The Amber Project by J. N. Chaney

ChaneyTheAmberProjectWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Alexander Edward Trefethen 

Publisher: JN Chaney (2015)

Length: 11 hours 41 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Variant Saga

Author’s Page

This dystopian young adult novel is set in 2157 somewhere near the Atlantic coast. Terry and his classmates are growing up in an underground city. The surface of the planet became contaminated years ago by a mysterious and deadly gas named Variant. The city is slowly falling apart; the surface must be reclaimed! As such, a clever scientist has come up with a way to create Variant-tolerant humans. Terry and his classmates are the first generation of these new humans.

Take Ender’s Game and mash it up with The Handmaid’s Tale and you get something good, disturbing, and thought-provoking. This underground society was founded by survivors of a world calamity. As such, they put in place some hard and fast rules in order to keep humanity alive. The military and the Matron have the most power. Human reproduction is closely managed. The Matron is the head of the organization that provides reproducing women (the mothers) status and perks in housing and food. All reproductive assignations must be approved by the Matron. Meanwhile, the military has made attempts over the years to reclaim the surface. The new Variant humans are their latest attempt.

The story opens with Terry Eckles on his seventh birthday. His mom, Mara, drops him off at the Academy. There he learns that he won’t be allowed to go home for 10 years, after he graduates the Academy. John, who will become his best friend, is his roommate. May is the brains of the little group. Alex has anger management issues. The story moves ahead in chunks of time, so we get to see the kids grow up in the Academy. While this was interesting, I didn’t become very attached to the kids until they become teens and they start doing interesting things.

I really got hooked on the story when we start seeing how the city reproduction is controlled. Mara Eckles became a mother at 15 and has produced several promising children for the city. All her daughters have proven to be fertile reproducers as well. The Matron, Eva Long, is a formidable woman. She has to walk a difficult line between the survival of humanity and protecting the mothers from certain aspects of the military branch of power.

Then we have colonel James Bishop. He’s been a stalwart pillar of the Academy for decades, leading the training of the city’s military. Now he’s taken a personal interest in the new Variant humans. The author could have easily made Bishop an outright villain. However, I found myself sympathizing with him sometimes. After all, humanity might well be facing extinction if they don’t do something drastic. I really enjoyed that he was a complicated character and that I couldn’t outright despise him.

Dr. Henry Newbur is the main scientist and head teacher at the Academy. I pictured him as a man who is more comfortable around test tubes and dusty books. He’s also missing an arm, making him a source of mild gossip among the students. Dr. Archer is a complete 180 from Dr. Newbur. He’s very much into the science unlocked by the latest Variant discovery. To him, Terry and his classmates are specimens.

Taken all together, the book has a solid set up and then the action starts once the teens are sent to the surface. I don’t want to spoil things too much, as the teens don’t head to the surface until the second half of the book, but I really had fun with them exploring the now defunct buildings. There’s also things up there on the surface that the underground city folk are barely aware of, things that can rip the face off a grown, armed man. It’s a great start for a dystopian series.

The Narration: Alexander Edward Trefethen did a good job with this book. His voice is pretty masculine, so I was a little worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull off the female voices, but he did, though in a few instances the ladies would sound alike. I really liked his voice for Alex, who is always disgruntled about something. His old lady (and sometimes tipsy) voice for Matron Eva Long was also really good. 

What I Liked: Near-extinction event; underground city; the Matron and her mothers; James Bishop isn’t a simple bad guy; the mysteries surrounding Variant; all the questions brought about by adventuring on the surface; Alex may be evil but he’s not always wrong.

What I Disliked: It took me about half the book to get attached to the kids, who are the main characters of the book.

What Others Think:

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Omari and the People by Stephen Whitfield

WhitfieldOmariAndThePeopleWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Curt Simmons

Publisher: ShirleyCastle Press (2016)

Length: 11 hours 17 minutes

Author’s Page

Omari is a talented thief, but he’s not so smart when it comes to women. He has riches, a beautiful wife, and a big house. Yet his wife becomes angry with him and heads off to the city guard to tell of his many crimes. In an attempt to erase evidence of his wrongdoings, he sets fire to his house. Unfortunately, the flames don’t stop there and the entire city is lost. Now Omari, feeling quite bad about this, tells the people a lie about a wonderful land beyond the desert sands. There the adventure begins as a discordant group of people must either come together to succeed or will fall apart under the numerous assaults they suffer.

