The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes – An #Audiobook Review – #historicalfiction

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Book Blurb:

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So, when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically. 

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them – and to the men they love – becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity, and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: Bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic – a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

My Review:

Well, add me to the list of those who read The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek (by Kim Michele Richardson) prior to The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. Richardson’s book was first. Jojo Moyes is a NY Times bestselling author and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club (of the month) pick. It was also chosen to be one of “USA Today’s top 100 books to read while stuck at home social distancing.” A London author of this magnitude would not have to plagiarize anything, but that’s been the controversy since the Moyes book was published…and now set to be a major motion picture. ?!

I wrote my review of The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek after I tried to join a local library book club in February, 2020. They discussed many of the similarities during the meeting. When I saw this audiobook become available, I had to check it out.

I loved that first book for several reasons:

  1. It was my introduction to the 1930’s Pack Horse Library Project in Kentucky and as such a historical fiction—you know I have an affinity for those.
  2. It introduced me to the “Blue-skinned people” of Kentucky and that was quite the revelation.
  3. Intensely immersive into the times, the people, and the mountains of Kentucky.
  4. The hopeless stories of the desperately poverty-stricken (Depression era) people, living so isolated the only people they might see was the pack horse librarian.
  5. They received old newspapers, magazines, outdated books from other libraries, and homemade journals gleaned from other mountain folk of recipes, patterns, hints, and wise sayings or poems.
  6. A coal mining state, many miners died of black lung disease and the despairing living conditions of their families, lack of sanitary conditions, health care, and food.
  7. Heavily character-driven storyline.
  8. Many issues including political, societal, religious, domestic abuse, women working (gasp!) outside of the home (which really doesn’t widely occur in this country until WWII), and racism.

The main character of Troublesome Creek is Cussy (a blue-skinned woman). One of the two main characters of The Giver of Stars is an English woman, Alice Wright, crazy to leave her London home and stifling parents for an exciting new life. But the new life in the backwoods of Kentucky is not the life she imagined, and her groom, not the man. In fact, it is her father-in-law who is head-of-household and he’s old school in a staunchly patriarchal society. In an effort to make contact with the other women of the area, she jumps at the chance to become a part of the pack horse program. There, she meets the co-protagonist, independent minded and outspoken Margery O’Hare.

The men (and many of the women) are against the program, thinking it’ll put thoughts in the heads of the women, up until now kept “barefoot and pregnant” as they used to say. Also being in the Bible Belt of America, strict religious tenets played a strong part in defining a woman’s role and the participants distributing books were thought scandalous.

Am I largely repeating my review of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek? Yes, and it would appear to a large extent the storyline of this book as well. Most of the above are included albeit rewritten to more closely match the author’s writing style. The shunned blue woman now the shunned English woman. But fans and readers of author Jojo Moyes (there must be some romance) will find their expectation granted. This book, however, doesn’t describe the recipients of the program and their circumstances to the extent of the former, which I missed.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo MoyesBefore you start throwing rocks, there were also several things I liked about this book:

  1. A greater explanation of the “company store” and the castigation of the owners.
  2. The unfortunate division of the races, their roles, and living circumstances.
  3. The sisterhood of the widely differing women of the pack horse program.
  4. Descriptions of the mountains and remarkable heroism.
  5. The murder, jail account, and courtroom drama.
  6. Nicely done conclusion pulling not one but two rabbits out of the hat. Loved the first; not crazy about the second although at that point you had to figure it would happen.

Does all the drama over-shadow the story of the pack horse librarians? To a large extent, it does, and many of the support characters remain one-dimensional. Yes, I enjoyed a second take of the story of those courageous women, this one done in a strongly Jojo-esque style of drama and romance. But I still prefer the emotional impact, the prose, and the immediately engaging narrative written by author Kim Michele Richardson.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin Audio
ASIN: B07QQ3J91J
Listening Length: 13 hrs., 52 mins.
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Giver of Stars [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 stars

Jojo Moyes - authorThe Author: Jojo Moyes is a British novelist.

Moyes studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full time novelist.

Moyes’ novel Foreign Fruit won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year in 2004.

She is married to journalist Charles Arthur and has three children.
Bio from Goodreads.

 

Julia Whelan -authorThe Narrator: Julia Whelan is an actor, writer, and narrator of over 400 audiobooks. Recently named one of AudioFile magazine’s Golden Voices, she has won numerous other awards, including the 2019 Best Female Narrator Audie for Tara Westover’s Educated and a SOVAS for the performance of her own novel, My Oxford Year. She is also a Grammy-nominated audiobook director as well as a certified tea sommelier. [Penguin Random House Audiobooks]

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Hunting Season: An Anna Pigeon Novel by Nevada Barr – An #Audiobook Review – #crimethriller – #TBT

“What’s the use of a load of manure if you can’t spread it around.” 

Hunting Season by Nevada Barr

Book Blurb:

When Anna answers a call to historic Mt. Locust, once a producing plantation and inn on Mississippi’s Natchez Trace Parkway and now a tourist spot, the last thing she expects to encounter is murder. But the man Anna finds in the stand’s old bedroom is no tourist in distress. He’s nearly naked, and very dead, his body bearing marks consistent with an S & M ritual gone awry. On a writing table nearby is an open Bible, ominous passages circled in red. It seems the deceased is the brother of Raymond Barnette, local undertaker and a candidate for sheriff, who wants to keep any hint of kinkiness out of the minds of the God-fearing populace. Ray may be hiding a house full of secrets in the old family homestead, but before Anna can start her investigation, she’s waylaid by malevolent poachers, peevish coworkers, and a suddenly turbulent romantic life. And when hidden agendas and old allegiances are revealed, it’s suddenly Anna’s life on the line.

My Review:

My introduction to the Anna Pigeon series, this audiobook also introduced me to the Mississippi Natchez Trace. Yes, of course, most of those in the US have heard of the Trace, the lush landscape of the south as well as the racial history, but like me—really don’t know the exact location, what it is (literally an early Native American trail)—fascinating as it is.

Hunting Season by Nevada BarrThis series started way back in 1993 and ended in 2016 after 19 in the series. Few garnered at least four stars but appear to have remained popular. In Book 10, protagonist Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is called to the circumstances of a deceased, oversized man left in a compromising position but the circumstances don’t make sense with the way he died. And, perhaps separately, or maybe not, poaching has become serious. When she has a deadly encounter on her way home and her vehicle is demolished, she steps up her investigation.

An additional problem is that her management position here was unexpected and the male co-workers are a bit disgruntled. And then there is her involvement with Paul Davidson, separated for some time from his wife who won’t grant a divorce. Perhaps she should take a more jaundiced eye to that situation. (Deep and heavy sigh…life is never simple…)

Okay, first, I must admit that so many times, it’s the narrator who makes or breaks an audiobook for me. And this narrator hooks you in and, I suspect, keeps the listener interested where a reader’s interest might wane a bit through the middle minutia weeding out the details of whose land is whose.

Intense investigation, witticisms, Southern mores, and history mingle to lull you into story listening mode, digesting the further development of Anna and particularly her main support deputy Barth—a character I really found engaging. Of course, Anna is engaging as well, an effective strong female in a male dominated position.

The pieces of the puzzle get scattered until finally drawn together in a heart-pounding conclusion. I have to admit, however, to having correctly guessed the perp, although it made perfect sense unless it was going to be one of those barely mentioned names in an off-hand remark as sometimes happens. Not this one, but the trip up the Trace is worth the time and I was thoroughly entertained and will look for another—probably closer to the end of the series this time. I listened as a standalone and at Book 10 gleaned sufficient information to progress toward Book 19. Recommended. 

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thrillers, Women Sleuths, Suspense
Publisher:  Recorded Books
ASIN: B0002QUWR8
Listening Length: 10 hrs., 57 mins.
Print Length: 348 pages
Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat
Publication Date: July 22, 2004
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Hunting Season [Amazon]

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 Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 stars

Nevada Barr - authorThe Author: Nevada [Barr] was born in the small western town of Yerington, Nevada and raised on a mountain airport in the Sierras. Both her parents were pilots and mechanics and her sister, Molly, continued the tradition by becoming a pilot for USAir.
Pushed out of the nest, Nevada fell into the theatre, receiving her BA in speech and drama and her MFA in Acting before making the pilgrimage to New York City, then Minneapolis, MN. For eighteen years she worked on stage, in commercials, industrial training films and did voice-overs for radio. During this time she became interested in the environmental movement and began working in the National Parks during the summers — Isle Royale in Michigan, Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and then on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.

Woven throughout these seemingly disparate careers was the written word. Nevada wrote and presented campfire stories, taught storytelling and was a travel writer and restaurant critic. Her first novel, Bitterweet was published in 1983. The Anna Pigeon series, featuring a female park ranger as the protagonist, started when she married her love of writing with her love of the wilderness, the summer she worked in west Texas. The first book, Track of the Cat, was brought to light in 1993 and won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best first mystery. The series was well received and A Superior Death, loosely based on Nevada’s experiences as a boat patrol ranger on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, was published in 1994. In 1995 Ill Wind came out. It was set in Mesa Verde, Colorado where Nevada worked as a law enforcement ranger for two seasons.
The rest is, shall we say, HISTORY! Nevada’s books and accomplishments have become numerous and the presses continue to roll, so in the interest of NOT having to update this page, books, awards, status on the New York Times Best Seller List — and more — will be enumerated with the relevant books else where on this website.

Barbara Rosenblat - narratorThe Narrator:

Barbara Rosenblat has been narrating for more than 20 years, and even had the honor of performing the first book ever recorded at Audible in 1999.

She has also appeared on screen such as in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black as Miss Rosa. Rosenblat was born in London, England and raised in New York City. Upon returning to the US, she read books to the blind for four years at the Library of Congress.[2] On Broadway she appeared in The Secret Garden and Talk Radio. Barbara Rosenblat has narrated more than 400 audiobooks including:

– The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

– The Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters

©020 V Williams V Williams

House of Correction by Nicci French – An #Audiobook Review – #crimethrillers

House of Correction by Nicci French

Book Blurb:

In this heart-pounding stand-alone thriller from best-selling author Nicci French, a woman accused of murder attempts to solve her own case from the confines of prison – but as she unravels the truth, everything is called into question, including her own certainty that she is innocent.

Tabitha is not a murderer.

When a body is discovered in Okeham, England, Tabitha is shocked to find herself being placed in handcuffs. It must be a mistake. She’d only recently moved back to her childhood hometown, not even getting a chance to reacquaint herself with the neighbors. How could she possibly be a murder suspect?

She knows she’s not.

As Tabitha is shepherded through the system, her entire life is picked apart and scrutinized – her history of depression and medications, her decision to move back to a town she supposedly hated…and of course, her past relationship with the victim, her former teacher. But most unsettling, Tabitha’s own memories of that day are a complete blur.

She thinks she’s not.

