Escape from the Overworld by Danica Davidson

Narrator: Dan Woren

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 2 hours

Series: Book 1 Overworld Adventures

Author’s Page

Minecraft comes to the real world! Stevie is happily building his treehouse when night begins to settle. Oooopppsss! He’s suppose to be home by now. But he has to fight his way past a creeper then a mob of zombies! Things don’t go smoothly and he feels like the worst mob fighter ever. The next day he spots a portal and he takes his chances, popping out of a computer screen on the other end into Maison’s bedroom. The sixth grader and Stevie quickly become friends, which is a good thing because the monsters of Minecraft have also discovered the portal and the people of Maison’s world are not well-equipped to deal with them!

I’ve never played Minecraft but this book was easy to get into anyway. Stevie is seeking his dad’s approval and is constantly measuring himself against his dad’s great deeds with his diamond sword. This little misadventure into Maison’s world gives him a chance to stand on his own and have great deeds to tell of later.

Maison was fun and bright. She’s keen on building things and wants to be an architect like her mom. While surprised to have Stevie pop out of her computer screen, she’s also very excited to show him her school and perhaps visit his world. Unfortunately, this also means having to deal with the school bullies, Dirk and Mitch. Argh! I wanted to pinch their ears and haul them off to the principle’s office!

Later on, once the zombies and spiders start showing up at the school, the bullies get their comeuppance. Also, Stevie’s wood working skills are greatly appreciated. Maison gets her wish as she and Stevie have to go back to Minecraft to deal with the portal. Together, they and Stevie’s dad come up with a solution that lets them continue their friendship. I really liked how Maison was able to get Stevie’s dad to see how worthy his son is.

All around, it’s a great little family-oriented story. You don’t need to be familiar with the Minecraft game to enjoy it.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Dan Woren was a great fit for this book. He sounds like a young Stevie and he was great at portraying his emotions. He also made a really good Maison. Then he had adult voices as well for Stevie’s dad and the school shop teacher. His bully voices were spot on as well.

What I Liked: Fun story line; Stevie’s wood working skills; Maison’s enthusiasm for building stuff; how the bullies were dealt with; big spiders!; showing Stevie’s dad that Stevie is worthy; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s a great family-oriented story.

What Others Think: 

The Simply Me Blog

The Whole Art of Detection by Lindsay Faye

Chupa sitting proud.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: HighBridge (2017)

Length: 11 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This collection of Holmes & Watson stories is charming, entertaining, and fulfills my need for stories of this great literary duo. The book is divided into 4 parts. Before Baker Street has stories of the time before the two met each other but they are told in a style that shows the two men know each other now and are sharing these past adventures.

In The Early Years part, Watson and Holmes have their first cases together, still working out their professional relationship and building a friendship.

The Return shows us Watson’s anger and distress at over losing both Holmes to Reichenbach Falls and his beloved wife Mary to illness, yet to find out that Holmes was still alive is well done. I don’t believe I have ever seen Watson so hurt and angry, and rightly so!

Finally in The Later Years, these stories feel like the traditional Doyle stories where Watson and Holmes work well together, have a solid friendship, and can still irritate one another from time to time.

feel like the traditional Doyle stories where our heroes are master sleuths and get along well with each other’s peculiar quirks.

The Case of Colonel Warburton’s MadnessWatson is attempting to entertain Holmes with a tale of his past before he met him. Set in the Wild West, Watson describes some strange goings on with Colonel Warburton and how this upsets his doting daughter. I really enjoyed this tale as I would like to see some alternate history where Watson and Holmes spend years in the desert Southwest solving cases. 5/5

The Adventure of the Magical MenagerieHolmes really does have a heart and it shows in this one. We can also see why he keeps it tucked away most times. Definitely an interesting way to hide your illegally gotten goods! It wasn’t my favorite but it was still good. 4/5

The Adventure of the Vintner’s CodexThis story really felt like a match for the original Doyle collection. Holmes can be a complete irritation to Watson and his way of ‘apologizing’ is to tell Watson a tale of stolen music. Parts were charming and heartfelt and a few times I chuckled. 4/5

The Adventure of the Honest WifeI really enjoyed this one! Sure, Holmes sometimes goes on about the ‘weaker sex’ and yet he often tries to set aside his harsher self to help a lady out.. unless he thinks her faithless. Watson notes how Holmes has an aversion for the female gender entirely. There were some great twists in this one. 5/5

The Adventure of the Beggar’s FeastThis was also a favorite story of the batch. I have often wondered what it would be like if Holmes was a father figure for someone and this story helps to answer that. I love that he was a bit flustered when Watson figures out what he was doing. I can even picture Holmes blushing. 5/5

Memoranda Upon the Gaskell Blackmailing DilemmaThis is one of the tales told from Holmes’s point of view and I get such a chuckle out of his straight forward, honest, and yet often acerbic observations of people and their activities. While Watson is off dealing with the hounds on the moors of Baskerville, Holmes has to sort out a blackmailer. There were some surprises to this one. 5/5

The Lowther Park MysteryOK, this one was just cute. It was fun but went by really fast. He’s been maneuvered into attending a social dinner party that’s brimming with important people. Watson gently teases him over his distaste of socializing. Engineering a charade, he uses that distraction to foil the plans of some nefarious people. This story also introduces Holmes’s brother Mycroft. The plot was a bit light on details. 4/5

An Empty HouseLestrade makes an appearance in this sad tale. It’s from Watson’s journal during the time shortly after his wife passed away. It’s a weighty piece, probably being the saddest story in the bunch. 4/5

The Adventure of the Memento MoriThis story showed the depths of the friendship between Watson and Holmes and also how hurt Watson was over Holmes’s presumed death. There’s acknowledgement, regret, and acceptance. Of course, there’s this deliciously creepy mystery going on as well. 5/5

Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James PhillimoreThis was a quick and fun tale. I guessed early on what was going on but it was interesting to see Watson put it all together. I do believe that Holmes had guessed the truth of the matter early on but was letting Watson gather up evidence to support his supposition. 4/5

The Adventure of the Willow BasketIt’s interesting to see Holmes’s rationale for handing off credit for solving various mysteries to Lestrade. Not that Lestrade is stupid but sometimes he portrayed as heavy-handed or a bit bumbling. I liked Faye’s take on his character in this story. Leeches. Gotta watch out for those leeches! 4/5

The Adventure of the Lightless MaidenThe Victorian age was in love with the supernatural and it’s quite fun to see what Holmes and Watson make out of a case that apparently involves a ghost. I enjoyed the technical aspects to it. Photography was really coming into it’s own at this time as well. 4/5

The Adventure of the Thames TunnelFor some reason, this one didn’t really stand out to me yet I don’t know why. Usually I enjoy tales that feature a shadowy organized criminal element, such as the Iron Hand in this story. There’s a jewel thief dead in the Thames Tunnel and our hero duo has only questions to get them started on the mystery. There’s revenge at the heart of the matter. It was fun but not one that stood out for me.  3/5

The Adventure of the Mad BaritoneThis was an unexpected one. It was a bit twisted and I totally agreed with Holmes’s anger over how the homeless opera singer was treated and a distressed woman was tricked and cheated. Holmes and Watson were very decent in how they revealed the truth to the woman and also assisting the singer. 5/5

Notes Upon the Diadem Club Affair Here we have the second story told from Holmes’s point of view, which I really enjoyed. In fact, I wish we had more stories from his point of view. Watson is always so polite and usually kind, so I enjoy these tales that shine a harsher light on all the participants. The mystery was OK but the story was pure fun. 5/5

This is a pretty good collection of Holmes & Watson stories. While there is no one central female character of note (though Mrs. Hudson puts in a few appearances), the female characters come from a variety of backgrounds and with varying degrees of intelligence. Even when I felt this or that character was rather gullible, they were still very human. The ladies weren’t merely filler or someone to be saved or assisted. Often they added to the mystery.

It was really great to see Watson’s medical expertise come into play more than once. Some authors give this skill set a mere nod or simply pass it on by. Not so here, thankfully! Watson worked hard for his medical knowledge. It should be put to use.

All together, I enjoyed this collection of stories more than I expected. This anthology provides depth to the beloved duo.

I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing.

The Narration: Simon Vance is absolutely lovely to listen to. I loved his clipped voice for Holmes and his warm, caring voice for Watson. He had a variety of accents and his female voices were mostly believable. He kept all the characters distinct and did a great job portraying the emotions of Watson and Holmes.

What I Liked: The stories cover the many years of their friendship and then some; a dabble of the paranormal; Sherlock’s secret heart where it concerns wronged women and homeless kids; Watson’s anger and sadness over losing his wife and Holmes; healing the rift between the two; helping Lestrade build his career; the stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What I Disliked: I would have enjoyed a few more stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What Others Think: 

The John H Watson Society

Reading Reality

Book Page

Criminal Element

The Baker Street Babes

Rhapsody in Books

Historical Novel Society

Booker Worm

20 Something Reads

It’s Murder, My Son by Lauren Carr

Narrator: Janean Jorgensen

Publisher: Books in Motion (2010)

Length: 11 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 1 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Mac Faraday receives the best news of his life on the toughest day he’s had yet. Just finalizing his messy divorce, he learns that his deceased birth mother who put him up for adoption has left him a fortune. Now Faraday has moved to Spencer Manor in an effort to connect with the mother he never knew. But murder lurks just around the corner and Mac puts his DC detective skills to use.

I’ve been listening to several of the Mac Faraday books recently and I love that they can be explored as stand alones. It was great to go back to Book 1 and see how things got started for Mac, how he met Archie, learned about his mom, and adopted Gnarly dog. While this isn’t my favorite book of the series, it’s a solid start to an entertaining murder mystery series.

