An Uncollected Death by Meg Wolfe

Publisher: Wolfe Johnson (2014)

Length: 373 Pages

Series: Book 1 The Charlotte Anthony Mysteries

Author’s Page

Set in Indiana, Charlotte Anthony is looking at having to downsize from her lake-side house to a small apartment in nearby Elm Grove. Her daughter is off in Paris continuing her education. She’s recently become unemployed since the magazine she’s edited for has had to close down. Luckily, her friend Helene has a sister who needs an editor for a semi-autobiographical work. Unfortunately, Charlotte finds her new employer Olivia dead on the first day with plenty of questions to be answered.

It took some effort to get into this book. I liked that Charlotte was going through this major shift in her life. She had become comfortable and then her stability is gone and she has to pare down her life. Yet the paring down part was mostly long lists of things in her kitchen or clothes closet. That was so tedious I almost gave up on the book. The story went on and on about minimalist lifestyle and how to achieve it, why it’s good for you, etc. It was really harped on and while I like the idea, I didn’t need a step by step tutorial on how to get there.

I liked Helene and even Olivia, who dies early on but we have bits and pieces of her life through these notebooks she left behind. Charlotte has been tasked with finding all these notebooks in Olivia’s cluttered house and then editing them into a publishable book. There are several long info drops when it comes to most of the characters. It’s like I was reading the authors own detailed description notes. This made for boring reading at times.

I did enjoy the treasure hunt for Olivia’s notebooks. She would fill each one, hide it (because she had a disapproving and controlling husband), and begin a new one, starting with a clue as to where she hid the previous one. So while Charlotte and Helene (and sometimes Helene’s photography friend) hunt for these notebooks, someone else keeps coming in at odd hours and stealing small items. Olivia’s estranged son Donovan is the obvious culprit but there’s more to it (which I liked).

Much of the book is focused on Charlotte as she goes through this midlife crisis. The murder mystery is secondary. I wanted to like Charlotte but at times the story was really angsty and that kept putting me off. I wanted to sympathize with Charlotte, but I also felt that she repeatedly sold herself short. She has skills, connections, and resources. She’s not that bad off yet she felt like her life was falling into the gutter. She went from upper middle class to average middle class. It felt like a great fall to her but for many folks, her final landing place would be a step up. So the angsty stuff made it difficult to connect with Charlotte.

In the end, I wanted more mystery. I would have enjoyed reading more about Olivia’s life as an author in Paris during and after WWII. The romance for Charlotte was sweet but also an extremely slow burn. I did like the cat that adopts her.

What I Liked: Olivia’s hidden journals; Helene’s character; Charlotte’s core character; the final wrap up; Charlotte’s new cat friend.

What I Disliked: Lots of long info drops; the long, long lists of Charlotte’s stuff (just not that interesting); the often angsty bits.

The Buried Book by D. M. Pulley

Narrator: Luke Daniels

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2016)

Length: 11 hours 55 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in and around Detroit in 1952, 9 year old Jasper has just been left at his uncle Leo’s farm. No one knows where his mother Althea has gotten off to and his dad visits when he can. Jasper has many questions and several of those can be answered by secrets kept on the farm. The rest he must hunt out, puzzling them together.

Part mystery, part literary fiction, part coming of age, this tale wasn’t what I was expecting but it sure was gripping. Most of the book is told through Jasper’s eyes, though there are flashbacks sprinkled throughout the book to show us Althea’s life as a girl long before she had Jasper. While some parts of the book were a bit slow, there was always something pulling me back into it.

Althea grew up in the Prohibition Era and as a teen she is faced with some interesting employment choices. She doesn’t want to be a farmer her whole life yet she doesn’t see many choices in front of her either. Jumping forward a generation, young Jasper is dumped on the farm’s doorstep. Eventually he starts exploring things a bit and finds the old farmhouse that was gutted by fire. The structure is still standing and he makes a very interesting discovery inside, one that gives him many clues as to his mom’s history. These clues lead him to seek out people his mom once knew and who might be able to help him locate her today.

I wasn’t expecting some of the twists and turns this book took, which I really liked about the story. Since he’s only 9, most of the adults in the tale don’t want to tell him what they know, usually in an attempt to protect him. Jasper is tired of being protected from the truth and indeed, the web of lies and evasions really start to weigh on the guy. Talk about emotional and mental strain!

The farm scenes were good but often intense. After all, it’s a working farm complete with livestock, tractors, and plenty of chores. Jasper has his older cousin to help him navigate the dos and dont’s of the farm. There are scenes of butchering but I didn’t feel they were gratuitously gory though we do get Jasper’s view on these scenes. Initially, he’s a bit horrified but as he spends more time on the farm, he starts to understand and except how things are done.

