Podcast Review #129: Betrayed: Book 2 of the Turner Chronicles

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published April 30, 2012

Title: Betrayed – Book 2 of the Turner Chronicles
Author: Mark Eller
Genre: Fantasy/Alternate Universe
Released: 4 April 2012
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: R for graphic violence and sexual situations

Many months ago and many podcast reviews ago, I reviewed Traitor by Mark Eller. I really enjoyed it. I eagerly awaited the sequel. And waited. And waited. Finally, the wait was over and Mr. Eller released Betrayed the second in the series. Now the only question was, was it worth the wait?

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: The War is over. Isabella has won, and the Talent Master is dead. Aaron Turner now lives in N’Ark, Isabella’s capital, where he mourns his murdered wife and son. All he wants is to tip a bottle, stare at walls, and recover.
But they won’t leave him alone.

The Isabellan government and slavers both want him dead. Savages look to him as their prophesied savior. His lawyer wants to control him. His neighbors and friends have been murdered, and a once dead shaman declares him a servant of her One God.

Aaron has to make things right. His honor demands it.

Dusting off his guns, he sets aside his grief, readies his Talent, and declares a one man war against a nation that has betrayed him, the Clan, and itself.(Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Mr. Eller does a proficient job with the production of Betrayed. There are instances of repeated lines, and I did notice a few places where atmospheric noises leaked in, but I doubt the average listener will have anything to complain about while listening to this story.

Grade: B+

Cast: Mr. Eller does quite a nice job reading his story and has that quality of many of the best narrators that while not overly inflecting his voice for different characters, still completely differentiates them by simply using his voice. I truly enjoyed listening to his reading of his story.

Grade: A

Story: This is a sequel. You really need to read/listen to Traitor, before listening to Betrayed. Don’t jump in on the second story. You’ll miss a lot and Betrayed will suffer for it. However, this is a extremely tight story and is done very well. Where Traitor happened on a very small scale, focusing on Aaron Turner and the small towns he lived in. Betrayed focuses on a larger stage, both in number of important characters and in the amount of traveling. Mr. Eller promises this will continue and the third book will happen on a world scale. The graphic violence and graphic imagery described did indeed make me squirm and I strongly encourage you to listen to this one out of the hearing of small children.

Grade: A

Verdict: Loved it. Much better progression of the story that I had anticipated and am greatly enjoying where this story is going. I encourage those of you that enjoy alternate universe stories to give this one a listen.

Disclosure: I’ve never met, talked or tweeted with Mr. Eller. Nothing was offered or accepted in return for this review.

Podcast Review #128: Interview with a Wizard

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published April 17, 2012

Title: Interview with a Wizard
Author: J.A. Areces
Genre: Harry Potter alternate earth magical fantasy
Released: 17 December 2007 – 20 April 2008
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: PG – 13 for violence

Like almost every other person on the planet, I was a big fan of the Harry Potter novels. I discovered them fairly early on with only the first book of the series in print and followed the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione as each new novel was released. When I stumbled across Interview with a Wizard on Podiobooks, I hoped it would have some of that magic and decided to give it a listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

On Halloween night, the greatest vacation spot in the world is about to be scared to death. A dangerous and mad wizard has escaped from jail, and there is no one who can identify him. With only seven days left before Halloween, Jesse and wizard special agent Ch-U-Ch race to solve the mystery, but time is quickly running out. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Interview with a Wizard is mostly good production interrupted by moments (episodes) of truly miserable production. The music the author chose was fine, until he changed it. Then changed it back. Then played it through a large chunk of one episode.I didn’t find it irritating enough to quit listening to the story; however, if it had occurred in episode one, it might have been a different story. The only reason I don’t grade it lower is because it isn’t consistently bad. The times it is however, I believe earns it the grade given.

Grade: C-

Cast: Mr. Areces does Interview with a Wizard as a self read. Overall, he does a fine job. Some might have a bit of difficulty with his accent, but anyone that complains about accents needs to realize that not everyone sound like them. It is obvious English isn’t Mr. Areces first language. However, he does a commendable job with the language with both the writing and the reading.

