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Hall Ways

Colleyville, TX, US
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  • The Big Inch

  • Misfits and Millionaires, Volume 1
  • By: Kimberly Fish
  • Narrated by: Sydney Young
  • Length: 10 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14

Lane Mercer, sent to Longview, Texas, in July, 1942, is part of a select group of women working undercover for a fledgling federal agency, the Office of Strategic Services. Assigned to protect the man carrying out President Roosevelt's initiative to build the nation's first overland pipeline to hurry East Texas crude to the troops, she discovers there is more to Longview than the dossiers implied. There is intrigue, mayhem, and danger.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Southern Charm

  • By Tangled in Text on 11-06-18

Audio is as big a treat as print!

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

Reviewed: 11-13-18

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW. 4.5 Stars. I rarely re-read books. True, it’s mostly a matter of time constraints and finding the time to read a book even once, but it’s also a matter of been there, done that. No matter how much I enjoy a story, I mostly don’t feel the need to re-visit it. Plus, there’s always a stack of new temptations waiting for me in my ever-toppling to-be-read pile. But then, THE BIG INCH was released as an audio book. Since I’d reviewed the print format of The Big Inch (a fan-girling, gushing, rave review found on Hall Ways Blog) for Lone Star Book Blog Tours, I wasn’t scheduled as a reviewer for the audio book tour. But I couldn’t resist, bought myself an audio book copy anyhow, and listened to it the next day…straight through. THE BIG INCH is a wonderful exception to my unwritten rule, and since on my second reading of the book I read with my ears, it was like a whole new story. As if immersing myself in Kimberly Fish’s world isn’t treat enough, listeners are also treated to the professional narrating debut performed by Sydney Young.

“In her world, when trust was broken, it was final.”

When I first read THE BIG INCH (did I mention fan-girling and gushing?), one of the things that I loved was how author Kimberly Fish could say so much by dropping seemingly innocuous one-liners, but which careful readers would notice were loaded with information. Narrator Sydney Young picks-up on these subtleties -- and all the nuances of words spoken -- and expresses them to perfection.

“Living with her memories was no pardon at all.”

Young gets nuance and subtlety: in her delivery of the wide cast of characters, she not only gives each character a unique voice, but through her diction, varied pacing, and inflection, she projects extra layers to the characters’ personalities. The difference between Young’s delivery of main character Lane Mercer’s internal monologue versus her voice in dialogue is the perfect example. Listeners hear the contrast and see that despite Lane’s introspective, observant, and troubled mind, she has a perkier façade for the outside world.

“Though she’d never stepped on a grenade in France, she didn’t trust Texas.”

One of the lovely aspects of Sydney Young’s narration is the authenticity of her southern accent. Certain words (soil and oil, to name two) are thoroughly Texan, others reveal just a trace of the accent, while others have a regional flair to them -- exactly right for the mixture of people from around the state who were coming to Longview during the war.

Technically speaking, the quality of the recording of THE BIG INCH is excellent. There are just a few glitches with uneven sound and one scene that seems spliced, but it’s thoroughly professional and what I would expect in an audio recording. I found listening at regular speed just a little too lazy for my enjoyment, so as is the norm for me with audio books, I increased speed to 1.25x. Sometimes, this was a little too fast (especially with Emily Tescoe’s lines), but it was especially better for listening to Theo’s Boston accent. The faster speed resolved some minor issues with too-long pauses and words with peculiar emphasis placed upon them. However, as Lane gets more emotional towards the end of the story, the faster delivery makes her sound panicked, when in reading the text, Lane seems to keep her cool. Overall, the faster speed is a more natural pace for impatient me, but it isn’t the perfect answer.

As I do with the print version of THE BIG INCH, (refer to fan-girling, gushing, rave review), I highly recommend the audio book version, too. Kimberly Fish and Sydney Young make a terrific team, and I thank them for taking me to a different world for a day. I sincerely hope that there are plans for them to reunite and bring HARMON GENERAL, book two in the Misfits and Millionaires series, to brilliant audio life. You’ve got your first sale right here.

I bought this audio book on my own, without any strings attached. Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours for giving me a bonus spot on the tour where I can voice my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Truth Kills

  • Angelina Bonaparte Mysteries Series, Book 1
  • By: Nanci Rathbun
  • Narrated by: Kieren Calland Metts
  • Length: 9 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 46
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 46
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 46

Angelina Bonaparte is a force to be reckoned with. When her husband cheats on her after 25 years of marriage, she reinvents herself - trading the life of a suburban housewife for a toned body, designer duds, a cherry-red Miata, and a new career as a private investigator. Now a 50-something hottie with a kickass approach to snooping and a knack for disguise, she takes no prisoners. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Enjoy a great Narrator and a great story.

