The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Biographies & Memoirs 

Book Blurb:

2018 GRAMMY Award for Best Spoken Word Album

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

PEOPLE magazine Best Book of Fall 2016

New York Times Best-seller 

Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, featuring Carrie Fisher, is scheduled for release on December 15, 2017. Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds debuted on HBO in January 2017.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved – plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford. 

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time – and what developed behind the scenes. Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience. 

My Review:

If ever a book is best read by the author, this one is it. I must admit that I wasn’t an overly enthusiastic fan of Ms. Fisher, feeling she rode her parents’ coat tails (Debbie Reynolds and [gasp] Eddie Fisher) to stardom.

Carrie, born October 21, 1956, discovered an old diary she’d kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie. She was struck by co-star Harrison Ford. Carrie at the time being nineteen years of age admitted all those years later that she was still gaga over him. But this is not a tell-all about her very brief (three months) affair with the fastly rising-to-stardom co-star.

If that’s what you are here to read, or listen to, then you’ll be disappointed. What Fisher relates in her own witty, sarcastic, and often humorous recollections of those years regarding pre and post 1977 Star Wars is the immense impact it would have on the rest of her life. Not just a successful starring part, but the beginning of a sci-fi phenomenon of globe capacity with unforgettable characters whose names are still familiar. Forget Luke, we were all over Han Solo.

The ugly and the beautiful.

Carrie can wax poetic and, indeed, a sizeable portion of this book is her daughter’s (Billie Lourd) reading of the poems she penned in the diary, along with all her observations.

“After all is said and done, I was playing for keeps and he was playing for fun.”

“A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

 

Carrie was bi-polar, angst ridden, and prone to abuse both drugs and alcohol. The audiobook gives the listener the impression of having a private conversation with her, extremely animated, totally open and honest, a one-on-one veritable hoot for most of the narrative. No matter the memory she related, the audiobook voice is audacious and often self-deprecating. And of course, she does discuss that iconic hairdo. (Link to sound clip on image below.)

Excerpt of The Princess Diarist read by Carrie Fisher
April 14, 1977 – Princess Leia Organa (CARRIE FISHER) – (Credit Image: © Imago via ZUMA Press)

This wasn’t her first book, however. She wrote voraciously and produced a number of other books, including two additional memoirs. Actually, her death at age 60 in December 2016 reflected the loss of a serious talent. No one can forget either the death of her mother the following day.

A thoroughly enjoyable audiobook that you must listen to for the full flavor in which it was written. Enthusiastically recommended. Then why not five stars, you wonder? (Glad you asked) The poems read by Lourd may have, in my opinion, extended for just a tad too long (for me at least, anxious to get back to Carrie’s chronicle).

Book Details:

Genre: Bipolar Disorder, Humor Essays, Biographies of Celebrities & Entertainment Professionals
Publisher:  Penguin Audio
ASIN: B01AAXYD54
Listening Length: 5 hrs 10 mins
Narrator: Carrie FisherBillie Lourd
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Princess Diarist [Amazon]

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

Carrie Fisher - author, actress, playwrightThe Author: Carrie Fisher was an American actress, screenwriter and author, most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. Fisher was the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. She had one daughter, Billie Lourd (b. 1992). [Goodreads]

Her final film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was released on December 15, 2017 and is dedicated to her.

The Narrator: Billie Lourd was born July 17, 1992, in Los Angeles, California, the only child of actress Carrie Fisher and talent agent Bryan Lourd. Lourd is also the only grandchild of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. [Wikipedia]

©2021 V Williams V Williams

Sound clip attribute: Sound Cloud-Penguin Audio

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

The Bone Bed: Scarpetta Book 20 and Chaos: Scarpetta Book 24 by Patricia Cornwell – #Audiobooks–How long can a good series stay good?

Audiobooks by Patricia Cornwell

Can an author really only have a few fresh stories to tell in the same series or is one more one too many?

Patricia Cornwell is coming out with Autopsy, Scarpetta Book 25 late November. I got audiobooks for series Book 20 and 24. Was Book 24 one too many for me?

