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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
The Ghost of Freedom
A History of the Caucasus
Author Charles King
Narrated by Michael Page
Publication date May 23, 2017
Running time 12 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
At 54 and with chronic health conditions, I know I will never have the opportunity to travel to the many wondrous places on our planet I would like. I have found that learning about those far off lands is fascinating and fulfilling. I recently listened to audiobooks on India and Scandinavia. Next up is the Caucasus. Again I was not disappointed in my audiobook adventure.
The Caucasus is still a remote and wild region on the world map. It sits at a crossroad between Europe and Asia, an isthmus between the Black and Caspian seas. The Greeks chained Prometheus up in the Caucasus to have his liver devoured each day by the eagle for giving man fire. Ovid, the Roman poet, had Jason said to the Caucasus, the end of the known world, to steal the Golden Fleece. The regions lends itself well to mythologies with its blend of beauty and danger. It is a land that has been contested and fought over for centuries. The original tribes who settled the area gave dynastic giants like the Russian and Turkish Empires more than they could handle.
The Ghost of Freedom A History of the Caucasus by Charles King and narrated by Michael Page does justice to this incredible region. King starts with a forward which explains the importance of words in the region. “In a part of the world where ethnic, religious, and political categories are hotly contested, being sensitive to labels is particularly crucial.” He then provides a in depth chronology of the history of the area as well as a glossary of words related to the area. The words are influenced by the original tribal languages as well as successive waves of conquerors from Russia, Turkey and others. I want to point out how incredible Mr. Page’s narration is concerning the many, many foreign words. Had I read the book, my eyes would have skimmed over the unpronounceable, for me, and in doing so I would have lost a part of the book. Listening to Mr. Page’s confident pronunciation conveys the rich of the words and helps spin the spell of foreign lands.
The books leads the listener through the history of the Caucasus region from the first recorded Russian foray in the mid sixteenth century to the early twenty first century struggle to emerge from the shadow of the former Soviet Union into individual nations. This is an audiobook I will listen to again. Mr. King’s storytelling on the history of the region is complex, vast and accessible. Coupled with Mr. Page’s incredible narration, the audiobook is a entertaining, educational and fascinating experience.
My rating is 10 of 5 stars. Yes, it is that good.
Imagine walking into a museum and seeing a gorgeous medieval tapestry. The overall impact is overwhelming. Then you begin to notice the finer details. Strands of shining gold and silver catch your eye. You notice the less brilliant colors the silver and gold intertwined with. You begin to see patterns. You see how individual colors, whether vivid or muted, work together to create the whole work of art. I have just described The Gilded Cage by Vic James. It is a work of art.
I have read over 100 books this year, 2016, and The Gilded Cage is in the top 3. It is a finely crafted novel. It was released in February 2017 along with an audiobook version. I suggest you get both. I read 99% of books in electronic version due to a movement disorder. Gilded Cage and any sequels will be ordered in hardback. These I plan to give to my future grandchildren when they are old enough.
There are two main families in Gilded Cage. The Jardines , the “haves’, and the Hadleys, the “have nots”. It is what they have or not that makes this novel so unique. The Jardines have “Skill”. The Hadleys do not. Skill is the ability to use magic. This is not the learn the spells and potions of Harry Potter magic. This is the intuitive, instinctual, primal magic that flows from the individual’s soul. Not everyone can do the same things with Skill and not everyone has the same strength of Skill.
The universe Gilded Cage is set in has always had Skill as a part of it. The difference in England begins when King Charles the first (and last) is not overthrown by puritans. He is executed by a powerful Skill member of the aristocracy. A new system of government is set up. Parliament with only Skilled members. A few token Unskilled are allowed as observers. Other countries have different systems. In the States United of America, the Civil War was fought. The North has outlawed Skill while the South continues to follow the same system as Britain.
But the worse change is the years of slavery forced on the Unskilled. Each Unskilled man, woman, and child must serve ten consecutive years in slavedays to the Skilled. That slavedays can be in a factory area working six days a week, with barely enough food, and no rights. It can be served on the estate of one of the Skilled. It can be served when one is young or old or anytime in between but it must be served. Whether in slavedays or before or after, the Unskilled have no rights. They can be beaten, raped, killed and all with no consequence to the Skilled who did it or to the Unskilled who did it under the direction of a Skilled. This is the world which the Jardine and Hadleys cross paths.
The characters are very well developed. Abigail Hadley is strong young woman who forgoes medical school to enable her family to serve their slavedays together. She fights for her family. She works the system. She does what she needs to do without relying on anyone, let alone need a man to save her. Luke Hadley, Abigail's brother, is a sixteen year old, who in the way of all teens, somehow never thought his slavedays would really arrive. He must grow up quickly to survive.
The Skilled are not simple characters either. The Jardine family has its heir in Gavar, it’s mystery in youngest son Silyen and it’s total shame in middle son Jenner who is Unskilled. The premier Skilled family contains a son who may be the most powerful Skilled of all time and one of only two Unskilled ever born to Skilled parents. Each Skilled family has the head of the family and it’s heir sitting in Parliament. What each member of each Skill family has is an agenda all their own. One of my favorite parts is when one Skilled character remarks to another, “Your allies aren’t always who you think they are, Miss Matravers. And neither are your enemies.”
Avita Jay does a great job narrating the book. There are male and female voices. Voices from upper, middle and lower class. Voices that hold power and danger and voices that verge on voiceless because of their despair. Ms. Jay conveys all of this so very, very well. I hope she will be narrating the rest of the series because I know hear Abigail with her voice.
The novel has an ironic sense of humor. “Father was planning a debate. Silyen was planning a resurrection. And Gavar was planning a wedding. There was so much wrong with that, Gavar didn’t know where to start.” It is this wonderful combination of characters and themes surrounded by damn good writing that makes The Gilded Cage a must read. It is subtitled Dark Gifts #1 which means there is more to come. I cannot wait for Tarnished City to be released this fall.
Scandinavia: A History
Written by: Ewan Butler
Narrated by: Matthew Lloyd Davies
Length: 6 hrs and 25 mins
Publisher: HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
Ewan Butler’s Scandinavia: A History has all the drama, treachery, warfare and larger than life characters as The Game of Thrones. The thrones in Scandinavia involve Sweden, Norway and Finland with interference from Denmark on a regular basis. This was a fascinating book covering an area of the world that while not a superpower has none the less had an impact on the world at large.
The book is full of interesting tidbits like the word “Vikings” is derived “from the word “vik” which still means “creek” in all Scandinavian languages.” The Vikings longships that were so feared were engineered to be able to go into very shallow waters. This enable them to hide in creeks and wait for passing prey or to penetrate far inland in search of riches. “Norsemen” was applied to peoples from all three counties. These raiders left their names and genetics in vast territories like Normandy and Russia.
As the Viking age comes to a close, around the end of the first millennium, the Middle Ages of Scandinavia began producing better characters and drama than Shakespeare dreamed of. Denmark did her best to control all the lands within Scandinavia but was never able to hold on to its short term conquests. Sweden had a King with clear lines of succession. Norway had not rules for succession so each King’s death brought about great upheaval. Each nation's trials and coups created a domino effects on its neighbors.
The book continues down through history with story after story involving kings, coups, wars with Russia, France, and each other. Russian controlled Finland for over a hundred years. As the twentieth century arrived, Finland, Norway and Sweden each found their own identity through independence. The Scandinavian nations produced great composers, explorers, and diplomats.
Matthew Lloyd Davies is a very good narrator. He handles the many words in a vast range of languages without any problems. His voice is clear and all words are enunciated including the non-English ones. I found his voice pleasing to listen to.
Butler’s Scandinavia: A History is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to an area of the world whose rich history is only surpassed by its sumptuous landscape.
The House Between Tides A Novel
By Sarah Maine
Read by Justine Eyre
Courtesy of Audiobook Jukebox
The House Between Tides is a mystery and a love story. The love story is not just between two people, it is also between the author and Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The story also straddles two timelines. The one story follows artist Theo Blake who takes his new wife, Beatrice to his family home in Scotland, in the early 1900’s. The second story line follows Hetty Devereaux who inherited the house in 2010.
The author’s love for Scotland’s Outer Hebrides comes through very clearly in every chapter of the book. She describes landscapes, the sea, animals, birds, weather, and the people who make a life in the daunting environment. The descriptions were alluring enough that I did searches on the Outer Hebrides and some of the wildlife that was mentioned. I think it is the mark of a good author who inspires readers to continue to educate themselves about her subject.
Theo is a famous artist who marries Beatrice who is much younger than he is. After six months in Edinburgh, he takes her to his family’s ancestral home on the Outer Hebrides. Theo initially worries that the isolation and rural setting will make Beatrice unhappy. Quite the opposite happens. Beatrice loves the natural setting and the people of the area.
The Theo and Beatrice love story is more of a triangle that involves an employee of the estate, Cameron. Cameron loves Beatrice. Beatrice is married to Theo and was in love with him but fell in love with Cameron. Theo married Beatrice but has a strange intensity in his relationship with Cameron which only Theo knows the reasons why. Hot mess Edwardian style. The two storylines weave around each other as the book progresses. There will be one or two chapters of Beatrice and then switch to Hetty, then back to Beatrice again. It is well done. The plot points happening in Beatrice’s timeline eventually fill in the blanks in Hetty’s plot.
When Hetty inherited the house, her current boyfriend stepped in, decided she would renovate it to a B&B or sell it for a resort and hired property managers for her. Hetty had not even seen the property yet and her boyfriend had already decided its fate. That fact that Hetty just rolled over on this because it was easier did not bode well for our relationship. I am not an admirer of doormats and that is how Hetty comes across to me. The plan falls apart when Hetty visits the property and finds out that human remains have been discovered in the ruin of the house.
Justine Eyre is a fantastic narrator. This is not the first time I have listened to one of her works but it has reinforced how superb she truly is. Her male voices are distinct from her female without sounding odd. The accents of the locals are distinct from Beatrice or Theo’s educated voices. The language of the Edwardian timeline flows just as easily as the modern one. Ms. Eyre’s voice, whether in a character or her own narrating no dialogue parts, is a joy to listen to. She speaks clearly and has a wonderful voice. I would recommend her as a narrator for any work.
All in all The House Between Tides was an enjoyable listen. Easily half the credit goes to Justine Eyre. In the hands of a lesser talent I am not sure I would have stuck with the story. In itself, it was not compelling. Ms. Eyre’s narration is what drove me to keep listening. Authors should never forget the value of a narrator. They make or break your book, even a good book. The talent of a good or great narrator can elevate a book to a new excited level for the listener.
The Dead Zone
Written by: Stephen King
Narrated by: James Franco
Length: 16 hrs and 11 mins
Release Date: 04-25-17
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
I first read The Dead Zone when it was published in 1979. Still living at home at the time, my mother and i struggled over whose turn it was to read. It was, and 38 years later still is, a great book. The premise of a man who foresees the future with a touch was intriguing. It leads back to the the great “What if?”. What if you could travel back in time and kill Hitler before his rise to power? What if you had the knowledge of a future catastrophe and could do something to prevent it? Would you do it? Would you be Cassandra (see Greek myths)?
The Dead Zone starts in 1953 when a young Johnny Smith suffers a head injury while ice skating. After that injury Johnny has one premonition which comes true but he does not remember stating the prediction. The story moves forward to the 70’s, when Johnny is an adult and teaching high school. He is in love with a fellow teacher, Sarah. They go on to a fair where Johnny’s unknown precognition allows him to win several hundred dollars at a game of chance. After taking Sarah home, Johnny is in an accident and ends up in a coma for several years. When he wakes up, the world has moved on. Sarah is married. His parents are gone. And he now sees the future of people who he touches or touching their possessions.
Unfortunately Johnny is not seeing what is in the big wrapped present under Bob’s Christmas tree. Johnny is seeing emotional hot wires. He tries to come to terms with this curse and stay out of the public eye. After helping the police find a child murderer, he becomes controversial; is he real or a fraud? Another story line running parallel to Johnny’s is Greg Stilson. When first introduced, Greg is a bible salesman. Greg is also a deeply disturbed violent person.
When he and Johnny finally meet, Greg is campaigning for President of the United States. When Johnny shakes Greg’s hand he sees Greg initiating a nuclear war. Remember this was written when the Cold War was a daily concept in our lives. Mutual Assured Destruction was the doctrine that ruled the super powers, specifically the United States and the Soviet Union. What Johnny sees is no less than the destruction of the world and the onset of nuclear winter. Enter the “What if”?
Reading The Dead Zone when it was first published was different than now. Although the Cold War was still raging, the current President, Carter, and incoming President, Reagan, were professional, tested politicians. Listening to The Dead Zone now was terrifying in a very different way. “It can’t happen here” mentality no longer works in our present world. It is very easy to draw a comparison between the unstable Greg Stilson and the tantrum throwing 2017 version. If you have not read/listen to The Dead Zone or read it years ago, now is the time. There is a new layer of horror awaiting you.
James Franco narrates this new release of The Dead Zone. He recently received acclaim in the production of Stephen King’s 11/22/63, which I have not seen yet. As a narrator he is adequate. I cannot say I would seek out an audiobook based on it having him as narrator. He seemed to switch between performing and reading. For example, Part 1 Chapter 4 has Franco’s narrating included Sarah and Johnny’s parents. There is no change in the tone, pitch or accent in his voice. He basically just reads the words from the book. In Part 2 Chapter 2, Franco changes his accent for the neurologist. Other than that, I did not detect any differences in the characters speaking. As narrators go, I prefer the narrator either read the book or perform it, not switch back and forth between the two.
The Dead Zone is a fantastic book. It is more terrifying today than when Stephen King first conceived and created it so long ago. It is well worth listening to. While Franco’s narration does not elevate the experience, it does not hurt it. I recommend The Dead Zone as an audiobook just because it is so relevant in a totally terrifying way.
Note: I received a review copy from SimonandSchuster.com in exchange for an honest review.
Written by: Arkady Strugatsky , Boris Strugatsky , Olena Bormashenko (translator)
Narrated by: Robert Forster
Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
Publisher: Random House Audio
Roadside Picnic is a classic of science fiction. It is also a testimony to perseverance on the part of the authors who wrote under Soviet censorship. The forward by renown science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin is a fantastic explanation of how the book was received when first published in the 1970;s. The afterward by Boris Strugatsky details the fight to get the book published by the Soviet censors.
The premise of Roadside Picnic is that the earth has been visited by aliens. In six areas of the world, they have come and gone, leaving only their debris or garbage behind. Five of these areas are on land. By the end of the day of the visit, the Zones are declared off limits. Eventually world scientific organizations set up on the borders of the Zones and begin to study the visible and invisible. Some of the items in the Zone are powerful energy sources. Some of areas of intense gravity that crush men and vehicles flat. There are also organic life forms that cannot be studied because they kill all who get near them. Thirteen years later they are still being studied.
No one except scientist are allowed into the Zones. The trade in the black market for items smuggled out of the Zone is huge. The money to be made makes it worth the risk for these smugglers or "stalkers" to enter the Zone at night risking their lives. They are also risking more. Stalkers who frequently run the risk of the Zones find they have severe mutations in their children born after they begin venturing into the Zone. The book prefigured many of the issues surrounding the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
It really is an amazing book that really must be read. Or even better, listened to. Robert Forster does a great job narrating the book. Roadside Picnic, although written by two Russian brothers, takes place in Canada. Forster keeps his voice in somewhat of a neutral accent but he conveys the toughness of the main character, Red. Red's frustration with the problems of living with the Zone and the issues it causes comes through very well in the narration.
Roadside Picnic is a great book. It has all the tension of a thriller, all the science of a science fiction, all the character development of a great literary novel and it is an exciting audiobook. The Forward by Ms. Le Guin is really important to listen to before the book itself. It helps put the importance of the novel in the listeners mind as they hear the incredible story of Stalkers and the risks they take to provide for their families.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature
Written by: The Great Courses
Narrated by: Professor Pamela Bedore
Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
Series: Genre Fiction
Publisher: The Great Courses
I won a free Audible credit from the Audiobook Addicts facebook group. I chose The Great Courses title Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature. I have enjoyed many of the Great Courses before and the topic really appealed to me. Professor Bedore does a fantastic job of presenting the material while keeping it very interesting for the listener. The course has twenty-four lessons totalling over twelve hours.
The course begins with a discussion of what Utopian and Dystopian mean. The next lesson starts the discussion of the first Utopian work by Thomas More. There are several lessons covering the other Utopian writers such as Swift and H. G. Wells. The course then moves on to the Dystopias. It covers much more than Orwell's 1984. The breath of the course is really amazing. It covers The Hunger Games and the Apocalyptic works of this century. The final lesson is on the future of the two genres.
The accompandy course guide, in Adobe pdf format, is amazing. It is over two hundred and forty pages of information. Each lesson has an outline of what is covered and a Suggested Reading section as well as Questions to consider. The Bibliography at the end is incredible. It is going to populate my to read list for years to come.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature was a very enjoyable and educational audiobook. I would recommend it for anyone who reads Utopian or Dystopian genres.
This is the third book in The Scattered and the Dead series. I enjoyed this one as much as the last two. It advances the storylines of several characters. It follows Fiona, Lorraine, Ray and Marissa. There are very brief sections with Baghead and Decker. Ray, Lorraine, Baghead and Decker are all characters from previous books. As with previous books, the timeline is fluid. One section may take place before the event while others take place weeks or months after the event. As you come to know the characters, it is not hard to follow.
Book 0.5 and Book 1.5 are much shorter compared to Book 1. They are not bridge books by any means. Each book is a contribution to the series, just as much as the larger Book 1. As I mentioned in earlier reviews, the universe is unique. The Scattered and the Dead universe is more real. Possibly because it is told from many points view, possibly because the characters are from such different backgrounds and personalities.
One thing I really like is how the authors break the sections up. The narrative switches between the characters. It is not one large section narrated by one character followed by the next big section by another character. Instead, it is a series of very well done cliffhangers for each character. For instance, in one of Ray’s sections, the last sentences are “And then the screaming started again. Somewhere ahead of me.” Just as you are dealing with that you are thrown into Fiona’s latest situation. It really is very good writing and excellent pacing.
The Scattered and the Dead, Book 1.5 is narrated by the authors, Tim McBain and L. T. Vargus. All the books in this series so far have had excellent production values. The clear strong voices of the narrators, who happens to be one of the authors, L. T. Vargus and Tim McBain, do a fantastic job narrating the book. They both have pleasant voices to listen to. Perhaps having authored the book helped in their ability to narrate it so well. They did not seem to be reading it as much as telling it, as one survivor after another shared their with the listener. It makes for a very intimate narration.
I highly recommend The Scattered and the Dead series. If you have not started it yet, now is the perfect time.
