Source: I received a copy of this book from Audible in exchange for an honest review.
Do sons bear the sins of their father? That’s the question facing new bride Kate Krause in Jess McConkey’s novel, THE WIDOWS OF BRAXTON COUNTY. Kate’s excitement over starting a new life with her husband Joe on his family’s farm quickly turns to despair when the dark side of Joe begins to emerge. Kate learns that Joe’s great-great grandfather was murdered in the farmhouse in 1890, and that he was a cold man who abused his wife Hannah. Rumor is that the Krause family is cursed because of Jacob’s cruelty, and tragedy has plagued the family for over a century.
This was an intriguing murder mystery with a hint of the supernatural and so much more. The chapters alternated between Hannah in 1890 and Kate in present day. (I love dual time periods!) Both women were strong protagonists, and I was particularly impressed by Hannah’s strength and courage. The book addresses domestic violence, women’s rights and their place in society in the 19th century, and the struggles early suffragettes had to face. It also explores violent behavior of parents and its effects on children later in life.
I enjoyed Coleen Marlo’s narration of this book. She gave a lively performance and did a fantastic job giving distinct voices to Kate, Hannah, and a sizable cast of secondary characters. A couple of the men had a noticeable growl to their voice, which I thought was appropriate given their disposition!
THE WIDOWS OF BRAXTON COUNTY was a compelling novel with an important message and a satisfying surprise twist at the very end! This one’s going on my keeper shelf. Recommended to fans of mystery, suspense, family secrets, and women’s fiction.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
THE HOLLOW GROUND is a strong character-driven historical novel that takes readers back to the Pennsylvania coal mine fires in the early 1960s. It’s also very much a coming-of-age story for the young protagonist, Brigid Howley. What can I say about Brigid, except that she was a survivor! She told it like it was, her life as the daughter of a loving yet irresponsible alcoholic father, and a distant mother with major abandonment issues. They were refugees of a sort, forced to move from place to place, trying to outrun the coal fires underground.
I love reading books like this that transport me to a time and place I’m not familiar with, and let me see life vividly through the characters’ eyes. I’d known about the long-burning coal fires, but it didn’t occur to me that these dangerous mines were underneath so many homes, putting families just like Brigid’s in peril from poison gasses, explosions, and cave-ins.
The audiobook was narrated by Luci Christian, and I enjoyed her performance very much. Not only did she do a great reading as the precocious 12-year old Brigid, her voices for the secondary characters were spot on, especially cantankerous old Gram.
THE HOLLOW GROUND is an impressive debut novel filled with memorable characters and eye-opening historical details of the Pennsylvania coal fires. It’s a story with much darkness, but leaves readers with a light at the end of the tunnel.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Disclosure: A copy of this audiobook was provided by Audible.com in exchange for an honest review.
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW is a well-known and loved classic by Washington Irving. As a kid, it really gave me the creeps, so I was excited to see the new audio version pop up as a freebie on Audible. It was narrated by the amazing Tom Mison, who happens to play the role of Ichabod Crane on the show Sleepy Hollow.
Most know the story already. Awkward, lanky Ichabod falls for a farmer's daughter named Katrina Van Tassel, who is also being courted by the hulking Brom Bones. After leaving a party at the Van Tassel Farm, a terrified Ichabod Crane is chased through the woods of Sleepy Hollow by the Headless Horseman, and then...?
Washington Irving was an fabulous writer, and the language in this story is beautiful. Tom Mison has the perfect voice to tell Ichabod's harrowing tale, and his acting talent shines through in the narration. I thought his English accent fit the story nicely, and I particularly loved how he pronounced the words autumnal, Hessian, and Brom Bones. Yeah, I could easily get lost in his voice. THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW is most definitely worth a listen!
Source: I received a copy of this book from Audible in exchange for an honest review.
SOLSBURY HILL is a loose retelling of the Gothic classic WUTHERING HEIGHTS, set in modern-day Yorkshire. American Eleanor Abbott is summoned to England at the urgent request of her gravely ill aunt. Her aunt, the current owner of Trent Hall on Solsbury Hill, has secrets to spill, but she dies before they can be shared with Eleanor. With her aunt’s death, Eleanor inherits the estate and the ghosts that come with it. Shocking family secrets are hers to discover as the haunting Yorkshire moors have her in their grip.
This book is also about Eleanor’s difficult choice between two men and the family curse that may doom them. There’s her serious boyfriend Miles, and Mead, her aunt’s foster son. Actually, the decision didn’t seem that difficult to me, but I guess Eleanor had too much time to wander the moors and over-think things. Unfortunately, my least favorite character was Eleanor, who was wishy-washy and lacked appropriate responses to what happened to her.
I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Kate Reading. She did an excellent job with the different accents in this book – American, English, and Scottish – and with female and male voices.
SOLSBURY HILL was an entertaining light Gothic romance. I felt like it was missing the grand passion of the original WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but the mesmerizing moors and mysterious ghosts in the book held my interest. I was also curious to learn how Emily Brontë herself was connected to Eleanor.
Source: I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audible in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t enjoy THE SPLENDOUR FALLS the way I thought I would, which is surprising since I’m a big fan of Kearsley’s writing. (THE SHADOWY HORSES is one of my favorites.) There were a few niggling factors that when put together made this book fall flat, both with the story and the audiobook performance.
Emily Braden is an Englishwoman on holiday in Chinon, France. She’s supposed to meet up with her cousin Harry, but when she arrives, he’s missing. While she waits for Harry to make an appearance, Emily spends her time getting to know some fellow travelers and a few townspeople. She learns about the death of a local man the previous week and begins to worry that Harry may be involved or be endangered.
THE SPLENDOUR FALLS is a murder mystery and a quest to find treasures buried in Chinon by two women named Isabelle – a queen in the 13th century and a maid during World War II. The premise was intriguing, but I thought the plot moved slowly, the prose was long-winded, and the characters failed to capture my attention. I especially didn’t care for Emily’s character. She was dull, and also needlessly cynical about life and love. There was a bit of romance for Emily tacked on at the end that seemed to come out of nowhere. I will say that the last 25% was exciting and suspenseful. I just wish the whole book had been that way!
The audiobook was performed by Barbara Rosenblat, and while I think she is a talented narrator, she was the wrong choice for this novel. Rosenblat’s gruff, raspy voice seemed much too old for 28-year old Emily Braden. However, I do think she did a great job with the men’s voices, and the French accents and words. This book was also in need of better editing. There were some instances where words and phrases were repeated, which was not the fault of the narrator.
I believe this book was first published in 1995, so it’s obvious that Susanna Kearsley has grown as an author since then. I think THE SPLENDOUR FALLS was well-researched and the descriptions of Chinon were magnificent, however it just wasn’t what I was expecting.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Source: A copy of this audiobook was provided by Audible.com in exchange for an honest review.
After Anne Boleyn was executed in 1556, King Henry VIII tried to erase her from history by destroying her portraits, letters, and any other traces of her existance. Because of this, the real Anne Boleyn remains a mystery. Was she a wicked harlot or a Protestant martyr? A conniving husband-stealing shrew or feminist champion? In THE CREATION OF ANNE BOLEYN, author Susan Bordo sets out to “save” Anne the human being from the various myths created over the centuries.
The first half of the book was my favorite. It’s an in depth look at Anne’s relationship with Henry, and how certain people from her own time viewed her and her marriage with the king. It was interesting to hear the author’s opinions of Catherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour, and how they differed from Anne. Ms. Bordo also looks at the theories about Henry’s health that may have caused his fickle nature when it came to disposing of his wives.
I didn’t care for the second half of the book quite as much. It explored how different versions of Anne Boleyn have been created over the last 500 years to fit the standards of the time. The chapters dragged at times, and ideas were repeated. I did like that the author showed how Anne is portrayed in film and literature today, including her thoughts on The Tudors television show. One negative for me was her obvious dislike of Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl (both the book and movie). It’s fine if she doesn’t like Gregory’s portrayal of Anne, but hearing about it over and over got tiresome after a while. (I have not read or seen The Other Boleyn Girl, but now I want to!)
This book was narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, and she gave a brilliant performance. She added just the right amount of enthusiasm, humor, and sarcasm in her voice at the appropriate passages. I would give the narration alone 5 stars!
THE CREATION OF ANNE BOLEYN was expertly researched, and I enjoyed how it was so much more than a typical biography. The information presented was certainly thought-provoking, and I walked away from this book with a new view of England’s most notorious queen.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
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