This novel reads like a woodchipper on jet fuel. Battle, betrayal, torture, plot twists, sex, suspense, it's all in here.
I would only compare this book to the first four in this unique and remarkable series. Readers should start with Mark of the Demon, and walk with Kara Gillian on her fraught path.
Pitch perfect performance, not a word or a nuance out of place to interfere with our enjoyment of the story.
If I had to sum up my reaction to this book, it would be one word: Impressed. It made me want to reread the series from the beginning to track the clues that Ms. Rowland planted and which bloomed into one big gaudy demon jungle in this one.
I understand that this series has nine books planned. *Kara Gillian fan swoons*. Brava, Diana Rowland.
The three things that stood out about this audiobook (Sleight of Hand: Bite Back, Book 1): The heroine, the complexity of the conflicts she faces, and the narrator.
Let's take them one at a time. Our MC is Amber, and I approve. First of all, she has a Pretty Name. I find it hard to connect with so many main characters right out of the gate -- just because they are given dumb clunky names. In Amber, author Mark Henwick has created a heroine who is immediately likable through the simple technique of making her *gasp* Actually Competent. Right from the get-go, she has her spit together. I think that too many authors, wanting to depict a character arc, start their H out making really stupid decisions, avoidable mistakes, and childish judgments. Amber's maturity, commensurate with her life experience, is a breath of fresh air.
Gotta hand it to Mr. Henwick. He threw so many difficulties at our protagonist that I was on the edge of my earbuds the whole time. Not only does she have problems with her case, her struggling business, and a suspicious cop, but also with a bitchy sister, an aspirant best friend, a twitchy government bureaucrat, a disgruntled ex-client, persistent vampires, wolf-prints, and her inevitably pending undeath sentence, just to name a few. This is why it is such a relief that she has so much emotional maturity. There's no angst, whining, or torrents of tears, which may seem to be "natural" reactions to some lazy authors, but are boring, boring, boring to read about.
I must single out the thing that was unique and so very welcome about this story to me. I LOVE paranormal romances. I have gratitude to live in times when I can have them read to me - thanks Audible. Anyway, back on topic. In this story, our heroine, as a result of a vampire attack, is slowly developing vampire-like physical traits. We all know that blood and sex are linked vampire stories (at least the good ones, *grin*). Well, Amber is "between" men, but her libido is growing inexorably as the vampire prions multiply in her blood. As a result, she is attracted to a woman as well as to a man. This is all presented matter-of-factly and publicly. This just…chimes for me and my private little, ah, reading pleasures. Best yet, when things seem to fall apart for one of her perspective liaisons, she does not Burn That Bridge. Did I mention how much I appreciate Amber's maturity?
I cannot say enough about how much I loved Kimberly Henrie's performance as the reader. Those of us who listen to audiobooks recognize that is there is special handful of audiobooks where the talent is perfectly matched to the material. This is one of those. Kimberly's voice is smooth as motor oil, feminine as chantilly lace, and calm as a sunning butterfly. This is the lady I want reading the phone book to me, yo. She will heretofore be referred to as: Voice Angel.
Boogers in the Bisque:
As much as I liked this book, there are some negatives that simply cannot go unremarked on. The first is the cover. The model is depicted with her finger on the trigger of a gun. The Third Rule of gun safety is Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target (and you have made the decision to shoot). Very bad optics indeed for a book whose MC has Army as well as police training, and there it is, ignorance immortalized right on the dang cover. BAD.
Other small demerits go, sadly, to Kimberly. For all that her performance of this book was heavenly, there were a couple of mispronunciations that stood out. For example, the heroine is invited into the opulent home of her wealthy client, and sits down on an elegant "chase". Needle scratch, Voice Angel! Another small criticism is that she did never picked up the pace or add urgency to the big action scenes - especially at the climax of the book. Oh well, piddly quibbles won't result in any stars being deducted from her rating. Take it from me, Kimberly Henrie has the makings of an Audible superstar.
In conclusion, this was over 12 hours (yay) of pure fun, action, suspense, and sexy tension, with a solid gold performance, and more is on the way with Hidden Trump (Bite Back, Book 2). The minute that sequel shows up in Audible, I am whisking it into my cart.
