I came across John Verdon's second book first, "Shut Your Eyes". Half way through, it was so good I headed to the computer to find a copy of the first one, "Think of a Number". Both were so far beyond excellent I even found myself writing a gushing email of appreciation to Verdon himself -- who, like most kindly authors, wrote a very nice reply. Huh!
Those two books were absolutely outstanding -- completely innovative plots, an appealing protagonist with a nasty shrew of a wife (sorry, but she was) so there was someone to hate, as well as a question to ponder: Why would a guy like that put up with this nasty lady? Anyway, I',m delighted to see that now, all three books are available from Audible.
"Let the Devil Sleep" isn't quite as good as the first two -- but that's probably only because the first two were so outstanding. I was disappointed in the ending -- in fact, when I sensed that matters were drawing to a head, I had two hours left. I deliberately saved a block of time so I could listen, uninterrupted, wanting the full impact of the resolution. I wouldn't have needed to do that. It ended with more of a whimper than a bang.
Still, it's a darn good book. The moment Dave Gurney gets involved with that lissome journalism student, you know there's trouble ahead -- I was wrong about what kind of trouble, but not about its intensity. We get more of Wife Madeline, who this time has her shrewish nature tamed a bit, if not her wardrobe. This time, she comes across much more sympathetically -- still moody, ethereal and remote, but her nasty side was kept undercover for the most part. And we get Kim, the nudnik journalism student, who has a way of getting what she wants, no matter what, which is what sets up the story in the first place. Middle aged, retired detectives, really should be more careful about giving in to the pleas of female college students. But then, of course, there wouldn't have been a book and that would be a tragedy.
I recommend this book very highly, and while you don't have to read or listen to the first two first, it would help, if nothing else to see how the characters keep evolving.
Finally, Verdon might consider publishing a book of Madeline's recipes. The dinners she was serving in this one all sounded so good I was drooling over every one -- reminded me a little of Spenser and his Susan. The lady can cook, if nothing else.
... when you come across a book you've never heard of, by an author you've never heard of, and it just blows you away.... Well, this is one of those. So glad I rolled the dice and took a chance on an "orphan" book...
Cheryl Kaye Tardif is great -- she hooked me from the first page. In fact, I started listening in the early evening, having just finished a less-than-stellar book by a "New York Times Best Selling" author, one which left me feeling used. (Why, oh why, do I keep buying books by these big-name authors? Their early ones were really good, but it's clear they've run out of steam. Silly me, for continuing to buy them anyway.) So I wasn't expecting much from this unknown, but it was next on my iPod list, so.... What happened was that I ended up listening way past midnight, about half the book -- I couldn't find a good place to stop.
It's also good to find an author who does the literary equivalent of Audrey Hepburn's young
"Gypsy", when she just lets that single slip strap fall off her shoulder, not putting it all out in front of the leering men. There's lots of love in this book, but no hot erotic scenes, so if that's what you're looking for, this isn't it. This is a hope filled book, with decent characters, most of them -- except the bad guys and gals -- trying to do the right thing. Oh, it's not smarmy or goody-two-shoes, Tardif's characters struggle with their decisions, just as we all do. And there's plenty of tension, more white-knuckle suspense than you might need, in parts. But it's nice to read about some of the world's good people, too. There aren't enough books like that around.
Now? I'm looking for a few more Cheryl Kaye Tardif books -- I see she's got a lot of different genres out there, so I'll pick and choose. But I'm awfully glad I came across this one. Just an A-1 listen, all around!
I quit six hours in... it's probably a good story. I like the idea. But the narrator makes no distinction between the three young women's voices, and trying to figure out who is talking at any one time is absolutely impossible. Beyond that, she runs from one character's story to another's with no break whatever -- it's way beyond confusing. I got tired of backtracking.
So many (new) narrators do this -- run separate story segments together without a break, as if there weren't even a paragraph marking, Once again, I ask: what do they read from? Why can't they at least pause between different character's stories? Is it that they're reading from something that doesn't show paragraphs?
I keep telling myself I'll get back to this one, but honestly, I doubt it...
Living overseas, in a land where English-language books were very difficult to come by, I found myself reading all kinds of books I probably wouldn't have picked, had there been more options. I remember picking this book up, having never heard of either it or the author, and not having high expectations. Boy, I was wrong.
I was captivated from the first page -- the story moves along at breakneck speed, and not for quite a while can you even begin to imagine how such a thing could have happened: a teenage girl wakes up after a late night with her boyfriend, and finds that the rest of her family has simply disappeared, gone, without a trace. In spite of all the investigations and publicity at the time, nothing is ever discovered. The family just disappeared.
At some point, Barclay allows us to see how the solution to the puzzle could have occurred -- only things are never quite that simple.
So back then, years ago, in a country far away, I remember finishing the book, putting it down with a "Huh! Didn't see THAT coming..." and after wiping a few tears off my face, thinking, 'Wow. What a book!'
It IS quite a book. Still is. It's not Great Literature, maybe, but in terms of genre, one of the best. As an Audible book, this one was especially good because of the narrator, Christopher Lane. He narrates with exactly the right intonation -- sort of a befuddled-but-tolerant father figure, which is exactly right. Perfect for Terry Archer, a mild mannered wry-humored English teacher, husband of Cynthia Bigge, who was the teenager who lost her family. Archer never experienced any of the mystery himself, but nevertheless, he's the one who has coped with Cynthia's lifelong struggle with her loss. When things start to happen, it falls to him to figure it out.
To say much of anything more could spoil it, so I won't. Just know that this is a really good listen.
In fact, I love it so much I've bought it three times -- first as a paperback, then as an audible book, then again as a paperback, after I loaned out my first copy then never got it back. No problem: if any leisure reading is worth buying three times, this one is.
"Mary Kay Andrews" is Kathy Hogan Trocheck when she's at home -- I got hooked on her after hearing her interviewed on a Canadian radio station while driving home from Vancouver BC late one night, and was impressed with her versatility as a writer, publishing in several different genres. I'd never read any of her numerous books -- 17 novels, 10 of them mysteries -- but this one is my favorite. First of all, I like make-overs, whether it's hairstyles, makeup, dresses or houses. There are several "I got fired, but inherited an old house, so I may as well fix it up" books -- see the "Orchard Mysteries" series by Sheila Connolly, also available on Audible, not to mention a whole fixer-upper series by Sarah Graves. They're all good -- but there's more "meat" in this one than most, since there's a parallel story running about how protagonist Dempsey Killebrew got taken by a clever lobbyist boss in Washington, and found herself on the front pages of the Washington Post, hung out to dry for her boss's misdeeds. And then there's Ella Kate, the irascible 80-year old termagant who's been squatting in the house, adding an extra layer of interesting oddball Southern characters who populate Guthrie, Georgia, the wide spot in the road where "Birdsong", the dilapidated mansion, sits.
Lots of things get "fixed up" in "The Fixer Upper" -- not just the house, but just about everyone involved. And if you've been putting off doing some painting, tiling or floor refinishing yourself, it works as an inspiration, too. After listening to "Jimmy" - a real estate agent who paints houses for fun -- wax lyrical about the ethereal grace involved in applying a new coat of paint to an old room, I called a painter and set about doing some 'fix-it' work myself.
Good book. But I guess I said that.
A "Daily Deal", knew nothing about the author or the book before listening.... which was probably my mistake. There are a series of books by this author, and I don't know where this one fits in, but it was obvious there was a lot of back-story about these much-wounded, bodies-covered-with-scars characters. The past was alluded to, but I never got over the feeling that I'd walked into the middle of a play.
It was well read and parts were interesting -- I could see the attraction -- but when I was an hour from the end, and had just listened to yet another set of paragraphs enthusing over Dani's body parts, most frequently extolling her exquisite legs, her "thin little arms" and her "tiny little feet", I decided I'd had enough. There's more to writing a "thriller" than endless descriptions of her body -- and everyone else's, come to think of it. Much ink was spend on defining, over and over again, everyone's body type, very very big, little teeny tiny, and in between. Seemed very strange.
