Audiobooks Unleashed Library

Ryan Pascall
Edgar Allan Poe Collection – Vol. I “As a child in Junior School (being about 9 years old) I remember seeing The Fall of the House of Usher in amongst other Penguin Classic books and, being a rather advanced reader, decided to give it a go; I was not ready. The writing style was far too grandiose and flamboyant for my childlike mind and I was left more confused than terrified. It was only 2 or 3 years later, after reading Outsider by H P Lovecraft in a collection of short ghost stories that I recalled the House of Usher tale and promptly borrowed it from the local library and fared much better, relishing in the surrealist style and grand revelation at the end. For years following this I devoured all the great classics of the 20s and 30s from Lovecraft, Poe, Derleth and Ashton-Smith and Belknap Long amongst other, becoming lost in their wildly esoteric tales the like of which the current era of authors (then being the 80s) could scarcely touch. Since then, I have listened to thousands of hours of audiobooks and radio plays of these classic chillers and find them to be of wildly different levels of quality and such was the case with this newest collection. This Edgar Allen Poe collection (Vol.1) brings together four of Poe's tales, that being The Fall of the House of Usher, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter and The Masque of the Red Death. Now the point of this review is not so much to cover the stories themselves but I will offer a simple summary of each tale first: The Fall of the House of Usher: This is one of my favourite Poe tales and involves an unnamed man receiving a letter from a childhood friend who beseeches him to visit, as he finds himself in ill health. This leads into a true ghostly tale of a cursed family, a seemingly sentient house and a wonderfully shocking closure to the tale. The Murders in the Rue Morgue: An unusually gory tale for Poe that surrounds the murder of two women in a shockingly barbaric way. The tale follows amateur detective Auguste Dupin in his investigation into whom, or what, the killer may be. The Purloined Letter: Amateur Detective Dupin is back again, this time helping a high ranking Parisian Police Detective locate a letter of great importance which was stolen from the private chambers of the Queen. The Masque of the Red Death: A terrifying tale in which a thousand of the richest friends of a Prince take refuge in his Abbey home to avoid a deadly plague spreading across the land, and yet find that there is no avoiding your fate. As far as the selection goes, it is strange to have 3 powerfully shocking tales wrapped around such a strangely sedate one, but all the stories carry some level of moralistic undertone and it doesn’t feel overly out of place. The collection ends with a short biography of Poe (running maybe 3 minutes long), but I do admit though that I would have liked maybe one of his poems tacked to the end, maybe the wonderful Lenore or the well known, but no less creepy The Raven. Ranking the tales themselves outside of the Audiobook, I think they’d come off: The Fall of the House of Usher: 5/5 The Murders in the Rue Morgue:4/5 The Purloined Letter 3/5 The Masque of the Red Death 5/5 Now with regards to this as an audio, I would say that I find the narrator unsuited to gothic horror. While he spoke clearly and enunciated well, I found his method of narrating overbearing for what is are dark, foreboding tales. I listen to my audios with headphones on to cancel outside interference but found myself having to reduce the volume on several occasions lest I end up with a headache. Again this is not down to a poor reading, I simply feel that he would be better served reading more energetic or exciting pulpy tales than these. All in all I will always recommend Poe’s work as a source of great classic horror, but would suggest looking for ones handled with a little less gusto.”
Engines Of Ruin “Short stories are a strange thing. To try and present an entirely rounded setting, circumstance and outcome in about 20-30 minutes is not an easy thing to do, be it in written form of an anthology movie such as Asylum (1972- check it out) and it really does depend what the subject matter is. I tend to find that sci-fi shorts don't really work as there is too much world-building to be done but horror is a perfect palette to work with. In this case, we've got thirteen tales of sexually-charged horror ranging from a murder couple to a zombie apocalypse and (my favourite) ghostly revenge. My enjoyment with the tales varied from one to another as some simply failed to elicit any sense of shock but all are well written by the one Author and fabulously narrated by Sean Duregger who add a great sense of pace and expression to the characters. For this type of collection you just need to ask yourself if you like short stories as, while a pretty good selection of stories, they're not for everyone.”
Out For Blood “I’ve been trying to remember the last time I read a vampire novel. I don’t mean a tale revolving around the Brian Lumley’s body-sculpting Wamphyri or Colin Wilson’s sexy Space Vampires but good, old fashioned vampires and I think it was probably The Vampire Lestat which I read the 90s as a rebellious teenage and so it was with interest that I started Out for Blood. Synopsis wise, it’s an interesting premise and the idea of Chris Callaway, a young gay man suffering from leukemia, was certainly a different take than the usual person seeking excitement, revenge or power. The portrayal of his fear and frustration over his illness was well defined while avoiding it making it seem he was steeping in self-pity and I quickly grew to really like him and this was aided in no small part by the excellent narration by Sean Duregger who really gave him a beautiful sense of reluctant resignation. Enter Beth, stunning goth girl who admits that she’s a vampire and has fed on him once and now wishes to offer him eternal life as a vampire. In a very short time, he’s died, been reborn and met the local pack of vamps and we learn that the vamps are not blood-thirsty killers but live with a very carefully regulated feeding ethos and take great care to avoid killing or turning. This was a really nice change from the typical portrayal of vampires, as party animals revelling in death, blood and chaos and felt extremely refreshing. Another new addition is Chroba, the form that blood takes within a vampire after feeding and used to fuel their existence. I can’t remember the last time that a book about ‘classic’ vampires created anything new but this is certainly one such instance. Things are not all fun and games as Chris learns and the problems don’t just involve hiding his new condition from humans as there are those who would use Vampires to their own ends and, following his meeting Temsik, he learns that there are things that even Vampires need to fear but to know what that is, you’ll just have to find out for yourself. And I do recommend you do, this is a great story full of likeable characters, an original take on vampires and a really exciting story. To think that was published 30 years ago with a gay main character is brilliant and I honestly can’t think of many gay characters this well portrayed from that era.”
Revenant Sun “As a teenager,I read William Gibson's Neuromancer which led me to play and run the Role Playing game Cyberpunk 2020 (I'm still waiting for my set of rippers thank you) and ever since I have loved the Cyberpunk genre. The problem is, it is really hard to write good Cyberpunk as all too often I come into a story expecting great things and end up finding that the setting is used purely as an excuse to throw in flying cars, cyborgs and big guns but wholly lack a realistic world for them to exist. I find that the genre has, ever since GIbson, lacked a world-building like Tolkien is to Fantasy and Lovecraft to horror and so I admit that I fully expected the same here but thankfully, for once, I was mistaken. This is not a book for action fans,let's get the out there straight away. Don't come into this expecting flying car chases, gunfights in Zero-G or Cyborgs punching holes through walls, this is more like a mix of Minority Report and Gibson's fantastic short story Johnny Mnemonic (with a bit of Winter Soldier thrown in for good measure). The story is based in a world not unlike where our own is slowly heading. Our day to day lives are automated through Adam, an AI that we speak to via a technology-aided mental link through whom we manage our day to day lives and plays. In this world we find Stanley, a pretty normal man who starts to experience blackouts and finding himself in strange places and unusual, dangerous situations as he slowly begins to realise that someone new has set up home in his head and is beginning to wrestle for control. What begins is a journey through the shining world of the future, weaving through a city all too familiar at times both in its reliance on technology but also in the conditions that the different parts of a society exist, all while in search for an understanding as to what is happening to his slowly fracturing mind. With the aid of some unlikely allies, he comes to realise the truth behind both of the voices in his head and the larger implications it has for all of society. I admit that initially I was a little worried by the slow start of the story and felt this might be one of those books that takes so long to get going that, by the time we get anywhere, the story has ended. Thankfully, before too long the mystery began to unfold and it had its hooks in me good and proper. A dialogue heavy book with a wide-ranging plethora of characters, it's a testament to both the writing and the narration that I was able to follow the story so easily and never did I find myself confused as to those involved, and throughout the narration was perfectly attuned to the story throughout. While I think that this book isn't for everyone, again I have to highlight the lack of any grand action sequences, for those who prefer a rich world and deep, engaging story I can't recommend this highly enough.”
