This is an awkward relationship moment for me. Readers are loving Molly Harper's ghost story set in a haunted, dilapidated mansion. I've enjoyed the Half-Moon Hollow novels and the Naked Werewolf series. Not so much this time.
Better Homes and Hauntings brings together four main characters: a nerdy but totally hot billionaire named Deacon Whitney; his architect and life-long best friend, Jake Rumson; a gardener named Nina Linden, hired to restore the grounds; and Cindy Ellis, a gorgeous local and head of the cleaning service Deacon hired to set the mansion to rights. Humorous romantic misunderstandings and awkwardness sustains the plot line about their budding relationships.
Deacon's cousin, Dotty Whitney, crashes the party with a mission to solve the mystery of a murder committed when Crane's Nest was first constructed by Gerald and Catherine Whitney. Was Catherine strangled by her husband, as the local legend? What led to her tragic death? Deacon and his remodeling team find out first hand that Catherine and her killer still haunt the mansion, and it becomes imperative that the modern-day couples uncover the truth to escape a repeat of tragedy on the Crane's Nest island.
It was... tedious. Having so many new characters tugging at the plot line seems intended to create an insta-cute community in one book that developed over time in the Half-Moon Hollow series; Grundy, Alaska is quirky and loveable in the Naked Werewolf series with a full cast of secondary characters. This one didn't create a sense of family despite being about a family legend. If there's a sequel, I will give it a pass.
Destiny's Tarot follows a unique deck of fortune-telling cards that a runaway teen steals at the end of Divine Tarot. Seremela, a medusa, heads into the wilds of a modern day gold rush to extract her niece from a lawless tent city near Devil's Gate.
Readers familiar with the Elder Races series will recognize Seremela as the coroner who helps with investigations in other books. Duncan Turner has also made cameo appearances a premiere attorney in the vampire community. Their hopes of finding Vetta quietly goes out the window when they learn that she is to be hanged the next day. The actual assassin helps them escape, and Vetta is all to happy to give the cards into her keeping.
Xanthe takes them back with her to the dark fae realm, but despite having this powerful tool, it cannot save Chancellor Aubrey Riordan from falling victim to a brutal ambush that leaves him almost dead. The plot runs at a slow pace since the narrative focuses on Aubrey's convalescence with Xanthe.
The narrator does a good job, and fans of the Elder Races series will enjoy getting to know these characters better.
An antique, hand-painted deck of fortune-telling cards are passed along by the heroine of the first story to the heroine of the second novella, loosely connecting their narratives. Unlike standard tarot cards, these bear symbols specific to the Elder Races belief system. Each chapter is titled with the name of a card from the deck.
The first story focuses on a fascinating breed of shifters who are new to the Elder Races series and very much an endangered species. A blizzard conveniently strands the hero and heroine in her home. Riehl, a homicide detective, believes that Alice can help him solve the mystery of an OCD serial killer who has murdered three of her friends. Time is of the essence since Alice may be next on the hit list.
The second story introduces us to Claudia, an ex-soldier who came back from her tours overseas with scars from her experience of traumatic warfare. Her psychic skills are pretty low compared to other members of the Elder races, but they prove useful in helping her figure out who tried to murder Luis, a wyr unable to shift from his dog form when she finds him on the side of the road. The mystery of why he was targeted sets the stage for the next novella, in Destiny's Tarot, with the same deck making its way into a new pair of hands.
Sophie Eastlake does a great job with the narration, as usual. I would feel more satisfied about spending a credit if all four novellas were bundled together. However, the quality of the stories still makes them a good buy.
Artemis Awakening delivers a suspenseful plot, complex characters, and meticulous world-building. Joe Barrett does a great job on the narration. I couldn't stop listening once I got started!
Griffin Dane, we discover, is an archeologist of the Indiana Jones variety: he set off for Artemis chasing the glory of rediscovering the mythic world that had been lost to intergalactic civilization for five hundred years. For him, this is the discovery of a lifetime... if he can ever get home again. His landing shuttle is a total loss, destroyed in a crash and buried in a rock slide.
