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A Miller

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  • Cuddling Sucks in Coffins

  • The Slayer's Reverse Harem, Book 2
  • By: Holly Ryan
  • Narrated by: Melissa Schwairy
  • Length: 3 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 9

Belle Harrison, vampire slayer, would give anything for a simple night of patrolling on her own damn terms. But the graveyard is crawling with creeps with hidden agendas. Not to mention the dark unknown that wants to take her out. And we’re not talking dates here, people. Good thing Belle has three panty-melting vampires to help her. Except one of her guys has a past that’s catching up with him. Violently. Belle’s fairly certain she can save him. But if she betrays him, she’ll gain a wealth of knowledge that could help her survive the dark unknown.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Cuddling Sucks in Coffins

  • By Lauren Jones on 01-01-19

A little slower-moving than Book 1

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

Reviewed: 12-17-18

**I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Holly Ryan. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.**

A lot more time is spent on the sexual shenanigans in Book 2 of this series, occasionally at the expense of plot advancement. Threats abound and there’s a finite deadline for figuring shit out, and yet Belle is way more distracted by dick than seems reasonable—even if it is attached to impressive, go-all-night, supernatural hotties. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the book and Ms. Ryan wrote those scenes very well, I just wish the sex hadn’t been in lieu of character development.

Belle and her vampire lovers faced some interesting (and kinda icky) challenges in Book 2. As if the threat of a Dark Unknown out to end Belle’s life wasn’t trouble enough, a new complication in the form of another vampire bent on revenge really upped the stakes. How the citizens of Podunk City remain completely ignorant to what’s happening is beyond me, especially when they briefly become the zombie-like, murderous, maniacal puppets of a madman. Ignorance is bliss, I guess, and magic explains everything? Anyway, there’s not much character development happening here; it all pretty much happened in Book 1 and now the characters are walking through the story, fully formed (or at least as fleshed out as the author seemed willing to spend time making them). Not a bad thing in books as short as these, but it did leave me wanting a little more flesh on the character bones.

I’m glad Melissa Schwairy read this second book. After listening to a longer series like The Dresden Files, I’ve come to really appreciate it when the same narrator reads all the books. It just adds an extra level of immersion to know you’re going to hear the characters the same way each time, and that narrator becomes the characters. As with Book 1, the audio quality was professional and uninterrupted by background noise, weird pauses, or bad splicing.

Bottom line: "Cuddling Sucks in Coffins" was a nice, if somewhat slow-moving, sequel to "Vampires Don't Give Hickeys" and recommended for lovers of paranormal romances, reverse harems, and good narrators.

  • Vampires Don't Give Hickeys

  • The Slayer's Reverse Harem, Book 1
  • By: Holly Ryan
  • Narrated by: Melissa Schwairy
  • Length: 3 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 10

"Marry the devil...or die." That's the ultimatum Belle Harrison, vampire slayer, just received from a demon. Belle has only one response: To hell with him. Turns out it's not that easy, though - apparently the devil doesn't know the meaning of the word no. Lucky for Belle, three pantie-melting vampires come to her aid. Three hot vampires she can't resist. Hey, we all have our vices. Hers just happen to have fangs. She's going to need these three to help her thwart the devil's marriage proposal and defeat the terrifying dark force that wants her dead.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A good quick read but lacks world building

  • By Raina on 09-24-18

No hickeys, but they know just where to bite

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

Reviewed: 12-11-18

**I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Holly Ryan. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.**

While I wish the relationships between Belle and her vampires had been better developed, I have to say that I really, really enjoyed this book! The plot was well developed and the characters were likable. There were several layers of goings-on, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the conflict that got 'wrapped up' in Book 1, isn't really all that resolved. It was just...too easy.

Belle was a fun character. She's strong, sassy, resilient, and with just enough sorrow in her past to make her relatable. Slaying aside, her life felt familiar; she's alone, trying to juggle a job, school, keeping a roof over her head...it's a struggle many readers will recognize from their own lives. Her sense of humor had me laughing out loud more than once. My only complaint about her was how quickly she started sexual relationships with the three supernaturally-hot vampires. It would have been nice to see a little more build-up and development there. I like the guys, but I didn't feel like we spent enough time getting ot know them for me to really feel more than mild affection. I'm hoping they'll get more developmental attention in Book 2, because they seem like they could be fabulous characters.

