Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey

Narrator: Jefferson Mays

Publisher: Recorded Books (2012)

Length: 19 hours 50 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Expanse

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 in the series and really should be enjoyed after having read Book 1.

Several months have passed since the events of Leviathan Wakes. Holden and crew are now working for Fred, basically being his enforcers in their sleek Martian ship the Rocinante. In fact, they’ve become rather humdrum about having to deal with space pirates. The ship’s broken coffee maker is a bigger nuisance than space pirates! But then something horrible happens on Ganymede, the bread basket for the Belters and stations. Holden and his crew are drawn into some protomolecule nastiness and they might not survive as a whole.

Book 1 was really good and Book 2 surpasses that. There are so many great points about this book. First, my only complaint from Book 1 has been addressed. We have more female characters and they affect the plot! Yay! Chrisjen Avasarala is a cross between a Spy Master and a top-notch politician. She’s got her reasons for going after the goals she sets and she’s got a harsh mouth. I loved her commentary. Then’s there’s Bobbie, a Mech Warrior with the Mars Military. She’s a very large Polynesian woman, all muscle with a good balance of brains and skills. Naomi didn’t shine as brightly for me in this book, but I didn’t agree with all her choices. That’s OK; I don’t have to agree with all the heroes to enjoy the book.

Amos got some depth on him and there were several great scenes with him. That canned chicken scene still stands out. Amos likes to fight but he also uses his violence as a tool. He’s not just some angry brawler. We still haven’t gotten much on Alex but he did get some good jokes now that there’s another Martian for him to joke around with. Jim Holden is still the central character and I enjoyed they various scenarios he’s put in that make him question his ethics.

So let’s talk about that protomolecule that everyone thought was safely locked up and in Fred’s custody. Well, somehow somewhere someone got their hands on some and started doing experiments with it. Now Ganymede is another goo zone. Prax, a botanist living on Ganymede before the incident, is desperately searching for his daughter. The crew of the Roci get pulled into this affair and Prax temporarily becomes both part of the crew and a paying customer.

There were so many moments in this book where I thought for sure we’re going to lose this character or that one or a planet or a spaceship. Mobile protomolecule monsters! Plenty of political intrigue. One man very determined to make life tough for everyone. The hunt for Prax’s kid, Mei.

The ending held some surprises. It closed out the big events for this book but set us up for the next one. There’s a character that’s back which I didn’t expect. Also, there’s big stuff happening on Venus and it looks like humanity will finally have to do something about it.

The Narration: Jefferson Mays continues to do a really great job with this series. I love his accents for Avasarala (Indian) and Alex (Texan). His female voices sound like ladies. He’s able to keep all the characters distinct and he pulls off the big and nuanced emotions alike.

What I Liked: Holden and his crew are more cohesive; space pirates!; mobile protomolecule monsters!; the hunt for Mei; Avasarala’s potty mouth; Bobbie’s skills; the ending wraps up some things while setting us up for more; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a lot of fun!

What Others Think:

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

BarnhillTheGirlWhoDrankTheMoonHeldigClaudieNarrator: Christina Moore

Publisher: Recorded Books (2016)

Length: 9 hours 37 minutes

Author’s Page

In this beautifully magical book, the witch Xan adopts a sacrificial baby from the Protectorate into her heart, having accidentally fed her the moonlight. As baby Luna grows, so does her magic yet she is unable to control it. Soon she unknowingly becomes a hazard to her adoptive family, turning Glerk into a fuzzy mammal. Xan fears tiny dragon Fyrian may be next, so she bottles up Luna’s magic until she is older and can control it. Meanwhile, sorrow hangs heavy over the Protectorate as the Tower and the Elders demand the yearly sacrifice to the ‘witch’ to keep their town safe. Meanwhile, young Antain has grown into a young man and over the course of the book he becomes determined to stop the ‘witch’ from stealing any more of their children.

Wow! Just, simply, wow! I fell in love hard with this book. I do enjoy a fun kid’s book here and there but this hit all the right buttons for me. It has this wonderful mix of magic, sorrow, adventure, loss, love, discovery, humor, and goodbyes. Barnhill has magnificently caught the sorrow of losing a child and also a child’s longing to know their biological parents in this intense fairy tale. Those two things give what would otherwise be a light, fun read a certain keen edge that makes all the beautiful parts that much more intense.

The Protectorate is surrounded by a bog and a forest and few of the residents know of any life outside the area. It is ruled by two powers – the Council and Elders (a group of ‘wise’ old men) and the Tower (which is filled with armed, armored, and well-educated women). Right away, we are privy to a yearly scene where a child is taken from its family and walked to edge of the town and left for the evil ‘witch’ to retrieve. The townsfolk are told this is to keep the entire town from being decimated by the witch, but the Elders all know there is no witch. The ritual keeps them in power and comfort. Young Antain, who is being groomed to become an Elder, sees first hand the horrible result of this as the baby’s mother goes insane with grief and is locked in the Tower for safekeeping.

Xan has known for years that the Protectorate gives up a child on the same day every year so she has been visiting them in secret and taking the babies off to other cities to be adopted into willing families. Yet this time it is different. Xan calls down the starlight to feed the baby, but she is extra hungry, and before Xan knows it, she has accidentally fed the babe moonlight, enmagicing her. Xan decides to adopt her, names her Luna, and becomes her Grandmother. Glerk, an ancient, friendly bog monster, and Fyrian, a tiny baby dragon, round out the family.

Xan is the real star of this book. She gives so much and becomes a bit of a willing sacrifice herself. Her decisions drive much of the plot. Plus I just enjoy her character. She’s got a bit of a hidden history that becomes clearer towards the end of the book. Luna is fun but she doesn’t have much of a personality until the last quarter of the book. I was also quite taken with Antain. His story arc is the most dynamic, starting off as a young lad, being groomed as an Elder, studying in the Tower, suffering a scarring accident, and eventually resolving to put an end to the yearly sacrifices. I think Antain deserves a story of his own. Fyrian and Glerk provide the comedic relief much of the time but add so much love and happiness to the tale I would be shallow to dismiss them. Glerk, being as ancient as he is, knows the importance of family and the ties of love and friendship. Fyrian is not as young as he thinks he is but he’ll grow into it.

There is a hidden villain in the story and I didn’t figure out their identity until the last third of the book. I loved that I was totally not expecting it and therefore, I didn’t really know where this tale would take me. I loved that I couldn’t easily predict how things would turn out. The story has just enough hard edges, just enough evil and sorrow, that the author had me wondering if this fairy tale would indeed have a happy ending. Luna’s mom really captures the heart of this novel. Her immense love for her lost baby has driven her into a deep sorrow and that sorrow has pushed her into a touch of insanity and that touch has opened the door of magic just a crack. All these elements are connected in one person here and the bigger story shows how those elements connect all the people in this tale to one another. It’s really quite clever. Like up there with Neil Gaiman kind of clever.

In short, I can’t recommend this book enough. I was captured from the opening scene and didn’t want to put it down. I was never quite sure how things would end and this kept me thoroughly invested in the story and characters.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Christian Moore did a great job with this book. I loved her voice for Xan, Glerk, and Fyrian. She also managed quite well in portraying not only a young Antain but also the man he grew into over the course of the book. Her voice for the true villain could be quite spooky indeed! She was excellent at imbuing scenes with the correct, and sometimes subtle, emotions. 

What I Liked: Beauty and sorrow mixed together; and intense fairy tale; enchanting characters; clever villain; ties of family, friendship, and love; Antain’s quest; Luna’s coming of age; Xan’s sacrifice; Glerk and Fyrian; excellent narration; beautiful cover art. 

What I Disliked: Nothing! A completely enchanting tale.

What Others Think:

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The Blue Ice by Hammond Innes

InnesTheBlueIceLuxorNarrator: Jerry Farden

Publisher: Recorded Books (1989)

Length: 9 hours 30 mins

Author’s Page

This book was originally published in 1948 with the story being set in the 1950s. So, today, it reads a bit like historical fiction with plenty of action and a little romance thread woven in. George Farnell, a mineralogist, disappeared 10 years ago. Now a lump of thorite and a poem in a whale meat shipment from Norway has turned up, along with news that a war hero’s body was discovered on the largest Norwegian glacier. Bill Gansert, another mineral expert, reluctantly heads to Norway to investigate the possibility of a rich thorite deposit. He’s joined by a sturdy ship crew, including his sidekick Dick Everard. Jill Summers joins the team at the last minute along with two questionable characters with murky pasts, Mr. Dahler and Mr. Jorgensen.

