#ThrowbackThursday ~ Written In Fire ~ the Brilliance Trilogy #3 by Marcus Sakey #AudiobookReview

Written In Fire was released in January 2016 by Brilliance Audio, narrated by Luke Daniels, and is the third of a trilogy.

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#ThrowbackThursday ~ The Promise by Robert Crais (An Elvis Cole/Joe Pike Novel) #CrimeFiction

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that have been waiting on the ‘to be read’ pile for however long, and are finally getting an airing.

This week I’m revisiting The Promise, an audiobook released in 2015, and narrated by MacLeod Andrews and Luke Daniels. 

My Review

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#ThrowbackThursday ~ Hellfire by John Saul #Horror #Thriller #AudioBookReview

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.

This week I’m revisiting another very early review – an audiobook narrated by Luke Daniels. Hellfire by John Saul was published in 2014 by Brilliance Audio but the original book was quite a while before that. Reminds me I must check out more books by John Saul.

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#ThrowbackThursday ~ The Kindness of Neighbors by Matthew Iden #Crime #Thriller

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.

This was my first book by Matthew Iden and I listened to the Brilliance Audio production narrated by Luke Daniels which was released in 2015. It’s novella length, taking around one hour forty five minutes. Well worth a read or listen. Here’s my review…  Continue reading

The Homecoming by Alan Russell #Audiobook @luckylukeekul #FridayReads

  • Author: Alan Russell
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: June 2017 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Audiobook, Review, Books

Seven years ago, young Stella Pierce vanished from the face of the earth. Now her grieving, broken family—along with Detective Orson Cheever, who never stopped working her case—is stunned by her mysterious return.

Set in California, Alan Russell opens the story with several couples and their children having a Valentine’s Day BBQ at the beach. A ghost story told by the fire, sworn to be true by the teller, fascinates Stella but makes the adults uncomfortable. Introducing Jason’s story lays the groundwork for what was to come. 

Love isn’t something you need to capture in a picture. It just is.

After such a lovely get together Eleanor and Duncan Pierce had no idea their lives were about to shatter. That night seven year old Stella Pierce disappeared from her bedroom. Stella’s bed didn’t look slept in and nothing was out of place. She had disappeared without a trace. Continue reading

Bum Luck by Paul Levine #Audiobook Legal #Thriller @Jake_Lassiter #TuesdayBookBlog

  • Author: Paul Levine
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: March 2017 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Legal Thriller, Crime, Contemporary, Book Review

Second-string linebacker turned trial lawyer Jake Lassiter squares off against his toughest, most unpredictable adversary yet: himself.

Jake Lassiter, criminal defence lawyer and ex linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, feels like killing his client after he won the case. He was not expecting to win as the evidence seemed unquestionable, but Thunder Thurston, high profile football star, has been found not guilty of murdering his wife. Jake is angry at himself, for doing his job too well, and Thunder. He’s certain Thunder is guilty and is completely disillusioned about the justice system, fantasising about taking matters into his own hands. To add to his problems Jake learns the District Attorney is attempting to charge him with jury tampering and bribing a witness. Continue reading

Abandon by Blake Crouch @blakecrouch1 ~ #Thriller #Audiobook

  • 6049585Author: Blake Crouch
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: September 2016, Published by Brilliance Publishing
  • Category: Time Slip Thriller, Crime, Suspense
  • four-half-stars

On Christmas Day in 1893, every man, woman, and child in a remote gold mining town disappeared, belongings forsaken, meals left to freeze in vacant cabins – and not a single bone was ever found. One hundred thirteen years later, two backcountry guides are hired by a history professor and his journalist daughter to lead them into the abandoned mining town, so they can learn what happened. 

The story begins in 1893 with a mule skinner arriving in Abandon to find a ghost town. He’d been there only two weeks ago delivering supplies and the town was thriving and full of activity. Now the streets were deserted with the snow laying in drifts. Then he sees a young girl with a revolver, and it’s the last thing he ever sees. Continue reading

Haunted Destiny (Krewe of Hunters #18) by Heather Graham ~ #Paranormal investigators #SundayBlogShare

  • 27069953Audiobook Review
  • Author: Heather Graham
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Published by Brilliance Audio and released May 2016
  • Category: Crime, Thriller, Paranormal
  • four-half-stars

A historic cruise ship, a haunted ship, the Celtic American Line’s Destiny, sets sail from the Port of New Orleans—with a killer on board. He’s known as the Archangel Killer because of the way he displays his victims in churches. And how he places a different saint’s medallion on each body. No one knows exactly who he is or why he’s doing this.

It was the Archangel’s eleventh murder as he travelled through the South. The killer’s latest victim has been discovered just outside the French Quarter in New Orleans. FBI Agent Jude McCoy and Jackson Crow, head of the Krewe of Hunters, are at the scene. Jude and Jackson notice an odd looking man behaving suspiciously on the edge of the crowd. They give chase, pursuing the man until Jude believes he saw him board the pride of the Celtic American cruise line, the Destiny. The two agents decide to sail with the ship, giving them the best chance of catching the suspect.  Continue reading

Written In Fire ~ the Brilliance Trilogy #3 by @ MarcusSakey #TuesdayBookBlog @luckylukeekul #Audio

  • WrittenInFireAudiobook Review
  • Author: Marcus Sakey
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: January 2016 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Contemporary, Sci-fi, Alternate Reality
  • five-stars

For thirty years humanity struggled to cope with the brilliants, the 1 percent of people born with remarkable gifts. For thirty years we tried to avoid a devastating civil war.

We failed.

The White House is a smoking ruin. Madison Square Garden is an internment camp. In Wyoming, an armed militia of thousands marches toward a final, apocalyptic battle.

This has been a fantastic series, starting with Brilliance, followed by A Better World and now Written in Fire. It portrays a world in a near, but alternate, future where an extremely small percentage of the population are born with individualised intellectual and physical abilities way above anything previously known. Normals see the abnorms, or brilliants, as a threat, and therefore people to be feared and persecuted.  Continue reading

The Promise ~ Elvis Cole

Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are joined by Suspect heroes Scott James and his K-9 partner, Maggie, in the new masterpiece of suspense from the number one New York Times bestselling author. 

Loyalty, commitment, the fight against injustice – these are the things that have always driven Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. If they make a promise, they keep it. Even if it could get them killed.

Meryl Lawrence hires PI Elvis Cole to find missing chemical engineer Amy Breslyn, who has supposedly embezzled a large amount of money from Woodson Energy Solutions, the company she works for. They manufacture fuels for the Department of Defense, which gives their work a classified status. Continue reading

Critical Dawn ~ The Critical Series #1~ Post #Apocalyptic #SciFi

A centuries old plan unfolds. 
Pippa, Charlie, and the rest of humanity will have to fight for survival, sacrificing the life they’ve known to protect Earth from an ancient and previously dormant enemy. Even that might not be enough as this new enemy exacts a plan that will change the course of humankind forever. 
Critical Dawn is an apocalyptic ride to the very edge of human existence. Factions will battle for control of the Earth—if they can avoid the threat of extinction.

Archaeologists and historians Charlie Jackson and his boss, Pippa Quinn, are investigating a site of particular interest and on the verge of a huge discovery, although it turns out to be not quite what they were expecting. Pippa has found some unexplainable and disturbing evidence in undisturbed graves at the dig site of a deserted settlement on Roanoke Island. Items were found under the skeletons which could not have been added after the burials and it was obvious to Charlie and Pippa they were dealing with advanced technology. As they try to draw some conclusions from the artefacts and information found at the dig, storms are gathering around the world. India has been hit with a tsunami and California by a hurricane. Continue reading

The Devil’s Game ~ The Game Trilogy #2

Daniel Byrne spent ten years as a Vatican investigator, scrutinizing and debunking miracle claims – until he burned that life to the ground when one investigation shook his faith and revealed disturbing earthly conspiracies. Determined to find the truth, he steps into a new life of secrets and lies, joining a powerful group that wields hidden influence over world events. 

