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Anonymous

Member Since 2005

1615
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 49 reviews
  • 89 ratings
  • 438 titles in library
  • 18 purchased in 2018
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  • The Undead Situation

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Eloise J. Knapp
    • Narrated By Kevin T. Collins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (471)
    Performance
    (417)
    Story
    (418)

    When the end finally occurred, everything about it was cinematic. The dead came back and ate people, civilization collapsed, and no one could do a thing. But Cyrus V. Sinclair couldn’t care less; he’s a sociopath. Amidst the chaos, Cyrus sits back and contemplates the gore stained streets and screams of his fellow man with little more emotion than one of the walking corpses. With his cache of guns and MREs, he rather likes the idea of hunkering down in his Seattle apartment while the world ends outside.

    Kindle Customer says: "Zombie Books ROCK."
    "May not be what you're expecting!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Undead Situation is not your usual zombie story where a few heroic survivors do heroic stuff and eventually move forward with their lives. Instead, most of these survivors are kind of...well...OK, I'll just say it. They're jerks.

    Fortunately, they're funny, clever jerks, which made this book a quick and amusing listen. The main character, Cyrus V. Sinclair, won me over early on just because he knows himself so well--he understands that he's a jerk and he at least tries to work with it instead of letting it hold him back.

    A few other reviewers say there's a lack of story, so I'll warn prospective readers: this isn't an epic drama. If you'd prefer a chewier apocalypse with more examination of society and morality, I recommend Stephen King's "Cell" (which by the way I really liked). In other words, you won't find a good-vs.-evil showdown here; it's a fast-moving tale of survival. Seen from that perspective, it definitely did the job, keeping me entertained and leaving me wanting more.

    Another warning: like most zombie adventures, this one's got plenty of yuck. Don't do what I did and sit down to eat lunch while listening! Ew. I'd rate it at least PG-13; younger kids might be a little freaked out by the mess (unless they already like zombies and know what to expect).

    This narrator was new to me, and for the most part I liked his performance. He could get hammy, but that never lasted long, and he didn't try to do high voices for the female characters, which I always appreciate. Overall, I recommend this for a funny and fast listen.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • FantasticLand: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Mike Bockoven
    • Narrated By Angela Dawe, Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (585)
    Performance
    (556)
    Story
    (551)

    Since the 1970s, FantasticLand has been the theme park where "Fun is Guaranteed!" But when a hurricane ravages the Florida coast and isolates the park, the employees find it anything but fun. Five weeks later, the authorities who rescue the survivors encounter a scene of horror. Photos soon emerge online of heads on spikes outside of rides and viscera and human bones littering the gift shops, breaking records for hits, views, likes, clicks, and shares.

    T.J. says: "Absurd...But awesome"
    "Scares are guaranteed!"
    Overall
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    I thought I'd enjoy this book based on reviews. I ended up loving it, and I'm sure it will get a second listen. In the wake of natural disasters like Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and Maria, FantasticLand felt close to home, and it gave me more to think about than I originally anticipated.

    FantasticLand is an amusement park on the Florida coast. When Hurricane Sadie hits, several hundred employees are stuck there with plenty of food, water, and shelter--but no power, and no way to communicate with the outside world. Almost immediately, the situation begins to decay, and within just a few days, the survivors have gone full Lord of the Flies on each other.

    The 25 or so "interviews" with survivors and other involved parties are presented as an attempt to piece together what happened and find out what went wrong. From one standpoint, it's a brilliant way to tell this story: with so many unreliable narrators, Fantasticland is one big terrifying puzzle. Who's telling the truth, if indeed anyone is? Who were the heroes, or the villains? How did this even happen? Figuring it all out would take multiple listens and maybe even a spreadsheet.

    One limitation of this form, however, is that we don't get to spend much time with each character. In some cases, that's just fine--yikes!--but in others, it seems like a missed opportunity. There are also a few extremely intriguing story elements that surface briefly and then vanish with the next interview, only to pop up later on. That can be great fun, or frustrating, depending on how much we want to know, and sometimes I wanted to know more.

    I was a bit afraid FantasticLand might turn out to be a fable about The Evils of Social Media, and there was some of that, but luckily not too much. The author is generally kind to his characters, who are mostly twentysomethings, and wisely avoids painting them all as completely incompetent while pointing out that some of them were better equipped than others to survive. The narrators both do a great job with their many roles, sounding by turns scared, angry, cocky, regretful, happy, and plenty of other emotions. I was impressed at the sheer variety of voices and accents.

    Overall, this was a really good listen. Without being preachy, it gave me a lot to wonder about--violence, how important communication is in human relations, why we as news watchers dwell on every detail of every disaster. Highly recommended!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Behind Closed Doors

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By B. A. Paris
    • Narrated By Georgia Maguire
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (38893)
    Performance
    (35315)
    Story
    (35267)

    Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He's a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You're hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.

    Andre M. Gorelkin says: "Slow start but a gripping experience"
    "A solid scare!"
    Overall
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    Story

    Jack and Grace Angel are an upper-middle-class couple in England. He's a lawyer; she's a former Harrod's fruit buyer. They're a little older than most newlyweds--both of them were just waiting until The Right One came along. To their friends, it looks like they were made for each other. But that's just the appearance from the outside.

    The dark side of Jack and Grace's relationship is, well, dark. VERY dark, and also quite disturbing. I've read courtroom dramas with more sex and violence than this book, but there are more kinds of harm than physical. As our main character contends with the situation, we learn how far some people are willing to go to maintain control. This book may be a bit shocking for some readers, who based on the title and description may be expecting a modern fiction book about a bad relationship. That's not what we have here. Frankly, it's pretty horrifying.

    Still, most of the scare value doesn't come from how awful the situation is, even though it's about a 9.5 on the awful scale. Instead, we see how easily the main character is drawn into this situation: not by simply being naïve (although there is some of that), but by playing by the normal rules most of us accept. We all think we can recognize a horrible person, and that if something like this happened to us we'd get out of it immediately. But it's hard to accept that someone could be this sociopathic; I don't think most of us would have that on our checklist from the get-go. And everything goes bad so quickly--could we ourselves see that coming? Would we know what to do if we did?

    The book switches back and forth from past to present day. While that can be an annoying distraction in some books--must we always have a cliffhanger?--here it's used to amp the tension way up. As the timelines draw closer together, the suspense is nail-biting all the way to the end.

    Narrator Georgia Maguire did fine here, especially with emotions in the tense parts, although I didn't quite buy her male voices. Recommended for anyone looking for a solid beach or airport read that really brings the scare.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Days of Jack Sparks

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Jason Arnopp
    • Narrated By Joe Jameson
    Overall
    (420)
    Performance
    (399)
    Story
    (400)

    It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed. Then there was that video: 40 seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet it was posted from his own YouTube account. Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed - until now.

    Lesley says: "Scary, hilarious, creepy, snarky, fun"
    "Scary, hilarious, creepy, snarky, fun"
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    Jack Sparks is a sarcastic Brit with a big social media presence and a few published books. He's probably getting a bit long in the tooth for this kind of life, but his bank account is emptying and another best-seller is in order to follow the last one, Jack Sparks on Drugs--from which he has just barely recovered. This time he figures he'll write Jack Sparks on the Supernatural, thinking the research and so forth will be fun for an atheist like himself.

    But things don't turn out quite the way Jack thought. After he attends an exorcism in Italy, his life takes a few weird turns, and then a terrifying video is posted to his YouTube account. Searching for the source of the video, Jack ends up in Hollywood, slowly--or even quickly--going insane.

    Arnopp's take on the supernatural here is fresh and interesting: this is definitely not your regular old book about demons and exorcists. Jack's insane adventures build to an ending that really satisfies, in spite of being a little bit drawn-out.

    I won't say more for fear of spoilers, but trust me, this is a great listen. Parts of it were so scary I had to pause it while listening alone in a dark room. Other times, I paused it because I was just laughing too hard to hear the next bit. Overall, Jack is an absolute jerk, but he's funny enough to make that work in his favor.

    Joe Jameson narrates the book with exactly the right tone--you can practically hear his eyes rolling in some places, but elsewhere you can hear just a bit of sympathy for Jack. This was a truly entertaining listen, and I'm eagerly looking forward to more of Jason Arnopp!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Ruth Franklin
    • Narrated By Bernadette Dunne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (88)
    Performance
    (77)
    Story
    (77)

    Known to millions mainly as the author of the "The Lottery", Shirley Jackson has been curiously absent from the mainstream American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense and psychological horror, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America more deeply than anyone. Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author of The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

    Lesley says: "An incredible writer; a courageous woman"
    "An incredible writer; a courageous woman"
    Overall
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    Millions of Americans have read "The Lottery"--if you've ever wondered about the mind behind it, you will love this biography.

    Using new interviews and new correspondence, Ruth Franklin has produced a vivid yet nuanced portrait of Jackson, both as a writer and as a woman leading what was a very unconventional life for a member of The Greatest Generation. Her marriage was "mixed": her husband, critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, was Jewish at a time of widespread anti-semitism. Amid the racial bias of that era, some of the couple's friends, like novelist Ralph Ellison, were not white. Her more frightening works, like "The Lottery" and "The Haunting of Hill House," caused sensations when they were printed, and Jackson herself read tarot cards, claiming the label of "practicing amateur witch."

    Coexisting with all that, however, was a more conventional person, a writer whose funny family stories frequently appeared in magazines for "ladies," like Good Housekeeping and Mademoiselle. A mother of four herself, she produced a book of advice for new mothers.

    At the same time, neither version of Shirley Jackson was definitive--and neither was happy. The only daughter of a viciously critical mother who essentially rejected her, Jackson was self-conscious and anxious to extremes, suffering from agoraphobia and nightmares. Her marriage was not happy: Hyman, too, was over-critical, and she felt he lavished attention on his students and friends (including female friends), while paying less attention to her and the children.

    Franklin observes the tension between the two unhappy Shirleys, drawing sharp parallels to Jackson's fiction. She is usually kind, even toward the womanizing Hyman, but she's never condescending as she shows us everything that Jackson was up against in post-war America: the idea that writing was men's work meant her writing often didn't get the attention it deserved. Small-town prejudice created constant nuisance in her daily life. The expectations for women of her era were difficult for any woman to embody--let alone a brilliant creative like Jackson.

    I came away with a feeling that Jackson would have been happier if she were born later in history, and the simultaneous knowledge that a later Jackson would not have been the same writer. Like all the best biographers, Franklin concentrates on the personal while never overwhelming us with too much detail. Bernadette Dunne's smooth narration makes this book an excellent listen. Five stars all around--recommended for anyone who loves Jackson, even those who've read only "The Lottery."

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Tribe

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Brad Manuel
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6067)
    Performance
    (5690)
    Story
    (5677)

    Fourteen-year-old Greg Dixon is living a nightmare. Attending boarding school outside of Boston, he is separated from his family when a pandemic strikes. His classmates and teachers are dead, rotting in a dormitory-turned-morgue steps from his room. The nights are getting colder, and his food has run out. The last message from his father is to get away from the city and to meet at his grandparents' town in remote New Hampshire.

    Andrew Pollack says: "A perfect year in the post apocalypse."
    "What if almost everybody in the world died..."
    Overall
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    ...and only nice, reasonable people were left?

    That seems to be the main question asked by The Last Tribe. A pandemic wipes out all but a millionth of the world's population. In New England, the Dixon family seems to be immune. Realizing there may be others left alive, the adult Dixons make plans to leave their various locations and gather in New Hampshire. Then they all set off to see what's left out there in the world.

    In a typical post-apocalypse story, their journeys would be terrifying, full of narrow escapes and terrible privations. But the Dixons' search feels more like a family vacation than anything else. They bounce along the nation's roads, seeing the sights, watching videos, and thinking of new ways to cook the food they've stockpiled.

    I kept waiting for the horrible violent people to show up--there must be some of those left, I figured, since there are so many now. But they never did. Not all the characters are saints; in fact, some cross over the line into creep territory.

    But as one character puts it, "This isn't the Road Warrior." That's for sure. Instead, it's a world that, in the throes of its final disaster, is civilized at last. Adults talk things out, with hardly a need to vote on anything. There's not much arguing, and when there are fights, they never lead to bitterness.