I received a copy of The Scattered and the Dead Book 1.5 from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
Review Audiobook THE SCATTERED AND THE DEAD: A POST-APOCALYPTIC SERIES, BOOK 1 BY TIM MCBAIN AND L.T. VARGUS
When I reviewed the Audible version of The Scattered and the Dead, Book 0.5, I totally got lost in a new universe. The Scattered and the Dead 0.5 follows only one person Decker. The Scattered and the Dead Book 1 is a much larger cast and time period. The easiest way to illustrate this is to list the character’s names and where their stories start in Book 1:
Rex 68 days before
Baghead 9 yrs, 126 days after
Mitch 43 days before
Travis 44 days after
Erin 29 days after
Teddy 69 days after
Ray 3 days before
Lorraine 3 days before
As you can tell by the listing above, the book is not linear. It tells different people’s stories with very different starting points. For example, Baghead’s story begins over 9 years after the event while Mitch’s story begins 43 days before. This was the hardest part of the book for me, the chronology. My inability to keep the chronology straight was a very minor downside for me. The story was wonderful. There were characters like Erin and Mitch that I connected with. And then there were characters like Teddy that made me want to jump into the book and warn the other characters to avoid him at all costs. The ages of the characters vary also from children to middle age.
The situations that characters exist in are not static. Some characters are perpetually moving, either for foraging or for unknown reasons. Some are hunkered down and just trying to survive for as long as they can. The undead are not the worst monsters in this book. I think the authors do a great job of painting the human monsters in vivid colors. In fact, I can readily visualize some of those human monsters living here in the United States, now, without the apocalypse to create them.
As I said in my review of Book 0.5, the authors have created a post-apocalyptic universe that feels different than many of the other I have read (and I have read many). If you like the post-apocalyptic genre, this is a great series. Even if you are not a zombie fan, you will still like this series. The zombies are only one part of what drives this book.
The Audible version of Book 0.5 was fabulous and so is Book 1 also with excellent production values. The clear strong voice of the narrator of Book 0.5, who happens to be one of the authors, also narrated Book 1 with the other author, L. T. Vargus. Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus did a fantastic job narrating the book. They both have pleasant voices to listen to. Perhaps having authored the book helped in their ability to narrate it so well. They did not seem to be reading it as much as telling it, as one survivor after another shared their story with the listener. It makes for a very intimate narration.
Audiobook was provided for review by the author.
Please find this complete review and many others at Audiobook Reviewer
Badasses The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden's Oakland Raiders
Author Peter Richmond
Narrated by Barry Abrams
Publication date Feb 7, 2017
Running time 12 hrs 27 min
Great football. Great teams. Great rivalries. Rivalries between teams, not individuals or coaches. Football for the sake of football, not for the obscene amount of money the owners and the NFL make or the outrageous amounts the individual players can make by jumping teams every time the cash register rings up a higher amount. “Ken Stabler put it, ‘you played for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back” This is the era the greatest Badasses of all time, John Madden’s Oakland Raiders, played in. The story, the characters (and what characters they were) and the atmosphere that created the Badass Raiders is told in loving detail by Peter Richmond, a lifelong Raiders fan.
There were so many unusual aspects of the Badass Raiders, the players who crashed on other teams but bloomed on the Raiders, an owner and head coach who were called by their first names, their larger than life personas on and off the field and most surprising of all the high percentage of very intelligent men with degrees in challenging majors from prestigious schools like Stanford. Yet they all created the perfect storm to create one of the best teams in the history of football. While Madden’s Raiders had one Super Bowl Ring, their winning percentages were higher than any other team of the era.
The first Super Bowl I remember watching was the 1977 Raiders vs. Vikings. My dad and I watched several Raiders games that year and I was captured by the Raider’s quarterback, Ken “The Snake” Stabler. The nickname “Snake” came from his ability to scramble long before it Wilson and Kaepernick were even conceived, literally. On August 17, 1980, I was in Houston for a week. I had the opportunity to see a preseason game between the now defunct Houston Oilers and the New Orleans Saints. The Oilers won 20 to 17 that day. I can remember nothing of that day except watching Stabler move. He was in the last five years of his career but the man was still the Snake.
Barry Abrams narrates Badasses with the joy of a football fan. He does a great job with various accents, from Al Davis’s Brooklyn tinged speech to the mellowed Alabama tones of Stabler. Abrams keeps the narration at pace with the writing. It is never monotone or over the top. The production quality is excellent.
I highly recommend Badasses. It is a much a joy to read as it probably was for the Badass Raiders to play. “As tight end Bob Moore, a Stanford guy, put it to me, summing up his Raiders years, ‘Seven days a week, it was as much fun as a human being could have and still stay alive.’”