It has attractive cover art, which makes it stand out in the lists. There is not much else redeeming. The story is awkward, the heroine is unlikeable, the "mystery" is silly, and there aren't even any memorable secondary characters. Nah, this one is a dud.
What subject matter?
I don't know if S. A. Stolinsky (author) and Stephanie Stolinsky (narrator) are the same person, but if so, I would suggest that she invest in a reader with talent and experience.
The narrator's voice was the "story" here. I have never experienced an audiobook read like this - that voice is so harsh it is cringeworthy. No way does it convince a listener that it represents a pretty, fluffy trophy wife/actress/goofball "detective". Instead it conjures images of bitter, slightly unwell, harping and complaining old aunt-in-law. I am returning this one and getting my credit back.
I don't like these questions that Audible generates, apparently at random. After I previewed my first review, I went back to edit and the questions had changed altogether, so that my responses did not match. How about letting me write my review in my own words?
Yes, because there is nothing particularly horrible about either, I will give more details below.
The story was creative, interesting, and unique, but p l o d d i n g.
There was a pause
between every sentence
that a more experienced performer
would put between every
It made the pacing
OK I am glad that Audible asked about editing, because here this the main reason that I gave this audiobook ratings in the pits.
The book "ends" halfway into the second half, after the sooper dramatic death of some baddie we have never heard of before, and the emotional burial scene of said stranger. Turns out, there are entire sections missing from the book. Poof. They just never showed up in the reading. Or did they? Some missing chapters seen to be there after the copyright info is read into the record, suddenly the story resumes ~~ somewhere.
This is a faulty recording and needs to be recalled/amended. I know somebody reads these reviews before they are published, so I will say this now. I intend to return this book if Audible does not recall this recording and fix this problem.
Too bad for the author, who is the one whose name is ultimately associated with a middling narrator and a suxxor recording.
Give writers some power over the performance and publication of audiobooks. We would get less dross in the marketplace.
Never, for either of them. Peeler is dead to me as an author. Hvam I will avoid without particular rancor, just out of preference.
I am not turned off from other books of this genre, on the contrary, I seek out books of this genre. This was particularly poorly done and that's why I am singling it out for scorn in this category.
Nobody "deserved" to have to read this book.
I reacted with impatience to turn it off and scroll to a story with merit.
I am not returning any of my previous purchases in this series. I continued to buy them as the series continued to fizzle. Buyer beware. Using credits on these is nothing but a Stupid Tax.
I suppose that people who haven't listened to scores of books by more talented writers and who are seeking low-impact YA fiction might give this book a higher score.
I would never listen to a Young Adult title by Carol Wolf again.
The narration is much finer than the story deserves. No particular demerits for Elizabeth Evans.
Witch coven, so off-putting, so tiresome. Magic women all clustered together, dancing withershins. Good grief.
Author benefitted from good cover art and blurb writing. What a rip off, because better authors get poor covers and weak blurbs. This story, for the first time in years of audiobook purchases, was a DNF for me. Trashed it midway through Part 2. I would NOT, however, automatically shun a book read by Elizabeth Evans. I hope her career is not poisoned by contracting to read such dreck.
This series just keeps getting better and better as our beautiful, sexy vampires find their true loves and the family grows. This installment contained some delightful laugh-out-loud passages: 314 messages from women (and a couple of men!) who think Ian is HAWT after his profile goes up on an internet dating site, so funny. And, Ian gets an unexpected side effect from the stay-awake medicine, yum.
The writing gets better and better too, with just the perfect balance of madcap comedy, blooming romance, and violent peril. One of my favorite things about this series is the careful attention of the secondary characters. Even the children are endearing instead of annoying, a tricky feat to pull off. Dr. Fang? OHHH Yeah. This book introduces a new sidekick who is also completely charming...and the shapeshifters are finding a role too.
To make this listening experience perfect was the narration by Coleen Marlo. Not only does she have a lovely voice, but she reads prose and dialect with flawless rhythm, and delivers credible accents to the Scots, the Italian, the Russians, the Texan, and more. I wish she had been hired to narrate the entire series, it could have vastly improved a couple of the earlier installments. Thank you and great luck Coleen, you were born to read audiobooks.
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