Review: The Murders at Astaire Castle by Lauren Carr

Welcome to Lauren Carr’s Audiobook-a-palooza Blog Tour! To celebrate the release of Lauren Carr’s mysteries in audiobook format, we have 14 books from her three series on tour!

 


To follow the tour and to read reviews, please visit Lauren Carr’s page on iRead Book Tours.
Today we stop at
The Murders at Astaire Castle, book 5 of The Mac Faraday Mystery Series:


Buy the Audiobook ~ Book

 

 

 

Book Description:

 


Never tell Mac Faraday not to do something.

Spencer’s police chief, David O’Callaghan, learns this lesson the hard way when he orders Mac Faraday to stay away from the south end of Spencer’s mountaintop – even though he owns the property. It doesn’t take long for Mac to find out what lies on the other side of the stone wall and locked gate, on which hangs a sign warning visitors to Keep Out!

Topping the list of the 10 top haunted places in America, Astaire Castle is associated with two suicides, three mysterious disappearances, and four murders since it was built almost a century ago – and Mac Faraday owns it!

In spite of David’s warning, Mac can’t resist unlocking the gate to see the castle that supposedly hasn’t seen a living soul since his late mother had ordered it closed up after the double homicide and disappearance of Damian Wagner, a world-famous master of horror novels.

What starts out as a quick tour of a dusty old castle turns into another Mac Faraday adventure when Astaire Castle becomes the scene of even more murders. Mac is going to need to put all of his investigative talents to work to sort out this case that involves the strangest characters he has run into yet – including a wolf man. No, we’re not talking about Gnarly.

 

My thoughts:

This is the fifth book in the Mac Faraday Mystery Series, and the second book I listened to. Like Old Loves Die Hard, this can be read as a stand-alone novel. All the characters and their connections are properly introduced, and although it is clear that we’ve moved on in time, I never felt I missed something.

In this book, the focus is more on David and his past, than it is on Mac Faraday. And David has an interesting past, a good deal of which is connected to the haunted Astaire Castle, a property belonging to Mac Faraday and of which the latter had been ignorant until now.

Strange things used to go on at the castle, and the moment Mac Faraday gets involved, the series of murders starts afresh.

It is all very mysterious, and once again, the ending is perplexing (good job that I’m not a private investigator). There’s even some paranormal activity, but it is believable, considering the whole circumstances.

I really like the characters of Mac Faraday, Archie, David, and the rest, but I absolutely love Gnarly.

He’s such a great dog, and all his antics grant some comic relief. I laughed out loud on occasions, I really pictured Gnarly doing what he did. In my eyes, he is readily the best character in this series.

Last week, I said I’d love to explore the area at Deep Creek Lake, but I’d give that castle a wide berth (fortunately, it is fictional).

Dan Lawson did a wonderful job at narrating the story. I have to say that I enjoyed this narration more than the one I wrote about last week. The characters were very distinctive, especially Hector, the Australian. I’ll certainly listen to other books by Dan Lawson, his take on the novel convinced throughout — as did the story. It drew me in right from the start and is a true page turner.

My thanks go to Laura Fabiani from iread booktours who provided me with a free copy of this great audio book.

Meet the Author:

Picture

Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with LaurenWebsite  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Meet the Narrator:

Picture

Dan Lawson
Over the past several years Dan Lawson has appeared in numerous spots for radio, television and the internet. He has worked with All-State, Sprint PCS, Mountain Dew and many more. His unique ability to mimic existing characters and celebrities has landed him diverse voice match work ranging from Charlie Sheen to Morgan Freeman.

In 2008 Dan was cast as the first American voice actor for the Korean video game company, Nexon. Over the next several years Dan was the flagship voice of the company, appearing in such titles as Mabinogi, Maple Story, Vindictus, Dragon Nest, Dungeon Fighter Online and Atlantica. In total he has voiced nearly 100 characters for Nexon.

In late 2012 Dan’s voice over career took an unexpected turn into book narration. His first audition landed him the job of narrating The Psychology of Twilight, a psychological look at the wide-spread obsession of the Twilight saga created by Stephanie Meyer.  Eighteen more audiobook narrations have followed and show no signs of slowing down.

Interview: James C. Lewis (Narrator) & Review: Old Loves Die Hard by Lauren Carr (Author)

Welcome to Lauren Carr’s Audiobook-a-palooza Blog Tour! To celebrate the release of Lauren Carr’s mysteries in audiobook format, we have 14 books from her three series on tour!

