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?

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

Acheron Highway

acheron highway

(Jonathan Shade #2)

By: Gary Jonas

Narrated by: Joe Hempel

Series: Jonathan Shade

Goodreads Summary:

“He stole my heart, Mr. Shade. I want you to find him and steal it back.”

The dead won’t stay buried in Denver, so Jonathan Shade isn’t too surprised when a deceased woman shows up wanting to hire him. A necromancer stalker has stolen her heart–literally–and she needs it if she’s going to live.

But Shade’s jobs are never simple. The dead won’t leave him alone. They work for a lovesick goddess who wants Shade to turn over her former lover. Chased by zombies, and then by an army of skeletons, Shade and his magically-engineered partner, Kelly Chan, fight to stay alive.

Keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times, and hang on, because there are no safe exits from Acheron Highway…

Sequels suck. Everyone knows that. Even reading a series, people tend to find faults and bury themselves in those faults saying the third book will be better. Sequels tend to suck.

This one did not suck.

I am old enough to be jaded. I am old enough and have studied and read enough to see the formula as I read/listen. Nine times out of ten, I can see the end even before the middle and my entertainment is the path that gets me there.

Then there’s the tenth time. The time when I didn’t see it coming. This is that time.

I knew what would happen after the climax. But I did NOT see the end of that battle. And I had to pause, to take a minute and work out a few things in my head.

For an author to hook me with the ewwww factor at the beginning, drag me along for the ride and into THAT battle…. For an author to keep me entertained so much that sentence construction and “you expect me to believe that” never distracts me from the story….

Reviewers always talk about books “gripping them and never letting go.” Except for a few exceptions, I haven’t been “gripped” in a very long time. This is one of those exceptions.

When I say, pick up this book and read it. I mean carve out a bit of your time and let go. Let this freakin’ thing take you to hell and back. This path is fun.

As always, I skimmed through the reviews after listening. Wanna know something interesting? On three sites, THREE sites, there are very few reviews with less than FOUR stars.

That includes Audible where there were definitive opinions about Mr. Hempel’s narrative ability and the choice to even have him narrate.

I don’t see any complaints here.

While I’ve come to certain conclusions about Mr. Hempel being one of my favs and I know that most people will/should take it with a grain of salt that I’ll probably say something nice about his narrative talents, I am unashamed. Mr. Hempel did a fantastic job. Somehow, he manages to enunciate consistently and still emote a sense of intensity, where I, personally, would have blubbered and mumbled if I’d had to read this aloud.

Even though I truly enjoyed this rollercoaster, the best part is the ability to recommend this to my middle kid who I usually have to cajole into reading. While I’m telling him about Jonathan Shade, he’s nodding, saying, “Sure, some kids at school are reading/listening to the same thing. You like it? Yup, I’ll give it a go.” And after I’ve told him about it, I notice he’s watching the first season of Bones, something I’ve been trying to get him into since the beginning. So when the mention of Kathy Reichs happens as I’m listening, I have to pause and share with the kid. He loved it. “So do I have a copy, Mom?”

“Well, duh, little one, if I have it, so do you.”

Click here to go to Amazon

Modern Sorcery

modern sorcery

By: Gary Jonas

Narrated by: Joe Hempel

Series: Jonathan Shade

GoodReads Summary:

A SAVAGE MURDER

A husband armed with a sword hacks apart his wife in a Denver grocery store. There are dozens of witnesses, and the crime is captured on the security cameras. To the police, it’s an open-and-shut case.

To Naomi, the daughter of the couple, it’s evidence of dark magic. She hires her ex-lover, a private investigator named Jonathan Shade to prove her father is innocent.

Shade specializes in paranormal cases, but he isn’t buying it. Still, he takes the case, hoping to rekindle their relationship. Instead, Shade finds himself mixed up in supernatural intrigue with wizards, magically engineered assassins, and an ancient sorcerer returned to life who’s willing to kill anyone who stands in his way.

Too bad Shade doesn’t have any magic.

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

Recently, I’ve discovered something. I no longer jump into reviewing books willy nilly. I still don’t look at the existing reviews. I want to form my own opinion. I just browse through the description and sometimes run through to find out the average star rating. I look at authors and avoid those I just don’t like (who wants a bad review based on the fact that the reviewer doesn’t like what you write or how you write it before they even give the new book a chance?).

