


My final score is 8.4 stars.  This is a great book that is really building to something special, and I don’t really see anything wrong here.  Side characters like Jessica were fun and the direction of the tale is on course for epic level story telling. Go get it now.


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The Merchant of Tiqpa 2

The Bathrobe Knight, Book 5

By: Charles Dean

Narrated by: Matthew Broadhead

Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins


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All right, yet again I get to lament the end of this series.  You may recall that in my review of the Bathrobe Knight 3 I sort of got all maudlin at the end and bemoaned that no more audiobooks were coming out in this series.  A series that both I, and my family love. We listen to the BK series on roadtrips, and for my kids it is always a fight. They either want to listen to Larry Corriea’s Tom Stranger or Charles Dean’s Knight series.  Thankfully, Dean has more BK novels, and so that is what we often listen to. This one was sad for all of us, since it really is the end. The Bearded one has confirmed that the series ends here. That doesn’t mean that I won’t keep begging him to just maybe write 500 words a day on a book that will tie up both Lock’s and Darwin’s stories.  Do you hear me Charles? For just 500 words a day you can feed the starving ears of my family, and the families and fan’s of millions of other litrpg readers who need more. BK is one of the earliest LITRPG books out there. It seems a shame to just let it fade away. Sniffle sniffle.

Begging aside I really am sorry to see this series end.  It has been one hell of a ride, and anyone who can flip Shakepeare on his ear and slip him into a gameworld is a master.  This book out to be called Classical Litrpg, and you don’t even need an english degree to follow along. Now, if you really want to prove your chops go after Chaucer and make one of those Canterbury Tales into a gamelit masterpiece!  I know you can do it. Anyway, this book is just as fun as the preceding four novels. In fact, I almost am wont to say that I actually enjoyed the last two books on their own more than I did the first three. Of course, no one is killed with a spoon so I think the Main story line wins.

I think for me that the highlight was having Shy shifting from being a humble merchant and crafter into someone akin to a mob enforcer.  Also can I just say milk cannon? I’m not talking Dolly Parton after a pregnanc. . . . see Dean makes me say bad stuff. Oh, and the way that Shy guy is literally screwed in the end is sneaky.  I likes the sneaky. Seriously, you couldn’t create a Iago type character for this book? How can you do the one true bard and not include Iago?

A bonus to you listening out there, this book almost feels like a standalone book.  Yes, it has ties to the preceding books, but this novel changes things up, adds new characters, and feels like I could come in cold and still know what was going on.  I dig Dean’s humor, and I gotta lotta laughs out of this book. It was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and I recall when it finished I said to myself that I couldn’t wait for the next book.  So, I know new readers will enjoy this even if they haven’t read the first 4 novels, but they will go back and buy them after listening to this. So if you are unfamiliar with the Merchant or BK books check this one out.  There are plenty of fights, funny stuff, funny fights, and oblique references to English Lit characters to keep you interested for the entire run time.

Matthew Broadhead, whom has hit homers with this and last MOT book does a great job.  I think he “gets” Dean’s humor and style and the only other person I can say that about is Jeff Hays.  Broadhead has in the past been hit or miss with me, but with Dean’s stuff he seems to be batting .500. He is fun to listen to, and his inflections can make me laugh heartily.

Final score 8.4.  It’s fun and has great battles and I’m very sorry to see it end.


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Soda Pop Soldier

By: Nick Cole

Narrated by: Guy Williams

Length: 12 hrs and 27 mins


Pause


So I found this book while reading a review that was talking about ready player one.  I saw the movie, haven’t listened to the book even though I do have it in my digital library.  Anyway. The writer of the review was talking about MMOpunk. I’d never heard the term before and from what I can tell it is basically was an alternative name for Litrpg for people living back in 2015.  It is like a mash-up of Cyberpunk stories and MMORPG’s, i.e. litrpg/gamelit stuff. The novel mentioned two books by Nick Cole, and so I thought I’d check out the Soda Pop Soldier. I’m glad I did.

The book has some interesting concepts about corporate sponsorship and making a living via virtual games.  Now, if you know me at all then you know that I hate when in-game currency is usable in the real world. I don’t care what the exchange rate would be I just don’t see it working, but this felt more like the kind of situation where people make money streaming or with a channel on You-tube.  Here, the main goal of the players is to play well enough to earn advertising space for the company they play for. Failure means you are out, and the MC isn’t doing so well in that dept as of late. In fact, he takes to playing an illegal game just to get by, and this is where the real fun starts.

The MC, known to us as Perfectquestion, doesn’t seem to fit in the real world.  In fact, he seems like he is more at home on line in a virtual reality in spite of the fact that he literally lives in a world where it seems that humans regularly leave the planet.  I don’t believe we are ever given his real name, and so for the listener this plays out with us having an almost virtual protagonist. The illegal game, the Dark, is just that although his other game Warworld is pretty visceral and violent (how could it not be with a name like that?) and keeps you in the action enough that you keep focused.  The book bounces between each game and the real world, but does so in a way that keeps you interested. I often get bored with “out of game” sequences in books. I Don’t care what the devs are up to or how the AI is slowly taking over the world or whatever happens IRL. I like to stay in the game. This book does a great job balancing everything and keeps you on the hook.  You genuinely care about PQ, and it doesn’t matter if he is playing a soldier, a samurai, or a struggling to by average guy.

For me the real plus was the authentic feel the book had in regards to how the players of cola corp interacted over chat and interacted.  It really felt like I was listening to some players from COD trying to get their crap together. That is what pushed this up a few notches for me.  The Dark was a neat place to visit and learn about, and was different from other game worlds in that you pay to play per match. So there were some really neat concepts too.

My one issue I have with this book is the narration.  While I found Guy Williams to have a grizzled soldier voice that worked for the Warworld character I don’t think his voice had a lot of range, and his cadence and rhythm barely ever changed.  I wasn’t overly wowed by Williams. I don’t want to say he droned, because he does vary his voice and add emotion but he kept on a steady pace that never amped up when it should have.


My score would be much higher if it were not for the narration flaws.  I liked this book, but have to say 7.3 stars because Williams didn’t do much to elevate the story.  If this had been SBT, Pohdel, Daniels, Parsenau, Rennie, Taylor, or Adams I could see this book crushing in Lit, but I honestly think it is holding it back.  Great concept, good writing, mediocre to fair narration.


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The Curse of Hurlig Ridge: 1st Dive World Tree Online, Book 1

By: M. A. Carlson

Narrated by: Anneliese Rennie

Length: 21 hrs and 52 mins



Pause


I have been wanting to get this reviewed since before I got really sick, and am sorry it took me sooo long to get this out to you guys.  This is one of those books you listen to and wonder why everyone isn’t talking about it. Personally, I think that Hurlig Ridge kind of got hit with a situation like a summer block buster smash.  Sort of like how the Princess Bride came out right after Fatal Attraction. I don’t think that the amazingness of the fantasy film could compete with the hype of Glenn Close’s crazy rabbit boiling psycho.  Hell, I even went to see Fatal Attraction instead of PB, and I can remember seeing the Bride advertised on the lobby walls. I think that happened here, several hyped books popped up at the same time as this and this book kinda got lost in the shuffle.

Now, you know I love getting into the game quickly.  I tend to get bored or annoyed with books that take a tenth of the novel setting things up before the player actually gets inside.  Not here. It was almost like we get to meet the MC and he’s already in the game. I loved it. That, my friends, is how you do it. The story is almost a slice of life, and I am not a huge fan of those, but lately I have been opening up to the concept and am enjoying them more and more.  Still not my favorite thing, though. Thankfully, the book does have paths that it follows so it is not aimless. There are issues with PVP stuff and even a mystery that evolves and pulls the story in a direction that is both fun and exciting.

Another aspect that worked for me was that the entire gaming system is well thought out.  The only thing that sort of bothered me was that the only way to really improve yourself is by training.  No cheat points pop up when you level so you hafta hit the metaphorical gym. This would have been fine, and I actually enjoyed it at first, but it is a frequent thing.  All I could think of was Rocky, when his trainer Mick yells and say “You’re gonna eat lightning and crap thunder! No go chase a chicken.” We level up and then ByeBye is drinking 6 dozen raw eggs and Syrio Forel is telling him to go chase cats.  We don’t get a montage scene, but I would have appreciated one or four a few times. Now, obviously I jest but my sons did keep playing Eye of the Tiger the longer they heard me listening to the book.

If that is the worst thing about this then whoopity whoop.  I loved the book. It is long, over 21 hours and so you get your money’s worth and you won’t mind the time investment.  The MC is interesting, there is plenty of action and mystery. I also appreciated how we stay in one spot for the duration of the novel, but the world building was obvious.  A lot of thought went into this land and its people; just like the game mechanics. Carlson has obviously put a TON of work into this book before he ever started writing. I look at it as the way Tolkien developed different languages, a whole geography, 10,000 years of back story and so on before he ever started the Hobbit.  The hard work and effort pays off and it shows. As much as I ribbed it, I think I liked the concept of the slow build of a character over rapid point distribution as you level. It was different and stood out when compared to the way most systems are laid out.

Can I just say, first that I simply love Anneliese Rennie.  She is an amazing narrator, and the work she has been doing is a real boon to the community.  The last book I got to hear her in was Hummel’s Radiocative Evolution where she played a dragon.  This is much better because narration-wise, so to speak, because she gets to play everyone! She’s one of the few people that I could listen to all day.  I think she handles the characters with finesse and tells the story like she was living it. She rocks this book and I think that it is obvious how much she enjoyed narrating it.

Final score 8.4 stars.  I believe that this will eventually become a much bigger series, and will get noticed by the community for the great work that it is.  Good characters, cool game system, and a madcap narrator who takes you on a ride in her word mobile makes this all worthwhile.

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


Soundbooth Spotlight

Obliteration

Unbound Deathlord, Book 2

By: Edward Castle

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 16 hrs and 57 mins


Pause


I can remember finishing book one in this series and thinking Damn that was good.  I’m only sorry we had to wait so long for this book to come out. The book pretty much picks up where the other ended, but for those of you with short memories we do get a recap.  I’m not a fan of recaps, be they on tv or in a book, so that kinda ruffled my feathers. I’m of the go back and rewatch or reread so that you are familiar with what happened so far school of thought.  Although, I must concede that readers just jumping in for this book probably loved the recap. I would normally skip such a thing, but when I review a book I don’t jump over any parts I listen to the whole book.

The novel does a good job of intermixing gameplay with the events in the real world.  Normally I am not a fan of jumping between the two worlds. I can only think of a few books where the real world was just as interesting as the game world, or even more so maybe as in the case of Dave Willmarth’s Dark Elf Series.  Castle succeeds in the balancing act and kept me hungry for more as I listened. Oddly, the parts of the book that felt a little slow were those in the game, not IRL portions.

Jack tries to deal with what he learned at the end of the first book and goes a little crazy in the process.  He sort of becomes a mass murdering terrorist, and so you really have to empathize with him in order to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing and who he’s doing it to.  You sort of have to ask if Jack is a monster or if he is justified; maybe even wonder if it isn’t a little of both. I like books that make you think. Thankfully, you can think while Jack stomps the hell out of whatever  comes after him.

Oddly, I think the MC becomes more of an A-hole in this book than he was in book one, but after all he’s learned and been through it fits and plays well with the story.  For me, Daggers was the best part of the novel. I loved every moment that she was on the page. If she were a character in a movie then her actor would have gotten an academy award for best supporting actress, as it is I think Jeff Hays deserves the audio version.  He has several characters that I simply love to hear him in the role of such as Miller from War Aeternus, Andrea for Super Sales, and especially the fast talking Quantum Hughes, and so on, but it isn’t his voice so much as his acting here that makes Daggers the star.  He keeps her mysterious and deadly, trustworthy but suspicious, and an utter force to be reckoned with. Hays handles the rest of the tale with aplomb per his usual vocal swagger. He is always amazing.

In spite of Hay’s best efforts there were several parts that just seemed to go on forever.  The final fight, for example drained my stamina. It was Jack versus an endless horde of unrelenting humanoids.  It was like sitting on the beach and being hit with wave after wave of water and expecting your feeble kicks to turn away or utterly defeat the ocean.  That isn’t to say the spots aren’t well written, but they are far longer than they need to be and it did tucker me out. Still the book is fun and the cliffhanger makes you hope that there is a recap at the start of the third book so you can remember what went on here when it finally comes out.  So, again,it may sound like I didn’t appreciate or overly enjoy the book. I truly did, it just had a couple road bumps, but otherwise it was a great listen.


Final Score, 8.1 stars.  I enjoyed it but it did feel a little long in spots, narration is mind-blowingly good, and the tale wraps up neatly leaving enough to make you want the next novel now.



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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 039 -  Bunker Core, Reborn: Apprentice, Limitless Lands Bk 1, Supermage

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 039 -  Bunker Core, Reborn: Apprentice, Limitless Lands Bk 1, Supermage



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

https://litrpgpodcast.com/litrpg-audiobook-podcast-039



“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: ”


Bunker Core: Core Control series, Book 1 (00:31)

Score: 7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Ln96rI


Reborn: Apprentice: A LitRPG Adventure (14:39)

Score: 2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2PNEf63


Limitless Lands: The Commander's Tale, a LitRPG adventure

Limitless Lands Series, Book 1 (37:57)

Score: 6.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2PJPAnM


Supermage: Rise to Omniscience, Book 1 (52:57)

Score: 7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2JdWn80



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


(Audiobook Codes)


Bunker Core: Core Control series, Book 1

By: Andrew Seiple

Narrated by: Mark Boyett

Length: 9 hrs and 4 mins



I am going to be honest and say that I was a little disappointed with this book.  Coming off the Threadbare series I really believed that there was going to be more to this tale.  Honestly, it isn’t a bad novel, but it just did not grip me in the way that I hoped it would. I believe the issue was that the book felt like it was pretty thin in terms of story.  

The book is about a tech core that was once human waking up due to an alert taking place.  It finds that its facility is under attack and does its best to fend off the assault while figuring out who it is and what it is supposed to do.  From this point it basically continues in the same manner, someone from the first siegers comes and must be fought off in a rinse, wash, repeat cycle.  The only variation that we get is when the POV shifts from the leader of the tribe assaulting the core or one of the several other AI’s that also seem to have it out for the core we are rooting for.

I don’t know if some of my issues come from the fact that this feels a lot like the station core novel, or if there was nothing really innovative about what the core did when it confronted its invaders.  There was a lot of set up for different things that never bore out. I was half hoping that the core would have built a lab and modified some of the bats that lived in its elevator, making some sweet soldiers to harass the enemy.  Also, I needed more than fire, floor and ceiling traps, and bolt guns to see a dungeon or a core as being exciting. Those things are good for the first initial forays into defending the place, but not for an end battle scenario. No, I don’t count the outside stuff with the water or crocogator as being all that innovative either.

The story had a ton of potential, but I’ll be honest, whenever one of the other A.I.’s came on I wanted to skip that part and just get back to the core.  It did not maintain my interest. I think the fact that that there were three or four Artificial intelligences besides the core made it less fun. I get that this was partially set up stuff, but pick a villain and stick with it.  Another issue I had was that the bald warrior woman leader of the cult that was attacking the core started out as a hard core crush monster, but in the end sort of got shifted into being humanized. Too much of her side of the story was explained and you get to see her motivations for what she is doing and why she is doing it.  You really just needed to hate her, not like her or sympathize with her, and in some ways you do. She needed to be one dimensional not multifaceted. I just wish that the ending of the story wasn’t so weak. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but a lot of what was worked for and towards is made moot by the end.

That said the story, while short, does flow and is well written.  Seiple knows how to tell a story and make it interesting. He makes amazingly interesting characters and does spin a yarn that will keep you listening.

The narration is really good here, and I actually recognize Mark from a Doc Samason novel I listened to waaaay back when as well as a 30 days of night audio adaptation from the comic books.  He does a fantastic job and think that LIT and he are a good fit for one another. He has a pretty big background in sci-fi so litrpg isn’t all that big of a stretch for him. Great voices, pacing, and storytelling in general.


Final score 7 stars.  The story felt truncated, didn’t really have a centralized villain, and seemed to hover at the same point for quite some time.  I needed someone to root against, and more time spent upgrading the dungeon rather than figuring out where to put the next pitfall trap.  Lots of potential, not enough return.

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


Reborn: Apprentice: A LitRPG Adventure

Reclamation, Book 1

By: Luka Petrov

Narrated by: Rafe Beckley

Length: 4 hrs and 10 mins



I hated this book.  Ye gods, where to start?  This was probably some of the longest four hours of my life.  I pretty much hated 98% of this book. It offended me on multiple levels, often simultaneously, and made me feel as if the author wanted to treat me like a child rather than a rational adult; because most of this book made zero sense.

First of all this book is not Litrpg.  It is not gamelit. I don’t know what the hell it is supposed to be, other than bad.  I can usually forgive a book having lighter LIT elements. I don’t feel like every story needs stats, character sheets, leveling up, and so on and so forth in vast quantities to qualify as litrpg.  I do require more than four or five sentences about those things, though. You want to know what this book has in the way of LITRPG? It has two scenes in which stat sheets are substituted by vocational cards.  A few discussions about attributes, and one bit where the MC is able to suss out how to casts spells because of his previous knowledge as a gamer. That’s it. I’ve stubbed my toe and received HP loss notifications more in my real life than this book did.

SO here’s a brief rundown for you.  A kid in our world is hit by a car. He dies.  Is given a choice to reincarnate, go to heaven, or go smash it in a RPG styled world that will place his very existence in jeopardy.  He is made to be the one and only person who can stop an evil demonic overlord known as Abraxus, and I mean the only one. If he fails every soul in that dimension will be scrapped and tossed out, including him.  So, naturally he picks that option because heaven will be boring.

This is where we enter the Harry Potter phase in which the MC goes to a school of magic and begins to learn from his wonderful mentor and several teachers whom he continuously astounds with his 25 point intelligence and photographic memory.  Now, I am going to say two things about this section of the book. 1) It is like a lesser version of Hogwarts where he meets with his friends and they chat at meal times, and his best friend is the second smartest first year (Hermione) girl there, and his other friend is a half-wit incompetent wizard (Ron).  2) They say the full name of every single teacher every single time that they are mentioned. I honestly believed that this was done just in order to fulfill a word count of some sort since the novel is so short, only 4 hours. Normally I lament a run time so short, as in, “Gee Whiz, the Luck Stat Strategy was only five hours long.  In this case I kept thinking, Holy Mary mother of God, this book is never going to end and I know it is only four hours long.” Repetition like that is annoying. It is similar in LITRPG when you have the words You have taken five points of fire damage repeated thirty times in a row. I don’t like that in LITRPG and I don’t like it anywhere else.  Most writers try to avoid repeating the same or similar words in a paragraph just to avoid monotony. Such avoidance isn’t easy, sometime trying to avoid something can cause you stress which will make you want to avoid it even more. Get the point? Now imagine that with eight different people’s names in a constant never ending barrage. I think that the biggest let down of the book came with required confrontation with the evil overlord Voldemort, er, I mean Abraxus.  Dumbledore sacrifices his life so that Harry and the others can get away, I mean The MC and his pals. Abraxus is completely overblown and is such a childish let down that it seriously soured me from straight fantasy for some time to come.


This book feels like it was written by someone who had no friggin idea of what LITRPG is, and was simply a Write to Market effort to cash in on some of the sweet LITRPG action.  I hated this book the longer I listened to it, and am repulsed at the minimum effort that was put into making this a LITRPG book. The only thing saying it is LIT is the cover. Take that away and you have a crappy children’s book that pretty much barely covers the fact that it is riffing on JK Rowling.  I cannot believe I am even defending the Harry Potter novels. That’s how mad this book has made me.


Before I go I suppose that I will have to mention something about the narration.  To be blunt it sucked. The narrator could not figure out a way to differentiate the Male MC’s voice from his female companion’s voice.  There were times that I could not tell who was speaking, the MC or one of the female students. The other voices, with the exception of the boy’s mentor, comes across like a grandpa telling his grandson a bedtime story and trying to do voices and keep pacing and emotion.  I’m not talking about a Princess Bride Styled grandfather. I’m talking a grandpa with COPD suffering from bipolar disorder. He was clear, understandable, and told an intelligent story but it wasn’t fun. There were parts where the characters expoused some sort of exclamation, and instead of WOW, we got a wow.  The narration didn’t help the story. Upon reflection it didn’t hurt it, since it seemed to be at the same level as the writing. Crap, crap, crap. Sorry. This book has my dander up. I would have hated it even if it had not called itself LITRPG and just portal. Not a fan.


Final score?  Really? You have to ask?  Well, the book did have a cohesive plot line.  It did have characters who spoke and interacted.  So, it gets two points just for that. I want you to understand, if this was a write to market that was good I would say so, but that battle or whatever the hell you call it with Abraxus ended me.  So, I give this book 2 stars because it did tell a story, and the characters charactered throughout the story. TWO, and I still think it was too high. Not a fan. I wouldn’t even let kids listen to this as a way to start them into Portal fantasy, fantasy, or any other genre for that matter.  I hated this book.


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

Supermage: Rise to Omniscience, Book 1

By: Aaron Oster

Narrated by: Doug Tisdale Jr.

Length: 8 hrs and 42 mins




This book is a conundrum for me, as there were things I liked, things I didn’t and things I had no idea as to why they happened.  For the most part I would say that the book is a nice light fare, feeling very young adult, because it traipses around subjects that an adult book would have no problem tackling.  I don’t know if this is a YA book or not, but it certainly has that kind of tone.


The upside:  The magic system is pretty well fleshed out, easy to understand, and fun to experience.  On the other hand, I really didn’t like the names of the different power, there are Supers and there are Mages.  Supers rely on physical prowess to fight with, keeping their affairs up close and personal while the mages are distance dangers.  Glass cannons in other words. There is also a third class, the supermage, which is what happens when a person, in a very rare event, gets both types of powers.  I hated the titles because the Super part made me think of Superheroes, and really it has nothing to do with that at all, just that they are more physical, and the mage part similarly bothered me because they do not study spells, they acquire them naturally.  The names should have reflected the proximity that the powers required them to fight with, but its not my story and I’ll just have to live with it. I don’t hold any of that against the book, that is all my issue.


The tale centers on Morgan, the MC who has no powers and is in the final year that he has for them to show up.  He is friends with a pretty rich girl who just happens to be the leader of the city he lives in. Her dad, Lord Simon hates the boy with a passion and wants him dead.  Now, here is one of the parts that I don’t understand. How these two are connected. Morgan is a street urchin who picks through trash for food all but one night a week.  She is super rich and would have no connections to him whatsoever. There is a real need for some backstory here, just to help you understand their connection, but that never comes.  Now, Morgan suddenly gets his powers, and immediately thereafter ends up killing two men sent to kill him. He flees to see his gal pal, and they flee the city together heading for a university that can teach them how to use their powers.  Morgan quickly learns that supermages are feared and quickly killed, so he pretends to just be a Super.


Again, one more issue I have with Morgan and Lord Simon’s daughter is that Morgan plays the innocent farmboy bit too well.  His misses hints and suggestions that his companion like likes him, even though she does everything but pass him a note saying I like you do you like me yes or no.  He also is completely clueless about sex, and the many implications that goes along with the act, and I could believe it if he had been sheltered his entire life, but the dude comes from the cold hard streets of a major city.  He’d have known about sex by the time he was able to talk. Not Morgan, he is completely and utterly clueless. And that bothered me. I just couldn’t see it or believe it. One thing I do want to say is that I have read this book before.  In some capacity it is reminiscent of Reborn Apprentice, and in another Dante’s Immortality. Reborn and Supermage both feature OP characters who just know how to stomp on opponents bigger and better than them rank-wise. I tried really hard not to compare apples to apples here, but there are beats that all have a similar rhythm. Sometimes OP characters bother me, and I guess it depends on the writing, because I really hated Reborn Apprentice but enjoyed Supermage.

Otherwise, the story is a fun little romp and it had some great moments, and had characters that you really hated and wanted to see beaten, maimed, or killed.  I know I sounded like I was berating it, but I was only pointing out some inconsistencies or things that bugged me.


Doug Tisdale did the narration, and I can’t say that he didn’t help this book move along.  I just did a segment on him with the City and the Dungeon, and I talked him up pretty well there, I think that you know he does a good job. It makes me want to listen to the scout of artemis soon.


Final score is a 7.  Pretty solid first venture.  I just hope that book two drops the MC’s naiveté and proffers him some real challenges.


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


Limitless Lands: The Commander's Tale, a LitRPG adventure

Limitless Lands Series, Book 1

By: Dean Henegar

Narrated by: Jack Voraces

Series: Limitless Lands, Book 1

Length: 8 hrs and 39 mins


Pause


OK, so here is an example of what is a good book but mediocre narration.  LL doesn’t blow you mind away with new concepts or avoiding tropes. This is a pretty standard novel, insofar as it centers on James Raytak, the MC, a vet who is coming to the end of his days.  Fortunately for him, his son is employed by one of the best VR gaming companies in the biz and he sets his old man up with a special dive tank that provides both life support and medical care in addition to being a VR immersion portal.  So, yeah, he sets his pappy up to be a test subject like all loving and caring kids should. Now, I know that I said this book doesn’t really break the standard tropes, but in this case the company the kid works for actually has a heart.  It cares about its employees and their families, as opposed to the standard “there are hidden or shadowy motives behind their help” stuff we usually see in LITRPG. So that was refreshing. What I sort of found to be interesting was that this is basically just the company shoving some old dude who is 90+ years old into a RPG for some weird version of rehab.  Like the tank was going to fix his mind and body. Either way they shove his butt right into a coma. The plan is to fix up his failing memory and his old man bod with nanites while he’s comafied.


That’s where the fun begins.  The book is primarily a battle oriented tale.  So, if you are into military sci-fi or just very authentic feeling ancient warfare then this is the book for you because that is exactly what you get.  Loads of action, with some other gaming stuff on the side. One aspect I found interesting is that the MC only gains XP for full scale battles. That’s it.  So, in order to advance he’s got to be on the battle field, and I have to say this feels very genuine in the way the battles are run and described. If you are more of a one on one sword fighting person then this book might not be for you.  Military books are not for everyone. This is a fantasy world so you do get lots of monsters and humanoids to see in battle.


I think the biggest flaw in the book is the OP but not OP “ness” of the MC.  He starts out the story with a very specialized class that will allow him to command different troops and so one, and it can come across as being handed to him.  I’ve thought about it, and the whole point of the story was to rebuild his brain, and to do so he needed to be in a place of comfort for that to happen. If he had started off as say a private it wouldn’t have felt natural for him, he had been in command for a long time and was used to being in charge.  He would have needed to start from a position of power and authority for him to feel like he belonged and it was a natural fit. Other than that he primarily uses his skills and knowledge from his lifetime as a soldier in order to win battles. Also, the show don’t tell rule does apply here as a fail, because there were times that the squads would do maneuvers and the reader would be told that they had drilled and drilled until the squads had it down pat.


The real issue with this book is the narration.  This was all over the place. It was in fact one of those books I just wanted to read instead of listen too.  There are audio issues throughout the story, and it is distracting. In today’s age there is no reason that there isn’t a nice clean sound coming forth.  This was like listening to a book on a vinyl record in spots. Secondly, I found the narrator himself dry and boring. His feminine voices were his biggest weakness, but he also seemed to struggle to differentiate male voices as well.  There were points that I had a hard time following who was talking, and I hate it when I am forced to suss out who is doing what. I should never have to guess who is speaking. The sound effects were utterly annoying and distracting. I generally like SFX when done right, such as by SBT, but here it is heavy handed and improperly used.   


My final score? 6.8.  I would have gone more if not for the narration and the fact that there’s no ending. It’s not a cliffhanger ending, but none of themes, goals, or concerns of the story have been at all addressed by the end of the book.  Also, as a fan of military writing I do think that as fun as the battles were I would have liked to have seen some research done on how the legions really fought. Banners, flags, etc. Flags were used a great deal to cover distance and instances in which a soldier could not hear a commander yelling.


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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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 038 -  Accidental Dragoon, Freehaven Online Bk 2, The Last Warrior of Unigaea, Damnation Robot

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 038 -  Accidental Dragoon, Freehaven Online Bk 2, The Last Warrior of Unigaea, Damnation Robot


“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 Dragoon:  Accidental Champion, Book 3 (00:10)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2ITdUCg


Freehaven Online: Lady Thunderlord, Into Hades A LitRPG Adventure (15:11)

Score: 7.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2W6XJVB

The Last Warrior of Unigaea: Box Set (26:19)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Ps2fvm


WHAT ELSE HAVE THEY DONE

Damnation Robot: Galactic Demon Hunters (45:07)

https://amzn.to/2VnvSn0



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


(Audiobook Codes)


Accidental Dragoon:  Accidental Champion, Book 3

By: Jamie Davis, C.J. Davis

Narrated by: Stacy Gonzalez

Length: 11 hrs and 4 mins


Pause


I’m just going to say that the Davis family knows how to pen a tale.  I have to admit that I loved the first trilogy, but the ‘accidental” part was getting a little old by the third book.  Honestly, I enjoyed the third book in the first trilogy, but it felt rushed and a little forced the more that I think about it just in the manner that Hal was able to acquire his powers and abilities just in time for the final showdown with the emporer.  The end of this trilogy doesn’t feel like that at all. First, I enjoyed that Kari kept her class all the way through, even though she sort of became a dual class by my reckoning because she was very much a sailor and captain at the end of it all. Well, mostly a pirate, but the good kind.  As in a Privateer. Kari really exceeded Hal as a hero, going through far more than her father did during his own stint as a hero. She is much more realistic and I think that this demonstrates just how much the Davis’s have developed as writers up to this point.

Again, the story does not slack on the action, the intrigue, or the emotional devastation that occurred in book two.  This time around Hal and his wife do a little more than they have so far, and it was (I must admit, good to have the old man back in action).  The one thing I would have preferred was more head on conflict, though, as it felt like Kari was always dashing away from the Duke’s men rather than employing her duelist abilities.  I really wanted some extreme payback for everything that had happened in the previous books. The whole dueling aspect was pretty fascinating and I could have certainly used more. This did not take away from the story, but it would have improved it a bit if she had done some stinging before the end of the book.  Thankfully, even though they do close out this “chapter” of the trilogy I think that there were a few things left as breadcrumbs for them to follow if they ever wanted to return to the world of Fantasma.


This is a rare kind of book, as the writers were not afraid to completely scrap the old setting and magic system and redo the whole thing for the new trilogy.  The first set of novels was really more of a medieval setting, the standard swords and sorcery type of fare. The new setting included cannons and muskets and mad for a nice change of pace.  One beef that I did take is that I do get a little disgruntled when I see that science somehow ousts magic. As in gunpowder overrides fireballs. Those are world mechanics that I just can’t get behind, because, hey, I like magic, but this was not a problem here.  In fact, it made it feel more like a stat and skill based game rather than one of power. Like I said about the last book, seeing the skills used in new ways, such as sailing the ship out of a rocky shoal was super interesting.

Again, I’m going to praise Stacy Gonzales, who has made this a very fun series to listen too.  I felt like she captured the spirit of Kari Dix very well, and embodied her vocally. She also kept a deft hand at the helm of this series and kept it interesting and emotional, as there are certainly emotional moments that get you where you pump the blood.  I have truly come to appreciate her, and will happily get another book that she has narrated.


Final score 8.4 stars




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

Freehaven Online: Lady Thunderlord, Into Hades A LitRPG Adventure

By: Jun Prince

Narrated by: Amy Landon

Series: Freehaven Online Series, Book 2

Length: 12 hrs and 55 mins



The Toxic Muffins are back in this follow up to Freehaven Online: Dragonsbane.  It picks up roughly where the other left off at, with one of the team dead from sacrificing themselves.  The team is still trapped in the game, and they aren’t happy about it, as before they all have reasons for getting out quickly, but obviously that aint happening any time soon for them.  That doesn’t stop them from looking for a way out. However, it soon becomes clear that they might have a chance to save their lost friend, Mirae.


The team then has to find and fight their way through Hades in order to retrieve their now deceased guild mate.  Along the way they add some new members to the muffins, which is both a positive and a negative. Strife and tensions come from within and without creating some tense situations and dire consequences.  All good stuff, and I have to say that I think that this book is better than the first novel, it does a lot to improve what came before and really hits home. I liked the greek mythology bits, and felt that the story was properly humorous when it needed to be.  Not every writer can hit those marks to lighten a story up periodically. BTW, it isn’t all Greek stuff, Prince tosses in some of his own bits of imagination and some Thailand lore as well. It doesn’t clash at all, but flows quite nicely.


One thing that I liked about Prince’s style is that he doesn’t believe that every problem can or should be solved via fighting.  There are a ton of games out there where the whole point is crushing your enemies, but there are a goodly amount that also favor thinking and puzzle solving over smashing and slashing.  In that respect, he sort of reminds me of KT Hanna and her Somnia Online series, where the protagonists often find that fighting is usually a secondary or ever tertiary option. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t fights but you also get quests like appeasing Charon, the boatman that you rarely see elsewhere.  One thing I would have liked was, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe a recap or some better refamiliarization with the cast. While I know the MC fairly well, the rest of the players faded a little and I could have used a refresher just to bring me up to speed.


In the way of narration I do believe that I liked Landon’s work even better than I did before.  I can definitely hear improvements. I think that before I felt that she lacked emotion during non-dialogue parts and her reading style threw me off a little.  Here she has improved her pacing and isn’t just spitting out lines mechanically in-between people talking. Her readings made it difficult for me to connect to the characters, and thereby, the story itself.  Now, however, she has improved in those areas and I had a much better time this go around. I hope to see her continue to improve.


I can see improvement on Princes end of writing too.  He clearly put a lot of thought and work into making this book even better.  So, my final score is 7.9 stars. Both the writer and the narrator made some strides in making this more fun and exciting.



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

Soundbooth spotlight  

The Last Warrior of Unigaea: Box Set

By: Harmon Cooper

Narrated by: Jeff Hays, Annie Ellicott

Series: The Last Warrior of Unigaea, Book 1-3

Length: 18 hrs and 7 mins



Here we go.  Another Harmon Cooper book, with more coming, I still have House of Dolls to do and another something or other of his to get to in the next few review shows so keep an eye out for them.  So, this is a pretty cool deal for the average audible listener, you get three amazing books for the price of one (I’ll never understand why an author would be so nice as to collect three books into one set when they can make more bread selling three different novels for the same price).  That seems fairly kind, and not a good capitalistic model. Me? I’d throw in a short story and charge a little more cause I might be a coward, but I’m a greedy little coward. Some people might say that its all about the Benjamins, but for me I’m all about the Woodies. You can laugh, but Woodrow Wilson is on the $100,000 dollar bill and they are still legal tender.  So I want a pile of those, not the Bennies. Bennies are for suckers, give me a woody any day. Wait. That didn’t come out right. Neither did that, dammit. Ok, I’m gonna quit while I’m ahead and get to Carmen Hooper’s awesome set of books. BTW, what really makes this special to me is the fact that the first book in this series was the first official SBT production.


You know what I love?  I love an author who isn't afraid to make a trilogy.  Nowadays, it seems everyone wants to create an open ended world that they can play in in perpetuity, but have no responsibility to the reader/listener.  I think of George RR Martin and his it will end but never end GOT, Jim Butcher's see no end in sight Harry Dresden. Too much time passes between each project, and with no real end in sight the poor fan has to suffer and hope that a series will see some love from its creator.  Cooper plays this smart. He sets up a trilogy that is self-contained, but is also set in a shared universe in which other events take place. So you keep the setting and get different events and characters. More importantly, he concludes his story. So, yay, for his consideration.  Cooper takes an unlikely character (a player killer) and makes him a hero. His comrades (especially RAID) are great, and make for a fun adventuring party. The man can craft a tale in the way Da Vinci could slap some paint on a canvas. What starts out as a simple tale of revenge in the way of the PKer seeking the Drachma Killers and becomes a tale of suffering, sacrifices, betrayals, and real heroism.  

As I said, Cooper smooshes three books into one, so I’ll have to just gloss over some details and provide an overview.  IS book one any good? Mr. Cooper hits all of my criteria for an amazing story; great characters? Check out the goblin. Plot?  How about problems in the real world and VR game? All there baby. We have struggle and strife in both RW and VR. Plausibility?  This isn't one of those books that touts how great the MMO is, and is sweeping the world, while if you look at the mechanics you realize it would never work.  Storytelling? Zonk! Bam! Check out the ending. It is out of left field, on fire, and moving at the speed of light. Much like my beloved Feedback loop series, which is set in the same universe (the Proxima Universe) the series is filled with fast paced action and humor.  I’ve said it a thousand times, Cooper’s humor gets to me. You will love this book and crave more. Thankfully, book two comes right behind.

Our heroes are back, and plan on taking out the source code bomb, they just seem to go about doing so a bit more liesurely than you'd think.  That isn't to say that the book isn't full of action, and rat bag sonnof a biz someone does die, and you will feel every stab in the heart that you think you will when they pass on.  No fickin’ joke. So the story has some depth to it as well. Cooper is a really great story teller, and he knows all the buttons to push and the right time to hit them. This is not a by the numbers story by any means, and he keeps the RPG aspects alive to a point that you would think this genre has been around forever.

What a way to end it.  Revenge isn't easy, and loss is hard.  Our heroes suffer, and sacrifice, but in the end we get the big BOOM we have been waiting for, and it has been worth the wait.  The story is much faster paced than the previous book, and you will probably need to stop the book to catch your breath. There are times your heart will break, and then you might just find it healed.  Roller coaster doesn't do this book justice as a descriptor.

Hays and Ellicott just crush the narration.  I have no qualms admitting that Hays is my favorite narrator, and everything he does just slays.  He totally kills it here again. Annie, his accompaniest in this duet proves she can stand side by side with a master like Hays, and not only hold her own, but push him to do better.  They really work well together. Hays and Ellicot really put their all into this performance, and the emotion is real. Seriously, these folks should get a grammy for thier performances. The combination of their vocals and Cooper's writing makes for a nitrogyleric combination of words that are dangerously volatile to your mind!!  So beware, they will move you.

Final score 8.3 stars




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

WHAT ELSE HAVE THEY DONE?????

