Justin Richards: The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery (Doctor Who) (review)

Angels-Kiss-coverThis is the best audio book I’ve ever listened to. By far! I loved it. Absolutely loved it. So be warned. There might be gushing ahead.

But first – a bit of back story. If you follow Doctor Who, you know this novel is connected to the season 7’s episode 5 The Angels Take Manhattan. In this episode, the Doctor reads a mystery novel about a detective called Melody Malone and it turns out the novel is very important in helping the Doctor figure out what’s happening. The weeping angels causes Rory to be sent back in time where he meets River Song – and of course she is the writer of the mystery novel and uses the pen name Melody Malone. This of course also explains why the Doctor is so attracted to the female lead in the novel … It being River Song and all.

This novel is a prequel to the novel featured in The Angels Take Manhattan and it features Melody Malone, of course. Melody owns the Angel Detective Agency and she is hired by a famous actor who suspects someone is trying to kill him. He invites her to a party but when she shows up, he doesn’t remember her. And as Melody correctly points out, she is not easily forgettable. So how come he doesn’t remember her? And why is he talking about an angel’s kiss?

tumblr_inline_mjvt0qnSlc1qf7o5a

The story is rather simple and it takes less than two hours to listen to. But this story is written by Justin Richards and read by Alex Kingston. And this combination is magic. Justin Richards nails River Song/Melody Malone perfectly and has written the most amazing lines for Alex Kingston to read. There’s a smart ass remark or joke in so many of the lines and it kept me smiling or even laughing for most of it’s duration. I loved lines like this: ‘He looked at me with what might have been sympathy or possibly disappointment. I’m not sure which as I don’t go looking for sympathy and I rarely disappoint.’ or ‘The secret is not just to be stunning which I find comes rather easily to be honest. The tricky thing is getting exactly the right level of stun for the occasion.’ Delivered perfectly by Kingston.

Alex Kingston’s reading of the lines are absolutely amazing. She is just as good as she is in the tv show and that is saying something. She comes across as sexy and sassy and as a big flirt. But a smart flirt. And a woman who knows her own assets and are not afraid to flaunt them. She knows her worth.

I wold still love to read the actual novel featured in the episode and read about Rory and Amy and River’s reactions to what happens to them so I hope this will be published at some point (although I doubt it). But in the mean time, I adored listening to Alex Kingston reading this one.

  • Title: The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery
  • Author: By Melody Malone with Justin Richards
  • Publisher: BBC Books
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages:  80 pages
  • Length: 1 hrs 42 min
  • Narrated by: Alex Kingston
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

Related posts:

A.J. Jacobs: The Know-It-All (review)

tumblr_llfdx4MoQy1qg04ipo1_500-1Years ago, when I lived in a rented apartment, I wanted to get a pet. Dogs and cats were not allowed but to my surprise I discovered that rabbits were classified as fish and/or birds and were perfectly okay to have. So I got a rabbit (and two more – I love rabbits!). I’ve always found the ‘rabbits are fish’ classification strange but by reading this book, I’ve discovered there’s a precedence for this. Apparently, at some point in history monks were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. What did they do? They decided that baby rabbits are really … wait for it… fish, of course, and therefore they could be eaten on Fridays. So apparently this way of thinking of rabbits as fish is nothing new. Interesting what you can learn from reading a book about a guy reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica.

As the blog name might suggest, I really like bunnies. So of course I also enjoyed what he wrote about the Fibonacci Sequence because Fibonacci figured out the sequence based on the reproduction of bunnies… Yes, I know. It’s a bit weird but interesting!

I was also fascinated by his attempts to get public recognition as the world’s smartest man by participating on Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He succeeds in getting on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? where he doesn’t do too good. But that’s part of the backstory of the book – what is true knowledge? What is wisdom? Is the endless collecting of facts truly knowledge? He doesn’t give a final answer to this but he does get many associations to what he’s read when he goes about his daily life and to me at least, that is a good thing because it gives your life more depth when you can connect it to the lives of other people, other cultures, natural science, philosophy etc.

Overall, this is an interesting book and I’m really fascinated by how he is able to write an interesting book based on reading the Encyclopedia. Even though what he finds fascinating, isn’t always what I would have found fascinating – he has more the mindset of a teenage boy than I do – it’s still amusing and I was very well entertained.

