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audiobooks Author Interviews & Guest Posts

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Benjamin Fife!

Hello friends! I certainly didn’t expect to take the entire month of December off from the Sunday Brunch Series, but life happens. Brunch is back in the new year!

Episode 17 is something a bit different, for the first time I am chatting with a professional audiobook narrator! Thank you so much to Benjamin Fife for offering to feature!

I am seriously visually impaired and 100% passionate that audiobooks ARE books! I am so excited to bring you guys this interview, read on to learn all about what it took to become a narrator, his favorite characters, and honestly more interesting sounding bookish recommendations than I have ever seen in one place before!

Here he is!


🥞Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your background?

🎤 I took drama in High School from a very good teacher. We studied dialects, the international phonetic alphabet, 12 guideposts for actors, studied motivations for characters and so on.  At the time, it was an easy A, and I had fun with it.  Sometimes at the time and often in the years between then & when I started actually narrating, I tended to think I wasted my time with it and probably should have taken a foreign language instead. I DO still wish I had auditioned for more plays when I was in HS & college, but at the time I was fully immersed in Band Geek life (I was basically the head band geek at my HS).  I kept using the skills I learned in drama as my partner and I started having kids & I began reading aloud to them.  for a decade and a half at least, we’ve read nightly to our family & I gradually would do more characterization & performance instead of just “reading.” And the nightly family read, combined with a commute to my dayjob regularly listening to audiobooks, I became more and more interested in narrating professionally myself

🥞Could you tell everyone a bit about how you became a professional narrator? What does the career path look like for anyone that might be interested?

🎤 About 4 years ago, my wife found the ACX website & with that, I had a new passion that overtook my interest in anything else.   For a lot more on this – check out the blog post.

https://www.bennyfifeaudio.com/post/an-unedited-and-mostly-transparent-account-of-becoming-a-successful-audiobook-narrator-part-i

{{This is a great post detailing how he got started and how ACX works – I had never heard of it before.  I definitely recommend any authors trying to have an audiobook made to check it out too, as well as interested readers}}

🥞What traits or aspects of an audiobook do you think makes a listening experience truly special?

🎤 An audiobook is an incredibly intimate experience.  I think of it as a partnership between the author, the narrator, and the listener and each is an essential part.  The idea – author; the performace – narrator; the imagination – listener.

I love narrating also for the emotional catharsis.  When you read a book, yes, you can have a unique imagination, but having it performed for you is like an individual play in your mind and performance is definitely the key.  Nothing makes me happier than when an author listens to my performance and is moved to tears, other than perhaps if a listener feels the same way

🥞Do you have a favorite genre or accent to narrate?

🎤 Fantasy and Scifi without a doubt.  Especially stories that explore the human condition in the tradition of Asimov.  I also adore classics.  My bestselling series combines a few of these and I love coming back to again and again.  Jane Austen’s Dragons by Maria Grace.  9 books so far and counting.  And an enormous little name drop twice in book 8 to let you know there’s definitely more coming.  Last year I also had the pleasure of narrating Ebenezer: The True Life Story of Ebenezer Scrooge by Douglas Bass.  A Christmas Carol is my favorite book of all time, Dickens is my favorite deceased author, and Doug did a great job expanding A Christmas Carol to something more like Great Expectations or David Copperfield.  I’m planning on eventually doing my own recordings of the complete works of Dickens, and this was a good primer. Doug’s version is 17 hours versus A Christmas Carol’s normal 3.

So along with that – I enjoy narrating in accents of the British Isles.  That was what I studied in HS & have held onto most – And yes, I realize I’m not perfect in my accents.  I’ve lived all but 2 years of my life in Idaho, USA. But when you get into accents of the UK, there are such a glut of variations.  I kind of have my own idiosyncrasies I’ve adopted for my basic “brit” narration, and then branch off from there for various characters.  But I love doing & learning all kinds of different accents. Mountain Folk by John Hood presented more in one book last year than I’ve ever done. (Think American Revolutionary war plus Myth Folk).  Various Brit accents, German, Indigenous American, southern us, and so on.  It was a fun challenge and a fun book.  I’m currently recording Ark of the Apocalypse by Tobin Marks and it features a lot of Russian accents, among others.