Now, as much as I enjoyed the characters and the story, I have some questions. How on earth is someone chosen to be a Slayer and expected to perform the job with absolutely no proper training or instruction? Belle is completely self-taught, so either she's been REALLY lucky or vampires in this world are weenies. The explanation she's given about the old ones being smart enough to stay away from her makes sense, but it doesn't excuse this particular plot hole.

Melissa Schwairy was a fabulous choice for narrator. Her reading voice is smooth, with enough inflection to convey the right mood for the setting, and she makes each character distinct without overdramatizing them or giving them silly accents. Her lack of accent seemed appropriate for what felt like a midwestern heroine in a typical, small, midwestern town. The recording quality was excellent, with no distracting volume changes, background noises, or overly long pauses between chapters.

Bottom line: I'd definitely recommend this book to those who like their romance paranormal, their heroines strong and sassy, and their plots intriguing. The fact that it's a steamy reverse harem is almost a bonus!

  • Heart of Time

  • Ruined Heart Series, Book 1
  • By: Skye MacKinnon
  • Narrated by: Henrietta Meire
  • Length: 6 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11

What would you do if you could control time? In a world where magic is outlawed, Eona has been hiding her true nature all her life, only using it to make her circus performances even more spectacular. She's always known that her ability to manipulate time could make her a target, but she couldn't have prepared for being kidnapped, manipulated, and imprisoned. After weeks in prison, the Royal sorcerer, Lassadar, offers her a way out by training her. But can she trust the King's right-hand man?

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Misleading description

  • By A Miller on 11-09-18

Misleading description

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

Reviewed: 11-09-18

I'm...honestly not sure how to write a review of this, as I'm still scratching my head in absolute confustion. In fact, I"m not even entirely convinced the book I got is the one I purchased--either that, or the wrong description was posted. This was not a reverse harem, this was not a romance, this was not really anything like what the description promised. The whatever-it-was between Eona and her newfound lady elf friend (I can't even remember her name, she was so uninteresting) was jammed in at the last second and it was half-a$$ed at best. I was so confused about what thtis book was trying to be that I found myself with zero interest in continuing the series.

The only redeeming quality about this book was the narrator; she did a great job voicing the characters and setting the scene.

Bottom line: Seriously, save your credit; you won't be getting the type of story promised by the description.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Dead of Night

  • Tales of the Supernatural and the Macabre
  • By: William R Todd
  • Narrated by: Ben Werling
  • Length: 4 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10

Dead of Night is a compilation of turn-of-the-century-era horror stories with a Victorian flair and traditional horror story plots with unexpected endings. If you like ghosts and ghouls and demons and werewolves, these stories are for you. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Perfect little horror collection for a dark night

  • By DabOfDarkness on 08-06-18

Don't listen in the dark, alone...

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

Reviewed: 07-22-18

Holy sh*t, most of the stories in this collection scared the bejeezus out of me! As in, I had to stop listening once it got dark and I was alone, because I'm an enormous fraidy-cat and couldn't handle it. But, since I'm one of those fraidy-cats who love being scared….

WHITAKER HOUSE CURSE: Is it ever a good idea to make a deal with the devil or sign a contract you can't/didn't read? (2/5 stars)
A priest, a nosy neighbor, and the devil walk into a bar—well, it was a house, but you get the idea. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t QUITE that bad, but this was my least favorite of the bunch. It had promise but turned out to be utterly predictable and even a little dull. I actually found the introductory and closing diary entries to be more interesting and creepy/chilling than the story they were telling.