From the isolation of the correctional facility, Tabitha dissects every piece of evidence, every testimony she can get her hands on, matching them against her own recollections. But as dark, long-buried memories from her childhood come to light, Tabatha begins to question if she knows what kind of person she is after all. The world is convinced she’s a killer. Tabatha needs to prove them all wrong.

But what if she’s only lying to herself?   

My Review:

Tabitha Hardy returned to her childhood home in Okeham to renovate a property after she inherited some money and used it to buy a cottage. She has a history of being a loner, of having depression, eccentricities, and rudeness and hasn’t exactly ingratiated herself with the home town people. She wakes one day to send her handyman off as she didn’t wish to deal with repairs or work that day and he discovers a body in her outhouse.

Oops!

House of Correction by Nicci FrenchThis can’t end well. And doesn’t. After she is arrested for the man’s murder, it is discovered he was her math teacher when she was 15 and it is revealed was abused by him. Uh oh, means, motive, and opportunity.

And the problem is that she can’t remember the day—anything about it—but she is pretty sure she couldn’t have murdered him. The attorney assigned to her simply suggests she should plead guilty—too much evidence against her—and hope for a short sentence. Tabitha fires her and now she’s up the creek without a paddle as she knows nothing about the law, about the procedure, or even how to go about defending herself if she can’t remember what happened that day. There are times she doubts herself.

Could she have done it?

Tabitha may have gotten lucky, however, in the initial cellmate she is given, Michaela (released early), ends up supporting Tabitha right into the courtroom. Perhaps the first third to a half of the narrative is Tabitha’s assumption it’s all a mistake and she’ll be found not culpable and sent home. Doesn’t happen. The second half of the book is her courtroom fight. While it quite accurately shows her lack of expertise, ignorance, and egregious mistakes, it also paints the picture of an overly tolerant judge, allowing a large degree of latitude where I doubt would realistically happen.

Tabitha is not a protagonist to love—she is difficult, foul-mouthed, and short tempered. Once she digs in, however, she does appear to be making some headway into her case, challenging witnesses and discrediting her share of them. There are periods where she waxes philosophical and you get a glimpse of the woman she might have become were it not for those crippling teen experiences. I really appreciated the character of Michaela—smart, loyal, empathetic. The authors draw the prosecutorial team as you might expect, overly confident, competent, and theatrical.

My introduction to the husband/wife team that is Nicci French in a narrative that captures attention immediately, draws you in, and keeps a fast-paced, well plotted storyline. Not part of a series and out now, get the audiobook as I did enjoying a particularly fine narrator or the format of your choice. I think you’ll find this thriller worth the read and I’ll be looking for more. Recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher:  Harper Collins Publishers

  • ISBN-10:1471179281

ASIN: B083WPBQ84
Print Length: 487 pages
Listening Length: 11 hrs., 19 mins.
Narrator: Michelle Ford
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: House of Correction (Amazon)

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Nicci FrenchThe Author: Nicci French is the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who write psychological thrillers together.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Apdency (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

(Goodreads—Truncated) Note: (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French also write separately.)
Nicci Gerrard was born in June 1958 in Worcestershire. After graduating with a first class honours degree in English Literature from Oxford University, she began her first job, working with emotionally disturbed children in Sheffield. In that same year she married journalist Colin Hughes.

In the early eighties she taught English Literature in Sheffield, London and Los Angeles, but moved into publishing in 1985 with the launch of Women’s Review, a magazine for women on art, literature and female issues.

In 1987 Nicci had a son, Edgar, followed by a daughter, Anna, in 1988, but a year later her marriage to Colin Hughes broke down.

In 1989 she became acting literary editor at the New Statesman, before moving to the Observer, where she was deputy literary editor for five years, and then a feature writer and executive editor.

It was while she was at the New Statesman that she met Sean French.

Sean French was born in May 1959 in Bristol, to a British father and Swedish mother. He too studied English Literature at Oxford University at the same time as Nicci, also graduating with a first class degree, but their paths didn’t cross until 1990. In 1981 he won Vogue magazine’s Writing Talent Contest, and from 1981 to 1986 he was their theatre critic. During that time he also worked at the Sunday Times as deputy literary editor and television critic, and was the film critic for Marie Claire and deputy editor of New Society.

Sean and Nicci were married in Hackney in October 1990. Their daughters, Hadley and Molly, were born in 1991 and 1993.

By the mid-nineties Sean had had two novels published, The Imaginary Monkey and The Dreamer of Dreams, as well as numerous non-fiction books, including biographies of Jane Fonda and Brigitte Bardot.

In 1995 Nicci and Sean began work on their first joint novel and adopted the pseudonym of Nicci French…Nicci and Sean also continue to write separately. Nicci still works as a journalist for the Observer, covering high-profile trials including those of Fred and Rose West, and Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr…

Michelle FordThe Narrator:  Michelle Ford is a native Brit and professional voice actor. Having moved “across the pond” six years ago, Michelle now lives just outside New York and still gets a buzz when driving into the city and seeing the Manhattan skyline. Michelle has a proven track record in long narration, with over twenty titles in published audiobooks covering contemporary fiction, historical romance, mythical/paranormal fiction, biographies, children’s stories, short stories, science fiction, and business, and she is never happier than when she is in flipflops and behind a mic.

In addition, Michelle is experienced in voicing e-learning (she’s worked with many blue-chip pharmaceutical, medical, and technical clients), animation voice-over, corporate messages, Web sites, characters, children’s stories, film narration, podcasts, industrial projects, on-camera, tv, and radio commercials. She has worked for clients in fourteen countries, from Brazil to South Africa, and the Middle East to Australia. (Courtesy Tantor Media)

©2020 V Williams V Williams

 

 

Hideway by Nora Roberts – An #Audiobook Review – #romanticsuspense

Editors’ Pick for Best Romance 

Book Blurb:

A family ranch in Big Sur country and a legacy of Hollywood royalty set the stage for Nora Roberts’ emotional new suspense novel, Hideaway.

Hideaway by Nora RobertsCaitlyn Sullivan had come from a long line of Hollywood royalty, stretching back to her Irish immigrant great-grandfather. At nine, she was already a star – yet still an innocent child who loved to play hide-and-seek with her cousins at the family home in Big Sur. It was during one of those games that she disappeared.

Some may have considered her a pampered princess, but Cate was in fact a smart, scrappy fighter, and she managed to escape her abductors. Dillon Cooper was shocked to find the bloodied, exhausted girl huddled in his house – but when the teenager and his family heard her story, they provided refuge, reuniting her with her loved ones.

Cate’s ordeal, though, was far from over. First came the discovery of a shocking betrayal that would send someone she’d trusted to prison. Then there were years spent away in Western Ireland, peaceful and protected but with restlessness growing in her soul.

Finally, she would return to Los Angeles, gathering the courage to act again and get past the trauma that had derailed her life. What she didn’t yet know was that two seeds had been planted that long-ago night – one of a great love, and one of a terrible vengeance….

My Review:

Caitlyn Sullivan has a long, strong legacy of Hollywood royalty going way back so I guess it isn’t a surprise that she’d become a star already in her childhood. She’s experiencing one of many large family gatherings at her grandfather’s home in Big Sur at age ten when she is kidnapped.

Hideaway by Nora RobertsShe’s smart, however, level headed and brave and she manages an escape. In the process, she meets a ranching family that includes a young boy. Uh oh. Did I miss that this was going to be a romance? I saw Nora Roberts and thought I’d bite, but what did I get myself into?

This is one of those slow moving, although the first few chapters certainly set the hook quickly enough, romance that takes (predictably) years. Eventually, you just give up and think, “Come all, already. We know where this is going.”

In the meantime, we get all the middle story about her horrible mother, the slimeballs who kidnapped her, her foray into romance with guys from New York, her induction into her life’s work—which I gotta say sounded wonderful. I did get tired of the Sullivan dynasty money, the privileges, the estates, and the showers of love and support, rinse, repeat.

To sprinkle in some suspense—it is after all called a romantic suspense—she gets weird calls, veiled threats over the years. Not difficult to find her after she moves home. Heavily themed with family, love, and connection, there is also those darker issues of betrayal and vengeance. (And talk about patience…sheesh)

Glad I got to listen to it when I gardened, cooked, and cleaned. Not sure I could have stuck through all that middle minutia if I were reading it. My introduction to Nora Roberts and I’m sure her fans will appreciate this one. I enjoyed the multi-lingual narrator, January LaVoy (see her short video below–she’s lovely).

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Thrillers, Romantic Suspense
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B07YBJG9CL
Listening Length: 15 hrs and 45 min
Narrator: January LaVoy
Publication Date: Audible.com release May 26, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook selections)

Title Link: Hideaway [Amazon]

Add to Goodreads Rosepoint Publishing:  Three point Five of Five Stars 3 1/2 stars

Nora Roberts - authorThe Author: Nora Roberts is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 200 novels, including Hideaway, Under Currents, Come Sundown and coming in November 2020 — The Awakening — the first book in The Dragon Heart Legacy. She is also the author of the futuristic suspense In Death series written under the pen name J.D. Robb. There are more than 500 million copies of her books in print.

The Narrator: January LaVoy

©2020 V Williams V Williams

 

The Darkest Evening: A Vera Stanhope Novel: Vera Stanhope Book 9 by Ann Cleeves – An #Audiobook Review – #policeprocedural

“From Ann Cleeves – New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows – comes the stunning new Vera Stanhope novel, The Darkest Evening.” 

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

Book Blurb:

On the first snowy night of winter, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope sets off for her home in the hills. Though the road is familiar, she misses a turning and soon becomes lost and disorientated. A car has skidded off the narrow road in front of her, its door left open, and she stops to help. There is no driver to be seen, so Vera assumes that the owner has gone to find help. But a cry calls her back: a toddler is strapped in the back seat.

Vera takes the child and, driving on, she arrives at a place she knows well. Brockburn is a large, grand house in the wilds of Northumberland, now a little shabby and run down. It’s also where her father, Hector, grew up. Inside, there’s a party in full swing: music, Christmas lights, and laughter. Outside, unbeknownst to the revelers, a woman lies dead in the snow.

As the blizzard traps the group deep in the freezing Northumberland countryside, Brockburn begins to give up its secrets, and as Vera digs deeper into her investigation, she also begins to uncover her family’s complicated past.

My Review:

Ugh! I really hate it when I discover a new author (to me) and then realize I had no clue just how well established or far-reaching the author is—apparently to the rest of the world. Why am I always the last to know?

So, my first experience with the author, much less the character of Vera, a DCI in Northumberland. She is a what? Gasp! Not just a woman—also a “mature” woman.  Well, not so sold or engaged in probably the first quarter of the book—not like there was a lot of backstory going on. After the initial scene—that of Vera discovering a car off the road in a snowstorm…with the doors open…with a baby strapped inside—things tend to bog down just a tad.

