STORY (murder mystery) - Giles, a butler, reluctantly must host a murder mystery game on a small Caribbean island. There are 10 co-workers who have been "rewarded" by being trapped for a week at the luxury resort where Giles works. Someone is killed each day, and the survivors must compete with each other to solve each murder. They are allowed to visit either the murder scene, the morgue or the last place the deceased was seen alive. Some work alone, and others are trusting enough to form alliances. The winner may rest assured he has been spared from becoming the next victim.
The book is short (about 6 hours) and moves quickly. Since there are multiple murders, the riddles and clues are not very detailed. The murders are pretty grotesque, but the author moves quickly to the participants trying to solve the murder and doesn't dwell on the gory details. I'm pretty squeamish, and I was okay listening to this book. The murderer is revealed in the end, and the book comes to a satisfactory conclusion.
PERFORMANCE - The narrator had an awesome "butler voice." It was very low with an English accent, and pompous enough to sound like the butlers you see on TV. He made a pretty good attempt at giving the characters different voices and even did a halfway decent teenaged girl.
OVERALL - (actual rating 3.5) Can't go wrong with this freebie. There's another called Murder in Mystery Manor, which I plan to hear as well. There's no cursing and only slight references to sex, but you must be prepared for some brief grisly descriptions. It's definitely not a high-quality listen, but I still found it entertaining. Check it out.
STORY (fiction) - This story takes place in Scotland, sometime near the present day. When I bought this book, I was expecting a heartwarming family-oriented story about a six-year-old child. There is that component to the story and it's very sweet (Bertie and his overbearing mother), but there's two other story lines of equal importance -- a story about some newlyweds and another about two women vying for the attention of one man. The stories are all basically about navigating through life's various ups and downs, and there's lots of character development. I almost returned this book after about an hour or so of listening to it because there wasn't enough going on to hold my interest, but I persevered. Soon I became involved with the characters and their various personal journeys.
PERFORMANCE - Good job.
OVERALL - Recommended for adults only. Even though there's no sex or profanity, children would find it boring. It's part of a series, but the story stands alone. This book is basically rambling around in the daily lives of richly developed characters. I prefer a little more "going on" in books so I won't be continuing with the series, but I enjoyed this book nonetheless.
STORY (horror/suspense) - First of all, this book is creepy and scary, but it's not blood and gore like the cover art suggests. In fact, there is no character that bleeds from her eyes and there's very little bloodshed. The story is about an investigation into a house that is supposedly haunted -- to be filmed live on Halloween! The book begins with the haunted history of the house, moves to assembling an investigative team and prepping for the show, then culminates in the live broadcast. I enjoyed all aspects of the story but, as in all mysteries, there are lots of clues that the reader is trying to figure out and understand. During the live broadcast, when I thought things would start to be revealed and make sense, the book seemed to just drag on and on with very little becoming clear. Then there's a short prologue where the main characters get together months after the broadcast and talk about what had actually occurred. It is only then that the mystery of the haunting becomes clear, and I doubt any reader would have seen it coming. It's a decent explanation, but I didn't like the way it was revealed.
There are lots of characters that are all important, so you will want to keep them straight. Sometimes they're referred to by their first names, sometimes their last and sometimes by their job in the story. "The Supernaturals" refers to the team who assembled to assault whatever is haunting the house -- a professor, an Indian dreamwalker, a psychic, a genius in inventing ghost-detecting gadgets and a woman who is possessed by a male ghost. They're all likeable and you will root for them as the suspense in the story progresses. The other characters in the story each have their own motivation for wanting the live program to succeed or fail, so there's television politics, police conflict, double-crossing, etc., which keeps the story interesting.
PERFORMANCE - Good job. Characters that were on the phone or radio sounded as if they actually were, and the ghostlike voices were pretty creepy.
OVERALL - Quite a bit of scary occurrences and also profanity, so not suitable for children. While I chose not to listen to this book as I was falling asleep (as I often do), I don't think it would cause anyone bad dreams unless you're pretty easily scared.
SLIGHT SPOILER ABOUT THE AUTHOR'S VISIT TO THIS HOUSE - While this story is fictitious, the house itself is a real house which is supposedly haunted. A realtor showed the house to the author, but she wouldn't go inside. The author, after driving several hours, went in alone. He said he felt like an ominous presence was watching him and wanted to be left alone, so he left the house after only a couple minutes. That visit was his inspiration for writing this book!
STORY (short detective stories) - This is a collection of maybe 10-15 short stories by Agatha Christie, set in the early 1900's. The star is a Belgian detective named Hercule Poirot, a small man with a big ego who always manages to outsmart everyone and crack the case. The publisher's summary gives hints about the different stories so I won't repeat that here, except to say that there's a bit of everything -- kidnapping, murder, robbery, etc.
I think the mysteries are well-written and interesting. My only negative comment is that, since the stories are short, there is very little "fluff." Everything is important, so you must listen carefully. Unfortunately, I'm used to much longer books and, as I'm commuting to and from work, my mind wanders a bit. In a mystery which is, say, 30 minutes in duration, you can't afford to "zone out" for two or three minutes without missing something important. I found myself lost several times and having to rewind and rehear to understand. Alternatively, I often just continued and was completely lost at the end of the story.
PERFORMANCE - Throughout most of the book, Mr. Suchet performed convincing French and British accents, great emotional performances and probably the best female voices I've ever heard performed by a male narrator. The only reason he received a four-start rating is because the last few stories (about the last hour) seemed like a completely different narrator was reading! The great voice of Hercule Poiroit was gone and blended in with the voices of the other minor characters. What happened? Anyway, he went from a five-star rating to a four just because of the final hour.
OVERALL - No sex or cursing. There's kidnappings and killings but they're described with basically no violence. Recommended for any audience, but must be prepared to listen carefully and concentrate!
STORY (vampire romance) - I usually love Molly Harper's books, especially those set in Half Moon Hollow, but this one fell a little short for me just like the last one. I think it's because I've listened to several of her books and the "newness" is wearing off. Don't get me wrong. This is probably an awesome book, but I'm just not the right audience for it right now. Maybe I need to wait a year or so and then I'd appreciate her wonderful writing style all over again. That said, this is the typical Molly Harper story with lots of clever, snarky humor and a bit of romance. Her characters are quirky and loveable, as always.
This story is about Jane Jameson, who is accidentally shot and killed by a hunter who thought she was a deer. A vampire sees the accident and bites her, making her an immortal vampire but saving her life. This book begins with that incident and then follows with Jane's adventures as she attempts to resume her previous life but with her new nighttime hours, blood diet, immortality and new-found vampire boyfriend. It's a hoot.
PERFORMANCE - Nobody but Amanda Ronconi should ever narrate a Molly Harper book. She is awesome in this story, as always.
OVERALL - Recommended for mature females only. Moderate cursing and sexual content. There's lots of humor and a little mystery with a bit of romance tossed in.
STORY (medical thriller) - Abbe is a young surgical intern with a bright future and a great guy. Everything is going perfectly until she starts to wonder about certain things going on in the operating room. The publisher's summary doesn't give much away, so I won't either. I'll just say that some of this book takes place on an ocean-going vessel, but most of it takes place in and around a Chicago hospital. Abbe has stumbled onto something that's as dangerous as it is suspicious. As she struggles to learn what's going on in the OR, she is pressured by those who want to keep things secret. Her career and her very life are at stake.
There's interesting medical situations and lots of suspense in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
PERFORMANCE - George Guidall does a very good job reading this book.
OVERALL (Actual rating 4.5) - Moderate violence and some cursing. Recommended for mature listeners(male or female) due to the subject matter.
STORY (gay/lesbian romance) -- I'm not gay/lesbian, but I was curious. I stumbled on Clear Water in a sale and decided to check it out. I got a little bit too much information, but this cat isn't curious anymore so all is well. I didn't find this book in the gay/lesbian section since I don't shop there, but I will try to review this book for those who do.
Whiskey is 30-something, bisexual and a marine biologist. Patrick is 20-something, gay, has ADHD and teaches yoga. They meet when Whiskey saves Patrick from nearly drowning. Most of the story takes place on a marine research vessel near Sacramento where Whiskey lives and does research on water pollution and marine anomalies.
The characters were likeable, and the romance is sweet. Patrick is pretty screwed up emotionally, but Whiskey is supportive and wants to take care of him. The marine biology background of the story is pretty light, and I would have liked the book much better if there had been more depth in that area. All in all, the book held my interest but, if it hadn't been for "satisfying my curiosity," I would have found it pretty boring.
PERFORMANCE - The narrator had a nice voice and read well, but often he would get lost in a sentence and didn't seem to know what words to accent or where to pause for emphasis. Also he didn't differentiate between characters.
OVERALL - Recommended primarily for gay male listeners. There are several sexual situations but they only last a couple minutes each. Lots of cursing.
STORY (European classic) - I need my head examined. I'm not particularly "deep," so why did I buy Tolstoy???? I think I was drawn in by a couple of reviewers who said this book really made them put their life into perspective and think about how they should spend the time they have left on earth. Then there's the fact that I'll try anything once. It's only 2 1/2 hours, how bad could it be, right?