I'M STILL ALIVE: Murder is never the solution, and one man finds out why. Guilty conscience, anyone? (5/5 stars)
So, this one scared me pretty badly, and only part of it was the creepy sound-effect voices. It was the one that had me fighting the urge to lock myself in the bathroom with all the lights on and huddle in a safe corner till my husband got home from work. It was the one that lurked in my mind when I was trying to fall asleep and had me avoiding making eye contact with myself in the mirror at 2 a.m. While the terror came from what a lot of people would likely deem ‘jump scares’, I’m one of those wimps who is susceptible to that kind of thing. I could feel, in my gut and bones, the main character’s feat, anxiety, and growing sense of insanity. I’ve also always been both fascinated and completely freaked out by the whole dead-ringer thing, so even though it didn’t pan out like I expected, the concept still added another level of discomfort.

JACK: A tale about Jack the Ripper with an unexpected twist (5/5 stars)
“Jack” was definitely my favorite, even though it wasn’t scary. Intense, thought-provoking, and really interesting, but not scary. Being more a psychological thriller than a horror story, it brought the sinister and macabre into the mix and was a nice follow-up to the terror that preceded it. Mr. Todd used a subtle brush when painting the imagery and descriptions of Jack, and the twist at the end was one I never saw coming. It was so surprising that I wanted to go back and listen again, to see what I missed that might have tipped me off to the revelation. What foreshadowing did I miss under all the grittiness of London and emotional stream-of-consciousness? This one will be a re-read for sure.

THE THING IN THE SHADOWS: And you thought you were the only one who could sell your soul…. (3.5/5)
This story was mediocre, and I found that my appreciation was related more to the craft skill of the author than any visceral, emotional connection to the story. Sure, a lot of really messed-up events unfold, and the idea of a parent being able to sell the soul of their child is freaking terrifying, but the pace was slow enough that it sapped some of the intensity. There were enough breaks in the demon-main interactions to let the tension taper off a bit. On the other hand, Mr. Todd’s ability to paint vivid descriptions really shone here, and he also proved himself able to create a fairly complex main character—one who was able to grow and make hard decisions despite the shortness of his story.

BUMPS IN THE NIGHT: Werewolves (4/5)
This was another story that was only a little scary, though there’s a much more noticeable ramp-up in the dread and dawning horror than in the others. I enjoyed the child’s POV and Mr. Todd wrote her very convincingly. It was easy to feel the story she was telling, and I wanted to just pick her up and hug her until it was all better. Enough scene-setting was done to give a good sense of her father’s desperation and the world they lived in, which for me at least, added an air of almost forlornness to the narrative. The ending may perhaps have been a little predictable, but that didn’t stop me from whispering “Oh, hell no!” once I realized what was happening…and all it took was one brief, almost in-passing observation from our main character.

IT'S JUST JOHNNY: What happens when the monster under the bed isn’t what you think. (5/5)
This one was so short, and that’s part of what made it the creepiest of the whole collection. Creepy enough to make me REALLY happy that my bed doesn’t have an ‘under’. The lack of character development, world-building, or backstory left us with just the bare-bones, need-to-know details, inducing a much sharper fear, at least for me. There wasn’t anything to get in the way of what unfolded. Thanks for the nightmares, Mr. Todd.

Ben Werling was the perfect narrator for this collection. His voice had the right tone, pitch, and gravity to convey the mood of the stories, the emotions of the characters, and the intended pace of the various plots. His use of sound effects only enhanced his performance. They were particularly well-used in “I’m Still Alive”; that wife’s voice still gives me the shivers. The audio quality was clean and professional, with only the intended background noises audible to the reader.

Bottom line: While this tour would have felt more appropriate in October rather than July, I’m beyond glad I participated. If you like being scared and are looking for a variety of ways to get there, then I can’t recommend this collection of shorts enough. Oh, and get the audio version; it has a life and ambience you’ll never get with the print copy.

  • A Court of Frost and Starlight

  • By: Sarah J. Maas
  • Narrated by: Amanda Leigh Cobb
  • Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,117
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,956
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,951

Months after the explosive events in A Court of Wings and Ruin, Feyre, Rhys, and their companions are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can't keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated - scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court....