However, it did get a bit repetitive. Like the beauty patches from France was mentioned twice in the book – even with the same details. Where’s the editor? He also repeats himself from Drop Dead Healthy – or rather, it’s the other way around, since this book was published earlier. I just listened to Drop Dead Healthy first. It seems in some ways that A.J. doesn’t expect people to read more than one of his books since he uses the exact same details in his books. Also, I’m really not sure  if it’s correct to use Alexander the Great as an example of Roman warfare – as far as I know, Alexander was not Roman…

I listened to the audio version of this book. My first issue with it was that it wasn’t narrated by A.J. Jacobs himself and since I had just finished listening to Drop Dead Healthy which A.J. did narrate, this annoyed me. Especially since this is a biography/memoir. It feels weird when you know the voice of the author, and you have heard him talk about his family, to suddenly listen to another man talk about the same family – in the same way. However, when I got used to Geoffrey Cantor’s voice and narration, it worked okay for me.

But my biggest issue with the audio book was that between each letter of the Encyclopedia, they play a brief jazz tune, maybe 5 seconds. This is extremely annoying! What’s that about? I’m listening to a book – I don’t want to have it interrupted by music bits that have nothing to do with what I’m listening to. And especially not bad annoying music!

Reading this book makes me want to tackle a similar project of my own. But what? Frederick Copleston’s History of Philosophy in 11 volumes? Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time? All novels by Joyce Carol Oates or Stephen King? Not sure which – I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

  • Title: The Know-It-All. One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
  • Author: A.J. Jacobs
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster
  • Year: 2005
  • Pages: 389 pages
  • Length: 14 hrs 47 min
  • Narrated by: Geoffrey Cantor
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Related posts:

A.J. Jacobs: Drop Dead Healthy (review)

healthy-1So if you are in your 40s and starting to get a bit chubby – or at least your wife starts making comments about your tummy – what do you do? Well, if you are A.J. Jacobs, you of course see it as a chance to take on a new project. A.J. has previously spent time living biblically as well as reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. So of course, after taking care of his mind and spirit, he now focuses on the body and he decides to become the healthiest person alive. To be as healthy as humanely possible – or even more than that – from head to toe.
To do so, he puts together a 53 pages long list of things to improve, things to try out and daily tasks to perform. He embarks on a series of diets, exercise programs and health appointments. He dedicates weeks and months to various parts of the body. He is tested and prodded and probed. He tries to live as a raw food vegan, eating a paleo diet and more. He buys gadgets and head phones and generally annoys his surroundings with his behavior. He tries to eat as many super foods in one meal as possible – while also discussing if such thing as a super food even exists. He learns about hygiene, the best way of chewing, finger fitness and so much more.
The book was a funny journey through the health industry’s many twists and turns and what it reveals more than anything is that although we know a lot about health, there’s also a lot we don’t know. And what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another. He does try to show both sides of things – raw food vegan diet v. the paleo diet or bacteria phobia v. the ideas that we are quite capable of dealing with the bacteria in our surroundings.
There are a few things you can take with you from this book. It is important to be mindful when you eat. Maybe not so mindful that you visualize eating a blueberry for 10 minutes before actually eating it, but pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Also move more. It’s undeniably healthy to move and even though one doesn’t have to do it the A.J. way where you run errands or write while walking on a tread mill (although it does seem proven that sitting is just about the worst thing we can do), we just need to move, move, move. And then also remember to take care of ourselves by paying attention to our sleep, notice our surroundings and how noisy they are and spending time with our loved ones.
It’s a very personal journey A.J. takes. It’s not a book to read if you want clear cut advice about what to eat if you want to be healthy but as a funny backdrop to listen to while walking the dog or doing the dishes, it’s excellent. I didn’t learn much new information but even though it was a bit of old news, the presentation of them is so full of humor that it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard it before. A.J. himself narrates the audio version of this book and it makes it even more personal to listen to his various successes and failures, his relationships with his wife, sons, parents, grandfather and aunt. He brings even more life and humor to the text and he did inspire me to take some really long walks with my dog to keep on listening.

  • Title: Drop Dead Healthy
  • Author: A.J. Jacobs
  • Publisher: Simon & Shuster
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 402 pages
  • Length: 10 hrs 10 mins
  • Narrated by: A.J. Jacobs
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl (review)

mmag-book-2-300x0So I’ve just finished listening to Gone Girl. One of the most talked about books in recent times – and also just longlisted for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction (The Price formerly known as the Orange Prize). It’s one of those must-read books, but not so hyped that it scares people away, I think. So I was excited to listen to this one – and it’s a perfect book to listen to.
Nick and Amy Dunn have been married for 5 years when Amy suddenly disappears. They have been madly in love, complementing each other perfectly but after they both loose their jobs and they had to leave New York to move to the Midwest to take care of Nick’s dad suffering from Alzheimers and Nick’s mom who has been diagnosed with cancer, things have been spiraling downhill. So on the morning of their 5 years anniversary, Amy is gone. The house shows signs of a struggle and it seems clear that someone has taken Amy against her will.
As is typical in such cases, the police rather soon zooms in on Nick. It’s always the husband, isn’t it? Especially when the husband turns out to be a liar. But even though he tells us that he lies, he comes across as somewhat sympathetic.