Daniel infiltrates a covert government facility and uncovers a bizarre new strain of the Plague that seems to flood the minds of its victims with visions of the future. Teaming up with disgraced physician Kara Singh, a woman beset with inexplicable visions of her own, Daniel traces the root of this deadly pathogen around the globe, and discovers a terrifying truth.

Daniel Byrne, excommunicated priest and ex Vatican investigator, who exposed fraudulent miracle claims, is now working for the Fleur-de-Lis Foundation, a rival of the corrupt Council for World Peace, a very misnamed organisation. Continue reading

Oddkins ~ A Fable for All Ages

  • OddkinsAuthor: Dean Koontz
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Published: Brilliance Audio, released on Audible August 2013
  • Category: Children’s Fantasy/Fairytale
  • five-stars

To the world, the Oddkins are just stuffed animals. But all of these soft, cuddly, sweet-faced toys share a wonderful, magical secret… they’re alive!
Created by Mr. Isaac Bodkins, the old toy maker, the Oddkins are made only for very special children, those who must face something difficult in life and need a true friend. The Oddkins are given to these children to inspire them, help them, and love them as long as the children need them. Only now the toys themselves – Amos, the brave stuffed bear; Skippy, the rabbit who dreams of being a superstar; Butterscotch, the gently, floppy-eared pup; as well as Burl the elephant; Gibbons; and Patch the cat – are the ones in need of help.

Mr Isaac Bodkins, the toymaker, was dead. His magical toy animals, who he nicknamed Oddkins because they were odd (as in alive) and kin (because they were his family) were sad and scared. Isaac had made the toys especially for children who are suffering in some way and need a special and secret friend.  A friend who will guide and support, and help them fulfil their potential. Isaac thought he had a little more time but died before he could talk to city toymaker Colleen Shannon about taking over his shop, Leben Toys.  Continue reading

Times Change ~ Time and Again #2

 

  • TimesChangeAudiobook Review

  • Author: Nora Roberts
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Published: May 2015 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Time Travel, Romance
  • four-stars

Cynical Jacob Hornblower has followed his brother, Caleb, back in time, hoping to convince him to return home. His mission is soon forgotten, however, when he finds himself captivated by Liberty’s spitfire sister, Sunny. But can a man who is down on love truly understand the unbounded strength of the human heart?

In the first book, Time Was, Caleb Hornblower inadvertently found him self transported back in time to the 20th Century. He fell in love with Libby Stone and, deciding he just couldn’t leave her, chose to stay in the past. Jacob Hornblower, an astrophysicist, has spent months, years working on plotting coordinates and building a spaceship that would stand up to the rigors of his intended time travel. Cal’s report, transported back by his unmanned ship, had been fairly precise. Jacob had every intention of taking his brother home. Continue reading

The Kindness of Neighbors

AR2

  • KindnessAuthor: Matthew Iden
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released May 2015 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Crime/Thriller/Suspense
  • four-half-stars

No one likes Jack. His wife is gone and his neighbors avoid him. He’s a recluse and a creep, and that’s just the way he wants it; he can ignore what they say behind his back if they leave him to his work and his daily walks. But when ten-year-old Emma goes missing in the nearby woods, the eyes of his neighbors turn toward him, their fear and accusations escalating as the days go by. Jack proclaims his innocence, but what the neighbors–and the reader–find out is the last thing anyone would suspect.

Jack Tate is living a solitary and reclusive life ever since his wife left him and works from home as a freelance illustrator. Living as he does in a family orientated neighbourhood Jack realises people regard him as odd and maybe slightly creepy. He enjoys solitary walks in the nearby wooded park and working from home and to his own schedule, adds to his self-imposed isolation. Continue reading

Time Was ~ Time and Again #1

AudiobookReview

  • TW2Author: Nora Roberts
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Published: April 2015 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Romance, Time Travel
  • four-stars

Stranded in the present, time traveler Caleb Hornblower’s biggest problem isn’t returning to the twenty-third century – but falling head over heels for the beguiling Liberty Stone, who shows him a love more powerful than time itself. Though Caleb knows he belongs in the future, how can he leave the past, and Liberty, behind?

As Liberty Stone stood on the cabin’s porch watching the storm rage overhead she had no regrets about being tucked away in the Oregon mountains. A cultural anthropologist, she was spending time at the place of her birth to write her dissertation on the last five years of extensive research. She was looking forward to the solitude. Then she saw the light shoot across the sky and the unmistakable sound of a crash.

Caleb Hornblower, a freelance cargo pilot from the 23rd century, is on a routine flight home from Mars when he diverts to avoid a meteor shower and is catapulted through a time gateway. With instruments going wild, the cockpit in darkness and the pressure making him lose consciousness, his ship whirls towards the earth. As Libby races to where she believes a plane went down she finds Caleb injured by the side of the track and manages to get him back to the cabin. As she nurses Caleb back to health Libby attributes his sometimes strange behaviour as the result of the accident. Little does she know.

The cockpit lights went out, leaving only the whirl of kaleidoscopic colors from the instrument panel. His ship went into a spiral, tumbling end over end like a stone fired from a slingshot. Now the light was white, hot and brilliant. Instinctively he threw up an arm to shield his eyes. The sudden crushing pressure on his chest left him helpless to do more than gasp for breath.

I remember reading this book a long time ago. I think it was first published in the late 80’s or early 90’s as a Silhouette romance. I went for this newly released audio version because, well, it’s Luke Daniels and his narrations are always excellent, he always brings so much to his performance which enhances a story enormously.

Given the passage of years and the formula it followed, the story is a little dated. The dominant, could be seen as overpowering, male and the shy, virginal female, intelligent but naive, scenario could have been less than appealing but Nora Roberts handles it well. Her female characters and writing have evolved hugely since this was written but still, I like Libby and Cal and I’m glad Libby’s self assurance and nerve grows as the story progresses.

The time travel element gives the story an extra layer, even though the details are fairly vague. I imagine it was a precursor to the incredibly good In Death series which started around the same time, I think, and is written under Ms Roberts’ pseudonym, JD Robb. This series is also set in the future, although not so far, and is way more comprehensive. Caleb’s stunned and bemused reactions in finding himself transported back in time and faced with an antiquated lifestyle, including the cars and kitchen equipment, are credible and amusing. I like Libby’s parents and their interactions with Caleb. I’m giving the story a four star rating taking into account it’s twenty five or so years old. 

Book links ~ Amazon UK Amazon US

Morningside Fall (Legends of the Duskwalker #2)

AudiobookReview

  • MorningsideFallAuthor: Jay Posey
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Published: February 2015 by Audible Studios
  • Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Apocalyptic/Post Apocalyptic
  • four-half-stars

The lone gunman Three is gone. Wren is the new governor of the devastated settlement of Morningside, but there is turmoil in the city. When his life is put in danger, Wren is forced to flee Morningside until he and his retinue can determine who can be trusted. 

They arrive at a border outpost to find it has been infested with Weir in greater numbers than anyone has ever seen. These lost, dangerous creatures are harbouring a terrible secret – one that will have consequences not just for Wren and his comrades but for the future of what remains of the world. New threats need new heroes….

In a post Three world, young Wren is now the governor of Morningside after the death of his father, Underdown. His mother, Cass, acts as his advisor, protector and companion. Although Wren has special abilities, and is sometimes able to ‘awaken’ Weir, including Cass and his friend Painter, he’s not equipped to deal with Morningside’s politics. It becomes clear not everyone in the Council is in favour of Wren’s governorship and his life is in danger. Following a failed murder attempt the situation escalates and Cass, Painter and Wren are forced to escape the city, along with Wren’s team of elite bodyguards, even though it means travelling the bleak wastelands between refuges and leaving themselves open to attacks by Weir.

Reaching the outpost Ninestory, they encounter Weir in huge numbers. An enormity never before witnessed. Posing an even deadlier threat, appearing quite different and much more menacing, their presence places everyone in jeopardy. More so than is apparent initially. The little group battle against impossible odds, with help from an unexpected quarter.