The Darkest Evening by Ann CleevesIt’s the estate of distant relatives, aristocrats with which her family was estranged, and they are having a party in the country house. No cell service, she slogs to the house with the toddler to notify her office and get some help finding the person who abandoned the car. Who would seek help but leave a baby with the doors open? They do find the mother’s body, but she didn’t freeze to death. Lorna Falstone had a history of mental health issues, including anorexia, and was a single mother.

It’s a small, tight-knit community with the haves and have-nots and few secrets—except perhaps for the identity of the baby’s father. Character-driven, a study in the dysfunction of the well-to-do as well as those working their land.

I was sympathetically engaged with Vera—she was fighting an uphill battle in her position—but now add her age to that and she sees her share of discrimination. She is supported by a team, that of DS Joe Ashworth (not so supportive) and DC Holly Jackman (guardedly supportive and) smart enough to watch the master at work and learn. Vera is often the target of Joe’s wife who says he works too hard and too many hours. I appreciated the character of Holly—she is content being unconsciously mentored by Vera—and she’s a sponge. There is a grudging and growing respect between both of them. Holly often sees the path Vera is taking—anticipating the path—and providing timely support.

As Vera continues to interview and investigate, gradually gleaning clues and pursuing leads, little secrets and family dynamics are peeled back and exposed. Vera leads with a strong protagonist, no-nonsense, take no prisoners attitude.

The well-plotted storyline leads inexorably to the perpetrator with one further casualty into the investigation and a thrilling heart-stopping conclusion. Janine Birkett does an admirable job as narrator, quietly adding emotion and tension. The atmospheric woodsy setting, dark and cold, hand-warming tea cups and biscuits or brandy paints a quiet, rural, but deadly setting and adds to the creepiness of the scenes bringing to the forefront the poem by Robert Frost:

“…The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

And I didn’t even know I was a (Robert Frost) Ann Cleeves fan. But I do now. And I’ll be looking for more of her books (and probably the TV series as well).

Book Details:

Genre: International Mystery & Crime, Women Sleuth Mysteries, Police Procedural Mysteries
Publisher:  A Macmillan Audio production from Minotaur Books

  • ISBN-10:
  • ISBN-13:

ASIN: B084D6ZP74
 Print Length: 379 pages
Listening Length: 11 hrs, 16 mins.
Narrator: Janine Birkett
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Darkest Evening

Add to Goodreads

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Ann Cleeves - authorThe Author: Ann [Cleeves] is the author of the books behind ITV’s VERA, now in it’s third series, and the BBC’s SHETLAND, which will be aired in December 2012. Ann’s DI Vera Stanhope series of books is set in Northumberland and features the well loved detective along with her partner Joe Ashworth. Ann’s Shetland series bring us DI Jimmy Perez, investigating in the mysterious, dark, and beautiful Shetland Islands…

Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs – child care officer, women’s refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard – before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.

While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person’s not heavily into birds – and Ann isn’t – there’s not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her first series of crime novels features the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones. A couple of these books are seriously dreadful.

In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. The girls have both taken up with Geordie lads. In the autumn of 2006, Ann and Tim finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.

For the National Year of Reading, Ann was made reader-in-residence for three library authorities. It came as a revelation that it was possible to get paid for talking to readers about books! She went on to set up reading groups in prisons as part of the Inside Books project, became Cheltenham Literature Festival’s first reader-in-residence and still enjoys working with libraries.
Ann Cleeves on stage at the Duncan Lawrie Dagger awards ceremony

Ann’s short film for Border TV, Catching Birds, won a Royal Television Society Award. She has twice been short listed for a CWA Dagger Award – once for her short story The Plater, and the following year for the Dagger in the Library award.

In 2006 Ann Cleeves was the first winner of the prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award of the Crime Writers’ Association for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland Quartet. The Duncan Lawrie Dagger replaces the CWA’s Gold Dagger award, and the winner receives £20,000, making it the world’s largest award for crime fiction.

Ann’s success was announced at the 2006 Dagger Awards ceremony at the Waldorf Hilton, in London’s Aldwych, on Thursday 29 June 2006. She said: “I have never won anything before in my life, so it was a complete shock – but lovely of course.. The evening was relatively relaxing because I’d lost my voice and knew that even if the unexpected happened there was physically no way I could utter a word. So I wouldn’t have to give a speech. My editor was deputed to do it!”

The judging panel consisted of Geoff Bradley (non-voting Chair), Lyn Brown MP (a committee member on the London Libraries service), Frances Gray (an academic who writes about and teaches courses on modern crime fiction), Heather O’Donoghue (academic, linguist, crime fiction reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement, and keen reader of all crime fiction) and Barry Forshaw (reviewer and editor of Crime Time magazine).

Ann’s books have been translated into sixteen languages. She’s a bestseller in Scandinavia and Germany. Her novels sell widely and to critical acclaim in the United States. Raven Black was shortlisted for the Martin Beck award for best translated crime novel in Sweden in 200.
Bio and photo from Goodreads.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Reference and partial quote in the book from the poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

TV Netflix Series vs Audiobook – Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (The Midwife Trilogy #1) by Jennifer Worth

A True Story of the East End in the 1950s

Netflix vs Audiobook - Call the Midwife

Book Blurb:

Call the Midwife’ is a most extraordinary book and should be required reading of all students of midwifery, nursing, sociology and modern history. It tells of the experiences of a young trainee midwife in the East End of London in the 1950’s and is a graphic portrayal of the quite appalling conditions that the East Enders endured.

My Review:

If you ever feel badly about your childhood, tune into either the Netflix series or the audiobook of Call the Widwife by Jennifer Worth.  At least we had an outhouse—wasps in the summer, black widows otherwise. To hear the deplorable conditions of the East End of London in the 50s, however, is unimaginable. The conditions were horrid. The TV series gives you glimpses, and by the glimpses, I mean also the smells.

The Netflix Series

We discovered this series and immediately set about binge watching. We blazed through the first three episodes and beyond. Inspired by the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewell to the East End, the series stays remarkably true to the original trilogy. However, the series took on a life of its own and grew far beyond the original characters into ten episodes with eleven being in the offing and eight, hour long episodes each. How many of those on Netflix? Actually, Season nine isn’t scheduled until 2021.

The show is, of course, a work of fiction, although Worth’s daughters Suzannah Hart and Juliette Walton loves that the performance of Jessica Raine (as Jenny)was terribly anxious that we should be happy with her performance and I think she’s got it just right.” Many of the characters and situations early on were borrowed from the memoirs.

It is Vanessa Redgrave, herself an icon, who narrated three series and then appeared on screen.

It’s eye-opening watching Jenny Lee learn about the slums of postwar Poplar. The characters of Sister Julienne, Cynthia, Chummy, Sister Evangelina, and Sister Monica Joan (among others) are introduced early and quickly claim a place in your heart—cast so exquisitely, and very true to what Worth’s daughters remember. Even the handyman Fred and all his shenanigans are recounted with relish.

The real life Nonnatus House was moved to Birmingham during the 70s. Jennifer Worth died in 2011 at the age of 75. The first episode aired in 2012.

The Audiobook

I’ll admit to being thrown just a bit starting the audiobook, wherein there was a prologue not introduced to the first BBC series episode. Not to fear—it quickly catches up and proceeds with memories, characters, and stories played so well in the TV series that it was easy to remember the episode and circumstance.

What I enjoyed in the audiobook were the jumps into some retrospection of the characters. We get a bit of backstory of the nuns and how they came to be midwives at the Nonnatus House.

Remarkable stories, as are some of the recreations of the accounts of several of the more difficult deliveries, especially as Jenny is being indoctrinated into the system of the House, the nuns, and the other midwives. Talk about heroes. Absolutely jaw-dropping tales of the 50s in London, the men, the women prior to any kind of birth control, the lack of sanitary conditions, clean and accessible water and toilets, and the unfortunate back alley remedy of unwanted pregnancy.

A powerful book relayed in realistic conversational tones of an amazing story, mesmerizing, full of heart and emotion, at times euphorically happy and triumphant and others tragically bewildered or heartbroken.

Overall Impression

If this isn’t a novel you’ve already discovered, I certainly recommend the audiobook. If you have Netflix available and haven’t already binge watched—check it out. Either way, this is a win-win.

Book Details:

Genre: Biography
Publisher:  Audible Audio

  • ASIN: B01N8XUV0Y
  •  Print Length: 352 pages

Listening Length: 12 hrs 1 min
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Publication Date: September 10, 2012
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)

Title Link: Call the Midwife [Amazon]
 

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Jennifer Worth - authorThe Author (Goodreads): [Jennifer] Worth, born Jennifer Lee while her parents were on holiday in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, was raised in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. After leaving school at the age of 14, she learned shorthand and typing and became the secretary to the head of Dr Challoner’s Grammar School. She then trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and moved to London to receive training to become a midwife.

Lee was hired as a staff nurse at the London Hospital in Whitechapel in the early 1950s. With the Sisters of St John the Divine, an Anglican community of nuns, she worked to aid the poor. She was then a ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in Bloomsbury, and later at the Marie Curie Hospital in Hampstead.

She married the artist Philip Worth in 1963, and they had two daughters.

Worth retired from nursing in 1973 to pursue her musical interests. In 1974, she received a licentiate of the London College of Music, where she taught piano and singing. She obtained a fellowship in 1984. She performed as a soloist and with choirs throughout Britain and Europe.

She later began writing, and her first volume of memoirs, ‘Call the Midwife’, was published in 2002. The book became a bestseller when it was reissued in 2007. ‘Shadows of the Workhouse’ (2005; reissued 2008) and ‘Farewell to the East End’ (2009) also became bestsellers. The trilogy sold almost a million copies in the UK alone. In a fourth volume of memoirs ‘In the Midst of Life’, published in 2010, Worth reflects on her later experiences caring for the terminally ill.

Worth was highly critical of Mike Leigh’s 2004 film Vera Drake, for depicting the consequences of illegal abortions unrealistically. She argued that the method shown in the movie, far from being fairly quick and painless, was in fact almost invariably fatal to the mother.

Worth died on 31 May 2011, having been diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus earlier in the year.

A television series, Call the Midwife, based on her books, began broadcasting on BBC One on 15 January 2012.

The Narrator: Nicola Barber is an Audie Award-winning narrator whose voice can be heard in television and radio commercials and popular video games such as World of Warcraft. Nicola is also an Audie nominee in the Solo Female Narration category for her work on Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen and Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. –This text refers to the audioCD edition.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Attribution: Worth’s personal information from interview with her daughters at Radio Times

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James – A Supernatural Thriller Audiobook or Print?

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James

Book Blurb:

Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the best-selling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

My Review:

So much hype. So many reviews that praised this thriller…and that cover? How many readers are old enough to have seen many of those motels on the road? Are you driving exhausted yet and ready to pull over? Gees, it so hooked me in…

until I started listening to the audiobook.

Many who have read my audiobook reviews before know that I generally much prefer the audiobook—they usually make it come alive, so real, so yeah—part of the conversation.