The book shifts between Nick’s point of view at the day of her disappearance and the days after and Amy’s from the time they met each other, 5 years ago, taken from her diary.  So we get to know Amy from her own words. It is clear from the diary that their relationship means a lot to Amy and that he disappoints her by not remembering details from their relationships; details, which she uses to create a treasure hunt for him each year on their anniversary.

Of course Amy has made a treasure hunt for Nick again this year and for once, Amy has made a treasure hunt where it’s actually possible for Nick to understand the hints; a treasure hunt, where it seems that Amy is doing her best to rekindle her and Nick’s relationship. But it all seems to late – both because she is missing and because of Nick’s lack of feelings for her.

Everything seem to point to Nick as responsible for Amy’s disappearance. He seems to incriminate himself in the things he says to the readers/listeners. Things like ‘I would do anything to feel real again.’ He says this after he has talked about how his generation never discovers anything for the first time. Maybe he wanted to do something to Amy to feel real for once? It is clear from both his story and from Amy’s, especially as they leave New York and she starts feeling like a non-person, like property that has to be packed and unpacked, that she could just disappear, and that Nick is supposed to be the one we blame for Amy’s disappearance. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve heard a lot about this book before listening to it, but this felt too easy for me so I constantly listen after things in Amy’s story that would show that this wasn’t so.

What makes this book’s rather simple plot – girl goes missing, husband is blamed –  interesting, is the way it’s told. In alternate chapters, Nick and Amy each get to talk and tell their sides. In the first part, Nick tells the present where Amy has gone missing, Amy tells the past, their story – how they met, how they came to leave New York, how their relationship started growing sour. It’s a he said, she said kind of story and this is a really clever idea by the author. It’s one of those books where the form makes the matter so much better. The reader stands in the middle of a relationship going down hill and gets to decide for him/herself who to believe – and, more importantly probably, who to blame. This really works!

The book is broken into three parts. I’m not going to talk about the later parts of the book because I don’t want to ruin it for anybody else. Because it is a thrilling read. While listening to it, I really had trouble stopping. I just wanted to keep on listening. Still, I had major problems with it. I was particularly impressed with the first part of it where I was still guessing. Later on, it turns out that I wasn’t correct in everything but in some of it. And I never get these things right. As I progressed in the book, it started feeling a bit too long and also to get a bit repetitive. Also, I had issues with Amy’s behavior at points. It simply didn’t feel convincing to me.

I admit that I enjoyed listening to it but my probably biggest issue with it was, that when I had finished it, I just didn’t care anymore. While reading it, I was already beginning to loose interest a bit. I didn’t find the end satisfying and when I was done with it, the characters and their issues just didn’t stay with me.

  • Title: Gone Girl
  • Author: Gillian Flynn
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 419 pages
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Lisa Shearin: All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) (review – audiobook)

All-Spell-Breaks-Loose-final-cover-186x300I have reached the end of this series! And there was much rejoicing! Now, don’t get me wrong. It has been an allright experience but it hasn’t been more than that and the books feel very similar. Except for specific plot details, I feel like I should just quote my review of the fifth book in the series, Con & Conjure, because I’m not sure how much new I have to say about the series as a whole or the narration of the audio books.

So things have never looked more grim for Raine Benares, the spunky seeker. After having been bonded to the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, since early in the first book in this series, things have been cumulatively going from bad to worse but now, things are really bad. Sarad Nukpana, psychopath par excellence, has finally succeeded in getting the Saghred and after a goblin attack on Mid, Raine, her boyfriend Mychael, her former umi’atso-bound friend Tam and others decides to head to the Goblin capital of Regor to get the Saghred back from Nukpana and put the renegade prince Chigaru Mal’Salin back on the throne as well as reunite him with his girlfriend who Nukpana intends to marry. But to get there, they have to rely on Raine’s arch enemy Sylvanus Carnades since he’s a mirror mage and the only one who can get them to Regor and back safely.

Only issue – or not really only – but one of the big issues is that Raine has lost her magic. The Saghred has shut her down. She tries to hide this and it is actually rather helpful for sneaking around in Regor, but of course she can’t hide it for long and that of course creates a whole new host of problems.

The trip to Regor gives Shearin the chance to let us meet more of Tam’s family as well as Nukpana’s mother, Tam’s former teacher Kesyn Badru and more. Several of these are quite interesting although not quite as interesting as cousin Mago or Nachtmagus Vidor Kalta, who’s probably my favorite character in the series – him or Imala Kalis, the head of goblin security.

