Exodus by Kimberly A. Bettes

Narrator: Rick Gregory

Publisher: Clifford Bettes (2017)

Length: 7 hours 29 minutes

Author’s Page

Set during the Great Depression, this horror historical fiction follows the Carlson family as they try to survive the biggest mistake of their lives. They stopped at a small mining town in Arizona (Exodus) on their way to California where they hoped to be hired on as fruit pickers. Now they have to do their best to survive Frank and his murdering cannibalistic family.

This is a horror fest. It’s not for the squeamish. If you can’t handle the first chapter, then this is not the book for you. Such was not the case for me. I listened to the whole thing and was entertained, grossed out, hopeful for the main character, and wanted the despicable family that perpetrated these acts dead.

Cannibalism, murder, rape, human lactation fascination, and incest make up this story. Frank’s family owns and runs the little diner in Exodus as well as the thrift store where they sell those items they take off of their victims. Frank’s mom is a loud, heavy handed matriarch that rules over her kids. Frank’s brother and his sister carry of an affair that they have to hide from Frank, since he gets rather jealous if his sister/lover even looks at another man. Yep, it’s one severely messed up family.

Sometimes the creepiness was a bit excessive like it was pushed to such a height simply to get a reaction out of the reader instead of moving the story forward. Occasionally it was gratuitous horror but over all I enjoyed the tale. I was really rooting for Anne, hoping she would get out of this hell hole with her baby James.

Speaking of them, this story was extra creepy for me because so many of the names match names of my family members. My paternal grandparents (also named John and Anne) were migrant farmers from Tennessee that went out to California to work in the fruit orchards. I have lots of cousins in small mining towns in Arizona because of this migration. My dad is also named James, though he was born in the 1940s instead of the 1930s. The characters John and Anne lost their first born daughter Sarah due to illness. My sister is named Sarah. So, yeah, talk about creepy! Now I want to ask my dad if there are any stories from that migration that the family doesn’t like to talk about.

Initially, I hoped that one of the Exodus siblings might turn good and help Anne, John, and James escape. Frank’s sister was the most likely candidate however she has a lot of serious character flaws to overcome. I did find that I was a bit squeamish about people suckling on Anne (she’s lactating for baby James). It didn’t bother me when it happened in Grapes of Wrath but here it feels like a violation instead of sharing nutrition.

Perhaps 2/3 of the way through, we get an info dump on Frank and his motivations. He’s this big monstrous object doing horrible things for most of the book and then we get a peak inside his head. I would have liked a bit more of that behind-the-scenes stuff in the first 2/3 of the book instead of one big info dump. Still, we got to know Frank a bit more before the big, messy finale. The ending was a good solid one that wraps up any questions. If you’re in the mood for a good jolt of horror to the system, then this in your book. I will be avoiding meat at small diners for a while.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a great job with this book. His female voices are feminine and distinct. He has individual voices for each of the characters and he’s so good at being scared and determined, or disgusting and sly, or angry and violent with his voice. He also went the extra mile and did a little special affect that included Frank’s favorite song that he likes to work to – ‘Ain’t We Got Fun’. He plays it in just the right moments and in little snippets so it doesn’t eclipse the narration.

What I Liked: Small Arizona mining town; Depression Era; John & Anne & baby James; Frank and his family are so easy to hate; initially, there might be hope for one of Frank’s siblings; the ending was solid; great narration.

What I Disliked: Some of the horror was for shock factor only; big info dump on Frank late in the book.

What Others Think:

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Anybody Can Do Anything by Betty MacDonald

MacDonaldAnybodyCanDoAnythingNarrator: Heather Henderson

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)

Length: 8 hours 30 minutes

Author’s Page

Betty MacDonald returns us to her humorous world, this time during the Great Depression in Seattle. This book is set after her tales of the chicken farm (captured in The Egg and I) and covers her various job fiascoes before and after her stint in a tuberculosis sanatorium (as told in The Plague and I).

Betty is the second oldest child in a family of 4 daughters and 1 son. Her older sister Mary was always getting the younger kids to do what she wanted, either by trickery or by simply assuming they would do so and telling them all the reasons it’s in their best interest as well. This book starts off with Betty’s earliest years and all those school-year pranks and hi-jinks her sister Mary organized. For me, these were cute, quaint stories but didn’t interest me nearly as much as her other two books.

The book then skips ahead several years to directly after Betty’s failed marriage and her coming home from the chicken farm to live with her mom and siblings, bringing her two toddling daughters. I found these little stories more to my liking. Basically, it’s all about Betty and Mary, and occasionally one of the other siblings, finding and keeping work during the Depression int eh 1930s in Seattle. Mary was somewhat of a genius at getting her siblings jobs. Basically, she would claim that she or one of her siblings had the skills that whatever employer was looking for. She often stretched the truth and in those cases where she lied, she did make an effort to get either herself or her sibling acquainted with the skill before reporting to work.

Betty rarely had steady work; either the position was temporary from the beginning or the business closed. Her bosses could be a terror as well, acting like temperamental children with the power to fire people. Sometimes the men hiring secretaries were looking for ladies with special skills, skills that Mary and Betty weren’t willing to take on in a hired position. The there are her funny stories of going into debt and how she managed to get out of it. Yet through it all, Betty tells these tales with such humor. I’ve really enjoyed that about these books. She doesn’t paint a rosy picture, instead telling it how it is yet she maintains the ability to laugh at the situation (and sometimes herself).

My favorite story in this one is about a mysterious young lady that joined Betty in the task of folding flyers and sealing them in envelopes for mailing out later. This young lady seemed lonely but was almost assuredly disturbed. She stalked Betty and made both friendly little gestures and mean, even threatening, gestures and comments. It was a very strange encounter that went on for a few weeks. It became one of those unsolved mysteries turned family joke that her family like to pick over on boring evening.

This was a fun book but I prefer both The Egg and I and The Plague and I. With both of those books, there was a clear story arc. This book was a series of anecdotal tales tied together by Betty’s or Mary’s presence. While an enjoyable book, it didn’t carry the weight of the other two.

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

The Narration: Heather Henderson seemed to have some fun with this book. She’s still a great Betty MacDonald, but she’s also a great Mary Bard. I loved the play between these two sisters and Hendersen does a great job of bringing that to life in the narration.

What I Liked: Amusing; 1930s Depression; the variety of jobs; the bosses; the mystery envelope stuffing lady; Betty’s family.

What I Disliked: Not really a dislike, but this book didn’t carry the same punch for me as her other two books.

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

About Heather Henderson:

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

Connect with the narrator: Website ~ YouTube ~LinkedIn

MacDonaldAnybodyCanDoAnythingSynopsis of Anybody Can Do Anything:

“The best thing about the Depression was the way it reunited our family and gave my sister Mary a real opportunity to prove that anybody can do anything, especially Betty.”

After surviving both the failed chicken farm – and marriage – immortalized in The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald returns to live with her mother and desperately searches to find a job to support her two young daughters. With the help of her older sister Mary, Anybody Can Do Anything recounts her failed, and often hilarious, attempts to find work during the Great Depression.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Betty MacDonald:

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

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

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

Find out more on Wikipedia

Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press

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Dust by Arthur Slade

SladeDustWhere I Got It: Gifted a copy

Narrator: Arthur Slade

Publisher: Arthur Slade (2016)

Length: 4 hours 13 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a dry, dusty  Canadian town during the Depression Era, young Robert Steelgate is missing his young brother Matthew. Yet the disturbing thing is that he seems to be the only person missing him. A stranger comes to town promising rain and that is the same time kids start disappearing. Coincidence, or not?

This book was like a really good episode of The Twilight Zone. Things start off so plain, so dried out, so matter-of-fact. Then young Matthew, who insisted he be allowed to walk to town that day (instead of riding in the cart with his mom), meets a pale stranger (Abram Harisch) on the road. Meanwhile, Robert is left at home to read his science fiction story (The Warlock of Mars) that his uncle lent him. Reluctantly, Robert sets his book aside to see to the chickens like he promised only to find some scared chickens and some nasty blood eggs. Yuck! That’s when Sargent Ramson and Officer Davies show up to take Robert to town to be with his family as they begin the search for Matthew.

With a blend of historical fiction, mystery, and science fiction, the author spins a tale of a town hoping too hard for good rains, of good people willing to let their memories of lost children slip from them, and of how one boy with a strong, questioning imagination may be the only one to save them. Quite frankly, it was those scared chickens and their blood eggs that sucked me into the story. It was spooky and yet the biologist in me wanted an egg to examine. But I couldn’t have one of those eggs, but I could examine this story. From there, I wasn’t disappointed.

Abram with the odd eyes (I think he’s an albino) sets up a movie screen and the town gathers to see the attraction. Once the stranger has gained some small amount of trust with the town, he starts setting in his motion his bigger plan: promise the rains & happiness, take their wealth & memories, keep his end of the bargain with an unknown entity (which means more children disappear). At one point, Abram confides a bit in Robert because Robert has this innate ability to see through Abram’s charms. That was an eerie scene!

The ending reveals the master plan of Abram while also keeping some things up to the reader to decide. I liked that there was a little mystery left over at the end. We have everything resolved that counts, but the exact how and why of it may never be fully understood. Also, there is some wonderful imagery involving butterflies and moths. It’s a recurring small touch that kept me hooked. I was quite pleased with the ending. Not everything ended in rainbows but enough did for me to say it was a happy ending for our main character, Robert.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author with no strings attached.

Narration: Arthur Slade was pretty good as a narrator for this story. He had distinct voices for each person and decent female voices. I especially liked his voice for Robert’s uncle who was always giving him SFF books that his mom might not approve of.

What I Liked: Depression-Era small town Canada; the promise of rain; the mystery of the stranger;  the imagery of the butterflies and moths;  SFF keeps your mind on alert to trickery – that’s the moral of the story; good solid ending that left me feeling good – evil  was thwarted once again!; great cover!

What I Disliked: Nothing – an interesting story.

What Others Think:

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