Since I listen to a lot of books just because my life doesn’t accept me sitting down for long periods of time pouring over the words like I use to, I also pay attention to narrators.

I have touched on this before, but it bears repeating if you’ve not browsed the archives. I am peculiar. I think female voices are meant for daytime listening because some of them inadvertently pierce my brain during character changes or emotional story moments. I do not want to wake up to that in the middle of the night. Female narrators keep me on point during the day. I’m more productive listening to them. (Weird, huh?)

I know that many people cannot listen to stories at night because it frustrates them when they fall asleep. I have a system. A male voice works in that system. Yes, it takes me longer to listen to a book, but it adds to my enjoyment, so that’s really all that counts.

So daytime = female voices and nighttime = male voices.

Here’s the thing. There are some exceptions.  (Mainly full productions, but that is a whole other topic. Twilight zone for sleeping. Gaiman for long drives.)

One exception is Mr. Joe Hempel. His voice doesn’t have the deep timbre of Mr. James Marsters. His voice is not high enough or whiny enough to wake me in the middle of the night. It’s like his voice is just right for either waking/working/productive day or calm/relaxing/sleeping night.

This led to another epiphany. I have a lot of Joe Hempel narrated books. And I’ve liked every freakin’ one of them. So what did I do? Something I never do. I reached out and told him so. What did he do? Sent me another book. (A tiny bit of jumping and yeahing.)

Less than 16 hours later, I’m finished. (Had to do that thing we need to stay alive, you know, sleep).

Another fabulous choice in books, I would never have found otherwise.

And, after listening, I had to go check out what others were thinking.

So, yes, this idea is similar to the Dresden Files, in that the MC is a PI in a world full of magic. I can even see either character slipping easily into either world to give the other a hard time. That would be something to see.

However, you can’t expect it to stay so similar. Jonathan is not Harry. I see Harry as the old noir PI (of course, he wears a trench coat and opens doors for ladies). I see Jonathon as a guy I might have grown up with. One of those guys you’d rather shoot a round of pool with instead of just sitting at the bar knocking back shots. You enjoy being around both of them, but one is a bit mellower and more cynical than the other.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Mr. Hempel doesn’t fit the character. I (am surprised by this) disagree. I don’t want Jonathan to sound like Eric Meyers reading The Maltese Falcon.

Dresden is for a night of chilling and bitching about work. Jonathan is for getting worked up and going out to find trouble just to blow off some energy. This is why you don’t want a deeper timbre for the MC. You don’t want him to seem exactly like every other old noir PI out there.

Jonathan is different. That’s what makes Modern Sorcery so different.

(What made me really happy is the nod to James Marsters hidden in the pages. I’m not going to tell you where, you just have to find it.)

Being a Dresden fan, and being that this is so similar, I did look for knock-off clues. The wizards are a closed society of asses, yes. But it feels as if we’re seeing a different side of them. Not a good one, but another one.

I may have enjoyed this one enough that I’ve overlooked some critical thinking. But, ya know what? That’s a good thing. It is rare that I don’t pick apart every little thing even in my head.

I wasn’t blasted out of my fun by grammatical gaffs. I wasn’t slipping down the passivity slide with an overabundance of passive voice. Every sentence felt like a bit of action, pulling me to the end.

I do agree with some that character development was light. I understand that this was more of a journey for Jonathan than manure to feed his personal growth, but he hasn’t gotten there yet. This is not the epic emotional voyage.

This is the beginning of a series. Compare it to prime time police procedurals like Law & Order (any of them). For the first season, it’s case driven. We don’t get into personal lives until at least the second. This first book in a series could probably equate to the first half of the first season.

The other characters were fun for me. I loved Esther’s turn of phrase, inconsistent though it might be. I mean, she’s been dead for how long and she doesn’t draw heavily from contemporary speech, but the villain, dead for three hundred years, barely back for a week and he references the finger in the throat for nausea? Hmmmm. What makes Esther different?

I liked Kelly, too. I didn’t think I would, because characters like her tend to soften halfway through until you don’t recognize them anymore. She remains consistent. She’s a construct. She doesn’t feel physical pain. She has attachments and objectivity.

Crazy as it may seem, I really enjoyed this beginning and cannot wait to see what happens next.

