Norma Miles

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-07-18

The slow corruption of generations to come.

At the end of Brownstone, this book's predecessor, Jack Elliott had decided the he did, after all, want to spend his life with his already fairly long term lover, Kalvin, and asked him to come join him. At the beginning of The Harrowing of Hell, we find the couple following up on the suspected location of a clue to another world threatening artifact, this time not in Jack's recently inherited house but in a remote and seemingly derilict small cathedral in the wilds of Angola. And it's obvious why the two men are so good together - both are total buffoons. The introductory pages are a joy of how not to go exploring with both comedic action and delightful dialogue.
Unfortunately, this dynamic duo also have to endure diatribes of spurious religious education on the nature of belief and resurrection, jealousy and the power of the ancient gifted ancestors. If Jack really is one of them, no wonder the world is in such a ludicrous state.

Best word for much of the book: boring. Even Tom Lemmon's excellent narration could not save it this time

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-07-18

Deep, dark, and dangerous.

Toronto based freelance journalist Emily Garland is offered an assignment in a small town called Loundt's Landing, editing and revamping in local, failing monthly publication. The town had been in decline but there was a scheme that might help kick start it's recovery. Or not. Because the real reason Emily was being sent there by her boss was to investigate a certain charismatic developer and, if possible, expose him for the 'lieing, cheating bastard we both know he is."

After a somewhat conventional beginning, this enjoyable murder mystery introduces us to a cast of colourful characters, disturbing deaths, silent secrets and a fresh take on fakes and reproductions. Northern most believable of stories but great fun and well written (although the ending felt rather rushed). Suzanne T. Fortin, the narrator, did an excellent job, her pleasant, clearly enunciated voice well intoned, her reading well paced and delivered with understanding and gentle emotion. Not a great differentiation between characters voices, but the speaker was always obvious.

The Hanged Man's Noose is a pleasant mystery, fun to read and to try to guess at the answers. My thanks to the rights holder for freely gifting me a complimentary copy, at my request, via Audiobook Boom. This could turn out to be an enjoyable series.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-07-18

There is nothing more important than family.

In a near futuristic world (the 2080's), only one person in 100 can conceive so the adoption of a dog has superseded having children and each one is treated as a beloved child. This has been made even more possible by the invention of the Dot, a device injected into everyone including domestic pets, which not only tracks the wearer's location and activities but also, in the case of dogs (and cats, but they sensibly can't be bothered), gives them the ability to understand and speak human language. So, like any human child, the new puppy son or daughter is not trained but educated, thus increasing the animal's intellectual development.

This story follows one particular family, the Maxwells, the actual inventors not only of the dot itself but also many of the things which have changed society. They are, of course, very rich, smugly comfortable and have a super intelligent beloved dog daughter named Lillith who has recently presented them with a litter of puppies. But disaster is about to destroy their complacently happy lives in the form of a poison attack which kills millions and wipes out almost every dog worldwide. One puppy survives - and the Maxwell's problems are just about to start ...

An interesting concept, a fascinating background world, one which this reader would have liked to have been explored further, and a story for every dog lover. Whilst being personally fond of the canine species, some of the licky kisses and slobbering indulgent love (of the humans) became rather nauseating if trying to take the contents seriously. Best to think of this as a comedy cartoon, along the lines of 101 Dalmatians. Cute adventure very suitable to hear with a child or two.

Narrator Kelley Hazen was superb. Her deliciously full bodied, well modulated voice is very easy on the ear and has an additional hint of laughter suffusing the already warm delivery. Her voicing of all of the protagonists is distinctly individual, making the 'X said', 'Y said', 'Z asked', in the story redundant and slightly annoying - fine to read in text, not so much in audio. A good performance which kept this reader going to the end.

My thanks to the rights holder who, at my request, freely gifted me a complimentary copy of The Last Dog, via Audiobook Boom. This is not a book where suspension of disbelief is necessary, it has to be thrown away completely. There were numerous inconsistences but given the entire thesis, these hardly mattered. As previously mentioned, this would make a really excellent full length cartoon film. Good fun, then, especially for children and anyone totally besotted by dogs.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-07-18

"Who loves ya, Baby?"

Steve Jobz (no, not that one) thinks he could be in trouble - he can't remember if he sent an inapropriate text in the night, in a drunken state, to the lovely young new employee at the State Unemployment Agency where he works. If he had, and boss Henrietta finds out, it could cost him his job. Ironically, Detective Miller requests his help again, this time to act as protection for Terry McGovern, news anchor for Fox News and the highest paid broadcaster in Albany, himself accused of sexual harassment. "To err is human, to sext is normal" but in this case it could get them killed.

Written in Vincent Zandri's distinctive snappy, fast paced and sardonic style, this is a good second in series story filled with colourful characters, murder and unforgettable visual images, like a severed head under a pile of red rose petals. Recounted, with occasional angst and much humour, in the first person by Jobs himself, this is an easy read book to thoroughly enjoy and made even better when performed by Andrew Werhlen. Becoming Jobz with a laconic, quick talking persona, Mr.Wehrlen really brings this slightly disreputable investigator, with all of his angst, to life - and gives individual voice to the other characters, too.

My thanks to the rights holder for freely gifting me a complimentary copy of The. Flower Man, at my request, via Audiobook Boom. I had previously read, and enjoyed, the eBook version so knew exactly what to expect as far as the story was concerned and it is a tribute to both author and narrator that I actually enjoyed it even more this time round.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-07-18

It's so crazy we couldn't make it up.

A woman wakes up on a train, not knowing where she is. She can't remember where she was going, where she came from, who she is. Not even her name. In a panic, she leaves at the first station, not knowing what to do or where to go...
The dramatic opening to What She Saw, and the continuing desperate search for an identity and some explanation as to why she has lost her memories so completely, is well written, starkly conveying the terror of her situation and the unknown reasons for the lingering fears she felt. Her naked emotion is visceral, feeling very real (if, sometimes, rather misguided in her trust issues, given her more blatant, and courageous, attempts to learn about herself). The reader is caught in her dilemma, the need to know more about her urgent. And the discovery of the truth of her past and present is also immaginative, almost plausible. But, sadly, the final denouement felt rushed and, dare I say it? Yes - silly. Like a totally different story slapped onto the end to give some dramatic resolution. Very disappointing.

Narrator Aria McKenna gives it her all, emotion dripping from every sentence, especially in the earlier sequences. And she is good. Her delivery is clear,with good intonation and textual understanding. If anything, she is overly dramatic, her voice sinking low then suddenly crying out piercingly loudly in the next phrase or sentence. It did become, for this reader, too distracting to properly listen to what was actually being said. But after the earlier sequences, this settled down - still emotionally invested but without the hysterical vocal input. This was further assisted by increasing the playback speed to 1.25, giving the narration a little more cohesion without losing any of the clarity of drama. The performance, after that initial hiccough, was excellent, with good character voicings throughout, and the only irritation then being that, although there were often significant pauses between phrases in sentences, there was a similar lack of time between changes of scenes within chapters. Overall, though, she gave a very good narration.

I was fortunate in being freely gifted a complimentary copy of What She Saw, at my request, by the rights holder, via Audiobook Boom. Thank you. Sheila Lowe is a talented writer and her ability to get inside a character and draw in her reader is clearly demonstrated in this novel. It is mysterious, compelling and exciting. It is just unfortunate that the final chapters were not better thought out to continue the reality felt in the majority of the book.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-07-18

Be strong, Lainie!

A newspaper picture of a young girl, recently missing, caught the attention of Elaine. Not so much the girl herself, but the pendant she was wearing. She'd seen that pendant before.
Twelve years earlier, she had been a teacher and husband, Roy, a police detective when a girl in her charge had been lost from a group she was escorting. Never found, the girl had worn an identical necklace, custom made by her father. Both husband and wife lost their jobs over the disappearance, Elaine for actually losing the girl, Roy dismissed because he felt someone in authority had not wanted the girl found. Now, another missing youngster was wearing her pendant.