The ending wrapped up the big questions and I believe Jasper comes out the stronger for the experience. I did feel some minor mysteries were left hanging a bit. While such is often so with real life, I did want just a little more from this book. Still, it was a good listen and I did get attached to Jasper and his cousin.

I listened to this audiobook through Kindle Unlimited.

The Narration: Luke Daniels was great for this book. I am once again impressed with his vocal range. He was great as 9 year old Jasper including the myriad of emotions he experiences throughout this story. I especially loved his voice for uncle Leo who was often hard yet caring at the same time. Daniels’s female voices were good and his regional accents were well done.

What I Liked: More mystery than I expected; Jasper’s life on the farm; his cousin is always looking out for him; the flashbacks to Prohibition Era; great narration.

What I Disliked: There were some slow points in the story; I wanted just a bit more at the end to clearly wrap up some minor points.

What Others Think:

Reading Reality

A Bookish Type

Wordsmithonia

Readaholic Zone

JDC Must Read Books

A Bookaholic Swede

Bewitched Bookworms

Fly Leaf Furled

Comfy Cozy Up

The Cavanaugh House by Elizabeth Meyette

Narrator: Amy McFadden

Publisher: Elizabeth Meyette (2016)

Length: 10 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 1 Cavanaugh House

Author’s Page

Suffering from a broken engagement, Jesse Graham has left Rochester for the North Lakes area of New York, taking a job at the local nun-run school and living in the Cavanaugh house, a place left to her by her deceased aunt Helen. Arriving there, she first has to make the house livable and Joe Riley is there to offer a helping hand, and perhaps more if Jesse is interested. Secrets about her aunt Helen and her own past start to emerge and someone doesn’t want those secrets brought to light. Jesse is in danger.

This was a very slow paced book. It takes quite some time to get to any part of the mystery. Set in 1968, much of the story and phrases used are quaint. For some, this might bring up nostalgia. For me, this book felt much longer than it actually was and it took me some time to become engaged in the story. Still, it is written with skill and care.

Being equal parts mystery and romance, let’s start with the romance. It was a slow burn as well. Jesse moves to this small town and immediately more than one available man is interested in dating her. Joe is the first one to show interest and is the son of Susan, her aunt Helen’s best friend from all those years ago. Then there’s Marty, a police officer. There’s also Al, a son of the local prominent and wealthy family. It felt a little cliched to have all the local bachelors vying for the new girl’s hand at the dance. This part of the story held little interest for me.

As to the mystery, it was pretty straight forward. I almost want to say that this book wasn’t so much a mystery as it was a tale of Jesse discovering herself. It was painfully obvious what the big secret was about Helen. Also once we meet Al, it also seemed obvious what the second half of that mystery had in store. So for me, it felt that Jesse’s journey to the discovery of the truths about her family and her past were the important part.

My favorite parts of the story were Maggie, who is Sister Angelina. The nuns doing every day things like baseball and playing cards was great. Maggie’s friendship sees Jesse through the worst of her ordeals. Also, I really liked the haunted house aspect of the tale, with Helen’s ghost being the source of the haunting.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Amy McFadden did an awesome job narrating this book. She always sounded engaged and she had distinct voices for all the characters. Her male voices were quite believable. She did a good job with the sometimes corny humor, making it seem natural and funny.

What I Liked: Maggie and the nuns were great; the haunted house aspect of the story; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Very slow burn all the way through; the romance wasn’t very interesting; the answers to the mystery were straight forward.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Author Elizabeth Meyette:

Poet, blogger and believer in dreams-come-true, Elizabeth Meyette’s journey has taken her through a career in education to a career in writing. Elizabeth put her first novel, Love’s Destinyon the shelf while she taught English, Journalism and Library Science/Technology.

Upon retiring from teaching, she dusted off Love’s Destiny, polished it and submitted it to Crimson Romance, who published it in June 2012. Unlike her first novel, the sequel, Love’s Spirit took only seven months from inception to submission, and was published in April 2013.To coin a friend’s phrase, she didn’t retire, she “refired” and loves her second career as a writer.

Elizabeth’s mysteries are set in 1968 in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. An Amazon Bestseller, The Cavanaugh House, and its sequel, Buried Secrets, are available as audiobooks. She has also published poetry and freelance articles.

Elizabeth is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America, a member Sisters in Crime, Capitol City Writers Association, Greater Grand Rapids Writers Group and Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. She and her husband Richard live in the West Michigan. They made an agreement that she cannot cook on writing days after he had endured burnt broccoli and overcooked chicken.  Fortunately, Richard is an excellent cook.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Pinterest ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads ~ Amazon

Synopsis of The Cavanaugh House:

When Jesse Graham unlocks the door to the deserted house she inherited from her Aunt Helen, she doesn’t realize she’s unlocking secrets that had lain dormant for years. Reeling from a broken engagement to acclaimed musician Robert Cronmiller, Jesse wants to leave the city where her name is linked to his in all the society pages. Her best friend, Maggie, aka Sister Angelina, convinces her to take a job at a private girls school in the pastoral Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Anticipating a quiet, revitalizing life in her aunt’s deserted house, Jesse is instead thrown into a maze of danger. Questions about her aunt’s death lead Jesse to investigate events surrounding it and the people involved, but she uncovers a web of deceit that reaches far beyond the occurrences of over two decades earlier. Still dejected from her broken engagement, Jesse finds it difficult to trust anyone, even her self-absorbed mother. Joe Riley is irresistible, but secrets obstruct involvement with him until Jesse can solve the secrets of the Cavanaugh House. Someone doesn’t want those secrets unearthed and will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep them hidden.

Audible        Amazon

About Narrator Amy McFadden:

Amy McFadden has narrated over 250 titles in many different genres with a focus on Comedic Fiction, Romance, and not-super-violent Thrillers.  She is an Earphones Award winner, and a four-time Audie Award finalist in Humor, Mystery/Thriller and Literary Fiction.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Narrators: Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, Robertson Dean

Publisher: Random House Audio (2009)

Length: 13 hours 43 minutes

Author’s Page

The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas of 1985 has left an indelible mark on Libby Day. She survived and her older brother was put away for killing his mother and 2 of his 3 younger sisters. Libby was shuffled from house to house as a kid and once she made it to adulthood, charity provided her a life with little responsibilities. Now the money has run out and Libby has to move on with her life one way or another, such as getting a job. However, she has no life skills. So when she’s approached by Lyle Wirth from The Kill Club about selling some childhood mementos and perhaps giving a talk about her past, she’s tempted by the money. It’s the first step to delving into her past and with that comes a path forward to the rest of her life.

I picked this one up on a whim. I was looking for something a bit darker, something with some mystery to it, and this book did not disappoint. The author gave me so many characters that were absolutely fascinating even if they weren’t likable. There were times when I wanted to both slap Libby and root for her. She has more strength in her than she knows and through this journey she learns a little about that. The tale is dark and at times rather gritty and yet there is so much hope in this story. Libby survived a horrendous thing and yet she has done nothing with her life other than skate by. Her brother, Ben, was in a difficult, frustrated place before the event and Libby hasn’t spoken to him since that day. Ben hasn’t been able to tell the full truth of the event all these years. Then there’s Lyle, who’s part of this Kill Club. I was on the fence about him for much of the book but in the end I liked him.

Speaking of that Kill Club – what a creepy idea! Though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were such things. Think scifi convention except it’s for folks who closely follow serial murders or massacres or unsolved murder cases. Many of the participants are retired police or investigators. Some of the more macabre participants dress up as the perpetrators or victims. All of them have their own theories of how things went down. The Day Massacre (AKA the Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee) is no exception. I really felt for Libby when she met with these folks and some of them were down right combative over the facts of the case. And yet it’s also so obvious that Libby has never really reflected on that night, peered into her memory and taken stock of the known facts. Once again, I had split feelings towards the Kill Club. I wanted to tell them to get a real hobby but also applaud them for pushing Libby into exploring the little mysteries about that night that were still unanswered. It takes a talented author to keep pushing me as a reader in this fashion.

The hunt for the truth was well done. There are flashbacks throughout the tale told from both Ben Day’s teen self and also from Libby’s mom’s point of view. Patty Day was in a tricky place back then, trying to raise all her kids on her own, working all the time, and occasionally getting a shake down from her ex-husband. As Libby looks through her childhood mementos (trying to decide what to sell to the Kill Club enthusiasts), memories come back and she has questions she wants answered. There’s plenty of characters showing off their darker sides and then there’s some characters that simply made bad mistakes.

The ending had a twist that I didn’t see coming until just before it happened. Wow! Yeah. That explained several things but was also tough and touching at the same time. People are capable of great evil but also capable of great sacrifice. This book is definitely one I will be thinking about for some time to come.

The Narration: The narration was really good for this book. I’m not sure who did which roles, but all the character voices were distinct and each narrator did a great job with voices for the opposite sex. Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, and Robertson Dean made a great cast for this book. Whichever lady that voiced Libby did such a lovely job with her myriad of feelings. Sometimes Libby was snotty and disrespectful and sometimes she was thoughtful and trying her best to absorb some hard truths. The main voice actor for Ben did a great job there as well. He was a teen boy in a house full of females struggling to impress his fellow highschoolers and he sounded every inch of it.

What I Liked: Intense story!; great narration; Libby is both huggable and slappable; I eventually decided that Lyle was an OK person and good for Libby; the Kill Club is both creepy and a catalyst; the hunt for the truth; in the end, there is hope for a real life for Libby.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a very interesting tale that yanked the feelings out of me. 

What Others Think:

Pantheon Magazine

I Heart Reading

The Unputdownable Book Club

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Narrator: Hope Davis

Publisher: Harper Audio (2011)

Length: 12 hours 25 minutes

Author’s Page

Set mostly in the Amazon jungle of Brazil, this tale follows Dr. Marina Singh as she searches for answers. The pharmaceutical company she works for is concerned about the secretive research Dr. Annick Swenson is involved in. Just recently, another colleague, Dr. Anders Eckman, has died while searching for the same answers. Now Marina is dually tasked in discovering the status of Swenson’s research and digging up the details of Eckman’s death.

Where to start with this book? It was intense and kept me riveted to my audiobook player. Let’s start with Dr. Swenson. She once worked at a hospital and taught interns some of the finer points about birthing babies. Marina was once such a student but a mistake changed the trajectory of her career and she ended up in pharmaceuticals. Throughout most of this story, she has vivid dreams where memory and fears collide and some of those concern Dr. Swenson and her opinion on Marina’s worthiness. Dr. Swenson is a terribly blunt person who has high standards for everyone, including herself. This makes her rather abrasive. Yet the fact that she’s often logical and correct makes her a fascinating character. Nearly all her actions and words are calculated without giving a fig for people’s feelings.

Then we have Marina. She starts off a bit timid. She’s in her 40s and her past mistakes seem to haunt her and cause her to question her decisions. She also seems to be a bit of a pushover, letting the company boss ship her off to Brazil in this quest for answers. Yet it is there in the heart of the jungle that she gains confidence and becomes a stronger person for it. I really enjoyed her story arc.

This book made me question some of my assumptions about medical ethics. This tale shows me that what is right in a modern hospital with sanitary conditions and a pretty universal understanding of the most basic medical ideas isn’t always applicable in a jungle field office where there isn’t a mutually understood language. There were several great scenes where Dr. Swenson, who has been working with this jungle tribe for decades, is doing what she’s been doing for decades and Marina questions the ethics of the situation. The punch comes when Swenson calmly lays out the facts and why what they are doing is the best choice. It was hard to disagree with Swenson.

Now there is Easter. He’s perhaps 12 and he comes from a neighboring tribe that is rather combative to any outsiders. Swenson treated him when he was very young and now acts as his surrogate parent. He’s deaf but can make verbal sounds (though he usually only does so when he has a nightmare). He’s clever and Dr. Eckman taught him the very basics of the alphabet. Easter knows something of what happened to Eckman but Marina isn’t sure she will ever get answers about Eckman’s passing.

The medical mystery they were researching was interesting as well. The women of the local tribe stay fertile well into their 70s or 80s. Plus there is a side mystery that Swenson is very excited about and that involves a possible vaccination for malaria. The story has just enough science and medical talk to add to the story but not enough to leave the non-science person scratching their heads.

All around, it was a most excellent novel. It does wrench the emotions out of the reader later in the book. I loved that it made me question some central medical ethics. The characters were also very interesting. Ah! Easter!

The Narration: Hope Davis was just fabulous! She had distinct character voices and was great at switching between them swiftly and clearly when the characters were in conversation. She also had believable male voices. Her Dr. Swenson was clipped and brutal in her speech, just as I expect she would be in real life.

What I Liked: Jungle medical ethics; the mystery of what Dr. Swenson is really up to; Dr. Eckman’s death; Marina’s strange dreams; Easter!; great narration; makes me question how universal medical ethics are; wrenched some emotions out of me by the end.

What I Disliked: Nothing. This was a very interesting book.

What Others Think:

Fiction Writers Review

Kissing Blue Karen

Write On Purpose

A Wandering Reader

I’d Rather Be Writing

Anthony Simpson

The Terranauts by T. C. Boyle

Narrators: Lynde Houck, Joy Osmanski, Charlie Thurston

Publisher: Harper Audio (2016)

Length: 20 hours 53 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in the 1990s just outside of Tucson, Arizona, E2 awaits! It’s a big glass dome that houses a complete ecology and acts as a model for possible future biodomes on other planets. That’s if we can just get it consistently right here first. Linda Ryu and Dawn Chapman are best friends, at least until one of them is picked over the other to actually go live in E2. Ramsay Roothorp has a libido that may be his undoing.

I went into this book with pretty high hopes. I read reviews and I also had my own fascination since teen years with biodomes. Unfortunately, this book fell short. It wasn’t bad but it was more about the messed up relationships these folks have than about any science that goes into the biodomes or the survival skills of the terranauts. I really wanted it to be more balanced but instead it was just one character or the other grumbling, scheming, or being bitchy. There was little else going on yet the author had this perfect set up to tell a great story.

