Friday, April 11, 2014

Runner by Patrick Lee

Runner by Patrick Lee

Sam Dryden, former special forces and now an exile from his own life after a family tragedy, has taken to running on the boardwalk by his house at odd times of the day and night.  One night, while out running, a girl barrels into him from an adjoining path and from that point forward the two are fighting for their lives.  All Rachel knows is that the men at the facility she was being held in want to kill her.  All Sam knows is that he needs to protect her.  Slowly the story of Rachel’s past begins to unfold, a story with genetic manipulation, spying and government conspiracies at its core.  Will the two survive?

This was a really well-read audiobook.  The two main characters are a middle aged male and a teen female.  That would be a challenge to any voice actor, but Raul Esparza does a great job making both distinct and believable.  This was one of those books that I kept bringing inside to listen to because I couldn’t wait for my commute the next morning to know what happened next.  Fans of James Rollins, Michael Crichton, Douglas Child and Richard Preston will love the action and techno-thriller aspects of this tale.

Cursed by Benedict Jacka


Cursed by Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus is a Conjurer operating a magic shop in present day London.  He gets a lot of people looking for card tricks wandering in off the street, but he deals in real magic.  As a Conjurer he can see into the future and all the paths the future may take – which is why Verus never seems to trip, he can always see the future he doesn’t trip in and take that path.  And it’s also why he hasn’t died…yet.  He can see what future path will result in his demise.  And there have been a lot of paths leading in that direction lately.

Two storylines twist and turn together in this book, the second in the series.  Finding out who is killing magical creatures is the first task Verus has to deal with since his best friend is a giant spider.  Next he has to figure out how best to work with his apprentice Luna.  She is cursed with luck.  Hers is pretty good at the peril of anyone that gets within a certain radius of her – they then take on bad luck with disastrous results.

The characters are likeable and memorable.  I read the first entry in the series about two years ago and the world Jacka created came right back.  It was a nice place to visit again, and I think I’ll be visiting again soon since books three and four are currently available.  If you are a fan of Jim Butcher or Kat Richardson I really think you’ll enjoy this series.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

This is the life story of Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a wealthy family in Charleston, and Hetty, the slave Sarah is given on her eleventh birthday.  Sarah is uncomfortable with the idea of owning another person and immediately tries to set Hetty free, but her family will not allow it.  Throughout her life Sarah is against slavery, but as a woman from the south what can she do?  Hetty is taught by Sarah to read and by her mother to hate her lot in life and these strong women guide Hetty in her own struggles to want to one day be free. 

I’ll admit it now.  I didn’t want to read this book.  I really didn’t like the author’s last book, The Mermaid’s Chair, and I tend to disagree with Oprah on her book choices.  But I will now admit that the author and Oprah picked a winner with this one.  Told in alternating chapters narrated by the two main characters we see how slavery is an institution hard fought by individuals, especially women, but how perseverance, guts and gumption can go a long way even against what appear to be insurmountable odds.  As with all big changes small steps must come first and this story tells of the small steps these two women take, as well as others attempting to enact changes against slavery on the streets of Charleston and the parlors of the North.

Jump the Gun by Zoe Burke

Jump the Gun by Zoe Burke

Beatrice Anabelle Starkey is a book publicist attending a convention in Chicago when she meets Mickey Paxton, a salesman for a big publishing house.  Anabelle isn’t the type to fly off to Vegas for the weekend, but when Mickey suggests the rendezvous, she jumps for it.  So begins the whirlwind romance and a bunch of scary stuff.  Anabelle is kidnapped, Mickey is jumped and the woman who was cat sitting for Anabelle turns up dead in Anabelle’s apartment.  Enter an assorted bunch of fun characters including a senior on the lam from her nursing home, a moonlighting taxi driver, and the very wonderful parents of Anabelle.

Fans of Janet Evanovich will enjoy the fast paced action and the random one-liners.  Starkey is a MAJOR movie fan and the author loves to quote and reference movies in her dialogue and descriptions.  There are a lot of strange twists and turns and overall the story is a mystery with more than a touch of romance.  This is more like the first few Evanovich stories which were light in tone but serious when it came to the underlying mystery.  People are murdered, the stakes are high and there is more than a little blood.

This is a fun listen, the reader has a unique voice that really works well, and it is a short listen, which was great because all the audiobooks I’ve been checking out lately seem to have over 14 discs in them.  It was nice to finish a whole story in a week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

The enchanted place exists in the imagination of a death row inmate picturing the stone prison around him as a world of golden racing horses and little men with hammers.  He pictures the world as a realm of beautiful places despite where he currently resides.  The lady who enters the enchanted place is an investigator for death row inmates on their last appeals.  She is digging into the life of inmate York and through her investigation we learn more about her.  The priest is a man who has all but left the Catholic Church, but is not ready to give up his faith entirely.  He decides to tend to these men for atonement for his sins and for hope at salvation.

This book is yet another one that is already on my top books of the year list.  The writing is amazingly lyrical and pulls you into the mind of a killer, one who you begin to empathize with despite your better judgment.  You get pulled in to the story wondering why each character chose their path in life and wondering how you would have fared in similar circumstances.  The prison, which in my mind resembled Eastern State Penitentiary, is another character with hidden secrets and murky past.  Typically I am not a fan of descriptive writing, but this is an exception.  Wonderful on audio.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Heaven’s Rise by Christopher Rice

The Heaven’s Rise by Christopher Rice

The Delongpre family disappeared a decade ago and pieces of their car were found in the dark and murky bayou.  What happened to the loving couple and their teenage daughter?  Nikki Delongpre left behind her best friend since childhood, Ben, and her high school sweetheart, Anthem, and neither man can get over her loss.  But is she dead?  Or simply missing?

Ben and Anthem continue on without Nikki but her absence is more of a presence.  Ben is working as an investigative reporter, determined to help his beloved New Orleans any way he can, especially after helping rescue people from the Ninth Ward after Katrina and experiencing the aftermath of the disaster firsthand.  Anthem takes up drinking but follows in his family’s tradition of becoming river boat pilots – except he takes huge containerships up and down the Mississippi.  But there is an evil in the bayou which has touched Nikki and a former classmate.  And now that evil is returning to New Orleans to hunt down Ben and Anthem.

I really enjoyed the first two thirds of the book.  The “evil” was different and well described but left a lot open for questions.  Things got a little too weird for my tastes the last third of the book.  The evil mutated and it just didn’t feel right to me.  I’m sure there are those who will love the direction the book took, but I wanted something more (or in this case a little less).  If you want horror set in New Orleans though, you really can’t miss with this offering.  The author follows in his mom’s footsteps with his sense of place.  (Christopher Rice is the son of Anne Rice of Interview with a Vampire fame.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Anne Hoffman

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Anne Hoffman

Coralie has a magical life among wondrous and extraordinary things.  Her father, Professor Sardie, is the owner of a very special museum in Coney Island.  Some may call the animals and people who reside there freaks of nature, but Professor Sardie calls them wonders.  And the most wondrous of all is his daughter Coralie.  Born with webbed hands she is billed as the living mermaid spending hours in a water tank wearing a fake tail and swimming before visitors from around the world.  But all is not as happy and joyous as Coralie believes in her girlhood.  As she grows older she understands more about the world around her and her place in it.  She begins longing for the extraordinary world outside the museum.

Overall this is a dark novel, for the 1910s were a dark time in New York City.  Disasters play a great role in the story, starting with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  The other main character, Eddie, is a photographer on the scene of the fire, whose story later intertwines with Coralie’s.  Her innocence and his ability to see beauty through his camera lens where others can not provide the glimpses of light through the darkness of the time and the situations the characters find themselves in. 

While this is a great character study, and a great portrait of the time of labor disputes and corruption in New York City, the frame of the story is actually a mystery.  The storyline which ties all the others together is the disappearance of a young woman who should have been working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory at the time of the fire, but no one remembers her there that day, nor has her body or any of her belongings been found in the ashes.

This is one of those infrequent books that I wouldn’t completely recommend on audio.  It is read by three readers and I just didn’t enjoy the voice of one of the actors.  She had a nasally and clipped reading style that I found jarring.  I kept listening despite that so I know the story was a good one!