Sunday, December 29, 2013

Audiobook Review: Invitation to Die


Invitation to Die
(An Emily Castles Mystery, Book 1)
Author: Helen Smith
Narrator: Alison Larkin
Unabridged, Length 6 hrs 20 min
Publisher: Brilliance Audio 10/15/13

Publishers Summary:
Twenty-six-year-old Emily Castles is out of work…again. So when famous romance author Morgana Blakely offers her a job helping out at a conference in London, Emily accepts. Just as eagerly, American blogger Winnie Kraster accepts an invitation from Morgana to attend as a guest, not realizing she has, in effect, accepted an invitation to die.
As a cast of oddball characters assembles at the conference hotel, grievances, differences, and secrets begin to emerge.
When Winnie goes missing, and then is found murdered nearby, Emily begins to suspect that someone involved with the conference is responsible. Could it be one of the organizers, one of the authors, a member of the hotel staff, or even the supplier of the chocolates for the conference gift bags?
Emily teams up with guest speaker and eccentric philosophy professor Dr. Muriel to find out. Offbeat and engaging, this entertaining comic mystery is the first to feature amateur British sleuth Emily Castles.
©2013 Helen Smith (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.  

My Thoughts: 
Absolutely hilarious!  Although I love mysteries, it wasn't the story that kept me listening. Oh, there was a murder committed and plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing but I was laughing so hard at times that I missed a clue or two.  The Romance Writers of Great Britain are hosting a conference which will include blogger reviewers who have won a writing contest.  One of the bloggers is murdered before anyone even meets her.  Is it because of a one star review she has written about one of the authors' novels?  The writers are a zany bunch.  Cerys Cadfael is in a snit due to "picking up something nasty on the Google alert" (it was a negative review of her latest work).  Zena writes sensual romance novels and her ritual for inspiration includes lying in her bath. She prepares for her day with chanting and an altar.  She even has a portable altar for when she travels.  Morgana Blakely, famous romance novelist, is presiding over the conference.  She has hired Emily Castles to help.  Morgana seems to need a lot of drinks to calm her nerves and give her courage to deal with the publicity over the murder.  Emily is a very unusual sleuth.  She solves the crime by noticing anomalies and sometimes stops during her investigation to wonder WWJD.  What would Jesse do?  Jesse was a much loved deceased pet dog.  A little silly but funny as well.  I was entertained by the way Emily's mind works.  

I couldn't seem to keep up with the male characters.  The names Des and Lex (or was it Les and Dex?) were so close I couldn't remember which was which.  Maybe I just didn't find the men as funny as the women.  

Alison Larkin's performance was brilliant. I thought she was particularly good with Morgana and Lena's voices.  Invitation to Die is definately a book that is better heard than read.  I would have pronounced Cerys as if it begins with the letter 's' when it's such a beautiful name if pronounced right.  

This was my first experience with Helen Smith's writing.  I really like her wit and sense of humor.   I'm looking forward to more of her work.  I give Invitation to Die 5 stars because I laughed all the way through it.  

Review copy provided by the author.  Listen to a sample here.




Saturday, December 7, 2013

Audiobook Review: Harmless

Author: Ernie Lindsey
Narrator: DJ Holte
Length: 10 hrs, 34 min
Publisher: Ernie Lindsey 11/11/13

Publishers Summary:
From the USA TODAY and Amazon best-selling author of Sara's Game,..this is Harmless, an unconventional love story, a murder mystery, and a laugh out loud, hilarious work of fiction. 

There's someone for everyone...even Steve. Steve Pendragon is an eccentric (and sometimes delusional) used car salesman in love with Kerry, the quiet, secretive girl next door - only she doesn't know it. When the would-be love of his life turns up dead, all signs point to Steve.   Once the detectives hit a dead end in their investigation and he becomes the prime suspect, Steve is left with only a reluctant police officer and a crooked private investigator to help him prove his innocence. Could a kindhearted homeless woman and a cryptic note in Kerry's diary provide the key to the mystery?
©2013 Ernie Lindsey (P)2013 Ernie Lindsey 

My Thoughts:
I totally enjoyed Harmless! Actually enjoyed doesn't really express how I experienced it.  I couldn't put it down.  My plans to go out shopping or visit a relative flew out the window as soon as I started listening.  I took the whole day and listened from beginning to end. I love mysteries that include humor.  This book has all the required elements of that kind of mystery - laugh out loud moments, plot twists and surprises, and an unconventional love story.   Steve Pendragon appears at first to be a clueless, self-centered man.  The people he chooses to be his friends find him acutely annoying.  He can't seem to get to the point of a story without going off the subject.   I found him fascinating.  I liked the way he observed the world and how he found character attributes in other people that he identified with.  He is a bit psychic and describes himself as "operating on a higher plane."  He is obsessed with the post office and mail delivery.   

What I liked most about Harmless was the performance of the narrator, DJ Holte.  It was as if I had Steve following me around telling me his story and not minding when I laughed at him.  That's an experience I would never get from the print version.  From the first word of the audio sample, I knew this was a voice I would enjoy.  I'm adding DJ Holte to my list of favorite narrators and hope to hear more of his work.   

Author Ernie Lindsey has crafted a story that is funny and entertaining with a main character you will grow to love.  I highly recommend the audio version of Harmless and give it 5 stars all around.  

Review copy was provided by DJ Holte.  Listen to a sample here

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Audiobook Review: Happiness as a Second Language: A Guidebook to Achieving Lasting Permanent Happiness

Happiness as a Second Language: 
A Guidebook to Achieving Lasting Permanent Happiness
Author: Valerie Alexander
Narrator: Valerie Alexander
Unabridged, Length 3 hrs, 8 min
Publisher: Valerie Alexander 10/1/13

Publishers Summary:

The Ultimate Happiness "Textbook" for Everyone!
Happiness as a Second Language teaches happiness step-by-step, in the same manner as one would learn a new language. Each chapter builds on the concepts and exercises in the previous one, starting with the most basic lessons, progressing through the intermediate stages, and finally graduating to the more advanced concepts.
In addition, the audiobook contains "Audiobook Bonus" segments at the end of select chapters where the author has created exclusive audiobook content containing additional anecdotes and examples.
It is simple and straightforward, the instructions easy to follow, and the sample situations familiar, touching, often heartbreaking and sometimes hysterical. Listening to this book is the first step in your journey towards a lifetime of happiness.
Some of the work may seem hard, but with time and effort, you can be fluent in happiness.
©2010 Valerie Alexander (P)2013 Valerie Alexander

My Thoughts:

I think of myself as a happy person already so one of the reasons that I decided to listen to this book is that I felt that it would give me some insight about myself and inspiration to enhance my happiness.  It absolutely did.  

In the chapter "Saying Who You Are," Alexander uses the example of following a slow driver (which she usually has no tolerance for) but stopping to say out loud "I am happy" and then realizing that happy people don't let one slow driver ruin their day.  I've never let slow drivers bother me.  In fact, people riding with me are sometimes annoyed that I don't just whip around the offending driver.  The first time I listened to the book I thought to myself, well, maybe I do know some happiness baby talk.  Then the second time I listened, I realized there are other annoyances and frustrations that I allow to momentarily ruin my happiness.  I'm now trying to stop and realize that I'm a happy person and happy people do not let minor annoyances take their happiness away.  That's just one insight of many.  I listened twice and now I'm going through the Kindle edition, making notes and learning more.

I know people who live in a world of misery, not realizing that it can be changed.  I will recommend Happiness as a Second Language to any of them who will listen.  Anyone can learn the language of happiness. 

Valerie Alexander's narration is perfect.  She has a very pleasant voice and sounds so happy.  I give Happiness as a Second Language a five star rating.

Audiobook review copy provided by the author and publisher Valerie Alexander. 

Happiness as a Second Language in audio format is available at Audible. The Kindle edition is available at Amazon.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Impersonator

The Impersonator
Author: Mary Miley
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Unabridged, Length 11hrs, 58 min
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc 9/17/13

 Publishers Summary:
 In 1924, a young vaudeville actress takes on the role of a lifetime when she impersonates a missing heiress in The Impersonator, the 2012 MB/MWA First Novel Competition winner. 

In 1917, Jessie Carr, fourteen years old and sole heiress to her family's vast fortune, disappeared without a trace. Now, years later, her uncle Oliver Beckett thinks he's found her: a young actress in a vaudeville playhouse is a dead ringer for his missing niece. But when Oliver confronts the girl, he learns he's wrong. Orphaned young, Leah's been acting since she was a toddler.  Oliver, never one to miss an opportunity, makes a proposition - with his coaching, Leah can impersonate Jessie, claim the fortune, and split it with him. The role of a lifetime, he says. A one-way ticket to Sing Sing, she hears. But when she's let go from her job, Oliver's offer suddenly looks a lot more appealing. Leah agrees to the con but secretly promises herself to try and find out what happened to the real Jessie. There's only one problem: Leah's act won't fool the one person who knows the truth about Jessie's disappearance. 

Set against a Prohibition-era backdrop of speakeasies and vaudeville houses, Mary Miley's The Impersonator will delight readers with its elaborate mystery and lively prose.
©2013 Mary Miley Theobald (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.   

My Thoughts:

I loved The Impersonator so much that I listened to it again.  I don't find many audiobooks that please me so much in every way.   I love Leah Randall.  She  is a truly delightful character and it was a real treat to follow her adventure impersonating the young heiress Jessie Carr.  I loved the mystery and suspense as Leah/Jessie turned her talents to solving murders and, even though it would put her own life in danger, she tries to find out what happened to the real Jessie.

I loved that it was set in the Roaring Twenties and is all about vaudeville.  Author Mary Miley made vaudeville come alive for me and sent me researching for more about that era.  I especially loved the way real vaudeville performers were integrated into the story.  My favorite was Jack Benny.  Leah had shared the stage with Benny and become friends.  She asked him to help her with the murder investigation and he gladly did so.  I can remember sitting with my ear glued to the radio when I was a very small child, delighting in the Jack Benny Show (his later ones).  A warm memory that sent me searching the internet where I found all of the Jack Benny Shows.  

I loved the narration.  This was my first experience with Tavia Gilbert's work.  Her stellar performance gave Leah/Jessie's voice energy and sparkle.  She was great with all the voices.  I'm adding her to my favorite narrator list.

I was happy to find The Impersonator is the first in the Roaring Twenties series.  I can't wait for the next one!  I absolutely loved it and I give it 5 stars for story, narration and production.  I would recommend it to anyone who who likes a good mystery/thriller, especially one set in the Roaring Twenties. 

Review copy provided by Blackstone Audio via the Audiobook Jukebook Solid Gold Reviewer program. 


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Audiobook Review: Dream Doctor: Dreams, Book 2

Dream Doctor: Dreams, Book 2
Author: J.J. DiBendetto
Narrator: Heather Jane Hogan
Unabridge, 11 hrs, 6 min
Publisher: James J. DiBendetto 
Audio release date: 10/2/13
 Book Description 
“I didn’t expect to be woken up by someone I don’t know dreaming about killing somebody. I thought I was done with that once and for all…”

But Sara’s not done with it. As if adjusting to life as a newlywed and starting medical school weren’t difficult enough, she’s started seeing the dreams of everyone around her, again. Before everything is said and done, those dreams might destroy Sara’s hopes of becoming a doctor, wreck her marriage and even end her life…

“Dream Doctor” is the thrilling second novel in the Dreams series©2013.

 James DiBenedetto (P)2013 James DiBenedetto. 

My Thoughts:

Dream Doctor, the second book in the Dreams series, begins about a year and a half after Dream Student.  Sara and Brian are now married and Sara is very busy with medical school.  The dreams have begun again.  More than one person is dreaming about killing the unpopular professor, Dr. Morris.   And Sara is seeing the dreams of people who are close to her - friends, classmates and family.  Being newly married, she wants to tell Brian everything but has to learn to keep the secrets of those whose dreams she sees.  Keeping the details of her dreams to herself is good practice. After all, a doctor's duty is to keep patient information private.  But she doesn't have to keep the dreams of the potential killer to herself and Brian makes a great partner in helping to solve the mystery.  I love the combination of romance, college life and mystery.  I can see how Sara is maturing as a person and future doctor. 

I do have one nit picky thing that bothered me.  Sara is intelligent and a college student.  She should know the "I and you" grammar rule (e.g. "following Brian and I" instead of "following Brian and me").  

Heather Jane Hogan has a nice voice and I enjoyed her performance except for her pace.  Again, as in Dream Student, I had to speed it up.  Her slow pace might not bother other listeners as it does sound dreamy. I'm glad my audiobook app has the option to listen faster.  

Dream Doctor can stand on it's own but is a great sequel to Dream Student.  I recommend the series to anyone who likes a bit of romance along with the mystery.

Review copy provided by James J. DiBendetto, author and publisher


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: A Guide For The Perplexed

A Guide for the Perplexed
Author: Dara Horn
Narrator:  Carrington MacDuffie
Unabridged, Length 10 hrs, 34 min
Publisher: AudioGo
Release Date: 9-9-13

Publishers Summary:
A thrilling new novel exploring how memory shapes the soul, by "an astonishing storyteller."
Software prodigy Josie Ashkenazi has invented a program that records everything its users do. When an Egyptian library invites her to visit as a consultant, her jealous sister Judith persuades her to go. But in Egypt's post-revolutionary chaos, Josie is kidnapped - leaving Judith free to usurp her sister's life, including her husband and daughter, while Josie's talent for preserving memories becomes her only hope of escape.
A century earlier, Solomon Schechter, a Cambridge professor, hunts for a medieval archive hidden in a Cairo synagogue. What he finds will reveal the power and danger of the world Josie's work brings into being - a world where nothing is ever forgotten.
Interweaving stories from Genesis, medieval philosophy, and the digital frontier, A Guide for the Perplexed is a spellbinding tale sure to bring a vast new listener to the acclaimed work of Dara Horn.
©2013 Dara Horn (P)2013 AudioGO

My Thoughts:

The idea of a software that automatically records and preserves memories was intriguing and it reminded me of some of my friends who try to record their life with Facebook and other social media.  It also made me wonder what does happen to our digital life when we are no longer here to monitor or publish our memories?  Of course, in recording our own memories, we add only what we want others to know.  Josie Ashkenazi has invented a software, called Geniza, that records everything and is so precise, it can even make predictions. 

I like a work that leads me to do research and it was interesting to look up Solomon Schechter and his discovery of the rare Hebrew manuscripts (the Cairo Geniza).  However the three story lines left me a bit confused.  I wish it had been a guide for me.  Instead of being spell bound, I was perplexed.  I didn't find the characters to be well developed and had many questions.  Why did Josephine have a nickname (Josie) but Judith did not?  As a Judith who has been called Judy all my life by friends and family, I found that odd.  Could it have been the author's attempt to show the pervasive "Mom loves you best" syndrome?  Why did Judith insist on her sister going to Egypt in the first place?  If it was to take over Josie's life, why did she give it up so readily? Why did Josie forgive her sister so easily?  And why didn't the story end when it should have instead of going on and on like the Energizer bunny?

Carrington MacDuffie's performance was excellent.  She handled the accents and male/female voices perfectly, especially the Scottish twins who would have bored me to tears if I met them in real life.  This was my first experience with her work and I would like to hear more.

I give A Guide for the Perplexed 3.5 for story and 5 stars for narration.

Review copy provided by AudioGo via Audiobook Jukebox.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Audiobook Review: Dream Student

Dream Student: Dreams, Book 1
Author: J.J. DiBendetto
Narrator: Heather Jane Hogan
Unabridged, 11 hrs & 33 min
 Publisher: James J. DiBendetto  7/17/13

Publishers Summary:

What would you do if you could see other people's dreams? If you could watch their hidden fantasies and uncover their deepest, darkest secrets without them ever knowing?
Sara Barnes is about to find out. She thought that all she had to worry about was final exams, Christmas shopping and deciding whether she likes the cute freshman in the next dorm who's got a crush on her.  But when she starts seeing dreams that aren't hers, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about her friends, her classmates…and a strange, terrifying man whose dreams could get Sara killed. 

Dream Student is the thrilling first installment of the Dreams Series.
©2013 James DiBenedetto (P)2013 James DiBenedetto   

My Thoughts:
The idea of seeing other people's dreams got me interested in hearing the audio version of Dream Student.  It's an intriguing concept, seeing into other people's minds by way of their dreams. I loved how Sara met Brian, the young man she fell in love with through meeting him in her dreams and seeing him in his.  Not all her dreams are that pleasant.  Someone is murdering young women, and Sara is terrified when she sees the killer's dreams.  I enjoyed this peek into college life from the prospect of a young girl.  She was experiencing college during the same time period I did - late 1989 through 1990.  I was a commuting adult student working my way through college and always wondering how it was for the young people who got to live on campus. 

 I was a little confused at first.  The story was told in Sara's voice but when the dreams happened I was ejected out of her head and the omniscient voice relayed the dream.  Dreams are probably like that but I wouldn't know.  I don't remember mine.  I sort of wished she would just stay in her head and tell me she was in the dream.  But that's just me.  Once I got over my initial confusion I really enjoyed Dream Student.  The voice of the narrator sounded pleasant and appropriate for the age group.  However, she read at such a slow pace I felt that if I had to listen that slowly I wouldn't  be able to enjoy the story.  I did something I rarely do - I sped up the pace to 1.2x and enjoyed it a bit faster than the 11 hrs & 33 mins. 

Usually I recommend the audio version but in this case I think the print version would be just as enjoyable.  However, I look forward to more in the Dream series in audio format. I give it 4 stars for story and narration.  

Review copy provided by James J. DiBendetto, author and publisher

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Audiobook Review: A Reason to Live: A Marty Singer Mystery Book 1

A Reason to Live 
(A Mary Singer Mystery, Book 1)
Author: Matthew Iden
Narrator: Lloyd Sherr
Unabridged, Length 8 hrs, 10 min
Publisher: Matthew Iden  8/14/13

Publisher's Summary:
 In the late 90s, a bad cop killed a good woman and DC Homicide Detective Marty Singer got to watch as the murderer walked out of the courtroom a free man. Twelve years later, the victim's daughter comes to Marty begging for help: the killer is stalking her now. There's just one problem: Marty's retired...and he's retired because he's battling cancer. But with a second shot at the killer - and a first chance at redemption - Marty's just found…a reason to live.

©2012 Matthew Iden (P)2013 Matthew Iden

My Thoughts:
When I plugged in my earbuds and the oddly familiar voice filled my ears I knew that I would enjoy this audiobook even if the story was ho-hum.  But I was totally hooked by the time I head the voice say, " my day dragged itself across the floor of my life."  The writing is crisp and vivid and the characters wonderfully developed.  I laughed out loud at Marty's description of the paper gown he had to wear in the doctor's office.  I felt a sinking in the pit of my stomach when the symptoms of cancer appeared and he got the diagnosis.  Scary feeling, even second hand.

I love Marty Singer.  He is a hero who agrees to help a scared young woman even when his own life is uncertain due to his battle with cancer.  Amanda's mother was murdered twelve years ago and Singer was one of the investigating officers.  She kept his card all these years and has asked him for help.  It seems the murderer (who got away with it) is back and stalking her.  The mystery and plot twists kept me captivated and entertained all the way to the end. 

This was my first audiobook experience with Lloyd Sherr as narrator.  When I looked him up, I saw why his voice seemed so familiar.  He's a voice over artist that I've heard many times and he's the perfect choice for Marty Singer.  His voice pinned me in the moment, left me feeling the emotions of a man worried about his own life, but also a hero who forgets himself long enough to help someone else.  A Reason to Live is already a five star novel in print but I don't think I would be able to imagine Marty as perfectly as Sherr performed it.  I have always been an avid reader but the added dimension of a voice such as Sherr's adds a wonderful intimacy.   A Reason to Live is a winning combination of mighty fine writing and excellent narration. It's the first in the series and I can't wait to hear more.   I highly recommend A Reason to Live to anyone who loves a good mystery.   You would enjoy it in print but the audiobook is outstanding.   I give it five stars for story, production and narration.

Review copy provided by Matthew Iden, author and publisher.

A Reason to Live is available at and iTunes
Kindle and print versions at


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Audiobook Review: The End of Vandalism

The End of Vandalism
Author: Tom Drury
Introduction: Paul Winter
Narrator: Lloyd James
Unabridged, Length 10.5 hrs
Publisher: AudioGo  9/1/13

Publisher's Summary:
Welcome to Grouse County, a fictional Midwest that is at once familiar and amusingly eccentric, where a thief vacuums the church before stealing the chalice, a lonely woman paints her toenails in a drafty farmhouse, and a sleepless man watches his restless bride scatter their bills beneath the stars. At the heart of The End of Vandalism is an unforgettable love triangle set off by a crime: Sheriff Dan Norman arrests Tiny Darling for vandalizing an anti-vandalism dance and then marries the culprit's ex-wife Louise. 

My Thoughts:
When I began listening to Paul Winter's introduction to The End of Vandalism I was impatient and didn't really pay attention.  He was talking about an author I wasn't familiar with and I wanted to get on to the story.  Except, there really wasn't a story.  The characters were engaging (there was around 60) and their details were interesting, but there was no plot.  No clues to pick up on, no exciting action to move it along.  Yet it was one of the best books I've listened to in a long time.  When it ended, I was ready to hear what Paul Winter had to say so I listened to the introduction again.  He described it as "an intelligent and kindhearted examination of a group of economically adrift characters in the modern American Middle West. And it's fucking funny."   He was right. When I heard Mary's description of how her friend Hans Cook took LSD because it made his neck feel better, you could probably hear me laughing in the next county.  I replayed it and laughed again until I had tears in my eyes.   Suddenly I didn't care it lacked plot, clues or exciting action.  I was listening to people such as I've known in my life except they weren't from the south, and well, maybe they were more eccentric. And definitely funnier.  It was like a delightful river of conversations and scenes flowing along with no apparent destination and I never knew where it would take me.  Lloyd James has a wonderful way of carrying you through the river of narrative.  His performance of all the voices was perfect, especially the women and Mary in particular.  I am sure The End of Vandalism is wonderful in print but with Lloyd James, it was absolutely fantastic. 

This was my first experience with Tom Drury's work. I loved it and I'm looking forward to more. I'm also adding Lloyd James to my list of favorite narrators.  I give The End of Vandalism 5 stars and highly recommend it.

Review copy provided by AudioGo. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Audiobook Review: Easy Innocence

 Easy Innocence
Author: Libby Fischer Hellman
Narrator: Beth Richmond
Unabridged, Length: 10 hrs 59 mins
Publisher: Books in Motion 8-7-09

Publisher's Summary
Removed from the gritty streets of Chicago, the residents of the North Shore sleep easily in their million-dollar homes. Easily, that is, until a local girl is discovered bludgeoned to death in the woods. Quick to blame the man with the bat, the North Shore returns to its version of normalcy. But the accused's sister isn't so willing to forget and hires Georgia Davis - former cop and newly-minted PI - to look into the incident.
What Georgia finds hints at a much different, darker answer. It seems that some privileged, preppy schoolgirls on Chicago's North Shore have learned just how much their innocence is worth to hot-under-the-collar businessmen. And while these girls can now pay for Prada, iPhones, and Jimmy Choos with their earnings, they don't realize that their new business venture may end up costing them more than they can afford.
©2008 Libby Fischer Hellmann; (P)2009 Books In Motion   

My Thoughts: 
This was my first experience with Libby Fischer Hellman's work and is the second book in her Georgia Davis series.  There is enough references to the first book in the series to make me want to go back and start the series from the beginning.  I found the story hard to get into at first but did enjoy getting to know Georgia Davis. She's smart and strong but also vulnerable.  She's a former cop who was kicked out of the force and is now earning her living as a private investigator.  Tired of routine cases such as skip traces and cheating spouses, she jumps at the chance to investigate the murder of a school girl in order to prove the innocence of the mentally challenged man accused of the crime.  Soon she is caught up in a world of rich, spoiled teenagers involved in prostitution and the adults who exploit them.  

This was also my first experience with narrator Beth Richmond.  During the first half of the book, her voice and style just didn't work for me.  I don't know if it was because I became accustomed to her voice or she improved that much for the last half, but I ended up enjoying her performance very much and realizing she was perfect for this book. 

It wasn't an "I couldn't put it down" listen but it did have plenty of plot twists and red herrings to keep me interested and the solution was a complete surprise.   I give it 3.5 stars.

Review copy provided by Fischer Hellman Communications.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Audiobook Review: B. & E. A Whit Pynchon Mystery

B. &. E.  A Whit Pynchon Mystery
Book 5
Author: Dave Pedneau
Narrator: Chet Williamson
Unabridged Length 8 hrs, 16 min
Publisher: Crossroads Press
Release Date: 04-30-13

Publisher's Summary:
The Incident: An interrupted burglary on a peaceful Milbrook street ends in the stabbing of a citizen and the murder of a cop. And that's only the beginning of a criminal nightmare for special investigator Whit Pynchon.

The Invasion: Whit has good reason to believe that the bloody B. & E. is the latest in a rash of break-ins committed for the same reason: to steal firearms. Even worse, the culprits may be neo-Nazi terrorists, who rove through small towns like Milbrook, committing robberies as part of a larger, more treacherous plan.

The Investigation: Even with the help of his lover, newspaper editor Anna Tyree, Whit has his hands full - with an obnoxious new police chief, a rabble-rousing minister, a pack of eager news hounds and the elusive killer thieves, whose vengeance is set to explode.

My Thoughts:
B. &. E (Book 5) was more predictable than  A.P.B. I enjoyed it anyway, even though I guessed who the mastermind was right away.  It was still fun to see if I was right and the plot twists kept me interested.  It was just the right length to keep me company during a day of household chores and mowing the lawn.  The time period for this book seems to be about a year after Book 1. Whit's daughter, Tressa, who was my favorite character in A.P.B. was not a part of this book.  Whit and Anna have been living together and now she is editor of the paper instead of a reporter.  Cohabiting with the paper's editor has not softened Whit's irritation and annoyance at the press.  In fact, Whit seems to be annoyed about a lot of things - the ineptness of the investigation when a police officer is murdered during a break in, the obnoxious new police chief who admits he is no detective and the job of catching the murderous thieves.  Whit is still longing to retire to the South Carolina Low Country and hates his job.  Again, what I enjoyed most is the wonderful performance of Chet Williams.  He is especially good at showing Whit's moods.  He does the voices so well I never had to wonder who was talking, even the women and teenagers. 

I give B.&E. 3.5 stars for story and 5 stars for narration.  If you like a good thriller, you can't go wrong with this one.

Review copy provided by Crossroads Press. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Audiobook Review: A.P.B. A Whit Pynchon Mystery

A.P.B A Whit Pynchon Mystery
Book 1
Author: Dave Pedneau
Narrator: Chet Williamson
Unabridged Length 8 hrs, 4 min
Publisher: Crossroads Press
Release Date:  04-01-13

Publishers Summary:
Special investigator Whit Pynchon and crime reporter Annie Tyson-Tyree race against time to find the psychotic killer who is murdering the wives and girlfriends of all the cops in the small West Virginia town of Millbrook.

My Thoughts:
This first book in this series has the recipe for an entertaining mystery.  There's Whit Pynchon, special investigator for Tony Danton, the prosecutor in Millbrook, WV.  He's a divorced loner who  longs to retire to the South Caroline Low Country and plans to do so in exactly one year and six months.  Then there is his teenage daughter, Tressa, who is the light of his life and lives with his ex-wife.  Whit hates reporters so when Annie Tyson-Tyree comes into the picture to report on the horrible murders of a cop's wife, Whit is very resistant to her.  So there's the budding romance.  Tressa conspires to get Annie and her father together.  More murders happen.  Soon Annie and Whit are in a relationship that includes both a romantic connection and mutual interest in solving the case.  Even though some aspects were predictable,  I enjoyed the story all the way to the satisfying ending and look forward to more in the series.  Most of all I enjoyed the narration of Chet Williamson.  This was my first experience with his work and I've added him to my list of favorite narrators.  His voice is perfect for this type of novel and I am looking forward to hearing more of his work.  I always research narrators and found that Chet Williamson is an author too and has narrated some of his own work.  My wish list just got longer!

I give A.P.B. 4 stars for story and 5 stars for narration.

Review copy provided by Crossroads Press.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room
Author: James Baldwin
Narrator: Dan Butler
Unabridged, Length 6 hrs, 49 min
Publisher: AudioGo Ltd 4/1/13

Publisher's Summary:
Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

My Thoughts:
I found Giovanni's Room  to be emotionally intense and powerful.  David, a young American, has fled to Paris to escape something in himself that he does not want to admit.  His girlfriend, Hella, is traveling on her own to give herself some time to decide what she wants from their relationship.  David spends time with his friends in a gay bar to prove to himself that he is not one of them.  Then he meets Giovanni and begins a love affair that makes him realize escape will never happen.  The novel begins with the end.  Hella is on her way back to America and Giovanni's fate is sealed.  I could empathize with David, being torn between two lovers and fighting against something in himself that he didn't want to accept.  I could feel for Hella, knowing she lost her fiancee to another man.  But my sympathies were mostly with Giovanni, who thought David was his salvation and begged him not to leave. I won't say any more for fear of spoiling it for other readers but when the last chapter was over I had a lump in my throat for hours.

Dan Butler was the perfect voice for David.  At first I thought he was reading too slowly and deliberately but I soon saw that his interpretation gave David's thoughts a dreamlike quality.  It was almost as if David was seeing his memories through a curtain as a way to keep them from being so sharp they would destroy him. 

James Baldwin is an amazing writer. When Giovanni's Room was published in 1957, I'm sure people were outraged at a black man daring to write about gay white men.   It's such an important literary work, I don't know why I never discovered it until now but I'm glad I did.  I give it 5 stars.

Review copy provided by AudioGo. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Song Dog

The Song Dog
Author: James Mclure
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Unabridged, Length 9 hrs, 37 min
Publisher: AudioGo Ltd, 4/2/13

 Publisher's Summary:
The year is 1962. Young Lieutenant Tromp Kramer of the Trekkersburg Murder and Robbery Squad has been ordered up to Jafini, a small, dusty town in northern Zululand, to investigate the "hero's death" of the town's chief detective, Maaties Kritzinger--another Afrikaner maverick, and one with many secrets. Kramer finds himself increasingly identifying with the victim as the investigation proceeds. And then his path crosses that of Bantu Detective Sergeant Mickey Zondi, who is trying to locate a multiple killer whose summary execution will quiet the spirits of his ancestors. Despite the racial differences, the two men sense a that might prove dangerous in rural South Africa in the year of Nelson Mandela's imprisonment.

My Thoughts:
I absolutely love this series!  I listened to and reviewed The Artful Egg a few weeks ago and was delighted to have the chance to review The Song Dog because this prequel to the series shows how Lieutenant Tromp Kramer and  Bantu Detective Sergeant Mickey Zondi first teamed up to solve a crime.  At first Kramer thought Zondi was a suspect in the bombing and set a trap to catch him.  Zondi was curious to see what Kramer was up to and ended up saving Kramer when someone tried to shoot him.  Kramer had become increasingly frustrated with the inept investigations of the Jafini police department. He quickly recognized the intelligence and ability of the Bantu detective and arranged for Zondi to work the case with him. Despite their racial differences, the pair make an excellent crime-solving team.  I don't listen to many books twice, but I did listen to The Song Dog a second time.  It was fun to experience the investigation knowing where all the clues and seemingly unrelated incidences would lead.  Listening to Steven Crossley is such a treat.  He gives each character a personality and I especially liked his performance of Kramer.   I give The Song Dog 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who loves good detective fiction with a historical setting and plenty of humor. 

Review copy provided by AudioGo.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Tooth Tattoo

The Tooth Tattoo
Author: Peter Lovesey
Narrator: Clive Anderson
Unabridged, Length 11hrs, 40 min
Publisher: AudioGo Ltd. 4/30/13

Publisher's Summary
Peter Diamond, head of Bath CID, takes a city break in Vienna, where his favorite film, The Third Man, was set, but everything goes wrong and his companion, Paloma, calls a halt to their relationship. Meanwhile, strange things are happening to jobbing musician Mel Farran, who finds himself scouted by methods closer to the spy world than the concert platform. The chance of joining a once-famous string quartet in a residency at Bath Spa University is too tempting for Mel to refuse. Then a body is found in the city canal, and the only clue to the dead woman's identity is the tattoo of a music note on one of her teeth. For Diamond, who wouldn't know a Stradivarius from a French horn, the investigation is his most demanding ever. Three mysterious deaths need to be probed while his own personal life is in free fall…

My Thoughts:
I chose The Tooth Tattoo for the intriguing title and the fact that I love mysteries set in England.  I was not disappointedI liked being immersed in the unfamiliar and enjoyed learning about the world of a string quartet, how they complemented each other and were closely knit in their working life but totally separate in their private lives. Once very famous, the quartet was making a comeback after recruiting Mel Farron to take the place of  Harry, their viola player who disappeared four years ago.  Peter Diamond came into contact with the string quartet while investigating the mysterious death of a young woman who had a tattoo of a musical note on one of her teeth..  Many seemingly unrelated clues kept me guessing and I realized who the murder was about the time Diamond solved the case. This was my first Peter Diamond mystery and I assure you it won't be my last.  This was also my first experience with narrator Clive Anderson and he was fantastic.  He was especially good with the voice of the female member of the string quartet but not so good with other female voices.  I always knew who was speaking and it was a pleasure to listen to him.  I will add him to my list of favorites.

I liked the fact that The Tooth Tattoo didn't make me feel that I had missed something by not having read any of the previous Peter Diamond mysteries.  I recommend it to mystery lovers and give it 4.5 stars.

Review copy provided by AudioGo.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Frozen Shroud

The Frozen Shroud
The Lake District Mysteries, #6 
Author: Martin Edwards 
Narrator: John Lee
Unabridged, Length 8.5 hrs
Publisher: Blackstone Audio 2013

Publisher's Summary
Death has come twice to Ravenbank, a remote community in England’s Lake District, each time on Halloween. Just before the First World War, a young woman’s corpse was found, with a makeshift shroud frozen to her battered face. Her ghost—the Faceless Woman—is said to walk through Ravenbank on Halloween. Five years ago, another woman, Shenagh Moss, was murdered, and again her face was covered to hide her injuries.
Daniel Kind, a specialist in the history of murder, becomes fascinated by the old cases and wonders whether the obvious suspects really did commit the crimes. He spends Halloween at a party in Ravenbank—only to find death returning to this beautiful but isolated spot. Once more, the victim is a woman; once more her damaged face is shrouded from view.

My Thoughts:
The Frozen Shroud has some of the things I like in a mystery.  It's set in England, there are murders to be solved and a narrator who is one of my favorites.  But it did not live up to my expectations. 
The second and third murders were interesting but similarities seemed contrived.  The ghost story could have been interesting but the ghost never showed up except in conversations. Maybe it was because most of the story was told through conversations.  For instance, when murder historian Daniel Kind made a startling discovery, we don't know what it is until he's talking with DCI Hannah Scarlett.  John Lee gave a flawless performance but even with his expertise, there were so many characters I occasionally lost track of who was speaking.  It's entirely possible that I would have liked The Frozen Shroud more if I had read the series from the beginning.  However, I did enjoy trying to figure out who the murderer was in all three cases.  I like it when the solution isn't so obvious and no matter which person I suspect, I get it wrong.  It had enough plot twists and red herrings to keep me listening to the end.   I give it 3 stars.

Review copy provided by Blackstone Audio. 


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Audiobook review: The Racketeer

The Racketeer by John Grisham
Narrated by J. D. Jackson
Length: 12 hours and 45 minutes
Release Date: 10-23-12
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publisher's Summary
Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered.

Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five.

Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge's untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.

On paper, Malcolm's situation isn't looking too good these days, but he's got an ace up his sleeve: He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The judge's body was found in his remote lakeside cabin. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.

What was in the safe? The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price - especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett's death. And the Racketeer wasn't born yesterday....
Nothing is as it seems and everything's fair game in this wickedly clever new novel from John Grisham, the undisputed master of the legal thriller.

My Thoughts:
This is my least favorite book by John Grisham (unless he writes one that is worse).  The critics seemed to be impressed but I was not.  Grisham is one of my favorite authors but if The Racketeer was the first book I had read by him, I might not have ever read another.  I’ve read some and listened to others but I’ve always been able to get into the story right away.  I found myself washing dishes without my mp3 player when I first started listening to The Racketeer.  I kept wondering when the story would start.  It wasn’t until about the middle that I was driving on a familiar road and made a wrong turn because I was so tuned in.  When Vanessa joins Malcolm the story really gets interesting.  Malcolm is using Rule 35 to get himself out of prison and Vanessa is helping him.  I was pretty sure that Malcolm/Max was in cahoots with (no, not telling - you’ll have to read it to see if you think the same.)  I just had to let the story unfold.  Their plan went along without any hitches except maybe when Vanessa had to get naked or Max was slowed down by a traffic jam.  At times I found myself rooting for Max and his friends to succeed and other times I wondered why he deserved success.  He sure didn’t subscribe to the golden rule.  
The narrator, J.D. Jackson, has a wonderfully smooth voice but he read so slowly that I might have had a better experience with the print version.  I would not avoid another audiobook narrated by him but I won't add him to my list of favorite narrators.  
I sort of wish I’d waited on the list at my local library instead of spending my Audible credit on it. 

Audiobook Review: The Artful Egg

The Artful Egg
Arthur: James McClure
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Unabridged Length 10 hrs 7 min.
Publisher: AudioGo Ltd
Release Date 2/12/13

Publishers Summary:
 Naomi Stride was a wealthy woman, and her death has left several people richer--none more so than her twenty-six-year-old son Theo, with whom she had long had bitter differences over money. She was also a controversial woman, a writer whose novels had been banned in South Africa. But was it for money, politics, or some other unknown reason that she was killed? And why was her naked corpse strewn with flowers and herbs? These are the questions South African Lieutenant Tromp Kramer and his Zulu partner, Mickey Zondi, must answer. But this task becomes much more difficult when Kramer is unexpectedly taken off the case. Ordered by his superiors to discreetly "wrap up" a fatal accident that could be embarrassing for the South African police, he is plunged into a second investigation, and (fighting to keep it free of political whitewash) he and Zondi find themselves moving inexorably toward a haunting and horrifying climax.

My Thoughts:
The Artful Egg has everything I like in a mystery.  It has an entertaining plot, plenty of laughs, engaging characters and a talented narrator to make them come alive.  The setting is a fictional South African town during the apartheid era.  Naomi Stride's books were banned because of her sympathy for the non-white population. She was wealthy so she could have been murdered for political reasons or for her money.  I enjoyed the investigation procedure and interaction between Tromp Kramer and Mickey Zondi so much that I didn't even try to figure out who the murderer was.  At times Kramer was called a kaffir lover and Zondi was not allowed into certain places, but their relationship was one of respect and teamwork.  I was delighted to find that there are more Kramer and Zondi mysteries to discover.   This was the 7th in the series.   My favorite character in The Artful Egg is the Indian postman Ramjut Pillay who found Stride's body.   One of the funniest scenes is when he is in a mental hospital under an assumed name, sans trousers, trying to prove he isn't a Jew.  The doctor denies calling him a Jew and says he is missing the point.  Ramjut insists that the doctor take a look at his point. "It is entirely uncircumscribed."  (It's funnier in Ramjut's voice.)  Steven Crossley performed all the voices brilliantly but showed his genius with Ramjut.   I loved The Artful Egg and give it 5 stars.

Review copy provided by AudioGo. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Audiobook Review: Frank Sinatra in a Blender

Frank Sinatra in a Blender
Author: Matthew McBride
Narrator: Keith Szarabajka 
Length 5.5 hrs Unabridged 
Publisher: Blackstone Audio 2013

Publisher's Summary:
Nick Valentine has problems. He’s a drunken ex-cop who lives in his shabby office, hangs out at strip clubs, and has only one real friend—Frank Sinatra. But he’s one of the best private investigators in Saint Louis. So when an inept crew robs a credit union, only Valentine can figure out who made off with the millions—because sometimes solving a crime takes a hard guy who’s not afraid to work outside the law. Valentine swerves through the underbelly of Saint Louis looking for answers, and with every law he breaks, every drink he takes, and every OxyContin he snorts, he lurches closer to finding the truth—or floating facedown in the Missouri River.
Brutally funny and wild, this no-holds-barred crime novel reads like Elmore Leonard on meth: crazy 
and addictive—you’ll want more.

My Thoughts:
Frank Sinatra is a cute little yorkie.  What kind of monster would put him in a blender? He's also a funny little cuss and the best (or only) friend of Nick Valentine, hard drinking private eye who likes his OxyContin (preferring it crushed for snorting) and various other drugs.  It's usual for Nick to go into one of his strip joint hangouts and order several mixed drinks with a couple of beer chasers and that's just the first round.  He always travels with a spare beer cooler in his trunk but no spare tire. He has recently quit drinking coffee because he gave up cigarettes. He couldn't drink coffee with out smoking so had to give up both.  Nick was on the police force until his drinking got him kicked out.  He is helping his former chief with the investigation of a credit union robbery.  Money is stolen and then stolen againTorture and murders happen and Nick is hot on the case.  One of the funniest scenes is when Nick and a cop are searching a murder scene.  Nick can't resist drinking wine from the refrigerator and leaves a door unlocked so he can sneak back to steal more wine and use the toilet.  I enjoyed Matthew McBride's warped sense of humor so much I immediately listened to the novel again.  But it wasn't just the story and dark humor that made me enjoy Frank Sinatra in a Blender so much.  I loved hearing it read by Keith Szarabajka. There couldn't be a more perfect narrator for this novel.  He is a true voice artist.  I felt like I was hearing a whole cast of characters - Telly, English Sid, Johnny No Nuts, Big Tony, Amish Ron, Doyle, Nick Valentine, and yes, even Frank Sinatra. 

If you have no tolerance for profanity and an aversion to gore, it's best to pass on this one.  But if you like over-the-top characters and wicked humor, you will laugh all the way through it.  The pace was so fast that at times I had to rewind to see if I had missed something and the gore was almost too much but the laughs were worth it.  I give it 4.5 stars.

Review copy provided by Blackstone Audio.