Damnation Robot: Galactic Demon Hunters

By: Aaron Crash

Narrated by: Bob Dunsworth

Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins


Well gang, here I am doing another what else have they done segment.  I do plan on doing more game worlds and Izzit Lit but I really think that we need to spotlight other works that authors and narrators in our community have done more often.  To that end I am going to focus on a guy that is best known for his association with James Hunter, and his collaboration with the War God Saga. You want to know the truth, before I had read War God I was annoyed by it.  Why? Because it was taking precious time away from my beloved VGO series. How dare james Hunter do something else! I was pretty attached to VGO back then, still am BTW, but I have learned to be a bit more open to other ideas and bits of work that isn’t LITRPG.  Plus, I do believe that I owe this to Aaron because I didn’t even mention him in my online review of the first book of the War God series. You might be wondering why I didn’t focus on his American Dragon series, and it is no reflection on it. In fact, there are a lot of books out in that series, I just want to bring some attention to this one book for the moment.


So, Damnation Robot starts off in the thick of it.  There’s splosions and gunfire and a lotta battle stuff happening so you know that this isn’t going to be one of those books that takes something like ten to fifteen percent of the book to get into the meat of things.  The MC, Blaze is a hardcore kinda dude, who lets his weapons do his talking. He’s kind of jaded insofar as he’s seen so much that horrifying images that would make you lose your mind barely phase him. He reminds me of the nameless gunfighter from the old Clint Eastwood movies.  Blaze is a marine who travels with his sister, who just so happens to be a witch of no small skills. Together they fight a variety of MOBS, sorry LIT speak coming into play, that include the titled demons, aliens, werewolves, cyborgs, and spooks in general. There are a ton of things to kill and only do many weapons and spells to use.


This is a book that puts action first, as it should.  You can’t write a book about a space marine who makes the Predator look like Elmer Fudd hunting rabbits and have the man in endless loops of dialogue and exposition.  Crap needs to get blown up and killed on a regular basis, and Crash knows this. Bonus! He knows how to write a fight scene. Hell, you’d almost think that he’d been in a couple of space battles himself, or at least talked to a few people who had.  Plus, he makes the whole thing plausible. At no point did I sit back and go, Wow, this dude must have been as high as a kite when he wrote this stuff. Yeah, they fight vampires, but so what, so does Harry Dresden. I kind of wish he’d hop over to help Stephanie Myers with her vampire and werewolf problems.  Permanently. I’m team Crash, beyatch. This is an Urban Fantsasy set in space, but with more gore, guts, and blood than you usually get in a UF book. The only real complaint is that it felt like Crash was holding back; instead of going for a Hard R he floats around in a PG-13 setting. Which is fine, but I think he could have gone in a little darker and deeper than he did.


Dunsworth’s narration is really the only weak part, and it isn’t that he’s bad.  But I did feel that his pacing was a bit faster than I prefer, and his voice just did not match up to Blaze’s.  I would have expected a rougher more gravelly voice or at least something deeper. He does fine otherwise, but I didn’t feel the connection with the MC that I usually get.  Over all he does a good job, and I do think he handled the story well, but in those quiet moments it still felt like he was in battle mode. So, slight pacing issues and my own disconnect with the MC’s voice.  Otherwise pretty solid.


So, check it out.  If you are a fan of UF or space fights then this book would appeal to you.  No scores, just passing out alternative reads.




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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 037 - The City and the Dungeon, The Trapped Mind Project,  The Greystone Chronicles: Book 1, Pickpocket Frankie

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

https://litrpgpodcast.com/litrpg-audiobook-podcast-037

“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 City and the Dungeon: And Those Who Dwell and Delve Within

Score: 7.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2VNOOrU

The Trapped Mind Project - Emerilia, Book 1

Score: 8.2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2GgjSKA

The Greystone Chronicles: Book One: Io Online

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2UiWJMy

What Else Have They Done?

Pickpocket Frankie

https://amzn.to/2VInmfc

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

(Audiobook Codes)

The City and the Dungeon

And Those Who Dwell and Delve Within

By: Matthew Schmidt

Narrated by: Doug Tisdale Jr.

Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins

I don't get to say this very often about a LITRPG book, but this one really stands out. It pretty much avoids a lot of the repetitive things that occur in other books of this genre. I like that. It tells a story, but doesn't slavishly follow conventions set forth by others in this genre. Plus, the characters, even the background ones, are all interesting and the story is compelling, which leads us into a fantastic tale that you are lucky enough to be able to read.

The main character, Alex Kenderman, decides to start out as a dungeon diver, and the whole system is sort of based on different crystals.  The crystals follow the color wheel, red, orange, yellow, blue, etc. Players all have auras that grow stronger and change colors as they level up, and in order to survive they need to eat one crystal per day.  Bit of a warning, the book does start just a wince slow, it does need to build up some steam, but once that boiler pops you will be going full bore down the rails without any brakes. Seriously, it picks up and never looks back. I think it helps that you aren't bogged down by the characters having to farm XP, as Schmidt smartly kinda skips that part of the storyline. A wise choice.  Another issue is that the sheer number of characters can be a bit overwhelming, but unlike some books you will know the players as they start to standout. That is the crux of it, the story is more character driven than anything else. The plot is good, and the gaming stuff is there, but it is the characters that hold your attention and keep you listening.

So, what is so different? For one thing, the protagonist is not overpowered or have special abilities that no one else has or can get. He is just a regular joe; leveling as he goes along. Oh, and no Uber-powerleveling either. I also liked that you weren't over whelmed by game mechanics, stat screens, damage reports, etc. It doesn't hurt that the characters are all likable and hold your interest.  Additionally, I think that the game system itself is well thought out that allows for some cool class building. This story has a feel like WOW insofar as the characters try to get gaming gear and go on raids. One benefit, and I talk about this a lots is that there are not as many stats thrown at you as the book moves on. The story rolls and you aren’t being smacked in the face by numerous reports of status changes every fifteen or so pages.  So you might say that it looks less at stats than it does world building. Another thing that is usually problematic is the fact that there are huge jumps in time throughout the book, during which new classes might have suddenly been added or other things. Normally, this would bug me, and to a slight extent it did, so I have to chop off some points for that, but the fact is that it worked in the story. The story still flowed nicely and you just sort of roll along with it.  Finally, one odd aspect is that there is often a lot of build up about bosses or monsters and then when the fight comes it is practically over before it starts. I’m talking a few paragraphs rather than pages.

Doug Tisdale Jr. does a great job narrating and living the story out for you. He took me a few minutes to get used to, but once I settled in I was impressed at his skill and versatility.  I know him best from the Days of Future Past series by John Van Stry where he did some incredible work. Like I say he has a lot of skill and versatility and he held my interests but there were points that he seemed rushed or was upping the pace unnecessarily.  Also, he does a great job with voices, but could inject a little more emotion into the tale. I think he did better in the Days of Future Past series, which is odd because that is an earlier work. I’d say he did a 7 out of 10 on his part of the book.

Final score is a 7.9.  I enjoyed it, but I think the fighting scenes could have been better fleshed out and that there is a weakfish ending that isn’t as strong as the rest of the story.  Coupled with the slow start and I have to consider that while the book is fun and captivating it isn’t perfect.

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

The Trapped Mind Project

Emerilia, Book 1

By: Michael Chatfield

Narrated by: Tristan Morris

Length: 18 hrs and 19 mins


Boredom is a dangerous thing.  They say that the hardest part of war is the boredom.  I don’t believe that. Getting shot, stabbed, blown up, maimed, or killed has to be hard, not getting shot, stabbed,  blown up, maimed, or killed has to be even harder, so being bored is really only dangerous when you’re not at war. So what happens when you don’t know you are at war, and are as bored as hell?

Well, that’s the question that Chatfield asks and answers in Book one of the trapped mind.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but this series is fairly far along and I think I can give a little bit away.  Emerilia is sort of like the Matrix on crack. The MC, Dave, is just bored and wants to change his life in any way he can, and so he turns to gaming to give him some pleasure.   Turns out that the game is really fun, and is just what he’s been looking for . . . only it turns out that the game is the real world, and the life he’d been living had been a lie.  It is a nice twist for the Lit genre, in which the game is reality, and life was the fantasy. It really works and carries a nice impact for the listener.


I generally try to purge anything negative from my system first, and then tackle the good stuff.  I do have some nits to pick, but nothing overly bad. I listen to books in the car. I drive a lot, and my wife, if I am lucky, will listen along with me.  Otherwise, I have to use headphones. She gets really annoyed when all the crunchy bits start flying. In other words, when stats or alert notices start flying and never end.  It can be distracting, but she had to make me turn this off, as it overwhelmed her. So, on one hand if you like things crunchy, then his is perfect for you, otherwise it can be a bit off putting.  It does bug me, but I look at it for when it was written. There was a time when stats and numbers meant the world to a story, nowadays you can get away with less. However I can see her point; damage reports, level alerts, and anything else that repeats is fine on a page, you can skim that.  On audio it comes off like Dr. Strange meeting Dormammu. Thankfully, once we get into the meat of the story this sort of dies down.

Additionally, and this is only speculation, I have to wonder if Chatfield started writing his book twice, like from a point that he found interesting, and then at the begining because he does rehash some of his world building stuff several times.  I don't know if this was two books that got folded into one, but it was a touch distracting to go over something we already knew.

Now the good stuff.  This book not only fed my need for action, but it also sated my intellectual needs.  There were great periods of character growth, story building, and some mind blowing concepts.  Chatfield really flipped everything on its side and bounced it off a wall. Brilliant concept.   The characters are interesting. The plot grips you. The unexpected truth will knock you down. There is good action here as well as the quiet moments.  The story will grab you and take you for one heck of a ride. All that stuff I said at first was just minor crap. The real meat of this book is delicious, and the amount of fat and gristle is negligible.  The story and characters progress in a realistic speed, they hold your attention, and make you want more.

Morris makes a great first impression on me as a narrator.  I had never heard him before, but I can see why he has this gig.  He's really good, and brings the story to life. He works hard to give each characters a distinctive and individualized voices.  Some voices do blur a bit and it takes a tag like so and so said . . . in order for you to know who is speaking , but he still put out a lot of different voices.  He’s done almost 100 audiobooks, and you can tell.

Final score is an 8.2  It’s a good beginning, but the middle slumped a little and it felt like two books that were combined.  Still, it is a great start to an incredible series.

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

SOUNDBOOTH SPOTLIGHT

The Greystone Chronicles: Book One: Io Online

By: Dave Willmarth

Narrated by: Laurie Catherine Winkel, Jeff Hays

Length: 14 hrs and 43 mins


Shew!  This was a fun book.  It has a lot going for it, so let me get the easy stuff out of the way first.  I am a huge fan of Soundbooth Theater. Jeff Hays is my favorite narrator. Those tow facts mean that I was going to get this book no matter what.  Seriously, Hays is a Master of the Vocal Arts, and if anyone can make a good book amazing it is him, BUT lo and behold he didn't do all the heavy lifting.  Nope, Laurie Catherine Winkel takes the lead narration slot, and is kind enough to let Hays do the voices for the male characters. I have to say that I am being continually blown away by the talent that SBT has under their banner.  So, be aware that the sound quality and narration just blows your expectations into orbit. I have to say that it was refreshing to have LCW take the reins, which I think was her first time

Next, the writing!  Well Doggies this too is top notch, grade A stuff.  The characters are all fun, and I would have a hard time narrowing out a favorite.  Alexander has a cool side story about his being healed via his immersion in the game, but that plot line isn't resolved by the end of the book; so I guess that will be looked at in another book!  Yeah!! Another one!!!! The action is really great and the book speeds along. You know it is good when it is three AM and you don't want to stop listening even though you have to get up a six. Yeah, it pulls you in deep.

This is a book in which secondary characters absolutely add to the plot in golden ways, and sometimes even steal the show away from the main players.  For example, if you ever hear the words Pew Pew in real life you will never not be able to think about a certain lil green guy named Fibble or a silly squirrel.  In fact, there’s a real reason that Fibble is getting his own stand alone novel. He’s just that freaking cool. Novel, did I say novel? He’s also becoming a plush doll.  So, yeah, there are points where the scenery gets chewed by someone other than the MC.

 The party “chat” feels real, too.  I’ve played, and my wife has played far more MMORPG’s and the dialogue feels like genuine interaction between players.  I will say that the only real issue I took was the flagging of almost 100 people for a PVP infraction. That was a little over the top, but hey, game mechanics are what they are.  The point is that this feels more like a game than most LITRPG novels. One thing I will say is that Willmarth and I have similar views on PKers. I hate them, and personally think that they only detract from gameplay.  Dave obviously has a distaste for the SOB’s, and makes no qualms about it. Also, praise capitalism, as he does a fine job on discussing in game currency and real world conversion and such, which he actually manages to make interesting; and if you have ever watched my show you know that I hate the whole concept of the real world using gaming currency.  I am not into cryptocoins at all, but what do I know? Not nearly as much as Dave Willmarth, obviously. Another bonus, for me is the town building. You know I love that stuff, and WIllmarth does it right. I have to admit, I like this book a lot, and am a huge fan of Willmarth’s. I have not heard a bad line come from his metaphorical pen/computer keyboard, and it seems like every book he writes just gets better as he goes.  This is a fantastic first novel, and things only improve as we go along.

I can see some people complaining that the characters are too overpowered, and while that might actually be the case I have found it to be the norm for a book in this genre.  Just look at the uberleveling in some other books and you will see my point. So, I do not hold that against the storyline at all Willmarth knows how to hold your attention and make things exciting.  


Final score, 8.4.  It is one hell of a first novel and it grabs you right in the tenders and squeezes, never letting up until the ending, which sort of only leaves you wanting more.

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

What else have they Done?

Pickpocket Frankie

By: Roberto Scarlato

Narrated by: Roberto Scarlato

Length: 5 hrs and 53 mins


I’m going to be talking about one of my favorite narrators today, Roberto Scarlato, whom you may know from the Accidental Traveller series by Jamie and CJ Davis.  I have actually listened to a lot of his narration outside of the LITRPG genre, and appreciate his narration style and skills. However, he is also an author of no small skills.  Scarlato often writes weird stories, for example in Fall Where They May a detective has to solve a murder while cursed to shuffle a deck of cards with one hand, or in Reviled in which the leather jacket of a serial killer begins fusing with the flesh of it new owner making him want to do bad bad things.  That’s the kind of stuff that appeals to me, weird, creepy, fun.

Pickpocket Frankie is just a delight.  The book, in spite of being based on a tragedy that happens to Frankie, is light-hearted and humorous.  Frankie is a likable guy, too. You feel for him, and he isn't a callous criminal. The book starts off with Frankie finding out that his life savings has gone missing.  Things kinda go downhill from there. Frankie himself is interesting insofar as he’s been on his own since he was a snot nosed brat, and had to learn how to pickpocket in order to survive.  Scarlato cleverly uses pop culture references throughout the book, but in a good way. Frankie is quick-witted and deservedly self-reliant. He can take care of himself. I think it was everyone else that needed to look out for him.

Scarlato pulls double duty, as both author and narrator.  His writing is tip top, and narration is spot on, making me wonder why he isn't narrating more.  Narrating, why isn’t he writing more? I guess all that writing gets in the way of the narration and vice versa.  Regardless, you really feel like Scarlato is Frankie. I suppose as that comes from him having written the character, he knows every nuance and emotion of the man.  That is a benefit of being both a writer and narrator of the book. I don't think there is a genre Scarlato can't write as he seems to cover different genres with ease from I have seen.

Listening to Frankie's plight is enjoyable; you will snicker, belly laugh, and even guffaw once or twice.  Scarlato has comedic timing down to a science. I would really like to see this as a movie, it would be unstoppable, but I could also see this being a two hour Netflix film that transitions into several other two hour flicks.  Frankie is just that interesting of a character. Like I said, I could have chosen a number of other books that he’d written, several with more of a fantasy flair that would have probably fit in a touch better on this show, but Frankie is a skillfully done piece of work that really stands out among a lot of other amazing stories.  That in itself should say something about this work, as I really do prefer supernatural or straight up horror stories to real life styled stuff, but Frankie really stands out to me. I don’t know if it is the humor, the characterization, the craziness in the story itself (as in what he endures), or any other number of things. All I do know is that I loved the story and the character and I think that if you are looking for a break from Litrpg, but want to support the members of the community then this is a fantastic place to start.  In all seriousness folks, check this book out it is fun, funny, and touching. Plus it is a rare chance to get a book that is written by an apt author and deftly narrated by the same person. Most people who narrate their own stuff can’t handle the voice work, and most narrators couldn’t put their stories to paper properly, so take a chance and listen to a man that can do both.

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

Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.

For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!


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http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

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


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 036 -  Radioactive Evolution, Dan the Adventurer 2, Siphon, Supers - Ex Heroes 2

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 036 -  Radioactive Evolution, Dan the Adventurer 2, Siphon, Supers - Ex Heroes 2

“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: ”

Radioactive Evolution : A Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Adventure (00:21)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Kfx9bh

Dan the Adventurer : Gold Girls and Glory, Book 2 (13:56)

Score: 8.45 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2I2c7ez

Siphon : A Touch of Power, Book 1 (26:58)

Score: 8.1 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2VwFlFy

Supers - Ex Heroes 2 : A Gamelit Space Opera (54:24)

Score: 8.35 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2I4Amsx

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

Radioactive Evolution

A Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Adventure

By: Richard Hummel

Narrated by: Armen Taylor, Anneliese Rennie

Length: 15 hrs and 27 mins



Pause



The first thing I should say about this book is that I loved it.  No, no, that’s short changing it. I freaking loved this book. I generally use a couple of criteria to tell if a book is really good.  The first is the sleep test. If I fall asleep without prompting it isn’t a good sign. When I go to bed I usually leave the book on for fifteen minutes, and pass out after that is over.  If I fall asleep, no matter how tired I am, it isn’t a good sign. If I stay away its good. If I listen to it for the whole fifteen minutes, and reset it its better, and if I do that for a second time or more The book really has my interest.  There’s only been a few that I’ve tagged three times or so. This is one of them. Another indicator is when my son, Prop guy, goes for a ride with me and has me pause the book to update him on what happened before he came in, and what the name of the book is because he wants to read it, tells me it is good.  And that is exactly what happened. He became very vested in the story by the time our ride was over. So, given that I wanted to listen to this book every opportunity I had, and that Prop guys was interested after only a few moments I know this is an excellent book. It kept me riveted throughout, I only had two drawbacks to the book, and they were minor.


First, this is what I would call lite Litrpg, the elements are all there but not in a way that they pop up continuously.  There is progression and increases to stats, but not a ton of the rpg stuff, and that’s fine. I’m only throwing this out as a heads up for people who like their stuff a lot more heavy.  I’m cool so long as a story has some elements, and it does.


My only issue was that the advancement/progression wasn’t very refined.  It runs off of percentage points, which I completely get. I’m terrible at math and stats is hard, so making things easy by going with percentages was smart, but it never really detailed what the percentages did when they were applied other than to say they assigned 35% to this ability or stat.  I followed, but it needed some more mechanical work before it left the garage. Again, nothing major, but it needs noting.


Anyway, the book is set in a post apocalyptic setting in which radiation threatens to wipe out the humans left on the earth unless they receive periodic shots of nanites from the upper class dudes that done escaped on floating cities.  Life below is heard, life above, not so much. The MC, Jared, is an explorer who scouts out areas looking for anything he can salvage. He ends up being led into an area that gives him some pretty good loot, after following in the footsteps of another dead explorer.  He manages to find a few nanites injectors and a mysterious stone before being forced to flee when the sounds of a large monster makes itself known. He later discovers that he has stolen a dragon’s egg and ends up bonding to it via a special set of nanites. I honestly thought that this was the way that Dragon Seed was going to go, but that book really emphasized becoming a rider before you got to meet the dragon.  Here we get to see the dragon go from hatchling into horror as it grows and maxes itself out.

The interplay between Jared and Scarlet (the Dragon) is really well done, and it feels natural and organic.  They play well off of one another, and this is the best part of the story. To me, the only time that the story slightly bogs down is when they focus on other creatures like the Mer-people or the dragons.  I get that they both need some sort of love interests, but the book really flows when it is just them against the world. I think the nanites interaction was fun, and a great way to deal with the dystopian issues that they faced.

The narration was just banging.  The tag team of Armen Taylor and Anneliese Rennie was just unstoppable.  Like Jared and Scarlet they played well off of each other. Taylor has a presence and a voice that makes me wonder why he’s not sought after more often.  Aside from Hummel the only other LITRPG authors who’ve used him have been James Hunter and Chris Carney. Rennie brings a nice sardonic attitude to the dragon, and lets you believe that the dragon can be wise beyond her years while still being played as young.  It’s a nice balancing act. It was good to hear her voicing Scarlet. She made this just as fun as Taylor, and I look forward to the next installment.

Form me, this was a couldn’t put it down once I got started kinda book, and I think you’ll feel the same way.  The book ended in a nice solid place, the characters were well fleshed out, as was the world (although I did have some questions that might not have been fully answered, like how did all the animals get nanites, or keep getting them is the bigger question).


Final score, 8.5 stars.  Man this was a fun ride.


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


Dan the Adventurer

Gold Girls and Glory, Book 2

By: Hondo Jinx

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Series: Gold Girls and Glory, Book 2

Length: 10 hrs and 8 mins


Pause


Aw geez, another great book to review this week.  Dan the Adventurer is pure cheesy fun. It’s kind of like Conan mixed with a Saturday morning adult cartoon.  Silly, fun, and sexy but not made for kids. This is just a brilliant series from concept to completion on the page, or in this case, my ears.

This time around we leave the campus to go and visit Dan’s new In-laws.  Now, speaking as a married man there are few words that will send a shiver down your spine faster than the I hyphen L word.  So, I can understand when he would rather face down the Mafioso type dude that is looking for him than go on a vacation in the forest to meet his new mom and pops.


There is a lot that happens in this book.  Dan gets to meet his D-bag dipped in an A-hole brother in law, gets the cold shoulder from his new mama, and a super stink eye from his pappy in law.  Standard marriage stuff, but soon the fun all comes to an end when some extra dimensional monsters start ripping up the forest, and a band of raiders decides to wipe out an entire race of elves.  A race that Dan, ever the barbarian, wants as little to do with as possible, cause he has crap to do elsewhere, and these folks are just slowing down his quest. Hell, the sidequest becomes the main quest, and soon he is helping the fire elves rebuild, regroup, and regrow as a race.


As I will say in another segment later, the sex scenes are just as engrossing as the battles.  There is always a purpose behind each one, and poor Dan has the onerous burden of having to please his ladies, while fighting of the advances of a horny red-faced hobgoblin, and defending the fire elves keep.  One does wonder when he finds time to sleep. One thing that kind of surprised me was just how little we get to see Dan level, he goes through hell, but we only get to see him level once. I’d have thought that he had gained at least three levels just dealing with the extradimensionals.


Now, I will say that this is Andrea’s show.  Man she is in complete command here and there is no question of her masculinity as she helms her Dan puppet through the storyline.  I just talked about how amazing she was in KT Hana’s Fragments, but I have to say this is really some of her best work. She places soooo much emotion into one little word, please, that it really hit me deep in my feels.  There is a scene where the hobgobolin warrior maiden is literally begging Dan to have his way with her, and she just says one word. One word. Please. Just that please made me want to say Dammit Dan, if you can’t pony up I’ll do it.  That girl needs some lovin. Truthfully, I am not into red-faced muscular green gals. Definitely not my type, but Andrea filled that one little word with so much emotion that it moved me, mentally and emotionally. That is narration power.  That is a mastery that few ever achieve. I say it repeatedly, Andrea puts so much emotion into her characters that they become real. I have no doubt one day she’s going to go overboard and she’s gonna end up having a Purple Rose of Cairo situation on her hands.  It’s a movie, go watch it, it ain’t half bad.


So, the book is amazing good fun.  I love the characters and the adventures, and Dan just shows you what a modern barbarian is like.  I am loving this series. It is solid as granite. Final Score 8.45 stars.



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



Siphon

A Touch of Power, Book 1

By: Jay Boyce

Narrated by: Samara Naeymi

Length: 10 hrs and 4 mins



Pause


MountainDale Press is really kicking some serious butt.  I have to say that I thought that Advent would be a tough book to follow, but Siphon manages to keep up with the pressure Xander Boyce instituted when he set so high a bar.  Two Boyces bringing their A games, if I was an established writer out there right now I’d be scered because these two have some serious talent. So let me tell you about Jay for a second, her style is pretty laid back.  This is one of those books that does not focus on much fighting, and you barely noticed that very little blood was shed. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few monster attacks, but overall the book is about a girl from earth who was always on the brink of dying, that ends up in a magical realm with game-like rules after she shuffles off her Earthly mortal coil.

How bad is it for her?  She literally has to learn to eat and walk.  Luckily for her she has the ability to siphon stats and skills from the people she touches.  This allows her to learn anything and increase her stats far more easily than if she had to go about it the normal route.  Which is fortunate because she is pretty weak when she first arrives in Dragonia.

The book is a fun, dare I say it?, Slice of Life (wince) in which we basically just follow the MC, Jade, around as she meets people and sucks them dry of their powers, so to speak.  There were just a few flaws. First, there are a ton of secondary characters. So many that towards the end there was a point that she was rattling them all off and it felt like the end of Romper Room, I see the King, and jared, Susan, Dave, Bob, Tom, Charles, Ramon, etc.  They tended to get a little lost in the mix. I went more by their job titles than names like Prince, Spymaster, Librarian, and so on. Secondly, there is very little conflict in the book and by that I mean that nothing that jade does is wrong. She is mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way, and all I can say is if someone acted that way around me that’d be up for a right smack.  Taking things just because she wanted them, like the Prince’s library card was vey childish. I have to admit that it fit the character, as she had little interaction with people prior to coming to the new world, but it was very childish and everyone just over looked it. Personally, it was fun to listen to her do her stuff, but if I knew her in real life I would want to throw her down a flight of stairs for being so entitled.


My biggest beef is that this is an audiobook, and there were a lot of places that just went on and on endlessly about stats and abilities.  They were repeated ad nauseam, thankfully there was a point where it stopped saying you have touched so and so, would you like to siphon strength, intelligence, luck, wisdom, etc over and over.  I think once or twice with that stuff on audible is enough after that it becomes an unfun repetitious mess. All that was really necessary was to disclose what she took, and what the results were and it would have been a lot smoother.  I will admit that about three times I jumped over those parts because it just went on and on. I don’t listen to Thoreau’s Walden on audible because I can’t stand him listing everything out as he does there. I only point this out because it is done a lot.  I hope next time around the audible version gets that stuff trimmed back, or follow the lead of the great Charles Dean, and just list all of your changes at the end of a chapter.



Samara Naeymi, a newbie to our neck of the LITRPG neck of the woods narrates this tale, and I think she does a decent job.  She reads out the story in a sublime way, very mellow, very relaxed, but when she has too she does manage to amp it up, such as when Jade cries out for help.  This was better than average narration that could find a home here if she wanted it. The only part that I had to question was when the word brassiere came up.  What was described were braziers. What was said was brassiere. I know, because I went back and listened to it three times to make certain that I hadn’t imagined it.  I have no problems with little mistakes here and there, but when you are talking about something holding glowing coals it is important to use the right word. I’m not sure if it was Boyce who wrote the wrong word or if Samara said the wrong word but it made me laugh.


While it might seem like I was just crushing the book, I really liked it.  It has a lot going on, and I think with some tweaking it could be really great.  Final score 8.1


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


Supers - Ex Heroes 2

A Gamelit Space Opera

By: Jamie Hawke

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James, Jeff Hays, Yvonne Sinn, Carly Crawford

Length: 6 hrs and 11 mins


Pause


My Soundbooth spotlight for this week is Super-Ex Heroes 2.  In honor of the SBT team taking on some “burlesque” names I decided that I will refer to Justin Thomas James as Smokewagon James for this review.  One, because he has that smokey voice that clouds your mind as he speaks, and the other is that a smokewagon is another name for a handgun. I think the Euphamism is clear, and the connotation should go unquestioned.  I will be reviewing with my own Burlesque name, going by the non de plume of Belly Bucker. I even had to grow this awesome Burlesque mustache for this segment.


I have to say that I enjoyed this book much more than I did the first one, and I liked it a lot.  It had some great pacing and the storyline just kind of came together. We get to see Breaker do some new things, and add a member to the slowly growing harem.  The only negative was that one of the most interesting characters, Charm, is absent for a good chunk of the book. Naturally, the book revolves around the remaining members of the team trying to rescue her.  It is all bloody good fun and I enjoyed it from start to finish. I honestly thing that a bonus is that these books are short in length, under 7 hours, which means I have no problem finishing it up completely in one day.  I like it because it keeps the book light and fastpaced.


The sex scenes are hot and steamy and the fights are fast and furious.  Oops, hope I didn’t step on a trademark. The funniest part of the book is how Breaker keeps getting offered sex, and has to turn it down due to some outside factor, and when he actually tries to woe a bedmate things don’t go as planned.  That is the best part of this novel, the desire competing with the denial, just as it is in real life. The sex scenes are tastefully done, and I have to say that those tow burlesquey ladies really know how to paint a mental picture.


So, you’re yelling at me to tell you a little about the book itself.  Whelp it picks up right where the other left off, and the team finds themselves trapped in another dimension.  A place where their powers don’t work right, or not at all. Once Charm gets snagged the team does their best to find her, but that doesn’t stop Breaker from stealing quinjettes or fighting in an arena to level up.  I think Breaker actually grows a lot in this book, and it was nice to see him dedicated to his team of ladies.


The SBT sound team rocked this out.  Like I said, the ladies, Yvonne Sinn & Carly Crawford know how to make hot and bothered look like it was taking a nap while horny and ready to go took their place.  The only thing missing was some bronchikawowwow music when they character started to get it on. Smokewagon, you are pretty sweet on the keyboard, you might want to add that in next time for flavor.  I could listen to their dulcet tones and be mesmerized easily. Smokewagon James manages to play Breaker as a dude who is just a little unsure of himself, but coming into his own. You can still hear a little of Breaker’s awkwardness, but it is slowly sloughed off as he begins to come into his own.


    His own what?  No, I did not just go there.  Blame the mustache. I’ve gotta go shave this off.  I’m glad I recorded this segment first or I think I’d be outta control before the show was really finished.  Maybe I’ll tape the end segment next, and then shave it.


Either way this was a real blast, SBT brought their A game and converted it into a whole alphabet.  Final score 8.35 stars.



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





Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 035 -  Couch Potato Chaos, Somnia Online Bk 3,  War Aeternus Bk 4, Far Cry: Absolution

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 035 -  Couch Potato Chaos, Somnia Online Bk 3,  War Aeternus Bk 4, Far Cry: Absolution


“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: ”

Couch Potato Chaos: Gamebound (00:26)

Score: 7.7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2WjNTzm

Fragments - Somnia Online, Book 3 (15:30)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2YnhMR3

Harbinger of Ash: War Aeternus, Book 4 (29:25)

Score: 8.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2OqHJe7

Game Worlds Segment - Far Cry: Absolution (44:34)

https://amzn.to/2CBEnA4

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


Couch Potato Chaos: Gamebound

By: Erik Rounds

Narrated by: Sarah Sampino

Length: 17 hrs and 39 mins


Pause



When I first saw this title I said, finally, someone has written a book for me.  I am a loud proud and avowed couch potato. So. I was intrigued. The story is one that you see in nearly every LITRPG novel, a gamer gets sucked into a game, but I have to say that it has a few aspects that differentiated itself right out of the gate.

The book centers on an unassuming young lady who is over worked, under appreciated, and underpaid, who is given an option when she is heading home one night.  She can either follow one route to excitement and adventure or follow the other path back to warmth and comfort. I have to say that this was pivotal moment for me as a listener, because if she had followed the path to adventure I would have called shenanigans and gone my merry way.  No real couch potato, regardless of gaming love or experience, would EVER go somewhere that required exercise. So, that hurdle jumped my suspension of disbelief became solid and I settled into the story.

The book takes its gaming stuff in a neat direction with the couch potato class that the MC, Tasha, is granted.  Her abilities and strengths fluxuate by how entertained she is. I just picture Russell Crowe screaming, “Are you not entertained?”.  So, she also has to make herself happy in order to enjoy the full benefits of the class. I wasn’t wowed by the variations that made the game about earning hearts and magic vials, but I was absolutely blown away by the ramifications of death and respawn.  It made the whole concept creepy and not something that you’d just shrug off as another death. In fact, I think that was my favorite gaming aspect of the book. I think it was smart and well played. I also enjoyed the stat shuffling ability, but I think that it was underplayed, and should have been used more.

The book has some hit or miss humor, bouncing from jokes to parody, but it does pay homage to a lot of games and pop culture.  Overall the book becomes what is often referred to as a slice of life piece, and I am not a fan of life slices unless it comes from Dexter Morgan.  My only real complaint came from the portrayal of autism in the book. Speaking as the father of two children with autism I don’t think that Erik knows how it works.  I will humbly apologize if you have kids or someone close to you with the illness but it did not come across like you were familiar with it, and had only read about it.  It just looked like the perspective of someone who sort of has an idea of what it is, rather than having an understanding about it. Still, that did not taint my perspective of the novel overall.  I will say that the book did seem like it needed some trimming, as it was rather long and there were some things that felt like they’d been tossed in just to make sure they got into the book. I think for a debut novel the book should have been about half its size, so that it could have flowed much easier and not felt like things had just been injected for the sake if getting it in.  I will say that it has some really good secondary characters


The narration is pretty good.  I was not familiar with Sarah Sampino prior to this, but I think she did an excellent job.  The only issues I had were that on occasion I had a little difficulty telling part who was speaking until it was sentence tagged, as in Ari or Pan said . . . .  Her style and delivery were nice, and she was pleasant to listen to as she told the story.


Final score is a 7.7, with one extra point tossed in for a War Aeternus shout out.  I think there is a lot of potential for the next book, I would just cut it back a bit.  Oh, and watch it with those cliffhangers!


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

Fragments

Somnia Online, Book 3

By: K.T. Hanna

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 12 hrs and 15 mins


Pause



Whelp, we make it back to the land of Somnia, and things have really improved.  If you saw my review of the last book you’d know that one of my biggest issues was the war that Murmur just snapped over her predicament and how it sort of drove the entire story.  Well, good news, while we see a few brief glimpses of her anger over how she was treated for the most part, this book just gets back into the business of her leveling and learning bits and secrets of the world she is trapped in.  Honestly, this is the way the last book should have gone. Murmur’s acceptance could have come a lot sooner and the way she dealt with her coming to terms with things.

As things go, the book picks up where the last one left off, but also picks up its tone.  To me the last book was really about some self pity and misplaced anger. This book returns to the hopeful Murmur that I really enjoyed before.  The other characters also transition from background people to actually having some sort of personalities and depth other than protect Mumur. Not that they weren’t developed before, but here they all get chances to shine.  

Mur and her team tackle two dungeons, in search of some keys to the world that will provide them with greater power to deal with upcoming events.  I want to stress that is a pleasant surprise to not just get hampered down with the usual smash and slash mentality that usually infuses LIT novels.  The characters actually think and use their heads in order to succeed. It’s nice to get that, even though I can respect the other just as much. I like a good beheading just as much as seeing someone use their head in a game.

Its also nice to see Hanna changing the game up with the AI stuff as well.  There is far more afoot than even the top game controllers seem to know, which means either things are really going pear shaped in the game, or one of the AI’s is flat out lying about what they know.  If it’s the latter I know everyone is going to be putting their money on a certain crazy AI who just wants to eat braiiiiiiins, but I don’t think he is that sneaky.

Either way, this story has some real depth, and the danger that Mur is in continues to grow, both inside and outside of the game world.  She is only partially aware of what is really going on around her and of all the plots that stand to kill her permanently one way or another.  I think Hanna really got her footing back with this story, and that’s not to say that she didn’t do well on book two, but you can plainly see that she gained her traction back with this book.  The characters all pop, the plot is no longer derailed by Murmur’s anger, and seems amped up with the growth that she is finally beginning to display. While Mur seems to grow more in levels than she does emotionally this book finally gives us both, and it was pretty cool.  I enjoyed this.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat myself here.  Andrea Parsenau just continues to grow as a narrator.  The woman can infuse so much emotion into the most minute dialogue that it forces me to say that not all of the best actors are on screen or win academy awards.  She vocally animates this book, and brings it to life in a way that is rarely captured on screen. For an audiobook it is absolutely magical. She makes me see facial expressions that are fully realized when a character speaks, and she can drive a scene like Mario Andretti in the Mach 5.  I apologize to anyone under the age of thirty that did not get that reference. All I can say is look it up. Point is this lady is true master vocalist and she can tell a story.


Final score is an 8.3 stars.  This serialized novel finally feels like it has a purpose and a direction that the first one had, and I am glad to see it get some serious legs.

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And my SoundBooth Spotlight for this week is . . . . . . . . . .duhn duhn dhun!


Harbinger of Ash: War Aeternus, Book 4

By: Charles Dean

Narrated by: Jeff Hays, Annie Ellicott

Length: 14 hrs and 37 mins


Pause


Dean definitely darkens the tone of book four, but in a good way.  I think that Lee is his moral sounding board, and lets him see what he can get away with, for example in the last novel he went to a point where the weak were killed.  Here, he forces Lee to do terrible things all in the name of goodness. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I think that this is the way Dean drives that point home.  

In the last novel a new character, Jade, was introduced and I know that she is a character that Charles loves, but I also know that there are some people that don’t share that sentiment.  I like Jade, but then she is pretty similar to a character from the Bathrobe Knight series that my kids and I absolutely loved. I think that she really grows as a character in this book, and a lot of her personality is explained that really helps to flesh her out and will probably change some minds.  Lee is coming to terms with the fact that he’s not only going to have to do some dastardly crap before his time in the game is up, and that includes the possibility of him cheating on Mosha.

This book has a lot going on in it.  There is a pretty out of the blue revelation regarding Mosha’s father, and there are a couple of amazing characters that show up named Johnson and Ray who just steal the show in every scene.  On a serious note, this book never slowed down, and when they weren’t fighting there was intrigue among the gods, Lee finally meets some relatives, and he comes to see Jade in a new light. We get Brigid to return, meet one of her relatives, and get to deal with a new crazy herald that makes Freddy Krueger look like a Sunday school teacher.

I’ll hand it to Dean, the writing is tight, fast paced, and quick witted.  All of the jokes land and stick it. This is some of his best work, and I’d say that putting him up against anyone in the field.  The series only continues to improve as we roll along. I think my favorite part of the book was seeing how the dishonorable trait functioned, and exactly how it impacted his actions.  It was hilarious and made me laugh outloud. It is little stuff like that that is so well thought out and adds to the series in just a minor but impactful way that makes this series standout to me.  I believe that his dishonorable trait is going to play a much larger role later one.

