Yes. I like Wayne Farrell's rendition of James Wainwright with his scientific mindset and distaste for frippery.
James Wainwright, because us nerds need to stick together.
Since the narrative was through Wainwright's eyes, I will go with him again. Farrell pulls off this character very well.
Two men bound by condescension fight evil with brains & style.
Tara barely graduated and was, in fact, kicked of of school upon gradation. Still, she managed to land a provisional job with a firm. Her first task is to use her Craft to find out how and why the fire god Kos died. The city of Alt Coloumb, once powered by the fires of Kos, is slowing down; soon, there may be riots, or worse.
This is a wonderfully complex tale, full of the imaginative (using star-light fired Craft to argue legalities), the unexpected (gargoyle protectors and vampire sailors), and the impertinent (Tara, our lead character). The world in which Alt Coulumb is set is big, but thankfully, the author has nearly all the scenes set in the city itself. There is a lot going on this world and this city is a great place to get some of the basics down. In a world of multiple deities, and some dead ones, we also have the once-human Deathless Kings, vampires, Stone Men, Wardens, and much more. There is plenty here to keep the reader entertained.
The magic system does take some getting use to. At first, we learn a few bits and bobs and then just have to believe it works. As the story unfolds, Tara, and her mentor Lady Elayne Kevarian, explain more of the mechanics to Abelard, a priest of Kos. Abelard doesn’t need to know how Kos’s power works; faith alone is enough for him. However, he can’t help but be curious as to what Tara is doing with her powers, and the body, in figuring out the mystery of who is responsible. So don’t worry too much about the mechanics of the Craft. Much will be revealed, a little won’t; but it’s all entertaining and worthy.
Tara herself is a joy to follow around. She has a sense of humor, a strong idea of write and wrong, and just enough crazy to jump in with eyes closed when that seems like the quickest route (or the only way). She was a wonderful character to explore this new world with. Her partner in justice, Abelard, was also fun, but in a different way. He approaches life quite a bit differently, through faith, and leather pants. Then there was Lady Kevarian – who may be good, may be evil, or simply might be on Tara’s side for now because it is convenient. I like having characters like this in the mix – they keep me (and the characters) guessing.
With more than one dead body to mess with, Tara has her hands full. Then toss in the Wardens, the Stone Men, and some other hazardous beings and you have a very good time (even if Tara doesn’t, running around constantly trying to keep herself alive).
The Narration: Claudia Alick was a good fit for Tara. She gave her the right mix of sincere quest for the truth and a shrug of the shoulders as you dive off the cliff. She had a variety of male and female voices, plus really spooky voices for some of the not-quite-human beings we run into.
For those of you who have followed Valerie Gilbert on her blog, Raving Violet, you won’t be a stranger to the various essays and stories, ramblings and musings, contained in this book. The collection varies from the humorous to the serious, the ranting to the spiritual, the mundane to the extraordinary. Set in New York over some months in 2011 and 2012, Valerie talks candidly about her life, her friends, her dead parents, and her love life (or sometimes the lack of one).
This book starts with a little forward that explains the author’s acknowledged growth as a writer through these essays and blogging. Initially, she was tempted to cut out some of the earlier works, but in the end, she left them in. As a listener, I could see in the space of this one book how her writing skill grew from start to finish.
There were parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed and other parts that didn’t do it for me. First, the good stuff. In general, Gilbert is putting a positive message out there centered around trusting oneself. She shares many stories about her own quest to find this center and learning to trust it. Most of the time, I found these stories amusing, and sometimes insightful. I enjoyed her tales of her pets, of good times with good friends, and of food.
Then there were chunks of the book that were kind of ho-hum for me. The author is very much into seances, mediums, channeling, readings, and various spiritual endeavors, teachings, and workshops. These things hold very little interest to me personally. When these tales were more about the story than the message, they held my interest and some I even found amusing and intriguing. However, there were periods where the narrative got hung up on giving a long, and sometimes rambling, spiritual message along with an explanation of the message. These sections were of little interest to me.