This is a beautiful, captivating story. In very little time, I was caught up in the tale. Omari is a flawed young man with a good heart. He grew up thieving, having no one to take care of him. Yet, he also goes out of his way to see that the homeless old woman, Umal, has regular food and wine. Once he accidentally burns the city down, he knows he can’t stay with Sumosi’s group of people, for Sumosi and many of his guards would love to beat Omari to death. Yet he can’t survive in the desert on his own. Partly out of hope, partly out of desperation, he concocts a story about a far off land, rich in food and water. Others wish to leave and so they band together behind Omari.

One of my favorite things about this story is that the women were just as varied, useful, and flawed as the men. Saba is great with a bow. Jasmina was the best dance instructor in the city before it burned. Umal is a unique character who perhaps has special powers, or perhaps is just very good at reading people and lucky in circumstance. Sofia, mother of two young sons (Haroun and Zolani), teaches this newly formed caravan how to make flatbread. The men are just as interesting. Bin Aswad, a cloth merchant with two daughters, has his pride and when his pride is injured, he can’t let it go. Umbaric used to be the captain of the guards. As such, he knows about Omari’s previous life. It was great to see how Omari eventually won Umbaric over. There’s plenty more characters, and each one brings some facet to this caravan story.

As Omari’s caravan searches for this fabled land, they have to endure much. The first difficulty is in procuring camels, then in learning how to load, ride, and care for the camels. Desert storms, swarms of flies, pestilence, severe dehydration, and raiders are all things the caravan will have to learn to deal with. I appreciate that the author didn’t keep everything all roses; he threw in some thorns and not every character comes out of this story intact.

As a side note, there were oryx, which I have a fondness for. It was great to read about the first oryx hunt by these once-city dwellers. It reminded me of my first time seeing oryx in the New Mexico desert, chasing them in a Jeep. I, like some of those hunters, was not too smart in that moment.

The ending was very satisfying. Omari has changed little by little throughout the story. Other characters have also grown through their experiences. Umal eventually reveals a little more about her nature, though much is left to the reader to guess. I recommend this excellent story be paired with a strong mint tea.

I received this audiobook at no cost from the author (via The Audio Book Worm) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Curt Simmons does an excellent job with this story. He had a light Arabic accent, perhaps Egyptian, for the entire book. I love it when narrators go out of their way to do this as it makes such a difference in how much I become submerged in the story. He had a great young man’s voice for Omari. He also did a great job with the female voices. Umal sounds like an old woman, Sofia sounds like a worried mother, Saba sounds like a determined young lady. I especially liked his half-joking, sometimes sly voice for Umbaric. 

What I Liked: Everything!; that’s a great book cover; excellent narration; the characters grow throughout the story; folks make mistakes; cranky camels; oryx; the importance of food, dance, and song; a beautiful ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing  – this is a solid story.  

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Jenn Faughnan

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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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Dune by Frank Herbert

HerbertDuneWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrators: Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance, Ilyana Kadushin

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2007)

Length: 21 hours 8 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dune, Book 12 Dune Saga

Author’s Page

Set in a sweeping science fiction universe, the human empire is vast and complicated. Spice, from the planet Arrakis (aka Dune) powers it all, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in not so subtle ways. For years, the Harkonnen family has managed Dune for the Emperor, but now the Emperor has handed control of that planet over to House Atreides. Of course, the Harkonnens will do whatever they can to take down the Atreides. Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica will have to learn how to survive the most harshest zones of this desert planet in order to survive the Harkonnen.

I have read this book so many times over the years and each time I take something new from it. I was originally fascinated by the book because of the desert planet, which holds such great significance for the plot. Having spent most of my life in one desert or another, I really appreciated that Herbert built real desert life into the scenery. It’s not all sandy dunes, dry heat, and wind. Plus there’s giant sandworms and who doesn’t love giant worms of any kind?

This book is full of cool SF tech as well. There’s the small transport ships for collecting the Spice in the desert, the enormous space going vessels, personal protective shields, assassin’s tricks and tools, the specialized desert suits that reclaim and recycle the body’s water, and plenty more. If you’ve only seen the various movies/mini-series based on the book, then you are missing out.

The characters are also fascinating. While some are drawn simply, they still have motives and are useful to the plot. The main characters are layered, complex, have faults and foibles. Duke Leto, Paul’s father, comes across as a capable ruler who is worthy of respect. He is sure in his priorities and his code of honor. Jessica, Leto’s concubine and most trusted companion, is Bene Gesserit trained. Yes, she does scheme but her reasons are solidly good. Still, she miscalculates and makes mistakes. Paul starts off as a smart but somewhat sheltered boy. His story arc tosses him into a world of danger, literally, and there are so many ways he could have ended up dead. Gurney Halleck, Paul’s troubadour warrior trainer, is also a favorite. He has some of the roughest humor but also pushes Paul the hardest.

