Book Review: Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton @KiraJaneWrites @petkoff @HachetteAudio @GrandCentralPub

Hollow Kingdom
Kira Jane Buxton
Narrated by Robert Petkoff
Hachette Audio, August 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (i.e. “those idiots”), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos.

But when Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, S.T. starts to think something’s not quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies – from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis – fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he suddenly discovers that the neighbors are devouring one another. Local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a cowardly crow whose only knowledge of the world around him comes from TV.

What could possibly go wrong?

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton is unlike any other zombie book I’ve read and I’ve read quite a few in my time. The story is told by S.T., a very well-educated crow (educated via the tv, internet and his human), and he first realizes something is wrong when Big Jim’s eyeball falls out.

Yeah, I know, sounds gross but…

This is the tale of how S.T. and his bloodhound, Dennis, set off to save the domestics who’ve been left behind, trapped, when the virus swept through humanity. Along the way, they encounter many other animals, wild and domestic, and a lot of them join in the mission. Most of the commentary is from our trusty crow but there are interludes from such creatures as an octopus and a polar bear.

There’s a great deal of humor and a few sad scenes that really tapped into my emotions but very little time is spent on gory zombie details so you don’t have to be concerned about that. This is all about the animals and the author clearly has a point to make, several points, in fact. BTW, this is not a kid’s or middle grade book despite all the animals, birds and sea creatures because S.T. can occasionally be foulmouthed and there are a couple of scenes in which animals get hurt (but even those have redeeming qualities).

The narrator, Robert Petkoff, does a great job with S.T.’s voice as well as a few others (especially the octopus) and his sense of pacing and comedic/emotional tones are spot on. My daughter read the print edition and was just as entranced. I know, Hollow Kingdom sounds, er, strange but I was completely captured and this is going on my list of best books read in 2020. A sequel, Feral Creatures, is in the works and I can hardly wait.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

Book Review: Impact by K. Maze @KMazeauthor @AureliaLeoCo @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Impact
Author: K. Maze
Publication Date: June 25, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Aurelia Leo // Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

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Impact
K. Maze
Aurelia Leo, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-946024-81-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher:

Trapped underground with a mysterious scientist named Edison and his chess master AI, can Nala Nightingale find the will to live and to love in a dystopian future?

Set in post-pandemic Wind City, a young journalist races time against a certain natural destruction. Nala must decide between broadcasting the news of a lifetime or discovering keys to her orphaned past.

As an intern, Nala wants badly to prove her self as a real journalist, not just a broadcaster of fluffy pieces and, on a seemingly normal day, she heads for Intercambio 7 to make her pitch for an important story but she never gets to tell her boss about it. That seemingly normal day is anything but as she soon learns when it becomes apparent that people in the building are rushing out the doors in a panic.

Downtown Girl, as the viewing public knows Nala, is an orphan whose mother died mysteriously after engaging in food production for the Resistance and, although Nala has no leanings towards the rebels’ activities, she does want to know more about how and why her mother died. It’s been ten years since the Bovine Flu pandemic and now the world is about to experience an apocalyptic event that could literally destroy the planet.

While there are aspects of the story that I really liked, especially Nala and Edison as well as other characters, I had trouble truly connecting and the somewhat muddy worldbuilding was the main cause. Part of my confusion stemmed from the somewhat erratic introduction of futuristic technology without clear explanations. For example, the VID messages that pop up but are apparently controlled by the recipient..pop up where? And what exactly is the H-Lens that allows people to see virtual files in one’s mind, I think, while no one else can see them? Why would her boyfriend, who knew about the coming disaster at least the day before, pre-program a destination for her but not warn her? Most important, though, is my inability to suspend disbelief enough to accept that the coming asteroid impact could possibly have been hidden from the public, deliberately or otherwise, until just over five hours before the event. Even today, in 2020, that couldn’t be kept entirely secret from the nerdiest high school student and I can’t imagine that it could happen in 2098.

Despite those difficulties, I did enjoy this tale of survivors attempting to bring order to what’s left of society and of Nala’s self-discovery and understanding of her place in this brave new world. There is hope for the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2020.

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An Excerpt from Impact

Book excerpt (first page):

Chapter One

-05:11:08 (311 Before Impact-BI minutes)

Nala Nightingale pressed her way into the large rotating door of Intercambio 7, rushed because the tram was down. I hope the old goat Marcus won’t change his mind and not listen to my pitch. She hadn’t been late in two years interning, but the always-early Mimi was also presenting her idea today. She suggested a piece on robotic make-up art, but Nala’s interviews regarding the orphans of the Bovine Flu had more sustenance in her opinion. But her opinion didn’t matter. Only Marcus decided which pieces went on the broadcast; and the young interns were supposed to inform Wind City of the hottest trends. That usually meant fashion news and how to bypass dance club lines, but Nala insisted the youth were concerned about social issues, too.

Marcus loved Mimi’s ideas as well as her sleek hair and how perfectly it splayed to her clavicle. He commented often on how well the camera captured her presence. Nala struggled to keep her silver-streaked wanton curls in submission and often tied them into a loose bun. Marcus appreciated her offbeat style and perspectives on issues that mattered, but she couldn’t chance losing the broadcast to Mimi today. She had to talk to him first.

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About the Author

Kris Maze writes empowering, twisty stories and also teaches Spanish. After years of reading classic literature, mysteries, and legal thrillers, she sought to publish her own books. Her first Science Fiction novella, IMPACT, published through Aurelia Leo, is now available!

Kris Maze is fascinated with strong characters like her protagonist Nala, a teen journalist who reluctantly works with a crazed scientist Edison to survive an incoming asteroid implosion. For more information on her book, look here.

Check out her newly revised website and say hi! While you are there sign up for her newsletter to get freebies and updates on blog tours and media takeovers during the next couple months.

For Subscribers during August there will be Writer Wellness Tips and Tools, (also good for anyone working or studying from home) so now is a fantastic time to visit her website.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kmazeauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KMazeauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmazeauthor/

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

One paperback copy of Impact

Enter here.

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Book Review: Scorpion by Jeff Sweat @jeffsweatbooks @FeiwelFriends @RockstarBkTours

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I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the SCORPION
by Jeff Sweat Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check
out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!
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About the Book:
Title: SCORPION
(Mayfly #2)
Author: Jeff Sweat
Pub. Date: June 23, 2020
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Formats: Hardcover,
eBook
Pages: 432
In Scorpion, the sequel to Jeff Sweat’s
YA futuristic thriller Mayfly, Jemma, Lady, and Pico all left the Holy
Wood to seek answers to the End, and when they find the Old Guys—the only
adults to have survived the original wipeout of everyone over the age of
seventeen—they think they’ve found help at last.
But there’s a lot the Old Guys aren’t telling them. In fact, some of them don’t seem interested in solving the End at all and just want Jemma and her friends to leave. Meanwhile, war is brewing among the tribes of the rest of the Children. Jemma’s old home has fallen into disorder, and is far from prepared for battle. It won’t be long before the fighting reaches Jemma and the Old Guys, if they even live to see it.
Haven’t started the series yet? Grab book 1, MAYFLY now!
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A couple of years ago, I reviewed the first book in this duology and, while I wasn’t blown away by it, I enjoyed the premise, that all over the age of seventeen face certain death. I thought the author handled this new existence well other than giving readers a fairly skimpy worldbuilding and I never did understand why the teens would want to bring babies into this world, knowing that will die, in turn, at an all too early age.
In Scorpion, I have the same concerns although I think the worldbuilding is a little more complex and our small group of teens who went in search of answers have discovered that the automatic deaths of all adults isn’t quite true. The Old Guys have survived but they’ve done so partially by isolating themselves and, even after Jemma and her friends discover them, they are very reluctant to engage with the kids in any meaningful way. While war looms among the children’s tribes, the Old Guys continue to distance themselves. Could it be that these are the people who unleashed hell on the planet in the first place?
In some ways, this second book is better than the first, at least in the sense of being more developed in worldbuilding and plot, but I’m still thinking about whether or not the ending fully satisfied me. Perhaps Mr. Sweat will change his mind and turn this into a trilogy 🙂
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.
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About Jeff:


Jeff Sweat has made a living from words his entire career, starting out as an award-winning tech journalist for Information Week magazine and moving into marketing.
He led the content marketing team for Yahoo and pioneered its use of social media. He directed PR for two of the top advertising agencies in the country, Deutsch LA and 72andSunny. He now runs his own Los Angeles–based PR and marketing agency, Mister Sweat.
He grew up in Idaho as the middle of eight children—seven boys and one girl—and attended Columbia University in New York. Jeff lives in a big blue house in Los Angeles with his wife Sunny and their three kids, two cats, and a racing greyhound.
He loves to travel and writes everywhere he goes, even when there’s not a desk. He likes karaoke, motorcycles and
carpentry. He was once shot in the head with a nail gun, which was not a big of a deal as it sounds. But it still hurt like crazy.
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

 

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Giveaway Details:
2 winners will receive a finished copy
of SCORPION, US Only.
 
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Tour Schedule:
Week One:
7/13/2020
Excerpt
7/13/2020
Instagram Stop
7/14/2020
Excerpt
7/14/2020
Excerpt
7/15/2020
Review
7/15/2020
Excerpt
7/16/2020
Review
7/16/2020
Excerpt
7/17/2020
Review
7/17/2020
Review
Week Two:
7/20/2020
Review
7/20/2020
Instagram Stop
7/21/2020
Interview
7/21/2020
Excerpt
7/22/2020
Interview
7/22/2020
Instagram Stop
7/23/2020
Review
7/23/2020
Review
7/24/2020
Review
7/24/2020
Review

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Book Review: The Vatican Games by Alejandra Guibert @Aleja_Guibert @Authoright

The Vatican Games
Alejandra Guibert
Clink Street, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-913136-30-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Vera is born on the day an apocalyptic revenge is unleashed, annihilating half of the world’s population.

Her birth marks the beginning of a new world order run by powerful gaming corporations.

A warless existence with no poverty has been secured, until this fine balance becomes once more under threat.

Vera is the female David to beat Goliath and prevent further devastation.

The future lies in her hands. It’s a game that she needs to win.

What an unusual story this is! There are certain things that set it apart from most apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/dystopian tales—Vera is born just as the worldwide terrorist attack happens, she survives a deadly brain defect, the setting is in Vatican City, etc.—but, taken as a whole, they create the beginnings of something unexpected. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it and I suspect this is one of those books that has to sort of rumble around in my mind for a while.

To this semi-luddite, it’s appalling to think of the gaming industry being in charge of the world but this kind of story is supposed to be unsettling, isn’t it? Speaking of unsettling, Ms. Guibert is very adept at dropping little crumbs here and there that make you think, “Wait a minute…oh” starting with how hunger no longer exists.

Carry on as usual…urged people to carry on with life in the midst of death. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, but in The Vatican Games, a diabolical attack by unknown terrorists, first against the US, then spreading around the world, is the cause of the overwhelming devastation. It’s followed by a self-justified US military retaliation against the Middle East and then a counterattack on Israel, resulting eventually in incredible loss of life as well as economic disintegration. As might be expected, though, ruling bodies around the world soon collaborate to form a world government but, in reality, this is the story of Vera and her mother, Alina, and Vera’s life after another tragic event.

So much happens in this story that I think the pacing was a bit too slow but it’s a compelling tale of the condition of our world and where it could be heading. Food for thought, indeed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Book Review: The Insurrection by Chris Babu @realchrisbabu @tlcbooktours

The Insurrection
The Initiation #3
Chris Babu
Permuted Press, February 2020
ISBN 978-1-68261-883-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

They are protected by lies. He is armed with the truth.

Having survived the Initiation and expedition, one battle remains: the fight for the heart and soul of New America.

Drayden and his friends, enlisting the help of Professor Worth, must find a way back to New America before the Guardians imperil their return. But for these teens, their problems are only beginning. The Bureau, which never expected them to survive the expedition, will do everything in their power to prevent New America’s darkest secrets from getting out.

Drayden’s only hope is the insurrection led by ally Kim Craig. The David versus Goliath battle between good and evil, between truth and lies, will push Drayden to his breaking point and require bravery, self-acceptance, and above all, belief in himself. Backed by the will of the citizens, he’ll need to engineer an ingenious strategy to defeat the all-powerful authoritarians. The question is, will it be enough?

Predators in the wild, gang violence, a perilous ocean journey, confrontations with the Guardians…all, and more, are the many trials and tribulations a small band from Boston face as they work to help those who are resisting the Bureau of New America. How did we get here? A pandemic caused by Aeru, a deadly bacterium (uncomfortably close to what we currently have with the coronavirus) led to a totalitarian group dividing Manhattan into highly defended walled wards but, as you might expect, very little about this is beneficial to the citizens.

Drayden and his team , Catrice, Sidney and Charlie, along with the elderly Professor Worth, set out to become part of the incipient revolution led by Kim Craig but they also have personal issues to work through, especially the teens. When all is said and done, this band of resistors are able to focus on the task at hand, the defeat of the Bureau and they learn that their bonds give them the strength and the fortitude to do what needs to be done.

Mr. Babu is a very talented storyteller and I have to say I really appreciated the way he let these teens be more mature than so many authors do, with all of them able to keep the usual teen angst down to a dull roar. I haven’t read the first two books but I surely will now.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Amazon

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About the Author

Chris Babu is a lifelong math and science geek, with a math degree from MIT. For nineteen years, he worked as a bond trader on Wall Street. Now he writes full-time, indulging his love of young adult books. He splits his time between New York City and the east end of Long Island, where he lives with his wife Michelle, daughter Lily, and Great Dane Buddy. He’s the author of The Initiation and The Expedition, and can be found at chrisbabu.com.

Connect with Chris:

InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

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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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