Beneath the Surface “*I was provided a copy of this book free of charge for the purpose of providing an unbiased review* I like crime stories, always have, from the Midsomer Murders and Joanthan Creek of the 90s back to the Canadian adventures of Benton Fraser in the 80s Due South series I've always enjoyed the cop shows. I've not experienced a lot of Crime dramas in books and what I have read usually revolves around the more shocking ones like those of Thomas Harris and Jeffrey Deaver and so I came into this tale, third in a series, somewhat blind. My initial feeling was that there was a pleasant familiarity when compared with Due South and the mannerism and conversational tone of the characters and within 2 chapters I'd really taken to Windflower. With the introduction of, what appeared to be prophetic dreams pretty early on, and Windflower's Uncle Frank as a pseudo medicine-man really drew me in. Then something happened; I found that I was 20 chapters into the 50 chapter book and absolutely nothing was happening. And so it went on, standard procedure of police investigation (most of it being actioned by 3rd parties off-screen as it where) and Windflower gets told about it while the dream mystery again feels very much a side-story to what the overall book appears to be about. And the real subject of the story is....food. Pretty much every chapter, the main character has eats. And the book tells you in.minute.detail.all.the.steps.of.cooking. I'm not sure how many different recipes and cooking instructions are provided here but I really do think the author secretly harbours a desire to release a cookery book. During the last 1/4 of the book, I asked my wife to listen to the book on speaker with me while we cooked our own meal and then did some arranging around the house and, in that time, we heard distinct descriptions of around 3 different meals. And worse of all, they all sounded better than what we were cooking! I'm sorry, I really wanted to enjoy the book as much as I liked the cast but even with such a good narrator I was just very very bored.”
Realmbound: Sword of the Void (Volume 2) “Following on from the first book in this series, which I was a little disappointed by due to the surprisingly immature content, I had hoped that this one would take an more dark and grown up turn. While this wasn't the case, there was certainly more here to get my teeth into. Please note that there are some spoilers below. With the introduction of several more key characters and, equally, more villains there was definitely a much improved sense of scale and threat to the proceedings. I really enjoyed the arrival of Vivian and the dynamic this caused between Rian and Carina. Shortly after her arrival, the battle against the Terrareaper was one of the best scenes in either book and conjured images or many a great anime or comic book. With Vivian's arrival, along with her desire to protect herself, Carina chose to leave the group and this was very a bold move but I do feel her departure was handled with an apparent of importance and almost felt brushed over. This did lead to a very interesting and enjoyable side-story though surrounding Corina's tutelage in Bolivar and the eventual attack by a long thought dead friend. How the stories then reunite during the siege and Carina gets to prove her martial and magical capability was brilliant and her battle against her rival was really enjoyable and thrilling. To summarise, there is a lot happening here and a lot more character growth than the original book. Equally, while not a dark moody book, it does feel like the author has embraced the YA style and this story was all the better for it, meaning I am certainly eager for the next story. Of course, all this would be naught had Sean Duregger not given the story such passion, infusing every battle with tempo and excitement and every character a sense of ID that a lesser narrator may have missed. In closing, as a YA book this tale really works. Characters are deeper and more interesting, the battles are far more complex, written with much more visual flair and the overarching story is exhilarating. My only real complaint is the link to the real Earth Realm is pretty much gone, with only the rarest mentions of anything that link us to Rian's world and this, I feel, is a real shame.”
Realmbound: Sword of the Scion “I feel a little misled. Not in a bad, Donald Trump-y way but by the dark, foreboding synopsis blurb on this book. All this talk of dragons ruling the skies of a post-apocalyptic world where mankind fights for it's very survival and I expected some kind of dark tale of death, misery and hopelessness like Reign of Fire. Instead I got a very light tale with enemies who acted like bad-guys from 80s kids cartoons and fight scenes lacking any real sense of grit. This isn't to say it's a bad book, far from it. The characters are interesting and there's a good amount of growth for all of them pretty much right off the bat. Also the world itself is well put together but I did feel that more emphasis needed to be put on the dereliction of our own world as I did, at times, almost feel this was a High Fantasy setting. Narration-wise the characters were all voiced extremely well and Rian's character carried a great sense of pressure throughout the book. A very worthy attempt was also made for female characters and the evil characters voiced with sufficient venom as to make them feel more dangerous than maybe the writing itself portrayed. In all I did enjoy the book a lot. I've moved straight onto the sequel to see how these characters proceed as this has left genuinely interested but I do hope there's more maturity in the next one.”
Hunter “As someone who loves books set in snowy plains and books about unknown monsters, this was right up my street. The inclusion of soldiers hunting said monster was a bonus, after all, who doesn't like Predator? Unfortunately, while one-dimensional characters work well in a 90-minute movie, they're hard to get excited about in a 19 hour book and this is one of the major failings of this book Everyone is a total caricature, from the main hero (the A-typical Alpha Male called Hunter who lives off the land, is unshakeable in danger, unbeatable in combat, has giant wolf called Ghost but also cares about kids) to the evil corporate-types. In addition to this there is a problem with the the description of an early squad leader that the protagonist works with. Now this man is a soldier of Japanese descent and so I would expect him to be referred to as The Captain or Captain Takakora but instead he's referred you repeatedly as "The Japanese" which is, in all honesty, borderline racist. Now I have been very negative but the description of survival techniques was incredibly interesting including such things as edible plants and trees, the calories available through certain grubs and a very startling way of catching Tigers. Also, while the characters are very cliched and lack any growth, the story does progress well as more characters are introduced, particularly the evil corporate guy, and the story became more interesting. What started as a simple run and gun through snowy plains soon became a battle of wits between Hunter and the creature but also more 'terrestrial' dangers. Thanks to this the latter half of the book did pick up somewhat and, while I was still lacking any love for the cast, I was beginning to root for the good guys towards the end. As an audiobook, I felt the narrator pretty reliable as far a reading goes. There was a lack of vocal range and they always pronounced the word Human (a word that must be said 100 times in the book) as Uman but overall they did a good job with a rather flat story. I'd like to experience more of their work as I feel, given the right book, they'd be a brilliant narrator. The question of whether I can recommend this book really depends on whether you like this sort of tale If you grew up loving films like predator and other such mindless action movies, then I guess this might well be right up your street. I managed to listen all the way through nearly 20 hours and there are only a few parts where it really dragged but I came away having been mildly entertained and certainly not hating the book by any means. My only complaints remains primarily the cliched style of character and the tasteless use of the term "The Japanese" and so it's an average score for me.”
White Sheep of the Family (Part 2) “With a subtitle announcing books being "A Legend of.." book, I always expect that each book will be a different tale set in the same world/land as its predecessor. I was therefore pleased to find that this sequel pretty much carries on from where Thorns of the Night Blossom ended. Much like that book, the action (while brilliantly written and mind-boggling in execution) is secondary to the mystery and thrills of the court here and, with the addition of several new characters, the story feels all the more broad for it. Speaking of characters, Tien is brilliant. equal-part Shelock'ian genius and idiotic adolescent I found myself facepalming on several occasions but never to the detriment of the tale. Once again each character and story point is brought to life wonderfully by Natalie Naudus and, while in the first I found it hard to catch character names from her, this time her pronouncing speed seemed spot on. Another really good tale, better than the first in my opinion and so it is on to book Three.”
Thorn of the Night Blossoms (Book 1) “I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was dubious at first as books like this can often offer a poor portrayal of women but this wasn't the case at all here and the characters were all well conceived and treated with a good degree of respect. As a tale of political intrigue, revenge and assassination the story could well have been bogged down with huge swathes of exposition but this was avoided and only that which was necessary was given to avoid overloading the reader. As for the action, I really enjoyed how Jie attacked crucial parts of an enemy to disarm, disable and weaken her foes and it made the scenes very enjoyable and visceral without feeling like it was trying to be gory for the sake of ticking a box. My only quibble is how the narrator, while excellent, often stated the names of characters very fast and, where they had more than one name, it was easy to confuse one with another. This aside, I did really enjoy this story and look forward to reading the next ones.”
Fantasy Swap Online, Book 1 “Ok, let's deal with the elephant in the room first. Yes, this is a sexually explicit LitRPG. As a rule, while I love LitRPGs, I don't like harem/sexually explicit types but, having chosen to rely this one, I will review based on the book itself and not my own personal opinions of this type of novel. Story-wise, it's pretty simply and tight with a character trapped in the virtual body of a female courtesan after years as a half-giant barbarian and basically having to learn their new abilities and seek a way to reverse what's happened. Comedy is there and is usually cheeky, almost Carry On style and there are several sex-scenes but, while explicit, it doesn't feel dirty or over the top which is impressive. Narration throughout was really good with amusing squeaky girl moments and I particularly liked the voice for the big-bad. While my heart says I should dislike the book I honestly can't say I do. The humour was good, the story lacks unnecessary padding and it manages to fit loads of XXX sex without feeling smutty and as such I will be trying the sequel also to see how our mister-miss proceeds.”
Hawk: Hand of the Machine “In a universe under attack by The Enemy, The Machine appeared and gifted us its Hands who, as supreme warriors and masters of their craft, turned the tide and became the police of the universe. But this was millenia ago and the machine is quiet, its hands gone and something evil is stirring in the dark of space... This book made me feel like a kid again. Not because it was silly, childish or humorous but because it really reminded me of Battle of the Planets. With characters named such things as Falcon, Hawk and Eagle it was hard not to draw a comparison but this wasn't to the detriment at all and the existence of a peace-keeping force was cool. Story wise I felt it could've done with another hour or two as the sheer amount of world-building through exposition caused it to drag somewhat in the middle but there was enough excitement and danger to keep the story rolling along to a great conclusion which paves the way for (hopefully) more tales of The Hands. As for narration, this has the broadest spectrum of voices I've yet seen from Sean and whether a female assassin, a machine or a tough-as-nails cyborg he rises to the challenge and gave them all a distinctive voice and style that helped to bring them alive. A jolly good romp and well worth a few hours of your time :)”
The Brain Eaters “This was a strange book for me because of 2 reasons. First, a probably foremost, is that I am listening to a story about what appears to be a killer flu and I'm sure the power of this fact isn't lost on anyone. The second point is that I rarely read all the blurb on books, as often they give more away than I'd like, and so I came into this story expecting something totally different than what I got and for that I am thankful (as I had expected a hokey zombie novel). As for the story itself, I really enjoyed it! I felt at times that this story would work excellently as a 50s sci-fi novel such as The Magnetic Monster as it carried a charmingly innocent feel of that era coupled with some truly horrific and tragic acts of violence.This isn't to say the book is some gore-fest, far from it. I found the whole story very clinical and straight which added to that timeless feel and yet it wasn't until the 'credits' at the end that I realised the book was written 35 years ago! The narration meanwhile was exactly what I would expect from Sean Duregger as the man has the excellent ability to give a real sense of identity to each character and make them recognisable from scene to scene. Equally, while in some other narrations he has felt very relaxed and flippant, here there was a real sense of drama and gravitas that really worked to drive home the tragedy that was unfolding. All in all we have a great story that, while quite limited in scope, has a real sense of threat but I would recommend against listing to it during our current Corvid-19 pandemic as it doesn't help to alleviate any worries.”
Eight-Bit Bastards: A Gamelit LitRPG retro gaming adventure “As someone who grew up at the advent of home videogames, this book worked really well for me. As a lover of retro, 8-bit is my thing (not this silly pixel-art fad occurring in games today) and the idea of a group of MMORPG gamers entering an 8-bit world is my dream and the narrator was suitable exciting and animated to fit the classic game style perfectly. With a pretty interesting cast and a great sense of urgency due to the toil the 8-bit world took on the players, the book was a real page-turner but I do have to say that quite often the book seemed to forget it was 8-bit and described things in a far more real-world way which was quite jarring. With a solid, yet strangely unsatisfying ending I am looking forward to the next but the author needs to find some new tricks to pull to prevent the series becoming a one-trick-pony.”
Truck Stop “To start, I would say that the synopsis of the book needs to be trimmed, it simply gives too much away. I'd forgotten the full write-up and so parts of the tale were a real surprise to me and, re-reading the synopsis I think a lot of people are really missing out on this discovery. As a father this book really tapped into my deepest fear, the same one all parents have when they turn around and their child is gone. Luckily this is only a brief fear for most of us but the panic that sets in is something no non-parent can truly understand and I felt that this book really did a good job, initially, in tapping into this. I say initially as I did feel that the story didn't do enough to explain the protagonists sudden easing of panic but I can forgive this as a minor niggle considering the insanity that ensures as what we have is a really good who-dunnit with a whole slew of twists right up until the end. As a horror tale that latches onto my own primal fear the book did an excellent job but I admit that there were just a few too many unanswered questions at the end that prevent it being the absolute classic status the ending deserves.”
How Not to Be a Scribe “What A Fantastic Story. It always amazes me how an author can, with just a few words, create. Be it creating an image of a person, a sense of emotion or an entire world, the power of words never ceases to amaze me, My reason for this opening statement is I am astounded that in just 4 short hours Zack Brooks has created a living, breathing world, an incredibly likeable character and made me equal parts saddened by his plight and excited for his tale. This is a strangely emotive story that touches on such subjects as racism, loss and guilt and I grew in just a few short hours to really care Roland and I was really cheering for him through all the difficult situations he finds himself in and Sean Duregger's excellent narration really brought the little man to life. I admit that when it ended I was sad to see his tale end so suddenly and I can only hope that, one day, I'll get to experience more of Roland's exploits in Amaford and maybe, just maybe, visit Berstead.”
Gods Of The Dark Web “A Stunningly dark story. I love horror, always have since I read The Rats by James Herbert when I was 9 and have devoured millions of stories since. Unfortunately I have noticed a steady decline in the savagery and horror in tales in the last 20 years and they seem more and more sedate in the handling of horror. Maybe it's down to the popularity of authors such as Stephen King who excel at character pieces but lack the true bite that I grew up with and crave. Due to this I expected further disappointment from this tale as, while the synopsis was really interesting, I figured it'd be another wet fish of a tale... How wrong was I. A tremendously dark tale of true body horror with a side-salad of Lovecraft all mashed together with the threats posed by our secondary existence in the internet. Beautifully descriptive in all it's bare-nerve horror and fantastically narrated by Sean Duregger this tale drew me in and held me by the throat through the entire single-sitting listen I did and boy was it a fun ride. Horror's back baby and Lucas Mangum's at the top with the greats!”
Into The Shadow Of Dark “While very short, this introductory tale fits in a surprising amount of story and the setting, a single location helps to direct the tale and allow the author to concentrate on the players themselves. While no real history is provided for the cast, you quickly get the feeling that Mr Darkk is a well-traveled and learned sorcerer. The presence of Miss Shadow works really well as she helps to ask the questions we have to avoid more literary chaff. I've given the narrator a 4/5 not due to any perceived failings but purely down to the lack of range shown in the tale but I do put some onus on the narrowness of the story for preventing them really stretching their verbal muscles but there really is nothing wrong with their work and they did an excellent job with what they had to work with. Again this is a very short, tight tale but has easily achieved its aim, that being to convince me that I need to follow up with more of the writers works.”
How Not to Be a Rogue “As someone who tends to gravitate towards huge, epic tales that last 20+ hours, I was dubious about a short, compact story such as this but the cover really drew me in. What we have here though is a tightly written story which doesn't waste a word with pointless wandering and everything, from the way things look to the conversations characters have, add colour and life to the world the author has created. Within 10 minutes the fantastic narration of Sean Duregger had me wrapped up in this grimy world and colourful characters who's dirty clothes are only slightly overshadowed by their mouths but quickly I saw past the rough exteriors and found a group of very likeable and caring characters. The story also is straightforward and doesn't miss a beat in drawing you in, making you care about the main characters and then, when you think everything is ok, kick you right in the feels. It is also rare that a book can bring a physical reaction out of me hut the final few lines of the book did make me laugh audibly on a bus full of people.. All in all, for one of my first forays into a shorter 'novella'  this was a real success and I am looking forward to experiencing more works of both Zack Brooks and Sean Duregger.”