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Audiobooks. Hell Divers is a trilogy; this review addresses the first two novels in that the final novel is yet to be published. Book one is just over ten hours of listening, book two just over eight – both are narrated by R. C. Bray, and released by Blackstone Audio in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

This is a post apocalypse story, SciFi. Start with book one, Hell Divers, as there are references in book two, Hell Divers II, Ghosts. The earth is in a nuclear winter, lots of violent storms, radiation, and creepy creatures/monsters that are mutant bad-asses. It seems that a couple of centuries ago we annihilated the earth in a war of some sort and only a few hundred people survived. Survivors have lived on enormous airships that hover over the globe at about 20,000 feet. There is a class system, folks in deeper poverty are on lower decks, not sure how that’s established, i.,e who is upper class who is lower and why – this isn’t clarified. It’s been a couple of centuries, and although there are no details relating to this either, many generations must never have left the ships.

In order for the ships to stay afloat, supplies, tools, repair material are retrieved from the surface of the planet – Hell Divers do the job. The resident mutants and monsters do their best to make dinner out of any divers, and they frequently succeed – grizzly details provided. In addition, a couple of divers wind up stranded on earth amongst the bad-ass mutants, and are constantly on the run from mutants and plants with jaws. (Yeah, you read that right) Thus is the thrust.

Some holes that nerds like me notice: There is a kid in the story that wears a tin-foil hat. Cool, I like tin-foil hats. Okie – where’d the tin foil come from? No foil manufacturers. Eye make-up … really? A ship contains 400-500 people at the moment. How many initially? Any population issues to speak of after 200-300 years? There is no mention of a governmental structure, no mention of an education  or religious systems – nothing. No mention of basic needs, like water, recycling, waste management. In book two it’s stated that a criminal is given the choice of spending life in the brig or becoming a diver. In book one, the author indicates the divers are heroes – they dive so that the remainder of humanity will survive. Conflicting. Would be nice if the author had been more consistent and comprehensive in world-building. Plenty of room to do this, and it is, after all, what SciFi is all about.

The entire concept is creative, sort of reminds me of 2012 with airships/nuclear war instead of arks/earthquakes. There is tremendous potential to develop a world that the author misses. There is way too much time spent on diver/monster battle descriptions rather than the lives of the survivors and world building on the airships.  But, that’s just me – you may find it peachy.

Narration by R. C. Bray is fine, nothing special, but no issues.

Because of the discrepancies in the fundamental story, not recommended to the nit-picky. If you’re really into SciFi and are willing to ignore some obvious oopses, this series has decent ratings, so … whadda-I-know. No sex, no objectionable language, nothing offensive. Some violence.

  

 

Looking for a screenwriter to create a script from a romance novel. Do not want the story arc changed, just converted to a marketable script. This is a 400 page novel, you’ll be doing considerable work to cut the story to a 90 minute movie or a mini-series and maintain the story line.

You will be ghost writing – I’m looking for an excellent, workable draft.

Cinematic material here, several reviews say something similar to “can’t wait for the movie”.

Contacts in the production world considered but not required.

Dollars open to discussion, must be willing to sign a non-disclosure or ghostwriter contract.

The novel can be found here: Amazon

Contact me below. Full details please. I.e., how much, how long, terms, your experience, contacts, references.

 

Life After Life is a story of reincarnation. The lead character relives her life over and over, many times – the same life with different paths taken. In one, she lives but seconds, in others much longer, with joys and grief – but primarily angst. Example: In an early life, she dies from strangulation from the umbilical cord – in another life – many chapters later, mom is prepared with scissors. In one life she’s raped, in another life she suspects the event and avoids rape. In one life she marries an-asshole-wife-beating-jackass, in another life she meets the stranger in the same way but runs from him. That’s sort of stuff, pretty much, with one world history altering event. Hint: WWII-Germany. The author uses deja vù or sixth sense understanding rather than past life memories or discussion of reincarnation specifics.

Liked: Narration. Fenella Woolgar is very listenable, a pleasure. I’ll try to find other works she’s read.

Disliked: Everything else. The story is extremely hard to follow. If you’re like me, you’ll re-listen to a passage or chapter to get it straight, to understand the story or where the author is headed. This book is rewind hell – and I still didn’t get it, ergo stopped trying. Although I’m far from an expert in the theory of reincarnation, I don’t believe the fundamentals include reliving the same life and making different choices. I may be all wet there, but I think you are reincarnated to an entirely different life. Plus, the lead doesn’t always “die” – but you’ll learn she actually did because the next chapter opens with the fact that it is snowing. Really. If you’re looking for a book that delves into the conundrums of reincarnation and resulting ramifications from a scientific view, this is not the book – it doesn’t go there.

Tried to listen, but gave up and will be requesting a refund from Audible. Eyes kept glazing over through 95% of the first 21 chapters, didn’t listen to the remainder. The audiobook is just over 15 hours, but even listening to only 2/3rds of this I know I listened at least 20 hours (rewinds). I am truly baffled by all the stellar reviews – the main reason I purchased. Beats me.

Not recommended. Written by Kate Atkinson, narrated by Fenella Woolgar, 15.5 of listening in unabridged audiobook format. Released in April of 2013 by Hachette Audio.

 

Liked: The fundamental plot, great premise for a SciFi story. The main protagonist, traveling alone, arrives at a research vessel orbiting a distant planet and finds the small crew in serious trouble. They are having visions. He soon has visions of his own. Thus is the thrust.

Didn’t like: The thrust of the story is simply a vehicle for the author to pontificate about life, humanity, relationships, pretty much everything is philosophized about – except the fundamental plot. Way too much blather about nonsensical viewpoints or self analysis that the author wishes to convey. Most have nothing to do with the story and will likely make you yawn.

Excellent translation from Polish by Bill Johnston, nicely narrated by Alessandro Juliani, close to eight hours of listening in unabridged format, released in June of 2011 by Audible.

 

Time is the 1920s through the end of WWII. The story is one of a naive girl swept to stardom during the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich in Germany. Sleazy bars where drugs and trans entertainers are lauded to elegant entertainment stages through France, Germany, New York, with little name dropping cameos by Marlene Deitrich, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Gershwin brothers, Ziegfeld, Ruby Keeler, Al Jolson, Durante, etc.

Wild Lavender is essentially a love story between a cabaret-style entertainer and a priest – the two being raised together from childhood and he sheltering her from the Nazis when they are adults. She’s been mad about him since they were kids, but he has felt obligated to the church. The plot is a familiar one – priest and damsel in distress – some parts made me think of The Thornbirds, but Wild Lavender isn’t nearly as good.

No explicit language or sex scenes. If you’re interested in WWII, you might find it interesting – but it’s not a the typical ‘war’ book – think more along the lines of the musical Cabaret.

Audiobook narrated by Kate Hood – no issues with narration, about 20 hours in listening, released by Bolinda Publishing to Audible in 2005.

 

The series is SciFi-Fantasy. A time machine reveals that the end of the world will occur in 2111. Three heroic individuals are ‘extracted’ from their current lives/times to prevent the apocalypse. An interesting and promising premise. However, the main thrust, i.e., saving the world, is simply a vehicle for the author to move characters through time and have incredibly mundane conversations. The main characters argue about how to say 2111. Twenty one eleven? Two thousand one eleven? Really? Oh … wait … the world is ending! A WWII soldier becomes a Harry Potter fan – really? The characters banter for several paragraphs and through much stupid dialogue about if or not a character should ‘wank’, masturbate, to release tension. Really?? Oh … wait … the world is ending. A great deal of time spent on the psyche due to confinement … really??  Hello! The world is ending! The author should have spent much more time developing the fundamental plot instead of dwelling on character behaviors and interaction that adds nothing to the story.

Audiobooks listened to, Extracted and Executed, are about 12 hours of listening each, narrated by Carl Prekopp, stories written by R. R. Haywood.  No particular issues with narration, Prekopp can only do so much with the material. You’ll have no issues with the reading.

Vulgar language might offend. No sex scenes, some violent scenes.

However, after struggling to the meat of the story through two books, the motivation to continue just isn’t there. Must be some merit to this series based on some stellar reviews. Beats me – not my cup ‘o tea.

  

 

Liked: Lineage – A Supernatural Thriller is a hide-under-the-covers ghost story. So, if you’re in the mood for the creepy, this’ll do. Plot, premise – all cool.

Didn’t like: Narration by Neil Hellegers. Everything is conveyed in a manner to evoke hair-raising fright. Everything. In my opinion, this manner of reading a horror story takes away from those passages that are truly chilling. Ergo, it’s overdone – considerably. Narrators are supposed to make an already good book better with artful audio interpretation. Hellegers fails.

Summary: The story opens with a grizzly scene in a Nazi concentration camp as a young boy witnesses the brutal murder of his parents. Flash forward to the 80s and the horrible abuse of another young boy by a sadistic father. Flash forward again to modern day and the boy is now a successful author struggling with writer’s block. He decides to vacation on Lake Superior to rekindle his muse. Lots of inner turmoil ensues as he struggles with the past and the ghostly present.

Just over twelve hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format. Released in June of 2016 by Tantor Audio.

Recommend listening to the audio sample before purchasing the audiobook. If you can handle the emoting of the narrator, go for it. Otherwise, go for an eBook or paperback. A decent ghost story.

 

Charade opens with a series of deadly accidents: A jealous husband murders a cheating wife; a young man drowns in a car accident, another in a motorcycle crash; an old lady falls; a man is killed in a chainsaw accident. Some of these hapless souls are the recipients of heart transplants – some are heart donors.

A beautiful soap opera star, Cat, is stricken with heart failure and after receiving a donor heart, changes her life to one of helping homeless children. The who-done-it is off and running when she determines that she, too, is a target because of her donor heart. Who’s trying to kill Cat? Why? Thus is the thrust!

Liked: There are plenty of potential bad guys, which makes this a fun guessing game throughout the story. The author does a terrific job presenting details confirming the guilt of a character, then throws a curve. The reader will enjoy some creative twists.

Didn’t Like: There is also a bit of eye-rolling – some stuff just to obviously absurd. Also, there are several gratuitous sex scenes that  add nothing to the story and should have been fade-to-black. *Sigh-fast-forward.*

If you can get past some campy dialogue and wet-panty silliness, the mystery is a good one.

 

These comments address two audiobooks by Bill Schweigart released by Tantor Audio in late 2016. The Beast of Barcroft is about seven hours in length, Northwoods just over ten. Both are narrated by Will Damron.

Didn’t like: Narration is laboriously slow, ergo set Audible application to 1.5 – normal speed, in addition to Damron’s soft voice, will put you to sleep regardless of scary moments. Although there’s little trouble discerning who-is-speaking-to-who, there isn’t a uniqueness to voices. They all sound similar, male/female. Plots are not very creative. In Beasts, an unknown, but scary, creature is terrifying a small town and good guys figure it out. In Northwoods, the same batch of good guys save the day again from an equally scary creature.

Liked: The ‘hide-under-the-covers’ moments. If you like the horror story genre, these fit the bill – shape-shifting, ferocious coyotes and wolves and hyenas, bloody zombies, glowing-eyes traverse the pages. Action scenes are exciting.

That said, some imagery is a bit confusing. The literary visions of Schweigart leave the reader to imagine quite a bit. In the horror genre, sometimes this isn’t all bad.

The books are not identified as a series – although they should be; there is no doubt you should read Beasts first. There is also no doubt there will be subsequent novels, as book two – Northwoods – ends abruptly with the line “We’re going to Jersey. No spoilers – but, guess that’s a hint?

No gratuitous sex, some language issues but very rare and none inappropriate to the circumstance or character.

Recommended only those who enjoy horror stories.

  

 

Narrated by Jessica Ball, released by Bolinda Publishing in January-2017, just about ten hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format.

Everything You Told Me is the story of a young mother who ‘comes to’  hundreds of miles from home. She’s in her pajamas, and seemingly ready to step off a cliff. But, she doesn’t – saved by a stranger. There’s a suicide note. But — none of this can possibly be ‘real’. She’s not suicidal and has no idea what has happened. The last thing she remembers is getting into bed. Thus is the thrust.

Liked: The book is sort of like driving by a bad car wreck – ya feel guilty for looking.

Didn’t like: None of the characters are likable – nobody. The premise is interesting, but the delivery is wanting. There are way too many eye-rolling instances. You’ll hover over fast-forward to get to the point, many times. Very repetitive and would have been a good short story – but is a tedious novel.

No gratuitous sex scenes, no objectionable language – a clean read. Narration is fine, no issues.

Difficult to get through this book without sighing. Not a page-turner. Not recommended.

 

These comments reference the entire series of The Camel Club, at this writing consisting of five novels. Audiobooks, unabridged, all released by Hachette Audio from 2005 through 2017, lengths from ten to sixteen hours. All novels are narrated by Ron McLarty with the exception of Book 1, narrated by LJ Ganser. Typical Baldacci audiobooks, lots of music, sound effects, solid productions. Although there are no audio issues of note, the McLarty renditions are a cut above.  Hell’s Corner narration includes Orlagh Cassidy reading the female voices – a nice touch. No trouble discerning who-says-what-to-who in any book.

Oliver Stone is a great character, a bit quirky, but a stand-up fellow who takes patriotism seriously. Oliver and his small band of close friends find themselves in defense of our country, themselves, and the right side of justice … you’ll enjoy rooting for the gang.

No gratuitous sex scenes, no objectionable language – clean reads.

Super adventures. Enjoy!

  

 

 

You’ll find a better  synopsis elsewhere, but briefly: A secret service agent attempts to assassinate POTUS believing the president is a psychopath who murdered his wife. The agent has been ‘mind controlled’ with some form of false memories and has never married. Also, some bad guys are planning to destroy the United States by burning the country to cinders. I must assume these two disparate issues meld into a plot … somewhere.

It is acceptable to expect the reader to stretch the imagination when absorbing fiction. But, Game Changer is expecting too much stretching. I tried, I really did. I actually listened to at least 8 hours of this book before I quit. The idea of memory modification as the basis for a fictional story is a good one, believable. But, the premise presented in this story is just plain silly. In addition, the book is clichè ridden with sappy comedic lines at inappropriate moments. I gave up eye rolling.

Narration by Joe Hempel is okay, no issues.

15 hours of listening in unabridged audio, released by Audible Studios in 2016.

Not my cup ‘o tea.

 

The audiobook version of Replay is just over eleven hours of listening, narrated by William Dufris, released in 2008 by Tantor Audio – originally published in the late 1980s.

Replay opens with a middle-aged guy dying at his desk of a heart attack and immediately ‘coming to’ at the age of 18 in his dorm room. He gets a chance at another life, taking full advantage of what he knows of the future making him a wealthy man. But, he dies of a heart attack again … and again … and again … each time given the same opportunities, foibles to overcome, remembering his previous lives completely. In the last couple of “replays” he has come across another person, a woman, who is also replaying her life, over and over again. And these life-spans are getting shorter, and shorter, and ….

Why does this happen … or does something similar happen to all of us and we just don’t know it? Mmmmm. Food for thought that may have you thinking about this book long after you finish reading.

Nicely narrated by William Dufris. No issues with audio production.

As an aside … Grimwood authored other books under the name Alan Cochran, but the most interesting fact is that he died of a heart attack. Ironic.

A decent listen.

 

Charlie Flag is a Texas rancher living through a devastating drought, helpless in the depletion of his livestock and the devastation of his once healthy land. Although a years-long drought is a catalyst to the story, The Time It Never Rained is also a familial tale, a story of the relationship between Mexican immigrants and the Texas rancher, and an insightful representation of ranching life. The book is eye-opening picture of federal government influence/interference in ranching – be it livestock or crops, the feds think they know better than the farmer/rancher. Sad commentary and a depressing picture.

No explicit sex, no unacceptable language, a clean read … albeit very realistic in farm animal treatment (no abuse). The Time It Never Rained is over thirteen hours of listening, and released to Audible in 2008 by Recorded Books.

Narration by George Guidall is terrific, as usual.

A worthy listen, recommended.

 

Orphan Train is narrated by Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren. The audiobook is about 8.5 hours of listening in unabridged format. Released in April 2013 by Audible Studios.

This is a captivating story encompassing the lives of two orphans. One, a woman in her nineties, the other a rebellious teenaged girl. A good deal of the story involves flashbacks. The older woman reminisces through boxes of memorabilia in her attic, things the younger woman is helping to clean out. The memories include her journey as an orphan … beginning on a train in New York to the midwest, through her youth and marriage.

What I liked. Orphan Train is very educational for anyone unfamiliar with the orphan trains of the 1930s. Illness or tragedy resulted in many immigrant orphans, those children whose parents did not survive the rigors of an Atlantic crossing or New York poverty. The kids, including infants, were transported via train to whistle stops throughout the midwest in hopes of eventual adoption. The abuse and servitude of these kids is appalling.

What I didn’t like. Whatever you do, listen to the audio sample. You’ll hear a cartoon chipmunk. The voice just doesn’t work for me and the saving factor is the story itself. The diction and presentation are fine … but the narration is juvenile and suited to children’s audio … not a good voice for Orphan Train.

No explicit sex, no offensive language. A decent listen with the codicil above.

 

A long audiobook in an unabridged format, close to 35 hours of listening. Released by Audible Studios in November of 2011, but originally published in the 1980s.

Swan Song opens with a bang – an airplane containing top government officials, including the U. S. President, crashes. WWIII begins and ends in hours. Bombs fall everywhere. Cities are gone, a nuclear winter begins.

Central to the story is a woman named ‘Sister’. A New York City street person, Sister is outside a jewelry-row area of shops shortly after the bombs fall. She finds a fused piece of glass containing emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, etc., that, before the bombs fell, would have been worth millions – now it’s just a pretty piece of glass. But … is it? It glows, and within it, Sister sees visions that take her across the country in search of Swan.

Swan is a little girl who can feel ‘life’ in the earth and plants … and she can make things grow.

Liked: The author’s perception of life after an apocalypse.  The human spirit prevails through devastation beyond measure. It takes a while to get there, but we eventually find uplifting hope for mankind, even though there is considerable creative license taken with grizzly evil-doers. Lots of quirky characters that have their own little story.

Didn’t like: Would have been just as good a story without the ‘magical’ element, especially ‘evil’ magic, but hey … it’s fiction. So, stretch the imagination. Second gripe is with regard to some pretty fundamental issues. How do you feed an army of thousands of men for years when the earth is virtually dead? I mean, these guys gotta eat, right? The author intimates they’ve pilfered pantries, etc., but that would have been over within the first couple of years. So…what did they eat? Third, it’s been 7-8 years since the bombs fell and we can still scrounge for gasoline to run vehicles? Really? I sort of doubt it.

Narration by Tom Stechschulte is great. Lots of characters with unique voices, male and female alike. You’ll have no trouble discerning who-says-what-to-who. Good audio production. No sex or offensive language beyond what is appropriate for the character or scene. Some graphic description of man’s inhumanity to man.

Overall, a very long, epic, mystical, apocalyptic journey – a worthy read.

 

Narrated by Scott Brick, close to 18 hours of listening, released by Audible in 2009 by Hachette Audio.

The General’s Daughter is a young woman found dead on a military shooting range. Sleuthing begins.

Didn’t like: First, the lead protagonist, Paul Brenner, is ordered by his superior to recreate the murder scene with his female partner, a rape specialist, in an effort to determine if a woman could escape the bonds. The victim was found naked, arms and legs spread akimbo and she is tied to stakes. The two characters have a prior sexual relationship. A bit contrived? Brenner even says, “I’m looking forward to it.” Secondly, the female investigator is a rape specialist – but auto-asficiation/erotica and necrophilia behavior needs explained by Paul Brenner. Repeat: she’s a rape specialist and they are investigating a sexual assault. Gimme a break, if the lead female character has a Masters in Criminology specializing in rape, as indicated by DeMille, she knows what auto-asfixiation and necrophilia are.  We all know women are weak little flowers that need type A men to man-splane everything.

Liked: The mystery is a good one. There are many potential suspects including the victim’s father – the guessing is always fun.

If you can take sexist bullshit in character development, go for it.

 

If you want to get a young-adult-girl interested in reading, this one would make a great gift. The Wedding Dress is a story of a wedding dress boutique owner who buys an old trunk containing … wait for it … a wedding dress. The sleuthing begins and moves through the lives of the three women who have worn the dress since it was custom made in 1912.

The Wedding Dress is a terrific novel for a young adult, tween female, or a die hard romantic. Not intended to be great literature but simply pleasant reading requiring no deep thought … only significant tolerance for strong Christian beliefs. If you’re looking for a nail-biting-page-turner, I suggest you skip it. More along the lines of a decent Nancy Drew-Christian Romance that will keep you interested.

No foul language, no sex, nothing but sweet syrup for the soul.

Narration by Eleni Pappageorge is fine, a respectable variety of voices, well produced. No issues with tempo, production, etc.

Close to ten hours of listening, The Wedding Dress  is written by Rachel Hauck, published by Oasis Audio, and released by Audible in 2012. A decent story and very listenable for the right audience.

 

Audiobook narrated by Jeff Woodman, released by Audible Studios, just over eight hours of listening. However, I listened to the first hour and executed a refund.

The description of the book was intriguing and the book available via Audible Daily Deal, so I bit. Excluding unnecessary four-letter words, it should clearly be identified as young adult with parental supervision. How’s that for convoluted? The writing and narration are juvenile.

You may find it peachy, but I suggest you listen to the sample and read reviews before investing. There are several decent reviews, so there must be some value to this book. Beats me.  Not my cup ‘o tea.

 

These comments are in regard to the entire series which encompasses, as of this writing, six novels. Released from 2010 through 2017 by Audible Studios and narrated by Jay Snyder. These are unabridged, full length novels, ranging in length from eleven to eighteen hours. The Gray Man is a CIA operative – deep undercover-black ops. If you are a fan of page-turning, double-taps, and splattering brain matter — well, ‘ya found a series.

The lead character, Court Gentry, is a Jack Ryan or Mitch Rapp or James Bond or Jason Bourne… well, you get the idea. Although no explicit description is given, it wouldn’t take much to imagine him as a Type-A, patriotic, tough guy with a gentle heart. He’s a decent guy, ergo only takes out the bad guys. But he takes out a lot of ‘m. Lots.

Well researched, both in military ops and local color. No explicit sex, no language inappropriate to the character or situation. Very imaginative scenes, lots and lots of shoot-m-up stuff, and surprising plot twists. The action is breathtakingly fast – very well written. You’ll find full synopsis reviews elsewhere, but briefly: Court Gentry has been royally screwed by the CIA and he goes through hell and back to find out why. He gets into many jams there is no way he can get out of … no way … but somehow….

Anything more gives away too much fun. For the most enjoyment, start with Book 1, The Gray Man.

Jay Snyder does narration for the entire series, and is excellent. No issues. You’ll have no trouble discerning who-says-what-to-who. Only one minor complaint. At one time a character is supposed to be voiced with a Chicago/midwestern accent. Well, it’s not even close and sounds more like the Bronx. Small stuff, huh.

Anyway … these books are not great literature – just darned fun espionage. No doubt, there will be more books to the series. Enjoy!

  
  

 

As of this writing, there are seven books by Greg Iles featuring the lead character of Penn Cage. These comments encompass the entire series. All books are lengthy, full length novels. The exception is The Death Factory, a three hour novella – written mid-way in the series. Frankly, my opinion, skip this book as it adds nothing to the series. There are many, many reviews, so I will skip synopsis – you’ll have no trouble finding more details on each book.

Briefly, the lead protagonist, Penn Cage, is the ultimate ‘good-guy’ in the series. Although Iles refrains from explicit physical description, it isn’t difficult to imagine him, i.e., the tall-dark-handsome-sympathetic widower. Cage, an attorney, returns to his childhood home of Natchez in hopes that the environment will ease the grief of his wife’s death – particularly for his little girl. In short order, Cage is mayor of Natchez and the adventures begin. The novels are sprinkled with unique characters, i.e., an opportunistic black attorney, a jack-booted thug sheriff, innocent victims, a kind hearted doctor, unbridled racism, people to trust, people to fear – secrets – something for everyone.

No explicit sex, no language inappropriate to the scene or character. Worthy listens, albeit long books. But, I like them long.

   
  

 

The full title of  this book is The Boy Who Knew Too Much: An Astounding True Story of a Young Boy’s Past-Life Memories – a bit misleading in that much of the book details the past-life memories of Cathy Byrd, the author of this book and the mother of the ‘young boy’.

The book is non-fiction, ergo a factual representation of reincarnation. The boy is the reincarnation of Lou Gehrig – Byrd the reincarnation of Christina Gehrig, Lou’s mother.

Pros: There are many ‘what-if’ scenarios for the believer and skeptic alike. Reincarnation is considered a reality by far more people than one would think – a few billion … many more believe than dis-believe. There are many details in this story that are difficult to debunk and hard to answer in any way other than a past-life. Easy to believe.

Cons: The ‘stage mother’ comes to mind in Byrd’s behavior several times and in the overall presentation of this book. On the one hand, she indicates a desperate desire for her son to be a normal boy. A few chapters later she’s dragging the kid to Lou Gehrig’s childhood home, Cooperstown, chasing down her own reincarnation as Gehrig’s mother, and encouraging his child-memories. The book comes across as a media hog self-indulgently taking advantage of her son. Criticism is also given for Byrd’s lack of detail regarding her own hypnotic vulnerability – she falls into her previous life immediately – also, the name-dropping is a bit overdone and annoying.

These comments are from a person with a very open mind to the possibility of reincarnation. However, with The Boy Who Knew Too Much, my cons stretch the credibility of the entire book and for these reasons, I disliked it. You may find it peachy.

 

Yesterday by Samyann

Amanda Parker happens to be in the right place at the right time to save Officer Mark Callahan from certain death. As they take refuge in Ed Morgen’s antique store to assess their injuries, neither of them can shake the feeling that they have met before. This feeling only strengthens with Amanda’s acquisition of a smoked damaged grandfather clock which chimes St. Michael’s bells on the hour. Hoping to solve the mystery, she agrees to a past life regression session but is unprepared for what she discovers.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Both the present day story and the regression segments were well developed. The characters were full-bodied and realistically flawed. The scene descriptions were detailed and believable. Mark’s occasional departure into Irish brogue and Amanda’s colloquiums added depth to the dialogues. Even the issues Amanda experiences because of undergoing the past life regressions were tenable. I was disappointed when the book ended. I would have loved to explore more of Amanda and Mark’s past lives. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.

The story was full of innuendos and hidden coincidences, some of which were explained in the past life regression segments. Those sections were so complete they could have been taken and made into a separate novel. I’m not a believer in reincarnation yet this book made me want to suspend my disbelief for a time. It was a thoroughly romantic read.

I enjoyed the inclusion of historical facts. St. Michael’s Church, where the St. Michael’s Chimes originate, is a real church in Charleston, South Carolina. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which damages the grandfather clock, was an actual event. Officer Callahan is a mounted police officer. Chicago has a mounted police force. Many of the places pivotal to the story can actually be visited. The author even includes instructions for making a Confederate candle and Idiot’s Delight, a Civil War era treat, demonstrating the depth of research that went into crafting this book.

If you are looking for romance, this book is for you. If you are looking for a great story, this book is for you. If you are looking for historical fiction full of vivid color and action, this book is for you. This is a perfect book for rainy days or sunny beach days or well, any day. I’m sure that you will get as caught up in the many lives of Amanda and Mark as I did.

Review

Thank you!

Samyann

 

“Samyann is a Chicago native, who has a lifelong fascination with the rich history of her city, coupled with an abiding curiosity about the intersection of past, present, and future”, states the biography. With a central focus around the American Civil War and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the genre presented is that of a historical novel. But, it is also ‘a tender love story’, a romantic tale of reincarnation, and a story with considerable insight into the savage quagmire of being human across the ages. The dialogue highlights the context, with characters that come alive across telling cameos.

The author engages readers with psychotherapeutic Past Life Regression, historical heart-breaking facts and anecdotes, interspersed with a burgeoning romance. Intriguing anecdotes are skillfully woven together with an antiquarian theme that resonates during the rather hypnotic chime of the grandfather clock. One is literally drawn back to heroine Amanda’s baby-blues during the stor(ies) that morph throughout the novel.

Certain symbols form intriguing sub-text or sub-stories that captivate the reader, with the odd dash of Irish Celtic expression and nostalgic tales of bells that apparently sing like angels. These side-liners make a colourful context possible, and aid the imagination in creating strong visuals as the central story unfolds. Readers connect with topics that are controversial or hard-to-believe, and at times seem fantastical, although they are, in fact, grounded in reality and possibility. Thus, the book slides into an unexpected page-turner.

When Mark and Amanda meet under dire circumstances, Mark feels irrevocably drawn to Amanda – almost as if he already knows her. The two show definitive character appeal early on – they subconsciously represent different sides to the same coin, mediated by lovable godmother Mary. They also fight for the possibility that love can be found and expressed in unique and individual ways.

With an interesting vernacular that adds a distinct element of humanness in the dialogue, recreated through Southern charm and the relationships between the local negroes and their white charges, the atmosphere around the Civil War is scarily brought to life. There is a tangible and authentic presence of the ‘other’ story within a story – and a great post-modern tilt.

All of this sounds intellectually driven. It isn’t. These observations are about the elements through which this novel can be appreciated, with impressions about the ways in which the author’s intent and artistic inspiration reveal a carefully constructed story well worth reading. If you liked The Time Traveller’s Wife, you’ll find yourself drawn in, and equally captivated but for different reasons, as there is less ‘science fiction’ and more grounding in realistic principles of a subject that has proven research and a great deal of heart and mind combined behind it.

This novel has clearly been edited as there few errors, if any, and this is much appreciated as it helps the story flow and avoids distractions. I therefore rated the book 4 out of 4.

Review

***

Wow, wonderful review. Thank you!

Samyann

***

 

Narrated by Christopher Hurt, a long book – over thirty-two hours of listening. This unabridged audiobook was released in 2007 by Blackstone Audio – the original printed version goes way back to 1943.

To get full value from The Fountainhead, read up on Ayn Rand. Consider where she comes from and the original release date – 1943, the height of WWII. The Fountainhead is a platform for the fundamental beliefs of Ayn Rand, which is conveyed via the trials of Howard Roarke, the lead character. Howard is an architect who bucks the system to maintain his design integrity – like most ‘artists’.

Although on board with most of Ayn Rand’s beliefs, I take umbrage with the author portrayal of the Type A male being the end-all choice for women, even in 1943. I got the impression that Ayn Rand lived vicariously through the character of Dominique – creepy as hell given Roarke raped Dominique – and Dominique was not only ‘okay’ with it, but liked it. Yuk.

Should you opt to listen, be prepared for long-winded diatribes conveying Rand’s philosophies on individualism and objectivism. Lots of them.  In fact, I’m of the belief that the novel is much more philosophy than literature. Although I finished the book, simply to say ‘Yeah, I read The Fountainhead’,  it’s a way too preachy for my taste. You may think it’s just great.

No issues with narration.

You either like Ayn Rand, or you don’t. Do some research before you jump in!

 

Narrated by Michael Page, over sixteen hours of listening. This unabridged audiobook was released in 2008 by Blackstone Audio – although the original print version goes back to the late 90s.

A Dangerous Fortune is a mystery – however, you understand who the bad-guys are throughout. Not a thriller, rather a family saga riddled with black sheep and spoiled brats. Takes place in England, beginning in the 1860s through the 1890s.  All topics from rags to riches to homosexuality to illegitimacy to prostitution to elicit affairs to high stakes banking. A plethora of topics,  including noble ethical standards, kindness, greed, debauchery, murder. Something for everyone! The story begins with a school drowning, the ramifications of which traverse the pages to a somewhat predictable ending.

Typical of Follett, settings in A Dangerous Fortune, are wonderfully defined. The era, costumes, class system … you feel as if you are there, in that place, at that time – cinematic scenes. It took me a while to get hooked on the story … but after struggling through a few chapters, the soap opera aspect pulled me through to the conclusion.

Michael Page does a credible job, female voices included. No trouble discerning who-says-what-to-who. Tempo, pacing fine. A production issue with the repeat of a few paragraphs in the recording, not a major issue … still.

No gratuitous sex, but there are several such scenes relevant to the plot/character.

Overall, a worthy listen. Enjoy!

 
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Yesterday, February 10, 2017
By
Celeste Groenewald
This review is from: Yesterday: A Novel of Reincarnation (Kindle Edition)
Yesterday: A Novel of Reincarnation by Samyann is a romance novel set in contemporary Chicago. The narrative is a dialogue between the present and the past, wherein the theme of reincarnation is explored in the deepening bond between Amanda Parker and Mark Callahan and their memories of their 19th century past selves.

They meet when Amanda saves Mark’s life from a derailing train in the city. Among the debris and the chaos of the disaster, they experience a strange feeling that they have met before. An antique clock Amanda is inexplicably drawn to motivates the couple to investigate what they suspect are past life memories of their relationship during the late 19th century. During her past life regressions, Amanda relives episodes from her previous life as Bonnie, a girl who endured a traumatic escape from the American Civil War-ravaged South before finally settling in Chicago.

Reincarnation is definitely an interesting theme to encounter in a work of fiction because theories and beliefs about it are normally found in serious esoteric texts. Samyann’s fascination with reincarnation and cyclical time is apparent in the novel, and I enjoyed her use of symbols to keep the narrative tied to the theme: her symbols range from the literal grandfather clock to the arcane ones she leaves for the reader to discover. The author’s research is impeccable (the author’s note at the end was a nice touch). Samyann knows her setting and it shows in her writing. Her Chicago is not a backdrop but a living world. The transitions between past and present and vice versa were smooth and well-timed. The past-life segments of the narrative integrated historical facts and fiction seamlessly and I read them with interest – the author has the imaginative flair needed to breathe life into historical accounts. The inclusion of history lent weight to the story as a whole and not only as a support for the reincarnation theme. I would have liked to read more from the 19th-century perspective, but this wish of mine is simply a reflection of how well the author handled the narrative from Bonnie’s point of view. Yesterday is elegantly written.

What concerned me is that the characters are worryingly classifiable into stereotypes. Despite the twist – Amanda’s act of heroism in the beginning of the novel – the characterisation remains a tad flat throughout the rest of the story. Something else that bothered me about the character web is that the other characters cater to her to an unrealistic degree. The romantic development between Mark and Amanda was quite syrupy and slowed the narrative down – despite the excellent aspects of the novel, it was a very slow read for me because of this. Amanda is too perfect for me to identify or empathise with.

I rate Yesterday 3 out of 4. The novel is redeemed by the quality of the writing and the integration of historical events into the narrative – if I were to recommend it to anyone, it would be to enjoy the writing. I can’t give it a 4 because the characterisation detracted too much and the romance genre as a medium limits the visionary or philosophical scope of the reincarnation concept.

 

This review addresses four novels comprising The Huntress/FBI Thrillers Series by Alexandra Sokoloff. The entire series is approximately 40 hours of listening in the unabridged format, pretty close to equal in length. Book 1, The Huntress Moon indicates publication by the author – the remaining three by Brilliance Audio. A self-publishing success story here? The audio formats were released over a two year period, 2014-2016. With a little research you’ll find Alexandra Sokoloff is the recipient of numerous awards, as is the narrator of all four novels, R. C. Bray.

The FBI Thrillers Series are crime-thriller dramas, the same characters traverse these novels, ergo suggest starting with Book 1, The Huntress Moon. Early in Book 1, an entire family is brutally murdered. Except Cara, five years old.  Cara is shuffled through a system of group homes, shelters, eventually living under the radar on her own. Matthew Roarke is an FBI agent on the hunt of a female serial killer. Cara has been a vigilante killer from the age of 14. She has never targeted anyone that hasn’t deserved it – but, ya don’t want to get in her way. Is Cara psychopathic, psychotic? She sees and hears evil – bad people and situations will cause horrible pain and tragedies. She protects innocents and commits murder. Thus is the thrust of the series.

Why I liked? It’s not difficult to root for Cara – it’s not difficult to root for Roarke. Both main characters are sympathetic, you want them to succeed. But, the success of either may well result in the destruction of the other. What a thought provoking dichotomy!

Why I didn’t like? Well, Cara doesn’t go looking for trouble, but it finds her – virtually everywhere. You must stretch the imagination a bit to believe that evil exists – everywhere. But, hey, it’s fiction.

Narration throughout the series is excellent – R. C. Bray well deserves the accolades he has received for this series. Great pacing, voicing of male/female, etc., excellent.

Overall, well worth the investment. Enjoy!

      

 

Audiobook narrated by Xe Sands, approximately eleven hours of listening, released in 2015 by Macmillan Audio. Trauma is marketed as being written by Michael and Daniel Palmer. Daniel Palmer is Michael’s son and Michael has been dead since 2013; this book was written by Daniel Palmer. Personally, I object to Daniel using his father’s name for promotional purposes. Daniel is talented enough to pursue writing on his own without the use of a familial crutch and should take a page from the playbook of Joe Hill. Joe Hill, author of such terrific stories as Nos4a2,  is the son of Stephen King. Message to Daniel Palmer: Stop using Pop’s name to sell your books, not fair to his memory, not fair to your own talent.

That said … Trauma is a medical  mystery/thriller and is the story of Carrie Bryant, a neurology resident, who makes a horrendous error in the process of prepping a gentleman for brain surgery. She flips, reverses, an X-Ray, resulting in brain surgery being performed on the wrong side of the brain. Big oops, huh. Hard to believe this sort of stuff actually happens, but it does. Carrie’s mistake results in her resignation and a complete lack of confidence moving forward with her medical career. In a short time, through a friend of her father, she is recruited as a neurosurgeon to participate in a new method of treating PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) at a VA Hospital. Problem is the patients keep disappearing. Thus is the thrust of Trauma.

Why I liked? A decent mystery, I’m an easy touch for a good who-done-it … and, in Trauma, we’re not sure who the bad-guy is until the end – I didn’t guess – which is always fun. Narration is fine, Xe Sands does a credible job. Pacing/tempo is good, male/female voices good, basic production good, no trouble with who-is-talking-to-who.

Not so hot? Credibility with regard to the PTSD surgery experiment. Stretch your imagination a bit to swallow the possibilities suggested. The end results is certainly realistic. No spoilers.

Overall, a good story, well read. Enjoy!

 

This review addresses Arcadia’s Daughter by Charles H. Griswold III. The catalyst for this story is an old photograph. Anyone intrigued with Victorian or pre-Civil War death photography will find the basis for this story completely fascinating. Briefly, the lead character, David, finds an old photograph of a girl in her late teens, cradled by her parents. She is dressed in her Sunday best – pretty – and dead. Photographs were expensive in this time period, ergo most people couldn’t afford the birth-to-death-pictorial-histories that we do today. Often, the death photograph might be the only evidence of a person’s existence – it was a treasured part of a family history. The entire concept is gruesome by our standards, but a common practice for grieving families, if they could afford it, prior to the 1870s. You can find many examples on the internet – just ‘google it’.

Arcadia’s Daughter is many things – a mystery, thriller, character study – a terrific SciFi, at minimum. But the story is also a historical novel – a mythological fable –  a tale of familial love. This book has something of interest for everyone. Although David’s obsession with the photograph is the impetus of this story, it is only that. This sad photograph gets the ball rolling through a sweeping adventure to the dark side and back. Wonderfully told, descriptive – a true page turner and terrific introduction to a new author.

Enjoy!

 

Written by Harlan Coben, Fool Me Once is approximately ten hours of listening, narrated by January LaVoy.

Maya, the lead main character, is a PTSD stricken ex-soldier gifted a nanny cam by her bestie girlfriend. On the cam feed she views her husband playing with her daughter. The problem? The husband was dead when the recording was made. Maya was with him in a park when he was murdered by a couple of thugs. Thus is the thrust and the hunt moves forward.

Why I liked? Who-done-it tales are fun, so I usually pop for them. Harlan Coben has authored some of the best. More than a simple murder mystery, Fool Me Once is actually a story of revenge, which ultimately results in an interesting tale.

Not so hot? The behavior of the lead character is, at times, over-the-top and some unbelievable scenarios mess with credibility. Personally, I was suspicious of the main character right away. Maya didn’t seem to have much remorse having witnessed the brutal murder of her husband. Why not was a frequent question that pointed to the fact that she was guilty of something … so ….maybe how and why is the mystery?

The author does a good job getting you into the hunt throughout the story. Overall, a worthy read recommended.

 

A character driven novel, Whistling Past the Graveyard is written by Susan Crandall, narrated by Amy Ruminate, 11.5 hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format. Released in 2013 by Dreamscape Media.

A coming of age tale based in 1963 rural Mississippi. The violence of racism is a main plot point; blacks and whites fear and hate each other. This is an era of segregation – in schools, grocery stores, water fountains, etc. A time of lynchings, KKK fears, burning of black churches. In this vitriolic setting is Starla, a 9 year old white girl who runs away from an unhappy life with her grandmother. Starla is picked up, rescued, on a country road by Eula, a black woman with a white baby.

Get used to Starla being stubborn, selfish, disobedient, and thoughtless. Starla is child with a personality that makes her an unlikeable protagonist. The author clearly intends for her to be a sympathetic character, but has created a self-absorbed, obnoxious brat instead. Confronted with situations that provide opportunity, Starla always picks the wrong road – trouble finds her. Starla’s redeeming factor is an obsessive need to reach her mother in Nashville, naively believing that the woman who abandoned her as an infant will reunite with her father and they’ll all live happily-ever-after.

The author shines in conveying the cultural flavor of the time, both with regard to racism and local colloquy. The book is riddled with sage wisdom. A bit preachy at times with ‘Thank-you baby Jesus.’ sprinkled about a few too many times for my taste. In my opinion, the behavior of the lead character is over-the-top and unrealistic. But that’s just me, you may find it peachy.

Narration is excellent. Timing, accents, inflections, etc., perfect. A sign of a good author is one that can evoke emotion from the reader. Well, Susan Crandall succeeded with this reader. I couldn’t stand the lead character. Ergo, it’s a good book. Convoluted, huh. But, there it is.

 

Book 2 in the Tracy Crosswhite Series written by Robert Dugoni, narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith, 11.5 hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format. Her Final Breath was released in September 2015 by Brilliance Audio.

Tracy Crosswhite, the main protagonist, is a Seattle homicide cop. Having successfully solved the 20-year-old murder of her sister in Book 1 of the series, Tracy is back on the job in Seattle. Insignificant references are made to the Book 1 story, ergo Her Final Breath stands alone. A police procedural. Several women, pole dancer/prostitutes, have been killed by self asphyxiation due to being hog-tied – a noose around their neck causes slow strangulation as their strength weakens. Grisly way to go.

Good cops, bad cops, a myriad of suspects traverse the pages as the author works toward solving the crimes. You’ll be convinced, many times, that you have figured out the story and nailed the psychopath – then Dugoni throws you a curve. Good plot twists!

Narration is fine, male and female voices alike. You’ll have no trouble discerning who is saying what to who.

No gratuitous sex, no bad language. Not great literature, not intended to be – just a good story worth the investment.

 

The Black Widow was written by Daniel Silva, narrated by George Guidall, and is about fourteen hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format. Book 16 in the Gabriel Allon Series, released in 2016 by Harper Audio.

Gabriel Allon, the man responsible for taking down the killers of Isreali athletes during the 1980 Munich Olympics, is pulled from his life as a fine arts restoration expert and tasked with finding the terrorists responsible for violent and deadly explosions in Paris, France. ISIS is responsible – a story from today’s headlines. Gabriel’s plan involves the recruitment and training of a woman to infiltrate ISIS. America is the next target.

The Black Widow is an espionage novel that stands alone, i.e., it is not necessary to read the entire series to enjoy this story. There is no gratuitous sex, no objectionable language – a clean read.

Narration by George Guidall is awesome. If you have never listened to Guidall’s audio productions, do yourself a favor and you will not be disappointed. He is excellent, one of the best at his craft. The Black Widow, although predictable at times, is a page-turning thriller with many near-death close calls for several characters. Not difficult to follow.

A recommended read (listen). Enjoy!

 

A Seattle police officer, Tracy Crosswhite, returns to her childhood home when learning that her sister’s remains have been found, 20 years after a man was convicted for the murder. Beyond the sorrowful task of claiming the remains is dealing with old memories and her unwavering belief that there is something wrong with the entire case against the murderer – Tracy believes he just might be innocent. With the aid of a childhood friend who is now an attorney, plus her own police investigative skills, the sleuthing moves forward.

Why I liked. A terrific mystery with loads of suspense and plot twists. Very intriguing story, a page-turner. No gratuitous sex (Well, a little – but it is fade-to-black), no bad language, just a great, absorbing story. You know ‘who-done-it’, but there is a bunch you don’t know. Excellently narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith, you’ll have no trouble discerning who-says-what-to-who, lots a unique voices, male included.

Why I didn’t like. The methodology used in creating story chronology. The story jumps back and forth to Tracy’s childhood with her sister and then back to modern day a lot, like at least once or twice per chapter. It’s a bit rattling until you get into the rhythm of his writing. Once you get into the swing of the story, it’s a bit easier to take.

Point of view switches are unconventional in My Sister’s Grave, based on today’s publishing agent dictums. There are those that insist a writer picks a POV and sticks with it. That said, story trumps all … including POV. Based on this listen I can assume agents have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. 🙂 This is a good story.

Written by Robert Dugoni, an unabridged audiobook close to eleven hours of listening. My Sister’s Grave is Book 1 in the Tracy Crosswhite series and released by Brilliance Audio in late 2014.

 

Having enjoyed listening to Suspect, Book 1 in the Scott James series, I purchased Book 2, The Promise. Written by Robert Crais, narrated by Luke Daniels and MacLeod Andrews, and just over 9 hours of listening. Released in 2015.

Crais is a very prolific author and it seems this book is also a sequel to other series he has penned – The Joe Pike Series (The Promise is Book 5) and The Elvis Cole/Joe Pike Series (The Promise is Book 16). Not sure I like this marketing ploy, a bit confusing – but, there it is. Personally, I like to become involved in a series at the beginning – this is my good fortune with the Scott James Series, but not the other two series. Crais has brought all the characters from the other books together in The Promise. If this bothers you, you’ll need to go back to the beginnings of those other series to catch up with character development.

Since the Scott James series features Scott and his dog, Maggie, as lead characters, I was disappointed that it took a few chapters for them to show up. The Promise is more a sequel to the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike Series and Scott and Maggie are co-stars. Ultimately, we have a good story. Elvis and Joe, private investigators, are looking for a woman who has disappeared. She is a brilliant scientist with an explosives manufacturer. Scott and Maggie are called in because of Maggie’s military background and her training to sniff out explosives. Thus is the thrust.

Technically, The Promise is a sequel to Suspect – but, don’t expect it to be a Scott and Maggie centric book like Suspect. The Promise is a good story, however … so, recommended reading. Lots of action and suspense – but ALL of Robert Crais’ characters play major roles.

Narration is fine, a good audio production.

 

Written by Robert Crais, narrated by MacLeod Andrews, 8.5 hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format. Suspect is book one in a new series, listed on Audible as Series: Scott James.

There are basically two leads in this story, a man and a dog. Scott James is an LAPD homicide cop, plagued with PTSD, reliving a shoot-out that resulted in the death of his partner, Stephanie. After recovering from his own near-death injuries, Scott is teamed with a new partner, Maggie. Maggie is a black-and-tan German Shepherd Dog, a former United States Marine. Maggie lost her partner in a bombing that left her injured emotionally and physically – doggy PTSD with bad dreams and all. The two are made for each other!

This introduction to the series centers on Scott’s obsession with getting to the bottom of his old partner’s murder. Maggie’s rehabilitation and further training also traverses the pages – she’s spooked by gunfire or loud noises.

Robert Crais’ interpretations of the dog, Maggie, might put you in mind of Dean Koontz. Koontz has written stories involving a golden retriever that I’ve enjoyed – one novel is called Watchers.  FYI, Watchers is on the paranormal side, but hey – it’s Dean Koontz, ergo SciFi – but good.

MacLeod Andrews does a great job, an enjoyable narration.

Suspect is a solid police procedural, a terrific page-turning thrill ride, and a story of canine devotion any dog lover will enjoy. Recommended!

 

Written by Mary Louise Kelly and narrated by Cassandra Campbell. The Bullet is close to twelve hours of listening in unabridged format released by Blackstone Audio in 2015.

The blurb gives you an accurate idea of basics. A woman, having what is initially diagnosed as carpel tunnel syndrome, has an additional test – an MRI. This reveals a bullet lodged in her neck near the spinal column. Caroline, the protagonist, has never been shot and has absolutely no idea how the finding can be right. No spoilers here, but we soon learn that her birth parents were murdered, she was injured at the age of three, and subsequently adopted. Naturally, she investigates.

What I liked? The mystery, of course. This is an incredible idea for a story and very creative on the part of Mary Louise Kelly. A bit predictable but there is plenty of suspense. No language issues, no graphic violence.

What I didn’t like? I have a bit of trouble with Caroline’s overwhelming angst about having been adopted, a bit over-the-top for a woman pushing 40 and would be easier to swallow if she were a tweenager. More grating since Caroline was adopted by a very loving couple who adore her and equally loving older brothers. Before the end of the book Caroline has a 180 degree personality change, is seemingly okay with chucking her life for vengeance … unrealistic. A second ‘meh’ is the romance element. “My eyelids fluttered open.” is followed with this reader’s eyes rolling around. Seems to have been added just ‘because’ rather than a romance integral to the plot … it serves no purpose.

Narration is okay, although the reader sounds a little youngish when voicing the lead character. Since The Bullet is written in first person, this is most of the time. Campbell does an excellent job with the southern belle, seniors, and male voices, however. Pacing, tempo nicely done, solid production. You’ll have no trouble discerning who-says-what-to-who. But … the lead is near 40 years old and usually has the voice, temperament, and behavior of a much younger person, a damsel-in-distress-young-girl rather than a woman. Cassandra Campbell does a terrific job with the French language and characters interspersed (The lead character is a professor in the French department of a college.)

Overall, The Bullet is recommended reading for the mere fact of the unusual premise. Not great literature, but an enjoyable listen.

 

Childhood’s End is a classic SciFi written by Arthur C. Clarke way back in 1953, around fifteen years before he penned 2001 – A Space Odyssey. This unabridged audiobook version is narrated by Eric Michael Summerer and Robert J. Sawyer, close to eight hours of listening, and published by Audible Studios in 2008.

Imagine a world with no internet, no cell phones … cars aren’t even air-conditioned! In 1953, when Childhood’s End is created, WWII ended less than ten years ago. Eisenhower is the President, and the Cold War is well underway. We’ve re-tooled to manufacture lipstick again rather than bullet casings – a prosperous time is underway. Most homes do not yet have a television set and news is via the daily paper or radio broadcasts.

In this 1950s world, Arthur C. Clark has positioned giant space ships over each major city across the world. Wait …. isn’t how the movie starts? Independence Day? Well … yeah, it is! That’s where the similarity ends, however. Childhood’s End ”Overlords”, the aliens, are not quite as bent on destroying man, they seem almost altruistic. For the next 100 years the aliens provide mankind with ‘peace on earth’ and poverty is eliminated. Utopia. The aliens, ‘overlords’, don’t have an agenda … or do they?

No spoiler, but … not an uplifting story.

Arthur C. Clark is a terrific SciFi author, so if you enjoy the genre you will likely enjoy this story. If you don’t .. skip it.

 

The Chopin Manuscript – multiple authors. Released in 2007, 7.5 hours of listening. Harry Middleton and the “Volunteers” are introduced in a mystery involving a newly discovered Chopin manuscript. The ‘Volunteers’ is a small group of clandestine good-guys that goes after bad-guys with the aid of alphabet soup named organizations across the world.

The Copper Bracelet – multiple authors. Released in 2009, 8.5 hours in length. A story that starts with a bang: an exploding cell phone and laptop at a beach sting involving Harry Middleton and his cohorts. Subsequent chapters morph into a twisted, confusing, and globe trotting mess that ends with an assassination attempt.

The Starling Project is written by Jeffery Deaver alone and released in 2014. A shorter story just over four hours long, but told in the manner of an old fashioned radio mystery. Lots of sound effects like footsteps, car doors slamming.

The first two books in the series, The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet, are collaborative efforts involving multiple writers – each author responsible for one chapter. A single narrator, Alfred Molina, does a credible job – no trouble with male/female voices, good diction, sound effects a little over the top, but decent productions. The books begin with a foundation by Jeffery Deaver and the final chapters are his efforts to bring all the disparaging clues to a close. This wasn’t the plan, I’m sure, but it’s what appears to have resulted.

The books lack the cohesiveness of an overall vision because there are so many cooks in the kitchen stirring the plot with their own vision. The efforts were likely fun (or frustrating?) for the authors, but resulted in books that were difficult reads. Lots of rewinding and muttering of “What the…?”. The best parts of these stories are the chapters written by those you would expect. Jeffery Deaver, Joseph Finder, and Lee Child. In my opinion, the rest tried too hard to ‘make a splash’ and ultimately damaged the overall effort. My cliched opinion: Everybody was not using the same playbook – shoot me.

The last book in the series, The Starling Project, is completely different from a production standpoint. The book is the performances of a myriad of narrators/actors, special sound effects of bombs, gunshots, creaking doors, and heart-thumping music fill – basically an elaborate radio drama. Smooching/moaning during a few sex episodes distracted from plot. These scenes are presented in a ‘fade-to-black’ manner, but are eye-rolling and ridiculous. Although the plot is interesting, Jeffery Deaver uses Harry Middleton conversations to wrap up much of the story – pulling loose ends together in the last few minutes of listening. This book is more about production than story.

The Harold Middleton Series was created in audiobook format only. The series has decent reviews and is certainly an extraordinarily unusual effort. Suppose I’m alone in a ‘meh’ opinion – but, there it is.

 

This is a very long story, 23 hours of listening in the unabridged audiobook format. Given the length, you need a voice pleasant to hear and James Patrick Cronin does a terrific job. Pacing, tempo, male and female voices, etc., overall production very well done. Not Alone is a SciFi novel and released in August of 2016 by Audible Studios. Not Alone is  a character driven story, albeit few main characters – which is nice listening. No need for struggling to keep track of who-is-who, and thanks to the excellent narration, no problems with who-is-speaking-to-who.

Dan McCarthy, while riding his bike on a delivery, collides with a robber who drops an envelope containing definitive proof of a government cover-up. Human knowledge of aliens, i.e., we are Not Alone, has been a fact since 1938. A letter in his find documents several spheres that are located across the world, spheres containing information about when the aliens plan to return to earth – ergo, the hunt is on!

151 out of 159 chapters of the book are devoted to Dan McCarthy’s efforts to be believed, verification of his find, his battle for exposing the truth, political ramifications, global impact, and sorting out individual and governmental agendas. The story is a fairly realistic representation of what may happen, from mass suicides to riots and bank runs. What do the spheres tell humanity? Is this an eviction notice? Are the aliens a threat or friendly? At the very end of the book, you’ll find out if aliens really exist – or not – no spoilers – but you must read to the last chapter.

Don’t expect pages and pages of clicking knees, little green men, bloody conflict, or laser weapons – not that type of story. Not Alone is a tale of ‘first contact’ dominated with the author’s interpretation of how all of us earthlings would react. The actual event itself is anticlimactic.

A bit long, but listenable and thought provoking. Overall, Not Alone is recommended for the conspiracy buff or SciFi fan.

 

Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow

The causes of the massive blaze, which destroyed much of Chicago in October 1871, were perilous conditions: a long drought during a very hot summer, and the fact that the city had been built almost entirely of wood.

Within a few days of the fire, a Chicago Republic reporter named Michael Ahern wrote an article including the rumor about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a kerosene lantern, igniting hay in the barn and starting the fire. The story took hold. In 1893, Ahern admitted that he created this fiction for colorful copy. Nonetheless, the story persists today.

Although no one disputes that a fire started in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn at 9:00pm on October 8, 1871, whether or not the cow started the blaze is a 140-year-old debate. chicagohistory.org

From: Yesterday – A Novel of Reincarnation

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This review is specific to the first seven books of the Fargo series by Clive Cussler in audiobook format narrated by Scott Brick. All are published by Penguin Audio and are in the area of eleven to twelve hours of listening. Some of The Fargo Adventures have been co-authored with Grant Blackwood, Thomas Perry, Russell Blake or Robin Burcell. Early writings by Clive Cussler did not involve co-authors, however Cussler is in his mid-80s at this writing. All of these books cover a specific era of ancient history and are rich with detail. There is a great deal of historical research, ergo co-authors. The Fargo Adventures series is in the tradition of all Cussler works, i.e., mysteries wrapped around history, a formula that defines his basic plot structure. The difference, in my opinion, is the married couple lead characters in this series, Sam and Remi Fargo, as opposed to the type A macho men, Dirk Pitt and Isaac Bell.

The entire series revolves around ancient treasure, excavation, archeological digs, etc. Think DaVinci Code on steroids with a brilliant engineer and his historian wife as the lead characters, Sam and Remi. Or possibly Nick and Nora or Jonathan and Jennifer Hart with satellite cell phones and iPads. The leads chase clues galore across the world involving everything from deep sea diving to mountain climbing to hot air balloon escapes to spelunking. Exotic cities, exclusive hotels, and sumptuous dining experiences of the locales are explicitly described in each story.  Remi and Sam are experts at and can do anything and are very philanthropic. All of their finds are turned over to the local governments or historical societies. The two are not ‘in it for the money’, but rather the adventure. At their California home/office is Selma and her staff. Selma is a researcher who finds answers to the most obscure elements of ancient history, makes travel and equipment arrangements for Sam and Remi, and knows what they need before they need it. The pair is independently wealthy enough to have enviable lives traveling the world and getting themselves in and out of  trouble, turning the tables on bad guys along the way. Although Sam and Remi are married and deeply in love, the entire series is squeaky clean, i.e., chaste kisses on cheeks. No gratuitous sex, no language issues as is true of all Cussler writing. Don’t hesitate to present as gifts to anyone.

Regarding Scott Brick’s audiobook performances … well … it’s Scott Brick, ergo not much to say. He does a particularly great job with obscure accents and pronunciations. Male and female voices unique, no trouble discerning who-says-what-to-who, nice timing and tempo, solid productions.

Spartan Gold, 2009 = Napoleonic history that begins with Sam and Remi finding a Nazi-era German mini-sub while scuba diving. Ancient bottles of wine found in the sub have them hunting for Napoleon’s lost cellar and more treasure.

Lost Empire, 2010 = Aztec history. Very convoluted, complex story. Clues galore poof away during the story and are wrapped up in neat package in the Epilog. Not my favorite, but finding a mystery (no spoiler) in the Krakatoa volcanic ash is a very cool element of the plot.

The Kingdom, 2011 = Nepal history. Sam and Remi are sucked into a mystery taking them from an egomaniacal Texas baron to Shangri-La!

The Tombs, 2012 = A narcissistic maniac believes he is a descendent of Attila the Hun. Other greedy creeps simply want the riches found in a cadre of tombs, which results in a search for Attila’s  final resting place – another tomb.

The Mayan Secrets, 2013, opens in the 16th century with the sheltering of a book containing Mayan history. Sam and Remi battle to preserve a book found in an ancient clay pot. The resulting mayhem begins a wild adventure.

In The Eye of Heaven, 2014, Cussler should have been tougher in the supervision of co-authoring, as the character of Remi has changed to be more of a liability for Sam – she acts like a spoiled child, often wanting to go home. The book might be better if he sent her. The two argue about strategy rather than scheme together as in previous novels – way too much ’sneering’. That, and after all they’ve been through, Remi is jealous? Really? That said, the story: How do ancient artifacts from the interior of Mexico wind up in the hull of a Viking ship found west of Greenland buried in glacial ice? Thus is the mystery of The Eye of Heaven.

The Solomon Curse, 2015. Beneath the waters off the coast of Guatemala lay the structures of a village or town. A wealthy tycoon in Australia is up to no good. There are ancient tales of gold and jewels and yep: Giants! Sam and Remi spelunk their way through adventures and march through jungles to find treasure, dead bodies, and ancient dead bodies.  Not quite as ‘thrilling’ as some of the books, but an enjoyable read.

Since the books stand alone, jump in anywhere. Recommended for adventure lovers interested in ‘clean’ reads. Not great literature, just fun reading.

           

 

Book 15 in the Scot Harvath series by Brad Thor, this unabridged audiobook version of Foreign Agent is eleven hours of listening and narrated by Armand Schulz. Released by Simon & Schuster Audio in June of 2016.

One of Harvath’s contacts provides intelligence that results in a covert operation disaster, an assassinated Secretary of Defense, a white house suicide bomber. Harvath has been duped and he is out for justice. Our hero traces through a myriad of connections as the brains of bad guys are subsequently drizzled down walls, throats are slashed. This is a pretty graphic story in which women are raped and abused, bodies pile in a most grizzly manner – including innocents burned alive in a cage. Foreign Agent is a thrill ride that spans the globe from Washington, to Malta, to the deserts of Jordan and Syria.

Why I liked Foreign Agent. Scot Harvath is Brad Thor’s espionage hero; a character that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp – you know the type. Harvath is the self-deprecating, handsome, type A, macho-man … a superman with no superhuman skills – only training, wits, courage, and a gentle heart. This type of espionage/thriller is fun to read, and page-turners are more fun in audiobook format. Armand Schulz does a terrific job with narration. Great pacing, tempo, emotion, a sound production.

Not so hot. The story moves at break-neck speed, which is okay, but it is also confusing at times. Lots of action with some very short chapters that usually involve a locale switch. I didn’t want to miss anything relevant, so did a rewind several times. You may find it just fine and this is simply evidence my attention span failing.

If you enjoy the genre, recommended!

 

Written by Ben Coes, narrated by Peter Hermann, about fourteen hours of listening in the unabridged audiobook format. First Strike, book six in the Dewey Andreas series. Released in June 2016 by Macmillan Audio.

A man high up in United States defense believes he is acting in a patriotic manner when recruiting a young militant to build a foundation for easing tensions in Arab nations. An arms for a peaceful nation-building plan begins. The plan backfires. The arms go directly into the structure of ISIS. The collapse of the plan results in the final shipment, a container ship loaded with billions in arms, being boarded by U. S. Navy Seals. Held hostage by ISIS, a Columbia University dorm. The dorm is filled with hundreds of students, parents, teachers. Thus is the story of First Strike.

Screaming students are thrown from dorm windows, brains drizzle down walls, intricately described guns up the wazzooo, double-taps, beheadings, burned alive innocents, many such grizzly scenes abound. Throw into the mix the Ben Coes hero, Dewey Andreas and his small band of cohorts.

The day is saved and all ends well. There ya go!

Why I liked. The espionage genre is fun to read, as is a Ben Coes novel surrounding the exploits of Dewey Andreas. Think Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp or Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Andreas is the quiet, type A, tough guy, loner with a soft heart who is the go-to guy for the President when the world falls apart. The entire subject matter of First Strike is very timely given current events.

Problems. Dewey is beyond a superman. Early in the story he is shot in the leg. Even though this is a ‘flesh wound’ that doesn’t break the femur, it is never mentioned again. Nada. Dewey would have been a bit hampered, maybe a tiny limp, ya think? He nearly drowns, gets pounded to hell a few times in in a manner that would completely disable lesser men. A teeny bit unrealistic behavior. Okay, okay. It’s fiction, lighten up. Secondly, the last twenty minutes of listening wasn’t necessary. The thrilling segments of the book, which are many, drizzle to nothing with this long mawkish scene. You may like it, I thought it was  eye-rolling and silly fill.

Narration by Peter Hermann is great. Nice pacing, tempo, etc., a good listen.

If you enjoy the genre, go for it. Recommended.

 

Written by Robert Gregory Browne, just under 10 hours of listening in the unabridged version. Kill Her Again is book three in a series: A Fourth Dimension Thriller and released in February of 2014 by Audible Studios in audiobook format. The original paperback was published in 2009. Until writing this review I was not aware of the series – so as you can imagine, the book stands alone.

This story begins with a beautiful, vulnerable, fragile FBI agent called upon to assist in the investigation of a grizzly murder, more than one victim, missing children. Combine this with the agent being subjected to the bizarre visions of an abducted little girl. Enter a handsome hypnotherapist whose wife murdered his little boy. Throw in reincarnation. Sounds like a winner, right? Sadly, the book doesn’t measure up to the potential of this intriguing plot.

Why I liked. Everyone is intrigued with reincarnation, no matter if one believes or not. The concept is rich fodder for fiction and many wonder: ‘What if…?’.  Rather than a typical ‘who-done-it’, Kill Her Again is about preventing the cycle of murder transcending multiple lives over decades. A really cool concept for a book.

Why I didn’t like. Execution, initially. The author introduces a sage-sooth-saying fortune teller, candles, tarot cards and all, as a solution to explaining plot, characters, and tying up loose ends. A cop-out to fleshing out the story with more creative writing. Another reason I wasn’t too wild about this story: The ‘grandfather paradox’ … Google it … of changing the past isn’t addressed and, the ramifications are food for thought the author ignores. This is a plot hole, in my opinion, because in the scenario presented it would be a factor. You may find it peachy. An interesting ending, but predictable.

Via an Audible special, acquired this book as one of many narrated by Scott Brick. He does okay – no trouble discerning who-says-what-to-who. A clean read, no explicit sex, no language issues. A listenable book … but I’m not motivated to continue the series.

 

Pretty close to Harlan Coben’s first or second novel, narrated by Scott Brick, 13.5 hours of listening in unabridged audio format. Audible indicates a release date of September, 2011 by Brilliance Audio. The original hardback edition if Miracle Cure goes way back to the early 1990s.

An aids clinic, on the cusp of discovering a Miracle Cure, is losing patients via violent murders. If a cure is found there are those who would benefit financially, there are many with suspicious motive. A religious zealot doesn’t believe a cure is possible and the disease is a godly punishment, and there are zealots for the cause of a potential cure. The grizzly murder of a senator’s son and the diagnosis of a world famous athlete brings all to a head. The sleuthing of a determined cop ensues. Thus is the thrust of Miracle Cure.

Why I liked. Miracle Cure is a who-done-it, ergo I’m in! The suspects are plentiful. The timeframe is unique – early 1990s. No cell phones, no email, no internet. I don’t believe the word ‘computer’ is in the book, although they were around back then – big clunky things. So, getting into the settings was a challenge. In several instances characters make phone booths telephone calls, cops and doctors use pagers – fun to imagine.

Why I didn’t like. Harlan Coben makes an apology in the opening segment, but tells us that he still loves the book. The writing is that of a talented, albeit novice writer. The good stuff is going to come years later and I guess you gotta start somewhere. The future of Coben is easily spotted in Miracle Cure, i.e., an intricate plot, some thrilling and scary moments. But, you can also spot the flaws – like some areas of character definition unclear, plot at times confusing. There is a wrap-things-up-quickly segment in the last chapter I didn’t care for at all. Too much explaining by the author. A few this -is-what-happened-and why conversations between characters I found annoying.

Scott Brick is great, lots of diverse voices in Miracle Cure.

Miracle Cure is certainly listenable/readable – but don’t expect the quality of later Harlan Coben books.

 

Written by Robert Charles Wilson, narrated by Scott Brick, close to eighteen hours of listening in unabridged format. Spin, released in 2008, is book one of a series published by Macmillan Audio.

Three tweens witness the beginning of the Spin by watching the night sky as all the stars blink out. Shortly the world learns that the stars are still there, but not visible because the earth is covered with a ‘membrane’. Beyond the membrane time is passing with sufficient speed to make the sun go nova in 40 or 50 years. In other words, time beyond the membrane is very fast. The story takes place over a few decades and the kids grow up … one becomes a scientist, one a doctor, one a cult follower. The synopsis and other reviews will provide more detail, but this is the basic thrust.

Why I liked. The Spin is very creative SciFi and, unlike other apocalyptic stories, the future isn’t necessarily doomed. There are the predictable events, such as mass suicide, cults, insurrection to a degree. Some people and countries take advantage of the situation for the good of mankind and some for not so altruistic reasons. Realistic human behaviors. Fundamentally, the future is unknown – as it is in the real world. Some of the science is really thought provoking, i.e., the processes involved in building another habitable planet.

Not so hot. Some of the science is just plain silly. For example, man terraforms Mars in a very short time, within a couple of years. This is fine, and works well into the imagined world of of Spin … time zooming by quickly beyond our ‘membrane’. However, and this is an oops by the author in my opinion, the technology and sophistication of Mars doesn’t move forward at the same phenomenal rate … no more than Earth. Everything that happens is because of the ‘brain power’ or actions of earth and it’s science – nothing from Mars. Mars should be billions of years more advanced than Earth and in the Spin, it is not. Mars should be taking the lead, right? Doesn’t make sense. The ‘hypotheticals’ – the unknown alien force responsible for the Spin – are undefined. No ultimate understanding is presented by the author. I guess this is the reason for sequels, but there wasn’t enough substance for me to care.

Regarding narration, Scott Brick is, well Scott Brick … great.

If you like SciFi, you’ll find something to enjoy. But, there are holes in the story, imo.

 

Gregg Hurwitz’s novel, Orphan X, is narrated by Scott Brick, and just over eleven hours of listening in the unabridged audiobook format. Book one in the Evan Smoak series and released in early 2016 by Brilliance Audio.

Although not specifically defined, the ‘orphan’ program is a covert operation that takes place modern day. Orphans, from disparate circumstances, are trained to be elite operatives. These people are called upon by the federal government for black-ops missions – assassination, murder included. The orphan program has been disbanded and now Orphan X takes it upon himself to become a Robin-Hood-man-of-steel savior for those who need help. Think Michael Connelly’s Jack Reacher or Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath – a self deprecating, handsome, type A good-guy-lone-wolf. This is the Evan Smoak character, Orphan X. 

Evan Smoak was the ‘best’ at his job, the best marksman, best fighter, best at everything. Even though this is all in the past, Orphan O is still pissed about being second best. O is on the hunt for X, using X’s clients as bait. There ya, go – the plot of Orphan X.

Thrilling moments sprinkle the pages, and if you like a tough-guy-with-a-tender-heart lead character, you’ll love it. More than a ‘Who-done-it?’, Orphan X is a ‘Who can be trusted?’ mystery. Great concept for a series – a modern day savior of the little guy – a Superman with no super-powers. I’m anxious for Evan to develop/grow as a character and Orphan X is a good foundation.

A little sex, but nothing gratuitous or explicit, no foul language.

Narration is fine. Scott Brick is a good choice for the crime thriller even though he does over emote a bit. If you’re familiar with Brick, you know what I mean. This is an enjoyable listen, a page turner. If you like the genre, this one is a keeper.

 

Written by Gregg Hurwitz, narrated by Scott Brick, 14 hours of listening in unabridged format. You’re Next was released quite a while ago, mid-2011, by Brilliance Audio. Audible recently had a special on books narrated by Scott Brick. Needless to say, I stocked up!

Mike, the main protagonist, was abandoned at age four. He’s about to learn why. Mike is a man of high moral standards with an orphaned past who has taken the right path in life. He’s a successful contractor-builder, a family man with a wife, child, picket fence, suburban life. The story begins with a development of homes resulting in Mike’s picture in the paper, a catalyst to the main mystery. Unbeknownst to Mike, he is a dead-ringer for his father. Crooked cops, politicians, hit-men, etc., have Mike uncertain as to who he can trust. With fear for his life, his wife and daughter, Mike turns to his old friend, Shep. A best friend from Mike’s childhood, a fellow orphan, Shep has taken a different path in life.

In my opinion, Shep is the best character in the book, and Scott Brick does his voice in an unusual, and fantastic, way.

Overall, this is an excellent Gregg Hurwitz mystery, and well worth the purchase. A page-turning story of love, stamina, and loyalty – with lots of twists, plenty of guessing, and thrilling/chilling moments. However, there is one major subplot that is superfluous and the story would be better, and shorter, without the distraction. Seems he’s been duped by a dishonest sub-contractor to the tune of a several thousand dollars. This element serves no purpose to the story arc.  No spoiler, this happens early in the book and then is dropped from the story line.

No explicit sex, no bad language. A little cringeworthy behavior and torture, but not much.

If you’re a fan of the crime/thriller genre or Gregg Hurwitz, you won’t be disappointed. You’re Next is good story.