Close but realistic family relationships elevate this Contemporary YA Fantasy above the pack.
Welcome to Olympia, home of magical secrets, dangerous monsters, mystical creatures, and the few people able to fight them! David is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or at least that is what he feels like when the FBI recruits him to go undercover in his high school. Isn't it bad enough that he is bullied by several football players, and they are the very ones he has to investigate!? But now he has to find out if they are circulating a deadly drug with a huge side effect: it turns a kid into a hideous, blood-sucking chupacabra!
Disclosure: Hovering over the cover and purchasing may give me a small commission (yippee, book $).
SERIES INFO: This is Book #1 of 3 (so far) in the “David Finkleman Paranormal Series.” According Ms Burian, #2 & #3 are currently being produced in audio (read by the same narrator), and they are working on writing #4 & #5.
As someone who cares more about characters than plot, I really appreciated the sense that there is a real family at the center of this story. There are past hurts and current problems, but they can’t undermine the love and support.
David: Nerdy younger brother of a non-magical but smart and popular football hero. Yet he isn’t drowning in envy. He’s glad that he shares his grandfather’s magical talents. Although he does have the “super strong” powers typical of stories like this, he is still learning and has a limited repertoire of spells.
Sabrina: The very determined daughter of the missing Tom Stevens. I would have liked to see her participate a bit more centrally in the adventures. Nevertheless, she worked hard to find her father.
The romantic relationships are more than a little complicated (and indications are that they get more so in the next book). I actually liked David and Sabrina together and will be rooting for them, sorry Sam.
The world is ours, but includes small numbers of people who can do magic and larger numbers of supernatural and legendary creatures from Brownies to Chupacabras.
I felt uncomfortable with the seriousness of the situations David was forced into. It was explained in the story, but I still feel that the adults should have done more to deal with the issues themselves.
The ending resolved all the plot points while leaving some personal issues hanging.
NARRATION: He has a great, deep, voice. His female voices are acceptable. / Production was smooth & problem free / Listened on 1.25 speed (my usual).
FAVORITE PART(S): I really liked a conversation David has with his older brother. They discuss “doing it” for the first time. His brother tells him that it is ok to wait. He admits that he gave in to pressure and it still bothers him. It is rare that YA books acknowledge regrets regarding sex, coming from a male character, that don’t involve a player reforming his ways. / Being from WA myself, I appreciate that this book didn’t spend time moaning about the weather (although it really does rain as much as they say).
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: The developing double love triangle / the GPS like details of turning left here and right there, which won’t mean anything to anyone who isn’t from Olympia.
--Narrator Impact: AVERAGE
I received this book free in return for an honest review, courtesy of Audiobook Blast."
David Finkleman and the Dangerous magic by PK Burian & ME Drewry; read by Al Kessel; produced independantly in 2015 / Length: 7 hrs 15 min (Unabr) / Available through Audible & Amazon plus iTunes
BONUS NARRATOR INTERVIEW
Who was your favorite character in the book and why?
Easy, David Finkleman. He was fun to voice because I was able to kind of tap into my own childhood a bit. Not that I was a wizard, but (before high school actually) I was quite awkward. I love David's sarcasm (which gets even more wild in book 2) and his attitude towards his brother - even though his brother is successful and popular and they do fight, in the end David always defends and looks up to his brother.
Who was the easiest to narrate? The hardest?
Again, David. Because I related to him so much, he's pretty much my voice, only younger. The hardest would have to have been Sabrina. I wanted her to be feminine but also a bit tom-boyish.
What motivated you to become an audiobook narrator?
I'm a big old ham! I'm a voracious reader, have been all of my life. I love telling stories and entertaining people as well. So, marrying the two passions into one vocation is a dream come true for me.
What's the best part about being a narrator? The worst?
The BEST part of being a narrator is being able to become SO many different people, and not have to be medicated. Getting to read some fantastic works AND getting paid to do it?! The worst part, honestly, is the 'wait and see' part of the audition process.
What are your pet peeves when listening to an audiobook?
Pet peeves when listening to an audiobook...two actually: when the narrator is completely FLAT on the performance (that is, when they just READ the words instead of BECOMING the words. Anyone can read a book. It takes a storyteller to make the words come alive!). And, the technical aspect of audiobooks that most listeners don't hear. Sometimes an audiobook slips through the cracks with bad audio - hissing or pops and clicks. That sort of thing takes me out of the story.
If anyone would like to know more about me, hear samples of my other audiobooks and voice work, or maybe even contact me to voice their work, my website is www.alkessel.com. A link to my ACX/Audible site is there as well.
BONUS AUTHOR INTERVIEW
Tell us something about your lead character(s) that we don't already know.*
We based the character, David Finkleman off of the middle child on “Home Improvement,” Randy Taylor (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) including his looks. We liked his sarcasm. But unlike Randy Taylor, we made David Finkleman with less self-confidence, and with a perfect older brother. We felt many kids out there with older siblings could relate to that.
*They revealed it here first!
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character(s)?
David - Logan Lerman / Henry - Zac Effron / Sabrina - Dove Cameron Or Chloe Grace Moretz / Sam - Tucker Albrizzi / Ashir - Ian Mckellen / Hoss - Vinnie Jones
If you were to spend a day with your lead character, what would the two of you do?
(ME Drewry) cast spellz, make potions, and search for sasquatch. (PK Burian): If I were to spend the day with my main character, I’d spend the day with him on a ghost hunt or Bigfoot hunt or some kind of paranormal activity. I think it would be fascinating.
Tell us something about yourself that we might not already know.
(PK Burian) I worked for years as a typist for Alex Wells, who was a screenwriter in Hollywood. Alex wrote the Raw Hide Series. At that time the writers were the extras in the show, so he was the shows too. He started out as a writer with Aaron Spelling when they both got out of the Navy after WWII, (yes, the Aaron Spelling). Now both men have passed away. He told me so many stories about the movie stars of that era (and he knew all of them, most of the older ones like John Wayne, Barbara Stanwick, and Clint Eastwood), and about what it was like when Hollywood was starting out.
Which actor/actress would you like to see play you in the movie of your life?
(ME Drewry) I would love Jennifer Lawrence to play me. I think we have the same type of quirky humor.
Audiobook / eBook / Paperbooks? Which is your favorite and why?
(ME Drewry) paper books. They never run out of battery, they won't destroy your eyes like screens can, and there's nothing like the feel and smell of a paper book.
(PK Burian): Paper books. I love to hold a book in my hands. I love the feel of the paper. I love to use beautiful bookmarkers to place where I’ve stopped in the book. I like to see the progress I’ve made reading the book. However, I see the advantage of audiobooks for the blind, elderly with poor eyesight, and for people with reading disabilities.
What are your pet peeves when listening to an audiobook?
When audio is choppy or there is no inflection in the voice. Nothing is more grating than a monotone reader.
What motivated you to sit down and write your first book?
(PK Burian): Insanity! My husband and I had moved from the city, where I had a successful business as a computer consultant and I was working 10 hour days, to a 5 acres farm in the country, and hours away from family. I gave up my business to stay home with our two daughters, now my coauthors. It was a huge shock to be isolated with no one to talk to but a three year old and a three month old. I had created stories in my head since I was a small child and decided to finally put them into words. I was relieved when I finally got the first story on paper, and I wish I had been writing my entire life. It was like I had found the missing link in my life. From there I joined a local Romance Writer’s of America group and a critique group, which became a HUGE outlet for me. I meet struggling writer’s like me and very successful writer’s like Debbie Macomber. I have to admit I didn’t know who Debbie was at the time, even though she had had 20 books published. (You can tell how long ago this was, now can’t you? LOL!). But it was great to learn from everyone. I later moved to another writing group that was more structured and focused on the essentials of writing and open to all genres.
What is the hardest thing about writing? The easiest?
(ME Drewry): Hardest - revising and editing to catch grammatical and continuity errors. Easiest - coming up with a general idea to write about, and writing a scene you enjoy.
(PK Burian): I think writing a book, long or short, is the most difficult task a person can take on and do well. There are so many elements to it like plot, subplot, characterization, mood, pace, tone, voice, grammar, sentence structure, tenses, active verbs, description, etc. You have to know when to put in description and when not to, when to add backstory and when it slows the story down, when minor characters are needed and how much description you need for them. You must know how to outline your story and that almost all stories are about conflict, crisis, and conclusion. I could go on and on. And to put this all together and entertain children, teens, and/or adults is difficult. To answer your question the hardest thing about writing is the process. The easiest is coming up with the idea.