Vibes of Norman Bates—don’t take a shower…

Told in two POV’s, Vivian is working the night shift at the front desk in the early 80s when she begins to see ghosts. Once she begins to investigate, however, she discovers there have been a number of murders, disappearances, and she’s beginning to make a solid break-through when she herself disappears—without a trace.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St JamesFast forward to 2017, Carly Kirk visits the town of Fell hoping to figure out why her aunt disappeared. At odds and without ties, she gets the front desk job at the motel, also on the night shift, where she can freely dig around for additional information. It doesn’t take long before she, too, begins to spot apparitions, smell cigarette smoke, smell perfume.

Okay, the descriptions of the motel and how it has run to ruin are creepy. The people Carly meets are interesting but seem to get her nowhere, rebuffing inquiries. The ghosts begin to fade into the background as the storyline begins to flip back and forth between Vivian’s story and her discoveries and Carly’s story and her progress.

Vivian begins to think she knows what happened to the girls missing and murdered. She’s pushing her luck, but something just seems…off.

As Carly begins to make real progress, the story timeline overlaps and it’s déjà vu told in two perspectives. Their POV begins to blend and it’s no longer easy to remember who is speaking, only that Vivian’s perspective tends to make a little more progress pushing the plot.

While I had difficulty connecting to either of the two main characters, I did enjoy two support characters who added real interest to an otherwise dull delivery in what was essentially the monotones of both Vivian and Carly.

Worst, I knew (or thought I knew) what happened to Vivian about half-way into the narrative. And was right. The only thing left was to get the why and how.

I’m not sure why the audiobook was narrated in this particular fashion. I’ve never before listened to such a dull droning approach to reading what I understood was a successful novel by a bestselling author. While the description, the people, the plot may have provided a disturbing picture and engaging mystery in your head while reading, this audiobook may only relieve your insomnia.

Book Details:

Genre: Supernatural Thrillers, Horror Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin Audio

  • ISBN-10 : 0440000203
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0440000204
  • ASIN: B084641FWV

Print Length: 352 pages
Listening Length: 11 hours
Narrators: Brittany PressleyKirsten Potter
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Source: Local (Audiobook Selections) Library
Title Link: The Sun Down Motel

Add to Goodreads Simone St James - authorThe Author: Simone St. James is the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two prestigious RITA® awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She writes gothic historical ghost stories set in 1920s England, books that are known for their mystery, gripping suspense, and romance.

Simone wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school. She worked behind the scenes in the television business for twenty years before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

The Atlantis Stone (The Project Book 12) by Alex Lukeman – An #Audiobook Review #atlantis

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five of Five Stars Five Stars

Audiobook review of The Atlantis Stone by Alex Lukeman

Book Blurb:

A photograph forgotten for a hundred years holds the key to finding the legendary lost civilization of Atlantis and an ancient artifact of mysterious power. When a letter with the photograph and a faded map of Egypt shows up in the mail, the Project is launched into a search that takes them from the depths of the Atlantic to the sands of Egypt and places unseen for thousands of years.
Elizabeth Harker’s Project team is caught up in a power struggle between two of Russia’s vast intelligence services. As the trail to Atlantis emerges from the mists of the past, the team is stalked by agents of a man who will stop at nothing to gain another rung on the ladder of his ambition.
Whoever succeeds will gain knowledge to benefit the world or destroy it. The stakes don’t get any higher…
Can the Project keep the secrets of Atlantis out of the wrong hands?

My Review:

Yes, I’ve found a treasure trove of Alex Lukeman novels, The Project series audiobooks through Free Audiobook Codes for Audible. Here is my chance to catch up on the ones I missed. I was astounded to see there are twenty. This time I chose The Atlantis Stone, The Project Book 12.

For those who aren’t familiar with this series, it began with White Jade in 2011. The Project Book 20 was released in March 6, 2020, The Lair of Anubis.

The Atlantis Stone by Alex Lukeman The Project Series Book 12In this episode, the team is mostly back (minus the fella still recuperating from the last mission). They don’t quite have that exuberant edge they did in the beginning. When Selena gets a package with a map and some pictures of hieroglyphics she sets about to decipher them. This is her forté. Her discovery sends them into foreign lands to investigate. Unfortunately, the Russian team has been on the same cryptic mission of discovery and follows them. If she is successful, it won’t just prove the legend of Atlantis but find an artifact of mysterious power that would answer a lot of questions passed through down the eons.

Elizabeth Harker’s Project Team answers to no one except the president and she has his ear. The team has long been under investigation by two highly classified intelligence teams in Russia and they’ll likely be caught in their power struggle as they clash with each other as well as The Project. Selena’s Russian half-sister, Valentina, is fully engaged in the other side and almost as competent as Selena.

Atlantis has long been the subject of philosophical historical discussion. Did it exist or not? If so, what happened? These stories originate somehow, but like garden-variety gossip, perhaps facts get distorted. So many theories…so suspend your disbelief and just enjoy this possible premise.

These narratives are punctuated with a lot of fascinating ideas and facts, non-stop action, good guys and bad guys, strong, beautiful, intelligent, and very proficient women. It’s iconic, pure escapism adventure. At this point, there is little character development except for occasional back reference and while you might enjoy as a standalone, it’s always good to follow the origin and growth of characters by starting with Book 1. Alex packs his clean reads with strong characters and a touch of romance.

Years ago, before I started posting reviews on his blog, I read a ton of digital books from Bookbub and got started with The Project series by Alex Lukeman. Many were shared with the CE and we both devoured what we could get at the time as we were on the road. Many were also shared on Goodreads and only one, I’m sorry to say, was shared on this blog as a #ThrowbackThursday, The Seventh Pillar, Book 3, September 14, 2017. I also read White Jade #1, The Lance #2, The Seventh Pillar #3, Black Harvest #4, The Tesla Secret #5, The Nostradamus File #6, The Ajax Protocol #7, The Eye of Shiva #8, Black Rose #9, and The Solomon Scroll #10. After a while, we didn’t have to think about it, just said: “It’s a Lukeman.” A go-to-author. Check him out.

Book Details:

Genre: Espionage, Men’s Adventure

  • ISBN-10:
  • ISBN-13:
  • ASIN: B01FKRBG8C

Print Length: 258 pages
Listening Length: 6 hrs 34 min
Narrator: Jack de Golia
Audible Release Date: May 13, 2016
Source: Free Audiobook Codes
Title Link: The Atlantis Stone

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Alex Lukeman - authorThe Author: Alex Lukeman writes action/adventure thrillers featuring a covert intelligence unit called the PROJECT and is the author of the award-winning books The Tesla Secret and High Alert. Alex is a former Marine and psychotherapist and uses his experience of the military and human nature to inform his work. He likes riding old, fast motorcycles and playing guitar, usually not at the same time. You can email him at alex@alexlukeman.com. He loves hearing from readers and promises he will get back to you.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Bossypants by Tina Fey – An #Audiobook Review Narrated by the Author

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five of Five Stars Five Stars

Bossypants by Tina Fey 

Book Blurb:

Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update”, before “Sarah Palin”, Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both of those dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon – from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

Includes special, never-before-solicited opinions on breastfeeding, princesses, Photoshop, the electoral process, and Italian rum cake!

My Review:

If you’ve ever wondered if an author can read his/her own book and do it any justice, I urge you to give this audiobook a listen. Even if you’ve read her book–give the audiobook a listen. She so totally nails the pacing, the insinuations, the whispered asides, and the timbre, you can’t help but hang on every word. There were times I shared chapters with the CE and he laughed along with me.

Bossypants by Tina FeyA memoir? Nah. Autobiography? No–it is categorized as Comedy and Humor Essays and I’d say there were enough of both that you don’t really need a memoir, per se. Why not just enjoy the humorous aspects of her memories, giving you a personal glimpse to the woman inside Tina Fey. What you get is what you see? Perhaps more than you realized. She is enormously talented and she doesn’t take a lot of nonsense from anyone–hence the title.

Still, you are given vignettes into her childhood, adolescence, and the road to success through her experience with Second City, stint in SNL, and now 30 Rock. To be fair–no–30 Rock is not a show I watch, but then I don’t watch much on TV anymore, period. I specifically enjoyed the chapters on her dad, “That’s Don Fey,” as well as “My Honeymoon,” “The Secrets of Mommy’s Beauty,” “Amazing, Gorgeous, and Not Like That.” But “Kotex Classic” has to be a classic. Did I forget to mention her experience with the “Teat Nazis?” (Her attempt at breastfeeding didn’t go all that well.) Gees, I laughed at so many of her observations!

“Gay people don’t actually try to convert people. That’s Jehovah’s Witnesses you’re thinking of.”

Her intro to writing for SNL was a hoot, her role gradually evolving into performing (memorably as Sarah Palin) as well. It certainly makes those “stars” human, the actors, her fellow writers, and directors, with special love notes to Amy Poehler.

While the audiobook that Amy Poehler narrated was classed Biographies of Women and Humor Essays, I found little to confirm those categories, whereas I felt Fey’s Humor Essays were just that–one right after the other. I was quite surprised to read some of the reviews on Goodreads that didn’t appreciate either. Do both Poehler and Fey tend to get a bit profane? Yup. And there are no subjects taboo. (I suspect their lives have been greatly more exposed to the baser part of life than I.)

I received this audiobook download from my local library audiobook selection delivered through Overdrive. THANK YOU! You looking for a humorous oasis in this pandemic cloud? I suggest this just might give you that respite.

Book Details:

Genre: Comedy, Humor Essays
Publisher:  Hachette Audio
ASIN: B004V6APR2
Listening Length: 5 hrs 31 mins
Narrator: Tina Fey
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Source: Local (Audiobook Selections) Library
Title Link: Bossypants Rosepoint recommended

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Tina Fey - actress, author
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — NBC Late Night — Pictured: Featured Player and Head Writer Tina Fey — NBC Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews

The Author: [from Goodreads] Elizabeth Stamatina “Tina” Fey is an American actress, comedian, writer and producer. She has received seven Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four Writers Guild of America Awards. She was singled out as the performer who had the greatest impact on culture and entertainment in 2008 by the Associated Press, who gave her their AP Entertainer of the Year award.

After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1992, Fey moved to Chicago to take classes at the improvisational comedy group The Second City, where she became a featured player in 1994. Three years later, Fey became a writer for the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL). She was promoted to the position of head writer in 1999. The following year, Fey was added to the cast of SNL. During her time there, she was co-anchor of the show’s Weekend Update segment. After leaving SNL in 2006, she created the television series called 30 Rock, a situation comedy loosely based on her experiences at SNL. In the series, Fey portrays the head writer of a fictional sketch comedy series.

In 2004, Fey made her film debut as writer and co-star of the teen comedy Mean Girls. In 2008, she starred in the comedy film Baby Mama, alongside Amy Poehler. In 2009, Fey won an Emmy Award for her satirical portrayal of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in a guest appearance on SNL.

[Note: Tina Fey is married to Jeff Richmond. Fey is currently the “creator and star of 30 Rock. They met while working at The Second City and dated for seven years before marrying in a Greek Orthodox ceremony on June 3, 2001. They have two daughters.”]