So, I want to talk about Soundbooth.  They do such an amazing job here. There are dream sequences that have this eerie background noise that is hyper effective in amping up the raw creepiness factor.  Their sound effects work rather sublimely, and the Miller Shout, for example literally rolls through the air like it is on surround sound. Jeff and Annie really bring out the angst of their characters, but they also make the verbal banter and repartee fun.  Jeff absolutely knows how to read a humorous scene and then flip over to pissed off in the next breath. He’s got Olympic level verbal gymnastic skills. Annie blows Brigid out of the water with a mix of humility and honor. I think the scene in which Brigid confronts Lee about their emotions is uber powerful.  That’s romance writing right there. Of course, I’m still on team Mosha.

The only setback for me, and I’ve said it before, was the lack of Miller.  We get lots of Dave, but Miller just kind of pops up rather than being part of the ride along.  I need more Miller. The world needs more Miller.

My final score is an 8.8.  I enjoyed this a lot, but the internal debate that Lee has over his women could have been cut back a bit.  I know he’s struggling, but it isn’t fun to hear someone lament that they will have to end up sleeping with tons of hot chicks and they regret it.  Still, an amazing read. I can’t wait for the next one.

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Game Worlds!!!!!!

Far Cry: Absolution

By: Urban Waite

Narrated by: Mark Bramhall

Length: 7 hrs and 37 mins


Pause


Awright, awright, awright.  This is the first official Game Worlds segment, where I look at actual books that are connected in some way to games, be they board or video.  So, I’m not sure, but I think Ramon played the clip of me playing some Farcry 5. You can tell it was me because of my massive amount of suckage.  I asked my son to record me playing, and he just focused on the game, but it was me. Anyway, it is a fun game, although I do have a hard time driving.

The book, if I can focus on that is a prequel to FC5, and it does a good job of setting things up for you as to what is exactly going on, and what your character in the game will be facing, I actually suggest that you read this before you play, rather than after.  That was NOT how I did it, and you can look at it one of two ways. One, I pretty much knew who was and wasn’t going to make it, since dead people tend to not pop up during gameplay in a non-supernatural shooter. So, you won’t wonder who makes it and who doesn’t. Or you can just look at it as a bit of fluff and fun to help flesh out the game world.

I myself feel like the book had much more menace than the game, and it was really dark.  The book held no joy. This felt like Deliverance cranked up to 11 with some backwards bumpkins using religion to Ned Beatty the town they lived in.  If you know the reference you know what Imma talkin about. If not, look it up. It’ll make this even more creepy.

The book focuses on a fella who is on the fringe of the cult, and has never really become a part of it.  He’s ex-military, an expert tracker, and a decent shot. His name is Will, and the story centers on his struggle to come to term with how he maintains a relationship with the insane cult in spite of his self denial of what they do.  He knows they aren’t right in their heads, but can’t quite seem to step away from them either. Now, you can look at the book one of two ways. First is that it is just fluff meant to build up some stuff to flesh out your understanding of what the goes on in the game, or you can look at it as a nice stand alone novel.  See, the book really doesn’t fill you in on what you’d expect, which would maybe be the rise of John Seed and how he garnered so much power. That is only tangently explained at best, and centers on how the cult began to exert its power.

The book, to me, is pretty powerful and well written.  I enjoyed many aspects, when I really just expected fluff.  I think Urban Waite is a great writer, who knows how to channel perspective filled with emotion.  The only downside to the novel is that it doesn’t really have much to do with the gameplay. No big reveals or revelations, no impact at all.  A few name changes and it could have been a novel unto itself. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book, but it did have a generic feel to it. It wasn’t exactly specific to Far Cry, unlike a book about 5 nights at freddy’s would have to be.

The narration fits the storyline.  It sounds like it is being told from the perspective of a grizzled old Vietnam vet who pretty much just wants to live alone and forget the world outside of him.  The problem is that while it completely fits the character of Will, it can also come across as more than a little monotone to some people. While I enjoyed it, I have to admit that the direction to use Will’s voice for the entire novel might have been a bad idea.  

Overall, I do believe the story is worthwhile, especially if you want to get a better idea of events that transpire just prior to you starting out as a nameless deputy.  As a tie in though, I have to say that the tale, while really well written, is fairly generic in the manner that it could have been a novel unto itself with a few changes here and there and just told  great story about an average everyday doomsday cult.

I’d say that if you like Far Cry then give it a listen and enjoy.  If not then the book probably won’t provide much interest because it really had no game play elements to it at all.  You’d never know that it was set in a Game World.


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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 034 -  The Song Maiden, Civil War, First Song, Hounded

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 034 -  The Song Maiden, Civil War, First Song, Hounded

“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 Song Maiden: A LitRPG Journey

The Uniworld Online Trilogy, Book 1

Score: 7.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2CgANeQ

Civil War  (The Rogue Dungeon, Book 2)

Score: 8.7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2TA8dj5

First Song

Anthem of Infinity Series, Book 1

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Chjiea

What Else have they done?  Luke Daniels!!!!

Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1

https://amzn.to/2EXjeku

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Hello everyone, welcome to the LITRPG Audiobook Podcast.  My name is Ray and I will be reviewing some current and classic Litrpg audio books for you.  You may have recognized that I do like to theme out the shows whenever I can, and today I have a mixed bag.  I am going to focus on two collaborations, and two musically themed books. So, I really can’t wait.Today I am starting with:


The Song Maiden: A LitRPG Journey

The Uniworld Online Trilogy, Book 1

By: Jonathan Brooks

Narrated by: Anneliese Rennie

Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins


Pause


This is a book that I was admittedly disappointed in as soon as I heard Anneliese Rennie wasn’t lending her singing pipes to, I mean she does a wicked Carpenter imitation, so I had thought she was going to be cranking out some tunes that I could sing by as I listened.  But alas, that is not the case, but there is a reason for it and I will explain. Overlooking that I think the book had some things going for it, and it also threw some stuff at us so far out of left field that it actually came from over the stadium walls.

The book is about a mute gal whose hippy musician parents settle down and raise her with a love of music, to a point at which she can pretty much play anything she lays her hands on s long as it doesn’t require her to blow into it.  So, no piccolo solo’s for her. On her first day at college things go pear-shaped in a pretty horrific way for her, and she ends up hospitalized and unable to communicate since she cannot use her hands to write with. Her bestie buys her a VR set and a game to keep her occupied while she is bed bound and she goes in totally clueless as to what she is to do.

The cool beans aspect for her is that the game actually provides her with a voice, one she constructs on her own.  Which allows her to talk for the first time in her life. She enters the game and then proceeds to do everything a normal player wouldn’t.  She befriends townsfolks instead of questing, she never gets a class, or bothers to level. Cadence, the MC, basically shoots the breeze more than she shoots a bow just from her excitement of being able to talk for the first time, and to me this was probably about as realistic as it gets.  Someone who has been gagged since the day they were born is suddenly given the ability to say something and you think they’re going to want to go around swinging a sword? I don’t think so. It really fit.

The book slowly becomes a standard LITRPG story, with her leveling and travelling around in  group. Another aspect I liked was that Cadence chooses to become a Bard in spite of being a low charisma dwarf.  Naturally, she manages to skirt the penalties of her new class, and becomes op to a degree later on as her charisma skyrockets.  That was my least favorite aspect, because it went from having a really great premise to becoming a little predictable. Also, the reason that we don’t get Rennie singing is because Cadance uses her perfect voice recall to imitate singers that fit the mood she is in, and sadly she never felt like Karen Carpenter.  Actually, Rennie really couldn’t do much singing because the lyrics weren’t overly long, just one or two lines and I think it worked best with her reading them.

The one thing that completely blew my mind was the love scene that came out of no where.  Up to that point I was really thinking that this was a great book for my kids to listen to.  I’m no prude, and Lesbian scenes neither shock nor offend me but that kind of came out of nowhere and it didn’t feel organic.  It felt shoehorned in. Up to that point the story did not scream for a graphic sex scene to appear, it almost felt like Brooks wanted to adult up his tale to draw in the Harem crowd people, and I will even go one further, it would have been much more organic if it had been her best friend who had been the one to initiate the sex, but she wasn’t.  It was just out of place and it was jolting. Thankfully Cadence didn’t moon over the encounter for chapter after chapter like I expected.

Rennie does a great job here and she adds a lot of emotional credence to Cadence’s struggles.  You can feel her pain from the emotional barrage she gets from her professor, to the physical that she endures that puts her in the hospital.  Now, I will say that the bonds of credulity were stretched just a bit at the end when it is revealed just who it was that attacked her, but even then Rennie plays it smooth and carries the story like a champ.  She’s never let me down as a narrator, and I know she has the goods to deliver a great tale.

Final score is going to be a bit wonky.  I had planned on an 8.2 as I listened, but the sex scene and the over done villain reveal took it down a few pegs.  I would have like to have let my younger kids listen to this in the car, but the out of nowhere sex killed that idea, and I don’t want you to think I am knocking this back because my kids couldn’t listen.  It is because the scene blew in out of nowhere and really did nothing to add to the story. Also, it was very trite in making the attackers who they were. The odds of it eve being possible that it was them are so astronomical that it is a little insulting Brooks to assume that we would even believe it to be slightly possible.  Final score, 7.9 stars, would have be higher but stuff happens.



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Civil War  (The Rogue Dungeon, Book 2)

By: James Hunter, eden Hudson

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Series: The Rogue Dungeon, Book 2

Length: 11 hrs and 20 mins


Pause


Roark returns in a wonderfully penned tale about his struggle to gain dominance in his dungeon.  That is what the title Civil War refers too, in case you were thinking that Captain America or Iron Man were going to show up somewhere along the lines.  We do get Cooter Joe and Powner Boner back for more, so that is a plus, and I have to say that Pwner Boner is one of my favorite jerks of all time.

Like I said, the dungeon is embroiled in a uncivil war, and Roark is beset on quite a few fronts as he has to fend off player incursions, assaults from unfriendlies from the lower levels, and even some Dev concerns that he isn’t quite aware of.  That is one thing that I think is so slick about this series, it meshes three different dimensions together, Roark’s world, the Game world, and the player’s universe.

This edition of the series is where the steam starts picking up.  Book one had a great intro and set up, but this is where things really take off.  We get bigger fights, more evolutions, and alliances between different floors. My mad man Kaz tears up as a master chef, and Zyra takes ass kicking to a whole new level.  I’d love to see a reference to Kaz becoming an Iron Chef. He gets a cool tenderizer, but he needs a good cleaver and sharpening tool.

We also get to see some crafting, so fans of this portion of gaming will be happy, as will the builders, as Roark goes on and reconfigures his level several times.  There is also an addition of some NPC trainers who are actually interesting, and Kaz gets a love interest.

The only part of the book that I struggle with is the burgeoning romance vibes that I get from Roark and Zyra.  That is not a happy thing. Zyra is a monster that loves blood and killing, Roark only kills because he has to and wants to save his people.  Once this whole battle is done and he can go home he’s either going to stay or take her with him, and if she becomes human I doubt that she’s going to want to go around not killing people all day.  AS much as I wish it so I don’t see Roark loving his life as a troll. He’s never once mentioned how much better it as than his being a human, so . . .problems. Either way, I gotten put points into Hudson and Hunter to do the right thing.  They have a plan.

I will reiterate that I am always amazed at how great James manages to meld his writing style with that of whomever he partners with in so flawless a manner.  The writing here is smooth, flawless, and well paced. They action picks up and never lets up. The characterizations are well done, and I have to say that as much as I like my beefy chef, Zyra has stolen my cholesterol clogged heart.  I think I like her more than Roark, but then kick butt assassin chicks have always been my weakness. Actually I am attracted to crazy more than kick buttiness, but we’ll leave my personal life out of this discussion.

What can I say about Nick Pohdel?  What haven’t I said already? He plays this series like he was in the world series of poker holding four aces.  He powns it. See what I did there? Nick really makes this super fun, and while I think that his weakest point as a narrator is that he can’t do a dozen different female voices that the ones he has here work really well, and are distinctive unto themselves.


I kind of boxed myself in with my review of the first book, because I think I hit it at an 8.5, and I loved this book.  8.7 stars.


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First Song

Anthem of Infinity Series, Book 1

By: Blaise Corvin, Outspan Foster, Blaise Corvin - foreword

Narrated by: Ramon De Ocampo

Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins


Pause


I have to say this was a weird book for me, in fact, I kinda think it was a first.  I am always going to be truthful about things and I have to admit that when the book first started I wasn’t a fan.  The writing was good, but I really hated the entire apocalyptic setting. The MC, who pretty much lived out the embodiment of the name worm that was given to him by some raiders wasn’t someone I cared about.  I actually hoped he’d die, and I actually thought that he would since he very clearly was not the dude on the book’s cover. I enjoy bleak, but I don’t enjoy weak or whiny and that was what worm was, he was a punk.

SO, I don’t want to hit you with spoilers, but I will say that the book makes for a huge change part way in, and the Worm turns.  Yes, I went there. Worm then sort of becomes Noah, the guy he should have been all along. And in that instance the entire tone of the book shifts.  Worm dries up in the sun and Noah takes his place. Noah is a take no BS kinda guy who sets about taking care of business. See, he can do things to prevent the events that created worm and crushed humanity in a punked out apocalypse from being quite so harsh because of a little thing called . . . ah, ah, spoilers.  (Maybe add in the tardis sound just as a hint maybe let it run about 5 seconds). Anyway, Noah very calculatingly implements a 20 year plan to help prep and prepare for an invasion of alien beings called Aelves. No these guys are tougher, faste, and stronger than humans, they can perform magic, and they like to eat humans.  So baddies all around. I have to say that it is the building aspect that I truly loved so much. The planning, the prep, the sacrifice, that is the stuff I am a sucker for and I loved it. My favorite part of the book was the scheming baby, you’ll know it when you get there. That was the best. And, when we finally return to the apocalypse I actually found myself looking forward to it.  That was when the book really hit 3rd gear and started moving because I was admittedly in need of some action.

So, while the book might have started off a little slow with an unlikable character (for me, and I have to say I really don’t believe that we were ever supposed to LIKE Worm.  Sympathize? Yeah, but not like.) He was cowardly and did some reprehensible stuff like going along with the slave trade. So, I really had no empathy for the dude, but once he transformed himself from a spineless wimp into a determined Noah I was cheering him on all the way.

The aelves seem to make some pretty good villains, and I highly anticipate more of them in book 2, because Noah has a bond with one of the higher ups that he is going to have to deal with at some point.  


Corvin and Foster do an admirable job here tag teaming this piece of writing.  I know I generally praise James Hunter for how well he meshes his writing with his partners so flawlessly, but I have to say that the pair here did a seamless job, and that I would be hard pressed to pick who did what or whose voice it was that we were really hearing.  I honestly think that Corvin gave Foster his head, and allowed him just go crazy and if that is the case it was a wise move. It totally worked, and it is awesome to see a collaboration come together a well as this.

Ramon De Ocampo’s narration took me a little while t get used to, he was new to me, and I had to settle in and really listen, and I have to say that he grew on me the longer we went.  I appreciated his voice, and the acting that he put into it. Everyone stood out as individual characters, and I never wondered who was speaking. The only thing I wish that he had done was to give the Aelves a distinctive accent.  That would have really made them stand out to me, much in the way that all dwarves are Scottish sounding (even though I hate that trope). I kept going to Londo Mollari from Babylon Five, and how Peter Jurassic worked so hard to create a distinctive accent for his race, and then no other Centauri that appeared on the show ever used it.  I would have really liked to have had something to say that it was an aelf speaking before I ever heard the character’s race mentioned. Otherwise, great job, and I look forward to more from him.


Overall, even though I was not a fan of the first part of the book just because I didn’t like Worm I think that it worked in making me hate him, because I liked him a lot by the end, and anticipated the Aelves attacking.  Final score, 8.5.



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


What Else have they done?  Luke Daniels!!!!


Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1

By: Kevin Hearne

Narrated by: Luke Daniels

Length: 8 hrs and 6 mins


Pause


As a fan of Urban Fantasy I couldn’t help but bring in this book, and it is a really great vehicle for Luke Daniels.  I would call this his signature series, even above all of the other Litrpg novels that he’s rocked out so hard like Advent, Ascend Online, Magic 2.0,  and even Tamer. The character, the setting, and the conflict all combine into a zeitgeist for modern celtic mythology. Yeah, I’m pulling my Irish card here, and have to admit that I do have some ancestral pride in the hero being anyone other than Brian Boru or Cú Chulainn.

The story starts off with 21 year old book shop owner, Atticus O’Sullivan just having nice quiet day.  Truth is he’s 21 centuries old and is hiding out in Arizona because of a centuries long ownership dispute over a magic sword.  Atticus wants to keep his head down and stay out of trouble, but his ancient rival an old celtic god has discovered him and things go sideways rather fast for him.  There are tons of sword fights, deadly magic, gods, and fey to make you want to pray for a movie to come along. The series, not just book 1, is just that good. Plus, it is infused with humor throughout, but doesn’t try to be funny.  The humor is organic and comes about naturally.

The story is not only an excellent introduction for the series, but it sets up a lot of what is to come as Atticus deals with the Morrigan, werewolves, vampires, all of whom are ostensibly his allies.  For me, the best part of the series is Atticus’s loyal Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. I will say that Hearn really knows how to mesh the ancient with the urban. He keeps the tale fluid, exciting and nail biting.

It is Daniels, however, that brings this tale to life.  Like I said, my favorite thing about the books it Oberon, the dog.  I could listen to Daniels voice that character all day long. He doesn’t pull a Scooby Doo or Astro voice.  He makes the dog sound smart and excited, and I fully credit his portrayal of the beast for the reason Oberon became popular enough to warrant his own short story about Oberon and a Squirrel.  How many times can I say Oberon in this paragraph?

Daniels pretty much uses he standard voice as Atticus, but he plays  great Viking vampire and werewolf attorney. He also does a great job playing as a sexy bartender at Atticus’s favorite restaurant.  He even pulls off a ghostly female hindu witch. Seriously, there is a reason that this guy plays in the major leagues. He is pretty hardcore.  Without a doubt one of my top narrators.

The series is great early on, but I have to say that towards the end, i.e. the last 3 or so books, it does become kind of preachy about the environment.  Still all the elements are there to make for a great Urban fantasy, and I have to say that this is probably one of the best known UF titles after the Dresden Files.  You might argue Shayne Silvers, but to me this is in the same category as Dresden. Top notch story telling and unbelievable narration combine to keep you hooked. Trust me, once you start you won’t stop until you finish it up, and you will get the short stories as well.  The only flaw in the whole series that I see is that the covers look like cheap knock offs from a failed Supernatural, i.e. Sam and Dean Winchester, series. The covers just don’t fit the look or feel of the series and they are what kept me from getting them for the longest time.  Don’t miss out, this is Daniels definitive series. It will take a lot for him to top this line. I highly recommend this series if you are a fan of UF, fantasy in general, great storytelling, amazing characters, and original magic systems.



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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 033 -  Dead Must Die, The Fabled Islands, Dragon Seed, VGO: Side Quests

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 033 -  Dead Must Die, The Fabled Islands, Dragon Seed, VGO: Side Quests


“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: ”

Dead Must Die - A Novella of the Realms

The Realms: Master of the Dungeon, Book 1 (A Humorous GameLit Adventure) (01:42)

Score: 7.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2TdSYMG


The Fabled Islands (12:47)

A LitRPG Adventure, Book 1

Score: 7.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Xz7Pjf


Dragon Seed: Archemi Online, Volume 1 (31:47)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2XyeBps


Viridian Gate Online: Side Quests: A litRPG Anthology (55:09)

Score: 7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2NypvH2


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


Dead Must Die - A Novella of the Realms

The Realms: Master of the Dungeon, Book 1 (A Humorous GameLit Adventure)

By: C. M. Carney

Narrated by: Reuben Corbett

Length: 1 hr and 56 mins



Pause


Full disclosure, I am huge fan of Chris Carney, and I am also a tried and true adorer of short stories.  Seeing this it became a no brainer that I would be reviewing it. So, what’s the disclaimer? The novel centers on my least favorite character of the series, the boy Simon who ended up kind of inheriting the mantle of the dungeon that the lich king had been running.  The dungeon is all his now, and it wants to merge with him and start munching on adventurers. So, even though it was about my least favorite character I still put on my unbiased earbuds and gave it a listen.

First and foremost I have to say that as much as I like Carney, his attempts at humor fell short with me.  I don’t know if it was that the jokes were easy to see coming or if Corbett didn’t translate them from the page to my ears as well as he could have I don’t know.  Either way, the humor took it down a little for me the longer the book went on.

On the upside, this almost becomes a dungeon core styled story.  Almost, it had some of the elements, but never (most wisely) tried to become that.  It stayed in its own little box with Simon mucking around with the dungeon and manipulating its inhabitants, but never became a full on core book.

I did enjoy the story when it wasn’t trying so hard to make me laugh.  I really think that a straight story would have worked a lot better; something much more in the vein of the other Realms books that have humor, but not in such a rapid fire unrelenting way, but more spaced out.  The book is a nice little gem that adds some flavor to the Realms, and will help feed your need for more stuff in the Realm settings.

The story is fairly fast paced and keeps you interested, and like I said before Simon is a character I could take or leave, and I found myself liking him more as the story went on.  I was even glad to see that he had started dating.

I know the narrator, Rueben Corbett from another series that I read a few years back, Dragonia: Rise of the Wyverns.  He did a decent job there, and he does the same thing with this tale. The problem that I have is that I’m going to compare him to Armen Taylor no matter what, since Taylor narrates the other Realms books.  I have to say that he holds up surprisingly well, too. He does the necessary voices and keeps the story as fun as he can. I had no problems with what he did here and think he was a good fit for the series.  

I would happily listen to another short from this series, I just hope the humor isn’t as pervasive next time around.  Final score 7.9.


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


The Fabled Islands

A LitRPG Adventure, Book 1

By: Cameron Milan

Narrated by: Steve Campbell

Length: 8 hrs and 19 mins


Pause


Well, here we are, yet another Cameron Milan story.  I’ve reviewed a few of his books so far such as Desire and Zombie Slayer, but I have to say that this is probably my favorite of his series.  Now, you may realize that as I have stated before that Milan has a habit of creating extremely OP characters and sometimes his dialogue is cartoonish.  Coupling those things with weak narration and I wasn’t a big fan. The fact is I was pretty much done with his Desire series, but gave this a try because it was new.

So this is basically a YA title.  AS in for Young adults, and I actually think that he is actually geared towards YA stuff rather then full blown hard core stuff.  The over powered characters work well in this setting, as does his character’s speech patterns. I.E. “I’m gonna go beat him up and take his card.  That works better in a book for youngsters than it does an adult. I don’t know why, but for me this worked way better than anything he’s written prior to this.  His characters, the setting, and the gameplay all fit right into the YA mold pretty well. I believe that this might be a good way to break younger audiences into Gamelit/Litrpg stuff.

One thing that I liked a lot was the way that the game system employed the use of cards.  It was, for me, different and I liked the concept a lot better than simple leveling. The way it works is that whenever you defeat an opponent they will drop a card that might boost your attributes, provide a power increase to your magic, or grant you a special ability such as water walking.  There are also secret cards that you can find, or earn, so that you are always on the hunt for more cards to power you up. Also, each island that you go to provides different things. The island that Tristan hailed from was a place that had endless food supplies, and at the end of the book they were talking about going to treasure island.  I wonder what will be there.

The story starts off with the MC, a young lad named Tristan, getting ready to defeat his last dungeon on Bountiful Island so that he can move on to bigger and better things.  He’s trained his whole life to become a Brave, but he is really a Jack of all trades kind of character. On the way he runs into a girl. They become friends and he ends up mentoring her as they go from place to place until she levels up hard and helps him fight some baddies.  The book is basically the pair wandering around and doing things, so it is a slice of life and I am not a big fan of those.

My problems were basically the same that I always seem to have with Milan, his characters are all OP and never seem to be in any danger.  There is one scene where Tristan has his arm cut off and he’s just like, “Wow, that was a cool move! How’d you do that?” At no point did he say Crap, I just lost my arm.  I’m gonna die. Stuff like that takes me right out of it, and I truly think that I would like his books a lot better if he toned his characters powers down because all you really do is follow the couple around as they kill stuff.  I also have to wonder how YA the book actually is since there are some questionable scenes like when Tristan spies on some dwarves getting it on in their bedroom. Not exactly what I want my 13 year old to be reading.

Finally, I have to say that he has, at last, found a narrator who can do his story justice. Steve Campbell is probably the reason that I enjoyed this as much as I did.  He makes wonky dialogue come off as normal and keeps the listener on the hook. Like I said with Zombie Slayer, the narration was weak and could not support the story. Here, Campbell keeps the story going when it might have petered out if he wasn’t here.  I enjoyed his voices, and I’m glad to see him finally doing more Litrpg work.


Final score, 7.4 stars.  This is a real step up from his other stories, and it is one I would happily let my younger kids listen to, so long as I got to do a little filtering.


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



Dragon Seed: Archemi Online, Volume 1

By: James Osiris Baldwin

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

Series: Archemi Online Series, Book 1

Length: 12 hrs and 38 mins



Pause


This is my much beloved and deeply missed Soundbooth Spotlight, I don’t know why it haven’t done more of these, but Never fear, there are more to come in the future.  Dragon Seed is an excellent book that I enjoyed right from the start. In some ways, it reminded me of Dave Willmarth’s Dark Elf series and James Hunter’s Viridian Gate Online, as it starts out with a world ending sort of apocalypse when something called the Hex virus.  It’s a virus that when you get it you have about 4 days to live, and it will be a nice slow and miserable kind of death. The MC, Hector Park, ends up getting Hex and leaves quarantine, as anyone who is infected should and goes looking for his brother. Turns out his bro is an important figure who just so happens to have a set up that will allow them to have their brains downloaded into a game in order to save their consciousnesses.  So you can see the similarities, but that is all it is, pretty facile, and to be blunt it is hard to come up with new and creative ways to put people into game worlds. That wasn’t a plug for my new segment, either.

So, once in the game world we get to see a lot of PC options, and Hector wants to become a Dragon Rider, and what is cool is that he doesn’t automatically start off as one.  He has to go through an entire series of events to actually EARN the class. That’s right, he has to earn the class, and if he fails there is no second chance. He can’t reapply.  I liked that aspect a lot. Plus, there are some little hints as to what’s really going on, so pay attention to comments made about the NPC’s and their dreams. Also, this is one book where I think it is safe to actually view the NPC’s as being as real as the PC’s, since everyone that is playing the game is dead.  They are just as electronically alive as the NPC’s, the only difference is that they get a respawn ability.

There are several things that I like about this book, but the primary ones are that we do not really get a definitive answer on what happened to Hector’s brother, nor do we get to find out if he makes it as a Dragon Knight until the end of the book.  Also, there is the mystery of the NPC’s dreams that needs addressed, so while the book does a good job wrapping up its first act it unquestioningly has plenty of things to focus on in the following books. The only downside that I found was that it was predictable as to who was going to be the baddie that sticks it to Hector.  I really saw the “twist” coming from a mile away, but then I never trust anybody so I’d never be surprised. Still lots of crunch and excellent game mechanics and a wonderfully built world.

Without a doubt one of the best things about this story was how it was handled by Soundbooth.  The team really pulls out all the stops, and while they don’t hit the sound effects button on this book what they do is to add a wonderfully cinematic score to a lot of parts of the novel.  In fact it was most notable during an epic battle scene, when the score kicked in it added so much that it made a good battle scene feel pretty epic. I really appreciated how it didn’t overwhelm the spoken words and only added to the drama and excitement of the scene.  I really felt like I was watching a scene out of Braveheart. The score itself was well done, and I applaud the subtle way it was used. It could have dominated everything rather than enhancing. I feel that the score in various parts of the narration was more of a benefit than I would have expected.  Justin Thomas James and Laurie Catherine Winkel, the Bonnie and Clyde of SBT are amazing here. I call them that because the only people that get three names are people like John Hinkley Jr., John Wilkes Booth, and Lee Harvey Oswald. So, if you hafta use all three names you must be up to sumpin! Or it might just be that they’ll steal your breath as they steal the story away from James Osiris Baldwin.  Hmmm, another one with three names. I’d say watch out for this guy, because so far he’s blown me away with his writing. Jeff Hays, also lends his vociferous skills to the track, and as he is my favorite narrator anything else I say will sound biased. Because it is. But he rocks. Party on, Jeff. Party on.


So the long and the short of it is that this is an impressive debut Litrpg novel.  Baldwin has a few books under his belt already, but this is his first foray into the genre and he hit it pretty well.  My final score 8.3 just because I did see a few of the twists way before they happened.


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



Viridian Gate Online: Side Quests: A litRPG Anthology

By: James Hunter, J.D. Astra, D.J. Bodden, N.H. Paxton, Raymond Johnson, Nicholas Reid

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

Series: The Viridian Gate Archives

Length: 8 hrs and 47 mins

Unabridged Audiobook

Release date: 02-27-19

Language: English

Publisher: Shadow Alley Press In



In an anthology like this each story is written by a different person and some will appeal to a reader, while others won’t. I try to judge each separately.

 

“A Gentleman’s Work” by James A. Hunter

Narrated by Jeff Hays

 

When an Imperial Inquisitor captures a Thieves Guild Operative, Cutter must undertake a deadly rescue mission while using every grift in the book to stay one step ahead of a Headsman’s Blade. And the prize for this extraordinary quest? Nothing short of the keys to the Rowanheath Thieves Guild. Deception, subterfuge, and heavy drinking—all in a day’s work for a Gentleman …

 

Story: The longest of the short stories in the collection, it comes in at about 33% of the total page count. This one is written by the author of the Viridian Gate Online series and is unsurprisingly the one most fans came for. It focuses on Cutter, the NPC companion of main character in VGO, and if you like that character or just like a good break in story, you’ll enjoy this. While it was nice to get some background on Cutter, he is not my favorite character and it didn’t quite hit the spot for me. Good writing, good action-heist thing, but couldn’t get into the ebook version.

 

Narration: Jeff Hays pulls out his english accent (Cockney??) with this one as the voice of Cutter. It adds a nice bit of added flavor to the story that just pushes it up past a 7 out of 10.

 

Ebook Score: 6.9 out of 10 ; Audiobook score: 7.2 out of 10

--

“The Funeral Parlor” by Raymond Johnson

Narrated by Jeff Hays

 

A young spiderling is stranded in an alien land, surrounded by hostile creatures. Forced to fight for her life in a bid to find her way home, she must transform into the predator she is destined to become or die alone and forgotten, trapped in a dark world know as the Shadowverse.

 

Story: Really nice, simple, and short story. It comes in at about 8% of the total word count. The story is told from the monsters point of view, and while I would have liked to have seen more RPG evolutions, it was a good story with action and accurate arachnid anatomy.

 

Narration: Oddly I think I like Jeff Hays regular voice more than his ones with an accent, except maybe his Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. This one is just Jeff’s regular voice, but it still adds extra oomph and increases the tension some places.

 

Ebook Score: 7.3 out of 10 ; Audiobook score: 7.4 out of 10

--

“The Raiding of Rowanheath” by J.D. Astra

Narrated by Laurie Catherine Winkel

 

The Crimson Alliance has breached the walls of Rowanheath, inciting Aleixo Carrera’s rage. Now Abby and her rag-tag invasion crew must reach the keep’s Command Center before the defending troops mobilize and shut down the takeover, else they’ll lose the battle and the war for Eldgard’s freedom.

 

Even though it makes up 11% of the total word count, it felt longer. This is one of those stories that tells the events of something you’ve already read about, only from some other point of view. The writing isn’t bad, I just got bored with it since it takes place during an event I’ve read about before.

 

Narration: Laurie does a good narration job but there are a couple places gamer terms were said incorrectly. While her narration improves the story for me, it’s not enough to push it past a 6 out of 10.

 

Ebook Score: 5 out of 10 ; Audiobook Score: 6 out of 10

--

“The Ballad of Jaro Edgewalker” by N.H. Paxton

Narrated by  Justin Thomas James

 

Jaro is an assassin, and he’s good at it. But when he finds a foe that is insurmountable by normal means and uncovers a plot to destroy everything he loves, Jaro has to balance his morality with his love for his friends and make an incredibly difficult decision.

 

Story: One of my favorite short stories in the anthology, it comes in at 14% of the total page count. This one is definitely one of the best planned of these short stories. It has good original characters with a solid well told ending that still ties to VGO universe.

 

Narration: Justin does several accents during the narration and I’ll be honest, I never expected the Spanish Dos Equis voice as the narrator voice. Between him and Annie Ellicott, the narration is just a joy to listen to and makes a good story great.

 

Ebook Score: 7.6 out of 10 ; Audiobook Score: 8.0 out of 10

--

“Buried Alive” by Nicholas Reid

Narrated by Laurie Catherine Winkel

 

Carlos Vega thinks he’s escaping certain death by entering the virtual world of V.G.O., but instead he’s swallowed alive by the deadly Barren Sands. He’ll have to overcome the riddles and horrors of a long-forgotten temple in order to escape, but can he do it before the evil sealed there centuries ago finds him?

 

Story: This is an ok short story, that feels distanced from the VGO universe. It sort of feels like VGO - Ancient Egyptian edition. It’s 15% of the total page count.

 

Narration: The narration doesn’t add anything here. Doesn’t take away either. The story comes across much the same as the ebook version. Just a bit less than good.

 

Ebook Score: 6 out of 10 ; Audiobook Score: 6 out of 10

--

“A Final Kindness” by D.J. Bodden

Narrated by Justin Thomas James

 

Alan Campbell was a talker, not a fighter, until someone murdered his girl. He’d almost given up on finding the killers; now he’s got a fresh lead, a trio of mercenaries who outclass him in every way but his wits. He’ll cheat, bluff, and steal to get his revenge, and as one of V.G.O.’s immortal travelers, he’s willing to die trying.

 

Story: This is without a doubt, my favorite short story in the anthology. It’s the 2nd longest at 19% of the total page count, but it goes by quickly because of the great pacing, mysteriously unraveled plot, and well done character development. The story is the most removed from the VGO universe and has the least game mechanics of any of the short stories. But, it has the most heart and the cut always gave great backstory for the characters.

 

Narration: Now a full fledged novel with the same main character, this short story is set much later but has the same good action-adventure and illusionist powers. Justin does a good job of bringing the descriptions to life and the rest of the Soundbooth Theatre cast adds some good flavor to the story bumping it up from good to great.

 

Ebook Score: 7.8 out of 10; Audiobook score: 8 out of 10

-----

 

Overall, I think the anthology does a good job of highlighting all the different types of stories that can be created within the same universe. While I didn’t love every story, I had a good time reading/listening to most.

 

Score: 7 out of 10









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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 032 -  Super Sales on Super Heroes, Book 3, The Artificer, Dungeon Desolation, Dragonlance series

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 032 -  Super Sales on Super Heroes, Book 3, The Artificer, Dungeon Desolation, Dragonlance series


“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: ”


Super Sales on Super Heroes, Book 3 (00:28)

Score: 7.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2TTTifD

The Artificer: A LitRPG Adventure - The Imperial Initiative, Book 1 (14:49)

Score: 7.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Nk5m7L

Dungeon Desolation (26:41)

Score: 7.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Iv9hjk

Game On - New segment (42:56)

Dragonlance series

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Super Sales on Super Heroes, Book 3

By: William D. Arand

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Length: 12 hrs


Pause


This my friends is a very bittersweet time for me, as I finally get a conclusion to a beloved series.  The book is filled with action, blood, battle, schemes, and sacrifice. One thing that it really lacked was pancakes.  Andrea really took a back seat in this book, and most other characters were barely visible as they popped up periodically for brief appearances.  Now, I don’t want to add any spoilers here, but I will tell you that fans of Wild Wastes should pick up this book as things from that series tie very directly into Super Sales and that you will not want to miss it.  By that I mean that this is not, I repeat NOT, a brief cameo but might actually be a sign that Arand is beginning to finally pull his books together in a far more definitive way. So, if you are a fan of any of his books that he has tied together this is the starting point.  Think of this book like the time Nick Fury first popped up at the end of a Marvel Movie and said he was building a team. There is no Nick Fury figure here, but it is very clear now in no uncertain terms that the universes are all tied together and that they will be connecting over time for the big finale.  So, like totally super excited for that event.


On that note I was a little disappointed in this book in one way.  Felix really didn’t get to use his powers much at all, and three quarters of my fun always came from the creative way he used his abilities, and I loved watching him give people powers.  Honestly, aside from one police detective I don’t think he modified anyone, or did much enhancing. The biggest use of his power was bringing back dead members of his team once. Now, I really love Felix, and his girls, but there wasn’t a lot of “super action” here.  Lilly and Kit did very little, Andrea was almost invisible, and the book seemed to be dominated by a new girl from Vince’s world. Truth be told, it felt a lot like one long date. Felix was taking someone out to dinner most of the time, and if he wasn’t doing that then he was struggling to stay ahead of his opposition.


Another disappointment was that I had really been hoping that book three was going to see Felix go at Skipper finally, but it looks like that has been put off for another series as well.  Super Sales was probably my favorite series of Arand’s, but this book, while good, just didn’t quite live up to the other two novels. Felix is neutered and all the girls are suddenly shoved aside for a newbie in his life.  The book just felt like it was on a treadmill, running really fast but not getting anywhere at all. The way it ended, while tying things together, didn’t hit my buttons. It was not a proactive end, and it was more of a well I can’t say without spoilers, but I don’t want to blow the surprises in the book.  All I can say is that it didn’t have the same tonal quality as the first two books, and if you want me to be honest here is my complete break down. The book picks up five years after the end of book 2. Nothing really changes at all during that time, but we do learn that for some reason the gods of his earth have decided that Felix is a D-bag and they do everything in their power to stop him.  One of the things I loved about book two was the way it changed directions so deftly, and made you think that it was heading here and then it shifted gears and took off over there. That didn’t happen in book three at all. In this book Legion is under assault and that never lets up, Felix and the others never have time to breath, and again we lose all the other girls, except for Miu, in favor of Felicity, his new assistant.  The super heroes were practically non-existent, as was a definitive villain that was opposing him. It saddens me to say that this is the weakest of his books that I have read, as I love his stuff and this series, but he took away too much. Either leave Felix his powers and take way the girls, or leave the girls and take away his powers. Don’t do both. Skipper, who was built up in one, and made a menacing appearance in two, should have had a lot more to do in three, but that didn’t happen.  The Lit stuff from one is almost non-existent here. So this sort of traipses into a sci-fi novel rather than LITRPG, like I said tonally id did not fit with the other books.


