The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe

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Narrator: Moira Quirk

Publisher: Jennifer R Kincheloe LTD (2016)

Length: 12 hours 44 minutes

Series: Book 1 Anna Blanc

Author’s Page

Set in 1907 Los Angeles, Anna Blanc is at the top of the social ladder. She has pretty French clothes, a handsome fiance, in vogue friends, and fancy makeup. Yet she longs for more. She secretly reads detective novels and desperately wants to have at least one murder mystery adventure before her life is sealed with a wedding. She comes up with a scheme to become an assistant police matron at the Los Angeles police department, assuming an alias (Anna Holmes) and a rough spun ugly uniform that doesn’t quite hide her lovely form. Pretty soon, Anna learns that this is more than just a fancy whim of hers; real people need her help and are affected by what she does or doesn’t do. However, if she’s discovered by either her father or her fiance, she stands to lose quite a bit. She has to choose between being an obedient daughter and fiance or catching a killer who is murdering prostitutes.

This was such a delightful book! I really enjoyed it. I thought it would be a bit intense, it being a murder mystery and historical fiction. The book does have those qualities, but the author took things a step further and threw in plenty of well-timed humor. First, Anna’s character is a strange yet compelling mix of innocence, curiosity, determination, and sleuthing ability. She’s had a mostly sheltered life so the salty atmosphere of the mostly male police force and the even saltier streets continuously fascinate her. She’s quick to learn, except when it comes to deciphering the reasons for the scowls she gets from certain coworkers.

There’s plenty of sexual innuendos throughout the story. Anna, being nearly completely innocent, misses the full meaning of most of them. Occasionally, another character will take a bit of pity on her and explain things. I also loved the hit and miss budding romance between her and fellow police officer Joe Singer. She first meets him when he’s dressed as a woman and very obviously drunk. Meanwhile, she has to be all proper when passing time with her fiance, Edgar. She wants him to be a little naughty and steal a kiss or two, but he’s all about being proper even when no one’s looking. I especially loved the arrow collar man advertisements and the interesting bit about how hysterical women are clinically treated. Funny and also a little window into the past.

As for the murder mystery, that had me guessing right up to the end. I felt like I had good company though as Anna was guessing up to the end as well. There was also a side mystery concerning a serial rapist that Anna helps close. These mysteries provide a backdrop to show how men and women were treated quite differently in the early 1900s, no matter their social status or skills. For instance, I didn’t realize that women could be arrested for smoking in public at that time. The humor keeps this from being a brow beating on social justice for women.

I’m definitely looking forward to Book 2. By the end of this book, Anna’s life has quite changed from where she started out. She’s a determined young lady but also still a bit prim, a bit focused on expensive girly things, and a bit innocent on how the majority of people live. I’m sure finding out how she handles a bit more first-hand knowledge will make a good story.

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

The Narration: Moira Quirk did an excellent job with this book. She was perfect for Anna. I loved how she handled the humor and the innuendos. I would love to hear her blooper reel on this one! I also thought she did a great job with the regional accents, giving a stiff upper lip to the socialites and a more salty accent to masses.

What I Liked: The setting; educational and funny!; great narration; Anna is such a fun character; the budding romance; I didn’t guess the killer until Anna did; great ending setting Anna up for some interesting life lessons in Book 2.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!

About the Author Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer has been a block layer, a nurse’s aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. A native of Southern California, she now lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers. She’s currently writing book three in the Anna Blanc Mystery series. Book two, THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK, is coming out in Fall of 2017 from Seventh Street Books.

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About the Narrator Moira Quirk

Moira grew up in teeny-tiny Rutland, England’s smallest county, which is fitting as she never managed to make it past five feet herself.  Moira’s work spans the pantheon of the voiceover world: plays for BBC radio, plays for NPR, video games, commercials, television promos, podcasts, cartoons, movies and award winning audiobooks. She’s won Multiple Audie Awards, Earphone Awards, as well as Audible’s prestigious Book-of-the-Year Award. She has lately set foot in front of the camera again, appearing in “Pretty: the Series” and the Emmy-winning “Dirty Work.”

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Book Blurb for The Secret Life of Anna Blanc

It’s 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels, but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. Determined to break free of the era’s rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. If the police find out, she’ll get fired; if her father finds out, he’ll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he’ll cancel the wedding. Midway into her investigation, the police chief’s son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity, and shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail. Anna must choose – either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

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Prudence by Gail Carriger

Clementine could use a few manners.
Clementine could use a few manners.

Narrator: Moira Quirk

Publisher: Hachette Audio (2015)

Length: 12 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 1 Custard Protocol

Author’s Page

The metanatural Rue and her friends are on a mission for Queen and Country! And tea, of course. Prudence Alessandra Macon Akeldama (Rue) has been gifted an airship, which she charmingly names the Spotted Custard. She’s also been given a charge, and that is to fly off to India on a mission of secrecy – it involves tea. There’s proper manners and attire, werewolves, tea-time, weremonkeys, and plenty of proper British manners.

Rue and her best friend Primrose (Prim) Tunstall make a great team for mayhem. In fact the opening scene is one where Prim and Rue work together to turn a stuffy British cocktail party into a race through the Victorian London streets. Rue’s metanatural abilities allow her to temporarily ‘borrow’ the powers of a paranormal. For instance, she can become a werewolf (which tears her lovely gown and underthings all to hell) and then Prim can catch a ride on her back as they make a noisy exit from the boring party.

Of course these hijinks are just the latest and Rue’s parents, along with her adoptive vampire father Dama, decide she needs a job. Hence, she’s given a mission that involves tea in India. Rue selects Prim, of course, to accompany her but then also Prim’s bookish brother Percy. Toss in the intense Quesnel Lefoux, who Percy detests, and you have quite the madcap company for the trip. The crew who actually do all the work are quite fun as well, not giving a fig if the passengers are practically nobility or not.

This was a my first Gail Carriger book and it was so much fun! It was light and silly and full of adventure and flowery phrases that just had me giggling. Maybe I was just in the right mood for this book, but I really did get a kick out of it. There’s some light flirting between Rue and Quesnel but there’s also some pond tossing that comes up as well. It’s a love/hate thing and very amusing.

There’s a bit of a steampunk flavor to this story but it’s not a heavy element of the tale. Of course the dirigible is fun. I enjoyed all the action scenes because they were often had some bits of comedy involved. I especially enjoyed Percy and his hunt for mushrooms. He was delightfully bookish.

Once the Spotted Custard gets to India, things change as the local paranormal citizens checkout the Londoners. There’s plenty here that surprised me! It’s a whole different rule book and Rue and Prim have to do some improvising, even if it means ticking off the local English gentry. I was entertained throughout the entire book and I look forward to reading more Carriger novels in the future.

The Narration: Moira Quirk was so good in this book! She’s the perfect Rue but she’s also the perfect Prim and the perfect Dama and the perfect Percy! She’s got these English characters down to a T. I loved her light lisp for Dama as I could totally picture him talking and every so often on certain syllables, a touch of a lisp due to this teeth. I loved her distracted Percy, his head always in a book. She really did a most excellent job with this narration. 

What I Liked: The dirigible; proper English manners tossed out the window again and again; all the humor; plenty of action; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing! This was such a fun book!

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