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Marie Ann Bailey

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Good for a first published novel

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

Reviewed: 08-11-19

Generally I enjoyed this novel. The narration was a bit uneven, but Mr. Skewis's voice was lovely. Overall, I appreciated the slow, steady pace of his narration. The story was intriguing: two young people go missing and evidence is found that suggests a murder. A history of other missing people and murders catches up with some of the characters, adding layers of complexity to what initially seemed to be a simple missing person case. Mr. Skewis is skillful at painting the landscape, making the reader feel as if she was also being buffeted in that storm or gazing at the sea from a perfect vantage point. I was particularly impressed with his portrayal of one character--Alice--who has dementia and who experiences several fugues over the course of the novel. She is the most likeable character. Sadly, she is pretty much the only likeable character. Unfortunately, if it weren't for her dementia, she probably would have been just as unlikeable as the others.

It is difficult to stay with a novel when you don't really like any of the company, but I wanted to know what had happened to the young couple. I wish I could say the ending made it worth it, but no, it didn't. Usually in this genre, the reader is given enough information to at least come close to figuring out who the murderer is. But the wrap-up at the end was mostly new information so I felt a bit cheated. Some readers have noted that the murder itself seemed to get lost in the story, and I agree with that as well. Perhaps Mr. Skewis was more interested in writing a psychological thriller, but that's not how the story was presented.

Still, I hope Mr. Skewis continues to write and publish. I would consider reading or listening to more of his work.

Kept me on my toes

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

Reviewed: 08-11-19

I always enjoy Simon Prebble's narration, and this audiobook was no exception. It's been a long time since I've listened to a Peter Lovesey novel so I wasn't sure what to expect. The premise was promising, and I was challenged to figure out "whodunit." No spoilers here. Aside from a red herring or two (which is to be expected when multiple people have a motive for murder), I vacillated between two of the characters until the reveal at the end. And I was initially surprised. I'm not sure of the plausibility but then stranger things happen in real life.

Lovesey does a fine job of character development, although at first I wasn't sure if I'd like the format. Professor Jackman's long soliloquy was unexpected, and I did get a bit impatient when he went on and on about Jane Austen and the Bath exhibit. Still, it was all relevant and it made for an interesting way to tell the story.

I really did enjoy this story, and it was entertaining to experience Inspector Diamond's resistance to the new technology such as microwave ovens and DNA analysis. It was also gratifying that he "won" in the end.

Interesting plot but too melodramatic

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

Reviewed: 06-27-19

I bought this audiobook as a Daily Deal. I confess that I wouldn't have bought the novel if I had researched properly. I thought the novel was by Brian James Freeman, not Brian Freeman. Two completely different authors. Still, I like a good police procedural. This one, however, grated on me. The action began quickly and then slowed to a painful crawl. The twists and turns in the middle and at the end did less to surprise me and more to irritate me. They seemed more convoluted, more designed to keep the reader from guessing, than to tell a plausible story. Mr. Freeman employed too many cliches in describing the small-town life, and the characters were two-dimensional, almost robotic in their relationships with each other. January Lavoy is an excellent narrator and she captured the spirit of this novel. Unfortunately, that spirit was melodrama. If you like twisty, melodramatic police procedurals, then you'll probably enjoy The Deep, Deep Snow.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

A true love story during a horrific time

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

Reviewed: 05-01-19

This was a wonderful rendering of the true story of two concentration camp survivors. They met, fell in love, and endure unspeakable horrors through their love for each other. Richard Armitage, one of my favorite narrators, brought grace to this story with his sympathetic narration. The author writes this true tale as if it were a novel, with all the details needed to make it come alive and with a blunt honesty that can chill you to the bone. Lale is the Tattooist. His desire to tell his story so “it would never happen again” is heartbreaking given how close humanity keeps coming to the edge of that precipice.

Highly recommend but with a caution

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

Reviewed: 04-22-19

This was a performance by an outstanding cast, not a narrated book. I was totally engrossed in the story thanks to the cast’s stellar performance and the great sound effects. I love Victorian gothic tales and this drama didn’t disappoint. I caution sensitive listeners, though; the story includes sexual violence, descriptions of rape, and gore. It was more violent than I expected, but by the time I fully realized the depths of depravity that would be described, I was hooked. I had to know how it all would end.

Another series to binge-listen to.

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

Reviewed: 02-01-19

I've got a soft spot for police procedurals and P.I. series on Audible. When I come across a good one, I generally binge listen: start with Book 1 and keep going until I've exhausted the series. Sometimes a series starts off good and then I lose interest because the hero doesn't grow. I can only take so many relapses into alcoholism, for example. I like the hero to be imperfect, but I still want him or her to be someone I wouldn't mind being around.

I'd really like to be around Nils Shapiro. He's not perfect. He makes errors in judgement but his ego doesn't get in the way of admitting mistakes and then trying to rectify them. He has an ex-wife but he loves her. He doesn't bad-mouth her or make her the butt of jokes, but he's also a flirt. He's in control of himself for the most part and has a self-awareness that is rare among most of the fictional P.I.'s and ex-cops that I've followed. He's got a sense of humor that made me laugh out loud at times.

Matt Goldman has created an appealing hero in Nils Shapiro. The story is told through Shapiro's eyes and so the reader is limited to only what Shapiro knows about the murder case he's investigating. Sometimes what Shapiro knows is not revealed to the reader in real time so there's a lot of narrative, a lot of talking and explaining to suspects or other investigators or persons of interest to bring the reader up to speed. Those parts sometimes seemed a little drawn out, but I didn't mind. The story was interesting enough, a bit convoluted but it also wasn't neat, in my opinion. Sure, at the end Goldman ties everything up in a nice box with bows, and it wasn't hard to figure out who was most likely to be the killer early on, but what I really liked was how he drew the characters, how they all were a bit broken, a bit in need of love and comfort, including the killer.

I also liked that there was no gratuitous violence or sex. The violence, in particular the murder, was much less dramatic than many other crime novels I've suffered through. There is sex but Goldman wrote the sex scenes in a way that advances character development, not voyeurism.

I enjoyed MacLeod Adams's narration. Unfortunately, the sound quality wasn't as good as other Audible books. There was a muffled quality to the sound and with Adams's deep voice, I occasionally missed words even when I turned the volume up. Still, he captured the essence of Nils Shapiro and his timing with Shapiro's humor, in particular his bantering with women, was perfect. His range was also quite good, moving from male to female characters and back again almost seamlessly.

This is another series I'll binge on. In fact, I'm downloading Broken Ice as I write this.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

A disappointment compared to The Nightingale.

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

Reviewed: 01-29-19

I did read the reviews for Winter Garden but decided to take a chance on it since I had loved The Nightingale. What one likes in audiobooks and printed books is so subjective, I was willing to err on the side of the 5-star reviews. Well, I was wrong. I actually find it hard to believe that the same author wrote both books. The main characters in Winter Garden -- Meredith and her sister Nina and their mother Anya -- are very unlikable. All Meredith and Nina do is complain. It seems everything is someone else's fault, and I never get the sense that they truly own up to their own selfishness even though they have roughly 14 hours in which to do so. Anya is an enigma and the most interesting character once her layers of aloofness start being peeled away by her story telling. I persevered with the novel because many reviewers said Anya's "fairy tale" is worth it. Unfortunately, the fairy tale is told in chunks and I still had to suffer the company of Meredith and Nina in between.

The fairy tale is interesting and is the best part of the novel. It reminds me of what I enjoyed so much about The Nightingale. Hannah does her research. She can make the reader feel like she's hiding Jewish children in France when the Nazis invade or is at the point of starving to death in Stalinist Russia. She brings home to the reader, in clear, vivid words, how others have suffered, especially women and children, through war and famine.

The last half of the novel would have been more enjoyable (even though some of Anya's experiences almost brought me to tears) if the girls -- Meredith and Nina -- had been left behind somewhere. I appreciate complicated characters but I found the narcissism of these two women unbearable. Oddly, I think Hannah does want the reader to sympathize with them, but I could never get past their "it's all about ME" attitudes.That each of them have doting husbands or lovers only added to my frustration with their myopia.

The finish to the novel -- the crying, the apologizing, the forgiving -- would have been enough but Hannah had to spring an implausible surprise near the very end. It was unnecessary and only added to the melodrama of the novel.

Susan Ericksen did a fine job as a narrator. She read Winter Garden in the spirit which I believe Hannah intended it to be read. Winter Garden is a very long soap opera, and Ericksen read it with all the intensity, breathlessness, and cliched humor that I would expect in a soap opera rehearsal. Frankly, if Ericksen had read Winter Garden with a little less intensity, I might have enjoyed it more. I do, however, believe she captured the spirit of the sisters in particular, narcissists that they are.

Finally, Hannan's writing style in Winter Garden was strangely pedestrian. It was like she just used every cliche, every tired metaphor that she could think of. That said, apparently a lot of readers enjoyed the novel. So, again, it's all very subjective. Winter Garden won't keep me from reading more by Kristin Hannah, but I'll just be a little bit more discerning in the future.

It saddens me to write this review

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

Reviewed: 12-11-18

Several years ago I came across Still Life, the first novel in this series, and fell in love with Chief Inspector Gamache, Three Pines and its denizens, as well as Louise Penny's writing which raised the bar on crime fiction, being evidence that literary crime fiction can be done and be done well. Of course, the earlier narrator, Ralph Cosham (RIP), had a large hand in evoking the wonderful, existential world of Three Pines. I binge-listened to the extant audiobooks of the series and then hungrily waited year by year for the next installments. I admit that when we lost Ralph Cosham, I felt anxious. He was perfection, and I was confident he could not be replaced. So, admittedly, the first problem I've had with Penny's novels since Cosham's untimely death was the narration. I gave Robert Bathurst a chance and I think he did well at first. But not in this latest novel. Whereas the best narrators make switching characters seem effortless, Bathurst often sounded in pain, as if switching from Ruth to Gabri to Clara to Gamache was simply too much to ask of him. Whereas some narrators will evoke emotion through speaking softly, Bathurst barked and rattled my senses. In particular, his rendition of Gabri, Oliver, and Ruth is grating. That said, I have not heard Bathurst's narration for other books. I imagine he is a fine narrator, but just not for this series.

With this novel, I alternated listening to the audio and reading the printed book and found the printed book to be my preference. At least then I didn't have to contend with the characters being reduced to caricatures. Which brings me to the second problem I've developed with Penny's novels. The last two and this last one in particular was very superficial, playing the same (tired) bantering among the characters, with uninteresting plot lines.

I am very disappointed in this novel. I felt Penny was going over very old territory, not bringing anything new to the relationships or to Gamache's challenges. The plots seemed so convoluted and yet the ending, the "reveal" of the murderer etc., was no surprise. The jumping from one point of view to another, multiple times within a chapter, was disorienting when I listened to the audio, and annoying when I read the book. I felt I was being manipulated and not in a pleasurable way. It was like Penny knew exactly how everything would wrap up and she wasn't going to give me any hints at all until the "Perry Mason" scenes at the end. The device of people holding secrets which turn out not to be secrets was overplayed. Her writing itself, the best part of her novels, was disappointing as well. Phrases were used over and over, such as "junkies, trannies, and whores," used so much that I started substituting them with "lions, tigers, and bears." Just repeating over those few words, even in different combinations, did not bring a scene to life.

Here's where her editors should have stepped in, should have guided her, and, most importantly, should have given her more time. Penny has openly discussed how she almost did not write this novel. I understand that writing was a balm to her grief following her husband's death, and I could feel her love for Gamache and his family, for Three Pines, and for Montreal. It's why I am a fan.

Penny isn't the first author to stumble after a string of hits, and I know many fans will not agree with my review. This is, after all, only my opinion and, as Audible's star ratings suggest, the worst I can actually say is it's "not for me."

I truly admire Louise Penny and I will be looking forward to another novel in this series or, frankly, anything she chooses to write. She has a wonderful sense of humor, a journalist's eye, and a big heart. I've just had to lower my expectations, accept the fact that Penny is only human, and perhaps it's not possible to keep this kind of series going indefinitely.

Crazy characters in a crazy world

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

Reviewed: 10-02-17

This first novel in The Naked Eye Series is a very good start. I'm glad I decided to listen to audio rather than read the book because Steven Barnett is a wonderful narrator. He juggled a mild-mannered private eye, an often outraged transsexual, a frightened Asian teenager and a stereotypical Dragon Lady. The story--private eye gets sucked into helping two young women flee a mafia ring of child prostitution and hides them for a time at a nudist resort--is par for the course in a state that has interstates lined with billboards claiming life begins at conception alternating with those hawking the adult store off the next exit. Nicholls takes tips from the masters in creating unique, likeable characters. Brandi, the transsexual formerly known as Brandon, is no doubt going to be every reader's favorite. Noggin is a slow burn; generally likeable but seemingly sheltered and out of his depth for a private eye. I do have a few minor quibbles with the novel:
1. The pace was uneven, most often fast but occasionally it would grind to a halt while Brandi or some other character got up on a soap box to pontificate.
2. Some of the characters, like the evil Dragon Lady as I thought of her, were just too stereotypical, too one-dimensional.
3. While the history of nudism and the nudist resort in particular was interesting, it really slowed the novel down. Some of the history could have been saved for future installments.
4. An Aha moment late in the novel, as Noggin and Brandi solved one particular murder, was underwhelming since the murderer seemed to come from left field.
5. Finally, and this is just a personal observation, I really didn't like how Brandon became Brandi. I liked Brandi a lot and felt very comfortable and fascinated with her integration of her feminine self and her masculine experiences. But the reason why Brandi became Brandon was a disappointing discovery.
All that said, I do recommend this first installment in S.K Nicholls's new The Naked Eye series. I expect it's only going to get better and I look forward to more adventures with Noggin and Brandi.

Suspense & a philosophical dilemma (spoiler alert)

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

Reviewed: 10-02-17

I am a huge fan of Louise Penny's series and am always eager to purchase and download the latest installment. Chief Inspector Gamache is that rare breed of man who believes in justice at all costs, even if that cost is to himself. In Glass Houses, Gamache is presented with a dilemma: to combat a raging opioid drug trade that is killing Canadians and Americans, he can either do the obvious which is to attack and disrupt each drug shipment as he becomes aware of it, or sit back and wait, plan for a total take-down of the opioid mafia. With the former, he might win some battles but lose the war. With the latter, countless lives might be lost but the war would be ended. What would you do? When is the greater good worth more than individual lives? Or is it ever? That's Gamache's dilemma and Penny slowly, almost painfully slowly at times, peels back the layers of Gamache's agonizing decision-making. For the first time since I've been reading this series, I found myself disheartened by Gamache's reasoning at times and his reticence to share his burden. It isn't just his dilemma, but the matter of trust that is at issue here. The cost to Gamache is not that he might lose his career or even that he might go to prison; it's losing the trust of those he loves that is the real sacrifice. The "whodunit" part of the novel is the murder of a mysterious person by person or persons unknown, until the very end when all is revealed. That it ties in with the larger story of the opioid epidemic is yet another example of Penny's extraordinary storytelling.