Quiet River by Natasha A. Salnikova

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: Natalia Salnikova (2016)

Length: 10 hours 1 minute

Author’s Page

Set in and around Seattle, Washington, the Collins are learning to deal with tragedy and move on. Lisa and Matt work at a small magazine and were expecting their second child until tragedy struck. In recovering from such a loss, Matt buys a small place in Quiet River. They recently had a lovely vacation there and Matt hopes that Lisa and Evan can be happy their during the week while he visits them on the weekends. However, there’s a quiet evil in this little town.

There was much to like about this tale, though it did drag on a bit at times. The story started off very happy happy. Lisa, Matt, and young Evan are all happily expecting a baby. Evan looks forward to being a big brother and Matt is great at tending to Lisa’s crazy food cravings. While they do have an odd experience while on vacation in Quiet River, it wasn’t much. Eventually, the plot does get a kick in the pants when Lisa unexpectedly loses the baby. She’s suffering from depression and pushing her loved ones away. Matt feels a lot of pressure and also sadness and loses himself in an affair.

This too goes on for a while becoming a bit dull. Then Matt decides that Lisa and Evan would probably be happier out in Quiet River, so he makes it so, and indeed, it does seem to help Lisa. She even makes a friend with a lonely neighbor, the elderly Trouby. Meanwhile, Evan has made a few friends with the local kids. They like to play by the river, which makes Lisa nervous but Mandy (one of the other parents) doesn’t seem to be that concerned.

During this time, there’s a lot of suspense being built up even if it drags for a bit. There’s definitely something odd about Trouby, but she might simply be a bit socially awkward. Then there’s Kristine, the woman who Matt had an affair with. She’s rather territorial and needy. Matt called off the affair some time ago, but Kristine is having trouble letting it go. Then someone very unexpected shows up in Quiet River and we have a body! Yes! The plot moved forward once again!

Nearly all the action happens in the last fifth of the book. Because the majority of the book was pretty mellow, having all that violence at the end was a little shocking and it was definitely a shift in tone. I would have liked to have things evened out a bit. All around, the story was OK with the best bits being the scenes that got the plot to move forward.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Denise Kahn was really good at imbuing the characters’s voices with emotions. She had distinct voices for all the characters and accents for a few of them. Her recording does sound a bit tinny here and there and the volume does go up and down throughout.

What I Liked: The setting; the building suspense; Lisa’s character; the mystery of Quiet River.

What I Disliked: The plot does drag here and there. 

What Others Think: 

Readers’ Favorite

Hellbent by Cherie Priest

Chupacabra is sacked out.
Chupacabra is sacked out.

Narrator: Natalie Ross

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2011)

Length: 10 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 2 Cheshire Red Reports

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone novel.

Raylene is an expert thief and a wayward vampire. Her fixer Horace has an unusual job for her. He needs these rare yet odd relics stolen and he offers her a big financial incentive to take on the job. However, someone else is also after the relics – Elizabeth Creed. She’s a warlock and one who isn’t all there. Tossing in some trouble on the homefront, Ian (a blind vampire) has been summoned home by his House. It’s a death sentence to go and a death sentence to not go. Ray may not be able to help Ian with this one.

First, there was lots of humor and banter in this book, and plenty of it is a bit dark. The odd relics that Ray is hunting for are actually baculum, which are penis bones. Yep. Many placental mammals have penis bones. Alas, humans do not. Anyway, these particular baculum are from things like werewolves and such, making them perfect for magical spells. I’m sure you can see how this particular job was rife with humor.

The quest takes Ray out of Seattle and to Houston and Atlanta. She’s also trying to give her support to Ian as he tries to reconnect with this son Brandon. So we get to see a chunk of the country in this book. Adrian, an ex-military drag queen, is also along for the ride. Hooray! I really enjoyed his character in Book 1, Bloodshot. When he’s in drag, she’s Sister Rose. In the previous book, he was searching for his younger sister Isabel. That search comes up again in this novel and I was glad to see that Adrian had not given up his hunt.

There’s a touch of romance in this novel. There’s a low simmering heat between Ray and Ian, but since they live in the same big house, they have been keeping things casual. They also share space with two orphaned kids, Domino and his little sister Pepper. Domino is going through his angry teen years and I really was worried he was going to get dead in this book! Pepper is the brains of the two even if she’s only 7 or so.

There’s plenty of action as Ray tries again and again to doge the crazy warlock, the military group that once held Ian captive, and also Ian’s House. There are so many ways that things could go very, very wrong for Ray! Eeeeep! This was a real page, or, rather, disc, turner for me. I didn’t want to put this book down. Between the humor and the high-stakes action, I was hooked and enjoyed the entire book.

Narration: Natalie Ross did another great job with this book. I continue to be amazed at her performance with Adrian/Sister Rose. I also enjoy her various accents as needed here and there. Her rough, kind of seedy voice for Horace was perfect – just like how I picture him.

What I Liked: Raylene continues to be a very approachable hero; there’s even a kitten to rescue; Sister Rose/Adrian kicks ass and looks good doing it; Horace is mostly good but also self-centered; the baculum – hahahahahahahahaha!

What I Disliked: Nothing – too much fun!

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Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

PriestBloodshotHeldigWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Natalie Ross

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2011)

Length: 11 hours 16 minutes

Series: Book 1 Cheshire Red Reports

Author’s Page

Cheshire Red is a vampire and an acquisitions expert (thief). Raylene likes that many people assume Cheshire Red is a man and she’s not about to dissuade them, enjoying working in the shadows as she does. Ian, another vampire who is oddly blind, has hired her to track down his medical records from his enforced stay at a secret government complex. Yet before she can dig into this case, things start to unravel in her cushy little life in Seattle – someone breaks into her warehouse and someone else blows her well laid cover. She drops it all to follow a thin lead in Atlanta. As Raylene continues to snoop into Ian’s affairs, things get more and more risky. Before you know it, her best defense is a military-trained drag queen and her best offense is one seriously ticked off blind vampire.

This book was a lot of fun. Raylene definitely has a fluid sense of morals with few hard sticking points. She takes pleasure in her work – removing the priceless and rare from the rich and pretentious. She’s used Seattle as the base for her operations for a few decades now;  hence, the warehouse where she stores (or hoards) some of her collection as a financial safety net. There’s also two homeless kids, Pepper and Domino, who she lets live there. She doesn’t really like kids but for some reason keeps the heat and electricity on in one section of the building for them. Oh, and makes sure they have a cell phone to call her. And she checks in on them regularly. Perhaps she brings them food. Not that they’re pets or anything. As you can see, Raylene has this tough exterior and this gooey caramel soft center.  I really liked all the snark and Ray’s enjoyment of her own sexuality and being a vampire. I also like that she’s prone to panic attacks and that her powers don’t make her invincible – just really hard to kill.

Ian is a bit of a quandary. It’s very unusual for a vampire to have any debilitating injury that becomes permanent. So Ian’s loss of sight is disturbing. If it can be done to one vampire, it can be done to another. He also uses a ghoul, Cal, which Raylene doesn’t like. However as she gets to know the two of them a bit more, she starts to reconsider her views on ghouls. Cal obviously still has a mind of his own and Ian treats Cal with respect and it’s obvious he needs some amount of help being blind. Still, there are plenty of unanswered questions surrounding Ian and he is indeed very reluctant to elaborate on what little he has already told her.

Then we toss in a military-grade highly driven mad scientist and a large number or highly-trained military ‘acquisition experts’ that want Raylene and perhaps even want Ian back and everyone has to scatter to the four winds. Raylene ends up in Atlanta chasing down a lead. This is where my second favorite character, Adrian (aka Sister Rose), comes into the picture. Sister Rose is a drag queen and great at her nightly performances. Adrian is ex-military and has some specialty training. He initially becomes Raylene’s unwilling ally. Adrian was great with all the glitz and fringe and yet muscle and sensible behavior. I like that we never find out whether he’s straight, gay, or bi, or celibate. Raylene is too polite to ask.

There’s plenty of action and interesting characters in this urban fantasy. The ending was solid. We lose a little and gain a little and have a ton of questions for Book 2. Ian definitely has some some things to follow up on. I’m hoping Adrian will continue to be a part of the series. While Raylene and crew took out several of the questionable military bad guys, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them.

Narration: Natalie Ross did an awesome job with this book. All the characters are distinct and her male characters are great. She does this remarkable thing with Adrian’s two personas (Adrian versus Sister Rose). There’s also various accents that she does well. It’s just a very, very good performance.

What I Liked: Our main ‘hero’ doesn’t particularly act or think like a hero; Raylene isn’t all sharp elbows and hefty boot kicks – she’s also got a soft spot for homeless kids and has the occasional panic attack; Ian has his mysteries; Adrian has his fringed sparkly g-string; together, they have an enemy worth kicking in the teeth.

What I Disliked: Nothing – too much fun!