After the surprising and shock ending of the first book I did wonder how the second would fare without the compelling and mysterious central character that was Three. The pace is slightly slower to begin with and there’s no main focus on one particular hero. The writing however, along with the post apocalyptic world and Weir are just as compelling. 

Wren is central to the story, a child who in some ways is older than his years, but nevertheless acts mainly as a boy of his age would. He has benefitted from all he learned from Three and his character does develop quite a lot towards the end of the book. The secondary characters, most especially Wren’s contingent of elite bodyguards, helped in some way to fill the void left by Three. Those passages featuring Gamble, Sky, Swoop and Wick are terrific, their interactions, dialogue and personalities, even though there’s no back story as such for them, are interesting and distinctive.

The prey turned to face the Thing. Unsurprised. Unafraid. Waited calmly. Raised its hand. The Thing leapt. It felt its claws puncture, but the instant it made contact, the Thing experienced a piercing cold that bored into the centre of its forehead and streaked through to the back of its skull. It cried out involuntarily, a static burst of while noise. The cold became white-hot behind the Thing’s eyes. A cleansing fire, like cobwebs vanishing in a flash of flame. And as the Thing fell to the ground, it remembered.

The story opens with a short but excellent prologue. Painter is quite a tragic character who invites sympathy but his personality takes a very unexpected turn towards the end, when he decides to leave and strike out on his own. The mysterious Blindfold Man of the cover image (who I initially thought was a grown up Wren) is intriguing and very powerful, not someone to be taken lightly. He appears at the beginning of the story and then again more substantially in the last few chapters. His identity is left unknown for the longest time and is a surprise when revealed. For me, the story didn’t have quite the same impact as Three, but having said that, I did enjoy it a lot and look forward to the third book, which actually could go in any direction given the ending. I’m enjoying Jay Posey’s writing style and Luke Daniels’ performance, as always, is just so good and brings out the atmosphere and emotion of the story, as well as giving the characters distinct voices and personalities. 

Book links ~ Amazon US Amazon UK

About the author

JayPoseyJay Posey is a professional typist with a face for radio and a voice for print. He’s the author of the novels THREE and MORNINGSIDE FALL, published by Angry Robot Books, and is Senior Narrative Designer at Ubisoft/Red Storm Entertainment, where he has spent many years contributing as a writer and game designer to Tom Clancy’s award-winning Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six franchises. 

He blogs occasionally at jayposey.com and spends more time than he probably should hanging around Twitter as @HiJayPosey.

Zero Separation

AudiobookReview

  • ZeroAuthor: Philip Donlay
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Published: Brilliance Audio, released on Audible March 2013
  • Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
  • four-half-stars

Donovan Nash has a secret he will do anything to keep. But he is the prime suspect after someone steals a 50-million-dollar executive jet, and FBI agent Veronica Montero puts him squarely in the crosshairs. As she digs, she discovers Nash’s secret – a revelation that, if made public, would stun the world.

Donovan Nash, the founder of Eco Watch, an environmental research company, and his partner and best friend, Michael Ross are flying their Gulfstream to Palm Beach. Getting caught in a thunderstorm forces them to divert to Boca Raton in Florida. This triggers a series of events, the magnitude of which no-one could have imagined. Michael is attacked and left for dead, the plane is stolen and Donovan crosses paths with FBI agent Veronica Montero. 

For a split second Donovan felt the air in the cockpit turn supercharged, the hair on his arms buzzed a brief warning, and the it seemed a flashbulb went off a foot in front of his face. Blinded, Donovan fought the spots that danced before his eyes and felt the sizzle of adrenaline hit his system. His ears popped from the pressure change, A moment later, he heard the deafening roar of thunder.

Donovan is hiding a secret that could ruin his life as well as that of his family and friends. Veronica Montero discovers Donovan’s hidden past and blackmails him into helping her with her plan to avenge her lover’s murder. They are drawn into life threatening danger, involving bio terrorism, murders, political intrigue and stolen airplanes. After a terrifying ordeal they just have one slim chance to stop a horrendous atrocity that would cause widespread loss of life. Which also looks likely to cost their own. 

I’m not a fan of an audiobook series with different narrators for each story so I took a chance with this one, since it’s the third book in the Donovan Nash series, (Luke Daniels narrating – so it was no contest) and actually, it can be listened to as a stand alone. There’s enough back information in the narrative, so I wasn’t ever lost with the storyline. It’s an exciting and tense thriller with an intricate plot and some amazing action sequences, in the air as well as on the ground. The fact that Mr Donlay is an experienced pilot, and is obviously very knowledgeable about aircraft and the associated technicalities, adds authenticity to the imaginative and dramatic story. 

Donovan saw the pain in her eyes. Her façade was breaking down and the vulnerability he’d seen earlier had returned. It wasn’t an act; it was something very real.

Donovan Nash is an intriguing protagonist with a complex background. I like the fact that he’s not a stereotypical action man, the type who’s an expert shot and never loses a fight sort of hero. His background unfolds as the story progresses revealing a complex, likeable and fallible character. Veronica Montero, on the other hand, is a woman on the edge, desperate to find the men who killed her partner and willing to go to any lengths to make them pay. The supporting characters are well defined and believable with realistic interaction. Great performance by Luke Daniels who never fails to deliver a perfectly voiced narration.

About the author

P.DonlayAs a young man, Philip Donlay’s life was shaped by two distinct events. At the age of seventeen, he earned his pilot’s license, and at eighteen was published in a national aviation magazine. The combination of these two passions: flying and writing, has led to successful careers as both a professional pilot and novelist.

His travels have taken him to over forty countries on five continents. Currently, Donlay divides his time between Minneapolis, Montana, and the San Juan Islands. He is the author of five novels, Category Five, Code Black, Zero Separation, Deadly Echoes, and the yet to be released, Aftershock.

Book links ~ Amazon UK Amazon US

Philip Donlay also has a Facebook page which can be found here

A Better World (The Brilliance Saga #2)

AudiobookReview

  • ABetterWorldAuthor: Marcus Sakey
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: On Audible June 2014 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Crime/Thriller/Suspense
  • five-stars

The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional…and the rest of us.

Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.

Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose—because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.

And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.

The second book in the Brilliance saga picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first, throwing the reader/listener straight into the ongoing conspiracy and opening with a chilling scenario….

When the pain was finally done, he collapsed. His thoughts were slippery and he struggled to process what had just happened. The ground was cold. And moving. No, he was moving, being dragged. His hands were behind him and something held them together.

Then liquid splashed his face. The cold made him gasp and he sucked some of the fluid into his mouth. It was foul. A pungent chemical presence he’d never tasted but had smelled a thousand times, and that was when panic swept out the last vestiges of pain, because he was handcuffed on the side of the road and someone was pouring gasoline on him. 

“Oh God, please, please, don’t, please don’t -“

Chapter one begins three weeks before that terrible incident. Tension and suspense build again gradually and consistently as we meet old and new characters. The most notable of the latter is Dr Ethan Park who, along with Abe Cousen and their team, have made an unimaginable discovery.

Nick Cooper continues to fascinate as the strong and utterly determined main protagonist, complex and extremely resourceful, and although he doubts the wisdom of his previous actions based on their outcome he is still, now more than ever, committed to sorting through the backlash, figuring out what is going on and preventing a national catastrophe.

There’s so much incredible depth and detail to this and the previous story I was glad to have the recap of events from Brilliance woven into A Better Story and in such a way that it wasn’t a straight rehash. The tension between ‘normals’ and ‘brilliants’ is escalating and a terrorist group, The Children of Darwin, are set on provoking a war. It’s quite harrowing listening to accounts of the devastation as America goes crazy and cities are taken over and their populations left without food and utilities.

The writing, gripping story telling and alternate reality world building are exceptional as are the well-developed and believable characters. I enjoyed the interspersed flashes of newscasts and ads, I especially like the personal ones, as they continue, in a fantastic way, to update the narrative. There are some unexpected, moving and breathtaking twists in what is an excellent second instalment.

At the risk of repeating myself, and I probably will do again more than once because Luke Daniels’ performances are so consistently outstanding. I’ve listened to a lot of his narrations in all sorts of genres with an equally vast array of characters and he handles each one with ease and individuality.

Spell or High Water (Magic 2.0, Book 2)

AudiobookReview

  • SpellorHighWaterAuthor: Scott Meyer
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Audible Release Date: June 2014
  • Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • five-stars

The adventures of an American hacker in Medieval England continue as Martin Banks takes his next step on the journey toward mastering his reality-altering powers and fulfilling his destiny.

A month has passed since Martin helped to defeat the evil programmer Jimmy, and things couldn’t be going better. Except for his love life, that is. Feeling distant and lost, Gwen has journeyed to Atlantis, a tolerant and benevolent kingdom governed by the Sorceresses, and a place known to be a safe haven to all female time-travelers.

Following on from Off To Be The Wizard, this second book in the series takes our protagonists away from their home turf in Leadchurch, Medieval England, to Atlantis in a few hundred years BC,  for a summit of time travellers on the use of magic powers. Very clear and detailed descriptions of Atlantis and the premise was fascinating. The city was created as a refuge and sanctuary for female time travellers as women were not treated well in most historical times. And a very intricate time travelling story line is centred around Brit the Elder and Brit the Younger from Atlantis.

The story carries on seamlessly, Martin is still rather naive and Philip is his usual testy and caustic self. Martin sees this visit to Atlantis as an opportunity to further his cause with Gwen but Martin’s luck in that department has not improved.

Anything in the world of wizards is possible and probable though, and strange and wonderful events occur with regularity. Really good and humorous interaction and drama between the characters. 

The two interwoven storylines, the time travellers in Atlantis and the events unfolding in the ‘real world.’ Agents Miller and Murphy from the US Treasury Department play a big part in the real world scenario and add to the comedic impact of a very enjoyable narrative.

As with the first book, I love the humour and there were lots of laugh out loud moments and witty banter and, as always, Luke Daniels gives his own inimitable and distinctive performance, differentiating between, and individualizing, each character.

tt10407952flttAmazon US Amazon UK

Scott Meyer grew up in the small town of Sunnyside, Washington. He began his career in humor by working as a standup comedian and radio personality, a highlight of which was participating as the opening act in Weird Al Yankovic’s “Running with Scissors” tour. Following a long stint touring the United States and Canada, Scott settled down in Orlando, Florida, where he works on his ongoing comic strip, Basic Instructions. Spell or High Water is his second novel.

Shattered: The Iron Druid Chronicles #7

AudiobookReview

  • ShatteredAuthor: Kevin Hearne
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Publisher: Hatchette Audio UK
  • Audible Release Date: June 2014
  • Category: Urban Fantasy
  • five-stars

For nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth—Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.

And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse.

But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.

As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time . . . three’s a charm.

This series just gets better and Shattered, if anything, raises the bar. The research and seamless intermingling of gods from everywhere is incredible and works amazingly well in the context of the storyline. And the writing is glorious with all the humour and detail delivered in spades.

Atticus’ old archdruid, who was frozen in time by the Morrigan on Tír na nÓg, for the last 2,000 years, has been resurrected, so to speak. Owen, as he is now known, is a fun character with his grumpy ways and Old Irish cussing. Atticus’ attempts to acclimatize Owen, and bring him up to date with the world he now finds himself in, are hilarious and I love the interaction between the two of them. Owen very quickly becomes an integral part of the story.

Although I’m not generally a huge fan of multiple points of view, in this instance the threefold narration works because Owen, Atticus and Granuaile are in different places a lot of the time. It adds immensely to the development of each character too while they are independent of each other. Atticus has matured and his principles, compassion and wisdom have grown accordingly.

Granuaile travels to India after a message from Laksha, and from there to the Himalayas to meet the hockey loving Yeti (amazing!) She faces difficult problems without Atticus for the first time, with terrible consequences. The scenes with Granuaile and her father, and then her mother too, are so well written the emotion is just palpable.

I love the addition of Orlaith, I’m glad it’s time for Oberon to have a companion. And, of course, Oberon and the interaction between him and Atticus, is as funny and entertaining as ever.

<Atticus, she kissed me! Did you see that? She loves me!>

Yeah, I saw it, buddy, but I’m not sure you can conclude…

<Hail, Oberon, Lord of All Meats! I am the sausage in the morning and the bone at night! I am the bringer of beef and the singer of sweet suppertime! Mine is the chicken and the gravy forever, nom nom!>

Oberon, I think your ego is getting the best of you here.

<Don’t hate the Meat Lord, Atticus. Just offer him steak sauce and words of praise.>

Atticus discovers who his unknown enemy is and it’s a shock, to say the least, for all concerned. There’s a huge all out battle with several fatalities. But also a lot of introspection from the gods, druids and the Tuatha Dé Dannan, about mistakes made, opportunities missed and decisions taken. The conclusion and the epilogue set the scene nicely for the next book.

Luke Daniels’ narration is an absolute pleasure to listen to, with all the amazing characterisations…and there are lots of them. It must be a feat in itself to keep them all in order. Nevertheless they are all delivered with assurance and skill, incorporating the humour of the writing. Extremely entertaining.

tt10407952flttAmazon US Amazon UK

The MacKade Brothers #2 ~ Devin and Shane

AudiobookReview

  • Devin MacKadeThe Heart of Devin MacKade #3
  • Author: Nora Roberts
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released July 2014 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Contemporary Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
  • five-stars

 

Sheriff Devin MacKade has always known his destiny was to serve and protect the small town of Antietam, Maryland—and for a long while he thought that future would include Cassie Connor. But when Cassie married the wrong man, Devin did the honorable thing and kept his feelings to himself. Now that Cassie’s divorced, Devin can finally follow his heart. Question is, can Cassie?

It was pretty obvious that Devin and Cassie were going to end up with each other at some point even though, after twelve years of just being her friend, Devin thought Cassie was lost to him but still, I loved the story. It has a little more depth and emotion due to the subject matter of domestic violence and abuse, especially as children are involved.

With his chin on his chest Connor turned to go outside. He knew what was coming, he was going to get whipped. His father had always done the hitting away from the house, away where his mother couldn’t see and wouldn’t know. He’d get a beating now for sure and it would be worse than his father had ever done to him…

Nora Roberts is so good at writing scenes that pull at the heart-strings and I love the way Devin gains the trust and love of Cassie’s children. After first meeting a very subdued and downtrodden Cassie in Rafe and Reagan’s story, she has made a lot of progress since her divorce and Joe Dolin’s imprisonment. Working and living at the B&B has been especially good for her and her still emotionally scarred children. All is not plain sailing though as Joe plots and plans even as he appears to be the model prisoner

Devin and Cassie’s story mirrors that of Abigail Barlow and the man she loves but Cassie makes sure it doesn’t end the same way. And the sad story of the two Corporals from the Battle of Antietam continues to be woven through. 

 

  • Shane MacKadeThe Fall of Shane MacKade #4
  • Author: Nora Roberts
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: July 2014 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Contemporary Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
  • four-half-stars

Shane MacKade enjoyed everything about women—the look of them, the smell of them, the taste of them. So the last thing he expected was to become a one-woman man. And even more surprising is that it’s the Ph.D.-toting academic Rebecca McKnight who has him headed for a fall. Could Shane’s days as a bachelor be coming to an end?

Shane, the youngest of the MacKade brothers, appeals to me as all the others have. He’s a free spirit, loves the farm, a ladies’ man who isn’t interested in settling down. He’s always tried to shut out the dreams he has, and what they mean, not wanting any part of the unsettling flashbacks from another time. 

When Dr Rebecca Knight, Reagan’s old college roommate, arrives to research the paranormal happenings for her book, Shane is thrown into turmoil on both levels. Rebecca feels an instant connection to the farm which is reinforced by her own vivid dreams. She is the link that completes the circle and Shane falls hard.

‘I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I didn’t want to, but you changed everything.’

‘I love you, Rebecca. Oh god, I love you. And I have to sit down’

The passages going back in time to the war are haunting (forgive the pun) and described so vividly it’s heartbreaking. And the epilogue is the perfect ending. 

I really enjoyed this series, and it’s one I’ll listen to again, the characters are very believable with real feelings. The family ties and bonds are a huge part of why I love these stories and it’s so nice to have totally male men who are family orientated and obviously loving it. Nora Roberts is so good at creating moving and wonderful scenarios that just make you love the characters.
The emotion Luke Daniels puts into his performances, especially so in Devin’s story, is outstanding and intensifies the drama and the feelings each character has for their partners and the others in the family. I hope you keep on doing what you’re doing, Mr Daniels, it’s magic.

tt10407948flttAmazon US Amazon UK

The MacKade Brothers #1 ~ Rafe and Jared

AudiobookReview

  • Rafe MackadeThe Return of Rafe MacKade #1
  • Author: Nora Roberts
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: May 2014 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal
  • four-half-stars

Ten years after disappearing from Antietam, Maryland, the bad boy has come home. Cleaned up and successful now—though still dangerously good-looking—Rafe MacKade sets the town on fire…and tongues wagging. Not even lovely newcomer Regan Bishop is immune to his charms. Though Regan claims to not want to get involved with a rebel, Rafe’s pretty sure that her reaction to their sizzling kisses suggests otherwise….

 

I’ve had this book on my Kindle for a while but didn’t get round to reading it yet. When I saw it released in audio format with Luke Daniels that was the only incentive I needed to purchase the audiobooks.

For all his macho maleness I liked Rafe, his confused feelings and inner fight were written so well and Regan’s misplaced need to be totally opposite to her mother made her go too far to the other extreme. Rafe and Regan both think they know what they want but discover it might not be what they need.

I wonder if the seeds for the Inn Boonsboro trilogy are in this story. An old building in Maryland being renovated for paying guests, haunted and with ties to the battle at Antietam. Not that it matters in this instance, I love the Boonsboro books and I’m really going to enjoy this series. The writing flowed well and the characters are described in such a way they’re easy to like. The sub story of Cassie and the abuse she suffered was handled sensitively and has got to be a storyline that will continue.

All the elements of a classic Nora Roberts, gorgeously handsome bad boy, beautiful independent woman and a good story/romance. I like very much Ms Roberts’ formula of setting the story in a small but interesting town, the paranormal aspect and the sprinkling of humour. The way she portrays families, especially brothers, their closeness to each other offset by the bickering and some great banter.

“He’s hooked,” Jared grinned and lifted his beer. “And his heart looks so pretty, right there on his sleeve.”

 

Jared Mackade

  • The Pride of Jared MacKade #2
  • Author: Nora Roberts
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released May 2014 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal
  • four-half-stars

Jared MacKade believes in taking a stand, and he never turns his back on a fight. So when his work as an attorney brings him up against Savannah Morningstar, her rude behavior and strong defenses aren’t nearly enough to scare him off – quite the opposite. Thoughts of the outrageously direct and sinfully sexy woman keep Jared coming back for more. And the more he gets to know her, the more determined he is to stand by her always.

After dipping unsuccessfully into the matrimonial pool, Jared Mackade is sure he won’t try that again. Then he meets Savannah Morningstar (love the name). She isn’t the typical female protagonist found in Nora Roberts’ books but she is a very interesting character. Part Native American, she lived on the rodeo circuit with her father until he threw her out for getting pregnant at sixteen. It’s apparent the last ten years haven’t been easy ones for her and Bryan, her son. Now she’s decided it’s time to put down roots in a cabin in the woods near the Mackade farm.

Jared, a lawyer, is the more polished of the four brothers and likes things set out neat and tidy in a way he can rationalise. Savannah does anything but fit that particular bill. Nevertheless they have an instant attraction to each other and also find they share a love for the woods and a feeling for the spirits that haunt them. Their relationship is complex and difficult for them both to get to grips with because they’re both proud people. Savannah makes no apologies for her past, and why should she. Jared’s pride and yes, I have to say, touches of arrogance get in the way until he realises what an idiot he’s been.

When Nora Roberts is on form she’s one of the best. I love the way she writes the rapport between the brothers and the development of Jared and Bryan’s relationship.

Here’s the thing, Bryan,” Jared scooted away just enough so that he could face the boy fully. ‘I figure I oughta run this by you, since you’ve been the man of the house for so long. I’m in love with your mother.”

“I’m gonna ask you to take my name, Bryan and to take me on, as your father. I don’t just want your mother you see, I want both of you so you both have to want me.’

Jared found his arms full of boy……have a cigar he thought giddily. You’ve got yourself a son.

I like the continuation of the characters from the first book, Cassie and her kids still trying to come to terms with what’s gone before, Rafe and Reagan’s happiness and the sub plot about the fight between the two soldiers who met in the woods during the battle of Antietam continues to be woven into the story.

Ms Roberts’ writing can mostly always bring laughter and emotionally charged moments, especially when describing the two boys from the war who just want to get home. And couple that with Luke Daniels’ performance and it’s win all the way. He’s just so skilled at making the characters come alive and is as good portraying females and kids as he is at alpha males. And switches so smoothly from one to the other. Great stuff. 

tt10407948fltt     Amazon US  Amazon UK

Off To Be The Wizard (Magic 2.0, Book 1) ~ The Audiobook

 

It’s a simple story. Boy finds proof that reality is a computer program. Boy uses program to manipulate time and space. Boy gets in trouble. Boy flees back in time to Medieval England to live as a wizard while he tries to think of a way to fix things. Boy gets in more trouble.

Oh, and boy meets girl at some point.

Off to Be the Wizard is a light, comedic novel about computers, time travel, and human stupidity, written by Scott Meyer, the creator of the internationally known comic strip Basic Instructions.

Magic will be made! Legends will be created! Stew will be eaten!

 

Martin Banks, a total computer nerd, finds a hidden text file and, as he dives deeper he discovers the world and people are all computer simulated. He realises he can modify the file and change his reality. What he doesn’t realise is he’ll get caught out sooner rather than later. The lure of being able to do, and have, anything he wants is too strong and Martin gets himself into all kinds of trouble and has to execute his escape plan. Having already decided Medieval England is a good option that’s where he finds himself, unaware that many more before him thought the same thing.

Suspend all credibility regarding time travel, teleporting and various other forms of magic, if you have trouble with these concepts, and you have a highly entertaining and fun adventure with amusing dialogue and humorous interactions. The characters are engaging, likeable and, in the main, decent. I did wonder how computers and smart phones would work in those days but then why worry about that small point when there’s so much more incredible stuff going on, just roll with the what ifs.

It was interesting to have some of the fantasy world built around legends and the different slant was cleverly integrated. The story moves quickly and creatively, Martin gets himself into some outrageous and amusing situations and I like how his character develops. The concept of creating a reality is explored with lots of imagination and humour and is refreshingly different.

Luke Daniels really shines voicing off the wall and unusual characters and he has quite a few to play with here. A very enjoyable and impressive listening experience.

 

tt10407952fltt      Amazon US Amazon UK

Hellfire ~ the audiobook

  • 51l71+uiGAL._SL175_Author: John Saul
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: March 2014 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Horror/Paranormal
  • four-half-stars

Publisher’s Summary

The day that the iron doors of the old mill in Westover, Massachusetts, closed forever is a day that still haunts the sleepy town’s residents. On that fateful day 100 years ago, 11 people died in a fearsome fire, and since then, no one has dared to revisit the mill or the dark secrets locked inside it.

Now, a member of the once-powerful Sturgess family has aspirations to reopen the mill. Little does Philip Sturgess know that by unlocking the padlock he is also unlocking horrible secrets from the past. There are forces at work that will do their best to see the mill doors stay tightly closed. But as Philip presses forward with his plans, the townspeople will be forced to face the terrible vengeance that waits in the darkest corners of the abandoned mill.

My Review

The old mill has a horrific past, with the exploitation of child labour and the unimaginably shocking and cruel action of one man a century ago. There are unexplained incidents involving the mill, which escalate when plans to develop the building begin in earnest, and turn into something very dark and menacing as the terrible secrets kept locked away for so long are set free. This will be vengeance on a huge scale.

Carolyn Rogers married Philip Sturgess, the owner of the mill, after her divorce and she and her daughter, Beth, are now living at the Sturgess mansion with Philip’s daughter, Tracy, and his mother. Neither of them welcome Carolyn and Beth and make their lives miserable. I like the twist of Carolyn’s ex and current husband being good friends. The characters are easy to like, or not, as the case may be. Beth is lonely and struggling to fit in to her new life and because of this she believes she has made friends with Amy, the ghost of a child about her own age. Tracy is the stuff of nightmares and takes every opportunity to make cruel fun of Beth.

It’s a powerful story, very atmospheric, with emotions running high and wild, accentuated immeasurably by Luke Daniels’ performance.

The way the lives of the characters all seem to be entwined with the mill and what happened all those years ago is quite creepy. As the story unfolds it begs the question whether actions taken in the past could influence the lives of subsequent generations.

This is my first foray into John Saul’s work, but not my last, as his writing drew me in and the supernatural aspect was woven into the story really well. The ending was totally unexpected and horrifying and given the epilogue I’m surprised there hasn’t been a follow-up.  Maybe Mr Saul likes to leave the reader dangling, I’ll have to wait and see.

Buy the book from Amazon US and Amazon UK

The Trinity Game

  • 41JyMA2TQIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Author: Sean Chercover
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: July 2012 by Audible
  • Published by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Thriller/Suspense
  • five-stars

Daniel Byrne is a priest working for a secret branch of the Vatican, the Office of the Devil’s Advocate, investigating the validity of so-called miracles reported around the world. When he is charged with investigating his uncle, the Reverend Tim Trinity, Daniel has no doubt he will debunk the claims of his uncle’s miraculous happenings in no time at all.

Daniel has been estranged from his uncle since he discovered Trinity was just a con man extorting money from his ‘flock’ and not a man of faith as Daniel had believed.

However when Daniel arrives in Atlanta, from where his uncle now operates, he finds things are not at all as straightforward as he imagined.

My Review

A very well crafted and exceptionally engaging story which, although it seems clearcut at the start, quickly evolves into an engrossing, fast paced and suspenseful plot with an interesting cast of  well-developed characters. The writing has depth and the imagery is vivid, both in the characterisation and the descriptions of places and situations.

Daniel and Tim Trinity are especially intriguing and likeable characters, each troubled in their own way. Daniel because he’s growing increasingly disillusioned with the church, unsure of it’s credibility and still has feelings for his ex girlfriend. Tim because he has a complete epiphany and turns out to be the kind of person Daniel always wanted him to be.

Although the general topic of the story is religion, in one form or another, it’s so much more complex than just that. Daniel and Tim, both on a kind of journey of self discovery albeit coming from different directions, are embroiled in conflicts, within the church and with fanatics and mobsters, which result in a highly charged and thrilling ride.

The multi-layered subject matter has been well researched, including the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The aspects of religion and belief, both negative and positive, are handled and explored in a very astute way. Even down to the concept of someone being able to predict the future in a weird and wonderful way. And, although there’s an explanation of sorts at the end, would that really cause a phenomenon like the one described.

I love this book and am really glad there will be more. Luke Daniels’ narration is terrific, he does a great job with Tim Trinity and if he ever needs another profession a travelling preacher might just be the ticket 😉 He ups the tension with the action scenes and the menace of the bad guys is distinct.

Buy the book from Amazon UK and Amazon US

March New Releases

On my to buy list for March…

Publisher’s Summary from Audible


51X1K2R6h5L._SL175_Kait Winchester inherited a special gift from her Arapaho ancestors: She can heal with her touch. And there is no one she would like to get her hands on more than the super-sexy SEAL who seems determined to ignore their off-the-charts chemistry. When the wounded warrior finally seeks her help, she’s ready to nurse him back to health…and into her bed.

Navy SEAL Lieutenant Marcus “Cosky” Simcosky is no stranger to hot water, but recent events have boiled over into one hell of a mess. His team is under investigation for a hostage rescue gone wrong, a crazy female stalker is on his trail, and the last few bullets he took just may sideline him for the rest of his career. The kicker? The one woman who can help him get back on his feet – and has haunted his fantasies for years – is his teammate’s sister. He’s looked but never touched. When his stalker targets Kait, though, Cosky will have no choice but to do whatever is necessary to keep her safe.
Amazon UK Amazon US

 
Publisher’s Summary from Audible


61a-kSgGW8L._SL175_When Santa Claus is a cop, you better watch out.

It’s not looking like a very merry Christmas for San Diego cop Nick Pappas. Suspended from his job, alienated from his family, and persecuted by the press, he’s sorely tempted to turn his gun on himself. Except for his first name, he couldn’t possibly have less in common with jolly old St. Nicholas. But when a local mall decides it needs a secret Santa to help collar some vicious muggers preying on its holiday shoppers, Nick’s persuaded to red-suit up so as to take the naughty punks down and avert a ho-ho homicide. For a chance to bust bad guys, Nick’s willing to deal with crying kids, pushy parents, and a chronically cheerful “elf” sidekick. But the biggest challenge for this cop-turned-Claus is one that would confound even the real Kris Kringle: Making a pair of next-to-impossible Christmas wishes come true for two children in need…before it’s too late.
Amazon UK Amazon US

 
Publisher’s Summary from Audible
51pvQtmVbeL._SL175_What’s a sweets-loving young boy growing up gay in North Carolina in the ’80s supposed to think when he’s diagnosed with type-1 diabetes? That God is punishing him, naturally.

This was, after all, when gay-hating Jesse Helms was his senator, AIDS was still the boogeyman, and no one was saying, “It gets better.” And if stealing a copy of a gay porno magazine from the newsagent was a sin, then surely what the men inside were doing to one another was much worse.

Sweet Tooth is Tim Anderson’s uproarious memoir of life after his hormones and blood sugar both went berserk at the age of 15. With Morrissey and The Smiths as the soundtrack, Anderson self-deprecatingly recalls love affairs with vests and donuts, first crushes, coming out, and inaugural trips to gay bars. What emerges is the story of a young man trying to build a future that won’t involve crippling loneliness or losing a foot to his disease – and maybe even one that, no matter how unpredictable, can still be pretty sweet.

Amazon UK Amazon US

The Barkeep ~ the audiobook

 

Six years ago Justin Chase discovered his murdered mother’s body lying in the hallway of their home. His life fell apart and, after spending time in an asylum and giving up on becoming a lawyer, he’s made a career as a bartender at Zenzibar. Quite apt as he practices the art of Zen to help him cope and give him a measure of peace.

That is until the creepy, obnoxious alcoholic Birdie Grackle appears in the bar one night and admits killing Justin’s mother, even though Justin’s father is serving a life sentence for the murder.

Justin doesn’t want to believe his father is innocent but has he been wrongly imprisoned all these years? Birdie Grackle has catapulted Justin back to everything he was trying to escape from and forget, including his father. And the deeper Justin digs the more his life is in danger. 

Thoughts

I like this book, a lot. The story and writing are engaging and the characterisation is skilful, letting us get to know each character slowly as they evolve and the story builds, their flaws making them more believable.

Justin, working hard to recover from the psychological effects of his mother’s murder, practicing meditation which he believes means being as detached from everything as possible until eventually realising he’s on the wrong track.