©2020 –  V Williams V Williams

Watching Glass Shatter by James J Cudney – An #Audiobook Review

“After 40 years of marriage, Olivia Glass thought she could handle the unexpected death of her husband. But when Ben’s will reveals a life-altering secret, she suffers a blow no widow should ever experience.” 

Watching Glass Shatter by James J Cudney

Book Blurb:

Olivia learns that she gave birth to a baby who later died in the nursery. Instead of telling his wife what happened, Ben switched the child with another. And as if that’s not enough, Ben’s will doesn’t reveal which of their five sons is truly not hers. 

While an attorney searches for answers, Olivia visits each of her sons to share a final connection before facing the truth that will change their family, and discovers that each of them has been harboring a painful secret, just like their father. 

Olivia challenges herself to re-assemble and save their relationships. But will the secrets destroy their family, or bring them closer together?

 My Review:

Sacrifice. Sometimes it comes in the form of extraordinary benevolence. Or the wish to protect from extreme pain those we love. And that describes this poignant novel.

The James J Cudney debut is emotional and packed with family drama beginning with the death of Olivia’s husband Ben of forty years. But the shock doesn’t end there– when the attorney for his estate hands her a letter, it’s contents shatters everything she had taken for granted with their family. One of her five sons was not the child she brought into the world.

Watching Glass Shatter by James J CudneyOlivia begins a quest to get to really know her five adult sons by a visit to each, one by one, discovering some devastating secrets along the way. She has not opened the final envelope that will reveal the name and as she visits each family, tries to discern if it might be he. In the meantime, her attorney begins to research a name–the person who may quell Olivia’s rising dismay at having to expose one. Her sister Diane becomes a confidant and is discovered to have played a strong maternal role in her son’s lives when Olivia was busy with husband, house, numerous projects, activities, and the money that afforded her just a bit of relief, an arms length, from the day-to-day of raising five boys.

The protagonist and then each of the successive sons were well-drawn and either drew empathy or dismay. So many characters to get to know, but each (as in every family) totally different from one another. And as with most families with multiple children, like ages tend to pair, albeit with the exception of one who separates himself almost entirely from his brothers. Are these lies? Deceptions? Or again the attempt to insulate the others from pain, either inflicted on the others or themselves.

I liked that chapters were divided according to character so the reader always knows who is the POV. The dialogue tends to weigh heavy, stilted, as to push reality between members of family separated by age, marriage, family, and circumstances. Olivia tends to counsel or become verbose, the boys not always receptive. Possibly more real, the main interest of one son in his share of inheritance rather than a post-death visit.

A strong showing for a debut from the author and one with multiple messages and an interesting and unique storyline. I found one quote in particular rather profound, “A day that comes seems as shorter than a year that’s gone.” I rolled that one over in my mind several times.

I actually won this audiobook in a Giveaway by the author–(I KNOW!! I “never” win…) and appreciated the opportunity to get into James’ first novel, the Kindle version published October 8, 2017. However, I won the audio version published 2019 and found the narrator a tad annoying. I have read and enjoyed two ebooks in the author’s Braxton Campus series, Haunted House Ghost and Mistaken Identity Crisis and found each distinctive. Although part of a series, fine as a standalone.

This author spars with unique story ideas and his writer’s style is always intelligent and thoughtful. If you missed this one, now is the time to go back and pick it up. Well-plotted and paced, a welcome addition to emotional literary family drama.

Book Details:

Genre: Literary Fiction for Teens, Teen and Young Adult Literary Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Publisher:  Next Chapter Audio Ltd.
ISBN-13: 978-1978233430
ISBN-10: 1978233434
ASIN: B07X7HD59J
Print Length: 297 pages
Listening Length: 10 hrs 5 mins
Narrator: Nikki Zakocs
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Source: Winner of a Giveaway
Title Link: Watching Glass Shatter 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five Stars 4.5-stars

James J Cudney - authorThe Author: James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 900 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, there is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have segments where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

List of Books

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)

Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)

Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)

Frozen Still Drink – #6 (March 18, 2020)

Websites & Blog

Websitehttps://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Next Chapter: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney?rq=cudney

Social Media Links

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Purchase Links – Amazon 

The Narrator: Nikki Zakocs

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Black and Blue by David Rosenfelt (Author) Fred Berman (Narrator) – An #Audiobook Review #crimethriller

As promised, Book 3 in the Doug Brock Thriller series. (Hope you didn’t miss my review for number two: Fade to Black!)

Black and Blue by David Rosenfelt

Book Blurb:

Doug Brock hasn’t had it easy since his getting shot in the line of duty as a New Jersey state police officer. Between the amnesia and having to solve two murder cases, it hasn’t been the most restful recovery. 

Now, the cold-case department is checking evidence from a murder case Doug was investigating before the accident, but the DNA points to a man Doug eliminated as a suspect…and he remembers none of it. 

Doug begins to reinvestigate what turns out to be a series of unsolved killings and must retrace his steps to discover why he would have let the suspect go free. What he uncovers may be more dangerous than any case he’s faced yet. 

With Black and Blue, nationally best-selling author David Rosenfelt continues his thrilling new series featuring Doug Brock.

My Review:

As mentioned at my review of Book 2, Fade to Black, here is  #3 of the Doug Brock series, my sampling of a David Rosenfelt series outside of the Andy Carpenter series (which I totally fell in love with and you’ll get many more of those reviews). Doug Brock, a New Jersey state police lieutenant who was shot in the line of duty has returned to work, albeit missing ten years of his memory. He has gotten back together with his former fiancé, Jessie.

Black and Blue by David RosenfeltThis series is more serious in nature and, as I noted before, there were times I didn’t really care for protagonist Brock, although his fiancé, Jessie, is interesting, intelligent, tolerant, and patient. She owns a mountain of a dog named BoBo. Doug and BoBo have a kind of détente. He also is back with partner Nate Alvarez (a mountain of a man), and he and Nate seem to work effectively together, trading barbs from time to time.

Being a serious fan of Andy Carpenter, it was fun that he was incorporated into this storyline (although I wasn’t so thrilled with the person who did the narration for Andy–just not the same beloved voice).

Currently, Doug and Nate are working on a cold case. A dead body, shot through the heart by a high powered rifle. Not the first time this happened since there were more than one and ballistics confirm with the same gun. He was involved with the old case, although with his current condition cannot remember the details and has to go through the files. This isn’t the only problem they’ll have now though as Doug suspicions he may have interviewed him before and let him go.

I really like the series, but let’s face it, I’ve been spoiled by Andy Carpenter. This protagonist is not wholly sympathetic, although I can certainly connect with the support characters and if you aren’t used to the machine-gun hyperbole and tongue-in-cheek humor of that series, would probably find this one quite satisfying–enough male guffawing, sarcastic barbs, back-slapping, and beer to grease the plotline. The well-plotted mystery presents twists, turns, and red herrings, but it’s the characters that keep you reading and David Rosenfelt is great at developing good chemistry in his characters.

The conclusion ties frayed ends together very neatly. This novel could function quite well as a standalone as there are sufficient references to history to fill in the blanks. In any case, I’ll be tuning in to Doug Brock 4. Also, as mentioned before, I was approved by NetGalley for The K Team, Book 1, of a new spinoff series from Andy Carpenter featuring most of my favorite characters. (If you haven’t grabbed that one yet, better hurry.)

I received this audiobook download from my local library audio selection with no expectation of a review. But, you know I’m going to do it anyway.

Book Details:

Genre: Police Procedural Mysteries, Crime Thriller, Serial Killer
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio, Minotaur Books 

  • ISBN-10:1250133149
  • ISBN-13:978-1250133144
  • ASIN: B07KRGLYZJ 

Print Length: 304 pages
Listening Length: 6 hrs 22 mins
Narrator: Fred Berman
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Source: Local (Audiobook Selections) Library
Title Link: Black and Blue
+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point five of Five Stars 4.5-stars

David Rosenfelt - authorThe Author: [David Rosenfelt-Goodreads author page] I am a novelist with 27 dogs.

I have gotten to this dubious position with absolutely no planning, and at no stage in my life could I have predicted it. But here I am.

My childhood was relentlessly normal. The middle of three brothers, loving parents, a middle-class home in Paterson, New Jersey. We played sports, studied sporadically. laughed around the dinner table, and generally had a good time. By comparison, “Ozzie and Harriet’s” clan seemed bizarre.

I graduated NYU, then decided to go into the movie business. I was stunningly brilliant at a job interview with my uncle, who was President of United Artists, and was immediately hired. It set me off on a climb up the executive ladder, culminating in my becoming President of Marketing for Tri-Star Pictures. The movie landscape is filled with the movies I buried; for every “Rambo”, “The Natural” and “Rocky”, there are countless disasters.

I did manage to find the time to marry and have two children, both of whom are doing very well, and fortunately neither have inherited my eccentricities.

A number of years ago, I left the movie marketing business, to the sustained applause of hundreds of disgruntled producers and directors. I decided to try my hand at writing. I wrote and sold a bunch of feature films, none of which ever came close to being actually filmed, and then a bunch of TV movies, some of which actually made it to the small screen. It’s safe to say that their impact on the American cultural scene has been minimal.

About fourteen years ago, my wife and I started the Tara Foundation, named in honor of the greatest Golden Retriever the world has ever known. We rescued almost 4,000 dogs, many of them Goldens, and found them loving homes. Our own home quickly became a sanctuary for those dogs that we rescued that were too old or sickly to be wanted by others. They surround me as I write this. It’s total lunacy, but it works, and they are a happy, safe group.

Fred Berman - authorThe Narrator: [Fred Berman-Goodreads author page] Age & Hometown: 39 (“but in meerkat years, that’s 25!”); Manhasset, Long Island

Current Role: Entertaining Broadway audiences as the hysterical meerkat Timon in Disney’s long-running hit The Lion King.

A Familiar Voice: An accomplished voiceover actor on more than 50 audiobooks, Berman says the key is not to impersonate or put on voices. “I cast the book in my mind,” he explains. “I say, ‘Who is this person?’ So, in my head, Judi Dench is playing this role. I don’t want to do an impersonation of Judi Dench, but I am channeling her in that moment. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” Berman’s audio work ranges from children’s books to what he calls “fantasy romance novels”—and sometimes both in the same day. “One time, I went from the most ridiculously depressing book, The Painted Bird, about a kid wandering through the forests of Poland after World War II, to a romance book where I voiced the sexiest Greek man alive who always wears leather pants and no shirt in softcore porn scenes.”

The Dangers of Timon: Berman was initially cautious about taking his Lion King gig. “I have never gone into a long-running show, and I knew I couldn’t do [Nathan Lane, who created the role onscreen]. I wasn’t sure how much of it was going to be ‘This is a machine and you need to do it this way.’” Berman’s doubts subsided when he was given freedom to interpret the role his own way—though he still has one fear. “I tend to gravitate toward blue humor, so I always get nervous when I have to improvise,” he says. “Having kids [he has two] makes you check yourself more.” Instead, he says his mantra is, “Play the positive; play the love!”

Let’s Rock!: Though acting pays the bills, Berman’s true passion is music. The son of a bandleader, he began playing piano at age five and discovered the drums, which would become his main instrument, in fifth grade. “Until I got into The Lion King, I was playing in bands my whole life,” he says. His musical influences range from fellow Long Island native Billy Joel to Led Zeppelin. “I have a tattoo of [late Led Zeppelin drummer] John Bonham’s symbol on my left arm!” When pressed to choose between acting and music, Berman responds, “I love them both, but I have to be honest: There is nothing in the world like playing drums in a rock-and-roll band at a live concert. That’s what I thought.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Fade to Black (A Doug Brock Thriller Book 2) by David Rosenfelt (Author) Fred Berman (Narrator) – An #Audiobook Review #crime

Audiobooks by David Rosenfelt

Book Blurb:

In Fade to Black, the thrilling audiobook sequel to Blackout from David Rosenfelt, policeman Doug Brock helps a fellow victim of amnesia untangle a murder case and discovers he may not be as distant as he thinks.

After getting shot in the line of duty, New Jersey state police officer Doug Brock has been busy rebuilding his life. He’s reunited with his fiancé and started to get some of his memories back. He hopes he can continue to recover with the help of an amnesia support group and that the damage from his past isn’t permanent.

It isn’t until fellow group member Sean Conner approaches him after a meeting that Doug realizes the trouble is just beginning. Sean has discovered in his attic what can only be called a scrapbook of a murder victim, but he has no recollection of the girl’s identity or why he might have gathered this information.

Doug agrees to help and convinces his captain to open what had been a cold case. When he discovers that he had a personal connection to this case, suddenly he’s questioning everything he thought he knew about the case, about Sean, and about his own past.

In the next thrilling audiobook by David Rosenfelt, Doug Brock is back to delight listeners and keep them guessing until the end.

My Review:

No, I’m not deserting the Andy Carpenter series, but as a solid Rosenfelt fan, thought I’d sample one of this slightly newer series–this one being #2 of Doug Brock. (As you can see, I also listened to Book 3, which I’ll review on Thursday, Feb 20th.)

Fade to Black by David RosenfeltThis series revolves around Doug Brock, a New Jersey state police lieutenant who was shot in the line of duty. He recovered, but without ten years of his memory. He remembers little bits and pieces from time to time and has gotten back together with his former fiancé. Also, he is apparently more mature and less fool-hardy–a good thing. In continuing to recover, he joined an amnesia support group. One of the members, however, brings him a private matter which begins to look suspiciously like a miscarriage of justice–involving his former police self.

While I can’t say I like this series as much as the Andy Carpenter series, which is usually pocked with ample doses of tongue-in-cheek humor, it does capture attention and provide entertainment (and stuck on the shuttle to the VA Hospital in Chicago, was very welcome). A great deal more serious in nature, there were times I didn’t really care for protagonist Brock. His fiancé, Jessie, is interesting, intelligent, tolerant, and patient. Also, she possesses a mountain of a dog called BoBo. Doug and BoBo have a kind of détente. He also is back with partner Nate Alvarez, and he and Nate seem to work well together. They convince their captain to open a cold case.

Nothing is simple, it’ll go from a missing person case to possible drug trafficking with mobsters and even worse behind that (WAY worse), but they keep chipping away at little clues and leads.

The narrative is full of characterization and the storyline keeps you pushing to the reveal. There are enough red herrings to keep you off-track, so you won’t be in danger of guessing the antagonist. The conclusion brings all frayed ends together very neatly. In any case, my interest was sufficiently piqued to check out Book 3. (And when will I get back to Andy Carpenter? March. Hey–there are twenty of those with two more coming and I’ve just scratched the surface. AND, I was approved by NetGalley for The K Team, Book 1, of a new spinoff series from Andy Carpenter featuring most of my favorite characters. If you haven’t grabbed that one yet, better hurry.)

Fred Berman provides a very sobering, masculine voice to Brock’s character, at times forceful and then confused (lapse of memory) about his previous stance. A testament to his expertise in a range of voices, he was also a presence in a previous audiobook I reviewed, The Dog Who Danced. See that review here. I received this digital download from my local library audio selection with no expectation for a review. But, hey, that’s what I do.

Book Details:

Genre: Police Procedural, Crime Thriller
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio, Minotaur Books

  • ISBN-10:1250308119
  • ISBN-13:978-1250308115
  • ASIN: B079V728GJ

Print Length: 280 pages
Listening Length: 6 hrs 56 mins
Narrator: Fred Berman
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Source: Local (Audiobook Selections) Library through Overdrive
Title Link: Fade to Black
+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4-stars

David Rosenfelt - authorThe Author: [David Rosenfelt-Goodreads author page] I am a novelist with 27 dogs.

I have gotten to this dubious position with absolutely no planning, and at no stage in my life could I have predicted it. But here I am.

My childhood was relentlessly normal. The middle of three brothers, loving parents, a middle-class home in Paterson, New Jersey. We played sports, studied sporadically. laughed around the dinner table, and generally had a good time. By comparison, “Ozzie and Harriet’s” clan seemed bizarre.

I graduated NYU, then decided to go into the movie business. I was stunningly brilliant at a job interview with my uncle, who was President of United Artists, and was immediately hired. It set me off on a climb up the executive ladder, culminating in my becoming President of Marketing for Tri-Star Pictures. The movie landscape is filled with the movies I buried; for every “Rambo”, “The Natural” and “Rocky”, there are countless disasters.

I did manage to find the time to marry and have two children, both of whom are doing very well, and fortunately neither have inherited my eccentricities.

A number of years ago, I left the movie marketing business, to the sustained applause of hundreds of disgruntled producers and directors. I decided to try my hand at writing. I wrote and sold a bunch of feature films, none of which ever came close to being actually filmed, and then a bunch of TV movies, some of which actually made it to the small screen. It’s safe to say that their impact on the American cultural scene has been minimal.

About fourteen years ago, my wife and I started the Tara Foundation, named in honor of the greatest Golden Retriever the world has ever known. We rescued almost 4,000 dogs, many of them Goldens, and found them loving homes. Our own home quickly became a sanctuary for those dogs that we rescued that were too old or sickly to be wanted by others. They surround me as I write this. It’s total lunacy, but it works, and they are a happy, safe group.

Fred Berman - authorThe Narrator: [Fred Berman-Goodreads author page] Age & Hometown: 39 (“but in meerkat years, that’s 25!”); Manhasset, Long Island

Current Role: Entertaining Broadway audiences as the hysterical meerkat Timon in Disney’s long-running hit The Lion King.

A Familiar Voice: An accomplished voiceover actor on more than 50 audio books, Berman says the key is not to impersonate or put on voices. “I cast the book in my mind,” he explains. “I say, ‘Who is this person?’ So, in my head, Judi Dench is playing this role. I don’t want to do an impersonation of Judi Dench, but I am channeling her in that moment. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” Berman’s audio work ranges from children’s books to what he calls “fantasy romance novels”—and sometimes both in the same day. “One time, I went from the most ridiculously depressing book, The Painted Bird, about a kid wandering through the forests of Poland after World War II, to a romance book where I voiced the sexiest Greek man alive who always wears leather pants and no shirt in softcore porn scenes.”

The Dangers of Timon: Berman was initially cautious about taking his Lion King gig. “I have never gone into a long-running show, and I knew I couldn’t do [Nathan Lane, who created the role onscreen]. I wasn’t sure how much of it was going to be ‘This is a machine and you need to do it this way.’” Berman’s doubts subsided when he was given freedom to interpret the role his own way—though he still has one fear. “I tend to gravitate toward blue humor, so I always get nervous when I have to improvise,” he says. “Having kids [he has two] makes you check yourself more.” Instead, he says his mantra is, “Play the positive; play the love!”

Let’s Rock!: Though acting pays the bills, Berman’s true passion is music. The son of a bandleader, he began playing piano at age five and discovered the drums, which would become his main instrument, in fifth grade. “Until I got into The Lion King, I was playing in bands my whole life,” he says. His musical influences range from fellow Long Island native Billy Joel to Led Zeppelin. “I have a tattoo of [late Led Zeppelin drummer] John Bonham’s symbol on my left arm!” When pressed to choose between acting and music, Berman responds, “I love them both, but I have to be honest: There is nothing in the world like playing drums in a rock-and-roll band at a live concert. That’s what I thought.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan – An #Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review

Book Blurb:

A sweeping historical saga that traces five generations of fiercely powerful mothers and daughters — witches whose magical inheritance is both a dangerous threat and an extraordinary gift.
Brittany, 1821.
 After Grand-mère Ursule gives her life to save her family, their magic seems to die with her.
Even so, the Orchires fight to keep the old ways alive, practicing half-remembered spells and arcane rites in hopes of a revival. And when their youngest daughter comes of age, magic flows anew.
The lineage continues, though new generations struggle not only to master their power, but also to keep it hidden.
But when World War II looms on the horizon, magic is needed more urgently than ever – not for simple potions or visions, but to change the entire course of history.

My Review:

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa MorganSwept up in Nanettte’s story, the first of the Orchiére line to relate her story of the traveller or gypsy family of Romani, the tale then progresses through successive daughters and their stories. It is a gift that manifests more in some than others of the line, and while each gift may vary, the necessity of keeping the gift secret does not.

The novel divides into five sections from Nanette to Ursule, Irene, Morwen, and lastly Veronica during WWII.

There is a grimoire and scrying stone handed down to each generation, diligently kept hidden and their secrets only revealed at the time of puberty and sometimes in surprising fashion. There is a marked difference between how a couple of the witches received her powers and how she handled the gift.

Some of the witches were well-developed enough to either earn empathy or apathy. They weren’t bad or wicked, just not as benign as the others merely trying to exist without exposure. It was the story to be told, rather than the description or fleshing of the woman. But, of course, each was to find a mate (whether or not for love), and each of the women was strong-willed and shrewd. Their men either loved and supported them, knew of their powers, or not and several of the male support characters were fleshed sympathetically.

I enjoyed getting to know each of the witches in turn, their time and story in history and the evolution of the line. I was following the fantasy well until it became necessary to push back some hefty disbelief in the final story–that of Veronica during WWII. The storyline, of course, does not disclose a secret history of witchcraft in general, rather than of this particular line.

The conclusion came at a juncture I felt made sense, although left a few issues unresolved and seemed the obvious step into a successive book. I suspect the narrator of this very long audiobook made it a great deal shorter than if I’d read it. She rolled the language beautifully off her tongue and made the whole story dance in the minds’ eye as if it were a kaleidoscope. (I heartily recommend the audiobook version!)

I received this audiobook through my favorite local library and greatly appreciated the opportunity to get to know the author’s style of writing and look forward to delving into another. (I picked this one up specifically because I also requested and received The Age of Witches from NetGalley.) Now I just have to figure out if I’ve ever had a “familiar” but I don’t think so. At least I don’t have to worry about being burned at the stake.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Italian Fiction, Alternate History Science Fiction, 20th Century Historical Romance, World War II Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hackette Audio

  • ISBN-10:0316508586
  • ISBN-13:978-0316508582

ASIN: B0758FWQKW
Print Length: 496 pages
Listening Length: 17 hrs 33  mins
Narrator: Polly Lee
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Source: Local (Audiobook Selections) Library
Title Link: A Secret History of Witches

+Add to Goodreads

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4-stars

Louisa Morgan - authorThe Author: Louisa Morgan lives and writes and rambles with her familiar, Oscar the Border Terrier, on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. A musician and a yogini, she finds inspiration in the artistic environment where she makes her home.

Under the name Louise Marley, she has written a number of other historical fiction novels, as well as fantasy and science fiction. Please visit http://www.louisemarley.com for more information, and to learn more about Oscar!

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Audiobook – The Dog Who Danced by Susan Wilson – a #BookReview Narrated by Fred Berman and Christina Delaine

Ever heard of Canine Freestyle (Doggie Dancing)? If you haven’t, now is the time to Google it.

Audiobook-The Dog Who Danced

Book Blurb:

From the New York Times best-selling author of One Good Dog comes a novel about a woman’s cross-country journey to find her lost dog and discover herself.

If there’s been a theme in Justine Meade’s life, it’s loss. Her mother, her home, even her son. The one bright spot in her loss-filled life, the partner she could always count on, has always been Mack, her gray and black Sheltie – that is, until she is summoned back to her childhood home after more than 20 years away.

Ed and Alice Parmalee are mourning a loss of their own. Seven years after their daughter was taken from them, they’re living separate lives together – dancing around each other, and their unspeakable heartbreak, unable to bridge the chasm left between them.

Fiercely loyal, acutely perceptive and guided by a herd dog’s instinct, Mack has a way of bringing out the best in his humans. Whether it’s a canine freestyle competition or just the ebb and flow of a family’s rhythms, it’s as though the little Shetland sheepdog was born to bring people together. The Dog Who Danced is his story, one that will surely dance its way into your heart.

My Review:

Now, now, don’t go groaning on me, and yes, it’s another dog book. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I have my favorite dog book authors, this being one of my new, but very devoted ones, Susan Wilson. She really does crawl inside those canine heads and wrenches out the voice you’ve been sure you spotted on your own version of a dog. (My version, as mentioned before is Frosty, a Bichon Frise.)

The Dog Who Danced by Susan WilsonAt any rate, this entry to her very popular series has Justine Meade, on her way to the right coast from the left where she’s been warned by her erstwhile step-mother that her dad is dying. Justine gets by with wits and wile and this time has hitched a ride with trucker Artie. But Artie has a schedule, a load to deliver, and is already tired of extra potty breaks that come with hauling a woman and her dog named Mack, a grey and black Blue Merle and Sheltie with one blue and one brown eye.

Justine, however after being warned about dawdling, is slow getting out of the trucker’s stop shower and discovers good ole Artie has driven off, unaware that the dog is burrowed in the blankets in the sleeping berth, or, he just plane wigged out forgetting about the dog who only knows Artie from his nasty temperament and tendency to smoke up the cab. When Mack finally does make himself known (after all, there are break times to observe), one being potty at the very least, Artie determines the next handy stop will be Mack’s exit–permanently–and literally kicks him to the curb (and down the hill).

In the meantime, Justine, frantic, has exhausted any other possibilities and has accepted a ride on the back of a Harley by one-legged Mitch. He’ll try to catch the truck as Artie has refused all Justine’s calls. Mitch is a great character and is well-fleshed and empathetic. Justine can get on your nerves. She’s so jaded by what she views as a rejected and unloved childhood that she tends to sound petulant and self-absorbed. She feels betrayed by her dad and it colored her life for the next twenty years.

The well-plotted storyline folds out in two POVs, that of Justine and that of Mack. I really loved when Mack expressed his thoughts–seemed so genuine and believable. Justine is–just annoying, although having discovered her history with the dog who has a natural and show-winning aptitude for freestyle dancing, you can believe she’d be beyond frantic. She’s weighing it–find her dog–or get to her dad’s side. (I love videos of dancing dogs, and although there are many much newer ones, including 2019 from Crufts, my favorite and definitely the best is this one.)

In the meantime, an older couple with quite a tragic history of their own has discovered Mack, taken him in, cared for him. Mack gradually trains them–and unintentionally brings them back together–estrangement stemming from the sudden, unexpected death of their daughter.

In essence, a strong story about the lasting effects of the lack of communication, family drama, grief, and reconciliation. The story of the couple is heart-wrenching and emotional. Justine’s step-mother and step-brother are easy to dislike, as is Artie. But the closing brings out truths that either Justine failed to see or couldn’t, wouldn’t acknowledge and the twist brings a bit of satisfaction to the conclusion. Perhaps you could close that one with a dry eye. I couldn’t.

The two narrators were perfect! Narrators can so often make or break a good book. These two totally sold it. I received this audiobook download from my library using Overdrive and I’m ever so grateful. These are my own opinions and I loved it. You will too. Trust me.

Book Details:

Genre: Animal Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B007JQN2W6
Listening Length: 10 hours 13 mins
Publication Date: March 13, 2012
Source: Local Library Audio Selection (Thank you Lake County Public Library!)
Title Link: The Dog Who Danced
+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars 4.5-stars

Susan Wilson - author

The Author: (From Amazon and Goodreads Author pages) SUSAN WILSON is the author of ten novels (one in progress), including the New York Times bestselling One Good Dog. In her most recent novel, TWO GOOD DOGS, the two main characters from One Good Dog, Adam March and his rescued pit bull Chance, make a return.

Married, two grown daughters and a granddaughter and two grandsons – plus four-step grands. Lives in Oak Bluffs, MA, on Martha’s Vineyard. Visit her online at http://www.susanwilsonwrites.com

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Video Attribution: YouTube – Carolyn Scott & Rookie, Sept 7, 2006, Grease Routine 
There is a wonderful story about Carolyn Scott and Rookie, the Golden Retriever here. Theirs was a fifteen-year sport-winning team and whether Canada and/or the US originated the form of canine competition or not in 1992, it quickly spread around the world.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas (An Andy Carpenter Mystery Book 15) by David Rosenfelt – a #BookReview #Audiobook

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five of Five Stars 5-stars

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt

 Book Blurb:

Defense lawyer Andy Carpenter usually tries to avoid taking on new cases at all costs. But this time, he’s happy – eager, even – to take the case that’s just come his way. Andy’s long-time friend Martha “Pups” Boyer takes in stray puppies that the local dog rescue center can’t handle, raises them until they’re old enough to adopt, and then finds good homes for them. Not everyone admires the work Pups does as much as Andy does, however.

With Christmas just around the corner, one of Pups’s neighbors has just reported Pups to the city for having more than the legal number of pets in her home under the local zoning laws. Andy happily takes Pups’s case, and he feels confident in a positive outcome. Who could punish someone for rescuing puppies, after all, especially at Christmastime? But things get a lot more complicated when Randy Hennessey, the neighbor who registered the complaint against Pups, turns up dead. Pups had loudly and publicly threatened Hennessey after he filed his complaint, and Pups was also the one to find his body. All the evidence seems to point to Pups as the killer, and suddenly Andy has a murder case on his hands. He doesn’t believe Pups could be guilty, but as he starts digging deeper into the truth behind Hennessey’s murder, Andy may find himself facing a killer more dangerous than he ever imagined.

With his trademark wit, larger-than-life characters, and clever plotting, David Rosenfelt delivers another gripping mystery.

My Review:

As you can see, I’ve burned through five of the Andy Carpenter series of twenty books. Loved them all, four of which were audiobooks. While I greatly enjoyed Dachshund Through the Snow (the digital download I received from NetGalley), I’ve really become a solid fan of the audiobooks narrated by Grover Cleveland. Cleveland is the definitive voice of attorney Andy Carpenter–the defense attorney who would rather not take on any cases. The cases, however, seem to find him.

Three of these entries to the series were aimed at the Christmas season, a wonderful excuse for unapologetically grabbing as many as I could. This one concerns twelve puppies brought to Tara’s Foundation by Andy as the woman who had rescued them was charged with the murder of a neighbor. He had filed a complaint with the local zoning board about the number of pets she had in her home and then turned up dead.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt

The timing is unfortunate, as Martha has been doing this for years, but now she is facing mortality and would prefer not to spend the time she has left behind bars. Her hubby passed a few years ago leaving her with land located in assorted states, eventually for the purpose of the canine (or animal) rescue mission they both embraced.

The characters have been carefully gathered and create a variety of eclectic support for Andy, as well as his wife, Laura, a former policewoman. Andy keeps up a steady mind dialogue that is frank and often humorous. His snarky attitude is not lost on his colleagues and the time he’s spent in court has given him a well-deserved reputation. Like a pit bull that he might have rescued, once he’s onto something he’ll concentrate through the red herrings and twists to get to the real perp, tweaking by a la Perry Mason where it counts.

The narrative includes his family, son Ricky, and common familial situations, drawing you into Andy’s life as well as his legal expertise. These books are engaging with complex, well-drawn plots that are fully investing. While it’s character-driven, the author’s deprecating but intelligent writing style keeps you immersed. This one is full of the Christmas season, puppies, and witty and entertaining storyline.

I received this audiobook from my local library (thank you!) and was thoroughly entertained and invested. Grover Gardner does an incredible job of interpreting the very excellent novel penned by David Rosenfelt. In a spin-off from his Andy Carpenter series, author Rosenfelt has started a new series he is calling The K-Team “about a dynamic new investigative team featuring a determined former cop and his loyal German Shepherd.” YES! Book 1 of The K-Team will be released March 24, 2020, currently available via NetGalley. Now is your chance to grab #1 in a new series, Shalini. Your welcome.

This one is still totally recommended for anyone looking for an unpredictable and amusing hoot. Whether audio or digital, either way, you’re in for a real treat.

Book Details:

Narrator: Grover Gardner
Genre: Animal Fiction, Traditional Detective Mysteries, Legal Thriller
Publisher: Macmillian Audio
ASIN: B01LZAPOAO
Listening Length: 6 hrs 17 mins
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Source: Local Library audiobooks
Title Link: The Twelve Dogs of Christmas

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David Rosenfelt - authorThe Author: (Amazon Author Page) David Rosenfelt, a native of Paterson, New Jersey, is a graduate of NYU. He was the former marketing president for Tri-Star Pictures before becoming a writer of novels and screenplays. “Open And Shut” was his first novel; “First Degree,” his second novel, was named a best book of 2003 by Publishers Weekly. He currently lives in Southern California with his wife and 35 dogs.

(Goodreads Author Page) I am a novelist with 27 dogs.

I have gotten to this dubious position with absolutely no planning, and at no stage in my life could I have predicted it. But here I am.

My childhood was relentlessly normal. The middle of three brothers, loving parents, a middle-class home in Paterson, New Jersey. We played sports, studied sporadically. laughed around the dinner table, and generally had a good time. By comparison, “Ozzie and Harriet’s” clan seemed bizarre.

I graduated NYU, then decided to go into the movie business. I was stunningly brilliant at a job interview with my uncle, who was President of United Artists, and was immediately hired. It set me off on a climb up the executive ladder, culminating in my becoming President of Marketing for Tri-Star Pictures. The movie landscape is filled with the movies I buried; for every “Rambo”, “The Natural” and “Rocky”, there are countless disasters.

I did manage to find the time to marry and have two children, both of whom are doing very well, and fortunately neither have inherited my eccentricities.

A number of years ago, I left the movie marketing business, to the sustained applause of hundreds of disgruntled producers and directors. I decided to try my hand at writing. I wrote and sold a bunch of feature films, none of which ever came close to being actually filmed, and then a bunch of TV movies, some of which actually made it to the small screen. It’s safe to say that their impact on the American cultural scene has been minimal.

About fourteen years ago, my wife and I started the Tara Foundation, named in honor of the greatest Golden Retriever the world has ever known. We rescued almost 4,000 dogs, many of them Goldens, and found them loving homes. Our own home quickly became a sanctuary for those dogs that we rescued that were too old or sickly to be wanted by others. They surround me as I write this. It’s total lunacy, but it works, and they are a happy, safe group.
http://us.macmillan.com/author/davidr…

Grover Gardner - #audiobook narratorThe Narrator: Grover Gardner’s narration career spans twenty-five years and over 550 audiobook titles. AudioFile Magazine has called him one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and features him in their annual “Golden Voices” update. Publishers Weekly named him Audiobook Narrator of the Year for 2005. His recordings have garnered 18 “Golden Earphones” awards from AudioFile and an Audie Award from the Audio Publishers’ Association.
http://grovergardner.blogspot.com/

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Two Good Dogs: A Novel by Susan Wilson Audiobook Review

What a beautiful and thoughtfully written novel of the power that connects human and canine and to their shared people.

Two Good Dogs by Susan Wilson

Book Blurb:

Susan Wilson, the best-selling author of One Good Dog, delivers another powerful audiobook of loyalty and love.

Single mom Skye Mitchell has sunk her last dime into a dream, owning the venerable, if run-down, LakeView Hotel in the Berkshire Hills. It’s here where she believes she’ll give her 14-year-old daughter, Cody, a better life. But being an innkeeper is more challenging than she imagined, and Cody still manages to fall in with the wrong crowd. In addition, Cody is keeping an earth-shattering secret that she’s terrified to reveal. The once loving, open girl has now become completely withdrawn, and Skye is both desperate and helpless to reach her.

When Adam March and his pit bull, Chance, check in to the hotel, it becomes the first of many visits. Here in these peaceful mountains he finds an unexpected relief from his recent bereavement. He and the beleaguered innkeeper form a tentative friendship. Adam knows the struggles of raising a difficult teenager, and Skye understands loneliness.

And then there is Mingo, a street kid with a pit bull dog of his own. When Cody discovers an overdosed Mingo, Adam takes the boy’s dog not just for safekeeping but to foster and then rehome. But the dog isn’t the only one who needs saving. A makeshift family begins to form as four lost people learn to trust and rely on each other, with the help of two good dogs.

My Review:

Okay, busted! Here I am with another doggie book, and what an exceptionally fine book it was. Of course, I was able to secure the audiobook, which places you square in the middle of the characters, the scene, and the joyous relationship with the dogs.

Two Good Dogs by Susan WilsonSkye Mitchell is escaping her own tragedies and thinking she’d offer herself and her daughter a whole new, hopefully peaceful, life, she purchased the LakeView Hotel and moved. But Cody is fourteen, a typical sullen, uncommunicative teen lost in her own world turned upside down and now with no familiar school or friends. But in addition, Cody knows something her mother would never suspect and which Cody is desperate to conceal.

Adam March recently lost his wife and the life he’d known, his job losing its previous overwhelming focus, and the only thing keeping him in touch with the here and now is his pit bull, Chance, a rescue. Chance is intuitive, sympathetic, and has a POV of his own–one you swear is visible in his eyes. He often imparts just the touch of grounding that prevents Adam from being inconsolable.

And Mingo, a street kid, left to his own, and his own hasn’t been easy. He’s found the wrong gang, the drugs, and the activities to pay for the habit. But one activity has gone too far for him and there is a depth to Mingo that his homeboys has failed to perceive. He has adopted a pit bull of his own–one he saved despite the odds. And Dawg will repay the kindness.

There are multiple POVs, all that allows the reader inside the head of the characters until you know them so well that you rail against poor decisions or cheer with the better ones. Mingo, I loved him. My heart went out to him, several times, in virtual hugs. What a kid! He wasn’t taught right and wrong–it was instinctive.

There were a number of times I wanted to slap Skye upside the head. Fortunately, she doesn’t really qualify as an antagonist, there are a couple others who fulfill that slot. I did like Adam, he functions as an unbiased therapist between mother and daughter, often quietly covering Cody’s back. The antagonist functions as a creepy ugghy guy, made more repulsive by the narrator and raising the hairs on the back of your neck.

A strong character-driven novel completely hooks you and doesn’t let go. Either way, whether you listen to this audiobook or read it, you’ll be drawn into the thoroughly engaging story and so invested you’re forced to see how the author will play this one out. My only negative (and it’s a small one) is the way Skye was narrated.

I loved this narrative and whether or not you enjoy a book with our canine partners, I’ll bet you’ll love the compelling and unique storyline and characters. Masterfully written, a novel worthy of a book hangover. (I grabbed this one because I’d read The Dog I Loved. See that review here.)

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars 4.5-stars

Book Details:

Genre: Animal Fiction
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio (Publisher)
ASIN: B06W539DF8
Listening Length: 11 hours and 51 minutes
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
ASIN: B01KFX665O
Print Length: 351 pages
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Source: Merrillville Public Library – Audiobooks
Title Link: Two Good Dogs
 

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Susan Wilson - authorThe Author: SUSAN WILSON is the author of ten novels, including the New York Times bestselling One Good Dog. In her most recent novel, TWO GOOD DOGS, the two main characters from One Good Dog, Adam March and his rescued pit bull Chance, make a return. She lives on Martha’s Vineyard. Visit her online at http://www.susanwilsonwrites.com

The Narrators: Christina Delaine (Narrator), Fred Berman (Narrator), Rick Adamson (Narrator)

©2019 V Williams V Williams

#audiobook The Hiding Place by C J Tudor – a #BookReview

Title: The Hiding Place by CJ Tudor

Narrator: Richard Armitage

Genre: British Detectives, Supernatural Thrillers

  • Audible Audiobook
  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 43 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: February 5, 2019
  • Whispersync for Voice: Ready
  • Language: English, English
  • ASIN: B07K8XYSVJ

Print Length: 281 pages

Source: Request audiobook from local library

Title Link: The Hiding Place

audiobook-The Hiding Place

Book Blurb:

The thrilling second novel from the author of The Chalk Man, about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined.

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang – the betrayal, the suicide, the murder – and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town – while avoiding the enemies he’s made in the years since – is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing.

It was the day she came back.

With the same virtuosic command of character and pacing she displayed in The Chalk Man, C. J. Tudor has once again crafted an extraordinary novel that brilliantly blends harrowing psychological suspense, a devilishly puzzling mystery, and enough shocks and thrills to satisfy even the most seasoned listener. 

My Review:

Audible - The Hiding PlaceAH! Not my first venture into an audiobook, but certainly the first I’ve borrowed from my local handy-handy library with the intention of using for an audible review. I’m usually very careful about committing to a book without investigating the blurb, the genre, and the reviews. But I had seen this author’s name bandied about among my review blogger buddies and bit when I saw it available at the library. If I were more technologically inclined, I’d have had half this book notated (I can do that on my cell phone with a Kindle book). But this book–so many quotables–lost to me.

It is definitely noir–very dark–supernatural bordering on horror. (And if you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll remember I don’t do horror. Okay–VERY occasionally and depends…(for instance, I like Dean Koontz.) First, I experienced some difficulty in separating the storyline, the author’s writing style (which is very distinctive), from the narrator’s masterful interpretation of the words and proper inflection. No denying, for me, the narrator did a smashing job of providing a creepy, eerie voice to the tale, but the author certainly knew which bits and pieces of the dark history of the protagonist to release at precisely the appropriate time.

The protagonist, Joe Thorne, is a middle-aged teacher summoned to return to his boyhood home of Arnhill. No love lost there. But worst, dark history he needs to confront and finally put to rest. He has taken both the teaching position of the former teacher who killed her son and herself, as well as the cottage where the tragedy occurred. Arnhill is a former colliery town, now closed, though really the town was there before the mine. He’s not exactly taken the world by storm and no one is happy to see him back, most especially those boys with whom he misspent his youth. He is not a protagonist designed to garner your empathy–you can’t walk in his shoes–he’s not very likable.

It is flashbacks to those youthful years with the present that gradually lays out the story of which a great deal revolves around his eight-year-old sister (at his 15 yrs) and her beloved doll, Annie Eyes. He loved her. And she followed him everywhere–which turned out–was not a good thing. When she inexplicably returns after a brief 48-hour disappearance, she is not the same and both she and his father are killed a short time later. He has blanks in his memory, but lives with the legacy of a mangled leg, the result of the fatal auto crash.

The novel carries a sub-plot revolving around Joe’s unfortunate vice, as well as several themes, not the least of which are the trauma teens are capable of, domestic noir, bullying, extreme grief and guilt and just how the baggage we carry shapes our lives going into adulthood.

The dialogue is clipped but engaging and it’s easy to become quickly invested in the well-plotted noir, pseudo-supernatural (though I wasn’t sure it needed that element) underlayment. Twists and turns left you unable to guess how this would ultimately end, though when it did, the conclusion gripped you in one more horrific surprise.

I was allowed this audible download from my local accommodating library and would totally recommend the audiobook narrated by Richard Armitage. (And I’ll be looking for other audiobooks narrated by him as well.)

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars Four stars

cj tudorThe Author: C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.

In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.

While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’

She is never knowingly over-dressed. She has never owned a handbag and the last time she wore heels (twelve years ago) she broke a tooth.

She loves The Killers, Foo Fighters and Frank Turner. Her favourite venue is Rock City.

Her favourite films are Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. Her favourite authors are Stephen King, Michael Marshall and Harlan Coben.

She is SO glad she was a teenager in the eighties.

She firmly believes that there are no finer meals than takeaway pizza and champagne, or chips with curry sauce after a night out.

Everyone calls her Caz.

The Narrator: Richard Armitage Not a stranger to narrating audiobooks, including widely acclaimed The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

©2019 V Williams Blog author