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Book Blurb-The Bone Bed

A woman has vanished while digging a dinosaur bone bed in the remote wilderness of Canada. Somehow, the only evidence has made its way to the inbox of Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, over 2,000 miles away, in Boston. She has no idea why. But as events unfold with alarming speed, Scarpetta begins to suspect that the paleontologist’s disappearance is connected to a series of crimes – much closer to home: a gruesome murder, inexplicable tortures, and trace evidence from the last living creatures of the dinosaur age.

When she turns to those around her, Scarpetta finds that the danger and suspicion have penetrated even her closest circles. Her niece Lucy speaks in riddles. Her lead investigator, Pete Marino, and FBI forensic psychologist and husband, Benton Wesley, have secrets of their own. Feeling alone and betrayed, Scarpetta is tempted by someone from her past as she tracks a killer both cunning and cruel.

This is Kay Scarpetta as you have never seen her before. The Bone Bed is a must-listen for any fan of this series, or an ideal starting point for new readers.

My Review-The Bone Bed

I’m always gratified to see that my reaction to an audiobook generally meets consensus. And this one left me scratching my head. My first novel by Patricia Cornwell, not that I didn’t recognize the name, just that I hadn’t stumbled across one of her (library) audiobooks before.

The Bone Bed by Patricia CornwellThis narrative begins with an interesting premise: a body is found attached to an endangered leather-back turtle. The body was sent to the bottom using an intricate system of ropes that would essentially dismember the body if retrieval was not precisionally crafted. The leather-back, poor thing, was not in good shape, near drowning.

Then a man is on trial for killing his wife—without the substantiation of a body, and an archeologist is missing. Do all these things really share a common thread? I enjoyed the courtroom scenes and some portions of the technicalities of forensics, but then there is all this other…”stuff” just thrown in. Could we please just stick to the main plot points?

It’s amazing just how long it took to sort all this out, but really, so much is tied up with Kay’s personal life. Does she or doesn’t she have a good marriage? Thank heaven they can agree on the most appropriate red or white wine, otherwise, they’d have nothing in common. Tons of minutia—and what’s up with Marino? ARGH! So much suspicion, possible betrayals. And Kay getting way too big for her medical britches. She drips cynical thoughts about everyone.

This one jerked me around a bit—interest to boredom—chemical names bandied around until the mind is whirling with eighteen syllable words. I liked the storyline. I didn’t particularly like the way it was delivered and got very tired of Kay and her superior, confrontational attitude pretty quickly. 3 stars

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Book Details: The Bone Bed

Genre: Medical & Forensic Thrillers, Medical Fiction, Medical Thrillers
Publisher: Penguin Audio
ASIN: B009RFGJX6
Listening Length: 12 hrs 54 mins
Narrator: Kate Reading
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Berkley
Print Length: 513 pages
ASIN: ‎ B0083P1QUM
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Bone Bed [Amazon]

Book Blurb-Chaos

In the quiet of twilight, on an early autumn day, 26-year-old Elisa Vandersteel is killed while riding her bicycle along the Charles River. It appears she was struck by lightning – except the weather is perfectly clear, with not a cloud in sight. Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the Cambridge Forensic Center’s director and chief, decides at the scene that this is no accidental act of God.

Her investigation becomes complicated when she begins receiving a flurry of bizarre poems from an anonymous cyberbully who calls himself Tailend Charlie. Though subsequent lab results support Scarpetta’s conclusions, the threatening messages don’t stop. When the tenth poem arrives exactly 24 hours after Elisa’s death, Scarpetta begins to suspect the harasser is involved and sounds the alarm to her investigative partner, Pete Marino, and her husband, FBI analyst Benton Wesley.

She also enlists the help of her niece, Lucy. But to Scarpetta’s surprise, tracking the slippery Tailend Charlie is nearly impossible, even for someone as brilliant as her niece. Also, Lucy can’t explain how this anonymous nemesis could have access to private information. To make matters worse, a venomous media is whipping the public into a frenzy, questioning the seasoned forensics chief’s judgment and “a quack cause of death on a par with spontaneous combustion”. 

My Review-Chaos

Oh good grief. And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse. This one takes forever to get into the whole reason for the plot—a body found on a bike trail. She has 30+ years of experience and by God, she’ll take her dear, sweet time because this is a lady she’d met earlier. She thinks. No, she’s pretty certain. But must not jump to conclusions. Wait, is that a familiar bike helmet? Groan.

Chaos by Patricia CornwellScarpetta is so full of angst it’s annoying. Good grief, how do these people keep a job? Her personal life is crap. Marino is irritating. But this narrative doesn’t worry about adding minutia, there is already pages upon pages of poor Kay’s childhood (it’s a wonder she isn’t a serial killer), her sister and mother. (Husband) Benton is gorgeous, rich, and every woman’s dream which is enough to make any woman nervous. Lucy is pushing anxiety.

I do enjoy the info about the ME’s office and the study of forensics, but no, don’t want to be hit over the head with it anymore than be inundated with chemicals. (And please, don’t keep telling people they can get the formulas for this stuff off the internet.) The interview with the (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?) twins who discovered the body was touching.

Everyone is anxious, confrontational, hyper. Or is that just the narrator? If I had a problem with the narrator in The Bone Bed, I really disliked this one. The tone, delivery seldom waivers below exaggerated confrontational attitude, whether from Scarpetta, Marino, (UGH! Hated the affected inflection on that character) or one of the other characters thrown in to maintain a heightened level of tension.

In the end, I couldn’t. Just couldn’t. Life’s too short. I turned off my machine. There are other audiobooks. Lots of them. 1.5 stars

Autopsy, slated to release November 30, 2021, is already flagged as a #1 New Release in Medical Thrillers. Will it sign off the series or is the author finished with Scarpetta yet? Even more important—will Scarpetta mellow just a bit? And would I try just one more? I might. But not as an audiobook with the same narrator, unless she also mellows.) 

Book Details: Chaos

Genre: Medical & Forensic Thrillers, Medical Fiction, Medical Thrillers
Publisher: HarperAudio
ASIN: B01JGOYA60
Listening Length: 3 hrs 2 mins
Narrator: Susan Ericksen
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Print Length: 483 pages
ASIN: ‎ B01BKD6YY
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Chaos [Amazon]

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Patricia Cornwell - authorThe Author: In 1990, Patricia Cornwell sold her first novel, Postmortem, while working at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. An auspicious debut, it went on to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity Awards as well as the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure prize—the first book ever to claim all these distinctions in a single year. Growing into an international phenomenon, the Scarpetta series won Cornwell the Sherlock Award for best detective created by an American author, the Gold Dagger Award, the RBA Thriller Award, and the Medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters for her contributions to literary and artistic development.

Today, Cornwell’s novels and iconic characters are known around the world. Beyond the Scarpetta series, Cornwell has written the definitive nonfiction account of Jack the Ripper’s identity, cookbooks, a children’s book, a biography of Ruth Graham, and two other fictional series based on the characters Win Garano and Andy Brazil. While writing Quantum, Cornwell spent two years researching space, technology, and robotics at Captain Calli Chase’s home base, NASA’s Langley Research Center, and studied cutting-edge law enforcement and security techniques with the Secret Service, the US Air Force, NASA Protective Services, Scotland Yard, and Interpol.

Cornwell was born in Miami. She grew up in Montreat, North Carolina, and now lives and works in Boston and Los Angeles.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

Happy Thursday!

The Couple Next Door: A Novel by Shari Lapena – #Audiobook Review – #psychologicalthrillers

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

(Amazon) Editors Pick 

Book Blurb:

An instant New York Times best seller

“I read this novel at one sitting, absolutely riveted by the storyline. The suspense was beautifully rendered and unrelenting!” (Sue Grafton, New York Times best-selling author of X)

It all started at a dinner party…

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors – a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives….

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all – a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story. Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. 

Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family – a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

My Review:

Of course I’d heard of this author for some time but didn’t have an opportunity for a book. This time I saw an audiobook copy for this one, released in 2016. Mercy!

The Couple Next Door by Shari LapenaBeing an older book and armed with the blurb, this gripping tale doesn’t need a lot of introduction. A young couple with a new baby backed by rich parents (hers), they have the home, a business, and the appearance of “having it all.”

Maybe.

Behind closed doors, however, is a young husband worried about his business, a new mom who is having difficulty coping with a fussy infant, and parents with attitude. It is the tangled story of couples keeping secrets from each other, the new mom feeling unattractive, her husband neglected and attracted to Cynthia next door. It is during Cynthia’s dinner party that Anne and Marco’s baby is abducted. Marco had assured her that in the absence of the babysitter, a last-minute cancellation, they could use the baby monitor and check in on her every half hour. After all, they were only next door.

Anne is a fragile personality suffering postpartum depression. Marco wanted a few more drinks, time to flirt with Cynthia, and it was late when they returned home to find Cora missing from her crib.

Here is a case for unreliable narrator. The storyline spins a lot of effort justifying leaving the baby, Anne is crazy over the top with guilt, the parents are incensed. Then there is the police who are having a problem swallowing any of it.

Something doesn’t add up.

Not easy to cozy up with any of the characters. Marco is beside himself for another reason, as are her parents. There is a lot of deceiving, misconception, and tension that intensifies into the plot. It might be faster paced were it not for the same theme of guilt and justification repeated so many times, each time, however, adding an additional little wrinkle.

Not just one or two twists but then the bomb, the final well placed bulls eye in the conclusion that totally knocks the reader off their rocker. What? NO! I hated that one and couldn’t believe that was how it ended.

Well, phooey. I didn’t expect that. Definitely a slow burning thriller with a killer (get it?) ending.

Did you read this one? Disappointed in the ending as I was? Shocked? So was I.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Fiction, Crime Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers
Publisher: Penguin Audio
ASIN: B01IIABQYC
Listening Length: 8 hrs 40 mins
Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Publication Date: August 23, 2016
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Couple Next Door [Amazon]

 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four Stars 4 stars

 

Shari Lapena - authorThe Author: Shari Lapena

 

Kirsten Potter - narratorThe Narrator:  Kirsten Potter, a graduate of the Boston University School for the Arts, has performed on stage, film, and television, including roles on MediumBones, and Judging Amy. An award-winning audiobook narrator.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

Happy Thursday!

The Searcher: A Novel by Tana French – #Audiobook Review #policeprocedural #TBT

#audiobook-The Searcher by Tana French

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 

Book Blurb:

Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.

“One of the greatest crime novelists writing today” (Vox) weaves a masterful, atmospheric tale of suspense, asking how to tell right from wrong in a world where neither is simple, and what we stake on that decision. 

My Review:

Yes, I discovered Tana French novels when I began participating in the Reading Ireland Month (March) and her writing, albeit lengthy, caught my attention and interest.

I have to admit, however, this might be a cat of a different color. Oh, it’s lengthy alright, and thankful I was listening to the audiobook, as I can do that fixing dinner, cleaning house, and working in my yard and this time of year the yard soaks up a ton of my time (currently working on some step pavers).

Usually it’s the narrator that either sells it for me (or not) and I must admit to getting into the spirited Irish dialogue pretty quickly and yes, buys into that old Irish saw about whiskey and beer.

The characters.

The Searcher by Tana FrenchOh my, the characters. Well, Cal as the retired Chicago cop who retires from the force and buys a piece of property uninhabited for years in a rural Irish countryside is a bit of a stretch for me. Granted, he is divorced, and has an adult daughter he is close to. Not sure why he’d skip the pond and land in Ireland. No relatives, no ties.

Cal is introduced to Trey who comes quietly into his life. It’s this very gradual friendship and later investigative work that gets him back into his cop mentality to solve the disappearance of the missing brother. Along the way, he imparts fatherly wit and wisdom on the child, teaching patiently some of the process of restoring first a desk and later additional sporting and hunting ventures.

The community is small, tight knit. And it’s a whole nother way of life, rather slow paced, and there is much to be learned about his new countryside. Something the good ole boys are more than happy to teach—in their own way and in their own time.

He’s not totally sold on his little cottage, the land, the people. He might go back to the states and he might not. It’s a clever twist of characters in and out, clues about the missing brother, almost a ruse to get to know the “lay of the land.” So who is keeping secrets?

It’s atmospheric, the bitter with the sweet. Definitely different than those I’ve read most recently The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6) and before that The Secret Place. Still, I’ve become a fan and will certainly look for another. Recommended—with reservations.

Book Details:

Genre: Police Procedural Mysteries, Literary Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Audio
ASIN: B086Q1J7FC:
Listening Length: 14 hrs 32 mins
Narrator: Roger Clark
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Searcher [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 stars

 

Tana French - authorThe Author: Tana French is the author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, and The Trespasser. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.

 

Roger Clark - narratorThe Narrator: Roger Clark began working in audiobooks as a child cutting out newspaper clippings for the local newspaper for the blind. Now a narrator of almost 100 audiobooks, he works in theater, film, voice over and performance capture. He is best known for portraying Arthur Morgan in Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2, for which he won several awards. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two boys.

©2021 V Williams

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6) by Tana French – An #Audiobook Review – #police procedural – #TBT

Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

The Trespasser by Tana French 

Book Blurb:

In best-selling Tana French’s newest “tour de force” (The New York Times), being on the Murder Squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point. 

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed-to-a-shine, and dead in her catalog-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her – except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before. 

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-the-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be. 

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?  

My Review:

Protagonist Detective Antoinette Conway and her partner, Detective Stephen Moran, begin work on a new case involving Aislinn Murray, whose death is easily and quickly attributed to her new beau by the veteran detective who took lead in the interview. But since Conway was promoted to the Dublin Murder Squad, she has been the butt of practical jokes, harassment, and hostility, partly owing, she attributes, to her being a woman in a male dominated bastion.

The Trespasser by Tana FrenchDetective Conway is pushing back, however, her gut telling her this quiet, ineffectual man could NOT have been the one to cause Aislinn’s death. She is wondering, however, with the obvious circumstantial evidence, if she is getting paranoid, pushed this one time too many in a bid to find something that isn’t there.

Not my first go-round with the author, I previously read The Secret Place (semi-finalist in Goodreads’ best mystery/thriller category 2016) for a Reading Ireland Month in March 2019—it was 480 pages—and included both detectives. I figured this time I’d try an audiobook. Even at just over twenty hours, I’d make it in time for March.

Tana French is nothing if not verbose—I’m glad I went the audiobook route as that included narrator Hilda Fay who didn’t just read the book, she became Detective Conway allowing the reader to see the rest of the narrative riding on Conway’s shoulder, heart, and mind, hitting the nuances of French’s dialogue and thoughts with depth of emotion, philosophy, and circumspect anguish.

The problem is, with ALL that dialogue, and ALL those recriminations, and ALL those subtle disclosures of the nasty pranks from the guys, the novel tends to lose sight of the story arc and extends exponentially when it could easily have been conveyed in under 300 words. The interdepartmental rivals and pissing matches become a broken record and loses the plot spit and fire.

French does pull all her various threads together in spectacular fashion in the climatic conclusion thrusting home her theory. It’s a hallow victory—sad—unsatisfying. But it’s a win.

Book Details:

Genre: Women Sleuth Mysteries, #Suspense, British & Irish Literary Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin Audio

  • ASIN: B01IQ1MEH6

Print Length: 455 pages
Listening Length: 20 hrs 6 mins
Narrator:  Hilda Fay
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Trespasser [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Three point Five of Five Stars

Tana French - authorThe Author: Tana French is the author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, and The Trespasser. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.

 

Hilda Fay - narratorThe Narrator: Hilda Fay is an award-winning actress from Ireland who has worked both on stage and screen for the past 25 years. She has performed in Oedipus, Little Gem, and the one-woman show Alice Devine. Hilda’s TV and film credits include Prosperity, Proof, and Whistleblower, which won an IFTA award for Best Drama.

©2021 V Williams

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

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Book Blurb:

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

I loved that first book for several reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Details:

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

Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 stars

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

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

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

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

 

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

©2020 V Williams V Williams

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

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James

Book Blurb:

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

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

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

My Review:

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

until I started listening to the audiobook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Details:

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

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

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

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

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

©2020 V Williams V Williams

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