PRETTY BAD, unless you were the kid that loved to dissect literature in English class. If you're looking for anything entertaining, you won't find it here. Ivan, the main character, lives a boring life and then he dies. As he's dying, he realizes that his main goal had been to achieve a life of success and to surround himself with members of high society, but he also realizes the fallacy of such a life was that he had never been truly happy. Yeah, that's something we should all probably keep in mind, but I'd suggest you take the money and time you'd spend on this book, buy a "Life is short so be happy" refrigerator magnet and do something you enjoy for 2 1/2 hours.
PERFORMANCE - He did an okay job. He sounded middle-aged and had a British accent.
OVERALL - No bad language or sex. (Maybe Ivan would have been happier if he'd had some.) Recommended only for deep thinkers and lovers of classic literature.
STORY (sci-fi) - As the summary suggests, Mark Watney has been abandoned by his crew and left on the surface of Mars. Unbeknownst to them, he is only injured and very much still alive. Mark, who had been the mission's botanist, must now try to survive alone on Mars till help arrives...if it does. What follows is a fast-paced, fascinating tale of survival. He must deal with finding shelter, food, water and breathable air, among other things. He must try to establish communications with NASA and survive sand storms, etc.
Mark is one of my favorite characters EVER. He's brave and smart, even kinda geeky. He works tirelessly and doesn't give up on his situation, and then there's his sense of humor! He's always making fun of his colleagues, himself or his situation, and he's not afraid of saying exactly how he feels. The opening line of the book, when he discovers he's been left behind alone on Mars, is: "I am so f**ked!" I enjoyed his unabashed irreverence but the language flows freely in this book, so it may not be for everyone.
The story is never dull. You will hear how he modifies everything from its original purpose to one fit for survival. (He's quite an inventor). You will hear the various plans that NASA scientists formulate for his rescue and you will hear why they fall by the wayside or fail. Finally (and without giving too much away) you will hear how Mark attempts a treacherous excursion across the planet to attempt a rendezvous with those on a mission to save his life. Great suspense!
PERFORMANCE - He was so perfect for this job! His delivery of Mark's sarcasm and humor was spot on. He also did a great job with various foreign accents possessed by NASA employees and fellow astronauts.
OVERALL - No sex (duh, he's alone on Mars), and no violence. Quite a bit of F-bombs, as mentioned above. I would recommend this book for everyone except children, for obvious reasons. I don't give five stars out freely, but this book is special.
STORY (creepy) - This is a very dark story about an alternate world on the other side of a door in Coraline's home. When young Coraline (probably age 10ish) discovers the door and passes through, she meets twisted versions of her parents and neighbors, talking rats, a talking cat and other strange creatures. She becomes involved in a dangerous life-and-death game of strategy against her "Other Mother" and, in particular, one of her detachable hands. Coraline is smart and resourceful for a young girl her age and manages to come up with a pretty clever way to win the game, save the day and eliminate the threat of the villainous hand!
I thought the story was unique and somewhat interesting, but I can't help wonder what Gaimon's target audience actually was meant to be. As an adult listener, I thought it was fairly juvenile but, on the other hand, I think it would be too dark or intense for many children.
PERFORMANCE - Gaimon himself reads this work, and he does a good job. Not so sure that the weird songs added anything, but they were kind of creepy.
OVERALL - As stated above, I question what age group Gaimon wrote this book for, but maybe girls around 10-12 years old would find it enjoyable, perhaps even as a Halloween listen. No adult situations or language, but quite a bit of creepy characters and events, the type that can cause bad dreams...
STORY (mystery) - This books starts off quickly. A young boy has been kidnapped, drugged and put in a suitcase which has been stuffed in a locker in a train station. Nina, the main character, tries to find who he is so that he can be returned safely home. The boy's mother is desperately trying to find who's taken him and why. The story rocks along as Nina and the mother (working separately) travel around the Copenhagen area following clues, until the final scenes where everything finally all comes together.
Some reviewers have commented that Nina is stupid, but I don't feel that common sense is thrown out the window in this story any more than most fiction. While this wasn't the most exciting mystery I've ever read or listened to, I was never bored and was entertained throughout.
PERFORMANCE - Katherine Kellgren is my favorite female narrator. Her performances are usually so awesome that I save my five-star ratings almost exclusively for her. This time, however, she just gets a four. I don't have any complaints about her performance. It just wasn't one of her more stellar ones.
OVERALL - This is Book 1 of the series, but it stands alone. There's no sex, but there's violence and some foul language. Recommended for mature adults.
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