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

Critical Failures: Caverns and Creatures, Book 1 (18:03)

Score: 8 out of 10

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

On the Hit List (50:31)

No review score: part of the ‘What Else Have They Done?’ segment.


Lion's Quest: Undefeated

By: Michael-Scott Earle

Narrated by: Joshua Story

Length: 11 hrs and 45 mins


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


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


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.



By: K.T. Hanna

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 12 hrs and 33 mins


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


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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