🥞Is there a standout favorite character that you have ever voiced? If so, what made them special to you?

🎤 Probably Brant from Jenelle Schmidt’s Minstrel’s Song series.  (Starting with King’s Warrior.)  He’s essentially the Ben Hur of the series.  Lots of depth to his character and some surprising and an abundance of tragedy and drama in his life.  Also the only series I’ve narrated that I read the whole thing outloud to my kids as well.  If you like LOTR, Lloyd Alexander, or C.S. Lewis, I think you’ll like that.

🥞Do you do any writing yourself or are you more of a reader?

🎤 I’ve mainly blogged so far – but I have several stories that have been floating around in my head for some time.  I’m committing to writing 30 minutes a day this year. (My answering these questions qualifies for today).  I have a nonfiction book I’ve outlined and a book I’m hoping to co-write with Maria Grace that will fit in her Jane Austen’s Dragons universe – but branch out considerably.    I work with some authors who put out an amazing amount of material and I have no idea how they do.  Ask me in a year & we’ll see how my 30 min commitment changed things for me. Hopefully I’ll have something to show for it.

🥞How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite brunch foods?

🎤 Considering my prime recording time is 10 PM to 2 AM, my breakfast probably qualifies as brunch.  I love a lot of breakfast foods.  Give me a good omelette any day.  Danish Delight is a dessert / breakfast / brunch food I think I’ve had just a handful of times in my life and its to die for.  My mom made it once, maybe twice when I was very young.  I never stopped asking her for it after that, but never got it again.  about 10 years ago, my wife surprised me with it on my birthday and she did it a couple more times after that…. I should learn to make it myself probably.

Also… I make a mean oatmeal for our family very often. Add a tablespoon of butter (or more) to the water while boiling, a pinch of salt and somewhere between a dash to a tablespoon of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and poppy seeds.  Serve with honey and raisins, or craisins, or whatever other fruit you want.  My kids love it.  So do I. Ready in 10 minutes, cheap, nutritious and delicious.

🥞As someone who is pretty severely visually impaired, I tend to be passionate that AUDIOBOOKS ARE BOOKS!!!  Do you have any thoughts or input on this debate in the reading community?

🎤 People who don’t think Audiobooks are books are being snobs. Plain and simple. I may garner slightly more information reading the physical book (or ebook – which is also a book), but I am able to consume & process so many more books because of audiobooks.  Dickens had characters who learned via audiobooks! (Our Mutual Friend (which I first listened to because of Person of Interest, but that’s another story entirely).  Cyrano de Bergerac presented the idea of Audiobooks in L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (“Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon” in 1657!  (Also known as A Voyage to the Moon – which the famous old silent movie was based on). I don’t take issue with anyone who has a hard time focusing on audiobooks.  Different people learn differently, but the material is the same whether you’re reading the symbols on the page or someone else is presenting them in the sounds that are also symbols for ideas.

🥞Here is the quick round of rapid-fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite literary character of all time? Favorite book that your always recommend? Favorite author? Feel free to include audio recs!

🎤 Ebenezer Scrooge

And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran

Dead – Charles Dickens

Living – Timothy Zahn

Indie that I’ve narrated for – Gonna be hard to really pick, so I’m going for a 3 way tie so far – Maria Grace, Jenelle Schmidt, and C.D. Tavenor.  I’ve also narrated more for each of them than almost anyone else. More than a million words between the three of them.

Indie that I haven’t narrated for: Carol Beth Anderson.  I love her Magic Eaters series. And she does a pretty darn good job narrating it herself.

🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview!


Here is his website and social media links!

https://www.bennyfifeaudio.com/  for audio samples, blog posts, and more!

On Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/fife_benjamin

On Soundcloud:

https://m.soundcloud.com/user-29643215

Categories
Adventure audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Dark Horse (ALC Review) by Gregg Hurwitz

I have to say that as someone who can’t always read a lot of pages due to my eye problems and resulting headaches, that audiobooks are a lifesaver.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for reaching out to offer my first Advanced Listening Copy! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Scott Brick narrate Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz. I have not read or listened to anything else in this series of books, and while I didn’t feel lost at all, I do think a bit of knowledge of the background characters and events might add to overall enjoyment.