Click here to go to Amazon

 

Escape from Witchwood Hollow

escape from witchwood hollow

 

By: Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

GoodReads Summary: Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

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

When I was young and the worlds within book covers opened up to my eager eyes, I read a book called Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story. It scared me a bit. It made me uncomfortable enough to hold onto the book, but never revisit.

Recently, my daughter, as avid a reader as her mother with the same strange interest in the unusual, asked me for book recommendations. The very same book that I held onto for years rested on the bookshelf I’d filled for her with my old Nancy Drew books and the few other favorites I’d outgrown and never kept on my own shelves. I picked it up and handed it to her. “It’s a ghost story,” I said. “It scared me when I was younger than you.”

Eagerly she reached for it and said, “Tell me about it.”

I couldn’t. I couldn’t remember the details. I couldn’t remember why it scared me. So being the woman who’s only not afraid of the dark when being a mother, I said we’d read it together and talk about it. I opened the book for the first time in years.

No, it didn’t not have that same sense of strangeness for me as it had when I was in elementary school. And, no, it didn’t scare my middle school daughter…too much.  But I found I remembered with a distinct detachment exactly how I felt when I’d read the story for the first time. No, I wasn’t scared this time. But I knew, after finishing the last page, that it was still a favorite and would remain so. It was also probably the reason why, to this day I love mysteries, unsolved cases and ghosts.

This is how Escape from Witchwood Hollow made me feel. (And I can’t wait for my daughter to pour through the pages and ask me all the questions she comes up with.)

This book combines everything that should be combined in a “ghost” story. The legend evolved from the right mixture of history and mystery. The inclusion of the deep, dark woods and the warnings to stay away hint back to German folk tales told to keep children out of the Black Forest.

I don’t skim through reviews at all before reading a book I’ve been asked or volunteered to review. This way, I’m not influenced by what others think. I do, however, browse through them once I’ve finished, just to see and, if I’m feel contrary, explain why a reviewer may have felt the way they did.

I had to actually search for bad reviews for this one, there are so few. Glancing through them, I see a request for “more:” more character development, more history, more, more, more….

So while, I truly loved the book, I did come away thinking, “Well this could really be fleshed out into a seriously good 300-400 page novel.” But at the same time, I’m thinking of Wait Til Helen Comes, which also could have more depth.

I’m also thinking of my journey through the books in my city library as a kid. Downstairs, in the basement was an entire floor of kids’ books, specifically for beginning readers all the way up to maybe 5th grade reading. I remember, once I reached a certain age, being completely unsatisfied until my father guided me upstairs to the “adult” books and introduced me to my first “complex” read, The Princess Bride.

I would classify this book as perfect for young readers. It doesn’t tread down long roads of exposition that would bore the kid to death. It moves quickly enough to hold the interest of kids not yet ready to learn the reasons behind social classes and historical thought. It touches enough of history to whet the appetite to learn more. It hits subjects that could be perfect first steps into interest into recent history and the rampant emotions that come with it.

The descriptions of the natural setting turns Witchwood Hollow into another character itself, an unchanging bit of natural beauty and mystery that enchants some of us when we find the perfect place to sit and enjoy Mother Nature.

I may be of the minority when I say, don’t hold this book back from your children. Just because we’re uncomfortable talking about death, the afterlife and what happens when parents die, doesn’t mean there aren’t the inklings of those thoughts already creeping through the minds of children.

For me, it is rare to find that exceptionally good book aimed for the fleeting in-between children’s books and young adult novels. I didn’t find that many when I was a kid and at some point I just gave up. They either insulted my intelligence or were too politically correct to be anything other than some random words on a page pretending to be a story.

My kiddos have always read a bit above their prescribed grade level so they skipped the “chapter books” that most teachers require for daily reading times. My kiddos begged for something more to read when they reached that age and instead of simply not putting in the reading time for want of something to read, they asked me for recommendations. Armed with books aimed at high schoolers and a dictionary app for those words they couldn’t understand from context, they conquered books so easily, it was hard for me to keep up. Libraries aren’t dead, you know. You just have to know where to look.

Escape from Witchwood Hollow is one of those rare few that can claim imagination, open up conversations on deeper matters and perhaps, if we’re lucky create a lifelong interest in the mysteries of history.

Click to go to Amazon

Click to go to Amazon

Forsaken

forsaken

Forsaken: Book One of the Shadow Cove Saga

By: J. D. Barker

Narrated by: Christina Delaine

GoodReads Summary:

New from Master of Suspense, J.D. BARKER Bram Stoker Award Nominee – Superior Achievement in a First Novel Book One of the Shadow Cove Saga From the witch trials of centuries past, an evil awakens. Inspired by Actual Events

Excerpt from the Journal of Clayton Stone – 1692 She was examined today without torture at Shadow Cove township on the charge of witchcraft. She said she was wholly innocent of the crime and has never in life renounced God. I watched as they brought her out. A poor, sickly thing, worn by her time behind the walls of her prison. Her bared feet and hands bound in leather, her clothing tattered to that of ruin. Despite such condition, her head was held high, her eyes meeting those of her accusers. She still refuses to provide her name so we remain unable to search baptismal records, nor has her family stepped forward to claim her as their own. We have no reason to believe she is anything but an orphaned child. I find myself unable to look at her directly in the moments preceding her trial. She is watching me though; with eyes of the deepest blue, she is watching me. Thad McAlister, Rise of the Witch.

When horror author Thad McAlister began his latest novel, a tale rooted in the witch trials of centuries past, the words flowed effortlessly. The story poured forth, filling page after page with the most frightening character ever to crawl from his imagination. It was his greatest work, one that would guarantee him a position among the legends of the craft.

But was it really fiction?

He inadvertently opened a door, one that would soon jeopardize the lives of his family.

She wants to come back. A

t home, his wife struggles to keep their family alive.

Secretly wondering if she caused it all…a deal she made long ago.

A deal with the Forsaken.

For the full effect of this novel, sit on your front porch after dark, one earbud in, with Christine Delaine reading to you out of the darkness.

Creepy is the word that ran on repeat through my mind as I listened to this novel. It is the darkest form witchcraft can take – born from the fear that ransacked Salem all those years ago. For the first time, even after all my research into the witch crazes throughout Europe and later, America, I felt I got a true idea of the terror that perpetrated the insanity.

Of course, it also reminds us that a person is smart, but people are stupid (generally).

Then the bad guy threatens the family you love more than life itself.

On top of all of this, if you haven’t learned enough, comes the final lesson: Be careful what you wish for.

J. D. Barker has woven a story with the intricate threads of fear in every single page. Without graphic violence or random shock bits or weird, unpredictable twists, this is a story very much worth listening to. After dark. On your front porch.

Southern Bound

Southern Bound

Southern Bound

By: Stuart Jaffe

Narrated by: Stuart Jaffe

GoodReads Summary:

It was supposed to be a new beginning – good job, good pay, and a lovely home in North Carolina. But when Max Porter discovers his office is haunted by the ghost of a 1940s detective, he is thrust neck-deep into a world of old mysteries and dangerous enemies. One in which ghosts, witches, curses, and spells exist. One in which a simple research job can turn deadly.

(Free audio copy for honest review )

Yup, I judged the book by its cover. I thought, meh, crappy noir. But I do like listening and writing reviews. And since the author traded a free copy for the review, what could it hurt?

Nothing, as it turns out. Southern Bound was interesting from the beginning. Even though I’m used to characters who either completely flip out when faced with a ghost or are a bit complacent, I thought Max was just a pansy. He at first chose to ignore what was obvious right before his eyes. For a researcher, the initial lack of curiosity, the passive interest in solving a mystery completely through me off.

But then, it gets under his skin. Picking up one clue after another, interviewing people, putting the pieces together starts to work for him despite or in spite of the danger that comes with it.

The story flows easily without force from one scene, one clue to the next. The characters have led Stuart Jaffe to a fantastic conclusion.

Mr. Jaffe does a wonderful job with the narration. Sometimes, I wonder if listening to the book makes a difference in how much I enjoy it. The narrator has to be good. The story has to be engaging. So I definitely recommend the audible version having skipped the printed one.

I enjoyed this book so much, I’m already thinking of spending an audible credit on the sequel and kind of irritated that the next two books aren’t already there.

UPDATE: I did get the next book. I’m purposely waiting until I can’t anymore to listen to it. I’ve found other works by Mr. Jaffe and he’s quickly rising on my fav list. You’ll see when I post my other reviews.