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.


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.

Podcast Review #122: Confessions of a Troll

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published March 5, 2012

Title: Confessions of a Troll
Author: Artemis Greenleaf
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Released: 20 November 2011 – 19 February 2011
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast and ebook

Rating: PG 13 for Violence and disturbing imagery

Twenty reviews back, I discovered a new story by a new author. Earthbound by Artemis Greenleaf. Not long ago I discovered that Confessions of a Troll by Artemis Greenleaf was complete at Podiobooks.com. That’s all the encouragement I needed.

So, on to the review.


“It was just a simple computer prank. How could I have known that it would almost get us all killed?”

When sixteen year old Cai Peterson poses as an online troll to relieve the boredom after being grounded for drinking at a party, he tangles with a cyberstalker who’s not only willing to make his virtual life miserable, but his real life as well. As Cai searches for the stalker, it seems like nearly everyone in his sleepy Texas town has something to hide. Surrounded by suspects, Cai has to navigate a shifting landscape of treachery and truth to uncover a hidden enemy before he and his family pay the ultimate price. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Confessions of a Troll is a pretty straight forward production. There isn’t a lot in the way of effects or audio add-ins. A simple opening piece of music that is again utilized to close. This is a production model that many follow, and for good reason: its effective for producing a clean, professional listening experience.

Unfortunately, there are multiple instances of repeated lines and other small production details that should have been fixed but were left in, while not a huge criticism, it does jar the listener.

Grade: B

Cast: This is a single read story. Those of you who have listened to Earthbound will recognize the voice of the reader. Though not credited, this is not “Mr. Greenleaf”. It doesn’t matter because he has a mellifluous voice that succeeded in bringing the story alive for this listener. I really enjoyed the pacing and flow of this reading.

Grade: A-

Story: Though listed above as a Young Adult Fantasy, this is not exactly true. I would call it simply YA with elements of fantasy. It is a story about growing up in a large family being led by (effectively) by a single parent and struggling for an identity of your own. Cai, or young hero, makes some bad decisions in this quest and, unlike in many YA stories I’ve read, this comes back to haunt him.

This is the second story I’ve heard by Artemis Greenleaf, and I can verify that I felt that this was a better written story. However, as timely as Confessions of a Troll is, I found myself drawn to Earthbound more strongly.

Grade: B

Verdict: I enjoyed Confessions of a Troll and expect many of you will too. However, I also believe that Mr. Greenleaf’s target demographic for this story would probably have a stronger reaction to Cai. I mean, whom among us doesn’t remember the desire to start driving? Confessions of a Troll does bring in a bit of a mystery when Cai begins being stalked. At first, it seemed rather evident who the stalker was, but by the climax, Mr. Greenleaf has completely muddied the waters and reveal does indeed seem natural and works well.

Shameless plug: Don’t forget, if you send an audio comment to me at Odin1eye at viewfromvalhalla dot com, I’ll include it in the podcast version of this episode next weekend (or when I receive it). You can also leave voicemail, for this or any other story, at the Valhalla Hotline simply by calling 956-307-ODIN (6346)

Disclosure: I have interviewed Artemis Greenleaf for the podcast version of the Earthbound review. Mr. Greenleaf is neither a Mr. nor a male, but that makes little difference when listening to well told story. I was offered nothing in return for this review.


Like a phoenix reborn…

•16 January, 2020 • 2 Comments

As the ashes of  the previous View from Valhalla blog come to a rest around my ankles, I can only hope that a phoenix is about to be reborn.

I’ve moved over most of my old reviews from the days when I covered podcast fiction, and I remember how much fun it was waiting for the next episode of some of my favorite stories to drop.

Well, as they say, all good things are likely to come to an end, and the era of podcast fiction looks to have died. Not saying there isn’t some still out there (Scott Sigler immediately comes to mind), but the community that I was once a part of does not exist as it once did.

Why did the age of the free fiction podcast end? Who knows. Maybe it was the surging popularity of Audible and professionally produced audiobooks. Maybe it was Podiobooks changing it’s format to Scribl. Maybe a majority of the authors figured out that the free model didn’t work for them and didn’t bring the contracts they were hoping for. Maybe the call of Patreon was too hard to resist. I personally believe it was Nathan Lowell’s decision to focus on writing so he could actual make a living and provide for his family, and in doing so would no longer be able to spend time recording his own work. I could be wrong. But as Randy Newman would harmonize.. but I don’t think so. (Say it with me, Monk post.)

Regardless of the reason for the end of podcast fiction, I would like to take a few minutes talking about it heir apparent. The audiobook.

Yes, audiobook’s have been around forever. I remember as a kid shelving Books on Tape where I worked at the local library. Later, I saw the CD version when I would go buy paperbacks at Barnes and Noble. But it wasn’t until they started becoming available as a download that I saw the market explode around me. (I have done no research on this, and I am being purely anecdotal. Your mileage may vary.) Audible changed the game.

For almost everyone but me.

I have been an avid reader since 1st grade. That aforementioned job at the library? Yeah.. I’d been looking for a job all over town. One day I was in the library and the head librarian came up to me and said, “You’re here all the time, would you like a job.” (Seriously) I love to read. I also love to hear stories when I drive. But the problem for me is, I cannot justify the cost of a subscription where I can buy several books for the price of one audiobook. I tried Audible’s trial period, and even played the game and got several months severely discounted, but being somewhat frugal (read that as extremely cheap), I just couldn’t pay the full price.

So I started listening to many “regular” podcasts. Nathan’s TOMMW, Crime Junkies, have considered Office Ladies. But nothing has filled the whole left by the books I loved to listen to as I drive.

And then BookBub sent me an email about Chirp.

Chirp is a non-subscription based audiobook seller that has a much smaller catalog than audible, but it is still fairly robust. The great thing about Chirp is that they have a constantly rotating section of books that are severely discounted. Some as low as 99¢. Yes, they are in a proprietary format and you do need their player (available for both iOS and android), but to be honest, it would surprise me more if you didn’t.

I have purchased quite a few books over the last six months or so. Everything from The Bad Seed by March (99¢) to Long Road to Mercy by Baldacci ($4.99).

I’ve also paid attention and Apple’s Books has a good selection of audiobooks at decent prices (tho you have to look for them).

So, with a plethora of stories at my back, I am going to try to get back to the reviewing game. I hope to focus on many independent authors. Currently I am completing Lindsay Buroker’s Agent of the Crown Series and will likely start with them.

I will state now, as previously, that if you are a content creator and want an honest review, let me know. If you can provide me with a copy of what you want reviewed, I will give you my honest opinion. The backlog of my podcast reviews should be a fair example of what you might expect. I will not promise review dates, but will promise anything submitted. Audiobooks will likely be reviewed well before ebooks.

Outside of creator provided material, I’ll be reviewing whatever I’m currently listening to, and probably more rarely, whatever I’m reading. I hope you’ll join me for the ride!


Podcast Review #121: Borrowed Time

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published February 27, 2012

Title: Borrowed Time
Author: Keith Hughes
Genre: Time Travel Science Ficiton
Released: 15 July 2009 – 9 September 2009
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: R for violence

If you don’t follow me on Twitter, I would think by simply reading (or listening) to these reviews you would know that I’m a big Twitter junkie. I follow a great bunch of people. Creative people. Talented people. Little did I know that some of them must be shy. @edgizmo, otherwise known as Keith Hughes, has been in my stream for a while and yet I had to find out on my own that he had released a science fiction time travel story well over two years ago. If you have a work of podiofiction and you read these reviews, please make sure I am aware of it.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Ness Relevant is living on borrowed time. Molecular implosion, cellular degeneration, and dangerous men are but a few of the perils faced by the friendly and unassuming forensic photographer. His quiet bachelorhood is interrupted when he receives an innocent looking device in the mail from a friend and former college professor. Ness unexpectedly finds himself embroiled in events driven by his friend’s success. This device is the focal point of a struggle that could overturn the whole world should Ness or his friend’s invention fall prey to greedy men. Before his time runs out Ness must travel back to an uncomfortable past to prevent an unthinkable future. (Stolen from iTunes)

Production: Mr. Hughes did a fine job on the production of Borrowed Time. A single piece of music was to open and close each ep. There weren’t a lot of production elements in between. The audio was not quite what I would call “crisp and clear” all the way through. I am not sure what software Mr. Hughes used to produce his book, but the sound is just a bit distorted, as if the noise filter was set a bit too high allowing distortion around the edges. However, this was at a level that I did not find distracting and was easily able to forget about it during the listening of the episodes.

Grade: B

Cast: Mr. Hughes does quite a nice self read on Borrowed Time. He does a few accents and intones each character in a unique manner. Each character lives on its own merit and Mr. Hughes does an equally commendable job on the narrated passages.

Grade: A-

Story: Borrowed Time uses the premise that time travel is possible but limited and must adhere to certain principals that I had not heard in previous time travel scenarios. Our hero, Ness, must not only accept the challenging position he has been thrust into, but master time travel in order to make these principals work in his favor.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I enjoyed Borrowed Time very much. Mr. Hughes stayed away from the obvious overplayed tropes in most places and made me think about what possibilities his protagonist had to work with within the constraints he placed upon him. Any story that makes me think about the possible outcomes instead of just taking me along for the ride has done an admirable job. Mr. Hughes did exactly that with Borrowed Time.

Disclaimer: As I stated at the top of this review, I follow Mr. Hughes on Twitter (@edgizmo). He is a pleasant person to have in your stream. As I stated however, he never even Borrowed Time to me, let alone offer me anything in return for a review.

Podcast Review #120: Karl’s Last Flight

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Title: Karl’s Last Flight
Author: Basil Sands
Genre: Military Action
Released: 2 July 2007 – 14 July 2007
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: podcast, ebook, audiobook at Audible
Rating: R for violence

Back in Review 109, I discovered Basil Sands when I reviewed his story, 65 Below. Or, at least, I thought that is when I discovered him. Turns out, I had started one of his podcasts way back in 2007, and didn’t get through it. I enjoyed 65 Below so much that I searched for any other works when by Mr. Sands. I was a bit surprised when Karl’s Last Flight showed up, but knew I had to give it another chance.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Karl Alexander had been an adrenaline junky for twenty five years. Whether flying Harriers in the Marines, piloting the shuttle for NASA, or as the chief astronaut for StrataCorp Space Flight his happiness was only found when he hit five Gs. But when a series of minor mishaps sends his ship crashing into the desert of an unknown country, Karl finds a new kind of adrenaline rush as he is swept into a raging torrent of the world at the edge of war. Spies, insurgents, secret police, and an infamous Saudi millionaire terrorist all threaten to make his next flight, his last.

Come and get your fix of hardcore, adrenaline laced action that’ll make your heart race and your muscles tense. Basil Sands brings you the podcast novel that started it all.

When you listen, be sure to put your tray table in the upright and locked position and fasten your safety belt… it’s going to be a wild ride. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Regular readers of this blog, or listeners of the podcast, might remember that I gave Mr. Sands an A for production on 65 Below. I stated during the review that it was rare to find a story that had consistent high quality production throughout. Unfortunately, Mr. Sands proved my point with Karl’s Last Stand.

By necessity, I listen to all works of podiofiction through my earbuds (and if you’re looking for a very good earbud, I recommend any of the earbuds manufactured by the House of Marley.) It is the only way I feel I can provide a consistent listening environment needed to give a baseline for these reviews. The first several eps of Karl’s Last Flight made me regret this necessity.

The clarity and superb cleanliness of my earlier experience with Mr. Sands’ work left me a bit perplexed initially, but a quick check showed me that I had listened to the stories in reverse order to the way they had been produced. Karl’s Last Flight was Mr. Sands first foray into podcasting, and you can hear his learning curve throughout the story.

During the first 1/2 of the story, there is a number of pops and clicks whenever Mr. Sands enunciated with gusto. I don’t know if he changed equipment, added a pop filter or simply developed his mic technique during the period he produced this podcast, but by the end, the sound was much much nicer than when he began.

Grade: C+

Cast: Mr. Sands is a remarkable voice talent. He does a very nice self read. I truly hope that he never decides to do a full voice production, because I enjoy his style of reading so much. All of his characters are voiced uniquely. Again, I cannot say there are many self reads I’d put up against Mr. Sands.

Grade: A

Story: Karl’s Last Flight is a military action novel whose central character is rather a reluctant warrior. Karl Alexander, private astronaut, had no intentions of ending up on the ground in Iran. But that  is what happened, and now he must get out. Once again, Mr. Sands uses a here again, there again approach to providing us with Karl’s history while also telling us about what is happening “currently”. I greatly enjoyed both story lines and knowing more of the characters backstory made the story more interesting to me than it probably would have been with only the current storyline.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I enjoyed Karl’s Last Flight and listened to it very quickly, finding excuses to plug in those earbuds and get just a bit more heard whenever I could. That being said, I can’t say I enjoyed it quite as much as 65 Below. It was good, but to me, it was just a notch or two below Mr. Sands later book.

That being said, I still prefer a sequential story and would love to have the earlier storyline told in one flashback near the beginning and then focus on the current storyline. I know I’m probably one of the few, but that is indeed my preference.

Karl’s Last Flight wil provide any military action junky with hours well spent, and I do indeed recommend it highly.

I feel I need to explain why I didn’t finish this podcast back in 2007. At the time, I was looking for a science fiction story. I loved the first ep with our hero and his annoying passenger realizing that they had a drastic problem. However, upon landing on Earth, I realized this was not a science fiction story. Though this is true, don’t let that fact of genre stop you from subscribing. If you like a story that is well told and decently produced, you’ll enjoy Karl’s Last Flight.

Disclaimer: Mr. Sands tweets occasionally under the name @alaskabasil and seems to be a “good joe”. I have spoken to him a few times and he provided time to be interviewed in the podcast version of my review of 65 Below. However, he has not sent me a moose or anything else in return for this review. (mmmmmm…. moose….. )

Podcast Review #119: Heku

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published February 13, 2012

Title: Heku
Author: T.M. Nielsen
Genre: vampire love story
Released: 28 July 2011
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast and free ebook available through all the regular channels
Rating: R for violence and adult content

Occasionally, I get a query from someone on my Twitter stream from a friend asking if I’ve listened to a particular story they’re trying to decide whether to listen or not. This is exactly the case with Heku. I was asked about it by Micahel Simpkins. I thought I do him a favor and give it a listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Chevalier has never been told no. For thousands of years he’s sat on the Equites Council, ruling body of his heku faction, and for thousands of years his every order has been followed immediately and without question, until now.

One of the most important rules of the heku, is that no one is to feed from unwilling donors. Following a tip that a young mortal woman is being brutally attacked by his own kind, he seeks her out and immediately begins to experience unnatural feelings for the woman.

Emily, a beautiful rancher from Montana, has spent her entire life being violently attacked by beings she assumed were vampires. It isn’t until she meets Chevalier that she learns of her startling family history, a history that immediately throws her into the volatile world of the heku.

In a bid to protect her, Chevalier moves Emily into his isolated coven, which marks her as a prime target for the Valle and the Encala, enemy factions of the heku. Emily fights to fit into the militaristic world of the heku as her head-strong personality and independent ways turn their perfectly balanced world on end. She immediately befriends Kyle, a heku from Chevalier’s coven, and together they find Emily a niche among the immortal.

Emily’s violent past interferes with Chevalier’s plans, and he must first undo what her abusive ex-husband did before he can convince her how much he cares about her, and how much she’s worth to his faction. Chevalier’s growing feelings for Emily are unnatural to his kind, and must be hidden from the rest of the Equites Faction if he’s to remain a formidable part of their Council.

His jealous tendencies rage as Emily gets closer to Kyle, and both heku struggle to make her realize how important she is to the faction and how endangered she now is. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of Heku is nothing special, but it isn’t terrible either. It is simply the story, without any layering or added effects. On the positive side, there are no environmental noises or repeated lines. Nothing to get in the way of, or add to the story. Each episode opens and closes with a sampling of a song that the author credits in each ep.

Grade: B/B-

Cast: Heku is a self read by the author. The author does an adequate job of voicing her characters. I have no idea of the age of the Ms. Nielsen, though she sounds relatively young. This is to her advantage as her heroine is in her early 20’s and all the rest of the characters are ageless.

Grade: B

Story: Emily is a young woman who has many wonderful qualities. She is breathtakingly beautiful with red hair and green eyes. She is slender and athletic and an accomplished equestrian and animal lover. She is also vampire bait. Her blood draws vampires. The sweetness of it is intoxicating. She believes this is normal and everyone experiences much the same. She believes her abusive husband can turn them to ash, when in reality she does this herself. Yes. She is indeed special.

Grade: F or a charitable D-

Verdict: If you’re a fan of Twilight (yes, Mae.. you ,^) ) you might as well download this now. Ms. Nielsen either met that perfect storm of ideas with Ms. Meyer in isolation, or she was greatly inspired by her. Seriously, Twilight fans, download this one now. If you don’t like Heku it will probably be because you feel Ms. Nielsen ripped off your favorite series. However, Twilight fans, you might as well quit reading this review now.

For everyone else, this is the most miserable story I’ve ever heard in podiobook form. The characters are derivative. They are ridiculously and unashamedly hedonistic to the extent that they manipulate and abuse the ones they reportedly love.

There are no werewolves here, but that didn’t stop Ms. Nielsen from throwing in an (entirely unneeded) third person into the romantic tension she tried to create. I say tried, because it didn’t work for me. I truly hated all the characters and found myself yelling at the audio in my ears “DIE YOU IDIOTS DIE”. Yes, to the heroes. Blessedly, the story is relatively short at only 16 episodes. That is 8 hours of my life (at least) that I would have rather spent at the dentist.

Emily is content to be manipulated and believes her abuse to be her fault. Wait. Maybe that isn’t her fault. Maybe her idiot of a husband Keith beat that belief into her. Well then, it would be the duty of the new love interest and boss Heku to help her discover her own worth. Well, he doesn’t. He commits further acts of abuse on her person in several situations where she displeases him. She is weak. She has no value except what he gives her. If Bella made you angry, Emily is going to piss you off.

And yes, I do realize the Heku aren’t truly vampires. They’re just immortals that were once human (well, most anyway), live on human blood, dislike sunlight, and possess super human speed (though they can’t outrun a horse). Obviously, not truly vampires at all. What was I thinking?

Heku is the first of eight (yes, really) books in the Heku series. All of them can be found on Amazon.com. I see the second is also released as a podiobook.

Mike, as penance you should listen to both of them. With your daughter. I expect an in depth character analysis of each.

The rest of you non-Twilight fans, remember to stay away from this one.

If you loved Heku tell me why. Warning though, I will debate this one on anything other than personal preference. And of course, that is primarily why I hated it.

Disclosure: I’ve never had any contact with Ms. Nielsen. Nothing was received in return for this review.

Podcast Review #118: Babcock

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published February 6, 2012

Title: Babcock
Author: Joe Cottonwood
Genre: non genre young adult fiction
Released: 26 August 2009 – 27 September 2009
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast (and a very expensive paperback at Amazon)
Rating: PG-13 for Young Adult content matter

Quite a while back I reviewed Joe Cottonwood’s Clearheart. I enjoyed it, though it has none of the elements of speculative fiction that I normally find myself gravitating towards. Recently, I wanted something light, not too long and perhaps a bit mellow. I found Babcock on the Staff Picks section of Podiobooks and decided to give it a try.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: A fat boy with the blues. A skinny girl who runs marathons. And a con man on the lam. If you liked Clear Heart, or if you liked Boone Barnaby, you’ll like this one, too. The themes are a bit more grown up than Boone Barnaby, but it’s still family-friendly for reading. For any age it’s my brand of writing: humane, down to earth, good-natured, sometimes funny and sometimes sad.

Babcock plays electric guitar. He’s writing songs – and trying to figure out the true meaning of rock and roll – but he keeps coming up with the blues. Babcock is trying to start a friendship with a girl, Kirsten, who is as different as can be: Kirsten is skinny; she hates insects. And she’s white. Babcock is fat; he speaks to dragonflies. And he’s black.

In some ways Kirsten is like a dragonfly: quick and bright. She never walks; she runs everywhere. Her family has money. Her mother thinks Babcock is a little too “rough.” Opposites attract. But can they make music?

Babcock’s family is struggling for money. Then Babcock’s Uncle Earl moves in – and he moves into Babcock’s bedroom with Babcock’s menagerie of animals (including Martin Luther Kingsnake.). Uncle Earl is a con man on the lam. Uncle Earl used to play drums for Chuck Berry. Babcock wants to be Chuck Berry. Uncle Earl wants to coach a Little League baseball team – as a “business venture.” Babcock hates baseball. Babcock wants to learn “charm” from Uncle Earl. Uncle Earl wants to learn how to live a normal life and marry a normal woman – who happens to be Babcock’s schoolteacher. Maybe Babcock and Uncle Earl have something to teach each other.

Babcock’s father runs a car repair shop. At night, in the kitchen, he draws cartoons. Some day he wants to quit repairing cars and sell his cartoons. But nobody’s buying.

Kirsten is hotheaded. Sometimes she needs protection – from herself. Her mother tries to protect her – from Babcock. For help with his problems Babcock goes to an unlikely source: his Uncle Earl, the man with good charm and bad behavior. But the biggest lessons from Uncle Earl – and, perhaps, from rock and roll – are not what anyone expected.

In short, it’s about character. About making music. About family, hard work, about love and loss. Sometimes there’s laughter. Sometimes the lights are off in the kitchen; papa’s got blues. But always life is rich and deeply moving… (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of both of the books I’ve listened to by Mr. Cottonwood are bare on frills, but high on value. There isn’t a lot of extras going on here, but what there is, is good quality recordings and an interesting premise where characters in the book are writing songs and you will hear parts of those songs sung between chapters. I enjoyed this approach and found it worked very well for this story.

Grade: B+

Cast: The author is joined by a small cast of voices in making Babcock come to life. Listeners of Clearheart will recognize at least one female voice although there may be more that were in both. My favorite character voice was the actress voicing Kirsten. Yes, the name was stated. No, I don’t remember her name. If you know, let me know and I’ll update the review. All the voices were done separately, or at least it sounds that way, but most of them sound pretty good none the less.

Grade: B

Story: Babcock is the story of all of us at one or another point in our life. It happened to us, or someone we knew. Perhaps we just heard about it happening to someone else. It is a slice of everyday life with all the anger, bitterness, humor and love that we have all experienced. In this case, it happens to a 13 year old boy named Babcock that lives in the town of San Puerco (Saint Pig? If there really is a San Puerco is CA, someday, I’m moving there). But it could have happened in my hometown, or maybe yours.

Grade: A+

Verdict: It has been a long time since I’ve heard a non speculative fiction story that I have enjoyed as much as I enjoyed this one. Throw into the mix that it is a young adult title that I could share with my eldest child and I can only say, listen. Especially if you have a young awkward teen around the house. Listen. Even if you don’t. Listen.

Disclosure: I don’t believe Mr. Cottonwood is on Twitter. If he is, I’ve never seen a mention or a tweet from him. I wasn’t offered anything, not even a broken down MG given “as is”, in return for this review.