I found some of the spiritual endeavors interesting because human behavior is interesting. First, I was a bit surprised at how many people will pay money for some of these activities, teachings, and workshops. That statement is just me showing my ignorance. After all, people tithe churches, so why not pay for a weekend retreat to learn how to develop your psychic abilities? Then there is also the difference between channeling, being a medium, and simply having psychic abilities or being sensitive to another’s spirit. There are actual definitions and various, certified trainings one can take for each of these. The structure that went into classifying and defining these different abilities was a new thought to me.
Apparently there are many, many famous channelers and mediums and psychics out there. Gilbert walks you through some of her personal experiences with some of these famous folk, such as the hugging lady of India. There was also an Irish guru, who’s style and message weren’t to Gilbert’s liking. While Gilbert focused on the positive experiences throughout much of the book, I often found the not-so-positive more fascinating. The author doesn’t believe every self-proclaimed guru, medium, or psychic. Instead, she cautions that each person should listen to themselves first, and then carefully consider any spiritual messages received from without.
All in all, the book had a few gems that had me chuckling out loud or quirking an eyebrow.
Narration: NOTE: I listened to an older version of this book. Since then, the author/narrator has re-recorded this book and I gave it a spot listen (you can download the new version free from Audible if you have the old) and it is a quality audiobook with no background noises. Gilbert was enthusiastic about the book, imbuing it with emotion, humor, shock, awe, warmth, etc.
For folks who have enjoyed Raving Violet, Ms. Gilbert returns with more tales of her mystical life in New York city. From quirky neighborhood characters, to her adventures into spiritual education, to commentary on our modern world, she ventures into it all. The book is a mix of humor and awe at the world around us.
Once again, Gilbert entertains us with tales of her adventures through the mystics of New York. I find this part of her books so interesting because it is so very different from my own life. In this book, she focuses on dream symbology and synchronicity and how she applies them to her life. While I am not a believer in either myself, I do find it interesting how she uses both techniques to help guide her in both minor and major decisions.
She also chats about some of the fun characters around her neighborhood, and some of the not so fun ones (like the guy who didn’t like her dog at the local park). She went on at length about a mysterious elderly woman who also frequents the park whose past life seems to contradict with her current affairs. While I felt the author was a little focused and a little harsh on the woman’s looks, I like that she included her in the novel because she is just such a walking contradiction.
At one point the author takes a jibe at George R. R. Martin’s book, A Game of Thrones, which is one of my favorite epic fantasies. But she later redeems herself by waxing eloquent about the film Babette’s Feast, which is an excellent film. She ventures onto Craig’s List for the first time, with near-disastrous results. Through narrating, the author has had to update her skills to successfully operate her home recording studio. Also, it has broadened her reading; since she was in her teens she has pretty much stuck to reading spiritual books or those dealing with mysticism. It’s always good to see people step outside their safe reading zone.
Gilbert is refreshingly honest about her fears of dentists, doctors, and surgery. She speaks bluntly about her medical issues and her deep fears, and how the required surgery forced her to face and conquer those fears. I enjoyed her tackling it with humor.
My one criticism is that on occasion she would get a little preachy. By her own word, she is a mystic. So why I can see why she would want to get the word out about her believes on the spiritual realm and where the human species is headed, my eyes did tend to glaze over a it during these sections. They were sprinkled through out the book instead of being all clumped together. So pretty soon, the book returns to more interesting tales of NYC living.
Narration: The sound quality on this book was very good. Gilbert gives a god performance with a clear voice and the occasional accent. Her previous two books have a bit more emotion and I think I prefer the slightly more animated narration on those two books.
She awoke alone on an island and has been so for some time now. She hungers for blood and avoids the sun. She has no memory of who she is nor does she know how she came to be on the island. Then a chance encounter with a group of tourists allows her to leave the island and rejoin society. Her missing past is a constant reminder that she isn’t normal. Her constant awareness of all the walking, talking meals is an annoyance.
Jasmine (for that is the name she chose for herself) fumbles through her life, Part II. At first, it was just about survival, and then it was about a little bit of happiness. She ended up in a larger city, one with a beach and a bad section of town, along with some higher end apartments that are mostly only inhabited by seasonal visitors. As she settles in and starts seriously wondering about her past, she also meets a young, handsome man who lives just a few doors down.
