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Jason Engler

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  • 169
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  • The Ruins

  • By: Scott Smith
  • Narrated by: Patrick Wilson
  • Length: 14 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 809
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 323
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 328

The Ruins follows two American couples enjoying a pleasant, lazy beach holiday together in Mexico. On an impulse, they go off with newfound friends in search of one of their group, the young German who, in pursuit of a girl, has headed for the remote Mayan ruins, site of a fabled archeological dig.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Singularly Harsh

  • By Fredrick J. on 03-07-17

Better than Peter Straub

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-01-18

I read this story after reading Ghost Story by Peter Straub. In comparison, this is much faster pace with a more linear story which I liked much more.

One of the big issues people face in a monster novel is the inability to communicate. Is the monster deliberately violent? Or does it just want to be left alone? Is there a way to peacefully relocate/negotiate? The author adds this element to the story by using Mayans as the initial antagonist. The protagonists go to a hill where their friend went missing along with some archaeologists. The Mayans repeatedly make hand gestures to persuade the main characters to turn back, which (naturally) are ignored. Once Amy goes too far onto the hill, the Mayans keep them at arrow-point and won't let them leave. (Anyone else think of the scene from A Bronx Tale?) The protagonists can't communicate with them since they don't speak the same language, so the protagonists have no idea what's going on. Why should they turn back? Why can't they leave?

At first, the protagonists are just concerned finding food and water to last until help arrives. Soon they hear a cell phone and excitedly try to pursue it as a means to get help. They follow the sound to a deep shaft and find rope to help them down. Everything is going their way, right? Pretty soon they run into obstacles when they realize the rope isn't stable, then the rope isn't long enough. Jeff creates a warning sign to put in front of the hill to stop other americans from entering. To his surprise, he finds another sign already buried underneath vines, and his sign is soon buried too. When they aren't bitten by mosquitoes and can't find any birds, they start to realize something else is going on.

One of the tropes I really like is the "town with a secret". You go somewhere which looks normal at first, then slowly realize things aren't right. I liked the subtle clues the author uses and the escalating sense of panic. The creepy cell phone noise, the lack of wildlife, and the language barrier all contribute to the mood the reader feels. <spoiler>Eric was slowly eaten alive by the plants, which is a nice change from a fast get-eaten death I was expecting.</spoiler> I enjoyed the darker ending. <spoiler>The last survivor tries to show her soon-to-be dead body at the entrance to warn away others, but the vines grab her as she's dying and move her away.</spoiler>

There were a few things I didn't care for, though. The characters each fit their own stereotypical role, which the characters themselves alluded to. The author tried adding a few scenes to grow on their back story, but I felt it was too half-done. Either do it better or get rid of it, IMO. <spoiler>One of the deaths was a lame accident, which could have been done better. I didn't like how Jeff was shot by the mayans since it felt out of character for the healthy survivor/adventurer.</spoiler> When it comes to nature with a secret, I think of Life of Pi. <spoiler>In life of Pi, the protagonist learns the island is eating people and has to leave.</spoiler> I think extending the amount of time on the hill would have improved the story. After just a few days, they wouldn't have felt the same dread as if they were stuck for weeks.

  • Homecoming

  • By: Marian Snowe, Ruby Grandin
  • Narrated by: Amy Deuchler
  • Length: 7 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 43
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 41
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 41

Scarlett McKennon’s life in the big city is a big flop. Her cupcake bakery went under, her roommate at her expensive apartment left her high and dry, and her girlfriend just reacted to “I love you” with “No thanks.” Her sophisticated metropolitan dream has crumbled all around her, and the only thing left to do is pull up stakes and return to the small town where she grew up. What could be worse than limping home in defeat? The minute she steps off the train, Scarlett finds out: her first love, Joan, is waiting there to drive her into town, looking quite sexy.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fantastic narration; characters fought attraction

  • By Kara on 10-26-18

No cupcakes for you

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-10-18

Spoiler warning.

The narrator uses a softer voice for scarlet and a deeper voice for joan. The novel alternates between both love interests' perspectives, but the primary focus is on Scarlet.

Unfortunately, scarlet wasn't the character I could relate to. She's pretty self centered and somewhat spoiled. After losing the love of her life in college, she easily moves on. After her business adventure busts, she moves back to her hometown. (Not sure why since her parents don't live there and she repeatedly says she doesn't know anyone).

I like joan better. Unlike Scarlet, joan seems to be "going with the flow" of her life, working to support her father and marrying a man she doesn't love just so she won't be alone. She's always there to help even though she wants nothing to do with her. She agrees to be friends despite their past breakup. She also plays mentor/substitute-parents to one of the local girls she coaches. I enjoyed listening to her coping with her struggles and finally choosing to make her life her own. I did have two problems with joan. The first is that she ghosted scarlet in the first place. WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT? The second is that after scarlet drunk-calls joan, joan will later drunk-visit scarlet.

There are a few stereotypes like flannel, religion, and the gay best friend with fashion sense. They're used lightly in jest, and they're not *too* overdone. Honestly I'm surprised scarlet bought a toyota instead of a subaru. When scarlet gets into a car accident, I was worried someone was gonna die. But it all ends on a happy note.

I was hoping to have more time with the two together. It feels like a good chunk of the time they're either fighting or not together, right up until the end.

This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Magic Bites audiobook cover art
  • Magic Bites

  • Kate Daniels, Book 1
  • By: Ilona Andrews
  • Narrated by: Renée Raudman
  • Length: 9 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,102
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,202
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,219

Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren't for the magic. When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good book, okay narration

  • By Tera on 04-11-10

The investigator in paranormal Investigator

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-31-18

It probably says a lot about what i read, but i was impressed this book actually featured an investigation. She does some good old fashioned detective work which is the frontrunner of the story. The side romance was meh. Admittedly, I don't know what girls like in men. Dr. Crest camped in front of her house when she didn't go to dinner with him, which seems stalker-territory to me. Then he got upset he couldn't have sex with her after waiting so long for her, and kept trying to kiss her when she says no. Maybe that's romantic for girls, but I think he needed a nice swift kick to the nuts.
My favourite scene is when the beast lord shows up at the same restaurant she's in. Kate has the waiter send him a saucer of milk, and he makes a point to drink it while she watched. i thought this would be the first book where the most powerful beast in the land isn't a love interest of protagonist, but looks like i was wrong.
I don't remember how old kate is, but i kept picturing a rebellious teenager who won't let anyone talk her down. In that regard, she kicks butt. I will keep reading more in the series.

  • Steelheart

  • The Reckoners, Book 1
  • By: Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
  • Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28,181
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26,060
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26,104

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will. Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • He got the idea from a near traffic accident

  • By Don Gilbert on 09-26-13

The Hero Newcago deserves

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-07-18

I don't read much epic fantasy, so I haven't read much of Brandon Sanderson's works. I was impressed with this take on YA urban fantasy. I had finished the Grimnoir series prior to reading this. While Steelheart isn't as good as Grimnoir, it was still enjoyable. I imagined Ron Perlman as being prof. The narrator did well for the male voices, but he's terrible as megan.

  • Throne of Glass

  • A Throne of Glass Novel
  • By: Sarah J. Maas
  • Narrated by: Elizabeth Evans
  • Length: 12 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,539
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,973
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,993

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • The World's Most Powerful Assassin is a Sap.

  • By Fil on 11-18-13

Storm Troopers make better assassins

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

chaol is terrible as captain of the guard. His job is to make sure the assassin can't, you know, assassinate, but he often loses sight of her. He also lets the prince see her on a regular basis, despite being a huge security risk. How exactly did the beast keep catching the victims? Aren't all of the champions supposed to be guarded 24/7? so how did they end up in weird places that nobody could find?
The love triangle wasn't appealing either. The whole "will-she-or-won't-she" got old, especially as the two guys got jealous. The prince rarely even saw her, and he was a "lady's man" which made him even less appealing to me and to the main character. And oh yeah, he kills puppies. Luckily he's "achingly handsome" as described in chapter 2. Speaking of, I thought the captain of the guard's description as "not exceedingly handsome" was cringe-worthy.
The book revolves around a competition amongst the greatest assassins/thieves/soldiers, but the competition was laughable. Most of them were non-violent, just some archery and obstacle course. Even at the end, they didn't fight to the death. most of it appeared off-screen as well. The action is negligible. I was hoping MC would be over-powered, but she really wasn't. In the first half or so, mc constantly daydreams about all the ways she can kill people, but she's about on par with the captain of the guard. And this is the most feared assassin who killed 23 guards in prison in a single escape? Speaking of the most feared assassin, is it unreasonable for me to expect her to kill someone? She didn't kill anyone in the whole story! Unless you count the beast, in defense for her life. When she found out cain was behind the beasts, she deliberately kept it a secret from chaol and the prince because it would spoil her escape route. Seriously? She's very whiny, complaining about cold and candy, despite being the most notorious assassin in the land who fared through a brutal salt mine prison.

  • Moon Called

  • Mercy Thompson, Book 1
  • By: Patricia Briggs
  • Narrated by: Lorelei King
  • Length: 9 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,001
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,182
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,183

Mercy Thompson's life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn't exactly normal herself.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A top notch Urban Fantasy heroine!

  • By Leiah@soireadthisbooktoday on 04-21-12

Not another twilight

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-25-18

I was on the lookout for some urban fantasy with a female lead. There are a few fluff scenes which I enjoyed. One that comes to mind is a werewolf sticking its head out the car window, and another is how the neighbor joked (i hope!) about eating mercy's cat. In this series, the wolves are full of ego and overplay the dominance game. Wolves are very slow (and painful) to shift, but Mercy is a walker who can use magic to turn into a coyote instantly. Some of the Fae came out to the world, and many can be harmed by iron. Mercy can kick butt on her own, taking down a werewolf and defending against others all on her own. I like the strong protagonist angle.

One part I didn't like was a love triangle with adam and samuel. For starters, I don't like samuel. He treats women as baby factories and tries manipulating mercy when she was a child. I'm not a huge fan of adam yet as a love interest, but we'll see where he goes from here. I learned the publisher asked for the love triangle to make it twilight-y. Part of why I'll continue the series is I heard she dropped the love triangle for future books.

Enjoyed the narrator. I particularly liked the younger jesse's excited voice.

  • Rosemary and Rue

  • An October Daye Novel, Book 1
  • By: Seanan McGuire
  • Narrated by: Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,868
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,614
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,623

The world of Faerie never disappeared: it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born. Half-human, half-fae, outsiders from birth, these second-class children of Faerie spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A fairy tale with grit.

  • By Jan on 06-14-10

I'd rather read about the Koi fish.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-12-18

The book started off well. The main character is a private investigator chasing down a fae, and he turns her into a Koi fish. I didn't expect this at all, which is fresh for me. Then it went downhill. The romance in this story revolves around Devin, an older guy who takes in neglected children and rapes them as payment for the roof over their head. He brainwashes them into obedience and into thinking they love him. She looks upon him in a positive light and continues their sexual relationship. I'm not into this at all.

The mystery aspect was ridiculous, making extensive use of the deus ex machina device. We have quite a few unanswered questions (the queen's reaction, Rayseline's reaction, Simon's curse, the chest...)

I didn't like the main character. One of my pet peeves is when my friends ignore my calls/texts, which is exactly what October does. All. The. Time. She has a lot of people who care about her and willing to help, and she lies to them, keeps secrets from them, and ends up hurt because of it. She's pretty useless and becomes the damsel in distress who needs saving. When she learns who is behind the savage murder, she has access to an army. Instead, she goes by herself and things don't go well. I'm shocked she even told someone else who the perpetrator was.

The book reminds me of epic fantasy in that it has a wide cast of characters with difficult names / species, and honestly they just weren't needed. Personally, I'm not a fan of it, but YMMV. What I like best about urban fantasy is it tends to have easier characters/names/species/worlds for us to grasp onto.

I did enjoy the narrator. In terms of narration, I think the children (Manuel and Dare) were the most interesting.

  • Alas, Babylon

  • By: Pat Frank
  • Narrated by: Will Patton
  • Length: 11 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,286
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,842
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,838

This true modern masterpiece is built around the two fateful words that make up the title and herald the end - “Alas, Babylon.” When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazingly contemporary

  • By SomervilleWhereElse on 12-25-10

No Bible Preaching

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-18-18

Despite being 60 years old, I felt the book aged well. There are references to segregation, but those were the times. I read "One Second After" back in december on a coworker's recommendation. One Second After has more drama / action than Alas, Babylon. All in all, this book was more tame and less disastrous despite having more of the country getting nuked. Randy was a little on the dimwitted side when you consider Mark and Randy planned for a possible war early on. Surely they would have thought about a few supplies they'd need. I was mildly surprised by which partner helen ultimately chose. My two favourite parts about this book was 1) the dog didn't die (even having a large role in saving the town!) and 2) the cat ate Florence's bird when it was hungry which had me giggling.

Free: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty audiobook cover art
  • Free: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

  • By: James Thurber
  • Narrated by: Ben Stiller
  • Length: 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 5,033
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4,467
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4,499

Mild-mannered Walter Mitty is a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. This well-known and beloved tale has launched its famous protagonist into the cultural lexicon, warranting his inclusion in English-language dictionaries and countless anthologies. Stiller's imaginative performance as Mitty is the perfect re-introduction to the classic character and a great preface to the upcoming film, for longtime fans and new listeners alike.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • We Only Live Once. Or Do We?

  • By Dave on 12-04-13

Confusing imagination

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-18-18

This is one of those books I'd suggest reading the publisher's description prior to reading the book. If you're unprepared, it can get hella confusing. If you know what's coming or read it a few times, then I actually like it. As someone who lives a boring life wishing he could do something more interesting, I wish I had such a vivid imagination to transport myself all over the world. I haven't seen the movie, but the star Ben Stiller narrated the audiobook.

  • Dead Lucky

  • Ghosts & Magic, Book 1.5
  • By: M.R. Forbes
  • Narrated by: Jeff Hays
  • Length: 1 hr and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 58
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 57
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 57

When a strange message arrives through an even stranger channel, necromancer Conor Night is driven to discover its meaning, even if it takes a road trip that he might not be healthy enough to survive. Joined by his sexy partner and an undead wise-ass, he's about to rush headlong into a magic and mayhem-filled night in New Orleans that will leave his future riding on a roll of the dice.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Evil Voodoo Dice Hooray!

  • By superstardrifter on 04-12-16

Not quite human resources

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-14-18

As always, Jeff's performance is fantastic! In addition to his famous character voices, he uses voice effects for the non-humans. Our favourite half dead necromancer, his partner Danelle, and his wise cracking corpse Evan go on an impromptu mission to steal of a pair of dice that only necromancers can use. It's got action, a duct taped radiator hose, a 12 foot tall ogre, and snakes who just want to cuddle.