Normal People: A Novel by Sally Rooney – #Audiobook Review – #literaryfiction – #readingirelandmonth21

Normal People by Sally Rooney

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Literature & Fiction

Book Blurb:

Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life changing begins.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Normal People is the story of mutual fascination, friendship, and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find that they can’t. 

My Review:

OMG, I HOPE that Marianne and Connell are NOT “normal” people.

The storyline begins while they are still in school in a small town in West Ireland. And then for the next four years, the plot revolves around each with their own POV, going to college in Dublin, meeting other people, discovering new talents or the lack thereof, and maturing, except in their relationship.

Normal People by Sally RooneyBoth knew they had a strong connection early on. But Connell hails from the other side of the tracks. He strongly feels his inferior place in her life—she is a daughter from a wealthy, entitled family. While he is the product of a poor mother who loves and supports him, her family is detached, dysfunctional. They each carry their upbringing on their shoulders. It weighs on them. But each time their lives cross, that mutual powerful attraction between them begins where it left off.

Then they go their separate ways again, each to new lovers or experiences, unsatisfying, incomplete, and, what do you know? Their lives cross again—and again—and still they deny the full disclosure of their feelings toward each other.

The plot explores the sharp divide between classes, bullying, dysfunctional families, self-esteem, and the baggage of childhood—left open ended.

Obvious from the beginning they love each other.

So GET OVER IT!

As the reader progresses through each meet up and hopes they’ll finally have that last, final, heart-to-heart going between them, the time wasted comes ever more sharply into focus.

Two intelligent adults. And the clock is ticking. Each get-together lacking that all too important communication. Tomorrow is not promised.

It’s downright depressing.

I didn’t realize I was in the conclusion until the whole story ended. There was no plot really, not necessary to tie anything up, it just ended. No change, no closure—there never was going to be one. What was the point? It’s one of those books that just left me—meh.

Book Details:

Genre: Coming of Age Fiction, Literary Fiction
Publisher:  Random House Audio
ASIN: B07PC2K62C
Listening Length: 7 hrs 34 mins
Narrator: Aoife McMahon
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Normal People [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Three Stars three stars

Sally Rooney - authorThe Author: SALLY ROONEY was born in the west of Ireland in 1991. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Granta and The London Review of Books. Winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 2017, she is the author of Conversations with Friends and the editor of the Irish literary journal The Stinging Fly.

Aoife McMahan - narratorThe Narrator: Aoife McMahon was born in 1973 in Clare, Ireland. She is known for her work on Random Passage (2002), Broken (2017) and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013).

©2021 V Williams

Long Range (A Joe Pickett Novel Book 20) by C J Box – An #Audiobook Review – #crimefiction

Editors' pickBest Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 

Long Range by CJ Box

Book Blurb:

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett must investigate an attempted murder – a crime committed from a confoundingly long distance – in the riveting new novel from number one New York Times best-selling author C. J. Box.

When Joe Pickett is asked to join the rescue efforts for the victim of a startling grizzly attack, he reluctantly leaves his district behind. One survivor of the grizzly’s rampage tells a bizarre story, but just as Joe begins to suspect the attack is not what it seems, he is brought home by an emergency on his own turf. Someone has targeted a prominent local judge, shooting at him from a seemingly impossible distance. While the judge was not hit, his wife is severely wounded, and it is up to Joe to find answers – and the shooter.

The search for the would-be assassin becomes personal when Joe’s best friend, Nate Romanowski – just as he’s adjusting to the arrival of his first child – falls under suspicion for the crime. It’s a race against the clock as Joe tries to clear Nate’s name and identify the real shooter, all while deciphering the grizzly encounter. Beset by threats both man-made and natural, the two men must go to great lengths to keep their loved ones safe. 

My Review:

The twentieth episode in the Joe Pickett (game warden) series, Long Range hooks immediately with the setting of the technical, sophisticated, and very expensive gear that successfully picks off a target a military sniper would be proud of. The shot pulls Picket from his participation in the search for the survivor of a grizzly attack in his district.

Long Range by CJ BoxMy second Joe Pickett (I also listened to The Wolf Pack). I was drawn to vivid descriptions of the people and the area of Wyoming along with the main characters. This installment understandably adds more characters, while subtly reminding us of the well developed protagonist and support characters from previous installments and will work fine as a standalone.

The long range shot hits the wife of the person who was considered the target, a judge. The search is on for the shooter and gets too close when Joe’s best friend, Nate, falls under scrutiny by the local sheriff. Nate is a well-known falconer and just recently became a new daddy. He is a strongly independent and uniquely forceful character. Descriptions of the training and abilities of his birds build a pulse-pounding visual.

The plot inserts layers of well-paced, complex hypotheses, builds tension, and twists. Many of the support characters are well developed sufficient either to engage and empathize or decry. You can’t stay neutral and uninterested. The narrative absorbs the reader’s attention, entertains, and posits thoughtful consideration.

The conclusion was a bit hurried, explanations, and resolution, but not wholly. There were a couple quibbles—the grizzly thread, was that actually answered? (Perhaps legally, but I never got a satisfactory reason for the bears’ action.) And the Nate thing, hmmm…just too pat. While I enjoyed the novel (the storyline never dragged), it seemed to fall back on an overused trope and I’ve tired of that one. Also, a little disappointed in the narrator’s delivery this time. I don’t remember that the previous one sounded quite that monotone. 

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

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction, Mysteries, Suspense
Publisher:  Recorded Books
ASIN: B07ZJTW2XX
Listening Length: 10 hrs 35 mins
Narrator: David Chandler
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Long Range [Amazon]

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C J Box - authorThe Author: C. J. Box is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over twenty-two novels including the Joe Pickett series. He won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel (Blue Heaven, 2009) as well as the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, the Barry Award (twice), the Western Heritage Award for Literature, and 2017 Spur Award for Best Contemporary Western. The novels have been translated into 27 languages. Open Season, Blue Heaven, Nowhere To Run, and The Highway have been optioned for film and television. Millions of copies of his novels have been sold in the U.S. alone.

Box is a Wyoming native and has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor, and he owned an international tourism marketing firm with his wife Laurie. In 2008, Box was awarded the “BIG WYO” Award from the state tourism industry. An avid outdoorsman, Box has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West. He served on the Board of Directors for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and is currently serving on the Wyoming Tourism Board. He lives in Wyoming

The Narrator: David Chandler was born on February 3, 1950 in Danbury, Connecticut, USA as David Suehsdorf. He is an actor and writer, known for Hide and Seek (2005), Law & Order (1990) and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (1987). He is married to Janet Elizabeth Muir. They have two children.

©2021 V Williams

Deep South (Anna Pigeon #8) by Nevada Barr – An #Audiobook Review – Cultural Heritage Fiction -#ThrowbackThursday

“You stick your finger in the water and you pull it out, and that is how much of a hole you leave when you’re gone.” (Finger in the water test–Multiple sources)

Deep South by Nevada Barr

Book Blurb:

Nevada Barr‘s ever-popular Anna Pigeon series is consistently praised as “exceptional” (Denver Post), “stunning” (Seattle Times), and “superb” (New York Times Book Review). In Deep South, Park Ranger Anna Pigeon heads to Mississippi, only to encounter terrible secrets in the heart of the south…

Anna Pigeon finally gives in to her bureaucratic clock-and signs on for a promotion. Next thing she knows, she’s knee-deep in mud and Mississippi. Not exactly what she had in mind. Almost immediately, as the new district ranger on the Natchez Trace, Anna discovers the body of a young prom queen near a country cemetery, a sheet around her head, a noose around her neck. It’s a bizarre twist on a best-forgotten past of frightening racial undertones. As fast as the ever-encroaching kudzu vines of the region, the roots of this story run deep-and threaten to suffocate anyone in the way, including Anna…

My Review:

My second book by Nevada Barr in her Anna Pigeon, US National Park Service series and I enjoyed this one possibly even more than my first, Hunting Season. While we are working through the trope of the lone female in a normally male bastion, the park service, I greatly appreciate the strong, independent woman portrayed as Anna Pigeon.