Annie, unhappy and lonely.  Sleazy Eddie Nicosia. Derek, a childlike man who does as he is told whatever it might be and likes to keep things tidy because his Grammy always told him to. There are a lot of threads weaving about under the surface taking the story in different directions with lots of twists and turns. It was a nice touch to name the chapters after drinks.

Performance

Luke Daniels is an amazing voice actor and a favourite narrator (if you haven’t already guessed!) He makes Birdie Grackle sound as repulsive as he is, all the other characterisations, whether male or female, are brilliant too. 

The Barkeep may be Purchased at Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Impossible Knife of Memory ~ the audiobook

 

Hayley Kincain has an interesting take on her peers, they’re either freaks or zombies. She’s spent the majority of her teenage years travelling  around the country navigating for her truck driving dad. Now they’re living in her grandmother’s old house in their home town and Hayley has started high school which proves to be a challenge for her. She copes by being aloof, hiding her pain as best she can and not letting herself get close to anyone…until she meets Finn.

Her father, Andy, has an altogether different way of coping with his problems. He’s dealing, or actually not dealing, with the aftermath of his military service in Iraq and Afghanistan with drink and drugs. It’s left to Hayley to look out for him and try to keep his unpredictable behaviour under control. They are both ravaged by Andy’s PTSD and it’s only getting worse. How much longer can Hayley manage.

Thoughts

Written from Hayley’s point of view, she has a pithy and unique perspective due in no small part to her unconventional upbringing. Her mother died when she was very young and after several years in her grandmother’s care she became close to her dad’s partner who eventually left. Deep down Hayley is hurting and insecure.

Her father’s flashbacks add poignancy and give an insight into the concept of PTSD. It’s so hard to grasp the enormity of the lasting effects this has. Both Hayley and her father have their demons to deal with and neither are coping well.

The situations and characters are complex and realistic, very well-developed. It’s an exceptionally moving and compelling story of a family broken beyond bearing and although it makes difficult listening at times it’s incredibly well written. There’s no miraculously  happy ending here but there is hope.

Performance

The more I listen to Julia Whelan the more I like her narrations. She’s the perfect voice for Hayley and makes the strong, smart yet vulnerable character stand out.

Luke Daniels’ narration of Andy’s flashback sections, although few and far between, convey the distressing emotion and absolute horror, the feelings and experiences of war and Andy’s appalling memories of the things he’s witnessed that now torment him.

Buy at Amazon UK and Amazon US

Brilliance ~ the audiobook

 

  • 17171440Author: Marcus Sakey
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: July 2013 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Crime/Thriller/Suspense
  • five-stars

In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.

Continue reading

Shame ~ the audiobook

  • 15949268Author: Alan Russell
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: December 2012 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Crime/Thriller/Suspense
  • five-stars

Brutal and unapologetic, Shame draws you into the mind of a serial killer with no chance of escape until the last page is turned.

This is the story of Caleb, the son of a serial killer, and how this fact has affected his life, relationships and ultimately his family, who know nothing about who his father is. 

Gray Parker murdered a number of women before he was caught and executed many years ago.  He always left his ‘signature’ carved into each of the bodies. Continue reading

Three: Legend of the Duskwalker, Book 1 ~ the audiobook

 

  • 17863242Author: Jay Posey
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: August 2013 by Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Post Apocalyptic
  • five-stars

The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more. But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantle of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise.

In a post apocalyptic and ravaged world lives Three, a mysterious bounty hunter, a loner who appears harsh and unyielding.  Yet underneath his emotions lay hidden by necessity.

He’s in town to collect a bounty and finds himself reluctantly and against his better judgement the guardian to a mother, Cass, and her young son, Wren, who are clearly in some sort of trouble. 

All Cass wants is to keep her son safe but she is far from well and very vulnerable. Three is moved by her plight even though his considerable misgivings are multiplying. Cass has an addiction that’s spiralling out of control and is on the run from brain hackers who want her son and are prepared to kill her. There’s a lot more to Wren than a confused, frightened little boy.  He has a very special ability.

The world is a dark and dangerous place peopled by Weirs with glowing blue eyes, zombie like creatures who kill any humans out after dark. The humans who survived the devastation of the earth have enhanced powers and abilities but still must lock themselves away during the hours of darkness.

Five star narration and voice characterisation from Luke Daniels. I found it impossible not to be moved to sadness or feel the tension and suspense.

It took a little while to get hooked because there’s no back story but once the story took hold there was no letting go. Three is especially intriguing, compelling and charismatic in an offbeat kind of way and all the characters are multi dimensional from the start.  It’s easy to invest in them.

It’s a fascinating and gritty story, full of action, intrigue and suspense. The action scenes are vividly described with no holds barred.  There are teary moments involving Cass and Wren and the ending is totally unexpected…and sad.

Buy from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Iron Druid Chronicles ~ the audiobooks 1-3

 

  • HoundedHounded ~ Book 1
  • Author: Kevin Hearne
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: May 2013 by Hatchette Audio
  • Category: Urban Fantasy
  •  five-stars

Atticus O’Sullivan is a powerful, shape shifting 2,000 year old Druid living in Arizona and running an occult bookstore. He’s also an accomplished apothecary by which means he is able to keep himself young. Atticus draws his power from the earth through the Druidic tattoos on his arms.

He’s a warrior with a softer side, he looks out for his friend, the elderly Irish widow who lives down the street. There’s a hugely interesting list of characters which includes Atticus’ attorneys, a werewolf and a vampire, and various gods, goddesses, witches and demons to name but a few! But the star, for me, is Atticus’ sidekick Oberon, the Irish Wolfhound. Atticus and Oberon have a connection and can speak to each other telepathically.

The first story in the series revolves around Fragarach, sword which Atticus won in battle with a dark god, Aenghus Óg, centuries ago. Óg has been hounding Atticus ever since trying to reclaim the sword and kill Atticus at the same time. 

Bloody battles and fast paced action keep the suspense and tension going and there’s never a dull moment. Atticus is a great protagonist, a loveable rogue with a good dose of morality.

  • HexedHexed – Book 2  
  • five-stars 

Since Atticus dispatched Aenghus Óg to the fiery depths of hell everyone now knows where he is and want his services in the god slaying arena. Thor seems to be the favourite target but Atticus isn’t sold on the idea. 

Trouble is a-brewin’ though and the Polish witch coven aka the Sisters of the Three Auroras, want to sign a non aggression treaty with Atticus since several of their sisters were killed.  Atticus has never been a fan of witches with good reason. A coven of evil German witches, who have associations with demons, are out to kill him and take over the area. Not only that, the Bacchants from Las Vegas are also on their way.  Stand by for battles galore with demons, witches and more..

I like Granuaile, the barmaid from Atticus’ favourite Irish pub, who is now an apprentice Druid and training with Atticus. It’ll be interesting to see where her character goes in the next book.

  • HammeredHammered – Book 3       
  • four-half-stars

Atticus manages to steal on of the golden apples of Idunn from Asgard to repay his debt to the Indian witch, Laksha.  The trip is not plain sailing and Atticus has a run in with Thor.  He decides he’s maybe been in Tempe too long and perhaps now is the time to move on. Being a Druid of his word he just needs to keep his promise to Lief and take him to the Norse plain to kill Thor. 

After having a few bevvies and a plate of fish and chips with Jesus at Rúla Búla Atticus has a violent confrontation with the Hammers of God. Jesus saves the day, proving who he is to the disbelieving Hammers of God.  

It’s not every day you see a tie-dyed man with a halo floating above the ground

There’s a feeling of pain and distress running through this story and it’s quite a lot darker than previous ones. Along with Atticus and Lief, Gunnar and several others who have grievances against Thor travel to Asgard and each tells their own story. It’s interesting to know the back stories, especially Lief’s and Gunnar’s and how they became vampires and werewolves.

Oberon, Granuaile and the widow just feature and the beginning and ending of the story and the scenes with the widow are quite sad.

No spoilers but be prepared for changes!