The book does have some good action scenes, and Zombie Miu is perhaps the most touching part of the book, but in the end this was more of a political intrigue novel interspersed with Felix on a date or fighting for his life in some way.  If you love Felicity then this is a great book for you, since she pervades it more than any other character. She does so in such a creepy way, every girl there is like you should sleep with Felicity!, that I was certain that she was some villain come to infiltrate his HQ and get close to him.  If you don’t like Felicity then tough cookies because she pops up everywhere.


I guess for Nick Pohdel this was a great book, because he didn’t have to voice any of the girls from the first two novels for very long, there were a lot of new ladies that he could characterize on his own, and not have to replicate, Andrea’s energy, for example.  He plays a fine Felix, and is an amazing narrator, and he does his utmost to keep the book as exciting as possible. I had no issues with any of his work on this book.


I know that it sounds like I hated Super Sales 3, I didn’t, it was a good book.  However, it did not hold up in comparison to the first two novels, and that breaks my heart because this was one of my favorite series.  So, I am giving the book a 7.5 star score. It is still good, but cannot come close to matching the energy of the first two novels, and the lack of powers being used by Felix made this go from the Lit Genre to simple Sci-fi.


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The Artificer: A LitRPG Adventure

The Imperial Initiative, Book 1

By: S. R. Witt, James Hunter

Narrated by: Matthew Broadhead

Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins


Pause



You know how you can tell that Hunter is an amazing author? 1) Because he can make you appreciate and sympathize (a little) for one of the nastiest villains this side of Darth Vader. Yeah, Ozmark is a huge jerk, an A-hole, and scumbag extrodinaire but this is one anti-hero who has reasons for every move he makes. By no means does this book negate his asshat status that he earned in the VGO books, but you do get a better handle on his motives to a small extent, and see what pushed him to be the way he is when we meet him in Viridian Gate, book one. 2) He is a writing chameleon.  He easily adapts his writing style to match whomever he partners with so that the transition is fairly seemless. His coauthored books all feel like they are written in one singular voice.


What’s the sitrep?  Ozmark knows the world is going to end long before the general public, and takes steps to ensure his survival, and as many other people he can get to enter his virtual world. Problem is he meets resistance from political types, and he soon has to start doing things that would make his mother cry to make things happen. This is done to make him more sympathetic, and make you see that things are not always black and white, but man do I hate that guy. This just made me hate him like he was Anthony Perkins in Psycho! You know, Norman Bates is a swell dude.  He’s quiet, takes care of his mother, and likes birds. You get to see how he gradually goes from minor evils to being the full blown bad guy. His story sort of reminds me of Norman Osborn from Spider-Man, average business guy who goes insane after getting his powers and becomes a major evil. Ozmark doesn’t realize he’s chopping his soul into pieces, but by the end of the book I don’t think he has much left to spare. So, if you ask what it is that passes for action all I can tell you is that he does have to contend with some hired killers who are after him, he has to recruit financiers from the scum of the earth, and one of his recruits actively plans to take control of VGO away from Ozmark once they are inside.  So, don’t go thinking this is all business dealings and board room meetings.

Don't get me wrong. The book is amazing, and ties right into VGO leading right up to a point where he first hears of a certain fellow named Grim Jack. I can totally see the next book picking up somewhere after their initial encounter and showing us everything that he has to deal with while our man Jack (and Cutter!) tries to stave off his military advances. I highly anticipate the interweaving of the stories, and even seeing Ozmark's side of things as we progress. I do want to comment that Hunter did not write this moving fast paced story alone, he partnered with S.R. Witt, and their collaboration churned out one heck of a story. Seriously, if it had been another character I would have been rooting for him all the way. I still loved this book and hold it to the same standards as VGO.  In spite of the time since the release it looks like this is a one off book, but I think that I would like to see yet another book written from Ozmark’s POV as he struggles against Grimjack and all the other doom and death bringers the two enemies have to face together.


Broadhead, who is not Armen Taylor (narrator of the VGO series) narrates this book and I think it was a smart move to have a different voice, so to speak, to tell Ozmark's tale. This way you don't think of Ozmark as being Grim Jack, only as another character. It really sets both series and main characters apart. I would say that Broadhead is totally on par with Taylor in this book, and such close skill levels also keeps thing balanced. Broadhead does a fine job here.  With me he is usually hit or miss. I know him from the Bathrobe Knight series, and so I guess I am a little biased on how good he is, as I love that series.


Overall, for quality, story and narration this is like holding a mirror up to VGO. You can see they are the same, but so different as to stand apart. If you love VGO you will not want to miss this novel. Get it today!!!!

Final score 7.8 stars.



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. In fact, 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.


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

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Dungeon Desolation

By: Dakota Krout

Narrated by: Vikas Adam

Length: 11 hrs and 55 mins


Pause


Dakota Krout finally returns to the Divine Dungeon after a far too long period of time.  I have really missed Dale, Cal, and Danni the Wisp. Naturally, nothing remains static and a lot of changes take place in a short span of time.  Without getting too spoilery Dale loses a lot, Danni pretty much mommies it up, and Cal tries to deal with his plan to gather the world’s energy via a network of ley lines that he has constructed.


I have to say that as the penultimate book in the series I was a little let down in some spots.  Cal sends Dale and his team to retrieve a dungeon core, and there really wasn’t much to the entire encounter, a cult that worships Cal springs up and he does very little with them, and he commandeers another dungeon core to run some of his levels so he can focus on his big plans.  In the meantime a necromantic army is killing everything in its path and the Adventurers Guild is tasked with stopping it. A lot is happening in the book, but we get to focus on very little until the big army encounter.


The entire book is basically Dale and Cal getting pushed around and scrambling to stop a horde of undead and a Triple S level madman.  I honestly felt like the series would have been better served with a book centered on the undead horde and then the madman, and then to finish with the fallout of their encounter with the triple S’er.  So much happened that I think the reader was short changed with the follow up to the events that happened. For example, there are deaths that are glossed over, events between party members, and revelations about the big bad necromancer.  Xenocide, on the other hand went from just being a nut case to being the biggest danger in the world. I would have expected a little more build up before he exploded into being the biggest bad of all. This made the last half of the book feel very rushed.  In fact, the entire necromantic war which was built up pretty heavily ends with a whimper at Xenocide’s appearance.


Cal really doesn’t do much in the way of dungeon building or creating new monsters for most of the book, and that is one of my favorite aspects of the story.  My second favorite part is Danni interacting with Cal, and most of that was limited to them discussing the wee wisp. My third favorite aspect is Dale navigating the act of building a town while trying to level up.  We get the leveling aspect, and that is really fun, but we completely lose the Town aspect for reasons. This seemed to be the weakest of the dungeon books, simply for the fact that the dungeon shifts from being the most important character to a second tier personage.  Cal, being the dungeon should always come first. Also because it feels pieced together, like it was Dale’s story, with a dash of Cal, and an Uber threat that appears out of nowhere. Yes, Xenocide was foreshadowed last book, but we really didn’t get to know much about him.  Again, that makes this feel rushed, and it almost feels like Dakota was happily plugging along on his completionist stuff and felt like he had to get another dungeon book out ASAP to keep us from rioting. I would have rather he’d of held off a little and really crafted this tale a bit tighter.


All that said, I did enjoy the novel, and you can’t get the same old thing every time, and I was very happy with what I got.  The battle was pretty cool and I loved the way Dale rebuilt himself. The good moments were great, but they seemed to be very few and far between one another.  An d, hey, I get that there wasn’t a lot of room for the dungeon to grow and kill adventurers, but Krout is pretty creative and he could have done something like having Cal invade the other dungeons one level at a time rather than having his minions doing things for him.  Most of which was truncated, al la the deep sea dungeon, or having Minya do the volcanic dungeon.


Vikas Adam is fantastic as always, and I love his rendition of Danni is my favorite voice that he does.  I will give credit where credit is due, and say that he plays every character like they were as important as the main characters.  He nails the humor and can jump from silly to full blown action in less than three letters.



Final Score 7.4 Stars.  It really pains me to do that, but I felt a little cheated on the dungeon building and even just Cal’s screen time was short.  We had a bloody battle that ultimately became meaningless, and a big bad that just popped up and took over. You might like it more than me, give it a shot it is still a good book, but is in my opinion the weakest of the dungeon books.

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


Dragons of Autumn Twilight: Dragonlance: Chronicles

Dragons of Winter Night, Book 2

Dragons of Spring Dawning, Book 3

Time of the Twins, Book 1

War of the Twins, Book 2

Test of the Twins, Book 3

By: Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman

Narrated by: Paul Boehmer

2nd series Narrated by: Ax Norman

Length: 20 hrs on average


Pause


This is a new segment in which I am going to talk about different books that are based ON video and RPG games.  The requirement is that it has to be either a video game or role playing game before it became a book. So, if Chaosium put out an audiobook of HP Lovecraftian stories it would not qualify.  I also discount any games that were made from a movie or tv show. So, no Manimal Role Playing game audiobooks for you. Sorry. This has to have been a purely video or table top game before hitting print.  Sorry, that’s the rules. I will generally cover one book from a series, but may, as today, cover multiple books. As before, my intent is to draw you in and broaden your awareness, so I won’t score here, but It will be on Audible.  So look there if you want a score.


So, for my first segment ever I had to pick something that I seem to talk about all the time.  Dragonlance. I’m actually going to talk about the first six books in the series. I’m doing this because this is actually one really long saga, and as far as I’m concerned each of these books are amazing and only get better as the series goes on.  Additionally, everything after them was, in my opinion, subpar and mediocre at best. That includes the Dragons of Summer Flame, that Weiss and Hickman both wrote as well. This is fantasy at its best.


The story centers on what is a standard adventuring party including a Half-elf Ranger, A wizard, a thief, a Knight, a dwarf, a fighter, a swordstress, and a bar maid.  Other characters tag along from time to time, but they are the core group. The premise is simple. The band of heroes decides to go looking for signs of the old gods, gods who abandoned the land off Krynn long ago after an event called the Cataclysm.  They have heard tales of true healing occurring, and that can only be done by the old god’s followers. They agree to meet up some time later in their old home tavern on a specific date. Everyone arrives except the swordstress and so the reunion begins under a bad omen.  Minutes later they are beset by a Hobgoblin and a band of warriors demanding that they surrender to him. From their the group goes on the run and find themselves enmeshed on a journey that will bring back the old gods, dragons, and see them fight an evil so fierce and dark that there is no hope of defeating it.


The strength of the story lies in the characters, although the story itself is just as powerful as anything Tolkien, Howard, Burroughs, or even Lovecraft could pen.  The story is broad and sweeping in scope, and yet tethered by the personalities of the characters. The first three books see so many changes in them that it is shattering that by the end of the first series not all of the characters are still alive, and not all of them tread the path of light.


The second series picks up after the first and we find that the wizard, Raistlan has claimed a dark wizards tower for his own, making him the master of the past, present, and future.  This story involves all of the survivors, and actually spans the time before the cataclysm, all the way to the end of the world. It is basically about how the wizard schemes to become a god by killing the queen of darkness and taking her mantle for himself.  At least it on the surface, it is really about redemption, love, and sacrifice. The final three books are about the best novels I have ever read in any genre. It still manages to choke me up with a simple line like, “Look Raist, bunnies.” Every. Damn. Time.  I wish I could read this to my kids today, and right now I have them interested in Harry Potter, so I’m hoping after that fargin series that I can get them into DL. This is such a powerful and moving series that you will not look at RPG’s and think that they only produce mediocre stories.


The series also produces two of the greatest characters of all time, Tasslehoff Burrfoot, and Raistlin Majere.  Trust me. Once you read them you won’t ever forget them.


The narration on these books are better than average, but it drives me crazy that both narrators get the pronunciation of certain names wrong.  I have met both of the authors, actually when these books were coming out. I’ve watched Tracy Hickman play Fizban, and I know that I am not mistaken, and all I ever ask is that a narrator take five minutes to get a name right.  If they can get Lauralana’s full elvish name correct there is no reason they cannot nail the proper way to say Tas.


Narration is almost irrelevant to the story.  Trust me, the book does have a bit of a slow start, but once the action hits it never lets up.  The only thing you’ll ever question is the hold that Kitiara has over Tanis, because their personalities do not mesh, and it has to be utterly and completely sexual, which I would think he would be able to overcome.  I don’t do much thinking with that down there, Gilbert, and that guy has a freaking PHD. I just don’t let him make decisions. I think I could have walked away from Kit and never looked back, and I am drawn to crazy.  Just ask my wife. Love Ya Baby!


This is one of those series that once you finish you are going to want to get all the other millions of books they spun off, and I’m just going to say don’t.  After all this the series heart and soul dries up and it becomes just another world. These six books though are true soul gems. I read or listen to them about once a year.  I even got the filler books that Weis and Hickman did to flesh out the “missing parts” of the story and even those were well watered down. The original six are simply lightning in a bottle that must be read in order and from 1 to 6.  To me these books, if I were giving a score would be 9.8 with narration deductions only. As books, 10’s all around, but I am not scoring them here. I am just trying to get you to see a different game world that you might enjoy sans outside PC’s entering the world.











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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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

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

Our Webpage: www.litrpgpodcast.com  


Some other LitRPG facebook pages:

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If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support  

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 031 -  Neverfall, The Renegades: Bard from Barliona, Zombie Slayer!!, Flank Hawk

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 031 -  Neverfall, The Renegades: Bard from Barliona, Zombie Slayer!!, Flank Hawk


“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: ”


Neverfall: Mark of the Hero:A Gamelit Lit RPG Series (00:26)

Score: 7.0 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2WZdS0j


The Renegades: Bard from Barliona (14:44)

Score: 6.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2BtIrll


Zombie Slayer!!: A LitRPG Apocalypse (24:29)

Score: 6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2IaYlXL


What Else Have They Done?

Flank Hawk (44:55)

By: Terry W. Ervin II

https://amzn.to/2X0Ur71



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

Neverfall: Mark of the Hero:A Gamelit Lit RPG Series

By: C. Wintertide

Narrated by: Tim McKiernan

Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins



Pause


Neverfall isn’t a bad book.  It is a fair bit predictable, and it definitely has fairy tale moments.  On the upside, this is one of the better books to get a younger listener into the genre.  It isn’t overly gorey, filled with sex, of a lot of swearing (well, ok, I honestly don’t remember there being any F-bombs, S-grenades, B-mines) but don’t hold me to that.  Still, I think it’s fine for kids.


One of my biggest complaints about the book is that it takes a long time to actually get in the game.  The book is almost 12 hours long, and it takes about 4 hours for the characters to actually play Neverfall.  That is about half the length of most LITRPG books in most cases. For example, James Hunter’s Rogue Dungeon is 7 hrs and 41 mins long.  I say this all the time, set up is fine, but it should only take 1 or 2 chapters at most to get the characters into the game. No more. I really don’t care that a relative is dying, the family is going broke, or any other typical trope that is in this genre.  All of that can be said and done in one chapter. If you really want to dole out all that info do it as a flashback every other chapter or so, but don’t drag your feet making it happen. Get to the game/world/action as soon as possible. For hours is crazy.


The upside is that you really get to know the characters, their motivations, and have justification for their comradery with one another.  Everyone is fleshed out, albeit a bit one-dimensionally, and while their motivations might be weird (as in a pacifist who won’t kill monsters), but you know who they are.  Just think Angry dwarf, pacifist, soldier, and loot hog. I think the only misstep was that there is another team that goes into the game with the main party and they are not really given much screen time before they enter the game.  I know what you are about to say, you just complained that it took 4 hours to get into the game and now you want Wintertide to let you get to know more characters? Pick a side dude. Frankly, after four hours, another four pages wouldn’t have made much of a difference, and it would have helped.


So here’s the rundown, a kid whose mother is dying ends up going into a video game to help her among other things (I don’t want to spoil anything, but honestly, if you don’t know half the mysteries then you aren’t paying attention because it is all very predictable).  He goes in to help save a rich businessman who is like Bill Gates or Elon Musk, full of money and creative. They were supposed to go in at the highest levels with the best gear and start off in the final boss battle, but predictably that, well . . . spoilers, but you get the idea.  From there it is a struggle to survive and face the final overlord.


Tim McKiernan does a pretty decent job on the story.  He does the voices, both male and female, pretty well and really goes out of his way to make the Dark Lord sound like Darth Vader if he were a heavy drinker.  The only thing I took umbrage with was his Dark Lord voice and Dragon voice were pretty much the same. I enjoyed him a great deal and look forward to hearing more from him in the future.  I think he’s a good fit for Litrpg.


One thing that really ground my gears was the Trinity Matrix moment, and you will recognize it if you listen.  You know my stance on death in books. Death should matter, and people should die. If you have a game where the characters can die permadeath then make all deaths PERMANENT.  Don’t wuss out.


Final score 7.0 because the book is predictable and really had no surprises, and the really long getting to know you stage before getting into the game took far too long.  Seriously, I’ve had relationships that didn’t last two hours. In spite of the cons, I still think that this would be a good book to introduce YA readers to the genre, but if the predictability of the series continues I don’t think I’ll be following along.  I’ll give it one more shot, and hopefully things will improve.


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

The Renegades: Bard from Barliona,

By: Vasily Mahanenko, Eugenia Dmitrieva, Boris Smirnov - translator

Narrated by: Andrea Emmes

Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins



Pause


Awright, I’ve had this book for a while now and have been kinda of struggling to get through it.  This is one of those cases where the narrator grated on me so badly that I had to get back and away from the story, to a point where I could not enjoy the tale at all.  It was to a point that I really felt like Andrea Emmes just laid there and let the story do all the work. There was very clearly no love in this project for her, and there were points that I felt that this was just another assignment for her to get through.  I honestly beat myself up over how I perceived this, because it felt sexist for me to think it was like a prostitute taking money and then just walking away when it was all over, but then I thought that I would have felt the same way if it had been a guy. I would have just compared his to Richard Gere in American Gigolo.   Ok, maybe more like Duece Bigalow, but you get the idea. There was absolutely no sense of fun from her at all, and because of that it made the story feel like it was actually work for me. No, it didn’t feel like it. It was. I had to force myself to come back to this book, and I seriously did not want to finish it. So, enough beating her up, because I just realized that I have yet another book of hers to listen to, Conquest by RM Mulder, and I am praying that it works out better for her there.


The story itself is pretty simple, a rock band gets into a game.  The leader of the band, and the MC, becomes a race called the Biota which is basically a playable plant.  She’s a bard, and another character is her deadly fighter type helper. Now here’s the thing. I have an affinity for Bards, bard stories, bardic songs, etc.  Love them. The idea that a rocker being a bard in a video game is pretty fun but this story was completely dominated by the narration. So that most of the story was flat to me.  For example, there were a lot of attempts at humor, but I couldn’t tell what would have worked and what would have fell flat because of the reading.


One thing I can say is that the game mechanics explanations are pretty thin, but I am guessing that this is because the book is set in the same place as Way of the Shaman.  I haven’t read any of those yet, so a more detailed idea of how things worked would have been a nice touch. It wasn’t that I couldn’t follow along, it was just that I would have liked more info.  Another thing, and again, I kept stepping away from the book periodically so I might be off on this is that the MC had a very by the books approach to how she did things. Then, at the end all of her strategy was kind of tossed out the window, and I didn’t understand why.  I did think the twist wasn’t too bad, though. It might be that I forgot something due to my taking breaks from the book, and only listening an hour or less at a time. I really cannot say. The rest of the book seemed to just be a slice of life event with no real purpose


I honestly feel bad doing this review because I really don’t think that the story had much of a chance in competition with the narration.  You want me to be really honest? I can’t recall a single name of any character in the book. I couldn’t tell you the band name, or even much of what happened, and I hate to judge a book like that.  I even restarted the book and just stopped. I had gotten into it, but was not going to resubject myself to another round. I think that sometimes authors make deals with publishers, and then sacrifice all of their control just to get an audiobook made.  Sometimes it is a hit, since I know that Markum caught Iggy Toma for Succubus completely by chance, this is the other end of the spectrum as I don’t believe that Mahanenko would have made this decision. I could be wrong, but I would certainly be looking for more options when it came to my ability to choose a narrator.


Final score. 6.5 stars.  The written word may translate far better than it has here.

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


Zombie Slayer!!: A LitRPG Apocalypse

By: Cameron Milan

Narrated by: Steve McCutcheon

Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins


Pause


Cameron Milan wrote the Desire books, which I reviewed a little while ago.  I hadn’t realized that at the time, I just grab LITRPG novels as they come out, and I only tend to notice the author or narrator if it is a name that I am dedicated to, so, for example Jeff Hays, SBT, Dave Willmarth, Andrea  Parsenau, Luke Daniels, James Hunter, Charles Dean, those are some of the names I notice when I go grabbing books. There are a few authors and narrators that I actively avoid and so I really focus on their names, but for the most part I do blind grabs.  As an example, I just reviewed Advent, and had no idea Luke Daniels was the narrator on it until I heard him speak. Everyone else flies under my radar, and even though I’ve read several of his books I don’t go out of my way to look for him. It’s kind of like a baloney sandwich.  I’ll eat one if someone hands it to me, but I don’t go to the store intending to make a bologna sammich.

I recognized his style about two chapters in, and recognized him.  His style of writing is pretty much story over substance. He gets an idea and it is an interesting idea, but then his characters, and I mean all of his characters, are one or two dimensional.  They don’t seem to have any distinct personalities and that goes for the MC right down to the faceless NPC who gets chomped by a zombie. They are interchangeable in their actions. Honestly, there were two characters who were friends at the start of the book, and unless the MC was off on his own interacting with a hot vampire or stalking zombies at night I couldn’t remember which was which.

So here’s a rundown of the book.  The Earth passes through a strange interstellar cloud that places it and its inhabitants into a video game styled event, they are given a zombie apocalypse to contend with, and all I can say is that the rate of attrition at the fortified location is so huge that humanity would pretty much be roadkill within six months. In one aspect this book reminded me of an old zombie novel called Skeletons by Al Sarrantonio, in which the Earth passes through an interstellar cloud the dead rise as intelligent skeletons and start killing everybody.


You know I like it when characters die, but deaths need to serve some sort of purpose, some can be used to show how dangerous the situation is, some should be emotional, some to drive a character in another direction, or to jar the reader.  Every death needs to serve something in the long run. Here the characters were just picking numbers, and lining up to become zombie chow.

My issues were that the storyline didn’t keep my attention over the weak characterizations.  Every character in the book had a blank face to me. Here’s an example, the MC lives at home with an ailing grandmother, his mother, and some siblings.  Once he gets them to a safe area they only pop up periodically, and he never even considers then while his fortification is being overrun. They are after thoughts.  The book pretty much just focuses on him, the MC, ERIC, his name is Eric. Going out night after night trying to get stronger. This neverending quest for power is also how every character in the Desire books behave.  So, he’s consistent. This is just a character grinding for 80% of the book until he faces off against a big bad at the end.


What really hurts the book is the narration by Steve McCutcheon.  His narration is stilted and utterly lifeless. You know, lately I’ve been saying a lot of people were middle of the pack narrators.  This fellow doesn’t make it that far. There were parts of the book that repeated (short lines) and his reading is as good as my son in high school when he reads to his brothers, and that aint stellar.  The kids cry and ask that we play heavy metal to put them to sleep rather than have my son read to them anymore. That’s not true, they asked for death metal, and I told them that they live in a funeral home, so all metal played here is death metal. So, yeah, not a fan of his.  Like Johnny Dangerously said, Ya Bore me.


What is my final score?  6 stars. Sorry, but weak characters and muddled narration made this pretty unfun.  I have to say that I did enjoy this book far more than I did Desire. I’m pretty much done with that series.


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

Here is my what else have they done segment.  Today, I’m going to focus on Terry Ervin, II who writes one of my favorite gamelit series, Monsters, Maces and Magic.


Flank Hawk

By: Terry W. Ervin II

Narrated by: Michael A. Slusser

Length: 13 hrs and 25 mins


Pause


Terry Ervin is just crushing it for me. I started out in a Litrpg story of his called Outpost, and adored the book. I loved it. Then I read his novel, Relic Hunter and was amazed at just how flexible his story telling chops really were, and now he hits me with a fantasy novel that deals with undead and nazi planes and tanks. Wha-huh? Who the heck thinks this stuff up? I must say his imagination is fueled by Tolkien's sweat, Willy Wonka's blood, and Clint Eastwood's attitude. A cray mix to be certain, but a combination that makes for amazing possibilities.


Flank Hawk is an everyman. He's not a hulking hero or deadly warrior. He's just a guy swept up in circumstances that sweep him away from the life that he would prefer. Still, he makes due with his lot and manages to actually become someone of consequence. In this case, history isn't repeating itself so much as reinventing itself. Fantasy and Science begin to gel together, leaving the world a far different place than it had been. Flank Hawk has the honor of being the one has to bear the responsibility of stopping the war.


One little issue I did have was with the character of Lily. FH is there to help and protect her, and there is literally no sexual tension between them at all. I would have liked to have seen some interest, some spark, because if you consider that FH has been celibate for a while it is more than likely that he might do some initiating of something with her. You might argue that he has a Gomer Pyle attitude, but I never really got that feel from him. Even if he was pious and holy he would still be moved when she undressed. Aside from that the action alone makes this book worth it, but then you do have the characterization and the whole concept of fighting orcs, zombies, and panzers all at the same time. Good stuff.



Michael A. Slusser does the narration, and I'm glad to see that Ervin rotates his readers out for various series. This give each series its own tone, its own voice, and keeps it distinct from the other works he has done. Slusser comes in as a favorite of mine. I hadn't heard him prior, but I really enjoyed his work, voice, and the emotion he provided each character. I never noticed any sound issues, and felt that I could happily listen to him for another few novels.


This looks to be a solid and entertaining series. PLEASE DON"T MISS OUT ON IT.


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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.



For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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  


Some other LitRPG facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPG.books

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPGsociety/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheFantasyNation/


If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support  

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 030 - Advent: Red Mage, Anime Trope System, Guild, Unsouled

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 030 - Advent: Red Mage, Anime Trope System, Guild, Unsouled

“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: ”

Guild: A LitRPG Novella - Monsters, Maces and Magic, Book 3 (00:26)

Score: 8.1 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2tbv5FP

Advent - Red Mage, Book 1 (18:25)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2t5cFXx

The Anime Trope System: Stone vs. Viper (36:39)

Score: 6.6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2GpdB0B

Is it LitRPG?

Unsouled: Cradle Series (52:14)

https://amzn.to/2D8OHPE

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

Guild: A LitRPG Novella

Monsters, Maces and Magic, Book 3

By: Terry W. Ervin II

Narrated by: Jonathan Waters

Series: Monsters, Maces and Magic, Book 3

Length: 2 hrs and 58 mins


Pause


I’m going to be honest.  When I first saw the description for this book I was a touch disappointed, I didn’t see any mention of our party from the main series, and this looked to be an internalized battle between different guilds.  I knew that with Ervin it would be good, I just wanted more of my good old adventuring party. So I started this with some trepidation.


Guild is a great gamelit short story that tells the tale of our adventuring party from the Mazes, Magic, and Monsters series from the perspective of another player who has been lost in the game for some time.  The MC, is a thief who has gone semi-legit, working as a barber surgeon in that wonderful city of hills, but still keeps his toe in the seamier side of the underworld. Life as a non-adventurer hasn’t been bad, but it doesn’t seem to be as fulfilling as he’d of liked.  Still, Josiah (the MC) has lived a life free of monsters and mayhem so he’s satisfied.

That is until the night everyone’s favorite half goblin strolls into his barber shop looking to get a haircut.  Turns out Gurk is just in time to help Josiah battle against a rival guild that has targeted his establishment to serve as an example.

I have to say that I really liked this treatment of the group from another character’s perspective, and the question I kept waiting to be answered was whether or not he would cotton onto the realization that they were players trapped just he was.  I won’t say if he does or not. What I did enjoy was getting the realization that Josiah had noticed Player Characters, i.e. characters that were actually operated from the other side of the veil so to speak. Players that manipulated their characters like puppets, and that one NPC was more than likely a former PC who had been abandoned by her player.  That is just smart and creative gamelit hitting the pages. Seriously, some thought has gone into this book, and I ate it up. It helps that Josiah is fun and interesting, and that his takes on the “main” party are very observant and give the listener a very different spin on things in their world.

The story is pretty short, and basically just centers around Gurk having gone to see Josiah in the hopes of learning about his cursed dagger.  All the action centers on what happens between the two of them, initial meeting down to the appraisal, and I have to say that I really loved this book.  Normally, I get antsy when an author sort of abandons their main team in favor of a side quest, but this works in a lot of ways. First, because it includes the main party, secondly, because it is a short story and furthers the original story line.

Waters carries the story on able shoulders, and I have come to really appreciate his ability to tell a tale.  He’s really made this his series, and I love his interpretation of Gurk. Oh, and I have to admit that he really played Josiah like a weary old player.  

Kudos to Ervin for centering more on the half gobbling and not rotating between him and the gnome.  Gurk is far more interesting, and is more fun to listen to and I think that he and Josiah mesh pretty well together.


Final score?  This is a solid 8.1 stars.  It adds to the main series, and fleshes out the game world in a wonderfully sublimated way that doesn’t smack you over the head.  I really enjoyed this, I think you will to.

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Advent

Red Mage, Book 1

By: Xander Boyce

Narrated by: Luke Daniels

Length: 10 hrs and 10 mins


Pause



I don’t think I’ve loved a story so much right out of the gate as much as I did Advent since Dante’s Immortality.  This book was incredibly fun, well thought out, had a nice MC, and fleshed out characters. I have to admit though that there were some things that kind of scared me right off the back.

The cons.  There are very few of these, but I have to say that right at the beginning of the book we get hit with this huge info dump on how the magic system works, and it came off as being so complicated that I got out my slide rule, my abacus, and boned up on my physics before I continued.  It was a lot to take in, and it was a very sticky wicket to get through. Admittedly, once the book started flowing and the magic was shown in action it all made since, and became infinitely more simplified. In fact, I believe this is one of the cooler systems of magic that I’ve ever read about.  It made me think of a point back in the 90’s when fantasy was in full swing and publishers were looking for something new and fresh, they never cared about characters, setting, or conflict. The first thing they asked was what kind of magic system do you have? This book would have knocked their socks off back then and been snatched up in a bidding war.  So the magic is really neat, and I like how it progresses.

Another con.  This one I’m not going to let go of so easily.  The MC is in the Coast Guard, and once things go crazy the people he meets kind of agree that with the situation the way it is, and everyone having been drafted into an intergalactic navy that they might as well forgo all the rank issues, but the minute they come across a real officer they all defer to his command.  My first instinct would have been to tell him to bite my bottom and get out of my way. That doesn’t happen. They sort of circumvent his orders, but still back down when he finds out. That was a real weak point in the story, and it still bugs the hell out of me, days after I read it, that Drew Michalik would kowtow so easily still bothers me.  It was out of character.

Last con; Zoe.  I need resolution.  That is all.

The Pros, The rest of the book.  Seriously. This is one smooth spread of peanut butter over a chocolate bar. I had a ton of fun seeing new monsters in addition to new takes on the old ones.  I loved how the spells were able to be combined and connected and used in new and creative ways.

Drew is a slick and smart cookie who is tough and intelligent and a blast to watch get put through his paces.  In spite of the OP nature of his abilities he is fascinating to watch grow. He plays out to be exactly like what he is, a normal guy thrust into extraordinary circumstances struggling to keep himself and his people alive. Oh, and that’s another thing that I liked about this book.  People die. For real, in tragic and terrible ways and I mean from the core group of individuals. There is no rescinding or voided the losses. When they are gone that’s it, death aint the beginning, it’s the end. That is good writing, and it lets you know that just about anyone can buy it at any given moment.

Dakota Krout ought to be really happy with the way this book turned out, because it is bloody fantastic and smart.  This is the way to break in his new publishing house.


Final score 8.4 stars.  Xander Boyce looks to be at the level of Corvin, Willmarth, Krout, and Dean just to name a few.  He knows how to craft and tell an amazing story.

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The Anime Trope System: Stone vs. Viper

By: Alvin Atwater

Narrated by: David Reimer

Length: 6 hrs and 47 mins


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You may have heard me recently say that I am a fan of Anime, but really only hit something like 3 series altogether, those being Naruto, Inuyasha, and Cowboy Beboop.  I have watched a lot of others, but I am really only devoted to those three. I have seen Death Note, Full Metal Alchemist, Bleach, Dragon Ball, etc. So, I may not be as knowledgeable as others I do know what anime is and the tropes it produces.  So, I really thought I would love to give this a shot and see how this set in comparison to what I know about Anime tropes.

First of all, the narrator, David Reimer is going to play a huge factor in the score of this book.  SO, I’m going to start with him. I want to say that he isn’t a horrible narrator, he does do some voices, and add inflections, but his normal reading of the non-dialogue bits really drops the ball.  It was hard to tell if some of the bits would have worked with a different narrator, because he did not have a voice made for comedy or comedic moments. In Anime a lot of things are exaggerated including the way characters react vocally.  Angry girls yell loud and talk fast, someone gets knocked for a loop and they (in the less serious anime) exaggerate their pain with moans as they speak. When they get hot and bothered they have a lovey dovey voice and none of that was done here, and it would have certainly helped.  This was more of a mechanical reading, and it did not grab my attention. Again, I don’t want to bash, but if you are going to narrate an Anime styled book, do some research. Go to crunchy roll and watch a few shows and get a feel for what the tropes are like. Not having the narration fill in like it should have really hurt this book.

There were a few things that Atwater did as a writer that bothered me.  One, I could tell when there was a typo because Reimer would say a wrong word, and while I always say that the narrator is the last line of defense against typos they ultimately are not to blame.  Secondly, I really think that Atwater missed the mark with this book. At first it felt like it was going to be a kid friendly novel, but then POW sex scenes started popping up, and in every anime I’ve ever seen sex is hinted at, there might be some groping, but that is it.  It really did not fit the spirit of the story, honestly if he was going to go Hentai I wouldn’t have had an issue, but it should have said so and I would have been fine with it, but this was the anime trope book. On the hentai topic I was a little surprised that he would so casually drop the F-bomb, but then would refer to a certain part of the male anatomy as his “horn”.  He did this not once, but multiple times and I would have preferred any other euphemism than horn. It just felt very out of place. Again, I think that this book would have benefitted from one cohesive vision. If you are doing Anime then keep to the style of how they talk. I have never heard Inuyasha or Kagome utter the F-word. Additionally, the book is called Stone vs Viper and we never got to even see the viper until the end of the book.  So, that was a bit of a disappointment. From what I could tell, Atwater did have some tropes down and he played them out well, but it was difficult to enjoy it like I should due to narration. Overall, the book has some real potential, but it didn’t make me not want to put it down or listen to it nonstop. Thankfully, it had a shorter run time.


Final score 6.6 stars, again I think a better narrator would have ratcheted up the score.


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In this episode for the Izzit Lit segment I will be looking at:


Unsouled: Cradle Series

By: Will Wight

Narrated by: Travis Baldree

Length: 8 hrs and 14 mins


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So, I’m back to is it lit?  Izzit, I dunno, we’ll see. Anyway, I have been hearing a lot of stuff about wuxia, and since I have been looking for Asian written LITRPG (translated of course) the wuxia, actually pronounced ooh-sha, stuff falls right in line with that sort of exotic flavor.  I do enjoy our Russian compatriots, and their writings, so I don’t think it is too much to ask for a Lit book from China, Japan, or South Korea. I was going to preview this book last week, what with Cultivating Chaos being ut and all, but I set that aside because I have done a lot more IZZIT LIT than I have what else have they done, and sometimes people need spotlighted.  This fits, though since I did the Anime Trope novel, so there is a slight theme going on.


The novel starts of in a pretty standard way, kids lined up to learn what their powers are, where they’ll fit into society, and so on.  The MC, Lindon, comes from a powerful family who are pretty famous in their parts and so when it is discovered that he is Unsouled, that is lacking in powers, it is a huge disappointment, but he is still loved and accepted by his family.  Lindon then goes on a journey just like you would expect. He learns a technique that will jank up other people chi, so to speak, and allow him to whup their butts good. So he starts to advance through the ranks. Now here is the thing. The book does not follow the paths of expectation that you will have.  It sets up one thing, and then skews off in a surprising direction that you just do not see coming. That is a huge boon for a book, to take your expectations and throw them away. Another plus, for me, anyway is that Lindon is my kind of character. He relies on is wits and uses trickery to succeed. The entire climb the stairs bit was brilliant and quite telling of what he was willing to do to get stronger.


Travis Baldtree narrates the tale, and he kills it.  I would love to see him get into some LITRPG stuff because he does an amazing job, and let me tell you if you ever want to hear one mind-blowing audio book of his, aside from this one, check out Dog Walker.  It is not what you would expect and is brilliant. So, Unsouled is a place for Baldtree to shine, I’ve heard him in several other audiobooks, but he really stands out here. Great voices, and really pulls you in with the emotions of the MC.


The only real issue I had with the book was that most secondary characters were not fleshed out all that well, but truthfully, for a book of this length you can’t get a lot of background or personality shoved in.


So, is this Lit?  No. Maybe there are other Wuxia books out there that are, but really the only thing that it had in common was Lindon’s need to level up.  I would even be hard pressed to call this gamelit, even though I have had several people suggest this for a look. But this really has less of a lit feel than most of the other books that I reviewed that weren’t litrpg.  I will still be on the look out for other wuxia styled books.


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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


I did ask Ramon if it would be ok, and he said that I could let you all know that I do have a couple of books on Royal Road, and I would ask that you drop over there and check them out.  They are:


The Nightmare Game https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/21929/the-nightmare-game-a-litrpg-horror-novel  

Apocalypse On Endless Earths: Apocalypse How? https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/22054/apocalypse-on-endless-earths-apocalypse-how-a    


The first is straight up horror litrpg, and the other is a sci-fi/humor Litpg book.  Please give them a look.

Remember, please leave a review for any book that you’ve listened to or read.  Authors really depend on reviews.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 029 - Asgard Awakening, Cultivating Chaos, The Halloween Raid, Future's Orphans

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 029 - Asgard Awakening, Cultivating Chaos, The Halloween Raid, Future's Orphans


“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: ”


Asgard Awakening - VeilVerse: Asgard Awakening, Book 1 (00:26)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2S9nTZf

Cultivating Chaos - VeilVerse: Cultivating Chaos, Book 1 (17:11)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Gb0dgn

The Halloween Raid - A GameLit Short Story (38:05)

Score: 7.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2DF5M56

What Else Have They Done? (53:21)

Future's Orphans: Ouroboros Cycle Series, Book 2

https://amzn.to/2ScZzpe


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Asgard Awakening

VeilVerse: Asgard Awakening, Book 1

By: Blaise Corvin

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 9 hrs and 8 mins


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So, I’m going to break this down a little differently, because I will be reviewing Cultivating Chaos right after this, so I’m going to bunch up Andrea’s narration onto the second book, for reasons.


So, first of all, Kudos to Corvin and Arand for having the balls to try and pull something like this off.  WE now have a LITRPG Thieves World type of Universe, where they can invite any other authors in to play in their sandbox.  I could easily see (just to name a few) Dakota Krout, James Hunter, Dave Willmarth, MSE or even Harmon Cooper getting in to this playground.  Or none of them. This is just to exciting an idea. The veilverse is about various worlds that are interconnected by dimensional shifting curtains wear reality wears thin.  People can crossover through these curtains and interact with new worlds. Here the main characters in both books come from Earth, although Corvin’s character is sent to Asgard.


While there he is given the mantle of Odin, and slowly grows into his role as a new god.  Trav is a good guy who has some horrible things done to him as a slave in an underground mine.  When the time comes he makes an escape and sets about growing his power by binding women to him as he goes along.  He learns to settle into his new abilities such as runecrafting and knowing things that Odin knew. The book started out looking like it was going to be a straight up revenge book, but it quickly evolved into something so much more.  I have to say, I have been patiently waiting on my Delvers, but so long as books like this keep coming I won’t complain. . . much. Still waiting on the Luck Stat part duex.


Corvin certainly crafts a great story and populates his world with interesting powers, people, and prices.  I don’t think that anything that Trav does doesn’t come without a cost to him in one way or another. One thing that sort of struck me odd was that Blaise does try out the Harem gig at last, and I’m not sure if he went that route because of who he partnered with or if he just wanted to give it a try.  Again, not a bad thing, just not something I expected out of Blaise. I daresay that he even went further than Arand did in the naughty dept.


The world that he builds with the Kin, the Asgardian, the other new gods all comes together is cohesive universe that just sucks you in.  My only possible complaint is that this book is shorter than Cultivating Chaos. I would have liked to have seen them be about the same length for a starter series, but I am not complaining because the quality is there and the characters are compelling.  I cannot say I like one MC over another, but that I simply cannot wait for the next book in this series.


Andrea’s part will come up in the Cultivating Chaos segment.



Final Score 8.4 stars.  Smooth like lagavulin whiskey.

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Cultivating Chaos

VeilVerse: Cultivating Chaos, Book 1

By: William D. Arand

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 13 hrs and 16 mins


William D. brings home the bacon on this bad boy’s back.  This was a fun bit of storytelling, and I kept having Last Dragon Flashbacks as I listened to this book.  So, while it is a companion piece to Asgard Awakens it is also a completely separate story that only ties with Corvin’s book tangentially.  This is a very good thing. As it has it’s own flavor, and let me tell you it is very different from Asgard.

Now to say that I am a fan of Arand’s would be a complete understatement.  I have never read a book of his that I haven’t loved. And I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite.  Truthfully, I would have to say that Super Sales is my go to Arand book, but this is one hell of a close second.  I freaking grew up watching chop sockey and Godzilla flicks as a kid. My dad would always poke fun at me because I could watch Rio Bravo and then turn around and then watch the most perfect The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.  I’d do a western and an eastern, and so this book really appealed to me instantly. My anime background, limited as it is, really felt the tug, and I had to laugh as Arand rips on Naruto and their whole shout out what I’m going to do while using hand signs bit just cracked me up. I will take a little umbrage as he also takes a potshot at Super Sales and Felix, but they are his characters to make fun of as he likes.

As things go this is a typical, not in a bad way, Arand book insofar as the hero stumbles onto a way to make himself stronger and then quickly builds a harem.  This is not Fostering Faust style of Harem, but it is a harem nonetheless. One thing I have noticed is that Arand does sort of replicate his harem girl’s personalities over and over.  For example, you have no nonsense nose to the grindstone, the admirer, the secretive one, the slightly dangerous one, he just kind of shuffles quirks to and fro. Again, I’m not complaining I’m just noting an observation.  None of the girls are the same, but there is some crossover.


The MC, Ash has access to a hall of records of sorts that lets him bestow abilities on himself and others, he gets his wish to become a cultivator, and joins the school of his dreams.  He then sets about getting into one hell of a feud with some community big wigs. This complicates his life, and the lives of everyone that he knows and loves. This is a seriously epic struggle, and the story, characters, and action kept me hooked.  I’d really just like to know what Arand’s secret is, because the man just pens one awesome story after another. The only thing that really struck me about this book is that it is about five hours longer than Corvin’s book. Corvin’s book stopped right as it was building to something compelling, and then made me hafta wait for more.  This book added five hours and I still wanted more, so no matter how much they write Imma gonna be wantin mo.


Now, here’s the bit where I talk about Andrea.  Again, she just drives these stories forward like she is on a bobsled being pushed down a hill by an avalanche.  She gives everyone a personality and quirks in their vocalizations, and I cannot think of anyone else doing this series. The only thing I wonder about is the leads.  I listened to both books back to back, and I really couldn’t tell if she used a different voice for Trav and Ash. It was like the de facto male lead voice. To me one sounded the same as the other, and any other time that would be fine, as two characters who sound alike will never meet, but in this situation I should hope that Trav and Ash meet sometime in the future.  That will make it harder to differentiate who is talking when they do get together. Again, I could be very wrong, but They sounded dang close to one another. Again, Andrea really knocked these two books out of the park.


Final score, this is an 8.5 all the way.  Length, characters, action, narration, and concept this was just one hell of a leg sweep as it knocked me down.


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


The Halloween Raid

A GameLit Short Story

By: George Saoulidis

Narrated by: Dave Price

Length: 55 mins


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Ok, so I am always griping about wanting a good LITRPG short story, and I just might have found one.  There really are two things that are drawbacks when it comes to this audio. The first, and I have to be realistic, are you willing to spend 3 dollars on a 55 minute story?  I am. I mean hell, I spend more money on that for a comic book that I’ll read in under 10 minutes. So, if it is good it is justified. The only other thing is that this is LITRPG, it just isn’t uber crunchy because a lot of crunch would have sent the time on this soaring.  So, fair warning, don’t get all hot under the collar when I say it isn’t dense with stats and stuff. This is a short story, and that’s that.


Now, I have been reading/listening to George’s stuff for some time, and I have to say that one of my favorite stories is called You Have Too Many Friends.  It is really short, but very memorable. Honestly, it carried a lot of weight and has stuck in my head since I listened to it. The Halloween Raid holds its own pretty well.


The story is pretty simple, and a lot of things go unanswered, as they should in a short tale.  You should be able to make your own conclusions. Basically once a year a giant jack o lantern pops up in Europe or the US (it swaps out every year) around Halloween.  People or players enter the giant pumpkin t fight monsters and earn loot that can set them up. No one really knows where the thing comes from, but speculation says it is aliens.  The play in the pumpkin is like this, you can return to play as much as you like year after year until you die. The play level setting is set to hardcore, and so if you die once you are out of play the rest of your life.  Bad news is that 1 out of 1000 people who die in the pumpkin never return. No one knows what happens to them. They just get considered as dead, and people move on. The MC’s brother has a team that goes in year after year, and they leave Edward behind because he promised his mother that he wouldn’t go in.  Edward watches his brother’s team get wiped out on live feed and he rushes to see if his brother made it back.


Now, lets just say that Edward is now the guy who has to gather some loot because his brother cannot go back inside for reasons, and the fool rushes in without any kind of gear or protection.  He hopes that he can grab some loot and make his way out before he gets killed when things start to reaspawn. The Lit stuff only appears in the Pumpkin, but it is there, and while this is a lite Litrpg short it is still Litrpg all the way.

I enjoyed the story, and it did not go in the direction I was certain that it was going to.  IN fact, this seems to be a very good set up for a longer novella, George does those a lot. I would like to see this idea fleshed out more fully


Dave Price handles the narration pretty well, and he provides a lot of voices and attitude in each of the characters.  I think the only off fleek moment was when the witch spoke, but even as corny as it was it worked.


Final score 7.8.  I enjoyed it, but don’t know if you are going to swing triple Georges for a listen.  It was fun.


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

What Else Have They Done?


Future's Orphans: Ouroboros Cycle Series, Book 2

By: A.K. Alliss

Narrated by: Anneliese Rennie

Length: 7 hrs and 34 mins


Pause


So, I’m always curious when a book comes out in a series that isn’t the original starter for the series, like getting book three before 1 and 2.  Well, here we get book two, with no hint of one on the horizon. So I just have to run with it. So, let me tell you a little about the book. It has two things going against it for me right off the bat.  First, it is told in present tense. I hate stories written in present tense and literally go out of my way not to read them. I know the producer of this podcast, the amazing Ramon Mejia, writes in just that style and I had been debating listening to his stuff because it would be an automatic bias for me before I even started.  I have authors that I actively avoid reading because of this style. Secondly, the book starts of a little slowly. Well, pretty slow, in fact. I am ok with the slow stuff so long as it gives payout in the long run. But I am warning you now that the book doesn’t take off like a race car in the red.

The book is set in an undisclosed future and centers around two characters, a junkie journalist named Cass, and a street punk named Paco.  It seems that after all the spit hit the fan the world is barely getting by. The government is controlling people will dermal patches that control their emotional states, but makes the populace addicted and believe that it is saving their lives.

Needless to say that stuff happens and before you know it the pair are in it up to their necks.  So, when I said it started slow, it did just that, but once the initial setup was over the book began to gather some steam until it was flying along.  A lot of stuff happens, but it is really about the journalist and the street kid keeping each other going that steals the show. Yes mysteries abound, betrayals occur, and they are hounded by a relentless mercenary; even the post apocalyptic setting takes a backseat to the relationship the pair have.  I can see elements of Blade Runner and Mad Max here, and maybe the Road by Cormac McCarthy and some Philip K. Dick influences as well. A lot happens in this book.

I do want to really talk about Anneliese Rennie for a minute, since this is her spotlight on the What Else Have they Done segment.  I first “discovered” her on Akillia's Reign, Book 4 of the Puatera Online Series. She’s since become a big part of the community, and is doing more books in the genre, so I thought it would be nice to give her some time on the show, and this was the perfect opportunity to do it.  The topics in the book hit a lot of things that also pop up in LITRPG, so it isn’t out of place, and you might want to look at her upcoming audiobook, The Song Maiden: A LitRPG Journey. It should be popping right about the time this podcast is released.

Anyway, I like Rennie’s style.  She really paces her story and dialogue, and she provides distinct voices for each character, and I think her voice slips into male voices pretty easily.  I think that she is the only reason I was able to get passed the perspective in the book to be honest, that present tense still rattled my cage, but she made it a little easier to swallow, and the same with the whole slow set up process.  If it had been anybody else I might have dropped it altogether, and I’d have been sorry that I did because once the story gets going you are on a satellite that is out of control. Yes, I was having a good time.

As you know, I do not rate the What else have they done or Izzit lit segments.  I will only use books that I have enjoyed as a showcase, but I do have a third segment coming in which I will be rating the books normally, so just be aware that this is strictly something for awareness and that I have to really enjoy the book to do it on here.  If you want numbers I suggest that you rock it on over to audible to see a score.


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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


I did ask Ramon if it would be ok, and he said that I could let you all know that I do have a couple of books on Royal Road, and I would ask that you drop over there and check them out.  They are:


The Nightmare Game https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/21929/the-nightmare-game-a-litrpg-horror-novel  

Apocalypse On Endless Earths: Apocalypse How? https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/22054/apocalypse-on-endless-earths-apocalypse-how-a    


The first is straight up horror litrpg, and the other is a sci-fi/humor Litpg book.  Please give them a look.

Remember, please leave a review for any book that you’ve listened to or read.  Authors really depend on reviews.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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  


Some other LitRPG facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPG.books

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPGsociety/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheFantasyNation/


If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support  

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 028 -   Underworld Book 2, The Runesmith, Ascend Online, Afterlife Online Book 3

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 028 -   Underworld Book 2, The Runesmith, Ascend Online, Afterlife Online Book 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: ”


Through the Belly of the Beast: Underworld, Book 2 (03:51)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2FSmkYR


The Runesmith - The Greenwood, Book 2 (13:08)

Score: 6.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2AWl2sM


Ascend Online (26:08)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Wdq5y6


Trojan - Afterlife Online, Book 3 (44:55)

Score: 8.2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2T8nFPl



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


Through the Belly of the Beast: Underworld, Book 2

By: Apollos Thorne

Narrated by: Graham Halstead

Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins


Pause


I have read two books by Apollos Thorne and both have been utterly enjoyable, I have third book on audible to go, so I can’t wait to get to it.  The belly of the beast is one of those books that I like because it sets you up to expect one type of story and it hands you another. CM Carney is good for that with his Realms series.  Book one sets up this huge sweeping storyline, and then provides you with a dungeon crawl. Thorne sets you up to expect a dungeon crawl and gives you .. . . . . . . well, that would be telling.


Aw, what the heck.  He gives you a fun book that generally flies in the face of what I usually like.  For example, I prefer books where the player levels up slowly like in Domino Finn’s afterlife series.  Talon and the team are just hitting level 10 by the time the third book ends. In contrast, Elerion is something like level 500 and counting.  However, when one considers that the opponents that they face are thousands of levels higher than they are the player to enemy level ratio really seems to level out.

I think that my favorite aspect of the book is Elerion’s ability to steal other forms of magic.  I like the collection method that he has and the way that he employs it to level up solo. I’m sure that I’ve mentioned this before, but I love solo games, because I hate grouping with other people.  To me, Skyrim was the perfect game, and I have played it in every iteration since it came out. Elerion is a soloist, and I don’t mean he’s a fan of the movie Solo. I mean he does much better on his own and it is fun getting to picture him figuring out exciting ways to stop his foes via the various magics he has at his disposal.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t other interesting characters, there are, but the book just moves along faster without them.


The book sees the kidnapped humans get into even deeper trouble and they are forced to find a special place if they are going to survive.  This book centers around their attempt to find this place before their time runs out. All I can tell you is it was a blast seeing the characters grow and evolve.  Like I say I normally would not like it when a character would hit a silly stat like 1000 intelligence, but in this case I do. Thorne keeps me captivated. He’ll do the same to you.


Graham Halstead has narrated a goodly share of books, including another Lit series you might know, the Neuro series by Andrei Livadny; so you know the man can read a story.  I really wish he’d join the community, as I think he knows his stuff and can hold his own narrating alongside anyone. He does keep the pace going and maintains a fresh and fun atmosphere that a lot of books need, but lack.  I really thought that after book one of this series I’d be hearing more from him, but no one else has used him. Makes me sad (pout).


Final score is 8.3 stars.  This book rocked so hard I had to call a geologist to help me move on to my next book.

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


The Runesmith

The Greenwood, Book 2

By: Galen Wolf

Narrated by: Damon Alums

Length: 1 hr and 49 mins


Pause


You may recall that I reviewed another Greenwood Book called The Bard: A LitRPG Short Story.  I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with the tale, but given that I hadn’t read the preceding novels I thought I’d give this short book a chance as well.  I have mixed feelings on the matter.


I’ll start with Damon Alums who narrated the Bard story as well.  With the Bard I found his voice to be so enchanting that it wanted to put me to sleep.  I admit that he did one hell of an Antonio Banderas impression, but then really didn’t know if that was his actual voice or not.  Here, his voice is much more tolerable and easy to follow and it does not lull you into a stupor from its droning cadence. I still wasn’t overwhelmed by his narration skills, but they weren’t bad.  Alums seems to be a middle packer so far. I will say that he gave each character their own voice that was distinctive and made it easier to follow the tale.


Wolf’s writing seems to follow Alums narration.  He doesn’t do much to stand out. Honestly, having listened to the two stories I can see that the only character that he really knows how to write is an Over Powered one.  The character of Harald Runestorm is perfect. He’s all powerful. He’s the best there is at whatever he does, and he treats everyone around him like the inferiors that they are.  He has the best of everything from ingredients to spells, he is the best fighter, best rune maker, you name it and he tops the list at it. It got repetitive listening to him brag about how awesome he was.  One might argue that Wolf was just character building so that he could show you how great a jerk the guy was, but it just kept going and going. Then you had to listen to him harangue npcs and players alike and it really wore thin.  I got it. He was an A-hole of th highest order, the greatest magnitude, the most expansive . . . get the picture? Couple the arrogance with a nasty personality and you’ll see just how unlikable the guy is.


Now, I will hand it to Wolf.  He plays the long game. There are reasons that he makes the character so annoying, and that is so he can hit you with not one, but two plot twists.  Neither is really all that original, but they do work in the context of the story. And therein lies the rub. The story isn’t bad, but it is much longer than it needed to be.  Some editing would have resulted in a shorter tighter story that wouldn’t have been so annoying at times. You can only hear how great someone is before you don’t care.


The one thing that I found that didn’t fit was the fact that a grade A bunghole like Runestorm, who seems to know everything, doesn’t realize that just because someone says they are a pacifist it doesn’t mean that they won’t fight or hurt you in order to defend themselves, their property, or others.  I just didn’t get what he was thinking. I will say that once more, that my issues with the story may come more from the narration than the tale itself. It may have come across much differently if it had been read by someone else.


As things go the story wasn’t overly bad.  I think some trimming could have really produced a decent story.  Alums performed professionally and it could have been a lot better.  As it stands I’m giving this a 6.5. The twists at the end didn’t make it worth the time to listen.

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


Ascend Online

By: Luke Chmilenko

Narrated by: Luke Daniels

Length: 17 hrs and 56 mins


Pause



This is a tale of the two unbeatable Lukes, Luke Chmilenko and Luke Daniels.  I just want to know which of them actually has Darth Vader for a father, because they pulled some Jedi mind trick stuff with this story.  In fact, someone supposedly (I have to say that, right, like allegedly so I don’t get sued or something) liked it soooo much that they sort of copied part of it for their own story.  You know what they say, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery but There is much difference between imitating a man and counterfeiting him. So, you know the story was pretty good.  I mean it also happened to James Hunter (What up, James!).


Any who who, the entire gaming system is pretty well thought out to a point that the story easily avoids tropes such as stuck in the game or real world intrudes.  The players are given a lengthy time to play, and will rotate out for a bit so they can return to real life until play resumes later. Although it does play with the whole the NPC’s are so real that it causes some ethical considerations to arise as they play.  Another aspect that I liked was the concept of the nemesis that could strike at any time, and often did. It added an element of fun to the story that you don’t normally get. And the way the nemesis was dealt with was creative, too. If you know me, then you know I love getting the perspective of a MOB, and this played out pretty smoothly.


Another aspect that was important to me was the fact that the MC is not over powered.  He’s just your basic player, as are his team mates. I also thought that even though this group seemed to have been together for a while that they still could not coordinate things as effectively as they should have.  That was smart, because if you put me, my wife, and my brothers in a group none of us will cooperate as efficiently as we should. Well, OK, my wife would but she’s a healer and she is always on point. Point is, they felt like real people acting in real ways.  The story itself is pretty simple. It is basically defend the town. They do this a few times, but that’s it in a nutshell. The stop goblins and players alike in order to protect the NPC’s and their homes. Less is better. The story is not convoluted nor is it hectic, it plays out in a simple well-crafted manner that is organic and natural.  I will say that some of the characters come across as being less developed than they could have been, but when you are dealing with a group dynamic you don’t always need a backstory or standout personalities for every characters. Sometimes the Paladin can just be a paladin.

The fights are exciting, and even if there are just some goblins most of the time it isn’t played out like “just” goblins.  They present a serious danger and do real damage. Again, I will reiterate that I love listening to town building take place, so some of my favorite parts of the book came when they were shoring up their defenses.  There is a lot going on in this book even though no power leveling takes place.


Luke Daniels is just a narration green beret.  He’s a vocal warrior from the sky, and like always he does one hell of a job.  I have to say that the hardest part of my reviews are the portions that deal with narration.  If the narrator sucks or are mediocre it is easy for me to say here’s where the problem lay. My real issue comes when I have to say how GOOD somebody is.  It is really difficult to say how amazing they were that doesn’t sound like hyperbole. All I can say is that if you know Luke Daniels then you know by this point that he always delivers a solid performance, complete with character voices, emotion, and a pace that keeps you listening.  So, um, he kicked butt!


Final score 8.4 stars.  I really liked this book and I don’t know why it took me so long to do something by Mr. Chmlienko.

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


Trojan

Afterlife Online, Book 3

By: Domino Finn

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James

Series: Afterlife Online, Book 3

Length: 13 hrs and 23 mins


Pause


So bongo, bongo, bongo I don’t want to leave the city without my mountain Bongo

Oh no no no no no

Bingle, bangle, bungle I’m so happy with my Bandit I refuse to go


Yeah, this book made me want to sing.  It was fun, but then every trip I’ve made to Haven in Domino Finn’s After Life series has been a blast. That song was an old Danny Kaye reference to civilization, which is what this book is all about.  It is about teamwork, trust, and faith.


A ton of stuff happens in this installment, and at first I actually thought that it might be an end point, as I think there were several points the story could have concluded, with a lot of unresolved plotlines, that would still have worked.  Thankfully, that isn’t the case but it could have been.


By the title of the book, and the dragon on the cover you might have thought that this book was all about protection and prevention, but no.  Finn hits you with a lot right off the bat and never lets up. Talon is the victim of an assassination attempt, and soon finds himself on the look for the person or persons who hired the killer.  The quest soon spirals into a variety of events that serve to provide us with a high seas adventure, some Oakenguard intrigue, and an epic battle with yet another Titan. I have to add that there are some huge reveals in regards to Talon, Lucifer, and even Tad (talon’s living self).  


The only real downside to this story is the complete and utter lack of VArnu Johnson, the greatest tech support that ever hit the pages of a book.  He has just one brief cameo, and it just wasn’t enough. I need my Varnu. The only thing comparable is the Tech support scenes in Everybody loves large chests.  I wait for my Varnu moments, Domino. I wait for them.


Anyhow, the book is packed so full of action that he has to write another book to keep up.  It is a very fun wild ride and this is a world that I deeply love to visit. I am always glad to see another installment of the series pop up.




So, Justin Thomas James racks up points doing his pirate imitation and pretty much has a complete blast rolling through the various voices of the cast.  Honestly, I laughed so hard at the party chat at the end of the book, I just envisioned it to have been done in one long amazing take as he literally does every character of any significance in the story, and it would just break my heart to think that he didn’t do it in one long uncut perfect tape of hilarity.  I laughed throughout the chat, but the highlight was when he did the voice of the Kraken. I was driving when he did that and I laughed so hard that I almost crashed. My speeding had nothing to do with the peril that Justin put in through his comedic endeavors, either. What I’m trying to say is that he made this book utterly fun every second of it’s run time.  I think of all the characters that he does in Afterlife my favorite is Kyle. He has the frat boy partier banter down cold, and the voice fits the brewmaster to utter perfection. I really enjoy listening to Justin whenever he returns to this world, since the first time I’d heard him was on book one of this series, and just listening to him takes me back to those first moments that I stepped into LITRPG.  He nails the narration. Plain and simple, and he owns this series. No one else could ever do it now because it would lose a special spark.


MY final score is 8.2 stars.  Finn and James are an unbeatable duo.  If you haven’t started the series, go back and give it a listen, it is amazing.



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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


I did ask Ramon if it would be ok, and he said that I could let you all know that I do have a couple of books on Royal Road, and I would ask that you drop over there and check them out.  They are:


The Nightmare Game https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/21929/the-nightmare-game-a-litrpg-horror-novel  

Apocalypse On Endless Earths: Apocalypse How? https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/22054/apocalypse-on-endless-earths-apocalypse-how-a    


The first is straight up horror litrpg, and the other is a sci-fi/humor Litpg book.  Please give them a look.

Remember, please leave a review for any book that you’ve listened to or read.  Authors really depend on reviews.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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  


Some other LitRPG facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPG.books

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPGsociety/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheFantasyNation/


If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support  


LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 027 - First Login - Chronicle, Life Reset: EvP, Opening Moves:  The Gam3, Bobiverse series

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 027 - First Login - Chronicle, Life Reset: EvP, Opening Moves:  The Gam3, Bobiverse series

“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: ”


First Login - Chronicle, Book 1 (00:24)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2FvF5kQ


Life Reset: EvP (Environment vs. Player) (12:37)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2SZb1Cd


Opening Moves:  The Gam3, Book 1 (25:53)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Cw3iob


Is It Lit? (34:30)


Bobiverse series:

We Are Legion (We Are Bob)  https://amzn.to/2M8MUOC

For We Are Many https://amzn.to/2STnhUF

All These Worlds https://amzn.to/2M9BBFZ



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

First Login

Chronicle, Book 1

By: Kevin Murphy

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Length: 11 hrs and 47 mins


Pause



Well, well, well, it seems first time author Kevin Murphy has crafted a pretty cool series starter.  I enjoyed every minute of this book, and I have to say that I think that is because the main character acts a lot like I would in the same situation.  This book doesn’t have an overarching goal, and the MC sort of meanders around, but I wouldn’t call this a slice of life book. Too much happens, and there is an undercurrent of mystery that gets slightly revealed at the end of the book.  The MC Dakkon loses his job and ends up playing the game for real life credits. You know that I hate that trope.


Anyway, first day in the game kinda sucks for him, and he ends up lying to some guards just so he can get inside a city by claiming that he was mugged.  Oddly, the guards show up later with his “stolen” gear, which just so happens to include a really cool looking knife. Now, here is where the wandering part comes in.  Dakkon has literally no clue as to what he should be doing, and basically bounces from one thing to another. He meets a guy, then a group and they hunt together, and he learns that his new knife has some super killy powers.  Later efforts to discover what the knife is sort of fail, and he is left clueless.


The story is pretty much Dakkon either conning people to score some cash, and I have to say he’s a decent liar, or fighting higher level mobs and leveling up.  One thing I have to warn you about is that there is no clear and concise system here. At least not one that is revealed. The writing seems geared to keeping a lot of things about the game obscure too.  So, don’t expect to come out of this knowing all about the game system or the game’s storyline (if it has one). Dakkon pretty much deals with everything as it comes at him, he isn’t much of a planner (as in looking ahead) but he is apt at thinking on his feet and detecting an enemy’s weakness.  It is his unorthodox play style that makes him able to defeat foes that are higher level than he is, and earn the cash he so desperately needs.


He allies with some interesting people, such as a lettuce salesman, and a mysterious player who is far more than he seems.  Dakkon also manages to garner the attention of a player that wants his mysterious dagger, which eventually leads him to joining an organization of relic hunters.  So, basically, the book is more about what adventure is going to occur today? So, slice of life dammit! But there is an undercurrent of things that are revealed at the end just enough to whet your appetite. Personally, I liked Dakkon, just because he wasn’t a know it all smart ass who cracked jokes at every turn.  He really appealed to me because of his devious nature, the guy makes a better con man than he does a fighter, that’s for certain.


Nick Pohdel really does some fine work here, and I have to say that I am liking his incorporation of sound effects into the reading.  Not only did they fit, but they were also pleasant to the ears, I don’t know if he found them or made them up, but I enjoyed the addition.  My only complaint with Pohdel is that he is a one trick pony when it comes to women’s voices, that is why I didn’t swoon over his work on Super Sales on Super Heroes book two, that book had ton of women to work around, and his ladies sound very similar to one another.  Here the female factor isn’t overly high, so it isn’t all that noticeable or bad. Still he did great otherwise and I anticipate more growth from him in the future.


Over all this is a solid first effort, and I am going to just barely give this one an 8 star review.  There were a lot of things unrevealed, the class set up wasn’t really well explained, and it was a wandering aimless book to be honest.  Still, the characters and the fun outweighed a lot of that and I say give this a go and eat an imperial salad while you do so.


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


Life Reset: EvP (Environment vs. Player)

By: Shemer Kuznits

Narrated by: Jeff Hays, Laurie Catherine Winkel, Annie Ellicott

Length: 21 hrs and 53 mins


Pause



This is this week’s Soundbooth Spotlight, and man was it fun.  Practically 22 hours of goblin goodness to gnaw on. Orin, the MC who is trapped in the game world, is a goblin Dread Totem who is running a goblinish village.  The book plays out a lot like the original world of Warcraft orcs vs humans game. He creates new peons who do jobs assigned to them, builds and upgrades vital facilities for the advancement of the tribe, and fights off invaders with his limited militia.  I enjoy this aspect more than anything. Granted, I like watching Orin level up and get new powers, but I really love to hear how he adds a new building or upgrades one. Like I say, Tamer by MSE has my attention because the characters are building a fort.  The book really deals with a ton of things happening to Orin and his village after the events of the first book. It seems that no matter what Orin does nothing is going to prepare him for the trials to come.


Orin is in deep trouble as his ex-guild members are looking for him, and he has limited time to prepare for their arrival.  To top it off new monster players have begun showing up, and it seems that one of them is a traitor. Somebody is going around ganking hapless goblin workers, and stealing vital potion supplies.  The urgency of the need to expand, gain experience, and leveling his troops is palpable. To top it off, Orin now struggles to retain his identity as a player. He is sinking more and more into his role as the Dread Totem and losing bits of himself in the process.  One of my favorite bits that got added this time around is the mandibled brain eating seneschal that made me envision a hobgobliny Predator. He was a fun character, and Kuznits uses him quite effectively to demonstrate the importance and dangers of reputation in a very slick way.


Another impressive thing is the way that SBT handled this book.  Last go around, Jeff Hays did the whole thing himself, now he’s added some of the Sound Booth ladies into the mix, but quite wisely keeps himself on the voices that he did the last time.  Annie and Laurie both bring their A game and the sisters of Soundbooth supercharge the story with their sublime storytelling. Jeff is the man, handling more characters than a juggling guillotine operator during the French revolution, I just don’t know how he does it but he has impeccable pacing and knows how to wrap a chapter or add life into a battle scene.  He definitely infuses a sense of urgency into everything that Orin does, and lets his smugness play out oh so very well that you cringe when Orin says something so snide that you know whatever it is is going to come back and bite him on the rump. One thing that sort of surprised me was that Jeff didn’t figure out a way to sound fx to the shadow magic. I would have loved to have heard a light wind to a full breeze blowing when Orin used his shadow powers, but that is really just my own personal desires, SBT really nailed the book down and provided some top notch high quality narration.



My final score on this book is 8.3 stars.  I like that Kuznits doesn’t spit out shorter books, and that he knows the proper thing to do is to put his MC through the wringer as often as possible.  The narration is on a nuclear level, and the overall story is a fun fast paced ride of leveling, struggling to become stronger, and preparing for a point when PC’s will invade the village.  This is slick and smooth, and will sucker you in for more hours than you realize. Get this book and enjoy it.

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


The next book I am going to review has a weird title, but it was a really fun book.  I’m going to be examining Opening Moves, which is part of the Gam 3 series. I have no idea why its called the Gam 3 series but (Prop guy comes in and yell’s “It’s the game!  Not the gam 3, I’ve told you it’s the GAME, the three is an E old man!) Chagrinned I say OK, and then chastise him for not using a prop. I’ll show you a prop! He then hits me with a monopoly box.  That’s better, I mutter.


So, yeah, . . .


Opening Moves:  The Gam3, Book 1

By: Cosimo Yap   (I don’t think that’s his real name)

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins


Pause


While I liked Opening moves there were some things that bothered me a little.  First, though, the set up. One promising feature is that this is strictly as sci-fi story and we really don’t get enough of those in Litrpg today.  I’m not complaining about the fantasy stuff, but a huge portion of Litrpg has heavy fantasy elements to it. Sci-fi is almost the purview of our Russian comrades, of course it is odd to say that a genre that features game entry via computers, A.I. elements, and game mechanics is more fantasy based, but you understand my point.


Anyway, (you’ll get that reference once you listen to the book) the game is how aliens conduct their warfare.  Humans have been inducted to play the “game” and are granted some leniency from outright attacks until they kind of get their game legs.  The MC sort of buys his way into the game by having some money fronted to him. Alan, the MC becomes a machine lord, and has AI that he basically uses as a cheat throughout the book.


That was my biggest problem.  Alan isn’t a very deep character, I would almost say that he belongs in flat land because he is a tad one dimensional.  There is no character development or growth, he ends the way he starts, so yay for consistency. Also, he comes in with an AI that pretty much helps him route every thing he encounters.  The book, however, is action heavy and very fun, and I can easily forgo character development in favor of some good ole butt kickin.


The story does draw you in, and I was pretty much kept on the edge of my seat as the story progressed.  I can’t say that the story slowed down or didn’t keep me engaged, because I rode this story like a broken mechanical bull.  I couldn’t ride a working one, I’d break my neck. The point is that this was a fun ride.

Surprise, Nick Pohdel narrates this book and does a wonderful job, I have pretty much accepted that he is a master class narrator, but that he still has issues doing women’s voices.  That has been, and will be my biggest complaint when it comes to his work. Otherwise, he manages to make the story fun and really picks up the pace when it comes to the battle scenes.

 

The story has a ton of things going on, like an attempted capture/assassination attempt and some ancient beings offering to assist in the Gam3 if he can prove himself.  Again, awesome book, not much in the way of characterization. Also, I will say that Allen’s growth as a player may have felt a little stunted when compared to other similar books.  That’s ok, not every player should be OP, and he does have his AI to make up for his limitations.


Overall score is an 8.  I thought it was fast paced, full of action, and had a good premise, but the lack of character growth really took it down a peg or two.

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


Bobiverse

We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

For We Are Many

All These Worlds

By: Dennis E. Taylor

Narrated by: Ray Porter

Length: 9 hrs and 31 mins



Pause



I’m just going to start off by saying that no matter what the decision is on this being Lit or not this is a series that you really need to read.  It is witty, funny, emotional, action packed, jarring, and is a pretty fair lens with which to view humanity. I was captivated by this series the moment I started listening and this is one of the first books that I thought of when I came up with the Is it Litrpg or not segment.  No matter what, this is a seriously can’t miss set of books that I am equally glad that was completed with a trilogy, and upset that it is over. Bob, all of him, is a fascinating bunch of guys.


So, let’s get to the story.  A guy, Bob, dies and his brain is uploaded into a virtual world (sound a little familiar?).  He isn’t alone. There are other test subjects that he has to compete with, and the competition is simple.  If you win, you survive. Fail, and you are deleted. He and the others undergo a battery of test, and no surprise Bob wins the grand prize.  He has his mind uploaded into a very special space vessel. This allows him to not only explore new solar systems but also replicate himself so that he can survive and do his job.  His real problem is that three other countries have also launched probes similar to Bob, and they are not friendly.


Thankfully, Bob gets a hand with an on board assistant (Hmmm, a helper A.I.?) that can fill him in on much needed details and plays a role that the reader/listener needs to feed information.  From there, the Bobiverse expands from being a simple humanity must survive book and into numerous other themes. We literally get Bob on an alien planet helping natives, Bob colonizing other worlds, Bob falling in love with a fleshie and all the consequences that come from it, as well as a nightmarish unstoppable foe that Bob has no clue how to stop.


Throughout the course of the series Bob grows and evolves, you might say that he levels up, actually.  He goes through numerous iterations, and changes all while struggling just to stay sane and be Bob. I cannot accurately tell you how engaging the book series is, other than to say that I listened to them one after another with only breaks for sleep or because work dictated that I put the book down for a few minutes.

Ray Porter is a master, and I do mean master narrator.  You name a genre and he has probably narrated something in it.  While I will say that this is probably the best I’ve ever heard him I can tell you that you might want to check out his work in Pathfinder series, based on the game as well as his distinguished narration on WOTC’s Dark Sun Series the Prism Pentad.  So he knows games backwards and upside down. He also does a decent Urban Fantasy series called Incryptid, that IN and then the supernatural/fortean word for monsters and undiscovered animals, cryptids. Incryptid is pretty cool too. Here though he provides all of Bob’s angst, desperation, urgency, his love, his reaction to betrayal, etc.  Sincerely, this guy is on the level of Hays, Daniels, Pohdel, and Taylor when it comes to men’s narration. You could not ask for better.


So, now we get down to the big question.  Izzit lit? Well, part one, he is placed into a virtual world. 2) He has a snarky A.I. to help him get information.  3) He improves on himself after each encounter with an enemy (i.e. he levels up). 4) Like Alex Rogan he fights a desperate battle against incredible odds against an enemy similar to the Kodon armada.  Ok, so that last part is true, but it doesn’t make it gamelit just because I quote a LIT movie. Yes, the Last Starfighter is Gamelit, and I’ll fight you to prove it.


So, while I can safely say that it meets a lot of the criteria, and I so desperately want to call this Lit, I can’t.  There really isn’t any kind of crunch to it, or even a soft oatmeal bite. This series comes damn close, though, and I still say that if you are a fan of LITRPG you will LOVE this book series.  Check it out.


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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


I did ask Ramon if it would be ok, and he said that I could let you all know that I do have a couple of books on Royal Road, and I would ask that you drop over there and check them out.  They are:


The Nightmare Game https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/21929/the-nightmare-game-a-litrpg-horror-novel  

Apocalypse On Endless Earths: Apocalypse How? https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/22054/apocalypse-on-endless-earths-apocalypse-how-a    


The first is straight up horror litrpg, and the other is a sci-fi/humor Litpg book.  Please give them a look.

Remember, please leave a review for any book that you’ve listened to or read.  Authors really depend on reviews.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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  


Some other LitRPG facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPG.books

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPGsociety/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheFantasyNation/


If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support  


LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 026 - Betrayal, Seductive Seas, Dan the Barbarian, Star-Spangled Apocalypse

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 026 - Betrayal, Seductive Seas, Dan the Barbarian, Star-Spangled Apocalypse


“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: ”

Betrayal  (Monsters, Maces and Magic, Volume 2) (00:50)

Score: 7.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2AzAHy1

Seductive Seas: Online Swashbuckling Harem (20:00)

Seductive Seas LitRPG Series, Book 1

Score: 6.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2SFz8pe

Dan the Barbarian Gold Girls and Glory, Book 1 (40:54)

Score: 8.2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2AzqSQp

What Else Have They Done? (01:01:55)

Star-Spangled Apocalypse

https://amzn.to/2RBSMoP

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

Betrayal  (Monsters, Maces and Magic, Volume 2)

By: Terry W. Ervin II

Narrated by: Jonathan Waters

Length: 8 hrs and 55 mins


Pause



Terry Ervin part deux returns to his Gamelit series, (Monsters, Maces, and Magic), with his tale Betrayal.  I’ll be honest, I’ve been waiting on this one. I absolutely loved the first book and could not wait for this book to it the audible shelves.  I have to admit, going into this I felt certain that I knew what was going to happen, just from the title, but I was very surprised to find that I was so wrong that everything I had expected never came to pass.  I’ll give Terry his due, I love it when a writer sets up a story and then procedes to not follow an expected path. I don’t want to give anything away, but I really thought that it was pretty obvious where the book’s title was coming from, but nope.  Nope. He got me. Kudos, master Ervin.


