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.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Riding the Lightning - Anthony Almojera

I truly enjoy memoirs, but not those of celebrities, politicians etc. Instead I am drawn to the lives of everyday people going about their work and lives, making a difference, testing limits, exploring our world and more. 

Anthony Almojera's memoir Riding the Lightning: A Year in the Life of a New Your City Paramedic, is one I knew I wanted to listen to. Almojera is a Lieutenant Paramedic with the FDNY's EMS.

Almojera is brutally honest, detailing his own life and sharing personal stories, thoughts and emotions in this memoir. And I couldn't help but think 'I would like to meet this guy in person'. His strong opinions have nothing behind them but betterment for the patients and employees of  the Emergency Medical Services of the New York Fire Department. The first half of the book can be seen as a 'before'. We see what the Paramedics do on a daily basis. The lives saved and the lives lost. And at what cost to those who have chosen this job. 

Part Two is the 'after' if you will. After Covid-19 arrived. And the job got even tougher. The realities of trying to answer so many calls and only getting there to find yet another body is heartbreaking. I am truly in awe of those who kept coming to work, trying to save who they can and do their best, even when it seems futile. The job was tough enough pre Covid, and what they're facing now in these new parameters is simply mind boggling. I could see why Almojera is crusading for for better equipment, sufficient supplies, higher pay and equality for EMS personnel. 

Almojera is Brooklyn born and bred. His love for his city is evident in his descriptions, actions, service and more. 

I chose to listen to Riding the Lighting as the author himself was narrating. I find I become more immersed in a book when I listen. And this was most definitely the case with Riding the Lightning  Having the author read his own work is a treat. Almojera has an authentic Brooklyn accent that I enjoyed listening to. He also has a gravelly tone to his voice that seems to just emphasize the subject matter and underline what's being said. He reading speed was good. I was easily drawn into the book and was caught up 'til the last chapters. You really can't rate someone's life story, but if I had to rate this book, I'd give it a five. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Riding the Lightning.

"Anthony Almojera FDNY EMS lieutenant and vice president of AFSCME DC37 Local 3621, the New York City Fire Department’s EMS officers’ union. He has been profiled on the front page of the Washington Post and featured by CNN, Al Jazeera, USA Today, NPR, the BBC, and numerous other media outlets. Born in Brooklyn, he is a practicing Buddhist and works a third job as an on-site paramedic at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. He lives in Brooklyn." You can follow Anthony on Twitter.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Never Coming Home - Kate Williams

Time for some YA fiction reading in the hammock! What book came with me?Kate Williams' new novel, Never Coming Home

Never Coming Home takes a bit of inspiration from Christie's 'And Then There Were None.' Ten teen influencers are invited to be the inaugural guests of a super secret resort on Unknown Island. Upon landing on the island, each guest feels like something is off with the vibe, the accommodations aren't as luxurious as the photos promised and where are all the staff? 

The ten are a diverse group that don't really know each other, but they've checked out each other online. Who has the most followers? Why this group of ten? What's the connection? Well, the connection is a dark one as each guest has a similar secret. And those secrets are about to see the light of day. 

This premise lends itself to so many ways the book could play out. I loved the social media component. Nothing is ever as it appears on a screen, is it? There is a screen in the lounge on Unknown Island.....and someone is posting. 

And then there were nine.
And the methods of dispatch? Decidedly devious! 

I enjoyed trying to figure out who the culprit was, changing my choice quite often. Williams puts a nice spin on the final whodunit with a surprise twist. I did feel the epilogue was a bit too detailed. Shorter and snappier would have matched the pace of what came before.

Never Coming Home was a fun, escapist read that was hard to put down. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Never Coming Home

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

An Island Wedding - Jenny Colgan

Oh, Jenny Colgan can't write fast enough for me! She is hands down one of my favorite authors. Her latest is An Island Wedding.

When I start the newest book, I feel like I'm settling in to catch up with old friends. As well as making some new ones as new characters are introduced with each new entry. Some who may have been in a supporting role in previous tales now take a larger role. But, each and every one of them has a part to play in the tapestry that is the life of Mure. I have my favorite characters - and those who are not. (I'm looking at you Jan)

Colgan keeps her various series moving forward. This time, we return to the wee Scottish island of Mure and the main character Flora. Flora and her fiancĂ© Joel are going to tie the knot at last - on summer solstice. But when a past resident of the island wants to book the hotel on the same weekend, plans change. But are they for the better?

Colgan does a bang up job with the interactions, complications, emotions and feelings of her characters. They ring true. Everyday life, love lost, love found, friendship, family rifts, family uniting and community are the driving forces behind Colgan's plotting.

There's a satisfying ending for this book, but the door has been left open for the next tale. And this listener can't wait!

I chose to listen to this latest. The reader was Eilidh Beaton and she did a fantastic job interpreting and bringing Colgan's characters and setting to life. She has the loveliest Scottish brogue that is easily understood and pleasant to listen to. But honestly, you'd think there was more than one reader presenting the book. Beaton provides so many different voices for the population of Mure. Old, young, male, female and easily identifying the characters. She easily presents the emotions and situations of the Colgan's work. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of An Island Wedding. 

An easy five stars for the book and for the audio performance. I can't wait for the next Jenny Colgan book!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Self-Made Widow - Fabian Nicieza

I absolutely loved Fabian Nicieza's Edgar Award nominated debut novel, Suburban Dicks. I was thrilled to see that he had penned a follow up The Self-Made Widow. Would it measure up to the five star first book? It did indeed! 

At the center of the cast of characters is Andrea Stern. She was an up and coming profiler with the FBI many years ago. And then she got pregnant, married and now has five children. But does that stop her from investigating? Nope! (Her mothering skills had me laughing out loud more than once.) Andrea has the respect of a number of law enforcement agencies after the last case. The other main character is Kenny Lee. He's a journalist and is flying high on the success that the last case brought to him. The relationship between he and Andrea is, well, complicated. There is a wealth of supporting characters including the Cellulitists - a group of neighborhood mothers.

This latest case involves them directly as one of their husbands has died. But Andrea can't let go of the idea that it was murder, not a natural death. And she's like a dog with a bone...

Okay, fabulous characters that are really well drawn. Check. We met them in the first book and Nicieza has continued fleshing them out, touching on a number of real concerns, thoughts, events and more.

Next? A fantastic plot! This is not a cozy series. The plot premise is so well written and it was difficult to suss out the final whodunit. The reader is along for the ride, presented with the same clues as our characters. 

Wonderfully creative writing. Fun, fresh, different, engaging and just a whole lot of fun to read. Nicieza is the co-creator of  Marvel's Deadpool. Uh, huh that same wry humor, an unusual, intriguing mystery and two decidedly different leads make this another 'can't put it down read.' 

Highly recommended and an easy five stars. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Self-Made Widow. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle - Matt Cain

I knew from the first chapters of Matt Cain's new novel, The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, that I was going to love it.

Albert is a small town postman in England. He does his best to stay out of the spotlight and do his job, keeping himself to himself. His only company is his cat Gracie. But then he receives notice that as he is turning 65, he must retire. 

My curiosity was piqued. Why does he live such a small life? What has happened in his life? What will he do now, without his job to anchor him? I knew what I wanted to have happen....

Slowly, but surely Albert ventures out into the world, speaking to people, beginning to interact and more. And finally, he decides to rectify his biggest regret, the one that shaped his small world.

Ahh, what a great lead character. You can't help but behind Albert cheering him on as he takes hesitant steps forward. And your heart will break when you learn of the 'why', the 'who' and the how. Just as engaging as Albert are the friends he makes, the community he becomes part of, and the life he finds at sixty five. 

Matt Cain has penned a wonderful feel good listen. It's easy to predict what the end of Albert's odyssey will bring, but the journey there is enjoyable, uplifting and heart warming.

I chose to listen to The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle. The reader was Simon Vance - one of my favorites. He has a rich tone to his voice and a lovely British accent, that's very easy on the ears. The voice he initially uses for Albert is hesitant and unsure. But as the book progresses, Albert's voice grows stronger. Vance provides different and identifiable voices for the other characters, including female players. I thought the voice for Nicole was spot on. Vance has captured Cain's work and does a great job of presenting it. The emotions and situations are well portrayed. I've often said that I become more immersed in a book when I listen and this was the case for The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt.

@MattCainWriter • @recordedbooks • #TheSecretLifeofAlbertEntwistle 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Go Hunt Me - Kelly deVos

Kelly deVos' new YA novel is Go Hunt Me.

I'm usually pretty good at requesting books for myself and rarely have a DNF. I'm sorry to say that Go Hunt Me was one of the rare ones. I adore YA fiction for fun, escapist reading. The premise of Go Hunt Me sounded fun -  teen horror film aficionados heading to Romania (hello Dracula!) to make their own movie. But instead, one by one they're picked off.

What didn't I like - well, the characters for one. Yes, there's the smart one, the shy one, the hunky guy etc. But they're flat and I never connected with any of them. And I lost them in all of the film making minutiae that frankly, I found quite boring after the first few pages. 

And then … we jump the shark, taking Scooby Doo along with us. The reader has to suspend disbelief multiple times as the plot overreaches. That's where I chose to fast forward to the final pages. There's a nice turn at the end, but it's not enough to rescue what came before. 

Others quite enjoyed Go Hunt Me - see the reviews on Goodreads. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

And There He Kept Her - Joshua Moehling

And There He Kept Her is Joshua Moehling's debut novel.

Moehling kicks off his tale with a 'grab you by the throat' opening prologue. Two small town Minnesota teens break into the house of a old man. We're not quite sure what they're after, but things definitely don't go as planned....

We then meet new on the job, Acting Sherriff, Ben Packard. He's got ties to the town and his own secrets that he keeps close to his chest. I quite liked Ben as a lead character. He's smart and more than capable. Moehling has given him an interesting personal life as well. The supporting cast gives us a very competent woman deputy and another deputy not so on the ball. The residents of Sandy Cove are eclectic. And truthfully, it's not a town I would want to live in. 

Moehling has penned a dark, gritty tale. From the publisher: "They thought he was a helpless old man. They were wrong." There's lots of ways for the book to unfold from that initial premise. As readers, we know what's happened in the basement, even as Ben tries to piece things together. Having the advantage of the two narratives definitely ramps up the tension. (Gentle readers - this one may not be the book for you.) 

There's a satisfying ending to And There He Kept Her. But, there's also a door left open for an unanswered question from the past. So, it sounds like there will be another book with Ben Packard - one I would happily pick up. See for yourself - read an excerpt of And There He Kept Her. 

Monday, June 13, 2022

Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting - Clare Pooley

I adored Clare Pooley's first novel, The Authenticity Project. (my review) I was very excited to read her second novel, Iona Iverson's Rules For Commuting. And like the first book, it was a fabulous read and is one of my faves of 2022!

Pooley took inspiration from her own experiences on the train. "I also started to wonder what would have happened if I'd ignored the unwritten rule of commuting and had been brave enough to talk to my fellow commuters. What adventures might those conversations taken me on? And that thought became this book." I loved this premise! The story could go anywhere. 

Iona Iverson rides the train to work every day, sitting in the the same seat along with her dog Lulu (who also has her own seat), which funnily enough, no one ever questions. But Iona's life and many others are destined for change from the opening line...."Until the point when a man starting dying right in front of her on the 08:05, Iona's day had been just like any other." 

I knew from Pooley's first novel, that the plot would be character driven. Oh my, Pooley has again created the most wonderful, eclectic, quirky group of players. They're a mixed bunch - different ages, jobs, social strata, personalities, joys, problems and more. But what they have in common is the train - and Iona.

Each of the train riders is given a voice with their own chapters. They're so well drawn, detailed and relatable. Slowly but surely, with every new chapter, their lives become enmeshed. I came to care for them all and honestly couldn't stop reading. I needed to know what was going to happen with everyone! 

Pooley's writing is so easy to read, flows so easily and is utterly addictive. If you're looking for a warm, feel-good, uplifting, unexpected, just be yourself tale, this is one you'll want to read. After I turned the last page, I wondered - what would happen if someone actually did this?

An absolute five star, must read! See for yourself - read an excerpt of Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Good Husbands - Cate Ray

Good Husbands is Cate Ray's new novel.

From the publisher - "Three wives, one letter, and an explosive secret that will change everything. He said, she said. Who do you believe?"

And that's the question that three women struggle with after receiving a post mortem letter from a young woman who claims she was conceived after her mother was raped. By all three of their husbands. 

The book is told in alternating chapters by their wives - Jessica, Stephanie and Priyanka. Now, the alleged crime is horrific, but Ray's focus is more on the women and their decisions. Could their husband have done this? They begin their own investigation. But, not every wife is on board with opening up old wounds. This was the most interesting part of Ray's premise for me. She takes us inside every marriage, the wives' actions, thoughts, reasoning and decisions. She also explores the interactions between the three women, as well as their own thinking. As a reader, I too made a decision based on my own thoughts about the husbands. We do hear from the past in the form of a diary and more on the road to conclusion.

I think Ray has handled tough subjects with candor and thoughtfulness. Those looking for a thriller won't find it here. But instead a, well written slow burning suspense novel.

There's a nice twist in the final pages. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I was caught off guard for sure. And it somewhat negated what had come before. If' you've read it let me know what you thought. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Good Husbands

Gentle readers, there are trigger situations/descriptions, this may not be the book for you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove - Jesmeen Kaur Deo

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove is Jesmeen Kaur Deo's absolutely brilliant debut novel.

Why/what/who/where and how you ask? Let's start with the who. Deo's lead character is TJ, a popular senior at high school, first string on the soccer team, a leader of the debate team, a friend to all and is Liam's beautiful girlfriend. 

But what does she have to prove? Well, when her cousin Samrin is the target of a hurtful meme, TJ takes a stand. She will let all of her body hair grow, unchecked. "This house believes that TJ Powar can be her hairy self and still be beautiful."

I liked TJ in the first few chapters and I adored her by the last few. She's such a dynamic personality - quick, smart, caring and principled. But she's vulnerable and unsure as well. Do you remember the pressure at high school to conform in so many ways, with physical appearance being right up there at the top? Now, can you see yourself bucking the trend and saying no to hair removal of all kinds. And sticking to it when your life starts to fall apart? 

There's a great cast of supporting players as well. I thought the high school strata was well written and believable. And the same for family, friends and relationships. Matters of the heart are a large part of TJ Powar's story. There are some wonderfully funny bits and on the flip side, some very poignant, true life moments. 

Deo has employed a unique and very apt platform for the plot. Debating. Arguing for and against topics in front of others and being judged. TJ's mental debates with herself are so well written and structured. (I had no idea it was so cutthroat either!)

There's so much food for thought in TJ Powar. I'll leave you with this from TJ's esthetician..."Hair has no gender darling. It's just hair. Do what you want with it, but it does not make you less of a woman. It does not make you less interesting, less worthy, or less deserving Understood?"

This was such a fantastic read and a very easy five stars. I will be eagerly awaiting Deo's next book!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Aurora - David Koepp

I really enjoyed David Koepp's first book, Cold Storage, and happily picked up his new book - Aurora.

The first chapters recount The Carrington Event - an actual historical happening that caused a solar flare in 1859. And what would happen in our day and age you ask? "A geomagnetic storm of this magnitude occurring today would cause widespread electrical disruptions, blackouts, and damage due to extended outages of the electrical power grid"

Yup, the power grid goes down - worldwide. Oh, this premise leaves so many ways for Koepp's story to unfold! 

Koepp drops us into Aurora, Illinois at the end of Cayuga Lane. Aubrey is our lead character. I quite liked her. She's real, smart (except when it comes to picking husbands), forthright and determined. Aubrey, her stepson Scott and their neighbors decide to tough out the crisis out in their homes. No one knows when the power will come back on, but they'll make the best of things. After all, it can't go on very long - can it? Thom is Aubrey's estranged billionaire brother. He's riding out the crisis in his desert bunker. The bunker has everything he and his family will need. More actually. Thom's reasoning, decision making and self assured entitlement is almost comical.

You just know there's gonna be some bad apples in the barrel. Chaos, looting and more. Koepp has created some truly awful antagonists. 

Aurora is driven by the characters - their choices, actions, thoughts and deeds. And Koppe is not afraid to sacrifice players along the way. (Seriously, I was not happy about that!) Action is the name of the game. Koepp knows how to capture the reader's attention and hold it. The tension is palpable and I absolutely couldn't put the book down. And I admit - I peeked ahead a few times. Just to relieve the tension! That being said, there are some poignant moments as well. 

Koepp's books read like movies. Which makes perfect sense as he is a very successful screenwriter, with some best selling movies to his name. And on that note - Aurora is being made into a film.

Who else enjoyed Aurora? Stephen King did -"Fantastic story, a real page-turner. Impossible to put down." See for yourself - read an excerpt of Aurora. 

Friday, June 3, 2022

Deep Water - Emma Bamford

There's been a lot of buzz around Emma Bamford's new book, Deep Water. 

And after some binge listening one rainy day, I can say that buzz is justified. 

I was hooked after reading the author's notes at the front of the book. "I've long had an affinity for films about vacations gone horribly wrong". She also  references Dead Calm, The Beach and The Ruins. All films and books I've really enjoyed. Oh, and she's an experienced sailor. The book benefits from that inside knowledge as well.

Deep Water opens with the ending. We know the outcome, but nothing else - the how, the why, the who. Just Virginie praying her husband survives....

Virginie and Jake are newlyweds with a dream of sailing their own yacht wherever they choose. At a port on the way to Thailand, an older man tells them of a beautiful island that few know about, completely off the grid and 'about as remote as you can get in this world.'

Uh, huh - sounds amazing, doesn't it? It does, and Virginie and Jake decide to change their itinerary to go the island named Amarante. When they arrive, there are two other boats and a third shows up. Things start off well, but.....

And that's where I'm going to leave things, so you can experience Bamford's wonderfully insidious plotting. She builds the tension and suspense slowly, layer by layer. It seems easy to dismiss somebody's  actions and behaviour when you've just met them. But as the reader looking from outside in, I could see where things might be headed. And I found myself talking out loud, telling Virginie to open her eyes! 

The description of the island was vivid. I thought that one element of the island's past might have figured larger. And it does in a sense if you look at what's happening amongst the characters.

I chose to listen to Deep Water. The book was narrated by Sophie Roberts and Daniel York Loh. I liked that there were two readers to cover the story. Loh's voice was perfect for Malaysian Navy Captain Danial Tengku. We meet him at the end/beginning and it is his voice that recounts what he knows/sees and hears from Virginie. He also ends up playing a larger part than I expected. The voice he employs has gravitas, comforting in it's gravelly, take charge tone. It also has an accent that matches the description of the character. Loh's voice has movement, capturing the plot easily. The voice for Virginie is British. It's a light, pleasant voice, easy on the ears. She captures the depiction of lead character for Virginie. There are some other male voices that Roberts reads. I would have preferred another male reader take the parts of the other male boaters. There's not much difference between Virginie's voice and the others on the island. The voice for the prime protagonist sometimes has an a slight accent, but not always. But overall, I enjoyed the book and the performance. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Deep Water. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Foundling - Ann Leary

Ann Leary's new novel, The Foundling, took inspiration from a true story about her own grandmother. 

Leary takes us to 1927 England and The Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age. A time when when eugenics was seen as progressive social science. Uh huh.

Mary Engle is eighteen and grew up in an orphanage. She's excited to be hired as a typist by Dr. Vogel, the female doctor in charge of the institution. We see the entire book through Mary's eyes. She is portrayed in the beginning as an innocent, used to taking orders, afraid of making a mistake and eager to please her employer. While that worked for me in the beginning, I slowly found myself slowly beginning to dislike her. While it's human nature to protect one's self, Mary takes everything Vogel says as gospel and turns a blind eye to what's actually going on. To be fair, she does start to notice after she encounters Lillian, an old friend from her orphanage that has been sent to the institution. I lost count of the number of times I heard the phrase "I can't lose my job". The romantic plot line for Mary was sweet in the beginning, but the scene with her 'awakening' felt like an afterthought and fell flat for me. It seemed very out of character. The relationship as a whole felt one-sided.

However, Leary does a great job portraying the antagonist, Dr. Vogel. Her actions and dialogue riled me greatly. This is the character that rang true. I had a hard time with the words used to describe the patients even though they fit the time period being portrayed. Lillian was also well portrayed and she was easy to get behind. She hasn't given up or given in. 

The last quarter of the book picks up speed and action. For me, this was the part that kept my attention. I liked Leary's premise and the familial connection. I thought her depiction of the institution was well detailed. And from a historical point, very interesting. But, I just didn't like the lead character. So, for me, a three.  

I chose to listen to The Foundling. The reader was Laura Benanti. She did a fabulous job capturing the character of Dr. Vogel. The voice she used is perfectly condescending, superior and just oozes entitlement. She provides a very innocent, unsure, subservient tone for Mary that suited the character. But, as I grew further annoyed with Mary, the voice started to grate on me. Benanti creates new voices for many players, both male and female. Her voice is clear and easy to understand. The speed of speaking is just right. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Foundling