Monday, December 29, 2014

Once Upon a Grind by Cleo Coyle-4 stars

Coyle, Cleo, Once Upon a Grind. 11.32 hrs. (unabr.) 1 mp3 CD. Blackstone Audion, 2014. $34.95
Manhattan, New York has fairy tale fever. During a fairy tale festival, a young girl named Anya goes missing during the festival. Clare Cosi finds her while looking for her boyfriend’s kids’ dog, but medical personnel have been unlucky waking her from her coma. With a drug-related past and being the prince charming assigned to protect Anya during the festival, Clare’s ex-husband and partner, Matteo Allegro is the police’s only suspect.  Following the breadcrumbs to an underground matchmaking club, Clare bites off more than she can chew. With time running out and all the clues pointing in her boyfriend’s ex-wife, can Clare sift through the clues before the killer comes for her?

Narrator, Rebecca Gibel has a knack for drawing readers into the story. Her excellent accents and unique voices make the characters unique personalities pop off the page. Although the dreams were a bit confusing at times, the author handled the transitions very well without losing a beat. Her narrative style was befitting of the pace of the novel and brings a feeling of authenticity to the characters and their story. Her reflections and tones conveyed the prose, emotions, and energy of the story with ease and were consistent. The audio sound was crisp, clear, and helped readers to fully immerse themselves in the tale. Although parts of the plot make it hard to suspend disbelief, the plot is well-developed and engaging.  The author’s unique insertion and twist on a bit of Cold War history to fit into the story was ingenious and showed a bit of the author’s flare and unique writing style.  Although recommended, it is not necessary to have read the other books in the series. Readers who enjoy mystery with a bit of magical realism, humor, and romance will enjoy reading this book and the others in the series.

4 stars, ADULT

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Job by Janet Evanovich-4 stars

Evanovich, Janet and Goldberg, Lee, The Job. Random House, 2014.

When Nic Fox gets accused of pulling off a sloppy art heists around the world, Kate O'Hare of the FBI is called in to investigate. All the evidence points to Nic. Serena Blake, the person who really committed the crimes, is willing to take the heat and a plea bargain, but Nic and Kate must do something for her first: avenge her brother's violent death. After doing plastic surgery on a known criminal, Serena's brother was tortured and killed. Now, Kate and Nic are sure the criminal know as Dimitrio Violante is the one who killed Serena's brother. To get even, the two must outheist and outwit this violent criminal and his cohorts before they kill Kate and Nic, too. Will Kate and NIc succeed in pulling their most risky endeavor yet?

Kate and Nic are fun, well-developed characters to read about and readers will enjoy the dynamic between the two of them. The plot is well-developed and written, but part of the story, such as pulling off heists for the FBI, might seem a little out there for some people. Fans of Janet Evanovich, Lee Goldberg, mysteries, and supense/adventure, however, will enjoy reading this book.

4 stars, ADULT

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason-5 stars

Gleason, Colleen, The Clockwork Scarab. 8:25 hrs. (unbar. ) Audible, 2013.

When Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker get called to the British Museum at midnight, they never could’ve imagined the mystery they would be asked to solve. With the help of Irene Adler, the ones person ever to outsmart Mina’s uncle, the two have been called to solve a case for Princess Alixandra, sister-in-law of Queen Victoria. Young girls across London are showing up dead, reportedly from suicides, but have really been murdered. All the murders can be linked to a secret society known as the Society of Sekhmet. Whoever is in charge of the society is sacrificing young women to bring back the goddess Sekhmet to life for unknown reasons. His/her only barrier is finding four objects that are supposedly linked to the legendary goddess. Things appear hopeless until Dylan Ekhart, a time traveler from 2016, arrives with answers, or at least clues, to where the objects may be hiding. Time is running out, however, and the mysterious head of the society is elusive to say the least. Can Mina, Dylan, and Evaline figure out who the murderer is before they, too, are his/her victims?

This engaging historical mystery is well-written and easily draws the reader into the imaginary world of Mina an Evaline. The characters were likable and easy to relate to. Their well-rounded personalities are complemented and brought to life by the unique narrative style of Jayne Entwistle. Her fun accent is befitting of the London setting and she easily navigates the many plot twists and turns smoothly. 

5 stars. MS, HS.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tales From a Not-So-Happily-Ever-After by Rachel Renee Russell-4 stars

Russell, Rachel Renee, Tales From a Not-So-Happily-Ever-After.  3 CDS. 3:04 hrs. (unbar.). Simon and Schuster Audio, 2014. $14.99 Audible download.

Nikki is having a rough day to say the least. First, her sister, Brianna’s PBJP(Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Pickle) sandwich winds up on her shirt without her noticing. Next, her crush, Brandon’s text about an opening for journalism camp comes too late. Then, her English teacher assigns the class to write their own version of a fairy tale. Fun, if Nikki could think of something to write about. If her day wasn’t bad enough, in gym class, Mackenzie purposely hits Nikki really hard with a dodgeball and she not only hits the ground, but winds up at Fairytale Land High School with no idea how to get home. After hitting the Wicked Witch, Mackenzie, as she fell from the sky, Nikki’s arch nemesis turned magical, has it out for her and wants her dead.  Sent on a whirlwind fairytale adventure by her not-so-great with magic fairytale godmother, Brianna, to find the Wizard of Odd in hopes of getting back home, Nikki winds up taking on more than she can chew. With wolves who want to eat characters that look like her friends, bored royals, and a really crazy Queen of Hearts after her head, will Nikki ever get back home? Or, will Mackenzie manage to get her killed before she can?

This is by far the best Dork Diaries yet. The characters in their new fairytale forms are even more likable and engaging than in the other books. The character dynamic is strong and quickly develops more intensely throughout. The plot is well-developed and easily draws the reader into Nikki’s world. The narrator, Jenni Barber’s voice can be a tad annoying at first, but, once the listener gets used to her, she captures the personality and attitude of the characters well. Her unique narrative style complements the story, is befitting of the pace of the story, and flawlessly switches between scene and world changes. Fans of the Dork Diaries and of fairytale adventures will not be disappointed. 

4 stars, Grades 4 to 8.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Glimpsing Heaven by Judy Bachrach-4.5 stars

Bachrach, Judy, Glimpsing Heaven. 6.11 hrs. unbar. Blackstone Audio, 2014. Audible Download.
What would it be like to have a near-death experience? Are there any common characteristics between all of the ones people have had? What’s it like to come back to life? How are their lives forever changed? Death Travelers, as coined by those who are a part of the NDE crowd, are people who’ve brushed with death and lived to tell the tale. Some common characteristics, such as overwhelming love and peace and an out-of-body experience, are experienced by all. While others, how stay dead longer, may see angels or dead relatives while others may not. Is there a scientific explanation? Why do so many researchers have such an interest in this topic? Why are some not so willing to share their experience? In this book, Bachrach dives into the world of the unknown and attempts to understand what happens after death. She tries to make sense of such questions as she deals with the upcoming demise of her own mother.

The book is very well-written and fairly objective about near death experiences. Her bias of being a skeptic, an outsider, helps her and the reader to take an in-depth look at what others have experienced. Although she only briefly cover while some are so skeptical, her look at the science and research as well as the experiences, leaves the listener to draw their own conclusions. Narrator, Susan Boyce does an excellent job of bringing to life Bachrach’s work. Her clear sounding voice is smooth and interesting to listen to. Her intonations transition easily between experiences and scientific thought while never losing the reader. Readers interested in near death experiences will not be disappointed. 

4.5 stars. HS, ADULT.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Keep Me Ghosted by Karen Cantwell-5 stars

Cantwell, Karen, Keep Me Ghosted. Karen Cantwell, 2013. 6:20 hrs. (unbar.) Audible Download.

Sophia Rhodes has a ghostly problem, two to be exact. One night, when her boyfriend cheated on her with her friend, Sophia met her ghostly companion, Marmaduke Dodsworth. Because of this, finding another job has been extremely difficult. Going against the advice of Marmi, Sophia takes a job as a receptionist for Dr. Callahan, aka “Cal,” who also has a ghostly companion, Moonflower. All seems to be going well except for one thing; Moonflower has a severe case of green-eyed jealousy and keeps driving Cal’s clients away. When Mrs. Wiley, another client who’s a medium, tells Sophia that Moonflower is a ghost as a result of some witchcraft gone awry, the trio team up to end Moonflower’s tirades. Will they succeed?

The characters are well-developed, entertaining, and engaging. The dynamic between them is hilarious and fun to listen about. The plot is well-developed and, despite initial feels of a fluffy chick-lit, turns into a suspenseful, intense story despite lack of action. The clean romance is also believable and realistic despite the ghostly problems.

Narrator, Nan McNamara does a great job of bringing this delightful listen to life. Her use of different voices brings the author’s unique characters to life and makes them easily distinguishable. She easily switches between different voices and internal dialogue and smoothly handles plot transitions with ease. Her nice tone and pacing are well-suited for the book. People who like chick-lit, ghosts, mysteries, and clean romance will enjoy listening to this book.

 5 stars, ADULT

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tesla's Attic by Neal Shusterman-4 stars

Shusterman, Neal, Tesla’s Attic. Audible, 2013. (unbar). 8:23 hrs. Audible Download.

After their home burns down and his mother gets killed in the fire, Nick Slade moves with his family into his Great-Aunt Eleanor’s ramshackle Victorian house. Desperate to make the attic his space, Nick gets his dad to let him have a garage sale with all the old junk that is stored in the attic. Despite a freak rainstorm, people mysteriously show up and start offering more money for the junk than Nick ever dreamed of, until he turns off a light that he had brought down and plugged in inside the garage prior to everyone showing up. After the garage sale is over, a group of mysterious men show up on his doorstep and try to buy everything Nick just sold. Things get even weirder, however. People who purchased the items are acting strangely and won’t let Nick have them back. From a ring that speaks only truth to an ancient recorder that tells you what the speakers are really thinking, a wet-cell battery that reanimates the dead briefly to a radio that causes earthquakes, there is no doubt there is something bizarre about these objects and the men who are after them. Things only get worse, though when one of the items accidentally changes the course of a nearby Asteroid to be on a collision course with Earth. Who are those mysterious men? Why was everyone drawn to the garage sale? Can Nick get all the items back in time to save the day?

Narrator, Vikas Adam has a unique voice that brings to life the characters and their unique personalities. Although it is hard to suspend disbelief for the premise of this book, the plot is well-developed and intensely engaging. The characters are well-developed and add a lot of humor to the book, despite the suspenseful feel of the book. Reluctant and avid readers who enjoy science fiction will enjoy this entertaining tale.
4 stars. Grades 5 to 9.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Map Trap by Andrew Clements-5 stars

Clements, Andrew, The Map Trap. Simon and Schuster Audio, 2014. 2 CDS (unbar.). 2:27 hrs. Audible Download available.

Ever since he was a baby, maps have been apart of Alton Barnes’ life. His parents lack of name planning resulted in him being named after a city. When his family members found out, they gave him map-related gifts. It wasn’t too many years later that he covered his whole room with maps of various locations, animals, and things related to Earth. Now in 5th grade, Alton loves to make maps of not only places, but things he observes such as how many times the principal says “um” on morning announcements, the various smells around the school, or what lunch dishes cause students to go the bathroom the most. All is well until he shows his maps to Quint, the cool kid. Now all his maps are missing and someone is holding them hostage unless he does what they say. If he fails, they will release them all over the school. With some maps more hurtful than others, it is up to Alton and Quint to figure out who took the maps and to get them back before time runs out. Will they succeed?

Narrator, Keith Nobbs does a great job of drawing the reader into Alton’s world. The characters are likable and realistic and Nobbs unique voices for each character are fun to listen to. The plot is simple, but engaging. The author’s natural transitions between humor, mystery, and internal dialogue are well-done and Nobbs does a great job of moving back and forth in his narrative without losing the listener. People are fans of Clements’ realistic fiction books will not be disappointed and newcomers will have an easy time jumping right in to this story.
5 stars. Grades 3 to 5. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anonymous Sources by Mary Louise Kelly-4.5 stars

Kelly, Mary Louise, Anonymous Sources. Audible, 2013. Audible Download.
When a Harvard Alumni, Tom Carlisle, falls from the bell tower, everyone assumes it was suicide.  Alexandra James, however, thinks differently. Called to investigate the scene as a reporter, the clues don’t add up and Alex’s instinct says it’s murder. As she digs deeper, she discovers that Tom had a whole different life this past summer in England: a girlfriend who was cheating on him, a terrorist friend, and a mysterious set of circumstances. This high-society case could be Alex’s ticket to getting noticed, but not without a lot of danger. With all the clues adding up to a possible terrorist plot and MI6 and the CIA after her, things are definitely not what they seem. When more and more people start showing up dead, including the lady Alex switched places with on a plane ride, things do not look good for Alex. Will Alex get the scoop she’s always dreamed of or will the killer get his way?
Narrator, Therese Plummer expertly brings to life the characters and story of this book. Here unique voices and intonations smoothly guide the reader through the many plot twists and turns as well as keep them engaged and engrossed. The plot is well-developed and the characters are multi-dimensional. Although the story is a little slower-paced in the beginning, listeners will have a hard time putting this audiobook down. Recommended for fans of spies, mystery, and thrillers.