The Silent Sisters (Charles Jenkins Book 3) by Robert Dugoni – #BookReview – International Mystery and Crime

“When you can have everything, you appreciate nothing.”

Book Blurb:

The Silent Sisters by Robert DugoniAfter a harrowing escape from Russian agents on his last mission, Charles Jenkins thinks he’s finally done with the spy game. But then the final two of the seven sisters—American assets who have been deep undercover in Russia for decades—cut off all communication with their handlers. Are they in hiding after detecting surveillance? Or have they turned and become double agents? It’s Jenkins’s duty to find out, but he’s been added to a Russian kill list. It will require all of Jenkins’s knowledge of spycraft—and an array of disguises—to return to the country undetected.

But plans go awry his first night in Moscow when Jenkins gets involved in an altercation that ends in the death of the son of one of Russia’s most powerful organized crime leaders. Pursued by mafia henchmen, Russian agents, and a particularly dogged Moscow police detective, Jenkins is determined to track down the final two sisters and get them to America—or die trying. As various forces close in, Jenkins fears this time he might’ve pushed his luck too far. 

My Review:

The first of my 2-22-22 reviews, don’t you know I’m a Dugoni fan having read a number of his Tracy Crosswhite series, and this, the last in his Charles Jenkins trilogy. Once again the aging ex-CIA agent is being sent back to Russia to safely extricate two remaining of the “silent sisters.”

The Silent Sisters by Robert DugoniThese missions are not getting any easier for Charles, a 6’5” black man who would probably stand out most anywhere but in Russia will require a number of ingenious disguises. He’s good at this even at 64 (65?) years—has done it before—most recently Paulina, and that’s casually mentioned in this episode.

Jenkins quickly moves the first to safety but then runs into a bit of trouble with the second. His own doing and what kinda nudged me off five stars this time, that I couldn’t believe with his track record he’d have made such a thoughtless mistake. Of course, that sets off the other well-plotted multi-antagonists as if it isn’t bad enough to anger the Russian counterintelligence.

As always, however, I enjoy getting a front row seat to the area, in this case Moscow, off the beaten path, a tour no tourist would ever get. Dugoni’s characters—yah gotta love’em. The engaging and effective women or men meant to love, you love; the antagonists meant to loathe are truly disgusting and all are well-developed.

The fast-paced series MOVES! Between flipping between mafioso, Russian intelligence, and spies, the plot never waivers or slows. Your heart sinks or soars with the twists and turns, charismatic characters to root for, and the prose thought provoking.

“…love is not about who you can live with, but about who you cannot live without.”

Always satisfying, the conclusion eases the amped tension. You could actually read this as a standalone, but for more insight into the main characters, I also recommend both The Eighth Sister and The Last Agent.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.

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

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Book Details:

Genre: International Mystery & Crime, Espionage Thrillers
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
ISBN: ‎1542008344
ASIN: B08WLVP716
Print Length: 399 pages
Publication Date: February 22, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link(s): The Silent Sisters

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble

Robert Dugoni - authorThe Author: Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle, which has sold more than 8 million books worldwide. He is also the author of The Charles Jenkins espionage series, the David Sloane legal thriller series, and several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and the literary novels, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell – Suspense Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year, for which Dugoni’s narration won an AudioFile Earphones Award and the critically acclaimed, The World Played Chess; as well as the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Several of his novels have been optioned for movies and television series. Dugoni is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and a three-time winner of the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He has also been a finalist for many other awards including the International Thriller Award, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, the Silver Falchion Award for mystery, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award.

Robert Dugoni’s books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than thirty languages.

Visit his website at http://www.robertdugoni.com, and follow him on twitter @robertdugoni and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobertDugoni

©2022 V Williams

First book of 2022
First book of 2022

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]

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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

happy thursday!

The Last House on the Street: A Novel by Diane Chamberlain –#BookReview – Women’s Historical Fiction

Rosepoint Rating: Five Stars 5 stars 

Book Blurb:

1965

The Last House on the Street by Diane ChamberlainGrowing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn’t as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She’s chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.

2010

Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill’s new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it’s the place where Kayla’s husband died in an accident—a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla’s neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.

Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth–no matter what that truth may bring to light–in Diane Chamberlain’s riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.

My Review:

I am still gasping, trying to calm the emotions this novel rammed home. So much going on in my country, still shaking my head at the ignorance, wallowing in our own problems of 1965—the CE trying to graduate prior to being drafted (and sure to be sent to ‘Nam if he was). But my operation took him out of school and changed the trajectory of our lives; our upheaval cocooned in California was far from the events of the south. We only got a small taste of what that meant (and was appalled) when he was sent by the Navy to Pensacola, Florida for training in ’66.

This narrative divides into a dual timeline: 1965 and 2010. In 1965, Ellie, an idealistic, privileged white coed full of righteous indignation defied her family, her boyfriend, and her town by joining a Civil Rights crusade called SCOPE (Summer Community Organization and Political Education Project) volunteering to spend the summer living with Black host families so the members could contact one on one local families to educate them on the importance of registering to vote. Something long awaited, their right to vote, hanging on President Lyndon B Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act.

The mission is dangerous; seriously dangerous.

“I wasn’t just moving from one town to another. I was moving from one world to another…”

The Last House on the Street by Diane ChamberlainIn 2010, Kayla has just lost her husband in a house they designed together on an exclusive end lot surrounded by trees. It’s ready for her and her small daughter to move in. She should be excited. The home is gorgeous, the first in newly created Shadow Ridge Estates, Round Hill NC, only a much older home on the same lane the owner having refused to sell to the developer. She views her new home with dread but has no alternative but to occupy.

It’s not long before she is confronted with shocking circumstances, innuendo, gossip regarding the lot, dark history of the area. Then she meets Ellie, now 65 living temporarily in the old home up the street who is caring for a terminally ill brother and elderly mother. She isn’t happy being back after living in San Francisco for decades.

The author alternates between first person accounts of the experiences of Ellie working to gain registered voters and that of the more contemporary Kayla trying to make sense of what is happening with her new home. The accounts as related by Ellie brings to life the circumstances of those she encounters, the friendships, social injustice, racial prejudice, and eventually forbidden love. Unthinkable then, interracial relationship. The reader is fed small impressions and stories regarding Ellie’s motivations.

Prejudices, suspicions, terrorist activities by the KKK spreading hate. The atmosphere is alive with tension, static, dread. A horrible time in our history.

The 1965 accounts are electric, pervasive, and lead the frank, mind-blowing plot. Gradually, the two main characters stories merge, peeling away minute reveals, building tension, heartbreak, fear. The descriptions of the window dominated house clashes wildly with the dark, invasive moss-covered forest surrounding it.

The storytelling is immersive, impactful, tragic. It’s a tough read and one that will play over again in your mind for some time to come. I highly recommend this novel, now on pre-order, and will be looking for other books by this author. I’m hooked.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.

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Book Details:

Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction, Mothers & Children Fiction, Family Life Fiction
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
ISBN: ‎1250283175
ASIN: B092T7TFP2
Print Length: 346 pages
Publication Date: January 11, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

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.

©2021 V Williams – V Williams

Holiday Reads

13 ½: A Novel by Nevada Barr – #BookReview – @nevadabarr

Book Blurb:

In 1971, the state of Minnesota was rocked by the “Butcher Boy” incident, as coverage of a family brutally murdered by one of their own swept across newspapers and television screens nationwide.

13 1/2 by Nevada BarrNow, in present-day New Orleans, Polly Deschamps finds herself at yet another lonely crossroads in her life. No stranger to tragedy, Polly was a runaway at the age of fifteen, escaping a nightmarish Mississippi childhood.

Lonely, that is, until she encounters architect Marshall Marchand. Polly is immediately smitten. She finds him attractive, charming, and intelligent. Marshall, a lifelong bachelor, spends most of his time with his brother Danny. When Polly’s two young daughters from her previous marriage are likewise taken with Marshall, she marries him. However, as Polly begins to settle into her new life, she becomes uneasy about her husband’s increasing dark moods, fearing that Danny may be influencing Marshall in ways she cannot understand.

But what of the ominous prediction by a New Orleans tarot card reader, who proclaims that Polly will murder her husband? What, if any, is the Marchands’ connection to the infamous “Butcher Boy” multiple homicide? And could Marshall and his eccentric brother be keeping a dark secret from Polly, one that will shatter the happiness she has forever prayed for?

My Review:

Okay, I’m one of those caught up in the author’s name and just blindly grabbed the book written by Nevada Barr, too late to notice it was NOT part of the Anna Pigeon series. Oh, dear.

And I’m having a seriously difficult time trying to visualize that the same author who writes about Anna Pigeon and her experiences in the park service is the same beautiful lady whose author photo is shown below. I might be more inclined to believe the author might have been Dean Koontz, but come to think of it, I’ve not read a Koontz book quite so viciously, violently graphic (and with children as well?).

13 1/2 by Nevada BarrNot a book to undertake without some trigger warnings—it’s twisted, dark, and suspenseful and (perhaps just a King horror novel) difficult for me not to just DNF. This reader needed to see a meaningful conclusion, although I’d certainly predicted from the beginning the revelation. Not a big surprise at that point.

Then Polly comes along and with her two young daughters discovers a kindred spirit in Marshall, easy going, pleasant, loving, concerned. What more could a young mother need or want?

“Most had made lives they enjoyed and would only compromise for a very shiny white knight with a particularly breathtaking steed. And a very long lance…”

The setting in post-Katrina in New Orleans was interesting and lent an atmospheric touch, until Polly meets a tarot card reader who provides dark warnings that trigger her investigation. Noooo, you say… Don’t go down into the basement—or in this case—to the slum residence of the Woman in Red.

13 1/2 by Nevada BarrOh, and by the way, 13 ½ is a tat described as meaning “One judge, twelve jurors, half a chance.”

Predictable, yes, (see paragraph three above), an unusual read for me, yes, I would classify as horror. But you don’t have to take my word for it, if you are willing to take a chance. Granted, the author does have a rather poetic turn of phrase, descriptive prose, tension-building expertise. But this author also writes, as mentioned now several times, the Anna Pigeon series, including my last couple reviews Destroyer Angel and Track of the Cat, as well as several prior to those. I particularly enjoy the audiobooks narrated by Barbara Rosenblat (she’s awesome). This novel is a standalone—a good thing. However, as you’ve no doubt understood by now, I’d recommend her series.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.

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

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Book Details:

Genre: Legal Thrillers, Murder Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher: Crossroad Press
ASIN: B07L19Y98Z
Print Length: 253 pages
Publication Date: November 30, 2018
Source: Publisher and NetGalley 

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

 

Nevada Barr - authorThe Author: Nevada 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, Bittersweet 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.

©V Williams V Williams

Have a great week!

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell – #Audiobook Review – American Revolution Biographies – #TBT

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best History 

Book Blurb:

From the best-selling author of Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes, a humorous account of the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette – the one Frenchman we could all agree on – and an insightful portrait of a nation’s idealism and its reality.

On August 16, 1824, an elderly French gentlemen sailed into New York Harbor, and giddy Americans were there to welcome him. Or, rather, to welcome him back. It had been 30 years since he had last set foot in the United States, and he was so beloved that 80,000 people showed up to cheer for him. The entire population of New York at the time was 120,000.

Lafayette‘s arrival in 1824 coincided with one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history. Congress had just fought its first epic battle over slavery, and the threat of a Civil War loomed. But Lafayette, belonging to neither North nor South, to no political party or faction, was a walking, talking reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the revolutionary generation and what they wanted this country to be. His return was not just a reunion with his beloved Americans; it was a reunion for Americans with their own astonishing, singular past.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is a humorous and insightful portrait of the famed Frenchman, the impact he had on our young country, and his ongoing relationship with instrumental Americans of the time, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and many more.

John Slattery as the Marquis de Lafayette
Nick Offerman as George Washington
Fred Armisen as Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
Bobby Cannavale as Benjamin Franklin
John Hodgman as John Adams
Stephanie March as Evelyn Wotherspoon Wainwight and Linda Williams
Alexis Denisof as The British Leadership
Patton Oswalt as Thomas Jefferson and Sherm
 

My Review:

Add me to the list of those who thought I knew something about the Revolutionary war—particularly owing both myself and the CE had ancestors who fought—and must have obviously survived.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah VowellMy question after listening to this audiobook is how in the world did we EVER win our independence? Only, in no small part, to those countries who also either had no affinity for dear ole England themselves, or the English after eight years (which I also didn’t realize) was being bankrupted. Certainly a resulting factor for the massive help from the French king Louis XVI, who himself was guillotined in 1793.

We were certainly an ungrateful bunch. Tired of the monarchy, the Red Coats, the taxes, and lack of freedom. King George III absolutely refused to surrender the colonies. The fledgling Americans decided he would. Period.

The author is a surprise. When the audiobook started with that unusual voice narrating, I thought “you gotta be kidding” expecting the narrator to change. It did, frequently, but only to inject many of the other voices listed to portray another of the main characters of the war. Her delivery is beyond droll and it’s necessary to pay close attention because much of her zingers, sarcastic wit, often comparing or contrasting present day history comes through in contemplative conversation.

I had no idea that the Marquis de Lafayette, who came over strictly as a volunteer at the age of eighteen, rose in the ranks to establish himself so completely in the successful strategy of our battles. As has been noted previously, American troops were starving, lacking boots or proper winter clothing, materiel, or training.

For awhile, the narrative seemed to follow no one pattern, chronological or otherwise, until it settled down somewhat while she followed a specific tour of well-known battlegrounds and skirmishes and describing despicable conditions, noting at one point, “who needs to pay for gun powder when heat stroke kills for free.” Or at well known Valley Forge where more than 2,000 died owing to catastrophic winter conditions alone.

That cynical sense of humor comes through when she notes the horrific Battle of Brandywine (September 11, 1777) resulted in “random rattled fleeing…struggling to put the toothpaste back into the tube.”

I enjoyed learning about Lafayette, given the writing style, not wholly a dry history lesson and more certainly the contemporary observation and connections made, one referring to Lafayette Square across from the capitol in DC.

The author’s writing style might not appeal to everyone, nor her often sense of irony dispensed in conversational fashion. However, it is entertaining, educational, and enlightening. I learned a lot and will be looking for more of her history audiobooks.

Book Details:

Genre: American Revolution Biographies, French History, United States Colonial History
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
ASIN: B013RODKRA
Listening Length: 8 hrs 7 mins
Narrators: Sarah VowellJohn SlatteryNick OffermanFred ArmisenBobby CannavaleJohn HodgmanStephanie MarchAlexis Denisof
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States  [Amazon]

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

Sarah Vowell - authorThe Author: Sarah Jane Vowell is an American author, journalist, humorist, and commentator. Often referred to as a “social observer,” Vowell has authored several books and is a regular contributor to the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International. She was also the voice of Violet in the animated film The Incredibles and a short documentary, VOWELLET – An Essay by SARAH VOWELL in the “Behind the Scenes” extras of The Incredibles DVD Release.

She earned a B.A. from Montana State University in 1993 in Modern Languages and Literatures and an M.A. in Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. Vowell received the Music Journalism Award in 1996.

Vowell is a New York Times’ bestselling author of five nonfiction books on American history and culture. Her most recent book is Unfamiliar Fishes (2011), which reviews the takeover of Hawaii’s property and politics first by white missionaries from the United States and later joined by American plantation growers, ultimately resulting in a Coup d’état, restricted voting rights for nonwhites, and forced statehood for the small chain of islands. Her earlier book, The Wordy Shipmates (2008), examines the New England Puritans and their journey to and impact on America. She studies John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” – and the bloody story that resulted from American exceptionalism. And she also traces the relationship of Winthrop, Massachusetts’ first governor, and Roger Williams, the Calvinist minister who founded Rhode Island – an unlikely friendship that was emblematic of the polar extremes of the American foundation. Throughout, she reveals how American history can show up in the most unexpected places in our modern culture, often in unexpected ways.

Her book Assassination Vacation (2005) describes a road trip to tourist sites devoted to the murders of presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Vowell examines what these acts of political violence reveal about our national character and our contemporary society.

She is also the author of two essay collections, The Partly Cloudy Patriot (2002) and Take the Cannoli (2000). Her first book Radio On: A Listener’s Diary (1997), is her year-long diary of listening to the radio in 1995.

Her writing has been published in The Village VoiceEsquireGQSpinThe New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and the SF Weekly, and she has been a regular contributor to the online magazine Salon. She was one of the original contributors to McSweeney’s, also participating in many of the quarterly’s readings and shows.

In 2005, Vowell served as a guest columnist for The New York Times during several weeks in July, briefly filling in for Maureen Dowd. Vowell also served as a guest columnist in February 2006, and again in April 2006.

In 2008, Vowell contributed an essay about Montana to the book State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

happy thursday!

Count to Three by T R Ragan – #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

Rosepoint Publishing: Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

For a private investigator on the trail of a missing girl, every second counts in a gripping thriller by New York Times bestselling author T.R. Ragan.

Count to Three by T R RaganOn her first day of kindergarten, five-year-old Tinsley disappeared without a trace…

Five agonizing years later, her divorced mother, Dani Callahan, is a private investigator. She and Quinn Sullivan, a promising young assistant determined to prove herself, are devoted to helping others find missing loved ones. And for Dani, finding Tinsley is still a never-ending obsession.

Their newest case is Ali Cross, a teenager who vanished off a Sacramento street while walking home. A troubled boy’s eyewitness testimony to Ali’s abduction provides their only clues. And as their search for Ali gets underway, new information about Tinsley’s disappearance begins to surface too.

As their investigations lead down two twisting paths, disturbing secrets are revealed and new victims find themselves in mortal danger. Time is running out, and the hunt is only getting grimmer. 

His Review:

Dani considered herself a very good mother. So how had her daughter Tinsley disappeared so quickly? She had gone to elementary school to pick her up and she had been taken by another woman five minutes earlier. How could that be possible? Now the most important case of her young private investigator career was the recovery of her own daughter.

Count to Three by T R RaganAli is preparing to go into school and is abducted right outside the building. Quinn observes her being pushed into a white van but is unable to reach her in time to stop the abduction. Frantic searches are begun for both Tinsley and Ali. They have fallen off the face of the earth.

TR Regan has a great way of spinning a yarn. I found myself immediately invested in the struggles of Dani and Ali. The deeper into the investigation Dani goes, the more frustrated as a reader I became. Having someone disappear in broad daylight in downtown Sacramento seems incredible but certainly possible. Sacramento is a big city and people tend to mind their own business.

Missing persons are not always on the top of the investigator’s agenda. Murder and other violent crimes take center stage. The young senior in high school could have simply run away from an abusive home life. The cases soon go on the back burner of the investigators task list. Meanwhile the victims are suspended in the animation that is these types of crimes.

The perpetrators are two very different types of criminal but the resultant angst is very similar. As a reader I found myself wound up in the investigation and becoming very angry at the criminals. TR wraps them in the confusing morass that is their psyches.

CE WilliamsRead this book and enjoy the way TR Ragan develops her villains. You will not be disappointed. 5 stars – CE Williams

We’ve both read T R Ragan books in two different series now and have never failed to love them (see our links to previous reviews below). We received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are his honest opinions (this time). Currently on pre-order.

Book Details:

Genre: Kidnapping Thrillers, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
ISBN: ‎ 1542093945
ASIN: B08LD3LNS6
Print Length: 283 pages
Publication Date: December 14, 2021
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Count to Three [Amazon]

 

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T R Ragan - authorThe Author: T.R. Ragan (Theresa Ragan) has sold over three million books and is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling mystery and thriller author.

Readers interested in signing up for a monthly newsletter or getting their name in a TR RAGAN book should check out her website at http://www.trragan.com

Facebook • Twitter • Instagram: @trraganauthor

LIZZY GARDNER SERIES
Abducted
Dead Weight
A Dark Mind
Obsessed
Almost Dead
Evil Never Dies

FAITH MCMANN TRILOGY
Furious
Outrage
Wrath

JESSIE COLE SERIES
Her Last Day (My 4.5 star review here)
Deadly Recall
Deranged
Buried Deep (My 5 star review here)

SAWYER BROOKS SERIES
Don’t Make a Sound – 6/20
Out of Her Mind – 11/20
No Going Back – 1/21 (His 5 star review here)

©2021 CE Williams – V Williams V Williams

TV Netflix Series Firefly Lane vs #Audiobook Fly Away by Kristen Hannah and Susan Ericksen (Narrator) – Family Life Fiction – #TBT

Netflix series Firefly Lane vs Audiobook Fly Away Book 2 of the Firefly Lane series

 

Somewhere in my travels through buddy blogs or Netflix ads, I noticed the novel Firefire Lane and that the book had been picked up for a Netflix original series. I must admit to loving the challenge of listening to the audiobook and then making a mild comparison to the Netflix version. In the past I’ve noticed a radical departure from the original books (not quite so much with Longmire, but seriously rewritten in the Virgin River series).

The storyline by Kristen Hannah in Firefly Lane (Book 1) is about Kate Mularkey, who in the summer of 1974 meets Tully Hart. Kate is in the eighth grade and a doomed bottom feeder whereas Tully is “the coolest girl in the world.” But Tully lives a tenuous life with an addicted and aging flower child and she quickly assimilates into Kate’s family. The ensuing well-paced narrative chronicles the friendship, the bond between the girls through thirty years and several life changes.

Netflix Series

Firefly Lane follows Tully played by Katherine Heigl and Kate played by Sarah Chalke through their coming of age, young adulthood, and the rise of each in their chosen life path. They are BFFs, supporting each other through both the good times and bad into their 40s.

There are ten episodes in Season 1 with Season 2 promised some time in 2022. The actors, both the youths and adults, do an incredible job of selling their characters.

Katherine Heigl - actressKatherine Marie Heigl (born November 24, 1978) is an American actress, producer and former fashion model. She started her career as a child model. Heigl and her husband of 13 years — the singer Josh Kelley — have a 4-year-old son together, Joshua Bishop Kelley, Jr. They adopted their daughter Nancy Leigh, 12, from South Korea in 2009 and Adalaide, 8, who is Black, in 2012. [Wikipedia] She may best be known for her role in Grey’s Anatomy.

Sarah Chalke - actressSarah Louise Christine Chalke born August 27, 1976) is a Canadian actress and model. She is known for portraying Elliot Reid on the NBC/ABC comedy series Scrubs. Chalke is engaged to lawyer Jamie Afifi. The couple have a son, Charlie Rhodes, and a daughter, Frances. Her son was diagnosed at age two with Kawasaki disease. [Wikipedia]

My Thoughts

I love finally having female buddy films that women can identify with, enjoy. Of course, Thelma and Louise made some waves when it came out, but I don’t remember seeing a number of similar cinema offerings after. A League of Their Own? (“There’s no crying in baseball.”) First Wives Club? Not sure this isn’t apples and oranges and you no doubt can cite better or more current examples.