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bring Jennifer Ikeda back

  • By Lori on 05-03-18

Not as intense, but I needed the breather

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

Reviewed: 07-22-18

I know a lot of people don't like this book, either because of its length, the narrator, or the lack of action as compared to the three full-length novels in the series so far. I'm not one of them. In fact, I really enjoyed "A Court of Frost and Starlight" for the very reasons so many did't. Books 1-3 in this series were INTENSE and I did a lot of crying, nail-biting, and breath-holding, so the relatively benign happenings in this little novella were a relief for me. I enjoyed the 'Christmas special' feel to the story, and the interactions between the characters, the decisions they made, and the inner demons they struggled with were meaningful. The alternating POV's were interesting as well, and they gave each character the spark they might otherwise have lacked in a shorter story. I won't like, though: I still mostly hate Nesta. I can't seem to help it; everytime she almost seems like she'll get her sh*t together and be a decent person, she gets worse. It breaks my heart for Casian.

Ido miss Ms. Ikeda as a narrator, but Ms. Cobb did a decent job. Her voicing of certain characters, especially Azriel, were certainly different, but not so much so that I was distracted from the story. I definitley recommend this to anyone who loved the preceding three novels and who, like me, need a little breather from the action.

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses

  • By: Sarah J. Maas
  • Narrated by: Jennifer Ikeda
  • Length: 16 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,136
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,416
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,426

When 19-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin - one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Entertaining!

  • By kathrine on 06-19-15

Words alone can't convey how AMAZING this book is!

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

Reviewed: 07-06-18

No, seriously. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a bestseller for a reason. I won’t lie to you, though when I saw that it was marketed for fans of George RR Martin, I almost skipped it. I’m honestly sick to death of everything being compared to Game of Thrones and I could slap the next person in my office whose cellphone blares out that theme song…*deep breath* Jennifer Ikeda was the perfect choice of narrator to bring this beautiful, heartbreaking story to life and I’m beyond glad I chose the audio version of this book.

A Court of Thorns and Roses has strong parallels to Beauty and the Beast (a beast, a curse, and a girl to break it), although I wouldn’t call it a retelling per say; there were enough fresh spins and unique additions to make this its own creature. Definitely don’t go in with the expectation of singing candelabra and dancing teacups—you’ll either be sorely disappointed or possibly a little traumatized. The world of Prythian was unique, full of vivid characters and complex plot twists. The pace didn’t start out slow, exactly, but it definitely picked up speed as it went along. And oh, all the feels were present. I bawled like a baby, laughed my as off, and cheered by turns, and if I wasn’t wearing acrylic nails, I’d probably have chewed mine to the quick during the last third of the book.

Ms. Maas’ characters were FANTASTIC. Feyre turned out to be a badass, ballsy yet wonderfully human heroine, and her love, honor, and loyalty were fierce. She was relatable and inspiring, and watching her hold her own among the fae kept me listening for hours on end. Tamlin was everything a High Lord of the Fae should be: powerful, distant, kinda scary, beyond beautiful, and definitely not human. However, it wasn’t hard to grow attached to him, especially seeing his interactions with Lucian, the sacrifices he made for his court, and the efforts he made with Feyre. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure a romance would develop in this first book or that if it did, we’d be left hanging right as things got good, but Ms. Maas delivered on that front and it was so, so worth the wait. I won’t spoil it for you, but just know that things do get pretty steamy in all the best ways. I also have a sneaking suspicion that said romance is going to get reeeeally complicated in the next book. As for supporting characters, at least one of whom I suspect will be a major player in book 2, they played their parts well and added even more depth, intrigue, and interest to an already complex tale.

Jennifer Ikeda was a narrative rockstar here. Her voice kept to the perfect pace and she made it easy to distinguish characters without overdramatizing them. She conveyed the emotions flawlessly and made it so you really feel what’s happening. The audio quality was professional, with no distracting background intrusions, volume changes, or narrator-created noises. I will definitely be looking for more by this narrator and in fact, I’ve already started listening to her reading of book 2.

Bottom line: If you’re a lover of fantasy romance, but don’t want the romance to overpower the other elements, then go read this book already. Or listen to it, as Ms. Ikeda was an excellent narrator. *shooing motion* Go on!