So, the book centers on the group trying to raise funds to get their wish spell so they can return home, and they get sucked into a lot of backstabbing and intrigue dealing with a kidnapped elf bride.  The team opts to take the offer to get some serious bread in exchange for bringing the bride back, and head off to the swamplands in hopes of rescuing her before she is violated murdered, or eaten, or violated, murdered, and then eaten.  She’s in a bad place with a deadline hanging over her head. The group works pretty well, and plays smart. They learn where she’d been taken and head out with their game faces on.


Now, the book has a lot of action, the battle scenes are pretty slick, and I really loved the way that they managed to take on a lance wielding rider.  So, there is some pretty innovative use of magic and tactics. The half goblin pretty much steals the show, he is the most fun, and I think my biggest issue is just how weak the gnome is portrayed to be. I really wish that the gnome kicked more ass instead of always coming across as a liability even when he is fighting his heart out.  He never seems to have any confidence in spite of being the one that saved the team in the last novel. I would also like to see more of the semi evil fighter of the group. We get enough Goblin, gnome, and elf. Ron and Derek seem a little under represented. I always point to Dragonlance which did an amazing job of balancing a large group and spotlighting each character.


My one true complaint was that a lot of the humor that was in the first book seemed to be lacking.   Granted, most of the jibes centered on Marigold’s bosom, shrinking clothing, and so on but it was funny.  This book basically flipped and made it more about leering and how she felt about it, and if a character did have a naughty thought they quickly reprimanded themselves or turned their heads.  It is fine to show growth, but when the whole set up was that the elf is triple pornstar hot you can’t bring shame into the equation, because it makes the reader feel ashamed for laughing before or considering the same situations in this book to be funny.  Marigold was reduced to complshaming the others or worrying about her bird, Petey.


Either way, I enjoyed the book, and look forward to the next, even though it doesn’t feature our intrepid team.  My final score, 7.9 stars just because some of the elements of the first book were toned down or negated. Still, I loved how they were shown that they were levelling via dreams, since they can’t access character sheets.  I also appreciated that the players instinctively knew how many hit points they had. That was new too. I must say that I have no issue with the more action oriented take, but I would have liked more humor.


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


Seductive Seas: Online Swashbuckling Harem

Seductive Seas LitRPG Series, Book 1

By: Calico Jack

Narrated by: Shane Morris

Length: 58 mins


Pause



This was an odd book to review.  I am always on the look out for a good LITRPG short story, and pretty much jump at one whenever I get a chance.  The issue that I have is that this is sort of a hard sell for me. The book is pretty short, only 58 minutes long, and honestly only feels like a first chapter more than a complete story.  Yes, it sort of wraps up, but in a way that would have worked better in a bigger longer novel. In other words, the story sort of feels incomplete, like there a lot more that should have happened.  Another hour’s worth of material and I think this wouldn’t have been too bad for a short, but too much was jammed in all at once to make it a complete story.

For example, the tale starts of with the MC walking the plank.  It seems like his old ship has mutinied and he has been replaced and is being left to drown by his former crew.  Somehow, he manages to make it to the newbie starting island, but is still a level one, so I was confused. Did the game start him out on a mutinied ship?  Because he didn’t act like that was the case at all, he was very familiar with the people and the island. If not, then why was he so low a level? Was it because he died?  Dunno, never states if dying resets you to level one or not, but if it did I wouldn’t play the game.

Ten seconds after arriving on the island he is met by a comely wench who had been part of his crew and followed him.  She immediately begins pleasuring him orally, and that is where the first snafu of the book comes into play. The narration says something  along the lines of she slid his massive member into his mouth. Not an exact quote, but pretty close. You get the point though. They’d have called him Cap’n longspear if he  could do that. Words matter people. Espicially in an intimacy scene. Coming out of the scene, no pun intended he awakes at work to find that he’s played all night and his hot boss, who he has his eye on, has a meeting with him and some financiers.  During the meeting he is expected to demonstrate the awesomeness of the games fighting system as well as the intercourse interplay. So, basically he has to cut off some heads and then get some he. . . well, you get the idea. That is pretty much the story, aside from what actually happens in the gameplay, and how the meeting went.  Not a lot of content if you consider all the set up and time it took just to get to that point. So, it feels truncated. Like I say, good start to a bigger tale, but not so hot for a one shot.

The story did have some cool ideas that I would like to see implemented in other harem or sexiness styled books, in which the players have to unlock the Wench NPC’s chastity belts with a quest.  This means that they just can’t get busy, they actually have to do a little work before they can have fun. Of course, this still didn’t stop the sexy wench from providing some oral gratification right after they met.  It just meant that the honey pot was sealed in other ways. I loved this concept. I wish it was featured more in other novels.

The narration was fair to middling.  I wasn’t overly underwhelmed, but I can’t say that I was amazed.  Also, there was a strange ticking or bonking noise in the beginning of the story that was not part of the story, and just randomly appeared out of no where.


My score is 6.5, it might have been higher if there was more to this story, but I really can’t justify a credit for a book under an hour, or even ask you to pay 3 bucks for so short an audiobook.  I have a hard time reconciling if this was a prologue, a short story, or a first chapter. When the listener can’t make so simple a distinction the book sort of sails away. Also, the lit elements were pretty light, which was a good thing, because if it was heavy and they wanted to keep it under an hour then we would have lost even more story.   



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


Dan the Barbarian Gold Girls and Glory, Book 1

By: Hondo Jinx

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins


Pause



Holy Hannah, has Hondo heartily hit some hellaish heights with his Breakout Gamelit novel, Dan the Barbarian.  This was one heck of a ride that was packed with fun, excitement, action, and saucy babes. There aren’t enough ladyfolk to qualify as a harem just yet, two ladies are a love triangle, not a harem, but I’m sure just from what Hondo has laid out as it’s an inevitability.

The story starts out with a simple schlub named Dan, who is having a really crappy day.  He’s failing a class, he’s robbed, and he shatters a glass case in the school library. Fortunately, in his accident he frees a genie.  The genie, in his generosity, grants Dan one wish, and after a little hedging, Dan asks to be given a life like his barbarian character.  Wish granted, Dan finds himself in mirror world in which his college no teaches economics, psychology, or biology. Instead there is treasure hunting 101, Sword Play, and Dungeon delving.  Of course, dan still lives across the hall from the hottest girl in school, and his nasty teacher in the old world is now his independent study instructor. Plus, she really hates him even more than before.  Dan, however, gets help from his magic sword that has the personality of his old character, Wulfgar, and a group of people he gets to know as he joins his hot neighbor, Holly, in a college Quest game that has real life and death stakes.  The characters are fun, and play to type. Dan, for example pulls a lot of stupid stunts, just like a real dopey barbarian, the thief is sexy and sneaky, and the wizard reminded me a little of the scattered brained Mage, Fizban, from the Dragonlance series.

The story really isn’t overly complicated, it is about a barbarian after all, but damn if it wasn’t fun.  It really kept me on the hook listening until I wrapped it up. I can only say that Dan was a relatable character, even if I couldn’t place myself in his exploits, I mean, I’m not a barbarian, but I will say that I liked how Dan had memories of both worlds, so he wasn’t in over his head even though he was new to everything.  This book, also features a monkey, Zuggie, who is a chess playing beer swigging fool that gets a little belligerent if he isn’t given the proper drink. What’s with all the monkeys lately? I keep saying Never trust a monkey! No one listens. The book has a solid ending that sets up the next novels and helps keep the anticipation going as we have to wait for Andrea Parsenau to record the next in the series.

Speaking of Andi P., man oh man, does she do an incredible job telling Dan’s story.  Now, I am going to make a confession. I have passed up many audiobooks in the past because of female narrators.  I listened to several early audiobooks, notable Cathy Bates reading Silence of the Lambs, to be specific, and I was underwhelmed, and I carried that bias for many years.  I actively avoided any books narrated by a lady, and didn’t care if the MC was female of not. Then, I listened to Andrea Parsenau, and changed my mind. To be fair, I am pretty oblivious to most things as a consumer, and tend to not look at what I buy, and so did not see that a woman had narrated the book.  Problem for me was that I had started it, and I always finish a book that I have started, no matter how bad. Sometimes I put them away for a while, I mean I did shelve the Sword of Shannara for five years before I returned to it and completed the book, but I soldiered on and soon I had forgotten that it was a woman narrating.  Soon, I found myself actually enjoying the book, and from that point on, I have been a fan of Andrea’s. She proves that a woman can narrate a story no matter the gender of the MC. So, kudos for Andrea for expanding my horizons. Now, as for her work on Dan the B. Well, what can I say? She hasn’t slowed down any, and only continues to improve on her craft.  She makes Holly seductive, Dan manly, and Zuggie monkier than normal. She really runs with this book and I enjoyed listening to every second of her performance. She really has a flair for action.


So, final score is an 8.2 stars.  I did catch some plot holes, and thought that there might have been a few options that would have been better handled.  For me the one point that seemed like it was just extra writing was the will the play the chess match? We all knew the answer, it had been set up throughout the book, and the decision came as no surprise.  Still, this was really fun, and I love Gamelit novels a lot. Give this a try. You’ll find yourself in another world.

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


Star-Spangled Apocalypse

By: Harmon Cooper

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 8 hrs and 26 mins


I'm glad that the cover on this novel has a mushroom cloud on it, because it literally blew me away. There are so many things that go on here that I didn't expect and had no idea that Cooper had all of this in him. Granted, he has said that this was one of his earliest novels (by the way, none of that freshman smell is on theses pages, it comes across as if crafted by a vet) but this is far afield of the writing style that the Cooper I know uses, and the commentary is so. . .so . . .yeah. I just can't find the words. He calls this a satire, but the fact it that it is something I could see playing out between two friends who are on opposite sides of the political fence. One is a stoner and the other a drunk, throw in a few aside trips and other apocalyptic pieces and you end up with this witty, biting, unrelenting tale that threatens to make you think if you aren't too careful.


Cooper is funny. I mean, fick'n funny as all get out, but the humor here is different than his other books. He isn't just being humorous, he makes observations and throw them at you with punchlines/situations. That works well, too. I hate being preached at, whether by a priest or a politician, but his commentaries don't feel like you are being talked down to, it's more like here are my thoughts and I'm happy to share it through the lens of this drunken fellow.


Another thing he does is pull Andrea Parsneau in to narrate. That's surprising, since the story basically revolves around two dudes, but, being Parsneau she manages to make you not notice that little bit at all. I didn't until it was all over. Then, all I could think of was what an amazing job she did, and her voice work just elevated the story. Who knew she could do drunk and stoned so well? Heh.


Oh, and I love the retro blast of a cover. It tells you that the book isn't serious, all the while it is, in fact, serious. The fact that the top of the cloud looks like a brain says it all. This book will blow your mind! That, is brilliant. I love it, and want a copy for my office. Now. Maybe autographed!


Anyway, I really think that Cooper was searching for something deeper when he wrote this book. I don't know if he was looking inward or at the world outside, but the vision he produces, and the thoughts he puts forth really fuel this book. I might think this was an esoteric roadtrip in his own mind as he thought about things sociological and political, or I could just see it as a running train of thought on what is happening to this country today. See, the book has layers. The deeper you dig the more that you find, and no matter where you stand on the political spectrum you will find something to laugh at and think about.


Cooper went out of his way to differentiate this book from his other sci-fi fare. Even though it is about an apocalypse it feels more real world than anything else of his I've ever read. I could stand to see him do a bit more of this type of a book every now and again. I can't let him get out of fantasy/sci-fi permanently but he could take us on the occasional hallucinatory road trip once in a while.


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


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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

Our Webpage: www.litrpgpodcast.com  


Some other LitRPG facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPG.books

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPGsociety/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheFantasyNation/


If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support  

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 025 -  Conquest, Steam Whistle Alley, The Lost City

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 025 -  Conquest, Steam Whistle Alley, The Lost City

“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: ”

Conquest - The Dungeon Core Gambit, Book One (01:00)

Score: 6.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2GRKbdp

Steam Whistle Alley - An Adventure in Augmented Reality (18:45)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2CHqgtN

The Lost City: An Epic LitRPG Adventure (34:04)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2s2ZQws

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


Conquest

The Dungeon Core Gambit, Book One

By: Antony W.F. Chow

Narrated by: Camille DuBois

Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins


Pause


Conquest is a book that feels like a dungeon core book, but then doesn’t feel like a dungeon core book.  It starts off with a guy being murdered in a pretty hardcore fashion. I think Chow is a big fan of Lorena Bobbitt, because his assassin sure as heck makes the MC live out a John Wayne Bobbitt scenario prior to his death.  The guy gets reborn as a dungeon core, and immediately starts making monster friends, absorbing people, and growing his territory.

The story flips between dungeon building and sex scenes, since the world has a dearth of viable males to support the population.  I’m not sure if this originally started out as a naughty book that evolved into a dungeon book, or a dungeon book that evolved into an erotic book but it is very hard to tell what the focus actually was on.  I have no problem with sex scenes, but I need a solid story behind it. I do read harem books, and I am no prude, but this was not my cup o tea sex wise.


My issues with the story are thus.  First, the book never really delivers a challenge to the MC.  He pretty much overcomes and outthinks any obstacle in his way.  There was never a threat or serious concern for his success. Secondly, the way that the story explains that dungeon cores need to keep themselves hidden and secret, but I never saw the protagonist do that ever.  Pretty much every person or thing that he encounters he tells. Third, he expands really quickly, most dungeon books take time building rooms, levels, etc. This dungeon expands its territory and range by incredible leaps and bounds.  Third, the core’s helper was either deliberately obtuse or was a savant, because she was constantly goofing things up, and then she was a master. It made no sense. Fourth, the cheat that the dungeon exploited, garnering limitless mana pretty much at will.  Fifth, there were literally no monsters in the dungeon. That is what is fun about the dungeon genre. New monsters. I wanted to see more with the nematode or queen ant, but no. Also, there is only one real party of adventurers who take on the dungeon, and they mostly quit halfway through.  What does it say when a band of adventurers don’t even want to do a dungeon run? Then I even had a grammar issue in the audiobook. This is me being picky, but I have to call it out when I hear something like this. The word Dwarfesses is used a lot, which comes across like dwarfesses. I would have rather that the terms she-dwarves, female dwarves, lady dwarves, or even just dwarves, as it was very clear that he was only referencing the female variety of dwarven folks.  It might have actually worked ok on the page, but when spoken out loud it was mildly silly.

Speaking of out loud, Dubois is clear and clean, but almost robotic in her speaking.  She had a very boring delivery style. I found her to be intently hard to listen too. She also had some mispronunciations, but I’ll just call out one.  Look, if you are entering a specific style of genre like Sci fi or fantasy, get used to technobabble or strange creatures being named. In other words, prepare yourself.  Dubois uses the pronunciation of Like in place of Lich. This was very irritating and coupled with her style every little error that she made stood out like the Eiffel Tower on Liberty Island.  I have said it before, and I will say this again. Narration is key to keeping your story interesting on Audible. Choosing a bad narrator is like shooting yourself in the foot. You might hobble along, but you aren’t going to win any races.  She crushed this story with her monotone flat reading. She is not, by far, the worst I have ever heard, but man, she is not even a middle of the pack narrator, unless you are talking about a pack of cigarettes.


I really struggled with this, I tried to figure out if it was a Litbook that wanted to be a dungeon core book or a dungeon core book that lost its way.  I really did not feel like this was a dungeon core book. It was missing too many elements for it to be that, it also strained my LITRPG perceptions since there was no real attempt at levelling or other standard fare things like stats abounding.  Taking it for just the story I was given I have to, coupled with the narration, give this 6.5 stars.

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


Steam Whistle Alley

An Adventure in Augmented Reality

By: Joshua Mason

Narrated by: Sena Bryer

Length: 11 hrs and 47 mins



Pause



Fans of Steampunk should enjoy this book, but so will people who are not steampunk fans.  I say it like that because I wasn’t overwhelmed with a ton of steamy punky stuff, and that is because the book fluctuates between plain everyday reality as well as the augmented reality of the game.  So the steam is there, but it isn’t super heavy. I really appreciated what Mason has done here, adding an element of real life to the game that is being played so that it isn’t a simple enter the VR realm by putting on a visor and laying in bed all day.  I loved how the goggles were used for that purpose. He also adds a hint of the Blade Runner tech, what with the synthetic monkey Banjo, who is a monkey in every way except for the actual matter of him not being a real monkey. I have to admit two things, I get a little leery of monkeys, and especially monkeys named Bingo, which is pretty close to Banjo, after watching Space Ghost Coast to Coast years ago.  I will never forget Brak’s admonishment to never trust a monkey. Never.


Our intrepid hero, Jakey, gets partnered with the gal of his dreams, and makes a new friend or two along the way.  This was one of the things that I didn’t like about the game play. The game creators chose your partner for you. I don’t care what algorithm you use, I don’t want my gaming partner chosen by Tinder.  Technically, I hate joining teams, and often played my games alone, which is really hard in an MMORPG. Getting to 60 in WOW by myself sucked, and I wished that they made gameplay work so that you could play in a group or individually.  Here, you aren’t given a choice. They pick a partner for you and you have to play together. One thing that actually bothered me was, again, how long it actually took to get into game. I understand set up, and the importance of building a the world, but I really believe that you should get your listeners/readers into the game as soon as possible.  We were a good while into the book before we actually got into Steam Whistle Alley.


 Truth be told, Sena See-na) Bryer’s narration really had to grow on me.  It was really annoying at first, and I don’t know why. It was like there was a nasally tone to everything, very hard for me to describe.  Bryer did pretty well, the narration itself was pretty clean and easy to understand. Different voices were used to varying effect, and the pacing was excellent, but it took me almost 2/3rds of the book before I could listen and not be driven crazy by whatever her voice was doing to my ears.  After that point I was fine, but it really took me some time to settle in on her voice and I could just listen. Like I say, she did great, but I had some issue with her voice for some reason. Had nothing to do with her style or ability, it just wasn’t musical to my ears, but upon acclimation I didn’t notice it anymore.


So here’s the rundown, Jacob gets a chance to Alpha test a new game that takes place in Augmented reality, that is it takes place in the actual world, which means it required you to get off your fat butt and actually walk, explore, and fight outside.  Considering I’m a misanthropic hermit who hates to leave the house I can already see that I’d be playing another game, but other people might actually like sunshine on their faces while they play. Once he’s is in game he learns that there are a couple of villainy type who are looking to take control of the game, and it comes down to Jake and his team to put the kibosh on them and their plans.  One of my favorite aspects of the story is that there was no power leveling, no cheats, no backdoors, just straight up gameplay, grinding, and honest leveling. The only real issue I had was the way the story ended. It is a cliffhanger, and I don’t mind those, however the way it ended had some actual implications that weren’t all that great. I can’t give them away, but it bothered me a little.  Either way, the book was fun, and I actually liked Banjo, even though I’d never trust him, and he was most importantly, not annoying. So, cool characters, sidekicks, and concept.


Final score a solid 8 stars.  I actually forgave the issues I had with the narration since I could find no flaws, other than one part that was repeated, and that came when they were watching gears within gears.  I look forward to the next book.

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


The Lost City: An Epic LitRPG Adventure

By: C.M. Carney

Narrated by: Armen Taylor

Series: The Realms Series, Book 2

Length: 17 hrs and 57 mins


Pause



No sophomore slump here.  This book pretty much accelerates beyond the first book, which was excellent BTW, and only enhances the undercurrents from the first book.  I was really surprised to see the role that the Arboleth are beginning to play in the series, and how great a villain they actually are. They are, for all you Trek fans, akin to the Borg.  Nasties from the other side of the universe who plan on enslaving every sapient being in the realms.


Griff finds himself in an elven homeland and is given a quest to stop the Seal of the Dwarven King from being used, which is then promptly stolen from him, and he and the others are forced to chase after the thief in order to stop an ancient force of indescribable power (just think Hellboy’s Golden Army).  Along the way we are treated to some intense battles with ancient terrors, a hint that Chaos is also threatening the realms, and there is some tragedy that befalls the group. A tragedy that is actually very poignant, and sad, and completely unexpected. All I can say is, Chris Carney do not undo what you did.  Stuff like this is necessary, and shows the stakes that are being played for, not everyone should get away unscathed or alive.


Some of my favorite parts came from Zeg, the demonic imp, who may not be as impish as he seems.  The way things look, Zeg might actually be a lot more powerful than first expected. I did like the riff in which fire made Zeg bigger, and I don’t want to give anything away, but his relationship with the other demon in the party, Avernerius, isn’t what you might expect.  We also get to meet the realm’s deadliest muppet, Erat, who is a simple but powerful creature who defends the Dwarven city. My biggest issue comes with the super powerful army that was hidden away and made to sleep for six thousand years. When they finally got into battle they seemed to drop just as easily as any other race in spite of their mind numbing capabilities.  Either they were over hyped or they were under written. I really expected much more of a show of force from them.


Armen Taylor tells this tumultuous tale, and I must admit that I am always impressed by him.  I hate to say it, but he is like this amazing book that you put on your shelf, and you only remember how good it is after you rediscover it sitting there.  By that I mean, I love listening to him every single time I hear him, but I’ll be darned if he doesn’t go off my radar when someone asks me to rattle off some great narrators.  Invariably I immediately go to Hays, Pohdel, and Daniels to just name a few, and Taylor never seems to get mentioned by me; which is really sad and an oversight on my part because I love the guy’s style, voice, pacing, and the punch that he adds to his readings.  Needless to say, he nails this book down bare handedly, while making it look like he was using a nail gun. The guy is incredible.


I’ll say this for Carney, he isn’t afraid to go big.  You have the entire the pantheon is corrupted and I have to save my sister plot line, the Chaos is coming thread, and the impending invasion by the Prime.  It makes me think of my cousin Vinny when he’s freaking out on his girlfriend, as she piles her issues onto him and he freaks out talking about all the stuff on his shoulders.  Griff is facing a lot of huge things, and Carney does this impossible juggling act to make it seem like things aren’t quite as bad as they look. I love his writing style, his characters, and the direction of the series.


Final score, 8.4 stars.  If you have to ask why repeat view everything I just discussed.  This is a powerhouse of a series, and I am inclined to put it in the ranks of VGO, Ascend Online, War Aeternus, and others.  The books just keep getting better.

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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 024 - Re-Start, How to Train Your Kaiju, Life Reset: EvP , Is it Litrpg?  -The Four Lords of the Diamond series

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 024 - Re-Start, How to Train Your Kaiju, Life Reset: EvP , Is it Litrpg?  -The Four Lords of the Diamond series

“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: ”

Re-Start (00:21)

Score: 8.4 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2V5NYH6


How to Train Your Kaiju - Kaiju Wars Offline, Book 1 (11:40)

Score: 6.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2V7lUD8


Life Reset: EvP (Environment vs. Player) (24:09)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2BGRNcK


Is it Litrpg?  (37:14)

-The Four Lords of the Diamond series

Lilith: A Snake in the Grass https://amzn.to/2V8b6Vv

Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold https://amzn.to/2CxGKo2

Charon: A Dragon at the Gate https://amzn.to/2BGlX05

Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail https://amzn.to/2Skh1VB


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Re-Start

Level UP Series, Book 1

By: Dan Sugralinov, Irene Woodhead - translator, Neil P. Woodhead - translator

Narrated by: Ramon De Ocampo

Length: 15 hrs and 3 mins


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Well this book has made me change my tune.  I would never have thought that I would actually enjoy a Slice of life book, but that is really all this book is; as it follows around an average schlub named Phil who is in a loveless marriage, is unemployed, and has no ambition.  Phil suddenly finds himself “awakened” to the realization that he is in a game and that he can level up, gain skills, make friends, and influence people. That is all the book is about, Phil slowly turning his life around one step at a time through meaningful social interactions.


That is what really stunned me.  Dan Sugralinov made a book about going to the gym, buying an apartment, getting a dog, and making friends really exciting.  Honestly, If you told me I would even read a book like this and loved it I would have said you were insane. I read fantasy and sci fi to avoid mundane stuff like that, but this book, with the wiley addition of the Lit Elements cleverly keeps all of the everyday stuff in the fun zone.  Honestly, reading about a dude going to his estranged wife’s hotel room to make sure she is safe is not something that I would even glance at, by dang if Sugralinov didn’t keep me hooked the entire time.


The premise is brilliant, and is handled adeptly and wisely and he manages to balance the real world antics with game elements so that at no point was I bored or wishing for my life to end as so many books do to me.  I actually cared about Phil, and got mad right along with him when something crappy happened to him. I hate to admit it, but the book was a roller coaster that really went from highs to lows really fast.


The narration was above average, but again I wasn’t overwhelmed.  I have pretty high standards, and am used to Hays, Pohdel, Daniels, Parsanau, Rennie, Scarlato, and Toma setting such high standards that a good narrator comes across a lot weaker than he or she actually is.  Either way, it takes a lot to impress me. Ramon De Ocampo does a nice job and manages to add vocal elements such as voices and emotion, and he has nice pacing.


I did have a little issue with the translations, for example one line that stands out in my mind was, “We made it back home without any further innuendo.”  There was no innuendo before that statement was made, and it occurred again later. Some things just got mixed up or were misunderstood and I have to wonder if these translators ever looked at the spirit of the sentence or just words.  I’ve studied Latin and ASL, and My Latin teacher would say that you needed to see the bigger picture when translating, you couldn’t look at a sentence word by word and get it right, there was more to it. I think that is what happened here.  Still, the overall translation was pretty smooth.



I loved every minute of this book.  It had real heart and made me enjoy everyday life type stories, and actually made me consider that I might want to start living my life like I was in a video game, but then I realized two things.  First, I’d have to go to the gym and that I already live my life by code based on a cherished movie. I can’t go changing lifestyle creeds midstream.


My final score is 8.4.  This is a strong first book to what looks like an amazing series, and I for one want another slice.


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


How to Train Your Kaiju

Kaiju Wars Offline, Book 1

By: Nicholas Knight

Narrated by: Ethan Jesse

Length: 7 hrs and 1 min


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This book is an utter conundrum to me.  So much so, that I think that this is one of the books that I would actually place on the Is It Litrpg segment if it didn’t already claim to be litrpg.  To me the book was a bit of a mess, and I really am not sure what it wanted to do. So please allow me to elaborate on what the book is about before I go any further.  The book centers on a protagonist who is in jail. The lad has some anger issues centering on his father who abandoned him and his mother, and is given an out by a mysterious psychiatrist who offers to have him play a game called Kaiju Wars in exchange for an early release.  He gets out only to find his mother is dying of ALS, Lou Gherigs Disease (man, talk about your Typhoid Mary. This dude even whacked Stephen Hawking with his germs) and that she doesn’t have long to live. He is forced to go to college in order for his absentee now returned father to pay for her care and maintenance.   At school he gets a chump for a roommate and hits upon a hot chick who is friends with his despised cousin. His cousin, Lusitania (Who has to be named after the ship, no symbolism there) is a witch who does everything she can to make his life miserable. Needless to say, the protagonist becomes antagonistic a lot, and soon finds that his sessions in the game help him to control his aggression.  Things are pretty cool until he has to find a Kaiju on his own turf and that is where things flip.


So, several things.  First of all, in spite of the reasoning behind him going to school there is no way that I can believe that a guy who professes some much love for his mother would leave her and go to a place where he cannot get to her easily.  Secondly, this book is about as LIT as a wet cigar stub. Here is my beef. The game play takes a back seat to the real world issues that go on. The MC levels without our ever seeing him do so. He just jumps numerous levels by saying he’d played a lot.  Part of LITRPG is seeing the progression, and learning the game/world along with the player. Additionally, game mechanics are pretty few and far between. They talk about stats and special abilities, but don’t really explain much, and the other Kaiju are used infrequently.  Even the fights seem more like something out of a Godzilla Movie rather than Tron or Scott Pilgrim. That would be fine in a straight Kaiju book, but this is supposed to be LITRPG. We get health and rage bars, but that is really the extent of it. I would say that it smacked of playing that Arcade game Rampage (a game I sacrificed many quarters to), but even that doesn’t feel right.  This just does not feel like Litrpg at all. The ending was not a shocker, in fact you rather expect it, since there are more books to come.

The narration was about par.  I was not blown away or amazed.  It came across as a decent first effort, C+, but nothing to make me look for more work by Ethan Jesse.  This was also a huge factor in how the book came off to me. If it had been a different narrator I might have liked this book more, but I just felt like this was someone who was feeling their way and was more worried about getting the technical stuff right rather than the story stuff.  The voices, inflections, emotions just came out as ok. It was simply stiff reading, and it hurt the tone of the book. I really do not think I’ll be going on with this series as I really didn’t care about the narration, the story had ok fights but was VERY predictable, and was not a true LIT book.  Being in a game does not guarantee that you are in the RPG zone at all.


My final score, 6.9 stars.  The story had no life in the reading, has some predictability issues (see if you can’t guess who the PKer is two seconds after they figure out they are getting PK’d), and does not feel Lit to me.  You might like it, but it just left a giant footprint in my eardrum when it was finished. A better narrator might have saved this book.

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Life Reset: EvP (Environment vs. Player)

By: Shemer Kuznits

Narrated by: Jeff Hays, Laurie Catherine Winkel, Annie Ellicott

Length: 21 hrs and 53 mins


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This is this week’s Soundbooth Spotlight, and man was it fun.  Practically 22 hours of goblin goodness to gnaw on. Orin, the MC who is trapped in the game world, is a goblin Dread Totem who is running a goblinish village.  The book plays out a lot like the original world of Warcraft orcs vs humans game. He creates new peons who do jobs assigned to them, builds and upgrades vital facilities for the advancement of the tribe, and fights off invaders with his limited militia.  I enjoy this aspect more than anything. Granted, I like watching Orin level up and get new powers, but I really love to hear how he adds a new building or upgrades one. Like I say, Tamer by MSE has my attention because the characters are building a fort.  The book really deals with a ton of things happening to Orin and his village after the events of the first book. It seems that no matter what Orin does nothing is going to prepare him for the trials to come.


Orin is in deep trouble as his ex-guild members are looking for him, and he has limited time to prepare for their arrival.  To top it off new monster players have begun showing up, and it seems that one of them is a traitor. Somebody is going around ganking hapless goblin workers, and stealing vital potion supplies.  The urgency of the need to expand, gain experience, and leveling his troops is palpable. To top it off, Orin now struggles to retain his identity as a player. He is sinking more and more into his role as the Dread Totem and losing bits of himself in the process.  One of my favorite bits that got added this time around is the mandibled brain eating seneschal that made me envision a hobgobliny Predator. He was a fun character, and Kuznits uses him quite effectively to demonstrate the importance and dangers of reputation in a very slick way.


Another impressive thing is the way that SBT handled this book.  Last go around, Jeff Hays did the whole thing himself, now he’s added some of the Sound Booth ladies into the mix, but quite wisely keeps himself on the voices that he did the last time.  Annie and Laurie both bring their A game and the sisters of Soundbooth supercharge the story with their sublime storytelling. Jeff is the man, handling more characters than a juggling guillotine operator during the French revolution, I just don’t know how he does it but he has impeccable pacing and knows how to wrap a chapter or add life into a battle scene.  He definitely infuses a sense of urgency into everything that Orin does, and lets his smugness play out oh so very well that you cringe when Orin says something so snide that you know whatever it is is going to come back and bite him on the rump. One thing that sort of surprised me was that Jeff didn’t figure out a way to sound fx to the shadow magic. I would have loved to have heard a light wind to a full breeze blowing when Orin used his shadow powers, but that is really just my own personal desires, SBT really nailed the book down and provided some top notch high quality narration.


My final score on this book is 8.3 stars.  I like that Kuznits doesn’t spit out shorter books, and that he knows the proper thing to do is to put his MC through the wringer as often as possible.  The narration is on a nuclear level, and the overall story is a fun fast paced ride of leveling, struggling to become stronger, and preparing for a point when PC’s will invade the village.  This is slick and smooth, and will sucker you in for more hours than you realize. Get this book and enjoy it.

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


Is it Litrpg?


The Four Lords of the Diamond series


Lilith: A Snake in the Grass https://amzn.to/2V8b6Vv

Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold https://amzn.to/2CxGKo2

Charon: A Dragon at the Gate https://amzn.to/2BGlX05

Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail https://amzn.to/2Skh1VB


By: Jack L. Chalker

Narrated by: Kirby Heyborne

Length: 10 to 12 + hours


Pause



For this segment I’m going to review an entire series; I know this isn’t how it’s normally done, but what the hey! this works much better if I do it this way.  This is a pretty slick sci-fi series that revolves around 4 planets that have been discovered in a distant quadrant of the galaxy. Mankind has spread itself among the stars, and they colonize every planet that is habitable.  The only thing is that these four worlds have something strange about them, that makes it impossible for you to leave once you enter the diamond (a name for the solar system that holds the four planets). See, it holds these tiny little mindless creatures called Wardens that flood the cells of your body.  Once they’re in they can’t come out without killing you, and they can only survive in the diamond. The wardens fix your body up to its physical perfection. If you go in sick you are cured within hours, and they have a trait that makes them imbue everyone who has them gain some kind of superpower. The powers are planet specific, and tend to only work for newcomers.  Long time natives see their skills fade generation after generation.


The way the wardens work makes it an ideal prison system, so enemies and criminals of the Confederacy find themselves sent there to keep them out of the govt’s hair.  Essentially only the worst of the worst make it there. This means that each planet is run by the nastiest, smartest, most self-centered people you can find in the galaxy.  Bad news for the confederacy is that they discover a conspiracy in the diamond system that may or may not involve aliens. Either way there is a massive threat to their way of life.  So, they send in their top assassin to infiltrate all four worlds to uncover the threat and stop whatever is going on. How do they do that, you ask, since once you go to a planet you are marked by that planet and can only use the abilities of that planet?  Well, the confederacy has this thing called the Merton Process in which they can record your mind, and download it into other people. Also, in Matrix style it can also include some info that gets downloaded right into the MC’s head, such as maps and data about each planet.


The way it works is the nameless assassin will sit just outside of the warden system and receive mental uploads from each of his dopplegangers.  The plan is for his mind to override one prisoner on each transport that is going to each planet via the merton process. Each duplicate agent will have a small device implanted in their head which will allow the assassin to learn what they discover and allow him to piece things together until he can solve the big mysteries.  This is all well and good until some of his duplicates get a little upset that they are permanently trapped and he gets to sit in his chair in the sky and walk away after its all over. Needless to say, not all of the duplicates stay true to their assignment, and not all survive and that is where the real power of these books lies.  While there is a formula you don’t always get what you expect. The only real downside to the book is that there is a formula, and one that can be a little maddening. Basically, after the initial break in for the story each book has an almost identical verbatim explanation, with minor variations for what happens once his mind is uploaded into the unsuspecting criminal’s body.  I seriously recommend just listening to find out who each person he uploaded into was and then moving on to when he arrives on the planet, unless you like repetition and stats about populations, planet temperatures, locations of cities, etc. I’ve read these books enough that I jump over it all, but it can be a bit boring otherwise. As I’ve said, each planet provides different powers on one planet you can swap bodies, on another you physically adapt to the environment, on another you can cast “spells”, and on another planet you can literally reshape the world around you with a thought.  Each book is extremely interesting and slowly reveals that there is a conspiracy and what the conspiracy is. Eventually you learn the purpose of the wardens and how the Lords of the diamond (criminals who run each world) are striking at the Confederacy. In spite of being recorded in 2013 the narration is surprisingly good, it is crisp clean, and Kirby Heyborne does different voices for the characters. I liked that, and it added to what I expect from a narrator. He’s vocalized almost 500 books, hitting a majority of genres and is still working in the field to this day, so the man has skills.


Now we get to the meat and taters of it all.  This series is fraught with lit over tones. The MC uploads his mind into a computer and wakes up in a new world with powers he’s never experienced, powers that he has to figure out how to use, and if he figures it out he needs to level up as quickly as possible, and he has a quest to discover (and stop if possible) a threat to his world.  Given that the different protagonists all slowly level their powers, and actually become different people than their base template this feels a lot like a portal theme coupled with a trapped in the game feel. Additionally, the nameless assassin has an A.I. companion who helps him navigate through the clues, but doesn’t necessarily work on his behalf.


Thus you have a semi-helpful A.I., portal plus trapped in the game so to speak, uploading into a computer, getting powers and having to level them up coupled with a quest that is wrought with opposition, danger, weird alien creatures and a time limit I have to say that while this technically isn’t LITRPG it sure as hell looks, smells, and feels lit.  This is probably the most lit series that isn’t lit that you will find. Honestly, each of the four worlds has its own set of rules, abilities, and challenges and that makes it feel like differing game worlds. I really love this series and I am going to call it Lit. PLease check it out. Not going to score it, but it is one of my most loved series, and I have it in three formats, paperback, kindle, and audio.  You won’t be sorry you checked them out.



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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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

http://www.soundbooththeater.com/

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


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If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support  


LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 023 - The Naughty Episode

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 023 - The Naughty Episode



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

https://litrpgpodcast.com/litrpg-audiobook-podcast-023


**Warning: This episode of the podcast reviews novels with adult content including: Graphic sex, Harems, Reverse Harems, Graphic Language, and more naughty themes.**


“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 Crystal Heart: Enthralled, Book 1 (00:46)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2URq0iJ


Lewd Kingdoms: Shadow's Edge: A High Fantasy Digital Adventure (11:12)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2BtaII0


Cherry Blossom Girls 3: A Superhero Harem Adventure (19:45)

Score: 8.1 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2ECg9Zk


Planet Kill (31:23)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2R4PFoY


Succubus (41:13)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2GxOEC6


What Else Have They Done?

Strange Magic - A Yancy Lazarus Novel, Volume 1 (50:40)

https://amzn.to/2QZrs3l



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


The Crystal Heart: Enthralled, Book 1

By: Prax Venter

Narrated by: Christian Fox

Length: 11 hrs and 1 min


Pause


How does this book stand out compared to the others on this naughty list?  Well, here the way the sexiness works is that the MC, Mark, has a class that allows him to collect hot women who then fight on his behalf, because he’s a lover not a fighter.  Literally. I have to say that the book has a few stand out things for me. First of all, this is the use of Time Dilation I have been waiting for. It is pretty innovative and ingenious in its use.  It added to the story by giving it a horrifying element, that also allowed for the MC to be in game forever without dying of thirst or starvation. Secondly, I love how he used the first companion as the impetus for all that follows.  I don’t want to and won’t give anything away, but it was a nice twisty twist that I didn’t see coming. At first I thought we were going to be getting a Feedback Loop/Groundhog Day style novel, but Ventor was too slick for my old neurons to catch on.  Nice job, Prax. Those two things alone made the book for me via creativity.


Altogether there are a total of three enthralled that wind up with Mark.  Anix, a killer kitty, Veil, a naughty Naga, and Rue, a cloth spun gal who has what I consider to be one of the coolest powers ever.  Mark is given the task of repairing the rifts in the world, and given the ability to do so. And that is basically what the book is about, him growing his harem, and healing the world.  In between there is a lot of sex, but it is not overly graphic. I’d say it is just a touch past Showtime in its antics. Another nice touch that really made me appreciate the book was that the sex was a necessary component for Mark to power up his enthralled.  He could juice them up. . .sorry poor choice of words, he could empower them via sex acts. So that when the sex happens there is at least a reason. “It isn’t like, Hey honey. Can we pull over? I need some sex.” A line I can tell you has never worked on my wife when we are on a road trip.  Ever. So, the sex isn’t just thrown into the story and that is something I can appreciate.


I can honestly say that even if you cut out every sex scene in the book the story would hold up amazingly well.  You can’t say that about all of the harem books, but at least here it adds to the story. Kind of like Gunmiester Online.  Cool tale, excellent depictions, and integral to the story. More importantly, it is fun. Each of the Enthralled are interesting, although it is pretty obvious that Prax like Anix the most, which is fine.  She’s a cool character and I can see the attraction to her. I just don’t dig fur. So I’d skip it.



One thing that drove me crazy was that Christian Fox could not manage to say the word areolas properly.  He kept saying Arelias, and it sort of became an ear bee. You know what an ear worm is, right? That’s when you hear something catchy and you can’t get it out of your head.  Well, and ear bee is what happens when you hear something and it stings your ears every time it is said. Sort of like how I said the word ensigns was repeatedly referred to as N-signs in Warden: Nova Online.  This wasn’t nearly as frequent, but it still stung me. All I’m saying is that if you are going to be narrating a book that very clearly involves a lot of sex then you might want to bone up on sexual terminology.  Otherwise, he acquits himself fairly well. He was an above average narrator, but I wasn’t stunned by his work. I think that given time he could develop quite nicely, however I checked up on his resume and he had done almost 120 books, and a majority of those involved some sort of naughty business in them So I’m wondering if Prax picked him for that reason.  Which makes me wonder about how he says areolas.


The book is a solid 8.  It has a point, interesting characters, and a goal for the characters to reach.  The real questions are how big will the harem become, will any of them be killed by the antagonist, and what will it take for him to get free and save the game world?

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Lewd Kingdoms: Shadow's Edge: A High Fantasy Digital Adventure

By: Eden Redd

Narrated by: Jane Tate

Length: 9 hrs and 9 mins


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Lewd Kingdoms is, of all the books I’m reviewing today the one that pretty much has sex in it just for sex’s sake.  I’m not saying that in a negative way, only that each book is different and the sex, which if you haven’t noticed by now, all have different reasons for being in their respective books.  So, since this is the naughty special I’m going to talk about the sexy stuff first here, and then dive into the meat, ahem, of the story.


There is a lot of sex in the story.  That might be why the title has the word LEWD in it.  Just sayin. However, the amount of sex is more expected and therefore is not distracting to the tale at all.  In fact, you sort of get to a point where you anticipate it happening. I’m not talking like in a porno where the doorbell rings and the hot dog delivery guy shows up and suddenly realizes that he’s not only forgotten the hot dogs, but also the mustard and he has to make it up to the sorority girls who were about to have a hot dog eating contest.  Wait. I have to ask what kind of porn my son is watching. I caught him viewing it on his phone, and he said he was just doing research for culinary school. Hmmmm. Any way, it doesn’t have that kind of a feel to it, but you do see it coming and if you are an adult and enjoy that sort of stuff, then you will love the descriptive voice that is used.  It’s a lot like a jalapeno, hot and spicy, but only adding to the texture of the rest of the book. So, you see that it isn’t overwhelming and enhances the overarching tale.


As for the story itself follows a cat named Edric Temple, who leads a life of adventure while trying to deal with a war and building a kingdom.  This means life at easy, but it can be fun. There were several aspects that I really enjoyed, such as the city building. It sort of reminded me of Tamer, where they are very slowly building a citadel as the harem grows.  Even in Life Reset, where they slowly build a village in the same vein as the original Warcraft game. I never realized that I would find that sort of stuff so entrancing, but it work for me. That was a real bonus.


The story has a very nice pace to it, and the characters are pretty well developed.  Now, forgive me if I am wrong on this, but I only deal with audiobooks, so I am not sure but this feel like it is part of a bigger series.  I don’t know why we started at this point, but I’m glad we did. Edric is a cool character and an MC I didn’t mind following around. This story might cover a little rough area, such as some voyeuristic stuff with some possible unwilling participants, but in the overall scheme of things I didn’t find this to be nearly as strong as Fostering Faust was.  Oh, and one thing I really appreciated was that even though there is a lot of sex, there really wasn’t a ton of focus on romance. Sometimes, the whole I love every woman in my harem thing stretches credulity, and sometimes it is just enough to have the hot dog delivery guy do his business and move along to the next house in need of some weiners.


Like I said, the story has a nice plot, good pacing and cool characters.  That only leaves me to discuss the narration, and I have to say that Jane Tate does a nice job.  What I really thought she did well was to keep each sentence flowing into the next. She did not read this one sentence at a time like I hear so often.  She has a pleasant voice, and uses it effectively. This actually looks to be her first work, unless she is using an alias. If so, the only negative thing I have to say is that she does read this a bit fast for me, she had the flow, but just needs to nail the pacing.  Otherwise startlingly solid work from a first timer.


My final score?  I had to think on this because I didn’t dislike anything about this story, and I thought it was a solid bit of work.  I like Eden’s style, and think she can write a story and can write sex, and she can write a story with sex in it. Not everyone can do that last part.  So, my final score for the night is an 8 star all the way. I’d really like to see some of the older stuff hit the audible shelves in the future.

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Cherry Blossom Girls 3: A Superhero Harem Adventure

By: Harmon Cooper

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

Series: Cherry Blossom Girls, Book 3

Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins


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So here we are, back again with book three of the CBG’s and  the story keeps rolling along nicely. Before I begin talking about the book I do want to discuss a controversy that I have long been saying is true.  I honestly think Gideon was modeled after our intrepid narrator, JTJ. Just look at them side by side in comparison. There is simply no denying that Justin is Gideon, but both he and Cooper say nay nay to that idea, but I say that not only is Gideon based on Justin Thomas James, that so is the original GI Joe action figure.  Just look at the side by side. That means that JTJ is a real American hero! (But he’s Canadian!) Ah, but he’s North American, so he’s still a real American hero. That means that:


He'll fight for freedom wherever there is trouble,

JTJ is there!

JTJ...

A Real American Hero

JTJ is there.


All right, enough goofing around, thanks prop guy!  Like I said, it’s Cherry Blossom Time and you should be very thankful that Harmon didn’t name them the Apple Blossom Girls or I would have been singing you an Andrew Sisters tune from the forties rather than the GI JOE theme.


Book three pretty much picks up right where two left off.  Right away we get to see the squad get even more participants, as Gideon picks up another angry hottie and three super teens.  Funny how quickly harems grow once they get started. Of course trouble soon follows the addition of the ladies and the team is quickly forced to fight for their lives and freedom. Mel Gibson styled Freeeedoooooommmmmm).


The book is funny in a lot of points and I found myself laughing quite a bit.  One thing I did have to wonder about, was whether Harmon Cooper gave a nod to Laurie Catherine Winkel with one of his comments.  If you get a chance she stars in a video on You tube called Road . . .Head, and Gideon makes an off handed way. The connection was too funny even if it was unintentional.  You get that the book alternates between humorous bits and full blown superhero battles with touches of sexiness sprinkled about. I think my favorite bit was where Gideon was talking to Luke about author titles.  I actually laughed so hard that I went back to listen to it again because I missed so much of it. Now, If I could only figure out a way to convince Cooper to have Gideon and Luke to talk about an old fat guy who reviews audiobooks. . . .  Still, I hope you realize that I really “get” Cooper’s humor style. The story carries forward just enough that I don’t feel like it isn’t going anywhere, and as per usual he gives us a big reveal at the end of the story. He knows how to keep you interested and on fleek.  I have to admit, I have no idea what that even means. On fleek, wtf millennials. WTF?


If you can’t tell I really love SBT and I contemplated not doing two of their books in one episode since I’m wasting  very good SBT Spotlight for next week, but this is the naughty special, and both of these books fall into that category.  All I can say is that this is a definitive SBT team, the audible avengers have assembled to give us an amazing story. As always, their quality is beyond reproach and they make this whole crazy story so believable.


My final score is 8.1, since the story (much like MSE’s Tamer series) seems to give us just a taste of the bigger picture without a lot of forward movement.  Either way, excellent book, amazing series, incredible writing, infectious humor, and intense audio work combine to make this something you won’t want to miss.


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Planet Kill

By: Sebastian Wilde, Jamie Hawke

Narrated by: Carly Crawford, Jeff Hays, Yvonne Syn

Length: 9 hrs and 16 mins


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Planet Kill is one of those books that makes no bones in regards to what it is about.  This is an action packed, shoot ‘em, screw ‘em, smoke a cigarette style book. It doesn’t pretend to be Shakespeare in the Park or a Hemingway machismo filled tale of woe.  This is a summer action flick from the 80’s minus the MPAA ratings. In this flick the action is cranked up to 11 and the sex to 69. This is a popcorn book through and through, and the only thing I think Hays missed doing was giving the character of Trunk and Arnold styled voice, because that would have really fit that character.  So, if you are fan of blood, bullets, bombs, and BJ’s this book is for you, and no, I can’t believe I just said that line; but it is true.


The book centers on two protagonists, one male and one female.  Pierce, the male, is an agent who is seeking his wife whom he believes was kidnapped to the Planet Kill, which is like a 24 hour Hunger Games program in which viewers can send tips or offer incentives for doing various deeds ranging from assassination to assblastin a nation.  God help me. I can’t not not stop doing this. In other words perform various carnal actions for some cash. The players on Planet Kill can earn XP for performing these tasks as well as some cash. Cash allows you to buy or upgrade weapons and armor. Survive long enough on PK and you are set for life.  You’ll never want for anything again. Most people volunteer, but it seems that some have been volunteered against their will. The other protagonist is Leetha, a hardcore chick who knows her way around and can handle anything thrown at her. She wants to come off as hardcore, but she really cares about her people, and is just doing what she can until she manages to earn enough xp and credits to get off that rock.


The book rocks back and forth between acts of violence and sex; ah sax and violins, what awesome music they make together. Again, what I like about this is that there is a legitimate reason for the killing and the sexing.  These are all actual components that are integral to the planet itself, and the players have no choice but to get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’ or getting it on, sometimes both at the same time. So, it isn’t just arbitrary acts occurring like in some books where you have someone fight, have sex, fight, have sex, have sex, have sex, then fight again.  There is a reason every time someone gets ganked, shanked, or spanked. To me that is really important. I don’t need a Dear Penthouse letter every book I get. This is more of HBO unleashed, with more sex and murder than every episode of Game of Thrones thus far. That means it is a fun wild romp. It is also a Harem book, I guess what with the character of Leetha having both men and women in her group that it would count as a harem, so no need to debate if it is a reverse harem.  At best it is a harem, at worst it is a mixed Harem book. Either way fans of harems will be happy. Just be aware not all of the harem manages to survive all the way through the book, and that is my favorite thing about the book. The book is called Planet Kill, and characters die. That is really a must, and I would have liked to have seen even more bodies stacked, packed, and racked by the end.


As for the narration of the book, we get two new members of the SBT team, Carly Crawford and Yvonne Syn.  I was, at first, a little shocked and disappointed that neither Annie nor Laurie was involved, but these two really acquitted themselves superbly.  They make a fine addition to the SBT Squad, and I’m beginning to notice that Jeff might be building his own Harem over there at Soundbooth. Regardless of what Jeff is doing with his people the stuff that he is creating at SBT keeps getting better and better.  The sound effects are really expanding what can be done in the audio business, and I would love to see even more used. Keep it up, SBT team. You guys are planet killing it. What I can’t make a pun? Buzz off!


Final score 8.25, only because I didn’t like the split between the main MC’s POV’s.  I think either would have worked well alone, but following one and then the other caused us to lose a little bit of story.  I’d really have rather the bulk of the book be focused on Leetha, with periodic pieces focused on Pierce (BTW, is that or is that not an intentional Porno name?).  Either way this book was excellent.

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Succubus

By: A.J. Markam

Narrated by: Iggy Toma

Length: 9 hrs and 36 mins


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First of all I just have to saw WOW.  This is one of the best books I’ve listened to in a long time that is not from a major author like Hunter, Corvin, or Dean.  AJ Markam has skillfully crafted a world that is rock solid, is filled with interesting characters and actually has a message.  He manages to paint vibrant scenes that detailed and latch onto your senses.


Now, I know this is a part of the Naughty Special, but I really think it belongs in the nice category.  Of all the naughty book on the show today I think that his sex scenes carry the most impact, because they really are not sexy but rather are sensual.  There is more emotion involved than there is physical pleasure and that only added to the story. Truth be told there really is not much sex in the book at all, I know we go several hours in before anything actually happens, and even then there are only two or three real sex scenes in the whole book.  When I talked to AJ about this book he told me that some one had said that if it wasn’t for the sex they would let their kids listen to it, and I have to agree. This is a novel that totally stands on its own without sex, but still employs sex in a way that completely elevates the story. I wanted to record this segment as soon as I was done listening to it because I felt it was so powerful.  Really great stuff. I can’t praise it enough.


So at this point you’re asking me what the book is about, well lemme tell ya the story centers on a man who is in need of work, and just happens to have a background that fits what the company he is applying at needs.  That would be a human Guinea pig. Seems Ian, the MC, has done some medical experimentation work in the past and that makes him ideal to go into a deep dive long haul immersive tank. The OT is too good to pass up and he starts instantly.  He soon finds himself playing a warlock, a class that summons demonic beings to do their bidding. He is soon saddled with a by the numbers imp who takes every command he is given and interprets it to his benefit and Ian’s detriment. Ian eventually summons a Succubus named Alaria, who has a bad attitude and instantly crushes Ian’s hopes of getting a love slave.


Basically the story centers on ownership, free will, and slavery but does so in a non-preachy way.  In other words it doesn’t bet you over the head with it every five minutes. It is a very nice story about respect and how that is earned, as well as the fact that you can’t force someone to love you.  Plus, I think it does a great job of showing how a guy will do practically anything to get laid. Again, this was an intensely fun book and I really enjoyed myself listening to it . . .wait should I say that on the Naughty Special?

Another stellar thing about this novel is the incredible work by Iggy Toma.  I usually research new narrators, just so I can see how experienced they are.  I do this after I listen, not before, and I have to say that I was very surprised at what he has done before, because this is his first LITRPG book, and he reads this like a pro, an old hand (Annnnother thing I shouldn’t say on the naughty special) . . .anyway he feels like he’s been doing this a long time.  He has it down, and knocks the voices out of the park. Seriously, this was like listening to Hays, Pohdel, or Daniels and all you authors out there ought to take note because he owned this book from start to stop, and made it a blast to listen to. All I know is that if I had a book that was going to audio format soon I would have this cat on my radar.  He stole the show, which wasn’t easy to do with the high caliber of writing that was going on here. This guy rocks, and he deserves to get into this sort of genre.


I’m not going to fool around here.  This was captivating on every level, I loved the premise, the characters, the goals, and resolution at the end.  This is a solid 8.5 stars. Get this book.

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Strange Magic

A Yancy Lazarus Novel, Volume 1

By: James A. Hunter

Narrated by: Charlie Kevin

Series: Yancy Lazarus, Book 1

Length: 6 hrs and 52 mins



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I have to admit that I came into this game late. I accidentally stumbled upon Yancy somewhere along the line of book 5, and then I was just backtracking my way through the series. This is what I like, Urban Fantasy at its finest. Lazarus is an interesting guy who ends up caught between the Scylla and Charybdis, more than a rock and a hard place. He has tough choices to make, made even harder if he wants to stay one of the "good guys".  Yancy seems to be the type that if left to his druthers he would just bop from one gin joint to another, making music and drinking. This being what it is you know that’s never going to happen. Soon enough he comes into conflict with a “tough” and ends up in the lam after making a killing in a back alley, and don’t mean by playing dice.


Yancy uses magic mana called the viz to make his magic, and he is a bit different because of it.  He ages slower than mere mortals, and most of his friends are older people that he had known since or during the Vietnam War.  He finds himself swept up in a battle between rival gangs, with a nasty dark mage also thrown into the mix, and his struggle to figure out who is behind everything is utterly entrancing. I've said it before, this guy can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Harry Dresden, Nate Temple, Monatgue & Strong, and Sandman Slim. Only here, to me at least, the characters and the action seems grittier; more down to earth, than in say a Nate Temple story.


I do want to talk about Charlie Kevin for a moment. I love his narration. It comes across as one of those old Phillip Marlowe type of dialogues, and adds a pulpy noir characteristic that really enhanced the story for me. He paints a great verbal picture, and uses his voice to punctuate points when he needs to. It is a great style, and I think he is a great fit for the series. This much is obvious in book 5, where he really seems comfortable in the narration. Even James Marsters had to get a feel for his readings of the Dresden Files, but Kevin seems to have hit the ground running, and I appreciate that.  Again, I want to say that this is read as if it were narrated by a noirish private dick, like Sam Spade, so it might take some people unfamiliar with the cadence to get used to it. I settled in right away, noir is my style. Love that stuff. All this book needed was Harry Lime type and it would have been pure Heaven.


Overall, this is a great way to start a series, introduce a character, and lay the groundwork for the setting and magic system. Give this book a try, you will not regret it. Not for one moment.  No score, as I’m just trying to let you know about it, but I really like this series.

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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 022

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 022 - Dark Herbalist - Book 1, Sigil Online, Dahlia's Shadow, Sufficiently Advanced Magic

“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: ”

Video Game Plotline Tester: Dark Herbalist Series, Book 1 (01:27)

Score: 7.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2QPdBMU

Sigil Online: Paragons (19:40)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2ryhO9I

Dahlia's Shadow: Puatera Online, Book 6 (36:30)

Score: 8.2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2rxiJr6

Is it Lit? :  (49:47)

Sufficiently Advanced Magic

https://amzn.to/2EeImUW

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Video Game Plotline Tester: Dark Herbalist Series, Book 1

By: Michael Atamanov

Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer

Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins




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This is a very fun book that really puts the screws to its MC.  The aforementioned protagonist takes a job as a video game tester, but lies so that he can get into the program.  He tells them that he has never played the game before, which he did, but only briefly. His short lived stint was mad even more problematic when he is killed by a vampire.  He get put into a competition with other gamers for slot at the full time gig, and has no say in what kind of a character he gets. Naturally, he ends up being a scruddly little goblin. . . .who just happens to be afflicted by vampirism from his first go round in the game.  Not only is he a feeble gobbling he is also afflicted with being a vampire.


So, I decided that I was going to review this since I had already done one of the Reality Bender series, and this was out first.  What is fun about this book, and what makes it a little bit better than Reality Benders, is that this game actually has an air of authenticity to it.  The game is skill based, and looks to want players to be cooperative with one another. Timothy has his house bound sister join him in the game, and she is very clearly the brains of the operation.  What I really liked about the story is that Timothy is rewarded for not doing run of the mill stuff like grinding, and making items. He looks at the paradigm and sees ways around it. He also gets a little extra for finding glitches, so he is on the look out for some glitchy goodness.


One thing I really enjoy are little easter eggs, and I think that when Timothy said her was naming his character Amra I nearly had a geek spasm.  Conan the barbarian has an alias that he went by when he was a pirate in Belit, and I really hope that this is a nod to Conan, since Amra seems to be the muscles of the operation.  Although I also say that his sister is the brains that really isn’t a fair assessment as Timothy often comes up with some off the wall way of doing things that actually advance him in some manner.  Also, as a vampire he has different abilities, and I think my favorite was the Taste Tester power in which he gets 1% bonus for each new blood he puts in his palette. Additionally, I loved the way that stats were used to demonstrate capabilities in the game, for example, the first time that Timothy tries to speak as Amra most of what he says is gibberish or childish gobbledygook. The story is basically about how he is trying to keep his job as a tester, not get discovered to be a vampire, do average game things like leveling up and getting stronger.  I thought it was a nice touch to give him a home base that was “haunted”, and give it a mystery of what was doing the haunting and I had a few snickers when he was showing the tribe his powers. If you want to know some of the bad, there are plot holes that do crop up, such as Amra having or using items you had no idea he was carrying, and to me the story really felt like it was just him wandering around trying to figure things out. Personally, I prefer a book to have three solid acts, set up, building of tension, and climax. This was a sort of let’s see where things will take me kind of approach.  It was a bit lackadaisical for me.



Eric Michael Summerer, whom you may recognize from the work he’s done on dodge tank, really elevates this book.  I have enjoyed him since I first heard him do some Forgotten Realms books back in 2013 or thereabouts, and if you really want to hear him do some amazing stuff (aside from the Dark herbalist or Dodge Tank) go find those and give them a listen.  I do think he has grown better, as his Dodge tank work is impeccable, here he carries the story quite nicely.


Final score 7.8 stars.  It was good but I found that it was nearly aimless in its execution and there were some plot holes that just popped up that could have very easily been fixed.  Plus, it seems like Amra lucks his way out of stuff more than he should have, either way I liked this book and I am sure that you will too.

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Sigil Online: Paragons

By: Jeff Sproul

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 9 hrs and 23 mins


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This will be the Soundbooth Spotlight for this episode, even though it is just Jeff’s baby.  Paragons is a good intro to a superhero genre MMO. There are some issues with it, ones that always seem to appear in this genre.  It has rules that would make it impossible to believe that this would be the most popular game in the world, but it’s like watching a movie, you have to suspend your disbelief.  Still I always have a problem with a book that does something along the lines of if your character dies, you have to re-start from scratch. No one would play a game like that, no matter how good it was. I have logged some serious hours playing games and if I had to restart a character I know I would stop playing altogether.  This is very different from the I’ve started an Alt to play on occasion etc, etc. Seriously, can you imagine building a character for a year, only to lose them forever in a fight? Secondly, you don't pick your powers or your super name, they just appear randomly. Third, you might pay for a month or longer before you actually GET powers.  Plus, you only get to play one character at a time. So, randomized powers, no choice in what your super name is, no multiple characters permitted, and it takes forever to get abilities. Nope, I'd never even get that game off the shelf. Which makes it hard to believe that there is an entire network channel dedicated to events in the game itself.  I always think of Warcraft, and no matter how popular it is/was no non-gamers cared enough to even get a 2 minute segment on the nightly news about what certain players did. Just too unbelievable.


That is the bad stuff, and just me doing some nitpicking.  Yeah it drives me nuts, but I guess it is needed to drive the plot forward, and so I put on a fresh set of ears and listened to it without those prejudices.  The book centers on a guy named Riley who happens to be one of the best players in the game, until his character is killed and he has to start fresh, of course he doesn’t know what his powers will be or when he’ll get them, and he needs them pretty badly since his game play pays for him to live in the real world.  When he gets his powers they are not what he really wanted or expected, but he has to make due, and slowly learns to become a better player by working with others. His previous character wasn’t much of a team player kinda guy, he had friends, but they were really just names on a HUD to him. Riley actually networks and forges real acquaintances as he progresses in the game.  It seems the first time around he was a horse’s rear end and no one liked him, and that is the crux of the story. The tale is more about Riley growing as an individual, and caring less about himself than others than being wrapped up his own little world. The story is pretty good. It is well paced, and has some good action scenes. The characters all have some nifty powers, and the MC is a likable guy in spite of what everyone seems to think at the beginning of the book.  The book had a definite Marvel, rather than DC, vibe and it worked nicely. I liked the other heroes and their powers, and I also liked that not every character that started the game ended as the same hero. In other words, characters aside from Riley die. Well, their heroes do. You know what I mean, and honestly aside from the few things I detailed at the beginning I liked this book.


As always, Jeff Hays knocks it out of the park with his vocal ministrations.  I said ministrations, not ministries, I don’t worship Jeff Hays. That spot is reserved for the goddess, Stevie Nicks.  Ah, Stevie. Anyway, Jeff goes to town with his vocalizations and really adds personality to each character, big and small.  This is a top notch performance, and I really can’t say much more than that. I do think that after listening to Planet Kill, which will be next week’s spotlight that I think that the next book will be amazing with all the added sound effects that he has been adding in his current books.  This is the place I want to hear laser blast, giant footsteps, and explosions.

So in all, a few issues with game mechanics, but overall a good story, with interesting characters.  I say this is easily a fun 8 on the Richter scale, yes there are issues, but those are my issues. I’m just never going to believe there will be a dedicated news channel/program for a video game, and the same for having to reset a new character every time you died.  Those are my issues, and otherwise the book is a real blast.

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Dahlia's Shadow: Puatera Online, Book 6

By: Dawn Chapman, Jess Mountifield

Narrated by: Suzanne Barbetta

Length: 3 hrs and 15 mins



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Dawn Chapman brings us one step closer to the end game for her putera series, as I think the next book reunites us with a full time Maddie MC.  I do so hope anyway. One of the things that I love about this series is that while it has action it also has a lot of emotion, and I never feel like it is spinning its wheels.  There is always forward motion and the story never stops or slows down. Up until now we have just been getting puzzle pieces, each piece has a nice shape and is interesting, but it weaves a much bigger picture once you let the pieces fall into place.  This is the final solo story of the sisters, and it is a fun ride.


There were a couple of things that I really liked about this book.  First, we stayed with the three hour format that has been the case in all of the books except Akilla, book four which was 9 hours.  Which was understandable, as it broke away from the first three books of the series. I also love the glitch factor in this game, you don’t see that very often in many LITRPG books where the glitches give stitches, but in Putera it is par for the course.  I also have to say that Chapman & Mountifield have really woven an intricate and detailed world for these characters to play in. What I think I liked best was Dahlia’s struggle to finally shine on her own. Even though she is a twin she has sort of been in her sister’s shadow for some time.  A place that she essentially skulked about, never really trying to be her own person. Her time in Putera forces her to stand up for herself and actually take control of her life for the first time. This, my people, is how you write character development, and it is pretty impressive just how much character growth the pair of writers manages to get out of Dahlia in just over three hours of time.



Suzanne Barbetta returns for another stab at the Puatera universe, an she brings her A game.  She makes the story interesting and fun, but at the same time lets you realize that Dahlia is in danger and that at any moment a glitch is gonna get her.  The only umbrage I took with her work is that she very clearly made Jessica sound have a completely different voice and style than she did in the last book.  It sort of threw me off. I wanted to stop and then go back and listen to the last book, but I didn’t. I waited until I finished and then double checked and I was right.  Same character different voices used. Just needed a little more consistency. Otherwise, a great job.


Oh, and one more thing, I find that usually, books that are four hours and under in length are not as good as I would generally hope they would be, but that isn’t the case here.  Chapman, and I’m giving her the credit here since she started this series and did so in 3 hour increments, knows how craft an excellent short story. I didn’t give a lot away on this because it is pretty short, and anything I say could impact your listening pleasure, so I tried to play this close to the vest and not give a lot of specifics here just to avoid any issues of spoilage.  


The book has a nice pace, as solid foundation, excellent character growth and development, and a cool ending that looks to lead us into the final book of the series.  As things go I say this is a solid 8.2 stars. I am really looking forward to the next book in this series, even though I am saddened to see it coming to a close.

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Sufficiently Advanced Magic

By: Andrew Rowe

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Series: Arcane Ascension, Book 1

Length: 21 hrs and 58 mins


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This is one of those books that I have heard a lot of people saying that it had a LITRPG feel to it.  In fact, it inspired my idea to do this segment in the first place. I would be looking for books and see comments about how lit the book felt or that it should probably qualify as being almost lit, and so it sort of spurred my idea on doing this particular segment.  I didn’t do it first, because once I had the idea and asked for suggestions several books popped up that were heavily suggested, and so I ran with them first, but I have always had this book in mind for this segment.


The book opens with a young man, Corin, about to take a life altering test.  He comes from a famous noble house that is renowned for its fighting abilities.  The test itself is life threatening, and he can die if he doesn’t fight well enough or isn’t smart enough to solve the various puzzles contained therein.  Of course he makes it through, but not in the way he expected or in a manner that pleases his father and he is quickly demoted in the family ranking and his half sister gets pushed as the family heir.  From there he goes on to a school that will teach him how to use the attunement, I.e. school of magic, that he acquired in the deadly tower. After two years he will then serve in the military. All Corin wants to do is get strong enough to find out what happened to his older brother, who never came back after his tower test.  Now this is all a simplification, and things happen in the tower that impact the rest of the novel. Things like Corin freeing three prisoners, angering an aspect of a goddess, and getting the weakest attunement he can.


I have to admit that the book really feels like it was going to be another Harry Potter, pardon me while I vomit, rip off in which we get to see Corin make friends, struggle with other students, and struggle to learn about his magic, and for a little while it really comes across that way, we attend his classes with him, and learn about the magic system but gradually an intrigue starts to build and things happen that pull us back to the tower over and over.  Naturally we get to see him improving his magic, but it doesn’t play out like you would expect. For example one of his instructors tells him he needs to get to a certain color level of attunement within three months, and Corin silently vows to get there in a week. Annnnd he doesn’t even come close to fulfilling that vow. The book does that a lot, it sets you up to expect one thing and then does another.


I think the only time that the book actually became predictable was at the end in the tower.  I pretty much called every twist and turn that happened, but not because it was easy to see. I kept saying to myself that if I was writing this story this is what I would do here, and then it pretty much happened that way.  And that only worked because I am a deeply twisted, troubled individual. The story is long, but it is a well worthwhile trip, and I will probably get the next book in the series. It certainly caught my interest, and had a nice ending that leads right into the next book.


Pohdel is amazing.  He pulls out voices that I haven’t heard him do before, and really hits a nice stride with the pacing of the story.  I think my favorite voice was of the mysterious upstairs dorm mate who seems to be a ninja. Nick uses a Raj from Big Bang theory voice on him that is dead on, and I do mean perfect.  I snickered every time he used that voice, because it was so good.


Now we get down to the nitty gritty, is this LIT, close to it, or not at all?  Well, without much suspense I’m going to say not even close. While it was a fun and interesting story with great characters the only part that made it even have a whiff of lit was the way in which he leveled up his abilities and even that part to me was sketchy for a lit book.  It was more about practice and control than it was about fighting or gaining exp. I have to admit that I was really disappointed by this assessment, because I was really hoping going in to this that it would be a lot closer than it was. Alack and alas it is not even close in my book.  Still, it is a fun ride and I suggest it if you are looking for something close to lit as you might find it interesting. No score on this, as I am only looking to find out if it is lit or not. Still, great book, don’t miss it.


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Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.


For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!




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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 021

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 021 -  The Dead Rogue, Delvers LLC, The Bard, Fantasy Swap Online, Off to Be the Wizard

“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 Dead Rogue :Series: An NPC's Path, Book 1 (01:25)

Score: 7.9 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2KOkSr7

Delvers LLC - Welcome to Ludus (15:23)

Score: 8.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Rs0KgP

The Bard: A LitRPG Short Story: Book 4 of The Greenwood (22:56)

Score: 5.5 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2SoEt3s

Fantasy Swap Online, Book 1 (38:00)

Score: 2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2KO2fna

Off to Be the Wizard (50:34)

Score: 8.1 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2SrfMDL

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The Dead Rogue :Series: An NPC's Path, Book 1

By: Pavel Kornev, Petr Burov - translator, Irene Woodhead - translator, Neil P. Woodhead - translator

Narrated by: Shawn Compton

Length: 9 hrs and 39 mins

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You may not know this about me, but I love the rogue class.  Rogues, thieves, bards, these are my people. I will take a sneak thief over a noble paladin any day, and I love paladins.  Bards? How many episodes have I said I have wanted a good bard story? Probably every other one. I lament the lack of bard tales and burglars.  You have to realize that I grew up reading about Gord the rogue and the Gray Mouser. My first D&D character was Lappoy Lightfinger, who lost a couple of digits trying to pick a lock early on in his career, so this book had me at the mention of Rogue.  Also, I’m a funeral director, so it also sucked me in when it came to the Dead part of the title. One of my favorite Horror movies of all time is NOTLD, the original. I saw that when I was about three years old, and it cemented my love for zombies and the undead.


This book has a really interesting hook to it, the MC, John Doe, gets attacked by a player and when he respawns he does so as an undead.  He’s gone from being a player to an NPC. He’s locked into the game as a result of a hack that the attacker used on him. The hack makes him unable to log out, meaning that he is effectively in a coma and unable to eat or drink anything.  IN other words, not only is he trapped in the game, but he’s on a timer. If he doesn’t manage to contact the outside world he just might die in real life.


John faces a ton of obstacles including not being able to walk in the sunlight, speak to other players, or access his thief skills.  In other words, he is totally boned. Now, this book really gripped me for about three quarters of the novel. The only slow point that I found was the city siege.  It reminded me a lot of when I was listening to the dungeon village in Dakota Krout’s Regicide. It just did not fit the story, and I did think they could have completely cut that section out altogether.  On the other hand, it might be a set up for later in the series, I really don’t know. One thing I will say is that I certainly enjoy listening to these Russian Authors. I think they are pretty creative and don’t get as much recognition as they deserve sometimes.  I do believe that they were on the edge of Litrpg when it was birthed, and it is pretty cool to see the perspective of someone not in the US. I would love to see some Chinese or Japanese Litrpg translations show up.


There are a few issues with the translations in some points as the same words are used in the same sentence sometimes, for example, it felt like they said things along the line of “ It was spectacular how he swung the sword, and spectacular how the sword struck home.”  That’s little things, and it makes it feel like I’m reading a Russian novel.



Compton does a solid job narrating.  I think he worked the book well, and did use his voice to its fullest for a premium effect.  I enjoyed listening to him, an while I won’t say I was dazzled by him I think he put out a great product, and I had no issue with his speaking, sound quality, or his characterizations.  


This was a fun run, and I look forward to the next book in the series.  I’m going to say a 7.9 star because I did not enjoy the city siege and felt it was just there to fluff out the book, and I will admit that he was finding the dead man’s set of equipment far faster than you would for a man who wasn’t actively looking for it.  Either way the book was fun ,and I definitely want more.



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Delvers LLC

Welcome to Ludus

By: Blaise Corvin

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 13 hrs and 27 mins



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Welcome to Ludus was my introduction to Blaise Corvin, and my introduction to Gamelit stories.  The man is a writing BEAST. He is like a runaway train powered by quantum level energy drinks! He hits the ground not running, but on futuristic sky cycles that have no mufflers.  The story starts with an abduction from Earth to the planet Ludus, by the Great God, Dolos (Hail, Dolos!!). Henry and Jason, the abductees, find themselves in a deadly land they are completely unfamiliar with, must contend with magic, and discover their technology won't function because certain types of metal just can't survive on Ludus.  In order to make it past day one they have to eat a device so that they can gain powers and stay alive in their new home.

     From this point the story takes off like it was written in gasoline ink, and someone struck a match.  Jeff Hays is that match. This man does voices better than Mel Blanc; that cartoony wuss Blanc couldn't do women's voices.  Shoot, Hays makes you believe he has chicks dubbing their voices and letting him get the credit. Each character is distinctive, both male and female, and his emotional inflection is top of the line Dolby THX quality stuff.  Honestly, since I’ve diverged from the story for a moment I have to say that Hays does a killer job on this book. I think he is half the reason I love Delvers so much. His portrayal of Henry and Jason doesn’t kick butt, it shoots it in the rear with a cannon filled with grapeshot.  In other words you won’t be sitting down while listening. Which really made my listening in the car problematic. While this technically isn’t a Soundbooth book, I’m making it my SBT spotlight for the show since it is Jeff’s and he does his company proud.

    The world of Ludus is rife with beast men, elves . . . er, sorry Areva, orcs, goblins, etc. Basically, Corvin takes old fantasy tropes runs them through a paper shredder, slaps that with some paste, and paper maches it into something modern, fun, and original.  I loved watching Henry and Jason level up and meeting their party members. The girls are just as interesting as Jason and Henry, and the world dynamics with men and women makes you really think. Multiple wives? I can barely handle the one I have, I don’t know how I’d fare with more than her.  Still, Blaise makes it something you might want to explore if you end up on Ludus. The pair work well together, and get along like old friends, and it is their machinations, scheming, and circumvention of the world’s rules that will make you love them. Dolos, however, is the best. Gotta love the Great God.  His shiny pate brings warmth and glory to the world. Just don't let him notice you. That is trouble. Seriously, you have to love a guy who is so full of himself that he doesn’t care what effect he has on your life because he is involved in higher issues.


You might have found your way to Ludus via Nora hazard, which is fine, but this is the book that started it all, and is the one that will make you crave more.  Anywho. This book is fantastic. It's like they shot it into outerspace, and it got belted with cosmic rays, and when it returned it had gotten super powers. It's that FANTASTIC, and soon there will be 4 of them in this series!  Give your brain some candy, go listen to this audible book now before you die and miss out on all the greatness that is Ludus!!!

I have thought long and hard about this book, and what score I felt it deserved.  I know that I have a deep and abiding love for the world, the characters, and Dolos so I admit that I am still bedazzled by what goes on here, but I cannot deny the way this book makes me feel.  So, I am going with my gut, and saying 8.5 stars. I loved this. I cannot deny that fact. This is gamelit gold. No apologies, no excuses. A rock solid story with bulletproof characters.


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The Bard: A LitRPG Short Story: Book 4 of The Greenwood

By: Galen Wolf

Narrated by: Damon Alums

Length: 1 hr and 47 mins


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Ok, gang, here we go another Bard book to review.  Now, I have to admit when I first sat down to review this I was going to be harsh.  Like Uber harsh, because I literally started listening to this in the area of five times.  I know I listened to the first hour at least five times. I fell asleep once, and started it and stopped it four other times, and waited a while in between each listen to a point that I had to relisten because I had forgotten everything that had happened up to that point.  I stuck it out, and made it through. Considering that the book isn’t even two hours long I was shocked at just how much time I had put in trying to make it from start to finish. Well, I had to drive to Columbus, which is an hour run each way and this gave me the opportunity to put my ears on and run it from start to finish.  I had to, because I will always finish a book I start. If I didn’t I wouldn’t review it.


So, here’s the deal this book is part of a larger series, and I wasn’t sure if I had issues with it because I hadn’t read any of the other books, but as I listened for the last time the book was coherent and made sense and I had no problem following along with the action.


The story is pretty simple.  A bard is hired by a Goddess (i.e. a dev) to steal a magic mirror from a lich.  He has to do it without revealing why he is taking it and who it is going to. That’s all fairly straightforward, but then there was another side story that took place about NPC’s becoming sapient, the bard hiring them to be actors in his troupe, and so one.  I’m hoping that that part of the story somehow tied into the rest of the series, because otherwise it was rather distracting and did nothing to enhance the tale. In fact, that was half the reason I couldn’t focus on the book it was all over the place in terms of what was going on.  Here’s the thing, I don’t like giving away spoilers, but the mirror reveals the true self of the person. And the reason that the goddess wanted it made no sense unless she had no access to a mirror in her real life, and what it showed the bard was only minimally interesting. I was bored pretty much the whole way through the book.


I think my biggest disappointment was in the way the bard was portrayed using his powers.  It was pretty much along the lines of I played a sonata and put them to sleep, and then I played turkey in the straw and scrambled everyone around me until they were running in every direction.  I was really hoping for descriptions of strumming the instruments, or how the music was special, but it was more like I used Poker face by Lady Gaga to increase my fortitude. Not very exciting and the battle with the lich was predictable as Old Faithful.  This was not an awesome bard tale.


Damon Alums sounds like Antonio Banderas on Qualudes as he reads through this.  Great accent for the bard, but so low key with his whole delivery that I know it put me to sleep.  He would be great at reading children’s bed time books. For the battle scenes or times of High emotion, I’m gonna Meh my way around and give this book my best McKayla Maroney I am not impressed look.  This could have been good if it had focused on the entire purpose for the story and laid off the NPC stuff, but that just drug in down like a lead balloon falling from the sky. A streamlined story would have moved faster and the better pace might have made it more enjoyable.  Also, there were some issues with the sound quality. In between takes it sounded, to me, like the sound a tape recorder makes after the audio portion cuts out. Also, there were longer breaks in between the chapters. It took too long from the end of one chapter to the start of the next one.  Nothing big, but it was annoying.



Final score 5.5 stars.  It isn’t horrible, but it wasn’t for me.  Tell me what you think if you’ve read it.


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Fantasy Swap Online, Book 1

By: Alyson Belle

Narrated by: J. J. Jenness

Series: Fantasy Swapped Online, Book 1

Length: 3 hrs and 1 min

I really wanted to play nice with this one, but this book is like a land mine that mated with a depth charge, no matter where you go you are going to get blown up.  My only advice is to stay out of the yard or pool altogether because this is one time you don’t want to become a casualty.This is a short Audiobook, under four hours, and it is something that you can listen to in just one run all the way through. To be fair, I have no issue with the subject matter, I’m a fairly open-minded dude, but I had more than just a few issues with the book.


First, and this is a HUGE sticking point for me, it seemed like Belle has no concept of what LitRPG or Gamelit is about. It comes across as if she saw it was a genre that was blowing up, and wanted in on the action. Nothing wrong with that, but if you do go into a new field, do some research and get a feel for how the characters act, what they use, and how they fit into the RPG game world. Just as an example, there was nothing crunchy about this. No stats, no leveling alerts, etc. The MC's best weapon was a level 60 sword, not how a gamer would describe it. The story, otherwise, would have fit in with a fantasy world.

Let me read you a section of the blurb so that you understand what happens in the book, because it is simply too convoluted to explain on my own:  But when the Lich-Lord releases a powerful spell that traps most of the players in the game permanently, Kromgorn accidentally winds up stuck in the avatar of his friend, Lacey - a stupid, low-level female character that was designed exclusively to get down and dirty with the in-game pleasure system. Even worse, he gets captured by the orcs and thrown into their harem dungeon, where he finds he's powerless to resist his captors! The developers really modeled female bodies correctly in this game, and it's humiliating to have to go from being a high-level barbarian to a simpering little harem girl.

With his guild drawing closer to an epic encounter with the Lich-Lord, they need all the high-level players they can get! Will Krom figure out a way to get himself out of this useless body and get back in time to help his friends, or will he be stuck forever working on his back in a dirty harem dungeon? The only way out of this mess might be to give in to his situation and embrace his new body in order to outmaneuver his foes.  Who knows? He might even end up enjoying himself....

Like I said this book has no concept of gaming at all, and it feels like it is just a slick way to add erotica to LITRPG minus all the knowledge of what makes LITRPG actually work.  Crunch aside, this book as was just B-a-n-a-n-a-s. So, weak story and no crunch. . . hell, did I say crunch? Their isn’t even a chewing gum smoosh involved. This book pays a lot of lip service to LITRPG, but it feels more like someone researched a board game that had been made into a movie than they did about video games being put into books.

Secondly, the narrator for this was all wrong.  I think you know my feelings about JJ Jenness. He says every sentence individually dnd I firmly believe that a far manlier and masculine voice was needed to add to the realism. Not that J.J. isn't a man, but he does not have a deep timbor or low growl that would have added some much needed gravitas to the story. He sounds more like Mario Cantone minus the manic energy.  What would have really helped this book would have been a Clancy Brown type voice, it would have made it funnier and more meaningful. Tim Curry, not so much.


The concept for this had a ton of opportunity for humor, and I think that Belle might have tried to find the funny, but if so she missed it on me, and I have been into comedy since I could talk. Again, a more masculine voice would have helped as the MC said "I just got kissed by a guy!"

My final score?  2 Stars. One because she deserves a star for writing a book, and a second because there was a semi-coherent story in there somewhere I’m sure; I mean the book did have a beginning a middle and an end.  You know, I could talk about a dumpster fire, but this book felt more like I had visited Centralia, Pennsylvania. That is a fire that is never going to go out. Avoid this book unless you are really really curious.



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. In fact, 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.


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


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Off to Be the Wizard

By: Scott Meyer

Narrated by: Luke Daniels

Series: Magic 2.0, Book 1

Length: 10 hrs and 45 mins



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This series fell into my lap as a suggestion in the Podcast’s Youtube page.  I really appreciate that, as it keeps me from having to seek out books blindly.


Let me say, I hadn’t heard of Scott Meyer before this book, but this cat is on my radar now.  The man knows how to set up a story, and make it funny. The tale revolves around a guy who discovers a small piece of code that makes him realize that he is living in a computer program, and that he can manipulate the system.  In other words, there is no spoon. He can rewrite some of his code and provide all kinds of benefits to himself such as making himself taller, teleport, or wealthier by inflating his bank account, etc. Naturally, this leads him into getting himself into trouble with the law, and before you know it he flees to the past where he plans on setting himself up as a wizard.  Now, we all know that nothing good comes from thinking like this, and that things are not going to go as planned. Still, the book really takes off and there is a ton of magic, time travel, thugs, FBI types, and wizards to keep you entranced before you know what hit you.


Meyer never misses a beat, and has a built in rim shot that appears every couple of beats to make you laugh.  It is a good mix of funny, ironic, satire, and seriousness that all blends together in one hell of a sweet literary smoothie.  I looked and there are quite a few books in this series, and I look forward to getting my grubby mitts on each one, just as much as I do other big names in the Litrpg genre.


One huge benefit for this series is that the book is narrated by Luke Daniels, and like Jeff Hays, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a book that he narrated that I didn’t love.  Daniels proves to be as professional and silly as a person can be simultaneously. I think my favorite part was where he imitated sounding like someone speaking into a fan. That was pure narration brilliance.  And his portrayal of Jimmy was soooo funny that I squirted milk out of my nose, and I wasn’t even drinking anything.


So, the question is is this book LITRPG or not?  There are a lot of things to consider, but I’m going to go with two things.  First, the wizards are all self aware NPC’s if nothing else. They know that they are algorithms, and it doesn’t bother them at all.  Secondly, they are in a computer game. Of that there is no question. They literally rewrite code in order to achieve things that they want.  Just on those two things alone I will say this is LITRPG, it doesn’t matter if it was a “real” human who entered the world or if the NPC’s suddenly became sentient.  The end result is that the MC is trapped in a Sims like game and regardless of whether he is “alive” he is a player, and that too qualifies. So for this I’m calling it Lit!  Final score for this Litrpg book is 8.1 stars. I can’t wait to listen to more of this wonderful series..


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



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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 020

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 020 -  Lion's Quest, Critical Failures, Star Conqueror, Anomaly: Somnia Online, On the Hit List

“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: ”

Lion's Quest: Undefeated (00:20)

Score: 7.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2Sf0tOe

Critical Failures: Caverns and Creatures, Book 1 (18:03)

Score: 8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2P1VnD3

Star Conqueror (27:16)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

(No link available for audiobook)

Anomaly: Somnia Online, Book 2 (38:55)

Score: 7.8 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2P6piu5

On the Hit List (50:31)

No review score: part of the ‘What Else Have They Done?’ segment.

https://amzn.to/2ByNYYA

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

Lion's Quest: Undefeated

By: Michael-Scott Earle

Narrated by: Joshua Story

Length: 11 hrs and 45 mins


Pause


Man oh man, I am going to get some. This book was really hard for me to care about, and I tried.  One of my favorite authors, Blaise Corvin, has repeatedly stated that this was one of his favorite series, nad whenever someone says, HEY WHAT SERIES ARE YOU WAITING ON, this book invariably gets mentioned.  It has a lot of love, but I just don't see the appeal. In a world where game players are treated like sports stars, Leo Lennox is the best player that ever walked, talked, chewed bubblegum or put in shoes. You'll know this because every single person in the book calls him Champ.  Everyone. Constantly. To a point it felt like they said it every third word. Now, I realize that this is a reference to boxers, who, once they earn a title are referred to as champ. I know this for a fact because I have watched Rocky a bjillion and a half times. So, I get it. But, it was annoying as all hell, and I still find it difficult to conceive of a day where where someone who plays video games will be treated like a football star or boxing champion.


Leo, the MC, is an awesome video gamer, and so is sought out to help playtest and develop the most realistic video game of all time.  His time in the game is the best part of the book, but we spend more time with the old champ in the real world. Where all he does is whine that he isn't happy anymore and he needs a change.  He was so annoying. "Yeah, like by the time the ten thousandth beautiful chick hits on you you couldn't care less." That's a parahrase. Lenox is constantly sought after, and you have to ask why.  He has literally no personality. Plus all the stuff about Jew this and Jew That bothered me. You just have to say or show his manager is jewish. You don't have to make it sound like some neo-guys worst nightmare.


I guess I am disappointed in that I was looking for a more gaming style book.  Instead we get a good chunk of the book revolving around his contract negotiations.  So exciting! I often find myself hovering outside Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe’s law offices trying to grab a gander at some contract negotiations.  Things getting boring around the house? Better Call Saul!! Oh, and for the longest time I was going back and forth on whether or not he was really in a game or in an alternate reality.


The kicker for me was we finally get to a point where he can spend time in the game and the book ends.    Not my cuppa. Honestly, LITRPG should be something about 80 to 90% in game, with a few notable exceptions, such as Dave Wilmarth’s The Land of the Undying.  There, the setting carries as much impact as the gaming section. This book felt like it wanted that to be the case. Ooooh we have a super-secret game being developed.  Ooooh, I got to ride a super cool hyped up helicopter plane! Ooooh, the super hot president wants me to sign on, and maaaaaybe get it on later, but not till I sign that contract.  Ooooh, I spent one session in the game and then have to figure out how I can get back into the game that is rattling around in my mind. That is the bulk of the book. If this was a boxing match then the gameplay was in the time between rounds, where the boxer sits on a little stool, gets rubbed down, and is given some water to spit.  All the real action takes place in the real world AKA the ring. Completely backwards and not all that riveting. The book should have been longer and had more game time. Everyone seems to wonder why this is MSE’s least popular novel series. I can tell you why. Because Leo is a boring superman character that gets his ass kissed wherever he goes.  He has no kryptonite, and has the entire world at his feet, but all he does is mope. Even when he has an amazing opportunity handed to him he mopes. The action is really lacking, and the drama is more like Beverly Hills Housewives than it is Last Action Hero. Why wouldn’t you buy a series like this? Not hard to figure out.

Again, I don’t want to pound this overly hard, but the fact is I have tried several of MSE’s series, and the only one that appeals to me is Tamer, and I even find that to be repetitive and predictable.  The story has only grown minimally since its start, but I enjoy it. I will try space knight, but my taste for Lion’s Quest has been quenched. I would really need a lot of convincing to get the next book, because I can see it being teased out like this.  The hot CEO of the doesn’t get with him, but continues to tease the possibility. Something happens IRL that forces him to spend less time in game play than he and Arnascript would like, and so on and so forth. I don’t even have to look. I can just guess. I honestly don’t know if MSE doesn’t like his game world all that much or wanted to tell the story of a gamer more than he did an immersive MMORPG, but I could not give a crap less for Leo Lennox and so his life outside the game did nothing for me.


Joshua Story did do great as the narrator!  Very impressed by his work. I think that he added a great deal to the mix, and would be a nice addition to the LITRPG community.  He really adds elements of emotion and desire, and when the hot CEO is talking he does a fine job sounding sexy, seductive, and mysterious all at once.  Leo sounds fierce as all get out, and definitely carries an air about him that he is confident in what he is doing. Honestly. Story is the best part of this audiobook, I’d give him an 8.5 on vocals alone, because he carried this story.  I know he’s done a few other MSE books, but I will be skipping Rock God and Rose Boy.


Final Score 7.3 Stars.  I think I’ll be sticking with Tamer for now, because Lion’s quest feels less like a LITRPG novel than it does an exaggerated autobiography by Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage’s character) from the movie Pixels.

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


Critical Failures

By: Robert Bevan

Narrated by: Jonathan Sleep

Length: 8 hrs and 3 mins




Pause



So, I’m going to begin this review with a warning.  If you cannot stand crude, offensive humor, politically incorrect humor, or jokes that are normally bantered about by a bunch of thirteen year olds then this book isn’t for you.  I think I have stated my position on humor, it can be crude, it can be nasty, in can be volatile, and it can be offensive to me so long as it is funny. I keep going back to thinking about the Steele Alchemist book, where there was a ton of potty humor, but it just didn’t work.  In an instance where you go for gross and nasty humor, but fail on the humor, all you get is gross and nasty.


That being said, I really enjoyed the way Robert Bevan tells his tale.  The humor is crude, but I can tell you as a man who spent years DMing that much of it simply reflects the puerile joviality that is often displayed in such a setting.  Truly, for those of us old enough to have lived through the DnD craze were mere teenagers, and male teenagers are raunchy randy SOB’s. This absolutely fits the tone of that era, and reflects reality in a way that I might be a bit ashamed of today.  The story centers on a group of gamers who get a new game master, someone they have never met *cue the music* Dun Dun DUN!!!! SO, you know trouble is at hand. The group, and some innocent bystanding relatives managed to anger the GM, and end up getting sent to their game world, right after their characters, who they have just become, have committed a horrible crime.  They end up in some hot water and have to figure out a way pretty quickly.


Naturally, things devolve as they only can when a bunch of idiots get thrown into an unexpected circumstance and refuse to act like adults, and that is the whole story.  Basically, it boils down to what can we do? How do we get home? How can we get our revenge on the nasty GM? And so on and so forth. Though simplistic the book is really fun and I laughed a lot.  This is Gamelit, and it plays out just like you’d expect with them doing things to level and getting new items or spells. The best character is the half-orc, just because he gets dumped on so much by the rest of his party.  Again, I am going to warn you. Much of the humor in the book revolves around poop, butts, and men’s junk. So, if hearing how the half orc crapped himself isn’t going to bring a tear of joy to your eye do like Count Olaff says, and look away; because stuff like that happens a lot.


Johnathon Sleep is fantastic as the narrator.  His voices only add to the humor, and he brings each character to life in little unexpected ways.  He easily plays things straight and gets into the goofy just as simply. Best two voices were the malicious GM and the Half Orc.  Fans of Johnny Test, yes I have young kids, will recognize that while he may not have used the voice he carried the attitude of Eugene "Bling-Bling Boy" Hamilton.  That was exactly how I envisioned the character. So beware, Sleep will keep you up all night listening to him.


This isn’t a highly inventive book, and there isn’t a lot of literary credit going on here, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fun, highly addictive ride.  I had a blast listening to this book. I can’t count how many times I laughed, giggled, guffawed, or ga-norked. I don’t know what that last word meant, but I like alliteration.  The sheer audacity of this book, in a climate of such political correctness would never survive if it came out today. I’m awarding 8 Stars just because I had so much fun.

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


Star Conqueror

Star Conqueror Series, Book 1

By: J. A. Cipriano

Narrated by: Luke Daniels

Length: 7 hrs and 23 mins


Pause


Lordy, lordy, lordy.   Where is JA Cipriano? I have to do this review because there are people out there who have no clue how good this story was, or why JA has gone MIA like MSE.  Well, I can pretty much say that after seeing a recent post That Michael-Scott Earle himself wrote in which he said that Amazon stated that they felt that his books were being read at a rate faster than a human could read, which caused his stuff to get ripped down.  I firmly believe that this is the same thing that has happened to JAC, and now that Amazon has finally come to a sensible conclusion that there might just be hope for JA to come back to us.


With Star Conquerer Jason Cipriano has created a Homage to one of my all time favorite movies The Last Starfighter, and made it LITRPG to boot!  That is like getting Ice cream with sprinkles when you asked for yogurt. In fact, I would say that he almost molded Alex Rogan and Grig into one character.  How crazy is that?!? Oh, for those of you not in the know this book is a rather loving homage to the movie, The Last Starfighter. It holds a ton of 80's references and nods to the movie.  Oh, as an added bonus it is also what is known as a Harem Lit type of book, since he main character, David Briggs (Grigs?) collects hot chicks and takes them like it was the last night in the universe and he has a huge box of Viagra-laced condoms.  While there is sex, it isn't as heavy as it could be, J.A. holds back a little. So don’t get all snooty if you don’t like Harems or sex laced books. This is a solid ride that could have been a lot raunchier than it is.


Either way, this story is on fire, and I personally think that this is some of his best work ever.  I love a lot of his writings, but this wing ding just blasted me out of the water and into the deep fryer.  It is sizzling hot with action, sex, violence, and to top it all off the MC can breath fire. Cipriano clearly loved writing this book, it literally leaps off the page and Superfly Snuka's you into submission.  You will not want to come up for air until you are purple in the face. I am so jazzed. I think I am going to relisten to this again tomorrow.


Oh, and I have to comment on the incredibly amazing job Luke Daniels did with this book.  He is a class A level narrator, and he takes this story runs runs off with it like he is taking it home to chain up in his basement.  He will just blow your mind. I suspect that he is my second favorite narrator at this point, and the more I hear from him the more I am impressed.  Seriously, I can only say that he is pleasant to listen to, nails each and every character's personality, and does voices like he was Rich Little on Meth.


I cannot go without saying how much I love this cover.  With me, Cipriano's covers are gamut of great to mid-level art.  This cover is stunning. If I were a teen I would have that as a poster on my wall, as it stands you cannot deny that it grabs you eye and squeezes until you want to learn more about the book.  It is hard core one hundred percent.


Cipriano is one of my favorite writers, but this book has literally made me rethink my grading system, because it is such a blast.  It fires on every cylinder, and takes off like it was the Mach Five competing in Death Race 2000. I can only say that I want MORE of this.  Moar! So, final score is an 8.3 stars. I loved the book and want more. I’m hoping that some of you out there will write Amazon and ask them why such an awesome book is no longer available to purchase.  Seriously, if MSE is about to return 100% then there is no reason that we should be denied our JAC.

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


Anomaly

By: K.T. Hanna

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 12 hrs and 33 mins



Pause


I am going to caveat this review by saying that I am not a huge fan of slice of life books.  I try to love them, but they really do very little for me. In my eyes a book needs a real direction.  For example, I don’t believe Lord of the Rings would have been all that popular if it was just a buddy road trip tale about Sam, Frodo, Pip, and Merri flouncing across the countryside as they sort of made their way to drop off a ring.  This is my big problem with Neil Gaiman’s American God’s novel. It was whole lot of tire spinning to get to an ending that could have been accomplished in a lot less pages. So, me and Slice-of-life don’t get along, unless it involves Dexter Morgan.


K.T. Hanna has released her second book in the Somnia Online series, and this is one of those tire spinning numbers that I get hung up about so often.  Remember how I felt about Daniel Schinhofenn’s latest Apocalypse Gates book? Well, I have to say this kind of mirrors that in that it does a lot of tire spinning but not a lot of story advancement.  Murmur, Sin, and the others all get together to kind of figure out the situation now that our MC has been clued into the fact about her situation. We do get a bit of a reveal as to what happened to the corporate boss once he entered the game, and why one of the AI’s has Murmur picking up chunks of black rocks all over the area.


The rest of the time we see Murmur’s mother and boss IRL trying to figure out what happened and how to help murmur, or we get Murmur having a hissy fit over her condition and the way the others all kept things from her.  I think she and Sin have an apology and reconciliation at least twice over the same thing, and Murmur snaps on her team numerous times even though she knows that what they did they did to protect her. That is pretty much the entire story.  Murmur advance some levels, takes umbrage with her condition in some way, and vents on those around her. Then makes up or apologizes.


Now, while this sounds a bit lackluster I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the story or the character’s, and how they progressed.  I also thing we will be seeing an AI go rogue and the non-villain from the first book grow into the role of a villain proper. I also standby my assessment in my first review that at some point that Sin is going to confess her romantic love for Murmur, which will throw yet another kink in the gears for poor Mur.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I think it is only a matter of time before this comes to light.


I did enjoy Murmur growing in power, but I felt that it was odd adding in a druidic element to her powers and giving her a “pet” as well.  I think that her psionicist class was interesting enough on its own, and the only reason I can see her getting Snowy (the wolf) is so when Sin does confess her feelings that she has someone to talk to that won’t judge her.  So, did I hate the book? No. But I certainly felt a sophomore slide as the tale itself really didn’t progress much other than it the ways I have already stated. I could have really used some more fights, the guild clash was fun, but it didn’t have as much impact as the train scene in the first book.  Train scene? Not what you think! MMORPG type of train. Really people!


Andrea Parsenau continues to do her magic here.  She conveys a ton of varying bits of emotional expressions from each character, for example, Tell is deeply concerned in a fatherly way with Murmur, whereas Sin definitely acts much more clingy and tied to Murmur.  She makes the AI that is seeking the black stones seem like he is slowly becoming more treacherous with each appearance and will be developing into the real heavy of the story. The only thing I didn’t get, and this is just a minor thing that I noticed; the female AI is supposed to be mysterious and a little unstable.  I’d have almost wanted her played out like Harley Quinn, so that when she was serious then you’d know that something bad was really happening. Again, Andrea is great here, but I think the female AI needed a bit more instability in the way she spoke just to convey how her siblings saw her. She seemed more like a fey queen, which might be what Hanna wanted.


The story is rock solid, just like last time, but there was really no forward motion, and it felt like it was riding on the big reveal at the end of book one to carry this book onward.  There are great characterizations, but I don’t think that anything happens in either world that wasn’t from the actions in the first book. Slice of life is fine if you have a point, for example, the big reveal was enough for the last book.  Here we completely miss that, and it was sorely needed Final Score is 7.8 stars. I still look forward to book 3.


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


On the Hit List

By: Timothy Dalton

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 4 hrs and 38 mins



Pause


This is undoubtedly one of the funniest books I have ever read.  The main character, Ellis De'Angelo, or Ellis D, as his friends call him (as in LSD) provides a rapid fire stream of consciousness barrage of random thoughts and raucous asides as he details how his crappy job got worse from delivering a sub with "extra bread".  


The moment it starts the story steamrolls along, and Ellis' troubles pile up like snow cascading down a mountain in an avalanche.  One thing happens after another until he and his college roommates all find themselves given a countdown to come up with some missing mob money or they will be sleeping with the fishes.  And I don't mean Abe Vigoda & Florence Stanley!


The trio, as dysfunctional as they can be, manage to work together in spite of whatever shortcomings they have.  On the other hand, Ellis can never seem to gain any traction because his pals are giant albatrosses hanging from his neck.  If there is anything to take away from this story it is to always go for the Princess Bride joke.


The writing is refreshingly witty, wry, and the quips never stop flying.  I laughed out loud numerous times, and giggled like a teenage girl most of the rest of the time.  Each character brings something to the table that allows the others to play off of, and man they bounce off each other like they were ping pong balls.


This is a great book, and it simply flew by.  There was not enough of this, and I really want Ellis to get mixed up with the Yakuza or something else just so we can get MORE.  Trust me, you will not regret getting this book. I think that it’s the book’s length that makes it work so well, if it wasn’t trimmed down so well the humor would not have had such a great rhythm or pace.  Part of what makes the humor work so well is that it one shot after another, and not a hit after a long pause. The frantic pace makes the funny funnier.


Now, I will tell you that I only got this book because Jeff Hays narrated it.  He is the premiere narrator in our land, and I have come to learn that anything he does is great.  He always elevates his material. To be blunt, the man knows how to read dialogue. If you just heard him from this book you would absolutely believe he was Ellis.  I cannot say just how skilled and professional he is, and I have so many of his audiobooks that my kids will say to me "Are you still listening to that same book?" I have to tell them that it is a different book, with the same narrator.  I usually try to make a comparison to Jeff to some other pop culture character, such as saying that he is like Dr. Strange, only in his case he is the Master of the vocal arts. I'm not going to do that today. I want to keep it real. Jeff keeps his stories fun (by that I mean his enthusiasm for the book he is reading is always clear), and adds life to whatever he reads.  If you aren't familiar with him, give him a shot. You won't be sorry.


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



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


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LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 019

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 019 -  Accidental Raider, The Merchant of Tiqpa, Goblin King, Tech Mage

“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 Raider: A LitRPG Swashbuckler (00:44)

Score: 8.2 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2DN3N07

The Merchant of Tiqpa (14:18)

Score: 8.7 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2DSQfQC

Goblin King (34:05)

Score: 8.3 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2OUKO4S

Tech Mage: Magitech Chronicles, Volume 1 (48:00)

Score: 7.6 out of 10

https://amzn.to/2TvhKUP

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Accidental Raider: A LitRPG Swashbuckler

By: Jamie Davis, C.J. Davis

Narrated by: Stacy Gonzalez

Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins


Pause



I have to say that I am loving the direction this series is taking more and more.  If I’m honest with you I would say that there is no way in hades that I would have ever thought that I would enjoy a story set aboard a ship.  Hell, when I was a kid I loved Captains Courageous, the voyages of Sinbad, and any Eroll Flynn flick in which he buckled a swash or hoisted a mainsail.  Reading about them is an entirely different matter. For example, Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch in the Gentleman Bastards series was a snorefest at its best, and the reader was forced to endure them learning how to man a ship from the ground up.


Here we get Kari Dix already performing as a captain well-seasoned, with a crew willing to go to hell and back just to bring her a comfy chair to sit on if she so desired.  The gameplay works really well, especially when Kari has to do some serious sailing through some impossible waters. The gaming elements come in pretty strong and work. I loved her aiming a cannon as much as sailing the ship.  It all worked. One thing I wanted to bring up in the last book was the way in which Davis weaves in his tributes to the Princess Bride. One of my favorite movies. I actually forgot to mention it in my last review, but with William Goldman dying as of the time of this recording I don’t see how I can’t not mention it double negative and all.  So, he references a lot of princess bride stuff.


Kidding, I completely respect that he runs close to it, but doesn’t beat you over the head with it stuff, such as Kari being known as the Dread Raider Kari.  It really meant a lot to me as a fan of Goldman and the Bride. SO thank you, Jamie for sharing your love for something without clubbing us over the head with it.  Another thing that I was happy to see was the return of Hal and Mona, however I almost with the upgrade would have forced them to have to take on new classes (Mona would make a great Paladin), but it was nice to see Hal reunite with his old friend and he and his wife start searching for their daughter.  The book is really fun, and I am going to give some credit to Davis once again; he has no issue killing people in this book. A boatload of people literally die at some point, no pun intended. It is good to see that not everyone survives deadly encounters.


Last time around I was carping about how I was upset Scarlato hadn’t been brought back to continue the series, but felt that Stacy Gonzalez had done a decent enough job.  I stand by that assessment. She does ok, but I did have some issues with the way she read some sentences, and her overall level of emotional range seemed to remain level.  I don’t get a lot of emotional heat or sadness from her, and there were certainly times that there should have been more emotionally charged dialogue or a faster pace employed as the story carried on.  Again, decent job, just not overwhelming.


Final score 8.2 stars.  This was a very fun romp and I am excited to see where the story leads.


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


The Merchant of Tiqpa

By: Charles Dean

Narrated by: Matthew Broadhead

Length: 13 hrs and 48 mins



Well true believers, I have to say that there has been few things that have been able to lift my spirits in a week where not only Stan Lee has died, but also William Goldman.  The best thing I could ask for? Another Charles Dean book you say? You’d be right! How about a continuation of his Bathrobe knight series you ask? Well now you are just getting scary as it was just exactly the thing I needed to sooth the pain in my soul.  


You may recall that I kind of lamented that after BKIII ended there weren’t going to be any more audiobooks made in the series, because The Bearded Bacon God had said, “No more.”  However, something happened and we magically got book 4, and I am not complaining. I had hoped to save this for a listen during the drive back home over Thanksgiving, but I just couldn’t wait, and jumped on it as soon as I got it.


Now a little background for you before we go any further.  I started off as an English major years ago, and one of my favorite classes was my Shakespeare class.  I have loved the great bard for a number of years, hell, the only episode of Moonlighting that I ever watched was their Taming of the Shrew adaptation, so you can see I love old Willie.  Shylocke would appear to be Charles Dean’s favorite character, as he has based the entire book off the Merchant of Venice.


Now, before you freak out and Nope your way out of here for fear of getting Literated or something I have to say that I was most impressed with the deft way that he managed to flawlessly interweave the Literature portion of the story with the LITRPG portion of the tale.  He sneaks in characters and plot details without being obvious about it, and still keeps the story moving ahead effortlessly. Truth be told I was rather skeptical of this tale when I first heard about it. Not for the Shakespearean elements, but because it didn’t continue the tales of Darwin and his crew.  I love that Bathrobe wearing demon, and really wanted to see how things developed after the events of the last book. And I am still bummed out that we only get to see hints and snippets of characters from the original books, but I was happy to get what I had.


This book could have been set in any gameworld and still worked.  It didn’t have to be Tiqpa. It is that original and strong. It really did not need the BK bones to hold it up, but I also get the concept of why work harder when you don’t need to, Dean didn’t need to reinvent a whole new gaming system in order to create this book.  IN fact the only thing that really ties this down to the first trilogy was the “bonus chapters” at the end that told Eliza’s story, and let us see Darwin in a different light. In fact, I would not have minded if Dean hadn’t put in the extra chapters at all, the way he left things with Shy/Locke was perfect.  


Matthew Broadhead has taken some hits from me recently, and I have repeatedly said that he is a narrator who either sinks or swims based on the material he is given, and Dean’s writing still meshes well with his vocal quirkilizations.  Broadhead does an excellent job here and carries the story right along. I am happy to have him back in the driver’s seat, because he has taken a backseat in too many stories lately.


My score is really dependant on a few things.  One, I love the entire reimagining of Merchant of Venice in LITRPG form.  Secondly, I am glad to get back into Tiqpa after I was certain that we weren’t going to be going there anymore.  Third, Dean proves just has agile his mind is that he is able to create a story like this without giving anything away.  I have to say this was an 8.7 for me just because of how well everything flowed, how we got Shakespeare in a game world, we were given a glimpse at how an alchemist could work as a game class, and we did get a hint of what Darwin was up to.  I’m still going to let my kids listen to this as we travel back to see the in-laws and parents this week, and I don’t mind at all. Oh, and Charles gets this cookie!


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


Goblin King

By: R.R. Virdi

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 13 hrs and 20 mins



Pause



You may know Mr. Virdi from his Urban fantasy novel: Grave Beginnings.  I had been hoping for some time that he would get around to making them into audiobooks, so I flipped out when I saw that not only had he done a LITRPG story, but it was also being done by SBT that I nearly had a nerdgasm.  I thought it was a fantastic pairing, and I was right.


Now, there are a lot of things going on.  The book starts out in a dystopian society that cannot afford to keep everyone fed, so certain types of people get put on the chopping block when they turn 21.  Think of Logan’s Run in outer space. The MC, a fine fellow named Devrim Bains, is offered a choice. He can die, or he can have his consciousness uploaded into a virtual reality game where he can play until he dies there.  Not a lot of choice, but hey what’s a protagonist gonna do? He signs up for the VR of course and gets dropped into a world of crap. When I was telling my wife about the story she told me it had some things in common with the 100.  I don’t know, because I’ve never seen that show, but she was fairly certain that it had a lot of commonalities. That’s cool, because she watches it, and that means she’ll listen to the book in the car while I drive.


Luckily for him his knowledge of mythology saves his butt and he earns a class called the Slayer that is actually a pretty sweet deal, as he gets clued into a ton of things about the monsters he faces that other players don’t.  The bulk of the book is him battling monsters and trying to figure if the Goblin King is real and if he is, how to stop him. I loved the whole title aspect like Slayer of men, and the implications that it had in the game. Lots of neat thinking.  One thing I was not in love with was the toad companion.


For me, a mini-companion either flies or fails.  Lately, the whole snarky or braggadocios companion has been a fail.  I prefer more helpful aides over companions who don’t do anything but try to take the credit, I just don’t find that stuff funny.  I guess I see that stuff too often in real life. They can be funny but the toad here did not ring that bell for me, I was actually hoping he would get killed.  The odd thing is that Devrim feels the same way, and if he had continued to feel that way I don’t think it would have put me off, because then the character would have been meant to be unbearable.  However, he makes a complete turnaround on that fact, and begins to like the little bugger, which is where I, the reader, am supposed to like him too but that didn’t happen. I could not stand him from start to finish, and the only saving grace was that he was not super prominent in the book.



Usually I will say that a book flew by or dragged, but this one just felt like it was paced out pretty well.  There were some excellent fights and a lot of realization moments and a mystery about the Goblin King that worked nicely.  The best part of the book was the characterizations of the players, they were pretty real in their depiction, although I did find a little bit of the dialogue to be stilted.  The ending does play out like a David vs Goliath, but it was a fun fight.


Jeff Hays handles this one in all his solo glory, and I was quite happy to get it.  With all the tag teaming that goes on over at SBT we don’t get a chance to see to single narrators shine much any more.  Jeff handles this tale masterfully. I think his best characterizations are the females, although he does do a badassed battle toad impression that caused me cognitive dissonance because I hated the character, but enjoyed the portrayal.  I really enjoy hearing Jeff do things on his own, as I can see just how much he’s refined himself since his last recording. Getting bits of him in snippets, as in the punny dwarf in the Wayward Bard, is nice, but that is a supporting role.  That’s like putting Brad Pitt in the role of a stoner who just sits on a couch an entire series of scenes like in True Romance, rather than making him into a killer character like Aldo Rains in Inglorious Basterds. More is better. I think that is why I like him so much here, he gets to do a few ladies, mind out of the gutter people!  A job that seems to go more and more to Annie or Laurie. Anyways, Jeff throws out all the stops and clearly has some fun with this book.


Overall the book is fun, filled with frantic action, and some nice LITRPG moments.  Again the title stuff was the best gaming part for me. I enjoyed the book a lot and look forward to, but with 60% less toad.  Final Score 8.3 Stars.


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

Is it LitRPG or Not?


Tech Mage: Magitech Chronicles, Volume 1

By: Chris Fox

Narrated by: Ryan Kennard Burke

Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins


Pause


This is my second book in the is it Gamelit/Litrpg segment, and it was the book with the second most suggestions.



This book starts off by throwing its MC off the deep end.  The protagonist, Aran, awakens of no memory of who he was, where he is, or what the hell is going on around him.  He quickly learns that he has been captured by slavers who have erased his mind. Best of all, they are forcing him along with a shipload of other memory challenged people to go and engage some enemies who are fairly nasty, vile, and deadly.  Naturally, things don’t work out so well, and Aran barely survives the encounter.


Turns out that he is fairly powerful, and when the slavers get busted by the local military he gets drafted, against his will, to go out and fight Void Wyrms, better known to you and me as Space Dragons.  The dragons want to subjugate/destroy all non-dragon life, and the military are all hard pressed to stop them, let alone hold out against them.


The book is fairly action packed, and has a cool concept in which magic is used to power weapons, and spells do most of the heavy combat stuff.  The dragons are right evil bastiches and the situation is dire enough that you care what is happening. As things go the writing is nicely paced and has some good character development.  There are three main characters, Aran, Nara, and Viora the local military leader. My biggest problem with the book was the magic beer segment, in which a character is brought back to life.


It took a little while for the narrator to grow on me, but once I’d settled into his voice it became a nice enjoyable ride into an intergalactic space dragon fight.  Sometimes it really felt like Burke was as into the story as the reader was, because he really had some fun with it. He was excellent in his characterizations, the pacing, and the battle scenes resounded with a fervor of fraught tension.


So, is this in the realm of LITRPG?  Again, I’m going to say no. The reasoning is that while it does have that sort of feel to it there still isn’t much in the way of defining the powers that Aran has to see if he is actually levelling or simply getting back into the power levels he was at before he was mindwiped, and it surely feels like that is the case.  He starts off doing things a wiped individual would never be able to do, and just goes upwards, but each bit of apparent growth feels familiar to him, as if he has already been in that area. The only time it sort of gets LIT is when he accidentally steals a new power from a god when he is with the slavers. It really isn’t close otherwise, and while it was fun I’m still going to say not even close. 7.6 stars.


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


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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

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

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.



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


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.


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


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.


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


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.

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

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

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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.  


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


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.


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


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


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


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!!!


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


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/




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


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.


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


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.


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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


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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

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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

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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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

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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.

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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.

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


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.


----------


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.




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

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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


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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, an