First, let’s address Mr. Dick Everard. I’m listening to this audiobook and every time they said his name, I had to giggle a little bit. The description of this book makes it sound like an action-packed suspense novel but then we have Everard. I wondered if the book was going to take a turn into a completely different genre, but it didn’t. No worries! This book truly is an adventure novel full of Norwegian ski escapades, whale meat, aliases, war stories, and sailing. Dick Everard truly is just a trusty sidekick and he has nothing to do with the minor romance in the novel.

Jill Summers turned out to be quite the gem in this book. At first, her being the only female character for 3/4 of the book, I expected her to be coddled by the men and placed in a minimal role as ‘love interest’. I was delightfully surprised when she had a significant role in the book. She grew up sailing, skiing, and speaking Norwegian so she gets to do everything the men do in this book. I found this awesome, especially since this was originally published in 1948.

There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding George Farnell, the mineralogist that disappeared so many years ago. Both Bill and Jill knew him and have their own ideas about his disappearance. Now a body matching his description, but under a different name, has turned up on a glacier. The thorite sample smuggled out of Norway adds a financial incentive, and this later leads to some steep competition for finding the source of that mineral sample.

The story starts off a little slow, but once Jill joins the group along with Mr. Dahler, who she knew when she was a child, things really pick up. Once the crew reaches Norway, there’s bits of Norwegian sprinkled throughout the story, which I really liked as it added to the ambiance. Perhaps it’s a bit of a taboo today, but I also found the tour of the whale factory to be interesting. It’s a suspenseful mystery that ends in a harrowing chase over a glacier. The story was so good I didn’t even mind the romance.

Narration: Jerry Farden did a really good job with this book. He never smirked when he had to say Dick Everard’s name. He did a decent job with the Norwegian accents and the bits of Norwegian. While there were few female characters, Farden’s female voices were believable. 

What I Liked: Jill had a much bigger role than I expected; plenty of suspense; a mystery at the heart of it; not everyone is who they say they are; skiing and sailing; glaciers!

What I Disliked: Could have used more female characters.

What Others Think:

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Kirkus Reviews

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

KayChildrenOfEarthAndSkyTofuNarrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Recorded Books (2016)

Length: 19 hours 24 mins

Author’s Page

In this historical fantasy, Kay captures a beautiful tale that is part coming of age, part espionage, part love story. In a world that closely resembles Renaissance Europe, a bevy of fascinating characters captured my attention and my heart. This was such a well-balanced story, having a great mix of conflict, truth-seeking, and stumbling upon greatness.

My apologies for any misspelled names; I listened to the audio version. Pero Velarni is a painter in disgrace and he’s about to be tasked with traveling from the city-state of Seressa to the Grand Caliph of the Osmanli empire, where he is to paint the Caliph’s portrait and passively gather information, if he can. Along the way, he meets most our other main characters. There’s Danica (her dead grandfather Zadek still speaks to her) from the besieged city of Senjen. Marin Givo is a successful merchant from Dubrava. The Seressians have also tasked the disgraced lady Leonara to spy for them and she is traveling with her recently acquired husband, a physician named Yakavo Mucci. On the other side of the adventure serving the Osmanli empire is Damaz, a Jani warrior in training. The story switches often between these characters giving us a pretty good idea of the various politics and individual motivations.

Danica was my favorite character. Her city has been under attack off and on for many years and surrounding cities tend to view Senjens as pirates. However, things aren’t that simple since no cities are allowed to trade with Senjen, forcing them to steal basic supplies when they can. She’s great with a bow, carries knives, has a loyal hunting dog named Tiko, and has her grandfather constantly feeding her advice from the great beyond. She hunts for her long-lost brother Neven who she believes was taken by the Osmanli empire during one of their regular expansions. She’s young, but she had to grow up quick. She’s got her weapons skills but she’s practical too and realizes that a lone woman in the world is always going to be in a fight. It’s a good thing she has Tiko.

Pero was my second favorite character. He’s been forced into this task and he’s rather nervous about the whole thing. He is supposed to just go do the portrait painting and return with whatever passive info he was able to gather. He’s not supposed to try to be a spy because he’s totally untrained and not the right temperament for it. That’s not to say the Council or Seressa won’t be sending him with a man servant…. perhaps one that is trained in the arts of covertcy.

There’s plenty of action scenes tossed in among the inner contemplation and love interests. I can’t outright call this an adventure story because there’s too much quiet time. I can’t label it a romance because there’s also espionage, quests, and raiding. I wouldn’t want to call this novel high literature because it’s simply to enjoyable to burden it with such a tag. In short, it is simply a well-rounded story with plenty to love about it. And, indeed, I did love this story.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox.

Narration: Simon Vance has never let me down in his narration and he does a beautiful job with this book as well. I especially liked his voice for the dead yet grumpy Zadek. He used various real-world accents which added to the flavor of the book.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; an intricate story; Danica; the dead Zadek; Pero in the Osmanli court; Leonora and her unexpected destiny; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book.

What Others Think:

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Morning Star by Pierce Brown

BrownMorningStarNarrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds

Publisher: Recorded Books (2016)

Length: 21 hours 50 minutes

Series: Book 3 Red Rising

Author’s Page

Note: You really need to read the previous books in this series to understand this book.

Book 2, Golden Son, left us on a hell of a cliffhanger. Luckily, Book 3 picks up where things were left, which was right in the middle of a mess. Our hero-to-be Darrow, the Reaper, is in desperate straights. Things went horribly wrong with an unexpected betrayal. Friends and allies have been killed or imprisoned. Others, such as Mustang, are off on their own, their intentions unknown.

The author doesn’t disappoint with this book. The mix of tension, action, betrayals, loyalties, saving people, executing people, adventure, dismemberments, and body enhancements continues to be excellent. Darrow continues to yank the feels out of me by a fishook! He’s at the center of this rising, doing his best to maintain his own humanity and yet sometimes he has to sacrifice it in order to bring it out in others. In Book 1, Red Rising, the story started off with Darrow and his Red family. Book 2 hints that Darrow’s family is at his core, the thing that makes him strong. In Book 3, it’s very satisfying to see that come full circle with Darrow’s family, both biological and the family of friends he’s built, standing strong behind him.

This book should get an award for creative cursing. Oh, dear Severo! He made me laugh so hard, and sometimes inappropriately, with his flagrant curses. He’s such a harsh man and he seems to revel in being crude or disgusting. While Darrow was temporarily out of the picture, he had to rise above and become more than he thought he could be. However, the eventual, and perhaps inevitable, butting of heads between these two friends had me gnashing my teeth! After the unexpected betrayal at the Book 2, I was constantly on the look out for the next breaking of friendship or betrayal or splitting of paths. I need a back massage just from being so tense throughout this book!

Without giving much away, I really enjoyed the visit to Ragnar’s homeland. It was so different from what we had seen so far. And his isn’t the only alien landscape our heroes visit. There’s the moons of Jupiter as well. The author did a great job of maintaining realistic travel times between all the points of interest in the solar system.

Towards the end, when I was down to the last 6 hours or so, I wasn’t sure how the author was going to wrap up everything that still had to be done. I was a bit worried that things would get rushed towards the end, unrealistic compromises, etc. tossed in just to wrap things up. However, our author wasn’t that clumsy. Things did unfold in a realistic way and everything got wrapped up nicely. I was quite satisfied by how things came to be in the end. Yes, there were plenty of deaths and sacrifices. Yes, not every person who committed some despicable act was killed. Yet I felt that Darrow and his close friends have laid solid ground work for a new regime. In the end, I so enjoyed this book I wanted to go back and listen to the series all over again.

The Narration: Tim Gerard Reynolds once again does this series justice. I really enjoyed his accent and voices for the new characters we meet on Ragnar’s home world. His creative cursing as Severo is very entertaining! His range in accents and character voices make this an excellent listen!

What I Liked: This series gets better with each book; Darrow’s center of friends; Severo’s cursing; new people to meet, new places to dominate; the unexpected changing of loyalties; the ending was very satisfying; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – truly an excellent read!

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Golden Son by Pierce Brown

BrownGoldenSonWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds

Publisher: Recorded Books (2015)

Length: 19 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 2 Red Rising

Author’s Page

Note: You really need to read Book 1, Red Rising, to understand this book.

