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Xkoqueen

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  • 57
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  • Find the Good

  • Unexpected Life Lessons From a Small-Town Obituary Writer
  • By: Heather Lende
  • Narrated by: Heather Lende
  • Length: 2 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,330
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,205
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,205

As she was digging deep into the lives of community members, Heather Lende, the obituary writer for her tiny hometown newspaper in Haines, Alaska, began to notice something. Even the crustiest old Alaskan sourpuss who died in a one-room cabin always had Halloween candy for the neighborhood kids, and the eccentric owner of the seafood store who regularly warned her about government conspiracies knew how to be a true friend - his memorial service was packed.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Life, Death, Grace & Humor

  • By Gillian on 06-22-16

Chill Out and Enjoy The Ride

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

Reviewed: 11-25-18

Find The Good is a collection of down-to-earth, uplifting essays written by Heather Lende who also happens to write the obituaries for her small town of Haines, Alaska. Through her tenure, she has delved deep into the lives of her fellow townsfolk and has easily found the good in them.

Without seeming preachy, Ms. Lende offers her readers a way to look at the positive side of most things in our daily life. Her tales of crusty, salt-of-the-Earth folks in a small Alaskan town show that you can’t judge a book by its cover and that you never know where you’ll find inspiration to do better and be better. So chill out and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

  • Italian Ways

  • On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo
  • By: Tim Parks
  • Narrated by: Ben Bartolone
  • Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 69
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 61
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 61

The best-selling author of Italian Neighbors returns with a wry and revealing portrait of Italian life - by riding its trains. In his first Italian travelogue in a decade, he deli0vers a charming and funny portrait of Italian ways by riding its trains from Verona to Milan, Rome to Palermo, and right down to the heel of Italy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extremely entertaining

  • By Aaron on 03-25-14

Choo-choo! The Romance of Railway Travel in Italy

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

Reviewed: 09-20-18

“A train is a train is a train, isn’t it?” So starts Tim Parks’ Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo. The charming narrative about life and travel in Italy vacillates between complaints of the inefficiencies and inconveniences of rail travel to extolling its virtues. Sure the bus is faster, but it isn’t nearly as romantic or interesting!

I love to travel, and my very first memory is of a train trip from California to Iowa to visit my grandmother. It seemed like a grand and daring adventure at the age of three. I haven’t used the U.S. train system much, but I have used the train in other countries when traveling in adulthood. I loved every minute of the experiences unique to train travel in each country! So, when I spotted this book in my library’s newsletter, I snatched up an audiobook copy of Italian Ways.

Tim Parks’ book did not disappoint. I loved his use of anecdotes to show Italians’ stalwart devotion to living at home with their family while commuting up to hundreds of miles by train to work. Parks made each vignette come to life with vivid descriptions of the people and places. Whether it was officious train personnel, odiferous commuters or charming, but hapless tourists, each of Parks’ interactions on his railway travels is memorable. He truly gives readers the social, economic, and political vibe of Italy.

Whether the chapter was about regional, interregional or high-speed (i.e., Eurostar) trains, the stories brought back memories of my own travels. The book will resonate with anyone who has traveled by train in Europe—especially Italy, and readers who have not travelled to Europe/Italy, will surely begin planning their own railway adventure to experience not only the romance of rail travel but the highly organic experience of regional trains and the colorful and enriching interaction with the local community.

The audiobook is entertainingly narrated by Ben Bartolone.

  • Misbehaved

  • By: Charleigh Rose
  • Narrated by: Ramona Master, Mark Kamish
  • Length: 9 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 24

Remington Stringer has never been like most girls. She's outspoken and brazen and wants nothing more than to escape the Nevadan hell hole she calls home. On the brink of 18, with a deceased mother and a well-meaning, yet absent father, she's been forced to fend for herself. The only person she's ever been able to depend on is her borderline obsessive stepbrother. But even that anchor is quickly becoming a loose cannon. So when she gets the opportunity to attend the best private school in the state during her senior year of high school, she jumps at the chance.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Unconventional Romance

  • By Xkoqueen on 08-23-18

Unconventional Romance

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

Reviewed: 08-23-18

Misbehaved by Charleigh Rose is a taboo romance between an underage high school girl and one of her teachers. I loved the narrators’ performances on the audiobook. Mark Kamish and Ramona Master were both excellent. They really made the story come alive.

Equally impressive is the author’s writing. I appreciated that there were just enough descriptions to make the characters interesting without excessive focus on minutia that can drag a story under. The dialogue seemed natural for her characters. The use of dual points of view worked well for the story layout given the premise and age difference of the characters. Without both perspectives, the story wouldn’t work.

While I appreciated the narrators’ talents and the author’s writing skill, I did not enjoy the story premise. I can abide by a student/teacher romance in college, but there is no level of suspension of disbelief that would make me enjoy a relationship between a 17-year-old girl and a grown man who is not only her teacher, but an attorney. Kudos to Ms. Rose for having her character, Pierce James, acknowledge the multiple ways his attention to his new student, Remington Stringer, is inappropriate. And yet, he allows himself to succumb to his student’s advances knowing it will destroy his teaching career.

Remington, who comes from an unstable, impoverished family, has found her way to a posh private school. Her vulnerability should make her likable and empathetic. I wanted to root for the downtrodden girl who was trying to better herself through education; however, I found her behavior too trampy and brazen. Instead of being a focused student (as she is stated to have been in the past), she acts the siren flaunting her sexuality and forwardly flirting with her teacher. She has no regard for how her behavior will impact his career or her aspirations to go to college and get out of her hellish domestic situation.

The addition of a gay love story between secondary characters was interesting as a contemporary twist to the teacher/student romance premise. The side story allowed the author to portray Remi and her gay friend as rebel outsiders in an outwardly conservative school. It also allowed the author to paint Remington as a good-person-at-heart when she alone champions her friend.

The story is conveniently wrapped up with an improbable twist that allows for a HEA for everyone. Overall, good quality writing and excellent narration, but the story line did nothing for me.

Narration: 5 stars
Writing quality: 4 stars
Story premise: 2 stars

  • The Sound of Glass

  • By: Karen White
  • Narrated by: Therese Plummer, Susan Bennett
  • Length: 14 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,997
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,629
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,606

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward's husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news - Cal's family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal's reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt. Charting the course of an uncertain life - and feeling guilt from her husband's tragic death - Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal's unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • You'll LAUGH, LOVE, and maybe CRY a little

  • By Jennifer on 08-08-15

Delightful Family Drama

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

Reviewed: 08-16-18

This book broke my heart and made me smile. The Sound of Glass by Karen White is a delightful family drama filled with southern charm. The story features three women, Merritt, LoraLee and Edith, whose secrets and fears are shocking and sorrowful.

Merritt’s new life gets turned upside down when her deceased father’s wife shows up with her ten-year-old son Owen. Merritt resents Loralee because she represents her father moving on from the loss of Merritt’s mother and because she perceives that her father’s marriage meant he no longer wanted and needed her. Merritt tries her hardest to be inhospitable, but Loralee marshals all of her positive attitude and her mother’s charming advice to slowly chip away at Merritt’s icy heart. As events unfold, the two women form an unlikely but necessary friendship.

I adored Loralee. She is the epitome of a Southern lady who would never be caught dead without make-up, and who responds to rudeness with syrupy kindness (well, bless your heart). She never hesitates to share her momma’s sage advice, whether it is wanted or not. Her Journal of Truths is filled with her delightful sentiments and life-lessons that she is collecting for her son, Owen. I loved them all!

The secondary story line involving Edith was darker and very mysterious. Her abusive husband and disturbed son Cal Jr. create the tension and conflict within the story. Ms. White deftly and respectfully weaves in the secondary tale of domestic violence and the quiet way southerners handle it. Furthermore, the author masterfully pulls together the various storylines into one chillingly entangled family drama of abuse, vengeance, and fear. When all the skeletons have been revealed, it is time for forgiveness and healing.

The Sound of Glass is a character driven story that is paced to tantalize readers with the character development and backstory reveal. The story tension mounts steadily as the women’s secrets --and how they are intertwined—are revealed. Ms. White’s writing style is lovely; she draws in her readers with a detailed sense of life in a small town in the low country of South Carolina. While the central premise (secret) was a little far fetched, I loved the characters and the quality story telling.

This was an audiobook and was engagingly narrated by Therese Plummer and Susan Bennett.

  • The Lights Will Never Fade

  • By: Jackson Baer
  • Narrated by: Dan Carroll
  • Length: 7 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8

Eighteen-year-old Peyton Hamilton is a typical Midwest girl - until the Shadow helps her escape the most gruesome murder that the small town of Jenks, Oklahoma, has ever seen. Soon after, she returns home only to find the rest of her family dead. Haunted by the Shadow ever since, Peyton is not the only one this supernatural being has chosen - and now, no one is safe from its wrath. Escaping to live with her only living relative, Peyton discovers that they both have dark secrets that cannot remain buried. Secrets which fuel the Shadow's vengeance.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Full of suspense

  • By All Things Book - Review on 07-10-18

Grizzly Tale

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

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Jackson Baer is a creative writer who gives his all in his tales. The Lights Will Never Fade is a haunting tale of horror. From the start, my heart was pounding with fear and I was riveted to Peyton’s story.

The Lights Will Never Fade is a twisted suspense of the horrors experienced by Peyton, Charity, and a few others. The Shadow is a creepy spectre is the antagonist that left me in chills. Some insight into The Shadow’s backstory would have given the book more depth.

I don’t usual choose to read horror because it gives me nightmares, but I did enjoy Mr. Baer’s writing. My audiobook experience was hampered by the flat narration.

  • Secrets of a Charmed Life

  • By: Susan Meissner
  • Narrated by: Alana Kerr Collins
  • Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,677
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,319
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,302

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • My favorite book of the year

  • By Joyce BZ on 06-19-15

Compelling Historical Fiction

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

Reviewed: 07-27-18

Masterfully written, I was enthralled by Susan Meissner’s Secrets of a Charmed Life from the start. I couldn’t help but be sucked into this story’s vortex. The characters, the drama of WWII, and of course, the London Blitz made Secrets of a Charmed Life amazing historical fiction.

While the story conflict occurs during the London Blitz, it is really the drama beforehand and the consequences after the Blitz that tore at my heart. Secrets of a Charmed Life is about dreams, jealousy, families being torn apart by war, and the struggle to keep going on when all seems lost.

Ms. Meissner has created two unforgettable characters with Emma and Julia. Their circumstances made them close, so close that one is willing to take a great risk in order to hold on to the other. In that moment, lives are changed, lives are lost, and dreams are shattered.

The story is filled with rich details that bring the past to life. The mystery within the story is surprising. The storytelling is nothing short of amazing. From “the brides” to the umbrella girls to the inner strength of women, make the message of allowing yourself to be happy all the more meaningful.

“There are no secrets to a charmed life, there is just the simple truth that you must forgive yourself for only being able to make your own choices and no one else’s”.

The audiobook is beautifully narrated by Alan Kerr Collins.

  • P.S. from Paris

  • A Novel
  • By: Marc Levy, Sam Taylor - translator
  • Narrated by: Tim Campbell
  • Length: 6 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,110
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 985
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 978

On the big screen, Mia plays a woman in love. But in real life, she's an actress in need of a break from her real-life philandering husband - the megastar who plays her romantic interest in the movies. So she heads across the English Channel to hide in Paris behind a new haircut, fake eyeglasses, and a waitressing job at her best friend's restaurant.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Book=Good, Audio Book - Robotic

  • By Nancy Thompson on 11-06-17

Paris--the perfect place to fall in love!

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

Reviewed: 04-10-18

What better setting for a romance than Paris! In Marc Levy’s P.S. From Paris friendship and love bloom. With the aid of friends, the main characters, Paul and Mia, meet, flirt until they’re friends, and eventually fall in love.

Paul is an expatriate from the U.S.A., and Mia is an English actress on the run from her philandering husband. The misdirection and miscommunication that is their first meeting is humorous, and it is acrimonious enough that you’re sure they will never see each other again. However, fate brings them together again and again. As the story progresses, the author provides generous detail about Paul’s circumstances and Mia’s predicament. While some of the plot points felt contrived, it does allow for Mia and Paul to learn to take risks/leaps of faith.

Paul is an endearing character. His fear of flying and avoidance of publicity is quirky and charming. His Italian editor, Cristoneli, is hilarious; his butchering of the English language made me laugh aloud. Mia is adorable and empathetic. Her best friend, Daisy, brings balance to Mia’s chaos. Daisy is a superb character! I loved how all these characters meld together.

This charming, utterly romantic story is near perfect. The one thing that detracted from that perfection was the twist in Paul’s tale at the end because it felt like a preachy political message from a celebrity. The twist however, did give Paul a reason to get out of his head, get over his infatuation, and get on with his life. Overall, P.S. From Paris is a lovely, quick-paced romance.


The audiobook is fabulously narrated by Tim Campbell!

  • The Billionaire's Triplets Matchmakers

  • By: Mia Caldwell
  • Narrated by: Mark Kamish
  • Length: 7 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 23
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 22
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 22

The Billionaire Triplets, eight-month-old baby brothers, Hunter, Ryland & Marco, are thrilled that their Mamma and Papa are finally getting married. On the eve of the big fat Spanish wedding in Barcelona, Spain, they decide to become matchmakers for their beloved nanny, and their Mamma's sister, Auntie Joan, when Hunter witnessed her face light up after a chance encounter with a handsome man in a café.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • ok

  • By Kindle Customer on 10-13-17

The Great Narration of a Lightweight Romance

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

Reviewed: 03-26-18

Mia Caldwell’s Billionaire’s Triplets Matchmakers has an interesting premise and action-packed storyline. As a romance, it fell flat for me, but as a story of two addicts confronting their addiction, it was spot on.

The Good:
Ms. Caldwell’s characters are fully developed. Even though this is the second book in the series, each character—both primary and secondary—is well presented. I really enjoyed Julio and Lissa/Joan’s mothers.

Ms. Caldwell deftly portrayed the struggles of various addictions as well as the impact of addiction on one’s career, relationships, and reputations.

The Bad:
Antonio and Joan’s love relationship is hard to believe. Joan has no faith in Antonio, and neither of them have faith in themselves. The use of sexual attraction as a substitute for love is not unusual, but I do find it unacceptable. The timing of their intimate moments was sometimes questionable, and I found the clinical descriptions to be far from sexy.

The story is wrapped up a bit conveniently and to some extent outlandishly. Royal connections, political threats, along with the bookies and mobsters were a bit much.

The Ugly:
Telepathically conversing babies just doesn’t work for me. I was put off by the unnecessary addition of this attribute. The triplets are given too mature a voice, as well as too much reasoning ability for infants.

The Shining Star:
Mark Kamish’s narration of the audiobook brought this story to life. I enjoyed his depiction of all the characters.

  • Beartown

  • By: Fredrik Backman
  • Narrated by: Marin Ireland
  • Length: 13 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,684
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,019
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,994

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals, and they actually have a shot at winning.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Barrel To The Head, A Slug To The Gut--

  • By Gillian on 04-28-17

A Haunting Story

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

Reviewed: 03-26-18

Beartown by Fredrik Backman starts with a damning scene that sets the stage for constant dread and leaves the reader watchful for clues as to the identity of the malevolent character in the opening scene, that you know will be readdressed at the story’s zenith.

From the start, I was overwhelmed with the hopeless desperation that has settled over the town and its inhabitants. The desolate Beartown has only junior-league hockey on which to pin its hopes and dreams. Subsequently, the town is filled with washed-up adults who dreamed of hockey stardom only to lose all their hope in local games lost as young teenagers. In the prime of their playing years, the boys are placed on pedestals. They are the local sports heroes. They are potentially the ones who will get out or make a name for the town.

In a small town, like Beartown, no one wants to be on the outside or shunned, so it is easier to remain silent and complacent about an obvious injustice or act of violence stemming from the entitlement of celebrity. There are many victims and many bullies in Beartown; no one, adult or child, is immune from the impact.

Mr. Backman weaves an intricate story set in a stark landscape and filled with interesting characters. He has peppered his novel with poignant social messages in a way that they are not preachy or overbearing. Beartown is a bit of departure from the author’s usual uplifting style; however, it is no less moving than his prior, more charming stories. It is equal parts an “age-old” and a “pulled from the headlines” story. I was enthralled from start to finish, and this book haunted me for days after I finished reading.

P.S. There is no need to like hockey or children in order to love this book.


Fantastic narration!

  • The Earth Bleeds Red

  • By: Jackson Baer
  • Narrated by: Dan Carroll
  • Length: 8 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 26

Scott Miller's daughter Ashley is kidnapped. The scene of the abduction is horrific and bloody, and the police are convinced she couldn't have survived. They accuse her boyfriend, Brandon, of Ashley's murder. He declares his innocence, and claims that a masked man who entered his house and overwhelmed them both took Ashley. No one believes Brandon. Then the bodies of three other missing girls are discovered, all bearing the mark of a known serial killer the FBI has been hunting for years.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Earth Bleeds Red

  • By Zoe on 03-15-18

Moving Christian Fiction/So-So Thriller

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

Reviewed: 03-20-18

The Earth Bleeds Red is a haunting tale of a parent’s worst nightmare. It is intended to be a mystery or thriller; however, I think it crosses several genres including, Christian fiction, family drama, police procedural, and general fiction.

The premise of The Earth Bleeds Red is unique, and the plot points are excellent. Author Jackson Paul Baer spends nearly half of the book setting up his story by telling his readers about his main characters and their daily life. While the depiction of daily life very much spells out that Scott, Jesse and Ashley Miller are the perfect, loving family, the details bogged down the pace of the story.

The story is laid out well, and it easily flows between Scott Miller’s first-person POV to the third-person telling of the serial killer’s back story. While Scott is telling the story of his family—both before and after his daughter’s disappearance—the dialogue seemed affected at times. Since I listened to rather than reading this story, this could be a result of the narration as much as the prose.

Several plot points were beyond difficult to believe, especially surrounding Ashley’s disappearance and her resulting condition (I won’t spoil the story with details, except to note the medical improbability of Ashley’s physical and emotional state at the end of the book). The final trip home for the family also involves some suspension of disbelief in regards to hospital rules regarding patients driving themselves home, but that is a much smaller point of contention for me than that of Ashley’s condition.

As a thriller, The Earth Bleeds Red fell flat for me. As a family drama or Christian fiction, the author reached me emotionally. The Miller family goes through the trials of Job but maintains their faith! Their parish priest is above and beyond supportive. There were moments in the book that brought tears to my eyes. My heart broke for Scott and Jesse at several scenes—the first one being the book title tie in. There are strong messages about faith, “stranger danger” and distracted driving.

I didn’t care for the narration of the audiobook; I'd recommend reading the book over listening to it.

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