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The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship by Bijhan Valibeigi

ValibeigiBeginningOfABizarreFriendshipWhere I Got It: Kindle Unlimited

Publisher: Bijhan Valibeigi (2015)

Length: 98 pages

Series: Book 1 Time Wars Tales

Author’s Page

In the far, far future, vampires have taken over Earth and forced humans outward into the galaxy. Yet there are these time travel warriors who travel to the past in hopes of reclaiming the future. In this tale, the battlefront is modern day Seattle, Washington.

This is a fast-paced story with some fun tech, quirky characters, and one vengeful vampire. Agent Mu, as she comes to be called, kind of stumbled upon this gig. Out of work and out of money, she’s kicking around Seattle trying to figure out her next move when she comes upon two men in an alley fighting. Pretty soon, things turn weird and gory as one starts biting into the other. Once the attacker flees, our would be hero approaches the remaining man, who tells her to make the drop. Yep, there’s a touch of spy-ness going on here too, which makes the book extra fun.

So, she makes the drop and things happen pretty fast from there. Pretty soon, her handler is assuming she knows what she’s doing and she gets her cool vampire killing, gadget using, spy name of Agent Mu. She rolls with it, because what else does she have going on anyway?

There’s plenty of cool tech here, including Johnny, who is a very fancy personal assistant device. Though if you called him that, he would take it as an insult. There’s various weapons, a cool car, and fancy house with all sorts of tech built into it. Then there is the Gynoid – a humanoid automaton with lots of cool capabilities. But for some reason, it doesn’t have a mount or pocket or such for holding Johnny while the team runs around.

One of the things I liked about this tale was that you didn’t know the gender of our main character until the conversation where she gets her spy name. It’s left up to the reader to build an image of the main hero based on their first impressions. Also, and this is just my interpretation, I think she swings both ways. While there is no sex in this story to confirm yeah or nay on that, it’s great to see the door left open.

So over all, it was a very fun ride. My few criticisms are small. For instance, Gynoid has all sorts of trays and compartments and mounts, so why not one for Johnny? The tale doesn’t really include info about the vampires of the future, and yet there’s that whole spiel about them taking Earth in the far future in the book’s description. So I  would have liked a little more backstory within the actual story.  Other than that, I had a lot of fun with it. I loved the toothbrush and the comedy that brought into the story.

What I Liked: Lots of fun; cool tech; our main character Agent Mu; the toothbrush; Johnny and his sensitive ego;  the vampire hunt.

What I Disliked: Very minor – the tale could have used a bit more backstory built into it.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

PriestBoneshakerWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrators: Wil Wheaton, Kate Reading

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2010)

Length: 13 hours 42 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clockwork Century

Author’s Page

Briar Wilkes is the widow of a mad man and great inventor, the late Dr. Blue. She and her teenage son, Ezekiel, must live with the everlasting shame of the horrible disaster Dr. Blue’s mining engine (Boneshaker) caused to downtown Seattle. Blight gas was released all those years ago, turning hundreds of people into the walking dead before that section of the city could be walled off. But now Ezekiel, on the cusp of manhood, goes in search of answers and Briar is hot on his heels. Set in the 1860s Pacific Northwest, this alternate steampunk history will keep you glued to the story.

This was my first Cherie Priest book but will not be my last. The story opens by dropping us into Briar’s life and we pick up the history as we go along. Briar has secrets and lots of folks want to know if her husband, Dr. Blue, is truly dead, including her son. Hence, Ezekiel heads off on his own to find some answers. Of course, this means going into the walled off, deadly gas zone. The folks outside the wall have so many stories about those stuck on the inside, but Ezekiel and his mom are about find out the truth of the matter.

And that is when it gets really interesting. The folks inside are rotting slowly. And there are those who have gone completely zombie. But for the most part, there is still a society of folks trying to scrape by living in underground Seattle. There’s all sorts of requirements to staying save, taking in as little gas as possible, so it’s complicated. It was fascinating to see how this society worked, and the response to Dr. Blue’s widow.

Eventually, Briar has to make a tough trade with guy who runs the underground gas zone. Plus she then has to decide whether or not to tell her son the truth. It was so intense! Toss in some airships, a few crazy weapons, a few handicap folks with mechanical bits, and you have a great story.

The Narration: Wil Wheaton and Kate Reading did a great job. Most of the story is told through Briar’s eyes, so we hear more of Reading. Wheaton was awesome as a confused, somewhat angry teenager. Both had distinct voices for both female and male characters.

What I Liked: Steampunk!; the mechanical gadgets; Briar’s past; the whole gas zone & underground Seattle; very satisfying end; love the cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book!

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