📚 The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Imogen Church
Length: 14 hours 14 minutes
Publisher:Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2018

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Summary

From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person – but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an addictive thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

4.25★ AudiobookThe Death of Mrs. Westaway was my introduction to Ruth Ware. I was intrigued by the comparisons to Agatha Christie and, after having completed this novel, I can confidently agree with them. At times, it seemed like Ruth Ware did Agatha Christie better than Agatha Christie.

That may be a slightly exaggeration, but it was based on my feelings while listening to The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I got into this story so quickly that it was almost like I had heard it before. Ware’s writing evoked a sense of familiarity that was instantly comforting. It took no effort at all to slip into the story and be carted off.

If anything, I think The Death of Mrs. Westaway may have been slightly easier to follow been anything written by Christie. That could be due to slight modernizations of speech and setting. However, such modernizations were not overtly obtrusive to the story. They subconsciously oriented the listener without sacrificing anything from Ware’s writing style, which clearly hearkened back to Agatha Christie’s.

However, I’m baffled as to why this audiobook was so easy to hear. I couldn’t describe the writing as simplistic or concise, yet it seemed almost “laid back”, for lack of a better phrase. Ware’s descriptions weren’t necessarily detailed, but they were explained at length. Perhaps, if Agatha Christie had written this, it would have only been a three or four hour production. I did notice that The Death of Mrs. Westaway seemed to drag on, but not necessarily in an unpleasant way.

In the past, I have been somewhat frustrated by the brisk and seemingly abrupt resolutions penned by Agatha Christie. By contrast, Ware took her time building up to several different revelations, providing adequate explanations, and dealing with their fallouts. On the whole, I think Ware’s method is far more satisfying. However, it may not appeal to certain readers who wish for her to “get on with it”.

In the end, I was grateful that Ware went the extra mile in explaining the “whodunit”. The mystery was so intricate that I had about 10 different theories formulating in my mind at any given time and it wound up being a combination of nearly all of them. This was very much a “show” not “tell” story, with clues being dropped along like breadcrumbs. It was very considerate of Ruth Ware to tie things up so nicely.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway was a very “rainy autumn day” type of listen. It wasn’t exactly scary, but the suspense was practically palpable. I’m pleased to have discovered Ruth Ware right here on the cusp of autumn. I’m sure I’ll be hearing much more of her in the next three months.

Narration review: Imogen Church absolutely killed it. She killed it, y’all. Hats off to her, seriously. She really brought it with the character distinctions. More than once I thought, “This is one woman doing all of these voices!”.The Death of Mrs. Westaway was one of those books that could easily have tripped up a less skilled narrator. Several of the characters were of a similar demographic and she could have easily phoned it in with one “snooty middle-aged British guy” voice. But no, Church provided clear distinctions between all four of them, even though three of them were brothers. I can’t tell you how much this helped in my listening experience. It’s like the difference between driving with and without a map.

Despite having her on my radar for quite sometime now, this was my first audiobook from Imogen Church. But it certainly won’t be my last. I think I’m more excited to tear through her list of audiobooks and than I am Ruth Ware’s. This is going to be an awesome Fall for audiobook listening. ♣︎

📚 Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 11 hours 2 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2010

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Summary

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her… a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards… and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

4.25★ Audiobook⎮Despite having sworn him off multiple times, I usually to listen to Nicholas Sparks about once a year. This year, I somewhat indiscriminately chose Safe Haven as I was frantically downloading audiobooks in anticipation of the power outage hurricane Florence would bring. Hurricanes are an inevitable part of life when you live in eastern North Carolina and something about it just made me want to hear a Nicholas Sparks book.

Sparks sets all of his books in eastern North Carolina, usually around New Bern. Safe Haven, however, was set in Southport, near Wilmington. But that wasn’t the only thing unusual about Safe Haven. From the very beginning, Safe Haven had a slightly different vibe from Sparks’ other works. Each of his books is unique enough that I wouldn’t dare cry monotony, yet they all have similar undertones. This one, less so.

To my knowledge, I don’t think Sparks has ever dealt with domestic abuse in one of his books and that was a heavy theme in Safe Haven. It wasn’t necessarily graphic, especially in comparison to others I’ve heard, but I still found it a little hard to hear at times. Sparks has a way of emotionally tying you to his characters, so much so that if one of them even gets a paper cut, you involuntarily empathize. Therefore, he did not have to be unnecessarily detailed or graphic about the abuse in order to have it hit home.

In comparison with his other titles, Safe Haven isn’t my favorite. I felt like I spent the entire time feeling guarded, waiting for the emotional hammer fall. Sparks is notorious for manipulating his readers’/listeners’ emotions and he has broken my heart on more than one occasion (i.e. The Best of Me). So, naturally, I approached Safe Haven with caution. It may have been because of that caution, but Safe Haven felt just a little more shallow than what I’m used to from Sparks. Which, by the way, is not exactly a criticism. In comparison to other authors’ work, the depth of Safe Haven is to be exalted. Sparks is a tremendous writer and he absolutely excels at character development.

But I just didn’t fully click with the characters in Safe Haven, probably due to my own trepidation. But, domestic violence aside, Safe Haven was extremely easy to hear. Sparks stands out in my mind as someone who writes beautifully, yet understandably. He doesn’t need verbal garnishes. His storylines are easy to follow along with and can be heard a while doing almost anything. In other words, they don’t require a lot of mental focus to follow. There’s never a “Wait, what’s going on?” moment, much less a “What the hell is happening now?!” moment. He simply takes the listener by the hand and guides them every step of the way.

Based on this listening experience alone, I’m definitely more inclined to hear Sparks again, maybe sooner rather than later.

Narration review: Now that I think about it, it’s possible that my selection of Safe Haven wasn’t as indiscriminate as I thought. As I was quickly scanning the Nicholas Sparks titles available on Scribd, Rebecca Lowman’s name caught my eye. I remembered how much I enjoyed her narration of Eleanor & Park and knew that, as a narrator, she would be a “sure thing”.

I couldn’t have been more right. I enjoyed Lowman’s narration just as much as I did when I first heard her two years ago. Her character distinctions were subtle, but perfectly effective. She fully embodied each character, sending messages about emotions and personality with each intonation. I look forward to the next time I hear her work. ♣︎

📚 The Meg by Steve Alten

Meg, Book 0.5

Reviewed Sep. 2018

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

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Summary

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.

Susan's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

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

🎁 The Warp Clock by Nathan Van Coops

In Times Like These, Book 4

Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Neil Hellegers
Length: 8 hours 36 minutes
Publisher: Skylighter Press⎮2016

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Summary

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….

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

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!

📚 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. ♣︎

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

📚 Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse, Book 1

Reviewed July. 2018

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

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Audiobooks.com

Summary

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.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

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. ♣︎

🎁 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