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  • Summer of Fear

  • By: Lois Duncan
  • Narrated by: Ruth Ann Phimister
  • Length: 6 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 18
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 17

For 15-year-old Rachel Bryant, summer vacation promises to be fun. Her 17-year-old cousin Julia will be coming to Albuquerque, New Mexico to live with the Bryants, following her parents’ deaths. With two brothers, Rachel is looking forward to finally having a sister. From the moment Julia arrives, everyone is enchanted with the orphaned teenager. But Rachel finds her strangely disturbing. Soon an evil poison seems to seep into every corner of her life. Can she discover what Julia is trying to do before it’s too late?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A great intro to mystery.

  • By Rollia M. Oliver on 07-29-17

Shorter, not as polished, but still compelling LD

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

Reviewed: 08-02-16

What made the experience of listening to Summer of Fear the most enjoyable?

Knowing that it was a Lois Duncan novel so that even though the first 1/3 or half of the book is not as tension-filled as her books usually are, at some point things were going to get cray-zeeeee! (And they do).

What other book might you compare Summer of Fear to and why?

I think comparing it would give away too much of the plot/twists. I'll just say that it has an important and common feature of young girls' fiction: the rival female who threatens to usurp the protagonist's standing and relationships, pulling the wool over everyone's eyes except our heroine's.

Have you listened to any of Ruth Ann Phimister’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, I haven't. But I'll say that I disagree with those who say she sounds too old to play the teenage narrator. Would you want an actual teen voice actor? I'd argue, no, you sure wouldn't. (For an example, why not listen to Audible's own samples of the re-issued versions of some of Duncan's novels? Not only is the material in the book adulterated--sorry, "edited"--- for a post-2010 readership, but the narrators they chose are distractingly immature-sounding, with Valley Girl-esque diction and intonation. No, thanks! I'll take a middle aged or senior citizen narrator over that.)

Besides, I've never thought that the "voice" (POV, writing narrative style) of Duncan's teen girl protagonists was meant to be literally that of a young girl. If you re-read the ones with first person POV, you might see that there's always a bit of intellectual and emotional distance between the character and others in her peer group, and possibly even between the character's increasingly wise internal monologues and her gullible actions at the beginning of the book. I think an older narrator is a good choice to represent that distance in a metaphorical way.

Last point--this book was published in the mid-1970s. Listen to the female actors in movies and radio then; they spoke with more poise and clarity than the young girls of today. Nowadays a more slang-y way of speaking with a more casual haphazardness is just more socially acceptable. It's authentic to the book's time frame to have a teen protagonist voiced by someone old enough to remember the 70s and the way young women were influenced to speak then. Just my opinion/preference.

All that said though...Phimister's rendering of the hillbilly character Julia is just painful to listen to! Sounds like the croakings of a frog.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes, one of the last scenes in the book, showcasing the vindicating power of the love between parent and child. I might have felt a few tears well up.

Any additional comments?

Hooray, this book is the original one, not the reissued and altered version from the 2000s!

  • Stranger with My Face

  • By: Lois Duncan
  • Narrated by: Alyssa Bresnahan
  • Length: 7 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 38
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39

Seventeen-year-old Laurie Stratton should be happy. She has beauty, health, a handsome boyfriend, and loving parents. But Laurie has begun to feel the presence of a double, a shadowy figure that hovers just out of her reach. It has appeared to Laurie’s family and friends; it lingers in the shadows of Laurie’s room. Is Laurie going crazy - or is someone, something, trying to take over her life? As Laurie begins to ask questions about her ancestry, she uncovers an eerie mixture of ancient lore and paranormal powers.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fabulous narrator for a darn good yarn

  • By Customer on 08-02-16

Fabulous narrator for a darn good yarn

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

Reviewed: 08-02-16

If you could sum up Stranger with My Face in three words, what would they be?

Atmospheric. Creeplily plausible.

What did you like best about this story?

