If you aren't familiar with Anne Stuart, don't let this book be your first impression. Her skills at plotting and characterization have evolved by leaps and bounds since this early effort.
The lead characters in "Into the Fire" are fairly one-dimensional, and it's not an enjoyable dimension. They maintain an I-hate-you/I-can't-resist-you relationship that would have been credible in a pair of teenagers. With these adult characters, it might even have been intriguing as the opening salvo of a reluctant, developing romance; a typical way of building sexual tension. But 'Nate' and 'Jamie' keep the childishness going for most of the book, exchanging petulant insults as often as they fall into bed, and usually within seconds of getting out of bed.
CAUTION: SEMI-SPOILER BELOW:
As for the suspense component, I just wasn't buying it. The fear factor here is based on the implausible premise that a man living alone in a creaky old building would remain oblivious to the fact that someone else lives there too. For months.
I'll continue to read Anne Stuart, but I'll stick with her newer novels. Live and learn.
Endearing, captivating, deeply satisfying. Protagonist Jake Epping is the kind of character Stephen King creates with such a deft hand: the reluctant hero, grounded in his reality and ours, who is handed terrible power and the chance to right horrific wrongs. A Frodo Baggins in khakis and a sport coat.
Like Tolkien's Frodo, ordinary Jake embarks on a quest fraught with dangers - not the least of which is the temptation that power brings. Like Frodo, Jake navigates his path with terrible grace, besting supernatural forces but forced to accept heartbreaking truths.
"Hearts can't break," Jake tells us. "If only they could."
In this epic journey of the heart, the most terrifying monsters are the If-Onlys.
Highly recommended, even if you have never been a fan of horror. There are horrific events in play throughout 11/22/63, but in spirit this novel is reminiscent of King's sweetly nostalgic short piece, "Stand By Me," which Ron Howard turned into a memorable film.
Actor Craig Wasson gives distinctive voices to dozens of characters, and does credit to familiar voices like JFK's. A few of the characterizations seemed a bit too comedic for the circumstances. But Wasson brings such clarity to dear, brave, unassuming Jake, it would just be mean to score the performance with less than 5 stars.
This is an actor who could turn "Old Yeller" into an erotic novel, and the only audiobook narrator whose name I enter into the Search box here when browsing for a good 'read.'
Combine Slezak's narration with Sandra Brown's storytelling when she's near the top of her game, and you've got an entertainment so sublime, you could almost skip the pint of Haagen Daz Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream.
Rated the story 4 out of 5 only because I found parts of it predictable. I was having so much fun, it hardly mattered.
If the producer listened to this, the mispronunciation of Don Quixote evidently didn't leap out and slap his ears as it did mine. Glaring errors like that one can distract me for hours from what might otherwise be a fine story.
In this case, the story was a rather weak addition to the Rohan series. The female protagonist isn't terribly interesting, and the Rohan offspring whose attention she draws is not wicked at all, just a bit crude for her taste. He's a rake of course, but seems to be missing the anti-hero gene that made his father and brother irresistible..
"Shameless" has merit because it's an Anne Stuart novel, even if not one of her best. The narration, imperfect throughout the series because of the fake English accent, has by Book 4 become downright annoying.
If you're a fan of Shirley Jackson's classic 'The Haunting of Hill House' and the excellent movie version (1963's 'The Haunting,' not the ridiculous 1999 remake) then you are someone who appreciates a subtle crawl of horror, the kind that creeps up on you slowly, revealing itself in shifting shadows and creaking stairs. To my mind, there has rarely been a more chilling moment in fiction than the scene in 'The Haunting of Hill House' where two women are terrorized by the sight of a slowly turning doorknob - and the knowledge that no living soul is on the other side of that door.
Should the same event take place in Richard Matheson's 'Hell House,' you can be assured that the doorknob wouldn't just turn, but would be wrenched from the door by a shrieking wraith, who would then hurl it at your eye. That's the kind of haunted-house novel you have in 'Hell House': not subtle enough to catch you off-guard, so never truly horrifying; but entertaining, fast paced, and sometimes brutally shocking.
The similar premise makes comparisons to 'The Haunting' inevitable: several strangers gather in a reputedly haunted mansion, either as subjects of a study (in Jackson's book) or to study and document evidence of the paranormal. As tensions and jealousies emerge among these men and women, they seem to incite the supernatural occurrences they were supposed to observe.
Without Jackson's deft hand at psychological horror, Matheson resorts to sex, violence, violent sex, and over-the-top spookhouse thrills. In the hands of the wrong voice talent, the audiobook might have been hard to sit through.
Enter narrator Ray Porter, who saves the day (albeit a fog-shrouded day on an isolated Maine estate). Porter's female characters take some getting used to, and may come across as weaker or sillier than they were written, simply as a function of the actor trying to feminize their voices. The two men in the group are well acted and distinctively voiced. But where Porter really shines is when he gives life - so to speak - to the Evil that haunts Hell House. As the spirit of the mansion's long-dead owner, Emeric Belasco, Ray Porter is challenged to scream, blaspheme, taunt and torture his way through the most effective chapters of the book. He does a fine job, and makes nasty Belasco the star of this ghastly house party.
Heartily recommended for your next 10-hour drive, though preferably not through an eerie Maine woodland.
I had the impression that the author was no more excited about writing this book than I was, reading the finished product. All the elements of romantic suspense are here; but it seems to have been written by a Word program on auto-pilot.
Abby Craden's delivery is no better or worse than the novel deserves.
Graded "Z" for the zzz's I enjoyed when I fell asleep listening to this.
If this is subliminal suggestion, it didn't work for me. I turned it off about midway through the recording to eat some cookies.
Save your money.
I'm not sure I'm 'dreaming lucidly,' in that I don't guide my dreams, but I do think that having this playing throughout the night has helped me feel less 'trapped' in bad dreams. I was having some really awful nightmares, terrifying and terribly sad. Apparently, the recording contains cues that remind me I am in a dream state. This helps me put some emotional distance between myself and a frightening or upsetting dream. I become more of an observer, and don't feel that heart-racing terror that can make sufferers of frequent nightmares reluctant to sleep.
I have only one complaint about this recording, and it's a format issue: the recording includes a number of segments that are described as having different purposes. All but one of them are pleasant to have in the background during sleep, BUT one segment, which is supposed to help with concentration and focus, has occasionally disrupted an otherwise deep sleep. I've awakened a few times when that section was playing, and found the sounds distracting enough that I turned off the recording before trying to get back to sleep.
If this were a set of CDs, I'd just set that one aside. But I'm listening on an ipod, and don't know a way to use this recording all night long, as I prefer, without having to include that section, which comes several hours into the recording. So lately, instead of letting 'Lucid Dream State' play all night long, I've been setting the sleep timer on my bedside iPod player to stop the recording after a couple of hours.
(A note about rating this recording: Since it's an audiobook, I'm unable to submit an overall rating unless I include one for the 'story.' Audible, if you read this reviews, please consider revising the rating system for self-help and non-fiction audiobooks. There's no story here.
This book is a sort-of sequel to "Envy," in that the main male character appears in the earlier novel as the hero's stalwart sidekick. Since I had pictured him in that book as a grizzled older man, it took some effort on my part to see him as a romantic (non-grizzled) hero in Tough Customer. The female characters never gelled for me; neither did the plot. That said, actor Victor Slezak could narrate your old high school yearbooks and turn them into a sexy and highly listenable evening's entertainment.
In summary, this one's okay for long drives where you want something to keep you from dozing at the wheel. It's not the author's best effort, but Victor Slezak lifts it from uninteresting to merely predictable.
CAUTION: SEMI SPOILER. A compelling story, wonderfully human and believably suspenseful - to a point. It falls apart when the author begins to justify the trite ending by turning the child's biological parents into villains. I thought Scottaline was going to challenge herself, her heroine, and the other adults involved to find a humane and loving solution; that might have been unrealistic but not nearly so much as the contrived happily-ever-after. Worthwhile entertainment that ultimately disappoints.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.