The most intriguing thing about this book was Jasmine’s hidden past. Of course I wanted to learn how she came to be on that island. Was she shunned by a vampire community? Was she once an oblivious tourist who was ambushed on that island and left to die to turn? There were plenty of questions swirling around Jasmine. Eventually, we do get the answers and they were doled out bit by bit, keeping the suspense high. The answer to this particular question was satisfying.
There are only a handful of characters in this book, being a novella or long short story. Jasmine gets the most page time and, hence, has the most development. I enjoyed her character arc from survivalist to answer seeker to someone just trying to fit in and live a life. The young man a few doors down was nice enough, though he was a little too perfect. If this had been a longer story, I would hope that he would have revealed some flaw sooner or later. Other characters show up late in the story so they don’t have time for deep thoughts, but they do play critical roles in unwinding Jasmine’s secret past.
The ending to the story was bitter sweet, and that is how I like it. Jasmine gets some, but not all, the answers and has to make some choices. I am hoping the authors choose to make this a start of a series as there is more for both Jasmine and the reader to explore.
Narration: Angie Hickman was a great voice for Jasmine, using the perfect mix of anguished, ticked off, and lost soul. Eventually, as Jasmine’s character starts to settle in, we get other feelings. There are some very ugly characters in this book that have very small roles and Hickman pulled these off well too, though it was probably a bit hard. She had a good range of male and female voices, and also accents for a few of the characters.
Set perhaps in the late 1800s USA, Crysta is a single woman, and doing quite well on her own in private business. John is a business man in his own right, and his biggest business is honey. Once he sees Crystal, his inner beast takes over and he knows that he must convince her that he is the man for her.
So I am totally guessing on the era this is set in. There are no phones or locomotives, but the USA is somewhat settled and Crystal is able to hold her own in the world of business. This is set in the southeastern US, perhaps Georgia or New Orleans. Honestly, I forgot because all the fun stuff happens out in the woods in a little cabin by the stream. ;)
John basically maneuvers Crystal into a bet. She has to spend time with him out at the cabin, chatting about how beneficial it would be to combine forces in the business world via a marriage. However John has this secret that he worries will drive Crystal away. As you can guess from the title and the name of the series, John is a shifter.
While it was predictable that all would work out, it was still sweet to see it come to fruition. There is one brief sex scene that I wish had been longer. The author left it in a good place for the next in the series to build upon.
The Narration: Vanessa Hart was a good choice. Her sultry southern voice for Crystal was honey on the ears. She also had a good voice for John, being very straight forward and a little gruff when needed.
Maxine Lewis and Nate Jackson find themselves thrown together in a dark, dirty place. Nate, as leader of his shifter pack, was on the hunt for some murderous vampires. Maxine was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Things happen super fast in this one. Nate goes on the hunt, rescues Maxine from some vampires, they end up running and hiding and getting to know one another via some sexytimes, and then there is more vampire killing. There’s only one female character, and she needs rescuing. So the whole Damsel In Distress thing was a bit predictable. Also, sometimes the events happened so quickly I felt like I had whiplash.
Now that I have my criticisms out of the way, I did enjoy Nate’s character throughout the story. He is focused and wants what is best for his pack. Falling for Maxine is definitely not what’s best, and that constant flow of contradictory emotions was well played. While I did enjoy the sexytimes, they were over too quickly and since I hadn’t really connected to both characters, it was not as enjoyable as when I care about both parties involved.
There’s plenty of potential with this story. It’s short and perhaps should be read with the intent of jumping right into Book 2 so that the world and character development can continue.
The Narration: Alex Hyde-White was a good pick for Nate. He definitely pulled off the take-charge attitude. He had a decent feminine voice for Maxine.
This book provides an excellent look at the crusades, putting them in perspective for their time and in relation to current world politics. It is a great overview for the uninitiated and a great review for folks who have studied the crusades.
The book opens by providing a setting just prior to the first crusade, placing us in the mindset of Medieval Europeans. From there, the information is laid out chronologically. The book closes with the authors analysis of how the crusades were held up as examples of chivalry, later to be reviled as early colonialism, and finally how they relate to modern politics. The pacing is good, not getting bogged down in minutiae or in lists of dry ancient reference texts. Occasionally, there were more names being used than I could keep easy track of, simply because I was unfamiliar with the subject matter.