This nicely crafted and well written book is not so much an investigation into that initial disappearance as the consequences that follow after Roy does, indeed, find out who took her, although this is not revealed until quite late in the story. Instead it builds a picture of emotional friendship, trust, loyalty - and betrayal. Perhaps somewhat predictable, it is nevertheless is a thriller with tensions building as Lainie simply does not know who to trust. Characterisation is excellent, these three dimensional people growing ever more real as the story progresses.

This is additionally assisted by the excellent performance of narrator, Jenny Hoops, whose warm and pleasing voice captures the nuances of Elaine's emotion, the reading well paced and modulated. As well as becoming the voice of the main protagonist, she also breathes extra life, through the dialogue, to all of the other characters giving each very individual and appropriate voice, be they female or male.

My thanks to the rights holder of The Pendant, who, at my request via Audiobook Boom, freely gifted me a complimentary copy. Although I usually avoid stories of abducted children, this one felt different, a celebration of life and hope rather than wallowing in the depravity of the crime itself. Which isn't to say that excitement is missing - far from it - but it is the people who are formost and their relationships with each other.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-07-18

Old people are like elephants ...

It's difficult to quantify if this is supposed to be an hard boiled detective tale, the main protagonist certainly is, or a comedy. Certainly, secretary Judy is a good injector of humour with her mother hen act. But whichever it is, this is an enjoyable read.
Al Harris, the ex detective turned P.I., works cold cases. When threatened by two men, demanding his case files be surrendered to them, and the his office is searched, his secretary knocked out, Harris is more determined than ever to look back 30 years to find out why such interest is now being generated. Could the Mafia be involved?
Narrator, John Snipes, makes an excellent Harris, his deep, gruff voice feeling very appropriate. His delivery is brisk and slightly clunky, again suggesting the humour beneath the investigation.

This is a short story, stand alone although it does build on it's predecessor, a little quirky and very enjoyable. My thanks to the rights holder for freely gifting me a complimentary copy of Concrete Graveyard, at my request, via Audiobook Boom. I look forward to future encounters with the cold case private eye.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-07-18

"We should have expected this."

Behind Our Walls has good potential, as is displayed by the excellent final thirty minutes or so of the book, the author's vision combining with skill of writing to create a vibrant picture of both external events and internal pressures. But it is a long way to this point, travelling with the main protagonist through a remarkably unbelievable few months. Leaving their urban home after the news of nuclear explosions in the East and Western states and reports of some rovers in their area for a safer place somewhere, pushy, self opinionated Sophie, younger, resentful sister Fiona and her husband-to-be, and their parents, pick up a lone hitch-hiker three days before the mother is shot dead by rovers. Without apparent further incident, they find a hut in which to hide throughout the winter months, huddling together for warmth and eating cold canned food foraged from supermarkets. They gratefully emerge well over six months after leaving home to walk on, looking for somewhere better to stay.

Without reprising the entire story, I found their failing to see almost anyone remarkable - I know parts of the U.S. are huge and empty, but surely there would be a great influx of outsiders also struggling to survive. All the more remarkable, then, that many months after the nuclear disaster, stores still have a fairly plentiful supply of goods of all descriptions including guns and ammunition, and, although now running low, there is still petrol to be found. From where? Surely the gas station pumps are not still working, given that the power isn't available. And they seem to acquired magic seeds when a garden not sown until early summer is in full production just a couple of months later. This reader would like some of those, please. And never a mention of possible nuclear fallout. Ever.