So I never did really get into it -- it had great potential. I liked the location. But way too thin a story line to be compelling, and the characters never emerged from two-dimensional.
It was thanks to this book that I got all the windows in the house washed -- inside and out -- the garage floor swept and both the linen closet and the sewing room reorganized. I couldn't stop listening -- I had to find some way to justify taking the time to keep listening.
This was my first exposure to Jojo Moyes -- never heard of her before, never come across any of her books before this one, when I rolled the dice on yet another really great Daily Deal. "Night Music" won't be the last -- except that I expect I'll listen to this one a few more times before I'm finished with it.
It's funny, I see other reviewers saying that this isn't Moyes best book, which just blows my mind. Can't quite see how any of them could be better than this, but... hey, I'm willing to try.
Maybe it's just me, but there's something about a battle over a house that attracts me. Another of my favorite books (not the film) is Andre Dubus III's "House of Sand and Fog" which also involves a house everyone wants, and the emotional pull such an embattled dwelling can bring about. "Night Music" is very different from that book -- maybe even better -- but I felt the same compulsion to keep listening until it all got worked out. Of course "Night Music" is really about the people -- the fragile, wounded, too-trusting professional violinist who inherits it, the corrupt builder who pretends to help restore it, but has evil plans of his own, the children caught in the middle of it, the guy who's camping out, unknown, in the boiler room... and the rabbits. Can't forget the rabbits.
What can I say? Don't miss this one. Your own house will be a whole lot cleaner by the time you finish!
A low-key mystery set in Berlin -- and a great listen by any standard. There's murder afoot here -- but Dr, Felix Hoffman works with geriatric patients, and some of the normal end-of-life situations he encounters might be natural, others clearly not so. But this is not a "thriller", rather a really interesting look into the world of seriously ill old people and one doctor who serves them.
And their pets. The following is not really a "spoiler", but... "Trixie", described as an 'ugly mutt' was owned by Dr. Hoffman's elderly aunt, so when the aunt herself dies, Trixie is adopted by Dr. Hoffman and figures prominently in the tale. What's interesting -- as a side note in the story -- is that Dr, Hoffman recognizes the important part that pets play in the lives of the elderly, and so he uses a legacy to create an adjunct to their hospital, a kennel for patient's pets, where the patients can go to visit any time they're able -- they even installed a few hospital beds, so a patient can even spend the night with their pet if they wish. Not surprisingly for us pet lovers, but Dr. Hoffman notes that after this facility is established, the demand for pain medication and anti-depressants in his ward drops by half. I believe that -- and an interesting idea. I wonder if this really exists in Germany.
All in all, this a really good book. I'd never heard of the book or the author before -- thank you Daily Deal! -- but now I'll definitely seek out more "Dr. Hoffman" books on Audible. Very enjoyable -- I was sad to finish it.
Three hours in, and I began to realize what a colossal mistake I've been making with audiobooks. I've been giving five stars to lots of books, books I really enjoyed, books that kept me listening way beyond time to quit, well-narrated books, all of them the kind of thing I knew I'd remember for a long time. All those were good books, great books, maybe. But now, what do I do with this book? "Bonfire of the Vanities"? This book -- as written and narrated -- is so far beyond all those other books I've loved, what do I do now? Only five stars are available!
The other thing is, I could easily write a book setting forth all the reasons why this is the best audiobook I've ever listened to -- well, on a par with my other all-time favorite, "Angela's Ashes", which - up until now -- I'd decided was the only other PERFECT audiobook I'd come across. Now there are two.
I won't write a book about it, I won't even say much more, except for one thing: if you've read this far, and decide NOT to buy this book, you're a damn fool. This is the experience of a lifetime, an experience that will draw you in, wrap you up, and then spit you out 27 hours later, exhausted, limp with emotion, and knowing only one thing: you've got to listen to it again.
And as to Joe Barrett, the narrator, there should be a lifetime uber-superior award for his interpretation of this book -- he handled everything with perfection, the gazillions of New York accents, of every possible ethnicity, he slam-dunked the various complicated medical terms, not even Yiddish threw him off his stride. This book is worth it for the narration alone.
Buy it. Download, and click it on. You're gonna be missing the experience of a lifetime if you don't.
Too bad, too. Having read almost all the Tess Monaghan books and at least a couple of the stand-alones, I was greatly looking forward to this one. Laura Lippman is a fine writer, by any standard. But not this time. I didn't connect with this one at all.
It doesn't really fit into any genre -- it's not really a mystery, or if it is, it's so slow moving and tedious that if that's what you wanted, you'd give up early. (I nearly did, many different times.) It could be chic lit of some kind, what with all the women and their inner monologues, fighting over what this criminal they loved had left them as he fled -- "the women" including a wife, mistresses, various female children, various extended family. It could be just a straight novel, maybe, but it's just not good enough. The 'who cares?' factor is way too high. In fact, if anyone other than an established author like Lippman had written this, it would never have sold.
All the way through, I was wondering if the narration was a part of the problem. Narrator Linda Emond has a very pleasant, easy to listen to voice, but as the story jumps back and forth in time, with several different women talking about what they were thinking, what they did, what they wore, what others had done to them, what they should have done, etc etc it was extremely difficult to keep track of who was talking, and where in time they were. Emond didn't make any serious attempt at differentiating the voices, nor did she sometimes even pause, when leaping from an historical accounting into the present or back again. In fact, I started/restarted this book three different times -- never would have done that, if it had been anyone but Lippman -- but in the early pages, I couldn't figure out who was talking, when it was taking place, or who was talking next. Not to mention that it was boring, right off the block. I couldn't find a way to care.
Toward the end, I found myself wondering if this was a fleshed-out true Baltimore story of some kind -- a criminal, flush with assets, runs off to parts unknown, forever, thus avoiding conviction, while the women he leaves behind fight over his left-behind spoils. The "cold case" investigation never seems to be a real part of the story -- just something shuffled in, here and there, so it could sort-of qualify as detective fiction.
Best advice? Skip this one. Virtually any other book by Miss Lippman will be better. Oh, and another piece of advice? If you're going to name your protagonist "Bambi", you darn well better be writing a literary masterpiece, because we all harbor too many cutesy associations with that name to tolerate anything short of genius.
Yet another bargain book success! Never heard of either the book or the author, but decided to roll the dice and take a chance -- and once again, that was a good idea.
It's funny, they say there are only four basic plots in all of fiction, but I'm not sure how that accounts for this one. As the story evolves, a pretty unique situation reveals itself -- although in today's crazy world I suppose it isn't quite as unique as I think it is. Even so, this was like nothing I'd ever read before. I loved the freshness of the whole thing.
Karen MacInerny has created interesting, likable characters and structured a truly unique plot but what makes this book a real delight is how funny it is. One of the side-stories deals with how Margie, formerly a stay at home mother, now a new, untrained, part-time private eye, is forced to deal with the head of her daughter's day care center. My kids are grown now, but it seems to me I had some of those same inane discussions with a similar Witch in Power when they were little -- you know, the "Solve (this issue with your child) by tomorrow, or we're expelling her." No, my daughter hadn't decided that she was a dog -- with all that entails, including eating on the floor, barking, biting, etc -- but I seem to recall similar disputes and similar chaos. And I also recall spending some evenings with one kid or the other, explaining just how important to Life As We Know it, that they amend their conduct by tomorrow morning, or all hell was going to break loose. Like Margie, I simply could not deal with having to find new child care arrangements. I'm sure most other working mothers will have had similar experiences. Odd how much more fun it is to remember those situations than was dealing with them in the first place!
Also odd was that so many readers compared this book to those of Janet Evanovitch. I don't get that at all. I've read/tried to read a couple of Evanovitch's books, and didn't enjoy them at all -- I've stopped even looking at her series. To me, the Evanovitch books came across as downright silly, whereas this one was genuinely funny. All in the eyes of the beholder, I suppose.
So? All in all, a good book and a great narrator. I'll be looking for more.
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