***on that note – I don’t know how long it is going to last but the first two books in the series are free to read/listen with kindle unlimited at the time that I wrote this post!!

AUDIO-Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Horse
  • Series: Orphan X, #7
  • Author: Gregg Hurwitz
  • Narrator: Scott Brick
  • Publisher & Release: Macmillan Audio (Minotaur Books) 02/08/22
  • Length: 14h30m (432 pages)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of vigilante justice, spy thrillers, action novels, and a bit of snarky banter

Here is the synopsis:

Gregg Hurwitz’s New York Times bestselling series returns when Orphan X faces his most challenging mission ever in Dark Horse.

Evan Smoak is a man with many identities and a challenging past. As Orphan X, he was a government assassin for the off-the-books Orphan Program. After he broke with the Program, he adopted a new name and a new mission–The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. Having just survived an attack on his life and the complete devastation of his base of operations, as well as his complicated (and deepening) relationship with his neighbor Mia Hall, Evan isn’t interested in taking on a new mission. But one finds him anyway.

Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He’s also the patron of the local area–supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He’s complicated–a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons. However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen year old daughter, spiriting her away into the armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.

Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader, but he must decide if he should help a very bad man–no matter how just the cause.

So I want to focus more on the audio, since I am reviewing an ALC! Scott Brick is probably, as far as I know, one of the most prodigious narrators out there, I mean he read the Foundation universe by Asimov, Dune, at least some of the Lee Child books, some Erik Larsson, among other things.. and I think this is another amazing performance by him.

He has to voice cartel drug leaders, sicarios, Evan Smoak of course, teenage girls, and pretty much everything in between, and I don’t think he faltered once.  My favorite character was the weapon aficionado named Tommy –  the way Brick had him saying “MonGOlian CLLUSter-forNIcation” had he cracking up.  I think he’s a master, really.

About the book itself – so as I said I have not read any of the Orphan X books, but Hurwitz does a good job recapping who is who and bringing first time readers up on current events.  Obviously there is a bit of a storyline from book to book but it can be read as a standalone for sure.

There was good action throughout the book, good pacing, and a surprising amount of introspection from various characters as well.  I liked Smoak as a main character, the OCD was something a little different and I loved what he did at the end of the book.  Josephine was his little found-family-co-orphan and computer hacker. I liked her too. I want to go back and find the rest of her story, and that of her dog…named Dog!  It seemed like Tommy the weapons guy was featured in the prior book as well so I do definitely want to go back and read the series.

There are many things I could quote too to show the humor included throughout the book, but I will wait until a finished copy is out.  I did like the themes here of starting to trust people, self reflection, honesty with peers, and the whole debate of the morally gray, vs just evil drug lord.  The comparison of their parenting and values was actually pretty interesting and made Evan think about his own life quite a bit.

Anyway – I would definitely recommend this audiobook, the book itself, and potentially the series for fans of vigilante type novels, action books, with hints of romance and humor and found family elements as well.  It was overall good narration and good writing!

…and … there is a lion

 

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Finders Keepers (book thoughts) by Stephen King

Continuing my binge of the Bill Hodges Trilogy, I think Finders Keepers had a lot of great points and quotes and characters. It didn’t quite hold up to Mr. Mercedes but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the sequel, especially to literature and book lovers.  Probably the thing that surprised me the most is how this could read as a standalone

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Finders Keepers
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scriber, June 2015
  • Length: 448 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for the book itself, 5 for the audio experience

Here is the blurb:

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.

Finders Keepers is a love letter to being a Reader. The way King describes that feeling of finding the book that made you realize you were a Reader. I will just quote it:

For readers, one of life’s most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers—not just capable of doing it (which Morris already knew), but in love with it. Hopelessly. Head over heels. The first book that does that is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts: Yes! That’s how it is! Yes! I saw that, too! And, of course, That’s what I think! That’s what I FEEL!

“Shit don’t mean shit” and the birthday f*cc quotes are obviously meant to be quotable too, and I loved the book for those one-liners.  The Jerome and Holly scene at the end with the t-shirt was one of my favorites.

Another thing I really liked was how Morris and Peter were really quite a bit alike. Throughout the book King drew parallels between them.  (Morris was a bit like Annie from Misery but he was a whole different take on the theme of obsession). The interesting part was seeing which direction Pete would go.  At the end when Pete kind of broke away and realized that, thankfully, they weren’t alike at heart, it was a nice thought in stark contrast to the horror happening in the background at the end of the book.

Pacing and suspense wise – the first third was a little weird and slow for me since I expected to see Bill and the screw sooner, but it took until the second 3rd of the book. There was plenty of suspense, action, brutality, and gore, and of course the Happy Slapper is back.  With that real sense of danger and suspense it was hard to put the book down.  I feel like King has thoughts on people who’s butt fat you can carve with a hatchet 😂😂

Anyway, what I didn’t like so much was how long it took to get Hodges and the crew involved. Jerome and Holly having bigger roles was awesome, but leaving them out of the first third of the book seemed odd.  It helped the book as a standalone though because even with all the Mercedes tie-ins, there was a new set of characters, new crime, new mystery, etc.  Enough background to get by easily.

Also at least as of yet, I’m not into the tiny supernatural bit poking it’s head out at the end! This has been a pretty straightforward and amazing mystery / thriller series so far, it seems like bringing in a supernatural element is unnecessary? Maybe not. I think I’m just going to binge the series and start End of Watch next.

(P.S. I have already started it and the supernatural aspect is the crown ruler of WEIRD, but I’m on board)

I’m also going to guess that King doesn’t know anything about legal proceedings and doesn’t feel like researching it, because I would have really liked to know about Pete’s legal fallout at the end, if there was any.  He kind of ignores that after book one as well.

My last random thought it about how not only did the book focus on literature affecting people differently, and how readers vary, but about discussing books too.  Ricky the teacher and his whole “this is stupid” speech had me howling but he was so right

About the audio-

Will Patton obviously also rocked it again, although probably for the first time ever I didn’t like how he did a voice – Tina’s. It didn’t help that she was annoying anyway (oh stfu we get it, Pete might be mad), but WP sounded a lot lile Jim Dale trying to do a whiny teenage female. Besides that, the man could sell me a reading of the dictionary.

I say it again that you want the tone, the snark, the snide of the killer, even Holly’s clipped words, I think Patton stands alone at the top of male audio narrators.  Finders Keepers earned him an Audie nominee for best solo male, and I *think* he won it for End of Watch finally.  At 13 hours and change and with a 4.5 rating on Scribd, I’m glad to see others agree!

Long story short:  love love love these characters and their story arc and this trilogy so far.

Categories
audiobooks Crime Mysteries

Cold Mourning (Audio & Book Review) by Brenda Chapman

I was looking for something like a police procedural, and was drawn to Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman because I recognized the audio narrator as an actress / producer / director who also had a cameo in one of my favorite movies ever – Smoke Signals.

Unfortunately, despite the premise and excitement, Michelle St. John ruined the book for me. I can appreciate her native storytelling cadence but maybe one needs an ear for it? She mostly monotoned with little to no inflection, emotion, voice changes, sentence breaks, and she gasped loudly and frequently. I rarely dnf an audio but it was just too hard to listen to.

About the book:

  • Title: Cold Mourning
  • Series: Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery, #1
  • Author: Brenda Chapman
  • Publisher & Release: Dundurn Press – March, 2014
  • Length: 392 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟✨ for fans of police procedurals and those looking for Indigenous characters.  The Audio might be a good experience to hear a native voice

Audio: approximately 9 hours, narrated by Michelle St. John

Description:

When murder stalks a family over Christmas, Kala Stonechild trusts her intuition to get results.

It’s a week before Christmas when wealthy businessman Tom Underwood disappears into thin air ― with more than enough people wanting him dead.

New police recruit Kala Stonechild, who has left her northern Ontario detachment to join a specialized Ottawa crime unit, is tasked with returning Underwood home in time for the holidays. Stonechild, who is from a First Nations reserve, is a lone wolf who is used to surviving on her wits. Her new boss, Detective Jacques Rouleau, has his hands full controlling her, his team, and an investigation that keeps threatening to go off track.

Old betrayals and complicated family relationships brutally collide when love turns to hate and murder stalks a family.

It could have been residual boredom but the book didn’t quite do it for me either, although the series 100% definitely has potential. Kala Stonechild is a First Nations detective on a reservation in northern Canada, and she moves to Ottawa to try her hand in a major crimes unit. While there she looks for an old friend. I don’t read many books set in Canada either and I did like how the cold climate factored into the story.

The crime & mystery was a decent story, and Kala had to navigate the boy’s club detective force and follow her instincts, despite being picked on and dealing with racism. The major giveaways of the case were much more luck than skill, although I think the point was to introduce Kala and Rouleau more than set them apart as amazing detectives.

They felt more like real people with real failures.

Some story lines were not relevant to the central plot and others were just poorly presented, like it took forever to figure out who Stonechild was searching for in Ottawa, and I never understood the whole Jordan thing back home.

Overall- I would like to read another in the series to see how Chapman improves, and how the detectives get on together

Audio: DNF / 1 star

Book: 3🌟

Categories
audiobooks Thrillers

The Chase (Book thoughts) by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

These books are so much fun. I always liked heist books in the fantasy genre, but they are really good too in the contemporary setting.  I think if anyone reads The Heist and finds it too ridiculous, give the series one more book because The Chase is more streamlined and I thought it was better overall!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Chase
  • Series: Fox and O’Hare, #2
  • Author: Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
  • Publisher & Release: Bantam, 2014
  • Length: 320
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fun and a fun audiobook as well

Here is the book blurb:

Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, bestselling authors of The Heist, return in this action-packed, exciting adventure featuring master con artist Nicolas Fox and die-hard FBI agent Kate O’Hare. And this time around, things go from hot to nuclear when government secrets are on the line.
 
Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, and the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Together they’ll go undercover to swindle and catch the world’s most wanted—and untouchable—criminals.

Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must work under the radar—and against the clock—to devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills of their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad.

A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.

Fox and O’Hare are all across the world from Scotland to Montreal in this one. They are trying to nail a retired White House chief of staff, who is involved with some absolutely heinous international criminal activity including funding of multiple extremist groups, practically starting or at least encouraging civil wars, and art theft.

Willy and Boyd are back as well as a new member of the crew named Joe, a computer hacker, and it’s a great group. They are all good humored people who need the money.  Boyd in the pancake suit was… 😂

It’s exciting, dramatic, there are plenty of explosions and danger and things gone wrong.  The heist itself was pretty brilliant, but also had much higher stakes than the first book.  I love these little pageturners.

Kate and Nick are working out their dynamic now, and it’s both exciting and funny at times.  They have amazing banter. The scene in the hotel hallway had me cracking up when she was *definitely not* peeking through her fingers at him.

Overall I think the dialogue and banter carries these books a long way, even with all the excitement going on.

Don’t forget Jake and the senior citizen Army veterans swooping in to save the day again, I hate to say but I think they are my favorite characters so far!

A quick note on the audio- Scott Brick does a great job keeping things entertaining! Definitely recommend these on audio since it doesn’t require a ton of brain power to follow, they are good driving books! It was released in 2014 from Random House Audio, running just about 9 hours!

From butt cheeks to Hellfire missiles I definitely think that fans of FBI Thrillers, heists, comedy, and any other fans of the genre should check these books out!

Categories
audiobooks Historical Fiction Horror Paranormal Young Adult

The Diviners (Book/Audiobook thoughts) by Libba Bray

Lo and behold I finally read a book this month! The Diviners by Libba Bray is a great fall or Halloween time of the year pick.  The frights and gore and level of creepiness probably make this YA paranormal read appropriate for age 16+, but would not recommend for younger kids!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Diviners
  • Series: The Diviners, #1
  • Author: Libba Bray
  • Publisher & Release: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – September 2012
  • Length: 578 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of paranormal, 1920s, creepy vibes and darker themes

Here is the book blurb:

A young woman discovers her mysterious powers could help catch a killer in the first book of The Diviners series–a stunning supernatural historical mystery set in 1920s New York City, from Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

Evangeline O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and sent off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.

