Category Archives: Paranormal
Book: Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington, Blackstone Audio, March 2014
Book Info: Audiobook received for review from Audiobook Jukebox and Blackstone Audio, Inc, Running time: 7 hrs, 17 mins. Read by: Jorjeana Marie. Also available in hardcover, 288 pages from Soho Teen
Amy Talkington’s debut Liv Forever is about first love, a boarding school secret society, and a murder mystery where the murderee is the main character! Who killed Liv and will she live forever as a ghost?
List, Forever: the lowdown on Liv, Forever
1. Boarding school backdrop - The illustrious Wickham Hall is home to snooty legacy students that rule the school and the scholarship kids who do their bidding. What a perfect setting for a ghost story murder mystery!
2. Insta love / Insta Death – The story starts out like so many YA boarding school books with insta love between the new girl and the most popular guy at school. But, well, the insta death of the protagonist makes the love story less saccharine.
3. Whodunit – The story really takes off with the death of the main character, Liv Bloom. In investigating her death, she finds she’s not the only victim and so she assembles the living and the dead to help bring the guilty parties to justice. Everyone is a suspect and there are red herrings to keep the reader guessing.
4. 999 Ghosts and Room for One More – The ghosts that haunt Wickham Hall share their life and death stories in short vignettes and this adds a dash of historical fiction (and more mystery!) to the story.
5. Liv – Liv’s an artist from the foster care system, excited about her art scholarship to Wickham Hall, but feeling like a fish out of water. Her questioning nature serves her well in the afterlife! She kicks butt as a ghost and makes the most of her new supernatural talents.
6. I’m in love with a ghost – This is an unconventional love story since, you know, one half of the couple is dead. And adding to the drama, the love interest, Malcolm Astor, is a legacy student who may be involved with the murder conspiracy. The star-crossed lovers communicate through Gabe, a friend who can see and talk to ghosts. That makes Gabe the crazy person at the school, but really it’s a practical talent to have at Wickham Hall.
7. Haunted Soundtrack – Malcolm and Liv bond over music, and their hip playlist is movie soundtrack ready! There’s no Live Forever by Oasis, a song that was stuck in my head while I was reading, but I like their taste in music regardless. I listened to the playlist while I was reading and it really does fit the mood of the book. Here’s the author’s official book playlist-she has a background as a music journalist so she knows her stuff:
8. Bring on the movie or CW series – This is Amy Talkington’s debut novel but she is an established screenwriter and it shows in Liv, Forever. It is easy to visualize this book will translate well to the big or small screen. It’s full of cinematic details, with tight storytelling, sharp dialogue, and an interesting hook. A movie version is in the works, though I can also envision it as a TV series. Here’s the book trailer – I think I’m going to have nightmares about this:
9. Art in the afterlife – Liv’s an artist and that translates through her life and afterlife in some cool displays. Liv’s artistic side makes her more endearing, and her story more tragic.
10. Tell me a ghost story – I listened to the Liv, Forever audiobook, performed by Jorjeana Marie. Marie sounds age appropriate for Liv, and inhabits her personality well. Her voice has a pleasant rasp to it, like an Emma Galvin type. She also gets to stretch her voice talents by bringing the other ghost girls to life and using different accents and dialects. I preferred her female voices to the male voices, but the male voices were serviceable. Jorjeana Marie gives a lively reading, adding tension to the suspenseful scenes, illustrating the thrills and happiness of first love, and the despair and melancholy of life as a ghost. I got through this audiobook in no time, eager to find out the resolution to Liv’s story.
A boarding school ghost story is something we’ve seen before, and after the insta-love at the beginning of the book I wasn’t sure this book would be for me. However, the supernatural twist made the story interesting, and Amy Talkington’s writing is very readable. Ghostly grins all around.
Book: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Audible Inc, January 2014
Book Info: Audiobook received for review from Audible, Inc. Running time: 9 hrs, 40 mins. Audiobook performed by: Christy Romano. Also available in paperback, 480 pages from Simon & Schuster. Audible * Amazon * Goodreads
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer came out in print two and a half years ago but is just now making its audiobook debut. I remember being charmed by this gorgeous book cover but never had the chance to read the book. The plot of Mara Dyer centers on a big mystery, and the reader is left in the dark as much as the title character. You don’t really get all (or any?) of the answers in the first part of the trilogy but flashbacks/dreams/visions provide some pieces of the puzzle. The mystery part of it was interesting to me, though I can’t say I completely bought the romantic side of the book.
