Awesome Audiobooks: 4.5/5 Apprentice Cat by Virginia Ripple

4.5/5 Cute Cat Goes to Magic School Type Story

Summary:

Toby’s only mediocre at magic, but he still wants to fulfill his mother’s dream of being accepted into the Academy. Once in, he stumbled across a colossal mystery.

Random Comments:

  • It’s an intriguing world where humans and cats work hand-in-hand. The description of it being a kingdom and them traveling in carriages sort of make me think it’s a steampunk type era. It’s a tad hard to tell though.
  • The characters are well-developed.
  • The narration is nicely handled. I personally didn’t enjoy the voice used for Terrence as that was a little tough to follow, but the characters are distinct.
  • The mystery meanders a bit, but things work out in the end.
  • It finds the balance between giving the reader closure and leaving enough loose ends to gracefully beg for a sequel.

Conclusion:

Slow start and lots of world-building, but overall, a satisfying tale.

 

The book is permafree! Go ahead and download it … then prep yourself for the first Sunday in October when you can request a free audio version.

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Julie C. Gilbert

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Audiobook Reviews: Prestigium by Joseph Barone

4.5/5 Paranormal Detective

Summary:

Tanya Cora gets drawn into a mystery with more magic than she bargained for.

Random Comments:

  • There’s a lot of world-building here, so it takes some getting used to. The informational sessions are handled nicely in that the main character genuinely isn’t aware of most of it, so the reader gets to learn as she does.
  • The MC – Tanya – has a habit of commenting on everything that can get tiresome on occasion, but mostly, it comes across as amusing. She’s got a semi-jaded view of the world, but that fits well with the cop persona.
  • It’s definitely the sort of story that’s more fun to listen to than to read.
  • The cover’s okay. I would like a more solid view of what the main character looks like. Something deeper, darker would be cool.
  • The reader gets cheated a bit in the end where the epic battle is concerned. I’m not looking for blood and gore, but some description would be nice. References exist, but still …
  • The narrator’s good. I’m a fan.
  • I enjoyed how the story took familiar magic and elements and added its own twist.

Conclusion:

A worthwhile fantasy story.

 

As Always …

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Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

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Awesome Audiobooks: 5/5 More Fables and Fantasies by Dale T. Phillips

Title: A Fun Collection

Summary:

5 short fantasy stories featuring dragons, peasants, heroes, villains, and interesting twist on fairy tale heroes.

Additional Comments:

  • In a collection like this, everybody’s going to get something different out of it. I especially enjoyed the one in the middle told from Hansel’s point of view. I never thought I’d like twists on old fables, but it’s fun to be able to think of them in a new way.
  • The ending of the Christmas one was predictable yet still awesome.
  • The book contains decent world-building, even in something so short. This stood out in the one about the young man and the dragon.
  • The one with the young woman who finds truffles had the markings of traditional fairy tale. It felt very similar to the one with the young man and the dragon.
  • The narrator handled the stories well. I’m a huge proponent of audiobooks (if you couldn’t tell yet). It adds a wonderful layer to each story. I especially loved the wood carver’s voice.

 

Conclusion:

This is definitely a worth-while collection to listen to/read.

 

As Always …

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Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

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Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

Awesome Movie Reviews: 5/5 Stars Wonder Woman Scores Big

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to the picture. Took it right off of Google images.

Here’s where Google got the pic.

Introduction:

I’m one of those people on the fringe of the comic book crowd. And I’ll admit I knew nothing about the Wonder Woman comic series or back story. I think my first glimpses of her were in the Batman vs. Superman movie. That one was okay, but this movie’s better. The not knowing part could have been the reason I didn’t mind there being a lengthy backstory for her. That, and the kid they got to play Diana as a child is adorable.

Additional Comments:

  • While it could be said that the morals of the story were about as subtle as a sledgehammer, it’s still a charming movie.
  • Gal Gadot pulls off the presence of Wonder Woman beautifully. So, I’m guessing her background as a model helped with being comfortable in some of those outfits. The scene where they were getting her clothes to blend in during WWI London era hit some much-needed nice light-hearted chords.
  • I love the line about slavery, and Steve’s secretary was awesome. She didn’t have many scenes, but the few she graced worked well.
  • Scene in the London back alley came through big too. The fight scenes in general were spread out enough to carry the slow points. The movie makers overdid the slow-motion a tad, but it did make the fight scenes fun.
  • The guy who played Steve (Chris Pine) did a nice job but he didn’t really sound like a British guy. His German accent was passable, and his acting was superb.
  • Not too sure about the evil chemist. Is she a character from the comics? Why did she have face coverings?
  • There are some fun reveals in the movie, but I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the movie.
  • When going to see an action movie, I subconsciously ask myself: was it fun? Am I entertained? Would I see this again? When I can successfully answer “yes!” three times, I know the movie’s a winner to me.
  • Not sure if I’ll see it in theaters again, but it’s got enough of a mix of story and action to carry a few viewings. I might have to buy the blu-ray.

Conclusion:

Wonder Woman scores as an action movie. It’s bright, flashy, and gorgeous on so many levels. Definitely worth watching. There are enough moments involving punching people to keep the crowd happy.

 


Audiobook Reviews: 4/5 Missing: Lessons from Fiori Book 2 by Peggy M. McAloon

Title: Solid Entry in MG Fantasy Series

Summary:

Elle Burton’s brother has disappeared, and her friend Jimmy becomes a Guardian. Elle might be the Chosen One, but she has to save her brother first.

Additional Comments:

  • It’s definitely middle grade. That said, it’s kid-safe and fairly realistic. I like the balance between the kid being a hero and still being a kid.
  • It probably helps to read book 1, but it’s enjoyable as is.
  • The narrator did a lovely job.
  • Elle’s a fun character. I don’t get much sense of Jimmy, but I think he’ll be important in the series later.
  • The side characters are a little hard to distinguish if you’re not familiar with them already, but it’s still fun.
  • The magic world is pretty well-defined. There are some terms that are probably better explained in book 1.
  • The danger and way they solve the mystery is fairly realistic.
  • I enjoyed the way Elle’s home life progressed. There’s good balance of her being a hero and just being a 10 year old kid with a heart of gold. She’s the sort of kid you can totally believe lives next door.
  • I don’t usually comment on covers but the audiobook one is by far my preferred one vs the ebook one. I think the cartoon-ish one captures the essence of the story better. The ebook one says YA, but not fantasy. This is definitely a fantasy book.

Conclusion:

Solid entry in an interesting MG fantasy series.

P.S. The author is a lovely person. You should find her on FB and say “hi.”

 

 

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Julie C. Gilbert

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Audiobook Reviews: 4/5 Scotland’s Guardians by Katharina Gerlach

Title: 4/5 Fun Fantasy Tale of Friendship

Summary:

Bryanna and her new friend Kaylee (sorry about spelling, I heard the audio) go on a long, perilous journey that could determine the fate of Scotland.

Additional Comments:

  • Bryanna and Kaylee’s friendship goes through natural ups and downs. Their loyalties are tested in numerous ways.
  • Because this is a fantasy, the plot takes some delightful and weird twists and turns. At times, the journey seemed simply for the sake of the journey, but overall, the plot moved nicely to the climax.
  • Bryanna’s got a good heart. That comes through pretty clearly.
  • I love how the cover reflects what’s inside. It’s beautiful and will have more meaning after you’ve read/listened to it.
  • Along the way the girls get into some crazy situations. That keeps the journey interesting.
  • Some of the hidden nature of certain relationships seemed ridiculous in the long run, more for the reader’s benefit of surprise than for the main character.
  • Bryanna and Kaylee are likable main characters. I suppose Kaylee could be seen as a side character, but if she is, she’s very well-developed.
  • The narrator did a wonderful job with all the tough pronunciations.
  • The end was a tad anticlimactic. I think the end battle took place in about ten minutes.

 

Conclusion:

A strong tale of friendship set in fantasy settings.

 

As Always …

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Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

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Audiobook Reviews: The Natural Order by R.J. Vickers

 

Introduction:

A troubled teen goes off to magic school and finds trouble of a different sort.

Summary:

Tristan Fairholm gets a second chance at an extraordinary school where not everything is as it seems.

Additional Comments:

Neutral:

– There are a lot of plot threads being juggled here. Overall, this is done well, but a few seem to have petered off. (ie. Evie and the twins)

– There are 15 students gathered from all over the US (presumably), but the story focuses only on 5-6 of them. (I believe that’s for the best, but the number of overall students seems small. If the others don’t matter, then why bring them up at all?)

– Content warnings: rampant casual cursing

– There’s not much explanation for the vast wealth of the school.

– Tristan makes some gains in many aspects but not the driving force presented at the beginning.

– Passage of time was sporadic. It was almost like a survey of the holidays.

What I didn’t like:

*disclaimer – I am a teacher, so my perspectives on how schools are run might be different than the average reader.*

– The idea of rewarding students by letting them out of an assigned homework is terrible. Homework’s not supposed to be busy work. Either it has value or it doesn’t. If nobody “needs” to do it, then why assign it? If it’s vital, then letting some students skip it is kind of counter productive.

– There’s a strong emphasis on hours of punishments and students working them off. The dolling out of such seemed a mite capricious. Keeping discipline and order is important in school settings, and I imagine that’s magnified in a boarding school setting. However, when handing out discipline, it’s important not to punish oneself at the same time. Are the teachers working 90+ hrs a week?

– Some of the cardinal rules of the school seemed to matter one minute and not so much the next. (ie. can the students leave or not? Can anybody leave or not?)

– The vandal’s methods and logic are fundamentally flawed.

– The first practical exam was a terrible idea. The teachers admit this later, but it’s not really an exam if nothing’s taught first.

– Tristan’s acceptance of the end twists seemed way too easy. The mystery built up some good momentum then sort of fizzled.

What I liked:

– There’s a unique premise here and some nice twists in the end.

– The character development is pretty decent at least in the main character.

– I liked Amber and wish her role were expanded. She was left as the “little miss perfect student” instead of becoming a foil for the hero.

– Side characters were decent, although the Zeke/ Leila thing got old very quickly. The relationship has an interesting turn at the end, but nothing’s settled. They seem very antagonistic for no good reason.

– The book as a whole has a summer camp bonding experience vibe to it.

– The narrator’s performance was good.

– End twist is built on a very intriguing premise.

Conclusion:

I don’t think the things that bothered me about the running of the school will affect the general public. Overall, this is a decent coming-of-age fantasy with its own brand of magic.

 

 

As Always …

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Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

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Audiobook Reviews: Unexpected Superhero by Kitty Bucholtz

Introduction:

Some superhero books try to be serious. This isn’t one of those times. There might be possible spoilers ahead in my discussion. I have some mixed feelings about the book as a whole. There’s a lot to love and some stuff that raises eyebrows.

Summary:

Tori Lewis discovers she has a superpower. Meanwhile, her new husband, Joe Clarke, also has a secret identity.

Additional Comments:

  • I love the pop culture references. The references include: Spiderman, The X-Files, Superman, and much more.
  • Comic books do not qualify as research.
  • Neutral:
  • Limited first person sometimes slips into stream of consciousness. In general, the amount of arghs and grrs should be kept to a bare minimum in books, especially audios.
  • The MC gets mugged twice.

What I couldn’t connect with … :

  • The genres flip quite regularly. It’s mostly a lighthearted romantic comedy set in a mildly urban fantasy setting. In addition, there are elements of Christian romance, Harlequin romance, mystery, and scifi. I happen to like most of those, but I’ll admit the blend is not always pretty. Odds are very good that either you’re going to be offended by the amount of intimate scenes described between the newlyweds or you’re going to be offended by the amount of times Tori prays or somebody brings up a Bible verse.
  • Content warning: contains curse words and “moderate spice adult scenes”
  • There’s a fair amount of very slow build. I clocked it. Tori took 7.5 hrs to tell Joe the truth, and he took about 9.2 hours to tell the truth. That’s weeks upon weeks in their time. I’ll tell him soon, I’ll tell him later, I’ll tell her soon, I’ll tell her later, well maybe … It got maddening.
  • Some plot threads get brushed off in a “that’s not really our focus as super heroes” vibe instead of wrapped up.

What I liked:

  • The narrator fit the character very well. She gave a solid performance.
  • The scifi and mystery aspects are great. I wish more of this existed.
  • I enjoyed Kane (sorry about spelling, I heard the audio) as a villain.
  • The last hr and a half was excellent. Once they leveled with each other and finally got to the exciting stuff including the showdown, it was awesome.

Conclusion:

If you can handle the “heat level” and don’t mind genres flipping all over the place, it’s an intriguing tale.

 

As Always …

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Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

Audiobook Edge and it’s Matchmaker Program are completely free now, but if you wanna donate anyway, go for it 😉

Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

 

Audiobook Reviews: 4/5 Beggar Magic by H.L. Burke

Title: Unique Take on Magic

Summary:

Leilani and Zebedy overcome the cast differences to become fast friends and become embroiled in a mystery that

Additional Comments:

What I didn’t like:

  • Zeb’s voice sounded like a perpetually whiny 10-yr-old child.
  • Repeated use of “strains” as an expression. (“strains this” and “oh strains that” … at one pt I believe there was even an “oh, strains, the Strains can be…” expression)
  • A few plot points detracted from “kid appeal,” but generally, the story’s suitable for middle grade.
  • The characters whine quite a bit.

Neutral:

  • The book had a little trouble picking a mood. It started as a “girls from opposite worlds come together as friends tale” then morphed into a “Nancy Drew-like mystery” then turned into a teen romance and finally wrapped up as a feel-good “let’s fix our broken world” story.
  • Title’s unique but doesn’t really capture the story.

What I liked:

  • Brick. (Can’t say much more without spoilers.)
  • The fights between friends work.
  • The idea of magic being music is very interesting. The idea could be developed more.
  • Convenient yet satisfying end.
  • Contains likeable characters and unique world-building.

Conclusion:

It’s definitely a worthwhile read if you enjoy MG fantasy stuff.

Awesome Audiobook Reviews: 4.5/5 stars Cora and the Nurse Dragon

Introduction:

Prior to listening to this book, my experience with dragons was very limited. That said, I enjoyed the new twist the author gave to dragons in general. The story contains some violence at the end, but overall, I would still consider it kid-friendly. If you’re a dragon fan, you will want to get to know HL Burke’s works better.

Summary:

A 12-yr-old girl named Cora accidentally ends up with a nurse dragon. She names him Cricket.

Random Comments:
– Overall (4.5/5) – This is a cute story that you can read as much or as little into if you want. It could be about animal rights. Or it could be a lesson about the morals of greed. Just as easily, it could be a kiddie story about a girl, her friend, the town bully, and a baby nurse dragon. I love that there are layers.
– Narration (3.45/5) – The narrator did a nice job of distinguishing between different characters, but her “normal narrator” voice sort of struck me as monotone.
– Main Characters (3.5/5) – In a book this size, you’re not going to get giant character development from beginning to end, but there are some changes.
– Side Characters (4/5) – The side characters are decently well-developed.
– Plot (3/5) – Nothing surprising happens, but it’s a fitting story.
– Dialogue (5/5) – The dialogue sounds realistic.
– World-building (4/5) – It’s mainly an early 1900’s type setting like the beginning of the industrial revolution. (first lady lawyer in town, automobiles – but not everybody has them, rich tycoons, etc) Yet, there are elements that are unique and sometimes smack of way more modern. There are dragon breeding facilities, sedatives, etc.

Conclusion:

It’s a nice, short fantasy story made for dragon lovers. Check it out. If it’s in paperback, it would make a nice gift for young dragon lovers in your life. It’s full of imagination, yet there are good topic openers to have a great conversation with your kid too. Did I mention it’s adorable?

 

As Always …

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Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

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