I missed Vegard a bit in this book. The big guardian is left behind on Mid to be stand-in for Mychael and make sure that the student population is not killed by the goblins – together with Raine’s pirate family. It makes sense to the story line, but I still missed Vegard’s attempt at keeping Raine safe – including sitting on her – and her flamboyant cousin Phaelan.

So the Saghred is of course hugely important in this whole series. And I have some issues with that. This rock seems to have a consciousness – at least it bears a serious grudge against Raine. I’m not sure that the idea of consciousness in objects really works in this world and parts of the plot hinges on that. I know it’s minor issue if you’re just able to suspend disbelief, however, it did mean that the final showdown didn’t quite work for me, even though it was otherwise very well executed.

This novel marks the end of the story arch that has been developed through all six books in the series. This doesn’t mean that this series is necessarily over. Lisa Shearin does leave room to take the characters up again and write some new adventures for Raine and Mychael on Mid so for people really enjoying this series, there’s hope. I’m not sure I will read another Raine Benares novel but I might read another Lisa Shearin novel. I think there’s a lot of potential in her writing.

  • Title: All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 20112
  • Pages: 303 pages
  • Time: 9 hours 19 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure (Raine Benares #5) (review – audiobook)

It’s actually really hard to write reviews of this series since they all just seem to blur together. Yes, I know I start listening to the next one as soon as I finish one but they are all so similar that it’s difficult to separate them.

This of course is the Raine Benares series. It consists of six books, taking place over a rather short amount of time. In the first book, Raine helps a friend steal a necklace with a stone. She puts it on – and is instantly bonded with the rock which turns out to be the Saghred, a soul stealing nasty thing that can destroy whole kingdoms and normally, turns it’s wearer, it’s bond-servant, insane. However, Raine is able to wear the rock without getting insane and the rest of the series is spend with Raine trying to get rid of the stone and find a way to destroy it as well as trying to avoid the psychopath Sarad Nukpana who wants both her and the rock. Luckily, Raine has help from not only her friends but also from new friends like Paladin Mychael Ellisor and archmagus Justinius Justinius Valerian.

As per usual, this one starts off with a bang. The conflict between the goblins and elves is slowly escalating and when the Goblin prince Chigaru Mal’Salin arrives to Mid, things gets moving. The prince is wanted dead by almost everyone so before he even sets food on Mid, several assassins try to kill him. Luckily, Raine is there to save him – even though not all the goblins see it that way.

While the elves – or at least some of them, led by Sylvanus Carnades – is trying to get their hands on Raine, having a specially prepared cell ready for her with magic-reducing manacles in the cellars of the elven embassy, the Goblin king and Sarad Nukpana is preparing to attack the elves – and just being nasty as usual.

It seems to me that the new characters being introduced in these last books in the series, are rather more interesting than some of the ones who have been in all the books. In this one, we’re introduced to Raine’s cousin Mago, a banker, who’s of course still in the family business of sneaking, stealing and other sorts of criminal activity. He’s the prince’s banker and is of course in an excellent position to help Raine. Also, we have Raine’s ex-boyfriend and former fiancé who is a most skilled assassin who’s of course after the prince. And maybe others? Someone at least is taking shots at Mychael.

So when you listen to a whole series, it’s hard to come up with something new to say about the narrator for each book. However, when you have listened to a whole series and the narrator suddenly starts saying something in a different way, it does distract from the listening experience. For some reason, in this book Eileen Stevens has started saying ‘the Saghred’ in a different way.The Saghred is mentioned a lot and every time, she says the word in this new way, I start wondering why she has changed it and it takes me out of the listening experience and ruins the flow of the story for me.

Other than that, this is just like the other books in the series. Plenty of action, very fast pace, some things are repeated over and over etc. If you’ve come this far in the series, you know exactly what you get. It’s decent light fantasy. It’s quite entertaining when you read it/listen to it but nothing more. I do admit that at a few points in this one, I really didn’t want to put it down but just to keep on listening but normally, I don’t think about it when not listening to it. I’m actually looking forward to finishing this series so I can try out other audiobooks and see if my lack of enthusiasm is because of the book or the medium I experience them through.

  • Title: Con & Conjure
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 323 pages
  • Time: 9 hours 19 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares #4) (review – audiobook)

This book starts a few weeks after the last one left out. Because of the demon queen’s attempt to rescue her husband, some souls escaped from the Saghred, this mighty rock our main protagonist Raine Benares is stuck with. Of course, her arch enemy and serious sadistic black mage Sarad Nukpana is one of the souls who escaped from the Saghred and of course, Raine has to try and  find him. Preferably before he finds her. Only trouble is – maybe Nukpana is even more dangerous than expected. Maybe he has found a creepy ritual that will enable him to bring him back to life or else he’s just being even more evil and creepy than usual. In either case, his idea of gifts – as in the sucked dried, leathery smelling husks of dead elven generals – really needs improving.

So Raine has to find a way to find Nukpana who is working on becoming corporeal again – with the help of his uncle, a very dark and cruel nachtmagus, a man who toys with the dead and their souls for fun. Nukpana’s plan is to suck the life, soul and memories out of enough people to make himself corporeal again – and with each kiss of death, he becomes even more powerful. And more difficult to stop.

A couple of new characters really stepped up to the plate this time around and greatly enhanced the reading experience. Imala Kalis, the head of goblin security – as well as the cutest little thing with dimples. She knows Tam from his time at Goblin court and they pretty much rubbed each other the wrong way. So much in fact, that Imala stabbed him at one point. However, she’s back and she’s great! I hope she will be a huge part in the remaining two books – and since the inevitable war between elves and goblins seem to be getting closer and closer, I think she will be a huge part in the attempt to avoid this war.

However, my favorite new character in this book is Nachtmagus Vidor Kalta. He is this seemingly creepy man who works with raising the dead – or so it seems. In reality, he is an extremely clever man who knows his business, has deep respect for the work he does – and isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in, which creates one of the best scenes in the book when he actually makes Silvanus the little man in a discussion. Priceless!

I also enjoyed that Mychael got out from his desk and really became part of the action this time around. We get to see Mychael in action, actually in ways we hadn’t expected of our knight in shining armor. Parts of his past is revealed and it’s not exactly the past we expected either. All these things mean that Mychael becomes a more well-rounded character – who even knows his way around a bordello… and isn’t afraid to go under-cover.

Also, we actually finally get the love triangle between Raine, Mychael and Tam resolved. Raine made the choice I had expected – although resulting in a rather bad sex scene that I could have lived without (and I’m a bit sad that it wasn’t better since I wrote in my review of the third book in the series that I genuinely enjoyed it when Lisa Shearin played the sexual innuendo game – maybe it just got too explicit and left no room for the humor that so far has been the best part of every sexually loaded situation). However, the bond between Raine, Mychael and Tam is also changed in this book – no longer a threesome. The way of fixing this was clever and rather unexpected – and this part of the plot gave me a bit of a surprise that I enjoyed and it created some great tensions and gut wrenching moments for Raine (as well as a excellent fundament for the further books in the series).

The issues I have with this book, are the same as I’ve had with every book in the series. There are a lot of recaps of what has happened before and it really gets too repetitive. Also, Raine still keeps mentioning that she’s a Benares and therefore, no good – although one should think that after all what she, her cousin and uncle has been doing to help the Guardians, it should no longer matter to her that some high elves might not like her name – especially since she doesn’t like them. So enough already. The Benares family has proven itself – no reason to keep pretending to believe yourself a lowlife. Also – what’s up with the teeth? Everyone smiling has to bare their teeth or fangs – and I think it has been mentioned in every book that a goblin’s fangs are not just for decorative use. Again – enough! Raine’s way of handling things, her sarcastic thoughts and replies to every situation, sometimes feel very off. Not every situation demands a snarky reply!

When listening to these books, I often get a sense of something not being right. Something happens and I think ‘wait a minute – how can that happen?’ It seems to me that this world and it’s magic as well as the various creatures living in it, are not quite consistent. That small changes are made to both the characters and the laws of magic as it suits the plot. Some of the mages also seem extremely powerful – and there seem to be no drawback to using magic. You can just go on and on, throwing out one powerful spell after another and you don’t get drained. You do when you heal people – but not when using spells. I would have liked to see a more developed magical system (that’s one thing I love about the DragonLance series for instance – that mages constantly have to commit spells to memory to be able to use them).

Also, it does feel like Raine, Mychael and Tam – with the support of Archmagus Justinius – should be making progress with at least some of their enemies, specifically the high elf Silvanus who has been after Raine from when she arrived on Mid. We all know that he’s power hungry, we know he wants to rid himself of both Raine, Tam and Mychael and we know that Justinius knows this as well. With Silvanus’ abilities to lock people up as he sees fit, shouldn’t the other side be able to do something about him too? Like maybe just lock him up for slandering, lying and being deceitful? With the combined resources of Raine, Mychael, Tam and Justinius, they ought to have had time to spend 5 minutes tossing about ideas about how to get rid of him – and then just do it. It’s not believable that these very capable people can’t fix at least him. I get that he may be needed for the plot – but if it isn’t believable that he stays free and in power, Shearin has to find another way to move her plot forward.