Deep South by Nevada BarrWilling to tackle just about anything (while admitting in some circumstances fear), she still plows through as if being a female doesn’t matter. In this case, a white woman and a Yankee in a new promotion as District Ranger on the Natchez Trace of Mississippi. Oh, and new to the south as well, she has several strikes against her before she even begins.

It’s apparent immediately she isn’t wanted, welcome, or tolerated. Still, before she can really settle into the new position or thoroughly meet her subordinates, she encounters the murder of a sixteen year old girl. The girl’s body is left with racial implications.

Dealing with the investigation, the road blocks thrown up by her deputies, and confronting an attraction for one of the men, she manages each confrontation with calm and intelligence and is making headway in the mystery.

I love the information regarding the historic area of Mississippi, the Natchez Trace being an ambitious trail from Natchez to Nashville, some 444 miles and three states. Underlying the Trace information is the Civil War stories that permeate the area in general and the Trace in particular.

Anna is well developed, we can see who she is without having read the seven prior to this entry, and in this episode, strong interpersonal relationships are borne of the circumstances that create engaging support characters.

These narratives set an early hook, reel you in, and don’t let go. It is a well-plotted and fast paced storyline that keeps you reading (in this instance—listening) and hard to pause.

Hard push into the explosive conclusion and the calming collective following. An oldie but a goodie that rallies interest in the remaining books of the series—nineteen in all. A good mystery with culture cues. The narrator does an excellent, even superb job of narrative—forcing the pace, either faster or that ease into another discovery, or possible perp. Who was it killed that girl? I won’t tell.

Book Details:

Genre: Cultural Heritage Fiction, World Literature, Women Sleuth Mysteries 
Publisher:  Recorded Books
ASIN: B0002QUWQY
Listening Length: 12 hrs 8 mins
Narrator:  Barbara Rosenblat
Publication Date: July 22, 2004
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Deep South [Amazon]

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

Nevada Barr - authorThe Author: Nevada [Barr] was born in the small western town of Yerington, Nevada and raised on a mountain airport in the Sierras. Both her parents were pilots and mechanics and her sister, Molly, continued the tradition by becoming a pilot for USAir.
Pushed out of the nest, Nevada fell into the theatre, receiving her BA in speech and drama and her MFA in Acting before making the pilgrimage to New York City, then Minneapolis, MN. For eighteen years she worked on stage, in commercials, industrial training films and did voice-overs for radio. During this time she became interested in the environmental movement and began working in the National Parks during the summers — Isle Royale in Michigan, Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and then on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.
Woven throughout these seemingly disparate careers was the written word. Nevada wrote and presented campfire stories, taught storytelling and was a travel writer and restaurant critic. Her first novel, Bitterweet was published in 1983. The Anna Pigeon series, featuring a female park ranger as the protagonist, started when she married her love of writing with her love of the wilderness, the summer she worked in west Texas. The first book, Track of the Cat, was brought to light in 1993 and won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best first mystery. The series was well received and A Superior Death, loosely based on Nevada’s experiences as a boat patrol ranger on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, was published in 1994. In 1995 Ill Wind came out. It was set in Mesa Verde, Colorado where Nevada worked as a law enforcement ranger for two seasons.
The rest is, shall we say, HISTORY! Nevada’s books and accomplishments have become numerous and the presses continue to roll, so in the interest of NOT having to update this page, books, awards, status on the New York Times Best Seller List — and more — will be enumerated with the relevant books else where on this website.

Barbara Rosenblat - narratorThe Narrator:  [Barbara Rosenblat] has recorded over 600 audiobooks in a distinguished career that has garnered 8 Audie Awards, 50 plus Earphone Awards from Audiofile Magazine for exceptional recordings and numerous  accolades over the years. She has been inducted into the Audible Narrator Hall of Fame. One critic wrote, ‘Barbara is to audiobooks what Meryl Streep is to film’. Her book, ‘Audiobook Narrator- The Art of Recording Audiobooks’ provides personal guidance for those pursuing this avenue of art and is a direct result of answering many questions at personal appearances and at her masterclasses about the craft.

