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Hall Ways

Colleyville, TX, US
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  • Borderline

  • By: Joseph Badal
  • Narrated by: Pamela Almand
  • Length: 8 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 45
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 42
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 42

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 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11

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
  • Interesting

  • By Layla on 09-19-18

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 6
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 5

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 2
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 2

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.

  • The Crystilleries of Echoland

  • By: Dew Pellucid
  • Narrated by: B.J. Harrison
  • Length: 7 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 4

In a see-through land our reflections live. They call us Sounds. They are our Echoes. And they think that they must die when we do. Is this why children are disappearing from the Sound realm? Because someone wants their Echo to die? Twelve-year-old Will Cleary tries to escape the frightening answer. But dangers sweep him into that magical, see-through land. And there, in a fortress filled with castaway children, a 200-year-old riddle lies buried. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Book! Can't Wait For More!

  • By Rachel on 07-02-18

PERFECT narration of a magical, mystical journey

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

Reviewed: 07-12-18

4.5 STARS. Print and Audio Book Review: The Crystilleries of Echoland is a magical, mystical journey into the parallel Echo realm where twelve-year-old Will Cleary finds his identity is not what he believed it to be and even things in his world are not what they seem. The premise is wonderful – haven’t all of us wondered at times about the existence of parallel worlds? Throw into the mix that it’s an often Harry Potter-like world with fantastic feats and beasts, full of mystery and danger, and you’ve got a winning combination that readers will devour.

The Echo realm is pure magic -- a mystical, shimmering world of illusions and often deadly realities. There are plenty of colorful characters, including the terrifying but intriguing Fate Sealers (think Dementors from HP, but even more gruesome). Lessons of friendship and loyalty, accepting differences, and putting others before one’s self make The Crystilleries of Echoland an impactful reading choice.

Author Dew Pellucid's imagination is wondrous and the author's ability to put ideas to paper is phenomenal. The author truly immerses the reader into the setting where descriptions are vibrant, emotions are strong, and danger feels real. Andy Simmons's haunting CGI illustrations draw readers into the Echo realm, its characters, and its landscapes, and are a good forced pause between chapters that are sometimes relentlessly fast-paced. The writing and artwork allow for readers to truly escape into an otherworldly experience every time they turn the page.

ABOUT THE AUDIO BOOK: The narration of The Crystilleries of Echoland is outstanding. Narrator B.J. Harrison is flawless in his portrayal of the many voices and personalities within the story. His pacing and emotion perfectly match the intended tone and mood of the plot, and listeners will be delighted with his accent. I would listen to him narrate directions for assembling a box and be engrossed.

Be warned -- there is a fair amount of death and killing, often remorseless, and some moderately intense, even grisly scenes of violence. The audience feels tween/middle-grade, but with those elements in mind, it’s best suited for more mature young readers and older. From a technical perspective, the Grammar Policewoman issues a citation because the book needs another pass by the proofreader to correct typos, punctuation and capitalization errors, and the overuse of the word “lucent.”
Twists and turns abound, and readers will find themselves utterly immersed in this story right up to the satisfying ending, which leaves open the possibility of more Echoland adventures. (Fingers crossed.) Prepare to be thinking about the fantastic Echo world, where there is adventure, danger, and beauty beyond imagination, long after finishing The Crystilleries of Echoland.

Thank you to the author for sending me a beautiful, color illustrated copy of this book plus an audio download in exchange for my honest opinions of each – the only kind I give. This full review and other special features on Hall Ways Blog kristinehallways.blogspot.com

  • Dead of Night

  • Tales of the Supernatural and the Macabre
  • By: William R Todd
  • Narrated by: Ben Werling
  • Length: 4 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9

Dead of Night is a compilation of turn-of-the-century-era horror stories with a Victorian flair and traditional horror story plots with unexpected endings. If you like ghosts and ghouls and demons and werewolves, these stories are for you. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Perfect little horror collection for a dark night

  • By DabOfDarkness on 08-06-18

Perfect Quick Hit of Horror

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

Reviewed: 07-06-18

4.5 STARS. Audio Book Review. It’s always difficult to review a book of short stories, but for Dead of Night, I can categorically say that it was good spooky fun. Of course, I have my favorite of the six stories (which was titled “Jack.” Oooooh, that TWIST!), but every story was thought provoking and creepy in its own disturbing way. DELICIOUS. I like the Victorian vibe to them all that allowed for significant chills without making me too uncomfortable in the safety of modern times. (I know, what safety? Don’t burst my bubble). Readers will enjoy stories that include a variety of narrators, subtle little hints of things to come, and interesting and unique premises that enrich the stories and set them apart from standard horror.

"I must confess that for someone who is about to die,
writing in my diary is a most odd notion."

From one of the earliest lines in the first story, “Whittaker House,” the reader is drawn in with the dread, doom, and heaviness surrounding the story. Author William Todd masterfully works his words so that the reader is right there with the characters, a fly on the wall that can see something terrible is coming but can’t do a thing about it. The pictures he paints are vivid and range from the most picturesque to the most macabre. Todd’s use of figurative language and non-standard words adds extra impact and raises the writing a literary notch.

"The sky was bathed in blue -- a sea in the heavens that matched any on earth…The serried tops of beech, oak, and elm trees swooned like sozzled sentries between all the properties.

Since I read Dead of Night with my ears, I cannot speak to the quality of the editing, but the sentences flow from narrator Ben Werling’s mouth, and the writing is top-notch. I cannot imagine that someone who writes like William Todd doesn’t take care to make his sentences clean in print. I am likely to buy this book so that I can re-read the stories, so we will see if I’m mistaken.

Speaking of the audio book, I listened at regular speed for a bit, which is best to feel the real gloom of the stories. However, as usual, I am too impatient, so I sped it up to 1.25x, which still worked very well and added anxiety to the mix of feelings listeners experience. There are some sound effects added in, and they were fun but somewhat random. I’m not sure if they added anything, but they didn’t really detract or distract. There is some background noise, a clicking/crackling that starts about seven minutes in and then can be heard sporadically for the rest of the book, but that is really the only technical issue with the audio.

Narrator Ben Werling does a great job in matching the moods of each story and voicing the wide variety of characters and accents. There aren’t many female characters, but those few are important, and Werling (thankfully) doesn’t make much effort to distinguish between the voices of males and females. The result is just right and is never confusing or cringe-worthy (there is nothing worse than all the women sounding Monty-Pythonesque). Werling’s delivery was mostly even, though there are times when the volume of his voice isn’t consistent. His emotion and expressiveness were excellent, and his pacing perfect. My only complaint were the numerous mispronounced words (particularly in “I’m Still Alive”); those were distracting to me and took me out of the story a time or two.

My nitpicking aside, I highly recommend the audio book of Dead of Night for fans of classic scary stories in the style of Edgar Allen Poe. At just four hours in length, it’s perfect for a short little road trip or to listen during the daily commute. And as I said, I plan on buying it in print so I can get a quick hit of horror any time. Thank you to Audiobookworm Productions and the author for the free audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

  • Anahuac

  • A Texas Story, Book 2
  • By: William Duane Darling
  • Narrated by: Alan Adelberg
  • Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6

The Anahuac of 1972 is more than just an isolated outpost on Texas's Trinity Bay. It's a place where greed and justice uncomfortably intermingle; where the evangelical fervor of charismatic preachers resonates; where blacks and whites navigate a fragile co-existence; and where a murder leads to even darker mysteries than murder. Jim Ward, introduced in Morgan's Point as a young, idealistic Houston prosecutor, returns in Anahuac as an older, more conflicted, more complicated man, coming to defend a man who appears guilty of a horrible crime.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A trip down memory lane

  • By Allen Anthony on 03-27-18

Audio adds a whole new layer of excellence

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

Reviewed: 06-21-18

PRINT REVIEW (Audio Book Review at bottom) : (Five Stars with a caveat*). Anahuac: A Texas Story, Volume 2 is my first print book finished in 2018 -- and it leaves some big shoes to fill for all those that come after it. Perhaps it has a winning edge over others by including three of my favorite elements: Texas, the 1970s, and kick-butt female characters. Perhaps it’s because the story line grabs you by the collar and pulls you right into small town Texas where life is slow moving and change, progress, and outsiders are unwelcome intruders. Perhaps it’s because the story is unconventional in how it unfolds, which is primarily outside the courtroom.

“While the house and Sarita both retained hints of grandness,
their best days were behind them.”

Author William Darling NAILS the setting of Anahuac in so many ways. (As a Texan and child of the '70s, I can vouch for the accuracy.) In addition to rich, detailed descriptions, Darling weaves in historical facts to remind the readers that they are immersed in a different time. Texas was still covered with sprawling ranches and more miles of undeveloped land and shorelines than not. Radio programming was strong, and carbon paper and typewriters were how most people made copies. Racial tensions were high, the Vietnam War was raging, and terrorists marred the Olympics.

“The beauty of this situation was that I could treat her like a man.”

A big part of Anahuac centers around the swirl of women’s rights movements that were happening in the 1970s. Women were becoming a presence in formerly male dominated professional fields, and it wasn’t necessarily a welcome change. I am not sure whether author William Darling intended the story to be so timely. Today women continue to fight many of the same equality demons; some are clothed differently, and others wear the same tired coats from forty (fifty? A hundred?) years ago.

All of the characters in Anahuac are well-crafted and fascinating including an eccentric and independent ranch woman, an evangelical preacher with a shady business manager, an old man with old money, and a small-town sheriff with a big hold over the town. Despite a large cast, Darling does an outstanding job of defining the players and making each unique and memorable and familiar to readers. Readers get not only a clear visual but a peek at what makes these multi-layered characters tick. The female characters in Anahuac are all kick-ass -- every single one. From the first pages where we meet the tough-as-nails Sarita Jo Franklin, to the legal secretary, Alice Ann, and the three powerhouse main women, Cooper, Aurora, and Chinky, readers are treated to smart, independent women who know what they want and are going for it despite the man-made hurdles. One of the reasons readers will love main character Jim Ward is that he shows growth as he questions the status quo, realizes that the women who surround him are on equal footing (or possibly have the upper hand), and embraces the advantages they can offer him personally and professionally. He respects them.

“It was one of those "moving duck" moments: on the surface I was sailing along calmly, below the surface I was paddling like hell.”[sic]

The plot was unexpected and unconventional and a real delight. Anahuac is full of the details one would expect with the main character an attorney and the main story line being his defense of an accused murderer. Rather than being a legal thriller, it’s character-driven and readers don’t spend much time in the courtroom. By the resolution, readers don’t necessarily know who is guilty or innocent, despite how the jury rules. And that’s okay because readers learn so much more and are left with their interest piqued as to what’s going to happen next in the lives of these characters. I intend to go back and read book one in the series, Morgan’s Point, and sincerely hope that there’s a third installment on the horizon.

Anahuac is a top-notch story, and the story deserves a full five stars; however, there’s that caveat*. (Those who regularly read my reviews probably know what’s coming.) There are format issues and the book needs a thorough editing to correct some repeated lines, dropped words, and very basic and repetitive punctuation errors, several of which were glaring to these (Texan) eyes (Ya’ll? No, no, no.). It is common knowledge that I am a freak about all things SPAG. Despite my issue with the issues, that the errors didn’t sour me on the book attests to the quality of the story – it’s that good. I sincerely hope that future editions will be clean to take Anahuac to the next level, where it belongs.

Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and Orange Cone Agency for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Even having read this book several months ago and knowing how it would all turn-out, LISTENING to this story unfold, I was still absolutely glued to it. It is such an excellent and believable plot, and hearing the characters' voices makes it even more enjoyable, thanks to the fabulous narration by Alan Adelberg.

Adelberg’s narration is evenly delivered and -- with the exception of the pronunciation of “voir dire” -- perfectly performed. From the deep Texas drawls to the evangelical preacher to the British female, Adelberg nails the accents of the wide variety of unique characters in the story.

In reading with my ears, I am reminded of how much I enjoy the language that author William Darling uses to help shape the characters and the settings. Now I am even more anxious for the next installment in this series and ready for book one, Morgan's Point, to get its own audio book treatment!

  • Ice

  • By: Lauren Carr
  • Narrated by: Mike Alger
  • Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 20

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappears, the court of public opinion finds young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted. With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Ice

  • By Christy D on 05-12-18

NEVER a dull moment

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

Reviewed: 06-20-18

Audio Book Review. Oh my gosh! This book was so much fun, and as I was reading it (with my ears), there were so many people who popped to mind and to whom I will be recommending the book, and each for a different reason. (Christena -- because of Sterling, the fabulous German shepherd; Lynda – who loves a good cozy that has sexy middle-aged romance; Kristi – who loves to see a spunky librarian like herself in the mix; and so many MORE.) I will be book talking ICE: A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery to anyone who will listen and will be grabbing other Lauren Carr books (there are TONS) to add-in to the reading rotation. I’m now a fan!

Where Carr really shines is in writing these amazingly realistic characters who become important to the reader and who truly jump to life from the page. Main character Chris Matheson’s mother, Doris (that spunky librarian), provides some of the best lines in the book, but Sterling the retired police dog is a sneaky little scene stealer. I swear, he should have his own spin-off series! The picture that’s sketched out of Chris and his family and their generations of life in this small West Virginia town feels comfortable and familiar, flaws and all. There’s a tentative and imperfect romance to give readers the flutters, there’s the Geezer Squad “book club” that gives us some laughs (and some lessons), and everything feels good…except for the horribly brutal crimes that seem to plague the town.

And the whodunit elements are PRIME. There is never a dull moment in Ice, and it has layers upon layers of story elements to keep readers engaged. So much is going on with the cold cases, new crimes, and an additional, low-grade little mystery behind Helen, Chris's potential love interest. Readers are led around and misled around with an abundance of suspects all who MUST BE THE PERP. (and yeah, none of them is!) Carr is really a master at deceiving her readers in the most delicious ways.

Audio book narrator Mike Alger earns high marks in all areas for his performance. His pacing is perfect, and he brings the appropriate emotions and attitudes to his voicing of the characters. I listened at 1.25x speed, but that was more because I was impatient to see how the story would end than anything else. I cannot wait for the next installment in this series and sincerely hope that Alger is back to narrate it again.

I highly recommend this book because it has something to appeal to nearly every reader (except aliens…sorry, Belle). Ice is a contemporary balance of mystery, family, romance, aging, and humor elements that will keep readers fully entertained for the duration. Thank you to iRead Book Tours and the author for providing me an audio book download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Call to Arms

  • A Detective Kay Hunter Crime Thriller
  • By: Rachel Amphlett
  • Narrated by: Alison Campbell
  • Length: 6 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31

Kay Hunter has survived a vicious attack at the hands of one of the country's most evil serial killers. Returning to work after an enforced absence to recover, she discovers she wasn't the only victim of that investigation. DI Devon Sharp remains suspended from duties, and the team is in turmoil. Determined to prove herself once more and clear his name, Kay undertakes to solve a cold case that links Sharp to his accuser. But as she gets closer to the truth, she realizes her inquiries could do more harm than good.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This series keeps giving and giving

  • By DabOfDarkness on 06-12-18

The best Kay Hunter book yet

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

Reviewed: 05-29-18

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when I got the invitation to review the audio book of Call to Arms. I’m a huge fan of the Detective Kay Hunter series and have read with my ears all four of the prior books. This one did not disappoint, and like with the other books in the series, I listened to it straight through in a day.

Though Call to Arms is enhanced by my having read the prior installments in the series, this one stands works as a stand-alone since it is a story that doesn’t rely on prior events or character relationships. Amphlett does a great job of establishing who is who and what is what, so I don’t think readers new to the series will have any trouble jumping in.

"Just stay out of trouble this time, Hunter."

As with prior books, Call to Arms starts with action and a possible crime, this one ten years ago. In a break from prior books, readers don’t really have chapters that are told from the bad-guy perspective. As a result, readers don’t ever get into the heads of any characters other than our main character, Detective Kay Hunter – and it works just fine for this installment. For fans of the police procedural, Call to Arms is excellent because readers are uncovering information right along with the detectives assigned to the case. The danger element isn’t quite as high, but it’s fascinating going through investigative process and seeing the attention to detail that’s required to do build a solid case against a suspect (or several).

I listened to books one through four, back to back, and it has been a little over a month since I finished them. In a way, the break from the series made Call to Arms more fun because many of the familiar elements were new again and just as delightful as ever. Kay’s husband Adam, as well as his animal house guests, are all bright spots and so is the mandatory cuppa tea or coffee that are staples to solving any crimes. Returning readers will also be surprised by an ever-so-subtle shift in the relationship between Kay and DCI Angus Larch (spoiler: he’s HUMAN).

"Penny for your thoughts."
"I'm not sure they're worth that at the moment."

While Call to Arms doesn’t really do much with further building any relationships between individual characters, I like how it does tighten the group of core detectives readers have known from the beginning. This group has each other’s backs and is starting to work like a well-oiled machine, but they also genuinely care about one another. They keep it professional, but it’s clear that there is a camaraderie that only comes from being through the kinds of hell this group has experienced together. Readers get hints at the mental anguish Kay continues to feel (but tries to deny) from her past traumas, and it is likely those unresolved issues will rear their ugly head at some point down the line. She shows much weariness and some growth as there is more careful decision making and less impulsive than in other books, but she’s realistically flawed. Thank goodness! Otherwise, Kay would be too perfect, and we just can’t have that.

Rachel Amphlett knows how to tell a story and keep the readers engaged in it from start to finish. I can’t speak to the editing of the print book, but the dialogues are natural, the characters are distinctive, and the action is realistic. I have the same gripe as always -- there is far too much glaring – and there was one semi-major contradiction, and a couple of scenes that were left sitting out there, seemingly unimportant/unneeded. But overall, Amphlett nails this story, and it is firmly among my favorites.

The narration by Alison Campbell is as excellent as ever. Her pacing and expressiveness are perfect, and she voices the numerous characters without any of them sounding the same. One character was supposed to have a hint of a German accent, and I didn’t hear it, but it didn’t detract in any way. I have to say, I was sorry there was no creepy bad guy for her to voice in this book – she always does a fabulous job with that. I listened at 1.25x, and that kept the story moving at a pace I enjoyed.

I am thrilled that Amphlett is already working on the next book in the series, and I guarantee I will be grabbing it as soon as it’s out. The books in this series immerse you in another world and keep interest piqued without graphic sex or violence. The Detective Kay Hunter series is truly addictive! Get your fix!

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

  • The Dictator's Handbook

  • Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics
  • By: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith
  • Narrated by: Johnny Heller
  • Length: 11 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,121
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,803
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,786

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

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

  • By Michael on 07-01-14

Should be required reading

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

Reviewed: 05-18-18

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

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

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

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