Lots of emotional outbursts, sibling rivalry, angst about the rights, or not, to defend themselves and others by force, the obligatory (brief) sex scene and gallons of tears. An excellent story idea badly delivered. The narration, on the other hand, was good. Rebecca Ortese has a pleasant voice, well articulated and with good intonation, easy on the ear. She read with understanding of the text, excitement in her delivery when the action demanded it and, although male voices are not her forte, each individual protagonist, and there are many, is given their own, mostly appropriate voicing. Her performance definitely enhanced the reading experience.

My thanks to the rights holder of Behind Our Doors who, at my request, freely gifted me a complimentary copy via Audiobook Boom. Even though the majority of the book was disappointing in it's lack of a sense of reality, the essential idea itself is a good one and, now that the baseline has been established, the following book could well be much better. But I, personally, do not think I will continue with this series.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-07-18

Is anyone sure of anything anymore?

Thirty years before, the first bubble appeared in Wyoming, then others followed worldwide. Some were enormous, up to 100 miles across. At first there was chaos as, within, the earth had turned over revealing a prehistoric scene straight out of Conan Doyle's Lost World. A defensive wall was built around to contain the dinosaurs and soon Topside Industries was founded, a huge money making concern offering tourism possibilities. Although there were inherent dangers in visiting so dangerous a past, Topside had a sterling safety record - until it all went wrong.
Every year, regular as clockwork, the areas would turn, alternating between the current scenery and that of the long distant past, the topside becoming the flip side. Every year, precisely predictable until, thirty years after the that first event, the turn was early, trapping some on the flip side for another year. And when the time came again for the next turn ...

With his usual ability to completely draw a reader into his often crazily immaginative worlds, Jake Bible wastes no time in plunging straight into the action with vividly scary pictures of people trapped in the experience of terror. Then the story itself is developed, the major characters introduced and given personalities and life, then all is once again plunged into almost non stop action until the end. And what amazing action, with unique situations to grip and hold attention. It hurts, too, if any of the protagonists, so alive just minutes earlier, falls in line of duty, as it were, or just because of a silly accident. It's fast, fierce and furious tooth and claw action but still with time for humour and to reflect on life and the world around, as well as playing it's own small part of scrambling the situation.

A fast action book needs a fast talking narrator, and once again Andrew B. Werhlen teams with Mr.Bible to further bring the entire story to life. The text is read at a fast clip, the narrator's voice well modulated, paced, with understanding, to the written words. Each protagonist, male and female, is given appropriate and distinctive voice until the narrator himself seems to fade away leaving only the characters themselves in their unfolding story. Excellent performance.

A complimentary copy of this unusual S.F action thriller was freely gifted to me, at my request, by the rights holder, via Audiobook Boom. Thank you so much. I am not usually a fan of man versus dynosaur adventures but certainly make an exception with Flipside. Mr.Bible and Mr.Werhlen between them made this book simply dynamic. I loved it.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-07-18

When in Rome, do as the Eskimos, right?

Even though Brett believes it 'must be perfectly great to be me,' he has had an harrowing year, culminating in the murder of the client he'd been engaged to protect whilst he'd been otherwise engaged (if you catch my drift). So he decided to stay on and enjoy the beach for a while before going home to Rhode Island.
And, being Brett, he catches the eye (and other parts) of the ladies and generally causes mayhem.

Another perfect combination of author and narrator as Travis Henry Carter becomes that unscrupulous bastard, now also known as 'that punk bastard know-it-all punk bastard', the gloriously moustachioed Brett Cornell. With his fabulously sardonic accented voice, Travis Carter recounts Brett's story, first person, holding nothing back, and gives very distinctive voicings to all the other characters both male and female. As always a superb performance in this ridiculously funny story of the bastard we all love to despise (and secretly love and admire for his totally self satisfied uncouth awfulness, from the distance of a page in a book, anyway).

I just love this entire series of stories and was fortunate in being freely gifted a complimentary copy of Beach Bum Brett, by the rights holder, at my request, via Audiobook Boom. Thank you so much. This is number eight in the series but completely standalone - though I recommend starting at the beginning simply because they are all just so good. Only one more book still to come. Then what will we all do without our blond Adonis?

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