    The lack of struggle and opposition made for a book that could have been extremely dull--and yet, somehow, even though The Last Tribe clocks in at 22 hours plus, I was not bored. I found myself really liking the Dixons. They seemed like a nice family, even with one semi-paranoid uncle who spent a lot of time explaining why he didn't trust The Feds. And even that flaw only served to remind me that there's one of those in every family group.

    I have to say that the story seemed a bit lacking--there were character arcs, but none of them were very steep. The author seems completely obsessed with food, too, to the point where I began to wonder whether he was on a diet as he wrote the book.

    Overall, though, by the end of the book, I found myself feeling happy for the Dixons and their friends, and how far they'd come in their search for a life in the new post-pandemic universe. Scott Brick brought everything to life so well, I was a bit sad when it was all over. Calming post-apocalyptic literature is an idea I would have laughed at even a few weeks ago, but this book shows that it can work.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Positive: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By David Wellington
    • Narrated By Nick Podehl
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (367)
    Performance
    (337)
    Story
    (337)

    The tattooed plus sign on Finnegan's hand marks him as a Positive. At any time the zombie virus could explode in his body, turning him from a rational human into a ravenous monster. His only chance of a normal life is to survive the last two years of the potential incubation period. If he reaches his 21st birthday without an incident, he'll be cleared.

    Andrew Pollack says: "Good - but not typical of other Wellington stories"
    "Twenty years on, everything's great. Or is it?"
    Overall
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    Twenty years after a zombie apocalypse, Finnegan lives with his family in Manhattan, a sprawling metropolis of 50,000. Everything's fine--if you don't mind constant gardening, fishing in the subway, and coping with paranoid members of the "First Generation" who lived through the worst of the catastrophe.

    Things aren't very interesting. That is, not until Finnegan gets the "Positive" tattoo on his left hand, marking him out as Infected. Suddenly, he's an outcast, to be sent to a camp in Ohio. The military are supposed to come get him and take him there--but they don't make it.

    So begins the adventure in this book that's less about the undead and more about survival, friendship, leadership, inspiration, and hope. That might sound like a lot for one book, especially a zombie saga, but David Wellington is talented enough to make it work. Positive reads more like Dickens: our hero explores the ravaged world, but also human behavior, and himself. While he's doing that, an incredible variety of secondary characters blooms and grows in the story.

    Overall it's a very different take on the situation than the survivor-vs.-undead story. Most books in this genre don't focus on what might happen decades in the future, and Positive's scenario seems pretty realistic (if you can call anything with zombies in it "realistic.")

    While the book shows great imagination, there are a few details that might annoy fans of undead chronicles--twenty year old canned food seems perfectly safe, for example, and at times I wondered if there was anything our hero couldn't do. Still, I found myself ignoring all that as I was swept away by the depth of the story and of the relationships between its many characters.

    Nick Podehl does a great job as always, with different voices for all those many characters. I always knew who was speaking, no matter how complicated things got.

    I've read a great deal of post-apocalyptic fiction, and I have to say this book, while clearly aimed at the "emerging adult" market, is one of the standouts. There's room for a sequel, and I hope that happens. Highly recommended for a fresh and chewy take on the apocalypse!

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • The Undead: Part 1

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By R. R. Haywood
    • Narrated By Dan Morgan
    Overall
    (1075)
    Performance
    (1009)
    Story
    (1006)

    A deadly infection spreads across Europe. The Undead series: a terrifying account of one man desperately struggling to survive this harrowing event day by day. Part one - days one to three. Howie is at home on a rare Friday night off work when an infection which has rapidly spread across Europe hits his hometown on the South Coast of England. Luck sees him through the first night when many others are taken down and infected, only to rise again as the undead.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "HOWIE AND DAVE"
    "Fresh brains for zombie fans!"
    Overall
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    Last year Audible readers were treated to Spanish zombies in Manel Loureiro's "Apocalypse Z." This year, a zombie plague hits the shores of Dear Old Blighty in R. R. Haywood's "The Undead."

    Howie is a night manager in a supermarket in southern England, and he has to attend a daytime meeting. Afterward, he goes home, gets some takeout, and turns on the TV to enjoy a rare night off--only to find that zombies have suddenly taken over Europe.

    What comes next will be familiar to anyone who's seen much of the genre: hazardous travel, harrowing escapes, and humans more dangerous, or at least more irritating, than any zombie. But then Howie goes back to where he used to work and finds Dave, his former colleague.

    From there on the series takes a fresh turn as Dave and Howie begin a search for Howie's sister, Sarah, stuck in her flat somewhere in London. As it is with all the best zombie novels, Haywood tells us more about friendship and human nature than the relentless advance of the undead. A stressful situation can bring out the best in some people, and Howie, fortunately, is one of the lucky ones. The spin on the plague itself is pretty interesting, too.

    While I wouldn't call this a comedy, it's quite light-hearted in places, with plenty of British-style sarcasm. Narrator Dan Morgan does a great job bringing it all to life.

    I've really been enjoying this series and I certainly hope there are more on the way soon. Recommended for anyone looking for a new take on a favorite genre!

    19 of 22 people found this review helpful
  • The Killer Next Door

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Alex Marwood
    • Narrated By Imogen Church
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3805)
    Performance
    (3513)
    Story
    (3503)

    Everyone who lives at 23 Beulah Grove has a secret. If they didn't, they wouldn't be renting rooms in a dodgy old building for cash - no credit check, no lease. It's the kind of place you end up when you you've run out of other options.The six residents mostly keep to themselves, but one unbearably hot summer night, a terrible accident pushes them into an uneasy alliance. What they don't know is that one of them is a killer. He's already chosen his next victim, and he'll do anything to protect his secret.

    Lesley says: "Incredible--but not for the faint of heart"
    "Incredible--but not for the faint of heart"
    Overall
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    In any big city, people whose lives are in transition drift in and out of places like 23 Beulah Grove, at the edge of the London sprawl. Once a respectable Edwardian house, it's now divided into six small, dusty apartments. The landlord is a creep, but he doesn't ask too many questions--and that's just what these tenants need.

    When a desperate woman rents a just-vacated room, she meets the other five tenants: a Persian asylum-seeker, a man who never turns off his music, a self-described "perky scouse" girl from Liverpool, a friendly but boring guy whose work hours have been cut, and an older lady with a "secure tenancy"--a permanent lease.

    Everyone is nice enough, but all of them, even the landlord, have some things they'd rather not talk about--especially the one who's a killer with some imaginatively sick preferences. And all of them are in for more adventure than they ever thought they'd have!

    Like Alex Marwood's last book (The Wicked Girls), The Killer Next Door is a stand-alone thriller. But again, within that framework, the author manages to explore some themes more often seen only in the Literary genre: the transient nature of some friendships, the sting of class inequality, the difficulty of change in human lives, and the side effects of gentrification, just to name a few.

    And again, in spite of the different and bigger cast of characters this time, all are fully developed: like them or hate them, all are real people. I love thrillers, but often I find myself wishing for something a little chewier--this fits the bill nicely, and Marwood is already on my favorite authors list.

    One warning: if you're at all sensitive, there are some pretty graphic (and gross!) passages here that were enough to make me pause the book and breathe deeply for a minute before going back to the story. But of course I did go back to the story--I had to find out what would happen next!

    Part of that was because Imogen Church's narration didn't let me down--she brought out both the warmth and the fear in this story, as well as doing a great job on all the British accents.

    Stephen King described this book as "scary as hell," and I agree--but thanks to Marwood's talent, it's so much more than a good scare. If you liked The Wicked Girls (or if you are a fan of Gillian Flynn, or Laura Lippman), you'll love The Killer Next Door. Highly recommended!

    172 of 176 people found this review helpful
  • The Wolves of London: Obsidian Heart, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Mark Morris
    • Narrated By Ben Onwukwe
    Overall
    (55)
    Performance
    (51)
    Story
    (47)

    Alex Locke is a reformed ex-con forced into London's criminal underworld for one more job. He agrees to steal a priceless artefact - a human heart carved from the blackest obsidian - but when the burglary goes horribly wrong, Alex is plunged into the nightmarish world of the Wolves of London, unearthly assassins who will stop at nothing to reclaim the heart. As he races to unlock the secrets of the mysterious object, Alex must learn to wield its dark power - or be destroyed by it.

    Lesley says: "Nothing here is what it seems!"
    "Nothing here is what it seems!"
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    When I read the description for The Wolves of London, I thought it sounded like a good urban fantasy. It was that, but it was so much more!

    Alex Locke is a mild-mannered fellow with a couple of ex-girlfriends and a couple of daughters. Each day is much like the others for this single dad, as he gets his youngest ready for school and arranges child care with the neighbors before he commutes to his job as a teacher. Nobody knows about his criminal past--until the day his oldest daughter reveals that she's in a jam. Alex is forced to call in a favor. And that's when the real trouble begins.

    A lot of urban fantasy focuses on underground supernatural factions as they battle for control over territory or lives, and often there's some romance thrown in as well. That's what I was expecting, and The Wolves of London seemed to be going in that direction--but then it took a left turn. And then another, and another, until I had zero idea where this story was going next. It was a fresh new take on the genre, and wholly unpredictable!

    I definitely appreciated Morris's imagination, but even better are the great characters in this book. So here's a warning--this is only Book One, and there's definitely more to the story. I just finished listening, and already I miss Alex as well as the other people from this realistic world that's also a very unrealistic world (in a good way!). Describing them would spoil too much--let's just say that everybody you'll meet here is full of surprises!

    No review for this audiobook is complete without a mention of Ben Onwukwe, the narrator. His voice is just gorgeous, but his range of accents and voices is plain incredible. His reading creates characterization that adds both depth and humor to the weird, weird world of the story.

    So if you're looking for something a little different in the urban fantasy line, I highly recommend The Wolves of London. But hold on to your headphones--you're in for a crazy ride.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The Little Stranger

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Sarah Waters
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (729)
    Performance
    (476)
    Story
    (474)

    The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline - its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at 20 to nine.

    Lesley says: "A creepy story, with atmosphere for days"
    "A creepy story, with atmosphere for days"
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    The postwar era wasn't generally a good time for the "great houses" of England or the noble families that lived in them. Brothers, sons, and tenant farmers were lost or injured; cash flow lessened accordingly. Wartime rationing lasted much longer in Britain after WWII, until 1950, making it hard to throw a grand party. Servants were hard to find, since many young people began to opt instead for the higher pay (and less classist treatment) of factory jobs. The Little Stranger is nominally a ghost story: one of the "ghosts" is the old way of life.

    So if you're looking for a Stephen King-style scarefest, this isn't it. The Little Stranger is a creepy, modern gothic tale, in the tradition of The Woman in White or Rebecca, with perhaps a bit of Wuthering Heights thrown in.

    Just after WWII, Dr. Faraday has his own practice in the English countryside, near where he grew up. His patients are ordinary country people, but the great house of his district, Hundreds Hall, has long held his imagination. When he is called to the house to examine a servant, Betty, he's sad to find circumstances much reduced. The house has just three residents--the Widow Ayres and her son and daughter--and Betty is the only servant left.

    Still curious about the house, he tends to Betty and then has tea with the Ayreses. So begins a friendship that might have been better left unforged. As things go bad over the course of the following year, Dr. Faraday tells us of a house that's as expensive and troublesome as it is grand. In fact, it seems to be less than fond of its residents--and it's got a mind of its own.

    This is not a fast-paced story. Instead, tensions build as Dr. Faraday describes the terrible events at Hundreds Hall. We hear a great deal about how helpful he is: Mrs. Ayres, in particular, is constantly mentioning how wonderful he's been to the family, and how much she values his friendship as he makes tough decisions on their behalf.

    Part of the joy of this book, therefore, is imagining a different perspective--are things really as Dr. Faraday tells us they are? Another part is the fantastic narration by Simon Vance, who's done a great job on everything from David Copperfield to the latest Terry Brooks novel. (Vance may sound pompous--but just remember, he's acting!)

    No shrouded figures are seen; no skeletons dance in the drawing room, and no monsters are hiding under the beds. But I have to say that the end of this story is one of the most chilling I've read recently--and that's coming from somebody who reads a lot of scary stuff! Highly recommended for fans of the Victorian Gothic genre: The Little Stranger has everything you're craving and more.

    25 of 25 people found this review helpful

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