We did get rid of one of the main bads – and even though that was solved off-camera, so to speak, it was a nice way to end that part of the plot and it made sense. The plot in this book was moved forward and we’re left with a plan for how to proceed.

I haven’t got anything new to say about the narration.Eileen Stevens does her job well, her voice is the voice of Raine to me, and she adds little touches here and there that adds to the listening experience. I still think some of her male voices sound a bit too alike but overall, it works well.

Now, if you haven’t already read/listened to this book, you might want to stop reading now. There’s going to be a bit of spoilers, I think. One thing I don’t quite get is why can’t they just cut open the Saghred and release the souls and diminish it’s power that way? The bloody rock is the cause of all Raine’s problems and with Nukpana now having a bit of link to it as well – or at least Saghred-enhanced powers like Raine – I see no reason to not just cut up the stone, release the souls – and just make sure there’s Reapers around to eat them. Wouldn’t it make it easier for everyone if the stone was dried out – or am I missing something here? Also, I thought the way the umi’atso bond issue was solved was excellent – however, I can’t stop wondering if the Saghred who created the bond in the first place, can’t just do so again…

If you’ve made it this far, I will end by saying, that overall, I do enjoy these books. They are light and fun fantasy romps which suffers a bit from a not completely developed world and a at times too high-paced plot. However, they are enjoyable and at times hard to put down and works great as light entertainment.

  • Title: Bewitched & Betrayed
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2010
  • Pages:  366 pages
  • Time:  13 hours  25 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3  stars out of 5

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: The Trouble With Demons (Raine Benares #3) (review – audiobook)

True to form, this third volume in the Raine Benares series starts with a bang. Or rather – The Isle of Mit gets invaded by demons coming in through a Hellgate and of course, Raine is right in the middle of it. Luckily, Raine is able to save the day yet again, with a little help from Tam. Since the Saghred has made sure that Raine and Tam are bonded together to try and make Tam feed it when Raine steadily refuses, Raine is now able to use some of Tam’s magic and power and boost her Saghred enhanced skills even more.

So why are all these demons doing on Mid? Turns out, one of the souls trapped in the Saghred is the demon king and of course, the demon queen wants him back. With a Hellgate raised somewhere on Mid, demons come pouring out. Rudra, the Saghred’s former bond servant, is also on the loose, enjoying himself immensely, trying to wreck as much havoc as possible while getting back in control of the Saghred.

A bad situation gets even worse when Raine finds out that not only can the Saghred be opened and souls released from it, the demon queen wants her to find the dagger forged to do this. A dagger that can be found by a virgin. On a college island. Where students soon discover that to get laid is actually a way of protecting yourself. Of course, Raine succeeds – and of course we all know who the virgin is.

So besides demons being on the loose all over Mid, not much has changed. Raine is still caught between Tam and Mychael, she is still being pursued by Nukpana and in this book, by Rudra especially. She still has lots of spunky replies to everything, no matter what situation she finds herself in and she still rushes headfirst into trouble, without stopping to think. While this is light, action-packed fantasy, it would be nice if once in a while, she did take a breather, listened to advice and acted accordingly. That said, these books take place over a very short amount of time and so, she of course isn’t given much time to ponder her actions – or her love life. But since I think Lisa Shearin has a lot of humor in her writing when the action slows down, I would like to see more of that. Towards the end of this novel, there’s some very amusing scenes between Mychael and Raine and since Shearin has set this three-way between Tam, Mychael and Raine up, there’s plenty of room for sexual innuendo – like the finding of a virgin to help her find a dagger or Mychael having to heal by being naked in bed with Rane… I actually find Shearin at her best when she writes these scenes with lots of humor and lots of sexual tension.

I did like that we got to see more of Justinius, the archmagus. He’s one cool old bugger – with a lot of power! I also think some of the other lesser characters – like the leader of the demon department – are rather entertaining. And, of course, Vegard. Big burly Vegard. The poor Guardian who has gotten the job of keeping Raine safe. Definitely not an easy gig. I like Vegard! He’s a big, dangerous, puppy dog!

My main issue with this book is the same as I had with the second volume. It gets too repetitive. Again, yes, we know you’re a Benares, yes, we know that the Benares are a family of thieves and pirates, and yes we know that Mychael is law abiding and that causes trouble and no decent persons will look your way – yes, yes, yes. We get it. You’ve been saying it for three books now. And why is that everyone smiling shows their fangs or teeth all the time? It makes sense in some cases that the goblins want to show their fangs to show their weapons, but everyone does it over and over. Stop mentioning it!

I’m hoping the 4th book in this series will flesh out Tam and Mychael more – so far, they are still just pure good and pure (reformed) evil and each other’s opposites and it would make the love triangle more interesting if you actually knew enough about these two to be able to root for one of them. I’m also hoping that Shearin will realize that if readers are reading the 4th book in a series, it’s their own fault if they haven’t read the first three and they should go do so – she doesn’t have to retell everything that has happened in the series once more! We got it. Let’s move on! And finally – no more showing of teeth and fangs, no more ‘I’m a Benares’ crap. And then we’ll have us a good book!

As this is an audiobook, I want to comment on the narrator. While Eileen Stevens has become the voice of Raine to me, and her way of reading is overall quite good, I do think there are a few issues with her making voices. To me, some of the male characters sound too much the same and sometimes, that’s a bit confusing. It’s not a huge thing, it’s just a small complaint. Overall, Eileen Stevens does a good enough job for me to enjoy listening to it.

All in all, this book didn’t progress the series’ story arch that much. There simply wasn’t time to investigate how to get rid of the Saghred and in the end, Raine is almost worse off than she was in the beginning. With that said, this book really sets up the next book(s) nicely, maybe hinting at what Raine needs to get rid of the Saghred but also setting the scene for even worse trouble than has been the cause so far. This feels like a typical middle book and hopefully, Shearin can cash in on the ideas she hints at.

  • Title: The Trouble With Demons
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2009
  • Pages: 370 pages
  • Time: 13 hours 41 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars:  3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: Armed & Magic (Raine Benares #2) (review – audiobook)

So no rest for the wicked. This book has barely begun before the action starts. And not just some nice and easy action, no this is full-blown all-out action. Raine Benares, our main protagonist, has arrived to the Island of Mid to get help to deal with the Saghred but also to be protected from the Goblins, she made so very angry in the first book in the series. Since she has bonded with the Saghred, the most powerful artifact, she can’t just give it up but need magical help for that so of course she turns to the Conclave and it’s Guardians to get the help she need. But she hasn’t been long on the island before an assassination attempt is made on the Paladin Mychael Eiliosior and the Archmagus Justinius Valerian, Raine saves the day – but in doing so, she shows the world what she is now capable of, after being in contact with the Saghred. And that was exactly what the notorious elven assassin, leader of the Nightshades, was counting on. He manages to escape – taking with him a young blonde woman.

But this young woman is not the only one who is kidnapped. Young spellsingers start disappearing. Luckily, Raine is able to connect with them by using her seeker powers, enhanced by the Saghred (which reminds me – whatever happened to Quentin, the thief who officially stole the Saghred? We haven’t heard of him since early in the first book.). Trouble is, no one really believes her except Paladin Mychael Eiliesor and some of his men. She has powerful adversaries on the Council of Twelve. the council in control of sorcerers and sorcery. And of course, they’re not the only ones interested in Raine – and the Saghred. She attracts trouble wherever she is – and on top of the Elven assassinators, the Elven ambassador, the Goblin lawyers and (at least some of) the Council of Twelve, well, there’s of course the main villain from the first book, Nukpana who even though he is caught in the Saghred is able to talk to her – and manifest himself in front of her, enjoying himself rather too much when he does so while she’s taking a bath. And if that’s not enough trouble, there’s also the Saghred’s best friend…

I’m listening to these as audiobooks and I enjoy them a lot. They’re perfect for this medium. But the worst thing with listening to fantasy novels as audiobooks is, that you have no idea how to spell anything. All the names of people and places and things are of course spelled in certain ways – and since I don’t read the actual pages of the book, I have no idea how to do this. So to be able to write this review, I’ve had to google a lot to find the correct ways of spelling…

I also got a bit confused at one point. Shearin has pointed out over and over that to avoid being affected by spellsingers, you have to have some kind of shield to protect you. Either your own person shield or, if a spellsinger performs at a restaurant or a bar, the stage is shielded so the audience doesn’t get affected. The music rooms where the student spellsingers practice are also shielded – and when a vent isn’t covered probably, Piaras almost put the entire citadel to sleep, including the Saghred. Everyone who didn’t put up shields, were affected. But suddenly, Piaras can intend it for some present and not necessarily target all who hear it – how? And even in a battle situation, can’t people put up personal shields? Is this a consistency issue or did I miss something? Is he just that talented?

One thing that is a bit annoying in these book, is the repetitiveness. I can’t count the number of times Raine talks about her family and their bad reputation. She does so over and over and over again – both in the first and in this second volume. Yes, yes, yes, we know the Benares family are pirates, robbers and kidnappers – we know.  Yes, we get that that means they don’t like paying for things and they like their weapons. Now let’s move on with the story. Also, Shearin has a tendency to repeat herself by using the exact same phrases to describe the same thing. When you describe something in a very particular way, don’t repeat it.

