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.


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.