Scott Kelly describes life on the International Space Station with total clarity. Not having been there myself, Kelly's descriptions made it easy to understand what he was talking about. It is not just the science Kelly discusses but the humanities, such as the smell of flowers, the sound of rain. The windows on the station do not open and it has been continually occupied for decades. Weather is a big discussion among the crew since they are not getting to experience any type of weather. The US and Russian sides of the station are operated much differently. Kelly provides examples of this. For anyone who loves space and is looking forward to man going back beyond our own Earth orbit, this book is a must.
I saw the Psycho movie multiple times over the years but this was my first time with the book or audiobook in this case. The story is so much more than the movie ever covered (no surprise). There is an entire backstory to Norman and his mother. Norman is described as being overweight, not the thin good looking Anthony Perkins from the movie. Mary, the character Janet Leigh played in the movie, also has a more complete story. I really enjoyed the write style of Robert Bloch. Even though it is somewhat dated, the dialogue is not stilted at all. The suspense was maintained until the very end. The narration was good but not great. I cannot quite put my finger on what in the narration bugged me but something was enough to cause me to rate it 4 instead of 5 stars. I will be checking out the rest of the series soon.
by Vic James
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Pub Date 06 Feb 2018
Tarnished City is the sequel to Gilded Cage. You must read Gilded Cage first or there will be major spoilers in this review. Gilded Cage is amazing so go read it.
Tarnished City continues with the same lush detail that I enjoyed so much in Gilded Cage. Every event, person and thing merits a second look because nothing is what it seems at all. The Skilled and the Unskilled both have unexpected reactions to the events that culminated in Gilded Cage. Abbey goes on the run in an attempt to find the truth and free her brother, Luke. Luke is taken captive and delivered into the hands of Crovan. At Crovan’s isolated castle, which cannot be entered or exited without the lord’s permission, Luke is to be tortured and questioned about his activities at Kenyston.
I have read over 100 books in 2016, and The Gilded Cage was in the top 3. It is a finely crafted novel. I enjoyed it so much I purchased it in a Kindle version, a hardback and an audiobook version. I plan on doing the same with Tarnished City. I already have the paperback from the United Kingdom because I could not wait for the American release date. It continues the wonderful story lines that Gilded Cage excelled at. Now everything is in flux. Abbey has found the resistance and found them to not all be Unskilled like her. Luke is trying to survive each day and find a way to escape the castle without instant death as he walks through the door. The Jardines work to consolidate their power, seeking to make their family not just powerful but royal.
I was so pleased that Abigail Hadley, strong in the first book, continues to fight to save not only her brother but all the Unskilled. She has moments of doubt but stays strong. It makes her a very relatable protagonist. Luke has lost some of the strength he gained in Milltown. What the Jardines and Corvan did to him has left his brain broken. Gavar is still hot tempered but not as naive as he once was. To share his father’s vision of a powerful future means to lose his Unskilled daughter. Silyen has his own plans for the family’s power. He just has not shared them. Since he seems to be the most powerful Skilled of all, people must use caution around him.
All of the characters in both books are 3 dimensional. None of the characters are flat or unformed. This world, with all its magic and class distinctions, is very believable because the characters and their reactions to the events are so real. Tarnished City takes the politics and action from Gilded Cage and turns it up several notches on the scale. It leaves the reader breathless and ready for book number three.
Book Review - While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent Into Madness by Eli Sanders
While the City Slept is a disturbing and compelling read. It kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep. Mr. Sanders weaves the story of two women and one man together with such skill that the inevitable collusion still creates tension. For anyone who questions whether or not there is parity in mental health care in this country; anyone who wonders if tragedies could not sometimes be avoided; anyone who thinks preventative care for mental health is unnecessary - this book is a must read. It is also a book that will stay with you and hopefully move you to action. Write letters to your representatives, support charities that work with mental health and help those who need help fight to get it.
This was amazing. The ebb and flow of the life, both good and terrible, of the hospital itself is well done. The pages with Mr. Lobotomy were shocking (I had read about him elsewhere). But what ultimately got me was the cemeteries. All the sudden there they were. And I could not get over the numbers of souls in them. If I ever have occasion to be up in the MA area, I plan to stop by with flowers for those forgotten souls. Thank you so much for documenting this important historical place and time.
City of Endless Night
by Douglas Preston; Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
General Fiction (Adult)
Pub Date 16 Jan 2018
I first met Agent Pendergast when I read Relic, the first book in the series. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child wrote books that I could not wait to get my hands on. I read the first eleven books as soon as I could get my hands on them. The next six books came and went without me getting to them for a variety of reasons. That being said, when City of Endless Night was offered by Netgalley, I choose to read it. Being the eighteenth book in the series, I hoped that the six books I had missed would not be an issue.
The characters I last saw seven book ago were familiar and I comfortably connected with them again. I did find I had missed some important plot developments and will make time to go back and read those six book. It did not derail my enjoyment of City of Endless Night. Like all the Pendergast books, this is a thriller. It has a mystery at its core but also high levels of suspense.
Back in New York, where many of the books are set, a murder occurs that interest Agent Pendergast. A billionaire’s estranged daughter is brutally murdered and her head is missing. Lieutenant D’Agosta is ambivalent about working with Pendergast who seems off his game, possibly due to personal losses. Then another murder happens, another seemingly impossible crime and the head is missing. As the headless bodies pile up, Pendergast and D’Agosta work individually and inefficiently to solve the crimes. Then it all comes together in an active, tense conclusion.
City of Endless Night was not my favorite book in the series but it also was not my least favorite. The first four books are my absolute favorites. I do not know that I could recommend jumping into the series with this book. If possible I would start at the beginning or at least at book three. Fans of the series will not be disappointed.
Widow's Point is a wonderful haunted house story but with a twist. The haunted house is a lighthouse. So as is the case with most lighthouses, it is isolated and at the edge of a cliff at the mercy of the sea. The atmosphere is the book was just incredible. As a reader, I could hear every creak, see the shifting of the shadows and know without a doubt I would never, ever visit it.
Why Thomas Livingstone decided it would be a good idea to be locked in the lighthouse for an entire weekend is simple; discovery. As the author of several books on haunted locations. Livingstone was attracted to Widow's Point as Queen of Haunted locations. No ghost hunters have been able to figure out what or who is behind the mysterious occurrences, including several gruesome deaths. As expected by any readers of horror, Livingstone's camera stops working as soon as he is locked in the lighthouse. The story is told through the audio recordings he made as well as historical documents.
The book is beautifully illustrated. The illustrations help set off the atmosphere the authors created with their words. Although I finished the book several days ago, it is still with me. I feel compelled to read it again. Maybe once the sun is up.
Thank you to the authors for the advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.
By Stephen King and Owen King
Read by: Marin Ireland
Courtesy Simon & Schuster
I went into this audiobook expecting the wonderful hair raising horror experience that I have enjoyed from Stephen King since reading his first book, Carrie, back in the 1970’s. So I did have high expectations. I expected a good story, great characters and something normal morphing into something that scared the crap out of me (example clowns).Sleeping Beauties did not deliver. I did not find the book or characters enjoyable.
In a small town in Appalachia there is a women’s prison. Many of the women are there because of drugs or domestic violence that caused them to break the law. A strange illness breaks out at the prison where the women fall into a deep sleep and are enveloped in a cocoon. If they are removed from the cocoon, they become dangerous and homicidal. While the women are in the cocoon they travel to a different place. Time is different. There are no men. They are safe and heal from their traumas. Meanwhile, the men go into testosterone overdrive. There are a lot of guns, a lot of driving around, and a lot of dealing with the situation by violence.
I found that I just did not care about the women or the men. I did not find any reason to connect to them. Marin Ireland did a nice job narrating. My inability to get into the book had to do with the story and not the narration.
by Alex Scarrow
Sci Fi & Fantasy , Teens & YA
Pub Date 01 Dec 2017
Plague Land is being released on December 1st. If you have a horror fan on your holiday list, I suggest you consider giving them Alex Scarrow’s unique version of the plague. It is unbelievably hard to write this review without spoilers but I will give it the old Navy try as my dad used to say.
Scarrow’s book takes place in modern times in our current global world. The book begins with a teen named Leon, his younger sister Grace and his mother. They recently moved from the United States to England. After divorcing Leon’s father, his mother decided to move them closer to her parents in England. Alex, with his Yank accent, does not fit in and has not made any new friends to replace the ones he was forced to leave behind. Grace, not yet a teen, is having an easier time fitting in. Their mom is totally consumed by working to support them and is missing all the angst in Alex’s life.
When news begins to emerge from Africa about a new contagious disease, Alex is worried. His mother isn’t. After all, they are in England, with its modern medicine and security. As we know now, the price of a global world, is global disease. Nothing is truly quarantined because by the time it is decided to isolate it, it has already spread. What is spreading from Africa, to literally the ends of the Earth, is not the Black Plague, not Ebola, not any previously seen disease. This one kills because this one thinks.
Note: While the book is listed as for age fourteen and up, I would approach that age with care. The book has some graphic descriptions of the plague activity that may unsettle a less mature readers.
A People’s History of the World
From the Stone Age to the New Millennium
Author Chris Harman
Narrated by Napoleon Ryan
Publication date Aug 29, 2017
Running time 27 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
I love history. I have loved it since childhood. I have favorite eras, like the Plantagenet and Tudor reigns of England. I lack an overall view of world history. How it all fits together. The non-European history and how it connects with the history I was taught. When I saw A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman offered for review from Tantor Media, I thought it would be a good opportunity to fill the gaps in my knowledge.
The Introduction begins stating that the book is meant as an outline, a stepping off point for deeper study into specific areas. Although it is an outline, not an indepth look at every moment of history, the book does have a thread that runs throughout all the eras studied. Part One is the Rise of Class Societies. It begins with prehistory. The author posits that at this point in history there were no classes. Every individual was important to the life or death of the tribe so all things were shared equally. There is no way to say for sure this is true or false (unless Doctor Who shows up with the Tardis and the right coordinates). As he lays out the development of civilization, he accompanies it with the development of a classed society. He shows a shift from matriarchal to patriarchal societies, not all but the majority, leading to the subjugation of women.
The sections following are The Ancient World, The Middle Ages, The Great Transformations (Reformation and Renaissance), The Spread of the New Order (Enlightenment), The World Turned Upside Down and finally The Century of Hope and Horror. Mr. Harman is a leading socialist in Britain. His writing style is fluid but not simple. This is not a book that can be devoured quickly. It is best to read a chapter at a time and let it percolate before moving one. Mr. Harman’s socialist background is evident in his interpretation of events. That does not mean it is invalid. Very few historians can write without an visible biases. It is not the history you learned in school and will open your mind to possibilities.
Napoleon Ryan is a British actor who has done quite a bit of voiceover and narration in addition to theater and screen. His voice is rich and he enunciates clearly. The problem I had with the book was that I tried to start it on a very long road trip. About an hour in I had to stop. I had no idea what I had heard. Mr. Ryan’s voice washed over me and was pleasant to listen to but I could not concentrate on driving and the complexity of the book at the same time.
I would suggest A People’s History of the World if you can give yourself the time to take it slow. It is rewarding when you take the time to truly concentrate. You may not agree with all of it but it will give you a new angle from which to explore history.
Creatures of Will and Temper
by Molly Tanzer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books
Pub Date 14 Nov 2017
Molly Tanzer’s book, Creatures of Will and Temper, is described as “A Victorian urban fantasy featuring duelists, demons, and the dark arts, inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray.” It is all that and more. I picked it up because of the nod to Oscar Wilde’s classic. I read Wilde’s book in college, more than thirty-five years ago, and remember the broad strokes of the story but not the fine details. Tanzer’s story uses that basic level familiarity and builds a new story with great characters.
The main characters are sisters, Evadne and Dorina Gray. They are eighteen and seventeen years old respectively. They live in the country and are upper class. Evadne is dutiful, conservative and the bane of her younger sister. Dorina is a risk taker, rule breaker and fed up with her sister tattling to her parents. Dorina is a lesbian and enjoys a series of girlfriends, all under the radar because of the societal rules at the time.
Dorina is planning on spending time with her Uncle Basil in London, a renowned painter. Dorina is thinking of being an art critic so spending time with her uncle should be educational. After Evadne tattles on Dorina’s latest relationship, she finds herself being sent to London as her sister’s keeper. Neither sister is happy with the situation or each other.
Once they arrive in London, the story really takes off. Their uncle is mourning his friend and lover, Oliver. Oliver’s sister takes Dorina to see the museums of London and meet the people who appreciate the art Dorina will one day be writing about. Evadne finds herself becoming more confident when she finds a fencing master and pursues her passion for fencing. There are demons in London. They are not the horns and pitchfork variety. Like London itself, these demons are complex and all with their own agendas. Evadne and Dorina encounter the demons in very different ways with very different reactions to them.
There are several facets of this book I really enjoyed. One was the fencing. For over ten years, I was a fencing parent. The sections of the book detailing the salle, the weapons, the tactics, the smelly fencing whites after an afternoon of bouting, were a joy to read. The other facet I enjoyed was the relationship between Evadne and Dorina. It is a very realistic depiction of sisters close in age but far apart in temperament. Their relationship evolves over the course of the book. Like the two characters evolution, it is not straightforward or smooth. It has fits and starts as in real life.
I recommend Creatures of Will and Temper. It kept me engaged. Gave me characters I cared about. Alternated action sequences with character exploration. Molly Tanzer has created a fantastic book with strong female protagonists.
The Girl in the Tower
by Katherine Arden
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 05 Dec 2017
I was fortunate to review Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale. I really enjoyed it. Arden created characters whose voices were so clear that I could keep them straight regardless of the Russian naming conventions attached to them. That book look place in the mid 14th century, before it is truly Russian. If you have not read The Bear and the Nightingale, please do not read any further.
The tension between the old beliefs and the new religion were central to The Bear and the Nightingale. It was a book about a country, a people and a family in the process of change. The Girl in the Tower picks up shortly after the end of The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasilisa (Vasya) is still the central character. Vasya chooses to flee her family home after the death of her father and stepmother. Both deaths are blamed on her.
Vasya flees to the only ally she has, Morozko, who is more dangerous than her enemies. Vasya chooses to take any limited assistance and sets out to see what is beyond the forest of northern Russia. Morozko has an agenda in helping Vasya. All that Vasya learned as a child about the old ways can help her survive anything except the monsters that are men. Characters from the first book, like Sasha and Konstantin, return and new characters are introduced. The story is just as intriguing as the first book.
Arden continues her description, rich prose in this book.The language of the book is gorgeous. It flowed very easily. I did purchase the audiobook of The Bear and the Nightingale and preordered the audiobook of The Girl in the Tower. Reading Arden’s prose is enjoyable but hearing it read with correct pronunciations is a feast for your ears..
I would recommend The Girl in the Tower as soon as you finish The Bear and the Nightingale for a captivating journey to a lost world of magic. It really is an enchanted series.
The Occupant is the third book in the Afterlife Investigation series by Ambrose Ibsen. It is a thriller, horror, paranormal and if you have not read or listen to the first two books, STOP reading now. It is impossible to write a review of the sequels without leaking spoilers from the previous books.
The main character of all three books is Stephen Barlow is an adjunct professor at an Ohio college. In the first book Asylum, Barlow becomes involved with two students, Elizabeth and Jake who want to form a Spiritual Club ( paranormal not kumbaya). They investigate Chaythe Asylum and inadvertently release something evil that has been stuck there for 28 years. In the second book, Forest, Barlow is trying to stop the entity known as The Occupant. Elizabeth is possessed by the entity as Barlow tries to save her and kill The Occupant.
In the third book, The Occupant, Barlow is now deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He and Jake are searching for the lost town that The Occupant was associated with. Elizabeth is somewhere in the unending dark woods, the body through which The Occupant was working to bring its full entry into our world. Jake and Barlow try to piece together the history of The Occupant through the history of the town which has disappeared. They are helped by Jane who was originally used by her uncle to bring The Occupant into the world from the pit where it dwelled.
The pervading sense of dread is ratcheted up several notches in this book. It creates almost a sense of breathlessness. Even when the action is slowed down, there is still the feeling that something is circling ever closer. There are constantly large swatches of forest, trees blocking out the sun or the moon, swaying in the breeze, hiding anything moving slowly, carefully and quietly towards Barlow. The ending of the book really did not give me any sense of closure or peace. I am not sure if the series will continue with Barlow investigating other paranormal things or if this will be the end. Somehow I don’t think it is. “The door has been opened. It’s already too late.”
Joe Hempel does as great job narrating all three books. He conveys the tension and fear just as well in this book as he did in the other Ibsen books I have listened to. While the story gets very intense, Mr.Hempel never veers in hysteria or yelling. I really enjoyed his narration. I will be looking for more books narrated by Mr. Hempel.
Audiobook Review - A Pope and a President John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century by Paul Kengor
A Pope and a President
John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century
Author Paul Kengor
Narrated by James Anderson Foster
Publication date Sep 20, 2017
Running time 23 hrs 21 min
Courtesy Tantor Media
I remember the spring of 1981 well. I was a freshmen in community college. I had turned eighteen the fall before and voted in my first election. The end of March my family, friends and classmates were all shocked by the assignation attempt on President Ronald Reagan. I was too young to remember the Kennedy assassination. Six weeks later, Reagan was back at the White House and finals were looming. The assignation attempt on Pope John Paul II really hit me as a Catholic. I really did not understand why someone would try to kill the Pope. Finally thirty-six years later, author Paul Kengor supplies the answer and how Reagan factors into the events of May 13, 1981.
Kengor does a fantastic job of constructing the background that sets the stage for the partnership of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II. He explains the events of the history of the Catholic Church and Communism in Russia that are intertwined by the communist opposition to all religions. The author states that “Lenin ordered the shootings of an estimated 14,000 to 20,000 clergy and active laymen.” This book has much to offer even non-Christians or atheist. The religious content is important because it is what motivated those involved. The religious beliefs of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II are are central to the history as the communist antipathy to all religion.
Would the USSR have fallen when it did without President Reagan or Pope John Paul II? I do not think it would have. I think it was the unique unofficial partnership and true respect between the two men that facilitated the events. Without the hope Pope John Paul II gave his countrymen in Poland and other communist bloc countries, without the pressure applied by the government of the United States under President Reagan’s direction, without the same message from two perspectives from two of the most powerful men in the world, the USSR had no reason to allow the changes to happen without bloodshed. Gorbachev is quoted in the book as stating that the Pope, “did a lot to prepare for the end of the Cold war.”
The book is fascinating but the audiobook is even better. James Anderson Foster has been one of my favorite narrators for years. This is the first nonfiction I have heard him narrate. The book contains a number of names that I struggled to read and retain in the print book. With Foster narrating, I was easily able to keep the various people straight because of his clear pronunciations. His voice is easy to listen. I recommend listening to the audiobook over reading the book just for the pleasure of hearing Foster’s narration.
Forest is the sequel to Asylum: The Afterlife Investigations, Book 1. It is a thriller, horror, paranormal story written by Ambrose Ibsen. If you have not read or listen to Asylum, STOP reading now. It is impossible to write a review of Forest without mentioning plot points from Asylum.
Stephen Barlow is an adjunct professor at an Ohio college we met in Asylum. He witnesses a student being killed by a hit and run. Shortly afterward he becomes involved with two students, Elizabeth and Jake who want to form a Spiritual Club ( paranormal not kumbaya). They investigate Chaythe Asylum and inadvertently release something evil that has been stuck there for 28 years.
As Forest begins, Stephen has decided since they released the evil from the asylum, they are responsible for trying to find and stop it. Elizabeth and Jake are significantly traumatized by the events at the asylum and refuse to help.
As in the first book, Mr. Ibsen does a nice job of creating a pervading sense of dread. Each event from the first book connects neatly to Stephen navigating a dark forest with a shadowy figure that alternates leading and following. It undoubtedly figures that escaped the asylum. What Stephen finds in the forest is more horrifying than what was discovered at the asylum. As the story progresses, Stephen, Jake, and Elizabeth face a more dangerous evil. Forest does not have the same ending as Asylum. Forest literally leaves you dangling from the tree by your fingertips with the tiger walking around the base, patiently. It compels you to get to the next book in the series as soon as possible.
Joe Hempel does a great job narrating Forest as he did Asylum. He conveys the tension and fear just as well in this book as he did in the two other Ibsen books I have listened to. While the story gets very intense, Mr.Hempel never veers in hysteria or yelling. I really enjoyed his narration. I am looking forward to hearing Mr. Hempel narrate the conclusion to this trilogy by Ibsen.
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.
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.