  • By cosmitron on 02-27-18

This story's a blast for readers-of-a-certain-age!

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

Reviewed: 10-17-18

Audio book review. Truth Kills by Nanci Rathbun is a blast! Rathbun’s detailed descriptions of the characters, combined with narrator Kieran Calland Metts’s accents and attitude, bring real pop to this story.

“While on the job, I can look like… the neighborhood old lady gossip. Off the job, I’m a fifty-something hottie. Gravity has taken a small toll, but who notices in candlelight?”

Main character Angelina is super confident yet still has the same concerns of many middle-aged women, including “post-thirty chin hairs,” and vacillates between caring and not caring about what other people think. She’s raised her children and loves her grandchildren, but her life is her own and not about them anymore. And best of all, even at age fifty-something, she’s just getting started and reinventing herself!

I typically avoid reading romances, but Truth Kills is a little different and that romance element, which is not the primary force in the book, worked for me. Truly, it wasn’t much more than a few thoughts and one about-to-get-steamy scene, but it was a natural progression and realistic for how two people of those ages and life experiences would come together. They’ve been there, done that, and know what they want. Plus, I like that it depicts a 50+ protagonist as on fire and shows that there are men in that range looking fabulous, too. Refreshing.

Author Nanci Rathbun writes some fabulously rich characters who will bring forth a wide range of reactions from the readers. She infuses enough humor throughout the story to keep it from feeling too heavy on the procedural side, and she is clever in using literary quotes (ranging from Flaubert to Jenny Joseph’s “I shall wear purple”) to set the tone for each chapter. Rathbun conveniently uses Angelina’s propensity for list making to give readers a nice bring-to-date on all the suspects in the murder case. Though readers might not be surprised by the whodunit part, they likely will be for the why.

“My drug of choice was not only effective, but legal.”

BONUS POINTS AWARDED: As if having a 50ish-year-old main character isn’t enough for me to feel at home (admittedly, I can’t relate to some aspects of her life *cough*), Angelina is also a coffee drinking former librarian! Granted, she doesn’t speak highly of the profession (though she’s clearly proud of the master’s degree), but I won’t hold it against her…unless she bashes it in the next book!

Truth Kills is an entertaining and engaging story with plenty of action but just as much interest coming from the main character’s reactions to her life circumstances. I highly recommend it to fellow readers-of-a-certain-age who will appreciate and chuckle at the perks and pitfalls of mid-life. I have already started listening to the second book in this series, Cash Kills, and it feels good to be back with Angelina again.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Initially, I thought the book seemed like it was being read to listeners and not performed. However, it soon became apparent that narrator Kieran Calland Metts was establishing the voice of Angelina, who is matter-of-fact and not overly expressive in her voice. This voicing grew on me and ended up being perfect – and I am so glad to see that Metts is back to narrate the next two books in the series. As readers meet more characters, Metts gives each of them enough of an accent that each remains distinct from others without any being over the top. I mostly listened at 1.25 speed, but this was due more to my impatience than anything else.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions 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 special features on Hall Ways Blog.

  • Murder by Perfection

  • A Thorny Rose Mystery, Book 3
  • By: Lauren Carr
  • Narrated by: Mike Alger
  • Length: 8 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17

Frustrated with their busy schedules, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday attempt to find togetherness by scheduling a weekly date night. The last thing Jessica Faraday expected for her date night was to take a couple’s gourmet cooking course at the Stepford Kitchen Studio, owned by Chef Natalie Stepford--the model of perfection in looks, home, and business. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Awesome Story, Awesome Narration!

  • By Jan M on 09-01-18

Carr is a master at writing mysteries!

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

Reviewed: 10-08-18

MURDER BY PERFECTION is the third book in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, but it’s my first book in the series. The book does stand alone, but I suspect I would have been able to better keep up if I had read any of the prior books. But who am I kidding? Author Lauren Carr is a master at writing multiple story lines, including a giant cast of characters, and so much murder and mayhem that it’s nearly impossible to solve the mysteries. I tried! I failed! Ha!

Speaking of the characters -- with so many characters, I had to take notes to keep track of them -- not ideal when listening to an audio book, and I found that I had to frequently re-play sections when I wasn’t paying close attention. I might have fared better if I’d have been reading with my eyes instead of my ears; however, the characters are richly described and most have some aspect to their personality to make each memorable. And OH! There are characters to love and loathe and everything in between, and some of them have juicy secrets. There’s some seriously great drama going on.

I fear that jumping into the series with MURDER BY PERFECTION may mean some spoilers when (not if) I go back and start with book one. Even so, that’s a risk I am willing to take because I like these characters and the intricate webs Carr weaves within the story. MURDER BY PERFECTION kept teasing me along and guessing with who did what, to whom, and why!

ABOUT THE NARRATION: I first heard Mike Alger when he narrated one of Lauren Carr’s other books, Ice, and I thought his narration was perfect. In MURDER BY PERFECTION, I am not as big a fan. Though some of the male characters were excellent, some were not. And females – particularly when emotional – sounded silly, bordering on laughable. Alger’s pacing and delivery were great, but then around three hours in, he slowed down, so I had to speed-up the audio to 1.25x. I didn’t like the echo-effect that was used for scenes when a character was thinking. It felt cheesy, and then there were some timing issues where the narrator talked-over an echo sequence and words were clipped. I know how good Alger can perform, so seeing his name as narrator won’t deter me from giving him another try.

Thank you to iRead Book Tours and the author for providing me an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

  • Beneath

  • By: Maureen A. Miller
  • Narrated by: Brandy Skelly
  • Length: 8 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9

It was Stella Gullaksen's final break before starting her freshman year at college. Joining her best friend Jill and Jill's family aboard the Starkissed, Stella wakes up to a violent storm that capsizes the boat over a hundred miles off the New Jersey shore. As the waves pull her under, Stella knows that she is going to die. Instead, an unusual current drags her deep into the underwater canyons of the Atlantic Ocean. Powerless against the raging waters, she is suddenly sucked into a ventilated cave.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • You never know what is Beneath

  • By Writers and Authors on 10-11-18

Fascinating, mystical world beneath the sea

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

Reviewed: 10-05-18

BENEATH by Maureen Miller immediately caught my attention because of the fabulous cover. (Yeah, I’m like that.) Then I read the premise, and there was no way I was going to pass on reading this one with my ears. The book opens with a boat on the sea being battered in the midst of a vicious storm. Within minutes, the boat and all its passengers are sinking. Readers are put into the mind of main character Stella as she descends to what she thinks is her watery grave. Instead of drowning, she surfaces…beneath the ocean.

What makes BENEATH engaging is author Maureen Miller’s wonderfully descriptive passages of this world and its inhabitants. The world building is slow, and the mystique around everything is fascinating. At times, it feels like those old TV shows about the Bermuda Triangle where viewers are given information that points to both scientific and other-worldly (aliens!) explanations. (YOU be the judge.) Miller’s story leans more to scientific but it stays blurry enough to not be conclusive – which is intriguing.

A large cast of characters allows for several sub-plots to be happening, primarily between the five young (or seemingly young) adults in the story. Again, that mystique surrounds the inhabitants of Jackson Canyon (the name for the underworld village) and everyone seems just a little off – like what you see, which is odd enough, isn’t quite what you get. And there are seeeeeeecrets. The story is told primarily from Stella’s point of view, but there are a few awkward chapters that switch and are told from her friend Jill’s perspective. While that story line is high interest, the switches on audio are a bit jarring because it’s not immediately obvious who’s speaking – perhaps the print version indicates it? I would have preferred either a better balance of the two narrators or it to have stuck with just Stella. (Jill isn’t very likable.)

Normally, I am tolerant of teen-love, insta-love, and all the permutations, but in BENEATH, I have a hard time believing Stella’s thinking early in the story. I mean, she and all her friend’s family nearly drowned to death, her friend’s mom is in a coma, they are in all kinds of danger, but she’s lusting after Colin? Perhaps I am so far removed from my teenage-years that I can’t relate any more, but it doesn’t ring true for Stella’s intelligence or character. In any case, after some time, her thoughts and actions seem more natural, and the unfolding of the teen-love from there is perfect.

Readers will get immersed (see what I did there) in BENEATH and will love the somewhat neatly tied-up, but haunting, conclusion to the book. Be prepared for more than a few things that are never fully explained. I don’t mind because the result is that I have thought about this book a lot well after I finished it, and that community beneath the water feels real. I am not sure if this is the start of a series, but there certainly is potential for it. I would definitely pick up the next book.

ABOUT THE NARRATION. Narrator Brandy Skelly has the perfect voice for the protagonists in this story in this story and does a great job with pacing and nailing teen angst, surliness, and enthusiasm. However, the overall audio production needs some polishing. Skelly mispronounced several words (piqued, tumult, supposedly), and there are chapters that are very breathy and several times I heard the narrator swallow. Additionally, there are some sporadic background sounds that should have been edited out. It’s a bit like reading the last draft that needs just one more pass of the proofreading pen. As usual, I increased the listening speed to 1.25x-1.5x because I am impatient.

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

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Ray vs the Meaning of Life

  • By: Michael F Stewart
  • Narrated by: Kevin Clay
  • Length: 7 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 4

Grandma's last will and testament names Ray to inherit the trailer park. It's a million-dollar estate with one hitch: To prove he's not as aimless as he seems, Ray must discover the meaning of life by the end of the month. (She left the answer in an envelope.) If he fails, the camp goes to his estranged family.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • THIS is what a YA book is meant to be!

  • By Hall Ways on 10-01-18

THIS is what a YA book is meant to be!

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

Reviewed: 10-01-18

When this title appeared on my radar, I hesitated to jump on board for a review. I wasn’t sure about the title or the Monty Python-ish cover. Yet, there was something… I thought the premise of Ray Vs the Meaning of Life sounded good, and I was craving a YA book, so I dove in and never came up for air until the book was done. The story, the characters, and the storytelling are all FABULOUS, and the narration is perfection, and I am totally fangirling over this book. This is what a YA book should be – authentic, humorous, and alive with people and places and ideas that stick to the ribs and make the reader want to do better.

“The only thing I know is that caring for a trailer park is not the meaning of life.”

From the opening scene (cue Monty Python again: “I’m not dead yet!”), readers will be laughing at the dark humor of Grandma’s demise. This pivotal event, well…series of events, are what set the stage for the rest of the book as Ray and his family deal with Grandma’s final Will and Testament and required hoop-jumping – namely, Ray must identify the meaning of life to get his substantial inheritance. Granny was no dummy and knew Ray would need some help, and so she spent a sizable chunk of money hiring life-coach guru, Dalen Anders.

“If I see farther than others, it’s only because I stand on the shoulders of those wiser than myself. No teacher relies on what they figure out themselves. Wisdom is wisdom. Second-hand wisdom is like second-hand gold. It holds whatever value is ascribed by its holder.”

Dalen Anders! His lines are some of the cheesiest and most fabulous in the book. Dalen is one of my favorite characters, and it is refreshing that Dalen, as well as other adults in the story, are integral to Ray’s life and his growth. They are all marvelously flawed but realistic characters that enrich the story where so many other YA books omit, downplay the importance of, or represent adults as idiots.

“I wear a clean pair of jean shorts with paint spatter and an unstained but moderately malodorous tee-shirt with a Dalek on the front. Under it are the words You are irrelevant.”

Author Michael F. Stewart has the gift for painting perfect snapshots of life and people in his rich, colorful, and humor-infused descriptions. Stewart is an outstanding storyteller, and at its core, Ray Vs the Meaning of Life is a beautiful story because what happens in Ray’s life is the human experience for all of us. Ray’s quest to find the meaning of life has an impact on everyone else’s lives, and so Grandma’s final directive ends-up helping everyone else figure out what’s important in life, too. What makes the book even more perfect is that once Ray’s eyes are opened to what it means to put others first and give of self, he STILL doesn’t put two and two together. Even though I was disappointed with the big reveal of Grandma’s definition of the meaning of life, it really is the perfect, most realistic ending there could be, and the epilogue left me grinning.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Kevin Clay NAILS IT. From voicing Grandma (Think Vicki Lawrence’s as Mama from the Carol Burnett show. Hilarious!) to teenager Ray to the backwoods accents of the trailer park residents to the righteousness of Dalen, Clay makes each character unique and memorable. Whether the character is male or female, young or old, his delivery is perfection, and this book is one of the few which doesn't need the listening speed increased. A quick search reveals Clay’s narrated a ton of books – including some by one of my favorite authors, Preston Child – so I am excited to listen to more of his performances.

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Bombshell: An Ava Romantic Mystery

  • What Doesn't Kill You, Book 9
  • By: Pamela Fagan Hutchins
  • Narrated by: Chanté McCormick
  • Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 12
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 12

A musical career in the making. A murdered childhood friend. One chance to catch the killer. Ava dreams of building a better life for her daughter through her island pop songs. Her new temp job leads to a once-in-a-lifetime shot at a record deal, but before she can pack her bags for New York, she discovers a dead body outside her office building. Horrified, Ava recognizes the murdered sex worker as her childhood friend. The single mother finds herself torn between pursuing her life’s passion or justice for her murdered friend. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Enjoyed the Narration

  • By BookLover on 07-13-18

WOWSA! Ava is a whirlwind!

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

Reviewed: 10-01-18

WOWSA. Bombshell is the ninth book in the What Doesn’t Kill You series by Pamela Fagan Hutchins (and the fourth for me), and it’s the first of three books in the Ava stories. Now back to the WOWSA. Ava is a fabulous (and fabulously flawed) character and there is a lot of train wrecks going on to keep you engaged. But be warned: there are graphic scenes that have left scars on my face from the heat! Use headphones!

“Repression is my friend. And no, I don’t let anyone blame women for the bad things men do.”

If you like your characters flawed, then Ava is your gal. In Ava’s world, there are a whirlwind of plots and sub-plots and side-stories galore. Based on the other books I have read in this series (all the Emily books), I think the chaos of lives fully lived must be a trademark of Hutchins’s stories. And let’s face it: the chaos of living is very realistic thing. I mean, who do I know (self included) that doesn’t have a million things happening in her life? A million fires to put out? Doesn’t deal with “when it rains it pours” on a regular basis? No one. That’s why even though Ava is about as different from me as can be, she’s still me in a lot of ways. It makes reading Bombshell feel more personal.

Bombshell is categorized as “romantic mystery,” but I don’t think that’s quite right. While the ending of the book hints at a romance to come, the relationships in Bombshell are far from my definition of romantic. They are more about lust than love and pining for someone other than the person you’re getting nasty with doesn’t qualify as romance. As for the mystery label? Maybe. The murderer is obvious early on; however, another story branches off, and it may or may not be related to the murders, so there is some mystery there and plenty of suspense. An interesting addition to the story is a paranormal element: the influence and ghost of Annalise, who returns from the first books in the series.

Author Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes characters and scenes that feel authentic and jump from the page. Her descriptions of the island of St. Marcus, the island life, and the rich cast of characters put readers right in to the setting. Everything in the story is there for a reason, and that’s one thing I have enjoyed in reading Hutchins’s books. Bombshell is no different, but a scene with an intentional political statement felt awkward and unnecessary (though I did enjoy the jab) plus including a specific current event will date the book.

“I spent an idyllic Saturday with my daughter and parents, and that s--t is hard work.”

I don’t love Ava, but Hutchins made me feel invested in her. I want Ava to do better and be better; I want her to stop sweeping everything aside to deal with later; I want her to take care of her child and her parents. By the end of Bombshell, there are indications some of what I want for Ava might happen, but there is a lot that is unresolved and even unrealistic. Given this is just the first of the three Ava books (Stunner and Knockout are the others), and despite Bombshell ending with a sorta-feel-good scene, there’s no way there aren’t going to be sparks and tension and messes to come that will likely entice me back to the series. (Just with a good set of headphones and a fan.)

ABOUT THE NARRATION. At first, I was thrown by the narration by Chante McCormick. I had expectations of how Ava would sound (based on her appearance in the Emily audio books), so I had to sync with the new voice. As always, I found the pace too slow and I listened at 1.25x and even 1.5x at times. I really enjoyed McCormick’s smooth transitions into the Caribbean patois of Ava and other characters. There wasn’t a clear pattern for when Ava spoke in island voice – sometimes her internal monologue/narration/dialogue was in plain ol’ American English and other times it was island English – but it was always fun to hear and reinforced the setting. There are a few odd pronunciations, but overall, I’d say McCormick was an excellent choice for narrating a complicated person’s life and stories.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions for allowing me to adopt this book for review in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Borderline

  • By: Joseph Badal
  • Narrated by: Pamela Almand
  • Length: 8 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 47
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 44

Barbara Lassiter and Susan Martinez, two New Mexico homicide detectives, are assigned to investigate the murder of a wealthy Albuquerque socialite. They soon discover that the victim, a narcissistic borderline personality, played a lifetime game of destroying people's lives. As a result, the list of suspects in her murder is extensive. The detectives find themselves enmeshed in a helix of possible perpetrators with opportunity, means, and motive.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Female detective in a man's world

  • By Simona on 09-15-16

Badal knows how to write engaging characters, plot

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

Reviewed: 09-19-18

HALL WAYS BLOG REVIEW: Audio book review. You know an author has some talent when he can make you despise a character within the first few pages – or in this case, minutes, since I read Borderline with my ears. Readers meet the vile Victoria immediately and aren’t surprised when she’s brutally murdered. Readers soon realize that Victoria is just the tip of the loathsome character iceberg, and off they are taken on an enthralling police procedural murder mystery. Even better? It’s “inspired by actual events,” according to the introduction. I am IN!

With the main characters, Barbara Lassiter and Susan Martinez, both being female law enforcement officers, it’s not surprising some sexism and workplace harassment elements are added-in. Each of the women responds differently to the incidents, but it is common ground and one of the things that bonds the detectives to each other. They are a team on the job, but readers also see the personal sides of both Susan and Barbara and how they support each other in and outside of their jobs. Their relationship and the power of females supporting each other is one of the best aspects of Borderline, and I expect to see this friendship continue to grow in future installments of the series.

There are multiple story lines and more suspects and twists and turns than can be counted. But as good detectives will do, Barbara and Susan get organized and methodically pick through the clues and piece together the cases. There are a few of the detectives’ reactions that are odd, and a few clichés including the right detectives being pulled from the case (but continuing to work on it anyway), other detectives behaving badly, and the mandatory bad detective come-uppance. What saves the day, again, is the depth of Barbara’s and Susan’s characters and their personalities being brought into the story. They feel realistic in their struggles to balance their lives and their careers and in reconciling when personal and professional crash against each other.

“Barbara had now solved two murder cases in less than twenty-four hours; she’d never felt worse in her entire life.”

By the conclusion of Borderline, the murders are solved (but not without a few surprises). There is some resolution to the crises in the main characters’ lives and they are both moving forward. Rather than a feel-good, happy ending, I felt sorry for Barbara after all she had been through and where she is at the end. It should have felt hopeful, but for some reason it felt lonely. And then there is a peculiar epilogue that feels unnecessary, followed by about ten minutes of summaries of other books and series by the author, all of which took me out of the story a bit.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: What’s to love? Flawless delivery, no technical issues, and narrator Pamela Almand’s ability to distinguish the huge cast of characters’ voices so that they are all unique and identifiable. No small deed. And kudos to her for carrying-off Connie’s character. Well done. Where I struggled to enjoy the narration was in the speed (I immediately had to go to 1.25x, but this is the norm for me) and that I didn’t particularly like the voices. Granted, I didn’t really like the characters, either, and one of them is supposed to sound annoying – and oh, it is – but others don’t necessarily fit. Victoria’s voice, for example, though EXCELLENT in its snobbery, seems like it belongs to a much older woman. And some characters have odd accents. Deal breaker? Absolutely not. I enjoyed listening to her narration and would try another audio book with her at the helm.
Borderline pushes a little past the boundary of being a cozy mystery and is a bit grittier with stronger language and more sexual. Fortunately, the sex isn’t graphic, and the language is appropriate for the situations and setting. Author Joseph Badal knows how to write characters and plot a story that keeps readers engaged and thinking and trying to figure out not just whodunit but why. I’ll be adding other titles by Badal to my TBR list.

Dark Angel, book two in the Lassiter/Martinez Case Files series, came out in early 2017 (but isn’t an audio book yet), and I plan on getting the print version to see what’s next for this detective team. If Almand narrates it, all the better because now her voices define the main characters.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions, the author, and the narrator for providing me with an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

  • Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery

  • Adventures of Zelda Richardson, Book 3
  • By: Jennifer S. Alderson
  • Narrated by: Chelsea Stephens
  • Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12

Art-history student Zelda Richardson is working at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam on an exhibition of bis poles from the Asmat region of Papua - the same area where a famous American anthropologist disappeared in 1962. When his journal is found inside one of the bis poles, Zelda is tasked with finding out more about the man's last days and his connection to these ritual objects. Join Zelda as she grapples with the anthropologist's mysterious disappearance 50 years earlier and a present-day murderer who will do anything to prevent her from discovering the truth.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Cannibals & ritual masks, on my!

  • By DabOfDarkness on 09-26-18

Historical details put readers IN the story

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

Reviewed: 09-10-18

Audio Book Review. Though Rituals of the Dead is the third book in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series, it was the first for me and my introduction into Zelda’s world. The librarian in me connected with the art-historian in Zelda as we both appreciate finding and processing information from the past and present. This book easily stands alone, but the scattered references to some prior hair-raising adventures piques my curiosity about the other books.

The book starts out in 1962 as a man is bailing-out a sinking boat. From there, readers will jump to events of 2017, which sets the standard for two parallel stories unfolding. The story in the ‘60s is a slow building, high interest one while the current story moves at a faster pace. Readers can almost see how these lines become closer and closer to finally merge for an exciting culmination and big reveal as to whodunit and why.

“Zelda was elated she didn’t have to work with dead bodies this week.”

History and lovers of diverse cultures will be treated to the historical details that author Jennifer Anderson has included in the book. Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of the true but macabre tribal rites and rituals found in faraway places? Admittedly, I am no expert, but it seems the author has done her research. Some sections get a little too history-book-heavy, but the historical information makes the reader think. Anderson subtly and not-so-subtly reminds readers about the western impact on native cultures and our tendency to corrupt what is sacred to others. Rituals of the Dead shows that even when the motive is good, unintended consequences are not. For example, when one of the characters tries to help the tribe by buying its artifacts, the result is that they increase their headhunting activity!

The premise of Rituals of the Dead is completely unique, and the story is fascinating. There are a few holes in the storyline, and there are some things that happen that are just a bit too convenient, but it doesn’t push the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. There is plenty of death and murder, but I never felt a real sense that Zelda was in real danger – she certainly didn’t seem to worry as she made some extraordinarily bad choices and put herself in precarious positions.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Chelsea Stephens does a great job narrating Rituals of the Dead, and meets the challenges of voicing both male and female characters as well as some accents and difficult vocabulary. Many of the males sounded a bit haughty, which matched the attitudes of some but not all. Overall, she had an even and enjoyable delivery. I listened at 1.25x speed, which was perfect for me.

I look forward to reading the prior books in this series and any future installments Anderson may have in store, but I may switch to print for those. Though the audio narration was excellent, the downside for me is that when faced with factoids of dates, I need to see the words with my eyes to process some of the history.

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

  • Chiseled

  • A Memoir of Identity, Duplicity, and Divine Wine
  • By: Danuta Pfeiffer
  • Narrated by: Danuta Pfeiffer
  • Length: 13 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 9

Through betrayals and loss and her search for redemption, Danuta Pfeiffer becomes the unlikely co-host to a television evangelist bent on becoming the president of the US. When her past catches up to her, she is caught in the crosshairs of politics and religion.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Such an empowering story!

  • By A.L. Hernandez on 07-29-18

Truth is more dramatic than fiction. Powerful.

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

Reviewed: 07-28-18

Audio and Print Review. I read this book in print three years ago, and when the author contacted me and asked if I’d listen to the new audio book format, I jumped at the chance. Even three years later, I remembered well the details of the book. Danuta Pfeiffer's Chiseled: A Memoir of Identity, Duplicity, and Divine Wine is the amazing story of Danuta's life -- filled with deception, devastation, and determination -- that takes readers on her courageous journey. Told in three parts, Danuta begins at her beginning, as a god-fearing child, living a spartan life, under a father she revered despite his abusive hands. Her father's stories of obstacles he'd overcome in the war, in the most brutal of circumstances, carried Danuta through her own travails time and again, even as her father continued to reject her.

“Women were expected to be seen but not heard. To be instructed but not instruct.
To praise the Lord and pass the potatoes -- but not to preach.”

For readers who remember Danuta (then Soderman) and her mysterious departure from being the co-host of The 700 Club with Pat Robertson, details are revealed of not only her departure, but of how CBN and Robertson operated behind-the-scenes. This provides fascinating insight into the sometimes-sordid world of televangelism, and it ultimately leads to Danuta's "losing God" for some time. As Danuta navigates her life - out of work, married to an addict, and questioning the very existence of God - she always draws strength from her father's challenges and perseveres. When she finally allows friendships into her life and allows herself to focus on her own needs, she finds true love with a winemaker, Robin Pfeiffer. Robin takes Danuta to Poland, where Danuta connects with her father's family, and discovers the truth and lies of her father's past.

"Memory is wickedly elusive and necessarily subjective.
Ultimately, this is the memory of a lie."

Many of her sentences are stunning, and the imagery truly takes the story to another level. For example, in talking about her father's decline into depression, Danuta wrote, "His change took place the way a shoelace comes undone, gradually unravelling what was once secure." Or, when she speaks of her time with The 700 Club, she summarizes it by saying, "I had become a spiritual drug dealer imbued with the halo of power and celebrity, associated with the brokers of money and politics." Her characterization is excellent so that readers not only witness actions but understand and feel Danuta's emotions towards the characters who have the most impact on her life.

Particularly powerful is the story of Danuta's mother, Patricia, who is truly the hero of Danuta's life. In Patricia's strength and commitment to her family, Danuta finds a role model in a time when women were restricted by societal limitations. Throughout Danuta's life, her faith and relationship with God go through many iterations, and it is interesting to see her thought process at all stages and what ultimately leads her back to a life of faith. Sprinkled throughout the text were photographs from various times in Danuta's life, which enriched the story even further.

ABOUT THE AUDIO BOOK: One word: OUTSTANDING. I loved this memoir when I read it, and I loved it when I read it with my ears and heard the author narrate her life for me. It makes the already intimate feeling memoir feel even more intimate, more real (and more painful), and her triumphs more glorious. Pfeiffer’s training serves her well as her narration is perfectly paced and her voicing of various characters really enriches them. The voicing of her Polish relatives was particularly good. She nailed everything from the humor of her Uncle Frank to the awkwardness of his translating for others and the pain and confusion as Danuta tried to reconcile the father she thought she knew with the man his Polish family knew him to be.

Chiseled is a masterfully written story of a woman spending a lifetime searching to find peace, love, and acceptance within herself. At times, readers will have to remind themselves that Chiseled is a memoir and not fiction. It is unbelievable that any one person endured all the heartache and challenges that Danuta faced, and even more amazing that she survived it and now lives a healthy, happy life. I highly recommend Chiseled, as Danuta Pfeiffer eloquently shows that truth can be more dramatic and fascinating than fiction. Readers be prepared to be angry -- and possibly shed a few tears -- but in the end, feel inspired.

Thank you to the author for reaching out to me and offering an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Edge of Over There

  • By: Shawn Smucker
  • Narrated by: Adam Verner
  • Length: 10 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 3

Before the Tree of Life, everything in Abra Miller's life had been predictable. But after the Tree and the lightning and the angels, everything felt tenuous, like holding a soap bubble in the palm of her hand. She spent years looking for signs of that other world, waiting for it to break through. When it didn't, her friendship with Sam Chambers grew cold and distant, and they both wondered how any of it could actually have happened. Four years later, 16-year-old Abra's quest is renewed when she is directed to New Orleans to the grave of Marie Laveau, one of seven gateways between this world and Over There.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Please, Shawn Smucker, say there is more coming!

  • By Hall Ways on 07-27-18

Please, Shawn Smucker, say there is more coming!

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

Reviewed: 07-27-18

Audio & Print Review. I’m doing things a little out of order because I am writing the review for The Edge of Over There, the second book of the series, before I write the one for The Day the Angels Fell, the first. That’s because I read (both in print and with my ears) both books, back-to-back, in two and a half days. I’m so geeked-up about it that I’m starting at the end.

THE END?! Please, Shawn Smucker, say it isn’t so. As I drew nearer to the close of The Edge of Over There, I switched from listening to the audio book (which I already had increased to 1.25x speed) to picking-up my beautiful print copy so I could gobble up the words more quickly and find out what would happen – I could not have imagined it! That end twist surely guarantees there is more of this series to come. There simply must be.

“The house was like a kind, old man: a little crazy, a little angry,
but mostly quiet and reflective. And waiting. Always waiting.”

As with The Day the Angels Fell, the descriptions and figurative language will blow-away the readers. There is a beautiful flow to Smucker’s writing; it’s lyrical and lulls you into the story. Then the imagery sticks to you, immerses you, and holds you tightly within the story. And the characters! Not one is unimportant, and their personalities evoke all kinds of emotions from the reader, including fear and dread that come from a surprisingly tiny package. Upon finishing the stories, I feel exhausted…and invigorated!

Exactly what kind of book is The Edge of Over There? Young adult? Adult? Biblical? Fantasy? Magical Realism? Myth? Yes. Yes, to it all. It’s best not to try wrangling this book into any one box because it’s most certainly not going to stay there. I noted at least a dozen quotes for later consideration because this book will make you think and wonder and dream (nightmare?) a little, too. And if Smucker’s words aren’t enough, every part (there are seven plus an epilogue) begins with a quote to fuel your mind. These quotes come from a wide variety of sources from traditional church hymns and C.S. Lewis to Madeleine L’Engle and Kate DiCamillo. Bonus food for thought.

ABOUT THE AUDIO BOOK. Listening to narrator Adam Verner further draws and keeps you within the story. I listened at 1.25x, mostly because I am impatient, but I can envision someone who wants to savor the story longer (who is not so impatient), who wants to absolutely wallow in the deliciousness of his reading of the book. It’s like the best read aloud story time EVER. But not for the little ones; The Edge of Over There explores some dark places of human nature and evil itself.

I heard of the two books in this series by way of their two Lone Star Book Blog Tours. The reviews are so glowing that I had to get my own copies to find out what all the buzz is about. Money well spent on both print and audio -- I intend to revisit them all.