Mara Dyer is a mystery / romance about a girl who wakes up in a hospital with no memory of how she arrived there. She was with her friends and there was an accident that left everyone dead, except Mara. PTSD and strange unexplainable visions (and deaths!) follow her around in her new town, making her think she’s losing her mind. Meanwhile, the school manwhore is smitten with Mara and she can’t seem to resist him.
Because Mara Dyer has this high concept mystery, the reading experience is a little confusing as you’re trying to pieces together what the heck is happening. I had to consider Mara Dyer to be an unreliable narrator as I questioned what was real and what was not in this book.
I wanted to know more about what was happening to Mara, but the romance with Noah Shaw started to take over the book. Noah Shaw is the guy every girl wants- he’s wealthy, has a British accent, is cocky and smart and gorgeous, and of course Mara’s the only girl for him. If you buy into the romance you will probably love this book.
I listened to the audiobook, performed by Christy Romano, who is an actress and the voice of Kim Possible. She has not performed in too many audiobooks but the author saw Romano in a play in New York and thought her voice was a perfect match for Mara. (listen to the author Michelle Hodkin interview Christy Romano in the link below)
Romano’s voice sounds age appropriate for Mara, and she has good comic timing to deliver the humorous lines. Romano is talented at accents, and especially uses a convincing male British accent for the voice of Noah. There were some technical issues that distracted me at times such as re-recorded dialogue and some misinterpreted lines. Overall I enjoyed the performance though and thought Romano was a good pick. The audiobook also includes a couple chapters from the second book in the trilogy.
This is one of those books that readers seem to love or hate. I zipped through this book fairly quickly and was entertained, though I’m not going to jump right into the sequel just yet either. I am really curious about the mystery though and how it’s all going to work out. The Evolution of Mara Dyer is out now, and the last book in the trilogy, The Retribution of Mara Dyer is due out June 10.
Check out a sample from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, performed by Christy Romano:
Book: Daylighters (The Morganville Vampires Book #15) by Rachel Caine, NAL review copy via Netgalley, HC 368 pages, on sale now
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
While Morganville, Texas, is often a troubled town, Claire Danvers and her friends are looking forward to coming home. But the Morganville they return to isn’t the one they know; it’s become a different place—a deadly one…
Something drastic has happened in Morganville while Claire and her friends were away. The town looks cleaner and happier than they’ve ever seen it before, but when their incoming group is arrested and separated—vampires from humans—they realize that the changes definitely aren’t for the better.
It seems that an organization called the Daylight Foundation has offered the population of Morganville something they’ve never had: hope of a vampire-free future. And while it sounds like salvation—even for the vampires themselves—the truth is far more sinister and deadly.
Now, Claire, Shane and Eve need to find a way to break their friends out of Daylighter custody, before the vampires of Morganville meet their untimely end…
It’s finally time to say farewell to the Morganville Vampires series. After 15 books the series never wore out it’s welcome and I’m glad to see Rachel Caine’s vampire series go out on a high note. I’ve enjoyed all the adventures in Morganville and I’m glad the books are around if I ever want to return to Morganville. The final book is a satisfying conclusion – I don’t feel short changed at all. The finale felt true to the series, we get some closure and feel good about where we are leaving the gang.
Brief synopsis of the series: In the town of Morganville, Texas, humans and vampires co-exist, and once you’re in you can’t get out. We follow a core group of four, Morganville’s own Scooby gang, as they navigate the dangers of the town. Claire is one of the liaisons between the vampires and humans, and has allied herself with the mad genius vampire Myrnin, and the vampire high queen Amelie. Her boyfriend is Shane, and they live with another couple, Michael and Eve, in the Glass House, a house with some unique powers. And basically they are just trying to stay alive in this scary town they find themselves in. There are some interesting side characters that pop up throughout the series, plenty of action and surprises, and a little bit of romance.
In the last few books we’ve started to see a power struggle in Morganville, with the vampires beginning to lose control, and that all comes to a head in the finale. Would Morganville be better off without the vampires, or is there something even more dangerous coming to replace them?
