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Hall Ways

Colleyville, TX, US
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  • 16
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  • 36
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  • The Dictator's Handbook

  • Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics
  • By: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith
  • Narrated by: Johnny Heller
  • Length: 11 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,804
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,522
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,504

For 18 years, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have been revolutionizing the study of politics by turning conventional wisdom on its head. They start from a single assertion: Leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don't care about the "national interest" - or even their subjects - unless they have to. This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Think you understand politics, think again!

  • By Michael on 07-01-14

Should be required reading

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-18-18

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: I have listened to 8 of the 11+ hours of this book, and it's outstanding. Everyone should read this -- it would be excellent mandatory reading for high school seniors and/or college freshmen. BUT, I recommend reading in print unless you have a good brain for retaining names, numbers, and statistics (and the how parts fit into the big picture).

The narrator, Johnny Heller is outstanding, and I would listen to him narrate anything. BUT, I am going to switch to text to finish this out because there are too many statistics and numbers for me to really process when reading with my ears. I get the gist, but I like to have the data, and I retain data better if I see it. Additionally, there are some supplemental tables and charts, and although they are available online for the audio listeners, I'd prefer to see those in conjunction with what I am reading.

I am not calling this a DNF because it is incredibly insightful and well done, and this far in, I am confident nothing will change my opinion. I fully intend to finish the book in print (and already have a copy to do so).

As I listened and nodded my head in agreement (the authors have a very interesting perspective and way of looking at politics and leaders), I wondered how this book would be different if it had come out post 2017 instead of in 2012. There's probably enough fodder for a second edition. I would definitely read it.

  • Muriel Avenue Sluts

  • By: Maggie Hasbrouck
  • Narrated by: Julia Farmer
  • Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7

Seventeen-year-old Julia Turnbow’s mother gets paid to have sex; that’s just how it is. When Jules turns 18, she plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps and join the exclusive world of Philadelphia’s infamous Muriel Avenue Sluts. But before all that happens, she has just one wish - to fall in love. Just when things seem to be going her way, Jules' world is knocked off its bearings. Her best friend, Anna, reveals that she’s being abused by one of Muriel Avenue’s gentleman clients.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Unique coming of age story geared for adults

  • By Hall Ways on 05-14-18

Unique coming of age story geared for adults

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-14-18

Audio book review. * Note: I have avoided using the title and instead identify it as MAS because many of the vendors who sell this book won’t post my review if I use any NAUGHTY words! Ha! That’s a blog post of its own, isn’t it? *

I admit that I chose to read (with my ears) MAS based 90% on the title and 10% on the sleek cover and description. What a unique premise! I knew the book would likely be sexual in nature – edgy even – but with seventeen-year-old Jules as the main character, I assumed it was geared for a young adult audience (warning: it isn’t). In typical fashion, I plowed right in without being fully prepared, which was probably best. Had I known much more, I would likely have passed on reading it, but I am glad I didn’t. Though MAS struggles with defining its audience, it’s a well-done, intriguing story that I listened through in a day.

"If sex was better than love, we wouldn't be in business, would we?"

The name of the game on Muriel Avenue is sex, and the message is sex equals power. Though the deed itself is mostly kept behind closed doors, readers need to prepare themselves for some blunt talk about it. (The magic crisper drawer? Did we have to go there?) Sex is a commodity that’s not only endorsed/embraced by the community but protected, informally, by law enforcement. Everyone seems okay with it, and honestly, to live and work on Muriel Avenue seems appealing. This is a tight-knit, loving, supportive community of women who have it figured out. There is a hierarchy, there are rules, there are standards. The women and their children live well and have nice things. It would almost seem like an attractive lifestyle if it weren’t for the inevitable violence and abuse associated with sex for sale.

"... making Orange Zinger and contemplating love and sex and a tray of freshly baked chocolate chunk muffins."

Main character Jules’s voice is 100% teen, as are many of her impulses and decisions. She’s smart and necessarily street smart, but she’s also naïve and at times she’s maddeningly immature in her very mature world. (Again, realistic teen.) MAS reads like young adult, and then WHAM, it doesn’t. This may frustrate adult readers who crave different angles and want more from some of the adult characters (there is great potential for spin-off novellas). Adult readers have that life experience under their belts that requires more realistic emotional responses and see the cracks in the pavement.

