📚 The Meg by Steve Alten

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Meg, Book 0.5

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Sean Runnette
Length: 10 hours and 32 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2014

Synopsis: Revised and Expanded. On a top-secret dive into the Pacific Ocean’s deepest canyon, Jonas Taylor found himself face-to-face with the largest and most ferocious predator in the history of the animal kingdom. The sole survivor of the mission, Taylor is haunted by what he’s sure he saw but still can’t prove exists – Carcharodon megalodon, the massive mother of the great white shark. The average prehistoric Meg weighs in at twenty tons and could tear apart a Tyrannosaurus rex in seconds. Taylor spends years theorizing, lecturing, and writing about the possibility that Meg still feeds at the deepest levels of the sea. But it takes an old friend in need to get him to return to the water, and a hotshot female submarine pilot to dare him back into a high-tech miniature sub. Diving deeper than he ever has before, Taylor will face terror like he’s never imagined. MEG is about to surface. When she does, nothing and no one is going to be safe, and Jonas must face his greatest fear once again.


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮Jonas Taylor is an interesting character because he’s struggling. A few years back, his career tanked and he’s been kicking around since then between therapists and his hunt for the Meg. His wife, Maggie, has made her journalism career her priority and has turned rather nasty towards Jonas and his hunt. Meanwhile, the star of this story, Meg herself, inadvertently escapes from the warm water layer of the Marianas trench, up through the cold water section, into the upper warm waters of the Pacific. She’s on the loose and happy to be hunting.

I love stories that are just on the edge of possible when it comes to big dangerous beasties. We know so little about the depths of our oceans and that makes them a good breeding ground for stories of monsters. The Meg holds a lot of credibility since this proficient killer ruled the oceans for far longer than humanity has existed. Sharks as a species are hard to kill and Mother Earth has definitely tried…. and not always won. We still have plenty of sharks.

Terri and her father provide equipment and a pre-prepared California bay which might allow them to capture this prehistoric beast. Yeah, right! Right from the start, I knew this wasn’t going to happen as planned. And what’s more, the Meg appears to be pregnant! Yikes! The ocean’s animal social hierarchy will be changed forever! But I still hoped it would work.

After some sightings of the Meg and several deaths, the US Navy decides it’s best to put this beast down for good. Terri is in agreement with them but has to play for her dad’s team, which means teaming up with Jonas. There’s some playful flirtation between the two that comes off as rather forced and fake. I had high hopes that Terri would get to do some awesome stuff, but mostly she spends time on the sidelines.

The action ramps up and up and up… and it looks like things might just work out for those characters that are still left… and then stuff goes horribly wrong. Jonas ends up covered in blood and nearly drowned. More people die. Terri’s dad doesn’t get his prize. It’s a lovely mess of a situation.

The ending leaves us perfectly set up for the next book but closes off the main fights for this book. It also leaves us with a sappy romantic situation that I had trouble buying into even though I wanted some happiness for Jonas. Over all, 3.5/5 stars.

This particular audiobook version includes Book 0.5 Meg: Origins. It’s the story of how Jonas’s career tanked. I really liked this novella. Not only does it flesh out the bare bones facts in The Meg Book 1 but it also shows us that there are others who bumped into the Meg all those years ago. Jonas has mourned the loss of those scientists in the submersible with him that day but now we know how it all played out. This novella was written years after The Meg and it shows how the author’s skill has grown. 5/5 stars for Book 0.5.

The Narration: First, there’s a short bit from the author about his personal fascination with sharks, especially the Meg. I love when authors take the time to add a personal note like this and love it even more when it’s included in the audiobook. Sean Runnette was great as Jonas Taylor. He really does a great job portraying Jonas’s evolving emotions throughout the story. He starts off indecisive and dissatisfied with his life but as things heat up, the character focuses and becomes more and more sure of himself. Runnette did great with this. His female voices could use more femininity. He was great with Maggie’s venom and Terri’s assertiveness but they didn’t always sound like women. I liked his light Asian accent for Terri’s dad and how he made Terri and her brother sound all American. 4/5 stars
.

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🎁 The Warp Clock by Nathan Van Coops

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In Times Like These, Book 4

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Neil Hellegers
Length: 8 hours 36 minutes
Publisher: Skylighter Press⎮2018

Synopsis: To save her future, he can’t have one.

Ben Travers is facing an impossible choice. When a girl arrives from his future claiming to be family, she brings nothing but bad news. Ben has two possible fates, and no matter which he chooses, he has to die. In a desperate bid to alter his future, Ben must seek a mysterious device that the Quickly family would rather keep hidden. He’ll confront a rogue faction of temporal fugitives – his only ally a girl he never knew existed.

Adventure. Family. Time travel. For Ben Travers, it’s all going to collide.

Take a leap into the fourth book of the In Times Like These time travel series. Listen in order or jump right into this thrilling stand-alone novel.

Fight the future! Start your adventure today, because yesterday may be too late….


4.5★ Audiobook⎮ I literally gasped with excitement when Narrator Neil Hellegers emailed me about reviewing The Warp Clock. That wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the fact that I was sitting in the middle of a movie theater when I received the email!

I have reviewed all three previous installments of this time travel series, so I was eager to hear that there would be a fourth. I heard the third installment under the impression that it would be the finale to a trilogy, so there were multiple levels to my excitement. That excitement then doubled upon reading the synopsis for The Warp Clock. I mean, who doesn’t jump for joy at the prospect of their OTP having offspring?! Throw in time travel and this was bound to be fun.

As I’ve said before, “fun” is the perfect word for this series. It’s brimming with Van Coops’ trademark wit and humor. His is one of the most unique takes on time travel theory that I’ve heard, yet it still manages to not take itself too seriously. I’ll admit, the science sometimes makes my head spin with all the multiple times streams and whatnot, but Nathan Van Coops writes with such an ease of manner that the narrative itself is easy to follow. That’s what counts here.

The Warp Clock definitely isn’t hard science fiction, so no PhD’s are necessary to listen. The book does it take itself too seriously, so the listener shouldn’t either. It’s a hoot, so just enjoy the ride. With that said, I strongly recommend hearing the first three installments in order before this one in order to fully appreciate the set up. Hearing the first three allowed me to become invested in the characters. The Warp Clock played into my fantasies for these characters so much that it almost seemed like fan service, not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you.

The plot seemed a little less structured than what I’m used to hearing from Van Coops. There was a lot of jumping around, reminiscent of The Chronathon. This wasn’t my favorite installment in this series, but perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I had heard it immediately after the previous installment. If you have the chance to hear all four volumes in succession, I recommend binging them. Honestly, I’m tempted to go back to the beginning and re-listen to the entire series just for kicks.

Narration review: These are the only audiobooks I’ve heard from Neil Hellegers, so he’s pretty much synonymous with Ben Travers to me. If we spoke on the phone, I’m pretty sure it would throw me for a loop, subconsciously trying to separate him from the character.

Returning to this series and hearing Hellegers’ voice again was incredibly comforting. I was instantly flooded with all of the warm, fuzzy feelings I accumulated while hearing the past three installments. It was sort of like flipping through an audio photo album full of cozy feelings. I’m glad he’s still around narrating the series. If another narrator had taken over, I would have been devastated. ♣︎

 This audiobook was graciously gifted to me by its narrator, Neil Hellegers, in exchange for a review containing my honest thoughts and opinions. Thanks, Neil!

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📚 Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

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Aurora Teagarden, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed July 2018

Narrator: Therese Plummer
Length: 6 hours 7 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2009

Synopsis: Though a small town at heart, Lawrenceton, Georgia, has its dark side – and its crime buffs. One of them is librarian Aurora “Roe” Teagarden, a member of the Real Murders Club, which meets once a month to analyze famous cases. It’s a harmless pastime – until the night she finds a member killed in a manner that eerily resembles the crime the club was about to discuss.

As other brutal “copycat” killings follow, Roe will have to uncover the person behind the terrifying game, one that casts all the members of Real Murders, herself included, as prime suspects – or potential victims.


3.75★ Audiobook⎮After breezing through the Harper Connelly series last week, the Aurora Teagarden series seemed like a natural progression. I got excited after discovering that this series has been adapted by Hallmark into a series of movies starring Candace Cameron Bure (Full House).

I was easily able to make it through Real Murders and two more installments in just a couple of days. This series was even easier to hear than Harper Connelly. However, it’s simply just wasn’t as interesting. There are no paranormal elements to this series. Aurora Teagarden is just a regular, albeit obnoxious, protagonist who is always at at the wrong place at the wrong time. I can’t even call her at a crime solving protagonists because She really just sort of “lucks into” the information she finds out.

The mystery plot for Real Murders was set up pretty nicely. The series of murders that take place are all copycat murders based on famous cases from the past. Our protagonist, Aurora, is a member of a club called “Real Murders” that meets every so often to discuss famous killings and cold cases. To me, that’s more than a little bit strange. It reminds me of when I accidentally stumbled across the corner of Tumblr that worships serial killers…

But that wasn’t what put me off. I get that fires are lit by all sorts of things and, in this case, it actually worked to nicely set up the mystery. But even with Charlaine Harris at the helm, Real Murders just didn’t do it for me. It was ultimately weighed down by an annoying heroine. I think if Aurora had been more endearing, I would be more willing to put up with little annoyances. As it was, I just couldn’t connect with her. She seemed very two-dimensional and so unlike Harris’ other heroines.

This is my fourth series from Harris and it happens to be my least favorite. It’s the only one that doesn’t have some sort of supernatural angle, so I wonder how much that factors into my dislike of it. Even so, I’m a big enough fan of Charlaine Harris’ other work to not want to shut the door on this series completely. I’m open to circling back around to it at some point in the future, possibly after I finish the Sookie Stackhouse series.

For lovers of cozies, especially clean mysteries, this series is an excellent choice. Aurora comes across as a “doe-eyed do-gooder”, perfect for Hallmark. My Gran would love this. In fact, I’ve already recommended the movies to her.

Narration review: I’ve heard several other stories from Therese Plummer, so I was excited to see that she narrates this series. As it turned out, her narration was my favorite part of the audiobook. Plummer excels at providing characterization. When voicing a six-year-old character, it sounded like she was plugging her nose during his dialogue, which was effective and humorous. Plummer is an excellent performer and, if you are planning on giving this series a shot, I highly recommend trying it on audiobook. ♣︎

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🎁 The Goodall Mutiny by Gretchen Rix

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The Goodall Series, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Jul. 2018

Narrator: Alexandra Haag
Length: 5 hours and 32 mins
Publisher: Gretchen Rix⎮2016

Synopsis: All the normal sounds usually reaching the lower decks of the USS Goodall during routine subspace flight have just been cut off. As if someone at the controls suddenly wants the crew isolated. No loudly arguing male voices, no deliberately mishandled supplies tumbling down the corridor, no nothing. Has the impossible happened? Is this the Goodall mutiny everyone expected? Or is it something even worse? Marooned, with failing systems and inexperienced officers, the dangerously dysfunctional crew must fight to survive. Could surviving be a fate worse than death? The Goodall Mutiny. First in the Goodall series of science fiction mysteries.


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮I think this story may have been written by a dog. I mean that in the best way possible. The story is full of smells, hearing sounds that may or may not be there, an ornery (even devilish) cat, and quick life-saving reactions. The scents were so descriptive and I kept hoping nasal fatigue would kick in for Joan as someone’s pomade kept distracting her, Running Wolf vomited, everyone’s body odor, and the musk of ticked off cat kept adding to the horrible situation. The Goodall has suffered a major catastrophe and now part of that ship holds a dozen or so crew plus one angry, uncooperative cat. Joan Chikage is deeply concerned that a mutiny occurred in the upper decks that led to this catastrophe but she has to set that aside while she deals with the remaining crew in her little bit of damaged ship. She’s the ranking officer, so it’s her responsibility to keep her crew alive.

Alas, Running Wolf has already perished, and not in a quick, clean way either. The crew is understandably spooked by the condition of Running Wolf’s body. As Joan and the others try to figure out what has happened and how to stay alive, more bodies add to the pile and things get weirder and weirder. The handsome, quick-witted Van der Ryn may be her ally, or not. Hadar seems reliable… but things could change. Tiberius the captain’s cat wishes they’d all leave him alone. Yet he may be their safety net, as Captain Carmady is very attached to that cat and Carmady still has a functional portion of The Goodall. Everywhere she turns, Joan isn’t sure if she’s made the right call. Cloud Eater, Leichter, Praetor, etc. Joan needs to bind the crew together if they are to make it out alive yet one of them is a murderer.
I would have liked another woman or two in the story, just to bring some gender balance. The only other female gets fridged and doesn’t add much to the story before that point. I really enjoyed the addition of the cat (because I’ve had ornery, naughty cats and I can just picture such a one on a damaged spaceship) and the beetles. Oh yay – even a dog would be disgusted by the beetles at a certain point in the story.
Throughout the tale, I couldn’t help wondering if Joan Chikage was an unreliable narrator. Things look all squirrely to her, but she was acting paranoid from the start of the story. A few times, her crew has to restrain her, knock some sense into her, get her to take in some oxygen. The story ends on such a note that this might be the case, but I won’t know for sure until I check out the sequel. The ending is a bit abrupt and while one major hurdle is said and done, now Joan faces even more challenges and has plenty of questions. 4/5 stars
.
The Narration: Alexandra Haag was a very good Joan Chikage. She had distinct voices for all the characters and her male voices were believable. Haag did a great job with Chikage’s emotions and self-doubts. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars

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📚 Killman Creek by Rachel Caine

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Goodreads⎮Reviewed July 2018

Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith, Lauren Ezzo, Will Ropp, Dan John Miller
Length: 11 hours 55 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: Every time Gwen closed her eyes, she saw him in her nightmares. Now her eyes are open, and he’s not going away.

Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…

You’re not safe anywhere now.

Her refuge at Stillhouse Lake has be-come a trap. Gwen leaves her children in the protective custody of a fortified, well-armed neighbor. Now, with the help of Sam Cade, brother of one of Melvin’s victims, Gwen is going hunting. She’s learned how from one of the sickest killers alive.

But what she’s up against is beyond any-thing she feared – a sophisticated and savage mind game calculated to destroy her. As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die.


4.75★ Audiobook⎮After finishing Stillhouse Lakemy immediate impulse was to grab Killman Creek as quickly as possible. My second, and prevailing impulse, was to take a little break in between installments. This is an incredibly intense and disturbing series. Maybe I didn’t emphasize the “disturbing” part enough in my review of Stillhouse Lake. This series warrants all kinds of trigger warnings. It manipulates your emotions and psyche, nearly to the point of paranoia. I had to take frequent breaks while listening just to slow my thudding heart.

But man, it’s just so damn exhilarating. I made it approximately 6 hours before breaking down and buying Killman Creek. I am so weak. It started out amazingly and broke into four POVs– Gwen, Sam, Lanny, and Connor. I was really loving the multiple points-of-view until I noticed that Connor was getting significantly more time to tell his tale. The Conner POV was the worst. He came across as whiny, bratty, and basically every stereotypically horrible thing a child character can be. I can’t tell you how many times I muttered “God, this idiot child is going to get them all killed”. Ugh, book kids are the worst.

For about 65% of Killman Creek, I thought I was hearing a second installment slump. Things moved pretty slowly and a lot of reckless mistakes were made. For all the intelligence Stillhouse Lake possessed, Killman Creek nearly ruined it all. I think splitting the characters up was a mistake. The separate storylines seem to be set up with less aplomb and cheaper plot devices were used (i.e. convenient ignorance).

However, and this is a big however, the climax saved everything. Both climaxes, I mean. They were incredibly satisfying, as I’ve come to expect from Rachel Caine. During the last hour, wild horses couldn’t have dragged me away from listening. The epilogue seemed both open and closed. There’s a glimpse of an HEA, but the door is definitely left crack a bit for another installment. I know that a third installment is supposedly forthcoming, although it has been delayed. I can’t possibly imagine why another installment and would be needed after the Killman Creek resolution and since a synopsis has yet to be released, I’ll just have to keep guessing. At least Killman Creek didn’t end with a giant cliffhanger like Stillhouse Lake.

Narration review: The thing I was most excited for when beginning Killman Creek was the multiple narrators brought on board to record the four points of view. Emily Sutton-Smith was back in action as Gwen and this time she was joined by three more performers for the POV chapters of Sam, Lanny, and Connor. All four narrators are to be commended for their performances, but one stood out among the rest. Even though Lanny wasn’t my favorite character, I found her chapters the most enthralling because of the emotion with which they were performed. Lauren Ezzo absolutely killed it. More so than the others, Lanny’s chapters were performed, not read, and the line between Lauren and Lanny was expertly blurred.

All four of these performances made in the separate POVs bearable. If you’re interested in picking up this installment, I definitely recommend hearing it on audiobook. I’ll be interested to see if multiple points-of-view and performers are used in the next installment as well. ♣︎

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📚 Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

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Harper Connelly, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed July 2018

Narrator: Alyssa Bresnahan
Length: 7 hours 51 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2006

Synopsis: Grave Sight draws listeners into the intriguing world of Harper Connelly, a woman with a unique gift: she can “see” the deceased and how they died.
A teenage girl from a small Ozarks town is missing and feared dead. Hired by local police, Harper locates the girl’s body in a nearby forest. But there’s more than one corpse in those woods, and the second one raises questions no one wants to ask. Soon Harper and her stepbrother/assistant, Tolliver, are under suspicion. All they want is to get out of town, but they will have to clear their reputations first.

Charlaine Harris writes best-selling mysteries described by Booklist as “gripping and spicy”, and praised by the Denver Post for their “goofy charm”.


4.25★ Audiobook⎮It was just last week that I began a wild ride with Sookie Stackhouse and a few days ago that the ride began to slow because my unlimited listening services (Scribd & Playster) only had the first three books available and wouldn’t be getting the others until the end of July. I hastily bought the fourth book using an Audible credit, but quickly realized that I can’t/won’t spend credits on the remaining 9 books in the series.

So I began to hunt for something, anything, to hear while I wait to get my hands on more Sookie. My eyes didn’t stray too far from Charlaine Harris when they found her Harper Connelly series. I first tried listening to the Grave Sight last year, along with a few other series from Harris, but nothing stuck. This time, however, my expectations weren’t so high. The Harper Connelly series (or what I’ve heard of it so far) is nowhere near as good as Harris’ Midnight, Texas series or even her Southern Vampire Mysteries (AKA the Sookie Stackhouse series), but good writing is good writing and I just needed something to get me through the night, so to speak.

Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by Harper Connelly. It didn’t knock my socks off like Midnight, Texas, but Harris’ writing always has this cozy quality to it that makes listening easy and enjoyable. It’s never taken me longer than a couple of days to get through one of her books. I know that Harris doesn’t like the term “Cozy Mystery”, but I do. I love a good cozy. The best things in life are cozy. What I don’t like is when a cozy mystery is simplistic, shallow, or predictable.

The premise of the Harper Connelly series is both familiar and original. Harper doesn’t necessarily see dead people, but she can locate dead bodies and suss out how they met their demise. That’s an interesting premise by itself, but the best thing is the depth with which Harris writes. She’s an expert at character development, something which the majority of cozy mysteries lack. Even if the details of Grave Sight’s plot arc were somewhat predictable (I pegged the who and why), Harris laid a solid character foundation for the series. I’m invested in Harper and Toliver. I want to follow them in various books, even if the trouble they will inevitably get into is only a sideshow to me.

I also found it intriguing that the main characters in this series are a brother-sister duo. They’re technically stepsiblings, but I’m confident that Harris won’t take us down a path with any shenanigans. Their devotion to one another and to their siblings is endearing. The story of their rough upbringing was almost oversold and had begun to become redundant by the end of Grave Sight, but I still appreciated the effort.

At the rate I’m already devouring this series, I may make it into the Aurora Teagarden series before I’m able to return to Sookie Stackhouse on July 27. Let’s just declare this Charlaine Harris month for me.

Narration review: This was the first Charlaine Harris book where I have been less than impressed with the narration. Alyssa Bresnahan didn’t do anything wrong, she just didn’t add anything to the experience. I will admit that I’ve become accustomed to a certain level of performance with Harris’ audiobooks. Susan Bennett and Johanna Parker both became instant favorites after I heard them. This performance from Bresnahan was done well enough to keep me listening to the series, but it doesn’t necessarily make me want to seek out her other work. ♣︎

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📚 Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

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Sookie Stackhouse, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed July 2018

Narrator: Johanna Parker
Length: 10 hours
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2007

Synopsis: Vampires have officially “come out of the coffin”, and Miss Sookie can’t wait for one to come her way.
Anthony Award-winner Charlaine Harris’ New York Times and USA Today best-selling Sookie Stackhouse novels entice countless fans with an irresistible mixture of vampire romance, beguiling mystery, and old-fashioned Southern charm.


4.5★ Audiobook⎮ I watched HBO’s True Blood series in its entirety nearly a decade ago. I enjoyed it enough to finish the entire series, but I’ve never thought of it as one of my favorite shows. Last year, when I read the Midnight, Texas trilogy from Charlaine Harris, I considered listening to the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I adored the Midnight, Texas novels and wanted more of Harris’ atmospheric writing. But I was concerned that having already seen True Blood would hinder my enjoyment. From what I can tell, the HBO show was very closely adapted from the Sookie Stackhouse novels.

Recently, after doing some further research on the matter, I discovered that the TV show and book series go their separate ways after a certain point. This, and my hankering for something Southern Gothic, was enough to make me a dive head first into Dead Until Dark. I can now confirm that the first (and second) installments in this series closely mirror events from the television show.

However, it didn’t bother me as much as I had anticipated. Instead, it was rather nice to be introduced to the characters and setting of Bon Temps by Charlaine. She has this richly engaging way of setting a scene that almost feels downright cozy. I even found myself liking Sookie and Bill more than I did in the show. There were minor deviations, but for the most part, they were more like elaborations than outright differences.

Most of all, I really loved being able to picture the cast members while listening to Dead Until Dark (particularly Alexander Skarsgård!). But my favorite part, by far, was Bubba. Bubba is the vampiric incarnation of an American rock legend who was “turned” by a morgue attendant who happened to be a big fan. Although it isn’t outright stated, it’s safe to assumed that “Bubba” is/was Elvis Presley. As a huge Elvis fan, I loved this inclusion. Bubba doesn’t play a huge part in the story, but he still managed to be my favorite (even though he eats cats!). It’s a shame that Bubba never made an appearance in the television show (probably for legal reasons).

Even almost a decade removed from having seen the TV show, it was still hard to view Dead Until Dark with fresh eyes (ears). I love Harris’ detailed, yet straightforward manner of writing. It made the audiobook extremely easy to hear. I heard Dead Until Dark in a couple of days. And believe it or not, I actually think it was easier to follow in the book than the TV show. If you’ve yet to see it, I definitely recommend listening to the books first. I wish I had done it in that order.

Narration review: Although the material may not have been new to me, Johanna Parker was a pleasant surprise! She is such a find. I have been very impressed with her narration ability, especially her characterization. She does a marvelous job of providing clearly defined distinctions between the characters and matching said distinctions appropriately to each character’s persona. I was also floored by the authenticity with which she pulls off the Southern accent. The accent she gives Sookie actually sounds eerily similar to the one Anna Paquin used in the show. It’s a real Southern twang, not the Scarlett-esque “lilt” so many narrators use. Well done, Ms. Parker! I look forward to hearing you for the rest of the series. ♣︎

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🎁 The Green Lama: Scions by Adam Lance Garcia

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The Green Lama and The Green Lama Legacy [chronological order], Book 14, The Green Lama Legacy: Modern Pulps, Book 2

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Jul. 2018

Narrator: Jiraiya Addams
Length: 4 hours and 20 mins
Publisher: RadioArchives.com⎮2017

Synopsis: A cruise ship crashes suddenly on Liberty Island. All onboard are dead by their own murderous hands. All but one. What secrets does the lone survivor harbor within her very soul? And what horrors does she bring? These are questions only the Green Lama can answer! Reintroducing the most unique Pulp Hero ever! In reality, The Green Lama is Jethro Dumont, a millionaire playboy who spent ten years in Tibet and now uses his Buddhist training to pursue Justice for those denied it! Can even the Green Lama, with his mastery of the supernatural and his radioactive salts, be enough to prevent the coming of… Scions?


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮This story was way more fun than I expected. I do enjoy pulp fiction but I usually have to be in a mood for it as so much of the genre can be campy and sexist. Not this one! I was happy to see so many female characters in the book – and they get stuff done too! They don’t just look pretty while being rescued.

Set in New York, there’s a variety of characters for the Big Bad Evil to infect and/or kill. The creeptastic aspects lead back to a ship that crashed into Liberty Island. It’s something out of a horror movie and it has the police baffled. But never fear! The Green Lama knows what this evil is, much to his sadness.

For such a short story, it’s a pretty big cast of characters. I did have a little trouble keeping them all separate. However, they are all interesting. There’s Jean Farell, who is a good shot and doesn’t shy away from rescuing men knocked unconscious. Frankie, who is French Black American, has a soft spot for kids that need rescuing.

Jethro Durmont, the hero of this tale, is a bit standard. He’s a millionaire white guy who lost his parents under horrible circumstances, and ran off to Asia to learn some mystical self-defense arts. Sound familiar, no? Batman, Iron Fist, The Arrow, etc. He does have at least one unique aspect – he needs his special radioactive salts on a regular basis to maintain his special powers. I hope he labels those appropriately so the guests don’t use them to flavor their soup!

Betty Dale, a newsreporter, has me wondering what will happen in the next book. She knows the Green Lama’s secrets but he also knows who she is. Then there’s poor Lt. Caraway. He made me laugh a few times but things didn’t go well for him in this story. Overall, it was a fun story. 4.5/5 stars

The Narration: Jiraiya Addams puts on a great performance. He has unique voices for all the characters and his female characters sound feminine. He went all out voicing the Evil, which was multi-layered voices for individual characters affected by it. Chilling! There were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars

 

$ Available at Audible/Amazon

📚 Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Goodreads⎮Reviewed July 2018

Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith
Length: 10 hours 4 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: Gina Royal is the definition of average – a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor – the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake – and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed – or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.


5★ AudiobookStillhouse Lake kept me riveted, both mentally and physically. There were times when I was frozen in anticipation of the next sentence. Listening to Stillhouse Lake more closely mirrored the experience of watching a gripping television drama than listening to a story. I felt as if I could see everything play out in front of me. Audiobooks are popular for the convenience of multitasking, but the gripping intensity of Stillhouse Lake drove me to a one track mind.

This was my first Rachel Caine book. I’ve started two others in the past, Glass Houses and Ink and Bone, but never really connected to them. Because of that, I was a little hesitant to begin Stillhouse Lake. However, once I read the synopsis, I just knew I would enjoy it. Something about it reminded me of Kelley Armstrong’s Casey Duncan series, which I devoured it a few months ago. They share a common theme of abused women trying to disappear but finding more trouble in the process. I’ve always known that I like “strong female leads”, as a Netflix calls it. But what I like even more is when the female lead has to dig down deep to find strength she never knew she had. That type of empowering character development really appeals to me.

Similarly, Stillhouse Lake reminded me even more of Laura Lippmann’s And When She Was Good, which I just finished last month. There’s something really chilling about an abusive villain who has been locked away, yet whose reach still extends beyond prison bars. How does one ever feel safe, especially with kids involved? Stillhouse Lake brought to mind all sorts of enigmatic questions surrounding a serial killer’s other victims- his surviving family.

I’m dying (bad choice of wording) to see Stillhouse Lake adapted on screen. I know it would do well. As a protagonist, Gina/Gwen was extremely likable. Moreover, she was intelligent. There were no stupid mistakes or miscommunications for the sake of cheap drama. Caine didn’t need them. The mystery was woven together brilliantly. Even though I had suspected the culprit earlier on, I was kept on my toes enough to never be 100% certain. It certainly wasn’t outright predictable and I could have never guessed the extent of how it would play out. Stillhouse Lake was a thrill ride with tangible, endearing characters and exhilarating action.

I immediately knew I would be continuing on with the series, which has three installments, two of which have already been released. However, upon finishing Stillhouse Lake, I briefly wondered whether or not I should “take a breather” between installments because the first one had been so intense. Stillhouse Lake had invaded my thoughts and even my dreams. Ultimately, the decision was made for me because the next installment, Killman Creek, isn’t available via my listening service (Scribd) until the end of the month.

Narration review: Emily Sutton-Smith’s narration made Stillhouse Lake come to life. The approach she took (firm, dry, distant) was perfect for Gwen Procter. One of the reasons I’ve never made it through Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series is the narration. Sutton-Smith did not disappoint. Her tone set the scene for Stillhouse Lake and it never wavered. It also enhanced the characters, especially helping me to get inside the mind of Gwen Proctor. Although I’ve never heard her perform before, Emily Sutton-Smith is definitely on my radar now. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com

📚 Series Review: The Graveyard Queen by Amanda Stevens

The Graveyard Queen Series by Amanda Stevens

Available purchase options for this series (via affiliate links) are located by clicking the cover images below. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Installments (6.5*)

*There’s a prequel novella (#0.5) that isn’t available as an audiobook, so it’s not included in this review. Hopefully, it will one day be recorded. I’m dying to hear it!


• RECOMMENDED FOR LOVERS OF:

Southern Gothic, Karen White’s Tradd Street series, Ghost stories, Horror, Cemeteries

• SUGGESTED AGE GROUP: 16+

• Individual ratings & reviews:

◦ The Restorer (#1): 4.5 stars

Full review here.

◦ The Kingdom (#2): 3.75 stars

Full review here.

◦ The Prophet (#3): 4 stars

After discovering the series in October and finishing the first two installments that same month, it took me nearly 8 months to return to The Graveyard Queen. I loved The Restorerbut The Kingdom wore my patience thin enough that I needed a break from the series.

But the Summer always brings me back around to the Southern Gothic genre. I didn’t have the energy to search for a new Southern Gothic series (they can be hard-to-find), so I picked up The Prophet. Luckily for me, each installment in this series centers around a new (episodic) mystery. I was glad to see Amelia return to Charleston and even more glad to see her get away from Asher Falls. I’m glad she didn’t spend another book there. I appreciate the importance of The Kingdom to the series since it essentially functions as Amelia’s origin story, but for me it was more an installment to “get through” rather than to enjoy.

The Prophet dealt more with the Lowcountry’s version of magic, which is exactly my style. It showed flashes of what I loved about The Line and it was enough to whet my appetite for more of the series. The Prophet renewed my interest and my faith in Amanda Stevens and The Graveyard Queen. By the time I finished it, I was determined to finish out the series in quick succession.

◦ The Visitor (#4): 3.75 stars

The Visitor may have been the creepiest installment in this series and that’s saying a lot. Like The Kingdom, it explored another side of Amelia’s heritage. Believe it or not, The Visitor had a creepier angle than The KingdomCreepy or spooky is the perfect way to describe Stevens’ writing. It’s not necessarily outright scary. It’s never caused me to stay awake at night. But I definitely get spooked while listening.

Amanda Stevens has atmospheric writing down to a science. Curiously enough, the graveyard scenes are among the less spooky. For Amelia, cemeteries are a place of peace. She makes a point of emphasizing that she believes it’s people who are haunted, not places. Therefore, the hauntings can happen anywhere. Stevens also excels at using the five senses to enhance the experience of having a sixth sense. Amelia’s sightings are often accompanied by particular scents (like cloves, in The Visitor) and/or sounds, sometimes even physical sensations.

The Visitor was my second least favorite installment in this series and yet it divulges critical information about Amelia’s heritage and her gift. However, the unfolding of that information felt somewhat fumbly. No matter how much I adore Amanda Stevens’ ability to create such richly tangible settings, I still find her storytelling ability to be slightly subpar. It feels like she struggles to find balance between world building/character development (which she does amazingly) and plot progression. This causes almost all of her endings to seem rushed and thrown together. But by the time I finished The Visitor, I knew I was too far into the series to turn back. On to the next…

◦ The Sinner (#5): 4.25 stars

The Sinner was a weird one for me. For a while, I thought we were going to be dealing with zombies, but that angle never really came to fruition. When the series started out, there were the living and the dead (ghosts), but now we are entering a gray area with beings that are “something in between”. There was talk of an occult group that practiced necromancy, so I was sure zombies were the logical conclusion. They weren’t…, exactly. To be honest, I’m not sure what the plot conclusion was. Resolutions aren’t Amanda Stevens’ strong point.

The book’s ending, however, got my attention. My interest in the romantic angle of this series had been slowly growing over the last two books. I’ll admit that I didn’t see the break up coming. It was a nice curveball. I liked seeing insertion of a love triangle in The Visitor. I never felt the chemistry between Amelia and Devlin, so I was excited to see another player enter the scene and the end result of that triangle really threw me for a loop.

The end of the series is in sight, so I’m overlooking plot holes and leaning into the atmospheric richness. It’s perfect for listening during a Summer afternoon thunderstorm. It’s nice to see that Stevens isn’t afraid to contradict the obvious assumptions. So much of this series was beginning to seem formulaic. Her new approach is keeping me on my toes, but the new covers are making me cringe…

◦ The Awakening (#6): 4.5 stars

Besides The RestorerThe Awakening may have been my favorite installment in this series. The installments that are set in Charleston are always the best. Stevens’ atmospheric writing lends itself so easily to world building that Charleston feels like home for the series.

A lot of things culminated in The Awakening and a lot of loose ends were finally tied upBy the end of the book 5, I was fully invested in the Amelia+Devlin pairing. Although, I still haven’t warmed to Devlin individually, I’m beginning to ship them as a couple. The disconnect I feel with Devlin stems from his refusal to believe in the supernatural, even though it’s clearly all around him. I thought for sure that he would come around by the series’ end, but I was disappointed. It seems that there is still some character growth needed there, which is one of a few things that makes me believe (and hope!) that a spinoff series is in our future.

But the major thing that leads me to believe we haven’t seen the last of The Graveyard Queen is the glaring cliffhanger ending Stevens left us with. It would have been excellent fodder for an epilogue, otherwise. Let’s just say that my “spinoff Spidey senses” are tingling!

🎙 Narration Review: Khristine Hvam

Khristine Hvam has got to be one of my most frequently heard narrators. I’ve heard her narration so much that I’ve just about run out of ways to praise her. Hvam does way more right than she’s ever done wrong in the recording booth. And she did 9 out of 10 things right with this series.

The one thing I just couldn’t “cotton” to was her Southern accent. She gave an admirable effort, though. But even though artificial sweetener may be sweet, it’s just not the real thing! And before you think that I (as a native North Carolinian) judging too harshly, let me say that there are southern accents done by narrators that I have approved. Hvam’s definitely wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t the best of either. There were some minor pronunciation issues and inconsistencies that briefly bothered me (i.e. Goodwine was pronounced inconsistently throughout the series). Because of these issues, this series wasn’t my favorite of Hvam’s work and I’m not sure that it adequately showcases her talent as other titles do, but she still did it justice.

Accent aside, Hvam added so much to the telling of this tale. She truly is a talented and intuitive narrator. Until hearing this series, I think I had underestimated the impact of a narrator’s tone, pacing, and inflection. These are the things I only ever think of when they take away from the story, but Hvam’s interpretation added to the atmospheric presence of the series, making it a truly immersive experience. She was an excellent match for Stevens’ writing.

OVERALL SERIES RATING:
4.0 

Reviewer’s Note: This first three installments in this series are only available on audiobook through Audible.com. If you are interested in giving it a shot (which I totally recommend!), but don’t yet have an account with Audible, consider signing up through the banner below to get an extra audiobook with your free trial. Doing so will give me a small commission, but won’t cost you anything.

To sum up: You can get the first two installments of this series (or any other two audiobooks) for free and  help support The Audiobookworm!