  • Oshun Rising

  • Trinity Forest, Book 2
  • By: Jennifer Alsever
  • Narrated by: Moira Todd
  • Length: 8 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19

Oshun has everything a young pop star could ever want - fame, fortune, and beauty to spare. But there's something dark inside of her, rising like the tide, fighting to be heard. Something that terrifies her. Because once she lets it out, she knows there's no going back. Ember is drowning. Fighting for consciousness, struggling to make sense of the strange dreams she's been having - prophecies of murder, deception, and blackmail. Maddie is barely staying afloat with her best friend Ember still missing, presumed dead. Then she learns a pop star may be involved in Ember's disappearance....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Oshun Rising

  • By ZOE R on 11-29-18

A brilliant sequal

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

Reviewed: 07-06-18

"Reality is like a dream that turns into vapor the moment you try to remember.
Here one minute, gone the next.
I fight for consciousness as though drowning and gulping for air....
I'm like a passenger on a ship that was once mine, but now someone else is steering and all I can do is watch. Scream silently in my head."

The shifting perspectives between the various characters kept the viewpoint and plot fresh and engaging, and Ms. Alsever's gorgeous, lyrical writing style just flowed like water over the senses. The characters were all vivid and real and some of them were utterly blodd-chilling. There were intricacies to them--especially Ember/Oshun--that surprised me and dragged out some pretty storng emotional reactions. Witnessing the intimate power-struggle between these two utterly different women was...unsettling and even a bit frightening. This kind of complexity, creativity without going overboard, and depth aren't qualities I stumble across in a lot of the YA novels (especially those with a paranormal bent) I've read in the last few years, so it ups my admiration for Ms. Alsever all the more.

My only complaint, if you can even call it that, was the increase in filler. Jared and Maddie's trip was a prime example. Yes, they're important characters and we needed to see their connection to each other and the story, but they took a long time getting someplace important. These dips in intensity/breaks in the action were necessary to keep the bigger picture in sight, I just wish they weren't quite so frequently, especially in the begiing. I occasionally found myself wanting to yell "get on with it, already!"

Moira Todd did just as fabulous a job narrating "Oshun Rising" as she did "Ember Burning" and I hope she has/will also narrate book 3! The audio quality was clean and professional, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Bottom line: "Oshun Rising" was an interesting read and I highly recommend it for lovers of weird, unique paranomral. Even if, like me, you aren't head-over-heels in love with the YA genre, I'd still suggest giving this series a listen.
**I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer Alsever. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it. **

  • Ember Burning

  • Trinity Forest, Book 1
  • By: Jennifer Alsever
  • Narrated by: Moira Todd
  • Length: 8 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24

Author Jennifer Alsever delivers an addictive story about a teen grieving over her parent's tragic death who becomes entangled with a mysterious forest teeming with urban legends of strange disappearances and witchcraft. Ember Trouve used to be alive, driven to become a musician and on a path to college. That was before her parents died. One day, after venturing into the fabled Trinity Forest, she goes missing. Now, Ember must confront the truth behind her parents' death - or lose herself to the forest forever.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Ember Burning

  • By ZOE R on 11-27-18

A deceptively calm beginning

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

Reviewed: 06-29-18

Trigger warning: story contains some dark themes, including grief/loss of close family members and drug abuse.

YA paranormal is a genre I don’t have much experience with, because while I enjoy paranormal reads, YA has never been my jam—with a few exceptions, and “Ember Burning” is one! The characters were vivid, the pacing was spot-on, and Moira Todd really brought everything to life. It did take me awhile to get the feel for Ms. Alsever’s writing style, and the flow of the narrative was a little jarring at first with all the time-jumps, but the need to know WHAT THE HELL WAS HAPPENING kept me hooked.

I liked Ember, a lot, in spite of my usual struggle to tolerate teenaged female characters and their usually petty, hormone-driven, boy-centric drama. Don’t misunderstand: Ember did have plenty of drama, and it was pretty heavy stuff, but Ms. Alsever used a perfectly light hand in describing her depression, drug abuse, and loss that it didn’t bog down the story. And the darkness was nicely balanced by the poignant little glimpses into what Ember’s life used to be like, who she used to be and maybe could be again. Her ‘color crayon brain’ (synesthesia) was an interesting character trait and it made her even more unique. Yet despite that uniqueness, she was so relatable. Anyone who has ever lived/attended school in a small town (I did) or who struggled with loss and the way it changes the very basics of life will instantly connect with Ember. The supporting characters were also really well-written and if you can remember high school, you’ll instantly recognize the types.

So, where’s the paranormal stuff?

Oh, that starts when Ember decided to enter Trinity Forest. I spent my childhood in the mountains of Colorado and let me tell you, under the right circumstances, the woods can be eerie beyond belief. And that’s just a normal forest, without the kind of magic that permeated the Trinity Forest. At first, it might be easy to brush off the strangeness, like Ember tried to, but the deeper the story goes, the more not right things become. The creep-factor increases gradually, until it’s hard to remember how ‘normal’ the story’s beginning truly was. In this, Ms. Alsever’s writing was pure mastery.

Moira Todd did a great job narrating this story. Her voice had a pleasant, melodic quality that made you believe what you were hearing, and she distinguished each character without overdramatizing them. Oh, and hot damn, can the woman sing! That was probably my favorite part about her narration. The audio quality was clean and professional, with no distracting or off-putting background noises. I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Todd’s interpretation of this story and will be looking for more of her work.

Bottom line: “Ember Burning” started out deceptively calm in the paranormal department, but don’t be fooled. I highly recommend both this audiobook and Moira Todd as a narrator!

**I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer Alsever. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.**

  • An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors

  • The Risen Kingdoms, Book 1
  • By: Curtis Craddock
  • Narrated by: Erin Bennett
  • Length: 18 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 52
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49

Born with a deformed hand and an utter lack of the family's blood magic, Isabelle is despised by her cruel father. She is happy to be neglected so she can secretly pursue her illicit passion for math and science. Then, a surprising offer of an arranged royal marriage blows her life wide open and launches her and Jeane-Claude on an adventure that will take them from the Isle des Zephyrs in l'Empire Céleste to the very different Kingdom of Aragoth, where magic deals not with blood but with mirrors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Helluva Debut

  • By Kailee Bruce on 11-14-17

Can't recommend it enough!

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

Reviewed: 06-26-18

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was a refreshingly unpredictable surprise. I’ve only recently strayed into the genres of steampunk and gaslamp, but have decided I love them and this was no exception. The setting—a fantastical version of colonial-era Europe—was unique, the characters were engaging, and there were several plot twists I never saw coming. While it isn’t a romance, there seems to be the potential for one to develop in book 2…which, sadly, doesn’t come out until 2019.

For me, at least, everything about this book was unique and, honestly, more than a little surprising. As someone with a disability myself, I was able to relate to some of Isabelle’s struggles (though no one has ever called me the Breaker’s get and tried to kill me because of it, thankfully). I loved that, while her deformed hand was what defined her to others, Isabelle didn’t let it hinder her growth. Despite her awful family, lonely upbringing, and the status of women in her society, she was smart, loyal, and honorable, with no qualms about pursuing the intellectual subjects that were supposed to be forbidden to her. (She had to be sneaky and creative about the latter, and it paid off more than once.) The fate of entire kingdom hinged on her decisions and her ability to strategize, solve puzzles, and see around corners, yet she remained vulnerably human to the reader. The best examples presented themselves in her love for Marie and Jean-Claude—two people totally discounted by everyone else—as well as her understanding/compassionate treatment of those like Xaviera. Isabelle was an all-around fascinating character, and it was easy to get sucked into her story. The secondary characters played their roles well, without overshadowing each other or being superfluous distractions.

I have to say, the plot and setting were just as imaginative and vivid as the characters. While anyone even a little familiar with history will recognize the major European players in Mr. Craddock’s kingdoms, he gave them a fresh face with the introduction of skylands, skyships, magic, and alchemy. It was pretty clear the mechanics of travel, the dynamics of inter-realm power struggles, and the workings of each bloodline’s powers were well thought-out. The various players didn’t possess your run-of-the-mill magic, either; things like mirror-walking, blood shadows, and glamour-weaving were prevalent, and I found all of them creepy and sinister to one extent or another. There were also layers upon layers of betrayal, intrigue, and string-pulling going on in the background, but it was all presented in a fast-paced, interesting way. Never once did the story get bogged down or overloaded with technicalities or backstories. And while I’m usually pretty good at predicting where a story is going, who the bad guy is, etc., I was surprised more than once.

I ended up listening to more than half of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors on audio (I was gifted a .mobi copy, but I haven’t had much time to sit and read lately), and Erin Bennett was a fabulous choice for narrator. She voiced the characters perfectly, without dramatizing them or using hokey tones/accents. Her pace and level of emotion were spot-on, and I would definitely recommend the audio version to anyone, as Ms. Bennett brought the story a level of life and color I would have found lacking in the print alone.

Bottom line: So, so good! If you’re a fan of intrigue and the genre of steampunk and are looking for something unique yet somehow familiar in a dream-sequence kind of way, I can’t recommend this book enough.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Gull Harbor

  • By: Kathryn Knight
  • Narrated by: Kristin James
  • Length: 7 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35

When Claire Linden's job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day. Claire is determined to rid her temporary home of its aggressive ghost, but Max soon realizes she's facing a danger beyond the paranormal.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great story and great narration!

  • By Jocelyne on 03-20-18

I would have loved this book IF...

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

Reviewed: 06-26-18

I would have loved this book if Claire had been less of a clueless wimp and if the paranormal aspects had taken less of a backseat to her tired ‘romance’ with Max. There was SO much potential for Ms. Knight to have hit it out of the park with this one, but she just seemed to get caught up in overused tropes, slow pacing, and a lackluster second-chance romance. This was one I struggled to finish.

I found myself wanting to scream at Claire more than once. YOU ARE A MEDIUM, HIRED TO DEAL WITH A RESTLESS GHOST WHO IS MORE THAN HAPPY TO MAKE HER PRESENCE KNOWN. DO YOUR DAMN JOB! Her constant distress/distractions (Max, her mother, the past) made it take waaaay too long for her to solve the mystery surrounding Maria. Following her struggle to bridge the communication barrier between them grew tedious pretty quickly, and it slowed down a story that was already lagging. Max played his part well enough, though I wish he’d been given a more unique personality/character arc. Overall, I found him to be depressingly predictable, Hollywood hunk, and vanilla. The bad guy was…gah, I kinda wish he’d just been left out entirely. His little snippets of story were distracting and didn’t really seem to add any value beyond reminding the reader he existed and was bad.

The pacing in “Gull Harbor” was terrible and I half-wonder if the issues stemmed from Ms. Knight trying to make it too many things. “Jack of all trade, master of none” and all that. As the reader, I figured out what happened chapters before Claire did and it made me a little crazy to watch her clueless stumbling, pushing Maria aside for no other reason than to extend the story length, the pointless misunderstandings with Max, etc. The climax was too short, ended too easily, and because I was already ambivalent about the characters, it didn’t really carry the expected punch. This book was definitely more about the romance than the spook-factor and I almost wish it hadn’t been marketed as paranormal anything, as that categorization led me to expect a lot more than I got.

As far as narrators go, Kristin James was okay. She has a nice voice and she made it easy to differentiate characters without overdramatization, but I felt her emotional range was limited to ‘normal’ and ‘angry/constipated’. At times, characters WERE angry, so the latter was appropriate in those instances. However, her attempt at conveying concern, tension, suspicion, etc. sounded exactly like anger, leading to something of a misconstrue of their emotions. The audio quality was professional, without any distracting hums, buzzes, background or narrator movement-type noises.

Random side note: I do think the cover is awesome and spooky, sooo, kudos to the artist!

Bottom line: A predictable, slow-moving story that was only redeemed by a halfway-decent narrator. If you’re looking for suspense or a riveting haunting, I’d skip this one.

**I received a complimentary copy, in exchange for my honest review, as part of an Audiobookworm Promotions tour**