Grade: A

Story: I had a hard time with Interview with a Wizard. In some aspects it seemed terribly derivative of Harry Potter and other fantasy novels. Yet in other aspects, it seemed more of an original story that is simultaneously providing tribute to those other stories we love so much. On that account, I’ll let others provide their thoughts.

Grade: B-

Verdict: I have a hard time here. I with good conscience really don’t know whether to recommend Interview with a Wizard or not. Some will find it derivative and irritating; some will find it a fun and original tribute. I admit, I found it both. In places. In other places I will also admit that I was yelling at the story because of a few production decisions. I guess my best advice here would be to give this one the 4 ep test if you find the synopsis interesting. Oh, and by the way, yes, this is young adult safe.

Disclosure: I’ve never met Mr. Areces and I was offered nothing in return for this review.

Podcast Review #127: Dark Currents: Book 2 in the Emperor’s Edge Series

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published April 10, 2012

Title: Dark Currents
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Genre: Fantasy with Steampunk elements
Released: 21 March 2012
Located: PodiobooksiTunes
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: PG – 13 for violence

Several months ago, many regular readers of the blog will remember that I found a new podcast novel written by Lindsay Buroker and read by Starla Huchton. You might also remember I greatly enjoyed it and had few complaints concerning it. Well, that book was The Emperor’s Edge, and now I’m here to review it’s sequel, Dark Currents.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: It’s been three months since former enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon and the notorious assassin Sicarius thwarted kidnappers and saved the emperor’s life. The problem? Nobody knows they were responsible for this good deed. Worse, they’re being blamed for the entire scheme. With enforcers and bounty hunters stalking them, and the emperor nursing a personal hatred for Sicarius, it’s going to be hard to earn exoneration. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Dark Currents is produced by the same team that produced The Emperor’s Edge, Darkfire Productions. Many of the same superior production qualities that I enjoyed with The Emperor’s Edge are still present in Dark Currents. However, there are a few more background artifacts during the reading. This might have been something that was uncontrollable and impossible to remove. Regardless, they did catch my attention and momentarily pulled me out of the story. Also, in one ep the outro music appears several minutes early and leaves a gap at the end. This definitely messed up the ending of that ep, at least for me. Hopefully, this issue has been corrected.

Grade: B-

Cast: As with The Emperor’s Edge, Dark Currents is read by Starla Huchton. And once again, she does a superb job. Each of the characters retains their individual flavor from the original story and, remarkably, so do many of the periphery characters.

Grade: A

Story: You may remember that I stated during the review of The Emperor’s Edge that the steam elements seemed unnecessary. Well, in Dark Currents, Ms. Buroker has upped the steam and the need for it. This second story makes the steam elements more much necessary and common. This story takes place outside of the city for the most part. I found myself enjoying the story very much, but realized that the setting of the first book was one of the things I greatly enjoyed about it.

Grade: A

Verdict: I enjoyed Dark Currents. Immensley. I might have even enjoyed it more than the first. I love watching the relationships between the characters evolve. I hope to see the trend continue in the next several books. I heartily congratulate Ms. Buroker on the story and Ms. Huchton and the lads at Darkfire for bringing it to life.

Disclosure: I’ve never met Ms. Buroker. Since the review for EE, i have begun following her on Twitter (@goblinwriter). I was offered nothing in return for this review.

Podcast Review #126: Self Made

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published April 3, 2012

Title: Self Made
Author: M. Darusha Wehm
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 11 January 2010 – 3 April 2010
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast, ebook and dead tree

Rating: R for language, violence and adult content

Once again my trolling through podiobooks brings me to a title and author I’ve yet to read/listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Ever wish things were different?

Ivy Velasquez did, so she became someone else. In the 3D virtual world Marionette City, you can be anything you want — but everyone still knows who you are. Driven by her desire for a new life, Ivy takes her future in her hands when she makes another identity for herself. A brilliant designer, Ivy works for one of the huge firms which control the online system the world relies upon for both business and pleasure. But one day, Ivy discovers that her alternate self, Reuben Cobalt, had been murdered.

Since alternate identities are forbidden by the firms which control access to the nets and to M City, Ivy has nowhere to turn — until she finds Andersson Dexter. Part private eye, part vigilante and part cop, Dex sets out to uncover Reuben’s killer. Since the firms control almost every aspect of life, including law and order, justice for average people comes only at the hands of the outlaw organization to which Dex belongs.

Self Made is a murder mystery set in a vision of a future that seems to lurk just over the horizon. But above all, it is a story of how people strive to control their own destinies, and how that desire affects them and the people around them in ways they could never imagine.

Production: The production of Self Made isn’t stellar. Neither is it horrid. It falls firmly in the category of “okay” and there is nothing here that would make it hard to listen to. At least nothing that I remember.

Grade: B/B-

Cast: Ms. Wehm does Self Made as a self read. Her reading voice is up to the task and none of the characters are remarkable due to the poor reading or voice usage. This book has long narrative passages and Ms. Wehm’s voice is up to the task.

Grade: A-

Story: Self Made is a story set in the undetermined future. Truthfully, I don’t remember if a year was mentioned or not, but it has that sense, like a William Gibson or Philip K Dick story, of indeterminate future age about it. Meatworld contact is now severely limited and most interaction occurs in cyberspace. The synopsis reminded me enough of the previously mentioned author that I was eager to give it a try. Throw in a murder mystery and I was confident this would be an enjoyable ride.

Grade: D+\C-

Verdict: I remember as a young lad, sitting in church and hearing the pastor preach on Revelation 3:16 – “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” At the time I really didn’t understand that. Now I do. This is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. Why? Because I am so ambivalent about the work in general and the characters in specific. Ms. Wehm seems to have worked exhaustively to create a world with little emotion and succeeded only in creating a world that held no interest for this listener. Dex and the other characters felt lifeless and almost like watercolor portraits without any definition. I think the ending was supposed to have been happy. The best I can say is it didn’t have the opposite effect on me.

I also found the underlying meat world vs cyberspace issues to be almost nonsensical with the reasoning provided. (Possible spoiler alert) For example, people rarely talk to one another to the extent that a real bar is unusual and talking to someone in the meat world is extremely rare. However, people still commute to the day job in that same meat world even when everything they do is online. The explanation given was something like “so the system can keep track of your time”. I remember laughing about that at the time.

However, my biggest problem with this story is how little I remember about it after only one week. Most of this review was pulled from notes I took at the time. The poorly contrived story obviously made no impression on my long term memory. Perhaps that will be to Ms. Wehm’s advantage and I’ll completely forget about Self Made and try one of her several other books in the future.

Before ending this review, I will state that according to Ms. Wehm’s site, she has been nominated for more than one Parsec, so I quite likely am a minority in my opinion. Have you listened? Do you disagree? Let me know! (Well, you can do that even if you do agree.) Now, I need to go find my listerene.

Disclosure: I’ve never read or listened to anything by Ms. Wehm before. I was offered nothing in return for this review.

Podcast Review #125: The Mask of Inanna

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published March 26, 2012

Title: The Mask of Inanna
Author: Alicia E. Goranson
Genre: Darkish Fantasy
Released: 21 February 2012
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast only

Rating: PG for violence

As I’ve noted here before, my introduction to all things podcast was through my finding Old Time Radio shows in podcast form. I love Old Time Radio. I love podcasts. So when I stumbled upon The Mask of Inanna at Podiobooks.com and read that here was a work of podiofiction about an OTR show and cast, I immediately downloaded and began to listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: The world isn’t kind to dreamers.

Like any boy of the radio era, Leonard Allen dreamed of hitting big in New York and Hollywood; to write or host that one big show that would make everyone notice. Even after he had his chance at both, that dream still burns inside him. He’s always been able to spark the divine somewhere in his work. And he’s been noticed.

He doesn’t know the lengths people will go to take advantage of such gifts. So when the mysterious David Lewis asked him finish his classic radio drama “After Dark” after a half-century from a pirate radio station in a New England lighthouse, Len didn’t realize it wasn’t as simple as that. The truth is that Lewis served a more powerful entity than even public opinion: the goddess Inanna, Sumerian patron of love and war both.