For Andara the Huntress, finding Griffin’s wrecked shuttle is a startling discovery: off-world visitors are only distant memory passed down through the Lore of her people. Their planet was designed as an exclusive resort for tourists seeking to escape their hyper-evolved lives for a vacation in a simple pastoral setting, with all the comforts tourists could want supplied by hidden technology. However, a rival faction within the empire launched an attack on the seigneurs, or "seegnurs" as the Lore calls them. Nanobots in the atmosphere disrupted technology planetwide, and all of the seegnurs were slaughtered. Industrialization never took hold on Artemis because the nanobots continue to disrupt any technology more advanced than basic gears. They don't know what a machine looks like.
Griffin's chief quest in the book is to find a way to reactivate the seegnurs' technology to contact his orbiting ship. He travels with Andara and Terrell, another young man from Andara's village, to seek help from the Old One Who is Young. His avid interest in the seegnurs means that he is the most likely person to have the technology Griffin needs, but if the stories are true, much more is at stake than Griffin’s hope of returning home.
Adara is especially at risk because she was born with genetic adaptations from feline DNA: these types of altered people are the focus of a forced breeding program run by the Old One Who is Young in secret. Fortunately, she can rely on her puma companion, Sand Shadow, as an intelligent and capable partner. Her opposable thumbs and telepathic abilities are another legacy of the seegnurs' bioengineering.
The series has lots of possibility: there's Griffin's discovery process about Artemis; Andara's mixed feelings about Griffin and Terrell; and the disturbing ramifications of genetic manipulation, including hints about sentience on Artemis beyond the humans and adapted animals. Bring on book two!
Mary Robinette Kowal is an experienced audiobook narrator as well as a gifted writer. She also works another of her creative talents, as a puppeteer, into the novel's plot. The storyline is built on the witty premise that two highly skilled illusionists find themselves cozened by con artists who excel at making people believe in false appearances. The Vincents quickly find themselves far from home in Italy with no funds at hand and no fortune at all after the thieves clean out their bank accounts. Yet not all hope is lost: Jane finds help at a local convent among nuns who are indignant when they learn of the couple's plight, and several plucky characters prove to be capable allies when the illusionists undertake a daring plan to trick the tricksters and bring them to justice. Reading the previous books would be advisable to understand references made in the novel to past events. This is another enjoyable addition to the series.
Rose's life was cut short when a menacing driver forces her car to go plummeting off Sparrow Hill Road on the night of her prom, in 1952. But she didn't die, at least not all the way: Rose belongs now to the Shadow Roads, where she can hitch rides with the living and become corporeal if a stranger lends her a coat. Boy, does she like to eat when she has a body to appreciate the deliciousness of cheeseburgers. The Last Dance Diner, run by a friend, is her haven in the Twilight.
One of Rose's skills as a hitcher is the ability to sense when the living are marked for imminent death. Many of the stories, especially in the first part of the book, concern Rose's attempts to avert disaster and save lives. The stories also recount how she confronts entities that are not as benign as she is to stop them from claiming more victims on the roads. Death isn't without danger for her, either: the man who caused her death is still wants to steal her soul.
The episodic structure of Sparrow Hill Road means that you can enjoy it in small portions over time, that works well for you. A handy packet of tissues would a good idea, too. The premise of the book begins with a not so happily ever after, and in many of the stories, you have to embrace the fact that it will all end in sniffles.
There's also plenty of suspense, action, mysteries to solve, and a high-stakes ongoing battle between good and evil. The novel is fantastically creative as one would expect from McGuire, who creates a world with routewitches and ambulomancers and crossroads ghosts.
I enjoyed Amy Landon's narration, which is just right for the story. Great experience!
Another hilarious entry in the Charley Davidson series, with more witty banter and wacky musings by the main character. Charley is still trying to figure out her supernatural powers and learns more about her responsibilities as the Grim Reaper in this book. Her romance with Reyes continues to smolder, and she launches an elaborate scheme to get her best friend Cookie and Ubie together. A new character, the Dealer, adds complexity to the question of Charley's role in a long-running conflict between Heaven and Hell.
The narrator, Lorelei King, does a nice job as usual. She will be familiar to listeners of the past books. She also performs the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels.
Kristen Painter wrapped up her House of Comarre series in 2013, but her new Crescent City series exists in the same overall universe. Instead of focusing on a flawed but essentially good vampire, the new storyline gives us a fae hero, Augustine, who reluctantly accepts the responsibility of serving as Guardian for the haven city of New Orleans.
The job is for life, and the life expectancy of Guardians is short. New Orleans is an atmospheric setting for a backstabbing populace of fae, evil vampires, human witches, and voodoo priests. They are not inclined to behave nicely toward each other, or the individual tasked with enforcing justice for all of the factions.
After vampires murder someone dear to Augustine, he gets serious about shutting down an illegal scheme to let vampires into the fae haven city. Vampires are banned because of the danger they present, but the attractiveness of the city to them is easy to imagine: a witch cast a curse long ago that lets vampires can walk in the sun while they are in New Orleans as vengeance against a fae who broke her heart. Another spell, cast to mitigate the curse, causes vampires to forget that they can walk during the day when they leave New Orleans. However, someone is spreading the word to vampires about the location of their earthly nirvana and helping them infiltrate it, posing an immediate danger to the fae and human inhabitants of the city.
Augustine is shaping up to be a solid white-hat hero. The heroine, Harlow, spends most of the book acting like a peevish, self-centered brat. That really detracted from my willingness to buy into the story, especially the prospective romance between Augustine and Harlow. Hopefully a wiser, more mature version of her character will continue to work on her socialization along with her psychometry. The world is interesting, with fae who have a variety of magical gifts based on their bloodlines; physically, they look demonic with their curling horns, odd-colored skin, forked tongues, etc. It will be interesting to learn more about their society in book 2, "City of Eternal Night," scheduled for publication in 2 December 2014.
I'd give the narrator a thumbs up. He does a good job with the New Orleans accents, using nuanced delivery to distinguish between individuals in the cast of characters. His voice as the narrator, when not performing dialog, is pleasant and smooth. I am a little picky about narrators, since reading the kindle version of the story is a faster and somewhat cheaper way to consume novels. But in this case, the narrator adds ambiance and a welcome atmosphere of suspense. I hope Alexander will continue narrating future books in the series.
Caroline, the main character, lives in San Francisco with "her girls," the three of them friends since their college days at Berkeley. At a housewarming party, they meet guys who went to Stanford. Imagine their surprise when they realize that Simon is the "wallbanger" who lives next door to Caroline, literally shaking the walls as he has raunchy sex with not one but three different women on successive nights. When she couldn't stand it anymore, she'd pounded on his door in the wee hours of the morning, telling him to quiet down... and he tells her that it's his right to do whatever he wants in the privacy of his house. He starts calling her "cockblocker" for interrupting his sex with woman number three. And, because he's a class act, he tells his two buddies all about the episode, referring to Caroline as "pink nightie girl."
I am not looking for deep philosophy when shopping for escapist reading. But Berkeley, Stanford... and really? Caroline's fabulous career is to make things pretty. She admires her boss because she's soooooo beautiful, and her super successful boss spends time prying for the latest gossip about "wallbanger."
Because, wouldn't you know, that Simon is a sweet guy.
And knowing that he's banging the hell out of three other women is obviously no obstacle to obsessing about his body parts and screaming his name in her wet dreams, which he of course hears and smirks about.
Doesn't this sound like an empowered, happily ever after scenario?
The bar is set pretty low when the book is about giggling, twirling a strand of hair on your finger, looking down at your pretty bubble-gum pink toenail polish. Using slang that's outdated, and --ooo! texting!
Seriously, high school romances have more substance than this. I figured by Chapter Seven something would develop in terms of a plot line, but the story is about prude with a cat lusting helplessly for a womanizer. A formulaic reform of the rake isn't enough dramatic tension to me interested. I wish I could get a refund the four hours I spent listening before giving up. Grade: F.
The monotone of the narrator's voice quickly drove me nuts, and the nasal quality of her tenor isn't one I find relaxing. She slurs some phrases, and I didn't catch some of the words spoken softly. Because I kept thinking about the voice, I had a very hard time focusing on the story itself.
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