📚 In the Blood by Steve Robinson

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Jefferson Tayte Genealogical, Book 1

Description⎮Reviewed May 2018

Narrator: Simon Vance
Length: 10 hours 56 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2014

Synopsis: Two hundred years ago a loyalist family fled to England to escape the American War of Independence and seemingly vanished into thin air. American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to find out what happened, but it soon becomes apparent that a calculated killer is out to stop him.

In the Blood combines a centuries-old mystery with a present-day thriller that brings two people from opposite sides of the Atlantic together to uncover a series of carefully hidden crimes. Tayte’s research centres around the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and the discovery of a dark secret that he believes will lead him to the family he is looking for. Trouble is, someone else is looking for the same answers and will stop at nothing to find them.

In the Blood is the first in the Jefferson Tayte mystery series.

4.5★ Audiobook⎮Genealogy probably seems like just about the mildest thing anyone could do…unless they are Jefferson Tayte. As soon as I read that In the Blood was a genealogical mystery series, I immediately purchased the first two installments. Now, I never download the second installment in a series until I’m certain that I like the first. There have been times when I’ve downloaded sequels within 5 or 10 minutes of starting a series, but this was a first. Sure, it was a gamble. But it just so happened to pay off.

I had never before heard of Steve Robinson, but I like his style of writing. It gives off a Dan Brown vibe that I really dig. This mystery was so layered, that it was almost hard to follow at times. But I can’t even complain about it, because that’s exactly how genealogy is. I credit my awesome amateur detective skills to the loads of genealogy research I’ve done over the past two decades (I’m not old, I just started young). So I know that there is a fine line between Genealogist and Private Investigator. I think most people probably overlook that and automatically write off genealogists as “nerds” instead badass detectives.

Jefferson Tayte is such an Indiana Jones. He’s really likable and has his own slow cooking identity plot just sitting on the back burner. He’s adopted and has no idea who his real family is and I need to know now! Besides having a really cool name, Tayte was a pretty likable protagonist. There were only one or two times when I was like “What are you thinking?!”. For the most part, his actions were plausible enough. He would throw around just enough genealogy terms to feed my inner geek.

The one thing I did wish, however, was that In the Blood had come with a family tree. I know I’ve said that before, but of all the audiobooks to have an accompanying family tree PDF, this should have been the one. It’s about genealogy, for crying out loud. As it was, I managed to sketch out my own based on the information gradually given. That helped my understanding of the intertwining plots tremendously. It felt like untangling a bundle of cords. Plus, it was way fun. I love genealogy.

The only bits I didn’t really care for were the alternating POV chapters. One chapter would take place in the 21st century and the next in the 18th. On top of everything else, it became very confusing and hard to follow along with. What really bothered me was that there was no basis for the time jumps. Sometimes, Tayte would be reading from a journal or letter, but usually the new chapters would just take the listener back in time without much premise, which required some suspension of disbelief. Having already begun the second installment, I can see that this is something Robinson will do in each book.

However, the mystery in In the Blood was fantastic. It kept me guessing until the end. There was nothing obvious about it at all. You start on the surface with Jefferson and dig deeper and deeper until you’re all wound up in a tangled knot. That’s exactly how real genealogy is. It’s not just about names on paper. Each of those names was a person with a life and secrets, connecting to all of these other family members, with their own lives and secrets. So, even if you start out trying to answer one particular question, a dozen more questions pop up before you ever find your first answer. Honestly, I’m amazed that Robinson was able to tie up the loose ends so nicely.

Narration review: I’ve heard of Simon Vance, but I’ve never heard him perform until now. Overall, I was very impressed with his performance and I’m satisfied that he’s reading the rest of the series. He appropriately differentiates between characters, even if the differentiations are sometimes a little off. I don’t particularly care for the way he voices female characters because they don’t sound obviously female. But I do love that he narrates the story with an English accent, but voices the main character as an American. It perfectly demonstrates that Jefferson Tayte is an American abroad. ♣︎

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📚 George and Marina: Duke and Duchess of Kent by Christopher Warwick

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Description⎮Reviewed May 2018

Narrator: Gildart Jackson
Length: 7 hours 35 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: For eight brief years, before he was tragically killed in a mysterious air crash during the Second World War, Prince George, Duke of Kent, son of King George V and Queen Mary, and his beautiful wife, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, were the British monarchy’s – indeed, high society’s – most glamorous royal couple; and as golden royal icons, they are still remembered. As a young man voraciously addicted to drugs and sex with men as much as women, marriage and parenthood for the impetuously wayward playboy prince, with his nightclubbing lifestyle and intimate liaisons, was seen as the only stabilizing influence. Enter the stylish and sophisticated Princess Marina, the cultured, artistic, and multilingual youngest daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and his Russian-born wife, Grand Duchess Yelena Vladimirovna. As Duke and Duchess of Kent, George and Marina were the Crown’s most glittering representatives, not least in the aftermath of the abdication of George’s adored elder brother, the briefly reigned King Edward VIII, the man not only with whom he had shared both home and high-flying lifestyles but who had helped cure him of his addiction to morphine and cocaine.

4.5★ Audiobook⎮ With the royal wedding approaching, I’ve found myself listening to more and more royal biographies lately. I’m always searching for anything happening to do with European royalty, because one can only hear so much about Queen Victoria. Finding George and Marina: Duke and Duchess of Kent, felt like the perfect opportunity to learn more about the Greek and Danish royal houses, even if it was only through their connection to the house of Windsor.

Not long ago, I read about the wedding of George and Marina through the eyes of Rhys Bowen’s fictional character Lady Georgianna Runnoch in Royal Bloodthe fourth installment in the series Her Royal Spyness. Obviously, that was a fictional account, but it was enough to pique my interest.

I’m fairly well acquainted with the life of Prince George, Duke of Kent. However, I knew very little about his wife before hearing George and Marina, especially about her life before marriage. Luckily for me, George and Marina focused heavily on Marina. I’m not sure if that was by design, since so much has already been written about the members of the House of Windsor, or if it was merely because Marina outlived her husband by more than two decades. Either way, it proved that I had chosen the right memoir for my interests.

Christopher Warwick did a fantastic job of detailing Marina’s European lineage and providing a plethora of anecdotal information on her family. This was the only time I wished I had a physical copy of this book handy. Whenever there is a long list of genealogy and the accompanying royal titles, I find it best to have at least a genealogical chart on standby. I wish it was common for audiobooks to provide downloadable PDFs outlining such information. It certainly would have helped me to cement what I was hearing. Thankfully, I already knew enough to follow along and digest what I could.

Warwick provided an even account of scandals of the time. We’ve all heard the rumors and Warwick addressed them head-on. This wasn’t necessarily an overly-flattering biography (one paying “lip service”), but I appreciated that it acknowledged both the contemporary and modern gossip surrounding the couple. It seemed more balanced than most royal biographies today, though not particularly in-depth.

George and Marina was the perfect length to scratch an intellectual itch. It held just enough information to satisfy my curiosity without boring me to death with unnecessary facts. I would recommend George and Marina to the casual historian, but it probably wouldn’t hold up to tougher standards. Unfortunately, it seems to be the only audiobook available about the couple.

Narration review: Gildart Jackson sounded like he was pulled straight from the set of The Crown. His accent and pronunciations were perfectly suited for a biography about old school royalty. Clearly a seasoned narrator, Jackson’s pace and timing kept me on the hook, something I always worry about with nonfiction titles. The audio quality wasn’t perfect, but I have to admit that it added a certain vintage vibe to the listening experience, like listening on an antique radio. ♣︎

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📚 The Rise by Julie Plec

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The Originals, Book 1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2018

Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 7 hours 59 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2015

Synopsis: Family is power. The Original vampire family swore it to each other a thousand years ago. They pledged to remain together always and forever. But even when you’re immortal, promises are hard to keep.

Arriving in New Orleans in 1722, Original vampire siblings Klaus, Elijah, and Rebekah Mikaelson believe they’ve escaped their dangerous past. But the city is lawless, a haven for witches and werewolves unwilling to share territory. The siblings are at their mercy…especially after Klaus meets the beautiful and mysterious Vivianne. Her impending marriage is key to ending the war between the supernatural factions – and Klaus’ attraction to her could destroy the uneasy alliance. As Elijah works toward securing a piece of the city for his family, and Rebekah fights her unexpected feelings for a French captain, will Klaus’ volatile desires bring their world crashing down – and tear them apart for good?

3.75★ AudiobookThe Rise is the first installment in a trilogy by Julie Plec, best known as the writer for two CW television shows: The Vampire Diaries and its spin off, The Originals. I finished watching The Vampire Diaries last year and I also heard the first installment in The Vampire Diaries book series by LJ Smith. In that case, I loved the TV show, but was not the fan of Smith’s writing and did not continue on with it.

However, that was not the case with The Originals. I’m in the middle of binging its television counterpart on Netflix, so I decided to give the book series a shot when I discovered it was written by Julie Plec. It turns out that Plec is a much better writer than Smith. At the very least, The Rise did not have me cringing every other minute like The Awakening did. I think that had a lot to do with Plec and also a bit to do with the fact that this book series is based on the television series, not vice versa.

The Rise takes place in the 18th-century and reads mostly like historical fiction, with paranormal elements. That was one thing I didn’t really care for with The Rise. I would have preferred the series to be set in a more contemporary time, like the show. It still follows in the three primary Mickaelson siblings, Klaus, Elijah, and Rebecca, but other than that and a little backstory, there isn’t an obvious link to the occurrences of TV show. It’s more like one of the show’s flashbacks.

The Originals isn’t terribly consistent with its storylines and I was hoping Plec would take this opportunity to fill in some plotholes, but it’s really more like a pointless novella. Still, the reason I read novellas is because when I like something, I can’t get enough of it. The Originals is no exception. It was fun to be able to clearly picture the TV show’s cast when listening to this audiobook and it was easy to jump into because I am already well acquainted with the world of The Originals.

I would absolutely recommend this series to fans of The Originals, just don’t expect it to have a groundbreaking plot that will affect or shine new light on any of the show’s event. Books like this are inconsequential, but entertaining, especially to an existing Fanbase.

Narration review: I’ve heard and reasonably enjoyed Saskia Maarleveld’s past performances, but this one left me underwhelmed. Given the fact that this book series is based on a television show, I was expecting her to use it as a basis for her characterizations, but that did not happen. For example, in the show, Klaus and Elijah have very different temperaments and that’s reflected in how they sound. However, Maarleveld’s versions of the characters were virtually indistinguishable. Conversations between the two were confusing, as a result. Of course, Maarleveld is still a quality narrator, but in this case, I expected more from her. ♣︎

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📚 Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

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Blue Bloods, Book 1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2018

Narrator: Christina Moore
Length: 7 hours 2 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2009

Synopsis: The first book in the New York Times best-selling series Blue Bloods introduces Schuyler Van Alen to the ancient world of the undead.
Schuyler is an outcast at her prestigious private high school filled with fashionable upper-class socialites. But this off-limits world opens up to her when Schuyler turns 15 and discovers that her peers, like her, are budding vampires. Then vampires start getting killed, and Schuyler realizes something else – they are being hunted.

4.25★ Audiobook⎮I’ve recently become a huge fan of Melissa de la Cruz. Blue Bloods is a series that has been on my radar and TBR list for a while and after loving The Ring and the Crown so much, I decided it was time to give it a go. I’ve also heard most of the Witches of East End series.

I was initially expecting Blue Bloods to be a run-of-the-mill vampire tale, but I should have known that de la Cruz doesn’t do anything “run-of-the-mill”. There’s always an unexpected underlying element of mysticism to her stories and in this case it happened to be a complicated version of reincarnation meshed with vampirism. The reincarnation aspect reminded me of Witches of East Endbut without Norse mythology being thrown in. It’s also somewhat similar to Jodi Meadows’ Newsoul series, which I liked, but couldn’t continue because only the first installment is available as an audiobook.

The setting of Blue Bloods (and some of its characters) could easily have been featured in Gossip Girl. The synopsis lets onto this a little, along with the vampirism, but it leaves out the “recycling of souls” entirely. If that had been mentioned, I would have started this series a long time ago, because its what makes this series standout amongst the Twilights and Gossip Girls of the world. There’s more to these vampires than meets the eye and it’s thrillingly refreshing.

Upon finishing Blue Bloods, I immediately began the next installment. The excitement of Blue Bloods had begun to wane a little after some of the mystery was unveiled and I soon found that my interest had waned some too. I’m not giving up on the series, just tabling it for now. I like knowing that there are several installments in this series, as well as a spinoff series waiting for me. I’m sure I’ll circle back around to it once my interest is renewed.

Narration review: Christina Moore is a great narrator, for sure, but I’m not sure she was the appropriate choice for this series. I’ve previously heard her narrate Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic from Alice Hoffman. I think those may have been her better performances. For Blue Bloods, Moore’s voice sounded too “mature” to pass for teenagers. This is a Young Adult book, after all, and she just wasn’t believable when voicing the large cast of teenagers. It’s not an overly huge deal to me, though. Moore is still a quality narrator and that’s worth a lot♣︎

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📚 A Hiss-tory of Magic by Harper Lin

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Wonder Cats Mystery, Book 1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2018

Narrator: Anne James
Length: 4 hours 16 minutes
Publisher: Harper Lin Books⎮2018

Synopsis: From USA Today best-selling author Harper Lin: a paranormal mystery series about magic cats and modern-day witches.

Cath Greenstone, her cousin, Bea, and her hippie aunt, Astrid, live in Wonder Falls, a small town near the mystical Niagara Falls. They run the Brew-Ha-Ha café, and naturally, they’re witches hiding in plain sight along with their three magical cats, Treacle, Peanut Butter, and Marshmallow.

When Brew-Ha-Ha’s baker is burnt to a crisp, along with their beloved café, Aunt Astrid lets out a big family secret: A powerful spell book, a Greenstone heirloom from the Salem days, has been stolen from its secret hiding spot in the café. If it’s fallen into the wrong hands, black magic could destroy not only Wonder Falls but the world.

A secret society…. A new detective with a shady past…. A once-bullied local returning to town as a multimillionaire.

Who in town could know Cath’s family secret? Cath, Bea, and Astrid must use their witch powers to uncover the deadly truth. Cath communicates with their cats, also magically inclined, and they help uncover more than one secret lurking in wonderful Wonder Falls.

Fans are loving this charming, original, and spooky paranormal mystery series.

4.25★ Audiobook⎮Confession: I’m a crazy cat lady. With three rescues of my own, it’s fair to say I’m upset with all things feline. So, of course, A Hiss-tory of Magic was an automatic listen for me. It helps that I’m also interested in Paranormal fiction, specifically books pertaining to magic. The crossover between witches/magic and cats is my literary sweet spot.

I’ve never heard of Harper Lin, much less heard anything from her, so I had no idea what to expect from this. I was in the mood for something light and quirky and A Hiss-tory of Magic delivered. It turned out to be considerably more substantive than I was expecting. I’ve heard cozy mysteries where animals help their human familiars solve crimes, but they always end up being shallow and downright silly. A Hiss-tory of Magic was a fair bit more intellectual, as cozy mysteries go.

For starters, the writing was heads and tails above anything similar that I’ve heard. Lin dedicated significant time to world building and character development, while balancing the action and plot. There wasn’t a whole lot going on in the romance department, which suited me just fine. There’s plenty of time for something romantic to develop at a more natural pace in future installments.

A Hiss-tory of Magic felt more like the first installment in a series rather than a serial. It reminded me a lot Halfway Dead and somewhat of The Lazy Girls Guide to Magic. There’s so much potential here. A Hiss-tory of Magic set this series off to a great start. There’s a good chance I will continue with it.

Narration review: I have to consider the narration of A Hiss-tory of Magic to be its weakest point. Although, it certainly wasn’t terrible, by any means. Anne James has a pleasant timbre to her voice and she provided adequate characterization. But there was something off with her pacing and inflection that kept niggling the back of my mind throughout the production. It always seemed like she was over enunciating the words and her inflections seemed to rise at the end of statements, making them sound like questions.

Overall, this wasn’t a huge deal. But it did slightly detract from my listening experience, so it’s worth a mention. I will say, however, that it definitely wouldn’t stop me from hearing the rest of the series (once it’s released). ♣︎

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📚 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2018

Narrator: Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, Robin Miles
Length: 12 hours 10 minutes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

4.75★ AudiobookThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was the only good thing in an otherwise horrible week for me. Typically, when I’m having a bad day/week/month, my listening experiences are significantly affected. But my throrough enjoyment of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, in spite of my sour mood, is a testament to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s ability to provide escapism in the form of her writing.

I honestly can’t fathom a scenario in which I wouldn’t have enjoyed The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It mostly reads like a memoir, with salacious Old Hollywood gossip keeping the listener’s undivided attention. I daresay it was more satisfying than a real Hollywood memoir could ever be. Most real life memoirs tend to hold back the really good stuff, for the sake of someone or other, but Evelyn’s does not. To be clear, Evelyn Hugo is a fictional character. But the way she’s written makes her seem oh so real and that makes her story even more intriguing.

As a main character, Evelyn was developed to perfection. She was multidimensional, realistically flawed, and extraordinarily complex. The present day Evelyn showed significant growth from her younger self  (as one would expect) and was able to provide insight gleamed from decades past.

Although Evelyn was a fictional character, the setting she inhabited was not. One could easily imagine a well known Hollywood starlet filling her shoes. Monique’s character, on the other hand, was indicative of a modern 21st-century woman. Her relative normality balanced Evelyn’s larger-than-life persona nicely. The semi-frequent shifts of perspective provided refreshing breaks from dramatic scenes. Near the end, the two women’s lives converge at an unexpected point, giving the story its final plot twist.

The final twist took me by surprise, but didn’t knock me off my feet. By that point, I was more engrossed in Evelyn’s tale than Monique’s. In my mind, Monique had firmly taken on the status of a supporting character, so the twist didn’t feel as “weighty” as it probably should have.

What I appreciated most about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was its intersectionality. Monique is biracial and Evelyn is Cuban-American. Bisexuality also heavily factors into the plot and is explored in an open and unapologetic manner. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo offered the unique experience of being able to view sexuality in both historical and modern context. In many ways, Evelyn Hugo was beyond her time.

Narration review: The narration of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was spot on. It increased the ease of listening tenfold. The POV shifts were accompanied by the narrator shifts, making them more pronounced. In addition to Monique and Evelyn, there were commentary insertions from gossip magazines, giving a more public viewpoint on the events of Evelyn’s life. A different narrator performed each of these shifts: Evelyn, Monique, and the commentary. It was absolutely the right call. Alternating timelines are tricky to pull off, so if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right. This was a phenomenal listen! ♣︎

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📚 Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2018

Narrator: Caroline Lee
Length: 16 hours
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2014

Synopsis: Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. The school principal is horrified. As police investigate what appears to have been a tragic accident, signs begin to indicate that this devastating death might have been cold-blooded murder.

In this thought-provoking novel, number-one New York Times best-selling author Liane Moriarty deftly explores the reality of parenting and playground politics, ex-husbands and ex-wives, and fractured families. And in her pitch-perfect way, she shows us the truth about what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

4★ Audiobook⎮ I turned to Big Little Lies after finishing and enjoying The Millionaire’s Wife by Shalini Boland. I was in the mood for another Suspense novel and decided to give Big Little Lies another go after having started it (and its HBO adaptation) several months before.

This time around was successful in that I was able to complete the audiobook, but I’m not sure I enjoyed it quite as much as The Millionaire’s Wife. Although, time may change how I remember this experience.

I enjoyed the Australian setting. I haven’t heard many stories set in Australia, so Big Little Lies was refreshing in that regard. With the possible exception of Jane, I can’t say that I was particularly endeared towards any of the characters. I found Madeleine Martha McKenzie especially irksome, but I think (or hope) that was by design.

Big Little Lies was well told and deeply unsettling. I would not recommend Big Little Lies to anyone sensitive to the subject of domestic violence, physical or emotional abuse, or bullying. Big Little Lies was deceptively invasive. I’m afraid I underestimated the impact it would have on me because I was not expecting to be so disturbed by this story. Moriarty distracts and disarms the listener with playground politics while slipping under their skin to find the right nerve to pinch.

I’m glad that I had seen a couple of episodes of the television series prior to really getting into this audiobook. I hadn’t seen enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book, just enough to give me clear mental images of the characters, which always enhances my enjoyment of any audiobook experience. From what I have seen so far, the television adaptation was pretty loyal to the spirit of Moriarty’s original work and the casting was fantastic. If you’re juggling in the book and TV show, be careful. Several plot twists are revealed towards the middle to end of the story.

Big Little Lies is a popular book club choice, but it would also make an excellent “Beach Read” (or listen) for anyone wanting something a little darker than typical “Women’s Fiction”.

