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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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