OK, so while I didn’t love it, I obviously liked it well enough to finish it. The story started off strong with the 16 candidates all training together in the various skills – from swimming to farming to animal slaughter. They not only have to be good at any job that needs to be done inside a biodome, they have to be able to get along with their team mates in the most difficult of circumstances. Think of all those team building work retreats times 10. While everyone know this is a competition to be one of the history making 8 that actually gets to go into the biodome, they still have to act like they get along with everyone and really want all their team mates to be successful.

Great set up. But once we get the 8 packing up to go into E2, nearly all the science goes out the door and enter the bitchy, scheming side to all the characters. At first, I was OK with this because I thought it was going to be a phase for some of the characters and that things would come back around to more interesting stuff. Alas, no. The story just stays in that phase for the rest of the book. Because of that, I felt that most of the characters were pretty superficial. We saw how their characters could develop but then the author didn’t get them past this jealousy phase.

Anyway, there is one big twist towards the end of the book and that gives us a few little twists off of it. Plus I like all the references to tacos. Food was often on the main characters’s minds since those in E2 had a limited menu and limited calorie intake. Definitely makes me think I can do a better job of creatively cooking up the contents of my kitchen cupboards.

The Narration: The narration was really good. Each of the ladies, Joy Osmanski and Lynde Houck, did a great job. I don’t which lady took which main character (Dawn Chapman and Linda Ryu) but they were each distinct and each did a great job getting the catty behavior across. Charlie Thurston was a really good sex-obsessed Ramsay Roothorp. I could clearly feel the character’s frustrations with how things turned out for him.

What I Liked: Biodome!; Great set up in both the science and characters; the twist near the end of the book; great narration. 

What I Disliked: The characters were like emotionally stunted children as the development only went so far; very little science after the first set up.

What Others Think:

That’s What She Read

The Sleepless Editor

John Sloan’s Reviews

Robert McGrath’s Blog

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Narrator: Andrea Emmes

Publisher: Listen2aBook.com (2016)

Length: 17 hours 36 minutes

Series: Book 1 Little Women

Author’s Page

This American classic, set in the 19th century during the Civil War, follows the lives of the March sisters as they grow up and become young ladies. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are often joined by their neighbor Laurie, who is living with his grandfather.

Some how I missed reading this book as a kid but as an adult, I have had the pleasure to read it twice, this being the second time. Jo is still my favorite character. I love how she often flies in the face of what society might expect from a proper young lady. At one point she cuts off a good chunk of her hair. She learns to writes short stories that sell to newspapers, so she has a source of independent income. She’s not caught up in the latest dance or the stylish lace. Yep. She’s much how I would imagine myself if I was trapped in the 1800s.

The other sisters all have their own personalities as well. Meg is the oldest and seems be a little mother in waiting. Once she falls in love, that’s exactly what she becomes – a dotting mom. Then sweet Beth embodies the tender heart of the family. She is so kind to everyone and everyone in turn is so gentle and kind with her. Amy has a flash of independence as well but she’s also rather caught up in appearances. While the Marches don’t have much money, Amy makes up for it in grace and practical kindness.

Laurie is a good addition to the mix. I really like his grandfather as well. Laurie starts off as a rather shy and lonely lad but the girls draw him out pretty quickly and adopt him into their little circle of confidences and games. Marmee (Mrs. March) does her best to be a confidant to her daughters while also allowing them the privacy they need. Robert March, the dad, is seen quite a bit less in the book though he’s totally doted on by the family when he is home.

The entire book is riddled with little life lessons. For the first 3/4 of the book, these are well portrayed in story form. The author shows us rather than tells us. For instance, I like how Marmee often gives her girls enough rope to hang themselves. She lets them make mistakes so that they will recall the lesson better in the future. The solitary thing I don’t care for is that the last bit of this book gets a bit preachy. I feel the author was either rushed or got a little tired of the book herself and started telling us the lessons instead of showing us. Plus, perhaps since a main character dies, religion is brought into the mix. Despite this minor let down for the ending of the book, I still really enjoy this classic.

Let’s talk limes. Yes, limes. There’s a great little bit of the book that goes on about these pickled limes that were all the rage at school. In fact, the teacher banned them from his classroom since they were a distraction. One of the sisters had to borrow money from another sister just so she could buy some limes. After reading that section, I really want to try a pickled lime.

One of the reasons I so like this book is that most of the characters are women and it’s not a big romance. There is romance here and there, but that isn’t the main driving force of the plot. Women have so many more freedoms and rights now than they did during the Civil War and yet here we have a well written and enjoyable book that has women actually doing things, instead of being these flowery, vague love interests. So, when someone gives me the excuse, ‘Oh, things were different back then,’ to explain why a book is lacking in relevant female characters, I can always point to Alcott and quirk an eyebrow. Yes, things were different back then, but women were still relevant. Thank you Ms. Alcott!

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Andrea Emmes did such a lovely job with this book. She made each sister sound unique and she also managed to make them sound young when they are little girls and like young ladies by the end of the book. She also had a variety of male voices which were quite believable. 

What I Liked: Great narration; a worthy classic; ladies doing stuff but still working within the confines of the times; a family that does have arguments but still love each other; Laurie being brought into the fold; the pickled limes!

What I Disliked: It does get a tad preachy towards the end.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Andrea Emmes:

Andrea Emmes started her career performing in musical theater while growing up on the East Coast. This lead to a successful career as a stage performer working for Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Renaissance Cruises and eventually head lining on the Las Vegas Strip.  Having worked in tv, film and video games, Andrea, a total bibliophile, now enjoys narrating audiobooks at her home studio in San Jose, California.  Known as “The Girl with a Thousand Voices”, her wide range of character voices and dynamic/emotionally invested performances has reviewers and listeners alike commenting on how she effortlessly pulls listeners in, and has versatility and charisma. Not only does she have a Bachelor of Science in Game Art and Design, but Andrea gets her inner gamer geek on playing games of all kinds with her husband and their cat, Lucy.

 Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Synopsis of Little Women:

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, set in the 19th century follows the lives of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March as they live, learn, love, and grow as young pilgrims and blossom into fine little women.
Based on the author’s childhood, Little Women is one of the most beloved stories in American literature. It continues to touch listeners both young and old. Alcott takes you on a prolific journey which will make your heart swell, your soul laugh, and your heart ache as we experience the lives of the March sisters as they endure their lessons, scrapes, castles in the air, their romances, and more.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Louisa May Alcott:

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886). Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she also grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Read more about her on Wikipedia!

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaways!

Narrator: Heather Henderson

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)

Length: 9 hours 40 minutes

Author’s Page

Betty and her family had quite the time on Vashon Island, Washington State. With her second husband (Don MacDonald) and her two young girls (Joan and Anne), Betty experienced the joys and disappointments of living on an island. Set during WWII, this mostly autobiographical book recounts Betty’s life with wry humor and insight.

Once again, Betty has amused me. By now, after reading 4 books by her, I feel like Betty is somewhat of a friend. I really enjoyed this book from clamming to peaches to teen years to housecleaners. Living on Vashon Island, which was only connected to the mainland via ferries and personal boats, was quite a bit rougher than she and her family expected. There’s also the beauty of having an island house which is also captured well in this book.

The MacDonalds took over the house during an idyllic summer. There were plenty of clams on their personal beach, including geoduck clams. The downstairs practically-outdoor shower was perfect for rinsing off after time in the sea. The great big hearth would be quite wonderful in winter. Then the cold season sets in. The family comes to find out that having a nearly-outdoor shower is onerous to heat up in winter. The great big hearth is truly magnificent but you have to haul in the wood for it, usually driftwood from the beach. The reality settles in and yet the MacDonalds still find much to love about the island.

Betty does such a great job with the humor. She gently pokes fun at everyone and is a little more jabby when focusing the eye on herself. She praises her daughters abilities while also realistically portraying their teen-aged arguments and volatile mood swings. There are plenty of characters that appear through the several years this book covers. Some are helpful handymen, some good cooks, some terrible at child rearing, some are drunk and merry.

Onions in the Stew does a good job of showing the hardships or inconveniences (depending on your point of view) of island living. Betty doesn’t paint the entire experience as a ‘wonderful’ way of life. Nope. Using humor she gives us a slice of reality. That is the root of why I enjoy her books so much. While The Plague and I is still my favorite book by her, this one was quite good as well.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson is great as the voice of Betty MacDonald. She also did a great job with the voices of Joan and Anne even as they age throughout the book. I also enjoyed her male voices, including Don’s. Her Japanese accent was also good.

What I Liked: Plenty of humor; island living in all it’s glory and inconveniences; the clamming stories; other islanders are characters; the girls growing up on the island; the peach-picking summer; everyone makes it through the teen years.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great, fun read.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Heather Henderson:

NarratorHeatherHendersonHeather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts.  Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire;  and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine.   She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry.  In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.

Connect with the narrator: Website ~ YouTube ~LinkedIn

Synopsis of Onions in the Stew:

The bestselling author of the American humor classic The Egg and I continues the adventure with this collection of tales about life on the fringe of the Western wilderness. Writing in the 1950s, Betty MacDonald, sophisticated and urbane, captivated readers with her observations about raising a family on an island in Puget Sound. As usual, humorist MacDonald is her own favorite target. She manages to get herself into scrapes with washing machines set adrift in rowboats, used cars, and a $25 Turkey Squasher. And then there’s the scariest aspect of island life — teenaged children.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Betty MacDonald:

AuthorBettyMacDonaldBetty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters. 

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island). 

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Find out more on Wikipedia

Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ YouTube ~ LinkedIn ~ SoundCloud ~ Pinterest

GIVEWAYS!!!

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #1

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #2

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #3

Book Giveaway & Interview: Josh Gagnier, Author of The Demon Within

Everyone, please welcome Josh Gagnier to the blog today! If you want to find out about the GIVEAWAY, then scroll to the bottom.

Connect with the author: Amazon ~ TwitterFacebook ~ GoodReads

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

The Big Bang Theory!

As far as what I would do…The show How I Met Your Mother has a background scene that goes through a couple meeting, to having a child graduate college, to one of them dying. I think it was to hyperbolize how long the group was making Canada jokes over the years.

Having a scene like that behind a Sheldon Cooper monologue would be funny.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Absolutely.

One word answers are great, aren’t they 🙂

Seriously though, modern fantasy fiction is a multicultural, multiplatform community. When I was younger, “fantasy nerds/geeks” weren’t often popular and were perhaps a little outcast. Now cos-playing is an amazing adventure in which the people who don’t dress up are the new “outcasts”.

I think a major driving force with this shift would be those people are now game developers. The ones who played D&D and other d20 games on pencil/paper hours at a time are now creating video game versions of those same games.

Somewhere along the line, “nerd/geek” became a badge of honor. I think modern fiction and those writing it helped bring this change.

Many who are now driving forces in our entertainment were D&D players at one time (and/or currently) – Ranging from Vin Diesel and Dwayne the Rock Johnson to Kevin Smith and Felicia Day. Even as far to NBA’s Tim Duncan.

Fantasy fiction pulls on our imagination, and imagination has no limits.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

My answer is a little unfair as my favorite book series actually started as a D&D module – Dragonlance.

One of my favorite RPG video games is Wizardry 8. It has a 6 person party. I’ve played through several times with portions of the Dragonlance party as my in-game group.

I’m actually running a single character game with Fistandantalis – the most powerful wizard to have lived in the Dragonlance series. I used a game editor (Cosmic Forge) to make weapons from the books too.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

My favorite villains would be one of two categories:
Those that redeem themselves before death – Darth Vader, Raistlin

Then there’s “villains” that aren’t really villains:
Jimbo from Summer of the Monkeys. To Jay, the 14-year-old protagonist, Jimbo is a formidable foe; from outsmarting his traps, to getting him drunk on whiskey. In the end, they were able to parley so to speak.

The Phantom Toll Booth – it’s a while since I’ve read it, but I remember two kings (one of words and one of numbers) who could not get along “because it was impossible” and they couldn’t agree on anything. Milo was able to “unite the clans” because:

“So each one of you agrees to disagree with whatever the other one agrees with, but if you both disagree with the same thing, aren’t you really in agreement?”

I actually used some of this type of perspective in my storyline. Sometimes what we see as good or evil isn’t as they appear; and more often than not things are a shade of grey rather than black or white.

Do you have any superstitions?

My superstitions are paradoxical in that they don’t exist if I believe in them and they do exist if I don’t believe in them.

For example – I won’t study within three days of an exam because I don’t want to unlearn the material. That’s nonsense, but I’ve psyched myself out on tests based on the “final reviews” that were within three days of the exam. I don’t suffer from test anxiety except for when I’ve studied within three days of the exam. Not to mention, if I don’t know it by then, it won’t stick with me anyway.

In writing your antagonists, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

The antagonist, Altha Galen, is more of a rumor and whisper for the majority of the book. The story leans toward boosting her reputation until the final battle when many perceptions are made clear while others are shattered.

The names of every character were chosen based on their meaning.

For example: Altha means “healer”; Galen means “tranquil” in Greek; it means “mad” in Swedish.

All parts of the character are held within their names.

A character we meet in chapter 1 is named Belath, named from Demonology Beleth (replaced the second ‘e’ with an ‘a’ or Alpha, aka ‘the beginning’). Beleth gives all the love of men and women. When appearing he looks very fierce to frighten the conjurer or to see if he is courageous. (The “alpha” makes sense after understanding the character’s purpose with the protagonist).

That said, I would recommend readers make absolutely no assumptions of protagonist vs antagonist. Remember, while we are the protagonist of our own story, we may be the antagonist in somebody else’s.

“The difference between religion and mythology is the audiences perspective.” Perspective, even an objective one, is still subjective.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Not to be cliché but Shakespeare would definitely be one of them. I mean, he invented nearly 2000 words. Imagine writing and thinking “what word am I looking for here?” not finding one, then inventing one to suit your purpose.

Dale Carnegie – I would love to be able to drink from the tap of all that experience and research into how to influence people and public speaking.

Sun Tzu – I have friends who own their own companies that have said The Art of War helped them with business strategy. I finally bought it and have added it to the list.

Einstein because, considering his accolades, he preferred imagination over knowledge.

Ernest Vincent Wright gets an invite because he wrote Gadsby without a single ‘e’. I wrote a poem without the letter e and struggled every step of the way.

We’d be required to eat before arriving. It would be a night of imbibing, most likely Leadslingers Whiskey and Rum. Imagine the stories that could come from a night like that! (of course assuming the language barriers weren’t present).

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Batman VS Iron Man

Who would win? Most I’ve talked to say “Bruce vs Tony” Bruce would win because he has extensive martial arts training but “Batman vs Iron Man” Iron man would win because he outguns Batman.

Then again, Batman was able to defeat Superman through planning and tactics – so Iron Man shouldn’t be a problem, right?

My argument is Tony Stark also trains martial arts and with the creation of the Bleeding Edge suit, he is never without one. Bleeding Edge is a suit made of nano-machines which are stored in his own body. Not only that, the suit connects to Tony on a neurological level – it’s no longer a suit, but an extension of his own body.

While they are both billionaires catalyzed into herodom – and it could be argued they are the same character with different window dressings – Iron Man would win vs Batman.
Unless it’s Batman from the series in which he has the Green Lantern ring. Giving Bruce Wayne a power based on intelligence, willpower, and imagination is a cheat code.
(Let the internet hate begin! J )

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Summer of the Monkeys, The Secret Garden, and Dragonlance Chronicles are the first books I read around 10 or 11 years old.

My copies of Summer of the Monkeys and The Secret Garden had very specific smells to them. So much so, that when I get other books with similar smells, I am reminded of those two stories. They are a major reason I understand why a lot of readers prefer hard-copy over digital copies.

Connect with the author: Amazon ~ TwitterFacebook ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of The Demon Within:

Joe grew up listening to the voice in his head. It helped him through school, helped him gain wealth in his career.

The final temptation of power was too much. He hadn’t considered the cost.

Now he must find a way to defeat The Demon Within.

Little does he know, his every move is being recorded. Every misstep is being judged by a Great Council. As he gets ever closer to winning over his demon, heavenly eyes watch from above. Some root for his success while others hope he’ll fail.

While Joe fights his demon on the battlefront, the angel Michael fights for his Soul in the court of the Great Council.

Will Joe win out?

Will Michael be able to save Joe’s soul?

 

Buy the Book:  Amazon

GIVEAWAY!!!

Win a signed copy of The Demon Within (US only) or an ebook version (international). There will be 2 of each, making 4 winners! Just click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Ebook or paperbook? What country do you live in? 2) What now dead author would you like to dine with? Giveaway ends April 8th, midnight, 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Departed: A Dead Man Does Tell Tales by R. R. Washburn

WashburnDepartedNarrator: S. W. Salzman

Publisher: Citygrit Press (2015)

Length: 1 hour 28 minutes

Author’s Page

In 1684, Windbridge, CT, Albert Spijker and his 11 year old sister Joanna find a dead man in a nearby field. Before they can bury him, he comes back to life. While that is indeed a strange thing, the kids invite him home anyway.

Told from the dead man’s point of view, we learn about his new life, and a little about his old one. Eventually, Joanna names him Vincent after a cat a cousin once had. The parents, Willem and Katherine, are a bit suspicious of Vincent at first. Eventually it becomes apparent that Vincent is a gentle person.

In this languid tale, Vincent is the intriguing star. I was caught up in his character wanting to know more about his past, how he came to be hung, why he came back to life, and what the future had in store for him. Vincent has an empathic connection with those people around him. At first, it is rather disconcerting for the man but eventually, he gets it under control.

It’s a time of witch hunts and hangings in Connecticut. So the Spijkers are rather closed mouth about where they found Vincent and in what state he was in. Years later, Vincent is the family’s farm hand and Joanna’s protector. Hangings still occur. Vincent isn’t aging and this is starting to be noted by folks outside the Spijker family.

While the pace is rather slow in this story, and one could argue that not much happens, I still found something charming in this tale. I put it down to Vincent and all the mystery that surrounds him.

I won a copy of this book.

Narration: S. W. Salzman makes a good Vincent. He was really good at imbuing certain scenes with emotion, especially those focusing on Vincent and his struggles.

What I Liked: Vincent makes a very interesting character; the setting; witch hunts & hangings; Vincent is named after a cat; the Spijker family.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s an interesting little story.