Loose Ends: A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery, Book One

loose ends

By: Terri Reid

Narrated by: Erin Spencer

Series: A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery

GoodReads Summary: Dying is what changed Mary O’Reilly’s life. Well, actually, coming back from the dead and having the ability to communicate with ghosts is really what did it.

Now, a private investigator in rural Freeport, Illinois, Mary’s trying to learn how to incorporate her experience as a Chicago cop and new-found talent into a real job. Her challenge is to solve the mysteries, get real evidence (a ghost’s word just doesn’t hold up in court), and be sure the folks in town, especially the handsome new police chief, doesn’t think she’s nuts.

Twenty-four years ago, a young woman drowned in the swimming pool of a newly elected State Senator. It was ruled an accident. But now, as the Senator prepares to move on to higher positions, the ghost of the woman is appearing to the Senator’s wife.

Mary is hired to discover the truth behind the death. She unearths a connection between the murder and the disappearance of five little girls whose cases, twenty-four years later, are still all unsolved. As she digs further, she becomes the next target for the serial killers’ quest to tie up all his loose ends.

Ok, I’ll admit it. I picked this up from one of my free lists. I can’t remember when or which one, I’ve had this on my TBR list for so freakin’ long. Somewhere along the line, I added narration for the low, low price of $1.99. So I paid $2 and change for the opportunity to listen to this.

I think the cover appealed to me. I think the summary appealed to me. After listening to the sample clip a few dozen times, the narrator didn’t do that much for me. She didn’t make me want to listen to the book. I think I finally got it because I was running out of daytime listening. (Deep, rumbling male voices for night / Bright, upbeat female for day.)

Hell, even the first chapter kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Erin Spencer didn’t impress me as the narrator to enhance the dark and creepy.

But to be honest…the blend of Terri Reid’s writing and Erin Spencer as Mary O’Reilly…well, that’s just gold.

By the third chapter, I was hooked. By the end, I’d acquired an appreciation for the voice I hadn’t liked to start with. Erin Spencer is Mary O’Reilly. (Please don’t let me find out somewhere in the middle of freakin’ 15 books that someone else narrates this series.)

Add the ghosts, the devastatingly handsome police chief, a chewy mystery or two and that’s a recipe for a good afternoon (doing dishes, folding clothes…not stopping the cleaning because you’d have to take out your earbuds to do anything else….)

This is not your typical female running headlong into danger. This is not one where the gorgeous guy saves the day. This is different.

(Yeah, I knew what was what way before the end. It’s the journey getting there that I enjoyed.)

Hell, I enjoyed the whole experience so much, I’ve already purchased the next book. Guess what I’m doing tomorrow…. Well, the house is pretty much clean so yardwork?

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Delicate Thorns

Delicate Thorns

By: Ainsley Shay and Miranda Hardy

Narrated by: Angie Hickman

GoodReads Summary: Waking up on a deserted island with no memory of who you are is scary, but when your throat burns for the thirst of blood, it’s terrifying.

For months, Jasmine has managed to feed her new hunger in solitude while teetering on the brink of insanity. As her delirium increases to a new level, an unthinkable opportunity offers an escape into a world of cruelty, vengeance, love and lust. Now the need to remember her past becomes vital if Jasmine plans to survive.

Delicate Thorns is a 26,000 word New Adult novella that brings an interesting twist to the vampire paranormal genre.

(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Delicate Thorns is such an appropriate title for this work. From the short form to Angie Hickman’s voice, everything seems like a gentle bubble that if you touched it, it would break into a thousand glimmering drops.

The movement of the rising action drifts daintily into the subtle drama of the climax, leaving me feeling that this is simply a few diary entries read aloud by the one who’d forgotten she’d written anything down.

I’m glad to see that other people like this story. I must be one of the few for whom this story does not resonate.

The imagery is interesting, lacking certain clichés most writers of intimate scenes fall into. In that, it was a bit different.

However, it just feels so soft that I can’t quite grip it in my mind. Even just after finishing it for the second time, I’m losing details that probably should have been able to stick with me.

Others have said that it is refreshingly different. Maybe I’ve read way too many vampire stories, but other than the amnesia, figuring out who you are once you’ve become one of the monsters is a constant in this idea of a story.

I really wish I’d been blown away. But I simply was not. Jasmine’s story simply lacks the grit that I enjoy.

Click here to go to Amazon

 

 

Consultation With a Vampire

consultation with a vampire

By: Patrick E. McLean

Narrated by: Patrick McLean

Series: How to Succeed in Evil

GoodReads Summary: Edwin Windsor, Evil Efficiency Consultant, returns with his manic lawyer Topper and his faithful secretary in this prequel to How to Succeed in Evil. Edwin is approached by a vampire, who offers him the prospect of eternal life if Edwin will help him with the troubles the modern world has presented his kind. It’s Edwin versus Nosferatu in this insightful satire of the highly exploited vampire genre.

Novella-length, 27,000 words

I’ve finally decided to return to one of my very favorite narrators.

After The Merchant Adventurer, I knew that while I will (and have) most definitely return to that listen, there is but one first time.

I found that there are only three Patrick McLean books ready for my listening consumption on Audible, and I have to space them out like savoring chocolate melting on my tongue.

But lately, I’ve had a hankerin’.

Nowhere else have I found such a broad range of voices (except for maybe full audio productions and Robin Williams on a lovely rant).

After reading the reviews for this one, it’s obvious that the best way to enjoy Patrick McLean is to hear Patrick McLean.

For all those critical reviews begging for more, it’s a novella, guys. It’s a short, entertaining prequel. It’s supposed to be that way.

Even though I truly loved the story and want more myself, I do not want to read the story. I want Mr. McLean to tell me the story. So I’ll have to wait for more How to Succeed in Evil.

I haven’t experienced any other book in this series. But apparently, others think the rest of them are even better than this little slice. Alas, I’ll just have to wait. I’ll have to adopt the patience of a vampire. (Wait, maybe I should kidnap Mr. McLean’s lawyer to get what I want. Hmmmm.)

I love the completely opposite take on vampires here. I mean, the idea of the vampire was a story that was supposed to scare the bejesus out of us, right? Then comes the twentieth century and the vision of the sexy, undeniable vampire. Then comes the twenty- first century where vampires love and sparkle.

Dark Shadows, the tv show is a bit before my time, but Johnny Depp’s version caught me because, well, Johnny Depp. And all I could see when hearing Barnabas was Johnny’s over the top make up and outdated assumptions of the world.

Part of me wondered, really sat and wondered, would a vampire have such a hard time adjusting? I mean, even though he’s lived a long time, how hard is it really to roll with the times, especially when you have the time to learn all kinds of things. OK, I’m still rolling that one over in my head.

At the end of the day, all I have to say is, just listen to Mr. McLean. That’s amazing in itself.

Click here to go to Amazon

Southern Charm

southern charm

By: Stuart Jaffe

Narrated by: Stuart Jaffe

GoodReads Summary: When Max and the gang are hired by an art forging ghost to find a lost painting, Max thinks it’ll be easy money. But villains old and new come out, and the race is on for the painting and the secrets it contains. A race that will lead Max into a mess of magic spells, haunted houses, ancient curses, and even Blackbeard the Pirate.

Maybe I’m a little biased, but having listened to a few of Mr. Jaffe’s self-narrated books, I just like him. I like the stories. I like the narration. I keep an eye out for his books. I’m slowly building a collection. So what I’m trying to say is, go find Mr. Jaffe’s work. You will not be disappointed.

Max Porter is as addictive for me as Harry Dresden. And if Dresden were a bumbling amateur with no magic, they would be more similar.  Actually, the only comparable element is the fact that there are ghosts and witches in both. So, I’m not sure why I’m so addicted to each of these characters.

Max and Sandra’s relationship just gets better. By better, I mean that they recognize their issues. Most fictional couples faced with being together 24/7 revel in it. They just adore each other. Their relationships never falter. However, Max and Sandra (both of them!) understand that being together so much is not beneficial to any relationship, even their own.

I (almost) never have spoilers in my reviews, and I’m not going to start now. Just know that Drummond is the same hard-boiled ghost P.I. Some of the bad guys return to put a kink into things. And the difference between book one and book two, is a year, some soft cases behind them and the willingness to even help ghosts (but, of course, you knew that was coming just looking at the next books in the series).

I see subtle growth in Max Porter. He’s not quite the academic pansy he started out to be. His experience and instructions from Drummond give him just a bit more grit. I still see him in the traditional professor stereotype, nowhere close to the heroics of Indiana Jones, but this book shows that maybe he’s taken the pocket protector out and just risks the pen leakage.

Once again, I highly recommend the audio version of this. There’s nothing like a writer with a good voice and a superb audio producer giving life to a world of his own making.

Click here to go to Amazon

 

 

Brother Bones

brother bones

By: Ron Fortier

Narrated by: J. Scott Bennett

GoodReads Summary: A gun wielding specter of justice haunts the dark streets of Cape Noire in seven tales of horror, suspense and supernatural thrills by pulp writer Ron Fortier (“The Green Hornet,” “Rambo,” “The Terminator,” etc.). In the grand tradition of the Shadow and the Spider comes the most bizarre avenger of them all, BROTHER BONES. Cover and Illustrations by Rob Davis (“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” Malibu Comics, etc.).

(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)

I have never read Mr. Fortier before. I’ve never read pulp horror before. In fact, the only familiar thing about this is the narrator. I don’t know if he chooses these types of books because he likes them or if someone’s heard him before and just knows he’s the right narrator. Whatever the case, he is the right narrator for the dark and deranged. (Slivers in the Dark)

Having opened myself up to new writers, new genres, I have frequently been disappointed by books that feel like they are merely the second draft on the road to something great, but someone (author, editor, publisher, etc.) decided that they wanted it out to the public before the story percolated into something avid readers would really appreciate. This set of stories is definitely not one of them.

This set of stories is thick enough to sink your teeth into and dark enough to blind you to anything else until you’ve finished it in its entirety.

Although for some looking for the cozy weirdness, you may have to pass this one by. It has gore. It has weird. It has shock factor. But all of that is the seasoning on top of a well-cooked steak.

Click here to go to Amazon

Dragon Gate

dragon gate

(Jonathan Shade #3)

By: Gary Jonas

Narrated by: Joe Hempel

Series: Jonathan Shade

Goodreads Summary: Stephen Noble, a board member of Dragon Gate Industries (DGI), is decapitated. DGI, a front company for wizards, decides to provide executive protection services for Noble’s son, Graham, and daughter, Rayna. But Graham doesn’t trust wizards and refuses their offer, so DGI hires Jonathan Shade and his team to keep the Noble family safe.

GUILTY CLIENTS

The Nobles are from the other side of the Dragon Gate, and in that dimension, they committed crimes against the Marshall Clan. And now the Clan has come through the Gate to exact their revenge. While Graham and Rayna were too young to have been a part of the death and mayhem in the other land, honor dictates that they must pay for the crimes of their family.

INHUMAN ATTACKERS

How can Jonathan protect clients who are willing to kneel and accept death at any moment? How can he and his team handle thirteen deadly warriors willing to die to accomplish their goal? And how can Jonathan defeat the deadly creatures the Marshall Clan has brought with them to our world? Creatures that will destroy anything in their path as they hunt their prey.

(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Noticeably missing from this story is Jonathan’s almost non-stop smart-ass remarks and continuous pop culture references. Yes, they are there. But…if you’ve made it this far through the devastating climax of the second Jonathan Shade novel, you’ll understand that he hasn’t just bounced back.

Even his friends have noticed.

Even the new girl in his life notices.

This, the third in the series is also different in that it jumps perspectives. Now this can be a tricky thing, and apparently turned off a tiny bit of reviewers.

Personally, I thought Mr. Jonas did a rather good job, adding the depth to Kelly I’d looked forward to.

Reviewers are still comparing this series to Dresden. Yet, while most Dresden reviewers agree that the series doesn’t get teeth until the third book, I think Mr. Jonas gave Shade teeth in the last one and this one shows us how a character deals with a world-rocking aftermath in a very smooth manner. Plus, Jonathan still carries on with a slightly harder edge.

And how can you complain about the third book that hasn’t lost its momentum, still drags you kicking and screaming until the very end wondering where the hell the day went, and leaves you begging for more.

Plus, all fangirl aside, I think that Mr. Hempel has found his character. With each installment of Jonathan Shade, he gets better and better adding more and more depth to the MC while still managing to add flair to every other character in the series.

I have so much enjoyed listening that even though I really want to know what happens next, I will stubbornly wait for Anubis Nights to be available in an audio format.

Click here to go to Amazon

A Good Idea Gone Wrong

Stain

Stain (My Soul to Wake) Book One

Or

My Soul to Wake (Stain #1)

By: Tara Oakes

GoodReads Summary:

*** Warning: this novel is intended for those over 18 years of age due to its erotic nature and mature content. ***
Witchcraft.
Reincarnation.
True love.
These are the things of legend. Unexplained, some even say impossible… but nonetheless prevalent in stories and tales from all cultures and in every land from the beginning of time. What if there’s something to it? What if there is an explanation behind the mysteries and bedtime stories? Something beyond words?

SALEM, MASSACHUSETTES 1692

She was taken from him in the cruelest way… condemned, sentenced and punished out of fear of the unknown. How is he supposed to live without her? How can he go on knowing that in this life, they will never be one again? There’s only one thing to do… only one option that will bring them together again.

SALEM , MASSACHUSETTES TODAY

Leah is taken on a weekend excursion with her best girlfriends to let loose, relax and have a little fun. What harm is there in a little vacation? It’s not like the legends, the haunted history of the place can scare them away. It’s all harmless fun.

Or so she thought.

Something seems familiar about the town. The trees, the winds, the feel of everything. Her ever present nightmares have become more intense within the limits of the old historical setting. She’s prepared to write off the whole trip as nothing more than a case of her mind running away with the sensationalized magic here. When she meets a handsome stranger who’s eager to know her in a way no one else can, she begins to think there just may be something more to this place, something more to him.

Will has been waiting, biding his time, and praying that she’ll come back. He’s broken the natural order of things to possibly find her again, weaving their way through the years until they can be together again. He knows he may never find her, but he can’t risk not trying. This place calls to her, just as it did to him. It will bring her back home. It will bring her back to him.

What’s 300 years when it comes to true love? He’s prepared to wait an eternity if he has to, just to see her, hold her, make her his and to help her remember what was stolen from them so long ago. He’ll stop at nothing to make her remember who she is, the power she possesses, and the love they swore to each other.

 

I’m of two minds on this one, both good and bad. So hear me out before making your purchasing decisions. It will depend on what you want and expect from a book.

 

The Good:

The story itself is rather well crafted. Using ideas I’ve seen before many times, reincarnation, endless love, witchcraft, Salem, etc., Tara Oakes add a few subtle elements to make this story hers.

For instance, I love how the title(s) bring elements of her story into the foreground of your mind when you finally realize how the word “stain” fits in. Finding a good title is sometimes a very hard thing for writers to do. Unfortunately, the editor or whoever is in charge of advertising cannot make up their minds on which title is the title of the book and which title is the title of the series. This makes things difficult when you’re looking for it and subsequent books.

I love the premise of the story (and I’m not giving away any spoilers).

I’m also impressed by the descriptions. She tells the intimate bits without cliché and boring repetition. Plus, I think the warning in the blurb is a bit much, considering what I read in high school and what I know kids in high school read. Plus, I’ve read plenty of YA books which border more on the pornographic than this ever touched.

Tara, I think, did a decent job of creating a lovely meeting of two souls in a properly intimate manner according to the context of the story, without going overboard or being repetitiously sugary sweet enough to make my teeth hurt. And I’m thinking that’s also a hard thing to accomplish, since I find it so rarely.

 

The Bad:

I do not understand the overwhelming amount of five star ratings. The idea behind the story is nothing new. Subtle elements give it a different dimension, but it is not a blockbuster. It does not blow me away with originality.

I teeter on the edge of relating to Leah and completely hating her angsty personality.

Trust me, I love Salem and all things horrendous and potential about the place. It has so many seeds for great stories.

The love story is fantastic, but the ease with which Leah accepts the unbelievable and the purposeful way she acts at the end, make me see three different characters. She’s just so all over the place.

 

The Ugly:

As an admitted grammar nazi with good influences from an anthro-linguistic background, I have learned to turn a blind eye to random bits of untidy grammar and the rare typo.

At this point, I hope that future editions of this find an editor who can fix my/me constructions, discover the important missing words and rid us, please, of the rampant passive voice that reduces a powerful, emotional scene to one where we simply do not give a damn because the one telling the story does not give enough of a damn to animate the scene rather than swish it around her mouth and spit.

 

Here’s a clue to those who do not understand what passive voice is: take your document, or any document and open it in MS Word. Go into your proofing settings and make the thing check for grammatical errors. Run a check. When you see those annoying green, red and blue squiggles, right click on what it underlines. It TELLS you what’s wrong. Fix the red ones. Those are spelling errors. Check the blue ones. Those are few, but they happen. They tell you when you’re using two instead of too. The green one’s? Those are the ones that tell you when a sentence is a fragment or to wordy or too long or whatever. Pay attention when it says “passive voice.”

I admit, there are a few times where passive voice is almost required and you simply cannot get rid of it. But in the middle of a hugely emotional scene, do your freakin’ best to get rid of the damned passive voice people.

If I read/listen to another book with so much potential and an overabundance of passivity (ruining that wonderful idea), I’m going to give a grammar lesson on this blog. No one wants that, right. (Unless you do, then, please tell me and I’ll add a section addressing the most common mistakes I can see ruining otherwise beautiful writing.)

Sometimes I wish I had a really good editor with new eyes proofing my stuff, ‘cause I bet they’d see much more than I, the one so invested in my own work.

(Random thought: should I start a proofing/editing business to help others?)

Stupid, pet peeve-rant over. (Look at that. A green squiggly. Look at all those fragments. Sometimes they work. Know the rules before you bend them, I always say.)