The characters give this series heart, and I like that so many favorite characters show up in the final installment. I was even happy to see mean girl Monica Morrell! My favorite scenes, as always, are the ones with the bi-polar Myrnin and smart and sensible Claire. I’ve loved their friendship, and Myrnin’s zany ways.
In this final installment, there’s trouble for everyone, not just the vampires, and all the twists and turns kept me turning pages late in the night. I like that Caine always goes someplace unexpected, and it’s hard to surprise after 15 books. There is danger and new threats to the all the characters we know and love. Since it’s the finale, I was on edge waiting to see who would make it out alive/undead.
There’s not much more I can say about the plot without getting into spoilers. If you haven’t visited Morganville yet, you have 15 awesome books waiting for you. I think they are appropriate for any age, and whether you like vampires or not. These books are fun and fast-paced with characters to love and love-to-hate.
I’ll miss all the fun with the gang from Morganville, and I’m sure I’ll read through the books again sometime. I have my Common Grounds coffee mug and vampire bunny slippers as fun reminders for now. Plus, there’s the web series to look forward to, and Caine’s new book Prince of Shadows.
Book: Red Hill by Jamie McGuire, Simon & Schuster Audio, October 1, 2013
Book Info: Zombie fiction, Audiobook purchased via Audible. Running time: 9 hrs, 38 mins. Read by: Emma Galvin, Zachary Webber, January LaVoy. Also available in hc, pb or ebook from Atria Books.
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Red Hill is a new zombie fiction book from one of the biggest names in New Adult, Jamie McGuire. McGuire is known for the NA romance Beautiful Disaster, so a zombie apocalypse book is quite a departure. Readers of this blog know I prefer realistic stories, but hey it’s almost Halloween, so bring on the zombies!
Red Hill takes place at the beginning of a zombie apocalypse and has three different points of view:
Scarlet is a divorced mom of two girls. She shares custody, and her husband has the girls when disaster strikes. Scarlet will stop at nothing to get her girls back.
Nathan is unhappily married/separated and has a young daughter named Zoe. His goal is to keep his daughter safe.
Miranda is college-aged and traveling with her sister Ashley and their boyfriends Bryce and Cooper when the zombies arrive.
The trio and their entourage come together at Red Hill ranch for shelter and support, and try to keep the zombies at bay. Tensions run high, but romance also provides a distraction for the survivors.
Red Hill is more of a character study than a non-stop zombie killing adventure. Scarlet’s character is at the center of the action- she’s the mother figure to the group, and also one of the best at taking down zombies, aka creepers/shufflers/teds. She holds on to the hope that she will be with her daughters again and that’s what keeps her going.
The story picked up steam for me once the gang got together at Red Hill. Before that time, they were isolated and dodging zombies separately, and my mind would start to wander. There’s lots of time spent on the journey to Red Hill. And with the shift in perspectives, I felt a little detached from the characters.
When the group meets up at Red Hill though, things get a little less predictable and a lot more dangerous. Character bonds are formed. The danger kind of sneaks up on you, and there are some whoa, I can’t believe this is happening moments. The slow pace of the novel makes any fight or death scene that much more impactful. And McGuire makes some bold choices with the conclusion that took me off guard.
I picked up the audiobook because I saw Emma Galvin was one of the narrators. Galvin reads Miranda’s part, January LaVoy is Scarlet, and of course Zachary Webber is Nathan. Galvin is very strong with action scenes and bringing the emotional intensity to her reading- she reads Divergent so this is right up her alley. LaVoy sounds age-appropriate for Scarlet, and you can feel her concern for her kids. Webber’s Nathan has a smooth, calm voice that’s perfect for the character. The narration is good, and sets the mood for the story. Emma Galvin’s intensity stands out among the trio but that’s also the nature of her character. The novel’s slow pace did make the audiobook feel longer than 9.5 hours.
Red Hill is zombie fiction, rather than NA or YA and is such a departure for Jamie McGuire I’m not sure it’s a natural fit for her NA/romance fans. Then again, with the focus not on zombie killing action, it’s not a slam-dunk for zombie lovers either. I’m not into zombies, but even I think there should have been more action and scares.
Red Hill may be a good choice for someone who reads fiction and wants to dip their toes in the zombie pool. There’s not too much romance and it’s not keep-you-up-at-night scary. It has a Walking Dead vibe to it, and you’ll be thinking more about how you’d survive in a zombie apocalypse.
Take a listen to an audio sample:
Jamie McGuire and Simon & Schuster also put together a Red Hill playlist:
Book: If I Should Die by Amy Plum, Harper Audio, May 7, 2013
Book Info: YA Paranormal, borrowed OverDrive MP3 Audiobook from the library, and I bought the kindle edition. Running time: 11 hrs, 7 mins. Read by: Julia Whelan. Also available in hardcover, 416 pages from Harper Teen.
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
I am the biggest procrastinator when it comes to finishing series books. I don’t know why, but it takes me forever to wrap up a series – maybe I’m not ready to say goodbye to the characters or worry that the finale will be a letdown. So, I’ve had the last book of the Revenants trilogy on my kindle since its release date unread, but when I saw the audiobook at the library I felt it was time to bite the bullet.
Readers of this blog know that my appetite for paranormal has waned, but there are a few paranormal series I still try to keep up with. This series is set in Paris and is a romance between an immortal Revenant (a self-sacrificing, honorable, zombie-like guy) and a human girl who lost her parents. Kate and Vincent have this epic love story that makes you want to root for them, despite their differences. The series has been working towards something big, and big things definitely happen in If I Should Die.
This book is a game changer, and there are surprises and sacrifices in store. The biggest change is Kate’s personal growth, and she takes a bigger role in the fight between good and evil. Everyone else is second fiddle to Kate, and there are less light-hearted moments than in previous books. There is a lot of action and discovery, and some new characters are introduced along the way. If you’ve followed the Revenants series, you may have predicted how the series would end, and Amy Plum has some tricks up her sleeve that I didn’t consider.
I like Vincent just fine, but I have a soft spot for his lovable friend Jules. He’s the comic relief while Vincent is so serious. Jules does not have a big part in this book, and I think that brought the mood down a bit. At least he gets to star in his own novella though!
The series ties up most of the loose ends, and leaves the characters in an interesting place. My favorite part of the book is the third act when the action really ramps up. Some of the earlier parts of the book went into too much detail for me, and I was starting to zone out, but I’m glad I stuck with it.
Julia Whelan narrates the audiobook, and it was a treat to hear her read another book in this series. Since most of the action is set in Paris, there are French accents, names and places that sound even better when they are pronounced correctly by a narrator. Whelan is comfortable with American and French, and male and female voices, has a good reading pace, and was in tune with the emotional tone of the book.
This book was entertaining, but I think I preferred the first two books a little more. There is a lot of story packed into this book, and I missed seeing more of some of the other characters that have been such an important part of previous books. Even though there are no more books in the works for this series, the story felt like it was ripe for a spin-off. Amy Plum’s next book is called After The End, and it’s the first book of a new dystopian series.
Book: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Hachette Audio, September 3, 2013
Book Info: YA Paranormal, Audiobook received for review from Hachette Audio. Running time: 12 hrs, 6 mins. Read by: Christine Lakin. Also available in hardcover, 432 pages from Little, Brown.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from best-selling and acclaimed author Holly Black.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is my first Holly Black book, and even though I don’t read a lot of vampire books anymore, I always hope to find one that makes me fall in love with them again. I liked Anne Rice books back in the day, and I read Holly Black is a fan of the Vampire Chronicles too. Black has written a rich vampire story you can sink your teeth into, so to speak. It’s dark and scary and puts you on edge; set in a world that fears yet glamorizes the Cold Ones.
The book starts off with a bang as the main character Tana wakes up after a party and finds almost all the partygoers dead. The two survivors are her ex-boyfriend Aiden, now infected by the vampire virus, and the chained, mysterious vampire Gavriel. The trio sets off to Coldtown, the safe place to go when you’re infected, even though you might not ever get out. Once you’re bitten, you can halt the virus if you don’t bite another human for 80 days, a challenge for these bloodthirsty “newborns”!
Tana has a personal family history with vampires, and teaming up with Gavriel and Aiden is a huge risk. I connected with Tana and found her to be an awesome heroine. She fights her own battles, taking on a vampire or two, and is a devoted friend. And I did ship her with Gavriel- loved their chemistry.
Gavriel is a live wire, and reminded me a little of The Morganville Vampires Myrnin. He’s of course beautiful and sexy, though a dangerous and vicious creature. We get to know his back-story through flashbacks, and why he is the way he is. There are some romantic moments in their way, but this isn’t that sort of vampire book.
I liked the colorful characters in this book, the humans and the vampires, though Tana and Gavriel were by far my favorites. Sometimes I got a little lost in the details of the story- there’s a lot going on to keep track of. I did like the language Black uses and though I listened to the audiobook, I wouldn’t have minded reading her words in print as well. I appreciate that she sets out to tell a darker vampire story with more gore and less romance. Some of my favorite details were the beginning of chapter quotes about death.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Christine Lakin. I had heard a sample of her narration before the book came out and knew I wanted to experience the audiobook. I believe this is Lakin’s first audiobook, and she really sells the story and takes you to Coldtown. I liked the tone of her voice for the book, and she sounds age and character appropriate. Pacing, voices, emotion all come together perfectly for Lakin as though she was an audiobook veteran. Another thing that’s cool about this audiobook is the use of scary music to set the mood- it made me jump at times! I highly recommend the audiobook for an even more chilling book experience.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is good and scary to kick off fall reading. Though I prefer realistic fiction to paranormal, this was a nice change of pace. I’m even more interested in diving into Black’s back catalog with the Curse Workers series.
Book: The Runaway Queen (The Bane Chronicles #2) by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson, Simon & Schuster Audio, May 21, 2013
Audiobook Info: YA Fantasy novella, Received for review from Simon & Schuster Audio, Audio length: 1 hours 18 minutes, read by George Blagden
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars
The Bane Chronicles is a 10-book novella spinoff series about fan-favorite warlock Magnus Bane from Cassandra Clare and guest co-authors Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan. If you can’t get enough Magnus Bane, here’s your chance to catch up on his extensive backstory. The first installment from Rees Brennan, What Really Happened in Peru, debuted last month. I listened to this installment again via audiobook, and not only is there a new author but there’s a new narrator, actor George Blagden.
The Runaway Queen is co-authored by Maureen Johnson and takes place in Revolutionary France. Magnus agrees to rescue Marie Antoinette because Axel, the handsome count, asks him to. Meanwhile, Magnus is invited/demanded to attend a vampire soiree, a mysterious monkey turns up, and Magnus gives hot air balloon travel a whirl.
This installment is pretty entertaining, and in fact I listened to it twice. I kept getting distracted listening to Magnus talk about his lemon yellow gloves and wardrobe suggestions for his companion monkey, Ragnor, that I missed some key information the first time around! (Magnus wanted to dress the monkey like himself and I couldn’t help but think of Ikea monkey) There are some good tidbits packed in this 1-hour-ish audiobook and surprise name-drops from The Infernal Devices.
Magnus shows his usual flair in this book, and we get to learn more about how his mind works and see him think on his feet. I think the character is so fascinating and these glimpses into the past really give us a more well rounded picture of the warlock.
Maureen Johnson manages to get important historical and Shadowhunter world details right as well as bring humor to the story. There are several plot points juggled in this short story but I didn’t think it ever lost focus. This installment is an entertaining mix of adventure/danger/humor/romance and makes me eager to continue the series.
George Blagden narrates The Runaway Queen. Maybe there will be different narrators for each book? Jesse Williams narrated the first installment, and both actors do a good job with Mr. Bane. You may know George Blagden from Les Miserables, and he’s also in a TV series called Vikings. I see on IMDB that Blagden is fluent in French, and that comes in handy in this audiobook with the Paris setting. I think his voice complements Bane’s personality and dry sense of humor. It’s a fine line not to make Bane sound too campy but Blagden gets it right. His voice for the French vampire assistant is quite humorous. Blagden does a great job overall.
The next book in the series is Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale, co-written by Sarah Rees Brennan, due out June 18. It takes place in Victorian London and features vampire Camille Belcourt and Shadowhunter Edmund Herondale. Sounds like a fun one!
Check out an interview with George Blagden discussing the audiobook: