River City Blues by Ward Howarth

Narrator: Ward Paxton

Publisher: Ward Howarth (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Author’s Page

1944 Richmond, Virginia is a gritty place and the local police department is part of that grit. Detective Bennie Sherwood has a lot of issues – his farther was murdered in the line of duty, he’s suffering from PTSD from his time at Guadalcanal, and now a friend has died in a suspicious manner. How crooked is the PD? How much can he rely on the intel on the black market? Bennie will have to figure it all out once he’s framed for murder, or go into hiding and never have his answers.

This was a pretty good noir detective story and I liked that our main character, Bennie, had so many issues. He’s suffering from PTSD well before our society really knew what that was and how to deal with it. The murder of his father, Detective Samuel Sherwood, is a big painful throbbing question mark in his life that is only 5 months old. But he’s got a job to do. He and his partner Detective Niles Hunter are set up to raid the black market along with Detectives Mills & Reed. However, things don’t go as expected there either. Skipper Holly, an old friend of Bennie’s father, is part of the black market and he’s mortally wounded during the raid. His presence there shakes Bennie up pretty badly. Right off the bat, I was caught up in this tale. I felt immersed in Sherwood’s world.

The Victory Squad and the wartime crime it was created to fight really fascinated me. I hadn’t really thought about how certain limited supplies during the wartime would have such a violent-riddled black market. There’s cheats and thieves and dealers in such numbers that you can’t help but trip over them. I really felt the author did his research homework and brought that to life in this novel. The missing gasoline was a nice side mystery.

The tale does have one weakness and that is the lack of female characters. I would have liked to see more of the ladies even if we do have one woman who’s a mechanic and a cab driver. She’s also a romantic interest and much of her page time is spent in that role.

The story includes some racism, sexism, and homophobia that was prevalent during the 1940s. I felt it was realistically portrayed without being gratuitous. I appreciate the author not veering away from this bit of historical accuracy. Humans are flawed, even our hero Bennie. I did get a kick out of how the acronyms SNAFU, FUBAR, and SUSFU were cleaned up a bit, substituting ‘fouled’ for the F word. While not necessary for me, I’m sure others appreciate it.

I liked the mystery surrounding Jedidiah King and his King Tobacco cigarettes. Skipper worked for him and that makes him a person of interest in the ongoing black market investigations. I also liked the Police Chief, The Cane, since he acts like a loud, demanding police chief. While such common character types sometimes made the story a bit predictable, it also felt like I was reading an old friend. It was easy to sink into this story.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Ward Paxton makes a really good noir detective. His voice for Bennie is a bit more gentle than the other cops, but since we get Bennie’s inner thoughts, I felt this was appropriate. Paxton did great with the regional accents of the time and place as well, keeping all the characters distinct. There were few females but I felt they could have used a touch more femininity in the narration.

What I Liked: The setting (it was turbulent times); Bennie’s life is full of interesting characters; plenty of mysteries surrounding the black market; the historical accuracy for the times.

What I Disliked: Could have used more female characters and ones that aren’t there for comfort or romance.

Bookish Giveaway & Review: Deceptive Cadence by Kathryn Guare

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Narrator: Wayne Farrell

Publisher: Kathryn Guare (2016)

Length: 11 hours 519 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Virtuosic Spy

Author’s Page

Set in 2003-2004, Conor McBride is willing to go to great lengths for his family. He was a concert violinist when he found out just how badly his older brother Thomas screwed him over. He’s since fled the country, leaving Conor to pay the government back the large debt. He also moved back to the family farm in Ireland to help his ailing mom (Brigid McBride) out. Then a mysterious man shows up offering him knowledge of where his brother is in exchange for service. Pretty soon, Conor is wrapped up in a world of deceit, drugs, corruption, and guns. And magnificent Indian food.

This was a gripping novel! Conor and his brother Thomas have some serious history between them. Conor feels that his life was ruined when he was saddled with his brother’s enormous debt, having to return from London to the family farm on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland that he never had any interest in. Years have passed and Conor grows comfortable on the farm, even though it’s a far cry from his concert violinist life. Then Frank Murdoch from MI6 shows up offering information on the whereabouts of Thomas but it’s not free. The British Intelligence Service wants something from Conor and that involves 10 hard weeks of spy camp and several long months working in some of the roughest parts of India. I was surprised when Brigid sends Conor off with her blessing, saying that Thomas needs him.

There’s very little about the spy camp. Our hero goes from fiddling cow milker to trained deadly spy in several paragraphs, tho there are a few references to his time there later in the story. Conor brought some of his own skills to table from the beginning, like his intelligence, linguistic skills, and athletic build. With that, he surpassed his instructor’s expectations. Yet he isn’t ready for everything he comes across in the field. There are some tough scenes for this fledgling spy and despite the dirty business he’s in, he never loses his humanity. He’s this wonderful mix of competence, steel nerves, and soft heart.

Most of the book takes place in India, in and around Mumbai. I definitely felt that the author had done her research. She brought the beauty and the grunge. It was a very believable setting complete with child slavery, tasty food, generous hospitality, illegal arms sales, gentle religious rites, and drug use.

There’s several female characters in this spy novel which isn’t the usual for this genre. So that was a breath of fresh air. Yet the ladies were pretty much there to comfort the men. They each have some personality and some role in the story that is more than window dressing and yet none of them ever really touch the central plot. Conor’s world of spies is a man’s world. I would have liked a bit more from the ladies. However, this little weakness of the story didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel. Kavita was the most prominent lady in that she provided medical care and comfort of a motherly sort to Conor when he really needed it. I really liked her calm and patience and yet she could also be insistent when needed. Radha is a 13 year old heroin addict and dancer at a pleasure house. Conor’s undercover persona brings him to this seedy side of town where he meets Radha and he wishes he could do something to permanently help her situation. They’re relationship, as fleeting as it is, pulled the emotions out of me.

Let’s chat about Sedgewick, who like Murdoch, presents a well-honed edge to the world at large. Conor in his endearing way manages to catch both men in unguarded moments, revealing something deeper. Sedgewick had a lot more page time and he’s definitely a complicated character. He’s wrestled with his demons but they left scars and he’s just a touch paranoid that those around him don’t trust him…. but he’s in the spy business. I loved this polarity about him. He works in a field that calls for deception yet craves solid relationships. I hope we get to see him again.

The McBrides have a sixth sense of a sort. It’s left pretty nebulous, something that can be chocked up to chance or a mystical element depending on how the reader wants to interpret such things. For me, I could leave it or take it. This element of the story didn’t do much for me other than keeping Brigid engaged in the storyline even when she wasn’t on the page.

The action scenes were great. There was plenty of tension throughout the tale as Conor does his best to navigate this deadly web. With each layer of lies he peeled back, I became a little more paranoid about who he could trust. Eventually, we learn about the main bad guy that everyone wants, Vasily Dragonov. Things don’t go as planned and I felt deeply for Conor by the end of the story. What an emotional ringer the guy has been through! I was engaged throughout the entire tale. Conor McBride is my new favorite spy!

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Wayne Farrell nailed this performance. Gallic, English, Hindi, and Russian accents pepper this story and Wayne did a great job with all of them. There’s some Hindi and Gallic prayers and swearing as well which he did with gusto. His female voices were all believable and each character was distinct. He was able to portray the variety of emotions of Conor McBride and the other main characters with moving accuracy.

What I Liked: Gallic and Hindi, Ireland and India – all in the same book; the spy life takes something out of a person; Conor McBride is a good mix of thoughtfulness and unhesitating response; Sedgewick with his prickly vulnerability; Murdoch with his carefully crafted gentleman persona; Kavita’s caring hands; Radha’s great need; those final scenes on the road from the ski slope; great narration.

What I Disliked: I would have liked a little more from the ladies.

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Kathryn Guare:

Kathryn Guare lives in the Vermont town where she grew up, part of the third generation of her family to call the tiny capital city of Montpelier home. She spent ten years as an executive with a global health membership and advocacy organization, worked as a tour coordinator in a travel agency, and has traveled extensively in Europe and India. She has a passion for Classical music, all things Celtic, and loves exploring ethnic foods and diverse cultures. Her first novel, Deceptive Cadence was awarded the Audiobook Gold Medal in the Readers Favorite Awards.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~Instagram ~ Pinterest

Synopsis of Deceptive Cadence:

Meet Conor McBride. He’s even more interesting than the trouble he gets into.

A talented Irish musician reluctantly reinvents himself, disappearing into an undercover identity to search for the man who ruined his career: his own brother. On a journey from the west of Ireland to the tumultuous city of Mumbai, Conor McBride’s only goal is to redeem the brother who betrayed him. But he’s becoming a virtuoso of a different kind in a dangerous game where the rules keep changing – and where the allies he trusted to help him may be the people he should fear the most.

Audible ~ Amazon ~ Audio Excerpt

About Narrator Wayne Farrell:

Internationally acclaimed voice actor Wayne Farrell began his professional career at The National Theatre of Ireland, where he met the legendary Irish seanachai Eamon Kelly and became fascinated with the art of storytelling. Using skills learned during this time, Farrell has worked extensively in both documentary and audiobook narration and is widely admired for the rich clarity and versatility of his voice. His credits include award-winning authors such as Donal Ryan, whose debut novel The Spinning Heart won The Guardian’s First Book Award as well as Irish Book of the Year; and New York Times and USA Today bestsellers such as Morgan Rice, author of the fantasy epic The Sorcerer’s Ring.

Website ~ Soundcloud

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a 1 year Audiofile Magazine Subscription. Open internationally! Ends July 19th, 2017.

Deceptive Cadence Audio Tour Giveaway

Bookish Giveaway & Review: Twelve to Murder by Lauren Carr

Scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrator: James C. Lewis

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2017)

Length: 6 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 7 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 7 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

With the gruesome murder of the Stillmans, the police of Spencer, Maryland are out in force. Unfortunately, they fail to corral Derrick Stillman before he talks to the press, throwing blame for the murders on former child movie star Lenny Frost. From there, we end up with a group of drunk baseball enthusiasts held hostage while Mac Faraday and his half-brother police chief David O’Callaghan dig into the sordid pasts of all these people, the victims and suspects alike.

This was a delicious murder mystery that brings together failed movie careers, hostage situations, double and triple crossing, and guilt trips. Also, we delve into Mac’s love life a bit as his girlfriend Archie pushes to know why he doesn’t want to take the next step. Meanwhile, Gnarly dog is having girlfriend trouble of his own as he was pimped out, only to return to his regular girlfriend, Molly dog.

My favorite scenes were the old timers at the bar who are nearly oblivious to being held hostage (if only everyone would quiet down so they could enjoy the ball game!) and then when David takes on the female stunt woman Sela Wallace and walks away with some injuries. I also liked the jokes at Gnarly’s expense (lovingly doled out). He did over eat a bit, and it was weird bar food, so of course he would have digestive issues later on.

As a minor quibble, Wanda at the police station is described the exact same way in each book. I think I only noticed this because I have been listening to these books back to back. The sentences are the same, explaining that she’s almost always at the office because her grown kids and their offspring moved back home and she’s avoiding that chaos. With that said, we actually get to know more about her in this book as she has several lines while folks gather at the police station to figure out this tangled mystery.

I liked how we had two alcoholics/addicts in this tale. One has obviously worked hard to clean up his act while the other only enjoys the drama of the cycle (treatment, recovery, falling off the wagon, binges, treatment, etc.). It pulled at the heart strings a bit to see how one was trusted over the other with the resultant consequences.

Over all, it was a good solid mystery with plenty of moving parts and more than one guilty person with more than one motive. I love the way Mac puts challenges in front of his hotel manager, a really good guy who takes his job seriously.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: James C. Lewis was OK with this book. His female voices were good but his range wasn’t that big. Often, I had to listen closely to keep track of who was talking unless it was a character with a distinct accent. The narrators keep changing for this series and I think that’s part of it. I had gotten used to Mike Algers and previously Dan Lawson did an incredible job on one of the books. Book 1 was narrated by a woman, Janean Jorgenson. As a stand alone, I would say this is a decent narration.

What I Liked: A layered mystery; former child stars; an alcoholic who is succeeding with his recovery versus one who doesn’t take recovery seriously; the drunk baseball enthusiasts at the bar; Gnarly’s woman troubles; Sela the stunt woman; multiple guilty parties.

What I Disliked: There’s a minor character, Wanda, who gets the same descriptive paragraph for the last 3 books. This is a minor criticism and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. 

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 21st, 2017.

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Bookish Giveaway & Review: The Lady Who Cried Murder by Lauren Carr

Scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrator: Mike Alger

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2017)

Length: 7 hours 24 minutes

Series: Book 6 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 6 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

Three years ago in Spencer, Maryland, young Khloe Everest was reported missing by her mom after she received a disturbing phone call. However, it turned out to be a publicity stunt and all of the the Spencer police felt a fool when Khloe strolled up during a press conference on the ongoing search for the young lady. Now, she’s planning another publicity stunt in order to relaunch her grab for fame and fortune. This time, things don’t go as she likes and she ends up dead. So many suspects, so little time.

David O’Callaghan, the Spencer Police Chief, isn’t too excited to be called in to check out Khloe’s current residence. The wannabe diva’s social media went dark 3 days ago but David still remembers the sting of her first publicity stunt. Grudgingly, he offers to check it out provided all cameras stay outside. What he finds is quite grisly and the murder investigation is launched.

This book was pretty good though not my favorite in the series. The investigation into Khloe’s murder along with David’s courtship of an old flame, Chelsea, are the two things that stood out to me. There’s also a politician (along with his son) that has some old beef with Mac Faraday (retired DC police detective). That mostly faded into the background for me.

Here is my one criticism for this book. There are some characters that are gay or cross dress and all the characters who do so are on the bad guy list. I can’t tell if the main characters believe that homosexuality or cross dressing are signs of deeper problems and nefarious behavior or not. I’m on the fence on this because I haven’t come across other gay characters before in this series (to my memory). At any rate, I would have preferred that the characters make it clear that there are bad guys that just happen to be gay and not that homosexuality is a trait of questionable behavior.

Back to Khloe. She did have a big bombshell of a secret that she was teasing her followers with, promising to announce it to the world on a specific date. Initially, David isn’t too sure she had any real secret but he has to investigate nonetheless. It was a big secret indeed! I was surprised by this twist and it added a note of seriousness to story. Someone is a real jerk and needs to be taken down!

Then there’s Chelsea. She’s got epilepsy so she has a service dog, Molly, who can sense her episodes coming on and warn her early. Chelsea and David had a relationship in high school and David messed up big time. Back then, he cheated on her and he has regretted that ever since. Now he has a second shot with her and he’s doing his best to prove his sincerity. However, Chelsea is afraid of putting her heart out there again and being hurt. It’s a touch/don’t touch relationship between the two throughout the book. For me, it didn’t have nearly as much appeal as Randi from Book 4. Poor David, I’m not sure he will ever meet the right woman.

Anyway, David and Mac pull strings and dig in the past, calling in Cameron (who we know from the Lovers in Crime series) with her case files that relate to this one. She brought her cat Irving who is a big coon cat that resembles a skunk in coloring. Irving makes me laugh. No one likes being screamed at all the time. Meanwhile, Gnarly dog and Molly make a very cute couple.

All told, it was good. I enjoyed the central mystery around Khloe the most. It was good to have the pets around for comedic relief.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Mike Algers did a very good job with this book. His female voices were believable and his characters were all distinct. He was great at sounding like a real jerk when giving voice to the foul-mouthed bad guys.

What I Liked: Khloe burned bridges with her first publicity stunt; a grisly murder kicks off the investigation; big secrets indeed!; Gnarly and Molly; Irving the skunk cat; Cameron getting called in to help out.

What I Disliked: All the gay or cross dressing folks are on the bad guy list.

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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The Devil’s Due by CM Raymond & LE Barbant

Narrator: Ben Smith

Publisher: Smoke & Steel Press (2017)

Length: 2 hours 53 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Jack Carson Story

Raymond’s Page ~ Barbant’s Page

Set in a small town in Iowa, the story opens with the mysterious Jack Carson, who goes by Jack York. He’s obviously on the run from something and the local bartender, Maizey, is the first to call him on it. There’s something very odd about Jack. The Feds are very interested in finding him, believing he has the answers concerning an exploded building. Jack is also searching for something, a girl in a photo he carries with him. However, his quest is waylaid as he becomes entangled in the local illegal going-ons.

This was a fun story that reminded me of The Jack Reacher series but it has a touch of the fantastical since our Jack has some special, otherworldly abilities. The opening of the story requires some focus since the authors drop us directly into the middle of Jack’s life. We have to figure out that he’s on the run, what he’s on the run from, and what abilities he’s hiding. I was intrigued from the start and the tale held my attention all the way through.

Jack’s got quite a bit on his plate already, but he entangles himself with the local small town criminals when he defends the bartender Maizey in a little bar brawl. While this is a little cliched, it’s a useful plot device to suck our beleaguered hero into the local bad guy antics.

Mr. Hill runs most, if not all, of the town’s illegal activities and his two main henchmen take a decided interest in Jack. When they turn up rather injured, Mr. Hill makes it clear that Jack can either work for him or Mr. Hill will turn him into the Feds. So our Jack is hired on as muscle for Hill’s crew. That doesn’t go as expected, as you might imagine and Jack finds himself in an even tighter position. Now he has to decide whether to stand with the town against Mr. Hill and his crew, or flee from Iowa continuing to hide from the Feds.

There’s really only 3 female characters in this tale. There’s Maizey, who has a little mystery to her and is an interesting character. Then there’s a female Federal Agent hunting Jack who is continuously underestimated by her coworkers. She has potential but has very little time in this story. Then there’s the girl in the picture. She’s basically a place holder now. We don’t know if she’s a grown woman or an actual girl, we don’t have her name, and we don’t really know why Jack is searching for her (though I have this impression he wants to protect her). So I would have liked a better gender balance with the characters since there are plenty of male characters in this story.

The action and the twists and turns of the story were well done. They are well interspersed among quieter moments in Jack’s life, many of which were his various chats with Maizey. By the end, some things are resolved but other things are left hanging. It’s not until near the end that we learn it was a science lab that was destroyed but since that’s in the book’s description, I don’t mind mentioning it in this review. This mysterious girl in the photo is still a big question mark. The source of Jack’s special abilities and his limitations are also big question marks. While there’s plenty to build upon here in future books, I would have liked a bit more info on Jack’s personal quest to find this mystery girl.

All in all, it’s an entertaining listen and a solid start to a new action-packed series. I really like this little twist of Jack’s special powers. I look forward to learning more about his past.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Ben Smith was pretty good for this book. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. He did speak a bit fast but with the Audible app, I could slow it down and it sounded normal. Occasionally, there were a few mouth noises and at least once, he repeated a short sentence. He did a really good job with the various emotions the characters had.

