Audiobook – Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann B. Ross

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 in 2010, 3 stars, Ann B Ross, Audio, Book Review, Support Your Library | 0 comments


Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann B. Ross

Genre: Fiction
Series: #10 in the Miss Julia series
Publication Date: 2009
Read by: Cynthia Darlow
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #50
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Lighthearted antics of a Southern ‘woman of a certain age’ who gets herself into a mess while playing cupid and solving a crime.

Why I Read It:
I’ve listened to this series and enjoy the light humor and need to catch up with the most recent books.

The Book
This is a series so if you haven’t read the previous books, there might be spoilers of events prior to this one.

Miss Julia as usual manages to get herself all wrapped up in other people’s business while steadfastly declaring that she does no such thing. Miss Julia’s household consists of herself, her longtime housekeeper Lillian, Julia’s kind and charming second husband Sam, and single mother Hazel Marie and her son Lloyd. Hazel Marie is the former girlfriend of Miss Julia’s first husband and Lloyd is his son. If you want to find out how they all end up living happily together at Julia’s, then you’ll just have to read or listen to the earlier books.

After Hazel Marie admits to feeling ill and being concerned that it’s something serious, Miss Julia takes charge (as usual). The doctor’s diagnosis is a surprise to all. On top of that, Miss Julia is distressed to hear that Hazel Marie has broken off her relationship with Private Detective J.D. Pickens. As much as Mr. Pickens drives Miss Julia crazy, she does think he’s good for both Hazel Marie and Lloyd and she’s determined to get the them back together.

Then, Sam’s house that he uses for an office is broken into, vandalized, and burglarized. Julia convinces Sam to put Mr. Pickens on the job and of course, she can’t help getting involved herself.

My Thoughts:
These are just light enjoyable driving around listening for me. I probably wouldn’t read the books in paper format, but I enjoy listening to them in my short daily driving type of audiobook consumption. The Hazel Marie story is predictable and the outcome is really never in question. The minor mystery of the incident at Sam’s office is less predictable, and a good addition. I was less sure of how that one would play out.

As always I enjoy Miss Julia’s interactions with the other characters, particularly the ladies from her church. Her insistence that she’s not judgmental or a busy body is usually strongest when she is actually being one or the other. Nevertheless her devotion to Hazel Marie, Lloyd, Sam and Lillian show the true kindness in her heart.

Cynthia Darlow does a fairly good job with most of the characters, but I’m not fond of the way she reads Lillian’s character. I think Lillian is much smarter than Ms. Darlow’s vocal characterization makes her out to be.

Rating 3/5

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A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta

Posted by on Nov 19, 2010 in 2010, 4 stars, Book Review, Michael Koryta, Support Your Library | 3 comments

A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta

Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction
Series: #3 in the Lincoln Perry series
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 294
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #49
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Private Investigator Lincoln Perry is hired to find the son of a recent murder victim and soon finds himself a suspect in multiple murders and a complex extortion plot.

Why I Read It:
I’ve read and enjoyed the first two books in the series.

The Book:
When Alex Jefferson is brutally tortured and murdered, his widow asks Lincoln Perry to find her husband’s long estranged son in order to let him know his father is dead and he is to inherit a large sum of money. Oh, and the widow? She was engaged to Perry before she met and married Jefferson. In addition, it was a knockout punch delivered to Jefferson by Perry that got Perry kicked off the Cleveland police force and into the PI business.

This makes what should be an easy missing person search start out with plenty of complications, but it gets worse. Before Perry can even tell Jefferson’s son about his inheritance, the kid is dead and Perry is in jail under suspicion for his murder.

Then it gets even worse. The more Perry and his partner Joe Pritchard work to find out what really happened to both Alex Jefferson and his son and why, the more twists and turns come along. At almost every step is a clue for Lincoln and Joe that is soon followed by apparent evidence leading the police to suspect Perry is behind the murders and extortion.

The story twists along with events from the past coming back to haunt people, revenge, extortion and a very scary Russian hit man who ended up being one of my favorite characters.

My Thoughts:
Like the first two in the series this was a fun to read thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Lincoln Perry is a character I like a lot. He’s smart and sharp tongued with little patience for the law enforcement authorities despite his previous career as a cop. He’s funny and devoted to his friends.

I enjoy the banter in Koryta’s books. He uses entertaining and quick witted dialog to progress the story, but there’s plenty of action too. The Russian hit man is scary, but he ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book.

The story is complicated and despite the many twists and turns it takes along the way (some more plausible than others), it’s an entertaining read. The essential question of who murdered Alex Jefferson and why turns out to have a surprising and yet by the time you get there, not so surprising resolution.

I look forward to continuing with this series as well as Koryta’s standalone thrillers.

Rating 4/5

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Audiobook – The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

Posted by on Nov 16, 2010 in 2010, 3.5 stars, Alexander McCall Smith, Book Review, Support Your Library | 3 comments


The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith (Audio)

Genre: Fiction
Series: #11 in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series
Publication Date: 2010
Read by: Lisette Lecat
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #48
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Not much of a detective story, but an enjoyable visit with familiar characters in Bostwana

Why I Read It:
I’ve listened to all the previous books in this series and thoroughly enjoy listening to Lisette Lecat read them.

The Book:
Precious Ramotswe only has a couple of minor detective agency related stories in this installment of the series. One of which ends up having both partners in a marriage ask her to find out if the other is having an affair. The other detective type storyline isn’t that complex and involves finding a safari guide who was kind enough to a visiting American woman that she left him some money in her will.

The more involved storyline in this one is that Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, Grace Makutsi has some personal trauma to deal with. Her fiancé is injured and his aunt uses this as an opportunity to keep Mma Makutsi away from him whether out of jealousy or because she feels Grace is not worthy as a future member of the family.

Of course Mma Makutsi’s arch nemesis Violet Sepotho makes a reappearance too.

My Thoughts:
As always I absolutely enjoyed the heck out of listening to Lisette Lecat’s reading of this series. Her voices and and personalities she gives to the characters have made them feel like old friends by this point in the series. The running jokes are totally expected, yet they still make me laugh.

It’s a very slow paced and rather plot thin series and I’m sure that if I read the books I would not have continued with it, but the audio versions are just a complete delight. The gentle sensibility of Precious Ramotswe and her love for her homeland of Botswana make her a fictional character that I’d love to sit down with for a cup of tea (red bush tea, of course).

Rating 3.5/5

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Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

Posted by on Nov 11, 2010 in 2010, 4 stars, Book Review, Mark Billingham, Support Your Library | 11 comments

Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction
Series: #1 in the Tom Thorne series
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 310
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #47
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Detective Tom Thorne takes on the hunt for a serial killer whose goal isn’t killing his victims, but instead to leave them alert, but totally incapacitated.

Why I Read It:
Mulholland Books was kind enough to send me a galley of the 8th book in this series (which they will be releasing in July) and I wanted to use the time between now and then to catch up on the earlier books in the series.

The Book:
After several women are found to have died from induced strokes, the police are finally making the connections that there is a killer on the loose. When one of the women survives her attack, but is left incapacitated and uncommunicative, the authorities believe the killer has made a mistake that could lead to his capture.

When the lead detective, Tom Thorne finds a note from the killer on his car the motives of the killer turn out to be almost more sinister than previously thought. The women who died were his mistakes. The one who is still alive, but trapped in a body that cannot function is the one he considers his first success.

Tom Thorne is a dedicated detective with plenty of personal baggage. He’s haunted by an old case, he’s still mourning the deaths of his mother and his marriage, he doesn’t exactly follow the rules and he’s attracted to the victim’s doctor whose friend may or may not be the prime suspect.

Interspersed with Thorne’s investigation are sections where the killer is followed but not identified. Even more interesting are the sections where the still living but unable to communicate victim has the chance to tell what is going on from her viewpoint and in her mind from her hospital bed.

My Thoughts:
I enjoy many British crime stories and the opportunity to immerse myself in a new to me series about which I’ve heard good things turned out to be something I just couldn’t resist.

Tom Thorne is the kind of protagonist I find in many of my favorite series. He’s a dedicated detective who takes justice for victims seriously and the rules of authority in the police bureaucracy not quite so seriously. He’s got a past that haunts him for several reasons, and while he is at times someone I may not like, I find him fascinating.

The story is an interesting psychological mystery and crime procedural. The killer is clearly a very twisted person and the idea that the victim who lived is the success rather than the mistake is creepy. Thorne hones in and locks on early on a prime suspect, but the authorities disagree with him. I couldn’t tell if this was going to be one of those stories where the detective going against the grain was going to be right or wrong. The clues and twists kept coming and I changed my mind several times along the way.

It turned out that I was right in my guess as to the outcome, but I was left unsure about that guess long enough to just enjoy the mystery and suspense as they played out.

I liked the way Billingham let Allison (the victim in the hospital) tell her part of the story in her own words. It was an interesting and well done element in the narrative.

A well done first novel and I’m looking forward to continuing with this series in preparation for reading Bloodline next summer.

Rating 4/5

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Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Posted by on Nov 2, 2010 in 2010, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Laurie Halse Anderson, Support Your Library | 2 comments


Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade/YA Fiction
Series: #1 in the Seeds of America series
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 300
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #46
Source: Library

The Short Version:
The beginnings of the American Revolutionary War as told from the viewpoint of a young slave girl in New York.

Why I Read It:
I’ve heard such good things about the author’s books that I wanted to read them and decided to start with her historical fiction books first.

The Book
Taking place between May of 1776 and January of 1777, the beginnings of the American Revolution are experienced by a thirteen year old slave.

Isabel and her younger sister Ruth were owned by a wealthy woman named Mary Finch in Rhode Island. Miss Finch had told Isabel that her will contained a provision that would grant Isabel and Ruth their freedom, but when Miss Finch’s nephew arrived to bury his aunt and settle her estate, he says there was no will and that Isabel and Ruth are now his property.

He takes the girls to New York where he and his wife live while supporting the British side in the revolution. The Locktons turn out to be the kind of owners who treat their slaves far worse than Miss Finch did. In fact, Mrs, Lockton is a rather cruel person. Isabel tries to cause no trouble out of fear that her younger sister will be unfairly punished. After a particularly awful turn of events, Isabel is desperate to get away from the Locktons and find a way to freedom.

While running errands as part of her duties, Isabel meets a young boy named Curzon who is a slave to a Patriot. Curzon encourages Isabel to share information she learns from the Tories at the Lockton home with the Patriots. In hopes that this will help her obtain her freedom (and Ruth’s) Isabel agrees to spy for the Patriots.

Caught between two sides of a revolution, Isabel seeks to gain freedom with the help of those seeking their own freedom from British rule.

My Thoughts:
Although I liked Anderson’s Fever 1793 well enough, it was targeted at a younger audience than I’d expected. This one is also targeted at a middle grade audience, but I found it to be more readable to an adult audience than Fever 1793.

I loved Isabel! She was a courageous, smart girl stuck in a situation with no clear way to find the best way out. Her previous owner had some unusual beliefs and so Isabel could read, but she was smart enough to not flaunt this ability.

The author did a wonderful job of portraying 1776 New York. Occupied by British Loyalists and the British army, the rebels both in and out of prison suffered. The conditions were terrible and even worse for slaves. Isabel had reason to believe promises from both British and Rebels that helping them could be her path to freedom, but she also had reason to mistrust both sides.

Ultimately it is her devotion to her sister and her sense of gratitude to Curzon that determine her actions.

I loved the way that the contradiction of the Americans fighting for their own freedom, yet denying that same right to their slaves is so well portrayed. Neither side could truly be trusted if you were a slave.

For a middle grade to YA book, I thought it was quite interesting and entertaining and I look forward to continuing with the planned trilogy. I’ll be requesting the second book (Forge) from my library soon.

Rating 3.5/5

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Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Posted by on Oct 29, 2010 in 2010, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Emily St. John Mandel, Support Your Library | 3 comments

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 247
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #45
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Leaving, following, disappearing, and obsessing are all elements of the relationships in this story of several lives intertwined over many years.

Why I Read It:
I’d heard great praise for the author’s most recent book and this one was also highly recommended at S. Krishna’s Books.

The Book:
Eli’s girlfriend Lilia leaves to get coffee and never returns. Eli admits that Lilia had some odd habits, but he never saw this disappearance coming at all. While he’s devastated, he also wonders where she is and if she’s safe. When he gets a mysterious postcard from Montreal saying “she’s here” he’d like to feel better, but he doesn’t know who this Michaela is who sent him the card, nor does he have any idea how she knew where to send it.

Eli’s trip to Montreal is interspersed with the story of Lilia’s past. She spent most of her life leaving and disappearing, beginning when she was a child and her father took her away from her mother’s home one snowy night. Pursued by a private detective they spend years on the move changing identities and never really forming long term relationships.

Also in the mix is the story of Michaela’s childhood and her connection to both Lilia and Eli.

My Thoughts:
I really don’t want to say more than that about the plot because it’s the questions of how it would all intersect and connect or not that kept me reading.

I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about this book. While I thought the writing was beautiful at times, I never really felt any connection to the characters or story. I found myself easily distracted from the book while reading it and it took me longer than most books of this length to read.

Granted, part of the not feeling connected to the characters was that all of them were fairly disconnected from entanglements and relationships themselves, so to that extent the author did an excellent job of portraying them.

There are several minor mysteries that play out as the story progresses in terms of how all the characters became entangled and the truth about events in the past that both Lilia and Michaela are seeking. Some of the answers turned out to be fairly predictable, and while the ending wraps things up, it left me with an unsettled feeling.

The book is full of wonderful moments in writing and fabulous images, but I just never felt connected or invested in the story. I definitely remained detached. I did enjoy the writing enough that I plan to read more by this author.

Rating 3.5/5

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