Thursday, July 10, 2014

Audiobook Review: The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Title:  The Lady of the Rivers

Author:  Philippa Gregory

Narrator:  Bianca Amato

Unabridged Length:  19 hrs, 11 mn.

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website: 
Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of 19, she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her household for love, and then carved out a new life for herself.

My Review:   
I have been listening to this series of books on audio, and let me tell you, I am so glad that I have chosen this method.  Amata has done most of the narrating in the series so far and she doesn't fail to nail the characters every time!  You get a glimpse of Jacquetta in previous installments so it was interesting to see things from her point of view this time.

When Jacquetta is just a young girl, one of her aunts sees a special gift in her.  A mysterious gift that has been attained by many females in the family.  Jacquetta will spend years learning to harness her powers to help herself and her entire family.  Although the book touched on this subject it wasn't overwhelming as it really was a small but important element of the story.  It did help to clarify events from the previous installments though.

From the previous books I had labeled Jacquetta to be a heartless and cruel woman, but this novel proved her to be the exact opposite.  She was a passionate woman who would do anything to protect those she loves.  And the love she declared for her mate was proved countless times, with the many children they had together.  

Although this is part of a series, I think this book would also be fine as a stand alone novel.  I did enjoy this audiobook, but it probably is my least favorite so far, but maybe that's because Jacquetta is my least favorite character!  With themes of love, family, and war, you may enjoy this book just as much, if not more, than I did.  I recommend this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club selection.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this audiobook from the local library to read for my own entertainment.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mailbox Monday-July 7

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive. You can check out the Mailbox Monday blog to see what everyone else found in their mailboxes.

Here is what showed up at my door:

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie Helene Bertino

A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman

I was so excited to open my package and find the Cat's Pajamas in it!  Something about this book is calling my name.  A Wedding in Provence was a total surprise to me as I didn't request it.  I have to admit that I am a cover judger and this one looks like it may be too sappy for me...we will see!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Audiobook Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Title:  Shotgun Lovesongs

Author:  Nickolas Butler

Narrators:  Scott Shepherd, Ari Fliakos, Holter Graham, Scott Sowers, Maggie Hoffman

Unabridged Length:  9 hrs, 59 mn.

Here is a summary from the publisher's website:

Welcome to Little Wing.

It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friendsall born and raised in this small Wisconsin townit is home. And now they are men, coming into their own, or struggling to do so.

One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.

Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stressesbetween the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.

Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which, in Nickolas Butler’s hands, emerges as a vibrant character in the story. Shotgun Lovesongs is that rare work of fiction that evokes a specific time and place yet movingly describes the universal human condition. It is, in short, a truly remarkable audiobooka novel that once listened to will never be forgotten.

My Review:
How could I pass up the opportunity to listen to this audiobook after living in Northern Wisconsin for most of my life?  I just couldn't!  I've always enjoyed reading books that take place close to where I live and Shotgun Lovesongs delivered.  Butler did a wonderful job of creating a fictional town containing the things that make our little piece of the world special.  From Friday fish fry, shopping trips to  Duluth, to commuting to Minneapolis for the airport, Butler didn't miss a beat.

The story is told from various viewpoints and each character had a different narrator.  Our main characters all grew up together in Little Wing, and although a few left the small town early in their lives, they all find themselves building their lives back where they started.  Beth and Hank married and work on a farm, Kip married a woman from Chicago and moved back to Little Wing to restore the old mill, Leland is a rock star who spends time in the town recuperating between gigs, while Ronny may be the most loved character of all-having to give up the rodeo circuit after sustaining too many injuries.

The book opens as the town is getting ready to attend Kip's wedding.  Kip doesn't spare any expense for his wedding and it is apparent that he has let the powerful persona he developed in Chicago take over.  His attitude did not come across well to his home-town friends, setting a tension that would separate Kip from the rest of the group throughout the novel.

Leland and Hank were best friends since they were kids, but with Ronny's injuries Leland always took the initiative to take Ronny under his wing.  Whether it was paying for Ronny's medical bills or not indulging in alcohol at bachelor parties, Leland did whatever he needed to do to help Ronny feel like he belonged.

A couple of our characters hold a secret from years before, and once it is revealed friendships will never be the same.  I think all of the narrators did a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life for me.  My ONLY complaint about the audiobook was the choice of narrator for Leland.  Although I enjoyed his narration, the voice just did not fit the character for me.  Obviously this was a very small distraction for me as I absolutely loved the book otherwise.  With themes of love, secrets, and forgiveness, you may enjoy this book as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for either personal leisure or as a book club selection.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, and good humor--not to mention help from her loyal assistant, Grace Makutsi, and the occasional cup of tea. 

Readers will agree that this touching and dramatic new installment in Alexander McCall Smith's beloved and best-selling series is the finest yet. In this story, Precious Ramotswe deals with issues of mistaken identity and great fortune against the beautiful backdrop of Botswana's remote and striking Okavango Delta. 

Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi head to a safari camp to carry out a delicate mission on behalf of a former guest who has left one of the guides a large sum of money. But once they find their man, Precious begins to sense that something is not right. To make matters worse, shortly before their departure Mma Makutsi's fiance, Phuti Radiphuti, suffers a debilitating accident, and when his aunt moves in to take care of him, she also pushes Mma Makutsi out of the picture. Could she be trying to break up the relationship? Finally, a local priest and his wife independently approach Mma Ramotswe with concerns of infidelity, creating a rather unusual and tricky situation. Nevertheless, Precious is confident that with a little patience, kindness and good sense things will work out for the best, something that will delight her many fans.

My Review: 
How does Alexander McCall Smith keep coming up with these story lines for the No. 1 Detective Agency?  I have no idea, but I'm hoping he has plenty more to share with us.  We are brought back to Botswana once again to watch Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe solve mysteries in their common sense way. 

The book opens with a strange incident encountered by J.L.B. Matekoni.  As he travels to help a woman in need, he ponders many things along the way, as he usually does.  When he arrives at his destination things seem out of place but he can't quite put his finger on it.  He has suspicions and questions whether he should share his concerns with Mma Ramotswe.  Deciding against it, he keeps the information to himself, not knowing that Mma Ramotswe with up to her elbows with the problem at hand.  

I think the most significant part of this segment is the accident that cripples Phuti Radiphuti.   As his relatives swoop in care for Phuti, at the same time they block Mma Makutsi from his life.  Thankfully, with the help of Mma Ramotswe and other friends, Mma Makutsi is right back by Phuti's side where she belongs.  I can't help but wonder if these two will ever get married in the future.  You may laugh, but deep down I think I want to see Mma Makutsi and Charlie the apprentice get together...time will tell!

There is one main mystery that Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe need to solve.  The assignment sends them on their first overnight business trip together as they head to the wilderness and a safari.  Their everyday lives could not have prepared them for the dangers of a safari, but luckily they come out unharmed.  With themes of mystery and relationships you may enjoy this book as much as my book club did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for either personal leisure or as a book club selection.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book is from my personal library and I read to it for my own entertainment and as a book club selection.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mailbox Monday-June 23

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive. You can check out the Mailbox Monday blog to see what everyone else found in their mailboxes.

Here is what showed up at my place:
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (audiobook)

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner (audiobook)

Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa (audiobook)
Well it looks like my car rides will be set for awhile with these new audiobooks!  I'm excited to give Stephen King a chance again, as I tried reading him years ago and just couldn't manage it.  How about you?  Did you get a new book in the mail that you can't wait to dive into?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Audiobook Review: Moving Target by J.A. Jance

Title:  Moving Target

Author:  J.A. Jance

Narrator:  Karen Ziemba

Unabridged Length:  10 hrs, 38 mn

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website
In this high-stakes thriller from New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance, Ali Reynolds spans continents to solve a cold case murder and to figure out who wants a young juvenile offender dead.

Lance Tucker, an incarcerated juvenile offender and talented hacker in his own right, is set on fire one night and severely burned while hanging Christmas decorations in a lockup rec room. B. Simpson, Ali Reynolds's fiancé and the man who helped put Lance in jail, feels obliged to get to the bottom of what happened. With Ali off in England to help Leland Brooks at a reunion with his long-estranged family, B. turns to someone else to help out: Ali's good friend and Taser-carrying nun, Sister Anselm.

Meanwhile, in Bournemouth, Leland's hometown, Ali begins to investigate the decades-old murder of Leland's father, which Leland himself was once suspected of committing. With unsolved murders on both sides of the Atlantic, Ali, B., and Sister Anselm are united by their search for answers and the jeopardy they get into as a result.

From the author praised for her "inimitable, take-no-prisoners style" (Kirkus Reviews), Moving Target sends Ali on a trans-Atlantic adventure and straight into the path of a deadly killer.

My Review: 
I can't pass up a good suspense novel every now and then and that is exactly what I expected when requesting this one.  Although it did contain action and suspense, it seemed to be a different level of excitement than I am accustomed to from this genre.  The story seems to revolve around young Lance, a young computer geek who was actually tried and convicted for hacking into the school district's computer program.  

Lance created a software program assisting him with his hacking abilities that many agencies would like to get their hands on.  If Lance is not willing to give up the program easily, many are willing to do whatever is necessary to obtain the program.  Lance becomes worried not only for his own life, but the lives of his family members, as others who have had access to the program start turning up dead.  He just got out of jail for his cyber crime and now being confined to a hospital bed he has no way to offer protection to his loved ones.

People from different walks of life suddenly show up around Lance, offering help or protection.  He struggles to figure out who he can trust but finally makes the right decisions in the end.  His decisions will set his entire family on a path of financial independence for the rest of their lives.

I don't know why I had a problem with this audiobook.  I listened to the first couple of discs without retaining much at all.  Finally around the fourth disc I found myself enjoying the story, but not loving it.  I muddled through it as I was to a point where I really wanted to know how it turned out, but then the last couple of discs were like jibberish to me once again.  I know I wouldn't have enjoyed reading this one, but I can't say the listening experience was enjoyable either.

With themes of murder, mystery, and cyber crimes, you may enjoy this book much more than I did.  I did find some enjoyment out of it as I didn't give up and wanted to see how it ended.  I recommend this book for personal leisure or as a book club selection for those enjoying the thriller genre.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Teaser Tuesday-June 17

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from China Dolls by Lisa See:
I also wanted to avoid the kitchen, where my sisters-in-law would ignore me and my mother would struggle for something to say as though anything she could utter could possibly change my status in the household or the world.  How could I live in a compound with three generations of my relatives-all so alive with all their breathing, eating, and siring-and still be so lonely?

pg. 32
***Please note that this is from an Advanced Reading Copy so the final printing may change.