In this case, the often bawdy Netflix theme offers adult entertainment from violence and drug abuse to nudity and sex scenes. If that’s not offensive, then behind the restricted content comes the beautiful story of a powerful friendship that manages to survive jealousy, anger, triumphs, and betrayals. Life is a struggle, but the friendship and connection prevails.

Really, if you haven’t discovered this one yet, I recommend the series. Engaging, well-developed and portrayed characters. So far, a “feel good” series, although I understand that changes. 5 stars

Audiobook (Blurb)

The number one New York Times best-selling author returns to the characters in Firefly Lane in her next blockbuster novel, Fly Away. Once, a long time ago, I walked down a night-darkened road called Firefly Lane, all alone, on the worst night of my life, and I found a kindred spirit. That was our beginning. More than 30 years ago. TullyandKate. You and me against the world. Best friends forever. 

But stories end, don’t they? You lose the people you love and you have to find a way to go on…Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kate – to be there for Kate’s children – but Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people. Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mother’s death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her…until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world. 

Dorothy Hart – the woman who once called herself Cloud – is at the center of Tully’s tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughter’s side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs. 

A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need each one another – and maybe a miracle – to transform their lives. 

An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness. 

Told with her trademark powerful storytelling and illuminating prose, Kristin Hannah reveals why she is one of the most beloved writers of our day. Includes a Reading Group Guide Read by Kristin Hannah  

My Thoughts

[Spoiler alert—Book 2 revelations]

Well, damn, try as I might, could NOT get the first book, Firefly Lane, which would have thoroughly supplied the background that Fly Away appears lacking. After a friendship spanning thirty years, Kate dies.

Fly Away by Kristen HannahThere has been a rift between the two, but Tully drops her very successful daytime TV show to spend the rest of the time she and Kate have left together. Tully promises Kate she will be there for her children. The problem, of course, is that Tully has devoted her life to attaining stardom on television. She never marries, doesn’t have children. Has no clue how to play devoted aunt to Kate’s twin boys and sixteen year old Marah.

What follows is a sub-plot involving Marah and her attempt to turn on, tune in, drop out. And there is an intense story in which the reader (or listener) gets the full low down on Dorothy Hart (Cloud—Tully’s flower child mother). Her story is heart-breaking and familiar to many of the older generation.

And finally, Tully’s failed attempt at reconciliation with her world, the cost and the redemption and ultimately a conclusion that somewhat settles the heart.

The narrative is long-toothed on retrospection, coulda, woulda, shouldas. A review of the highlights of the thirty years—the good and the bad. The romances, their families. Overall, I felt it rather morose, sad, not an audiobook to read with depression or happy for that matter—it’ll bring yah down. (And here again, I did not care for the narrator). Really, a rather unfortunate wrap-up for what is otherwise a celebration of a relationship few are privileged to experience. 2 stars

Overall Impression

Sometimes I discover I prefer the (audio)book, sometimes it’s the Netflix version. The Netflix version is usually a compromise of adult material, softened somewhat, or not. Character events are switched, or a major plot-twisting event occurs—not as originally written but what works best for the TV version. In this particular instance, the character that stuck out for me the most from the book that Netflix nailed is Dorothy (Cloud), who eventually looks at least ten years older than her real age. The story of Tully is tragic, really, and although obvious in the Netflix version, concentrates on the stark reality of her childhood and the life-long battle that forges in the Tully character.

I’m all over Netflix Firefly Lane Season 1, but if Season 2 follows Fly Away, I’m out.  

Book Details

Fly Away: Book 2 of the Firefly Lane series
Genre: Family Life Fiction, Friendship Fiction, Women’s Sagas
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B000V77082
Listening Length: 16 hrs 4 mins
Narrator:  Susan Ericksen
Audible Release: April 23, 2013
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Fly Away Book 2 [Amazon]

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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 the 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

©V Williams V Williams

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