 


To follow the tour and to read reviews, please visit Lauren Carr’s page on iRead Book Tours.Today we stop at
The Mac Faraday Mystery Series:
Buy the Audiobook ~ Book
Book Description:

Old loves die hard…and in the worst places.

In Old Loves Die Hard, Lauren Carr continues the rags-to-riches story of Mac Faraday, an underpaid homicide detective who inherits 270 million dollars and an estate on Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, from his birth mother on the day his divorce becomes final.

Mac is settling nicely into his new life at Spencer Manor when his ex-wife Christine shows up-and she wants him back! Before Mac can send her packing, Christine and her estranged lover are murdered in Mac’s private penthouse suite at the Spencer Inn, the five-star resort built by his ancestors.

The investigation leads to the discovery of cases files for some of Mac’s murder cases in the room of the man responsible for destroying his marriage. Why would his ex-wife’s lover come to Spencer to dig into Mac’s old cases?

With the help of his new friends on Deep Creek Lake, Mac must use all of his detective skills to clear his name and the Spencer Inn’s reputation, before its five-stars – and more bodies – start dropping!

Disclosure: Thanks to iread book tours for sending me this audio book for review. I was not told how to rate or review this product.

My thoughts:

This was my first MacFaraday novel, as well as the first novel by Lauren Carr. It is not the first book in the series, but I had absolutely no trouble following the plot, because all the characters are properly introduced, and their background is sufficiently explained, so I never felt that I missed something because I didn’t know the previous books, yet.

The story is a mystery until the very end; there are many twists and turns, and I never saw it coming. It was convincing, too. We have a great character-building here, the characters aren’t just black or white, but everything in between, most of them have something to hide, so we have lots of suspects.

I wasn’t too sure about the dog, it has a special ability which seemed odd, if not impossible, but then who knows what a well-trained, intelligent dog is capable of. I have since done a bit of research, and apparently it’s not all that abstract after all.  I absolutely loved the dog’s antics, in those moments,  he seemed to be one clever dog-like dog.

I’m now curious about the area, and I’d really love to see it for real one day. The story drew me in from the start, and kept me listening; and I look forward to listening to others in that series.

I only really just noticed the cover (I’m not a cover person), and I wonder if it could give a wrong impression. Let me assure you, that the author doesn’t dwell on all the gory details of the bloody murders here committed, and although there is some romance, it’s not at all taking place between linen sheets.

The narration was good and easy to listen to. Although there isn’t much in the way of different timbres, dialects, or accents, and all the characters sounded more or less alike to me, I didn’t really have problems following who said what, so there must have been variations after all, but they certainly weren’t overdone.

I already told you how the interview came about in a previous blog post, and here it is now:

Interview with narrator James C. Lewis (see more below):

How do you prepare for accents and different characters?

 

Once I was narrating a book of 19th century preachers in Wales. One of them was from Cynghordy, a village in the rural community of Llanfair-ar-y-bryn in Carmarhenshire. Oh my! I went to my usual sources: You Tube and several web sites. Finally I called Spire Hospital in Cardiff, the capital. (I have a phone plan that costs only one cent per minute for international calls.) But they were too busy saving lives and hung up on me. Then I phoned up the newspaper, the South Wales Argus in Cardiff. The young reporter thought I was joking. But I convinced him I was on the level. And he helped me right away! I think that my decidedly American accent may have helped.

 

Are there any genres you prefer narrating?

 

I have a fondness for crime fiction and spy dramas. I come from a journalism background. At one time, I was a police reporter in Seattle and I came to deeply respect cops and their emotionally taxing jobs. And I enjoy being the voice of the tall tough-talking private detective with the snazzy girlfriend. (I’m not very tall. But please keep that information just between us.)

 

Will you narrate any book if the conditions are right?

 

I have narrated a wide range of books but not erotica. But I’ve narrated some horror fiction with really creepy monsters. (They’re actually the best!)

What is the hardest part of narrating a book?

 

The hardest part is finding the voice of the character. Is the character old, young, angry, happy, educated, ignorant? And of course where are they from. I find that evil characters from Eastern Europe are the easiest to do. And it’s hard being confined to a small studio by myself (other than the character’s voices).

 

How is the work with the author?

 

I really like Lauren Carr’s work. Being the voice of Mac Faraday is great fun. Lauren writes for the ear as well as the eye. She would be a great screen writer. (And she’s wonderful to work with!)

