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Audiobook Review – Virtue Falls – Christina Dodd

virtue fallsVirtue Falls
Author: Christina Dodd
Series: #1 in the Virtue Falls series
Rating: ☆ ☆

Narrator: Rebecca Solar
Run Time: 16hrs 22min

Review Audiobook Provided by Publisher

Description:
Twenty-three years ago, in the isolated coastal town of Virtue Falls, Washington, four year old Elizabeth Banner witnessed her mother’s brutal murder. Elizabeth’s father was convicted of killing Misty and sentenced to prison. Elizabeth was sent to live with relatives, and grew from a solitary child to a beautiful woman with a cool scientific mind and an instinctive distrust of love. Now Elizabeth is back in Virtue Falls, a geologist like her father, living cautiously, her life guided by logic and facts. But nothing can help her through the emotional chaos that follows the return of her ex-husband, Garik Jacobsen, an FBI agent on probation and tortured by the guilt of his past deeds. Nor can it help her deal with her father, now stricken with Alzheimer’s and haunted by Misty’s ghost. When a massive earthquake reveals long-concealed secrets, Elizabeth soon discovers her father is innocent. Is the killer still at large, stalking ever closer to the one witness to Misty’s murder? To Elizabeth herself? Elizabeth and Garik investigate, stirring old dark and deadly resentments that could provoke another bloody murder– Elizabeth’s own.

Review:
For as long as I have been reading romance and romantic suspense, I’m honestly surprised that I have never read a Christina Dodd book. Unfortunately, based on my experience with Virture Falls, I will be hesitant to pick up another one by her in the future. I actually listened to this book several months ago, but its taken me this long to try and get my thoughts in line to write my review, because my issues with the book, far outweigh the positives, which is unfortunately, because based on the book description, i was hoping for a solid romantic suspense read/listen.

This book is a case where the blurb doesn’t really match how the story plays outs. Based on it, I was expecting a romantic suspense mystery with a serial killer theme – unfortunately, that is not what I got. Instead a majority of the book focused on a natural disaster (earthquake) and the subsequent recovery of the town. The murder theme was a distance second to the disaster theme in the story and that was a disappointment to me. The prologue of the story was suitably dark based on the description, and i thought, ohhh good, setting up for a good story. Looking back now, I almost wish that I had put the audiobook aside and not finished it, rather than continuing to trudge through – but I did so, mostly because I didn’t have any other audiobooks lined up for my commute and (as bad as this sounds), it fit into several different reading challenges.

I spent probably about 95% of the book wanting to slap Elizabeth (the main female character upside the head) – she was supposed to be really smart (on the Academic front) – but when it came to common sense – it was like it was Gone with the Wind. She put herself into situations, all in the name of her studies, that a sane person wouldn’t. And yes, I know, in order to make it big in science there have to be risks, but these were just dumb – going places without letting someone know where you are heading after a major natural disaster type things. She just ugh!

And then there was Garik – while I admit that I liked him more that Elizabeth – but that doesn’t say much. I found him to be a fairly underdeveloped character. There was a lot of stuff going on with him in the background of the story (much of which was mentioned in his introduction) and then it was just like all of his issues disappeared the minute Elizabeth (his ex-wife) may have needed him (or at least so he thought) – he just went running to her. I will admit that he and their relationship made the story slightly more paletable (if the book was supposed to be more of a romance than a mystery).

With all my issues with the plot, if the narrator had been solid, it might have made the audio version more paletable – However, I had issues with her narration as well. While her female voice narrations were solid and easily distinguishable – her male narration was a struggle and it made me cringe in places. My other complaint was during the times when Elizabeth was in full-on academic mode (during some of the observation scenes) – instead of a serious academic, she sounded almost like a tabloid reporter with a new hot tip. It was just too much. However, this was my first experience listening to Ms Solar and I would like to try listening to her narrate a different book or genre.

Overall, I gave both the book and the narration 2 stars and while I’ll likely try the narrator again, I’m less sure about the author, unless I get a serious endorsement from a fellow reader who I follow/trust when it comes to recommendations.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Murder in Murray Hill – Victoria Thompson

murder in murray hillMurder in Murray Hill
Author: Victoria Thompson
Series: #16 in the Gaslight Mystery series

Narrator: Suzanne Toren
Run Time: 9hrs 4min

Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Audiobook Publisher

Description:
Frank Malloy has never known any life other than that of a cop, but his newfound inheritance threatens his position within his department. While trying to keep both his relationship with Sarah and his fortune under wraps, he’s assigned to a new case—finding a missing young woman for her worried father, Henry Livingston.

It seems the girl had been responding to “lonely hearts” ads in the paper for months before she disappeared. Her father thinks that she’s eloped with a deceptive stranger, but Malloy fears the worst, knowing that the grifters who place such ads often do much more than simply abscond with their victims. But as Sarah and Malloy delve deeper into a twisted plot targeting the city’s single women, it’s their partnership—both professional and private—that winds up in the greatest peril…

Review:
I’m honestly trying to remember what caught my eye about this series and made me want to pick it up. I *think* it was because I needed a book with a certain word in the title, and one of the previous books worked and I kind of got hooked. So when I saw that Recorded Books had one of the entries in the series available as a review audiobook, I was intrigued. I had previously only read the books, so while I was familiar with the series, I’d never listened to them and the narrator was also new to me.

As with previous books in the series, while some stuff occurs in each book that may provide spoilers for earlier books, you can (or at least in my opinion), jump around fairly easily from book to book skipping if need be (depending on availability). Case in point, prior to this book (#16 in the series), the most recent one I had was #10 in the series (Murder on Bank Street). But aside from more personal elements of the story (between Sarah and Frank), I didn’t feel like I was missing all that much. The mystery aspect was solid as with my previous experience with the series – I liked the topic that the author chose to tackle because its one that is still prevalent in society today (but did you really think I was going to tell you what that it?). And while I had a pretty solid idea of the who done it, how everything played out had a few twists and turns that I didn’t expect.

On the audiobook front, the narrator, Suzanne Toren was a new narrator to me and aside from one irksome thing, was a solid narrator. I thought that she had a good range of voices/voice distinction for the different characters. The narration was neither too quiet nor too loud (meaning that I didn’t need to adjust the volume in my car as I was listening to counter issues like that (which I have had to do in the past). My biggest issue with the narration, and it goes back to one of the characterizations, was the portions where a little child (about 4-5 in the book) was speaking. This part of the narration felt forced and not at all childlike (as I would expect) – but it seemed as though the narrator was trying (which IMHO made it worse). I think in this instance, I would have preferred to just have the child portions spoken naturally and let it flow, rather than the jarring/disjointed portions that I felt like I was experiencing. But at the same time, I don’t know if my issue with the minor portion of the child’s narration would preclude me from either listening to this narrator again or listening to the book series later on (if need be).

Overall, I gave the story 4 stars and the narration 3 stars, for 3.5 average. I’d recommend this series to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries with a touch of police procedural or medical info (as the main character is a midwife – although that doesn’t always take center stage in the stories).

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Dangerous Destiny – Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann

dangerous destinyDangerous Destiny
Authors: Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann
Series: #.5 in the Night Sky series
Narrator: Melanie Brockmann
Run Time: 1hr 16min

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Audiobook Jukebox

Description:
I know her.
Know her from inside the dreams. Inside those terrible, murderous, bloody dreams. I’ve heard her-screaming, her voice mixing in an awful chorus with all those other girls. Little girls.

Please, God.
That’s what one of the little girls keeps saying, in the dream that is not just a dream. Please, God.
But I know better. There’s no escaping this fate. This is destiny.
I must kill Skylar.

Skylar Reid is the new girl at school. Her mom just moved them to Florida—aka The Land of the Living Dead where the average age of her new neighbors was seventy-five—to start over. Skylar is not a fan of the change or her total lack of friends. Until she meets Calvin, a funny, sarcastic boy who doesn’t let being in a wheelchair stop him from verbally shredding their preppy classmates. Skylar’s just about to decide her new school’s not a total loss when an odd girl wearing an oversized trench coat in the murderous Southern heat declares, “You’re one of us.” And then tries to kill her.

