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review 2022-04-07 18:03
Audiobook Review: Those Three Little Words (Vancouver Agitators) by Meghan Quinn, Narrated by Kelsey Navarro and Teddy Hamilton
Those Three Little Words (The Vancouver Agitators #2) - Meghan Quinn

 

 

 

 

Those Three Little Words by Meghan Quinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Audiobook Review: Those Three Little Words (Vancouver Agitators) by Meghan Quinn, Narrated by Kelsey Navarro and Teddy Hamilton

Quinn takes a charming comedy of errors and creates an unforgettable romance. Eli is the sweetest blend of heartbreaker and closet romantic. He keeps his emotions hidden, but his actions speak louder than words. Penny is adorably clueless. She yearns to be happy, yet fears the risk of it all. What ensues is a chaotic storm of irresistible that dares to be humorous. Navarro and Hamilton turn up the volume on an already delicious duet. With heart deep enough to swim in and chemistry that turns sparks into a flame, Those Three Little Words is an adorkable temptation that's sure to leave a smile on your face.



View all my reviews

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review 2021-08-06 03:13
Words Kill - the tragic saga of a dysfunctional American family

 

When Cody Blaze meets his father, Russell, for lunch he has no way of knowing it will be the last time he sees him alive. A few days later, Russell is killed. It appears he fell asleep while returning from some out-of-town business and drove off the highway.

 

After the funeral, Cody is at the family home consoling his mother when he discovers a letter addressed to him in his father’s home office. The letter is written by Russell and discloses that if Cody is reading it, he didn’t die accidentally as it may appear. He’s been murdered.

 

In the letter, his father entreats Cody to read his unfinished memoir not with the intention of discovering “the motive for my death and the probable identity of my murderer”, but because “there’s so much about my life you never knew about, much of which leads up to this moment of my demise”.

 

As Cody begins to read the memoir, he discovers he never knew the details about his father’s early life, a life filled with violence and tragedy.

 

Russell Blaze grew up in the sixties and his memoir is steeped in the hippy counter-culture of the time as well as the eras’ turbulent politics. But it’s his own family members who are the most troubling including his younger brother, Leo, who when still a juvenile murdered their abusive stepfather.

 

Russell goes on to become a successful journalist, marry a black woman and have a child, while his brother, once out of prison becomes a proponent of white supremacy and lives a marginalized life of hate and violence.

 

Fate sets the two of them on dramatically different journeys only to converge with deadly consequences.

 

On the surface, Words Kill is a murder mystery and, in that regard, its plot is somewhat contrived. However, author David Miles Robinson has offered

us much more than a whodunnit. He’s written a book that showcases the big issues of that time in American including the War in Vietnam and others that still resonate today including the prevalence of post-traumatic stress syndrome among veterans, alcohol and drug addiction, and particularly racism. He also digs deep into a dysfunctional family dynamic and reveals how damaging events in early life can manifest into catastrophic results years later.

 

I particularly enjoyed this book because of Robinson’s realistic take on interracial relationships as well as his authentic depiction of the dark side of the hippy lifestyle. It wasn’t all sunshine peace, and flowers during the Summer of Love.

 

 

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review 2020-07-13 09:30
'Her Final Words' by Brianna Labuskes
Her Final Words - Brianna Labuskes

Tightly plotted and tensely told mystery that kept me guessing and gave me a strong sense of a place and its people.

 

 

The only thing I didn't like about 'Her Final Words' was the opening. It's the hook the rest of the book wriggles on: a teenage girl from rural Idaho drives for five hours, crossing a State line, to the FBI field office in Seattle, asks for agent Lucy Thorne by name, confesses to having murdered a twelve-year-old boy, explains that the boy's body has a bible verse carved into it and then refuses to say more. It's a great hook that was never going to need much to sell it, yet I felt like everything in the opening was too bright and too loud and trying too hard to tell 'look how dramatic this is!'


I almost stopped there. Except it really was a great hook and I wanted to wriggle on it a little so I persisted. I'm very glad I did. The tone changed as soon as Lucy Thorne arrives in Idaho, with a long weekend to check out the details of an apparently open and shut case that feels off because there is no motive. The image of the Sheriff standing in the rain waiting to meet Thorne and take her to where the body was found was dramatic without being pushed hard.


It quickly becomes clear that the teenager who confessed to the killing and the boy who was killed were both members of a local Church/Cult and I wondered for a while if we were up for Federal Government rescuing the poor country folk from an abusive cult sort of story, because that never ends well but, thankfully, Brianna Labuskes was more ambitious and more original than that.

This is a story where good guys and bad guys are hard to tell apart. Where everyone is connected to everyone else but how and what it means are not clear and where the only thing the FBI agent is certain about is that she doesn't understand what's really going on.


The false simplicity of 'the bad cult must be to blame' is quickly replaced with something denser and more textured. I liked the way Brianna Labuskes brought out the geographical isolation of this rural community while showing how aware everyone is of what everyone else is doing and who they're doing it with.


Telling the story through multiple points of view and cross-cutting timelines that flip from 'Now' to 'Three Days Earlier' really tightened the tension and kept the surprises coming. The more Agent Thorne learns about the people and their history with one another, the more complicated the puzzle becomes and the fewer people she can trust. Discovering the story from the point of view of the teenagers involved and the Sheriff as well as Agent Thorne made everything more personal and more human as well as deepening the mystery.


The plot, the characters and the tightly controlled pace kept me engaged all the way through. The denouement was unexpected, memorable, believable and deeply sad.


I'll be back for more of Brianna Labuskes' stories.

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review 2020-07-08 15:24
A challenging and beautifully diverse reading experience
Matt: More Than Words - Hans M. Hirschi

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel. I have read quite a few of Hirschi’s novels and have enjoyed them all, and some are among my favourites in recent years. He combines some of the characteristics that I most admire in authors: he writes strong and diverse characters, no matter what particular challenges they might be faced with; he carefully researches the topics he touches on (even when some of them might seem only incidental to the novel, he makes sure nothing is left to chance) and uses his research wisely (never banging readers on the head with it); and he does not shy away from the ugliest and harshest realities of life, while at the same time always dealing sensitively and constructively with those. His stories are not fairy tales, and they force us to look at aspects of society and of ourselves that perhaps we’re not proud of, but if we rise to the challenge we’ll be rewarded with an enlightening experience. And a great read. This novel is no exception. We follow the life of Matt, a young man diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to birth complications, for a few rather momentous months. The book, narrated in the third person, is told from three of the main characters’ perspectives. The novel is mostly Matt’s, or at least as good an approximation at what Matt’s experience might be as the author can achieve. It is a difficult task, and he expresses it better than I can in his acknowledgements at the end (‘How does one write about someone in whose situation you’ve never been? How do you give voice to someone who has none? And maybe, most importantly, how, without being insensitive, without objectifying, generalizing, stereotyping, in short without being a “dick”, do you tell a story that needs telling, about someone who could actually be out there, right now?’). He also explains that he shared his early drafts with experts (people with cerebral palsy and their carers), and, in my non-expert opinion, he manages to depict what the daily life of the protagonist would be like. The other two main characters, Timmy, a professional carer who is Matt’s personal assistant at the beginning of the story but gets removed from his team due to a misunderstanding, and Martha, Matt’s mother, are also given a saying and some of the chapters are told from their perspective. Timmy is a lovely young man, a carer in the true sense of the word, and he has a real calling for the type of job he is doing. Martha is a devoted mother who found herself in a tough situation when she was very young and who has poured her heart and soul into looking after her son. Neither one of them are perfect (nor is Matt for that matter), and they make mistakes, lose heart and faith at times, and can feel overwhelmed or despondent, but they never give up and always have Matt’s best interests in mind. Of course, I’ve already said that this is not a fairy tale. Far from it. We all know and have heard about some of the terrible things that happen: abuse, neglect, lack of resources, and although in this case there is no political and/or social oversight (Matt has access to a package of care and the family is reasonably well-supported, something that unfortunately is not the case everywhere), somehow things still go wrong, and we get to see what it must be like to be the victim of such abuse when you are totally unable not only of physically defending yourself but also of even talking about it. Terrifying. Not everybody is suited for this kind of work, and it is sad to think that those in the most vulnerable circumstances can be exposed to such abuse. And yes, because of the level of need and the limited resources, sometimes the vetting procedures are not as stringent as they should be. (The current health crisis has highlighted how much we expect of some workers and how little a compensation they receive for their efforts). Communication and how important it is to try to make sure everybody can communicate and become as independent as possible is one of the main themes of the book. The experience of living locked up inside your own body, with other people not even aware that you know what is going on around you and always making decisions for you comes through very strongly in the book. Matt knows and worries about how he is perceived by others, has internalised many of the attitudes he’s seen, and the comments he has overheard, and many aspects of life we take for granted are like an impossible dream to him. Speaking, going for a walk, even deciding what to watch on television, are tasks beyond his scope. The research into ways to facilitate communication and to increase independence is highlighted in the novel, and the role new technologies (including AI) can play is explored. With the appropriate investment, there’s little doubt that this could make a big difference in the lives of many people. Martha’s difficult situation (she wishes her son to fulfil his potential and be able to do what any other 23 years old normally does, but she’s also fiercely protective of him and does not want to get her hopes up for them to only be crushed again), the personal price she has to pay, the way she has to sacrifice any semblance of a normal life to keep looking after Matt, her worry about the future… are also convincingly depicted. And Timmy’s own feelings and his acknowledgment of his own limitations ring true as well. Family relationships feature strongly not only in the case of Matt, but also of Timmy, originally from Africa and adopted by Caucasian parents, a loving couple who accept him as he is, and Chen, Timmy’s friend and ex-boyfriend, whose parents are more understanding than he thought they’d be. The writing style is compelling and descriptive, although the descriptions are focused on the emotions and feelings rather than on the outward appearance of people and things. I found the story moving, and although it is not a page-turner in the common sense of the word, I was totally engulfed in it and couldn’t put it down, even when some of the events were horrifying at times and made me want to look away. The novel ends in a positive note, and I hope that in real life everybody in Matt’s situation will have access to a fulfilling life, if not now, in the very near future. As a society, we can do much to help, and we should. This novel reminded me of Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (yes, the famous screenwriter who ended up in the blacklist, one of Hollywood’s Ten), whose movie version I saw as a teenager (also directed by Trumbo), and I’ve never forgotten. The main character there is a WWI soldier who is so severely injured during the war that he ends up unable to move and to communicate, or so those around him think. Although the circumstances are very different (the main character there had led a normal life before and has many memories, although if that makes his life better is a matter of opinion), and I’m sure this novel will appeal to people looking for a book focusing on diverse characters and exploring the world beyond our everyday experiences. As I’ve explained, it is not a comfortable and easy read, but one that will challenge us and make us look at life with new eyes. If you are up for the challenge, the rewards are immense.

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review 2020-06-15 02:27
A Way With Words and A Way With You - Lane Hayes,Alexander Cendese

A Way with Words and A Way with You by Lane Hayes consist of two separate stories both of with make reference to characters and/or element from Felice Stevens series ‘The Breakfast Club’ and truthfully the only reason that I was aware of this was the disclosure at the beginning of the audio book and while I can safely say I didn’t feel that I was missing out on anything in these stories for not having read that series. I am left wondering how if I’d read or listened to the Breakfast Club series…would I maybe have enjoyed ‘A Way with Words and A Way with You’ a bit more than I did, but it is what it is and I guess I’ll never know.

 

While I’ve given the audiobook an overall rating of 3.5 for the most part I found that I enjoyed ‘A Way with Words’ a bit more than ‘A Way with You’ and in fairness to both stories rather than do one big mashed up review of the audio book I’ve chosen to give each book their own mini review here so first of all lets start with what both stories have in common besides the author…

 

The narrator…Alexander Cendese. This audio book  is only my third time listening to this particular narrator (or more accurately my 3rd & 4th) so he’s a relatively new to me narrator and as with my previous experiences overall I found this to be a good listening experience. The character voices were distinct and unique giving uniqueness and emotion to the characters and their situations. Mr. Cendese is a narrator that I would not hesitate to listen to in future and look forward to enjoying more audio books narrated by him.

 

Now about the books…

 

Garnering a solid 4 stars from me ‘A Way with Words’ was the first story in this duology and it in fact turned out to be my favorite. Tony De Luca is a down to earth guy, with a big Italian family to meddle in his life he flies under the radar as often as he can especially when it comes to his sexuality or at least that’s how he rolled until he met a sexy guitar player on a street corner when he was going for lunch one day.

 

Remy came from a small town looking for a new life in the big city. He plays guitar on a Manhattan street corner during the day and tends bar at night. He’s out and right now more concerned with a steady job than a steady man until he meets a certain sexy Italian construction worker whose kind heart, soulful eyes and uniquely interesting way with words starts him thinking about other things.

 

For me, Tony and Remy worked as a couple. They were both down to earth and I could so easily imagine them as real people. Their relationship developed as a friendship before becoming something more. Things between them felt genuine.

 

I especially liked that in his heart Tony knew his family…especially his mother would still be loving and supportive when he came out to them and that Remy’s family was also a loving and supportive family. So often stories have family members that are the total opposite of this and while more often than it should be this is a sad part of the real world. It is sometimes nice to read a story that reminds us that there are also good, loving and supportive families out there.

 

I think I maybe would have liked a tiny bit more story for Tony and Remy but all in all it was a sweet romance with a nice happy ending and made for an enjoyable summer vacation listen.

 

‘A Way with You’ is the second book in this audio excursion and I have to admit if I was rating just this story, then my rating would probably be 3 stars at best. Thankfully, Mr. Cendese was present to bolster the characters with his expressive and solid narration.

Reeve Nelson is struggling to be successful in the Manhattan real estate market. He’s willing to give it his all. After leaving his small town and an ex-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-his-ex, he’s determined not to go back. He’s also Remy’s brother (yes, this was one of the best things about him for me). Reeve’s boss is making this all particularly challenging for him. Reeve’s not afraid of a challenge but he’s also not afraid of walking away from things when they’re not right for him.

 

Leo Rodriguez has a reputation as a ruthless businessman and he’s proud of it. He’s worked hard to get where he is, and he’s done it on his own terms.

 

These two men should have worked for me but for some reason they fell a little short of the mark and the highlight of this story for the most part were the moments when Reeve interacted with his family… especially Remy and Tony.

 

At the end of it all though I was left with one story that I quite enjoyed and another that was ok both narrated by a narrated with the ability to enhance a story with is vocal skills.

 

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An audio book of ‘A Way with Words and A Way with You’ was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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