The Shadow of What Was Lost: The Licanius Trilogy, Book 1
Written by: James Islington
Narrated by: Michael Kramer
Length: 25 hrs and 28 mins
Series: The Licanius Trilogy, Book 1
Publisher: Podium Publishing
Courtesy of AudFans on Facebook (@AudFansPage)
James Islington creates a very complex and complete universe in his Licanius Trilogy introduction, The Shadow of What Was Lost. I had not read the book so the audiobook was my first encounter with the author and this world. The three main characters the listener first encounters are Davian, Asha, and Wirr. All three are students at a school for the “Gifted”. In this universe, “Gifted” means they can use a type of magic. The three are good friends and support each other. Final exams are approaching. Asha and Wirr are sure to pass but Davian may fail. In this school failure not only means expulsion but being turned into a “Shadow”. Shadows are marked, physically with dark lines on their faces, and mentally, by having their memories of the school and what they learned there and their lives up to that day erased. They are the lowest of the low, scorned by all.
This is a world that has undergone a war within the last generation that caused the Gifted to be bound by laws not to use their gifts. It is a world with secrets from two thousand years ago and present, like who Wirr really is. Caeden, the other main character who joins the story later, also has secrets but they are hidden even from him. Finding out the truth for many of the characters, about themselves, others and their world may destroy them all.
Michael Kramer did a good job with the narration. He did not make the female voices irritating (a big plus in my book for male narrators). His male voices were good although a few were very hard to distinguish from each other. There are a lot of characters in the book so that is not necessarily the narrator's fault. It may be my own inability to hear as clearly as I did years ago. The accents he did were good.
I enjoyed The Shadow of What Was Lost. I will be getting the book from my local library to see what I may have missed in just hearing the book. Since there were so many unusual names, places, titles and designations, I might have not had a complete understanding of what I was hearing. I am planning on getting Book 2 when it is released in audio format. Book 1 was enjoyable and very different from other fantasy I have encountered. I would recommend James Islington’s The Shadow of What Was Lost: The Licanius Trilogy, Book 1 narrated by Michael Kramer.
Warren Adler is the author of more than forty published novels, the most famous being “The War of the Roses”, made into a very successful movie. This was my first occasion to read any of his work. I really enjoyed it and am contemplating which book to tackle next.
The plot of the book revolves around a family, Richard who works for the foreign service and is stationed in Egypt, his wife Maria and their five year old son. When this book was written in the mid 1980’s, 1986, the USSR was still intact and terrorism was starting to rise. The PLA and Arafat were the main group but others were popping up in Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Egypt. Mr. Adler was eerily ahead of his time in how he portrays this world of terrorism, each with their own agendas.
As the novel begins, Maria is sitting in her car with her not so patient son waiting to pick up her husband. He is already an hour late. He is part of the group giving the Under Secretary of State a tour of the museum. Also in the same parking lot are six men waiting to kidnap the Under Secretary to ransom in exchange for prisoner releases. When Maria’s son can wait no longer, she walks him towards the museum entrance to use the restroom, just as the dignitaries come out. The terrorist plan goes sideways quickly. In an attempt to gain something out of the botched plan Maria and her son are snatched instead.
This is where the novel excels in the dichotomy of power and how it is used. American policy is not to negotiate with terrorist. Maria and her son will most likely suffer torture and die. Except for one small fact unknown but to Maria, her husband and a few others. Maria’s father is a businessman in Brooklyn. The kind of business that Mario Puzo wrote so well about in his novels. Maria’s father is a Don, a Godfather, a mafia king. He does not play by the same rules as the government especially when his only surviving child and only grandson are involved.
His plan is simple. If the President will not negotiate with terrorist for hostages, take the President hostage. Here the book shows some dating. The mafia get into the White House relatively easy. There is only one computer involved for the CIA Director to use to contact operatives. Once the reader accepts the existence of the USSR and lack of computers and tight security, the story flows nicely. It really was a compelling listen.
Mr. Moore does a great job narrating. The overt menace of the terrorist leader is nicely contrasted with the calm danger of the mafia don. All the accents are well done. Mr. Moore infuses the emotion into the narration without overdoing it. He really made the audiobook a “must listen just a little bit longer” that turned into hours. The production values were great.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
In this, the twenty-first century, we take for granted that our planet has been thoroughly explored. Douglas Preston has brought us the tale of a hidden civilization that takes a horrendous toll on it’s explorers. It is a journey not to be missed, especially since the reader is not the one suffering the trials and pains the explorers did. Douglas Preston is a well-known author as part of the team, with Lincoln Childs, that writes the Pendergast mystery series. He also has his own books, both fiction and nonfiction that are worth checking out.
The first recorded reference to the White City is in the writing of Cortez. He was told by a guide that there was a civilization that rivaled the Aztecs and Incas located in what is modern-day Honduras. Cortez passed this information on to Spanish authorities but was never able to follow up on it. As the decades went by the legend of the White City persisted. Claims of finding the city were not accompanied by proof. The author does a good job of detailing the tantalizing clues that kept the legend alive.