Barbara has also done a lot of animation, anime, and video games as well as documentaries and commercials. (Bio and pic from Hasty Book List.)

©2021 V Williams

Hunting the Hangman by Howard Linskey – A #BookReview – #warfiction – #TBT

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

Hunting the Hangman by Howard LinskeyWith a plot that echoes The Day of the Jackal and The Eagle Has Landed, Hunting the Hangman is a thrilling tale of courage, resilience and betrayal that reads like a classic World War II thriller. In 1942 two men, trained by the British SOE, parachuted back into their native Czechoslovakia with one sole objective: to kill the man ruling their homeland. Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik risked everything for their country. Their attempt on Reinhard Heydrich’s life was one of the single most dramatic events of World War II, and had horrific consequences for thousands of innocent people. Heydrich was a man so evil even fellow SS officers referred to him as the “Blond Beast.” In Prague, he was known as the Hangman. Hitler, who dubbed him “The Man with the Iron Heart,” considered Heydrich his heir, and entrusted him with the implementation of the “Final Solution” to the Jewish “problem:” the systematic murder of 11 million people.

His Review:

The Third Reich is in control of the majority of Europe. Nazi general Reinhard Heydrich is the Reich’s Protector of Prague and all of Czechoslovakia; a cold -blooded killer who considers every Czech to be a sub-human. He is considered directly in line to govern if Hitler is killed.

Members of the Czech army in exile, Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis are being trained to go back into their country and wipe out this menace. Early in 1942 this is a very dangerous mission and is calculated to be almost a suicide endeavor. The odds of returning from the mission are extremely low. These brave men volunteer to give something back to their home country.

Hunting the Hangman by Howard LinskeyThis book shows the efficiency of the German SS and security forces.  The killing and destruction of entire villages is one of their fear tactics. Adapted from some of the tactics of the Romans, the object is to completely remove the village leaving no stone or brick upon another. Follow this up with plowing and removing any detritus and the end result is a bare field where once a thriving village stood.

Training Strategic Operation agents was a brutal and unforgiving exercise. The object was to create someone who would accomplish his/her mission or die trying. There is no excuse when the price of failure is complete physical suffering and then death. Many of the captured were so savagely mutilated that their identity was difficult to establish.

General Heydrich was a methodical, sadistic and egocentric commander. He had no patience for those who could not complete his commands. When Germans were killed by foreign operatives the retribution was sometimes a hundred to one. In some areas entire villages were taken out and killed; men, women and children! No one was left to relate the reason for the entire destruction of the village!

The arrogance and personal feeling of invincibility of General Heydrich was his ultimate undoing. But can the SOE assassins complete the mission and survive? This author has done an excellent job of supplying the answer. The weakest link in any capture of a clandestine operator will often become the undoing of the entire group. This superbly written novel shows the lengths that patriots will go to in order to help attain freedom for their countrymen. I couldn’t stop reading! 5 stars – CE Willliams

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley. These are my honest opinions.

Book Details:

Genre: Military Historical Fiction, War Fiction
Publisher: No Exit; First Edition
ISBN : 1843449501
ASIN : B088F26YSF
Print Length: 321 pages
Publication Date: May 25, 2017
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Hunting the Hangman [Amazon]

Also find the book at these locations:

Barnes and Noble
Kobo

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Howard Linskey - authorThe Author: [Howard Linskey-Goodreads] A bit about me and my books. I am an author with Penguin Random House. My latest book, ‘Alice Teale Is Missing’ features detectives Beth Winter and Lucas Black, as they work together to investigate the mysterious disappearance of seventeen-year-old-Alice.

I am also the author of a series of books set in the north east of England, featuring journalists Tom Carney & Helen Norton with detective Ian Bradshaw, who all appear in ‘The Chosen Ones’, ‘The Search’, ‘Behind Dead Eyes’ and ‘No Name Lane’.

I don’t only write crime fiction though. My two historical novels are set in WW2. ‘Hunting the Hangman’ tells the true story of the assassination of Nazi General, Reinhard Heydrich, and ‘Ungentlemanly Warfare’ is a novel featuring SOE agents, Harry Walsh and Emma Stirling and OSS agent, Sam Cooper. They are published in the UK (No Exit) and are coming to the US thanks to Kensington Books.