This book picks up several months (a year?) after the end of Red Rising. It’s a space battle! Well, it’s a training space battle for the Academy. Darrow and his crew finish out the contest well enough, but then Darrow is publicly humiliated. Darrow is on the brink of losing it all and he must make some daring moves to maintain what he has worked so hard to achieve. Yet with his boldness comes new challenges and new enemies.

I thoughts the story couldn’t get any better when I finished Book 1, but I was wrong. Golden Son has impressed me more than Red Rising did. I became attached to several of the characters in Book 1 and that held true for Book 2. Darrow remains a complex character, discovering new parts to himself as he continues his ruse as a Gold. The layers of lies start to weigh on him and some of his closest friends notice his moodiness. There were so many times where I wasn’t sure whether Darrow should open up to a friend or not – can any of them be trusted with his deepest secret? Argh! It was nail biting!

There were moments where I was cheering the book on, doing a little fist pump when no one could see me doing so. Then there were times that my eyes misted up a bit. There are several intense moments in this book. Tactus. Mustang. Quinn. Darrow’s mom. Even though this book wrung emotions from me I wasn’t sure I had before, when I finished it, I wanted to go reread the first 2 books again.

While Book 1 took place all on Mars, Book 2 spreads out a bit and we get to see more of this terraformed solar system. Book 1 taught us the basics of this hierarchical society, but Golden Son shows us people from these other castes and what they are capable of. Darrow certainly has his hands full with the Sons of Ares and trying to upturn this caste system.

And why don’t we chat about the Sons of Ares. I, like Darrow, was expecting them to be all on the same page. Unfortunately for Darrow, that was not so. This added another dimension to the plot and made one more dangerous pitfall for Darrow to avoid. Though I did guess who Ares was early on, it was still a great reveal scene.

Next to Darrow, Sevro is my favorite character. He acts crude and rude all the time, but he has these shinning moments where he sets the bar high for what true friendship is. To my surprise, I became a bit attached to Victra. Perhaps it was her unashamedly flirtatious manner. Ragnar was an excellent new addition to Darrow’s circle of friends. The characters all around are just very well done. I love that the author doesn’t hold back from placing female characters in every job a male character traditionally holds in so much of SFF literature. The swordswoman Ajah is terrifying. The Sovereign is wickedly smart but also too proud of that fact.

The ending is super intense and I am so glad I have Book 3 lined up and ready to go. Golden Son does end on a cliffhanger and if I had read this book a year ago before Book 3 was out, this might have bothered me. Books 1 & 2 have set the bar high for Book 3 – I have every expectation it will live up to it!

The Narration: Tim Gerard Reynolds continues to do this series justice. I love that he shows a little of Darrow’s Red heritage in his accent when he thinks of home, yet maintains his cultured Gold accent throughout the novel. His voice for Ragnar is very well done, considering limitations on human vocal cords. Surprisingly, Reynolds does a very good sexy vixen for Victra. 

What I Liked: The series continues to impress!; we get to see more of the the settled solar system; the witty scene between Darrow and the Sovereign; this book brings out the emotions but also packs a lot of action as well; very intense ending!

What I Disliked: Nothing – truly an excellent read!

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BrownRedRisingWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds

Publisher: Recorded Books (2014)

Length: 16 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 1 Red Rising

Author’s Page

Set in a far distant future on Mars, Darrow works hard mining below the surface. Mars’s caste system has kept the population, and especially the Reds like Darrow, working hard for a better, brighter future for their children for generations. However, Darrow loses much even as he gains knowledge of the great betrayal perpetrated by the ruling classes. Now he’s determined to up end things, even if it takes becoming what he most despises.

This was an excellent book, one of my favorites of the year so far. It has depth, a brilliant plot, a unique and gripping setting, and characters with teeth. The story is told through Darrow’s eyes. His story arc for this book takes him from hard working family man to accomplished upper-crust warrior. Generations past, those terraforming Mars set up a caste system, complete with color coding. The Reds, which is Darrow’s caste, is the lowest of the castes. The Golds are the rulers of the planet and live in comfort and excess. Initially, Darrow is quite happy to spend his life working hard to provide a better future for the next generation. He has a loving wife Eo who he dotes on. She is the first in the story to hint that there is something more to be had and she encourages Darrow to dream bigger. Then tragedy opens his eyes to the reality and he undergoes a bit of terraforming on his own body and mind in order to infiltrate the Golds and set in motion a long-term plan to up end the caste system. Darrow was a hard man to start with. He had to be in order to be the brilliant, talented Hell Diver he was on the mining crew. What he undergoes by the end of this book chisels him, mind, soul, and body, into an even harder person.

The secondary characters are just as brilliant. Darrow expected all the Golds to be the same but his time at the Institute, a kind of war games training ground for the up and coming Golds, shows him that not all Golds are the same. Alliances must be made in order to dominate the game, but they are playing for keeps and this means there will be serious injuries and even deaths. It’s a brutal sifting to remove the chaff from the grain.

I loved all the references to Roman deities and the use of Roman titles in the military hierarchy. The setting for the war games is little more than Medieval – no indoor plumbing, being hunted by wolves, castles to lay siege to, etc. There are a few bits of cool tech that come into play and there’s references to human colonies on other moons/planets in the solar system. The author does a great job of keeping us focused on Darrow’s circumstances while also hinting at the larger picture.

This book brought out some strong emotions for me, which I always love in a book. Darrow lives through some harrowing things, but he also has to do some heinous things. There are plenty of tough choices for him in this book. Several of the other characters also held my attention, such as Sevro and Pax. Sevro’s family history makes him interesting but then Sevro himself beat the odds against at the Institute, surprising everyone. Cassius is another curious character, capable of great loyalty and true brotherly affection. Yet if he is betrayed, his vengeance can be a game changer. Quinn is a scary, scary woman. I definitely wouldn’t want to cross her. There is also Mustang, who kept her loyalties close to her chest throughout the story.

All  together, it’s a brilliant science fiction setting coupled with the brutality of a tale of the Roman Empire. I very much look forward to reading the next installment.

The Narration: Tim Gerard Reynolds did an excellent job with this book. His voice for miner Darrow had a bit of an Irish accent, and accent that the character must dampen as he morphs into a Gold. Reynolds did a great job of portraying this with his voice talents. His character voices for the other characters were each distinct and his female voices were believable. He also did a great job of imbuing Darrow’s voice with emotion. 

What I Liked: Great setting; impressive story arc coupled with Darrow’s character arc; so many  betrayals; unexpected friendships; the war games – brutal!; clever book cover art; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – truly an excellent read!

What Others Think:

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Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson

JohnsonWaitForSignsWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: George Guidall

Publisher: Recorded Books (2014)

Length: 5 hours 8 minutes

Series: Walt Longmire (collection of short stories)

Author’s Page

This collection contains 12 short stories about Sheriff Walt Longmire and his myriad of side kicks, set in the modern-day Absaroka County, Wyoming. There’s also an introduction by Lou Diamond Phillips, who plays Henry Standing Bear in the TV series. If you’ve been wondering if this series is for you, I think this is a good way to find out. The humor and intensity of the novels is well represented by this collection of short stories.

The story that stuck with me the most is Ministerial Aide in which a woman has been hanging out in a parked car in the cold of winter for a day or more. Walt, who’s underdressed for the occasion, sits and has a talk with her. She’s at the end of her rope and Walt can tell that. She’s also mistaken Walt for a deity and that makes for some humor in an otherwise intense story. Walt’s sense of right and wrong and what he can do about it is on top display in this tale.

Slicked-Tongue Devil surprised me twice, which I wasn’t expecting for a short story. A bible salesman comes knocking on Walt’s door with a special edition bible that Walt’s wife Martha ordered before she passed. Walt invites the man in for a chat and it’s clear he been drinking so I didn’t expect Walt to be at the top of his game. However, he quickly recognizes that not all is as it seems and I was surprised at the ruse. Then I was surprised again with how Walt dealt with the matter. That there shows you why I enjoy this author.

This book offers some food for thought. I don’t know if I would do the same thing as Walt or Henry in many of these stories and they leave me wanting to be a better person. Some stories are more humorous than others and some characters are more desperate than others. It’s a really good mix; the book isn’t weighed down by one note over another. The stories do jump around on the timeline for the series, but I didn’t mind this. I have read only two books in the series (Book 1 The Cold Dish and Book 9 The Serpent’s Tooth).

Here are the 12 tales included in this collection:

Old Indian trick
Ministerial Aide
Slick-Tongued Devil
Fire Bird
Unbalanced
Several Stations
High Holidays
Toys for Tots
Divorce Horse
Thankstaking
Messenger
Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Big Horns

The Narration: George Guidall is a great voice for Walt Longmire. He gave each story their due in this collection, giving one of his better performances when it comes to variety of character voices. His female voices were better in this book than they are in some others.  