I learned quite a bit from this book and that makes me happy. Before listening to this book, what little I know came from popular movies and books, and, of course, I couldn’t rely on those to be accurate. I really liked how the book was laid out chronologically and I deeply appreciated the author’s constant efforts to have the reader think like a Medieval European.
In addition to this, the author often gave examples of Muslim impressions of the crusades. This in particular was fascinating. For Europeans, and even Americans, the crusades were a big deal, and continue to influence our culture, if mostly through popular media. At the time of the crusades, the Muslim world barely took note of them, seeing them as just yet one more barbarian force to be repelled (and the crusades were often repelled). The crusades had a greater impact on the Byzantine Empire, mostly because places were sacked and sometimes burned.
It was fascinating to see how the crusades evolved over time. Initially, the word ‘crusade’ was not associated with the pilgrims who ventured east for religious enrichment. Old, young, sick, healthy, men, & women traveled on pilgrimage. It was only later that such pilgrimages became armed men crusading to the east, with the blessing of pope and lord, to defend Christian lands.
In short, this book was an excellent read and definitely worth shelf space as a reference work. It is chock full of info on the European leaders, the Byzantine reactions, the few bits directly affection Muslim affairs, and how the crusades were affected by the Mongols. The book does an excellent job of placing the reader in a Europe steeped in a religious culture and how that affected, even directed, the actions of European leaders. It’s even worth a reread.
Narration: Claton Butcher gave a good performance. He had a clear voice that used a little emotion as needed, so it was not textbook dry. He also went to the effort of pronouncing people and place names with the correct accents. Such touches are so appreciated by this listener!
Set in Victorian England, Miss Jillian Roring, daughter to the ice captain and merchant Mr. Roring, is headed off to her first season in London. Unfortunately, there is failed kidnapping en route and she must seek assistance from the nearest estate, that of Logan. What ensues is a mess of flirting, confused signals, mild insults, and misunderstandings.
I will admit that it was the title that drew me into this book. The job of an ice captain has to be exciting, and I had pictures in my head of the daughter wrapped in furs, big rock pick in hand, hammering away at a small iceberg as the men of the ship collected the chunks and stowed them away in the hold. Alas, the captain is barely mentioned in this book, and his profession is only discussed by snide gossips who find his career far beneath them. Of course, they are sipping ice chilled drinks as they do this.
I think that if you like Jane Austen’s works, you wold enjoy this book. It is a sweet tale of two people struggling through their own fears and desires, London society’s strict rules of propriety, and vicious gossip. If that all sounds like your cup of tea, then check this book out. It is well written with a decent pacing. There is also a little sub-plot dealing with the failed kidnapping that added some dimensionality to the our main character, Jillian.
Unfortunately for me, I have never been much of a Jane Austen fan and so this book just wasn’t my cup of tea. I find all the gossip and people pushing against London society’s unspoken rules to be tedious and a bit boring. Also, none of our characters work for a living (except the ice captain, who we see so very little of) so their lives seem small to me.
The ending was sweet. I think romantics will enjoy it. Of course we know from early on that they must get together by the end, because that is how these books go. The amusement was in watching how they figured everything out.
The Narration: Rachel Hirsch was a good fit for this book. Most of the tale is from Jillian’s point of view and Hirsch had a nice, proper English accent for her. She also had dialects for the servants. Her range of male and female voices served this book well.
What do psychotic clowns, cryptid chimeras, drunk sheriffs, Russian novel reading monkeys, ghostly lovers, and zombies have in common? Not much beyond this book. Set in modern day, Unity, Texas is a place to the unwanted, drunk, and those not wanting to be found to disappear. Laredo Beaumont, the sheriff, takes his job seriously, especially the napping and drinking part. At least, until the day a murder of clowns shows up.
This is one of the oddest books I have ever read. I knew it was a mishmash of genres and plot devices going into it, but the various elements pulled in was beyond expectations. And the author made it all work beautifully. I was constantly entertained, usually surprised, and left wanting more. I hear rumors there is a second book in the making and I have my fingers crossed that is true.