When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…

Audiobook note: it is slightly over 18 hours of listening time, narrated by January LaVoy. Published by Listening Library in 2012.  LaVoy is a freaking amazing narrator, she has to cover everything from flappers to demons to jazz musicians and totally nails it

“Your mother and I do not approve of drinking. Have you not heard of the Eighteenth Amendment?”

“Prohibition? I drink to it’s health whenever I can”

Ok so this book, AND the audio, both have truly creepy vibes at times.  It is a chonker but for the most part extremely quick paced and a lot of fun to both read and listen to. I felt the danger while they were investigating the murders and dealing with the spirit!

There is a lot of 1920s slang that was a little annoying, and I don’t know if it’s authentic or not.  Evie and Sam, Jericho, Theta, Memphis, Will, they were all great characters with their own arcs of trauma, self acceptance, and skills to bring to the table. Their back stories were interesting, sad and dark.  There were a lot of characters but no one was wasted. I just docked a star because I was not buying the romance at the end, at all, it happened pretty  quick and just didn’t feel real

“People will believe anything if it means they can go on with their lives and not have to think too hard about it.”

The mystery itself seemed dark for YA, but unique and I loved it.  A demon? Spirit? Ghost? Is acting out the 12 offerings in a sacred text to become the prophesied beast, reign hellfire, reshape the Earth.  It results in bloody murders across NYC that Evie is in a unique position to help solve

How do you invent a religion?” Evie asked.

Will looked over the top of his spectacles. “You say, ‘God told me the following,’ and then wait for people to sign up.”

I was thinking about the concept of having to banish/kill the spirit on his own terms, as in the legend/religion/prophecy becomes true because it’s believed, or is fuelled by beliefs. I see that theme in paranormal and mythology texts lot, and then got to laughing because in a Christmas eve homily about 10 years ago the priest said something like “it’s true because we believe it” — and we all looked at each other saying “no, we believe it because it’s true, not vice versa” lol.

Now I am stuck on this whole belief vs truth thing.  It is a huge theme in the book and an interesting one for that YA age to ponder

“People tend to think that hate is the most dangerous emotion. But love is equally dangerous,” Will said. “There are many stories of spirits haunting the places and people who meant the most to them. In fact, there are more of those than there are revenge stories.

So yeah, this is a book/audio that I’d definitely  recommend for those who like sassy female leads, paranormal, mysteries, life in the 20s, and all that.  Some tough themes are handled like death, violence, corpse and live body mutilation, confronting dead parents, religious zealotry, a kitty is killed for a ritual 😭 and implied sexual thoughts, but 16+ should be fine!

Are you reading any spooky books yet this fall!?

Categories
Adventure audiobooks Fiction Thrillers

The Heist (Book Review) by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

This is another one of those backlist books that I don’t always blog about, but I have decided that it’s important to share joy and I really freaking enjoyed listening to this book on Audio!

This is an adult series where the FBI ropes an agent and a conman into performing heists and cons together in order to nail bad guys that the FBI probably couldn’t get to by conventional means.  I knew that I liked heist books in fantasy, so I figured why not try it in a contemporary setting!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Heist
  • Series: Fox and O’Hare, #1
  • Author: Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
  • Publisher & Release: Bantam, June 2013
  • Length: 320 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend:  Yes for some summer fun

((The audiobook is from 2013, Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, about 8 hours long and narrated by Scott Brick))

Here is the bookblurb from Amazon:

From Janet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels, and Lee Goldberg, bestselling author and television writer for Monk, comes the first adventure in an electrifying new series featuring an FBI agent who always gets her man, and a fearless con artist who lives for the chase.

FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare is known for her fierce dedication and discipline on the job, chasing down the world’s most wanted criminals and putting them behind bars. Her boss thinks she is tenacious and ambitious; her friends think she is tough, stubborn, and maybe even a bit obsessed. And while Kate has made quite a name for herself for the past five years, the only name she’s cared about is Nicolas Fox—an international crook she wants in more ways than one.

Audacious, handsome, and dangerously charming, Nicolas Fox is a natural con man, notorious for running elaborate scams on very high-profile people. At first he did it for the money. Now he does it for the thrill. He knows that the FBI has been hot on his trail—particularly Kate O’Hare, who has been watching his every move. For Nick, there’s no greater rush than being pursued by a beautiful woman . . . even one who aims to lock him up. But just when it seems that Nicolas Fox has been captured for good, he pulls off his greatest con of all: he convinces the FBI to offer him a job, working side by side with Special Agent Kate O’Hare.

Problem is, teaming up to stop a corrupt investment banker who’s hiding on a private island in Indonesia is going to test O’Hare’s patience and Fox’s skill. Not to mention the skills of their ragtag team made up of flamboyant actors, wanted wheelmen, and Kate’s dad. High-speed chases, pirates, and Toblerone bars are all in a day’s work . . . if O’Hare and Fox don’t kill each other first.

This was my first Evanovich book, and I was kind of expecting to see a little bit of Monk in it too since Lee Goldberg is the co-author.  I didn’t get that vibe except for the ridiculous plot in general, and I think that he might have contributed some of the funnier bits?

The plot is absolutely ridiculous but it made for a fun read, or listen.  The action is extremely fast paced and Scott Brick is an entertaining narrator.  I don’t think you need 100% brainpower to listen to these books either which is a huge plus since I usually listen while driving!

The characters are amazing;  Kate OHare is an ex-navy seal (I don’t think that is realistic but it makes for a good story) and Nick Fox is a brilliant con artist that Kate has been chasing for years.  Pairing them up creates all the tension and humor you would expect from that situation.

The other members of the heist team are funny too.  There’s a hilarious lady who likes to drive just about anything with a motor.  Fox creates hilarious fake names for them while traveling too.  My favorite character though was Kate’s dad, he was (I think) a Marine? and they keep joking that he can kill someone 16 ways with a pair of tweezers and it’s probably accurate.  Him and another senior citizen ex-military swooped in and saved the day in the best fashion ever, but I also just liked his relationship with Kate.

All in all: recommending if you are looking for a fast paced, light read, and can laugh about the ridiculous plot and take it for entertainment value and a few laughs.  I wouldn’t call it in any way shape or form a literary masterpiece but it made me happy!

Have you guys read anything by Evanovich? I think it worked in my favor that I haven’t read any Plum books and can’t compare them!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction Mysteries Science Fiction

Audio/Book Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

In an effort to read more books that are already on my shelves this year, I finally picked up The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss! I read a short fairytale retellings collection of hers last year, and between that and the book featuring an Athena Club, (added bonus because I like things with my name in it), this seemed like a good pick right now!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s daughter
  • Series: The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1
  • Author: Theodora Goss
  • Publisher & Release: Gallery / Saga Press, June 2017
  • Length: 417 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of mysteries and retellings!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

Audio:  I did listen to some of this on audio, and omg.  From Simon & Schuster audio, narrated by Kate Reading, she won an Audie in 2018 for best fantasy. Kate was just perfect. Every character has a unique voice, she speaks clearly and enunciates everything beautifully. I would absolutely 100% recommend this as an audiobook

The Story/Plot:  I think the synopsis tells you everything that you need to know about the plot!  This is a fantastically fast-paced book, starting with Mary Jekyll and gradually expanding to the full cast of characters as the women find each other. Along with each woman’s individual story, each of which were some of my favorite parts of the book, the crew is attempting to solve the Whitechapel murders.  These murders are re-written and worked in as part of the mad scientist plot!

The Characters: most of these characters are either completely new or Rewritten with their own personalities, but any fan of classic literature will hopefully appreciate them.  Characters worked from Jekyll & Hyde, Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dracula, Jane Eyre, and more are here, but it’s not necessary to know the original stories to read this at all.

The characters really are an interesting group, from poisonous Beatrice to super strong Justine to catwoman Catherine, and Hyde’s daughter is absolutely hilarious.   They refuse to be limited by being women in Victorian London.  Holmes and Watson take on new personalities too!

The Mystery:  no spoilers, but since I’ve never been a big Sherlock Holmes reader it was interesting to see how his murder investigation unfolded. The women were also running investigations and although the why shortly became apparent, the who and big picture- not so much. I just think it’s really cool how Goes pulled all of these characters into one coherent novel

Content: I got nothing for ya here.  Someone pees in holy water and they inspect a few dead bodies

Overall:  I can definitely recommend this one for fans of classical retellings and Mysteries!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal

Audiobook Review: Star Stable – Jorvik Calling by Helena Dahlgren

  • Title: Jorvik Calling
  • Series: Soul Riders #1
  • Author: Helena Dahlgren (Star Stable Entertainment AB)
  • Narrator: Jennifer Jill Araya
  • Length: 5 hours 38 min (192 pages)
  • Publisher & Release: May 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: YES for the middle grade age group

Thank you so much to Andrews McMeel Audio via NetGalley for the free audiobook in exchange for an honest review!  I love audiobooks and have listened to a ton of them but have yet to actually review one, so bear with me! Feedback is appreciated!

First off here is the description of the story from GoodReads:

Step into the universe of the massively popular online MMORPG game Star Stable, and follow four friends who discover their magic powers and learn that every girl can be a hero in this fantasy trilogy.

Soul Riders tells the heroic tale of four young girls who have been chosen by destiny to save the world from the ancient demon: Garnok and his band of dangerous Dark Riders. Lisa is a teenage girl who is still coming to terms with the tragic loss of her mother in a riding accident and has sworn never to go near a horse again until she met Starshine, a mysterious blue-maned steed who comes to her in dreams. New on the island of Jorvik, Lisa befriends Alex, Linda, and Anne. Under the guidance of mystical druids, they discover they each have a special bond to their horses that gives them magical powers. While trying to balance school, family, and friendships they have to figure out what it means to be a Soul Rider. They are attacked by the Dark Riders and the mysterious Mr. Sands, discovering that their horses are in danger. Instead of relying on their combined strength, they decide to split up on their quest to find answers and learn to fight back against their enemies. However, will it be too late before they realize their mistake?

Jorvik Calling is the first installment in the epic, fantasy trilogy, Soul Riders, about magic, friendship, and horses bound to thrill all young equestrian fans

I have not played nor even heard of Star Stable before, and I don’t think that affected my enjoyment of this book at all.   As a lifelong rider I definitely connected a bit with the young girls, especially Alex, who likes to ride super fast on trails and seems fearless.  The other characters and their horses each have interesting stories that I think will be thrilling to girls in the target age range for the books.  Speaking of, do you even see this cover?? It radiates magic!

Jennifer Jill Araya seems like the perfect narrator for the book as well.  She clearly differentiates between the girls’ voices, and does a decent job with the male voices as well.  She portrays excitement and fear and sadness through her voice and I enjoyed listening to her.  The music seemed super cringey for someone my age but was honestly really well done, with full songs composed and included within the story and as bonus content at the end.  It definitely will add to young listener’s experience.

I also feel like the book is entirely appropriate for young girls.  There is no profanity, no romance, and the scary parts are suspenseful but not overly terrifying.  I would have NO problem handing this to any child capable of the reading and listening level.  The emphasis on friendships,  building trust, and self confidence are great themes for young readers.  There is the theme of grief related to parental loss but nothing else too strong.  My only qualm is that Lisa probably should have been more worried when her father didn’t return her text messages in a reasonable time frame.  He just literally stays gone forever and I found that a little odd.

I was also surprised to find that this ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, I was expecting each book to wrap itself up like, for example, Saddle Club but with a fantasy twist.  Man do I love reading about horses though, especially magic ones.  Even as an adult.  This is a really good building block for girls trying to get into fantasy as well, such as the Green Rider books for young adults.

Again I would fully recommend this to any age level of listener or reader.  I thank the publisher and NetGalley again for allowing me to review the audiobook! All opinions are my own.

Have you read or listened to this book? Want to discuss what makes a good audiobook review? Drop a comment below!