Narration review: My initial reaction to Caroline Lee’s performance was “Australian accents are delightful!”. Her accent alone left me wanting more. Her tone was also pleasant and her pacing left nothing to be desired. Lee gave a continual vibe of “performing” rather than simply reading. Her characterization levels were above average, though not the best I’ve heard. Still, more than enough characterization was provided for distinction and overall ease-of-listening. ♣︎

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📚 Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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Illuminae Files #3

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2018

Narrator: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Carla Corvo, full cast
Length: 13 hours
Publisher: Listening Library⎮2018

Synopsis: From best-selling author duo Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff comes the exciting finale in the trilogy that broke the mold and has been called “stylistically mesmerizing” and “out-of-this-world-awesome”.

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza – but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys – an old flame from Asha’s past – reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.

5★ Audiobook⎮ Gods above, what have I just heard?! A masterpiece, that’s what.

Way back in 2015, I proclaimed Illuminae to be the best audiobook I’d ever heard. Today, I’m upping that proclamation. Everyone associated with the production of this audiobook series deserves an award. ALL. THE. AWARDS. And to the readers out there still flipping pages, you have no idea what you’ve just missed. My mind is still blown.

Obsidio was an epic conclusion to a revolutionary trilogy. I’m not only referring to the way in which this story was written, but also the way in which it was recorded. Those two things combined on such a masterful level that it’s impossible for me to separate their awesomeness. All audiobooks reach some level of symbiosis, making it difficult to assess the separate elements of the written story and the recorded audiobook. Still, I somehow always manage to do so. Until now.

The Illuminae series is a flawless combination of riveting writing and powerful performance. Its translation into the audiobook format was done with such finesse and ingenuity, that I fear I will never hear its equal. Yes, this is me gushing. In fact, I gushed over this trilogy so much during a recent podcast interview, that my professional composure slipped and the whole thing verged on fangirling.

I’ve been trying to write this review for a couple of weeks now, and I can no better express my enthusiasm now than I could upon finishing the trilogy. I can see no reason why anyone (especially after reading this) would choose to pick up the book rather than the audiobook. I can’t think of an audiobook in existence that has had so much leverage over its paper counterpart. Hearing this trilogy is like hearing an extraordinary radio drama.

Narration review: In my humble opinion, full cast productions should not be categorized with other audiobooks (especially in award categories). It just isn’t fair. The majority of narrators can’t be expected to compete against full casts (although, I can think of one or two who probably could..). In fairness, I haven’t heard that many full cast productions, so I’m sure they can’t all be this amazing. Much of the credit goes to the producers and sound engineers, as well, for making it such a smooth and flowing audio experience.

And those sound effects. Whoah, the sound effects. I know they can be polarizing, but for me, they usually work. I’m a fan, especially in this case. The sound effects in Obsidio and the Illuminae trilogy helped meld scenes together and immerse the listener into the action. Fair warning, some listeners might find them intrusive, but I did not. This was nothing but a positive listening experience for me and I’m sorry it had to end. ♣︎

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📚 Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

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The World of The Others, Book 1 (The Others, Book 6)

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2018

Narrators: Alexandra Harris
Length: 13 hours 37 minutes
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2018

Synopsis: In this thrilling and suspenseful fantasy set in the world of the New York Times best-selling Others series, an inn owner and her shape-shifting lodger find themselves enmeshed in danger and dark secrets.

Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shape-shifters, and even deadlier paranormal beings. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget….

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns such as Vicki’s don’t have any distance from the Others, the dominant predators who rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what is out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe–one of the shape-shifting Others–discovers a murdered man, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, ancient forces are roused by the disturbance in their domain. They have rules that must not be broken–and all the destructive powers of nature at their command.

4.25★ AudiobookLake Silence was a complete shock to me when I stumbled across it while searching for my next listen. In previous years, I’ve had the date of Anne Bishop’s newest release marked on my calendar for months. But with the conclusion of The Others series last March, I wasn’t expecting to be able to return to that world so soon.

Just to be clear, Lake Silence is not the next installment in The Others series, despite being marketed as The Others #6. I’m glad that point was clear to me before I began listening to Lake Silence. This novel does not feature Meg, Simon, or any of the characters from the town of Lakeside who were featured in The Others 1-5. That will likely be disappointing to most fans of the previous series, but fans of Bishop’s writing and the intricate world of The Others can still find something familiar to love in Lake Silence. 

I love the fact that Bishop is returning to this amazing world and its complex sociological and political systems. The characters in Lake Silence may be new to us but their world is not. There may not be any Cassandra Sangue, but Vicki DeVine and her story line in Lake Silence are generally reminiscent of a minor character subplot or alternate POV from The Others. 

Lake Silence itself had the feel of a novella and it will be interesting to see if Bishop expands on DeVine’s story in future installments, turning it into a spinoff series (à la Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega or Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines) or continues to focus on newly created protagonists in new locations.

I’m partially hoping to hear more of Vicki & Co. I’m sure they would continue to grow on me with more exposure. As it stands now, I’m not overly fond of any of the characters featured in Lake Silence. I wasn’t invested in them enough to really make me care about their well-being in Lake Silence. However, it should be noted that this was also how I felt about Meg, Simon, etc after the first installment of The Others. It took another book or two for them to really grow on me, which is what I’m hoping would happened with Vicki.

Either way, I’m thrilled that Bishop is dedicated to expanding the world of The Others. Her world building was always the best thing about that series and I’ll take all of it I can get. Although Lake Silence is different enough from its parent series to be considered separate, I think it would be best enjoyed by fans of The Others. 

Narration review: By now, I’m well used to Alexandra Harris’ narration of Bishop’s work. Her somewhat odd cadence can take some getting used to, but her characterization abilities are tops. In a series with so many characters and distinct species of characters, I can no longer deny that Harris was the perfect choice for this series. Her emotive vocalizations truly a character’s personality to immediately surface, making listening a breeze. ♣︎

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📚 Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

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Jane Yellowrock, Book 1

Description⎮Reviewed Feb. 2018

Narrators: Khristine Hvam
Length: 14 hours 34 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios⎮2010

Synopsis: Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind – a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.

4★ AudiobookSkinwalker was one of three Paranormal audiobooks I purchased during a recent Audible ‘First-in-series’ sale (the best type of sale, tbh), the other two being Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs and Halfway to the Grave. Despite being the first I heard, Skinwalker was also the last I finished. But get ready for a plot twist because I think Skinwalker was my favorite.

I should clarify that I mean two things by “favorite”: 1) It was the one I disliked the least and 2) It’s the series I would probably continue on with before the others. Skinwalker has more potential than the others (in my opinion, of course) and I would therefore be the most curious to see where the series goes. Of the three, it also gave me a distinct Mercy Thompson vibe, which was precisely what I was looking for. Just look at the cover. That could practically be Mercy.

Let’s break it down: Mercy is a mechanic. Jane Yellowrock built her own motorcycle from scrap parts. Mercy and Jane are both of Native American descent. They are both shape shifters who don’t really know what they are and don’t fit in with their respective packs. There are many more similarities where world building is concerned, but Hunter’s writing style just can’t touch that of Patricia Briggs. In fact, Skinwalker sort of felt like listening to fan fiction from the Mercy-verse.

But I’m not even mad about it (though I can see why people would be). Honestly, I’m so desperate for more Mercy Thompson that I’ll try anything that is even slightly similar to it. I purchased Skinwalker because of these similarities, not in spite of them. I mean, something has to sustain me until Briggs’ next release.

However, I am disappointed that Hunter’s world didn’t seem to be as immersive as I was hoping for, nor was Jane as dynamic of a character. I appreciated the idea of Jane’s absorption of Beast and their subsequent, albeit reluctant, cohabitation and cooperation. But something about it just didn’t click with me. The writing style used for Beast’s POV was offputting and hard to follow. The incomplete sentences made the overall flow of events seem choppy and disconnected.

Speaking of disconnection, something in the writing (I’m not sure what) prevented me from connecting with these characters and fully sinking into their world. However, I’m not completely certain that 100% of this disconnection can be blamed on the book, which is why I’m open to continuing on with the series. The potential is definitely there and I’ll need to hear more of this series to know if more of the problem lies with it or me. Some series take longer to get into than others and I’m really hoping to fall in love with this one with a little extra effort.

Narration review: As soon as I saw that this series was narrated by Kristine Hvam, I clicked ‘purchase’. No hesitation, whatsoever. I’ve heard countless titles from Hvam and have loved them all.She did an adequate job of voicing Beast, which couldn’t have been easy. Hvam’s narration is playing a huge part in my openness to hearing more of this series. I’m always open to hearing more of Kristine Hvam. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon and Audiobooks.com