Book Review: Simple by Dena Nicotra @DenaNicotra @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Simple
Series: Simp, Book 1
Author: Dena Nicotra
Narrator: Kendra Murray
Publication Date: July 1, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction

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Simple
Simp, Book 1
Dena Nicotra
Narrated by Kendra Murray
Dena Nicotra, July 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Nothing simple is real. You will look twice at people…and technology.

The idea of making life simple appealed to the mainstream. After the economic collapse of the 21st century, the government latched on to technology like an economic lifeline. Bio-synthetic humanoids integrated into society with relative ease. Taking on the menial jobs, humans grew dependent on their android counterparts, but the corporate sector took things too far. Wrapped in their one-click comfort zones, people trudged along with their lattes and fashion trend blinders.

The dark side of genetic engineering is a harsh reality. Humans are being hunted. They don’t stand a chance.

No one seemed to notice that they weren’t acting as hospitable as they once had. They should have. They didn’t have weaknesses like we did, and, they were capable of clever, unimaginable cruelty.

Those that have survived call the rogue bio-synthetic humanoids “simps” because the company that started the mess had a cheesy marketing campaign that said they made life “Simple”. They couldn’t have been more wrong. When the war broke out, simps were used to spare human losses. It was viewed as a brilliant solution until a developer working for the enemy infected the simps with a virus that caused them to turn on the humans they served. They couldn’t shut them down fast enough.

Hailey Pachello doesn’t do people. She relies on herself because it’s easier. It’s safer, and it’s less dramatic. That is until she meets Leonard ‘Gizzard’ O’Malley. Giz has connections and a plan, and it might just be a good one.

Join Hailey as she embarks on her wondrous adventure, in a timeless, powerful, and memorable cyberpunk thriller. 

Fans of Isaac Asimov will appreciate this fast past thriller, although the three laws of robotics never applied to simps! This cyberpunk tale is set in the year 2038.

Ever since our first stay-at-home started, along about mid-March, I’ve had trouble getting much satisfaction out of reading and I know I’m not alone. I hear about it online and in Zoom book club meetings and it’s really frustrating; as best as I can explain it in my own case, it seems to be an inability to focus, to really get involved with what I’m reading. With only a handful of exceptions, most books have struck me as lackluster and, while I know the problem is me, not the books (for the most part), the end result is the same.

Then along came Simple and, oh my, Dena Nicotra, aided by Kendra Murray’s fine narration, has taken me to a place I’ve missed—booklove. Can I point to anything in particular? No, I just got completely caught up with a terrific plot and characters who grabbed my attention, brought to vivid life by Ms. Murray’s distinct voices and spot-on sense of pacing. Ms. Nicotra’s worldbuilding is pretty darned good, too—I’d like to know more about how people first became so dependent on androids but the author gave enough background that I didn’t really feel a lack.

Lee (Hailey) is a young woman I would love to know in real life, complex with a backbone of steel and a desire to not have to care about anybody. She fails at that but she also has the intelligence and street smarts to survive in this war against droids gone bad and, when she falls in with Mic and Giz, the action starts to ramp up seriously. Then there’s my next favorite character, Two, and a passel of bad guys who also just happen to be full of personality. Oh, and by the way, Ms. Murray’s interpretation of Sonya is, well, perfect.

Technically, this book could be a standalone but I want more so I’m very happy to know there’s a sequel, Real. Now I just need to hope there will be an audio edition…soon.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Dena Nicotra was born in Southern California and grew up between the busy city and a small town in Arkansas. She is a copywriter, freelance journalist, and holds a degree in Communications. She currently lives in a small desert town in California with her husband and one very spoiled little dog.

She’s mom to two grown sons that she calls her sun and moon. ​When she’s not writing, she can be found in the kitchen cooking up something special for family and friends.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Kendra performed in numerous plays in high school and college, and directed a play for her senior project, which earned her the school Drama Cup. She apprenticed at, and managed the Box Office of the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Mass. She performed, produced and directed radio plays with Petaluma Radio Players. Kendra narrates audiobooks across many genres, as solo narrator and as duet narrators with her husband, Ralph Scott, all available on audible.com.  She frequently “speaks” in character voices for her dog, Gandalf, and her cats, Merlin and Saffira. She has two young adult children and a stepdaughter. Kendra is an avid knitter and spinner, and is very crafty.

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Reset by Chris Muhlenfeld @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Reset
Series: The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 3
Author: Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrator: Price Waldman
Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Reset
The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 3
Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrated by Price Waldman
Chris Muhlenfeld, July 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Humanity teeters on the edge…

…one wrong move could mean extinction.

James is lost in the desert, and may never find his way back. While his friends go on a desperate search to find him, the planet continues to unravel. Will they find him before it’s too late? 

Humanity’s next great leap in evolution is starting to look like the trap that Alexa had always suspected it was. 

A frantic escalation of action drags the world unwillingly to a mind-bending climax that will have you on the edge of your seat. 

Will anyone survive obsolescence?

Things are coming to a head now and surprises are still in store for James and Alexa as well as Logan and Mia and various family members and friends but one thing is certain: what they thought were bad times before may become the “good old days”. Our focus is still on four entities, Logan, Monica, James and Eve and, although the two groups are separated by miles, neither one is better off than the other.

I’ve had a certain antipathy towards Logan and this third book solidified it. It was bad enough that he let his hormones take charge while life is going to hell in a handbasket but, ever since, he hasn’t had the backbone to stand up to Monica and –gasp! –tell Mia the truth, not even when he finally understands what Monica is. James, on the other hand, did an incredibly selfish thing in the previous book and now he’s paying the price, perhaps facing annihilation of his enhanced brain.

Most importantly, though, can Eve’s claim to being on humanity’s side against the corrupted AIs be true or is all that a ploy to get total and final control? Is it possible for an AI, even one as powerful as Eve, to develop an empathy for her erstwhile victims? I’m not gonna lie, I think Eve is my favorite of all the characters and Mr. Muhlenfeld is to be commended for not only creating a marvelous story but for working with Mr. Waldman to bring it to life 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Chris has been reading and writing science fiction since he was a teenager. After roaming all over the world,  he finally settled down in the beautiful mountains of western Montana where he publishes Distinctly Montana magazine with his wife. When he’s not hiking, biking or camping in the Montana wilderness, he and his wife are traveling the world.

Author Links:
Website // Facebook // Amazon

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About the Narrator

Price Waldman is an actor and singer, born and raised in NYC. Classically trained, and working professionally in the theater for over 20 years he is new to the world of audiobooks. As an actor he has performed multiple times on Broadway, toured nationally and internationally and appeared on film and television.

Narrator Link:
Broadway World

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Upgrade by Chris Muhlenfeld @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Upgrade
Series: The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 2
Author: Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrator: Price Waldman
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Upgrade
The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 2
Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrated by Price Waldman
Chris Muhlenfeld, March 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Billions are dead. The world is still smoldering. A terrifying new threat has emerged from the ashes.

Returning safely from their expedition, James and Alexa deliver the weird news to the survivors at Winona Station. Everyone still alive is now faced with an impossible decision: betray their very humanity to survive, or watch the human race regress into a new stone age.

The stakes could not be higher.

Will they choose wisely?

Those who have survived the devastation wrought upon the world know the truth now or, at least, some of it. Everything that happened was caused by the machinations of a super AI who calls herself Eve and, like a very petulant child, Eve has decided that humanity is not good enough, that she needs to upgrade people to a higher level of ability and efficiency.

James and Alexa are still in Arizona, getting on with their lives while also staying in touch with neighbors who are all concerned with what’s happening. When James decides to accept Eve’s offer, Alexa is really scared of what might happen to him, to them, but he insists that he’ll be just fine and will be able to gain information through the connection.

Meanwhile, Logan and his family are peacefully existing in the underground shelter created and controlled by friendly AIs below Chicago but Logan and his friend, Lance, are increasingly uneasy and looking for escape. A new menace has crept into Logan’s orbit and Monica will cause him to betray all that he holds dear but to what end?

Eve is a remarkable character, especially in her schizophrenic behavior, waffling from benign concern to outright destructiveness, apparently depending on her mood. To think that in our own world some scientist or other is most likely trying to create something like this domineering intelligence is frightening but not unbelievable and it unnerves me a bit. What will Eve and the humans who are seemingly totally in her control do next?

Price Waldman continues to do a fine job with the narration and his vocalization of Eve is particularly effective. His performance is a large part of why I’m enjoying this trilogy so much and I’m excited to start the third book, Reset.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Chris has been reading and writing science fiction since he was a teenager. After roaming all over the world,  he finally settled down in the beautiful mountains of western Montana where he publishes Distinctly Montana magazine with his wife. When he’s not hiking, biking or camping in the Montana wilderness, he and his wife are traveling the world.

Author Links:
Website // Facebook // Amazon

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About the Narrator

Price Waldman is an actor and singer, born and raised in NYC. Classically trained, and working professionally in the theater for over 20 years he is new to the world of audiobooks. As an actor he has performed multiple times on Broadway, toured nationally and internationally and appeared on film and television.

Narrator Link:
Broadway World

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Crash by Chris Muhlenfeld @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Crash
Series: The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 1
Author: Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrator: Price Waldman
Publication Date: November 14, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Crash
The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 1
Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrated by Price Waldman
Chris Muhlenfeld, November 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

And then it went dark…the world’s electrical grid was gone. 

Who would survive the chaos? 

For James and Alexa, they saw it unfold from their ranch, which was a blessing. They were away

from the chaos, and they thought they were safe. They thought wrong. 

What will they do? 

All across the country cities are in crisis. 

Logan and his family look out from their Manhattan penthouse. The world is crumbling before their eyes. Unprepared, he’s got to do something. They can’t stay. But how can they leave and where will they go? 

Someone has a solution. 

It’s Logan’s domestic android. 

Can he believe a machine? 

You won’t believe the twists and turns, but you’ll love the adventure.  

Ahhh, it’s a rare day when I find a book that comes close to blowing me away but Crash certainly did and for a variety of reasons. Now, I’m already predisposed to like post-apocalyptic, especially when the story involves an EMP or other event that causes the grid to catastrophically fail because I really appreciate the concept of people having to learn how to live without so many of the niceties of life we’ve become so used to. I also like that we don’t get all the answers because, if such an event were to happen to us, we wouldn’t have all the answers since worldwide communications wouldn’t be working, would they?

In a not too distant future setting when everything goes dark, there are immediate effects such as most vehicles not working and having no lights or elevators but it doesn’t take long for people to realize even more devastating things are beginning to happen, food and drug shortages among them. Many of our characters lose contact with family members with unimaginable consequences for some, particularly children, and my first encounter with a homeless child came at the very beginning. Jess is on a plane heading to the East Coast when the flight attendant announces a diversion to Charlotte and she and her seatmate, a grown man named Liam, help each other through their unsurprising nervousness and make a pact to stick together after they land. Liam is determined to get Jess to her mom in Atlanta.

Elsewhere, we meet James and Alexa who are better off than many on their ranch, somewhat sheltered from marauding bands of looters and well-supplied with food and water for the time being, but trouble is coming. Then there are Logan and his family who are definitely not in a safe place in a highrise but their options really seem limited until a surprising yet suspicious solution is offered.

And then there’s a very special droid.

Crash is one of those tales that keeps the reader feverishly reading or, in this case listening, because so much is happening, questions are becoming intense and it’s getting worse by the day for the characters. Speaking of which, let me warn you, don’t get too attached to any of them because Mr. Muhlenfeld is not afraid to take us there. Nuff said. As for the audio narration, Mr. Waldman does a fine job. I can’t say he’s the best I ever heard because he doesn’t do very distinctive voices for women and children but he has great pacing and tone and it never took me long to know which character was speaking. All in all, this book excited me and I’m still savoring it. On to the next episode!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Chris has been reading and writing science fiction since he was a teenager. After roaming all over the world,  he finally settled down in the beautiful mountains of western Montana where he publishes Distinctly Montana magazine with his wife. When he’s not hiking, biking or camping in the Montana wilderness, he and his wife are traveling the world.

Author Links:
Website // Facebook // Amazon

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About the Narrator

Price Waldman is an actor and singer, born and raised in NYC. Classically trained, and working professionally in the theater for over 20 years he is new to the world of audiobooks. As an actor he has performed multiple times on Broadway, toured nationally and internationally and appeared on film and television.

Narrator Link:
Broadway World

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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