For a book that has staunchly remained in the SF genre, there is a mystical side to the story. The Bene Gesserit is a long-standing sisterhood that has spread it’s seeds of religion throughout the human universe. Most are trained from birth in mental abilities as well as history, languages, and martial arts. They also have the Voice, which allows them to compel most people to simple actions. The Bene Gesserit use the Spice to peek into the future (a talent called prescience) and thereby have kept humanity from being snuffed out by this disaster or that (or it’s own stupidity). Yet there is a place they can’t look, a place that terrifies them. Paul will play a role in helping them discover what is hidden there. Since this mystical element to the story can’t be nailed down by science, it has fascinated me the over the years.

There is so much to love about this book. The desert people,  the Fremen, have their own well-formed culture, shaped by the environment of Dune. Indeed, Dune itself is like a character in the story because it’s nature has such a strong influence on the story. The little touches of various languages throughout the story are also appreciated. I find it immensely sensible that House Atreides would have it’s own battle language, making it that much more difficult for their enemies to figure out what they are doing during a fight.

If you haven’t given this book a read yet, I highly recommend it. There is plenty to be discovered and enjoyed in this classic SF novel.

The Narration: The narration on this book is a little odd. There are chunks where multiple narrators are giving voice to the characters and then chunks where it is only Simon Vance narrating all the characters. I wonder if a trimmed radio theater version was recorded and then the publisher went back later and had Vance fill in all the in between spaces for an unabridged version. Vance’s performance is really good and the multi-cast parts are really good, but I found myself not liking switching between the two. I would get used to a character sounding a certain way and then have to get used to Vance’s performance of the same character, and then switching back and forth throughout – it was an unnecessary annoyance. Still, I love this book enough to tolerate it and for the most part, I still enjoyed the narration. 

What I Liked: The desert planet Dune and how it shapes the human existence; all the SF tech; so many assassins!; the worms of Arrakis; Paul’s story arc; the use of languages; the mystery of the Bene Gesserit; a worthy classic.

What I Disliked: The narration is odd – switching between a multi-cast performance and a single narrator, and back and forth for the entire book was a little annoying.

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Butterfly by Kathryn Harvey

HarveyButterflyWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Laura Jennings

Publisher: Cherry Hill Publishing (2015)

Length: 18 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Butterfly Trilogy

Author’s Page

This book is about far more than simple seduction and erotic fantasies. The author spins a deep and engrossing tale that spans decades, showing what the drive of one young women can build over time. Butterfly is a unique and exclusive club that caters to women’s fantasies. The men, staff, and clients are all hand picked for their ability to be discrete. As a counter to that, there is the simple, elegant, and irreproachable Beverly Highland, who has become quite the businesswoman over the years. Her support of the evangelist-turned-politician Danny MacKay has helped him rise to his high station. But does she have ulterior motives? This book also has several engaging flashbacks to Rachel Dwyer in the 1950s. We meet her as a 14 year old girl and follow her through her troubles, watching her eventually transform into something else.

I’m sure this book has been labeled erotica or chick lit or romance and none of those labels do this book justice. True, it does have some of those elements, but they combine with other elements (suspense, historical fiction, etc.) to become something much more impressive. First, all the characters are so engaging. Even if I didn’t like some of them, I understood where they were coming from and wanted to know more about them. Second, the setting was interesting too. The modern-day parts happen mostly in Beverly Hills, California. The historical fiction elements happen in Texas, New Mexico, and California. Third, the plot had several unforeseen elements that kept me pleasantly surprised and turning the pages (well, listening to yet the next MP3 file and the next and the next).

The book opens with Dr. Linda Marques. She has a few failed marriages under her belt and that’s mostly due to her frigidity problems. She can’t seem to find joy in the bedroom. Her recent visits to Butterfly, where she dons a mask, have helped her start to face the deep reasons for her lack of enthusiasm. Trudie, who is head of a pool construction company, wants a man that considers her an equal, but she’s having a hard time finding such a person. Her regular hook ups at clubs and the occasional dalliance with someone else in the construction business have all left her unsatisfied. Yet her experiences at Butterfly, which often entail having entertaining arguments over brainy books, have shown her just how good things in the bedroom can be. Jessica, a lawyer for the celebrities, has a controlling and dismissive husband. She’s never really considered what she might be missing, that is, until she gets an exclusive invitation to Butterfly. There, she finds that she can call the shots in romance and it thrills her.

Now let’s bounce back to the 1950s and Rachel Dwyer, who was my favorite character. At age 14 she has to leave home as her father has made it quite clear, in his drunken abusive way, that she can’t stay there. She plans to head to California to beg a job from her mom’s friend but things go astray and she ends up on the wrong bus. Without enough money to make it to California, she feels stranded. That’s when she meets the young Danny McKay who offers to take her to his family’s farm and help her find a job. She instantly becomes smitten with him and they start a romantic relationship. Things become twisted when he places her in a house of prostitution. Rachel, still being somewhat naive, holds onto the hope that she will marry and have kids, that her love for Danny isn’t wasted. Rachel’s story shows us a woman who reaches her breaking point and at that point instead of accepting that life is awful and there’s no real escape from it, she becomes completely determined to find another way. At first, I thought Rachel’s story was one of those train wrecks that you can’t look away from, but really it’s about a young woman metamorphosing into something greater.

The men, while fewer that the female characters, are no less interesting. Of course, Danny MacKay is the lead male in this drama. We know from Rachel’s story that he’s not a great guy. From present-day Beverly Highland’s story, we see Danny for the political powerhouse he has become. He has the backing of his religious evangelical organization, plus other business people like Beverly. He has also invested in several properties and businesses over the decades, making him rich in his own right. He’s well known and now hoping to run for President. He’s still a very cruel man. I enjoyed very much hating on him throughout the book as he gives us so many reasons to dislike him.

This book does have several sex scenes, giving it an erotic flair. The scenes are quite varied showing what women desire at Butterfly, but also what they experience in the average, every day world (which usually lacks in quality when compared to Butterfly). A few of the scenes are violent and/or abusive (such as some of Rachel’s experiences) but the author doesn’t linger over them nor use them as shock factors. Instead, they reveal key points about the characters’s natures.

This was just an immensely satisfying book. I didn’t expect to like it so much when I dived into it. Quite frankly, I was expecting 16 hours of erotica with maybe 2 hours of character and plot development. What I got, which is much more desirable, is the opposite; the author built these amazing characters and did an excellent job revealing the plot. Going into it, I had no idea what Rachel would become, how Danny would rise so high, how Beverley would execute her end game. Truly, there is much more here than first meets the eye.

I received this audiobook at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Laura Jennings did a pretty good job with this book. I really liked her distinct voices for all the ladies. However, several of her young male voices all sounded very similar. She did well with the older male voices. She was excellent at imbuing the text with emotions, and there were plenty of them in this book, several of them subtle. I also liked her Spanish accent for Carmella.

What I Liked: It’s a well-matched mix of romance, historical fiction, and suspense with a few erotic scenes; Rachel Dwyer really is the star of the book; great character arcs; the Butterfly club itself; the surprise turns in the plot; the very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Some of the male voices in the narration weren’t very distinct – they all sounded like Danny MacKay.

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Anubis Nights by Gary Jonas

JonasAnubisNightsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Denton & White (2016)

Length: 7 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 4 Jonathan Shade

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 4 in the series and I recommend reading the previous books as there are major things that happened in previous stories that affect characters’s decisions in this book.

Private investigator Jonathan Shade starts his day off having a serious argument with a witch and the ghost of her son. Things only get worse when Sharon and Chronos show up at Kelly’s dojo and force Jonathan and his friends into taking care of a little problem for them. Henry Winslow, a powerful magician, is attempting to become immortal. To do so, he split himself into three aspects and placed each one at a different time and place in the past. Now Jonathan and his friends must travel back in time and kill each aspect.

This was a fun addition to this urban fantasy series that I have enjoyed so much. Jonathan has done a smidge of time travel before (a fact that he keeps hidden from his friends) but this time he and Kelly (a magically constructed warrior) are sent back into ancient Egypt to find Winslow and kill him. Meanwhile, Brand (also a magically constructed warrior) and Esther (a ghost who is tied to these old typewriter keys) go back to the 1870s. Reina (who isn’t of this world and has some special abilities) heads to the 1920s.

Let me get my one criticism out of the way. We have three main ladies in this series now: Kelly, Esther, and Reina. For some reason, the author chose to write them all as being in love with Jonathan and that really comes to the forefront in this book. It’s silly and not really necessary for the plot. Plus, there are other interesting men, so why not spread the joy?

OK, back to the good stuff. Most of the book is spent on Jonathan and Kelly in ancient Egypt. I really enjoyed the scenes where everyone was getting ready for their trip and had to dress the part. Reina got a flapper dress plus some practical wear. Brand had some rough yet really durable clothes. Meanwhile, Kelly and Jonathan were given revealing (by today’s standards) clothing that was the norm for King Tut’s time period. Eventually, Kelly and Jonathan rebel and a compromise (sort of) is made. In the end, it didn’t matter much because the two of them materialized in front of people and therefore, folks thought they must be deities.

We get a little bit of time with Brand and Esther in the 1870s. They soon land in some serious trouble with Priscilla and Edward that they weren’t expecting. Brand used to be a very strong warrior, but at the end of the previous book, things changed for him. Now he finds himself in a next to helpless position but I think he’s too stubborn (or dense) to notice. He keeps on thinking, bidding his time, quietly flexing those muscles.

Meanwhile, Reina goes to the 1920s. She doesn’t know much about this time period and she’s never been to New York  city. We only get a smidge of her story and she swiftly finds herself in trouble. I was surprised at how quickly she was subdued and also a bit disappointed. Not much is being done with this character that has so much potential.

It’s a swift moving plot with fun characters and I like that Kelly and Jonathan continue to be at the heart of the story. I also like that things between Jonathan and Sharon are unresolved. Her previous betrayal still rankles him (as it should!) and I look forward to seeing how the author deals with that. The ending was great! I loved the last big fight scene and how things in Egypt resolved themselves. This book does leave us on a cliff hanger, so I’m really looking forward to having Book 5 in audio.

I received a copy at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Joe Hempel continues to be the perfect Jonathan Shade. Also, he’s the perfect Kelly Chan, with her light Chinese accent. He really pulls it off well. I also liked his ‘dumb jock’ voice for Brand (which suits his humor and character well) and I continue to like his light Southern drawl for Esther. All around, it’s a great performance.  

What I Liked: Ancient Egypt!; things are not yet resolved with Sharon; Brand and Esther have their own troubles; King Tut and all the court; the final fight scene.

What I Disliked: All three main ladies are romantically inclined towards Jonathan, which is a little silly.

House of Dads by June Gillam

GillamHouseOfDadsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Ginny Harman

Publisher: Gorilla Girl Ink (2015)

Length: 5 hours 16 minutes

Series: Book 2 Hillary Broome Novels

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series,  it works fine as a stand alone story.

The patriarch of the California Broome family has passed away and Hillary is off to attend the funeral and also get the details for her article at the newspaper. She’s a cousin to the powerful family, who own a construction company, and she has a lot to learn about them. During the funeral, Teddy, who had inherited the construction company, dies unexpectedly. Everyone suspects murder. Meanwhile, Hillary and Detective Ed Kiffin have had a whirlwind romance since they met two months ago in Book 1, House of Cuts.

I quite enjoyed the previous book in this series and this book was not quite as good. For me, the main disappointment was that the romance eclipsed the mystery and I’m not big on romance plots. While the first book had a solid murder mystery to pursue, this book didn’t have much detective work going on. Solving the case was more of an accident, of things falling into place at the last minute. While these two things made this story a bit less enjoyable than the first book, I still enjoyed it as a quick, cozy murder mystery.

The patriarch of the Broome Construction company set up his will so that only a male heir can inherit it, he having rather dated ideas about women in the work force. With Teddy suddenly dead, and no male heir waiting in the wings, the Broome women start battling for control of the company. Maggie is the remaining matriarch and her daughter Violet, per a clause in the will, has temporary control over the company until a male heir appears. Maggie wants control of the company and hatches an unlikely scheme for gaining that control. Meanwhile, Violet and her husband decide to get busy reproducing, hoping for a son.

There’s plenty of spying on one another and swapping gossip. In fact Hillary discovers a key piece of info and decides to share it with one of these ladies. Another body hits the floor. I thought it a bit naive of Hillary to share this info but then again, I know that she really wants to be accepted by this branch of her family.

Walt, Ed’s work partner, isn’t a big fan of the institution of marriage. However, he tends to enjoy his freedom a bit too much, over eating and over drinking. Still, he makes a charming side kick to Ed, who still struggles with his smoking addiction. While Ed has no doubts about a life with Hillary, she does have doubts. This creates some angsty romance stuff throughout the story that I found a little boring.

In the end, there’s a small twist concerning the number of murders that I quite liked. However, catching the murderer was a happenstance kind of thing that I felt was way too scripted. Over all, this book wasn’t as exciting and innovative as Book 1. It was still a pleasant read and I’m curious to see what happens to Hillary in Book 3.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author (via iRead Book Tours – thanks!) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Ginny Harman’s narration was OK. I kept getting the ladies mixed up as they sounded so similar. The male voices were easy to keep straight as they were each distinct.

What I Liked: Hillary gets to know her California cousins; only males can inherit the company – it was a great source of contention among the family members; the little twist at the end.  

What I Disliked: The romance eclipsed the murder mystery; in the end, catching the killer happened by chance rather than detective work; with the narration, I had trouble recognizing the character voices for the ladies. 

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Olio by Marylin