Wow, I didn't think anything could be better about a story than the fact that the great (recently "late") Lois Duncan wrote it...but the narrator Alyssa Bresnahan is absolute perfection for the role of an older teen girl living in the 1970s or early 80s. The audiobook was recorded in the 90s; when I think of the Valley Girl voice actors they could have chosen to play a young girl, I shudder! Bresnahan has a youthful tone and intonation but the poise and clear, measured diction of a woman of greater years. She is utterly convincing as a Lois Duncan protagonist: late adolescent/older teen girls who are emotionally or intellectually ready for young womanhood and frustrated when the world and people around them don't seem to recognize that in the way they want.

One other thing I was surprised by: there's a lot of material in this book about a certain non-Western culture, and while much of it was stereotypical, I still felt it was handled better than you might expect a mainstream author in the 70s to do. One of the characters has spent time living in that culture and has a pleasingly balanced view of it and its people, neither demonizing nor exotifying them. I was able to forgive Duncan for the really stereotypical stuff.

Which scene was your favorite?

I loved all the scenes with Laurie's parents. Lois Duncan is just pitch-perfect at doing something that's a lot more difficult than readers might realize: making believable American teenage characters who didn't seem too young or too old for their age, and making them interact in realistic ways with realistically-rendered parents in the context of a modern American family.

The parents in all the Duncan books I've read all come off as people who, if they lived in real life, would indeed act talk and act the way they do. Duncan doesn't insult the reader the way so many young adult and children's -marketed books and movies do ("Home Alone" style, with kids who are always smarter than the adults and adults who make problems for the kid just for the sake of the author's putting obstacles in the kid's way). Duncan's adults usually have good reason---or at least perfectly plausible reasons based on their own backgrounds and motivations--- for not believing or supporting the teens begging for their support. This is crucial! It ups the ante for all the characters and makes the tension that much stronger.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I think I actually did shed a few tears when Laurie's mother talks about something from her past that has come back to affect the story.

Any additional comments?

Readers, rejoice! This is the original book as Lois Duncan wrote it, not the re-issued version from 2011 or 2012 that has been edited to add mention of cell phones and other 'modern" technologies and trends. Lois Duncan books are timeless. Teens and pre-teens read them in the 70s and then a generation later in the 90s. Why on earth is the present generation of young readers being treated as if they're too dumb or intolerant to read a book that's set in a time when, no, there were no cell phones to help the characters get out of their scrapes?

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Calling of the Grave

  • By: Simon Beckett
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 57
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 38

‘At first glance it could have been anything – a stone, a knotted root – until you looked more closely. Thrusting out of the wet earth, its bones visible through rags of flesh, was a decomposing hand…’It was eight years ago that they found the body buried on the moor. They were certain that this was one of psychotic rapist and multiple murderer Jerome Monk’s teenage victims. Which left just two more bodies to find.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Course in Forensics

  • By Cheryl Waters on 07-14-11

The good doctor gets pulled in and pulls us along

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

Reviewed: 08-02-16

If you could sum up The Calling of the Grave in three words, what would they be?

Linear, effective momentum

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

It was interesting how effective it was to have a protagonist (Dr. David Hunter) who's essentially passive as a character----or who at least is an obvious vehicle for the reader to get pulled along into the story. He gets pulled into the whole "Where are the bodies of the dead missing girls and the guy who killed them?" saga, allowing himself to be available to several other characters with more active personas. You would think this would make him a boring or contemptible character, but while Dr. Hunter's not the most wildly exciting person on his own, his amenableness to enter exciting situations brings us interest and he never comes off as totally clueless.


Also, although the story itself was quite linear and simple-- agreeable forensic doctor gets pulled into potentially dangerous amateur sleuthing, with increasingly perilous encounters--the author made different choices for several of the characters than I would have expected. I liked that. There were several notable surprises related to both minor and major characters, some life-altering and shocking, others simply a matter of the character's motivations or choices being different than I half-consciously assumed based on their familiar character "type" when first introduced to us.

What does Jonathan Keeble bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I bought this audiobook specifically because I wanted more mysteries narrated by Keeble. He's really good for this genre. A police procedural narrator in particular needs to be able to do dialogue in a wide variety of accents for characters of both sexes, all ages and multiple nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds, i.e. the cast of characters whom police will interview. He does all this here (although this is more a "police consultant procedural") but he is also such a great narrator of the exposition of a novel, both in first person (as here) and third person. He sounds like a reasonable, sensible person of average means and perhaps above-average intelligence. That probably describes a lot of the people who read books like this one, hence why he connects so well with us.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Actually, yes. A life changing event happens to one of the characters and it brought a few tears to my eyes with the simplicity and poignancy with which the author rendered it.

Any additional comments?


I expected this book to be much heavier on the forensic medicine and anthropology than it was. That's okay, though.

I was surprised by how well this story hung together on such a simple frame and first person POV. I'm generally not a fan of first person narration in fiction; it limits us to one perspective (that's often unreliable), while the presumed detachment and omnipresence of a 3rd person narrator is more secure and enjoyable to me. But here we have a protagonist (Dr. David Hunter) who is so reasonable, calm and flexible (I would say "responsive" to people and events around him) that it's hard to not to surrender to him taking us along for the ride.

This is a great listen when you don't want to have to focus too hard on a big cast of characters, dense passages of description or numerous plot points. From page one, it's just full steam ahead with the good doctor and the adventure he's found himself on.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Brimstone Wedding

  • By: Barbara Vine
  • Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
  • Length: 12 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 137
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 104
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 104

Unlike the other residents of Middleton Hall, Stella is elegant, smart and in control. Only Jenny, her care assistant, knows that she harbours a painful secret, and only she can prevent Stella from carrying it to the grave. As the women talk, Jenny pieces together the answers to many questions that arise: Why has she kept possession of a house that her family don’t know about? What happened there that holds the key to a distant tragedy?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing reader elevates book to a higher level

  • By Doggy Bird on 10-04-14

Stevenson + Vine/Rendell = good audiobook

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

Reviewed: 09-19-12

What made the experience of listening to The Brimstone Wedding the most enjoyable?

Until fairly recently, I didn't realize that A-list film actors recorded audiobooks. But apparently, quite a few have, and this recording of The Brimstone Wedding, narrated by the redoubtable Juliet Stevenson, is an example.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Brimstone Wedding?

Like one of the characters in the novel, I think I'll now always have certain mental associations of wheat fields, farmers, tractors, and "the countryside" in general. The book's entire action takes place in the country; no London scenes here.

What about Juliet Stevenson’s performance did you like?

She is everything a narrator should be: warm, intimate voice and intonation that invite themselves into the listener's mental "space;" good at various accents; good at performing voices for a sex different than her own (men); and an intelligent phrasing and enunciation. I liked the way she handled the accent of the main narrator, Jenny/Genevieve, because unlike some other actors playing country characters, she didn't make the character seem overly naive or diminished in intelligence. Being from a rural area and having little formal education does not make one stupid or a figure of fun! In Stevenson's hands, Jenny/Genevieve always seems bright as well as sympathetic, friendly, etc.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This isn't one of those Vine/Rendell books (like say, A Sight For Sore Eyes) that affected me viscerally while reading/listening. Towards the end, I even thought, "Really, are those all of the main plot points of the book--no more?" I didn't feel that punch in the stomach and lingering sense of doom that many Vine/Rendell books supply. The plot is much simpler and more straight-forward than I expected from this author. But it works in its own, subtle way. This would definitely reward a repeat listening.

Any additional comments?

Please note that this is a first-person POV/narration, and it is sometimes shared between two main narrators, neither of which I normally care for in novels, but it works to good effect here. There are also several flashbacks to previous eras (the 1950s and 60s). Also, if you've never read a Barbara Vine novel, you should know that these books are often not detective novels or police procedurals such as the ones the author writes under the name Ruth Rendell. The Brimstone Wedding is not a mystery novel, although there are mysteries within it that characters puzzle over, nor is it a thriller or suspense novel per se. It is, rather, a tale that is suspenseful and at times disturbing (though not, in my opinion, as disturbing as other Vine/Rendell novels). Enjoy!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter

  • By: Ruth Rendell
  • Narrated by: Davina Porter
  • Length: 14 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 40
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 36

Wexford is horrified by the carnage he encounters at Tancred Manor, home of a famous anthropologist, but he is determined to do all that he can for 17-year-old Daisy, the only survivor of the mass murders that obliterated her family.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Entertaining but predictable with rushed ending

  • By Customer on 08-17-12

Entertaining but predictable with rushed ending

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

Reviewed: 08-17-12

If you could sum up Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter in three words, what would they be?

Predictable, Conventional, Procedural

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Saw it coming a mile way (that is to say, very early on in the novel). But knowing Rendell/Vine's genius, I kept telling myself throughout the whole thing: "No, no, calm yourself; she'll no doubt go a totally different path to what you're expecting." Not so. No twists were forthcoming. Also, this ending was very rushed and seemed to come out of nowhere i.e. with very little notice to the reader that Wexford was hot on the trail. Given Wexford's particular emotional attachment to one of the victims, it seems extra-odd that we're given no hints that he's started to make sense of the case. Finally, the very last few sentences cheated the reader of satisfaction over the solved mystery; we--or at least I-- need a little more. Even another paragraph would have been useful.

Which scene was your favorite?

Although I didn't care for all the drama and trauma with Wexford's daughters, I chuckled over every scene featuring one daughter's loathsome new boyfriend, and Wexford's pained reactions to him.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The above boyfriend scenes elicited audible chuckles that caused the people in nearby work stations to look over at me.

Any additional comments?

For me, this was not one of Rendell's best. Admittedly, I have always preferred her more psychologically-driven, non-procedural-heavy works (such as the ones written as Barbara Vine) but this novel stands out as a particularly mundane police procedural, with (unwelcome) emphasis on Wexford's daughter dramas thrown in as if to add "characterization." I understand why Rendell drew the parallels between his home life and the case at hand, but it was too much.

Overall, the book was entertaining enough that I'll listen to it again in the future, and I don't mind recommending it to you if you're a Rendell fan...I would just advise newcomers to Rendell/Vine to start with other of her novels, lest you get the impression that she is a conventional mystery writer who writes conventional, predictable (if well-written) detective novels. Normally, she's anything but.

As for the narrator Davina Porter, she is a solid one and I'd readily buy more books read by her. Her voice is itself modulated in tone and pleasant, and that's no small point when you consider how bad it can be to listen to an overly-breathy or too-nasal, etc. etc. narrator for several hours on end. Her forte is lower-class accents; those are great. She is good at Wexford's West Country accent, too, though sometimes distractingly inept at American accents.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Cinnamon Sky

  • By: Janet Woods
  • Narrated by: Anne Cater
  • Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 49
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 9

The Patterson sisters have lived in the Earl of Longmore's house since they were orphaned as children. When the old Earl dies, the estate passes to Kynan Trent, a London merchant and descendant of the despised Welsh branch of the family. The title is a surprise to him and he's even more surprised to find himself responsible for five lively and independent young women. There are tales of hidden treasure belonging to the Patterson family, but in reality the girls are penniless and their futures look bleak.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Light Georgian romance

  • By Customer on 10-12-07

Light Georgian romance

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-12-07

Cinnamon Sky is a hard to find, sometimes out of print late-Georgian era romance by British-born author Janet Woods. It is mild as historicals go, with no explicit scenes, and a lot of gentle, sparkling humour. The orphan/rags-to-riches story, while not original, is well-handled, highlighted by the distinct personalities of the five delightful Patterson sisters. (Although I could have done with less of the stock Other Woman narrative). The narrator is very good, especially at the little girls' varying voices (the hero is a bit gruff/raspy-sounding). I would recommend this to readers who like humourous Regency-era romances such as Pride and Prejudice (Cinnamon takes place just before that era, around 1800); orphan stories; stories about sisters; or quietly intelligent (as opposed to fiery) heroines. I think you'll enjoy this.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful