Defending Jacob by William Landay – #Audiobook Review – #throwbackthursday

Audiobook review-Defending Jacob by William Landay

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than 20 years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: his 14-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, and as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own – between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis – a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

My Review:

I must admit that I chose this audiobook because I saw that it was narrated by Grover Gardner and I’m a huge fan of Mr. Gardner—the “Andy” of the Andy Carpenter series (by another author). His artistic rendition carries most any book to new heights, not just reading the book, but making the characters come alive—flesh and blood—along with their foibles. Such is the Andy in this book.

The hook at the beginning manages to jump what will become the meat and potatoes of this book—the POV by Andy Barber. Andy is happily married and they have a fourteen-year-old son, Jacob. Every now and then, the POV jumps over the catastrophic event in the family’s life that propels the legal thriller to a heartbreaking family drama.

Jacob is accused of the murder of a classmate. Andy becomes convinced that Jacob would not—could not—commit the heinous crime—stabbing three times the chest of the boy found murdered and left in the park. He is temporarily suspended from his position as ADA and becomes convinced beyond all reason (and mostly circumstantial evidence) that his son is innocent.

Defending Jacob by William LandayMeanwhile, Laurie, his wife is becoming alarmed at her crushing emotions and conflicting beliefs—then guilt over her thoughts. Could her son have killed that boy? The atmosphere in the air becomes increasingly contentious, Andy defending his son beyond reason. Jacob declaring his innocence. His mother no longer so positive—doubts seeping into the bedrock, loosening her private shocking fears and revelations to her husband.

Meanwhile, as Andy works second chair with the attorney they hired to defend Jacob, they are confronted with Andy’s own history—dark secrets he’d never shared even with Laurie. She becomes horrified and as her experience with her baby boy begins to shed more light on him, Andy continues the unreasonable and dogged resistance to the possibility.

The reader is first left with a child—yes, sometimes children can be cruel—but this is far beyond bullying—and increasing questions as to the veracity of Andy’s arguments. The toll on the family is unimaginable, threatening to ruin the marriage, his mother’s belief in Jacob’s innocence flailing wildly in the wind. While Andy is a well-developed main character, Laurie is more a strong periphery character and Jacob only known through the insight of Andy and his mother.

I’m a fan of legal thrillers and the courtroom dance in the narrative proceeds with all the drama a reader could want, the push-pull, win-lose. Written by a former ADA, the author knows the timing, the procedure, the lingo—it’s high drama in itself.

The family appears to survive the process albeit briefly when another event sends the reader back into high-pressure territory, gasping with shock at the turn of events.

And then; the final twist. I don’t care who you are. You never saw this coming. Yes, I know you’ve heard that before. No, trust me. This one is so beyond what you might have imagined it echoes over and over in your head, leaving you with a book hangover.  The unthinkable. No do-overs here. You can run it over in your mind. It won’t change. I was almost sick.

Does that mean I wouldn’t recommend it? Are you kidding? This is crazy unique, gripping, heart-pounding, and unquestionably a novel both engaging and entertaining. The narration by Gardner is mesmerizing. (I guess it was turned into a TV series released in 2020.)

I downloaded a copy of this audiobook from my local well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Fiction, Legal Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers
Publisher:  Blackstone Audio, Inc.
ASIN: B0073OGZNM
Listening Length: 12 hrs 24 mins
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Publication Date: January 31, 2012
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Defending Jacob [Amazon]

 

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William Landay - authorThe Author: William Landay’s latest novel is the New York Times bestseller “Defending Jacob.” His previous novels are “Mission Flats,” which won the Dagger Award as best debut crime novel of 2003, and “The Strangler,” which was an L.A. Times favorite crime novel and was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award as best crime novel of 2007.

Visit the author at http://www.williamlanday.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/williamlanday

Grover Gardner - narratorNarrator: Grover Gardner is an American narrator of audiobooks. As of May 2018, he has narrated over 1,200 books. He was the Publishers Weekly “Audiobook Narrator of the Year” and is among AudioFile magazine’s “Best Voices of the Century”. Wikipedia

Born: 1956 (age 66 years).

©2022 V Williams V Williams

#ThrowbackThursday

 

Bullet Train (the movie) vs #Audiobook #BulletTrain by Kōtarō Isaka – #crimethriller

Bullet Train (the Movie)_ vs #Audiobook

Intro

Are you up for a frenetically paced story located on a Shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan? This is an audiobook (kindle, paperback, hardback) turned into a “major motion picture” from Sony Pictures that stars none other than Brad Pitt—like you’ve probably never seen or imagined Bradley—and Sandra Bullock in a cameo.

The Movie

Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug. The poor man has a history of being unlucky—seriously unlucky—which is interesting as he’s an accomplished assassin coming off the last gig that went sideways on several levels (how did he survive?). Now he’s ready to check in with Maria who is sending him out on a simple mission. Steal a briefcase from a train. You know, that really fast one in Japan? Unfortunately, there is more than one assassin on the same train—others interested in the same briefcase—and with somewhat of an alarming connection. But once he has the briefcase, can he then get safely off the train?

Maybe not.

My Thoughts

Leave it to Hollywood to make an admittedly fast-paced nail-biting satire into an explosively violent but often farcical blockbuster. Brad Pitt (Nanao nee Ladybug) plays it to the hilt and the movie is worth the price of admission to watch the man work. He can produce many a LOL moment with just a look. And he comes off as hapless and innocent (if an assassin can be innocent) when the bodies begin to pile up around him.

Brad Pitt - author
Photo attribution: IMDb

The characters are priceless—most, carefully crafted after their creative author’s original molding of them. I mean—come on—Tangerine and Lemon? And again, the two are perfect, playing off each other, intellectually, in numerous scenes. Joey King - actorAnd The Prince…ah, The Prince, a female (not the high school male sadistically imagined by the author, but a cruel, petite woman). Kimura, poor, sad Kimura who followed in his father’s footsteps driven to save his son now languishing in a hospital in a coma.

Five assassins all with horrific backstories—brought to the fore by flashbacks of each. Can one be more brutal than the other? Amid fiery crash scenes, vicious fight scenes, swords, knives, and blood, there are definitely some gory scenes.

With the exception of The Prince, a viewer might be tempted to begin rooting for a particular character to make it through the chaos to fight again elsewhere. Eventually, you might be so caught up in the non-stop action that you’ve forgotten the mission goal—what was it again?

4 stars 4 stars

Audiobook (Blurb)

A dark, satirical thriller by the best-selling Japanese author, following the perilous train ride of five highly motivated assassins – soon to be a major film from Sony

Nanao, nicknamed Ladybug – the self-proclaimed “unluckiest assassin in the world” – boards a bullet train from Tokyo to Morioka with one simple task: Grab a suitcase and get off at the next stop. Unbeknownst to him, the deadly duo Tangerine and Lemon are also after the very same suitcase – and they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard. Satoshi, “the Prince”, with the looks of an innocent schoolboy and the mind of a viciously cunning psychopath, is also in the mix and has history with some of the others. Risk fuels him as does a good philosophical debate – like, is killing really wrong? Chasing the Prince is another assassin with a score to settle for the time the Prince casually pushed a young boy off of a roof, leaving him comatose. When the five assassins discover they are all on the same train, they realize their missions are not as unrelated as they first appear. 

A massive best seller in Japan, Bullet Train is an original and propulsive thriller that fizzes with an incredible energy and surprising humor as its complex net of double-crosses and twists unwind. Award-winning author Kotaro Isaka takes listeners on a tension-packed journey as the bullet train hurtles toward its final destination. Who will make it off the train alive – and what awaits them at the last stop?

The Kindle-Paperback book was given the Editors’ pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

My Thoughts

The audiobook’s main character would seem to be The Prince, as it is his voice, his thoughts, his objectives that drives the plot. The characters are introduced and gradually enfolded into the storyline that revolves in and around a briefcase full of money. The chapters begin with Kimura and proceed to switch between The Prince and Nanao, as well as Tangerine and Lemon.

Bullet Train by Kōtarō IsakaIt’s amazing the philosophical depth to which the Prince advances his thoughts, proposing a subject and then dissecting in ways never before contemplated. You might be examining the meaning of life one minute and the frivolity of it the next. The prince is young—a total psychopathic narcissist—who views himself clearly superior to those of the lives he currently controls like a master with a marionette.

The suitcase becomes the baton stolen, hidden, found, and then passed to the next hideous villain. There are support characters who come and go, the Wolf for instance, but my very favorite was Kimura’s mother and father. Sweetness in the middle of madness.

The fate of several of the main characters is handled very differently in the audiobook than was in the movie, some of which I was sorry about, but kept rooting for Nanao—much the underdog—but not so unlucky anymore. The conclusion is satisfying, though somewhat deflating after all the turmoil (and casualties) and it’s even possible the reader can understand why this is a necessary evil.

5 stars 5 stars

The Author

Kōtarō Isaka - author
Author photo from Goodreads

Kotaro Isaka(伊坂幸太郎, Isaka Koutarou) is a Japanese author of mystery fiction.

Isaka was born in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from the law faculty of Tohoku University, he worked as a system engineer. Isaka quit his company job and focused on writing after hearing Kazuyoshi Saito’s 1997 song “Kōfuku na Chōshoku Taikutsu na Yūshoku”, and the two have collaborated several times. In 2000, Isaka won the Shincho Mystery Club Prize for his debut novel Ōdyubon no Inori, after which he became a full-time writer.
In 2002, Isaka’s novel Lush Life gained much critical acclaim, but it was his Naoki Prize-nominated work Jūryoku Piero (2003) that brought him popular success. His following work Ahiru to Kamo no Koin Rokkā won the 25th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers.
Jūryoku Piero (2003), Children (2004), Grasshopper (2004), Shinigami no Seido (2005) and Sabaku (2006) were all nominated for the Naoki Prize.
Isaka was the only author in Japan to be nominated for the Hon’ya Taishō in each of the award’s first four years, finally winning in 2008 with Golden Slumber. The same work also won the 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize.

Book Details

Genre: Crime Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
ASIN: B0946D2BGX
Listening Length: 13 hrs 38 mins
Narrator: Pun Bandhu
Audible Release: August 3, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Bullet Train [Amazon]

Overall Impression

The Movie

Five assassins on the bullet train traveling at 200 mph, somewhat connected with several different motives. What could go wrong? All are at odds. Amazing choice of actors with their assigned parts totally selling it. They were a hoot. The action is non-stop. Tons of special effects and some shocking stunts. Flash bang in technicolor and sound.

Absolutely engaging, totally entertaining. Definitely outside the realm of credibility. And fun.

Did I mention fun? Still, with all that, it lacked the psychological nuances, much of the philosophical exchanges with The Prince. Some of those arguments had the ability to get you twisting and turning in the wind and sorry (not sorry) but I thought the part of The Prince was miscast—the only one. I missed some of those theoretical conversations and hated the ending.

The Audiobook

It takes a few minutes to get into the writing style and prose of the well-narrated audiobook. Also, there may be sufficient characters for some to get you grabbing an Excel spreadsheet, but the storyline begins to get the reader entrenched into a wildly unique plot and unusual location. The conversations with The Prince are mesmerizing. Difficult to get into that alien head to grasp the salient points which then become profound. Such a variety feast of characters.

It’s unusual and mysteriously engaging. Looking for something different? Go no further.

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Conclusion

The movie is riotously entertaining—all action and character-driven. No doubt you’d enjoy if this is your thing—lots of sights and sounds. Pitt is great. And Sandra Bullock? (Phoned it in.) It’s a fast two hours.

The audiobook’s twists and turns have your head swimming, trying to keep up. It’s deliciously aggravating while intoxicating. It goes dark quickly. It’s also engaging and entertaining and the characterizations alone beat the movie version even given the performances these individuals turn in. Unusual setting, unique well plotted, and evenly paced, I have to go with the audiobook (author’s original work) to take this one.

I’d recommend either as entertaining but if you are looking for a stimulating and unique novel—look for the book.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops: A Memoir by Allison Hong Merrill – #Audiobook Review – Asian & Asian Americans Biographies

Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops by Allison Hong Merrill

Book Blurb:

Allison Hong is not your typical 15-year-old Taiwanese girl. Unwilling to bend to the conditioning of her Chinese culture, which demands that women submit to men’s will, she disobeys her father’s demand to stay in their faith tradition, Buddhism, and instead joins the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then, six years later, she drops out of college to serve a mission—a decision for which her father disowns her.
After serving her mission in Taiwan, 22-year-old Allison marries her Chinese-speaking American boyfriend, Cameron Chastain. But 16 months later, Allison returns home to their Texas apartment and is shocked to discover that, in her two-hour absence, Cameron has taken all the money, moved out, and filed for divorce. Desperate for love and acceptance, Allison moves to Utah and enlists in an imaginary, unforgiving dating war against the bachelorettes at Brigham Young University, where the rules don’t make sense—and winning isn’t what she thought it would be.

My Review:

When I got a request from the narrator of this memoir, I had to accept the request to listen to the audiobook. As mentioned in my response to her, the CE and I spent a little more than eighteen months on Taiwan in Taipei back in the late 60s (during the ‘Nam conflict). The CE was in the Navy at the time but his rank did not afford base housing, so we lived in the community (experiencing two typhoons while there). (Also, I met a young Taiwanese girl who asked if I would help her with her conversational English. I did.)

Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops by Allison Hong MerrillLiving on the economy, we saw first hand the lifestyle, noted the patriarchal society. The women worked tirelessly whether at home or in the rice paddies. A difficult existence. Still, reading much of the abuse by the author’s father, much less by her own mother as well, was difficult. I couldn’t imagine a world where my own mother would be so hateful to me.
Allison is abandoned in Texas by a missionary she had met in Taiwan through the outreach program of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. While Cameron was basically putting in his time, however, Allison took the teachings to heart and relied heavily on the Elders for guidance and wisdom—even against her own family—a saving grace.

So having established a connection to her local LDS church in Texas and left with no recourse, little English and less money, she turned for help to the only sanctuary she had.

I must mention the chorus of proverbs mentioned throughout the narrative, ancient Chinese sayings, pearls of wisdom that were greatly enjoyed. Allison’s thoughts though many times reminded me of just how different the cultures are, unwritten rules almost unfathomable to Westerners. Her biggest stumbling block to immersion into American society was understanding a culture so perplexing, so alien to her own.

In the meantime, Allison managed a divorce and the beginning of social activity which also served to examine a philosophy strange to my own when she juggles men attracted to her. While being blown away by her resilience, intelligence, and fortitude, there were times when some of her attitudes and values clashed with my own.

Smart as she is, however, she managed to not only succeed in classes but well enough to garner additional post-graduate studies.

I had a little difficulty with the somewhat unusual delivery of the narration but the style of writing and revelation of painful memories created waves of emotion from shock to anger. Descriptions of the people of Taiwan brought back a lot of memories—also poignant—as was this triumphant memoir.

I received a complimentary review copy of this audiobook from Kathleen Li (thanks for the contact, Kathy). These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: Asian & Asian Americans Biographies, Biographies of Religious Figures
Publisher: Allison Hong Merrill
ASIN: B0BDNZ7Q78
Listening Length: 9 hrs 26 mins
Narrator: Kathleen Li
Publication Date: September 9, 2022
Source: Request from narrator
Title Links: Nine-Nine Fire Hoops [Amazon]
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Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Allison Hong-Merrill - authorThe Author: Allison was born and raised in Taiwan and arrived in the U.S. at age twenty-two as a university student. That’s when she realized her school English wasn’t much help when asking for directions on the street or opening a bank account. By recording each of the classes she took––including physical education––and reviewing the tape every night for a year, she eventually learned English well enough to earn an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. But please excuse her if she misuses the verb tenses or mixes up the genders in third-person pronouns when she speaks. It’s no secret––English is a hard language to learn.
Allison writes in both Chinese and English, both fiction and creative nonfiction, which means she spends a lot of time looking up words on Dictionary.com. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and her work has won both national and international awards, including National Championship in the Life Story Writing Contest (Taipei, Taiwan), Grand Prize in the 2019 MAST People of Earth writing contest, the inaugural winner of Sandra Carpenter Prize for Creative Nonfiction, first-place in the 2019 Segullah Journal writing contest, and first-place in the 2020 Opossum Prize. Her work appears in both national and international publications. Her memoir, Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops, is forthcoming from She Writes Press, on September 21, 2021.
Allison is an instructor at Sotrymakers Writer’s Conference. Aside from writing, she also models and acts for print and film. But her greatest joy is sharing her life with her husband and their three sons. Visit her at http://www.allisonhongmerrill.com where you can sign up for her extremely short monthly email.

Kathleen Li - narratorNarrator: Kathleen Li has narrated 40+ audiobooks on Audible and is expanding into other types of VO work, including audio dramas, animation, dubbing and corporate VO. Her voice is warm, engaging and empathetic.

​As a Chinese-American, she is familiar with Mandarin and Taiwanese pronunciations, as well as British, French, Japanese and Southern. Because of her audiobook experience, she is skilled at varying character voices, tone and pacing in VO.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

99 Fire Hoops - audiobook

Chinese character attributes: Top – Dragon
Botton left – Love

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister – #Audiobook Review – #domesticthrillers

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister
Editors' pick Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 

Book Blurb:

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK

Can you stop a murder after it’s already happened?

Late October. After midnight. You’re waiting up for your eighteen-year-old son. He’s past curfew. As you watch from the window, he emerges, and you realize he isn’t alone: he’s walking toward a man, and he’s armed.

You can’t believe it when you see him do it: your funny, happy teenage son, he kills a stranger, right there on the street outside your house. You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your son is now in custody, his future shattered.

That night you fall asleep in despair. All is lost.

Until you wake . . .

. . . and it is yesterday.

And then you wake again . . .

. . . and it is the day before yesterday.

Every morning you wake up a day earlier, another day before the murder. With another chance to stop it. Somewhere in the past lies an answer. The trigger for this crime—and you don’t have a choice but to find it . . .

My Review:

Ouch! My head is spinning again and trying to grasp the new reveal. Now all I have to do is connect it to the previous reveals and then stack them in the proper order.

I’m a tried and true fan of the time travel premise. In this novel, a mother witnesses her son committing a murder. Shocked beyond comprehension, no way her son could have done this. She absolutely could not allow that to happen. Murder a stranger. Go to prison.

No.

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllisterGranted, I listened to the audiobook—more difficult to stop it to take notes—particularly when working out in the garden. So for the life of me, I cannot remember how, HOW in the world—what was it that occurred–to make her wake the next morning—a day before the murder.

Yeah, but it doesn’t end there. And each time she goes back—not necessarily the day before that—her investigation gets deeper and deeper and begins to uncover more shattering truths.

The twists keep coming. The reader has little chance to digest the last revelation when he/she is side-swiped with the next. But my gosh—the whole narrative? I’m not a terribly patient person and by three-quarters into the book was anxious just to get to the bottom of the whole thing; at this point so far from anything you might have imagined.

“But knowing the future is worse than not knowing. Isn’t it?

I can imagine the author’s plot line was probably written on an entire roll of butcher paper—how to keep all of this straight? Details missed, then grasped. How to explain away this whole phenomenon, an expert, becomes her go-to. A way to keep her sanity.

I must admit to becoming impatient with the protagonist–a mother who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the story—to rewrite history. The only way to prevent a catastrophe—change the circumstances leading to the event. The author’s careful devotion to her main character—driven almost beyond reason. The husband comes off empathetic and believable, a strong support character.

The hook reels in the reader and doesn’t slow the pace often, so it’s important to pay attention—no distractions from the audiobook. The tension is set, the tone turns dark, and then starts the twists, tumbling in one after the other. Not a mystery to try and predict. Best to just allow the storyline to flow to conclusion, which by the way is satisfying but did not answer all my questions. Good job, Gillian, I’m left just slightly off-balance!

I received a complimentary review copy of this audiobook from my locally well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher:  HarperAudio
ASIN: B09PSNQYYR
Listening Length: 10 hrs 7 mins
Narrator: Lesley Sharp
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Wrong Place Wrong Time [Amazon]
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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

 

Gillian McAllister - authorThe Author: Gillian McAllister is the Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of the following novels:

Everything But The Truth (2017)

Anything You Do Say (2018) called The Choice in America

No Further Questions (2018) called The Good Sister in America

The Evidence Against You (2019)

How To Disappear (2020)

That Night (2021)

Wrong Place Wrong Time (2022)

All are standalone and can be read in any order.

Her latest release is Wrong Place Wrong Time, available now and selected for the Radio 2 book club and was the Reese’s Book Club August ’22 pick. It debuted at number 4 on the Sunday Times Bestseller List and number 2 on the New York Times Bestseller List. She has been selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, the Radio 2 Book Club and is published in over 25 languages.

You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @gillianmauthor and at http://www.gillianmcallister.com.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

Audiobooks

The New Neighbor by Karen Cleveland – #Audiobook Review – #DomesticThriller @RandomHouseAudio

The New Neighbor by Karen Cleveland

Book Blurb:

Idyllic neighborhood, perfect family, meaningful career. CIA analyst Beth Bradford has it all—

Until she doesn’t.

Now, facing an empty nest and a broken marriage, Beth is moving from the cul-de-sac she’s long called home, and the CIA is removing her from the case that’s long been hers: tracking an elusive Iranian intelligence agent known as The Neighbor.

Madeline Sterling moves into Beth’s old house. She has what Beth once had: an adoring husband, three beautiful young children, and the close-knit group of neighbors on the block. Now she has it all. And Beth—who can’t stop watching the woman stepping in to her old life—thinks the new neighbor has something else too: ties to Iranian intelligence.

Is Beth just jealous? Paranoid? Or is something more at play?

After all, most of the families on the cul-de-sac have some tie to the CIA. They’re all keeping secrets. And they all know more about their neighbors than they should. It would be the perfect place to insert a spy—unless one was there all along. 

My Review:

I love me a good thriller, although not usually of the espionage variety. Still, I was caught by the blurb, the recent release already in my well-stocked library which is no stranger to the author.

I’m not sure what to think of a CIA agent on the hunt for seventeen years of an Iranian intelligence agent who is now coded as “The New Neighbor.” Beth Bradford is married with children, the last of three now about to leave the nest of a lovely home in a neighborhood they’ve lived in almost the entirety of the children’s lives. They know and love their neighbors but as their circumstances are changing, think it’s time they scaled down.

That is, right up until the time Beth’s husband allows as to how they’ve both been hanging on until the kids leave. He wants to leave too, but into his own quarters with a new squeeze. They sold their home to Madeline and somehow Beth immediately suspects Madeline isn’t who she says she is.

The New Neighbor by Karen ClevelandMadeline is making friends in the hood (her friends) and keeps an odd schedule. Beth raises the question to her boss who immediately shuts her down and cautions that perhaps she’s experiencing overload with losing her kids, her husband, her home, and now after seventeen years taken off the hunt for The New Neighbor as well. The proximity to their headquarters is too coincidental, along with other points she can tick off. Can you spell neurotic?  J-e-a-l-o-u-s?

Must she lose everything? NO! She will not lose that too and determined to ferret out The New Neighbor finds ways to short cut her new assignment in order to watch Madeline.

Okay, seventeen years is a long time to work on one assignment, especially if it lacks success, why wasn’t she reassigned years ago? Has the woman just gone off the deep end? Is this all really too much for her?

The character definitely can be annoying, ramping into paranoia quickly. She’s jumping all over the place with theories forcing the reader to consider another possible neighbor when really suspicion rose early as to who it might have been and was borne out in conclusion. 

Having to concede it was an entertaining narrative, well-plotted if not redundant, it did pose several thought-provoking questions. I didn’t care for her character nor most of those in her neighborhood—her best friend also failing support for her as well.

Engaging, bordering on annoying. I read Need to Know back in 2018 and enjoyed it, noting a continuation between the family life and this one—that conflicted tension with family and her CIA position in counterintelligence searching for Russian sleeper cells in the US that she is (or was) apparently still working.

I received a copy of this audiobook from my locally well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Thrillers, Espionage Thrillers
Publisher:  Random House Audio
ASIN: B09MVDNPNF
Listening Length: 8 hrs 10 mins
Narrator: Lisa Flanagan
Publication Date: July 26, 2022
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link:  [Amazon]
 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Three point Five Stars 3 1/2 stars

 

Karen Cleveland - authorThe Author: Karen Cleveland is a former CIA counterterrorism analyst and the New York Times bestselling author of Need to Know and Keep You Close. She has master’s degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Harvard University. Cleveland lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children.

 

 

 

©2022 V Williams V Williams

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The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong- #Audiobook Review – #historicalfiction

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong

Book Blurb:

The Paris Library meets The Flight Girls in this captivating historical novel about the sacrifice and courage necessary to live a life of honor, inspired by the first female volunteer librarians during World War I and the first women accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy.

Two women. One secret. A truth worth fighting for. 1918. Timid and shy Emmaline Balakin lives more in books than her own life. That is, until an envelope crosses her desk at the Dead Letter Office bearing a name from her past, and Emmaline decides to finally embark on an adventure of her own—as a volunteer librarian on the frontlines in France. But when a romance blooms as she secretly participates in a book club for censored books, Emmaline will need to find more courage within herself than she ever thought possible in order to survive.    

1976 Kathleen Carre is eager to prove to herself and to her nana that she deserves her acceptance into the first coed class at the United States Naval Academy. But not everyone wants female midshipmen at the Academy, and after tragedy strikes close to home, Kathleen becomes a target. To protect herself, Kathleen must learn to trust others even as she discovers a secret that could be her undoing.

My Review:

A dual timeline story, which I always enjoy, this one combines 1918 during WWI and another in 1976, with one of the first women to be accepted into the US Naval Academy.

Emmaline Balakin has always been a shy and quiet woman. She had a sweetheart once, but it didn’t work out. Now working in the Dead Letter Office, she dares to check out a familiar name on a letter refused and returned. She knows the intended recipient is married. She never lost feelings for the sender (now a soldier) and the letter discloses where he is located.

The War Librarian by Addison ArmstrongEmmaline discovers she could qualify as a volunteer librarian on the frontlines in France. Indeed, the men spend long lonely, boring hours with nothing and books have proven to be a lifeline—in more ways than one.

Kathleen Carre has always dreamed of being in the Navy—of following in her Nana’s brave footsteps who participated in the first world war as a driver. But Nana doesn’t reciprocate the enthusiasm.

Indeed, both women discover unexpected hurdles, frightening aspects, and each faces a desperate situation of their own. Emmaline finds her past love but denies him a truth that will badly damage their newly found relationship. Kathleen discovers it’s not as difficult to pass the physical aspect of those first months than to defy the opposition to female inductees into a long-established all-male bastion.

Both women make errors of judgment, denying courses of action, or boldly forcing courses of action that create further conflict. As the chapters switch back and forth between the tales of each, something is becoming apparent.

Emmaline becomes the more sympathetic of the two. Kathleen is too strongly obsessed and I never want to hear one more “Nana.” Yes, the Nana thing was repeated (over and over)—but the reader (or listener) got it the first time. For some reason, I never warmed to Kathleen; the thing with Nana and her mother.

So I’ll mention that the shocking twist in the conclusion was not unexpected, but I did like the way it was drawn. Emmaline’s story divulged some stats of which I was unaware—the book drives for the men—something a later generation would not have considered.

Kathleen is fully involved in crashing a glass ceiling—she is driven—and triumphed with a satisfying revelation you’ll want to read for yourself. It’s an engaging and entertaining audiobook, well narrated, suffering only one slow segment in the pace.

I received a complimentary review copy of this audiobook from my locally well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: World War II Historical Fiction, Family Life Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Audio
ASIN: B09M6FQN81
Listening Length: 10 hrs 8 mins
Narrators: Saskia MaarleveldLauren Ezzo
Publication Date: August 9, 2022
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The War Librarian [Amazon]

 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  4.5 stars 4 1/2 stars

 

Addison Armstrong - authorThe Author: [Addison Armstrong] I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a five-year-old writing stories about talking school supplies and ants getting their revenge on exterminators. While a junior at Vanderbilt University studying elementary education, I wrote my first historical fiction novel, The Light of Luna Park, and sold it to G.P. Putnam’s Sons in January of my senior year. Now that I’ve graduated with my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Language & Literacy Studies, as well as a Master’s in Reading Education with an ESL endorsement, I’m teaching third grade English language learners in Nashville and continuing to write.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

Happy Thursday!

 

Holy Chow: An Andy Carpenter Mystery by David Rosenfelt – #Audiobook Review – #AnimalCozyMysteries

Holy Chow by David Rosenfelt

Holy Chow by David Rosenfelt

Rosepoint Rating: 5 stars

Book Blurb:

In Holy Chow, the next mystery from bestselling author David Rosenfelt, the beloved characters—both human and canine—of this fan favorite series are back on the case with the author’s trademark wit and humor.

Retired lawyer Andy Carpenter’s calling has always been running the Tara Foundation. The dog rescue organization places hundreds of dogs in new homes every year. It’s added up to so many dogs and new owners that Andy can’t even do the math. But there’s one dog—and one owner—Andy will always remember. 

About a year ago, Rachel Morehouse came to the foundation looking for a companion. In her sixties and recently widowed, Rachel wanted a senior dog that also needed someone. Andy took a liking to her, Rachel took a liking to Lion, an older Chow Chow, and the rest is history. 

That is, until Rachel calls Andy begging for a favor: If Rachel dies, will Andy take care of Lion if her stepson cannot? Andy agrees, no questions asked, and promptly forgets about it… until he receives a call from Rachel’s estate to attend her will reading. Which is where he meets Rachel’s stepson, Tony, who is promptly arrested for his stepmother’s murder. And he wants Andy to prove his innocence. 

Andy has continued to learn more about the woman he so greatly admired and the businesses she ran, and holy chow, was this woman impressive. The person who killed her deserves to be held accountable, and if Tony is to be believed, they’re still out there. And that possibility is too much for Andy to remain on the sidelines.

My Review:

Yes, yes, I know. Seems like yesterday I was reviewing a David Rosenfelt book, but that one was Citizen K-9, a K Team series mystery. Between the two, although don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the K-9 team series too, just that for me I know even if this is Book 25 of the series, I’m going to be entertained and finish the book happy with the time spent. My only problem is that they are usually short audiobooks.

Holy Chow by David RosenfeltThe Andy Carpenter novels have a winning formula. Andy is retired, wealthy, and supports a dog rescue called the Tara Foundation. He has Tara and Sebastian, as well as his wife Laurie and their adopted son. He also has an amazing team—love the character of Marcus—a most unique character and he has the chance to shine in this one.

There is a mystery involving a dog, he’ll grudgingly accept the case, usually because he really feels in his heart the person is innocent. The case that may have started simple usually gets real complex and eventually goes to trial, and yes, I always enjoy that legal bamboozle as well. So much fun.

Fun? Yes, that’s at the heart of these pseudo-cozy mysteries, the humor, the snark, and the right amount of witty dialogue combined with serious and intelligent fact-finding. These audiobooks will keep you in a good mood even when you have to go grocery shopping. Trust me.

I’ve learned not to try and figure out the guilty antagonist (sometimes more than one) and just go with the flow. Listen and enjoy.

I can think of no narrator other than Grover Gardner who so clearly IS Andy Carpenter just as George Guidall is Walt Longmire on Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire mystery series. Whether or not you read or listen to the audiobook, you still hear their voices. I would strongly suggest the audiobooks for the sense you just won’t get reading.

Catch my review of Book 23 Dog Eat Dog and hang on for the next one. I downloaded a copy of this audiobook from my favorite library of course. These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: Animal Cozy Mysteries, Animal Fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B09GH1J5XB
Listening Length: 6 hrs 27 mins
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Publication Date: July 5, 2022
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Links: Holy Chow [Amazon]
Barnes & Noble 
Kobo

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David Rosenfelt - authorThe Author: 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.

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The 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/

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