Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

ButcherGravePerilWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing (2009)

Length: 11 hours 59 minutes

Series: Book 3 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

Harry Dresden, Chicago-dwelling PI and wizard, is about to go head to head with a very powerful foe. But first he has to subdue the ghost in the baby ward of Cook County General hospital. Luckily, he has brought along his pious friend, Michael Carpenter. Something has been stirring up the ghosts in Chicago and the two have been quite busy of late putting these angry shades back to bed.

This is the book where the series starts to get serious. Significant things happen in this book that ripple throughout the rest of the series. There’s a fairy godmother, the Red Court vampires, these irritated ghosts, not to mention things getting a bit more serious between Harry and Arcane news reporter Susan Rodriguez. Then there’s Michael with his solid faith and Lt. Karrin Murphy of the Chicago PD. Meaningful things happen to all these characters and not all of them are good things.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would like Michael because I wasn’t sure how preachy (or not) he would be. It turns out that Michael isn’t preachy so much as he is sure that his path is one of virtue. His mild reminders to Harry of the so called right path are given from a place of love, respect, and friendship. Quite frankly, it’s part of his personality and he wouldn’t be Michael if he didn’t periodically remind his good friends of the Christian way. With that said, he’s a badass in a fight. Harry is lucky to have him around.

I found Harry’s fairy godmother, the Leanansidhe, to be a very intriguing character. There is definitely history between these two. I have never seen Harry so scared of any one person! Bianca of the Red Court vampires makes another appearance and she’s still holding a grudge over what happened in Book 1 (Storm Front). If these two ladies aren’t enough, there’s another bad guy or two waiting in the shadows, secretly causing Harry grief.

The mystery behind what is stirring up the ghosts was pretty chilling. It had ties to more than one bad guy so this made it harder for Harry to nail down and solve. Unfortunately, some of Harry’s friends get hit by the bad guys and there are lasting ramifications from this. I really felt for those affected, and for Harry who feels he should have been able to protect them, but I also applaud the author for having such consequences – it makes the story that much more interesting and intense.

Susan is ever on the hunt for a good story. While Harry is her boyfriend, she’s not above hanging out with him to get a great interview or a few awesome pics of something supernatural. She keeps pushing the envelope, thinking she is safe from these supernatural critters, and it blows back on her. She’s not an idiot but she can be one when it comes to running down a story. She’s too blithe about what can hurt her and that doesn’t work out for her. While I wasn’t particularly glad that happened, it was almost inevitable and I am glad the author kept the cause and effect logic going for her storyline.

We also have our first appearance of Thomas Raith and his lover Justine, which introduces the White Court of vampires, which are essentially succubi. Thomas is glamorous and likes to play the fool. His manner towards Harry is almost playful and it’s definitely hard to tell what side, if any, Thomas is on.

All around, this is another great addition to the series. I really liked that the take-me-seriously bad guy level was raised. It made the whole story much more intense and, hence, more enjoyable.

 

The Narration: James Marsters continues on as the voice of Harry Dresden, and still does a spiffy job of it. His playboy voice for Thomas Raith is also great. Marsters also got to show off his spooky voices with this one – from the lullaby-singing ghost in the opening scenes to Mavra (a seriously creepy vampire) to the thing that is behind the riled up ghosts – all were done very well.  

What I Liked: Idiot moves have real consequence; this is the book that makes the series serious; the bad guys behind the ghosts; Harry’s fairy godmother; a rather poignant end; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a great story!

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Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Old Claudie is totally unaware.
Old Claudie is totally unaware.

Where I Got It: Own it

Narrator: David Aaron Baker

Publisher: Random House Audio (2003)

Length: 10 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 1 Odd Thomas

Author’s Page

Odd Thomas sees dead people and, sometimes, he tries to help them. He lives in small town Pico Mundo, California, the Mojave desert. He’s a short order cook for a local diner. He keeps his life simple (no car, no cell phone) because these dead people complicate it. And more complications just walked in with Mr. Robert Thomas Robertson. Death follows him around in the shape of many bodocks, invisible creatures only Odd can see. Something horrible is about to happen in Pico Mundo and Odd only has so much time to figure out what and where and stop it.

This was my first Dean Koontz novel and I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. Odd is a very engaging character. The story is a strange mix of humor, everyday boring stuff, and dark issues. It works very well and I was sucked into the story early on and didn’t want to put this book down. Right away, the author introduces us to both Odd’s humdrum workaday life and also the creepier, disturbing side. Penelope was killed viciously and now her ghost wants him to bring her killer to justice. Right away, Odd confronts the killer and a foot chase ensues. Eventually, the killer is subdued and the cops called.