Sometimes, a god wants a sacrifice. Sometimes, a god wants praise and devotion. But the most fickle, and the most dangerous, are those who demand a show.

Journey into the creative mind of award-winning author Alicia Goranson, as she explores the nature of power and those who covet it in a genre-busting work that blends classic fifties radio drama, tense, paranoia-fueled thrillers, and the intimate knowledge born of a career working behind-the-scenes in the performing arts. Marvel at a stunning collection of award-winning stage actors, the Post-Meridian Players, as they provide the voice and heart to a cast of over thirty. Follow Allen and Lewis as their ideological conflict threatens to consume their friends and family, a battle neither can yield.

Is magic simply a tool, or a living thing to be respected? Does man have a right to make demands of the gods? What lengths would you go to for the power to protect what you love? Whatever you believe, don’t get caught out After Dark, in THE MASK OF INANNA.

Production: Wow. I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to a work of podcast fiction with a cast this large. If I have, it was by Dan Sawyer. This is radio theatre at its finest. This is audio drama. There is no narrator. There is no need. This is Decoder Ring Theater without the humour. (Not a typo.. I WANT the u there.) The Mask of Inanna is produced by Alicia Goranson. It is a feast for the ears. Simply, the production is as good as it comes.

Grade: A+

Cast: This is a very large cast that goes by the name of The Post-Meridian Radio Players. I’m guessing they’re all professional or semi-professional actors/actresses. I’ve never heard of them before, but their mic presence was amazing. Each actor voiced his character with aplomb and created a tableau awash with colorful voices to delight the ears.

Grade: A+

Story: The Mask of Inanna is good. It’s very good. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a quibble or two with it though. First of all, due to the nature of the story, it is told in a rotating pattern of flashbacks and present day. I’ve always hated this device with a passion. I’d MUCH rather have the back story told at the beginning and then give me a “jump” to the current story line. However, I do understand why it was necessary with Mask and I can’t say that it was too much of a detriment to the story. Also, when certain effects are used on some of the supernatural characters, I felt the audio might have been a bit shrill. Small complaints in a work this big.

Grade: A-

Verdict: I do recommend that you give The Mask of Inanna a listen. It is quite a different type of podcast than most of what you will hear on Podiobooks.com. I’m guessing the majority of my readers/listeners will greatly enjoy it. Let me know!

Disclosure: To be honest, I’d never even heard of anyone connected with The Mask of Inanna before giving this story a listen. However, I will be looking for these names in the future. Nothing was offered or accepted in return for this review.

Podcast Review #124: Iron Dragons

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published March 19, 2012

Title: Iron Dragons
Author: Derek P. Gilbert
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Released: 13 October 2008 – 22 November 2008
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast and dead tree

Rating: PG for violence

Iron Dragons was another book I found simply by perusing Podiobooks.com. If this isn’t something you’ve done often in the past, I would recommend it should be something you do quite often in the future. I’ve found all sorts of new and interesting authors by doing this, and that is how I found Derek P. GIlbert, author of Iron Giants.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

Dragon pee really stinks.

With that bit of cautionary advice, master dragonslayer Davian begins his tale.

Davian is a Third Level Master of The Order, a group of men who alone have the power to battle the most fearsome creatures on all of Saramond. For thousands of years, the brothers of The Order have protected their world.

Now something has upset the balance of power between man and dragon, and Davian must face what appears to be a dragon that cannot be seen.

But Davian is losing his grip on reality — and the fate of the world rests with a stable hand, an underfed priest, and a gardener from beyond the stars. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Iron Dragons production is good. If you’re a picky listener, you probably will find something to complain about, but for most of us, this story was done sufficiently well to engage in you in the story without annoying you with artifacts or other production issues.

Grade: B+

Cast: Derek P. Gilbert does Iron Dragons as a self read, and he does it very well. If you’re a fan of Basil Sands narration and reading style, I’d recommend you give Mr. Gilbert a chance. I finished Karl’s Last Flight and immediately jumped into Iron Dragons. Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Sands have similar enough narration styles that I initially questioned whether they were both pseudonyms for the same writer; however, I am now completely comfortable with the fact that they are indeed two separate individuals.

Grade: A-

Story: This story starts out as a pretty straight forward fantasy story and I greatly enjoy it. Then it diverts into a science fiction story with elements of fantasy, and I continued to enjoy it. Perhaps not as much as I had originally, but still quite good. The synopsis is well written and I am hard pressed to try to say much more about the story without spoilers. So… well.. read the synopsis.

Grade: B

Verdict: Some of you might recognize that Iron Dragons isn’t the first book by Mr. Gilbert that I have reviewed. If you recognized this fact, you actually did better than I did. When I began checking his credentials in connection with Mr. Sands (non existent that I could see), I realized that Mr. Gilbert and written The God Conspiracy which I had reviewed sometime during 2011. I can say I enjoyed Iron Dragons more. It still might be a bit “preachy” for some, but it is well disguised in this story and I had no issue with it. Do I recommend it? Yes.

Disclosure: Nope… still nothing in the bribe department. Is this link not working????

Podcast Review #123: The Price of Friendship

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published March 12, 2012

Title: The Price of Friendship
Author: Philip “Norvaljoe” Carroll
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Released: 18 January 2012 – 14 February 2012
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast only

Rating: PG for violence

Quite a while back, long before I began writing these reviews, I was hanging out with a bunch of like minded people on Twitter and began participating in an online writing podcast by the name of Great Hites with creator and host, Jeff Hite. One of the fine folks that wrote very consistently for this podcast was a nice bloke by the name of Philip Carroll, who went by the name of Norval Joe. Through this podcast Mr. Carroll released the first chapter of his book, The Price of Friendship. Ever since, I’d been waiting to read, or listen to it. Recently, he released it as a podcast.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

Chad Baker is in love with Amy Snider, though he doesn’t know it. He thinks they’re just friends like the rest of the kids in eighth grade. But as the school year is coming to a close a mysterious boy shows up to complicate this ordinary teenage boy’s life.

Derrick claims Chad has broken his father’s proprietary hand held game player. The price to replace it can’t be paid in dollars and cents, but in lives.

Chad must travel across dimensions and learn the ways of bending time and space by manipulating sound.

The mysteries pile up as he meets the residents of the dimensions and learns the responsibilities inherited from the father who disappeared shortly after Chad’s birth. Who will help him rescue his friend, and who can he trust in a world of strangers and strange allegiances? The beautiful Amanda, four years older than Chad and a hundred miles out of his league? The manipulative recluse, Brendan Thrush? Or the dangerous and powerful Commander Lorantelle?

What will be the final price Chad must pay to prove his friendship? (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: I believe The Price of Friendship is Mr. Carroll’s first multi-ep podcast. He does an adequate job with it and I had no real complaints in listening to this story. The sound was clear and there were few distractions. I believe I remember hearing a repeated line or two, but that really isn’t that unusual.

Grade: B-

Cast: Lately, I’ve been listening to a string of self read stories. The Price of Friendship is another of these. Mr. Carroll does a very nice job of reading his story. He doesn’t go overboard on the voices or inflections, but the story flows nicely and it is easy to sit back and enjoy.

Grade: B+

Story: Mr. Carroll’s first foray into podcast fiction is a family friendly young adult tale about a teenage boy searching for a teenage girl that he has wronged. Though listeners might not have figured it out from the first episode, this story is an alternate reality, science fiction/fantasy story. There are elements of Zelazny’s Amber here, but no more than any story about alternate or parallel universes.

Grade: B

Verdict: I think most listeners that enjoy fiction with teenage characters and a YA target audience will enjoy The Price of Friendship. I did have a few issues with a couple of the plot points that were never explained to my satisfaction and I do think that a good editor could make this story even better. However, I quite enjoyed The Price of Friendship and am quite glad that Mr. Carroll completed it.

Disclosure: As mentioned above, I’ve known of Mr. Carroll for quite some time. I do not communicate with him often as he is not on Twitter nearly as much as he was previously. I was offered nothing in return for this review.