I’d like to thank Mr Lewis for answering my questions, and Laura Fabiani from iread book tours for managing it all.

Meet the Author:

Picture

Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with LaurenWebsite  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Meet the Narrator:

Picture

Another Audible Approved narrator, voice actor  James Lewis has established a solid reputation in fiction as well as non-ficton audiobooks. At latest count, he’s narrated nearly 50.

Although his specialty is noir fiction, James has done several non-fiction books as well on a range of people and subjects: Butch and Sundance, General Custer, Revolutionary War, psychic development, taxes.

James Lewis has been awarded the AudioFile Earphone Award for narration, „The Last Outlaws“. It’s about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

 

Coming up: Review of Old Loves Die Hard / Interview with James Lewis

 

As part of Lauren Carr’s  Audiobook-a-palooza Blog Tour, I volunteered to listen to two of her mysteries: an early one (Old Loves Die Hard), and a more recent one (The Murders at Astaire Castle). Plus, I applied for an interview with one of the narrators. Now, I’ve never done an interview before, so I wasn’t sure what questions to ask. After all, the goal is, to ask interesting questions. In the application form, I typed a few in off the top of my head, intending to deliberate in an email — which I never wrote, because I was just so consumed in all to do with my moving house and all that entails.

So, Laura from iread booktours and James C. lewis had only the original questions to work with, and they did a great job — much better than what I did. My review of Old Loves Die Hard and the interview will be part of the above mentioned Blog tour on May 11.

For information and the schedule of the whole tour look here.  There’ll be reviews,  interviews with other narrators, give-aways, and more.

So,mark the date and place: May 11, here on this blog.

Review: Red-tailed Hawk by Nancy Schoellkopf

 

 

Book Description:

 

When Mariah Easter encounters a large hawk in her urban midtown neighborhood, her father Charlie is concerned. He can see a wild and mystical path opening before his daughter, a path he himself would never be able to resist. The hawk soon reappears: engraved with its twin on a golden thimble that has been an Easter family heirloom for generations. After the thimble is stolen at a funeral reception, Mariah and her mother Samantha set off on a road trip to find it, a journey that will bring healing to the grieving family and change Mariah’s life forever.

Weiterlesen

Review: Yellow-billed Magpie by Nancy Schoellkopf

Nancy Schoellkopf: Yellow-billed Magpie; Butterfly Tree Productions, 204 p.,

Book Description for Yellow-billed Magpie:

 

Unlike their black-billed cousins, yellow-billed magpies are rarely found outside California’s central valley. So when they begin showing up in Samantha O’Malley’s dreams, she wonders: are they calling me home?

 

Disappointed by failed fertility treatments and the break-up of her marriage, Samantha returns to her home town and slips into old habits, resuming her teaching career, even hooking up with an old lover. But she also renews her friendship with Craig, the school custodian she honors as her spiritual guide. The work they do together with Samantha’s special education students will lead her to discoveries she never thought possible.

 

Yellow-billed Magpie is a love story, a spiritual journey, a quest to look beyond appearances to the mystical rhythms that guide the human heart.

 

Buy the book:   Amazon  ~  Add to Goodreads

My thoughts:

When I browsed the iread book tours for available books, I came across Red-tailed Hawk by Nancy Schoellkopf. The synopsis sounded interesting, and since it was hinted that, though not a sequel, it was in a way related to Yellow-billed Magpie, I decided, to review this, too.

Now, I’m not into this whole esoteric business, and I haven’t actually researched spirituality, but  the latter fascinates me. I read Mutant Message Down Under all those years ago, and I devoured the Inspector Shan Tao Yun novels. All describe spiritual peoples of a very different origin, and I’m awed by this.

In Yellow-billed Magpie, there is yet another form of spirituality described, and although I cannot really comprehend it, it is yet fascinating. I couldn’t find out on which people’s spirituality the one in the book is based on, my feeling was, that it was a mixture of various.

The spiritual journey Samantha does, isn’t lying at the fore for a long time. The main story is about her trying to pick up her life where she left it before her marriage, and how she is coping.

We get glimpses of something indefinable throughout the book, but it is only when Craig appears on the scene that things start to take shape.

I have to admit, that although I’m convinced that there are more things between heaven and earth than we can explain scientifically, I couldn’t quite buy into some of the things described here. This may be due to my lack of religious belief on the one hand, and ignorance of the whole matter on the other hand. However, this being fiction, I am willing to accept it, because I have no problems accepting lots of  impossible (to me) things in fantasy and science fiction novels.

On the whole, this was a nice story about a woman finding her way after having lived through some unhappy years, and glimpses into the work with children with special needs to boot.

The language is simple and very readable, the book could do with some editing, though, there are missing or wrong words and punctuation.

Disclosure: Thanks to iread book tours for sending me this book for review. I was not told how to rate or review this product.

 About the author:

Nancy Schoellkopf is the author of Yellow-billed Magpie, the first in her Easter Family series. Nancy has been telling stories and writing poems for many lifetimes. It goes without saying that she’d need a second income, so this time around she has happily taught amazing children in special education classes in two urban school districts in Sacramento, California. A full time writer now, she enjoys lavishing attention on her cats, her garden, and her intriguing circle of family and friends.

 

Connect with the author:    Website  ~   Twitter  ~   Facebook

Book Review: Xenogeneic -First Contact by Lance Erlick

Lance Erlick: Xenogeneic – First Contact, Finlee Augare Books, ebook, 300 pages, $3.21

 

Book Details:

Book Title: Xenogeneic: First Contact by Lance Erlick
Category: Adult Fiction, 300 pages
Genre: Sci-fi Thriller
Publisher: Finlee Augare Books
Release date: March 2017
Tour dates: March 13 to April 7, 2017
Content Rating: PG + M (This book is rated PG+M because of mature subject. No explicit sex.)

Book Description:

Xenogeneic is a science fiction thriller about first contact with an alien race that lost their civil war and wants to take over Earth.

Dr. Elena Pyetrov’s father vanished in space 18 years ago while searching for extraterrestrial life. As an aerospace engineer, Elena travels into space to search for answers and continue his work. Her ship is pulled off course and crashes. She suspects extraterrestrial interference.

The alien Knoonk lost their civil war in a distant star system and fled to Earth’s neighborhood to hide and regroup. They seek a new home—Earth. Unable to live in Earth’s toxic environment, the aliens kidnap and use humans to genetically modify their species to adapt.

Surviving the crash, Elena and her shipmates are transported to a closed cave system where the Knoonk monitor and control everything. Elena tries to make a connection with her hosts and find ways to work together, but Knoonk leaders rebuff her and force the humans to submit as slaves. The aliens use illusions, distractions, and social experiments to learn from their hostages and keep them off balance. Resistance by captive humans brings swift punishment to break the human spirit.

While Elena continues to look for ways to cooperate with the Knoonk, it becomes apparent that there can be no compromise. The Knoonk want to capture Earth for their species. It is winner take all. With time running out, Elena must dig deep to uncover the alien plan and find a way to stop them before the human race faces enslavement and extinction.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ View on Goodreads

 Review:

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of the book as a participant of  iRead Book Tours.

This is the first time I take part in an iRead Book Tour, and it is my first book by Lance Erlick. The book description sounded intriguing, especially if, like me, you love a good science fiction story.
The first third of the book was fine, but then it started to fall flat.
The whole book is written in a style that might work as a movie script, but to me, all the short sentences and rapid changes of scenes made the story feel disjointed. It was like watching a movie, with lots of flickering scenes, changing rapidly all over the place, but this didn’t work for me in book form.
After about 50%, I started to get bored, the book couldn’t really keep my interest any more and I might have given up if it hadn’t been for the book tour.
Sure, I wanted to find out what exactly was going on, but all the in-fighting among the humans just dragged on and on. Nothing much happened for the next 30% of the book, then it slowly got interesting again. And then it all happened at once.

I’m sorry to say that the ending didn’t manage to convince me. It all went so fast, with no rhyme or reason, and nobody is who they appear to be, and the explanations appear flimsy and not well thought out.

However, this is just my personal view. The idea is good, the questions the story raises are very valid ones (which unfortunately I cannot go into without putting spoilers). I’m convinced that, if compressed, and with a clear story line,  this could be so much better.

About the Author:

Lance ErlickLance Erlick writes science fiction thrillers for young adult and adult readers. He is the author of The Rebel Within, The Rebel Trap, and Rebels Divided, three books in the Rebel series. In those stories, he explores the consequences of Annabelle Scott following her conscience. He authored the Regina Shen series–Resilience, Vigilance, Defiance, and Endurance. This series takes place after abrupt climate change leads to the Great Collapse and a new society under the World Federation. His latest novel is Xenogeneic: First Contact about encounters with an alien race aiming to take over Earth.

Follow the author… Website, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest