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