What I Liked: The lovely cover art; Jack’s troubles – all of them piling on him; Maizey isn’t your typical bar tender; Mr. Hill makes a great villain to hate on; the various mysteries surrounding Jack; the Feds hunting Jack; how Jack leaves the town.

What I Disliked: Could have used more female characters; could have used a few more loose ends tied up.

Bookish Giveaway & Review: Blast from the Past by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: Dan Lawson

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2014)

Length: 7 hours 13 minutes

Series: Book 4 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 4 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

Set in Spencer, Maryland in the Deep Creek Lake gated community, retired DC cop Mac Faraday is about to be hip deep in organized crime and federal protection agents. Tommy Cruze is out of prison after several years and his search has finally turned up the witness that put him behind bars. He’s come to Spencer to hunt her down.

This was a great addition to the series. We finally have something more to Archie Monday than her efficient nature and love of pink. She witnessed a serious crime many years back and had to testify and then go into federal protective custody. That meant saying goodbye to her entire past and becoming the personal assistant to Robin Spencer, a renowned mystery writer and Mac’s true birth mother (who gave him up for adoption). Now all that has to come out and Mac’s both a little hurt that Archie hadn’t told him before and also feeling very protective of her, as two of Cruze’s men have already made an attempt on her life. Lucky for Archie, she took the time to become a proficient shot.

Things get even more convoluted when a poisoning occurs at a dockside cafe where a woman and her daughter, who also happen to be in federal protective custody, work. Leah and her young daughter Sari move into the big Spencer Manor for protection while all this gets sorted out.

Randi Finnegan was a fun addition to the story. Mac’s half-brother David O’Callaghan has caught the eye of the federal agent but Randi isn’t sure he’s interested at all. She’s prickly and not a beauty and she knows it. So she focuses on the job and she’s good at it. I liked the potential of something blooming between these two.

There’s potentially another murder at a B&B. Initially, it looks like a very sick woman stumbled and fell down the stairs, but Mac and David look deeper. Yet another death occurs outside of a restaurant in town and the police have to consider if this one is linked to Tommy Cruze and his second in command. Indeed, it seems Spencer is full of killers this season!

Mac, Archie, and David have their hands full untangling this one! I really enjoyed watching them dig down to the roots of these cases and figure out which were related and which weren’t. Meanwhile, Gnarly was keeping the little girl Sari company. This was so sweet and so cute that it was almost too much. Like a sweet lemonade, sometimes the sugar can just be too much. Luckily, those scenes were sprinkled throughout the story so it wasn’t a turn off.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Dan Lawson rocked this book. There have been a few narrators for this series and Lawson is my favorite so far. He has a really good range of voices, his female voices are believable, he does the little kid Sari really well, and he even has believable accents (both foreign and regional). I was impressed with his performance on this book.

What I Liked: Archie’s past; Archie’s gun skills; Randi’s dedication to her job; Sari & Gnarly; the tangle of murders; great narration.

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

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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The Whole Art of Detection by Lindsay Faye

Chupa sitting proud.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: HighBridge (2017)

Length: 11 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This collection of Holmes & Watson stories is charming, entertaining, and fulfills my need for stories of this great literary duo. The book is divided into 4 parts. Before Baker Street has stories of the time before the two met each other but they are told in a style that shows the two men know each other now and are sharing these past adventures.

In The Early Years part, Watson and Holmes have their first cases together, still working out their professional relationship and building a friendship.

The Return shows us Watson’s anger and distress at over losing both Holmes to Reichenbach Falls and his beloved wife Mary to illness, yet to find out that Holmes was still alive is well done. I don’t believe I have ever seen Watson so hurt and angry, and rightly so!

Finally in The Later Years, these stories feel like the traditional Doyle stories where Watson and Holmes work well together, have a solid friendship, and can still irritate one another from time to time.

feel like the traditional Doyle stories where our heroes are master sleuths and get along well with each other’s peculiar quirks.

The Case of Colonel Warburton’s MadnessWatson is attempting to entertain Holmes with a tale of his past before he met him. Set in the Wild West, Watson describes some strange goings on with Colonel Warburton and how this upsets his doting daughter. I really enjoyed this tale as I would like to see some alternate history where Watson and Holmes spend years in the desert Southwest solving cases. 5/5

The Adventure of the Magical MenagerieHolmes really does have a heart and it shows in this one. We can also see why he keeps it tucked away most times. Definitely an interesting way to hide your illegally gotten goods! It wasn’t my favorite but it was still good. 4/5

The Adventure of the Vintner’s CodexThis story really felt like a match for the original Doyle collection. Holmes can be a complete irritation to Watson and his way of ‘apologizing’ is to tell Watson a tale of stolen music. Parts were charming and heartfelt and a few times I chuckled. 4/5

The Adventure of the Honest WifeI really enjoyed this one! Sure, Holmes sometimes goes on about the ‘weaker sex’ and yet he often tries to set aside his harsher self to help a lady out.. unless he thinks her faithless. Watson notes how Holmes has an aversion for the female gender entirely. There were some great twists in this one. 5/5

The Adventure of the Beggar’s FeastThis was also a favorite story of the batch. I have often wondered what it would be like if Holmes was a father figure for someone and this story helps to answer that. I love that he was a bit flustered when Watson figures out what he was doing. I can even picture Holmes blushing. 5/5

Memoranda Upon the Gaskell Blackmailing DilemmaThis is one of the tales told from Holmes’s point of view and I get such a chuckle out of his straight forward, honest, and yet often acerbic observations of people and their activities. While Watson is off dealing with the hounds on the moors of Baskerville, Holmes has to sort out a blackmailer. There were some surprises to this one. 5/5

The Lowther Park MysteryOK, this one was just cute. It was fun but went by really fast. He’s been maneuvered into attending a social dinner party that’s brimming with important people. Watson gently teases him over his distaste of socializing. Engineering a charade, he uses that distraction to foil the plans of some nefarious people. This story also introduces Holmes’s brother Mycroft. The plot was a bit light on details. 4/5

An Empty HouseLestrade makes an appearance in this sad tale. It’s from Watson’s journal during the time shortly after his wife passed away. It’s a weighty piece, probably being the saddest story in the bunch. 4/5

The Adventure of the Memento MoriThis story showed the depths of the friendship between Watson and Holmes and also how hurt Watson was over Holmes’s presumed death. There’s acknowledgement, regret, and acceptance. Of course, there’s this deliciously creepy mystery going on as well. 5/5

Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James PhillimoreThis was a quick and fun tale. I guessed early on what was going on but it was interesting to see Watson put it all together. I do believe that Holmes had guessed the truth of the matter early on but was letting Watson gather up evidence to support his supposition. 4/5

The Adventure of the Willow BasketIt’s interesting to see Holmes’s rationale for handing off credit for solving various mysteries to Lestrade. Not that Lestrade is stupid but sometimes he portrayed as heavy-handed or a bit bumbling. I liked Faye’s take on his character in this story. Leeches. Gotta watch out for those leeches! 4/5

The Adventure of the Lightless MaidenThe Victorian age was in love with the supernatural and it’s quite fun to see what Holmes and Watson make out of a case that apparently involves a ghost. I enjoyed the technical aspects to it. Photography was really coming into it’s own at this time as well. 4/5

The Adventure of the Thames TunnelFor some reason, this one didn’t really stand out to me yet I don’t know why. Usually I enjoy tales that feature a shadowy organized criminal element, such as the Iron Hand in this story. There’s a jewel thief dead in the Thames Tunnel and our hero duo has only questions to get them started on the mystery. There’s revenge at the heart of the matter. It was fun but not one that stood out for me.  3/5

The Adventure of the Mad BaritoneThis was an unexpected one. It was a bit twisted and I totally agreed with Holmes’s anger over how the homeless opera singer was treated and a distressed woman was tricked and cheated. Holmes and Watson were very decent in how they revealed the truth to the woman and also assisting the singer. 5/5

Notes Upon the Diadem Club Affair Here we have the second story told from Holmes’s point of view, which I really enjoyed. In fact, I wish we had more stories from his point of view. Watson is always so polite and usually kind, so I enjoy these tales that shine a harsher light on all the participants. The mystery was OK but the story was pure fun. 5/5

This is a pretty good collection of Holmes & Watson stories. While there is no one central female character of note (though Mrs. Hudson puts in a few appearances), the female characters come from a variety of backgrounds and with varying degrees of intelligence. Even when I felt this or that character was rather gullible, they were still very human. The ladies weren’t merely filler or someone to be saved or assisted. Often they added to the mystery.

It was really great to see Watson’s medical expertise come into play more than once. Some authors give this skill set a mere nod or simply pass it on by. Not so here, thankfully! Watson worked hard for his medical knowledge. It should be put to use.

All together, I enjoyed this collection of stories more than I expected. This anthology provides depth to the beloved duo.

I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing.

The Narration: Simon Vance is absolutely lovely to listen to. I loved his clipped voice for Holmes and his warm, caring voice for Watson. He had a variety of accents and his female voices were mostly believable. He kept all the characters distinct and did a great job portraying the emotions of Watson and Holmes.

What I Liked: The stories cover the many years of their friendship and then some; a dabble of the paranormal; Sherlock’s secret heart where it concerns wronged women and homeless kids; Watson’s anger and sadness over losing his wife and Holmes; healing the rift between the two; helping Lestrade build his career; the stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What I Disliked: I would have enjoyed a few more stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What Others Think: 

The John H Watson Society

Reading Reality

Book Page

Criminal Element

The Baker Street Babes

Rhapsody in Books

Historical Novel Society

Booker Worm

20 Something Reads

It’s Murder, My Son by Lauren Carr

Narrator: Janean Jorgensen

Publisher: Books in Motion (2010)

Length: 11 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 1 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Mac Faraday receives the best news of his life on the toughest day he’s had yet. Just finalizing his messy divorce, he learns that his deceased birth mother who put him up for adoption has left him a fortune. Now Faraday has moved to Spencer Manor in an effort to connect with the mother he never knew. But murder lurks just around the corner and Mac puts his DC detective skills to use.

I’ve been listening to several of the Mac Faraday books recently and I love that they can be explored as stand alones. It was great to go back to Book 1 and see how things got started for Mac, how he met Archie, learned about his mom, and adopted Gnarly dog. While this isn’t my favorite book of the series, it’s a solid start to an entertaining murder mystery series.

Set in Spencer, Maryland, the Spencer Manor sits next to the lake in a gated community that harbors many secrets. Mac is new to wealth and he finds it takes some skills to navigate this new economic reality he’s landed in. It’s good that Archie is there to help him fit in. She was Robin Spencer’s assistant and lives in the guest cottage.

A few months before Mac moved in, a neighbor in the area was strangled to death. Katrina was a very charming woman who had a stalker. Of course, the husband Chad has to be cleared first but after 3 months, there are few clues to David (the local police officer) to continue on with the investigation.

I really enjoyed learning about David in this book. He’s the legitimate child of Robin Spencer and Mac’s younger half-brother. The two have never met and it’s a bit awkward. Toss in David’s current problems with his boss, Chief of Police Roy Phillips, and David’s got a few reasons to be angry. Things get even more aggravating for the two experienced investigators when Phillips brings in his ‘expert’, a crime fiction author. Awkward, indeed!

Gnarly was the star of the show once again. He has his own insecurities and is something of a klepto. Mac has to learn about this the hard way and Archie does her best to keep Gnarly out of trouble. Of course, that all goes out the window when Gnarly turns up with a human skull. Good boy! Er… maybe not. Where did you get that? No! You can’t eat it! Here! Have my breakfast instead.

There are lots of characters in this novel and I sometimes had trouble keeping up with all of them. I think it could have been slimmed down a bit and the plot would have been less tangled. I also would have liked a bit more Archie. I feel she’s underutilized even though I know she comes into her own later in the series. Still, it’s an entertaining read and I’m glad I skipped back to this book to see how things got started for Mac.

I listened to this book for free with Kindle Unlimited. However, as of this posting, it no longer seems to be available.

The Narration: Janean Jorgensen was OK for this book. She does a decent Archie and she was really good at the jerk Chief of Police. However, most of the characters are men and she only had so many male voices that at times I had to pay attention closely to follow who said what.

What I Liked: Mac’s beginning at Spencer Manor; meeting David, Archie, and Gnarly with fresh eyes; Gnarly stole the show with his thieving ways; David dealing with his jerk boss.

What I Disliked: The plot was a bit tangled; lots and lots of characters; Archie is underutilized.

What Others Think:

Kelly’s Lucky You

Mystery Suspense Reviews

JAQUO

Book’d Out

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.

Bookish Giveaway & Review: Deadly Shore by Andrew Cunningham

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Greg Hernandez

Publisher: Andrew Cunningham (2017)

Length: 6 hours 46 minutes

Author’s Page

Set on Cape Cod island just after July 4th, plenty of folks are heading home after the holiday weekend. Terrorists put an end to their fun by cutting the island off from the mainland killing several and threatening more damage. On top of this, Hurricane Chad is about to hit land and hit it hard.

This was a fast-paced fun action read. There’s Marcus, a CIA operative, who’s been following a suspicious crew and ended up saving Seth’s life. Seth has a key to the terrorists’s plans. Meanwhile, disgraced ex-police detective Sara has noticed Marcus skulking around and the two have to decide whether to work together on this major threat or work independently. Then there’s Joe Doyle who made a very questionable decision to steal from his boss, but he got more than he bargained for and now he’s on the run for his life. With the island cut off, he decides to hide in a little tucked away place, taking the elderly Anne hostage.

I love big weather events and how they impact humans, so the hurricane element of this story was a lot of fun for me. People have to prepare for it. Well, the smart people prepare for it. Hopefully the authorities prepare for it. It was interesting to see how having the island completely cut off affected this aspect of the story. Now the folks on the island can’t expect supplies and recovery crews to come in right after the storm. So they have to adjust, stretching out the supplies they do have to last longer.

My favorite character in this tale was Anne. She’s in her 80s and has weathered many a storm on the island. She’s gone the shelters before and found them wanting so some years ago she made the decision to wait out any storm at home. She’s smart enough to prepare her home for the fury of Mother Nature and has laid in supplies and boarded up windows. But she wasn’t expecting a desperate Joe to show up at her door. I like her response to this situation though I felt that Joe’s ineptness was a bit overplayed. He’s in his mid 30s and yet he acts like he’s in his 20s. Anne treated him like a wayward kid that just needed some guidance, but I think there comes an age where very few of us can pull off being simply a wayward kid who just needs a little push in the right direction.

The back and forth between Sara and Marcus was OK. I liked Sara’s backstory but I found her acceptance of Marcus (who she just witness kill someone with a silencer) to be a little too quick. I don’t recall anyone at any time during the story independently verifying Marcus’s credentials. Seth was a bumbling idiot who was used by the terrorists but he helped move the plot forward.

The plot pulls in many threads. The US President made a promise 3 years ago to spend the weekend at a certain key supporter’s house on the very weekend of the attack. Then there’s anthrax, which may or may not be more of problem with the hurricane coming in. Then a lost valuable that belonged to a murdered priest turns up. The mastermind behind it all has a personal vendetta with a Cape Cod family. All these little strings got pulled into the overall plot and some of them mattered and some of them didn’t go anywhere at all. for instance, I would have liked a line or two to wrap up the ending for the murdered priest.

All together, it was a fun action flick with some interesting characters. I would like to see Sara and Marcus team up again. I hope Anne gets a chance to have a little vacation in Bermuda.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Greg Hernandez was OK. While he was good with some emotions (excitement, surprise, anger), he didn’t really have distinct character voices. I had to pay close attention during dialogue sections to keep track of who said what. His female voices weren’t particularly feminine. His pacing was good and the volume level was steady all the way through.

What I Liked: Hurricane Chad; Anne was my favorite character; how the island was cut off; Sara and Marcus working together.

What I Disliked: It was hard to think of Joe as some wayward kid that just got in over his head; anthrax seems dated; some threads weren’t neatly tied off.

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Andrew Cunningham:

I was born in England, but have spent most of my life living in the U.S.—including  25 years on Cape Cod before moving to Florida. A former interpreter for the deaf and long-time independent bookseller, I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and copy editor for many years. A 4th-degree Master Blackbelt in Tang Soo Do, I finally retired from active training when my body said, “Enough already! Why are you doing this to yourself?” I’m married, with two grown children and two awesome grandsons. My wife and I spend as much time traveling as we can, and are especially fond of cruising the Caribbean.

​I have been gratified by the response to my books. When I published Eden Rising back in the spring of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. When I sold my first few copies, I was excited beyond belief that someone was willing to take a chance on it. Numerous books and thousands of copies later, I am still humbled by the emails I get from readers telling me that my books kept them up late into the night.

In October of 2014, Wisdom Spring made me an official Amazon Bestselling author, a thrill I never thought would happen. But it still comes down to being able to bring a few hours of escape to a reader. That’s what it’s all about for me.

Website ~ GoodReads ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Amazon

Synopsis of Deadly Shore:

It’s July 5th, and the Cape Cod roadways are clogged with tourists heading home from the holiday weekend and trying to outrun an approaching potentially catastrophic hurricane. But in the blink of an eye, their lives are thrown into chaos when terrorists bring down the bridges to the Cape. Instantly, a half million terrified people have no way to escape. And when the terrorists threaten to release anthrax on the captive population if their demands aren’t met, fear turns to all-out panic.

With time running out, Marcus Baldwin, a private investigator and former CIA operative, and Sara Cross, a disgraced ex-homicide detective, are brought together by a sole clue to the identity of the terrorists. They quickly realize that they may be the only ones with even a chance at stopping the plot before it’s too late.

With Hurricane Chad barreling up the coast on a path for a direct hit on Cape Cod, it becomes frighteningly clear to everyone trapped on what has now become an island – one way or another they are probably all going to die.

Audible ~ Amazon

About Narrator Greg Hernandez:

For more than 20 years I worked as a radio news reporter and news writer.  I spent half of my broadcasting career at ABC News Radio in the Washington, D.C., bureau.  I covered all the federal agencies as well as Congress and the White House.  I reported on a wide range of stories during my career, including financial and entertainment industry news.

I have worked as a federal government spokesman at three separate agencies for more than 20 years.  At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, U.S. Commerce Department), I introduced podcasting in 2005 just a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States.  The 19 podcasts I narrated and produced from August 2005 to June 2007 were downloaded more than 600,000 times during that period.  They’re still online at the following link.

http://www.noaa.gov/podcasts/podcast-archive.html

I enjoy narrating audio books because it gives me great satisfaction bringing to life books of all genres, especially mysteries and thrillers.

Twitter ~ ACX

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a $50 Amazon gift card. Open internationally! Ends June 28th, 2017.
Deadly Shore Giveaway