Preston first heard of the White City while doing a story for National Geographic on Angkor Wat in 1996. He was told about new technology that can penetrate the thick jungle canopy to help determine if man-made structures existed. Preston was fascinated by the story and contacted the researchers to request joining the study. Steve Elkins, heading the project, accepted Preston into the group. After securing the financing, the search for the White City finally began in 2012. The preliminary work of selecting the possible sites, planning the expedition, and gathering a team of experts, not only in archaeology but also in navigating the jungle. The area of Honduras that the White City was believed to be was an isolated valley, uninhabited by man but full of danger like the fer-de-lance snake, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. The expedition finally started for the valley where the White City in 2015.
This is where the book becomes addictive. The snakes, the mosquitos, the jungle itself challenged the explorers day and night. The discoveries came quickly. The team had to decide whether to announce their finds and risk it all. Although they had accessed the site by helicopter, they knew once it was announced, others would attempt to rob the site of it’s priceless artifacts. Preston describes all of this, the danger, the hard choices, in detail that keeps the reader turning pages (in my case late into the night). Once the expedition ended, the danger did not. The worst was what many of the exhibition members unknowingly carried home with them. Despite the mosquito nets and liberal use of DEET, many members of the team became ill and had mosquito bites that did not heal. When the team compared bites and symptoms through email, they knew they needed expert medical help. Naively believing malaria was the worst, the team was shocked to find they had contracted leishmaniasis also called White Leprosy. The final discussion of this third world disease and it’s spread to first world countries was fascination and frightening.
The production values of the audiobook are fantastic. There are no issues with either the sound quality or the narrator’s clarity. Bill Mumy did a good job as a narrator. This was my first audiobook narrated by Mr. Mumy. He has a pleasant voice. As Preston is an American, it made sense to have the audiobook narrated by an American. While I did enjoy the audio and Mr. Mumy spoke clearly, I just felt there was something missing. I found myself wondering how it would have sounded narrated by James Foster, R. C. Bray, or Bronson Pinchot. I think Mr. Pinchot would have done an exceptional job as he did with The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million.
When I was in middle school, around 1973, I had a book about lost civilizations. It included the Mayan and Angkor Wat to name a few. I was fascinated with the thought that a culture could so completely disappear for hundreds of years. I remember thinking that book I read as a young teen was the last that would be written, that all lost civilizations had been discovered. The Lost City of the Monkey God rekindled all the amazement and wonder I felt many, many years ago reading about other lost cities. This is an amazing audiobook in it’s detailing of the legend itself, the preparation for and the expedition itself as well as the horrifying aftereffects on the team.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
Heaven Help Us: Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter, Book 7
Written by: John G. Hartness
Narrated by: James Foster
Length: 3 hrs and 43 mins
Series: Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter, Book 7
Publisher: Falstaff Books
Courtesy Audiobook Blast
I have had a couple of trying days lately. Trying to do taxes for my husband and I, our adult daughter and our son's one friend. Trying to untangle the insurance deductible mess. And finally have some idiot charge $980 to my Visa. Thank Heaven for a new Quincy Harker! As I spent the day dealing with all this adult crap, I listened to the latest installment in the Quincy Harker Demon Hunter Series: Heaven Help Us. It was a delight to listen to and really brightened up my day.
When last we saw Quincy, in Book 6, he was in a world of trouble and not just because he had fallen in love. Book 7 deals with the fallout of said love and the situation that ended Book 6. Quincy has to leave his home in Charlotte, NC, and lay low for awhile. Killing a Homeland Security Agent will lead to just that consequence. Quincy chooses Lockton, Ohio for his hideout specifically because it is far off the “usual suspects” grid. Using an assumed name, he plans on laying low and trying to clear his name while Rebecca, his fiancee, and a Charlotte police officer, does the same. Quincy's plan is good and last all of five minutes. Five minutes in Lockton and Quincy meets a werewolf who cares enough about his clothes to go nude before changing to his wolf form, a witch who thinks he is a demon and a demon who fixes football games. He is also a substitute social studies teacher for one day. That scene alone is the fulfillment of the fantasy of every substitute teacher who has ever dealt with a room full of moody, mouthy teenagers.
Not to let Quincy have all the fun, Rebecca has been introduced to new friends. Quincy's Uncle Luke and Abraham Van Helsing's decedent Gabby, bring along Dr. John Watson, the descendant of THAT Watson, and Jo. I'll let you read the book to find out her connection. I am not entirely sure of it myself. There are a few tantalizing clues but not enough of a reveal to answer all my questions.
One of the things I enjoy most about the Harker novels is the humor. Certain lines, heck whole paragraphs, had me laughing out loud. Listening to the book today while no one else was home, I was free to laugh out loud. And I did, loudly. Some of the best lines:
"Mort was a demon, and country music bars are a special kind of Hell, so it only made sense that he wanted to be there."
"Nah, I'm crazy, but it's a really fun crazy. Kind like Harley Quinn, without the abusive relationship."
Quincy Harker books are fantastic. From Book 1 to Book 7 there has not been a drop in the quality of writing. Each book answers some questions raised in the books before but also creates a new one. The characters have continued to grow and evolve through each book. New characters, once introduced, do the same. The humor is great. Very well written dialogue. The main characters are people I would enjoy having a beer with and watching a Steelers football game. They are, despite their supernatural origins, real people.The plots of the books are almost like carrots dangled in front of you. You almost reach the carrot but not quite. Finally several books
later when you do, you realize the carrot was not just a carrot. It was of a greater magnitude than you ever imagined.
As much as I enjoy reading the Harker books, that joy is magnified exponentially by James Foster's narration of the series. He makes it so much more enjoyable. The difference between reading and hearing a Quincy Harker is almost like the switch from 3 to 4 or 5 dimensions. Foster’s narration brings so much of the attitude, which is a huge part of Quincy’s character, to life. The lines I quoted above as examples of humor are even funnier when Foster does then in character. Kind of like you telling a joke and Eddie Murphy telling the same joke. Both funny but Murphy’s is going to take the funny to a whole new level. To me that is what Foster’s narration adds to the Quincy Harker series, it takes the story to a new, better level.
Book 8 soon? Please?
Shirley Jackson : A Rather Haunted Life
By: Ruth Franklin
Read by: Bernadette Dunne
Runtime: 19.4 Hours
Release date: 9.27.2016
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin is a major biography of one of the most famous writers of the twentieth century. While I have not read all of her work, her short story “The Lottery” is one of my favorites and one of these best short stories ever written. The Haunting of Hill House is THE haunted house story that all others are measured against and found wanting. Not only did she write perfect thrillers and horror, she also wrote a very popular pair of comedic looks at motherhood, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. Her talent also extended to children’s books. It is mind boggling that it has been more than thirty years since the last major biography of her was written.
Ruth Franklin does a fantastic job of covering Jackson’s life in detail without getting bogged down in minutia or losing the reader's attention. She begins with a look at Jackson’s family. There is a freaky coincidence in her fascination with houses. Three generations of the men in her family dating from her grandfather and back were architects. They built some of the top show houses in the San Francisco area. Unfortunately many did not survive the great quake. When Jackson was looking for a physical embodiment of her Hill House, she asked her mother to find her pictures of millionaire houses that were no longer standing. In one of those ironic moments, the picture Jackson picked was found to be built by her ancestors.
Jackson’s family was about as WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) as could be. Their prejudices were a product not only of their time but their socio economic set. In 1933, the moved from California to Rochester, NY due to Jackson’s father’s job. They settled into the best neighborhood, sent Jackson to the best schools, and the future was set. There were several holes in Jackson’s parent’s plans. Number one was Shirley Jackson never did what she was commanded to do. Number two was worse than any fiction Jackson could event.
Jackson’s mother was an evil woman. That is my opinion, not the author Ruth Franklin’s. Franklin relates the facts. I made the judgement just as Jackson’s mother judged her each day. Jackson was told on consistent basis that she was fat, unattractive, unintelligent and would not amount to anything. She fought back by not accepting her parent’s positions on social issues, education or life in general. But toxicity, no matter how hard you try to combat it, has a cumulative effect. Jackson she suffered from depression and did attempt suicide more than once.
Jackson was fortunate in that her life turned around in some aspects when she attended Syracuse after dropping out of University of Rochester. She found people like her for the first time in her life. She also met her future partner, in marriage and creativity, Stanley Hyman. While Hyman was Jackson’s chief critic and editor, he was not a true partner in marriage. He habitually cheated on her even while dating in college and continued to do so during their marriage. He assured Jackson that he only loved her and his sexual wanderings meant nothing but they did to Jackson.
The picture Franklin paints of Jackson is a woman capable of empathy, love, and humor but injured by those who should have loved and protected her. If you ever wondered how Jackson’s characters seemed so real or her stories so horrifying about simple things like a house or a village, Franklin’s wonderful biography holds the answers.
Bernadette Dunne, as usual, does a fantastic job narrating the book. While she never “performs” in the sense of creating different voices or adding drama, she conveys Franklin’s work faithfully. It was listening to a passage about Jackson’s mother’s never ending criticism of her that created my opinion of her mother as evil. Another listener may hear that same passage and not come to the same conclusion. That is a great nonfiction narrator and author’s gift, to present the facts and let the reader decide for themselves. Read Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. Then reread Jackson’s work with your eyes opened.