Audio Book Review: Secrets of the Dead

The Secrets of the DeadThe Secrets of the Dead by Tom Harper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Description:

In a villa on the coast of Montenegro, Abby Cormac witnesses the brutal murder of her lover, diplomat Michael Lascaris. The last thing she remembers is a gun pointed directly at her. She wakes to find herself at the centre of a diplomatic nightmare. Everyone wants an answer but no one wants to listen. Even her employers at the Foreign Office believe she’s hiding something. She is completely alone. As Abby tries to piece together the last few months of Michael’s life in order to get at the truth, she soon realises that he wasn’t quite what he seemed. What exactly was his relationship with one of the most ruthless men in the Balkans – a war criminal who has never been brought to justice? And what links Michael’s gift to her of a gold necklace with its Christian monogram, a 4th century manuscript left in the shadow of Emperor Constantine’s palace at Trier and an inscription on a tomb in Rome? When Abby investigates further, it becomes clear that someone wants to suppress a secret, one that has been kept hidden for centuries. And they will stop at nothing to do so…

My Review:

During a visit to the local library, I was waiting for someone else to make their selection (I had quickly picked up a couple of books that interested me; although my reading list is already quite long and I don’t need more books to add to the pile), and I wandered over to the audio book section. Secrets of the Dead sort of jumped out and screamed, “pick me, pick me”. So I did.

I’ve listened to a couple of podcast books in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an audio book. To be honest, it was a pleasant experience. I discovered that I could do more than one thing at once, such as play Candy Crush or scanning the old family photos while reading. It was a win-win situation.

Secrets of the Dead is NOT the type of book, by that I mean paperback or ebook, that I would normally read. It’s too big worded for me, and there are too many foreign words. I’d stumble over the pages and quickly loose interest. However, listening to someone read the book was totally different. The narrator, Francis Greenslade, was excellent. He is easy to listen to and he made those difficult words blend in to the story and brought a complicated plot to life. I was impressed … and I learned the pronunciation of numerous words from him!

The book itself is actually two stories running parallel to each other — one historical and one present day. I felt the historical content was well researched and totally convincing. I ‘believed’ in the characters and the events. The only drawback was the flashbacks. After a while I found them a little annoying (even if the content of the flashbacks did move the story forward). The present day storyline was also convincing, although it took me longer to settle into this side of the book. It wasn’t the characters that troubled me (those I accepted straight away), it was the events taking place. Some things seemed too convenient. Anyway, I remember thinking I’d hate to get caught up in anything similar to what was happening to Abby Cormac. I’d be terrified. Both stories were a type of murder mystery and had certain factors that tied them together.

Overall, I’d be more than willing to ‘read’ another audio book. It’s the perfect way of discovering new authors and new genres. I’m glad I gave Secrets of the Dead a chance, and while I know I would never read an actual printed book by the author, I certainly would listen to another audio book written by him.

eBook Review: The Godslayers’ Legacy

The Godslayers' LegacyThe Godslayers’ Legacy by Lee Carlon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description:

The gods cleansed Newterra, killing all but a few survivors. Dune d’Turintar, the daughter of a god’s chosen and member of Avril’s scattered cadre, has taken up the fallen Godslayers’ cause and will take the fight to the man who bound her at birth, Lord Obdurin, to make him answer for his god’s crimes.

For Avril Ethanson, Dune represents much more than his first challenge as Lord Obdurin’s newest first-sworn, she will force him to decide if he stands with the chosen or against him.

The Godslayers’ Legacy is the second book in The Bastard Cadre series and returns to post-apocalyptic Newterra to pick up the story where A God-Blasted Land finished.

My Review:

A little over two years ago I read the first book, The God-Blasted Land. You can read my review here. It’s difficult to pick up a story two years later and fall back into the plot and the characters. Although this was a bit of a concern for me when I picked up the second book, The Godslayers’ Legacy, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I became absorbed in it.

Of course, the author’s writing has a lot to do with that. The story is fast-paced. Something is always happening, which is my type of story. I enjoyed the characters I recognised from the first book, and was happy to discover new characters who complimented them quite nicely. Put them all together and you have strong characters, with strong personalities, and they are as stubborn as anything. It makes me smile to think how this lot are going to come together and work together in future books. Now that’s something to look forward to.

I consider the books to be science fiction fantasy. By this, I mean there’s dragons and magic, as well as futuristic technology. I remember liking the way the author combined the two in the first book and I wasn’t disappointed in this regard in the second book either. It’s somewhat refreshing to read.

And although Newterra is an imaginary world, I can relate it to our world. And because I have a liking for imagining how I would cope in our world if everything was turned upside down tomorrow, I enjoy reading post-apocalyptic stories. It’s intriguing to see new ways of life blossom from the dead. And by ‘dead’, I’m not talking about people. I’m talking about technology, ways of life, beliefs, the strength to survive and carry on.

This series has it all – great characters, a fast-paced plot, post-apocalyptic storylines … and it’s well written. All this makes for a pleasant, absorbing, entertaining read time. I’ve already purchased book three, The Dead God’s Shadow.

Highly recommended.

eBook Review: One’s Aspect to the Sun

One's Aspect to the SunOne’s Aspect to the Sun by Sherry D. Ramsey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description:

Captain Luta Paixon of the far trader Tane Ikai needs to know why she looks like a woman in her thirties–even though she’s actually eighty-four. She isn’t the only one desperate for that information.

The explanation might lie with her geneticist mother, who disappeared over sixty years ago, but even if her mother is still alive, it’s proving to be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the furthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart.

My Review:

There was a time when I read a lot of science fiction, but that was long ago. Like everyone, my tastes changed and I found myself favouring fantasy adventures over space travel. However, the thing about taste is that you can yearn for something you haven’t tasted for a while and I’ve found myself wanting to return to the undiscovered worlds of aliens, space ships and technology.

Amongst the stars is Nearspace, which has many planets across galaxies connected by wormholes. PrimeCorp is a company all about money and greed, but they’d like you to think their first thought each day is about you and your health. The two together make a good backdrop for Luta and her family secrets.

All families have secrets, but Luta’s are massive. She looks 30-something, but is actually 84. Her husband of over fifty decades is 90 and looks it. But the thing that causes the biggest problem within Luta’s family is that her children are starting to look older than her, which is difficult to explain. Hence, the secrets. And when Luta’s husband asks to die in space, instead of an old-people’s home, their daughter is NOT happy.

It took a while to set up the storylines, the world, the history and how they all fitted together. However, once that was done, I was totally absorbed and the book became a page-turner.

I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Luta, her husband and their daughter. I felt sorry for all of them. It wouldn’t be easy living their lives surrounded by secrets and missed opportunities. Maja, the daughter, was angry about so many things and I understood and accepted why. But like so many children (even adult children), she didn’t understand the choices her parents made. And, like so many parents, Luta and her husband never explained their decisions properly to their children, which never helps.

However, no matter what I felt in regards to the parent/child relationship, it was nothing when I thought about the relationship between Luta and her husband. To watch the person you love grow old. Knowing that person will soon die. Looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing a young face. It was heart wrenching. It actually made me feel choked up and incredibly sad for Luta … and her husband!

The story is very well written. It reminded me of a mystery set in space. I liked how the author allowed fragments of the whole picture to come through at just the right moments. They were like twists in a plot that would send the characters spiralling in other directions. The technical side of the story was totally convincing, I had no trouble believing any of it. However, what sold this story for me were the relationships; absolutely loved the interaction between the characters.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves science fiction.

Oh, and I believe the author has been contracted to write a sequel. I look forward to reading that one too.

eBook Review: Grey Area: 13 Ghost Stories

Grey Area: 13 Ghost StoriesGrey Area: 13 Ghost Stories by Nancy S.M. Waldman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Description:

Imagine that you are trapped in a grey area, neither here nor there, in-between time, space, colours, lives. The vivid stories in Grey Area: 13 Ghost Stories bring this scenario to life, with tales of ghosts and forerunners, unlikely hauntings, and messages from beyond. Thirteen strong authors show us what it is like to be in-between in this contemporary, varied, spooky and often touching collection.

My Review:

The words “trapped in a grey area, neither here nor there” drew me to this book. Sometimes I feel this way in life, imagine the consequences in death! Anyway, this was enough for me to want to read the book and as an avid fantasy reader, I felt it was time for a change. Ghost stories have always been another favourite of mine.

Often you’ll see descriptions that claim “strong authors” used as a selling tool, and the book doesn’t always measure up, but in this case it’s 100% true. I rarely read a collection of short stories where I enjoy every story. There’s always at least one that doesn’t make the grade for me, but “Grey Area” doesn’t fall into that category. I enjoyed EVERY story in this book. They were tight, well written and different from each other.

Is it possible to cry when reading a ghost story? You bet! I did. Twice! “Mildred Mudd’s Epiphany” by Charlotte Musial touched me. As did “This is My Land” by Diane J. Sober. Both are simple, well written stories yet they are powerful in their messages. Both left me feeling sad (for different reasons, but mainly for opportunities lost). Both made me cry because they feed deep feelings of regret and longing. They reminded me that no matter how much we wish to, the past cannot be changed, and we need to make the most of today so we don’t have regrets tomorrow. Of course, things happen to us that are completely out of our control but we can allow those things to shape us. Do we allow ourselves to be free and happy, or do we become bitter and nasty? The ‘allowing’ is our decision.

“Out of the Deep” by D.C. Troicuk is a totally different type of story. It spoke to me because I have connections to a family of miners. Although I’ve never been in a mine, I know how dangerous they can be. This story brought mining to life. It allowed me into the mind of a miner and showed me what it would have been like; the fear, the wait, the pain, the loss. It’s a beautifully written story, with enough detail to spark the imagination, but allows the reader to interpret in their own way too. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

On the darker side is “Teetering on the Edge” by Voula Kappas-Dunn. This story spoke to me on a different level as I’ve known suicide first-hand and I know how it affects a family. This is a story about a woman who carries so much grief and fear that it threatens her sanity and her life. Believe me, fear can take over a healthy mind so quickly it’s frightening. This story can, in fact, be quite true. In the story, the woman receives help from friends and the other side. The important thing is that she does get help.

These are the four stories that impressed me the most, but that doesn’t mean the other nine stories were less entertaining. As I’ve already said, I enjoyed the entire book. Some of the stories explore the possibilities of what might happen after death. Some have those who have passed over coming back to help the living. All left me feeling satisfied and eager to read on.

Recommended.

Book Review: Dark Guardian Series

Dark Guardians is a series of romance novel for teens written by Rachel Hawthorne. It’s been a couple of decades since I read a romance novel; I used to read them all the time. I picked up the first and third books in paperback, at a super low price. However, I had to purchase the second book in ebook format, which I wasn’t happy about as the price was more expensive than the two printed books put together. There is a fourth book, but it’s not available in my area so again I would have to pay a high price for the ebook, which I will NOT be doing as I believe ebooks should be cheaper than paperbacks. No exceptions!

Book 1: Moonlight

Book Description:

“I see him and I know what this turmoil inside of me means: He’s the one. My forever.”

KAYLA is the nature lover, the all-American beauty who can’t understand why she’s so drawn to distant, brooding Lucas. Adopted as a young child, she has no way of knowing that she’s inherited a terrifying-and thrilling-gene that will change her life forever.

LUCAS is dangerous, gorgeous … and a werewolf. As leader of the Dark Guardians, shape-shifters who gather deep within the state park, he has sworn to protect his pack. But when Lucas finds his true soul mate, his love could put them all in harm’s way.

As Lucas and Kayla struggle with their feelings for each other, a greater danger lurks: Humans have discovered the Dark Guardians and are planning their destruction. Kayla must choose between the life she knows and the love she feels certain is her destiny.

Book Review:

Moonlight (Dark Guardian, #1)Moonlight by Rachel Hawthorne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be honest, the cover did nothing for me. I actually looked at it and moved on straight away. Then two young girls appeared beside me. One of them picked the book up and said, “This is a werewolf romance.” They walked off, book in hand, and I moved back to the pile of books and picked one up to read the blurb.

The blurb interested me. I’m not interested in reading vampires stories anymore, but hadn’t read a romance involving werewolves. The price was right, so I was willing to give it a go.

And I’m glad I did. Yes, it might be a bit cheesy in places. Yes, I groaned and rolled my eyes at a couple of spots where the romance was far from reality (in my honest opinion). But … the book was easy to read and quite absorbing.

I liked the characters, especially the main characters – Kayla and Lucas. Kayla isn’t sure of herself, which was a bit irritating, but she had a lot of baggage and I was able to make allowances for her. Lucas is the mysterious one. We know he’s a werewolf, but Kayla doesn’t. They are well suited, but then there’s Mason; smart, good looking and attentive.

The setting was particularly interesting. The group were hiking and camping through a forest, which presented its own dangers. I enjoyed the fact that whilst I had a clear idea of their surroundings, the author didn’t go on and on with long descriptions. Top marks for that.

The other thing I liked about the book was the fact that it is written in a way that shows werewolves (or shifters as they prefer to be called) as the good guys and a small majority of humans (or statics) as the baddies. It is refreshing to read about a topic (meaning werewolves), which is usually connected with death and violence, and have it approached from a different angle that shows it can be totally different to what is expected. If werewolves really existed, these are the type I’d like to see in the world.

I really did enjoy this book.

Book 2: Full Moon

Book Description:

“I may be promised to another . . . but thoughts of Rafe consume me. I don’t know how much longer I can resist.”

LINDSEY is wild and reckless, a natural rebel – maybe because her entire life was laid out for her even before she was born. Her parents are among the most powerful members of the Dark Guardians, an ancient tribe of werewolves, and they arranged Lindsey’s betrothal to Connor long ago. The next full moon is coming all too soon, and then her commitment to Connor will be final – no turning back. She should be happy … so why can’t she stop thinking about gorgeous, brooding Rafe?

When a dangerous threat on the pack escalates, so do tensions between Connor and Rafe. A fight over Lindsey is imminent, but will it be to the death?

Book Review:

Full Moon (Dark Guardian, #2)Full Moon by Rachel Hawthorne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having enjoyed the first book, I had to purchase this one and continue reading. By now, I understood what I was in for and accepted the cheesiness and “roll of the eye” moments and just enjoyed the story.

This book basically picks up from where book one ended, but is told from the point of view of one of the other characters. It took me a while to let go of Kayla and Lucas and turn my attention to Lindsey, Connor and Rafe, but once I managed to do that I was again drawn in and held.

In this book we learn more about the Dark Guardians and their history as we are taken into their secret village. We continue to have glimpses of Kayla and Lucas and see how their relationship in progressing, but Lindsey has issues of her own.

Lindsey and Connor have been together forever. They’ve been through a lot together and as far as everyone is concerned, including their parents, they will be bonded as mates at the next full moon. Neither of them fought against it because it felt right … until Rafe started to haunt Lindsey’s dreams; and she wasn’t always asleep when it happened!

Lindsey’s confusion and inability to make a decision was irritating, but in reality I could accept her situation and understood her confusion. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what the right thing to do is.

Once again, we returned to the forest and did some hiking and camping. The overall threat of Bio-Chrome wasn’t resolved in book one and is revisited in this book. Of course, this thread gives an element of danger, which mixes up the tension a bit more.

I gave this book three stars instead of four (which I gave the first book) simply because the freshness wasn’t there. I still enjoyed it, but the impact wasn’t as great; hence, the rating is lower.

Book 3: Dark of the Moon

Book Description:

“I’ve loved him forever, but he can never be mine.”

BRITTANY is determined to prove herself to the Dark Guardians. And yet she’s been keeping a devastating secret: She hasn’t experienced any of the intense, early signs of change that mark a Dark Guardian’s transformation. The only intense feelings she has are for Connor—and she’s kept that a secret, too. But she knows she’ll never truly have Connor’s love if she’s not a Shifter like him.

At the first full moon after her birthday, her greatest fear is realized: She doesn’t transform. Brittany is so desperate to become a wolf that she’ll go to extremes she never thought possible … and put all the Dark Guardians in incredible danger.

Book Review:

Dark of the Moon (Dark Guardian, #3)Dark of the Moon by Rachel Hawthorne

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The third book in the series. This time we back-track to the night of the full moon (when, in book 2, Lindsey finally made her chose between Connor and Rafe) and we see how Brittany copes with transforming alone. Remember, Dark Guardian legend foretells that when a female faces her first transformation, she will not survive if she doesn’t have a male with her.

The book starts at the point just before the transformation is to happen. Brittany is terrified as she knows she may not be alive to see the sun rise again, but she waits and waits and waits.

Nothing happens and she’s devastated.

Because of the opening to the story, I believe I managed to swap characters to Brittany’s point of view quite easily. I felt sorry for her. And because of that, I think I tolerated her story more than I did Lindsey’s. She had more reason to act the way she does in the book. And there weren’t as many cheesy bits, or maybe I had just become more accepting of those too.

My biggest complaint with the book was how swiftly Connor went from Lindsey to Brittany. The explanation is viable, but it was too quick in my opinion and there were not enough hints of how Connor might have felt in the second book for me to accept it so readily in this one. Yeah, I know it’s just a story, but still…

There was less hiking and camping in this book, which by now I was glad of. However, the Bio-Chrome threat was ever present. More so, as the threat became a bigger part of the story and is resolved by the end of the book. I was pleased with this.

The thing I liked most about this book, it that it felt closer to reality where emotions were concerned. I’m not talking about the romance side of things, I mean the feelings we hold much deeper and often keep secret from others – our fears. Often we do stupid things to be accepted and Brittany is no different when she makes her decisions.

I give this book 3.5 stars. I enjoyed it more than the second book, it ‘spoke’ to me, drew me right in, and even made me shed a tear. However, I still feel the first book’s freshness made it stand out from the rest, even with the cheesy parts.

In Conclusion:

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is a fourth book Shadow of the Moon. If the paperback was available locally or if the ebook was more reasonably priced, I would have purchased it. However, all threads have been resolved to my satisfaction in the three books I’ve read and I don’t feel the need to continue reading, so this is where I stop reading the Dark Guardian series.

If you like romance, if you want something easy to get lost in, and if you can overlook the cheesy parts, I recommend these three books.