I also think Raine lacks a bit of introspection – at least when it comes to the men in her life. She’s pretty much ready to be swept off her feet whenever Tam or Mychael offer. She is yet to have any thoughts about preferring the one to the other – she just seem to prefer the one who’s there. And while that is a valid choice, of course, and all this might just be me being prudish, I would like her to choose one. I don’t know if I prefer Mychael or Tam – but actually, we don’t know much about either one, except one is goblin, one is human, both are extremely good-looking, one is a bad boy, the other is one of the really good guys… All pretty standard for such books.

Still, in conclusion – despite the minor grievances listed above, I really have fun listening to these books. Even though the banter between Raine and her friends can be a bit too much, especially in battle situations, it’s still entertaining banter and if you enjoy light fantasy with non-stop action, humor and very fast pacing, these books are definitely recommendable.

  • Title: Armed & Magic (Raine Benares #2)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2008
  • Pages: 293 pages
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares #1) (review – audio)

So I’ve had this fantasy trilogy on my to-read list for a while now. It’s written by Lisa Shearin and looked like a great series with lots of action, fighting and fun. A nice easy fantasy read. I decided it was perfect to try for my first audio books in several years. I started listening and after listening a bit to the first one, I checked out the author’s homepage – only to find out, this isn’t a trilogy. I don’t know why I think that fantasy books always come in trilogies (or, I do – I blame it on the way Lord of the Rings was published). Anyway, I just assume this. I did it with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s brilliant Shadows of the Apt series. I bought three volumes, excited about this fantasy bug trilogy – only to discover that it’s supposed to be in 10 volumes…! And now this Raine Benares series – not a trilogy, no, so far there’s published 5 books with the sixth installment being published later this month…

Anyways. Enough of me ranting. As I’ve written earlier, I decided to listen to this book because I needed something fun and interesting to distract me while gardening. And it certainly did live up to my expectations. So much that I didn’t only listen to it while gardening – I also listened to it while cleaning the oven. And … I actually want to be in my garden pulling up weeds, something that has never happened to me before. But I want to listen to the book and so, I pull up weeds.

This is the story of Raine Benares, a Sorceress and Seeker. When Quentin, one of her friends, takes on a job to rob a necromancer’s house, Raine decides to watch over him to make sure he gets through it alive – without him knowing. Raine’s cousin Phaelan tacks along and suddenly the three of them find themselves fighting goblin shamans appearing out of nowhere. The trio makes it out alive but when Quentin goes to deliver the retrieved object, he finds himself in trouble again. With more goblins.

For Quentin’s protection, Raine has taken over the object he stole. It turns out to be a very old silver medallion – with a mind of it’s own. It doesn’t want Raine to take it of, it enhances her powers – and it makes everyone look for her. And not everyone nice. See, this medallion isn’t just an ordinary medallion – but what it is, exactly, is hard to find out for Raine. And when she does find out, it’s from highly unlikely sources. How to get rid of it again, is even harder to figure out. In her attempt to rid herself of it, her loved ones are endangered more than once as she is herself. But her possession of the medallion also introduces her to new – and rather pleasant – acquaintances.

There is a bit of a love triangle that doesn’t improve much on the overall storyline, in this novel at least – maybe it will in the sequels. It doesn’t get in the way of the story though so it’s not a real irritation (it just seems that love triangles are all over the place, see  Twilight and Hunger Games).

This is a great fantasy ride. It’s got lots of action, not a lot of slow parts. It keeps a fast pace and really moves the story along. It does this in a great way and it makes it a perfect light fantasy read. What I really appreciate about this book, is the amount of humor in it. There is, though, a bit of repetitiveness in the way it’s written – she clutches things in her white-knuckled hands several times in a few pages. It feels like the author wanted to write a certain something and wasn’t quite sure where to write it – and then missed deleting these repetitive sentences while editing. Overall, the writing flows easily and gets the story told in a good way.

So with this being an audio book, I of course have to comment on Eileen Stevens, the narrator. For the most part, I enjoyed her. I liked her reading voice and the sound of her voice is the sound of Raine Benares to me. However, I didn’t feel she did the male voices very well – they all sounded a bit alike. That being said, I didn’t need her to do more than she did for me to enjoy this listen and to be able to distinguish between who was talking.

Overall, I highly recommend this book as a light, easy and very entertaining fantasy novel that works perfect for the audio way of ‘reading’. I had a really good time listening to it and I’m looking forward to listening to the next in the series, Armed & Magical.

  • Title: Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares #1)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2007
  • Pages: 352 pages
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars:  4 stars out of 5

Related posts: