Asylum: The Afterlife Investigations, Book 1 is a thriller, horror, paranormal story written by Ambrose Ibsen. I recently discovered Mr. Ibsen thanks to Audiobook Reviewer. I enjoyed the previous book by Mr. Ibsen I listen to so how could I pass up a creepy asylum story? Who doesn’t love an abandoned asylum with a macabre history?
Stephen Barlow is an adjunct professor at a college in Ohio. He is brand new on staff and only teaching one course. One day walking to campus he witnesses a student killed in a hit and run. The dying boy asks if Stephen can hear “them” and dies in his arms. While trying to avoid the nightmares that follow, Stephen gets talked into being the faculty advisor for the newly forming Spiritual Club. It is spiritual like paranormal not spiritual like kumbaya. The club has only two members, Elizabeth and her overprotective boyfriend Jake.
Chaythe Asylum has been closed for close to 28 years after years of decline and allegations of staff abuse of patients. A patient who escaped her room and killed several other patients and staff before she was killed herself was the final event in the asylum’s history. It was referred to as the 3rd Ward Incident. A strange series of events lead Stephen, Elizabeth and Jake to the tour the asylum, with the present owner’s consent, on the twenty-eighth anniversary of the murders.
This was a fun, although scary, story. Mr. Ibsen does a nice job of creating a pervading sense of dread. Each event is part of a chain that leads to the asylum where things truly go to crap (insert stronger word here). There is no easy solution visible at any point in the book. This is the first book in a trilogy. There is a closure of sense to this book but the story does continue on in the next two books.
Joe Hempel does a great job narrating Asylum. He conveys the tension and fear just as well in this book as he did in Stirrings in the Black House book. While the story gets very intense, Mr.Hempel never veers in hysteria or yelling. He maintains a consistent volume level. I really enjoyed his narration. Mr. Hempel and Mr. Ibsen are now on my list to check out whenever I come across their work.
ABR received this audiobook for free from the Narrator, Submitted in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect our opinion of the audiobook or the content of our review.
Anna is seventeen years old and absolutely stifled by her guardian Aunt Rachel. There are so many things proper ladies do not do. Anna repeatedly gets herself in trouble due to natural intelligence and curiosity. She has, fortunately, had her Uncle Silas, a co-conspirator in bending Aunt Rachel’s rules. Due to the time they spent together, Anna knew him better than anyone else in the family. When Silas died after an illness, Anna was not the least bit surprised that the last request of his will was to have his head cut off from his body. Silas had a horrible fear of claustrophobia due to a traumatic experience. He often told Anna if his head was cut off there would be no doubt he was dead and have nothing to fear.
Anna’s family wail and scream at the family lawyer until he calmly tells them the request is not legally binding but it is considered something the family should do. As Anna’s family rages around her, she realizes the reason for the request and also realizes her family will not honor it. What is a well-bred young woman to do? Let her favorite uncle down and follow the strict etiquette of the time? Or maybe handle the last request herself without letting the family know but risk a world of trouble if they find out?
Last Request is a short listen. Perfect for a shorter trip or sitting in a waiting room. The story is very well done. Short stories are difficult to write, more difficult than a novel. In a limited space, the author must tell his story, invest us in his characters, and ultimately fulfill our need for a good story with a satisfactory ending. Mr. Chapman does it so well I would like to read more stories involving Anna and the trouble she finds. The narration by Caprisha Page was excellent. She handled the different accents from Anna’s educated one to the sexton’s lower class words equally well. The male versus female characters was also well done. I highly recommend Last Request as an enjoyable yet thrilling story, perfect for Halloween moods.
ABR received this audiobook for free from the Author, Submitted in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect our opinion of the audiobook or the content of our review.
Monsterland by Michael Phillip Cash was an enjoyable read. It is the story of an amusement park. It is not so much Walt Disney World as it is Jurassic Park. No dinosaurs though, just vampires, werewolves and zombies. The back story how how the three species of legend come to public attention is well done.
The main character is a teen boy dealing with the wreckage in the wake of his parent's divorce. Moving from upscale LA to middle of nowhere, losing the financial support of his inattentive father and his mother's remarriage have given Wyatt a larger than normal dose of teenage angst. The girl, Jade, he likes is the football hero's girl. Wyatt's best friends are on the far end of the socially acceptable scale. Wyatt plods through each day with his irritating little brother Josh nipping at his heels adding another layer of misery to his life.
Shortly before the simultaneous world wide openings of all the Monsterland Parks, Wyatt's luck changes. He uses his own money to buy food for a seemingly homeless man at the fast food restaurant he works for. The man is not homeless, just eccentric and the owner of all the Monsterland Parks. Wyatt is given four VIP tickets for the opening while Jade,her boyfriend and two other friends are given regular tickets. Wyatt, his brother, two best friends and the President of the United States are all headed for the opening night of Monsterland. An amusement park that features real werewolves, vampires and zombies. What can possibly go wrong?
The book is really an enjoyable read. Wyatt is a likable kid. The vampires, werewolves and zombie are real, not guys in masks as in Scooby Doo. There is a nice build up to the action. Once the action does start, it does not stop. For anyone who grew up reading Famous Monsters Magazines or the like, Monsterland will be childhood dreams come true, including the running and screaming.
I received a free copy of Monsterland from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Recently I received an email through Goodreads that the author was republishing the book under his name instead of his pen name and he had made a few changes. I was offered a free copy of the revised book in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed the book just as much with the changes. The changes are very subtle. Josh is renamed Sean. The spelling of one character’s last name changes. There was only one change that I actually caught. All the other changes just made the book flow better or the story more intense.
I highly recommend Monsterland to anyone who enjoys a good monster filled book. There is a sequel in the works which I am greatly looking forward to.
Elizabeth Bear creates a complex world in The Stone in the Skull. There are different civilizations, different gods, different magics, different forms of life and different skies, all on the same planet. The story is good. It draws you in and slowly reveals secrets in a way that keeps you turning pages.
The book opens in Steles of the Sky with a brass man, The Gage, hauling pulling a ship over a mountain pass as it ported between rivers. The Gage is not really a man, anymore, and is so much more than a man in strength and intelligence. I liked him immediately. There was something about him, a sense of honesty and/or decency, that came through early in the book and never left. Traveling with The Gage is the Dead Man. He is not really dead. The name is a job title that related to his former profession. The Dead Man and The Gage have worked together for years and have a fondness for each other. This unique friendship formed, in my opinion, the spine of the story. Everything was some how related to the two friends.
The other main characters in the book live in the Lotus Kingdoms on the other side of the mountains that The Gage and the Dead Man were crossing. Several kingdoms, all related by blood and formerly one kingdom, jostle for power. The gods are different in the southern and the customs are different. Mrithuri, 24 years old and unmarried, rules one of the kingdoms. Her cousin and uncles circle her waiting for the first sign of weakness to steal her kingdom for themselves. Mrithuri, the Dead Man and The Gage are bound together, although they do not know each other, by the secret entrusted to the two friends to be delivered to Mrithuri’s kingdom.
The universe The Stone in the Skull takes place in is complex. I read the ARC in an ebook format. I think it would have been helpful to have access to basic maps, a glossary and maybe a cast of characters listing. Other readers may not have the same issue I did. I plan on rereading the book in a few months and I am sure it will flow better for me then.
The Stone in the Skull is the first in a planned trilogy. It does end with a cliffhanger. This is the second book by Elizabeth Bear I have read, the first being the fantastic Karen Memory. I recommend The Stone in the Skull for all fans of fantasy.
Nights of the Living Dead by Brandon Shusterman, Brian Keene, Carrie Ryan, Chuck Wendig, Claire Bloom, Craig Engler, David J. Schow, David Wellington, Gabrielle de Cuir, George A. Romero, Issac Marion, Jay Bonansinga, Joe McKinney, Joe R. Lansdale, John Russo, John Skipp, Jonathan Maberry, Keith RA DeCandido, Max Brallier, Mike Carey, Mira Grant, Neal Shusterman, Ryan Brown, Sandra Brown
Narrator: Adenrele Ojo, Claire Bloom, Gabrielle de Cuir, Kasey Lansdale, Kristoffer Tabori, Nicholas Guy Smith, Ray Porter, Rex Linn, Richard Gilliland, Stefan Rudnicki
Nights of the Living Dead was an enjoyable anthology. George A. Romero contributed only one story but his influence is apparent in every story. This was a nice anthology and very even. The good stories greatly outnumbered the meh stories. I have included my thoughts on a few of the stories including the two introductions. The introduction by Romero is almost a class in cinema history, just incredible to listen to.
Night of the Living Dead: An Introduction by George A. Romero
Wonderful history of the zombie genre by its godfather and he prefers “ghoul” to “zombie” but gave up arguing the point years ago.
Reflections of a Weird Little Kid in a Condemned Movie House: An Introduction by Jonathan Maberry
This was fun to listen to. Imagine growing up to collaborate with your childhood hero. Wow.
Dead Man’s Curve by Joe R. Lansdale
A great opening to the anthology. A Wonderful female protagonist and unpredictable but satisfying story.
In That Quiet Earth by Mike Carey
An incredible love story. The lengths a man goes to in order to spend eternity with his beloved wife. Touching, poetic and, ironically, life affirming.
Jimmy Jay Baxter’s Last, Best Day on Earth by John Skipp
This was disturbing on many levels. The main character is one of the most detestable individuals I have ever encountered in literature. I really did not enjoy this story because I was so repulsed by it.
The Burning Days by Carrie Ryan
A cabin in the woods. Two couples and two single friends. A planned vacation that skids to a halt when the dead show up uninvited. Who survives and more importantly whose relationships survive?
The Day After by John A. Russo
The immediate aftermath of the dead uprising has monsters who are very much alive.
The Girl on the Table by Isaac Marion
The zombie apocalypse through the eyes of a young teen girl who has been bitten. It is very complex and excellent writing.
Williamson’s Folly by David J. Schow
“Fidget-pickle” what an incredible word! I have no idea what it means (neither does Google) but there is a character in this story described as a fidget-pickle (I guess it is a hyphenated word).
You Can Stay All Day by Mira Grant
A fun day at the zoo? Not so much.
Pages from a Notebook Found Inside a House in the Woods by Brian Keene
In rural Central Pennsylvania, a group of robbers knocks off a Comic-Con. As they escape the robbery scene they run out of gas and luck. Out of gas and finding their first zombie, they flee into the woods. They find a cabin and make themselves secure. What happens when you are safe from the zombies outside but not the vengeful ghost inside?
Lone Gunman by Jonathan Maberry
“Mostly dead but not entirely” starts with a soldier waking up under a pile of large pile of dead. He must find his sanity and his purpose before he can survive.
Live and On the Scene by Keith R. A. DeCandido
This one starts like a real newscast. Harvey, the on the spot TV reporter, is reporting on a rash of multiple murders in the rural areas outside of Pittsburgh. Witness report seeing strangely acting people which police immediately discount as hysteria. The story alternates between the newscasts and reporter’s life as the events happen. It reminded me of Orson Well’s War of the Worlds broadcast.
Other stories included:
Deadliner by Neal and Brendan Shusterman
A Dead Girl Named Sue by Craig E. Engler
Fast Entry by Jay Bonansinga
John Doe by George A. Romero
Mercy Kill by Ryan Brown
Orbital Decay by David Wellington
Snaggletooth by Max Brallier
Dead Run by Chuck Wendig
My two favorite stories were In That Quiet Earth and Pages from a Notebook Found Inside a House in the Woods. What the two stories had in common, besides zombies, was an unexpected conclusion that left me very pleased, both as an adult and as the 7-year-old who loved Christopher Lee as Dracula. These two stories are horror gold for fans of all ages.
The narration by Ray Porter, Stefan Rudnicki, Jonathan Maberry, Kasey Lansdale, Kristoffer Tabori, Rex Linn, Gabrielle de Cuir, Adenrele Ojo, Richard Gilliland, and Nicholas Guy Smith (as listed on the Audible description) was first rate. All of the stories, even the ones that did not especially set me on fire, were still narrated well.
If you love zombies (it is cool to admit to loving zombies in the new millennium) and if you have a fondness for the history of the genre, treat yourself to this wonderful audiobook anthology. Let me know which stories you like the best. Enjoy and remember aim for the head.
I received this book from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
The Man from the Train The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James
The Man from the Train
The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery
by Bill James; Rachel McCarthy James
Pub Date 19 Sep 2017
The Man from the Train is a non-fiction review of a series of murders starting in 1898 and not ending until 1912, if indeed they did end then. The authors are a father and daughter team, Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James. The authors make a case for a series of murders to be connected. They then connect them to one man. Looking at the information they present, it is possible but the storytelling is disorganized and lacks the punch of cohesive story.
This book really did not draw me in as much as I had hoped. I really enjoy non-fiction, especially historical events. Erik Larson, author of Isaac’s Storm and Dead Wake among others, is a writer who captures the reader’s attention and keeps it. I could not help but compare Larson’s style to the James’s style while reading The Man from the Train and found the James’s wanting.
I cannot include any quotes in this review because I only have the Advance Review Copy and not the final published copy. There may be differences which is why the publishers stipulates not quoting from the ARC. If I could include quotes, I could easily illustrate what I mean by the James’s style. What I can say is that several places the authors give information then immediately say it has no bearing and is included just to show the local gossip concerning the murders. In other places, information is teased and then the reader is told more on that topic will be found in a later chapter. I found these devices to distract from the follow of the narrative. I never found myself truly engaged in the storytelling.
by Vivian Shaw
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 25 Jul 2017
I enjoyed Strange Practice immensely. I hope it is the beginning of a series. Greta Helsing (the family dropped the Van between the World Wars) is a physician, just like her late father. Just like her father and grandfather, Greta is the rare doctor in modern London who makes house calls in addition to running a clinic on Harley Street, the address synonymous for the best in health care in London. Greta’s practice treats the most underserved and needy of all London inhabitants, the unalive.
In Greta’s clinic she deals with Mummies who have chronic pain from bone deterioration, ghouls with depression, and anything else that finds it’s way to her. She is trusted and well liked by all the supernaturals. She is also overworked and clinging to her budget by her fingernails. But like her father and grandfather, this is the life she feels she is called to. She likes and respects her patients.
When Greta gets a call in the middle of the night to go to Lord Ruthven’s house. Greta has known Ruthven all her life and has known he is a vampire. When she arrives she find Varney, who is a vampyre, wounded by a poison weapon. She is fascinated as she has never had the opportunity to observe this cousin species of the more common vampire. Greta and Ruthven discover that Varney has been hit with a very strange metal stake, poisoned specifically to kill the unalive.
The story quickly takes off from there involving demons, ghouls, and humans. Ms. Shaw created a tantalizing world that I would love to see explored more. All the different varieties of unalive were fascinating. Werewolves were mentioned but not featured in this book. The writing was excellent, wonderful descriptions of the locations, monsters and humans. The story was great. It kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep. Treat yourself to vampires grocery shopping and making lattes and a woman doctor who heals as well as kicks ass to protect her patients.
The Devil’s Bible is the sequel to Dana Chamblee Carpenter’s best seller Bohemian Gospel. I highly recommend you read or listen to it first. Both books were very well researched in terms of
the time periods and the very complicated politics in addition to the Church history. In the first book, Mouse, the main character, was a very unusual female for the time period. She was better educated than most women at the time. It is not her education that struck me as much as her spirit. She was trying to live a life of her own choosing.
Mouse is changed in the second book, The Devil’s Bible. Her spirit seems very damaged, if not broken. She is not living as much as surviving. She forms no ties with anyone or anything. She lives a life of simplicity that she can flee at a moment's notice. She is more of a shadow of a person than a person. While I understand why she felt she had to live that way, I really did not like Mouse like that. It made me angry. Ever wish you could jump into a book and save your favorite character? That is how I felt, like I needed to reach it and tell Mouse I would help her. I was so glad when she decided to fight to regain herself, she was more like the Mouse from the first book.
There are so many plot points that I cannot discuss because they are spoilers, especially for someone who hasn’t read the first book. Mouse is a character steeped in mystery and mythology. She is not wholly human as though it is what she longs to be. The characters she interacts with are human and non-human. I love Mouse and really like both books.
Tantor Media had given me the first book and then offered me this one in exchange for an honest review. I was happy to accept. Justine Eyre is wonderful. Her voice has a musical quality to it. I found I could not listen to it in bed because I fell asleep. Otherwise I had to have a quieter atmosphere than usual. I think it was because of the complexity of the plot. Ms. Eyre does such a fine job of clearly enunciating every word. So it is totally my fault that I could not binge listen to it even though the story was enticing.
I would recommend both Bohemian Gospel and The Devil’s Bible narrated by Justine Eyre to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery and paranormal fantasy.
I picked up A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess after seeing it recommended by several YA authors on Twitter. I went to Goodreads and Amazon, checked out the synopsis and the reviews. It was on sale so I took a chance and picked it up. I am really glad I did.
Nettie is a young woman who teaches at the all girl's school, Brimthorn, where she was raised. Remember the school that Jane Eyre attended? Brimthorn is just as grim plus a serial sexual predator as a headmaster. Nettie's best friend is Rook, an orphan who works as a servant at the school. Rook is "unclean" because he has scars from surviving a brush with one of the Seven Ancients. The Ancients are monsters, really proper devour whole cities monsters, that came through a rip in the fabric of reality. They are only in England. They arrived when a magician and a witch were playing with forces they did not understand. The witch burned. The magician disappeared.
Magicians and witches are now outlawed and put to death. Only sorcerers are allowed. They are, surprise of surprises, males only. There is a prophecy that a female sorcerer will appear and help defeat the Seven Ancients. Nettie may be the prophesied one. Rook may have a part to play in Nettie's success or failure. The Seven Ancients may be unbeatable.
Four hundred pages later, I was invested in Nettie. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to bring down the patriarchy that followed a woman queen, Victoria, but discounted every other woman in the country. This book is the first of a two book series. The book does end with unanswered questions but some are answered. All in all, this is one book that I did not mind being continued because I do want to continue to get to know Hettie, Rook and those marvelous Seven Ancient Ones.
A Cultural History
by Susan Owens
Pub Date 03 Oct 2017
I really enjoyed The Ghost A Cultural History by Susan Owens. This nonfiction book examines the history of the ghost or apparition. Ms. Owens, the author, was interested in how much Dickens's ghost have in common with what we define as ghosts today. How did ghosts change as technology was introduced, like the earliest shadow shows and then film? Also what is it about Britain that creates the fertile ground for ghosts? Is it the long history? The wet, foggy weather?
In early Christian history, ghosts were believed to be the souls of the dead suffering in purgatory come to warm those left behind to clean up their act. When the Protestant Reformation hit England, purgatory was edited out of their theology. The ghosts that were previously the souls of the dead now became demons and apparitions from hell. The book traces the history through each different phase or interpretation of what a ghost was, including the words used to describe them.
There is an excellent bibliography at the end of the book. It has given me a whole new list of writings from the classics that I want to read. The Ghost A Cultural History by Susan Owens is readable, entertaining and enlightening. It is releasing on October 3rd, making it the perfect Halloween present for yourself or a fan of spirits.
By Mercedes Lackey
Read by Amy Landon
The Hunter Series: Book 3
8.81 Hours unabridged
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
The Hunter trilogy, by Mercedes Lackey, is just as much fun and page turning action from the first book to the last. Each of the three books has its own mystery with an over reaching story arc for the series. The books feature a very strong female character, Joy. She does not need men saving her. In fact, she does pretty much all the saving.
The universe this series constructs is amazing. It is rich and complex, built on the ashes of our world. Our world went through a series of cataclysmic events that tore a hole through reality. This hole allowed monsters to come through, monsters from all of earth’s mythologies as well as some that no one can identify.
Along with the monsters come the “hounds”. The "hounds" are not normal dogs. Some can fly, some are the sizes of ponies and some are made of smoke. When they come through to our world they bond with an individual who have the ability to use magic. They become a team of hunters, one human with uses magic and their "hounds". Most hunters have two to four hounds. Joy started with seven. Through the events in the first and second books, she gains four more.
The other beings, besides hounds and monsters, from the otherside, as other reality is called, are the folk mages. They vary from a feral type to a sort of nobility. Some want to wipe out all humans while others are more concerned with their own affairs. The mages, of all kind, play a major role in Apex.
The character development is excellent. Joy is a believable young lady. She feels happiness and sadness and despair and desperation. Yet she continues to fight. I really like her. I like the way she has developed and grown through the three books. She has learned so much about herself that allows her to make her own decisions instead of being a tool in the hands of others. This is a young adult novel so the romantic action is described as “making out” or kissing. This would be appropriate for a teen. It is also appropriate for adults. I am fifty-four and really enjoyed it.
Amy Landon is an excellent narrator. I have enjoyed her narration through all three books. She gives Joy a realistic voice. Her male voices are good. She does a nice job on the attitude of the characters. I really enjoyed Ms. Landon’s narration and will definitely check out other books she has narrated.
I am trying to learn the correct language to discuss issues that are outside my own experience. Hopefully I got them right in this piece. If not, please help educate me. I appreciate it.
My Statement of Belief
Emboldened, public racism--from the ‘rally’ in Charlottesville, to the refusal of the White House to label it as terrorism and racism--is unfortunately not a collection of isolated incidents. They’ve been happening--literally--since before this country was formed. Despite legislation, despite stellar leaders, despite promises of a new day dawning, this is not our past; it is still very much our present.
I feel that the time has come to be as open and clear as possible about my beliefs. It is the only way I think I can deal with the climate in our society. I cannot march, I cannot donate huge amounts of money in support, I do not possess a public pulpit or any meaningful way to support social justice. What I can do is publicly state my beliefs and support for those who need allies.
Everyone has the same rights as a human. Period. There should be no distinction between race, ethnicity, creed, or gender. People who say that one is superior to another have issues with their own inadequacies.
Everyone has the right to define themselves. This includes gender and ethnicity. If someone chooses to be fluid in either gender or ethnicity, that is their right. My daughter who is Native American, African American and Caucasian was raised to define herself. She has the right to decide whether she will define as African American or biracial or any combination she chooses. She can change this definition day to day or hour to hour. It is her choice. Just as it is the choice of an individual to define themselves as one gender or none. It is their choice.
Everyone has the right to love who they choose. I support same sex marriage. I support hertoersexual marriage. If you love each other and are both consenting adults, then I believe that is your business, not the government’s or anyone’s church.
Everyone has the right to believe in a higher power whether that is a god, gods or their own conscience. Whatever they choose to as their compass for their morality.
Everyone has a right to evolve and change their opinions through their life. That does not mean they have to change to match your opinions. My own beliefs evolved through my life experiences, especially from being a parent. When my children asked a question I had to be able to explain my answer which led to me questioning my own beliefs. Secondly as my children attended college and were exposed to new perspectives, they shared what they learned with me. It helped me grown as a person and better understand what I did truly believe in.
Everyone has a right to health care. There should not be a difference in coverage between physical and mental illnesses. People with chronic illness should be supported whether or not those illnesses are visible to others. Good healthcare should note just belong to the wealthy or to our law makers. Stigma towards addiction, mental illness or any illness should be eliminated. Without open discussion, awareness and research funding will not happen.
Everyone has a right to their own opinions but not from the consequences of how they choose to express those opinions. For example, I define myself as a Roman Catholic. How do I square my beliefs with those of the Catholic Church? I don’t. I do hope when the time comes my children can find a priest to give me a Catholic funeral Mass because that is important to me.
Finally I believe
Everyone has the potential to affect positive change. Everyone can do something to make each day better. Whether supporting a friend who is dealing with illness or lending your talent as a writer to helping job searchers develop resumes that work for them, small things can make a difference. For some, like me, that is all we have to give. For others with more talent or time or treasure, they can help
I have to believe that the people who have goodness will make life better for everyone. Currently, there’s a huge shitstorm raging. Getting through it is not going to be easy or quick. It has to start with those like me who enjoy white privilege acknowledging we have this privilege, and attempting to use it to aid those who do not. The first step in support is listening. We need to start today.
