Friday, September 23, 2022

Forsaken Country - Allen Eskens

Once I discovered Allen Eskens back in 2015, I started recommending him to everyone I knew. Since that first book, Eskens' writing has only got better and better. (Which is saying a lot as that first book was really good!)

His latest (and eighth) book is the newly released, Forsaken Country. For those of you who know his works, you'll be just as excited as I was to find that Max Rupert is at the heart of the book. 

In this latest, former Homicide Detective Max begins to question his self imposed solitude. Why? Well, Lyle, a retired lawman, comes to Max with a desperate plea for help. His daughter and grandson have gone missing - and the local sheriff has already made up his mind that she's run away and closed the case. Max has his reasons as to why he finally agrees to take a look at the case. Those who have read previous books, will know why he is so reluctant. New readers, there's certainly enough backstory to fill in the 'what came before'.

Oh my gosh, I could not put the book down. The plotting is brilliant. The action is non stop and had my stomach in knots. What to do? Yes, I stayed up very late until the last page was turned. I had to know the ending before I could sleep.

Eskens' characters have depth and introspective voices. Max's losses, love, pain, determination and struggle to be in the world again ring so true. On the flip side, there is an antagonist that will make your skin crawl, but again he rings true. There's a second antagonist had my sympathy by the end chapters. Each of these three have a voice with their own chapters.

What else is there to say - it's a fantastic book. And a very easy five stars. I can't wait to see Eskens' next book.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Wheel of Doll - Jonathan Ames

I read the first book in Jonathan Ames's 'Doll' series last year and absolutely loved it. The second book, The Wheel of Doll, has just released - and it delivers another additive read.

For those of you, who, like me, love hardboiled, down on their luck P.I. fiction, you're going to want to introduce yourself to 'Happy Doll'. Uh huh, that's his name.

The case? A beautiful young woman turns up at the office, wanting to hire Hap to find her missing mother. And her mother just happens to be a woman Doll once loved. You got it - he takes the case and immerses himself into the search.

The home setting is LA and I immediately get a noir feeling from the settings and characters - Hank's office, his occupation, (which is officially a Security Consultant since he lost his PI license), his home under the lights of the Hollywood sign, his knowledge of back alleys, encampments and the denizens those who call them home and more. 

Happy's inner dialogue is wickedly sharp and darkly humourous. He acts on impulse quite often and doesn't seem to realize that he isn't immortal. He's quite likeable and you can't help but behind him. Oh, and his dog George is an excellent sidekick. 

Another heckuva ride tale with a no apologies lead character. Can't wait for the next case! See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Wheel of Doll.

Gentle readers this book may not be the one for you - this book contains violence, drug use and more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Bookish People - Susan Coll

Oh my gosh - Susan Coll's new novel, Bookish People, had me laughing out loud so many times!

If you love books, bookstores and/or have ever worked in a bookstore, this one's for you. I have indeed worked as a bookseller. Coll's depiction of an independent bookstore and it's patrons, staff and authors had me wanting a shift on the front desk.

Bookish People is told from two points of view. First from the owner, Sophie, who is tired. She's had enough of the bookstore and really, of the world in general. She's got a plan to cope with things though. (I really love her solution!) The other voice belongs to Clemi, the store manager. She's at a different stage in life, but is feeling the pressure everyday as well. 

There's a character for every reader - younger, older, married, single and more as they all navigate the bumps and joys along the road of life - and the stacks of the store. There are two other 'characters' that figure into Bookish People. One is Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - a tortoise and the other is the bookstore vacuum. (It actually figures quite prominently!) Coll's work benefits her expertise as the Events and Programs Director at a Washington DC bookstore. (The author events were hilarious!)

I chose to listen to Bookish People. The narrator was Alexa Morden. She was a great choice! Her voice is clear and clean, enunciated well and pleasant to listen to. She brings different voice to the various characters, making it easy to know who is speaking. She captures Coll's plotting with her pacing, pausing and the tone, tenor and emphasis of the words. Her voice suited the mental images I had created for the players. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt. An easy five stars for this listener. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries - Agatha Christie

New Miss Marple stories?! All written by some of my favorite authors?! Yes please!!

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries has just released and features fresh Marple tales from some of the best mystery authors around -  Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse and Ruth Ware. This collection has the seal of approval from Christie's estate. 

The details of this iconic character are used in all of these stories - her knitting, her prim and unassuming manner, her cozy village of St. Mary Mead, her nephew, author Raymond West and his wife, the respect Miss Marple has earned from her amateur sleuthing and more. 

Some of the tales take us from St. Mary Mead to far off locations and some are closer to home. But what hasn't changed are her keen observational skills. I always enjoy the seemingly effortless way Miss Marple deduces who the culprit is. I'm with the supporting cast in each tale - just waiting for the final word on 'whodunit'. 

I really enjoy short story collections. It's nice to stop and take a break with a cuppa to read a story or two and have the closure of a solved case. I can honestly say I enjoyed each and every story. I've read most of the contributors works and it was fun to see bits of their own styles in the Miss Marple stories. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Marple: Twelve New Mysteries.

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Lost Ticket - Freya Sampson

I love my mystery and thriller reads, but the books that stick with me a bit longer are those that tug at my heart strings.

That's very much the case with Freya Sampson's latest novel, The Lost Ticket.

Libby is a newcomer to London, and arrived carrying some emotional baggage, along with her suitcase. An elderly passenger strikes up a conversation with her while they both ride the 88 bus. Sixty years ago, while riding the bus, he met a girl. A girl who he thought could be 'the' one for him. She gave him her phone number.....but he lost it. And so, every day, for sixty years, he's ridden the same route, hoping to find her. There's another rider that day as well that will become part of the search for Frank's lost girl.

Uh huh, all the right elements are in place for a 'tug at your heartstrings' read. Love lost, love found, loneliness, friendship, purpose, meaning and connections. What we all need - people, not things.

I adored the three main players in The Lost Ticket. Working together, they find what they were missing when they were alone. The supporting cast is just as endearing.

I loved the premise as well. The big question is of course, do they find the girl on the bus? I'm going to leave you to find out for yourself. The ending was, for this reader, satisfying. (But have a tissue handy.) An easy feel-good five stars!

See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Lost Ticket. Sampson's writing is a delight.