The short chapters keep the interest level high, and the pace and action in MAS move quickly. Since I read with my ears, I cannot speak to the SPAG, but author Maggie Hasbrouk’s sentences flow nicely. How Jules thinks and the dialogue between the well-written characters is natural. Especially good is the relationship between Jules and her best friend, Anna, but it’s clear that Jules is the only one comfortable telling all in that friendship. This relationship provides some of the lightest and darkest moments in the story. Readers will be amused that Anna has to spell-out for Jules that Jules is bisexual – it hadn’t occurred to Jules, apparently, that not just getting turned-on but having make-out sessions with both males and females might be a pretty good indicator of that.

A word about the narration: EXCELLENT. (I listened at 1.25X). Julia Farmer is a gifted narrator. There is a huge cast of characters in MAS, and she voices teens and adults, male and female, gruff and soft-spoken, sassy and serious, northern and southern. Her characterization makes each person memorable and distinct from the others.

Concept aside, the language is rough, so if you blanch at the use of the F-bomb, be prepared for facial freeze. Despite the age of the main character and many of the supporting characters, I think it crosses the line for what I would recommend to young adult readers – not teenagers, anyhow. It has solidly new adult/adult content, and the book’s dark and disturbing subject matter provides lots of potential triggers for readers of any age who've suffered sexual abuse. I recommend this for mature readers who enjoy young adult characters but want to take it up a notch and experience a full range of reactions. You’ll be horrified, you’ll be heartbroken, but there are also moments of levity and hopefulness that round out MAS, making it a satisfying, engaging, and unique book. SO book club worthy.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Productions and the author for providing me an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. This full review and other features on Hall Ways Blog.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Deep Shadow

  • Caribbean Dive Adventure, Volume 1
  • By: Nick Sullivan
  • Narrated by: Nick Sullivan
  • Length: 8 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49

Scuba divers travel from all over the world to visit the little island of Bonaire, with its crystal clear waters and a host of beautiful marine life. After three years in the “Diver's Paradise”, divemaster Boone Fischer thought he’d seen it all, but on a routine afternoon dive, he spots something that will turn his tranquil life upside down. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Diving, Drugs, and Deep Shadows

  • By Ray Johnson on 05-01-18

Action-packed (boat) ride!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-07-18

Audio book review. In Deep Shadow, prepare to live vicariously via the stunning setting of the Caribbean islands: there’s the laid-back vibe of the beach side bar and a sunset cocktail; there’s the calm, crystal-clear water calling for exploration; there’s the underwater and otherworldly sea life to amaze and enchant. But this is no travelogue. Quite literally, beneath the tranquil surface lurks danger and ugliness – and these are the things that make author Nick Sullivan’s Deep Shadow a real page-turner.

Sullivan has done his research and knows his stuff. Readers will learn about the processes of diving, how sound travels, and how size is distorted in water; about submarines and sub-machine guns; about drug trafficking and drug lords. What’s great is that all the details and factoids come about organically within the story without being preachy or info-dumpy. These details move the story forward, making it reminiscent of The Deep by Peter Benchley (including a wicked moray eel).

There are layers to Deep Shadow, which make the story more interesting. There are different bad guys with different motivations and plans for getting what they want – violently and without remorse. All the while, there is this team of happy-go-lucky divers (including main character Boone Fischer) who just want a good day in the water, but who step-up when those waters are muddied by blood and greed. A lot of the story is spent building to the certain collision of the good with the bad. Readers know it’s coming, but they don’t know when, how, or what it will mean in the grand scheme of things.

Deep Shadow is primarily action with the narrative alternating chapters told from the terrorists’ viewpoints and Boone’s. This format, along with the relationship blooming between Boone and Emily, provide a respite from the tension and terror brought through the international field of bad guys. (Side note: it’s difficult to get a handle on the names of these characters when reading with your ears.) Emily brings levity to the story – she’s a hoot – and it’s fun to watch Boone ignoring the signals and denying his feelings for her. There are not a lot of females in the story, but Emily’s personality fills that gap, and it will be interesting to see if future installments in the Caribbean Dive Adventures series flesh-out her character. It feels like there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Author Nick Sullivan is also the audio book narrator of Deep Shadow. His pacing is even, and he is consistent in voicing the numerous characters so that listeners can tell them apart. I don’t know if his accents are accurate, but Sullivan manages to keep the Russian distinct from the Venezuelan distinct from the middle-eastern (I missed where the ISIS terrorist was from). The voicing of Emily is also consistent, but I am not a fan. Every time she speaks, it feels Monty Python-ish to me – an exaggerated accent that sounds like a man trying to sound like a woman. And though the word choices are correct and delightfully British, the accent is off. To be fair, there is mention in the story that Emily is from a specific area of London, so it’s possible that area has a distinct dialect (like Cockney), and the accent is spot-on. Fortunately, Emily is such a larger-than-life character, that it’s easy to roll with it.

Since I read with my ears, I cannot speak to the editing, but the writing is engaging. Dialogue is natural, place and characters are vibrant, tension is high. There are a few sequencing issues that create a little confusion in the story, and some scenes could use more development, but these are not deal breakers. The author’s Afterword provides some interesting back-story and information about the research process, so that’s worth a listen, too. Overall, Deep Shadow is an action-packed (boat) ride with a plot and setting that transports you to another place. I will tune-in for the next installment (because Boone’s gotta find those dolphins, right?).

Thank you to the author and Audiobookworm promotions for providing me a audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. This full review and more features on Hall Ways Blog.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Way of Beauty

  • By: Camille Di Maio
  • Narrated by: Meredith Starkman
  • Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 8

Vera Keller, the daughter of German immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York City, finds her life upended when the man she loves becomes engaged to another woman. But Angelo Bellavia has also inadvertently opened up Vera’s life to unexpected possibilities. Angelo’s new wife, Pearl, the wealthy daughter of a clothing manufacturer, has defied her family’s expectations by devoting herself to the suffrage movement. In Pearl, Vera finds an unexpected dear friend…and a stirring new cause of her own.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Just enough

  • By Kindle Customer on 05-19-18

Lyrical, dreamy, eye-opening historical romance

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-02-18

Audio book / print combo review. Warning! This book is going to take way longer to read with your ears than indicated. And that’s NOT a problem since what slowed me down was stopping, re-playing, and writing down the numerous quotes that caught my ear. The Way of Beauty is a treasure chest full of memorable lines uttered by characters with whom we want to spend time and know better. Listening to the story unfold makes the reader disappear into the past and into the hearts of the generations of people who live there.

In her first book, The Memory of Us, author Camille Di Maio convinced me that I am, in fact, capable of enjoying reading a romance. Happily, The Way of Beauty seals the deal, but like TMOU, it sets the bar high for all other books to follow. Camille’s books are gloriously literary, and the reader is swept into the passion and love the characters develop for each other. But the romance element is so much more than between people. Di Maio manages to evoke an air of romance with the setting and the times and the history. Readers fall in love with every piece of it, generation after generation.

“It was the one good thing about having little. There was little to lose.”

While there is passion abounding, Di Maio also brings in the less than beautiful truths of the early 20th century. She has done considerable research that highlights the ugliness associated with immigration, workplace safety, extreme poverty, women’s rights, prejudice, sexual harassment, and war – and the government's lack of interest or ability to handle the issues. (Hmm. And we are still dealing with new iterations of these same issues today.) Without being preachy or feeling like a history lesson, the book informs, subtly, and makes the reader think. The historical details are seamlessly woven into the rich tapestry that is The Way of Beauty.

“What was the value of a life of a man when thousands of immigrants were desperate to take his place?”

There is a stark contrast between the privileged and the poor, but glamour is often presented in terms of the sacrifice it took to make that glamour happen. Again, Di Maio makes the reader think about the conveniences we take for granted and, literally, the lives forever altered or lost to provide them to us.

The Way of Beauty is clean (tasteful and classy), and cleanly edited, and the writing is lyrical and even dreamy at times. Dialogues are natural and work to further immerse the reader in the setting. Written in two parts, the story flows smoothly from that of Vera to that of Alice, Vera’s daughter. There is a prologue with one sentence that demands explanation that will begin niggling at the reader as Alice’s story progresses in part two. Audio book listeners miss out on this, but for those who read the book with their eyes, don’t skip the informative Author’s Note for even more tidbits to enrich the story. (And the Acknowledgments. Thank YOU, Camille, for sharing your beautiful stories with us. I am honored.) My only complaint is that I wanted more of everything! The story spans many years, and I hated missing out on any of the delicious details that surely must have happened in the in-betweens. I think a novella just about Vera and Angelo is in order!

The narration, performed by Meredith Starkman, is well-done. I listened at 1.25x speed, which was perfect for me and didn’t alter the vibe of the story. Starkman’s voicing of male characters is especially good, and she handles both the Italian and German accents and pronunciations admirably. Vera and Pearl are perfection. In part two, Alice sounds a bit too modern-teenish rather than how I would imagine a teen in the ‘40s should sound. And Emmett seems creepy instead of mysterious, and I’m not sure he reads that way. Overall, Starkman does a great job of keeping the pace even and there are no glitches or mispronounced words that I noticed. The style and pace of The Way of Beauty translate very well as an audio book.

Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and the author for providing me the audio book and the eBook in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

MORE LINES THAT CAUGHT MY EAR:

“She might never be able to see the world, but all the world came to her through the tunnels of Penn Station.”

“Why do people change their voices when speaking to someone in sorrow? As if death were played on the left side of the piano while life was played on the right.”

“Being a strong woman didn't mean she couldn't accept assistance, especially when she really did need it.”

“Our wrinkles tell our story, etched out like a road map. That’s the way of beauty. Birth, middle age, decline.”

  • Hell to Pay

  • A Detective Kay Hunter Crime Thriller, Volume 4
  • By: Rachel Amphlett
  • Narrated by: Alison Campbell
  • Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24

When a road traffic accident on a dark autumn night uncovers a disturbing conspiracy, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter's investigation exposes a ruthless serial killer exploiting vulnerable young women. With her enemies unmasked and her career spiraling out of control, Kay's determination to seek vengeance for the victims brings her dangerously close to those who want to silence her. Undeterred, she uncovers the real reason behind a plot to destroy her career and sets in motion a terrifying chain of events.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hell to Pay

  • By Lauren Jones on 05-19-18

WOWSA! High drama, high tension!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-20-18

4.5 Stars. Audio Book Review. In Hell to Pay, author Rachel Amphlett has again crafted an intricate story full of tension, drama, and suspense. Following a now familiar formula (this is the fourth book in the Detective Kay Hunter series), the book starts with a bang. What initially seems innocuous is actually criminal, and as Detective Hunter digs deeper, she finds herself in the midst of a dark and sordid world. Readers discover the magnitude and horror of the scheme about half way through, so it turns from a whodunit to a race for law enforcement to stop the crimes from continuing. Hell to Pay is grim, and once the revelation about Kay's nemesis, the super creepy Jozef Demiri, is fully revealed, the story goes next level. Readers have been waiting three books for Demiri to make his move, so there is HIGH tension here.

Hell to Pay could stand alone, but I really don't' recommend it that way. Readers who start here will miss the subtle and not so subtle connections back to the prior books in the series. There has been a steady, highly interesting backstory threading through all the books, and all the parts come together and seem to culminate here. Start with book one and binge read (or read with your ears) straight through. That's what I have done and have no regrets!

There are a bunch of new characters introduced in this book, and politics within the police force plays a big part of the story -- especially in setting up where Amphlett is going to take readers in the next installment. And let me tell you, there is no shortage of jerks. The familiar characters return too, but the ever-sour Larch ("He's just one of life's career a**h*les") is suspiciously, mostly absent, and adorable vet Adam isn't as prominent. Both characters are missed. Amphlett casts some shadows around a few of the familiar, which muddies the line between the good guys and the bad ones.

"Her bright red shoes hurt Kay's un-caffeinated eyes."

One of the things I've repeatedly mentioned in my reviews of this series is how much I love that it's so completely British. I love how problems are best solved with a steaming cuppa and that caffeine is critical to operations. I can relate. There are terms that I don't understand as well as a few that took me a while to get, but they didn't detract. (Sadly, I can't share some of my favorite words/quotes/phrase because Amazon and Audible will block my review.) Suffice it to say that even some insults sound delightful when uttered with narrator Alison Campbell's accent.

Speaking of Alison Campbell -- she NAILED the narration. Again. Campbell is one of the best narrators I've listened to and really gives personality to multiple characters. She is perfect as Kay, but her affinity for voicing UBER creepy and disturbed males again shines through in Hell to Pay.

I highly recommend Hell to Pay and all of the books in this engaging police procedural series. While I am sad that the blog tour ends with this installment, happily, Amphlett has just released a fifth book in the series, Call to Arms! I am saving my $$ so it can be my next audio book download.

Thank you to the author and Audiobookworm Productions for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest opinion -- the only kind I give. Full review and more special features on Hall Ways Blog.