In Distant Lands
A Short History of the Crusades
Author Lars Brownworth
Narrated by Joe Barrett
Publication date July 11, 2017
Running time 8 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
I have never read anything directly about the crusades. Whenever I encountered them, they were the backstory or window dressing of another story. For example the legend of Robin Hood centers around Richard the Lionheart being held for ransom when returning from the third crusade. I knew there were several crusades but not exactly how many. I knew some of the main characters like Richard, Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was Queen of France, Saladin and Suleiman but I did not really know how they all fit together. I knew there was seriously messed up stuff involved like the Children’s Crusade and the crusaders sacking Constantinople, their own ally. In Distant Lands A Short History of the Crusades helped fill all those gaps in my knowledge of an incredibly complex subject that continues to have relevance even today.
Mr. Brownworth begins the book by explaining which characters go with which crusade. I found that extremely helpful. So many of the names are not familiar, like Alexius I Comnenus, who was the emperor of Byzantium and whose request for help set the first crusade in motion. The book then lays out the logical order of events that created the need for the Byzantine emperor to seek help from the Roman Catholic Pope. He also then shows how events spiraled out of control until there was absolutely no hope of stopping the disaster that followed.
The book does a wonderful job of balancing events and people. The significance of the events, what led up to them and what their consequences were are all told in a very readable fashion. At the same time the people involved in the events are discussed in a way that gives them depth and life. Nothing happens in a vacuum and the author does a great job of illustrating the people who created the events.
Joe Barrett did an excellent job narrating In Distant Lands. His voice is very pleasant to listen to. He enunciates clearly and the production quality is excellent. He never stumbles on any of the foreign words whether French or Arabic. I would not hesitate to choose another book he narrates.
In Distant Lands has kindled an interest for me in this period of history. I have two other books picked out for my next trip into this time period (God’s Wolf by Jeffrey Lee and The Templars by Dan Jones). I will also be looking into more of Mr. Brownworth’s work. I found In Distant Lands to be very accessible while not oversimplifying a complex subject.
Red Sister: First Book of the Ancestor
CD - unabridged
Audio (16 discs)
Length: 19 hrs and 21 mins
Author: Mark Lawrence
Narrator/s: Heather O'Neil
Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure you bring an arm of sufficient size.” When I saw this sentence listed as the first sentence of Red Sister by Mark Lawrence in a tweet, I requested the e-book through my local library system. I enjoyed the book so much, I requested the audiobook through Audiobook Jukebox to review. I am thrilled to report that the audiobook enhances the experience of reading the book.
Red Sister involves a wonderful character named Nona. The book starts with her as a young child, under ten years old, and tells her story for several years as she approaches adulthood. Nona is from a very poor family. She is sold to a man who buys children from rural poor families and sells them to various organizations or institutions in the capital city. Some are sold to churches and some to be trained as basically gladiators. The buyer is determined by their gifts. Nona is originally bought by a trainer to eventually fight in the ring. She is saved at the foot of the scaffold from hanging (read the book to see why) by the abbess of a Convent of Sweet Mercy. Nona’s exploration of why she was saved, who the nuns are and the mysteries of her world are fascinating and so intriguing I did not stop reading/listening until I had to.
This is one of the most amazing parts of Mr. Lawrence’s world building, the gifts. The world of Red Sister has four tribes. Each tribe originally had a gift of their own. One tribe was larger in body size. One was very fast. One could access minor magic. The last could access major magic and do what was called “walk the Path”. The world is divided by nobility and non-nobility. Nobility can be a matter of heritage or awarded by the emperor. May I just say thank you to Mr. Lawrence for putting his glossary and dramatis personae at the front of the book?
Oh, did I mention the moon is falling? The world is very much controlled by the moon. The entire land area is being trapped between two great ice areas. The ice areas are like huge glaziers with walls hundreds of feet high. The liveable area in between is call The Corridor. During certain phases of the moon, the nights get very warm, almost hot. There is still so much mystery at the end of the first book that I cannot wait for the next book.
Heather O'Neil does a very good job narrating Red Sister. I had only heard one other book narrated by her and frankly was not fond of it. Many years ago, my son and I listened to her narration of Cry of the Icemark by Stuart Hill. Neither of us cared for her narration of that book. Before I requested the audio version of Red Sister from Audiobook Jukebox, I listened to the sample and found I was enjoying it. Ms. O’Neil’s narration of Red Sister is very different from her earlier work on the Hill book. In Red Sister, she is clear. Her character voices are recognizable. Her accents are good. She does an excellent job conveying emotion. I highly recommend Red Sister audiobook, even if you have already read the book.
This review first appeared at Audiobook Reviewer:
Stirrings in the Black House was a fun haunted house story. When I say fun about a haunted house book, I mean thrilling, scary, nerve racking and had it been a movie there would have been several jump scenes. I enjoyed listening to it.
Emil is a washed up concert pianist. At twenty-three, he is living with his parents and being supported by them. His career as a pianist came to a screeching halt due to his addiction to Percocet. He is now clean but in the way of all addicts, still just one misstep from using again.
Everything changes for Emil when his uncle Gustav dies. Gustav was a world class concert pianist of the caliber to play with the London Symphony Orchestra. He was a composer too. Gustav had come once to see Emil play and then dismissed him as having no talent. Emil had not seen or heard from his uncle since. Why would Gustav leave him a house? A house that is across the country from where he and his parents live? Looking for a fresh start, Emil drives his beat up car with his meager possessions to Newberg, Oregon. To Weatherby House.
The story is told in the first person. It allows the listener to share the emotions and thoughts of Emil as he arrives and finds a large two story house empty except for a massive black Steinway Grand Piano. No other furniture. No light bulbs in any light fixtures and no electricity. With his limited funds, Emil sets up electrical service and buys a few light bulbs and basic foodstuffs and settles in.
The fresh start is going as well as can be expected for Emil when he meets Kelly, a local girl. Kelly, upon hearing he lives in Weatherby House, tells him of its sordid history. The house was constructed by a cult who believed they could possess the bodies of victims they tortured to give them eternal life. When one victim escaped, the cult leaders were caught and jailed. They all died before going to trial.
At this point, I cannot discuss the plot any further with spoilers. So to recap, we have a vulnerable young man, isolated from his family, in recovery from addiction. We have a town that openly shuns Weatherby House and refuses to acknowledge it. We have a house with a bloody and occult history. Even an optimist can see this is going to end badly.
Joe Hempel does a great job narrating. He conveys the tension and fear in Emil’s voice and thoughts very well. He also does a great job on Kelly and other characters. I really enjoyed his narration. I will be seeking out more of his work as well as that of the author, Ambrose Ibsen.
Stop by Weatherby House for a few hours. Just not with all the lights off.
Stirrings in the Black House by Ambrose Ibsen
Narrator: Joe Hempel
on 29 June 2017
Length: 4 hrs and 40 mins
Courtesy Audiobook Reviewer
Gork, the Teenage Dragon
by Gabe Hudson
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Sci Fi & Fantasy , Teens & YA
Pub Date 11 Jul 2017
Sci Fi, Fantasy, Teen and YA are just a few of the genres I read on a regular basis. When I came across Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson at Netgalley, I decided to read it. I picked it up in late June and just finished it last night, just over a month later. I think it would appeal to a different type of reader than myself.
I found the first chapter to be the most enjoyable. Gork, the title character and narrator, complains about how humans how defamed dragons. He even names a few examples like Beowulf and The Hobbit. It is a very funny take from the dragon point of view. The rest of the book did not do as much for me. Again, I believe I am probably not the ideal audience. If you have a young person, teen or YA, in your family, you should check Gork, the Teenage Dragon out. As with all books for those age groups, I strongly suggest parents read the book first before handing it over to their younger family members. That is not a comment on Gork in particular but just a good practice for all parents to do. Besides the the value of pre reading for any content issues, there is a true joy to sharing books with your children, whatever their age may be.
Written by: James S. A. Corey
Narrated by: Jefferson Mays
Length: 20 hrs and 55 mins
Series: The Expanse, Book 1
Publisher: Hachette Audio
My husband and I watched The Expanse on Amazon Prime a couple of months ago. It was good but not great. I am not a hard sci fi consumer. I usually go more towards sci fi/fantasy or sci fi that is not has heavy on the sci part. I decided to check out the book that The Expanse was adapted from because the book is always better than the movie or tv series (it is a law of the universe which someday scientist will discover written with stars). I am really, really glad I did.
Leviathan Wakes is the first book in The Expanse series. The TV series uses seasons 1 and 2 to cover the story. There are significant differences between the series and the book, all of them lining up on “the book is better” side.
Leviathan Wakes takes place in mankind's future. We have spread ourselves through our solar system but have not quite reached the stars yet. There are humans living on moons of Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and in the large planetoids within the belt between Mars and Jupiter. People have been born, lived and died outside of Earth’s gravity. There are physical and cultural differences between Earthers, Martians and Belters which create a tense political situation.
The story is told from several points of view, all third person.
Julie: a poor little rich girl leaving her privileged life behind to fight for the rights of Belters
Holder: an Earther, now serving as the XO on an ice hauler
Miller: a Belter and native of Ceres who serves as a cop
Fred: an Earther and former United Nations general who now fights for the rights of Belters
Ninety-five percent is told from Holden and Miller’s viewpoints. It gives the story a much better diversity of scope than had it just been from only Earthers or Belters. There are several other characters who have large parts in the story. There is diversity in gender, ethnicity, politics, and where they call home in the solar system.
Jefferson Mays narrates this almost twenty-one hour epic. At no point did my attention lag or wonder. He really brings all the tension and wonder to life through his voice. I am currently trying to figure out how I can possible afford the rest of the series right now instead of waiting for sales or a birthday. It is just incredible. I think I may have started a love affair with hard science fiction thanks to James S. A. Corey, Andy Weir and the wonderful narrators of their books.
by Andy Weir
Pub Date 14 Nov 2017
Mark Watney became one of the best protagonist in publishing when The Martian by Andy Weir came out. He was smart, funny, persevering and adaptable. Those qualities allowed him to survive being stranded on Mars. His story was so engrossing the book hit the bestseller list followed by a blockbuster movie. Wow. How does an author top that? Andy Weir does it quite nicely in his upcoming book Artemis.
Jazz Bashara is similar to Mark Watney in several ways. She is smart, funny, adapts to what life throws at her and preservers in her dream to be independently wealthy. While Mark Watney had several degrees to hi name, using his very well educated background to solve problems, Jazz is entirely self taught. She does things her way, whether it is acceptable to the authorities and her father or not.
I love Jazz. She is a smart, strong young woman, born in Saudi Arabia but calling the moon home since she was six years old. Jazz lives on the moon. Andy Weir takes us to a future where there is a community living on the moon. Weir does a fantastic job of explaining how the moon colony came into being and how it is owned by a consortium from Kenya. It is believable and it seems like the technology he uses is available now or just over our technical horizon.
The story revolves around Jazz’s quest to move from the poverty level to a more financially stable group. While Artemis is on the moon, it does have several earth issues to deal with. There are economic classes. There is smuggling due to the high cost of shipping anything to the moon. It has crime. It also has a level of constant danger that those on earth have no concept of. Imagine if there is an explosion that takes out one of the main walls in a dome. On earth if a wall if blown out, people can be hurt or die if they are in the area. On the moon, everyone in that dome will die as the air is instantly removed. Jazz is navigating all of these issues and for the most part doing it very well for a twenty-something with only a high school education.
The secret weapon in Jazz’s plan is herself. She is confident in her ability to do whatever task she takes on to further her dream. When she takes on a huge job that could give make her dream real in one day, she knows it will be risky and possibly dangerous. Even on the moon, what is planned is often not what happens. Jazz is now fighting not only for her life but for the life of Artemis and all the people who call it home.
I loved Artemis. I have already pre-ordered the audiobook. I am not a well educated person (a 35 year old associate in liberal arts degree) and I do not speak science fluently. Andy Weir makes the science understandable even to someone like me. I was born during the Apollo era and have an incredible love for space exploration. I hope Mr. Weir continues to entertain and educate me about the possibilities of space exploration that my generation may yet see. Artemis is five stars, five bright, blazing stars.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War
Author Doug Bradley, Craig Werner
Narrated by Sean Runnette
Publication date June 6, 2017
Running time 10 hrs 12 min
Courtesy Tantor Media
When I was in 10th grade, around 1977, there was a substitute history teacher for one semester. She was younger than most teachers at the school and very cool. For two weeks, we did nothing but listen to music. She checked out a turntable and brought in a bunch of her albums. She played various songs for us and then we talked about them. After my classmates and I commented on the beat or the singer’s voice, she would chide us, “but what about the lyrics?”. She taught us to critically analyse the lyrics of music. What she was playing for us were protest songs. None of us ever knew you could protest other than carrying a sign when the local teamsters were on strike. It was a powerful lesson. One I taught my children using music from each period of history we studies in their pre-college education.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War by Doug Bradley and Craig Werner presents the role of music in the lives of those fighting, working in support roles and protesting the war. For many a particular song was a link to their far away family and home. Other songs gave them a way to express their fear for their lives and their anger at being in a situation that made no sense no matter how it was viewed. The book does a good job of including women who served in VietNam in the discussions.
The authors also explore how the different types of music exposed the racial divide among the troops. Some soldiers found the different music as a way to learn more about each other while others used it as barrier to keep other the “other”. As the Armed Forces Radio refused to allow many popular songs to be played on their network, a string of underground radio stations sprung up with GI’s sharing their own albums over a radio frequency. The tent with the turntable and albums was the most popular tent in the evening.
Many bands from Japan and the Philippines came to VietNam to tour doing concerts for the troops. Soldiers remember the band members only knew the English lyrics to the songs. One of the unique aspects of the book are the “Solos”. A Solo is an extended quote by one of the soldiers about a particular topic. It is not just a line or a paragraph. It is longer and more in depth. It is an excellent way to allow the veteran to really tell their own story.
The last section of the book deals with the role of the same music after the soldiers returned from VietNam. It was a way of connecting with the memories of the friends they lost and those still overseas. As PTSD was finally recognized as a legitimate condition, the music became a way for veterans to connect with each other. It also provided a way to ease into the discussion of difficult topics.
Sean Runnette does a very good job narrating the book. He has a pleasant voice. When he is narrating a soldier’s memories, he conveys their emotions well, especially the individuals with a sense of humor. I would seek him out as a narrator again.
Throughout history music has provided a lens through which to view events. Ken Burns is premiering his newest documentary this fall which happens to be a VietNam. Now is the time to list to this amazing book. It will enhance your understanding of the soundtrack Burns uses and your understanding of the power of music in the lives of those who served in VietNam.
Beloved Poison is the first book in the Jem Flockhart series. As with the second book, Dark Asylum, the setting is Victorian London with its tenements full of poverty, crime and disease and a society that punishes those afflicted with a case of being from the lower classes of society. This first book takes place in a hospital where Jem is an apothecary. The hospital cares for the lower classes, no nobility or wealthy patients are found here. The poor people have little hope of surviving their illnesses or injuries and less hope once most of the doctors get their hands on them. If they do not survive, their bodies are whisked away for the medical students to dissect. Jem is the rare person at the hospital who practices cleanliness and seems to honestly care about the patient’s welfare.
As with Dark Asylum, Beloved Poison got some many things right.
* The setting was written very well. All the smells of Victorian London. The darkness, the smog, the tenements. It really created a believable atmosphere.
* The hospital was horrifying. I think I would have rather died at home than subject myself to what passed for medical treatment.
* The characters were fantastic. I really did not have a good line on who was evil until the very end of the book.
* Jem was wonderful. I loved what I learned about the character in the second book. Now here in the first book I have, for lack of a better phrase, Jem’s origin story. It reinformed to me why Jem is one of the most likeable, relatable and well written characters I have encounter.
* Again another great mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. A logical solution also, not a deus ex machina ending.
I was very surprised to find that there are not audio versions of of either of the Jem Flockhart books. The publisher is missing a huge market by not releasing the books on audio also. Both Beloved Poison and Dark Asylum were a joy to read. I am looking forward to reading more from E. S. Thomson and hopefully seeing her titles as audiobooks.
by E. S. Thomson
Pub Date 07 Nov 2017
Dark Asylum is the second book in a series featuring Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain. Jem is an apothecary. Will is an architect. The setting is Victorian London with its tenements full of poverty, crime and disease and a society that punishes those afflicted with a case of being from the lower classes of society. Although I had not read the first book in the series yet (Beloved Poison), I had no problems following the story and the characters. I had read about three chapters before I contacted my library and requested Beloved Poison. Any other books in the series will be requested as soon as they are available.
There were so many things I liked about Dark Asylum. The easiest way to communicate it is probably by bullet points:
* The setting was written very well. All the smells of Victorian London. The darkness, the smog, the tenements. It really created a believable atmosphere.
* The mental health aspect was very well researched. The way people have treated the mentally ill throughout history is diverse. Some cultures treated mentally ill people as though they had been touched by the divine. Then you have the Victorians. The belief that the mental illness was caused by a weakness or failing on the individual’s part and needed to be punished is just cruel. The book does a very good job of showing that mind set while also showing the few who began to realize that possibly humane treatment would do more good than strait jackets and locked cells.
* The characters were fantastic. Characters like Susan Chance did not reveal themselves to the reader all at once. What was revealed was a well rounded and complex character. All the characters were like that.
* Jem. Oh my goodness, Jem. Not having read the first book yet, I do not know Jem’s whole story. What I do know is that Jem is one of the most likeable, relatable and well written characters I have encounter. There is only so much I can say without spoilers. Read the book and you will see what I mean.
* The plot at it’s heart is a mystery. What a fun mystery it was. At one point, I was sure it was this character. I chapter later I changed my mind. A chapter later back to the original one. At the end, I was totally wrong. It is wonderful to be surprised by the solution to a mystery when that solution makes sense.
I was very surprised to find that there are not audio versions of Dark Asylum or the first book in the series. The publisher is missing a huge market by not releasing the books on audio also. Dark Asylum was a joy to read. It really was. I am looking forward to reading more from E. S. Thomson.
I was watching my twitter feed yesterday looking for the announcement of who would be selected for the role of Doctor Who. I had to laugh at some of the theories. Some of them were well reasoned and some, like David Tennant was coming back to the role, were far fetched. I was also unfortunately not surprised by the attitude that the Doctor could not be anyone other than a white male. The Doctor is a fictional character and an extraterrestrial. The usual rules do not apply.
I am excited to see Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor. I am not familiar with her work at all. I did look her up on IMDB and was impressed with her resume. I am interested to see what her take on the doctor will be. Matt Smith had such an exuberance and childlike wonder quality. David Tennant was more serious but also had a quality of danger. One the one hand I would like to see the first woman doctor treated no differently than a man doctor but that is not realistic. There should be one or two stories were her gender does play a role in terms of the society they interact with. I remember Jon Pertwee's two episodes on Peladon where women were marginalized, even when one of them was the ruler. How the writers deal with that type of situation will be very important. There has to be at least one episode where the Doctor's gender provides the conflict but it should not be a constant theme.
Dear Doctor Who writers (whether comic, tv show or audios) here is my wish list: I want the Doctor to be strong and confident. I want her to be everything positive that we want our daughters and granddaughters to aspire to. She should be kind as all past Doctors have been. She should have soft spot of us "apes". She should also not be afraid of conflict or stepping in to protect those who need it.
I also feel the show should not engage in debate with trolls who say they will stop watching the show. If polled, a large number of them probably only heard about Doctor Who because a woman has been cast, not because they are long time fans. Doctor Who fans have embraced change since William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton and every time since. We all have our favorite Doctors. For many it is the first Doctor they say (in my case, Tom Baker). Imagine those that one day will list Jodie Whittaker as "their Doctor". At least people should give the show a chance. It is a new Doctor and a new show runner.
Finally, "It has always been this way" is the worst reason for something to remain unchanged. We are looking forward to Christmas and a very special regeneration episode.
Angel Dance: A Shadow Council Case Files Novella: Quest for Glory Part 3
by John G. Hartness, Melissa Gilbert (Editor)
Quincy Harker attracts trouble. It is an unfortunate fact of life for his friends and associates. If they know Quincy, Quincy leads trouble right to them. The Shadow Council Case Files is a series of eight novellas. Quincy has to find missing angels who have lost their memory and get them back on the path to heaven. Since Quincy cannot be everywhere at once, his teams is set out to track down the lost souls. The first book in the series Calling All Angels, featured Jo Harrison, descendant of the mythical John Henry. In Angel Dance, the reader gets to spend time with Adam Franks.
Adam Franks is a complicated man. He is the sum of his parts. Adam’s father, or more accurately creator, was a certain Dr. Frankenstein. Adam is now over one hundred and fifty years old. He is abnormally tall and big and scarred. He also seems to be indestructible. This is not the two dimensional monster of Hammer Studio films. This creature is a very complex man who wants what all people want but also realizes that his very existence precludes a normal life.
Adam journeys to New Orleans, one of my favorite cities, to track down one of the lost angels. The Shadow Council's members are not the only ones looking for the angels. There are demons at every turn trying to beat Adam in finding the angel. Adam’s strength and indestructibility will be tested as well as his humanity. The story is fast paced and the characters interesting. Another fun entry in the Quincy Harker universe.
I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Mask of Shadows
by Linsey Miller
Sci Fi & Fantasy , Teens & YA
Pub Date 29 Aug 2017
A Queen who stopped a civil war by destroying the magic that allowed “shadows” to flay people alive. A Queen who was still working to hold her new kingdom together while one faction retreated to the mountains to plan their bloody return. Our Queen’s Left hand: Ruby, Emerald, Opal and Amethyst. The rings she wore on that hand. Also the names of her four personal guards/assassins.
An audition for a new Opal, the previous one having been killed by the nobles in the mountains. Twenty-three possible new opals. Five invited due to reputation or nobility. The rest walk ons. Kill your competition without being caught or killed yourself. Survive combat, poisons, the competition.
Sal (auditioneer number Twenty-Three) is the protagonist. One of the most brilliant characters I have ever encountered. Sal has a heart of rage because of what happened. Nacea, a peaceful land, was overrun by “shadows” created by mages who flayed people alive. The nobles let it happen by withdrawing all the troops to protect themselves and leave Nacea undefended. Sal saw the shadows destroy Nacea, person by person and was only one of two survivors. Sal has an adoration for the Queen who stopped the shadows and ended the war. Sal has a desire for a better life than a thief and fighter. Sal has motivation and mystery.
The story is so wonderfully constructed. Sal takes the measure of his competitors. The entire court and the Opal auditions are like a huge puzzle Sal must make sense of. Piece by piece a plan develops, not only for Sal in the competition but for the Queen to deal with her unruly nobles. I loved all the characters. Even the side characters had depth to them and felt like real people, not like parts of the scenery. The action scenes were very well written. I could see them in my mind and did not get confused on who was where or had what weapon.
I pre-ordered the hardback of Mask of Shadows. As soon as the audiobook is available for pre-order, I will be ordering it also. I am excited to see what Ms. Miller does with Sal and the plot in the sequel. The world Ms. Miller has created in Mask of Shadows is rich and begs to be explored.
I received an advance review copy of Mask of Shadows from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Book 1 in the Bohemian Gospel series
Author Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Narrated by Justine Eyre
Publication date Jun 14, 2017
Running time 14 hrs
I had not heard of Bohemian Gospel before I selected it from the Book of the Month club. It sat on my desk for about two weeks before I picked it up. I began reading morning a blizzard struck and had finished it by the evening. Even without the blizzard I would have finished it quickly because it kept me engaged and curious.
I can only imagine the amount of research the author conducted on the time period and the very complicated politics in addition to the Church history. I am not an expert in any of those areas but I can tell you without a doubt she created a very real atmosphere. The places and characters who inhabited them seemed very real. Mouse, the main character, was a very unusual female for the time period. Her backstory explains how she came to be better educated than most women at the time. It is not her education that struck me as much as her spirit. She was trying to live a life of her own choosing, and while it did not always work out, she still continued to try.
When I had the opportunity to revisit the book by listening to the audiobook, thanks to the generosity of Tantor Media, I happily journey to medieval Bohemia once again. Listening to Justine Eyre perform it was wonderful. She has such a wonderful voice. She is also so versatile with voices for male and female characters. I really enjoyed hearing the words like Podlazice and Vaclac pronounced correctly. When I read the book, my mind stumbled over the Bohemian words. Ms. Eyre does such a fine job of clearly enunciating every word.
Although I have read a lot of historical fiction from this time period, I had not read any from this geographic area. It was all new and very enjoyable. I would recommend Bohemian Gospel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.