Set in Spencer, Maryland, the Spencer Manor sits next to the lake in a gated community that harbors many secrets. Mac is new to wealth and he finds it takes some skills to navigate this new economic reality he’s landed in. It’s good that Archie is there to help him fit in. She was Robin Spencer’s assistant and lives in the guest cottage.

A few months before Mac moved in, a neighbor in the area was strangled to death. Katrina was a very charming woman who had a stalker. Of course, the husband Chad has to be cleared first but after 3 months, there are few clues to David (the local police officer) to continue on with the investigation.

I really enjoyed learning about David in this book. He’s the legitimate child of Robin Spencer and Mac’s younger half-brother. The two have never met and it’s a bit awkward. Toss in David’s current problems with his boss, Chief of Police Roy Phillips, and David’s got a few reasons to be angry. Things get even more aggravating for the two experienced investigators when Phillips brings in his ‘expert’, a crime fiction author. Awkward, indeed!

Gnarly was the star of the show once again. He has his own insecurities and is something of a klepto. Mac has to learn about this the hard way and Archie does her best to keep Gnarly out of trouble. Of course, that all goes out the window when Gnarly turns up with a human skull. Good boy! Er… maybe not. Where did you get that? No! You can’t eat it! Here! Have my breakfast instead.

There are lots of characters in this novel and I sometimes had trouble keeping up with all of them. I think it could have been slimmed down a bit and the plot would have been less tangled. I also would have liked a bit more Archie. I feel she’s underutilized even though I know she comes into her own later in the series. Still, it’s an entertaining read and I’m glad I skipped back to this book to see how things got started for Mac.

I listened to this book for free with Kindle Unlimited. However, as of this posting, it no longer seems to be available.

The Narration: Janean Jorgensen was OK for this book. She does a decent Archie and she was really good at the jerk Chief of Police. However, most of the characters are men and she only had so many male voices that at times I had to pay attention closely to follow who said what.

What I Liked: Mac’s beginning at Spencer Manor; meeting David, Archie, and Gnarly with fresh eyes; Gnarly stole the show with his thieving ways; David dealing with his jerk boss.

What I Disliked: The plot was a bit tangled; lots and lots of characters; Archie is underutilized.

What Others Think:

Kelly’s Lucky You

Mystery Suspense Reviews

JAQUO

Book’d Out

Owl Dance by David Lee Summers

Narrator: Edward Mittelstedt

Publisher: Sky Warrior Publishing LLC (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clockwork Legion

Author’s Page

Set in the 1870s, this Wild West steampunk adventure is full of surprises. Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi make a great pair of heroes as they travel from New Mexico to California. Gun fights, dirigibles, steam-powered mechanical wolves, a Russian plot to take a chunk of the US, plus an unexpected alien influence called Legion provide a dangerous playground for our main characters – and plenty of entertainment for us.

I read this book back in 2011 and it was great to see it come to audio! I enjoyed it more in this medium as the narrator did it justice. If you love your Wild West and you like it weird, then this is a great series to get into. The story includes several different ethnicities and I love that about this book. The frontier West was a very diverse place and having that reflected in this work is worthy.

Our Persian healer, Fatemeh, has traveled far from home and she’s a bit vague about why. I love that we have this little mystery about her. Also, she talks to owls… or does she? She claims that she only understands their nature but to others it looks like she is actually communicating with them. While I felt the romance between her and Ramon sparked a little too easily, I also feel they make a great couple. Fatemeh is of the Baha’i faith while Ramon is Catholic and this sets up a dynamic to explore not just culture clash but also these different religions.

Meanwhile Ramon has recently had a big shift in his life. He was a sheriff in Socorro, NM and then things went south.. and so did he while he fled with Fatemeh (who was about to be executed for witch craft). Their search for work takes them all the way out to California. Along the way they meet the eccentric inventor, Professor Maravilla. He’s got a thing for steam-powered mechanical beasties. I loved his owls!

Then there’s the bounty hunter Larissa who I look forward to hearing more about later in the series. She’s got plenty of gumption and loves her independent life but she’s drawn into this bigger plot as Russia starts making moves to invade the West coast.

Now lets talk about that alien influence Legion. We come across it early on but it’s not clear right away if it’s something supernatural, man-made, or from outer space. Whatever it is (and yes, we do get that cleared up in this book), it has a hive mind and can communicate directly with humans as well as influence them. So we got the Wild West (yay!), steampunk (awesome!), and now this unknown big picture influencer. The author does a great job of pulling this all together.

My one real quibble with the story is that sometimes it’s a little too easy for Ramon and Fatemeh to convince a ‘villain’ to assist them. It seems like everyone is really a good guy at heart and was just simply misunderstood or was acting under some false or incomplete data. I think the story would have benefited from a real villain or two.

The Narration: Edward Mittelstedt did a really good job. His Spanish accent was consistent throughout the story. Now, his Spanish pronunciations were sometimes different from what I expected. Living in New Mexico, I expected a certain accent (like for Chavez or Maravilla). Mittelstedt’s pronunciation isn’t wrong but it’s not the local dialect either. I believe it’s the difference between high proper Spanish and the Southwest Hispanic accent. Besides that, he was great with keeping all the characters distinct and also with the various emotions throughout the story. He also gave Fatemeh a consistent Persian accent. His female voices were believable.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; Wild Weird West!; Steampunk!; the mix of ethnicities; the owls; the hive-mind influence; Fatemeh and Ramon make a great duo; the ending leaves us ready for further adventures.

What I Disliked: There was no true villain; the romance between Ramon and Fatemeh sparked up rather easily.

What Others Think: 

RJ Blain

Steampunk Journal

Steampunk Junkies

The After by David Hernandez

Narrator: Rick Gregory

Publisher: David Hernandez (2017)

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes

Author’s Page

Peter has an obsession with solving this ancient question – what happens after death? From his childhood when he loses his beloved pet, he has been driven to find the answer. Now he just might have found the key to unlocking this secret.

Dude, bro, dude, bro…. These two words were over used in this work.

The basic premise is an interesting one. Of course most of us would like an answer as to what happens after death. Peter has become a hazard to those around him with his quest to find the answer. Using his software engineering skills, he created a gizmo that can capture a few seconds of info on the after life. He needs more data, more subjects, and that becomes a slippery slope. From animal experiments to questionable uses for the elderly, Peter blows past these limits that most of humanity would hold to. The mechanics of how the gizmo worked were left very vague and I would have liked that tightened up a bit. I don’t need schematics but I need more than ‘Hey, look I invented this thing last night in the basement and I bet it’ll answer this big, huge question all of humanity has!’

Besides the over use of drunken college slang between Peter and his best friend Brian, the story is written in a screen play format which came across as a bit clunky in the audiobook format. Perhaps this works better visually as a text edition. For me, it made the story feel a bit disjointed. One scene didn’t flow smoothly into the next.

Peter’s girlfriend, Vanessa, is a bit clingy and seems to be just filler. I wasn’t impressed with her character and I think she may have been the only female character… There may have been some other incidental female, but if so, I don’t recall her. As usual, I would have liked a better gender balance and if you can’t do that, than make your single lady count.

Peter’s experiments eventually do come back to bite him and I liked that part of the book. It had a little bit of a karmic feel to it: you get what you put out there and Peter’s getting it.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a pretty good job. My one quibble is that his voice from Vanessa sometimes came off as cartoony and really whiny. He did have a great voice for Peter, being able to take that voice from sounding like kid Peter, to teen Peter, to adult Peter. He did really well with the over use of Dude and Bro, never sounding like he was rolling his eyes each time he had to utter these terms one more time.

What I Liked: Basic premise held promise; Peter’s obsession and how he breaks one limit after another; the karmic ending.

What I Disliked: One scene didn’t flow easily into another; the gizmo was so vague; the dialogue was repetitive; Vanessa was just filler.

Bookish Giveaway & Review: Deadly Shore by Andrew Cunningham

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Greg Hernandez

Publisher: Andrew Cunningham (2017)

Length: 6 hours 46 minutes

Author’s Page

Set on Cape Cod island just after July 4th, plenty of folks are heading home after the holiday weekend. Terrorists put an end to their fun by cutting the island off from the mainland killing several and threatening more damage. On top of this, Hurricane Chad is about to hit land and hit it hard.

This was a fast-paced fun action read. There’s Marcus, a CIA operative, who’s been following a suspicious crew and ended up saving Seth’s life. Seth has a key to the terrorists’s plans. Meanwhile, disgraced ex-police detective Sara has noticed Marcus skulking around and the two have to decide whether to work together on this major threat or work independently. Then there’s Joe Doyle who made a very questionable decision to steal from his boss, but he got more than he bargained for and now he’s on the run for his life. With the island cut off, he decides to hide in a little tucked away place, taking the elderly Anne hostage.

I love big weather events and how they impact humans, so the hurricane element of this story was a lot of fun for me. People have to prepare for it. Well, the smart people prepare for it. Hopefully the authorities prepare for it. It was interesting to see how having the island completely cut off affected this aspect of the story. Now the folks on the island can’t expect supplies and recovery crews to come in right after the storm. So they have to adjust, stretching out the supplies they do have to last longer.

My favorite character in this tale was Anne. She’s in her 80s and has weathered many a storm on the island. She’s gone the shelters before and found them wanting so some years ago she made the decision to wait out any storm at home. She’s smart enough to prepare her home for the fury of Mother Nature and has laid in supplies and boarded up windows. But she wasn’t expecting a desperate Joe to show up at her door. I like her response to this situation though I felt that Joe’s ineptness was a bit overplayed. He’s in his mid 30s and yet he acts like he’s in his 20s. Anne treated him like a wayward kid that just needed some guidance, but I think there comes an age where very few of us can pull off being simply a wayward kid who just needs a little push in the right direction.

The back and forth between Sara and Marcus was OK. I liked Sara’s backstory but I found her acceptance of Marcus (who she just witness kill someone with a silencer) to be a little too quick. I don’t recall anyone at any time during the story independently verifying Marcus’s credentials. Seth was a bumbling idiot who was used by the terrorists but he helped move the plot forward.

The plot pulls in many threads. The US President made a promise 3 years ago to spend the weekend at a certain key supporter’s house on the very weekend of the attack. Then there’s anthrax, which may or may not be more of problem with the hurricane coming in. Then a lost valuable that belonged to a murdered priest turns up. The mastermind behind it all has a personal vendetta with a Cape Cod family. All these little strings got pulled into the overall plot and some of them mattered and some of them didn’t go anywhere at all. for instance, I would have liked a line or two to wrap up the ending for the murdered priest.

All together, it was a fun action flick with some interesting characters. I would like to see Sara and Marcus team up again. I hope Anne gets a chance to have a little vacation in Bermuda.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Greg Hernandez was OK. While he was good with some emotions (excitement, surprise, anger), he didn’t really have distinct character voices. I had to pay close attention during dialogue sections to keep track of who said what. His female voices weren’t particularly feminine. His pacing was good and the volume level was steady all the way through.

What I Liked: Hurricane Chad; Anne was my favorite character; how the island was cut off; Sara and Marcus working together.

What I Disliked: It was hard to think of Joe as some wayward kid that just got in over his head; anthrax seems dated; some threads weren’t neatly tied off.

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Andrew Cunningham:

I was born in England, but have spent most of my life living in the U.S.—including  25 years on Cape Cod before moving to Florida. A former interpreter for the deaf and long-time independent bookseller, I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and copy editor for many years. A 4th-degree Master Blackbelt in Tang Soo Do, I finally retired from active training when my body said, “Enough already! Why are you doing this to yourself?” I’m married, with two grown children and two awesome grandsons. My wife and I spend as much time traveling as we can, and are especially fond of cruising the Caribbean.

​I have been gratified by the response to my books. When I published Eden Rising back in the spring of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. When I sold my first few copies, I was excited beyond belief that someone was willing to take a chance on it. Numerous books and thousands of copies later, I am still humbled by the emails I get from readers telling me that my books kept them up late into the night.

In October of 2014, Wisdom Spring made me an official Amazon Bestselling author, a thrill I never thought would happen. But it still comes down to being able to bring a few hours of escape to a reader. That’s what it’s all about for me.

Website ~ GoodReads ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Amazon

Synopsis of Deadly Shore:

It’s July 5th, and the Cape Cod roadways are clogged with tourists heading home from the holiday weekend and trying to outrun an approaching potentially catastrophic hurricane. But in the blink of an eye, their lives are thrown into chaos when terrorists bring down the bridges to the Cape. Instantly, a half million terrified people have no way to escape. And when the terrorists threaten to release anthrax on the captive population if their demands aren’t met, fear turns to all-out panic.

With time running out, Marcus Baldwin, a private investigator and former CIA operative, and Sara Cross, a disgraced ex-homicide detective, are brought together by a sole clue to the identity of the terrorists. They quickly realize that they may be the only ones with even a chance at stopping the plot before it’s too late.

With Hurricane Chad barreling up the coast on a path for a direct hit on Cape Cod, it becomes frighteningly clear to everyone trapped on what has now become an island – one way or another they are probably all going to die.

Audible ~ Amazon

About Narrator Greg Hernandez:

For more than 20 years I worked as a radio news reporter and news writer.  I spent half of my broadcasting career at ABC News Radio in the Washington, D.C., bureau.  I covered all the federal agencies as well as Congress and the White House.  I reported on a wide range of stories during my career, including financial and entertainment industry news.

I have worked as a federal government spokesman at three separate agencies for more than 20 years.  At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, U.S. Commerce Department), I introduced podcasting in 2005 just a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States.  The 19 podcasts I narrated and produced from August 2005 to June 2007 were downloaded more than 600,000 times during that period.  They’re still online at the following link.

http://www.noaa.gov/podcasts/podcast-archive.html

I enjoy narrating audio books because it gives me great satisfaction bringing to life books of all genres, especially mysteries and thrillers.

Twitter ~ ACX

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a $50 Amazon gift card. Open internationally! Ends June 28th, 2017.
Deadly Shore Giveaway

Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction & Horror, edited by Mark Matthews

Narrator: Rick Gregory

Publisher: Wicked Run Press (2017)

Length: 8 hours 29 minutes

Editor’s Page

This anthology focuses on addiction, mostly drug and alcohol addiction. They range from science fiction to horror to the paranormal. The editor opens with a short foreword about addiction and his hopes that this anthology will provide some insight into the struggle of addicts and hopefully bring about some compassion for those suffering from addiction. Even if this anthology doesn’t do that for you, it’s still quite entertaining, insightful, riveting, sometimes disgusting, usually disturbing, and chock full of examples of bad decisions made.

A Wicked Thirst by Kealan Patrick Burke

Melinda and this guy, our unnamed narrator of this story, meet at a bar. They go back to her place and have sex, sort of. Then he wakes up out in the street being drowned in a rainwater puddle. A specter of Steven Carver, his former AA sponsor, reminds him of his failures. The timeline jumps around a little as our alcohol-sodden character tries to muddle through the night. What’s real, what’s not? What’s in the present and what’s in the past? This tale did a great job of showing the inner confusion of someone deep in the clutches of alcoholism. There’s this scene where this guy is burying his daughter’s dead cat and he cries, not for the cat, not for his daughter, but for himself and stuff that happened during his own childhood. This scene really brought home how this character has so much stuff that’s left unresolved in his life. 5/5

The One in the Middle by Jessica McHugh

Set in a future 2080s Patterson Park in Baltimore, the new drug of choice is Atlas. Heavy users like to inject it directly into their genitals, giving them a long-lasting incredible high. Perry Samson is still obsessed with his ex-wife Serina. He watches her from afar and thinks of her when he masturbates. He needs another high but his junkie friend Loshi thinks it’s high time Perry be the one to score and share. The author shows us the keen edge of depravity in this story. The Atlas junkies are willing to sell their flesh for a hit and some cash. Meanwhile, the rich who can afford the delicacy of well prepared human meat enjoy it in swanky restaurants. It reminded me of high school and college students who would sell plasma to go buy some pot. This was my favorite story in the bunch easily. I love the future SF setting (there’s TVs spread throughout the park showing The Wire reruns with all the hopeful scenes cut out) and yet we still have this drug culture, one in which there’s those who suffer and those who profit from it. 6/5

Garden of Fiends by Mark Matthews

Terra Snyder is in Narcotics Anonymous, living with her parents and trying to get her life back together. Then her former boyfriend Brett unexpectedly shows up. He’s in the Work Release Program while in prison. Against her better judgement, she goes with him to Russell’s place where they used to buy their drugs and hangout. The author shows us step by step how easy it is for someone to be roped back into the users lifestyle. The point of view bounces back and forth from Terra to her dad Gregory throughout the story. Gregory, Heather, and their daughter Terra (somewhat reluctantly) have been working on this urban farm in the middle of Detroit. Heather is one of those always upbeat, optimistic types who would never give up on her kid. Gregory, while not a perpetual optimist, would do anything to keep his daughter safe. This tale really showed how the blame game turns into an excuse to either shuck responsibility for past bad deeds or to commit more bad deeds. 5/5

First, Just Bite a Finger by Johann Thorsson

This bit of flash fiction dealt with a different kind of addiction, but I feel the spirit of it (exploring a new-to-you high) could be applied to any new addiction. Julia, 39, went to a party, buzz wearing off, so she’s looking to try something new. This guy Toussaint bites off the tip of his pinky finger. Julia thinks it’s a trick. However, as the week goes on Julia notices bits missing from her friends. This little horror flick ended a bit too soon for me. I felt there was more for Julia to tell us. 4/5

Last Call by John FD Taff

Ted is in AA but he keeps falling off the wagon, going from group to group. His sponsor Sam reluctantly sends him to a liquor store with a special card, telling him to ask for the last bottle he will ever need. The store owner gives him a little lecture about choosing life or death. The unlabeled bottle is referred to as a shortcut, which I thought was a great way to show later on that there is no shortcut when it comes to dealing with addiction. The story leaps forward 5 years here, 10 years there, etc., showing how Ted’s life has changed and yet how this shortcut bottle is still tucked away, hiding in his closet. The ending is left dangling and I would have liked a line or two to close it out. It would have made the story more poignant or hopeful depending on how things ended. 4/5

Torment of the Fallen by Glen Krisch

Maggie is headed from Phoenix to Aurora, IL to hunt down her long-lost father, Desmond Gabriel. She can see demons and her online paranormal activities, where she goes by Jenny Halloween, have finally given her a hint as to where her father is. Her father, a homeless man, was mentioned on a paranormal chat site, Torment of the Fallen. She meets a short man that goes by Cheddar near the supposedly haunted house where her father sometimes crashes. I enjoyed this story because it had that urban fantasy feel to it where demons were being investigated and a lost person would be found, hopefully. If this story wasn’t in an anthology that focused on addiction, I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up on those elements of the story. I hope we see more of Jenny Halloween in the future. 5/5

Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will by Max Booth III

Jeremy, 26, is bleeding from his urethra. Perhaps the hepatitis is getting to him though he asks his lover Eliza if she bit him. He hasn’t told her about his hepatitis yet. At work, it gets worse so he goes to a clinic where he runs into Nick, a former junkie friend. He has one confrontation after another and things get worse and worse for him. Let me just whisper it to you – spiders. Yep. This was easily the most creeptastic and scary story of the anthology! I don’t even have a penis or hepatitis and it made me shudder. 5/5

Returns by Jack Ketchum

In this short tale, Jill Hunt’s husband’s spirit returns from the dead. She’s been drinking since he was run over by a cab. He thinks he’s returned to help Jill get past his death and not succumb to alcoholism. She can see and hear him but she thinks it’s all in her head. This little story was rather sad as it involved a pet and this failed relationship. I felt that things were left a bit unresolved as I wanted to know what ultimately happened to Jill or her husband’s spirit. 4/5

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a pretty good job with this anthology. There was a lot of ground to cover, that’s for sure! His female voices were pretty good. Melinda and Terra sounded like women. For the most part, he had distinct characters though in the story Garden of Fiends he occasionally sounded a bit mechanical and the characters weren’t distinct (I had to follow closely the dialogue between Brett and Terra to keep straight who said what). In the entire book, I only caught a single mispronounced word – conflagration. It just happens to be one of my favorite words and that’s why the butchering of it stood out. The pacing and volume were all well done. Over all, a well-done narration.

What I Liked: The variety of substances abused; the different genres; the various tones; spiders!; genital drugs!; great cover art; pretty good narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing, it was an interesting, enlightening, and entertaining anthology.

What Others Think:

Grim Reader Reviews

Horror After Dark

The Horror Bookshelf

Horror Novel Reviews

Book Den

Lee Murray

Bark’s Book Nonsense

Campanelli: The Ping Tom Affair by Frederick H. Crook

Narrator: Tom Cooper

Publisher: Frederick H. Crook (2017)

Length: 2 hours 29 minutes

Series: Book 1 Campanelli

Author’s Page

Set in Chicago in 2109, Detective Frank Campanelli and his partner Detective Marcus Williams are investigating the death of two men. One is identified as a son, Wong, of a leading Chinese criminal family. The crime scene is lacking the expected amount of blood and this simple clue sets Campanelli and Williams on a hunt for a killer. Hopefully they will be able to catch the perpetrator before a war can break out between the lead criminal families of Chicago.

First, I really enjoyed Frank Campanelli. He’s blind and uses cybernetic implants to mimic eyesight, allowing him to live an independent and pretty normal life. This gives him a little different way of looking at some things, giving him the occasional edge in his work. He’s chosen to stay on Earth while much of the population has left for another habitable planet, Alethea. The whole story has a noir detective feel but it’s set in this kind of grungy future Chicago with cool SF tech. This mash up works really well for me.

Campanelli isn’t new to the area. He has contacts and relationships with people in the area, including Lei Wong, whose son has just turned up dead. He knows the best forensics people and his partner, Williams, is a gengineered navy SEAL. Despite Lei Wong being this crime boss, the author makes him very human. Campanelli has to deliver news of his son’s death. Despite Lei’s need to keep a strong face on, Campanelli can still see how this news pains him.

Now, there are few ladies present in this story and I wish there were a few more and they were doing something besides being romantic interests. Tam, Frank’s part-time girlfriend, has potential to be more in future books. I did like the main forensics lady and her geeky ways. The pacing of the story and the mystery were all good until right at the end. Now I didn’t mind the whodunit part but I did feel that the big reveal was rushed and it was very convenient for a character to provide all the answers. I would have liked the detectives to have sorted most of it out for themselves.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Tom Cooper did a pretty good job with this book. He’s great at playing a male noir detective. He also had a decent voice for Marcus Williams. I did have a little trouble hearing distinctions between the characters here and there, especially with minor characters. He was good at an elderly Lei Wong and his pacing was good as well. His female characters could use a bit more femininity.

What I Liked: The cover art; main character with disability; cybernetics!; noir detective in future Chicago; the murder mystery itself.

What I Disliked: Few female characters; final wrap up was rushed.

What Others Think:

Windy City Reviews

The Green Pearl Caper by Phyllis Entis

Narrator: Tom Lennon

Publisher: Quintzy Press (2016)

Length: 7 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Damien Dickens Mysteries

Author’s Page

Set in and around Atlantic City in 1979, private investigator has been arrested in connection with the murder of Celine Sutherland, one of three adult daughters of a local well-connected and rich family. Now he’s been bailed out by the youngest daughter, Susan, and he has to work hard to clear his name.

Parts of this book felt like they were set in the golden age of black & white movies and noir detective stories (perhaps the 40s or 50s) and some parts definitely feel solidly centered in 1979. The blend worked well with this story since our hero, PI Dickens, is a bit of a stereotype. It’s this well-known stereotype that let me slip into Damien’s life easily and pick up on the mystery right away instead of worrying about what he was all about. The cliche is complete with beautiful, efficient, and single secretary Millie Hewitt, who has a thing for her boss. Which brings me to the part that didn’t work so well with this 40s mashed up into 1979 – gender roles. I would have been happier with a bit more depth to the ladies in this tale.

Many years ago, Damien saved a young Celine Sutherland, and it’s a bit of a tragedy for Damien that she is now dead by his gun, with him neatly framed for it. With big money in play, there’s a list of potential culprits. Tracking down clues is a challenge in 1979 without computerized records, the internet, or cell phones. I quite enjoyed watching Damien and Millie do their best to dig up info without getting on the bad side of the law or a solid beat down from questionable parties interested in the case.

I did get a little chuckle out of some of the character names. Like Damien Dickens made me wonder if the author is a Dickens fan. Then we have Detective James Holmes, who makes me wonder if the author is a Sherlock Holmes fan as well. It was fun to see these little potential nods to other great authors.

The mystery itself was pretty good with enough hints to guide me in the right direction but not so many as to narrow down the choices to one person over the rest. At least, not until the big reveal near the end.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Tom Lennon did an OK job. First, he’s perfect for Damien Dickens. He sounds like a hard used PI who’s down on his luck. His female voices could use a bit more femininity. There were a few times where the volume of the narration changed, and while these variations weren’t enough to damage your hearing, I prefer a smooth recording.

What I Liked: Quintessential PI story; the setting of 1979 Atlantic City; Damien has past history with the victim; Millie is great at her job; the mystery itself and how it unfolds.

What I Disliked: Sometimes the story felt more 1940s than 1979 and sometimes this worked and sometimes this didn’t work (like with gender roles).

What Others Think:

Christian Writers

On My Kindle

The American Fathers: Emperor by Henry L. Sullivan III

Narrators: Adrianne Cury, Karin Anglin, Kevin TheisAmro Salama, Antonio Castillo, Jeff Cummings, Scott Duff, Steve Downes, and Tony Dobrowolski

Publisher: Sullivan Serials (2017)

Length: 3 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 4 The American Fathers

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 4 in the series, it works well as a stand alone, though it is definitely enhanced by enjoying the first 3 episodes previously. However, if you do pick this up as a stand alone, you might want to check out the glossary first to pick up some of the lingo, characters, and overall atmosphere of the series. For the audiobook, this glossary starts at the 2 hours 41 minutes mark and lasts just over 20 minutes.

Set in 2032, Victor Daco is at the height of his career, being America’s king in all but name and official letterhead. He’s been the power behind this New Rule movement for decades, setting up this rulership step by step. Now he just has to crush the POP Watchers, a hacktivist resistance group, and have the US President sign the final piece of legislation that will allow him total authority.

This is the book I had been waiting for in this series, the tale that ties all four stories together. The history of how the ruling Houses came into being is clearly laid out, past characters (such as Victor’s daughter Irene) are mentioned or brought into play, and the entire story arc moves forward a bit as Victor’s enemies circle him like waiting sharks.

My one quibble is that the female characters aren’t particularly important to the plot as they were in the first 2 books. Natalia, Irene’s mom, has the most lines. She is clever and elegant but nearly all of her role is to comfort Victor even as she builds up or reigns in his ego. I think she has more to give and I’m doubtful we will get to see that in future installments.

The science fiction bits were great. I love Victor’s chosen mode of transport, all the corporate spying that goes on, and cyber enhancements the rich can obtain. While I did like Victor’s fancy suit of armor, I felt the story was a little rushed in taking us from Victor the Ruthless Businessman to Victor the Iron Man. The story spends plenty of time on the political intrigue (which I like) but I would like to see this level of detail in Victor’s character arc as well.

Hispanic US President – yay! I quite love the multi-ethnic character list this series continues with. Take Victor’s college nemesis, an Arab royal, into account as well because Victor hasn’t made note of him, a failure he will regret. There’s a solid ending to this installment though I do wonder where the author will take the series from here. I expect Big Things to come about from the events of this book.

I received a free copy this book.

The Narration: The audio production and narration for this series continues to be excellent. The full cast provides a range of distinct voices for the characters. There’s also sound effects that enhance the story instead of distracting from it. I especially liked the use of this heavy metal music for this particular scene; it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the story but it was prevalent enough to make me believe the characters were having a hard time with the volume.

What I Liked: Great narration; Victor Daco is an interesting characters; his story arc from college student to the New Rule to his current high station; all the SF bits; the ending of this installment of the series.

What I Disliked: The ladies aren’t nearly as important in this part of the tale as they were for Books 1 and 2.