My earlier novels, the David Blake books, have been optioned for TV by Harry Potter producer, David Barron. The Times newspaper voted ‘The Drop’ one of its Top Five Thrillers of the Year and ‘The Damage’ one of its Top Summer Reads. Both books broke into the top five Amazon Kindle chart.

I’m honoured to be the ghost writer of ‘Surviving Hell’ which tells the true story of former Para, Nick Dunn, one of the Chennai Six, who were wrongfully imprisoned in India for years, having committed no crime.

On a far lighter note, I am also the writer behind ‘The Little Book Of Pintfulness’ a mindfulness spoof, which comprehensively proves that life is just better with beer. Please read responsibly.

Prior to becoming a full-time author, I led a series of different lives with a number of jobs, including barman, journalist, catering manager and marketing manager for a celebrity chef, as well as in a variety of sales and account management roles. I can confirm that writing books definitely beats working for a living.

I started writing many moons ago and was first published in the Newcastle United football fanzine, ‘The Mag’. I then became a journalist and wrote for regional newspapers. I have also written for magazines and web sites and was once the English Premier League football correspondent for a Malaysian magazine. I’ve stopped all of that nonsense now, preferring to make up stuff instead and call myself an author.

I’m originally from Ferryhill in County Durham but, like most of the people I grew up with, I left the north east in search of work and never quite made it back. I am now settled in Hertfordshire with my lovely wife Alison and wonderful daughter Erin.

I’m still a long-suffering Newcastle United fan and can only assume that Mike Ashley is a punishment inflicted upon us for all of the crimes we committed in our past lives.

I am represented by the best Literary Agent in the UK, Phil Patterson at Marjacq. Sandra Sawicka looks after my foreign rights there. If you are Brad Pitt and you wish to play David Blake in a movie then Leah Middleton takes care of Film and TV rights:

Marjacq Scripts Ltd
The Space
235 High Holborn
London WC1V 7LE

+44 (0) 20 7935 9499
F +44 (0) 20 7935 9115
enquiries@marjacq.com

©2021 CE Williams – V Williams the CE and I

Blue Moon: Jack Reacher, Book 24 by Lee Child – An #Audiobook Review – Thriller & Suspense – #TBT

 

Blue Moon by Lee Child

 

Rosepoint Pub CrawlEditors' pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 

Book Blurb:

Number one New York Times best seller

Jack Reacher comes to the aid of an elderly couple…and confronts his most dangerous opponents yet.

“Jack Reacher is today’s James Bond, a thriller hero we can’t get enough of.” (Ken Follett)

“This is a random universe”, Reacher says. “Once in a blue moon things turn out just right.”

This isn’t one of those times.

Reacher is on a Greyhound bus, minding his own business, with no particular place to go and all the time in the world to get there. Then, he steps off the bus to help an old man who is obviously just a victim waiting to happen. But you know what they say about good deeds. Now, Reacher wants to make it right.

An elderly couple have made a few well-meaning mistakes, and now they owe big money to some very bad people. One brazen move leads to another, and suddenly Reacher finds himself a wanted man in the middle of a brutal turf war between rival Ukrainian and Albanian gangs.

Reacher has to stay one step ahead of the loan sharks, the thugs, and the assassins. He teams up with a fed-up waitress who knows a little more than she’s letting on, and sets out to take down the powerful and make the greedy pay. It’s a long shot. The odds are against him. But Reacher believes in a certain kind of justice…the kind that comes along once in a blue moon. 

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Evening Standard 

My Review:

Well, I’ve certainly been here before—swimming upstream. How is this an Editor’s Pick? My first encounter with Child and Jack Reacher.

Blue Moon by Lee ChildWhat I found was that the beginning of the narrative begins with a rather gratifying example of an ex-badass who noted something imminently obvious that he felt needed his intervention.

But then the plot goes totally off the rails. Absolutely no backstory, the old guy, and the reason for Reacher’s intervention, refused to tell him the whole story, which when revealed was, like, uh huh, heard that one before.

In the meantime, Reacher subjects an old couple and a waitress to outrageous danger with the heavy-handed threat of the Ukrainians and Albanians and any other “ians” he can pull out of the hat.

Suddenly, Reacher’s gone extreme quasi-military, vigilante, kill’em all. Didn’t like the answer? Kill’em. Take no prisoners. These are all nasty gang members anyway, huh?

I know little about Reacher and if I had any warm and fuzzies immediately it was just as quickly swept away. All this murder, mayhem, violence, and high body count—I’ve almost forgotten the original reason he wouldn’t just say buh-bye. No developed characters, a blurry undefined town—somewhere—slow pace…step over the body and proceed to the next. Destruction everywhere.

Wait—let’s go back. He was on a Greyhound bus and noted a possible mugging going to happen. Then he continued to pursue the old guy after his rescue. Ad nauseum. Violence for shock value. The plot is lost. The characters lost. The time listening lost.

I know there is a conclusion—I think it is after everyone died—but at some point, and particularly being an audiobook, I could just “turn off” (*click*) the narrative—skip over the ucky parts. I think somewhere in the past Reacher might have been a good guy, an admirable protagonist—that Reacher didn’t make it to Book 24.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery Action Fiction, Action Thriller & Suspense Fiction, Mystery Action and Adventure, Men’s Adventure, War & Military Action Fiction
Publisher:  Random House Audio
ASIN: B07QYWMKVJ
ASIN : B07NCNVZ5P
Print Length: 377 pages
Listening Length: 11 hrs 21 mins
Narrator: Scott Brick
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Blue Moon [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Two point Five of Five Stars Two and one-half Stars

Lee Child - authorThe Author: Lee Child is one of the world’s leading thriller writers. He was born in Coventry, raised in Birmingham, and now lives in New York. It is said one of his novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every nine seconds. His books consistently achieve the number-one slot on bestseller lists around the world and have sold over one hundred million copies. Two blockbusting Jack Reacher movies have been made so far. He is the recipient of many awards, most recently Author of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards. He was appointed CBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

The Narrator: In 1999, (Scott) Brick began narrating audiobooks and found himself a popular choice for top publishers and authors. After recording some 250 titles in five years, AudioFile magazine named Brick “one of the fastest-rising stars in the audiobook galaxy”, and proclaimed him a “Golden Voice”, a reputation solidified by a November 2004 article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Publishers Weekly then went on to honor Brick as Narrator of the Year in 2007 and 2011. To date, he has won over 50 Earphone Awards, two Audie Awards and a nomination for a Grammy Award.

©2020 V Williams V Williams-Christmas hat

Welcome 2021

The Highwayman (Book 11.5 of the Walt Longmire series) by Craig Johnson – An #Audiobook Review – #westernfiction – #throwbackthursday

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five Stars 5 stars

Audiobook-The Highwayman by Craig Johnson

Book Blurb:

Sheriff Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear embark on their latest adventure in this novella set in the world of Craig Johnson’s New York Times best-selling Longmire series – the basis for the hit drama Longmire, now on Netflix.

When Wyoming highway patrolman Rosey Wayman is transferred to the beautiful and imposing landscape of the Wind River Canyon, an area the troopers refer to as no-man’s-land because of the lack of radio communication, she starts receiving “officer needs assistance” calls. The problem? They’re coming from Bobby Womack, a legendary Arapaho patrolman who met a fiery death in the canyon almost a half-century ago.

With an investigation that spans this world and the next, Sheriff Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear take on a case that pits them against a legend: The Highwayman. 

My Review:

At the risk of sounding like a broken record—have you tried one of the Craig Johnson, Walt Longmire series of books yet? I continue to go through the vast audiobook collection of the Longmire series at my local library and stumbled on this novella length audiobook released back in 2016. Gees, I love these books!

I introduced my readers to our binge of the series when I compared the TV Netflix version with the Longmire books by Craig Johnson here. AND, I was delighted to hear beautifully executed audiobooks of the series by narrator George Guidall. OMG—he does such a wonderful baritone of narration—his inflection, tone, and pace perfect!

The Highwayman by Craig JohnsonCraig Johnson has an exquisite way with words—his descriptions conjuring the visual, the scent of the scene, the chill or heat of the air, and the tension of the characters. The characters? Wonderful! Longmire has had enough time and experience under his badge to handle just about any scenario you can throw at him. The dialogue, particularly between he and Standing Bear (Henry) of the Cheyenne Nation, full of respect, honor, emotion. Their banter can argue philosophical or devolve into the humorous. Dialogue is so natural—you can hear the affection—it’s genuine.

In this short but well-packed and plotted narrative, there is a call from Rosie, a newly transferred Wyoming HP who is receiving radio calls at the same time of night from Bobby Womack. Can’t be, however, as he is an Arapaho patrolman who died in a fiery collision 50 years ago in the Wind River Tunnel. Others have investigated but no one—NO ONE—is picking up Bobby Womack besides Rosie.

I love the folklore of the local Arapaho, Shoshone, and Cherokee and the delightful dip into the paranormal. If Womack is a ghost come back to Rosie—what is he trying to tell her? The conclusion calms the waters, but not before it was one heckava level five ride over the rapids.

Absolutely riveting, page-turning, spellbinding storytelling. You don’t have to read the first eleven to enjoy this short read. You’ll love the characters, the setting, the pace. Don’t like western fiction? What about literary fiction level fleshed dynamic characters and prose that’ll keep the light burning late? Don’t let the genre labels fool you. Trust me.

Rosepoint recommended
Book Details:

Genre: Western Fiction, Mysteries, Ghost Suspense, Ghost Mysteries
Publisher:  Recorded Books
ASIN: B01EM8BSRY
 Print Length: 190 pages
Listening Length: 3 hrs 43 mins
Narrator: George Guidall
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Highwayman [Amazon]

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Craig Johnson - authorThe Author: Craig Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve Walt Longmire mystery novels, which are the basis for Longmire, the hit Netflix original drama. The Cold Dish won Le Prix du Polar Nouvel Observateur/Bibliobs. Death Without Company, the Wyoming Historical Association’s Book of the Year, won France’s Le Prix 813, and Another Man’s Moccasins was the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award Winner and the Mountains & Plains Book of the Year. The Dark Horse, the fifth in the series, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Junkyard Dogs won The Watson Award for a mystery novel with the best sidekick. Hell Is Empty, selected by Library Journal as the Best Mystery of the Year, was a New York Times best seller, as was As the Crow Flies, which won the Rocky for the best crime novel typifying the western United States. A Serpent’s Tooth opened as a New York Times bestseller as did Any Other Name and Wait for Signs, Johnson’s collection of short stories. Spirit of Steamboat was selected by the State Library as the inaugural One Book Wyoming and included visits to sixty-three libraries. Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.

George Guidall - audiobook narratorThe Narrator: Widely recognized as the world’s most acclaimed and most prolific narrator of audiobooks, George Guidall has brought a consistent artistry to his readings, delighting listeners for over 20 years. His narrations of classics like Crime and PunishmentFrankensteinThe IliadDon Quixote, and Les Miserables, along with many popular best sellers, have set a standard for excellence recognized throughout the audiobook industry.  His recordings have garnered uniformly excellent reviews from AudiofileKliattLibrary JournalPublisher’s WeeklyThe New York Times, and a variety of national newspapers and magazines.   He has also received  several Audie Awards—the industry’s equivalent of an Oscar— and holds the record for receiving the most Earphone Awards for excellence in narration given by Audiofile Magazine which has named him one of the original “Golden Voices” in the audiobook industry. He has been  honored by the Audio Publishers Association with a life-time achievement award for his record of more than 1,300 unabridged narrations.

Along with his award-winning work as an audiobook narrator, Guidall has also enjoyed a career in the theatre, including starring roles on Broadway, an Obie award for best performance Off-Broadway, and has shared the stage at the New York Shakespeare Festival with Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, and Meryl Streep. In addition to TV dramas such as Law & Order, he has appeared on most of the daytime television series.

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

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Book Blurb:

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

I loved that first book for several reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Details:

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

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 stars

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

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

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

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

 

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

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