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Bellwether by Connie Willis

Bellwether - Connie Willis

Haha! This book was a sheer delight to listen to. Willis builds subtle humor in the characters, the plot, and the setting. I often found myself nodding my head, thinking, ‘Yeah! That could totally happen!’ or “Yep, been there. Done that.” The characters were immediately relatable. Sandra Foster is clever but also has some compassion (which not all of her coworkers do). Her study on fads and what causes them now has me interested in the subject as well!

One of the best things about this book is all the little snippets of history worked into the story. Not only are there factoids about the hula hoop, hair bobs, and the Rubik’s cube, but also about sheep, ostriches, cuisine, and how famous scientists stumbled into an ‘Aha! moment’. While the indoor smoking dated the piece, it was interesting that Sandra considered the banishing of public smoking in buildings and restaurants a fad.

Then there’s Flip. I think the universe uses Flip to try out the latest fads like her flop of hair, duct tape clothing items, and her eye tattoo. Flip is notoriously bad at her job and yet feels that too much is asked of her. She’s always complaining and yet likes Sandra because she’s one of the few people that isn’t openly mean to her. While Flip seems to be simply there to provide comedic relief or convenient plot devices, her role is eventually revealed to be much more important.

I loved the sheep. We used to have goats, so I immediately sympathized with Bennett and Sandra on how difficult it was to get the sheep to do anything they wanted. Eventually, it’s revealed what a bellwether is in a sheep herd, and hence the meaning of the title. Or so I thought! Willis gives us another little twist on the bellwether towards the end of the book and it made me look at my co-workers, friends, and family in a different light. Aha! There’s the bellwether in my life! Thoroughly entertaining and educational. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Kate Reading gives a great performance. She makes a perfect Sandra Foster, being an insightful woman with a touch of humor. Her masculine voices are also well done. I especially liked her voices for Management and their fake enthusiasm at the Team Building Exercises. Her voice for Flip was spot on, sounding bored and put out and occasionally needy. There were no recording issues. 5/5 stars.

Ice by Lauren Carr

ICE - Lauren Carr

Retired FBI agent Chris Matheson lives with his mom (Doris) and his daughters (Katelyn and Emma) on a little hobby farm complete with dogs (like Sterling), horses (such as Chewbacca), and a bunny rabbit (Thor). His mom doesn’t think his life is complete, so she introduces him to the local murder mystery book club. However, there’s more going on in this book club, which is full of retired investigators, cops, emergency responders, etc. They (who shall be known as the Geezer Squad) want to delve into a cold case and Chris has one that is near and dear to his heart – Sandy Lipton went missing along with her unborn baby when Chris was in his early 20s. A new entanglement with this old case brings in Helen Clark from the West Virginia state police. She also happens to be Chris’s old flame.

I have listened to many Lauren Carr books and this is one of my favorites. There’s plenty of humor mixed in with the more serious scenes. While there’s a little romance in the tale, it doesn’t distract from the main plot. I especially liked the inclusion of the family pets as they provide much of the comedic relief.

The plot was pretty good on this one, having plenty of twists and turns. I liked all the little surprises as one mystery is solved even as it provides another mystery to tackle. About half way through the tale, it did become a bit obvious who was the father of Sandy’s baby. Other than that, there were plenty of surprises.

Every once in a while, things gets a little too cutsy, like saccharine sweet. But I know Carr’s works often do this just as I know such moments move on quickly. I did think Helen was a little silly for still being a little ticked about how things fell out between her and Chris so many years ago. Sounds like she never made peace with it. Otherwise, Helen was a good character on her own and good fit for Chris’s partner on this mystery.

Doris was a hoot! She and Sterling were my favorite characters. She makes her granddaughters try to guess her talent that won her a state beauty pageant when she was in her teens (which provided the tuition money for college). At the end, we finally get to know what that talent was – a talent she kept in top order and came in handy.

All told, this was a fun murder mystery that kept me engaged the entire time. 4.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Mike Alger makes a great Chris. I have listened to many Alger’s narrations and he continues to refine his performance with each audiobook. each character was distinct and his female voices sounded feminine. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

I Serve by Rosanne E. Lortz

I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince - Rosanne E. Lortz

I went into this book expecting to learn about the Hundred Years War and to be entertained. This story managed to do one of these things. John Potenhale is telling a very lengthy tale to the widow of a French knight who he met and admired. The entire book is told in a kind of flowery language that makes me think of the great King Arthur stories or Chaucer’s tales. Such manner of telling a tale works good for a Shakespearean play but was rather tiring for a 10+ hour long novel.

I did like that setting was well done. The politics of the day as well as the geography were covered but not in a big hard to swallow lump. I felt like I was learning things as Potenhale was as he worked hard to become a knight and gain esteem. I think this is a good introduction to the Hundred Years War if someone is looking for a way to get interested in that time period and location.

There are very few female characters and this was a disappointment. There are plenty of histories (nonfiction and fiction) for this war that fail to include the ladies so I was hoping this tale would be more inclusive. There’s Margery, a handmaid to the Lady Joan. That might be it… I think Potenhale thinks about his mom from time to time…. and the Virgin is mentioned several times when a knight feels like praying. Joan and Margery are love interests and nothing else. So that let me down.

The tale has a few slumps but then a rousing battle scene at the end. It wasn’t all glory, which I was glad to see. Potenhale takes in the reek and savagery of battle. Then there’s a bit of an epilogue in which we learn the outcome of the romantic pining that has been going on. All told, it wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: James Young did a good job with this narration. He maintained a flowery oration all the way through as the story required. His French accent and pronunciations were great. His female voices could have used a touch more femininity. His pacing was just a touch slow for my taste. 4/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Rosanne E. Lortz. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

The Golden Wizard by J. S. Jaeger

Scrolls of Zndaria: The Golden Wizard (Scrolls of Zndaria, #1) - J.S. Jaeger

This was a fun, straight forward tale that was easy to get into. I enjoyed the magic and the simple world building. The characters were a little one-dimensional but also suited the story. Nate is a likable kid on the cusp of manhood who seeks one adventure and gets swept up in something much bigger.

A variety of characters populate this story – it’s not just humans playing major roles. I especially liked Demon, a 2-headed chimera, and the relationship he builds with Blinkly and Nate. I was a little sad to see that the ladies were side-barred for much of the story. There’s Nate’s mom and a disgruntled older lady that have minor roles and we have to get deep into the tale before a woman makes her mark on the plot.

On the surface, it’s a typical good versus evil story. The Red Wizard helps Nate achieve his goal of apprenticing in magic (which is a boost his ego definitely needed as his family thinks of him as a silly daydreamer). I did enjoy the image of Nate’s brother Ted trying to ride a wild pegasus even as Ted has little regard for Nate’s dreams.

OK, so back to the Big Baddie and how the realm is in danger and eventually even Nate’s village is under threat. Even though this is a kid’s tale, I was glad to see that not everyone makes it out unscathed. Nate has the dead to morn, injuries to heal from, and yet more magic to learn. All told, 4/5 stars.

The Narration: R. J. Walker’s narration started off a little bumpy. His character accents skewed and mushed together in the beginning. When Nate was hanging out with Blinkly, he had an almost posh accent (which is what Blinkly has) but when hanging out with his brother Ted, it was much more Midwestern (though Ted sounds like a total hick, which is odd for 2 siblings to have different accents). Anyhoo, about halfway into the book, the accents stabilize and each character remains distinct. Sometimes Walker had a great voice for a female character (like ancient Bela) and sometimes his female voices lacked femininity. Still, he was an energetic narrator who obviously enjoyed what he was doing. There were no technical issues with the recording. 4/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by JS Jaeger. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Power of Five by Alex Lidell

Power of Five - Alex Lidell

This is a fun, light romantic fantasy. Leralynn is at the center of everything but the guys each bring something to the table too. Tye is a constant flirt but could also be a best friend. Coal is that assassin we all wished we had on our side. Shade has more personality in his wolf shape but I can see him developing with the series. River strikes me as a good leader of the team sometimes, but sometimes he reads more like a dominant alpha.

The characters were the strongest part of this book even with their flaws. The men were all perfectly formed, which can be both breath taking (initially) and a little boring (with time). We have a damaged hero in waiting, another could be an alpha ass if things swing too far that way, another a silly goof, and the last takes us into Furry territory. Lera was OK. I wanted a bit more from her. I can see how she can develop into a solid character later in the series, but right now she can be any woman and therefore, is a kind of Mary Sue for any reader who wants to be the center of attention for these 4 guys.

The world building and magic system both lacked in details. There is a little chipping into the magic system as the story unfolds, especially once we meet the second female character in the story (Autumn’s trying to figure out the details of what binds quints). Then there’s Clarissa who adds a bit of danger to the situation. The world is painted with a broad brush, so if you’re worried you’d get lost in lots of made up Fantasy names and don’t want to consult a map, then you’d probably like this aspect. Me, I like unique place names and maps. The magic still leaves me feeling like it’s a plot device and not a fully integrated part of the story.

I wanted a quest. Yep. I know. Quests are for grim dark shady characters or teenage D&D players. Yet, I really wanted one here. I think it’s because the world building and magic system were so weak. The initial idea of getting somewhere vague to have this quint bond release Lera lacked urgency and definitely had a back seat to the lusts floating around our merry little band. Basically, I needed something just as strong as the budding romance (insta-lust) to balance things out.

I really liked Lidell’s Air and Ash but this is a different creature. It’s cute. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Victoria Mei did a pretty good job. She had distinct character voices for everyone and her male voices were usually believable. Her pacing was good too. She did sometimes put this odd significance to a word here or there that didn’t make sense. I felt like each character in turn was giving out attitude in a valley girl kind of way at some random moment. I did love her accent for Tye. There were no technical issues with this recording. 4.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Alex Lidell. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Rise and Fall by Michael Whitehead

Legion Of The Undead: Rise and Fall - Michael Whitehead

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works mostly well as a stand alone.

I have returned to the land of Roman legions and zombies! I really loved the first book in the series and this is a decent follow up. My new favorite character is Garrick, a butcher who lives in Rome. He’s basically conscripted to guard the wall but he soon earns the respect of his centurion and fellow guards.

Vitus, the archer from Book 1, is still around but he’s not the sole main focus of the story. He does a great job of being the counterpoint to Garrick. Two Roman emperors are fighting for superiority. Titus is the rightful emperor but he doesn’t hold Rome. Indeed, he’s quite a distance away and there’s all those pesky zombies in the way. Meanwhile Otho holds Rome. However, he’s got these crazy secret zombie plans that could bring him to ruin.

This tale does have a weakness and that is the lack of ladies. Book 1 had some impressive female characters getting stuff done but this book totally sidelined Lucia and Flavia. We only get glimpses of them and when we do, they are there for comfort or romance. There is one woman who gets to smash some zombies but her role is brief and part of it is spent being rescued. Another woman gets her chance at Otho, but once again, she has a small, fleeting appearance.

The zombies themselves come in a few flavors. The newer, more robust ones can leap! Yikes! There also appears to be some evil paranormal force that drives them, having some hidden motive. I hope we learn more about that in Book 3. The pacing is really good, keeping me engaged the entire time but also avoiding zombie battle fatigue. 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Terry Self gave us yet another amazing performance. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his lady voices are feminine. I like his spooky voice for the evil paranormal entity. I also like his voice for Otho, who sounds like he’s talking with a mouth full of marbles. There were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars.

Vacation Bride by Vicky Loebel

Vacation Bride: A Tropical Billionaire Marriage of Convenience (Brides of Paradise) (Volume 1) - Vicky Loebel

While contemporary romance isn’t my cup of tea, I absolutely loved Loebel’s paranormal/urban fantasy novels. So I decided to give her contemporary romance novel a try. I did enjoy it even if it didn’t wow me like her other novels.

Brideacuda! Ha! I love that phrase. Anna finds herself entered into the contest by her best friend but it means she can leave the Milwaukee winter for the tropical beaches of St. John’s island. Plus, she can bring one ‘stylist’ with her and she chooses her dad who has recently survived cardiac surgery. So right away I liked Anna.

Meanwhile, on St. John’s, the Andersons have cooked up this crazy idea of how to boost interest in their vacation hotel (the Paradise Resort) – host a contest to win the hand of the handsome Ryan Anderson! Chris Anderson isn’t too thrilled about it. He rather stay in the background and keep on fixing air conditioner units but he also knows that the resort needs the promotion. Ryan ends up eloping with the shows producer, Bobbie, so Chris gets stuck being the stand-in groom. He was none too pleased.

This story borders on being a romantic comedy, which I liked. There’s no slap stick comedy or totally ridiculous situations yet there still is humor. After all, we have these potential brides doing crazy stunts for each stage of the contest. Then there’s Chris with his Danish ancestry, humor towards Ryan, the secret Danish p0rn stash, and a tragedy that left him a bit scarred. I liked Anna’s character too but I felt we got more background on Chris.

So not all the potential brides are witches. Loni right away does Anna a favor and the two remained friends throughout the trials and tribulations of the show. Yay! It was good to see that not all the female side characters were horrible people.

There’s obvious sexual attraction between Chris and Anna right from the beginning and I really liked how it built and built. I didn’t care so much for the misunderstandings and apologies, etc. but that seems to be a requisite for this genre. I was a little sad that we didn’t get any sex scenes. Sigh… But I imagined that they had a very good time.

The ending is sweet and charming. All told, I did enjoy this story despite it being a contemporary romance. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Emily Beresford did a great job with this narration. She’s perfect for Anna. I also liked her voice for Tiffany (the evil brideacuda). Her peppy, professional, commanding voice for Bobbie the show producer was spot on. Her male voices were masculine and all her character voices were distinct. She sounded engaged throughout the entire novel. There were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Vicky Loebel. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Starblind by D. T. Dyllin

Starblind (The Jane Sevis Chronicles #1) - D.T. Dyllin

Ha! This story wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I still had a lot of fun with it. Jane is all woman, reveling in her sexuality as much as she revels in being a bounty hunter. Set in a far future where Earth no longer exists and pure humans are a thing of history books, Jane travels around the galaxy sweeping up criminals and getting paid handsomely to do it.

Her latest bounty comes with specific instructions. Jane likes the idea of the challenge and she takes off after Ash, a Phoenix. He’s got special powers that make it hard to keep him in custody. And Jane would love to have him in custody all right. He’s a handsome attractive man with muscles in all the right places. Sex is never far from Jane’s mind and while I found this amusing most of the time, sometimes I did role my eyes. I could have used a little more plot and little less innuendo.

Then there’s Jane’s skimpy steampunk outfit. We don’t get much description so it’s mostly left up to the reader’s imagination. Jane does use her curves and legs and other feminine attributes like a weapon… or a snare. While I’m all for using whatever you have to hand to get the job done or get yourself out of trouble, I do wish we could have seen some of her other skills in action.

Zula was a fun sidekick. She’s Jane’s second in command on the Pittsburgh and she’s a bit snarky with that high IQ of hers. There’s 2 other crew members (Masha and Tamzea) but we don’t get to know much about them. Perhaps that will change as the series moves forward.

The baddies for this book are the Denards. They have a thing for annihilating whole planets and whipping naked captives for personal satisfaction. I also hope the series expands on this alien species and their motives (as individuals or as a whole culture).

All told, it was a fun, fast paced action-packed scifi flick. While I would have liked a bit more on plot and character development, it was still entertaining. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Ashley Holt has a unique cadence. Initially, I thought this was just a unique voice for Jane but Holt uses the same cadence for all her characters for the entire book. It reminded me a little of William Shatner’s unique cadence. Mostly she had unique voices for each character but sometimes the voices got a bit muddied and the clarity of who was saying or doing what was muddled. Her male voices were masculine. I did find the narration a bit slow as some syllables are stretched out for emphasis. So I did something I rarely do – I sped up the narration to 1.25X. The narration was much smoother at this speed and increased my enjoyment of the book. 3.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Ashley Holt. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Legacy by Jesikah Sundin

Legacy (The Biodome Chronicles series Book 1) - Jesikah Sundin

The basic premise of this story pulled me right in. Take some Medieval LARPers and stick them in a biodome for decades and monitor how their society evolves. Now it’s 2 generations later and the grandchildren of those original LARPers are coming into their own. Willow and Leaf Watson just put their father, Joel, to rest in a grave and they have many questions about where their lives will go from here. Being the two oldest members of one of the reigning houses, they know they hold some power but are not sure what to do with it. Their young sister, Laurel, is still a child and unaware of what perils may befall their family.

Meanwhile, out in the real world with all it’s technology, the Game Master Hannley Nichols plots. The biodome was originally set up to study human psychology when a society is confined yet separate from the larger whole of humanity (as it would be on Mars or such). However, I wonder if his goals have changed over time or if he had ulterior motives all along. A good chunk of the world sees the biodome and it’s residents as entertainment and not a serious scientific study. Initially, Hannley was just a side character, but by the end of the book I had a real interest in him and what his story arc will be for the series.

The word ‘biodome’ makes me sit up and take notice. For many years now I have been fascinated with this concept and the limited number of actual biodome experiments that have been done. The concept definitely helped pull me into this story but I found that it wasn’t executed very realistically. A self-sustained, closed society needs a lot of cross over training and strong connections among it’s members to work. The regular, daily tasks that it takes to live in a Medieval-like society in a biodome were glossed over and I found the enforced gender roles to be unlikely to work in such a situation. Plus, if we ever do send a chunk of humans to Mars to set up a biodome, we will probably make sure they have quality medical knowledge. This group didn’t have that.

So, setting that quibble aside, I was initially interested in the main characters. Willow, who prefers to be called Oaklee (and never let us forget it), is almost 16 and boys are starting to look her way as a potential partner in marriage. However, she lets her emotions rule her. At first, this was a charming quality about her as everyone, even herself, acknowledges this and loves her anyway. As the story went on, though, I found myself tiring of her emotional tantrums, weeping, fainting, crying to the point her stomach aches, etc. Since she was the main female character, I really wanted more out of her.

Leaf is rather mild and not that memorable other than he is easily offended. Meanwhile, Fillion revels in offending people. So maybe Leaf and Fillion were made for each other. Fillion has been a bad boy and is sentenced to a kind of community service that puts him ever closer to the biodome inhabitants. I found his character inconsistent at times even as I enjoyed his cheek. On one had, he claims no woman has offered him true affection before yet in other scenes he bemoans the fact that so many women have thrown themselves at his feet. While many of those girls could have been star struck or inconsiderate fortune hunters, I expect there were a few that served up true affections.

Then there’s some connection between the Watsons and the Nichols that I don’t fully understand yet. Della, Fillion’s mom, was also involved with Joel Watson at some point. So does that make Fillion and his sister Lynden stepsiblings (or divorced stepsiblings?) to the Watson kids? I’m not sure. I felt I needed a little family tree.

The story also gives us some insta-love which isn’t my thing. I expected more out of the biodome inhabitants as they don’t seem to have any method for divorce so I would think that pairings would be made with plenty of consideration for actual love matches. There’s also a love triangle to contend with, and again, that’s not my thing. So I could have done without the romance in this story as it seems to be there just to add drama.

The ending had plenty of drama and some of it was good (like Fillion’s final fist fight) and some of it was silly (Willow’s emotional tantrum). There’s this bit of failed drama where Fillion assumes a false name. This doesn’t go over as planned and yet Willow is fooled… hmmm…. really? And that’s when I decided I really wanted some other main female character. Anyway, all around, the setting and plot hold potential for the next book in the series. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Sunil Patel has a very enjoyable voice. It’s rich and clear and just makes me want to listen to him all day. However, his narration skills need a little polishing. There were a few mispronounced words but his French was good. I felt his Japanese was a bit rough. Also, he doesn’t really do distinct character voices. He did try to soften his voice for the female characters, but that wasn’t consistent either. Whenever Willow was yelling, she sounded just like her brother or Fillion. The biodome inhabitants are supposed to have a general British English accent, which Patel does well, but Fillion and Hannley and all the outsiders really sound just like biodomers in accent. The recording was OK but there are a few places where the volume goes up or the recording sounds a little rough. 3.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jesikah Sundin. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

A Witch's Path box set Books 1-3 by N. E. Conneely

A Witch's Path Box Set Books 1-3 - N. E. Conneely

Book 1 Witch for Hire

 

It was very easy for me to get into this book. It’s a pretty standard urban fantasy detective mystery story. Set in Georgia, Michelle is a clanless witch, which means she has to make a go of it on her own, working a job, paying bills, etc. She lives in a bed and breakfast run by a brownie, works as a consultant with the local police departments, and has girls’s night over pizza once a week with her best buds.

The best part of the world building were the various magical beings and creatures. Humans aren’t the only sentient beings and trolls are real, real enough to remove your head and slurp your innards out like a squeezed juice box. Elves, mermaids, dragons, griffons, unicorns, shifters, vampires, and more make up the cast of characters.

There’s a little dark humor mixed in with the clue hunting and action scenes. I especially liked the remarks about well-meaning but naive people trying to live side by side with the trolls. There was also that crazy, fast growing plant in Michelle’s bathroom. The various enchanted items that Michelle has to help un-spell were interesting too. Imagine having something useful spelled to keep people in their dinner seats until excused from the table yet then that item ends up in a yard sale. Some unsuspecting soul buys it and before you know it, they’re calling you from their dinner nook seat where they’ve been stuck for hours. Yep, makes me think twice about yard sales.

I don’t really know why the 1500 year old elf Elron is in this story. He doesn’t really fit into the scene and he doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. However, it does seem that his head has been turned by Michelle and she’s both interested in and annoyed by him. Sigh… can we please break the mold of 1000+ year old magical male being falls for young lady? Michelle is 25 in this story, but I still felt like rolling my eyes every time the two made eyes at each other.

The story ends on a total cliff hanger. Luckily the next book is available so you don’t have to wait for the rest of the tale. Over all, the book was a fun, easy urban fantasy. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Jeff Hays was absolutely excellent in this story. I have enjoyed his narrations before but this is the first time I have heard him narrate a female-lead full-length novel. His female voices are great and all his character voices are distinct. I love how he goes the extra mile with making people sound like they are on the phone or through a radio. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jeff Hays. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Book 2 A Witch's Path
 

Note: A Witch’s Path is Book 2 in the series and it is also the title for the box set of the first 3 books in the series. It should be read in order and doesn’t work well as a stand alone.

Book 1 left us hanging off a cliff by our finger tips so it was great that Book 2 was immediately available. Book 2 picks up right where Book 1 left off. The mess with the death threats deepens. In fact, Michelle screams and falls down a few times over these threats but I find it hard to fault her. After all, if a really big spider spelled out a death threat on my ceiling I would have some immediate gut reactions too.

Meanwhile, Elron is still in the story. I didn’t really care for him in Book 1 but I am finally starting to warm up to him. I don’t think he and Michelle are really a good romantic match but I do think they can be friends. Elron wavers back and forth on being romantically inclined towards Michelle and still mourning his long dead wife. He seems too stiff and proper for the modern times and yet that is part of his charm.

I totally fell in love with Michelle’s new pet, Ty the T-rex. It was a crazy, dangerous event that led to her adopting Ty but I’m sure glad she did. Michelle needs all the help she can get. Then there’s the whole mysterious crap with her parents and their clans. Michelle is an adult standing on her own for some years now but her parents still feel the need to shield her from her family history. I was on Michelle’s side with this, totally frustrated with her parents. I think they are doing more harm than good by keeping secrets from her.

The whole werewolf fiasco was a lot of fun. Michelle’s good friend Amber is kidnapped by this local clan leader. Amber is also a shifter but not a powerful one and Michelle has good reason to be very worried for her friend. I did feel that Michelle was a bit slow to put her powers and abilities into hunting for Amber but she was dealing with a lot of other stuff too. Michelle’s eventual efforts earn her some new, much needed allies.

Gargoyles! Who doesn’t love gargoyles? I can see these characters adding to the series immensely and I look forward to seeing what the author does with them. Then there’s the teen suicides that Michelle’s mom asks her to look into. The pace is fast all the way through this tale except for the tiny little bits where Elron is contemplating his life and missing his dead wife Sylvia.

Once we reach the end, there’s tons of stuff not wrapped up. Now it’s not the big cliff hanger we had from Book 1 but it still leaves a lot to be tied up in the next book. A mysterious book with dreams comes into play and throws Elron into a downward spiral. The Big Baddie is still at large. Then there’s trouble on the horizon with Michelle’s parents’s clans. So, once again, I’m glad the next book is immediately available. 4/5 stars

The Narration: Jeff Hays continues to do this series justice. He has the perfect voice for Michelle and he sounds so animated throughout the entire story. He makes a great angry werewolf and a serious gargoyle. I also like his somewhat formal voice for Elron.  5/5 stars.

Book 3 A Witch's Trial
 

Note: A Witch’s Trial is the 3rd book in the series and it really does need the previous books to make sense.

I’m really glad to say that this book wraps up the big cliff hangers from the previous two books. Michelle certainly has her hands full! She now knows for sure that there is a demon, Gremory, walking the Earth and it wants her suffering and dead. Also, the witch clans have finally taken notice of her and they all want her to join their clan. Some are far ruder about it than others. Also, things with her possible boyfriend Elron have tanked. The wife he thought long dead is still alive and he’s grieving anew.

Ty the Trex is still one of my favorite characters. He’s both a protector and pet of Michelle’s. He’s pretty formidable because, hey, he’s a Trex. I did find it odd that Michelle insists on keeping him secret. First, she took him down in a previous book when he was rampaging around taking out gas stations and such on news cameras. Second, Michelle and Ty live at a Bed & Breakfast. I think most people know there’s a Trex on the property.

Elron is still a problem for me. I started to warm up to him in the previous book but I didn’t find him a good match for Michelle. Now in this book, he is weepy almost all of the time. On one hand, I can appreciate having a lead male character be in touch with his feelings. On the other hand, Elron was a very boring, dull, exhausting character.

Landa the Brownie who owns and runs the B&B is a great bit of comfort to both Elron and Michelle. While Michelle has a mother, it’s nice to see Landa step in here and there and provide a bit of motherly comfort. And the gargoyles! Yay! Horst who we met last book, has asked Julius, another but more powerful gargoyle, to come hang out and help protect the area. These gargoyles have secrets and I hope we see them again later in the series.

The rest of the book was fun. I like that Michelle is having to juggle so much at once and she’s not sure she’s capable of taking on some of these challenges. I loved how she repeatedly blew off the clans, including her own grandmother’s. These clans had no use for her or her mother before they learned how powerful she was. Also, no clan has offered to accept both her and her mother.

The demon Gremory is a whole different flavor of trouble. Michelle faces a serious foe in Gremory and he has many weapons, one of them being the body of Sylvia, Elron’s wife. He brings minions to the final battle, which was OK. I did find it a bit anticlimatic as I really wanted a good, major rumble with Gremory. Then there’s the wrap up, which could have been shorter for me.

I know this is a quibble but I’m going to say it anyway. Michelle says, ‘thank you’ so many times in this book. It started to grate on my nerves. I wanted the author to use a thesaurus to mix it up a bit with ‘thanks’ or ‘much appreciated’ or such. In some conversations she says, ‘thank you’ 3 or 4 times. It was repetitive. All told, a fun urban fantasy with a Trex. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Jeff Hays continues to do a great job as the voice of Michelle. He really does sound like a 20-something woman. He also has a great voice for Elron the Sad. I absolutely loved his voices for the gargoyles, making me think of sandpaper on stone. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jeff Hays. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Twofer Murder by Lauren Carr

Twofer Murder - Lauren Carr
Note: This book works fine as a stand alone even though it is an intersection among 3 of Lauren Carr’s murder mystery series.
 
I’ve listened to many Lauren Carr novels and the Mac Faraday stories are my favorites. Still, I looked forward to seeing all of the main characters for the 3 intersecting series come together. The start was a bit slow for me and I think this was because Carr was introducing her characters for those that are unfamiliar with one or more of her series. The men are off fishing and the ladies are attending a murder mystery convention and awards ceremony. After 3 hours, I really wanted to spend all my time with the guys. There is so much about how the ladies look (pretty, gorgeous, voluptuous, luscious, beautiful, etc.) and then plenty about fashion (shoes, dresses, handbags, etc). I especially found all that very boring mostly because I know these ladies are so much more than their looks and clothing. I wouldn’t recommend starting with this novel if you’re just venturing into Carr’s novels. These characters show much better in other novels being more rounded and interesting.
 
There are basically two plots going on for the majority of the book. The guys are dealing with the Mud men (father and his sons) in a logging community. The Muds are bullies and there’s an old fatal car accident that has affected several people in area deeply. The ladies are on the track of the Black Diamond, an assassin for hire that some of them have run into before. There’s more than meets the eye with this lady! Our ladies have to learn how to play nice with some FBI while keeping it under wraps.
 
I really liked Gnarly’s addiction to cheese puffs and the trouble that leads to. There’s also Monique the tarantula who belongs to Jessica. I loved that suite’s butler had no trouble with setting Monique up in her own little bug house.
 
I liked both mysteries though I felt it took a little too long to get them to dovetail and bring all the main characters to play under one roof. This novel wasn’t as concise as much of Carr’s works and, once again, I think this is because she brought so many main characters into the story. All together, it’s a good tale for those that have read some of Carr’s other works, especially if you’ve dabbled in all 3 series. 3.5/5 stars.
 
The Narration: Anita Alger and Mike Alger tag team the narration for this book. Mike makes a good Mac Faraday and he does a pretty good job with all the male voices. Sometimes his female character voices sound feminine and sometimes they don’t. Anita had several regional accents for the ladies which I liked as it kept them distinct. Her male character voices often did not sound like men. I especially didn’t like the voice for Liam, a grown man with delusions of grandeur; he sounded like a 10 year old. The recording quality was good. 3/5 stars.

Parallax by D. T. Dyllin

Parallax - D.T. Dyllin

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, this works fine as a stand alone novel.

It was fun getting to know Tamzea in this novel. In Book 1, Starblind, she was a rather minor character. Here, she is center stage. Even as memories from her past haunt her dreams, her future lies rooted in that past. The Pittsburgh has bumped into an unexpected spacepod with an even more unexpected cargo. This cargo drags Tamzea back into a hell hole she once escaped.

Eron, Tamzea’s other half, has been trapped in that hell hole all these years. The two must figure out their escape together even as they decide on their new relationship. There’s plenty of sexy scenes in this book, as there was in Book 1. They are delightfully steamy even if some of them are rather brief.

This space opera is quick and breezy fun. Jane still has a role as captain. She’s got a whiny side when her mate, Ash, is off doing something, leaving her alone. Zula and Masha also put in appearances but their roles are small. I liked the new addition of Eron though I felt that most of the focus was on his most masculine attributes (especially during the sex scenes).

The pace is fast and well spaced between action scenes, sexy bits, and a little bit of character reflection or growth. The Denards continue to be the baddies in this series with little depth but I can live with that. While I did like Book 1 a little more, this was a good addition to the series. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Ashley Holt continues to have a distinctive cadence in her narration. It’s not bad but it is an acquired taste. Since I was already familiar with her work from Starblind, I found her narration a good continuation for the series. Mostly, her character voices were distinct but sometimes they were muddied. Her male voices were masculine. Once again, I did speed up the narration just a touch (1.25X) as so many of the syllables are really drawn out. Increasing the speed made the narration sound more natural. 3.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. This tour is being sponsored by Spectrum Audiobooks. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

In the Dark by Chris Patchell

In the Dark - Chris Patchell

This was my first Chris Patchell novel but it won’t be my last. This story hooked me early and kept me captive the entire way through. Brooke Parker, the main victim, is more than just a prize to be won or lost. I felt I got to know her as a well-rounded character. She takes an active hand in her fate, even if it is just to keep herself alive one more day while being held captive. Brooke’s mom, Marissa, and her younger sister, Kelley, struggle to deal with her disappearance.

Those assisting the family to search for Brooke complete our list of potential heroes. There’s detective Seth Crawford whose got a haunted past of his own. Out of all the characters, he was my favorite. He’s got some big live choices in this novel all while under a ton of pressure to stop a serial killer. Then there’s also Evelyn Holt and her Holt Foundation. She sees the Foundation as a resource for people who have suffered from violent crime and she sees Marissa as a leader in that Foundation.

The one weakness to this novel is sometimes Marissa. I was OK with her being unsure of a lot of things in her life. She’s a 3X divorcee raising two kids on her own. Yet she knows for a certainty that Brooke would not take off without her travel insulin pack. She stands her ground, eventually convincing the police to open an investigation. However, later on in the story she gets a little sidelined with a romance. It felt a little forced and ill-timed. While I could see Marissa and this man getting together eventually, I felt that it was a bit too soon and the romance was forced to blossom too soon for drama’s sake.

There’s more than one bad guy in this novel so there’s a bit of clever misdirection as we and the good guys try to figure out who the serial killer is. The author had me guessing who was the greater culprit for the first third of the book. The wind up to discovering who was just as good as the chase towards the end of the novel. All told, I really enjoyed this murder mystery. 4.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Lisa Stathoplos and Corey Gagne both did a very good job narrating this book. The recording was excellent as the narrators sounded like they were in the same room. Stathoplos and Gagne both had distinct character voices and both had believable opposite sex character voices. The pacing was good as well. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Chris Patchell. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

First Contact by Kat Green

First Contact (Haunts for Sale Series) - Kat  Green, Kat de Falla

Part murder mystery, part ghost story, this tale had me interested from the beginning. Sloane is an independently minded woman with one exception: she’s still grieving and still attached to her dead fiance Michael. She’s taken a job investigating a house for paranormal activity and she is hoping that dead Michael will put in an appearance. I guess if you’re a paranormal investigator, you would have issues letting go of the dead above and beyond most people.

So while Sloane is pining away for Michael, there’s definitely some ghost action going on in this house and that leads her to start asking questions. Apparently this little Wisconsin town has several unsolved disappearances. These young ladies went missing and now Sloane believes she has found their ghosts.

Even as the murder mystery spins up, it quickly spins out. The cast of characters is small and it quickly becomes apparent who the culprit is. I would have liked a bit more time for the mystery to develop and play out. I didn’t get much suspense because the culprit was quickly revealed (and it wasn’t a big surprise either).

The rest of the tale is about Sloane trying to escape the bad guys and that’s about half the book. There’s added drama over Michael and her undying love for him. But then there’s a silly love triangle tossed in too. FBI Agent Jonah, Michael’s best friend, is the guy that taught Sloane most of what she knows about the paranormal. They usually do paranormal investigations together but Sloane is branching out a bit now with her business of investigating potentially haunted houses that are on the market (because buyers want to know if they have to live with spirits). And then the love drama is even a little more silly because Jonah’s FBI partner is a knock-out and Sloane is jealous of her. I really didn’t care for the romance drama because it took Sloane’s character down a notch. She went from this savvy paranormal investigator, independent business woman, etc. to being this childish, jealous idiot who makes fun of Jonah’s coworker. Sigh… ugh! Sloane, you’re better than that!

By the end, I was glad that the ghosts got some payback and that Sloane had worked out her romantic issues. The pacing started off good but then dragged a little with romantic entanglement stuff but then picked up again at the end. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Kate Tyler was OK. She has a good voice for Sloane and she did a decent job with emotions. Her other character voices were sometimes spot on and sometimes not. Her pacing was just a touch off as she hesitates here and there. 4/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Kat Green. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

The Prophet and the Witch by James W. George

The Prophet and the Witch - James W. George

Note: This is Book 2 and it can be read on its own if you check out the author’s notes about Book 1 but it works best if you have read Book 1.

There is quite a bit going on in this book. I finished it and I felt heavy with my new understanding of this little slice of time in colonial America. This is a serious subject and horrible things happen during King Phillip’s War. I really appreciate that the author didn’t shy away from showing that, and showing that all sides committed war atrocities.

Linto and Wawaseca are spiritual leaders of their people and Linto is a special character. He’s knowledgeable about both the colonial English ways and their various flavors of Christianity but is also Native American. Throughout the entire book, he could be the one to bring everyone together. On the English side, there’s Brewster. He’s a bridge between the Puritans and the Quakers because he’s left one in disgrace and grudgingly embraces the other through marriage. He’s also a treasured friend of Linto’s.

Some of my favorite parts of the book were the times that Linto and his fellow Wampanoags interpret various Bible stories. I wasn’t raised with the Bible and I could really relate to some of the questions they ask and their take on the meanings of these stories. These scenes also provide a bit of levity in a pretty serious novel.

My one criticism about this tale is that the ladies are mostly sidelined. Wawaseca is a leader of her community but we rarely see that. We’re told it over and over again but we only see her providing marital comfort to her husband or playing with kids. Late in the story, her character does get a little bit of growth. However, she then becomes a character to pity, not follow. One of the other tribes also has a female leader but she’s described as uppity and rude. Her role is very small. All other ladies are there for comfort. One English lass is described as having a mind to rival any mind in the colony but we only have one brief scene where she cites some Bible trivia. The rest of the time, she’s being a wifely comfort. The ladies could have contributed much more and I was disappointed with their minimal showing.

The tale does have a lot of Bible references but I never felt that the story was preaching at me. For the people in 1670s American colonies, their religion was a major part of their lives so I felt that was reflected well in the story. I also like that there are several views and some people do their best to live up to their chosen spiritual book while others abuse their spiritual authority.

I was very glad to see that the author provides some historical notes at the end about the indulgences he took in creating this tale. The story shows the author’s great care in researching the time and location. This is both enlightening and entertaining. 4.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Angus Freathy was a joy to listen to for this narration. He had the perfect voice for Brewster and also for Linto, the two main characters. I loved all his regional accents for the various characters. There’s also some national accents as Scotsmen and Frenchmen join the cast of characters. My one quibble is that his female character voices weren’t always feminine. All his character voices were distinct. And there’s a bit of singing! Freathy did his singing well and then a short Psalm is sung by a woman (and done well too). The recording quality is excellent. 4.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by James W. George. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Dark Harvest by Chris Patchell

Dark Harvest (A Holt Foundation Story) (Volume 2) - Chris Patchell, Mark Cooper, Monica Haynes

Note: Dark Harvest is Book 2 in the series and works best if read after Book 1 simply because you get so much character development that carries over from one book to the next.

I really liked that Brooke, who suffered a brutal kidnapping in Book 1, isn’t all sunshine and roses. She is still walking the hard, dark path to recovery. Marissa, her mom, struggles with how best to help her but she’s doing her best. Brooke’s younger sister, Kelley, puts in a few appearances but we see far less of her than in Book 1 and I missed her. Seth continues to be my favorite character. He’s doing his best to navigate these choppy waters with Marissa and her family, along with his work and memories of his dead wife.

Marissa was hard to root for in this book. She’s really self-centered and I think the author intended for us to see that. However, I don’t see Marissa becoming aware of her flaw and then taking action to better herself. She’s really wrapped up on Seth. He wants to give them all a bit of space to allow Brooke the time to heal and Marissa the time and energy to help Brooke. However, Marissa takes this as rejection. Ugh! Why, Marissa? Why? I wanted to give her a little reality check. I can see why she has a long history of failed relationships.

I also have to mention Marissa in one more thing. This is a MINOR SPOILER. Marissa has failed to take her birth control pill religiously and guess what happens? Yep. This really pissed me off about Marissa. She’s a career woman in her 30s who has basically raised her daughters on her own after becoming unexpectedly pregnant at 16. She’s been down this road before and apparently didn’t learn her lesson. The pill doesn’t work 100% of the time but when you negligently forget to take the pill daily, you’re borrowing trouble.

OK, so let’s talk about the mystery because that’s what really kept me in this book. Someone has been targeting pregnant women but no bodies have turned up. Pretty early on we get to know something about the kidnappers so the majority of the book is a cat and mouse game between the cops and the Holt Foundation and the bad guys. The motivations of the kidnappers were layered and deeper than I initially expected. I really liked that about this mystery. Tori, oh Tori! I wanted things to come out better for you even as I knew you had to pay for what you did. Xander Wilcox, I wonder if you were always so arrogant? Definitely interesting ‘bad guys’.

Seth struggles on several levels in this book. Henry, the computer genius at the Holt Foundation, doesn’t mind breaking laws to get data (phone records, arrest records, utility info, etc.). Seth has retained his cop sense of right and wrong and is mightily uncomfortable about Henry’s activities. However Nathan Holt isn’t interested in pushing Henry to follow the letter of the law. After all, the Holt Foundation is about finding victims before it’s too late. Seth is also struggling to both respect the needs of Marissa’s family as a whole and be supportive to Marissa as his girlfriend. Then he realizes that he hasn’t fully dealt with the death of his wife Holly. He’s a complicated guy and I really enjoyed watching him overcome one hurdle after another.

The ending had a few surprises. Henry! Oh, my! I also like that Seth has wrapped up some of the lose threads of his life. I would have liked further character growth for Marissa because she is a twit in this book. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Lisa Stathoplos and Corey Gagne did a really good job with this book. I really like Gagne as Seth and Stathoplos has a perfect voice for Marissa. She also does a great job with the voices for Kelley and Brooke making all 3 ladies distinct but still sound related. I especially liked the aggravated, arrogant voice for Xander. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Chris Patchell. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.