Tag Archives: review

Review – Campfire Radio Theater by John Ballentine (Podcast)

I went looking for podcast recommendations, something or someone I had never hear of before, and Allen Sale of Astral Audio recommended Campfire Radio Theater.

Synopsis: An Original Horror Anthology for the iPod Generation… Hear the Fear!

Production: The production values are good, keeping in mind that they are trying to accomplish an old school radio drama sound.

Grade: B+

Cast: The voice acting is solid across all six episodes.

Grade: B

Story: There are six stories in this anthology: “Hungry Hollow”, “Twilight Road”, “The Haunted Cell”, “The Master’s Hungry Children”, “Night Chills”, and “Demon Eyes”. These were all fun in a sort of “Tales From The Crypt” way. My personal favorite was probably “The Master’s Hungry Children”. It’s always fun to see a human sort of evil get their comeuppance from real monsters. The endings of “Twilight Road” and “The Haunted Cell” fell a bit flat for me, but they were good. “Night Chills” made me incredibly uncomfortable, in a good way, and “Demon Eyes” had a double flip ending that I really enjoyed. All in all, if you’re a fan of old school horror that’s a little on the “camp”-y side, I think you’ll enjoy these. No idea if he’s going to come out with more, so I’ll leave my podcatcher tuned to this station just in case.

Grade: B+

Verdict:  As I said above, this is well worth checking out. If you’re into audio drama, and that’s just what this is, then you should check it out.

Grade: B+

http://campfireradiotheater.podbean.com/

Review – Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (E-book)

mockingbird-72dpi I think I may officially be a Chuck Wendig fan boy. I’ve reviewed Double Dead and Bait Dog and they both got glowing reviews. I read his blog and follow him on Twitter. All of this and I still managed not to realize that the book I’m reviewing today, Mockingbird, is in fact the SEQUEL to Blackbirds. I bought it, read it, and imagine my surprise at the end where he thanks people for reading and reviewing Blackbirds and making Mockingbird possible. D’OH! I’ll rectify that by buying and possibly reviewing it. So on with the review of this book.

Synopsis: Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

This is either the best synopsis or the worst. If it’s the best it’s because even thought I’ve read the book, it makes me want to read the book again. If it’s the worst it’s because you have no idea what happens in this book. Of course, if you’re a fan of the writer or have read the first one, you might have a few guesses. People die messily. The main character and every other character that lives gets FUCKED WITH BIG TIME. It ends badly for almost everyone. You laugh your butt off at least a half dozen times (if you have a sense of humor like me). You cringe at least twice that much. (In addition to the synopsis this may also be part of the review.)

More specifically, Miriam’s boyfriend Louis tells Katey, a teacher friend of his, about Miriam’s unique gift. Katey wants to know when and how she dies. In the process of answering the question, Miriam uncovers a series of grisly murders that will be happening in the near future. She feels the need to prevent them and gets embroiled in a weird ass show down.

If you like your fiction extra dark written by an author who seems to revel in making you squirm then this book is well worth checking out. If you haven’t read the first one then perhaps you should, but I didn’t and had no problem catching up with the program. Miriam isn’t a very likable character and yet I found myself drawn to her. That takes some mad skillz. The rest of the characters are quite a bit more likable but I didn’t see nary a one stereotype or cardboard cutout. Since, for me, character is the most important bit in storytelling I give this five out of five raven’s wings.

Mockingbird on Amazon
Chuck’s Website

Review – Obscurities by Mick Bordet (Podcast)

ObscuritiesEPT1600 I’ve been listening to the Every Photo Tells podcast for quite some time. I’ve even submitted a story or two. Occasionally they come out with a multi-part story. This week I’m reviewing one such story, written by Mick Bordet.

Synopsis: Del Fawmer is a solo musican with a blossoming career, but her life is turned upside down when her dying grandmother asks her to delve into the secrets of the past. Visiting the old woman’s house, Del comes across a box full of unusual musical instruments, each accompanied by a letter.
Join her as she learns about a homemade, pedal-powered organ, the different uses for a drainpipe and Bob Dylan’s unwanted harmonica. Each quirky instrument reveals a story from Del’s family history that lead her to a decision about her future.

This novella is accompanied by an album of music by Mick Bordet that includes all the instruments featured in the story as well as an illustrated colour booklet with photgraphs of everything used in creating the album.

Production: Mick’s an audio geek and as such the quality is good.

Grade: A

Cast: Mick gives all of the characters their own unique voices. I noticed one or two inconsistencies, but generally he does a great job.

Grade: B+

Story: A lot of the fiction I read these days is full of snark and sarcasm. There’s quite a bit of darkness as well. I’m not sure how much of that is self inflicted, given my reading choices, and how much of it is what’s on book shelves these days. This collection of short stories was a breath of fresh air. There’s a sweetness in them that’s rare. I recall at least one “Awwwww!!” moment and he pulls it off without being cloying or schmaltzy. These tales are also different from what I usually read in that they’re not “genre” tales. They’re straight literary fiction.

I really had a lot of fun listening to them.

As an aside, the synopsis says that you get a bonus. Mick produced music inspired by and using the instruments in the stories. Can I just say that I’m jealous of the level of talent on display here. Whether or not the music is your cup of tea (and I haven’t listened to the album yet), just the thought of the effort he put into them boggles my mind. He includes snippets of the songs in the stories and they add another layer of depth.

Grade: A+

Verdict:  You should really give these a listen. In case it’s not evident I’m a fan. For that matter you should subscribe to the Every Photo Tells podcast where you’ll get at least two or three stories a month. I can’t promise they’ll all be this good. It’s an anthology podcast with authors of varying skill level and experience. But the nice thing is that if you don’t like one of the stories there are more and different ones coming. If you’re a writer or even if you don’t consider yourself one, but have always wanted to try, consider submitting a story.

Grade: A

Podcast Link
Every Photo Tells

Review – Things Unseen by Chris Lester (Ebook)

Things Unseen Cover-review I’ve long been a fan of Chris Lester’s work. In the spirit of full disclosure, I helped produce part of the podcast that features his stories. The reason I did that is that I was already a fan of his and he needed help. So, I was a fan first. He sent me a copy of his latest e-book for review and here it is.

Synopsis: In the Year 1974 CR, a team of explorers vanished at the mysterious Telvari Rift. 25 years later, a new group of adventurers has braved this forbidden zone. Some sought power. Some sought answers. None expected what they found. Now a trail of death follows them from the jungles of the Rift to the towers of Metamor City, and only police detectives Kathryn Kitaen and David Silverleaf can stop it.

Here’s what you need to know about the world Chris has created. It started as a role playing exercise and the original universe was hatched by Chris and his friends. He took that fantasy world and fast forwarded to the futuristic world of his novels. The stories possess a blend of fantasy and technology that’s easily the best of its genre. Here you’ll find vampires, lycanthropes, wizards, and otherworldly creatures. In addition to taking those and putting his own spin on them, he’s created new races and concepts that provide tons of fodder.

What can you expect from Things Unseen? On a very basic level it’s a police procedural. People are dead and dying and Kitaen, a talented illusionist, and Silverleaf, an elven healer, are assigned to the case. To complicate matters, members of Metamor City’s royalty are missing and the detectives have to deal with political intrigue, a vampire crime lord, possessions, and an ocean of read tape. Along the way, Kitaen learns some disturbing things about her own past and about the future of their city.

This is a whopper of a book, clocking in at 140,000 words. It’s a fast read for its size. There’s plenty of sex (though nothing so explicit as to be labeled erotica), action, and intrigue. We see the world through several sets of eyes, but its done in such a way that I never got “head hopping” motion sickness. At any given time we’re only getting one character’s point of view. It makes the experience of the world deeper in this case. What makes this story even better is that it doesn’t stop at the surface level. Underneath the excitement and mystery, this story is about identity and how much you can lose or gain before you stop being “you”. Most of the main characters undergo some significant changes in body, mind and/or spirit. The experience tears some of them down, killing them, and causes tremendous growth in others. It’s that character development that really makes this book worth reading.

If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, Shadowrun, or just good old fashioned adventure then you should check this book out. I give it five out of five elf ears.

Chris’s Smashwords Author Page
Chris’s Website

Review – Purgatory by Tim Dodge (Podcast)

Purgatory-cover-final-sm I’ve been friends with Tim for a while. I was hunting for something short to listen to on a recent road trip and thought I’d give his story Purgatory a try.

Synopsis:Charles Cunningham, a wealthy real estate developer, dies unexpectedly and finds himself in Purgatory, the place between heaven and hell. Though depressed about his early death, he befriends two other souls doing time there — the writer Edgar Allan Poe and a music-loving deadbeat named Billy. Upon receiving a letter from God telling him he must learn some unnamed lessons before he can go to heaven, he convinces Poe to join him in the portal back to earth. They hope to make up for their past mistakes, but they arrive on earth in the year 2049, 42 years after Charles’ death. Traveling from mid-21st century New York City to Las Vegas, Charles seeks out the daughter he neglected in life, though she is now in her eighties. However, an unfriendly soul from Purgatory follows them to earth. This soul, an employee with whom Charles had an affair and summarily fired, is determined to keep him from winning passage to heaven. She teams up with Charles’ grandson, a debt-ridden gambling addict who has a talent for messing things up. Together, they hatch a deadly scheme to foil Charles’ plan to get to heaven and net the grandson badly-needed money. Charles learns of their plans and enlists his friends to help stop them. Will they succeed?

Production: I dinged Tim on my review of Acts of Desperation for his audio quality. There was no paper rustling. There was some breathiness and he could use a pop-filter. I hope he can invest in some better audio gear for future endeavors. I’ve heard a lot worse, but this will bother some people enough to take them out of the story.

Grade: C-

Cast: Tim reads this himself. He does a good job, particularly voicing the character Billy. It’s largely a straight read.

Grade: B-

Story: This is billed as a “comedy”. It’s only true in the classical sense. There are some smiles here and there. There’s also a bit of tension as Charles, Ed, and Billy try and stop a dangerous plot. My outright favorite part of this story were the interactions between Charles and Ed. Tim nailed the character of Edgar Allen Poe.

The religious aspects of this story are a bit on the “soft” side. This is basically a morality play. We get to watch the characters as they deal with the repercussions of their actions both in this life and the life after. Some of them succeed and others fail. It’s hinted at that the failures will get another try. Makes me wonder what the Hell in this universe would look like and who would be there.

Don’t expect a treatise on the afterlife along the lines of Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife series. Do expect a fun listen with engaging characters and a dash of sci-fi.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I sense that his writing is stronger this go around. If you’re not an audiophile or a religious purest give this a listen. I think most folks would enjoy it.

Grade: B-

Podcast Link
Get a signed copy!

Review – Sense Memory (Podcast)

sensememamazon I’ve long been a fan of The Roundtable Podcast, so when I heard that Brion Humphrey had a podcast novel out, I was excited to give it a listen. I love thrillers. I felt pretty confident that the story would be good and the reading very good. So how do I feel about Sense Memory? Read on.

Synopsis: If our memory is the thing that shapes and defines us, that informs who we are at our very core, then God help us all…for memory, is a wicked and deceitful wretch. Thrust into a search for his own sister’s killer, Benjamin Cady flees Colorado and the only world he understands to scour the streets of Los Angeles, plagued by headaches and memories of murder. He quickly discovers that L.A. is not unknown to him, and as his memories of his sister’s death become clearer, so does the possibility that Ben himself may be the murderer. Lieutenant Jim Banquer has plenty of bodies, but every witness seems to be suffering from a mysterious form of amnesia. Investigating these deaths means he must piece together the scattered shards of a deadly power scheme that goes well beyond murder, and Ben is the key. Sense Memory is a psychological thriller that weaves an intricate web of doubt and intrigue as it goes, leaving no thread unstrung. A sure page-burner, this story will stay with you long after the smoke clears.

Production: The sound quality is excellent. The music chosen for the intro is appropriate. I didn’t notice any flubs or repeats.

Grade: B

Cast: Brion provides all of the voices for this podcast. He has a theater background and it shows. His touch with female character voices is light but appropriate. There’s one character voice that jars me out of the story nearly every time its so over the top, but that almost makes sense, since the character himself is also over the top.

Grade: B+

Story: This is the first novel that Brion has put out there for us to savor. It’s a good first outing. The first couple of episodes are setting up the characters. For some people that may make the pace seem a little slow. The last few chapters make up for that apparent slowness.

The characters are fairly well done. In a few cases they threaten to slip into caricatures/archetypes. In one or two cases they fall right into the thick if them. I’m fond of Ben, the protagonist, but the character I would have loved to see more of was Sonia.

I have a couple of gripes with the story. The first and largest is the supernatural/paranormal aspect. I won’t go into detail, but the “power” displayed and how the people who wield it do so are a bit uneven. How they got the power and how they’re connected is also pretty vague. I don’t mind a bit of ambiguity in my story, but if you’re going to do something new in this realm at least a little explanation of what’s going on is appreciated.

My second gripe revolves around point of view. There’s some degree of head hopping going on. That makes some degree of sense given the subject matter. For me it’s a matter of personal preference, but if you’re going to tell a story in third person limited, then save the POV changes for chapter breaks. Don’t do it within the chapter. I would have loved this story strictly from Ben’s point of view.

So, how’s the writing? In a story that’s called “Sense Memory” you can imagine that the role of senses is important. Brion does a bang up job describing things, almost to a fault. This leads to some repetition and that can slow down the pace. That’s something that you don’t want in a thriller. The sensuousness lent it an almost lurid, pulpy feel. I liked that where it wasn’t excessive.

Grade: B-

Verdict: I enjoyed this story, but I enjoyed Brion’s performance more. There were chunks early on where I might have strayed if I’d been reading this. His solid voice acting kept me coming back. I will definitely be coming back when Brion puts out his next works. As I understand there will be more with these characters down the line.

Grade: B

Podcast Link
Amazon Link

Review – Pilgrimage by Matthew Wayne Selznick (E-Book)

pilgrimage_cover I’m a big believer in sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They allow you to find awesome projects and to be a part of bringing them to fruition. In July of last year Matthew Wayne Selznick launched a Kickstarter to find the sequel to his book Brave Men Run. I’m a fan of that book and of Matt’s writing so it was with great enthusiasm that I backed the Kickstarter. I received the e-book as a result.

Synopsis: The Charters Duology concludes as the Sovereign Era continues!

April, 1986 – On the eve of the first anniversary of the Donner Declaration, as tensions rise between humanity and the metahuman, super-powered Sovereigns, fathers and sons face desperate choices.

Nate Charters (Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era) struggles with his increasingly tenuous control over his temper and his powers… while Andrew Charters hopes to suppress his own bestial nature to help his distant son.

Sovereign Byron Teslowski trains to join the Sovereign defense force, but a fiery new friend forces him to question his loyalties… and Marc Teslowski, desperate to bring his family back together, falls in with the charismatic leader of an anti-Sovereign militant group.

As Sovereigns the world over converge on the Donner Institute for Sovereign Studies, Nate, Andrew, Byron, and Marc find their paths lead there as well. Will the machinations of enemies and allies tear them violently apart on Declaration Day?

This book is part of the Sovereign Era storyworld, and part two of the Charters Duology. While it can be read on its own, readers may want to read “Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era” first to get the whole story.

As the synopsis says, you should definitely read the first book (available here). If you’re a child of the 80’s or a fan of the pop culture from that era and you like superheroes, it’s really a no-brainer.

If you liked the first book, you will more than likely enjoy this one. It’s a bit different from the first (if memory serves) in that we get the story from multiple points of view. Each chapter comes either from a chapter of Nate Charter’s diary or from a third person point of view of three of the other main characters in the story. (The above link to Brave Men Run is to a revised and expanded version of the story. I read the original version.) I like it, since it adds quite a bit to the overall universe.

The events that take place over the days leading up to the celebration are given to us from the characters described in the synopsis and you couldn’t have the perspectives be much different than the ones given here. Nate and Byron are both young men, each with their own perspective on what life is like with the gifts they were granted by their birthright. Nate struggles with his wild, animalistic side, and Byron embraces his powers and works with his mentors to sharpen and use them. Their fathers give us the other half of the story. Andrew Charters has become almost completely animalistic and struggles to find his humanity to save his son. Marc wants to save his son as well, but does Byron need saving or does Marc? The parallels sharpened and broadened the story experience for me.

While Pilgrimage is a story that has comic book origins and tropes, this deals with the very serious issues of racism, rape, death, and and identity. It’s not one for the younger kids and would be at home in a graphic novel with titles from Dark Horse. One of the things I enjoy about good science fiction is that it has room to address adult issues and you get to have bullet proof people and pyrokinetics. It’s like my favorite peanut butter cup.

As with book one, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Matt’s a very talented writer and if you like these books you should check out his other titles. I give this book five capes out of five.

Matt’s Amazon Author Page
Matt’s Website

Review – Shaman, Healer, Heretic (Podcast)

SHH-2012-300 Quite a while back I shouted out to the Twitterverse that I needed a new podcast novel to listen to. Shaman, Healer, Heretic by M. Terry Green came highly recommended. Did I like it? Read on.

Synopsis: Even for a techno-shaman, a kachina in the bedroom isn’t exactly part of the drill. When Olivia Lawson wakes to find one towering over her, she panics. A Hopi god visiting the real world isn’t just wrong–it’s impossible.

Or is it?

Soon Olivia learns that the kachina is the least of her worries. As she struggles to save her clients, clashes with other shamans, and fends off the attacks of real-world vigilantes, Olivia finds herself in the destructive path of a malevolent ancient force intent on leaving the spiritual realm to conquer this one.

Left with few options, Olivia is forced to defy centuries of shaman prohibitions. As she and her allies risk everything in their bid for survival, Olivia ultimately learns that the rules are there for a reason and that breaking them has a terrible cost.

Production: Solid audio all the way through. With Podiobooks that’s not surprising. This is a straight read with minimal production values.

Grade: B+

Cast: This is read by Terrry. She does an excellent job, though I must say that this is read, rather than performed. That’s okay as it’s well read. The story also helps on the rare occasion that the reading is a little on the low key side.

Grade: B-

Story: When I first started listening to this I went in blind. I don’t think I even read the above synopsis. As a result I thought that this would be a cyber-punk/Shadowrun type of story. In a way it is. The shamans in this story are able to use technology that makes working in the “multiverse” similar to the way the ‘net is portrayed in those genres of story. Whether they use technology or not, the other side and how they experience it varies from shaman to shaman.

I really enjoyed the story itself, but the characters were very well done and were perhaps stronger than the story. Not a bad thing at all. I particularly liked SK who acts as a Fixer/manager for the Shamans in his world. I’d enjoy seeing more from his perspective and perhaps even a story written completely about him. Olivia, the story’s protagonist, is likable, believable, and grows during this story. This is the first of a trilogy and I’ll be interested to see if she continues to gain depth.

There was one big thing and a couple of little things about this story that bothered me. A late reveal, where the side villains make themselves known, didn’t really work for me. Throughout the story the Big Bad, in the form of Tiamat, takes center stage. Other than a couple of scenes where we see someone working with Tiamat in the shadows, the bad guys are working entirely off stage. As a result they aren’t really very well developed. I realize that the author wanted them to be mysterious and she threw a few red herrings into the plot, but what could have been a great reveal fell flat. Part of that had to do with the brief span of time between the reveal and the conclusion of the story.

The minor problems involved two important themes that I think needed to be used more (and perhaps may in latter books). The first is the notion that shamans are treated by society at large with mistrust and in some cases hatred. I liked that and there could have been more conflict with that as its cause worked into the story. The other was the notion of old gods and old ways declining in power. This played out both with some shamans who were traditional needing to adapt and with some of the “gods” that the shamans run into in the multiverse. None of these issues detracted much from the story.

Grade: B-

Verdict: This story is a slow burn. There’s some action and no small amount of conflict, but much of the latter is interpersonal. The ‘cast runs at about eleven hours and there are times when it dragged a little. Don’t expect a rockem sockem experience and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Grade: B-

Review – Flashpulp (Podcast)

flashpulpicon This week I’m interviewing something a little different. Up until now I’ve reviewed mostly long form fiction podcasts. Flash Pulp isn’t that. It’s an anthology podcast, but it’s no Escape Pod or Every Photo Tells. All of the stories (except for the occasional guest episode) are written by JRD Skinner. As the carnival barker says though, “But wait there’s more!”.

With the help of audio wrangler, Jessica May, and artist and voice actor, Opopanax, he brings three stories a week to your ears. And that’s not all! They’re serialized. He has ten regular story lines and the occasional one off. While the story lines are all “separate” there’s more than one peek into the other strands, letting us see the interconnectedness.

Synopsis: It’s difficult to give you a synopsis given the aforementioned nature of the podcast. I’ll just crib from the show’s about page:

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

While Flash Pulp is obviously in the tradition of classic radio and magazine stories of the 1930s and ’40s, there exists a trinity of specific modern inspirations for this creation: Warren Ellis, and his constant pushing of format boundaries; Kris Straub, for Ichor Falls, and the persistence of his ideas when he should be focusing on things that actually make him money; and Michael Buonauro, for his work on Marvelous Bob – arguably the seed of this entire mess.

Production: The audio production is solid and reliable. Sometimes Jessica May incorporates sound effects, but overall she ensures a clean, consistent sound.

Grade: B+

Cast: Opopanax provides the voices and narration for every story. If you think writing and interconnecting ten story lines is tough, imagine having to bring these characters to life. She manages to do just that. My particular favorite when it comes to her voices, is that of the narrator from The Murder Plague. That particular storyline is a world I can see Hitchcock dreaming up. Imagine a disease that turns you into a paranoid psycopath. Now imagine that most people have it, but you can’t be sure who does until they come at you with garden shears.

Grade: A-

Story: The writing is generally very good. I’ve run across a few that didn’t work for me. When you’re talking about three hundred plus episodes, I guess that’s going to happen. My favorite part about the entire thing is the arcs JRD has built into the fabric of the universe. Most episodes are stand alone tales that fit within their own arc. Occasionally he throws a two or three parter at us.

I have my favorites. The Murder Plague is up there. I also enjoy Ruby Departed, his take on the zombie apocalypse told through the diary entries of a but kicking young women with an assegai (the Zulu spear). I also like Kar’wick. What isn’t there to like about an immense spider god bent on destroying the world?

Grade: A

Verdict: This is definitely one you need to add to your list. I recommend you start with episode one. While it’s not necessary, it’s certainly the nest option in my opinion. You could listen to each arc on their own as I do believe that there are helpful links to do that from the site.

Grade: A

Sidenote: In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve written one of the guest episodes. I also occasionally contribute audio versions of these reviews for their weekly cast/crew/fan show. That’s right, they have a podcast about their podcast (and their hobbies and a lot of fan generated content).

Review – Prince of Hazel and Oak by John Lenahan

theprinceofhazelandoak Today I’m reviewing The Prince of Hazel and Oak, Book 2 of the Shadowmagic series. It’s written and performed by by John Lenahan.

Synopsis: The eagerly-awaited sequel to Shadowmagic.

Having returned to the real world from Tir Na Nog at the end of the last book, our hero Conor finds himself arrested for the murder of his father.

When he explains to the cops that his dad is safe and well and enjoying life as king of a land of elves, imps and banshees they understandably think he is a nutcase.

That is until he is rescued by Celtic warriors on horseback and taken back to Tir Na Nog, accidentally bringing a policeman with him.

Once safely back in The Land, Conor finds that all is not well. His father is dying, the girl he loves is betrothed to another and a rather confused American cop is wandering around causing havoc.

It falls to our young hero, and his band of friends, to find a cure for the king. On their epic journey they encounter one of the most mystical and dangerous races in The Land, the shapeshifting Pooka, and find their fates linked in ways they could never have imagined.

The Prince of Hazel and Oak is a stunning fantasy adventure that takes fans of Shadowmagic further in to the land and brings back many of the favourite characters from the first book.

Production: The audio quality is solid. There were no repeated lines.

Grade: B

Cast: I tweeted a while back that the two best story tellers to have graced my earbuds are Nathan Lowell and John Lenahan. I’ve no doubt that John’s experiences as a stage magician and comedian play heavily into his ability to take a “straight read” and make it as magical as the plot. He does a wonderful job in bringing his story to life.

Grade: A

Story: This is one of those epic fantasy stories that gives me hope for the genre. His tagline on the novel says “Lord of the Rings for the 21st Century, Only A Lot Shorter.” I love the humor in this, but more so I love the truth. In a market that seems to be glutted with door stops that drag on forever (and a few much shorter works that seem to drag just as much), John has a work of epic fantasy that can and has made reading them (or at least listening to them) fun again.

He’s got a range of characters, old and new, that I care deeply about by the end. His world is well developed and strikes me as a good fusion of Irish folk tales and his own imagination, in the same way that Tolkien’s was a melding of Germanic myth and his own love of language and world building.

There are a few quibbles I have with the ending. Bad things happen to some of the main characters and we’re told rather than shown what happens. This is a first person narrative though, so that’s part of the point of view limitations. I do like first person for this, since it gives us a “real world” perspective into the land of Tir Na Nog. I also wanted a little more of an ending, but there is a third book so it had to leave us wanting more. And as middle books go, this was a lot more than just a bridge between the first and third.

Grade: A-

Verdict: This is one of those podcasts that owned my iPod. I listened to little else. I fast forwarded past opening and closing music because I wanted MOAR PODCAST STORY. I think that speaks for itself.

Grade: A+

Sidebar – This book has been published by Harper Collins. I’ve no idea why they are letting him give this away on Podiobooks (possibly because they’re smart enough to know how great of an audience builder that can be?). Kudos to them, though. I’ll be buying the ebooks (half the price of the paperback, again kudos to the publisher for “getting” it) for my kids.

Available on Amazon