  • One to Watch

  • A Detective Kay Hunter Novel, Book 3
  • By: Rachel Amphlett
  • Narrated by: Alison Campbell
  • Length: 7 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25

Sophie Whittaker shared a terrifying secret. Hours later, she was dead. Detective Kay Hunter and her colleagues are shocked by the vicious murder of a teenage girl at a private party in the Kentish countryside. A tangled web of dark secrets is exposed as twisted motives point to a history of greed and corruption within the tight-knit community.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • One to Watch is One to Listen To

  • By MarisaReads on 12-06-17

Can't get enough of this series

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-13-18

Having listened to the prior two books straight through in one day, I prepared myself to do the same with One to Watch, the third installment in the Detective Kay Hunter series by Rachel Amphlett. It was a good move! One to Watch starts with a creepy crime and is non-stop twists and turns until the finish. In terms of the whodunit aspect, I was confident that I had solved the mysteries -- and was consistently wrong.

While the book can stand alone, there is a definite advantage to reading the prior books to feel the slow-build of the side stories going on in the background of the primary crime to be solved. In One to Watch, those backstories seem to be less prominent than in prior books and the focus is more heavily on the crime and all the interviews with suspects. Nonetheless, those sub-plots are moving forward and the tension is mounting. And grief is a common thread that runs through all the stories.

Admittedly, I am thoroughly hooked on this series, but I found this installment wasn’t quite up to the same level as the other books thus far. There were times when DC Kay Hunter seemed uncharacteristically insensitive, and the descriptions were at times lackluster with some repetitive words and phrases (too much glaring and too much repeating of “I can’t believe she’s gone.”). And, the characterization of Larch has gone stale – he just didn’t add anything to the story this time and has lost his threatening edge. Strangely, I miss that.

The narration by Alison Campbell is still excellent, and she IS Kay Hunter and several of our other regular characters. In One to Watch, for the first time in the series, I had some trouble distinguishing between a couple of the male characters’ voices. Additionally, though she has a convincing American accent, there are numerous slips that detract from it (namely, adding the ‘r’ sound to the ends of words: idea sounds like idear, for example.) On the other hand, one of the most charming aspects of the series is that it’s delightfully British, so I really didn’t mind the American mispronunciations.

That I eagerly listened to all seven and a half hours of One to Watch, straight through, attests to Amphlett’s skill as a master storyteller – and Campbell’s skill at bringing the voices to life. I absolutely recommend this book and series, and downloaded the next installment, Hell to Pay (book 4), as soon as I finished listening to book three.

Thank you to the author and Audiobookworm Promotions for providing me a free download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

  • CONDITION Book Three

  • The Final Correction
  • By: Alec Birri
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 6 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 7

So, Professor Savage has been unmasked as the monster Alex Salib always knew he was. But what was their agreement, and why is she still determined to see it through? The war on terror appears to be back on track, but why does President Kalten seem hell-bent on ramping it up - are the Americans seriously intent on starting World War Three? And what of the treatment itself? Despite Savage's arrest, the "corrections" go on, but to what end?

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Birri's storytelling skills need more polishing

  • By Lomeraniel on 04-07-18

Deep and mind blowing concepts

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-22-18

Artificial intelligence, the Interworld, telepathy, robots, virtual reality, and evolution -- for the serious sci-fi fan, Condition Book Three: The Final Correction, the third book of the dystopian trilogy by Alec Birri, THIS is your series (and you must start with book one).

As with the prior two books, The Final Correction wastes no time immersing readers into this not so distant world. Birri begins the book by telling one of Aesop’s fables, about the north wind and the sun, which focuses on man’s overconfidence and belief he is in control when he ultimately is not. That is the crux of the story, and the theme is good to keep in mind as readers make their way through this complex story.

A new setting and group of characters dominate part one of the book. Initially, it is difficult to tell whether it is past, present, or future. There’s an Islamic father and daughter making a trek (pilgrimage?) and their rituals and attitudes could place them a hundred years back. Soon, technologies begin to emerge, and it’s clear that we are in the world changed by Dr. Savage and sentient robots are the norm. However, some humans are clinging to the old ways and are resistant to the changes away from traditional teachings. As part one moves along, familiar characters are re-introduced and this seemingly new story line begins to get woven into the story lines set-up in the earlier books in the trilogy.

From the Middle East, readers transition into the western world and are reminded of how this world is defined. People with brain disorders can receive “the treatment” to cure any brain ailment. Not just medical problems like autism and dementia are now curable; also, the deviant behaviors of pedophiles and murderers can and are being corrected. As the medical and scientific advances and their applications seem to move humanity into a better world, the lines become blurred when leaders and powerful players differ in how they are defining deviant behaviors and “the treatment” is being taken too far.

Naturally, there are warring factions and people resistant to removing the humanity from humans. With the ability to have a hybrid existence of time in the real world and time in the virtual world, again, the lines are blurred as to where one ends and the other begins – or whether a real world exists at all for some. There are some deep, mind blowing concepts happening in this series, and especially in this final installment of the trilogy.

Birri has some excellent descriptions and depictions that will haunt readers long after the final words are read. The author also does a great job in making readers feel conflicted about their feelings for the various characters as each is more fully developed. Readers will love some of the big reveals, and there are satisfying twists and turns-of-events. Happily, there is some humor sprinkled about, and I got a real chuckle (of course) when a character spoke a clunker, and the doctor responded with "Maybe it was the Grammar Nazis I wanted to take over the world. Not the jack-booted ones."

Admittedly, I had some trouble with the last third of the book as it went heavily into the science fiction realm. I couldn’t keep all the sub-plots straight and at times had absolutely no idea what was happening. As much as I LOVE the narration by Jonathan Keeble, The Final Correction got too complicated for me to comprehend by reading with my ears. I need to get this series in print so that I can easily flip back and re-read and let things soak in.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I could honestly say how the book ended. Heaven, Hell, end of times, or a new beginning? Not sure. I think it was open-ended enough that there could be more stories to tell, so perhaps there will be another series. (Or perhaps not since it’s quite possible that I missed something huge in the chaos.)

A few words about the narration and narrator, Jonathan Keeble: Seriously – seek out anything voiced by this guy; he is amazing. I have nothing but the highest praise for how he handles this huge, international cast of characters. You can read my gushing about him in the prior book reviews. Top notch.

Thank you to the author and Audiobookworm Promotions for providing me an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion. This full review and other features on Hall Ways Blog.

  • Caramels with a Side of Murder

  • Daley Buzz Cozy Mystery, Book 2
  • By: Meredith Potts
  • Narrated by: Lisa Beacom
  • Length: 4 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 25
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 25

Sabrina Daley's world is turned upside down when a local psychic predicts that her missing sister will be found. Unfortunately, the psychic, Miss Terri, is unable to provide any further details. Desperate for something more to work with, Sabrina shows up at Miss Terri's house the next day, ready to beg for another psychic reading. Instead, Sabrina finds Miss Terri's lifeless body. So when the local police have trouble solving Terri's murder, Sabrina sets out to bring the psychic's killer to justice.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great narrator keeps your interest.

  • By cosmitron on 04-25-18

This cozy series might just be your cup of coffee

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-19-18

3.5 Stars. Caramels with a Side of Murder is the second installment of the Daley Buzz Cozy Mystery series by Meredith Potts, and like the first book, I was drawn to the setting: it’s set around a coffee shop, The Daley Buzz, and located in Treasure Cove, a seaside town. Plus, the book cover is cute and enticing – though sadly, neither the caramels nor the corgi makes much of an appearance in the story.

There is comfort when a reader returns to a well-known place. For readers who enjoy a series in which each book follows the same structure and formula, the Daley Buzz cozies are for you. Treasure Cove is a small town (albeit with an alarming murder rate) and our core group of characters is back – and main character Sabrina must make some amends with some of them for false accusations and abrasive behavior in trying to solve the town’s last murder mystery. But look out if you are in her sights as a suspect in the latest murder – in Sabrina and her policeman boyfriend’s book, you are guilty until proven innocent, and you will be harassed until the real murderer is found.

Readers will get to know some of the characters a little better, including Sabrina’s mother, Elizabeth (strangely, she’s called “Elizabeth” by her daughter and that’s not ever explained). I found myself chuckling and nodding in agreement with Elizabeth’s way of thinking, and of course, this line sealed the deal:

"One thing I'm not going to do at my age is waste calories on mediocre chocolate."

We also get to know Sabrina’s best friend Shannon a bit better, but I am on the fence as to how I feel about her. She comes off sounding like a weenie at times, but the reason behind her indecisiveness about which man to pick is an interesting one. Shannon adds an extra layer to the story and gives readers a lighthearted break from Sabrina’s amateur sleuthing.

If you read my review of book one, Chocolates with a Side of Murder, I mentioned that what made me decide to stick with the series were two sub-plots that really piqued my curiosity: the mysteries of main character Sabrina’s ten+ years missing sister and the goings-on at the Waterson estate. It’s clear that the author is intentionally keeping these storylines in the background to move them forward in each of the series installments (I believe there are ten books now). Caramels starts off promising with another sighting at the mansion and Sabrina getting information about her sister from a psychic, but it is like the check-boxes are completed, and those lines are not revisited. There’s also a third story going on in the background: what’s going on with the men’s only secret meetings? Unfortunately, two books in, readers are no closer to knowing anything more about any of these sub-plots, and since I’m not overly fond of the main character, that’s probably going to be a deal breaker for me in continuing the series. On the plus side, since no substantial or new information is presented, it makes Caramels work as a stand-alone, so readers can start with book two and not be much out of the loop.

The writing suffers a bit again because of limited and repeated word and phrase use, unnatural, cookie-cutter descriptions of the characters, and asking the readers to unreasonably suspend their disbelief in terms of police procedures. (And I laughed out loud when Sabrina, who is running a small business, was suspicious of someone working late and said, “I can't remember the last time I was there two hours after close of business." I can't remember the last time I didn't work at least two hours extra!) As I haven’t read a print copy of the book, I can’t be certain if it’s the text or the narrator, but my ear caught some agreement errors and incorrect word choices, so it may be there is also need of some additional proofreading in the print.

The narration of Caramels with a Side of Murder is performed by Lisa Beacom, and this is one place where there is a huge improvement over book one in the series. Lisa’s voice is similar enough to the first narrator’s that listeners aren’t jarred by the change, but she’s infinitely better. Apart from pronouncing the word “caramels” as “carmels” in the first thirty seconds, her narration is fabulous. She has a perfect rhythm to her reading and voices the various characters so that each has his or her own marker.

The basic murder mystery is good and there are plenty of places where readers are misled, so it’s tough to figure out the whodunit part of the mystery. For that and for the sub-plots, I would recommend patient cozy-mystery lovers give the series a try as what bothers me might not be an issue for others. Even if it’s not for me, Caramels with a side of Murder just might be your cup of coffee.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions for providing me an audio download in exchange for my honest review – the only kind I give.

  • CONDITION Book Two

  • The Curing Begins…
  • By: Alec Birri
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 6 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 8

Discovering an infamous Nazi doctor conducted abortions in Argentina after the Second World War may not come as a surprise, but why was the twisted eugenicist not only allowed to continue his evil experiments but encouraged to do so? And what has that got to do with a respected neurologist in 2027? Surely, the invention of a cure for nearly all the world's ailments can't possibly have its roots buried in the horrors of Auschwitz? The unacceptable is about to become the disturbingly bizarre.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • My first word when I finished this listen was WOW

  • By N. Mahoney on 03-19-18

The revelation at the end is jaw-dropping

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-17-18

4.5 Stars. Audio book review. WOW...there's A LOT going on in Condition: The Curing Begins, the second book in The Condition series. I didn't want to miss a thing, so I listened to it straight through in a day. As it was with book one, it served me well not to read the description because the surprise element was next-level. Though I had a little trouble getting oriented to this book, the premise(s) kept me glued to the story.
There is a slow but engrossing main build in The Curing Begins, but there are also several other sub-plots that wind their way throughout the book and give readers much to ponder. There are considerable religious implications, which I wish had been further explored and characters’ rationales better explained, particularly with the Argentinian Padre. I wondered how such a devout man could be led so far astray – but people being led astray is part of the very essence of this book.

"As long as people think struggling through life as an obedient slave will eventually be rewarded, one person can control millions."

If you look at the cover and read the book jacket, it’s no surprise that the Nazis rear their ugly head in the story. There are some interesting discussions between characters about the higher purpose of Nazi experimentation and politics. At times, this felt more like an opportunity for platforming than genuine discourse. There are some holes and some character thoughts and actions that don’t add up, but again, the subject matter is fascinating. The only thing I really didn’t like in part one was the insta-love/romance. The connection between these characters is necessary but could have been handled better and differently to be more feasible.

About three and a half hours into the book, readers are taken back to just a few months after where book one left off, and those characters are reintroduced. In part two, we leap from the 1970s to 2027 and must reacquaint ourselves with that setting. Scenes are sometimes confusing because it’s difficult to tell whether character experiences are real or virtual…or, are their virtual experiences the new reality? Author Alec Birri is intentional here, I think, to keep readers in the same mindset as the characters -- where lines between reality and virtual reality are blurred. There continue to be some plot holes and situations where the level of suspension of disbelief is pushing the limits.

Jonathan Keeble returns to narrate book two, and again, is exceptional in his performances. He deftly handles all the voices, male and female, and all the accents. He brings life to the characters by projecting the nuances of the characters’ personalities. It is apparent he spent time studying the character profiles. I caught a few small oddities in pronunciations this time around, and the initial narration of the American president is cringe-worthy --even for a cringe-worthy character. Thankfully, that accent mellowed a bit and ended up working better. Overall, outstanding narration. I am a solid fan.

The difference between good and evil is often in the eye of the beholder.

By the end of The Curing Begins, almost all the early questions are answered/resolved, and the reader feels uncomfortable and unsettled by the implications and applications of medical and technological advances. The “revelation” at the end is jaw-dropping – I was downloading book three, The Final Correction, within minutes of finishing book two. This series has utterly consumed me.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Productions and the author for providing me a free audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

  • Looking Glass Friends

  • A Novel Inspired by Real Love Letters
  • By: E. L. Neve
  • Narrated by: E. L. Neve
  • Length: 5 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 4

They fell in love over email, discussing Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged. Neither remembered the other's face clearly. Both were married already. And she had a five-year-old son. But in the span of a few letters, each discovered one's soul's mirror-image. So how could they live apart? Woven with poetry and philosophy, this is a story about the nature of love, its enchantment or curse and the heartbreaking question: Can a mother secure her child's happiness by sacrificing hers?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Dreamy narration perfection

  • By Hall Ways on 03-16-18

Dreamy narration perfection

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-16-18

Listening to Looking Glass Friends by E.L. Neve was a dreamy experience. The narration, performed by the author was delightful; her voice is ethereal and makes the reader feel transported into the romance and escape of main character Faye’s newly found relationship. The voicing of characters doesn’t dramatically change from character to character, though as the story progresses, listeners may notice some subtle changes: Jake gets smarmier, Johnny sounds young. Annabella, one of my favorite characters, is the exception and has a definitive southern accent that is well-done.

“She had known that she was glazing a lie with a tint of half-truth.”

It is interesting that readers can hear/see what each of characters Neil and Ellie are thinking on opposite sides of the computer while they are emailing each other. (Yes, emailing! Not texting, not IMing, not SnapChatting. It is 1997, folks, and I love it there.) Listening to the story had me remembering when I met my husband, and the excitement of seeing an email from him in my inbox, the constant thinking and re-thinking of our last exchanges, and how I printed the emails so I could re-visit them without using the dial-up modem. (Ha! I am old!) Ellie speaks of the “soul-lifting emails” from another person who was so much like her. I could relate. Perhaps it is also my own experience of a different time, in my life before I met my husband, that makes me struggle a little. Even though I was pulling for Neil and Ellie, to me, their emotional involvement counts as infidelity because each is giving something to the other that isn’t being given to their respective spouses. It is complicated, and they each feel pangs of guilt and know they are wrong, but they convince themselves that keeping their relationship to email is okay; one even says, “Their effect on each other's spirit was too great to allow their bodies to meet.” They know they are playing with fire – which makes it all the more delicious.

“The winds of change were steering the heavy branch.”

Author E.L. Neve’s writing is philosophical, lovely, and descriptive and perfectly sets the moods – at times melancholy and other times joyful. Her characters are complex and fleshed-out so that readers get a sense of knowing them. As I said earlier, my favorite character was the colorful character of Annabella, who is someone I think I would seek out on a regular basis. I must share a few of her fabulous sayings:
… as confused as a fart in a fan factory
… cold enough to freeze the balls off a pool table
It sticks in my throat like a hair in a biscuit.
Annabella provides some much-needed perspectives to our main character and some equally much-needed comic relief when the story feels heavy and hopeless.

I still would like to re-visit this story in print so that I can better absorb and ponder the bigger questions it poses about the very essence of love and happiness and the costs of finding and keeping it.

I highly recommend the audio book, which clocks-in at just under six hours (and for once, I listened at regular speed). Thank you to the author for providing me a free download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

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