What I Liked: Great way to get introduced to the series; a good mix of humor and intensity; some surprises; great cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I enjoyed this collection.

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Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry

Heldig was not disturbed by the taking of this photo.
Heldig was not disturbed by the taking of this photo.

Where I Got It: Won a copy

Narrator: David Collacci

Publisher: Recorded Books (2015)

Length: 10 hours 42 minutes

Series: Book 21 William Monk

Author’s Page

Note: While this is the 21st book in this series, it worked pretty well as a stand lone. My only comment is that several of the side characters are fully formed and it takes several hints to figure out what they do. I expect they were introduced far earlier in the series and the author expected the reader to already be acquainted with them.

Set in the latter half of the 1800s not too long after the Crimean War, nurse Hester Monk is working at London’s Royal Naval Hospital annex when she comes across three young siblings who are not doing so well. As she investigates, a case of questionable medical experimentation comes to light even as Hester does her best to save Bryson Radnor, an elderly man dying of the white blood disease. Hamilton Rand, a chemist, is dead set on discovering why blood transfusions from the three siblings work where most donated blood fails.

Hester Monk served as a nurse in the Crimean War and her husband, William Monk, is commander of the Thames River Police. Together, they make a formidable force. However, this is primarily Hester’s story. We do get one little interlude of police work on the river as William and his crew deal with some gun runners (though that section stood out as a little odd because it was completely unrelated to the plot). Hester’s wits, patience, knowledge, and compassion are on display in this tale.

Asked to stand in for an ill friend, Hester has a temporary nursing gig at the Naval annex working the night shift. During one of these nights, the young girl Maggie finds her and begs her to come have a look at her brother Charlie. When Hester lays eyes upon the young boy, she quickly sees that he is in need of medical care. She sits with them (and the youngest sibling Mike) throughout the night, providing water to Charlie. In the morning, she asks Dr. Magnus Rand about them and he says he will see to them.

Hester is then assigned to assist Dr. Rand’s brother, Hamilton Rand, a chemist, with his patient, Bryson Radnor, who is ill with the white blood disease (which might be the early term for chronic lymphocytic leukemia). Anyway, he’s a cranky old man who is being treated by a brusque, goal-oriented sexist. As you can see, Hester has her work cut out for her. Hester soon learns that Hamilton is taking blood from the three young siblings and transfusing it into Bryson, and it works. He wants to know why it works but first he has to keep his patient alive long enough to prove that this is a ‘cure’. I found all the medical stuff pretty interesting. I am sure the author had to do some detailed research on what was known at the time about blood transfusions and white blood disease. That research comes through in the writing as the characters never enter a time warp and use modern terms or have some unprecedented medical epiphany on blood types.

Of course, Hester objects. The kids have no parents or other relatives about approving the procedure and Charlie is obviously suffering from the blood letting. Hamilton feels he is left with no choice but to knock Hester unconscious and kidnap her away with his patient to some secluded country manor where treatment may continue. There, Hester has more time to get to know the kids, Bryson, and Bryson’s grown daughter Adrienne.

Meanwhile, William Monk is going a little nuts over his missing wife. He just got back from this gun runner business and it is very unlike Hester to not leave word as to where she is. At this point, the story pulls in several side characters that were most likely introduced earlier in the series. They assist in tracking Hester down, as well as finding the parents of the three kids. I got some of these side characters mixed up as not many descriptors were used with them (though I think if you have read previous books in this series, you wouldn’t have any trouble).

Then that whole bit is resolved and we still have about a third of the book to go. I was surprised at the quick wrap up to Hester’s abduction. The last third of the book is mostly courtroom drama, though there is some sleuthing both Hester and William undertake. I found this section of the book less entertaining than the first two-thirds. And, again, more side characters that are obviously old time favorites are drawn in, such as the lawyer Oliver Rathbone.

Overall, I found the book interesting and it was a look into Victorian England that I haven’t explored before. I quite enjoyed all the medical stuff. Hester’s character was fun too. She’s got a sharp tongue that sometimes gets away from her. After all, she spent quality time around military men who were in serious pain. Most of the side characters, while obviously on good terms with Hester and William, left me feeling like I was missing something. Admittedly, this is my first Anne Perry book. So, I think if folks have read previous books in this series, they probably wouldn’t have this feeling. I really liked that there was no cut and dry bad guy. Hamilton Rand had distinct reasons for doing as he did and while dismissive of the female gender in general, he didn’t outright mistreat women. Bryson Radnor wanted to live, and live a full life. Adrienne Radnor wanted her father healthy, probably so she could go on to live her own life instead of nursing him. This aspect of the story was well done and made the plot all the more interesting.

I won a copy of this book from the publisher via GoodReads.

Narration: David Collacci did a good job with this book. He had a variety of regional accents for the characters. His female voices were believable. He also did a great job with the voices for the little kids. I especially liked his voice for Bryson as it was a kind of gravelly old man’s voice, but an old man who could also be a little obscene or clever as the mood took him.

What I Liked: Complex characters; Hester’s got a sharp tongue; all the medical stuff; the Victorian England setting; the three kids; the sleuthing in the last third of the book.

What I Disliked: I felt like I was missing something with the numerous side characters; the gun runner scene felt out of place; the abrupt end to the kidnapping and then we still have a third of the book to go.

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A Serpent's Tooth by Craig Johnson

Heldig startled by bookage.
Heldig startled by bookage.

Where I Got It: From the library.

Narrator: George Guidall

Publisher: Recorded Books (2013)

Length: 9 hours 26 minutes

Series: Book 9 Walt Longmire

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 9 in the series, it works well as a stand alone. There are some vague references to events that happened in the previous book, but I don’t feel that it detracted or distracted from this story.

In Absaroka County, Wyoming, Sheriff Longmire and his deputies are caught up in the mystery of a homeless Mormon ‘lost boy’ and his missing mother. The boy, Cord, has a mysterious protector, an elderly man who claims the name of a long-dead Mormon founder. Meanwhile, Longmire and his deputies keep having run-ins with the local heads of the polygamy religious group. There’s weapons a plenty and not a few people shielding themselves with religion as they make their power plays.

In this modern day western, Walt Longmire has his work cut out for him. An elderly single lady truly believes that she has a guardian angel that fixes all her broken house hold appliances while she is out running chores or socializing. What Walt and his deputy Vic Moretti find is a young man who quickly scampers away, inadvertently leaving his pants behind. Of course, a pantsless boy on foot isn’t that hard to track down and before long, Walt is trying to get info out of young Cord Lynear. What Walt steps into is beyond his expectations.

It appears that the small, yet well armed, polygamy Mormon sect has had trouble in other states. Now that trouble is on Walt’s doorstep. However, finding people to talk to him about the inner workings of this sect is difficult, and dangerous. I really enjoyed watching Walt and his team unwind this mystery. The author does a good job of getting my ire up without having the injustices of this small, made-up religious sect over crowd the plot. I really felt for the women and children of the sect, even though we only meet a few of them.

Meanwhile, there has been a romance brewing between Walt and Vic for some time. We get more of that here, though I don’t want to say too much as I haven’t read Book 8 and don’t know where that left off with this romantic subplot. Things definitely heat up and by the end of the book there is a poignant surprise for both Walt and the readers. The romance adds to the characters and doesn’t detract from the plot.

Henry Standing Bear is ever a presence in these books and I am glad that he is around. Walt can definitely use the help with this case. His stolid character and dry humor are always a welcome addition to any scene. Also, he can handle himself in a fight.

Over all, this was a very enjoyable mystery. I got quite attached to Cord and his self-assigned protector, Orrin Porter (or so he says he is). Also, I like that the author takes these mysteries seriously. Not all of Walt’s deputies will make it out of this story whole and healthy. Even though I am not particularly attached to most of these side characters (i. e. Frymire and Double Tough), I still felt for them when the plot got serious.

The Narration: George Guidall has a great voice for Walt Longmire. Also, I found he did a decent job for Vic Moretti’s voice as well. His pacing was also good in this book. He also had a great adolescent voice for Cord and crotchety old man voice for Orrin Porter. 

What I Liked: The mystery goes from a missing person to something much larger; there’s enough injustices done in a religion’s name to irk without eclipsing the plot; the romance doesn’t distract from the plot; Cord and Orrin were great characters; not everyone gets out unscathed.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this one!

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