Podcast Review #109: 65 Below

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published November 28, 2011

Title: 65 Below
Author: Basil Sands
Genre: Military Action
Released: 12 March 2008 – 4 April 2008
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: podcast and ebook
Rating: R for violence

Lately, I’ve been seeking out new authors. It isn’t because I’m tired of my old authors, it is simply because I am caught up on most of the podiobooks written by authors I have known for any amount of time. I regularly scour Podiobooks.com story synopsis looking for something that will catch my attention. And that is exactly what 65 Below by Basil Sands did.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: After twenty years hunting terrorists under orders to “render harmless”, USMC Master Sergeant Marcus Orlando Johnson, Mojo to his friends, settles into a quiet rural retirement on his childhood home in the Alaskan backwoods. But the idyllic retirement is shattered when Marcus comes across soldiers of America’s staunchest enemy who are about to unleash a nightmarish biological weapon on the world from the most unexpected of places.

With the help of his ex-fiancee, the beautiful Korean born State Trooper Lonnie Wyatt, and the chance reunion of his old special operations buddy Harley Wasner, they race to stop a potentially devastating terrorist attack with worldwide implications but even nature is against them as the temperatures plummet to 65 below.(Stolen from the Author’s site.. if there is a longer synopsis somewhere, I couldn’t find it.)

Production: Rarely do I give A’s for production. Why? Simply because so few podcasts are consistently able to maintain a high level of all the production elements they choose to use. I don’t say this as biting criticism. As I’ve said before, I grade myself a C in production (and use myself as the rule to which all others are measured) in the podcast version of these reviews. It is the simple truth as I hear it. Some podcasts are “mostly” superior with an ep or two with issues. Some are the reverse with only an occasional superior ep. I am happy to say that I truly have nothing negative to say about the production of 65 Below. This podcast is crystal clear and all the production elements (consisting mainly of a well told story) are superb. There is very little “hiss” and absolutely no environmental noises. Truly, a great sound.

Grade: A

Cast: I’ve never met Basil Sands. I don’t think I’d even heard his name before listening to 65 Below. However, I won’t forget his name in the future, and if I were to ever need voices for a podcast, I would be calling Mr. Sands. Simply stated, I’ve never heard self read done quite this well before. While most of the voices used are easily able to be identified as Mr. Sands, they are varied enough to make you wonder if they were electronically manipulated. However, I don’t believe they were simply because they are too perfect. Even the female voices, included one of a 12 year old girl, seemed to be relatively easy for Mr. Sands to nail. I simply have never heard a self read done this well.

Grade: the rare A+

Story: 65 Below will appeal to those amongst us that enjoy Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum or W.E.B. Griffin have found an author to listen to in Basil Sands. He nails the military genre and creates a compelling story without being too pedantic.

Grade: A

Verdict: I greatly enjoyed this story and will be looking forward to following up on more of Mr. Sands’ stories. About the only thing about 65 Below that I didn’t enjoy was the chapters alternating between the current time stream and a set of flashbacks that are used to set up a thread in the current story line. I enjoyed both story lines equally, I just would have preferred each to have been told sequentially.

Disclaimer: I’ve never met or tweeted with Mr. Sands but after listening to this podcast, I did a bit of research and discovered he’s a broadcaster by trade and nails the setting because he does indeed live in Alaska.

Podcast Review #108: Asunder

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published November 21, 2011

Title: Asunder
Author: John Mierau
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 6 September 2011 – 10 November 2011
Located: iTunesAuthors Site
Formats Available: podcast and ebook
Rating: R for  violence

Mr. Mierau has turned into a drug I just can’t quit. With Asunder, Mr. Mierau has joined the rarified status of having been reviewed three times on this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I like John, but there are no free reviews here. In fact, I had two other podcasts waiting to be reviewed when I started listening to Asunder. They will continue to wait a bit longer as this review would not be put off.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:  Asunder is the first in a series after a war between worlds. The invaders are gone & new Orders clash as humanity rises from the ashes…but are the aliens gone for good? (Stolen from the Author’s site.. if there is a longer synopsis somewhere, I couldn’t find it.)

Production: With Asunder, Mr. Mierau has surprisingly shown growth as a podcast producer. This is really only surprising when you consider how good his podcasts all ready sounded. It is my belief that Asunder has the cleanest production of the lot and is quite impressive. There is only one issue I have with Mr. Mierau’s production at this point. And it really has nothing to do with Asunder itself. Mr. Mierau employs what I refer to as an überfeed. This, by my definition, is a single feed that contains all of his content. Many people might like this. With an author and podcaster like Mr. Mierau, I understand. However, this is my issue (and yes, this may sound a bit hypocritical considering what I do). I don’t have time to listen to much except for podiofiction these days. I have to be very careful about which interviews and shows I allow on my feed in order to complete the podcasts in time to get these reviews out. I’m not complaining. I choose to do this. However, when a podcaster utilizes an überfeed, I end up getting a lot of content I’d rather not. Yes, I can simply delete it, and I often do, however, I would encourage authors to go ahead and create a separate feed as well if they have the time. I know I’d appreciate it, and I can’t believe I would be the only one.

Grade: A-

Cast: There are few podcasters out there that do an action story self read as good as Mr. Mierau. His timing and delivery are spot on. I love listening for his strange Canadian pronunciations (just kidding) and really enjoy the rhythm he creates in his delivery (not kidding at all).

Grade: the rare A+

Story: I have no idea why someone didn’t think about doing this before. Mr. Mierau has taken the classic story, The War of the Worlds and extrapolated it out to its logical next events. With the wealth of alien technology littering the planet, surely someone is going to try to take advantage of it.

Mr. Mierau continues with the story taking place in the 1890’s. I find the incongruous effect of having a story written in an age gone by with futuristic weapons and technology to be quite interesting.

Grade: A

Verdict: If you liked The War of the Worlds (the book, not one of the many movies), I heartily suggest you give Asunder the listen it deservers. If you have never read The War of the Worlds, I still believe you could jump right into this book with little consequence. Mr. Mierau’s characters are well done and it is easy to sympathize with them. Listen. You’ll be glad you did. At least.. until the final scene. Remember, this is the first in a series. You’ve been warned.

Disclaimer: Mr. Mierau is an online friend. I’ve never met him, but I respect his writing and enjoy it greatly. We’ve done favors for each other on occasion, though nothing that included the elicit trading of Norwegian Pygmy Hedgehogs. Really. I swear. This review, however, is not a favor and was neither asked for nor delivered for remuneration of any type.

Podcast Review #107: Serve it Cold

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published November 14, 2011

Title: Serve it Cold
Author: Ronnie Blackwell
Genre: Mystery
Released: 24 May 2007 – 21 December 2007
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: podcast only I believe
Rating: R for language, violence, adult situations and drug use

Serve it Cold has been on my reading list for quite some time. How long? I don’t’ really know. Who recommended it? I haven’t a clue. Why did it take me so long to listen? Well, my preference on most days is speculative fiction of one type or another. Mostly fantasy (in all of its many incarnations) and science fiction. Occasionally though, I enjoy a good mystery, adventure, military action or other type of non spec fic work. I have to be in the right mood for these though, and even when I am, then I quite often have a favorite author or series, such as Dan Sawyer’s Clarke Lantham series, that I choose to fill my time with. So, when I finally got around to listening to Serve it Cold much of the original reasons that I had placed it in my queue had slipped my mind.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:  Detective Jonny C. Speed’s life can’t get much better. He’s booked into the French Quarter’s most luxurious guesthouse, and his day job as convenience store manager is 104 miles behind him in Catherine, Mississippi. He’s already taken care of one pro-bono missing persons job since he’s been in New Orleans, and his paying client’s cheating wife is a beautiful and very accommodating exhibitionist. Are things too good to be true? Of course they are. Jonny starts to worry when his client turns up dead, but when the suspects start dropping, Jonny and his crack team of beauty queens, recovering addicts, professional athletes, computer hackers, and pampered dogs find themselves caught in a twisted scheme of revenge that threatens to turn the town of Catherine inside out.  (stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: Dancing Cat Studios is credited with the production of this book. I love a story that introduces me to new experiences outside of the simply the story itself. Serve it Cold had some really, really terrific music in it. The theme was sung by Michelle Malone. After having located some of her music on iTunes, I can say that I’m now a fan; and I owe that to Serve it Cold. The story is told as a full cast audiobook with equal parts narration and dialogue. All voices are at appropriate levels and sound very good. There is a pretty constant sound effects layer that always enhances, and never disrupts, the story. There are few stories I’ve listened to that exude the slick production qualities that Serve it Cold does. I have no idea who Dancing Cat Studios is, (nor did I bother to google it) but this cat has some serious moves!

One final production note. Long time readers of this blog know full well the disdain I hold for “The story so far”. Well, this one got me. It got me good. I was listening to episode 7 and asking myself why each episode since ep 2 had started with a strange non-character phone call to another non-character. All they did was gossip about everything that had all ready happened. Yeah. I’m slow. I admit it. Guys, if you’re going to do a “The story so far”, do it like Tee Morris did with Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword, or as it is done here. Truly, while still not needed, at least I didn’t find myself seething during the retelling of the previous episodes cognizant points.

Grade: A+

Cast: The cast for this story is rather large. I admit I’ve never heard of most of them with the exception of Paul Fischer (whom is credited with a small role). However, this truly could be because I simply haven’t heard the “right” stories, because this merry band of voice actors knows how to get into character and have a bit of fun with a story. I enjoyed each voice and never really found myself distracted by a character that didn’t seem to fit. Kudos to all voices involved.

Grade: A

Story: Serve it Cold is a pretty straightforward mystery. An unusual event happens in the first ep which turns out to be tied into a case that the lead character is drug into along the way. The story moves back and forth between a “small” city (hey, I grew up in a town of less than 5,000) in Mississippi and New Orleans. There are the prerequisite number of larger than life supporting characters and the obligatory hidden backstory that so many mysteries seem to carry.

Grade: C

Verdict: I enjoyed listening to Serve it Cold simply because of the production. I usually put up with production being subpar when the story is good. I rarely put up with a mediocre story because it is “fun to listen to”. Serve it Cold was one of these for me. Mr. Blackwell wrote a story that had, to me, a more interesting back story than the one he wrote. I looked, on three occasions no less, to verify that this was not the second or third book in a series. If it is, I never found that information. Don’t get me wrong, this story does stand on its own, but the listener still might feel (I know I did) that some of the characters mentioned are much more developed than a non seen character usually is.

I also had issues with one of the larger plot points in the story. *Spoiler alert: At the beginning of the story a rather large amount of an unusually potent strain of marijuana is introduced into the storyline. Throughout the story we follow this drug around Mississippi and New Orleans. Before the end of the story however, it seems that everyone loses interest in where it came from, why it happened to make its way to small city Mississippi and any repercussions any characters might have had because of it. The epilogue also felt a bit forced to me, trying to force the listener to accept rather than just allowing us along for the ride. This is really too bad, because although the drug and adult content was more than I needed, Serve it Cold started with an interesting concept that deserved a better implementation. I believe that a good editor could help Mr. Blackwell take this story, which I felt was no more than average, and help him turn it into a very good mystery novel.

Disclaimer: I do not follow Ronnie Blackwell on Twitter. I do not recognize or follow any of the voice talent either, with the exception of Mr. Paul Fischer. I was not asked to provide a review of this novel and received nothing in return.

Podcast Review #106: Prophecy of Swords

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published November 7, 2011

Title: Prophecy of Swords
Author: M. H. Bonham
Genre: Fantasy
Released: 11 April 2005 – 10 September 2007
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: podcast, dead tree, ebook
Rating: PG for violence and mild language

Prophecy of Swords is another story I picked up by perusing Podiobooks shelves. I noticed that it was quite a long story and was anxious to hear a good long epic fantasy.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: To End A War Nearly a thousand years ago a great warrior named Lachlan sought to unify his people, using the power of the Three Swords of Destiny. Before his victory, Lachlan was killed by his trusted friend, Allarun. Now, Allarun is still in power but haunted by dreams of Lachlan’s death curse: that Lachlan would return to avenge his death. Allarun’s decision is to destroy the very people Lachlan tried to unite. Only two men have the power to stop the slaughter. Romarin, the last of a line of kings, and a half-blood mercenary named Shadowhelm. One may be destined to be Lachlan, but can they unlock the secret to Lachlan’s power before Allarun kills them? (stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: For regular readers of this blog it should come as no surprise when I admit that I look for things to like in each story that I listen too. It isn’t that I won’t point out issues, but I also like to find the good that almost every story has. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to like in the production for Prophecy of Swords. There are a lot of episodes in this book. Probably at least twice as many as their needs to be. Each episode contains one chapter from the book, and the chapters are short. Instead of combining chapters, the author made the decision to keep the episode content short. However, the episodes might be twice as long as the content of the chapter. The author always does a fairly lengthy intro, and even more before closing, so a 15 minute ep can (and does) occasionally offer less than 5 minutes of story. If that weren’t enough to drive the casual listener away, the audio quality of the book is very poor. There are manyartifacts from the author’s recording environment that made their way into the production, as well as the music being much too loud.

All of these elements produce a listening environment that is not friendly and severely limits the listeners enjoyment.

If there is one saving grace about the production, it is that this podcast was started in 2005. That is very early on. However, as much as the story is appreciated, I doubt more than a rough 10% make it beyond the 1st episode.

Grade: D-/F

Cast: Ms. Bonham reads her own story with A Prophecy of Swords, and she does only an adequate job of it. There is very little in the way of inflection or voice cues to let you know whom is talking. Some might describe the reading as somewhat wooden. I believe that to be a fair description as well.

Grade: C-

Story: Prophecy of Swords is truly an epic fantasy. This is a big story that a listener might become lost in. Not because of the impressive tapestry, but due to the similarity of names and places with other epic fantasies you might have read. It isn’t a bad story, and in some ways it is rather unique. However, is it unique enough to allow the audience to truly enjoy? If you’ve listened, you tell me.

Grade: C

Verdict: Pass. Unless you are desperate for an epic fantasy that is overly drawn out and boils down poorly, I can’t recommend that you take the many hours of effort to listen to Prophecy of Swords. I’m not saying some won’t enjoy it, but for me, the story wasn’t worth the effort.

Disclaimer: I do not follow Ms. Bonham on twitter, nor to the best of my knowledge does she follow me.

Podcast Review #105: Time Stryder

•14 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published October 31, 2011

Title: Time Stryder
Author: J.W. Kingsley
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 23 August 2011 – 13 October 2011
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: podcast only I believe
Rating: PG for violence and mild language

TIme Stryder by J.W. Kingsley is another one of those stories I’d never heard of before seeing Evo Terra tweet that it was complete and available at Podiobooks.com. I admit, I knew I was going to subscribe almost before even reading the synopsis, because with a title like that, the story simply had to be about time travel, right? Well, being a big fan of the new Doctor Who, time travel is intriguing me more than at any other time of my life. Granted, this story wasn’t penned by S. Moffat, but I could hope for something just as good, right?

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:  Arthur George Edward Stryder, or George as he prefers to be called, is out of place and time, and it’s a struggle for him to keep from going out of his mind as well. He is eleven years old, and ill prepared for what lies ahead when he washes up on a beach in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, in the summer of 2011.

Alicia Henderson, who is eleven years old herself, finds George, battered, unconscious, and barely alive, and as soon as she touches his hand, a bond is formed. They find themselves adrift in time, but the places they go are oddly disconnected, and the people they see are unable to see them, yet it seems like a grand adventure nonetheless. However, the pull of reality is strong, and George must learn to adapt to his new home in our world, unable to understand how he got here.

It might seem that the strangeness is behind him, but George soon learns that there are still malicious things in the darkness, and they are hunting him. They are relentless, and they can move in and out of reality as easily as a stray thought…  (stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of Time Stryder was good. There were lots of things going on and for the most part, none of them interfered for with the telling of the story. Although that would seem like a simple leap of logic, I’m always surprised when people don’t get it right. Overall, Mr. Kingsley get’s it right and each episode should provide you with nothing that will be detrimental to your ears. That begin said, I believe a good portion of the way into the story, the closing music changed, and then later changed back. To be honest, I might be wrong about this, but I don’t think so.

Grade: B

Cast: Mr. Kingsley does Time Stryder as a self read. He does an overall fine job with it too. A good number of the characters are British and he does a good British accent. However, he doesn’t do an adult female voice well. Not a huge criticism, as I would not even consider trying, but it should be noted.

Grade: B

Story: I admit, I don’t read reviews before listening to a story. Or before writing my own review. Which generally means I don’t ready very many reviews about podiobooks. I have no idea if one of the reviews mentions that this book should be billed as YA, but if it is in the description anywhere, I am sure I missed it. However, that far from makes this a bad thing in my mind. I enjoy a well written story, and by the inclusion of so many children’s stories into our heritage, I’m far from the only one. Time Stryder isn’t only about tweeners and young teenagers, it is well suited for that audience.

Grade: B+

Verdict: Even if you don’t have any young adults lounging around the house instead of working in order to provide you with an extra present for your birthday or.. ooops.. sorry… um..

Take 2

Even if you don’t have any young adults in your household, if you enjoy stories where young adults play leading roles, and if you enjoy some of the thought that always goes into a time travel story, you’ll probably enjoy Time Stryder.

Disclaimer: I do follow Mr. Kingsley on Twitter (@timestryder), but as he mentions in one outro, he really doesn’t do social media that well. (Hey, I didn’t say it!) I’ve never conversed with him, and no one paid or bribed me for this review. (I really need to get a PR department onto this remuneration thing.)

Podcast Review #104: Beneath

•14 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published October 24, 2011

Title: Beneath
Author: Jeremy Robinson
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 7 February 2010 – 22 April 2010
Located: iTunesPodiobooksAuthor’s Site
Formats Available: dead tree, podcast, ebook

Occasionally, I simply go to Podiobooks.com and browse through the stories looking for something I’ve never heard. This might not be the best lead in for a story, but the truth is the truth. Browsing the racks is exactly how I stumbled across Jeremy Robinson’s Beneath. It sounded, from the synopsis, like a story that would be quite enjoyable.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:  Three thousand years after a chunk of iron the size of Khufu’s pyramid collides with Europa, Jupiter’s sixth moon, an asteroid borne of the collision crashes into Earth’s Arctic ice shelf carrying extraterrestrial microbial life. The first man to come into contact with the microbes hears voices—and then dies.

After determining the meteorite originated from Europa, the Global Exploratory Corporation sends oceanographer and biologist, Kathy Connelly, and her crew to the moon aboard the Surveyor, an experimental spacecraft. They are charged with the task of melting through miles of ice to the hidden ocean beneath, where the search for alien microorganisms begins. But a startling discovery awaits them on the surface of Europa.


Vast fields of red, plant-like organisms fill the cracks crisscrossing the moon’s surface, surviving on nutrients welling up from the waters below. Intoxicated by thoughts of what might lie beneath, Connelly and her crew activate the Thermal Exploratory System and melt through the ice—toward a world that does not want to be found, toward a force that will do anything to make sure they never leave.

They search for life. They find death.(stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: Beneath is put together quite well. I enjoyed listening to the story. The audio was neither to loud nor to quiet. The quality of the recording was better than average and the editing was well done. Sometimes, it is best to just not notice the production. That means it didn’t interfere with the story. This is the case with Beneath.

Grade: B+

Cast: Beneath is a self read podcast with voice work provided by Jeffrey Kafer. I’m unfamiliar with Mr. Kafer’s work, but after having heard him in this story, I would not be reluctant to call upon him if I needed any voice acting done. He sells the characters without going overboard. The reading was fluid and his reading voice was mellifluous. Both greatly enhanced the story.

Grade: A-

Story: When I started listening to Beneath, I was really hoping for a scary space horror story. What I got instead was an episode of The X Files. Not that that is bad, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. The creatures could have been truly scary, or evil, or just malevolent in their pursuit of their own survival. (Minor spoiler ahead) Instead what I got was a sentient race just wanting to be left alone. Again, this is far from bad, it just wasn’t what I expected.

Grade: B+

Verdict: If you like a good science fiction story that will keep you guessing, Beneath will most likely fit that bill for you. However, if you’re looking to be a bit spooked and for a story that you best not listen to in the dark, keep looking, there is nothing for you here.

Disclaimer: I’ve never met Mr. Robinson, nor do I follow him on Twitter (to my knowledge). I have never discussed this story with anyone and received nothing in the way of remuneration for this review.

Podcast #103: The Starter

•14 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published October 17, 2011

Title: The Starter
Author: Scott Sigler
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 28 March 2010 – 16 October 2011
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks, Author’s Site
Formats Available: dead tree, podcast, ebook

This book, The Starter, written by author Scott Sigler is the sequel to the Science Fiction/Football novel The Rookie. If you haven’t heard/read The Rookie, I strongly suggest you do so. The Starter continues the story begun there. You don’t necessarily need the previous story to understand this one, but since The Rookie has always been my favorite of Scott Sigler’s books, I recommend you don’t miss it.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Last season, 19-year-old rookie quarterback Quentin Barnes overcame his racism and unified his team. Now, he and the Ionath Krakens have to compete against the greatest football teams ever assembled and do far more than just survive each game. As he rebuilds the team in his own image, Quentin truly begins his life-long quest for a Tier One Championship. (stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of The Starter lives up to the remarkable standards that Mr. Sigler has become known for. I’ve always preferred a rather minimalistic approach to production unless you have the skills of someone like Dan Sawyer. Mr. Sigler (or his production team of A Kovaks and Arioch Morningstar) keeps the production simple but clean. Seriously, if you’re considering podcasting your novel, you could do much worse than trying to replicate Mr. Sigler’s sound.

Grade: A

Cast: Mr. Sigler, as always, performs The Starter as a self read. Mr. Sigler has always gone above and beyond when it comes to reading life into his characters. I especially love his personification of the Galaxy Sports show trio. If you haven’t enjoyed Mr. Sigler’s reading of his other stories, you probably not need waste your time here. If you, however, have enjoyed any of Mr. Sigler’s other works, and you especially enjoy an extra dose of wit and sarcasm, you’ll probably like the reading Mr. Sigler provides here.

Grade A

Story: As the synopsis states, this is the story of Quentin Barnes. What happens in his second season in the GFL? Will Quentin become a team player? Well, those answers are definitely answered here. Unfortunately, all those answers will do is leave you wanting more.

Grade A

Verdict: I can no longer say that The Rookie is my favorite story of Mr. Sigler’s. The series continues to ramp up with each story. One isn’t necessarily better than another, but the entire package is one you shouldn’t miss. With the completion of The Starter (on Mr. Sigler’s site at least) there is no reason not to dive in now.

Disclaimer: I do follow Mr. Sigler on Twitter (@scottsigler). I tweet at him occasionally, but more because I just enjoy reading his stream.

Podcast Review #102: Earthbound

•14 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published October 10, 2011

Title: Earthbound
Author: Artemis Greenleaf
Genre: Fantasy
Released: 25 June 2010 – 7 July 2010
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast

Rating: PG 13 for Violence and disturbing imagery

I’ve run out of things written by authors I’ve listened to before or know of, so I’ve been scouring Podiobooks of late. This has done several things for me. One, it is helping me find some great stories that I might not have stumbled upon earlier, and two, it seems like the number of views has decreased a bit. Maybe my readers are more interested in reading reviews by those they know or know of , or maybe it is simply coincidence. Regardless, this story, Earthbound, isn’t one I was familiar with and the author was unknown to me as well.

So, on to the review.


“I didn’t believe in ghosts, not until I became one.”

Schuyler Ramsey just wants to be like the other kids in school. Too bad she’s dead. She haunts a farm in windswept western Ireland, along with some of its previous inhabitants. When she partially materializes in front of her sister at breakfast, she is propelled on a quest to stop a fake TV psychic from visiting the farm and stirring up trouble. Along the way, she visits a famous pirate, helps a mermaid rescue a basking shark from fishermen, and encounters Nicniven, queen of the dark elphs. But Schuyler soon finds that the Haunted Planet television show is the least of her problems. As her world unravels, can she find the strength to save her sister from a monstrous evil? (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of Earthbound is rather robust. The music that is recorded for the intro and outro is haunting and beautiful and completely matches the story. The ambient nature sound effects matches the feelings of desolation the story invokes perfectly. The sound quality is crisp and clear and all parts work together well. There are 23 eps in this story. Not 24. Ep 21 file must have been corrupted or something, because when I tried to listen, I could never download it. I streamed it instead and had no issues. I then happily listened to eps 22, and 23. Where the story ended. Ep 24 is actually a reworked version of ep 21. Be wary to get the right one.

Grade: A-

Cast: This is a single read story. At first I thought the author was the narrator, later I found this not to be true. Regardless, the narrator does an excellent job, and even with accents abounding, does a decent job. (However, I will say the “Houston drawl”, while perhaps recognizable sounds strange when practiced by someone from the “other side of the pond”. Still, much better than I could accomplish in reverse.

Grade: B+

Story: The story is quite different from what I expected, and some of the foreshadowing would have made me believe the author had planned to make this a different story than it turned out to be. However, that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to listen to. The characters were well done. The plot and the setting were vivid.

Grade: A

Verdict: I really enjoyed Earthbound. However, one of the things that made me want to listen was the fact that it was billed as family friendly. While there was no language that I can think of that might have been objectionable, the content was a bit more scary then I’d let my little ones listen to. Definitely a YA or an adult book. That point not withstanding, I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it. If you are interested in hearing what happens when a deceased soul doesn’t choose to enter the light, told from the ghost’s point of view, download Earthbound now and thank me later.

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 do not follow Artemis Greenleaf on Twitter. I loved the theme for this podcast so much though, I tried to track down the author to find out where I could get a copy of “Dandelion Girl”. Turns out that Artemis Greenleaf is a pen name. It took a bit of effort but I finally found the narrator and, as I figured, he was also the singer of the song in question. He showed me where to obtain the song and I immediately did. However, as much as I enjoy this song (and let me tell you, it has become quite the ear worm), I wrote the review with no regard towards any favors received.

Podcast Review #101: Shape Shifters

•14 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Title: Shape Shifters
Author: S. Lawrence Parrish
Genre: Monster Horror
Released: 22 August 2011 – 8 September 2011
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: podcast only

Rating: R for violence, language, sexual situations

I’ve recently greatly enjoyed going to Podiobooks.com and simply perusing their offered wares. That is how I stumbled upon Shape Shifters. I read the synopsis (below) and when I got to line “a werewolf tale with no vampires” I knew I had to give it a listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: The sun sets. The moon rises. And the night howls…

The people in the foothills town of Black Diamond are thrilled to hear of government plans for commercial development of the Kananaskis Parklands. With three world-class ski resorts within an hour’s drive, everyone is going to get rich! But The Fellowship, a colony of “nature nuts” who live to the immediate west of Black Diamond, are effectively stalling the government’s plans. Hostilities escalate when a hitch-hiker is brutally slaughtered just outside of town…

Shape Shifters–a werewolf tale with NO vampires. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Shape Shifters was easy to listen to. All of the audio levels were safely within comfortable limits. There were many sound effects and the use was usually done fairly well. However, on at least one occasion I can remember, the cycling of the effect was a bit repetitive.

Grade: B+

Cast: Mr. Parrish read his story independently and did quite an adequate job of it. Some of the voiced characters were a bit similar and occasionally the listener might be confused as to whose point of view he is listening to. The story is told from a variety of view points so it is hard to single in on a single character as being the lead character. However, all of the ensemble characters were interesting enough that the average listener will be interested in hearing what is happening to each one.

Grade: B+

Story: The story is a straight forward werewolf tale. The town is divided into two camps. The humans and the wolves. Of course the humans know nothing of the wolves and are only aware that there is something “different” about the freaks that choose to live in the woods and keep to themselves. While the story offered nothing completely new in the way of werewolf folklore, it also did not try to change everything we know. It also, as promised, contained no vampires.

Grade: C

Verdict: I had high hopes for Shape Shifters. The werewolf has always been one of my favorite classic monsters. I was a bit disappointed in several aspects of the story though. One, once again the monster is really not a monster. They’re too human. They’re treated poorly as people and we’re supposed to have a sympathetic reaction. I wanted a terror story where evil wolves hunted/killed hapless humans. That isn’t this story. *SPOILER* Add that too a scene of bestiality that was much too graphic for my tastes and unless you’re a huge fan of the genre, I’d have to recommend you give Shape Shifters a pass.

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 don’t follow Mr. Parrish on Twitter, nor have I ever had a conversation with him.

Podcast Review #100: Valhai

•14 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published September 26, 2011

Title: Valhai
Author: Gillian Andrews
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 20 October 2011 – 30 October 2011
Located:Podibooks, iTunes
Formats Available: Podcast
Rating: PG: Some Violence

In preparation for the Parsecs, I began listening to of the nominees that I hadn’t heard yet. Ms. Andrew’s Valhai is one of those stories.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: The Sellites haven’t changed in thousands of years. They virtually rule their binary system, trading technology and minerals for anything they need. But they make a mistake with the new batch of fourteen-year-old donor apprentices they are taking back to their home planet, Valhai. Among them are a homeless no-name from the planet Kwaide and a member of the ruling Elders from Coriolis. Six and Diva are two diametrically opposed characters who don’t exactly take kindly to each other . . .

The Sellites genetically modify their children, ideally qualifying them for their future jobs. So Grace, the only unmodified teenager on Valhai, is also the only one who doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She has a sister-in-law who won’t leave her in peace and a newly-widowed mother who has taken to sleeping in a sarcophagus. Grace can’t think straight. She needs to escape from all the pressure. So she decides to break Sellite regulations and venture outside – onto the planet . . .

. . . starting off a chain of events that will involve Six and Diva and force the Sellite race to change forever. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Ms. Andrew’s production of her story was very commendable. Especially for a first podcast. That doesn’t mean it was perfect, but it was quite easy to listen to and I can’t remember many instances where something was jarring enough to break me out of the story. There are occasions (several of them) where one character repeats the previous character. With out the written cues of who is speaking, for a moment this can be a bit of a stumbling block. Also, the music Ms. Andrew’s chooses to open and close the eps with, while pleasant, seems like it would be more appropriate for a startup chime than a podcast theme.

Grade: B

Cast: Ms. Andrew’s performs Valhai as a self read and does a commendable job. She has a pleasant voice and the reading immerses you in the story as easily as the bubbles are immersed in the lake.

Grade: A-

Story: The story of Valhai starts out as a simple tale of rising above your upbringing and becoming the master of your own self. It further evolves into a questing story. Both parts of the story are blended very well together and provide a seamless canvas to the listener. I was very happy to hear that the tale didn’t end with the characters simply escaping their first predicament.

Grade: A

Verdict: I really enjoyed Valhai and think many beyond myself will too. In fact, I recommend Valhai for those of you with young adults/teens or simply enjoy a good story that doesn’t require the addition of strong language or sexual situations.

Disclaimer: I’ve never met or conversed with Ms. Andrew’s. I’d never heard of Valhai until looking at the list of Parsec Nominees. Valhai deserved the nomination.