And be sure to check out Sampson's debut novel, The Last Chance Library. It's just as heartwarming! My review.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Fairy Tale - Stephen King

Oh, I'm a long time fan of Stephen King's writing. I love getting lost in his imaginings - other worlds, other times, what we can't see, what we can see, (but don't want to) and more. Each book is new and fresh, infused with the touch only King can bring to a tale.

The latest book is Fairy Tale. What a wealth of possibilities that title hinted at! I think this descriptor from the publisher sums it up nicely.

"...spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher - for that world or ours."

I love the amount of detail King puts into his characters, settings, plotting and world building. They paint vivid mental images for me, bringing the story to life. Charlie is a great lead, easy to like and root for. And there's a dog. :0) I loved the whole idea of another world with a hidden entrance just waiting for the reader. King pulls out pieces of childhood fairy tales and weaves them into his imagined world. And as we know, not all tales are fairies and lightness....

I chose to listen to Fairy Tale. Seth Numrich was the reader and he was the perfect choice. (He has read a previous King book and I enjoyed his narration) The protagonist is a seventeen year old boy and Numrich's voice embodied the mental image I had created for Charlie. There are a wealth of characters in the book and Numrich does a fantastic job of providing different voices for the players, making it easy to know who is speaking. And there are some real challenging characters. He absolutely brings the book to life with his voice. The action, emotions, danger and more are easily portrayed. His voice is easy to understand, pleasant to listen to and is well enunciated. There's a nice little gravelly tone to his voice as well. His reading speed accentuated the dialogue. Fairy Tale makes for addictive listening. There's more around the next corner, and the next and the next. The run time of Fairy Tales is only 24 hours and 6 minutes. Yes, only, as I could have listened to much, much more! Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Fairy Tale

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Bad Day Breaking - John Galligan

I really like John Galligan's 'Bad Axe County' series. The fourth book - Bad Day Breaking - has just released. 

What do I like about this series? 

The protagonist, Sheriff Heidi Kick, has fast become one of my favorite lead characters. When I first 'met' Sherriff Heidi, I couldn't help but think bad a**, as I got to know her. She's tough, smart and determined to keep her town as crime free as possible. And she's a wife and mother to three as well. Now, as much as she wants to erase crime, there are those who are determined to get rid of Sheriff Kick and run things their way. The more things heat up, the cooler Sherriff becomes. On the outside she presents calm and cool, but inside she's paddling hard.  

Next up are the plots. Galligan's plotting is fantastic and makes for addictive reading. This time round, there's a cult that has to be evicted. But the formerly quiet group seem to have some new members with different ideas. And....we get to know more of the 'Dairy Queen's' past. There's some darkness there and an old acquaintance is determined to bring it to the light. 

I like that we are not just seeing everything from Sheriff Kick's point of view. Instead we get inside looks at what's happening at the cult, from those innocent and those with evil in their hearts. As listeners, we have more information that Heidi does and that just kept me glued to my player.

The ending is not at all what I expected, but is a great way to close this book. This listener will be eagerly awaiting Galligan's next book. 

I did choose to listen to Bad Day Breaking. I've said it before and I'll say it again - listening to a book draws me deeper into the book. That is definitely with the Bad Axe books. The reader is Samantha Desz and her voice is perfect for the mental image I've created with the characters, especially Heidi. I've appreciated that she has done all four books. The continuity is important to me with a series. Her speaking voice is measured, calm and has a wonderfully low tone that draws the listener in. The calmness matches the character perfectly. Now that's not to say she doesn't show emotion. She does, but it's contained. Desz captures Galligan's characters and plotting wonderfully. An excellent presentation of an excellent book. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Bad Day Breaking

If you're a 'grit-lit' fan, you're going to enjoy this series. You could absolutely read this as a stand alone, but I would start at the beginning with the first book, Bad Axe County.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Daisy Darker - Alice Feeney

I absolutely love Alice Feeney's writing. I just knew her latest book, Daisy Darker, would be another riveting read. But for those of you who haven't read Feeney yet, this description might interest you...

"A family reunion on a tiny tidal island leads to murder in this delightfully twisty and atmospheric thriller with a wink to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None."

Daisy Darker's family is most definitely dysfunctional. And each of them is harboring secrets. The characters are all so unlikable, barring Daisy. But, they've gathered as a family to celebrate their Nana's 80th birthday. The tide cuts off the island for eight hours. And the first hour brings the first body. A poem written about the deceased on the kitchen wall. And clues to ..... well you can see what might be about to happen, right?

Feeney's writing is so addictive. And her plotting is so devious, delivering a twist at the end that can't be predicted. I love being caught off guard! The setting was so atmospheric - the isolation and the rambling house itself. Daisy is the narrator and we see things through her eyes as well as her memories of the past. Take the time to enjoy Feeney's prose as well - there are some gems in Daisy's recounting.

Loved it! See for yourself - read an excerpt of Daisy Darker. (Loved that name/title too)

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Wake - Shelley Burr

Wake is Shelley Burr's debut novel - one I quite enjoyed! 

Nannine is a tiny outback town in the center of Australia. Years ago it was a thriving community. Now it's known as the place where young Evelyn McCreery disappeared nineteen years ago. The case is still unsolved and draws many amateur sleuths to the area, all hoping to cash in the reward offer. Mina McCreery is Evelyn's sister. The loss has affected Mina's life greatly - she has become a recluse on her property, refusing to be interviewed or to speak about her sister. Until Lane, a private investigator arrives in Nannine. He has his own reasons for trying to solve the case. And he won't give in.

Burr has written a wonderful debut, successfully combining the mystery itself with the lives, thoughts and actions of the two wounded lead characters. Wake is a slow burn, perfecting suiting the plot. I liked the slow unfurling of clues, with plenty of time to decide if I was right in my guesses for the final whodunit. (I was and I wasn't) I had envisioned another ending, but the one Burr has written absolutely fits what came before.

Burr's own background adds lots of detail and authenticity to both her plot and the setting. I could feel the heat baking the ground, the vast open spaces, the isolation and the loneliness.

I chose to listen to Wake. The reader was Jacquie Brennan and she did a great job. Her Aussie accent is clear and pleasant to listen to. She speaks a good pace and is easy to understand. But I think the best thing was the tone of her voice. It's low, somewhat sultry and has a wonderful gravelly undertone. She never rushes and the pauses and tenor of her performance matches the meatal images and actions of the characters. A great performance of a great debut novel. I would absolutely pick up another by this author. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Wake.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Rules at the School by the Sea - Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is my go to, favorite feel good author. I've started listening to her books and find I am enjoying them even more. 

Rules at the School by the Sea was first published in 2010 across the pond, but has just been released by Harper Collins Audio. 

Maggie is our lead character. She survived her first year as a teacher at a British girl's boarding school and year two is just beginning. Colgan's lead characters are always someone you'd like to be friends with in real life. What's different about this series is that a core group of her young charges are also given a voice.  In the first book, I questioned the inclusion of the young teen's plotline, but their experiences are relevant and just as engaging and I was happy to see they were back. And of course there are stumbling blocks on Maggie's path, both personal and professional. There was one large question left hanging at the end of the first book and I was quite eager to see if things played out the way I wanted them to. There's a varied group of supporting players that have their own stories as well.

I really appreciate the continuity provided to a series by using the same narrator every time. In this case it's Jilly Bond who does an absolutely fantastic job! She provides unique and distinctive voices for all of the characters. It's easy to suss out who is speaking. She captures the personalities of all the characters - young, old, male and female with her voice and I easily created vivid mental images of each one. She portrays the emotions of the characters as well. Her accents are easy to understand and quite pleasant to listen to. A great job bringing a wonderful story to life! You could certainly listen to this as a stand alone, but I enjoy starting at the beginning of a series. Hear for yourself  - listen to an excerpt of Rules at the School by the Sea. And this listener is eager to listen to the next book!

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Girl, Forgotten - Karin Slaughter

Oh, I couldn't wait to read Karin Slaughter's new book Girl, Forgotten. I don't even bother looking at the fly leaf - I just know that I'm in for a great read! 

Remember Andrea Oliver from Pieces of Her? Well, Andrea takes the lead role in this latest as a newly minted US Marshall. (Note - this can absolutely be read as a stand alone.)

The book opens with a heartbreaking scene - the murder of a teen in 1982. And then flips to the present where Andrea arrives at her first job - protecting a judge who has been receiving death threats. Both events take place in the same town. And Andrea herself has a connection to things as well.

Slaughter employs a plot device that I love - the back and forth of a past and present narrative. Just as the reader is lost in the past putting together the clues, the timeline flips to the present. Guaranteed to keep me reading until late at night. 

Slaughter's plotting is brilliant and the journey to the final answers is a deliciously devious road to travel. (I do have to say that the past timeline broke my heart.)

I liked seeing this 'new' Andy. She's been thrown into the lion's den with this first assignment. She's also been paired up with the veteran Marshall Bible. They play off each other really well. I hope we get to see more this pair in the future.

Karin Slaughter is a brilliant crime writer and this latest is more evidence of that. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Haven - Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue is a brilliant writer and I always look forward to her newest book. And that would be the just released, Haven.

I've enjoyed every book she's penned, but I find myself most drawn to the historical pieces, as they are based on or take their inspiration from fact. In this case its Skellig Michael - home to a Gaelic monastery that was founded between the 6th and 8th centuries.

Haven tells the story of three monks set out to find an isolated, never settled island to build their own monastery. Their Prior is Artt - a visitor to an established community. He has a dream and asks the monastery for two monks to accompany him - the elderly Cormac, and the younger Trian. 

Their journey is not easy and the reader can see where there be strife. They land on a rocky, barren island that seems inhospitable, but Artt has faith that God will provide for them. His goals, intents and actions are obediently taken as God's word by the other two. But, there are cracks in the foundation.

Haven is a story of faith and survival, both of which are tried many times. I found the survival thread to be fascinating. How do you survive when there's nothing there? Or is there? Cormac and Trian's skillsets were unexpected and underline what a human can and will do to survive. I very much liked these two. However, I can't say the same for Artt. His motives, his inner dialogue and his sanctimonious attitude really rubbed me the wrong way. This will be the character that will prompt readers to form their own thoughts on the theological themes and threads in Haven.

The ending was satisfying to me. I was on the fence about  a piece of the plot that I could see coming. But after letting it sit with me for awhile, I decided it fit with what had gone before. It speaks to faith, acceptance, and survival. (I know that's quite cryptic, but I don't want to provide spoilers.)

For me, Haven was another great read from Donoghue. 


Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Tidy Ending - Joanna Cannon

Oh my gosh! Why I haven't heard of Joanna Cannon before! Her latest book, A Tidy Ending, is fabulous. (And I'll be looking up her backlist)

Linda lives a small life. But she wonders if there could be more to see, do and experience instead of a routine of cooking, cleaning and heading down to the pub on Friday nights with her husband Terry. When some catalogues addressed to the previous owner of their house, Linda devours them. And wonders if she could find this Rebecca and become her friend. Oh, and there's a murderer in their village....

A Tidy Ending is told in a stream of consciousness from Linda's point of view. Linda is a complex character that that had me delightfully flummoxed! I'd be listening away and then 'hello!' There are a number of statements that Linda makes that had me continuously changing what I thought and believed about her. There's also an event in her past that is referenced but not explained fully until later on.

Cannon is a clever, clever writer - her plotting is deviously delicious. But there are some poignant moments as well. All we all need is a friend - right? 

I chose to listen to A Tidy Ending and for me, this was the perfect way to experience and appreciate this wonderful book. The reader was Lissa Berry and she gave a fabulous performance. She has a wonderfully smoky, gravelly tone to her voice that conjured up a clear mental image of Linda for me. Her voice is clear and easy on the ear. She enunciates well and her timing is just right. She brings both plot and character to life with her emphasizing, rise and fall and tone of speaking. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of A Tidy Ending. 

A Tidy Ending is a clever title as well, but I'll leave it to you to find out why.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

With Love from Wish & Co. - Minnie Dark

I need to take a break from thrillers and mysteries every so often. My go to is rom-com woman's fiction. And Minnie Darke's new title, With Love from Wish and Co., was the perfect choice!

"Marnie Fairchild is the brains and talent behind Wish & Co., a boutique store that offers a bespoke gift-buying service to wealthy clients with complicated lives." But what happens when the wrong gift goes to the wrong person.....

I really liked Marnie as a lead character. She's someone you'd like to be friends with her in real life. (The friendships between herself and two friends is well depicted.)  I quite liked the process behind the choices of gifts, as well as the wrapping, fascinating. There's lots of food for thought there. Marnie is  driven to make her business bigger and better, but has run into more than one hurdle....

And of course there needs to be a romance (or two?). We as readers, will see the 'Prince Charming' long before Marnie does. Happy endings are usually a given, but I always enjoy the yes/no/maybe so path to the final pages. 

"With Love from Wish & Co. is a heartwarming novel about what we are prepared to give, and give up, in the name of love."

An excellent back porch read for me. See for yourself  - read an excerpt of With Love From Wish and Co.


Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Family Remains - Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell's new book, The Family Remains, is, to a certain degree, a follow up to her bestseller, The Family Upstairs. You could read this newest as a stand alone, but I think you'd get more out of it if you had the background from that first book. 

Quick recap:  Twenty five years ago, Libby was the baby found alive in a rundown manor, with three dead bodies in the house and two others missing. 

Present day: Rachel's husband Michael is found murdered in his house in France.

And these two disparate events will cross paths in unexpected ways. 

I think anyone who read The Family Upstairs, will be eager to find out what happened "after". I know I was!

This book is told in multiple timelines from multiple points of view. I had to refamiliarize myself with names from the past and match them up to the names they are using now.  

Jewell takes the reader on a twisty tale with a satisfying ending and closure for the players. I did find one reconciliation to be a bit of a letdown after it played such a large part in the plot. Somehow for me, it was too jolly. (Yes, an odd descriptor)

But overall, I quite enjoyed The Family Remains. Jewell always pens an addictive read. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Family Remains. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Stay Awake - Megan Goldin

I've really enjoyed Megan Goldin's previous suspense titles and was quite happy to pick up her latest - Stay Awake.

Goldin has come up with some great premises and this latest is no exception! Liv wakes up in a taxi with no idea of how she got there. And why there is writing on her hands and arms. And the boldest letters spell out 'Stay Awake." I was hooked!

The reader is alongside Liv as she tries to make sense of what's happening to her. And there's much more than just writing on her arms and hands. She desperately tries to not fall asleep, but it's inevitable. And every time she wakes up, she's back to the beginning. Just imagine yourself in Liv's shoes! 

But as a reader, we can remember and start to piece together what has happened to Liv. Or can we? Goldin has woven together a devious plot that will keep the reader turning pages, changing their guess and staying awake late into the night as more and more is revealed. I appreciate not being able to guess the final 'whodunit' early on in a book. 

Yes, there's one or two things that require a grain of salt. But just go with it. Stay Awake is great escapist reading, perfect for summertime back porch reading. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Stay Awake. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Wrong Place, Wrong Time A - Gillian McAllister

Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a first read/listen of Gillian McAllister for me - but it certainly won't be the last!

The premise? "You’re waiting up for your seventeen-year-old son. He’s late. As you watch from the window, he emerges, and you realize he isn’t alone: he’s walking toward a man, and he’s armed. You can’t believe it when you see him do it: your funny, happy teenage son, he kills a stranger, right there on the street outside your house. You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your son is now in custody. His future shattered."

Uh huh, I was hooked immediately. But that's just the catalyst. McAllister's plotting and execution are very, very clever. I went in blind on the full description of the plot, and I think the book was all the better for me that I did so. Some may say that one of the plot devices has has been done before. Well, yes it has, in varying forms, but I think McAllister's take on this idea was unique. And she also gives the listener/reader lots of unexpected twists and turns. (Love this!)  

The murder is a given, but finding out that 'why' is a deliciously winding, surprising path. Alongside this runs an exploration of maternal love, the inside of a marriage and the secrets we keep and the things we hide.

I chose to listen to Wrong Place, Wrong Time. The reader was Lesley Sharp and her voice absolutely suited the lead character of Jen. Her voice is low and throaty, the  kind of tone that you lean in to hear. Her British accent is lovely and pleasant to listen to. The speed of the reading is just right. Her voice rises and falls with whatever situation or emotion is taking place. She enunciates clearly. Sharp interprets and presents McAllister's work very, very well. An excellent reading of a fantastic novel. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Wrong Place, Wrong Time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Couple at Number 9 - Claire Douglas

The Couple at Number 9 is Claire Douglas's new suspense tale - and it's one you'll want to add to your 'must listen' list. 

Saffron and her boyfriend Tom are expecting their first child. Saffron's grandmother Rose has gifted a house to them as she is now in a care home. The couple decide to make a few renovations to the house. But the builders find something quite unexpected - two bodies under the back patio. The police want to question Rose of course, but she has Alzheimer's. What will she be able to add to the investigation? Saffy also thinks there's someone watching the house. Is it someone from Rose's past? The killer? 

I really like the multiple points of view used in the The Couple at Number 9. The timeline also goes from past to present. The pacing of the book is slower, which actually worked well for this book. There are clues scattered between the two that had me thinking I easily knew who was the culprit was - and why they did it. I'm happy to say that I was proven wrong! Douglas throws in a twist that you won't see coming at all. Well done! 

Relationships of all kinds are explored and are the backbone of the plot. The characters are well developed with quite a bit of detail. I liked Saffy as the lead player. She grows over the course of the book.

I chose to listen to The Couple at Number 9. The reader was Kenton Thomas. She's got a lovely British accent that is easy on the ears, clearly enunciated and a good speaking pace. Thomas does a wonderful job interpreting and presenting Douglas's story. She easily captures the emotions and situations in the book. Thomas provides different, believable voices for each characters, making it easy to know who is speaking. And like I've mentioned before - I become more drawn into a book when I listen. That was definitely the case with The Couple at Number 9. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Are You Sara? - S.C. Lalli

S.C. Lalli takes a break from writing romance and women's fiction (as Sonya Lalli), to bring us a suspense novel in Are You Sara?

I thought Lalli's premise was great, opening the door for any number of paths...

Two women each call for a rideshare home. The hook? They're both named Sara and they each get into the wrong vehicle. The leading character Sara ends up in a rich neighborhood and has to walk back home. When she finally makes it to her own home, there are flashing blue lights everywhere - and a dead girl named Sarah. Which one of them was the intended victim?

Sara sets out to answer that question for herself and Sarah. Each of the women have a voice. Sarah's starts almost three years ago as a series of journal entries. Her tone is younger and focuses on her relationships. Sara is an older law student, who also works two part time jobs - as a bartender and baby sitter. She's also held a job in the past that really stretched incredulity for this reader. Yes, I'm being a bit obtuse, but I don't want to provide spoilers. As the details of the side gig are revealed, I found it difficult to reconcile that skill set with the student who pulls pints. This was probably the biggest hurdle for me. I didn't like Sara and never became invested in her. There's a fairly larger number of supporting characters that were easy to dislike as well. 

That initial premise got lost in a myriad of sub plots. Too many in my opinion. That being said, the book did hold my attention to the final pages as I wanted to know how things ended. Lalli gives us a few gotchas in the end that were appreciated. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Are You Sara?

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow - Gabrielle Zevin

I admit, I didn't even look at the description of Gabrielle Zevin's new novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. I picked it up as one of her past books, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. is a favorite of mine.

So, it was a surprise going in. Video games play a large part of the book and that is immediately introduced. And I thought, this book isn't for me. But then I was drawn in... Zevin's imagined games are fascinating and yes, they beckon to the listener to come in and be a part of them. (I was truly fascinated by the details of designing games and the reasoning behind certain decisions.)

On first meeting the adult characters, I thought - oh, I'm not keen on them at all. And then I realized how 'real' they were. Zevin hasn't sugar coated anything. Each and everyone of them has strengths and weaknesses. And yes, I was talking out loud quite often, questioning the actions, decisions and paths that Zevin sets her players on. They were perfect in their realistic portrayal. All of the emotions you can think of are found in the lives of Sadie, Sam, Marx over the course of decades. The supporting characters are just as well drawn. And I was completely immersed in their lives. Each of the lead three is given a voice and we are privy to their thoughts, emotions and actions.

And where do all those years take the three? Sometimes where I wanted and often where I didn't want to go. But again, Zevin has written "the good, the bad and the ugly' paths for her characters to travel. Just as we do. 

I chose to listen to Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. Which really worked for me - I was drawn into the story in a way a print book would not have. The reader was Jennifer Kim and I thought she was a great choice. Her voice suits the plot and style of writing. Her voice is clear, easy on the ears and enunciated well. Her speed of speaking is just right. She captures Zevin's characters and plotting easily, giving movement to her narration. Julian Cihi has a lesser role as a narrator, but again, the voice is perfect for the mental pictures I had drawn of the characters. A wonderful presentation of a book I didn't think I would enjoy. I was so very wrong - I loved it. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt.

Don't wait for tomorrow - pick up a copy of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow today

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Last to Vanish - Megan Miranda

I have quite enjoyed all of Megan Miranda's books and was looking forward to listening to her latest - The Last to Vanish. The one thing that Miranda's books have in common is suspense. What's different about The Last to Vanish is how that suspense is played out.

The Last to Vanish is such a well paced book. Miranda builds the story with layers of atmospheric observations, happenings, interactions, suspicions and more - all seen through Abby's eyes. The sense of danger is not overt, but instead preys on the listener's imagination. I very much enjoyed the subtle hand Miranda used in building her story. 

I chose to listen to The Last to Vanish and I'm so glad I did. Alex Allwine was the reader. She's a new to me narrator and I thought she was was really good. She has a lovely low, well modulated, gravelly undertone tone to her voice that is easy on the ears. Her pace of speaking is thoughtful and matches the tone of Miranda's book. Her enunciation is clear. Her voice matched the mental image I had constructed for Abby.  Allwine interpreted and presented Miranda's book really well. Five stars for both the story and the performance!

Friday, July 22, 2022

Dark Objects - Simon Toyne

I've read and enjoyed previous books from Simon Toyne. But I could not stop listening to his latest book, Dark Objects. It's fantastic!

A cleaner is the one who finds the body of a wealthy woman, murdered in her upscale home. Her killing includes a message to someone, as there are very specific objects displayed around the body. One of those objects is a book titled 'How to Process a Murder' by Laughton Rees. Laughton is a forensics academic, but finds herself drawn into this live case. Working with her is DCI Tannahill Khan of the North London Murder Squad.

That's just the bare bones of the plot. There's so much more to this case with no predicting who, what, why. I loved the layers of storytelling, the dark and devious direction the plot went. And my personal favorite, a lovely twist that I didn't see coming. The addition of excerpts from Laughton's book, news articles and a neighborhood WhatsApp group add epistolary elements to the book. 

Toyne does a great job with his two lead characters. They're given detailed personal lives, especially Laughton. Her past figures greatly in the here and now. DCI Khan isn't a cookie cutter cop, he's somewhat quiet, but he's a clever and intuitive copper. There are many supporting characters that round out the viewpoints. Especially the tabloid journalist, Brian Slade, who would sell his soul for a story. Social issues such as knife crime, racism, bullying and more are woven into the book.

I'm truly hoping that this is the first in a series. I think Laughton and Tannahill have many more tales to tell...

I chose to listen to Dark Objects. The reader was Shazia Nicholls and her voice was just perfect for this book. She has a lovely low, gravelly, rich, full tone to her voice. He British accent is lovely. Her speaking is clear, easy to understand and is well modulated. The speaking speed is just right. Her voice has presence and suits the plot and characters. Nicholls interprets Toyne's book very well. I've said it before, but I'll say it again - I become so much more immersed in a book when I listen. And that was definitely the case with Dark Objects. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Dark Objects. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Murder Book - Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham is one of my favorite authors. I don't bother with reading the flyleaf as I just know I'm in for a great read. Billingham writes stand alones that are really good as well, but it is the Tom Thorne series that I enjoy the most. The latest entry (#18!) is The Murder Book

There's a core group of three that are at the heart of this series. Tom is a Detective with the the London force as is Nicola Tanner. The third member of the trio is Coroner Phil Hendricks. They're good friends in and out of the station and all three also harboring a dark secret. (Nope, not going to tell you what it is!) Thorne and Nicola are on the hunt for a murderer using some truly grisly methods. And then the shoe drops. There is evidence found at a murder scene that should not be there...

Billingham gives his characters rich personal lives than bleed into their professional lives. Sometimes for the good - and sometimes not. I quite like Thorne - he's not grown predictable or tired after seventeen books. He's ornery, obstinate and driven to solve his cases at almost any cost. And the cost could be very high in this latest case. Hendricks seems to be settling down at last and Nicola is slowly trying to move on as well. 

Billingham consistently comes up with dark, devious plots that hold the reader captive until the last page has been turned. Loyal readers will know the name Stuart Nicklin. New readers, be prepared to meet one of the most manipulative psychopaths that ever lived in the pages of a book. His scenes give me shivers. I also love twists and turns. There's a doozy as the books nears the end that had me flipping back and re-reading to make sure I had read it correctly. 

Billingham has kept the series moving forward, always giving the reader a satisfactory ending, but leaving us with enough questions to wonder what's next in store for Thorne et al. This reader can't wait for the next in the series! Read an excerpt of The Murder Book.

Who else enjoys this series? 

“Billingham is a world-class writer and Tom Thorne is a wonderful creation. Rush to read these books.”—Karin Slaughter

“With each of his books, Mark Billingham gets better and better. These are stories and characters you don’t want to leave.”—Michael Connelly 





Monday, July 18, 2022

I Told You This Would Happen - Elaine Murphy

I Told You This Would Happen is the follow up to Elaine Murphy's debut novel, Look What You Made Me Do

Quick catch up...

Carrie and Becca are sisters with very different temperaments - and interests. You see, Becca is a serial killer and over the years Carrie has helped her dispose of quite a few bodies. It's hard to say no to Becca and there's no telling what would happen if Carrie did refuse..... I'll stop there and let you discover what happens in book one on your own.

Both books are told from Carrie's point of view. In this second book, Carrie is finally able to take a deep breath as Becca seems to have left the area - at last. (Canadian peeps, if you live in Brampton - beware.) A group of local crime solving sleuths come up with a clue that may incriminate Carrie and disrupt the small window of peace she's finally found. And so begins another cat and mouse game featuring Carrie as both cat and mouse.

So, yes, you're going to have to suspend belief with some of the plotting. Despite Murphy's dropping of many victims along the way, this isn't a serious murder mystery. Instead it's a fun romp that would make a great addition to your beach bag. Which sound wrong, doesn't it? There's a lot of dark humour as well! 

I do think that reading the first book before diving into this one would give you a better reading experience. I wonder if there will be a book three? Read an excerpt of I Told You This Would Happen.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Cold, Cold Bones - Kathy Reichs

Settling in to listen to the latest in Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan tale feels like catching up with an old friend. Cold, Cold Bones is the 21st entry in this long running series. Reichs moves the series along in real time.

In this latest book, forensic anthropologist Tempe receives a box containing a gruesome item. Why was it sent to her? And then there's another murder - and another. And it hits her - the methods are very familiar.....

What do I enjoy about this series? I like Tempe, her intellect, her drive, her tenacity - and yes, her crime solving skills. I enjoy her inner dialogue as well, as she attempts to puzzle out what's going on. And what she's really thinking but can't say out loud. 

Every good sleuth needs a sidekick and Tempe's is retired Detective Erskine 'Skinny' Slidell. He's gruff,  speaks his mind and doesn't suffer fools. But, the two have respect for each other's skills and determination. They play off each other well.

There's a personal side as well with her cat Birdie, her beau, private eye Andrew Ryan and daughter Katie. 

The plotting for Cold, Cold Bones is intricate and will keep the listener on their toes. Reichs knows what she's writing as Tempe owns Reichs' real life skill set. She is herself a forensic anthropologist. The cases and settings benefit greatly from this knowledge. There's always a few unrelated 'shake your head' tales in the books as well. I wonder how much is based on actual cases.

I've chosen to listen the last few entries and have really enjoyed them. The reader is Linda Emond and she gives an excellent performance. She's been the voice of Tempe in previous books. I appreciate the continuity. Her voice captures the character perfectly and suits the mental image of Tempe that I've built over the years. She has an interesting voice - there's a slight gravelly undertone and it rises and falls within a single sentence punctuating a point, reaction or emotion. A voice that carries an authoritative tone when needed. A voice that matches the age of the character. Emond speaks clearly, enunciates well and is pleasant to listen to. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Cold, Cold Bones.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Nothing But the Truth - Holly James

Nothing But The Truth is Holly James' debut novel.

Lucy Green seems to have it all, great job as a Hollywood publicist, a promotion in the works, great friends, and a boyfriend that she's sure is going to pop the question on her birthday. Which just happens to be today - her thirtieth.
 
Nothing But the Truth takes place over the course that one day - Lucy's thirtieth.. And on that day, she inexplicably finds that she cannot tell a lie!

James has created a very fun and engaging lead character. Though I know nothing about publicists, I really enjoyed the descriptions of Lucy's work and her clients.  Her coworkers are a mixed bag and play a huge part of James' plotting. (I must admit I have a soft spot for Lucy's bestie Oliver) And it's very easy to suss out the character you'll not enjoy. 

The premise of not being able to lie is one I've read before. But James puts her own spin on things. There are a number of light hearted scenes that me chuckling. Ditching the heels, torturous undergarments, makeup, eating what you want and more. But those lighter bits are sprinkled amongst some serious themes. Workplace harassments is the biggie, but the discrepancies between male and female expectations and reality is also highlighted. Holly James has a PhD in psychology and that knowledge definitely adds to her writing and plotting.

Oh, and did I mention there's romance as well? Uh, huh there is indeed! One with a fairy tale feel to it. 

Nothing But The Truth makes for a great summer beach read. See for yourself - read an excerpt. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

A Dreadful Splendour - B.R. Myers

Oh my gosh! I absolutely adored B.R Myers' new novel, A Dreadful Splendour. And you will too!

Why? Where to start!?

A catchy, quirky title. 1850's London, England. Spiritualism. Séances. Con games. Dusty, damp gothic estate. Stern, foreboding housekeeper. A nervous maid. A very handsome Lord of the Manor. A 'cursed' family. Secrets. Danger. Every character with their own agenda. Mysteries, chills and romance. 

Whew, what more could you want? Oh, yes, a wonderful lead character. Meet Genevieve Timmons, who makes her living as a spiritualist to the wealthy. And perhaps one or two side gig as a thief. But, she's skated too close to the edge with this last job. The constabulary has her scheduled for the noose, until a lawyer for that estate mentioned above, asks Genevieve to hold a séance at the manor in exchange for getting that appointment cancelled. The reader can't help but like Genevieve, and be beside as she explores, discovers and acts on what she finds.

Myers' descriptions are wonderfully detailed and I had vivid images of the manor in my mind as I read. And the players were just as well drawn and described as well.

Myers keeps the reader guessing as the final aha moments. Perhaps Genevieve is not the con she seems to be? And Myers gifts the reader a lovely, almost at the end of the book, twist. Well done!

A Dreadful Splendour was just so much fun to read! Absolutely recommended and an easy five stars. See for yourself - read an excerpt.

#BooksofHCC   

Monday, July 11, 2022

The It Girl - Ruth Ware

I'm a fan of Ruth Ware's writing. I don't even bother reading the flyleaf before jumping in - I just know I'm in for a great tale! Her new book is The It Girl

There's one on every campus - an 'It Girl' - popular, vivacious and somewhat catty. That describes April Clarke-Cliveden to a tee. And on the other side of the coin is her uncertain, quiet, studious new roommate, Hannah Jones, at Oxford. They're chalk and cheese, but strike up an unlikely friendship. Hannah also comes to know and become a part of a group of April's friends.

Hannah is the voice of this book. We see everything through her eyes in 'before' and 'after' chapters that span ten years. What event has Hannah marking time like this? It's the death of her friend April (not a spoiler as this is in the publisher's description) And the now is that the man associated with her death has died and a reporter is digging up the past. I love back and forth narratives, being left hanging at the end of a chapter. It makes for a lot of one more chapter' listening. 

Hannah is uncertain is so many ways - what is her own place in the group of friends, her marriage, her own self worth, her work and more. She questions every little bit of the past and begins to doubt what she thought was the truth. And how does that affect the present.....

I chose to listen to The It Girl. The narrator was Imogen Church, a favorite of mine. She's come up with voices that are absolutely perfect for the characters. Hannah's voice is hesitant, deferring to stronger personalities. April's voice is by turns, haughty, derisive, needling, but also kind. A few times I could hear a 'valley girl' tone. There are other female characters and quite a few male players as well. Church provides a different tone for each that makes it easy to know who is speaking. Church's voice is easy to understand, with clear diction and a perfect reading speed. I thought she captured and presented Ware's book very well. She brings the emotions and actions of the book to life. I know I became more immersed in this book by choosing to listen.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Look Closer - David Ellis

I've read and enjoyed previous books by David Ellis - but I have to say that his latest - Look Closer - is my favorite.

From the publisher's description: "Simon and Vicky couldn’t seem more normal: a wealthy Chicago couple, he a respected law professor, she an advocate for domestic violence victims. A stable, if unexciting marriage. But one thing’s for sure … absolutely nothing is what it seems."

The plotting of Look Closer is so very, very clever. Simon and Vicky each have their own agendas and their bottom lines seem be punctuated by dollar signs. There are many other characters in the mix as well who are also looking for a payout. Look Closer is told by many voices. With each new chapter I could take that information and predict how things would playout. Uh huh...wrong. I was surprised so many times with as each new turn took things in another direction. And yes, there are twists. I love being unable to figure out how things are going to play out.

And that's where I'm gonna leave - you need to discover this tale without spoilers. Four hundred and sixty four pages of absolutely addictive reading. An easy five stars and definitely recommended. Seek for yourself - read an excerpt of Look Closer. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Rizzoli & Isles: Listen to Me - Tess Gerritsen

It's been five years since Tess Gerritsen gave us a new Rizzoli and Isles tale. Well, the thirteenth in the series, Listen to Me, has just released. As this was a series I'd liked in the past, I happily picked up this latest.

For those who aren't familiar - Jane Rizzoli is a Boston homicide detective and  Maura Isles the medical examiner. They're two quite different personalities, but they work well together and are friends outside the workplace. Jane's latest case is the murder of a nurse in her own home, as well as the stalking of a young woman. Maura comes up with clues and facts for Jane.

There's a third person with her own chapters in this long awaited new novel. 
Who you ask? Well, it's Jane's mom Angela! She's lived in her neighborhood for decades and she keeps an eye on everyone that lives on the street. The new folks across the road have piqued her interest. They unloaded their belongings at night and have made it clear that they don't want to interact with the neighbors. There are many supporting players in this storyline. I was reminded of Janet Evanovich's Grandma Mazur and the Burg.  A bit more serious, but still with some humor.

I enjoyed catching up with Rizzoli and Ives, as well as the larger part that Angela played. Gerritsen gives the characters personal lives that have moved forward over the course of many books. The narrative is a nice mix of personal and professional. 

The cases kept me interested and were well plotted. Gerritsen's books make for entertaining, easy reading. See for  yourself - read an excerpt of Listen to Me. 

Monday, July 4, 2022

First Born - Will Dean

I really enjoyed Will Dean's previous book, The Last Thing to Burn. (my review). He has just released a new title - First Born

Molly Raven. Katie Raven. Identical twins. Ah, when twins are involved it seems like there's a suspense story just waiting to be uncovered. Molly lives in Britain close to her parents. Katie has travelled to the US to go to school. The girls are very different from each other though. Molly worries, is introverted, but quite smart. Katie is the extrovert and is more daring.

But..... and this is not a spoiler as it's announced in the first few pages... Katie is dead, perhaps murdered. Molly and her parents fly to New York to find out more. Molly takes it upon her self to start an investigation of her own. The book is told by Molly.

I thought Molly was an unusual lead character. I found her and her parents to be somewhat, well, odd in their actions and discussions. Everything is staccato - short sentences, off kilter conversations and more. The parents have spoken to the police, but don't really have any answers to give Molly. When the detective in charge meets with Molly, it's the same side stepping. Would a family be satisfied with this wait and see attitude? The investigation seemed almost sketchy to me. Molly meets another person looking into the murder and she embraces him on face value. Which doesn't match her OCD tendencies that have her preparing for any and all danger that might come her way.

Just as awkward for me was the investigation that Molly mounts. It continues on much longer than would be realistic and the interactions and situations that Molly forces are just as unbelievable for me. There is, of course, a twist involved.It was telegraphed much earlier in the book than I expected to see it. And therefore the ending seemed almost tacked on. And it too, was over the top.

Sorry to say, that this was just an okay read for me. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

One of the Girls - Lucy Clarke

Oh, you're going to want to get your hands on a copy of Lucy Clarke's new novel - One of the Girls. It's a fantastic read!

Six women head off to an isolated villa in Greece. Bella, one of the six has arranged for a bachelorette party in anticipation of Lexi's wedding. Robyn, Ana, Fen and Eleanor round out the six.

One of the six (we don't know which) acts as a narrator for some short italicized inserts between some chapters. The foreshadowing in those short missives just fueled the fire for me. 

"We all had different reasons for being there. But one of us - well, she had a very specific reason for saying yes to the hen weekend. The problem was, none of us realized until it was too late."

On the surface, the relationships between the women are good - old friends meet new, memories are recounted, new ones are being made and more. But there are undercurrents, tendrils that have been hidden, but are slowly but inexorably making their way to the surface. Planting roots and changing how the dynamic of the women changes. Incidents from the past, suspicions, jealousy. Revenge perhaps?

Clarke has done an amazing job creating her characters. I could mentally see each one very clearly in my mind. Their thinking and actions ring true and are very believable. I know who I liked and who I would avoid in real life. Each player is given a voice with their own chapters. 

And this is where the unravelling begins. Those tendrils start winding themselves together. The connections were ingenious and surprising. I really enjoyed being got off guard. I hadn't imagined the ending at all and truly thought things would play out a different way. But, I was quite satisfied with how things turned out. 

Clarke's prose are effortless and make for addictive reading. An easy five stars to One of the Girls. See for yourself - read an excerpt.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Locked Room - Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths is the author of one of my absolute favorite mystery series - the Ruth Galloway Mysteries. The latest entry (#16) is The Locked Room. 

This series is character driven and those characters are what make this series so very, very good. The lead is Ruth, a forensic archaeologist in the beautiful Norfolk area of England. She's head of her department at the University and often consults with the police on cases. She, her eleven year old daughter Katie and Flint the cat live in an isolated cottage on the Saltmarsh 'where the sea and the sky meet'. (I would love to live in that wee cottage!) I really enjoy Ruth. I think it's because she isn't a 'cookie-cutter' protagonist. She is a single mother looking at her fifties. She's a bit of an introvert, highly intelligent, empathetic and tolerant. Griffiths has not endowed her with super sleuth abilities, rather she comes off as an actual person - unabashedly and happily herself. The supporting players are just as well drawn. I quite like Cathbad, the self proclaimed Druid. Griffiths gives each and every player a personal story line that moves forward with every new book. I always feel like I'm settling in with old friends when I pick up the latest. Faithful readers will agree - the yes/no/maybe so relationship between Ruth and a member of the local constabulary is a big part of that character driven narrative!

Now in addition to fab characters, Griffiths always comes up with great crimes for the Norfolk police (and Ruth) to investigate. In this latest, there's a skeleton found on a construction as well as number of women whose deaths may or may not be suicide. And Ruth comes across a mysterious photo that's too close to home. Covid has also just been added to the mix. The mysteries are well devised and not easy to suss out. There's always a satisfying ending to the books....with the door left open for the next book.

I chose to listen to The Locked Room. The reader was Jane McDowell, a narrator who has performed this series in the past. I appreciate the continuity. She has a calm, well modulated, pleasant voice that suits the character of Ruth. and matched the mental image I had created. She captures the subtle nuances of Ruth with her voice. McDowell's diction is quite clear and the speed of the reading is just right. She provides different voices for the supporting players. She has interpreted and presented Griffith's work wonderfully. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I become much more immersed in a tale when I listen. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Locked Room. 

I highly, highly recommend this character driven mystery series. You could certainly read this book as a stand alone, but do yourself a favor and start with the first book, The Crossing Places.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Outside - Ragnar Jonasson

Ragnar Jonasson is a new to me author. His latest release is Outside. What's it about? The tag lines on the cover say it all..."Four Friends. One Night. Not Everyone Will Survive."

Jonasson opens the book up with a prologue that will capture and hold the reader's attention. A storm, an isolated rescue hut - and something that shocks the four. He then takes us back to the day before and the who and why of the trip is detailed. The who is the important bit, as there are some dark undercurrents running through these friendships. Each of the four is given a voice and the reader becomes privy to their inner thoughts in the present as well as their past interactions. There are incidences from the past that are alluded to and the details are slowly doled out. And the masks of friendship starts to slip. Jonasson changes narrators at crucial moments, ensuring I stayed up reading 'just one more chapter."

If you like Scandi noir, you'll enjoy Outside. I liked the short span of time that the book is set in. In not even two short days, lives will be inexorably changed. Bad decisions are acted upon and the fallout increases with every choice made. The characters themselves are unlikable, each and every one. The cold of an Icelandic storm gave me goosebumps. I did find the ending abrupt, but on a second read of it, decided that it indeed fit. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Outside
 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Counterfeit - Kirstin Chen

I've been hearing really good things about Kirstin Chen's new novel, Counterfeit. I happily earmarked  for my summer listening list.

"Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home - she’s built the perfect life."

Uh huh, it looks like the perfect life, but from the inside looking out - not so much. When Winnie Fang, an old schoolfriend, gets in touch, Ava gets caught up in her business. What business you ask? Counterfeit high end handbags. 

Now, I must admit, luxury, 'big name' purses and bags are not something I would want or pursue. I found Chen's descriptions of those that do and the manufacturing of legit and not so legit bags quite fascinating. (And sit peaks to consumerism in a big way)

We meet Ava in part one of the book as she is recounting her story to a police detective. So, from that we know that something has gone wrong in 'the business'. I've gotta say it - I wasn't sure how I felt about Ava. She's unhappy with her husband. Her young son is a bit of a challenge, but it is the nanny who can calm him best. She's is still trying to live up to her family's expectations, even though she is in her thirties. In part two, we get to know Winnie a bit better as she is given a voice. She's a skilled manipulator and a clever thief. I'm going to leave things there to avoid spoilers. Except...the ending isn't quite what I had predicted!

That being said, there are some themes woven in the story as well - racism, cultural, social strata, parenthood, marriage and more. 

I chose to listen to Counterfeit. The narrator is award winning Catherine Ho. She's got a pleasant, modulated voice that's easy on the ears. She speaks clearly and at a good speed.  Discernable voices for each lead character were used. She interprets and presents Chen's work very well. Emotions, situations and actions are brought to life with her voice matching what's happening in the book. Counterfeit is a great summer, beach worthy listen. Hear for yourself - listen to an audiobook excerpt of Counterfeit.