More excellent performances by Luke Daniels. Time and again the tone of the narrations and the character portrayals are just so perfect for each story and it sounds like a lot of fun was had with these characters, especially Oberon. His ‘voice’ is fabulous and if a dog could talk I’d want him to sound just like that 🙂  Magic.

Have a listen to this —> Oberon’s Holiday Message and you’ll see what I mean 🙂

There are lots of laugh out loud (literally) moments from Oberon and Leif. I love the humour Mr Hearne injects into the telling of the story, which is so cleverly written.  The mythology, magic and everything else…brilliant. Well researched and very interesting but the information doesn’t overpower or take over. Really enjoying this series.

Buy the books at Amazon UK and Amazon US

Atticus Fish Series ~ the audiobooks

 

  • WahooRhapsodyWahoo Rhapsody ~ Book 1
  • Author: Shaun Morey
  • Performed by Luke Daniels
  • Released: November 2012 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Crime, Thriller, Suspense  
  • four-half-stars

The Wahoo Rhapsody is a fishing charter boat which sails of the coast of Mexico and Southern California and has been bought by Atticus Fish for his good friend, Captain Winston. Fish was an eminent lawyer who won the highest lawsuit ever…against God! He ‘disappeared’ down to Southern California to escape the religious fanatics who were out to kill him and is now an expatriate, mega rich and taking life easy on his own island running a Cantina….or so he thinks.

The boat is being used to smuggle drugs, inside the tuna no less, without the knowledge of the captain. The first mate, appropriately named Weevil, decides to snag some of the booty for himself and starts a whole chain of events that unfold at a cracking pace.

So, we have a drug lord and his henchmen, a shady lawyer, an arsonist, lots about fishing and an intriguing plot. Action and adventure abound with some loud out loud moments due in no small part to the ‘voice’ given to Weevil. It’s a crazy and quirky ride.

  • ElDoradoBluesEl Dorado Blues ~ book 2  
  • four-half-stars

There’s lots more chaos and confusion down in Baja after an architect, Duncan Rigby or Digby as he likes to be called, finds Jesuit treasure which had been buried by priests centuries ago.

It doesn’t take long before word of the treasure is everywhere and there are more treasure hunters than you can shake a stick at.  Atticus, along with his best friend Skegs and his ex sister-in-law Toozie, who a private investigator,are caught up in kidnapping and murder.

The plot moves along at full tilt and is action packed.  Some new characters are introduced and some old ones reappear, they’re all entertaining and colourful with boatloads of attitude.

  • TheCrookedPearlThe Crooked Pearl ~ book 3
  • five-stars

Several rare pearls, one huge and strangely shaped are found by an old fisherman who can’t believe his luck. He’s caught in a tsunami before he can get home and loses the pearls.

Cue the bad guys..three ‘fighters’ appear and cause trouble.  Atticus subdues them with the help of a centuries old cactus they were trying to beat to a pulp.  The second encounter sees them in a shark cage being dunked in the sea. They team up with an opportunistic thief and take drastic revenge on Atticus for their humiliation.

Meanwhile the pearls have been found by a couple on holiday who enlist Atticus’ help to have them appraised.  Atticus remembers about the old oyster beds and the legend that surrounds them and determines to stop the pearls being harvested and protect the area.

So starts another madcap and thrilling adventure with everyone chasing each other and the pearls and when Skegs is taken hostage by a dive shop owner trying to get in on the action Toozie hot-foots it down to Baja.

Performance

Luke Daniels lets loose with an impressive array of voices and brings the characters and story vividly to life. Amazing performance.

Thoughts

I enjoyed these engaging stories very much, the writing, the characters, the humour and the craziness. Also the beautifully vivid descriptions of the area and the wildlife.  Very easy to be drawn in and invest in the characters and the place.

The books could be read/listened to as stand alones but it’s much more fun (for me anyway) to follow the story from the beginning.

There was talk at the beginning of the story about Atticus’ daughter but this snippet wasn’t developed and Atticus and Toozie still haven’t got it together so maybe…..another book? I hope so.

Buy the books Amazon UK

Darkness and Shadows ~ the audiobook

 

 

  • five-stars

Struggling professionally and reeling from the psychological wounds left by a horribly abusive mother, Patrick is driven over the edge by a news report. A wealthy socialite couple has been murdered, and while the wife’s name isn’t familiar, her face certainly is. It’s his first and only love, Marybeth, the woman he lost to a horrific fire years ago.

Patrick’s obsession to find the truth sends him scouring records and documents that lead him to a shocking discovery: there’s no evidence Marybeth ever lived or, for that matter, ever died. Was the love of Patrick’s life just a product of his abused psyche?

Darkness and Shadows continues the story of Patrick Bannister, who was first introduced in The Lion, The Lamb and The Hunted, and immediately I was drawn back into Patrick’s world and into an absorbing and gripping suspense thriller. It’s a dark and very intense storyline which takes you on an exciting roller coaster of a journey.

Patrick is still suffering from his abusive past and the loss of his first love, Marybeth, from his college days and, after seeing a news report of a missing couple, is thrown into a state of confusion and torment.  The conversations Patrick has in session with his therapist are heartrending and superbly written.

Nothing is as it seems and as Patrick finds out more and more his life is turned upside down and he has to find out the truth whatever it takes. There are some really good plot twists along the way and the discoveries Patrick makes about Marybeth lead him to question his own perceptions of the truth.

I love the interaction between Patrick and Tristan, who he meets at the therapist’s office.  She’s a great character addition, interesting with a shady past and a tough attitude.

There is so much emotion throughout the story and Luke Daniels’ narration captures it perfectly, adding impact and feeling without being overly dramatic.  A compelling listen.

This is a great sequel further exploring how Patrick is coping with his life after the revelations and events in The Lion, The Lamb and the Hunted.  It’s not all doom and gloom even though you all but live Patrick’s torment and confusion, there are light-hearted moments and I love that Patrick has such a great relationship with Bullet considering the introduction they had.

The Lion, The Lamb and The Hunted ~ the audiobook

SHE ONLY STEPPED OUTSIDE FOR A MINUTE…
But a minute was all it took to turn Jean Kingsley’s world upside down—a minute she’d regret for the rest of her life. 

STEPPING INTO HER WORST NIGHTMARE…
Because when she returned, she found an open bedroom window and her three-year-old son, Nathan, gone. The boy would never be seen again. 

A NIGHTMARE THAT ONLY BECAME WORSE.
A tip leads detectives to the killer, a repeat sex offender, and inside his apartment, a gruesome discovery. A slam-dunk trial sends him off to death row, then several years later, to the electric chair.

CASE CLOSED. JUSTICE SERVED…OR WAS IT?
Now, more than thirty years later, Patrick Bannister unwittingly stumbles across evidence among his dead mother’s belongings—it paints her as the killer and her brother, a wealthy and powerful senator, as the one pulling the strings.

I’ve listened to this twice (second time as a prelude to the follow-up) and it lost none of the initial emotion. The total compassion for, and horror at, Patrick’s disturbingly troubled childhood and upbringing by his unimaginably cruel mother or the tension and suspense as the story unfolds.

I like the way the story starts in the present and Patrick’s flashbacks of memory are integrated throughout. I was pulled right back into the drama and couldn’t help but be drawn again to Patrick because of the nightmare he lived through, his emotional wounds and the way he eventually learns to survive, and live with, the hurt. 

After Patrick’s mother’s death he finds clues in her belongings relating to a decades old crime. As he researches and learns more he’s determined to find out the truth of what happened all those years ago which leads him and his friend CJ into acute danger and the hunter becomes the hunted. 

The last chapter brings a lump to the throat as Patrick reads a letter from his real mother and realises he was loved all along but didn’t know it. The excellent writing plus the narration bring out the highly charged emotional content of the story.

Luke Daniels is one of the best narrators around in my book, no pun intended ;).  His characterisations are excellent and his narrative style just flows so seemingly effortlessly.

My heart broke for the young Patrick and the scary, awful thing is that treatment or similar could and does happen. It’s a really gripping psychological and emotional roller coaster.