Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Welcome to the School by the Sea - Jenny Colgan

Welcome to the School by the Sea is Jenny Colgan‘s latest release in North America. It’s the first of a planned four part series.

I love Jenny Colgan's writing! Her books are just comforting, feel good, sit back, lose yourself in a story reads. In this latest, Colgan takes us to a boarding school for girls in England. Maggie is the the new, young addition to the teaching staff. She hails from Scotland. And she's about to have all her preconceived dreams of a wonderful new teaching experience challenged. 

Maggie is quite likable - she's not perfect, but has a kind heart and good intentions. I quite liked her inner dialogue. There’s a range of personalities amongst the girls with a social hierarchy you'd (sadly) find in any group setting. One of the girls is especially nasty. My heart was with Simone, a scholarship student who has a very difficult time at Downey Hall. As Maggie circumvents the pitfalls, the joys and the unexpected surprises of her new post, she too is hampered by the girls' attitudes, but sometimes helped as well. Let’s not forget about the teachers - some are some strict disciplinarians, rule followers and some are mired in same age old ways. Colgan gives one of the senior staff an unexpected story line. Now, what about that boys school just over the hill? There’s a rather attractive history professor there - and that presents another dilemma for Maggie. Will she succumb to her feelings or is she loyal to the boyfriend she left back at home? I can’t say I agree with every decision that Maggie meets but that’s what makes her human and relatable.

There are some unanswered questions and I'm keen to see where Colgan takes things. I wonder if the same group of girls will be back, a little bit older and a bit wiser. And I'm very eager to see how the romantic plot line unfolds. It's all about the characters for me in Colgan's writing and this latest is no exception. I can’t wait to see what the second book - Rules at the School by the Sea, due out in August 2022 - brings.

I chose to listen to Welcome to the School by the Sea. Jilly Bond is the narrator and she does an absolutely fantastic job! She’s 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. I did end up turning down the speed a notch or two as she is a quick speaker and that was perfect for me. Hear for yourself – listen to an audio expert of Welcome to the School by the Sea.

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Recovery Agent - Janet Evanovich

Gabriela Rose made a brief cameo in Janet Evanovich's last Stephanie Plum book. (Game On) I'd read that there was a new series in the works - the first book has just released - The Recovery Agent. 

Gabriela is a recovery agent, working for individuals, insurance companies etc. seeking, finding and recovering just about anything - for a good fee. This time she’s after something that is more personal, and might save the small town she grew up in. A map leading to the pirate Blackbeard's treasure. 

Gabriela is joined in the hunt by her ex-husband Rafer.  The search leads to jungles, small islands and unknown territory. Along the way they run into others  also looking for the treasure, including a death cult. That jungle setting and the derring-do scenes reminded me of Indiana Jones adventures.

I liked Gabriela. She reminded me of someone. ;0) The dynamic between her and Rafer is fun to read. He's much more laid back than she is. 

Readers of the Plum series are going to notice lots of similar and familiar elements in The Recovery Agent. Gramma Franny lives with Mariela's long suffering mother. There's lots of back and forth with Rafer in the romantic sense. Will they? Won't they? The dialogue is often short and snappy. (Although I found some of the 'jokes' fell a bit flat for me.) The sidekicks are a bit bumbling. And you know things are going to turn out just fine in the end. And honestly, that's what I'm looking for. An entertaining, easy, comfortable listen that won't tax my brain.

Lorelei King was the narrator for The Recovery Agent. She’s an excellent reader and I've enjoyed her work on other titles as well. King is an excellent narrator creating different voices for characters that make them easily identifiable. She has lots of movement and expression in her voice that brings the plot to life. Her voice is pleasant to listen to, easy to understand and well paced. She does narrate the Stephanie Plum series as well and this is where I initially had a bit of a struggle. The voices for The Recovery Agent are very similar to the ones provided in the Plum series. At the beginning, I kept picturing characters from the other series. But that lessened as I got further into the book. A good performance from King. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Recovery Agent. 

A nice extra is tucked in at the end of the book - a fifteen minute excerpt of the forthcoming (Nov 2022) Stephanie Plum book. #29 is The Rogue.  

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Fear - Natasha Preston

Rainy days are meant for escapist, just plain fun to read titles. And most often I like to lose myself in a YA book on those days. The Fear is Natasha Preston’s latest book. This is a first read of this author for me - and it certainly won’t be my last!

You know all those teen slasher movies? The ones where the adults and teachers are a bit useless and the teens are determined to solve things on their own, even as someone picks off their friends one by one. Preston's plot takes inspiration from that idea, but with her own twist on things. Would you repost a meme that asked you to detail your biggest fear about dying?! I for one wouldn't. But a number of teens in the town of Rock Bay have done just that. 

You know what’s gonna happen next don’t you? You got it - they're being murdered by the fear they posted online. Our lead character Izzy is one of the few that didn’t post what she’s most afraid of. She's a great lead, determined, somewhat innocent and very likable. Rock Bay is a small town, where everyone knows everyone and their business. School politics, friends, frenemies, hookups, sports, the in crowd, relationships and more. And of course there's that mean girls group, the popular ones. There's some 'love' interests as well. Because it wouldn't be a teen read without one - or two. 

Everybody’s under suspicion as Preston waves a delicious 'don’t go in the basement', 'oh my gosh why are you doing that' kind of read. Chances are taken, silly moves are made, but that’s the fun of this kind of book. 

We get chapters written from the killers point of view and they’re labelled Fear. I had my suspicions, but was kept guessing as to who the killer was going to be for most of the book.  Kudos to Preston for a heck of an ending - I did not see that coming. I absolutely loved The Fear - five stars for a fun, addictive tale.  See for yourself - read an excerpt of  The Fear. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Nine Lives - Peter Swanson

I've been looking forward to Peter Swanson's newest book Nine Lives. The premise really appealed to me. 

Nine people each receive a letter with a list of names, including theirs. One of the nine is found murdered on the beach with his letter clenched in his fist. Local police initially investigate, but the FBI is called in as things.....progress. I needed to know what that connection was. And if I could figure it out before the last pages.

There's a large list of characters to keep track of. Swanson provides a who's who in the beginning of the book that you can refer to. We meet each of the nine on the list through their own chapters. Not all are likeable, but some are. Some make connections with the others. All as the FBI tries to protect them. The local Maine cop likens the case to Agatha Christie's 'And Then There Were None', a very apt comparison. 

The details of the life of each of the nine is told somewhat dispassionately, staccato almost, from an observer's point of few. I came to hope that the ending would be different for some. But for most, the ending is noted and the list is shortened. And the count continued.

Swanson begins laying down a few clues to follow as the book progresses. The ending is a nice whodunit. I'm not sure I was all in on the impetus for the killer, but I quite enjoyed the journey. And the last chapter was a surprise add on. Tuck this one in your beach bag this summer. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Nine Lives.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Cartographers - Peng Shepherd

I think I was about eight or nine years old when I discovered the road atlas at the library. As we often drove a distance to see relatives, I was excited to see a hard copy of our route through the many towns on the way there. That led to finding and marking off the places I'd been. And I have to admit, I am still fascinated by paper maps and all the small places on the way to somewhere.

Peng Shepherd's new book, The Cartographers called to me...

"What is the purpose of a map? "The answer to that question is much more complicated than just 'directions'. Nell Young discovers that a vintage road map is much more than it seems to be at first glance.  And there are many people who want to get their hands on it. Oh, the premise is wonderful, opening up so many roads this plot could take! (And it most certainly had me thinking about maps in a different way)

Nell is a wonderful lead - strong, driven and determined. But she's also experienced great loss in many ways. The supporting characters are just as well drawn. There are quite a few, but each has a role to play. (I really liked Felix)

The book unfolds through a past and present timeline. The listener is alongside Nell as she put the pieces together. There's lots of action and much food for thought in regards to a map's purpose.

Family, love, loss, grief, friendship, betrayal and sacrifice all come into play alongside the murders, mystery - and magic of The Cartographers.

The Cartographers is read with a cast of narrators which I always appreciate. It makes it very easy to know what character is speaking. It also makes listening more 'real', more immersive, if you will, bringing the listener into the story. The narrators featured Emily Woo Zeller, Nancy Wu, Karen Chilton, Ron Butler, Neil Hellegers, Jason Culp and Brittany Pressley. Some of these readers were familiar to me, others were new. But they all did a wonderful job bringing Shepherd's work to life. Their voices absolutely suited the characters they were reading, creating clear mental picture of everyone. The speaking was clear, easy to understand and pleasant to listen to. The tenor of the story is illustrated with their voices. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Cartographers.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Happy 15th Blogiversary to Me!

It's hard to believe I've been blogging about books for fifteen years. If you're curious, here's the very first post.

"I spend a lot of time commenting on and recommending books to customers, friends and family and I've decided it's time to share my thoughts and reviews with the world. Not that I expect the world to stop by but maybe a few new friends and see some old ones too."
I have indeed met many other wonderful readers, writers and book lovers along the way! 

I've started wondering how much longer I want to do this. That old adage is so true - so many books and so little time! We shall see!

Friday, March 18, 2022

All My Rage - Sabaa Tahir

YA books are my not so secret vice. Over the years, the tenor of young adult fiction has grown. While I love a good fluffy teen tale, I appreciate that serious issues, societal change, relationships and so much more are now tackled and openly discussed in the pages of a book. As they should be. 

Sabaa Tahir's newest novel, All My Rage, is probably one of the best YA books I've ever read. Yes, it's that good. Tahir unfolds her story in past and present chapters, with the present taking precedence. The past is from Misbah - married in Pakistan in an arranged marriage. She and her husband Toufiq have a son named Salahuddin, emigrate to the US and open a motel. Noor is Salahuddin's best friend. They 'get' each other, can commiserate, hope and dream about what they want in life and how to get there. Until the fight. And.....Oh my gosh, so much comes both before and after the fight. 

Reader, there are many triggers in this book, but they are not there for shock value. Instead, they depict life and the many stumbling blocks, hurdles and ugliness that are part of our society. Can those triggers be overcome and overwhelmed by the actions, love, faith and strength of Noor and Salahuddin? Their path forward is definitely not straight. I found myself constantly surprised (and worried) by the direction Tahir took with her plotting. 

There are 'good' and 'bad' characters that you'll have no problem identifying. Indeed, I actually found myself talking (and shouting) to them out loud many times, with my emotions and thoughts running the gamut. Tears were also involved. Noor and Salahuddin are so very, very well drawn. But my heart belonged to Misbah. Everyone needs to have a Misbah in their life. And on a side note, Tahir's descriptions of food had my mouth watering! Noor escapes into her music and although I knew a number of the bands she likes, I discovered some new ones from her playlist.

I chose to listen to All My Rage. This is a tale to become immersed in, to be part of the story. The readers were Deepti Gupta, Kamran R. Khan and Kausar Mohammed. Absolutely fabulous performances from all three. The emotions of the book were easily captured by the three readers. (And yes, you're going to need to have a tissue close at hand.) Diction was clean, clear, well paced and easy to understand. I loved the lilting, almost musical tone for Misbah. I could listen to it all day.

Bottom line? This is a gut wrenchingly good book you need to listen to. Tahir's writing is fantastic. An easy five stars. See for yourself, listen to an excerpt of All My Rage.

Sabaa Tahir took inspiration for All My Rage in her own life and experiences. "#1 New York Times bestselling author of the An Ember in the Ashes series, which has been translated into over thirty-five languages. She grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s eighteen-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash, and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks, and all things nerd."

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Match - Harlan Coben

The Match is Harlan Coben's second book that features the man called Wilde. He was introduced in 2020's  bestseller, The Boy From the Woods." (But The Match could absolutely be read as a standalone.)

"Thirty years ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. Three decades had gone by and still no one, including Wild, had a clue about his origin." 

I really enjoyed that first book and was eager to read The Match. Will Wilde will find out more about his past and/or his parents? Well, the answer to that is yes - he does indeed learn more about his past. 

But that's just one part of this very clever plot. Take a second look at that cover and title - DNA and online ancestry databases figure prominently into this latest. Reality television plays a part, as does a shadowy group of doxxers meting out their own brand of justice.

There's a great group of supporting players including lawyer Hester Crimstein. The lives of these characters are well fleshed out. The interactions and relationships bring in many personal threads that make the characters all the more real. 

There's a nice twisty road on the way to the final pages and a satisfying ending. But, their are many question and more in store for Wilde. And this reader can't wait for the next entry. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Book of Cold Cases - Simone St. James

Oh, I have been eagerly awaiting Simone St. James' newest novel - The Book of Cold Cases! I ended up devouring it in a day - her books are page turners that you just can't put down. 

St. James again weaves a mixture of mystery, murder and … an otherworldly element. Seriously, does anyone else literally get goosebumps reading St. James?! (If you've read it already you'll get this - I will never look at an open kitchen cupboard door the same again...)

Okay, so what's this latest about you ask? The lead character is Shea Collins, who works a mundane day job in an office. But, her true passion is blogging about true crime. Her site is The Book of Cold Cases. The 1977 case of the  Lady Killer Murders in Shea's hometown of Claire Lake has never been solved. The lead suspect at that time still lives in Claire Lake in 2017. When Shea approaches Beth for an interview, she is surprised when she agrees. But something is off with Beth Greer - and her (creepy) house. But Shea can't help herself, she wants to know more... 

Shea was a great lead character. She's suffered a childhood trauma that has affected her thoughts, actions and more. I was whole heartedly behind her. St. James fleshes out her personal life well. he supporting is a large part of that and they too were well drawn.

Oh my gosh. Creep factor of ten. That otherworldly feeling is insidious and will awaken your primal brain. The mystery of the murders is slowly unfolded through past and present chapters and the narrative changes from Shea to Beth. But the doubt is always there - what is the truth? Beth rarely gives Shea clear cut answers instead providing enigmatic clues or suggestions. The path to the final pages is winding and treacherous. And addicting!

St. James knows how to tell a story - hook the reader from the opening pages, keep the questions coming and the reader on the edge of their seat. Five stars for a fantastic read. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Book of Cold Cases.

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Whispers - Heidi Perks

I've enjoyed a previous book from Heidi Perks and was eager to listen to her latest - The Whispers. 

Anna and Grace were the best of friends as children, almost sisters you might say. When one of the families moves away, the friendship drifts to an end. But Grace misses Anna terribly and when the opportunity arises to move back to their British hometown, she doesn't think twice. Except....things aren't the same as she had imagined. Anna has a new group of friends and doesn't seem to want to rekindle the relationship with Grace. 

Well, I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Mean Girls'. How about Mean Mommies? Anna and her cohorts seem to fit the label. The title of the book brings to mind gossiping parents by the school gate.

I thought I had figured out where Perks was going to take her tale. Wrong. (Happily!) Anna goes missing. (Aha!) And Perks completely turns things upside down. (Captivating!) Both Anna and Grace are given a voice, so the listener is privy to both lead character's thoughts and actions. (Riveting!)

Perks explores friendships, the good, the bad and the ugly - and the secrets friends keep in The Whispers to great effect. A slow burn, but a good one!

The Whispers was read by Karen Cass, Nneka Okoye and Helen Keeley. I'm not sure who narrated what character, but they all did an excellent job. Each voice was clear, well paced and pleasant to listen to. The character of Grace had an Australian accent while the other two readers has British accents. All were excellent and true. The voices for the supporting characters suited and were different enough to know who was speaking. What made this book such a good listen to was the nuances, emphasis, tone and tenor used by the readers to capture Perks' plot. Listening to a book lets you experience the story in a much more intimate fashion. And this was definitely the case with The Whispers. Hear for yourself  - listen to an audio excerpt of The Whispers. Nine hours and twenty minutes. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Run, Rose, Run - Dolly Parton and James Patterson.

James Patterson is a prolific author who often collaborates with co-authors. I must admit, I have fallen behind in keeping up with his releases. But, I knew I wanted to listen to the newly released Run, Rose, Run. Why? Because Dolly Parton is the co-author - and I love Dolly Parton! 

AnnieLee Keyes is determined to make it in the country music biz, so she heads to Nashville. A series of events leads her path to cross with that of the legendary Ruthanna Ryder. The book follows a fairly predictable path from there. AnnieLee has secrets in her past, there's a maybe yes, maybe no romance and a wise mentor. The story is good and kept me listening (I really wanted to know what AnnieLee's secret was!) But I have to say that what I really enjoyed the most was the  music making scenes, the band, the lyrics created and the behind the scenes look that Dolly Parton brought to the book. Ruthanna has more than a passing resemblance to Parton, kind, big-hearted, talented, a philanthropist and more. And she likes 'sparkly' too.  ;0) 

I choose to listen to Run, Rose, Run. Why? Because Dolly Parton herself reads the Ruthanna character. That drawl, that giggle, the Dollyisms and more made it so easy to build a great mental image of Ruthanna.. And it's great to hear an author speak their own prose. Country star Kelsea Ballerini read the role of AnnieLee. Again, perfect casting. She's got a great drawl as well, and a voice with lots of movement, sass and laughter. I'm not sure who played the romantic interest Ethan, but he has a wonderflly low tone to his voice that just draws you in. The speed was right, everyone spoke clearly and the voices used captured the tone of the book. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of the book.

As well, Dolly Parton is releasing an album also called Run, Rose, Run featuring the lyrics written in the book. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Moment in Time - Suzanne Redfearn

Moment in Time is Suzanne Redfearn's latest novel. 

Redfearn again tackles relationships of many types. The plot of Moment in Time was inspired by a personal connection to a real life event. 

Chloe, Mo and Hazel have been friends for a long time. Eight years ago, a tragic accident changed their lives - in many different ways. Now they're in their mid twenties. Chloe is a vet, Mo is on the cusp of making her news start up bigger and better and Hazel is a scientist. Tragedy strikes again when Hazel is sexually assaulted. And then the alleged assaulter is found drugged and beaten - and Hazel goes missing.

The search for Hazel is the focus for Chloe and Mo, but we only really get to 'know' her through Chloe and Mo's viewpoints. Mo is ambitious and somewhat single minded and I had a hard time liking her. She does have the most 'solid' personal life though. The most chaotic life belongs to Chloe, and she's the human I liked the most. Some of that is because she's a vet with a penchant for rescuing animals. Ruby the dog is her latest rescue. However, she does something early on in the date rape investigation that I really disagreed with and that tainted my picture of this character. In the end it was Ruby the dog who won my heart - faithful, loyal, brave and a survivor. The dog's struggle mimics that of the human characters. Where does friendship and loyalty begin and end? When and where does the right thing to do, according to the law and society take precedence over that friendship?

Chloe and Mo begin searching for Hazel, based on some cryptic clues and memories. Chloe is a laid back person, but I found her choices along the way to be more than a little risky. Given what has just happened to her friend, I questioned if someone would fall in love with a man in less than a week? Take refuge with another pair of strangers the same day? That 'good guy' vibe isn't always right. The romantic piece of the plot would have made a great book on it's own, but for me didn't suit what I considered to be the serious main idea. Supporting player Kyle (Mo's significant other) was realistically drawn and likeable. He questions the two women's actions so far, especially Mo's.

The book gets busier as we head to the final end game. Loose ends are neatly tied up - with a grain of salt in some cases. Poor Hazel is never really given a voice of her own, despite being the catalyst for the book. 

I've enjoyed previous books by Redfearn and would happily pick up her next. Moment in Time just wasn't a stand out for me. There was just too much going on. Readers, the crime and police handling of the crime in this novel may be triggering. (And I do question the legal and hospital protocols depicted) Read an excerpt of Moment in Time

Monday, March 7, 2022

One For Sorrow - Helen Fields

I've read and really enjoyed past books from Helen Fields. I was very eager to read her latest - One For Sorrow. This is the 7th book in the DI Luc Callanach series. (You could absolutely read this as a stand alone, but you'd be depriving yourself of some great books!)

Fields has done a fantastic job of fleshing out her characters from the first book. They have rich personal lives that change and progress in a realistic manner from book to book. Sitting down with the latest feels like catching up with old friends. The reader can't help but be solidly behind them.

Old friends with dangerous jobs that is! Fields is a master of plotting and this latest is downright frightening. DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach of the Major Investigation team are at the forefront, chasing a killer. A killer who strikes again and again, always one jump ahead of them. Field's plotting is devious and complex, surprising me with each and every turn. 

An American profiler is brought in to help. Her thoughts, predictions and exploration of profiling is quite fascinating. But will it help the team? 

There are also 'before' chapters that are cut in from the present timeline. They're from a young woman named Quinn. And my skin just crawled when I read her chapters. I wondered how this narrative would tie in to the hunt for the killer. There are some interesting discourses on the state of the 'system' from more than one viewpoint. 

The last few pages blindsided me. No. No. No. I will be watching for the next book - and for what Fields has next in store. 

One For Sorrow has it all, great characters, a masterful plot, lots of tension and action, guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. See for yourself - read an excerpt of One For Sorrow. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

The Night Shift - Alex Finlay

I was hooked by the premise of Alex Finlay's new suspense novel - The Night Shift.

New Years Eve 1999. Four teenaged employees of a video game store are attacked. Three die and one miraculously survives. The suspected killer disappears. Fifteen years later four teenaged employees of an ice cream parlor in the same town are attacked and again, one survives. Has the killer returned? Is it a copy cat?

The Night Shift is told from multiple points of view. That device really, really works for The Night Shift.

We've got Ella, the survivor from 1999. Now a therapist, the FBI and local police bring her into the case. After all, she knows what its like to be the only one survived. The FBI agents are a seemingly mismatched pair, but I really enjoyed them both. Keller is nine months pregnant and Singh is a newbie. Also involved is Chris Ford, a public defense attorney with his own secrets. And that brings us to the latest survivor. She's hard to read, initially vulnerable, then aggressive and she knows more about the old case than expected. Why?

I enjoy multiple points of view in a book. The reader becomes privy to information that the other characters don't have. And that is multiplied with past and present chapters as well. And I was pretty sure I would solve the crime before the final pages. Finlay expertly leads the reader down the garden path and provides lots of red herrings along the way. He also ends many chapters on a suspenseful note, ensuring I needed to just read 'one more chapter' before turning out the lights. Now, about figuring out the whodunit - Finlay is a master of the 'twist'. He caught me off guard many times and with each twist the narrative changed. I love being kept on my toes. And no, I didn't solve it before the last pages. 

A page-turner! This was a first read of Finlay for me and it won't be the last. I'd like to see Agent Keller again as well. 

See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Night Shift. Fans of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay would enjoy Alex Finlay.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

All the Queen's Men - SJ Bennett

I admit it - I am a Royal Watcher! I loved last year's first entry (The Windsor Knot) in SJ Bennett's delightful series - Her Majesty the Queen Investigates. The second book is the newly released All the Queen's Men - and it's a cracking listen!

Buckingham Palace 2016. It all starts with one of the Queen's favorite paintings gone missing, a series of 'poison pen' notes aimed at certain staff members - and a body by the indoor pool. Now, the Queen is not the one physically investigating. But she is conducting a secret inquiry of her own alongside the formal investigation. She again employs her Assistant Private Secretary Rozie Oshodi, to be her eyes, ears and legs reporting back only to her. 

When I listened to first book, I had concerns over how the Queen would be portrayed. Well, I didn't need to worry. She is kind, gracious, wise, highly intelligent, well-spoken, observant, but imposing as well. Her inner dialogue is a treat to read and her sense of humor is dry, as are her observations about her Royal family. Current events in 2016 are woven into the book such as  elections at home and abroad, Brexit and more. We get to know Rozie a bit more personally in this latest. She's likable, smart and strong both physically and mentally. 

The mystery is well plotted and I really enjoyed following along. And it's not so easy as the butler did it. There are some red herrings on the path the final chapters. It's fun to be on 'the inside', aware of what is going on with the supporting players and their case, even as Rozie and the Queen pursue their own leads.

I liked the setting as well - who doesn't want to know what the inside and daily life of the castle is like? I got curious and learned that Bennett's description and details of the Queen's art collection of art are true. The Royal Art Collection is the largest privately owned art collection in the world.

This was another fun, clever and thoroughly enjoyable listen for me. I was happy for the continuity in using Jane Copland for the narrator again. Her voice is perfect - with a rich, cultured tone that's quite pleasant to listen to and an accent that immediately brought the Queen to mind. The pace of the reading is just right as well -  never rushed. Keep calm and carry on! The subtle changes in intonation and emphasis are perfect for the Queen's manner. Different voices are provided for other characters and suit as well. Her speaking flows very naturally and is clear and easy to understand. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of All the Queen's Men. 

This series could be considered a cozy mystery - but note there are no cats. Just corgis.  ;0)  This happy  listener will be watching for the third entry in this series.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Heights - Louise Candlish

I discovered Louise Candlish last year when I read her previous book, The Other Passenger. It was an excellent read and I added Candlish to my 'must read' list.

Her newest book, The Heights, has just released - and it's an addictive page turner as well. I was hooked immediately with this opener...

"Kieran Watts has been dead for over two years when I see him standing on the roof of a building in Shad Thames. It can't be Kieran Watts, I tell myself. And if anyone can be sure of that it is me. Because I'm the one who killed him."

Oh, the places this plot could go! Candlish's plotting is so very clever. I love the 'book within a book' device. And there's a third level as The Sunday Times is also writing about Ellen Saint. Ellen is penning the story of herself and Watts in her writer's group. We know the outcome, but the how and why are yet to be unearthed. Candlish does this in back and forth, past and present timelines. Again, always an effective device - I can't help but to read 'just one more chapter' to see what will be revealed in each timeline. Foreshadowing at the end of chapters just whetted my need to know. While the first parts are told from Ellen's point of view, a supporting character is given a voice nearing the end of the book - and they bring a different look at things. 

Ellen was a difficult character for me. I understand her tension, stress, emotions (and they do run high), but at the same time she crosses so many lines in her obsessive quest for vengeance. Which is quite different from justice. The supporting characters will provoke strong reactions as well. And the reader may be asking themselves - "What would I do in the same situation?"

And what could make this already good book better? Oh yeah, some twists! My guesses (and emotions) for what the end might bring changed numerous times as Candlish changed things up.

A great page turner for this reader. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Heights

The Heights as a title can be applied in so many ways. It's the name of the building Ellen spots Kieran at. Ellen has a condition called high place phenomenon' - "characterized by a sudden compulsion to jump." At the height of, dizzying heights and more.