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/

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah- #Audiobook Review – #TBT

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Literature & Fiction 

Book Blurb:

Audie Award, Fiction, 2016

In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.

France, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

My Review:

Well, mercy, I do pick up some major tear-jerkers. Tear-jerkers for some, DNF for others. It’s another where the divide between the perceived outstanding literary fiction and bad chick-lit sparks an arc between one and five stars. As usual, I manage to come in when the dust has settled.

Okay, yes, I had a few of the same arguments I’ve seen voiced in reviews as I’ve long believed the old adage, “when poverty comes in the door, love flies out the window.” So during war with so many atrocities happening as well as rampant starvation, can you really believe a spark of anything much past the drive to survive? There was more. But I’m not going to hold her feet to the fire for using a modicum of artistic license to spin a riveting tale.

The Nightingale by Kristin HannahHannah may have taken just a few liberties with certain WWII factoids. Still, overall she paints the devastating horrific picture of carnage we’ve been given through survivers and she paints that scene behind the story of two French sisters, Viann and Isabelle.

Polar opposites with some years between, the younger Isabelle is passionate about doing whatever she can to aid her country in the fight against the Germans. And she finds a niche she exploits far beyond what anyone could have expected of either man or woman. I know in my heart there was probably more than one unsung female hero whose sacrifices we’ll never know except through fictionalized stories such as these.

The characters are well drawn: Viann, older and a mother who has kissed her husband goodbye and waiting for his return finally realizes she has been left to survive on her own. Isabelle, alienated from her sister and her father has no compunction in joining the resistance as her youthful confidence would drive her passionate activities safely. Eventually, her service is curtailed and there are retributions to be paid.

It’s a narrative that yanks the emotions one way and then another.

Both the main characters and the support characters create a realistic scene—often coming easily to mind providing numerous cringe-worthy moments. Certainly, there were times when I thought the feat beyond the ability of a woman, much less in wartime, or inclement weather.

You can’t fault the storyline for lagging anywhere; it’s driving, driving, and difficult to stop at any chapter endings. The conclusion in the 1995 wrap-up was satisfying with one little twist left to mull over and it’s one of those books that haunts for some time. My favorite quote:

“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.” 

I’ve read several Kristin Hannah books, including most recently The Four Winds*, and enjoyed them all for the human stories they offer; the hope in times of loss, and the amazing resilience of the human spirit.

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

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B00NY8OTR0
Listening Length: 17 hrs 19 mins
Narrator: Polly Stone
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Nightingale [Amazon]

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

 

Kristin Hannah - authorThe Author: Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. It was also named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week. In 2018, The Great Alone became an instant New York Times #1 bestseller and was named the Best Historical Novel of the Year by Goodreads.

The Four Winds was published in February of 2021 and immediately hit #1 on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Indie bookstore’s bestseller lists. Additionally, it was selected as a book club pick by both Today Show and The Book Of the Month club.

The Nightingale is currently in production at Tri Star, with Dakota and Elle Fanning set to star. Tri Star has also optioned The Great Alone and it is in development. Firefly Lane, her novel about two best friends, was the #1 Netflix show around the world, in the week it came out. The popular tv show stars Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke and Season Two is currently being filmed.

http://www.kristinhannah.com

*In April 2021, Netflix and The Walt Disney Company signed a deal with Sony for the right to exclusively stream and broadcast on Disney’s linear television networks for upcoming films, including this film after their theatrical and home media windows.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nightingale_(upcoming_film)

©2022 V Williams V Williams

Rosepoint recommended

American Dirt (Oprah’s Book Club) by Jeanine Cummins – #AudiobookReview – #TBT

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Literature & Fiction

 Book Blurb:

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day, a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy – two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia – trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave listeners utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity. It is one of the most important books for our times. 

My Review:

If you want to know what happens to a book that has the claim of being an Oprah’s Book Club selection, check out American Dirt. Alternately panned and praised, it is certainly a novel with great expectations. The reviews, as they can be with controversial subjects and authors, are wildly mixed.

Once again, however, I didn’t set out to find this book but happened on it in my search for a good audiobook. It certainly delivered.

American Dirt by Jeanine CumminsLydia Pérez lives in Acapulco with her family where she owns a bookstore. She has her favorites and the classics and knows her business. When Javier wanders in and chooses two of her favorites, it’s the start of an interesting relationship. She sees the man; smart, charming, handsome, but is ignorant of the fact that he is the new jefe of the drug cartel making a deadly strangle-hold on the city.

Her husband is a journalist and noting what is happening to their peaceful, beautiful tourist destination, writes a scathing profile of Javier.  It results in the horrific, violent death of her family—all except her son, eight-year-old Luca whom she manages to save, but Javier will not stop until he has them all. She begins a harrowing exodus from Acapulco to the states.

During the trip north, the reader (or listener) is introduced to a number of migrants, not just from Mexico, but those fleeing untenable conditions in their own countries, from juveniles and older all being guided in their trek from Mexico by a coyote of successful reputation.

While Lydia and Luca are the main characters, the support characters are well developed and elicit strong emotions from loathing to love. They are easy to picture, wield sympathy and provide disparate visuals. The journey is fraught with tension, hardship, and sacrifice and manages to alternately focus on many of the support characters.

Unfortunately, it is also strongly stereotypical and runs on melodrama. Goodness, it hardly slows—the melodrama yanking the reader in different directions, sparking like firecrackers, perhaps to miss obvious flaws in the writing.

I didn’t take the time to dissect every nuance, glean out whether or not that was truly Mexican Spanish, or whether or not a certain character might have done or said something that way. I might even decry that a white woman could rake in those kinds of bucks on such a sensitive topic, but I did find the narrative engaging and compelling. Perhaps it didn’t reflect the people or factual situation correctly but it did provide a face to the individuals and the desperation that would drive a human being that strongly.

And when I read of another truck full of migrants found in the deadly heat of summer, it bestowed a visage on real people. I thought the narrator did an exceptional job and I hung on every word. You’ll have to make up your own mind about this one. Did you read it? Listen to it? What was your reaction?

Book Details:

Genre: Latino American Literature, Hispanic American Literature & Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B07RQ9LR1K
Listening Length: 16 hrs 43 mins
Narrator: Yareli Arizmendi
Publication Date: January 21,2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: American Dirt [Amazon]

 

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Rosepoint Publishing: Four stars 4 stars

 

Jeanine Cummins - authorThe Author: Jeanine Cummins is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling novel, AMERICAN DIRT, which was an Oprah Book Club and a Barnes & Noble Book Club selection, has been translated into 34 languages, and has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. She is also the author of the novels THE OUTSIDE BOY and THE CROOKED BRANCH, and the true crime memoir, A RIP IN HEAVEN. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth audiobook banner

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

There’s only been one time that Rose couldn’t stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be…dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern’s mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of what families keep hidden.

My Review:

You can’t beat this clever read for the tension, suspense, and riveting pacing. The author has managed a brilliant masterpiece of unreliable voices.

Who are you to trust? The voice of Fern, on the autistic spectrum, is super sensitive, reticent, intelligent but socially inept. She often views simple concepts literally and it’s confusing to her. Her sister, the slightly older twin, has been successful in life. Marrying, holding a responsible, well-paying position, and always,

…always,

watching over her vulnerable sister.

The Good Sister by Sally HepworthThe sisters, however, have had a chaotic childhood and suffered traumas along the way. They both hold devastating secrets. Rose, through years of therapy, has been advised to keep a journal, chronicle her thoughts and the reader is spoon-fed her entries, alternating with the direct, open, and cloistered life of the librarian, Fern.

When Fern discovers Rose appears incapable of conceiving, she decides this is what a good sister would do—surrogate a baby for Rose. But Fern also decides it’s she who must decide who the sperm donor will be and when she meets Wally (the name she assigns to him), it seems he will be the perfect donor. Wally (Rocco) has issues of his own and understands Fern so it might appear these two are a good match. Indeed, it’s easy to invest in these characters.

While the head might be saying…”wait a minute…there are problems here,” the heart is nodding with joy that these two people, damaged though they might be, found each other and make a happy match.

In the meantime, Rose is beginning not to look so rosy. Doesn’t ring true. She’s manipulative—all those years taking care of Fern—protective? Or controlling.

In the meantime, the well-plotted narrative takes alternate dark and light turns, yanking sensitivities, emotions, pushing boundaries and begins to sneak in a few little revelations—twists you wouldn’t have suspected and the rug starts gently being pulled out from under you.

These two are so different. In looks. In character. In their memories. How could they view the same event with such diverse recollections?

Not prepared for the ultimate reveal, this one knocked the wind out of me. WOW. Have I just been played or what?

I received a review copy of this audiobook from my local lovely library and the narrator did one very fine job—totally had me hooked. These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thrillers, Family Life Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B089XJLJ43
Listening Length: 8 hrs 31 mins
Narrator: Barrie Kreinik
Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Good Sister [Amazon] 
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

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Sally Hepworth - authorThe Author: Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives (2015), The Things We Keep (2016) The Mother’s Promise (2017), The Family Next Door (2018), The Mother In Law (April 2019), The Good Sister (April 2021) and The Younger Wife (April 2022). Hollywood actress and producer, Amy Poehler, has optioned The Mother In Law for a TV series.

Sally’s books have been labelled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”. Sally’s novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 10+ languages.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.

©2022 V Williams

V Williams

#throwbackthursday

Citizen K-9: A K Team Novel by David Rosenfelt – #Audiobook Review – #AnimalFiction

Citizen K-9 by David Rosenfelt

Citizen K-9 - banner 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

The Paterson Police Department has created a cold case division, and they want to hire the private investigators known as the K Team to look into the crimes. After all, Corey Douglas and his K-9 partner, German shepherd Simon Garfunkel, recently retired from the force. Plus, another K Team member, Laurie Collins, used to be a cop as well.

Their first cold case hits home for the K Team. A decade ago, at Laurie’s 10th high school reunion, two of their friends simply…vanished. At the time Laurie had just left the force, and Corey was in a different department, so they had no choice but to watch from the sidelines. With no leads, the case went cold.

As the team starts to delve deeper into the events leading up to that night – reopening old wounds along the way – the pieces start to come together. But someone wants to stop them from uncovering the truth behind the disappearance, by any means necessary. 

In Citizen K-9, best-selling author David Rosenfelt masterfully blends mystery with dogs and humor to create an investigative team that listeners will be rooting for book after book. 

My Review:

Yes, this is a spin-off of one of my favorite series, Andy Carpenter, so I was a bit wary of anything that didn’t include the wise-ass attorney. However, I tried the K-Team because a number of the characters that are included in the Andy Carpenter series are featured in this one except Andy Carpenter is exchanged for retired cop Corey Douglas and Carpenter’s dogs for Simon Garfunkel, also a retired (canine) cop. (With me so far?)

But it is not Andy Carpenter by any other name.

Citizen K-9 by David RosenfeltCorey works with Laurie, also a retired cop (seriously, is there anyone left on the Paterson NJ police force?), and Laurie also happens to be Andy’s wife. AH HA, you say! Yes, a little nepotism, but this series gets a whole lot more serious.

The K Team works with the Paterson NJ police using their consultant funds to work on cold cases. Perfect. And this cold case involves two former classmates of Laurie’s, both disappearing after a high school reunion almost ten years ago.

As you can see, I haven’t lost a mystery with several dogs, as now there is one very serious German Shepherd and a favorite of the precinct. I have though lost the snarky, sarcastic wise-cracking Andy Carpenter, but I must say, Corey is growing on me despite his quirky personality. And, he may have a steady girl now—enter a budding romance.

This is not the Andy Carpenter series with one new character (minus the courtroom scenes), although you may wish to go back to Book 1 just to get the intro to Corey. I really enjoy Fred Berman’s voice as Corey, he does a great job, and Rosenfelt manages to work Carpenter in for free (cameo) legal appearances. These are complex mysteries with easy, fast, and engaging plots.

I read Book 2 February 2021, Animal Instinct, and thoroughly enjoyed it, found that it built well on the foundation set in this new series. While the concept borrows from the author’s successful characters of the Andy Carpenter series, these first three K-9s are engaging and entertaining and can be read as standalones. This one is just released and I urge you to check it out.

I received a complimentary review copy of this audiobook from the publisher and NetGalley. Thank you, thank you! These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: Animal Fiction, Private Investigator Mysteries
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B094DWV1FH
Listening Length: 5 hrs 53 mins
Narrator: Fred Berman
Publication Date: March 15, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link(s): Citizen K-9 [Amazon]
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

Add to Goodreads

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.

[Goodreads] 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…
http://www.davidrosenfelt.com

Fred Berman - narratorThe Narrator: Fred Berman Hundreds of commercials, promos, and video games; over 200 audiobooks and counting; 4 time winner of the Audie Award; 11 time winner of the Audiofile Earphone Award.

 

 

 

©2022 V Williams V WilliamsTis a lucky day! four leaf clover

Big Lies in a Small Town: A Novel by Diane Chamberlain – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

North Carolina, 2018:

Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, her dream of a career in art is put on hold – until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will get her released from prison immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy Southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to be free, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940:

Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and in great need of work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin’s Press.

My Review:

WOW!

Just… WOW!

I listened to approximately 45 audiobooks in 2021 (four per month) and if I’d finished this one in time, it would definitely have been included in my favorites list for the year—audiobook or print.

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane ChamberlainTold from two POVs, in 2018, Morgan Christopher and 1940 Anna Dale. Morgan is sprung from the North Carolina Correctional Facility on a conditional release—the promise to restore a mural that was to have been installed in the Edenton Post Office in 1940. Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey won a national contest out from under the town artist—considered the shoo-in. From New Jersey! An abomination! What did she know about the south or the town that the mural was to represent? The south is an alien world to Anna and Edenton not exactly thrilled to welcome a northerner.

Morgan’s benefactor, however, is a famous artist, Jesse Jameson, who dedicated himself to young artists with a history. Morgan knew his work and seriously loved it. She dabbled—loved painting—but restoring a mural was something she knew NOTHING about.

Jesse was within months of completing and opening an art gallery at the time of his passing and Morgan’s time frame was two months but when she initially saw the mural, very old, flaking, dusty; she thought impossible.

Completing the mural will keep her out of prison AND she’ll be paid for her work. It’s seriously important. She finds an ally in the project manager and though he’s not an artist can provide some basic start-up instruction in art restoration.

We begin to get filtered narration by Anna, an enormously engaging and sympathetic character, young and naïve, definitely out of her element but very serious about providing the town with the best representation of the area she can. Then as the mural is gradually restored, painstakingly inch by inch, Morgan begins to uncover some disturbing and bizarre inclusions into an otherwise masterful mural. What happened to Anna? Did she go mad?

Anna’s story is mesmerizing, one you can’t tear yourself away from. I loved her philosophy, her openness, and the two boys she took in to help with the work on the mural; especially Jesse. He’s an enigma, a brilliant natural artist, obviously enormously talented. Coming from a “colored” family, however, holds no hope of an artistic career. His family needs his help on the farm and only his aunt encourages and supports his work with Anna. It’s 1940; in the south. And Anna is a white northerner.

What happens next is shocking. A quick intake of breath, a sharp refusal that this is how Anna’s story will end. What happens to Jesse? The mural?

Undeniably the greatest hold is Anna’s story. But Morgan keeps digging and now her heart and soul are in uncovering Anna’s story along with restoration of the mural.

The characters are extremely well developed, the heart goes out to Anna and Jesse, truly the force in this amazing narrative. Storytelling at its finest! From heart-thudding moments to anger, revulsion, and back again to tearful hope. Totally invested in Anna, Jesse, and to a lesser extent Morgan.

Themes of poverty, racism, violence, and rape. Easy to switch back and forth between the POVs, each advancing the tension, the questions swirling maddingly around the mind. How can this be resolved? Or CAN it?

And the conclusion: beautiful.

I read five final nominees in the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2020 and this was not even listed. If I have a problem with a book, I check to see if or why I’m off base in my assessment, pursuing both low and high reviews. It looks as if I’m in agreement with most reviews this time. So, what happened?

This is a truly immersive read from beginning to amazing end. Strong, individual and believable characters. The mural, during the restoration process, took shape and color in my mind becoming both awesomely jaw-dropping and then bewildering, confusing.

Brilliant! Did you read or listen to the audiobook? What was your reaction?

Book Details:

Genre: Family Life Fiction, Psychological Thrillers, Historical Thrillers
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B07T8C3RT3
Listening Length: 13 hrs 19 mins
Narrator: Susan Bennett
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Big Lies in a Small Town [Amazon]

Add to Goodreads

Diane Chamberlain - authorThe Author: Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and (London) Sunday Times best-selling author of 27 novels. The daughter of a school principal who supplied her with a new book almost daily, Diane quickly learned the emotional power of story. Although she wrote many small “books” as a child, she didn’t seriously turn to writing fiction until her early thirties when she was waiting for a delayed doctor’s appointment with nothing more than a pad, a pen, and an idea. She was instantly hooked.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and lived for many years in both San Diego and northern Virginia. She received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker in both San Diego and Washington, D.C, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, working primarily with adolescents.

More than two decades ago, Diane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which changed the way she works: She wrote two novels using voice recognition software before new medication allowed her to get back to typing. She feels fortunate that her arthritis is not more severe and that she’s able to enjoy everyday activities as well as keep up with a busy travel schedule.

Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and their odd but lovable Shetland Sheepdog, Cole.

Please visit Diane’s website at http://www.dianechamberlain.com for her event schedule and for more information on her newest novel, Big Lies in a Small Town, as well as a complete list of her books.

Susan Bennett- narratorThe Narrator:  [NOTE: I think this is the correct Susan Bennett. If it is not, please let me know and I’ll correct immediately.] Susan Alice Bennett is an American voice actress and a former backup singer for Roy Orbison and Burt Bacharach. She is best known as the female American voice of Apple’s Siri personal assistant, since the service was introduced on the iPhone 4S on October 4, 2011. Wikipedia

©2021 V Williams

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Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty – #Audiobook Review – Domestic Thriller

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Amazon Charts #7 this week
2021 AudioFile Best Audiobooks
2021 Washington Post Best Books of the Year 

Book Blurb:

The Delaney family love one another dearly – it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other….

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after 50 years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children – Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke – were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure – but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.

My Review:

No, No, NO! My first Moriarty book and looking at the reviews I can’t understand for the life of me how Amazon proclaims this a best seller with several number one genres. The reviewers loved it? Or no, the reviewers hated it! I think I can see why.

Apples Never Fall by Liane MoriartyAs you’ve no doubt heard (because, gee, who hasn’t?), the plot revolves heavily around an Aussie family totally tennis obsessed. It’s the Delaney family, all six of them; parents and two daughters, two sons. Dad is a tennis coach, had his coaching business for years while both he and his wife Joy could equally have “been a contender.”

But Joy sacrificed all that adoration to raise her brood and now that they are gone, have lives of their own, she wants grandchildren.

But wait, isn’t she festering over all the hard work, the time, attention, and the lack of acknowledgement she should have received for her being best tennis mommy and business director?

Some called it boring. Well, maybe it is. It is definitely a slow burn. But my goodness, this is an intense study in the family with low-lying suspense underneath the strongly character-driven plot. As is typical, each child is 180 degrees from the other and they are rather selfishly driven with their individual paths. Truth be told, how many of the four embraced that tennis fever? Was it Logan? Any of them?

So Joy goes missing and the storyline jumps from immediate backstory to present that includes a mysterious stranger (Savannah) taking advantage of the retired couple—heaven knows they have the room—but why did they take her in, who is she, and why is she there? Wait—is something fishy going on?

Complicated plot, complex relationships, the simmering resentment apparently on Stan’s (the father’s) side as well. He handled explosive situations by removing himself. Just leaving. Well, nothing like being left to handle all the conflict…….argh!

My first experience with this author. The novel is very long and there are so many underlying issues to resolve. Yes, this reader was driven to find out what happened to Joy because at this point, I’m clueless (although there had been a short hint early on). The daughters fell on one side of the defense of dad, the sons the other.

Well, hang’m high! (If only they could find the body.)

But, then the conclusion.

Yeah, you’ll have to slough through the book or catch the audiobook and I must say, narrator Caroline Lee did a very credible job of helping to build the tension. Not really one character to fully invest in—I didn’t much care for the lot. And tennis is not my game.

That extra little zinger at the end? Nope. Unnecessary. I agree with many of the others who hated it. I wasn’t a fan either and it just kind of ruined the redemption gained in conclusion for me. (I had softened somewhat regarding the relationship between Joy and Stan at the end.)

Book Details:

Genre: #1 Suspense (Audible Books), #1 Family Life Fiction (Audible Books), #1 Domestic Thrillers (Books)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B08V8939WY
Listening Length: 18 hrs 3 mins
Narrator: Caroline Lee
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Apples Never Fall [Amazon]
 Add to Goodreads

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four Stars 4 stars

Liane Moriarty - authorThe Author: Liane Moriarty is the Australian author of eight internationally best-selling novels: Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Nine Perfect Strangers and the number one New York Times bestsellers: The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty. Her books have been translated into over forty languages and sold more than 20 million copies.

Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty both debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list – the first time this was ever achieved by an Australian author. Big Little Lies was adapted into a multiple award-winning HBO series with a star-studded cast including Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Hulu is adapting Nine Perfect Strangers into a limited series starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy for release in 2021.

Her new novel, Apples Never Fall, will be released in September 2021.

Liane lives in Sydney, Australia, together with her husband, son and daughter. You can find out more at http://www.lianemoriarty.com and http://www.facebook.com/LianeMoriartyAuthor

Caroline Lee - narratorThe Narrator: Caroline is based in Melbourne, Australia, and has worked professionally as a theatre, television, film and voice actress for over thirty years. She has worked with many companies around Australia including the Malthouse, Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare, Back to Back Theatre, Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Chamber Made Opera, MKA, Finucane and Smith, HeLD Productions, Hildegard, Playbox and La Mama. She is a proud ensemble member of the Red Stitch Actors Theatre. [Hasty Book List]

©2021 V Williams V Williams-Christmas hat

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