Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

83083 I saw this was available in audio from my libraries e-audio company, so I had to listen.

Stats: First published in 2004, the print is 320 pages. The audio is 10’21” narrated by Kim Hicks.

Blurb: It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. When three of the heiress’s old friends are found dead, Maisie must race to find out who would want to kill these seemingly respectable young women before it’s too late. As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.

What I liked: Winspear doles out her stories in a very relaxed manner but usually not so slow as to put you to sleep. And all the character are created so they come across as very real – Maisie and her side kick in particular (I forget his name). The narration by Kim Hicks only adds to this with her exceptional rendition of the book. Each voice was very distinct and personal. The story itself seems very plausible as well, and illustrates an aspect of the “Great War” that we don’t hear a lot about. I couldn’t figure out “who done it” until the very end, which is always preferred.

What I didn’t like: Maisie’s intuitions are a little to spot on but it’s easy to overlook, since it does take her a bit to figure out the mystery. And it’s a bit hard to believe that the small clues that she finds at 2 of the murder scenes would have still been there to be found by Maisie (I won’t give away what these were because they are integral to the story), but it is fiction, after all.

Rating: 4/5

 

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Old Tune Tuesday + Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage Review

40212914Thought I’d get two birds with one stone, as they say. Listen to this Old Tune while reading a book review!

Stats: The print book is 304 pages, published in 2018, audio book is 11′ long, narrated by Gabra Zackman.

Blurb: Sweetness can be deceptive. 
Meet Hanna.
She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.
She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

What I liked: Stage does a good job at pulling you back and forth about who you are rooting for. Most times it is Suzette, but not always. Stage makes the character believable, more so Suzette than Hanna, but maybe only because I don’t know anyone like Hanna. I can’t quite figure out Hanna’s age from the story, which might help me decide if she was smarter than she normally would have been, but the narration and text makes me think she is 6 or so. The narration by Zackman is very good, btw, for all the characters. They sounded like very distinct people – and the text helped with that as well. The ending, which I won’t give away, was interesting.

What I didn’t like: Despite how real the characters are, I didn’t really empathize with any of them to any degree. I suppose that is part of the risk of making the reader go back and forth on who they were rooting for. The ending… well, I’m still not sure if I liked it or not. I think it was probably best left the way it was. Now you have to read it and decide for yourself!

Rating: 4/5

Bones on Ice by Kathy Reichs

25734320I saw this was available for an e-audio loan from my library system and I grabbed it. Always like Reichs’ Temperance Brenner books.

Stats: Published in 2015, the audio book is 3’28” long, narrated by Katheryn Borowitz (spelling?). The print book is 104 pages. It’s a novella.

Blurb: It is called the “death zone”: the point on Everest, nearly five miles high, above which a climber cannot be rescued. More than 250 souls have lost their lives there. Most of the bodies remain, abandoned, frozen in place. When an earthquake leads to a miraculous recovery, Dr. Temperance Brennan is hired to identify the frozen mummified human corpse. The victim is the daughter of a wealthy Charlotte couple who never got the chance to say goodbye. But far from offering solace and closure, Tempe’s findings only provoke more questions. What happened on Mount Everest? Was the young woman’s death an accident? Why aren’t the other climbers talking? And how far will those hiding the truth go to make sure the past stays buried?

What I liked: Of course, there is something fishy about the death of this young over achiever, but it’s not exactly what you might suspect. As usual, Reichs does her homework and you get to learn a bit about mountain climbing besides being entertained by Brennen’s/Reichs’ quick wit. And the story seemed very plausible. What’s not to like?

What I didn’t like: Can’t really say there was anything. I think that might be a first for me! See Rachel (my daughter), I don’t find fault in every book I’ve read – yes, most, but not every!

Rating: 5/5

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

7047094Looked good so I picked it up.

Stats: Audio book is 17 discs, it doesn’t tell me the hours (a lot). Read by Treat Williams, Anne Heche “and a full cast.” Print book is 565 pages, published in 2010.

Blurb: Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.

What I liked: The question behind Robert Oliver’s action in the beginning is well hid, along with the connection of the people around him to this man. The information is doled out slowly. I like how the artwork is an integral part of the story, so much so that I wanted to see it for real. Alas, this is fiction. I imagine some of the artists she mentions in the Washington’s National Gallery are real, so I’ll have to try and find those. The surprise at the end was good. I was expecting something else, of course. The narrators did a fine job.

What I didn’t like: As I mentioned, the information about Robert Oliver is doled out slowly, too slowly at times. And other information is not needed, like stuff about Mary, who is connected to Robert (I won’t say how so as not to give anything away). Kostova tells of Mary’s childhood and life as she grew up, something that really didn’t add anything to the main story, in my opinion. Then there is the question of why doesn’t Robert speak? It’s never really shared and it is the only way the story can be told as it is. And it’s not to realistic to believe his psychiatrist would travel to Jamaica (I think that’s where he went) and France just to find out the mystery, whether it’s for his own curiosity or for his patient, or for both. And low and behold – they find the missing information! Really?! But these things are not enough of a problem to make the story a problem to read.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

61 Hours by Lee Child

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I like Lee Child and the Jack Reacher series so when I saw this audio (#14 in the series) was available online from my library, I checked it “out.”

Stats: Published in 2010, print is 383 pages, the audio was narrated by Dick Hill, who narrators many of the Reacher stories (as far as I can tell). 13′, 13″ for the audio version

Blurb: A tour bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.
Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed–but so is the woman whose life he’ll risk his own to save.
In 61 Hours, Lee Child has written a showdown thriller with an explosive ending that readers will talk about for a long time to come.

What I liked: I liked the writing as usual, and the narration as well. Dick Hill does his usual wonderful job with characters and flow and drama. I actually am not sure how the 61 hours plays into the story other than it’s a count down to an explosive end a writer’s trick to add drama (not sure that exactly worked). I like the setting and the laid back life of the South Dakota town in winter. The setting for the prison was very true to it’s impact on the community. The characters are easily relateable, even the bad guys and Child’s details always make you feel like you are right there. I like what was in the building (though how likely that is is debatable). Child has changed it up a bit, as far as what happens to some of the characters Reacher is supposed to be helping, so that’s a nice twist.

What I didn’t like: It got a little slow after the first prison event (I won’t mention what that was) but it wasn’t enough to want to stop. I’m not sure I like the end. It’s fairly obvious what happened in general, but I would have liked to know specifically what happened to Reacher. Maybe you have to read the next book (#15) to get the answer.

Rating: 4/5

 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

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I was looking for a new audio book through my online library system and this one was available. I hadn’t seen the movie because I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a POW movie (maybe too intense) but I thought listening to the book might work.

Stats: Published in 2010, print is 473 pages, audio is about 14 hours, read by Edward Herrmann.

Blurb: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

What I liked: Like all good non-fiction, it “read” like a fictional story, which is quite the accomplishment with such a long story. It helps that it’s such an amazing story, it keeps your interest the whole time, if you can stomach some of it, that is. What those men endured on the life raft and in the Japanese prison camps was hard to fathom. It was also very interesting learning what happened to some of the survivors – especially Louis Z. Listening to Edward Herrmann was a pleasure.

What I didn’t like: It was a bit long. Could some of the beginning been cut a bit? Perhaps. Even though the time in the camps was hard to listen to at times, it isn’t anything you can (or should) cut. It was frustrating to hear what happened to some of the guards at the prison, most notably “the bird” – the guard out to get Louis. But it is what it is.

Rating: 4/5

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

18143977I had heard of this title, so when I saw the audio version in the library, I picked it up.

Stats: Published in 2014, print is 531 pages, audio is narrated by Zach Appelman, 13 discs

Blurb: Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

What I liked: The writing is good; not too surprising since he’s a multi-award-winning author. Doerr obviously took a lot of time researching his information, which helps to put the reader into the lives of the characters at the time and place – not your typical WWII story. I like that the main character is blind.  It adds an interesting perspective and circumstances to the story. The jewel in the story is a different kind of subplot. Not exactly sure why it’s there but it does work.

What I didn’t like: It’s a bit slow. It took me about 5 discs until I finally cared enough about the characters that I wanted to continue listening. I guess when you’re a famous writer, you are afforded the luxury of taking your time getting your story going. Most authors aren’t given this luxury, but it’s nice that some are. Allows for more diverse reading options. I’m not sure I’d have made it through in the print version. The end drags a bit too, though it is nice to hear where each character ends up – I guess. I didn’t love it like many others did. But that’s what makes the world go round, doesn’t it 🙂

Rating: 3.5/5