Review:
I’ve been a fan of Suzanne Brockmann’s since I picked up her Harlequin series based around SeAL’s (Tall, Dark and Dangerous) as a teenager and while my enjoyment of her books has waxed and waned over the years – I typically knew what I was in for when I picked up a copy. So when I saw that she had co-authors a YA book series with her daughter, I was intrigued. It was the first time, that I know of, that she had delved into the YA realm (although in previous books, she had a good handle on writing kids) – so I was curious to see how it played it. Being as it was the prequel to a new series and only about 60pages, there wasn’t a lot of room for substantial world building, the book itself relied more on the hint of things to come, to hopefully make the reader interested in picking up the later books. All you really glean about Skyler (the female main character) is that she has some kind of super-power that is going to come into play later on in the series. I don’t know, I just felt like I couldn’t get invested enough in the series based on the short prequel storyline – I probably would have been better off picking up the full-length first book in the series and then going back and reading the prequel, because based on what I read, I would be hesitant to pick up later books in the series.

As an avid audiobook listened, I am also always on the lookout for new narrators, but typically tend to be skeptical of authors narrating their own works. So when I saw the Melanie Brockmann, the co-author had narrated the book, I was concerned and worried, but I figured since the book itself was short, and so was the narration (only just over an hour) – that even if the narration wasn’t that good, I could survive. So I decided to plunge on in. Within about 20 minutes (so about 1/6 of the book), I knew I had made a mistake. I found the narration to be monotonous and dragging – there was no real distinction between the various characters (and I realize that the book was told in first person, but there still needed to be some inflection or something to differentiate the characters). Honestly, I was glad that the book was so short, but if it hadn’t been, I probably would have DNF’d it – but I stuck with it but unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.

If I continue the series in the future (and that is still up in the air), it will be by reading it because I noticed that the same person narrates at least the first book in the series. Overall, the story got 2.5 stars and the narration only 1 star, for a 2 star rating overall. If you do consider reading/listening to this series, I would recommend reading.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Euphoria – Lily King

euphoriaEuphoria
Author: Lily King

Narrators: Simon Vance, Xe Sands
Run Time: 6hr 53 min

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Audiobook Jukebox

Description:
English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River in the Territory of New Guinea with little success. Increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when he encounters the famous and controversial Nell Stone and her wry, mercurial Australian husband Fen. Bankson is enthralled by the magnetic couple whose eager attentions pull him back from the brink of despair.

Nell and Fen have their own reasons for befriending Bankson. Emotionally and physically raw from studying the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo tribe, the couple is hungry for a new discovery. But when Bankson leads them to the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and emotional firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control. Ultimately, their groundbreaking work will make history, but not without sacrifice.

Review:
I had heard this book raved about in several audiobook groups I am part of, so when I was offered the opportunity to review it through audiobook jukebox, I jumped on it (mostly because the copy at my library had 60+ people on the wait list..). Plus the narrators (Simon Vance and Xe Sands) are two of my favorites. There was something about the description that caught my attention – i haven’t read a lot about cultural anthropology but it is an area that interests me, the idea of living intimately with a group of people for a period of time, learning about their way of life.

However, I don’t think that I could truly appreciate the beauty of the language and writing style because I made the dumb mistake of listening to the audiobook while on a road trip. And I know now that I really shouldn’t have been listening at 11pm at night – it wasn’t fair to the author or the book. That being said, I did like what I remember listening to. The language was lyrical and the story moved at a nice pace. I felt like the author did a good job of managing the tension in the relationships between the three main characters.

I think my one disappointment with the story was that I expected a bit more about the tribe of people they lived with – at times, it felt like the lives of Nell, Fen and Andrew drown out the premise of living with the natives in New Guinea. It also felt like the ending was a bit rushed to me – I was left (even if it was 3am) feeling like something was missing. I guess because I am ultimately a romantic at heart and the ending didn’t quite feel complete to me.

While I had some issues with parts of the storyline, I had no issues with the narrators. Simon Vance has been a favorite of mine since I listened to him do the Steig Larsson books and Xe Sands is one of my favorite romance narrators. I do wish that there had been more Xe – the majority of the book was narrated by Simon Vance – not that I don’t like him (in fact, I totally fangirl gush over his narration at times), I just wanted more Xe. I’ll say that while she warned me prior to listening that I may need to turn up the volume for her parts because they were quieter, I didn’t have that issue – I didn’t have to adjust the volume on my car audio at all while listening.

Overall, I gave both the book and the narration 3.5 stars but am intrigued to see how that would be adjusted should I re-listen to it later on.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Martian – Andy Weir

the martianThe Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Narrator: R.C. Bray
Audiobook Length: 10h4s 53 min
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review:
Every so often (although more frequently), there are books that people rave about, and rave about and sometimes I avoid the temptation to jump in and read and other times I take the plunge. I’d been hearing about The Martian on and off for probably a good year nearly from various online reading groups, so when it was selected as a group read in one of my Goodreads groups, I toddled off to Audible and grabbed the audiobook. Of course, as usual, I had several other books to finish up first before I could start it, but when I did, holy roller coaster of a ride. As I started listening, the whole storyline reminded me of that 1980’s TV show MacGyver (with the fantabulous Richard Dean Anderson). You know, where you give RDA a carrot, a battery and a spoon and he constructs a working bomb – that is who Mark Watney reminded me of. Of course, he wasn’t hunting (or being hunted by bad guys), or blowing things up (well…not on purpose at least) – but the problem solving mentally was perfect.

I’ll admit that I am not a science geek by any stretch of a means, so a lot of that kind of stuff went right over my head – especially when they had the guy talking about orbital physics (I can barely spell it – I just had to resort to using spell check to spell physics…). But even with all that, the technically stuff was for the most part, addressed in a way that even a lay person could attempt to understand – which the author used technie words/theories, he also tried to dumb them down for normal people. I think if the story had just been limited to Mark’s POV, it would have been a lot weaker overall – however, the integration of the NASA scientists who are trying to rescue him and his former crew-members who left him for dead, made the storyline much more intriguing.

The narrator, R.C. Bray, is brand-new to me but I can tell you that it won’t be the last time I listen to him. He managed to toe the line between comedic inference and serious moments perfectly. There were times when I was laughing so hard at his narration that I was crying. I found that his voice distinctions between Mark and the assortment of other characters was well-defined, even down to his narration of the Chinese astronaut and the Indian astrophysicist. I highly recommend him as a narrator to try.

Overall, I gave both the book and narration 4 stars, and glad that I took the opportunity to listen to it. Personally, for me, I think it worked better in audio, than reading, but that might just be me.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Born in Blood – Alexandra Ivy

born in bloodBorn in Blood
Author: Alexandra Ivy
Series: #1 in the Sentinals series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrator: Jim Frangione
Run Time: 10hrs 56min

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
Sergeant Duncan O’Conner has seen it all before. A beautiful erotic dancer is found murdered in her home—no suspect, no motive. But there’s one clue: she’s missing her heart. It’s enough to make the hard-bitten Kansas City cop enlist the help of a necro—one of the dead-channeling freaks who live in the domed city of nearby Valhalla. It’s a long shot, but desperate crimes call for desperate measures.

Unlike the other “high-bloods” in Valhalla, Callie Brown considers her abilities a gift, not a curse. But when she reads the dancer’s final thoughts, she senses a powerful presence blocking her vision. This is no ordinary homicide. This is the work of a legendary necromancer who controls souls. A ravenous force that will put Callie’s skills to the test, O’Conner’s career at risk, and both their hearts on the line…literally.