Now here is another aspect I really enjoyed – the characters already have pasts and alliances and grudges have been made. Luckily, Odd is friends with police chief Wyatt Porter. Many times, Porter and Odd have worked out some story to explain why Odd fingered someone as the perpetrator of some crime. This relationship comes in super handy, as you might imagine.

Along the same lines, Odd and Stormy Llewelyn have been together for some years now. Odd talks about her often through the tale. So while she has limited page time, we learn quite a bit about her through Odd. She was orphaned young and raised in an orphanage until of an age. She and Odd met as kids and Odd truly believes they are meant to be together forever. I love this relationship. They are very comfortable with each other and have a future planned. There’s mutual respect and plenty love between these two.

The plot was more intricate than I expected. It starts with Bob Robertson, who is nicknamed the Mushroom Man because of his pasty, soft looks and light colored suits. In the past, Odd has seen a few bodocks. He knows these creatures (which look like a spooky cross between a large cat, a hyena, and a wolf) are attracted to death. Yet the Mushroom Man has several swarming around him, following him everywhere. Odd immediately goes into investigation mode, borrowing a car, and finding out where the man lives. I thought things would be exciting but rather straight forward from this point on. I was wrong.

The plot thickens with a dead body. As Odd discovers more clues, he finds himself suspecting some of the good guys. Is it just paranoia or is there something deeper going on here? It was complex and engaging the entire time. I wasn’t sure where things would end up until Odd had put the pieces together.

I only have two minor criticisms for this book. I’m not an Elvis fan and really have no interest in him or his music, so sometimes all the Elvis trivia was a bit boring for me. The second thing is this one scene that involves a pitch black room. I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But I didn’t really understand why it was pitch black and later what that had to do with the big picture.

There’s quite the eclectic cast in this story. Odd’s landlady fears she will become invisible one day, so she asks him every day if he can see her. Then there is the lady who works at the diner who knows everything there is to know about Elvis (who’s ghost hangs out in Pico Mundo for some unknown reason).  Little Ozzie the writer and his evil cat Mr. Withers, Viola and her two daughters, even Odd’s separated parents – all of these characters add so much to the story. Even some locations, like the Whispering Burger, are practically characters in the tale because they are so very interesting.

The ending was unexpected all around. I really liked this as I like being surprised by what I am reading. Since this is a series, I expected Odd to save the day, but for a moment there, I was truly worried that would not happen. The cost of saving the day was also unexpected. I am definitely looking forward to Book 2 in the series.

The Narration: David Aaron Baker did a great job. There was such a variety of voices in this book and he pulled it off. His regional accents were great. His female voices were believable. He had the perfect voice for Odd. 

What I Liked: Everyday life speckled with the unusual; the spooky bodocks; Odd’s unusual gift; Stormy Llewelyn; the Whispering Burger; Odd’s landlady; the intricate plot; the unexpected ending; great narration. 

What I Disliked: I don’t really have an interest in Elvis and there is lots of trivia about the man; there’s one scene involving a pitch black room that I didn’t really get.

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Twisted by Michaelbrent Collings

CollingsTwistedWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Scott Thomas

Publisher: Michaelbrent Collings (2015)

Length: 8 hours 44 minutes

Author’s Page

The Douglas family just recently had their second child. Money is tight, really tight. And now it looks like there is a malevolent force haunting them. It wants their torment and their blood. The Douglas family may not survive this darkness.

Blake and Alyssa are trying very hard to make a happy family. Their son, Mal, is perhaps 8 years old. Baby Ruthie was just born and already she has a severe medical condition that has both parents deeply worried. But there are centipedes to exterminate. Yep. A swarm  of centipedes popped out from the crawl space beneath Mal’s bed. Ugh! Why did it have to be centipedes? I am an insect lover… but that warm fuzzy feeling I have for bees, butterflies, beetles, and even tarantulas does not extend to centipedes. So right away, I am a little freaked out, which is what any good horror tale should be doing.

Blake has ghosts of his own that are raised from the past because of all the stresses he is under… and perhaps that malevolent force has something to do with it too. He came from an abusive household and while he has never done anything harsh to his family members, he constantly worries that he is a bad parent or husband. This aspect of Blake made him very human to me and easy to connect with. The guy hasn’t put his past to rest and this recent bought of crap he has to deal with brings it all to the forefront. Just where the evil ghost who is haunting them wants it.

Alyssa is the quiet, subtle hero of the tale holding the family together even as she feels beaten up and torn (literally from the recent birthing). She reassures Blake often that he is a decent human being and tries very hard to hold her own emotions in check to keep the kids reassured.

We also get to see a good chunk of the book through Mal’s eyes. He does a good job of being a kid but also observing all the stress signals his parents are giving off. He tries very hard to be a good brother to Ruthie. I found that some of the scariest scenes were seen through his eyes because he’s just a kid and shouldn’t have to deal with ravenous centipedes or malevolent ghosts.

The plot had some nice twists and turns. There’s some turn of the century photos of dead kids, a few journal entries from a case file on a serial killer, a bike messenger with an interesting paranormal ability, and plenty more. The ending caught me off guard. Even though I was hoping this story wouldn’t have a happy ending (a statement that probably makes me look a little deranged), I wasn’t prepared for how it did end. Yet, once it was laid out before me and all the connections drawn out, I felt that it all made sense and that was really the only way this tale could end. Additionally, Collings provides a personal note at the end about his missionary work and domestic abuse that was a very nice touch. I will never look at ‘I Love Mom’ tattoos the same way again.

I received this audiobook from the narrator (via the Audiobook Blast Newsletter) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Scott Thomas has a remarkably creepy voice! And he put it to very good use in this book. He had nice voices for the Douglas family, and passable female voices. Then he had a deeply disturbing voice for the malevolent ghost. There were also times in the narration where something tense and spooky was going down and his voice would reflect that.

What I Liked: Excellent narration; connected with the characters; deeper issues; creepy centipedes; some unexpected twists; a harsh but logical ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I was both creeped out and satisfied by this book.

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High Midnight by Rob Mosca

MoscaHighMidnightWhere I Got It: Review copy via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!)

Narrator: Bernard Setaro Clark

Publisher: ListenUp Audiobooks (2014)

Length: 8 hours 3 minutes

Author’s Page

What do psychotic clowns, cryptid chimeras, drunk sheriffs, Russian novel reading monkeys, ghostly lovers, and zombies have in common? Not much beyond this book. Set in modern day, Unity, Texas is a place to the unwanted, drunk, and those not wanting to be found to disappear. Laredo Beaumont, the sheriff, takes his job seriously, especially the napping and drinking part. At least, until the day a murder of clowns shows up.

This is one of the oddest books I have ever read. I knew it was a mishmash of genres and plot devices going into it, but the various elements pulled in was beyond expectations. And the author made it all work beautifully. I was constantly entertained, usually surprised, and left wanting more. I hear rumors there is a second book in the making and I have my fingers crossed that is true.

The book starts off with psychotic clowns. Admittedly, it does jump around quickly from clown to clown, and often with swift punches of flashbacks showing a little bit of why that clown is now with a sadistic gaggle of clowns on a near deserted highway. Don’t be put off by this because the point of view settles down after that and gives a good story, with a few flashbacks here and there. The viewpoints do change throughout the tale, but we get to spend enough time with each character that the reader has time to connect with them.

I found Unity to be a fascinating town, especially all the problems they have with the cryptids such as the chupacabra and jackalope chimeras. The biologist in me wanted to do a summer study course in Unity. The half with the common sense knew we would have to get lost in a desert teeming with the shuffling undead. The zombies don’t feature heavily in this book, but do have a little key part to play.

Laredo and Sally Mae were my two favorite characters, one being a drunk authority figure and the other a ghostly bordello lass. They both kick ass in their own ways. And there is one sex scene. It is smoking hot, literally. There are flames involved. And a luchadero mask. Haha! Hooray for Mexican wrestling! That little detail gave me a good laugh, and yet, it really worked with the character.

Yes, there is a deputy sheriff. His name is Cicero, a chimpanzee. He wields knives and reads dreary Russian literature. Periodically, he smashes up the one and only bar, which is owned by the mayor of the town. She doesn’t appreciate such antics; hence, he has a job and has to keep it to work off his binges. Toss in the clowns (like Kiss me Kate) and some other town characters (the mayor’s bathrobe attired husband) and you have a very eclectic cast.

The plot was pretty straight forward. The clowns have been gallivanting about the country side looking for a specific person, someone they feel they need to payback (like by breaking said person’s kneecaps). In Unity, the sheriff struggles with the big question: why am I here? While he wrestles with that, all these other characters are just going about their lives, until some clowns with questionable makeup skills arrive in town. Really, the plot gave this backbone for all these character to play together on. I am fine with that because it was damn entertaining!

Narration: Bernard Setaro Clark was a good fit for this book. He had a variety of voices (and you definitely needed that for this book). His female voices were totally believable. Luckily, we weren’t treated to any monkey screeches. He had no hesitancy with the evil clowns or the love scene.

What I Liked:  The cover art; luchadero masks; such a variety in the cast of characters!; the hot love scene; the ladies have plot-related roles; the monkey has a Russian accent; cryptids; satisfying ending.

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

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