Thursday, December 22, 2022

I know Christmas is going to look much different this year. (again!)

I hope you're able to connect with family and friends while staying safe.

I'll see you in the New Year. I'm taking a break and getting a start on all the great titles coming out in January.

Wishing you health and happiness,


Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Key to My Heart - Lia Louis

The Key to My Heart is the third novel from British author Lia Louis.

Natalie Fincher's life was upended when her beloved husband Russ unexpectedly passed away. All the plans they made, the dreams they had - gone. Two and a half years, Nat is still struggling with the loss. Her friends mean well, but she's just not ready to date again. She works, gets out once in a while, but the only high point is anonymously playing the piano in the train station.

When sheet music that seems directed specifically at Natalie starts appearing at the piano, she is intrigued, interested, excited even...

The Key to My Heart starts off slowly, matching Natalie's mood, demeanor and circumstances. Additional players are added to the cast. Everyone needs a Shauna - the wise, caring woman at the café in the train station. Natalie is not the only regular. There are others, all with their own stories. Slowly but surely, new friendships, relationships and more are built. But is Nat ready for more?

I liked Natalie and appreciated the care Louis afforded to depicting the loss of a partner and the aftermath. The emotions and feelings were believably portrayed. The supporting players each have a role and round out the novel. 

Louis has a penned a novel of love, loss and finding a way forward. Music plays a large part in the book. And is the impetus for the cute title. 

I chose to listen to The Key to My Heart. Some books just translate better for me when I listen. And such was the case with this novel. I became easily immersed in Nat's world. The reader was Victoria Fox and did a great job with presenting Louis's book. She has a pleasant accent and is easily understood. She has easily captured the emotions of the plot with her voice. I did find the speed of the speaking a bit slow for me, so I sped it up to .09. A lovely listen of a thoughtful, well written book. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Key to My Heart. 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Personal Assistant - Kimberly Belle

The Personal Assistant is Kimberly Belle's latest domestic suspense novel. 

Alex has it all - two great kids, a loving husband and enough money that she doesn't have to worry. Oh, and she's a very successful social media mommy influencer. So successful (one million followers!) that she needs an assistant. But all it takes is one horrific post and the walls come tumbling down. Alex knows she didn't write that post. Was she hacked? Did her assistant, AC, post it? Where is she? Things rapidly go from bad to worse...

Belle tells her story through multiple characters, points of view and time periods. Belle does a good job of playing with the listener, directing our attention down more than one garden path. 

I liked the premise and was initially behind Alex. But she started to grate on my nerves. She started coming off as entitled and over the top in general. She's very self focused. I wish I had started counting the sentences with 'my husband' in them. (Hint: there's a lot). The other characters are over the top as well and felt like caricatures instead of believable players.

There are a few holes in the plot for this mystery reader. However, the final whodunit was a surprise. Kudos. I would have been happy with that being the final pages, but Belle seems determined to tie up every last point with a detailed explanation. 

There are some truths on social media, woven into the book. 

I had enjoyed Belle's 2021 book, My Darling Husband and had higher hopes for this newest. A three stars listen for me.  

I chose to listen to The Personal Assistant. I liked that three distinct and easily identifiable readers were used.  Chelsea Stephens (Narrator), Chris Andrew Ciulla and Megan Tusing. Ciulla voiced all of the male characters and provided believable voice all of them. He's a reader I've listened to in the past. I find his voice easy to listen to, clearly enunciated and captured the action and emotions. I'm not sure which reader played Alex and who read AC. Both captured and presented Belle's work very well. Each had a firm grasp of their character and captured that 'over the top' feeling I mentioned earlier. The Alex reader captured the 'look at me' sense I got from Alex. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Personal Assistant. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Widowmaker - Hannah Morrissey

Hannah Morrissey's debut novel (Hello, Transcriber) last year was a fantastic read and put Morrissey on my must read list. Her second novel, The Widowmaker, has just released. 

While The Widowmaker is listed as a 'Black Harbor book', it can absolutely be read as a stand alone. 

The setting is indeed the town of Black Harbor, a dark, dirty, unsettling, foreboding place to live and work. Getting out seems to be the prevailing thought of many of the residents. Morgan Mori is one of the few who have come back to Black Harbor. When Morgan, a photographer, is asked to document the Christmas celebrations of the wealthy Reynolds family, she really has no choice but to take the job. She's desperate for money. But there's something just 'off' with them.

Investigator Ryan Hudson is trying to make a difference in Black Harbor. He ends up with not one, but two cases - one current day and another from the past. Those of you who have read that first book will be interested to know that Investigator Nikolai Kole returns in this second entry. 

Each and every character is the book is flawed, damaged or dangerous.

Morrissey's writing is unsettling most of the time, but addicting all the time. There's no way to predict where the plot is going to. I thought I had solved the cases, only to be proven wrong. (I love being proved wrong) Who is lying? Covering up? Keeping a secret? Who's the killer? Killers?

A gritty, dark tale that's another five star read for me from Morrissey. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Widowmaker. 

Gentle readers - this may not be the book for you as there are many triggers in The Widowmaker.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

How to Survive Everything - Ewan Morrison

Well, Ewan Morrison's novel, How to Survive Everything kept me glued to the couch on a rainy weekend!

Haley and her younger brother Ben have been kidnapped by their (non-custodial) father who is determined to shield them from the next pandemic, at a remote, off the radar location. It is Haley's voice and point of view that drives the book.

Is their father delusional or is he a canny harbinger of the truth? He's written a manual to follow, for just about anything that could occur. Almost. And it is this treatise that Haley refers to with every event, occurrence, interaction that takes place in the compound. But there's not an answer for everything that transpires. 

I quite like dystopian tales and I found the physicalities of Morrison's setting to be intriguing. The idealism and regimen that the members try to live by and follow start to take their toll as the book progresses. Are they delusional? Or far seeing?

Wound into the tale is the unpredictable factor - people. There are others inside the gates as well. The dynamics of a small society cannot be predicted. I loved Haley's recounting. She's torn between her beliefs and what her father is telling her, her burgeoning attraction to one of the other residents, her love for her mother and more.

How to Survive Everything was a page turner for me. I couldn't wait to read the ending, to find the answers for the questions I had. And I did - but certainly not what I imagined.

This was a five star read for me. See for yourself - read an excerpt of How to Survive Everything.
How to Survive Everything is more than a little frightening to read, given our world today.