Review:
When I was approached by Recorded Books to participate in their reviewer program I was intrigued and when I saw the wide variety of books and narrators I was in heaven. So I figured I would try a new to me author and a new to me narrator to kick things off. Haha, I’m a bit nuts what can I say. I know you are probably thinking, new to you for both of them, they are both popular in their respective skills, but for some reason I’d just never gotten around to reading or listening to anything done by them. But anyways onto the book/narration…

The first book in a new series I find is normally the weakest, especially in Paranormal Romance/UF because there is significant world-building that needs to go on, and it can’t all happen in one book without a huge information dump. I appreciated how Ms Ivy approached this – there was a steady flow of world building and characterization through-out the narrative. I never felt like I was getting over-loaded.

The use of a necromancy and individuals having the ability to see dead people and what they experienced prior to death was kind of cool and not something I remember coming across in a romance novel before (at least not when it isn’t just the evil person involved in it). I will admit that Callie did irk me on occasion, she seemed a bit goody-goody at times, but she grew on me as the story progressed. But I fell in love with Duncan, the H, from the get-go. There was something about him that just drew me to him. Maybe it was how he didn’t necessarily demonize those with special abilities since he didn’t have any – he may have been skeptical, but he was willing to work with them.

The story itself was well developed and enjoyable – I was kept guessing on what was going to happen next – which made me appreciate the writing skills of the author – i wasn’t bored while listening. That being said, I know a lot of people love Jim Frangione as a narrator, but it took me a while to warm up to him. Overtime i’ve come to realize that I prefer dual narration audiobooks (yes, I know that they are more expensive/time-consuming to produce) – but I know very few men who narrate the female voice well and vice versa. And while I really liked Jim’s interpretation of Duncan, I found his voice for Callie to be ear-grating for the first couple of hours until I got used to his tone/candance. His pacing was good – I never felt the need the either speed up or slow down the narration, and his vareity of voices worked well with the book – there weren’t so many that they got mixed up, but he could make them all unique in their own way.

Overall, I’d be interested in reading another book by this author (be it in the next in the series, or another book) and listening to other books narrated by Frangione. I gave both the book and the narration 3 stars.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Here There Be Dragons – James A Owens

here there be dragonsHere There Be Dragons
Author: James A Owens
Series: #1 in the The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series

Narrator: James Langton
Run Time: 8hrs and 27 minutes

Description:
The Imaginarium Geographica

“What is it?” John asked.
The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow.
“It is the world, my boy,” he said. “All the world, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the world, and it is yours to save or lose.”

An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.

Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds.

Review:
So my initial thought after finishing this was how the heck have I not read/listened to this author before. I initially bought it back in February of 2011 and then never listened to it, but I needed a book that had been shelved as fantasy and sci-fi for a challenge, as well as trying to knock off some of my purchased and not listened books off the pile. I was immediately sucked into the story. Its actually pretty easy to describe – take any fantasy book that you have probably heard of in the past, and then mash all of the various worlds together into a series of islands and a governing council and you’ll have the basis of the story.

It begins in 1920(ish) England, so there was immediately a historical feel to the story, along with the impact of the war, which is felt by several of the main characters. We are introduced to Jack, John and Charles who are the protagonists of the story (and there is a pretty cool twist at the end over who the main characters really are). A murder of a mentor and the mission to protect the Imaginarium Geographica, or the atlas of all the imaginary worlds that we believe exist.

The entire story was like a roller coaster of adventure – it was literally on the go from the get-go – I think the whole book took place only over about a 4 day period (or so it seemed, maybe it took a bit longer). And while it was a longer book, it didn’t feel like it was long – I was sucked in (and for the first time in a long-time I found myself sitting in the car listening to just a couple more minutes…). This is the kind of book that would appeal to not only adults but children, while the main characters were older (in their early 20’s), it was written in a way to appeal to a younger audience with the adventures.

It was my first time listening to a book narrated by James Langton. I do think that his strengths were in the male voices which were the predominate part of the book. While his female voices weren’t bad, they were definately weaker than the male ones. I will say, however, that I plan to see what else he has narrated in the future. I’ve already added the second book in the series to my audible wishlist for a future credit.

Overall, I gave Here, There Be Dragons 4 stars and a high recommendation to other people who enjoy fantasy with touches of realism.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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