The book starts off with psychotic clowns. Admittedly, it does jump around quickly from clown to clown, and often with swift punches of flashbacks showing a little bit of why that clown is now with a sadistic gaggle of clowns on a near deserted highway. Don’t be put off by this because the point of view settles down after that and gives a good story, with a few flashbacks here and there. The viewpoints do change throughout the tale, but we get to spend enough time with each character that the reader has time to connect with them.
I found Unity to be a fascinating town, especially all the problems they have with the cryptids such as the chupacabra and jackalope chimeras. The biologist in me wanted to do a summer study course in Unity. The half with the common sense knew we would have to get lost in a desert teeming with the shuffling undead. The zombies don’t feature heavily in this book, but do have a little key part to play.
Laredo and Sally Mae were my two favorite characters, one being a drunk authority figure and the other a ghostly bordello lass. They both kick ass in their own ways. And there is one sex scene. It is smoking hot, literally. There are flames involved. And a luchadero mask. Haha! Hooray for Mexican wrestling! That little detail gave me a good laugh, and yet, it really worked with the character.
Yes, there is a deputy sheriff. His name is Cicero, a chimpanzee. He wields knives and reads dreary Russian literature. Periodically, he smashes up the one and only bar, which is owned by the mayor of the town. She doesn’t appreciate such antics; hence, he has a job and has to keep it to work off his binges. Toss in the clowns (like Kiss me Kate) and some other town characters (the mayor’s bathrobe attired husband) and you have a very eclectic cast.
The plot was pretty straight forward. The clowns have been gallivanting about the country side looking for a specific person, someone they feel they need to payback (like by breaking said person’s kneecaps). In Unity, the sheriff struggles with the big question: why am I here? While he wrestles with that, all these other characters are just going about their lives, until some clowns with questionable makeup skills arrive in town. Really, the plot gave this backbone for all these character to play together on. I am fine with that because it was damn entertaining!
Narration: Bernard Setaro Clark was a good fit for this book. He had a variety of voices (and you definitely needed that for this book). His female voices were totally believable. Luckily, we weren’t treated to any monkey screeches. He had no hesitancy with the evil clowns or the love scene.
Zabdas tells us his story, that which is closely entwined with his relative, Zenobia. Palmyra, the jewel of Syria, is ruled by Odenanthus, a client king of the Roman empire. While he guards the frontier from the Persians, Rome refuses to send additional aid. Zenobia and her father, Julius Zenobius, feel it is time for Syria to stand on it’s own.
This is an exceptionally engaging historical fiction. Zabdas’s story was exciting, full of his own plight (going from slave to warrior), strained family relations, and the politics between Rome and Palmyra. His tale is told in a back and forth manner, his present day where he is a grandfather and a respected, aged warrior, and his past told through a memoir he is writing and his granddaughter is reading. I found it fascinating to see the young, unsure Zabdas versus the confident, aged warrior.
Before reading this book, I knew little of the Palmyrene Empire (I could spell it and I knew Palmyra was Syrian) and even less about Zenobia. I had no problems getting caught up in the story and learning as I went. The reader does not have to be versed in the times or area to follow this tale. It was delightfully educational.
Zabdas’s uncle, Julius is an interesting figure, being polite and gentile but also knowing when to be a bit cutthroat. He also has his fair share of secrets. So does his daughter, Zenobia. She is regal in her bearing, but also strong-willed. Various male leaders have a hard time tossing her out of meetings without looking the fool. She keeps her personal political agenda close to her chest until near the end of the book. Since we don’t get to spend time in her head, we must guess her motives, as Zabdas does.
I enjoyed every minute of this book and had a hard time putting it down, like for a few hours of necessary sleep. I am very much hoping Book 2 comes to audio.
The Narration: Paul Hodgson was the perfect fit for Zabdas. He did a great job switching back and forth from the unsure youthful Zabdas to the seasoned war veteran Zabdas. There are only a handful of female characters in this book, it being of a small cast. Hodgson had a nice female voice, but I found that all the ladies sounded alike. If two were talking together, I had to pay close attention most of the time to follow who was talking. Hodgson had a variety of accents that added to the over all flavor of the book.
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